History hub to Star hotspot
Suitable boy turns conman
Standstill over Trinamul sit-in
Temple of justice at doom’s door
The City Diary
Lodge a case with the cops at the click of a mouse
Killer kin held for kidnap threat
Buddha imprint on babudom shake-up
Police chief in cops’ firing line
Crackdown on private tuition

Calcutta, Dec. 21: 
An auditorium to seat 600. Basement parking. An exhibition hall. A rooftop plaza-cum-open-air theatre. Twenty kiosks and a cafeteria…

Star Theatre, the history hub of Bengali drama, will be rebuilt to “preserve the past and carry it proudly into the future”. If the reconstruction model chosen by a jury is followed, the heritage façade will remain intact, with various modern facilities being added to turn Star into “a cultural hotspot, along the lines of the Nandan complex”.

On Friday, mayor Subrata Mukherjee announced the end of a competition run by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), seeking design solutions for reconstruction of the theatre, burnt down 10 years ago.

A team of four young architects from Jadavpur University — Debmalya Guha, Kalyan Chakraborty, Arindam Ghosh and Tirtharaj Paul — has bagged top honours, with a model aimed at “blending modern facilities with a heritage structure”. Their innovative approach, without hampering the heritage value of the structure, is said to have helped the quartet beat 12 contenders, along with the Action Research in Conservation of Heritage (ARCH).

Starting with a basement parking lot for around 30 cars and an exhibition hall (the first of its kind in north Calcutta), the reconstructed Star Theatre should have a roof-top plaza-cum-open-air theatre, to attract theatre buffs and many more. “The idea is to encourage people to come to the plaza even if they are not interested in the play being staged,” said Guha. This, the team believes, will bring people to the complex and eventually convert some into theatre-goers.

The rooftop plaza, around which the revamp plan revolves, can also be utilised as an open-air theatre. “Such theatres are best suited for hosting three dimensional plays in which the audience and the actors share an undivided space,” explained Ghosh. The plaza will have a row of kiosks along the sides and a cafeteria on the front portico. All this will be done, say the young architects, without demolishing the façade that survived the 1991 blaze. The rest of the theatre, standing on 28 cottahs, was ravished and will be “completely rebuilt” along modern lines.

“The challenge was to restore a heritage structure without destroying its essence, while also offering the facilities of a modern auditorium,” said Professor Samir Rakshit of Jadavpur University. He was a member of the jury, comprising architects Prabir Mitra and Mukul Mitra, besides M.B. Basu, chief engineer of the Public Works Department.

Rakshit added: “The stability of the structure needs to examined. Some of the structures we intend to retain might not be able to withstand the repair work. Also, considering the age of the architects, we have suggested that the expertise of a senior architect be sought for the implementation of the model.”

Architect Prabir Mitra feels the winning proposal is “subdued and withdrawn. The structure, however, will need technical reinforcement if the brittle front portion is to be retained.”

If things go according to plan, Calcuttans will have a brand new Star by 2004.


Calcutta, Dec. 21: 
He tried to trick his way out of a cash crunch by courting a girl and borrowing money from her father. Ashok Chakraborty, 37, was arrested by Tangra police on Thursday night on charges of “misinformation and cheating”.

Ashok Ghosh of Azadgarh, in Jadavpur, had put in an advertisement in the matrimonial columns of a leading vernacular daily for his daughter in mid-November. Ashok, alias Chandan, spotted the ad and proceeded to Ghosh’s house, seeking his daughter’s hand.

He introduced himself as a “senior official” of Burrabazar post office. Chakraborty came across as “well-mannered, soft spoken and knowledgeable... He struck an instant rapport with the family. We were taken in by his good looks and suave ways,’’ Ghosh admitted.

On the first day itself, Chakraborty borrowed Rs 50 from his prospective father-in-law, on the pretext that his pocket had been picked. Thereafter, his visits to the Ghosh residence became more frequent and he kept borrowing money on some pretext or the other.

In early December, Chakraborty took Ghosh to Tangra police station, saying he wanted to have a word with a childhood friend, a police officer at the thana. After leaving the police station, Chakraborty “borrowed’’ some more money from Ghosh. Next, he took Ghosh to Burrabazar post office and made him wait outside, till he returned “in five minutes”.

Chakraborty told his would-be in-laws he needed money to bribe policemen during his “mandatory attendance” at an east Calcutta police station, after his former wife had lodged an FIR charging him with “assault”.

