Breather for private tutors
Supply slash sparks hours of darkness
New labs to stem exodus
Tagore’s tunes traverse test of time
The City Diary
On the wings of finned fancy
Micron measure in plastic push
Chit fund taint knocks cops off promotion list
Love triangle fallout leaves brother dead
Sparks fly over film sequence

Calcutta, Jan. 16: 
When reality bites, the private tutor stays on. Acknowledging that an immediate ban on private tuition is “not feasible”, the government on Wednesday said teachers of state-run and aided schools would be allowed to carry on coaching students in private “for another three months”.

School education minister Kanti Biswas’ announcement ensures that nearly a million students, who will be appearing for their Madhyamik and Higher Secondary examinations this year, will be free to engage school teachers as private tutors.

The declaration comes in the wake of the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) protests demanding that the system of private tuition be allowed to continue at the school level. “Most Madhyamik and HS examinees depend on their tutors to make up for the lack of infrastructure at their institutions. Some schools don’t even have enough teachers. Till the government ensures that all schools have the adequate infrastructure to give students a fair chance to excel, private tuition should be allowed to continue,” said Tarun Banerjee, SFI state committee leader.

Noticing a sharp decline in the academic standards in nearly 7,000 state-aided schools, the government announced in the last budget session of the Assembly that it would “ban private tuition” with immediate effect.

Criticism from academic circles, pressure from the SFI and feedback from the toppers in recent years have forced the government to “go slow”. Almost all students who’ve excelled at the Madhyamik and Higher Secondary levels during the past few years have been helped out by a host of private tutors.

Sameek Bain, who stood ninth in Madhyamik 2000 from Baranagar Ramakrishna Mission, told Metro: “I had four private tutors who helped me pass Madhyamik with distinction. Under the present system, if the government decides to suddenly ban private tuition, it will harm, not help, students.”

Biswas on Wednesday gave a technical twist to the government move to push back the ban on private tuition. “The circular banning private tuition was issued earlier this month, while the self-declaration forms on which teachers are required to give in writing that they are not engaged in coaching students at home in lieu of money will not be submitted before the end of March,” said Biswas. This, in effect, pushes the ban process back till then.

Biswas admitted that it was up to the school management, not the government, to take action against errant teachers. CPM state secretary Anil Biswas reiterated that the government would not forcibly impose the ban on private tuition. “We are leaving it to school-teachers to decide whether they should engage in private tuition or not,” said secretary Biswas.


Calcutta, Jan. 16: 
The city and its adjoining areas suffered prolonged power cuts through Wednesday as the state electricity board (SEB) continued to slash its supply to CESC.

In Salt Lake, which is supplied power by the SEB, the situation was no better. On Wednesday afternoon, a payloader of Hidco hit an overhead 132-kv line near Baguiati, which supplies power from the SEB’s Kasba sub-station to Salt Lake. The line snapped, causing a blackout across the township.

In Calcutta, the shortfall in the morning and evening peak hours hovered around 200 mw. Power cuts ranged between two and four hours. The SEB has cut its supply to the CESC for non-payment of dues.

Widespread power cuts were reported from the CESC-served areas in Howrah and Hooghly districts, too. In Howrah, the DVC has restricted its supply to the CESC grid, also because of non-payment of dues.

Power department sources said that in Salt Lake, repairs were on and supply would be restored early on Thursday.

There were slim chances of an improvement in the situation in the week ahead, they feared, unless CESC stepped up its own output.

“We are helpless. The CESC owes us several hundred crores, accumulated over the past few years. If the CESC wants to tide over the crisis, it should immediately make a payment of Rs 22 crore,” an SEB official said.

The SEB may cut down its supply to the CESC grid further if the amount remains unpaid.

CESC sources said one of its units at Budge Budge, now under overhaul, is likely to be brought back onstream next week. Till then, the situation was grim, unless the Board stepped up its supply.

