Schoolgirl crushed by cab
Showroom soft target in high-risk zone
Power gadgets need a nod
In the downpour, a plume in distress
The City Diary
Rhythm of life and the satisfaction of creation
Cop diktat on car resale
Howrah prefers city life
HC stay on cell tower demolition
Soiree sparks club clash

Calcutta, May 24: 
It is a tragedy waiting to happen to anyone, anywhere in this city. On Friday, it happened to Soumyadipta Chatterjee.

With wipers not working and no tread on the tyres, a taxi-driver racing down Cornfield Road in blinding rain saw, too late, a car approaching from the opposite direction. He slammed the brakes. The taxi skidded, climbed the pavement and hit the 17-year-old girl as she was returning home from tuition at around 10.30 am.

The impact flung the Class XI student of a south Calcutta school high in the air. Had she landed on the road, she would have survived. Instead, she landed on the bonnet, and as the taxi crashed into the wall of a nearby house, it crushed her to death.

Three passengers in the taxi were injured, but they survived, though one is in a precarious condition. The driver escaped unhurt. He has been arrested, but there are hundreds of other rogue taxis prowling the city street, with callous drivers not bothering to stick to the basic maintenance of their vehicles.

“The taxi that killed the girl should not have been on the road,” said the officer-in-charge of Gariahat police station, Tapas Basu. “It was criminal to ply the taxi in the downpour, since its wipers were not working and its tyres lacked grip.”

The taxi’s driver, Bir Chand Kumar, admitted as much when he said after the accident: “I could barely see in the heavy rain as the wipers were not working. Since the road was empty, I was speeding. Suddenly, I saw a car almost in front of my taxi and I slammed the brakes. My taxi turned half a circle and hit the girl walking on the pavement. The rest you all know.”

While the police and the motor vehicles authorities choose to look the other way, it is people like Swapan and Sarbari Chatterjee, parents of Soumyadipta, who continue to suffer. Sarbari is inconsolable; she has lost her only child and she blames herself for “forcing” her daughter to go for her tuitions. “How would I know that she’d never return?” she asks.

“We used to insist that she take a rickshaw back to her Kankulia Road home,” said uncle Chitresh Chatterjee. “God knows why she decided to walk back on Friday.”

Deputy commissioner of police (traffic), M.K. Singh, repeated what all his predecessors have uttered after similar accidents in the city: “We will check all taxis to ensure that they are maintained properly.” No one is likely to believe him, given the track record of the city police.

And, even before the bloodstains have dried, the game of passing the buck has begun. “We are not responsible for not keeping a tab on taxis,” a police officer said. “It is the motor vehicles department’s job. But almost everyone at Beltala is susceptible to a bribe.”


Calcutta, May 24: 
The operation was neither swift, nor simple. A double-layered iron grille had to be accounted for, before getting past an air-conditioner. By the end of it, a Lawrence & Mayo showroom in the city’s business hub stood poorer by over Rs 3 lakh, as the burglars picked and chose their way to fancy spectacles and sunglasses bearing high price tags.

But this was not just another burglary in a city showroom. It was carried out – some time between Wednesday night and Thursday morning – bang opposite the Raj Bhavan gates, at 11, Government Place East.

Apart from the highly-protected residence of Bengal’s Governor, the building housing the 125-year-old showroom has Writers’ Buildings, the GPO, Telephone Bhavan and the Assembly, all within a radius of one kilometre.

As the police struggled to hide their blushes, the owner of the showroom, Michael Mendonza, was left ruing his decision not to put a security ring in place after dark. “I admit that I did not employ any night-time security-guards,” he said on Friday. “But the eastern gate of Raj Bhavan is right there, isn’t it? Isn’t there a posse of policemen on the pavement just across the road?” he asked.

Mendonza had trouble believing how the burglars had spent so much time drilling through the iron grilles and rummaging the shop with so many cops on high alert literally a shout away.

The staff left the showroom at around 7.30 pm on Wednesday. They discovered the burglary at around 8.25 am on Thursday, according to the FIR lodged with the Hare Street police.

The police, however, remain clueless about the exact time of the break-in. A local panwallah closed his shop around 11 pm on Wednesday and was back on the spot around 6 am on Thursday. Therefore, the burglary occurred some time between 11 pm and 6 am, they surmised.

