Job push shuts doors on history
February date for Madhyamik
A goddess cast in our own image
The City Diary
Flower market on revamp road
Crackdown on roadside Romeos
Dawn fire guts pandal, idol
Somen skips Trinamul fest for celebrities
Death law to fight kidnap
Colleges to transfer surplus staff

 
 
JOB PUSH SHUTS DOORS ON HISTORY 
 
 
BY MITA MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, Oct. 22: 
Exit: A science workshop steeped in history. Enter: A conference room for placement push.

A physics workshop at Calcutta University’s Rajabazar Science College, where the likes of C.V. Raman and Satyen Bose carried out much of their research, is likely to be shut down during the Puja vacation to make way for a new conference room for students.

The demand for the conference room was raised by the SFI, a ruling party students’ wing, “to enable students practise group discussions”.

On Monday, senior physics teachers planned to move the higher authorities to stall the closure of the workshop, which had been a source of inspiration to young research scholars in the past few decades.

“I have not been informed by the authorities about the decision. The workshop is definitely a part of history, because many eminent scientists had carried out their pioneering work there. I hope the authorities will not implement the closure without consulting us,” said Amitava Roy Choudhury, head of the physics department.

Teachers of other departments joined the chorus of protest, saying that the workshop housed plenty of equipment, which had been used by eminent scientists, including Raman, Bose, N.N. Dasgupta and S.R. Mitra.

“The authorities should understand the sentiments attached to the workshop and ensure that the apparatus is preserved,” they said.

Sources in the university, however, said the authorities decided to close down the workshop and set up a conference room of the university’s ‘placement cell’ so students could gear up for group discussions, a vital feature of job interviews.

The placement cell organises campus interviews for students and networks with companies to facilitate the process. The students want the conference room as part of the cell’s expansion plans. They recently met officials of the university, demanding a separate conference room for proper functioning of the placement cell.

Students belonging to the SFI union maintained that many under-graduates and post-graduates in technology and science faculties fail to bag jobs in big companies due to improper functioning of the placement cell.

Narayan Chandra Bhauria, member of the SFI union, said that the university had set up a placement cell some years back, but no step had been taken to streamline its functioning. At present, the placement cell functions from a single room, where companies also conduct interviews.

“For proper functioning of the cell, we need more space so that the students are able to practise group discussions. And we must have the new space ready after the Puja holidays,” said Bhauria.

However, he added, the students had no hand in selecting the workshop as the site for the placement cell’s expansion.

Hiron Kumar Banerjee, pro vice-chancellor, business and administration, admitted that students had submitted a memorandum requesting him to set up the conference room during the Puja vacation.

He, however, said that he was not aware of the teachers’ objection to the closure of the workshop, as none of them had lodged any complaint so far.

   

 
 
FEBRUARY DATE FOR MADHYAMIK 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 22: 
Madhyamik 2002 will begin on February 25.

Announcing the date and the schedule, Haraprasad Samaddar, president, West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, said the examinations will continue till March 7. More than 600,000 examinees are to appear for the examination, he added.

According to Samaddar, candidates writing Madhyamik 2002 will be required to pay fees that have been raised to Rs 150 from Rs 35. Students appearing for compartmental examinations, too, will be charged higher fees.

Samaddar added on Monday that the Board was contemplating introduction of a new system of penalising schools that fail to send correct information about the number of students on their rolls.

The Board often faced difficulty in preparing admit cards for want of adequate data from the schools, Samaddar said.

   

 
 
A GODDESS CAST IN OUR OWN IMAGE 
 
 
BY KONKONA SEN SHARMA
 
Calcutta, Oct. 22: 
It is hot and uncomfortable and I am wedged between bulbous folds of soft, female flesh that slip out from underneath a blouse or above a petticoat. It amazes me to think that this seemingly-innocuous flesh is aggressively pushing me from all sides. To distract myself, I try to concentrate on the maddened ’dhunochis’ drunk with smoke and fumes.

The uninhibited dance is as luxuriant as it is exhibitionistic and, to my 11-year-old eyes — obscene. I cannot comprehend the open sexuality, at other times so severely chastised, and try to ignore it as vulgar.

