April date for admission list
Mayor muzzles Society probe
Roses all the way at Raj Bhavan
Shopkeeper fired at for credit denial
Motorcyclist in Salt Lake snatch-shoot
Museum caught in cost-share conflict
The City Diary
Unions reject extra hours
Cupid’s own in missive mode
Fish market flush-out

Calcutta, Feb. 14: 
Prominent schools in the city controlled by the Calcutta diocese of the Church of North India (CNI) held meetings on Thursday to ensure the early release of the final lists of candidates selected to their nursery classes.

Fearing public criticism in case of a further delay by the authorities in completing the admission process, CNI officials visited some of the schools on Thursday to scrutinise the applications and direct the board members of the selection committees to complete the job by April, sources said.

The Telegraph reported on Thursday the CNI decision to curtail powers of the heads of schools controlled by it as part of its new admission policy, introduced from the current year. The move led to chaos in the admission procedures in the schools.

Church officials said on Thursday that the final selection of candidates would be completed within April, when the academic session 2002-2003 is scheduled to begin.

Private computer firms have been engaged for the first time for scrutinising applications. “The new admission rules have been framed with a noble intention. The problems the schools are facing are temporary. We hope to overcome them in the years to come,” said Jahanara Thomas, secretary, Diocesan Board of Education of the CNI, who handles academic matters of the schools under the Church.

“Over the years, parents have been questioning the fairness of the admission procedures in schools controlled by the CNI. This prompted the Bishop, as head of the CNI, to adopt the new policy,” said Thomas.

Sources in the CNI said board members of schools like Pratt Memorial and St Thomas’ Day School, La Martiniere for Boys and La Martiniere for Girls held meetings on Thursday to discuss ways to expedite the admission process. “The selection of candidates is almost over. We will soon announce the date for putting up the list,” said a board member of St Thomas.

A member of Pratt Memorial, however, admitted that the preparation of lists was still in a preliminary stage and the school was in no position to announce the date of the final list.

As a part of the new admission policy, candidates will be selected by committees, comprising three board members, the principal and a teacher.

According to board secretary Jahanara Thomas, “the new policy is aimed at introducing a uniform system of admission in all the CNI-controlled schools. It is not intended to cause harm to the principals, who have opposed the new rule. It will, in fact, protect their reputation.”


Calcutta, Feb. 14: 
Four months after three lives were lost, the reason behind the collapse of the Society cinema awning appears to have been buried under the debris, along with the fact-finding committee set up to probe the case.

On Thursday, civic officials hinted that the committee, headed by Partha Chatterjee, “has been all but disbanded” by mayor Subrata Mukherjee.

The move, apparently, comes close on the heels of the committee demanding access to some vital documents on the cinema building leased out by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC).

Party insiders said Chatterjee had even submitted his letter of resignation from the committee to the civic authorities, with a copy forwarded to Trinamul Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee. In the letter, he is said to have described how his efforts to get to the truth had been frustrated by the mayor and other CMC officials over the months.

“Only three meetings were held since the formation of the committee and there has been no progress in our probe. They (the civic officials) refused to help us by providing the necessary papers. I resigned because I found it useless to carry on with the probe,” Chatterjee allegedly said.

With the battlelines drawn over the Society probe, Mamata has decided to throw her weight behind Chatterjee, who she had nominated for the committee.

“He (Chatterjee) has been given important assignments in the party, as well as in the CMC, by the party leadership. From the leadership’s standpoint, he is carrying out his duties effectively. We would like the truth committee to produce its report on Society cinema without further delay,” Mamata said on Thursday.

Mukherjee, however, denied receiving Chatterjee’s resignation. According to the mayor, he had received a report from him, which he was yet to go through.

“How can the chairman of the probe committee resign when he has already submitted his report to me?” he asked.

A member of the probe committee clarified that what Mukherjee was referring to was just a “status report” on the cinema. “Shortly after the committee was formed, we had a couple of meetings and submitted a status report on Society. How could the mayor mistake that for the probe report?” he wondered.

Trinamul insiders said the investigation into the collapse of the Society portico had, unfortunately, been “sabotaged” by the power play between the mayor and the Trinamul chairperson. “The probe has now become a point of contention between Mukherjee and Mamata loyalists,” said one.


