Staff against stickler for time
Money motive behind city hub murder
Gariahat blocked to protest potholes
Army, civilian row over road rights
Conservancy hit by bad brooms
Grievance cell for medicine
Mishti doi, milk and now, paneer
Swipe at Subhas with sports stick
Trinamul calls off boycott
Lesson for minister Sen

Calcutta, July 1: 
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee may be crying himself hoarse about the need to improve work culture in Bengal, but his plea is falling on deaf ears. A CPM-dominated employees’ union of Calcutta University (CU) has been charged with “mentally torturing and harassing” a senior officer.

The officer, a deputy librarian of the CU’s Hazra Law College, has complained to the authorities about how she was harassed when she began to enforce attendance rules.

The librarian has referred her complaint to the CU Syndicate. A one-man inquiry committee of a senior teacher of ancient history, who is also a member of the university’s Syndicate body, has been formed.

Bratati Neyogi, deputy librarian on the CU’s Hazra Law College campus, who has been in the profession for the past 19 years, had a harrowing time over the past few weeks, the worst in her entire professional career, when she tried to “bring in more discipline” to her department. University sources said one of the employees even tried to attack her with a paperweight on her table when she objected to his late arrival.

Branding Neyogi’s attempts to “enforce strict discipline” in the department “unethical”, the employees, backed by the ruling party union, organised a signature campaign against her. They also handed over a written complaint to the authorities against the officer.

Neyogi, who had remained silent and tried to solve the problem within the department, too, lodged a counter-complaint with the authorities. She described her “bitter experiences” when she directed her subordinate staff to abide by the university’s attendance rules. “I have received complaints from both Bratati Neyogi and the employees. I have referred the matter to the CU Syndicate and it is now under its consideration,” said CU’s librarian Ashoke Basu, adding that he could not elaborate on the issue.

“I cannot understand where I have gone wrong. I have no personal grudge against any employee here in the department. I wanted to implement the attendance and other rules for the sake of the university and particularly for the students,” said Neyogi.

Both Neyogi’s and the employees’ complaints were placed at the university’s Syndicate body meeting, which has decided to probe the allegations. The employees said it was Neyogi, and not them, who constantly victimised them on “flimsy grounds.” They alleged that she victimised latecomers not just by marking them “absent, she also writes long notes beside the names of employees in the attendance register. Her comments are damaging for employees, as they are recorded in their service books,” an employee said.

Siddheswar Ghosal, leader of the CPM-controlled employees’ union of the university, too, agreed that Neyogi’s notes were too long. “In every office there are some latecomers. Marking them absent is enough. There is no need to add long notes in the attendance register,” said Ghosal. A meeting was held to discuss the issue among the employees. “The authorities have been notified about the outcome,” said Ghosal.


Calcutta, July 1: 
The murder of Navaz Eruchshaw Wadia by unidentified assailants last Friday morning was motivated by money matters, police said on Sunday. Banibrata Basu, deputy commissioner, detective department, said the police had reached this conclusion after a prolonged interrogation of Wadia’s live-in maid, Catherine Kindo. She revealed that the deceased company executive held bank deposits and share certificates worth about Rs 47 lakh.

Wadia, former secretary to the chief executive officer of a multinational company headquartered in Calcutta, was shot dead by her assailants, who were riding a scooter, seconds after she stepped out of her apartment building on R.N. Mukherjee Road on her way to work.

“Our preliminary findings suggest that it might have been a murder for financial gain. We are going to explore all the angles associated with a crime for gain,” said Basu, after the interrogation through Sunday of Kindo and her husband, Munna, a casual worker in a local shoe-manufacturing unit.

Detectives had picked up the couple on Saturday night for interrogation but did not reveal whether they were arrested or were detained for questioning. “All that we can say at this point is that Kindo holds the key to the mysterious murder,” said Basu.

Detectives found that Wadia’s personal savings, totalling Rs 47 lakh, were in substantial bank deposits and share certificates, including a Rs 7-lakh bank deposit held jointly with Kindo, whom she treated like a member of the family. “Catherine was paid a salary of Rs 1,000 every month, but most of the money was kept in the bank as Navaz Wadia took care of Catherine’s daily needs as well,” said a detective.

