College fan crashes on girl
Darkness at dusk for bill default
Delist threat to heritage houses
Scam taint on white-cap corps
Success-story showcase for students
Stadium twist to arrests
Exam delay irks art students
Parents seek safety check
Kidnap heat on CPM leader
Holiday turns horror ride

Calcutta, Aug. 28: 
Afsana Parveen, a first-year student of Victoria College, in Rajabazar, was in the common room on Tuesday morning, taking a break between classes. Suddenly, the ceiling fan whirring on top of her head came crashing down.

“Afsana fell to the floor… She had a series of convulsions… Then, she lost consciousness,” said Salma, one of her friends.

Afsana, who lives in Titagarh, was rushed to Nilratan Sirkar Medical College. At 2 pm, nearly six hours after the accident, Afsana was lying gasping for breath on a trolley in one of the shoddy wards of NRS. “She is not out of danger, as she has been complaining of breathing problems and nausea,” said doctors attending on her. When the hospital failed to make arrangements for a CT Scan till the evening, Afsana’s family decided to shift her to a private nursing home.

Back in the 70-year-old college at Rajabazar, employees said the iron hook from which the fan was hanging had become rusty. “The old hook could not bear the load of the heavy fan any more. On Tuesday morning, the fan slipped off the hook and fell on Afsana,” an employee said.

Sumitra Choudhury, principal of Victoria College, announced an “immediate compensation” of Rs 10,000 for Afsana’s treatment. “We are extremely sorry for the mishap… Since ours is a state-funded college, we do not have a corpus for providing compensation to students under normal circumstances. But in this case, we will try and organise donations from our staff and students and provide as much financial help we can provide to Afsana,” said Choudhury.

Tuesday’s incident has yet again brought into focus the “poor condition” of government-funded institutions. Two students of Calcutta University died and at least six have been seriously injured in accidents caused by “lack of maintenance” of old buildings.

“A perennial cash crunch has prevented us from maintaining the college building properly,” admitted Choudhury. “But now that we have started charging higher fees, following the government’s fee-hike decision, we hope to improve the condition of the buildings. We must prevent a recurrence of Tuesday’s tragic incident,” she added.

Nandita Chatterjee, general secretary of the SFI-controlled students’ union at Victoria College said members will “take up the matter” with senior leaders of the students’ body. Union members submitted a deputation to the principal demanding “proper maintenance of the college”.


Calcutta, Aug. 28: 
Black Wednesday. That’s what Calcuttans will have to brace for, with the West Bengal State Electricity Board (WBSEB) deciding to slash power supply to CESC.

At present, CESC draws 330 mw from WBSEB. But from Wednesday, the Board will supply only 210 mw to the private power utility. The result — widespread power cuts “for at least an hour every evening” in large parts of the city. Besides Greater Calcutta, parts of Howrah and Hooghly will also be affected.

Senior WBSEB officials said on Tuesday that CESC “has not complied with the agreement” it had entered into for clearance of dues and payment of current energy bills. “Under the circumstances, we have decided to slash supply by 120 mw. This will continue till CESC clears its dues,” they said.

“CESC initially paid Rs 70 crore as a lumpsum-agreed amount and had been paying the current monthly bills in full till May 2001. But since June, it has been defaulting in its monthly bills. Against the bill of Rs 40 crore for June, CESC has paid Rs 23 crore. It has fully defaulted in paying the July 2001 bill of Rs 32 crore, payable by August 17,” Board officials said.

CESC officials, however, said they have paid WBSEB Rs 216 crore since January 2001 out of Rs 233 crore payable for arrears and made payments in full up to June. “Mobilising funds from lenders is a problem at the moment. Once the tariff award is announced, progressive regularisation will begin of WBSEB’s payments from the additional funds,” a CESC official explained.

Power minister Mrinal Banerjee said: “WBSEB is meeting the demand of its consumers and supplying power to CESC by purchasing power from outside sources. The Board is required to pay its power-purchase bills through letters of credit. So, it has become difficult for the Board to continue power supply to CESC without ensuring payment. After all, this is a business deal.”


Calcutta, Aug. 28: 
More than 1,300 buildings and structures identified for preservation by the government- appointed, nine-member heritage committee of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation have been “delisted automatically” with the promulgation of the West Bengal Heritage Commission Act, 2001, on August 1.

In the wake of the controversy surrounding the demolition of the “heritage gate” at 5, Russell Street, mayor Subrata Mukherjee drew attention to the Heritage Act on Tuesday. “It has been clearly stated in the gazette notification that ‘no local authority shall take any step for identification, preservation, conservation or restoration of any heritage building not consistent with the determination or advice of the commission’,” Mukherjee said.

The Heritage Commission Act had been enforced all over the state and the CMC area has “not been excluded” from its purview. “I am confused,” admitted municipal commissioner Debasish Som, also chairman of the CMC heritage committee.


