Sabotage spark in books bonfire
Lungs choke on poison fumes
Tenants target in tax sweep
Sentry sacked for forty winks
Degree course in nephrology
CalTel rings in modern phone sets
The City Diary
Count of music unheard
Calphones fails to meet target
‘Dotcom’ diary lists college girls and clients

Calcutta, May 12: 
The preliminary police probe into the National Library bonfire of books in April has confirmed suspicions of a possible “sabotage” with not one but two ulterior motives — maligning the present management and protesting the Centre’s move to grant autonomy to the library.

The initial report, prepared by officers of Alipore police station, points out several anomalies in the versions given by the library’s authorities and staff. “It (the burning of books on campus) was probably done to discredit the management and lodge a protest against the Union human resources development ministry’s move to grant autonomy to the National Library,’’ the report says.

“Library officials were unable to give a satisfactory reply when asked about many crucial missing links,’’ according to officer-in-charge, Alipore thana, Pinaki Mandal. He declined to divulge details, “given the sensitive nature of the case”.

Deputy commissioner of police, south, Kuldip Singh, too, declined comment. The Alipore police will probe the mystery further before submitting a report to the authorities, he added.

The police reports appear to confirm what the library management has been maintaining from Day I — that the April 21 incident was a case of sabotage. The library authorities have decided to ban all “demonstrations and sloganeering” on campus.

“I have issued a circular urging the unions not to organise any demonstration or indulge in slogan-shouting, which disturbs readers and library-users,” library director Shyamalkanti Chakraborty told Metro. “We have specific rules which don’t permit anyone to organise demonstrations and rallies and use language unsuitable for an institution promoting education on campus during office hours,” he added.

The National Library Staff Association (NLSA) last week organised a demonstration to protest autonomy moves by the Centre. It took place at the main administrative building during library hours. A number of readers petitioned the authorities, leading to the clampdown, officials said.

The police probe into the bonfire of books was prompted by a complaint from the library authorities and a request for a “thorough inquiry”. Police officers quizzed library security officer S.K. Singh, other securitymen and senior library officials before arriving at the preliminary conclusions, hinting at sabotage.

The report explains how sweepers gather garbage on campus over the week, following which a section officer sends an authorisation slip to the security office, asking for permission to consign the rubbish to flames. No one in the library, however, could produce this document to explain the April 21 bonfire. Before being set ablaze, the pile of garbage has to be checked to prevent the destruction of any valuable item. Two securitymen are supposed to monitor the entire exercise. No securityman did that on April 21.

NLSA secretary Saibal Chakraborty was the first to spot books in the fire but, instead of bringing it to the notice of the authorities or the police, he alerted the media. This led the probe team to suspect that something was amiss. Security officer Singh, too, questioned Chakraborty’s role.

The NLSA’s continued opposition to the autonomy move has fuelled the sabotage suspicion. Chakraborty has reiterated that the NLSA will continue to oppose the Centre’s moves. “We are ready to meet chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. We have already contacted Mamata Banerjee, who has assured us of cooperation,” he added.


Calcutta, May 12: 
The Calcuttans’ lungs are bleeding. Atmospheric pollution, caused primarily due to vehicular emission, is leading to microscopic haemorrhages in the lungs. A study of how pollution, or particulate matter that we breathe in, can result in various types of health problems has revealed a disturbing scenario.

The findings were recently published in the US-based Acta Cytologica, a journal specialising on cell structure and functioning. A team of scientists from Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute and the head of the environmental biology laboratory of Calcutta University’s zoology department conducted the study.

Titled “Abundance of Siderophages in sputum — indicator of an adverse lung reaction to air pollution,” the objective of the study was to investigate the lung response to traffic-related air pollution. This was done by enumerating iron-containing alveolar macrophages, or cells in the lung’s tiny air sacs that help in absorbing oxygen and emitting carbon dioxide.

“In a normal, healthy person, the extent of siderophages, or iron-containing cells, in the lungs is negligible,” explained Manas Ranjan Roy, team member and scientist in charge of the experimental haematology unit of Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute. “But analysis of sputum samples under the microscope revealed a remarkable rise in siderophages among urban individuals, compared to their rural counterparts.”

The lung condition of rural smokers was better than or equivalent to that of non-smokers in the city. “With much less exposure to vehicular pollution, samples from individuals in Midnapore or Sunderbans villages were normal. But those of people living in Calcutta, that too of non-smokers, were found to have a high content of siderophages,” Roy said.

During their investigations, the team found that the iron content in the lung cells (alveolar macrophages) of the city-dwellers was high. “This could have been the situation had these people lived or worked near iron foundries of factories. But that was not the case, and the iron was not inorganic. It was organic and caused by the breakdown of haemoglobin in the lung cells.”

