Ragging sends engineering student to hospital
Computer firms roped in for school service exam
Thief of hearts and cellphones in cop net
Mother and son battered to death
Missionary institutes ask for exemption
Realtors demand land rules review
Constable hurt
City clinic pioneers uterine surgery
Vehicle leads Siliguri kidnap trail to Nepal
Power tussle in CM’s court

Calcutta, Sept. 1: 
Somnath Dey, 19, is today confined to his bed in his Barasat home. Doctors attend on him round the clock.

But just a fortnight ago, he was like any other fresher in the state-aided College of Engineering and Management Kolaghat (CEMK) in Midnapore when he took admission to the IT course.

Somnath was admitted to the college on August 9 and returned to the college hostel on Independence Day to join his classes the next day. But his seniors tortured him every night in the name of ragging. He reportedly brought this to the notice of the college authorities but to no avail. He left the college hostel on Thursday to return home.

A surgeon of Barasat hospital, who examined him, found injuries in his genitals. “It may affect his organs. One can be sure of his condition only after conducting more tests,” said Jawaharlal Banerjee, the surgeon.

Somnath has already lodged a complaint (GD-3029, dated 31.08.2001) with the Barasat police station. Police have not taken any action so far. “We received the complaint only 24 hours ago. It is too short a time to take action. We are establishing contact with the Midnapore police,” said an officer of the Barasat police station.

Reacting to Somnath’s allegation, Jatin Kumar Das, college principal, said the matter was being probed. “This is the first time that such an incident has taken place in my college. I have set up a five-member committee to probe the matter,” he added. The committee, headed by C.R. Mahato, head of the electrical wing, has been asked to file its report within September 6.

Somnath’s father is a labourer who works outside West Bengal. Gouri, his mother, is a medical attendant at Barasat hospital.

Somnath broke down on Saturday while recalling his first few days in hostel. “Around 8 pm, after class, at least 10 second-year students entered my room and ordered me to go to the canteen with them. They got three boiled potatoes and asked me to swallow all three at the same time. When I failed, five of them pinned me down, while the others tried to force them into my mouth. I started vomiting,” he said.

The senior students took him to the playground, where they stripped him and asked him to roll around. “I kept rolling for over half an hour. Then, they threw me into a pond on the college campus. I had to remain in the water for over an hour,” said Somnath.

Around 10 pm, when he returned to his room, another group of students came in and started beating him up. “They left after 10 minutes,” he said.

But his ordeal had just begun. Around 2 am, a group of third year students dragged him to their room. “They forced me to undress and started hitting me in my genitals. As I slumped on the floor, some of them pounced on me,” said Somnath.

Next day, Somnath had a high fever. “I reported my experience to the principal. But he said my allegations were baseless as nothing of the sort had ever happened in the college. I applied for leave and left,” he said.

However, there were discrepancies between the statements of the victim and the principal. Somnath said he had met the principal, whereas Das told The Telegraph that the student’s relatives telephoned him to make the complaint. “Even Somnath’s roommates are not supporting his charge,” he said.

“However, if anyone is found guilty he will be punished,” Das said.


Calcutta, Sept. 1: 
For the first time, computer firms will help the School Service Commission conduct examinations. The decision to appoint three firms to handle all examination-related work comes in the wake of a record number of applications this year.

More than 2.5 lakh candidates are likely to appear in this year’s test for recruiting teachers in over 12,000 state-aided secondary schools in Bengal. The examination is slated for October 14.

Arun Kiran Chakraborty, the newly-appointed chairman of School Service Commission, said: “The number of candidates for the school service examination is increasing every year. The commission’s present infrastructure is not adequate to tackle the huge workload, which is why we have decided to engage computer firms,” said Chakraborty.

The firms will draw up lists of the applicants and prepare their admit cards. They have also been asked to prepare the results once the examinations are over.

Tests will be conducted to recruit teachers in nearly 60 subjects taught at various state-aided schools across West Bengal. The commission’s workload increased this time with the introduction of some subjects this year.

