Fee-hike fury on campus
Keyhole surgery for thorax disorders
Red tape stalls private IT park
An officer-in-charge and a lady, too
New raids in kitchen drive
Clash at law exam centre
Husband jailed for assault
D-men detained in Dum Dum
Double trouble in twin districts
Bengal bonds to raise Rs 250 cr

Calcutta, Aug. 9: 
Money matters turned a seat of learning into a campus of chaos on Thursday. Classes were disrupted and admission of first-year students was stalled as fee-hike fury engulfed Presidency College.

The agitating students demanded “immediate withdrawal of the decision”. They appealed to all students and guardians “not to pay the enhanced admission and tuition fees”. Late in the evening, a section of students announced “an indefinite strike” at the college from Friday.

Trouble broke out when the authorities — and one of the students’ unions — insisted that the candidates submit the “present fees”, hiked from Rs 12 to 75 per month for arts and from Rs 17 to Rs 110 per month for science. Admission fees have been raised from Rs 90 to Rs 238 for arts and Rs 278 for science.

Amitava Chatterjee, principal, who was gheraoed by protesters in the afternoon, ruled out the possibility of a rollback. “We have introduced the enhanced fee structure in accordance with a government directive. The college is run by the higher education department and I have informed the officials concerned about the trouble that broke out.”

On the “indefinite strike” call by members of the Presidency College Union (PCU), Revolutionary Students’ Front, Progressive Democratic Students Forum and Presidency College Students’ Association (PCSA), Chatterjee said: “We will take all necessary measures to ensure normal functioning of the college from Friday.”

At around 10.30 am on Thursday, PCU members assembled in front of the office where admissions were in progress and asked the officials not to charge the revised fees. When they refused, a section of students bolted one the entrances to the main building and “locked two of the cash counters”. They refused to return the keys and sat on dharna in front of the office. Some went off to petition the principal.

Flashpoint was reached when members of the Students Federation of India (SFI), supporting the fee hike, turned up and asked the PCU members to “unlock the cash counters and the gate at once”. When the protesters refused, some SFI activists and staff members forced the issue. A melee broke out before the locks were smashed open and entry into the admission section allowed.

A semblance of order was restored after senior teachers and other college officials intervened. Guardians of first-year students — many of whom had come from outside Calcutta — were seen pleading with PCU members to suspend their agitation and allow the admissions to continue.

The protesters left the site of the agitation for over an hour, only to return around 2.30 pm. This time, they barged into the principal’s office. They shouted slogans against officials and teachers for “taking the help of the rowdies” and attacking them in the morning.

“We were holding a peaceful demonstration. The SFI members attacked us without any provocation. It is appalling that a section of college officials actually supported the strong-arm tactics employed by the SFI,” said Roshni Mukherjee, a member of PCSA.

“It was a clear case of hooliganism that saw matters take an ugly turn... Our campaign against the arbitrary fee hike is aimed at safeguarding the rights of students. We will continue our agitation until the decision to raise admission and tuition fees is withdrawn,” warned Rajesh Pandey, vice-president, PCU.

Work at Bengal Engineering College, in Shibpur, was also disrupted on Thursday, when some students protested the deemed university’s decision to hike fees.

Both Presidency and BE College have implemented the move from the current academic session, following an announcement in this regard by higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty in the Assembly last month.


Calcutta, Aug. 9: 
If you have a chest or lung problem that needs surgery, don’t fret. It’s very possible that just three to four small holes on the affected side and a four-day hospital stay will be all the discomfort it will entail. You don’t need to leave Calcutta for the operation. And the cost will be less than conventional surgery, too.

Like lap-coli, chest surgery is now being performed through the keyhole method in Calcutta. The procedure, called video-assisted thoracic surgery, or VATS, has been conducted in two city hospitals. Ramakrishna Mission Seva Pratishthan performed the first such surgery four months ago.

This was followed by a rare and risky operation last week at Calcutta Hospital, where the thymus, an organ in the upper chest above the heart, had to be extricated.

