Alarm bells on clogged runway road
High court prod on canal clean-up
Mayor flip-flop on heritage gate
Part II results on Thursday
Say it with silk, shola, tea and trio
Garbage pile-up slur on unions
Self-reliance aid for AIDS victims
Review panels at flyover sites
Protest plan over schools’ neglect
Management crisis in rudderless varsity

 
 
ALARM BELLS ON CLOGGED RUNWAY ROAD 
 
 
BY NIHAR GHOSH
 
Calcutta, Aug. 27 : 
It takes less time to reach Delhi than Dum Dum. That’s a common complaint of Calcuttans rushing to catch a flight these days.

With the Ultadanga-to-Dum Dum stretch leaving many a passenger stranded, several airlines operating in the city have petitioned the government to ensure free flow of traffic on all approach roads to the airport, especially the all-important VIP Road.

“Incidents of passengers missing flights or passengers caught in traffic jams on VIP Road making distress calls to the airport over their cellphones have gone up recently,” said a senior Airports Authority of India (AAI) official at the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport.

“Alarmed at this trend, some airlines officials have written to the government, requesting it to look into the matter for the sake of the passengers who suffer for no fault of theirs,” he added.

This, according to AAI officials, is “unprecedented”, as never before have the airlines approached any state government with such a plea.

With the thoroughfare struggling to cope with the pressures of a burgeoning population in the Ultadanga-Lake Town-Baguiati belt, most intersections on the road to the airport are clogged during peak hours.

Add to this frequent roadblocks by protesters of every political hue, and it’s chaos compounded.

“The blockade of VIP Road and Jessore Road is a perennial problem,” says Oberoi’s airport services manager Manu Dhir.

AAI director Roshan Lal refers to the seven-hour blockade on VIP Road and Jessore Road — by CPM cadre protesting Dum Dum municipality chairman Sailen Das’ murder on August 13 — as the “worst” in recent months.

“We had many passengers coming in after 5 pm to catch flights which had left hours ago,” recounts Lal.

The August 13 blockade had been preceded by another on VIP Road after an accident. As protesters went on the rampage, airport-bound traffic came to a standstill for over an hour.

“Many passengers complain that the problem they face here is peculiar to Calcutta,” observes a senior AAI official. “They tells us that in every other metro, they can calculate the time required to reach the airport. But here, on a bad day, you might end up missing the flight even after leaving the house or hotel hours before time.”

This, feel some industrialists, “gives the city a bad name”. “Often, tourists, especially investors, judge a city by the drive to and from the airport. A swift and hassle-free approach to the airport is an essential infrastructural element in a city’s path to progress,” said a member of a chamber of commerce.

   

 
 
HIGH COURT PROD ON CANAL CLEAN-UP 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 27 : 
Calcutta High Court has directed the state government to clean up Tolly’s Nullah at any cost — even if it means evicting the illegal settlers on its banks. A division bench, comprising Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice G.K. Gupta, in a judgment on Monday, directed the government “to explore all possibilities for cleaning up Tolly’s Nullah in the larger interests of the Calcuttans”.

The court disposed of two separate petitions by Baker Bazar Co-operative Housing Society Limited and environment activist Rebati Ranjan Bhattacharya. The cases had been holding up eviction of 850 families living in shanties on the banks of Tolly’s Nullah, casting a shadow on Metro extension work up to Garia.

These families had claimed that the land allotted for their rehabilitation was actually handed over to the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute on the EM Bypass. The court ruled that the petitioners had no right to claim land for resettlement as they were illegally occupying the canal banks.

The other petitioner, Bhattacharya, demanded that the government be asked to clean Tolly’s Nullah immediately. He argued that the heavily-silted canal has become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. He also alleged that the Calcutta Municipal Corporation was turning a blind eye to the effluents from the two jails and Alipore zoo running untreated into Tolly’s Nullah, polluting its water and the environment.

A committee set up by the court submitted a report about a year ago that Tolly’s Nullah cannot be cleaned unless its banks were freed of illegal settlers.

   

 
 
MAYOR FLIP-FLOP ON HERITAGE GATE 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, Aug. 27 : 
There are two versions of the way mayor Subrata Mukherjee reacted to the demolition on Saturday night of the heritage gateway leading to the heritage building at 5, Russell Street, which was the residence of Bishops Heber James, Turner and Wilson between 1826-1849.

The first is the official version: When mediapersons asked him on Monday what measures were being taken following the act of vandalism, Mukherjee said he has asked the heritage committee to consider the building a heritage structure, adding: “A resolution was passed in this regard. I have asked them to make a detailed documentation of the building.”

