Lofty route for tram rerun
Cops in clay-cup pandal shift call
Model code for teachers of tots
Crash course on bourse crime
Flights delayed by dense fog
The City Diary
Build-for-the-future blueprint
Calphones calls for ads
Police wives on litter drive
CM warns separatists, watches infiltrators

 
 
LOFTY ROUTE FOR TRAM RERUN 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, Nov. 4: 
It’s been struggling to stay on track for some time now. But the tramcar, an enduring Calcutta motif, looks all set to trundle on. If things go according to plan, trams will find pride of place — first on the Beckbagan flyover, and then the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass and even in Salt Lake.

The state transport department has recently ordered a survey examining every detail of connecting Beckbagan and Kidderpore — courtesy the flyover coming up on A.J.C. Bose Road — with trams. Disclosing this on Sunday, Calcutta Tramways Company managing director Mihir Das said the department was also “actively considering” proposals to allow trams on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass and the streets of Salt Lake in “the near future”.

Buoyed by reports that London is set to revive the eco-friendly streetcar in 2002 and vexed by projections of spiralling fuel prices, the state transport department is now reviewing its policy towards tram services.

The brainchild of state transport minister Subhas Chakraborty and the Assembly transport sub-committee headed by Sadhan Pande, the proposed service on the Beckbagan flyover will connect Park Circus — and central Calcutta — with Kidderpore in the south-west. Chakraborty has maintained that trams must be integrated into the transport plans for the city’s future, because of their “eco-friendliness, cost-effectiveness and sentimental value”.

The proposal to introduce trams on the Bypass is also being considered “seriously”, confirm senior transport department officials. The Bypass south of Garia is being widened and introducing trams between Bagha Jatin railway station and Garia will benefit commuters and not be a burden on the exchequer, feel officials.

The decision to include Salt Lake in the return-to-tramways programme follows an opinion poll conducted at a pre-puja fair in the township. The on-the-spot response to the proposal of introducing trams in Salt Lake was “overwhelmingly positive”. According to a transport department official, when and if the tracks are laid, “they will girdle the township.”

There is also a “remote possibility” of extending the Salt Lake tracks to the Noapara Metro Railway shed near Dum Dum. If that happens, Salt Lake will have a smooth passage to south Calcutta.

That trams are also cost-effective — a point that environmentalists and the pro-tram lobby have been reiterating for years now — seems to have suddenly hit home. To overhaul every inch of the city’s existing 68-km track will require Rs 70 crore. “This is nothing compared to the budgetary allocation for the transport sector,” say officials. “That will be enough to double the speed of trams in the city,” added Calcutta Tramways Company managing director Das.

Calcutta Tramways Company, with 8,000 employees, now runs 200 trams a day. Daily ticket-sales come to Rs 2.8 lakh (the figure shot up to Rs 4.8 lakh during the Pujas) and the daily loss is a staggering Rs 25.5 lakh. “But this is nothing if you compare the cost of fuel we will incur if we replace trams with buses in future,” Das said.

   

 
 
COPS IN CLAY-CUP PANDAL SHIFT CALL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 4: 
If the police have their way, the Bosepukur Sitala Mandir Durga Puja, which swept most of the awards for its clay-cup pandal, will have to shift next year.

Superintendent of police, South 24-Parganas, D.K. Ganguly, said the organisers have been directed to shift venue next year to a location away from the main road. “We will not permit them to hold the puja in the current location. They have already been notified in this regard,’’ Ganguly told Metro.

The organisers, however, say they will not shift and have, instead, requested the government to sell them the CIT-owned plot.

The Bosepukur Sitala Mandir pandal drew millions of visitors, who stood in queue for seven to eight hours just for a glimpse. They thronged the pandal even after the idol was immersed, resulting in complete chaos in the area and bumper-to-bumper traffic snarls on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass.

Police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty was forced to visit the area with his senior officers to sort out the mess.

According to additional police superintendent of South 24-Parganas, Rajesh Singh, the authorities have suggested that the puja organisers “find land somewhere else for the puja’’.

But the organisers are adamant on not shifting. “Is this the price to pay for having achieved something innovative?’’ asked Bandhan Raha, a senior puja committee member and designer of this year’s pandal.

“We find the administration’s attitude rude,’’ said Subir Ghosh, treasurer of the puja committee.

This is not the first time Bosepukur Sitala Mandir has had to shift venue. The puja moved to its current location last year, after a Central organisation bought the CIT-owned plot it was held on.

“We had been conducting the puja on an adjacent CIT plot on the opposite side of the road. We had to move to the current location after the CIT sold the plot to Indian Oil,’’ Ghosh said. The plot where the puja was held this year also belongs to the CIT.

