Rain relief for scorched city
Late marksheets fan fury
Court sets aside Saha case verdict
Beam-block break in soap sequence
The City Diary
State brake on killer auto wheels
City gets more police stations
Students injured in soiree shootout
Extortion over fake police cases
SSC revamp agenda after teachers’ test result

 
 
RAIN RELIEF FOR SCORCHED CITY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 23: 
Thursday, 7.51 pm: Calcutta finally gets what it sweated for through Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

A squall hit the city on Thursday evening at a speed of 77 kph at Alipore and 66 kph at Dum Dum, bringing with it cumulo-nimbus clouds over 18 km deep from a north-westerly direction, the Alipore Metereological Office said.

Making it a double bonanza for Calcuttans suffering the twin blows of heat and power shortage was the news that the 250-mw CESC unit at Budge Budge, down since Monday, was back in action in the morning. CESC officials claimed it was a zero-deficit day.

Thursday saw a 14-degree drop in temperature — from 37.1 degrees Celsius recorded in the afternoon (a degree above normal) to 23.4 degrees Celsius around 9 pm.The drop in mercury was even more dramatic between 7.45 pm and 9 pm — from 32.4 degrees Celsius before the squall to 23.4 degrees after it ended.

On Thursday, three days after Calcutta watched the mercury soar to the 43-degree mark (the highest climb in the past 22 years), the rain — 17.8 mm of it — was more than welcome.

Calcuttans woke up to another warm and muggy morning; the maximum relative humidity was 89 per cent and the minimum was a high 61 per cent. A southerly wind coming from the Bay of Bengal soaked up nearly all the moisture it could.

The temperature, too, was playing up. Even before sunrise, the temperature had touched 30 degrees Celsius (at dawn, it was 29.4 degrees).

By afternoon, the mercury had touched the 37.1-degree mark, the fourth straight day it hovered much above the normal.

The weather office — on the watch-out for rain clouds since the Sunday heat wave — sighted a trough line extending over Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Gangetic West Bengal. This held out hope for the city, Alipore Met office director R.N. Goldar said. And by evening, the hope was fulfilled.

Friday should be cooler too, he added. The maximum temperature is not likely to go beyond the 33-degree mark, at least three degrees below normal, and there is more than a whiff of another thundershower in the air, officials said.

   

 
 
LATE MARKSHEETS FAN FURY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 23: 
As Madhyamik marksheets began to trickle into schools, a tale of triumph and trouble unfolded on Thursday. Amidst celebrations in schools faring far better than the past few years, the Trinamul Youth Congress lay siege on the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education office. It was protesting the delay in announcing and despatching results to some city and district schools.

The activists also demanded the immediate resignation of the Board president and other senior officials responsible for the Net goof-up on Wednesday, which had seen the results being posted on a Calcutta Telephones website even before the Board’s official announcement.

Parents at several schools also voiced their protest over the delay in distribution of results. A demonstration was held at Rashbehari Avenue by parents of students from South 24-Parganas. Complaints poured in from schools on the city’s fringes, where students had not received their marksheets till late in the afternoon on Thursday. Reports of altercations between parents and policemen were also reported from some areas.

But city schools clearly emerged from the shadows of their district counterparts. “This is not a flash in the pan. Calcutta schools have all done well and this could become a trend in the years to come,” was the thought shared by teachers of Nava Nalanda, Christ Church Girls’ High School and Hare School. The mood was upbeat — from Rahara Ramakrishna Mission Boys’ Home High School to Labanhrad Vidyapith, from Dum Dum Krishnakumar Hindu Academy to Naktala High School.

Things were more organised in the ICSE and ISC schools. Most city schools under the Council received their results by courier on Thursday.

With further inputs from some school authorities and candidates coming in during the day, a more complete picture of star performances emerged.

There was some confusion, however, over the assessment of the toppers. While some schools were calculating their top rankings on the basis of the four best subjects, including English, for the ISC results, others were considering the highest marks in any four subjects. Similar confusion prevailed while tabulating the ICSE results, this time with the best five subjects.

Chairman of the Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations Neil O’Brien said since there was no system of ranking performances, there was no formula for assessing toppers. “But I think the consensus is that the best of any four subjects in ISC and any five for ICSE exams be considered,” added O’Brien.

   

 
 
COURT SETS ASIDE SAHA CASE VERDICT 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 23: 
Justice Pinaki Ghosh of Calcutta High Court on Thursday virtually set aside the verdict of the West Bengal Medical Council, three days after it had exonerated three city doctors in the Anuradha Saha death case.

