Rain check on festive fever
Sign up in Class IX to sit for ICSE
In love with Calcutta, heart and Seoul
Computer centre directors held
The City Diary
Varsities await star status team
A city, on canvas and in pictures
Boycott blow to blockade ban meet
Teen freed after mother rights cry
Dacoits killed

 
 
RAIN CHECK ON FESTIVE FEVER 
 
 
BY SUVRO ROY
 
Calcutta, Sept. 30: 
Days before bowing out, the monsoon lashed Calcutta with the heaviest downpour of the season. Showers, accompanied by gusty winds, swept the city till late on Sunday, leaving several areas inundated and pre-Puja shoppers stranded.

The downpour was heaviest between 4.30 pm and 5.30 pm. The Alipore Meteorological Office recorded 75.3 mm rain at 5.30 pm. Tram services were withdrawn from waterlogged streets; two trees tumbled on Ironside Road and Bondel Road in south Calcutta. The Met Office described it as “a normal monsoon shower following development of low pressure” over the north-west Bay of Bengal and adjoining west-central Bay off the Orissa coast.

The weatherman warns of heavy rains on Monday too. “There will be rain in several places of Calcutta and other parts of Gangetic West Bengal and Jharkhand during the next 24 hours. Widespread rain will also occur in Orissa,” a weather official said.

The morning, for once, did not show the day as Calcutta got its first taste of the Sunday squall around 11 am. The downpour became a drizzle around 2 pm, but returned with fresh fury around 4.15 pm.

Wet Sunday dragged member, mayor-in-council in charge of drainage, Rajiv Deb, to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation control room. He ordered his department’s engineers to open manholes on city thoroughfares to facilitate quick drainage of the accumulated water. “Most major roads in the city were waterlogged and the pumping stations have been working overtime,” said Deb in the evening. “Almost all parts of Calcutta were affected, with waterlogged areas including Jorasanko, Thanthania, Moulali, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Chitpur, Beleghata Main Road, Kankurgachhi, Kalighat, Deshapriya Park, the Lake, Jodhpur Park, Southern Avenue, Ballygunge, Chetla, Park Street, Ho Chi Minh Sarani, Shakespeare Sarani, Tangra and Topsia.”

Traffic ground to a halt in some areas and slowed to a crawl in others as Sunday shoppers bore the brunt of the disruption caused by the downpour. “This was the first day of our Puja shopping at New Market, and look what’s happened,” said a gang of college girls, negotiating a flooded Lindsay Street, slippers in hand.

Maintaining that the monsoon would withdraw from the city in “about a week’s time”, R.N. Goldar, director of Alipore Meteorological Centre, however, warned of a “wind-swept Durga Puja” in October-end. “From October to mid-December, it is the season of cyclones. So, even though there may not be any rain during the festive days, we cannot rule out a cyclone during the Pujas. Don’t forget that the Orissa supercyclone in 1999 and the cyclone which hit the Sunderbans last year were in October-end,” he warned.

“If a cyclone develops in the Andaman region after the monsoons, Orissa, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Bangladesh become vulnerable,” explained U.S. Dey, additional director-general of meteorology, Pune.

Following Sunday’s waterlogging and predictions of a possible cyclone, the civic authorities are taking no chances. “The Corporation control room is being put on high alert and our pumps will be ready to meet any emergency,” assured mayor Subrata Mukherjee, also the president of the Ekdalia Evergreen Puja committee. “At Ekdalia, we are arrangings for sandbags and brick,” he added.

At Santosh Mitra Square, puja committee president and a member of the mayor’s council Pradip Ghosh is a worried man. “Our pandal is constructed in a park. So, we will have to be extra careful. We are stocking sandbags and sawdust, and planning to create a pathway of bricks leading to the metalled lane running in the park. We will also keep four drainage pumps ready in the event of waterlogging,” said Ghosh.

   

 
 
SIGN UP IN CLASS IX TO SIT FOR ICSE 
 
 
BY MITA MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, Sept. 30: 
Want to appear for ICSE 2004? Make sure you register yourself with the Indian Council for Secondary Education in 2002.

Responding to complaints of “irregularities”, the Council has made it “mandatory” for students of ICSE-affiliated schools to get registered in Class IX.

