Staff smart over swipe entry
Mayor wants eateries to display civic report card
New rule on sixth paper trips ICSE examinees
Tollywood turns to trade for bailout
Help pledge for canal oustees
A whiff of Paris under ground
Subhas smells party plot
Stadium stands shrouded in mystery
Allies differ on war strategy
Doctor survives revenge strike

Calcutta, June 28: 
Writers’ Buildings is set to get ‘smart’. Inspired by the swipe cards at industrial houses, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee plans to introduce them in the seat of Bengali babudom — to monitor attendance of the government staff and give Writers’ a corporate look.

But the chief minister’s ‘smart’ plan has already hit a significant hurdle — the CPM-controlled state coordination committee has already voiced its opposition to the move that will “treat government employees like factory hands”.

“Is Writers’ Buildings a factory, that we will have to enter with a punching card?’’ demanded Smarajit Roy Chowdhury, secretary of the coordination committee. “This move will not be effective... It’ll just be a huge waste of money. The government has not discussed the matter with us...” The apprehension of the employees, say some officials, stems from the fear that they will not be able to spend long hours outside office, once the cards are introduced.

Bhattacharjee has, however, taken a personal interest in the matter and given the go-ahead to chief secretary Manish Gupta. The chief minister will also discuss the matter with representatives of the Writers’ staff and seek their co-operation.

A three-member committee, led by Gupta, has been constituted to monitor the preparatory work. Other members of the committee are Jaya Dasgupta, secretary, IT department, and Dilip Chakraborty, secretary, personnel and administrative reforms department.

The committee, which has been asked to complete the punch-card process within a year, has started sounding out technicians and IT companies for the introduction of smart cards. “We shall soon float a tender for the job. We may award the contract to a single company or distribute it among two or three firms,’’ officials said.

Beside recording arrival and departure of the employees, the microprocessor-multipurpose card will carry the entire service record, including bio-data, date of joining and retirement, leave position and other relevant details. Initially, Rs 6 crore will be pumped into the project, with each card costing at least Rs 200.

According to the plan, the card will first be introduced for secretariat and directorate employees, numbering about 30,510. In the long run, the cards will cover all government employees in the state. Government offices on the swipe-card route include Writers’, the New Secretariat, Khadya Bhavan, Poddar Court, CIT Building, Panchayat Bhavan and even Raj Bhavan.

“We shall instal a sufficient number of machines at the five entry points to Writers’ Buildings, to avoid office-hour rush,’’ an official said. Ministers, however, will not fall under the purview of the card curb. A separate passage to the seat of power will left ‘free’ for ministers and special guests.


Calcutta, June 28: 
Calcutta’s restaurants may soon have to tell their clientele what the Calcutta Municipal Corporation thinks of their kitchens, however unpalatable the opinion may be.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee said on Thursday he would write to the state municipal affairs department, seeking appropriate amendments in the law to force the eateries to paste on their plate-glass entrances — along with invitations to Mastercard and Visa card-holders — the report cards they got after CMC’s food inspectors visited them.

“We have no law now to force the restaurants to toe our line,” Mukherjee said. “Hence, the request to the state municipal affairs department.” Mukherjee would like the eateries to also display on their notice boards the date of the last CMC visit.

The mayor feels that Calcutta, being an A-1 city, owes a moral responsibility to the large number of foreign tourists who frequent the city. “They cough up a hefty sum for the food they eat,” Mukherjee said. “Why shouldn’t we ensure that they get their money’s worth, at least in terms of cleanliness and hygiene?” Mukherjee’s action plan comes on the eve of state municipal affairs department minister Asok Bhattacharya visit to the CMC headquarters; this will be the CPM minister’s first visit to the Trinamul Congress-controlled CMC after it wrested it from the Left Front last year.

CMC officials have been visiting various city eateries, from downtown Park Street to the far-eastern Chinatown, including several multi-stars, since the second week of this month. What they found in several hasn’t exactly pleased the CMC authorities.

“If the more expensive eateries can’t guarantee even cleanliness, then what reason do they have to charge Rs 175 for a plate of something that comes for Rs 12 at roadside eateries?” asked member, mayor-in-council (health), Javed Ahmed Khan, who himself has been on the teams that have inspected the restaurants.

