Students cry swindle
Buddha breaks coconut, e-barrier
Obscenity watchdog in billboard battle
Landgrab shadow on school
Tests find water unfit to drink
Uncle twist to trader kidnap
Train teachers before students
Trinamul gets Cong hand for token fight
SUCI leader held for murder
BJP gauges cadre mood on Mamata

 
 
STUDENTS CRY SWINDLE 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, June 12: 
The Indian Institute of Modern Management on Loudon Street has been labelled a school for scandal after promising 140 students diploma certificates of Visva-Bharati and All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) and, allegedly, “duping” them of Rs 42 lakh.

Deputy commissioner of police, south, Ranjit Pachnanda, said on Tuesday that an investigation had been launched into the functioning of the institute, following a complaint by a student. A hunt is on for the director and chief manager of the management school. According to Pachnanda, one of the students, a resident of north Calcutta, lodged a complaint at Shakespeare Sarani police station on Monday night, alleging that the institute had “cheated” her and other students.

Officers of the anti-cheating section of the detective department said 140 students had paid Rs 30,000 each for admission to the business management and other technical courses at the institute.

“I know nothing about this racket. One of the diploma courses of the Institute of Modern Management was affiliated to us till recently. Not any more,” said Visva-Bharati vice-chancellor Dilip Sinha.

Pachnanda said the institute had advertised for admission to MBA and technical engineering courses in April. In her complaint to the police, the student who had enrolled for one of the courses, claimed that when she had gone to enquire about the course, she was informed that it was affiliated to Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan. Students who opted for the technical courses were, apparently, promised certificates from AICTE, Delhi.

“We (the students) were asked to pay a capitation fee of Rs 30,000 before admission,’’ the complainant alleged. “We had specifically enquired from the institute authorities whether the management and the technical courses had the approval of Visva-Bharati and AICTE. The director and chief manager maintained that the courses were recognised by the two reputed educational institutes,” she told investigators.

A couple of weeks into the course, she and a few other students contacted Visva-Bharati and AICTE for further information. “We spoke to senior officials of the Santiniketan university and the Delhi Council who denied having any links with the Institute of Modern Management. They clarified that they had no such agreement with any -private management institute in Calcutta,’’ the student added.

The chief manager and the director were “missing” when some students went looking for them at the institute. It was then that complainant, along with her parents, went to Shakespeare Sarani police station to register a case of “cheating”. There was no senior official present when Metro visited the institute on Tuesday. Those present said they had no clue about the whereabouts of the chief manager and the director. Officer-in-charge of Shakespeare Sarani thana S.R. Roy said a case under Section 420 and 120B IPC had been initiated.

   

 
 
BUDDHA BREAKS COCONUT, E-BARRIER 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, June 12: 
“Tapanbabuke amar shubhechha janai (My best wishes to Tapan Sikdar).”

“Dhanyabad… ekhon theke Writers’-e boshe shomosto khobor paben (Thank you... From now, you’ll get to know everything sitting at Writers’ Buildings).”

The first speaker was chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the second, Union minister of state for telecommunications Tapan Sikdar. They were sitting barely a foot apart — they often leaned closer to whisper to each other — but they spoke into a video-telephone to see, and hear, each other talk.

Bhattacharjee and Sikdar made Writers’ history: They were the first speakers in a West Bengal government office to use the video-conferencing facility installed in the state’s seat of governance on Tuesday.

By doing so, they appeared to tilt a little closer to each other politically as well. Sikdar, at the vanguard of the keep-out-Mamata movement in the state BJP, has been trumpeting the “cause of West Bengal’s progress without bringing in politics” at similar government-sponsored and purportedly apolitical functions. The previous instance was at Haldia a little over a week ago, when Sikdar promised CPM MP Lakshman Seth that he would take up Bengal’s cause in Delhi along with Seth’s party, if the need arose.

The tete-a-tete on the video-phone gave Sikdar an opportunity to take his new-found camaraderie with CPM leaders a little further.

“Hope you are happy,” he told Bhattacharjee over the phone, referring to the new facility and the separate Writers’ telephone exchange that the chief minister inaugurated a few minutes later.

He probably got the reply he wanted to hear: “Certainly,” the chief minister said.

Writers’ made a different sort of history a little later when Bhattacharjee became probably the first communist chief minister of Bengal to inaugurate a project by smashing a coconut. That was what he did before entering the new telephone exchange.

