Bend rules to park cars
Court gives swap-baby new home
Management institute counters charge
Husain present, but peak price for Pyne
Lighthouse initiative to combat pandemic
Showcase on diabetes signs and checks
Metro message ignored, another suicide on tracks
Water lines for slum-dwellers
Dawood link in kidnap, say cops
After the havoc, homes on the debris

Calcutta, June 13: 
What the CMC preaches: Clear city pavements; make way for pedestrians; remove hawkers.

What the CMC practices: Block pavements; encroach on roads; harass pedestrians and motorists.

One of the most glaring examples: The massive multi-storied Simpark that is coming up on Rawdon Street, promising to become a major traffic nightmare in south/central Calcutta.

Having eaten into more than 200 metres of the Rawdon Street pavement, the parking plaza has also encroached on the road itself, narrowing the busy thoroughfare by more than a metre and turning it into a potential bottleneck for cars during rush-hour traffic.

Construction of the parking plaza began in April-end and is expected to be completed by mid-August. Being built jointly by the CMC and Simplex Projects, it will cost an estimated Rs 6 crores on a build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) basis, with the civic authorities coughing up half the capital.

The CMC has violated its own act with impunity in pushing ahead with its “road-hogging” car park. Sections 371 and 372 of the CMC Act, 1980, clearly state that any encroachment of the pavement or carriageway, depriving citizens of their right to free and safe passage, is prohibited.

Note: The civic authorities had used this very Act to evict hawkers from the streets during its much-hyped Operation Sunshine. Even the High Court had upheld the eviction of the hawkers on the basis of this very Act.

“The civic authorities can turn anything around on it head if it suits their convenience, while the common people have to suffer for it,” said Subhas Dutta, general secretary of the Ganatantrik Nagarik Samity, who has been waging a number of battles for better civic conditions. “This project is bound to create immense traffic problems and it is the common people who have to suffer for it,” he said.

But mayor Subrata Mukherjee is unfazed. “We will go ahead with this project,” he said on Wednesday. “This is in public interest and, therefore, there is no room for any controversy.”

Hyped as “India’s first computerised, multi-level car parking lot”, it can accommodate 189 cars at one go and during its proposed 10-hour operation time, will provide parking for about 1,500 cars.

The CMC has tentatively decided that it will charge a Rs-10 fee for every hour of parking and Rs 50 for the entire day. A second such plaza is being planned in the Lindsay Street area, work on which is scheduled to begin some time next year.

But the flouting of the CMC Act is hardly bothering the city’s custodians. According to the CMC’s director-general, projects and development, Nilangshu Bose, the municipal commissioner, as trustee of the CMC Act, can relax any of its provisions in the “greater interest of society”.

And this is where the crunch comes. “Why should society pay for the privileged; the privileged should pay for society,” counters Dutta. “This inevitably happens when the CMC looks only at its own interest at the cost of everything else.”

But Bose, having conceded that some provisions of the Act would have to be relaxed, says reassuringly that encroachment on the road will be pushed back to the pavement once work is complete.

“The scaffolding and the pillars on the road will be removed later,” he said. “They have been erected temporarily only to provide a buffer zone for motorists.”

Meanwhile, members of the Christian community on Wednesday launched a movement for the relocation of the parking plaza, saying that it blocked one of the two entrances to the South Park Street cemetery, which is also the oldest burial ground for Christians in the city.

The Christian Burial Board had recently undertaken a project to set up a funeral parlour on the western side of the cemetery. But the parking plaza would block the entrance to the proposed project, the burial board authorities said.


Calcutta, June 13: 
The CBI is yet to ascertain her parentage, but a two-and-a-half-year-old abandoned girl child has already found a mother for herself in Aparna Bhattacharya, wife of former Chief Justice of Calcutta and Bombay High Courts, Ananda Mohan Bhattacharya. On Wednesday, Aparna received custody of the child, who was being brought up at the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital in the wake of the infamous baby-swap case.

Admitting Aparna’s application, the division bench, comprising Justice Sujit Burman Roy and Justice Pradip Kumar Biswas, directed the hospital authorities to hand over the girl to the petitioner. Aparna collected the girl from the hospital and went back to her home in Moore Avenue, south Calcutta.

The court order allowed Aparna to name the child Adriti Bhattacharya, get her admitted to school and do everything necessary for her welfare. The order held that the school authorities concerned could not raise any question about the girl’s parentage.

The court ruled that the child would be in the petitioner’s custody till the CBI succeeded in ascertaining her parentage.

Adriti’s past is shrouded in mystery. Keya Bhattacharya, a housewife, gave birth to a premature male child at M.R. Bangur Hospital on May 27, 1998. The hospital authorities directed her to transfer the child to another hospital for treatment. Accordingly, the child was sent to Calcutta Medical College Hospital on the same day. On June 4, 1998, Keya was released from hospital. But when she went to Calcutta Medical College Hospital to fetch her baby, she was offered a girl child.

