Teachers trip on dress code
Pill popular weapon to win puff war
False ring at cell launch
Mix, match and evolve with art
The City Diary
Making a vocation out of interiors
City focus for media agency
Clean-up call on Hastings stretch
Trio on checkmate mission
Swati Pal walks free

 
 
TEACHERS TRIP ON DRESS CODE 
 
 
BY MITA MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, Nov. 23: 
When 25-year-old Smita Bose (not her real name) arrived in South Calcutta Girls’ College in a salwar-kameez to pick up her appointment letter as a part-time lecturer in English , she was confronted with a censorious stare.

While handing over the letter, officials warned her never to turn up in college in a salwar-kameez again. “Women teachers here are allowed to take classes in saris only,” she was told.

Smita argued that she be allowed to wear the dress, as it was “perfectly decent” and something she was comfortable in. The authorities refused to listen to her. “Follow the dress code or look for a job elsewhere,” they told her bluntly. Smita attended college, in a sari, for a few weeks. Then, unable to bear the coercive dress clause, she quit.

In a throwback to the infamous Ashutosh College incident, in which then principal Subhankar Chakraborty had hauled up a student for being dressed in a salwar-kameez, the spotlight is now on the dress code at South Calcutta Girls’ College.

Investigations revealed that “at least half-a-dozen” part-time teachers at the college have quit their jobs in protest against the “unwritten dress diktat”, making it mandatory for all women faculty members to wear saris to class.

After Smita, other applicants, too, have been tripped by the sari bar and pleaded in vain to stick to their sartorial choice.

Principal Kabita Sarkar, however, is determined to stick to “tradition”. The college authorities, in fact, are planning to make it official by including the sari clause in their rule book.

“It is common knowledge that a woman teacher in our college must come to class in a sari. Some part-time teachers have tried to break tradition, but they have failed. If anybody is willing to work in our college, she must wear a sari on the college premises. We have followed this system ever since the college was opened in 1932 and we will continue to follow it,” Sarkar said on Friday.

The principal was “sympathetic” towards those who were not comfortable in saris. “We have earlier taken a liberal view to some teachers not accustomed to wearing a sari. We relaxed the rule for them, allowing them to enter college in salwar-kameez and then changing into saris before entering class. Don’t you think this was liberal enough ?” demanded Sarkar.

But some younger part-time teachers dismissed this as “absurd” and said “it’s better to come to college in a sari than to change before going to class”.

A teacher of the college, on condition of anonymity,” added: “It is indeed unfortunate that we have to follow this kind of a dress code in the 21st Century. We find it difficult to accept it, but we have to follow the rules to keep our jobs.”

The controversy has reached the CPM-controlled West Bengal College and University Teachers’ Association (WBCUTA). “We will not tolerate such Taliban-like rules. We are looking into the complaints and will take up the matter,” announced Shyamapada Pal, WBCUTA leader and senior member of the CU Syndicate.

   

 
 
PILL POPULAR WEAPON TO WIN PUFF WAR 
 
 
BY AMIT UKIL
 
Calcutta, Nov. 23: 
For once, the villain is tipped to win the battle, and with no groans from the galleries. Veteran actor Biplab Chatterjee, the badman in so many Tollywood films, is among the growing number of smokers in the city to declare war on the habit “injurious to health”.

For the past three months, Chatterjee and many more have been turning to a new weapon to win the puff war. Bupropione hydrochloride, the molecule and main ingredient of a new medication that claims to help smokers quit, was introduced in the city this August. Over 400 smokers have taken to it, armed with prescriptions from doctors.

With the chief minister’s daughter reportedly wanting him to quit the puff, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee could well be the next smoker to try out the pill. The Association of Chest Physicians plans to meet him soon. “Who else could set a better example of a smoker who has quit than the chief minister himself?” asked A.G. Ghoshal, the Association’s state president.

“The Calcutta smoking problem is a hard nut to crack,” admitted a senior manager of one of the three companies to have fired the new smoking-cessation weapon. Surveys have shown that smoking here is “a complex problem” and could be tougher to tackle than in other metros.

But city pulmonologists and chest physicians are optimistic. “For years, self-motivation and pressure from relatives at home and colleagues in office, backed by medical advice, have been the means to fight the habit,” said Ghoshal, professor and head of the department of chest medicine, SSKM Hospital. “Now, we have medication that could prove to be the battle tank in the war.”

Ghoshal has prescribed bupropione hydrochloride to 15 patients and is keeping a tab on 12 of them. “The others could be dropouts or could be continuing the medication at home. But it is too early to draw any conclusions on the success of the drug. The course lasts for eight to 12 weeks, and unless a period of at least a year passes, one cannot arrive at a conclusion.”