In mid-December, Chakraborty urged Ghosh to set the date for the wedding. “He borrowed money from Ghosh again, on the pretext of renting a house in Jadavpur,’’ according to deputy commissioner of police, eastern suburban division, Sanjoy Mukherjee. In mid-December, Chakraborty disappeared.

Ghosh went to Burrabazar post office, but officials there said Chakraborty was not an employee. A confused Ghosh lodged a complaint with Tangra police station. “Fortunately, Ghosh had a photograph of Chakraborty,’’ Mukherjee added.

Police officers investigating Chakraborty’s assault case recognised him. They netted him on Thursday night when he turned up at the police station.

Mukherjee said Chakraborty was handed him over to Jadavpur police after interrogation.

confirmed that Ashok was married and his wife had filed an assault case against him. Police had directed him to meet the investigating officer once a week.


Calcutta, Dec. 21: 
The ruling Left on Thursday, Trinamul Congress on Friday. Traffic came to a standstill in Esplanade on Friday when Trinamul Congress supporters, led by MLAs, squatted at the intersection of Jawaharlal Nehru Road and Rani Rashmoni Avenue, in a law-violation programme.

The sit-in, from 3 pm, was to protest the state government’s decision to hike examination and tuition fees in schools and colleges. They also condemned the government’s failure to improve law and order in the state.

According to the police, 2,561 Trinamul supporters, including 351 women, courted arrest. They were later released on bail.


Calcutta, Dec. 21: 
One of the oldest buildings in the city’s central business district, it housed All India Radio on its roof, provided the perfect backdrop for Sankar’s best-selling novel Kato Ajanare, sparked the ‘flatbari’ trend by dividing up rooms into chambers, and played host to hundreds of lawyers down the decades…

Steeped in history but drowned in disrepair, Temple Chambers, on Old Post Office Street, looks set to face the demolition squad very soon. The building, with around 450 law offices at present, has been declared “condemned” by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC). So, instead of the four-storeyed Chambers being declared a heritage building and restored, it could well be the target of CMC bulldozers.

Over the past few days, the CMC has nailed several boards on the wall of Temple Chambers, declaring it “dangerous” and “condemned”. This has come as a “shock” to the tenants in black. “The building is old and ill-maintained. But such a distinguished building should be granted heritage status and restored, instead of being razed,” most lawyers said.

Temple Chambers is now under a court-appointed “receiver”, following litigation among members of the owner family. “The building is old and unsafe and five minor fires have broken out over the past few years,” said the receiver, requesting anonymity.

The civic authorities argue that there has been “no proper application” from either the owners or tenants on the heritage count. “If there was an application, we would have definite looked into it,” said municipal architect and town planner Aninda Karforma.

Nearly 150 years old, Temple Chambers was the first address of All India Radio, functioning from the offices of Marconi Marine Wireless Company, before it shifted to nearby Garstin Place. Law firms like Victor Moses and Dutta and Sen were housed here. Swami Vivekananda is known to have frequented the building. Among those who had offices in the Chambers were Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das, Rashbehari Ghosh and P.D. Himmatsingka.

“As far as I can remember, the building was named after Sir Richard Temple, a renowned legal personality during the Raj,” said author Shankar. “Ritwik Ghatak had started to film Kato Ajanare, but could not complete it.”

But former judge Bhagabati Prasad Banerjee said: “I have heard that at a function during the Raj, an English lawyer had described the building as the Temple of Justice. The name stuck.”



Summoned in court for assault case

The Barrackpore sub-divisional court on Friday directed five accused, including a former district and sessions judge and his son, to be present in court on January 28 for the hearing of a wife-beating case. The CID had filed the chargesheet against Partha Mukherjee, lecturer of a reputed college, on the basis of a complaint of torture lodged by his wife, Sutapa Mukherjee, daughter of former joint secretary, home (police), Paramesh Bhattacharya, on July 15, 2000. Friday’s hearing was delayed since only one accused, Arun Mukherjee, a former special secretary of urban development department, was present.

Sutapa has recently lodged a complaint with the Shakespeare Sarani police station that she was being threatened for not withdrawing the case.

Hurt in road mishap

A five-year-old girl and a 30-year-old woman were injured when a cycle-rickshaw in which they were travelling was hit by a private bus at the crossing of Ultadanga Road and Raja Dinendra Street on Friday morning. Local residents tried to torch the bus but the police intervened in time. The bus was towed to the local police station.

