Sex education set for school debut in state
Zoo entry fee hike mulled
Bypass link roads to be widened
Trade website
Puja romance ends in death on tracks
Baby girls found dead in drain
Citu derails Sealdah eviction drive
Special forces on border vigil
Mob takes on district top cop

 
 
SEX EDUCATION SET FOR SCHOOL DEBUT IN STATE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 1: 
The state government has decided to make changes in the school syllabi to include health and sex education. The move has already been initiated and, once finalised, the topics will be a compulsory part of school education from Class VIII.

This was stated by both health minister Surya Kanta Mishra and Left Front chairman Biman Bose, who is also the working president of Bangiya Shakhyarata Prasar Samity, on Saturday during an interface with students organised on World AIDS Day.

Pointing out two important factors that made this move essential, Mishra said of the 725 officially-known AIDS victims in Bengal, as many as 713 had become infected through unsafe sex. Also, one of every four persons with HIV was below 25. “Earlier, intervention was needed in cases of only the commercial sex workers and the migratory workers. We now have to concentrate on the youth.”

Saying that students needed to know, the minister stressed that taboos would have to be broken. “No inhibitions should come in the way. All adolescents must be acquainted with the human reproduction system for their own safety. We are discussing changes in the secondary and higher secondary syllabi.”

Bose also said the syllabus will have to be changed. “Sex education must be included. Students must know the human physiology to prevent the outbreak of various diseases. And this knowledge would remain with them for the rest of their lives.”

He added that Bengal might be better than the other states in terms of the incidence of AIDS. “But that does not mean that we can sit back and relax,” he said.

The interface was organised by the WB Voluntary Health Association, which is carrying out pilot health education projects in 1,230 schools in 18 districts. The WB State AIDS Control and Prevention Society, which co-hosted the programme, is preparing education modules for students.

The society launched its official website (www.wbsapcs.org) on the day. The site contains information on where to go for tests, treatments, contact addresses of counselling centres, in addition to basic facts about HIV/AIDS. The Society’s new project director S. Kumar has taken the initiative to build the contents of the site.

Railway stations, Metro Railway halts and the airport announced awareness messages on the public address system. Stalls to spread information on the disease were set up at five important junctions, from Shyambazar to Behala.

The day also saw a number of rallies being taken out by various organisations to spread the message of safe sex.

Around 10,000 people from 50 NGOs, including Nehru Yuva Kendra, turned out at Rani Rashmoni Road. A large contingent (about 1,500) in the rally was from Sonagachhi, led by the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee. Sex workers from Brazil and Bangladesh, too, participated in the effort to create awareness. The Society is providing Rs 20 to each participant. “This is the first time that such a budget has been allocated for World AIDS Day,” said a Society official. The fund includes about Rs 6 lakh from the UK government’s Department for International Development, which has been allocated mainly for media coverage.

AIDS activists hope that this year’s theme, “I care…do you?” will percolate to the public in a society where those infected face gross stigmatisation.

And with a budget of over Rs 21 lakh, a lot is being done, many of the events being for the first time since 1986, when the first person with HIV was detected in Calcutta.

Bangla rock bands will be playing at two points of the city, one at Goabagan and the other at Ultadanga, belting out songs appreciated by the youth. Interspersed would be a few AIDS messages like “Have fun, but have safe fun.” Street theatres are planned at Metiabruz and Ultadanga.

TV spots on two Bangla channels are already on the air since Thursday. So are jingles on the two FM radio channels. Advertisements and supplements in most newspapers also form a part of the huge media campaign this year. Well-known painters will hold a camp at Curzon Park, spreading the message through their drawings.

   

 
 
ZOO ENTRY FEE HIKE MULLED 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Dec. 1: 
Faced with spiralling expenses for the upkeep of its 5,440 inmates of various categories, the Alipore Zoo authorities are considering a proposal to hike entry fees from early next year. The present entry fee of Rs 5 was introduced in October 1998. “We will decide on the proposal next month and send it to the government for approval. This is high time to raise the entry fee,” Supriya Acharya, president of the zoo managing committee, told Metro on Friday. She said the exact amount of the proposed hike would be finalised only after the government gave its “green signal”. Forest secretary C.S. Samal, however, said the zoo authorities could “adopt a resolution on this score”.

The 126-year-old Alipore Zoo, spread over 45 acres, is one of the largest in the country with 4,000 varieties of mammals, 1,350 species of birds and 90 categories of reptiles.