Apart from Kindo, who is now pregnant, and her husband, a woman, who was Wadia’s neighbour and a close friend, was also aware of the deceased’s financial status, findings suggest. The neighbour, who is a widow, and her son left their R.N. Mukherjee Road residence a day after the murder and moved in with the slain woman’s sister.

“Navaz even looked after her neighbour and her son, when the latter’s husband became sick. She had promised to fix a decent job for her neighbour’s son,” he said.

A police team is expected to visit Wadia’s bank and office on Monday to find out more about the woman executive, who served the company for well over 32 years.

Meanwhile, a reconstruction of the crime on the basis of the impressions of local people suggests that there were three assailants. The men were slight. They had close-cropped hair and wore tight trousers and shirts. They sped away after shooting Wadia from a close range.


Calcutta, July 1: 
Road to avoid: Gariahat crossing. That’s been a refrain for the past two months in Metro. With work on the Gariahat flyover picking up pace, the stretch is a corridor of chaos — narrow, potholed and slushy.

On Sunday morning, residents of the area decided that enough was enough.

At around 11 am, a few hundred people gathered at intersection of Gariahat Road and Dover Lane. For the next hour and a half, they blocked the road.

Led by Trinamul Congress councillor of Ward no. 86 Deepti Mukherjee, the protesters blocked traffic and held a street-corner meeting to “focus attention on the deplorable condition” of Gariahat.

“Gariahat has become a death trap. A few months ago, a child was killed in an accident here. So many school-going children board buses and trams from this spot every day. Another mishap is just waiting to happen,” alleged the councillor.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee, a resident of Ekdalia Park, later said: “The condition of Gariahat is appalling. I have complained to the secretary of the transport department about this and urged him to ensure repair work so that people are not inconvenienced.”

Officers from Gariahat police station met the demonstrators, heard out their grievances and then requested them to disperse to allow free flow of traffic.

“We have given an ultimatum to the representative of Senbo who was present at the site. If, within seven days, the condition of this stretch does not improve, we will stop construction of the flyover and make Gariahat a no-entry zone for vehicles,” said Deepti Mukherjee.

Reacting to this threat, Kajal Sengupta, chairman and managing director, Senbo, said: “I appeal to the people of the area to cooperate with us so that this massive project can be completed smoothly. After all, this flyover will be a boon for the four lakh-odd people who use this stretch every day.”

Highlighting the “enormity” of the flyover project, Sengupta added: “We have been severely handicapped by the fact that the cranes cannot be used till late at night... Despite the odds, we have ensured that the electricity and telephone lines of residents in the area have not been disturbed for a even a day. And while the condition of the roads has been affected by the construction, we have tried to carry on simultaneous patch-up work. Due to the monsoons, however, we have not been able to carry out proper repair work.”

But the protest brigade is in no mood to back down. “The combination of construction work and the monsoons have made this a hell-hole. Pedestrians, police and hawkers are regularly splashed with slush by passing cars hitting potholes. How long can this be tolerated?” demanded Durga Prasad Mukherjee, a local resident.


Calcutta, July 1: 
If there’s action in the Dum Dum area, there must be Subhash Chakraborty. Even as the veteran CPM leader fights partymen and critics alike with his back to the Salt Lake stadium wall, the street that houses his ancestral home is in the eye of an army vs civilian storm.

Trouble revolves around the Naval Base Wireless Camp, at one end of Private Road in Bagjola, South Dum Dum. Houses — including Chakraborty’s ancestral home, where brother Chiraranjan lives — line the road right up to the naval camp.

Some of these houses are being expanded or renovated. Construction material is often piled up in front of these houses, rendering the 24-ft-wide road narrower and “obstructing” army vehicles speeding down the stretch. Armymen who guard the camp have, apparently, “warned” house-owners to “clear the street of sand and bricks or face the consequences”.

“There have been two instances in the past three months of army personnel going on the rampage, removing bricks and sand from the construction sites, smashing shanties close to the camp wall and even roughing up people there,” alleges Atin Roy, a commissioner of South Dum Dum municipality. “The situation is turning explosive. What will happen if an armyman opens fire?” demands Roy.