Two years ago, another break-in had occurred at the same showroom. But the burglars must have been rushed for time, as they failed to lay their hands on the costliest articles, Mendonza recalled. He, however, regretted that he was yet to hear from the sleuths about the conclusion they had reached about that break-in.

This time, however, it was very different. After cutting through the grilles and then pushing past the air-conditioner, the burglars broke just six of the compartments the long show-case was divided into. They then took over 250 frames — spectacles and sunglasses — according to the price-tags they bore.

After that, it was the turn of the door that led to Mendonza’s office to be prised open. The steel almirah that contained Rs 12,000 failed to keep the burglars at bay.

Though no arrests have been made, police are certain that the burglars know the place very well, well enough to know that the air-conditioners are the only soft entry spots into the showroom under lock and key.

The entire area, said deputy commissioner (central) Zulfiquar Hassan, had six police vehicles from the reserved force, wireless force and the local police station, plus two constables each on every pavement in the area.

“The area has over 150 banks, 100 of them within the jurisdiction of Hare Street police station, and it is not possible to provide security cover individually to every establishment,” he explained. “But we have separate security-guards for the Reserve Bank of India and State Bank of India offices.”


Calcutta, May 24: 
Now, don’t forget to seek permission from the power players before getting an AC into your bedroom. The same for any other heavy-duty electrical gadget.

Power minister Mrinal Banerjee said on Friday that his department is initiating a move making it compulsory for electricity consumers to inform their respective power utilities before installing air-conditioners or other electrical gadgets.

He said the move was prompted by an abrupt and unaccounted rise in domestic demand in many areas in the city and elsewhere in the state. This rise in demand had created an imbalance in the distribution network and damaged electrical equipment, like transformers, switchgears and circuit breakers.

“So, we feel that prior permission should be taken before installing ACs. There should be such a rule. If there isn’t, we will make one,” said Banerjee.

The minister, however, clarified that the government in no way intended to impose a curb on the purchase of ACs. “How can I stop people from purchasing ACs? All I want to say is, buy ACs but please let us know. If this is followed, it will help us provide quality service,” he added.

An audit of air-conditioners and other heavy-duty electrical gadgets had begun in Salt Lake by the West Bengal State Electricity Board. “The CESC will be asked to carry out a similar survey,” he added.

“Despite no localised power shortage, supply is being disrupted in various blocks of Salt Lake and other places. In most places, power is being consumed beyond the declared load in an unauthorised manner. Consumption of electricity beyond the declared load creates tremendous pressure on the system,” said an official.

The power minister said that if the CESC and the SEB were kept posted about the additional load in a particular area, it would be easier for them to redistribute the supply.

“We design our distribution network according to the demand and according to the declaration on power consumption given to us by our subscribers. But, we find that the demand for electricity is crossing the given declaration in many cases,” he added. Banerjee said that the power utilities would be in a better position to instal transformers, circuits, wiring and other equipment according to the required load.


Calcutta, May 24: 
A sudden squall after the heat wave prompted a peacock to spread its plumes in the concrete jungle. But if it wasn’t for the concern shown by some residents of Narkeldanga, the bird’s ecstasy could well have been short-lived.

It was about 8.20 pm on Thursday. The rains bringing relief to a city scorched by a heat wave were lashing Anandam club on Yogipara Road, Narkeldanga. Suddenly, club members spotted a large peacock seated on the roof of an adjacent building. It was thoroughly drenched and desperately seeking shelter. Arup Ghosh, Vinod Tripathi and Abhijit Shaw decided they must save the bird.

“I could see the bird shivering in the thunderstorm. So, I went up to the roof to bring the peacock down,” said Arup. After some difficulty, he managed to get a grip on the colourful bird.

The members of Anandam club then contacted Narkeldanga police station. “We did not dare keep the bird, as we were not in a position to take care of it. So, we decided to hand it over to the police and request them to send it to the zoo,” said Vinod.

It was at around 10 pm that the youth from Narkeldanga turned up at the police station with the peacock. “They requested us to keep the bird and we agreed,” said S. Dasgupta of Narkeldanga police station. “On Friday morning, we contacted the wildlife department at Salt Lake and their officials came to take the bird away.”

