Neglected north charts road revival
Chemists hit the road to protest steep licence fees
Memoryremains in cop custody
Nawab’s British-baiter bites the dust
The City Diary
Leather complex bags Italian badge of support
Rent-hike signal for govt flats
Man held for murder of Barasat goon
Rating team finds no fault with Jadavpur
Mother blames friends for son’s death

Calcutt, Nov. 12 
The .northern alliance., formed to push for .greater development initiative in hitherto-neglected north Calcutta., is on a roll.

In what can be termed its first .victory., the alliance forced the government to respond to a primary demand on Monday . revival of the historic Strand Bank Road, from Cossipore to Fairlie Place. Once complete, it will become an important artery running parallel to the existing network of roads in the northern part of the city, like APC Road, Bidhan Sarani and C.R.Avenue.

With urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya showing the way, officials belonging to four agencies took to Strand Bank Road on Monday afternoon. CPM MLA and chairman of CMDA’s central tender committee Sudhanshu Sil was the man in the centre, as he inspected the six-km stretch from Bagbazar to Posta.The reconstruction of this stretch is expected to be complete by December-end.

Among those present during Monday’s inspection were CMDA chief engineer S.K. Saha and assistant commissioner of city traffic police, P.K. Mitra. .

We have watched for a long time as all major development work is taken up in south Calcutta. I cannot remember the last time any project was implemented to improve transport facilities in north Calcutta, despite the fact that three million people live in this part of the city,. complained Sil.

Now, the .northern alliance., a conglomeration of politicians and civic officials rallying to the cause of the neglected north, intends to bridge the great divide.

Even though Monday’s team included five Left Front councillors from north Calcutta, Trinamul Congress MLAs Sadhan Pande and Tarak Banerjee, elected from this part of the city, have also joined the shout to set things right.

Strand Bank Road, running parallel to the east bank of Hooghly, now used by trucks and lorries, has been virtually out of bounds for small vehicles for the past 30 years. The government’s green signal on its revival comes as a major morale-booster to the northern camp.

According to a plan drawn up by the CMDA, Strand Bank Road will be rebuilt in two phases. The initial focus will be on the stretch between Bagbazar and Fairlie Place.

Next, the north-revival camp will shift to the stretch between Bagbazar and Cossipore. A concrete bridge will have to be constructed across the Bagbazar canal to link the road to Cossipore. The stretch will then extended up to Cossipore.

Asok Bhattacharya, meanwhile, has asked the CMDA to take the initiative in the project. He has assured allotment of ‘special funds. for the project, which is being viewed as the first step to correct the developmental imbalance between south and north Calcutta.


Calcutta, Nov. 12: 
4,000 chemists and druggists rom the city and its neighbouring districts marched to the offices of he director of drug control on Monday to protest the steep rise in icence-renewal fees and setting up of medicine shops on government hospital premises.

Simultaneous demonstrations were also held in front of the three regional deputy directors of drug control in Burdwan, Behrampore and Siliguri. Drug stores were closed for 12 hours in many disrict capitals and towns, accordng to reports received at the head office of the Bengal Chemists & Druggists Association.

The hike, which has been imposed with effect from August 24, s as much as 1,500 per cent above he existing rates. Medicine shopowners had to pay a licence renewal fee of Rs 80 (Rs 40 each for bio and non-biological medicines) every two years. This rate has been in force from 1981.

Now, the revision, formulated by the directorate-general of drug control in New Delhi, requires shop-owners to shell out Rs 3,000 every five years to get their licences revalidated. .This is an unreasonable increase,. said association president Bipin Mehta, after returning from the rally.

The drug shop-owners are also protesting the proposal to set up private medicine shops on the campuses of state-run hospitals. .

This will affect the business of those running shops outside he hospitals, some of whom have been in the trade for years,. said an official.

Of the approximately 35,000 medicine shop-owners in the state, over 29,000 are members of the association, Mehta said. .An execuive committee meeting is fixed for November 24, when the next course of action will be decided upon,. he added. He, however, did not rule out the possibility of a statewide strike if no move was aken to reconsider the steep hike.

In the memorandum presented to the drug controllers, the association has sought a move by the state to bring about a decrease in he rate, preferably by the end of next month,when renewals would have to be carried out. Officiating drug controller P.K. Sarkar assured the protesters that he would pass on their plea.

Though the gazette notificaion on the amendment to the Drugs and Cosmetics rules was issued in August, its copy arrived in he state some time during the Pujas, a drug control directorate official said. .

The circular was distributed a few days ago among the shopowners,. he said. The beneficiary of the increased rates would be he respective states. Bengal’s reasury stands to gain over Rs 1 crore if the rate holds.

Meanwhile, people in many district towns, especially in Burdwan and Hooghly, faced a tough ime, with medicine shops being closed on Monday. Not a single shop was open in Burdwan, not even the ones near the medical college hospital.