But the tenants of the building, which was also the headquarters of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in undivided India, had a different story to tell. When Kamlesh Agarwal, owner of a furnishing shop, Varguis George and his wife Dipali Bhattacharya, B. Jash, representative of the Church Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA), J.T.A. Singh, dealer in stocks and member of YMCA, and M.M. Sethia, estate agent, went to meet the mayor on Monday afternoon, he had made a turnaround.

The members of the tenants’ association, who visited him with “great expectations”, were taken aback when Mukherjee said it was a battle between promoters and “no one requires permission to break a gate”. The caretaker of the building, too, can break the gate. Mukherjee said the notice on the heritage status of the building was to be mailed to the landlord the next day.

He reportedly told the tenants that there was no question of reconstructing the gate. Whatever he may have said on Sunday about taking up the matter with the chief minister was said in the “heat of the moment”. The tenants had no locus standi to seek permission to reconstruct the gate. Only YMCA could do it. He even cited specific examples to show how “close” the developers, the Rajgarias, were to the YMCA.

The tenants explained that according to an agreement dated January 12, 1990, YMCA had sold the building on 32 cottahs to Om Credit Private Limited, owned by Om Rajgaria, for a sale consideration of Rs 110 lakh. Though Rajgaria had made the payments in instalments, registration was yet to be made. The tenants’ association had filed a case to stop the deal and now they were contemplating legal action once again.

On Sunday, CMC put up a stop-work notice at 5, Russell Street as both the gate and the building were identified by the government’s expert committee as heritage structures under Section 425B of the CMC Act, 1980.

On Monday, an officer from Shakespeare Sarani police station started investigation in the case. The officer, C. Roy Mukherjee, visited the CMC office for a photograph of the building before the vandals struck, but in vain.

Saroj Mohan Ghosh, chief architect and town planner of the CMC, said: “We have a specific conservation Act, and according to that, demolition of such a building is an offence... The building must be restored to its former state.”

The Rajgarias established contact with the mayor and member, mayor-in-council Rajiv Deb and pleaded innocence, saying they were never notified about the structure’s heritage status.

Director-general of buildings, Asoke Roy Chowdhury, after visiting the site said no construction plan will be sanctioned by the CMC on that plot. The architect and town planner department has already been instructed accordingly.

   

 
 
PART II RESULTS ON THURSDAY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 27 : 
The results of this year’s BA, B.Sc and B.Com Part II examinations of Calcutta University will be published on Thursday, sources in the university said on Monday.

However, there was confusion among students, who feared that the number of incomplete results may rise this time. They wondered how the authorities would publish the results as some examiners had still not submitted the marks. “The authorities have confirmed the date but we don’t want to see a large number of incomplete results,” said Bijan Biswas, leader of the university’s SFI-controlled students’ union.

Onkar Sadhan Adhikari, controller of examinations, admitted that some examiners had not submitted the marks yet but said preparations were complete for publishing the results on Thursday.

The BA, B.Sc and B.Com Part II examinations were held in June. Nearly 30,000 examinees have taken the test.

   

 
 
SAY IT WITH SILK, SHOLA, TEA AND TRIO 
 
 
BY SHANKAR MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, Aug. 27 : 
Mission: Japan.

Captain: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee

Candidates: Bureaucrats and businessmen by the dozens.

The chosen ones: Amit Kiran Deb, principal secretary to the chief minister; R.P. Goenka, chairman emeritus of RPG Group, and Tarun Das, director-general of CII.

The CM’s team for his first foreign trip has been finalised. According to sources at Writers’ Buildings, the delegation for the weeklong tour to Japan, starting September 15, has been hand-picked by Bhattacharjee.

The buzz in the biz lobby on Friday was why “no representative from WBIDC” managed a berth in the Japan-bound team. Explaining the chief minister’s choice, a senior Writers’ official said: “Both R.P. Goenka and Tarun Das have excellent relations with Japan.”

The list of delegates has been finalised — putting an end to the scramble for berths among industrialists and bureaucrats – and the gift-items decided upon. “The chief minister has made it clear that he wants to present his hosts with the best-quality Darjeeling tea, tastefully packed,” said an official. “The hunt is also on for some Murshidabad silk and distinctive handicraft from Bengal made of shankh and shola (pith) that the chief minister wants to carry along.”

But the chief minister’s office is struggling to prepare a shortlist of invitations to be accepted by the touring party. “We have been flooded with invitations from various organisations, companies, institutions and industrialists of Japan,” said a senior official. “We had not anticipated this rush. We have already received 40 invitations to lunch and dinner in honour of the chief minister and more are likely to come in over the next two weeks. But as the CM will be staying there for only seven days, we are having to dash off regret letters to most.”

