Bypass plots up for auction
Wasted voyage: Rivals rubbish mayor’s day out
Cops net ‘natty’ car-lifter
Boardroom battles to tinsel town
The City Diary
For whom animals are a pet subject
10-foot height bar on puja idols
Campus seeks UGC nod for new courses
CMC gears up for malaria on monsoon heels
Development body to boost foreign aid

Calcutta, Oct. 3: 
Going, going, gone... The government on Wednesday gave CMDA the go-ahead to auction its land assets. Faced by an acute funds crunch, CMDA has been looking for avenues to rake in more money in the short term. So, it decided to put some of the land owned by it under the hammer. Urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya said CMDA will auction its land, instead of leasing it out, for commercial development.

CMDA has identified four plots along the Garia connector of the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, near Baishnabghata-Patuli, for auctioning. The plots measure 36, 21, 10, and 12 cottahs, respectively and will be auctioned with the opening bids of Rs 5 lakh a cottah.

“We will auction these plots for commercial purposes to pave the way for the development of the east Calcutta township,” the minister explained. Promoters of hotels and restaurants, shopping complexes, nursing homes and educational institutes will be eligible to participate in the auction.

This is not the first time that development agencies have sold land assets at market prices. The Calcutta Improvement Trust (CIT) has in the past sold plots on Prince Anwar Shah Road and the Rashbehari connector of the Bypass for Rs 9 lakh a cottah.

But the CIT’s sell-off scheme could not stave off bankruptcy as a major portion of the funds raised went towards payment of salaries.

Bhattacharya said CMDA had lost money by developing land along the Garia connector and leasing them out for housing.

The plots that will go under the hammer will be provided with infrastructural facilities, like water connection and sewerage. Apart from these civic amenities, there is also the cost of land filling and access roads in the area, which are low-lying. After the auction, the successful bidders will have free-hold rights to the lands.

However, the minister said, the government will have to be approached by the owners if they decide to resell the plots. The government wants to retain this clause to monitor the resale of such land.

Errant Cooperatives: The municipal affairs department is looking into allegations of misuse of cooperative residential complexes by senior government officials.

Bhattacharya said he had received allegations that senior police officers and bureaucrats had rented out their apartments in cooperative societies in Salt Lake.

“It is very frustrating. We had allotted land to these officials to solve their housing problems. Now, we find that these officials live in state government quarters, and have rented out their apartments in the cooperative societies,” Bhattacharya observed.

“Renting out a cooperative flat is within the law, but we will have to find out whether they can occupy government accommodation at the same time,” the minister said.


Calcutta, Oct. 3: 
The countdown has started for mayor Subrata Mukherjee’s first-hand dekko of the city — by land and water — the first-ever such jaunt undertaken by the city’s first citizen.

The itinerary, the persons to accompany the mayor and the expenses involved all promise to provide ammunition to his opposition, both within his Trinamul Congress and outside. But the mayor insists that he will not be a “mean host”. “The first citizen of an A-1 city can’t take his guests to Bangalakshmi Hotel,” Mukherjee said. Nothing less than Peerless Inn will do for his guests, he added.

The guest list includes all members of his mayor-in-council, chairmen of all boroughs and some councillors, as well as mediapersons. Tongues have already started wagging, with municipal affairs department minister Asok Bhattacharya firing the first salvo. “I see no point in taking Calcutta residents on a sightseeing tour,” he said at Writers’ Buildings on Wednesday. “It is going to be a waste of time,” he added.

What Bhattacharya chose not to mention was the tour bill. The Corporation will have to foot a bill of over Rs 2 lakh for the mayor’s trip about town.

The trip will begin from Town Hall. A tour of the historic building will be followed by a trip to the Millennium Park. The high point of the day: A cruise to Dakshineswar and back.

That will be followed by lunch at Peerless Inn. Post-lunch agenda includes visits to the Indian Musuem and the Metro Railway; both are a first for Mukherjee. The day will end at Science City.

