Chop Gol Park, curb chaos
Rating prod for colleges
Wanted American deported
Popeye blocks Zee blackout
The City Diary
Book break from street squalor
Blood flows in tenant row
A gift of tongues, a taste for India
Wasted water draws levy in Howrah
Trio in net with Osama snaps

 
 
CHOP GOL PARK, CURB CHAOS 
 
 
BY SUVRO ROY
 
Calcutta, Feb. 12 : 
Gol Park — the roundabout defining a vital stretch of south Calcutta — will soon be reduced to a much smaller circle, with the greens being replaced by road space. And the mayor is not amused.

Officials on Tuesday confirmed that the park off Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture will have to be pruned in order to prevent a “traffic bottleneck” extending from Dhakuria, once the Gariahat flyover becomes functional.

“We are going to shift the centre of Gol Park to make it into a smaller circle,” said Swadesh Chakraborty, chairman of the Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners (HRBC), the agency implementing the Gariahat flyover project.

Subrata Mukherjee, a resident of Gariahat, was quick to slam the move to cut Gol Park down.

“The flyover was not required in the first place. And now comes the carving up of Gol Park, which is equally meaningless. All this will add to the traffic chaos in south Calcutta, rather than solving it,” grumbled the mayor.

“Gol Park is an integral part of south Calcutta… The city will lose some of its greenery and the park will bear testimony to how faulty planning can ruin one of the city’s landmarks,” he added.

Mukherjee said the original plan of the flyover was conceived two decades ago, when Gariahat Road was congested with hawkers.

“After the removal of hawkers from the pavements and the boulevard, Gariahat Road looked like the Maidan. Narrowing down the boulevards could have widened the road. Then, at least, the character of Gariahat could have been preserved. Now, with Gol Park being sliced in half, Gariahat will look like a strange place, with a huge, ugly, 2,000-tonne, steel-and-concrete hump on its back,” alleged Mukherjee, advocating a flyover at Ballygunge Phari, instead.

That’s something HRBC officials agree with. “We have sent in a proposal for the Ballygunge Phari flyover to the Centre, which will require another Rs 30 -crore loan from the Japanese Bank of International Cooperation (JBIC). The transport department is trying to push the project through and we hope the project will be cleared soon to ease traffic congestion in south Calcutta,” said Chakraborty.

He, however, claimed that the Gariahat flyover and the new-look Gol Park would combine to solve some of the traffic problems in the area.

“We will divert the fast-lane traffic through the flyover and this arrangement will definitely reduce the peak-hour chaos here,” Chakraborty said.

Work on widening the 40-ft circular road at Gol Park “by about 30 feet” will be taken up once the Gariahat flyover is readied for commissioning on Poila Boisakh, April 15.

Refashioning Gol Park is, in fact, only part of a bigger plan. In order to prevent traffic snarls on the various streets and lanes off Gol Park, the authorities are also thinking in terms of reducing footpaths and creating as much road space as possible.

The high volume of traffic at Gol Park, according to experts, will create chaos at Purna Das Road, Kankulia Road, Fern Road, Panchanantala, Ekdalia Place, Suren Thakur Road and the stretches along Bijon Setu unless Gol Park is reduced.

Chief secretary Sourin Roy, meanwhile, held a meeting with the HRBC and transport department officials to review the progress of work at Gariahat on Monday and asked them to complete the 571-metre flyover by March 31. The JBIC is funding the Rs 30-crore project.

   

 
 
RATING PROD FOR COLLEGES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 12 : 
Nearly 20 colleges in the city and a dozen from the districts have been asked by the state government to seek accreditation from the National Assessment and Accreditation Committee (NAAC) on Tuesday.

Among the colleges identified in the first phase are Ashutosh, Scottish Church, Surendranath, Basanti Devi, Vidyasagar and Dinabandhu Andrews.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has made it obligatory for all universities and government-funded colleges to acquire NAAC accreditation to avail of government funds.

Presidency College, Maulana Azad, Bethune, Brabourne and Goenka College of Commerce and Business Administration, run by the state higher education department, will be short-listed in the second phase, sources said.

The state government’s move to direct nearly 35 colleges to seek accreditation is aimed at getting an official approval from the UGC about infrastructure standards.

