Flutter over merit flight
Govt grabs growth largesse
Protests mar local train debut in city centre
Value-added edge to trade technique
The City Diary
Open house for zoo inmates
HC prod for case hearing
Mayor drafts experts to revamp civic Act
Laying out wisdom on uneven pitch
Cadre heckle Delhi-bound Sikdar

Calcutta. Dec. 18: 
After his trenchant criticism flagged off the long-awaited reforms in the health sector, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Tuesday began to nudge the hawks in the government and the CPM as part of a new initiative to modernise education in Bengal.

Careful not to antagonise the education czars because he needs their support most to unleash reforms in other key sectors, Bhattacharjee introduced his newest initiative by expressing “serious” concern at the flight of the young from Calcutta, and the rest of Bengal, for quality education and jobs.

His observation on education, compared with the ones on hospitals, doctors and nursing staff, was a subtle swipe at, amongst others, Kanti Biswas. The school education minister was present at the felicitation of the Madhyamik 2001 toppers, organised jointly by the government and the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education.

“We (the government) are disturbed at the way this (flight of young talent) is happening,” Bhattacharjee said. “Many of them think they will achieve all that they are thirsting for if they get their education in America or elsewhere …. But that is an illusion. We will have to do something soon to remedy the situation,” he asserted.

Bhattacharjee sought to put the flight of talent in perspective: “Apart from the limitations of the (education) system, consumerism and a me-only attitude have been combining to drive the young from Calcutta and elsewhere in Bengal for education and jobs.”

But the perspective that Bhattacharjee offered looked out of tune when juxtaposed with Calcutta University’s decision on Tuesday to lower the limit for admission to the M.Sc course for geology “for want of better candidates”. The unprecedented decision will allow a pass graduate to study geology at the post-graduate level because the honours graduates are enrolling in other Indian universities where the course is tailored to the job market.

“It is an unbelievable situation,” says a senior university official. “We are not getting enough good candidates to fill only two dozen seats. Our course is dated and flawed in many ways, so we are losing talented geology students to universities in other states.”

To stop such a brain-drain, Bhattacharjee appealed to Bengal’s talent not to go away to institutions abroad.

“What I find is that the main purpose of education seems to be getting a degree and earning a lot of money. When young professionals are not satisfied with the amount they earn here, they flee to America. The time has come for young talent like you to realise that this kind of an attitude will drag the nation down.”

The chief minister’s appeal was aimed at a larger audience, comprising high-performing students from institutions like Presidency College, Jadavpur University, IIT Kharagpur and Bengal Engineering College. “The student community must realise that what they seek to believe is not always the reality,” Bhattacharjee added.

Kanti Biswas also lamented the brain-drain, as did Anandadeb Mukherjee, vice-chancellor, Vidyasagar University.

But Biswas, for a change, choosing to ignore the ideological differences between the Left and the BJP, cited Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee’s concerns at the setback to scientific research in India because of the brain-drain. “I fully support him. If all our meritorious students leave for foreign universities, what will happen to our research centres in Bengal?” he asked.


Calcutta. Dec. 18: 
What the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) was showcasing as a gift to the citizens of Calcutta will now be touted by the state government as its New Year bonanza for the city.

On Tuesday, even as the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Left Front government were signing a Rs 1,250-crore loan agreement for the “environmental improvement” of the city, the mandarins at Writers’ Building quietly decided to hand over the entire project to the newly-constituted Calcutta Metropolitan Planning Committee (CMPC).

Earlier, it had been decided that the CMC would be the nodal agency handling the project. Even after the Left Front had been ousted from power in the civic body, the government had given no indication that it would revise its plans.

In fact, the Trinamul Congress-led board had trumpeted its plans to “re-engineer the environment of the city”, once the loan arrived. It had even held a number of meetings on how it would utilise such a massive amount.

However, after the formation of the CMPC — which includes the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA), the CMC and other civic bodies — the government’s change of stance became apparent.

The CMPC has been constituted to develop the Calcutta Metropolitan Area, stretching from Bansberia (in Hooghly) to Budge Budge (in South 24-Parganas).

