Bias tag on Delhi board schools
Rights panel rush to review rape frame-up
Dry days, power cuts spell trouble
Court salve in son search
The City Diary
Blind to odds, alive to action
Declaration dilemma for RPG Netcom
Demand for extra courts rejected
Jailed duo chases graduation dream
Mosquito menace claims 20

Calcutta, July 10: 
Some leading English-medium schools affiliated to the Delhi-based boards are embroiled in a fresh controversy, with the state government warning such institutions that action will be taken against them if they refuse to admit Madhyamik pass-outs to the Plus-two courses of their institutions.

The government’s warning follows a complaint from some Trinamul Congress MLAs that a large number of students, who have passed Madhyamik 2002, were being refused admission to Class XI in English-medium institutions. These schools are affiliated to the Delhi-based Indian Council for School Certificate Examination, which conducts the ICSE (Class X) and ISC (Class XII) examinations, and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE).

“We are looking into the complaints. Under no circumstances will we allow the ICSE and CBSE schools to deprive our Madhyamik students in this manner,” said Kanti Biswas, state school education minister.

The issue was raised by Partha Chatterjee, Arunava Ghosh and others of the Trinamul during Monday’s discussion in the Assembly on the current year’s education budget.

The complaint from the Trinamul has embarrassed the government, as the Opposition has claimed that Madhyamik examinees are being denied admission because of the “poor standard” of the state-controlled Madhyamik Board.

“It is regrettable that no CBSE and ICSE schools are welcoming admission applications from Madhyamik students. The schools are not willing to take these students only because of the poor standards of the Madhyamik Board,” said Ghosh.

He said the matter came to the notice of their party when some guardians in Salt Lake approached the Trinamul because their wards were refused admission to Class XI of a CBSE school in the area, after the results of the current year’s Madhyamik examination were declared last month.

Biswas said whatever be the standards maintained in the CBSE and ICSE schools, the government is concerned at the bias of the authorities of such institutions. According to government rules, it is mandatory for any school to accept the application of a student if he or she passes an examination conducted by a recognised board.

L.W. Hartnett, principal of the Assembly of God Church, an ICSE school, and a member of the Association of Heads of Anglo-Indian Schools, denied the allegation, saying that no ICSE school had refused admission to Madhyamik examinees.

But, she said, till last year, Madhyamik results were declared much after the ICSE results. This was one of the reasons why Madhyamik students could not get admission to the ICSE courses. By the time the Madhyamik results were out, seats in ICSE schools were filled up with their own students.


Calcutta, July 10: 
West Bengal Human Rights Commission (WBHRC) members admitted on Wednesday that the registrar of the commission, Shankar Coari, had refused to accept an application filed by Uday Kant Thakur on behalf of his 11-year-old son, Sonu, framed by the Regent Park police in “a false rape case”.

An internal probe conducted by the rights panel, immediately after Metro reported on July 5 that Thakur was planning to take it to court for refusing to accept his application, has blown the lid off the “goof-up”.

In a knee-jerk reaction, the commission has taken “an informal decision” to conduct a suo motu case, said a commission member. Thakur has also been asked to submit a fresh plea.

“I will submit my second application, as requested by the registrar, on Thursday,” said Thakur.

Sonu was rounded up by the police on March 28, 2000, and accused of raping a four-year-old girl. He was sent to a juvenile home, where he was confined with “hardcore criminals”. Later, a medical examination report revealed that the girl had not been raped and that Sonu was innocent.

The police, however, ignored the medical report and filed a chargesheet against the boy. On February 28, 2002, the sub-divisional judicial magistrate (SDJM) of Alipore Court dismissed the case, pulled up the police and termed it “a clear violation of human rights”.

Sonu has yet to recover from the nightmare. “My son is still suffering, haunted by images of being dragged away to prison by the police. All we could do was watch and cry. I, therefore, decided to punish the police for what they have done to my son and my family. But the refusal by the human rights commission came as a real shock,” said Thakur.

