Few doctors for sex disorders
Maid set ablaze, another found dead
Buddha roadmap for IT nirvana
Dacoity bid at Regent Park
Jew chronicle hits print stonewall
His MASTER�s voice
Posta blocks court order on used oil containers
No leads yet in Kasba case
Central envoys in Manipur
Opp. leaders meet Sharmila

Calcutta, Nov. 26: 
A large number of Calcuttans, like their counterparts in other cities in the country, are suffering from various types of sexual dysfunctions, national and international sexologists said on Sunday.

But what is most disturbing is that, unlike Mumbai, Chennai or New Delhi, Calcutta has an acute shortage of trained sexologists to address these problems. Calcutta is the only metro without a department of sexual medicine, either at government-level hospitals or those in the private sector, observed experts at the end of Calcon-2000, a three-day national conference, the first of its kind in the east.

�People in Mumbai have access to facilities and doctors at the KEM Hospital and other established centres, while in Chennai, Apollo Hospital has a specialised department. Even the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi has started a separate department for sexual medicine,� pointed out Dr Govind K. Gupta, one of the few trained consultants on sex medicine in Calcutta.

�As a result, a large number of people with problems are forced to go to quacks on Grant Street and other such places,� said Gupta, organising secretary of the conference. �Instead of getting a solution, the patients face harassment, and even a worsening of the problem.�

The affluent go off to other cities for treatment, as a sexual problem can lead to �frustration, marital disharmony and physical complications.� Admitting that many people in the city were visiting �footpath doctors� for treatment of �private diseases�, Dr B.R. Sarkar, Bengal state branch president of the Indian Medical Association, said various sexual disorders were being treated in Calcutta by gynaecologists, psychiatrists, urologists and skin specialists. �But professional counselling is just not there,� he said.

Sarkar�s inaugural address at the conference, attended by about 115 delegates from India and abroad, revealed that a �staggering Rs 40,000 crore is spent in India every year by clients on sex workers, 30 per cent of whom are under-age�. �At an international narcotics conference in Japan in January, it was disclosed that the use of sex-stimulants, with harmful side-effects, was on the rise among Indians,� Sarkar added.

These facts showed that problems were not being tackled in the proper manner. �What we lack most is proper sex education. There are several cases of both boys and girls becoming confused over natural sexual phenomena like menstruation and reproductive systems.�

The conference discussed issues like love and relationships, erectile dysfunction, homosexuality, infertility, the latest sexually-transmitted diseases, sexual addiction, andropause (hormone fall in men after 40), female sex problems and most of all, lack of education leading to taboos on talking about sex and sexuality.

�Sexology is a scientific study of human society, encompassing behaviour, psychology, culture, diseases, and problems,� said Dr M.C. Watsa from Mumbai.

The presentation by Dr Saroj Gumaste of Mumbai on why women say �no� and on sex practices and beliefs among women in village societies was adjudged the �best paper� at Calcon.    

Calcutta, Nov. 26: 
An advocate, Kabita Basak, was arrested and an engineer, R.M. Chakraborty, detained in connection with the death of a domestic help and the burns suffered by another, in two incidents in the city.

One of the victims, Rani Das, 38, of Beleghata, was found hanging from the ceiling fan with a rope around her neck. The other, Manju Adhikari, 32, of Bagmari, is battling for her life in SSKM Hospital with 90 per cent burns.

Rani�s body was recovered on Sunday morning from Chakraborty�s house on Rani Rashmoni Bazar Road, in Beleghata. Rani, who hails from Purbasthali, in Burdwan, had been working for Chakraborty and his wife for the past 16 years.

A large number of local residents gathered on the spot, demanding the �immediate arrest� of the senior engineer of Eastern Railway. Ajoy Sanyal, councillor of ward 34, said: �We suspect foul play. The woman could have been killed and then hung.�

A.K. Ghosh, investigating officer of Beleghata police station, said Rani�s body had been sent for post-mortem and Chakraborty detained for questioning.

