Hospital getaway from horror home
Madhyamik grouse box for rapid redress
Bloodbath before next Sunshine, warn hawkers
Cancer, trade slump cause two suicides
Campus conflict over mark of ‘M’
Hall strike meet at Writers’ draws a blank
Special team set up to go after Gabbar
CM heat on DMs’ unfinished agenda
Sunderbans minister calls for more funds
Red carpet rolled out for bankers

Calcutta, June 8: 
The doors had been bolted, the gates manned by security guards and the escape routes blocked. So what did three inmates of the Liluah home for destitute women do to flee the sordid conditions at the centre? They feigned illness, got taken to nearby Jaiswal Hospital, mingled with the crowd at the out patients department and then fled to freedom.

With three more inmates escaping from the home in the past two days, the number of those who have taken the escape route in the past month has risen to four. A few weeks ago, Bandana, a deaf-mute girl, had fled the premises and the home authorities are still in the dark about how she managed to do it. She remains untraced.

The hue and cry raised by the actions of Mona Lisa, an inmate whose torture on other girls at the centre has landed her behind bars, had brought the state women’s commission running to the home authorities. But after Bandana’s escape, and attempts to flee by a few other inmates, security at the home was stepped up, surveillance doubled and monitoring increased.

But on Wednesday, 21-year-old Noorjehan from Kanpur decided she had had enough of the home. Brought to the Liluah centre on May 9 after she was found moving around aimlessly in Bally railway station, she made her first attempt a day after being “incarcerated”.

She broke open the window panes of the first-floor toilet and climbed down to the grounds. In the gathering darkness, she scaled the boundary walls but mistook a few staff quarters as belonging to outsiders. When she asked them for refuge, she was promptly marched back to the home cells.

A few half-hearted attempts later, she found the going tough and decided on the ploy of being ill. On Wednesday, she complained of “severe illness” and was shifted to Jaiswal Hospital. There, disguising herself as a relative of a patient, she slipped out of the hospital during visiting hours.

Drawing inspiration from Noorjehan, Lovely and Sunita, both in their early twenties, feigned illness on Thursday morning and were duly escorted to the outpatients’ department of the hospital. There, while their escort looked the other way, they mingled with the crowd of waiting patients and eventually found their way out of the hospital. Till Friday night, all three remain untraced.

The additional district magistrate (judicial) of Howrah, B.P. Borat, who is in-charge of the Liluah home, said that a thorough enquiry was being conducted into the affairs of the centre for destitute women, especially into why so many women were escaping from there. “If we find that there has been any negligence on the part of the home staff who were escorting the girls, they will be taken to task and even suspended,” Borat said.

As it is, the authorities have been embarrassed by the “sexual torture” inflicted by Mona Lisa on two inmates of the home, which forced them to attempt suicide last month. Now, the spate of escape attempts has only compounded their problems.

Last week, a five-member team from the women’s commission had visited the home and suggested a number of measures to make life better for the inmates there.

But, with escape attempts on the rise, this seems to have had little effect.


Calcutta, June 8: 
The West Bengal Board of Secondary Education has installed examination complaint boxes at four regional offices for the first time this year. The drop boxes, the Board hopes, will allow examinees and guardians personally to air their grievances about all examination-related matters. In Calcutta, the complaint box is at the Salt Lake Board office. “Examinees and guardians are welcome to drop by with their complaints,” said Arun Kiran Chakraborty, Board president.

The Board has installed similar boxes at regional offices in Midnapore, Burdwan and Siliguri. “We have instructed officials to screen complaints, and send us those which can be redressed,” Chakraborty added.

The Board, which appointed 10,000 additional examiners this year, took special efforts to publish results “in record time”. Results were published on Thursday — just 62 days after completion of the examinations. Theory papers were completed by March 12, while practicals continued till April 7. “We hope that this grievance cell will make the examination process even smoother. We want to help guardians and students by addressing the problems they face with regard to results and marksheets,” the official added.

Marksheets have started reaching the schools from Friday. The Board authorities have also urged the examinees, who secured first division, to apply for national scholarships within 30 days from the date of announcement of provisional results.

Students, desperately trying to find out how they fared, were frustrated when state government websites meant to carry the result list could not be accessed. Dissatisfied with Webel’s failure to upload the Madhyamik results properly, IT secretary Jaya Dasgupta wrote to Webel managing director S. K. Mitra on Friday, seeking an explanation. She also wanted to know why senior officers and engineers were not present in the office to prevent or rectify snags.

Webel was given the responsibility of uploading Madhyamik results on two state government sites, and Webel, West Bengal’s nodal IT agency, had announced that results would be available on the sites by Thursday afternoon. The two other sites, and, were the ones to bail out students.

