Student dual role in doubt
First-class slump in CU Part II results
Gunfire over gate fracas
Touching up old ties with Tagore
The City Diary
Car pool accepts tax yoke
Consumer panel split on damages suit
Lay off lenses, Lasik’s here
Cops set on manhole cover trail
Four held in heroin haul

Calcutta, July 19: 
Can invigilators in an entrance examination coach students for the same test?

The answer, from a section of departmental heads in Presidency College, is a categorical ‘no’, forcing the authorities of the 185-year-old institute into a tricky corner.

Some faculty members have made it clear that that they do not like what they see — students, also members of the SFI union who are conducting a “coaching camp” for Presidency-aspirants from the lower-income segment, are now doubling as invigilators for the admission test. The CPM student’s wing captured the college union for the first time this year.

A meeting of the departmental heads — there are 17 under-graduate departments in the college — convened earlier this week discussed the matter, at which it was decided that students would be barred from invigilation this year.

This was disclosed by one of the departmental heads present at the meeting. “Presidency has a tradition of allowing under-graduate students to act as invigilators and help teachers in the admission procedure to cope with the rush the college witnesses every year,” he said. “This year, unfortunately, for the first time, we have found that we cannot depend on our students to ensure a fair admission procedure,” observed a departmental head of the science faculty.

With a majority of departmental heads insisting that the help of no student would be sought — “It is not our job to identify who is an SFI supporter involved in the union-conducted coaching drive and who is not” — the authorities were forced to give in to their demand of a blanket ban.

But a day later, at the instance of some departmental heads — one of them an important member of the CPM-affiliated West Bengal Government College Teachers’ Association — the authorities were forced to reverse the decision.

The college authorities told the departments that they could recruit students, irrespective of his/her political affiliation, for invigilation, as no “written resolution” had been accepted to change the convention.

The SFI state leadership, however, disclaimed all responsibility, saying it was the Presidency unit’s decision, about which it was not informed. But the decision to hold “a coaching camp for poor students” was a step in the right direction, an SFI state committee member said. “Besides, no student would have an exact idea about the question paper, so how can they influence the admission procedure?” he demanded.

The admission tests at Presidency started on Thursday and will end on Saturday. Teachers, however, are not happy. “The sanctity of the admission procedure, we feel, has been defiled,” one of them said.

The SFI, throughout the admission procedure, had been announcing over a public address system the offer to give “free coaching to poor students to help them in the entrance test”.


Calcutta, July 19: 
The excitement over the results of the BA, B.Sc Part II-honours and B.Com Part-II (general) examinations being published in 71 days quickly turned to despair for several students on Friday, with first-class figures plummeting alarmingly.

This year, 114 BA students managed a first division, against 133 last year. In B.Sc, students scoring 60 per cent and more numbered 885, as opposed to 1,002 in 2001. The drop was the most dramatic in B.Com (general), from 78 last year to only 36 this time. Only, B.Com Part-II (honours) students had something to cheer about, with 720 securing a first class, against 683 last year.

The pass percentage in BA this year was 98.8 per cent; in B.Sc, 97.7 per cent; in B.Com (honours), 92.6 per cent and B. Com (general), 94.4 per cent. Nearly a lakh students had taken the tests.

As if to prove that it was, indeed, on a fast track, Calcutta University took up the post-mortem even before the publication of results in almost record time. Taking serious note of the first-class slump, the university’s under-graduate council held a meeting before the official announcement of the results and took stock of the poor showing.

It was decided that a review would be conducted in the university’s affiliated colleges to find out “whether an inadequate number of classes in the colleges or poor attendance of teachers” was responsible for the fewer first classes this time.

“We held a meeting of the under-graduate council this morning, at which members expressed serious concern over the decrease in the number of students securing a first class. We will soon conduct an inspection of individual colleges and find out the reason for the setback,” said Suranjan Das, pro vice-chancellor (academic affairs), Calcutta University.

In another first, the Calcutta University authorities announced a merit list of students scoring the highest marks in each of the three streams. This, said officials, was part of a move to “upgrade under-graduate-level education”.

Pubali Chakraborty, a student of Sanskrit honours from Bethune College, topped BA (honours); Shibananda Biswas of mathematics honours from Ramakrishna Mission Vidyamandir outscored others in B. Sc (honours); Abhishek Addy of St Xavier’s College beat the field in B.Com (honours), while Roshni Gupta of Shibnath Shastri College stood first in the B.Com (general) stream.

