Eateries bow to clean kitchen code
2 more arrests seal murder case
Latent talent hunt in CBSE schools
Metro trips on power snag
Pulp fiction turns blockbuster
Larvicide worth lakhs wasted
Pilot project to check arsenic
Cradle to college in Heritage mould
Front clears college fee hike from July
Panel to monitor vigilance stonewall

 
 
EATERIES BOW TO CLEAN KITCHEN CODE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 3: 
Calcutta’s prominent hotels and restaurants, reeling under the raids on their establishments by the civic authorities, bought peace on Tuesday by furnishing an undertaking to maintain the “highest standards of hygiene” in their kitchens.

After raids on the kitchens of more than two dozen restaurants over the past fortnight, the CMC had issued notices to the owners, listing 12 civic commandments to “clean up their act” within a month or face the prospect of getting their trade licences cancelled.

Tuesday’s assurance of “voluntary compliance” is in contrast to the tone of “confrontation” adopted by a number of restaurants, which had even threatened to move court to stall the “surprise raids” by the Corporation.

This assurance followed a meeting with mayor Subrata Mukherjee on Monday and member, mayor-in-council, health, Javed Khan, on Tuesday. “We see this as a very positive step by the eateries,” Khan said.

“But , of course, we shall have to wait and see whether these establishments keep their word or force our hand. If they do not voluntarily comply with our directives, the results will be very harsh for them.”

As a bonus, the hotels and restaurants unanimously agreed to pay an enhanced conservancy fee as a prerequisite to getting their trade licences renewed. While the city’s five-star hotels will now be paying in excess of Rs 1 lakh, smaller establishments will pay Rs 10,000 more.

However, some of the restaurant owners said the CMC raids had been “discriminatory”, as a number of other establishments where the kitchens were in a “deplorable state” had been spared. They even provided the civic authorities with a list of such restaurants.

Saying that he was grateful for this information, Khan told the representatives that notices would be issued to them, as well and the establishments would be shut down if they failed to comply with the hygiene norms.

Khan also said that the civic authorities would videotape the condition of the kitchens during future raids on the restaurants. This, he said, would be produced as evidence in case these establishments challenged the CMC’s action in court.

Sources in the CMC said that the hotel and restaurant owners’ assurance on Tuesday stemmed from the apprehension that this “raid raj” would only harm their business prospects, specially since the raids were conducted during peak hours, when the establishments were packed with diners.

   

 
 
2 MORE ARRESTS SEAL MURDER CASE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 3: 
With the arrest of two more men on Tuesday, the city police claimed to have solved the Chandra Kanta Ojha murder case, although some key questions remain unanswered.

The police seem to be flummoxed, as the motive of the murder is yet to be established. “They killed the old man for financial gain,” was all DC (DD-I) Banibrata Basu would say on Tuesday. “All the suspects have been arrested. They should reveal everything soon,” said Basu.

But the fact remains that their “prime suspects” did not attempt either to break open the almirah in the 12, Robert Street, apartment, or to ransack the apartment. This was further corroborated by the OC, Bowbazar police station, Asit Baran Sil: “They are yet to confirm whether they were after cash or documents.”

Surendra Singh and Kapil Singh, both brothers-in-law of the 15-year-old durwan of the apartment block Dinesh Singh, were arrested outside the city. This followed the grilling of Dinesh throughout Monday night. The police became suspicious about him when they noticed scratch marks on his arms and abdomen. “The marks were all fingernail scratches made by Ojha when they strangled him,” said Sil.

Dinesh, reportedly, confessed to committing the murder with his two brothers-in-law. He, reportedly, said Surendra and Kapil persuaded him to join them, hoping to dip into Ojha’s savings.

It was learnt that after Ojha’s servant left the apartment, Dinesh, along with his accomplices, entered the flat and gagged Ojha, catching him unawares. “He said they never planned to murder Ojha, but later realised that they had strangled him,” police said. The killers panicked and fled when Ojha, fell in a heap.

The police team are yet to confirm whether the killers used chloroform to overpower Ojha. A cloth, possibly dabbed with chloroform, was found in the dining room but the chemical analysis report is yet to arrive, officers said.

