‘Hangman’ ride on Metro
Snatch bid at Chandni station
Flurry to publish HS results on time
Colour, bright lights and curb on crime
Therapy for your ailing fish
Landfill bane of Joka residents
Army schools on counsel cue
DMs in problem plainspeak
Rain drops keep fallin’ on babus & bosses
Govt lawyer shot at

 
 
‘HANGMAN’ RIDE ON METRO 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 19: 
It was a horror ride to beat most horror rides. From Sovabazar to Girish Park Metro station, he hung outside a speeding train, arms stuck in the door, feet wedged on the thin footboard. An unidentified, middle-aged man had a miraculous escape on Tuesday morning, thanks to fellow-passengers in the cabin, who held on to his arms for dear life.

The incident, unprecedented in Metro Railway’s 17-year history, occurred around 9.50 am. As the train no. TD-30, headed for Tollygunge, pulled into the Sovabazar station, the rush-hour crowd surged forward.

“Before this man could push his way into the third compartment (coach no. 2601), the doors slammed shut. His arms were caught in the door, but the train started moving,” recounted a passenger. “While some of the passengers grabbed his arms and held tight, others tried to pull the emergency alarm knob, which did not work.”

The train picked up speed, around 50 kmph, as it entered the tunnel between the two stations. “Most of us feared that the man would be battered against the walls of the tunnel. But after the three-minute ride that seemed like an eternity, when the train ground to a halt at Girish Park and the doors opened, we were amazed to see him unhurt,” the witness added.

Traumatised, the man slunk away, even as commuter fury rocked Central station, resulting in suspension of Metro services for over three hours in the afternoon.

But how did the train move when the doors hadn’t closed properly? Jayanta Roy, chief operations manager of Metro Railway, proffered an explanation: “When the sliding doors come very close, the indication lamp flashes a green signal. It’s possible that the man stuck his hand in at the very last moment. By then, the green light signifying the door closing had come on, prompting the motorman to start the train... But we have sent the rake to the car-shed for examination, as we are not ready to accept the motorman’s version alone. We will arrive at a conclusion after carrying out all mechanical tests.”

Metro Rail at the moment has 12 rakes, most of them nearly 20 years old. Till recently, maintenance staff would put in day shifts only. Now, night shifts have been introduced, but, according to a senior rail official, the damage to the rakes has already been done, largely due to “ill-maintenance”

The other aspect being probed after Tuesday’s bizarre sequence is the placement of close-circuit cameras at both ends of platform. “The edge of the Sovabazar platform is at a curve. The way the cameras have been positioned, the guard can only see the doors of the first two and the last three compartments from his cabin. If the cameras had been placed correctly, the guard would have immediately noticed a man hanging out of the coach and alerted the driver to slam the brakes,” a Metro official said.

But passengers who witnessed the ‘hangman’ ride were in no mood to listen to such explanations. When the train reached Central station, they “heckled and attacked” the driver. Faced by mob fury, driver T. K. Samajdar did not stop to inform the station manager and sped away.

As news of the “assault on a driver” spread, Metro Rail motormen announced an “indefinite strike”, demanding “safety at work”. As a result, services remained suspended for over three hours from 1 pm. The motormen withdrew their strike when senior officials assured them “necessary security measures” would be taken.

Roy said policemen will now be posted on platforms as well as near booking counters.

   

 
 
SNATCH BID AT CHANDNI STATION 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, June 19: 
9 pm, Monday, at the Chandni Chowk Metro station entrance on Central Avenue. Sunil Sil, creative director, ABP Ltd, was on his way back home from work. He had hardly started his descent down the flight of stairs, from the LIC Building side, when his path was blocked by two young men brandishing bhojalis.

“Mobile, briefcase aur paisa de do (Hand over your mobile, briefcase and money),” they barked in Hindi. When Sil refused to comply, the two attacked him, aiming blows at his head with the bhojali butts. Fending off the blows while clinging on to his bag and cellphone, Sil realised that the only way to escape was to make a dash for the ticket counter.

“I stumbled down the stairs, crying for help. Luckily, a passenger who was on his way out of the station, caught me as I tripped and fell down. I turned around to see the assailants run out,” recounted Sil.