Suddenly, it is my turn and I am terrified. All the music: the ‘shankh’, the ’dholok’, the ‘oolu’ and the weight and authority of ritual propel me forward. It is my turn to give ’anjali’. Everything before me has gone smoothly. All of my school friends have closed their eyes, bowed, prayed and have been blessed with ‘ganga jal’ that comes from a Bisleri bottle. I cannot cause a hiccup in this awesome proceeding. I have worn my ‘oshtomi’ salwar-kameez especially for this.

As I go toward the idol, I am desperately trying to make up my mind: Do I believe in a god, a goddess? I think that somehow if I can just decide, make up my mind about something that so many others have found so simple, I will not be so terrified. It is almost a long walk to the altar. Halfway, the pujari thrusts ‘gada phul’ into my moist palms.

’Gada phul’, which I know to host the occasional, treacherous worm. I think that by the time I start to toss the flowers at Her feet, I will know my mind. Yet, the moment of decision does not arrive miraculously. I pour the offerings at her feet, echoing empty mantras.

And so I give my ’anjali’ feeling miserable and guilty. I’m sure that the three-eyed goddess will mark me a hypocrite. I am convinced of her vengeance, if not her existence.

A decade later, a three-eyed Konkona stares back at me from the cover of a glossy magazine. It is the ’pushpanjali’ issue of Sananda. I remember modelling for it one morning on Chowringhee. It was very early and already too bright. I had difficulty keeping my eyes open for the shots. I remember it well, as it was barely a month ago. For seven in the morning, there was a lot of traffic. Cars were honking; frowning pedestrians were crossing streets; a policeman, annoyed by our intrusion, waving his already-fatigued hands and Tarapadada’s camera clicking steadily at me.

There was nothing remotely puja-like about it. But looking at that magazine, where against a blue sky only three eyes are visible, who would connect it with that ordinary traffic-filled morning?

There has been one other time when I saw myself with three eyes. Our college had put up ‘Hayavadana’ as our mid-term production; I was to play Kali.

I watched as black paint was rubbed into my arms, neck, face and a third eye was drawn with lipstick on my forehead. It was difficult to recognise myself in the mirror — even more so with gritty makeup in two of my eyes.

It was the second time I saw myself portraying a goddess. Both times it has been a strange experience. We cast god in an image of ourselves. Is it self-indulgent mockery or a celebration of the human?

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Husband surrenders for Belghoria murder

Major S.N. (Bruno) Banerjee (right), president of Planters Society of Eastern India, hands over the Bruno Cup for golf to M.H. Chinoi at Tollygunge Club. Picture by Nandan Chatterjee Shyamal Ghosh, who killed estranged wife Moushumi on September 29, surrendered at the Belghoria police station on Sunday evening. He confessed to slitting his wife’s throat with a sharp weapon, leaving her to die on the road in Belghoria. “I attacked her in a fit of rage. I did not realise that she would die,” he told interrogators. Shyamal, a businessman, said he wrote a fictitious letter to Moushumi to lure her to his Belghoria residence. The letter stated that her father-in-law, Jagannath Ghosh, a retired Food Corporation of India employee, had not collected his retirement dues, amounting to Rs 78,000. The letter also stated that if Ghosh was unwell, any family member could collect the money.

After commiting the murder, Shyamal fled to a friend’s place and then kept changing his address. “I spent several nights on railway platforms,” he told officers. On Saturday, Shyamal met his lawyer, who advised him to surrender. He was produced before a magistrate on Monday and remanded in jail custody.

More flights to Port Blair

Alliance Air will operate additional flights on the Calcutta-Port Blair-Calcutta sector to meet the increased traffic on account of the festive season. The additional flights CD 8285 / 8286 will operate on October 24, 28, 29 and 31 and November 4 and 7, leaving Calcutta at 4.30 am to arrive at Port Blair at 6.30 am. The return flight will leave Port Blair at 7 am to reach Calcutta at 9 am, Indian Airlines sources said on Monday.

Held for murder bid

Ajoy Behera was arrested on Monday in connection with a murder bid on a businessman and his wife at Ezra Street, in the Hare Street police station area. Ajoy was picked up from Bilaspur of Orissa. Police will bring Ajoy to the city on Tuesday.

