Work culture via the stomach
Destination Saltlec for UK major
Cops guided to killer Colt
Protect, don’t pull down the past
The city diary
Small-coin phone secret out
Saffron strand in Citu chorus
HC scraps prosecutor panel
Two roofs over top cop’s head
Snared rebel spills beans

 
 
WORK CULTURE VIA THE STOMACH 
 
 
BY MITA MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, Jan. 11: 
Long live machher jhol-bhat. Punctuality will follow suit. Proponents of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s do-it-now mantra at Calcutta University appear to have accepted the truism that the shortest and safest route to a man’s heart (or, in this case, work ethic) is through the stomach.

Convinced that the university’s habitual late-reporting babus can be lured to office by the ubiquitous Bengali fare, the varsity has recently opened subsidised canteens for its staff on its campuses at Alipore and Rajabazar. Buoyed by the response to the canteens already dishing out the staff’s favourite fare, the university has decided to hit the food trail on its two other campuses — at College Street and Ballygunge.

This is the first time, say officials, in the varsity’s 146-year-old history that its non-teaching staff on all four campuses are being provided with subsidised meals. But these are desperate times, they explain, citing the growing number of complaints from the CPM-controlled employees’ union about the ordeal of having to begin the day at 10 am.

Calcutta University, responding to Bhattacharjee’s reiterations to improve work-culture in government offices, recently revised its attendance rules. The changes have been introduced from January 1.

The amended rules make it mandatory for the university’s 2,500-odd non-teaching staff to be in office by 10.15 am. Failure to sign the register by 10.30 am — with 15 minutes as grace period — ensures that the employee either loses a day’s leave or salary.

“Many of our employees come from far-flung places, with some of them travelling from remote areas of neighbouring districts,” said Siddheshwar Ghoshal, leader of the CPM-controlled union. “Implementation of the new rules was forcing many of them to set out for work at an unearthly hour. They can save a lot of time if they are assured of lunch here. The employees’ union is grateful to the authorities for having accepted our proposal,” he added.

The employees will have to spend Rs 12 for a full meal, comprising “bhat, dal, tarkari and machher jhol”. The canteen will also serve snacks and tea at subsidised rates, besides catering to students, who already have canteens run exclusively for them.

The university has engaged the Bedouin chain of restaurants to run the canteen on its Alipore campus and is poised to hand another to the same eatery. “This shows how serious the authorities are about having a quality canteen for the staff on campus,” say officials.

The university will subsidise the canteens in the form of infrastructural support, like space, electricity, cooking gas, water and furniture, besides bearing maintenance costs.

At both Rajabazar and Ballygunge, the piped gas used for the laboratories can be diverted to the canteens, assuring them of unlimited supply, free of cost.

Though the subsidy package could cost Calcutta University a neat package of Rs 1.2 crore annually, senior officials are sure that the scheme is worth the investment, despite the current cash crunch.

“We are sure that the move will benefit the university by improving the quality of work,” summed up a senior official.

Power cuts: The city and its adjoining areas suffered widespread power cuts on Friday evening as the shortfall in the CESC-served areas shot up to around 140 mw. Power department sources said the deficit was mainly because of the state electricity board’s restriction on supply. It supplied 180 mw to the CESC grid, against its usual feed of about 300 mw.

“We know the people are suffering, but we are helpless. The CESC should immediately pay up at least Rs 22 crore,” said G.D. Gautama, SEB chairman.

   

 
 
DESTINATION SALTLEC FOR UK MAJOR 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, Jan. 11: 
The chips may be down, but there’s some cause for cheer at the Salt Lake Electronics Complex (Saltlec). Software major Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has bagged a major assignment, worth over £ 30 million.

UK-based United Utilities, with an annual turnover of £ 1575 million, visited various delivery centres of TCS in other cities, before deciding to set up an off-shore development centre (ODC) in the Saltlec office. All IT requirements of the multi-utility group will be outsourced from Calcutta for the next three years.