Asked why he chose to break CPM tradition, a miffed Bhattacharjee replied that he still remained a “believer in equality”.

Before smashing the coconut — and a communist taboo — Bhattacharjee called a Midnapore number (03222-70782) to effect what was the first video-conferencing between the government headquarters in Calcutta and the administration of a district.

“We will be able to see you when we need to call you up,” he told Midnapore district magistrate M.V. Rao.

Sikdar made the second such call when he spoke to Murshidabad superintendent of police Rajesh Kumar. “You won’t need to come to Calcutta any more in case of an emergency,” he told Kumar.

The facilities on offer will allow ministers at Writers’ to speak to and see district officials, besides fulfilling the government’s requirements for e-governance by providing data-connectivity right up to the block level, a senior telecom official said.

Sikdar and Bhattacharjee met each other at the chief minister’s office for about half-an-hour before the function.

The mood of camaraderie was evident there, too. Bhattacharjee readily agreed to bring down the rate BSNL has to pay for laying every square metre of optical fibre cable — Rs 1,200 now, and more than what it has to pay in other states. “He (Bhattacharjee) has promised to cooperate with us,” Sikdar said. “He has promised to respond even more speedily than I would like the state government to,” he added.

The Union minister reciprocated by unfolding plans to provide telephone connections to every village in Bengal; 14,000 of the state’s 38,000 revenue-paying villages are yet to be connected.

“West Bengal is my state and I have a responsibility to improve telecommunication facilities here,” Sikdar said.

Besides promising to make Internet facilities cheaper, Sikdar also vowed to set into motion a plan to lay submarine cables to facilitate telephone calls from India to other countries.

   

 
 
OBSCENITY WATCHDOG IN BILLBOARD BATTLE 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, June 12: 
With members of his own mayor-in-council confused over what constitutes obscenity, mayor Subrata Mukherjee on Tuesday set up a committee to define ‘obscene’ and pinpoint such billboards.

The mayor and several members of his mayor-in-council are against kicking up an “unnecessary” controversy over the matter. “Who decides what is obscenity?” Mukherjee asked, during a meeting to discuss the matter. He was against taking an “unnecessarily” puritanical and inflexible stand on advertisements.

Any decision arrived at by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), which has launched a drive to clear the city of “obscene” billboards, would follow the committee’s verdict. The committee, to be set up “soon”, will comprise eminent people from the cultural world and the social elite. It will also include representatives of advertising agencies and members of the censor board.

Asked her opinion on the issue, Tollywood star Rupa Ganguly said: “I have not seen those controversial billboards. So I don’t know exactly what CMC means by ‘obscene’. CMC is slipping up on a lot of things. This cannot be its priority.”

Singer Usha Uthup said: “Without going into specific advertisements, I think obscenity is a very relative term. But there are some things about which I, too, feel very embarrassed. Undergarment ads have to show underwear, but they can be shown tastefully.”

Tuesday’s meeting found the members of the mayor-in-council sharply divided over what constituted obscenity. On one side was conservancy chief Mala Roy, who had brought with her a copy of a daily which displayed an advertisement of undergarments. “This is obscene,” she said.

Her colleagues took issue with her. “What do you expect models to wear in ads trying to sell undergarments?” one of them remarked. “You expect them to appear in kurtas?” he added.

Holding the brief for such displays, one of his colleagues said: “If undergarment ads are obscene, then we’ll have to shut down Konark and ban lingam worship.”

The Outdoor Advertising Association (OAA), in a statement signed by 14 leading agencies, informed the mayor that the decision to remove “obscene” billboards, put up with CMC’s permission, was illegal.

“Advertising agencies and clients prepare ads following guidelines from the Advertising Standard Council of India, and the same ads are featured in the print and audio-visual media,” the statement said. “Can the CMC prevent people from seeing the same ‘obscene’ ads on television and in newspapers,” the OAA asked.

   

 
 
LANDGRAB SHADOW ON SCHOOL 
 
 
SOUMITRA DAS
 
Calcutta, June 12: 
The entrance to 5A Royd Street is small and cramped, overshadowed by the bare bones of a highrise coming up in front of it. A few steps inside, and one is immediately transported to an oasis of peace. Ancient neem trees luxuriate in the sprawling compound, and nestling within the greenery is a large, old, double-storeyed mansion. On its ground floor are two small schools for little children — Moir Hall School, which opened in 1957, and Young Learners’ Montessori, that is only nine years old. Sonia John runs the former and Sonia Barman looks after the latter.

