Night of rumour, day of wait
Breakthrough eludes sleuths
Family on verge of breakdown
Bitter truth about sweet-tooth citizens
Abandon the senses with eyes wide shut
Protests greet Kolkata Bill in Assembly
Come Pujas, pay your phone bills on the Net
Cyber thrills on cafe menu
Share, care and instruct
Biman feeler infuriates Bloc

Calcutta, July 30: 
Crime and politics. The ugly nexus took centrestage yet again in the Assembly on Monday. It was a day of din in the House, with the Opposition launching an offensive against the government for “patronising criminals”. The prime target was the CPM’s Ballygunge MLA Rabin Deb.

On Sunday, the CID on the trail of abducted shoe magnate Parthapratim Roy Burman had caused a flutter by arresting Md Tasleem, alias Chunnu, and then doing little to conceal the Tiljala strongman’s “links” with Deb.

“Please have him (Deb) arrested,” shrieked Trinamul and Congress legislators in unison — hours after Pranab Mukherjee had announced their parting of ways — as soon as the CPM MLA entered the Assembly on Monday morning. Deputy Speaker Anil Mukherjee tried to restore order as Sonali Guha, Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay and Saugata Roy of the Trinamul led the shouting brigade, with slogans of “Chunnu, sit down,” when the CPM leader rose to reply.

Deb, finally, did launch a counter-offensive. “As MLA of Ballygunge, I know over 90 per cent of my constituents. Must I know what each one of them is up to?” he demanded. “When the police are seeking everyone’s cooperation to ensure the safe return of Roy Burman, please don’t confuse the public,” he urged the Opposition.

As shouts of “Chunnu, sit down” continued, members from the treasury bench rallied to Deb’s rescue and shouted down the Opposition. “The allegation against Deb is baseless and concocted,” they chorused. Bolstered by this show of strength, Deb raised a technical point, objecting to the Opposition raising the issue “without proper notice”. Deputy Speaker Mukherjee accepted the point and prevented the Opposition from carrying on with its Deb-bashing.

But enough damage had been done by then. The CPM leadership appeared embarrassed over the Opposition allegation that the “link” between Deb and Chunnu was another example of the ruling Left’s “criminalisation of politics”, coming close on the heels of the messy Salt Lake stadium episode, in which several goons were rounded up from “sports minister Subhas Chakraborty’s bastion”.

A report has been sought from the party’s Calcutta District Committee (CDC), of which Deb is a key member. “The issue is being blown out of proportion to give a bad name to the party,” alleged former mayor and CDC secretariat member Prasanta Chatterjee. “Chunnu is not a party member... The leadership cannot be blamed if somebody becomes a party sympathiser. Is it possible for us to check whether anyone among them is a criminal?”


Calcutta, July 30: 
The mood at the CID headquarters was downbeat on Monday, with no further breakthrough coming the police way. This, after hectic activity on Sunday night, when word had spread that shoe magnate Parthapratim Roy Burman had quietly returned home after five days in captivity.

“We are working on some leads round the clock,” IG, CID, Partha Bhattacharjee said on Monday evening. However, there was no word on whether they were close to cracking the case. “We are exploring all possible avenues,” is all he would say.

However, Bhattacharjee stressed that the police had information about Roy Burman being alive. “There is no confusion over whether he is dead or alive,” he said. “He is alive, we are sure. We have examined a series of scenarios and have arrived at the conclusion that he is alive.” This again indicates that the police have “some sort of” contact with the abductors.

On a more positive note, Bhattacharjee said the police had established that Mohd Taslim, alias Chunnu, the Tiljala “titan” arrested on Sunday, was “an organiser of crime and a protector of criminals”. It had also been established that Chunnu was part of a comprehensive plan to abduct Roy Burman.

Earlier in the day, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee held an hour-long meeting with the police investigating team. However, he refused comment when asked about the progress of the case.

Police sources said that they had some leads on which gang is behind the crime and are exploring all aspects. After probing whether Bihar’s Ajay Singh had carried out the abduction, investigators say that the “hamhanded” manner in which the crime was committed — unnecessarily shooting at and injuring Roy Burman — indicates that a less professional gang was behind it.

Police say it is possibly a gang based in the coal-belt area of Dhanbad-Asansol which had carried out the kidnapping with the help of a local criminal. In this case, possibly Chunnu. However, they also believe that given Roy Burman’s injured state, the abductors could not have travelled very far with him.

As a result, the police on Monday began a series of random checks on hotels and nursing homes in North and South 24-Parganas and the Hooghly-Burdwan belt which borders Jharkhand. They are also checking cars on the highway.

