Xaviers defies state control
Kidnapped in Bally, dumped on city street
Parents stall entry tests
Prayer for peace after triple tragedy
Bomb goes off in pocket
Service above self for sisters in distress
Connected to the consumer
Arrests link to bullet racket
Local device for clean air
Raga and rhythm rhapsody

Calcutta, May 2: 
In a significant step to suggest that it can manage its own affairs (read: is ready for autonomy), St Xavier’s College has appointed 10 full-time teachers without government sanction. This is a first for the premier institution on Park Street, which depends on the government to foot the bill for its teaching and non-teaching staff.

“The new appointments have obviously put us under financial strain. But there was no option left for us if we had to ensure that students do not suffer,” said principal P.C. Mathew. The government had, apparently, turned down repeated requests from the Xaviers authorities to sanction additional teaching posts for various departments. With no financial support forthcoming, the college has decided to create these full-time, non-UGC posts.

“We already have over 4,000 students on our rolls. We have to safeguard their interests first, by maintaining our academic standards. The new teaching posts have been created to ensure that our institution does not lose its reputation of providing quality education. This will also enable us to expand some of the departments in the face of growing demand,” explained the principal.

The new full-time teachers are being paid the same salaries as those under the UGC scale. This, coupled with the amount being spent on salaries of a large number of part-time teachers, has, apparently, put the college under financial pressure. The expenses for the part-time teachers are not borne by the government.

According to college sources, beside teaching posts, the government has also refused to sanction posts like that of sports teacher. This, claimed the Xaviers authorities, had hit plans to boost extra-curricular activities on and off campus.

“Why did the college take in so many students if it did not have enough teachers?” demanded Piyush Kanti Ganguly, state director of public instruction. “Since it is a private institution, there is a limit on sanctioning of teaching posts by the government,” he added.

What has irked authorities on the Park Street campus is the “disrimination” between Xaviers and Presidency. “Presidency College has far fewer students than us, but it enjoys many more sanctioned teaching posts,” claimed a member of the Xaviers administration. “The government has been prompt about filling up all sanctioned posts at Presidency, and even other state-funded colleges which are already over-staffed,” he added.

Of the 150 sanctioned posts in Presidency, nearly 40 had recently fallen vacant. “Twenty out of these 40 vacancies have already been filled. The government has given us an assurance that the remaining 20 posts will be filled up very soon,” said Amitava Chatterjee, principal of Presidency College. Presidency teachers, however, dismissed talk of the college being over-staffed.


Calcutta, May 2: 
About a week after his abduction from Bally, in Howrah, Hemant Agarwal, 17, was found on Tuesday night, lying unconscious on the pavement near Shakespeare Sarani police station.

Station officer-in-charge S.K. Roy said on Wednesday that Agarwal’s mouth was gagged, his hands and feet were tied with a rope and eyes covered with a piece of black cloth. Two patrol officers spotted the boy and brought him to the police station.

Santosh Surekha, a Howrah businessman, who identified himself as Agarwal’s maternal uncle, said the teenager was kidnapped on April 26. Bally police initially refused to register the complaint. It was only after inspector-general of police, south Bengal, Ranjit Mohanty intervened, that they swung into action.

Hemant comes from a wealthy business family in Cooch Behar and both his parents passed away a few years ago. “Since the past two years, the boy has been staying with me,’’ said Surekha, 48, a resident of Girish Ghosh Road, in Bally.

“On May 1, I sent him to Belur railway station to inquire about reservations. When he didn’t return for more than three hours, I panicked and went looking for him,’’ Surekha said.

Later in the night, a worried Surekha went to Bally thana to lodge a complaint, but the officials were not ready at first to register the case. Mohanty later directed the police station to book the complaint and start looking for the missing boy.

“There was no trace of Hemant for the next few days. We contacted all our relatives and friends, but drew a blank everywhere. As far as I know, he didn’t have any enemies. Nor do I,’’ Surekha said.

Police said the family received a phone call from a man who claimed he had Hemant in his custody and demanded a ransom of Rs 1.5 lakh. But, he never called again and the family was in a dilemma about whether to pay the ransom. Surekha himself was not willing to comment on the ransom demand.

