Union ugly face in Buddha IT hub
Success rate up in ICSE
New top cop on spruce-up drive
Spotlight on the house Clive built
Sunderbans swoop frees kidnap victim
Love twist in jewellery shop guard’s murder
Metiabruz CPM leader shot in eye
Trinamul losers blame Congress, rigging
Peeved Panja dangles split-Trinamul threat
Two-tier task to tackle twin troubles

Calcutta, May 23: 
Within hours of being sworn in chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had pledged to “do whatever is needed to lead an industrial resurgence in Bengal, with special emphasis on IT”. Since then, he’s been busy hosting the business brigade at Writers’, and even once at Alimuddin Street. But all this while, work at Webel — the state’s nodal agency for IT — has been paralysed by a confrontation between the Left-powered employees’ union and the officers.

The ugly drama at Webel over the past week has followed an alarmingly familiar pattern — an officer being beaten up by a union leader for refusing to support an ‘anti-Centre’ signature campaign; the setting up of an inquiry commission; the employees’ union using strong-arm tactics to render the inquiry process a farce; the management dismissing the matter as “minor” and claiming there’s “nothing wrong”; the officers pushed on to the backfoot and apprehensive about what happens next.

Trouble started just before the elections, when Subrata Jana, a junior technical officer, refused to lend his name to a signature campaign organised by the WBEIDC Employees’ Union to protest the Centre’s “anti-people economic policies”.

On May 16, around 5.45 pm, Jana and colleagues were waiting for office buses at the SDF Building gates after work. Suddenly, Krishnendu Chatterjee, secretary, WBEIDC Employees’ Union, and some others cornered Jana and started beating him up. “We are back in power... Now, who will save you... Will you sign or not?” they shouted, while slapping and punching him in the face.

On May 17, Jana reported the “unfortunate and serious incident” to managing director S.K. Mitra, expressed “a deep feeling of insecurity on the office premises and outside”, and urged him to “take stern action against this sort of hooliganism to protect the rights, interests and safety of your employees in the workplace...”. On May 22, with the management sitting on the matter, Jana petitioned Shyamal Chakraborty, president, WBEIDC Employees’ Union.

A one-member inquiry commission of R.S. Roy, deputy manager, personnel and administration, was set up. The commission invited eyewitnesses, but union members, apparently, went about threatening the junior officers and other technical staff who had witnessed the attack on Jana with dire consequences if they deposed.

On Wednesday evening, the management’s decision to “revoke the probe panel as the incident had taken place outside the office premises” was conveyed to Samir Roy, general manager, personnel and administration.

Krishnendu Chatterjee, the main accused, when contacted, said: “Sab bhool sunechen. Ei sab kichu hoi ni....(What you’ve heard is all wrong. Nothing like that has happened).”

S.K. Mitra, managing director, dismissed the incident as “a very minor thing... We have examined the case. There is prima facie evidence to show that the incident took place outside our premises...”

Former minister Shyamal Chakraborty took the same line. “I am aware of the incident. As it took place outside the administrative premises of Webel, it cannot be related to work culture in any way.”

“The management has hushed up the case under instructions from Alimuddin Street,” alleged one of Jana’s colleagues. The junior officers fear that coming to office from Thursday could be “dangerous” for them.


Calcutta, May 23: 
The results of this year’s ICSE and ISC examinations, posted on the Net from Tuesday midnight, reveal an improvement in the overall performance of ICSE students in most Calcutta schools. Many lesser-known schools, too, fared better than last year. The examinations, conducted by the Delhi-based Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations, were held in March. Terence Ireland, principal, St James School, and convener of one of the Council’s zones in Calcutta, said marksheets “will reach most schools by Saturday”.

A quick survey of results at many Calcutta schools showed a rise in ICSE marks. “Students have scored high marks in some subjects, like Bengali and Hindi,” observed Father Boris D. Santos of St Xavier’s. Maths and science scores were also up from last year.

The results of some of the middle-ranking schools was also “encouraging”. The number of failures has dropped and “100 per cent success rate” was reported from many lesser-known schools. At Rajasthan Vidya Mandir, in north Calcutta, 63 of the 65 ICSE examinees have scored 60 per cent or more. All 67 students from Agrasain Balika Siksha Sadan, in Howrah, passed, with 53 scoring more than 70 per cent.

