High quality, low costs to target teens
Gunmen killed wrong trader
Student charged with molestation
On top of the world, Down Under
Tailor-made to mind a store
Trinamul rout in high court Bar panel elections
Cash forces rethink on spiritual syllabus
CM leads Dasgupta final journey
Welfare plan to tackle Naxalites
AIDS victim in claim tug-of-war

Calcutta, July 12: 
Advantage, cellphone users. That’s the message in the mobile market, catering to almost two lakh subscribers. According to Telescope 2001, a report prepared by the India Infrastructure Group, the subscriber base in Calcutta will touch 7.3 lakh by 2003. Command and Spice are pegging their plans on a figure closer to a million. With a four-cornered fight for the cellphone pie waiting for the beep, and the teen brigade emerging as target No. 1, it’s back to the future for the present players. As if on cue, Command, the first cell operator in town, has announced a tariff slash in its “most popular pre-paid card segment”. Starting July 16, a flat rate of Rs 2.75 will replace the existing Rs 2.25 for incoming and Rs 4.50 for outgoing calls in the Rs 650 pre-paid segment. This bracket “accounts for 80 per cent” of Command’s pre-paid subscribers, reflecting a medium-spend pattern in the Calcutta mobile market.

Next on the Hutchison associate’s agenda: A flat rate of Rs 2.75 for pre-paid cards worth Rs 1,200 and Rs 3,000. But those using cards of Rs 300 and Rs 350 will continue to pay steeper rates. “The pre-paid segment will be the future growth driver and so we are focusing more on this,” said Rajiv Sawhney, chief operating officer, Command.

Spice, after a marathon meeting on Thursday, decided against matching the Command move. “Right now, we aren’t thinking of any such rate cut. But we will surely review the situation soon and may then go in for a revised structure. However, we believe in complete re-tariffing, not slashing in bits and pieces,” said R. Mahesh, vice-president, marketing, Spice.

The last three months have witnessed a “phenomenal growth” in Calcutta’s cell market, with the youth now well and truly hooked to the ‘cool‘ communication tool. “And this is just the beginning. After all, only 1.2 per cent of Calcutta’s population is connected. There are more cars than cellular phones, so the growth prospect is immense,” says Sawhney.

“The school and college crowd will be the vital growth segment and we are targeting them with our family card,” feels Mahesh. “Growth in the market will be driven by lower rates, broadening of value-added services, improved services to customers and reduced prices of handsets.”

In a bid to ‘connect’ with Calcutta, both players have devised “special” items. So, if Command has taken up painting local trains and organising theatre fests, Spice has roped in the Sourav Gangulys and Raima Sens to give the brand a ‘local’ identity.

“Now, the Calcutta market is not that different from the other metros, so the emphasis will shift from low cost to high quality.” That’s the line Command and Spice are taking in a bid to achieve their target of doubling their subscriber base in the next “eight to 10 months”.


Calcutta, July 12: 
The wrong businessman was killed in Wednesday evening’s shooting in Burrabazar. The target had been Mahesh Gupta, now recovering in hospital, and not L.N. Rathi, who got a bullet in his head and died almost instantly.

Gupta and Rathi, both dealers in electrical goods, were walking down Amartala Lane, in the Burrabazar area, along with an employee, Mahesh Sharma, when five criminals approached them from behind and shot at them, before melting into the darkness.

“Unluckily, the bullet hit Rathi in the head,” said detective department chief Banibrata Basu on Thursday. “We suspect the criminals wanted to kill Gupta, but managed to only injure him.”

The police said Gupta had been receiving extortion threats since January, after he had decided to buy a third electric shop in Ezra Street. Claiming to be henchmen of incarcerated central Calcutta criminal Nadeem, they had first warned him against forging the deal. When Gupta remained undeterred, they began asking him for “an unspecified sum of money”, the police said.

Gupta, however, refused to pay and, instead, informed the police. A caller line identification instrument was installed in Gupta’s home telephone but the criminals could not be traced. “The calls stopped immediately thereafter, and a police picket was set up in front of his shop,” the sleuth chief added.