Detractors within the Trinamul Congress say the mayor’s juggernaut is rolling only because another of his programmes — a fitting commemoration of the completion of the Trinamul-led board’s first year in office at the CMC — was cancelled by Mamata Banerjee because the mayor had invited chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to the birthday bash.

Municipal affairs minister Bhattacharya, however, sees little merit in the itinerary laid down by Mukherjee, who had come to the Left Front government’s support on the issue of evicting settlers from the banks of the Tolly’s Nullah.

Mukherjee, according to the minister, should have called civic representavives from other towns to show them how the state’s capital city took care of itself. “I, too, as an elected representative, go around the wards and boroughs to find out what is needed for a better quality of life,” he said. But there was no point in going around only places of interest, he added. “I cannot fathom the purpose of such a tour,” he admitted.


Calcutta, Oct. 3: 
He would hang out near shopping malls, immaculately turned out in shining shoes and trendy tie. For Puja shoppers, he was just another face in the crowd. For his neighbours in Howrah, he was a high-flying multinational executive. For the police, he was the most wanted car-lifter in town.

L.A. Khan, 52, was picked up in a pre-dawn swoop on Wednesday from his Howrah home. He confessed to having stolen 27 cars — Maruti vans, Maruti cars and Tata Sumos — in the past few months.

The modus operandi, according to DC, DD-1 Soumen Mitra, was “simple and smooth”. Khan would carry out the operation from early morning — starting at temples, moving to shopping hubs and ending late in the evening at parking lots near popular restaurants of south Calcutta.

“He was usually so well-dressed that no one suspected him. He would stride up to a car, take out a bunch of keys, open the door and drive away,” explained Mitra. “He would target four or five-year-old Marutis and Tata Sumos, as they are easiest to start with keys of another car of the same model,” he added.

Stretches in front of Kala Mandir, the Birla Temple and popular shopping plazas, Ballygunge Circular Road and Elgin Road were among Khan’s favourite hunting grounds.

The pre-Puja period would be especially busy for Khan with cars of shoppers and diners being ‘soft’ targets.

Khan, said the police, had also trained son Miraj, who had started young, stealing two-wheelers. Of late, Miraj had started stealing cars, along with his father. But the son gave the cops the slip when they raided their residence in Howrah.

Khan would sell each stolen car for around Rs 30,000 to Sheikh Saidul, who would, in turn, pass it on to Abdul Hannan for Rs 40,000. Hannan would then forge the car papers, change the number plate and fix a “suitable” price for the vehicle.

After interrogating Khan for three hours, the police went after his associates. Abdul Hannan, a shopkeeper on Canning Street, was rounded up and a stolen Maruti van recovered from the house of another member of the ring. Several hideouts were later raided and Sheikh Saidul was arrested.

“We will question those who have bought the stolen cars,” said Mitra. The bust, feel the police, could spare many Calcuttans the agony of cars being stolen in the “peak Puja time”.


Calcutta, Oct. 3: 
He is one of the more sought-after speakers on ‘positive thinking’ in the country; the author of a book that is No. 2 on non-fiction sales charts; the mastermind of Theory ‘i’ Management, which has been lapped up by McKinsey and Godrej, Citibank and GAIL…

But Arindam Chaudhuri is already on to a new chapter. The 30-year-old boy from Bengal is back in the city of his birth with big plans in “business, culture and, finally, politics”. The aim: Change. “Whatever happens, wherever I go, I am a Bengali. Believe me, it hurts to hear people say that ‘Nothing will happen in Calcutta’. So, I have been waiting to set up a base here and achieve something,” says the pony-tailed management ‘guru’-cum-author, in town to release the chartbuster Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch, which has sold 35,0000 copies in seven weeks and “tried to reach management to the people”.

First on Arindam’s agenda is spreading his new (‘i’ for Indian) concept in business management. So, his Planman Consulting, with a turnover set to touch Rs 6 crore this fiscal, has set up office – its sixth in the world – in Salt Lake. “Taking a realistic look at the business prospects here at the moment, we have kept revenue targets low. But we already have GEE, Asian Paints and Aptech among our clients. The city needs to shake off its sense of complacency and we hope to help bring about a change of attitude,” explains Arindam, who charges corporate houses a lakh for an hour’s consultancy, essentially to stress that “the IIM model has failed” and to advocate a “return to the roots to manage Indians better”.