By then, others had gathered. Sil was taken to the office of the senior ticket supervisor, where he was administered first-aid for a gash on his right knee and the swelling on his head.

Instead of initiating any action against the assailants or registering a complaint, supervisor G.C. Adhikari ticked off Sil for “carrying a mobile and wearing a gold chain so late at night”.

On Tuesday, Sil lodged an FIR with Bowbazar police station, following which two cops were posted outside the Chandni Chowk station entrance.

“This is the first time such an incident has taken place on this side of the station. Cases of burglary and attempted snatching had earlier taken place on the Ganesh Chandra Avenue side,” said Kanailal Mukhopadhyay, senior ticket supervisor at the station.

Mukhopadhyay put Monday’s incident down to the “lack of security personnel at the station and the growing criminalisation of the area”. He pinned the blame on the private agency in charge of security on the station and its approaches.

“Most of the time, the security guards are missing, although they are supposed to be on duty till 10.30 pm, after which charge is handed over to Railway Protection Force,” said Mukhopadhyay.

With the Chandni Chowk area becoming a crime haven after dark, and the Metro authorities struggling to provide security cover, there is a large question mark now over the safety of tube travel. “This can happen to anyone. And there are so many women who travel at that time. What if they are assaulted?” said Sil.

“Such incidents of snatching and assault are on the rise in the area,” admitted N.K. Pal, additional officer-in-charge, Bowbazar thana.

“We have decided to step up vigil around the Metro station entrances to prevent a repeat of Monday night’s episode and do our bit to ensure passenger safety,” he added.

   

 
 
FLURRY TO PUBLISH HS RESULTS ON TIME 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 19: 
The West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education is working overtime to publish the results of the current year’s examination by its targeted time — 60 days from the date of completion of the examinations.

Sudin Chattopadhyay, council president, said on Tuesday that the date of publication of the results of this year’s Higher Secondary (HS) examinations will be announced at least a week before they are published.

HS examinees of the city are eager to know their results, as the results of this year’s CBSE and ISC examinations conducted by the Delhi-based boards have already been announced.

More than 20,000 examinees in Calcutta and elsewhere in the districts, who have passed the ISC and CBSE, the HS-equivalent examination, are sitting idle as their results were published nearly three weeks ago.

Admission to the first-year classes in the under-graduate colleges will begin after HS results are announced. “We don’t know how long we will have to wait to seek admission in colleges,” said Putul Roy, who has passed the ISC examinations.

Students who want to study the bachelor degree courses in universities outside Bengal are put to inconvenience as results of the HS examinations held by other state boards have already been announced and admission to colleges in such states has begun, students said.

Nearly 3.85-lakh examinees have appeared in this year’s HS examinations, which began in March and ended on May 19.

The council’s targeted date of publication of the results is July 19. But council sources said the results were likely to be published before that. The results of last year’s examinations were announced on the 44th day from their completion. Many guardians of examinees have been inquiring at the council office over the past few days to find out the exact date of publication of results.

“The students need not worry. The results will be announced at the right time,” said Chattopadhyay. Unlike many other boards, the HS council offers courses in a vast range of subjects and the results have to be prepared meticulously, he said. Students have a choice of 45 subjects.

Council sources said a major portion of the work, related to preparing results, was almost over and employees and officers were working overtime to complete the process within the stipulated date.

The evaluation of answer scripts was over and the bulk of marks has already reached the council headquarters in Calcutta from various schools and colleges in the districts. As in the previous year, the HS results will be available on the Internet this time, too.

   

 
 
COLOUR, BRIGHT LIGHTS AND CURB ON CRIME 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, June 19: 
Digitally-imaged vinyl posters on shabby walls. Colourful fleet graphics on decrepit public vehicles. Backlit signages at dim bus shelters. Vertical pole kiosks along a forlorn stretch... Calcutta looks set to get a vibrant, international look, thanks to an urban-renewal initiative taken up by an agency working in the ‘out-of-home’ media.

Using the power of colours and illumination, Studio Printart, a “complete image graphic solution provider”, plans to drape Calcutta in smart, attractive, weather-proof attire.

