Court rap for CBI in baby swap
Parking ban steers cars into Parkomat
Abducted by brother’s debtors
CalTel gives JU its own exchange
Stay connected with messages
Four Fires and a girl called Karpurika
The City Diary
Facelift tips for heritage showcase
Picked from the streets, poised for varsity stamp
Students snub boycott call

 
 
COURT RAP FOR CBI IN BABY SWAP 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 14: 
Calcutta High Court on Monday came down heavily on the country’s premier investigating agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), for the “vague” report it has submitted on the baby-swap case.

The CBI report, submitted last Monday, confirmed that a male child born to a couple and admitted to Medical College and Hospital nursery in May 1998 had been swapped. But the sleuths failed to track down those responsible for the crime or ascertain the whereabouts of the boy or trace the parents of the baby girl handed over to the couple.

A division bench, comprising judges D.P. Sengupta and Malay Kumar Basu, which sat on Monday to deliver judgment on the CBI report, asked the investigating agency to return to court in three months, but “not without” tracing the boy, who would be three-and-a-half years old by now.

Despite spending more than Rs 4 crore in DNA-testing 129 individuals — babies in the hospital nursery at that time and their parents — the CBI probe failed to pinpoint the “real culprits” in the case that had rocked the medical establishment in the city.

The CBI also saw its plea — recommending the reopening of a Calcutta Police detective department probe against two Medical College nurses Nilima Das and Shikha Bhattacharya — turned down. The nurses could not face two simultaneous probes, the bench observed. The CBI had charged the two nurses and three of their colleagues, besides a general-duty attendant, with tampering records and accused two of the nursery’s doctors with dereliction of duty.

The hospital authorities, too, found themselves in the court’s line of fire. Convinced that the CBI contention — of many documents at the hospital being missing, thwarting the bid to piece together the mystery of the missing baby — was true, the high court asked the Medical College and Hospital management to hand over every document that the agency needed for its probe.

It was in the third week of June 1998 that Anup Bhattacharya moved Calcutta High Court, seeking its intervention in returning to him and his wife, Keya, their son, born at M.R. Bangur Hospital on May 27. The baby, born premature, had to be separated from his mother and was sent to the Medical College and Hospital nursery, which had an incubator, a facility not available at M.R. Bangur Hospital.

Keya, however, was handed over a baby girl when she prepared to leave M.R. Bangur Hospital on June 4. This prompted the Bhattacharyas to lodge an FIR with Bowbazar police two days later.

Finding no redress, they moved Calcutta High Court, through their lawyer, Supradip Ray, a fortnight later.

The court first handed over the case to Calcutta Police, which later admitted that it did not have the wherewithal or the necessary infrastructure to carry out the elaborate investigation. The court then entrusted the probe to the CBI.

The boy remains untraced, while the girl the Bhattacharyas refused to accept was recently given a home by former chief justice of Calcutta and Bombay High Courts Ananda Mohan Bhattacharya.

   

 
 
PARKING BAN STEERS CARS INTO PARKOMAT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 14: 
The car count at Parkomat, struggling to cross double figures a day, shot into the hundreds on Monday. The wheels started turning towards the Rawdon Street plaza from the afternoon with the police enforcing parking rules in the area.

Motorists were prevented from pulling up within a radius of half-a-kilometre of the Parkomat and policemen directed them to the first fully-automated parking lot in the city.

This finally gave the makers of Parkomat — Simplex Projects Limited and the Calcutta Municipal Corporation — something to cheer about, more than six weeks after its grand inauguration by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Gautam Dasgupta, senior manager of Simplex Projects in charge of Parkomat, said some unauthorised parking lots on Park Street, Robinson Street, Loudon Street and Rawdon Street had been providing people with a cheaper alternative. But by Monday afternoon, nearly 170 cars had driven into the three-storeyed Parkomat. “We hope Calcuttans will take to this modern parking facility soon. Those who came to park their vehicles on Monday did not complain about the rates,” said Dasgupta.

Ever since the Parkomat, with a capacity to house 219 cars, was inaugurated by the chief minister on November 25, it had been announced that cars would not be allowed to park within a 500-metre radius of the plaza. But, for more than a month, the police did nothing to enforce the directive. Cars were allowed to park on Rawdon Street and all other roads in the vicinity.

As a result, the parking lot, built with Dutch technology at a cost of Rs 9 crore, went empty.

