Teacher suit on tuition ban
Admit list for tots runs into revamp wall
Taking stock of IT firms
Script for screen ‘n’ shop success
The City Diary
Golden treasury of a building
Heritage takes a backseat in Howrah
Held in Jaipur for trader dupe
More work for civic staff
Commando shield for police at Lalbazar

Calcutta, Feb. 13: 
The government’s efforts to clamp down on private tuition by teachers of government-sponsored schools hit its first hurdle on Wednesday, with a teacher dragging it — and its recent circular — to Calcutta High Court.

Supriya Chattopadhyay, an assistant teacher in Andrew’s High (Higher Secondary) School and wife of Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay, Trinamul Congress legislator from Rashbehari, filed a writ petition challenging the government notification as a “humiliation, beneath the dignity” of the teaching community as a whole.

The notification directs teaching and non-teaching staff of government-sponsored schools to furnish a declaration stating that they are not engaged gainfully in other vocations, including private tuition.

Claiming that the new rules were a direct attack on the fundamental rights promised to the employee as an Indian citizen, Chattopadhyay said the notification “should be struck down immediately”. The matter will come up for hearing before Justice Alok Chakraborty on Friday.

The notification, issued on December 20 last year by the principal secretary of the secondary education department, asked the heads of all government-sponsored schools to collect the statements from every teacher and non-teaching staff.

Carefully worded, the notification brought every other vocation within its ambit by banning “any other trade, business and agency”. A check was also imposed on staff attendance, with a separate column on the declaration form devoted to a record of the employee’s attendance during the relevant quarter.

The new set of rules was aimed at weeding out corruption in schools — like a leak of questions or teachers forcing students to take private tuition, the government had said. Besides, a ban on private tuitionwould improve teachers’ performance in classrooms, it added.

A copy of the declaration was attached to the notification and sent to all the institutions. Schools that failed to furnish the statements by the end of a quarter would face penal action, as would the errant employee, the government had warned. It, however, allowed a grace period of a fortnight to the schools.

This is what Chattopadhyay’s petition termed “humiliating, illegal and arbitrary”. If an employee fulfilled his or her responsibilities and job requirements, there was no way any government or non-government organisation could issue directives on his or her activities outside the hours of duty, the petition argued.

“Imparting tuition at home, outside school hours, is a fundamental right of a teacher,” Chattopadhyay said. “It is also a teacher’s duty if he or she feels it is going to spread education,” she added.

And, according to petitioner’s advocate Kalyan Banerjee, not only teachers, but other government staff, as well as those in the private sector, are taking a keen interest in the case. The outcome could have a bearing on their careers too, they feel.


Calcutta, Feb. 13: 
Romola Jaiswal (not her real name) was rather happy one day last December after managing to put in an application for her three-year-old son’s admission to La Martiniere for Boys — a premier school controlled by the Church of North India (CNI).

The school authorities informed her and many others that they would have the list of children selected for interviews put up on January 25. “Rohan will make it. After all, he is a bright kid,” Jaiswal told herself.

On the appointed day, a few thousand anxious parents converged on the school for a look at the promised list. Instead of the list, they found a circular pasted on the school notice board.

“We regret our inability to post the names of candidates selected for the Lower Nursery 2002/2003 interviews scheduled on January 25, 2002. The delay is due to unavoidable circumstances,” the notice said.

“The names of the candidates should probably be up by the second week of February 2002. Please bear with us,” the authorities said in the circular.

However, to date, there has been no indication from the school on the date the list will be released, guardians allege.

“Never have we heard of a school like La Martiniere failing to put up the list of selected candidates,” said Jaiswal.

However, the problem is not unique to guardians desperately seeking to get their wards admitted to La Martiniere. The scene is similar at all schools under the Church of North India (CNI).

In a bid to make its admission rules “transparent and free of corruption”, the CNI has adopted a string of measures leading to the inordinate delay in releasing the lists of candidates.

“We appreciate the policy of the Church if it is really meant to make admissions graft-free. But we are concerned over the manner in which schools are delaying the process of admission,” said Subhendu Pal, another guardian wanting to admit his daughter to La Martiniere for Girls. “We don’t know when the list will be put up. How long do we have to wait?” he asked.

