Penalty plan for lawless lawyers
Boy stages abduction to start life afresh
Elaborate cover, security sieve
Ex-Naxalite on the job without pay
The City Diary
Making light of numbers game
Three theme parks for the city by year-end
Kerbside shops clog drains
Prohibited pistols issued licences
Youth dies in hospital pond

Calcutta, April 18: 
Case I: The wife of a public-sector undertaking employee thought she had the case wrapped up. A patient of asthma, she was certain she had been “wrongly treated” by the medical unit of the Corporation. She took the civic body to court, seeking damages. One day, during the hearing, she found her lawyer misrepresenting her case. She laid a trap. The lawyer was caught on audio tape, promising the officer that he would misrepresent the case “for a fee”. The matter went to both the police and the Bar Council. The lawyer confessed and paid his client Rs 1 lakh in an out-of-court settlement.

Case II: Relatives of Latif, convicted on charges of murder, were desperate to secure his release on bail. They approached several lawyers. One of them said “various pockets would have to be lined”, but bail was a certainty if they coughed up a lakh. The bail plea was rejected and the lawyer disappeared. Latif’s relatives petitioned the Bar Council. The lawyer was traced and his registration cancelled for six months.

Case III: A lawyer-turned-promoter promised to develop an old woman’s property and give her a hefty sum. The property was developed, but the promised payment never materialised. A police case was filed and the lawyer arrested. He is out on bail. The Bar Council is studying the case, before taking “appropriate action” against him.

Since January this year, 37 complaints of the “errant” behaviour of a section of lawyers have been lodged with the Bar Council. Action has been taken in more than a dozen cases, with suspensions ranging from six months to three years, and even cancellation of registration.

“This trend is very disturbing,” said Saradindu Biswas, president of the Bar Council. “Unfortunately, because of some lawyers, people seem to be losing faith in all advocates. This cannot be allowed to go on.”

According to Biswas, some “stern measures” are being contemplated to make the lawyers stick to the straight and the narrow. “The punishment must be exemplary, so that it acts as a deterrent for others,” he added.

As part of the “action plan”, a three-pronged punishment plan has been worked out. “We will take three kinds of punitive action against lawyers found to be guilty of misconduct,” Biswas said. “We are beginning with a reprimand for relatively light cases to suspension for six months and even cancellation of registration for life as an extreme measure.”

Last year, too, the record was anything but clean. “Reprimands were issued against at least 35 city lawyers,” said Uttam Majumdar, member of the Bar Council. “Three lawyers were suspended for their misdeeds, while the registration of one high court lawyer was cancelled.”

What is bothering Biswas is the fact that the number of complaints in the first four months of 2002 already outnumbers those registered throughout last year. “But we are not disheartened,” concluded Biswas.


Calcutta, April 18: 
Inspired by recent cases of abduction for ransom, a 14-year-old boy took his parents, relatives and three district police forces — Calcutta, North 24-Parganas and Midnapore — for a merry ride by pretending he had been kidnapped.

He wanted to start a new life in Mumbai with the ransom money, having failed in an internal school examination.

After a string of arrests in the heart of the city, and tracing the phone calls to a Ganesh Chandra Avenue mobile shop and a Digha telephone booth, the Belghoria police realised that they were on a wild goose chase.

It all began last Sunday, when this Class IX student of a city-based school, a resident of Belghoria, was asked by his mother to buy some groceries. The boy left home around 9 am, but even hours later, he had not returned.

Worried, the parents called up relatives and their son’s friends to locate him. Late in the afternoon, the father received a phone call from a person in Hindi, saying their son was in his custody, and that they should wait for another call for details on how to pay the ransom money.

The parents lodged a complaint with the local police station in Belghoria. With the help of the telecom department, the police managed to trace the call to a mobile phone outlet on Ganesh Chandra Avenue. A few people were picked up, but the police later learnt that the outlet also served as a public phone booth.

The second call came a day later. The caller told the mother that “they should not go to the police, as this would endanger their son’s life.”

One of the boy’s friends told the local police that the abduction may have been staged, as he had not fared well in the internal school examination.

The boy had confided in his friends that he would run away, for he feared his father would give him a dressing-down. He had, in fact, failed in several subjects.

By this time, the police managed to trace the second call to Digha. The Digha police on Wednesday found out that the phone used to make the threat calls belonged to a friend of the boy. The missing boy was staying there.

The boy was taken to the Digha police station, where he confessed to hatching the plot along with his friends to start a new life. A police team escorted him back to the city.


