Winners, losers and dreamers
Rajma, rice & Real Madrid
Art charts Memorial revamp
Contract bus strike off
The City Diary
Rays in focus at Atlanta fair
175 schools, no heads
‘Tuition circle’ spectre on CU exam
Disabled son chases father’s dues
Landslide claims mother and girl

 
 
WINNERS, LOSERS AND DREAMERS 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, June 30: 

German pockets in Brazil bastion

“Lando, Lando”… Sporting the Ronaldo ‘cut’, dressed in Brazilian colours, a youth intoxicated with the World Cup victory of his favourite team, and struggling to get the full name of his hero right, ran down Central Avenue…

Further south, on Bondel Road, another young man cut a sorry figure. In German white-and-black, under two giant flags, he mumbled: “I don’t know what to say… Germany was the better team. They should have won.”

And he was not the only one. Amidst the surge of Brazilian yellow and green, Calcutta threw up pockets of German resistance — at Beleghata and Ballygunge Phari, Bijoygarh and the Bow Barracks, Ripon Street and Lalbazar…

Sacrilege in this Brazil bastion? Not exactly, going by traditional Maidan musings. Any regular on the Calcutta football circuit knows that the East Bengal fans are referred to as ‘Germans’ by their rival Mohun Bagan followers. The coinage has stuck with the red-and-gold brigade and the German tricolour that bears a close resemblance was seen fluttering in many an East Bengal para on Sunday.

“We really felt as if we were living in Germany,” said Rehana Khatoon, councillor, as gloom descended over parts of central Calcutta, after the Cup was ‘lost’.

At Ballygunge Phari, a crowd of crestfallen Kahn devotees huddled in front of a German ‘shrine’, with newspaper clippings, cut-outs of players and a cardboard Cup in the middle. Some had been backing Germany for years. Others had switched allegiance after Argentina crashed out of the Cup. But they all had one thing in mind — Brazil should lose. “They’ve won the Cup too many times and this team certainly did not deserve to win,” said a Ballack fan.

German backers ranged from mayor Subrata Mukherjee to Saumitra Ray, former CEO, Salt Lake Stadium. Ray, in fact, added a historical perspective to the German support-base: “Calcutta clearly remembers how Germany had supported one of its most illustrious sons, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.”

But the Marxist football buffs were firmly behind the man with the Golden Boot. “I am happy Brazil won, but they could have scored many more,” said Biman Bose. Anil Biswas, who saw the final at the party headquarters on Alimuddin Street, also expressed “delight” at Brazil’s triumph.

   

 
 
RAJMA, RICE & REAL MADRID 
 
 
BY NISHA LAHIRI
 
Calcutta, June 30: 
Raul, not Ronaldo, is their hero. Spain, not Brazil, was the team they were screaming for in World Cup ‘02, of which they only watched the highlights, as access to cable TV is “out of the question”. Most importantly, Real Madrid is their club.

For around 45 boys in a tiny club of Kalitala, turning out in Real Madrid whites, five afternoons a week on the slushy, uneven ground near Thakurpukur is what has mattered most, for the past eight months. “We are a junior Real Madrid team,” they announce with pride. Each soccer session, from 3.30 pm to 5 pm, is followed by a treat of rajma and rice — often the only “full meal of their day” — on the condition of “regular attendance” at their English lessons.

The soccer-and-syllable combination, that promises to make such a difference in the lives of these underprivileged kids, is all thanks to the Real Madrid Foundation. The charitable project of the second richest soccer club in the world sponsors their uniforms and shoes, while all out-of-pocket expenses of the budding footballers come from ex-Madrid midfield star, Michel.

But the man the boys owe the most to is Carlos Duran San Roman. It was his Spanish connection that brought the Kalitala and Madrid teams together. And it was his ‘star’ connection that brought singer Ricky Martin to their club in June, when the ‘twinkle-toed’ Latino joined the boys for a kick in the overgrown Kalitala grass. Antonio ‘Zorro’ Banderas could be their next guest.