Calcutta, Feb. 14: 
If Delhi’s Rashtrapati Bhavan can, so can Calcutta’s Raj Bhavan. A bed of roses — along the lines of the one at the Mughal Gardens — is coming up on the sprawling compound that houses the Governor of Bengal. And it’s the Bengal Rose Society (BRS) that will be laying out the petal path.

Union minister of state for chemicals and fertilisers Satyabrata Mukherjee has taken “a personal initiative” to make it a rose garden to remember. Mukherjee, who is also BRS president, has a sprawling rose garden at his Krishnagar home, in Nadia district.

“We have prepared a project report at Mukherjee’s instance on how to lay the proposed garden at Raj Bhavan with around a hundred varieties of roses,” said Shekhar Dutta, secretary, BRS. Experts have already surveyed the designated spot, on the southern side of Raj Bhavan, and offered suggestions on how to develop it into a “full-fledged rose garden”.

According to Dutta, the Governor decided on the garden while inaugurating a two-day rose show at Raj Bhavan last month. “After attending the show, he invited us to design a rose garden on the Raj Bhavan lawns, in collaboration with its gardening staff,” said Dutta.

Shyamal Chowdhury, superintending engineer in charge of the Governor’s estate, confirmed that “four members from the Society” had already inspected the Raj Bhavan grounds.

Kalyan Chakraborty, Society vice-president and senior lecturer of microbiology in the department of agriculture, Calcutta University, said the proposed garden would be laid out on a five-bigha plot. “We plan to plant some rare species of roses in the proposed garden, apart from those at the Mughal Gardens in Rashtrapati Bhavan… It will be designed to look like a living museum of roses,” he added.

The BRS has helped redesign rose gardens at the Agri-Horticultural Society, the Assembly House and at Deshapriya Park Lions children’s corner.


Calcutta, Feb. 14: 
Failing to convince a shopkeeper to sell him sandals on credit, a youth returned the next day and pumped bullets into the man’s knees. The shopkeeper had a narrow escape, as one of the bullets pierced his right leg, just below the knee.

The incident took place on Phoolbagan Road, in the Beniapukur police station area, on Thursday morning. The shopkeeper, Asif Ali, was rushed to Nilratan Sirkar Medical College and Hospital, where he underwent a surgery to have the bullet removed. The attacker, Aqeer Ali, 28, managed to flee before the witnesses could grab him.

Sanjoy Mukherjee, deputy commissioner, eastern suburban division, said the shooting was a sequel to an altercation on Wednesday evening. “Aqeer went to Asif’s shop on Wednesday evening to buy a pair of sandals. Since he was not carrying cash, he could not pay for the pair he chose,” said Mukherjee.

“When Asif refused Aqeer’s plea for credit, he was threatened with dire consequences. Aqeer left the shop, promising to teach Asif a lesson,” said an officer of Beniapukur police station.

By Thursday, Asif had put the incident behind him. When he was getting ready to walk down to his shop, Aqeer, who was trailing him, came closer and aimed the revolver at him. Two youths, Pappu and Babu, were accompanying Aqeer.

“Sensing trouble, Asif pushed away Aqeer but stumbled on the road. Aqeer pulled the trigger but in the jostle, could not aim properly. One of the bullets hit Asif on the leg and he lost consciousness,” said a police officer.

The rattle of bullets drew a mob that chased Aqeer, but he managed to flee with Pappu and Babu. After preliminary investigations, Mukherjee said: “Both Asif and Aqeer reportedly knew each other for quite some time. We have not been able to question Asif so far because he is still convalescing. Once he becomes fit, we will start a probe. Our target now is Aqeer, who’s vanished from the area.”


Calcutta, Feb. 14: 
A young woman was attacked by a miscreant on a motorcycle in Salt Lake on Thursday evening. At around 5 pm, the goon drove up to Gayatri Mishra, who was walking her school-going son back home in HB Block.

“First, he tried to snatch a chain from the woman’s neck. When she resisted, he fired on her,” said Ajay Ranade, additional superintendent of police, Barrackpore. According to the police, the bullet hit the woman’s arm. She was admitted to a local nursing home, where she is said to be “out of danger”.