Calcutta, Nov. 12: 
Stolen from Bhandarhati, Hooghly, in December 2000. Retrieved from a Bowring’s auction in Delhi last week. Turned away from Victoria Memorial .on technical grounds. on Monday.

Memory or Recollection, the Hemen Mazumdar masterpiece stolen from the Chowdhurys. ancestral home in December 2000, was taken to Victoria Memorial, in compliance with a Calcutta High Court order, by a member of the Chowdhury household and Dhaniakhali OC Subir Roy on Monday evening. It was denied entry, as the .proper procedure. for admittance of a work of art had not been followed.

The painting, which had been flown into Calcutta from Delhi on Sunday night, remained in the custody of the Dhaniakhali OC and will be brought back to Victoria on Tuesday morning, where ‘specialists. will study the condition of the work of art before admitting it to the storage.

CID officials, meanwhile, reiterated on Monday that the stolen painting had been traced back to Chitrakoot art gallery in south Calcutta. According to sleuths, Prakash Kejriwal, 68-year-old owner of Chitrakoot arrested late on Saturday, has admitted to buying Memory .for Rs 35,000 from an unknown person in June this year.. He has, allegedly, failed to explain the source of the four other Hemen Mazumdar paintings seized from the gallery on Saturday. DIG (CID) V.V. Thambi said: .He (Kejriwal) told us he did not know the painting was stolen or the man who sold it to him..

According to SP, Hooghly, N. Ramesh Babu, Kejriwal, remanded in police custody for 10 days, moved a bail petition before the Chinsurah court on Monday, which was rejected. Members of the Kejriwal family were unavailable for comment.

CID officials and the district police are carrying out a series of raids to trace the other Hemen Mazumdar stolen from the Chowdhury home. The two paintings had been gifted to the family by the painter himself.

Memory was offered for sale at the first Bowring’s auction in Delhi on November 5, but pulled out after a member of the Chowdhury family alerted the police and the organisers. Last Thursday, responding to a writ filed by the Chowdhurys, vacation judge Asim Kumar Banerjee passed an interim order for the painting to be fetched from Delhi and delivered to Victoria Memorial. The matter comes up for hearing on November 20 in a .regular bench of Calcutta High Court.


Calcutta, Nov. 12: 
It had been used in many a battle against the British. Old-timers still recount tales surrounding the cannon that once roared. Today, this magnificent showpiece, once the pride of the Britishowned Calcutta Tramways Company Ltd (CTC), is lying in a desolate, dirty corner of the company’s Esplanade depot.A few enquiries by army personnel about the history of this 10-foot-long pounder and their wish to take it to Fort William is all the CTC depot officials remember.

Baleshwar Ram,who has been serving the CTC since 1978, has heard several tales revolving around the cannon. Seemingly, it was used by Nawab Sirajud-Daulah.The old fort,which was weakened by constant pounding by the Nawab’s small artillery, forced the British forces to retreat to Falta, several miles down the Hooghly . .Kahani to bahut sune hai. Lekin khas kuch pata nahin iske baare mein (I have heard lot of tales, but cannot shed much light on the history of the cannon),. says Ram.Others say the cannon was later used by the Nawab’s forces in several battles.

An employee remembers an artillery expert from Fort William telling him that the Dutch in Hooghly probably manufactured the cannon. Governor-General Robert Clive had captured several such cannons from the Dutch..We haven.t really given much thought about restoring it or taking it to Fort William. I will have to find out whether there has been any attempts made,. said a senior army official, requesting anonymity, on Monday.

Newly-appointed CTC general manager Mihir Das had also noticed the cannon, during one of his inspections. .There seems to be no written record. I am contacting the Archaeological Survey of India for help. Let me see what can be done to restore it,. he added.

Until somebody decides to do something about it, the cannon will lie in the corner of the depot, partly hidden by a thick growth of grass and garbage.



Protests, assault rock film festival

There was trouble on Monday at Nandan where Kolkata Film Festival 2001 is on. Members of the Bhasha-O-Chetna Samity, led by its president Imanul Haq,were protesting the screening of Tauras, a Russian film on the dark side of Lenin’s life,when they were allegedly assaulted by the police. .We were beaten up. The police dragged me to the Hastings police station,. said Haq,who was later released. The Russian film, directed by Alexander Sokurov, shows Lenin begging for poison to commit suicide, among other controversial scenes. Tauras is scheduled to be screened at Rabindra Sadan on Tuesday..We will not let them show the film. I have written to the chief minister asking him how a Left Front government can allow the screening of such a film,. he said.