At present, registration is carried out in Class X, just before the school-leaving examination. “The new system will enable us to keep a record of the number of students to be sent up by a particular school for the ICSE exam and ensure that every examinee has studied in that particular school for the last two years leading up to the exams,” says Council chairman Neil O’Brien. “It is essential for every ICSE examinee to complete the course without changing schools midstream,” he adds.

According to the rules, an ICSE-affiliated school cannot admit new students in Class X. But the Council has been receiving complaints that “quite a few schools” have been taking in students from non-affiliated schools months before the final exams.

Council sources say ‘donation’ is sought — and got — as these students are desperate to gain enrolment in ‘recognised’ schools. Guardians have to shell out anything between Rs 5,000 and Rs 15,000.

A large number of English-medium schools have come up in the city and elsewhere in the state over the past few years with the ever-increasing demand for “English-medium education”. Many of these schools are now awaiting affiliation from the Council but continue to flourish by ensuring that their students can “slip into” a recognised school in Class X.

But in many cases, students have been duped. “There have been cases where a school has taken the donation but not registered the student,” a senior Council official says. There is another side to the story. “Often, schools send up ‘unfit’ candidates for the Board exam as the money received as ‘donation’ becomes the only consideration,” the official adds.

The Council’s move is being seen as part of the measures it is introducing to ensure that the few lakh students who appear for the exam every year get a standardised, quality education. Changes in the ICSE syllabus have already been effected to help students. Schools have been asked to make “field-studies” compulsory for students; for instance, they have been instructed to take their business mathematics students to the bank to see bank-accounts are operated. Additional emphasis on “social activities and environmental science” is another new feature in the syllabus, say officials.

   

 
 
IN LOVE WITH CALCUTTA, HEART AND SEOUL 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, Sept. 30: 
The British Council, the American Center, the Max Mueller Bhavan… the Korean Culture and Language Center. Byung Hee Kwon’s dream of acting as a bridge between Seoul and Calcutta is all set to come true. Having been registered under the West Bengal Societies Registration Act, 1961, the first Korean Center of its kind in the country will start functioning from BJ-107, Salt Lake, from January 2002.

Forty-year-old Byung, a doctorate in adult education from Seoul National University, had “fallen in love with everything Bengali” after working extensively in the villages of Rangpur, Comilla and Mymensingh in Bangladesh for more than 10 years. “With my wife Sung Hee Chang, I went to Bangladesh in 1989 as members of a Korean NGO. I learnt Bengali through a six-month language course and then a diploma course in Dhaka University. It was then that I discovered an amazing array of similarities between Korean and Bengali,” remembers Byung, who is busy working on a Bengali-to-Korean dictionary.

The love affair with Bengali was strengthened after Byung and Sung settled in Salt Lake in July last year. “In Korea, there is almost no knowledge about Bengali and Hindi is the only Indian language taught in the universities of Seoul and Pusan. I want to provide an avenue for Koreans keen to learn Bengali and vice versa,” explains Byung, who has written a book on the similarity between Korean and Bengali languages.

“This will be the most comprehensive institute for information on Korea in the country,” says Byung, who feels there is a lot of interest among city businessmen to learn the language so that they “can conduct business with our country”. According to Sung, general-secretary and treasurer, the Center will promote cultural relations between India and Korea through the “study and appreciation” of each other’s art and culture; organising cultural functions, seminars, lectures; publishing results of research and translation; arranging study and sight-seeing tours for visiting Koreans.

The majority of the funds for the Center will come from Korean NGO Seha International. “We have approached the Korean embassy in New Delhi and they are keen to help. Funds can also be raised from the Korean Foundation and other government agencies, besides course fees for the language classes,” observes Byung who is also facilitating a student-exchange programme between Chonbuk National University and Calcutta University.

The Korean university in Chonju is inviting two students from CU every year to take up a one-year course in Korean language and culture. This was finalised after CU’s VC and pro-VC visited the Korean university this June. Chonbuk will sponsor passage money and accommodation of the students. CU, it is learnt, is contemplating setting up a department of Korean studies, on the lines of JNU.

   

 
 
COMPUTER CENTRE DIRECTORS HELD 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Sept. 30: 
Three directors of a computer training institute have been arrested on charges of defrauding 60 students of more than Rs 15 lakh in the past month.

Pallab Dutta, Nilmadhab Bose and Rajiv Jha were arrested on Friday night from One Sun’s fifth-floor office in Chatterjee International Centre, and remanded in police custody till October 12.

