Tech watchdog left toothless
Abducted youth returns home after 28 days
Snags leave city in dark
Terror top draw between the covers
The City Diary
High court rap on illegal constructions
Keep-off-canines warning to civic employees
Block ban hits Basu bump
Ticketless youth dies in escape bid

Calcutta, Sept. 28: 
A private management institution in Calcutta: AICTE’s method of granting approval is arbitrary and lacks transparency. It hinders, rather than helps, spread of technical education.

The All India Council for Technical Education: Close monitoring of the technical and management education sector is crucial to ensure standardisation and check mushrooming of sub-standard institutes.

The war of words between AICTE and the private management and technical institutions has taken a dramatic turn following the Supreme Court judgment on September 24. The apex court, hearing a case between AICTE and Chennai-based Bharathidasan University, has ruled that it is “not obligatory” for a university to seek and secure approval from the Council to start a department or an institution to conduct technical courses.

For thousands of students of such private institutes in Calcutta, the ruling clears the confusion regarding the validity of their degrees. The academic future of students of the Institute of Modern Management (IMM), Eastern Institute of Integrated Learning in Management (EIILM), National Institute of Management (NIM) and many others had come under a cloud this summer, when AICTE declared that the status of Visva-Bharati, to which these institutes were attached, was “non- affiliatory”.

This, in effect, meant that the students’ degrees or diplomas would “not be recognised”.

For Dr. N.G. Choudhury, director, IMM, the court verdict marks “the beginning of the end” for AICTE. “The ruling clearly indicates that there was nothing wrong in our association with Visva-Bharati. But we had to sever ties with the university under pressure from the Council,” he said.

Amit Sengupta, director, EIILM, questioned the very system of AICTE approval. He described the method as “mechanical”, and “lacking objective assessment”.

But will the watchdog being rendered toothless by the apex court ruling result in students suffering at the hands of fly-by-night tech schools? Sengupta dismissed the suggestion: “At the end of the day, the market will decide the status and worth of an institute, rather the approval of any Council. Now, universities will have to take judicious decisions while granting affiliation.”

According to 22-year-old Moyna, who just passed out of NIM: “No one asked us during our interviews whether the institute had an AICTE tag. What matters is the reputation of the institute and individual ability.”

The September 24 verdict, delivered by Justices S. Rajendra Babu and Doraiswamy Raju, analysed the AICTE Act, 1987, and the UGC Act, 1956, before stating: “The definition of ‘technical institution’ excludes from its purview a university.”

For Visva-Bharati, which has 20 management and technical institutes as its affiliates in Bengal, the ruling is a “second round of victory” over the Council.

“On September 9, we had obtained an absolute injunction from the city civil court which directed AICTE not to interfere with our functioning,” said Prof Sujit Basu, vice chancellor of the Santiniketan-based Central university. He added that the judgment would “clear the confusion” among students over Visva-Bharati’s authority to grant affiliation and degrees.

The AICTE-Visva-Bharati power tussle might not be over yet. Reacting to the verdict, a senior AICTE official in Delhi said: “The court ruling does not change the fact that Visva-Bharati is a non-affiliating unitary university.”

According to sources, all regional directors of AICTE have been summoned to Delhi to chalk out a strategy in the wake of the Supreme Court verdict.


Calcutta, Sept. 28: 
While the CID was busy chasing the abductors of Khadim’s vice-chairman Parthapratim Roy Burman, another kidnap drama was unfolding in north Calcutta. On the morning of August 30, just as 22-year-old Jitendra Bothra, son of a computer dealer, was stepping out of his office on Bagbazar Street, four men emerged from a Maruti van and blocked his path. Before Jitendra could cry for help, they shoved him into the van and sped away.

Twenty-eight days later, on Thursday night, Jitendra quietly returned to his Howrah home. Police believe his father, Sunderlal Bothra, may have paid “a hefty ransom”. Unlike the case of a 16-year-old boy from a central Calcutta school who was kidnapped and rescued on Monday, the police played no part in bringing Jitendra home.

The day Jitendra was kidnapped, his father had rushed to Shyampukur police station and lodged an FIR. The police took down all details of the abduction, but it took them two full days to instal caller-line identification (CLI) machines at the Howrah and Burrabazar homes of the Bothras. By then, the ransom calls had started coming in. The amount demanded for Jitendra’s release at the onset: Rs 30 lakh. The police, while keeping the matter under wraps, asked the Bothra family to continue negotiations with the abductors.

For the next seven days, the ransom talks continued. No one knows — or is not telling — the figures discussed thereafter. The police were busy tapping phone lines, trying to figure out where the calls were coming from. All calls were made from public phone booths in Bidhan Park and Sinthi More, in Cossipore.

