A home delayed for art of state
Gangster, girl, gun in youth blood trail
Thai woman ‘security risk’
Everest high for climber duo
Non-formal schools for slum dropouts
Battered wife’s family claims death threats
Tiger by the tale: Five-day display of Ashutosh books
CBSE Class XII results declared
Statfed workers lose battle with penury
Cotton lays out red carpet for British guest

Calcutta, May 25: 
Giving the lie to naysayers’ pronouncements, the culture complex at 9A, Ho Chi Minh Sarani, planned aeons ago by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), is coming up at last. Even the culturati were not aware that work has begun on this complex, the first of its kind in this state. Once it is complete, there will be no excuse for excluding Calcutta from the itinerary of important art exhibitions from abroad, which always bypass the city.

Originally, Charles Correa had designed the complex. Now, architect Dulal Mukherjee is executing the Rs 10-crore project with minor variations.

Though it is yet to materialise, the ICCR complex has already enjoyed a chequered career. Years ago, then Vice-President Shankar Dayal Sharma had laid its foundation stone. The state government had gifted the prime land to ICCR for a culture complex and a permanent gallery on Bengal art to be constructed.

But the plan seemed to be jinxed because ICCR could not implement it then for lack of funds. Close to a decade later, then external affairs minister Ajit Panja had the privilege of repeating Sharma’s ritual.

Now, pile-driving is complete and the base on which the superstructure will be constructed has come up on the three-and-a-half bigha plot opposite the US Consulate.

Mukherjee says the 80,000 sq ft ground-plus-four-floors structure will house art galleries, a 320-seat auditorium, offices, the regional director’s residence and car parking facilities. The ICCR office and lobby of the auditorium will be on the ground floor. The auditorium will be partly in the basement, which is ready, and partly on the ground floor.

Parking facilities will be provided in the basement (20-25 cars) and ground floor (40 cars).

A grand staircase will sweep upwards from the ground floor to the first-floor garden courtyard. The first floor is meant for the permanent gallery and a cafe. Another grand staircase will lead to the second floor sculpture courtyard.

The second floor will also house a library and archives. Mukherjee says: “The sculpture court will be equipped with a big service lift to haul up heavy pieces of sculpture.”

The third floor is reserved entirely for exhibitions. A mini-guest house for visitors, and facilities for seminars and research will be provided on the top floor.

Part of the roof is for services, such as the AC plant, while the front is for gatherings. There will be a lot of greenery on the roof, the courtyard and the 60-ft-wide frontage. The building will be clad in natural material, like stone or ceramics. Textured paint, too, could be used. The courtyard will be covered with glazing because the interiors should be dust and pollution proof.

It has not been decided yet what works of art will be displayed in the permanent gallery, but Paritosh Sen who, years ago, was on a committee that was to make recommendations, says: “It was meant to house Bengal art — the collections of Rabindra Bharati, private collections and contemporary art too. But that committee does not exist any longer.”

After the tender for the superstructure was called, applications arrived and now it is time for empanelment of contractors. It will be constructed in two phases and the target date is 24 months. Work begins in two months’ time.


Calcutta, May 25: 
Friends of Sanjeev Jhulka, alias Bunty, whose bullet-ridden body was found in the blood-splattered Maruti on Wednesday night, told the police that he had “paid the price for crossing paths with a gangster’s girlfriend”.

Police investigations revealed that Bunty and Shabnam had become friendly since last November. “Bunty was in love with Shabnam, while she was more interested in gangster Gabbar,’’ friends of the slain youth told officers of the detective department.

According to initial investigations, 24-year-old Bunty, son of a pharmaceutical distributor, and Ranvijay Rathore, son of a multinational executive, were the best of friends. “The two frequented a south Calcutta disco where they met Trisha and Shabnam, both in their early twenties,’’ a police officer said. Shabnam was the niece of crimelord Jali Munna. It was in the same disco that the gang met Gabbar. “The five would frequent discos and restaurants, including those in Chinatown,’’ a friend of Trisha told the cops. “One night, Bunty had a scrap with Shabnam and ended up slapping her.”

Shabnam complained to Gabbar the next day, who contacted Ranvijay and asked him to bring Bunty to him. But Bunty refused to go along, and told his friend that he was “through with the gang”. Gabbar, however, was in no mood to forgive and forget. He persuaded Ranvijay to take Bunty out on Monday. The two friends picked up Trisha and Shabnam and headed for a restaurant in Tiljala. Suddenly, Gabbar staged an entry, along with associate Fightman. Bunty stormed out of the restaurant. “You have betrayed me,” he shouted to Ranvijay.