Despite the damper of fewer students securing first-class marks, the university authorities expressed “satisfaction” over the publication of results “within 71 days” of the Part II exams. Varsity rules stated that the results of all under-graduate and post-graduate exams should be published “within 90 days” from their completion. But Calcutta University, over the years, has been notorious for flouting this rule. “We are happy that we have been able to publish the results this year within the target time,” said Das.

According to him, the university had adopted “a string of measures” to ensure the timely publication of the Part II results. For example, this year, for the first time, spot evaluation of answer scripts was conducted in a number of subjects. “This helped us expedite the process of evaluation and hastened the publication of results,” said Das.


Calcutta, July 19: 
When should the common door to the first floor of a two-storeyed house be shut at night? The question was enough to trigger trouble and spark gunfire on Swinhoe Street around Thursday midnight.

Mithilesh Sinha, 45, a tenant of the Gariahat building, was arrested early on Friday for allegedly opening fire on another tenant during an argument over the closure of a door.

Gariahat police said Sinha was involved in “a heated argument” with Rajesh Sharma, another tenant, and house-owner R. Ray.

Suddenly, Sinha whipped out a revolver and fired four rounds. But he was “inebriated”, alleged the police, and so the shots went wild.

The house at 4, Swinhoe Street, was built by former chief secretary R.N. Ray and ex-Parliamentarian Renuka Ray.

Now, their septuagenarian son, R. Ray, lives alone in one section of the first floor, with the Sinhas and Sharmas occupying the other.

Tapas Basu, officer-in-charge, Gariahat police station, said Sinha has an electrical goods shop on Ezra Street, while Sharma has a furniture shop at Mandeville Gardens.

The entrance to the first-floor flats of the Sinhas and the Sharmas has a common door. “One has to enter the door and turn left for Sinha’s flat and right towards Sharma’s flat,’’ Ray said.

Trouble was brewing ever since Sinha started eyeing Sharma’s section of the first floor, alleged Ray. The retired geologist rejected Sinha’s move to take over the other half of the floor.

“Around midnight on Thursday, Rajesh’s younger brother knocked on Sinha’s door to ask him whether they should close the common door to the first floor,’’ recounted Ray. “Sinha, who was inebriated, slapped the boy and pushed him to the floor. The boy went running back to their room and called Rajesh.”

Confronted by the three Sharma brothers, Sinha went on the offensive. After an altercation, he suddenly went into his flat, only to emerge with a licensed revolver.

“He opened fire, but as he was drunk, the bullets crashed into the ceiling and the floor. Nobody was injured,’’ Ray said.

Officers from Gariahat police station rushed to the house on Ray’s SOS.


Calcutta, July 19: 
Years ago, his score Chhukar mere man ko, from Amitabh Bachchan’s Yarana, drew frowns from purists and flak from Santiniketan for lifting the opening bars from the Tagore classic, Tomaar holo shuru. Not so long ago, when the strains of Pagla hawa were heard in another of his compositions (Panchhi uda) for the Nana Patekar- Manisha Koirala starrer Yugpurush, he was slapped with a Rs 8-lakh suit by Visva-Bharati for violating the Rabindrasangeet copyright.

Now, with Tagore unbound, music director Rajesh Roshan is ready to renew his rishta with Rabindrasangeet. The melody-maker, known as “Hrithik’s uncle” in today’s Bollywood, will re-orchestrate at least 48 Rabindrasangeets for Tagore’s Shesher Kobita, a mega-serial produced by Ikon Pictures Pvt Ltd. Roshan will be supported by singer and composer Kabeer Suman, with Dr Shovan Som, pro vice-chancellor, Rabindra Bharati University, supervising the project.

His new assignment has already lifted Roshan’s spirits. “After Yugpurush, I was scared to touch a Tagore song. Fortunately, I believe, the copyright has been lifted, which enables me to use Rabindrasangeet for my scores… People in Mumbai are extremely fond of Tagore’s songs,” he said over phone.

But why turn to Bollywood to ‘recreate’ Tagore? “Rajesh Roshan was the natural choice, as he was the only music director to have experimented with Rabindrasangeet, and done it well,” says Dipankar Roy, president, Ikon Pictures. Roshan, of course, is quick to reiterate his ties with Tagore: “ My mother, Ira, is a Bengali and so I have always been connected with Rabindrasangeet. I would often hum songs such as Momo chitte and Esho go, jele diye jao.”

People like Madan Mohan and Sachin Dev Burman loved Tagore numbers and would often use its pathos in their songs, adds Roshan. “For me, Tagore’s compositions epitomise variety and freshness.”

