Paper puzzle stumps students
Pregnancy plagues Liluah home
Misconduct rap for cop
Age bar in matrimonial muddle
The City Diary
Police trail doctors’ help
Tainted water puts Howrah students in hospital
Mayor slashes budget
United on truce, divided on pledge
CPM in party clean-up act

 
 
PAPER PUZZLE STUMPS STUDENTS 
 
 
BY MITA MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, March 15: 
Students appearing for ICSE and ISC 2002 have complained of irregularities, like “repetitive, irrelevant and out-of-syllabus questions”, in some papers .

They have lodged complaints with the authorities of their respective institutions and, responding to their grievances, the heads of many English-medium schools in the city have written to officials of the Delhi-based Indian Council for Secondary Education, which conducts the two examinations.

The ICSE and ISC examinations began on March 1. More than 25,000 students are writing the examinations. The heads of the institutions have demanded that the answerscripts in question be examined leniently.

“We do not encourage students to study selected topics before the examinations and omit questions set the previous year. But since most students skip the previous year’s topics, many examinees were surprised to see at least four of last year’s questions repeated in the history paper,” said Gillian D’Costa Hart, principal, Welland Gouldsmith School.

When contacted in Delhi over telephone, Francis Fanthome, chief executive and secretary of the Council, said he had not received any complaints from the principals till Friday evening.

“Once we get the complaints, we will discuss the matter with our senior officials and decide what steps should be taken,” Fanthome added.

Normally, in a particular subject, questions are rarely repeated in consecutive years. “It was not just the topics that were repeated. Even the questions were phrased identically. This repetition reeks of laziness on the part of the paper-setter, who did not even bother to rephrase last year’s questions,” students said.

A geography teacher of a school in central Calcutta said she would soon send a letter to the Council authorities in Delhi, seeking some leniency in the assessment of this year’s geography paper as well.

There was confusion among the students at many examination centres on the day of the geography test. Students found that a map and its corresponding questions did not tally.

Dilip Bhattacharya, teacher of La Martiniere for Boys and general secretary of the Association of Teachers of Anglo-Indian Schools, said many ISC examinees found it difficult to answer a question in business mathematics. They had been asked to solve a problem in statistics in the algebra section.

According to Bhattacharya, another question on income- tax had the examinees in a fix when they found they were asked to solve a problem on income-tax surcharge for the year 2000- 2001 on the basis of a fictitious rate.

“The income-tax surcharge rate prevailing in the country is two per cent, whereas the rate mentioned in the question paper was between 12 and 17 per cent. This led to confusion, as schools teach students to tackle such problems taking the actual rate into account,” Bhattacharya added.

   

 
 
PREGNANCY PLAGUES LILUAH HOME 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 15: 
Thirty-four. That’s the pregnancy count at the government-run Liluah Home for Destitute Women, according to the West Bengal Human Rights Commission (WBHRC).

“We have mentioned our findings in the report, prepared following a Calcutta High Court directive, and have submitted it to the state government and the court,” said WBHRC chairman Mukul Gopal Mukherjee told Metro. “We have also suggested that the state welfare department (responsible for the functioning of the home) take appropriate measures as soon as possible to stop the ongoing irregularities,” he added.

Mukherjee’s interview is scheduled to be aired on Saturday evening on a CPM-influenced private television channel, Akash Bangla, where he narrates the contents of the report to interviewer Dibyojyoti Basu.

Despite coming down heavily on the state of affairs at the home, the rights panel chairman ruled out the possibility of any organised flesh trade on the campus.

“Though I am not ready to accept that men are brought in from outside, with the help of a section of the home’s employees, it remains a mystery how so many girls could become pregnant within a state-run refuge centre…. But then, there are a number of male staff working at the home,” he said.

Metro has been reporting the irregularities at the home over the past few months and the last case of an inmate becoming pregnant and giving birth to a child hit the headlines early this year.

The needle of suspicion pointed towards another deaf-mute home employee, who had free access to the girls’ cells. A DNA test will be carried out to ascertain the child’s parentage.