Bunty tried to hail a taxi and leave the spot, but was forced into the car by Gabbar and Fightman. “After a war of words, Fightman struck Bunty with the butt of his revolver. Bunty dived for the door, when Gabbar whipped out his revolver and fired, killing him on the spot,” sleuths said.

“Gabbar, Ranvijay and the girls haven’t been traced yet. But we have picked up some vital leads,” Gyanwant Singh, additional superintendent of police, industrial, said.


Calcutta, May 25: 
The mystery tale of a middle-aged Thai woman led five police stations, the special branch and the intelligence branch on a merry dance for the past two days. On Friday, the US citizen was finally packed off by the police, following consultations with the Consulate, as she was proving a “security hazard”.

Pheasant, a US citizen, turned up at the Howrah Government Railway Police office on Wednesday evening, claiming she was being shadowed by Thai police agents who were “out to kill” her.

Howrah GRP officers failed to piece her tale together, even after two hours of interrogation.

“All her statements were contradictory,’’ said a senior Howrah GRPS officer.

Pheasant was then taken to Hare Street police station, as she mentioned the name of a friend who resided in the area. Hare Street officers alerted the special branch and directed her to get in touch with Shakespeare Sarani police station, as the US Consulate falls under its jurisdiction.

Thai consulate officials, however, dismissed Pheasant’s claims of being hounded by Bangkok police. After a meeting with consulate officials on Thursday morning, it was decided that Pheasant be sent back. She flew out to Thailand on Thursday evening, from where she’ll leave for the US.


Calcutta, May 25: 
The Bengali has scaled new heights. Close on the heels of young Temba Tshering Sherpa’s heroic feat of conquering Mount Everest, two mountaineers from Calcutta — Arupam Das and Ronotosh Mazumdar — are inching towards the dream summit. Temba, who had presented the Surrendra Paul Memorial Award for Courage at The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence last August, became the youngest to climb the world’s highest peak on Tuesday.

The same day, word reached mountaineers in Calcutta that Arupam of Himalayan Beacon Club and Ronotosh of Summiter had run into rough weather at 8,000 metres. This is the highest that any Bengali mountaineer has ever climbed. “With just 852 metres to go for the summit, Arupam, Ronotosh and the two Sherpas encountered an avalanche on May 21. They lost most of their rations and ropes. Since then, there’s been no word from them. We have no idea whether they’ll abandon their quest or go the full ‘Monty’ (read: all the way to the top)... We can only wait, pray and hope,” observed Partha Sadhan Ghosh, president of the committee which selected the duo from a bunch of Everest hopefuls.

The plan for undertaking Mission Everest was conceived way back in 1999. After around a year’s physical training to test the conditioning and endurance of the contenders, Arupam and Ronotosh were picked as the climbing members. Both are seasoned campaigners, having been in the mountaineering circuit of Calcutta for over a decade. They have ‘seven-thousanders’ like Kamet, Mandani, Chandra-Bhaga 12, Leo Pargil and Choukhamba tucked under their climbing harnesses.

With a budget of Rs 40 lakh — Rs 20 lakh of which came from the human resources department, New Delhi — the team, led by veteran Milan Nag, left Calcutta on April 16. They trekked up the north face, via Kathmandu, crossing over the ‘friendship bridge’ connecting China and Tibet, traversing Jhangu, Nyalam and Jigar, before setting up base camp at around 10,000 ft. While Nag stayed back at the camp, Arupam and Ronotosh set off for the summit with the two Sherpas.

Shyamal Sarkar, a climbing member on the first Everest expedition from Bengal in 1990, voiced apprehension about the fate of the present climb. “It is never wise for only two members with no back-up to attempt a summit on any peak, let alone Sagarmatha (‘the highest point from the sea’). Moreover, the expedition should have been planned for September-October, and those chosen put through a gruelling conditioning camp,” said Sarkar, who had been chosen as climbing leader for this expedition, which he declined for “personal reasons”.


Calcutta, May 25: 
Alarmed at the rising rate of dropouts among slum children, the state government has decided to set up a number of non-formal education centres in and around the city. Unveiling the plan on Friday, , officials said the mass education department will run these Centrally-funded centres with the help of city-based NGOs.

They said a survey will be conducted first to identify the dropouts within the age group of six to 14 years in the slum areas. For this, the NGOs will approach every household in the slum areas.

