Shop shootout in pay-up showdown
Notice, suit in tuition tussle
Drunk jawan beats up airport staff
Menon menu for food rights
The City Diary
Living with the legacy of Tagore and PC
Contempt slap for civic chief
Police blueprint to ease traffic trauma
In-laws claim harassment, threat calls
Singing words of whizdom

Calcutta, April 8: 
Was it an “indulgence” shown by car showroom owner Anil Banka to extortionist Shantu that had misfired? The answer may perhaps be known later.

But on Monday afternoon, the extortionist’s bullet certainly did not miss its target.

According to DC, headquarters, Banibrata Basu, at around 1 pm, three youths entered The Motorcade on Hazra Road and quietly took up position in different parts of the complex. Then one of them — later identified as Shantu — walked into the office of Banka.

Here is Banka’s version of what unfolded in the next five minutes: “As soon as Shantu walked in, I recognised the extortionist. He had come demanding money from me earlier — Rs 20,000 in fact — and I had paid him Rs 3,000 just to get rid of him. Today, he demanded Rs 10,000.”

The police say that the first payment was made as “puja subscription”; Banka maintains that the payment was made “much later”.

In any case, Banka said, he had had enough of Shantu’s terror tactics and decided to defy him. “I was shocked when he insisted that I had to part with the money,” he said. “I refused to do so and told him as much.”

Beckoning his security guard, Mohan Bahadur Chhetri, who was standing outside his room, Banka stood up and challenged Shantu. “I told him I wasn’t going to cough up a penny and he could do whatever he wanted to,” Banka said.

He hadn’t bargained for Shantu carrying a pistol. Just at this point, Chhetri entered the room and seeing him, Shantu whirled around and shot at him. The bullet hit the guard’s arm. He slumped to the floor and hurt is eye, as well.

Banka panicked and dived for the attached toilet, the door of which was open. “I was sure that he was going to kill me now,” Banka said. “I locked myself up in the toilet and waited till Shantu had left.”

The extortionist then started shooting wildly, possibly to scare the others. The bullets smashed glass panes and computers and as the staff hid under tables and behind cupboards, Shantu and his accomplices escaped. They had not been traced till Monday night.

A few minutes after their escape, Banka emerged from the toilet and the bleeding Chhetri was taken to hospital. He is stated to be out of danger and recovering from his injuries.

When calm returned and Banka could reflect on the incident, there was one question to which he could find no answer: why did the police not respond to the emergency alarm that he had installed at a heavy cost?

According to Banka, he had paid a private agency to instal an emergency alarm in his office which, at the press of a button, would immediately alert the police control room.

“As soon as I sensed trouble when Shantu entered my room, I pressed the button,” Banka said. The SOS alerts the police control room which, in turn, conveys the message to mobile police units in the area.

But on Monday, the system did not work. Said DC, DD, Soumen Mitra: “Preliminary investigations have revealed that the alarm did not ring at the police control room. We will summon the agency to find out if they have been duping people.”


Calcutta, April 8: 
A crackdown at Rabindra Bharati University (RBU) and a hurdle at Calcutta High Court. Twists and turns marked the government’s drive against private tuition on Monday.

In one part of the city, the RBU authorities slapped showcause notices on 14 teachers for imparting private tuition.

In another, the West Bengal Teachers’ and Employees’ Association (WBTEA) moved high court to strike down the government’s notification banning private tuition.

The WBTEA petition — likely to be heard by Justice Sujit Burman Roy later this week — argues that the government order goes against the Constitution. An earlier petition, filed by Supriya Chattopadhyay, wife of Trinamul Congress chief whip in the Assembly Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay, arguing that the order was “humiliating and derogatory to the entire teaching community”, had been dismissed. But the WBTEA argument has challenged the government’s authority to deny teachers the fundamental right to pursue legitimate means to earn money outside school hours.