Chest operations no longer mean cutting open the chest, leaving a scar 10 inches long. Gone also is the pain, respiratory problems, blood loss and high chances of infection associated with conventional surgery.

“VATS can be applied for both diagnostic and therapeutic needs,” explained cardio-thoracic surgeon Bhabatosh Biswas, one of the very few doctors in the country conducting the surgery. Using equipment similar to lap-coli operations, pleural effusions, chest malignancies, extent of trauma after an accident and other diseases can be detected when usual diagnostic methods can’t.

For cures, the procedure is useful in thymus extraction, lobectomies (where parts of the diseased lung have to be removed), patent ductus arteriosus (closing of blood vessel in chest that should have closed naturally after birth), removal of blood clots in the chest, and bullectomy (removal of air in pleural cavities).

Biswas and his team used VATS recently at the Seva Pratishthan to remove clots from the lung of a 70-year-old patient. The man was a heavy smoker, had diabetes and hypertension. “This patient would not have survived traditional surgery. His left lung had collapsed after the clots had formed. After this method of surgery, he was discharged after three days.”

The first thymus operation through VATS in eastern India was performed at Calcutta Hospital on August 1. The patient, Susmita Singh, had visited numerous doctors over 30 months before being diagnosed with myesthenia gravis, or progressive muscle weakness. She suffered from double vision and limp limbs.

“Special anaesthesia that does not relax muscles was administered. One lung was made to collapse to make room for working with instruments inside the chest,” said S. Basu Thakur, the anaesthetist. This is an important difference between lap-coli and VATS.

Calcutta is the fourth city in the country after New Delhi, Mumbai and Jaipur where this procedure is being conducted.


Calcutta, Aug. 9: 
Plan: Millennium City. Calcutta’s first private sector IT park, offering 2.8-lakh sq ft of high-tech walk-in and plug-in space, creating 2,500 specialised jobs and generating exports of Rs 400 crore when fully occupied. To be set up by a consortium between the Rungta Group and Sonodyne Television Company Limited.

Progress: MoU signed on May 21, 1999, between the cottage and small-scale industries department (government of West Bengal) and Millennium City consortium partners regarding “sponsorship and escort services” for the tech park. The government was to act as “facilitator” and “provide speedy clearances”.

Present status: The project has been cleared “in principle”. But no written approval has reached the entrepreneurs yet. So, DN-62, Sector V, Salt Lake City, is still awaiting its first brick or click.

When realtor Santosh Rungta had joined hands with telecom engineer Ashok Aikat, more than two years ago, Millennium City seemed a not-so-distant dream. Now, the two friends aren’t so sure.

“Had the project been approved two years ago, we would have finished at least the first phase by now, creating hundreds of jobs in the process. IT means lightning speed. But, for whatever reasons, in spite of putting up a pioneering project, we have been kept waiting,” laments Rungta. “The last time we heard from the IT ministry was more than a month back, when we were assured that the formalities had been completed. Going by that, the final clearance in writing from the urban development department should have reached us by now. But it hasn’t and so we can’t set a date for work to commence. We only hope it’s just procedural delay and the approval will reach us in black-and-white soon.”

It’s been 27 months since the MoU was signed. And the signs of damage are starting to show. Fed up with the delay, an “internationally-renowned real estate consultant” has walked out of the project, forcing the promoters to start dialogue with others.

All this, when the West Bengal government — which announced its IT policy on January 1, 2000 — is said to have “hit the infotech highway” and promised to roll out the red carpet for private players in the sector. “The state’s declared IT policy calls for a review and upgrading, with more clarity and transparency. Many of the stipulations and aims of the policy related to permission for three-shift operation, self-certification, exemption from statutes and regulations, however, still remain on paper only even after one-and-a-half years,” points out Aikat.

