B-School head calls it quits
Gabbar faces trial a year after murder
Civic staff under McKinsey scanner
Disinvestment review plea
The City Diary
Dipstick test for malaria
Zoo cries foul over phone bill
Home alone with Warner
Buddha shelves crime Bill
Parties play blame game

 
 
B-SCHOOL HEAD CALLS IT QUITS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 11: 
Time: 10.45 am

Date: March 9, 2002

Place: The Indian Institute of Management campus, Joka

Scene: Celebration time at the premier B-School’s 37th annual convocation. Students — in graduation-day robes — accompanied by proud parents were trooping into the newly-built auditorium. The campus was all decked up to welcome the dignitaries

Conspicuous by his absence: Dr Subrato Ganguly, chairman, IIM, Calcutta.

Hours after Aditya Kashyap, member, board of governors, IIMC, filled in the blank left by Ganguly’s absence and presided over the function, Metro traced the truth — the chairman did not attend the convocation simply because he wasn’t chairman any more.

“I wasn’t there because I had quit the board on February 12 as a mark of protest against the high-handed approach of the ministry of human resources development,” said Ganguly, who became chairman in 1997 and whose term was to end this April. The ministry is yet to acknowledge receipt of his resignation.

“The Central government was not complying with the terms and conditions regarding succession of the chairman and director for IIMC. I had to put in my papers to protect the dignity of the board of governors,” added Ganguly, ex-chairman of the West Bengal Electronics Industry Development Corporation (WBEIDC).

According to recommendations of the Dr V. Kurien Committee, set up in 1991 to look into “the direction and functioning” of IIMs, the succession of chairman and director requires setting up of a search-and-selection committee, with nominees from both the Central and state governments.

“The process couldn’t be started despite several requests by us since June 2001. The search-and-selection committee couldn’t be constituted, as the Centre didn’t send us the name of its nominee,” said Ganguly. The state government, however, had done the needful before the January 31 deadline.

But the human resources development ministry appeared unfazed over Ganguly’s resignation letter or the allegations of ‘deliberate inaction’ to create confusion on the Calcutta campus.

Professor Ashok Chandra, special secretary of the department, who is also on the board of governors of IIMC, said on Monday: “We are revising the procedure of search and selection and so the ministry didn’t deem it fit to nominate anyone for the committee. We had communicated this to the chairman, but it seems, he was not in a mood to wait.”

Chandra said the new succession procedure at the IIMs would be put in place shortly. But he refused to set any deadline for the amendment and didn’t spell out any details of the new rules. “The IIMs are premier institutes and we will try our best to ensure their smooth functioning. The new procedures will be announced as early as possible,” said the special secretary.

With the IIMC without a chairman and the term of director Amitava Bose — who was in Delhi and could not be contacted — ending this June, there is growing apprehension that the Murli Manohar Joshi ministry may be out to jeopardise the transparent process of governance at the premier B-School and create an administrative impasse.

IIM Ahmedabad is already without a chairman for the past six months. “By creating an impasse in Calcutta, the ministry can carry forward its hidden political agenda,” alleged Ganguly.

   

 
 
GABBAR FACES TRIAL A YEAR AFTER MURDER 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 11: 
The police on Monday framed charges against Rashid Alam, alias Gabbar, in the murder of Sanjiv Jhulka in May last year.

Gabbar will be produced in Alipore court on Tuesday and his trial is expected to begin from April 4, police said. There are half a dozen more charges against Gabbar. These include extortion, dacoity, robbery and murder.

Jhulka was allegedly killed in a car in front of a restaurant in Tiljala. His body was dumped near the EM Bypass and the car was abandoned in Taltala.

During the course of the investigations, Ranvijay Rathore, Trisha Roy, Sabnam and Fatman, all friends of Gabbar who were allegedly involved in the murder, were arrested. Police said Rathore, Roy, Fatman and Sabnam are now behind bars.

After a hot chase all over the country, city police finally managed to locate Gabbar in a club in Kakurgachhi where he was finally arrested.

According to additional superintendent of police, South 24-Parganas, Rajesh Singh, investigations have brought to light vital evidence that could nail Gabbar in the case:

Police have recovered the gun Gabbar used to shoot Jhulka. The gun’s bullet matches the bullet which killed Jhulka

Five persons in the restaurant had witnessed the incident. Their statements have been recorded and they will testify in court

Investigators have compared the statements of Rathore, Trisha, Sabnam and Fatman, which corroborate the fact that Gabbar killed Jhulka. Police investigators said efforts were on to turn one of them into an approver.

