Day of discovery, moments of wonder
Hostility over outsiders in hostel
Late-night swoop nets Mange aide
Fast cars for ‘slow-coach’ cops
The City Diary
Dotcom racket busted, four held for fraud
Bleach files two petitions
Model town tag for Haldia soon
Telegram at snail-mail speed
Telecom industry may get IT sops

 
 
DAY OF DISCOVERY, MOMENTS OF WONDER 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, Oct. 5: 
Once upon a time, there was this ruler of a city. One day, he decided to find out what his city looked like. So he, with his counsellors, went about town. He cruised down its waters, delved into its pit and stared up at its sheltering sky.

Subrata Mukherjee’s day out combined three elements – air, water and earth – as he spent over eight hours on Friday discovering ‘his’ city. There were moments of revelation for the mayor — accompanied by Haroun al-Rashid-like expressions of wonder (“Bah, ki darun!” was the oft-repeated exclamation) — and some talk of grand plans, as Mukherjee, followed by his closest aides and a pack of journalists, tried to capture the sights and sounds of the city where he has spent almost all his life.

But it was the city’s Underground that floored Calcutta’s mayor. His “first ride in the city’s pride”, the Metro, seemed to have cast a spell on the hard-nosed politician that lingered well after he had emerged above ground and was comfortably seated in the air-conditioned bus. “Unimaginable,” he muttered. “From Esplanade to Tollygunge in 15 minutes, unbelievable,” he said, adding: “It takes at least an hour by road these days.”

The Metro ride had aroused interest for another reason; the mayor had admitted a few days ago that he had avoided the Metro till date because he was sure it was haunted. On Friday, however, with more than a hundred accompanists, he was courage personified. “Who’s afraid of ghosts? Not me,” he shot back.

But then, no ghosts would tread where hordes of Madan Mitra’s men had rushed in. All members of the Trinamul Metro union were waiting to make the mayor’s first Metro ride memorable. “Bhoot noy, adbhoot (It’s a piece of wonder, not a place for ghosts),” a banner reassured Mukherjee. The welcome party then proceeded to break every security norm, entering the “high-security” area without a single ticket to enjoy a free ride to Tollygunge and back. But no one minded on a day of discovery.

The note of wonder stayed till the mayor’s next stop: Birla Planetarium. “Bah, darun jinish (It’s great)!” he exclaimed when someone pointed out the ‘sun’ in the planetarium ‘sky’.

The perfect host – “Esho, tomra sobai bosho (Come, sit down)”– gave way again to the Haroun al-Rashid on a wonder-filled adventure as the mayor sat awe-struck till the half-hour show ended.

The mood of wonder had actually set in, a couple of hours earlier, at Millennium Park. Obliging photographers with a leisurely swing on the dolna meant for kids, with members of his mayor-in-council pushing away; then climbing up the park office’s stairs to re-discover the Howrah Bridge, he showed off ‘his’ city to his audience.

Aboard MV Sarbajaya on the Hooghly, he asked for a pair of binoculars and went straight for the deck above.

On the river, he was in his elements – gazing at ‘his’ city through a new pair of eyes, treating journalists to endless cups of tea and plates of biscuits, recounting what the riverfront used to look like when he was young.

At the Town Hall, however, Mukherjee tried his best to play the mayor. He declared – once again – his plans to have a Bengali-cuisine eatery in the basement and change Calcutta Museum to Calcutta Panorama.

On the cruise to Baranagar and back, he unfolded plans to rope in the ‘ruler’ of Howrah, to rid the riverfront on both sides of “ugly” sights.

“Look, what a contrast there is between Millennium Park and the run-down godowns… There has to be one mayor who will rid the city of encroachers and clamp taxes on the water. I will try to do both,” he announced grandly.

The mayor’s day out ended on the Bypass – at Energy Park where he rode a special cycle and an electric car; and then at Swabhumi, The Heritage Park. By then, he appeared to have left the Haroun al-Rashid character firmly behind. The day of fun over, it was time to get back to business.

   

 
 
HOSTILITY OVER OUTSIDERS IN HOSTEL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 5: 
Students of Calcutta Medical College on Friday blocked the office of the principal for over three hours, went on protest for another four and brought administration to a standstill to protest the “occupation of the students’ hostel by unwanted elements”.

A call from Writers’ Buildings finally bailed out the principal, Professor S.N. Banerjee. The students allowed him to leave on the promise that he would return, but Banerjee fled to avoid the ire of the students.

For several months now, the students have been complaining that unauthorised persons, some with criminal antecedents, others close to local CPM MLA Lakshmi De, had made the hostel their home, while the authorities had been looking the other way.

“Enough is enough,” said Debashis Manna, general secretary of the Medical College Democratic Students’ Association, a non-political outfit enjoying the support of the bulk of the hostel inmates.