On April 20, Thakur filed an application with the WBHRC, seeking justice for his son, which was turned down. He then decided to file a writ petition against the rights panel, challenging its decision to throw out his application.

The WBHRC’s internal probe has revealed that on April 30, 10 days after Thakur submitted his application, the file landed at the law and research wing, headed by Coari. The registrar went through the file and passed it on to a commission member with the remark: “Allegation relates to judicial proceedings. Not entertainable.”

Exactly a month later, the member agreed with Coari’s views and passed on the file to chairman Justice Mukul Gopal Mukherjee. The same day, Justice Mukherjee put his signature to the first page of Thakur’s application, alongside Coari’s comment. On May 31, Coari wrote to Thakur: “The commission, after having considered your petition, declines to entertain the same… as it relates to judicial proceedings.”

Thakur then consulted legal experts, who opined that since the case had been dismissed by the court two months before the application was sent, the rights’ panel could not refuse to admit it on those grounds.

A commission member said: “No application can be rejected unless the chairman or registrar gives his opinion.”

Justice Mukherjee has convened an internal meeting on Monday to ascertain how “such an important case” had been rejected by the commission.


Calcutta, July 10: 
Sweltering heat and widespread power cuts spelt double trouble for Calcuttans on Wednesday. The maximum temperature soared to around five degrees Celsius above normal in the afternoon, while the power shortfall plunged to 123 mw in the evening.

R.N. Goldar, chief of the Alipore weather office, warned of “little chance of rain during the next two or three days”, as the trough of low pressure extended from Bihar to Assam, across sub-Himalayan West Bengal.

“As a result, active monsoon condition is prevailing in north Bengal. While Calcutta and its surrounding areas have been virtually dry for the past five days, places like Jalpaiguri, Nagrakata and Darjeeling have received heavy rain over the past 24 hours,” he added.

Goldar said the heat had become particularly unbearable over the past two or three days because of a cloud cover at night. “This has led to the narrowing of the gap between the maximum and minimum temperatures. While the maximum temperature on Wednesday was around 37 degrees, the minimum was 30 degrees. We call this a break monsoon condition,” he explained.

The power situation on Wednesday was bleak. Around 11.30 am, supply from the state electricity board (SEB) to the CESC system suffered a jolt after a fire broke out in an SEB sub-station in Liluah, Howrah. Large areas of the city and its neighbourhood suffered power cuts ranging from 45 minutes to over an hour.

CESC sources said its grid was immediately isolated from the SEB supply from Liluah, fearing a collapse. This led to a deficit of 40 mw in CESC-served areas and even disrupted Metro Rail services briefly at Jatin Das Park. A deficit of another 30 mw added up as CESC kept its generation low, owing to slow coal supply. The power utility, however, stepped up output in the evening, producing 915 mw around 7 pm.


Calcutta, July 10: 
For the past year and a half, Chandana Sinha Roy Choudhury has been knocking on the doors of law-enforcing agencies, bureaucrats and even chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, in search of her 21-year-old son, who disappeared one winter’s day.

The son was abducted by a close relative in November 2000, Chandana claims. She has now filed a habeas corpus petition in Calcutta High Court, with a request to direct the police to find her son, “dead or alive”.

The division bench of Nur-e-Alam Choudhury and S. Gupta directed the CID on Wednesday to produce all relevant documents in connection with the disappearance of Sourish Sinha Roy Choudhury, only son of 43-year-old Chandana, a resident of Jessore Road, in Dum Dum.

Special IG (CID) V.V. Thambi, told Metro that his sleuths would “take appropriate action once they receive the court order.”

Chandana’s tale of woe, that drove her from door to door, dates back to November 11, 2000, when Sourish, then a B.Com student of a prominent city college, left home after breakfast but never returned.