“A high rating will indicate superior infrastructure which, in turn, will give the state government enough ground to introduce post-graduate courses,” sources added.

Refuting the allegations, Nirmalya Banerjee, senior official of the West Bengal Higher Education Council, said: “Many of the colleges selected have excellent infrastructure and there is no reason why they should not get a high rating.”

NAAC officials will visit the city on February 20, to meet principals of the selected colleges.

Considering the rising demand for post-graduation seats, the move to introduce such courses in Maulana Azad and Dinabandhu Andrews colleges met with stiff opposition last year. According to university teachers, under-graduate colleges lack infrastructure and teachers to run post-graduate courses.

   

 
 
WANTED AMERICAN DEPORTED 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 12 : 
A US citizen, with criminal charges pending against him in his country, was deported from Calcutta on Tuesday. According to deputy commissioner of police, security control, P.K. Chatterjee, the Union home ministry had sent a “look-out notice” to some states, including West Bengal, saying that a US national, Buck Darrel, was likely to arrive in India on his way to a West Asian country.

The US had earlier sent a notice to the Indian government, requesting that if Darrel did touch down in any Indian city, “he may please be intercepted and deported to the US”. This message, conveyed by the Centre, was forwarded to the Immigration officials at Calcutta airport.

Officials said Darrel arrived in Calcutta on a flight from London on Saturday. He was detained and questioned at the airport and his identity verified before being put on a flight back to London on Monday. “All his papers were in order,” Chatterjee said. “He was travelling on a valid passport and visa to India. But because of the notice from the authorities, we had to deport him.”

Officials said during questioning, Darrel had said he wanted to travel to Bagdogra and thereafter, head for the hills. “We do not know whether he had tourism in mind, or some other interest,” an officer said. “He wouldn’t say much and neither were we interested, because he was being pushed back.”

Darrel had been wanted in the US for the past few years and the deportation request had been pending with the Indian government for some time. However, it was only recently that intelligence reports from the US alerted the Indian authorities that Darrel “may soon be making an entry into India”.

Valley visitors: A drama unfolded at Lalbazar on Tuesday that saw several senior police officers grill “suspected Kashmiri terrorists”, who later turned out to be “policemen” from the Valley, on a sightseeing tour of the city.

Around 5 pm, a white Tata Sumo, with a “ministry of defence” sticker and nine people on board, was stopped a few metres within the main entrance. Automatic weapon-toting commandos surrounded the car while securitymen scurried to fetch their superiors. A brief interrogation revealed “the mistake”.

“These men are cops from Kashmir, here to buy firearms from the Cossipore Gun and Shell factory. On Tuesday, they borrowed a car from the factory to go sightseeing. We have verified their claims,” said a senior sleuth.

   

 
 
POPEYE BLOCKS ZEE BLACKOUT 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, Feb. 12 : 
The Zee bouquet is what Calcutta cable homes can give up with the “least fuss”. That’s the feedback from most cable operators, desperately seeking cost-cutting options to cope with mounting pay-channel rates. The one thing stopping operators from blacking out the package is neither Sandhya Mridul in Koshish… Ek Aashaa on Zee TV, nor Robert de Niro in Raging Bull on Zee MGM — but Popeye and Tom and Jerry on Cartoon Network.

“From what we have gathered, not many will miss the fare on Zee. But kids glued to Cartoon Network will really suffer. Ironically, it is the broadcaster’s strategic tie-up with Turner that is stopping us from pressing the block-Zee button,” says a cable operator under the RPG Netcom umbrella.

Zee, which now comes to cable and satellite homes on a common platform with Turner, has hiked rates from Rs 25 to Rs 41 for its bouquet, plus HBO and Cartoon Network, from February 1.

Netcom operators have found the jump “unacceptable”. Hectic parleys are on among members of the various cable associations in the city to try and find a formula to “stay in business”.

Saddled with an “ever-increasing pay-out”, the para cable operator finds himself in a precarious position — unable to pass on the entire burden to the consumer fearing a backlash and struggling to bear the additional channel cost burden.

“The only option before us is to block one major platform and soften the blow on the consumer,” says Tarak Saha, secretary, Forum of Cable Operators (FCO). And given the viewer’s choice, Zee is clearly first on the blackout block.