The likes of Suchitra Mitra, Sumitra Sen, Shivaji Chattopadhyay, Lopamudra Mitra, Indrani Sen, Sraboni Sen and Arundhati Home Choudhury are slated to lend their voice to Roshan’s re-orchestration, with recordings scheduled in Calcutta. “I just hope no one objects to my style of re-orchestrating. I am concentrating on giving a new look to the compositions. You cannot tamper with the tunes and so, I will concentrate on embellishing the preludes and the interludes. I will not use any instrument that spoils the essence of these songs,” assures Roshan.

The younger lot — Sraboni and Lopamudra — says that Roshan’s “new-look” orchestration is definitely “something to look forward to”. Veteran Sumitra Sen, however, is sceptical: “Though I have been requested to sing any number that I am comfortable with, I would like to hear the newly-orchestrated music first before recording.” The songs will also be recorded in Hindi.

Besides involving Roshan in the project, the makers have for the first time tied up with Los Angeles-headquartered NetGuru to market the VCDs and DVDs. Manoj Mishra, partner, NetGuru, said: “This is the first time that we have tied up to market a Tagore classic abroad. The VCDs and DVDs will comprise scenes from the serial, the songs and the notations and an attractive booklet, titled The Making of Shesher Kobita. I think there is a tremendous market abroad for these kind of ventures.”

Directed by Reema Mukherjee, starring Kunal Mitra, Indrani Halder, Arjun Chakraborty and June Maliah, Shesher Kabita is Ikon’s first Bengali venture. And the release of the re-orchestrated Rabindrasangeet album, say sources, will bring the entire Roshan clan to Calcutta — yes, with Hrithik in tow.    


Consumer court shift hits SC hurdle

The state government’s decision to shift the city’s twin consumer fora has hit a Supreme Court hurdle. This follows vehement protests by consumers and their legal representatives resulting in a shutdown of the two courts for the past 18 days. In a recent ruling on the functioning of various consumer courts in the country, the Supreme Court gave the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions “administrative control” over the functioning of the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forums. Justice R.C. Lahoti and Justice Brijesh Kumar even disallowed executive officers of the government from making inspections of any district forum. Various consumer organisations have now written to National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission president Justice D.P. Wadhwa about the state government’s flouting of the apex court guidelines. Metro had earlier reported the government decision, taken without consulting state commission president Justice S.C. Datta.

August 2 date for Ansari trial

The trial of Aftab Ansari, arrested on charges of masterminding the American Center attack, will start from August 2 before the 11th city sessions judge. The nine others rounded up in the case will also be tried in the same court. Deputy commissioner, department department, Soumen Mitra, who is overseeing the probe, said police would frame the charges on the day of the trial. Three public prosecutors will fight the case on behalf of the government.

Jail term for murder

Eighth city sessions judge on Friday sentenced two youths to six years’ rigorous imprisonment for murder. Buro and Sanjay of Sobhabazar were convicted for killing Prasenjit Pal in October 2000, when Prasenjit and brother Biswajit went to visit their maternal grandfather at their BK Pal Avenue residence. On their way back home, when they boarded an auto-rickshaw, Buro and Sanjay forced them out of the vehicle and beat them up. Prasenjit later died in hospital.

Thika plots

Land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah on Friday asked mayor Subrata Mukherjee to stop sanctioning constructions of multi-storeyed buildings on thika land till the President’s assent to the West Bengal Thika Tenancy and Acquisition and Regulation Bill, 2001, was obtained. The President’s assent is expected “any moment”, he said. Mukherjee met the minister at Writers’ Buildings and requested him to issue no-objection certificates to proposals for construction of buildings on thika land in the added areas of the Corporation. Since the government was not giving permission for construction on thika land for about eight years because of legal hassles, illegal constructions were coming up, the mayor added. The Corporation, suffering from a funds crunch, wants the government to allow construction on such plots as it will help generate funds from mutation and taxes.

Held for extortion

Pervez, an extortionist, was rounded up from Middle Street, in the Entally police station area, late on Thursday. He was caught when he went to a godown to extort money. Residents beat him up and handed him over to the police. Pervez was admitted to Nilratan Sirkar Hospital under vigil.

Land clash

Three persons were injured in a clash on Friday in Howrah over a land dispute between CPM and Congress supporters. Police said trouble had been brewing since the child of a widow was deprived of his rights to a plot. District police superintendent Rajesh Kumar said three persons had been detained for their alleged involvement in the clash.

Pirated discs

The city police recovered 1,035 pirated video compact discs, including that of the just-released Devdas, from Jhantu Singh, 28, who was arrested from Chandni Chowk on Friday. The value of the CDs was estimated to be Rs 80,000, police said.

Safe state

Army chief, eastern region, H.R.S. Kalkat, met chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at Writers’ Buildings on Friday. Later, he said despite warnings of terror strikes, there was no threat perception in Bengal.

