Students caught in affiliation row
Trio storms city centre flat, flees with loot
Mayor sorry for Simpark spillover
Rosogolla rolls down south, Down Under
Enter a new-look lost world
Disposal of waste resumes at Wockhardt
Spice launches flat-rate tariff for pre-paid users
Infotech corner at library
Tips to ward off ‘silent killer’
House kickoff on wrong note

 
 
STUDENTS CAUGHT IN AFFILIATION ROW 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, June 14: 
A war of words has broken out between Visva-Bharati and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). Caught in the crossfire are thousands of students enrolled — or about to enrol — in private management institutes in Calcutta with the Visva-Bharati stamp.

The point of contention between the two branches under the ministry of human resources development is the right to grant approval to degree courses at private management and technical institutes.

The AICTE vs Visva-Bharati showdown has now shifted to the city civil courts. The Santiniketan-based university has obtained an “injunction restraining the Council from interfering with its right to grant approval”, following the AICTE move to “advise” private institutes to “switch” from Visva-Bharati to “any other state university” for conducting the MBA course.

Net result: Confusion on the B-school campuses. Officials at the Institute of Modern Management (IMM), Institute of Business Management and Research (IBMR) and International Institute of Management Sciences (IIMS) have been quick to dump Visva-Bharati and knock on the doors of Kalyani University. The Eastern Institute of Integrated Learning in Management (EIILM) and the National Institute of Management, Calcutta (NIMC) are in wait-and-watch mode, reluctant to part ways with “Tagore’s university”.

But it’s the students who are caught in a bind. Mithu Ganguly, who passed out of a south Calcutta management school in 1998, says: “I need to know the status of the Visva-Bharati diploma which I received. Does it remain valid?”

Ayan, a fourth-semester student of another institute, adds: “This is a crucial academic phase for us. We fear that the tug-of-war between two Central bodies will jeopardise our future. We are not bothered by technicalities of affiliation or approval. We just want the cloud of confusion to be cleared, so that we know exactly where we stand while applying for our first jobs.”

Even greater is the confusion among the crowd of graduates queuing up outside these management schools. “On the one hand, we are being told that we should not join institutes that have Visva-Bharati affiliation. On the other, some institutes are insisting that they will give us Visva-Bharati degrees which will not hamper our career. What do we do?” asks Ramesh Agarwal, a commerce graduate with MBA aspirations.

When AICTE asked city-based private colleges to “switch from diploma courses to MBA programmes” in early 2000 to standardise MBA education in these institutes, almost all colleges had approached Visva-Bharati. “We followed the path adopted by the army-promoted NIMC, which had a similar arrangement with Visva-Bharati for its MBA and MCA programmes,” said Dr N.G. Chaudhuri, director, IMM, on Loudon Street.

In March 2000, several private colleges signed MoUs with Visva-Bharati for approval of their MBA-degree programmes. AICTE informed these colleges in September 2000 that Visva-Bharati “did not” enjoy the right to grant approval for their degree courses.

“When the statutory body informed us about the problem, we apprised them of our plans to seek affiliation from another state university,” said D. Sinha, director, IIMS. The Salt Lake-based institute, along with IMM and IBMR, then turned to Kalyani University.

“We have, in principle, agreed to the proposals and if these private institutes submit no-objection certificates from the education department, we will give them affiliation,” confirmed Nityananda Saha, vice-chancellor, Kalyani University.

EIILM and NIMC are, however, reluctant to chop and change at once. “We give 100 per cent placements and I am confident that the affiliation drama won’t affect our students,” says Amit Sengupta of EIILM, on Waterloo Street. “We will have to take the Kalyani route only if we are forced to, in the interests of the students,” adds Sujit Basu, director of NIMC.

   

 
 
TRIO STORMS CITY CENTRE FLAT, FLEES WITH LOOT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 14: 
Three young men, armed with daggers and revolvers, stormed the second-floor Royd Street apartment of 45-year-old trader Anil Bothra and escaped with Rs 25,000 in cash, besides ornaments and watches, on Thursday morning. The daring crime was committed within half a kilometre of Park Street police station.

According to the detective department, Thursday’s robbery was the third in the last few days. Armed hoodlums had broken into the third-floor Convent Road apartment of Lokenath Banerjee early on Wednesday, making away with cash and gold ornaments. Banerjee was injured, trying to resist. Last week, a Cossipore petrol pump was looted at gun-point.

Detective department chief Banibrata Basu admitted on Thursday that his department is yet to crack any of the cases.