The petition challenges the entire government notice, except the third and fourth paragraphs. Both concern benefits for teachers — the third paragraph promising payment of pension to every teacher immediately after his/her retirement, while the fourth details some financially-beneficial schemes for teachers. WBTEA counsel Lakshmi Pal said Justice Burman Roy had been requested to hear the case immediately and strike down the “arbitrary” government notification that took effect from April 1. Later, senior advocate Debi Pal will take over the case, he added.

But officials said the Left Front government, despite opposition from the CPM-backed All-Bengal Teachers’ Association, will fight the petition with “all its legal prowess”.

The government, meanwhile, has found in Governor Viren J. Shah a backer in its anti-tuition tussle. With Shah urging the RBU authorities to probe allegations that some faculty members were giving private tuitions, vice-chancellor Bharati Mukherjee has asked for an explanation from 14 teachers of the vocal music department.

The state primary and secondary education department, in a notification dated November 21, 2001, had directed the head of all state-run and state-sponsored institutions to issue a form to every teacher that he/she would have to fill up. The form seeks a declaration, every three months, from every faculty member that he/she does not have any source of income other than teaching in the school.


Calcutta, April 8: 
Employees at the airport struck work on Monday after a CISF jawan reportedly misbehaved with an Airports Authority of India (AAI) employee in an inebriated state.

The airport police said the jawan, who was on night shift on Sunday, accosted the employee outside the link building for parking his motorcycle in the “restricted area” and later manhandled him.

According to the SP, airport, O.P. Gupta, the jawan, Prithviraj, who was not available on Monday, had “unnecessarily got into an argument”. The CISF has suspended Prithviraj for an indefinite period. “An inquiry is underway,” a CISF official said.

The jawan has been sent to hospital for an alcohol abuse test. He was among the 12 CISF personnel on requisition from the Calcutta Port Trust for emergency duty at the airport.

The situation on Monday spun out of control after a large section of AAI officials joined the fray and struck work from noon, creating problems for passengers and airline staff.

The demonstrations continued for almost an hour, with more AAI personnel joining the agitation. Normalcy was restored late in the evening. But, by then, passengers had to use dirty toilets and received no assistance from the personnel.

According to Gupta, this was the second incident in the past few months, ever since the CISF had taken charge of the airport’s security. “Earlier, one jawan had pulled out his rifle and threatened some airport employees. He, too, had been drunk,” Gupta said.


Calcutta, April 8: 
Nutrition as fundamental right is the latest campaign of legal luminary N.R. Madhava Menon. In this, the vice-chancellor of the National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS) is being backed by the Bengal government and the Union health department.

A core team — comprising Menon, state human rights commission chairman Mukul Gopal Mukherjee, director of the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health (AIIHPH) Indira Chakraborty and state health secretary Asim Barman — has been set up to prepare a proposal in this regard. “Our move is aimed at making nutrition a Constitutional right. If anyone suffers from or dies of malnutrition, then the human rights commission can be moved. We want to ensure that nobody dies of malnutrition,’’ said Menon.

A meeting has been convened on Tuesday at AIIHPH, where officials from the Union and state health departments, parliamentarians, doctors, research scholars, Constitution experts, representatives from Unicef, WHO and several NGOs will be present.

The proposal, prepared by the core committee, will be discussed at the meeting to be chaired by state health minister Suryakanta Mishra, and the conclusions sent to the Union health ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

“Health is the fundamental right of a citizen and if nutrition is an important part of health, then why shouldn’t nutrition be a fundamental right?’’ asked Menon. “If nutrition is a fundamental right, then both the Central and state governments will be compelled to work for preventing malnutrition among people, especially children and mothers in the rural areas.’’

Chakraborty said the meeting would be held in Calcutta as “Madhava Menon, the brain behind the move, and the Bengal government are with us”. Also, according to a survey conducted by S. Kachhupillai of the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), malnutrition is the highest in West Bengal, with 48 to 50 per cent of children in Calcutta being undernourished. Kachhupillai will also be attending Tuesday’s meeting.

“The main cause for this is maternal anaemia, as a large number of women suffer from iron deficiency and give birth to weak babies,” said Menon. “There must be some loopholes either in distributing iron tablets or in the delivery system or lack of proper policies. This is not expected in a city like Calcutta.”

