May a hundred parks bloom
Kidnap case accused netted after night chase
Licence risk in plastic ban
Therapy boon for 40-plus
The foreign will not alienate
The City Diary
Booked for bending rules
New Market strike threat over rights
Tuition heat on colleges
Hawkers face eviction in Sealdah

 
 
MAY A HUNDRED PARKS BLOOM 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, Dec. 31: 
The curtains came down on 2001 with the promise of “a hundred parks” and the plea for a “free-love zone”.

Playing Santa Claus on Monday, mayor Subrata Mukherjee unveiled plans for “100 parks” in Calcutta 2002. “That will be my New Year’s gift to the city,” said Mukherjee. “Initially, I had thought of setting up a park in each of the 141 wards of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), but logistical limitations forced me to decide on a hundred to begin with,” he added.

Members of the Opposition were quick to punch holes in the mayor’s park promise. “It must be a joke, because there is no vacant land in the city for setting up a decent park in any of the 141 wards,” said Sudhangshu Sil, CPM legislator from Jorabagan. “During our time, we could not find additional locations for new parks,” added the ex-councillor.

The mayor’s grand declaration did not impress the Lovers’ Organisation for Voluntary Exhibition (Love). Formed in November 2001, this forum of 730 people, fed up of being “harassed for public display of affection”, is demanding a ‘free-love zone’ from the CMC.

“If we are not given an open space by January 31, where lovers can sit, talk, hold hands and kiss without fear of having to pay ‘love tax’ to the cops, we will take to the streets,” warned Rupak Manush, president of Love. “Anytime before Valentine’s Day (February 14), the cops and the CMC should be prepared to see a hundred couples romancing in front of Lalbazar and the Corporation headquarters.”

Manush claims the mayor has kept them hanging for the past month. “On December 7, we submitted a written application for the free-love zone to the mayor. He said it was a brilliant idea. But he later changed his tune. Can’t he make up his mind?”

What Mukherjee has made up his mind about is setting up “a new green belt” for the city, with the help of private partners. The idea was sparked by his recent visit to the Agri-Horticulture Society of India, at Alipore. “The Maidan and the Dhakuria Lakes are just not enough. Every Calcuttan is entitled to some breathing space, at least,” he said.

By official estimates, there are around 300 parks in the CMC area. Member, mayor-in-council, parks and gardens, Hridayanand Gupta, admitted that “there is a terrible space crunch”, especially in the north of the city.

   

 
 
KIDNAP CASE ACCUSED NETTED AFTER NIGHT CHASE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 31: 
Elusive Tiljala crimelord Mohammad Fahemuddin, alias Sona, finally fell into the police dragnet on Sunday night after a long chase through serpentine Shyambazar lanes.

The Hare Street police, headed by deputy commissioner, central, Zulfiquar Hasan, zeroed in on the gangster after a tip-off that he would meet one of his contacts at the Shyambazar five-point crossing. Sona and an aide, Naushad, are accused of ‘facilitating’ Khadim’s vice-chairman Parthapratim Roy Burman’s kidnapping in August 2001.

In the aftermath of the kidnap, Sona had taken refuge in Bihar.

During the first week of December, he ran out of money and returned to the city, but steered clear of Tiljala, earlier his area of operations. He kept changing base to throw the police off his trail. “He would even change mobile phones so that the sleuths would not be able to tap the lines,” said an official.

The breakthrough came on Friday, when the police were tipped off that Sona might collect money from a promoter in return for “protection”.

The police, however, drew a blank when they were informed that Sona would either collect the money in Howrah or in a Park Street restaurant. He turned up at neither place.

On Sunday morning, another tip-off that Sona would meet a ‘client’ near the Shyambazar five-point intersection proved fruitful. As soon as Sona arrived at 11 pm, the police fanned out in an effort to surround him. But spotting the cops, Sona tried to escape through the maze of bylanes. But his luck ran out when he reached a dead end and could not scale a wall.

According to Hasan, Sona has been charged with robbery, extortion and murder. CID sources said Sona, Naushad and their patron, Mohammad Tasleem, alias Chunnu Mian, were instrumental in ensuring safe passage to the “outstation kidnappers’’ for a hefty fee.

Special inspector-general of police, CID, V.V. Thambi, said Sona’s arrest was an important breakthrough that would help sleuths solve the Khadim’s kidnapping case.