This prompted Simplex Projects to push the panic button and petition Subrata Mukherjee. The mayor took up the matter with urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya and police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty late last month. It was decided that deputy commissioner, traffic, N.K. Singh, would issue a notification banning parking of cars within a radius of 500 metres from Parkomat.

The police finally imposed the ban along Rawdon Street, Loudon Street, a stretch of Park Street, Short Street and Robinson Street on Monday.

“The response to the new state-of-the-art parking plaza was very good from Monday afternoon. I talked to some senior police officers and they told me that the new no-parking rules will be strictly enforced from now on,” said municipal commissioner Debasis Som.

Simplex provided Rs 2.8 crore for the project and the CMC provided a soft loan of Rs 3 crore. Another Rs 3 crore was loaned from the New Market branch of UCO Bank. Under the present agreement, Simplex Projects will run the parking plaza for 20 years, before handing it over to the CMC. During this period, Simplex will share five per cent of the gross revenue from the project with the CMC.

Mayor Mukherjee has made it clear that all subsequent Parkomat projects would depend on the success of the Rawdon Street plaza.

   

 
 
ABDUCTED BY BROTHER’S DEBTORS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 14: 
Two people, including the owner of a transport firm, were arrested late on Sunday on charges of abducting central Calcutta businessman Pawan Sahoo.

Pawan was rescued from the office of one of his abductors. The guilty were produced in court on Monday and remanded in custody for seven days.

According to Zulfiquar Hasan, deputy commissioner, central, Pawan, 27, was abducted from his Madan Mohan Burman Street shop in Jorasanko around 3 pm on Saturday. “The transport firm owner, H. Krishnamurthy, along with two others, dragged Pawan into a vehicle and sped away,” Hasan said.

Around 5 pm, Krishnamurthy forced Pawan to call up his wife and arrange a ransom of Rs 1.5 lakh, besides some ornaments. Pawan’s wife, Sutapa, did accordingly.

“As per the talks, Sutapa went to the Hazra crossing around 6 pm, intending to deliver the ransom, but none of the abductors turned up,” Hasan added.

Sutapa then lodged a complaint with Jorasanko police station. Initial raids in north, central and south Calcutta hideouts proved futile.

The first lead came around Sunday noon, when the abductors made the second call. “We told Sutapa to buy time and bargain with the abductors. The call detector picked up the telephone number and traced it to a transport company office on Sarat Bose Road,” said Hasan.

Krishnamurthy and his associate, Kishenlal Agarwala, were at the office when the police netted them. Pawan, too, was found in the same office. Hasan said Krishnamurthy supplied tea to Pawan’s brother Manoj. “The tea packets were stolen from the Taratala area in December,” said Hasan.

Problems started after Manoj refused to pay for the stolen tea packets. “Krishnamurthy then abducted Pawan, intending to get even with Manoj,” said Hasan. “Manoj fled as soon as Krishnamurthy abducted his brother. We are raiding different places in and around the city to arrest him,” Hasan added.

   

 
 
CALTEL GIVES JU ITS OWN EXCHANGE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 14: 
Jadavpur University (JU) will soon have a separate telephone exchange, with fibre-optic connectivity along with a hi-tech telecommunication research laboratory, to enable students, teachers and employees to reach out to rest of the world.

Calcutta Telephones is undertaking a Rs 25-lakh project for setting up the state-of-the-art laboratory and exchange. It signed a memorandum of understanding with the JU authorities on Monday and promised to complete the project by the end of the current financial year.

“JU is the first academic institution in the eastern region to get such a unique system, which will be used exclusively by its students, teachers and staff,” said A.K. Mishra, area manager of Calcutta Telephones. Once the project is completed, they will be able to avail of round-the-clock connectivity from any of the two campuses at Jadavpur and Salt Lake.

The proposal was submitted to Calcutta Telephones six months ago. In addition to the Rs 25 lakh sponsored by Calcutta Telephones, the university will spend another Rs 20 lakh, allotted by the University Grants Commission. Alumni and faculty will be provided with callcards at reasonable rates for external calls, both domestic and international, at any time from anywhere on the campus. The callcard cost will be borne by the individuals.

   

 
 
STAY CONNECTED WITH MESSAGES 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, Jan. 14: 
‘BOARDING IA. C U SOON’. Message sent. From Delhi to Calcutta. You can now ‘stay connected’ beyond city limits, even if you don’t have ‘roaming’ facility on your Command mobile phone.

In a victory for words over voice, the short messaging service revolution has prompted Command to launch “SMS roaming”, starting Tuesday.