Though the study was mainly conducted on traffic policemen, hawkers and drivers, “excessive siderophages were also found among housewives, students and office employees,” said principal investigator Twisha Lahiri.

The health implications of this are mostly long-term, though an immediate cause of concern is anaemia. “The free radicals cause tissue injury and fibrosis in the lungs, which decreases lung capacity. This could also lead to TB, while high iron levels are also known to promote cancer.” The findings are all the more reason why the quality of air in the city has to improve, the scientists said.


Calcutta, May 12: 
Calcutta’s civic authorities are considering two important steps to put a check on the spiralling outstanding property tax in the days ahead.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee said on Sunday that he plans to reintroduce the occupiers’ tax as an alternative to the present form of owners’ tax and make production of current property tax bills mandatory for permission from the civic authorities for repairing a building, water supply line or drainage and sewerage systems.

“I increasingly realise that in no other way can we tackle the menace of property tax arrears or ensure that the large number of decrepit buildings in the city are repaired. I will take it up with the government shortly,” he said. Several members of his council, like Pradip Ghosh, too, are advocating the two measures.

The Calcutta Municipal Act, 1980, will have to be amended if the current move meets with the government’s approval, Mukherjee said.

At present, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) realises property tax only from the house-owner and raises the bill only in the name of the owner of the property. If the owner of a building lives elsewhere, the CMC sends the bill to his residential address.

In the occupiers’ tax system, the CMC can realise the tax even from tenants by sending bills against the premise’s number.

“Occupiers’ tax is not a new thing. It was there till the Left Front government and the former CPM civic board replaced it with the present system”, Ghosh said and blamed the system for the spiralling arrears.

He said there are thousands of off-site building owners in Calcutta who have let out the premises for commercial or residential purposes and they themselves live elsewhere.

Since most tenanted old buildings yield very poor returns in terms of rentals and most of them are entangled in litigation, landlords do not feel compelled to pay taxes to the CMC.

Welcoming the CMC’s move, Amar Mitra of the All Calcutta House-Owners’ Association said: “Calcutta is the only city where an asset in the form of landed property becomes a liability forever once it is let out. It will, indeed, be a good move if the tenants are linked to the tax.”

If the CMC Act, 1980, is amended as proposed, tenants will get legal status from the CMC. Now it recognises only the house-owner as payer of taxes.


Calcutta, May 12: 
It’s a snore that has sparked a security scurry at Raj Bhavan. After spotting a constable in uniform snoring away under the Raj Bhavan portico, Governor Viren J. Shah has decided to set things right in one of the most high-security zones in the city.

An angry Shah is said to have summoned police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty and deputy commissioner, reserved force, Debashish Roy, to Raj Bhavan last week, hours after the constable was caught napping. He made it clear to the senior police officers that dereliction of duty by security staff “has to be dealt with firmly”. The Governor also met some senior Raj Bhavan officials to discuss measures on how to improve the security system here, sources said.

The Lalbazar top-brass promptly suspended the “errant” constable, S. Karji, and also shifted officer-in charge of Raj Bhavan P.K. Pal Chowdhury out of the campus. Additional commissioner of police (I), Tapan Chattopadhyay, said constable Karji was “found guilty of sleeping during night duty” on the Raj Bhavan campus.

“The punishment is necessary to stem the rot in the system. We regret the constable’s behaviour and action is being taken to overhaul the security system inside Raj Bhavan,” said Chattopadhyay, who looks after the reserved force.

Ashok Bandopadhyay, who took over as OC, Raj Bhavan, said: “We have identified 18 points, particuarly those located on the southern side of the campus, as most sensitive. All of them are now adequately manned by armed security staff.” Around 10 officers, along with nearly 130 constables, are on duty round-the-clock on the sprawling campus.

A special note has been circulated among all policemen on duty, urging them to be “particularly” vigilant in the morning hours “when His Excellency makes the rounds” of the campus. “Be alert and salute him every time, as he is the constitutional head of the state,” the note adds.


Calcutta, May 12: 
Almost a decade after most other states had introduced “super-specialised” courses in nephrology at their medical colleges to combat the high incidence of kidney ailments, the West Bengal government seems to have woken up to the need of the hour.

After finding out that over 200 patients in Calcutta and the districts needed kidney-transplant surgery every year, the state government has decided to introduce a three-year doctorate course in nephrology at SSKM Hospital, the only one in the state with a full-fledged nephrology department.

Of the 200 patients requiring kidney transplant, nearly 50 are treated at SSKM, while another 50 go to private units. The rest travel to other states for treatment, according to sources in the health department.