Sona, however, told Metro that he was innocent. “The CID has framed me. I have been nailed because I am a criminal who operated from the place where the Khadim’s vice-chairman was kidnapped.’’ Sona was produced at Bankshal Court and remanded in police custody till January 10.

Trinamul protest: Trinamul Congress activists, led by Madan Mitra, organised a road blockade in Bhowanipore on Monday, protesting the state government’s proposal to ban agitations and roadblocks.

   

 
 
LICENCE RISK IN PLASTIC BAN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 31: 
Shopowners will face “cancellation of trade licences” if they use plastic bags “below the thickness” prescribed by the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (PCB). The ban will come into effect from January 1, 2001, mayor Subrata Mukherjee confirmed on Monday.

The civic conservancy and markets departments have been directed to check the use of plastic bags “less than 20-micron thick”. Member, mayor-in-council (conservancy), Mala Roy, said district conservancy officers have been asked to fine an errant shopowner “on the spot”.

Samsuzzaman Ansari, member, mayor-in-coucil (markets), said superintendents of 23 civic markets had been directed to issue notifications to all stall-owners. “The market superintendents will inform the PCB if a stall-owner is found violating the norm,” he added.

According to member, mayor-in-council (health), Javed Ahmed Khan, the practice of packing foodstuff in plastic bags must be stopped. “Most of the pouches used by stalls and restaurants are not food-grade plastic. They can cause serious harm,” said Khan.

   

 
 
THERAPY BOON FOR 40-PLUS 
 
 
BY AMIT UKIL
 
Calcutta, Dec. 31: 
Before going in for it, she had a morbid fear that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) might lead to cancer. Today, 10 months after her HRT, this 42-year-old housewife from New Alipore is perfectly happy with the treatment and wants her gynaecologist to give a talk at her ladies’ club about the usefulness of the therapy.

A large segment of 40-plus women would have a much-improved quality of life if their doctors advise HRT, says Prof David Purdie, former chairman of the British Menopause Society. A member of the HRT expert group of the UK government’s committee on safety of medicines, Purdie was in Calcutta on Sunday during a lecture tour of the country, at which he spoke on the present and future scenario of hormone therapy.

“Not all women require HRT and the gynaecologist should choose the proper case,” he told Metro after his talk, attended by nearly 100 doctors of the city. “The symptoms of menopause vary from woman to woman. Hot flushes, disturbed sleep and palpitation are a few of these, and when they interfere in day-to-day domestic activity, the doctor may advise HRT.”

It is important that as women age, they should remain independent and have a role in the family. “The worst thing to happen to any person is to become dependent on someone for daily activities. Several ailments, like cardiac problems, broken bones, urinary tract infections and Alzheimer’s disease can be prevented if women undergo HRT.”

Despite the benefits, only 30 per cent of Calcutta’s gynaecologists favour this therapy, says Basudeb Mukherjee, immediate past president of the Bengal Obstetrics and Gynaecologists’ Society. After his lectures, Purdie has found Indian doctors over-cautious. “All women should be considered for HRT,” he believes.

Studies have found that about 20 per cent women do require this medication. “Several advances have been made in the past decade, where new exogenous estrogens, like tibolone and raloxafene, do not lead to breast or uterus cancer.” These SERMs, or selective estrogen receptor modulators, have been introduced in India and are proving a boon to several women.

Prof Purdie says doctors and patients are reluctant to go for HRT for three reasons: it’s not natural, it may lead to the return of cyclical bleeding, and for the fear of breast cancer. A report in Lancet, however, shows that for every 1,000 women undergoing HRT for five years, only two could develop cancer.

“But the benefits far outweigh the risks,” says consultant gynaecologist Gautam Khastagir, who has started a menopause clinic at Belle Vue nursing home. “Up to 60 per cent of doctors prescribe HRT for themselves or family members, for they are aware of its usefulness.”

   

 
 
THE FOREIGN WILL NOT ALIENATE 
 
 
BY SOUMITRA DAS
 
Calcutta, Dec. 31: 
Four artists were leaving the Centre of International Modern Art (CIMA) gallery, in south Calcutta, on Monday evening for a conducted tour of Kumartuli, at the other end the city. Two of the artists — Mark Wallinger and David Mabb — were from London.