Millennium City, according to Rungta and Aikat, has been conceptualised to provide an investor with a ready infrastructure, designed by architect J.P. Agarwal, to “simply move in, plug in and start up”. Washington DC-based strategic consultants International Ventures and Associates Limited are “providing inputs on global trends and helping attract overseas IT investors”, mostly from the US.

The mortar-and-mouse mega project also involves a dedicated telephone exchange with fibre-optic connection to DoT, a business club with conference rooms, video-conferencing, a multi- cuisine restaurant, guest rooms, a gym and a ‘stationary’ swimming pool.


Calcutta, Aug. 9: 
Most officers were out on patrol duty that night in 1996, when a mob besieged Ekbalpore police station. With only a handful of constables, the relatively-inexperienced sub-inspector thwarted attempts to torch the thana. She held the mob at bay for two long hours, till help arrived.

Five years later, breaking gender barriers, the same officer has been asked to take up responsibility as the first-ever woman additional officer in charge of a city police station.

Debashree Chakraborty will create history on Monday when she takes charge as the additional OC of Hare Street police station. She exudes quiet confidence. “This is a huge responsibility. I am actually a bit tense. I hope I can justify my selection,” she said on Thursday.

Announcing the appointment of Chakraborty as additional OC of a police station in a trouble-torn area like Hare Street, city police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty said she could have been transferred to a “peaceful para like Phoolbagan,” but has been given the difficult assignment keeping in mind her “immense potential”. The commissioner added:“I thought of breaking gender barriers by giving her a tough job, which she is capable of taking on.”

Debashree Chakraborty is aware that “the first few months will be difficult”, but is confident of pulling it off and not “letting her superiors down.” This never-say-die attitude in Chakraborty, currently in the Immoral Traffic section of the detective department, perhaps helped her pip others to the post.

“No, there are several promising officers in the squad. I am sure they will make it too,” she stresses.

The outgoing DC (headquarters), Raj Kanojia, seemed to share her views on the matter. Several women officers will “definitely see a role model in Chakraborty.” This is the first step towards more “women-led” police stations, he added.

A geography (honours) graduate from a city college, Chakraborty joined the force in 1988. She spent the first two years at the police training school, before being inducted as sub-inspector at the women’s grievances cell in Lalbazar. Thanks to her dedication, she was transferred to places like Park Street and Ekbalpore, before she joined the IT wing of the city police. Mother of a two-year-old son, Chakraborty hardly finds time to spend with her family. She has a passion for music and wildlife. “My husband is very supportive. I hope I can realise his dreams,” she added.


Calcutta, Aug. 9: 
The civic health department resumed its fourth round of the clean food drive with a raid on the kitchens of Bijoli Grill at Bhowanipore, Sri Hari Mistanna Bhandar in Hazra, Gill Palace and Bawarchi on Diamond Harbour Road and Zeeshan on Syed Amir Ali Avenue.

“Not a single kitchen was found up to the mark in terms of cleanliness and specification. A toilet stands adjacent to the kitchen of Sri Hari Mistanna Bhandar and Bijoli Grill’s thatched-roof kitchen is unauthorised,” said member, mayor-in-council (health), Javed Ahmed Khan. He led the raid on Thursday.

Earlier, the civic health department raided nine hotels and restaurants in three phases and filed suits in the senior municipal magistrate’s court against New Kenilworth and Shenaz after test reports were received from the civic food laboratory.

Unpermitted colour was found in samples of pulao collected from Shenaz and Coliform bacteria was discovered in the sample of a dessert at New Kenilworth.

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation started conducting raids on hotels and restaurants following a complaint that more than 25 doctors and students of post-graduate medical science suffered from food poisoning after a meal at New Kenilworth early in May.

The civic health officials had their worst experience on Thursday, when they were greeted by stagnant water, cockroaches and flies at the Bijoli Grill kitchen. .

Bijoli Grill manager Chandan Guha Thakurta said: “Our kitchen is fine. I will meet the civic health officers on Friday, along with the owner of the firm”.

