Suit slapped on Bishop writ
Intruder held after hijack call
Campus cell on sexual harassment
Swoop on Simi leaders
Debut, a streetcar named Discovery
The City Diary
Lake Town reels under tax yoke
Border mobiles fox security eavesdroppers
Funds aid for Pak terrorist
CPM, Bloc fight over food park proposal

Calcutta, March. 3: 
The Church of North India’s (CNI) move to impose its writ on the admission process in Anglo-Indian schools has hit a legal hurdle.

A public interest litigation has been filed in Calcutta High Court by the Association of Anglo-Indians in Eastern India and a Kalyani-based social worker, seeking “protection of the rights of Anglo-Indian students” in 36 city schools and 33 elsewhere in Bengal.

The petition, filed against the Bishop of Calcutta, the state education department and St Thomas’ Boys School, Kidderpore, alleged violation of the code of regulations for Anglo-Indian schools and safeguards of minority rights under Articles 14 and 30 (Clause 1) of the Constitution. The case has been listed for hearing on Tuesday.

On December 12, 2001, the Diocese of Calcutta, controlled by the CNI, issued a circular to the heads of all Anglo-Indian schools, specifying a uniform admission policy. The circular, signed by Bishop P.S.P. Raju, directed the “chairman of the board of governors of the schools” to nominate three members to serve on the interview panel. As head of the Diocese, the Bishop is chairman of the governing bodies of all Anglo-Indian schools. The petitioners alleged that his fiat to have “three of his own men” on the schools’ interview panels was an unfair “attempt to control the admission process”.

According to them, the Bishop’s “uniform admission code” had given a complete “go-by to the issue of reservation for Anglo-Indian students”. They alleged that the Bishop had ignored the statutory five per cent reservation for Anglo Indian students, as guaranteed under the Code of Regulations for Anglo-Indian and Listed Schools, 1993.

“This is a serious allegation. Anglo-Indian students must get top priority in Anglo-Indian schools,” said MP Beatrix D’ Souza.

“Anglo-Indian students must be given priority in Anglo-Indian schools. If the applicants fulfil all the criteria, especially at the nursery and the lower nursery levels, the school has to take them in. It is a statutory right,’’ elaborated Anglo-Indian MLA Gillian D’Costa Hart.

Marc Antony of Destiny, the Kolkata Association of Anglo-Indians, said: “St Thomas Kidderpore refused admission to a six-year-old upper nursery applicant, Joshua Hayes from Kidderpore, on the grounds that his parents could not afford the fees, though everything else was in order.” The Hayes petitioned D’Costa Hart seeking redress.

Max Gaulstaun, one of the petitioners, is upset that the Bishop’s writ gives “more weightage” to Bengali-speaking students under the general category and those from the family income brackets of Rs 2-Rs 3 lakh.

“The Supreme Court verdict of 1832 decreed that the Bishop was an ex-officio governor. But in his individual capacity, he is not empowered to take any decision on the management of the schools,’’ says Anthony Seyers, president of the Association for Anglo-Indians in eastern India.


Calcutta, March. 3: 
First, a “specific threat alert” over a hijacking attempt from Calcutta airport by a militant outfit. Then, the arrest of an employee of a grounded airline by CISF personnel inside the high-security flight departure area of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Airport.

Exactly two hours after a CISF commandant at the city airport received a mysterious phone call about a hijacking attempt last Monday, a man possessing a pilot’s licence from an aviation college near Mysore slipped through the security wing and made his way into the flight departure area, where he was finally caught.

Later identified as Aslam Khan, 31, he claimed that he was an airline employee and knew a state minister well. A senior official examined his “expired” identity card, which referred to Khan as a “Bengal Air” (Identity card number C-06828C) co-pilot. The identity card had, however, expired on November 30, 2001.

“We found lots of incriminating documents on him,” Bal Krishnan, commanding officer, CISF, told Metro. Among the papers were maps and addresses of several Mumbai guest houses and visiting cards of people who had been picked up by the CBI and Mumbai Police for subversive activities. “He hasn’t been able to offer an explanation regarding the documents found on him,” said Bal Krishnan.

