Varsity puts fee hike on hold
Child run over, road blocked for 6 hours
Rampage at hospital over boy’s death
Gabbar eludes dragnet
Bandh call in Jadavpur
Read a thriller to catch a killer
Ballot battle won and lost, now the songs are silent
Cable TV set to cost Rs 200 per home
Sewers silted, waterlogging alert sounded
Vidyasagar varsity seeks city address

Calcutta, May 31: 
The fear of ‘privatisation’ has added fuel to the Jadavpur University student fire. The students’ unions on campus are protesting the revised fee structure recommended by the administration. Bowing to their pressure, university authorities have decided to put on hold the decision to hike tuition and other fees by 900 per cent.

“We are not opposing the fee hike because we don’t want to pay more. But we fear that this is the first step towards privatisation of the university,” said Sujoy Das, a leader of the engineering faculty students’ union. “And that is something we will never allow.”

The fee hike proposal, scheduled to be finalised at a meeting of the CPM-controlled executive council of university on Wednesday, was shelved with a large number of students parking themselves in front of the conference room, shouting slogans and threatening to launch an “indefinite movement”.

Wednesday’s council meeting, continuing late into the evening, was inconclusive, and the matter was finally referred to a sub-committee. JU registrar Rajat Bandyopadhyay said the sub-committee will hold talks with student representatives and review its decision within the next few days. “The matter will come up for discussion before the council again in mid-June,” said Bandyopadhyay.

The sub-committee had earlier examined the students’ stand last July, when the fee hike proposal was first floated by university officials. The students alleged on Thursday that even though the sub-committee had heard them out, its report had not been shown to them. On the basis of this report, the executive council was planning to revise the “unrealisitic fee structure”. The proposed hike involved the raising of tuition fees from between Rs 12 and Rs 20 to Rs 200 and Rs 400 per month, session fees from Rs 17 to Rs 100 per year, development fee from nil to Rs 300 per year. Laboratory and library charges were also to have been raised, in a move termed “rational and inevitable” by varsity officials.

“We will not allow a decision like this to be taken. The authorities have to show us the committee report before discussing the issue at the council meeting,” declared a leader of one of the students’ unions. “We also object to the timing. The authorities have deliberately brought up this matter now, when most students are away for their summer holidays. This matter can only be resolved when classes resume and all student representatives are present to voice their opinions.”

While the fee hike has been opposed by all non-CPM students unions of the engineering and science faculties, SFI supporters have “welcomed” the proposal. The SFI-controlled arts faculty union has, in principle, supported the move, but demanded that the issue be placed before the council for final approval in the presence of students after the summer break. Students of all three faculties have submitted separate memorandums to vice-chancellor Ashok Nath Basu.


Calcutta, May 31: 
Three persons, including a three-year-old boy, were killed and at least five others injured in a series of road accidents on Thursday morning. No arrests have been made so far.

Three-year-old Babai Pathak was crushed under the rear wheels of a Tata Sumo on Kona Expressway around 8 am. Police said Babai and his parents were on a scooter and were on their way to Vidyasagar Setu.

As the Tata Sumo hit the scooter from behind, Babai was flung on the road, and the car ran over him. The killer vehicle managed to speed away. Babai’s parents, too, were seriously hurt and taken to Howrah General Hospital, where their condition was said to be “serious.”

At least 400 people of the area blocked the busy Kona Expressway for nearly six hours from 8 am. Senior police officers, who went to the spot during the blockade, failed to persuade the agitationists to withdraw.

Police later said some of the agitators threw stones at passing vehicles and damaged at least three cars. The blockade was withdrawn in the afternoon, after senior police officers promised to “look into the matter” and post “more traffic constables in the area.”

Fatal collision

Later in the day, 20-year-old Kaushal Jain was killed when his car collided with a Matador van on Kidderpore Road around 7.30 am. Kaushal, a cricketer, is a resident of Agartala, in Tripura, and had come to the city to spend his summer vacation.

