Dupe test trail leads to teachers
Couple drugged, robbed in highrise
Webel hit by wing-clip woes
Slab falls off cabin roof in hospital
The knot-so-suitable boys
Bail rejected for advocate held in hotel
Brothel boom rocks Salt Lake
NGOs drafted in meat drive
Picking flaws in rent laws
Fresh twist to sex scandal

Calcutta, July 9: 
The dupe trail of the dubious talent test passes through several staff rooms. The day after thousands of students fell prey to a colossal scholarship scam in town, eight persons, including at least three school teachers and officials, were arrested on Monday. The Salt Lake-based Institute of Fundamental Mathematics Research was instrumental in fleecing parents of around 150,000 students of over Rs 1 crore after peddling the promise of “scholarships” to those excelling in a mathematics talent hunt.

According to the police, the needle of suspicion is pointing to a section of teachers in schools where the tests were to have been conducted. “The scam couldn’t have been pulled off without the direct or indirect involvement of a section of teachers and officials of schools where the test was supposed to have been be held,” observed North 24-Parganas superintendent of police Kuldip Singh.

The case has now been handed over to the CID. A special CID team accompanied the North 24-Parganas police in arresting and interrogating suspects. Those rounded up include a mathematics teacher from a Howrah-based school, a project officer of the scholarship-promising institute and a Reserve Bank of India employee. The kingpin of the racket, institute chairman Jaydeb Gharai, however, continued to elude the police dragnet.

On Sunday, most ‘exam’ centres drew a blank with question papers doing a ‘no show’. And authorities at some schools where the 100-mark papers did reach, later said they were “surprised” to see “the error-filled questions”.

The schools approached by the talent-hunt institute to host the exams joined the list of those duped — authorities had been told they would be paid Rs 10 per school student appearing for the exam. Principal Sunil Sinha Roy of the Sukchar-based St Xavier’s Institution and G. Arathoon, principal of St Thomas’ School in Howrah — two institutions where the exams were held on Sunday — confirmed that they had not received a single paisa of the promised ‘appearance fee’ from the institute. With guardians and students continuing to demonstrate in front of these schools on Monday, the police kept a close vigil. The principal of St. Xavier’s, Sukchar, has even engaged securitymen to guard the school. And Arathoon said a departmental probe is likely to be conducted.

South Point, one of the test centres, refused to be drawn into the controversy. “We never allow any private party to hold exams on the premises. If they sent us a request letter, we must have despatched a refusal letter,” vice-president N.G. Khaitan said on Monday. But hundreds of students and guardians did turn up outside the south Calcutta school on Sunday morning, only to find the doors to their scholarship dreams firmly shut.


Calcutta, July 9: 
An elderly couple was drugged and assaulted at a Tollygunge flat early on Monday. Ajit and Renu Kejriwal, residents of the high-security Asha Apartments, on Deshapran Sashmal Road, were found unconscious, their almirah ransacked. Now, husband and wife, both in their early 60s, are lying in a south Calcutta nursing home, while their recently-employed domestic help, the prime suspect in the case, is missing.

The Kejriwals would go out every morning for a walk with other residents of the multi-storeyed residential complex. Alarmed when they failed to turn up on Monday, D. N. Vijay, the couple’s neighbour who accompanied them daily, went to their flat to find out what was wrong.

“We call each other every morning to find out whether everything is okay before setting out. It’s a routine. But on Monday, when neither Kejriwal nor his wife answered the phone, I got worried,” recounts Vijay. He alerted the security guard, but no one answered the door when he went to the Kejriwal flat. Vijay then went to the apartment himself, along with the guards, and found the door unlocked. “We heard a noise from the bedroom. Then we discovered the couple lying there, unconscious,” recalls Vijay. The almirah in the room was open.

The couple was taken to a nearby nursing home after the police arrived. Attending doctor B. Bhattacharjee said Kejriwal is in a “stable” condition. Renu, on the other hand, will require surgery for the haematoma on her forehead. Both had apparently been drugged, while Renu was struck with a heavy object. Kejriwal, who regained consciousness later in the day, was unable to recall the morning’s events. The businessman has two married daughters. The family is unsure of what exactly is missing from the home.

Ranjit Pachnanda, deputy commissioner (south), said: “Until the Kejriwals are fully conscious, we cannot ascertain what has been stolen. We have sent officers to Midnapore, from where, we are told the domestic help, Gopal, hails.”


Calcutta, July 9: 
Press P for the Panic Button. That’s the story in some sections of Webel Bhavan today.

The jitters running through the sprawling Saltlec campus have been set off by the government’s proposed move to strip the state’s nodal agency of its IT powers and divert them to an independent IT Corporation.