In the other incident, advocate Kabita Basak allegedly set her maid on fire at her Bagmari residence on Saturday night. According to an FIR lodged by relatives of the victim, Basak poured kerosene on Manju, set her ablaze and then bolted the door from outside. Neighbours rushed to the house on hearing Manju�s cries, smashed open the door and took her to hospital.

Police confirmed on Sunday that Manju had given a statement that Basak had forcibly pushed her into the room, poured kerosene on her and set her on fire. Soon after the incident, hundreds of the area�s residents ransacked the Basak house where Kabita, her advocate husband and their two children live. The mob then gathered outside Maniktala police station demanding �exemplary punishment� for the advocate.

Dwijen Chatterjee, officer-in-charge of Maniktala police station, said Kabita Basak was arrested late on Saturday on the basis of a complaint lodged by Manju�s relatives. She was produced at Sealdah court on Sunday and remanded in police custody till November 28.

Police said the advocate, while denying the assault on Manju, alleged that the maid had stolen gold ornaments worth Rs 50,000 from her house. But investigating officers of Maniktala police station dismissed this statement as �baseless� and �riddled with discrepancies�. A case under Section 307 has been booked against the accused.

Manju, who lives in a nearby slum at Bagmari, has been working at the Basak household for the past 12 years. On Sunday, Manju�s 14-year-old daughter Shampa said her mother wanted to leave the job with the Basaks as they would �ill-treat� her. �But they refused to let her go... Sometimes, they would not even allow her to come back home,�� complained Shampa.    

Calcutta, Nov. 26: 
It�s IT-time for Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. After successfully wooing Wipro, the chief minister inaugurated the second software technology park (STP) on Sunday at Saltec to give a fillip to the �IT, telecom and digital entertainment� sectors in West Bengal.

The Rs 5.5-crore, state-of-the art building has been completed in 11 months. The 65,000 sq ft office space has already been booked by Sema Group, Interra Information Technologies, TCT India, Delsoft, Digital Domain, Insync Technologies, Soffront Software and Bharti BT Internet Ltd.

The chief minister re-emphasised his government�s commitment towards developing the IT sector: �We will not use IT in isolation. Rather, we will link it to the other sectors for faster growth and development of the state.�

Announcing an era of e-governance, Bhattacharjee said: �West Bengal might have started late, but is now on the fast track. We aim to computerise all government departments and organisations at the earliest.�

Explaining the reasons behind choosing Calcutta as their country headquarters, Pierre Marlard, managing director of the Sema Group�s India operations, said: �We were invited here by the state government and their approach has been positive. We got everything in Saltec, adequate power, quality IT professionals, connectivity facilities.� The $2.2-billion company, employing 22,000 people around the world, has taken the entire ground floor of the second STP. �The low attrition rate in Calcutta, in comparison to Bangalore or Hyderabad, has also influenced our decision to set up shop here,� Marlard said.

Bharti BT, the joint venture between Bharti Enterprises and British Telecom also has ambitious plans in Calcutta.

D. Srivastava, zonal manager of this private Internet Service Provider, said: �It was amazing how all formalities were completed in just 20 days.� Bharti BT, which has a international gateway in Calcutta, will offer Internet bandwidth from its office at STP to companies based in Saltec.

�We were planning to start similar operations in Hyderabad. But looking at the needs and opportunities in Calcutta, we decided to come here first,� added Srivastava.

At the hour-long inauguration of the second STP, S. Ganguly of WBEIDC said: �The success of IT companies in this city and the consequent interest of others will stem the migration of the job-seekers from the state.�

Bansogopal Choudhury, minister-in-charge, commerce and industries, announced: �Videocon has decided to invest Rs 100 crore in the state.�

Chairman of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, Somnath Chatterjee, termed the state the �most investor friendly�.    