Police have taken help of finger-print experts, who have clarified that Gabbar’s finger-prints have been found in the car and on Jhulka’s body.

Singh said investigators have spent a lot of time over the past few weeks in their effort to plug loopholes and frame the charges.

“We are determined to make sure that Gabbar is convicted for the murder and is sent to life imprisonment,’’ he said.

Police said Fatman, Rathore and others were not directly involved in the murder. According to sources in the investigating team, they have been charged with conspiring with Gabbar and with carrying illegal arms and ammunition.

Sources said Tiljala police have given special protection to the witnesses. “Two of them had complained to the police that Gabbar’s henchmen had threatened them not to give evidence against him in court,’’ a senior officer of Tiljala police station said.

Officers of the team probing the Jhulka murder case met several legal advisers on Saturday and Sunday, before they finally framed the charges against Gabbar.

RBI advice: Reserve Bank of India has urged income-tax payers to adhere to the following steps to check the last-minute rush for payment of taxes around March 15: Taxes can be paid by cheque, and the cheques can be deposited, along with self-addressed envelopes, in the locked receptacle on the second floor of the RBI’s main building, says a press release.

Receipt copies of the cheques will be delivered by post. Payment can also be made at any designated branch of State of India and its subsidiaries, Punjab National Bank, Allahabad Bank, Bank of India, Dena Bank, Bank of Maharashtra, Canara Bank, Syndicate Bank, Vijaya Bank, Corporation Bank, Oriental Bank of Commerce, Central Bank of India and Bank of Baroda.

   

 
 
CIVIC STAFF UNDER MCKINSEY SCANNER 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, March 11: 
For McKinsey, this might be as tough as it gets — bringing method to the madness at the civic headquarters and giving it a more ‘efficient and human’ face.

But the global consultancy major — hired by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) for Rs 50 lakh — has already made a mark with a report comprising observations on the civic body’s style of functioning.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee, who roped in McKinsey to prescribe a turnaround, said: “We cannot sit idle, as the world around us is changing, at least vis-à-vis institutional responsiveness. The rejuvenation of the CMC requires professional expertise and, hence, the decision to hire McKinsey.”

The preliminary ‘reality’ report submitted by McKinsey has identified a few ‘rogue’ departments responsible for the CMC’s poor image. The “style of functioning” in departments involved in collection of property tax and issuing licences have been marked out for ‘special mention’ in the ‘things to change’ list.

The report, however, is not restricted to blaming it all on the attitude of the staff. While analysing the root of corruption and the lack of efficiency in the civic headquarters, McKinsey has suggested a simple solution — “an attractive growth path” to motivate the workers.

Citizens’ grievances have also been addressed in the report. For better compliance, the burden of tax on Calcuttans should be reduced and the CMC should look at bridging the deficit by exploring new avenues of revenue generation and enhanced efficiency in implementation. The rising deficits in CMC budgets have not escaped the McKinsey scanner. Frowning at the figures — a deficit of Rs 50 crore in the 1999 CMC budget spiralling to Rs 150 crore two years later — the consultancy major has stressed the need to clean up the balance sheet.

The CMC’s annual shortfall now hovers around the Rs 66-crore mark, with its revenue pegged at Rs 170 crore and pay-related expenses amounting to Rs 236 crore, officials disclosed. Reasons for the widening gap between revenue and expenditure have been identified as a combination of “stagnant revenue and rising establishment and maintenance expenses”.

Citing the example of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, which suffered a loss of Rs 50 crore in 1993-94, but turned its financial fortunes around dramatically to achieve a Rs 200 crore surplus by the turn of the century, McKinsey has emphasised that it’s never too late — or too early — to script a revival.

In another move towards professionalism at the civic headquarters, the mayor on Monday authored a first by handing over a CD containing the names and details of 39,000-odd employees to municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya. The list, prepared for the first time by an external agency, PricewaterhouseCoopers, will help purge the civic rolls of “ghost’ employees, the mayor said.

