Govt go-slow on infotech courses
Clash shuts down campus
Liluah home inmate flees hospital
Discipline drowns in decibels
The City Diary
Vision for all, at rates for Everyman
‘Cop aide’ conman dupes Topsia traders of lakhs
Spotlight Woman, age 40
Spa prop for body, mind & spirit
Govt reads riot act to protesting policemen

 
 
GOVT GO-SLOW ON INFOTECH COURSES 
 
 
BY MITA MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, Dec. 24: 
Too much of IT is no recipe for success. Driven by this realisation, the government on Monday announced plans to “restructure engineering courses” in tune with market demands.

“IT had become something of a craze. Now, we must look at strengthening other courses as well,” said higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty. “The re-orientation will be carried out by the higher education council, keeping in mind the trends likely to emerge over the next 15 years and the over-emphasis on IT has to be eased,” he added.

Critics of the government have been quick to point out the “failure to understand ground reality” to begin with, and then, in a knee-jerk reaction, to chalk out a plan to reaffirm its control over higher education.

“This government misread the situation and put undue emphasis on IT. This created a large number of seats without any understanding of the market demand,” said Sparshamani Chatterjee, former vice-principal of Bengal Engineering College, Shibpur. “Now, it is suddenly saying that IT is no longer very attractive. Once again, it is trying to determine what is right for the student. Why can’t the choice be left to them?”

As part of the Centre’s nation-wide drive to promote IT education, the government had introduced 1,000 seats in IT at various engineering colleges in the state a year ago.

“The government should not have got carried away by the Centre’s move and introduced so many seats within such a short span of time . They should have taken the job market into account, before allowing the colleges to open the courses,” said Chatterjee, who is also technical education adviser to the government.

Other academicians pointed out that the Bengal government’s move to “restructure” engineering courses in the state the way it wants to comes at a time when most governments are withdrawing from key areas, like education and health.

The government, however, has lined up a meeting of higher education officials, principals of engineering colleges and academics for early-January 2002. Various aspects of the re-orientation issue will be addressed at the meeting.

Education officials said the government move has been prompted by the “growing number of empty seats” in IT-teaching institutions of Calcutta and elsewhere in state and “the dipping fortunes of IT graduates” due to the slowdown.

Sources in the education department, however, maintained that “the poor academic standards and lack of infrastructure” at most of the private engineering institutions in the city have forced the government to act.

Authorities of the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) are also concerned at the manner in which private engineering colleges are “mushrooming” in the state and offering IT courses.

“We have received over 75 applications for opening new IT teaching colleges from eastern India, the bulk of which are from Bengal. In view of the recent developments, we will now examine the infrastructure carefully, before giving our final clearance,” said B.K. Tosh, AICTE regional director.

The government’s concern over the IT issue was also reflected in the views of A.N. Basu, vice-chancellor, Jadavpur University, who dwelt on the matter while addressing a gathering of students at the university’s annual convocation on Monday.

Awarding engineering degrees to the students, Basu said: “ A mad race for and continuous drum-beating about information technology appear to have shifted our national focus from highly-relevant areas of basic sciences like medicine, agriculture and many other important ones.”

Writers’ protest: At least 200 sweepers demonstrated in front of Writers’ Buildings after the discovery of the body of a sweeper in front of Gate no. 1 on Monday morning. They alleged that Thakurram Rao, 45, fell ill as soon as he reported for work, but the policemen on duty did not bother to hospitalise him.

   

 
 
CLASH SHUTS DOWN CAMPUS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 24: 
Clashes on the Shibpur campus on Sunday night; violent protests on Monday morning, culminating in the vice-chancellor’s driver being beaten up and his car being damaged; 1,700 students driven out of 16 hostels, taken to Esplanade under police escort and then ordered to go home…

The last academic session of 2001 at the Bengal Engineering College (Deemed University), Shibpur, ended abruptly amidst high drama on Monday.

The college was shut “indefinitely” four days before the scheduled winter break, as trouble between students and hostel employees spun dangerously out of control.

“It is not possible for us to say when the college will reopen. I will wait for the report of the probe team before taking any decision,” said vice-chancellor Amal Jyoti Sengupta.