Calcutta, Nov. 26: 
There was panic at the newly-constructed Prantik Abasan, in Regent Park, when a gang of armed men was spotted scouting the area on Saturday night. The goons fled when some residents sounded the alarm. In what appeared to be a replay of the Kasba incident last week, the residents realised that the telephone lines of the Abasan had been cut off by the criminals.

Members of a local vigilante group who arrived at the spot discovered several sets of footprints leading towards Garia station.

An officer of Regent Park police station said on Sunday: �We have received a complaint of attempted dacoity from Prantik Abasan and are investigating the matter.� The �attack� on Prantik came less than 24 hours after dacoits were thwarted in their bid to raid a house near the Garia station on Friday night.

Goons had managed to saw through the window bars of the residence of a retired police employee before being spotted by some neighbours. When local people raised an alarm, the dacoits were forced to flee.    

Calcutta, Nov. 26: 
Her work on the Jews of Calcutta, on which she laboured for seven arduous years, has won the praises of Calcutta historian P. Thankappan Nair and David Nahoum of confectioneries� fame. But Dalia Ray, an advocate, is still in search of a publisher who will bring out her work without making impossible demands. She feels even more wronged because the Israeli Embassy in Delhi has met her plea to give her a hearing with stony silence.

Renowned publishers have admitted that her treatise is interesting but regretted they couldn�t touch it because they felt it was too specialised.

Ever since she read about the Holocaust while studying European history at Jadavpur University, Dalia had developed a �soft corner� for Jews. Later, she did her doctoral thesis in history and chucked up her job as a munsif to become a lawyer.

But she admits she used to feel �restless� and wanted to rake up the history of Jews in Calcutta. She asked PT Nair to guide her in her quest, because, as he told her, no objective study has been done on them, though subjective studies existed. Says Dalia: �Most people have wrong notions about Jews. They confuse them with Parsis and Armenians.�

So Dalia�s is arguably the first objective study of the community that once thrived in Calcutta but hardly has any presence now. When she started her study in 1983, there were more than 80 Jews in Calcutta. But now their number has dwindled to 54. Their age group is between 60 and 90, the oldest of them being the 94-year-old Elsa Arnheim. �There are no births. Only deaths,� says Dalia.

Dalia interviewed all these twilight people, going from house to house. She read up books on Jews in other regions of the country and had to depend on her personal observations. She attended religious ceremonies and social gatherings at the two synagogues in use � Maghen David and Bethel, the third, Neveh Shalom, being dilapidated.

At the graveyard for Jews in Narkeldanga, she religiously pored over the epitaphs. She was horrified by the present condition of Ezra Hospital in Medical College, once meant exclusively for Jews. She gradually built up a collection of about 600 photographs, which by itself is a visual treasure trove. But her labour of love will go waste if eventually her book does not see light of day.    

Calcutta, Nov. 26: 
We�ve all heard them croon � at puja pandals, para functions and paan shops, in autos, taxis and �night� buses. Favourite songs, familiar voices � Kishore minus the yodel, Asha sans the silkenness, Hemanta without the depth.

Whether it�s Abhijeet�s Best of Kishore, Mita Chatterjee�s E Madhu Raate or Indraneel Sen�s Sagar Parey, the old rendered anew is clearly the flavour in favour.

Neither Chatterjee nor Sen renders original numbers. They both bask in reflected glory, belting out �covers� of renowned artistes. The reason they do this: that�s just the way �they� (read: the paying public) seem to want it these days.

Copy-singing and remakes are the order of the day. Fresh renditions of old hits and sleek re-packaging of past singers are raking in the moolah as record labels, big and small, stick to the tried-and-tested formula.

Asha-konthi Chatterjee�s new superhit album E Madhu Raate, released this year, is following in the footsteps of last year�s Katha Hoechhilo, having already sold more than a lakh units till now, giving Atlantis two rare Gold Discs (sales of 60,000 units) and much more.