Though over 22 lakh people visit the zoo annually, visitors in the winter months — December and January — number more than 10 lakh. The authorities have to shell out Rs 3 crore annually, a major part of which is spent for maintenance of the inmates and salary. Asserting that the fee hike was “quite justified”, acting director of Alipore Zoo, Subir Chaudhuri, unveiled a string of schemes to improve the upkeep of the zoo inmates.

In another move to help the zoo staff identify diseases relating to animals and visitors know more about the animals, the authorities plan to introduce history cards for all the inmates. At present, a signage is attached to an animal’s cage or enclosure with its name and details about its origin.

Confirming the introduction of proposed history cards for zoo inmates, Acharya said the matter was already discussed at its meeting held on Wednesday. “A history card will also mention about the disease or ailment a particular animal is prone to. This is necessary to identify the disease and treat the animals on the spot,” said a zoo official. There are three vetenary doctors, including one on depution, to look after the health care system in the zoo.

   

 
 
BYPASS LINK ROADS TO BE WIDENED 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 1: 
The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) and the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) on Saturday unveiled plans to widen the network of approach roads to Bridge no. 4, which links Park Circus with the EM Bypass.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee announced that the CMC had decided to hand over land on the Park Circus side free of cost to the CMDA for this purpose.

Mukherjee said on Saturday that he had already asked the department concerned to locate the required land at the earliest. It will take about three months to hand the land over to the CMDA for the purpose.

According to Mukherjee, this bridge is the shortest link between Park Circus and EM Bypass, with nearly 15,000 vehicles plying across it daily.

He explained that while the bridge has recently been widened to accommodate more traffic, the link roads on the Park Circus side were narrow.

Mukherjee, along with urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya and member, mayor-in-council, Rajib Deb visited the area on Friday.

The CMC has also decided to widen Bright Street and Congress Exhibition Road by removing unauthorised settlers on the pavements on both sides of the roads. This will be done at a cost of Rs 20 lakh, a CMC official said on Saturday.

“Widening of the two roads will also help the government tackle traffic congestion on the bridge. More vehicles will be able to use the roads once they are widened,” Mukherjee added.

Sources said that the need to widen the roads was first felt when Jyoti Basu, then the chief minister, used to travel across the bridge daily on his way to Writers’ Buildings from his Salt Lake residence. While the bridge was widened then, it was only recently that the issue of improving the link roads was raised.

Bhattacharya said the need for widening the approach roads to the bridge was necessitated by the increasing number of townships along the EM Bypass. Transport experts said traffic on the stretch was expected to increase fourfold in future.

The CMC and the CMDA are also planning to widen other narrow city roads.

where traffic jams are a routine occurance.

“Within the next few years, a number of housing complexes both in private sector and joint venture with the state government will come up on both sides of the bypass. Naturally, the bridge will be the main connector between the city and these new housing complexes,” he added.

“As a first step on the road to cooperation between the CMC and the CMDA, we decided not to charge for the land that we have given for the city’s development,” Mukherjee said. “Soon, we shall see other roads improved in a similar fashion.”

Echoed Bhattacharya, “If the CMC continues to work hand in hand with us, Calcutta may soon become a better place to live in.”

   

 
 
TRADE WEBSITE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Asansol, Dec. 1: 
From our correspondent in Asansol The state industry department will soon launch a website to provide information about West Bengal’s geographical and infrastructure facilities. This was announced by industry minister Nirupam Sen on Saturday. The website will allow users to download prospectus, brochures and application forms for setting up manufacturing units without visiting government offices.

While addressing a seminar on the economic growth of Asansol, Sen invited entrepreneurs to utilise the opportunities available in this belt.

   

 
 
PUJA ROMANCE ENDS IN DEATH ON TRACKS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 1: 
Raja had fallen in love with a girl during Durga Puja. His friends had warned him not to get involved. But he did not pay attention.

On Saturday morning, Raja’s body was found near Barasat — his hometown. He had been stabbed in the chest and left to die beside the railway tracks.

Preliminary investigations, have revealed that the murder was the work of a rival in love.

His body was spotted by local residents on Saturday morning.

“She was attractive and seen going around with different men. We had warned Raja not to get involved, but he would not listen,” said one of his friends.

A couple of weeks ago, some unknown youth beat up Raja for his relationship with the girl. “We had then asked him to break off with the girl. But Raja did not pay heed. He told us he would meet her again on Sunday,” Subrata Chaki, a neighbour, said.