The same night, Sourish’s maternal grandfather, Snigdhendu Sekhar Biswas, also a resident of Jessore Road, received a ransom call for Rs 15 lakh. The caller, claiming that Sourish was in his custody, threatened to kill him if the ransom was not paid on time. Biswas got in touch with the local police, who installed a caller line identification (CLI) machine at Biswas’ residence.

The second call, which the abductor had promised to make within a few hours, never came. “We became suspicious, as it seemed that an insider had a hand in the abduction. No one else knew that we had installed a CLI machine in the house,” said a senior police officer.

A few days later, the police managed a breakthrough in the case, after arresting Sourish’s uncle, Sagar Kallol Biswas, on charges of abducting the youth.

Investigations further revealed that Sourish, who was supposed to inherit property from his grandfather, had antagonised Sagar Kallol, who, as per the will, would have received only 50 per cent of the property after his father’s death.

“We found out that on various occasions, Sagar Kallol had wanted Chandana to issue a no-objection letter, stating that she would give up her property claim. Chandana had, however, refused,” a senior officer said.

After two months of jail custody, Sagar Kallol was released on bail, but the police failed to trace the missing youth. The local police, after drawing a blank, started ignoring Chandana’s pleas.

Left with no alternative, Chandana approached chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee for help. Bhattacharjee, in turn, asked the CID to investigate the case. After several months of search, the CID failed to trace Sourish. “Chandana also approached the human rights commission, but they, too, failed to help her,” said her lawyer, Pradip Roy.

Dacoity bid: Nine armed youths were arrested from Bishnupur, on the southern fringe of the city, on Wednesday night. Police said that they had assembled to commit a dacoity.



Roadblock after death in auto crash

Ratan Dey, 56, died, after the autorickshaw in which he was travelling rammed into a waiting state bus near Beleghata Jora Mandir around 10 am on Wednesday. Dey was shifted to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced “brought dead”. Residents blocked roads protesting rash driving in the area. Senior police officers intervened to bring the situation under control.

Last KLM flight leaves city

The KLM Royal Dutch Airlines bid goodbye to Calcutta for the second time in 33 years early on Wednesday. The last flight of the airline took off at 3.35 am with 203 passengers. The KLM, along with other foreign airlines, left Calcutta in 1969 in the wake of the Naxalite movement. It resumed operations in October 1992. With the departure of KLM, direct air service to Europe from the city has been reduced to one. The British Airways operates two weekly flights between London and Calcutta. Seven airlines now operate international flights from Calcutta — Air India, Indian Airlines, British Airways, Bangladesh Biman, Bhutan’s Druk Air, Thai International Airways and Royal Jordan Airlines.

Hacked by husband

A 35-year-old woman was hacked to death by her husband on Tuesday night at Barasat, on the northern fringes of the city. Police said Jyotirup Haldar suspected that his wife Sipra was having an affair with a local youth. Police are on the hunt for the husband.

House bombed

Criminals hurled bombs at the house of Congress activist Asutosh Chanda, alias Buku, on Amherst Street, on Tuesday night. Chanda is an associate of Congress leader and MLA Somen Mitra. Congress supporters blamed the attack on local Trinamul Congress activists.

Body found

The Chitpur police recovered the body of an unidentified middle-aged man from Khagen Chand Road on Wednesday morning. Police said the man was epileptic. No injury marks were found on his body

Rathayatra specials

South Eastern Railway will run a pair of Rathayatra Specials between Kharagpur and Puri to cope with the rush of passengers on the eve of Rathayatra. The Kharagpur-Puri Rathayatra Special will leave Kharagpur at 6.50 pm on July 11 and reach Puri at 10 am on July 12. The return train will leave Puri at 11 pm on July 12 and reach Kharagpur at 9 am on July 13. The Special trains will have six general second-class coaches and two SLRs. In addition to this, South Eastern Railway has decided to attach an extra sleeper coach to the Howrah-Puri Express and two coaches to Sri Jagannath Express till July 11. An extra AC-chair car coach will also be attached to the Howrah-Bhubaneswar Dhauli Express till July 21.