A.N. Chattopadhyay, assistant wildlife warden (I), said: “The bird is wild in nature but has civil association. No one has claimed it, so we will send it to Alipore zoo.”

The bird was sent to the Deer Research Center and Animal Rescue Center, Salt Lake, on Friday afternoon. There, ranger N.K. Bhowmik said: “It is three-year-old male peacock. We will send it to the zoo within a day or two.”



Weather office sees wet weekend ahead

The Alipore Met Office, on Thursday, held out hope of more rain over the weekend. The day began with a gale, accompanied by a smart shower, and both the maximum and minimum temperatures dropped to four degrees below normal. The weather remained pleasant with relatively low temperatures and high relative humidity, Alipore meteorological department officials explained. There was more rain in the evening. Calcutta usually experiences around a dozen nor’westers during the pre-monsoon period. With the city already receiving nine to date, there were chances of the figure being surpasses this year, officials said. Though there was no immediate possibility of a nor’wester, officials said a trough-line extending across Jharkhand and Gangetic West Bengal, coupled with an upper-air cyclonic circulation over Jharkhand and the neighbourhood, made thunder-showers a distinct possibility on Saturday.

Power pledge for Cup telecast

Power minister Mrinal Banerjee on Friday assured uninterrupted supply of power during the month-long football World Cup beginning May 31. Banerjee held a meeting with all the power-supply agencies in the state during the day and asked them to generate full steam to enable people to watch the matches on TV without any interruption. “I have asked the NTPC to run at least three of its 500 MW units. The state-run power plant and those belonging to the CESC will also run all their units to capacity,” he said. Banerjee also asked the Kolaghat thermal power plant authorities to push generation to the optimum. He said sometimes inferior quality coal led to a drop in generation at the plant. “In such cases, I have asked the authorities to use oil. It will be costlier, but we will do it to ensure that everyone gets to watch the football matches,” he added. The power minister also asked the utility officials, who attended Friday’s meeting, to carry out all the necessary repair and maintenance work at generating units and the transmission and distribution network by May 31.

Pond fill-up bid

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee on Friday stalled a move by some promoters to fill up a 15-bigha pond at Shilthakur, in Behala. Mukherjee along with minister for fisheries Kironmoy Nanda and Trinamul Congress MLA from Behala (west) Partho Chattopadhyay reached the spot on the basis of a tip-off. Mukherjee said action will be taken against the offenders and the illegal constructions will be demolished.

Madhyamik error

School education minister, Kanti Biswas said on Friday that the Madhyamik board had printed wrong dates on the certificates of successful examinees. He said he would look into the complaints. The Madhyamik results were declared on Wednesday.

Fury over death

A mob set fire to a house following the “unnatural death” of a housewife at Nandabhanga, in Bishnupur, on the southern fringes of the city. Sabina Bibi, 19, was married a year-and-a-half ago. Her father alleged that she was tortured since her marriage by her in-laws, over demands for more dowry. On Thursday night, Sabina was found murdered in a field with cut marks on her body. Her husband Jahangir has been arrested and is being interrogated. The house was set on fire on Friday morning.    

Calcutta, May 24: 
Five-year-old Urvashi is prancing around at the Calcutta School of Music (CSM). “I love musical games… My favourite is doggie-doggie,” she smiles shyly.

Amidst the cacophony at Conclave, four-year-old Yash yells: “Silence. Too much noise pollution.” He then gets busy drawing a picture of trees being felled and destroying the mountainous landscape.

There are a variety of activities to help children beat the heat and the boredom this summer. CSM has a summer camp for children between three and eight. “The point is to initiate the children into music at a young age. Although they can’t read musical notations at this age, at least we can inculcate in them a sense of tone and rhythm,” says Sriparna Chakraborty, one of the teachers.

Many children often continue with music lessons on a regular basis, she adds, especially since they get to try their hand at various instruments — the wooden block topping the toddlers’ popularity charts. “I want to learn music, but I don’t want to sing. I want to play something,” declares Nirman, all of four.

