We talk like that only
Parallel probe into poll-day death
Parents win stand-off over entry test at school
Sip, shop, study, surf under single roof
Twin bottlenecks stem southern flow
Alphabet tree on the Maidan
Ropeway, toy train for park in Salt Lake
Flagging drive gives autos free rein on roads
Repoll in Assam seats today
Beleaguered Koijam eyes bypoll victory

 
 
WE TALK LIKE THAT ONLY 
 
 
BY MADHUMITA BHATTACHARYYA
 
Calcutta, May 11 : 
“Arre yaar, why’re you vegging at home? Let’s go for a gedi to VSS or some kachra sat VP.”

Can’t make head or tail of this? Don’t bother reaching for the Oxford. And don’t dare step into a college canteen. For if this (“Why’re you vegetating at home? Let’s go for a drive to Vidyasagar Setu or some junk food at Vivekananda Park”) seems gibberish to you, you’re just totally, completely ‘out of it’.

Teenage trends have never moved faster. With information only a remote, or a mouse, click away, the language used, both on and off campus, changes by the week. The other day, ‘Lock kar diya jai’, and ‘lifeline’ were the rage. Today, they are what Steve ‘Oscar’ Martin would call “so last year”, while wacky new words are tumbling out, chappar phaad ke.

Television, movies, Internet, music have changed the way young Calcutta speaks. See it, hear it, adopt it is the way it works. Ad-lines have never been snappier, TV shows have never been more varied, the Net has never been this big. And the fusion is effortless. As first-year English student at Presidency, Aninda Sardar, puts it: “We don’t think about it, we just say it.”

It’s all about everyday influences and innovations. Poll 2001, too, has left its mark. “While the ‘Ulte din, palte dekhun’ (‘topple and change’) Trinamul slogan proved the most catchy on campus, the popular phrase ‘Pagol na matha kharap (‘Are you mad or mad’) was replaced by ‘Are you mad or CPM/Trinamul?’, depending on colours red or orange,” observed a second-year student at Presidency.

College-goers today may mimic Lisa Kudrow’s flaky lines from Friends, or Ally McBeal’s rants and raves. “They say on the Presi campus, we all talk like characters out of Cartoon Network,” laughs Aninda.

It’s advantage ads, when it comes to impact on speech. Products like jeans and colas, with their teen-target campaigns, are natural talking points. “If someone asks us for the time, the first thing guys in college say these days is ‘Be cool, not a fool’,” smiles Kanak Gupta of St Xavier’s College.

But according to 27-year-old Rahul Ghosh, creative group head with Contract Advertising, it’s teen language that inspires ad campaigns, and not the other way around. “Ours is the language of the young people. Sometimes, a ‘sign-off’ will become popular and be used everywhere, but the tone is set by already existing trends,” he explains.

Then, of course, there is the biggest timepass for city teens today: the Net. With friends from all over chatting online, Netizens have started a language of their own. What would seem like ‘typos’ or garbage to the uninitiated, is the parlance of short messaging services and chatrooms. Smileys and bizarre acronyms say it all. From the basic LOL (‘laugh out loud’) and QT (‘cutie’), they have developed a more complicated code, such as ROFLMAS (‘rolling on the floor, laughing my ass off) and RTSM (‘read the stupid manual’), ‘uncrackable’ without online chat directories.

If Net is a major influence, abbreviations are the net result. Words, on campus, are like cellphones. Size does matter — the smaller the better. The brevity bug has bitten hard and deep, confirms Nikhilesh Bhattacharya, a first-year student at Jadavpur. “We always use ‘casu’ instead of casual, while sentimental just has to be ‘sentu’”. Sometimes, what starts off as an abbreviation, develops its own distinctive identity. ‘Halu’, used frequently on the Presidency campus, is said to be a derivative of ‘hallucination’. But it’s now a reference to someone who is ‘spaced out’. “We even have a halur kol. It’s a music system where people are often spotted listening to music, staring into nothingness,” explains Sambit Pal, a second-year student at Presidency.

Words do not remain unique to any one campus anymore. Catchwords from the IITs and IIMs seep down to Calcutta colleges, sooner rather than later. And not just through cyberspace. Many trace the ever-popular hazaar back to IIT. And IIM jargon, from core competence to USP, has spread far beyond B-school classrooms.