Even as desperate members of the Surekha family ran from pillar to post in search of Hemant, two policemen of Shakespeare Sarani thana on a routine patrol noticed a young boy lying on the footpath not far from the thana.

Police took Hemant to a local doctor. “We offered him food after he regained consciousness. Hemant gave us his residence phone number and address. We flashed a message to Bally police station and called his folks at home,’’ said officer-in-charge Roy.

Hemant said he had stepped out of the railway station and was standing near a car, sipping tea. “Suddenly, someone held a handkerchief on my face from behind and pushed me into a car. I didn’t recognise my captors,” he said.

The boy, a Class XI student of Akshay Sikshayatan in Howrah, has no recollection of the period he spent in captivity. “I was drugged and they covered my eyes with a piece of cloth. My hands and feet were tied and I could barely move,’’ Hemant told the police. The kidnappers almost made him starve, he complained.

Bally police still chose to distance themselves from the case and refused to acknowledge the message sent by Shakespeare Sarani thana. Senior officers intervened again before Bally police took charge of the case. Mohanty has promised to look into the matter


Calcutta, May 2: 
“In our Patha Bhavan, are we nobodys?” “Didi, we will have to sit for a test again.” Posters and placards outside Patha Bhavan. The protest by parents of Patha Bhavan primary school’s students took a decisive turn on Wednesday with disruption of the admission procedure to the secondary section.

The parents, opposed to the “sudden decision” of the secondary school management to introduce admission tests for students of the primary section seeking entry to Class V, went on a day-long dharna in front of the secondary school. They prevented teaching and non-teaching staff from entering the campus. None of the 140 students of the primary section, scheduled to appear for the examination of contention, turned up. And ‘outside’ students who did arrive for the tests were stopped at the gates by the protesters. “We informed them and their guardians about our struggle against the injustice and requested them not to enter the secondary school,” said Suparna Roy, one of the 300-odd guardians camping at the gate since 6 am.

“We approached Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Tuesday and the chief minister has promised to do what he can to resolve the impasse,” added Roy. The parents were joined by singer Indranil Sen, stage personality Sobha Sen, and other leading names from the world of arts and crafts, who voiced support for the cause. “We have been trying to reach a solution through dialogue, but it seems the senior school managing committee is not agreeable,” said Pradipta Kanungo, headmistress of the primary section.

Prof Santosh Bhattacharya, president of the managing committee of the secondary school, rubbished the charge. “I have informally spoken to the parents thrice... They say their wards will neither apply individually in the proper format, nor pay application fees, nor appear for any form of test. How can we accept their demand? Since the managements of the primary and secondary schools are separate, we cannot discriminate between applicants from Patha Bhavan primary and those from other schools.” Bhattacharya alleged that “in the course of their agitation, the parents have been heckling our teachers and non-teaching staff, even to the extent of physical assault”.

Biman Banerjee, a member of the parents’ core committee, said: “We will not allow the senior school to open till Saturday. We will not send our children to the primary school till then.” They have also decided to request the guardians of the secondary school’s students to join their agitation from Thursday


Calcutta, May 2: 
The Agarwals on Sarat Bose Road are planning a ‘yagna’ to rid themselves of the curse that has befallen the family. On April 26, Babita Agarwal, 33, consumed poison. The reason: The family’s hosiery factory had shut down, plunging them into a financial crisis. She died on Monday.

On April 29, her brother-in-law, Anup Agarwal, slashed his wrists at the nursing home where Babita was battling for life. Reason: The humiliation of Babita’s family members accusing the Agarwals of having tortured her. Anup was released from the nursing home on Tuesday night.

On May 1, Babita’s husband, Anil Agarwal, slashed the radial artery of his left hand and consumed about 100 unlit matchstick heads. Reason: Babita’s death and the finger of accusation pointing at him for having driven her to suicide. Anil is recuperating in the same nursing home.