With the Supreme Court banning smoking in public places and the state government working on a legislation along the same lines, chest specialist P.S. Bhattacharya’s smoking-cessation clinic has become a big draw. Complete with psychologist and counsellor, the Phoolbagan centre started prescribing the drug in August. Among the 100 patients here is CPM trade union leader Chittabrata Majumdar.

“I am serious about the anti-smoking movement, maintaining detailed records of as many patients as possible for one full year,” says Bhattacharya. Till now, the success rate has been high. Before prescribing the drug, he checks out the history of the patient. “There could be side effects, like nausea and stomach upset, and knowing the patient’s history helps eliminates that.”

The drug companies say one should be off alcohol during the period of medication and, preferably, a few months more. “Many people associate smoking with drinking,” explains an official of Glaxo Smithkline, one of the three companies to have introduced bupropione hydrochloride under the trade name Zyban.

The other two companies are Cipla (Nicotex) and Solaris Pharma (Smoquit). At Rs 40 a tablet, Zyban is the costliest but boasts of having been “clinically tested in the West”, where it was first introduced in 1999.

   

 
 
FALSE RING AT CELL LAUNCH 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 23: 
Laga hai ki nahin laga, nahin pata (Don’t know whether they have been able to connect or not).”

The dialogue between Pramod Mahajan and Tapan Sikdar — during the video-conference to inaugurate Calcutta Telephone’s mobile service in Calcutta — wasn’t supposed to begin like this. But as minister of state Tapan Sikdar struggled to get through to his senior colleague in Delhi, an impatient Mahajan deviated from the script.

It was around 3.30 pm that Sikdar was asked to “make history”at the function to launch CalTel’s mobile service.

But history, delayed by several months following BSNL’s failure to keep its own promised launch dates, had to wait for five more minutes as first Sikdar, and then senior BSNL officials, tried to connect with Mahajan.

The heavyweight BJP leader, up on the large video screen, grew fidgety and blurted out the words that went down as the first spoken during the video-conference. Guffaws and titters from the audience later, BSNL officials finally managed to get Sikdar on line with Mahajan.

Humne hi jaan bujhke connect nahin kiya kyonki cameramen aa nahin rahe the (I deliberately asked officials here not to connect the line as the media crew was yet to arrive),” said Mahajan, trying to retrieve the situation.

The goof-up notwithstanding, the public response to the new cellphone in town was “overwhelming”, said BSNL officials. Marketing agents from all over Calcutta said they were being “flooded with enquiries”.

An agent operating from an outlet near Deshapriya Park said he had already — within an hour of the launch at 3 pm — given nine pre-paid card connections. Another from Burrabazar said he had sold five by 4 pm.

But some problems remained; potential subscribers calling the ‘favoured’ marketing agents — some of whom, for example, have been given agencies in both Serampore and Tollygunge or in both Burrabazar and Kidderpore — faced a lot of trouble getting through to the right marketing agent of their area, officials admitted. “But the confusion will get cleared after some time,” they said.

Officials, however, fear some serious “teething trouble”, with BSNL operating 66 base stations, as opposed to Spice and Command who have over a 100 each.

“There may be some problems in the beginning. That is why we have given free airtime of 45 days,” said Sikdar. “And prices will decrease, not increase,” he promised.

   

 
 
MIX, MATCH AND EVOLVE WITH ART 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 23: 
The idea germinated one summer afternoon in London — a project that blended two distinct groups of artists from “heterogeneous regions and diverse cultural zones”. So was born Sidewinder, bringing together 13 artistes in a series of programmes, beginning December 14. The Calcutta leg of the art tour with a difference kicks off on January 1.

“Gerard Hemsworth, professor of fine art, Goldsmiths College, London, came up with the name Sidewinder, which, in these turbulent times, should be viewed as an artistic missile,” said Rakhi Sarkar, executive director of Centre of International Modern Art (CIMA), on Friday. “We are fortunate that Gerard agreed to curate and select the painters while Suhail Malik, course leader, also from Goldsmiths College, will edit the book being brought out on the occasion,” she added. The month-long residency will include travel, lectures, seminars, workshops, heritage walks, video shows, teaching sessions and, of course, exhibitions. And it will take artists on a discovery of India — New Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Bhubaneswar, Konarak and Santiniketan.

Standing by CIMA in the endeavour to expand artistic horizons are The British Council, Goldsmiths College of London and Gold Flake Expressions, ITC. David Evans, first secretary, cultural affairs, British Council, said: “The international mixing will definitely help evolve different styles but what’s more important, perhaps, is the beginning of relationships,” he said.