By all accounts, tiny though it is, Moir Hall has groomed generations of children to join bigger and better-known institutions. Sonia John, one of the last of the near-extinct Armenian community in the city, says: “Each year, some 70 to 80 students get admission in bigger schools and their places are soon taken up.”

Strangely, earlier this year, she noticed a sharp fall in admissions. Why this sudden decline? After making a few inquiries in the neighbourhood, she found out that a group of promoters was spreading the rumour that her school had closed. “Parents said, ‘But we were all told by Sultan Ahmed and his men that you had closed Moir Hall. So we didn’t send our children for admission’,” says John. She stresses that it was a ruse to cripple the institution so that it succumbs to landgrab designs.

Sultan Ahmed is a Trinamul Congress leader who lost in the recent Assembly elections from Entally constituency. Along with his brother, Iqbal, he has, reportedly, been on a property-buying spree in the Elliot Road area. It is alleged that about six or seven years ago, he had muscled his way into Oxford Primary School at 2, Royd Street, opposite Moir Hall. A Jewish woman, whose deceased sister used to run the school, confirms that “goondas” had thrown them out, and alleges that Sultan Ahmed was their tormentor.

To counter Ahmed’s move, Sonia John started an advertisement campaign, something she had never done before. And students started coming back again.

She alleges that Ahmed has been eyeing Moir Hall because he and his family have bought the plot in front of her school, and it is rumoured that they already have the property behind it (facing Ripon Street) in their possession. “He wants a straight runthrough,” she says.

Sultan Ahmed denies these charges. “I have never heard of Mrs John. If I possessed so much property I would be the happiest person. This is political vendetta.” But there is no denying that he and his brother occupy the Oxford Primary School premises. Their letter boxes are evidence enough.

Surprisingly, the Barman family, who have, for decades, been tenants of the first floor of the house at 5A, Royd Street, feign ignorance of Ahmed’s strong-arm tactics. John says that is understandable because the plot in front of Moir Hall used to belong to the Barman family and Ahmed bought them out.

   

 
 
TESTS FIND WATER UNFIT TO DRINK 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 12: 
Drinking water in various city hospitals, schools, colleges and Sealdah station “is not fit for human consumption”, according to recent tests conducted by the Central Pollution Control Board laboratory and All-India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health.

The report states that the drinking water in Hare School and Hindu School, Sambhunath Pandit Hospital, SSKM Hospital, Calcutta Medical College, MR Bangur Hospital, Bagmari in Maniktala, Pilkhana in Howrah, Howrah General Hospital, Howrah Jaiswal Hospital and Howrah District School is “contaminated”.

Howrah Ganatantrik Nagarik Samity, a voluntary organisation, had collected water samples and sent them to the chemical laboratories for analysis. Subhas Dutta, Samity general secretary, termed the findings “alarming”. He said the Samity would file a public interest litigation before the green bench of Calcutta High Court.

   

 
 
UNCLE TWIST TO TRADER KIDNAP 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 12: 
City businessman Pawan Saraf’s kidnap story took a new turn on Tuesday, with family members suspecting that Radhakrishna Khemka, Pawan’s 40-year-old maternal uncle, missing since the day after the kidnapping, might have masterminded the crime.

The police, too, didn’t rule out the possibility of Khemka’s involvement. After rescuing Pawan and three of his employees from a forest in Orissa’s Sambalpur district on Monday, police have put up a security chain in front of the Sarafs’ Cotton Street residence.

On April 29, Pawan, along with Khemka and three of his employees, were kidnapped on the way to Chhattisgarh. Jamshed Ali, who identified himself as Ranjan to the Saraf family, had invited Pawan to jointly open a showroom. Banibrata Basu, deputy commissioner, detective department, said Ranjan is a resident of Rourkela and had given Pawan a false address in Jagdalpur, in Chhattisgarh. “Ali had business links with Khemka and Pawan,” said Basu.

Ghanashyam Agarwal, Pawan’s father-in-law, said: “Khemka is missing since May 1. Saraf told us over phone last night that when he arrived in Jagdalpur, he found Khemka missing. This points the needle of suspicion towards Khemka, who could have joined hands with Ranjan.”