Mixing business with Bengali films is next on the plate for the head of the Delhi-based Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM). Planman Consulting’s first production, Saaj Batir Rupkotha, with Soumitra Chatterjee and Indrani Haldar, has already hit the floors and will be wrapped up by end-2001. “Most of the films being made in Tollywood are appalling, but there is no point in sitting back and complaining. So, when Sondeep Sen of Deep Films (with Ek Je Achhe Kanya under its belt) approached me with a story by Joy Goswami, I decided to take the plunge. I want to get involved in the making of quality films, but only in Calcutta,” smiles Arindam, adding that “the seemingly mad move from corporate houses to the tinsel town” has “greatly enthused” some of his students who are now part of the youthful Planman team.

What is all this leading up to? “Ultimately, a business base and a cultural commitment will have to translate into a political effort to bring about change at the economic and social levels in Bengal,” announces Arindam. That, he is quick to admit, is some distance away. Though he insists he is “an academician, rather than an author”, Arindam does see his role evolving along the lines of the books he plans to pen. Next up, The Great Indian Dream, to “reach economics to the people”. Then, pages to “reach the politics of change to the people”. And all this, he promises, will be driven by the dream to bring about some sort of a change in Bengal.



Power cuts, protests hit rail services

Train services were disrupted on the Sealdah and Howrah sections of Eastern Railway on Wednesday. Power failure stopped trains from 5.45 am to 6.45 am between Dum Dum and Naihati. Railway sources said the disruption was due to the bending of an overhead mast which hit a derailed wagon of a goods train in the Titagarh yard line. Again from 9.32 am to 10.30 am, services were disrupted from Naihati to Bandel due to an obstruction put up by passengers at Hooghly Ghat to protest the late running of trains. In the Howrah division, services were hit from 9.47 am to 10.32 am due to the failure of overhead power.

Fire at Writers’

A fire broke out on the first floor of Writers’ Buildings on Wednesday morning. The officials found smoke billowing out from the audit section of the finance department. Firemen doused the blaze in 10 minutes. Fire brigade officials said a short circuit might have caused the fire.

Puja specials

During the ensuing Durga Puja and the winter, South Eastern Railway has decided to run 13 pairs of weekly Puja and winter special trains between Howrah and Yashwantpur (Bangalore) from October 14 to January 8.

Awards ceremony

Rotary District 3290 at its annual awards ceremony honoured writer Buddhadeb Guha, IAS-turned singer Dipak Rudra, IPS-turned-novelist Nazrul Islam, footballer-turned-singer Sukumar Samajpati and The Telegraph staff reporter Amit Ukil in recognition of their vocational excellence. Ukil was awarded for creating awareness about AIDS through his articles.

Man run over

An unidentified person in his 30s was killed when a lorry overturned on CR Avenue, in the Jorasanko police station area, early on Wednesday. Police said the vehicle loaded with tomatoes hit a traffic divider and overturned. The driver managed to flee. The lorry was impounded.

Cops hurt

Two policemen were injured on Wednesday afternoon when a Central Reserve Police Force van collided with a luxury bus on Strand Road near Babughat. Driver of the van S. Singh and constable Dilip Singh were rushed to SSKM Hospital, where their condition was stated to be critical.


Traffic was disrupted at the crossing of Zakaria Street and Rabindra Sarani for more than an hour from 9 am. Local residents blocked the road, protesting scarcity of drinking water supply in the area. The blockade was lifted after police officials intervened.

College agitation

Trinamul Chhatra Parishad supporters demonstrated in front of the Ashutosh College gates on Wednesday, protesting “terror unleashed by SFI activists”. Police said the Trinamul Chhatra Parishad members dispersed peacefully after a gate meeting.    

Calcutta, Oct. 3: 
Be it an African chimpanzee or an Australian Boxer, a Macaw priced at Rs 200,000 or a pair of Budgregars at Rs 200, a rare Himalayan plant or the most exquisite carp — just book your order, and it will be delivered at your doorstep.