As per protocol, Bhattacharjee “must accept” some lunch or dinner invitations and meetings fixed by the Japanese government. This apart, he will attend meetings with the Indo-Japan Chamber of Commerce, the Indian Community in Japan and Indo-Japan Friendship.

What has been finalised is that the chief minister will spend three days in Tokyo, three days in Osaka and a day in Bangkok. He will address the chambers of commerce, meet top executives of Mitsubishi, Marubeni and other industrial giants. He will also meet “two or three ministers and government officials”.

   

 
 
GARBAGE PILE-UP SLUR ON UNIONS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 27 : 
This Pujas, if you are confronted with piles of garbage lining the brightly-lit streets, don’t blame the Calcutta Municipal Corporation. It will probably be the handiwork of the employees’ union. Or so city conservancy chief Mala Roy would like to have us believe.

Roy has squarely held the trade union leaders “responsible” for the deterioration in the city’s conservancy service. Her comment comes in the wake of an “undeclared non-co-operation” in the department over the last few months “on a limited scale”. Her attack on the union leaders and the top brass in the conservancy department, who are peeved at the steps taken to prevent waste of funds, is seen as a pre-emptive move as Roy fears escalation in the non-co-operation drive by the union as the festive season draws near.

“There is no shortage of manpower or resources to keep the city clean during the Pujas. Still, if garbage piles up on the roads, I will not hesitate to point fingers at the union leaders, in both the Trinamul Congress and Citu ranks, who are responsible for the people’s plight,” she warned.

“This is just a ploy on her part to shift the burden of her own inefficiency and mismanagement on the employees and workers of the CMC,” alleged Citu leader Anutosh Sarkar.

Trinamul trade union leader Sovandeb Chattopadhyay said: “She suffers from a complex and is always imagining a non-co-operation movement against her.”

Chief engineer, conservancy, Arun Sarkar, was reluctant to admit there was any non-co-operation by the staff. “Every day, we clear about 2,500 tonnes of garbage and I think that gives the lie to the theory of non-co-operation,” he said.

However, quite a few officers in the conservancy department are already wary of the witch-hunt that has started in the department recently. “How can we work in peace if our integrity is always questioned,” they asked.

A senior conservancy officer pointed out that over the past 11 months, at least 200 departmental meetings have been held with the member (conservancy) and the output has been “a big zero”. “The city owes all its improvement to former conservancy chief Kanti Ganguly. Sadly, nothing has been added to the infrastructure or to the service by his successor,” he added.

Roy claimed her cost-cutting drive had enabled the department to save “more than Rs 50 lakh” last year. “Besides, thousands of illiterate workers have escaped exploitation by departmental employees following the introduction of payment through banks.”

“I have decided to scrap the panel of suppliers prepared during the tenure of Kanti Ganguly and a new panel will be prepared through open tenders this month,” she added.

   

 
 
SELF-RELIANCE AID FOR AIDS VICTIMS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 27 : 
The call came from a city hospital on Monday morning. A middle-aged man suffering from TB and herpes zoster had been turned away by his family in north Calcutta some days back.

Now, his wife, too, had abandoned him. He had nowhere to go and, along with his physical ailments, he was shattered mentally. For, society is yet to come to terms with a person who has AIDS.

On hearing from doctors at the Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine that an organisation had been set up to help such people, the man called the offices of Sparsha (Society for Positive Atmosphere and Related Support to people living with HIV/AIDS in West Bengal).

A team went to the hospital to meet the man, a garments trader, and counselled him, managed to get him a shelter and is arranging to procure medicine that would help treat the “opportunistic” infections he is suffering from.

“We are receiving calls like this every other day now,” said Umesh Kakaria, Sparsha’s project coordinator.

“They are from people with HIV living in the city as well as in towns and villages in Bengal. Our main work is to guide them in their day-to-day life, helping them to cope with the changed circumstances they are in. We also help them be as self-reliant as possible, so that they do not become dependent on voluntary organisations for the rest of their lives.”

Of the total number of people living with HIV/AIDS that Sparsha has helped since the society’s inception in February, as much as 25 per cent face rejection by even their immediate relatives, said Dr Samiran Panda, an adviser to the organisation. “This attitude stems from the basic problem of not understanding the disease and how it spreads. HIV positive persons should not be seen as a burden. In fact, they are capable of continuing to do work. Several such persons are employed with us.”

In the absence of any such programme initiated by the government, Sparsha is also helping in preventing transmission of the virus from mother to child by providing single-dose anti-AIDS drugs to the infected mother during labour and one dose to the child after it is born.

“This is a proven way of preventing vertical transmission. We have even delivered this drug to a village accessible only by boat,” Panda said.

