War hots up against wall violators
Shop showdown ranks swell
Chilli powder attack on trader
Bridge the Great Divide with Ananda & RD
A friend for every tree, a smile for every flower
Builders foresee price hike in �finished� real est
Plea to block Metro to save Adi Ganga
Cardiac specialists meet on beating heart surgery
The mind is free, the feet have no fetters
BJP blocks Samata debut

Calcutta, Feb. 14: 
The Violators of the Wall have struck again. Even before the whitewash had dried on the walls of Gurusaday Road, products ranging from cement to batteries to lubricants are now fighting for space on the boundary wall of the Tollygunge Club, in south Calcutta.

While Videocon exhorts potential buyers to choose from its range of audio and video equipment and Mico lures customers with its �high quality, high power� batteries, Grasim Cement and IDCOL Cement vie with each other to catch the eye of passersby with their �stronger cement� and �special concrete cement�.

Besides defacing property and creating visual pollution, advertising products on the walls of buildings is in complete violation of all Calcutta Municipal Corporation rules and is, in fact, an illegal and a punishable offence.

Under the CMC Act of 1980, anyone found defacing walls of public property can be sued in the court of the municipal magistrate and punished with fines ranging from Rs 500 to Rs 5,000.

In the case of private property, it is mandatory to seek the owner�s permission. If this is not done, a complaint can be lodged with the Corporation, allowing the civic body to invoke the same clause and take punitive action against the offenders.

�All these advertisements are illegal and we will now start proceedings against these companies,� said the Corporation�s member, mayor-in-council, Mala Roy. �If we were to charge the same rate for wall advertisements as we do for billboards, our earnings from advertisements would have shot up from the present Rs 3 crore to about Rs 10 crore.�

Tollygunge Club authorities said their permission was not sought by the private companies using the club�s boundary walls as their advertising boards. �No one has approached us for permission,� clarified Arunava Chakraborty, member, managing committee, of the club. �Unfortunately, we do not have enough guards to patrol the outer walls of our premises to put a stop to such illegal activity. But now we shall certainly move the Corporation.�

But most firms either feign ignorance or blame it on the advertising agencies.

�I have no knowledge about our products being advertised in such an unauthorised manner,� claimed Videocon�s general manager in the city, Gautam Sengupta. �However, I refuse to comment on this matter altogether.�

IDCOL Cement�s senior manager Sankar Dey, while admitting that his company�s products were advertised on city walls, refused to shoulder any blame.

�We have farmed out the jobof advertising to some agencies, so we are in no way responsible for what they have done,� claimed Dey.

However, Grasim Cement was ready to accept its responsibility for �messing up� city walls. �We did not know it was illegal,� said a spokesperson of the company. �We shall ensure that it is wiped out in 48 hours.�

One of the advertising agencies, handling the accounts of a private firm which has splashed its products on the Tolly Club outer walls, appeared unperturbed. �If the Corporation has framed laws for advertising, then we also know their loopholes,� said a spokesperson. �We hire painters, grease the palms of the civic staff and local clubs... The job is not very easy, you see,� he added.

The big companies engage agencies like these because the amount charged works out to a pittance, considering the advertising space and display that the product gains.

�From the big companies, we charge Rs 4.50 per sq ft for wall graffiti. We undertake a contract for a minimum of 600 sq ft,� the spokesperson of the agency said.


Calcutta, Feb. 14: 
Calcutta�s oldest shoppers� stop convulsed for the second day on Wednesday as about 6,000 stores in New Market and its adjoining areas kept their shutters down. Hundreds of traders again surrounded police officers on Lindsay Street to protest the move to alter the parking system in and around the market.

The fracas over the police action began on Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday, traders of Sriram Arcade, Firpo�s Market, Treasure Island and Lindsay Street expressed solidarity with their New Market counterparts and kept their shops shut.

Trouble erupted again when traffic police booked a vehicle on Wednesday. Traders alleged that two ladies had barely got off the car when police officers came running and seized the driver�s licence. The shopkeepers surrounded the policemen and demanded that they return the licence and let the vehicle go.

According to Thakurdas Chotrani, general secretary of the SS Hogg Market Traders� Association, the decision to down shutters on Wednesday as well was spontaneous. �We have our backs to the wall. Business has slumped by 60 per cent after the police began to clamp down on parking. Under the new system, only 180 cars can now be parked in front of New Market, against about 400 earlier,�� he said.