Two others in the car, 13-year-old Ankit Bansal and 21-year-old Dhananjay Singh, both residents of Golabari, in Howrah, were seriously injured and were taken to SSKM Hospital.

Doctors at the hospital described their condition as “serious”. The Matador disappeared after the accident. Police said Jain was driving his car at breakneck speed and he lost control over it. Hastings police station has impounded the car.

A truck-driver, Tilka Rasul (40), was killed after he lost control over his vehicle and it hit a streetlight on Strand Road around 1.30 am. Police took Rasul to SSKM Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries about an hour later. Doctors at the hospital said Rasul’s chest was crushed by the steering wheel in the impact of the crash.

“We have already earmarked some busy roads, where more traffic constables will be deployed from Friday,” said a senior police officer at Lalbazar.

Sources at Lalbazar added that traffic sergeants have been asked to keep a strict vigil on some thoroughfares, like Kidderpore Road, AJC Bose Road, Harish Mukherjee Road and N.S.C. Bose Road and impound speeding vehicles.

Traffic sergeants have been asked to make sure that people do not cross Red Road, where vehicles are usually driven at a very high speed.


Calcutta, May 31: 
Tension ran high at B.C. Roy Children’s Hospital after the death of a five-year-old boy around 6 pm on Thursday. Police said Sonu Paik, who was suffering from “acute diarrhoea”, among other diseases, was admitted to the Phoolbagan hospital a couple of days ago.

Hospital sources said Sonu was left unattended for at least three hours before his death. “The child was weeping for hours but no one was there to attend to him,” the sources said, adding that the boy probably “choked” while crying and this ultimately resulted in his death.

As news spread of Sonu’s death, his parents and relatives waiting at the hospital entrance stormed into the superintendent’s office and demanded an explanation. When the doctors present failed to do so, they went on the rampage and damaged some furniture in the superintendent’s room. Police said the angry relatives of the boy also roughed up some hospital staff. Senior police officers are camping at the hospital. No arrests have been made so far.


Calcutta, May 31: 
Gabbar managed to give the cops the slip yet again. Acting on a tip-off that the criminal, accused of murdering Sanjeev Jhulka, alias Bunty, would visit his wife at their Elliot Lane residence on Wednesday night, the police surrounded the house at around 2 am on Thursday. But Gabbar had fled by then.

Hours after the police failure, a probe to identify the inspector alleged to have sheltered Gabbar was started by additional commissioner Tapan Chatterjee. “I am inquiring into the matter,’’ confirmed Chatterjee, who oversees the functioning of the detective department.

Gabbar and his wife have been living in a rented apartment in a four-storeyed building in Elliot Lane for the past few years. According to the police, the building was promoted by Khadim, a criminal accused of killing Amin, a local youth, in 1998. Khadim and Gabbar are “close friends”, and with Gabbar on the run, Khadim is said to be looking after his family.

Early on Tuesday, the sleuths surrounded the building and sealed off all exit points. Four police officers knocked on the door of the first-floor apartment. After 10 minutes, a young Nepalese girl opened the door. The officers searched the flat, but there was no trace of Gabbar. The police then cornered Gabbar’s wife. The interrogation continued for several hours.

Khadim, who lives on the top floor of the building, was alerted about the police action by one of his aides. He left the building, even as four cops were interrogating Gabbar’s wife. Three sleuths standing outside the door stopped Khadim, but he convinced them that his wife was sick and so he was going to fetch a doctor from Park Lane. Police later admitted that the officers at the spot “failed to recognise Khadim and allowed him to leave the place”. Detectives raided the area once again on Thursday evening, but there was no trace of Khadim.

Deputy commissioner of police, detective department, special cell, Sanjoy Mukherjee told reporters on Thursday that “two associates of Gabbar, Shahzada, 35, and Albert Thomas, alias Jinu, 25, have been arrested”. But deputy commissioner of police, central, Zulfiqar Hasan, said he had not been informed about the arrests.

