Campus starved of job calls
Extortion, forgery on constable’s crime sheet
Howzzat at Howrah hospital
Friendly neighbourhood cableman
College sets exam dates
The City Diary
Conservancy chief skips eviction of hawkers
PWG gun gurus arrested
Cancer clinic on anvil
Ray to mail madarsa protest

Calcutta, Feb. 3: 
From “close to 90 per cent” to “around 30 per cent”. The dramatic nosedive in campus recruitment figures at Jadavpur University has cast a shadow over the future of engineering students.

Of the 800-odd students who will be completing various under-graduate and post-graduate engineering courses in May, only 250 have been able to bag jobs through campus interviws. Big players like Wipro and Infosys haven’t bothered to turn up yet.

“By this time last year, and the year before, most students had been assured jobs through campus interviews. We don’t know how long we will have to wait for a job this time,” said Sumit Bhattacharya, a final-year student.

Of the 500 under-graduate students who passed out in 2001, around 490 had been recruited on campus. “So far, around 235 students have won placements. Companies like Wipro and Infosys have not approached us yet, which is quite unusual. But we will have to bear with it, as all this is a fallout of the global slowdown,” said Shyamal Kumar Sanyal, dean of engineering and technology faculty, JU.

The present slump is alarming, but not altogether unexpected. Wipro, which had shown interest in a large number of students from JU in 2001, deferred and cancelled several appointments following the IT downturn.

Sanyal, however, refused to give up hope: “We are expecting the situation to improve. There is still time for more firms to approach us.”

Over the past two years, almost all engineers graduating from JU had been “satisfactorily placed” through campus interviews. This time, while some have steered clear, one registered a no-show. Texas Instruments had even fixed an interview date. “We kept waiting for Texas to turn up, but no one did,” said one of the students.

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has proved a “big let-down”. Last year, the firm had recruited “around 50 students”. This time, the figure has dropped to “about 20”, sources said.

Companies like Planet Asia, Cognizant Technology Solutions (CTS), Tata Infotech and HCL have, however, picked up a “good number of students”, with CTS alone recruiting over 85, sources added.

The poor response from the industry has pushed engineering students to the edge. “My friends are staring at the frightful prospect of having to finish their exams and then entering the intensely-competitive job market,” said Sumanta Banerjee, a final-year student, who has landed a job with CTS.

With on-campus recruitment falling well short of the desired mark, students have urged the authorities “not to delay” publication of the final-semester results. “Even though the exams are held in May, the grade cards are distributed to students after around two months. This time, we cannot afford to waste any time after out exams. Each day could prove vital,” said a student.

Registrar Rajat Banerjee, however, is “confident” that despite the low recruitment rate this year, it will not be much of a problem for JU students to get good job offers. “Most of our students are brilliant and I am sure all of them will get good opportunities, even if the campus recruitment figures do not match the previous years,” said Banerjee.


Calcutta, Feb. 3: 
Protecting people and maintaining law and order was his job. Harassing people and extorting money was his game.

Barun Sarkar, the “criminal cop” arrested on January 29 for duping an employee of a private firm of Rs 17,000 in Lalbazar, had extracted around Rs 60,000 from three businessmen in the past four months.

After picking him up last Tuesday, police raided his Latbagan quarters, where they found forged rubber stamps and letter pads of the deputy commissioners of the detective department and the special branch, fake identity cards of senior police officers and three cellular phones.

“He (Sarkar) is a rogue constable who has extorted several thousands of rupees, tampered with documents, forged bills and cheated the state exchequer,’’ said additional director general, armed police, Ranjit Mohanty.

Sarkar, a constable with the 6th Battalion of the state armed police, had come under a cloud even while serving as a security guard to the deputy inspector-general of police, traffic, from August 30, 1996, to April 29, 2000. He had been suspended from service, but was reinstated within a month.

According to a special report prepared by the state armed police, Barun Sarkar (number C/590), was placed under suspension on May 17, 2000, for “indiscpline and misconduct.’’

But he was “released from suspension’’ on June 30, 2000, apparently at the intervention of a senior officer. “I have directed my officers to probe why Sarkar was hastily absolved of the charges,’’ Mohanty added.