The decision indicates the investigators are now working on two theories:

One, Roy Burman, who was bleeding profusely when abducted, could be holed up in a nursing home close to the city in the custody of his captors.

Two, the abductors could still be trying to smuggle Roy Burman out of the state, probably to Jharkhand; hence, the decision to check cars on highways and hotels along them.

The most cruel blow to the investigators’ efforts to locate Roy Burman came when extensive raids in the Hirapur belt of Burdwan, led by additional superintendent of police Neeraj Singh, came a cropper.


Calcutta, July 30: 
As rumours of Parthapratim Roy Burman’s return ran rife, the shoe magnate’s Salt Lake residence was the stakeout point for mediapersons throughout Monday.

Outside the two-storeyed BH-Block home of the Roy Burmans, a few cars and a horde of reporters remained parked from the morning. Inside, the family appeared to be searching for a “ray of hope through the rumours” on the sixth day since the abduction of Khadim’s vice-chairman.

“From last night, the tension has been unbearable... With every telephone call, we hope that the rumour of his safe return will come true,” said a family member.

The “wait for some word of his son” has made Parthapratim’s father, S.N. Roy, “sick with anxiety”, added a relative. “He is finding it very difficult to cope with the situation.”

Jayashree Burman, Parthapratim’s sister, was also on the verge of a “breakdown”. She told Metro, voice choked with tears: “Please believe us, my brother Parthapratim has not returned so far. We do not have any information about his whereabouts. Even the police are asking us what we know... It’s so painful for us. When we do not have a single clue to where he is, how can we answer their questions?” she asked.

“For some time on Sunday night, we did not know that the news of his return was completely baseless. There was a glimmer of hope when senior police officers from Bhabani Bhavan kept calling us up... We were shattered when we realised that even the sleuths did not have any specific information... Now, we can do nothing but wait and pray for his safe return... Do you understand how helpless we are feeling?”

In another development, Raja Banerjee, Khadim’s spokesman, addressed newspersons outside the Roy Burman residence.

“I am stating clearly that we do not have any information about our boss. If you don’t believe me, you can come with me and check out all the rooms for yourself.”

Asked how some police officers had initially “confirmed” Parthapratim’s return on Sunday night, Banerjee said: “Sorry, we do not have any such information.”

But Banerjee gave an assurance that “someone from Khadim’s” would be briefing mediapersons every day “till the return” of their vice-chairman.

“We have taken this decision after Sunday night’s rumours taught us a lesson,” said Banerjee.


Calcutta, July 30: 
A silent killer is stalking Calcutta. Nothing dramatic, but deadly, nonetheless. In the past five years, the number of diabetics in the city has increased by between 60 and 100 per cent.

There is no formal survey of the number of diabetics, for disease surveillance continues to be a major shortcoming in the state. But there are several strong indicators that show beyond doubt that the number has doubled since 1995.

Take, for example, the outdoor diabetic clinic at R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital. “Five years ago, the once-a-week clinic used to get 10 new cases, with old cases being around 50. Today, we get between 25 and 30 new cases every week, and the old cases have gone up to 125,” said Apurba Mukherjee, professor of medicine at the hospital and clinic in charge.

The Indian Council for Medical Research had conducted a national survey in the 1970s, which showed that diabetes had affected about 2.5 per cent of the population.

“Today, we fear that about 10 per cent, or one out of every 10 persons, has non-insulin dependent diabetes,” said Subhankar Chowdhury, head of the department of endocrinology at SSKM Hospital, who is also general secretary of the Diabetic Association of India, Calcutta branch.

“Indians are ethnically predisposed to become diabetics. For centuries, an onslaught was at bay. But not any longer. Lifestyle changes have caused an explosion of new diabetics among the urban population over the last 10 years,” Chowdhury said.

The rise in blood sugar levels has also seen a spurt in sugar-free sweets. Several famous sweet shops, like K.C. Das, Ganguram’s and Bhim Nag, are busy manufacturing “diabetic” rosogolla and sandesh. They are even geared to meet the “ever-increasing demand,” not just quantity-wise, but in variety too.

“Rosomalai for diabetics will soon be added to our product range,” said Sanjoy Das, spokesman for K.C. Das, the first to make rosogollas .

“With more and more buyers demanding such items, we plan to increase production,” said Rahul Chowrasia, partner of Ganguram’s. “The demand goes up during festivals, when diabetics give in to temptation.” All these shops say they have a growing number of fixed clientele for such sweets.

But specialists, who met on Monday to observe Insulin Discovery Day, point out that these “specially-made items” may be free of sugar but not of calorie content.

