Freedom cry in Tagore tune
Old melodies find new voice
Liquor shops to stay shut for poll, counting
Inmate flees Liluah home
After dark, station turns vice haven
Parental pressure weighs heavy on pre-school kids
Pumps on ready for rainy poll day
Dial-a-diagnosis installed
Firing after Tiljala flare-up
Cong charged with killing own workers

 
 
FREEDOM CRY IN TAGORE TUNE 
 
 
BY MITA MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, May 7: 
“The control over artistes exerted by the Visva-Bharati music board is completely unnecessary. Hathkada porey Rabindranather gaan gaoa cholte parey na... (Rabindrasangeet cannot be sung in fetters).”

These words, uttered by Rabindrasangeet exponent Suchitra Mitra in Delhi recently, have caused quite a flutter, with the Visva-Bharati board’s copyright over Tagore songs set to end on December 31. Whispers from Santiniketan suggest that there is a bid to extend the copyright for another 10 years “to ensure that the sanctity of the songs is preserved”.

‘Let’s leave it to the listener’ is the line that is fast gaining ground among artistes. On the eve of Ponchisey Boisakh, Tagore’s birth anniversary, veteran singer Dwijen Mukherjee said: “We will not allow the Board’s tyranny to continue. We have to raise our voice against this.”

According to the present system, it is mandatory for every artiste, irrespective of seniority or standing, to seek permission from the Visva- Bharati board before releasing any audio or video cassette of Tagore’s songs. “The Board has often rejected cassettes by artistes, who have been singing Tagore’s songs for decades, on the flimsiest of grounds,” complains singer Swagatalakshmi Dasgupta, another Rabindrasangeet exponent. “This school of music is so popular that it’s the listener who’ll reject any major diversion in style. There’s no need for any kind of policing,” she adds, calling for the Board’s dissolution.

The Visva-Bharati music board, of course, continues to rein in Rabindrasangeet. “The Board had been entrusted with the responsibility of monitoring all renditions of Tagore’s songs, in order to ensure quality. There will be no end to distortion if and when the Board is divested of its powers,” declares Pradeep Banerjee, secretary. His argument is backed by singer Purabi Mukhopadhyay. Referring to the recent controversy over Kumarjit’s ‘pop’ take on Tagore, she says: “The Visva-Bharati copyright is still in place, and people have already begun to distort Tagore’s songs. Imagine what will happen if there is no authority to monitor new Rabindrasangeet releases.”

According to Board officials, the threat posed to Tagore’s songs is even greater now, with music videos becoming the rage. “Some Tagore songs being telecast on a private channel without our permission were stopped only after we threatened them with legal action. If the Board loses its authority, it’s just a matter of time before you have MTV-style renditions of Tagore’s songs on screen.”

Singer Indranil Sen, however, begs to differ. “The listener is sensible enough to judge a Tagore song. There is no need for the Board to dictate what is right or wrong.”

The Board, many feel, is doing more harm than good to Rabindrasangeet, by discouraging new talent and censoring any form of modification. Subhash Chowdhury, former member of Visva-Bharati’s music board, sums it up: “The copyright should go immediately. Rabindrasangeet will survive on its own. Tagore is not the personal property of anyone... Visva-Bharati has done nothing to spread the genre over the years, and so it has no moral right to act as a watchdog.”

   

 
 
OLD MELODIES FIND NEW VOICE 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, May 7: 
Old is gold, but new isn’t few either. A survey of the past year’s Rabindrasangeet sales figures at MusicWorld, the city’s largest retail music store, clearly reflects a co-existence of the legends with the contemporary.

Tagore remains a favourite with the Bengali music buff — one in every four cassettes sold is a Rabindrasangeet album. On CD, the ratio is one in three.

Among the top five best-selling Rabindrasangeet artistes on cassette, only two are still on song — Indrani Sen and Srikanta Acharya. Debabrata Biswas continues to be the most wanted, both in top artiste and top album categories. On CDs, Suchitra Mitra tops the list, followed by Hemanta Mukhopadhyay, Kanika Bandyopadhyay, Chinmoy Chattopadhyay and Sagar Sen.