As dusk set in, large areas of the city and its suburbs were plunged into darkness. With streetlights off in many areas, pedestrians had a tough time negotiating the streets.

Power cuts in large areas of north, south and central Calcutta began from 9 am, when the CESC’s generation dropped to around 368 mw and the SEB would not supply more than 120 mw — about 200 mw less than usual to the private power utility.

There was no power in Lake Town, Bangur Avenue, Shyambazar, Sovabazar, Ultadanga, Burrabazar, C.R. Avenue, Dharamtala, Bhowanipore, Jodhpur Park, Southern Avenue, Jadavpur, Ballygunge, Gariahat and Hazra for hours during the day. In the Kankurgachhi area, there was no electricity for several hours.

There was no supply either to SEB-served areas like Kestopur, Baguiati, Rajarhat, Narayanpur and Bagjola from 4 pm, following the snapping of the overhead line near Baguiati.

The state-run power plants generated about 1,670 mw in the evening peak hour. Even though the SEB supplied only 120 mw to the CESC system on Wednesday morning, it increased its supply to 170 mw in the evening, but the CESC drew around 161 mw.

Stove bursts: Six-year-old Rubi Nima died and five people suffered serious burns when a stove burst at a house in Baranagar. The fire spread to other parts of the building and created panic among the residents. The injured were rushed to R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital.


Calcutta, Jan. 16: 
Bridging the rate gap between government hospitals and private nursing homes; devising a common code for medical professionals in the state; adopting the latest medical techniques to prevent a patients’ push towards Vellore and Mumbai…

That’s what minister for health and family welfare Surya Kanta Mishra has on his reform roster at the moment.

“To stop the flow of patients to Vellore and Mumbai for better diagnosis, two modern laboratories with latest equipment will come up in the School of Tropical Medicine and AMRI-Apollo Hospitals,” said Mishra.

He was inaugurating a state-of-the-art diagnostic centre — Mediclue Research and Diagnostic — on Chowringhee Road.

Among the common causes for the rush to Vellore and Mumbai are:

Cardiac complaints, including the need to implant pacemakers

Neurological disorders needing sophisticated diagnosis to determine treatment route

Malignancy-related problems requiring specialised tests

George Verghese, chief executive officer of AMRI-Apollo Hospitals, told Metro the government “wanted AMRI to build a specialised laboratory,” and talks are underway for a possible tie-up with a Mumbai-based company.

“There is a lot of work to be done in the health sector, which the government cannot tackle single-handedly. New medical units will provide competition and help improve the situation,” said the minister, who claimed that serious efforts are on to bring a certain uniformity to the rates being charged by government and private medical units.

The Clinical Establishment Act has already been amended to facilitate the move, added Mishra. According to sources, the government is now in the process of comparing rates of investigations and medical bills of major hospitals and nursing homes in the city.

Mishra said the amendments to the Act would also help the government “enforce a common guideline” for medical professionals in the government and the private sector.

The diagnostic centre inaugurated on Wednesday will specialise in cardiovascular and pathological services. Spread over 3000 sq ft, it also houses spirometry equipment for complex lung-function testing and a sophisticated microlab.


Calcutta, Jan. 16: 
The vice-chancellor of Visva-Bharati posing for the flashbulbs, a CD of Debabrata Biswas’ Rabindrasangeet in hand. Past persecution for “deviating” from the prescribed Visva-Bharati norm gave way to present adulation of “one of the greatest Tagore singers”, in a moment steeped in symbolism at MusicWorld on Wednesday.

“The past evaluation of the singer is not really relevant in the present context. Those who found fault with some of his renditions must have had their reasons. After all, different examiners view answer-scripts differently,” said V-C Sujit Kumar Basu. “But let us not concern ourselves with that. I am a great fan of Debabrata Biswas, right from my college days, when he used to come to Baker Hostel in Presidency, pick up the harmonium and start singing. I feel honoured to be here.”