   

 
 
DISINVESTMENT REVIEW PLEA 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 11: 
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has urged Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to reconsider disinvestment plans with regard to Central public sector undertakings in Bengal.

Bhattacharjee sought a review of the situation following a joint deputation by Central trade unions, opposing disinvestment in Jessop, Braithwaite and Burn Standard. “All these companies are engaged in wagon-making and, therefore, deserve special treatment in the vital interests of the economy,” Bhattacharjee wrote to Vajpayee on Monday.

This was Bhattacharjee’s third letter to Vajpayee on the issue. The chief minister pointed out that though the condition of these companies had deteriorated over the years, disinvestment was not the solution.

The Centre has signalled its intention to hive off government-owned units, but the Bengal government has been expressing concern over its fallout on workers.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Thursday date for Bleach appeal

The application by Peter Bleach, accused in the Purulia armsdrop case, will finally be heard by Justice Ashok Ganguly of Calcutta High Court on March 14.

On Monday, Justice Ganguly directed the superintendent of Presidency jail to produce Bleach in court on Thursday morning, where the British national will argue his case in person. Bleach, in his application, has claimed that he is a “victim of discrimination”, as the five Latvian crew members — his co-accused and co-sentenced in the case — had been granted remission by the President of India almost 19 months ago.

Bleach has been in Presidency jail since January 1, 1996, prompting Prime Minister Tony Blair to raise the matter with Union home minister L.K. Advani.

But there is some doubt over whether Bleach will appear in court on Thursday, as he is suffering from tuberculosis.

Fresh order in moustache case

A division bench, comprising Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice S.K. Mukherjee, on Monday passed an interim order restraining Victor Joynath De, an employee of Indian Airlines (IA), from joining work till disposal of the case. Justice A. Chakraborty, of the same court, had earlier directed the airline to re-employ De, who was sacked for not complying with his employers’ orders to trim his moustache.

BSF appointment

Brigadier B.K. Malik has assumed charge as inspector-general, South Bengal (HQ) Frontier, Border Security Force, from Monday, taking over from S.B. Kakati, who has been repatriated to his parent cadre in Assam.

Park Street rename

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee announced on Monday that Park Street would be renamed after Mother Teresa. The proposal was passed in a meeting of the mayor-in-council and will be placed for ratification in the Calutta Municipal Corporation on Saturday.

Woman injured

An unidentified woman was injured near the western slope of Bridge no 4, Park Circus, when a bus on route 202 collided with an auto-rickshaw around 4.25 pm. The injured was rushed to National Medical College and Hospital. Both the vehicles were impounded but the bus driver managed to flee.

Naihati protest

Trouble broke out at Naihati, in North 24-Parganas, after a mob, protesting work suspension at local jute mills, blocked the roads on Monday. The blockade disrupted traffic for hours and was lifted late in the afternoon.

Cop suspended

Susanta Chatterjee, sub-inspector, Shyampur police station, was suspended for alleged negligence of duty on Monday. Howrah superintendent of police C.V. Muralidhar said Chatterjee was suspended after an undertrial, Sheikh Khatib, jumped off a jeep while being taken to Garchumuk under his custody. Khatib later succumbed to his injuries in hospital on Monday.

Pickpockets held

Lalbazar sleuths picked up five pickpockets on Monday. The five operated at Sealdah station, Esplanade and Gariahat. “Three had been rounded up earlier but were later freed,” said the police. The stolen goods were not recovered.    

 
 
DIPSTICK TEST FOR MALARIA 
 
 
BY AMIT UKIL
 
Calcutta, March 11: 
A new rapid diagnostic test for malaria, conducted at the bedside of the patient, will soon be available in Calcutta. This test is not only accurate but can tell whether a person has been infected with plasmodium falciparum or any other malarial parasite, the most common being plasmodium vivax.

The test is an improvement over earlier rapid tests currently being used by diagnostic laboratories in the city. Developed by Dr Anthony Moody of the London School of Tropical Medicine, the new dipstick test uses the monoclonal antibodies the blood cells produce as a result of the presence of the pLDH (plasmodium lactate dehydrogenase) enzyme. This enzyme is produced only by live parasites in the body through mosquito bites.