SLET date announced

The State Level Eligibility Test (SLET) is slated for January 6, 2002, said Ajit Banik, State College Service Commission chairman, on Saturday. The SLET will be conducted to recruit lecturers in 340 state-funded colleges. Questions for the examination will be based on the modified syllabi as recommended by the University Grants Commission, the chairman said. Application forms for the SLET will be distributed from September 10.


Calcutta, Sept. 1: 
Hirak Das didn’t know what was in store for him when he put out an advertisement last April in a newspaper inviting “young girls” to call his mobile number “for friendship.” A few hours after the newspaper hit the stands, Das’ cellphone rang and a woman, identifying herself as Praveen, asked him to meet her at a Lake Market restaurant in the evening.

Das met Praveen and took her out to dinner. After some time, Praveen “suddenly remembered she had to inform her mother that she would be late.” Das offered Praveen his mobile and she left the restaurant, asking Das to wait “for a moment”.

Hours passed, but Praveen did not return. Das realised that he had been conned and registered a complaint with the Tollygunge police station.

On Friday night, the police busted the mobile phone theft racket. In two separate raids, five persons, including the woman, were arrested.

The arrests brought to light the latest modus operandi of swiping cellphones. Praveen Masabbar, alias Sudeshna Upadhyay, a 22-year-old woman identified as the brains behind the operation, would scrutinise newspaper advertisements inviting offers of ‘friendship’ from young women. She would call up to accept the “invitation” and “sit for long hours at restaurants” before decamping with her “new-found friend’s mobile phone”.

Praveen confessed to duping a dozen advertisers in this way during interrogation on Saturday.

On Friday night, after receiving a tip-off, a police team lay in wait at a Lake Market restaurant where Praveen came to meet a man. She was immediately whisked away to the police station and half an hour later, another person, Mollah Abdul, later identified as her husband, was picked up from his Taratala residence. Six mobile phones have been recovered from the duo and a hunt has been launched to arrest their associates in Ultadanga and Maniktala, said officer-in-charge of Tollygunge police station Prakash Ghosh.

In another case on Friday, the burglary section of the detective department, arrested three persons in Beleghata on charges of operating a mobile phone theft racket. The arrested men — identified as Pankaj Agarwal, Moloy Samaddar and Uttam Ghosh — confessed to stealing mobile phones from offices and parked vehicles. Two phones were recovered from them. “They used to sell off the phones at nominal rates,” a police officer said.

During interrogation, they revealed that mobile phones, worth around Rs 6,000 each, would be sold for Rs 3,500. “They offer such low rates that people buy from them without bothering to verify the source. We are on the lookout for their accomplices,” the official added.


Kharagpur, Sept. 1: 
The heads of a 45-year-old woman, Bithika Mandal, and her son, Debasis, were smashed with a large stone used to grind spices on Friday night at their home in the Old Settlement of Kharagpur. The blood-stained stone was found near the bodies, which have been sent for post-mortem. Bithika’s youngest son, Subhasis, was arrested on Saturday in this connection.

After the death of Debasis’ father, who was a constable in the Railway Protection Force (RPF), Debasis got a job in the force two years ago. Police said he landed the job on the basis of a no-objection certificate given by her mother to the RPF authorities. Subhasis, who was also keen on joining the RPF, had left home after his mother nominated her elder son for their father’s job. He was missing till now, police said.

The assailants had sneaked into Mandal’s house through an opening in the bathroom and killed both mother and son with the stone. Later, Bithika’s body was dragged into the bathroom.

Bithika and her son were sleeping when the assailants entered their house sometime after midnight. A sniffer dog, Kaiser, was pressed into service to trace the killers. The dog, however, could not find out the escape route of the killers. In all probability, both mother and son had gone to bed after dinner on Friday night. The police on Saturday found a bowl full of rice and egg curry on the dining table in Mandal’s house.