The CMC, says Khan, has every reason to be unhappy. It has visited nine eateries, including a four-star hotel, in the past fortnight; and the CMC found not even one hygienic enough to give it a clean chit. The kitchen crackdown will be suspended for a month, Khan said. “We will issue a 12-point hygiene guideline to every city eatery and give each one sufficient time to live up to the guidelines,” he added, warning that the drive would start with renewed vigour after that.

Only those who conform to the guidelines will be allowed to function. “Others will be closed down,” said Khan.

The guidelines are not very complicated. For instance, one of them requires every hotel to keep warm water and soap for washing dishes; another specifies that washrooms should be away from kitchens, and not adjacent to each other, as the team had found at some restaurants; yet another says only Agmark-stamped spices and oil should be used to cook and only FPO-guaranteed sauces used.


Calcutta, June 28: 
A rule introduced by the Delhi-based Council of the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) that makes it mandatory for every examinee to score a minimum of 25 per cent marks in the sixth subject has led to a spurt in the number of failures in Calcutta this year, prompting the heads of various schools to seek a rethink.

Concerned over large number of complaints from guardians that their wards have failed due to the “undeclared” change in examination rules, the association of principals of ICSE schools in Calcutta held a meeting to discuss the problem and decided to urge the Council to reframe the rule.

“We have written to the Council, explaining the problem. There have been some failures this time because of the new rules, but the figure is not alarming,” said N. McNamara, principal of St Joseph, and the president of association of heads of Anglo-Indian schools. The principals have forwarded some suggestions to the Council, which McNamara feels will be considered.

The Council this year has made it compulsory for every student to score a minimum of 25 per cent in all six subjects. This means a student can fail the exam even if he scores a high percentage in the remaining five subjects. Under the old system, there was no such limit and the subject in which the student scored the lowest marks was not taken into account when the result was tabulated.

Neil O’Brien, chairman, ICSE Council, said all the schools had been informed much in advance before the new rule was implemented. He said he was not aware about the principals’ letter demanding a change of the rule. “I cannot comment on the letter, as I have not seen it. But I will definitely look into the matter when I go to Delhi next week,” he added.

Teachers, students and guardians came down heavily against the schools, especially the Council, and complained that though it was a major change in rules, it was not conveyed to the students in advance. Many examinees have failed this time for scoring less than 20 marks in one of the subjects, even though they scored more than 60 in the other five papers.

“I notched up more than 65 per cent marks in five subjects in ICSE. Since I am weak in maths, I thought I would pass the exam even if I fared poorly in it. But, unfortunately, I have lost a year as I got only 24 out 100 in maths,” said Karan Sethia, an ICSE examinee.

Another student, Simi Ibrahim, said she failed as she got 22 in maths, but more than 60 per cent in the other five subjects.

Ismail Nehal, president of the Association of Teachers of Anglo-Indian Schools, said the new rule was “probably” overlooked because it was not highlighted properly in the notice sent by the Council. “It is unfortunate that the students have suffered. This was an extremely important change. The Council should have highlighted it more prominently,” he said.


Calcutta, June 28: 
A troubled Tollywood has turned to the chambers for a bailout B-plan. At a meeting on Wednesday evening, filmstars and Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) representatives discussed problems plaguing the Bengali film industry and drew up the beginning of a revival plan.

Soumitra Chattopadhyay, Rituparno Ghosh, Tapas Pal, Arjun Chakraborty, Dilip Roy, Raja Sen, Ansu Sur and Arijit Dutta turned up at the Chambers to highlight the “lack of quality film-making infrastructure, poor condition of cinemas, non-availability of professional sources of finance, rampant piracy, mushrooming of video parlours and inadequate marketing...”

They echoed the need for industry status, corporate sponsorship, better enforcement of anti-piracy laws, crackdown on illegal video parlours, professional management of Rupayan and West Bengal Film Development Corporation, replacement of old halls with integrated multiplexes, setting up a film city with all facilities and creation of a fund to equip Tollywood with state-of-the-art equipment.

“These will not only help produce better films here, but will also attract directors from other parts of the country to process their films. The Bengal government now gives a subsidy of Rs 3 lakh if films are processed here, yet filmmakers prefer to go to Mumbai or Chennai,” they said, during the two-hour-long meeting.

Nazeeb Arif, secretary-general, ICC, later said: “Despite having potential and a rich history, our film industry has suffered in the last two decades, primarily because of lack of organisation... We will focus on bringing the different stakeholders of the film and entertainment sector under one umbrella, helping it organise itself and emerge as a professionally-managed service industry in Bengal.”

