Zero to pass, by grace of law
Pay tax dues for water, rules apex court
Assault sparks campus gherao
Stir it right for the stars
The City Diary
Ninety-five, and still going strong
Charges fly on Bypass ‘tease’
Cop zones split to rein in crime
Development push for Dhakuria Lakes
‘Courier’ your pet to your new address

 
 
ZERO TO PASS, BY GRACE OF LAW 
 
 
OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 21: 
From fail to pass. One of the long list of candidates “wronged” by the Higher Secondary (HS) Council has finally got justice.

Bashirul Shah, of Uluberia, Howrah, could not believe his eyes when he saw that he had scored a zero in his Bengali first paper. In the Madhyamik examinations, he had scored a first-division.

Shah realised there was something very wrong somewhere. He moved Calcutta High Court a few days after he got his marksheet. As it turned out, he was one of about 20 students to do so.

On hearing Shah’s account, the court ordered the HS Council to produce the boy’s answer-script. When the Council finally produced the answer-script, Justice Barin Ghosh pronounced that there had been a tabulation mistake and awarded Shah 47. The answer-script, however, was not shown to Shah.

The judge has directed the Council to issue a fresh marksheet to Shah, who is happy that he has passed, but is still unsure whether the Council had shown the judge his answer-script.

Shah’s lawyer, Mohammad Ismail, said the student was convinced that he should have got no less than 65 in the paper.

Despite getting zero in the Bengali first paper, Shah had scored a high second-division in the overall total, but had failed because of his marks — or the lack of it — in the language paper. “Given his marks in the other papers, it is not unreasonable to expect better marks in the Bengali first language paper,” Ismail said.

In an earlier case involving a Madhyamik candidate, Pinaki Patra, who had written the examinations last year, the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education had awarded him 47 after claiming that his answer-script had been lost.

Pinaki had scored only nine in his history paper, after which he had moved the same bench of the high court. The court directed the Board to produce the answer-script. But the Board said it was unable to do so, and claimed that the tabulation sheet showed 47 against Pinaki’s name. Like Shah, Pinaki was glad that he had passed the examination, but was not happy with the marks that he was finally awarded.

Advocate Supradip Roy, who had moved the high court last year to make it binding on the HS Council to provide photocopies of the answer-scripts along with the marksheets, said on Wednesday that he would soon file a contempt petition against the Council. Roy alleged the Council had not responded, despite a division bench observation that the process of publication of results should be made more transparent to minimise error.

   

 
 
PAY TAX DUES FOR WATER, RULES APEX COURT 
 
 
DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, Aug. 21: 
The water war over property-tax dues has taken a decisive turn. The Supreme Court, in an interim order on Monday, has asked the owner of the property on 2/7, Sarat Bose Road, Sree Durga Agencies, to deposit Rs 20 lakh within two weeks to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC).

The company has also been directed to clear its arrears, amounting to Rs 4.1 crore, to the civic body within a month. The civic authorities have, in turn, been directed to restore water supply to the premises within 48 hours of the order being passed.

Sree Durga Agencies had filed a special leave petition in the court of Justices U.C. Banerjee and B.N. Agarwal last month, challenging the order of a Calcutta High Court division bench, comprising Justices S. Banerjee and P. Sinha. The bench had directed the owners of the building to pay Rs 1.5 crore to the CMC for its waterlines to be restored.

The petitioner claimed that “all sums payable have already been paid” to the civic body. The apex court will hear the case again on September 2.

This is the first time a tax dispute has reached the Supreme Court since the enactment empowering the civic authorities to disconnect filtered water supply to premises defaulting on property tax for four quarters came into effect.

Officer on special duty to the mayor Shaktibrata Ghosh, who is also a senior law officer, said Sree Durga Agencies had applied for the waiver-of-interest scheme and a demand notice of Rs 3.1 crore was served on them.

But the company refused to pay up and challenged the bill amount. On expiry of the scheme on April 30, the CMC slapped a water supply disconnection notice on the premises.

Sree Durga Agencies then moved high court, where Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya ordered immediate restoration of water supply against a payment of Rs 88 lakh in two instalments.