The launch of the CD, part of MusicWorld Collector’s Edition, was a signal of life in the post-copyright times at Tagore’s university. Admitting that while it “hurts” being stripped of the regulatory power from January 1, Basu was confident that Visva-Bharati would remain the referral point for Rabindrasangeet and it was now time to gear up for the “open-market competition in the post-control era”.

Slated for Basantotsav release is Parrots’ Education, a VCD based on Tagore’s Tota Kahini. “We will dredge out gems from our archives, which should be appreciated by Tagore lovers ,” said Basu. While Parrots’ Education is an “in-house production”, Visva-Bharati is apparently keen on a tie-up with Saregama for the RPG Group company’s Tagore releases. The V-C, though, was tight-lipped: “We are looking at a few options for technical tie-ups.”

MusicWorld spokesman Mani Sankar Mukherji, however, hinted at “closer and warmer co-operation” with the Visva-Bharati Music Board so that “the best of Tagore in the best form possible” is made available to the people.

But what of the explosion of experimentation with Tagore songs? Paras Pathar has hit the studio floors with its Rabindra-rock album; Nachiketa and Bhoomi are lining up Rabindrasangeet releases of their own. Visva-Bharati is keen to lend its weight strictly behind “traditional exponents” of Tagore. “If it’s a radical release of a Nachiketa album, we will probably think twice before getting involved,” Basu said, convinced that the “elderly Tagore lovers” will act as a “natural buffer” against distortion. “Our concern is what will happen 50 years from now.”



Fog disrupts flight schedule

Air traffic in Calcutta was disrupted due to dense fog for the second day in succession on Wednesday. There was no movement of aircraft to and from Calcutta till 9.30 am. Three Calcutta-bound flights from Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi hovered over the airport for over an hour-and-a-half before they could land. Union minister for petroleum and natural gas Ram Naik was delayed at the airport, as his helicopter could not take off for Haldia. All morning flights of Indian Airlines, Alliance Air, Jet Airways and Sahara were considerably delayed. Twelve flights of Indian Airlines and Alliance Air were delayed for over three hours. The Silchar-bound flight was the first to take off shortly after 9.30 am.

Subrata scents scam in survey

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee has decided not to ratify Rs 5 crore that was spent on conducting a survey to augment water supply and improve the sewerage network in wards 7 to 100. The survey was conducted to prepare a project report to pitch for a World Bank loan. Mukherjee suspects that a misappropriation of funds took place and no actual survey was conducted.

Garbage ground

The civic conservancy department will not allow Reliance to dump the garbage that will be generated while laying underground optical fibre cable at Dhapa. Member, mayor-in-council, conservancy, Mala Roy said the company would lay cables under a 400-km stretch of city roads. The digging operation involved would generate a huge pile of refuse. If it is dumped at Dhapa then no room would be left to dump the daily collection of garbage, Roy argued.

Math official dies

Pravrajika Saradaprana, 68, of Sri Sarada Math passed away on Wednesday at 1.10 am, due to respiratory failure, at Peerless Hospital. Previously known as Dr Kausalya, she joined Sri Sarada Math in 1960. She was a disciple of Swami Yatiswaranandaji Maharaj. She was initiated into sanyas by Pravrajika Bharatiprana Mataji, the first president of Sri Sarada Math, in 1969. She was the assistant secretary of R.K. Sarada Mission, Matri Bhavan, on Sri Mohan Lane, where she was serving for the past 40 years.

Car on fire

A Contessa caught fire when it skidded off the carriageway near Elgin Road. However, no one was injured in the accident. The driver was administered first-aid. Traffic in the area came to a halt after the accident.

Office inaugurated

Chairman M.S. Ramachandran inaugurated IndianOil Petronas Pvt Ltd’s marketing office, on Tuesday. The company has been set up as a joint venture between Indian Oil Corporation and Petronas, Malaysia.

Footwear tie-up

UK-based Start-Rite has tied up for technical collaboration in footwear with Sarup Tanneries, a unit of the Bawa Group of Companies, to introduce its international kids’ range in India. The tie-up will give Sarup the exclusive rights for production and distribution of the Start-rite brand of footwear in India.    