The existing rapid tests are based on HRP-2 (histidine rich protein-2), and use the antigen produced by the parasite. “But the test can detect only p. falciparum infections (which lead to malignant malaria) and, in case a person is infected with p. vivax (benign malaria), the person or the doctor will not get to know,” said a representative of the company marketing Optimal, the new rapid malaria detection test. It will be available against doctor’s advice in single test strips, as well as 48-piece kits.

The new method can also tell whether medication given to counter a malaria attack has worked or not, as a second test conducted four to five days later (the time usually taken to clear the blood of live parasites) will show negative. But an HRP-2 test can remain positive for 28 days because of residue antigen in the blood. “False positive results may lead the doctor to go in for second line drugs. Also, if a second test is positive in the new method, then the doctor can be sure that the patient has drug resistant malaria.”

But Prof Amitava Nandy of the Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine differs on this count. “Drug resistance tests can only be conducted through in-vitro sensitivity. To understand parasite dynamics, one would have to wait 28 days from the first dose of medication.”

He said the test had its advantages. “In a situation where infrastructure is not available, or when the clinical state of the patient requires immediate intervention, this new test is useful. Another important aspect of this test over the conventional slide test done under the microscope is that the findings depend on chemical reaction, and not the expertise, or lack of it, of the human eye.” A lab technician might miss seeing the parasite in a sample where the load is less.

In fact, diagnostic labs such as Roy and Tribedi have detected several cases where the parasite has not been spotted under the microscope but have turned out positive in the rapid test in samples from the same patient. “We have been evaluating this kit for the past one month and the results are satisfactory,” says Dr Subhendu Roy. “If the test does not show positive, one can be 99.9 per cent sure that the patient does not have malaria.”

The test is simple. A needle prick, the collection of a drop of blood in small plastic cup or buffer coated with LDH, and this leads to a capillary reaction on the strip. If the patient is positive, two of the three bands change colour. If it is not, only the control band does so. In case it is a non-falciparum infection, the third band will also change colour. A single strip test costs about Rs 200. “It could prove useful, especially if the cost was less,” doctors added.

   

 
 
ZOO CRIES FOUL OVER PHONE BILL 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, March 11: 
A case against Calcutta Telephones in a consumer forum, which is now in the hands of an arbitrator appointed by the service-provider, threatens to open a can of worms about alleged malpractices by telecom staff, resulting in inflated bills to consumers.

What sets this complaint apart from the others is the identity of the petitioner — the Alipore Zoological Gardens. What also sets this complaint apart is the revelations made in course of the case.

The detailed “call chart”, explaining where the calls were made and when, has identified that most of the calls were made a little after midnight, more than six hours after the zoo closes.

The facts of the case: Calcutta Telephones sent a bill of Rs 90,413 for the cycle 9/95 to the zoo authorities. The zoo promptly filed a suit in the Calcutta District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum through its advocates, Prabir Basu and Rita Mukherjee, alleging that the bill was “fictitious” as previous bills for the number (479-1150) never exceeded Rs 8,000.

The forum, according to rules, sent the case to Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, which appointed an arbitrator to give a verdict. The case is now being heard by Calcutta Telephones deputy general manager (new services) Manish Das.

“The case may be attracting a lot of attention because of the identity of the consumer,” said Telephone Services Society secretary T.S. Srinivasan. “But the fact is that Calcutta Telephones keeps receiving similar complaints from individual subscribers throughout the year,” he added.

Senior BSNL officials admit that the case, because of “the facts involved”, could lead Calcutta Telephones to a racket, involving a section of its staff.

The racket, say officials, often involves lower-level staff who “manipulate” the distribution box. “The line from one telephone is fed to another for a definite period of time every day, allowing the ‘rogue’ consumer to make long-distance calls,” an official said. “A definite sum of money — depending on the duration of the line-transfer — changes hands,” he admitted.

   

 
 
HOME ALONE WITH WARNER 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 11: 
Classics like Ben Hur and Gone With The Wind, cartoon characters like Tom & Jerry and Scooby Doo or recent blockbusters like Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone will soon be readily available on home video.

Saregama India has entered into a strategic tie-up with Warner Home Video to market and distribute “its formidable and finest collection of classic films, besides its latest superhits and cartoons” on VCDs and DVDs.