SSKM has got the green signal to commence the course from this year. To start with, the course will be offered to only two students, because of its highly specialised nature. The pass-outs will be engaged as heads of a number of new nephrology departments to be introduced in other state-run medical colleges and hospitals.

The move to introduce the course was also prompted by an appeal from doctors at SSKM, who said they were unable to cope with the increasing number of patients.

“On an average, more than 150 patients suffering from acute kidney problems, report to our out-patients department (OPD) ward every day. It is not possible for us to provide quality treatment to all of them,” said Dilip Pahari, head of the hospital’s nephrology department.

To make matters worse, of the 1,200 doctors on the staff of the state health service, only three are nephrologists. Medical Council of India (MCI) rules stipulate that doctors completing the DM (nephrology) course are eligible to handle patients requiring kidney transplant and other related treatments like dialysis.


Calcutta, May 12: 
In an effort to phase out old sets, Calcutta Telephones is offering sophisticated instruments, with caller-line identification (CLI) and several other features. According to chief general manager S.P. Chakraborty, “a few thousand sets” will be on offer for existing subscribers from next week.

“We have tied up with some private firms for the supply of these sophisticated instruments. Subscribers will have to pay the difference in value to get these instruments,’’ said Chakraborty.

The instruments will have an in-built CLI machine, 100-word memory, telephone book, pause, hold and half-a-dozen other features. Chakraborty said the instrument would be priced at Rs 1,100. Currently, instruments with in-built CLI machine and related features cost anything between Rs 800 andRs 3,500 in the grey market.

“Unlike sets picked up from the the grey market,we will provide a service guarantee against any manufacturing defect for five years,’’ said Chakraborty. An initial order for 5,000 sets has been placed with the private firms. “We will look at the market response before deciding to order some more sets,’’ Chakraborty said.

Telephone department officials said it was not feasible to maintain old instruments, especially those dating back to 1940s and 50s. “It is extremely difficult to repair these sets, as the spares are no longer available,’’ said an official of the engineering department.


Calcutta, May 12: 

Plot buyer fleeced of Rs 30 lakh

Detectives raided the house of Ashok Ghosh in Hindustan Park on Saturday night to round up Ghosh’s wife and son, Bishak, for cheating a person of more than Rs 30 lakh, said DC, DD-II Pradip Sanyal. Bishak had sold a plot to the person, but did not hand over the land or refund the money, sources said. Both mother and son are absconding.

Five injured in collision

Five persons were injured when a lorry collided with two other vehicles on Ambedkar Bridge, on the EM Bypass, on Saturday night. The injured were discharged after first aid. The vehicles have been impounded.

Held for extortion

Raja Das, 24, was arrested from Kalighat on Sunday on charges of extortion. He was wanted in connection with several cases of extortion in Alipore and Chetla.

Summer specials

Eastern Railway will run six pairs of summer special trains between Howrah and Gorakhpur from May 12 to 30. The special train will have four coaches, including eight sleeper-class, four general second class and two second class-cum-luggage vans. In addition, the railway will run 99 pairs of summer specials in the Howrah, New Delhi, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Dehra Dun and Lucknow sectors.

Burglary foiled

Tiljala police arrested five persons who had gathered near the EM Bypass on Saturday while they were planning to burgle houses in the neighbourhood.

Water network

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee will inspect the water supply network in the city on Monday with a team of technical experts. The objective is to expedite projects to achieve the targeted output of 367 million gallons of filtered water daily by 2011.

Strike over dues

Low-lying areas on the city’s eastern fringes are flooded with sewer water as private pump operators of the drainage and sewerage department are on strike, demanding their dues.    

Calcutta, May 12: 
The young dancers move their limbs rhythmically in sync with the taped music. Suddenly Astad Deboo switches off the music system. The lilting melody stops. But the boys and girls continue to dance without missing a beat. Dancing to music unheard?

Actually, the dancers cannot hear at all. They belong to Action Players, which is close to 30, and they were rehearsing Circle of Feeling. Seven of them, along with Deboo have been invited to perform this piece at Deaf Way II, the international deaf festival opening in Washington DC on July 8. The invitation says that Action Players was selected from more than 200 proposals. Eighty countries will participate in the festival.

Deboo explains how the dancers don’t depend on music at all: “The whole thing is on a count of eight. But there are fast eights and slow eights. So, they are in sync with the music. This is the process of working on the count system.”

He says that in the past, the pieces had more to do with movements and interconnections with space. This time, they will be emoting slowly. All the rasas will stand revealed.

In the second half of Circle of Feeling, Deboo will begin the dance and the rest will join in and interact with him. “There will be tender moments in it,” says the dancer, who has been working with deaf performers for years.

