Tolly offers idle members exit option laced with c
Dam water overflow sparks flood fear
Phone links limp back, probe starts
Police, jail officials pass the rape buck
Tagore show gets English twin
Crorepati ban suits dismissed
Principal matters of schools
Rain-hit markets run dry
Manipur meet to discuss Naga truce
75-yr-old tribal hacked to death, Tripura tense

Calcutta, Sept 21: 
Tollygunge Club is, for all practical purposes, offering VRS to its elder members.

Established in 1895 and ranked among the top 20 clubs of the world, the idyllic Tolly greens might see history in the making when a special resolution comes up for discussion and voting at the annual general meeting on Friday evening.

The resolution involves offering �dormant� members of the club an exit clause � 50 per cent of the current annual membership fee of around Rs 50,000 � as a payout for returning the club membership.

�This is entirely voluntary and the plan is to hand out these memberships to younger people, waiting in the wings, who would make optimum use of the facilities,� club president P.K. Dutt said on the eve of the AGM.

A two-thirds majority will be required to pass the special resolution at the AGM. But Dutt seemed �confident� that it would go through, allowing the only �country club� of its kind in India to ensure that the old order would pass, giving way to the new.

The move to ease out idle members � there are apparently 900 of them who don�t use the club facilities at all � has been prompted by the Tolly�s �soaring costs and also by the fact that it has only 1,500 permanent members, which is the ceiling,� according to a senior official.

Other categories, like special members, corporate members and reciprocal members, add up to another 1,500.

�Earlier, there was a steady flow of members in and out of the club. But now, things have stagnated and we have members who have been around for years and whose children are now members of the club. We�re sure that a lot of these people, who are very old or are members of a few other clubs or even stay far from the Tolly premises, would like to make way for others,� felt Dutt.

While corporate members are likely to welcome the concept, with a permanent membership of Tolly being one of the most sought-after titles on the city�s social circuit, some older members do seem to harbour serious reservations.

�It sure hurts when the club you have been frequenting for years suddenly offers you a payout,� said an elderly member, on condition of anonymity, soon after receiving his �invitation� to Friday�s AGM.

The club president emphasised that the voluntary exit option is not �selling club membership�, and is not linked to nominating any incoming member either. �It�s a simple method to help sustain Tolly,� said Dutt.

�It�s not a bad idea at all,� agreed Bob Wright, former Tolly boss and permanent resident of the club. �I guess it makes a lot of sense to allow those waiting in the long queue, running into hundreds, a look-in,� he added.

In case the resolution is not passed, it �would make a fairly strong case for induction of new members to meet spiralling costs�, said a club official.    

Calcutta, Sept 21: 
After talk of a water-washed Puja, the heavy discharge from dams and barrages down the rivers of south Bengal have fanned fears of the water entering the city.

With the Messanjore and Tilpara dams releasing record amounts of water, there are concerns that the rivers in spate � Ajoy, Damodar and Mayurakshi � will release their overflow into the Hooghly while receding.

Minister of state for irrigation Ganesh Mondal said Calcutta would then be at the �receiving end.� The Hooghly is the main drainage channel for all the rivers in south Bengal.

�But we are not sure whether it will create a flood-like situation in the city,� the minister said. If the situation remains unchanged and there is no further rain in the upper catchment areas, there should be no cause for fear.

In fact, Mondal said that with the tidal levels quite low at present, the Hooghly might be able to hold and carry the flood waters down to the sea.

�We cannot yet say that it will be a situation similar to that in 1978,� Mondal said.

If the rainfall in Bihar and West Bengal abates, there is no cause for alarm. The flood waters take three days to reach the lower Hooghly basin and might flood areas like Kalighat, Tollygunge and the eastern parts of the city adjoining Tolly�s Nullah.

In the meantime, the state government has appealed to Puja organisers to donate to the chief minister�s relief fund. �We are requesting the puja committees, as well as the chambers of commerce and business houses, to donate much-needed funds to tackle the situation in the districts,� deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya said on Thursday.    

Calcutta, Sept 21: 
The city�s telecom links with the rest of the country improved marginally on Thursday. Officials said there was �heavy congestion� in many local junction circuits.

The Eastern Telecom Region (ETR), which controls long-distance connections from the city, said a link with other metro cities like Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai could be established with �immense difficulty�.

�But it�s almost impossible to get through to the rest of the country and other areas of West Bengal and the northeast,� a senior ETR official said.

Calcutta Telephones has set up a three-member committee to probe the allegations of sabotage levelled by Tapan Sikdar on Wednesday.

The minister of state for communications had alleged that a section of employees owing allegiance to left-affiliated unions is preventing repair and maintenance work in several exchanges.

�I have specific information that employees have created mischief at four city exchanges. I have asked the chief general manager to conduct an enquiry and submit a report within three days. The mischief-makers must be identified and handed over to the police,� Sikdar had said.

Chief general manager K. Ramanujam met senior general managers of the department on Thursday morning and formed the committee. But he was not willing to divulge the names of the committee�s members.