“We have approached municipal affairs minister Asok Bhatacharya with an offer to buy the plot. The minister had visited our pandal and even inspected the land. He asked us to meet him at his Writers’ Building office after the Puja holidays,’’ Raha said.

Sitala Mandir club members smell a conspiracy engineered by ‘rival’ Bosepukur Deshbandhu Club. “Why don’t the police ask Deshbandhu Club to shift their venue?’’ one of them asked.

The Deshbandhu Club pandal, too, was very popular this year, and because of its location barely a stone’s throw away, contributed to the traffic chaos during the Pujas.

But the police have a different tale to tell. “Deshbandhu Club has been conducting its puja on the spot on the Rashbehari connector for a long time. Sitala Mandir is a new entrant,’’ Singh said.

   

 
 
MODEL CODE FOR TEACHERS OF TOTS 
 
 
BY MITA MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, Nov. 4: 
Do primary school-teachers take their work seriously? Do they know how to deal best with tiny tots? It was while dealing with such questions and more that inspectors of schools found several primary school-teachers wanting.

This, in turn, has prompted the state government to frame a model code of conduct for teachers, which would be applicable to all state-aided primary schools in the city and elsewhere in the state. Violation of the code could result in teachers facing suspension and dismissal from service, sources in the school education department said.

“We have realised from experience over the past two decades that some primary school-teachers are consistently negligent about their duties. All these years, we have been very tolerant. It’s high time now that they realise the dos and don’ts,” said Kanti Biswas, state school education minister. “The final order regarding implementation of the new code of conduct will be announced soon.”

There has never been any prescribed service rule for the 1.75 lakh-odd teachers working in 53,000 state-aided primary schools in the state, over 2,000 of which are located in Calcutta.

With the implementation of the proposed code, teachers will now be required to abide by the following rules and more:

Attendance registers recording arrival and departure of teachers will be maintained strictly

Every teacher will be required to stay in school for a minimum period of time every week

Each teacher will have to maintain a stipulated period of teaching time every week

No teacher will be allowed to engage in any kind of business, including private tuition.

A teacher will be required to take special permission from the government in case he or she is forced to get involved in a family business under unavoidable circumstances

Stern action will be taken if any teacher is found to physically or mentally torture a student

Sources in the education department said the government had found poor teaching standards leading to a decline of many good primary schools in the city and elsewhere in the districts.

The fall in standards has led to a sharp drop in the enrolment of students. This, coupled with out-of-date syllabi and inadequate infrastructure, has also forced closure of many primary schools in Calcutta.

“We have set up committees to upgrade the syllabi. The government is also considering releasing additional funds to improve infrastructure of the primary-school set-up. At the same time, we also need to discipline teachers and ensure total development of primary education,” said Biswas.

The CPM-controlled All Bengal Primary Teachers’ Association (ABPTA) has welcomed the government initiative.

Non-CPM teachers’ bodies, however, have opposed the move to “pressure and penalise teachers”. They have even threatened to launch an agitation to prevent implementation of the “arbitrary” order.

“We will fight till the end if we find any teacher punished on flimsy grounds,” warned Kartick Saha, general secretary of the Bengal Primary Teachers’ Association, a non-CPM organisation of primary school-teachers.

   

 
 
CRASH COURSE ON BOURSE CRIME 
 
 
BY BAPPA MAJUMDAR AND ANIEK PAUL
 
Calcutta, Nov. 4: 
Equity-market trading, not kidnapping for ransom. Hacking techniques, not hit-and-run. The corridors of Lalbazar are abuzz with watchwords of ‘new-age’ crime.

Some hand-picked officers of the police force have, for the past few days, been busy with a crash course in stock markets and hacking-from-home tips. Through coaching sessions and tutorials at the police headquarters, they are grappling with the manifestations of crime and punishment in modern times.

And if things go according to plan, Lalbazar will soon have a specialised “economic-offences cell” to curb the rising crime graph originating in stock exchanges, the information technology sector and banks. The opening of the new cell, comprising well-trained officers, has been in the pipeline for the past few years. But there was precious little push from the home (police) department to get things going. Now, the steady rise in “economic offences”, has forced the top brass to turn to the Calcutta Stock Exchange (CSE) for training aid.

The latest move comes in the wake of a departmental probe initiated by police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty, finding most officers of the detective department unaware of “specialised crimes” originating in the stock exchange and the IT sector. “The training session is a stepping stone to the formation of the special economic offences cell at Lalbazar,” Chakraborty told Metro. “These officers, after completing their training, will form an integral part of the new cell. The way the crime scenario is changing, it has become vital that we build a special team of officers who would be able to tackle specialised crime, from information technology to income-tax,” he explained.

