Hefty fee hike in DA deadlock
Call a cop for old-car deals
Gender bias slur on campus
The City Diary
Back after flight of football fantasy
Youth held on rape charge
Blame game over numbers
Spike cloud over CU journalism course
Homoeo colleges eye rate rise
Doctor diverts duct to save girl

 
 
HEFTY FEE HIKE IN DA DEADLOCK 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 16: 
Guardians of students of Anglo-Indian schools in the city must brace for a hefty fee hike.

This was the message conveyed by the heads of Anglo-Indian schools on Tuesday, after grappling with the state government over the dearness allowance (DA) issue for six months. The officials announced a “substantial enhancement of tuition and other fees” with immediate effect. The amount will vary from school to school. And what’s more, guardians must cough up the enhanced fees with “retrospective effect”, either from March or April.

The hike may be “more than Rs 300 per month”, warned the heads of Anglo-Indian schools, adding that the revised amount will differ from one school to the other, depending on the requirements of each institution. “We are trying to work out a formula so that a minimum burden is passed on to guardians,” officials said.

The schools falling under the Church of North India (CNI) had already announced a fee hike in May. Tuesday’s announcement comes in the wake of the state government’s “refusal” to respond to the Anglo-Indian schools’ demand to keep in abeyance for at least a year its recent decision to slash DA grants.

The schools had said that this “grace period” was required to find alternative arrangements to bridge the funds gap without taxing the guardians.

The government had announced, by a circular in February this year, that it would reduce the DA grants for employees of Anglo-Indian schools from 132 per cent to 41 per cent. The government fixed 41 per cent as the DA grant for Anglo-Indian schools as employees of state-funded institutions are paid the same rate.

“We were informed of a drastic cut in government DA paid to our school by a circular (No. 757 Sc/AIS, dated 20.02.02). After receiving the circular, we’ve requested the education department, the finance department and even the chief minister on several occasions to give us at least a year’s time so that the guardians, who will have to bear the brunt of the sudden increase of tuition fees, are not made to suffer unduly,” said C.R. Gasper, president of the Association of Heads of Anglo-Indian Schools in India (West Bengal branch) and principal of St Augustine’s Day School.

“Unfortunately, we have received no definite answer as yet from the education department, the finance department or from the chief minister. It does appear as if the buck is being passed from one department to the other,” said Gillian Rosemary D’Costa Hart, another member of the association and principal of Welland Gouldsmith School.

Association members admitted that they were now “compelled to increase the fees” to ensure protection of pay to their teaching and non-teaching staff. “A sudden slashing of DA grants by the government would cause reduction of salaries for our employees, which is not permissible under government rules, as it infringes their right of protection of pay,” said the heads of schools.

The association members also expressed concern over the manner in which the government made “baseless allegations” — that the Anglo-Indian schools “paid low basic salaries” to their teachers and non-teaching employees and “demanded high DA grants” from it. According to them, the schools had been demanding the DA on the basis of a formula, framed by the government itself, in 1995.

Dismissing the allegations, the heads said they were forced to show low basic salaries of their employees as the 1995 order had directed them to do so. They said the schools had repeatedly urged the government to modify the order but nothing had been done in this regard.

Criticising the February 2002 circular, association members said: “At no point of time did the government issue any notification about revising the basic scale of pay. We were shocked to find the government taking the arbitrary decision to slash DA without informing the schools.”

   

 
 
CALL A COP FOR OLD-CAR DEALS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 16: 
The next time you buy a second-hand car, stop worrying about the car’s “criminal” past and, instead, pay a visit to Lalbazar.

Come next week, the Calcutta Police detective department is going to help you pick your way through the often-shady second-hand car bazaar.

Alarmed at the growing number of incidents in which Calcuttans have got embroiled in criminal cases for buying cars involved in crime or stolen vehicles, Calcutta Police has tied up with the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) to launch a fully-computerised cell with every detail of a car’s past. The cell will get cracking from July 24.