Initially, Dinesh tried to hide the “tell-tale” scratch marks from the police, but a local resident pointed them out to investigators.

Both Surendra and Kapil Singh, who live nearby, had fled. “They were hiding at a relatives’ home outside the city when we picked them up early this morning,” said Sil.

Surendra and Kapil Singh were remanded to police custody for 14 days, and Dinesh was sent to the Ariadaha remand home.

   

 
 
LATENT TALENT HUNT IN CBSE SCHOOLS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 3: 
The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has made it mandatory for all its affiliated schools to issue separate report cards to students on their performance in extra-curricular activities when they pass the Class X Board examinations.

In anticipation, most CBSE schools in Calcutta have started issuing such report cards to students after the announcement of the current year’s Class X exam dates. Even Kendriya Vidyalayas, which are CBSE affiliates, have followed suit. Sources in the city’s CBSE schools said the move was in line with the Centre’s new policy of promoting value-based education in schools. Till last year, the Board would issue only marksheets to students passing CBSE.

Schools have been asked to continuously and comprehensively evaluate student performance in various co-curricular activities, besides testing their academic abilities. These include their “personal and social qualities”, their values and attitude towards their teachers and friends, their level of interest in other areas, like reading, creative writing, public speaking and debates, and even participation in clubs and other social organisations.

Their regularity, punctuality, discipline and cleanliness will be yardsticks, too. The students’ interest in cultural activities like painting, drawing and the performing arts is also given importance.

Apart from inculcating moral values among students, the CBSE decision is aimed at providing an opportunity to schools to identify the “latent talent” of students in “different contexts”, which “cannot be assessed during examinations conducted by the Board,” CBSE sources in Calcutta said.

“The Board has given the entire responsibility to the respective schools to carry out the evaluation. The assessment will be made both in Classes IX and X,” said M. Goyal, principal, Mahadevi Birla Girls’ High School.

Going by the CBSE directive, nearly 75 schools in Calcutta are creating infrastructure to allow students to take part in the Board-prescribed extra-curricular activities. “We have to ensure that each student participates in all the activities, apart from attending classes on a regular basis,” said Pradip Kumar Bose, principal of Birla High, one of the most well-known CBSE institutions in the city. “The entire scheme has been developed under the guidance of the human resources development department,” Bose said.

   

 
 
METRO TRIPS ON POWER SNAG 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 3: 
Metro services were thrown out of gear on Tuesday after snags at the Dum Dum supply distribution point caused disruption of power for about three hours in the afternoon. Fourteen trains were cancelled between 1.30 pm and 4.20 pm; 18 more had to be rescheduled and four others were detained at various stations.

Lights and elevators blinked around 1.30 pm at stations between Esplanade and Belgachhia. But as power supply to the tracks continued, trains ran, albeit delayed. At 3.30 pm, the battery-powered panel at Dum Dum went dead.

   

 
 
PULP FICTION TURNS BLOCKBUSTER 
 
 
BY SOUMITRA DAS
 
Calcutta, July 3: 
Handmade paper, exquisitely dyed and textured, or bearing the impress of neem leaves and petals, feature in the catalogue of Papyrus, a tiny shop on S. N. Banerjee Road, that supplies the “green” commodity to five-star hotels as well as producers of cards of every variety. Tiny though the shop is, the man who runs it, Sachindra Mohan Gupta, could be said to have had a hand in revolutionising the handmade paper trade in the West Bengal. “They are the original suppliers of handmade paper in Calcutta. I have bought paper from there many times,” says Ganesh Pyne. At one time, Bikash Bhattacharya, too, used to be a regular.

Gupta, one of the few persons to have studied paper technology, ascribes the current boom in the handmade paper trade to the awareness about eco-friendly material. “Handmade paper is used to make cards. This has given a big boost to the trade. Five-star hotels, too, are using handmade paper bags instead of polythene. At the Park hotels ,all guest amenities are made of handmade paper. Oberoi Grand, too, has started using it. But neither Taj Bengal nor Hotel Hindustan International make much use of it. Moreover, handmade paper is not as expensive as it used to be. Even the mill-made variety costs as much.”