   

 
 
REVIEW PANELS AT FLYOVER SITES 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Aug. 27 : 
The Assembly committees for transport and public health engineering (PHE) on Monday suggested immediate realignment of the underground water mains on Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Road to facilitate construction of the proposed flyover in the area.

A joint team of the two Assembly committees reviewed the progress of work on the flyovers at AJC Bose Road, Gariahat, Park Street and Lockgate Road, along with the deputy commissioner (traffic) and other senior officials of Calcutta Police. The team was led by Sadhan Pande, Trinamul Congress legislator and chairman of the Assembly committee for transport.

Pande later told mediapersons that a proposal for realigning the water mains on AJC Bose Road had been submitted to the Corporation. Work at Lockgate Road and Park Street had been hampered in the absence of necessary permission from the defence and the railway authorities, he added.

The committee members were “taken aback” by the lack of any comprehensive plan for six-lane traffic on both sides of the Gariahat flyover, near Gol Park and the Ballygunge police outpost. They also expressed dismay at the slow pace of work and the potholed condition of Gariahat Road.

Pande said the two panels would monitor the progress of work on the flyovers from time to time.

   

 
 
PROTEST PLAN OVER SCHOOLS’ NEGLECT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 27 : 
The lack of state initiative to upgrade infrastructure in the state-aided schools has spurred some non-CPM teachers’ associations to launch an agitation against the government from next week. Despite promising to improve the infrastructure in state-funded schools more than a month ago, the protesting teachers allege that nothing has materialised to date.

Unlike in earlier cases, the demands of the teachers’ associations this time are not related either to their wages or profession.

Prithwis Basu, general secretary, West Bengal Headmasters’ Association, said: “This is the first time in several decades that we have planned an agitation only for the sake of the students. More than a month has passed since the government had made the announcement. But, so far, no concrete step has been initiated to improve the deplorable condition in the state-aided schools.”

“The lackadaisical attitude of the government shows that it’s not concerned with upgrading the standard of education. The government actually intends to create the impression that teachers are solely responsible for the poor standard in education,” Basu added.

In the state Assembly, the government had recently announced its decision to ban private tuition. It had also stressed that implementing the ban would require an overhaul of the infrastructure. An elaborate scheme for overall development in the state-funded schools, many of them in the city, was to have been in the pipeline.

School education minister Kanti Biswas said the process for implementing the ban on private tuitions had begun. “We are working on measures to ensure that students can avail of a complete education in school. We shall see that they don’t need to take the help of private tutors for their studies. The process is to be completed very soon,” Biswas said.

The minister, however, did not clarify what steps are being taken for the development scheme. Members of some teachers’ organisations have already met the education minister and tabled their suggestions on the issue.

   

 
 
MANAGEMENT CRISIS IN RUDDERLESS VARSITY 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, Aug. 27: 
Kalyani University is now in the midst of a never-before constitutional crisis, having to make do without a single elected policy-making or decision-making academic or administrative body.

The terms of all the elected members of the constitutionally-approved decision-making bodies — the university court, the executive council, the faculty councils and even the office of the deans of faculties — ended a day before Independence Day, plunging the university into a “constitutional vacuum” it has seldom experienced before.

The offices, comprising a mix of elected representatives and ex-officio members who are selected by virtue of the posts they hold, look after all the functions of the university. They decide everything — from selecting teachers to administering funds — and senior officials admitted that the university will be in a limbo till it again has the bodies in full.

The lapsing of these bodies, officials said, has its roots in the expansion of the university. All colleges in Murshidabad and Nadia, hitherto affiliated to Calcutta University, were passed on to the jurisdiction of Kalyani varsity, necessitating a change in its statute.

The changed statute was sent to the higher education department for approval in the first week of February, vice-chancellor Nityananda Saha said. “We received a request a few months later from the department to make some changes and give it again for departmental approval in a computer disc,” he added. That was done but it was the last the university heard about the matter, Saha told The Telegraph.

With the terms of the decision-making administrative and academic bodies lapsing on August 14, the university authorities are in a dilemma over what to do in case of an emergency.

The court is the university’s highest administrative body, equivalent to the Calcutta University’s senate. It has the most important tasks: passing the budget, deciding on the creation of new departments and giving affiliation to colleges in areas within its jurisdiction.

The executive council is no less important as it is entrusted with the varsity’s day-to-day running. From selection of candidates to every post — both teaching and non-teaching — to the promotion of staff, from registration of doctorates to administering funds, no decision can be taken without the executive council’s approval.

The faculty councils, comprising all professors and elected members from the three faculties, decide on changes in the curricula. The deans — there is one for the science faculty, one for arts and commerce and another for education —are the ultimate authorities in academic matters.

Foreseeing that such a situation could arise, all the bodies — in their last meeting — took several important decisions.

   
 

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