Transfer sends maths teacher on college hunt
Cruise for tourism to stay afloat
Pause before you pop the next pill
Suspended for rape
In The City
Musical trip down movie memory lane
Husbands take suicide route
Move to document Dalhousie
Tollygunge tense over trader attack
Dancer dress code at discos

 
 
TRANSFER SENDS MATHS TEACHER ON COLLEGE HUNT 
 
 
SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, Aug. 16: 
Manindranath Maji has a peculiar problem. He is the only government college assistant professor in Bengal at the moment who does not know which college he should take mathematics classes in.

It was not always like this. Till July 31 this year, he would report for duty at the Kalyani Government Engineering College. That day, however, he was handed a release order by his principal and asked to go to Maulana Azad College from August 1.

Maji did turn up at Maulana Azad College but found the doors firmly shut — the college authorities refused to allow him in. The reason was simple: the college on Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road had no vacancy in the mathematics department.

Realising that he was now in no-man’s land, Maji went straight to Bikash Bhawan, headquarters of the state higher education department, that very day. He has been going there religiously every day since then, with his plea to be given a classroom to go to.

At a time when all colleges in Calcutta and elsewhere in the state are on in full swing, Maji is doing the rounds of the higher education department, hoping to be assigned a college to report to every morning.

The genesis of Maji’s problem can actually be traced back to February 1999, when the office of the director of public instructions opted to transfer him out of Kalyani Government Engineering College. But Maji was not released from the college because of an “acute shortage” of teaching faculty at that time, senior higher education department officials told Metro on Friday.

In July this year, however, the directorate of technical education — on coming to know that the situation had “improved slightly” in the Kalyani Government Engineering College’s mathematics department — decreed that Maji be sent to Maulana Azad. The transfer came into effect from the ‘afternoon of July 31’.

“Usually, the teacher is released after he formally hands over charge to his replacement or the principal of the college,” a higher education department official said. “This procedure does not appear to have been followed in Maji’s case,” he admitted.

Maji reported for duty at Maulana Azad, only to find a ‘department full’ sign on the door. And there seemed no solutions in sight.

“The college has five sanctioned posts in the mathematics department,” Maulana Azad College principal Madhusudan Saha wrote to the higher education department the same day.

“Four teachers are working and an order has already been passed filling up the fifth post,” he added, explaining why Maji could not be taken in.

Maji immediately contacted the state higher education department headquarters and has been reporting there without any college to go to.

The curious case of the assistant professor without a class to take, has forced a section of the education department to sit up.

“Maji’s problem is unique. I don’t remember such a case,” admitted an official of the senior directorate of technical education. He, however, added that the case was being looked into and Maji could find a classroom “quite soon”.

   

 
 
CRUISE FOR TOURISM TO STAY AFLOAT 
 
 
BARUN GHOSH
 
Calcutta, Aug. 16: 
Its tourism plans have flopped. Its tourist lodges go empty. Its tourism industry is on a bad trip.

But the state government has decided to cruise along — with a Rs 11-crore project to promote river tourism, thanks largely to Delhi.

Officials said on Friday that they were hopeful the project, with 90 per cent financial assistance from the Centre, would help revive the tourism sector by luring visitors to the Sunderbans, Murshidabad and other places to see.

“We hope to register a 25 per cent rise in tourism figures by operating luxury vessels for those wanting to explore the natural beauty of the Sunderbans and the historical edifices of Murshidabad,” said director of tourism Barin Basu.

At present, the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation (WBTDC) manages a profit of Rs 1 crore a year, lagging far behind its counterparts in other states. As a first step towards privatisation, it has offloaded five of its 26 lodges to private entrepreneurs.

But now comes the grand river-cruise plan. Of the total planned investment, Rs 5.5 crore will be pumped into promoting river tourism between Calcutta and Murshidabad, while the rest will be used for developing marine-based tourism in the Sunderbans. The state government’s financial exposure will be 10 per cent, as against 90 per cent to be underwritten by the Centre.

According to tourism officials, the 250-km cruise will start from Calcutta and meander its way to Murshidabad over four days, with nine stops (see box).