“Tagore songs have always held a special place in the Bengali psyche and over the past five years, there has been more than 10 per cent growth in sales. In the past year, we have had a catalogue growth of 7-8 per cent, which is most encouraging,” says J.S. Gupta, regional manager, east, HMV Sa Re Ga Ma.

Referring to Visva-Bharati’s copyright law, Gupta feels a certain degree of policing is necessary “to ensure that the lyrical value of the songs are preserved”, but not at the cost of “artistic freedom”. Sa Re Ga Ma will soon start packaging Tagore songs which haven’t been recorded till now. “We plan to bring a lot of Rabindrasangeet programming on TV too,” adds Gupta.

“The sanctity of the songs must be preserved, but contemporary exponents should be allowed some artistic freedom to gain wider acceptance, especially among the youth,” feels Suvabrata Dutta Gupta of Sagarika.

Biswa Roy, managing director of Bhavna, terms the copyright “ridiculous”. “If the recording industry is to stop Rabindrasangeet from fading with the rapidly-changing tastes, it should call for the removal of all restrictions immediately,” he warns.

   

 
 
LIQUOR SHOPS TO STAY SHUT FOR POLL, COUNTING 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 7: 
All liquor shops and bars in Calcutta and elsewhere in the state will remain closed for two days from Tuesday (after 4 pm) in view of the May 10 Assembly polls. Since May 10 is a Thursday, bars will open that day after 4 pm. But shops will remain closed. On Friday and Saturday, liquor shops and bars will stay open as usual. But they will be closed on Sunday, when votes will be counted.

There are about 870 liquor shops in the city and its suburbs. As far as bars are concerned, the city alone has more than 250 of them. “With election fever hotting up, we don’t want liquor to fuel any law and order problems,” said an excise official. The police will maintain a strict vigil to ensure that bootlegging is restricted to a minimum.

   

 
 
INMATE FLEES LILUAH HOME 
 
 
BY PRONAB MONDAL
 
Calcutta, May 7: 
Some inmates of the Liluah home for destitute girls have struck again. This time, the victim is a deaf-mute girl, who recently fled the premises, apparently unable to bear the conditions there any longer.

Last month, two girls had attempted suicide after one of the inmates, Monalisa, and her associates sexually assaulted them. Monalisa was later arrested and is now in jail custody.

Sources at the home said that Bandana, a 20-year-old deaf and mute girl who had been living there for the past five months, suddenly went missing on April 29. Unable to locate her, the home authorities lodged a complaint with the Bally police the day after.

Bandana, who had been picked up at Ranigunj, near the Bengal-Bihar border, had initially shown signs of adjusting to the home life. But in the last couple of weeks, she had been looking “upset”.

“Since she could neither communicate with us nor write, we didn’t know what she was upset about,” said Reba Das, superintendent of the home. “But we believe that she had a history of running away and this time, too, a similar thing may have happened.”

However, sources at the home insist that Bandana was being harassed by some inmates. “I believe she couldn’t bear the torture any longer and finally ran away,” a source said.

Home authorities said that every evening, the inmates are allowed out on the grounds for a walk. On April 29, too, the routine was followed. An hour later, the inmates were herded back into their cells. That day, no headcount was taken. At night, however, one of the inmates realised Bandana was missing. The authorities were alerted and a quick search of the grounds was made.

But the search proved futile in the dark. The next morning, another search was conducted, but again, drew a blank. The police were then called in.

The authorities say Bandana may have hidden in the bushes near the boundary wall and then clambered over by climbing the branches of one of the trees. “This is the most likely theory,” superintendent Das said.

In the past month and a half, three girls have attempted to escape by hiding in the bushes but the home’s employees had foiled their plans, sources said.

   

 
 
AFTER DARK, STATION TURNS VICE HAVEN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 7: 
Bagbazar Circular Railway station and its surroundings have turned into a haven for criminals and prostitutes, thanks to consistent negligence by the police and railway authorities. Criminal activities in and around the station have assumed such proportions that hundreds of “threatened” office-goers are avoiding the station after dark.

