CPI cries foul over leader arrest on Simi charge
Blood ties in bleak house
‘He died slowly before our eyes’
Phantom posts in funds drain
End of road for Esplanade tram tracks
Round trip on wheels of yore
The City Diary
Howrah set for drain revamp
Campus clash, college closed
Running late on fast courts

Calcutta and Malda, Feb. 17: 
He joined the SFI in 1974 and became a CPM card-holder a year later, two years before the party came to power. Twenty-three years later, he crossed over to another Left Front constituent, the CPI. Three years hence, he survived an attempt on his life. A few months later, he was arrested on charges of being an important functionary of the Students’ Islamic Movement of India.

No “Simi arrest” has, perhaps, sparked as much speculation as that of Mujibur Rahman, district secretary of the CPI’s teachers’ wing, the Bengal Teachers’ and Employees’ Association (BTEA). No less than two important CPI ministers of the Left Front Cabinet — one of them is from north Bengal and has known Rahman for quite some time — have rung up the district administration over the past few days, petitioning for his release. The district BTEA leadership has, in a printed leaflet, accused the government its parent party helps run of acting with political motives.

Rahman was arrested, police said, for participating in a Simi meet at Harishchandrapur on September 27 last year, days after the organisation was banned. But an affidavit filed by a Hindu neighbour, Gaur Rabidas, who is an Allahabad Bank employee, claims Rahman was in transit from Malda to Baikunthapur in Ratua at the time of the supposed meeting. Rahman was picked up from his home in Baikunthapur village, within state food processing minister Sailen Sarkar’s Ratua constituency, in a late-night swoop.

The BTEA leaflet, distributed in Malda town and in Ratua, described the arrested teacher as a victim of a CPM conspiracy. “They were gunning for Rahman for quite some time and this issue has come in handy for them,” the leaflet says. District CPI and BTEA leaders have accused the administration of acting in the CPM’s interests as Rahman had succeeded in weaning away many teachers belonging to the All-Bengal Teachers’ Association, the CPM’s teachers’ wing.

Malda superintendent of police Pankaj Datta, however, said no one should read any political motive into Rahman’s arrest. “We have solid evidence against him. It includes Simi and Students’ Islamic Organisation documents we found in his possession,” he said.

The last job that Rahman held — of a senior teacher at the Bhado B.S.B. High School — before becoming a teacher in a government-affiliated madarsa at Khanpur in Ratua gives some clues to why he generated such animosity in the CPM.

Rahman refused to back down after pointing out discrepancies in the birth certificate of an influential teacher of the school who had the CPM’s backing. He could not attend school for eight months in 1997 and was ultimately forced to give up the job for the madarsa offer at Khanpur. He survived an attempt on his life in 2000, family members said, and his Baikanthapur home was ransacked.

It was in 1997 — after the change of job — that Rahman switched loyalties. Within a short time, he became a district secretariat member of the BTEA and became popular because of his efforts to ensure that retired teachers received pension on time, his colleagues said. He became the BTEA district secretary last year.

Neither CPI leader Manju Majumdar nor the two ministers were available for comment.


Calcutta, Feb 17: 
Neighbours described the Ghosh family as extremely “close-knit” and “fun-loving,” often spending hours together in their open courtyard. On Sunday, the courtyard was empty and gloom had gripped Ghosh Lane, off Amherst Street, where four members of the family had died in the past few months.

“Bappaditya was very intelligent. But books never stopped him from standing by us whenever we needed him,” said neighbour Reena Bose.

Eager to bail out anyone in trouble, Bappaditya tried his hand at odd jobs to help his father tide over financially. “I had asked him to concentrate on his studies, but he insisted that he wanted to support me,” recalled father Krishnadhan.

After the death of daughter Moumita last year and the subsequent rise in Bappaditya’s treatment costs, Krishnadhan was finding it difficult to make ends meet. “We have stood by each other whenever required. My sons have all gone out of their way to help me,” said Ghosh, who retired from the WBCS a few years ago. He is currently working with a social welfare agency associated with the state government.

“My father had worked as a superintendent in a juvenile home. He had worked with distinction in various government wings. We are proud of him for all the effort he put in to raise us,” said Achintya.

Bappaditya had also begun to save some money for elder brother Ranjan’s wedding. “The marriage was still a few months away. But Bappaditya often told us that he wanted to help his father,” said a few family friends.

Bappaditya’s brother Achintya works in a private firm and lives in Baguiati. “I was very close to my brother. I had drawn Rs 1.42 lakh recently from my provident fund to pay for his thalassaemia treatment,’’ Achintya said. “Everything at home would revolve around Bappaditya.”