Goons can often be seen roaming the hostel corridors, the students said, and political leaders enter the hostel rooms at will.

On Friday, the students had planned a day-long agitation to end this “misrule” at the hostel. “The principal has promised to set things right,” Manna said.

“If we find that no action is taken, we will launch a stronger agitation. After all, our studies are being hampered,” he added.

The agitators admitted that they had violated health minister Surya Kanta Mishra’s new diktat banning all forms of protest on hospital premises. But a student leader said: “If he had to face what we are going through now, he will sympathise with our cause.”

The students say that the situation has aggravated after the recent drive in R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital, where a large number of unauthorised settlers had been evicted recently. Many of them have now taken shelter on the Medical College premises.

Manna said at least five rooms in the hostel have been occupied by “unwanted elements” and they are now refusing to vacate. “We have no idea what they are doing here or what they want,” a student said. “But they are certainly not students of this institution.”

The rooms have been identified as G9 to G13. Besides, a ground-floor room has also been occupied by the Group-D staff for the past several years.

The college authorities, however, are tightlipped. The principal refused to take calls from Metro, saying he was busy. Secretary of Medical College M. Chakraborty said he was in the dark about what was happening in the hostel. “I have no information about outsiders in the hostel. Still, if the students insist, I will look into the issue. That is, of course, if there is anything at all to be set right in the first place.”

   

 
 
LATE-NIGHT SWOOP NETS MANGE AIDE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 5: 
In a late-night swoop on Thursday, city police rounded up Michael Savio Nyss, 21, a close associate of Manjit Singh Mange, who had escaped from Bhuj Jail, in Gujarat, during the earthquake.

Nyss had been arrested by Bhuj police on charges of kidnapping a Gandhinagar businessman and remanded in jail custody with another associate, Manoj Singh. Manoj, a criminal from the city, had also fled from Bhuj during the quake and was arrested in central Calcutta last month.

According to detectives, Nyss was wanted in Calcutta in extortion and murder cases. Police believe he was with Mange when he arrived in the city a few years ago to carry out an abduction. The kidnap bid was thwarted by a special task force of Uttar Pradesh police and Mange was arrested after an encounter on Park Street.

Police said Nyss had passed on vital information to Mange and helped him flee the city after the latter staged a dramatic escape from custody.

Detectives, who had information that Nyss arrived in the city three days before and was holed up in a Temple Street house in the Bowbazar area, stormed the place and arrested the young criminal.

Nullah fence: The government has decided to erect a barbed-wire fencing along a 13-km-stretch of Tolly’s Nullah after the Pujas. The decision was taken after a prolonged meeting between state urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya and irrigation minister Amalendra Roy at Writers’ Buildings on Friday. Bhattacharya said the second phase of eviction between Kudghat and Hastings would begin after the Puja holidays.

   

 
 
FAST CARS FOR ‘SLOW-COACH’ COPS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 5: 
Time: 3 am. Place: Park Circus crossing. Dramatis personae: a dark blue Tata Sumo and a ramshackle police jeep.

An urgent message from the Lalbazar control room reaches six policemen in the ‘Tiger’ jeep. The Tata Sumo had refused to stop at a Park Street checkpost and was heading towards the Park Circus crossing. The jeep takes up position and the cops ready themselves for some action. It’s supposed to be a cat-and-mouse chase. But there is a catch: The pursuer turns out to be mouse (read: the run-down jeep) and the pursued is the cat (read: a speedy Sumo). The result: The police jeep chases the Sumo till the EM Bypass approach. It then sputters to a halt — there’s a mechanical fault, yet again — and the cops can do little but get down to see what’s playing up and gaze at the fading backlights of the fugitive Sumo. End of chase.

Fact, not fiction. Rule, not exception. This tale is common to Tiger squads of Calcutta Police, stationed at 50 important crossings in town. But things may change soon. With its ‘elite’ force being outpaced in almost every car chase against the zip, zap, zoom criminals of today, Calcutta Police bosses have jacked up the annual budget for buying “new, speedy” cars. From Rs 3.7 crore in the last financial year, there’s been a sudden jump to Rs 9.4 crore.

There will be none of the old jalopies that Calcuttans have come to associate with cops at the crossroads. Instead, almost every car that the Calcutta Police Tiger squad staff will get from now on will be new high-speed models. “The mobile squads will be really mobile now,” joint commissioner of police (administration) Jogesh Chatterjee told Metro, on Friday. The new cars would include “a significant number of six-geared vehicles”, he added.

According to the plans chalked out, the police will rev up 33 Tata Sumos, 60 Mahindra Jeeps, 35 six-geared Maruti Gypsys, 60 Hero Honda motorcycles and 40 Enfield Bullet bikes. Besides, there will be 20 buses – for transportation of the force from battalions to troublespots – five prison vans, four ambulances and three coffin-carrying vehicles added to the department’s stable.

