Stress drives kids to the edge
Privatisation sparks hotel protests
Shelter for Bihar goons
CU call-sheet rap for colleges
Teacher trail in red-light murder
The City Diary
No texts for tots, school exams once a year
Mayor move draws flak
Donated by US, sold in Burdwan
Shibpur students clash with CPM

 
 
STRESS DRIVES KIDS TO THE EDGE 
 
 
BY BAPPA MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, Dec. 23: 
The teachers order me to sit on the backbench. They feel I am not a good student. There is no one to help me in school. Everyone seems to despise me. I don’t want to live anymore… Arijit Bose (Class V)

I am sick of the routine I have to follow. Even games seem a punishment. I tried committing suicide but failed... I will try again. My parents are doing this to me… Amit Kiran Kar (Class IX)

These are extracts from case diaries of Dr Prabir Paul, a leading psychiatrist, who is alarmed at the steady rise of “psychological problems” among school students in the city. Paul is not the only doctor worried about the spurt in “child psychiatric patients”. A study has revealed how “extreme stress”, both at school and at home, is increasingly causing “acute depression” among children.

Dr Paul counsels at least 12 children a month these days, compared to hardly “two or three”, even a couple of years ago. “There has been a sharp rise in child psychiatry cases. All these children are from reputed schools, where they are overworked and often treated shabbily,” says Dr Paul.

Recent studies have revealed that “17 per cent of Calcutta’s population suffers from acute depression”. Five years ago, the figure was less than seven per cent. “A sizeable number of these patients now comprise school-going children. We have already taken up the matter with some school authorities. They must understand that pushing a student to the backbench will never solve the problem. A ‘weak’ student must get more attention,” feels Dr Paul.

To pinpoint problems and chalk out solution strategies, psychiatrists from various parts of the country and the world will come together for a four-day conference in town, from January 8 to 11, 2002. Specialists from England, the US, Australia and Canada will join forces at the meet, organised by the West Bengal branch of the Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS).

“The alarming rise in acute depression among children will top the agenda of the conference. We have drawn up probable solutions that will be discussed at length during the conference,” confirms Dr Ranadip Ghosh Roy, who, too, has “several child psychiatry” cases on his hands.

Take 13-year-old Anil, of Hindustan Park. He rushes to the cricket field after school, then goes for guitar lessons, before slogging through tuition in four subjects. “I don’t enjoy playing any more and school is such a strain… I am so tired,” Anil told a psychiatrist recently. The doctor advised his parents to “stop Anil’s routine at once” and even requested his class teacher to come for counselling.

Beside adolescent psychiatry, developmental disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders (neglected child), mood swings and sleep disorders, stress and suicidal tendencies among children will also figure in the discussions. Leading psychiatrists blame “lack of a proper child guidance clinic” and “bad parenting” for the “acute depression and attention deficit syndrome” among students.

“Even some of the crèches operating here do more harm than good. We have evidence that a child is subjected to mental and physical abuse at some of these so-called day-care centres,” a group of psychiatrists add. Experts feel the answer to the “emotional distress of the so-called problem child” lies in counselling sessions both in school and at home.

   

 
 
PRIVATISATION SPARKS HOTEL PROTESTS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 23: 
Ajay Gambhir, from Newark, USA, was passing through Calcutta for a day. He had heard all about “trade unionism” in the city, but had never imagined he would run into a “wall of red flags” in the few hours he had to spend here. But that’s exactly what happened, and that, too, where he was set to stay for the day — Hotel Airport Ashok.

With employees of the star hotel striking work, the 37-year-old had to scout around for alternative accommodation, “ruining” all his plans in the city.

Gambhir is just one of the numerous visitors to Calcutta suffering the backlash of workers’ protests in the wake of the Centre’s disinvestment decision regarding 26 ITDC-run hotels in the country. With Airport Ashok on the “sign-off” list, the 450-odd employees have decided to fight the “arbitrary privatisation push” till the end.

“What can we do? The government has gone back on its word of handing over the hotel through a tripartite settlement. There is no transparency and we might lose our jobs any day. We will continue to fight,” said Sanjay Sen, general secretary of the Citu-affiliated ITDC Staff and Workers’ Union (ISWU).

All three unions — the Intuc-led Shramik Union, the non-political United ITDC Employees Union and the ISWU — have come together on a common protest platform, the Trade Union Action Committee (TUAC).

