Exam date clash stumps students
Tram plot for parking bay
Sex text swoop seals more units
Memories of Minto connection
The City Diary
Of ideas and ideals beyond dates
CMC seeks varsity report on tainted foodstuff
Simpler US visa process
School staff pay locked in state’s DA delay
A bond between home maker and seeker

Calcutta, April 5: 
Anti-student is the allegation B.Com candidates are levelling against the Calcutta University (CU) authorities. The university’s refusal to change the dates for two Part-I and Part-II examinations has left thousands of students, hoping to kick-start their careers with a chartered accountancy tag, staring at a six-month delay, for no fault of theirs.

On May 8, the final B.Com Part-II paper (environmental studies) and the CA Intermediate exam (fundamentals of electronic data processing and organisation and management) timings are clashing. On May 10, there is a gap of just one hour between the CA Foundation exam (economics) and the first Part-I paper (accountancy). The University has already “sent a written refusal” to the Chartered Accountancy Institute of India, in response to a request to change exam dates.

“Students have to decide which exams they want to appear for. What is their priority? Is it fair that they should try for so many degrees?” asked O.S. Adhikari, controller of examination, CU, on Thursday. The students, the CA institute and various college authorities have petitioned the university to shift the dates, to no avail. “It is not possible for us to take dates for the all-India exams into account while setting our own dates. Why don’t they change their schedule?” demanded Adhikari.

The dates for the CA exams are fixed nationally, and it is commonly known that they are held between May 2 and 10. Until two years ago, when CU changed its exam cycle, all B.Com exams would end by April. Last year could have seen the first clash of dates, till CU pushed back its dates for the Assembly polls.

As soon as they were notified about the exam dates in end-January this year, 60 B.Com students from St Xavier’s College sent a letter to CU, requesting a shift in the schedule. “This has upset all our plans. Now, I will have to appear for my Inter in November and I can’t sit for the finals before November 2003,” said a Part-II candidate from Xavier’s.

Colleges, too, are backing the students. “We have scheduled our internal exams to accommodate the CA cycle, but we have no control over the university dates,” said Father Felix Raj SJ, vice-principal, St Xavier’s. At least 800 students, over half of the B.Com examinees from the college, are expected to appear for the CA exams this year. “The reason we have morning classes is so students can pursue either professional or other academic interests while still in college. We do encourage our students to appear for CA,” added Felix Raj, heading the B.Com department.

But Adhikari brushed aside the need for B.Com students to carry on CA simultaneously. “If students want to pursue CA, they can do so directly after HS. These degrees are so easily available,” he said.

While denying the buzz that the University would bar students from sitting for CA exams, Adhikari did make it clear that this B.Com schedule would be followed every year, effectively slowing down students in their push for a professional edge in these competitive times.


Calcutta, April 5: 
The Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) on Thursday offered to sell its 10-bigha plot at Gariahat depot for conversion into a car park.

The proposal to utilise the near-defunct tram depot was raised by chairman of the Assembly sub-committee on transport, Sadhan Pande, to stop the civic body from converting the space under the Gariahat flyover into a parking lot.

The proposed parking lot under the flyover has raked up a controversy, with a section of traffic planners, government officials and top cops admitting that it would add to the traffic menace on Gariahat Road.

“It is a good idea and we are ready to offer the 10-bigha land at our Gariahat depot to mobilise resources to revitalise the CTC,” said Sudhir Kumar Dey, CTC chairman and managing director, on Thursday. He said the Gariahat tram depot would soon become defunct, and a decision in this regard has already been taken by the government.

Dey admitted that parking under the flyover would add to the chaos at Gariahat.

CTC sources said that Pande had convened a meeting of the transport subcommittee on April 9 to discuss a separate proposal to construct a Parkomat-cum-shopping complex at the Shyambazar tram depot.

“Current market value of the 10-bigha plot at the Gariahat tram depot will be Rs 100 crore. We need about Rs 80 crore to improve tram services,” said CTC general manager Mihir Das.

Pande, too, said the money was badly required to modernise tram services. “Be it the CMC or the government, whoever buys the Gariahat tram depot must pay for the land,” Pande said.

“I will soon take up the matter with transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, who is looking for an alternative to the proposed parking lot under the Gariahat flyover,” he added.

The CTC authorities said that the company could solve parking problems in other parts of the city too, by offering excess land at its various depots.

