Shah vetoes varsity red writ
Parents firm on school fee rollback
Maidan army’s, rules HC
Goldie’s new girl, Dev’s daughter and wife
Fate of Howrah hat hangs fire
The City Diary
School on sidewalk for roof over head
Rerun for green plan
Security officer under scanner for library arson
Kalam sings tech tune for youth

 
 
SHAH VETOES VARSITY RED WRIT 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, April 23: 
It’s a snub from a Governor who seems to have a mind of his own. And one that the Alimuddin Street-controlled higher education thinktank has never faced before.

Two distinguished academicians not known for their CPM links — IIT-Kharagpur director Amitabha Ghosh and IIM-Calcutta director Amitava Bose — have been picked as the Chancellor’s nominees to the decision-making body of Jadavpur University, making it a never-before occurrence since the party consolidated its control over educational bodies.

Not that the party machinery did not try. The Alimuddin Street thought-control process had picked two men known for their strong CPM allegiance — Prabir Raychaudhuri and Basudeb Barman, as the Chancellor’s nominees, said officials. Raychaudhuri is a CPM state committee member and a Chancellor’s nominee for the past three terms. Barman became vice-chancellor of Kalyani University at a time when it had become impossible for anyone to hold a senior university position without strong CPM links (refer to Subhankar Chakraborty, Bharati Mukherjee and Surabhi Banerjee).

The Calcutta University (CU) Senate and Syndicate, too, will make it clear how the party’s writ is law, vis-à-vis ‘Chancellor’s nominees’. Some names that crop up are P.N. Ray who, after a stint as CU pro vice-chancellor , is now a member of the State Planning Board and in the Senate as a “banking profession representative”; Sukumari Bhattacharji, Oriental studies scholar but linked to ‘progressive and secular’ movements spearheaded by CPM fronts; and Shyamapada Pal, one of the seniormost leaders of the CPM-controlled West Bengal College and University Teachers’ Association.

But Governor Shah, say higher education department officials, has opted to strike a different path in JU. “He has shown (yet again) that he has a mind of his own,” one of them said, referring to Shah’s often no-nonsense views, vis-à-vis educational institutions, and to his CU convocation address last year.

“A Governor picking every nominee to a university body on merit alone is unthinkable now,” he added, explaining that Shah could have put his foot down as JU was one of the few educational institutions here to have got acclaim from all over India.

Shah’s office, however, did not want to get embroiled in any controversy. Shah himself was not available for comment and joint secretary to the Governor K.D. Gautama said “nothing much” should be read into the nominations of Bose and Ghosh.

“The files came from the higher education department, like any other year, and the choices were those of the Chancellor, after consultation with senior officials,” he said, adding that there had been no deviation from procedure.

   

 
 
PARENTS FIRM ON SCHOOL FEE ROLLBACK 
 
 
BY MITA MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, April 23: 
The Howrah district administration on Tuesday directed the authorities of St Thomas Church School, Howrah, to reopen the institution on Friday. But the stalemate is likely to continue till next week, as agitating guardians threatened on Tuesday that they would not withdraw their movement unless their demand for withdrawal of the fee-hike decision is met.

The school, controlled by the Church of North India (CNI), was shut down on Monday by the authorities after an agitation by the guardians against an “exorbitant” increase in tuition and other school fees.

The CNI’s decision to hike fees in schools under its control comes in the wake of a letter from the government, informing all the 69 Anglo-Indian schools in the city and elsewhere in the state, that it would cut down its contribution towards teachers’ dearness allowance.

“Our problem will not be solved merely by ensuring the reopening of the school. The government as well as the authorities will have to give us an assurance that our grievance regarding the fee-hike decision will be considered. Otherwise, we will continue our agitation till our demand is conceded,” said a member of the guardians’ association, who attended a tripartite meeting held on Monday night.

The association members were trying to contact Swadesh Chakraborty, Howrah MP now in Delhi, and seek his intervention.

However, Bishop Raju, head of the CNI in Calcutta, stressed that the decision to hike fees was “correct”. “We will stand by our decision, no matter how much people campaign against us,” he said.

On the basis of a complaint lodged by members of the guardians’ association, district magistrate Vivek Kumar asked Howrah’s sub-divisional officer Sekhar Dutta to convene Monday’s tripartite meeting, which was attended by government officers, including the SDO, the school management and representatives of the guardians’ association.

“The authorities have accepted our suggestion and agreed to reopen the school on Friday in the students’ interest,” said Das. “But since it is a private institution, we cannot interfere in its internal problem and pressure it to withdraw the fee-hike. But we have requested the management to forward the guardians’ demand to higher CNI officers.”