Police said Bagbazar station was fast becoming “a breeding ground of criminals, who bank on the lack of coordination among officials of North Port police station, Shyampukur police station, the Government Railway Police (GRP) and the the Railway Protection Force (RPF)”.

Whereas Bagbazar station falls under GRP jurisdiction, Shyampukur and North Port police stations share the responsibility of keeping a vigil in the areas surrounding it. Hundreds of shanties have sprung up along the railway tracks in the last couple of months and people sell hooch, play satta and ply the flesh trade openly.

“I know about it”, admitted superintendent of railway police Gangeswar Singh, adding that the GRP, in a “special” pre-poll drive from last Friday, had demolished all the satta dens and flushed out criminals from the station. “Along with Calcutta Police, we have started raiding the areas around Bagbazar ghat and Kashi Mitra ghat”, Singh added.

But GRP sources said such “special” raids have resulted in the arrest of only six criminals after three days. “The criminals are regularly tipped off before a raid. They simply sneak into the territory of the neighbouring police station”, the source said. Though the police claim the “raids” have started to show results, commuters feel differently.

“The stretch along Kashi Mitra Ghat and Baghbazar station is not safe after evening”, said Sobhan Roy Sarkar, a government employee and a daily passenger. Because of police negligence and corruption, criminals think “they can get away with anything”. Most commuters share his view.

“The situation is worse than we thought,”admits Tarapada Dutta, Shyampukur thana officer-in-charge. They have been asked to carry on raids till the Assembly elections.

But as Bapi Das, a resident, said: “The police come and ask for my brother. When they don’t get him, they ransack my home”.

   

 
 
PARENTAL PRESSURE WEIGHS HEAVY ON PRE-SCHOOL KIDS 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, May 7: 
Personality development classes at two. Computer lessons and tuitions at two-plus. Admission tests at three. Today’s toddlers are a stressed-out lot. And the problem, often, begins at home.

“Today’s parents are trying too hard, and in the process, working up the child too much, instead of making light of the situation,” observed Father Joseph Manipadam, rector, Don Bosco, Park Circus, at a workshop for parents held recently at Toddler’s World, a play school and Montessori house in south Calcutta. And he seemed to have put his finger on the pulse of the problem.

But do parents really have a choice, given the fact that there are so few “reputed” schools and admission interviews are so taxing on the kids? “I agree it’s unfair to force tuitions or interview lessons on a two-year-old, but we are helpless as the good schools expect the child to know so many things and admission is such a harrowing experience these days,” says Smriti Dalmiya, whose daughter Vrinda, five-plus, is now safely ensconced in La Martiniere, “only because she had been put through the wringer” from an early age.

To meet the “exacting demands” of high schools and primary schools, parents are turning to various other coaching avenues outside the Montessori houses, like counselling sessions and tuitions.

“It’s true that the high schools are far too demanding and that has led to this profusion of coaching and counselling classes, which are absolutely unnecessary if the proper Montessori method is followed,” said Vandana Kanoria, vice-president, Montessorians of Calcutta.

“I think tuitions are a must to pass the entrance tests at reputed schools these days,” said Manisha Saraf, mother of two-year-old Pragya who, after a stint with Toddler’s World, now goes to Dew Drops, a Montessori house. “Once she gets into a good school, I won’t nag her with tuitions any more. At least I will have carried out my parental responsibility. It’s such a hollow and helpless feeling if your child can’t get into a top-class school,” adds Pragya’s mother.

Anxious parents of tiny tots, who turned up in numbers at Toddler’s World for the interactive workshop, had a plethora of questions: My child is very restless, how can I increase his concentration? How do I instil social and moral values in my child? From what age should I start guiding my child careerwise? What should be the guidelines in taking care of an adolescent’s mental growth? Isn’t the schoolbag too heavy for the child to carry? And plenty more.

“Counselling is necessary for parents and children alike, to put them on the right track so that they know exactly what to expect at the entrance tests,” explained Suranjana Birla, who conducts classes for a group of children (three-plus and four-plus) on Allenby Road.