SitiCable franchisees, however, have sounded a warning for those backing a Zee blockade. “We have made it clear to our member operators that if they find it difficult to pay for the bouquet, they are free to leave our platform. There is no way we can black out Zee, which is our parent company,” says the director of a SitiCable headend.

“The optimum monthly subscription per cable home for business to be viable should be around Rs 300-325 at the present outgo on our part, if we are to declare our entire connectivity,” explains a spokesman for FCO. “That, in a price-sensitive market like Calcutta, is completely out of the question.”

Cable Television Operators’ Association (CTOA), another major cablemen’s body in the city, confirms the “possibility” of one package being blacked out if talks on price rollback or negotiations on declaration levels fall through.

“We would love to give our customers all the pay channels on offer, but if the broadcasters’ rates are not acceptable, one platform might have to go for us to remain in business. As things stand now, a Zee blackout would hurt the viewer the least,” observes an operator.

Some operators are also waiting for a new player, with a bouquet of eight pay channels, to stage an entry. This fresh platform, Manoranjan Aur Kya (MAK), is expected to hit the beam by early-March and is billed to provide “a poor man’s alternative to Zee”, in case the latter is dumped, say operators.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Click glitch in New Alipore voter mystery

The mystery of the two-storeyed New Alipore building which “houses 604 people” was solved on Tuesday when chief electoral officer Sabyasachi Sen attributed the absurdity to a computer glitch. All the 604 people are legitimate voters who live in New Alipore’s Block G. They do not live in the same house but on premises numbering 371 to 421. “What happened was a computer entry error and I have issued instructions for immediate rectification,” Sen said.

Man dies in taxi

A 52-year-old Guwahati-bound passenger died in a taxi on his way to the Dum Dum airport on Tuesday morning. Officials said Sankar Prasad Mullick, a senior bank employee, was to take an Indian Airlines flight to Guwahati. He boarded the taxi on Surya Sen Street. On arrival at the airport, the driver called out to him but did not get any response. He contacted the airport manager on duty. A doctor was called who pronounced him dead, officials said.

Held for extortion

Three men were arrested for extortion from New Alipore on Tuesday morning. DC (south) Kuldip Singh said Ratan Halder, Pulak Naskar and Sonu Mondol had assembled near a shop when a police team picked them up. Two firearms were also recovered.

Shop gutted

A grocery store in Jadubabu’s market, Bhowanipore, was gutted early on Tuesday. Fire brigade sources said seven engines were used for over an hour to douse the flames. The cause of fire was not known.

Club clash

A clash broke out between members of two clubs on Tuesday at Rajarhat over who would perform the last rites of a 65-year-old local resident. Police said the deceased had no children and was extremely popular with the boys of both clubs. The matter was resolved following the intervention of the deceased’s nephew.

Run over

A middle-aged man was run over by a private bus near Bagbazar on Tuesday. Police said the driver of the bus fled leaving the vehicle behind. The bus has been impounded.

Bus theft arrest

One more person was arrested in connection with Monday’s theft of Rs 6 lakh from a minibus passenger at Posta. So far, Rs 2.89 lakh has been recovered from the arrested persons. Zakir Hossain had earlier been arrested from Tiljala. The gang members hailed from Canning in South 24-Parganas, police said.

Train flagged off

A new Howrah-Rampurhat Intercity Express was flagged off by S.K.Chaudhuri, divisional manager of Eastern Railway, Howrah, on Tuesday. The train will leave Howrah at 2.55 pm to reach Bolpur at 5.30 pm and Rampurhat at 7.05 pm. On the return journey, the train will start from Rampurhat at 7.10 am and leave Bolpur at 8.17 am. It will reach Howrah at 11.25 am. It will not run on Sundays.

Office assault

Four youths raided a clearing agent’s office on Bentinck Street on Tuesday night and assaulted some workers. Thumbs Up TO lions club of calcutta royal for organising a free health check-up camp at Girish Park    

 
 
BOOK BREAK FROM STREET SQUALOR 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, Feb. 12 : 
Shehnaz breaks into an impromptu jig midway into the skit session. For the 10-year-old girl, home in the nearby slums is a perennial struggle against odds and these two hours she spends in the library, is pure bliss, as she can do her own thing, not pressured by her mother into odd jobs as domestic help.