At St James, guardians have been waiting since the first week of January for the merit list for admissions.

“Every day, we queue up in front of the notice board, only to be told that the list will be put up later. Now, we are being told that February 19 is D-Day. But we won’t believe it till we see the list,” said an anxious parent.

Sources in the CNI said the admission procedure may drag on till May because of an elaborate procedure put into place by the CNI to draw up the final list of the selected candidates.

Under the new system, applications are being scrutinised by private computer firms. Earlier, the heads of the respective schools would monitor the admission procedure.

However, R. Flyn, principal, La Martiniere for Boys, hoped his school would be in a position to release the list by April, when the current academic session gets underway.

Death case hearing: US-based doctor Kunal Saha filed a fresh petition before Calcutta High Court on Wednesday, seeking a stay on the Anuradha Saha death case hearing by the West Bengal Medical Council. He claimed that the hearing was ex-parte. Saha said he would not appear at the hearing until the court decided on another suit he had filed to remove council president Ashok Chowdhury.

Saha claimed he would not get justice if Chowdhury was not removed, as he was “biased” to respondent Dr Sukumar Mukherjee, whose “wrong treatment killed Anuradha”. Saha’s petition will be heard on Thursday.


Calcutta, Feb. 13: 
How good are Calcutta click companies, anyway? To get the complete picture, the West Bengal government’s IT department and city-based Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) have come together to conduct the first “IT-capability study” for the state.

IT secretary D.P. Patra said on Wednesday the focus of the study would be on identifying the various IT-services companies in Calcutta and their areas of competence. “This is primarily a Chamber initiative. Our department has joined hands with the ICC, as it is in line with the government’s objective of promoting the state as a favoured destination for IT companies,” said Patra.

“The exercise is less a study and more a stock-taking of existing capabilities,” said Nazeeb Arif, secretary-general, ICC. “People have been talking about the potential of the state in the IT sector in the macro-perspective. But there has hardly been any attempt to go into the specifics and take stock of existing capabilities. Companies abroad, however, are keen to know these capabilities before they decide to off-load their projects here.”

The focus on “nuts and bolts” and the micro-perspective is what would make the study “different” from other such initiatives. “The aggregate performance in the past two quarters from software technology parks in the state has been satisfactory in comparison to some of the better-known IT centres in the country. The study can help sustain the growth rate and, if possible, improve the show,” added Arif.

The database from the study would comprise the core competence of the companies, their client list, human-resource capabilities, physical and sectoral distribution of their markets, the new domains and markets the company has plans to enter and their bottlenecks.

The entire exercise will be carried out by the newly-created ICC-IT forum, flagged off in January 2002. The Chamber has already compiled a list of around 170 city-based IT companies and its officials are confident of completing the study in two months.

“We will utilise the findings of the study to promote the state as one of the best destinations for IT outsourcing,” said Arif.

Part of the promotion push will be through networking with the Chamber’s counterparts in UK, Israel, Japan, Germany and US, as well as academic institutes and IT associations in these countries.


Calcutta, Feb. 13: 
Reel magic with retail mall. That’s the synergistic formula for future success, hitting town this Puja.

If things go according to screen-and-shop script, Calcutta’s cinema-lovers will have a brand new, “international-quality” destination to enjoy their favourite films at. Inox Leisure, which had been scouting for a partner to set up the first Inox multiplex in the city, has tied up with the Saraf Group to create a “state-of-the-art” multiple-theatre facility at Forum, the 200,000-sq-ft lifestyle mall coming up on Elgin Road.

“We hope to make an auspicious start in Calcutta by bringing in the Inox experience to the city during Durga Puja. We are very excited, since this will be our maiden foray into the organised cinema exhibition industry in the east,” Shishir Baijal, CEO, Inox Leisure Ltd, said after signing the agreement with Saraf Group director Rahul Saraf on Wednesday.

If Inox will be the showpiece of the entertainment section of the Elgin Road centre, Shoppers’ Stop will anchor the retail segment. “This will enable Calcuttans to enjoy a complete lifestyle experience at Forum,” said Saraf. Spread over 60,000 sq ft, the retail chain, with a turnover of around Rs 350 crore, is bullish about doing business in Calcutta. “We are coming to town a month before the Pujas to give Calcuttans a never-before shopping experience,” says Shashi Kumar of Shoppers’ Stop Ltd.