While Chatterjee has carved a niche for herself copying the inimitable voice of Asha Bhonsle, Indraneel has recreated classic Bengali songs, packaging the old numbers in his own distinctive way.

Technology edge

But why would Asha fans accept Mita Chatterjee singing their favourite Asha numbers, or for that matter Kishore fans take to Goutam Ghosh? �It�s a combination of factors,� says Anupam Gan of Sagarika. �The quality of software is a major contributor to the craze for copy-singing and remakes. The old labels didn�t often preserve the old numbers well and frayed software doesn�t sound good in these days of sound perfection. Improvisation and better packaging also contribute to the success of remakes.�

New renditions can use sophisticated studio techniques to make those familiar songs sound even better on today�s state-of-the-art systems and better software.

�Every artiste has a distinctive style. But, when I am singing Asha Bhonsle numbers, I try to be as accurate as possible without really trying to change anything or experiment too much. I am glad that people have accepted me and my rendition of the great artiste�s immortal songs,� says Mita Chatterjee who had burst on the scene in 1991-92 with her Non-Stop Hits of Asha under the Gathani label.

Indraneel�s Sagar Parey has given Sagarika another winner this year. All five albums by the Bengali remake king � Tomar Akash Tomar Batash, Durer Balaka (volume 1-4) and now Sagar Parey � have reached Gold Disc. �The best-selling albums these days are mostly remakes and I have a feeling this trend will continue for quite some time,� says the singer, who, along with Srikanta Acharya, has been striking gold regularly for Sagarika.

Copy-singing and remakes are hardly new phenomena, though. The concept was borrowed by HMV from its then global parent EMI almost half a century ago. Thus, from the mid-50s, 78 rpm film superhits on the HMV label, which sold at around Rs 4-5, had cheaper remakes made by lesser-known singers. The cheaper discs were priced around Rs 2 each and were targeted primarily at the rural audience.

Ambar Kumar was among the first batch of copy-singers promoted by HMV who found his way into village homes, singing popular Mohammed Rafi numbers. Enthused by the success of this novel project, HMV launched copy-singing in Bengali, albeit borrowing from the immense popularity of Hindi movies. Mrinal Chakraborty and Ila Bose were commissioned to sing Hindi filmi hits translated into Bengali. The tune remained the same as did the orchestration.

But the 60s and 70s were dominated by the �real� thing � Rafi, Mukesh, Manna, Hemanta, Kishore, Lata, Asha, Geeta making it the golden era of playback singing in both Hindi and Bengali movies.

�People stuck to the originals not only because the artistes were so gifted, but also for the fact that these great singers were all supported by a band of equally formidable stars,� opines Debraj Dutta, for long associated with HMV and currently merchandiser, MusicWorld.

Like-singers made a comeback in the 80s. �We lost so many big names during this period, like Hemanta, Kishore, Shyamal Mitra, Dhananjoy and also Uttam Kumar, whose romantic smile alone launched a thousand songs,� points out Indraneel.

There was a surge in the demand for songs by these stars. The record labels and producers were quick to cash in, commissioning �duplicate� voices to immortalise popular numbers. Thus, Kumar Sanu started singing Kishore Kumar songs and Anwar and Sabbir Kumar began parroting Rafi even when the master was still on song.

After Rafi�s death, Mohammed Aziz, a city singer, was picked up from Ghalib restaurant and introduced to the likes of Anu Malik, Usha Khanna and Laxmikant-Pyarelal. Aziz went on to become a super-hit Rafi-kantho. Prasun Mukherjee of Delhi and Shibaji Chatterjee also started their careers copying Hemanta and have now come into their own.

Remakes are basically of two types. One, where the singer copies the voice, tonal quality and style of the original singer and the second, where the new singer records old numbers in his/her own style.