In keeping with protests at the Howrah school, guardians of students of some other CNI schools, like St Thomas for Boys, Kidderpore, and St Thomas for Girls said they will continue to agitate against the fee-hike. They will “intensify” their movement if the authorities continued to maintain a silence on their demand for a rollback. They have already begun a signature campaign to this effect.

Meanwhile, sources said the heads of other Anglo-Indian schools — those belonging to other denominations — were keenly watching the developments at St Thomas Church School, Howrah. “It could ultimately influence their decision on a fee hike, in case the government did cut down on funding,” a source said.

A number of such schools — those belonging to the Roman Catholic and Methodist denominations — have served “preliminary notices” on guardians indicating a possible fee hike in case the government cut down on its DA contribution.

   

 
 
MAIDAN ARMY’S, RULES HC 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 23: 
The legal battle between the city police and the army over control of Brigade Parade Ground (the Maidan) ended on Tuesday with Calcutta High Court pronouncing that the police have no jurisdiction to issue notices to the clubs for winding up their tents.

Delivering his judgment, Justice Ashok Ganguly also said that if the police were to take any penal action against any club , the concurrence of the army was imperative. The court quashed a notification filed by the police, asking Hindusthan Mitra Club, an old organisation with a tent on the Maidan, to demolish its structure and vacate the greens.

Mitra Club had challenged the validity of the police notice in court. The army added itself as a party to the case, with a claim that the force had no jurisdiction in issuing such notices, as the Maidan is controlled by it.

According to Debasish Kar Gupta, additional government pleader on behalf of the police, his client allowed the club to erect a tent on three major conditions. These were that the club could not erect a pucca structure on the ground, its activities should be to promote both indoor and outdoor games and no other programmes should be performed other than sports on the club premises.

Kar Gupta argued that presently, Mitra Club was in no way connected with any type of sport, and the police had the right to ask it to vacate the Maidan. “The police are in charge of law and order on the Maidan and that is why they should be given the power to take steps against any club,” he said. Kar Gupta submitted pre-Independence records in court to claim police control of the Maidan.

Partha Sarathi Basu, counsel on behalf of the petitioner, told the court that Hindusthan Mitra Club was one of the oldest clubs of the city, with a strong presence in the Independence movement. “It has maintained its heritage and is still engaged in promoting both indoor and outdoor games,” he claimed.

This is not the only instance where the government has tried to gain a toehold on the Maidan. On several occasions, it had negotiated with the army to build a bus terminus on the Esplanade stretch. Its efforts have not met with any success. Again, at the instance of the traffic police, the transport department had suggested a road across the Maidan to lessen traffic pressure in Esplanade. But this, too, met the fate of the bus terminus.

   

 
 
GOLDIE’S NEW GIRL, DEV’S DAUGHTER AND WIFE 
 
 
BY MADHUMITA BHATTACHARYYA
 
Calcutta, April 23: 
She’s being billed as “the next Raakhee”. Calcutta-girl Indrani Banerjee is still keeping her fingers crossed. For the girl who has been trying to break into the big-time for the past 10 years, starring with Dev Anand in Vijay (Goldie) Anand’s upcoming Jaana Na Dil Se Door may just be the milestone she has been waiting for.

Indrani, who is best known for ad campaigns for Society Tea, Coca-Cola, Vaseline Body Lotion and Godrej, was selected for a double role – Dev saab’s wife and daughter — in the film based on Chetan Anand’s life. Dev Anand’s character’s (Vivek Vishwas) is an author who becomes estranged from his family after his writing is deemed too “intellectual”. Retreating into a shell, it is only the love for his daughter Divya that brings a human touch to his work and makes him a best-selling writer.

“I am extremely happy with Indrani’s performance in this film,” said Vijay Anand, writer, director and producer of the film. And for Indrani, an ex-student of Jodhpur Park Girls’ and South City College, it was a “great experience working with Goldie (Vijay) saab”, which will “prove me as an actress”. Working with Indrani was “fun” for Dev saab, too. “She is a nice, young, hard-working actress, who overcame all the hurdles,” observes the seasoned actor.

The main stumbling block was the Bangali belle’s Hindi accent. But under the tutelage of Vijay, the veteran behind Guide, Tere Mere Sapne and Jewel Thief, that was soon rectified. “It was a training ground which I will always cherish. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” gushes Indrani, from her Mumbai home. The girl, who started out “not confident of her dubbing abilities”, feels that this is now her “forte”.