Though the department has bought most of the other vehicles before, albeit in much smaller numbers, this is the first time that it is going in for Hero Honda bikes.

The money, say senior officials, has already reached Calcutta Police coffers. Orders have also been placed but the department may not get its hands on these new vehicles before the Pujas. “We are likely to get them in two more months,” an official added.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Burglary at gunpoint

Four miscreants raided a flat on New Park Street, in the Beniapukur police station area, on Friday afternoon and stole a gold chain, other ornaments and Rs 200 from Sarhan Nasrin. According to the police, the youths snatched the belongings of Nasrin at gunpoint and fled the spot unnoticed. No arrest has been made in connection with the incident. Tanushree Shankar with management consultant-cum-author Arindam Chaudhuri at a workshop in Oberoi Grand on Friday. Picture by Pradip Sanyal

Suicide

A security guard of the West Bengal State Electricity Board, Ajoy Bhattacharjee, committed suicide by hanging himself at the SEB office near Duttapukur railway station on Thursday night. SEB officials, who came to office on Friday morning, found the body hanging from ceiling and informed the police. Police said Bhattacharjee, a resident of Baduria, in North 24-Parganas, attended office on Thursday, but did not return home.

Peddler held

Rajesh Roy was arrested on Friday on Kali Temple Street, in the Burrabazar area, for selling opium. Police said Roy used to sell opium from his hideout for the past few years. Acting on a tip-off, the police raided his den and arrested him. Roy used to smuggle in opium from Jorhat, in Assam, the police added.

Pension protest

Members of the West Bengal State Electricity Board Pensioners’ Association will hold a dharna at Bidyut Bhavan, the SEB headquarters, on Wednesday to protest the SEB’s decision to curtail some financial benefits enjoyed by the pensioners. Thumbs up to jorasanko welfare trust and lions club of howrah for organising a free cataract screening camp and donating tricycles to physically-challenged persons in front of Mahajati Sadan    

 
 
DOTCOM RACKET BUSTED, FOUR HELD FOR FRAUD 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 5: 
Mousumi Bose, 27, daughter of a retired government officer, and three of her associates were arrested from their Roy Street office, in Bhowanipore, on charges of cheating people of lakhs. Police said Mousumi and her associates — Subrata Modak, Tushar Ghosh and Partha Debnath — were rounded up on Thursday night.

Investigations revealed that Bose had floated the Rising.com concern and advertised in vernacular dailies, in which she claimed to have the authority to get government loans sanctioned for applicants. The applicants were required to register themselves as members of the company after paying a fee of Rs 23,000. Bose and her associates then charged another Rs 30,000 as margin money and Rs 14,000 as ‘fee’ for preparing a project report.

The company even took post-dated re-payment cheques from the applicants. Detectives checked the documents to find that more than 100 people had registered themselves with the organisation.

The probe also revealed that Bose and her associates had floated a sister concern, Adlight.com, where they would claim to train models for Rs 4,000. Police said almost three dozen youngsters had enrolled for the course.

The police also discovered that the company was marketing a credit card — Yours card — which it claimed would entail the subscriber to hefty discounts from renowned shops. Bose charged a lumpsum for the credit cards and even had a long list of subscribers. But soon, the customers found they were not getting any discounts from the shops, as promised by the company.

“Investigations are on,’’ said additional commissioner of police, in charge of detective department, Tapan Chatterjee.

   

 
 
BLEACH FILES TWO PETITIONS 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Oct. 5: 
A man in prison for 70 months pleading for the process of justice to be expedited; the state machinery praying for time to file an affidavit; the Bench launching a surprise attack on the men in black representing the Central and state governments…

Sparks flew in room no. 6 of Calcutta High Court as Peter Bleach was back to file two petitions before the bench of Justice Noor-E-Alam Chowdhury and Justice Narayan Chandra Sil. The first petition “put in writing” the facts of the Purulia armsdrop case to prove to the bench how he had been “prejudiced” after being “identically charged, convicted and sentenced” as the five Russian crew members who were granted remission in July 2000. The second petition requested the bench to “decide the question of jurisdiction most expeditiously” and in case it deemed fit, “to place the matter before another bench… most expeditiously”.

Bleach reiterated the point that he and the Russians had been “identically situated in law” and so his continued imprisonment was in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution that guaranteed “a citizen or an alien… equal treatment before law”. He also drew the attention of the bench to the fact that in the order for the Russians’ release, no legal point had been raised, as it had just been put down to the “bilateral relations between the Government of India and the Russian government”.