The goon, who tried to flee Salt Lake, was chased by local residents and caught near the Nicco Park canal. He was severely beaten up, before being handed over to officers from Bidhannagar (south) police station. The police said the motorcycle was a stolen vehicle.

“This daylight attack proves just how vulnerable we residents of Salt Lake are. Where is the so-called security beef-up that we have all been hearing about?” demanded a resident of HB Block.


Calcutta, Feb. 14: 
Galleries at Calcutta Panorama — a proposed museum to showcase Calcutta’s culture and heritage in the Town Hall — have been gathering dust for the past nine months. A dispute over the sharing of running cost between the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and the state government has put on hold the inauguration of the museum.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee decided to call on the chief minister on Friday as he had not received any feedback from the state government over the sharing of day to day costs of running the museum.

“If the state government does not want to share the burden of the running cost, they can let us know clearly,” Mukherjee said. But since the chief minister had been made the ex-officio chairman of the museum committee, the decision should come from him, he added.

The cost of running the museum will amount to around Rs 76 lakh annually. It had been estimated that at least 50 per cent of the costs would be met from the revenue generated from entry fees. The rest will have to sourced as subsidy or grant from the CMC and the state government.

The museum was supposed to have been inaugurated by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Republic Day. But the programme had to be cancelled as there was “no feedback” from the government.

The chief minister’s office later informed the mayor that the matter of sharing of costs in running the museum would have to be sorted out before the inauguration by the chief minister.

Mukherjee said the CMC had already spent over Rs 4 crore on the restoration of Town Hall and setting up the museum. The Ford Foundation had given a grant of Rs 1 crore for it. The Rs 3.6-crore cost of setting up the museum was supposed to have been shared by the CMC, the CMDA and the state government.

CMDA had coughed up Rs 1 crore but the state government has yet to shell out Rs 30 lakh of its share of Rs 50 lakh.

“The museum will fulfill a dream of Rabindranath Tagore who first suggested that the Town Hall be converted to a museum,” pointed out Mukherjee.



Council announces HS exam dates

The Higher Secondary examinations will begin on March 20, officials of the West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education said on Thursday. Nearly four lakh students are likely to appear in the examinations this time. The written examinations, from 10 am to 5 pm, will continue till April 13. Jyotirmoy Mukherjee, president, said the Council has decided to publish model questions for the first time. These will be published in the monthly journals of the Council. The first edition of the journal containing the model questions will be released at book-stores on February 20. “The move is aimed at providing a guideline to students so that they do not have to seek private tuitions,” said a Council official.

Eviction drive from March 1

The conservancy department of Calcutta Municipal Corporation will evict hawkers in front of hospitals and important buildings from March 1. Mayor-in-council, conservancy, Mala Roy said on Thursday that hawkers would be given 15 days to shift their wares.

Plea rejected

Justice Barin Ghosh of Calcutta High Court on Thursday dismissed the petition filed by shop-owners who did business on the premises of Star Theatre before it was gutted. They are demanding space in the proposed theatre building. Justice Ghosh observed that the tenants had lost their rights on the property as Star had been granted heritage status by the CMC.

Salt Lake map

A map of Salt Lake was released on Thursday by National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organisation, a unit of the department of science and technology. The map costs Rs 25.

German ties

Heimo Richter, ambassador, Federal Republic of Germany, has promised continuance of “intensive economic and cultural activities” between India and Germany. He was speaking at the annual meeting of the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce, eastern region on Thursday evening. He urged the government to strengthen the “label” of Calcutta. Somnath Chatterjee, MD, WBIDC, was also present.

No stay for Saha

Calcutta High Court on Thursday declined to pass an interim stay order on the hearing of the Anuradha Saha death case at the West Bengal Medical Council. Kunal Saha, husband of Anuradha, had sought a stay on the hearing. Justice K.J. Sengupta said Saha could cross-examine the witnesses in the subsequent hearings of the case.

Reprieve for Hema

The proceedings in the trial court against actress Hema Malini, chairperson of the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), were stayed by Calcutta High Court on Thursday. Chandimata Films had lodged a complaint, alleging that the prints of four of its titles — Bemisaal, Jhooti, Jurmana and Charitraheen — had been damaged by the NFDC. The prints had been handed over to NFDC for a year to be telecast on Doordarshan. The case will be heard by Calcutta High Court from February 19.