In retaliation, a few months ago, a couple of bombs were hurled in front of Gupta’s shop. The police registered a case and investigations are still on, police said. No arrests have yet been made, either in this connection or for Wednesday’s killing.

The police, however, are yet to question Gupta because of his serious health condition. He has been shifted to the ICU of a private hospital. Sharma, the police said, was in a state of shock but has returned home in Howrah, as his injuries are not of a serious nature.

On Thursday, all electrical goods shops in Erza Street downed shutters to protest the deteriorating law and order situation in the city. Rathi was also a former president of the Calcutta Electric Traders’ Association. “We fail to understand how five youths could commit such a murder in a crowded street and then get away with it,” said Peary Sau, an electrical goods trader of Ezra Street.

A delegation of Burrabazar businessmen, led by legislators Tapas Roy and Satyanarayan Bajaj, met police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty, demanding increased security in the area.


Calcutta, July 12: 
A student of a reputed college of north Calcutta had drugged and molested a girl of the same institution before taking “obscene” pictures to blackmail her, says a police chargesheet, submitted to court on Thursday.

Trial against the accused student and a girl who had allegedly helped him will start in the ninth bench of the city civil court from August 7.

The chargesheet reads like a sleazy crime chronicle. “The victim had a sweet relation with the accused boy when they used to stay in Durgapur”. First, the boy came to Calcutta and gained admission in the BA (Pass) course of the college. A year later, the girl entered the same college. But by then, the boy had become “involved” with a second-year student.

“The boy felt that he would be in trouble if some documents about his first love were made public. So, he gave a (spiked) toffee to the second girl and asked her to give it to the first girl.” He told her that after eating the toffee, the girl would feel drowsy, and so she must take her home, where he would meet them both.

“On January 9, this year, the second girl gave the toffee to the first girl and then brought her to her south Calcutta residence.

“After that, the boy landed up and ordered the victim girl to take off her clothes. He then beat her up and forced her to strip... She was first molested and then several obscene photographs of her were taken by the boy.”

A week after the incident, the victim lodged a complaint with Burtolla police station. The boy was arrested and then let off on bail. The second girl surrendered before the city civil court and was granted anticipatory bail.


Calcutta, July 12: 
Uncle Kap has scaled golden heights, Down Under. Jehanbax Aderji Kapadia, the 95-year-old athlete who went to Brisbane to take part in the 14th World Veteran’s Athletic Championship, notched up gold medals in both the events he participated in — 100m and 200m sprint.

Kapadia, back in his Chandni Chowk home on Wednesday, was looking quite radiant as he recounted his winning act: “My first event, the 100m, was on July 7. We were taken in wheelchairs to the starting line. There was such a cold breeze that I had a blanket on over layers of clothing.” The nonagenarian, who describes himself as “a little hard of hearing”, missed the starting gun. “Suddenly, I saw the man in the next lane running. So I, too, took off. I was feeling a cramp in the left leg but I ran like a deer,” grinned Uncle Kap.

The timing of 35.25 seconds was enough to secure top honours, though the regret of the late start which robbed him of “a few seconds” remains. A hint of a shadow also clouds his wrinkled face when he recounts the girls who, at the end of the race, had mobbed fellow-runner Les Amy, a 101-year-old Australian who “barely ambled to the finishing line in 71 seconds”. Jealous? “No, no. It was his own country, after all,” he waved his hands in dismissal.

Later, The Sunday Mail summed up the fate of the local hero: “Against a whippersnapper like India’s Jehanbax Kapadia... he (Amy) didn’t stand a chance”. The 200m race, on July 9, proved a virtual ‘walkover’ with Uncle Kap, the lone contestant in his age-group, clocking 1 min 13 secs to climb the victory podium again.

The sojourn to Australia was as much about medals as about memories. “There was this big American man... I barely reached his armpits. He took a photograph with me and gifted me a pin. Of course, because of my hearing problem, all my conversations were through my daughter Zareen, who accompanied me,” he recalled.