“We can help if the government comes up with a well-thought-out proposal,” said CTC general manager Das.

According to CTC’s estimates, the company owns more than 100 bighas in prominent places like Tollygunge (28 bighas), Rajabazar (16 bighas), Belgachhia (17 bighas), Joka (8 bighas), Park Circus (6 bighas), Kalighat (2.5 bighas), Kidderpore (9 bighas), Nonapukur (24.5 bighas) and Behala.

If the state government agrees, the CTC can generate Rs 500 crore by selling its surplus land, which can be converted to parking lots.


Calcutta, April 5: 
Ten more ultra-sonography machines, being used at private nursing homes and diagnostic centres, were sealed in the city on Thursday by the health department, with the help of the police, for functioning without licences and registration.

In a similar exercise on Tuesday, 13 units had been sealed in pursuance of a directive from the Supreme Court, which has come down heavily on the state for delayed action in preventing pre-natal sex determination tests. The court had earlier given time till November 21 last year and had extended it once. But when compliance reports were not forthcoming, the apex court served a contempt notice on the state, asking the principal secretary of the health department to appear before it on April 9.

The move follows a PIL initiated by an NGO on non-implementation of the provisions of the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (regulation and prevention of misuse) Act, 1994.

On Thursday, forces from Lalbazar and local police stations accompanied health officials in raiding centres in north, central and south Calcutta. Machines were sealed at Saviour Nursing Home, Anandalok diagnostic centre on Elgin Road, Lansdowne X-Ray Clinic and several other centres.


Calcutta, April 5: 
Perhaps the most effective way Calcuttans have, knowingly or unknowingly, struck back at the empire is the manner in which they have turned two parks named after two former viceroys into their favourite spots for cruising.

Lucy Moore, told this, could not help giggling involuntarily. She said she must pass on that piece of information to her grandmother, who recently returned home after a trip to the city. This wouldn’t have mattered unless one of the parks was named after Lucy Moore’s great grandfather on the maternal side, Lord Minto II. He held sway over India from 1905 to 1910, when he lived in what is known as Raj Bhavan today.

In a way, it also confirms Moore’s assessment of the Bengali character. She said she likes them for their “witty and louche conversation.” It is “great fun,” she adds. “I am worn out trying to keep up with them.” And, without a subversive sense of humour, could Calcuttans have been up to it?

Moore has visited Calcutta earlier, but this time she is here to research a book she has planned on some fascinating women “who were so unusual for their times” — Chimnabai II, wife of Sayaji Rao, maharaja of Baroda; her daughter Indira, who was supposed to marry the ruler of Gwalior but eloped with Jitendra Narayan, who subsequently became maharaja of Cooch Behar; Sunity Devi, who was daughter of Keshub Chunder Sen and whose son was Jitendra Narayan; and Gayatri Devi of Jaipur, whose mother was Indira.

Moore, still on the right side of 30, was born in London. Her parents were divorced when she was a child. By age 10, she had moved to America with her mother. She went to school there.

Moore read history at Edinburgh. She came to India for the first time when her father lived in Mumbai during 1992-99. But she was appalled because he constrained her to pretend that Minto didn’t exist. He feared her lineage would be held against her. Moore knew better. She was proud of her forbear, for he was a “gentle man”, who was sensitive towards the political aspirations of Indians.

On her first Indian trip, she read Gayatri Devi’s A Princess Remembers. In London, she picked up Sunity Devi’s biography for she would have known her great grandparents. Then she realised Sunity was Gayatri’s grandmother.

Moore, who has already written three books on 18th Century England, decided a year ago to write on this “line of intelligent and forward-thinking women”. The India Office Library is a treasure trove, but she puts greater store by interviews with people who remember times past.

So Moore is staying with Bharat Dev-Varma of the Tripura royal family. She will visit Cooch Behar with his aunt, Gayatri Devi. Her book won’t be ready till 2004.