Governor leaves on foreign trip

Governor Viren J. Shah left Calcutta on Monday on a visit of four countries, including Thailand and Indonesia. Governor of Assam Lt-General (rtd) S.K. Sinha took additional temporary charge of gubernatorial office in Bengal during the day. Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court A.K. Mathur administered the oath of office to Sinha at a brief function at Raj Bhavan. According to officials , Shah will return on November 27.

One hurt in fire .

One person was injured when a fire broke out in a sixstoreyed building on Mahatma Gandhi Road on Monday afternoon. The man was cooking on the top floor of the building when neighbours noticed smoke billowing through the window. Fire brigade officials brought the blaze under control in half an hour. The person was admitted to hospital with minor burns.

Dacoits arrested

. Six dacoits were arrested from Rabindrapalli, in the Barasat police station area, on Monday. Police said the gangsters were caught on the basis of a tip-off,when they assembled at a nearby playground. Sandalwood seized .Railway police arrested one person and seized 67 kg of sandalwood at the Howrah railway station on Sunday. Samir Naskar was caught red-handed on platform 21. Police said Naskar was a smuggler.

Body in Lake

. The body of a woman in her forties was found floating in Rabindra Sarobar on Monday morning. Police said the deceased was identified as Sailarani Das, a resident of the nearby Lake Colony. After conducting preliminary investigations, police said it was a case of suicide. The woman was reportedly depressive.

Film director injured .

Bengali film director Satarupa Sanyal, her two children and her brother Biswarup were injured when the car in which they were travelling collided with a lorry on Sunday. The accident took place on Diamond Harbour Road. Sanyal was bound for Falta on a pleasure trip.

Train services hit

. Train services were disrupted for over half an hour on the Howrah division of Eastern Railway,when a 40-year-old man jumped onto the overhead wire from Bankim Setu on Monday afternoon.The person, identified as Biswanath Raut,was admitted to Howrah State General Hospital in a critical state.As a result of this incident, three pairs of local trains had to be cancelled,while five trains ran late by half an hour.    

Calcutta, Nov. 12: 
Gucci and other Italian firms exploring possibilities of doing business in Calcutta, will plant their footprints in the city only if appropriate brick-and-mortar infrastructure is in place.

Italian ambassador in India Benedetto Amari, who met Somnath Chatterjee and others on Monday to discuss areas of possible collaboration, said he hasn.t been contacted personally by Gucci. .However, on behalf of our government, we have pledged our support if and when the leather complex takes a more concrete shape.We are ready when they are,. said Amari, who was in town in connection with the film festival. .

We know Gucci can be very good advertisement for Calcutta and its leather complex, but if any Italian company decides to come in, it must be totally convinced that the local set-up is ready and functional,. added Italian consulgeneral in Calcutta Domenico Benincasa.

The Italians, who have already organised a training course for tannery management, are game to help out in the .chemicals and mechanical sectors. as well, but would rather steer clear of hotels. .We watched the French fate in the Great Eastern case keenly, and are obviously wary of investing in that sector,. said Benincasa.

The ambassador, however, stressed that the Italian government was keen to promote a package to attract global tourists to Calcutta..However,the initiative has to come from the West Bengal government and if any Italian province is approached for help, it will surely be considered,.Amari said.

Leading Italian film producers, like Fabrizio Mosca and Scapagnini, are studying possibilities of partnerships in Calcutta. .They are not just looking at Bollywoodtype products. Bengali-style films are very much on their menu,. the ambassador smiled.

Cultural exchanges between Italy and India will receive a shot in the arm with the unveiling of the imposing new Institute of Culture in Delhi early next year on the embassy compound. .Once the new centre opens its doors, the cultural scene in other cities will become more vibrant as well. Calcutta being a major cultural hub, will get a fair share of events, like the Chamber Orchestra of Mandova on December 3,. Amari said.

The Italians are enthusiastic about a role in education, too. .A scientific collaboration is already in place in biotechnology between La Saprieza University of Rome and Jadavpur University. Another tie-up is possible with the Instituto del Restauro of Rome to teach Calcutta-based restoration experts new techniques, so that they can come back and work on the delightful heritage structures in this city,. the ambassador added.

IT is another area where Italy is keen to talent-shop in India. The Sant .Anna University of Pisa has selected 40 Indian students for an all-expenses-paid masters course.


Calcutta, Nov. 12: 
Unable to meet spiralling maintenance expenses for over 20,000 flats for lower and middle-income group people in the state, the government is planning to increase monthly rents by early 2002.

The move has been prompted by the .unimaginable gap. between annual revenues collected from over 11,000 housing estates and their maintenance cost. .

We collect Rs 3.99 crore as rent from 20,329 flats but the annual maintenance bill runs up to Rs 7.59 crore. We are considering a proposal to hike monthly rents for all housing estates across the state,. housing secretary Amitava Mukhopadhyay said.