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee, however, is putting up a brave front. “I was hoping we would be able to monitor the implementation jointly with the CMDA,” he said. “But the government’s decision to hand over the project to the CMPC alone is not what we had expected... I am not bothered about who implements it. As long as the work gets done, I am happy.”

He added: “The CMC is also a constituent of the CMPC and, so, we will always be a part of the action... We may not be able to directly decide on what is to be done, but we will do our bit. Since the state government has stood guarantor for the loan, what is the harm if it controls the entire implementation of the project?”

The bulk of the ADB loan will be utilised in laying underground sewer lines in the added areas of Behala, Garden Reach and Jadavpur, as well as in Sinthee More and Cossipore.

In addition, the ADB project involves the uplift of more than 4,000 city slums and the revamp of drainage outfall channels. Extensive surveys have been carried out to assess the problems, including rehabilitation of encroachers along the canal banks.

According to the terms of the agreement with the ADB, the entire sum will have to be spent on development projects within a span of six years. With the loan agreement being initialled on Tuesday, the project will have to be completed by 2008.


Calcutta. Dec. 18: 
The entry of local trains into the city centre sparked drama and disruption on Tuesday. If Sunday was the trial run, Tuesday morning marked the debut of local trains dropping off office-goers in BBD Bag.

The 14-km, 26-minute stretch from Dum Dum junction to Prinsep Ghat, via Tala and BBD Bag, became EMU-operational, but not before trains were stalled and angry daily passengers clashed with the police.

There was trouble at Khardah, around 9.40 am. Some 30 commuters squatted on the tracks, protesting the move to divert Sealdah-bound trains to BBD Bag. They demanded introduction of “additional rakes” to serve the city centre, without disrupting “normal” services.

“Let them start more trains… If a train is diverted during peak hour, we will have to wait for over 60 minutes for the next Sealdah EMU,” they complained.

The protests continued for around three hours, with more and more daily passengers joining the ranks of the squatters. Services on the Sealdah-Naihati main line were paralysed, with 16 trains being cancelled and around 22 detained.

According to GRP estimates, around three lakh commuters were affected by the rail blockade. Finally, the police and some local residents chased the protesters away.

The railway authorities later clarified that “the stray protest” would not, in any way, derail the Rs 203-crore project to connect “city suburbs with the central business district”. The 14-km-stretch marks the first phase of that mega rail project. “Rs 14 crore has been spent to enable the EMU coach to reach Prinsep Ghat from Gede, Bongaon, Barrackpore and Hasnabad,” said a railway official.

During peak morning hour, from 7.30 am to 10.30 am, 52 trains enter Sealdah station. In the evening rush hour, from 4.30 pm to 9 pm, 47 trains leave Sealdah. “Now, to enable people from the suburbs to reach the Dalhousie area directly, only five morning and five evening peak-hour trains are being used,” said a railway official, stressing that the “disruption” to passengers on the “normal” route was minimal.

The move was welcomed by several office-goers on Day I. “It takes me over an hour to reach BBD Bag from Dum Dum by bus, and the journey is terrible. But it took me less than 30 minutes on Tuesday, and I didn’t even feel the strain,” said one of them.

According to railway officials, Phase II of the “direct link” between the suburbs and the city centre will involve train tracks being extended from Prinsep Ghat to Majherhat, to then connect with the Sealdah-Budge Budge line and Dhakuria.

This will allow residents of South 24-Parganas, headed for BBD Bag, to bypass Ballygunge and Sealdah. The target for completion: August 2004.


Calcutta. Dec. 18: 
On Tuesday morning, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee lamented the “brain drain” from Bengal and urged “bright students” of the state to stay back and “make a difference”.

Making a difference is slowly but steadily emerging as the theme on at least one premier campus in town — Indian Institute of Managament, Joka. Enough of “bottom-lines and ROIs (return on investment)”. It’s time to talk about “ethics and values” in management and business. Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” is passé. For sustained development, “survival of all” is what matters. That was the message at IIM, on Tuesday afternoon.

Taking the lead in the path to balanced progress is the sprawling Management Centre for Human Values (MCHV), at the premier B-School. The Centre is poised to start the New Year with an international workshop on ‘Management by Human Values: Indian Insights’ for practising managers and executives, starting January 6, 2002.