“The proposed four-day-long journey by air-conditioned luxury launches will be an exciting tour of Bengal’s cultural heritage,” officials added.

The project will also cover the construction of two new jetties near Dakshineswar and the Millennium Park and the commissioning of two air-conditioned launches for ferrying tourists from Calcutta to Belur-Dakshineswar and later to Murshidabad. Besides, the project includes an intensive dredging work on the Hooghly and protection of the embankment near Dakshineswar temple.

As for the Sunderbans project, the construction of a floating hotel near Sajnekhali is on the agenda, along with the construction of viewing towers, commissioning of two launches and renovation of some jetties.

Union tourism secretary Rathi Vinay Jha said: “We are keen to develop river tourism around Calcutta and shall release the funds as soon as we get the report from the state government.”

   

 
 
PAUSE BEFORE YOU POP THE NEXT PILL 
 
 
BAPPA MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, Aug. 16: 
It’s doctors keeping an eye on doctors now. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) and the Society for Social Pharmacology (SSP), an organisation recently formed by city-based pharmacologists, have, in separate moves, started putting the doctor’s prescription under the scanner to prevent Calcuttans from being fooled by members of their own fraternity.

The Bengal branch of the IMA has urged the medical fraternity to issue “more rational prescriptions”. IMA Bengal branch president Subir Ganguly said the association would ask doctors not to prescribe tonics and cough syrups “unnecessarily”. “We have decided to organise workshops and seminars for both doctors and patients in this regard,” he added.

“It is extremely sad but, nevertheless, true that most Calcuttans are being regularly taken for a ride by doctors,” Calcutta National Medical College (CNMC) lecturer Swapan Jana admitted. “There are some doctors who prescribe medicines that are not only completely unnecessary but also obsolete and may, ultimately, prove to be harmful for the patient.”

Patients, however, still harbour a notion that any prescribed medicine is good and essential, thus playing into the hands of unscrupulous doctors, added Jana, also the secretary of SSP. That is why the society has drawn up a “comprehensive syllabus” to tell patients “the inside story of many commonly-used drugs”. The syllabus is divided into four parts, each explaining in detail various aspects of doctors’ prescriptions, the number of banned drugs, the difference between essential and non-essential drugs and the existing scenario in the health sector.

SSP’s endeavours have received a boost with the state drug control directorate sending a circular to retail outlets and wholesellers, banning the sale of any food or nutritional and dietary supplement in the form of tonics. “We have asked retailers not to take in any fresh stock of these harmful drugs,” said state drug control director P.K. Sarkar.

The SSP has already organised a few classes and workshops in community halls in some pockets of south and central Calcutta. The other teaching centres are the lecture-halls of Medical College and Hospital, Nilratan Sirkar Medical College and Hospital, RG Kar Medical College and Hospital and CNMC.

The ‘classes’ seem to have struck the right chord with Calcuttans. More than a hundred people have already joined in. Many admit that the session has been an eye-opener, changing perceptions about prescriptions and medication.

The people-education module is so comprehensive that the CNMC has decided to introduce it in the pharmacology syllabus. SSP officials are also distributing leaflets, comprising questions aimed at rousing patients’ interest in the common drugs they take.

   

 
 
SUSPENDED FOR RAPE 
 
 
A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 16: 
City police chief Sujoy Chakraborty on Friday suspended three policemen on charges of raping a deaf-mute girl in a police van a couple of years ago.

Chief justice of Calcutta High Court A.K. Mathur had passed an order last week directing the city police to suspend the three accused policemen.

“We have received the high court order. I have directed my department to suspend the three,” Chakraborty said.

Two constables, Satish Chandra Mahato and Pradip Das, and the driver of the van, Ashoke Dey, were suspended.

The court had directed the CID to investigate the incident after women rights organisations raised a furore. The CID report implicated the three policemen, special inspector-general of police, CID, V.V. Thambi said.

The girl gave birth to a child at SSKM Hospital. But she would often wander off from home. The girl’s father had twice registered a missing report at Ekbalpore police station. Police said she is currently undergoing treatment.

