Mayor stands alone with monster
Eight firms nailed in cheat chain bust
Sunny days, a way of life
The City Diary
Patients cry foul as garbage rots where it stands
Mayor rubbishes malaria count
Blockade over Bypass mishap
Citizen service portal in March
SFI deadline for exam revamp
Colleges flash fill-vacancy plea

Calcutta, Dec. 3: 
The Lindsay Street Parkomat is set to hit a political speedbreaker. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee’s plan for a 50-ft-high, 600-ft-long Parkomat between New Market and Globe cinema has even pitted him against senior functionaries of his own party, the Trinamul Congress.

Sovandeb Chattopadhyay, Trinamul MLA and chief whip in the state Assembly, said on Monday that he and other “like-minded” Trinamul functionaries had informed party chairperson Mamata Banerjee of the “disastrous impact” the proposed Parkomat would have on their support base in Calcutta.

Chattopadhyay felt the Lindsay Street parking plaza would destroy New Market’s character. “It is true that we are badly in need of more car parking zones in the city, but can it be at the cost of history?”

Echoing the sentiment, actor-turned-Trinamul MLA Tapas Pal said the matter should be thrown open to the people. “Nobody is disputing the fact that we need parking lots, but not this way,” said Pal. “The civic authorities, town planners and above all, the people must be consulted on an issue that will affect so many Calcuttans.”

Chattopadhyay and other Trinamul leaders conveyed the views to Mamata in Delhi, cautioning her that the move, if not modified, could cause a dent in the party’s popularity.

They also felt that Mukherjee should have discussed the matter with Mamata and other party leaders. Mamata and her men have over the years thwarted many a development programme, citing popular demand

On the other side of the political divide, the ruling Left parties, too, reacted sharply to the plans for Parkomat-II in front of New Market. The Calcutta district committees of the Forward Bloc and RSP opposed the CMC’s decision , saying it would be “disastrous for the city”.

Forward Bloc’s Calcutta district committee leader Nihar Roychowdhury said his party would oppose any multi-storeyed parking plaza in the city. “We have demanded underground parking plots in Curzon Park, Dalhousie and other important places in the city,” he said.

Roychowdhury also criticised the CMC for suddenly shifting the proposed Parkomat venue from Humayun Place to Lindsay Street. “The present plan will do nothing but create more traffic congestion in the area,” alleged Roychowdhury.

The RSP backed the Forward Bloc line. Parimal Routh, RSP leader of the party’s Calcutta unit, too, felt the answer to the city’s parking problems lay in underground lots.

In the civic body, CPM leader Nirmal Mukherjee asserted: “The decision to construct multi-tiered parking plazas was taken during Prasanta Chatterjee’s tenure as mayor. The first Parkomat was constructed as per his plan. I don’t know why the CMC has changed the venue fixed for the second Parkomat.”

An unfazed mayor said he would go ahead with the Lindsay Street plans because, contrary to popular fears, the proposed parking lot would neither destroy the “heritage value of the place” nor block the buildings along Lindsay Street. “Frankly, I see nothing wrong with this. As and when it comes up, it will cover only the ugly buildings on the southern side of Lindsay Street. Isn’t that a gain?” There will be enough space for cars to move along the stretch between the Parkomat and New Market. “Have patience, there will be no problem,” Mukherjee said.


Calcutta, Dec. 3: 
In the afternoon, cops busted the “the biggest chit fund scam in recent times, worth hundreds of crores”. In the evening, the finance minister announced a joint initiative of the state government with regulatory authorities and sent out a clear warning to “all firms raising funds illegally”.

At 2.30 pm on Monday, sleuths of the detective department smashed the cheat chain by storming offices of eight firms simultaneously and rounding up 12 people. A number of computers and documents were seized and bank authorities directed to freeze the accounts of all the companies.

According to DC, DD(I), Soumen Mitra, the eight firms nailed are: Zed Securities in Chitrakoot Building, Aditi Securities in Southend Park, Laxmi Share Consultancy on Park Street, Sai Securities in Salt Lake, S.S.S. Securities on C.R. Avenue, Concept Securities on Park Street, Indian Securities on Ganesh Chandra Avenue and Invesco Securities on Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road.