The committee started its probe from the evening. �The officers in the committee sought details about the working of the exchanges and employees on duty there from senior area managers and divisional engineers,�� a senior official said.

Sources said three senior general managers have been asked to probe the matter independently and submit a report.

They will be speaking to various groups of employees and keeping a close watch on the functioning of the department over the next few days.

A section of junior telecom engineers affiliated to the Telecom Engineering Officers� Association continued their �work-to-rule� on Thursday. They refused to attend to any repair or maintenance work after office hours.

The association has welcomed the institution of the probe into the charges levelled against left-backed employees by the Central minister. �The allegation is absurd. None of our members is sabotaging work. Let senior officers probe it and find out if there are any saboteurs,�� said Dilip Saha of the Telecom Engineering Officers Association.

�We are staging demonstrations for muster support of our demands outside office hours. There is nothing illegal about that,�� he added.

Senior officers, accompanied by some engineers, however, went around checking circuits and cable faults on Thursday. Telecom department officials said 30,000 lines had gone out of order in the wake of the agitation. Some 3,000 lines have been repaired.

Ramanujam has sought the help of subscribers and the media to help the department identify the employees sabotaging work, and preventing willing workers from attending to repairs and maintenance jobs.

Sources said Ramanujam, accompanied by ETR chief general manager S.K. Jain, airdashed to Delhi on Thursday evening to attend a meeting with communications minister Ram Vilas Paswan.    

Calcutta, Sept 21: 
Two days after a 19-year-old prisoner of Presidency Jail was allegedly raped by two constables, the police and the jail authorities are busy playing the �blame game�. While the city police said that the deaf-and-mute girl was raped within the jail, Presidency Jail authorities pinned the crime on the policemen escorting her back from court on Tuesday.

IG (prison) Balkar Singh said it was the responsibility of the police to identify and punish the culprits, as the rape had not occurred on the jail premises. Police minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya said on Thursday that the culprits had been identified and appropriate action would be initiated against them.

The girl was allegedly raped by two constables in the police van after being produced before the sub-divisional judicial magistrate at Alipore court.

A 55-year-old head constable escorting the girl has been questioned. Senior police investigators, however, pointed out that the girl �had not lodged any complaint with the jail officials� on returning from court around 5.30 pm on Tuesday. She lodged the complaint around 9 pm.

�We have to probe this point,� said deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Narayan Ghosh. �Her medical examination has been conducted and we are expecting the report on Friday,� he added.    

Calcutta, Sept 21: 
Frittering away taxpayers� money, Rabindra Bharati University (RBU) is planning a son-et-lumiere on Rabindranath Tagore in English, though its earlier Bengali version was a turkey. The university had launched the Bengali version on June 22, 1998. Higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty had inaugurated the project and the entry fee was Rs 10.

The show, which 200 people could watch at a time on RBU�s Jorasanko campus, highlights the life and works of Tagore. However, public response was so poor that RBU stopped its daily airing. A senior RBU officer said the authorities had tried their best to make it a profit-making project through advertisements and hoardings.

RBU vice-chancellor Shubhankar Chakraborty, who is trying hard to popularise the show, said: �We are not for any financial gain. The Centre and the state government are giving us the money for this excellent piece of work and we have done it successfully.�

Many viewers had offered him funds. �Only a few months ago, one Kejriwal from Bangalore saw it and was charmed. He gave me Rs 10 lakh,� Chakraborty said. Governor V.J. Shah, who is also chancellor of the university, will inaugurate the new show on September 30. There are two shows daily, except on Mondays and Thursdays. The first show starts at 7 pm and the next an hour later.

The initial project cost was estimated at Rs 23.81 lakh and in 1985, the department of tourism had agreed to foot the bill. But it took the university 13 years to launch it.

There were differences of opinion among senior university officials over the project. Former vice-chancellor Pabitra Sarkar was convinced the project wouldn�t be a money-spinner. But other officers stressed that profit-making was not the sole objective.

In April 1996, the university appointed a committee, with Dharmanarayan Dasgupta as its chairman, to find out why it was being delayed. The university development officer, Ashis Gupta, was convener of the committee. But Gupta resigned following differences of opinion with other committee members. In July, 1996, the university appointed another committee with Dasgupta as its chairman. The project was ultimately inaugurated on June 22, 1998.

But Calcutta cold-shouldered it.    

Calcutta, Sept 21: 
Calcutta High Court has given Kaun Banega Crorepati? a clean chit. Rejecting two separate petitions seeking a ban on the STAR Plus gameshow, a division bench of Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice B. Ghosh said it does not amount to gambling or violate any code of conduct laid down by the government.

�It is a game of mere skill, which is not prohibited under any of the authorised provisions,� observed the bench. The judges also said the demand of the petitioners was not the demand of the general public. Earlier, Justice Ashok Ganguly of the same court had ruled that the Amitabh Bachchan show was a form of gambling. New India Television challenged the order before the division bench.    