Inox hopes to open its doors within weeks of the Shoppers’ Stop launch, turning Forum into a model e-zone for the future. Baijal, an ex-Xaverian, feels the location lends itself perfectly to a multiplex: “The place is close to prime residential and commercial developments as well as educational institutions, besides being well connected to the Metro. The overall tenant-mix of the mall, too, is synergistic with the profile of Inox, which aims at catering to the latent demand for destination entertainment in the country.”

The multiplex at Forum will be spread over 30,000 sq ft and comprise four theatres, accommodating approximately 1,000 in stadium-seating format. Likely to be designed by Walker Architects of New Zealand, the multiplex will use projection systems from Christie’s of the US, JBL speakers, Dolby EX/DTS sound and Harkness screens “to guarantee perfect images”. These details ensure that the movie is seen and heard at “optimum performance levels…, just as the director would have intended”.

Inox plans to offer the city cinegoer Hollywood, Bollywood and Tollywood, with staggered show timings, theme theatre-food courts and computer ticketing. Inox Leisure, which is investing Rs 9 crore in the Forum facility, is looking at the possibility of “at least one more” multiplex in the city. “However, the immediate vicinity should be able to sustain the project,” said Baijal.



Shanties cleared in demolition drive

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation demolished hundreds of shanties and unauthorised shops on the pavements along Free School Street, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road, Camac Street, Marquis Street and other nearby areas early on Wednesday. The drive, which started around midnight, continued till the early hours of Wednesday. There was no resistance from any quarter.

Court stays BSF notice

Justice K.J. Sengupta on Wednesday stayed a notification of the Border Security Force sending one of its jawans, posted at Baranagar with the 122nd Battalion, to the Kashmir border. The man is reportedly ill and has been advised to go in for a kidney operation.

Man dies

A quarrel with his brother claimed the life of a man in Dakshinshantinagar, Howrah, on Wednesday. Police said he sustained a massive heart attack during an argument and died on the spot. The younger brother was arrested on the basis of a complaint lodged by the wife of the deceased.

Cell scheme

Cell phone service provider Command announced ‘Talk More’, a new plan, for its post-paid segment on Wednesday. Under this scheme, to be effective from February 14, the monthly rental charge will be Rs 295, with Rs 1.95 for incoming and outgoing calls per minute ( till 175 minutes) and Re 1 for incoming and outgoing calls (more than 175 minutes).

Film fest

The first international social communication cinema festival, featuring Indian and Italian films, will be organised in the city from February 15 to 21. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will inaugurate the festival. The consul-general of Italy in Calcutta, Domenico Benincasa, and filmmaker Mrinal Sen will be present.

Superfast trains

To cope with the extra rush of passengers this summer, South Eastern Railway will run 57 pairs of superfast summer special trains on different days between April 6 and July 1. Of these, 13 pairs of weekly super deluxe summer specials will run between Howrah and Chennai. This is for the first time in the history of SER that such super deluxe specials (superfast and fully air-conditioned with pantry car) will be introduced.

Green forest

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee will inaugurate a green project on the Bypass on Saturday. The project was undertaken by the Corporation and the P.C. Chandra Group to turn the solid waste ground to a “green forest”.

Pilgrim special

Elaborate security arrangements have been made for the Pilgrim Special, carrying 1,000 Bangladeshi pilgrims of Anjuman-e-Quadr through the Gede border en route to Midnapore, for the annual Urs festival there. The train will reach Midnapore on February 17. Thumbs Up TO shree radhakissen kanoria trust for donating an eye micro-surgery unit to the SVS Marwari Hospital    

Calcutta, Feb. 13: 
For a heritage building it is beautifully maintained. Nearly 200 years old, it is smart in red with cream highlights. The mouldings look surprisingly crisp. A notice on the groundfloor next to the wooden staircase says it is not to be used by three persons at a time, and “carrying materials by headload is prohibited.”

But leaking water has insidiously damaged the terrace and weakened the lime mortar concrete that is used as a binder in this brick structure. Showing rare foresight, the administration is embarking on a project to restore it.