The Bothras live in Lunawat Apartment at 11, Royd Street. There is a security guard in the building and several tea-stalls on the other side of the road. The robbers, in their early twenties, walked into the building unchallenged, climbed up the two floors to reach the Bothras’ apartment around nine in the morning. They walked in through the open door and threatened Anil Bothra and wife Sandhya with weapons.

According to officers of Park Street thana, while one youth stood guard at the door, the other two were busy looting cash, ornaments and other valuables. Police said they completed their operation in 15 minutes and ran down the stairs to mingle with the morning crowd of office-goers. A mobile patrol stationed at the intersection of Royd Street and Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road had no wind of the crime.

The watchman said he had gone to buy water pipes. Park Street police drew a blank in initial investigations. A confused officer-in-charge, Prabir Das, admitted: “We don’t have a clue about the gang.”

Later in the afternoon, the detective department took over the investigations. Five persons have been detained for interrogation.

   

 
 
MAYOR SORRY FOR SIMPARK SPILLOVER 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 14: 
After firmly stating that the CMC would go ahead with the “road-hogging” parking plaza on Rawdon Street, city mayor Subrata Mukherjee admitted on Thursday that the civic authorities had made an “error of judgment” in selection of the site. “The plaza should have been planned more meticulously so as not to obstruct traffic,” he said.

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

While Mukherjee said that it was “perhaps too late” to stop the Rawdon Street project, CMC sources said the civic authorities would now put on the backburner two proposed multi-storeyed parking plazas on Lindsay Street and Free School Street.

“In view of the traffic disruption that such constructions may lead to, we have decided to re-examine the other projects and will initiate action only after looking into all factors that we had missed out on in the Rawdon Street project,” said Mukherjee.

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.

Work on the Lindsay Street project, also proposed to be built on a similar basis jointly with Simplex Projects, was scheduled to start some time next year. But Mukherjee conceded that in view of “adverse” reports on the Rawdon Street project and its impact on the traffic situation, there would be “no hurry” in implementing the next project.

It has also been pointed out to the civic authorities that the Rawdon Street project has violated Sections 371 and 372 of the CMC Act of 1980, which states that any encroachment of the pavement or the carriageway, depriving citizens of their right to free and safe passage, is prohibited. It was on the basis of this Act that the CMC had carried out its hawker eviction drive in 1996.

Convener of Intach’s Calcutta chapter, G.M. Kapoor, said the CMC deserves a “thumbs down” for blocking a vast stretch of the Rawdon Street pavement forever. “The city’s motorists are facing such a major parking problem because of the myopic policies followed by the CMC,” he said. “The civic authorities have allowed construction of multi-storeyed buildings and market plazas without forcing them to generate parking space on their premises. If this had been done, we would not have faced half the hassles we do.”

   

 
 
ROSOGOLLA ROLLS DOWN SOUTH, DOWN UNDER 
 
 
BY MADHUMITA BHATTACHARYYA
 
Calcutta, June 14: 
They are a rage down South. They are ready to taste sweet success Down Under. It’s only at home that they’re confined to a solitary Esplanade corner, with no plans to melt in the mouths of more Calcuttans.

The K.C. Das rosogolla is poised to go international (read: Australia and Canada) and grow big in south India (read: Bangalore and Hyderabad). But the Calcutta supply seems to have run out of steam.

Today, “white jamuns” in Bangalore record over 200 per cent more sales than rosogollas in Calcutta. This has prompted K.C. Das, inventors of the Bangali’s favourite mishti, to open up another front at Hyderabad. Then, their first off-shore factories.

K.C. Das tins can be seen in select stores around the world, but they are all private exports. Now, the target is supermarket shelves abroad, with the spongy sweetmeat fresh from their first factories abroad.

“We are looking forward to a global market now,” explains Biren Das, Krishna Chandra Das’ grandson. “We are in talks with two NRIs who want to set up factories. We hope to supply to south-east Asia, West Asia and the US from the new factories. We think this will do better than the ‘Made in India’ label,” adds Biren, who lives in Bangalore, while brother Dhirendranath, sister Manjulika and nephews Sanjoy and Dhiman look after Calcutta operations.

The plan is to start out with tinned rosogollas and mishti doi, with a “greater degree of mechanisation” introduced to the family’s unique method of making rosogollas by steam, perfected in their first factory at Baghbazar.

After Nabin Das, or Nabin moira as he was commonly called, invented the rosogolla in 1860, he opened his first shop at Jorasanko, followed by another at Rabindra Sarani, where the Das family home now stands. Their canned sweets were started in 1930. “No one had heard of tinned food here back then,” recalls Biren.