Mitra was quick to clarify that the raids had not been carried out under the directive of the finance department. “It is the result of our own investigation,” he said.

At around 5.30 pm, finance minister Asim Dasgupta — without once mentioning the police success story of the afternoon — announced that the government had joined hands with regulatory bodies Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) and Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to “identify and initiate action” against all such offenders.

“We may even consider introducing an Act to tackle the problem,” said Dasgupta. “We met Sebi and RBI officials and asked them to lodge complaints against these companies. We will initiate action against these companies on the basis of these complaints. We have discussed the matter with senior police officers,” he added.

Officials of the state finance department, Sebi and RBI will meet “every Friday” to monitor progress. According to Dasgupta, RBI governor Bimal Jalan has “promised full cooperation”.

The government-RBI-Sebi joint initiative will include a campaign for investor awareness. “We will issue advertisement to educate the public, advising them to desist from investing in such companies,” Dasgupta said.

The lid had been blown off the chit fund case with the arrest of Sanjib Kapur of Citi Securities on November 24. Kapur, accused of misappropriating public money and cheating, was remanded in custody till December 6. The Citi Securities scam put the police on the trail of a larger network.

The detective department chalked out plans to raid several companies after receiving around 50 complaints in the past week. The firms, the police learnt, would take money from the investors to play the market but never actually invest in any instrument.

According to Mitra, the DD’s special cell was divided into eight groups. “Our officers conducted the probe and the swoop stealthily as we wanted to block all possible escape routes,” he claimed. According to Mitra, none of the eight companies raided on Monday was enlisted with either RBI or Sebi.

The police made it clear that this was not the end of the probe trail. The cheat chain, after all, is spread throughout the city and far beyond – from Delhi to Siliguri, Kanpur to Kharagpur.


Calcutta, Dec. 3: 
Imagine growing up in the heavenly vignettes of the Swiss Alps and then be transported to ‘under-developed’ Baishnabghata, in south Calcutta? And living without the comforts of life at the click of a switch?

Kurt Batigg, a mechanical engineer, came to India seven years ago, fell in love with Bengali woman Sudeshna and then settled down for a peaceful life at Baishnabghata, on the southern fringes of Calcutta, almost two years ago. But what they never reckoned with was a life powered by solar energy.

The villain of the piece: Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC). According to the officials, if there is a single consumer in a locality and the nearest pole is far from their home, then the consumer (the Batiggs in this case) has to bear the entire cost for installing the poles.

In Baishnabghata, dotted with waterbodies and slums, most people reportedly refuse to avail of CESC connections, citing cost factors.

No problem, said the Batiggs. “We realised that getting a CESC connection would have ensured a considerable drain on our pockets. So, we thought of investing a small amount in a solar power-generating system, that has paid good dividends,” added Kurt.

Once they tried out solar energy, the Batiggs vowed not to go back to the conventional electricity system.

“We do have problems, as we cannot run the microwave or the washing machine with solar power. Yet, we are happy that we can avoid regular power cuts or faulty meter readings, which a normal consumer has to experience quite often,” said Kurt.

Under-developed or not, the Battigs would not like to trade their home for better environs. “We chose this place as there is greenery aplenty and yet, we are not far from city life. The transport facilities are extremely good. Now, even if the CESC connection is offered to me, I will refuse it,”said Kurt.

The Batiggs, who run an on-line travel agency, feel the problem is actually a small one and it does not affect their love for the city. “It is only a small problem. I love Calcutta and I will live here forever,” Kurt added.

The Left Front government prides itself on taking electricity to the remote villages of West Bengal. And yet, the Batiggs were denied a connection, as their ‘dream house’ was located in an ‘under-developed’ area.



2 dacoits held after shoot-out, cops hurt

Three policemen sustained bullet injuries in Diamond Harbour after a group of dacoits opened fire on them during the pursuit of a gang, led by Sheikh Samad, early on Monday. The injured policemen, however, managed to arrest two of the dacoits, including Samad, who had recently committed a dacoity in Sarisahat. The condition of the policemen is stable.

Test match on RPG beam

Cable homes in RPG Netcom areas will be able to enjoy the second day’s play of the Mohali Test match live on Tuesday. The multi-system operator has switched on DD Sports which had been blacked out pending negotiations following a fee hike from December 1.