According to Father Manipadam, pre-primary institutions should try to “build confidence in the child and create an atmosphere of security and affection” instead of burdening the child with too much textbook education, which is “not required at that age”. He also observed that good schools should be “more decentralised and ideally cater to dedicated hinterlands”.

“The purpose of this workshop was to dispel doubts in parents’ minds on various issues and guide them on how to go about the task of child education through proper information and counselling,” explained Anjana Bajoria, principal, Toddler’s World.

   

 
 
PUMPS ON READY FOR RAINY POLL DAY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 7: 
The civic authorities, for the first time, have geared up to tackle bad weather on election day. A special control room will be set up to combat waterlogging problems.

The borough offices have been provided with portable pump sets, to be used in case of a heavy shower during polling, said chief engineer, (drainage and sewerage), Pradip Sanyal.

“The sudden shower on Saturday evening has prompted us to consider setting up a special control room for May 10,” said member, mayor-in-council (drainage and sewerage), Rajib Deb.

The drainage department will monitor all activities in different parts of the city, including the 15 borough offices. According to Sanyal, the areas prone to waterlogging are Southern Avenue, Dover Lane, Ballygunge Place, Hazra (behind Ashutosh College), Kalighat, Rashbehari Avenue, Panditiya Road, Bhowanipore, Panchanantala, Lake Market, Thanthania, Ganesh Talkies, B.B. Ganguly Street, Beleghata, Radha Nath Chowdhury Road, Gobinda Khatik Road, Mirzapore Street, Bagbazar Street, Tallah Park, Rani Harshamukhi Road, Grey Street, Amherst Street, Kustia Road and Poddar Court.

Newly-procured giant blow-vac machines have been deployed to desilt the brick sewers in these areas. “We can drain out 55 million gallons of rainwater in an hour,” said Sanyal. A special action squad will attend to these spots on Thursday in case of an emergency.

   

 
 
DIAL-A-DIAGNOSIS INSTALLED 
 
 
BY AMIT UKIL
 
Calcutta, May 7: 
The seeds of a quiet but significant revolution were sown two days ago at Westbank Hospital, on the outskirts of Calcutta. Quiet, because the change is not tangible, significant because it makes possible the delivery of specialised, city-based healthcare to faraway rural areas.

IIT Kharagpur and Westbank Hospital, Howrah, have initiated the execution of a telemedicine project that uses ordinary P&T telephone lines, perhaps for the first time in the country, to convey medical data from one geographical location to another.

Pictures and graphs, ranging from basic X-ray photos and ECG reports to ultrasonography videos and pathological slides, can be sent within hours to specialists in tertiary-level hospitals in the city from secondary, even primary level hospitals. On-line consultation with doctors at the other end can also take place. If required, a specialist in the city can advise the next move during an operation to a surgeon even as he operates on the patient at a district hospital.

“The patient need no longer be shifted all the way to the city to be examined by a specialist, and vice-versa,” said Dr Satadal Saha, managing director of Westbank, during the installation of the system on Friday.

“The project started about two years ago,” said Prof J. Mukherjee, head of the department of computer science engineering at IIT, Kharagpur. “Sponsored by the Union ministry of information technology, the objective was to develop telemedicine over ordinary telecom lines for distribution throughout the country.”

The Rs 1-crore project was designed so that the Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine would be the tertiary-level referral centre, which would be connected with rural hospitals.

“It’s a great beginning and has immense possibilities,” pointed out Dr B.R. Nath, chief of the B.C. Roy Technology Hospital at IIT. “In Kharagpur, there are many things in certain fields I may not know. I can transmit the basic data and get expert opinion from Calcutta on diagnosis and treatment. And the process does not involve much cost,” he said.

“The process is a marriage between clinical necessity and advances in technology,” said Dr Rana Mukherjee of Westbank. “Countries like Canada and Australia have benefited a lot through telemedicine. India, too, can make good use of it.”

Initially, the set-up will be between the hospital in Kharagpur and Westbank. Later, the School of Tropical Medicine will be identifying nodal hospitals in the region to which it will be connected. Webel is providing the hardware and specially-devised software for the three-year project.