No water hope for hotels yet

Two Hemen Mazumdar paintings, which had been stolen from the Chowdhury household in Dhaniakhali, being returned to the owners on Thursday. The paintings had been kept in the Victoria Memorial Hall. Picture by Pradip Sanyal The hearing of the appeal filed by Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) against a trial court order asking the civic authorities to restore water supply to two city hotels will continue on April 5. On Thursday, Shaktinath Mukherjee, counsel on behalf of The Oberoi Grand, informed the court that the CMC had stopped water supply to his client. He again sought an interim order directing the civic authorities to restore the supply first. But the division bench, comprising justices S. Banerjee and I. Banerjee, refused to pass any interim order. On April 1, the CMC had disconnected the water connections of The Grand and Hotel Hindusthan International for their failure to pay up property taxes allegedly amounting to over Rs 4 crore. Two petitions had been filed by the hotel authorities before Justice A. Lala against the CMC’s action. The judge, in an interim order, asked the Corporation to restore water connection in 24 hours. Instead of complying with the order, the CMC filed an appeal before the division bench against the order of Justice Lala.

A-I resumes foreign flights

Air-India on Thursday started operation of two weekly international flights through Calcutta. The airline had operated its last international flight from Calcutta on March 24, 2000. Since then, a domestic ferry flight operated weekly on the Mumbai-Calcutta-Mumbai sector to airlift Calcutta passengers to Mumbai for connecting flights to Europe, the US and the African countries. Air India on Thursday operated its Mumbai-Calcutta-Guwahati-Bangkok-Guwahati-Calcutta-Mumbai flight with a 200-seater Airbus 310. An Air India spokesperson said civil aviation minister Shahnawaz Hussain flagged off the Bangkok-bound plane at Guwahati. The plane flew 174 passengers to Bangkok, including 12 from Calcutta.

SMS for road news

Calcutta Police, in collaboration with Command cellphone services, launched a traffic update service on Thursday. Subscribers of Command will get regular updates on traffic jams and road disruptions by sending an SMS to 123 with the word “traffic”. The demand-on-call service is the first to be launched by the cellphone operator in collaboration with a city police force, said commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty at the launch.

Rally plans

Left Front will organise a rally on April 8 on Rani Rashmoni Avenue to express solidarity with the people of strife-torn Gujarat. Trinamul Congress has scaled down its plans for a mega rally later this month. According to a party spokesperson, a decision was taken earlier to organise a mega rally on April 17. The programme has been shelved in view of the on-going Higher Secondary examinations. A small rally will be organised on April 20, instead.

Run over

Iqbal Ahmed, 45, was killed in an accident on Circular Garden Reach Road on Wednesday night. Ahmed was hit by a bus on his way home. The driver fled.

College strike

Students of three sections of Bangabasi College on Thursday observed a strike, protesting the authority’s failure to repair the building. An accident might take place any day, they alleged. They also demanded the introduction of computer education with immediate effect.

Jump from bridge

A man jumped off the Howrah bridge on Thursday. Police said around 10 am, the man climbed on to the railings and jumped into the river. His body could not be traced till late on Thursday.

Clinic ransacked

A nursing home at Thakurpukur was ransacked by a mob on Thursday following the death of a child.    

Calcutta, April 5: 
If the President of India, or let’s say his red, red machinery ended up wishing people for the New Year only a week ago (following the English calendar, not Poila Boisakh), then why not rewind to the implications of today’s diaries, which are trying to break away from the picture and date mould to shared thoughts, generated ideas, and aired ideals?

Some diaries become a habit, like the one that Patton sends out well before the New Year begins. I find it a slimmer and handier companion than an unwieldy filofax.

Diaries with a heavy dose of messaging are what many companies are now focusing on. In these table diaries, your week at a glance is no longer just a set of ruled pages and square blocks. Every page carries a story, a good-luck inspirational tale.

From Harshavardhan Neotia, the diary is most appropriately titled “Building Trust” and subtitled ‘A Monument to Outstanding Customer Service’. The compilation “pays tribute to all those remarkable people who have gone out of their way to re-define how a customer ought to be treated”.

Mahendra Jalan’s pocket diary titled “Maa, tujhe salaam” is all about stories that make you proud to be an Indian. Factual tales abound of entrepreneurs and scientists, of our sportsmen and authors, of our economic, spiritual, business and cultural wealth, even an exemplary sanitation system. Done in saffron and gold, it is Indian to the core, down to the “notes” section being called “tippani” and the inspirational last words—a translation of Iqbal’s couplets.

Electrosteel Castings has, as its theme ‘Water is Life’. The series of ‘Did you Knows’ is crafted to make sure that you will not only never waste water, but you could become a crusader.