That’s the promise held out by Pets and Plant on 18, Raja Dinendra Street. The “only shop of its kind in town”, it offers services ranging from sale of pets and their accessories to surgery of ailing animals, vital tips and guidelines on plantation, aquaculture and breeding of birds and dogs.

Meet Partha Sekhar Chatterjee, the man who has translated his love for animals to a vocation. Chatterjee runs a pharmacy and veterinary polyclinic and offers solutions to all problems related to pets and plants. “We have four qualified veterinary surgeons and a full-fledged air conditioned operation theatre to treat the animals. People come here for surgery of their pets from various parts of the country,” said Chatterjee.

But running the show, which he started with a small pharmacy shop in 1983, is easier said than done, admits Chatterjee. “You must love animals and try to understand their problems.” And this compassion has been the driving force in Chatterjee’s clinic. “People leave their pets with us for days as they are sure about our credibility,” added Chatterjee, whose winning spree at dog shows started from the age of 14.

Born in a family of animal lovers, he soon became interested in cats, birds, monkeys and carps.

Chatterjee’s knowledge on dogs, which he acquired from his “guru” R.N. Mitter was recognised before he turned 30 and he was invited to judge a dog show in Delhi in 1986.

Invitations for judging international dog shows followed and today, the middle-aged man jet-sets across Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and South Africa to judge some of the biggest dog shows.

Chatterjee is a satisfied man. And this satisfaction doesn’t stem from the rise in the volume of his business or his success as a dog judge for all breeds in the international level.

“I came into this business as I wanted to be with animals all my life. The primary objecvtive of Pets and Plant was to tell people how to ensure a better life for their pets. Today, when I see, increased concern among people for animals, I feel a sense of accomplishment.”


Calcutta, Oct. 3: 
While the police assure no tall claims when it comes to idol-making, the organisers of the forthcoming Pujas have been warned on the height of idols.

The lawmen are determined to make it mandatory to keep the height of idol within 10 feet, but the organisers say they will move court, if necessary. Important Pujas in the city, such as Simla Bayam Samity, Mohammad Ali Park, Singhi Park, Beadon Street Sarbojanin, Jodhpur Park, Ahiritala Sarbojanin and others, stick to the tradition of large idols.

Since immersion of such idols creates problems, the police intend issuing an order to all organisers as well as idol-makers not to exceed the height of idols beyond 10 feet. “We will implement this order before Diwali, which will enable the organisers to enforce the rule during Kali Puja,” said Banibrata Basu, deputy commissioner, headquarters. “Action will be taken against organisers and artisans if the rules are bent,” added Basu.

Meanwhile, the statement has vexed organisers. A Sarbojanin Durgotsav Puja Samanway Committee spokesman said: “We will speak to the chief minister. They cannot change the tradition of this heritage city.”

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee, the man behind the Ekdalia Evergreen puja, said: “The government cannot decide on the height of idols. They have no power to attack a 100-year-old tradition. If necessary, I will move court.”

This year, the police had requested the organisers to reduce the height of the idols in a series of pre-puja-meetings. Two months ago, the police handed over the guidelines to all the organisers, in which they suggested reduction in idol height.

According to Basu, this move has to be implemented as work is in progress on the overhead electric traction on the Circular Railway stretch. Last year, the wires on tram tracks in several places got entangled during immersion.

“The height of Circular Railway’s overhead wire is 18.37 ft. On our request, the authorities have decided not to operate trains for three days beginning October 27. In fact, they have assured us they will raise the overhead wires by a foot,” stated Basu.

After inspecting major puja pandals, the police have shortlisted 12 tall idols. “We have visited a number of pandals where the idols are beyond 10 feet. Among them, Simla Bayam Samity tops, since their idol is almost 21 feet. We had requested them to reduce the height but they refused. They said it cannot be changed since 70 per cent work is over,” said Basu, adding: “Next time, we will issue the order much before the Pujas and the organisers and idol-makers will have to obey it.”