Kingshuk Chakraborty, a physically-challenged student of Future Foundation, scored 91.23 per cent marks. “We are proud of Kingshuk for his performance,” said Ranjan Mitra, principal of Future Foundation. Kingshuk had taken the test with the help of a writer.

The scores at some reputed ICSE schools were also quite high. There was, however, no official confirmation from the Council’s city office about top-ranking students in Calcutta.

But Shreepriya Das of St Xavier’s, with 566, and Milinda Banerjee and Samvit Kanoria of La Martiniere, each with 565, appear to be among the top rankers in Calcutta. Valentina Dutta of La Martiniere for Girls and Nishu Agarwal of Rajasthan Vidya Mandir are a few of the city’s high scorers among girls in ICSE, while Arnab Mukherjee and Chirag Mehta of Don Bosco Park Circus have obtained 562 and 560, respectively.

Siddharth Sinha and Pallab Agarwal have stood joint first among the ICSE examinees from St James School, with 93.8 per cent, while Sayak Banerjee and Sansaptak Dasgupta from ISC have scored 96.7 per cent each.


Calcutta, May 23: 
Fifty-seven-year-old Sujoy Chakraborty, an IPS officer of the 1969 batch, was appointed police commissioner on Wednesday, replacing Dinesh C. Vajpai, promoted to director-general, West Bengal Police. In the rat race to the hot seat, Chakraborty, a Presidency College graduate, had two other contenders, Ranjit Mohanty, inspector-general of police, south Bengal, and Shyamal Dutta, additional director-general of the state intelligence branch. He is also known for his proximity to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

As police chief, Chakraborty intends to spruce up the detective department. “Policemen will have to step up their information network. I am keen on introducing scientific investigation. Special emphasis will be laid on discipline and training of the police force. Our men need to adapt to the changing scenario,” he told The Telegraph. He did not rule out the possibility of a reshuffle in the police ranks either.

Chakraborty’s priorities will be to build an efficient police force, respect human rights and improve patrolling in localities. “Inefficient and corrupt officials will be identified and action will be taken against them,’’ he added.


Calcutta, May 23: 
It was ‘lights, camera, action’ at the dilapidated Clive House in Dum Dum on Wednesday. A journey back in time for a once-grand structure now but a ruin, reliving its illustrious past on celluloid. The BBC is filming an hour-long documentary on “the creative relationship between 18th and 19th Century British and Bengal architecture” with Robert Clive , the reformist, as focus.

Anchored by architecture historian Dan Cruickshank, the documentary seeks to trace the evolution of the distinctive style of architecture during the period, owing as much to Bengal in “construction and tradition’’ as to the “status and forms of European classical architecture’’. The docu-feature takes off from Clive House and pans on an entire range of buildings, including the Sovabazar Rajbati, Governor’s House, Dalhousie Square, Town Hall, St John’s Church, Writers’ Buildings and Metcalfe Hall, before moving on to the architectural marvels of Murshidabad.

The BBC crew is also awaiting clearance from New Delhi to film a “historical dig’’ at Clive House by the Archaeological Survey of India. The mound atop which the crumbling mansion stands, houses much older sites, dating back to the 12th and 15th Centuries.

“The site is unique in the sense that it is home to successive genre of architecture that evolved in medieval Bengal, culminating in the British occupation of the city. In a nutshell, it is the microcosm of Calcutta’s history,’’ says Cruickshank, who had shot a documentary on Clive House in 1996.

The crew hinges it contention on the fact that Clive inherited the mansion as East India Company chief in 1758. “He did not build it. He just added the first floor and some wings to make it more native-friendly.’’

Clive House, according to Cruickshank, combined the best of European and Indian aspects to suit the then social ethos. “It is the perfect example of shared heritage,’’ says Nicky Pattison, producer, BBC Arts. The sprawling durbar-type reception and the dance halls were deviations from the European classical norms, meant to cater to the local taste.