Wallinger represented the UK at the Venice Biennale last year, whereas Mabb is known for the way he works on and intervenes in the designs of William Morris, who spearheaded the Arts and Crafts movement at the latter half of the 19th Century.

The two others, Subodh Gupta and Bharti Kher, were from Delhi. Gupta often explores the bizarre contradictions in Indian life through his multimedia works. Kher, who was raised in Britain, uses familiar objects and scenes to give them a radically new meaning.

But even for the artists from Britain, the trip to the image-makers of Kumartuli was not their first exposure to the “other”. Along with five others from that country and an equal number of practitioners from India, they have already done the tourist spots of north India and the interiors of Orissa.

All these artists are participating in the Sidewinder project, which purports to promote a greater empathy and understanding between artists from both sides of the great divide — the twain that reputedly never meets. The term ‘sidewinder’, which is an unexpected and shattering blow from the side, is derived from boxing metaphor. Accordingly, this project is expected to spring a few surprises.

Organised by the British Council, ITC Gold Flake and CIMA in Calcutta, the aim of Sidewinder is not to iron out the differences that exist in the art of the two countries.

Instead of allowing assimilation by the predominant culture, it aspires to remove our fears of the foreign, and, by extension, our apprehensions of contemporary art, through a debate on international fine art practises.

So, instead of expecting the twain to meet, Sidewinder will explore the particular interests of the artists and the way they work in their specific cultures. The foreign will not alienate. This has the potential of generating heat but the artists will retain their collective and individual identity.

After their hectic tour of Orissa, the artists have already begun this process with a slide show of their works. Seminars will follow and finally an exhibition will open at CIMA gallery on January 14.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Three injured in road accidents

Three people were injured in separate accidents on Monday. Two drivers were arrested in this connection. A taxi knocked down a 40-year-old woman at the Ashutosh Mukherjee Road-Elgin Road intersection, in Bhowanipore. She was rushed to SSKM Hospital, where her condition was stated to be critical. The driver was arrested and the vehicle impounded. In another accident, Pradeep Kumar Bose, 31, was run over by a government bus on route S-32 in the Burtola area. Bose, a resident of D.C. Mitra Road, was taken to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital in a critical condition. The bus driver was arrested. Rabi Chand Dul, 31, was hit by a private bus on route 34B on A. P. C. Road. He was taken to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital in a serious condition. The driver fled with the vehicle.

Waterbody notice quashed

Justice Pranab Chatterjee of Calcutta High Court recently quashed the state government notification, restoring the management-control of the controversial waterbody in Salt Lake, commonly known as daktar bheri. While passing the order, Chatterjee criticised the role of the fisheries department officials who, according to him, did not abide by the rules before restoring the control of the waterbody. Justice Chatterjee observed that the owners should first be asked to restore the wetland within a specific time.

Model hospitals

West Bank Hospitals, run by a Sweden-based NRI, will set up model health centres in semi-urban areas of the state. Vicky Chakravarty, the NRI, met finance minister Asim Dasgupta on Monday and assured him of funds from the Swedish government. “I had seen a 25-bed health centre in New Barrackpore which is an ideal model for people below the poverty line,” Chakravarty said. A West Bank medical team will be supervising these centres.

Sheriff oath

The newly-appointed sheriff of Calcutta, Sunil Gangopadhyay, took the oath at a function on Monday. He took charge from former sheriff and noted Rabindrasangeet singer Suchitra Mitra.

Somen birthday

Congress leaders and workers observed the 62nd birthday of Somen Mitra, party MLA and former Pradesh Congress Committee president. Mitra is recovering from a bypass surgery in Delhi.

Corrigendum

The official website of the People for Better Treatment is www.pbtindia.com.    

 
 
BOOKED FOR BENDING RULES 
 
 
BY TAMAL SENGUPTA
 
Calcutta, Dec. 31: 
National Library plans to prepare a list of publishing housesthat are violating the Delivery of Books and Newspapers (Public Libraries) Act.

Under the Act, it is mandatory for publication houses in Calcutta as well as in the country to send a copy of each publication to the library. But most publication houses bypass the Act.

Concerned about the tendency among a section of city publishers, the library authorities recently decided to pull up those who are violating the rule.

R. Ramchandran, principal library and information officer, (PLIO) of the National Library, said on Monday that many new publication houses were not aware of the Act, which is why they never sent books or journals to the library.