According to ‘Goldie saab’, the role had been rejected by Madhuri Dixit, Juhi Chawla and Manisha Koirala. “All the stars agreed to play the daughter, but not the mother. They were too caught up in their images,” rues the filmmaker, who feels the subject of his latest film is akin to those chosen by Bengali directors of yore.

The 20-something Indrani initially feared that the role might be “too much” for her to handle. “But then, Goldie saab told me to let him worry about that. He’s really the boss,” laughs Indrani, first spotted by a Stardust talent hunt in 1992, when she was just out of school. She has since acted in films like Dalal with Mithun Chakraborty and Ek Tha Raja with Aditya Panscholi.

Now, after “her big break”, offers are pouring in. She is shooting for a serial being produced by an Indonesian company, Rapi Films. The 26-episode series, called Love in Bombay, is being shot in Mumbai, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Malaysia. “I have just come back from shooting in Sri Lanka,” she croons.

The best thing about working in Jaana Na..., “a plea to live with your heart”, was watching the two brothers interact. ‘The respect they share is amazing,” notes Indrani.

For Tollywood, she is waiting for the right one. “I wouldn’t mind working in Calcutta. Isn’t it every girl’s dream to work with directors like Rituparno Ghosh, Aparna Sen, Buddhadeb Dasgupta and Mrinal Sen?”

   

 
 
FATE OF HOWRAH HAT HANGS FIRE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 23: 
Will the plan to develop Mangla hat in Howrah come to nought? Will the project ever be able to shake off the interminable law suits that entangle it? Will the garment sellers, who have been plying their trade in the hat for generations, ever come to terms with the landlord, Pranab Chandra Daw of Jorasanko, who is seriously ill?

The woes of this hat and its 3,300 stallholders began on November 20, 1987, when a mysterious fire gutted it. At that time, the Mimanis had leased the hat from the Daws for 50 years. The lease would have ended on December 31, 1988. The stallholders formed the Daw Mangla Hat Bastra Babasayee Samity (formerly Howrah Mimani Mangla Hat Bastra Babasayee Samity) soon afterwards, and reopened shop amid the ashes of the hat . The government had requisitioned the premises, in the meantime.

Then, on June 18, 1997, Calcutta High Court directed the government to restore the hat to its owners and occupiers, the latter being the stallholders.

Earlier, on June 6, 1996, Daw and Vandana Real Estate Private Limited had signed a memorandum of understanding, valid till December 5, whereby the latter would take care of all legal hassles and also develop the hat . The firm made an advance of Rs 5 lakh to Daw. They came to an agreement on June 18, 1997, and next day the firm was given symbolic possession of the hat .

The Mimanis, who used to be the lessees, were not happy with the high court verdict to hand over the hat to its landlord. They went to the Supreme Court and challenged it. On July 23, 2001, the Supreme Court rejected the Mimani suit.

However, what complicated matters was that Pranab Daw had given power of attorney in March 1999 to Shanti Ranjan Dey. Sheikh Mohammed Nizamuddin, president of the Howrah Daw Mangla Hat Bastra Babsayee Samity, alleges that Dey’s henchmen have been terrorising the garment sellers and are trying to oust them from the hat premises. Daw is going back on his promise to develop the hat . The Samity has appealed to the chief minister as well as the chairman of the Left Front to resolve the issue.

The manager of the hat on behalf of Dey, Gorachand Ghosh, says that the former is out of station, and rejects all the charges made by Nizamuddin. Each stallholder will be charged a slab of Rs 3,000 for licensee transfer and renewal, he says. The garment sellers may open shop on other days of the week, but Tuesday is the only official day on which they are supposed to operate, he said. That is evident from the name of the hat .

Ashok Biswas, DSP (South), says that the garment sellers of the hat have made allegations about how the owners have been trying to use muscle power to intimidate them, but he has found “no evidence” in support of that charge. The owners, too, have levelled similar charges against the Samity members.

Nandkishore Bhuthra, director, Vandana Real Estate, says that the firm had filed a specific performance suit at Calcutta High Court in 1998, since Daw has been procrastinating on developing the hat . On April 2002, Daw sought eight weeks’ time for producing a written statement on whether or not he will go ahead with the development project. Till then, the fate of the hat hangs in the balance.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

No fixed day off for state hospital staff

The Bengal government has decided to abolish fixed holidays for state-run hospital staff who man clinics and laboratories. There are six such hospitals in the city.