The imposing Treasury Building, which is the office of the principal accountant general, West Bengal, opposite the Raj Bhavan was built in 1884. Like most colonial buildings its architecture is hybridised — a mix of Gothic and Renaissance. But after Independence, concrete structures were slapped on without any consideration for either after-effects or its history.

The Central Public Works Department built a concrete roof, which destroyed its original character. Earlier, jack arches with lime concrete fillings were built over steel beams. Over the fillings were brightly coloured Minter tiles. The neighbouring Town Hall too has them.

Architect Partha Ranjan Das, who was involved in the restoration of the Town Hall and has been awarded the Treasury Building project, says the main problem is the structures added on to the terrace. These serve as the canteen and kitchen, and water seeps through them.

Water coolers and sinks have been installed all along the corridors and this has compounded the seepage problem. There are damp patches on the lime concrete terrace. The lime concrete has expanded and has become crumbly. Consequently, cracks have appeared in the tiles. But before further damage could be done, the AG Bengal authorities are going in for restoration.

AG Bengal’s activities are on the rise, and the electrical lines and plumbing are very ill-planned. A toilet has been added and water drips from the exposed plumbing on the Raj Bhavan side.

Das says his main job will be to streamline the electrical lines and the plumbing. Computers will be introduced there soon which will ease the workload. For pensioners it means less humiliation and harassment.

The modernisation process is being carried out keeping the heritage character of the building in mind. The seating system and storage space too will be redesigned. If only such consideration was shown for other heritage buildings occupied by the government, either state or central, and its undertakings. Das feels that once it is restored, the building is bound to last another century and more.

Das has undertaken another restoration project which is more directly linked with culture of this city. It is common knowledge that the Jorasanko campus of Rabindra Bharati University is housed in the ancestral building of the Tagores. But hidden from the public eye is another building with a history on its Barrackpore Trunk Road campus.

This is Markat Kunja which was possibly built by Maharshi Debendrnath’s father. It was in the Renaissance style, but thanks to the public works department’s callousness, it doesn’t resemble its original self any longer. The biggest eyesore is a 20ft by 30 ft portico appended to it.

Das says the service lines are overgrown with saplings and the verandahs are unsafe. The building used to house the library but it has been shifted elsewhere. The wooden doors and windows are beautfully carved. The steel columns at the centre of the building are encased in ornamental woodwork with hinges. So these panels can be opened like a cabinet.

The basement has a swimming pool, but overflowing with garbage as it is, it cannot be accessed. Das came to know of it from an engineer of the construction board of the PWD who had repaired it in 1953.


Calcutta, Feb. 13: 
Lack of initiative by the Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC) councillors has resulted in heritage structures of the town remaining unlisted.

The civic authorities last year asked about 50 councillors to submit a report on the heritage structures.

To date, not a single councillor has got back to the civic body. There are only eight listed structures declared under the Land Use and Development Control Plan Act of the CMDA.

The list includes the railway station building, Town Hall, the telegraph office building, Clock Tower, Madhusudan Building, Workshop building, Downing Hall and the Heaton Hall of Bengal Engineering College.

The HMC had earlier advertised in dailies, seeking public participation in heritage listing, but there, too, it drew a blank.

Mayor Gopal Mukherjee said it was unfortunate that the response was dismal. “Despite a funds crunch, we are trying to save Howrah’s heritage structures. We will now approach the state government for its assistance,” he added.

Fed up with the apathy towards heritage structures, municipal commissioner Chanchal Bandhopadhyay, at the mayor’s instance, has directed the town architects to draw up a comprehensive list.

According to HMC chief architect Basudeb Mukherjee, the guidelines for preservation of heritage structures at the recently-held conferences in Nairobi and Venice are vital.

“It is important to find out the original shades of paint and the material used in the missing or damaged portions of the ancient structures. We are going to follow the guidelines set by John Raw, a renowned UK architect who had visited India twice in 1998 as part of the London trade delegation,” said Mukherjee.

Earlier, Raw had advised the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) on preserving its heritage structures.