�The markets here cater to clients, 70 per cent of whom arrive in cars. But with the new parallel-to-the-kerb parking, customers find it difficult to park and have stopped coming,�� said Pradip Chakraborty, general secretary of SS Hogg Market Shopkeepers� Welfare Association.

A meeting between representatives of six traders� unions and the joint commissioner of police, traffic, Anup Chatterjee, ended in a deadlock at Lalbazar on Wednesday morning.

The police decided to visit the area for an on-the-spot assessment. Deputy commissioner, traffic, K. Harirajan, accompanied Chatterjee and was immediately surrounded by the traders on reaching Lindsay Street. �We want the new set of rules to be withdrawn. Please allow taxis to enter the New Market area. And please remove the hawkers who are forcing people to walk on the road,�� Chakraborty said.

The police, however, ruled out any change of rules. Taxis will not be allowed to enter Lindsay Street, and the parallel-to-the-kerb parking will be �temporarily adjusted��, Howrah station style, to accommodate a few more vehicles.


Calcutta, Feb. 14: 
It was a mirch masala robbery attempt that ended on a bloody note in Burrabazar on Wednesday afternoon. A young man from Bihar, who tried to rob a Burrabazar businessman after blinding him with chilli powder on congested Chaitanya Sett Lane, was caught and severely beaten up by passersby.

Police said the youth, Pappu Sahani from Begusarai, in Bihar, was admitted to hospital in a critical condition, bleeding heavily from his mouth, nose and ear.

This is the second recent incident of criminals throwing chilli powder on businessmen in a bid to rob them. Last month, criminals had hurled chilli powder at a Burrabazar trader near Brabourne Road while he was walking with a bagful of money. When they failed to snatch the bag, the goons shot him dead. The police are yet to arrest the culprits.

Wednesday�s incident took place around 4.40 pm. According to Sasanka Dey, officer-in-charge, Posta police station, Ram Kumar Agarwal, an employee of a private firm, was carrying several lakhs of rupees from one shop in the area to another when Sahani attacked him. Agarwal slumped to the ground, blinded by the chilli powder, but refused to let go of the bag. Witnesses said Sahani then pulled a revolver on Agarwal, forcing him to hand the bag over to him.

Passersby were too stunned to react. But as Sahani started fleeing, they chased and overpowered him. He was mercilessly beaten up, till a police team rescued him. He was taken to hospital, where he is yet to regain consciousness.


Calcutta, Feb. 14: 
�Flight IC 408� has finally landed � 14 years after it touched down for a brief city stopover en route to Dhaka. And it has transported Sam Zaman, frontman of State of Bengal � one of the most �happening� shows on the British/Asian club scene � from London�s musical underground to the streets of Calcutta. He�s back to rock Calcuttans at the Tollygunge Club on Saturday evening with Flight IC 408, the kick-off track on their first solo album,Visual Audio.

�Yes, it�s been one of the most important journeys of my life,� admits Sam, whose trip to Bangladesh in 1987 had inspired him to start the fusion of Bengali folk and Western dance music that later became State of Bengal. The dream � to break the �barriers� separating the two Bengals. �During that fateful trip to Bangladesh, I realised that there�s no real state of Bengal, since it had to be fractured by geo-political boundaries. The whole idea of setting up this band was to talk unity, not separation,� explains Sam, who is glad this time, it�s not just a fleeting passage through Calcutta and that he can actually do a live gig here.

State of Bengal, which has already held Dhaka and Chittagong in thrall with Chittagong Chill on this �unity� trip, hopes to give Calcuttans a definitive sampling of the band�s sound with Flight..., a �subtle processing of the everyday sounds of an airplane flight�, a blend of Eastern instrumental sounds with funky guitar and bass, at the Tolly show organised by The British Council.

Also on the agenda are workshops at the Calcutta School of Music for school students on Thursday and for college DJs on Sunday and a promo at MusicWorld on Friday. A rare DJ who plays the bass with his live band, Sam is backed up by Matthew Mars-Jones on guitar, Marque Edmund Gilmore on drums, Paul Ramjack on percussion and Susmita Banerjee on vocals for whom, �it�s a homecoming in the truest sense of the term�.

Born Saifullah Zaman in Karachi, Sam, 35, has hopped cities, moving to Islamabad, Ankara, Istanbul, Amman, Dhaka, and finally London. All the while, �filling up his cells� with distinctive sound notes from all the regions. Thus, a fusion of Fakir Alam with Bob Marley or James Brown with Runa Laila or even L. Subramaniam with hip-hop comes easy to him.