IT minister Manabendra Mukherjee has made it clear that the government is “seriously considering the idea” of setting up the corporation to “streamline” IT-related activities in the state. “We have conceived the idea of instituting the corporation to give a boost to the IT sector. But other issues, like its constituents and specific functions, are yet to be finalised,” the minister said on Sunday.

Now, a question mark looms large over the future of Webel, which has 12 subsidiaries and employs over 1,100 people. The agency’s Saltlec office is abuzz with rumours that some heads in the upper echelons “will roll”.

According to sources in Webel, senior officers, apprehending the loss of the most high-profile feature of its company profile, have already started firing off CVs and contacting head-hunters.

“Once Webel loses its IT clout, the organisation will no longer be the power centre it is today. So, it is only logical that some in the top brass will not want to be associated with a weakened Webel,” explained an officer, on condition of anonymity.

When contacted, Subroto Ganguly, chairman, West Bengal Electronics Industries Development Corporation (WBEIDC) said: “I am not aware of these developments, so I can’t comment”.

When it was pointed out that the IT minister had already gone on record expressing his intention to set up a corporation to promote the state’s IT initiatives, Ganguly retorted: “We have been doing everything related to IT till date. Now, if the IT department has drawn up new plans, then what can we do?”

While Webel struggles to come to terms with the idea of restricting its activities to administrative functions and management of infrastructure, it’s the composition of the IT Corporation that is the talking point in industry circles.

According to sources in Writers’ Buildings, the formal proposal for setting up the corporation will soon be placed in the Cabinet. An official in the IT department said: “A very senior bureaucrat, on the verge of retirement, is all set to be appointed chairman of the IT Corporation. In fact, this veteran bureaucrat, with a special interest in IT, is canvassing hard in favour of the corporation and has been instrumental in pushing the process through at Writers’.

The IT corporation, which has been in the industry’s wishlist for some time now, will primarily “formulate policies” and “take decisions in consultation with private players”.

The initial reaction from the industry has been one of cautious optimism. “It’s true that Webel has been instrumental in the state’s progress in the IT sector to date. But the industry needs a more dynamic and pro-active body, which will concentrate solely on IT development,” observed a city-based IT-preneur.


Calcutta, July 9: 
A cardiac patient had a miraculous escape early on Monday when a huge slab of concrete fell from the ceiling while he was sleeping in a cabin in the medicine ward of Nilratan Sirkar Hospital. However, his son sustained minor injuries.

Ranjit Gupta Chowdhury, a 58-year-old government employee from Khardah, had been admitted to the hospital on June 9.

He had been put up in the general ward, but was shifted to a cabin after he produced a recommendation from the private secretary to finance minister Asim Dasgupta on July 2, asking the hospital authorities to allot him a cabin.

Chowdhury’s son had come to the hospital as usual on Sunday night to give him company. Around 3 pm, a concrete slab, measuring around 30 sq ft, fell from the ceiling on the side table, inches away from Chowdhury’s cot.

“It is God’s mercy that my husband survived and my son escaped with minor injuries,” said Chowdhury’s wife, Ratna.

Hospital superintendent Shyamal Rudra alleged that the cabin had been allotted “under pressure from the patient’s family... We had warned them that they were shifting the patient to the cabin at their own risk. The cabin had not been in use for a long time. The public works department had been asked to undertake repairs. But nothing was done,” Rudra added.

However, Ratna denied that they had been told about the cabin being condemned. “The hospital authorities are making false statements. Why should one pay higher rates for a cabin and risk one’s life? We wanted a cabin because the general ward was simply uninhabitable,” she claimed.


Calcutta, July 9: 
The gateway to the ‘intro’ is the matrimonial column in the daily newspaper. Posing as eligible bachelors working as executives in multinational firms, they enter homes of unsuspecting girls waiting to tie the knot and impress them and their parents with their “smart” ways. Finally, these ‘suitable boys’ dupe them of as much money as they can.

Take the case of 27-year-old Arup Roy. A small-time trader from Dankuni with a decent education, Roy decided to try his luck while flipping through the matrimonial ads a few months back. He called up one of his “targets” on Ballygunge Circular Road, informed the family he was an executive in a reputed company and fixed an appointment to meet the girl. On the appointed day, he went over with a friend and informed the girl’s family that his parents lived in Canada and had left the “choice” of the bride to him. Within a week, Arup informed the girl’s parents that he wanted to marry their daughter. From then on, he started dropping in regularly and taking the girl out. Soon, he popped the question: Could she lend him some money? He started taking money on this pretext or that. Roy was playing the same game with a number of girls at the same time. By the time he was arrested, after the parents of the girls informed the police, he had already cheated them of around Rs 4 lakh.

“There are at least five such cases pending against him,” said DC, DD (I), Banibrata Basu. “Since parents are eager to get their daughters married off, they are soft targets for such conmen. We have reports of other such cases.”