Complaints from thousands of students flooded the Webel, Board and newspaper offices after they couldn’t access the sites. Later, Webel officials admitted that there had been a server breakdown which, due to technical reasons, could not be immediately rectified. Sources at Writers’ Buildings said that chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had also expressed his dissatisfaction over the incident. Education secretary Nikhilesh Das raised the matter before the IT secretary Jaya Dasgupta.

The mess-up has also led to questions being raised over the efficiency of Webel, which has been given a free hand to promote IT-based industries, as well as other key projects, such as WEBSWAN.

“The role of Webel in such matters must now be re-evaluated,’’ said a senior officer from the IT department. The official said that the debacle could have been averted if engineers had been ready with all the necessary precautionary measures.


Calcutta, June 8: 
The stage is set for yet another showdown between the civic authorities and hawkers on the streets of Calcutta. On Thursday, mayor Subrata Mukherjee, bolstered by the government’s decision to deploy a captive police force for the Corporation, reiterated his pledge to evict hawkers from the pavements of 21 city streets.

On Friday, the Hawker Sangram Samity “dared” Mukherjee to launch his clean-up drive. “We will resist the mayor’s move, even if that involves bloodshed,” declared Shaktiman Ghosh, president of the Samity. “We have informed all political parties and sought their cooperation.”

Ghosh said the government had evicted 16,000 hawkers from a number of city streets during Operation Sunshine in 1986, but only 400 of them had been rehabilitated. “We will continue our business on 21 city streets and will not allow Mukherjee to evict a single hawker from any of them,” declared Ghosh. The Samity, he said, will organise a South-East Asia Hawkers’ Conference in Calcutta this July to highlight the plight of the city’s hawkers and the dubious role played by the government and the Corporation.

But Mukherjee is sticking to his guns. “I am determined to carry out the job because the streets are for pedestrians, not hawkers. I will hold a meeting with the police chief, the member, mayor-in-council (conservancy), and other officials over the next couple of days to decide the date of launching the operation against unauthorised occupation of city streets.” Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has assured Mukherjee of “all administrative support” in the eviction drive.

The mayor’s stand has caused a stir within his own party, too. Trinamul Congress leader Madan Mitra said on Friday that he had informed Mamata Banerjee about Mukherjee’s decision. “Mamata herself had opposed Operation Sunshine and organised rallies against hawker eviction,” said Mitra.

In another development, Citu’s state secretariat member Mrinal Das said it will support the hawkers’ demand of rehabilitation before eviction. “We believe the government or the Corporation should provide a proper rehabilitation package to the hawkers before evicting them,” said Das.


Calcutta, June 8: 
Two persons committed suicide in two incidents early on Friday. They were identified as Brajendra Kumar Das, 72, and Prasanta Saha, 41.

Das was, apparently, driven to suicide after being unable to bear the pain of cancer, from which he was suffering for three years. Saha hanged himself after losing heavily in business.

Banibrata Basu, deputy commissioner, detective department, said Das was found dead by family members at his Anil Roy Road house, in the Lake police station.

He had slit his throat with a sharp object. Das, who was staying with daughter Rita, had been in “severe pain” for the past few days. According to preliminary investigation, he had also been suffering from depression.

“It does appear to be a case of suicide, but experts are collecting fingerprints to confirm this,” said Basu.

At Brindaban Mullick Lane, in the Amherst Street police station area, Prasanta Saha, a businessman, committed suicide by hanging himself.

K.L. Tamta, deputy commissioner, north division, said Saha had been hit hard by a slump in business. “Saha hanged himself with a rope from a waterpipe. Local residents noticed the body and informed the police. We have no cause to suspect any foul play,” said Tamta.

Port roadblock: Residents blocked Kachhi Sadak, in the port area, on Friday evening when the police entered the area escorting the families who had fled fearing reprisal after the murder of crimelord Mughal. The high court had directed the police to escort the families back to their homes. The blockade was lifted after senior police officers intervened.


Calcutta, June 8: 
‘M’ is the word on the Jadavpur University campus. It’s got nothing to do with James Bond’s mystery boss, but for a section of university officials, it’s no less shadowy. For ‘M’ is the code for a private software firm which some JU officials want to involve in the examination procedure, for a hefty fee. The proposal to pave the way for entry of private eyes into the examination system for the first time is on the agenda of the university executive council’s next meeting, And it finds university officials and teachers split down the middle.