Achintya’s younger brother, Ranjan, is an interior decorator. “My father is in a state of shock. He has told a few friends that he will soon join my mother in death. We have persuaded him not to think about it, as he is the only one we have now,” Ranjan added.

Another brother, Sabyasachi, works in Mumbai. “We don’t have his telephone number. We tried desperately to contact him. I need all my sons near me in this hour of distress,’’ Krishnadhan said.

Bappaditya’s sole surviving sister, Amita, is married and lives in Kestopur. The family has shifted Krishnadhan to her place.


Calcutta, Feb 17: 
It’s eastern India’s oldest medical college. It was once considered among the best treatment centres in the region. But, on Saturday, Medical College and Hospital failed to save the life of Bappaditya Ghosh.

The 26-year-old had a “minor” head injury that required just five stitches. Suffering from thalassaemia, Bappaditya presented doctors on duty with a problem they just could not tackle. Without the simplest of equipment required to stem bleeding — the blood of a thalassaemia patient does not clot easily, leading to excessive haemorrhage — the hospital revealed the ugly state of healthcare in the city. Doctors attached to one of Calcutta’s “best” government-run hospitals could do no more than advise Ghosh’s family to remove him to a “better-equipped” institute.

Bappaditya was taken to hospital by friends and passersby within 15 minutes of being hit by a vehicle on Amherst Street around 7.30 pm. His parents and siblings reached the emergency ward in about 25 minutes. A senior physician arrived barely 10 minutes later. In front of everyone’s eyes, Bappaditya died a slow death, as he continued to lose blood steadily.

“I was there when he (Bappaditya) died... I cannot really blame the doctors,” admitted father Krishnadhan Ghosh. “What were they going to treat my son with?” he asked, adding that the emergency ward of the hospital had nothing more than what was required to stitch the wound.

Bappaditya, who lived near the hospital, had several friends — mostly junior doctors — there and received the best care that the hospital could provide, said his brother, Ranjan. “One of the junior doctors, on duty when Bappaditya was admitted, recognised him and wasted no time in fetching a senior physician,” he added. “But, without proper equipment, how can you expect doctors to work?” Ranjan asked.

The doctor and the nursing staff were told of Bappaditya’s ailment even before they stitched his wound.

“All along, we were promised they would do their best,” his father said on Sunday. “But we soon realised that their best would not be enough in the absence of any equipment specifically geared for thalassaemia patients,” he added.

Bappaditya died around 11.30 pm, exactly four hours after he had lost the first drop of blood. “The physician who used to treat him, Ashokananda Konar, was contacted and he advised us to shift my son to a private institute at Mominpur,” he added. But Bappaditya didn’t give them the chance. “We saw him bleed to death in front of our eyes,” Krishnadhan said.

Medical College superintendent Sachchidananda Sinha refused to comment on the treatment Bappaditya received. “I can’t say whether he got all the medical help he needed without knowing the details of the case,” he said. A senior hospital official, however, said: “I don’t think any state-run hospital’s emergency ward in the city has any equipment geared specifically towards thalassaemia patients.”


Calcutta, Feb 17: 
Full pay was drawn, but the posts were vacant.

Calcutta University is in a scurry to appoint more than 160 teachers in nearly 45 important subjects. The move follows the government audit department discovering that these posts had been vacant for years, though the university was drawing their salaries every year.

The observations of the audit department prompted the state finance department to ask the university to take immediate measures to fill the vacancies.

“The university’s books are not clear. It has drawn funds for paying the salaries of teachers in many posts lying vacant for several years. The university should immediately fill up the vacancies. Else, the government may stop providing funds for such posts,” said an officer of the university’s audit section.

The university has nearly 650 sanctioned teaching posts at present. Government sources said the university requires approximately Rs 3.50 crore a year for paying the salaries of 160 teachers. The vacancies cover all the three ranks of teaching posts — lecturer, reader and professor.

Hiron Kumar Banerjee, pro vice-chancellor (finance), admitted that the university had drawn funds from the government. “But the funds were spent, as over the years, a large number of teachers have been promoted. Moreover, their salaries have been hiked considerably. So, the question of having surplus funds does not arise, as the funds now provided by the government are insufficient to meet the rising costs,” said Banerjee.

The vacancies include some important professorial posts, like T.N.Palit in chemistry, the R.B. Ghosh professor in botany and chemical technology, the Munshi Premchand professor in Hindi, the Iqbal professor in Urdu, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay professor in Bengali, Labanyamoyee Das professor in applied physics and the P.C.Ray professor in agricultural chemistry.

The decision to fill the vacancies was placed before the university’s Syndicate body meeting last week, at which the authorities stressed the need to complete the process as early as possible. The Syndicate decided to put out advertisements in newspapers, seeking applications from suitable candidates.