Announcing the company’s foray into the home video segment in the city on Monday, Saregama India vice-chairman Sanjiv Goenka said: “As of now, there is no organised player in this market segment, the size of which could be anything between Rs 50 and 100 crore. This marketing arrangement gives us access to Warner’s catalogue of over 5,000 films, which we can now put on the shelves of big retail stores like MusicWorld, Planet M and Landmark.”

Goenka promised more such distribution tie-ups with international majors in the “fast-growing” home video segment soon. “It’s a virgin market, and we expect a sales turnover of Rs 20-25 crore in this business,” he said. With VCDs priced at Rs 299 for new films, Rs 199 for catalogue films and Rs 150 for cartoons, Saregama hopes to provide a “far more attractive alternative” to pirated software, which has flooded the market.

“As retailers, we are happy that there will now be a steady supply of major international releases,” said MusicWorld storehead Dipra Jha.

The RPG Group is also scouting for a five-acre plot on the Bypass to bring its hypermarket model ‘Giant’ to Calcutta.

   

 
 
BUDDHA SHELVES CRIME BILL 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, March 11: 
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today indicated that his government will not bring about a Bill on prevention of organised crime in the current session of the Assembly.

Replying to the debate on the Governor’s address, Bhattacharjee said the government wanted to wait and see how the Centre implemented its Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance before taking a step towards enacting the crime Bill.

“Provisions under the (Centre’s terror Ordinance) are dangerous. Someone arrested under it cannot appeal. There is no problem in bringing about (the crime Act) as we have approval from the Cabinet of ministers. But, before bringing about the crime Act, we want to wait and see how the Central Ordinance fares,” Bhattacharjee said.

The chief minister admitted that a message condoling the death of five policemen in the January 22 attack outside the American Center should have been included in the Governor’s address.

“We have made a terrible mistake. The death of the policemen should have been condoled in writing in the Governor’s address,” Bhattacharjee added.

He said the time had come to redefine the term “law and order” in the international and national perspective.

“New type of crimes like kidnapping, hijacking and in urgency have emerged in Bengal what we had not dreamt of before. The provisions in the current laws are not enough to combat these crimes,” Bhattacharjee said.

He said in north Bengal, the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) had joined hands with the Ulfa and was active with foreign assistance.

“The KLO has so far murdered 15 people in north Bengal. In Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia, Naxalite outfits like the PWG and the MCC are active even though we had politically defeated the Naxalbari movement earlier. The extremist groups are taking advantage of unemployment among the youth and economic backwardness,” he said.

Bhattacharjee said the ISI had become active in Bengal from 1993-94 and till now it had engineered 20 incidents like the explosion at New Jalpaiguri station. Altogether, 104 people have been arrested in connection with these incidents.

Refuting Opposition criticism that police had failed to solve the kidnapping of Khadim’s co-owner Parthapratim Roy Burman, Bhattacharjee said: “State police, Central police and the CBI are in close touch and we know when to submit the charge-sheet. We are not just sitting on the case.”

He, however, admitted the government’s failure in not being able to anticipate a large-scale strike on the American Center. “Had the attack been at the US consulate, the attackers would not have succeeded,” he added.

Bhattacharjee said a move was afoot to train a large number of commandos and modernise the police force. Over the past one week the government has received nearly 1,000 sophisticated firearms. including 456 SLRs.

   

 
 
PARTIES PLAY BLAME GAME 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 11: 
After yesterday’s violence at Taldi, police were not taking any chances.

The state was fully geared to make sure there was no rerun of Sunday’s violence during the 12-hour bandh called by the VHP.

Last night itself, the police picked up VHP South 24-Parganas secretary Tridib Mondal from his Baruipur home. They also rounded up 40 Sangh supporters.

Today, schools remained closed but most shops were open in Taldi where police had to open fire to repulse violent VHP supporters yesterday. The VHP had organised a yagna in Taldi in connection with the March 15 bhoomi pujan at Ayodhya.

Senior BJP leaders went to the area today and held discussions with party members.

Local Trinamul Congress MLA Gobinda Naskar alleged that the police were making indiscriminate arrests in the area. VHP state secretary Rabi Bhattacharya, who was in Taldi, said his organisation was not involved in the violence. CPM leaders alleged that yesterday’s violence was triggered with an eye on next year’s panchayat polls.

Inspector-general of police (law and order) Chayan Mukherjee said the police have been instructed to prevent any religious organisation from holding functions that could foment tension.

   
 

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