To prevent “a possible catastrophe”, commissioners of South Dum Dum and a group of local residents will hand over memoranda to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Union minister Tapan Sikdar, MP Tarit Topdar and municipality chairman Srihir Bhattacharya. There is some confusion over who enjoys the right of the way on Private Road. “It had been leased by Martin Rail to the army. When the lease expired, local residents proposed that the road be handed over to the municipality. But the army insists that since it continues to maintain the stretch, it can exercise a right over it,” says Roy.

“This sensitive matter must be resolved at once. It is up to the Union home ministry and the state government to take it at once,” says Manik Sur, whose house borders the naval camp. “I have been living here for the past 50 years. Earlier, our relationship with the armymen was most cordial, but it’s soured over the last couple of years,” he adds.

“We must try and resolve the issue as fast as possible. We cannot possibly afford to prolong this stand-off with the army,” feels Chiraranjan Chakraborty, elder brother of the transport minister.

When Metro visited the naval camp, security personnel refused to comment “as no senior officers” were present.


Calcutta, July 1: 
Garbage has been piling up on street corners because of a conservancy department resource crunch. Brooms supplied by the central stores are not up the mark, according to conservancy workers. Road-sweeping has stopped for almost a week, with 5,000 sweepers without either broom or brush, while shortage of handcarts has slowed down the clearing of garbage for the past two weeks.

Of 11,000 sweepers, only 7,000 report for duty daily. “Our stock of brooms is not being accepted by the conservancy department, which feels they are sub-standard,” said Pradip Ghosh, member, mayor-in-council, who oversees stores. The stock had been procured after approval by both stores officers and the conservancy department.

The Corporation needs around 300 quintals of dried coconut leaf strips a month, from which brooms are made. But, said a conservancy department official, 60 per cent of the sticks delivered were below the stipulated length. On Saturday, conservancy officers approved 400 kg out of 1,500 kg of strips received. Suppliers, officials said, didn’t meet the specifications because of the “low rates” offered by the Corporation.

Vat-clearing has also been crippled. “Around 150 handcarts are now in stock, while the conservancy department needs 1,500,” said assistant director, conservancy, Swapan Mahapatra.


Calcutta, July 1: 
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has constituted a Public Guidance and Grievance Redressal Cell to guide people on issues relating to medicine.

Announcing this at a function to celebrate Doctors’ Day on Sunday, IMA secretary Dr Kajal Krishna Banik said: “The cell will help redress people’s grievances against medical treatment”.

Visitors can meet IMA office-bearers on Wednesdays, between 2.30 pm and 4.30 pm, or write to their Dr Biresh Guha Street office address.

Former chief minister Jyoti Basu lauded the efforts of the IMA but added: “A lot has yet to be done and the facilities have to be upgraded. It is very difficult to treat a patient who is lying on the floor. It is extremely sad that very few doctors work in government hospitals”.

Criticising junior doctors for being insensitive, Basu said: “The Public Service Commission regularly recommends over 500 new doctors for jobs at government hospitals. However, only seven eventually turn up. I hear that they don’t want to go to villages. But, they fail to understand that they don’t have to stay there forever.”

Health and family welfare minister Surya Kanta Mishra urged medical practitioners to fight against any effort to turn this profession into an industry.

Paucity of funds has been a consistent obstacle in improving healthcare facilities in West Bengal. “The budgetary allocation has decreased over the years, forcing us to cut down on a lot of programmes,” Mishra said.

He also criticised the Centre’s proposal to bring all branches of medicine under a single umbrella.


Calcutta, July 1: 
Growing dairy. That’s what good ol’ Mother Dairy Calcutta is today. Having hit the fast track to diversification, the National Dairy Development Board-promoted milk-producing major is ready to expand its product basket with a whole new range of “nutrition-rich” items.

The first to hit the market will be full cream milk and packed paneer. Available in 500 ml and 1 litre packets, the full cream milk will cost Rs 10 and Rs 20, respectively. A 100 g of paneer will be priced at Rs 11, while the 250 g pack will cost Rs 25. These products will be formally launched on Monday by state industry minister Nirupam Sen, in the presence of Anisur Rehman, minister-in-charge of animal resources development.