The Esplanade store, opened in 1935, was another “shock” to the city, with its unique seating arrangements. Now, lower sales here is attributed to the proliferation of “sweet shops around every corner, which provide lower cost options”. Around 300 one-kg tins are sold from Esplanade every day.

The K.C. Das slide in Calcutta started in the 1960s, with the milk control order.

Hit by the non-availability of milk, all outlets apart from the Esplanade store were closed. “We decided that for business to grow, we had to start production elsewhere,” recounts Biren.

The factory in Bangalore was up and running by 1972, with twice the production capacity of Calcutta. Now, they also have around seven franchisees in the Karnataka capital. Milk quality, being “of better quality” down south, yields more chhana than in Calcutta.

“Son Papri is very popular and our loose rosogollas do extremely well there,” says Dhiman Das. According to Biren’s nephew, only two per cent of customers there are Bengali.

Now, it’s time to go global. The move will give the sweetmeat chain a chance to access better quality milk. “India now has the highest milk supply in the world, but it also has the worst quality,” feels Biren, who looks after the Bangalore research and development centre run by K.C. Das, in collaboration with the ministry of science of technology.

Higher hygiene standards and zero adulteration, he hopes, will help “increase the shelf-life of the tinned products”. To further sales in view of changing consumer preferences, low-fat, sugarless, and even vitamin and mineral enriched sweets are “now being developed” by the R&D unit.

But while people far and wide will now be able to walk to the shop around the corner for the K. C. Das rosogolla, Calcuttans will have to be content with small doses of the ‘real’ thing.

   

 
 
ENTER A NEW-LOOK LOST WORLD 
 
 
BY DEBASISH CHATTOPADHYAY
 
Calcutta, June 14: 
Science City is ready to grab a share of the youth brigade freaking out at Nicco Park, Sparkz and Aquatica.

Two items that will feature in Science City’s list of must-sees from July — Evolution Park: Theme Tour and a new film, Cosmic Voyage, at Space Theatre — are likely to be crowd-pullers. Entrance to the theme park, through the jaws of an amphibian, will come for Rs 10 per head.

For the 35-minute film, a viewer will have to cough up Rs 30, which is much less than that in Mumbai, according to Science City director T.K. Ganguly.

The theme park comprises demonstrations on the origin and evolution of man on earth. The various stages — from the beginning of life on earth in water, the three stages of dinosaurs, the reptile age, the mammal age, the ice age and the early human beings — will be showcased.

The stages have been narrated in Bengali, English and Hindi through models of 77 animals, 46 species and 150 plants. The models have been designed to move. There will also be a volcano that erupts in a fountain of light.

A batch of 30 persons will be allowed to enter the theme park at a time and the entire programme will last for about 15 minutes.

“Extensive studies and research were involved in creating the models and the evolution process. A number of experts are working to give the park a complete shape. Our aim is to impart education through entertainment. The programmes will be opened to the public in July,” Ganguly said.

The film, Cosmic Voyage, produced by Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum and the Motorola Foundation, will be on view in a largescreen format.

The voyage starts in Venice, where Galileo first used his telescope to view distant planets in space.

Cosmic Voyage blends cutting-edge technology with state-of-the-art computer-generated images to create a visually stunning journey through the universe.

The film is the brainchild of a team comprising some of the world’s leading astronomers, physicists and biologists and experts in computer animation, software and virtual reality. A Silicon Graphics Power Challenge Array multiprocessor supercomputer took barely six weeks to create the scenes of galaxies condensing after the Big Bang.

“I have another item in mind to help children learn more about nature. The project, Nature Trail, will specially benefit urban kids, who have little scope to come in touch with nature. We are trying our best to launch this project as early as possible,” Ganguly added.

   

 
 
DISPOSAL OF WASTE RESUMES AT WOCKHARDT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 14: 
The situation at Wockhardt Hospital and Kidney Institute, in south Calcutta, is limping back to normal. Agitators, protesting the hospital management’s refusal to renew the services of a contractor, had tried to prevent other staff and patients from entering the hospital in the last week of May and early June. They had also prevented Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s garbage disposal tanks from collecting hospital waste for about a fortnight.

But with mayor Subrata Mukherjee’s help, garbage collection has resumed, the management said on Thursday. “There’s no problem any longer, as far as collection of garbage is concerned,” Wockhardt general manager Sumedha Sen said.