The band�s myriad journey has seen them open for Bjork, remix tracks for Massive Attack and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and record a duet album with Ananda Shankar for Peter Gabriel�s Real World Records. Sam has also drawn heavily from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, baul gaan and R.D. Burman. �RD had frequencies nobody has, even today,� gushes Sam.

�Making music with Ananda Shankar was one of the milestones in my musical excursion. I felt like a little child who had met his musical dad when we came together,� recounts Sam. State of Bengal recorded the landmark album Walk On with The Ananda Shankar Experience and Shankar passed away shortly after approving the mixes. As a tribute, Sam will sing Anandada, a track from the disc, in Calcutta.


Calcutta, Feb. 14: 
Think Global, Act Local. Sreegopal Vidyamandir has a variation on this popular jingle: �Bhabna bhabo bhubon jure. Kaaj koro elaka dhore�.

But this is not just another slogan for this government-aided school in Cossipore. From health consciousness to environmental awareness, the school is trying to instil more than �book knowledge� in the 250 students, coming mainly from the surrounding slums. �These boys cannot think as far as global warming. We have tried to make their local environment mean something to them,� explains headmaster Gautam Kar.

The boys thus took up a project to save the greenery along Gopal Chatterjee Road, on which the school is situated. �Trees help us a lot,� nods Sujoy Pal, who has planted dahlias and chrysanthemums.

They first reclaimed a plot of land in front of the small, red school building, being used as a garbage dump. A group of Class IX boys � Sanjib, Somnath, Bapi, Devdas, Sumit � got together to transform it into a garden. �We stay back every day after school to water the plants and sweep away leaves,� smiles Sanjib, pointing out the hibiscus and jhau trees. �People of the area killed many of the plants by picking flowers,� explain the boys.

�Our para used to be very green, but it�s all disappearing,� says a Class V boy. Led by Kar and teacher Rajat Kundu, 80 trees were identified on the one-km stretch from B.T. Road to Cossipore Road. �Shirish. Albezia Lucida,� declares one sign. Each tree has a label, with both the common name and the scientific name. The information on the trees was printed and distributed to local residents.

A mural on the benefit of trees covers the boundary wall. Fifteen-year-old Class VII student Soumen Chatterjee shows off the oxygen and carbon cycles he painted as well. �I don�t know what they are, though. It�s from a Class X textbook,� he admits shyly.

�We won various awards at ICC Better Calcutta contest over the last three years,� says headmaster Kar. �Competing with the top schools of the city has helped the boys� self-esteem immensely.�

�Ridden with poverty-related problems�, Kar wanted to involve the school in extra-curricular activities. Working with limited infrastructure, their first project was born in 1998. The narrow road in front of the school was crowded with heavy vehicles en route to the huge Food Corporation of India godown behind the building.

The school wrote to borough 1 of the Calcutta Corporation to lay a footpath. They asked only for materials and advisers. Then, all but the youngest students joined ranks, clearing away the garbage before laying bricks.

The focus shifted to health issues in 1999. In collaboration with Empathy Foundation, they held weekly seminars on health and hygiene, with emphasis on malaria. The Mon Foundation, an NGO, was called in to address the �deep-rooted psychological problems� of many of the boys, through weekly counselling sessions.

Local heritage is the project for the coming year. Also, since the school has many drop-outs after Class VIII, a partnership with North Calcutta Polytechnic for vocational training in such areas as auto and telephone repairs is being worked out. �There is no point in trying to hold back the kids. We, instead, have to help them find productive work,� explains Kundu.

But some of the boys seem determined to stay on in school. Like the young artist Soumen: �I want to study as much as I can and make something of myself.�


Calcutta, Feb. 14: 
For prospective buyers of apartments and other developed property in Calcutta, the message is loud and clear: Act on the double and reach for your cheque-books, or for housing finance, now.

Heavyweight developers in the city are pretty sure the price of �finished real estate� will escalate by at least 30 per cent by the end of 2001, �due to soaring raw material and transportation costs�.

City Developers Forum secretary Sushil Mohta says: �We are projecting a spiral of at least 30 per cent in the cost of finished property within the Rs 2,000 per sq ft range by the end of the year. All this while, the developers have been absorbing the rise in raw material and land costs. But now that cement prices have doubled and transportation cost has risen by 30 per cent in two years, we will be forced to hike the end-user price.�

The imminent hike notwithstanding, city developers are buoyed by the �success� of Home Front 2001. The three-day exposition at Netaji Indoor Stadium recently attracted more than 15,000 visitors and resulted in loan approvals to the tune of Rs 50 crore.