Detective department deputy commissioner Soumen Mitra said on Tuesday: “At the click of a mouse, we will be able to inform buyers about whether they should go ahead with the deal. Unlike in other metros, the service will be free.”

Here’s what the detective department urges Calcuttans going in for a second-hand car to do:

Go to the public vehicles department and verify whether the registration number and engine number of the car are in order

Take down the details and drop in at the Lalbazar cell

Take the form that officials will hand over and fill it up; the form will ask for the car’s registration number and engine number and the seller’s name and address, among other things

In a few minutes, the information will be handed over, in the form of an OK certificate

But there’s a catch. The OK certificate will come with a fine print: the go-ahead is “provisional”, with chances of a car with a “criminal past” managing to get past the Calcutta Police-NCRB screening. “Though not more than five to 10 per cent of the cases are likely to elude our screening, we feel that we should be honest with the public,” an official said. “This check is not foolproof,” he added.

And there will not be any relaxation in prosecution procedures in case of buyers ending up with crime-involved or stolen second-hand cars, police verification or not, say officials.

The database will be updated every month with the NCRB’s help, say officials.

\    

 
 
GENDER BIAS SLUR ON CAMPUS 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, July 16: 
A faculty member of the printing technology department of Jadavpur University (JU) has become the first teacher in the state to lodge a complaint of “gender bias” against her departmental head and colleagues.

Swati Bandyopadhyay, the first teacher in the department to win the prestigious All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) Award for Young Teachers, has now alleged that she is facing “intense non-cooperation” within her department. Her letters of complaint have been sent to the vice-chancellor of the university and the dean of the engineering faculty.

Matters came to a head during a meeting convened to discuss allocation of classes in May, with Swati objecting to the “statements, language, attitudes and intentions expressed”. She said on Tuesday that she might have to return her award if the situation did not improve. “The AICTE correspondences clearly mentioned that I would not have to take more than 10 classes a week, so that I could devote myself to research, for which I was given a grant of Rs 3 lakh. I have often been forced to take more than 15 classes, which I did for the department’s sake. But if this is what I get in return, there’s no point in continuing,” she said.

Swati has told the university authorities that the particular board of studies had become a “forum for harassing a teacher”. “Since I am the only lady teacher, I am always in a minority,” she said, accusing her colleagues of adopting an extremely “negative approach”. Though university registrar Rajat Bandyopadhyay said he was not aware of the case and that “the proper forum for addressing such grievances is the cell that works out of our university to redress them”, a senior official claimed the “accused teacher” had been called and asked to explain matters. “Though we are treating the matter with seriousness, there’s no need to rake up controversies which are, essentially, ‘intra-family’ tiffs,” he added.

Printing technology department head Alok Ghosh has denied all allegations. “I am the seniormost teacher in the department and it does not befit me to dwell on these issues,” he said. Ghosh added that Swati’s claim of the department often conspiring to deny her the salary-cheque on time referred to a “minor, one-time error by an office assistant”. Swati, however, has written that the issue is much more serious: “Departmental officials have even refused to deliver correspondence regarding my award and there have been several instances of the office not giving me my salary statement. I don’t even get chemicals and teaching aids on time and the continuous mental harassment is probably unending.”

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Minister warns chartered buses

Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty has threatened to take action if the chartered bus strike continues for more than a couple of days. Chartered school buses will be off the roads from Wednesday for an indefinite period following a strike called by the West Bengal Contract Carriage Owners and Operators Association. At least 950 school buses, carrying nearly 80,000 students of the city and the suburbs, will take part in the strike, said association secretary Himadri Ganguly. He said the strike was called to protest government inaction against illegal car pools. Ganguly alleged that the transport minister and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had turned a deaf ear to their demands.