Besides Deaf Way II, they will perform at Arlington Summer Festival, Smithsonian and Jacksonville. Apart from the dance, they will do some stories from last year’s Rain King’s Wife.

For the first time, they will take along with them a Bharatanatyam dancer from the Clarke’s School of the Deaf in Chennai. The dancer, B. Karthika, will perform two numbers of pure Bharatanatyam and another piece choreographed by Deboo, where both dance together. The group will perform at the Silk Route Festival at the Smithsonian along with Japanese and Chinese deaf groups.

Astad admits that he is trying to raise money, which is a “perennial problem.” He hopes he will be able to travel with the Action Players around India as well.


Calcutta, May 12: 
It’s official now. Calcutta Telephones’ mobile phone has failed to meet the sales target imposed by its own parent organisation, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited.

CalTel has also failed in fighting off the challenge from private operators. Most Calcuttans (there are 2,567,757 mobile users) still prefer to get connected on the mobile by Bharti Mobitel (Airtel) (102,660 connections) and Usha Martin (Command) (154,188 connections), allegations of pilferage of cash-card time notwithstanding.

The result of a survey by the Cellular Operators’ Association of India — its figures about mobile connectivity are considered to be definitive throughout the country, with all major players themselves providing the information to the data-base — does not speak very well for the Calcutta Telephones service, supposedly BSNL’s showpiece in Calcutta.

When it began on November 23 last year, the BSNL brass set some targets for the new service. By March 31 this year, also the end of the financial year 2001-2002, Calcutta Telephones expected to have 15,000 subscribers hooked to its mobile phone.

But till March, Calcutta Telephones, its officials admit, has barely managed to do half of what it had set out to do. By the cut-off date, it had managed to convince only 8,915 Calcuttans to remain in touch while outside the office or the home.

“Many of these 8,915 subscribers switched over from private operators,” a senior Calcutta Telephones official claimed. “But there is no denying the fact that we have failed to live up to our own target and expectations,” he admitted.

During the same period, private operators increased their mobile-net by around 17,000 subscribers. Usha Martin netted the bulk, adding around 13,000 subscribers to its base, and Bharati accounted for the remaining, despite a number of complaints from consumers about pilferage of cash-card time.

“We have received several complaints from consumers regarding this,” Telephone Services Society secretary T.S. Srinivasan said. He added that the number was not “alarming”, given the customer base the private operators had built up within the city.

BSNL officers say Calcutta Telephones has goofed up in the publicity war with the private operators. Compared to the aggressive campaigning by the latter, the BSNL ads come across as “very tame”, they concede.


Calcutta, May 12: 
A horrific tale of girls from decent homes and reputed colleges forming a flesh-trade racket in the city has emerged, according to officials of the detective department.

Investigations revealed that an officer-in-charge of a police station was hand-in-glove with Papiya Guha, wife of a former commerce ministry official, accused of running the racket. Guha and two girls had been arrested from an Ultadanga apartment.

Sources said detectives had recovered a diary containing the names and addresses of school and college students from an apartment in the Hudco housing society in Ultadanga. The diary also has the cellular and telephone numbers of these girls and some ‘clients’.

Deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Soumen Mitra said the diary also contains names of “several important people’’ of the city. “Some of the girls who were part of the flesh trade racket for around six months have also told interrogators about their clients. We have got names of some important people from these girls,’’ said Mitra.

Sleuths said the girls had mentioned some addresses in the city and its suburbs from where the racket was being operated.

Detectives who scanned though the pages of the diary said the names of a police officer and journalists figure in it, although Mitra constantly denied it. Police said they would summon these girls and the ‘clients’ for a probe, if necessary.

According to investigations, Papiya would lure the girls with “fashion designing and modelling offers”. The girls, in turn, recruited other friends. Mitra said it was “easier for a girl to convince another girl” to “earn some easy money”.

Papiya ran the racket under the code name “dotcom” over the cellphone. A client had to mention the code name to get through to Papiya.

Detectives said another code word being used by the group was ‘ellowna dotcom’. “We are not sure what it means. Papiya might be linked with other flesh-trade rackets. We are verifying that,’’ said the detective chief.

The police have, meanwhile, urged parents of young girls to alert the authorities at the slightest hint of suspicion. The warning to parents comes in the wake of three-flesh trade rackets involving students from reputed schools and colleges being busted in the past one month.

“We need the support of the guardians and all other sections of society to stop this racket,’’ said Mitra, appealing to parents to get in touch with him and the detective department “the minute they detected anything unnatural in the behaviour of their daughters”.

Police investigations revealed that the girls were spending the money earned from the flesh trade in “beauty parlours, gymnasiums, boutiques and jewellery stores”.


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