Though books may no longer be the most popular form of entertainment, they still have their hold. “I have heard a lot of kids using words from Harry Potter, like muggle,” observes Jayati Gupta, Presidency English professor. But does the spoken word translate on to answer scripts? “Lingo does sometimes creep into answer scripts,” continues Gupta. “A word like ‘Unputdownable’ is often used by students, even though I don’t think it really exists.”

If lingo translates to attitude, it’s not just what they say, but how they say it and where they say it that’s changed, feels Professor Rohinton Kapadia of St Xavier’s College. “Students these days do not refrain from using slang words if, say, they pass by a teacher in the corridors,” he points out. “But classrooom interaction hasn’t really changed.”

Campusspeak is now steadily gaining entry into officespace. “There has been a change in the way people speak in office over the past five years, but it’s hardly detrimental,” feels Rahul Ghosh.

What about the parents? Do they feel their children speak an alien tongue? Not Calcutta University’s Dr Krishna Sen. “I have an 18-year-old daughter. And while she is using slightly different words than we did or do, the idiom doesn’t seem to have changed much.”

But for others, new-age lingo is the loudest shout of an ever-widening generation gap. Tell this to the ‘just do it’ brigade and chances are they’ll turn around and shrug, “Chill maan... We are like that only!” (Or is that passé already?)

   

 
 
PARALLEL PROBE INTO POLL-DAY DEATH 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 11 : 
A day after the Assembly polls, the death of Rabindranath Das, Trinamul Congress activist, triggered off a row, forcing police to conduct twin departmental inquiries. As news of Das’ death spread, the state human rights commission directed the police to submit an inquest report. Acting commissioner of police S.I.S. Ahmed also instructed the detective department to conduct a parallel probe into the matter.

Das was beaten up and chased away by the police during the polls when a clash broke out on Beleghata Main Road, in the Phoolbagan police station area. He managed to flee and jumped into Subhas Sarobar. According to eyewitnesses, some policemen jumped into the tank after him and beat him up. Sadhana Das, the victim’s wife, lodged a complaint with Phoolbagan police and the chief electoral officer, demanding immediate punishment of the guilty policemen. On the other hand, the cops started a case against Das on charges of rioting.

Trouble erupted on Friday when the victim’s family demanded a magisterial inquiry into the matter. “As it is beyond the provision of law, we could not agree. Finally, the problem was resolved when the rights panel intervened,” said Raj Kanojia, deputy commissioner of police, headquarters.

Kanojia said the rights panel directed Mihir Bhattacharya, deputy commissioner, eastern suburban division, to submit an inquest report. The post-mortem was conducted on Friday and the process video-taped. Police will also record the statements of eyewitnesses.

Banibrata Basu, deputy commissioner, detective department, said : “We are also conducting an inquiry. Our officer will visit the spot and question people on Saturday,” Basu added.

Post-poll violence erupted in the eastern suburban division on Friday. A Trinamul worker, Aloke Khatua, 28, was stabbed on Tangra Road. He was admitted to hospital with serious injuries.

Kanojia said sporadic clashes broke out at Beniapukur, Topsia, Tangra and Beleghata. A group of CPM supporters went on bombing spree on Beleghata Main Road near the house of Pabitra Biswas, councillor of ward no 33.

Overnight bombing was reported from Tangra, Jorabagan and Jorasanko. Police could arrest only 15 persons in connection with the post-poll violence.

   

 
 
PARENTS WIN STAND-OFF OVER ENTRY TEST AT SCHOOL 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, May 11 : 
After three weeks of protest, the first sign of triumph. Parents of Patha Bhavan primary school students opposing the secondary school move to slap entrance exams for admission to Class V, received a boost on Friday with the special appointee of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education ruling in their favour. Sanat Bose, appointed administrator of the secondary school by the Board, ruled that “the usual procedure of transition from Class IV to Class V will be followed and, in this regard, all earlier notices stand cancelled”.

On April 18, the secondary school management had suddenly issued a notice making it mandatory for 140 students of Class IV to appear for an admission test to gain entry to the secondary school. Guardians of primary school students have been protesting the move ever since.

The morning after the election, ex-IIM professor Sanat Bose turned up at Patha Bhavan around 11 am. Bose has been appointed administrator for a year to supersede the existing ad-hoc management committee, headed by Prof Santosh Bhattacharya, which has completed its term and is on extension. Bose will have to conduct elections to the management committee within six months.