The centres will be housed in a club house, a vacant building or in a makeshift camp. Each centre will have a maximum capacity of 50 students and a teacher on contract on a monthly pay of Rs 1,000. “The centres have to be run on a regular basis to rope in a large number of dropouts in the slum areas,” said an official attached to the mass education department.

Students will be imparted elementary education so that they can write, read and work out sums. “ This is necessary to help them stand on their own feet and earn their livelihood,” said R.R.Deb, joint secretary, mass education department.

The NGOs for the job will be chosen on the basis of their performance in the field of social welfare.


Calcutta, May 25: 
With his daughter’s marriage on the rocks, former deputy secretary, municipal affairs department, P.C. Bhattacharya, has lodged a complaint at Belghoria police station, stating that his life was under threat. A group of miscreants, commissioned by his daughter’s in-laws, was after him and his family members for the past month, he said in his complaint.

According to Bhattacharya, the goons had attempted to raid his Dunlop residence on Wednesday night, but took to their heels when neighbours raised an alarm.

Trouble started a year ago when Bhattacharya’s daughter, Sutapa, lodged a complaint with Bidhannagar (east) police station against husband Partha Mukherjee. Sutapa said Mukherjee, a lecturer in a prominent city college, had been beating her up even at an advance stage of pregnancy.

Medical reports confirmed the torture. Mukherjee was arrested on July 15, but granted bail by the court.

Later, the Criminal Investigation Department took over the case. The investigating agency has already submitted a chargesheet to the court, mentioning five names, including those of the lecturer and his parents.

According to Bhattacharya: “The situation worsened after Sutapa gave birth to a daughter on August 9. Her in-laws demanded that we hand over the child. As they failed to get a court order to this effect, they started issuing death threats. Wednesday’s attack was the third attempt in the past month. When the goons were fleeing, one of them shouted back that we would all be finished off if we tried to put Partha Mukherjee behind bars.”

Bhattacharya added: “Every night has become a nightmare for us. We can neither sit in the balcony nor open the windows for fear of another attack. I sought police shelter after the last attack.”

Arun Mukherjee, the lecturer’s father and one of the accused, denied the charges which, he claimed, were framed “only to influence the judicial system.”


Calcutta, May 25: 
National Library is holding an exhibition on the huge collection of books and journals belonging to Sir Ashutosh Mookerjee to mark his 77th death anniversary. The five-day exhibition was inaugurated on Friday by library director Shyamal Kanti Chakraborty.

It was Mookerjee who had donated the bulk of his personal collection to National Library after Independence. The Library, known as Imperial Library during the Raj, was renamed after Independence. Mookerjee’s successors had contacted the first education minister, Abul Kalam Azad, to donate 72, 000 books and journals in his possession. Later, his family members had donated another 14,000 books and journals to National Library. Now, the library possesses 86,000 valuable books and journals which once belonged to the ‘Tiger of Bengal’.

The exhibition is being held in the main building of the library, Chakraborty said. The most noteworthy among Mookerjee’s collections are Views of Calcutta and its Environs by Sir Charles D’Oyly, a publication dating back to 1848. A book on Roman Law, published in 1552, Goethe’s Dr Faustus, published in 1874, and Dinesh Sen’s History of Bengali Language and Literature.

Interestingly, a mathematics exercise book belonging to Mookerjee himself, will be on display during the five-day exhibition. A digest of Hindu Law and original Sanskrit manuscripts on hand-made paper will feature among other exhibits.

The National Library authorities had set up a separate enclosure to preserve the 86,000 books and journals donated to them by the great scholar.

Mookerjee had books on a variety of subjects — from economics to anthropology, astronomy to fine arts. He also had a huge collection of paintings, which was passed on to National Library by his successors.

The library authorities have printed picture postcards of the photographs donated by Mookerjee.


Calcutta, May 25: 
A day after the announcement of the ICSE and ISC results, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) put the results of this year’s CBSE Class XII examinations on the Net early on Friday.

After being downloaded from the Net, the results were put up on the notice boards in most schools in the city on Friday.

There are about 18 CBSE schools in Calcutta. The marksheets are likely to reach the schools next week.

Students of most city schools, like Mahadevi Birla, Birla High, Apeejay and Ashok Hall, have fared well in the exams.

The results of the Class X CBSE exams are expected to be announced on the Net on May 31.


Guwahati, May 25: 
It cannot get worse than this. After at least 22 months without salaries, the majority of the 1,800 employees of the Assam State Cooperative Marketing and Consumer Federation (Statfed) have lost the will to live. Two have committed suicide and nearly 25 have died due to acute stress and lack of medical treatment.