After tracing the numbers, the police conducted extensive raids in the Cossipore area, but failed to track the abductors.

Officials said that having anticipated such a move — the wide coverage given to the Khadim’s case may have provided the abductors with a few tips on how to stay ahead of the police — they had decided to keep on shifting base to give the cops the slip.

After a few days, the calls from the Cossipore area dried up. Then, the calls started coming in from phone booths in Uttarpara and Serampore.

“They proved be quite clever,” admitted Tarapada Dutta, officer-in-charge of Shyampukur police station. “They spoke fluent English, were familiar with computers and knew a great deal about the financial status of the Bothra business.”

The city police then co-ordinated with their district counterparts to conduct joint raids for the abductors. A number of them had taken place in the areas from where the phone calls had been traced. A number of people were even detained, but no arrests made, in Ghoshpara and Belghoria. But the information they got after interrogating the detainees proved insufficient for the police to take any conclusive action.

In a quiet end to the high drama, Jitendra came back home on Thursday. For the record, the police claim that he had been “let off” by the abductors, “after being hounded by the police”.


Calcutta, Sept. 28: 
The city experienced widespread power cuts throughout Friday following snags in the CESC’s Budge Budge and Titagarh plants. The shortfall in Calcutta, Howrah and adjoining areas shot up to 115 mw in the evening peak hours.

Power department sources said the CESC’s generation plummeted after one of its units at the Titagarh plant had to be shut down due to a technical hitch.

To compound matters, the Budge Budge plant generated 170 mw below normal due to a snag in its ash-handling plant. The CESC was forced to seek additional supplies to its grid from the SEB. The SEB provided the CESC grid with 316 mw on Friday evening.

S.K. Deb Road, Sribhumi and Patipukur, in Lake Town, were the worst-hit, with a fault in the high-tension overhead supply line causing prolonged power cuts from 7.45 am.

Even though supply was restored around 11.45 am, it was disrupted again around 2.30 pm for an hour and a half. Power cuts began again from 6 pm and continued for another two-and-a-half hours.

Prolonged power cuts were also reported from north, south and central Calcutta, with Golf Green, Jadavpur, Jodhpur Park, Lake Gardens, Dhakuria, Ballygunge, Behala and New Alipore bearing the brunt.

The SEB, meanwhile, has taken up repair and overhauling work in South 24-Parganas. An SEB spokesperson said on Friday that in order “to strengthen the distribution network” before the Pujas, the overhead 132-KV line between Kasba and Behala was being overhauled.

For this, the Board is resorting to “scheduled power cuts” in Garia, Bansdroni, Baruipur and adjoining areas.

Power department sources said all power-supplying agencies had been asked to check their respective transmission and distribution networks in order to supply uninterrupted power during the Pujas.

“We have calculated that there is a 25 per cent additional load on Panchami and Sasthi, when all offices and factories are open and the pandals are illuminated. If power supply is uninterrupted on these two days, the rest of the Pujas should pass off smoothly. From Saptami onwards, the additional load drops to 15 per cent,” explained a power department official.


Calcutta, Sept. 28: 
Festivity is in the air and the countdown to the Pujas has begun. But the drumbeats of America’s ‘New War’, and not dhaker awaj, seems to be on the Calcutta bookworm’s mind at the moment.

So, terrorism is tops and Nostradamus’ prophecies are the flavour of the month. Even as George Bush vows to hunt down Osama bin Laden in front of a worldwide television audience, Calcuttans are rummaging the racks of every popular bookstore for titles on terror and dire predictions of D-Day.

“The demand for Nostradamus has shot through the roof and we have sold out all copies we had of several titles on the prophecies,” says Gautam Jatia, CEO of Landmark. The rage on the racks is Erika Cheetham’s The Prophecies of Nostradamus by Corgi Books, priced at Rs 190. Even the Millennium edition of the same book, which costs Rs 260, has disappeared off the shelves from city bookstores in no time since the World Trade Center crumbled to the ‘plane bombs’. Landmark, which has ordered 50 more copies of Cheetham’s book, has even run out of stock of a video tape on Nostradamus, Man Who Saw Tomorrow. Leonn Edgar’s Nostradamus and His Prophecies, published by Bell and Hyman and priced at Rs 639, is also a fast mover.

The aura surrounding the world’s ‘most wanted terrorist’ has fuelled demand for Yossef Bodansky’s Bin Laden The Man Who Declared War on America by Prima Publishing, with a price tag of Rs 1,500. Fiction on terror, too, is proving a big draw, with bestsellers like Tom Clancy’s Line of Control and Humphrey Hawksley’s Dragonfire. “The buyers are mostly in the 25-40 age group,” observes Jatia who feels the craze will fizzle out “in a few weeks”.