The report mentions that 76 inmates have escaped from the home over the past five years. “Most of these inmates used two hospitals, where girls are sent, to escape. They pretended to be ill and disappeared after getting admission there,” Mukherjee said.

Pointing out several other lacunae, Mukherjee said there was no attempt by the authorities to lodge different categories of women separately. “For example, a woman from a decent family shares the same room with criminals and sex workers,” he said. This should not have been the case, he added.

Home superintendent Reba Das, however, said the authorities were hamstrung with “an acute dearth” of staff and space. “We will welcome a government move to provide us more space, as that will help us segregate the inmates,” she added.

Inmates who have been in the home for over a decade were shifted to other homes in Salt Lake, Midnapore and Purulia, Das said. “We don’t want to keep an inmate for an inordinately long period, as she may have a bad influence on a newcomer,” she explained.

According to the rights panel report, many inmates have also left the home with people who later appear in court claiming to be their relatives.

“People who have contacts with criminals lodged in the home often pose as a girl’s relative. They try to lure the inmate away with the promise of a better life. It is hardly surprising that many of the girls view this as their last chance to get back into the mainstream,” explained Mukherjee.

The rights panel report also suggests ways to improve the quality of life in the home. “We did not only conduct the survey to find out the irregularities at the home. We also recommended steps to improve the condition of the inmates,” Mukherjee added.

   

 
 
MISCONDUCT RAP FOR COP 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, March 15: 
A policeman was pulled up and fined on Friday for refusing to take action in a taxi refusal case and even misbehaving with the woman who had come to him to lodge the complaint.

On March 7, 26-year-old Ipsita Basu, working for an NGO, had hailed a taxi on Rashbehari Avenue at around 7 pm. According to Basu: “I was waiting on Rashbehari Avenue, near the Hindustan Park crossing, for a taxi. I saw a vehicle (WMT 2090) approach. I flagged the driver and asked him if he could take me to Jodhpur Park.’’

The driver refused. “I told him it was extremely urgent that I reach early. The driver abused me and drove off, to park his vehicle about 50 yards away,’’ Ipsita added. “I looked around and saw a policeman (constable number SETP 2167) posted at the crossing. I went to him to complain against the driver,’’ she said.

But his attitude shocked Ipsita. “He was rude and said he could do nothing and went on to say that he was waiting on the spot only to bide time,’’ she said.

The remark infuriated Ipsita. She reminded the policeman that he was the law-enforcer, drawing a salary from taxpayers’ money and was, therefore, accountable to them. This added fuel to the fire and the policeman allegedly misbehaved even more.

An angry Ipsita rang up the traffic control room. “This number is easily available and I thought it prudent to bring it to the notice of the authorities,” she said. Officer-in-charge of the traffic control room S. Mitra heard her out. “He assured me of proper action. I felt much better after speaking to him,’’ Ipsita said.

“I was appalled to hear about the incident and immediately informed the officer-in-charge of the South-East guard, the local traffic office,’’ Mitra said.

Deputy commissioner of police, traffic, M.K. Singh, said a general diary had been registered against the policeman.

Investigations found the constable guilty of misbehaviour. On Friday, the constable was fined and adverse comments were recorded in his service book. He was withdrawn from the spot and retained for emergency duty.

Ipsita said Mitra informed her of the action taken. She wrote to city police chief Sujoy Chakraborty on Friday, lauding the efforts made by officers to book the errant policeman.

“Incidents like this reinforce the people’s confidence in the police. Much is said about their insensitivity and inefficiency... I believe it is time we all work to strengthen the bond between police and citizens,’’ she wrote.

   

 
 
AGE BAR IN MATRIMONIAL MUDDLE 
 
 
BY TAPAS GHOSH
 
Calcutta, March 15: 
It’s a six-year itch with a difference. If you tied the knot in or after 1996 with the help of a registrar who was more than 60 years old then, your marriage is in trouble.

A Calcutta High Court ruling on Friday — agreeing in principle with a state government notification issued in 1996 to bring down the retirement age of marriage officers (known also as marriage registrars) from 65 to 60 — puts hundreds of couples in Calcutta in an awkward situation. It also comes as a blow to the Non-Government Marriage Registrars’ Association.