The proposal is likely to be ratified at the council meeting, say officials, as ‘M’ has already visited the university’s exam department. It’s going to cost the ‘cash-strapped’ university, which has proposed a manifold hike in tuition fees to meet ever-increasing costs, a tidy sum, documents reveal. The university, according to the agreement, will have to pay ‘M’ a one-time figure of Rs 1.5 lakh, besides Rs 2.15 lakh and other costs — which may cross the one-lakh mark — every academic session.

Defendants of the decision in the controller of examinations department insist that they face problems finding enough tabulators to do the “uninteresting” work of recording marks. Besides, the number of departments in JU, which now stands at 31, is always on the rise. “We need extra hands for pre-exam work, like recording examinees’ data, and post-exam work, like tabulating marks and printing certificates,” an official says.

But opponents of the decision punch holes in the pro-private agency argument. The university has never asked them to provide tabulators, say departmental heads, so the question of a dearth of tabulators doesn’t arise. “Teachers and non-teaching employees have always helped publish results on time in JU,” a departmental head of the engineering faculty says. “If Calcutta University, with around 60 post-graduate departments, can manage on its own, why can’t JU?”

The teaching faculty is more concerned about the entry of an “outside agency” in a procedure that is “highly confidential”. “JU is probably the only university in West Bengal which doesn’t have any complaint about exam procedures,” said a departmental head of the engineering faculty, who is also a university court member.

Another science faculty departmental head was more blunt. “Tabulation of marks is a very sensitive process that can have a bearing on the future of students,” he said. “Why should we do something which leaves enough scope for tampering by a firm that isn’t permanently responsible to the university?”


Calcutta, June 8: 
The 78-day-old stalemate at the cinema halls continues with Friday’s tripartite meeting with the labour minister failing to yield results.

The strike, called by the Bengal Motion Picture Employees’ Union over a pay hike demand, has left 61 of the city’s 75 cinema halls closed.

Labour minister Mohammed Amin convened a tripartite meeting with the hall-owners and employees at Writers’ Buildings on Friday. The owners have rejected the union’s demand to raise salaries by 55 per cent. They say they can pay only up to 20 per cent.

The minister will hold another meeting with the employees and hall-owners on Monday to find out an alternative solution.

A spokesman of the hall-owners’ association said the pay hike demand could not be met as the industry was in a slump.

Employees’ union secretary Swadhin Mukherjee blamed the “inflexible attitude” of the owners for the continuing stalemate.


Calcutta, June 8: 
A special investigation team has been formed to get Gabbar, accused of murdering Sanjeev Jhulka, alias Bunty, in a Maruti car on May 20. The team, comprising select officers from Tiljala, Taltala and Park Street thanas and the CID, raided three spots in south Calcutta and its adjoining areas early on Friday. They were accompanied by Ranvijay Singh Rathore. The team found some clues which it says will help net Gabbar.

The team recovered a diary and some papers belonging to Gabbar, which list the names of important political personalities and police officers with whom he maintains a close contact. The team members are now trying to get hold of his cellphone number.

Bunty was murdered on May 20 in a Maruti car being driven by Ranvijay. The other occupants of the car were Trisha, Sana Ahmed, alias Sanam, and Clive Fernandes Brookes, alias Fatman. All except Gabbar are behind bars.

Gabbar is believed to contacting his lawyer, his political mentor and members of the force to sound them out before surrendering. However, a section of police officers is not willing to accept his tame surrender. They are pressing for a fight. They would prefer to arrest him after an encounter.

Gabbar had been arrested on an earlier occasion but could not be kept behind bars for long as the police failed to frame charges against him.

Officer -in-charge of Kasba police station, S.R. Dutta, said: “We are carrying out raids round the clock and are sure to catch him soon.”

A senior police officer in the special investigation team said: “It will be not possible for Gabbar to remain absconding for long as all his associates in this case have already been arrested. We are examining the clues provided by them and policemen are scouring the spots they had stayed in at least 24 hours after the murder of Bunty. It is quite possible that Gabbar is hiding in the city. We are also interrogating the people who have known him for some time.”

The officer added: “Policemen with links with Gabbar have not been included in the special investigating team.”


Calcutta, June 8: 
After ministers, it’s now the turn of administrators. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has written to district magistrates and zilla parishad sabhadhipatis,asking them to prepare a list of projects which are either unfinished or haven’t been taken up and explain why they haven’t been completed.

Bhattacharjee will sit in a meeting with district magistrates and sabhadhipatis on June 16 at Writers’ Buildings to take stock of the existing projects and find out ways to hasten their completion.

He is also expected to ask the officials about the difficulties faced by them in implementing various schemes.

The district magistrates and sabhadhipatis have to tell the chief minister of the steps taken to complete the projects and what they have done to clear the hurdles.