The housewife refused to accept the girl and lodged a complaint with Bowbazar thana. Later, her husband, Anup, filed a petition before Calcutta High Court, demanding a CBI probe into the incident. To date, the girl, initially offered to Keya, has been raised at Calcutta Medical College Hospital.

Aparna saw media reports on the baby-swap case and appealed to Calcutta High Court, seeking an order granting her permission to keep the child with her till her parentage was ascertained.


Calcutta, June 13: 
Two days after a “student” of the Institute of Modern Management on Loudon Street registered a case of “cheating” against the institute with the police, all 140 post-graduate management students voiced their “full support” for the authorities, who, in turn, rubbished all charges.

“The allegation that students have been falsely led to believe by the authorities that the management course was affiliated to Visva-Bharati and approved by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) is completely untrue,” the students said, on Wednesday.

“The charge was levelled by a dropout, who is in no way involved with the institute now. The authorities have sorted out the matter of affiliation, by switching from Visva-Bharati to Kalyani University, after consulting us. And the MBA course is AICTE-approved. There is no question of students being cheated,” they added.

Deputy commissioner of police, south, Ranjit Pachnanda, said on Wednesday that Shakespeare Sarani thana officials had been to the institute’s office in the afternoon to carry out investigations. He added that when the police had gone to the institute on Tuesday, the “top officials were not there”.

Agitated over these allegations, Dr N.G. Choudhury, director of the 26-year-old institute, said: “We are academicians running an institute. Why should we abscond?”

Explaining the matter of affiliation and approval, Choudhury said: “Earlier, we were running diploma courses in management. But when AICTE instructed us to switch from the diploma to the MBA degree course, we sought the affiliation of Visva-Bharati. Then, AICTE informed us that Visva-Bharati was a non-affiliating unitary university, and advised us to switch to any other university. We consulted the students and immediately approached Kalyani University. How can this possibly constitute a case of fraud?”

In a letter dated May 15, 2001, the registrar of the University of Kalyani informed Choudhury that the “proposal for affiliation has been accepted in principle..., subject to AICTE approval”.

Council officials confirmed on Wednesday that the MBA programme of the institute had been granted approval. In a letter dated May 31, 2001, from the AICTE adviser, addressed to the secretary, higher education department, government of West Bengal, it was stated that “the council has approved conversion of PGDBM to MBA at the Institute of Modern Management... effective from the academic session 1998-1999.”

The students blamed the cops for “entertaining a false story.” They said regular classes were on till late on Tuesday. “Who will mend the damage done to the image of the institute and our prospects?” demanded a fourth-semester student.

Detective department chief Banibrata Basu said the chief metropolitan magistrate of Bankshal court had directed the cops to submit a report at the earliest. The complainant had moved court on Monday.


Calcutta, June 13: 
On the eve of the Bonham’s auction of Modern and Contemporary Paintings from the Indian Sub-Continent held on June 12, in London, we were sitting in the convivial andarmahal of Prakash and Sumitra Kejriwal’s Chitrakoot Art Gallery.

There was a close-knit group of art connoisseurs, with art collector Prashant Tulsyan monitoring the prices on the phone and Shyamal Dutta Roy wondering how his watercolours were doing in the auction.

It was triumph of sorts for Bengal art. Hemen Mazumdar’s typical woman won top honours at £17,000. Ganesh Pyne’s Nagamani, a significant work by him in tempera showing a snake with a diamond in a desert landscape, fetched £12,000, outstripping M.F. Husain’s colourful Holi, with a similar expected price, which did not find a buyer despite the artist himself being present at the auction. A couple of characteristic Jamini Roys went in the £2000-to-£3000 range.

The ones that had been described in some detail by the organisers were the sure buys — S.G. Thakar Singh’s At the Temple Door, which had been exhibited in London in 1934. Pakistani painter Chughtai raked in the honours with Vanity, a line wash and watercolour on paper depicting a beautiful woman looking into the mirror, going for £15,000, and his Rehana Looking at the Id Moon fetching £10,000. Bendre’s vibrant Ganesha shared one of the top slots at £15,000.

The buyers loved their Anjolie Ela Menon and K.K. Hebbar and Souza, but not Gopal Ghose. Not many whom we talked to could throw light on artist Soren Sen, whose Towards the Taj went for £4,800.

The total take was the equivalent of Rs 1 crore, 15 lakhs, 92,000, with nearly 50 per cent of the collection not coming under the hammer.

Dr Prakash Kejriwal attributes this to an earlier exhibition at the Rossi and Rossi gallery.