“We will not budge from our demand of implementing a proper scheme for employees. We will stop any new buyer from taking over the hotel, even at the cost of our lives,” TUAC representative Sanjib Deb warned.

The workers have no idea who will take over Ashok. The Centre has already handed over five ITDC hotels — in Mahabalipuram, Madurai, Hasan, Bodh Gaya and Agra — to small private players. Only Bangalore Ashok was handed over to the Bharat Hotel group.

“None of the others is a hotelier. In fact, our hotel in Madurai, spread over 46 acres and valued at nearly Rs 50 crore, was sold for just Rs 3.5 crore. The employees found out one morning that their hotel had been sold… We will never allow that to happen here,” said Sen.

A senior hotel official echoed the unions’ grievance: “There is no transparency in the deals. Even our top officials are unaware of what is happening, as the department of disinvestment is directly dealing with the case.”

Unlike the other ITDC hotels, Airport Ashok has “done reasonably well” for the past few years, claim the employees. The hotel, apparently, made a profit of Rs 1.10 crore from catering at Science City, Rs 6 crore from flight catering and over Rs 9 crore from hotel occupancy last year. Occupancy had nosedived after the September 11 attack on America and the current crisis has thwarted hopes of a turnaround.

   

 
 
SHELTER FOR BIHAR GOONS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 23: 
A widespread promoter-criminal nexus came to light on Sunday after the overnight interrogation of Chhote Khan, arrested from Ekbalpore on Saturday.

Chhote, alias Masoom, confessed he had murdered a garment trader last month in Watgunge. Chhote has been charged with 15 murders in Bihar.

Police said over 20 criminals from Bihar have recently arrived in the city to work with local promoters. These criminals, including one wanted for 40 murders in Bihar, have opened up construction companies as a front. “A section of promoters working in the city engage these criminals to intimidate and, if necessary, eliminate an adversary,” an official said.

During investigation, police found a CPM leader was providing shelter to Chhote. The Bihar government has sent a list of 25 criminals who have recently arrived in Calcutta.

   

 
 
CU CALL-SHEET RAP FOR COLLEGES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 23: 
Under-graduates appearing for Calcutta University’s (CU) 2002 examinations should not be surprised if they do not receive the forms against their names despite passing the selection tests, paying the fees, and meeting all other requirements.

In a decision to discipline colleges and introduce a sense of urgency, CU has decided to stop sending examination forms and other important documents of BA, B.Sc, and B.Com Part I and Part II examinations if the colleges fail to provide updated lists of “teacher-examiners” within the given deadline.

The move is aimed mainly at creating pressure on the respective colleges, so that the students are spared the delay in results, which often upsets their career plans.

“We are sorry that the students may have to suffer for no fault of theirs, but we are helpless. We had warned the colleges earlier but, obviously, they haven’t learnt a lesson,” said an official.

According to Onkar Sadhan Adhikari, controller of examinations, Calcutta University, if colleges send the examiners’ list early, it helps ensure timely publication of results.

“Even this year, the university had to change its system and published the BA and B.Sc Part I results separately, only because an adequate number of examiners was not available for B.Sc answer scripts,” he added.

Sources say colleges often send incomplete information about a teacher. For instance, for a teacher who takes classes in accountancy, the college will only send a list saying he is a member of the commerce faculty.

In such a case, the university would be required to get back to the college to get specific information, which ultimately delays the entire process of publication of results.

According to sources, the colleges do not even delete the names of the retired teachers from the list.

“This leads to confusion, as the university unknowingly might slot him for a major subject, only to find that he has long retired. All this has forced us to take this decision,” said a university official.

   

 
 
TEACHER TRAIL IN RED-LIGHT MURDER 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY AND RATHIN BHATTACHARYA
 
Calcutta, Dec. 23: 
The confession of a contract killer has led the cops to a college teacher, alleged mastermind in the murder of a prostitute.

Sujit Singha Roy, a chemistry lecturer in a north Calcutta college, was arrested early on Sunday from his Kankurgachhi residence after Probir Das told the police he had killed the woman at Singha Roy’s behest.

The lecturer was then produced in Serampore court and remanded in police custody for five days.

“It was shocking… Nobody, not even us, expected a teacher from a respectable family to plot a murder like this,” said N. Ramesh Babu, district superintendent of police, Hooghly.

Singha Roy’s family refused to comment.