According to sources, the TCS Calcutta office is “best suited” to handle “one of the biggest projects, in value terms” that a Saltlec unit has bagged. “It’s good that the ODC is being set up in Calcutta… The utility practice of our company is based in the city and we have a reasonably decent infrastructure out here,” said Ajoyendra Mukherjee, vice president, TCS.

The contract with United Utilities — providing services in water, electricity, gas supply, telecom and business process outsourcing — covers enterprise application, integration, management information system, data warehousing and development.

TCS will also be responsible for general IT requirements and intelligence gathering, application development, integration, support and maintenance across a wide platform.

“We expect more than 100 techies to get involved in the total exercise over the next six months,” said Mukherjee.

TCS is also planning to augment the infrastructure at its Saltlec office over the “next six to eight months”.

   

 
 
COPS GUIDED TO KILLER COLT 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, Jan. 11: 
City sleuths used the help of contract killer Rashid Alam, alias Gabbar, to locate the pistol he had used to shoot Sanjiv Jhulka, alias Bunty, last year. It was a .45-bore American Colt. The seven-chamber pistol was hidden in a pit dug under the bed in the corner of a dingy Tiljala room, said deputy commissioner (central) Zulfiquar Hasan.

Gabbar told his interrogators he had fired two shots from the pistol to kill Bunty.

Gabbar and friends Ranvijay Singh Rathore, Fatman, Trisha and Shabnam had accosted Jhulka near a restaurant in Tiljala. They had an argument, Gabbar said, after which he shot Jhulka. The body was dumped in a car near Taltala. Rathore, Trisha, Shabnam and Fatman are lodged in jail. Gabbar was arrested a few weeks ago.

Sources close to the anti-rowdy section of the detective department said they are investigating whether Gabbar had got the pistol from a police officer.

“Gabbar had close links with several policemen. Senior Calcutta Police officers use .38 Colts, but it is possible that an officer may have passed the .45 on to him,’’ a detective said. Hasan rubbished the allegations, but said his department would look into the allegations.

According to him, the Colt is expensive — at Rs 2 lakh — and difficult to buy in city markets.

Experts said the Colt can only be handled by a sharpshooter. They acknowledge that Gabbar was one. He practised regularly at makeshift shooting ranges in Mathpukur and its surrounding areas off the EM Bypass.

Gabbar did not have a licence for the pistol, though it is mandatory that a Colt be licensed. Detectives said they seized three fake licences from Gabbar, but they were for smaller-bore revolvers and rifles.

Police are also baffled by the trend of contract killers using sophisticated pistols. “It is important that we locate the source,” Hasan said.

Residents of Tiljala’s Uma Das Lane were surprised to see the police team enter Gabbar’s house on Friday. Police said he has not been to the place since the middle of last year, when he moved into Beniapukur.

Sources close to the investigating team said Gabbar has named a few police officers and politicians who had helped him in his activities. “He claimed they had exploited him,’’ a senior detective said.

Bandh death: Manick Debnath, 51, a passenger for Agartala, died at the domestic terminal of Calcutta airport during the bandh on Thursday.

   

 
 
PROTECT, DON’T PULL DOWN THE PAST 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, Jan. 11: 
A walk down Chandni Chowk and Lower Chitpur Road flooded them with fond memories. Nostalgia, though, was tinged with melancholy when the brother-sister duo came across “majestic old buildings” in north Calcutta “unkempt and falling apart”.

On a trip down memory lane to the city where their parents lived and worked from 1956 to ‘71, British architect and community housing expert Jon Satow and sister Clare, artist and facilitator of community art, are disturbed with what they’ve seen over the past couple of days.

“If you raise your eyes above the shop fronts along the central Calcutta thoroughfares, the sights of those classical facades and hanging balconies are pure delight, the heritage here is fabulous. It would, indeed, be a shame if all of it is lost in the name of development,” says 51-year-old Jon, who had first come to Calcutta when he was six.