Participating artists have been chosen from a wide spectrum — freshers like Suhasini Kejriwal and “people with sensibilities in the right places” like Jogen Chowdhury and Subodh Gupta. Also showcasing their works will be Atul Dodiya, Bharti Kher, Bob and Roberta Smith, David Mabb, Kabir Mohanty, Michael Raedecker, Ravinder G. Reddy, Jemima Stehli and Mark Wallinger.

On filmmaker Mohanty finding a place among the painters, Sarkar said: “Art is no longer canvas-bound. It is multi-media, which is why we have included Mohanty, a brilliant video art-maker, whose works are spellbinding. In fact, we will screen one of his latest films on the inaugural day in Calcutta.”

CIMA also plans to launch a website and a daily tabloid for Sidewinder, from December 14 to January 16. The tabloid and the site will contain coverage of daily events for the benefit of those attending the various sessions. And this is just the beginning — Sidewinder promises to be back once every three years.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Subhas pitch for flyover, night buses

Six months into his second term as transport minister, Subhas Chakraborty plans to push through several pet projects at the next Cabinet meeting on November 29.

“The Cabinet is set to clear a Rs 60-crore flyover between Vivekananda Road and Posta, in north Calcutta,” said Chakraborty on Friday. He is also set to introduce night-long bus services from December 1.

Chakraborty is reviving plans to introduce high-speed trams between Joka and Esplanade and between Howrah and Sealdah.

The Vivekananda Road flyover will be constructed by two companies shortlisted by the state transport department. They are: Gammon India and Braithwaite Burn and Jessop. Both public-sector construction companies were involved in the building of Vidyasagar Setu.

Of the Rs 60 crore, the state will provide Rs 16 crore and the rest will be raised from financial institutions.

Diwali bumper of state lottery

The first prize of Rs 1.5 crore in the Diwali bumper draw of West Bengal state lottery has been won by the holder of ticket number ZZ-79142. The lottery was held at a ceremony opened by finance minister Asim Dasgupta on November 20. Bumper draws are held six times a year, coinciding with major festivals.

Jagaddhatri awards

Chandernagore Uttaranchal Jagaddhatri Puja Committee has won the maiden Snowcem Ananda Jagaddhatri Puja Arghya Award for best overall performance. The award carries a cash prize of Rs 21,000 and a gold trophy. The second prize went to Circus Math Sarbojonin Sri Sri Jagaddhatri Puja Committee, with a cash award of Rs 11,000 and a silver trophy. Gondalpara Manasatala Jagaddhatri Puja Committee bagged the third prize of Rs 6,000 and a bronze trophy. The prize for best idol went to Kanai Pal, who crafted the idol for Boro Kalitala Sarbojonin Jagaddhatri Puja Committee.

Artists for AIDS

Responding to a state-sponsored programme seeking to sensitise people on AIDS, a number of Calcutta’s renowned painters will put their brush to canvas on December 1, International AIDS Day. Painters Shanu Lahiri, Prakash Karmakar, Bijon Chowdhury, Badhan Das and Robin Mondal, among others, are expected to assemble at Esplanade to participate in an art camp — AIDS through the eyes of painters’ — in the morning.

Yadav taken back

Ranvir Yadav, former Bihar MLA lodged in Presidency Jail, was taken to Bihar on Friday by a special police team from his state.

Bleach case

A division bench of Calcutta High Court, comprising Justice Amit Talukdar and Justice Jayotosh Banerjee, on Friday referred the appeal filed by Peter Bleach, main accused in the Purulia armsdrop case, to Chief Justice A.K. Mathur for a fresh assignment. The bench refused to hear the matter as senior judge Talukdar had been a CBI lawyer during hearing of the case in the lower court.

EMU coaches

Services will be restricted on Saturday from 7 am to enable the authorities introduce EMU coaches on Circular Rail. Tracks between Sovabazar and BBD Bag stations will be blocked for trial run of the EMU coaches.

Rail tout held

The anti-fraud squad of Eastern Railway arrested Md Ashraf, an unauthorised travel agent, from Mahatma Gandhi Road and seized several railway tickets from him.

Airport security

Union minister for civil aviation Shahnawaz Hussain will hold talks with the state government on Saturday on deployment of CISF jawans at the city airport. The Centre has decided to deploy its forces in all the airports in the country in view of the terrorist attack on the US.