For eight-year-old Apramit, music is serious business. He sombrely explains that he has been practising hard on the drums for the concert on May 30, the last day of this camp. Anushua enthusiastically says “Hello”, introduces herself and then pronounces that she is seven years old, but will turn seven in April this year, all in a sing-song voice, which she will carry on in school.

Another kiddie camp was a green one at Conclave. Organised in conjunction with the eco-group Colour Me Green, the three-day affair involved “nature-friendly” activities, like being creative with discarded items, such as cardboard and plastic, and making artistic yet informative posters on pollution and nature.

The children unanimously declared that papier-mâché was their favourite pastime, because they “got their hands dirty”. While the teachers repeatedly, and unsuccessfully, called for silence, some of the participants were busy making aloo chaat for their parents, who had turned up to watch a play put up by the children on the consequences of destroying the environment.

“The one thing they really learnt here was that they can use any throwaway household item to be creative. You don’t necessarily have to go to Archies to buy a card, because you can make one at home,” says Shyamashree Sen of Colour Me Green, one of the teachers. “Our children these days are taught to be so perfect that they’ve forgotten how to be messy and really enjoy their childhood.”

Not far away, Birla Industrial and Technological Museum (BITM) is offering fun of a different kind. Their hobby camps are for students from Class V to XI who want to pursue a particular subject. Diverse topics are introduced every year. These range from life science, geography, astronomy, electronics, computers, aero-modelling to ship-building. The aim is to make their own projects, construct and conduct experiments, and learn from their own mistakes.

“We teach children the basic concepts and guide them, but at the end of the day, when they create something, they have the satisfaction of knowing that the result was through their own hard work,” feels Samaresh Goswamy, director of the summer camp programme. This year, there are eight different fields, with robotics the newest addition for the camp starting May 27.

“The reward for the children is an exhibition held at the end of the programme, where they get to display their work. Sometimes, we give away some of the equipment to them,” adds Goswamy. Some popular classes are continued all year for a few select students, who then exhibit their handiwork at the annual eastern region science fair.


Calcutta, May 24: 
Calcutta Police has made it mandatory for vehicle-owners to register details of sale with the traffic department. According to deputy commissioner of police, traffic, M.K. Singh, a vehicle-owner must inform the traffic department with a letter on details of the sale.

“The person will have to attach photocopies of the Motor Vehicles Forms 29 and 30 and the sale letter,’’ Singh said. The traffic department will then computerise the details. “We will keep a database on the ownership of vehicles,’’ an official said.

A person who buys a second or a third-hand vehicle will have to fill up the Motor Vehicles Forms 29 and 30 and deposit it with the local Public Vehicles Department (PVD).

While Form 29 notifies the transfer of ownership, Form 30 is about the request for transfer of ownership. The new owner has to deposit the forms with the PVD office, along with the sale letter.

According to the police, they have noticed that in many cases, the new owner does not register the vehicle in his name and continues to pay road taxes and insurance in the previous owner’s name.

“In case such a vehicle meets with an accident or is used for criminal activities, the original owner is hauled up by the police,’’ Singh said. “To avoid such a situation, the police have initiated this measure,’’ he added.

Motor vehicles sources said currently, there are 800,000 private vehicles registered with the department in Beltala.

Every year, 50,000 private vehicles change hands, sources said. A check revealed that only 35,000 of them are registered with the department, while others’ owners continue to pay road tax and registration charges in the name of the old owners.

On Monday, a senior advocate of Calcutta High Court, R. Choudhuri, who lives on Ballygunge Circular Road, complained to Singh that he had sold his car a few months ago and the new owner had approached him only recently to register a FIR after the vehicle was stolen.

“The new owner had not registered the vehicle in his name to date. The ownership continues in my name, although he had bought the vehicle from me quite some time ago,’’ Chaudhuri said.

In another instance, when a Maruti met with an accident, the police traced the owner to Lansdowne Road but the man told the cops that he had sold the car at least two years ago. “Our motive is to ensure that vehicle-owners do not face such harassment,’’ Singh said.


Calcutta, May 24: 
Inadequate civic infrastructure, poor educational facilities, dearth of medicare and a near-zero entertainment scenario are some of the reasons that drove Howrah’s residents to migrate to Calcutta over the past two decades.

