Crackdown on plastic peril
Sit-in to stave off eviction
Maker’s lifeline for New Market
Negligence slur shuts medical unit
The City Diary
More space for the Bar
5-day week sets off varsity furore
Hall charged with breach of contract
Packet to Pak thickens ‘spy’ plot
Panja hurls assault charge on Mamata

 
 
CRACKDOWN ON PLASTIC PERIL 
 
 
BY AMIT UKIL
 
Calcutta, Jan. 6: 
Case I: A card-holder in desperate need for cash is drawn by advertisements in a vernacular paper, offering ‘ready cash’ against credit cards. He contacts the mobile number, meets the merchant (usually dealing in electronic goods or jewellery), who hands out cash against the signing of blank charge slips. The merchant keeps a commission of up to 20 per cent of the disbursed cash, which could be the full credit limit permitted to the cardholder. Cardholder then defaults on repayment.

Case II: A cardholder has a meal at a restaurant and pays with his card. The waiter takes the card to the cash counter. He swipes the card a second time on “concealable skimmer”, with an EP ROM, which records all information stored in the card’s magnetic strip. This data is transferred from the memory of the skimmer to a laptop and then on to one or several blank, counterfeit credit cards. These can then be used till the credit limit is reached, or till the fraud is discovered.

In the age of plastic money, beware of fraud. That’s the message from financial institutions to card-wielding Calcuttans.

Every Sunday, leading vernacular papers are full of ads luring those in urgent need of cash. “The ads have become rampant over the last year, and there are as many contact numbers,” said Manik Purkayastha, ICICI’s regional manager (east) for risk containment. “We have dealt with a travel agent who has a network of brokers throughout the city. The brokers, who even use ICICI logos on their visiting cards, target unsuspecting cardholders in desperate need for funds.”

The ICICI risk-containment team, as with similar teams from other financial institutions, is struggling to stop this growing practice. “Any cash issued against the production of a credit card is illegal. We have identified some merchants, blacklisted and closed down business with them. We have also informed the police and de-listed the cardholder by informing other banks,” said Purkayastha. Financial institutions have now decided to involve the police and other enforcement wings in the crackdown on card fraud. ICICI’s personal financial services division recently organised a daylong interactive session with top officers from Calcutta Police, the CID, CBI, the state police and Customs to apprise them of “new forms of economiers attended the session, inaugurated by police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty.

Rajiv Duggal, MasterCard International’s director, security and risk management for South Asia, focused on various kinds of credit card fraud in the region. “Skimmed or duplicate counterfeit cards have become a major problem in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and even China. In India, we have so far detected foreigners, especially with Indian names or of Indian origin, using such cards. But we have not come across any illegal unit manufacturing counterfeit cards,” Duggal told Metro.

Duggal also warned against other types of fraud or fraudulent methods, like skimming, shoulder surfing (perpetrator notes PIN by looking over shoulder of cardholder while he or she is using the ATM), Trojan Horse ATMs (a whole fake ATM booth is set up with a “faulty machine that swallows cards”), and the Lebanese Loop (spliced film inserted in the ATM card slot so that the card gets stuck). “As much as $3 billion is lost annually around the world to all types of economic fraud,” said Duggal, a member of the Centre’s IT panel.

Participants were unanimous about the need for more such sessions. “Many aspects of modern economic fraud were not known to us,” admitted additional commissioner of police Damodar Sarangi.

   

 
 
SIT-IN TO STAVE OFF EVICTION 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 6: 
“Let the police come. We will not budge from here even if they run a bulldozer over us,” says Purnima Ghosh, who lives in one of the shanties at Dhakuria and earns Rs 500 a month working as a cook in nearby flats.

Her father had come here from Contai, in Midnapore, after a flood some 50 years ago. “We have been living here since then and have nowhere to go,” she adds.

Purnima is one of 30,000 people facing eviction from along the rail tracks between Tollygunge and Ballygunge stations. Most of them — bolstered by political support cutting across party lines — staged a sit-in on Sunday morning to protest the ouster.