   

 
 
IN THE CITY 
 
 
 
 

Suit slapped on police ‘brutality’

Sangita Dasgupta, a city-based advocate, has petitioned Calcutta High Court against police atrocities on SUCI women activists while they were protesting the bus-fare hike earlier this month. Condemning the “inhuman torture on peaceful demonstrators”, Dasgupta has pleaded for a CID inquiry into the matter and “stern punishment of the guilty police officers for violating the Constitution”.

According to the petitioner, 14 SUCI supporters, including two women, sustained severe head injuries after the police “resorted to an indiscriminate and unprovoked lathicharge” on a gathering at the JL Nehru Road-Lenin Sarani intersection. “The policemen have violated Articles relating to freedom of speech, expression, procession and dignity of women of the Constitution,’’ said Dasgupta’s advocate Rajesh Ganguly. The Forward Bloc and the CPI have also criticised the police action against the SUCI women supporters.

Firpo’s fire an accident

Fire services minister Pratim Chatterjee said on Friday that the fire at Firpo’s Market on JL Nehru Road in April this year was “accidental” and not caused by any short-circuit. Chatterjee said he had received the report, drawn up by an inquiry committee, on Friday itself. “There was no check on the entry of outsiders, who took shelter in the building at night. The unregulated entry and exit indicated a security lapse. The exact cause of the fire, however, remains an open question,” the 66-page report said.

Firm under attack

Criminals stormed a construction site near Kalighat Park on Friday afternoon, 48 hours after securitymen were withdrawn from there. Witnesses said four youths barged into an office of Nicco Corporation and opened fire. An employee of the company lodged a complaint with the Tollygunge police stating that the miscreants threatened him and the workers over “protection money” and snatched his cellphone.

Airport alarm

Three unclaimed objects put securitymen in a quandary at the Calcutta airport on Thursday. CISF personnel cordoned off the domestic lounge and put the articles — a suitcase and two cartons — into the cooling pit. However, it proved to be a false alarm.

Seat belts must

The police made it mandatory for front-seat occupants in four-wheelers to use seat belts from Friday. Seven drivers were rounded up on the first day. Deputy commissioner of police (traffic) M.K. Singh said the rule would be strictly followed from Monday and those not using the belt would be penalised.

Goon arrested

Natabar Lal Mahato, a 20-year-old criminal, was ‘re-arrested’ from the Tiljhari area of Sahebgunj in Jharkhand on Friday. Mahato had escaped from the Lalbazar police headquarters on Thursday. Deputy commissioner, (headquarters), Sivaji Ghosh said Mahato was picked up on August 13 on charges of snatching.

Theatre renovation

Reconstruction of the fire-ravaged Star Theatre started on Friday. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee said the renovated theatre would have a conference room, car park and cafeteria. The first phase of the construction would be completed in two years.    

 
 
MUSICAL TRIP DOWN MOVIE MEMORY LANE 
 
 
NISHA LAHIRI
 
Calcutta, Aug. 16: 
It’s Bombay Dreams, with a twist in the tale, on Calcutta stage. The age group is toddlers to 45; the aim is to portray the history of Indian cinema through filmi music and contemporary dance. The students of Padatik have big plans, and judging by the rehearsals, it should be a show to remember.

Says Jaysri Mitra, secretary of Padatik: “We want to trace the evolution of cinema, from the black-and-white era, through to the future. It’s Bollywood with a twist. The theme is historical, and the form is artistic. So the whole project has meaning. It’s full of fun and entertainment, but is interesting too. The programme will have universal appeal.”

Set in seven “episodes”, the musical moves through the different stages, black-and-white, mujras, shake and twist, back to disco, romantic 90s, the new age and ends with a look at the future — an Indian version of the Hollywood blockbuster Moulin Rouge. The sets and costumes are in the works, with no holds barred.

“It’s going to be huge,” laughs Soujit Das, one of the instructors and choreographers of the show. “The idea is to give the audience the show of a lifetime. There will be no break. The seven sets are being made so that they can be changed in a few seconds. The costumes will be velcro, so that even the little ones will have no trouble changing between scenes. The whole programme will have a fluid feel, one continuous experience of cinema, from start to finish.”