According to actor Arjun Chakraborty, these steps “are imperative” for the growth of an industry “which gives direct and indirect employment to more than a lakh people”. But he was quick to add that the “first step” to revive the industry is to make “good and sensible” films. “Other things, like infrastructure, will follow naturally once corporatisation of the industry takes place,” he said.

Recognising this, the ICC is keen to forge a partnership with the Bengali film industry on its path to resurrection. The industry body has decided to set up an “entertainment sub-committee”, under the chairmanship of Soumitra Chattopadhyay, to “network” with the government, financial institutions and international bodies. “A core group, under the aegis of the entertainment committee, will study the existing pattern in production, distribution and exhibition of films and submit its report on how to get rid of the existing problems,” said Arif.


Calcutta, June 28: 
The deputy secretary of the state land and land reforms department filed a report in Calcutta High Court on Thursday, with an assurance that the government would render necessary assistance to the 800 families to be evicted from the banks of Tolly’s Nullah.

The families, under the banner of Baker Bazaar Housing Co-operative Society Limited, had moved the high court, alleging that the government had earmarked a plot for them at Panchashayar, in Bagha Jatin, along the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass. In March, the plot was registered in the name of the co-operative society. But Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, then cultural minister, went ahead and allotted the same plot to Satyajit Roy Film and Television Institute without cancelling the registration. The petitioners added that they held the ownership rights of the plot and the government could not snatch it from them without providing them with an alternative.

In his report, the deputy secretary has denied the petitioners’ right to demand rehabilitation as a condition to their ouster from the canal banks. Supradip Roy, counsel for the petitioners, said he would move court for a permanent solution to the problem”.


Calcutta, June 28: 
Calcutta, or at least one of its corners, will soon smell like the perfume capital of the world. For commuters at the Park Street Metro station, Friday will bring the luxury of freely breathing in Parisian fragrance. Madeleine will waft through the Metro station, thanks to ICI, an UK-based £6.4-billion multinational company. The perfume, the first-ever to be introduced in a tube network, has already won over millions of Metro commuters in Paris.

“Calcutta has been chosen as the third city after Paris and London for the launch of this product, as people here are known to be connoisseurs of classy fragrance,” says Pankaj Chadha, chief executive officer (regional businesses) of ICI India. While ICI has already inked a business pact with the Paris Metro authorities, it has recently launched the product in a couple of Metro stations in London.

Named after the “smelliest” tube station in Paris, Madeleine will be introduced for a trial run at Park Street and, thereafter, at Netaji Bhavan station. Chadha said his company had received “major support” from the Metro in Calcutta. “If the response is encouraging, we will submit a business proposal to the Metro Railway,” Chadha said.

The fragrance has been created by noted perfumer Pierre Nuyens. “It is a fresh, watery, floral bouquet of rose and jasmine, combined with citrus top notes, tiny touches of fruit and herbs, giving way to strong woody accents and a hint of sweetness in the base,” Chadha explained. Once applied, the ‘air enhancer’ is held in invisible bubble wrap-type microscopic envelopes that release the fragrance when the passengers walk on them.

The product is being produced and marketed by Quest, an ICI division. The Indian outfit may soon acquire a unit to produce all Quest products.

“Till then, we will import the products, including Madeleine,” he added. Chadha said Madeleine had been tested, both manually and electronically, before being introduced in Paris. It has no negative effect on people allergic to aroma, like asthma patients. Moreover, the odour can be controlled through dilution.


Calcutta, June 28: 
The CPM went into a convulsion today as yesterday’s arrest of 16 criminals from Salt Lake Stadium, allegedly sheltered there by the mascot of rebellion within the party, Subhas Chakraborty, threatened to take the lid off the deep-rooted enmity between rival factions.

The bitter fight between Chakraborty and his party and government, kept under wraps during the Assembly polls, appears to have been given a fresh lease of life by the Salt Lake episode. The issue is likely to rock the party’s two-day state committee meet which starts on Saturday with Chakraborty and his rivals looking set to go for each other’s jugular.

The CPM, however, is not likely to push the corner-Chakraborty line to an extent which hurts the party. A fire-fighting operation was already in sight as senior leaders chose to toe the “I-don’t-know” line.