Calcutta, Jan. 16: 
Patit Paban Halder, 28, has come a long way. Aided by teacher Trishna Ghosh, what began as a childhood fascination with a couple of Mollies in a flowerpot, that filled in for an aquarium, has grown into a fish-farm spread over four cottahs today.

So passionate is Halder about his finned friends that he has set up a 36 ‘patient’-capacity hospital. Last June, he also opened a training centre for ornamental fish, Matsya Nilaya, with courses on breeding fish, farming aquatic plants, medication and packaging of fish and building and repairing aquariums. It has 18 students at the moment. Though the charges are high (Rs 700 for a two-month course), it is free for the physically and financially challenged. Charges for treatment at the hospital are just Rs 3. Halder explains: “I want to popularise the hobby of fish-keeping, not sustain myself with the earnings.”

Past pupils of Matsya Nilaya, fortified with the know-how, have succeeded in setting up shops or breeding farms. “There is a global demand for good-quality ornamental fish,” says Raja Saha, a student.

Halder’s first love, however, remains research. The first floor of his house at Sabinara, Chandannagore, is dedicated to this. At present, he is busy finding a cure for the scourge of fish lovers — hole-in-the-head disease in operculum rot. With no specialised centre to cater to his field of study, it’s mostly trial and error. To keep abreast of the latest developments, he corresponds with scientists around the globe. Even though his pleas for funding have been turned down by the state government, he continues his work through “cross-financing” from his farm.

The results of his experiments have found their way into his books. One of them, Rangin Maacher Paricharja O Rogmukti, was such a hit in the aqua circle that it had to be translated in Hindi and English.

Having turned local hero, popularly called ‘doctor’, Halder spends most of his time glued to the microscope or solving problems of stockists. His contact numbers, 683-3755, 683-4532 and 848-0370, have become helplines for enthusiasts. “I also receive requests to write on breeding fish,” he says, pointing to a pile of letters.

The Chandannagore Corporation honoured him with a stall in the just-concluded State Science Fair. There he held forth on his project of using fish as sensors of water purity. “Even machines are prone to error, but not fish,” he asserts. Some jute mills in the vicinity are studying this cost-effective technique.

And funding might not be a problem for long. A month ago, S.D Burman, vice- president, National Federation of Fishermen Corporation, proposed to finance his research. “He is a born scientist,” says Burman, “and his uncanny knack of finding cheap and effective remedies to problems has helped him tide over the handicap of expensive apparatus.” Halder, however, has no time to go around chasing dreams. “I’ll continue my research, with or without funds… I am only in search of someone serious enough to help me with it.”


Calcutta, Jan. 16: 
The ban on plastic carry bags imposed in the state from January 1 has given rise to confusion among both the public and the shop-owners.

In a bid to dispel the confusion created by the notification, the Indian Plastics Federation clarified a few points regarding the manufacture, sale and use of such bags on Wednesday.

Federation president R.A. Lohia said plastic bags thicker than 20 microns can be used. The material must be transparent or white and made out of “virgin plastic” to be used for carrying, storing or packing foodstuff.

Coloured plastic bags of 20 microns or more in thickness can be used for purposes other than packing foodstuff. “Taking advantage of the confusion, some unscrupulous people posing as self-appointed guardians of the law, are harassing shopkeepers and vendors in various markets,” claimed Lohia.

The misunderstanding has resulted in a virtual standstill in the production of bags 20 microns or more in thickness, hampering the development of downstream units in Haldia, Lohia added. “The actual problem lies in littering and the lack of solid waste management,” he said.


Calcutta, Jan. 16: 
The Public Service Commission (PSC) has made changes in the final list of police officers being promoted to the post of assistant commissioner. The changes have been made in the wake of reports of “hefty kickbacks” offered by some of the non-banking financial companies to senior police officers.