Eve-teasing arrests

Government Railway Police arrested three eve-teasers from Barrackpore on Friday. They had assaulted a tea-stall owner, and hacked off one of his fingers, when he voiced his protest.    

Calcutta, July 19: 
Members of the Calcutta Car Pool-Owners’ Association, who ferry schoolchildren in private vehicles, met state transport minister Subhas Chakraborty on Friday and agreed to abide by the decisions taken by the government.

After the meeting, Soumitra Chattopadhyay, joint secretary of the association, said they were ready to pay commercial taxes and the insurance premium for schoolchildren, like the West Bengal Contract Carriage Owners’ and Operators’ Association.

Recently, members of contract carriage association had observed a day’s strike on Wednesday to protest the government’s indifferent attitude towards their long-standing demands. They wanted the government to take stringent measures to stop car pool-owners from ferrying children, since they (the car pool-owners) did not pay commercial taxes like them.

In the past, the contract carriage association had organised several programmes to press the government for a firm decision but till some time back, there had been no response. The recent strike was withdrawn after a verbal assurance from transport minister Chakraborty.

On Friday, Sumit Chatterjee, joint secretary, car pool association, said its members would welcome the government decision. “We will pay whatever the contract carriage association pays,” said Chatterjee. However, the minister said he would discuss the issue with other departments and then give his consent.

The car pool association complained about police atrocities in the city. “Besides, the contract carriage association, the police, too, are terrorising our owners and drivers,” said Chattopadhyay. “The contract carriage association is creating pressure on the government only to kick us out of business,” he said.


Calcutta, July 19: 
A case by a consumer against the postal department over loss of money in transit has pit the president of the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission against two of his colleagues.

The result has been a split verdict from the three-member commission, with its president choosing to follow the rule-book and the other two taking an opposite view, arguing that constraints of the law-book should not be allowed to go against the consumer’s interests.

Consumer court circles say the majority decision that ultimately prevailed — and was in variance with one of the basic conditions of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) — might open a Pandora’s box of disputes.

The suit, lodged by Parsuram Sahoo against Howrah GPO, claimed that the postal department had misplaced a registered insurance of Rs 5,500 that Sahoo sent to his Balia home in Uttar Pradesh. Sahoo demanded a refund with interest and damages.

The case was first heard by the Calcutta District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, which ruled against the consumer. According to them, Sahoo had filed the complaint two years late; Section 24A of the CPA clearly tells the consumer courts not to “admit any complaint” filed more than two years after the date of the alleged incident of harassment.

The plaintiff appealed to the state commission, where Justice S.C. Datta upheld the district forum’s decision; Sahoo’s insurance was registered in June 1994 and the consumer forum was intimated of the matter only in April 1997, Justice Datta said.

“The petition was not supported by any plea for condonation of the delay,” Justice Datta observed. He dismissed the petition, but allowed Sahoo to approach a civil court for redress.

However, two members of the state commission, S. Majumdar and D. Karforma, felt differently. “We need not take a very rigid view of the limitation (preventing consumers from approaching a consumer forum after two years of the alleged instance of harassment),” they said.

“The CPA is a beneficial legislation,” they explained, over-ruling the postal department’s objection, made in accordance with CPA rules. Going against their president’s ruling, they asked the postal department to refund the Rs 5,500 to Sahoo within two months.


Calcutta, July 19: 
For all those tired of wearing glasses and contact lenses, the promise of “permanent reprieve” is now being held out by New Vision Laser Centre. The Woodburn Park clinic in Calcutta is the 12th to open nationwide, with “hundreds of customers already treated”, says ophthalmologist Rupal Shah, who started the chain with husband Samir.

Using the latest laser technology, eye power can now be corrected, they assure. The pain is minimal, with no scars. The procedure only takes about 10 minutes, and the patient is back to work or at home the same day.

“We have had some clients who have not been happy with the treatment, but that’s inevitable. Laser surgery is 99 per cent sure, but there is a margin of error. However, even if you don’t regain full sight, it is always much better than it used to be,” says Rupal.

The first couple of weeks have seen a steady influx of Calcuttans keen to get rid of their glasses. Jinal Desai, 18, had minus-two eye power. “I didn’t like wearing glasses as I didn’t look good with them. So I had the procedure done. I can see properly again and I hardly felt any pain,” says Jinal.

The procedure, Laser In Situ Keratomileusis (Lasik), involves a horizontal incision on the cornea to form a hinged flap, lifting the flap, applying the laser to reshape the corneas, correcting the refractive error in the eye, and then placing the flap back in place, which sticks to the reshaped cornea. The cost is Rs 10,000 per eye, with no hospitalisation or anaesthesia involved.