“I don’t know exactly what happened,” Jyoti Basu, for whom Chakraborty has organised many a felicitation, told The Telegraph. “Buddha is likely to brief us on the episode at tomorrow’s state party secretariat meeting and I have heard he is going to make a statement in the Assembly as well.”

Though evidence of a cover-up operation was already in sight at the CPM’s Alimuddin Street headquarters — state secretary Anil Biswas was there with his “it’s-a-government-matter” line — the party is witnessing a lively debate on the modus operandi of Tuesday night’s police crackdown; few are willing to accept that the raid — which occurred around 2 am — could have occurred without the nod of the government and the party at the highest level.

Even the man at the centre of the controversy feels similarly. Chakraborty, contacted in Delhi, said the raid at Salt Lake stadium, “which is under my control”, could not have occurred without clearance from the “highest quarters of the party and the government”.

Police officials of another district — the raid was conducted by Howrah police though the stadium falls within the jurisdiction of the North 24-Parganas police — would not have dared to do so otherwise, he added.

Chakraborty, in effect, accused the “highest quarters of his party and government” of hatching “a deep-rooted and well-planned conspiracy to malign” him. He had reports that only one couple and a nine-year-old girl were picked up from the stadium hostel; the rest were arrested elsewhere.

“I know better than many others how the police frame charges and show weapons-seizure. I have seen many such cases during my long political career. I myself was sent to jail on false charges, including possession of arms,” Chakraborty said.

But, said the minister who gave the party several sleepless nights with his pre-poll hobnobbing with Opposition leaders, he would not tolerate the “nonsense” any more. “I shall deal with the situation after coming back from Delhi,” he added.

CPM leaders are also debating whether the incident was part of a sting operation, designed to hit Chakraborty where it hurt most.

The decision to hit Chakraborty with Salt Lake Stadium — as a CPM leader put it, “Subhas without the stadium is like Buddha without Nandan and Anil without education” — is being perceived in party circles as a deliberate attempt to corner Chakraborty in his own lair. “The suddenness of the raid can only be explained by the corner-Chakraborty theory,” another senior CPM leader said.

To be fair to Chakraborty, however, few in the party believe that it was he alone who took the services of criminals to pull through the crucial Assembly polls. Though he is, in public perception, thought to control the stadium, the truth is a little different, party insiders say; other leaders, too, can have a piece of the stadium pie if they will.


Calcutta, June 28: 
Even as the Assembly was in uproar this morning over transport and sports minister Subhas Chakraborty allegedly providing protection to hardened criminals inside the Salt Lake stadium, the Howrah police set in motion the process of papering over a controversy loaded with political ramifications.

The Howrah police told reporters today that only some of the criminals arrested in Tuesday night’s raid were picked up from the “ramps of the stadium” where they had rushed to take shelter after being chased from the nearby Kadapara bustee.

Earlier reports had suggested that about 16 antisocials were sleeping inside a dormitory in the stadium when a Howrah police team cordoned off the area and arrested them after cutting a hole through a window grill. The stadium is known as the sports minister’s “very own backyard”.

Howrah SP Somen Mitra said today that this was “untrue”. According to him, the police had information that a gang of criminals wanted for crimes in his district were hiding in a bustee in Kadapara, adjacent to the stadium. He said that on seeing the police vans approaching the bustee late at night, some of them fled and ran into the stadium. It was from the ramps, where they were hiding, that four of them were arrested.

“None of them was arrested from any government guesthouse inside the stadium complex or from the dormitory,” Mitra said, adding: “Neither has any connection been established between the arrested criminals and Subhas Chakraborty.” Scaling down the number of arrested criminals, Mitra said though 16 people had been picked up yesterday, only 11 had been arrested as the others were able to establish their innocence.

At the stadium itself, a security ring had been thrown around the premises with nobody being allowed to approach the guest house complex. In fact, if anything, the entire area seemed shrouded in mystery.

Groundsmen said there was commotion on Tuesday night when the policemen had descended on the grounds. “We know they were picked up from here, but it is difficult to say whether they were arrested from the dormitory or from the ramps,” one of them said.

The police say none of the criminals’ names figures in the stadium register. So how could they be staying there? But the fact remains that in Chakraborty’s “very own backyard”, it is his writ that runs. In the past, people have stayed in the dormitory without getting their names into the guest register. All that it requires is a nod from the minister.