Cash, jewellery burgled

Miscreants looted Rs 70,000 and gold ornaments from a house in the Cossipore area on Tuesday afternoon. Police said the burglars broke open the back-door of the house and decamped with the cash and valuables. The robbery was carried out when the owner of the house, Shipra Roy Chowdhury, had gone to get her son admitted to college. No one has been arrested in this connection.

Drugs on campus

Two girls of Class XI in a Baruipur school were caught taking drugs on campus, on Tuesday, police said. One of the girls was later rusticated while the other was let off with a warning. The headmistress, however, claimed that the students were smoking cigarettes.

Road accident

Three persons were injured when two lorries collided and a Maruti van crashed into them on VIP Road, in Lake Town, on Tuesday. The injured were admitted to a local hospital in a critical condition, police said.

Cash for ration

The state government has decided to allot Rs 600 perhead as ration allowance for policemen with effect from April 2002. According to the decision, policemen from the rank of constable to assistant sub-inspector will not get rice or other items from police ration shops.

New court building

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee laid the foundation stone for the proposed 10-storeyed building of Calcutta High Court, adjacent to its Centenary Building, on Tuesday. The proposed construction will be the third high court building of the city. Chief Justice A.K. Mathur, who attended the programme, thanked Bhattacharjee for handing over the land to the high court. The new building will help the judiciary as well as the lawyers of the high court, Bhattacharjee said. Former Bar Association secretary Uttam Majumder said that at least two floors of the new building should be allotted to lawyers.

More Maidan seats

lThe city police on Tuesday sanctioned the increase in the seating capacities of two football grounds on the Maidan after conducting a spot survey. The expansion, to be carried out by the public works department, will add 1,600 more seats to the Mohun Bagan and 1,800 more seats to the East Bengal grounds.    

 
 
BACK AFTER FLIGHT OF FOOTBALL FANTASY 
 
 
BY SANKAR SRIDHAR
 
Calcutta, July 16: 
While thousands in Calcutta cheered South Korea’s entry into the World Cup quarterfinals, Kesto Das, 13, was waiting at the Bangkok airport to board a connecting flight to Seoul. As prayers went up for an uninterrupted 90 minutes of viewing, he was memorising the Korean national anthem and trying out the ‘red devils’ T-shirt. As the world was glued to TV sets, he was among the tidal wave of red that swept the stadium cheering the Asians, celebrating the Korean victory after the final whistle, dancing the samba — Korean style.

Kesto had company, too. With him were 14 team-mates and their coach, the champions of the Under-14 state football tournament, who were sent on the trip at the initiative of a private TV channel.

Students of Sree Shikshaniketan school, Chandernagore, they are sons of rickshaw-pullers, vegetable vendors and unskilled labourers. Their mothers also chip in, working as maids. Fate, though fleetingly, had finally smiled on the little ones. For, as state champs, they had bagged a prize many would kill for — ring-side tickets to the World Cup quarterfinals.

Back in the city and to the drill of daily life, they say their weeklong sojourn to the distant land will remain “the high point” of their lives. Yet their euphoria was laced with a hint of sadness. With the clock striking 12, their carriage, like Cinderella’s, has long since changed into a pumpkin.

“The training academies there hunt for talent to mould into championship material,” rues Gobindo, a Class XIII student. They wished they could show their skills and book themselves a berth at a training centre there. An agent, they say, did try to get them an audience with coaches, “but with all the football going on, no one had the time,” says coach Pradip Roy.

Games teacher Shyamal Nandi echoes their sentiments. “We are grateful to the channel for giving them this opportunity,” he says, “but if they could have done something to help the boys with their dream of turning pro, I think it would have meant much more to them”. For now, the squad is back to borrowing and begging for boots and shorts to play tournaments.

“We do our best to keep the players in high spirits,” says Shishir Roy, principal. “We try to arrange for good food to prevent burnout, but our means are limited.” One has to be lucky to be spotted as a future champ, he feels, and that is where much talent goes abegging. The school however has been instrumental in grooming players like Sheikh Sanjib, the Mohun Bagan right- winger and sideback Swapan Sahara. Shyamal Nandi had spotted the budding stars and had guided them to success. “The IFA is supposed to open training camps at Burdwan,” Roy says, “and God willing, my boys will get their chance.” But that is a only a dream today, and only time will tell whether the junior stars will follow in their fathers’ footsteps or get an opportunity to follow their dreams.