In the course of investigations, it became clear that Sarkar would regularly use his uniform to extort money. “A couple of months ago, he extracted Rs 20,000 from a businessman in Bhowanipore.

A complaint was registered in Bhowanipore thana. The victim was brought to Hare Street police station, where he identified Sarkar as the policeman who had taken the money from him,’’ said deputy commissioner of police, central, Zulfiquar Hasan. The constable had apparently duped two people, one in Sealdah and another in Gariahat, last month.

“Sarkar was issued a government-owned service revolver, bearing butt number 38, along with 24 rounds of .38-calibre ammunition,’’ the report states. It was found that he would keep the service revolver and ammunition even when off-duty.

According to police rules, constables are to deposit their service revolver and cartridges at the nearest police station after duty hours. “He used the service revolver to extort money,’’ a police officer admitted.

Investigations also revealed that while working as security guard, Sarkar drew bills worth Rs 40,000 by furnishing a forged bill (no. 442/99-2000 TAR no. 9/2000).


Calcutta, Feb. 3: 
Date: 31 January.

Time: 12 noon.

Place: Howrah General Hospital emergency ward.

A few men bring in a woman, who’s clutching her stomach and doubling up in pain. They look for the doctor and, finding no one, seek a nurse’s help. The nurse directs them to a door. “You’ll find them in there,” she says, pointing to the restroom, where the hospital’s doctors are glued to the TV, watching the fifth One-Day International between India and England, in Delhi.

The men find the door bolted from within. They approach another which, though not locked, has a gatekeeper blocking entry.

“It’s an order,” he says. “The doctors have told me not to let anyone through,” he adds.

On Sunday, health secretary Asim Barman said he will seek a detailed report on what had happened at Howrah’s largest hospital on Thursday. “We are determined not to let things go on like this,” he said, as complaints continued to pour in against doctors who, patients said, were “busy” watching the Mumbai ODI.

This correspondent, present on the spot on Thursday, went in to inform the doctors of a patient awaiting treatment outside their restroom. Around 12 of them were sprawled across the room; some on hospital beds, others on benches. The small screen was the centre of attention.

The doctors heard out what was said. Their polite response was: “We have grown used to patients pestering us all day. If you really want to do something for the woman, please contact the superintendent.”

One of the doctors added: “When we go to meet the district magistrate or the superintendent of police, we, too, are treated similarly. Shouldn’t work ethics begin from the top?”

Superintendent H.K. Chanda admitted the incident was “very unfortunate. But what else can I say?” he asked, throwing up his hands. “Not all doctors, however, are like this,” he claimed.

On Sunday, complaints poured in about similar scenes at Howrah General Hospital. The response from a senior physician standing in for Chanda: “We have tried to remedy things.” Most of the doctors were working on Sunday, he claimed. “It may be that two or three are still not obeying our directives,” he said.

Health secretary Barman, however, was not convinced. “If anyone is found guilty of shirking work, he will not be spared,” Barman promised.


Calcutta, Feb. 3: 
The nameless, faceless cable operator, who just knocks on your door once a month for dues, could soon become your Man Everyday. He will pay your phone and power bills, double as an agent of your bank or credit card or insurance company, book your cooking gas, finalise your travel details, and organise sundry door-drops.

STAR has launched a co-branding joint-venture scheme with cable networks, designed to transform the cableman into a full-fledged service provider to the household. “We want to give the cable guy a complete image makeover, giving him credibility and reliability,” explains Peter Mukerjea, chief executive, India, STAR India Pvt Ltd.

By using the operator in 15 cities to provide value-added services, STAR hopes to expand the “Rs 5,000-crore market to Rs 10,000 crore in the next two-three years”. Mukerjea feels the cableman is sitting on “a goldmine” — access to around a lakh homes — without even realising it.

To start with, STAR is targeting “one major network” in each of these cities for the affiliated programme. In Calcutta, the broadcaster has first tied up with Howrah Cable Network, an independent service provider, for the joint-marketing exercise that could well serve to “organise and clean up” the business.