Cop run over

A 59-year-old head constable of Calcutta Police was killed when a speeding private bus on route 201 knocked him down on BT Road, near the Cossipore police station. Police said the incident occurred when Chandrakanta Lokha, the deceased, was trying to cross the road. He was rushed to RG Kar Medical College and Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The police impounded the killer bus but the driver managed to flee.

Taxi tantrum

The city police have taken a number of measures to rein in taxi drivers during the festive days. Complaint forms will be distributed in different puja pandals. M.K.Singh, DC (traffic) said on Monday: “The complainant will have to post the forms after filling them up. No postal charges will be required for this,” said Singh. All taxi drivers are bound to accept passengers without considering time or destination, he added.

Channels back

Nearly a lakh cable homes in south and central Calcutta got sports channels ESPN and STAR Sports back on beam on Monday after ESPN Software restored signals to Purvi Communications. The SitiCable headend, located in Park Circus, got the services back following a court order on Saturday, directing the broadcaster to resume satellite signals immediately.

Extra trains

Eastern Railway will run nine pairs of special trains from Ashtami to Dashami. Five pairs will run on the Sealdah section while the rest will run on the Bandel, Tarakeswar and Burdwan sections of Howrah division. Thumbs Up TO lions club of calcutta royal for organising a free first-aid camp at Mohammed Ali Park puja pandal on Tuesday afternoon    

 
 
FLOWER MARKET ON REVAMP ROAD 
 
 
BY DEBASISH CHATTOPADHYAY
 
Calcutta, Oct. 22: 
A modern flower market will come up soon at Mullickghat, in Howrah. The state government has started a dialogue with Calcutta Port Trust (CPT),which owns the land on which the proposed market will come up.

Sailen Sarkar, minister in charge of food processing and horticulture, said on Monday: “The CPT has agreed to hand over the land, which measures about 3,412 sq mt, for Re 1. After obtaining the land, we will chalk out schemes and discuss the matter with flower-trading organisations and the local MLA. In all probability, the process will start after the Pujas.”

B.K. Sahu, chief public relations officer of CPT, said they are in discussion with a number of government agencies to develop the market. He said: “The market should be maintained in such a way that both traders and customers can function in a clean and hygienic environment.”

Meanwhile, representatives of Sara Bangla Phulchasi O Phul Byabsayi Samity submitted a memorandum to the minister mentioning the difficulties faced by traders. They sought better amenities. Narayan Chandra Nayak, general secretary of the samity, said: “Flower-sellers of this market prepared the bouquet presented to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee the day he was sworn in. In fact, we even presented flowers to Misa Bharati, daughter of Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi. But no one can imagine the filthy atmosphere we work in.”

At Mullickghat, trading is conducted on a large scale. Flowers are sent to West Asia, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. And the daily volume of business goes upto Rs 50-60 lakh, which reaches a crore on festive days. More than 8,000 traders do business with almost 30,000 customers vying to buy the choicest of flowers .

Bablu Sasmal, president of Mullickghat Phul Bikreta Samity, said: “This market was set up before Independence. Business starts as early as 3 am and continues till 11 pm. But the place lacks basic necessities, such as drinking water, toilets and eateries. During monsoon, the area smells badly, which is harmful not only for business but also for health. It’s sad that we pay rent to the CPT but, in turn, get nothing.”

   

 
 
CRACKDOWN ON ROADSIDE ROMEOS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 22: 
In a pre-Puja manhunt, the police rounded up nearly 13,000 people in the past week. Among those arrested were eve-teasers from key Puja spots.

Roadside Romeos were rounded up from pandals at Ekdalia, Mudiali, Ballygunge Place, Vivekananda Sporting and Simla Byayam Samity.

Many criminals were arrested from North and South 24-Parganas. Nearly 10,000 criminals, wanted in various cases, were netted just from South 24-Parganas.

Confirming the eve-teasing menace, Deb Kumar Ganguly, superintendent of police, South 24-Parganas, said: “Since most young girls and housewives are reluctant to register complaints, fearing harassment, we are deploying plainclothes men in the crowd.”