The club boasts 30 regular attendees, aged between 12 and 17. “Their applications come in from coaches of local clubs who think they have the potential, but not the resources,” says club director Dijou Mukherjee.

Patience is the key to deal with the likes of little Kaushik Mondol, who “is more interested in how he is going to beat up the next person who fouls him”. But eight months of discipline is beginning to show results. The boys recently participated in a local competition and “relished the experience”. As a 16-year-old said during a break in practice: “We are ready to take part in more serious competitions now.”

Where do they go from here? “Some of these boys have a good chance of making it to the professional level. In fact, if we get a good coach, we can create a really good team,” feels Mukherjee. “Sujoy Manna, 16, is our best striker. His passion in life is football. Then, Gaur Mondol’s dedication is amazing. He cycles 10 km and back every day, just to be able to play.” It’s for Gaur Mondol and many more “talented boys” like him that a hostel is being planned next to the clubhouse, as are projects to improve the ground, refurbish the clubhouse and improve healthcare.

For the boys, though, football is the name of the game, and winning the World Cup, someday, somewhere, is their dream.

   

 
 
ART CHARTS MEMORIAL REVAMP 
 
 
BY ELLA DATTA
 
Calcutta, June 30: 
In a move to shake Victoria Memorial Hall out of its torpor so that its enormous collection of art objects can be highlighted better, as they ought to be in a museum, the Union ministry’s department of culture is all set to restructure Lord Curzon’s tribute to the Regina and reorganise its staffing pattern.

The recommendations for a new organisational structure are likely to be ratified at a board of trustees’ meeting to be held on July 5. The position of current secretary/curator Chittaranjan Panda will be upgraded to that of director.

The man behind this revamp is Governor Viren J. Shah, chairman of Victoria Memorial’s board of trustees. Shah, a keen conservationist, took an active interest in setting things right at the Memorial. He made this known to the Union ministry’s department of culture and it has paid dividends.

The immediate trigger for the major revamp is the deplorable condition of a painting by Russian artist Vasily V. Vereschagin. This painting, The March of Elephants: Visit of the Prince of Wales to India in 1875, popularly known as Jaipur Sowar in government circles, is said to be the sixth largest painting in the world. The current Russian ambassador, on a visit to Victoria, drew the attention of the authorities to the unhappy condition of the painting. About 10 years ago, the then Russian ambassador, too, had suggested that the painting be restored. But this time round, thanks to the Governor’s initiative and a different dispensation at the Union ministry of culture, steps were taken to streamline the functions of Victoria Memorial on the lines of a museum.

It was decided to strengthen its technical functions. One of the banes of this institution has been a large body of casual workers employed by earlier secretary/curators. Some of them are technically-qualified persons and they have been on the payroll for periods ranging from five to 15 years.

In the latest drive to restructure it, about 50 per cent of the casual employees are being regularised. The rest will gradually be absorbed as and when vacancies arise. Moreover, a proper restoration/conservation unit is being set up under a curator.

Apart from upgrading the top post in the museum to that of director, three posts have been created under him. Besides the curator-level post of a conservator, there will also be a curator-level post for collection and display, and an administrative officer, who has been taken on lien from the state administrative service. Since it is a museum that attracts a huge number of visitors daily, a public relations officer’s post has also been created.

   

 
 
CONTRACT BUS STRIKE OFF 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, June 30: 
Schoolchildren using chartered buses — and their guardians — can breathe easy. The West Bengal Contract Carriage Owners’ and Operators’ Association has called off its “proposed indefinite strike”, following a meeting on Sunday with state transport minister Subhas Chakraborty at Netaji Indoor Stadium. Association members had met Narayan Biswas, minister of state for transport, at the Assembly on Friday.

Himadri Ganguly, general secretary of the association, said that the strike had been withdrawn after Chakraborty promised to settle their grievances “within a fortnight”. He added: “We are happy with Sunday’s discussions. The transport minister and police officers from the traffic department present appeared serious about addressing our problems.”