Cement major Lafarge India believes, through its diary, that “Character is the only Cement that holds the world together.” Its tales are of honesty, integrity, kindness, discipline, innovation, of winners and losers, of grit, priorities, ethics over profits.

Standard Chartered’s Life’s Savings are of the non-monetary kind. The diary contains a “bank of inspiration” — on Humane Steve, Kind Salim Durrani, Upright Premji, Civic-minded Sunil, the Noble JRD, the modest mathematician Ramanujan.

Srei International Finance believes in giving its recipients a tome that is your “Friend, Philosopher, Guide”, making problems into opportunities, singing the Lord’s praise, fulminating on the greatness of satsang, urging you to liberate your mind, and enunciating the differences between heaven and hell.

One common thread runs between all these diaries. The concept, research and visualisation. All done by Trisys, an agency which is infused with a huge dose of creativity and the desire to make a difference. We spoke to Mudar Patherya, the person who begat Trisys about the motivation behind producing these diaries. His answer is that he would find himself recycling all the diaries he received in the past—a fact that most of us would endorse. He felt there was a “need to uplift, and to marry content with product”.

Phew! I have never had a more evocative, persuasive, mind-filling fare as this year. 2002 could turn out to be the one that could make all of us become the kindest, most prudent, other-focussed, honest, successful, benevolent, value-based high fliers to people this planet!


Calcutta, April 5: 
The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has decided to seek help from Jadavpur University’s (JU) food technology department to tone up its food-testing laboratory.

“I will also request the head of the department to share with us their findings on the quality of sweets and the adulterants found in the food,” said member, mayor-in-council (health) Javed Ahmed Khan.

The JU food technology department had detected impurities in several food samples during a survey conducted three years ago on the sweets prepared and sold in the city markets. The report was subsequently sent to the state government’s food processing department.

With fast-food stalls selling rolls, chow mein and dosa mushrooming in every corner of the city, the civic food laboratory needs to be updated with the research being conducted in other institutions, Khan said. “We would have benefited had they (the JU food technology department) sent us a copy of their research,” he said.

According to Khan, sweet shop-owners don’t pay much attention to hygiene while handling foodstuff. Showcases containing sweets teem with flies and one can often spot a dead fly or two floating on the syrup.

“During a drive against hotel kitchens last year, we found that a reputed sweet shop in Bhowanipore had a toilet in the kitchen,” Khan added. The shop-owner shifted the toilet elsewhere after the drive.

According to civic estimates, there are over 15,000 sweetmeat shops in the city, while Calcuttans consume sweets worth Rs 2 crore daily.


Calcutta, April 5: 
The American consulate-general, Calcutta, has moved to simplify visa processing procedures that will “improve service” for US visa applicants. The consulate office announced the new procedures through a press release on Thursday, to be effective from April 8.

There are currently two types of visa applicants — those who come for personal interview and those who use the consulate’s drop-box programme.

From Monday, all non-immigrant visa applicants will make appointments for their visa interviews.

Applicants qualified to use the drop box will submit applications at an off-site location, and all applicants whose applications are approved, will have their passports returned to them via private courier.

The combined fee for these required services will be Rs 400 per passport and these changes are mandatory for all applicants, according to the release.

The new system will help visa applicants by eliminating the lengthy queues of the past.

This also means successful applicants will no longer have to return to the consulate to collect their passports. It is also good news for applicants who qualify to use the drop box system.

The office of TT Services, a division of TTK, located at 22, Camac Street, will be open as of April 8, to all drop box visa applicants between 8.30 am and 3 pm, Monday through Friday.

Applicants can even schedule an appointment with TT Services to submit their drop box application via the Internet at www.ttsvisas.com.

Those who don’t meet the drop box criteria, must continue to apply personally at the US consulate’s visa section, but they will now be able to set an appointment in advance.

All applicants seeking a non-immigrant visa, must make an appointment through the Internet appointment system, using www.ttsvisas.com.

Non-immigrant applicants should access the Calcutta portion (East Zone) of the website. Inquiries must be directed to TT Services at 281-3782 or 281-3783 between 2 pm and 5 pm, Monday through Friday, according to the release.


Calcutta, April 5: 
After a dull Xmas, a damp Easter. The teaching and non-teaching staff of Anglo-Indian schools in Calcutta are suffering due to a delay on the part of the state government in releasing funds to the respective institutions for payment of their dearness allowance (DA).