“I admit that some publishers are not aware of the Act, but there are some who choose to ignore it altogether. We have decided to slap notices on them if they keep flouting the rules,” Ramchandran said.

Anil Acharya, a former Booksellers and Publishers Guild official and editor of Anustup Publications, admitted that publishers often do not send books. “Under the Act, any publisher in the city as well as in India is bound to send copies of their publications to the National Library in Calcutta, Mumbai State Central Library and Connemara Library in Chennai. We are sending our publications to all the three libraries regularly,” claimed Acharya.

The library authorities will carry out a special campaign during the book fair to make new publishers aware of the Act and convince them to send their publications to the institution.

   

 
 
NEW MARKET STRIKE THREAT OVER RIGHTS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 31: 
New Market traders have threatened to go on an indefinite strike from the middle of January against Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s (CMC) recent directive on inheritance of stalls. According to the directive, after the death of a shopowner, his son or heir cannot inherit the property, which will then be auctioned.

According to Pervez Rehman, joint secretary of the S.S. Hogg Market Welfare Association, the group will first meet mayor Subrata Mukherjee before going on strike. “We have worked hard to set up business over the past few decades. Why should somebody else reap the harvest?’’ Rehman asked. “The market will close indefinitely if the mayor does not budge from his stand,’’ he added.

There are 4,500 shops in the market. The shopowners admitted that a majority has cheated the CMC by not paying registration and mutation charges. “Instead of clamping down on all shopowners, the CMC should take action against the offenders,’’ a trader said. Mukherjee, however, remained adamant on his stand. Speaking to Metro on Sunday, he said the shopowners could go to court, if they felt that the directive was objectionable.

   

 
 
TUITION HEAT ON COLLEGES 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Dec. 31: 
The government has decided to crack down on private tuition by college and university teachers close on the heels of a similar ban on schoolteachers.

Higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty and finance minister Asim Dasgupta said subsidy to state-run institutions would depend on whether the teachers follow the rules.

“If even one teacher is found to be flouting the principles, the grant for the college would be reduced by what that individual was supposed to get,” Dasgupta said.

All teachers will have to make a declaration that they are not giving private tuition, either at home or at any tutorial.

“Every principal of a college or the vice-chancellor of a university will have to declare that the faculty members are not involved in private teaching for gain,” Chakraborty said.

Teachers would also have to submit annual self-assessment reports to their heads, who, in turn, will send them to the directorates concerned.

The education minister pointed out that private tuition is banned under the existing university laws. “The provision for penal measures if a person is proved to be earning an extra income by teaching privately, starts from simple censure to dismissal from service,” Dasgupta, himself a professor, said.

The state government also decided to take some other steps to improve college and university education. “We will soon announce a financial assistance to these institutions for their upgradation,” the finance minister promised.

College and university syllabus will be modernised and trimmed so that it can be completed in time. Former North Bengal University vice-chancellor Ranju Gopal Mukherjee was expected to submit an interim report on the subject soon, the education minister stated.

Asked how the state government would identify and weed out teachers giving private tuitions, Dasgupta merely said there were “ways to do this”. He added that “people will protest”, and “some social steps will have to be taken”.

The ministers have discussed the matter with university vice-chancellors. “We have asked these institutional heads to implement the existing provisions in the education laws at all levels,” Dasgupta stated.

“Not all teachers resort to private tuition. The college and university teachers’ bodies have adopted resolutions condemning this practice,” Chakraborty said.

   

 
 
HAWKERS FACE EVICTION IN SEALDAH 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, Dec. 31: 
The state government today made it clear that hawkers will have to clear out of the Sealdah station area within the next couple of days.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee told urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya this morning that the government would no longer allow hawkers inside the station compound.

Bhattacharya later held a meeting with the divisional railway manager, Sealdah, D.C. Mitra, and leaders of the Citu-led hawkers’ unions.

“We are left with no option but to evict the hawkers from the station campus as they are unwilling to shift to the alternative accommodation. I have given instructions to the director-general of police to carry out the eviction in a day or two,” Bhattacharya said before leaving for Darjeeling.

Mitra said the union leaders had accepted the government’s stand and promised that they would persuade the hawkers to shift. While he claimed that there were about 250 hawkers in the Sealdah station courtyard, a visit revealed about 700 hawkers.

   
 

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