I recall an earlier auction in New York of contemporary Indian art, from the collection of Chester and Davida Herwitz. Being one of the first of its kind, it had generated considerable enthusiasm amongst American buyers. Husain’s presence there had made for some excitement with those present. But once again, Ganesh Pyne had scored with an unexpected record price for his work.


Calcutta, June 13: 
Creativity and communication to fight HIV/AIDS was the focus of a two-day resource-building meet at the American Center for care-givers and health workers. On Tuesday, a collage of information was on display at the HIV/AIDS Educational Materials Fair, while on Wednesday, spokespersons from various walks of life shared their views on effective modes of combating the pandemic.

Tuesday’s fair, attended by health minister Surya Kanta Mishra, had on show a number of tools and awareness materials, side-by-side with patachitra and street theatre. From derivatives of Ludo and Snakes and Ladders to condom-use promotion posters, and even a pack of cards all about AIDS prevention and care, the “first fair of its kind in India” made a wide range of resources available to local and national NGOs, doctors and policy-makers from 60 organisations. Public-service audio-visuals were also collected from various agencies across the country. On the hour, every hour, actors performed skits designed for advocacy. A representative from an NGO sang about HIV/AIDS prevention, along with illustrations on a pata.

“India is at the risk of suffering Africa’s fate,” said Rex Moser, director of the American Center, on Wednesday, quoting from a recent article in Newsweek. And while West Bengal is considered a low-risk territory, USAID is planning to step up operations in the eastern region, with Operation Lighthouse, a scheme designed to check the spread of the virus in ports (including the Calcutta port area) and along trucking routes. “We expect to start operations within a couple of months,” said Bethanne Moskov, team leader, infectious diseases, at USAID’s New Delhi Office of Population, Health and Nutrition.

Bethanne also spoke of another USAID project, the Life Initiative, in which Africa and India are to receive special attention for the control of AIDS. “The incidence figures in India are very misleading. Weak surveillance systems aside, the sheer population of this country makes even a small percentage of infection hard to handle,” she continued. Currently, an estimated 3.9 million Indians are infected with the virus, though there have been only 20,300 cases reported.

Other speakers included health secretary A. K. Chakrabarti, who spoke on the governmental role in AIDS control, and Ram Ray, managing director, Response India, who shared his views on effective strategies for public-service promotions. A session on effective use of media followed, with doctors, social workers and mediapersons using case studies to illustrate means of reaching out to the masses.


Calcutta, June 13: 
For the first time in Calcutta, a state-of-the-art exhibition to showcase measures for prevention and control of diabetes is being held at Netaji Indoor Stadium from June 14 to 16. The exhibition, called ‘Your Diabetes World’, has been organised jointly by Novo Nordisk Education Foundation and Diabetic Association of India, Calcutta branch.

The exhibition aims at educating people on the signs and symptoms of the disease, its possible complications when untreated, actions to detect them early and measures to prevent and control them, besides steps to be taken during diabetic emergencies.

“Our objective is to provide credible information to the people on diabetes. This exhibition is a sincere effort in this direction and we hope many will benefit from the experience,” said Dr Anil Kapoor, chairman and managing trustee, Novo Nordisk Education Foundation.

The exhibition will include a workshop on diet, with live demonstrations on calorie counts of about 200 cooked food items; exercise guidelines; a workshop on foot care; facility for blood glucose estimation; advice on the use of artificial sweeteners; besides lectures to update the knowledge of general practitioners, nurses and patients. People will also have the opportunity to interact with leading doctors at the exhibition.

Diabetes mellitus is fast becoming a major epidemic in India. According to current estimates, there are about 30 million people with diabetes in our country, which gives India the dubious distinction of being the ‘diabetes capital’ of the world.

“The primary reason for the increase in diabetes is the modern urban lifestyle with too much rich and refined food, too little exercise and the accompanying stress. There is an urgent need to get people to start following a healthy lifestyle and this exhibition will be very helpful in achieving this objective,” said Dr Subhankar Chowdhury, secretary, Diabetic Association of India, Calcutta branch.


Calcutta, June 13: 
A 26-year-old youth committed suicide by throwing himself in front of a speeding Metro Railway train at Belgachhia station on Wednesday morning.

The victim was identified as Subhash Chandra Dey, a resident of Paikpara, in Dum Dum. The accident took place around 10.40 am. Dey threw himself on the tracks in front of a Dum Dum-bound train. He missed the third rail but the train ran over him. Metro officials said services were disrupted for over an hour and a half, till the authorities had the body removed.

Belgachhia station authorities said the youth dived on to the tracks as the train entering the platform. The motorman slammed the brakes but failed to avert the accident.

The mishap puts a question mark on the efficacy of the signboards installed by Metro on every platform, with the message: Don’t kill yourself. There even is a call number of a tele-counselling organisation for persons contemplating suicide on the tracks.