A complaint was filed after the students, who had enrolled in mid-July, found the institute was cutting short their courses barely a month and a half later. Police said the students had paid between Rs 18,000 and Rs 23,000 for the courses.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Civic prize for pujas

Calcutta Municipal Corporation has decided for the first time to award organisers of the best community pujas and family pujas in the city. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee said on Sunday the total value of the prize would be Rs 1 lakh.

A six-member jury will select and rank the community pujas . The first prize will be Rs 50,000, second prize Rs 20,000 and the third prize will be Rs 15,000. Besides, Rs 15,000 has been allotted for the best family puja.

Discourse

Supriyo Bhattacharya will discuss ‘Why Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga is Different’ at Sri Aurobindo Bhavan on 8, Shakespeare Sarani, at 6.30 pm on Monday.

Delhi flights

Indian Airlines will reschedule its morning flight IC 263 from Calcutta to Delhi on October 3, 4, 6 and 8 due to airspace closure at Delhi airport for Indian Air Force flypast exercises. Flight IC 263 will leave for Delhi at 8 am, instead of 7 am.

Blood donation

A year-long, state-level quiz contest to celebrate National Voluntary Blood Donation Day will be inaugurated by Governor Viren J. Shah at Raj Bhavan at 4.30 pm on Monday. He will present awards for contributions to the voluntary blood donation drive in West Bengal.

Academics probe

The All-Bengal State Government College Teachers’ Association has protested against the state higher education department’s delay in replying to queries made by the Governor’s office into various allegations levelled against the director of public instructions and the state of academics in government colleges. “The government is stalling the inquiry as it has nothing to say,” association president Benoy Bhushan Chakraborty alleged.

Body on tracks

Durga Prasad, a drug-peddler of Dum Dum, was found dead on the railway tracks near the Dum Dum station. Police said that rival gang members may have murdered Prasad and dumped his body on the tracks.

Memorial meet

A memorial gathering was held at Netaji Bhavan on Sunday to mark the first death anniversary of Sisir Kumar Bose. A memoir of Bose, written by Krishna Bose, was released by poet Nirendra Nath Chakraborty.

Cities sans slums

On World Habitat Day on Monday, a panel discussion will be held on ‘Cities Without Slums’ at Sir R.N. Mookerjee Hall of the Institute of Engineers (India), Gokhale Road. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee will inaugurate the discussion.

Wildlife Week

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will inaugurate Wildlife Week at Sisir Mancha on October 4. A photography exhibition will also be inaugurated by him at Gaganendra Pradarshashala .    

 
 
VARSITIES AWAIT STAR STATUS TEAM 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Sept. 30: 
Two universities in the city— Jadavpur and Rabindra Bharati— are gearing up to meet representatives from the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) in October. The NAAC offers star status to universities across the country.

The NAAC representatives will visit Jadavpur University for three days from October 15 and Rabindra Bharati University from October 16 to 19.

Already, Calcutta University has been accorded a five-star status and North Bengal University (NBU) bagged three stars early this year. But Jadavpur University is yet to acquire any status, though it has been declared a “university of excellence” by the University Grants Commission (UGC) in April.

Jadavpur University registrar Rajat Banerjee said last week that he was ready for the NAAC visit.

“We run 32 departments and 30 inter-disciplinary schools and we hope to get a star status from the visiting team,” said Banerjee.

Vice-chancellor of Rabindra Bharati University, Subhankar Chakraborty, said: “We are one of the seven cultural universities in the country and hope to satisfy the NAAC team. We have 20 departments in arts, fine arts and visual arts faculties and also run four research centres.”

An RBU official claimed that the university authorities were trying to include the NAAC officials for a tour of Ved Vidya Charcha Kendra and Gandhi Vidya Charcha Kendra, which have recorded excellent performances.

   

 
 
A CITY, ON CANVAS AND IN PICTURES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Sept. 30: 
National Library has published a 1000-page book of rare paintings and photographs of Calcutta down the ages. There are pictures of horse-drawn tramcars and arterial roads, some of them taken from atop Ochterlony Monument (now Shahid Minar).

There are also photographs of Writers’ Buildings and horse-drawn carriages, shown as the only mode of transport. The book includes paintings of old Calcutta by masters like Daniel.