Around 50 participants — drawn from nationalised banks and international consultancy firms, public-sector giants and leading universities, defence establishments and the police corps —will sign up for the six-day programme. “Applications are still pouring in, including those from the Scandinavian countries, South-East Asia and Australia,” said Professor S.K Chakraborty, convener, MCHV.

The programme, built on the twin pillars of “purity and concentration”, does not end with this workshop for professionals. It is on offer for the full-time students at IIM. And, according to members at the Centre, after a lull of two years, there are signs that the need for a “holistic approach” is once again visible, despite the “obsession with placements”. As one student put it: “The Centre opens up a new window of perception for us, on a campus otherwise driven by competition and performance.”

The “self-sustained” Centre stands out for its treatment of management, extending beyond the classical doctrines to addresses Quality Mind Process (QMP). “The stress here is on developing a mind that can take on the challenges in an effective way and lead to higher efficiency. The participants are exposed to a blend of all kinds of spiritualism originating in India with the objective of touching, reaching and stirring their hearts,” explained Chakraborty, who has conducted extensive research for over two decades to translate the “psycho-philosophical insights of India into organisational work life”.

The agenda for the session, aimed at “restoring holism, first within the individual and then in the organisation” by achieving harmony between diverse factors, like “skills and values, analysis and synthesis, change and stability, reason and intuition, behaviour and character, qualitative and quantitative…” From “deep mindful breathing” to relevant case studies on “managing stress, power and ego”, the training blends both “Indian mystique and the reality of life, to tone up mind and intellect”.



BJP leader wanted in murder case

A statewide hunt has been launched for Howrah BJP leader Rakhal Das for his alleged involvement in the murder of Howrah businessman Probhat Bhattacharya. He was killed while on a visit to Das’ residence on Monday morning. Superintendent of police, Howrah, C.V. Muralidhar, said on Tuesday that seven persons had been detained for interrogation, including Rakhal’s brother-in-law Samar Das. All are reportedly close to Das, police said. Raids have been conducted in South and North 24-Parganas, Hooghly, Nadia and parts of Midnapore to trace Das and his associates. Preliminary investigations revealed that both Bhattacharya and Das were engaged in the scrap iron business and a rivalry may have led to the murder. Bhattacharya was invited home by Das to discuss professional matters. Police said three of Das’ brothers — Bhim, Shibu and Dipu — will also be brought to book. “They were present during the incident,’’ a senior police official said. The police said 20 criminal cases, including a murder charge, are pending against Das.

Tagore works copyright

Tagore’s works might be declared as intellectual property rights by the Centre after the copyright on his compositions expires in December. “It is up to the ministry to either declare the poet’s works as intellectual property rights or to extend the copyright,” Sujit Basu, Visva-Bharati vice-chancellor, said on Tuesday, after meeting chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at Writers’ Buildings. Basu had come to invite the chief minister to inaugurate the science congress to be held in early 2002 in Santiniketan.

Bowling results

The following are the winners of Round II of TTIS Inter-school Bowling Championship at Nicco Super Bowl on Tuesday: St Xaviers A, B and E, Don Bosco Liluah D, Don Bosco PC B, St Thomas A, Lakshmipat Singhania B, Chowringhee Kindergarten B, St Helens A, National Gems A, St James A and Apeejay School E.

Corruption charge

India ranks 72nd out of 91 most corrupt countries of the world, chief vigilance commissioner N. Vittal said, while addressing officers of the Eastern, South Eastern and Metro Railways on Tuesday. The findings were announced by a Geneva-based foundation recently. He added that transparency in administration and awareness of laws among officers alone can improve the system. Vittal also visited the SER headquarters.

Awards ceremony

State industries minister Nirupam Sen attended the awards ceremony for excellence in corporate communications, instituted by Calcutta Journalists Club, on Tuesday. The awardees were Indian Oil Corporation Ltd for corporate publications, Webel for internal communication, Tata Steel for communication over electronic media, Bata India Ltd for corporate advertising, BDA Ltd for contribution to society and community, ABC India Ltd for production of POP materials and Unique Relations for event management.