The owner of the premises coughed up the first instalment of Rs 40 lakh in time and the CMC restored water supply to the premises.

But with no sign of the second instalment, the civic body again disconnected the water supply. When Sree Durga Agencies did finally deposit the second instalment, the civic body did not restore the water supply.

This prompted the owner of the highrise to file a petition in the high court against the CMC, followed by the special leave petition in the apex court.

“The total amount of unrealised property tax of the CMC amounts to over Rs 200 crore. We have also given the defaulters a one-time benefit to pay up their dues without paying interest and penalty, but most of them did not respond,” said mayor Subrata Mukherjee. “The civic coffers will run dry if this trend is not reversed.”

   

 
 
ASSAULT SPARKS CAMPUS GHERAO 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, Aug. 21: 
Student protest grabbed centrestage at Presidency College, with the principal under gherao till late on Wednesday. The students were demanding punishment of an SFI leader who had allegedly led an assault on one of their classmates in the adjoining Hindu Hostel on Monday.

The students were also furious over the fact that they had been made to wait till 8.30 pm on Tuesday and not granted an audience with principal Amitava Chatterjee.

“He had promised that he would return from a Calcutta University meeting to listen to our grievances,” they said.

Chatterjee refused comment and was closeted with college teachers in his office on the first floor as, outside, students vowed to continue their vigil.

Wednesday’s gherao can be traced back to an incident at Hindu Hostel, where the apolitical Independents’ Consolidation (IC) still has an overwhelming majority, despite losing out narrowly to the SFI in this year’s college elections.

According to IC allegations, SFI activists Ankush Sarkar and Aniruddha Basu beat up fellow-boarder and college student Pushpal Ghosh on Monday.

Ghosh had opposed the SFI students carrying out “political activities” within the hostel.

SFI general secretary of the Presidency College union Sujay Ray admitted that there had been “an angry exchange” between two groups of students at Hindu Hostel on Monday evening.

“But we have already apologised to them (members of the IC),” he said, adding that there was no reason to “blow up a minor issue”.

With the entry of first-year students, the IC had been looking for an issue to corner the SFI, Ray alleged. “That is why they are doing all this.”

Other students, however, countered that a mere apology could not set things right. “The guilty students must be punished,” they declared, adding that their affiliation with the students’ wing of the state’s ruling party should not act as a “shield”.

The IC tried to meet Chatterjee on Tuesday to voice their grievances. The principal, who was in a hurry to attend a university Syndicate meeting in the neighbouring building, left after promising that he would be back to hear them out, students said.

The group waited till 8.30 pm for Chatterjee to turn up. But they received a message that he had left for home, as the meeting ended “very late”.

On Wednesday morning, angry students descended on the principal’s office. The gherao started around 11.30 am, with more and more students joining in. Till very late on Wednesday, the students were still camping in college, while Chatterjee remained in his office with senior teachers.

   

 
 
STIR IT RIGHT FOR THE STARS 
 
 
MADHUMITA BHATTACHARYYA
 
Calcutta, Aug. 21: 
Under the cover of darkness, during yet another filmi bash, the latest Devdas (D) in town sneaks up to a bartender (B). A conversation ensues in hushed tones:

D: Fast, fast fast. Get me a Bacardi and cola.

B: Which cola do you want, sir?

D: Are you serious? Which do you think?

B: Actually, we are out of P**** right now.

D: Hmmm… Is anyone listening? (looking around). Okay, give me a C***.

At risk are possibly crores for one, and a passion for the other. Bartenders know all the secrets in town. And when you are a ‘show-tender’ at one of the hottest nightclubs in Mumbai, the guest — and request — list is a formidable one. So Kunal Ghai, “one of the best in the country”, now with Insomnia, the Taj group’s hottest destination, has a lot of secrets, and not all of them are about the perfect mix.

In town for two weeks to show off his “flair” at The Junction, Kunal let some of the kittens — and tricks of the trade — out of the bag. “Shah Rukh must have his Bacardi, and goes crazy if he doesn’t have his cigarettes. But Gauri loves coconut water,” he smiles. The 24-year-old feels that knowing his guests and their choice add “a great touch”.

