Test papers in bank lockers
Have a heart, check that implant
Dadu, didun and Rabindrasangeet
Kitchen clean-up hits CMC hurdle
Flop hitman arrested
The City Diary
Racket in assembled cars
Bakers signal strike over rising costs
Trinamul man in net for murder
CM sells reforms to sceptics

Calcutta, Sept. 9: 
Keep valuables under lock and key. Carrying this ‘safety first’ adage into the arena of academics, Indian Council for Secondary Education (ICSE) schools have decided to keep question papers in bank vaults.

Concerned over the growing incidence of “question paper leaks” and “other examination-related malpractices”, the Council has asked its schools to approach banks about using their vaults to prevent “tampering with” or “leaks of” question papers.

“The circular from the Council clearly directs us to make arrangements for hiring lockers. We have already started approaching our bankers for this. They have assured us that getting the lockers will not be a problem,” Gillian D’Costa Hart, principal, Welland Gouldsmith School and MLA representing theAnglo-Indian community, said on Sunday.

Welland Gouldsmith, St Xavier’s, Don Bosco, Loreto and St James are among schools that have initiated the process of hiring bank lockers for the safe-keep of question papers.

Till this year’s ICSE exams, question papers were being sent to zonal conveners. The respective schools then collected the questions from conveners on the day of the exams. With the introduction of the new system, schools will have to collect question papers from the conveners and deposit them in bank vaults nearby. The bank managers will then remain custodians of the papers.

Principals of various schools will then have these papers collected from the banks, an hour before the examination begins, Council sources said. The Council has directed schools to arrange for lockers “immediately”, as the system will have to be introduced before the Class X and Class XII examinations slated for March 2002. The question papers for both the examinations will have to be kept in bank vaults, the circular states.

L.W. Hartnett, principal of Assembly of God Church School, said some others like the Central Board of Secondary Education and National Open School, have already introduced the system of keeping question papers in vaults.

Dilip Bhattacharya, a senior teacher of La Martiniere for Boys and general secretary of the Association of Teachers in Anglo-Indian Schools, too, welcomed the move. “We are happy the Council has taken an appropriate measure to prevent malpractice. Till this year, the convener and school principals were the only two custodians of the question papers. Involving the bank manager in the new system introduces a third custodian to make the process more fool-proof,” said Bhattacharya.

Sources in the Council said the move had been prompted by reports of “some untoward incidents” — including looting of question papers in other states — over the past few years. While Council exams in Calcutta have remained comparatively incident-free, the leak that had rocked the city remains a case in point. In the mid-1990s, a ‘leak’ in maths paper had led to the cancellation of Madhyamik exams.

“All this is a pointer to the fact that new safety systems have to be introduced in tune with the changing times,” a Council official said. The system will apply to ICSE schools “across the country”. Bengal and Uttar Pradesh account for the largest number of schools, with Calcutta alone having more than 150 schools.


Calcutta, Sept. 9: 
Gopal Golui, a resident of Amta with an abnormal ECG reading, was advised by doctors at the cardiology department of the state-run SSKM Hospital to go in for an “immediate pacemaker implant” that would cost around Rs 60,000.

Strapped for cash, Golui was about to sell all his possessions when representatives of Goodwill Mission, an NGO helping people from the low-income group with heart ailments, suggested that he seek a second opinion. Today, with some medication, Golui continues to lead a “normal life”, without a pacemaker.

Beware of a grey area of medical treatment in town. Several senior doctors, including cardiologists, say pacemakers have been implanted in “some patients” — in both private and public sector hospitals — “when it wasn’t necessary”. It is estimated that, of all the countries in Asia, the largest number of pacemaker implants take place in India. And the eastern zone and Calcutta account for 45 per cent of these implants.

“The reason can be attributed to the greater consumption of mustard oil by the people of the region,” says Anjan Dutta, president of the Cardiological Society of India (CSI). “Mustard oil here has a high urisic acid content which can harm the natural electrical system of the heart.”

Another reason is, of course, the “hidden cost”, with each new pacemaker being sold by the various manufacturers. Says Ashis Dutta Chowdhury, founder-secretary of Goodwill Mission: “There are doctors who take advantage of the ignorance of patients and carry out the implants.” He says these doctors get “up to 25 per cent” of the cost of the pacemaker as “commission”.

According to senior consultant cardiologist K.K.H. Siddiqui, former president of CSI, pacemakers are needed in the treatment of blocks in the electrical circuit of the heart. “A break in this circuit can occur at any level, which can be detected on an ECG monitor. A complete heart block in the AV node is the only absolute indicator for pacemaker implantation. With blocks at other levels, a pacemaker is not necessary.”