Delivering his ruling on a writ petition filed by US-based doctor Kunal Saha, Anuradha’s husband, Justice Ghosh said the medical council must give the complainant’s representatives an opportunity to be heard before the final verdict is delivered.

He directed the medical council to set a date and proceed with the hearing in the presence of Saha or his counsel. Last Monday, a majority of the members of the medical council had delivered their judgment in the case against consultants in medicine Sukumar Mukherjee and Abani Roy Chowdhury and consultant dermatologist Baidyanath Haldar.

All three were acquitted as Saha’s charge of medical negligence, leading to Anuradha’s death, could not be substantiated.

But neither Saha, who had to return to the US after a five-month stay in the city for the hearings, nor his representative Pijush Datta, who fell ill that day, was present in the council when the ruling was delivered. An appeal from both to defer Monday’s hearing had been turned down.

Council registrar D.K. Ghosh said he was yet to receive a copy of Thursday’s order but had heard about it. “The members will have to decide on a date for the hearing,” he said.

Saha’s representatives in Calcutta said the medical council had refused to defer Monday’s hearing as “there was a connivance to bring out its judgment fast, so that it could influence the ruling of the criminal case at Alipore court.”

The chief judicial magistrate there was scheduled to deliver his judgment on Wednesday, but he fell ill. The date has now been set for May 29.

From Ohio, Saha said: “I consider this the best development since we started our fight to seek justice against medical negligence and malpractice.”

   

 
 
BEAM-BLOCK BREAK IN SOAP SEQUENCE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 23: 
The small screen frosted over as the 24-hour beam block hit cable homes in Calcutta on Thursday. Cable operators throughout Bengal observed a strike from 10 am Thursday to 10 am Friday to “protest an arbitrary hike in pay-channel rates”.

According to an RPG Netcom spokesperson, the strike, also called to “increase business security for cable operators”, was “95 per cent” successful in Bengal.

The strike call irked, among others, the Federation of Consumer Associations, West Bengal. “A strike is not a solution. What can it possibly achieve? People can surely go without TV for 24 hours,” said Mala Banerjee, president of the apex body of 160 registered organisations.

The blackout had a “positive” side, according to 21-year-old Crystal Reuben. “The family sits around in the evening and actually talks about how the day went, instead of sitting glued to the small screen.”

But Mrs S. Sah, schoolteacher, wife of a brigadier, mother of a teenager and an avid television watcher, felt horribly “denied” by the strike call. Here’s what she had to say about Calcuttans having to suffer a day without cable TV: “A strike, on a summer day like this, is disastrous. When school is closed, I enjoy watching TV after I finish my day’s work by 1 pm. I prefer watching Discovery and National Geographic in the afternoons, as I find some of their programmes fascinating and useful. I, in fact, ask my students to watch them as well. Many of these are serialised and so missing out on one is awful.

“In the late evenings, I watch my favourite serials on Zee and Star Plus. I follow Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Ghar Ghar Ki Kahani and Kahin Kissi Roz closely. In fact, one thing I missed on Thursday is the next episode of Kahin Kissi Roz, as it ended on a note of suspense on Wednesday.

“The other thing I’ll be deprived of is the news on the hour on Star News and Aaj Tak. Being an army family, we are all very concerned about what’s happening on the border. I watch every news bulletin. It’s strange spending a day without watching the news, when the situation is so tense.”

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
Calcutta, May 23: 

Robbers face mob fury in Kasba

A robber was lynched and another member of the gang severely beaten up around midnight on Wednesday at Purbachal in Kasba, part of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s Jadavpur constituency. The gang had broken into a locked apartment in a multi-storeyed building at Purbachal, police said on Thursday. The residents were away on holiday. Local people caught the dacoits while they were trying to escape with the stolen goods. Police arrived an hour later. The dead man was identified as Nasir of Taldi, in Canning. The injured member of the gang, Saifuddin, is in hospital in a critical condition. Nearly two years ago, Kaustav Ghosh, a student, was shot dead in the same locality trying to resist a dacoity bid at his home. His parents were injured in the incident. Police patrol has been increased along the EM Bypass and Purbachal areas since then. South 24-Parganas superintendent of police, D.K. Ganguly, has ordered an inquiry into the incident.

Death, injury in road mishaps

A woman died and a man was injured in separate accidents on Thursday. Trouble broke out at the crossing of Harish Chatterjee Street and Hazra Road after a private bus on route 17B knocked down a 70-year-old woman on Thursday morning. Police said the woman, Annapurna Das, a neighbour of Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, was taken to hospital where she succumbed to her injuries. Trinamul leaders called up the deputy commissioner, traffic, and demanded that police be posted at the intersection. The driver fled but the vehicle was impounded. In another accident near Gem cinema, Pravat Gupta, 30, was hit by a tram while crossing the road. Gupta was admitted to hospital.