Khan, who was apparently seen near the airport “several times in the past”, was whisked away to an interrogation room in the airport, where he created a scene. “He began to bang his head on the door and walls, alleging that he had been falsely implicated,” a senior official said. “He then asked permission to make a phone call, which we allowed,” said a security official.

Matters took a dramatic turn, said sleuths, when a young man, identifying himself as the son of the minister whose name Khan had ‘dropped’, called up the CISF control room and ‘ordered’ an inspector to “release Khan” immediately.

“We, however, decided to arrest the man because we had a specific hijack threat and the documents found on him needed to be probed. We had also received feedback from intelligence agencies that the visiting cards seized from Khan belonged to people under the security scanner,” a senior official added.

The CISF handed over Khan to the airport police, who charged him with trespass and breach of security. He was produced in court and granted conditional bail. He is currently being questioned by RAW, CBI and the Intelligence Bureau.

The minister, whose name has been dragged into the airport arrest, denied any links with Khan. Speaking to Metro on Sunday, the leader of a constituent of the ruling Left Front, said: “I have never heard of anyone called Aslam Khan. I am sure my son did not call the airport. I have no clue who made the call.”


Calcutta, March. 3: 
In view of the increasing number of allegations of sexual harassment from teachers, students and non-teaching staff, Calcutta University (CU) has decided to set up a permanent cell to look after the security of women on campus. They make up for over 75 per cent of its roll-strength.

The resolution, following a Supreme Court directive, also makes it mandatory for all colleges affiliated to the university to set up college-level committees to screen complaints of sexual harassment and then follow up the cases found to be prima facie genuine.

Provisions have been made for stern action against the offender if his guilt is established. The university statute has been modified accordingly. “The cell will function in accordance with the Supreme Court guidelines,” CU Syndicate member Shyamapada Pal said.

The university will organise workshops and other programmes to publicise the cell, the college-level committees and their activities, say officers. Sexual harassment, as being interpreted by the university following the Supreme Court directives, will comprise the following acts:

Physical contact or advances

Demands or requests for sexual favours

Sexually-coloured jokes and remarks

Display of pornography

The university cell will comprise 11 members, including women representing the unions of students, employees, officers and teachers. There will also be representatives from the State Women’s Commission and CU’s Women’s Study Centre. The cell will function from the College Street campus. Each member’s term will expire after five years.

“We have received the order and agreed to implement it,” said Rabindra Bharati University registrar Santosh Ghorui. “But we do not receive too many complaints,” he added, explaining why the authorities felt there was no “immediate need” to set up such a cell.


Calcutta, March. 3: 
Early on Sunday, the CID arrested Riyazul Musahit, a henchman of Sayeed Shah Haseeb Raza, 33, Simi founder-member and Hizb-ul Mujahideen “talent scout.”

Police said Musahit, 32, was one of the three terrorists who came to Calcutta to create “major disturbances” in the city. Inspector-general (CID) Partha Bhattacharya said: “They all belong to the same group and Musahit was the Simi leader of their Patna unit. He was arrested on charges of subversive intent.”

CID officers interrogated Musahit along with Raza and the other arrested Simi and Harkat-ul-Ansar leader, Amil Pervez, throughout Sunday. They abandoned their original plan to create disturbances in the city and left for Hyderabad after the Gujarat riots broke out.

Investigations are underway to find out whether they were linked to the Godhra killings.

The city police has also decided to take Mohammad Nayeem, a Pakistani national, into custody for his alleged connection with the January 22 attack on the American Center.


Calcutta, March. 3: 
‘Oi dekh, oi dekh!’ was the shout that greeted the Heritage on Tracks tram as it trundled out on its first public journey’. Children ran after the maroon streetcar, in what could be a scene from an urban Pather Panchali, set in the streets of north Calcutta. Tourists waved to their gaping, enthused audience, as the guide announced over the PA system: “When you are in Calcutta, you get this kind of reception.”