Calcutta, April 18: 
Sloppy and slow; porous and perilous. That’s what a surprise inspection by a senior official of the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) found the elaborate security cover at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport to be.

On Saturday morning, the Mumbai-based official, a stranger to the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) jawans, sailed through the ‘high-security’ entry points of the airport with a “false photo-identity card”. He also found the Quick Action Team (QAT), deployed at the airport to tackle any possible terrorist attack, slow to react to a mock SOS.

A senior city police official, who had learnt about the inspection, revealed that the “stunned” Central team, which found more loopholes than security net at the airport, has “returned to Delhi and dashed off a report to the ministry, seeking immediate replacement of the CISF jawans”.

The surprise inspection conducted by BCAS, the regulatory body of security at all airports, mocks the civil aviation ministry’s decision to hand over reins of the Calcutta airport to the CISF in and around the city airport. And not without reason. At around 9 am on Saturday, the official, donning a false photo-identity card, breezed through gate number 4 of the airport. The CISF constable posted at the gate did not stop the official or check his ID card. Later, the sentry claimed that “the man entered the airport so swiftly and confidently that there was no scope for suspicion”.

The official then headed for the cargo area, where he found the international cargo post unmanned. The constable on duty there was found at the domestic cargo hold, chatting with his colleague. When the sentry was asked why he didn’t stop a man entering the cargo with a false photo ID card, the constable replied: “How will we check, saab? It’s now releasing time.”

The official then reached gate number 1, from where he rang up the CISF control room and told them that a few terrorists had attacked hangar number 16. “This is an AAI (Airports Authority of India) staff calling. Come immediately, the hangar is under attack” — the SOS was sent loud and clear to the control room.

After around 10 minutes, four members of the QAT reached hangar 16, a stone’s throw from the control room. “We were told that some AAI staff needed help. We were not alerted about any terror attack,” they later told the BCAS official.

The Mumbai officer then quizzed the two sub-inspectors and two constables posted at the entry gate to the ‘international’ terminal. “No, his card was okay,” claimed one of the sub-inspectors. A security guard posted at the “link building” refused to budge from his chair and said: “I saw the man enter. He had a card around his neck. It looked all right.” The last round of inspections took the official to the main gate of the domestic terminal, where an inspector nonchalantly said: “The stranger sped away in front of our eyes. How could we make out whether his ID card was false?”

When contacted, the deputy commandant of CISF, D.K. Dasgupta, said: “We will definitely rectify the loopholes in the security system, if the complaints are found to be correct.”

Airport director Roshan Lal, who met the senior officer from Mumbai, said: “We were aware of the inspection… But one must not forget the commendable job the CISF has been doing. The praise from passengers should not be ignored either.”


Calcutta, April 18: 
He was a brilliant student and a doctoral degree holder of Calcutta University. He worked as a research scholar but lost his job in the university for having been jailed on account of his involvement in the Naxalite movement in the early Seventies.

Yet, ever since his release from jail he has been an integral part of his department and still participates in important academic and research activities related to his subject.

Meet 55-year-old Balai Mukherjee. At a time when the government is trying its best to enforce punctuality and regularity among employees and teachers of the university to improve work culture, Mukherjee appears to have set an example of dedicated service, even though he has no official association with the institution.

Ever after being freed from prison, Mukherjee was offering his services without any remuneration and he has never asked the authorities for it either.

“This is the only place where I find happiness. I am satisfied that my old colleagues, students, scholars and all the young teachers allow me to participate in the activities of the department,” said Mukherjee while sitting at one corner of a corridor in the applied chemical technology building of Calcutta University’s Rajabazar Science College. Mukherjee manages to eke out his living with small donations from his old colleagues and friends in the university.

Mukherjee, a bachelor, is at present focusing his study on environment engineering and is trying to do some research work on chemical pollution. He had done his Ph.D thesis on glass technology.

Popularly known as Balaida among students and teachers, Mukherjee is on the campus as soon as the duty hours start. Like any other full-timer, Mukherjee, remains in the department till 6 pm everyday.

“I prefer spending most of the time reading in the library as there is no problem if I stay there for a long time. As for the laboratories there is a problem there, as I have to wait for a suitable time till the students and scholars have finished their experiments,” continued Mukherjee.

He said he was grateful to the senior teachers of the department, many of whom happen to be Mukherjee’s classmates from the late Sixties.

“He has worked under some very well-known scientists of Calcutta University like Durgadas Lahiri in the Sixties and his research papers were highly praised by world famous scientists of England and Germany at one point of time,” said Rabin Majumdar, senior teacher of chemical technology department.