The 35-year-old prostitute was shot dead in her room, in the Garbagan red-light area, near the Seoraphuli railway station, by Das and an associate on the night of December 20. People in the area managed to catch Das, while his accomplice fled the scene of crime.

After confessing, Das helped Bijoy Das, officer-in-charge of Serampore police station, reconstruct the planning and execution of the crime. Das, a resident of Konnagar, said he had been hired by Singha Roy to “finish off” the woman the lecturer used to visit frequently for the past few years. Singha Roy had, apparently, kept the woman in his rented flat at Kankurgachhi, for some time earlier this year.

“The lecturer appears to have started plotting the murder after the woman became pregnant and started insisting that he marry her,” a police officer said. “She was admitted to a nursing home in Barrackpore, where she gave birth, four months ago. After that, Singha Roy took the woman back to Seoraphuli, but stopped visiting her.”

The woman, apparently, started visiting the lecturer in college, pleading with him to marry her. “This soon became the talking point in college, among both teachers and students… Singha Roy apparently wanted to put an end to this humiliation, once and for all,” a police office said.

Singha Roy then contacted Das and agreed to pay him Rs 20,000 to kill the woman in Seoraphuli. Das hired another man to help him in the task.

“On Thursday night, Das and his associate knocked on the woman’s door in Garbagan and then

tried to force their way in. An altercation ensued, which ended with the woman being gunned dead from point-blank range,” a sleuth said.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Home appliances company gutted

Electronic goods worth thousands of rupees were destroyed in a fire that broke out at a home appliances company on Chakraberia Road (North) on Sunday afternoon. The fire, which may have started from a godown around 2.28 pm, engulfed the entire office within minutes. At least 10 fire-tenders rushed to the spot and brought the flames under control after an hour. While the office employees scurried for safety, local people rushed with buckets of water to stop the fire from spreading to the adjoining buildings. Though preliminary investigation revealed that the fire may have been caused by a short circuit, a probe is underway to ascertain the reasons behind the blaze.

Buses collide, three injured

Two passengers of a private bus and the driver of another were injured when two buses (on routes 79D and 71) collided on APC Road, near Jagat cinema. Police impounded both the vehicles and removed the injured to a nearby hospital. The driver of the other bus managed to escape. Local residents protested inadequate traffic control in the area and put up a roadblock.

Cong councillors

The Congress leader of the Opposition in Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) wrote to municipal affairs secretary G. Balachandran to cancel the candidature of eight Congress councillors who voted in favour of the Trinamul Congress-BJP board, ignoring the whip. There were 15 Congress councillors in the board and immediately after the civic poll, eight of them had joined Trinamul.

Health meet

Over 300 delegates and specialists from all over the country will participate in the Bengal Obstetric and Gynaecological Society’s annual two-day conference on December 22 and 23. A scientific meet, debate and a cultural function will also be organised, apart from the brainstorming sessions.

SER drive

South Eastern Railway (SER) realised over Rs 1.11 lakh from 1,185 irregular travellers and 886 unreserved luggage cases in November this year.    

 
 
NO TEXTS FOR TOTS, SCHOOL EXAMS ONCE A YEAR 
 
 
BY DEBASHIS CHATTOPADHYAY
 
Calcutta, Dec. 23: 
Responding to the government’s initiative to lessen the twin burden of examinations and syllabus for toddlers, a prominent south Calcutta school plans to do away with both up till Class IV.

Authorities of B. D. Memorial Institute, at Pratapgarh, near Bansdroni, south Calcutta, said on Sunday that they would now effect promotions on the basis of unit tests and a final examination at the end of the academic session. Also, there will be no texts for students in the Nursery and KG classes. The 34-year-old institution also plans a college in the future and is negotiating with the UGC for an affiliation with Delhi University.

“I feel sorry for the children when I see them burdened with satchels,” said Usha Mehta, principal. So, she plans to make the toddlers learn through games till KG. She has also decided to do away with admission tests in the nursery section. “We admit every child on first-come-first-serve basis. I have plans for conducting only unit tests for students up to Class IV and holding just one annual examination. This will help students devote time to studies and, at the same time, not get bogged down by terminal exams,” said Mehta.

   

 
 
MAYOR MOVE DRAWS FLAK 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 23: 
The Premises Tenancy Act on Sunday found itself back on the burner as mayor Subrata Mukherjee moved to rewrite the inheritance clause, bypassing the Act, as he threatens to reclaim stalls in civic markets once the original allottees die.