Clashes broke out on Sunday night as a section of students, backed by the Chhatra Parishad, squared off against the CPM-dominated hostel employees.

Police said Kumar Nayak, a local CPM supporter whose father, Keshto Nayak, is an employee in Hostel No 10, got into an argument with some students in front of the college gate. “It could have been linked to the college students’ union election,” an officer said.

“When Keshto, 54, returned to his quarters, a group of around 300 students stormed the room, dragged him out and thrashed him mercilessly. He had to be hospitalised,” said C.V. Murlidharan, superintendent of police, Howrah.

When Kumar heard about the incident, he rounded up hundreds of local CPM supporters. The hostel grounds then turned into a battlefield, with the brickbats and bombs being hurled by both groups.

Tension ran high on Monday morning when a section of students, allegedly backed by the SFI, assembled on the campus.

They shouted slogans against the students responsible for the attack on “a senior hostel employee” and blamed the vice -chancellor for “not taking disciplinary action” against the culprits. The mob turned violent, targeting Sengupta’s car and driver.

The police were called in to disperse the violent protesters. The college authorities then convened an emergency meeting, attended by all 16 hostel superintendents, heads of departments and non-teaching staff.

A unanimous decision was taken that the college be closed indefinitely and the hostels be vacated at once. A probe panel was also formed to “get to the bottom” of the matter.

Around 1,700 students were then driven out of the hostels under police vigil. They were herded into a number of buses and escorted to Esplanade. From there, they were told to go home and allowed to disperse. “We told them they would be informed later about the college re-opening,” said a college official.

   

 
 
LILUAH HOME INMATE FLEES HOSPITAL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 24: 
It’s a home struggling to keep its members in order. A 21-year-old inmate of the Liluah Home for Destitute Women escaped from Howrah Jaiswal Hospital on Sunday night. The girl apparently feigned illness to get herself admitted to hospital. A complaint from the home authorities has been lodged with Bally police.

With this, the number of escapees from the Liluah home this year has crept close to 20. A few days ago, a deaf-and-mute woman and her daughter had fled the same hospital.

According to sources, the girl, who has been at the Liluah home for the past few months, was hospitalised on Sunday afternoon. “Anupama Kar, our resident doctor, was not around when the girl complained of severe stomach pain. Not wanting to take a chance, we decided to hospitalise her at once,” Reba Das, superintendent of the home, said on Monday.

An inmate added that the 21-year-old had shown no signs of illness till Sunday afternoon, when she “suddenly lay down on the bed and started crying in pain”. With Kar not in her quarters, the authorities panicked and rushed the girl to hospital.

“If the doctor would have attended to the girl, she might not have had to be hospitalised… But under the circumstances, we didn’t have a choice,” an official at the home said.

Pranab Kumar Chandra, additional director of the social welfare department, has decided to probe the matter. “I will look into the events leading up to the girl’s escape. If I find that the doctor was not on leave but was not present at the home either, action will be taken against her.”

   

 
 
DISCIPLINE DROWNS IN DECIBELS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 24: 
“The children in a village school at Kolaghat I visited recently understood the meaning of discipline. They were all between six and 12 years old. They did not understand me too well, as I was speaking in Hindi. Even then, they kept silent… I hope you will heed my request to keep quiet, especially when your level of understanding is much higher than theirs…”

Governor Viren J. Shah gave “unruly” students at the Jadavpur University convocation a bitter lesson in “manners” on Monday. Commotion appeared to be the keyword from the very beginning of the annual function, prompting vice-chancellor A.N. Basu to urge some sections of students to “keep quiet”. Even while Shah was addressing the 1,000-strong gathering, the chatter continued.

Suddenly, the chancellor broke mid-sentence and, expressing his annoyance at the constant noise coming from the back rows, rapped the “indisciplined students” for failing to maintain the decorum of a “solemn ceremony”. The vice-chancellor, the registrar and teachers of the university on the dais looked distinctly uncomfortable as Shah compared the convocation to a programme at a village school in Kolaghat, which he had attended a couple of days ago. “But after I requested the children to be silent, I was amazed to find that there was pin-drop silence for the rest of the function,” he recounted. “You, too, should understand the meaning of discipline to achieve greater success in life…”

The chancellor’s scathing comments did silence the students, prompting Shah to say: “Good, I’m happy that you have listened to my request.”