The network staff is trained in technology and customer service, gets a branded tool-kit, uniforms, walkie-talkies, ID cards and accident insurance up to a lakh of rupees. “We are trying to educate them and give them an identity, so that the viewers can rely on them for value-added services. Now, they are being imparted training on hardware and taught to be prompt and courteous. Later, we plan to provide them with software to help them improve content,” says STAR India’s eastern region distribution chief Rajeev Sharma.

The Howrah Cable Network is happy with this marriage of convenience. “It has lifted the image of our ground staff in the eyes of our subscribers and they are treated with more respect when they turn up in their smart uniforms,” says network managing director Dilip Pandey.

Mukerjea feels this formula offers a win-win situation for all. “If you look at the US model, you have the big brands like TCI and AT&T. When somebody walks in with an AT&T hat on, you don’t mind letting him into your home,” stresses the STAR boss.

The STAR management feels this coalition recipe can also help tackle the “menace” of under-declaration. “The operators do themselves the biggest disservice by being penny wise, pound foolish. They try and under-declare a bit here and there and then, are not able to go to the banks or financial institutions to borrow money. The banks are reluctant to provide loans because the cableman is seen as some kind of a dodgy character. We need to change that perception,” says Mukerjea.


Calcutta, Feb. 3: 
Students of Bengal Engineering College (Deemed University) have started returning to their hostels after the university authorities announced fresh dates for the examinations, postponed following student-staff clashes on December 23.

University registrar P.K. Roy said on Sunday that the first, third and fifth semester examinations will start on February 6.

All these examinations, originally scheduled for December 24, were postponed after the clashes. The exams slated for December 28 will now be held on and from February 8.

Examinations for final-year students will be held on February 11 and 12 and all supplementary tests on February 7.

Former dean of engineering and applied science faculties, BE College (Deemed University), Parimal Jyoti Roy Chowdhury, was erroneously referred to as Amaljyoti Roy Choudhury in Sunday’s edition.



Roadblock over disease outbreak

Traffic on Topsia Road came to a halt for four hours as local residents blocked the road from 11 am, demanding installation of more pumps to drain out water on the streets. Overflowing sewer channels have resulted in an outbreak of enteric disease and diarrhoea in Topsia. More than a dozen people have been admitted to the Infectious Diseases Hospital and National Medical College Hospital from C.N. Roy Road, Sapgachhi First Lane and Topsia Road. Member, mayor-in-council, health, Javed Ahmed Khan, feared a more acute outbreak of diarrhoea as filtered water lines were getting contaminated. To check the flow of the run-off water into the Topsia stormwater channel, all tanneries in the locality have been asked to suspend production, he said. The storm water channels carry sewer water of Ballygunge pumping station to the Vidyadhari river.

Ranikuthi market cave-in

There was panic at Ranikuthi market, in Tollygunge, run by the Corporation, after cracks developed on the walls and a portion caved in on Saturday night. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee and member, mayor-in-council, water, Sovandeb Chattopadhyay, visited the market on Sunday. The market was built almost a decade ago after filling a portion of a tank, measuring about six cottahs.

Three in custody

Police have detained three persons for interrogation in the Pranendra Roy Choudhury murder case in Lake Gardens. According to deputy commissioner of police, south, Kuldip Singh, investigation is in the final stages. Two of the detained youths have told investigators that Pranendra was involved in a relationship, which could have been the reason behind the murder.

Constable suicide

A constable of the Special Branch, D. Thapa, shot himself in the head with his service revolver at the police barracks on AJC Bose Road.

Water workshop

A workshop on the quality of drinking water and community garbage management in Joka was organised by Joka Organisation for Protection of Environment and Development on Sunday.    

Calcutta, Feb. 3: 
To shield herself from the wrath of Trinamul Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee, conservancy chief Mala Roy on Sunday denied any knowledge about the civic raid on Friday night, in which nearly 200 unauthorised structures were razed in the Hare Street area of B.B.D. Bag.

Sources in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) said though Roy had organised the anti-hawker drive and instructed officials about it, she suddenly “disappeared” on Friday afternoon. Municipal commissioner Debasis Som, who issued the clean-up order on Friday afternoon, sent officers in search of her, as her signature was required on the file okaying the drive.