CM as dramatist

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has again expressed his desire to write a play. If time permits, he would write, he told reporters at Writers’ Buildings. Bhattacharjee had expressed the same desire in the recent past at a function at Nandan. He has already penned Duhsamay, Rajdhon, Poka and Swadhinotar Pare.

School fest

Impulse 2001-2002, the annual school fest of B.D. Memorial Institute, at Pratapgarh, was held on Friday. Cultural programmes were put up by students and teachers. Drama, folk dances and Christmas carols were the highlights of the fest, organised in association with The Telegraph.

Youth dead

A 22-year-old youth, Kashi Sonar, was found dead at Shibtala Lane, in central Calcutta, on Friday morning. Police said Sonar was drunk. A strangulation mark was found on his neck. The body has been sent for post-mortem.

Eve-teasers held

Seven persons were arrested in the Rajabazar area on Thursday night on charges of eve-teasing. Three persons were injured on Wednesday night when some local residents had resisted the eve-teasers.

Body found

The body of a three-year-old boy, Anirban Ray, who had been missing for a couple of days, was found in a pond in Beleghata. His father had lodged a complaint of kidnapping with the local police. But police claimed the boy had drowned.

Bowling results

The following are Friday’s winners at the TTIS Inter-school Bowling Championship at Nicco Super Bowl — La Martiniere For Boys A and C, St Xaviers C, Lakshmipat Singhania B and C, Don Bosco Park Circus B and St James A.    

Calcutta, Dec. 21: 
Come February, and Calcuttans will not need to go to police stations and plead with policemen to lodge a complaint. A mouse-click will be enough: Switch on a computer, log in and send the complaint to the police station concerned.

With the inauguration of the city police’s Intranet wing on Friday, the computer cell at Lalbazar is getting ready to receive complaints online.

“We have introduced the Intranet system here, the first in the country. As per our plans, people who live under Calcutta Police jurisdiction will be able to lodge a general diary through the Internet. And if they leave us their e-mail addresses, we can send them the updated status of the case,” said Pradip Sanyal, deputy commissioner II, detective department.

After a six-month process with the help of Webel Technology Limited (WTL), the Intranet wing started working from Friday afternoon. The state government spent Rs 1.58 crore on the project.

Inaugurating the system, Sujoy Chakroborty, commissioner of police, said: “Work will be faster now, since my men will not need to go through a bunch of files if they need the history of a case they are investigating. The whereabouts of a hardened criminal is now just a mouse-click away.”

Tapan Chatterjee, additional commissioner of police overseeing the computer cell, said 80 locations, including all 42 city police stations, have been connected to the new system. “Besides, the offices of all the five divisional deputy commissioners, 17 divisional assistant commissioners and eight battalion chiefs are on-line. Altogether 40,000 data of the crime records section have been stored in the system,” said Chatterjee.

The police have trained 150 staff, from constable to officer-in-charge, and 11 staff who are technically sound have been put in charge of the computer cell. “We organised a talent search competition and selected a good number of candidates with enough computer knowledge. These candidates will be posted at different police stations to monitor the Intranet system,” said Sanyal.

The police will also modify the cyber crime cell under supervision of deputy commissioner-I, detective department Soumen Mitra.


Calcutta, Dec. 21: 
Rajesh Kalua, 22, was arrested in Beleghata on Thursday night on charges of threatening to kidnap the grandson of a retired government employee, Shibshankar Karmakar.

Deputy commissioner of police, eastern suburban division, Sanjoy Mukherjee, said Rajesh’s brother, Vinod, is on the run after being charged with killing Shibshankar’s son, Achintya, a few months earlier.

Rajesh and his aides had been calling up Shibshankar, urging him to withdraw the case against Vinod. After threats failed to yield results, Rajesh demanded Rs 3 lakh as compensation. “Vinod is on the run only because you have pressed charges against him. We have incurred an expense of several lakhs on him. You have to compensate the amount,’’ Rajesh told Shibshankar on the phone in the middle of December.

Later, Rajesh gave him a week’s ultimatum, failing which he said he would kidnap Shibshankar’s grandson.

The police were called in. DC (ESD) Mukherjee said thana officials installed a caller-line identification gadget and traced the calls to public call offices in the neighbourhood. A picket kept watch on Shibshankar’s house.

“The calls stopped for a couple of days earlier this week. On Thursday, Rajesh telephoned again. Our officers traced the call to a PCO. We urged Shibshankar to keep talking to Rajesh as my men rushed to net him in the booth,’’ Mukherjee said.