“The main lookout for a diabetic is the daily calorie intake. If this is balanced with other food items, there is no harm in going in for a normal rosogolla, instead of paying more for the sugar-free variety,” said Chowdhury.


Calcutta, July 30: 
Thirty men, women and children crawl around the stage, baby bottles raised to their mouths, gulping hungrily.

Open your eyes, orders the man in black. 1... 2... 3! As eyes fly open, bottles are chucked in disgust. Sleep! comes the command. Eyes shut and shoulders slump forward...

Have no idea what just happened? Neither did the crowd at Kala Mandir on Sunday. When the father and son team of doctors P. T. and Prashant Bhimani took the stage they, quite literally, held the audience in thrall.

The evening of hypnotism organised by Utsav, part of the Jain Social Group, Calcutta, was showbiz at its most bizarre. But the medical relevance of this practice wasn’t ignored by the showmen, practising psychologists and hypnotherapists from Ahmedabad. The show had been organised “to bring a smile to the faces” of the girls and boys, men and women from 15 NGOs including CINI-Asha, St Joseph’s Home, Don Bosco night school and Hope Foundation. Besides the fanfare, the Gujarati doctors were also there to clear “misconceptions” about hypnotism.

While spectators were in splits at the unbelievable antics on stage, their friends (volunteers from the audience) had “disappeared”, leaving their subconscious minds behind. Asked to breathe deeply and “concentrate thought on the centre of the forehead”, the Bhimanis lulled their eager subjects to “a sweet sleep”.

“You are falling into a deeper and deeper sleep... Sleep... Sleep...” Soon, it was clear: Some were alert, while others became completely relaxed. One by one, the doctor duo lifted arms, pushed foreheads. Some collapsed like cards, while others were still conscious. The stage was cleared of those still in their senses.

Then, the show began. A cricket match was the first act of the evening. “You are playing against the Pakistani cricket team,” chanted Prashant. Some were bowlers, others batsmen. “Take your stance!” The imaginary bats they held swung into action, arms flailing wildly as the Bhimani commentary team stressed the need for “quick runs”.

A table-tennis match and car race followed, with people falling out of their chairs, when they were informed they had suffered an accident. As Madhuri’s Que Sera Sera came on, hips started swinging as rhythmically as they would at London Pub. The unknowing participants then felt “hot” on command, believed it was “raining”, start swatting at mosquitoes, as the doctors decreed. They sung, strummed guitars and played the piano. Two men even had a “marital spat”.

Malay Doshi, an Utsav committee member, suddenly regained consciousness, and was promptly escorted off stage. “I feel very calm... the last thing I remember is the doctors asking us to relax,” said a stunned Malay.

Two volunteers, one young girl and an elderly gentleman, were told that one of their arms could experience no pain. After syringe needles were inserted, they said that they “felt nothing”. When the same was attempted on their other arms, they flinched in pain. Memory loss experiments were also conducted to demonstrate “post-hypnotic amnesia”. Then, a man was told he had no joints and remained ramrod straight as he lay suspended between two chairs.

“Such is the true nature of our consciousness,” explained P. T. Bhimani. “These same techniques can be used in different forms for therapy and medical purposes.” Psychosomatic and psychosexual troubles are commonly addressed under hypnosis. Clinical psychologists also conduct self-hypnosis workshops for confidence-building and personality development. “Under hypnosis, we are without social conditioning...It is almost like meditation,” said Prashant.


Calcutta, July 30: 
The state government on Monday finally passed a Bill in the West Bengal Assembly, renaming the city Kolkata, amidst noisy protests from Opposition MLAs.

Participating in a discussion on the West Bengal Capital City (Change of Name) Bill, 2001, Probodh Chandra Sinha, parliamentay affairs minister, said that after the enactment, the names of organisations like Calcutta Municipal Corporation and CMDA, as well as “any structure, building, monument, road, lake, ground or any object of public importance,” bearing the name Calcutta will have to be changed to Kolkata.

Opposition MLAs raised serious objections to the renaming bid. Nirbhed Ray of the Trinamul Congress said the government had selected the name “Kolkata” because it had a Bengali derivative. “But the government has ignored the origin of the word.” He said historical documents referred to the city as Kolikata or Calcutta. Nowhere is there any reference to Kolkata. “It is disgraceful that the government chose a meaningless word as a name for an important city like ours,” added Ray.

Tapas Ray, also of the Trinamul, alleged that the government had sought the opinions only of some Left-minded intellectuals on the new name. “The government should have consulted more historians before finalising the name,” Ray said.

Sinha dismissed the allegations, saying the government had held an all-party meeting and a unanimous decision had been arrived at with representatives of the Opposition party leaders before finalising the name.