But the serenity was short-lived. By the time chief guest N.R. Madhava Menon, vice-chancellor of the National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS), started his address, the decibel level had shot way past permissible levels of discipline. But Menon chose to ignore the commotion and continued with his speech.

A JU student later tried to explain the reason for the constant commotion: “The passage, the entrance and the exit are at all the rear and there was a constant movement of people in and out of the hall. This resulted in an incident that has left a black mark on our university.”

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Six more arrested in cheat chain case

The detective department of Calcutta Police arrested six more employees of Citi Securities, the non-banking financial corporation, which had duped thousands of investors of lakhs. Department chief Soumen Mitra said the officials had collected money on behalf of the company. Sleuths have also seized documents from the officials.

Fire in shop off Park Street

A fire broke out in a shop in Queens Mansion, near Park Street, on Monday. Police said no one was injured in the incident. Four tenders brought the blaze under control within half-an-hour. The cause of fire was not known.

Traffic protest

Jadavpur residents protested on Sukanta Setu on Monday morning against rash driving of public buses. A speeding private bus had knocked down a scooterist and his wife on Sunday evening, killing both. The blockade was lifted after police intervened.

Three held

Three people were arrested in Bhowanipore on charges of ransacking a school and beating up students. Bhowanipore police said the trio had gone with a group of boys to create disturbances.

Anti-crime drive

Police arrested 23 criminals in night-long raids across Topsia, Tiljala and the surrounding areas on charges of theft and snatching, according to superintendent of police, South 24-Parganas, D.K. Ganguly. Police also seized a huge amount of illicit country-made liquor and satta money.

Dinner boycott

Congress leader in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) Sailen Dasgupta said his party would boycott mayor Subrata Mukherjee’s New Year dinner at the Palta waterworks on January 5. Dasgupta said it is unbecoming on part of the cash-starved CMC to organise such an extravaganza.

Flower awareness

The state forest department has urged residents to grow flowers in their neighbourhood. Forest secretary C. S. Samal said the department has decided to dedicate 2002 to create awareness among flower-growers.

EMU services

The introduction of EMU services on Circular Railway from December 12 has witnessed a spurt in passenger traffic. In the first four days, almost 19,128 tickets were sold, while in the next four days, the sale went up to 30,758. The EMU will be plied on Sundays too.

Travellers fined

During a ticket-checking drive, conducted by the Eastern Railway all over its jurisdiction, a total of two million free-trippers were detected between April to November. A total of Rs 31.64 crore was realised from them.

Howrah mishap

Two persons were killed and 12 injured when a Howrah Municipal Corporation van, carrying garbage, collided with a minibus at Tikiapara. The helper and the driver of the bus died in the accident. The injured were admitted to a local hospital.    

 
 
VISION FOR ALL, AT RATES FOR EVERYMAN 
 
 
DEBASHIS CHATTOPADHYAY
 
Calcutta, Dec. 24: 
After almost 33 years, the authorities at the Lions Orthopaedic Hospital and Research Centre in Ranikuthi have taken up expansion plans to accommodate the middle and the upper-middle class, suffering from eye problems.

According to sources, the well-to-do patients were all along hesitant to approach the centre, as most of the services were free. “It’s a peculiar phenomenon in which social hesitation stops a patient from availing free treatment,” said an official of the centre.

The 10-bed hospital (soon to be upgraded to 60) now charges Rs 10 for eye surgery and Rs 10 for consultancy.

Services like ultra-sonography, X-ray, ECG and pathological tests are subsidised. An X-ray is done for Rs 60 and an USG is charged Rs 200.

“The hospital has, so far, been known to treat the economically-weaker section. So, there was a sense of hesitation among the middle and the upper-middle class to visit the centre. They feel it is a poor man’s hospital. But, at the same time, these people want to consult our experts too. So, we have decided to keep some beds with moderately higher charges that will suit this section and not let them feel hesitant,” said Lion Sanjay Kejriwal, medical secretary of the hospital.

The two-storeyed hospital, run by Lions Club of North Calcutta, will soon have a new glaucoma clinic and will offer basic retina and vitreous treatment modalities.