It was a full house that set out from the Dharamtala tram terminus on Sunday morning. While the band of 40 tourists and Calcuttans waited 20 minutes for the tram to get going, they had the inexplicable strains of unrecognisable Mediterranean music to keep them entertained, before a slight tussle for the reserved seats. The joint initiative of Calcutta Tramways Company, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage and West Bengal Tourism hadn’t yet fine-tuned the facilities.

Order was restored and the reconditioned tramcar, which “Gariahat hawkers had torched during Operation Sunshine”, set off at 8.50 am. Doing a round of the terminus to catch a glimpse of Metro cinema and Metropolitan Building (none of which could be spotted for the stubborn boundary wall and shrubbery), the passengers were soon headed past Bhasha Udyan (Curzon Park) towards Raj Bhavan, Great Eastern Hotel and Laldighi.

Rajat Dhar, a Calcuttan, had taken the “rare chance to ride a clean tram” and show his family the much-neglected north. He also brought along friend Albert D’Mello, born in Calcutta but settled in London for the past 40 years. “If I had come here on my own, I wouldn’t have been able to see any of this,” he smiled.

“This is a very good way of touring the city, specially for people returning after a while,” he added.

For Calcuttans too, the ride was a novel experience. Sunday had offered Dibyadipan Dutta, a Class XI student from Alipore, “the first opportunity to travel north of Esplanade”.

Sometimes the noise of the tram drowned the commentary; sometimes, none was necessary. It was too early in the morning for the visitors to see the musical instruments, watches and furniture shops pointed out on Rabindra Sarani. What they did see were lungi stores, Royal Indian Hotel (with its famous chaanp and biryani), “decorated dung-cake” stalls, a Jain temple.

By then, some had started opening food packets — an ‘un-heritage’ fare of cheese sandwiches, cold coffee in a carton and biscuits. But no one was complaining.

The tram had turned towards the home of the “first modern man in India”, Raja Rammohun Roy, Rabindra Bharati University and Lohia Hospital. Just past the original K.C. Das shop, children dashed out of lanes towards the tram, some even running behind it for some time.

After the tramcars, trailed by a breakdown van to ensure smooth passage, crossed ‘jatra para’, the commentary was stopped in favour of an interactive session. Passengers took the mike to speak about where they were from, and how they found the ride.

Belgachhia was the only stop for the sightseers. Disembarking at the depot, they headed for the Digambar Jain Temple. The brief halt provided a chance to see Amarjyoti, a flame said to be burning for 50 years.

Back on the tracks, the return route was through Bidhan Sarani — past Star Theatre, Chacha’s Hotel, Thanthania, Calcutta University, Presidency, Coffee House, and Bidhan Chandra Roy’s residence — down Lenin Sarani and back to Esplanade.

At around 11.15 am, the tram pulled back into the point of departure. The discover, or rediscover-Calcutta, ride may not have matched most expectations, but it was still a start.

As one tourist from the US put it: “So many friendly faces, so many lovely buildings… This is where Calcutta’s fire lies”.



Weeklong peace festival begins

A Peace Festival, organised by Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, was inaugurated on Sunday at Salt Lake stadium by sheriff Sunil Gangopadhyay. The weeklong event is being attended by 7,000 sex workers and NGO representatives from different parts of the world, including Malaysia, the UK, the US, the Netherlands, Thailand and Bangladesh, said Swapna Gayen, president of the committee.

Environment management

A two-day seminar on contemporary issues in environment management, organised by the department of business management, Calcutta University, concluded on Sunday. Discussions revolved around various aspects of environment hazards and ways of checking them.

Art exhibition

Netaji Sangha of Narkel Bagan, in east Calcutta, organised a weeklong art exhibition of Ashoke Saha from March 1.    

Calcutta, March. 3: 
When Anita Gupta of Lake town’s ‘B’ block received her tax bill late last year, she was shocked. She had been asked to pay Rs 21,600 for each quarter. Her original bill was Rs 247.50.