S.G. Motwani, adviser to Oxford Bookstore-Gallery, however, feels the demand will sustain itself “for months”. The Park Street store, which has sold out “all 25 copies” it had of Cheetham’s Millennium edition in the last five days, has re-ordered a large consignment of Nostradamus books, which are being airlifted from the UK and the US.

“People are also seeking out analysis on war and political equations,” opines Prem Prakash, proprietor, Modern Book Depot, opposite Lighthouse Cinema. The store has found a huge hit in Samuel P. Huntington’s The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order by Penguin, where the author has examined how the conflict between civilisations will dominate the future of world politics. War at Top of the World, by Eric S. Margolis, dealing with Afghanistan, Kashmir and Tibet, is also selling well, as are Strangers of the Mist and Rites of Passage by Sanjoy Hazarika, and Kohima to Kashmir by Prakash Singh.



CMC chief to be back in office

Chairman of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation Anil Mukherjee, who had resigned on Saturday, will attend office on Monday, as the Trinamul Congress leadership urged mayor Subrata Mukherjee not to accept his resignation. This was announced by the mayor on Friday. It is also learnt that Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee had encouraged Anil Mukherjee to tender his resignation in order to put pressure on the mayor as Subrata had not supported the Trinamul leadership in opposing the state government’s plan to evict the settlers along Tolly’s Nullah.

Part II results

The results of this year’s BA, BSc. and B.Com Part II (general) examinations of Calcutta University were announced on Friday. The pass percentages in the three examinations are 92.7 per cent in B.Com, 88 per cent in BA and 96.9 per cent in BSc. The examinations were held in May. Nearly 29,000 students had appeared in the three examinations, of whom 25,036 have passed.

Das assailant

Ismail, one of the three assailants who shot Dum Dum municipality chairman Sailen Das on August 13, was remanded in police custody till October 9. Ismail was produced before the sub-divisional magistrate on Friday. The investigators said Ismail identified the gun that was used to kill Das. He also told the police during interrogation that he had fled to Bongaon after committing the crime. From there, he went to Puri and a few days ago he shifted base to Ajmer Sharif.

Teachers’ protest

Teachers of the state- aided West Bengal University of Animal and Fisheries Science held a sit-in on its premises on Friday, protesting the authorities’ decision not to re-employ two teachers who recently turned 60. The authorities on Friday decided not to grant extension to the two teachers in view of a recent government order banning re-employment of employees in state-funded organisations.

Woman run over

A 45-year-old woman was killed in an accident at Park Circus early on Friday. Police said the killer vehicle could not be traced. She was taken to National Medical College and Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Seven people were killed in road accidents in different parts of the city on Thursday.

Healthcare meet

A citizens’ convention on the state of the public healthcare system in West Bengal, organised by the Medical Service Centre, on Friday ended with the formation of the Hospital O Janaswasthya Raksha Committee. The committee will submit a mass petition, with one million signatures, demanding that the government rolls back its policy for privatisation of the healthcare system.

Held for rape

A 16-year-old deaf-and-mute girl was raped at Mathurbagan Lane, in the Tangra area, on Friday. Gopal Bhowmik, an autorickshaw-driver, was arrested on the basis of a complaint lodged by the girl’s parents. Thumbs up to bharat relief society for providing free medical assistance to the slum-dwellers of Bansdroni every Monday    

Calcutta, Sept. 28: 
Calcutta High Court on Friday rapped the Corporation for not taking proper steps to check illegal constructions. A division bench, comprising Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and justice G. Gupta, directed deputy commissioner of police, central division, to ensure that no illegal constructions come up in the prime locations of central Calcutta. The bench also asked the police to provide assistance to Corporation officials in demolishing illegal structures.

The court passed the order on the basis of a public interest litigation (PIL) , which alleged that at least 40 to 50 unauthorised buildings were coming up with policemen and CMC officials turning a blind eye to building rules.

A resident of central Calcutta, who filed the petition, also submitted a list of unauthorised buildings alongwith its photographs.

Joymalya Bagchi, counsel for the petitioner, said the mushrooming of unauthorised constructions in an unplanned city like Calcutta is adding to the people’s woes. Aloke Ghosh, counsel for CMC, informed that they were fully aware of illegal constructions in the city and have brought it to the notice of police.

The bench also disposed of a petition filed by environmentalist Subhas Dutta, concerning the deplorable condition of morgues. The judges directed that the bodies would have to be properly covered on way to the morgues.