The strike had been called to protest the rampant use of private cars to “illegally carry school-going children” in the city and its neighbourhood.

“We transport nearly 80,000 children in our 1,300 chartered buses to different educational institutions every day. But we are incurring huge losses these days, as private car-owners have illegally entered the business,” alleged Ganguly.

Deputy commissioner of police, traffic, M.K. Singh, had claimed on Friday that the police had prosecuted “at least 10 private cars” for illegally carrying schoolchildren. He had also promised that the vigil on such cars would be “intensified”.

Association executive member Nikhil Jana, however, claimed that a list of 700 private cars being regularly used by schoolchildren had been submitted to the authorities. “We welcome the police action, but more needs to be done. We will deploy people in front of various school gates to spot these private cars. They will immediately alert the police,” added Jana.

The decision by the Contract Carriage Owners’ and Operators’ Association to call off the strike comes days after the announcement by the taxi, bus and minibus unions to “defer the strike”, called to press for a fare hike, till the end of this week.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Four arrested with 22 diamonds

Four persons were arrested at Burtola, in north Calcutta, on Saturday evening and 22 diamonds, worth about Rs 2 lakh, were recovered from them. The 28-carat diamonds were stolen from a house in Salt Lake. Police said those arrested were employed in a jewellery shop owned by the Salt Lake resident.

On Saturday evening, Ravindra Kumar Jadav and his three accomplices — Bibek Dubey, Abhishek Singh and Kanhaiya — tried to sell off the pieces at a shop on Burtola Street, run by Manoj Chand Gothia. Gothia informed Posta police station, as he turned suspicious when the men asked for half the price for the diamonds. During interrogation, Jadav said he had stolen the gems from his employer’s house. He would work in a shop at Vardaan Market. Police are trying to find out if Jadav was part of a bigger racket in stealing and selling diamonds.

Held for theft, glasses seized

Hare Street police rounded up four youths in Jharkhand on Saturday. They were charged with stealing sunglasses and lenses from two optical shops in central Calcutta. Police have recovered two dozen sunglasses and lenses from them.

Anniversary

The 129th death anniversary of Michael Madhusudan Dutt was observed at Mullick Bazaar on Saturday.

Gunshot wounds

China Deshmukh, a middle-aged man, was injured after he was shot at in the Garden Reach area on Saturday night. A person, identified as Manoj Singh, has been arrested.

Road mishap

A middle-aged man was knocked down on Bijon Setu on Sunday. He was taken to hospital in a critical condition, police said.

New office

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee inaugurated an office of the Solid Waste Management section at Kabitirtha, in south Calcutta, on Saturday. Justice Asoke Ganguly of Calcutta High Court was present.    

 
 
RAYS IN FOCUS AT ATLANTA FAIR 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, June 30: 
For the probashi bangali of Atlanta, in the US, it will be a walk down ‘memo-Ray lane’ for three days, later next week.

Aware of the non-resident Bengali’s abiding respect for the body of work left behind by the Rays — father Sukumar and son Satyajit — the organisers of this year’s Bishwa Banga Sammelan have decided to showcase things which will be of particular interest to Ray aficionados.

Among a collection of photographs and posters — showing Satyajit Ray at work and some portraits drawn by the man himself — will be some CD-ROMs that the organisers know are being looked forward to with a lot of interest by America’s Bengalis.

The CD-ROMs feature Sukumar Ray’s masterpiece, Abol Tabol. Second-generation Bengalis growing up in the US are denied a first-hand acquaintance with good Bengali literature and the Abol Tabol CD-ROMs will appeal to their imagination, feels Kanishka Dasgupta, director of Lotus Print, the publishing agency that has brought out the CD-ROMs.

“We are often told of the literary and emotional vacuum that Bengali children in America grow up in,” Dasgupta told Metro. “We are sure the CD-ROMs will fill up a part of the vacuum,” he added.