Women police have also been engaged to trap the Romeos. “The officers will keep a vigil, posing as Puja revellers. They will book anyone who misbehaves with women,” said an officer of South 24-Parganas district. R. Srivastava, additional superintendent of police, said altogether 1,242 criminals were arrested from different areas in the district.

Police also seized 2,168 litres of country-made liquor from different hideouts. “Criminals were rounded up from the outskirts of the city. Sensing trouble, most of them took refuge in their hideouts at Barrackpore, Barasat and Salt Lake.

“In a sudden raid, police stormed the dens and picked up the wanted persons. Firearms, cartridges, live bombs and bhojalis were also recovered from the criminals. After combing dens, police recovered Rs 17,161 from the gamblers, ” said Srivastava.

But the arrests have posed a new problem for the police. “We are finding it difficult to keep so many miscreants in lock-up,” said Ganguly.

Officials of the Intelligence Bureau have also been asked to keep a close eye on the movement of suspicious people. “We have information that infiltrators from Bangladesh are likely to enter the city during the Pujas. Most of them are criminals,” warned an officer.

Free-trippers: Seventeen passengers in the sleeper class of Jodhpur Express, which left Howrah on Sunday, were detected travelling on transferred tickets during a surprise raid by the vigilance department of Eastern Railway. Sources said Rs 19,000 was realised from them as fare and fine. One person was prosecuted for failure to pay up.

   

 
 
DAWN FIRE GUTS PANDAL, IDOL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 22: 
A pandal and Durga’s image were gutted when a fire broke out at Nagendranath Road, in Dum Dum, early on Monday. The puja was organised by Vivekananda Pally Satgachhi Mahila Samity.

Fire brigade sources said the blaze broke out around 4.55 am and raged up to 7.32 am. The fire had almost destroyed the pandal and idols before the firemen reached the spot. They have lodged an FIR against the committee for holding the puja without permission from their department.

Pratim Chatterjee, fire services minister, said: “I have heard about Monday’s fire and asked my officers to start a case against the president and secretary of the committee. Last year, too, they did not take permission from the fire brigade,” he added.

The department is taking note of all pandals that have not procured permission.

The list of fire-proof measures include dipping the pandal material in anti-fire solution, installing fire extinguishers and ensuring that no cooking is conducted inside the pandals.

According to him, Sibsankar Mullick Lane Adi Durgotsav Puja Committee at Shyampukur, in north Calcutta, used matchsticks to make their idols, which are inflammable. “As soon as it came to our notice, we asked the organisers to put fire-proof solution on the matchsticks,” he said.

Meanwhile, residents of Peary Mohan Das Lane lodged a complaint alleging that the organisers of Ramesh Dutta Street Sarbojonin Durgotsav Committee had constructed their pandal obstructing the main thoroughfare. According to them, at least 1,500 residents were affected by this obstruction.

   

 
 
SOMEN SKIPS TRINAMUL FEST FOR CELEBRITIES 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Oct. 22: 
Former Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief Somen Mitra on Monday stayed away from the much-hyped “non-political reception of celebrities”, organised by Trinamul Congress general secretary Madan Mitra, in south Calcutta, thereby sparing Mamata Banerjee a great deal of embarrassment on her home turf.

The Trinamul leader, who has been maintaining a low profile after the eviction of illegal settlers along Tolly’s Nullah, was not perturbed by the invitation extended to Mitra by her party general secretary, as it was a “non-political function”.

However, unlike other Trinamul leaders, Mamata has decided to keep away from puja inaugurations this year and celebrate the festivity with her family.

Mamata’s decision has come as a damper to several puja committees in south Calcutta and South 24-Parganas, which consider her as a star attraction at the Pujas. The Trinamul leader, who had expected an important berth in the NDA Cabinet during the recent reshuffle, is reportedly not in a good mood at present.

Sources said Somen Mitra, who initially agreed to attend Monday’s function, had second thoughts on the matter and decided to skip it, as it might “send wrong signals to the Congress rank and file”. The former PCC chief has, of late, started re-inducting Congress workers who had defected to Trinamul on the eve of the Assembly elections.

However, a close aide of Mitra said it would be wrong to read too much in his absence. “He went to Howrah to inaugurate a Durga puja, as per a schedule fixed much earlier,” the aide said.