There was tension in the area following Saturday’s announcement by the railways, through a public address system, that the eviction drive would start from Sunday morning. The drive comes in the wake of a Calcutta High Court directive to the railways to remove all unauthorised settlements along the rail tracks between the two stations in south Calcutta.

The court had also directed the state government and the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) to provide necessary help to the railways in the clean-up to protect Rabindra Sarobar.

Protesting the move, thousands of men, women and children took up position along the rail tracks in the Jhalar Maath, Gobindapur, Tollygunge, Dhakuria and Panchanantala rail colonies from early morning. Movement of trains, however, was not disrupted.

Local Trinamul Congress, CPM, CPI, BJP and SUCI supporters joined ranks with the shanty-dwellers and threatened to intensify the protest if the government “made any attempt to evict them before taking measures for their rehabilitation.”

Trinamul councillor Ratan Dey said: “We are not against development. But the government must provide suitable rehabilitation for the people who have been living here for the past 50 years.”

Trinamul supporters staged demonstrations at five points along the stretch, with party chairperson Mamata Banerjee and MLA Saugata Ray also turning up.

“We all belong to different political groups. But as far as this issue is concerned, we are all united. We all have a single demand: Give us proper rehabilitation and we will vacate the land,” said one of the agitators.

The court ouster order was prompted by a PIL filed by the Ganatantrik Nagarik Samity, complaining that residents in the unauthorised structures along the tracks were polluting the Sarobar. “We want to save the Sarobar, the second-largest lung of the city,” said Subhas Dutta, general secretary of the NGO.

A senior CMC official said on Sunday that a meeting to discuss the demands of the oustees would be convened with the government soon.

   

 
 
MAKER’S LIFELINE FOR NEW MARKET 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, Jan. 6: 
The legacy of its creator could well throw New Market a lifeline.

The University of Victoria (UVic) in Canada has entered into an agreement with Centre For Built Environment (CBE), Calcutta, for documentation of the Indian works of British architect Richard Roskell Bayne, who had designed New Market. The university, in British Columbia, is keen to restore all of Bayne’s works, with New Market figuring high on its priority list.

Bayne, who was employed by British Railways and was a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects, had settled in Victoria, British Columbia, after leaving Calcutta. UVic officials had chanced upon a few sketches by Bayne at an auction mart in Victoria three years ago. These included drawings of New Market, as well as the Eastern Railway building at Fairlie Place, his two landmark works in Calcutta. It was only when Martin Segger, director of government and community relations, UVic, met CBE president Santosh Ghosh last year that the university realised “the importance of New Market to Calcuttans”.

Segger, also director/curator, Maltwood Art Gallery, and academic adviser to the cultural resource management programme, Canada, promptly entered into a pact with CBE for collecting information on Bayne’s works in Calcutta. “Although he had designed a few buildings in Allahabad and Kanpur, New Market is, perhaps, his most significant work in India, considering its pride of place in Calcutta,” says Ghosh, former chief architect, urban development (town & country planning), West Bengal.

The university sent art historian and photographer Nick DeCaro to Calcutta for detailed research last year. He studied New Market extensively and is expected back in February to carry the project forward. “The Canadian university wanted to learn more about the relevance and significance of New Market to Calcutta and its people. Once it gathers enough information on the heritage market, it is likely to contribute towards its restoration,” says Ghosh.

Unmesh Kirtikar of the centre is hopeful of a “bilateral agreement between the Canadian university and city civic authorities on restoration of New Market, with CBE acting as facilitator”. According to Kirtikar, Segger and his team had “patchy references” on the architectural exploits of Bayne. “We are helping them stitch together the pieces with relevant information. There is a fair chance that the university will move to mobilise funds for repair and restoration of New Market.”