Police deny breaking into the dormitory. But even this afternoon, the tell-tale signs of a “break-in” were clearly visible: broken window panes. What is evident is that somebody has been breaking into the dormitory, whether it is the police or a criminal gang.Even the chief executive officer of the stadium, Col Soumitra Roy, admitted that some portions of the dormitory in the youth hostel had been damaged in the raid. “But we are still not clear how it happened,” he said.

Police sources said the manner in which the raid had been conducted suggested that the criminals were staying there. The wife and son of one of the criminals have also been picked up by the police and subsequently detained.


Calcutta, June 28: 
There was total lack of floor coordination between the Congress and Trinamul legislators in the Assembly today.

When the Trinamul rose to protest against the arrest of armed criminals from the Salt Lake Stadium guest house on Tuesday night, Congress MLAs were seen seated in the absence of the leader of their legislature party, Atish Sinha.

Congress MLAs left the House quietly while their Trinamul counterparts created a furore, demanding a categorical statement from the government and resignation of sports minister Subhas Chakraborty.

Sinha later told reporters that the Trinamul did not consult him on floor strategy. “We also do not support the manner in which the Trinamul MLAs raised their demand for a discussion in the House over the issue,” he said.

Sinha said that their plan was to move an adjournment motion on the issue. “If the Speaker rejected the motion, we could have raised a united protest. This would have also gone on record in Assembly proceedings,” he said.

What actually happened is that the Trinamul’s protest would not be recorded as the Speaker did not stop the proceedings or adjourn the House.

Even though nothing could be heard in the din, he forced his way forward with the business and declared an early recess.

Trinamul MLA and leader of Opposition Pankaj Banerjee, however, said he had expected the Congress MLAs to join the Trinamul protest since it was a serious issue.

He claimed some Congress legislators had actually supported them inside the House during the agitation.

Later, at a news conference at Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee’s Kalighat residence, Pankaj Banerjee, however, revised his version and claimed that there was perfect floor coordination in the House and that the Congress and the Trinamul MLAs had worked in tandem.

Earlier, on another occasion, Congress MLAs did not join forces with Trinamul legislators when the latter protested against the budget proposals placed by finance minister Asim Dasgupta.

The lack of floor coordination was evident again when the House sat in session after the recess.

After telling Congress MLAs that they would not return to the House, Trinamul legislators suddenly stormed the House, raised slogans, and then staged a walkout.

Congress MLAs were completely taken by surprise as they thought that they would not return to the House.

A number of Congress MLAs were heard lamenting the absence of floor coordination today.

“Today was something different and we could have given a real jolt to the ruling party. It is not every day when armed criminals are picked up from a high-security government establishment,” said a Congress MLA.

A number of Congress MLAs also criticised Sinha for his “lack of initiative”.


Siliguri, June 28: 
Dr Khagen Acharya was on the Kamtapuri Liberation Organisation hit-list. The militants had threatened this prosperous CPM leader before. But the 70-year-old from Sabudanghi under Bhaktinagar police station in Jalpaiguri district had been campaigning undeterred against the separatists in their very stronghold.

Last night he paid the price. Under cover of darkness and rain, suspected KLO militants barged into his medicine shop at Sabudanghi and fired at him from automatic weapons.

Dr Acharya, with bullet wounds in his stomach and left thigh, is battling for his life at the neighbouring Siliguri sub-divisional hospital, where he was rushed.

Superintendent of police, Jalpaiguri, Ranvir Kumar, said around five suspected KLO militants attacked Dr Acharya. The incident took place barely a metre away from a permanent police post in the area.

“We suspect the KLO, which had been threatening the CPM leader for quite some time, was involved in the attack.

Five cartridges recovered from the spot suggest that sophisticated weapons like AK-47s and Chinese pistols were used,” Kumar said.

“We have names of three suspects — all hardcore KLO activists, including Chiranjeet Roy, Badal Roy and Suresh Roy. Dr Acharya, too, recognised these militants,” he added.

“While one of the militants switched off the main power transformer in the area, another barged into Dr Acharya’s shop and sprayed bullets. Gun shots alerted the police post just behind the shop, who then began firing. Police fired 10 rounds, but the militants managed to escape under cover of darkness. We have picked Babu Ram Roy, a BJP gram panchayat member from Binaguri, for interrogation. Babu Ram is the brother of KLO activist Badal Roy, one of those named in the FIR,” Kumar added.

He said a search operation is on, but local people blamed police apathy for the attack.


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