Calcutta, July 30: 
Calcutta Telephones is lining up a Puja bonus for its subscribers in and around the city — online payment of bills.

The Calcutta unit of the Electronics Research and Development Centre (ERDC) has successfully launched its pilot project — Electronic Bill Presentment and Payment System — which it undertook under the guidance of the Union ministry of information technology.

So, senior Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) officials are hopeful that the click for bills project will be implemented before Calcutta gets ready to celebrate its favourite festival.

The ERDC project, undertaken in association with Calcutta Telephones and a nationalised bank, looked into the various ways in which banks could make telephone bill-payment even easier for subscribers who can now only view their bills on the Calcutta Telephones website.

BSNL officials are looking at two options — both using worldwide web as the medium — to give shape to their online bill-payment plans. “Talks are progressing with some banks which have Net-banking facilities,” Calcutta Telephones general manager (computer) T.K. Sen said.

“We will have to use their services to make online bill-payment a reality,” he added.

If the tie-up with the banks materialises, BSNL’s job will become that much easier. It will then be looking at a scenario in which the bank will simply debit the bill-amount from the subscriber’s account after he/she gives it the go-ahead to do so on the Net, explain officials.

“The bank will then pass on the necessary information to us, again via the Net,” a senior BSNL official said.

The other option, say officials, is to send the subscriber’s bill directly to the bank after he/she gives Calcutta Telephones the required mandate. The bank, on receiving that information on the Net, will then automatically debit the amount from the subscriber’s account.

Though Allahabad Bank was involved with the ERDC pilot project, BSNL sources say no bank has yet been identified for the “real thing”.

Allahabad Bank cooperated with the test-case project under the Union information ministry’s National Information Infrastructure programme, but there are several other banks which are being approached by BSNL, say officials.

Calcutta Telephones has about 12 lakh subscribers now. Each subscriber gets six bi-monthly bills, which adds up to a whopping 7.2 million bills generated every year.

BSNL would prefer to involve more than one bank in the online-payment project as it would be “extremely difficult” for any single bank to handle the “unmanageable” volume of bills, even if a small percentage of Calcutta Telephones subscribers chose to take advantage of the new system.


Calcutta, July 30: 
Happy Software Solutions has launched Happy e Zon — a chain of retail outlets and cyber cafes — for a “masti hi masti” Cyber Adda at 18 points all over town. The company aims to add 14 centres in other prime locations.

Happy Software plans to follow the ‘Sip, Shop and Surf’ concept. “For that, we have tied up with Wipro, Hewlett-Packard, Satyam, Aptech Online, Sony and Logitech,” said Sushil Poddar, chairman, Happy Software Solutions. “The centres will also provide online IT education in association with Datapro, OneSun and Aptech Online.”

Happy e Zon marks the first retailing foray by Wipro to market its peripherals and computers. The cafes will offer connectivity at 64 kbps. A host of facilities including online stock trading, medical transcription, web-designing, web-promotion, multimedia development, reference library, music and video on demand and CD writing will be available.

Walk-in users will be charged Rs 25 per hour. The annual membership fees for “unlimited surfing” has been pegged at Rs 12,345. The company also plans to introduce the Happy Roaming card, to allow a customer access to all centres.

At Monday’s launch, Manabendra Mukherjee, minister for IT and environment, said: “Centres like Happy e Zon will help create the right IT culture among the people of West Bengal and contribute to the growth of this vital sector.”

According to IT secretary Jaya Dasgupta, such endeavours would help take IT to the masses. “The introduction of cyber cafes like these in the district headquarters would help provide an impetus to the youth in the state and accelerate the spread of information technology,” she added.

After opening a total of 82 e Zon outlets in Calcutta, Happy Software Solutions will be Delhi-bound, but not before making a mark in Nepal and Bangladesh.

Happy cafes will be located at Sarat Bose Road, Tollygunge Circular Road, Ashutosh Chowdhury Avenue, Short Street, Alipore Road, Sudder Street, Tilak Road, CIT Road, Lake Town, Deshbandhu Road, Hotel Ashok, Pathuriaghata Street, C.R. Avenue, S.N. Banerjee Road, Cotton Street, G.T. Road and Dobson Road.


Calcutta, July 30: 
How do you measure success? By the percentage of marks you get in your examinations? There is a fuller way of measuring success: By finding out how much of service you are to others. This is what will make you special in life.

And this is precisely the message that the Prefect of St. Xavier’s Primary School, Clayton Moses, is seeking to spread today. Along with, of course, the fact that caring and sharing are as much a concern in school as is academics. “St Xavier’s is a family and it is essential to inculcate the right values in a child here,” he said.