B.Sc results

Results of this year’s B.Sc Part I honours and general examinations of Calcutta University were announced on Friday. The pass percentage in honours was 83 per cent. In B.Sc Part I general, nearly 70 per cent of the students were successful. Results of the B.A. Part I honours and general exams will be published in mid-December.    

 
 
MAKING A VOCATION OUT OF INTERIORS 
 
 
DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, Nov. 23: 
If logging on to computer courses was the fashion for the past two years, interior designing seems to be the buzzword these days. From housewives to college students — interior designing has caught the fancy of one and all. “It has got real-life applicability and one can easily assess the impact by checking out what he or she has learnt by utilising the acquired skills in his/her home,” explains Shantoshree Mondal, assistant manager, business development, Exterior–Interiors, on Hazra Road.

While almost all software-training majors have registered a fall in sign-ups and a dip in net profits, the Rs 5-crore training outfit has been able to hold on to its student base and is even launching a new programme exclusively for housewives.

The demand from this segment, says Mondal, is growing by the day. Many turn up just for the heck of it, but then take to it with a passion. Others are serious from the outset, more often than not spinning a small business out of their new-found skills.

For the Calcutta-headquartered 15-year-old interior designing institute, with centres in Bangalore, Kozhikode, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kochi, Mumbai, Dhaka, Kathmandu and San Diego, the trickle of inquiries about the course has grown into a flood over the past few months.

“I have selected this programme over other available vocational options because after this one-year diploma, I can even start off something on my own, without bothering much about the capital expenditure,” says Sweta Dugar, a college student.

The institute helps students who are keen to be their own boss. “We have a consultancy wing, where we receive plenty of projects and pass on some of them to our students,” explains Mondal.

The course covers all contemporary aspects of interior design and décor, with specialisation in fine arts, landscape, Vaastu and auto cad. Students are exposed to the “latest techniques required for effective interior designing”.

Alka Poddar, a student of the institute, looking forward to a career in interior designing, said: “Use of IT for effective interior designing gives an edge to the programme, which helps students in getting placements even in big companies.”

Besides a real-world, three-month exposure for its students, the institute also boasts of a “100 per cent placement record”. According to Ashish Mitra, managing director, Exterior-Interiors, students with “a proper knowledge of interior designing” are always in demand in the industry.

“The need for redesigning and refurbishing interiors for optimum utilisation of space always exists in modern society. Besides, people have become conscious about aesthetics and environmental issues these days. So, the demand for well-trained interior designers has grown.”

Mitra backs his hypothesis with numbers: “The major components of the interiors industry, like paint, switch and tiles, have performed consistently over the years. They are booking an average growth of around 10 per cent even during this period of slowdown.”

According to Mondal, success stories of former students have inspired many of the current lot to opt for interior designing as a career. Students, who spend Rs 30,000 for the one-year diploma programme, start their career with initial salary levels ranging from Rs 3,500 to Rs 6,000. Students also apply for further studies in universities abroad, with help from the institute.

   

 
 
CITY FOCUS FOR MEDIA AGENCY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 23: 
Zenith Media, the $ 20-billion global agency, is bullish about the company’s prospects in India and expects to be among the “top three media agencies” here within the next two years.

Antony Young, CEO, Zenith Media, Asia, said on Friday: “Despite all the doom and gloom, we remain optimistic. Though there is a general slowdown, India remains high on our agenda. We expect the major drivers of growth in our Asia operations to be India, China and Japan.”

Young, on a two-day trip to Calcutta as part of his tour of the company’s five offices in the country, addressed Ad Club members on Friday. Besides Calcutta, Zenith has branches in Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Delhi.

In Calcutta, the company has roped in “seven new ones” in the past one year. “Despite the shrinking business opportunities in the city, the company will remain focused here,” pledged Young.

The two-year-old Indian wing of the global agency, which counts ITC, LML, Nokia and Hyundai Motors among its clients, had done business worth Rs 300 crore last year and expects to touch Rs 500 crore by 2003. According to Young, the projections are “realistic”, given the company’s growth of over 60 per cent last year.

“The explosion of media opportunities, opening up of economies, government deregulation and the competitive pressure in the marketplace have made media planning absolutely necessary to stay focused and control costs,” explained Young.

With an increase in the media and consequent fragmentation in target audience, campaign development is a complex process today. “Here, the role of media agencies assumes importance,” said Young.

   

 
 
CLEAN-UP CALL ON HASTINGS STRETCH 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 23: 
After the successful eviction of unauthorised settlers along Tolly’s Nullah, the state government is now planning to carry out the second phase of the operations. Unauthorised settlers along the Tolly’s Nullah, between Hastings and Kudghat, will be evicted in the second phase, which the government has undertaken to enable the Metro Rail authorities expand its services up to Garia.