After months of training at the Parsi Club, it’s now time for the old man to put his feet up for a while. But once the Maidan dries up after the monsoon, Uncle Kap will be back in action. “If I can keep winning at 100, I will dedicate the victory to this city, to which I owe all my medals and my joys in my 45 years of stay here,” concluded Kapadia, voice choked with emotion.


Calcutta, July 12: 
From purchasing to visual display, those interested in joining the retail rat-race can now pick up all the tips of the trade to efficiently run a store. To cater to the “retail boom sweeping the city”, the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Calcutta, has launched a new course — Fashion Retail Management.

With the small, family-run unit giving way to the “large-format retail store”, admissions are now on at NIFT for a training module tailored to the needs of the Calcutta market. “The course explores the needs of the eastern region, with specific case studies and trends,” says Bharati Moitra, course coordinator. A similar course is already functional at the Delhi chapter of the ministry of textiles’ fashion institute.

During the five months of classroom study (followed by a final month of industry exposure), three areas will be explored: Merchandise buying and management; customer service and selling skills; display and visual merchandising. The importance of the sales manager or a shopfloor executive “knowing the product” will also be emphasised.

Soma Ghosh, who worked at an electronics showroom as an assistant sales manager while doing her BA from South City College, has signed up for the NIFT course. “I want to learn about both customer care as well as how to go about purchasing,” says the optimistic 24-year-old, who wants to join a large retail chain as a buyer.

Sanjay Arora, proprietor, Weekender, agrees that there is definite need to look into “visual merchandising” in Calcutta, but warns that there is limited potential for growth. “I don’t think that the city retail market can offer careers to sales personnel yet,” says Arora.

One of the first stores in the city to adopt a glitzy, customer-friendly display format, most of the salespeople at Weekender are students either waiting to join college or a permanent job. “But customers do expect service wherever they go nowadays, so it is important to fit into that ethos,” he adds.

There is more to running a retail store than meets the eye. Stocking is one of the most tricky aspects, and the line between overstocking and inadequate stocking very thin. It is not, points out Moitra, a good indication if a store has “run out of stock”. Product placing and grouping are key factors in shopping ease of the customer.

Enrolments have begun for thrice-weekly sessions, due to commence in August. Students who have cleared Class XII are eligible, with a year’s working experience in the retail field, preferred. To be called a salesgirl/boy is no longer negative, feels Moitra, also a fashion design faculty at the sprawling Salt Lake centre. “Stores are now, more than ever, in need of responsible, trained manpower,” she says.


Calcutta, July 12: 
The Trinamul Congress faced a major setback in the executive committee election of the Calcutta High Court Bar Association.

Party nominees failed to secure a single seat in the 15-member committee. Last year, the Trinamul lawyers had won 12 seats, including the post of secretary.

What the Trinamul Congress lost, the Congress gained. The latter’s candidates snatched all 12 seats held by Trinamul Congress nominees, including president, secretary, assistant secretaries, treasurer and six out of nine executive committee members.

The organisation of left lawyers — Democratic Lawyers Association (DLA) — also fared poorly in the election, managing to secure only two seats in the executive committee. Congress-supported candidate Rathindra Nath Das was elected president by a margin of 400-plus votes.

Congress candidate Ashish Roy won the fight for the secretary’s post, while two party nominees — Amal Kumar Mukherjee and Ujjwal Kumar Bhattacharya — were elected to the posts of assistant secretaries. Congress nominee Tarun Kumar Ghosh was elected treasurer.

Of a total of 4,500 members of the association, 2,503 were eligible to cast their votes. The number of votes polled was 1750.

Explaining the victory, Uttam Majumder, secretary of the Congress-affiliated lawyers’ association, said a good number of the Congress lawyers, who had shifted loyalty to Trinamul Congress, had returned to the fold after the Assembly election.

“When a lawyers’ forum was floated in the high court in 1999 at the initiative of Trinamul leader Mamata Banerjee, we struggled to maintain our existence in court,” Majumder said. “But now our men have understood which the real Congress is,” he said.