A poker face is a must-have, too. “Do you have any idea how much Sanjay Dutt drinks? Bacardi straight with just a splash of soda,” says Kunal, chucking a lemon behind his back, catching it deftly in a tall, chilled glass. From Bipasha and Dino’s “great understanding” to Manisha Koirala’s preference for sweeter cocktails, Kunal observes all while performing gymnastic feats with bottles, glasses and spirits, but downs nothing more than an “occasional beer”. Anil Ambani, Gautam Singhania and the Chaturvedi brothers are just some of the high-profile B-names who turn up at the club, where “more TV faces are seen than film stars these days”.

In Calcutta till the end of the month, Kunal plans to whip up a few specials like The Long Wait at Howrah Bridge and Kolkata Colada. There are a few ‘hardcore’ concoctions, however, that he might choose not to shock the ‘sober’ city with.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
Calcutta, Aug. 21: 

Three-year-old girl rescued in Haldia

The Tiljala police rescued a three-year-old girl from the clutches of her abductors on Wednesday morning. Police said Srimoyee Mitra was abducted by an employee of Himadri Mitra, the girl’s father, on Tuesday. The Mitras, residents of Jheel Road in south Calcutta, panicked when Srimoyee did not return home on Tuesday. The employee, identified as Munna, called and asked for a Rs 3-lakh ransom to be delivered on Wednesday morning at Chaitanyapur bazaar in Haldia. After the girl’s father lodged a complaint with the police, a team was sent to Haldia and the girl was rescued. Three persons, including Munna, were arrested on the spot and taken into custody.

Globe re-opens on Friday

After five months of closure over property-tax dues, Globe cinema will reopen on Friday. “We have cleared all the property and water tax dues with the Corporation,” said hall-owner Arijit Dutta. The New Market hall will first screen Bend It Like Beckham, followed by Manoj Night Shyamalan’s Signs from August 30.

Injured trader dies

Surojit Sarkar, a businessman who was shot by unidentified miscreants in Bansdroni, died at Chittaranjan Seva Sadan and Hospital on Wednesday. Sarkar was shot while returning home late on Monday. Police said Sarkar had been targeted by extortionists for several months. The criminals cornered him near a saloon and shot him.

Train services hit

Train services from Dum Dum junction to Durganagar, Kalyani and Baranagar, were disrupted after a mentally-challenged person climbed on top of a goods train around 8.50 am and was electrocuted by the overhead wires. The railway authorities snapped the power supply to the wires and rushed the man to hospital, where he was pronounced dead. As a result of the accident, nine pairs of EMU locals had to be cancelled and 23 other trains were delayed for about 50 minutes.

Molestation arrest

A 32-year-old man was arrested from Raja Nabakrishna Street in the Shyampukur area on Wednesday for allegedly molesting a minor girl. Police said the girl will undergo a medical test.

Youth run over

A 24-year-old motorcyclist was killed when an unknown vehicle knocked him down on Hospital Road on Wednesday afternoon. The victim was identified as Pradip Kundalia. Police said the accident occurred when the victim was trying to cross the road. He was taken to SSKM Hospital, where he was pronounced “brought dead”.

Pirated cassettes

A youth, Rupak Mitra, was arrested from his Barrackpore residence for selling pirated audio cassettes. The sleuths raided Mitra’s Chandni Chowk shop from where thousands of audio cassettes and cassette recorders, valued at Rs 2 lakh, were seized.

Judge tribute

Calcutta High Court on Wednesday mourned the death of retired justice Paritosh Mukherjee, who had died after a prolonged illness on Tuesday evening.    

 
 
NINETY-FIVE, AND STILL GOING STRONG 
 
 
SOUMITRA DAS
 
Calcutta, Aug. 21: 
In the good old days when Parsi theatre was all the rage in Bombay, the plays staged were known for the grand scale on which they were produced. The scene painters had a field day conjuring up the royal palaces of Persia, enchanted gardens or the great outdoors.