As the court-decreed cut-off date is 1996, and all marriage officers who were above 60 then have now become — in the eyes of the law — superannuated from that year itself, legal circles agree on one point: all marriages sanctified by 60-plus marriage officers in or after 1996 have become “infractious”.

They do not hold Justice Ashok Ganguly’s disposal of the petition, filed by the marriage registrars’ association, responsible. One of the “most important fall-outs” of the verdict could well be marriages that have suddenly ceased to exist in the eyes of the law.

Marriage officers, prior to 1996, were appointed at the age of 45 and they could continue holding their office till they turned 65. But a 1996 circular changed all that. The state government, in that circular, decreed that any advocate above 25 could apply to become a marriage registrar. But there remained a catch — he/she would have to retire at the age of 60.

The marriage officers got together to challenge the notification and filed a writ before Calcutta High Court. They also succeeded in obtaining an order staying the circular from both the trial and the division benches of the court.

The state government ultimately moved a special leave petition (SLP) before the Supreme Court and managed to convince the apex court that its decision was right.

The state social welfare department, armed with the Supreme Court directive, issued a circular to the marriage registrars to submit all details of the marriages they had registered since the beginning of 1996.

The marriage officers’ organisation moved Calcutta High Court afresh, alleging that the government circular went against the rules of the Hindu Marriage Act. This petition, however, was rejected by Ganguly on grounds that members of the petitioning organisation were yet to cross the 60-year bar.

This, say high court circles, has the potential to ground all post-1996 marriages, sanctified by marriage officers aged between 60 and 65. Such marriages now will become valid only after an endorsement by a registrar below 60 years of age, they explained.

Couples under the shadow of the court order are now waiting for the government to clarify its stand.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Suicide on Rabindra Sadan tracks

Metro services were disrupted for half-an-hour on Friday morning after a 28-year-old man committed suicide by jumping on the tracks at Rabindra Sadan station. Metro railway sources said the incident occurred around 10.30 am. As a result, Metro services were held up till 11 am and five pairs of trains were delayed.

Two hacked to death

Two men, identified as Kalo Naskar, 25, and Hamid Gazi, 40, were hacked to death at Usti, on the southern fringes of the city, on Friday morning. Police said both Kalo and Hamid had criminal records and were wanted in a number of cases. Four persons were arrested in this connection.

Garden report

The Green Bench of Calcutta High Court on Friday directed the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) to submit a status report on the Botanical Gardens at Shibpur, Howrah. The court passed the directive on the basis of a petition filed by environmental activist Subhas Dutta, alleging that the 200-year-old garden was in pathetic condition due to mismanagement by the authorities. The court fixed the matter for hearing after six weeks.

RBU doctorates

Rabindra Bharati University will confer a D.Litt on four eminent personalities from different fields on May 8, at Jorasanko. The recipients are Paritosh Sen, V. Balsara, Shabana Azmi and Indira Goswami, university sources said.

Power protest

Around 150 members of the All Bengal Electricity Consumers Forum staged a demonstration in front of the CESC office on Friday to protest the hike in electricity charges. They submitted a memorandum to the office of the Governor. Police said 114 of them were arrested for law violation.

Tuition case

Calcutta High Court has adjourned its verdict in the case relating to the state ban on private tuition by teachers of government and government-aided schools. The judge on Friday directed the state education department not to force petitioner Supriya Chattopadhyay to give an undertaking that she was not engaged in any other business, including private tuitions, till the court verdict. Chattopadhyay has filed a writ challenging a government notification, asking teachers to submit quarterly statements every year, assuring the authorities that they were not engaged in private tuitions.

Rail booking office

A railway booking office in the subway of Howrah station was inaugurated on Friday by Sunil Sengupta, general manager, Eastern Railway. The booking office has 17 counters. The programme was attended by Swapan Kumar Choudhury, divisional railway manager, Eastern Railway, Howrah.

Poppy seed PIL

A PIL was filed by Trinamul Congress leader Tarak Singh on Friday, demanding a CBI inquiry into the alleged scam of poppy seeds involving the then Confed chairperson Chhaya Ghosh, now agricultural marketing minister of Bengal. The court has directed the respondents to file an affidavit within four weeks.    