Gujarat report

A study conducted by People’s Union for Civil Liberties, titled Violence in Vadodara: A Report, was released on Wednesday, at a function organised by Maitree, in the St Xavier’s College auditorium. A separate study on women’s experiences, titled At The Receiving End, was also launched by Jashodhara Bagchi, chairperson of the West Bengal State Women’s Commission.    

Calcutta, July 10: 
“In a way, I am better off, because I don’t see the bad things everyone else sees.” Gyan Poddar, always on the move, always in the know, always willing to take on a new challenge. And what others see as a handicap — his blindness — is, for this 60-year-old, not even worth a second thought.

This industrialist and philanthropist does not talk about how he lost his vision. “Such things should be forgotten… It’s gone, so it’s gone,” says the eternal optimist. Now a supplier of leather-finishing chemicals to Bata for operations in India, Bangladesh, Chile and Turkey, he sees no reason to slow down.

“The word ‘retire’ doesn’t even exist in my dictionary,” smiles Poddar. Beside his professional work, he has found time to organise — personally or in conjunction with the Rotary Club he is associated with — over 46,000 eye-check-ups in rural Bengal. And that was just last year. Add to that 456 eye-operations so far this year.

Clearly Poddar, grandfather of three, has set out to make his mark. Social activities are “first” on the agenda, and he is going to increase his area of work to mother-and-child health and cancer detection. “But I will work only in rural Bengal,” he explains. He has seen, first-hand in villages, the effect that lack of education and hygiene and superstition can have, and is determined to counteract it.

Poddar — whose wife Manju has been a guiding force and inspiration in his life — also plays mentor to those suffering from blindness. He acts as counsellor at the National Association for the Blind. “Most people are so demoralised by the loss of vision that they become depressed,” observes Poddar, who lost his sight while doing his MSc at Jadavpur University.

He offers his services as a counsellor to anyone who wishes to contact him. “There is so little information on offer about the facilities available, and how to deal with such a problem,” says Poddar who learnt Braille from Ramakrishna Mission “in six months flat”.

His younger son Vinay attributes much of Poddar’s strength to the fact that his mother “never treated him as though he was blind”. Manju still refers to her sombre husband as a “handsome young boy”, and feels that “sympathy is the worst thing” in such situations. “We are equals… we are together,” she smiles.

The entrepreneur has extended his business operations to R&D as well, and has recently developed the “first Indian eco-friendly leather finishing chemicals”. Explains Poddar: “Most such chemicals use oil as a solvent, but I have developed one that uses water as a base, reducing pollution and wastage.” While Manju helps with the accounts, he overseas all the production. A computer with voice-recognition software, a cellphone and digital diary help the tech-savvy man out, too. Poddar is now shifting his Tangra factory to Madhyamgram, where construction is already underway. “I am planning to start a line of herbal medication, which I feel no one is currently doing in a scientific way.”

While he would welcome eight-day weeks, Poddar manages to pack it all in even now. He meditates to keep his mind focussed and also relaxes by catching up on the news (world politics is a serious addiction), playing cards with his friends (using Braille cards) or fighting it out over a game of chess with his six-year-old grandson.


Calcutta, July 10: 
Cable television service provider RPG Netcom has committed an increased connectivity of 50,000 subscriber points to ESPN-Star Sports, but is wary of landing in a financial soup if affiliate operators don’t co-operate.

The agreement, hastily reached in a midnight drama last week to bring back the twin sports channels, will jack up the multi-system operator’s (MSO) declaration level to the two sports channels from 1.95 lakh to 2.45 lakh points. It awaits a formal nod from ESPN Software India’s corporate headquarters, but it is the operators’ approach to payout numbers, not only on ESPN-Star Sports, but on the rest of the pay packages as well, that the MSO is losing sleep over.