“Clive perhaps entertained the local landlords there,’’ observes Pattison. The crew, which wanted to capture the essence of the era, also filmed elaborate court sequences at the Sovabazar Rajbati, where Cruickshank was entertained by “traditional dancers’’.

“We will be speaking to chief secretary Manish Gupta about the steps that can be taken to unravel the mystique of Clive House through an Indo-British initiative,” adds associate producer of the project, Bonani Kakkar.

Pattison and Cruickshank, however, are more excited about what lies beneath Clive House. “We have discovered three layers of bricks, indicating the presence of Mughal structures from the 12th Century,’’ says Cruickshank. According to superintending archaeologist, ASI, S.B. Ota, the “nature of the mound” spanning an area of roughly four sq km is “ancient’’. “If the dig comes through, it will add to the significance of the project,’’ smiles Pattison.


Calcutta, May 23: 
After scouring South 24-Parganas for the past 48 hours, the police rescued city industrialist Murali Mohan Ghosh from an island in the Sunderbans early on Wednesday. Ghosh had been abducted on Monday at gun-point from Harish Mukherjee Road.

During an overnight joint raid conducted by South 24-Parganas police and city sleuths, the 76-year-old industrialist was rescued from a mud hut at Uttar Bodakhali, on Golabari island, in the Canning police station area. Police also arrested one of the five-member gang of abductors.

The South 24-Parganas police got the lead on Tuesday afternoon after questioning the driver of the Tata Sumo used to kidnap Ghosh. The vehicle had been impounded from the intersection of D.L. Khan Road and Sambhunath Pandit Street and the driver arrested while he was returning to the city. The driver, a resident of Minakha, in North 24-Parganas, had been hired by the kidnappers to take them from Harish Mukherjee Street to Sonakhali on Monday.

Sanjay Mukherjee, deputy commissioner-II, detective department, said a team of detectives, led by deputy commissioner-II, Pradwip Sanyal, rushed to Sonakhali but failed to collect any information on the kidnap victim. The district police, then, grilled the driver again. According to descriptions given by him, police chalked out a list of the criminals who could be involved.

Residents of Gosaba island told the sleuths they had seen five unidentified men with another elderly man in the area. So a trap was laid at Sonakhali, in the Basanti police station area.

The abductors, meanwhile, rung up Ghosh’s family thrice for ransom. “But they had not specified the amount. I think, as it was their first kidnap, they could not decide on the sum to be claimed,” Mukherjee added.

The police were then told by their local sources that Iman, a notorious criminal of Sunderbans area, had masterminded the kidnap. The detectives and district police conducted a joint raid and picked up Imam from his Bhagatgarh residence, in Basanti.

Imam initially denied his involvement but crumbled under sustained interrogation. He disclosed the hideout where the industrialist was being held.

The cops hired a country boat to Golabari island. Imam pointed to a mud hut, and the police stormed in. They saw the industrialist lying on a charpoy. Owner of the hut Rajak Sarder was grilled but the cops were convinced he had no role in the kidnap. Rather, he had been plying the victim with food and water. Police are now looking for the rest of the gang, one of whom has been identified as Abbas.


Calcutta, May 23: 
A 30-year-old newspaper vendor, Dhunilal Kamath, who was also a caretaker of Dey Brothers, one of the oldest jewellery shops in Gariahat, was murdered early on Wednesday. Police suspect Dhunilal was murdered by someone known to him.

Deputy commissioner of police, south, Ranjit Pachnanda, said Kamath had opened the gate of the shop to let the killer in. The killer opened the gate and locked it from outside after the murder.

People who went out for morning walks and vendors of Gariahat market were the first to notice the body inside the shop through a gap in the collapsible gate. They informed the police at 7.30 am.

“We keep hearing that Kamath was having an affair with the wife of a friend. Either the woman killed him or the friend. Or else, why should someone kill him and yet not steal the gold and silver ornaments?’’ Pachnanda asked.

According to Kamal and Saumitra Dey, partners of the jewellery shop, Kamath’s family has been in their service for generations. The Kamaths are from Lalbagh, in Bihar. “Nothing is stolen from the shop,’’ Dey told the police.