Scholars and employees of the library took 11 years to compile and publish the book, released recently by former mayor Kamal Basu at a function at the library auditorium. The book, Index to Pictures of Calcutta, will give Calcuttans glimpses into a 300-year history of the city.

Former secretary of National Library employees’ association Ashis Neogy said the scholars and employees had to consult more than a lakh documents and manuscripts to compile the book. Library director Shyamal Kanti Chakraborty said the book was remarkable and would shed invaluable light on Calcutta’s past.

   

 
 
BOYCOTT BLOW TO BLOCKADE BAN MEET 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Sept. 30: 
The Trinamul Congress will boycott tomorrow’s all-party meet called by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to discuss ways to end the road and rail block culture in the state.

“We have decided to opt out of tomorrow’s meeting to protest the humiliation meted out to the principal Opposition party in Bengal by the ruling Left Front over the years,” said Pankaj Banerjee, leader of the Opposition, in the Assembly.

The decision was taken on orders from Mamata Banerjee, who is in Delhi. This is the first all-party meet that Trinamul will skip since Bhattacharjee has taken charge.

CPM state secretary and politburo member Anil Biswas, however, appealed to Trinamul to reconsider its decision. “We call upon Trinamul to rise above petty politics and join tomorrow’s meeting considering its importance to the people,” he said.

Biswas recounted that Mamata had said before the elections that there would be no bandhs and blockades if her party was voted to power. “But now her party is boycotting the meeting, convened solely to discuss such issues.”

Trinamul said the decision to convene a meeting to thrash out a consensus on blockades was “unbecoming” of the CPM, which had called at least five Bangla bandhs during its 25-year regime.

“We are not in a mood to take lessons from the communists on how to end road and rail blockades because they often resort to such tactics on flimsy issues… Only yesterday the CPM and Front constituents organised a sit-in for 48 hours on Rani Rashmoni avenue,” Banerjee said.

He said Trinamul had taken a policy decision to hold protest programmes only on Saturdays and Sundays to spare the people inconvenience. “This apart, we are also opposed to calling bandhs on flimsy issues,” he said.

Banerjee said the decision of the Congress and the BJP to attend the meeting was not unusual as they always worked in tandem with the Left against Trinamul. “Neither the Congress nor the BJP is the chief political adversary of the CPM in Bengal,” the Trinamul leader said.

Dubbing Bhattacharjee’s move a “mere gimmick”, Banerjee alleged that even Jyoti Basu was against the “much-hyped” meeting. “We have come to know from newspaper reports that Basu himself said while it was desirable to end blockades, such modes of protest had become tools of the organised trade union movement over time,” he said.

“Let Buddhadeb first set his house in order, then go to other parties to seek consensus on ending the culture of blockades,” he added.

   

 
 
TEEN FREED AFTER MOTHER RIGHTS CRY 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Asansol, Sept. 30: 
Fifteen-year Jitendra Dom was today released from lock-up after his mother moved the West Bengal Human Rights Commission against his arrest on “trumped-up” charges.

The boy was detained by Durgapur police for four days and tortured on suspicion that he was “involved” in last week’s murder of Shekhar Banerjee, DYFI leader living in Andal.

Jitendra’s mother said she had asked several police officers why her son was being detained. “I told them repeatedly my son had been ailing for a long time and requested them to give him medicine. But they did not pay any heed to me and threatened me with arrest,” she said. This forced her to move the rights panel.

After his release, Jitendra said he was treated in an inhuman way. “I was not even given a glass of water. The police only wanted me to give a written commitment that I killed Banerjee.”

But sub-divisional police officer Khem Dorji ruled out torture. “I have heard that the boy’s parents have moved the human rights commission, so whatever I have to say, I shall say to the commission.’’

   

 
 
DACOITS KILLED 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Chakda, Sept. 30: 
Three dacoits were lynched and three killed in police firing in South 24-Parganas and Nadia districts.

Police opened fire on an armed group of dacoits who had assembled at Narapati para in Chakda in the wee hours today. The dacoits returned fire in self-defence but three died on the spot. Police have denied any encounter.

“The police killed three dacoits on the spot and injured one. A fifth member escaped into the darkness,” said a villager.

In Joynagar, three dacoits who broke into the house of a businessman were beaten to death early today.

   
 

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