But the best part of the CD-ROM has nothing to do with nonsense verse. It is nine minutes long and features Sukumar’s son, Satyajit, talking about his father and his work. “That piece is from a very old talk given by Satyajit Ray and broadcast on All-India Radio way back in 1972,” Dasgupta said, confidentthat the nostalgia factor will work like magic among first-generation Bengalis settled in America.

Besides the CD-ROMs, Ray aficionados will get to see — for the first time in the US — a book compiling 36 rare photographs of the master at work on location. The photographs, all taken by Hirak Sen, form part of a book (Glimpses of Ray) and show him in many moods, mostly contemplative. The master is all seriousness and concentration while shooting Sonar Kella and Agantuk.

There is another poster which shows Ray smiling broadly. But two portraits (both drawn by Satyajit Ray himself) could just be the ultimate in collectibles: one is a portrait of father Sukumar and the other features poet Jibanananda Das, one of Ray’s personal favourites.

The Sammelan — other participants from Calcutta include actors Sabyasachi and Biplab — takes off on the US national holiday on July 4 and ends over the weekend.

   

 
 
175 SCHOOLS, NO HEADS 
 
 
BY TAMAL SENGUPTA
 
Calcutta, June 30: 
At a time when chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee appears keen on introducing reforms in the state’s education system, nearly 175 secondary-level institutions in Calcutta and its neighbourhood have been functioning without any full-time headmasters for the past five years and more.

The managing committees of these headless institutions have appointed teachers-in-charge instead.

Officers said on Sunday the situation will remain unchanged for at least another year, when the government may consider recruiting full-time headmasters for them.

Prominent among the institutions without headmasters are Taltala High School, Suren Chakraborty Institution, Haltu High School in Kasba, south Calcutta, and Arya Balika Vidyamandir in Dhakuria.

Recently the district inspectors of schools in Calcutta and in North and South 24-Parganas approached the West Bengal School Service Commission (WBSSC) to initiate the process of recruiting headmasters for 175 schools in the city and the suburbs.

Chairman of the WBSSC Arun Kiran Chakraborty said the commission will soon put out advertisements in newspapers, seeking applications from senior and experienced teachers to fill up the vacancies.

After receiving applications, the commission will conduct interviews.

Chakraborty said about 1,000 schools in the state had been functioning without any full-time headmasters for the past few years. The commission will also recruit teachers for those schools.

The Commission does not hold any written examination to recruit headmasters.

It invites applications from candidates on the basis of their experience and academic excellence for interviews.

After the interviews, the commission prepares a panel for recruitment and publishes the list.

Most city schools do not have enough teachers. The headless schools find it difficult to hold regular classes because the teacher-in-charge, who stands in for the headmaster, gets so bogged down in administrative work that he finds it difficult to take classes allotted to him.

Other teachers cannot take his classes either, because they are already too busy with their own work. So, without anybody to guide them, ultimately it is the students who suffer.

   

 
 
‘TUITION CIRCLE’ SPECTRE ON CU EXAM 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, June 30: 
A Calcutta University decision to bypass its own board of examiners for fixing the dates of a practical exam has raised eyebrows with officials admitting that a “circle of teachers” has been trying to control the dates and examiners to “benefit” students they coach.

The practical exam for BSc (Hons) Part-I electronic science is now slated to be held between July 23 and 30 at three centres, which are also the only colleges where the subject is taught.

The schedule, however, was fixed without consulting the board of examiners and led a section of teachers and officials to suspect the hand of the “tuition circle” in the decision.

“We have been trying to break this unholy nexus and wouldn’t like to give people an opportunity to raise such questions,” the chairperson of the undergraduate board of studies, K.P. Ghatak, said while admitting that he had “heard of and suspected” this racket. “That is why I have debarred postgraduate teachers from being involved in these exams.”

But this year’s decision — admittedly taken outside the board of examiners meeting — was a “practical necessity” as the principals and the department heads of the three exam-venue colleges had to be consulted to know when the laboratories would be free, Ghatak said.

“The same labs and instruments are used for the physics practical exams,” he said, explaining the decision to bypass the board and, instead, consult the colleges directly.