Court rejects bail

Calcutta High Court rejected the bail plea of Mohammad Salim, an alleged ISI agent, who was arrested in Siliguri early this year. Salim was the right hand man of Mohammad Dilsher who used to operate a nine-member gang in India to collect and pass defence information to Pakistan. Dilsher was arrested on January 4 in Siliguri. During interrogation, he admitted to have engaged Salim to pass on information to military authorities in Pakistan through his public call office at Siliguri. All nine members of Dilsher’s gang have been arrested. Advocate-general Balai Ray opposed the bail prayer of Salim before the division bench of Justice N.A. Chowdhury and Justice S. Gupta, on Tuesday.

Nazrul on air

All India Radio will broadcast a special serial programme, entitled ‘Srishti Sukher Ullase’, for three days from Sunday to commemorate the birth anniversary of poet Kazi Nazrul Islam. The hour-long programme will be aired on Calcutta A from 9 pm. Its highlights are reminiscences of Nazrul by Angurbala and Pratibha Bose, recitation by Kazi Sabyasachi, songs by Dhirendra Mitra and Angurbala, a talk on Nazrul’s devotional songs, a musical tribute composed by Dipali Nag, and a panel discussion on Nazrul’s songs.

CPM man injured

A CPM worker was seriously injured when criminals fired at him at Joynagar on Thursday. The victim has been identified as Nurul Islam Molla. According to police, Islam had gone to Mahishbari Hat for shopping when he was attacked. He was taken to SSKM Hospital in a critical condition.    

 
 
STATE BRAKE ON KILLER AUTO WHEELS 
 
 
BY BAPPA MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, May 23: 
In January, 12-year-old Ashis was run over by a speeding auto-rickshaw on Prince Anwar Shah Road. The errant auto driver, Sanat Naskar, unlicenced, was plying on the wrong route. He was arrested and later gave an undertaking in court that he would never drive an auto again. A week later, Naskar was back in the driver’s seat on the Tollygunge-Garia route, once again without a licence.

Following complaints about unauthorised autos, the government has directed the Calcutta Police and the Public Vehicles Department (PVD) to initiate a drive against errant drivers and unlicensed three-wheelers.

Come June 1 and autos that do not have a route number and map pasted on their windscreens will be towed away by the traffic police.

The PVD has decided to allot zones for autos plying in the city. “They will now ply through lanes that are parallel to the main road. We have earmarked 10 such zones. The vehicles will not be allowed to clog the thoroughfare,” said PVD director Prashanth. The department has also decided not to issue any more licences to auto drivers.

From 600 to 700 autos in 1990, the vehicle count has reached over 15,000 in 2002. At least 7,000 of these vehicles do not have a permit, neither do their drivers possess a licence.

“This is worrying us. Unauthorised autos are a bane for vehicular movement in the city. The drivers are reckless and cause accidents. We are planning a major drive against such operators,” said special additional commissioner of police, traffic, Sandhi Mukherjee, on Monday.

On Sunday, Rinku Haldar, 7, was killed by a speeding auto on Beleghata Main Road. The driver managed to escape with the help of his colleagues.

At a meeting on Wednesday, chaired by state transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, it was decided that action would be taken against touts and PVD personnel who help auto drivers from the districts obtain licences and permits to drive in the city.

The police discovered that around 2,000 autos in Calcutta ply on permits and licences obtained from the Barasat motor vehicles department or from South 24-Parganas.

The police have already identified several areas, including Lenin Sarani, Park Circus, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road, Ultadanga, Hazra, Tollygunge, Rashbehari Avenue and Pratapaditya Road as accident-prone. “We will conduct raids in these areas. The transport department is helping us,” said a senior officer.

The police have also found that most auto drivers enjoy political patronage. Leaders obstruct prosecution and secure the release of the errant drivers. “We have instructed our men to take action if an auto driver commits an offence,” Mukherjee added.

   

 
 
CITY GETS MORE POLICE STATIONS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 23: 
In a bid to curb increasing incidence of crime, the city police on Thursday bifurcated the areas under the three most crime-prone police stations.

The new stations are Girish Park, New Market and the Maidan. Operational details like fixing the jurisdiction, printing of stationaries, alloting vehicles and wireless sets for these police stations have been worked out.