   

 
 
NEGLIGENCE SLUR SHUTS MEDICAL UNIT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 6: 
Debabrata Debnath, member of the recently-formed People for Better Treatment, has received a verdict in his favour on a complaint he lodged against a doctor and a nursing home in Habra, North 24-Parganas.

This is the first victory achieved by a member of the forum, formally created in Calcutta on December 30 by Dr Kunal Saha.

The district’s chief medical officer of health has ordered the temporary closure of Sankhachil Nursing Home, on Jirat Road, Habra, after investigations revealed that the doctor who performed surgery on the mother of the complainant, as well as other staff, were guilty of gross negligence, leading to her death.

Usha Debnath was admitted to the nursing home on July 28 last year for a cholecystectomy (removal of gall bladder with multiple stones), which was performed by Prof M.A. Quader the next day. The doctor, who is professor and head of the department of surgery, Burdwan Medical College, had not visited the patient before or after the operation.

The patient’s condition deteriorated that night, and the resident medical officer Dr A.R. Biswas, also owner of the nursing home, was contacted by the relatives. Biswas failed to turn up. The next morning, the RMO saw the patient and referred her to Dafodil Nursing Home, in Lake Town. But she died on the way.

To prove negligence on the part of the surgeon, doctors and staff, Debabrata made photocopies of all the papers related to his mother’s treatment. The investigating officer found several anomalies in the running of the nursing home and recommended action against it.

The chief medical officer then ordered the suspension of activities. He has also written to the director of medical education, pointing out that the head of the department of surgery at Burdwan Medical College was conducting his own private practice, contravening government

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Gang of six in net for dacoity plot

Muchipara police rounded up six armed dacoits from Wellington Square on Sunday afternoon. The dacoits had assembled in the park with an intention of committing a series of dacoities, senior police officials said. A police team, which had been following the group for some time, arrested them after a brief scuffle. Three country-made revolvers and several rounds of bullets were recovered from them.

Knocked down

Bapu Koyel, 19, sustained serious injuries after a chartered bus knocked him down near the Mint on Diamond Harbour Road on Sunday morning. Koyel was crossing the road.

Bypass mishap

Four persons were injured when the driver of a private bus lost control and the vehicle plunged 10 feet into a construction site beside the EM Bypass around noon on Sunday. The injured were rushed to a nearby hospital.

Airport detention

A middle-aged Japanese national was detained at the airport on Saturday for questioning. The man was carrying a cartridge, which he wanted to use as a talisman. The cartridge was found by security personnel at the international terminal during a routine frisk. He was later set free.    

 
 
MORE SPACE FOR THE BAR 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 6: 
Advocate-General Balai Roy has decided to revive the proposal for a third building of Calcutta High Court, put on the backburner during the tenure of his predecessor, Naranarayan Gooptu.

The third building, billed to come up near the state Assembly, off Kshudiram Anushilan Kendra, is expected to resolve the space crunch in the high court. The second building was constructed beside Calcutta Swimming Club in 1962, during the court’s centenary celebrations. However, it failed to provide adequate space for officials and lawyers.

The state allotted a plot to the high court in 1997 for a four-storeyed building to accommodate not only the lawyers but also various offices of the judicial department. The court authorities, however, could not go ahead with the project as some Assembly employees had built shanties on the plot and refused to vacate.

The court asked the Assembly authorities to clear the area, but no effort was evident. Nor did Gooptu show much interest in implementing the proposal, alleged a section of lawyers.

The lawyers apprised Roy of their space problem shortly after he assumed office. Roy, who has been elevated to advocate-general from the rank of a senior advocate, decided to expedite the building’s construction.

The high court bar association, which represents the advocates, has a strength of 3,000. The authorities have so far provided 14 rooms, 12 in the old building and two in the centenary building, to accommodate them. However, nearly 900 advocates are yet to get any accommodation, said Arunava Ghosh, former secretary of the bar association.

Uttam Majumdar, another former secretary of the lawyers’ body, said: “More and more people are joining the profession. While the state administration is planning to set up more courts to ensure speedy disposal of pending cases, it should also address the lawyers’ accommodation problem.”