This will enable customers to “receive and send messages” at a nominal cost from 700 destinations all over India and 50 countries worldwide, without having “call contact” at STD or ISD rates.

For the SMS facility within the country, the charge per message will be Rs 3 — as opposed to Re 1 when in Calcutta — while the international charge will be linked to the rates followed by “visiting networks”.

Activation charges for availing of the national network has been pegged at just Rs 15, and Rs 30 to go international.

“This facility is first of its kind in the country. The last year has seen an explosion in SMS traffic and the demand for this facility beyond home circle is clearly felt. That is why we are launching roaming SMS as a separate facility for our subscribers,” said Sanjoy Mukherjee, chief operating officer, Usha Martin Telekom Ltd, on Monday.

According to the data available with Command, while subscriber base in Calcutta has gone up by “86 per cent in the past year”, SMS usage has witnessed a “four-fold increase” in the corresponding period and the frequency of messages sent per user per day has doubled.

“Given the preference of subscribers to communicate by SMS, we think this roaming facility will be a boon for the subscribers, because of the inherent cost advantage and the nature of instantaneous communication,” added Mukherjee.

The SMS roaming facility has been developed by a 10-member core team of development engineers from Calcutta and will soon be taken to other metro circles operated by the Hutchison group. Mukherjee, though, refused to comment on the volume of investment required to put this facility in place. “The investment is smart, rather than huge,” was all that he would say.

The technology, says Command, is simple, where all destinations are connected through signalling links to enable online and real-time transfer of data.

Unlike the expensive “voice roaming facility”, which requires filling up of forms, deposit and other administrative norms, the SMS roaming has been designed as a subscriber-friendly model.

“Here, the choice is up to the subscriber, who can avail this facility within minutes, once he or she decides to stay in touch through SMS,” said Mukherjee.

   

 
 
FOUR FIRES AND A GIRL CALLED KARPURIKA 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, Jan. 14: 
What’s in a name? Plenty, if you ask Karpurika Raychaudhuri, whose name has proved to be her fortune. The Calcutta girl, now working for an international IT firm in Sydney, has staked claim to Australian $ 45,000, just because she’s named Karpurika.

The dream script unfolded like this for the 33-year-old mechanical engineer from Jadavpur University. Australian best-selling author Bryce Courtenay was on the hunt for the name of a character in his next novel. When Care Australia asked him if it could auction naming rights to the character for charity, he readily agreed. Baltimore Technologies, Professional Services APAC, where Karpurika is a senior project manager, came up with the winning bid of Australian $ 45,000. It ran a raffle on the Internet, giving each of its 4,000 employees the chance to have his/her name used by Australia’s top-selling author. The winner of the name game: Karpurika.

Bryce tells the story with bemusement in a Sydney publication: “I get this e-mail from the president of the company, who says the name to be used in the book is Karpurika Raychaudhuri. My book is set in the 1950s in a small town, there’s the White Australia policy, and she’s an Indian girl in an IT company. And I go, ‘Uh?’”

In Bryce’s 770-page novel, Four Fires, Karpurika is an Indian ayurvedic doctor who arrives via the Fijian sugar plantations and marriage to an Australian sea captain. She saves lives, delivers babies, helps build the country’s biggest trucking company and becomes state National Party member for the area. That’s quite in keeping with the meaning of her name. “Karpurika was named after the legendary engineer-princess of Karpur Sambhar in ancient India, as mentioned in Kathasaritsagar,” says city-based architect and urban designer Santosh Ghosh, Karpurika’s father.

The real-life Karpurika (who admits never having heard of anyone else with her name) completed her engineering from JU before specialising in computer science and management from the University of New South Wales and University of Technology, Sydney.

“I first came to know of this about a year ago,” recounted Karpurika, over e-mail. “Bryce Courtenay was about to write a new book, for which the naming rights were being auctioned. Our sales executive put in a bid and my name was chosen by the company.”

It all came back recently when Bryce launched Four Fires. “I read the review in the Sydney Morning Herald, where he mentioned my name and character… I was very excited because it was a fantastically novel experience to have my name depicted as a character in a best-selling author’s novel, especially an author whose books I enjoy. Bryce also sent me a complimentary signed copy, which I am reading at the moment,” said Karpurika, who is not too sure how much of the prize money will actually come her way.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Billboard buildings under CMC scanner

Calcutta Municipal Corporation will undertake a technical survey on the structural soundness of old buildings, covered with billboards. The decision was taken on Monday by the conservancy department during a meeting with the outdoor advertising agencies. Conservancy chief Mala Roy said the agencies had agreed to pull down the illegal hoardings. The Corporation will soon submit a list of old buildings burdened with illegal hoardings to the advertising agencies.