According to the criminal records section of the detective department, Hastings, Jorasanko and Taltala recorded the maximum crime in 2001. At department meetings, officers had pointed out that with limited resources it was difficult to curb crime as the operational areas of these police stations were bigger than others.

Police said the Maidan police station had been curved out of Hastings, New Market out of Taltala and Girish Park out of Jorasanko police stations. Three officers-in-charge have been posted in these police stations, according to a notification issued by the police chief on Thursday.

   

 
 
STUDENTS INJURED IN SOIREE SHOOTOUT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 23: 
A student of Barasat Evening College was admitted to R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital on Thursday with serious bullet injuries.

On Tuesday, miscreants fired at him at a cinema near the college, where the students had gathered for an annual function. A girl student was also hurt in the melee.

During the soiree on Tuesday, some goons, allegedly supporters of the Students Federation of India (SFI), the student wing of the CPM, stormed the hall and started firing in the dark. Two SFI activists, Jiban Biswas and Krishna Pal, were injured in the firing. They were found writhing in pain when the lights were turned on. Bullets had pierced Biswas’ right arm.

The students were rushed to a local hospital. On Thursday, Biswas was shifted to R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital, after his condition took a turn for the worse.

The shootout has perturbed the college students. Initially, the police tried to cover up the incident as a consequence of a love affair, but some students present on the spot said it was the fallout of a rivalry between two sections of SFI supporters.

Principal of the college Gouranga Chakraborty, who was not present during the shootout, said he had discussed the matter with the SFI.

A senior district CPM leader condemned the incident and said the party would start an independent probe into the incident to find the culprits.

“If any SFI supporter is found involved in the matter, stern action will be taken against him,” he added.

Sub-divisional police officer of Barasat, Bhuban Chandra Mondal, said the criminals could not be identified as the shootout occurred in the dark.

“However, the police are scouring different places to net the criminals. Arrests will be made soon,” Mondal added.

   

 
 
EXTORTION OVER FAKE POLICE CASES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 23: 
The Howrah and Agra police have busted an extortion racket that thrived in connivance with the Uttar Pradesh policemen. An alert has been sounded on three suspects, including one from Calcutta, for filing fake cases against businessmen and then fleecing them.

On Thursday, raids were conducted in hotels around Howrah station to pick up one of the main suspects, but he fled before the police arrived. According to superintendent of police, Howrah, Rajesh Kumar, the Calcutta suspect has links with a section of policemen in Agra. “He tracks down businessmen and files fake cases against them at the Agra police station,” Kumar said.

From Agra, senior superintendent of police Vijay Kumar More confirmed that the suspect had registered a case of cheating and fraud against a Howrah trader, Damodar Bhagat.

When Agra police took up the case, they realised Bhagat was innocent. “We found nothing wrong with Bhagat’s business. Then we realised something funny was going on. The case gave us the lead on the suspects, which helped us step up vigil,” added More.

   

 
 
SSC REVAMP AGENDA AFTER TEACHERS’ TEST RESULT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 23: 
Results of the School Service Commission written examination for the eastern region will be published tomorrow. Chairman Arun Kiran Chakraborty said 7,650 candidates have been selected for the interview on the basis of the test.

The successful candidates will be appointed as assistant teachers in state-aided schools in Howrah, Hooghly, Burdwan, Birbhum and Nadia districts. “Altogether 1.02 lakh candidates sat for the examination held on December 29, 2001. The total number of vacancies in the districts are 4,836. We have selected 7,650 candidates, in keeping with the government norm of the candidate-teacher ratio of 1:2.5. The number of candidates to be called for interview will be increased to maintain the ratio. However, initially, we are calling 7,650 candidates for the interview,’’ Chakraborty explained.

The panel is also going in for a revamp by preparing an annual calendar for holding examinations and publishing results.

A senior SSC official said the government often asks them to prepare a panel of candidates for recruitment in schools throughout the state. “Such sudden requests from the government put us in trouble and we find it difficult to carry out the job as per the government instruction. We are now planning to reorganise ourselves to serve the government better,” the official said.

Chakraborty said they will request the government to instruct all the district inspectors of schools to inform the commission of the exact number of vacancies in their districts by June every year to enable them to hold the examinations in January.

The SSC often has difficulties in finding venues for their examinations as the schools and colleges remain busy from February to March with the secondary and higher secondary exams.

“We have to conduct examinations latest by the third week of January, otherwise it will be difficult to get the schools for holding the examinations. Madhyamik examinations are usually held in February and the Higher Secondary in March. In April, colleges are preoccupied with the BA and B.Sc examinations. It is difficult to get colleges for holding our examinations,” the official said.

   
 

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