Calcutta, Sept 21: 
Finances, or rather their lack; nosy parents; a punishing syllabus; interference in academic matters; inability to command respect � these are some of the problems that the principals of schools are daily confronted with.

About 40 heads of 24 institutions in Calcutta aired their concerns at a two-day seminar organised by Teachers Centre in conjunction with the Lucknow-based Human Learning Systems, India, which ended on Thursday.

Some of the participating schools were all the Loreto schools of the city, Birla High School, Assembly of God Church, St James�, Salt Lake School, Apeejay Crescent Day School, several Montessori schools and Future Hope, meant for deprived children.

All the schools are members of Teachers Centre, formed in 1970 to promote quality in child-centred education.

The programme was aimed at improving the quality of education and to stress the fact that the child is the VIP in the school environment. This was brought about through interaction, group discussions, inter-personal assessment, analysis of major concerns, and identifying how these problems could be resolved.

So principals, who tend to live in their own ivory towers, were suddenly listening to each other�s problems and were also articulating their own concerns.

The course director was Amitabh Mohan, who is also director of HLS, India, and has conducted 500 such workshops in the course of 20 months. He said at the end of it all that he was pleasantly surprised to find that all the participants were �very receptive� and that they were seriously concerned about children.

Mukta Nain, principal of Birla High School, said she realised that all schools faced similar problems and that a common approach could be worked out.

Ayesha Das, programme chairperson, Teachers Centre, elaborated on the problems that were ventilated � the principal of a Montessori school complained that she could not follow what she believed in because of pressure from parents and the big schools, which demanded geniuses straight from cradles. This charge was hotly denied by the heads of such institutions.

A new problem which has cropped up is that of �fake parents.� Now that many schools have made it mandatory for mothers to converse in English, counterfeit parents are produced in case the real ones cannot do so.

As the seminar drew to a close, principals, hopefully, became much more aware that they were selling techniques like any other commercial house and that it is the packaging of knowledge � how you present it � that matters.    

Calcutta, Sept 21: 
A flood in the districts has led to a disruption in supply of vegetables to the city�s markets and an abnormal rise in prices.

Trucks carrying vegetables and fish supplies are stranded at different points on the highways. The non-availability of vegetables has resulted in a 50 per cent spurt in the prices of most vegetables. On Thursday morning, green chillies were selling at prices 80 per cent higher than they commanded till Wednesday.

Traders, however, pleaded helplessness and refused to accept the blame for this sudden price hike. �The roads are under water and we are not getting vegetable supplies. What does one do in such a situation?� asked Gagan Dhali, a vendor at Lake Market.

The trucks did not arrive in the city markets till late on Thursday evening. �Large areas in the eight districts that supply us with vegetables are under water. Trucks are stranded at different points of north Bengal, like Jalpaiguri, Siliguri, Raigunge, Berhampur, Burdwan and so on,� said Swapan Bose, a wholesaler of Koley market, in Sealdah.

There is also no supply of fish from Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, and the Calcuttan has to make do without hilsa on his plate.    

Imphal, Sept. 21: 
Manipur chief minister Wahengbam Nipmacha Singh has called an all-party meeting on Saturday to discuss the ceasefire issue between the Centre and National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah). The parties are expected to decide on the role they will play in the proposed people�s rally for the protection of the state�s territorial integrity following threats from certain quarters.

The chief minister said the government was aware of the mass rally to be held on September 28 here for the protection of the state�s territorial integrity.

He, however, reiterated that the ceasefire agreement between the Centre and the NSCN(I-M) could not be extended to the Naga- inhabited areas of the state under any circumstances. He said if the Centre declares a truce with rebel outfits operating in Manipur, the move will be welcomed by the state government.

A senior Congress leader said rumours are rife about Centre�s commitment to the extension of ceasefire in Naga-inhabited areas.

Party sources said the Congress will continue oppose the demand for the extension of ceasefire to Naga-inhabited areas.    

Agartala, Sept. 21: 
The situation in Kalyanpur subdivision of South Tripura took a turn for the worse yesterday after Tiger Force militants hacked a 75-year-old tribal villager to death in Akrabari village.

Three tribals and a non-tribal were killed in the same area on Monday. Police sources said a group of Tiger Force rebels raided one Agar Debbarma�s house in Akrabari village at 9.30 pm and killed him. Police personnel from Kalyanpur went to Akrabari early today and brought the body to the subdivisional headquarters for post mortem.

In another incident, police and Tripura State Rifles personnel today shot dead a militant of the National Liberation Front of Tripura in Dharmanagar. A Chinese-made revolver, a magazine and some incriminating documents were seized from the slain rebel, identified as Purnaram Reang. Sources said a large contingent of personnel, led by additional superintendent of police D. Darlong, raided an NLFT hideout in remote Bhallukpara early today.

The militants in the hideout opened fire immediately, forcing the police team to retaliate. Reang was killed in the gunbattle, which lasted nearly 15 minutes.

Crime graph soars: There has been a sharp increase in crimes against women over the past five years, according to the Tripura Women�s Commission.    


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