Khemka has been staying with the Sarafs since he was a child. He started looking after the family business following the death of Sitaram Saraf, Pawan’s father, 15 years ago.

The DC, DD (I) said: “We can’t say anything for sure till we interrogate Ranjan.” All four arrested in Orissa, including Ranjan, were produced in Sambalpur court on Tuesday.

   

 
 
TRAIN TEACHERS BEFORE STUDENTS 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, June 12: 
The countdown has begun. With days to go before classes get under way at Heritage, the city’s first “comprehensive day-boarding school”, it’s study time for teachers on the sprawling 9.5-acre campus on Chowbaga Road, off the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass.

“Teachers make a school and a school’s success depends on its teachers. So, we decided to organise a sensitisation programme for the teachers before kicking off the academic session,” said headmistress Meenakshi Atal. As part of this programme, the team of 28 teachers is logging on to sessions on “computers, total quality in teaching and value education for teachers”.

Classes in the primary section of the “school for children of the new millennium” will start from June 25. The number of students enrolled for Classes I to V stands at 380. Every year, a new class will be added.

“After five years, the first batch from the school will appear for the tenth-standard examination,” assured Atal.

For the teachers, a 10-day session on computers with SchoolNet was followed by a two-day training programme, which concluded on Tuesday. Conducted by Amitabh Mohan, director, Human Learning System, the session aimed at creating “an effective team” of teachers.

“This is a new school with its own ethos. The teachers are coming from different backgrounds, and I have designed the session keeping that in mind,” explained Mohan.

One part of the programme involved “psychoanalysis” to “understand and assess” the psyche of each teacher. The other part focused on “empowering” them with strategies to “balance the various traits of a student and help in personality development”.

Next up, a team from the Indian Institute of Management’s Vivekananda Nidhi will conduct a four-day session on “the importance of value education”.

Finally, before the kids enter their classrooms, the school authorities will meet the parents in an “open house”. A series of sessions has been organised with parents on June 21 and 22. “Before the parents send their wards here, we would like them to have a look at the school, to understand the way we propose to teach and the extent to which they will have to share the responsibility of the child’s development,” said Atal.

   

 
 
TRINAMUL GETS CONG HAND FOR TOKEN FIGHT 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, June 12: 
A day before their meeting with Mamata Banerjee on a possible return to the National Democratic Alliance, Trinamul legislators today appeared ready to join forces with the Congress on the Speaker’s election in the Assembly on Thursday.

Leader of the Opposition Pankaj Banerjee claimed this afternoon that the chief of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP), Atish Sinha, had seconded the nomination of Abdul Karim Chowdhury, Trinamul MLA from Islampur, for the post. “We and Congress legislators have decided to fight unitedly the ruling Marxists tooth and nail right from day one of the Assembly session,” Banerjee said, adding that his party’s legislators would try to have an “ideal floor co-ordination” with the Congress.

Mamata has convened a meeting of party legislators at Nizam Palace on Thursday to work out guidelines to be followed by them.

Legislators of both parties will discuss their strategy in the House at a meeting tomorrow. “We will have constant interaction with one another on crucial issues and work out a joint strategy accordingly,” Banerjee said.

Echoing Banerjee, Trinamul leader and Calcutta mayor Subrata Mukherjee said a tie-up with the Congress both inside and outside the Assembly was necessary in this “hour of crisis” to protect party workers who claimed they have been “targeted” by the CPM in the districts after the elections.

Reciprocating Trinamul’s gesture, Congress leader Sinha said his party’s legislators will interact with their allies to work out a joint strategy to take on the Left Front in the Assembly. “Our alliance with Trinamul will remain intact unless the latter breaks it to rejoin the NDA,” Sinha added.

Trinamul’s decision to contest the Speaker’s election came after it was denied the post of deputy Speaker. “We have appealed to all members in the House, irrespective of their party affiliations, to tender conscience votes to ensure the victory of our nominee,” Trinamul chief whip Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay said.

The election, however, is not being taken seriously. If anything, Trinamul’s decision has been greeted with scepticism by MLAs and officials who realise that the CPM-led Left Front has the requisite numbers to blunt the party’s challenge. “I don’t know of any such election. But they are welcome to contest,” said Front nominee Hashim Abdul Halim.