State health minister Suryakanta Mishra has issued a directive asking his department secretary, Asim Barman, to ensure that facilities like X-ray clinics and pathological laboratories remain open on Sundays and other holidays. The health secretary said these utilities were emergency services and were crucial for speedy diagnoses. The minister has decided that these facilities will remain open with the staff doing duty by rotation. “The staff will have their weekly days off but they have to ensure that the facilities run daily,” Barman stressed. The health department is setting up a network of medical information system which will keep tabs on administrative matters. The network will connect block-level health centres to the district headquarters and then to other institutions in Calcutta.

Girl handed over to NGO

Sampa Samanta, a mentally-challenged girl, was handed over on Monday to Dulal Smriti Sansad, a city-based NGO, by the Barrackpore court. Sampa was languishing in Presidency jail. The police had spotted her loitering in Noapara, North 24-Parganas, on February 11 and rounded her up for vagrancy. She was produced in court on February 21 and let out on a bail of Rs 500. But since she could not pay the surety, she was jailed. “She seems to be from a village near Bongaon. We could not trace her family members,” said Subhonil Chatterjee, volunteer of a human rights organisation. “It was then that we contacted Dulal Smriti Sangha,’’ Chatterjee said. The NGO filed a petition for Samanta’s release. On Monday, she was produced again at Barrackpore court. The NGO representatives said the woman will be given training in self-employment. “We are still looking for her relatives,’’ said a spokesman.

Man missing

Shyamal Basher, the domestic help of minister of state for food processing, Sailen Sarkar, has been missing since Sunday. The minister’s family members have lodged a diary with the Karaya police station. Basher was last seen on Sunday after he left the minister’s Beckbagan residence for Padmapukur.

More flights

The Royal Jordanian Airlines has increased its flights from Calcutta. A spokes-person for the airlines said flights will depart every Tuesday and Saturday at 12.30 am. The incoming flights will touch down every Monday and Friday at 10 pm.

Road mishap

A man was run over and killed by a private bus on route 44A near Jagat cinema on Tuesday morning. The critically-injured Arjun Singh was taken to Nilratan Sirkar Medical College where he succumbed to his injuries.

Councillor dies

CPI leader and councillor of ward 36 Chanchal Ghosh died at SSKM Hospital on Tuesday morning. He was suffering from heart ailments. Ghosh was 57 and is survived by his wife, a daughter and a son. He was admitted to a private nursing home at Salt Lake a few days ago and was later shifted to SSKM Hospital after his condition deteriorated.

Mother anniversary

Sri Aurobindo Bhavan will observe Mother’s Jayanti on Wednesday at 6 pm.    

 
 
SCHOOL ON SIDEWALK FOR ROOF OVER HEAD 
 
 
BY NISHA LAHIRI
 
Calcutta, April 23: 
Tapasi Mondal, Lachho Mahato, Sujit Paswan and Sanjoy Das are just four of thousands of streetchildren in Calcutta. They live on the pavements on Raja Subodh Mullick Square, C.R. Avenue and Jadunath Dey Road. They eat, sleep and bathe there. They even do their school homework on the road, under the streetlights, after a hard day’s work of rag picking.

These children need more than just two square meals a day. They require education, medication, vocational training and a roof over their heads. World Vision, in conjunction with Snehadeep Street Children Project, has been trying to do just that for the past seven years.

Project manager Tapan Biswas says: “These children face some extreme circumstances in their daily lives. When the CMC turns up with its trucks to clear the roads, the children have to pick up all their belongings and disappear. This disrupts their lives. Situations like these have made them very aggressive and generally problematic. They treat people the way they have been treated by society.”

The girls who live on the streets, sometimes as young as 10, are targets of indecent proposals, Biswas says disgustedly. The aim of the project is to help build a permanent home for these youngsters, where they can feel safe.

Currently, Snehadeep provides around 400 of these children with non-formal education, with the purpose of admitting them to formal schools, according to their ability. World Vision funds their school education until the child has a sponsor. One such school is the Salvation Army Behala Girls’ School, where a number of girls from the project are studying at the moment.

With this in mind, on April 22, World Vision gave away 156 schoolbags and clothes to children taking part in the project. “I always thought that the cause of poverty is the lack of opportunity. But I was wrong. At least in this city, the problem is exploitation,” adds Biswas.

He explains: “People go to restaurants and splurge without a second thought. But when they take a rickshaw, they haggle with the puller. That is the root of the problem. The mindset has to change. It is a hydra-headed problem, but that is the challenge we have taken up — to improve the situation, despite the odds.”

   

 
 
RERUN FOR GREEN PLAN 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, April 23: 
In an effort to cleanse the city air, polluted by automobile emission, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee reaffirmed his government’s policy of phasing out old taxis and buses.