The officers are being trained in the fundamental facts of the stock market. Besides coaching sessions, CSE officers have also been offering tutorials to their students in uniform. The mechanism of the chit-fund operation figures in the syllabus. “We are also keen to learn about money-laundering through hawala channels and badla defaulting,” said one of the officers undergoing training. CSE officials feel that the “partnership” with the police will boost its campaign against defaulters.

The police commissioner is also determined to crack the infotech crime code. “We will send a team of officers to Mumbai to understand the modus operandi better,” Chakraborty said.

   

 
 
FLIGHTS DELAYED BY DENSE FOG 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 4: 
All domestic and international flights were held up at the airport on Sunday morning for over three hours due to dense fog, resulting in poor visibility.

Airports Authority of India (AAI) officials said the fog prevented flights from taking off till 8 am. The authorities flashed the green signal only after assessing the situation.

The Calcutta-Port Blair flight, originally scheduled to take off around 5 am, was held up for three hours due to poor visibility. “It was also the first flight to take off on Sunday at exactly 8 am,” said an AAI official.

Apart from routine morning flights to major metros, a KLM-Royal Dutch Airways flight was also held up for about five hours.

Scheduled to take off at 3.40 am, the flight was delayed by five hours, due to adverse weather conditions. It finally took off around 8.35 am.

The Alipore weather office said the fog formation had been caused by a drop in the minimum temperature, high humidity and a slight wind.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Constable knocked down and killed

Sushil Kumar Bag, 45, a traffic constable, was knocked down and killed by a speeding lorry on Kona Expressway, in the Shibpur police station area of Howrah, on Sunday morning. The lorry was trying to overtake another vehicle.

Peddler of heroin held

Mohammed Shamim, alias Shania, a heroin-peddler, was arrested from the Belghoria police station area on Saturday night. The police recovered 25 purias (small packets) of heroin from him.

Dacoity bid

Three persons were arrested for trying to commit a dacoity in south Calcutta. Acting on a tip-off, a police team waylaid the youths, who had assembled near Rashbehari Avenue, and took them into custody.

Exodus plea

West Bengal Pradesh Qaumi Tanzeem, an organisation for development of minority communities, has appealed to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to intervene and stop the exodus of minority Hindus from Bangladesh.    

 
 
BUILD-FOR-THE-FUTURE BLUEPRINT 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, Nov. 4: 
A brave new breed is honing its skills to try and give the Calcutta skyline “a more defining look”, banking on flair and originality.

Budding architects in this part of the country are convinced that we should now “break free from our colonial past and build for the future”. They are also keen to ensure that while building new townships like Rajarhat, the flaws of Salt Lake are not repeated.

“Whenever we speak of the Calcutta skyline, we talk only of Chowringhee, the Victoria Memorial and Park Street. But it’s time we ceased to dwell on our British legacy and took the architecture of the city forward,” observes Mainak Ghosh, third-year student of architecture, Jadavpur University.

Mainak was among the delegates attending Zonasa 2001, the eastern zonal conference for young architecture students, organised by the National Association for Students of Architecture at the Salt Lake Stadium from November 2-4.

His batchmate, Bikramjit Chakraborty, agrees that there is no point in repeating old culture. “It is important to upgrade architectural forms and modify design solutions to create something new which serves the needs of the people,” he says.

Flexibility is the key to modern architecture and today’s buildings should be versatile so as to serve a variety of purposes, feels Shilpi Mittal, a fourth-year student at BIT, Mesra, in Ranchi, who wants to practise in Calcutta after passing out.

“Calcutta is already traditionally developed and it’s not possible to change the essential character of the city. But we can create common points of interaction to ease perennial congestion corridors,” she observes.

Architect Prabir Mitra — who, along with Harsh Neotia, delivered presentations in a pleasant diversion for the students at Swabhumi on Friday evening — supported the youngsters’ call for flexibility, as “the permanency of a building does not hold the same importance as in the past”.

The architects-in-the-making agree that Salt Lake was the first attempt at creating a distinctive neighbourhood in Calcutta, But they are quick to point out that the pioneer township project is far from the ideal model to be replicated elsewhere. “The road designing, for instance, is far too confusing, since one block looks almost the same as the next, and transport and communication planning leaves a lot to be desired,” says Mainak.

Sohini Ghosh, also of JU, feels Salt Lake “lacks the vibrant look” because the vast stretches of residential areas are not dotted by commercial activities.

“There should be well-lit plazas, meeting places and entertainment hubs to break the monotony and also enhance safety and security,” she says.

Mitra, however, warns that no new township model can work unless development-control regulations are in place. “Without such regulations, arbitrary growth can never be prevented in a city like Calcutta,” he concludes.

   

 
 
CALPHONES CALLS FOR ADS 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, Nov. 4: 
A corporate organisation floating tenders seeking advertisements... That’s exactly what Calcutta Telephones, a wing of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, is set to do.