   

 
 
YOUTH HELD ON RAPE CHARGE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 16: 
A 26-year-old youth was arrested late on Monday on charges of raping a woman of Shib Dey Lane, in the New Market police station area. The accused was handed over to the police by locals.

A rape case has been started against the accused on the basis of a written complaint lodged by the woman, said Soumen Mitra, deputy commissioner of detective department.

Initially, the police detained the husband, Ramchandra Mallik, on the basis of a verbal complaint by the woman’s mother, who alleged that he had kept her daughter confined. Police released him in the evening when his wife returned home.

According to the woman, a local youth, Shiba Mallik, forced her to board a taxi and took her to an unknown place where he allegedly raped her. She came back and informed the locals.

When Shiba returned to the area at night, he was caught by locals who beat him up before handing him over to the police. Ramchandra, Shiba and the woman have been sent for medical tests.

   

 
 
BLAME GAME OVER NUMBERS 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, July 16: 
But for timely intervention from the state administration and the police top brass, Calcuttans would have missed out on one of the finest moments of Indian cricket, when the “team of the future” authored the remarkable Lord’s triumph last Saturday. The two cable television service providers in the city, RPG Netcom and SitiCable, had joined hands to blank out ESPN and STAR Sports over a demand for extra connectivity by the broadcasters.

The blackout finally ended in an acrimonious settlement inside a city police station in the dead of the night, but the gunpoint truce has soured relations among all the players in this largely unorganised industry yet again. Worse, there is every chance of the sordid scenario repeating itself, with some pay channel or the other going on the blink from time to time. The root cause, concur both content providers and the multi-system operators (MSOs), is “endemic under-declaration” at ground level, as vested-interest groups continue to block all efforts to bring a semblance of order in this chaotic business.

“The totally unnecessary and unfortunate situation in Calcutta arose because of the obstinate attitude of monopoly cable operators, who resort to massive under-declaration,” says Sricharan Iyengar, vice-president, affiliate sales, ESPN Software India. “There is under-declaration because of the on-ground monopolies of the operators and their staunch resistance to acknowledging the true number of homes serviced by the network. We understand that increasing connectivity is a gradual process, but if the operators don’t co-operate and declare a reasonable level of connectivity, it becomes an unnecessary and unfortunate stand-off,” he adds.

RPG Netcom chief executive Ashim Dutta, who was part of the high-powered, closed-door meeting that brought the sports channels back on beam, stresses that the MSO is “as much a victim of under-declaration as the broadcasters”. Dutta says: “We are equally interested in raising the level of connectivity, as it translates into better business for us. But, while our signal feeds approximately 70 per cent of Calcutta’s cable homes, we get paid for only 1.5 lakh homes.”

The various operators’ associations in the city, however, maintain it is “scientific declaration” and that if they were to declare full connectivity, the cost per connection per month would shoot up to Rs 400. “Will the consumer in such a price-conscious market pay this princely sum for cable television?” they ask.

Iyengar feels things must change. Reiterating all broadcasters’ concern over the “last mile”, he says: “Even after the new agreement, we are paid for only around 25 per cent of the cable and satellite (C&S) homes claimed to be serviced by RPG Netcom. As a result, our effective rate for the MSO becomes only Rs 6 per month per consumer home, against our card rate of Rs 24.” The MSO says ‘blame it on the cableman’.

ESPN Software, which recently signed Sachin Tendulkar as brand ambassador, is confident it can sustain brand loyalty for ESPN and STAR Sports through “quality content”. Iyengar says: “In 2002 alone, ESPN and STAR Sports will showcase over 261 days of international cricket, including 82 days of Indian tours, besides the usual football feast.”