The Satow siblings, back in Calcutta after three decades, took this opportunity to consign the ashes of mother Peggy to the Hooghly. On Friday, they also addressed a workshop on ‘Community architecture & art’ organised and moderated by senior city architect K.P. Bhattacharjee, executive director, Habitat Centre, an agency working towards “appropriate development for better living”. They were joined by British artist Peter Thomson, formerly Lord Mayor of Newcastle.

“You must think carefully before you demolish a building, because along with the built form, a whole network of social and economical relationships is destroyed and an entirely new group of people moves in with no history together,” says Jon, advocating conservation and “adaptive reuse”of the “priceless heritage buildings” of Calcutta. “Tate Modern Art Gallery in London, that used to be a power station, is a prime example of such adaptive reuse,” observes Clare.

Jon warns urban planners in Calcutta not to make the “same mistakes” that London did. “Back home, they just knocked down those wonderful Victorian terraced houses to build bigger, monstrous buildings,” he laments. The British architect, with remembrances of growing up in Alipore, also advocates the need to “resist the car”, especially in areas like the New Market. “It’s important to keep vehicles out to retain the urban character of traditional meeting places and encourage interactive activities.”

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Fee hike announced for Book Fair entry

The Publishers and Booksellers Guild on Friday announced a hike in the entry fee to the Calcutta Book Fair, scheduled to begin on the Maidan on January 29. A daily ticket will cost Rs 4 this year, instead of Rs 3. An insurance coverage upto Rs 50,000 has been introduced for visitors. Guild general secretary Kalyan Shah said this was the first time in the country that such an insurance coverage was being provided to visitors at a fair. People holding a daily or a season ticket will be covered under the scheme. The benefit will be extended to accidents not just on the fair grounds but within a periphery of half a kilometre outside.

The Netherlands has been chosen as the theme of the fair to commemorate 400 years of Indo-Dutch relationship. Eminent historian and social scientist Arjun Dev will deliver the Ashoke Kumar Sarkar Memorial Lecture on February 6. Shah also announced that the guild has decided to change the Bengali version of the name of the fair this year to Kolikata Pustak Mela. The fair will continue till February 10.

Held for bid to burn woman

A 22-year-old youth was arrested from Burtola on Friday for allegedly trying to set a sex worker ablaze. Police said the woman used to live with him. He regularly beat her up, demanding money. On Thursday night, after assaulting the woman, he poured kerosene on her and set her on fire. She was admitted to RG Kar Medical College and Hospital with severe burns.

Trader hurt

A 35-year-old business-man, Sanjoy Saraswat, was injured when he tried to resist criminals who snatched Rs 24,000 from his shop at Rajendra Mullick Road, in the Jorasanko area, on Friday. Police said five armed youth raided his shop and demanded money at gun-point. When Saraswat refused, one of them whipped out a revolver and fired at him. They fled with the money, leaving Saraswat bleeding profusely. He was admitted to hospital, where his condition was stated to be critical.

Road mishap

A 31-year-old man, Ranjit Singh, was knocked down by a government bus on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass on Friday. He was taken to a private hospital, but was later shifted to National Medical College and Hospital. The driver of the bus fled with the vehicle, police said.

Inauguration

Poet Nirendranath Chakraborty inaugurated Howrah Book Fair at the Howrah municipal stadium on Friday. The fair, which will continue till January 13, has 76 stalls, with 10 exclusively for children’s books. State library minister Nemai Mal said such fairs were needed to boost reading habits of people.

Dacoits arrested

Five dacoits were arrested in Barasat on Thursday. A huge cache of arms was recovered from them. Police said on Friday that the dacoits were planning to raid a businessman’s house.

Bhagwat

Professor Prema Pandurang will be in Calcutta for the ensuing Shrimad Bhagwat Katha Gnanyagna. This was announced on Friday by organisers at Kshetropasna.    

 
 
SMALL-COIN PHONE SECRET OUT 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Jan. 11: 
Public telephone booth operators today called a news conference to protest the slash in STD rates from Monday but ended up admitting that they had been fleecing customers for local calls.

Booth operators from the city and elsewhere in Bengal said they had been charging customers between Rs 1.50 and Rs 2 a call over the past few years though the rate fixed by the Centre was Rs 1.26.