Moti-ur-Rahman (42), a scaleman from Nalbari, and Mohendra Bhuyan (45), a general assistant from Diphu, killed themselves when it became impossible to keep the home fires burning.

Their colleagues in over 24 Statfed branches are soldiering on, but it is anybody’s guess how long they can survive without salaries. These employees have not been paid salaries for periods ranging between 22 and 36 months.

Statfed has long been in dire straits, but it is during the Asom Gana Parishad’s five-year stint in Dispur that the cooperative organisation reached its nadir.

Not only did various government departments stop involving Statfed in various activities, the Prafulla Kumar Mahanta ministry even “blocked” payment of dues amounting to Rs 9 crore to the cooperative organisation.

According to conservative estimates, Statfed requires Rs 12 crore to clear its annual salary bill. To generate this huge amount, it has to do business to the tune of Rs 250 crore.

Statfed did business worth Rs 350 crore annually during the Congress’ last term in office. Today, it is not involved in any revenue-generating activity.

“Statfed used to procure items like cement, seeds and fertilisers under the public distribution system and supply goods to the police department and schools. All this for a commission of 1.5 per cent. Government departments now rely on private firms for procurement of items they require,” said a source in the employees’ union.

Their patience wearing thin, Statfed employees have been resorting to extreme steps to make themselves heard.

Deben Barman, a night guard at the Bongaigaon branch of Statfed, left the body of his daughter at the Guwahati Medical College Hospital in protest against the state government’s apathy. The girl died due to lack of proper treatment, something her father could not afford.

“Apart from salaries, provident fund and housing loans have not been cleared for years. Our lives have turned upside down. Only God knows how we are making ends meet,” said Kuldip Talukdar, president of the employees’ union.

Ironically, the Statfed headquarters is in the same building as the Assam Human Rights Commission. “We moved the human rights commission last year. It sympathised with us, but pleaded helplessness,” said Praneswar Baishya, general secretary of the union.

Statfed, which came into being in 1975, had “helped” the erstwhile Hiteswar Saikia government with Rs 11 crore to “clear” its salary bill.

Though it was formed under the Cooperative Act, Statfed is a government enterprise “in spirit”. The government has a 99.46 per cent stake in the organisation, while the remaining shares are held by local cooperatives. Even the chairman is a “political appointee”.

A source said the ousted AGP-led government was to blame for the slide in Statfed’s fortunes. “The last government was miserly with funds. It used to sanction a few lakh rupees when a crore was required,” he added.


Guwahati, May 25: 
Sizing up the stately 100-year-old chemistry department building of Cotton College, Gwynneth White could not help thinking how wonderful it would have been had a descendant of Henry Cotton been here for the institution’s centenary celebrations.

As she moved about in the sprawling campus, the 60-year-old granddaughter of F.W. Sudmersen, founder principal of the college, was the cynosure of all eyes.

Those who did not know who she was wondered why an English lady was so curious about the college.

White quite enjoyed the attention, but said she would have been happier had someone from Henry Cotton’s family been around.

“The centenary function is a landmark event and it would have been better had a descendant of the college’s founder been present. I personally feel great. It is a honour being recognised by the people of this state,” she told The Telegraph.

Describing Assam as a “wonderful state”, White said she hoped to go back to her country with memories that would last a lifetime.

She said her grandfather gave his all to Cotton College and introduced a work ethic that has stood the test of time.

“My grandfather and a few of his colleagues lifted the standard of education in the region to a new high,” she added.

White, who arrived here from Shillong to a rousing reception from the Cotton College Centenary Celebration Committee, said her grandfather personally did not tell her much about his stint as principal of Cotton College.

“I was only seven when I got to interact with him. That was probably not the right age to hear stories about my grandfather’s days in Cotton College,” she said.

On the dilapidated state of several buildings in Cotton College, White said what mattered was not the look of the structures but the standard of education.

“Buildings do not matter. It is the quality of teaching that is crucial,” she said.

When faculty members of the chemistry department asked White about her family and associates, she turned nostalgic. Someone told her that her uncle once sent a letter to the college authorities.

A chowkidar at the chemistry department was particularly curious about White when he was told that she was the granddaughter of the college’s founder principal.

White will be dressed in traditional Assamese mekhela-chadar at the inaugural function on Sunday.

Asked what would be her fondest memory of the trip to Assam, White said, “The friendly welcome and the sight of the college staff working hard to maintain academic excellence.”

She said it would be a privilege for her to come back next year for the concluding function of the year-long centenary celebrations.


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