Calcutta, Aug. 28: 
There’s no missing them on the way to the airport. The white-cap brigade wielding lathis and megaphones to enforce traffic rules at every chaotic crossroad between Keshtopur and Kaikhali.

There are around 2,000 of them – all local residents recruited by the Rajarhat-Gopalpur municipality at a monthly salary of Rs 2,500. It adds up to a wage bill of Rs 45-50 lakh every month that the fledgling municipality has to foot.

This has sparked trouble in the CPM unit, with allegations of municipal leaders “employing people flouting all recruitment laws and meeting the expenses through dubious means and by diverting funds for restoration of Bagjola bypass channel no. 2 and Cantonment canal” flying thick and fast.

The “unfair practices” of the municipality have even come under the scanner of the government. “We have set up an inquiry commission to probe the source of funds. We have served a showcause notice on the municipality and stopped all funds for planned and non-planned expenditure of the municipality, pending the probe report,” Asok Bhattacharya, minister-in-charge urban development and municipal affairs, said on Tuesday.

But municipality chairman Tapas Chatterjee appears unfazed. “It’s a new municipality and there are various development projects going on in the area. As we don’t have enough people to monitor these activities, we have recruited locals on a casual basis. The decision was approved unanimously by the municipal board.”

Chatterjee insists that the civic body is relying on “internal resources” to meet the expenses and that “the programme will continue till Kali Puja... Our mode of funding is unique and we haven’t diverted anything from any other fund,” he claimed.

With the local CPM unit split down the middle, why is the Trinamul Congress maintaining a studied silence? “Under normal circumstances, the Trinamul would have raised the issue in the Assembly. But their lips are sealed as 30 per cent of the new recruits owe allegiance to the Trinamul Congress. So, it’s a ‘grassroots’ deal between the CPM and the Trinamul,” alleges a CPM functionary in Rajarhat.

“Some of our councillors have been influenced by the ruling CPM here,” admits local Trinamul MLA Tanmoy Mondal. “We know that there is something wrong in the way things are being done… But then, we can’t campaign against the programme in view of the employment opportunity it provides to local youth.”

According to a section of local CPM leaders, “several lakhs have been siphoned off” from the canal restoration fund. “The recruitment policy is nothing but a ploy to create a source of income for party workers. These recruits don’t come to work regularly, they don’t sign any attendance register and most of them just come to collect salaries,” they claim.

With a section of the Rajarhat CPM questioning the funds management of the programme, a local committee secretary in the area has threatened to quit, say insiders. “The unethical practice of the municipality was even brought to the notice of Politburo member Prakash Karat when he met leaders of various factions last month. With the party top brass doing nothing to stem the rot, we have decided to distance ourselves from the functioning of the municipality,” a disgruntled CPM leader said.


Calcutta, Aug. 28: 
They were all rapt in attention, lapping up the tales of triumph. Of how Henry Ford went broke five times, how Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind was turned down by 25 publishers, how John D. Rockefeller began by selling turkeys when he was just seven, or, in our own backyard, the fairytale rags-to-riches saga of Dhirubhai Ambani and the inspirational story of “early bird” Ritu Kumar.

All of them bubbly Class XI-XII students, from La Martiniere for Boys and Girls, Loreto House... Soaking in the basic attributes of a successful entrepreneur and wisening up to the changing perceptions of the Indian economy. From maharajas to dotcom tycoons, bullock carts to satellites, snake charmers to Nobel Laureates, spice trade to software exports, Raj Kapoor to Hrithik Roshan.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has taken a novel initiative to city school campuses, telling the students, through a 25-minute audio-visual presentation, that in the changing job scenario, entrepreneurship needs to be looked at as “a serious option”. The Powerpoint presentation takes the teens on a myriad journey through ancient Indian civilisation, the mixed economy concept, the Hindu rate of growth, the balance-of-payment crisis, reforms and liberalisation and the changing economic perceptions.

The brainchild of Harshavardhan Neotia, chairman, CII, Eastern Region, the Interaction with Schools programme is slated to cover “10 to 12 schools”. The basic thrust of the catch ’em young presentation, anchored by Neotia, is infotainment. Hence, the show has a fair sprinkling of songs from Hrithik Roshan and Aamir Khan-starrers, jokes in context, anecdotes and quotable quotes. A lively question-answer session follows, with students wanting to know more about basmati patenting and anti-dumping laws, invasion of Chinese goods and US recession.

The presentation has fired the imagination of some entrepreneurs of tomorrow. “It was a wonderful experience. We had initially thought it would be a boring session on business matters. But it turned out to be extremely exciting and educative. We learnt how the focus is shifting from traditional jobs to entrepreneurial activities,” says Vidhi Sethia, Class XII student of La Martiniere for Girls.