A pall of gloom has descended on the Agarwal apartment after Babita’s cremation on Tuesday. Hymns were sung and passages from the Gita and Ramayana read out throughout Wednesday. Anup Agarwal, a textile merchant in Surat, was deep in prayer, left arm heavily bandaged following Sunday’s suicide attempt.

The double blow of their bahu’s tragic demise and the accusations levelled against the family by Babita’s kin has shattered the Agarwals. Anil and Babita’s children, Vishal, 13, and Baisakhi,7, are struggling to understand what’s going on. Vishal, a student of Class VII, said he was not aware of what his father had done till Wednesday morning. “I had gone to the cremation ground on Tuesday... This morning, I was told my father is not well...” whispered Vishal. His sister was asleep in another room. She has hardly spoken since her mother left home for the nursing home last week.

According to attending doctors, Anil’s physical condition is “stable”. But mentally, he is shattered. “As a surgeon, I can say that his wounds are healing,” said Dr Krishnendu Mukherjee, who is treating Anil at the nursing home. “I feel he needs psychological support to overcome the mental trauma he is suffering.”

The police, meanwhile, are waiting to pick up the threads of the extraordinary case. Apurba Som Choudhury, officer-in-charge of Bhowanipore thana, said Babita’s brother, Manoj Jain, would be summoned for interrogation. The Agarwals have alleged that Manoj and his sister had been “very vocal’’ in accusing Anil, Anup and their parents of having driven Babita to death.


Calcutta, May 2: 
A 25-year-old, physically-challenged youth was killed in a bomb blast at the crossing of B.K. Pal Avenue and Jagabandhu Modak Road, in the Shyampukur police station area of north Calcutta, on Wednesday evening.

Police said Rajkumar Singh, resident of Raja Debendra Narayan Deb Lane, was carrying the bomb in his pocket, which went off around 3 pm.

Singh was declared “dead on arrival” at R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital.

“We had arrested the man earlier for selling country liquor in the area. He had turned a new leaf over after he was injured in a blast that left him physically handicapped,” said a police official.


Calcutta, May 2: 
Awareness, advocacy, action: The ‘3 As’ that Soroptimist International of Calcutta is dedicated to. This association of professional women has been using this three-pronged strategy for the betterment of the city’s women and children for over two decades.

SI Calcutta has taken up a range of long-term projects for the purpose. The group of over 100 businesswomen, academicians, artistes, amongst others, meets once a month to plan out its projects, including training in jails and slums, integrated village improvement projects, shelter and education. The work divided, the ladies take time out from their already-hectic schedules for the scheme of their choice.

The first project taken up by the organisation was for the non-criminal lunatics in Presidency Jail. Embroidery, painting and handicraft classes are held within the jail by SI members. Usually, around 15 inmates attend the classes on health, hygiene and moral science every Saturday. During Durga Puja, clothes are distributed, along with rations, for children of prisoners.

Another successful project is the Seva Sahaika Project. Dr Tulsi Basu trains a dozen young women in medical home care, first aid, as well as home nursing, at Ripon Nursing Home. “They are not qualified nurses, but the women can easily find jobs as ayahs, or assistants in nursing homes,” says Ratna Dutt, president, SI Calcutta. Each one of the last batch of 13 has landed a job.

In collaboration with four other women’s groups, a project in 20 villages around Joka has taken education and health facilities to the rural deprived. Pre-nursery classes for 40 kids, using song, dance and games, as well as classes for 15 adults in Khalpara. Artist Santosh Rohatgi, a member for the past 10 years, conducts art classes.

“The point is service above the self... Since we have the ability, we try to reach out and help those in need,” she smiles. A doctor pays daily visits to Khalpara, to attend to the medical needs of the kids and mothers, beside a weekly stop at a central clinic.

In association with the Saroj Nalini Dutt Memorial, a two-year diploma course in handicraft is run for young women, many of whom are absorbed at the in-house production centre.

Under the Family and Child Welfare scheme, students at Bidhan Education Society are provided health check-ups and free medical treatment.

With IPER, under-privileged girls between 14 and 18 are imparted non-formal education and vocational training. Together with Cosmos, a shed has been constructed near Majherhat Bridge, for shelter and classes for the kids.