But Roy could not be located and so Som and the civic officials asked mayor Subrata Mukherjee to intervene. The drive was conducted only after Mukherjee signed the file at 10.30 pm on Friday at his Gariahat residence.

“I don’t understand Mala’s approach. She told me on Friday afternoon that she had made all the arrangements and issued all the instructions for the drive,” said mayor Mukherjee.

Roy, however, said disclaimed all knowledge about the drive.“I have no idea about the clean-up and I have no comment on the issue,” she said on Sunday. CMC officials claimed she disassociated herself from the drive for fear of incurring Banerjee’s wrath.

Councillors close to the mayor fear Friday’s drive will spark another confrontation between Mukherjee and Mamata.

Earlier, they had quarrelled over the eviction of encroachers along Tolly’s Nullah. Mamata had demanded that rehabilitation packages be drawn up before the eviction.


Paschim Midnapore, Feb. 3: 
Police arrested five People’s War Group (PWG) activists from Lalgarh and Salboni this morning and recovered four rifles and ammunition from them.

District superintendent of police K.C. Meena said they were commanders of the PWG’s armed group and trained in the use of sophisticated weapons and explosives.

A large police contingent had raided Benagaria village under Lalgarh police station and Kalaimuri village under Salboni police station on a tip-off and rounded up the five Naxalites. Police said they were providing arms training in the area.

The arrested were identified as Rabilal Mandi, Gunadhar Mandi, Lakshmikanta Deb Singh, Ganesh Deb Singh and Ranjit Deb Singh. Some papers and letter found on them showed they kept in touch with their counterparts in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa. The police officer said they also maintained regular contact with the MCC in Nepal.

The crackdown on the Naxalites has gained steam after the arrest of a front-ranking PWG leader, Sanjay Mandi, from Garbeta on the eve of Republic Day. Police had raided a hideout when about 25 activists had assembled there. Mandi was nabbed but the others escaped.

Acting on the information given by Mandi during grilling, the police are tracing the other activists. “We are raiding different areas in search of the gang and expect the men will be in the police net soon, Meena said.

The police are also on the lookout for a gang that is spreading panic by mailing threat letters in the name of the PWG. At least 15 such letters have come to notice. “We have examined 10 letters issued in the name of the PWG and found them to be bogus,’’ Meena said.

Border firing

Two persons were killed and four injured when BSF jawans opened fire on a group trying to cross the Indo-Bangla border at Phulbari in North Dinajpur this morning, reports our correspondent.

Police said border guards on patrol found a large group trying to cross over by cutting the fencing. When they didn’t heed warnings, the jawans opened fire, killing Muhammad Sajid, 40, and Muhammad Azizul, 28.


Burdwan, Feb. 3: 
The state government has decided to set up a modern cancer hospital in collaboration with the Centre.

Director of medical education Chittaranjan Maity today said here a seven-bigha plot has been chosen near Bangur hospital in Tollygunge for the project. “We will provide land while the Centre will provide the funds for the proposed hospital. It will diagnose and treat cancer patients only,” he said, adding that the government has submitted a Rs 35-crore scheme to the Centre.

Maity, who will inspect some hospitals in the district tomorrow, added that the Chittaranjan Cancer Hospital in Bhowanipore would be upgraded to facilitate treatment of more patients. This apart, a treatment centre for kala azar and malaria patients will also come up in the city. “We have sought World Bank funds for the project,” he added.

The state has also renovated its state-of-the-art laboratory at the School of Tropical Medicine for research in bacteriology, radiology and dermatology. Union health minister C.P. Thakur, will inaugurate it tomorrow.


Calcutta, Feb. 3: 
Siddhartha Shankar Ray today promised Muslim leaders he would write to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, criticising some of his recent statements against unaffiliated madarsas.

Bhattacharjee had said last week that some unaffiliated madarsas were involved in anti-national activities.

Ray expressed “strong resentment” at the manner Bhattacharjee had singled out some madarsas and threatened action against them when he met a delegation of Muslim leaders at his Beltala residence this afternoon.

Ray volunteered to steer a campaign against the CPM’s “vindictive attitude” towards the community, leader of the delegation Sultan Ahmed said.


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