The 63-year-old man, who was trained in handmade paper technology first in Pune and then at the City & Guilds Institute in London, says the government, through its Khadi and Village Industries Commission, had promoted this craft. Now, entrepreneurs have set up 14 to 15 units in the state. “No handmade paper manufacturer sits idle in West Bengal, though Kanpur exports Rs 6 crore to 7 crore worth of it.”

After his training, when he returned to the city, there were no takers for handmade paper. “I used to feel it would be better to forget everything. I was in charge of Abhayashram, a training centre, from 1961-65. I realised that a market had to be created for handmade paper. Abinash Datta used to get their supplies from Pondicherry and G.C. Laha got theirs from Pune,” says Gupta.

In the 70s he organised three exhibitions at the Academy of Fine Arts.

With good support from advertising agencies, they were splashed in the print media, and that is what caused the difference.

Says Gupta: “Thanks to all the publicity, suddenly there was a boom in the market. We promoted sales through Pannalal Sil & Company, who are big paper traders. Now, you can buy handmade paper wherever you can get artist’s material.”

Unfortunately, he says, people are still not aware of the myriad uses of handmade paper. But the variety of products has multiplied manifold. Forty years ago, 18,000 varieties were available. Now the range is even wider. Rs 1 crore worth of mica-laminated paper, used in the motors of EMU coaches, is annually imported by the Kanchrapara railway workshop alone. They are used in electrical transformers, as a substitute for black tape, as wallpaper and filter paper, too.

Gupta says he has been able to produce acid-free drawing paper which all watercolour artists use. The imported variety is available at the exorbitant rate of Rs 60 to Rs 200 per sheet, and Gupta is selling them for Rs 15 a sheet. He predicts that the handmade paper business has a great future. Says Gupta: “By next year, sales will double. That figure will increase by leaps and bounds.”

   

 
 
LARVICIDE WORTH LAKHS WASTED 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 3: 
Costly larvicide, worth Rs 50 lakh, received as Central aid to combat malaria in Calcutta, has gone down the drain as it could not be used before its expiry date. The larvicide costs Rs 1,200 a kg.

“It is impossible for the Calcutta Municipal Corporation to utilise several tons of larvicide in just two-and-a-half months, when the annual consumption in the city is only eight tons,” said member, mayor-in-council (health), Javed Ahmed Khan. The Corporation received eight metric tons of Baytex from Delhi under the National Malaria Eradication Programme in the second week of March. The entire batch ‘expired’ in end-June.

“If the supply had been received earlier, mosquitoes in the city could have been tackled more effectively,” said Khan. He alleged that “despite repeated reminders for the 2000-2001 stock”, Delhi had not despatched any consignment till February. Then, in the second week of March, eight metric tonnes of larvicide arrived. They were all to be used by June.

A health official said the Corporation can hardly utilise 0.75 metric tons of larvicide in a month. “We suspect that Central health officials dumped the consignment on us so that they would not be held responsible for the waste of such costly chemicals,” he added.

   

 
 
PILOT PROJECT TO CHECK ARSENIC 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, July 3: 
The government on Tuesday expressed concern over the presence of arsenic beyond permissible limits in the groundwater in large parts of south Calcutta.

Water investigation and development minister Nandagopal Bhattacharya said in the Assembly that arsenic had been found in the groundwater at Alipore, Bansdroni, Golf Garden, Jyotish Roy Road, Kudghat, Naktala, Garia station areas and in Purbalok of Kasba.

Participating in the debate on his department’s Rs 394.96-crore budget, Bhattacharya said the water investigation directorate had formulated a pilot project to reduce the arsenic level in Calcutta. The scheme, awaiting the Centre’s nod, aims at recharging the aquifer with water from external sources, which would reduce the quantity of arsenic.

“An experiment will be conducted through rain-water harvesting. We have achieved positive results by artificially recharging ground water in the arsenic-affected areas of Purulia, Bankura and North 24-Parganas,” said Bhattacharya. According to the plan, rainwater would be collected on roof-tops of buildings and passed through a duct into the ground to recharge the groundwater.