The entire area between Hastings and Kudghat falls under the jurisdiction of the police. Senior police officials will meet the government officials at the Writers’ Buildings on Saturday to chalk out the strategy about the proposed eviction drive.

The government has decided not to compensate those living illegally along the Nullah, said a senior official of the urban development department.

Urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya said that the government was determined to clean the Nullah and will not allow unauthorised settlers to stay any longer. “About 300 unauthorised settlers are living on the stretch between Hastings and Kudghat and we will have to evict them”, the minister informed.

Interestingly, Subrata Mukherjee, mayor of the Trinamul Congress-run Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) told Bhattacharya that the CMC was ready to help the government in carrying out the second phase of the eviction drive.

Mukherjee had antagonised the Trinamul supremo Mamata Banerjee by supporting the government-sponsored eviction drive in October.

While Mamata and some of her party leaders had opposed the drive and organised a blockade at the eviction site near Garia, Mukherjee was even ready to supply bulldozers to the state government for demolishing the unauthorised constructions.

The CMC is, reportedly, interested in carrying out the drive to obtain a loan of Rs 1,700 crore from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for development of 46 wards under the CMC.

Some political parties and local organisations had demanded rehabilitation of those evicted from the Tolly’s Nullah during the first part of October. But the government has not yielded to the pressure. The government intends sticking to its original policy.

Bhattacharya added that it was impossible for the government to rehabilitate those living illegally along the Tolly’s Nullah between Hastings and Kudghat.

The irrigation department is now busy desilting the portion of the Nullah from Tollygunge to Garia where the state government had evicted unauthorised settlers in October.

   

 
 
TRIO ON CHECKMATE MISSION 
 
 
BY ATREYO MUKHOPADHYAY
 
Calcutta, Nov. 23: 
Two first-timers and a seasoned customer trying to break his first-round jinx leave city for Moscow early on Saturday to take part in the World Chess Championships. Surya Sekhar Ganguly, Nisha Mohota and Dibyendu Barua are among the nine Indian contestants, led by Viswanathan Anand, for the knockout championship beginning November 25 (first-round matches from November 27).

The trio has been pitted against players rated way above but preparation has been done keeping that in mind, and staying solid with the black pieces is perhaps one common point. While Surya and Nisha are going without great expectations, a sense of purpose is evident in what Barua says.

“A total player with strong openings and positive tactics, like me,” said Barua of his French rival Joel Lautier. A naturally aggressive player yet to do anything major at the highest level, Calcutta’s only Grandmaster feels he has never been better prepared.

There has been an upward swing in his performance of late, and the player thinks he has become more “solid”. “I have worked a lot on my opening and would like to ensure I stay even with Lautier in that area,” Barua said of his homework.

Barua has never gone past the first round in three attempts. He lost to Lautier in their only encounter in Biel in 1993 but, now it seems, he feels he has a point to prove. “Obviously it’s not a record I am proud of and I am trying to set it right.”

A little bit of awe while fine-tuning technique and tactics has been difficult to ignore for the other two. Surya has drawn the toughest opponent among Indians with former champion Alexander Khalifman awaiting him in Kremlin Palace. Nisha faces another Russian in Tatiana Stepovaia-Diachenko.

“He has 17 solutions to what I can offer and I haven’t been able to revise all,” admits Surya. The 18-year-old has not touched the aspects he is good at and mainly worked on openings. “It’s pointless trying to find flaws in his game, I have to stay solid and ensure there are no errors.” Like Barua, his sparring partner in recent times, Surya’s primary plan is not to concede advantage in the early stage of the game.

Nisha has found similarities with her opponent though she has never played against Tatiana.

“There is a balance of attack and positional play in her approach. Having studied many of her games, I think I can cross the first round,” the 21-year-old said. Indians have rarely gone past the first round since the Fide (world governing body of the game) introduced the knockout format in 1998.

   

 
 
SWATI PAL WALKS FREE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 23: 
Five days after being granted bail by the sub-divisional judicial magistrate of Alipore, Swati Pal, one of the accused in the Khadim’s abduction case, was released from Presidency jail on Friday evening, under tight CID security.

Bhagwan Das Kothari, of 9, Sovaram Basak Street, in the Regent Park area, came forward to furnish the surety amount of Rs 10,000 for Swati. She had to wait for a long time to walk free, as Bharati Ghosh, deputy superintendent of CID, interrogated her parents for over seven hours on their plans for Swati. “I don’t know what she will do now. I only want to take her to a safe place,” said Sudhir Pal, Swati’s father.

   
 

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