In one particular play, whose director must have had quite literal-minded ideas about theatrical illusion, horses were introduced on stage. But the equine cast was fated not to tread the boards. The wooden planks could not bear their weight and the horses crashed through the stage.

Such ‘horseplay’ was undoubtedly inadvertent, but plays in a lighter vein are all that the tiny Parsi community looks forward to on the evening of Navroz, their new year’s day, that fell on Wednesday this time. Governor Viren J. Shah, who has been a regular at the Calcutta Parsi Amateur Dramatic Club production and the Parsi dinner that follows for the past three years, calls them a “microscopic minority”. But what they lack in numbers they make up for by sheer weight of history. The dramatic club has been in existence since 1907. So the production of Tirangi Tehmul, a comedy in three acts by Dorab Mehta, directed by Cyrus J. Madan and assisted by Yasmin J. Kapadia, is its 95th.

The Parsis as a community are known for their self-deprecatory humour, and senior citizens love to ruminate over the four-hour-long “blood-and-thunder” plays of their childhood. The reminiscences of Noshir Gherda give us an idea of how even the usually decorous Parsis couldn’t help behaving like the hordes at a para Durga puja feast when it came to enjoying a Gujarati play staged free for the community on Navroz.

“On the free Natak day, the Parsis after Agyari (prayers at the fire temple), would rush home and by 1 pm start queuing up at the theatre for the play at 3 pm. When the doors opened it would be disastrous if one got in front of the masses who galloped in to get front seats. I recall, once a diminutive lady Asibai leading the charge of the Parsi brigade and if one risked trying to play dodgem he would be trampled.”

The plays used to be held at the Corinthian (later Opera) and the entire audience would be served free cold drinks during the interval, courtesy Byron & Company, which was the local soft drink giant of those times. All children under 12 would be given one free Kit Kat chocolate (made in England) on entering.

Later, parents would send their children by 2 pm to book the seats by placing either handkerchiefs or bags. Entire families would sit in the same row, and homemade singaras and kababs would be served. Now, of course, this is disallowed in the theatres where the plays are staged. Though most Parsis don’t take the day off now, the holiday spirit prevails.

Rehearsals were held from June after a prayer at the fire temple for club members. Practices would be held in a two-room flat on B.B. Ganguly Street which housed the club. Now they are held at Olpadvala Memorial Trust Hall opposite St Paul’s Cathedral.

The Parsis never allowed women to play the female roles till 1954. So male members, some with bulging muscles, were dressed up in saris with broad embroidered borders to stand in.

Today, of course, cross-dressing is out of the question but the stumbling block is Gujarati which the cast can speak but cannot read. So the entire play is written out either in Roman or Devnagari script and then the actors “mug it up”. Time is another constraint — they rehearse for over two hours every day. But though it is becoming more difficult for the club to survive with each passing year, they have resolved to score a century.

   

 
 
CHARGES FLY ON BYPASS ‘TEASE’ 
 
 
A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 21: 
The lawyers of Bankshal Court alleged on Wednesday that their colleague, Durjoy Sengupta, was “framed and harassed’’ by Topsia police. But the cops stuck to their earlier stand, that Sengupta and two others were hauled up for teasing a girl on the E.M Bypass a few days ago.

On Wednesday, Sengupta, accompanied by Baidyanath Das, secretary of the Alipore court Bar Association, produced a letter written by the girl, withdrawing the complaint against him and his friends. But deputy commissioner of police, eastern suburban division, Sanjay Mukherjee, said the girl had been forced to sign some blank papers by a section of the lawyers. Sengupta admitted that he had drafted the letter for the girl, but claimed “he did it in good faith, as mutually agreed upon with her lawyer Ainul Haque”.

Topsia police had arrested Sengupta, physiotherapist Soumen Pal and government employee Anupam Banerjee for harassing the girl on August 8. In her complaint, the girl said she had been travelling in her Ambassador when the trio chased her from Salt Lake in an Indica. The girl added that the trio hurled abuses at her. The three were arrested and produced in court the next day.