The state health department informed the court that modernisation work has already been completed in 47 morgues.


Calcutta, Sept. 28: 
It’s a tiff between two government agencies. And caught in the middle is the city’s three-and-a-half-lakh-strong street-dog populace.

With complaints pouring in from individuals against over-enthusiastic Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) staff, who have been impounding sterilised and vaccinated dogs granted licences by the CMC itself, the state animal welfare board has decided to ask the civic authorities to showcause its staff’s “self-defeating” and “illegal” acts. Senior board officials recently met NGOs, entrusted with keeping the city’s canine population in check.

“We have decided to tell the CMC bosses to ask their staff to keep off dogs, vaccinated and sterilised by the NGOs with money that comes from the government and public donations,” said board secretary S.K. Haldar.

The state animal resources development department was getting a number of complaints from individuals, which were forwarded by the government-recognised NGOs, officials said.

The government spent a lot of money in helping those NGOs sterilise and vaccinate dogs against rabies, a senior official said.

The city’s 141 wards have, according to an agreement signed between the CMC and a few NGOs, been divided into six zones.

Each zone is entrusted with one NGO, which has the responsibility of conducting vasectomy, hysterectomy operations and vaccinating dogs against rabies and then rehabilitating them in their “original habitat.”

“The six NGOs, along with the ones given charge of Howrah and Baranagar, carry out about 6,000 sterilisation-cum-vaccination operations every year,” said B.B. Dhar, president of the oldest NGO, the Calcutta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. CMC mayor-in-council (health) Javed Ahmed Khan, too, admitted that civic staff had no “authorisation” to catch dogs granted licence by the authorities.


Durgapur, Sept 28: 
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s bid to do away with rail and road blocks today hit the bump of Jyoti Basu’s scepticism.

Two days ahead of an all-party meeting that Bhattacharjee had called to discuss ways to end the culture of blockades, Basu said it would be a “tall order” to bring about the changes.

Addressing a convention of Hindustan Steel Employees’ Union, an affiliate of Citu, Basu said while it was desirable to end blockades, such modes of protests had become tools of the organised trade union movement over time.

“A government will lose the popular mandate to be in office if it tries to effect a ban on the legitimate tools of the trade union movement. These are part and parcel of any organised trade union movement. The government can effectively address the task of improving work culture by seeking the support of unions,” the former chief minister later told a news conference.

The fate of the proposed all-party meeting looked uncertain as the Congress readied plans for demonstrations on different railway platforms from October 1 to protest against the recent hike in fares. The Trinamul Congress was evasive about confirming its participation in the meeting at Writers’ Buildings.

However, mayor Subrata Mukherjee of the Trinamul, said: “We might attend the meeting.”

Echoing him, Pradip Bhattacharya of the Congress said: “Our party will not cry off Buddhababu’s exercise.”

Basu, however, said it would be wrong to term the trade unions militant if they organised blockades, demonstrations or strikes to realise their legitimate demands after exhausting all formal channels of redress.

“What does militant trade unionism mean? Organising road blockades and strikes do not constitute militant trade unionism,” he said, calling upon industrial workers to fight against the Centre’s disinvestment policy.

“You must carry out your movement. This is the last chance to protect yourselves. Don’t let everything rest on the state government. Don’t let the Centre and its policies destroy whatever you still have,” Basu said.

He, however, defended the contract system of employment, contesting the views of Citu general secretary M.K. Pandhe.

Basu wondered how one could ignore the contract system “in a capitalist economy”. But he added that contract labourers should be given statutory benefits.

This was the second time when the veteran CPM politburo member had spoken in favour of “the workers’ right to organise blockades and strikes”. Earlier this month, Basu had made a similar observation while addressing a convention of bus workers at the Salt Lake stadium.


Calcutta, Sept. 28: 
A youth lost his life today trying to flee ticket-checkers at the Sonarpur station. Another had to be hospitalised with serious burn injuries.

An unidentified youth died when he jumped out of a Sealdah-bound train after a co-passenger spotted the special red train with mobile ticket-checkers waiting at the Sonarpur station around 7 am. Though others jumped with him, the youth was the only one who hit a signal-post, Sealdah superintendent of railway police G.P. Singh said. He died before he could be given medical attention, police said.

Another youth, Raju Mandal, 23, received burn injuries after he touched the overhead electric wire at the station while trying to flee the ticket-checkers. Mandal, who is from Canning, was travelling on the roof of the overcrowded train with some others.

As the train entered the platform, Mandal started running towards the end of the train, witnesses said. He, however, touched the high-voltage overhead wire while trying to jump between two compartments. Mandal was admitted to M.R. Bangur Hospital.


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