The newly-appointed superintendent of police, K.C. Meena, said in Midnapore town on Saturday that perhaps a family feud had precipitated the murders.


Calcutta, Sept. 1: 
Over 400 Christian Missionary schools in the city and elsewhere in the districts on Saturday protested the state government’s refusal to exempt them from the purview of the rules concerning reservation of teaching posts for SC\ST candidates.

For the past five years, the West Bengal Association of Christian Schools has been demanding exemption from the reservation rules for state-aided institutions.

Association spokesperson Herod Mullick on Saturday justified the demand, saying that the schools have a minority status. “We shall organise a rally and observe a token hunger strike on September 27. A more aggressive movement will be launched if our demands are not met,” he said. The association will also seek the intervention of the All India Christian Council, Mullick added.

“The government promised to issue an ordinance in this regard after the current Assembly session, but nothing has been done as yet,” he said, adding that over 200 SC\ST teaching posts in such schools were lying vacant due to non-availability of suitable candidates.

Association members said the government had agreed to keep the minority schools out of the purview of the reservation policy. “But government officials don’t adhere to these rules, despite several reminders,” they said.


Calcutta, Sept. 1: 
The City Developers’ Forum (CDF), a body of real estate developers in Calcutta, has appealed to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to consider a review of the provisions of the Urban Land (Ceiling & Regulation) Act, 1976, which it considers a “major stumbling block towards a resurgent West Bengal”. Flaws in the Act have also triggered random growth in the city, breeding a nexus of fly-by-night promoters and criminals.

In a letter submitted to Bhattacharjee’s office on Friday, Forum secretary Sushil Mohta wrote: “The Act continues to pose a deterrent to the growth of the housing sector. The futility of the Act was realised from available data and its analysis, which resulted in its repeal centrally.”

CDF argues that states like Karnataka, Punjab, Haryana, Goa and Tamil Nadu have either “abolished or suitably modified” the application of the land ceiling provisions. Similarly, while Andhra Pradesh is planning to abolish the Act, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and many other states have introduced “relevant provisions for allowing development of larger urban conglomerations to ensure optimum utilisation of urban land”.

Listing the ills which the “archaic” Act has brought on, the Forum says artificial shortage of land and constructed space in urban areas have triggered a price spiral for smaller parcels and consequently, built-up or habitable areas. Unauthorised fragmentation of larger tracts of land by creating smaller plots without any systematic planning on drainage, sewerage, electricity, common facilities, roads, etc. has led to unplanned growth, contends the CDF.

“Such haphazard development is generally undertaken by unscrupulous promoters, who often cultivate links with small-time criminals for protection,” Mohta said. The application of the antiquated Act has also led to a plethora of pending litigations in various courts of law and encouraged “unwanted practices at various levels”.

The Forum has suggested some corrective measures. The real estate industry feels large tracts of land should be made available for legitimate, organised development and independent townships and colonies should come up in a planned manner.

Accelerating generation of new housing stock to counter artificial shortage, slashing prices of construction space, creation of additional employment towards development infrastructure, and generating revenue by way of taxes, municipal revenues, stamp duty are other dos in the builders’ prescription. The need for an impetus to small-scale industries for manufacturing housing inputs has also been stressed.


Calcutta, Sept. 1: 
A constable belonging to the anti-pollution cell of the city police, S. Das, was knocked down by a truck near Furlong Road on Saturday. Das had asked the truck to stop for a routine inspection around 7.45 am, but the vehicle hit him and sped away. Das was taken to hospital where his condition is stated to be critical.

Financial show: The second day of Finvex 2001, a financial and investment services industry exhibition, saw Calcuttans queuing up at Netaji Indoor Stadium. Participants include UTI, HSBC, Allahabad Bank, SBI Home Finance, ICICI Group and HDFC group. The three-day show was inaugurated on Friday by finance minister Asim Dasgupta.


Calcutta, Sept. 1: 
A new procedure called “endometrial laser intrauterine thermal therapy” can put a stop to excessive bleeding that occurs during menstruation, without going in for the conventional hysterectomy.