‘Soror’ in Latin, means sister, ‘optima’, the best. The concentrated efforts made by these sisters have gone a long way to build bridges. “We help women come together to make a change... It is our due... Society has given us so much, while it has, for other women, next to nothing,” concludes Dutt.


Calcutta, May 2: 
It was all about positioning, brand personality, USPs and clueing in on the consumer at the Advertising Creative and Strategy Workshop, which began on Wednesday.

Representatives of ad agencies, industry, media and students came together for the four-day interactive meet, organised by Advertising Agencies Association of India, co-sponsored by Anandabazar Patrika, Selvel Vantage Group and Stylo Maximage.

Ad firms such as HTA and O&M, corporates like Coke and Eveready, media houses such as Prabhat Khabar and finally, students of advertising and sales were all present. The only restriction on participation being that some connection with the ad world is required.

“What’s the big deal about creativity?” Bharat Dabholkar, the man behind the Amul campaign, will ask on Thursday. He will be preceded by Gopi Kukde, vice-president and chief of art HTA, on “The Art of Visual Communication”.

“Being an association which works for the growth of the ad industry, we want to help all young aspirants pick up the tools required to succeed,” explains Noorul Islam of the AAAI.

But the main thrust of the workshop is the group sessions. Teams comprising six delegates from varied fields will work together for four days. The main project is the development of a campaign for a men’s innerwear brand, but they will also take part in other brainstorming sessions. The best ‘agency’ will be named on Day IV.


Calcutta, May 2: 
The arrest of two youth at Ultadanga bus stop on Wednesday morning threatens to blow the lid off a racket in recycling empty cartridges, collected from police firing ranges.

Khokan Das and Anjan Guha were arrested around 10.30 am by the detective department with 85 rounds of live cartridges in their possession, while they were about to board a bus to Murshidabad. Sixty bullets (of .303 bore) were of the same make that the city police use in their service rifles. The back of all the bullets bear the batch number of the ordnance factory.

“It appears that most of the bullet shells are recycled,” said Banibrata Basu, deputy commissioner of police, detective department.

Basu said his department has launched a probe after the arms haul. Preliminary investigations indicate that the cartridges were supplied from Bihar and were meant for supply to Nadia and Murshidabad.

“The demand for cartridges has gone up before the Assembly elections. Our watch section is regularly receiving tip-offs,” added Basu.

Anjan and Khokan have confessed that they recently lost their jobs in a Howrah factory and were working as a “carrier and supplier” of arms and ammunition. “We would buy a rifle bullet for Rs 120 from Tiwari of Bihar and sell it for Rs 150 to our clients in Nadia and Murshidabad,” Anjan told the police.

The police are clueless about how the criminals are managing to collect the empty cartridges.

“It is highly probable that people in the armed forces are selling the bullet shells to these criminals. Most of these shells are from Bihar. The criminals stuff gunpowder in the shells and use them in their improvised weapons,” a senior police officer said.

Meanwhile, senior officers at Lalbazar police headquarters said 135 criminals have been arrested as a preventive measure to maintain law and order before the May 10 Assembly polls.

“The list of preventive arrests, drawn up last month, contains the names of at least 450 criminals. Only 30 per cent of them have been arrested to date,” an officer said. The police feel most of the enlisted criminals have left the city to evade arrest.

“Our men are visiting their houses daily, but most of them are absconding,” the officer added.


Calcutta, May 2: 
WBR-4636, a minibus on the Jadavpur-Purbachal route, may look like any another minibus plying on the city streets. But a closer look at the bus reveals a stainless steel box fitted next to the exhaust pipe, which makes this diesel bus different from all other public vehicles in Calcutta. For those interested in numbers: while the rest emit 90 to 96 Hartridge Smoke Units (HSU) of hazardous pollutants into the environment, it ranges between 25 to 28 for the Jadavpur-Purbachal minibus, much below the Central Pollution Control Board specified permissible standard of 65 HSU for vehicles on road.