The steep hike in house tax has angered residents of south Dum Dum, particularly those in Lake Town, Bangur Avenue and Kalindi. Like the Guptas, a large number have been taxed at abnormally high rates, some of them ten times the previous sum.

The residents’ bodies of Lake Town, Bangur Avenue and Kalindi are setting up a joint platform to protest the steep hike. Details of a suit at Calcutta High Court are being finalised.

Among those hit by this steep tax hike are Lake Town residents like former chief secretary B.R. Gupta and former inspector-general of police Prasad Bose. While Gupta’s tax hike has been eight-fold, in Bose’s case, the rise has been multiplied by 15. “I don’t understand what kind of an assessment this is. The inspectors did not even enter my house when they came for assessment. They glanced at it from outside and left,” said Bose.

The residents’ bodies are at a loss for the discrepancies in the inflated tax bills. “When we told the civic authorities about the errors, no explanation was given to us. We were not told on what basis the taxes were computed,” said Sudhindu Banerjee, general secretary of Lake Town Association.

The South Dum Dum Municipality had the Central Valuation Board carry out a revaluation of properties after about 12 years. When the new bills started trickling in from October last year, tax-payers were shell-shocked.

“We admit there have been some errors but residents may rest assured that we will rectify them. What the residents are forgetting is that there has not been any revaluation of property in the area since 1989,” said Srihir Bhattacharya, South Dum Dum municipality chairman.

He said that twice earlier — in 1994 and in 1999 — revaluation of property had to be stalled for various reasons. “In 1994, the wife of the Valuation Board official in charge died and then in 1999, another official fell ill. This time, the revaluation has been conducted in a very scientific manner and we hope to raise Rs 4.17 crore from house tax,” Bhattacharya said. The new tax will be collected with retrospective effect from July 2000, he added.

South Dum Dum’s civic chief assured residents of an ear for their grievances. He said the review boards could grant a rebate of up to 25 per cent. But, at the same time, he warned them that if they moved court and lost, their cases would not be considered.

Prem Kishore Ghosh, secretary of the Bangur Residents’ Association, says taxes have been hiked though amenities have not improved in the area.


March 3: 
Ever heard of a local call between two countries? Areas in Murshidabad close to the Indo-Bangladesh border are ringing in a very un-silent revolution that has the potential, not to change international telecommunication, but to revolutionise the way terrorism is exported in the future.

The calls, originating in Bangladesh and received this side of the international border on mobile sets, have set alarm bells ringing. Intelligence agencies and the district administration, faced with this new-age tool over which no one seems to have any control, are now desperately trying to wake up local Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd officials who, they say, have “not reacted with the alacrity” demanded by the situation.

The concept — now popular among smugglers — is simple and all that is needed is a mobile handset tuned to the frequency used by the service in rural Bangladesh.

The Bangladesh service may use the “code-division multiple access” (CDMA) technology used in India’s wireless-in-local-loop (WiLL) service or the GSM technology used by conventional mobile service-providers all over the world, say senior BSNL officials in Calcutta.

“But it hardly matters what technology they use,” one of them said. “The end result is the same: conversation on a particular frequency that is not allowed in India.” Consequently, no government agency in India has any control over this system and, therefore, cannot monitor the conversation.

“The consequences can be disastrous,” said a senior BSNL official. “No one knows anything about what is going on and, in these troubled times, these tools can be the terror-exporter’s dream come true,” he added.

The Union communications ministry usually asks around 25 agencies, like the defence ministry, Doordarshan and All-India Radio, whether they have objections to a frequency being cleared for a mobile service-provider. “This helps us keep tabs on service providers and their services,” a Union home ministry official posted here said. “But we are helpless now,” he admitted.

Officially, however, the BSNL is happy with a “we-don’t-know” line. The man in charge of BSNL operations in Behrampore, A.K. Sinha, denied knowledge of the goings-on. “Anyway, it’s a matter that concerns law-enforcement agencies like the district police,” the BSNL official said.