The new range of products, to be sold under the Mother Dairy brand, will be produced at the Ausgram plant, in Burdwan, of Bengal Nestor’s Industries Ltd, a joint venture between WBIDC, West Bengal Milk Federation and Prashant Jalan, a city-based industrialist.

After registering profits in the past five years and securing an ISO-9002 certification, Mother Dairy has now lined up ambitious plans to meet a growing market demand for “high protein and rich-in-energy products”.

“Our surveys have revealed that there is a demand for full-cream milk and packed paneer. We expect to sell 10,000 litres of milk and 500 kg of paneer per day, within two months of the launch,” said Dr Raja R, general manager, Mother Dairy Calcutta. Starting July 3, the products will be available at select Mother Dairy outlets in Calcutta, Howrah and the suburbs. Within a year, all 1,000 outlets in Bengal will stock them.

Mother Dairy has already tasted success with its recent line of mishti doi, yoghurt and ghee. It is now gearing up to respond to the rising market demand for products like flavoured milk, lassi and ice cream. “We face competition from both the organised as well as the unorganised sectors. Meeting the customers’ need and reaching out to them has always been our motto. This, coupled with quality, brand name and a dedicated team of officers have helped us stay ahead of the others,” said Raja.

Mother Dairy, which has already established its network of outlets beyond Calcutta and Howrah, is also working towards extending its reach to other parts of Bengal. Its products are now reaching outlets in Burdwan, Asansol, Durgapur, Ranigunj, Kulti, Chittaranjan, Bankura, Bolpur and Tarakeswar. “We plan to hit the markets of Midnapore, Murshidabad and Malda shortly,” said Raja.

There’s no stemming the flood of milk-based products in Bengal. “We are entering into another joint venture with the Milk Federation to set up a plant in Panskura shortly. Besides producing milk, Bengal Dairy Ltd will produce a wide variety of milk products,” added Jalan.


Calcutta, July 1: 
Rocked by the stadium scandal, the CPM leadership appears set to snatch the sports portfolio from Subhas Chakraborty.

The party is likely to take action after the Assembly session is over, sources said. CPM insiders indicated that a search is on for a new sports minister.

Since Chakraborty hails from North 24-Parganas, the sports portfolio is likely to be given to someone from the same district. Manas Mukherjee, the newly-elected MLA from Kamarhati, is a top contender. Mukherjee, once a close associate of Chakraborty, has since fallen out with the minister.

Chakraborty’s detractors in the party have demanded his removal from the ministry. However, it is not being considered at the moment by mandarins at Alimuddin Street, who want to avoid controversy.

Chakraborty’s mentor Jyoti Basu has also expressed dissatisfaction over the scandal and is believed to have discussed it with state secretary Anil Biswas. Basu reportedly told Biswas not to play up the issue. The former chief minister intervened after an aggrieved Chakraborty brought the matter to his notice.

Biswas and Biman Bose stopped Amitava Bose, North 24-Parganas district secretary, when he tried to raise the issue at the two-day state committee meeting which began yesterday. Amitava Bose brought the issue up again today, demanding an inquiry into the scandal, but Biman Bose and Biswas turned him down, saying it was not on the agenda.

Chakraborty today submitted a report to the state leadership denying his involvement in the scandal. However, no discussion was allowed on the report. CPM insiders said the party did not want any written report from Chakraborty as the leadership is not willing to keep any recorded statement on the issue.

It is learnt that the CPM state leadership will stand by Chakraborty in the Assembly tomorrow when Trinamul and the Congress are expected create a furore on the scandal. Chakraborty will be present during Question Hour.

Though the CPM is determined not to “disturb” Chakraborty over the scandal, the party leadership yesterday ratified a recommendation from the North 24-Parganas district committee to set up a commission to probe the alleged sabotage by Chakraborty and his associates during the Assembly elections.