“In today’s world of outdoor commercial advertising, signages can play a very important role in lifting the image of a city as well as improving its safety standards,” explains Studio Printart CEO Debabrata Chaudhuri. “Worldwide, there has been an enhancement in illumination levels, partly because people need to stay on the streets more to buy more and partly to keep crime at bay.”

Plans are afoot to illuminate bus shelters “so that commuters make use of them, instead of hoodlums”.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee is upbeat about the proposed move: “We will surely look into the proposals for well-lit bus shelters as well as vinyl ad posters to deck up worn walls of the city.”

Deputy commissioner of police, south, Ranjit Pachnanda, adds: “Lighting up bus shelters will surely help from a security point of view.”

Studio Printart, with “multiple platforms in scotchprint technology”, uses the 3M Scotchprint Printer 2000 to convert signage materials into non-fading graphics, besides offering day-and-night-effect backlit signs. Replacing clustered billboards with solus signages for “better recall value” and pasting colourful vinyl graphics straight on to the walls of dilapidated buildings top the agenda, along with decorating buses and trams with a combination of painting and vinyl.

“The reason we are targeting vehicles as a medium is that the cost per impression in the case of a mobile ad is less than that of a static hoarding, which often becomes part of the landscape,” says Chaudhuri.

Pole kiosks in the form of vertical corporate banners are also being planned “to bring desolate stretches of VIP Road and the EM Bypass to life”.

   

 
 
THERAPY FOR YOUR AILING FISH 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 19: 
Next time when you find your pretty little goldfish in the aquarium ailing, don’t panic.

A hospital has come up on 265, Bowbazar Street, to care for and cure ornamental fish. Inaugurated on Tuesday, the hospital is the first of its kind in the city, claims Patit Paban Halder, the man behind the enterprise.

“The high death rate of coloured fish in the city is due to lack of specialised treatment,’’ said Halder. “Before planning this hospital, I had spoken to several veterinary doctors and found them lacking in expertise to diagnose diseased fish. Consequently, 80 per cent of them die.”

Halder claims a success rate of 65 per cent in curing a fish. “The symptoms of sickness are drowsiness, wrapped fins, low intake of food and movement along the walls. The diseases are white spot, red spot, fin and tail rot, swollen eyes and dropsy,” he said.

In a five-ft-by-eight-ft room at the hospital, fish with unusual names like discuss, black molly, oscar, loach, tiger bar, asiatica and piranha are kept in square-shaped containers filled with water. They are operated on with the help of thermostat heaters, pH-meters and water filters and, later, medicated with rock salt, iodine and sulphate compounds.

Halder said that widespread temperature fluctuations, dirty water and worms and weeds lodged in the aquariums are the primary sources of fish diseases.

Excluding the expense of medicines, a fee of Rs 40 will be charged for diagnosis at the hospital. The unit has been built with know-how from foreign journals.

According to Halder, around 50,000 people in the city have aquariums. “Goldfish, black molly and tetra are some of the popular pets. These are cheap and readily available.” A goldfish costs between Rs 2 and Rs 5, while black molly, tiger bar and tetra come for Rs 3 each. Piranha, oscar and asiaticas are priced between Rs 400 and Rs 500.

   

 
 
LANDFILL BANE OF JOKA RESIDENTS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 19: 
After repeated requests to the administration have failed to check rampant landfill of ponds and construction of highrises in the area, residents of Joka, in Thakurpukur, have decided to move the Green Bench for justice.

The residents alleged that promoters had turned the once-lush green area into a concrete jungle. The realtors were in connivance with local political leaders and the administration.

Over three years, at least a dozen ponds and a number of canals had been filled up. Joka Organisation for Protection of Environment and Development general secretary Tarit Dutta said: “Each time a pond was filled up, we brought it to the notice of the district administration, the assistant director of fisheries and the district fisheries officer at Alipore, and Public Grievance Cell at Writers’ Buildings.”

Shova Dutta, zilla sabhadhipati, South 24-Parganas, rebutted: “No one has complained about ponds or canals being filled up. If such complaints had been lodged, I would have taken steps.”