On Friday night, six youth called out Raja from his Kailashnagar residence. “We saw them walking away together,” said Supriyo Das, another neighbour.

“When Raja did not return till midnight, we went looking for him. Early on Saturday, his body was found beside the railway tracks,” Das added.

Police said he was not killed on the spot where he was found. “The miscreants had murdered him somewhere else and dumped the body near the tracks. We are trying to locate where he was attacked,” said an officer of the Barasat Government Railway Police (GRP).

“We have not been able to trace the girl yet. A search has been launched for some local youth who might have had a rivalry with Raja,” the official added.

Road accidents

Two persons were killed in separate road accidents on Saturday. The first incident took place around 6.30 am on Old Court House Street. A 60-year-old woman was run over by a private bus on Route 30. She was taken to SSKM Hospital but was pronounced dead. Another person, Shibu Mandal, 63, died after being hit by a private bus on Route 3D/1 on AJC Bose Road in front of Entally Market. He succumbed to his injuries on the way to Nilratan Sirkar Hospital.

Fire at Jugantar building: A fire broke out at the old building of Jugantar on Ananda Chatterjee Lane, in the Shaympukur police station area, on Saturday.

No one was injured in this incident. The officials pressed three extinguishers into service and doused the flames after two hours.

   

 
 
BABY GIRLS FOUND DEAD IN DRAIN 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Burdwan, Dec. 1: 
Two new-born girls died after they were thrown into a wayside drain in Burdwan town on Saturday. The girls were twins. Police suspect that their parents had abandoned them soon after delivery in the wee hours.

According to witnesses, a morning-walker had first spotted the bodies lying in the drain with blood oozing from their wounds.

Curious onlookers gathered behind the building of Vidyarthi Girls’ School where the twin new-borns had been found. There was tension as the crowd swelled in number. The Burdwan police station was informed.

Soon after, policemen arrived at the spot and dispersed the mob. The police later started a case and sent the bodies for post- mortem.

However, no one was arrested till late on Saturday. The police are looking for the doctor who helped the delivery of the twins.

Coronary unit unveiled

A second coronary care unit was unveiled at Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences on Saturday. The unit, set up in collaboration with the Armenian Holy Church of Nazareth and dedicated to the memory of Sir Cathick Paul Chater, will cater to the needs of the lower income group.

Hospital protest: Supporters of SUCI and Trinamul Congress staged demonstrations at city hospitals to protest the fee hike.

   

 
 
CITU DERAILS SEALDAH EVICTION DRIVE 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Dec. 1: 
The state CPM is sharply divided over Eastern Railway’s move to evict hawkers and illegal settlers from Sealdah and 150 other stations in the Sealdah division from the beginning of this month.

While urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya is determined to extend all necessary cooperation to the railway authorities for the eviction, CPM’s labour wing, Citu, intends to “resist the drive at any cost”.

The proposed eviction, supposed to have begun from today, has been “temporarily” put on hold following a last-minute intimation from the state government to the railway authorities. The state administration did not cite any specific reason for its plea, but Citu’s threat to “offer all-out resistance to any kind of eviction without a rehabilitation package” has apparently prompted the postponement.

But Bhattacharya has made it clear that he will not tolerate interference with the proposed eviction from any quarter and wants the railway authorities to begin the drive either on December 7 or December 8 with the help of the state-controlled government railway police.

“The hawkers will be evicted from Sealdah and other stations, no matter what others say,” Bhattacharya said.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is also backing the urban development minister and has sought details of the eviction plan from railway authorities.

The issue is likely to be taken up at a tripartite meeting at Writers’ Buildings on Tuesday between Bhattacharya, transport minister Subhas Chakraborty and representatives of the Eastern Railway and hawkers’ unions. Divisional railway manager Dulal Mitra, however, was not aware of any meeting, but conceded that he had received a number of memoranda from the hawkers demanding rehabilitation prior to their eviction.

The state Citu’s belligerent attitude towards the proposed eviction drive was apparent from the manner in which its leaders raised a war-cry against it at a mammoth rally on the Sealdah station premises yesterday.

Mrinal Das, Mohammad Nizamuddin and a host of other Citu leaders described the proposed eviction as “totally uncalled for” and expressed their determination to resist it “in an organised manner”.

They said the hawkers would not allow eviction in the name of beautification of railway premises. “The hawkers cannot be forcibly evicted without proper rehabilitation,” the Citu leaders asserted.