Road mishap

A Calcutta Port Trust employee, Sheikh Tayub, 35, was crushed by a lorry near Gate 1 of the Garden Reach CPT quarters on Monday. The incident occurred around 11.30 am, when Tayub was returning home from work. The lorry was later impounded by the police. Tayub was rushed to SSKM Hospital where he was declared brought dead.

BA Part-I results

The results of BA Part-I (honours & general) examinations of Calcutta University will be published on December 7, controller of examination department officials said on Monday. The examinations were held five months ago.

Power theft

The CESC and the police in a series of raids, have removed 590 illegal hookings. Six persons were arrested. In Rajganj bazaar, in the Sankrail police station area, 90 illegal hookings were found. In simultaneous raids conducted in Dhakuria and Prince Ghulam Mohammed Shah Road, in the Jadavpur police station area, 475 illegal connections were removed. In the Ultadanga area, illegal connections were removed from 25 small factory sheds.

Hotel death

Moonmoon Roy, 22, was found dead in a Diamond Harbour hotel on Monday. She had checked into the hotel on Sunday with a friend. On Monday morning, hotel workers broke open the door to find her hanging by the end of her dupatta. Some hotel employees told the police that they had heard the two quarrelling till late on Sunday. A search is on for Moonmoon’s companion.

Metro disruption

Metro services were disrupted for over 20 minutes on Monday morning. Metro officials said a technical snag at Chandni Chowk station caused the delay.

Hoarding drive

The railways, with the aid of the Railway Protection Force, has decided to dismantle illegal hoardings put up at various railway stations. Sources said the railways has decided to go ahead with the operation without the government’s help.

Fatal fall

Sampa Sharma, 12, died after an accidental fall from a wall near her house in Liluah, Howrah. She died on the spot.    

Calcutta, Dec. 3: 
Patients and doctors at Bagha Jatin State General Hospital, in Jadavpur, which falls in the constituency of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, are crying foul over piled-up garbage that has not been cleared for the past two years.

The authorities at Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) — both past and present — are simply passing the buck on each other.

Traders at Bagha Jatin market, which houses the biggest fish market in south Calcutta, mainly use the vat, located north of the hospital. Incidentally, the hospital and the market both fall under ward 99 of the CMC.

Nita Hazra, a patient, said: “The air that we breathe is foul. It stinks so badly that I had to complain to the doctors, but they have expressed their helplessness.”

Susanta Sen, a patient admitted to the general ward, said: “The stench is unbearable, specially when the wind blows from the north.”

Hospital superintendent Akhil Kumar Mondal expressed concern over the situation. He said: “The piled-up garbage is creating health hazards. Outdoor department doctors have to face the problem especially during winter. I have already written to the CMC and now I shall write to the Pollution Control Board (PCB). This is my first month, but I believe my predecessors also fought over the issue, with no effect.”

The hospital was built in the early 80s at the initiative of then health minister Nani Bhattacharjee and PWD minister Jatin Chakraborty. It has 100 beds with indoor, outdoor and emergency facilities. There are 20 doctors managing general medicine, gynaecology, obstetrics and surgery.

Bhaskar Bhattacharjee, chief medical officer of health (CMOH), South 24-Parganas, blamed the CMC for its indifference to the situation.

Biswananda Dasgupta, a local resident and former councillor of the area, said: “The problem has been made acute by the traders and the present CMC board. When I was councillor, I proferred solutions to evade the problem, but the traders were not ready to take them up. We have made representations to the municipal affairs minister and the Governor, but no solution has been arrived at.”

Arabinda Kundu, a trader and secretary of Bagha Jatin Byabasayee Samity, said: “Everyone is trying to put the blame on us. The CMC has demanded Rs 55,000 for clearing the garbage, which we cannot afford. We met Mala Roy, member, mayor in council in charge of conservancy, just last week. She asked us to pay 50 per cent of the amount, but her department is not ready to accept the amount since there is nothing in writing.”

Roy, when contacted, was on her guard. According to her, since it’s a private market the responsibility of bearing the cost of clearing garbage lies with the traders.

“All we can do is maintain the vat,” she said.


Calcutta, Dec. 3: 
Irked by criticism of the civic administration over the growing incidence of malaria and related deaths, mayor Subrata Mukherjee on Monday contested the toll announced by the state health department.