Barman couldn’t agree more. “The government has always been in favour of such a move and we have assured Menon and the others of all support. The initiative has been taken and let’s see where it all leads,’’ said the health secretary.



Life sentence for murder of boy

The fifth additional district session judge of Barasat in North 24-Parganas on Monday sentenced a man to life imprisonment for murdering a six-and-half-year-old boy after abusing him. The culprit, Prasanta Mali, a pump operator in the Barrackpore area, had dumped the child’s body in a pump house after murdering him at Riverside Road, in Barrackpore, last year. A post-mortem later confirmed that the boy was sodomised before his death. Officials said the boy, Gourav Chowbey, used to play with his friends in a playground adjacent to the pumphouse where Mali worked. One afternoon, Gourav went to play but did not return. The next morning, residents of the area alerted the local police station. The mutilated body was found in the pumphouse and Mali arrested after interrogation.

Electronic shop strike

All electronic goods shops will remain closed on Wednesday to protest the government proposal on TOT (turnover on tax). “The TOT will increase a 0.5 per cent surcharge at every point and since electronic goods change many hands, a total of 1.5 per cent is finally levied on dealers, which reduces the margin of profit,” said Pradip Keyal, vice-president, West Bengal Electronics Traders Association. Small-time traders have also alleged harassment by sales tax inspectors and appealed to the government to bail them out. Keyal added that if the government apathy continues, they would be forced to continue with the agitation.

Snake in bottle

A shop-owner was arrested after a snake was found in a bottle of a popular brand of soft drinks in Falta on Monday. Police said the soft drink bottle was sent to the laboratory for a chemical test. A search has been ordered for the local distributor of the soft drink.

Land lottery

The state government will organise a lottery on Tuesday at Sisir Mancha to distribute land among residents of the Gangulybagan housing complex in the Jadavpur area. The land will be provided by the refugee rehabilitation department. The buildings in the housing complex are in precarious condition. In all, 480 families live in the complex and of them, 187 were allotted plots in Baishnabghata Patuli. Though they were asked to vacate the complex within a month, they are still living there. A portion of one of the blocks collapsed about a year ago.

Metro suicide

Metro rail services were disrupted for about an hour on Monday after a 40-year- old woman, Ranu Mukherjee, committed suicide at Jatin Das Park station at 5.32 pm. Metro railway authorities said the train was heading towards Dum Dum, when Mukherjee jumped on the tracks.

Demolition drive

About 50 unauthorised constructions were demolished in Beleghata on Sunday night by the Corporation, with assistance from the local police.

Taps to run dry

Behala, Garden Reach and Jadavpur will remain dry for more than 12 hours from Wednesday evening because of the suspension of filtered water supply from the Garden Reach waterworks.    

Calcutta, April 8: 
Amid the sylvan surroundings of the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) stands a building dating back to 1940-41. In a state of disrepair, it is constructed in the picturesque revivalist style identified with Santiniketan, artist Suren Kar and Rathindranath Tagore. Ornamentation borrowed from Oriental architecture and grafted on to streamlined structures gave them a typically “Indian” look.

Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis and his wife, Nirmal Kumari, lived in this beautiful house, which Rabindranath had named Amrapali after the mango grove amid which it stood.

Arunendu Banerjee, consultant with ISI for the Amrapali heritage project, says when Tagore used to live with the couple at their Baranagar home named Gupta Nibas, he asked them to build a house of their own. When the plot was acquired for the new construction, a single-storey house already existed there, along with a shrine. The house was expanded. The little temple is still there, next to a pond. The new building recalled Udayan and Udichi in Santiniketan.

The interior architecture is remarkable, says Banerjee. The space planning is outstanding. The toilets are split-level. A room meant for Tagore was ultimately never used. It is a good example of post-Tagorean architecture.

After Mahalanobis’ death in 1972, it was converted into a museum on the man known as the father of Indian statistical studies.