The Easter celebrations last weekend were unusually low-key, as over 3,500 Christian employees working in nearly 70 reputed Anglo-Indian schools in the city and the districts were caught in the DA impasse.

At present, nearly 132 per cent of the basic salaries of employees of Anglo-Indian schools is provided by the government in the form of DA. The expenditure for paying basic salaries of the employees is, however, borne by the respective schools.

The teaching and non-teaching staff of the institutions on Wednesday voiced serious concern over the government delay and threatened to launch an agitation if no resolution was in sight.

The delay has hit the employees where it hurts, as the government has made it a practice to clear all financial dues to Anglo-Indian schools before major festivals, like Xmas and Easter.

While the funds for disbursement of the dearness allowance for last December was not released till January, sources in some of the schools said the government had cleared the bills for the current quarter the week after Easter. What’s more, the government has cleared only 50 per cent of the outstanding DA for the current quarter.

“We hope that the heads of the schools will negotiate with the government, so that we don’t have to face this kind of problem in future,” said Ismail Nehal, president, Association for Teachers of Anglo-Indian Schools in West Bengal, and a teacher of St James.

According to a section of the employees, the trend was “alarming” as it could well be a pointer to the implementation of the state government’s recent circular on slashing of funds to Anglo-Indian schools from the current financial year.

The government recently sent a circular to the heads of all Anglo-Indian schools, informing them that instead of the current 132 per cent, it would provide only 41 per cent of the basic salaries of their employees’ pay.

The government now spends nearly Rs 35 crore every year for payment of DA to employees of Anglo-Indian schools.

Gillian D’Costa Hart, MLA representing the Anglo-Indian community in the West Bengal Assembly and principal of Welland Gouldsmith, one of the affected schools located in central Calcutta, said the heads of institutions were worried about the developments.

She said officials of the state education department have given “a verbal assurance” to remove the anomalies when they allot funds for schools this financial year.

State school education minister Kanti Biswas, however, said discussions on the disbursement of DA could not be carried forward till the schools responded to the circular on the funds cut issued by the government.


Calcutta, April 5: 
Home Front 2002, the largest display of real-estate development and allied products in eastern India organised by City Developers’ Forum (CDF), will be held at Netaji Indoor Stadium from April 19 to 22.

“At Home Front, we try to bring together builders, suppliers of building materials, home seekers, home financiers, the media and the government on a common platform,” said Sushil Mohta, CDF secretary and managing director of Merlin Group.

Last year, the exhibition attracted more than 15,000 visitors and home loans of Rs 50 crore were approved, while business worth Rs 70-75 crore was transacted. More than 40 per cent of the loans approved were for apartments ranging from Rs 15-25 lakh and 30 per cent for apartments between Rs 15 and 25 lakh.

Mohta said the primary objective of Home Front is to project the importance of real estate to the government, bureaucrats, the media and the public. “There are a number of incentives for the agriculture sector, but the government needs to do a lot for making housing affordable such as formulating development-friendly laws, removing hurdles in existing real estate-related laws, like excessive stamp duty and tough sanctioning procedures,” he added.

Besides, sales tax, excise duty on cement, steel and other building products should be reduced, considering housing is a vital sector, felt the organisers. At Home Front 2002, the customer can “choose from many options, educate himself about new trends and products in real estate and meet the builders in person”, according to one of the organisers.

CDF was founded in 1989 by “like-minded” builders with the intention to “bring professionalism” in the real estate industry. It was conceived as a platform to regulate the conduct of its members and to act as representative association for interacting with the statutory bodies, the government and the public at large.

Stressing the significance of Home Front in building a bridge between home-maker and home-seeker, forum president A.N. Shroff said: “CDF intends to create a code of conduct for its members to follow, as well as a reconciliatory forum in case of disputes.”

Shroff said CDF has in the past solved disputes by acting as arbitrator, sending representation to the government on urban land ceiling, stamp Act, registration Act, tenancy laws and the promoters Act. “We have also sent representation to Calcutta Police to protest extortion by anti-socials and the cement price hike by the manufacturers’ cartel,” he added.

At Home Front 2002, CDF will highlight the essential qualities of an organised real estate developer as guidelines for the home hunter. These are: quality, credibility, constant improvement, product upgradation, delivery on schedule, better environment in properties, sticking to promises and good after-sales service.


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