Calcutta, June 13: 
Water connections will be provided to the city’s slum-dwellers to check waste of filtered water. The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has decided to offer connections to more than 3.5 lakh households in 4,000 slums for a token charge of Rs 20 a month.

If slums are provided with individual connections, standpipes can be dismantled from pavements. Standpipes, which are connected to the water mains, spring leaks and lead to a drop in the pressure. If the 60,000-odd standpipes in the city are removed, there will be a marked improvement in the water supply and the CMC will save at least 40 million gallons of filtered water daily, said member, mayor-in-council (water supply), Sovan Chatterjee.

Of the 256 million gallons of drinking water produced by the CMC daily, more than 100 million gallons are wasted due to worn-out water mains and roadside hydrants without faucets, he added.

The project is a joint venture of Chatterjee and Pradip Ghosh, member, mayor-in-council (bustee development). The expected annual amount to be realised from the slum-dwellers has been pegged at Rs 8 crore, which will be higher than the water supply department’s present revenue generated from its 2.5 -lakh domestic connections and about 12,000 industrial, commercial and institutional connections, said Ghosh.


Calcutta, June 13: 
The police claim to have detected a D-Company link in the Pawan Saraf kidnapping case. During interrogation on Wednesday, Jamshed Ali, who had presented himself as Ranjan to the Saraf family, admitted that Roshan Ali, Dawood Ibrahim’s henchman, had directed him to kidnap Saraf. Jamshed, however, has not disclosed anything about Radhakrishna Khemka, Pawan’s maternal uncle, who is now on the list of suspects. Khemka has been missing since the day after the kidnap.

Pawan and three employees were kidnapped a month and a half ago on their way to Chhattisgarh to inspect a site. Ranjan had invited Pawan to open an automobile showroom jointly in Chhattisgarh.

Roshan had lived in Jamshedpur three years ago but left the area after killing one of his rivals, police said. Banibrata Basu, deputy commissioner, detective department, said: “Roshan now lives in Rourkela. He has been masterminding a nationwide satta racket for the past three years. Ranjan is an active member of this racket.”

The four arrested from the Sambalpur forest, including Ranjan, were produced at a city court and remanded in police custody till June 22. Sleuths escorted Pawan to his Cotton Street residence, in the Posta police station area. Nihal Singh, who had tipped off the city police, has also arrived to receive his prize money from Calcutta Police.

At home, Pawan recounted his abduction. “After arriving at Chattisgarh, Ranjan arranged for another car to visit the site at Sambalpur. I and three of my employees set off for the site in my Indica. Khemka and Ranjan were in a Tata Sumo and told us to follow them. After an hour, Ranjan picked up a youth. Half-an-hour later, Ranjan stopped his car, came up to me, whipped out a revolver and aimed it at me. He locked us up in a room and forced us to undress. I did not eat for the first 10 days,” Pawan said.


Calcutta, June 13: 
Nineteen months after the cyclone, the Orissa government decides to start rehabilitation work — screamed the headline of a daily in Orissa. Another headline tucked away on another page read: BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha to inaugurate Banipat and Chakulia. The date, June 10.

Hardly surprising, as the Calcutta wing of the Bochanswami Shree Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) had dedicated itself to the rehabilitation of cyclone-stricken Orissa for the past 19 months. Today, instead of ravaged heaps of debris, stand 140 cyclone-proof homes, a primary school, a high school and a 2-km stretch of pucca road connecting it to the Erasama highway.

All this, under the guidance of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the spiritual head of BAPS. He had gone to Orissa for the inauguration, and is now in Calcutta to meet his countless devotees at Swami Narayan Mandir, Bhowanipore. Two days after the cyclone, the sadhus and a few volunteers had boarded the special train to Orissa from Calcutta. Chakulia, the first village they reached to distribute food ration — ‘chirey and gur’ — was then submerged under more than 30 feet of water. After three months — during which time they helped 84 villages and 61,000 people — news, along with videotapes, reached Pramukh Swami, then in Gujarat. But he wanted more to be done. Help poured in from all corners of Calcutta. Shopowners, small organisations and orphanages joined hands for the noble cause. The residents of Chakulia provided the much-needed man-power.

“With all attention focused on Paradip, we wanted to help the lesser villages,” explains Divyamurti Swami. So, Chakulia and neighbour Banipat were targeted. After an extensive survey by engineers, who had built the quake-resistant homes at Latur, it was decided to build houses which would have a five-foot foundation, walls 10 inches thick, and a flat roof, for villagers to take shelter in in case of floods. “We were not rigid in our plans. We kept on adjusting within our means to satisfy the villagers,” adds Divyamurti. Language was a barrier to begin with. But now, P.J Swami and Purna Prakash Swami speak flawless Oriya, and they even conducted the inauguration ceremony in the local language.


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