Copy-singing through the years has not been about filmi songs alone. As Debraj Dutta points out: �Almost 40 years ago in Kancher Sarga, Dwijen Mukhopadhyay rendered Din Guli Mor... which had been originally sung by Pankaj Mullick at least 20 years before that. Rabindrasangeet remakes remain popular even today with a number of releases every year.�

And who can forget Reba Muhuri�s rendering of Begum Akhtar�s thumri in Ray films?

�It�s rather unfortunate that artistes singing Rabindrasangeet are always treated as holy cows, while others who recreate songs of popular singers, are barracked as �copycats�,� laments Indraneel. �Sixty per cent of my remakes are not popular numbers but songs which got lost in a bouquet of bigger hits.�

For your ears only

After RD�s death, Sony came out with remakes of RD hits originally sung by Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhonsle and others recreated by S.P. Balasubramaniam and Chitra. Abhijeet too has recorded remakes of Kishore.

Lata herself came out with the hugely-successful Shraddhanjali and then captured Bengali classics like Hemanta�s Runner in an album called Abak Rater Tarara with Salil Chowdhury.

This year has seen Anuradha Paudwal and Abhijeet cutting two albums, both remakes of Bengali hits.

�I am a paid entertainer and I must give the audience what they want,� is how Indraneel sees the remake business. �And our contribution should be viewed in the backdrop of a Bengali music industry that is still completely disorganised. We don�t have any music bank or archives even in this age of the Internet. Thus, our efforts to revive old music through remakes shouldn�t be belittled. If anything, we are enriching the industry.�

The men who matter are convinced that the sound of remake music is here to stay. �We will continue to make remakes of old hits and encourage talented artistes to come forward to sing Asha, Lata, Hemanta and Kishore numbers. It�s good for the young singers and, of course, the listeners,� says Gan.    

Calcutta, Nov. 26: 
Efforts by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) to enforce the high court directive restricting the packing of edible oils and vanaspati in used tins have proved futile as the oil merchants of Burrabazar are refusing to implement the order.

Representatives of Posta Bazaar Oil Merchants� Association told mayor Subrata Mukherjee during a meeting on Wednesday that he should allow edible oils to be packed in used tins as oil tankers and wagons were also being reused for carrying edible oils.

They said the market price of edible oils would escalate by Rs 3 if the ban is imposed.

A civic health official pointed out that oil merchants were quoting higher rates for new containers. The CMC estimate says the prices of mustard oil and vanaspati may go up, at best, by Rs 1.25 in the city after the ban.

Though the Federation of West Bengal Trade Association welcomed the decision on health grounds, the Bengal Oil Millers� Association described it as �impractical for a developing country like India�. The Vanaspati Manufacturers� Association (east zone) insisted the CMC for restricting the packing of vanaspati in used tins.

Member, mayor-in-council (health), Javed Ahmed Khan, who has been directed by the mayor to seek the government�s opinion, said: �We are just enforcing the provisions made by the Centre in the recent amendment to the Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act.�

Chief municipal health officer Dr Sujit Ghosh said the amendment strictly prohibits reusing containers for selling edible oils.

The Centre had restricted the reuse of tin containers following the dropsy tragedy caused by adulterated mustard oil in Delhi in September 1998. Accordingly, the relevant section of the PFA Act was amended by the Centre.    

Calcutta, Nov. 26: 
A week after the daring twin dacoities at Uttar Purbachal, in Kasba, the police are still groping in the dark. �We hope to identify the criminal gang involved in the Uttar Purbachal dacoity through the leads provided by arrested criminals. But till Sunday evening, neither have the gang members been identified nor has the booty been recovered,� said inspector-general of police, south Bengal, Ajoy Prasad, who heads the special investigation team.

In the past few days, more than 32 alleged criminals have been rounded up in different areas of North and South 24-Parganas. But senior officers, who met on Sunday afternoon to review the case, admitted they had failed to track down the gang which took part in the Kasba operation.