Row over bandh attendance

Members of Calcutta University Employees’ Unity Centre on Monday staged a demonstration on the varsity premises against allowing a section of the staff, owing allegiance to the CPM-controlled union, to sign the attendance register on January 10 despite their participation in the SUCI-sponsored bandh. The members alleged that according to the university’s revised attendance rules, employees were supposed to sign the register by 10.30 am. “Some of the employees were allowed to sign even till late in the afternoon,” they pointed out.

Festival stop

To cope with the rush of pilgrims attending the festival of Guru Govind Singh Maharaj, 11 long-distance trains will stop for five minutes at the Patna Sahib station from January 17 to January 24. The trains scheduled to stop at Patna Sahib include Poorva Express, Shramjeevi Express, Bhagalpur-Surat Express, Upasana Express, Ananya Express, Bhagalpur-Dadar Express, Baidyanathdham-Kasi Express, Puri-Patna Express, New Jalpaiguri-Katihar-Delhi and Mahananda Express.

Panja ill

Suspended Trinamul Congress MP Ajit Panja was admitted to a city nursing home on Sunday. Doctors said he has been suffering from jaundice. His condition is reportedly stable. According to sources, Panja might be taken to London for further treatment.

Burial grounds

The Mohammedan Burial Board on Monday submitted a memorandum to member, mayor-in-council (health), Javed Ahmed Khan, demanding more burial grounds as the city Muslim population has gone up substantially. The Board demanded two more burial grounds, one off the EM Bypass and another in the port area. There are five CMC burial grounds for Muslims in the city.

Condolence meet

A condolence meet was organised at Technicians’ Studio in Tollygunge in memory of actor Ujjal Sengupta, who died in December. Actors Chiranjeet, Tapas Pal, Rituparna Sengupta and the late actor’s son Jishu Sengupta were present.

Bomb haul

The Hooghly police on Monday recovered explosives near a pond, close to Hindustan Motors in Uttarpara. Hooghly superintendent of police N. Ramesh Babu said the explosives included 25 plastic bombs, TNT, hand grenades and detonators.

Trinamul protest

Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee organised a law-violation programme at Barasat Kachari Maidan on Monday.    

 
 
FACELIFT TIPS FOR HERITAGE SHOWCASE 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, Jan. 14: 
The past, three years ago: A pothole in front of a prominent consulate office in south Calcutta.

The present, January 13, ‘02: The pothole is still there, making consular staff wonder how long it takes to repair potholes in Calcutta. “One month, two months, six months, but certainly not three years?” is the incredulous question from the foreigners not conversant with the ways of the city.

“Informal discussions” with consular corps stationed in the city about what Calcutta needs for a drastic image-overhaul have thrown up a set of suggestions for the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government. State urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya told Metro that Bengal Initiative, the group behind the proposals had broached the matter in a recent round of discussions.

“We, in accordance with the minister’s desire for a set of concrete suggestions, have already prepared a paper,” said BI chairman Amiya Gooptu. “Regular interactions with the consular corps about what the city requires to change some common perceptions about it form the backbone of the exhaustive list,” Gooptu, also the spokesman for the city’s consular corps, explained. There are 42 consulates and deputy high commissions in the city, with around 10 being manned by foreign diplomats.

“We feel it’s meaningless to expect funds and investments to flow in without creating the right atmosphere,” said Gooptu. Creating an ambience conducive to investment and then waiting for the yields, could produce the desired result, feels BI. The group’s suggestions to improve the health-sector scenario had been accepted by the government almost in toto a few weeks ago.

“Calcutta already has a large number of museums and art galleries that boast of impressive collections, often of national importance,” states the document listing facelift suggestions. Corporate support to institutions like Indian Museum, Victoria Memorial, Academy of Fine Arts, the zoo and Shibpur Botanical Gardens could give them the necessary boost.

The city, with its rich cultural past, could also do with area-wise heritage measures that do not merely take care of specific landmarks and buildings, BI has suggested. Some of the areas that fit the bill perfectly are:

College Street with Presidency College, Calcutta University, Medical College Hospital, Sanskrit College, Coffee House, besides the book stalls;

Chitpur with its Tagore-complex at Jorasanko, the jatra-para, Nakhoda Masjid and the original pilgrims’ route to Calcutta’s most-frequented temple at Kalighat;

Bowbazar with its jewellery shops;

Prafulla Sarkar Street and adjoining Central Avenue, Calcutta’s answer to Fleet Street;

Strand Road with its riverfront could become the city promenade;

Taratala and the Hyde Road stretch which, because of its industries, is of particular interest to investors

These proposals are “practicable” as much of the infrastructure is already in place. “We will hand them over to the government by the end of this month so that it can check Calcutta’s nose-dive into a city of only regional importance from one internationally known for its contribution to culture and science,” said Gooptu.