Having allowed both Gabbar and Khadim to slip away, the police claimed to have picked up “vital clues” in the Bunty murder case. Deputy inspector-general of police, presidency range, Gautam Chakraborty, said some criminals have been identified for interrogation. “Sleuths are cross-checking information which should lead to Ranvijay Singh Rathore and Trisha Agarwal, who were present when Gabbar shot Sanjeev dead.”


Calcutta, May 31: 
The Left unions of Bengal Lamp factory in Jadavpur have called a bandh in the area on Friday to protest the “illegal sale of a portion of the factory land and police atrocity on supporters”. The bandh is likely to affect parts of Jadavpur and Dhakuria. The Jadavpur, Lake and Kasba thanas will make special arrangements to ensure normalcy.

Two Bengal Lamp factory employees were arrested on Wednesday. An officer at Jadavpur police station said Asit Ghosh and Gautam Mukherjee had been charged with assault on members of the management and some government officials on the factory premises. Citu members blocked Raja Subodh Mullick Road outside Jadavpur thana on Wednesday night to protest the arrest. The two were released after the intervention of senior union leaders.


Calcutta, May 31: 
The way to a criminal’s mind is through crime ‘thrillers’. That’s the latest buzz in Lalbazar. The new library at the police headquarters boasts the best of crime fiction — from Satyajit Ray’s Sonar Kella to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Last Bow, from Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express to Fredrick Forsyth’s Day of the Jackal. The Central Library, unveiled by former police commissioner D.C. Vajpai on his last day at Lalbazar, is aimed at “sharpening the investigative skills” of the force through the printed word and “making them more aware of the changing trends in crime, worldwide”.

Subrata Narayan Sarker, joint commissioner (organisation), says books “worth Rs 1 lakh” have already been bought with funds from “the CP’s benevolent fund”. Sarker, who along with Subhash Chatterjee of the OC wing and colleague Probal Banerjee is in charge of the library, says: “Last year, inspired by former Joint CP K.R. Sengupta, we decided to set up a library. Now, 10 months later, we have succeeded in creating a library to be proud of.” The accent, clearly, is on crime. So, the Agatha Christies and the James Hadley Chases jostle for space on the shelves with the Saradindu Bandopadhyays and Nihar Ranjan Guptas. Articles on various aspects of criminal activity are also stacked high. Terrorism in Bengal, The Mammoth Book of Spy Thrillers, Forensic Science in Criminal Investigation and Trials... are all there.

“We are planning to collect all articles on how Scotland Yard and the Federal Bureau of Investigation crack a case. Studying their modus operandi in detail will definitely help our officers,” said Banerjee. “Reading top-rung crime fiction also contributes to the sharpening of analytical skills.”

The collection at the library has been divided into articles, novels and short stories. After crime paperbacks come cookbooks. Guides to a good meal find pride of place in the Lalbazar Central Library. From the Complete Works of Shakespeare to Harry Potter, the English literature range is “rich and wide”. Booker 2000 winner Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin, Salman Rushdie’s The Moor’s Last Sigh and Nirad C. Chaudhuri’s The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian are also on the Lalbazar reading list.


Calcutta, May 31: 
Kothao bannya, kothao khora, Amader ei basundhara, Bhugol-itihashey e desh shakal desher shera, Rajnititey tairi e desh, durnititey ghera...

The election is over. The song is dead. Like every poll in recent times, Election 2001 had its share of ‘party’ songs. These numbers, created to court the electorate, comprise what must be the most mortal pieces of music ever made. Blasting at full volume from every street-corner for days, this key ingredient to the election drama soundtrack falls eternally silent as soon as the curtains come down on the act itself.

“Once the polls are over, these cassettes end up in roadside drains,” says composer Shonkho Banerjee, who has scored for both Trinamul Congress and BJP this year. “I am a professional worker. Both parties paid me good money,” he declares.