During the first Cabinet meeting held on June 6, Bhattacharjee had asked all ministers to personally intervene and ensure that pending projects were finished on time.

“From constructing bridges to setting up industries, all projects will have to be completed in time and in a planned way. If any problem arises, you intervene personally and try to solve them or inform me in case it is major. But do not keep anything pending for an indefinite period,” Bhattacharjee is said to have told the ministers.

He also told his ministerial colleagues not to lay the foundation stone of any project they would not be able to implement immediately.

Enraged that his do-it-now slogan appeared to have fallen on deaf ears, Bhattacharjee had asked his Cabinet to buck up as most ministers had failed to submit their departments’ annual plans to planning and development minister Nirupam Sen by the June 6 deadline.

Writers’ sources said another letter would be sent to the district magistrates and zilla parishad heads listing the major issues to be discussed at the proposed meeting.

“Among them are health services, primary education, utilisation of Central funds, democratic functioning of the panchayat and maintaining transparency in administration,’’ the sources said.

The issue of availability of land for new industries will also be raised at the meeting. Bhattacharjee has already asked land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah to start work on building a land-bank.

The officials will have to earmark unutilised land owned by different government departments and find out if they are suitable for allotment.

An hour has been set aside to discuss the introduction of e-governance.

The West Bengal Statewide Area Network is slated to take off from August and connect the state secretariat with all district headquarters.

Infotech minister Manab Mukherjee and the department secretary, Jaya Dasgupta, will be present at the meeting to brief the district magistrates on the hi-tech system.


Calcutta, June 8: 
Development of the Sunderbans cannot be the state’s responsibility alone, Kanti Ganguli said.

The Sunderbans development minister feels the delta is facing an ever-increasing pressure of population but has inadequate transport and roads. Its embankments are getting eroded and the river beds silted. It also has to tackle the problem of pollution caused by the mechanised boats. To solve these problems, large funds are required, which the state alone cannot provide.

“The main problem of the Sunderbans is the maintenance of the embankments. Moreover, in the riverine areas, about 6,000 mechanical boats ply but due to lack of proper technical knowledge many meet with accidents. To tackle these problems, we need huge funds but the total budget of my department is only Rs 30 crore. This is insufficient,” the minister said.

But he held out hope, saying the government, which had approached the Asian Development Bank for funds, is likely to get it.

“Unesco has attached special importance to the Sunderbans by declaring it a biosphere zone and insisting that the delta’s problems should be tackled at the national level,” Ganguli said.

“When we came to power, there was only one jetty and now look at the number of jetties. Soon, Petkul Chand Bridge will be completed, giving the people of the region access to the Bay of Bengal,” the minister said.


Calcutta, June 8: 
First, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee created history by inviting the business community to the party’s Alimuddin Street headquarters.

Then, he rolled out the red carpet for bankers.

Not only were the bosses of city-based banks invited, but also bankers from outside the state were called for the meet.

Besides Bhattacharjee, finance minister Asim Dasgupta, finance secretary Ashok Gupta and chief secretary Manish Gupta were present during the meeting at Writers’ last week.

The chief minister sought the bankers’ full cooperation for rapid industrialisation in the state. He also urged them to help revive sick industries.

Banking sources said Bhattacharjee had asked them to consider financing of projects in the state with an “open mind”.

“The chief minister appears very keen about industrialisation in the state,” said B. Samal, chairman and managing director of Allahabad Bank. “I have assured him of full cooperation.”

The government was worried about the low credit offtake in the state. Bengal’s banking sector credit offtake is only 42 per cent of the deposit base, which means of every Rs 100 deposited in banks, the amount lent to investors is Rs 42.

This is much lower than the national average of 55.5 per cent. For Maharashtra, the figure is 72 per cent, while for Andhra Pradesh it is 68 per cent. For Karnataka, it is 4 per cent. Tamil Nadu is at the top of the heap at 93 per cent.

Higher the credit-deposit ratio, the better it is, as it reflects a healthy business environment in which bankers are finding several projects to fund.

This is precisely what Bengal wants to achieve. However, Bhattacharjee, during his meeting, did not come up with specific project ideas for bankers.

Bengal had been complaining that there had been a net outflow of funds from here to other states through the banking sector.

“True, the credit-deposit ratio in the state is on the lower side. But if there are no big projects coming to the state, where can we invest? Moreover, the Centre is putting pressure on us to only fund viable projects — ones that will be able to pay back the money lent to them. We cannot invest indiscriminately,” said a senior banker on condition of anonymity.

Banking circles also attribute the low ratio to a poor recovery of loans.

“However, this has increased to some extent in the last couple of years,” bankers said.


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