With the STAR bouquet set to follow in ESPN’s footsteps and seek extra numbers soon, RPG Netcom is eager to clear its position in case there is a fresh imbroglio. “We, as wholesalers in this industry, are trapped. Unless the retailers (the operators) pay us for the committed numbers, we can’t honour the contract signed with the broadcaster,” RPG Netcom chief executive Ashim Dutta said on Wednesday. “If we have to cough up money for points we are not getting paid for, it’s a one-way road to doomsday for us.”

Quite a few operators felt that the ESPN contract would be honoured since the administration intervened, but were cross over being “kept out” of the negotiations. “We respect the government initiative. But we are not responsible for any solution, since we were neither consulted before they switched off the channels, nor when they decided to bring them back,” said one.

The MSO reiterated on Wednesday that it doesn’t get paid for full connectivity of homes, hinting at “rampant under-declaration” by operators. Cablemen admit that they hide numbers, but prefer to call it “scientific declaration” to keep subscriber rates pocket-friendly.


Calcutta, July 10: 
The number of cases pending in Calcutta High Court has come down remarkably, claimed state judicial affairs minister Nisith Nandan Adhikari on Wednesday.

The minister told mediapersons that the demand by a section of lawyers for setting up more courts was no longer justified. “The demand is baseless,” he said.

Adhikari said that over the past two years, the number of pending cases in the high court had come down to 232,000, against 346,000. “It is a remarkable achievement,” he said, adding this was possible only due to government intervention and high court administration.

Adhikari, who went to meet state advocate-general Balai Roy on his way to Writers’ Buildings, said that the total number of pending cases in the district courts had come down to 130,000 from 180,000. “There are several factors responsible for speedy disposal of cases,” Adhikari said. His department had noticed that the tendency to file cases was relatively less in district courts. “The purchasing power of the people has decreased and this could be a reason for their shying away from courts,” he added.

The minister said that different redress forums and the fast-track courts were doing their jobs well. According to him, the forums were helping the judicial administration to dispose of cases quickly.

Adhikari also said that his government was contemplating setting up block-level pre-trial counselling boards for out-of-court settlements. He said that the State Legal Services Aid Authority would be engaged in organising these boards. “The panels will comprise renowned people, local lawyers and trained counsellors approved by the aid authority,” the minister said.

The lawyers, however, have slammed the government move. They said: “This is a fresh move to curb the rights of advocates.” Uttam Majumder, member of the executive committee of the Bar Council and former secretary of Calcutta High Court Bar Association, said there should be a statewide debate before implementing such programmes.

Most lawyers were facing penury over lack of briefs, Majumder claimed. “Introducing pre-trial counselling boards would put the advocates, especially the new lawyers, in a spot. I do not think this is a sensible decision,” he added.

Earlier, the secretariat of Chief Justice A. K. Mathur confirmed that a number of pending cases in the high court had, indeed, been disposed of. The secretariat claimed that Justice Mathur had taken the initiative to reduce the number of cases pending in the high court and the subordinate courts.


Calcutta, July 10: 
Four years ago, Vikas Jaiswal and Mausam Singh Roy, both 21, from Howrah, had hit the headlines when they murdered two friends on a cold December night. The friends — Pritam Chakraborty and Rudra Parui — were asked to meet the duo near Howrah bridge, where the four would “resolve a mess” involving a girl. But during an argument, Pritam and Rudra were beaten up and pushed into the Hooghly. The next day, Vikas and Mausam were taken in custody, after the bodies of the other two were fished out.

Lifers Vikas and Mausam, now lodged in a dingy cell at Presidency jail in Alipore, have become “celebrities” overnight, ever since news broke that they had fared well in this year’s Higher Secondary (HS) examinations.

For the past three days, Vikas and Mausam have had a stream of visitors — murderers, dacoits and even drug addicts — but with a different purpose. The co-inmates wanted to congratulate them for their success in the examinations.