Whenever students protested the absence of teachers, the authorities attributed their failure to fill the posts to “non-availability of suitable candidates.” Finance department officers said all the teaching posts in Calcutta and other state-aided universities, like Jadavpur and Rabindra Bharati, are sanctioned by the government.

“We cannot allow any university to misuse funds. The government might have to take stern action if the Calcutta University authorities fail to fill up the posts as early as possible,” said finance department sources.

The students are happy that the university has acted to fill up the vacant posts.


Calcutta, Feb 17: 
The tram tracks linking Esplanade with Ballygunge, Park Circus and north Calcutta may be erased, as the Calcutta Municipal Corporation has decided to raise the level of the five roads that converge on Esplanade.

The tram tracks run through a three-foot-deep groove at the Esplanade five-point crossing, turning it into a death trap.

“As mayor, I have the moral responsibility of providing a safe road surface for vehicular traffic. My city cannot suffer for Senbo’s bad engineering work,” Subrata Mukherjee said on Sunday.

“I had taken up the matter with transport minister Subhas Chakraborty and the Hooghly River Bridge Commission (HRBC), but no action was taken,” the mayor added.

Though Kajal Sengupta of Senbo was not available on the phone, the firm’s vice-president, Manikeswar Mondol, said: “The tram tracks were reconstructed according to the ‘datum line’ given by HRBC to Senbo. We cannot elevate the tracks unless HRBC asks us to do so.”

Chief project adviser of HRBC Debdas Bandopadhyay said everything would be alright when the stretches of J.L. Nehru Road, between the crossings of S.N. Banerjee Road and Lenin Sarani, and Bentinck Street, between Paradise cinema and Lenin Sarani, are realigned to converge on the new alignment of the tram tracks.

“Senbo has been asked to carry out the work and it will start soon after the construction of a diversion through Curzon Park. Traffic movement through the Esplanade crossing needs to be suspended temporarily for the work,” he said.


Calcutta, Feb 17: 
Did you know that Calcutta’s tryst with strikes began in 1827, when the city’s palanquin-bearers resorted to an indefinite strike? Or that the first wheels to roll down the city streets were those of a hackney carriage? Or that the traffic department of Calcutta Police came into being a week less than 128 years ago, on February 24, 1874?

The history of traffic in the city and the force that tries to manage it as best as it can, the traffic wing, are soon to come alive on the pages of the Calcutta Police bulletin.

The beginning is modest, admit officials. The February issue of the bulletin will have a rough sketch of only the hackney carriage section. But the overall picture — the result of a painstaking effort by an officer-in-charge of the department, Swapan Chakraborty — will be the first detailed research into the most visible wing of Calcutta Police.

Peppered with several interesting details — the first cycle hit the city roads in November 1889, the first car in 1896, the first taxi in 1906 and the first motor-driven bus in 1926 — the chronicle promises to be a must-have in the Calcutta lover’s collection. It traces the beginning of Calcutta’s traffic woes back to when the palki-bearers struck work for months to protest a new set of traffic rules.

But Calcuttans then, too, were marked by their ingenuity. Brownlow, a Calcuttan of British descent, modified his palanquin into a horse-drawn carriage by removing the posts and attaching wheels. He created the city’s first hackney carriage (called chhyakra-gari in local parlance), necessitating the formulation of an Act in 1869 to regulate the carriages.

The rickshaws, prime concern of the Hackney Carriage Act now, came much later in 1900 and were initially private vehicles used by the city’s Chinese, the records reveal. But the traffic wing came into being five years after the Act, in 1874, with exactly one officer and 17 sepoys.

The traffic department’s history — being culled from records in the hackney carriage section, old copies of Calcutta Police Gazettes and Radharaman Mitra’s books on the city — will take a while to stitch together, but officials say they are rushing to finish the hackney carriage section before the February bulletin goes to print.



Lorry knocks down two-year-old girl

A two-year-old girl was grievously wounded after a lorry knocked her down at the Rabindra Sarani-Sir Hariram Goenka Street crossing on Sunday morning. Police said Pooja Jaiswal was hit by the vehicle while she was crossing the busy intersection. She was taken to Calcutta Medical Research Institute and Hospital. The driver has been arrested and the lorry impounded.

Buddha calls on Governor

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee called on Governor Viren J. Shah at Raj Bhavan on Saturday to discuss the budget session, beginning on February 27. The session will start with the Governor’s address to the House. Sources said Bhattacharjee also briefed Shah about the government’s stand on madarsas.