But what prompts big names — from Usha Uthup to Srikanta Acharya — to join the poll party, knowing that they’ll end up in “drains”? For Nachiketa, who “lent” a song from one of his albums to CPM leader Subhas Chakraborty’s campaign cassette, it is “a conscious political choice”. Usha Uthup, who sung for the same project, says she is “an apolitical person”, but agreed to the proposal because of Subhasda, “a brotherly figure, who has done a lot for sports and culture”.

For Srikanta Acharya, whose song featured in the DYFI cassette, it’s just an occupational hazard. “Such requests come from the music directors, whom we can’t turn down. Often, we don’t even get to know which party we are singing for. The studio, the orchestra hands — everyone gets paid, but no one even asks the singer about payment. There should be a united protest against such exploitation,” he complains.

In most cases, the singers don’t even get to hear the songs after release as the cassettes seldom reach them, or the music stores. While Usha Uthup feels “sad” that her contribution to the cassette, set to the tune of the rock ’n’ roll hit Jambalaya, will not reach the masses, she consoles herself with the thought that those who got to hear it, “must have enjoyed the lively number”. Kalyan Sen Barat, who scored the music for Swapnamichhil, a DYFI cassette, is more optimistic. “If 10,000 cassettes are distributed, at least 10 lakh people hear the songs. This is better than working for films and serials which never get released.”

This time, while the Left Front banked on inspirational numbers, the Opposition opted for satires. “Poll songs are like sugar-coated pills. They also provide a relief from the monotony of monologues,” says Barat. Trinamul leader Saugata Ray, who used recordings of his speech and some songs on the campaign trail, adds: “The songs attract people to poll meetings and are played on vehicles which criss-cross the locality.”

The production cost varies with the company brand name and the volume of the requirement. HMV, which came up with two political cassettes, for instance, asks for a minimum of 15-20 days to find idle capacity in its production schedule. The price per unit ranges between Rs 20 and Rs 22, and payment has to be made in advance. The smaller companies do away with inlay cards. The cost drops to around Rs 15 per unit. These companies do not, or cannot, demand advance payment. “But they usually pay up in time, as they know that we cannot buy the raw materials otherwise,” says Alo Kundu of Sound Wing, which brought out cassettes for both CPM and Trinamul Congress.

The projects may not be money-spinners and will never spell magic on the popularity charts. But such songs will surely be heard the next time the poll drums beat. After all, as an industry source quips: “Kar ghaarey kota matha, joley thekey kumirer songey jhogra korbe (Who will dare to pick a fight with the crocodile in the river)?”


Calcutta, May 31: 
Wake up to a dearer home entertainment service. Cable television is all set to break the Rs-200 price barrier soon, according to market sources.

Following the price increase announced by STAR, Zee and Sony (which is converting its only free-to-air channel to pay from July/August), RPG Netcom, which feeds about 70 per cent of Calcutta’s cable homes, has raised its monthly technical charges to operators by Rs 11.50 per subscriber.

“We have held our service charges for receiving satellite signals, processing and transmitting these to more than 600 feed points of cable operators at the same level since inception in 1996. Now, we are forced to effect this hike in monthly technical charges to offset escalating costs of operation and heavy rise in capital investment,” explained RPG Netcom CEO Probir K. Bose on Thursday.

Netcom’s monthly service charges will go up from Rs 21.50 to Rs 33 per subscriber.

While STAR had raised fees from Rs 16.75 to Rs 25.75 for its package, Zee has jacked up rates from Rs 11.50 to Rs 25 for its bundle of channels. Sony is following suit in July/August.

According to Netcom estimates, taking into account the cumulative effect of all these revisions, the monthly increase per subscriber will be at least Rs 50. “It has happened in other cities and is bound to happen here too,” says Bose.