The mayor’s decision has drawn flak from both stall-owners and the member of his council in charge of markets. More than 50,000 stall-owners in 24 civic markets decided to observe a bandh on Thursday and demonstrated in front of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) headquarters on S. N. Banerjee Road.

Meanwhile, supporting the bandh called by the Traders’ Federation of Municipal Markets, member, mayor-in-council (markets,) Samsuzzaman Ansari, said: “It is an illegal order and I will not allow it to take effect, as it has been issued without the assent of the mayor-in-council.”

He also said it was against law to disallow a wife or a son to inherit the husband or the father’s business.

Bimal Nag, president of the federation, said: “It seems the mayor is running a parallel government in West Bengal”.

The federation has convened an emergency meeting on Tuesday to finalise the programme, which includes the bandh call on Thursday.

   

 
 
DONATED BY US, SOLD IN BURDWAN 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Burdwan, Dec. 23: 
Milk powder and dry foodstuff sent by an American agency for distribution among poor children have been put up for sale in the open market.

Police have bust a racket in relief materials, seizing 800 bags of dry food re-filled into fresh packets from two markets near Burdwan town. Milk and corn-flake powder, sent by the foreign agency, are usually distributed among poor children by NGOs, local clubs and other bodies under the supervision of the district administration.

“We have been receiving complaints for the last few days from some areas that the poor children, who used to get those relief items regularly, are not getting them. We then started watching the movements of the vehicle carrying those items. We also deployed plain-clothed policemen at different markets. We have seized 800 bags of food items from a truck and two markets near Burdwan town. All were illegally sold,’’ district police superintendent B.N. Ramesh said.

He said police were keeping close tabs on some of the racketeers. “The kingpin will soon be arrested. We have made an appeal to all shop-owners not to purchase or sell any relief items. It is not only a crime but cruelty to the poor children also,’’ Ramesh said.

In another clean-up operation, police seized 174 tonnes of smuggled coal from a dump near Jamuria. Senior officers said there was a big racket going on in mines around Ranigunj and Jamuria.

On a tip-off, police raided a place near Bengal Emta Coal Mine where huge quantities of hard coke were dumped and found some people busy loading it on to trucks. “There were no valid papers and all the coal was smuggled. This is used to make coal pellets that have a good market,’’ the SP said.

Job letter racket

Police arrested Angsuman Modak and Kartik Saha from Ranigunj last night for supplying aspiring primary school teachers with fake appointment letters. Five such letters and Rs 5 lakh have been recovered.

Burdwan district primary education council recently conducted an inquiry to verify the appointment letters and mark sheets of teachers appointed this year. Eighteen were found to have produced fake mark sheets and appointment letters.

On complaints from the council, police picked up four teachers from Andal who gave them leads to the racketeers. Modak and Saha admitted during questioning that they had collected fake letters from the council office and sold it to 18 people for Rs 60,000 each. District police will shortly grill some primary education council employees.

   

 
 
SHIBPUR STUDENTS CLASH WITH CPM 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 23: 
Violence rocked Shibpur when a section of students of BE College, allegedly backed by Chhatra Parishad, clashed with CPM supporters late tonight.

The students went on the rampage and ransacked the local CPM party office. Ten persons from both groups were injured and three shops were damaged. Sporadic incidents of bombing and brick-batting continued till senior police officials rushed to the spot and brought the situation under control. Eastern Frontier Rifles personnel were deployed in the area.

Police sources said the incident was a sequel to a long-standing rivalry between the local CPM and the Chhatra Parishad-backed students. “It is possible that the local CPM was trying to intervene in the college’s students’ union election,” said a police officer.

The violence began after Rajdeep, a fourth year student, went to a nearby shop. An altercation started when Rajdeep, said to be a Chhatra Parishad supporter, started discussing the students’ union poll with the owner and insisted that his party would win. “The shop-owner, known to be a CPM supporter, started beating him up. Rajdeep escaped to his hostel and returned with hundreds of his friends, who stormed the CPM office,” said the sources.

As the news spread, CPM activists rushed to the site and started hurling bombs. A large area near the college became a battlefield as both groups indulged in heavy brick-batting. The groups were dispersed by the police.

Mishap deaths

A 35-year-old woman and her husband were killed when a speeding private bus on route 228 knocked them down in Naktala late tonight. Angered residents assaulted the driver, who was rescued and hospitalised by the police.

   
 

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