This is the first time that the kathak, folk and contemporary dancers of Padatik will be performing on stage together, and the 350 participants are of all ages. “We have already started mixing the various age groups together and it is wonderful to see the energy levels of the toddlers rubbing off on the 40-year-olds. Their enthusiasm is so infectious,” says Das.

The youngsters themselves are “excited”. The 10-to-13 year olds chorus: “The idea is unusual because it’s fun and also informative. So the audience will love it as much as we love doing it.” Juhi Madhogaria, 17, is a Class XII student of Modern High School. She smilingly declares that managing studies and Padatik is definitely not a problem. “This is my hobby,” she says. “We all need to do something outside school and two days a week of practice is not hard to handle, because I enjoy it.”

Das is working towards contrasts in images. “The toddlers are doing the black-and-white era with the 40-year-olds. The sets of each epoch will set the mood. For example, for the romantic 90s, we will play with light and shadow, whereas Moulin Rouge will be all about colour.” If all goes well, then the show will tour a few select cities around the country. The idea is to “make it more of an experience rather than just a show”.

   

 
 
HUSBANDS TAKE SUICIDE ROUTE 
 
 
A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 16: 
He killed himself when his wife refused to give him Rs 100 to “celebrate” Independence Day with his friends. Another man from the same locality hanged himself when his wife refused to let him join an all-night I-Day-eve party.

Suresh Sarkar, 35, and Dilip Mandal, 32, of Tiljala, both daily-wage earners, committed suicide, in two separate incidents, early on Friday. Both were found hanging from the ceiling of their houses. “The bodies have been sent for post-mortem and an inquiry has been initiated,” said an officer of Tiljala police station.

According to the police, Sarkar, a resident of the Chowbhaga area, had threatened to kill himself when his wife said she would not give him the keys to the almirah where she had kept some savings. Sarkar went out, came home for dinner and then hanged himself in his room.

Mandal’s suicide followed much the same pattern. The resident of Naskarhat was confined to his room by his wife who stopped him from joining his friends for a drinking binge. “Mandal’s wife was determined to curb his drinking as he had been advised by the doctor to abstain for at least six months,” a police officer said. Mandal’s wife, later, unlocked the door and they had dinner together. “No one had suspected anything,” said a neighbour.

   

 
 
MOVE TO DOCUMENT DALHOUSIE 
 
 
DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, Aug. 16: 
It’s been referred to by Calcutta chronicler Thankappan Nair as the “common heritage of the world”. Built by the English and inherited by the Indians, the Dalhousie area has suffered decades of neglect.

Now, finally, the core area surrounding Lal Dighi and encompassing a stretch of the riverfront on one side and the central business district on the other, has been thrown a lifeline.

A grand move is on to showcase the Dalhousie area through the confluence of science, technology and art. The plan has been set rolling by the Indian Foundation of Arts, Bangalore, which has offered a fund of Rs 5 lakh to a Calcutta-based NGO — Action Research in Conservation of Heritage (ARCH) — for documentation of old structures in the area.

Around 20 students of architecture are now working on a detailed inventory of 50 structures. In their initial findings, the students have detected 19th Century architectural nuances in these structures.

Incidentally, this year, the Dalhousie project is the only one from West Bengal to be accepted by the foundation for grants. The Ray Society had bagged a grant last year for a scheme on Satyajit Ray archives.

“We have plans to send the document to World Monument Fund (WMF) by December, seeking resources for proper preservation,” said ARCH secretary Manish Chakraborti, on Friday. The state government, Calcutta Port Trust, PWD, CPWD, Eastern Railway and Calcutta Telephones have also taken considerable interest in the project, he said.

The Land Used and Development Control Plan (LUDCP) and the heritage committee of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, too, stressed the need for preservation of heritage structures in the area.

Fifty important buildings in the Dalhousie (now BBD Bag) area, encompassing Strand Warehouse, Lalbazar, Governor’s House and Eden Gardens, have been brought under the documentation scanner.

“For the project, Dalhousie has been divided into three core areas,” said Chakraborti.