One other such case: Shibananda Das, who played the dual role of a prospective bridegroom’s uncle and the bridegroom. After scanning the matrimonial columns, he called up a number in Salt Lake and spoke to the girl’s father as a “retired armyman”.

Das “the nephew” then landed up at the Salt Lake house and convinced the family that he was the right choice. Then, the repeated requests for money followed. The girl’s father finally became suspicious and called in the cops. Das had been simultaneously duping the families of over 10 other girls desperately seeking the ‘perfect’ partner.

“Such cases are on the rise,” said Raj Kanojia, DC, headquarters. “But most parents do not want to register formal complaints because they fear it could affect their daughters’ chances in the marriage market.” Kanojia added that Lalbazar will soon start a helpline to deal with such complaints.


Calcutta, July 9: 
Alipore court on Monday rejected the bail prayer of a woman advocate, arrested on Saturday from a hotel at Ghutiari Sharif, in South 24-Parganas, under the Immoral Traffic Act. The advocate and her associates were allegedly running a flesh trade in the hotel.

The court has remanded her in police custody till Monday. As lawyers of the court were on a cease-work in support of their charter of demands, the advocate had to appear in person.

Her arrest from the hotel has created a stir among members of the legal profession. Many of them alleged that the case was fabricated by the police to malign the lawyer and demanded a proper probe into the incident.

“We don’t believe that one of our colleagues is involved in such an immoral activity. There is something fishy about it,” said Dipankar Ghosh, a criminal advocate of Alipore court.

However, senior officials of the district police maintained that the hotel and its surrounding areas in Ghutiari Sharif had become a den of criminal activity. They confirmed that a large number of people from Calcutta and it suburbs frequent the area on weekdays. “We have raided the hotel on several occasions earlier and arrested a number of Calcutta couples from there,” admitted an official in Alipore.

Vigil has been intensified, but leaders of the CPM and the Trinamul Congress were quick to cash in on the “police inaction”. “Some local policemen are hand in glove with the goons,” alleged a key Trinamul functionary from South 24-Parganas.


Calcutta, July 9: 
Concerned over an expanding flesh trade in Salt Lake, residents of the township have sought the intervention of Bidhannagar municipal chairman Dilip Gupta to curb the practice.

Several brothels have mushroomed in the township, and the clients include “influential persons”, the residents alleged.

The trade is backed by a powerful racket that picks up women from various spots and takes them to the brothels, police sources said. Sleuths have identified six bus stands, which serve as meeting points for pimps and prostitutes. These include BD market, Kwality, the CAP camp, Baisakhi and Karunamoyee.

Complaints lodged with the police claim that several brothels are being run in GD, AE, EC and HB blocks, beside at a few other housing complexes.

Several block and ward committees have urged the municipal chairman to ask the police to step up vigil in the locality. “I have asked the police to keep a watch on the houses and flats that have been blacklisted,” Gupta said.

Last week, police had busted a flesh trade racket in EC Block and arrested two men and a woman. The ground floor of a building in that block was hired by a person six months ago. He claimed he would run a pesticide company from there. But the flat was, instead, used to run a flesh trade.

After getting a tip-off, Bidhannagar North police raided the flat at night and rounded up the caretaker of the flat along with a man and woman. But the tenant could not be located. The woman revealed that she had been brought there for Rs 300.

In a police complaint, the landlord alleged that his tenant had turned his flat into a brothel for the past few months. After dark, several men and women would come and stay the night. “I had my doubts, but after seeing the guests, I called the police,” the landlord said.

Officer-in-charge of Bidhannagar North police station, Prabir Das, said the township housed more such brothels. “We have strengthened our drive to locate all the spots,” Das said.

“Even when we are sure that a particular woman standing at a bus stand is waiting for a “customer’’, we can’t take action, as the law does not permit us to do so,” said a Bidhannagar North police official.

Last month, police tracked down a brothel in AE Block. Three women and five men were caught. The men were released later as, according to the police, they were “influential people”.

In April, a GD Block flat was raided similarly, following a complaint, but people involved in the racket had already fled.

Salt Lake turns deserted after dark and is particularly vulnerable to prostitution.


Calcutta, July 9: 
The Calcutta Municipal Corporation has sought help of the NGOs in its crackdown against open transportation of meat.

“We have decided to ask NGOs to provide financial support to the cart and rickshaw-pullers in converting their hackneys into covered vans,” civic health and market department officials said.

Although the decision to ban transportation of beef and mutton in an unhygienic manner was taken by the CMC in 1998, it could not be implemented as most vehicle-owners were financially too weak to carry out changes in accordance with civic directives.

Every day, about 400 cows and buffaloes are slaughtered at the Tangra abattoirs and transported to wholesalers in different parts of the city. Crows and dogs are sometimes seen feeding on the carcasses en route.