Toll flyover

Work on the first toll flyover in the city from Viveka-nanda Road to Howrah will begin in May 2002. Work will be completed in two years, said transport minister Subhas Chakraborty. The MoU between the transport department and the Srei-Shristi-Cleveland consortium was signed on Tuesday. The flyover will cost Rs 65 crore. The consortium will operate and maintain it for 25 years before handing it over to the government.    

Calcutta. Dec. 18: 
Born free, to live confined in a cage. The tale of some of the big animals in the Alipur zoo will take a more cheerful turn in the new year with the authorities planning to make space for two more open-air enclosures.

Nearly Rs 1 crore has been set aside for the two open-air parks — one for hippopotamuses and the other for lions.

According to the authorities, two zones have already been identified and work is expected to begin in January.

The project comes in the wake of the Central Zoo Authority’s decision to keep more and more animals in the open than in cages.

“Our aim is to keep animals as close to nature as possible. Besides, the open air enclosures will help visitors watch the animals from a closer but safe distance,” said Subir Chowdhury, director of Alipore Zoological Gardens.

He said the eight Asiatic lions that are now kept in cages would attract more attendance if a spacious open-air enclosure is built for them, like the one for tigers.

“We have decided to renovate Burdwan House (the former reptile house), the dilapidated Mymensingh House near it and add about 1,400 sq metre of open space to set up the lion park,” said Chowdhury.

The proposed park will have a water pool, trees and bushes to give a jungle-like ambience, besides mounds and undulations, where the lions can play around. The park will be surrounded by a moat.

A similar arrangement has been planned on a 2,700 sq metre space for the two hippopotamuses. They, too, will have similar wild feel to their enclosures, replete with three pools and three covered rooms. “We also plan to bring in another hippo once the enclosure is complete,” Chowdhury said.

At present, the elephants, tigers, monkeys, chimpanzee and bears are kept in open enclosures.


Calcutta. Dec. 18: 
Justice Kalyan Jyoti Sengupta of Calcutta High Court on Tuesday directed the West Bengal Medical Council to immediately initiate hearings of a complaint lodged by US-based doctor Kunal Saha, whose wife Anuradha died in May 1998 allegedly due to wrong treatment.

Saha had lodged the complaint against Sukumar Mukherjee and two other eminent physicians from the city. He had urged the council to take action against the doctors.

The counsel representing the medical council told the court that it would be difficult for his client to arrange the hearing on Tuesday itself as, according to rules, it must be held before the majority of council members.

But the court held that, since the council itself had previously declared the hearings would commence from December 18, it must stick to the date. But when Saha went to the Council office, he was told that the hearing cannot be held as not enough members were present.


Calcutta. Dec. 18: 
Realising that many provisions of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation Act, 1980, are archaic, mayor Subrata Mukherjee has decided to form a three-member committee of “outsiders” to rework it.

“I want to bring about fundamental changes in the Act, which is why I am hiring experts in civic development, economy of an institution, taxation, valuation, construction and management of human resources,” said Mukherjee.

The mayor said he had “deliberately” avoided inclusion of retired bureaucrats or civic officials in the committee, as “it will frustrate the basic objective”.

The committee will frame a pro-development and citizen-friendly civic Act, based on rationality reflecting on the aspirations of the inhabitants.

Mukherjee said he had already suggested the name of Subrata Bose as economic expert. Bose was earlier associated with the World Bank in various capacities, he said.

According to him, the experts will work on the following areas of the Act:

Present system of assessment and calculation of property taxes

Imposition of water, garbage and drainage taxes on commercial establishments

Building rules

Mutation, apportionment and separation of landed properties

Assessment of work-load and responsibility

Letting out civic facilities to private hands.

Mukherjee said the CMC Act had lost its relevance, particularly in the method of calculating tax on properties.

He said the property tax is now calculated on the basis of the amount a building can fetch if it was rented out at market value.

According to the mayor, this is an age-old practice, no longer practical. “There is no yardstick to measure rent in various areas of the city. Generally it is guesswork, which often opens up ways for irregularity,” he said.

The mayor said that he wants to introduce the capital value concept while making property tax calculations. By this system, tax can be calculated on the basis of the value of a property in a particular locality, as assessed by the government. Next on his list is a thorough overhauling of the building rules.