Thanks to Airo-Puro. A device designed and developed with indigenous technology and which promises “to help improve the quality of air we breathe”, with a little bit of marketing and government support. Debasish Biswas, who has been working relentlessly on his “dream project” since 1992, says: “I quit my job with Bongaigaon Refineries and Petrochemicals, and Haldia Petrochemicals, to give more time to develop the product.” The 36-year-old diploma holder in mechanical engineering has spent his lifetime’s savings on Airo-Puro with the hope that “one day, it will be recognised”.

After obtaining the product patent in 1998, Debasish, alongwith friends S.K. Chatterjee and M.K. Chatterjee, knocked repeatedly on the doors of various government departments to make a formal presentation, but their plea fell on deaf ears. “Till now, the recognition of our product is limited to the small slips of paper we got from the police training school and the state pollution control board, confirming low emission from our bus,” says ‘SK’. “The PCB is assessing the product to quantify its effectiveness in reducing pollution,” adds the owner of the most eco-friendly minibus in town.

An expert in the auto emission field who, for technical reasons, spoke on condition of anonymity, told Metro: “I have studied Airo-Puro carefully. The technology used has proved effective, and can be further improved with some fine-tuning.”

Airo-Puro uses water and works as a wet scrubber and helps absorb suspended particulate matter (SPM) and respiratory suspended particulate matter (RSPM) from the diesel-burnt emission. Besides reducing SPM and RSPM, the stainless steel device also traps carbon black in a separate carbon chamber. It doesn’t require any external energy and works on kinetic energy generated out of high velocity viscous flow of expanding gas emitted from the exhaust pipe outlet.

“In view of what happened in Delhi after the Supreme Court judgment directing conversion of the entire commercial diesel transport fleet of Delhi to run on compressed natural gas (CNG), our affordable device assumes critical importance,” says Biswas. Airo-Puro will cost around Rs 25,000 for buses, and Rs 15,000 for light vehicles.


Calcutta, May 2: 
There are few masters in the domain of Indian classical music — vocal or instrumental — he has not accompanied on the tabla. Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Vilayat Khan, Pandit Nikhil Banerjee, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan — he has played with them all.

His ekak performances have drawn applause worldwide. He created, composed, authored a genre and pioneered fusion music, back in the Sixties.

He performed with rock greats like the Grateful Dead, before conducting the Calcutta Drum Orchestra.

Now, tabla maestro Pandit Shankar Ghosh is in town with his latest offering — the Kolkata Raga Rhythm Band. “In the orchestras of the east,” says Ghosh, “the musicians merely play together. Missing is counterpoint, melody, harmony.”

In orchestras worldwide, Ghosh felt the absence of percussive strength and cross rhythms — a lack of all complexities of rhythm. So, his latest musical mission is to orchestrate the rhythmic magic in sonorous lyricism.

Each of the compositions of the band are based on an Indian raga, intertwined with complex rhythmic beats.

“One composition, named the New Experience,” Ghosh explains, “is based on two ragas — Basant and Marwa. At the same time, it has a catchy rhythmic cycle of four and 14 beats.” Another composition, the Three Beat Pause, is a sarod concerto, structured in a 16-beat rhythm. While instruments like the sarod, keyboard, flute, guitar and the harmonium create the melody, percussions include the tabla, drumsets, thumba, dholak, ganjira, pandero and the dafli.

The total orchestral strength, however, is only six, with Ghosh performing on the tabla, harmonium and the pandero. Behind each composition there’s a thought, a storyline, but the stress is on the exploitation of rhythmic nuance. The Kolkata Raga Rhythm Band is set for its world premiere in Calcutta this month.

Besides the Rhythm Band, Ghosh is busy with ‘the tabla learning video’. “The indigenous Indian tabla,” says Ghosh, “has caught the fancy of people all over the globe.” And with it, there’s been a steady rise in the desire to learn.

To help satisfy this demand, a French company, Improduction, has decided to bring out a detailed tabla video, with Ghosh and son Bikram as the gurus. Released last year in Paris, the video has been a resounding success, and Improduction is planning part-II for ‘advanced’ learners. But for the moment, Ghosh is awaiting the popular verdict on Kolkata Raga Rhythm Band.


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