But quite a few doctors recommend a pacemaker when they see an abnormality in the ECG reading. Senior consultant cardiologist Debal Sen is of the view that pacemaker implants should be advised only by cardiologists who are trained in electrophysiology. “In Calcutta, a number of cardiac surgeons not trained in this are recommending and implanting pacemakers.” Cardiologists, he feels, should follow guidelines set by the American Heart Association, which has outlined three main criteria for implants.

Class-I cases are those in which there is no doubt a pacemaker is needed. Class-II cases are those where the need for a pacemaker is supported by circumstantial evidence. In Class-III cases, pacemaker implants are not needed and could even harm the patient. Current CSI president Dutta says 70 per cent implant cases are in Class-I, while the remainder could fall in the grey zone.


Calcutta, Sept. 9: 
Kothao amaar hariye jawar nei mana ( I can lose myself anywhere),” she hums softly, sitting in her spacious room. Three-year-old Adriti, or Tikli, has reason to appear carefree. She has found a new home – the Moore Avenue residence of a former chief justice; and new grandparents -- Anandamoy and Aparna Bhattacharya.

The shadow of Adriti’s past still looms. The controversy over her parenthood continues to be under the CBI scanner. It was on May 27, 1998, that little Adriti hit the headlines with her ‘mother’ Keya Bhattacharya alleging that the authorities at the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital had “swapped her boy for this girl”.

Aparna appealed to the high court for custody of the child, “till her parents were traced by the police”. Adriti was handed over to the Bhattacharyas on June 13 this year. Now, their life revolves around the little one.

“She is unfortunate to have stepped into the world under such circumstances. We are trying out best to ensure that she does not miss out on a normal childhood,’’ Aparna said on Sunday.

Adriti, who loves “chocolates and dogs”, sleeps in a baby cot next to ‘didun’ (grandmother) Aparna. “She is so bright… She is picking up Rabindrasangeet really fast,” declares Aparna proudly. As if on cue, Adriti scampers over to ‘cousins’ Mukut and Tiara. The trio breaks into “Alo amaar alo”, with Adriti putting in a solo dance item in the middle of the room.

“She is such a sweet girl with so much energy. She leaves for school at 9 am and is back by noon. The rest of the day she is running from one room to another, jumping up and down, singing and dancing all the time,’’ says ‘dadu’ Anandamoy.

But amidst all the fun and laughter, there is a sense of apprehension. One day, Adriti will have to be told the story of the days following her birth. “I will tell her the truth,’’ Aparna says firmly.


Calcutta, Sept. 9: 
The crackdown on unclean kitchens has run into resistance, not from restaurateurs but from Trinamul Congress mayor-in-council members and councillors.

The clean-up of unhygienic city eateries has been led by member, mayor-in-council, health, Javed Khan. The pressure from members of the civic board to stop the drive has mounted over the past few days after prohibited food dyes were found in samples of Tandoori chicken and biryani collected from Gill Palace Bar and Restaurant and Bawarchi on Wednesday. The health department filed a suit against them in the senior municipal magistrate’s court.

Earlier, the civic health department had filed suits against several other restaurants. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee said: “Though the cleanliness drive is fine in principle, the CMC Act is very weak in this respect.”

Rajib Deb, member, mayor-in-council, drainage and sewerage, alleged that the “ civic health department has started harassment in the name of a cleanliness drive”. Deb also claimed the media attention on the had been “orchestrated by the health department”.

Several councillors claimed “restaurants-owners have filed complaints against the health department’s action”. Khan was, however, reluctant to admit there had been a clash within the council. ‘The allegations made by the hotels were motivated, and have been withdrawn,” he alleged.

According to Javed Khan, grocery shopowner Ratan Haldar of Biren Roy Road was found guilty of selling adulterated mustard oil by the court last week. A senior municipal magistrate ordered six months’ rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1,000 for the offender. The sample was collected four years ago and it was found adulterated with castor oil during laboratory tests.

Health officers fear the drive will face the same fate as the curb on ghee adulteration in Burrabazar. When food inspectors busted a spurious ghee wholesaler, the crackdown against adulterated foodstuff was stopped for good.


Calcutta, Sept. 9: 
Sheikh Ismail, a criminal who had unsuccessfully tried to gun down Dum Dum municipality chairman Sailen Das on July 25, was picked up from his hideout in the airport area on Sunday.

Deputy commissioner of police (North 24 Parganas) Hari Sena Verma said the police were trying to verify whether “Ismail was present when Das was gunned down.” Investigation revealed that Ismail, along with Biswajeet and Chotu, the two contract killers wanted in connection with Das’ murder, had carried out armed robberies in North 24-Parganas. “They are buddies and Ismail obviously knew about the conspiracy,” Verma said.

On July 25, Ismail rode a motorcycle to Das’ residence, but failed to carry out the orders to eliminate him. Ismail confessed during interrogation that he, along with Dilip Seal, Mrityunjoy Ghosh and Babulal Sharma, were present in Ibrahim’s house when the conspiracy was hatched.