“We have to think about checking air pollution but we cannot afford a Delhi-like situation, where everything came to a standstill while changing over to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG),” Bhattacharjee said at the first environmental excellence awards presentation at the state pollution control board (PCB) auditorium.

The chief minister said that his government, the pollution control board and the environment and transport departments were working out a policy to phase out the old vehicles. “The situation is spinning out of control and we have to think about it fast,” Bhattacharjee said.

The chief minister’s observation comes 10 months after he had made a similar announcement on June 5 — World Environment Day. Last year, the chief minister had asked the transport and environment departments to formulate a policy, which should not be “forced on the transport sector.”

Bhattacharjee handed over the first prize to Infar (India) and Mother Dairy. The second prize went to Tata Metaliks, while Berger Paints and United Breweries came a joint third. The award is instituted by the West Bengal Cleaner Production Centre, a partner of the PCB, and the Indian Chamber of Commerce.

The chief minister said that a balance should be struck between environment and production. “We do not want to repeat what the West had done on environmental pollution,” Bhattacharjee added. He said the state had set aside around Rs 16 crore for assistance to small industries, wanting to adopt cleaner production techniques.

Environment minister Manab Mukherjee pointed out that all the industries receiving the award fell under the “super red” category of industries.

“This proves that even the hazardous ones are concerned about pollution and other aspects, which were judged while selecting the winners,” Mukherjee said.

In the past five years, industrialisation had picked up momentum and so had the environmental monitoring by the PCB. “The Board regularly monitors 235 hazardous industries and the five winners are from among them,” Mukherjee said. The awards will be an annual event.

   

 
 
SECURITY OFFICER UNDER SCANNER FOR LIBRARY ARSON 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 23: 
The Alipore police and an internal probe team, set up by the National Library authorities, began their investigations on Tuesday into Sunday’s arson on the library grounds, where some rare books were burnt along with offal.

Both teams have a common agenda: to find out whether the act was one of irresponsibility by the Group-D staff, who did not know the value of old books, or sabotage. A six-member team visited the library on Tuesday on the basis of an FIR lodged on Monday by security officer S.K. Singh.

It was Singh who was under the police scanner on Tuesday. Singh, according to officials, tried to play down Sunday’s incident. “We have the contents of some of the books stored on floppies,” he reportedly told officials, referring to the semi-burnt copies of the two books that our correspondent saw in the pile of offal.

Burning garbage on the library campus was a usual occurrence on Sundays, Singh said. “Every department can set fire to old papers and refuse,” he added, but admitted that it could be done only after authorisation from the administration and in the presence of a security guard. None of the conditions, however, was fulfilled on Sunday. And Singh, according to police, could not offer a satisfactory explanation. “He only said that the dearth of guards made it impossible for the authorities to post one during the burning of rubbish on Sunday,” one of the officials said.

Besides, Singh could not identify the Group-D staff who actually committed the act, officials added. Simultaneously, the library’s three-member internal inquiry committee met the employees who were on duty on Sunday. All the employees, who were present on Sunday without “sufficient reason” would be interrogated, officials said, adding that they did not rule out sabotage, especially since some influential members of an employees’ union were up in arms against two senior officials of the library. One of them is Singh and the other library and information officer Mazharul Islam.

Islam had prepared the roster without consulting the union and this resulted in the standoff. Each employee, chosen to work on a holiday, gets an extra Rs 150, officials said, adding that they suspect the union gets a cut out of this amount. The library roster has 35 employees to work on Sundays and other holidays.

Officials, however, are not ruling out the “inadvertent error” theory. The authorities had dumped some books meant for binding inside the newly-constructed annexe building. “It is possible that some employees thought the books had been rejected and did, what they felt, was a good job,” a library official said.

   

 
 
KALAM SINGS TECH TUNE FOR YOUTH 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, April 23: 
A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the scientist behind the successful flight tests of missiles Prithvi, Trishul and Agni, on Tuesday asked students to strive towards transforming India from a developing country to one developed in technology and economy.

During an interactive session with nearly 350 high-school students at Birla Industrial and Technological Museum (BITM), Kalam said he intended to meet at least 100,000 students below 20 to propagate his mission.

“So far, I have met only 40,000 students. I want to propagate my mission — which I call ‘the song of youth’ — to enthuse the young brains to work towards transforming India into a developed country,” said the Bharat Ratna awardee. According to the 71-year-old scientist, nothing is impossible. “In 1895, scientist Lord Kelvin had said that anything heavier than air cannot be flown. But, the Wright Brothers flew their aircraft only a few years later,” he added.

Tuesday’s programme was organised by the Jagadish Bose National Science Talent Search, BITM and Ballygunge Government High School.

   
 

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