The hospital’s department of ophthalmology treats about 30,000 patients in a year. “We are doing around 1,500 cataract, cryopaxy, chalazion, pterygium, trabeculectomy and other surgeries. We also want to set up an eye-bank on the basis of donors,” said Kejriwal.

Ranikuthi being close to the southern fringes of the city, the clinic gets patients from adjoining districts and even neighbouring countries like Bangladesh and Nepal.

At the outdoor, the hospital handles more than 200 patients a day. Besides, polio victims are treated and necessary corrective surgery is performed.

The hospital has recently installed a semi-automated analyser in the pathology department, at a cost of Rs 3 lakh, imported from Netherlands.

Machines from Japan and Switzerland, too, are procured from time to time to provide the best of services.

Kejriwal said: “We are running this hospital on a no-loss, no-profit basis. We have 128 Lions, who support the hospital, besides foreign donors, which is why we are not short of funds. All we seek is more patients to make optimum use of our facilities.”

According to Kejriwal, the hospital staff is efficient and hygienic.

A fact seconded by Vikram S. Bhutoria, resident medical officer (RMO). “Thanks to some excellent facilities, our eye operations have been 100 per cent successful,” he said.

   

 
 
‘COP AIDE’ CONMAN DUPES TOPSIA TRADERS OF LAKHS 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, Dec. 24: 
Posing as a police aide, Sheikh Gauri, a conman from Topsia, managed to cheat local traders of about Rs 2 lakh. He was finally arrested on Friday and is now out on bail.

The police said Gauri extorted around Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 from a number of local promoters, like Munna, Jahangir, Kelo and Shakil, by claiming to be the right-hand man of Subir Chatterjee, officer-in-charge, Tiljala police station.

According to sources, Gauri would convince promoters to buy saris for the OC’s wife and valuables for his daughter and other family members if they wanted to continue construction in the area.

“Your documents will be cleared immediately,” he would promise the promoters after collecting the money from them. In this manner, he collected Rs 2 lakh, planning to flee the city once he had made enough.

The matter would have gone unnoticed had word not reached Chatterjee. Immediately, he summoned Gauri to the police station and had him confess before Shakil and Kelo about his misdeeds.

Chatterjee was on leave on Sunday and could not be contacted. However, the duty officer said Gauri had returned most of the money. Earlier, he was arrested twice on charges of rioting and theft.

Gauri was reportedly close to Tiljala strongman Mohammad Taslim, alias Chunnu Mian, but shifted allegiance to his rival Feroz’s camp in the aftermath of the Parthapratim Roy Burman kidnapping.

After Chatterjee took over as officer-in-charge of Tiljala police station, a series of crackdowns had made it difficult for small-time criminals to carry on their activities.

Some of them fled Tiljala and Tangra, while others, like Gauri resorted to con jobs,” said an officer.

Police pickets were posted near areas where the promoters and builders were carrying out illegal constructions.

Clean kitchen: The health department of the CMC has decided to resume its clean-kitchen drive against hotels and restaurants in the city, according to member, mayor-in-council, health, Javed Ahmed Khan.

   

 
 
SPOTLIGHT WOMAN, AGE 40 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 24: 
An interface at a city clinic recently provided an opportunity for an often-neglected segment of Calcutta’s society to open up with suppressed health problems. The meet was meant for women above 40, when the natural levels of estrogen decrease, leading to menopause and several ailments.

Attended by over 50 people, mostly housewives, the session started with the basics of menopause to the problems associated with it, ending with precaution and treatment.

“In routine life, most women get care and attention till their children are born,” said consultant gynaecologist Gautam Khastagir, attached to Belle Vue clinic, where the interface was held.

“But once menopause occurs between 40 and 45, problems of varying degrees take place. Most of these remain suppressed till something serious, like a fracture or a heart attack, takes place. These incidents can be prevented through awareness and the adoption of an appropriate lifestyle, where diet, exercise and vitamin supplements can make up for the drop in estrogen levels,” he added.

Problems can occur once this happens. The minor problems include psychological symptoms like depression, anxiety, mood swings, confusion and disturbed sleep. Short-term complications include hot flushes and urinary problems.