Besides tracing the life history of Mahalanobis, highlighting the milestones in his career, the well-planned museum recreates the times in which he lived through a wealth of photographs. There are rare glimpses of Mahalanobis with Nirmal Kumari when they lived in Amrapali, and of the couple with Rabindranath. Under Mahalanobis, ISI had turned into an institute of truly international stature, and this is borne out by the picture gallery.

There are, besides, copies of contemporary journals, small-scale replicas of the institutions associated with him, such as the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj. A large sketch by Nandalal Bose is displayed there. It is falling to pieces.

The first floor has been left the way it was in Mahalanobis’ days, complete with the furniture he used. It looks like nobody has dusted the effects for a long time. B.R. Panesar, who had joined ISI in 1949 as a student and retired years later as joint director of the National Samples Survey, says: “It was just like a family.” He remembers the first international conference held there in 1952, and Nehru’s arrival.

ISI is getting the building repaired and Caltech India is executing the project. To begin with, the roof will be waterproofed. Apparently, cement and sand are being used instead of traditional material. Is that how a heritage structure should be treated?


Calcutta, April 8: 
The high court has slapped contempt charges on Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) commissioner Debasis Som, for making a ‘false representation’ in a fibreglass bins case.

Kalpana Basu, the supplier, who had sued the CMC, has accused Som of deliberately misleading the court. The dispute between the CMC and Basu, over the procurement of 2,500 fibreglass bins, involved a sum of Rs 13.25 lakh.

The contempt rule was issued against the commissioner after the civic authorities’ conservancy department placed orders to contractors to supply the bins, violating conditions set by Justice Barin Ghosh on February 27. According to Ghosh, the entire dealings by the CMC seemed “suspicious, improper and unwarranted”.

In drawing up contempt proceedings against Som on Monday, Justice Ghosh directed the CMC not to accept goods from any of its suppliers. “In the event of any supply that has already been accepted, it should be returned forthwith to the supplier,” he added.

Bose filed a petition fearing that she would be deprived of the order to supply bins by the civic authorities even after she had quoted low rates. She also secured an interim injunction on the procurement of bins.

The CMC told the court on February 27 ‘that the decision to delete the name of the petitioner from consideration’ was pending before the mayor-in-council.

Justice Ghosh allowed the prayer of the CMC on the condition that the civic authorities would not proceed further without informing the appellant about the mayor-in-council’s decision.

But the court subsequently found that the decision of the deletion had already been taken much earlier, on February 12, and a work order was placed on Kaizen Industries in March, without informing the appellant.

“There is no such contempt of court case to my knowledge. Maybe our law officers are aware of it,” said member mayor-in-council (conservancy) Mala Roy.

“There is no fault on the part of the CMC. We allowed Basu to compete in the tender as directed by the court,” said senior law officer and officer-on-special duty to mayor Shaktibrata Ghosh.


Calcutta, April 8: 
To ensure smooth flow of traffic from the southern fringes to the city centre, the South 24-Parganas police has decided to introduce measures to regulate vehicular movement in Behala, Thakurpukur, Jadavpur, Regent Park and Garia.

Officials of the district police and the local borough committee of Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) held a meeting on Sunday to chalk out the measures, scheduled to be put into action from mid-April.

Deputy superintendent of police (Town) Subhankar Chatterjee said a blueprint was prepared in which traffic congestion and its causes were identified and remedial measures discussed.

According to him, the situation was worst at certain points, like the Garia intersection.

“A huge volume of traffic from far-off places in South 24-Parganas, like Diamond Harbour and Kakdwip, pass through Garia to reach the city. We have to concentrate primarily on this junction,” said Chatterjee.

“A few years ago, the Garia bridge was widened but due to a sharp rise in the number of auto-rickshaws, it did not serve any purpose. Nearly 2,500 auto-rickshaws ply on the bridge daily. Private buses and minibuses add to the chaos by picking up passengers from unscheduled stops,” said Birendranath Ghosh, local CPM councillor and chairman of Borough XI.

A similar problem was identified on another stretch between Taratala and Thakurpukur. Sources said a major patch on Diamond Harbour Road is occupied by nearly 3,500 auto-rickshaws, of which 2,500 have no licences.