“My whole objective was to leave the students on an optimistic note despite the present problems. While acknowledging our deficiencies, I wanted to tell them there’s nothing to feel despondent about,” explains Neotia, adding that the CII is considering making such presentations to city schools an annual affair.

The programme aims to drill in the thought that “entrepreneurship is not about big money, but about determination, zeal and patience”. Judging by the sharp and informed questions “the content is being driven home”.

Modern High, South Point, Don Bosco, Park Circus, and St Xavier’s are some of the schools which can look forward to the presentation powered by the message that “time is now ripe for entrepreneurs in this brand new century”. That an entrepreneur “leads the pack, wants to work for himself and create for fulfilment, is always persistent, sees beyond and has imagination, attitude, courage and momentum”.


Calcutta, Aug. 28: 
With the arrest of four Dum Dum and Lake Town-based goons in the Muchipara area on Monday morning, the police are close to tracking down Palash Das, a suspect in the Salt Lake stadium case.

The arrested youth were identified as Probir Biswas, alias Khoor Bapi; Sanjay Jaiswal; alias Sanju; Babu Sarkar, alias Potla; and Arindam Mondal, alias Bapi. Biswas and Sanju are based in Dum Dum, while Sarker and Mondal live in Lake Town.

Preliminary investigation indicates that all four goons are backed by CPM leaders of the North 24-Parganas district. “Two of them have strong political links,” said a senior police officer.

Muchipara police station officials patrolling the area spotted the four youth, who had assembled there to commit a dacoity.

Initially, the police thought that they were plotting a dacoity. “But during interrogation, different stories started to emerge. Biswas, along with his accomplices, had possibly gathered there to take revenge on Palash’s gang. They had planned to eliminate one of Palash’s aides,” said an officer.

“Biswas had a narrow escape after Palash attempted to kill him a few weeks ago. The bullet had pierced his hand,” an officer added. The goons opposed to Pinaki Mitra and Palash Das have presumably joined hands in criminal activities in the Dum Dum area.

Some of Palash’s associates have taken refuge either in Muchipara or in its adjoining areas, police said. “Accompanied by Biswas, we have raided a few hideouts in Muchipara,” sources said.

The police suspect that Biswas and Jaiswal belonged to the Bhakti-Mukti gang, operating from R.N. Guha Road. Sleuths believe the youth may have been involved in several other criminal activities. “They may be able to throw some light on the August 13 murder of Dum Dum municipality chairman Sailen Das.”

A sophisticated revolver and five cartridges were recovered from them. “We don’t know how they had got hold of the revolver, which seems to be China-made. They might have had hatched bigger plans,” police added.

Night-long raids

The South 24-Parganas police raided several places in Behala, Thakurpukur and Regent Park to arrest 10 criminals. Police said these criminals were wanted for several incidents of crime in the areas. The night-long raid was led by DSP Subhankar Chatterjee.


Calcutta, Aug. 28: 
Students of Master of Visual Arts (MVA) in the Government College of Art and Craft are up in arms against the delay in conducting examinations. The authorities’ failure to hold tests on schedule has led to a loss of time and money, alleged the students.

The first batch of the two-year MVA course — the June ’98-May ’99 session — took its Part-I examinations in May-June 2000. The tests were scheduled for June 1999. The batch sat for its Part II tests in June-July 2001, a year behind schedule. The results are still awaited.

Part I tests of the second batch —the June’99-May’2000 session — were held in February-March 2001, instead of May-June 2000. Results are yet to be published.

No tests have yet been held for the June 2000-May 2001 session. “Despite these irregularities, the college is planning a new session soon,” said a student.


Calcutta, Aug. 28: 
Reports of the molestation of an eight-year-old girl by the driver and cleaner of her school bus have sent shockwaves through guardians who send their wards school by chartered bus. On Tuesday, parents flocked to the West Bengal Contract Carriage Owners’ and Operators’ Association at Kalighat to demand precautionary measures. There are about 1,200 chartered buses carrying nearly a lakh students of various schools.

Although the owner of the bus involved is not a member of the association, an emergency meeting was convened in the evening where members were asked to submit detailed information on their bus drivers and cleaners.

“We will keep one set of information and submit a second set to the police. Parents have been calling us up since the morning. They must be feeling insecure after what has happened,” said Himadri Ganguly, general secretary of the association.

Driver Kashinath Das and cleaner Tulsi were produced in court on Tuesday and were remanded in police custody till September 8.

Police said the Class II student used to travel from her Kudghat residence to Gariahat in a chartered bus to attend a reputed school there. On the way back, when she was alone between Anwar Shah Road and Kudghat, the two would pull up the tinted glass windows and molest her. According to the police, the girl was raped at least thrice since August 10.

