Cop shield for Maruti killer
At Writers’, talk on phone face to face
Computer curb on car exhaust
A book for everyone, underground
Dhaka nod for Tagore home photos
Gun goes off, bullet kills sister-in-law
Listed class teachers-to-be want viva tests scrapped
Probe demand for missing fruit
Nebulous, but shining bright
Run a train to check free rides

 
 
COP SHIELD FOR MARUTI KILLER 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, May 30: 
The Maruti murder mystery has taken another intriguing turn, with the blood trail now leading to a policeman. A senior inspector of the detective department has been charged with protecting Rashid Alam, alias Gabbar, prime accused in the Sanjeev Jhulka murder.

Investigators working on the case informed the top-brass how Gabbar had managed to elude the police dragnet with the help of the cop. “Gabbar is a notorious criminal and we are trying our best to arrest him. If it is proved that one of my officers has been sheltering Gabbar, I will take stern action against him,” said police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty.

Gabbar, allegedly, shot Sanjeev dead on the night of May 22, in a Maruti car. The victim had been out to dinner at Tangra with friends Ranvijay Singh Rathore, Sanam and Trisha Agarwal, where Gabbar and Clive Fernandes Brookes, alias Fatman, joined them. Sanam and Fatman have been arrested. On Wednesday, the police carried out futile raids at Ripon Street, Metcalfe Street, McLeod Street, Ripon Lane, Topsia and Tiljala in search of Gabbar.

At a crime conference in his office at Writers’ Buildings, director-general of police D.C. Vajpai was informed how Gabbar had been hiding in a central Calcutta guest house, with the help of “his protector” in the police force. “Gabbar happens to be the inspector’s source of underworld information. But he has given a free hand to Gabbar... We have enough evidence to suggest that they have known each other for a long time,’’ a senior police officer said.

Vajpai is believed to have sought an explanation from Jugal Kishore Mukherjee, officer-in-charge, Tiljala police station, for not reporting “the Tapas Pal incident” to senior officers earlier. Film hero and newly-elected Trinamul Congress MLA Tapas Pal had barged into Tiljala thana on Monday night, with supporters, and forced the police to release Lucky, who had allegedly helped Gabbar escape.

Pal, in a statement issued on Wednesday, admitted having been to Tiljala police station on Monday night, but denied having forced the officials to release anyone. “One of my producers and my income-tax lawyer had telephoned me from Tiljala police station saying that he was in some kind of trouble and he wanted me to take him back from the police station. I went to the police station and the gentleman came back with me. I had not talked to any police personnel at all. The question of my forcing the police to release someone does not arise,” Pal wrote.

Pal met mayor Subrata Mukherjee during the day and drew his attention to “police action” against a few persons, including Lucky and his film producer father, who had worked for him in the recent Assembly elections.

But the police maintained that Pal had gone to Tiljala to secure the release of Lucky. Quoting from the report sent by Tiljala police station officer-in-charge, inspector-general of police, south Bengal, Ranjit Mohanti, said: “The police had detained Lucky, who runs a car rental business, for interrogation, and Pal was in the police station to get him released.”

Most of Pal’s fellow-artistes in Tollywood chose not to comment on the matter. Both Soumitra Chattopadhyay and Shatabdi Roy, however, said: “Criminals should not be supported or sheltered.”

   

 
 
AT WRITERS’, TALK ON PHONE FACE TO FACE 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, May 30: 
Sight and sound will soon combine at the seat of power. Come June 4, and Writers’ Buildings will become the first government office in Bengal to have callers on the telephone seeing each other as well.

The distance between the two speakers, next Monday, will not be more than a few hundred metres; one of the speakers will probably be seated in the Writers’ rotunda or in his own office on the first floor, the other in a room on the ground floor which will, by then, become the first telephone exchange exclusively for state government offices in Bengal.

But, even if they don’t admit it, they will — by becoming Writers’ Buildings’ first telephone-users to come face to face — be bridging a gap that both have been trying to bridge in the recent past.

For, the first participants in the video-conference inside the state’s seat of governance —- Union minister of state for telecommunication and BJP MP Tapan Sikdar and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee — also probably rank No. 1 and No. 2 in the list of Bengal’s most important Mamata Banerjee-baiters.

Indications of Sikdar, minus Mamata, discovering common ground with the CPM — “for the state’s development” — have been growing stronger of late.