For around three hours, he waited outside the school gates, along with guardians of primary school students, awaiting the arrival of headmaster Swapan Chatterjee. With no sign of Chatterjee, Bose turned the pavement into a makeshift office, with a table and chair hastily arranged for him by teachers and parents.

Bose first assumed ‘charge’ in the presence of some teachers of the secondary school, local MLA Rabin Deb, and a representative of the Board. He then proceeded to issue letters to three banks to freeze the accounts of the secondary school. After that, he wrote a letter to Gariahat thana, requesting administrative help to enter the school premises.

Bose finally entered the school, escorted by the police and Deb, after 2 pm. He called a meeting with secondary school teachers, following which he issued the order to scrap the admission test clause for Class V. Parents of primary school students then met Bose and requested him to complete the admission process by Monday.

“Our stand has been vindicated,” said Pradipta Kanungo, headmistress of the Patha Bhavan primary school.

Santosh Bhattacharya, president of the secondary school management committee, stood his ground, late on Friday: “We haven’t got the letter from the Board. We have always abided by the Board’s instructions, including the decision to introduce admission tests... That this move is politically motivated has been proved by the presence of Rabin Deb at the school today. And the administrator appointed by the Board is a well-known CPM activist. This is nothing but blatant political interference. We have done no wrong.”

   


 
 
SIP, SHOP, STUDY, SURF UNDER SINGLE ROOF 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, May 11 : 
A classroom training centre from 7 am to 10 am. Online education after that. Shopping and surfing from 10 am to 10 pm...

Shop, sip, study and surf. That’s the ‘all in one, one in all’ mantra of a chain of IT retail outlets-cum-cybercafes scheduled to be launched in Calcutta by end-May.

Promoted as Happy e-zon — boasting tie-ups with Microsoft, Wipro, HP, HCL, Satyam, Samsung, Sharp, Aptech, Datapro, Nestle, Cadbury and Pepsi — it promises to bring all IT-related services under one roof.

The whole idea of the “one-stop shoppe” will be to provide computer hardware and software, cybercafes and training facilities. “These facilities are available in bits and pieces here in the city. But we want to integrate them in Happy e-zone by bringing them under one roof and offer the best to the customer,” says Sushil Poddar, of Happy e-zon.

“We hope to give a fillip to the ongoing IT revolution by offering all services under one roof,” he adds.

To convert the concept into a success, Happy e-zon has roped in some of the biggest players in the business to provide everything, from Microsoft gaming to Wipro leased lines, Satyam connectivity, and Aptech training. To make sure that the surfer or the student doesn’t have to step out of the centre for a sip or a bite, munchies from Nestle and Cadbury, and thirst-quenchers from Pepsi, will be on hand.

The services to be offered at the centres will be “competitively” priced. “The hourly surfing rate will be Rs 20. Besides, we will issue annual roaming surfing cards at Rs 12,345 to our members, who will also be entitled to benefits at major shopping centres, hotels and restaurants in the city,” explained Poddar.

The Happy e-zon chain is ready to spread out all over town — from Ashok Hotel to Tollygunge. All the spots have been identified. In phase one, 25 centres will come up within three months. The first 10 centres will be launched by the end of May and all 100 will be in place within two years. An ambitious expansion programme has been chalked out through the franchisee development route.

“We will invest Rs 5 crore initially and own the first 25 centres and after that we will rope in franchisees. We are also planning to open up centres in Kathmandu and Dhaka,” said Poddar.

   

 
 
TWIN BOTTLENECKS STEM SOUTHERN FLOW 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 11 : 
If south Calcutta ever scored over the north in terms of easy flow of traffic, bottlenecks at the Garia junction and the Bondel Road crossing are set to rob the area of that reputation. Garia is the gateway of South 24-Parganas, while Bondel Road is the link between the city and South 24-Parganas.

Residents complain that the approach road to the Bondel Road railway crossing is jammed by auto-rickshaws and taxis. Hawkers add to the chaos during peak hour.

The problem is similar at Garia, where buses on at least 16 routes and around 1,500 autos ply. To ease traffic movement, the single-lane bridge was expanded, but this has brought little relief. Moreover, garbage from the market spills on to the road, though local municipal councillor Ujjal Chatterjee maintains that the road is regularly swept clean.

Recently, the police took steps to streamline the traffic here. Deputy superintendent of police (town) Subhankar Chatterjee said buses would be allowed to park along only the left pavement. Autos will be given coloured stickers bearing the route names, so that they ply the fixed route and park at a designated spot. “We plan to raise a volunteer force,” he added.