He was offered a fellowship by Sheffield University in 1970, but he refused to join as he believed his own country was the best place for conducting research.

“Balaida will simply pounce on a new journal or a book and immediately go through it,” said a student. “Sometimes he gets involved in serious discussions with us on important researches and gives his advice which we often find helpful,” the students say.

However, senior officers of the university say, despite Mukherjee’s dedication to work and his scholarship, he could not be offered a job because of the poor condition of his health.

According to the officers, Mukherjee, like many other brilliant students who were imprisoned during the Naxalite movement, was in all probability severely tortured in jail.

“There is no doubt about his brilliant academic career. We also appreciate that he still takes a lot of interest in all important and modern researches being done in our department. But unfortunately, we have noticed that he no longer has the strength to pursue a particular line of study for a long time,” regrets S. N. Gupta, another teacher of the department.

Mukherjee’s relatives say for reasons unknown to them, the ex-Naxalite at times suffers from bouts of depression ever since he returned from jail. But doctors have confirmed that he is not a mental patient.



State ropes in IBM for click classes

Webel Technologies Ltd, the one-year-old fully-owned subsidiary of West Bengal Electronics Industry Development Corporation (WBEIDC), entered into an agreement with IBM on Thursday to offer computer education in 100 schools and madarsas in Calcutta and other districts. The agreement marks the beginning of the second phase of the West Bengal government’s plan to introduce computer education from Class VII in over 1,000 schools in two years. In the first phase, training major NIIT was entrusted with the responsibility to draw up the course curriculum and Wipro won the hardware contract for 100 schools. But according to the IBM-WTL agreement, signed by S.K Mitra, managing director, WBEIDC, and Asish Kumar, vice president, sales, IBM, the global IT major will supply both the hardware and the learning modules in the schools. IBM will also issue certificates to students enrolling for the programme. The cost of the project is pegged at Rs 7 crore and the implementation process is expected to start by early May, 2002.

1-day remand for Ansari

Aftab Ansari, the alleged mastermind behind the American Center attack and the abduction of Khadim’s vice-chairman Parthapratim Roy Burman was produced before a magistrate on Thursday and remanded in police custody for one day. He is likely to be taken into custody by the Hazaribagh police next, followed by the Nalanda, New Delhi and Mumbai police at later dates.

Murder arrest

One person was arrested in connection with the murder of Sanjay Das in a crowded bus last week. Police said Shantanu Bhowmik, alias Chhotu, was arrested on Thursday in Jagaddal. Bhowmik, the driver, confessed to being part of the gang that shot Das for protesting against eve-teasing.

Water worries

Mayor-in-council (parks and gardens) of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation Hridayanand Gupta alleged that residents of Burrabazar were facing an acute water crisis. Gupta said wards 42 to 46 were the worst-hit. The CMC, he claimed, was busy with long-term projects, without bothering about the short-term ones. Similar complaints were levelled by Trinamul MLA Paresh Pal, who said wards 13, 14, 31 and 33 in Maniktala were facing water shortage. Two dozen Youth Congress workers were arrested at the CMC entrance on Thursday after an agitation to protest supply of contaminated drinking water in south Calcutta.

Traffic rules

City police chief Sujoy Chakraborty on Thursday urged industrialists and voluntary organisations to donate money for schemes to educate people about traffic safety. Chakraborty released the traffic bulletin in the presence of senior police officers, including DC, traffic, M.K. Singh. Chakraborty said his department was trying to ensure proper treatment of policemen who fall sick while on duty on the streets.

Clerk showcaused

The city police on Thursday served a showcause notice on a clerk of the Sixth Battalion, T. Basak, on charges of misbehaving with deputy commissioner of police A.K. Chatterjee. Police said Basak refused to take orders from Chatterjee.    

Calcutta, April 18: 
“If you want to learn how to swim, do you read a book about it? No, you just jump into the water!” According to veteran educator John Flatt, the only way to teach children mathematics is by throwing them into the pool of numbers.

To help students in Calcutta and the districts “explore” the world of arithmetic, the Australian freelance educator is holding workshops with nearly 1,500 teachers from English-medium, Bengali-medium, Corporation schools and non-formal teaching centres, at Loreto Day School, Sealdah. Flatt will also go into the villages to train them how to use hands-on techniques, using games and simple exercises. Dice, calendars, playing cards, coins are the easily available and inexpensive tools that he recommends, which teachers facing financial constraints can introduce.