Demographers and planners are of the opinion that the 500-year-old town is fast losing its attraction to English-medium schools, hospitals, nursing homes, cinemas, separate cricket and football stadiums, clubs, hotels and places like Nandan, Science City, Victoria Memorial, Birla Planetarium and the Indian Museum in Calcutta.

“Why should people bear with the town’s pathetic transport system and lack of civic amenities?” asked Basudeb Mukherjee, chief architect, Howrah Municipal Corporation. He feels the town, with its narrow lanes and bylanes, has a negligible percentage of road network for transportation.

Mukherjee said there are about 80 parks in the town, most of which are not maintained. “Even heritage buildings, numbering around 100, are not well looked after.”

Though the condition of the town has improved to some extent, residents are dissatisfied with the progress. Apart from the younger generation, which is leaving town for better academic prospects, a sizeable populace, including the affluent and intellectual, are migrating to Calcutta as it finds the city more comfortable and housing a plethora of facilities.

Bijon Chowdhury, a painter, advised the planners to increase the greenery on either side of the roads and to build flyovers at important points.

“Residents should interact more for the development of the town,” said Vivek Kumar, district magistrate.

“Sophisticated nursing homes, hospitals and a full-fledged medical college should come up in the town, so that the ailing need not go to Calcutta for treatment. People here are being denied of good healthcare facilities,” said Sumantra Mukherjee, a physician. A resident of Wessex, London, Mukherjee, is presently in Howrah on a vacation.

The town is also academically backward, in the absence of any educational institution of repute. Barring Bengal Engineering College (Deemed University) and three or four English medium schools, the town has nothing to boast of.


Calcutta, May 24: 
The high court on Friday passed an interim order restraining the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) till June 7 from demolishing the towers constructed on 76 highrises to boost cellular phone connectivity.

Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya, however, asked the petitioner, Bharti Mobitel Company, not to construct any more such towers without a court order. The next hearing has been fixed for June 11, when the court re-opens after summer vacation.

Jayanta Mitra, counsel for the petitioner, told the court that such towers were built for public utility and neither the CMC nor any other organisation had raised objections initially. “Suddenly, the CMC authorities issued a circular asking my clients to demolish the towers,” Mitra said.

P.K. Roy, CMC counsel, argued that the construction of towers on highrises was illegal as the company did not take the civic authorities’ permission. “When it came to the notice of my client, it felt the need to ask the company to remove the towers. Moreover, the company had not paid its taxes to the Corporation,” the counsel said.


Calcutta, May 24: 
They demanded “Chura liya hai……” She gave them “Na tum jano na hum.”

It was enough for the members of Bhai Bhai Sangha and Batam Club to fight a pitched battle throughout Thursday night on Beltala Road, in the Ballygunge police station area.

At least 15 people, including two policemen, were injured in the clash between the members of the two clubs. The police had to resort to a lathicharge and fire tear-gas to bring the situation under control. Later, five people, including the secretaries of the clubs, were rounded up.

Police said the clash erupted after a musical soiree organised by Bhai Bhai Sangha on Thursday night. It was a sequel to a long-standing rivalry between the two clubs. “A few days ago, some of the club members were involved in a clash at Piarabagan,” said Debasish Roy, acting deputy commissioner of police, south division.

Ballygunge police said trouble started when a female singer took the stage. “A section of audience, believed to be the members of Batam Club, demanded that she render a number from an old film. But the artiste ignored the demand and went on singing,” said Roy.

At this, the Batam Club members started abusing her, forcing the singer to walk off the stage in a huff. “The members then clambered on to the stage and started damaging the musical instruments, including the loudspeakers,” said an officer.

Members of host Bhai Bhai Sangha retaliated with fists and sticks. “In the ensuing clash, roadside stalls were damaged,” said a resident.

A force from Ballygunge arrived but was inadequate to tackle the situation. Later, additional forces were requisitioned from Lalbazar, which started lathi-charging and tear-gassing the crowd to restore peace.

The secretaries of the two clubs, Lakshminarayan Pramanik of Bhai Bhai Sangha and Narayan Jana of Batam Club, were arrested.

A police picket was deployed in the area to check further trouble. “We are carrying out extensive raids to arrest some more club members,” said Roy.


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