“Lasik is quite reliable and safe,” says P.B. Sarkar, an ophthalmologist at Salt Lake Eye Foundation. “It’s performed all over the world and complications are rare. Generally, if eye power isn’t back in a couple of years, then it won’t.” Sarkar, however, feels Calcuttans are “conservative in their outlook and are too afraid of the consequences” to undergo this kind of surgery.

A.K. Khan, of a Park Street optician’s, adds a note of caution. “Lasik in India is not advanced enough, although the technology itself is good. I have two patients who got it done in England, and they’re happy. But about three or four who got it done in India are not happy… Sometimes, the vision isn’t the same, because Lasik involves reshaping the cornea.”

Rupal says: “If a girl wears glasses, it often means she’s not good-looking. Good or bad, the fact is that these kinds of procedures are becoming popular.” As model Aditi Gowitrikar, who inaugurated the Calcutta clinic, put it: “Looks shouldn’t matter too much, but these days, in this competitive world, if you look good, you do have a slight edge. It’s unfair, but it’s a fact of life.”


Calcutta, July 19: 
Nearly, 30 per cent of the 60,000 manholes in the city have become virtual death-traps for pedestrians, ever since rag-pickers and drug addicts started selling the covers to scrap-iron dealers at a premium. At a rough estimate, covers worth Rs 5 crore have made their way to the scrap-iron dealers’ market.

Uncovered manholes have already claimed three lives in the past five years. Worried over the rise in theft of covers, mayor Subrata Mukherjee has decided to take up the matter with the police and asked them to conduct surprise raids at scrap-dealer shops. Member, mayor-in-council, drainage & sewerage, Rajib Deb, said a set of manhole fittings, made of cast iron, costs Rs 3,500. Concrete ones cost Rs 1,600.

The foundry shop of Calcutta Municipal Corporation was no longer in a position to supply manhole covers. The foundry is now defunct, as the workers have been shifted elsewhere. “I need at least Rs 6 crore to replace the stolen covers in the city,” said Deb. Sources said the concrete covers were not serving any purpose. “These covers are a nuisance, since they crack under the weight of vehicles, choking the sewer lines below,” they added.

Deb said the civic body is trying to trace the stolen covers at scrap-iron shops in Ultadanga, Maniktala, Dhapa, Rajabazar and Tiljala.


Calcutta, July 19: 
The city wing of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) busted an international racket in drug trafficking after a peddler, Jamal Ali Mondol, was arrested by the Border Security Force (BSF) on Friday.

BSF officers said three of Mondol’s associates were also rounded up during the raid and several kg of heroin, packed for a Dhaka destination, was recovered from them.

NCB director M.K. Singh reached Calcutta on Friday from Guwahati. He met senior officers at the NCB regional headquarters in Shakespeare Sarani. Speaking to Metro, he admitted that Mondol was only a cog in the international drug racket. “It is a big chain, which stretches from Dhaka to European cities,’’ he said. “We have alerted our counterparts in Dhaka, who assured us they would step up vigil to round up possible peddlers,’’ Singh added.

NCB and BSF officials have recovered documents from Mondol, which indicate that the drugs were being smuggled to different places in Bangladesh in small quantities, from where the stuff was taken to European countries.

“Initial investigations revealed that consignments in small quantities are smuggled into the country from the Golden Triangle countries of Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia, taken to Dhaka and from there to various European countries,” an NCB officer said.

BSF sources said the heroin was seized when Mondol and his associates were trying to smuggle it across to Bangladesh. Later on Friday, the NCB director said during interrogation, Mondol had spilled the beans on important links in the international chain of drug peddling through the city and Dhaka. Officials said Mondol hails from Bongaon and claimed that he was in the trade for the past year. His associates, Asgar Ali Mondol and Jamat Ali Mondol, are also from the same area while the third, S. Pramanik, is from Kalyani in Nadia.

The NCB director, quoting investigation reports, explained that the drug cartel employs people like Jamal to ferry small quantities. “They assume that a larger haul would definitely blow the lid on the international racket. So, they play it safe by carrying only small quantities that often go unnoticed,’’ Singh said.

In this case, explained NCB officials, Jamal was sure that he would be able to deliver the consignment to Bangladesh and was getting ready to receive another supply, moments before he was arrested. “We chanced upon the international chain from a few documents, which Jamal had in his house,’’ a senior officer explained.

Sources said a special team led by Ranjan Sahoo, regional NCB chief, would continue investigations. More arrests are likely in the next few days.


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