The latest instance came at Haldia where Sikdar told CPM MP Lakshman Seth that he would lobby with the CPM in Delhi, without Mamata of course, for Bengal’s development. Incidentally, the common meeting point for Sikdar and Seth, too, was the inaugural programme of a telephone exchange.

What Sikdar tells Bhattacharjee on June 4 is a matter of conjecture, but the political message, if any, of the tete-a-tete will definitely not be music to Mamata’s ears.

The second-ever video-conferencing from Writers’, however, will be strictly of administrative interest; Bhattacharjee will speak to — and see — Behrampore district magistrate Vivek Kumar.

The district magistrate’s office or official residence will be equipped with the video display unit — for Monday alone — to make the video-conferencing possible.

But the first-ever Writers’ video-conference will not be the first ‘first’ of the day for the red bastion.

Before Sikdar and Bhattacharjee make telephonic history, Writers’ will probably have become the first state government building to have a telephone exchange built solely for it, officials said on Wednesday.

The telephone exchange will serve only the 2,500-odd lines that connect Writers’ Buildings — and Lalbazar — with the rest of the world. Of the 2,500-odd lines, around 700 are direct lines, while the rest are routed through EPABX.

The exchange will use only optical fibre lines, thus making two of the most important buildings in Calcutta less susceptible to cable-faults and other phone-y travails.

The exchange, to be inaugurated on June 4, is billed to cost around Rs 70 lakh. And the video-conferencing facilities — expected to be made available to all ministers and important departmental secretaries — will cost around Rs 70,000 for every room linked.

   

 
 
COMPUTER CURB ON CAR EXHAUST 
 
 
BY KUNAL SENGUPTA
 
Calcutta, May 30: 
Click for clean air: The new mantra to curb auto emission. On June 5, World Environment Day, transport minister Subhas Chakraborty will inaugurate a state-of-the-art emission-testing machine which will photograph the vehicle as it tests exhaust fumes.

The computerised data-measuring unit for petrol cars will be installed by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), in collaboration with the state transport department. It will provide a computer-generated serial number, registration details, vehicle make, model, engine type, validity of the certificate and an image of the number plate. While present testing equipment only measures the level of carbon monoxide, the new kit will also read hydrocarbon and carbon dioxide levels. The data will be forwarded to SIAM’s Delhi office via e-mail, which will then analyse it and send feedback to authorities on how to reduce air-pollution.

Uma Service Station in Dhakuria and Asoke Automobiles on APC Road will be the first to be equipped with the machine. According to the state transport department and pollution control board, only 22 per cent of vehicles plying in Calcutta have valid pollution-under-control certificates.

   

 
 
A BOOK FOR EVERYONE, UNDERGROUND 
 
 
BY SANKAR SRIDHAR
 
Calcutta, May 30: 
Bring the book to the book-lover. That’s the motto of the first-ever ‘subway book fair’, from June 2 to June 17. The venue: The newly-built Sealdah subway, where around 8,000 people pass every rush hour. The organisers: Publishers and Booksellers Guild, in association with Eastern Railway.

“There’s no point in sitting back and accusing people of not reading books anymore. It’s up to us to find innovative ways of reaching out to them,” says Trideep Chattopadhyay, joint editor, Publishers and Booksellers Guild, which brings the Calcutta Book Fair to the Maidan every year. “With the advent of the Internet and the growth of television, reading habit has taken a backseat. The serious readers do not find books of their choice, and cannot find the time to hunt for them... We must find that reader, instead of him having to find us.”

So, the subway fair will find 48 stalls — including Ananda Publishers, Dey’s Publishing, Timely Book Centre, Sahitya Academy, Shishu Sahitya Sansad and National Book Agency — displaying a wide array of books at affordable prices. To make the fair attractive to the browser, the Guild is providing publishers with decoration and lighting for a fee.

J.D. Tanna, of Timely Book Centre and ex-president of the Guild, was the first to book a stall at the fair, and later added another after visiting the venue. “There is a readership far greater than the Calcutta Book Fair waiting to be tapped. This event will certainly be a milestone for book-lovers in the city. And it will definitely become a permanent annual feature,” said son Vikram.

The idea of organising such a fair had been conceived by the Guild more than a year ago. Now, the shelves are being cleared for the first ‘mobile’ book fairs — the Bus Book Fair and the Book Fair on Wheels, involving a full train.

But first, the subway fair. It will be inaugurated on June 6 by writer Syed Mustafa Siraj, and be in business from 2.30 pm to 8.30 pm every day.