   

 
 
ARMY SCHOOLS ON COUNSEL CUE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 19: 
To discuss the problems faced by the army-run schools and find solutions to them, a day-long seminar was organised in Calcutta by the eastern command of Army Welfare Educational Society. Principals of 30 schools from different parts of eastern India signed up for the event. The sessions were chaired by the secretary of the Army Welfare Educational Society, Col K.S. Mowar, and Brig. Niladri Mukherjee, deputy general officer commanding of the Bengal area.

“These schools are different from others as 80 per cent of the students hail from armed forces backgrounds. Their parents are always on the move, so these students have to change schools frequently,” said Mukherjee, while stressing the need for “special attention” to these schools.

During the seminar, the principals raised various administrative, academic and infrastructural issues relating to the functioning of their institutions. The problems faced by students coming from the families of “brigadier-generals to jawans” were also discussed. It was unanimously agreed that for a “better and secure” future of the students, “proper counselling” was the need of the hour.

To enable principals tackle the students’ problem and sensitise parents, the organisers roped in Human Learning System, India, an organisation engaged in ensuring “total quality in teaching”. Its director, Amitabh Mohan, conducted sessions for the principals on how to help students make the correct career choices, tackle the conflict between academic and administrative issues and balance curricular and extra- curricular activities. “Tackling these issues at the school level is very important for the well-rounded growth and development of the students,” said Mohan.

   

 
 
DMS IN PROBLEM PLAINSPEAK 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 19: 
It was supposed to be a class taken by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and some of his colleagues where district magistrates and zilla sabhadhipatis were to play the students.

When the day-long meeting ended, the students had almost turned the tables; taken to task — particularly for the bleak scenario in the health and education sectors — they ended up telling Bhattacharjee and his colleagues in no uncertain terms the problems they had to face in villages several hundred kilometres away from Writers’ Buildings.

For their part, the teachers played along; Bhattacharjee and his colleagues heard out the complaints. The chief minister ended his speech by asking them to contact him directly if they faced problems that they couldn’t solve at the district-level.

The chief minister started by repeating his do-it-now act, which he had told his ministers the first day he met them and in his first meeting with DMs and sabhadhipatis after returning to power. “Finish ongoing projects immediately, prepare a list of pending projects and explain the reasons for the delay, come to me if the bottlenecks can’t be solved at the district-level and stop shilanyases for cheap popularity for projects which can’t be finished,” he said.

But it was the health sector which caused the maximum embarrassment to the government, he said. “You may have lots of problems but where will the poor villagers go if rural health continues to be in the state it’s now in?” he asked. “Do your best. This isn’t my instruction; do your best at least for the sake of humanity,” he added.

Health minister Suryakanta Mishra joined in. “Why do villagers have to rush to Calcutta?” he asked the officials. “It’s adding to the pressure of Calcutta’s hospitals,” he said, and asked the DMs, on the basis of allegations he received, to prepare a list of locked-out rural health centres which were now a haven for anti-social activities.

It was then that the “students” replied. What did rural doctors have to treat their patients with, they asked back. “They have no equipment, they have no medicines,” they said. Besides, very few villages had facilities, like proper schools, which would encourage doctors to stay there with their families, they added. “Doctors can’t be blamed for not wanting to stay in villages,” they argued.

This softened Bhattacharjee and his health minister. “We are looking into your problems,” they assured the aggrieved district functionaries and asked them to take the help of the new facilities, like the direct-e-link with Writers’, and seek the advice of reputed Calcutta doctors and retired government doctors.

Education was the next most important topic on today’s agenda. Bhattacharjee stressed the need for greater accountability of teachers. Primary and secondary education minister Kanti Biswas took it a little further: “Why do we hear of teachers who have built up a reputation for themselves in coaching classes but whose classroom-teaching is often said to be of a very mediocre standard?”

“Please take steps to improve the quality of teaching in classrooms,” Biswas added, before asking the district officials to ensure that the Rs 200 crore that the department had given the flood-prone districts for rebuilding damaged school-buildings was not spent wrongly.