�This translates into business transaction worth Rs 70-75 crore, if the entire sanctioned loan is converted,� explains Mohta, managing director, Merlin Group.

Last year, the total business conducted at the exhibition was only Rs 15 crore. �Of course, we didn�t publicise the show adequately last year. Still, there is no denying an upswing in demand for quality housing this year,� opines Mohta.

Transaction figures at Home Front 2001 reveal a �marked preference� for quality apartments. More than 40 per cent of loan approvals was for flats priced between Rs 10 and 15 lakh, while another 30 per cent was for apartments ranging from Rs 15 to 25 lakh. Sizeable NRI interest has been evinced on the Net, too.

Next year, the Forum will be targeting the Rs 5-8 lakh segment to �broaden the customer base and corner a bigger market share�.

Dileep Singh Mehta, president of the Forum, feels such an exposition is very important as it brings all the agencies in the business together, �resulting in greater transparency�. The �code of conduct� was also introduced among builders, not only to put into place a framework of dos and dont�s, but to also bring down barriers of suspicion between buyer and builder.

�The basic idea is to revive the confidence of the buyer in property developers who have had to live with the unnecessary stigma of being unscrupulous,� says Mehta.

In recognition of the new emerging image of builders, housing and public health engineering minister Gautam Deb has invited the Forum to play �an active part� in the construction of Rajarhat and other government projects. This is a clear indication that the government is keen on more joint ventures with private partners, in the housing sector.


Calcutta, Feb. 14: 
A public interest litigation was filed on Wednesday in Calcutta High Court, seeking an order to stop the extension of Metro Railway from Tollygunge to Garia, disturbing the course of Adi Ganga.

The petition said desiltation of Adi Ganga had started in accordance with the Green Bench�s order and Rs 35 crore had already been sanctioned jointly by the state government and the Centre. It alleged that the desiltation programme was being hampered by the construction of pillars on the river.

The petitioner, environmental activist Subhas Dutta, alleged that the Metro Rail authorities did not carry out a proper environmental impact assessment before undertaking the project. Neither had they obtained a no-objection certificate from the pollution control board. The project had been started without consulting any experts, he added.

He said the pillars on the Adi Ganga throughout the 6-km stretch from Tollygunge to Garia would obstruct the river�s flow. The project might also damage the ecological balance of the area.

He has appealed that the Metro authorities be directed to clarify and transmit all records concerning the extension scheme. The case is to come up for hearing on Friday before a division bench.


Calcutta, Feb. 14: 
Beginning Thursday, big names in cardio-vascular and cardiothoracic surgery from all over the world will converge on Calcutta to discuss the latest developments in their fields of heart disease treatment.

The occasion will be the four-day, 47th annual meeting of the Indian Association of Cardiovascular-Thoracic Surgeons at Science City, at which over 650 specialist and other doctors will exchange and update their knowledge.

At hand will be the pioneers of several revolutionary procedures and interventions, like Prof. Norman Shumway of Stanford, US, acclaimed as father of human cardiac transplant. His techniques were applied for the first time by Dr Christiaan Barnard in 1967.

Also present will be Dr J.W. Long of Utah, who was the first to develop an artificial heart. And delegates will be keenly hearing Dr Randall Wolf when he speaks on how he uses robots to conduct complex heart operations.

Other than the US, surgeons from the United Kingdom, Spain, Sweden, Australia, Canada, Brazil and South Africa will be exchanging notes and even gaining knowledge from their counterparts in India. �The theme of the conference is beating heart surgery, which is a relatively new technique for performing certain bypass operations without stopping the heart, as is conventionally done,� said Prof Debabrata Mittra, former head of the cardiothoracic surgery department at the Institute of Post-Graduate Medical Education and Research.

Several technical seminars will also be held that will take discuss the latest technologies in heart surgery. A continuing medical education (CME) programme will be held preceding the inauguration on Thursday afternoon.

The honour of opening the conference has been given to Prof Shumway. Union minister of state for health and family welfare Thiru A. Raja and Bengal�s health minister Partha De will be present. Prof. Shumway�s keynote address on Friday is the star attraction of the four-day meet, and is keenly awaited by all those connected with cardiac health. The subject of the address is on the future of cardiac surgery and transplantation.