   

 
 
DHAKA NOD FOR TAGORE HOME PHOTOS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 30: 
Rabindra Bharati University can soon have its photo gallery of Tagore houses. The Bangladesh government has given the university the go-ahead to send a team over to click the ancestral houses of the bard at Silaidaha, Shahajadpur and Patisar. The visit is likely to take place in the first week of November.

Tagore composed a number of poems in Silaidaha, 20 km from the town of Kusthia, which he visited frequently to run the zamindari. Shahajadpur is about 75 km from Pabna town, where Tagore lived for some time.

M. Allama Siddiqui, counsellor and head of chancery of the Bangladesh deputy high commission in the city, informed the Rabindra Bharati authorities about Dhaka’s decision to allow the university team to visit the country. University registrar Santosh Kumar Ghorui said the Bangladesh deputy high commission will soon be informed of the names of the two visiting members.

About two years ago, the university had initiated a project to set up a permanent photo gallery on Tagore’s houses located in different parts of Calcutta, West Bengal and Bangladesh on its Jorasanko campus. But the project fell through due to lack of photographs in the university collection. Suranjana Bhattacharjee, acting development officer of the university, then submitted a project, proposing to collect photographs of Tagore’s houses.

The university allocated Rs 2 lakh for the project in 1999-2000. But the money could not be utilised then, since the university was awaiting a green signal from Dhaka for taking photographs of Tagore’s house located there.

Bhattacharjee said 500 photographs will be collected, of which 100 will be kept in the permanent gallery on the Jorasanko campus. Presently, there are two galleries at Jorasanko. While one showcases portraits of Tagore and his family members, the other displays his own paintings.

In Calcutta, the team will collect photographs of Tagore’s houses on Sudder Street and BT Road and at Jorasanko. The team will visit Mongpu, too, for the purpose. Other places on the list include Panihati, in North 24-Parganas, Santiniketan and Sreeniketan, in Birbhum district.

“It is easy for us to collect photographs of the Nobel laureate’s houses in West Bengal. But we wanted to visit Bangladesh first to obtain photographs of his houses there,” Bhattacharjee said.

   

 
 
GUN GOES OFF, BULLET KILLS SISTER-IN-LAW 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 30: 
A woman was shot dead by her brother-in-law at Dakshindari, in the Lake Town police station area, on Wednesday morning. The accident occurred when Sheikh Guddu’s revolver went off while he was inspecting it. The bullet pierced the chest of 25-year-old Mustara Bibi, Guddu’s sister-in-law, who was standing close by. Guddu fled immediately, leaving Mustara bleeding profusely. Neighbours took her to RG Kar Medical College and Hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries.

However, a relative of Mustara Begum claimed that Guddu had deliberately shot his sister-in-law. “He had quarrelled with his brother, Mohammed Mustafa, a fruit-seller, over property and had even threatened him with dire consequences,” he alleged.

Sources at RG Kar Medical College and Hospital later said that Mustara was in an advanced stage of pregnancy.

“Cases of extortion and drug-peddling are pending against Guddu,” an officer at Lake Town police station said. “We will conduct raids in a number of hideouts on Wednesday night,” additional superintendent of police Pijush Pandey said.

   

 
 
LISTED CLASS TEACHERS-TO-BE WANT VIVA TESTS SCRAPPED 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 30: 
Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribe aspirants for the posts of lecturers in city colleges have appealed to the government to scrap viva voce examinations in the State Level Eligibility Test (SLET).

Their demand follows a move by the state College Service Commission to fill up these posts with candidates from the general category, as not enough SC/ST candidates have passed the SLET during the past few years.

The commission, which conducts the SLET to recruit lecturers in the 340 state-aided colleges in Calcutta and the districts, had recently sought permission from the state government to take in candidates from the general category in the reserved posts.

Nitish Biswas, deputy registrar of Calcutta University and in charge of the university’s SC/ST cell, admitted that the CU-affiliated colleges were faced with an acute crisis of teachers. “Yet, the demand for scrapping the viva voce is a legitimate one. There is no problem if the SC/ST posts are de-reserved on a temporary basis. But the de-reservation should start only after all the SC/ST candidates, who have passed the SLET written tests, are recruited,” said Biswas.

The commission authorities, however, feel that viva voce tests were extremely necessary for students before they get appointed as lecturers and any relaxation in this regard could not be entertained. “We are trying to settle the matter with the government. This is a very sensitive issue and we can’t take hasty decisions,” said commission chairman A.K. Banik.