Introduced globally on June 12, a 30-year-old woman underwent the procedure on Thursday at Eden Hospital on the Calcutta Medical College compound. The oldest obstetric and gynaecological hospital in Asia became the first institution in the country to carry out this procedure.

It happened during a week-long “trainers’ training” workshop, in which doctors from government hospitals were taught how to use hysteroscopes and conduct gynaecological advanced laparoscopic surgery. The workshop is one of a series of training programmes being conducted by the health department so that doctors become equipped to handle modern gadgets introduced under the Rs 701-crore Health Systems Development Project.

On Saturday, consultant gynaecological endoscopic surgeon Gautam Khastgir said the laser therapy was a watershed in the treatment of menorrhagia, or excessive menstrual bleeding.

About 22 per cent women in the country are affected by heavy bleeding during menstruation. Sometimes, their menstrual period lasts for a week instead of three days.

Traditional treatments have included hormonal drug therapy, ablation or surgical removal of the endometrium (the lining inside the uterus), and total removal of the uterus (hysterectomy). Though often effective, there are potential drawbacks in these procedures, which often discourage women from seeking treatment.

“But with this laser application, the entire endometrial surface can be accessed. The main operation is just a seven-minute procedure and achieves results without cutting open the abdomen to remove the uterus,” Khastgir said. “Patients can walk out of the hospital within 24 hours with just a dull pain in the lower abdomen that disappears the next day.”

Explaining how the procedure works, Peter Laser, managing director of Karl Storz - Endoskope, said a diode laser manufactured by his company is used to destroy the endometrium. “After a pelvic and cervical examination is carried out through hysteroscopy to rule out other causes of bleeding, an applicator containing the diode laser is inserted in the uterine cavity.

“A diffused laser beam is then emitted in all directions of the uterus in three phases that last seven minutes. The energy emitted burns the outer lining without damaging the inner wall of the uterus or the ovaries.”

The procedure is done on an average-sized uterus. “The dead tissue comes out the next morning. There is very little or no bleeding during menstruation subsequently,” Khastgir said.

The procedure can be applied on women who don’t want children anymore. “Once carried out, she cannot bear children.” This technique can avoid premature menopause that is brought about by hysterectomy.


Siliguri, Sept. 1: 
Eight days after Siliguri businessman Mukesh Agarwal’s abduction, the special investigation team (SIT) is still groping in the dark even as the Bihar police believe the abductors may have fled into Nepal or criminal-infested areas of northern Bihar.

The SIT, which conducted a series of raids in neighbouring eastern Bihar’s Kishanganj and Purnea districts under Operation Panther, have returned empty-handed. The SIT’s failure, to even trace the victim or identify the masterminds behind Agarwal’s abduction, has even stirred up the state administration. The government yesterday rushed additional director-general of police (administration) Ajay Prasad to Siliguri to bolster the investigation.

Bihar police have identified a trans-border kidnap mafia gang, which operates in the Siliguri-Kishanganj-Araria-Purnea, to be behind the abduction.

Purnea superintendent of police K. Surinder Babu said the recovery of a white Tata Sumo, at Bahadurganj in Kishanganj district bordering Nepal, suggests that the gang may have already slipped into neighbouring Nepal, barely 10 km to the north or may have taken shelter in the criminal-infested remote riverine belt of Khagaria-Begusarai-Naugachia.

The police chief admitted that the gang, has so far managed to give the police a slip. “Though we have identified the gang behind the kidnap, we cannot disclose the name of the gang in the interest of investigations. This well-organised gang, which specialises in abductions, is active along the Siliguri-Kishanganj-Araria-Purnea belt,” he said.