Both Kalyan Banerjee and Arunava Ghosh, Trinamul Congress leaders in the high court, are now MLAs and, hence, busy in the affairs of the Assembly, said newly-elected treasurer Tarun Ghosh. Other advocate-leaders, who were either denied tickets or lost the elections in the Assembly polls as Trinamul Congress candidates, were now openly critisising the party leadership, he said.

4 wounded in clash: Four youths were injured in a clash at Barasat station on Thursday. Police said the clash broke out over an old feud.


Calcutta, July 12: 
The Left is willing to turn spiritual, if it is peppered with materialism. Its eye on a Rs 20-crore Central grant, the communist regime in Bengal has agreed to toe a softer line on some of the “controversial education policies” of the BJP-led government and review its proposals for including them in school curricula.

The Centre had triggered a controversy last year by recommending that state governments introduce compulsory teaching of holy texts of various religions. The Bengal government had informed the Centre that it would not accept the suggestion.

But the new Left government recently set up a seven-member committee consisting of heads of all education boards in the state to review the Centre’s recommendations and ascertain if the policies can be pursued at the primary, secondary and higher secondary schools.

State education department sources said the committee, which has been told to submit its report to the government within a month, will meet tomorrow to review the proposals.

Apart from the Centre’s emphasis on religious education, some of the other suggestions which the CPM-led government had strongly opposed are:

Introducing value-based education

Stress on spiritual development of students

Introducing compulsory teaching in some special subjects to girl students such as cookery

Scrapping compulsory teaching of mathematics in Classes IX and X.

Abolishing marking system in the Class X school leaving examinations

Introducing grade system till Class X

“We have started the process of reviewing the policies of the Centre. All the proposals may not be taken into consideration. But we will definitely try and see how far the policies can be accepted,” said Mohammed Rephatullah, director of the State Council of Educational Research and Training and convener of the seven-member committee.

However, officials at the education department said: “The government had definitely opposed some of the suggestions of the Centre. But there are certain recommendations which the state government, too, feels should be incorporated in the school syllabi.”

For example, the official said, the Centre has suggested that students should be taught to love the country more. “There is no reason why we should oppose this,” he said.

Sources in the education department said the shift in stand was prompted by a letter from the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) which said that it would give the state nearly Rs 20 crore.

The money, according to the letter, would have to be utilised for conducting programmes to train school teachers in line with the Centre’s new education policies.

The letter added that the funds would be released only after the state government gives an estimate of the expenses to be incurred for training the teachers.

According to the sources, the Left government agreed to review the proposals after realising that the Centre might not release the funds if most of its suggestions not accepted. They added that an estimate of Rs 19 crore has been already sent to NCERT.


Calcutta, July 12: 
Left Front chairman Sailen Dasgupta was cremated at Keoratala burning ghat this afternoon.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, along with other senior CPM leaders, led more than 100,000 party cadre on the 10-km procession route that covered much of south-central Calcutta. The two-hour procession, that began from the CPM’s Alimuddin Street headquarters on foot, reached the crematorium after meandering along Lower Circular Road, Park Street, Syed Amir Ali Avenue, Gariahat Road, Dover Lane, Rashbehari Avenue and Kalighat Road.

Besides Bhattacharjee, all ministers, including Subhas Chakraborty, Biman Bose, widely tipped to succeed Dasgupta, and Politburo members Sitaram Yechury and Prakash Karat walked all the way to the burning ghat.

The final journey began at 3 pm after CPM leaders and dissidents, including senior PDS leaders Saifuddin Chowdhury, Samir Putatunda and Anuradha Deb, followed the oldest party leader, 93-year-old N. Prasada Rao from Andhra Pradesh, in garlanding Dasgupta’s body which was kept at Muzaffar Bhavan to enable people to pay their last respects.

Earlier, Jyoti Basu paid a moving tribute to his party colleague of over six decades. “I told him not to undertake a hectic programme during the pre-election campaign as he was not keeping very well,” Basu said. “But he wouldn’t listen to me.”

Yechury, sitting behind Basu, remembered Dasgupta’s able coaching in handling affairs at the party headquarters. “We learned a lot from him,” he said.