Inadequacy of suitable candidates has resulted in a vacancy of more than 600 posts reserved for SC/ST — 100 of which are in Calcutta — for a long time. SLET results since the past few years have shown a remarkable decline in the success rate among SC/ST examinees. Their performance in the viva voce was even worse, commission sources said. A few students passed the written papers and a fewer qualified in the interviews, they added.

A large number of colleges in Calcutta and the districts are short-staffed as the commission has failed to fill up the SC/ST posts.

   

 
 
PROBE DEMAND FOR MISSING FRUIT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 30: 
The CPM Opposition in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has demanded a probe into the disappearance of eight trucks full of fruit from the custody of the conservancy department. The fruits were seized during a drive against cut fruit on Monday. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee, however, brushed off the charge, saying: “It is not a serious matter”.

Hawker Sangram Committee leader Shaktiman Ghosh, due to return from Delhi on Friday, will spearhead a demonstration in front of the civic headquarters demanding compensation for the uncut fruit seized from hawkers.

Opposition leader in the CMC Nirmal Mukherjee asked: “How can conservancy officials seize uncut fruits during a drive against cut fruits? The CMC Act, 1980, does not empower them to do so.” The drive was conducted in the presence of mayor-in-council members Mala Roy and Rajiv Deb.

   

 
 
NEBULOUS, BUT SHINING BRIGHT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 30: 
Stars, the biggest and brightest from Bollywood, are shining in a tiny room at the Birla Academy of Art and Culture. And people came in droves on Wednesday evening to devour them with their eyes, as Tollywood actress Rupa Ganguly opened an exhibition of the literally scintillating works of Catherine Yass, one of the foremost British artists of her generation.

Of Yass’s 10 works in the form of large lightboxes, the six portraits were commissioned specially by British Council to highlight its ties with India. These were award-winning entries at the 10th Indian Triennale. The 37-year-old Yass, groomed at Goldsmiths College and the Slade School of Art, catches her subjects at their workplace, when they reveal the vulnerable side of their nature. She had done similar work in advertising agencies, and last November she came down to Mumbai to catch some Bollywood icons as they create dreams for mass consumption. She had done her homework earlier by seeing many Hindi films.

She was in Mumbai for 12 days, during which time she succeeded in pinning down her hard-to-get subjects and shooting them on the sets. The lightbox seems to be the appropriate medium for projecting these larger-than-life figures, because it manages to magnify their glamour and flamboyance in the way only glosigns can.

Stardust has an elusive quality about it. But Yass has the ability to see the human face behind the assumed public image. Amitabh Bachchan, complete with hairpiece and ravaged face, looks as if he has dropped his mask for a moment. Karishma Kapoor is stunningly exposed — a Barbie doll with eyes that can emote. Dreamgirl Hema Malini is a matronly Parvati, with bags under her lotus eyes. Shah Rukh Khan is as cocky as his screen personae, but so detailed is the image that it has the immediacy of real life. Sanjay Dutt smiles ruefully, his face careworn and lined. Middle age has caught up with the still beautiful Madhuri Dixit. The backdrops of these very focused portraits are nebulous, enhancing the magic of the images. The three empty cinemas look even more touching when we think of the continuing strike in Calcutta.

   

 
 
RUN A TRAIN TO CHECK FREE RIDES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 30: 
The Sealdah division of Eastern Railway has come up with a novel device to rein in free-trippers. For the first time in Indian Railways, a special train has been deployed to flush out passengers travelling without tickets. The drive is being conducted since May 2.

The modus operandi is simple. With the special train, a ticket-checking team scans the passengers in a station and those without tickets are brought into the train.

They are released if they cough up the fare with penalty. Otherwise, the free-trippers are brought to Sealdah for prosecution.

Four coaches of a seven-coach engine have been kept for the free-tripping passengers, said divisional railway manager (Sealdah), D.C. Mitra.

A separate van has also been attached to the special train to stack the luggage carried by the errant passengers.

The other compartments are reserved for railway officers, Railway Protection Force and ticket-checkers.

More than 4,000 free-tripping passengers were rounded up from Ballygunge, Sealdah, Bidhannagar, Belghoria, Habra, Bongaon, Ranaghat, Naihati , Barasat and Kalyani stations and Rs 2.7 lakh was realised from them, said divisional manager Mitra.

“We have decided to continue this drive as results show that the sale of tickets from a station may shoot up to 269 per cent when a drive is conducted,” Mitra added.

   
 

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