Sengupta denied that he and his friends had teased the girl. “We were returning from Salt Lake when the Ambassador dashed against our vehicle and sped off. We chased the car and caught up with it near Topsia police station,’’ he said. “As we were arguing with the driver, the girl got off and went into the police station. A little later, half-a-dozen cops grabbed hold of us,’’ he alleged.

Mukherjee refused to accept Sengupta’s version, calling it “a blatant lie”. “I have enough evidence to suggest that the trio was drunk and had teased the girl,’’ he said, adding: “If there was an accident, why didn’t they file a motor collision report?’’

According to Sengupta, Topsia police had scores to settle with him. “When my father and a relative of another accused went to collect the letter of withdrawal from the girl’s house, as she expressed her inability to go to the police station, Topsia police arrested them too,’’ he alleged. The lawyers in their resolution condemned the police action and sought an appointment with police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty, chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Calcutta High Court Chief Justice A.K. Mathur.

   

 
 
COP ZONES SPLIT TO REIN IN CRIME 
 
 
A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 21: 
The spurt in crime in the suburbs has resulted in the dust being brushed off a two-year-old recommendation by the police — to create two administrative zones to monitor law and order in such areas.

According to home department officials, two such zones will be formed initially at Jadavpur and Barrackpore. Later, more will be set up in other areas of the state. An IPS officer, designated as commissioner, will head each division.

Jadavpur and Behala will come under the purview of the Jadavpur police commissioner, while Dum Dum, Belghoria, Nimta, Khardah and Titagarh will fall under the Barrackpore police commissioner’s jurisdiction. At present, Jadavpur and Behala police stations are under the South 24-Parganas police, while Dum Dum, Belghoria, Nimta, Khardah and Titagarh are under the North 24-Parganas police.

The formation of the zones will restrict the jurisdiction of both the district police stations. The existing police stations will be bifurcated for “better results”. The plans drafted by home department officials have been submitted to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee for his consideration.

The decision to create the two administrative zones came in the wake of increasing incidents of crime in the north and south suburban areas. According to Writers’ Buildings sources, the chief minister has expressed concern about the rise in crime on the city’s fringes, including his own constituency, Jadavpur.

Bhattacharjee, the sources said, had recently reviewed the law-and-order situation with senior officers, including chief secretary S.N. Roy and home secretary A.K. Deb.

Home department officials have reportedly convinced the chief minister that the suburban areas are as congested as the city. “So, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the district police to monitor the areas,” said an official.

Besides, the police, in their report submitted to the government, had also suggested that the jurisdiction of North and South 24-Parganas police be restricted to facilitate the new set-up for the suburbs.

“Is there any difference between Behala or Dum Dum and Maniktala or Narkeldanga? Rather, the suburban areas have become important, with increasing construction and a population boom,’’ claimed a senior home department officer.

“Our move is aimed at giving more attention to the suburban areas in a bid to check crime. As the new commissioners will hold the powers of an inspector-general, they can work independently,’’ he said.

“Tackling crime in the rural areas is quite different from that in the urban areas. So, we felt it necessary to set up a new police zone, especially to look after law and order in the urban areas,’’ said Bikash Bhattacharya, advocate-general of Tripura and a member of the police panel that had drafted the recommendation.

   

 
 
DEVELOPMENT PUSH FOR DHAKURIA LAKES 
 
 
A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 21: 
After a long wait, the Centre on Wednesday assured funds for the overall development of Rabindra Sarobar (the Dhakuria Lakes). Sources said the National Lake Conservation Directorate, under the ministry of environment, will provide 70 per cent of the amount, while the rest will be borne by the state government.

Additional director from the Union environment department R. Dalwani arrived in the city on Wednesday to hold talks with Calcutta Improvement Trust (CIT) officials, the agency in charge of the Lakes’ development, on the proposed project. She visited the Lakes with the CIT officials and took stock of the proposed project prepared by the CIT. The Rs 10-crore project includes water treatment at the Lakes. “We have already started work with our own funds. Dalwani has expressed satisfaction over the progress. She has assured us that the Centre will provide 70 per cent of the funds as soon as possible. We are sending the details of expenditure to the Centre,’’ said Satyabrata Chakraborty, officer on special duty (OSD) of the CIT.