And with the police picket outside the hospital in place, the agitators have become “more circumspect” in threatening employees reporting for work and discouraging patients from entering the institute, the hospital management added. Picketing by the agitators, however, continues.

Irked by the attitude of the agitators, who had also beaten up some Wockhardt staff for daring to join work, the management began to have second thoughts about investing more in West Bengal. Wockhardt planned to invest in at least 10 more super-speciality hospitals in the country, and at least two of them were to have come up in Calcutta.

   

 
 
SPICE LAUNCHES FLAT-RATE TARIFF FOR PRE-PAID USERS 
 
 
BY ALOKANANDA GHOSH
 
Calcutta, June 14: 
Spice Telecom, one of the two cellular service providers in Calcutta, has introduced a new “flat-rate” tariff plan for its post-paid subscribers. This will come into effect from June 20.

The three new tariff plans are Super Light, Super Regular and Super Hot Spice. These plans are an extension of Light, Regular and Hot Spice. Incoming and outgoing calls under these plans will cost Rs 1.95, Rs 1.75 and Rs 1.25, respectively. The monthly membership fees and rentals for the earlier plans will also be applicable to the new plans.

Arun Kapoor, chief operating officer, said on Thursday: “We are now a big family of 100,000 subscribers and we expect to double the figure by June 2002. As a reiteration of our customer-first commitment, we have introduced three new extended plans to provide the customer a cost-effective means of staying mobile.” Going by current trends, it is estimated that Calcutta will have around 7.6-lakh cellular subscribers by 2004.

R. Mahesh, vice-president, marketing, added: “After the tariff restructuring in January and April, we realised that customers were increasingly making outgoing calls. The new tariff plans will encourage customers to make more outgoing calls.”

Spice has also re-adjusted the airtime rates for their supplementary Family Card. “We have two types of supplementary cards — one that can communicate only with the parent phone and the other which has unrestricted access, similar to the parent phone,” explained Mahesh.

“The rates for both incoming and outgoing for the first type is 40 p and for the second, 40 p for incoming and Rs 6 for outgoing calls.” Any existing or new subscriber can avail of the Family Card. The security deposit for the Family Card is Rs 1,500, activation fees Rs 600 and monthly rental Rs 400.

Spice recently introduced a Rs-300 pre-paid coupon with a validity period of 30 days. According to Kapoor, the company has suffered a revenue loss of 10 per cent due to the low-cost coupon, but this has been covered with the 41 per cent increase in new customers.

As part of its Rs 40-lakh marketing campaign, Spice has signed up celebs like Usha Uthup, P.C. Sorcar, P.K. Banerjee and Rituparna Sengupta. Sourav Ganguly and Raima Sen are already famous Spice faces.

Spice is also ready to invest Rs 20 lakh in upgrading its infrastructure over the next six months.

   

 
 
INFOTECH CORNER AT LIBRARY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 14: 
It’s advantage IT at the British Council. With the inauguration of the 2,000-book IT corner at the library on Thursday, the first step was taken towards a new technology focus.

“Our library-users across the country have requested us to upgrade our infotech collection,” said Edmund Marsden, director, British Council in India, who feels that education is “a means of ensuring that bilateral relations remain strong into the next generation”.

Marsden, in town for a few hours for the launch, added: “We are investing in developing systems to provide services through the Net. The key is how quickly India increases connectivity.”

The IT Learning Resource Centre includes foreign as well as Indian publications, ranging from computer fundamentals to artificial intelligence, and boasts a comprehensive section on programming languages.

CDs, tutorials and self-access learning packages will also be available, though there are “no plans for any courses” currently.

“Over 11,000 IT professionals from India went to the UK for work last year,” observed Marsden, adding that the number was “not enough”, compared to US figures.

The management section, as well as the fiction and literature selection at the Calcutta library, will also be revised. Structural changes to the Shakespeare Sarani premises are on the anvil, too.

According to Marsden, also regional director of the Council in South Asia, this was “just one small, but important element” in a policy shift, which would involve “an increased expenditure to the tune of £ 500,000 in India over the next three years”.

Also in line with new policies, an electronic online library “Globel”, designed by Indian and British programmers, is scheduled to be launched by 2002. Twelve scholarships under the Chevening programme have been earmarked for IT. The Council is collaborating with egurucool.com to develop education modules.

India has the largest terrestrial British Council library network in the world, catering to 100,000 users. “Elsewhere, we are closing down libraries, but in India, there is still great demand for our services,” Marsden concluded.