“A woman usually does not complain about these problems, which pass off naturally between six months to two years of menopause setting in. But this is the time when she should be counselled about the future,” Khastagir said.

These problems, the gathering was told, include osteoporosis (in which the bones become weak and are more prone to fractures), osteoarthritis (which results in painful joint movement), heart disease (cardiovascular problems including myocardial infarction) and Alzheimer’s disease (progressive loss of memory).

The interface also provided participants with pro-active measures. “Diet, exercise, meditation and yoga, vitamins and antioxidants are some of the common ways, with checking of lipid profiles, including cholesterol and trigliceride levels,” Khastgir said. The clinic has decided to hold similar sessions every month.

   

 
 
SPA PROP FOR BODY, MIND & SPIRIT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 24: 
For bulging biceps and a rippling eight-pack, relaxing herbal massages and therapeutic accupressure treatment, Calcutta will soon have its first independent health spa. With a prime target of “over-stressed” corporate executives, “holistic fitness” is the catch-phrase of Add Life.

The 6,200-sq-ft spa is all set to “rejuvenate the body, mind and spirit” with its range of facilities, to be unveiled on February 14. The Rs 1.5-crore club at 22, Camac Street, also welcomes “fitness-conscious youth, housewives and children, too” with its top-of-the-line equipment, including a gym, sauna and whirlpool, with massages and herbal therapies. A separate studio for yoga, aerobics, meditation, dance and prenatal and antenatal classes will be available for members as well as non-members.

“Many companies have their own gyms on their premises nowadays. But in Calcutta, there is hardly anywhere for the health-conscious to stay in shape and also relax and have a good time,” explain entrepreneurs behind Add Life, Ritika Kumar and Ritu Gupta.

For the “convenience of busy executives”, a pro shop will be on hand, for which talks are on with leading sportswear companies. A self-service café, with “low-calorie, nutritious snacks” and a juice bar, will also provide a healthy, refreshing choice. Dieticians and trainers will ensure the fitness regime followed is “effective and safe”. Dr Pranab Dasgupta, president of East Bengal Sporting Club, is adviser to the upcoming spa.

Annual membership is available in a variety of schemes. Personal memberships, both individual and couple, will range from Rs 30,00 to Rs 65,000 per annum, while corporate membership, with provision for four nominees, is slated to cost Rs 125,000.

   

 
 
GOVT READS RIOT ACT TO PROTESTING POLICEMEN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 24: 
After being at the receiving end of abuses and accusations from the policemen’s union, the state home department today issued a circular disallowing demonstrations in front of government offices, raising slogans against senior officers and taking part in rallies.

The circular has been sent to all district superintendents of police and heads of police organisations. It clearly mentions that policemen have not been given trade union rights.

The government’s decision was prompted by an agitation by 4,000 policemen inside Writers’ Buildings last week. Policemen belonging to the Non-Government Police Karmachari Samity had severely criticised the “discriminatory attitude of senior police officers’’, targeting senior officers, including director-general of police D.C. Vajpai.

Police control room sources said most of the policemen who attended the meeting at Writers’ had not reported for duty in their respective units.

Also, a truck, carrying the policemen to the meeting, ran over a seven-year-old child in Nadia. The truck rammed into the cycle the child was riding, who fell on the road. The rear tyre of the lorry smashed his skull. The driver of the vehicle fled.

But the police association today hit back, hurling its share of accusations. Secretary Manik Mondol alleged that senior police officers often “misbehave with constables and junior officials’’.

“Constables are often made to run errands for the wives of IPS officers. There are instances where junior officials have even been asked to clean shoes,’’ an association member said. “Protests are stumped with an iron hand. We have no avenue to air our grievances,’’ he added.

The association is also cut up that policemen cannot attend union meetings during office hours. The department has also directed officers to be in uniform while on duty.

Sources said chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee took exception to policemen demonstrating inside the secretariat. He reportedly summoned home secretary Amit Kiran Deb and the DGP to his chamber on Friday and sought a report on the incident. Police sources said he instructed Deb and Vajpai to read the riot act to the police union.

Bhattacharjee today left for north Bengal. Police said Deb and Vajpai would submit a report to him after he returns on January 2.

   
 

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