According to Chakraborty, the construction of a permanent embankment, measuring about four km, a three-km underground drainage system and roads surrounding the Lakes are being taken care of, for the moment. The lighting, construction of toilets, a cafeteria, seating arrangements, a children’s park and beautification will start after the rains.

“We have already spent Rs 2 crore and another crore will be spent within a month or two. The water treatment plant will be the most expensive. We shall start working on it after we receive the Central funds,’’ Chakraborty said.

Initially, there had been a tug-of-war between the Centre and the state for about five years over the clean-up project. The state government had demanded the entire amount from the Centre, as it had given to other states. But the Centre rejected the appeal, saying it would fund only a part of the project. Rabindra Sarobar has been named in the list of national lakes. The state government hopes the enlistment will follow soon after the development and beautification project. Officials are hopeful that once it is declared a national lake, maintenance will be borne by the Centre.

Before that, CIT will have to take all responsibility for maintenance. “The Centre will share 70 per cent of the required funds, but will not give anything for maintenance. It is not very easy to maintain 192 acres without funds. We are chalking out a plan to raise funds by mobilising our own resources,’’ the OSD said.

He said the government was also planning to woo sponsors from the industrial houses for the Lakes, as in case of Millennium Park.

   

 
 
‘COURIER’ YOUR PET TO YOUR NEW ADDRESS 
 
 
SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, Aug. 21: 
Pet-owners moving out of Calcutta need not fret any longer about leaving their beloved animals behind to suffer traumatic stints with strangers. Dogs, cats and even birds can now simply be ‘couriered’ across, thanks to the unique initiative of a passionate dog-lover.

Jaideep Raha, executive director, Jetex Oceanair Pvt Ltd, a city-based freight-forwarding firm, has launched a service to airlift pets out of the city to anywhere in India. Jetex, which started the “first of its kind” service early this month, takes “total responsibility” of transportation, including picking up the pet from the owner’s residence and arranging delivery at the destination.

“The idea came to me after I visited Karuna Kunj, an animal shelter near Thakurpukur, which houses pets left behind by transferred executives, alongside stray dogs and cats,” recalls Raha. Hugely fond of dogs himself, the commerce graduate, who has trained himself in handling live animals and subscribes regularly to the Live Animal Regulation (LAR) manual of IATA, decided to address the issue.

“Transporting pets often results in a lot of trauma for both the owners and the pets, in the absence of any specialised service. Hence, the animals are often left behind with reluctant relatives and friends, or worse, with cruel, unscrupulous breeders. Our service provides a professional, sensitive alternative,” says Raha.

Jetex has experienced handlers looking after the pets till the flight takes off. Vets do a complete check-up before clearing the pets for air travel and are on standby for any emergency. Specially-designed cages, conforming to LAR and EU Council directives, are being imported from Arlington, Texas. The fibreglass cages have a spill-proof water and nutrient supply system and animal-release-proof safety latches.

“When a client first approached me to transport his Golden Retriever to Mumbai, I had to ferry the big dog in an outsized pinewood cage that entailed a hefty freight charge,” smiles Raha. While the silk exporter had to fork out a princely sum of Rs 16,000 to move his dog to his new base then, Jetex has now streamlined its service and costs.

“Transporting a full-grown German Shepherd dog would now cost around Rs 7,000 all-inclusive, once the new kennels arrive by mid-September.” The fees can be paid at the point of origin or disembarkation, according to the convenience of the owner.

Raha, who has first-mover advantage in the field, projects a Rs 1 crore-per-year market in Calcutta for outbound pets. “On an average, at least 3,000 professionals are transferred out of the city every year. Even if 10 per cent of them own pets, it’s a steady traffic. Besides, dogs are transported for shows and competitions by breeders and trainers and guard dogs to factories and plantations,” he smiles.

Jetex has a tie-up with Indian Airlines, and is confident that private carriers will join the fray. “The response has been extremely encouraging,” he says.

   
 

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