District administration officials admit knowledge of this development. Bangladesh-made mobile-sets and SIM cards have been seized from Lalgola and Raninagar, say officials. “We have doubled our efforts to nab users of this service in Murshidabad,” superintendent of police Rajesh Kumar said.


Calcutta, March 3: 
A militant arrested in the city had helped a Pakistan-based terrorist open bank accounts and transact finances from here, city police said today.

Ajmal Khan, a “sharp-shooter from Uttar Pradesh” who was arrested on Friday from a Royd Street apartment, is believed to be a Calcutta-based agent of the Jaish-e-Mohammad. Video and audio tapes seized from the Royd Street house contain speeches by Jaish leaders, police claim.

Police say Ajmal had given refuge to Mohammad Selim, alias Yusuf Khan, believed to be an active Jaish member, when he was on the run from the Uttar Pradesh police. Selim and his associates, Naushad and Alam, were killed in an encounter on March 17, 2001, in Lucknow, where he had gone “for an operation”, deputy commissioner of police (central) Zulfiquar Hasan told The Telegraph.

Cuttack superintendent of police M. Akshay said Ajmal hailed from Jagatpur and had introduced Niamat, Taheer and Abdullah to Selim. Taheer owns a tyre shop and Niamat works in a company there. Ajmal left Jagatpur to work at a restaurant in Park Street in Calcutta.

Selim had taken the four militants to Karachi in December 2000, for training in sophisticated arms, use of explosives and hawala operations by ISI operatives, police officials say. Sleuths discovered that Niamat and Abdullah had often called Karachi and Dubai.

The police have seized drafts and other documents that indicate Ajmal had opened bank accounts in Selim’s name in three city branches of foreign banks. “We have found that a massive fund-flow had taken place immediately after Selim’s death,” a police officer said.

Selim was a frequent visitor to Bengal and Orissa. “He operated from Calcutta and Jagatpur. We have evidence to suggest that he stayed for more than four months at Jagatpur,” said an officer of Hare Street police station.

Orissa director general of police N.C. Pari said they are co-ordinating with central intelligence agencies to flush out other militants from the state.


Malda, March 3: 
The CPM today crossed swords with the Forward Bloc over construction of a food park at English Bazaar in Malda.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had announced at a meeting in Malda on December 27 that a food park would be constructed here as part of the government’s state-wide scheme. The announcement, however, has not gone down well with minister for agriculture marketing Chyaya Ghosh, a Forward Bloc member of Bhattacharjee’s cabinet.

The 36.60 acre site adjoining National Highway 34 could not be used for the proposed food park, Ghosh said today. The land where the food park is to be constructed belongs to the department of agriculture and agricultural marketing. Unfazed, minister for food processing Sailen Sarkar, of the CPM, asserted that he would go ahead with the construction of the food park on the site.

Ghosh, who visited the site along with department officials, including secretary A.S. Lamba, announced — in the presence of government officials and trade union members — that a sophisticated cold-storage facility, a fish market and a cow market would come up on the site earmarked for the proposed food park.

The minister also held a marathon meeting with Sarkar last night at the Malda Circuit House to resolve the differences. Later, at a press conference, Ghosh said there were some problems over the construction of a proposed food park “on the site chosen earlier”.

Emboldened by the minister’s announcement, the English Bazaar Samity, which controls the site, today arranged a cow market there, much to embarrassment of CPM leaders and district officials.

Malda zilla parishad sabhadhipati Sefali Khatoon said she had lodged a complaint with the chief minister for allowing a cow market at the site earmarked for the proposed food park. “A cow market adjoining the Bangladesh border will pose problems for us,” Khatoon maintained.

Sarkar, however, stood firm on the proposal. “A food park is coming up in the district, come what may,” he said.

CPM leaders resented the manner in which Ghosh dismissed the proposal for constructing a food park at the site. “We shall soon bring the matter to chief minister’s notice,” said a key district CPM functionary. The matter would also be discussed at the district Front meeting, he said.


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