The minister also expressed concern at the depletion of the water table in Park Circus, Bhowanipore, Ballygunge, Camac Street, Garia, Jodhpur Park, Kalighat and Park Street. “The groundwater-level in these areas has gone down about six metres below sea level,” he said.

The flow of groundwater in Calcutta was from north to south, but now is like a saucer, with the centre near Camac Street, he added. “There has been a depletion in the groundwater level not only in Calcutta but in other parts of Bengal too. Even though there is adequate rainfall in the state, it is not seeping back into the ground as the water bodies have lost their capacity to hold water,” Bhattacharya said.

The water investigation directorate has identified areas from where 65 per cent water had been lifted as “grey” and areas from where over 65 per cent to 85 per cent water had been drawn as “dark”. Calcutta falls almost entirely in the ‘dark’ zone,” the minister said.

   

 
 
CRADLE TO COLLEGE IN HERITAGE MOULD 
 
 
BY SUDESHNA BANERJEE
 
Calcutta, July 3: 
Kindergarten to post-graduate. That’s the all-in-one aim behind the vast educational project on a sprawling 9.6 acres off the E.M. Bypass near Ruby General Hospital.

Even as the curtains went up on the city’s first “comprehensive day-boarding” school, The Heritage, last week, the Kalyan Bharati Trust is gearing up for its next leap: The Heritage Institute of Technology (HIT).

And the trustees are aiming to make the tech institute “equal to the IITs, if not better.” Next in line are a super-speciality medical college and a management school.

“We want to impart total education,” states H.K. Chaudhary, one of the founder-trustees. “Every year, around Rs 300 crore is going out of the state due to lack of higher secondary education facilities in West Bengal here. An equal number of students are being deprived, as they cannot afford to move out. The southern states are the beneficiaries. Tamil Nadu and Kerala have around 40,000 and 35,000 engineering seats, respectively. The economy of both states is booming. In comparison, Bihar has barely 500 seats and industrially, it is in the doldrums. There might be a co-relation here,” he points out.

West Bengal has 6,065 seats in 29 colleges. “If we take into account the population:seats ratio, about 20 more colleges can safely be set up here immediately,” feels Choudhary.

The trustees are willing to invest “as much as it takes” to make it a top-bracket venture. “We have 19 trustees at present, comprising successful city-based industrialists,” said Sajjan Bhajanka of Century Plyboards, a trustee. Purnendu Chatterjee of The Chatterjee Group has evinced “keen interest”, while Azim Premji of Wipro has been approached for an industry-institute tie-up.

HIT has received approval from the All-India Council for Technical Education. It will be affiliated to the West Bengal University of Technology. Recruitment of staff is on and admission of students will begin as soon as the Joint Entrance Examination results are out, says HIT director Prof B.B. Paira, former head of the chemistry department, Calcutta University. The courses chosen for the first year are information technology, computer science and engineering, electronics and communication, electronics and instrumentation. Ninety-five per cent seats will be reserved for candidates qualifying through Joint Entrance while the rest are reserved for NRIs, as per government rules, Prof Paira adds.

The building for the institute, located next to the school, is nearing completion. Classes are expected to start by early-September. “At HIT, seminars will be held regularly where top-bracket educationists will be invited to update the students on emerging global trends in their respective disciplines,” informs S.S. Kejriwal, a trustee. “There will be a strong placement division and a career-counselling cell. The institute will also act as a facilitator in arranging for soft bank loans for post-graduate studies abroad,” he adds.

The trust is on the lookout for more land as a super-speciality medical college will require a full-fledged hospital to be set up on the campus, Choudhary adds.

   

 
 
FRONT CLEARS COLLEGE FEE HIKE FROM JULY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 3: 
For the first time since it came to power in 1977, the Left Front will increase tuition and other fees in under-graduate colleges in the state.

The Front’s education cell, which met this evening at the CPM headquarters on Alimuddin Street, decided to increase the fees. The new fee structure will be announced within a week and it will come into effect from this month.

The results of the higher secondary examinations will be published on Thursday and the revised fee structure in under-graduate colleges will be introduced immediately after that. To enable the colleges to collect the increased fees, the government will extend the last date for admission in several colleges.

Higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty and the West Bengal Higher Education Council will work out the fee structure.