The girl had become depressive and was refusing food. Last Friday, her mother noticed she was bleeding. On being questioned, she recounted her ordeal. The girl was hospitalised on Sunday and the duo was arrested on Monday.


Siliguri, Aug. 28: 
Police have questioned an influential CPM leader in connection with the kidnapping of an amusement centre owner, Mukesh Agarwal, sending political circles into a tizzy and sparking more questions on the nexus between politicians and criminals.

The special investigation team (SIT) of the Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri police questioned the CPM leader, who is also a businessman, at his Sevoke Road residence for two hours last night. Agarwal, 21, the owner of Millennium Paradise on Sevoke Road on the outskirts of Siliguri , was abducted on Friday.

SIT officials were tight-lipped on why the politician was questioned, saying nothing could be divulged for the “sake of investigation”. “The leader is well-connected and has lot of contacts with the underworld in Bihar,” is all an SIT official was willing to say.

A senior district police official was more forthcoming. “The leader in question has complete sway over the Sevoke Road locality, the commercial hub of the region. Without his knowledge, nothing moves in the area. So much is his influence in trading, real estate and contract jobs that not a single deal can be struck without his knowledge. So it is not surprising that the SIT has questioned him. It may either be to seek his expertise or use his contacts with the underworld in eastern Bihar, from where the gang is suspected to operate.”

The questioning of the CPM leader has raised eyebrows in party circles as it comes close on the heels of abduction of Khadim’s owner, Parthapratim Roy Burman, and the murder of Dum Dum municipality chairman Sailen Das. In the Khadim’s case, police have arrested Chunnu Mian, a crimelord from Tiljala with whom some local CPM leaders are said to have links. In Das’ murder, the police have arrested a former CPM leader and accused him of hatching the conspiracy.

Deputy inspector-general of police (CID) N.R. Roy and senior superintendent of police (CID) K. Harirajan reached Siliguri today to supervise the investigations. They held a meeting with members of the SIT headed by superintendent of railway police Ajoy Kumar.

The SIT has narrowed its investigation down to two aspects. “We have already launched a rescue operation codenamed Panther. SIT officials, in collaboration with their Bihar counterparts, are trying to locate Mukesh who is believed to be held at a hideout in eastern Bihar. We have zeroed in on three eastern Bihar-based kidnap mafia gangs which operate in Purnea, Krishnganj and Araria,” an official said.

Though the SIT is concentrating on the Bihar angle, it has not ruled out the possible involvement of the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO). “ The KLO angle is also being checked. But our primary concern at this moment is the safe return of Mukesh,” the official said.

Though Agarwal’s relatives maintain they have not received any ransom call, the SIT believes otherwise. “We are sure that the family has already received a ransom call. The kidnappers may have made the call through a relative or friend of the family.”


Siliguri, Aug. 28: 
An 11-year-old boy from Shibpur, found loitering at New Jalpaiguri station, was today rescued by railway police.

Suman had accompanied a “friend” of his father, Debi Prasad Chotopadhayay, a railway employee, for a “holiday”. However, little did he know that he would be abandoned hundreds of miles away from home.

This morning, a book-stall owner spotted Suman on the platform looking for “Pradeep uncle”. He was handed over to the railway police at 11 am.

The police informed his parents at Shibpur, who rushed to New Jalpaiguri this evening.

Speaking to The Telegraph, the computer-savvy youngster recalled his ordeal. On Monday afternoon, the Class V student was alone at his Bitaitolla residence in Shibpur, having skipped school as he was unwell. His mother was away to fetch his younger brother from school. A dark-complexioned man arrived and introduced himself as Pradeep Roy of Siliguri, a friend of Suman’s father.

“He said since my exams were over and I was on a holiday, my father had asked him to take me to a trip to Sikkim and Darjeeling. Initially, I doubted him because my summer holidays were already over and so were my exams. But the man insisted that he knew my father and where he worked. When I showed my reluctance, he threatened me and forced me to pack a few clothes into my school bag. In the evening, we boarded the Kamrup Express,” Suman said.

“Throughout the journey, Pradeep uncle regaled me with stories of his family and house in Siliguri. This morning we got off the train. Saying he was going to the toilet, the man took my bag and disappeared,” recounted the youngster.

Santosh Singha Roy, office-in-charge (general railway police) of New Jalpaiguri, said: “Suman claimed that he had alighted from a Guwahati-bound train at 7 am and the man, who had forcibly brought him, then disappeared. We suspect that Suman was either kidnapped for ransom or was a potential victim of the human organ trade.”

“We have put all police stations in the area on alert and have provided the boy’s description of the kidnapper to them,” Roy added.

Twenty injured in clash: Police resorted to lathicharge and the Rapid Action Force was deployed when two groups clashed at Nerodighi in Burdwan today. At least 20 persons were injured.


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