Amitava Nandi, district secretariat member of the CPM’s North 24-Parganas unit, and Rabin Mandal, former chief whip of the party, had complained to the district leadership that they had lost the polls because of “sabotage” by Chakraborty and his associates. Nandi had contested from Habra and Mandal was the CPM nominee in Rajarhat.

Amitava Bose had set up a one-member commission under Gourisankar Bose, a district committee member of the party. The state committee yesterday gave the go-ahead to constitute the commission.

CPM insiders believe that the leadership will not “disturb” Chakraborty immediately. However, he is sure to face disciplinary action if the “sabotage” charge is proved against him.

Today’s meeting remained inconclusive due to the death of veteran freedom fighter and Citu leader Niren Ghosh.


Calcutta, July 1: 
Determined to grill the Left Front government, the Trinamul Congress today decided to rejoin the House tomorrow.

Trinamul had announced on Thursday that it would boycott the House for three days from Friday to protest against the “manhandling” of some legislators by Assembly security personnel for raising the scandal issue in the House. The Congress joined them after PCC chief Pranab Mukherjee intervened and held a meeting with party legislators.

“We have called off the boycott after a meeting with party chief Mamata Banerjee,” said leader of the Opposition and Trinamul policy-making body chairman, Pankaj Banerjee.

Congress MLAs will also rejoin the session, Banerjee said. “We cannot allow this government to go without criticism when chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee makes a statement on the stadium scandal,” he said, adding that Trinamul and Congress MLAs will take on the “beleaguered” government in the House.

He made it clear that legislators would not mind stalling tomorrow’s business if Bhattacharjee’s statements were false and concocted. “Any attempts to protect the transport minister on the stadium scandal will be protested tooth and nail, come what may,” he warned.


Calcutta, July 1: 
Nirupam Sen, the CPM’s leading ideologue, is having to learn a new argot — the language of business. Bengal’s new commerce and industry minister was clearly ill at ease at his first interaction with the Bengal Chamber of Commerce, where he confessed that he had come from the village and needed the help of industry to further the cause of industry.

However, Sen, a CPM central committee member who hails from Burdwan, had got the patter right: he spoke of the need to spur the pace of industrialisation in the state.

At the recent closed-door meeting where Sen delivered his speech in Bengali, he promised that the state government had initiated a target-oriented approach whereby the projects would be completed within a strict time-frame. He added that the monitoring process would be further streamlined as recommended by a state-appointed task force.

The government had formed six task forces in 1999, headed by chief secretary Manish Gupta, to come up with recommendations to speed up industrialisation of the state.

Sen said the government had accepted the task force’s recommendation for the preparation of a composite application form for industrial approvals. The entire process would be made more transparent, he added.

But the BCCI members were a trifle disappointed that Sen had not gone into the specifics. “Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has spoken about cranking up the pace of industrialisation. We expected Sen to come up with some concrete proposals,” said a senior industrialist.

The minister spoke about setting up a land bank so that the investors could come and choose the area where they could set up their projects.

However, there was a sense of deja vu among the BCCI members who had been hearing about the land bank for quite sometime. “There is no data available till date. Most of the lands are under litigation anyway,” commented one of them.

The minister asked the members to invest in the districts so as to generate more employment in those areas. However, the industrialists felt that the problems relating to the availability of quality power, proper infrastructure and interference by local political leaders would have to be addressed before they ventured into districts.

If Sen has to learn the language of business, many in the CPM and government feel he also has to learn how to negotiate the thin line between what to say in public and what to say in private.

His plainspeak, while it has brought him kudos, has not gone down well with a section of CPM leaders. For example, Sen bluntly told a group of schoolteachers recently that they better start working, and if they did not, there were enough people to replace them. This rattled several in the CPM because schoolteachers form the core of the party’s grassroots organisation.

Though Sen reiterated to the industrialists his commitment to improving work culture, he more than disappointed them when he failed to come up with a suitable response to a question raised by one of the BCCI members on the possibility of framing an exit policy to make a company viable. “We told him that there should be a proper policy on manpower reduction. But he was evasive on the issue,” said one member.

The unanimous view of the industrialists: “Sen has a lot to learn. But in the meantime, we have to make sure that we don’t wreck our last opportunity to revive Bengal. We have already missed the bus.”


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