   

 
 
SPIKE CLOUD OVER CU JOURNALISM COURSE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 16: 
Calcutta University (CU) may discontinue the diploma course in journalism it had introduced in 2000. This is the first time the university may resort to such a step for a course, introduced barely two years ago.

Around 40 students had taken admission to the one-year diploma course in 2000, the results of which are to be published in a few days. Of the 40 students, two are non-resident Indians (NRIs).

This year, the university has not conducted an admission test for the course, fuelling rumours that it will, indeed, discontinue the course. Teachers in the journalism department and senior officials have expressed regret over the university’s indecision about the course.

Head of the journalism department, Anjan Bera, said on Monday: “I cannot say what decision the university has taken on the status of the course but it is a fact that admission tests were not held this year. The pro vice-chancellor (academic affairs) can furnish details on the future of the course.”

Pro vice-chancellor Suranjan Das, when contacted, said vice-chancellor Asish Banerjee is in charge of the post-graduate courses and “I am not authorised to give you details on academic issues. He is the right person to speak to”. The vice-chancellor is currently on a tour of the US and UK.

Earlier, the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) of the University Grants Commission (UGC) had lauded cash-starved CU for introducing the self-financed course in journalism and asked it to look for similar projects and mobilise resources. While local students had paid Rs 7,000 to join the course, the two NRI students paid Rs 14,000. The university had introduced the diploma course as per NAAC guidelines.

The discontinuation of the course will create problems for several under-graduates, studying journalism in various city colleges. These students will be denied the chance of securing a post-graduate diploma if the university discontinues the course. Sources said it is difficult for ordinary students to get admission to the post-graduate degree course in journalism as a good number of seats are reserved for working journalists (20 per cent of the total seats).

Recently, Muralidhar Girls College, Netajinagar College, Acharya Prafulla Chandra College, Calcutta Girls College, Surendranath College, Rashtraguru Surendranath College, in New Barrackpore, and Jaipuria College have introduced journalism courses at the under-graduate level. Five more colleges in the city are also planning to introduce journalism at the under-graduate level. These colleges will have to rethink their decision now.

Sources said that the university’s hesitation over the course arises because of an inadequate number of teachers in its journalism department. The university has to appoint guest lecturers to run the course. Presently, there are only three full-time teachers and 23 guest lecturers running the course.

A senior official admitted that they had to appoint working journalists as guest lecturers as they did not get adequate full-time teachers. “Students who pass out join newspaper houses because of lucrative salaries. Most of them do not prefer a teaching job because of the low pay-packet,” he said. He added that almost all universities in the country which run journalism courses have to depend on guest lecturers. “Ours is no exception,” he said.

   

 
 
HOMOEO COLLEGES EYE RATE RISE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 16: 
Buoyed by the state government’s success in increasing tuition and other fees of under-graduate colleges and universities, the authorities of the state-run homoeopathy medical colleges are preparing to follow suit.

Around 1,000 students are enrolled for a degree in homoeopathy at the four state-run medical colleges. Of them, three are located in Calcutta and Howrah.

The principals of the three homoeopathic medical colleges in Calcutta have recently urged director of homoeopathy Ashok Mohan Chatterjee to raise the tuition fees from the next academic session.

Recently, the principals of Calcutta Homoeopathic Medical College, D. N. De Homoeopathic Medical College and Mahesh Bhattacharjee Homoeopathic Medical College met and agreed to raise tuition fees from the next session.

After the meeting, they called on the director and urged him to take up the hike with the state government.

According to sources, the government is not taking the initiative for a hike in the fees. But the health department will certainly go by the recommendation of the director of homoeopathy, if the latter proposes a hike, the sources added.

Fees for the four-year degree course in homoeopathy at these medical colleges work out to about Rs 1,000 — less than Rs 250 a year. The course run by the state government’s health department, however, produces only 200 doctors every year.