Before being brought to Muzaffar Bhavan, Dasgupta’s body was taken to his residence in Jadavpur’s Lakshminarayan Colony, an area made up of mostly refugees from erstwhile East Pakistan.

But a few hours before the procession reached Keoratala, the crematorium witnessed ugly scenes after a live wire protruding from inside a semi-constructed toilet sent three persons to hospital: two boys from the locality — 11-year-old Akash Santra and 12-year-old Chiron Mal — and a CESC employee, Ajay Das, who came to the spot after being called to repair the loose wiring.


Midnapore, July 12: 
The Left Front government has drawn up elaborate plans to develop tribal-dominated areas of the district to stem the surge of militant Naxalite factions like the People’s War Group and the Maoist Communist Centre.

Of the Rs 80 crore kept aside by the newly-formed Paschimanchal Parishad, Rs 18 crore has been earmarked for the tribal areas, said Maheswar Murmu, Parishad chairman and a former tribal welfare minister.

The development blueprint was drawn up over the last few days following instructions from chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. The chief minister, district officials said, was told at a recent meeting that a large number of PWG and MCC activists had sneaked in from Jharkhand to Midnapore and Purulia in the post-election phase. “The militant Naxalite factions have been able to find many sympathisers in the tribal belt of the districts because of little development in these areas,” an official said.

Road construction figures prominently among the proposals which have come from both the administration and the ruling party. The area’s main problem is transport. The Jharkhand government has built roads up to Mayurijharna on the border, but West Bengal is reluctant to construct the remaining stretch of 13 km from Kankrajhore.

Taking advantage of the bad road conditions, timber smugglers have been felling trees in Kankrajhore forest and carrying them to Jharkhand, where they make good their escape as Bengal forest officials find it difficult to negotiate the road leading up to the Jharkhand border. Emphasis has been laid on constructing this road. Construction of roads from Naryanpur to Chakulia and Belpahari to Kankrajhore via Odolchua has also been suggested.

To boost education, the district CPM has suggested opening more than one primary school in a village as well as several junior high schools in the whole area.

Another proposal, to generate income, is cultivation of medicinal plants on a large scale. IIT Kharagpur had demonstrated in its farm in Nayagram that herbal medicinal plants can be cultivated in this laterite zone.


Bolpur, July 12: 
An NGO has locked horns with the district authorities over a carpenter who has reportedly contracted AIDS.

The NGO, Sankalpa, claims 34-year-old Amal Sutradhar contracted AIDS while he was working in Surat, but district officials maintain that no case of the killer disease has been reported from the whole of Birbhum. Amal, a resident of Gumta village, has been deserted by his wife and daughters. He is now entirely dependent on the NGO for treatment.

Though deputy chief medical officer and AIDS detection and prevention-in-charge S.S. Das denied there were any AIDS patients in the district, an official of the district health department said the NGO should have drawn the attention of the district administration as soon as it came across the AIDS patient.

Naba Kumar Mukherjee, secretary of Elmherst Institute, Santiniketan, which oversees the activities of Sankalpa, said some residents of Gumta village under Mayureswar police station had brought Amal to an AIDS awareness camp here yesterday. Jayanta Das, one of the villagers, said they knew that AIDS was not an infectious disease. “So we decided to extend a helping hand to Amal and brought him to the camp for treatment and better health care,” he said.

Amal narrated how he “contracted AIDS” in Surat where he had gone to work as a carpenter nine years ago. “About two years ago I had an accident and had to be given blood. I also used to occasionally visit Mumbai to meet a friend. In Mumbai I got a tattoo on my arm for fun and returned to my village in 1999. After that I fell ill and started suffering from cough and fever. I went to Burdwan for treatment for TB and had to be admitted to the Burdwan hospital. Then I was sent to the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Calcutta. I was detected HIV positive after a blood examination there,” he said.

Amal said he came to know about the dreaded disease only in February this year. “I returned to my village, but my wife and three daughters deserted me when they learnt about my ailment,” he claimed.

Sankalpa officials, however, are determined to spare no effort to provide necessary treatment to Amal.


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