Deputy chief municipal health officer R. Sanyal said the food inspectors had collected samples of chilli and turmeric powder, sauce and pieces of tandoori chicken from Gill Palace Bar and Restaurant. The eatery’s certificate given by the pollution control board has expired.

Gill Palace manager Avindar Pal Singh requested the civic officials for a week’s time to bring the kitchen in order, in accordance with specifications laid down by the CMC.


Calcutta, Aug. 9: 
Calcutta University’s L.lB Part III examinations on its Alipore campus were disrupted on Thursday after a clash between some examinees and employees. Around 10 am, a large number of examinees assembled in front of the examination hall and demanded that they be allowed in. The employees refused, as the paper was scheduled to begin at 12 noon. According to university rules, examinees are allowed to enter the examination venue 15 minutes before the start.

A heated exchange took place, which erupted into an altercation. The situation was brought under control after the police intervened. Four examinees were arrested, said Onkar Sadhan Adhikari, CU controller of examinations. They were, however, released before the examination and permitted to write the test.


Calcutta, Aug. 9: 
The 17th metropolitan magistrate of Bankshal Court on Thursday sentenced a husband to three years’ rigorous imprisonment, with an additional fine of Rs 2 lakh, for assaulting his wife while drunk.

The magistrate described the “torture” as a heinous crime and hoped the verdict would prove exemplary for people who batter their wives under the influence of liquor.

Shyamali Dutta, of the Nonatala area, was married to Subrata Saha of the Jorasanko area. A few days after the wedding, Subrata started returning home drunk and late at night. If she protested, her husband would assault her. Her in-laws would not intervene.

Shyamali lodged a complaint against her husband at Jorasanko thana. The police started criminal proceedings against Subrata.

The verdict said a husband did not have a right to beat his wife.


Calcutta, Aug. 9: 
After sustained interrogation of arrested Dawood “link man” Abdul Ghaffar Ghani Sheikh, the city police today swooped down once again in the Dum Dum area and detained three persons, all believed to be local contacts of a Dubai gang operating in the city.

On Tuesday, the police had arrested Ghaffar from Saudagar Patti in Chitpur area for allegedly masterminding criminal operations in the city, including the kidnapping of a shipping magnate. Police said Ghaffar was a Mumbai supari killer with 21 cases pending against him in Mumbai, including seven murder charges. “He has actually more murder cases pending against him,” DC, DD, Banibrata Basu, said. “He is gradually confessing to all of them.”

Ghaffar was produced in the court of additional chief metropolitan magistrate, R.L. Sinha, and remanded in police custody till August 22. Appearing before the magistrate, the public prosecutor said Ghaffar had confesssed that he had committed a number of crimes, including murders, in Mumbai and that he was a part of the Mumbai underworld now based in Dubai.

The police informed the court that it was necessary to keep him in their custody as a team from Mumbai would soon be arriving to interrogating Ghaffar. Additionally, the police said, they would also need to talk to him further to find out about his Calcutta connections.

Police said today that during interrogation, Ghaffar had informed them that he was also aware of the activities of Abdul Rauf Dawood Merchant, a suspect in the Gulshan Kumar murder case who was arrested from the city last year. The police said that Ghaffar had told interrogators that while Rauf reporterd to Chhota Shakeel, his links were with the now Karachi-based Dawood.

But the police say further light will now be shed on the activities of the D-company after questioning the three men picked up today from Dum Dum. “These are the really big fish,” city police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty told The Telegraph. “But the details about them cannot be disclosed at the moment. All that I can now say is that we were on the right track and we are well equipped to handle these criminals.”

CID officials said one of the main local contacts in the Khadim’s owner Parthapratim Roy Burman’s abduction case, Sona, who had fled the city a few days after the kidnapping, may have headed towards Jaipur. Officials said they have information that he went by the Jodhpur Express along with Naushad, Pervez and Kalua, all of them his accomplices.