At Bondel, the chaos is compounded by the construction of the Gariahat flyover, according to officer-in-charge of Tiljala police station Jugal Kishore Mukherjee. Unlike at Bondel, no respite is in sight for residents of this area.

   

 
 
ALPHABET TREE ON THE MAIDAN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 11 : 
A stroll along the Maidan now promises more than fresh air. Kids can pick up the alphabets in course of the walk, if the ‘alphabet tree’ to be planted by the Indian Museum bears fruit.

The 10-ft-high tree will educate people in a variety of Indian languages. It will be the first of its kind in the country, according to the museum authorities, and have letters in metal hanging from its branches.

Shyamal Chakraborty, director, Indian Museum, said the tree will be gifted to citizens on International Museums Day on May 18. “The tree will give people an overview of all the Indian languages that existed in the country from the period of the Indus Valley civilisation to the modern era,” said Chakraborty.

The alphabets to be used in the tree have been compiled by expert palaeographers. The letters from some of the old scripts have been gathered after long research, said Chakraborty.

The primary objective behind the scheme is to promote the study of Indian languages, according to the museum director. “People may develop an interest in the ancient Indian languages after seeing the alphabets hanging from the tree. Most people do not even know what the scripts looked like,” he added.

The languages chosen will range from the ancient (like Brahmi and Harappan) to the modern (including Tamil, Oriya, Assamese and Bengali).

To enable the people to know the script to which a particular alphabet belongs, each letter will carry a label with the name of the script. An accompanying board will contain notes on the languages used.

The museum authorities said that the tree will be ready in a few days and will be handed over to a private agency for maintenance after installation.

   

 
 
ROPEWAY, TOY TRAIN FOR PARK IN SALT LAKE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 11 : 
Banbitan, in Salt Lake, is set to get a new look.

The forest department plans to turn it into an amusement park with a ropeway, a swimming pool, a badminton court, a garden and a toy train. The state forest department, which maintains the park, is raising funds from private companies.

The decision was taken in the wake of allegations of immoral activity in the 60-acre park, located in the heart of the township. Some arrests were made, but the situation did not improve.

Jogesh Burman, forest minister in the outgoing Cabinet, observed that such activities could not be stopped by force. “We have decided to introduce rides and games for children so that the profile of the visitors to the park will change,’’ Burman said.

“Work will start before the monsoon,’’ said M.L. Pathak, a forest department official in charge of parks and gardens.

   

 
 
FLAGGING DRIVE GIVES AUTOS FREE REIN ON ROADS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 11 : 
Autorickshaws will continue to choke the city’s roads, with the collapse of the much-touted rules framed by the transport department to control their haphazard and uncontrolled movements. In a bid to check illegal plying of autos and keep the roads free from the chaos they create, the state government had framed a set of rules in December last year. However, neither the police nor the motor vehicles department seems keen on implementing it.

The new rules made it mandatory for auto operators to take a permit and a licence for plying in and around the city. The motor vehicles department was to issue the permits after all formalities were complied with. In case of the northern and southern suburbs and Howrah, the regional transport authorities were entrusted with the task of issuing registrations.

But hundreds of autos are plying without any a permit or licence. Though autos are restricted from plying on key city roads, three-wheelers ply with impunity on C.R. Avenue, B.B. Ganguly Street and Bidhan Sarani, creating bottlenecks.

The rules also said a committee would be constituted, comprising the local police and councillor, auto operators and PVD officials, to draw up a route and fix the number of three-wheelers to be plied on each route. But in most areas, no such panel has been formed and the operators are plying their vehicles wherever they choose to. Besides, the auto operators are still carrying five passengers, violating the four-person rule.

“It was decided that a maximum of 10,000 autos would be allowed to ply on city roads, but we failed to contain the number due to a lack of initiative to enforce the laws. Both the transport department and police are responsible for the failure,’’ said a senior officer from the transport department.

The police turn a blind eye to auto operators violating traffic rules.They claim they do not receive any order from the transport department in this regard.

Vice-chairman of the state transport authority, Lakshman Bhattacharya, who masterminded the new rules to control autos in the city, said everyone was passing the buck, while autos continued to flourish and add to chaos.

   

 
 
REPOLL IN ASSAM SEATS TODAY 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Guwahati, May 11: 
Unprecedented security arrangements have been made in 19 of the 32 Assembly constituencies in the Brahmaputra Valley where repoll will be held tomorrow. In Barak Valley, repoll will be held on Sunday.