“Rigid syllabi require rules, the very opposite of understanding,” says Flatt. But, keeping the pressures of curricula in mind, the Victoria-based teacher, who retired after 38 years in elementary education, recommends “just 15 minutes of classroom time a week” dedicated to his fun learning methods. The author of 14 books (three of which have been published in India by Orient Longman), Flatt has been coming to Calcutta for similar workshops for the past eight years.

“I am not asking anyone to do anything that I can’t do myself,” says the 58-year-old, breaking the ice by tossing a bright yellow, smiley-faced ball around class. This is no bluff. Flatt has taken classes with groups of 200 in villages and city schools to demonstrate how easily kids can learn. Mumbai, Delhi and Lucknow have also had a taste of the fun tools.

The calendar game was received with much enthusiasm from the teachers of Corporation schools, who attended the half-day workshops, in two batches, on Thursday. “There is a whole maths book in here,” says Flatt, showing how easily grids on a calendar page can be used to teach addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. “These are very helpful tips. Most of us do not use such interactive means in our classrooms,” admit teachers Gauri Guha Neogi and Marium Begum, eager to come back for a more advanced session.

Aimed at primary to Class VIII students, Flatt’s model has seen success in the villages, where teachers have started devising their own games, with their own rules. “Once the child learns the rules through practical experience, it will be able to solve any similar problem.” So, these games serve to improve logical thinking and deductions, which, in turn, allow them to tackle complicated problems in classes to come.

Arijit Majumder, a teacher at Loreto Day School, Sealdah, has been working on the “follow-up of Flatt’s training on a regular basis”. In addition to modules specifically designed for village students, teachers have also started to devise their own games. The strategy games are very important, he feels. “Children have to strategise at every stage of their lives. These are skills that will help them shine,” he smiles.

The “adventure traveller” came to Calcutta first on a holiday, when he contacted the British Council about taking workshops with city teachers. Later, Sister Cyril, principal, Loreto Day School, Sealdah, decided to host the instructor.

Pijush Kanti Das, senior education officer, CMC, admits that they don’t have the resources to provide expensive tools to the school. “That is why this workshop is so useful,” he observed, when he dropped by to see how the session was going. “It is good to see the teachers so involved… We need to shake up the existing system. Unless teachers are excited about what they are teaching, how will they sustain the interest of the kids?”


Calcutta, April 18: 
Good news for Calcuttans. As part of its efforts to beautify the city, the Trinamul Congress-controlled Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) on Thursday chalked out plans to set up three theme parks. The cottage and small-scale industries will collaborate with the CMC onm the project.

According to CMC officials, two of the theme parks will come up at Ballygunge and one on Strand Road. “We are determined to start the project by the year-end. The CMC and cottage and small-scale department officials will visit the sites on Friday,” said mayor-in-council member, parks and gardens, Hridayanand Gupta.

In a rare move, handicraft accessories will be used to beautify the parks. Sources said the artwork would be region-specific.

“For example, if the theme of a park in north Calcutta is based on the famous bamboo-work from Sabang, in Midnapore, the terracota objects of Bankura may be used for decorating a park elsewhere in the city,” sources added.

According to Gupta, a portion of Millennium Park, on Strand Road, a site near Ballygunge Phanri and a small park in front of Ballygunge Siksha Sadan, on Gariahat Road, have been identified for the first phase of the project.

“Artisans from Bengal will benefit from this kind of venture. Besides showcasing their work, we also intend to run sales counters to help out the poor artisans,” said Gupta. The state government has assured the Corporation of providing funds for the purpose. Gupta, however, did not divulge the amount earmarked.

Library protest: Members of the National Library Staff Association (NLSA) on Thursday demonstrated in front of the office of the director against the Union government’s “surreptitious attempt” to privatise the 150-year-old institution.

A team of officials, headed by joint secretary of tourism and culture Vivek Rae, met the director, S.K. Chakrabarty, as well as representatives of the employees’ union.

Rae is in the city to explore the process of bringing the institution under an autonomous body. Way back in 1976, Parliament had passed the National Library of India Act.

After the Janata government came to power at the Centre, it shelved the Act. Now, after almost 25 years, the Centre is planning to reintroduce the Act and run the library under the stewardship of a board.

Saibal Chakraborty, secretary of the NLSA, said: “We shall oppose the move at any cost. The government is clamouring for autonomy to pave the way to privatisation. We shall approach noted citizens to help us in blocking the move.”


Calcutta, April 18: 
More than 500 km of surface drains in the city have disappeared, thanks to illegal extension of kerbside shops, markets and fast food kiosks. The city civic authorities have decided to seek police help to remove these squatters from the peripheries of drains and get them cleaned before the monsoon.