“His father’s newspaper stall on the Gariahat pavement was in front of the jewellery shop. He came here as a little boy with his father and stayed inside the shop. They used to stock magazines and newspapers in the shop at night and take them out in the morning,’’ according to D.P. Bhattacharya, officer-in-charge of Gariahat police station.

Kamath was allegedly in the habit of entertaining women and friends till late at night. Neighbours at Gariahat market said on condition of anonymity that they had noticed lamps burning inside the shop till late at night, even after the collapsible gate was drawn.

Rambabu Sharma, a close friend of Kamath’s, who was known as Dhuniya, said he would occasionally hold drinking parties with friends and country liquor was their favourite. “They used to take turns in hosting parties. It is not a fact that he always entertained friends inside the jewellery shop. I have seen him drinking behind Gariahat market late at night,’’ he said. Sharma met Kamath on Tuesday evening. “He badly wanted to see the Amitabh Bachchan-Akshay Kumar starrer, Ek Rishta, at Priya cinema. He asked me if I was interested in accompanying him,’’ Sharma added. “He went to his village in Bihar and returned to the city a month earlier,’’ he said.

Gariahat OC Bhattacharya said the body has been sent for post-mortem. “We are cross-checking all information. Two persons have been detained for interrogation,’’ Bhattacharya added. A police picket has been posted in front of the shop, which was closed for most of the day to ward off onlookers.


Calcutta, May 23: 
Tension ran high in Metiabruz after Madan Singh, a CPM zonal committee member and former councillor of Mahestala municipality, was shot in the left eye from close range on Wednesday. He was admitted to SSKM Hospital, where doctors operated on his injured eye.

Anil Biswas, state secretary of the party, said: “Singh was shot by Trinamul Congress supporters. He was attacked without any provocation. He has lost one of his eyes.” Biswas has appealed to his party workers and also to the Opposition to maintain peace in the state.

However, Trinamul MLA Subrata Mukherjee denied the charge, saying: “None of our party workers is involved in it. Biswas’ allegations are false.”

Local residents and cadre blocked roads in Taratala demanding that the culprits be arrested. A police picket was posted in the area. Senior officers patrolled the area. So far, police have detained two persons.

Singh was shot while returning home at Trenching Ground Road after he finished shopping for his elder daughter’s marriage on Thursday. Some youth who followed him had a heated argument with him.

Salman Sheikh, an eyewitness, said: “One of the youths, who were arguing with him, whipped out a revolver and fired at him. The bullet pierced his eye. The other shots missed him. He crumpled on the ground, groaning in pain. The youth started to run and escaped in an autorickshaw towards Taratala, while some people chased them.”

Immediately afterwards, local CPM leaders and policemen arrived on the spot. Deepak Banerjee, CPM leader of South 24-Parganas, said: “Singh is a sincere party worker and very popular in the area. He was targeted by criminals for a long time as he used to protest their activities.”

Arif Mohammed, a neighbour, said: “Singh was the target of Dharma’s gang. We had informed the police that though Dharma is behind bars, his men are regularly extorting the local people. But they never paid any heed to our complaints. Local Trinamul leaders were giving them shelter.”

Lying in hospital, Singh said: “It happened very suddenly. I could not recognise the culprit.” The incident has upset the preparations for the marriage at home.

Gyanwant Singh, additional superintendent of police (industrial), said: “I cannot say whether any political party was involved in the incident. I have asked my officers to keep a vigil so that the criminals cannot flee. Raids will be conducted at night so that the culprits are netted.”


Calcutta, May 23: 
A majority of the unsuccessful Trinamul poll candidates today attributed their defeat to a dearth of funds, delayed campaign, “non-cooperation” by Congress workers and the CPM’s “well-planned rigging”.

The candidates who met at the Maharashtra Nivas hall in south Calcutta this afternoon at the invitation of party leader Mamata Banerjee to analyse the reasons for the Assembly poll debacle, felt better coordination with their electoral ally, the Congress, would have brightened their prospects and even led to victory.

“Unfortunately, the Congress workers were not quite forthcoming to help us fight the CPM’s organised rigging,” they told Mamata. The candidates also took strong exception to the role of the police and state administration which, they felt, “spared no efforts to ensure the victory of Left Front nominees”. The observers, sent by the Election Commission to oversee polling, were “nowhere to be seen on election day”, they alleged.