“When the CMC Act was first framed in the early 50s, the civic authorities presumed that Calcutta would continue to have vast and open lands where constructions would come up in future. They failed to visualise that the city will be bursting at the seams some day,” the mayor said.

Moreover, the provision in the CMC Act, which holds a civic engineer responsible for soundness of a building he had sanctioned, should be scrapped immediately.

“Citizens are being harassed to get their properties mutated or separated (from joint families) because of ambiguity in the provisions. For example, a two-storey building, even after having a registered deed of settlement, cannot be divided between two brothers because they do not have separate staircases,” Mukherjee pointed out.


Calcutta. Dec. 18: 
Would India have chased the 300-plus target against England in the just-concluded Ahmedabad Test, had he been around?

No one knows for sure, but one of the few instances where India went for a 300-plus target— and created history by involving Australia in a rare tie at the Chepauk in 1986 — followed a session the team, comprising Kapil Dev and Gavaskar, had with Swami A. Parthasarathy.

The recent home series against the same opponents — in which India stopped the Aussies’ record-smashing run of consecutive wins — was also preceded by a session with the self-management and Vedanta guru.

The session in Mumbai, in which cricketers — Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Harbhajan Singh were among the eager listeners, with coach John Wright scribbling down notes — participated (the guru’s followers have kept a CD of the session) was followed by one of the rare Indian comebacks. They won the series after losing the first Test.

Swami is now in town to spread his wisdom on how to lead a stress-free life. The seminar on the evils of “selfish action”, to be held at a five-star hotel on Monday, will not come free — each participant will have to fork out Rs 7,500 and a couple will have to pay Rs 14,000 — but Parthasarathy is sure that everyone is going to go home much richer in knowledge.

The 75-year-old Swami, who still plays bit of cricket, claims to be different. “I train people for Monday mornings and not Friday evenings,” he told mediamen on Tuesday, a day ahead of his three-day lecture series at G.D. Birla Sabhagar, which is open to the public.

His approach to the problems of life and the solutions however, seemed to be genuinely and radically different from those of other gurus, with cricket dominating everything, from his metaphors to his publicity videos.

For instance, the three Cs (concentration, consistency and cooperation) that, according to him, can guarantee a stress-free and successful life, are the “three stumps” that make up a wicket.

Thoroughly disgusted with his own country — “The peace we have in India is a pig’s contentment,” he said — the guru explained that “achieving peace while doing something” was the secret to a successful life.


Calcutta. Dec. 18: 
Party members heckled Union minister of state for communication and BJP MP from Dum Dum Tapan Sikdar while he was on his way to the airport on Monday.

The incident occurred off Jessore Road after rival groups of BJP supporters — most of them from his constituency — gathered near one of the lesser-used pedestrian-only entrances to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport to see off their leader, scheduled to take a Delhi-bound flight.

Sikdar, according to witnesses, received a few blows on his arms as one group got agitated and accused him of ignoring old party faithfuls, showing undue favours to the new recruits.

“The party is now being run by a “small and moneyed” coterie and is digressing from its ideals, at least in this state,” the mob said, blaming Sikdar for the trend.

The other group tried to protect Sikdar and partly succeeded in shielding him, but not before he had taken some of the blows, sources said. The minister was also abused before he left the spot “in a hurry”, they added.

Though leaders admitted in private that the incident “had taken place”, the official stand taken by the party, vis-à-vis the embarrassing exposure of dissent against its best-known face in the state, is one of denial.

State BJP vice-president Muzaffar Khan said: “All I know is that Tapanda left for Delhi on Monday by a late-afternoon flight. I really don’t know what transpired at the airport.”

Airport police station officials, however, said the incident occurred in front of some of them; the stretch of Jessore Road and VIP Road adjoining the terminal falls under their jurisdiction. “Our men, who were on the spot, were asked by some BJP leaders to arrest the agitators,” an official told Metro.

“But we did not take any steps as those accompanying the minister did not let the situation go out of hand,” he added. “Besides, we felt there was no point in arresting the culprits, as we would have soon got a phone-call from the BJP office, asking us to release them,” the official said.


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