Mukherjee said he would ask the government to make the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) the only agency authorised to release details of the malaria death toll .

“There is a great deal of controversy and confusion,” Mukherjee told Metro. “This must stop. I am going to ask health minister Surya Kanta Mishra to act on this without delay.”

According to the mayor, the gap of several months between the actual deaths — if any — and the release of such figures was responsible for what he termed the “typical malaria confusion” in announcing the death figures by the state government.

Mukherjee thinks the health department is publicising inflated figures to embarrass him.

His decision to take up the issue with the government came soon after the verification of malarial death record by the state government last week.

Cross-verification revealed loopholes in at least two of the total 16 malarial deaths announced by the state government. Presently, the malaria toll is confirmed and announced by the state health department.

The mayor claimed the CMC had a chain of 52 clinics and six mobile units all over the city to detect and treat malaria.

Moreover, the CMC had more than 200 doctors on its payroll, who were competent to carry out investigations and find out the immediate cause of deaths.

Meanwhile, member, mayor-in-council (health), Javed Ahmed Khan, demanded a review of the figures submitted by the state health department. In at least two cases, the hospital authorities had confirmed that the deaths were not caused by malaria, he said.

Civic doctors pointed that in the death register of the CMC, a number of certificates could be found where even after detecting infection with plasmodium vivax, the cause of death had been mentioned as malaria. In some cases, the cause of death was mentioned as malaria, without the clinical findings being verified.

“If we go by all these death certificates, then the malaria toll in the city at this moment would run into hundreds,” said Mukherjee.

The state health department last week confirmed 16 malarial deaths this year, which included those of Rekha Ghosh, of Ashutosh Mukherjee Road, and Pushparani De, of Bhowanipore.

Officer-on-special duty (health) in the CMC Atanu Mukherjee claimed that the SSKM Hospital authorities had informed the Corporation on November 26 that Ghosh died of a heart attack on September 20.

It was also mentioned in the letter that “no evidence of malaria was detected”.

The death of Pushparani De at Sambhunath Pandit Hospital was also projected as a malarial death. “But the hospital authorities later told the civic health department that she had been admitted to hospital with an infection of plasmodium vivax, alongwith a respiratory distress complaint,” said Mukherjee.

Time mismanagement and improper medication were the root causes of all malarial deaths, Mukherjee stressed.

Javed Ahmed Khan said the CMC had been running malaria clinics all over the city, where blood samples were tested and free medication given. People suffering from fever could contact the civic control room (244-6015) for a mobile malaria clinic. Pathologists and technicians would be at their doorsteps to treat them.

Meanwhile, the state health department ordered a probe into the death of a child at R.G. Kar Medical College Hospital. The three-year-old boy’s death on Sunday had sparked mayhem on the hospital premises, with his parents and neighbours claiming he had died of negligence.


Calcutta, Dec. 3: 
Traffic on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass was stalled for nearly eight hours on Monday by a blockade to protest the death of Khokon Mondal, 22, at Simultala, in Sonarpur. Office-goers and examinees were put to much inconvenience by the traffic snarl. The stretch between the Park Circus connector and Garia has been accident-prone for quite some time.

According to witnesses, a private bus on route SD5, which was trying to overtake a bus on the same route, knocked down Mondal, who was on a bicycle.

“Despite warnings, our driver overtook the other bus at breakneck speed, ignoring the bad road conditions,” said Saibal Roy, a passenger on the killer bus. Buses were withdrawn from the route following the incident.

Soon after the accident, boys from a nearby club put up a road blockade demanding the bus driver’s arrest and immediate repair of the road.

“Before we could realise, the two buses had sped away. We have been complaining about the cobbled road and the encroachments on it for a long time but no one is listening,” said Dilip Mitra, a resident.


Calcutta, Dec. 3: 
Want to collect a birth registration form or a copy of the latest government circular? Interested in the latest food-grain prices or availability of doctors at the nearest health centre?

Come March 2002, you might not have to make the rounds of government offices for all this. They could be just a click away.

If things go according to plan, the West Bengal government’s “citizen service portal” — billed to be a significant move towards initiating the process of e-governance in the state — will be launched within the next four months.