Director-general of police Deepak Sanyal sounded dissatisfied with the progress of investigation on Sunday evening. �There has not been any major development so far,� he said.

Asked whether the police have been able to identify the gang involved in the Kasba dacoities, Sanyal replied in the negative.

About the arrested criminals, Ajoy Prasad said: �They are all involved in dacoity cases in South and North 24-Parganas. Stolen material and cash have been recovered from them. The material has been shown to Ghosh and Deb. It does not belong to them,� Prasad said.

Both Akshay Deb and Jonaki Ghosh said police officers had shown them some pictures and stolen materials. �They all look the same. It was dark. I could not identify anybody,� Jonaki Ghosh said.    

Imphal, Nov. 26: 
The BJP has sent two central observers to Manipur to take stock of the current political impasse. Rajya Sabha MP Ravi Shankar Prasad and party national secretary in-charge of Manipur P.B. Acharya arrived here today and met Opposition members. They will also meet Speaker Sapam Dhananjoy tomorrow.

State BJP legislature wing leader R.K. Dorendra Singh said the two leaders would submit a report to the BJP central leadership.

The W. Nipamacha Singh-led United Front of Manipur ministry had plunged into a political crisis after the Speaker tried to upstage the chief minister with the help of Opposition parties, including the Congress and the BJP.

The Nipamacha Singh camp, meanwhile, has issued a notice of no-confidence motion against the Speaker. The BJP now faces a problem as Nipamacha Singh�s Manipur State Congress Party is a constituent of the NDA government at the Centre. However, the state BJP had severed its ties with the MSCP in Manipur and is now backing the Speaker in his fight against Nipamacha.

Dorendra, who also came from New Delhi today, said he had met central leaders, including Union home minister L.K. Advani, defence minister George Fernandes and BJP national president Bangaro Laxman. Dorendra, however, refused to comment on the party�s strategy. The Opposition has decided to move a no-confidence motion against the Nipamacha ministry during the winter session of the Assembly which starts on December 1.

State Congress leader Nimaichand Luwang said the Opposition was hopeful of pulling down the ministry in December and also of �saving� the Speaker from Nipamacha�s no-confidence motion.

In the continuing war of attrition, the UFM has charged the Speaker with supporting insurgents in the state. Manipur People�s Party leader O. Joy Singh said four ministers have also been found to be having a nexus with militants by the Union home ministry. He said Nipamacha should drop these ministers first before making �wild allegations� against the Speaker.    

Imphal, Nov. 27: 
Opposition legislators and Assembly Speaker Sapam Dhananjoy today met Irom Sharmila who is on a fast-unto-death demanding withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from Manipur.

The Opposition leaders met the 28-year-old Sharmila, who has been on a fast-unto-death since November 5, at the J.N. Hospital here. They assured her that they would look into her demand if they come to power.

Refusing to break the fast, Sharmila told the leaders that she wants �peace and equality� in the state.Though chief minister W. Nipamacha Singh has refused to meet Sharmila, he has sent three of his ministers to convince her to withdraw the fast.

Sources said Nipamacha Singh had told Meira Paibi (women activists) leaders that he would prefer to resign than meet her as the prevailing law and order situation in the state prevents him from withdrawing the Act. Sharmila is now on life support system as her situation has deteriorated. Doctors are �forcibly feeding� her through the nose, sources said.

Two other women � H. Pakpi and Y. Memcha � who were also on a fast-unto-death against the Act were lodged at the Sajiwa Jail here. Manipur People�s Party leader O. Joy Singh told newsmen this evening that the Opposition is taking the Sharmila issue �very seriously�. The Speaker and other leaders have pleaded her to withdraw the fast, he added.

If the Opposition �topples� the Nipamacha government and comes to power, they would seriously consider lifting the Act from the state, O. Joy Singh said.

The Speaker and other Opposition leaders addressed a gathering of Meira Paibis near the hospital this morning and urged them to convince Sharmila to withdraw the fast.    


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