   

 
 
FIRING AFTER TILJALA FLARE-UP 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 7: 
Armed miscreants ransacked the Trinamul Congress office at Mathpukur, in the Tiljala police station area, early on Monday and beat up party workers and residents. Police had to open fire to disperse the attackers. A picket has been posted in the area, which falls within Sonarpur Assembly constituency.

According to Nirmal Mondal, Trinamul candidate, about 15 men, most of them belonging to the CPM, raided the party office. They beat up 58-year-old party worker Bhudhar Palley and also shot at and hurled bombs at those who came to his rescue. Palley was later hospitalised in a critical condition.

Mohan Lal Jana, president of the block Trinamul Congress, said: “The miscreants have destroyed the furniture and taken away all our election equipment. We have named the attackers, but the police are not taking any action.” Pradeep Sen, a Trinamul Congress worker, added: “If this situation continues, it will be difficult for us to work on poll day.”

However, local CPM leader Sanyasi Dalui refuted the charge. “Our men were not involved in the attack. This is a Trinamul Congress ploy to create panic in the area.”

Superintendent of police Deb Kumar Ganguly said: “I have received the names of some persons involved in the attack. Raids are on to arrest them.”

   

 
 
CONG CHARGED WITH KILLING OWN WORKERS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Guwahati, May 7: 
The Asom Gana Parishad today said the six Congress workers killed at Biswanath Chariali and Dhekiajuli in Sonitpur district on Friday were victims of a “heinous conspiracy” by their own leaders.

AGP general secretary Birendra Prasad Baishya said the twin attacks were carried out by surrendered Ulfa militants at the behest of the Congress leadership.

He said the conspiracy came to light during the interrogation of a well-known former rebel who was arrested by the Army on Saturday night.

“Kajol Khan, the arrested Sulfa leader, confessed that the killing of Congress workers at Biswanath Chariali and Dhekiajuli were carried out by some former militants at the behest of the Congress,” he said.

However, the Army yesterday said the killings were carried out by the Ulfa. It said troops of the 2 Mountain Division shot dead one of the rebels involved in the killings. The slain militant was identified as a member of the Ulfa’s Enigma squad.

The attacks on Congress workers were a break from the “pattern” of the recent political killings in the state. Till Friday night, only AGP and BJP workers had been targeted by the Ulfa.

The AGP has accused the Congress of masterminding the attacks in league with the banned outfit.

The Congress has not been silent either. It claims the killing of AGP workers “is part of a conspiracy by the AGP-BJP combine to divert the attention of the voters”.

Terming the Congress’ counter-allegations as “false and baseless”, Baishya said, “The fact that thousands of people have taken to the streets in protest against the killing of AGP workers establishes our claim that the Congress has links with the Ulfa. The people of Assam have seen through the Congress’ plan to enter Dispur through the back door.”

Referring to the arrest of a Congress candidate in Nagaon, the AGP leader said, “It is for the first time in the political history of Assam that a candidate has been arrested for brandishing arms to intimidate his rival candidates.”

The BJP, too, lambasted the Congress for demanding an apology from the Prime Minister for failing to institute a CBI inquiry into its alleged nexus with the Ulfa. “It is a desperate attempt to cover up its criminal face,” the BJP said.

Reacting to a statement issued by AICC general secretary Kamal Nath in this regard, the BJP’s all-India vice-president Pyarelal Khandelwal said, “Indiscernability on the part of voters cannot be swayed or intimidated by such unwarranted statements. Kamal Nath should introspect on his own party’s actions with a stable mind, which will enable him to see the rapid rise of criminal tendency and activities in the Congress itself.”

He said the arrest of Congress candidate Nripen Goswami for alleged hooliganism and criminal intimidation was a case in point.

Assam violence: Violence continued unabated in Assam ahead of Thursday’s Assembly polls in the state, with two Assam Gana Parishad workers killed by suspected Ulfa militants and an improvised explosive device recovered from Guwahati station, police said. Six Congress workers and six policemen were also injured in separate incidents, the police said. Three were injured by suspected Ulfa militants. Train passengers had a miraculous escape when an IED was recovered from the railway station today.

   
 

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