Assembly records say the House will see a Speaker’s election after 30 years. In 1971, when Ajoy Mukherjee was chief minister, the CPM’s Benoy Chowdhury lost to the Congress’ Apurbalal Majumder.

“Trinamul’s decision to contest the Speaker’s election is somewhat unique in recent times,” said Assembly secretary Manoranjan Sarkar. He said protem Speaker Gyan Singh Sohanpal will conduct the elections at 11 am on Thursday. This will be followed by Governor Viren J. Shah’s address in the afternoon.

   

 
 
SUCI LEADER HELD FOR MURDER 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 12: 
A day after the murder of Raghunath Sardar, a CPM worker at Nalgara in Kultali in South 24-Parganas, police arrested 15 people, including a panchayat member belonging to the SUCI.

Sardar was shot dead when he came to the village with other party workers. CPM leader and Sundarbans development minister Kanti Ganguly had alleged that Sardar was targeted by the SUCI as he actively worked for the CPM candidate of Kultali who fared well in the May elections.

Local SUCI leaders refuted the allegations and had said that CPM was putting the blame simply to tarnish the party’s image.

Additional superintendent of police Rajesh Kumar Singh said the arrests were made in night-long raids. Most of the arrested persons were wanted in a number of cases. Further raids will continue in Nalgara and adjacent villages because the criminals have fled in different places.

SUCI leader Bidhan Chatterjee said the police have arrested some innocent persons as a facesaver.

   

 
 
BJP GAUGES CADRE MOOD ON MAMATA 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, June 12: 
Bolstered by the central leadership’s announcement that its opinion will be sought before Mamata Banerjee’s readmission to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the state BJP today said it would convene a meeting of its executive committee shortly to discuss the issue.

Welcoming party spokesman Sunil Shastri’s statement yesterday that the West Bengal unit’s view will be taken into consideration, state BJP president Asim Ghosh said he and his colleagues are taking the opinion of the grassroots workers and supporters on the Trinamul Congress’s possible return to the NDA.

“It is good that the central leadership has sought our opinion before readmitting Trinamul to the NDA. Actually the reinduction will definitely have a bearing on the state BJP as Trinamul, too, is a party based in Bengal,” Ghosh said.

The state BJP has begun assessing the mood among the grassroots workers in the districts. After covering almost 50 per cent of the state, the leadership has found that at least 70 per cent of its ground-level cadre do not want any further association with Mamata and Trinamul.

“As we have already covered 50 per cent of the ground, it is likely that the state BJP’s opinion will be against the re-induction of Mamata to the NDA. However, our opinion will not be binding on the central leadership,” Ghosh said.

He added that among the districts yet to be assessed are Midnapore, Burdwan, Birbhum, Nadia and Howrah.

BJP sources indicated that there was every possibility that the state party’s opinion — if it is against Mamata’s re-induction to the coalition — will be overruled as it has its own compulsions at the Centre.

“BJP may be a major player in the NDA, but number-wise it will have to depend on other partners. The Trinamul MPs — there are nine of them — will help bolster the BJP’s strength, especially to ensure that it does not have to depend heavily on Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam for support,” the sources said.

Ghosh said he met BJP national president Jana Krishnamurthi in Delhi about 10 days ago and was instructed to carry out an assessment among the cadre to gauge their mood on Mamata’s return.

Bengal BJP vice-president Muzaffar Khan said as soon as the assessment is over, a meeting of the executive committee, and a meeting of district party chiefs, will be held. “Then we will draft our report of the opinion of the state unit on Trinamul’s reinduction to the NDA and send it across to the high command,” Khan said.

He added that the majority of BJP workers are against such a move as they felt that Mamata’s rethink on her alliance with the Congress and was “opportunistic”. The grassroots workers believe that Mamata and her trusted lieutenant Sudip Bandopadhyay, the MP from Calcutta Northwest, are “not reliable”.

“We would like the Trinamul MPs to rejoin the NDA under the leadership of Ajit Panjit, but minus Mamata and Sudip Bandopadhyay,” Khan said.

Trinamul sources, however, said the state BJP’s wrath against Bandopadhyay was understandable as they believe he was instrumental in forging his party’s alliance with the Congress before the Assembly polls.

Even now, sources said, Bandopadhyay is hesitant while other Trinamul MPs want the party to go back to the NDA.

   
 

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