   

 
 
5-DAY WEEK SETS OFF VARSITY FURORE 
 
 
BY TAMAL SENGUPTA
 
Calcutta, Jan. 6: 
Two influential, anti-Left lobbies, representing teachers and students of Jadavpur University, have warned Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government on Sunday of an indefinite agitation after January 15 if it pressed the introduction of a five-day working week.

The Jadavpur University Teachers’ Association (JUTA) and the Faculty of Engineering and Technology Students’ Union (FETSU) said they were opposed to the government’s decision of introducing the five-day-a-week system, as it meant additional workload.

“We want the chief minister to understand our impending plight and roll back the decision the university has taken, we suspect, for the benefit of officers and employees supporting the CPM,” said Tarun Naskar, general secretary, JUTA. In a letter to Bhattacharjee on December 24, JUTA pointed out that the five-day-week system would dilute his emphasis on fewer holidays and an improved work culture.

As planned by the university’s Executive Council, the new system would be effective from the next academic session beginning in June. Brushing aside the opposition, registrar Rajat Banerjee said the JU authorities were firm on their decision, as it had been endorsed by the apex policy-making body. “We shall increase the number of classes to enable students and teachers complete their syllabi,” he added.

The new schedule is likely to leave the students in a tight spot. “It will be very difficult for the engineering students to attend nine classes a day after attending practicals and workshops,” said a faculty of the mechanical engineering department.

By a June 23, 2000, order, the Jyoti Basu government had instructed various educational institutions and government establishments to curtail government expenditure by slashing the number of working days. This, however, was applicable only to officers and employees, leaving out the teachers. The university authorities expanded the scope of the order when they realised that no officer or employee would make himself available to enable a teacher attend classes on the sixth day of the week.

   

 
 
HALL CHARGED WITH BREACH OF CONTRACT 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, Jan. 6: 
The producer of Rituparno Ghosh’s Titli has accused Metro cinema of “a breach of contract”.

Tapan Biswas, who has lodged a complaint with the Eastern India Motion Pictures Association (EIMPA), said: “They (the Metro authorities) had signed a contract to screen Titli for six weeks. But they have withdrawn the film after only three weeks, despite it doing good business.’’

After screening a Bengali film (starring Mithun Chakraborty, Aparna Sen and Konkona Sen Sharma) after a gap of 17 years, the Esplanade hall replaced it with the Sunjay Dutt-Nandita Das starrer, Pitaah.

Director Rituparno Ghosh referred to the incident as “extremely unfortunate’’.

But H. Dave, co-owner of Metro, refuted the charges: “He (Biswas) had made me sign on a blank contract paper. We had trusted him… He also knew that Pitaah would be screened in our hall and there had been no objection on his part.”

Biswas also alleged that the Metro authorities had withheld part of the sales proceeds due to him. “They had signed a deal of Rs 5 lakh for a six-week screening. I was paid Rs 1.5 lakh as advance, but the cheque was dishonoured. I have not heard from them since.”

Reacting to Biswas’ allegation, Dave said “it was a technical problem which has been sorted out”. According to Dave, the hall authorities and the producer of Titli had struck a deal to screen the film for “all four shows in the first week and three shows in the subsequent weeks”.

EIMPA, the principal body of film producers, exhibitors and distributors in the region, has stepped into the fray. “We urged the Metro cinema authorities to honour the contract, but they refused and went ahead with the screening of Pitaah. A committee has been formed to look into the matter,’’ said Arijit Dutta, EIMPA vice-president, and owner of Priya, one of the cinemas where Titli is playing.

According to trade sources, ticket sales at Priya is around Rs 3 lakh per week, while in Metro it was around Rs 2 lakh during the second and third weeks.

   

 
 
PACKET TO PAK THICKENS ‘SPY’ PLOT 
 
 
FROM PROBIR PRAMANIK
 
Siliguri, Jan. 6: 
Fears that suspected ISI agent Mohammad Dilshad may have passed on vital information on the army’s installations in the region gained ground with sleuths stumbling on information that he had sent a packet by courier to Hyderabad in Pakistan just days before his arrest.