Maintaining that the gang has so far managed to elude arrest banking on its organised network of informers, Surinder Babu said: “Several joint operations by the Bengal police, led by the SDPO Islampur, have so far failed to yield results. Ever since the abduction, the gang is being kept well informed of the police movement and is constantly on the move. Shifting from one hideout to another, giving us the slip. It has managed to stay a step or two ahead of the police with the help of a well-organised network of informers. We now have reason to believe that the gang has slipped into Nepal. The site from where we recovered the kidnap vehicle at Bahadurganj suggests that they may have slipped into Nepal along the border just 10 km north.

Surinder Babu said: “That the possibility was that the gang, along with the victim, may have entered the remote Khagaria-Begusarai-Naugachia riverine area. The entire area, the worst-affected by the floods, is inaccessible. But criminals operating in the region have a network of countryboats to negotiate the riverine area. It acts as an ideal hideout for any individual or gang on the run. Even the law-enforcing agencies are reluctant to venture in the region.”

“Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, during his visit to Siliguri on Sunday, had instructed that the matter be given top priority. The chief minister is being kept informed of the progress, which we admit is slow but heading in the right direction. To pep up investigations and take stock of the situation, we have rushed ADG (administration) Ajay Prasad to Siliguri. The ADG has personally visited the kidnap site and also interrogated the witness and family members yesterday,” Bhattacharya said.


Calcutta, Sept. 1: 
Power minister Mrinal Banerjee will seek chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s intervention to resolve the on-going dispute between CESC and the West Bengal State Electricity Board (WBSEB) over the Calcutta’s power utility’s failure to clear its dues.

The state power board has restricted supply to CESC and demanded an amendment to the power utility’s licence to exclude the entire western side of the Hooghly river from the command area of the power-generating agency and bring it under the WBSEB.

The electricity board is now supplying power to the tune of 210 mw against CESC’s demand of 330 mw in the evening peak period.

Talking to The Telegraph today, Banerjee said: “The consumers are suffering due to continuation of the dispute. The government intends to take a quick decision on the matter. I will be meeting the chief minister next week to sort out the problem.”

Banerjee said CESC vice-chairman Sanjiv Goenka has already spoken to him. Goenka felt it would be difficult to clear the dues unless the regulatory commission allows a tariff hike.

The minister further added that the WBSEB was taking similar steps against all its creditors. “It will not spare anybody. Even government offices and municipalities will have to pay their dues. They have to generate revenue to keep their noses above water. I understand their problem, but they also have to pay to their creditors like National Thermal Power Corporation.”

The WBSEB, however, is determined not to resume supply to CESC till it agrees to pay its dues according to the existing agreement and plans to reduce it further. The WBSEB has said that CESC has failed to pay Rs 49 crore against current bills and Rs 36 crore against old dues payable by August 31.

Rajiv Dube, WBSEB secretary, has written a letter to the power secretary reiterating the earlier proposal for taking away the entire western side of the Hooghly river from CESC’s command area according to Section 4A of the Indian Electricity Act, 1910. It had forwarded similar proposals earlier to the state government in March 1999 and April 2000 as laid down in the resolutions adopted at the 510th and 520th meetings of the board.

A senior power department official said CESC’s dues to the state board could be adjusted against the power utility’s assets if it agreed to hand over the areas to the western side of the Hooghly. “WBSEB has placed its demand before us. We will discuss the matter with the chief minister before taking a final decision,” Banerjee said.

CESC, which has so far been non-committal on WBSEB’s proposal, feels it will be able to fully clear its dues only after it is allowed to increase the tariff. However, several agencies such as Bharat Chamber of Commerce and All-Bengal Power Consumers’ Association feel CESC should not be allowed to pass on to consumers its losses on account of coal pilferage in transit, high administrative expenditure and its failure to fully exploit the capacity of its power plants.

CESC managing director Sumantra Banerjee, in a letter to the power secretary, said the company has already paid Rs 135 crore in full and has also paid another Rs 5 crore towards the disputed amount.

The remaining Rs 17 crore of the disputed amount relating to the January 2001-July 2001 payment period will be addressed progressively and cleared by October 31.

CESC further added that the company could not address the current bill that was payable in August. The company has promised that its dues payable in September and October would be paid in full.


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