One more person has reason to feel elated. Ranadhir Basu, the private tutor of teen murderer Sudipa Pal, lodged in the jail as a lifer, was buoyed by the success of the youths. He had purchased sweets and distributed them to inmates at the jail.

The reason: He tutored the duo after they had been lodged in the jail since March 2000. Earlier, the youths were lodged in Howrah district jail from December 12, 1998.

“We are indebted to Ranadhirbabu for helping us with our syllabus. It is because of him that we got through,” said Vikas, who has been placed in the second division. “If permitted, I want to study further. I have plans of becoming a teacher,” he told Metro on Wednesday.

Mausam, however, has just scraped through. “I have recently bagged a national award in fine arts, in a competition which drew prisoners across the country as participants. The event was held in Bangalore,” he said, adding: “After graduation, I want to pursue a career in fine arts.”

Jail superintendent S.R.Hussain said that the prison authorities would help the two youths pursue their dreams. “We have already contacted the Calcutta University officials on allowing them to sit for BA Part I as external candidates,” he added.

But for some time, the two have been demanding that they be allowed to study as regular candidates in a college. “We may be convicted by a court of law, but does that mean that we will be denied the rights of pursuing further studies, like other boys?” they have reportedly told the authorities.

Sources said the inmates have planned to submit a memorandum to the superintendent, demanding that the two boys be permitted to attend a college. “The jail environment is hardly conducive for them to study. If they attend a college, they will do better,” said an undertrial.

The jail authorities are, however, doubtful about the arrangements demanded by the two. “They are lifers. So they have to be provided with adequate security when they attend college. At present, we don’t have such infrastructure,” said inspector-general of prisons Anil Kumar.


Jalpaiguri, July 10: 
The sting is getting deadlier by the day in this district. Health department officials have put the number of malaria deaths at 18, till June 25, though unofficially the toll is believed to have crossed 20.

Last year, there were 37 malaria deaths in the district. The worst-hit this year is Alipurduar Block-2, where 14 have lost their lives. Till June, blood samples of 18,515 people were collected in this block, out of which 1,050 tested positive for the winged menace.

One hundred and twenty-four samples had traces of plasmodium falciferum, the virus carrying malignant malaria.

The number of blood samples collected in the entire district till May was 2,18,000.

In Malbazar block, six persons have been reported dead. In the past three days, two residents of Turibari under Oodlabari have succumbed to the sting.Three vacant posts in the pathology department of the district hospital have led to the delay in releasing test results.

Deputy CMOH of Jalpaiguri Bikram Singh Basumatari said: “We are trying our best to combat the situation. The essential precautions are being taken. Medical teams are working in the affected areas.”

The 13 blocks of the district have two sanitary officers instead of 13. Health assistants and supervisors have filled up the posts. In Nagrakata block, a malaria-prone area, the posts of medical inspector and block medical inspectors are vacant. According to government records, till June, malarial parasites were found in the blood of 12,481 people. About 4,358 malignant malaria cases were detected.

The disease has claimed two lives in Kalchini, one in Nagrakata, four in Malbazar, 2 in Madarihat. There are 38 primary health centres and 376 sub centres across the district. In these, 108 out of 376 posts in the male ward and 25 among 376 in the female ward are empty. The government has not recruited new staff to replace those who have retired.

What has increased the problem is the fact that residents use water of springs and ponds which spread malaria.

However, the district health administration claimed that preventive medicines were being sent to the block health centres, spraying of DDT had been undertaken and some technicians are also recruited for blood examination.

This year, the disease has spread terror in areas like Nagrakata, Kumargram, Metelli, Malbazar and Madarihat. Till April, 763 people were suffering from malaria in Nagrakata. The figures are 375 for Kumargram, 358 in Metelli, 285 in Malbazar and 219 in Madarihat. Nearly 4,400 people in these areas have malarial parasites in their blood.

As monsoon spreads, the degree of malaria is bound to increase if health services in these areas are not improved. People in these blocks are dependent on the government for medicare.


Maintained by Web Development Company