But Moses also realises that he needs parents of the students here to be a part of the endeavour to make it a success. “We expect parents to share our vision,” he told Metro. “We want them to realise that their attention to the child at home is as important as that of the teacher in school.”

As part of the process of spreading this message, Moses has begun a series of interactive sessions with parents to make them aware that it is as much their responsibility to make this happen as it is that of the school’s. But these sessions are unique in their own way: at these “orientations”, the teachers and parents are free to interact with each other with the larger aim of improving the overall development of the child.

“The responsibility of parents does not end with putting their child in a good school,” Moses believes. “It is essential for parents to participate in the day-to-day activities of their wards and not rely only on the school for their development. We are here to help our students learn the better values in life, but a back up is also necessary at home.”

As it is, the primary section of the school has already involved parents in a number of projects —- from health check-ups to games training and helping out in concerts and other programmes. In the coming days, the school hopes that this should increase. But beyond this, Moses also wants the parents to know the institution where their child studies. At a recent interactive session with parents, Moses in fact conducted a “mini quiz” to familiarise them with the school and its different facets, drawing them out to participate in order to develop a sense of involvement. “Even at this session with parents, I might sound like a teacher. But the fact is that I am a teacher,” he said with a smile.

But, more importantly, the effort also goes a long way for the school to understand the child better. Recently, at Moses’ initiative, the school asked parents to fill up an information sheet that sought to know details about the student, ranging from which parent was the “disciplining” factor at home to the child’s eating habits.

“It is not possible for the school to know everything about the child, which is why we have undertaken this exercise,” Moses said.

With St Xavier’s Primary School leading the way, Moses hopes that one day other schools will also follow the path for a better parent-student-teacher understanding.


Malda, July 30: 
Forward Bloc appears to be on the warpath over Left Front chairman Biman Bose’s move to accommodate Cooch Behar MP Amar Roy Pradhan even after his expulsion from the party.

Both state Forward Bloc secretary Ashok Ghosh and agriculture minister Kamal Guha have warned Bose about “serious consequences” if the front accepts the expelled MP.

Bose, who has already received a letter from the Forward Bloc secretary, however, has kept his options on Roy Pradhan open after the latter sought his permission to remain in the Left Front.

“I will discuss the matter with all the front partners before taking a final decision,” Bose, who is also a CPM politburo member, told reporters at Berhampore today.

Roy Pradhan’s decision to float a new outfit with party dissidents in north Bengal, coupled with Bose’s move to keep him within the Left Front, has caught the state Forward Bloc leadership on the wrong foot.

While Ghosh shot off a letter to Bose yesterday, protesting against the move to accommodate Roy Pradhan in the Left Front, Guha fired a fresh salvo against Bose and the CPM leadership for backing the MP.

“Is Biman Bose really performing his duty as the Left Front chairman? Roy Pradhan has been expelled from the Forward Bloc, but Bose and his party are trying to weaken our outfit in north Bengal by using him against us,” the agriculture minister told a party convention at the Malda auditorium today.

Taking pot-shots at the state CPM leadership, Guha said: “The Marxists have realised that the Forward Bloc is invincible in north Bengal. But as the CPM is bent on weakening our party, it has no other option but to support Roy Pradhan and his cohorts.”

The agriculture minister made it clear that his party would not hesitate to launch a stir against the CPM if the move to take Roy Pradhan in the Left Front was not abandoned.

“Our party cannot grow simply by appeasing the CPM. The party can be strengthened only by launching a relentless struggle to gain respectability,” he said.

Describing the CPM as the “enemy within”, Guha said the Forward Bloc was facing both external and internal dangers.

“Our external enemy is the Trinamul Congress, but the CPM poses an internal threat. We will have to start a movement against the CPM today or tomorrow and you must be ready for the fight,” he told party workers.

The minister did not even spare his party leadership for its “failure to start a strong anti-CPM movement”. “Our party leaders have forgotten how to fight the CPM as they do not want to antagonise it. But if you really want to launch your party’s movement, you will have to fight against the CPM. Neither the state Congress nor Mamata Banerjee can carry out an anti-CPM stir. In the circumstances, Forward Bloc workers will have to shoulder this responsibility,” he said.

Underscoring the need for creating a “strong lobby” to ensure north Bengal’s development, Guha said: “I was dubbed a separatist for taking up the cause of north Bengal. Now everybody is talking about north Bengal’s development.”

He also deplored finance minister Asim Dasgupta’s role in releasing funds. “He raises objections whenever I try to undertake some positive work,” he added.

Former minister Biren Maitra and MLA Paresh Adhikari also addressed the convention.


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