The Election Commission ordered repoll in 206 polling stations, most of which are located in Barak Valley, following complaints of booth-capturing and rigging during Thursday’s polls.

The worst-affected is Hailakandi district, which accounts for 83 of the polling stations. The state government has announced a paid holiday in places where repoll will be held.

Nearly 11 people were killed, five of them in Sonari, in poll-related violence yesterday. Yesterday’s polls registered a turnout of nearly 70 per cent despite threats of militant attacks.

A massive security blanket has been thrown in places where repoll will be conducted. Police sources said 10 CRPF personnel will be deployed in each booth. Assam Police Battalion personnel will be on patrolling duty.

Army personnel will also be on patrol duty in the vicinity of the booths, including the roads leading to them.

Militants of the Boro Liberation Tigers, which snatched ballot papers in some polling stations, have threatened voters and candidates in Kurabaha village in Rangiya, where education minister Thaneswar Boro faces a stiff challenge from Congress stalwart Bhubaneswar Kalita and CPM’s Ananta Deka.

Sources said two Congress workers were injured by BLT cadre. Nearly 16,000 voters are expected to exercise their franchise tomorrow.

In Dibrugarh district, repoll will be held in nine polling stations spread over three constituencies: Moran, Tinkhong and Naharkatia.

In Barak Valley, repoll will take place in Katlichera, Algapur and Hailakandi. Hailakandi police have detained BJP candidate Pratul Dev for allegedly helping his supporters to rig a booth in Katlichera constituency on the Assam-Mizoram border.

Apprehending a repeat of Thursday’s mayhem, the state Congress has directed partymen to keep a close watch. PCC president Tarun Gogoi has accused the AGP-BJP combine of indulging in unfair practices. “With the exit polls predicting a Congress win, the combine has become desperate,” Gogoi said.

The exit polls have given 60 seats to Congress, 33 to the AGP-BJP combine and 32 to others. In 1996, the AGP had won 59 seats, the Congress 34 and the BJP four.

The state Congress will also depute “special” teams to all the counting centres to prevent rigging. Security has also been stepped up at the “strong rooms” throughout the state.

Cotton College in the city, where counting begins on Sunday, witnessed heavy security arrangements.

Barricades have been set up along roads leading to the historic college, which is likely to be thronged by thousands of people eager to get an update-by-the-hour when the counting begins.

   

 
 
BELEAGUERED KOIJAM EYES BYPOLL VICTORY 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, May 11: 
Facing a revolt just over three months into his maiden term as chief minister of Manipur, Radhabinod Koijam needs all the help he can get to survive at the helm.

Samata Party member Vivek Raj Wangkhem could provide just that by winning today’s byelection to the vacant Kshetrigao Assembly seat.

Over 80 per cent of the constituency’s electorate exercised their franchise in the bypoll. The turnout would have been higher had it not rained during the first few hours of polling, sources said.

Polling was free and fair in all 30 booths. No untoward incident was reported in any part of the constituency throughout the day.

Counting of votes will begin at the Imphal East deputy commissioner’s office on Sunday.

Victory for Vivek Raj will be a shot in the arm for the Samata Party, whose tally in the Assembly now stands at 12.

The party, which leads the People’s Front coalition, is in danger of being ousted from power by the dissident camp, led by BJP legislature party chief R.K. Dorendra Singh.

Speaker Sapam Dhananjoy’s residence is the hub of the dissidents, who reportedly want a change in the People’s Front leadership.

Thirty-three rebel legislators, led by Dorendra Singh, today met Governor Ved Marwah and briefed him on the political developments.

Though the Koijam ministry has been reduced to a minority, he hopes to claw back with the help of frenetic lobbying in New Delhi by Samata Party leader and convenor of the National Democratic Alliance, George Fernandes.

Koijam’s problems were compounded when 18 legislators broke away from the Manipur State Congress Party on Wednesday and formed the Progressive Manipur State Congress Party. These legislators are planning to merge with the BJP.

State BJP president Meinam Bhorot Singh and Dhananjoy are in New Delhi to discuss the merger proposal with the central party leadership.

Senior BJP leader and higher education minister Haobam Bhubon Singh, a long-time rival of Dorendra Singh, and seven Samata Party leaders are also in the capital to block the merger.

Chaoba Singh is reportedly against the merger of the Progressive Manipur State Congress Party with the BJP.

   
 

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