Seeking to justify their action, which they conceded was illegal, the All Bengal STD/ISD Booth Owners’ Association said they were forced into overcharging customers as small change was difficult to come by. Callers could never pay the exact change, president Ratan Majumdar said.

“We admit that the official rate per call is Rs 1.26. But due to this small coin problem, it has become a practice to take Rs 1.50 or Rs 2 per call,” he said.

Both in the city and districts, the average customer “knows” that the “going rate” for a local call is Rs 2. Some booths in the city and adjoining areas charge Rs 1.50 a call, but in the districts the uniform rate is Rs 2.

Majumdar demanded that the charge per call be hiked to Rs 2 to make the existing practice legal. He said the commission given to booth operators was much higher in other states compared to the 20 per cent in Bengal. But he dodged queries on what he proposed to do about the excess money charged from customers over the last six or seven years.

There are about 70,000 phone booths all over Bengal of which over 11,000 are in Calcutta. They will go on strike on January 14, the day the slashed STD rates come into effect.

“The scheme of giving licences to set up PCOs was taken up during Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure to provide unemployed youth, physically challenged persons and ex-servicemen an opportunity to earn an honest living. But now, licences to set up booths are given freely, thus bringing about severe competition. At 20 per cent commission, it has now become difficult for us to survive. Now with STD rates slashed, we will not be able to make ends meet,” he said.

The association has demanded that the slash in STD rates be put off. It is pleading that half the rate per call be given as commission and that PCOs be barred from setting up shop within 200 metres of one another.

“If the telecom department still insists on implementing its decision to slash STD rates, all of us will unilaterally charge Rs 2 per call and if, for this, the authorities disconnect our telephone lines, we will go on an indefinite strike,” he said.

He said phone booth operators would assemble at Raja Subodh Mullick Square at 2 pm on Monday and march to Telephone Bhavan.

   

 
 
SAFFRON STRAND IN CITU CHORUS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 11: 
The BJP-dominated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) today joined hands with Left trade unions, including Citu and Aituc, to oppose the Centre’s move to privatise public sector undertakings in the state.

State BMS leader S.P. Singh and other union leaders today urged chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to take up the issue with the Centre to save Bengal’s economy, which they said would be crippled if the PSUs were closed down.

Citu state secretary Chittabrata Majumder, Aituc leader Ranajit Guha, Intuc leader Lalbahadur Singh and UTUC leader Ashok Ghosh were among those who met Bhattacharjee. All central trade unions also agreed to organise a joint movement in the state to protest the privatisation move.

Bhattacharjee reportedly told the leaders he would take up the issue with the Centre. He also welcomed the BMS move to join hands with Left trade unions in the state.

Last week, Aituc general secretary Gurudas Dasgupta had announced that his union would try to convince Left trade unions, BMS and Intuc to launch a joint nation-wide campaign against the Centre.

Dasgupta felt Left trade unions alone would not be able to conduct an effective campaign. “The time has come for TUs to come together on a common platform,” he said, adding that Bengal’s economy was facing the brunt of the Centre’s “anti-people policies.”

All trade unions have decided to organise a dharna in Delhi during Parliament’s budget session in February to press their demands. The trade unions will invite all Bengal MPs irrespective of political affiliation to join the dharna.

Recently, the BMS had organised a movement in the jute industry in Bengal along with Citu and Aituc. But it refused to be party to the tripartite agreement to avert the indefinite strike in the jute industry scheduled to begin on Monday.

“The BMS was also with us in holding a dharna for beedi workers of Bengal in New Delhi in November. They also organised joint movements in the jute industry, but refused to sign the tripartite agreement as they had differed over some term and conditions of the agreement,” said UTUC leader Ashok Ghosh.

Bhattacharjee today wrote to Union textiles minister Kashiram Rana and urged him to keep the interests of Bengal jute workers in mind while amending the Jute Packing Materials Act, 1987.