It’s pretty much the same story with Ikramul, who enjoys his drama lessons with Shehnaz and at 13, is also a budding athlete. He can’t wait to enter the premises of the Apeejay School with kid brother Kabir five days a week, to have a whale of a time, and hates going back to their dark and dingy cubbyhole in the adjacent bustee.

The Apeejay Anand Children’s Library is a library with a difference. Founded in April 1991 in the memory of Anand Paul of the Paul family, who died under tragic circumstances in 1989, the library was started mainly to cater to the needs of underprivileged children. “It’s the only library in Calcutta that opens its doors to streetchildren,” says Reeta Chatterjee, principal, Apeejay School.

Unlike most other school libraries which cater to the needs of their own students, this one allows streetchildren access to its collection of over 12,000 books, toys, visual aids and even computers.

The library, which has been refurbished with a colourful creative wall depicting story characters, clay-modelling, Internet facilities and educational videos, will be re-launched by sheriff Sunil Gangopadhyay on Thursday.

Having started off with just 14 kids from nearby slums, the library is now used by almost 300 streetchildren. “Initially, we had a tough time going to the Mullickbazar bustees, trying to convince the parents that it was a good idea to send their children to our library,” says the principal.

Students of Apeejay School are encouraged to help the underprivileged children. “With this in mind, we started a project called ‘Each one teach one’ where students of Class IX are encouraged to teach and interact with these streetchildren in a one-to-one student-teacher relationship. Students of the school have also been forthcoming in helping these needy children by contributing books, pencils, erasers as well as old clothes,” adds Chatterjee.

The library also assists in getting these streetchildren into affiliated schools, “to enable them to join the mainstream of life”.

   

 
 
BLOOD FLOWS IN TENANT ROW 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 12 : 
A man was assaulted by his fellow-tenant at Narayantala in Baguiati on Tuesday. The injured was admitted to RG Kar Medical College and Hospital in a critical condition. Two persons were arrested.

Police said the house was rented to two tenants — Jaydeep Ghosh and Jaiprakash Tewari.

Of late, Tewari had started telling Ghosh that he had purchased the house. He even asked him to vacate the house or “face dire consequences”.

Ghosh was taking time to make alternative arrangements, which infuriated Tewari. He would even abuse his neighbour’s wife, a relative alleged.

On Tuesday, when Ghosh was going out, Tewari hit him on the head with an iron rod. He fell to the ground bleeding profusely.

Police said Tewari and a relative tried to flee but were caught by local residents and handed over them to the police. The landlady of the house is being interrogated to find out whether she had sold the house to Tewari.

   

 
 
A GIFT OF TONGUES, A TASTE FOR INDIA 
 
 
BY SOUMITRA DAS
 
Calcutta, Feb. 12 : 
Chance determined that Graham Shaw should study Sanskrit and Hindi at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). His neighbour in Kent, where he was raised, used to be employed there, and she persuaded him to enrol himself there.

Till then, the word “Sanskrit” only existed for him in his Latin dictionary. Later in life, too, chance intervened, and instead of studying Indian archaeology in Pune, he was compelled to take up a job at the SOAS Library. Both his parents died in 1972, and it was imperative that he seek employment.

Currently, Shaw heads the Asian section of British Library. Having written the monumental Printing in Calcutta to 1800 on the 200th anniversary of Halhed’s Bengali grammar in 1978-79, he is an acknowledged expert on the publishing trade in south Asia. And to think that originally, he wanted to study German in college. Shaw was in Calcutta recently to give a series of lectures.

After three years at the SOAS Library, he joined the British Library in 1974. It proved to be a life sentence. In those days, this library used to be “physically located” in the British Museum building. It was formed from the old departments of the museum library. For somebody fascinated with archaeology from childhood, wandering around the empty galleries after five, as he used to, was beyond his wildest dreams.

During the next 10 years, he acquired, catalogued, replied to public inquiries, tried to read manuscripts at the library and identify the ones brought to him. So he taught himself the half a dozen Indian languages he had to deal with. He vividly remembers his first office in a part of the museum building, “romantically styled ‘the Sanskrit corridor’, because of the collection of Sanskrit books housed there.”