The celebrities invited on behalf of 76 Palli Durgotsab committee in the Bhowanipore area included actors Mithun Chakraborty, Tapas Pal, Sambhu Bhattacharya, legislator Saugata Roy, Sreebhumi Sporting Club secretary Sujit Bose and general secretary of Godhuli Club Kali Puja committee, Mominpur, Sirajul Karim.

The organisers handed over Rs 25,000 to Mithun Chakraborty for the aid of physically-challenged children. Celebrities who could not turn up at the reception were ICC president Jagmohan Dalmia and transport minister Subhas Chakraborty. Dalmia has left for Malaysia and Chakraborty was occupied “with a Cabinet meeting”.

Madan Mitra, however, claimed that the programme was a success. “We have been able to bring together personalities from various walks of life on Mahashasthi,” he said.

   

 
 
DEATH LAW TO FIGHT KIDNAP 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 22: 
Rocked by a spate of kidnaps, the state Cabinet today cleared a draft Ordinance —modelled on the lines of a Maharashtra law — that proposes capital punishment for the perpetrators of organised crime.

The draft Ordinance also adds more claws to the existing laws, extending the period of detention before submission of chargesheet from the present 90 days to 180 days.

But Front partners greeted the draft with a chorus of protests. They said the issue should have been discussed at a Front committee meeting before a final decision was taken.

After a marathon Cabinet meeting which cleared the draft, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee told reporters that the existing laws were not adequate to tackle organised crimes like kidnapping and hijacking and subversive activities.

But he clarified that the proposed Ordinance was “in no way comparable to Tada or any other draconian law”.

“We are not going to imprison anybody without trial. We have only strengthened the existing laws in the context of the happenings in our state for the past one year or so,” he said.

Bhattacharjee said the Ordinance would be placed in the state Assembly in the winter session for its endorsement.

The state government had already examined the prevailing laws of different states before finalising the draft, he said.

He said it is not always possible for the police to frame charges against culprits within 90 days.

“It is a time-consuming affair as police take time to track down miscreants who may flee to other states or even abroad soon after committing the crimes,” he said.

Besides capital punishment, the court can offer jail terms ranging from life imprisonment to five years and a fine of Rs 1 lakh.

Miscreants arrested on such charges would be tried in special courts. But the accused would have the right to appeal against the judgment in higher courts.

No accused person will be released on bail or on personal bond unless the public prosecutor has been given an opportunity to oppose the application.

Asked if the allegation made by organisations like the Association of Protection of Democratic Rights on possible abuse of power by the police, the chief minister said: “Don’t you think there is any scope for abusing power in the existing laws?”

However, several Front partners today resented the manner in which the government had okayed the promulgation of the Ordinance without discussing this it at a Front committee meeting.

“This is an important matter and all Front partners have to be taken into account,” said RSP secretariat member Sunil Sengupta.

“I shall talk to Front chairman Biman Bose for convening a meeting to discuss the issue.” CPI and Forward Bloc leaders also echoed Sengupta.

   

 
 
COLLEGES TO TRANSFER SURPLUS STAFF 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 22: 
The government has issued a new order restricting the 350-odd state-aided colleges from having surplus teachers.

The move has been initiated to provide teachers in a number of colleges where the government has failed to create teaching posts for many newly-started courses.

Following student demand, the government had directed the colleges to introduce undergraduate courses in many modern and job-oriented subjects like microbiology, molecular biology, bio- technology, computer science, computer applications and journalism.

But most colleges where such courses have been opened do not have full-time teachers for teaching these subjects.

“There are some colleges which do not have adequate number of students in some subjects. We have found that a good number of teachers are surplus in such institutions. In view of shortage of funds, we have decided that instead of creating new posts for the newly-opened subjects, we will transfer the surplus staff to a college where there is scarcity of teachers,” said a senior official of the state higher education department.

Ajit Kumar Banik, chairman of the state College Service Commission, said: “The colleges, according to the government rule, have sanctioned a number of teaching posts for each department. But according to the new order, even if they have sanctioned posts, colleges will not be allowed to fill up a teaching post if they have less number of students.”

   
 

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