“I will write to the commissioner of police to provide assistance to launch a drive against the squatters,” said mayor Subrata Mukherjee.

He said a mere half-inch rain in the city meant the burden of draining 70 million gallons of rainwater out of Calcutta. “It is urgent, otherwise parts of the city will face more acute waterlogging this monsoon,” said member, mayor-in-council (drainage and sewerage), Rajiv Deb.

The CMC drainage department had prepared a list of the areas where drains had been inaccessible for periodic cleaning due to illegal extension of shops or mushrooming of stalls.

The areas included Cossipore, Sinthee, Chitpur, Paikpara, Belgachhia, Burrabazar, Beleghata, Tangra, Topsia, Tiljala, Ekbalpore, Kidderpore, New Alipore, Garden Reach, Behala and Jadavpur.

“Following winter desilting of underground brick sewers and silt pits in the drainage pumping station, the duration of waterlogging in the city proper is expected to be less this year”, asserted Deb.

But desilting the brick sewer, he said, would be ineffectual during heavy rain unless the surface drains and gully pits were cleaned. “There is a 2744-km sewerage and drainage network in the city, from Sinthee to Behala and Topsia to Garden Reach, consisting of five types of drains and they are all interlinked,” said chief engineer (drainage and sewerage) Dilip Sanyal.

There is a network of more than 1,000 km of open drains, consisting of surface drains, storm water channels and nikashis (outflow channels). More than 20,000 tonnes of silt were taken out from brick sewers and silt pits in the drainage pumping stations.

But nothing could be done in areas with open drains, since most of them are not accessible for cleaning.

“One would think that the areas around Cotton Street, in Burrabazar, or Kustia Road or Topsia Road or Karl Marx Sarani are served by an underground sewerage system because no drain is visible. But the reality is that the drains have disappeared under the roadside shops or bazaars,” said Deb.

Engineers and labourers of the drainage department have, time and again, tried to clean them but the squatters did not allow them to do so, he added.


Calcutta, April 18: 
The city police detected anomalies in issuing arms licences after officers found that several people have managed to obtain licences for ‘prohibited pistols’.

During an unscheduled raid, senior officers detected that at least three dozen people possess .38-bore pistols.

Sources said though the police and paramilitary forces use these pistols and revolvers, the Centre had issued directives that licences for .38 pistols and revolvers should not be issued to civilians.

“Yet, several people have managed to obtain .32 or .38-bore revolvers without proper licences,” they added.

Additional commissioner of police Kiriti Sengupta has reportedly ordered a review and directed the Arms Act department of the city police to track down people who possess the prohibited revolvers and pistols.

“We have been asked to investigate how people managed to get hold of prohibited pistols and where they got their licences from,’’ a senior police officer admitted.

According to the police, people are generally issued licences for .32-bore pistols and revolvers, 12-bore guns and .22-bore sports rifles. The .38-bore pistols and revolvers have an effective range of 50 feet and can kill people. The .32-bore revolver has an effective range of 40 feet. Rifle clubs use the .22 bore rifles.

“To get an arms licence is an extremely tedious process,” said an officer. Explaining the procedure, he said an applicant has to fill up the form, in which there is a separate column to justify the intention to possess arms.

“The application is then forwarded to the local police station. The officer-in-charge is supposed to investigate whether the applicant actually requires a revolver or a pistol. The Special Branch and detective department of city police scan the applicant before a licence is issued,” the officer added.

“The .32-bore revolvers are popular. After the government clamped down on the import of .32-bore revolvers and pistols, there has been a rush to get these from the ordnance factories,’’ Sengupta said.

But what has surprised authorities is the fact that despite strict checks and stringent measures, civilians have got hold of .38-bore pistols. “We have been tipped off about a few people who are in illegal possession of weapons without licences. It is only a matter of time before we arrest them,” an officer said.


Calcutta, April 18: 
Deepak Thapa, 22, was drowned while bathing in a pond on the NRS Hospital campus on Thursday. Thapa reportedly worked at one of the makeshift eateries on the hospital premises. “Although we have not ruled out foul play, Thapa was probably sucked in while bathing. We have sent the body for autopsy,” said the police. The body did not bear external injury marks.

At 8.30 am, local youths spotted Thapa struggling in the pond. They raised an alarm, which brought the local police to the spot. “We have information that Thapa would regularly bathe in the pond. Maybe he was nursing a hangover and could not swim to safety,” the police added.


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