   

 
 
TIPS TO WARD OFF ‘SILENT KILLER’ 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 14: 
One out of every eight adults in the city suffers from diabetes, the “silent killer”, according to a recent study conducted by ORG-MARG. This information was revealed by Dr Subhankar Chowdhury, secretary, Diabetic Association of India, Calcutta branch, during the inauguration of ‘Your Diabetes World’, an exhibition on measures for prevention and control of the disease.

The three-day exposition, jointly organised by DAI, Calcutta branch, and Novo Nordisk Education Foundation, was inaugurated at Netaji Indoor Stadium on Thursday by state health minister Suryakanta Mishra.

Stressing the need to spread awareness about diabetes, Dr Chowdhury said: “Calcutta should take the lead in formulating an effective national diabetes-control programme to ensure early detection and management of the disease. After all, the first diabetic research centre was opened at the School of Tropical Medicine.”

Novelist Mahasweta Debi, herself a diabetic, spoke about the need to educate people about the disease on a war footing. “There has to be a government drive on diabetes, particularly in the rural sector, as had been conducted for tuberculosis and polio. Detection as well as basic management facilities should be available free at public health centres.”

Dr T.K. Biswas, president, DAI, Calcutta branch, lamented that while some communicable diseases are on the verge of eradication, a few non-communicable diseases, like diabetes, are growing as a menace. “Our aim is to try and diagnose diabetes at an early stage and prevent the late complications of the disease,” he said. Dr Biswas added that one out of every five diabetics in the world is an Indian and a lot of diabetics are walking the streets without being diagnosed.

The health minister spoke about the need to lead a healthy lifestyle to try and ward off diabetes. “I think the Diabetic Association of India, Calcutta branch, can help spread awareness by printing small booklets about the dos and don’ts of the disease and about simple measures to manage it,” he said.

Asked if there has been any scientific breakthrough in finding a cure for diabetes, Dr Chowdhury said: “In the era of the human genome project, there is surely a ray of hope, assuming that diabetes has some genetic predisposition, but nothing very concrete has happened yet. Under the circumstances, the best-case scenario is to watch out for tell-tale symptoms, like abnormal thirst, unexplained fatigue or loss of weight, recurring infections, etc, and get a blood glucose estimation done immediately if any of these is observed. As a thumb rule, once past 30, every individual should go in for a blood glucose estimation once every three years.”

   

 
 
HOUSE KICKOFF ON WRONG NOTE 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, June 14: 
Capping a day of controversies in the Assembly, the national anthem began and was stopped midway as the Governor was leaving the House after delivering his address.

The Eastern Frontier Rifles’ band struck up the Jana Gana Mana when acting Governor S.K. Sinha, after having made his customary speech, was on his way out. The band stopped midway when it was pointed out that they had started playing at the wrong time.

Assembly sources said the band, which plays on the Assembly lawns, has a red light in front which glows as a cue to the musicians to begin. The music is carried inside the House through microphones.

“The red light glowed at the wrong moment when the acting Governor was already on his way out. What can the band do?” an Assembly official asked.

Describing the goof-up as a technical fault, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said he had sought a report. Sources said the EFR’s bandmaster met Bhattacharjee later to explain the error.

At the stroke of 3, the band played Chal chal chal, urdhya gaganey bajey madol as Sinha walked in to the House escorted by Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim. As soon as he entered, Trinamul MLAs greeted him with banners, posters and slogans alleging that the Left Front had “rigged” the elections.

As Sinha took up position in the Speaker’s podium before reading out his address, the national anthem was played according to custom. But even as the Front legislators stood up, Trinamul MLAs, unaware that the anthem was being played, continued to shout slogans. It was left to senior MLAs like Sougata Roy, Subrata Mukherjee and Pankaj Banerjee to persuade their colleagues to stop.

Sinha then began reading his speech, but was disrupted by the Opposition members. Some legislators like Roy and Sadhan Pandey even chased the securitymen stationed inside the House, saying they had no business to remain there.

His voice drowned in the din, Sinha cut short his speech. He stopped and climbed down from the Speaker’s podium and began walking towards the door. When he was almost halfway down, the band suddenly began play the national anthem. Sinha, however, did not stop and continued walking.

The MLAs were again caught on the wrong foot and had no idea that the anthem was on. When the mistake sank in, an official went to the lawn and asked the musicians to stop.

The Opposition MLAs squatted in the Well protesting against the “shabby” treatment of the national anthem. It was left to the Trinamul MLAs to complete the anthem.

   
 

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