Officials interrogating the “master ISI agent” have also pieced together the espionage net he had cast around the army’s 33 Corps headquarters at Khaprail in Sukhna near Siliguri. One of them said the agent was proving to be a tough nut to crack. “During the last two days of gruelling interrogation, Dilshad has shown no signs of cracking. All his replies are curt — ‘yaad nahi hai’ or ‘ho shakta hai’. He is willing to give out information that we already have and nothing more.” The agent was being watched by a Central intelligence agency for the past four months.

But the sleuths have still managed to glean the fact that Dilshad had “couriered” a packet to his ISI controller, Major Ahmad, based in Hyderabad, Sindh. “We are trying to get the details of the packet sent to a particular address in Hyderabad, Pakistan, in the last week of December through a local courier service. Once we have the specification, we may learn of the consignment’s contents,” the investigating officer said.

Further progress is expected in the investigation after the return of a special team of the district police, which is leaving for Delhi tomorrow to fetch the ISI’s “coordinating agent” Abdul Bari Panwaala, arrested yesterday after Dilshad’s confession.

“Besides being the ISI’s financial controller for its agents in India, we believe that Bari is one of the ISI’s top co-ordinators. Bari not only funnelled the funds to its operatives through the hawala channel, he was a vital link in the ISI’s operations. Once Bari is brought here, we will confront the two agents and verify the information revealed by them,” said Darjeeling superintendent of police Sanjay Chander, who is heading the special investigating team probing the case.

The investigating officer said Dishad seemed to have been pro-active between December 29, 2001, and January 3, 2002, the day before his arrest. “We have recovered as many as 25 ISD call receipts of that period. They were made mostly to a particular number in Dubai, or to Major Ahmed’s residence in Hyderabad, Sindh, and another Hyderabad number,” he said.

Sleuths believe Dilshad had managed to infiltrate deep into the army’s 33 Corps headquarters and got hold of classified documents. “Dilshad sent Indian agent Manish Goel to lay the ground for the spy network. The 37-year-old ISI spotter posed as a Kargil veteran dealing in used army vehicles to compromise Mohammed Azad, an army supply corps truck cleaner,” the intelligence official said.

Once Azad started showing results, Dilshad entered the scene and gave him a brief to photograph vital army installations with a state-of-the-art digital camera. Azad’s brother Mohammed Sajjad, who ran a tailoring shop in the army’s Rohini shopping complex, and a local youth, Mohammed Salim, were then engaged. All four were arrested yesterday.

   

 
 
PANJA HURLS ASSAULT CHARGE ON MAMATA 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Jan. 6: 
Suspended Trinamul Congress MP Ajit Panja today accused Mamata Banerjee of engineering an attack on him by party activists at Chakdah in Nadia district yesterday.

“I strongly feel that the attack was made at Mamata’s behest… I could have been physically assaulted by Mamata’s men if local youths had not come to my rescue,” Panja said at a news conference this afternoon.

Panja was in Chakdah to play the role of Ramakrishna in Nati Binodini. “On my way home, some party activists intercepted my car. They were raising slogans in favour of Mamata and were abusing me for going against her,” he said.

The Trinamul Congress chief was quick to deny the allegation, calling it “baseless and concocted”. Mamata, however, has sought a report on the incident from the party’s Nadia district unit.

Trinamul MLA Pankaj Banerjee condemned the attack. He denied that party activists had a hand in it. “We have reports that nothing happened to Panja at Chakdah. This must be one of his ploys to attract public attention,” he said.

Trinamul sources said Panja had brought such “serious charges” against Mamata with “a definite purpose”. “Unable to provoke Mamata to expedite his expulsion, a desperate Ajitda has taken recourse to levelling false allegations against didi,” a Trinamul worker said.

   
 

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