After this stint, he needed a change. A self-confessed “solitary character”, Shaw, an only child, “forced myself to work with other people.” The India Office Library & Records had been transferred to the British Library. Shaw moved to the library as head of Western languages — that is, books on India in English and other languages. This was a “much bigger task”, and it entailed acquiring books on India. It was then that he became interested in the history of publishing in India.

But it was not pure and unstinted love of knowledge alone that impelled him to write a book on publishing in India. He wanted to set right the errors he discovered in a book on that subject by an expert on Italian books named Dennis Rhodes. Gifted with an understated sense of humour, Shaw recalls: “He had missed things in our own collection”.

His first article was on Oriya printing, and he sent Dennis a copy of it. Dennis thought it was quite “naughty of me” to mention him in the footnotes. By this time, in 1974, he had already visited India as a guest lecturer for a travel agency. He did so for three successive years.

Gradually, his interest extended to Calcutta. He discovered that 25 years before Serampore and Fort William, Calcutta, the first centre of English language publishing in India, had a flourishing trade in publishing.

“There were more daily newspapers here than in London. There were books of poetry, medicine and Indian history, travelogues and editions of Persian poetry. This was the flowering of the first great interest in Indology,” says Shaw. But few if any were aware of it. So Printing in Calcutta to 1800 happened.

In 1981, he published another tome on printing in the entire country, where 1800 is regarded as a landmark. But publishing had already begun in Goa in 1556 and he wanted to include the “pre-history.” That took him to Bombay, Goa, Calcutta, Madras, Delhi, Colombo, Paris and Copenhagen. That book was never distributed in India. He wants to bring out a second volume. The text of the book has been fed into his computer. He has turned his attention to the 19th Century and is trying to analyse the scale of book production. Tied up as he is with his work, it has not seen light of day yet. Perhaps it will, when he retires in four years’ time.

   

 
 
WASTED WATER DRAWS LEVY IN HOWRAH 
 
 
BY A CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Feb. 12 : 
Alarmed over the waste of drinking water at residential, industrial and commercial complexes, the Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC) is all set to impose water tax in the town.

“We will soon impose a water tax, as gallons are wasted every day in the area. I visited a number of places to check waste from roadside connections,” said mayor Gopal Mukherjee.

Civic officials said talks were on to improve the infrastructure and put an end to wasteful expenditure. HMC commissioner Chanchal Bandopadhyay told Metro: “We have no option but to lay new pipelines and modernise our water treatment plant. The corporation can no longer supply free water. Whatever we earn will be spent on improving services. We intend to lay emphasis on regular supply of filtered water.”

The civic body, however, does not have the current figures of connections being used. As a result, it is not able to maintain its accounts and determine the revenue loss.

Sources said the HMC might seek Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s assistance on the proposed tax structure. “We may opt for consolidated and bulk rates, but the industrial and commercial connections will be our first target. Such houses earn crores, so it is their duty to pay for the water,” said an official.

   

 
 
TRIO IN NET WITH OSAMA SNAPS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 12 : 
Security agencies intercepted three persons with photographs of Osama bin Laden and other incriminating documents at the Bidhannagar railway station on Tuesday evening.

Police said 23-year-old Mohammad Mubarak of Hazaribagh was carrying a colour photograph of the terrorist. Documents were seized from his companions, Mohammad Manju and Mohammad Abdul of Giridih.

“The three are being interrogated and will be produced in court on Wednesday,” deputy inspector-general of police, railways, S.R. Das said.

Police said Mubarak, Manju and Abdul had reached the city a couple of months earlier. They had come to Bidhannagar station on Tuesday to board a train to Sealdah.

“Officials of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) spotted them moving around in a suspicious manner,’’ a railway police inspector said.

A search was conducted, which yielded the pictures and the documents. The three were then taken into custody and handed over to the government railway police (GRP). The trio was brought to the Sealdah GRP office for questioning. Officers of the CID, IB and SIB also reached the police station, to be present during interrogation.

“Manju said he and his friends were labourers and had gone to Ultadanga on some work. But they failed to explain Laden’s pictures and the documents,’’ said special inspector-general of CID, V.V. Thambi.

The state police have got in touch with their counterparts in Hazaribagh and Giridih to check on the trio’s antecedents.

   
 

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