Open display of slaughtered animals is a deplorable sight and affects children, said Javed Ahmed Khan, mayor-in-council, health. “If the meat is carried in covered vans, people can get dust and dirt-free meat at the same price,” he added.

Khan has already approached the Lions Club of North Calcutta and received “a positive response”. The financial burden of converting carts and rickshaw-vans into covered meat-cases would be within Rs 5 lakh.

Member, mayor-in-council, market, Samsuzzaman Ansari, said open display of meat in butcher shops will no longer be tolerated and tinted glassfronts must be used. Ansari has taken up a scheme to renovate the beef-range at New Market with financial participation from the stall-owners. The beef range will be fitted either with tinted glass or teflon net doors. Moreover, it will be mandatory for stall-owners to take delivery of meat only from covered vans.

The spate of chicken vendors in the city, according to Khan, is another cause for concern. The activities of the butchers are a threat to the underground sewerage network, according to member, mayor-in-council, drainage and sewerage, Rajib Deb. Most of them stealthily dump the refuse into the sewers by opening the manholes. This chokes the sewer lines, which leads to waterlogging, he complained.


Calcutta, July 9: 
Landlords and tenants have, somewhat predictably, reacted very differently to a government decision to implement the new tenancy rules from August 1. While landlords feel the new law should have more claws to hook tenants, the latter find it lopsided.

The debate has turned acrimonious, with a tenant trade lobby threatening to go on an indefinite agitation. Last week, land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah had announced the government’s decision to enforce the new law from August 1.

Landlords are pleased with the new rules, though they feel some of the old “injustices” have been retained. The new rules give legal sanction to sub-tenants and the increase in rent is negligible, feels vice-president of All-Calcutta House-owners’ Association, Amar Mitra.

The new rules will effect a four-fold hike in rents for property rented out before 1976. For a property of less than 750 sq ft and rented out after 1976, the hike is even less. The rent will just be the double of the 1976-figure in a phased manner.

A silver lining for landlords is that children of the tenants will not be recognised as tenants. Only the spouse will retain the tenancy rights after the owner’s death. Besides, landlords can evict their tenants if the property rented out remains unused for a long period. A tenant will also be forced to leave if he has alternative accommodation.

Tenants, however, have decried the proposed law. The clauses that allow landlords to evict tenants will be used indiscriminately to hound them out, they fear.

The West Bengal Federation of Trade Associations has threatened an indefinite bandh against the new tenancy law. Traders and tenants have been asked not to pay any tax if the government does not change its stand.

The traders’ association — a majority of its members being tenants — feels the new law will leave them at the mercy of landlords. “The rules make eviction very easy,” association spokesman Mahesh Singhania said.

“Neither will landlords gain much from the new rules. Even if they allow a four-fold hike in rent, landlords who rented out their property several decades ago and get absurdly low rents will not gain much,” he explained. Singhania demanded a fresh set of rules, which would give both landlords and tenants equal opportunities.

Calcutta has around 250,000 buildings, with at least 75 per cent residents being tenants.


Agartala, July 9: 
South Tripura district and sessions judge Manik Chandra Roy, who is presiding over the trial of the headmaster of the Kakrabon Nabodaya School in Tripura, yesterday directed the prosecution to include the allegations levelled by two women teachers in the chargesheet against the accused.

Headmaster Harishankar Tiwari has been charged with raping Purnima Deb, a student.

The court ordered the inclusion of fresh allegations in the chargesheet against Tiwari despite opposition from defence counsel Kajal Das.

After hearing the parties, Justice Roy ordered the inclusion of allegations levelled by Debasree Deb and Sima Mookherjee, both teachers.

The Kakrabon Nabodaya School sex scandal came to light on February 5, 1999, three days after Purnima Deb, a student of class VII, gave birth to a baby girl in the school hostel.

The victim was supported by the State Women’s Commission, whose intervention ensured that an FIR was filed.

Purnima Deb said she was raped on four occasions by Harishankar Tiwari, headmaster of the school.

Tiwari later tried to manipulate the reports of DNA tests conducted in Hyderabad and Calcutta.

In their statement in the district and session court of Udaipur yesterday, the two teachers accused Harishankar Tiwari of sexual harassment.

Debasree Deb said Tiwari had made advances after calling her to his official chamber in the school.

“I rushed out of his chamber and tendered my resignation the next day,” Deb said.

Sima Mookherjee said Tiwari had tried to molest her in his car while they were travelling to Udaipur town together. “I was forced to order the driver to stop the vehicle and got down midway,” she said.

The case will come up for hearing again on August 11.

A source in Kakrabon Nabodaya School said the headmaster rejoined duty after being briefly under suspension.

He allegedly even extorted money from a section of students and teachers of the school to fight the case.


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