Forum for Cable Operators chief Tarak Saha feels the burden on the end-users will be even heavier. “If we are to pay the broadcasters, the MSO and cover maintenance costs, we have to ask the viewers to cough up around Rs 70-75 more than what they are paying now. So, someone paying Rs 125 for a cable connection, has to realistically pay Rs 200 for us to stay in business. Of course, it will be difficult to realise this amount from the viewer and we know it’s unfair to effect such a stiff hike at one go. But honestly, we are left with no other option,” he says.

Supratim Halder of the Cable Television Operators Association agrees that subscriber fees will cross the Rs-200 barrier by 2002. “But, thrusting all the channels on the viewers is unfair. The viewer paying for his satellite entertainment, should have the freedom to pick and choose the channels of his choice and pay only for those. This will be possible only when the addressability model is introduced,” Halder opines.


Calcutta, May 31: 
Flooded streets ahead. With sewer lines silted, outflow canals clogged and the conservancy department “shrugging off onus”, civic engineers in the drainage and sewerage department are sounding the alert for the monsoons.

Engineers in the drainage and sewerage department voiced their fears at a recent meeting with member, mayor-in-council, drainage and sewerage, Rajiv Deb. Deb has apprised the mayor of the situation. The two factors responsible for the inundation of roads are deterioration in road-sweeping services and non-implementation of a Rs 60-crore city sewer revamp scheme, a drainage department engineer said.

Chief engineer, drainage and sewerage, Dilip Sanyal, said manholes and gully pits were the major outlets of rain water. But if the vats are not cleared, the garbage will drift to the gully pits and clog them during a shower. According to Deb, waterlogging was likely to have been less this year, as the drainage department had carried out large-scale desilting operations in the swamp pits of the pumping stations in winter.

Engineers in the conservancy department blamed a shortage of handcarts for the deterioration of conservancy services. The department needs 600 handcarts every month. The department’s Entally workshop, which would roll out 20 handcarts a day, produces merely three a day now.

A supervisor at the workshop said supply of raw material from the Corporation’s central store was irregular. Member, mayor-in-council, slum development, Pradip Ghosh, who looks after the store, said: “I have instructed the store not to supply material without receiving utilisation certificate of the materials. This rule must be followed to prevent misuse.”

Conservancy chief Mala Roy and chief engineer, conservancy, Arun Sarkar, held a meeting with the mayor on Wednesday to resolve the handcart crisis. The Rs 60-crore sewer revamp was chalked out in 1998. Starting with the desilting of sewerlines in Shakespeare Sarani and Camac Street, the scheme also included the augmentation of capacity at the Palmerbazar pumping station and the repair of brick sewers. Work was expected to be complete by 2000 but has remained on paper, Deb said.


Calcutta, May 31: 
Vidyasagar University, in Midnapore, plans to open an office in Calcutta. Vice-chancellor Anandadeb Mukherjee will write to higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty on Monday, requesting him to provide a plot in the city to set up office.

On Thursday, Mukherjee told Metro that the university was facing problems in holding interviews to recruit teachers, scholars and senior officials in the absence of a city office. The university usually conducts its interviews on the Rajabazar Science College campus of Calcutta University. “We have to hold the interviews on holidays, as the Rajabazar campus remains busy on working days and the university authorities find it difficult to allow us on their campus on such days,” a senior Vidyasagar University official said.

“We urgently need a city office, as our academic activities have increased considerably over the years,” the vice-chancellor said. “UGC officials from Delhi, who visit our university in connection with appointment of teachers, find it a problem to travel to Midnapore. Moreover, conducting interviews on the campus of other universities is difficult too,” he added.

The University has recently introduced post-graduate courses on microbiology and electronics and two UGC-sponsored refresher courses on rural administration and rural development, among others. The Society for Promotion of Wetland Development has assigned the university as its nodal agency in the eastern region. Besides, the university has been sanctioned Rs 15 lakh by the Department of Science and Technology to introduce courses on botany and forestry.

“Two private medical colleges and a law college, that will come up soon at Haldia, will be affiliated to our university. With such an expanding network, we require a set-up in Calcutta,” Mukherjee reiterated.


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