He said the core area around Lal Dighi will be termed the administrative block, while the area on the northern side of Writers’ Buildings where Calcutta Stock Exchange, Jute House and Bengal Chamber of Commerce are located, will be treated as commercial enclaves. Warehouses and other important structures, related to the Calcutta Port, will be focussed as riverfront heritage units.

The thrust of the documentation will be to project the area as the central hub of social, cultural and economic revolution in pre-Independence India.

According to Chakraborti, the documentation is necessary to point out to the government that no blanket regulation is applicable on preservation of the heritage of a particular area.

   

 
 
TOLLYGUNGE TENSE OVER TRADER ATTACK 
 
 
A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 16: 
Tension ran high at Regent Park, in the Tollygunge area, following an attempt on the life of a businessman on Thursday evening. On Friday, local residents and businessmen put up a roadblock for about an hour. They demanded stringent measures to curb criminal activities in the area.

On Thursday, Surajit Sarkar, a trader, was shot from close range near the Bansdroni market on NSC Bose Road, on his way home. According to Pabitra Ghosh, officer in-charge, Regent Park police station, when Sarkar reached Bansdroni market, he tried to give the criminals the slip and entered a salon. The goons, however, spotted him and started firing. Two bullets pierced Sarkar’s right shoulder. The criminals then ransacked the salon and escaped. Sarkar was taken to M.R. Bangur Hospital where his condition is stated to be critical.

Later, local CPM councillor Archana Bhattacharya alleged that crime was on the rise in the area. “Only a month ago, a man was killed on the Bansdroni bridge but no arrests have been made to date,” she said.

One person was arrested on Friday evening and more arrests are likely, said an officer of the Regent Park police station. He added that Sarkar had a record of dubious business dealings.

Auto strike

Metro commuters from Garia to Tollygunge faced a harrowing time on Friday with the auto-rickshaws staying off the road for the second day, following police action on some of them. On Wednesday, the police had rounded up a number of auto-rickshaws over illegal permits.

The drivers were demanding release of the seized vehicles and an end to police “harassment”.

“There is no question of returning the impounded autos. We might round up more vehicles,” said an officer. Sources said around 300 auto-rickshaws on the Garia-Tollygunge route have valid licences while the rest, numbering around 700, are running on illegal permits.

“Most of these illegal auto-drivers have a criminal background,” said Shakil Ahmed, deputy superintendent of police (traffic).

   

 
 
DANCER DRESS CODE AT DISCOS 
 
 
PRONAB MONDAL
 
Calcutta, Aug. 16: 
To keep a check on “obscenity” at night-club shows, city police are set to impose a dress-code for performers, specially those from abroad. Though the threshold of tolerance is “yet to be decided” the detective department has already been directed to conduct surprise visits to ensure the new norms are being observed.

“We will be more stringent about allowing any night clubs to hold shows involving foreign dancers. Obscenity may be a subjective matter, but we can’t allow the same clothing in Calcutta as the dancers are used to wearing abroad. However, we are open to relaxing the rules during festive seasons, like New Year and the Pujas,” said Sivaji Ghosh, deputy commissioner, headquarters.

The police crackdown has been prompted by a special show held in a city night club last week. The detective department had refused the club permission for the show, featuring Australian dancers, but they later received the green signal from the deputy commissioner’s office. Ghosh later said he would “look into the matter”.

“It is mandatory for all night clubs to file an application before organising such shows. On this occasion, we refused permission following a large number of complaints of obscenity during cabarets,” said a detective.

Clubs must first inform the local police station of any special show it plans. It is then forwarded to the detective department for a “no-objection” certificate. The file is then sent to the headquarters for final approval.

Apart from a dress code, the police will also enforce a deadline. “Stern action will be taken against anyone violating the time bar specified in the police permission certificate,” said Soumen Mitra, deputy commissioner, detective department.

“We have not yet decided what the regulation on costumes will be, but we have authorised officers to raid shows. If anything obscene is found, offenders will be penalised,” said an officer. According to Ghosh, if the dance gear “violates the city’s ethos” action will be taken.

   
 

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