The Trinamul nominees underscored the need for building “a strong election machinery” which would take care of every aspect — from voters’ list to manning of booths. The candidates left the task of formulating poll guidelines to the leadership, but insisted that the party’s political line should be clearly stated to remove possible misgivings from the voters’ minds.


Calcutta, May 23: 
Rebel Trinamul Congress MP Ajit Panja, stung by his removal from the post of state unit president, today threatened to split the party by announcing a separate executive committee.

“I am going to constitute a new executive committee of the West Bengal Trinamul Congress shortly,” he announced tonight at a rally near Sealdah station flyover. The much-hyped rally was organised to protest against party chief Mamata Banerjee’s “whimsical and erratic” functioning.

He announced that those sidelined by Mamata in the party would be inducted in the new committee. “Mamata has shown disrespect to the veterans in the party but I want to hold them in high esteem,” he said.

He said he would tour the state to stand by “distressed” Trinamul workers who were being attacked by the CPM after the Assembly elections.

Trinamul functionaries, however, refused to attach any importance to Panja’s threat. “Panja is feeling frustrated after he was removed from the key post. We are least bothered about what Panja is saying,” said Trinamul leader and city mayor Subrata Mukherjee.

The much-hyped Panja rally proved to be a damp squib with none of party MPs, MLAs, councillors and important Trinamul functionaries turning up. Only a few hundred supporters from northeast Calcutta were present. Panja’s elder brother and party MP from Barasat, Ranjit Panja, was conspicuous by his absence.

His daughter Mahua Mondal, who lost as Trinamul nominee from Vidyasagar, and daughter-in-law Sashi Panja were among those present.

However, defeated BJP candidates from Calcutta northeast, including Manoj Poddar (Jorasanko) and Arun Hajra (Bowbazar) and BJP leaders were present at the rally.

Mahua, however, said the Trinamul could be revived with Mamata’s help. “I still conider Mamata as my leader, but she should make use of my father’s vast experience,” she said.


Calcutta, May 23: 
The state government is putting final touches to an elaborate plan to tackle the cycle of droughts and floods in districts which are prone to the twin menace.

The agriculture department has chalked out a two-pronged action plan. It would create numerous small reservoirs in the drought-affected districts, on the one hand, and re-excavate clogged drainage channels, on the other.

A senior agriculture department official said six districts — three in the laterite-soil belt and three where the level of salinity in the soil is more than in other districts — have been identified for the small-reservoir scheme. The three districts in the laterite belt are Purulia, Bankura and Birbhum and the three in the saline belt are Midnapore, North 24-Parganas and South 24-Parganas.

Though government officials do not admit it, the demand for constructing small reservoirs and using them to store excess rain-water has been long-standing. After each flood — especially after major floods in 1998 and 2000 — environmentalists, including Medha Patkar’s National Alliance for People’s Movements, asked the state government to construct these small reservoirs, which, they said, would go a long way in minimising the devastating effect of floods.

Senior agriculture department officials will meet agriculture minister Kamal Guha at Writers’ Buildings on June 14 to finalise the project. The scheme will not be a one-off affair, officials said; it will continue for the next five years at least.

Besides holding the run-off water during floods for use during the drier months, experience throughout the world has shown that the small reservoirs help in “recharging” the ground-water level, say environmentalists.

The second part of the two-fold plan comprises re-excavation of the clogged drainage channels in flood-prone districts like Malda, Murshidabad and North 24-Parganas.

A court directive on rediscovering the “lost” Sonai river — it has, after giving way to unbridled construction, become a series of isolated water-bodies — and last year’s flood have come as eye-openers, admit officials.

The flooding in much of North 24-Parganas, especially in areas near the Indo-Bangladesh border, was caused more by clogged streams and drainage channels than excess rainfall, they said.

Besides these twin measures, another water-harvesting project — this one with World Bank money — is on the anvil, say agriculture officials. A World Bank team will visit the state — one of the eight selected in India — later this month to work out the details with agriculture department officials.


Maintained by Web Development Company