Calcutta, Feb. 14: 
Twelve-year-old Sumitabha stopped before a rope hurdle on the track. It took him quite a few seconds of concentrated effort and all the cheering of the crowd to clear it. It didn�t matter that he came last. In fact, he got the loudest applause on touching the finishing line. This little incident summed up what the Open Heart Sports Meet, held recently at the SAI complex grounds in Salt Lake, was all about.

There were around 160 participants � all, like Sumitabha, mentally-challenged, but full of zest for life. These children had gathered under the banner of 13 NGOs and �special� schools, from various parts of the city, and even Serampore and Uttarpara.

�The aim of the meet is to give a sense of self-worth to the participants. Which is why we give cash prizes to all participants. One has to see the joy on their faces when they hand over the prize money to their parents,� said Padma Ghosh, founder-president of organising body Nishana, who has been working with challenged children for over 26 years.

�The unhealthy effects of competition are missing in such meets. My daughter, Malobika, for instance, would stop mid-way through a race to wait for a fellow contestant lagging behind,� said Urmila Ganguly. Beside her, 28-year-old Malobika was all smiles, having made �lots of new friends�.

All these children look forward to the sports day, training as hard for events like the 50m-run, hurdles and lemon-and-spoon balance, as their health permits. They cannot say much, but the excitement is all too evident in their eyes.

�This is the ninth year of the annual meet. For the past few years, we have had to complete the event in one day and do away with group games, like football and volleyball, due to lack of funds,� explained Dr Ashesh Banerjee-Choudhury, the �father� of the meet. The Helen Keller, Birsa and national medals awardee, now in his late 50s, has himself been confined to a wheelchair from when he was a year and a half old. But that hasn�t stopped him from pursuing his goals.

So, it was only in the fitness of things that he took the salute at the march-past, waving from the sidelines to the contestants marching to the tune of �We shall overcome�.


Imphal, Feb. 14: 
In a fresh twist to the ongoing political crisis in Manipur, the BJP central leadership today prevented Governor Ved Marwah from inviting Samata Legislature Party leader Radhabinod Koijam to form the new government.

The situation underwent a dramatic change after the BJP high command forced Koijam to team up with the Opposition. The Samata Party leader today met the Governor and submitted a new list comprising names of 45 legislators.

However, the validity of the list was controversial as it included the names of W. Nipamacha Singh�s supporters in the Thounaojam Chaoba Singh faction of the Manipur State Congress Party (MSCP).

Koijam further consolidated base tonight after the Nipamacha Singh faction of the MSCP pledged support to him. The number of Koijam supporters went up to 57 in the 60-member Manipur House, whose effective strength is 59. The four-member Federal Party of Manipur and an Independent legislator also reaffirmed support to Koijam. The lone �opposition� was Congressman Rishang Keishing.

Sharp differences had surfaced between the Samata Party and the BJP leadership in New Delhi over the issue. Sources said Union home minister L. K. Advani had opposed any political alignment involving �Nipamacha Singh, his deputy L. Chandramani Singh and the tainted MSCP ministers.��

Samata Party yesterday staged a political coup by aligning with the Nipamacha Singh-led United Front of Manipur (UFM), which included MSCP (Nipamacha faction), the Federal Party of Manipur and an Independent legislator. Koijam staked claim to form the new government after Nipamacha Singh tendered his resignation.

Sources said the Samata Party and the BJP leaders tried to work out a compromise formula after the Governor was barred from inviting Koijam to form the new government at Advani�s behest. BJP leaders insisted on a Manipur Democratic Front (MDF) government.

The Samata Party had forged the United Democratic Alliance yesterday with Nipamacha Singh�s United Front of Manipur. But the Samata Party leaders today agreed to BJP�s demand of a National Democratic Alliance-style of government.

The list submitted by Koijam to the Governor has 12 Samata Party, six BJP, two Nationalist Congress Party, one Manipur People�s Party, one Janata Dal (Secular) and 23 MSCP legislators. However, only eight MSCP members were present in the Opposition MDF camp led by Union minister of state for food processing Chaoba Singh.

After eight legislators including Nipamacha Singh and Chandramani Singh were declared �unattached� members of the House by Speaker Sapam Dhananjoy following their expulsion by Chaoba Singh, the number of �recognised� MSCP members in the Nipamacha Singh camp went down to 14. Claiming his faction as the original MSCP, Chaoba Singh said the 14 members in the Nipamacha Singh camp owed allegiance to him. Confusion reigned in the MSCP rank and file despite the Speaker�s support to the Chaoba Singh faction.

Addressing a news conference this evening, Koijam said the Governor has asked him to submit a list of supporters tomorrow morning for verification.


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