Bodies recovered

Police fished out two bodies from the Hooghly on Sunday evening. The bodies have been sent for a post-mortem and are yet to be identified.

Depy speaker death

Deputy Speaker of the state Assembly, Anil Mukherjee, died on Sunday morning, after a protracted illness, at Chittaranjan Cancer Hospital. He was 72 and is survived by his wife. Mukherjee suffered from throat cancer and had been admitted to the hospital nearly a month ago.

Sewerage levy

Councillors of the added areas of Behala, Garden Reach and Jadavpur will submit a deputation to mayor Subrata Mukherjee against the sewerage charge levied while sanctioning building plans.

CPM chief whip Amal Mitra said that though these areas did not have a sewage system, the civic building department charges sewerage tax at a high rate while sanctioning construction proposals.

RKM official dies

Nemai Mukherjere, associated with the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture as its programme executive for 39 years, died after a heart attack last week. He was 87.    

Calcutta, Feb 17: 
Concerned over massive waterlogging during the monsoon in central Howrah and its adjacent areas, the Howrah Municipal Corporation has drawn up a plan to revamp the age-old drainage system.

Mayor Gopal Mukherjee of the CPM-controlled civic body said on Saturday that he would approach the state government for funds.

“We are short of cash but that cannot be an excuse for a poor drainage system. I shall ask the leader of the Opposition to pressure the government for early release of funds,” Mukherjee said.

Admitting that Howrah’s drainage system is dated, deputy mayor Dilip Sen said: “The problem is compounded by irresponsible citizens toss just about anything into the sewers and clog them. As a result, water takes a long time to drain away”.

Sen will request councillors to help solve this problem. The civic body is all set to launch an awareness campaign for better civic sense.

In addition to the existing drainage system, spread over a few square kilometres in the urban agglomeration area, a scientifically-planned sewage system will also be laid in the added areas, that have been most neglected to date.


Calcutta, Feb 17: 
Students of Vivekananda College, Barasat, closed down their institution indefinitely from Saturday, after a clash between activists of the Chhatra Bloc, students’ wing of the Forward Bloc, and local hoodlums, allegedly backed by the SFI. The students held a sit-in through Saturday at the college gate, demanding arrest of the culprits.

At least 15 non-teaching employees and students were injured when the “outsiders”, armed with lathis and iron rods, stormed the campus on Friday afternoon and went on the rampage. They ransacked the office room and damaged furniture.

The situation worsened when officials of Madhyamgram police investigation centre refused to book the complaint of the Chhatra Bloc members. The North 24-Parganas district CPM called an emergency meeting in the afternoon to settle the dispute.

Preliminary police investigations say the clash erupted over a pre-poll rift between two unions, Chhatra Bloc and the SFI. “The SFI dominates the Chhatra Samsad and February 8 was set for elections,” police said. Candidates from both unions had filed nominations.

Samannay Biswas, Chhatra Bloc district secretary, alleged that the SFI was forcing candidates to withdraw papers.


Calcutta, Feb 17: 
Frustrated at the pace at which fast track courts (FTCs) were being set up, Calcutta High Court has informed Union law minister Arun Jaitley that the government “is not taking it seriously enough.”

This follows a recent letter from Jaitley to Chief Justice A.K. Mathur, requesting him to remind the government to fulfil its obligations on FTCs. Under this scheme, the Centre provides 50 per cent of the funds for setting up the infrastructure, while the state provides the rest.

FTCs were launched last April, following a Union law ministry directive. The idea was to expedite justice and clear the backlog of three crore cases.

A spokesman of the chief justice’s secretariat said the government had set up only six FTCs, against the sanctioned number of 78 for the current year. A total of 1,743 FTCs are to be set up in the country. “We have made several requests to the state, but nothing has been done. So, we have brought it to the notice of the ministry concerned,” he added.

“The government is dragging its feet on the release of quotas. The Centre has already allotted its share,” said a lawyer attached to the Union government’s panel.

States other than West Bengal had shown good results in expediting pending cases through FTCs. In Uttar Pradesh, 36,000 pending cases were disposed of during the past six months through FTCs and Lok Adalats. Chattisgarh and Rajasthan, too, are doing well.

According to latest figures, in West Bengal, more than 700,000 cases were pending in the lower courts, against 262,000 cases in the high court, till December 31, 2001. Over 92,000 cases were disposed of last year and 51,000 new cases registered.

“This is the first time that we have been able to reduce the number of pending cases by expediting them through various schemes, like fixing two days (every Tuesday and Thursday) exclusively for hearing old cases,” said Laskhmi Sil, joint secretary to chief justice.

Additional government pleader Debashis Kargupta defended the government, saying 13, and not six, FTCs were started.


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