Officials said rents of housing estates were first revised in 1998 after nearly 32 years. .In 1998, the rents were doubled. But that, too, was insufficient,. the secretary said, adding that the revised rent structure has not been finalised.

Officials said efforts are also on to sell off flats to those who have been occupying them as tenants. .This has yielded good results in Maniktala and B.T. Road housing estates,where over 65 per cent flats have already been sold to existing tenants,. said deputy secretary Sukumar Mahapatra.

In another move, the government, determined to retrieve its flats from superannuated government employees in 36 housing estates across the city, has planned to evict them soon after Diwali with assistance from Calcutta Police. .

The successful eviction along Tolly’s Nullah has encouraged us to line up the proposed drive against retired government employees who have refused to move despite several reminders,. said a housing department official. Housing minister Gautam Deb has reportedly okayed the proposed action against .errant. government employees.

A meeting with commissioner of police Sujoy Chakraborty and other city police officials have been scheduled to work out the eviction strategy early next week. .

We are left with no option but to resort to coercive measures to retrieve the flats since fresh applications are piling up.. Official records confirm that altogether 5,663 applicants have applied for accommodation in the city. .If retired government employees do not vacate flats, an accommodation crisis is bound to crop up,. said Mahapatra.

He said since July, the department has started to block pension benefits, particularly gratuities, of those not vacating the flats. .This has helped us retrieve nearly 500 flats from retired employees, including IAS and WBCS officers, during the past few months,. he said.

Nearly 170 cases are pending with the courts since the retired employees have filed petitions, refusing to vacate the flats.

However, another 150 flats can be retrieved if we resort to the eviction drive,. Mahapatra observed.


Calcutta, Nov. 12: 
Another arrest was made in the Deba murder case on Monday.

Deba, a Barasat-based criminal, was killed on November 6, according to district police sources. The officer-in-charge, Barasat, later told Metro that four people, including Bappa De, arrested on Monday, had murdered Deba. Earlier, Sanat Ghosh , the main accused in the case, was arrested just after Deba’s death.

Police said problems began on October 29 when the body of Sumangal Ghosh, a cousin of Sanat, was recovered from a pond at Basirhat. Sanat thought Deba was responsible for the act. .On November 6, Deba was brutally murdered at Habra, presumably by Sanat and his gang,. police said.

They added that Deba was wanted in many cases, including murder. In 1996, Deba had reportedly killed a man near Machlandpur railway station. .Not only Deba, his wife Minakshi is also wanted in connection with a murder,. the police said. .

Minakshi, with her father, had killed her lover Kartik Ghosh at Tamluk seven years ago. Minakshi’s father was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment,. the police added.

According to the residents of Barasat, Habra and Machlandpur, in the northern fringes of the city, criminal activities, including murder, are becoming a regular feature. .We feel quite unsafe,. said Deb Narayan Guha, a resident of Hridaypur, near Barasat.


Calcutta, Nov. 12: 
A five-star rating is not all that has been awarded to Jadavpur University (JU) by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC). The university has been also identified as one of the rare institutions free of faults, university officials said.

The NAAC inspection at JU included examination of academic standards, quality of administration, infrastructure and work culture. Normally, the NAAC inspection reports for all institutes contain a separate column . .areas of concern.. where suggestions for improvement are provided. Such suggestions are provided irrespective of their ratings. .

We were happy to find that the NAAC has not even found a single area in our university that needs to be touched upon.We are proud of having been able to achieve excellence,. said Ashok Nath Basu, JU vice-chancellor, adding: .We will try our best to maintain this quality when we will have to renew our accreditation..

According to Basu, the column has been kept .blank. in their report, which was a clear indication that there was no area where the NAAC could detect lapses.

Even as the NAAC team had given its indication about awarding the five-star status to JU much before, Basu on Monday formally announced the outcome of the inspection of the NAAC, which visited the university between October 15 and October 17.

Sources said the NAAC had also identified certain areas which needed to be rectified in Calcutta University,which had recently got a five-star billing.

Basu said that encouraged by the highest rating by the NAAC, the university has undertaken a series of research and development projects.


Calcutta, Nov. 12: 
Sabita Biswas, mother of Soumitra Biswas, who was found hanging under mysterious circumstances in the RG Kar Medical College and Hospital hostel at Belgachhia almost three months ago, blamed his friends for the death. .

My son returned home as he could not tolerate the indecent activities of his close friends. But on August 24, the day before his death, his friends called him back to the hostel for a truce,. said Sabita.

On August 25, Soumitra’s body was found hanging from the ceiling of his hostel room. .

I was shocked when Soumitra’s friends refused to talk to me and stopped others from doing so,. added Sabita.

DCDG Soumen Mitra, however, said: .According to evidence, the incident was not a case of homicidal hanging. Though we have started a murder case on the basis of the mother’s complaint, we have to wait for the postmortem report..


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