   

 
 
HC SCRAPS PROSECUTOR PANEL 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 11: 
Calcutta High Court today granted a government request for a court order to dismiss a panel of 50 assistant public prosecutors (APPs) approved by former law minister Abdul Kayum Mollah.

During the hearing, the state also informed the court that APPs would henceforth be appointed through the Public Service Commission (PSC). It is learnt that the government will recruit 150 APPs from the state soon.

In 1995, the then law minister had approved a panel of 50 APPs. But Assembly elections were held before they were appointed. When new law minister Nitish Adhikari detected malpractices in preparation of the list amid allegations that names of ministers’ kin figured on the panel, he declared it “cancelled”.

The lawyers filed a petition before the State Administrative Tribunal challenging the decision. The tribunal passed a directive setting aside the minister’s order and asked the government to recruit lawyers in vacant APP posts.

The state, however, moved the high court challenging the validity of the tribunal’s order. On Friday, a division bench of Justices Altomus Kabir and A.K. Basu set aside the tribunal’s order and allowed the law minister to cancel the panel.

Meanwhile, recruitment in the APP post were stopped due to the case in the high court. At present 150 such posts are lying vacant throughout the state.

Advocate general Balai Ray alongwith additional government pleader debasish Kar Gupta appeared on behalf of the state in this matter.

   

 
 
TWO ROOFS OVER TOP COP’S HEAD 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Burdwan, Jan. 11: 
Burdwan superintendent of police B.N. Ramesh has been charged with illegally occupying the police quarters at 106 New Park Streeet in Calcutta in addition to his bungalow here.

Two days ago, Ramesh came under a cloud after additional SP Anirban Roy went on leave to protest his superiors’ “lack of integrity” in exposing the alleged coal mafia-police nexus.

In a letter dated December 24, deputy commissioner of Calcutta police, headquarters, Banibrata Basu, wrote to Burdwan district magistrate to realise a penal rent of Rs 84,100 from the SP’s salary and deposit the amount in the Burdwan treasury.

“This is a serious case of loss of government revenue,” he said, adding that the SP’s actions are “highly irregular, illegal and contrary to financial rules”.

The matter has already been brought to the notice of the Accountant General of West Bengal. Basu also requested the district magistrate to intimate him about the realisation of the rent from the SP’s salary.

Ramesh refused to elaborate on the issue. He merely said he had been occupying a room in the circuit house as electricity connections in his bungalow were faulty.

   

 
 
SNARED REBEL SPILLS BEANS 
 
 
FROM PROBIR PRAMANIK
 
Siliguri, Jan. 11: 
Three militants on the Bengal police’s most-wanted list and believed to have a hand in the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation’s recent terror strikes in north Bengal have been picked up from an obscure village here.

Tipped off that an elusive KLO hit-man was taking shelter in a remote village in Khoribari block in Siliguri sub-division, Darjeeling police last night launched a “block raid” to trap him. The snared militant then squealed on two of his comrades who were subsequently also arrested.

Police said today the dreaded trio — Bivek Singha, Gautam Burman and Upen Singha — had thrown light on the links the KLO had with the Moaist rebels in Nepal. They had also revealed the names of top-ranking militants, police added, but declined to give out any details.

Parading the militants at a news conference, Darjeeling police superintendent Sanjay Chander said his team conducted raids in Matigara and Khoribari areas after 27-year-old Bivek tipped them off about the hideouts of Gautam and Upen.

All three were well-trained in the use of sophisticated arms and had been running a thriving extortion racket in the Khoribari-Matigara belt for quite some time, he said.

They had also undergone advanced arms training in Ulfa camps in Kalikhola and Diafam deep inside the south Bhutan jungles.

“During interrogation, the arrested rebels have revealed that KLO militants are regularly being sheltered by Maoists rebels in Nepal. The KLO also provides safe house for Maoists rebels in some of its hideouts in India. We have conveyed our findings to our Nepal counterparts to crack down on Maoists camps in Jhapa district of eastern Nepal,” the SP said.

Chander said that based on the information given by the three, the police hoped to net some KLO big guns.

   
 

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