Mukherjee said he was dissatisfied with the list of heritage structures provided by the CMDA. There are at least 250 historic structures in the 500-year-old town, most of which are in a shambles.

Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) experts felt some of the buildings bear the stamp of exquisite craftsmanship.

“Promoters have already targeted these buildings. If the civic body does not take steps immediately, Howrah’s heritage will soon be a thing of the past,” said an architect attached to the ASI.


Calcutta, Feb. 13: 
Siddhartha Mitra, a resident of Jaipur, was arrested recently on a complaint lodged by a city-based garments trader.

Investigators returned from the Pink City on Wednesday and produced Mitra at the chief metropolitan magistrate’s court. He was remanded in police custody till February 16.

Zulfiquar Hasan, deputy commissioner, central division, said: “Mitra will be interrogated at Hare Street police station on Thursday. We suspect he cheated the trader of lakhs. We also want to ascertain if he cheated other businessmen.”

Sources said Mitra worked as an export-import agent. In the course of business, he met the trader, Raju Agarwal, last year and hit upon a plot to cheat him.

Nihar Ranjan Guha, believed to be the Calcutta agent appointed by Mitra, met Agarwal and assured him of an order of Rs 28 lakh.

“Guha told Agarwal that he would have to pay Rs 7.1 lakh as commission and send the cheque to the Jaipur office. Agarwal agreed, because the deal sounded lucrative,” said a police officer.

Agarwal issued an account-payee cheque to the Jaipur address of the company. He was then told to send 100 samples of shirt-pieces for the inspection certificate.

“Agarwal send the samples and got a fax from Mitra confirming that the quality of the shirt-pieces was fine. Agarwal was also told to start production immediately,” said a police officer.

But after a few months, there was no response from Mitra’s office. When Agarwal called Guha and asked for an explanation, the latter denied any role in the deal.

Agarwal then lodged a complaint with Hare Street police station. Guha was picked up from his Salt Lake residence last year.

The police decided to go to Jaipur to pick up Mitra. The city team contacted the Jaipur superintendent of police B.L. Soni. Together, they surrounded Mitra’s house late in the night and rounded him up. Mitra was also produced in a local court in Jaipur, before being brought back to the city.


Calcutta, Feb. 13: 
More than 43,000 employees of Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) will have to work for an extra half-an-hour, without pay, from April, for irregular timings.

Working hours on weekdays will be extended to 5.30 pm from April 1. On Saturdays, work will end at 2.30 pm. The proposal was passed in the mayor-in-council meeting on Wednesday. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee said the staff would have to log in a total of around 39 hours a week.

Sources said 98 per cent of employees do not turn up for duty till 11.30 am. “Post-noon session, work is almost at a standstill, since the staff leave office early,” they added. “But attendance registers show correct timings,” said a chief engineer

Member, mayor-in-council, Pradip Ghosh, criticised the move. “It is bogus. Things would be better if the mayor reduces the working hours,” he added.


Calcutta, Feb. 13: 
The day after a visit by a Kashmir Police group took Lalbazar by surprise, there was an unprecedented security beef-up at the Calcutta Police headquarters.

From the ‘in’ gate on Lalbazar Street to the chamber of Soumen Mitra, deputy commissioner, detective department, there was special security at every step on Wednesday.

Mitra, overseeing the probe into the attack on the American Center, refused to attach too much importance to the presence of a commando at his door. “All this is part of a general security beef-up at Lalbazar,” he said.

But sources said Tuesday’s incident — in which the sudden entry of a jeep marked ‘ministry of defence’ and carrying Kashmir Police personnel had sparked pandemonium at Lalbazar — had prompted Wednesday’s dramatic spurt in security. “The police had been caught completely off-guard and when the men in the jeep uttered the word ‘Kashmir’, all hell broke loose,” an official admitted. “It was clear that any vehicle with a government label could enter Lalbazar unchecked.”

Banibrata Basu, deputy commissioner (headquarters), admitted that there was a “general threat perception” hanging heavy over Lalbazar since the January 22 attack on policemen outside the American Center. “The deployment of commandos to guard police officers is nothing extraordinary. The life of a senior officer conducting the Center probe is as valuable as a sub-inspector’s, and so we have decided to step up security throughout Lalbazar,” said Basu.


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