There are at least 32 auto-rickshaw stands on this stretch, which do not serve any purpose. Trucks park right in front of Vidyasagar Hospital, adding to the chaos.

At Jadavpur, a subway was constructed near the 8B bus stand, but commuters prefer not to use it.

Chatterjee said: “To streamline traffic in all these areas, a special drive will be held from the second week of April. Hawkers will be removed and action will be taken against unlicensed autos, trucks and Matadors.”


Calcutta, April 8: 
Calcutta High Court on Monday directed the Alipore sub-divisional judicial magistrate to hear Anjana Ghosh, her husband S.N. Ghosh and her son Abhigyan, residents of New Alipore, on charges of harassment by one Bob Ghosh Dastidar. The court also asked the women’s grievance cell of Lalbazar to conduct a probe.

The Ghoshs alleged that Bob and his family were harassing them with threat calls and by setting the police on their trail. Anjana and the others sought a court order, directing the police to protect their rights.

Counsel on behalf of the petitioners, Subroto Mukherjee and Rita Mukherjee, informed the court that Abhigyan had married Sonia, daughter of Bob. But as Sonia was leading an indisciplined life, Abhigyan had to send her back to her parents.

“Since then, Sonia’s father has been harassing them, with help from the police, administration and local hooligans,” the lawyers said. They claimed that several allegations against the Ghoshes had been lodged with New Alipore and other police stations and their residence had been raided thrice.

Bob and his family, however, claim Sonia was tortured by her in-laws, who refused to return her wedding ornaments.


Calcutta, April 8: 
Workshops on yoga, meditation, body language and leadership skills. Development of personality, discovery of self and career development through management skills. Sounds familiar? But consider this: the age group for the workshop is 12 to 18 years. And it’s an 18-year-old who is conducting these workshops.

Surprised? Don’t be, because this is the new generation of the technology age. Rohan Jhawar has just given his Class XII exams from St James School. Inspired by Shiv Khera, he has been conducting these workshops for the past two years. His aim: the moral and spiritual uplift of the younger sections of society.

“Life today is very success oriented. What I’m trying to say is that there is nothing wrong with making money or spending it. But striking a balance is important. You mustn’t forget your values, because that is the secret to remaining happy. After all, money isn’t everything. You can buy a soft, comfortable bed with money, but you can’t buy sleep,” says Rohan.

The teenagers participating in his seven-day session, feel more workshops like this should be held in schools. “There’s so much pressure at school. All we do is study all the time. This workshop is something for us to do that is useful, but we also enjoy it,” says a 14-year-old. Another participant elaborates: “These workshops help us build a foundation for skills we will need later in life. But even now, I, for one, feel more confident, less shy. This is the second time I’m taking part in Rohan bhaiya’s workshop, but each time I feel I’m doing a little better in school.”

At Rs 600 per person per workshop, even those who are attending the programme for the third time feel it’s worth the money and the time.

Motivation, creativity, spiritualism, positive thinking… These seem to be the buzzwords of today’s teenagers. They are the new rules these ‘young adults’ (as they prefer to be called) live by. Anisha Goel, 20, is a student of J.D. Birla College and co-ordinator of the young adult section of Shri Shri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living. “We face so much academic and peer pressure that we need an outlet. These workshops are not about someone talking and us listening. It’s all about interaction. There is a teacher who supervises and we get a knowledge sheet with an outline of the topic, but basically, we do the talking. We discuss our daily problems and give each other advice on how to deal with them.”

The issues discussed at these workshops for the young range from fear and love to intelligence and the purpose of life. Bhajans, practical exercises in responsibility, leadership and organisational skills create an all-round experience that the youngsters find invaluable. Although the age group ranges from16 to 20, the bar is lowered even further for special sessions.

So, what’s the secret? An eclectic mix of fun with discussions on issues that matter. What’s good for adults works just as well, if not better, for young adults. As Sushmit Gupta of La Martiniere Boys School, and president of LMB Interact sums up: “Why should there be an age bar?”


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