The board of examiners and paper-setters for the subject was supposed to have met on June 19, after a similar meeting on May 30 was cancelled, to “decide on the nature of questions and dates for the exams”, a senior university official said.

But some members of the board received a detailed schedule, dated June 18 (a day before the scheduled meeting), of the practical exam a couple of days after May 30.

One of them, a Presidency College physics department teacher, complained to the controller of examinations and the chairperson of the undergraduate board of studies about the “arbitrary” decision taken, keeping some board members in the dark.

There are 94 students from the three colleges for this year’s BSc Part-I electronic science exams. The practical exams are also held at these three colleges and officials say they have noted “an unhealthy trend” among teachers — who reportedly teach students of these three colleges outside the campus — to determine the schedule of these exams and the internal and external examiners.

“In these three departments, almost every teacher knows every student and there is intense competition among some teachers to either become examiners for the scoring practical paper or determine the examiners or fix the dates when they know teachers from ‘rival’ camps will cry off because of their involvement in other exams,” a senior university official said.

A teacher said the department had raised a “tuition-and-marks” stink in the past.

   

 
 
DISABLED SON CHASES FATHER’S DUES 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Burdwan, June 30: 
For 43 years, Habu Bagdi, a former employee of the irrigation department, tried to get his pension and gratuity. He failed and died three years ago. Now his handicapped son limps from pillar to post to get his father’s dues.

Bagdi resigned from the Damodar canal irrigation department in 1956 to look after his wife and son, who were severely injured and subsequently handicapped in a fire accident. He had completed 18 years of service by then and was entitled to superannuation benefits.

But they never came. Innumerable letters, appeals and recommendations of “influential” people did not work.

Bagdi’s former employers have informed the family that, in all probability, his widow will not get any money. Apparently, Bagdi’s service records cannot be traced.

But some years ago, the department had issued a directive that Bagdi’s dues be settled. “But nothing came through,” said Felaram Bagdi, his son.

The superintendent engineer of the Damodar canal irrigation division, Ramendranath Sarkar, confirmed that Bagdi was an employee of his department for a long time many years ago.

“But after his death, no documents or records related to his service could be found in the division’s offices. We have pursued various avenues with the government to get his pension dues cleared. But it has not been possible. And I don’t think his family will be getting any dues,” the official said.

During his lifetime, Bagdi made several attempts to get his pension. In fact, the executive engineer at the Damodar irrigation circle’s superintendent engineer’s office and the irrigation and water transport department at Writers’ Buildings have created separate files containing all correspondence from Bagdi.

Till today, Bagdi’s son still goes around with copies of the letters, pursuing his father’s legacy.

   

 
 
LANDSLIDE CLAIMS MOTHER AND GIRL 
 
 
FROM ANUPAM DASGUPTA
 
Siliguri, June 30: 
Two persons were killed in landslides at lower Paglajhora in Kurseong sub-division last night in what is said to be the first of its kind this season.

Two houses were destroyed while several were partially damaged. Twenty-five families have reportedly been shifted to safer areas.

District officials said Madhu Bharati and her 15-year-old daughter Rabina Bharati perished under chunks of land that crushed them. Both the bodies were extricated today.

The Bharatis’ house was buried by boulders and slush as it was located at the basement of the hills, police said.

Rescue and relief work was initially hampered due to the inclement weather. Supply of essential commodities to Darjeeling was cut off as National Highway 55 remained closed to traffic till this evening.

“It is only late this morning that the debris began to be cleared. We expect to restore traffic on the national highway tomorrow,” said Darjeeling district magistrate H. Mohan.

Landslide experts here said a crack had developed on the Daragaon rock surface (lower Paglajhora) a few days ago. Water accumulated inside the crevices that led to fluctuations within the rock, resulting in the landslides.

Experts here said that landslides in the region have become more frequent as a result of deforestation. Steps are rarely taken to preserve the topsoil in “sensitive” areas.

   
 

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