In line with the goal set by the “do-it-now” chief minister to make public-government interface easier and simpler by using information technology, the portal will contain key information of various departments.

Jointly executed by Webel and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), the first phase of the project, involving development of the portal prototype, is already through. “The prototype has been developed after a field survey on a stratified sample of 1,200 citizens. People were asked to mention the type of information they want from government departments,” said a senior Webel official.

Once the prototype gets the green signal from Writers’ Buildings, the departments concerned will be asked to provide key information for content development.

The portal, in English and Bengali, can be accessed from any part of the state. Kiosks, connected through the West Bengal State Wide Area Network (WBSWAN), will be set up in villages to enable people access the information.

The cost of the project, till its launch, is pegged at Rs 60 lakh, of which TCS will bear 70 per cent, while Webel will put in the rest.

The consultancy major will develop the technology side and the state’s nodal IT agency will look after the content development and testing. Efforts are also on to forge a joint venture through an Application Service Provider Company.


Calcutta, Dec. 3: 
The SFI on Monday asked Calcutta University, and other West Bengal universities, to announce their plans of improving the examination system by January 15.

Partha Mukherjee, general secretary of the SFI state committee, said the federation would launch a movement in Calcutta and other parts of the state after January 15 if the universities failed to project a clear picture of their plans .

“If necessary, we will ask students to boycott classes in all colleges and universities. The growing victimisation of students and the corrupt practices of a section of teachers are also a matter of concern,” Mukherjee added.

The SFI has been demanding an overhaul of the examination system for a long time and had submitted a charter of demands to the government in September. “We will wait till January 15 and then launch a continuous agitation,” said Mukherjee.

The proposals of the SFI include introduction of question banks, abolition of the conservative marking system and introduction of a system of publishing copies of the answerscripts of the top 10 students.


Calcutta, Dec. 3: 
Unable to find eligible candidates as professors and senior teachers in government-run colleges in and around Calcutta, principals have urged the state higher education department to have the vacancies filled without delay.

College officials said the number of vacancies is as high as 40 per cent and the authorities are finding it difficult to conduct the courses. In Bethune College and Goenka College of Commerce and Business Administration, most posts for professors have been lying vacant for the past two years.

The move also follows complaints from students, who have resented the delay in recruiting teachers.

On Monday, Amitava Chatterjee, principal, Presidency College, said nearly 45 posts of lecturers, readers and even professors were lying vacant in his institution. “We have taken in 20 new teachers this year, but nearly 50 per cent of total number of sanctioned posts are yet to be filled up,” Chatterjee added.

In Presidency, 15 out of 30 posts are still lying vacant. Expressing concern, a senior professor of the college said it is really difficult to maintain “high academic standards” with so many posts vacant.

The crisis is even more acute in Bethune College, another government-controlled institution in Calcutta. All the sanctioned posts in the college are lying vacant.

“We have sent several reminders to the higher education department, but nothing has been done so far,” said Puspa Mitra, principal of Bethune.

At Barasat Government College, at least 12 out of 60 teaching posts are still vacant. The scene is equally grim at Jhargram Raj College, where nearly 22 posts of lecturers, readers and professors are vacant.

Heads of government-run colleges said the state Public Service Commission’s rigid criteria for recruitment of teachers may have led to the present impasse. The PSC criteria stipulate that those applying for posts of professors must have a minimum of 10 years’ experience at post-graduate level.

According to them, candidates with 10 years’ experience of teaching at the post-graduate level opt for universities, rather than colleges.

“We feel this is a major reason behind non-availability of candidates,” said a senior teacher of Barasat college. He felt the time was ripe to review the recruitment rules for teachers in government colleges.

Moreover, experienced teachers also avoid joining government colleges, fearing intermittent transfer. According to government rules, teachers of government colleges cannot continue in Calcutta for a long period.

Benoy Bhusan Chakraborty, general secretary of the All Bengal State Government College Teachers’ Organisation, said the government had recently okayed the introduction of post-graduate courses in some government colleges.

According to him, filling up the vacancies has become more important in the light of the recent government decision.

“It is not possible to offer quality teaching at the post-graduate level if the institutions do not have an adequate number of teachers for the under- graduate courses,” Chakraborty added.


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