Here, too, the district officials responded with alacrity. “There are hundreds of schools which don’t have a single tubewell,” they said. “We don’t get money when we ask for it.”

   

 
 
RAIN DROPS KEEP FALLIN’ ON BABUS & BOSSES 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, June 19: 
It’s early days of monsoon 2001 yet, but the seat of West Bengal’s governance and arguably the city’s most important edifice, Writers’ Buildings, has already started leaking.

From the topmost floor down to the first, every floor in the red building is affected, say Writers’ officials. And with water already trickling down from the ceilings — false or real — at an alarming rate at the very onset of the monsoon, the PWD’s Writers’ sub-division, which is responsible for the upkeep of the 13 blocks, is being flooded by SOS calls from the somewhat-wet mandarins.

It’s not only the top-floor rooms that are affected. “We thought we would be better placed,” said an official at the home department, located on the first floor just behind the chief minister’s secretariat. But the rain-water pipes, which run along the floors, are taking care of the lower floors and the “protection” — in the form of the floors above — that officials working there were banking on.

A set of three rain-water pipes, clogged by years of neglect, are wrecking havoc at some home department rooms at the northwestern corner of the first floor. And, with the tools of e-governance — personal computers — being introduced, Writers’ officials say they now have something other than documents and files to save from the leaking roofs.

“Yesterday, for a change, we were more worried about our computer,” a home department official said. Water seeped into the room and on to the computer as the pipes could not cope with the rain which fell continually from early on Monday till late afternoon, she added.

The false ceiling in the room — and some others — now cover the ungainly rain-water pipes but haven’t been able to protect them from the deluge. Portions of the false ceiling themselves are now under threat from the leaks, admitted PWD officials.

With the lower floors struggling to keep themselves dry, the condition of some upper-floor rooms is even worse. A case in point is the animal resources development department on the third floor. Officials at the miscellaneous branch of the department, situated almost exactly under the Writers’ national flag, say they keep a wary eye out for the monsoon every year so they can move their files before they are destroyed by the rains.

This year has been no exception; the asbestos roof started leaking the very first day of the monsoon. “Regular complaints to the PWD have not yielded any result,” they said.

But it’s not only the rains that wet Writers’ rooms. There’s one first-floor room in the home department, belonging to a deputy secretary, which now has a leaking false ceiling because of a broken pipe in a second-floor toilet.

Officials of the PWD’s Writers’ sub-division say they have only just started receiving the complaints.

“We are acting on the complaints as and when they are lodged,” they added.

But, such assurances notwithstanding, officials at Writers’ — particularly those working on the upper floors — say they have resigned themselves to a watery monsoon this year.

   

 
 
GOVT LAWYER SHOT AT 
 
 
BY TAPAS GHOSH
 
Calcutta, June 19: 
The government pleader of Krishnagar district court, Ramen Mukherjee, today survived an attempt on his life after bullets fired at him hit his shoulder.

Krishnagar lawyers have called for a ceasework tomorrow in protest against the attack.

“Mukherjee was travelling in his Maruti. When the car reached PWD More, two motorcyclists shot at him. He suffered bullet injuries in his shoulder,” Rampal Pawar, superintendent of police, Nadia, said this evening. Pawar said police have arrested 13 persons and will solve the case soon . “The CID is helping us,” he added.

Sources said Mukherjee, who was going to Nawadwip after a telephone call in connection with a case, was attacked when his car neared Bahdurpur. The assailants fired two rounds before speeding away.

Local residents brought the bleeding Mukherjee to a nursing home in Krishnagar where doctors managed to extract one bullet. He was shifted to a Calcutta nursing home after doctors in Krishnagar asked his relatives to do so.

As news of the attack reached Krishnagar court, furious lawyers called a ceasework tomorrow. The National Lawyers’ Forum in Calcutta condemned the attack. Uttam Majumder, secretary of the forum, said: “Incidents of attack on lawyers are on the rise. We have demanded adequate security for lawyers but there has been no response from the administration so far.”

State Bar Council chairman S. Biswas has demanded a thorough probe into the incident. “The offenders should be brought to book soon,” Biswas said.

   
 

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