“Rajesh has given us vital leads to Vinod. Policemen have already fanned out to look for him,’’ Mukherjee added.

Vinod is wanted for several cases of extortion and murder.


Calcutta, Dec. 21: 
In its second phase of bureaucratic reshuffle, the state government has transferred over two dozen officers. All the changes, sources said, had the approval of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

To set his house in order, Bhattacharjee had earlier made S.N. Roy, his trusted man, the chief secretary after Manish Gupta’s retirement. He had also brought in Amit Kiran Deb as secretary to the home department and placed long-time loyalist Arun Bhattacharya as his own secretary.

In the latest round of changes, K.K. Bagchi was brought in as power secretary in place of A.M. Chakraborty. Bagchi was environment secretary for the past few years and left his mark as an able administrator.

Among the other officers who were shifted over the past two days were D.P. Patra, the long-serving managing director of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation. Patra will take over as principal secretary of the IT department. Jaya Dasgupta was moved from the infotech department to the pollution control board as member-secretary.

Power secretary Chakraborty will take charge of the labour department while labour secretary N.K.S. Jhala will be the new agriculture secretary. Jhala will replace Sumantra Chowdhury, who will move into public health engineering. K.S. Ramasubban, the pollution control board member-secretary, will take charge of environment.

Tourism secretary Pranab Roy, who had opted for voluntary retirement is being replaced by Radhakanta Tripathy from public health engineering.

S.K. Magan will be commissioner of the Presidency division replacing Pradip Bhattacharya, the new secretary of consumer affairs. Anup Chandra, the consumer affairs secretary will be in charge of the technical education department, held by Magan.


Calcutta, Dec. 21: 
The CPM-controlled Non-Gazetted Police Karmachari Samity today threatened a campaign against director-general Dinesh Bajpai, one of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s hand-picked men, for his perceived opposition to the organisation.

The samity, which represents police personnel from the ranks of constables to sub-inspectors, alleged Bajpai was trying to prevent its activities.

“He is deliberately issuing directives to us so that we cannot attend the samity meetings,” said Muktipada Mondal, the union secretary. “I cannot understand why we have such a good chief minister but such a director-general of police.”

Mondal and his colleagues have petitioned home secretary A.K. Deb and set a deadline of January 2 for Bajpai to “mend his ways” or face agitation.

Both Bajpai and Deb chose to remain silent on the issue but Mondal said the union was taking the matter “very seriously”.

The association, which had its annual convention today, was formed in 1978 after the Left Front came to power and was the first policemen’s union in the state.

The union also took strong exception to the way some IPS officers were taking “undue advantages” from policemen. “Even after retirement, some of these officers make us work for them,” Mondal alleged. The wives of the officers had no right to use their husband’s official vehicles, Mondal said. “The drivers and the security people are not paid to take the officers’ wives out for shopping or to visit relatives, that is not police work.”

The union chief also objected to the Bajpai directive that asked policemen to be in uniform even when they were attending the union’s programmes.


Calcutta, Dec. 21: 
Teaching and non-teaching staff of government and government-aided schools, colleges and universities will be punished if they are found engaged in private tuition or any kind of business or acting as agents of any company or corporation.

If found guilty, they may be transferred, suspended and even sacked. Teaching and non-teaching staff will have to give a written undertaking to the school authorities stating that they are not involved in any other money-earning activity.

Finance minister Asim Dasgupta, with school education minister Kanti Biswas seated next to him, told a press conference at Writers’ Buildings this afternoon: “The entire government would remain behind the education department to implement it.”

“We are committed to implementing it. The concept was in the education minister’s budget speech and I am confident we shall be able to enforce discipline,” Dasgupta said.

He clarified that for the fault of one particular employee the entire institution would not suffer. The government will withhold the salary of the employee found guilty.

The finance minister admitted that arming the government with legislation might not be the answer, but expressed confidence in the effectiveness of a “social awareness campaign supported by strict laws”.

A notification issued today said the managing committees of all recognised secondary, high, junior and higher secondary schools, including all types of madarsas, would have to give it in writing at the beginning of each quarter of the financial year that the terms would be followed by them.

In the absence of an undertaking, the institution will not get grants for that particular quarter.

The terms include maintaining attendance norms and complying with the scheme for payment of retirement benefits on the date of superannuation.


Maintained by Web Development Company