Human chain

Employees of Hotel Airport Ashok (ITDC) will form a human chain from the hotel entrance to the domestic terminal of the Dum Dum airport from 2 pm to 3 pm on Friday to protest the government move to privatise the unit.    

Calcutta, Feb. 14: 
Trade union leaders on Thursday protested mayor Subrata Mukherjee’s decision to increase working hours without extra remuneration at Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC).

The new timings will be effective from April 1. Refusing to compromise with the leaders, the mayor said: “I will not change my stand, since it is within the norms set by International Labour Organisation (ILO).”

“We are against the mayor’s decision. It is sad that the attack has come directly from an Intuc top boss,” said Trinamul Congress MLA and president of the CMC employees’ and workers’ union Sovandeb Chattopadhyay. He said the mayor did not consult union leaders before taking the decision.

“Actually, work culture must first improve at the upper levels,” said Citu leader in the CMC Amalendu Bhattacharya. He criticised the mayor for changing a schedule that has been followed for years. “What action has been taken against officer-on-special duty (health) Atanu Mukherjee, who leaves office early at 5 pm, for private practice?” asked Bhattacharya.

A.S. Bagal and Anutosh Sarkar, of CPM-led clerks’ union in the CMC, said there was no discipline among the members of the mayor-in-council. “Some of them work for just two to three hours a day,” they alleged.

In another incident, municipal commissioner Debashis Som was ordered out of the CMC record room when he went in smoking a cigarette. An employee, who did not recognise Som, berated him for breaching rules in a no-smoking zone.


Calcutta, Feb. 14: 
Hi Osama… What are you so angry about? I would like to forget the darkest hrs of 11th Sept and request you to spread peace and brotherhood and not hatred and war.

These are the opening lines of one of the 130 entries received for the 1st Global Love Letter Writing Contest 2002, even before it was officially inaugurated. On Valentine’s Day, chief judge of the contest Sunil Gangopadhyay formally kicked off the competition. The contest invites letters from all over the world on two topics: Love Letter to a Terrorist and Missing You Lover.

Letters have started pouring in from the UK, USA, Japan, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran and from across India. Organised by LOVE, or Lovers’ Organisation for Voluntary Exhibition, and managed by Inertia Solutions, entries are open till February 28. “Apart from awarding the three best letters, we plan to publish a compilation of 100 outstanding entries,” explains LOVE president Rupak Manush.

“No one writes love letters any more. Courtship has become non-existent. This is just a fun way to find out if people do still feel as deeply as they used to,” says Gangopadhyay.

Moon Moon Sen and Usha Uthup are also judges for the competition, with results to be announced on March 5. Entries can be sent to www.loversrupak.com.

LOVE shot into the limelight with its demand for a “free love zone” recently. “But our demands go beyond this. We formed this organisation in the face of rampant terrorism and crime, because we believe love is the only thing that can put an end to all this,” say members.

The mayor had promised to look into the matter, but has done “nothing” till now. This has pushed Manush and gang to plan a “lovers’ demonstration” outside the Corporation headquarters. The “socio-psychological movement” already has over 1,000 members.

Earlier this week, a crew from Siguy Films, Oxford Street, visited the organisation to capture the efforts to “free love” in an environment where it is still “forbidden”.


Calcutta, Feb. 14: 
Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC) plans to crack down on illegal occupants at the wholesale fish market on Saturday. Mayor Gopal Mukherjee said all 80 encroachers had been slapped with notices to vacate the premises by Friday. There are 133 authorised wholesalers in the market.

Welcoming the move, chairman of the Howrah wholesale fish market stall-owners’ association, Kamakshya Das, said: “We had notified the fisheries department but they did not take action against the encroachers.” Members of the association alleged that fisheries department officers visited the market frequently but remained indifferent about taking action.

“Going by the rules, no wholesaler can operate without a licence from the fisheries department. It is surprising how these traders were allowed to carry on business,” Das said.

According to the mayor, while a bona fide wholesaler paid Rs 4,500 annually to the HMC as garbage charges, the illegal traders did not cough up anything. The civic body has sought police assistance for Saturday’s drive.


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