 
 
POLICE TRAIL DOCTORS’ HELP 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 15: 
Bahadur, the middleman who introduced domestic help Kancha to doctors Madan and Geeta Choudhury, drugged and robbed at their Behala residence on Wednesday, was arrested on Friday.

The Choudhurys were sedated and valuables worth lakhs robbed by Kancha from their Arcadia residence in Behala.

They had employed Kancha about a fortnight ago. The police have also located the medicine store in Behala from where Kancha reportedly bought the sedatives. The shopowner informed the police that a person, who matches Kancha’s description, had bought sedatives in large quantities on Tuesday. “We will interrogate the shopowner further,’’ the police added.

According to deputy superintendent of police, South 24-Parganas, Subhankar Chatterjee, a police team has left with Bahadur to look for Kancha. “Since Kancha has no police record, tracking him down will be difficult. We will check out some dens in South 24-Parganas for him,” Chatterjee said.

The incident has once again thrown light on the fact that residents do not keep the local police station informed of details of their domestic help.

“Madan Choudhury is a popular doctor. He knew many police officers and should have recorded details of his servant with Behala police,’’ Chatterjee said. According to Behala police, none of Arcadia’s residents have registered their domestic help.

Hospital sources said on Friday that Geeta Choudhury’s condition was stable, though her husband is still critical. Choudhury is a heart patient and has a pacemaker installed. “He is in the ICCU with a team of physicians attending on him,’’ said a senior doctor of the nursing home.

Medical investigation revealed that the Choudhurys were given the sedatives at dinner around 11 pm. “The sedatives had reportedly put the Choudhurys to sleep for more than eight hours,’’ the doctor said. Since Geeta Choudhury did not eat much, the sedatives did not affect her much.

The Choudhurys’ only son, currently based in London, is reportedly trying to reach the city as soon as possible.

   

 
 
TAINTED WATER PUTS HOWRAH STUDENTS IN HOSPITAL 
 
 
BY A CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, March 15: 
A high level of colliform bacteria in the water, supplied by the Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC), was detected in the town on Friday. At least 45 students in Howrah Zilla School, besides a number of teachers, were diagonised with gastro-enteritis and admitted to nearby hospitals.

District medical officer M.K. Ghosh, who was informed of the contamination by the principal of the school, requested All-India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health officials to collect water samples from the school, the zilla parishad office and the district hospital.

Ghosh said: “Experts told us they found an unsatisfactory level of colliform bacteria in the water samples. We had earlier informed the public health department and works department about our suspicion on the quality of water. It was, however, only today that they admitted that leaking pipes and uncleaned water tanks have aggravated the situation.”

Zilla parishad officials were taken by surprise by the development. “The civic officials seem to be indifferent to our plight. We fail to understand why they do not take precautionary measures,” said an official.

According to the civic officials, they do not have information on water contamination in the town. An official from the health department told Metro that action would be taken only if something ‘major’ develops.

Residents allege that the civic body is playing with their health and they will start a mass movement if the HMC officials continue to be indifferent to their plight. “The officials will, perhaps, wake up only after people start dying,” said a resident.

   

 
 
MAYOR SLASHES BUDGET 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 15: 
In a move to make the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) less dependent on government grants, mayor Subrata Mukherjee has slashed the civic body’s budget by 40 per cent. The budget is to be placed for ratification on Saturday.

The budget proposals for 2002-2003 will be reduced from Rs 700 crore-plus to about Rs 450 crore.

Sources said it is the first time in the history of the CMC that a mayor had dared to downsize its budget proposal.

“If a 20 per cent embargo on the budgetary expenditure, like this year, will remain in force till next year, then the actual expenditure in the coming 12 months will turn out to be little over Rs 300 crore,” sources added.

A senior accounts officer said there would be no embargo on expenditure on the budgetary proposal from next year.

He said if the actual estimate of the previous budget and embargo were taken into account, then the cut in the budget proposals for 2002-2003 would be less than 40 per cent.

Most of the Trinamul Congress councillors lauded the budget proposals.