With no takers for “premium advertisement space”, Calcutta Telephones has finalised plans to float tenders for selling ad space on phone bills. Invitation to book the space on the bills is open for two cycles, or four months, now. But no one has shown any interest in using the bills as their advertising vehicle, necessitating the unique move, say officials.

“Yes, we have finalised plans for the scheme,” Calcutta Telephones general manager (marketing) S.N. Raychaudhuri told Metro. “But it would be more appropriate to call the tender an offer. Tenders are not usually floated for inviting organisations to book ad space,” he admitted, adding, in the same breath, that there were people willing to utilise Calcutta Telephones as their publicity vehicle.

The Calcutta Telephones website (calcuttatelephones.com), too, has failed to rake in revenue. But that, say officials, can be put down to the fact that the region is not ready for e-advertising yet. The failure of bills to attract advertisers has, however, left them “surprised” and “miffed”.

These telephone bills reach about 1.2 million-odd subscribers once every two months. “We can’t think of any other ad space that has that kind of a reach,” observed officials.

The failure is all the more embarrassing, say officials, when every BSNL wing has been asked to mop up as much revenue as possible from “sources other than service”. The seriousness of intent can be gauged from the fact that Calcutta Telephones has created a post of general manager (marketing).

The BSNL turned one in the first week of October, with DoT having been corporatised in October 2000. There were banners and billboards announcing the ‘birthday’ and the failure to get a revenue stream going through advertisements, despite such hype, has prompted the “drastic” step of inviting tenders for advertisements.

   

 
 
POLICE WIVES ON LITTER DRIVE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 4: 
Wives of Calcutta Police officers living in the five quarters in central Calcutta resolved at a meeting on Sunday to submit a deputation to the executive engineer of the PWD, demanding immediate removal of the garbage piling up on their campus for 10 years.

The meeting was presided over by CPM councillor of ward 44 Rehna Khatun. She said more than 20 truckloads of garbage had piled up and turned the quarters unhealthy.

“Recently, I had three truckloads of litter removed. The CMC provided the vehicles and the labourers were paid from my own pocket. But still, more than 20 truckloads of garbage are lying there,” Khatun said.

The councillor trained her guns on the PWD for the squalor prevailing in state government buildings. The condition of Calcutta Medical College Hospital, she pointed out, was deplorable, and it was maintained by the PWD. “The sewage pipelines off gates 1, 2 and 4 are broken. Dirty water falls straight on to the wards’ floors,” she alleged.

The campus of the School of Tropical Medicine was overrun with weeds and the open manholes were potential death-traps, Khatun said.

   

 
 
CM WARNS SEPARATISTS, WATCHES INFILTRATORS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Siliguri, Nov. 4: 
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today gave an ultimatum to Kamtapuri separatists while expressing grave concern over the recent influx of Bangladeshis.

Talking to reporters at the North Bengal University after kicking off its 40th anniversary celebrations, Bhattacharjee said Kamtapur Liberation Organisation activists should surrender or face the wrath of the state.

“The KLO has ignored the government’s overtures to join the mainstream. It is our last message to them: either surrender before it’s too late or face the music. The government is in no mood to compromise with extremists and those who perpetrate terror. It is time these misguided youths saw sense and gave up arms,” the chief minister warned.

Dismissing the Kamtapur People’s Party’s charge of violating human rights, he said Kamtapuri activists languishing in jail would be released if found innocent.

The chief minister, who also inaugurated the Rabindra-Bhanu Mancha near here, voiced his government’s anxiety over the steady flow of harassed Hindus from Bangladesh into the border districts. “We are certainly concerned about the recent infiltration. We are keeping a close watch and taking appropriate steps to stem the influx.”

Refusing to put a figure on the exodus, the chief minister said: “There has been infiltration in nine border districts, with the highest (concentration) being in South Dinajpur and Malda.” He denied that refugee camps had been set up or that the authorities were providing food and shelter to the infiltrators.

“If the situation worsens, we will have to take up the matter with the Centre. The matter has to be sorted out between the Centre and the Bangladeshi authorities,” he said.

Bhattacharjee added that his government had beefed up security in north Bengal, especially in the vulnerable Bengal-Assam-Bhutan corridor along Kumargramduar in Jalpaiguri. “We are now aware that the Bhutan-based Ulfa and Bodo extremists have been pushed out. These extremists and their KLO comrades are trying to take shelter in Assam and Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling districts. Besides, some ISI-backed organisations and Nepal Maoists are very active in the region. We are keeping a close watch on them,” he said.

“Police administration and intelligence are being strengthened and several police stations will be established. One will come up at Samuktala in Kumargramduar under Alipurduar sub-division I. The special Indo-Nepal border taskforce is awaiting the Centre’s nod,” the chief minister added.

   
 

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