It has been a common practice for the puja organisers to use Y-shaped bamboo poles to push the wires up on tram tracks when they need to pass. “We know this time they will follow the same pattern. So, the police have been told to keep a watch on the overhead wires on tram tracks and Circular Railway tracks. However, we will ensure that immersion takes place peacefully,” added Basu.

According to Basu, those who are making tall idols, like Simla Bayam Samity, Santosh Mitra Square, College Square, Kumartuli Sarbajonin and others, will have to select a different immersion point that does not fall along the Circular Railway stretch.


Calcutta, Oct. 3: 
Students and teachers of Shibpur Bengal Engineering College Deemed University on Wednesday demanded that the authorities take the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) approval for teaching four new post-graduate courses, which the institution had introduced last year.

The UGC accreditation is necessary as students fear they might be denied placements for not holding UGC-recognised degrees.

The deemed university had introduced post-graduate courses in four applied science subjects last year. These were applied mathematics, applied physics, applied chemistry and applied geology.

According to the agitators, just as it is necessary for the institution to get the approval of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) before introducing any new course in technology, it is obligatory for the university to seek the UGC approval.

“It is surprising that the university took no such steps. What is more surprising is that the authorities have shown no efforts to contact the UGC even after a year,” said Santanu Karmakar, general secretary, Bengal Engineering College Deemed University Teachers’ Association.

Vice-chancellor Amaljyoti Sengupta said measures were being taken for the UGC recognition.


Calcutta, Oct. 3: 
Anticipating the return of the ravages of malaria in the city after the recent showers, mayor Subrata Mukherjee directed the civic health department to re-activate its mosquito and malaria-control drives.

According to civic health department estimates, incidence of infection with the malignant malaria-causing parasite — Plasmodium falciparum — has started showing an upward trend over the past week.

Six people have died of malaria this year against last year’s toll of 16.

Test reports in the malaria-detection clinics have shown a three per cent increase in cases of malignant malaria over the past four days, a civic health official said. Taltala, Chetla, Ballygunge, Narkeldanga and Chitpur have registered a marked rise in patients suffering from the disease.

Member, mayor-in-council, health, Javed Ahmed Khan said: “We have taken special measures in view of the recent rains to prevent a repeat of the 1995 catastrophe.”

He said there were similar rains in September-October 1995, and the death registers in the civic health department recorded a malaria toll of hundreds. The situation was so grave that it had prompted erstwhile municipal commissioner Asim Barman to launch Operation Vector against breeding of mosquitoes.

Khan said all the eight mobile malaria clinics had been directed to visit the malaria-prone zones every alternate day and the vector control department would undertake simultaneous drives against breeding of larvae as well as adult mosquitoes.

The civic building department’s help had been sought in controlling mosquitoes breeding at sites where construction was in progress.

Moreover, the contractors and the promoters had been asked to inform their nearest civic malaria clinic if any of their labourers was found suffering from fever.

Social service organisations, such as Lions Club of North Calcutta and Rotary Club, have already come forward to take part in the drive, he said.


Calcutta, Oct. 3: 
India’s first umbrella urban development body, the Calcutta Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC), to be set up through an election on Sunday, will pave the way for foreign funds, urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya said on Wednesday.

For starters, the MPC, which will oversee the operations of all agencies concerned with the development of Greater Calcutta, will handle the transfer of a grant of Rs 500 crore from Britain’s Department for Foreign Development (DFID) to the civic authorities in aid of the city’s poor.

“They (DFID) have been waiting for the formation of MPC before they allocated the money,” Bhattacharya said. He added that the presence of such bodies would encourage the aid agencies to get involved in the city’s development.

The elections to the urban development body will be held in Calcutta and the five districts that comprise the Calcutta Metropolitan Area.

Forty MPC members will be elected, after which 20 more will be nominated. The elected members will have the option to nominate representatives from agencies like Calcutta Telephones, Calcutta Tramways, the Calcutta Improvement Trust and others.

Experts in the field of urban development, engineers and academics are also eligible for nomination.


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