   

 
 
PICKED FROM THE STREETS, POISED FOR VARSITY STAMP 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 14: 
With a glimmer of hope in her eyes, 14-year-old Bindiya Mullick is raring to begin a new chapter in her life. She is among the 40 children who, in six months, will be “graduating” with a certificate from no less an institution than Jadavpur University. For children who have the streets of Calcutta as their address, this would indeed be an achievement.

The “five-star” university is embarking on a unique programme on Tuesday. In collaboration with the Emmanuel Ministries, Calcutta, which oversees the work done by the Calcutta Samaritans, Jadavpur University is offering streetchildren vocation-oriented certificate courses. The UGC-approved and funded courses are the first of their kind in the country.

Students will be enrolled in two types of courses: tailoring and automobile mechanics. The syllabi have been drawn up by the Emmanuel Ministries and vetted and improved on by the university’s Department of Adult Continuing Education and Education (DACEE).

With about 1.5 lakh streetchildren in the city according to Unicef estimates, few would get a seat. “The selection is being done through aptitude tests,” explained Rev. Vijayan Pavamani, director of the ministries.

The children, aged between 12 and 16, will be exposed to reading, writing and other skills in addition to the lessons in the courses.

“The ministries will train students how to procure funds, set up a business, access raw materials and equip them to stand on their feet after they complete the courses,” said Kingshuk Misra, head of HRD at the ministries.

“The courses will be a pioneering effort,” said Prof. Ashok Bhattacharya, DACEE director. “Streetchildren will get formal university education for the first time. The UGC has granted Rs 25,000 per course,” he added.

On completion of the course, the students will be awarded a certificate from Jadavpur University. Since it will have the university’s seal, the course content, method of teaching and the evaluation will be “guaranteed” by the university.

An advanced course for another six months will be available for those who do well. “Our objective is to equip them to get jobs or start their own business,” Bhattacharya said. If the project is successful, 16 more courses have been planned. In a bid to prevent dropouts, the ministries will provide a stipend.

Bindiya’s friends Sujita, Kalam and Babar, residents of the streets of Park Circus, are just as eager to start. “Had we not had this chance, we would either have become domestic helps or been married off against our wishes,” Sujita pointed out.

   

 
 
STUDENTS SNUB BOYCOTT CALL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 14: 
It’s bad news for agitators shutting down institutions to record their grievances.

In a unique counter-protest — muted but effective — a section of students are back at their desks at St Paul’s College, where the local unit of the SFI, student arm of the CPM, had called for a boycott of classes and tests.

Though students of Class XI and the IInd Year have not yet returned, their seniors — students of the IIIrd Year — have been attending classes regularly. “The rush to complete the syllabus seems to have influenced them to ignore the boycott call,” teachers of the college said on Monday.

Murmurs of protest have also been raised by guardians of students denied the opportunity to write the internal exams of the college, the teachers added.

“Ninety-five per cent of the students want to appear for the exams and have been telling us they are sorry for the forced boycott of class exams,” said St Paul’s College teachers’ council secretary Ajanta Paul.

The SFI activists, as reported by Metro last week, have been coercing Class XI and pre-Part-I students into boycotting classes and internal exams since January 7. They are demanding that the college authorities roll back their decision to stop admitting students into the college hostel.

Acting principal Paritosh Banerjee said the hostel had become a “nuisance”. It housed students from north Bengal or the Northeast. But with very few of them joining the college now, the facility had become redundant. “Besides, we found that outsiders were having a free run of the hostel,” he said. “The last straw was the regular complaints from first-year students of ragging by their seniors,” Banerjee added.

The SFI agitation demands, among other things, timely publication of results. The SFI said the authorities have failed to publish results of the selections for Higher Secondary this academic year. The acting principal, however, said publication of results was delayed by the SFI unit’s intransigence in holding union polls in time.

The college authorities have met senior Calcutta University officials, apprising them of their inability to hold internal exams for Part I candidates. A meeting with Church of North India officials is lined up for later this week, following which “stern” action may be taken against the errant students.

   
 

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