However, calling it a “retrograte budget”, leader of the Opposition Nirmal Mukherjee said: “The mayor has virtually declared a lockout on development activities with such a proposal.” Congress leader Sailen Dasgupta said: “It is a maintenance budget.”

Refusing to comment on his budget proposals before Saturday, the mayor said: “I don’t want to mislead citizens by raising false hopes.”

The civic accounts show that deficits have spiralled from Rs 50 crore to Rs 150 crore over the past few years. Officials say the mayor’s failure to convince the councillors of the added areas of Behala, Garden Reach and Jadavpur to bring their areas under a uniform civic tax umbrella and the poor response to his interest waiver scheme has forced him to match the budget with the civic body’s actual income.

Sources said the total tax revenue from the added areas could have been around Rs 100 crore if the areas were brought under a uniform tax structure.

All the 41 councillors of the added areas, irrespective of party colour, vehemently opposed the mayor’s proposal during a pre-budget meeting.

The cut-off date for the interest waiver scheme has been set for March 31, but only a meagre Rs 16 crore has been realised till now.

Meanwhile, members in mayor’s council said the budget proposal had been prepared without consulting them. They called it an “officer’s budget”.

   

 
 
UNITED ON TRUCE, DIVIDED ON PLEDGE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 15: 
Sinking their ideological differences, legislators of all parties today came together to express concern over the Ayodhya issue and called for efforts at the national level to work out a long-term solution.

For about 30 minutes before the day’s scheduled proceedings, over a dozen legislators representing the CPM-led ruling Left Front and the Opposition Congress and Trinamul Congress discussed the Ayodhya developments and the repercussions it could have in the long-term on the country.

The legislators expressed relief at the way the high-octane Ayodhya drama ended today without any bloodshed, but they also underlined the need for a lasting solution as they thought the smouldering issue, if not settled now, would harm the country’s economic and political interests before long.

However, no joint resolution could be passed in this respect because of opposition from Trinamul members to the idea.

As the House assembled at 11 am, Tapan Hore of the RSP requested Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim for a discussion on the emerging situation.

He suggested that the House suspend question hour and debate the consequences of the Centre’s agreeing to the shila daan by Ram sevaks.

Besides Hore, other members of the Left Front, the Congress and the SUCI expressed concern over the issue as this might affect communal harmony in the state.

But Trinamul members, including Tapas Roy, spoke against a joint resolution as this could vitiate the already tense atmosphere.

Roy also said that a Trinamul delegation had gone to Nakhoda Masjid in the morning to assure the Imam that all efforts would be made to maintain communal harmony in Bengal.

However, defying the state government ban, a group of VHP activists carried out a yagna two places in the Purbasthali area of Burdwan, reports our correspondent.

At Hemadpur, police dismantled a pandal erected for the ceremony and drove away volunteers.

They, however, returned to rebuild the pandal and carry out the yagna, this time without police interference.

   

 
 
CPM IN PARTY CLEAN-UP ACT 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, March 15: 
The state CPM has taken punitive action against six party members in North 24-Parganas on charges of criminal and anti-party activities.

Announcing it today, state party chief Anil Biswas said one member, Krishna Ghosh, was expelled while five others were suspended for three months. He said the move was part of the CPM’s exercise to weed out corruption and other anti-party activities.

Biswas said Ghosh was expelled after inquiries revealed that he was involved in the lynching of two youths at Nearabagan near Dum Dum station on March 4.

He said an inquiry committee had also been set up to find out whether any other party member was directly or indirectly involved in the lynching. “The committee will submit its report within a month. The party will set up similar inquiry committees in the future if there are complaints of party members being involved in matters which do not concern them,” said Biswas.

The CPM also suspended five members in Baranagar, on the northern fringes of the city, for their involvement in the filling up of a pond in the locality.

Those suspended included local committee members and branch committee secretaries. They are Gopal Banerjee, Shyamal Das, Shyamal Sarkar, Asim Basu and Asim Bhattacharya.

Biswas said the party received complaints that they were involved in filling up of a pond several months ago.

Party sources said the members were in league with a building promoter and were helping him illegally fill up a local pond. The matter had created a furore in the area.

   
 

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