CID officials said that after grilling Chunnu, they had come to know that Naushad had spoken to the kidnappers about 20 minutes before the abduction took place. They said that all of them had been the facilitators, allowing the Dubai gang to carry out the kidnapping and helped them escape.

The police said that they are now on the trail of Sona’s wife who was last seen in Park Street in a blue Tata Indica. The police also raided a brothel run by Sona in Free School Street and Ghoshpara in the Tiljala area.


Behrampore and Malda, Aug. 9: 
For one district, it is the problem of plenty, and for the other, it is the scarcity curse. Murshidabad is reeling under a severe drought, while adjoining Malda is in the grip of floods.

Vast tracts of land look parched and standing crops are wilting because of scanty rainfall in Murshidabad. In many areas, cultivation could not be started due to unavailability of water. The agricultural department has recorded 640 ml rainfall till July 31 as against 881 ml during the corresponding period last year, said assistant principal agricultural officer Sadananda Mukherjee.

“Farmers are the worst-hit in unirrigated areas. It is a piquant situation. Water is flowing above the danger level at Farakka. But farmers are hit by scarcity of water. In Murshidabad, more than 30 per cent agricultural land has not yet come under the cover of irrigation. Poor farmers are solely dependent on rain water,” said district magistrate Vivek Kumar.

On the other hand, 600 families had to be evacuated after water of the Ganga, which had flooded vast areas of Kaliachalk in Malda, started receding, taking away with it four villages during the last few days. The block development officer of Kaliachalk II, Shantanu Naha, apprehends that another 12 villages would soon disappear into the Ganga.

Murshidabad had a target of cultivating amon crop over 2.20 lakh hectare land. But the yield would be far below the target, Mukherjee said.

Said Amit Das of Manoharpur in Kandi: “I cultivated amon crop on only five bigha land. I dropped the plan of cultivating the other five bigha because of the vagaries of nature. Even now, the yield from the five bigha would be far from satisfactory.” According to Das, the sub-soil water-level has gone down at least five metres due to the continued dry spell that prevailed in the district during summer. But if the condition of the paddy cultivators is bad, the jute cultivators’ plight appears to be worse. Jute, which is ready to be harvested, is usually soaked in marshy land with rain waters.

Low water-level in ponds, used to soak the jute plant to extract the fibre, is posing a serious problem to farmers. Carting the plants to areas where there is adequate water is a costly proposition.

Many people are fleeing to safer areas in Gajal and Englishbazar. Large parts of the district which had experienced heavy showers in recent times still remain inundated.


Calcutta, Aug. 9: 
The state government plans to raise Rs 250 crore from the market by floating 10-year bonds. The amount raised will be used for development work.

Leading banks and financial institutions are expected to subscribe to the bonds. The coupon rate for the bonds has yet to be fixed, but for government papers of 10-year tenure, the rate varies between 9.5 per cent and 9.75 per cent. This is the second time the state is raising funds using the bonds route. Last year, it raised Rs 600 crore.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today held a meeting with the chiefs of the commercial banks, financial institutions and major stockbrokers about the bonds issue.

A senior RBI official said the bankers were briefed about the modalities of the bonds, which will be auctioned in Mumbai on August 13. Besides Bengal, the Andhra Pradesh government will auction bonds in Mumbai.

Uco Bank chairman V.P. Shetty said: “The Gujarat government had floated a paper which attracted 9.5 per cent interest. Government papers like these attract interest in that range.”

Bengal is floating these bonds to increase its development expenditure. Total state plan expenditure will be increased by nearly 23 per cent from Rs 5,768 crore in 2000-01 to Rs 7,111 crore this fiscal.

The state government has imposed a 20 per cent luxury tax on certain items and has increased the sales tax on a few items.

On participating in the bonds programme, Allahabad Bank chairman and managing director B. Samal said: “Government securities is the safest area of investment. Though the yield is low, the returns are ensured. There is no non-performing assets involved in it.” He added that at present, banks are flush with funds, hinting that the bonds issue was likely to be oversubscribed.


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