When D.P. Sengupta, representing the Union of India, called for Bleach to be stopped from reiterating that he had been “discriminated against” because he was “British and not Russian”, Justice Chowdhury cut the counsel short. “You have shown no courtesy to the court till now, neither the Union government, nor the state government,” he said.

“You have even failed to come with the affidavit you were supposed to submit today. We don’t know what you are doing. We don’t even know if the procedure of the Russians remission or mercy or pardon was correct… If you feel that you can bypass us, then remove the bench, remove the court, do what you want… This is unacceptable.”

Reacting to “further adjournment till October 15” for the “other party’s” failure to file an affidavit, Bleach, who has been in Alipore Central jail since January 1, 1996, said: “When will we get into this case? Next month, next year, or after I die of old age?”

   

 
 
MODEL TOWN TAG FOR HALDIA SOON 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 5: 
Haldia is all set to become a model industrial town.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has asked urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya and chief secretary Manish Gupta to draw up a detailed development plan within a month.

Bhattacharya is leading a high-level delegation to Haldia tomorrow. Representatives from the Bengal Chamber of Commerce will also accompany the team.

The team will make an on-the-spot assessment of the existing infrastructure and talk to entrepreneurs to find out their needs and demands.

“Haldia industrial town has become the most prestigious and important place with number of big industries coming up and many more in the pipeline. We have taken up programmes for a major facelift for the industrial town to make it a model complex,’’ Bhattacharya said.

   

 
 
TELEGRAM AT SNAIL-MAIL SPEED 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Siliguri, Oct. 5: 
They wanted to send telegrams. They paid for telegrams, and went home, trusting the post office to deliver their urgent messages urgently.

They could not have known that their missives would crawl at the speed of snail mail.

BSNL’s telegraphic system in north Bengal collapsed one-and-a-half months ago, but its post offices have yet to inform customers that they cannot send telegrams. Instead, they are accepting money from people for the telegrams, and then sending it via ordinary mail.

Gautam Chakrabarti, the general manager of the Siliguri telecom circle, admitted that the telegraphic system there was run on the “obsolete” storage, forward and transmission mode and was beyond repair.

“We are aware that certain inconvenience was being caused to the people who were booking urgent and ordinary telegrams,” Chakrabarti told reporters here today.

He admitted that BSNL was nonetheless booking urgent and ordinary telegrams at all the post offices. “We admit that telegrams are being booked despite the failure of the system and are being sent by ordinary post. Such telegrams are being delayed and delivered after a fortnight at the earliest. We admit that the public has not been made aware of the situation. But certain remedial steps are being taken to solve the problem.”

He added: “We have contacted our counterparts in Calcutta, where they use a wider storage, forward and transmission system. But it is unlikely that the system can be retrieved. We are, however, in consultation with a firm that has suggested an alternative to the system.”

The SFT system is a computer-based receiving, storing, forwarding and transmitting system that the department of telecommunications introduced only a decade ago, hailing it to be the most advanced system of telegraphic communication.

Chakrabarti said: “BSNL has plans to introduce e-mail system and open Internet dhabas at all district telegraph offices across the country.

In this cyberage, with e-mail as the preferred mode of communication, BSNL has yet to take a policy decision to introduce the cheap and reliable system at all its post and telegraph offices. At present, BSNL runs a limited number of Internet dhabas, mostly in urban areas.”

   

 
 
TELECOM INDUSTRY MAY GET IT SOPS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 5: 
The Bengal government is planning to offer the same incentives to the telecom sector that it gives the IT industry.

The telecom lobby is demanding that the 5 per cent consumption tax slapped on telecom equipment should be withdrawn. They claim the benefits would be passed on to the consumers.

However, state IT minister Manab Mukherjee said discussions were still in the early stages and details were yet to be finalised.

He was speaking at a function organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) to announce the ICE Expo which will be held in the city from November 18 to 20.

Chamber president Sanjiv Goenka said: “The Expo, which is being organised in partnership with the government of West Bengal, will provide an opportunity for local entrepreneurs to interact with the biggest names in the information, communication and entertainment industry.”

IT secretary Jaya Dasgupta said the state would inaugurate its third earth station, built by the Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) in association with Webel, on November 18.

Union minister for information technology, Pramod Mahajan is expected to be present on the occasion.

Mukherjee said Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has been awarded the task of conducting a system study for the state government before it implements the computerisation of its various departments.

Goenka said despite the global slowdown, Indian companies have a lot to look forward to. PricewaterhouseCoopers has predicted that the Indian convergence business will be worth Rs 30,000 crore in the next four years.

It is also estimated that there will be a 49.7 per cent growth in Internet access, powered by broadband, between 2001 and 2005. Access to broadband services is soon expected to become a reality with major telecom players like Reliance, Tata Telecom and Bharti Enterprises investing in nation-wide optic fibre networks.

   
 

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