An official told Metro that “the name of a senior officer, who was second on the list, has been struck off”. The officer’s name was removed after a special inquiry team found that he had been “contacted” several times by at least three chit fund companies. “Each time, they were assured that the police would not conduct raids against them. As a result, the investors continued to suffer,” an official said.

The chief secretary, the home secretary and the commissioner of police on Tuesday finalised the list of seven candidates who will be promoted to assistant commissioner. There are three vacancies, which will increase to six by January 31. The seventh post will fall vacant on March 1, when a senior AC retires.

The chit fund scam was busted after the promoter of Calcutta-based Citi Securities, Sanjib Kapur, was arrested on November 24, following investor complaints of default.

Deputy commissioner of police (central) Zulfiquar Hasan said: “During the course of investigations, we came to know that several police officers were aware of the racket for a long time but chose to keep mum.”

Two of the arrested chit fund owners even confirmed “meeting police officers” to “fix deals”.

An inquiry ordered by the police top brass revealed the nexus, following which the decision was taken to overlook some of the probable candidates. Most of the chit fund firms, which had offered heavy returns, had taken investors for a ride. “We were given an extra two per cent commission,” revealed Kapur’s aides, during investigation.


Calcutta, Jan. 16: 
Sibling rivalry turned fatal on Wednesday, when a 20-year-old youth was knifed by his brother in a central Calcutta guest house.

Ziaul Haque, 21, who was arrested later, revealed that he and brother Rafiqul were in love with the same girl. “So I killed him to get him out of the way,” said Ziaul.

According to guest house manager Kamlesh Singh, the duo had checked in at 11 am on Wednesday. In the logbook, they declared themselves as visitors from Ranaghat.

“In the evening, the bellboy heard an angry exchange of words from their room. When we forced open the door, Rafiqul was lying on the floor with blood oozing out of his stomach,’’ Singh said.

Ziaul tried to escape but was caught and brought to Taltala police station.

Investigations revealed that the brothers were students of a prominent Malda college. “Since the girl they loved reciprocated Rafiqul’s feelings, Ziaul decided to get him out of the way,” said deputy commissioner of police, central, Zulfiquar Hasan.


Calcutta, Jan. 16: 
Calcutta’s civic officials are furious with Gulbahar Singh’s Aboidho, releasing at city theatres on Friday. Some of the scenes reportedly portray the officials in poor light.

According to officials, a portion of the Rajit Kapoor-Chiranjit-Debashree Roy film, dealing with hawker eviction, was shot in the corridors of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC).

In one sequence, the protagonist of the film is shown coming out of a dishonest civic officer’s chamber after tendering his resignation. While he is leaving, the nameplate of municipal secretary Sajal Bhowmick appears prominently in the background.

Apart from Bhowmick and other officials, mayor Subrata Mukherjee has taken serious exception to the scene. He said that under no circumstances could the scene be retained.

Bhowmick himself is contemplating legal action. “I will file a defamation suit if the scene showing my nameplate is retained,” he warned.

The producer of the film, S. K. Bhura, however, is reluctant to trim the shot and argued that the scenes were shot with the mayor’s permission.

“The film does not malign any individual. It depicts the character of an honest civic official — played by Chiranjit — who sympathised with the trauma of the people evicted, which leads to his resignation,” said Bhura. The film will be released in London on January 23.

Borough chairman of New Alipore Arup Biswas, who attended the premiere at Gorky Sadan on Sunday, first noticed the controversial scene. He then reported the matter to the mayor.

Mukherjee drew Bhowmick’s attention to the fact and asked him to protest. Replying to a question, the mayor said the portion of the film relating to the drive against hawkers (read Operation Sunshine) would not affect the image of the Trinamul Congress, as the operation was undertaken by the CPM-led Left Front.

Singh was not available for comment. His secretary, Chiranjit Ghosal, said: “All the characters in the film are fictitious. We have no intention of hurting anyone’s sentiments.”


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