Those who clear the higher secondary examinations will have to pay the increased fees once they get admission in colleges in the state.

The education cell also approved the proposals for increasing the fees for examination and development. The cell also suggested a hike in electricity fees.

The decision to increase the fees was taken in the presence of SFI leaders Somnath Bhattacharjee and Partha Mukherjee. The students leaders agreed with the decision to raise the fees from July.

CPM state secretary Anil Biswas and Politburo member Biman Bose had hinted a few weeks ago that they want an increase in tuition fees in the under-graduate, post-graduate and technical institutions. Front partners, including like RSP, CPI and the Forward Bloc, accepted the CPM decision.

Bose, who is also the convener of the education cell, said the students from economically backward classes would not have to pay the increased fees. Families below the poverty line will also be given relief.

Bose said higher education minister Chakraborty has been asked to take up the matter with the higher education council. An uniform fee structure will be formulated shortly and all the under-graduate colleges, except the government ones, will come under its purview.

Besides Chakraborty, school education minister Kanti Biswas, mass education minister Nandarani Dal and minister of state for school education Eva Dey were present at the education cell meeting this evening. State secretary Anil Biswas, a former convener of the cell, also attended the meeting.

The cell, however, decided not to increase fees at the higher secondary level. Front partners such as the Forward Bloc and the RSP had earlier rejected a proposal that tuition fees be raised at the higher secondary level as well. CPM leaders later agreed not to increase fees at the higher secondary level.

Other issues like the reintroduction of English from Class I and the ban on private tuition by college teachers were not raised during today’s meeting. It is learnt that the RSP, Forward Bloc and the CPI are opposed to the decision to reintroduce English at the primary level. The issue was not raised primarily because of their objections.

Chopper to Haldia

Haldia Municipality and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited have tied up to provide a chopper service between Calcutta and Haldia within the next 45 days. The 20-minute journey in the six-seater helicopter will cost the operator, Bengal Air Service, Rs 19,000.

   

 
 
PANEL TO MONITOR VIGILANCE STONEWALL 
 
 
BY RANJIT ROY
 
Calcutta, July 3: 
Determined to check administrative corruption, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has taken a serious view of the non-cooperation of some senior bureaucrats with the Vigilance Commission.

Bhattacharjee, who held a meeting with vigilance commissioner R.N. Kali, chief secretary Manish Gupta and home secretary Sourin Roy at Writers’ Buildings last week, formed a core committee to handle cases of non- cooperation.

Vigilance inquiries against 14 IPS and at least 8 IAS officers are pending for a long time. The issue may come up in the Assembly on Thursday when the vigilance commissioner’s report will be placed in the House.

The commission’s bid to punish corrupt officers has been hampered by the manipulation of powerful IAS and IPS lobbies in Writers’ Buildings.

Of the 73 officials referred to the government by the commission for action last year, only 26 were punished. Similarly, the commission has recommended penal measures against 36 senior officers this year, but action has been taken against 12.

The panel’s anti-corruption bureau had begun a secret probe on February 26 into the sale of 10 acres of government land in Kalyani township by the land and land reforms department at an abnormally reduced rate to a private agency.

Preliminary inquiry showed that the prime plot in a residential area was sold at Rs 32 lakh against its actual price of Rs 10 crore. A case was started by the commission on March 3. The chief inquiry officer wrote to the secretary in the land and land revenue department on March 22 for a clarification.

The secretary did not reply and instead lodged a complaint with the chief secretary, alleging that the “anti-corruption bureau chief is a lower cadre officer who cannot seek such clarifications directly from me”. The inquiry has since been temporarily stalled.

Another case is of an IAS officer who was managing director of the state cooperative marketing federation between 1983 and 1990. His office sold mustard seeds at Rs 760 per quintal against its purchased price of Rs 900 per quintal. When the inquiry officer approached him, the former MD replied that he was not answerable to junior officers of the vigilance commission. The case is still pending.

The commission lacks any statutory power to make its recommendations mandatory for the government. More over, the vigilance commissioner has a tenure for only two years, unlike the five-year term enjoyed by heads of other statutory commissions. Most officers booked by the commission take advantage of this short tenure.

   
 

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