Principals of the three medical colleges in the city felt that the existing tuition fee was low, “even lower, in fact, than the tuition fees charged by English-medium nursery schools”.

The government’s expenditure for running the colleges was escalating every year, but the tuition fees have remained unchanged for the past 20 or 25 years, the principals said.

Sources said many private homoeopathic medical colleges were coming up in the city and the suburbs, at which students were enrolling at fees higher than the government-run medical colleges.

“Most of these private medical colleges don’t have adequate infrastructure to run a four-year degree course, still they are charging at least 10 times the government college rates,” alleged a principal of a city-based medical college.

The proposal by the college principals to raise tuition fees has irked students of the city’s homoeopathy colleges. The students alleged that the state government had scaled down the budgetary allocation for homoeopathic medical colleges, compared with the previous year. “The government is not serious about providing the minimum infrastructure in the homoeopathic colleges that would enable us to study a medical science properly,” a student complained.

“In Calcutta Homoeopathic Medical College, there are 100 beds. But you will never find more than seven or eight patients in the hospital. This is because the government is not serious about running the homoeopathic medical colleges or upgrading facilities in the hospitals,” alleged Motilal Giri, spokesperson for the All Bengal Homoeo Forum.

   

 
 
DOCTOR DIVERTS DUCT TO SAVE GIRL 
 
 
BY BAPPA MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, July 16: 
For almost a month, doctors could not figure out what was wrong with seven-year-old Soma Biswas. They gave her painkillers, besides other medicines, to eliminate “suspected” worms inside her stomach, without any result. Every few minutes, Soma would clutch onto her abdomen in excruciating pain and cry endlessly. A confused Nitai Biswas, Soma’s father, met several experts, seeking further opinion, and even tried some herbs on her. After the fourth specialist he consulted, Biswas was asked to visit a reputed clinic for a detailed ultrasonography of Soma’s upper abdomen.

The ultrasound report revealed an abnormality in the bile duct area, which might have caused Soma’s suffering. Convinced that the case required more investigation, Soma was referred to a surgeon.

An ERCP (Endoscopic) test confirmed it as one of the rarest cases at hand, “an unusually dilated” common bile duct, cystic in nature — a congenital deformity rarely manifested in a child at such a tender age.

“This was indeed a difficult case and needed detailed planning. First, I had a chat with Soma’s parents and explained to them the enormity of the situation. They were told that Soma might turn out to be the luckiest person, because medical history states that such cases, where the incidence rate itself is very rare, is diagnosed only in the teens, with patients suffering from jaundice and malignancy,” said Dr D.J. Bhaumik. Before agreeing to undergo surgery last week, Soma underwent a preparatory screening at a nursing home, where she was administered vitamins, antibiotics and fluids to flush out the kidney before surgery. “Please save my only daughter. I don’t want to lose her,” pleaded Biswas.

The surgery involved total excision of the common bile duct, through which a mixture of acids, salts and bile gets released into the small intestine during digestion. “The entire duct had to be removed, as it was dilated to 20-22 mm, which is much more than the usual 2-4 mm,” said Dr Bhaumik, after a six-hour operation. The doctors also corrected a second rare anomaly — outpouching of the intestinal lumen in the terminal part— known as ‘Meckel’s Diverticulum’. If left untreated, Soma would have suffered from rectal bleeding and ulcers.

The doctors had only completed half the task, as the difficult part was reconstructing a similar bile duct separately by using a “Y-shaped” loop of the intestine, specially reconstructed for the purpose of diverting food from the path of the biliary intestine. “This reconstruction will not hamper the digestive process but will ensure normal bile flow, minimising the chances of recurrent infections of the biliary system through contamination of food material,” Bhaumik added. After the operation, a series of tests and medication ensured that Soma was recovering. Considering the rarity of the case, the doctor kept her under observation for the next month, followed by periodic checks every three months. “I hope her pain has gone forever,” said a relieved Biswas.

   
 

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