The transport minister, who also happens to be state Citu’s vice-president, however, was conspicuous by his absence at the meeting.

Sources said Chakraborty, who created a stir in 1996 by initiating Operation Sunshine — a drive against city hawkers — is believed to be under pressure from both the chief minister and urban development minister to evolve a formula to ensure the railway hawkers’ eviction without a hitch.

   

 
 
SPECIAL FORCES ON BORDER VIGIL 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Siliguri, Dec. 1: 
The Centre has decided to deploy the Special Services Bureau (SSB) along the 350-km India-Nepal border from Bihar to Sikkim to prevent Maoists from crossing over.

The deployment along Bengal and Bihar started today and is expected to be complete by December 10. But forces will be assembled on the Sikkim stretch only during spring next year.

There was also a heavy deployment of police along the border. Darjeeling district police staged a flag march along the Mechi bridge connecting India and Nepal.

The police have warned border residents not to give shelter to Maoist insurgents. Twenty people have been detained for suspected links with the rebels.

Expressing fears that Maoists could enter the country after the Nepal army crackdown, SSB inspector-general, Kishanganj, north Bengal and Sikkim division, A. Negi, said: “We have already activated the intelligence wing of the bureau along the porous Bihar and Bengal borders with Nepal. But we are racing against time to deploy four battalions along the Indo-Nepal border to meet the December 10 deadline. The bureau is banking on Gujarat, Rajasthan and the northeastern states to get the required number of jawans for border vigil.”

His forces, Negi said, have been given special powers and the officers have undergone “border management” training from the BSF.

“The SSB will work in the same (manner) as the BSF…. They will have the right to check any person or any vehicle crossing the India-Nepal border, seize any vehicle, inspect or raid any house or hotel in the bordering areas or interrogate and arrest any suspected person.”

The force will also be on a round-the-clock patrol along the border.

“In Darjeeling district alone, which shares a 104-km border with Nepal, there will be 15 observation-cum-checkposts. Each post will be manned by two platoons of SSB personnel equipped with sophisticated weapons and surveillance gadgets,” Negi added.

“Though Sikkim also shares a 90-km border with Nepal, a 50-km stretch along the border remains inaccessible as it is perpetually under snow. The remaining 40-km stretch between Chewa Bhanjyang and Uttarey in West Sikkim needs to be plugged. The region is used as a safe passage by villagers from both sides of the border,” Negi said.

   

 
 
MOB TAKES ON DISTRICT TOP COP 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Beldanga (Murshidabad), Dec. 1: 
Police opened fire, burst teargas shells and repeatedly resorted to lathicharge after an angry mob attacked the car in which Murshidabad superintendent of police Rajesh Kumar was travelling here this morning. Kumar, however, managed to escape unhurt.

But other policemen stationed there to control the situation were injured in the brick-batting. The mob also set fire to a police vehicle at Majpara. In the melee, at least 10 people, including a homeguard, sustained serious injuries.

Kumar was on the spot along with other officials to disperse two warring groups involved in a pitched battle over an immersion procession.

“My officials had to open fire in self-defence when the situation went out of control. We could have been seriously hurt as the mob was quite unmanageable,” said Kumar.

Writers’ Buildings sources said newly-appointed home secretary Amit Kiran Deb, who was briefed about the incident, has asked the district magistrate to probe the matter and submit a report to him at the earliest.

According to officials, the trouble started after a dispute broke out over an immersion procession at Majpara this morning. “Tension prevailed in the area from before. But the situation became more serious after the dispute broke out,” Kumar said.

A peace meeting was held this morning at Beldanga police station with members of two communities and those from all mainline political parties.

A decision was taken in the presence of additional superintendent of police, Shankar Singh, that a small immersion procession would be taken out at 11 in the morning.

But the situation spun out of control as the procession reached Majpara.

Manab Chowdhury, a homeguard, sustained serious bomb injuries. He was rushed to Behrampore hospital in a critical condition. Later, district health authorities decided to move him to Calcutta.

At least five other policemen were injured in the attack. The police then burst teargas shells and resorted to a lathicharge. In all, 30 people were arrested.

As the news reached the district headquarters, the superintendent of police rushed to Beldanga. But before he could reach the police station, his car was attacked with bombs and stones. The car was badly damaged.

Police pickets have been posted in sensitive areas where tension ran high till late tonight.

Additional forces from the neighbouring police stations have been called in for reinforcement.

   
 

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