Calcutta, Sept. 9: 

Thursday oil pump strike

Kalyan Bhadra, president of West Bengal Petroleum Dealers’ Association, said on Sunday that all petrol pumps in the city will remain closed on Thursday. The association will protest illegal activities, including supply of less fuel to consumers, by an oil company.

Rs 5 cr sought for Sarobar

West Bengal urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya on Sunday said the government has demanded Rs 5 crore from the Centre to renovate Rabindra Sarobar. He said the Union environment ministry has agreed to declare the Sarobar a national lake.

Power theft

Eight persons were arrested from various places in connection with power theft. CESC officials said on Sunday that 900 illegal lines were snapped on Saturday. Three persons were picked up from the Goragachha Road area. At Muraripukur, in Ultadanga, 250 illegal lines were severed and four persons arrested. In another raid, power connections at several shops in a multi-storeyed building in the Khardah area were snapped.

Cemetery gate

Subrata Mukherjee, mayor, inaugurated the main gate to the Bagmari burial ground on Saturday. Member, mayor-in-council, health, Javed Khan, was present.

New schedule

Indian Airlines has made some changes in its flight schedule from September 10.

Flight IC 771 between Calcutta and Bangalore will leave Calcutta at 8.05 pm and reach Bangalore at 10.30 pm.

Flight IC 274 between Mumbai and Calcutta will leave Mumbai at 4.45 pm and arrive in Calcutta at 7.20 pm.

Flight IC 766 between Chennai and Calcutta will leave Chennai at 7 pm and arrive in Calcutta 9.05 pm.


Calcutta, Sept. 9: 
The detective department has unearthed an inter-state racket engaged in registering “assembled” Ambassadors under the Hindustan Motors brand name.

Sleuths initiated a probe into the fraud following a report by the state transport department to the detective department last month about vehicles being “clandestinely registered” at various centres.

The first clue to the racket surfaced when a motor vehicle inspector at Beltala detected that the engine, chassis and tyres of a “new taxi” had been assembled. “The owners tried to pass off the taxi as a product of Hindustan Motors. But they were soon caught out,” a police officer said.

In the course of investigation, police found that the “no-objection” letters issued in the run-up to the car’s registration had supposedly been issued by Bharat Motors of Bhubaneswar — a distributor for Hindustan Motors.

A police team visited the outlet in Bhubaneswar and discovered that all the documents were fakes. “The car dealer named in the case used to be a distributor of Hindustan Motors two years ago. He now deals in vehicles manufactured by other companies,” an official said.

The police then arrested Manjit Singh, a car finance broker, for his role in the racket and picked up two others soon after.

Based on the interrogation and parallel probe by the vigilance wing of the public vehicles department, the police learnt about three more “assembled” vehicles which had been “successfully registered” at Beltala.

After several people were picked up for questioning from Siliguri, Asansol, Midnapore and Hooghly, the needle of suspicion pointed to an ex-employee of Hindustan Motors and a south Calcutta-based car dealer.

Acting on a tip-off from the transport department, the cops then conducted raids in Barasat, North 24-Parganas and stopped the registration of three such cars. “All these had been assembled, but were being passed off as Hindustan Motors products. All three applicants were found to lead to the same person, using different names” said a sleuth.

The probe team further found out that the “sale letters” of these cars, issued by a registered car distributor of Hindustan Motors, were all forged.

“Even the temporary permit to ply the vehicles from the godown to Barasat for registration were fakes,” an officer said.

Having studied their modus operandi, the police are now on the trail of the assembled-Ambassador racket.

“According to our information, a godown has been set up somewhere near the Hindustan Motors factory in Hooghly. Raids are under way to net other members of the gang – some based in Siliguri and Asansol — to put an end to this menace,” an officer said.


Calcutta, Sept. 9: 
Around 150 bakers and confectioners in the city have threatened to go on strike if the prices of their products are not increased before the Pujas.

The joint action committee of the West Bengal Bakers’ Association, Indian Biscuit Manufacturers’ Association, All Bengal Bakers’ and Biscuit Manufacturers’ Association and the West Bengal Bakers’ and Biscuit Manufacturers’ Association, which have called the strike, say it is not possible for them to carry on business due to the spiralling cost of raw materials.

Most leading bakeries, like Kookie Jar, Hot Breads, Bakers Square and The Sugar & Spice, have expressed solidarity with the joint action committee.

The joint action committee has written to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, requesting him to reopen the closed flour mills in the state. “Now, flour is bought from other states at higher rates, as 90 per cent of the mills are closed,” said Idris Ali, committee secretary.

Apart from the city, there are about 3,000 bakeries in the state, involving more than a lakh workers. The city-based bakeries run a Rs 1-crore business daily, said Md. Zakaria, deputy secretary of the committee. “We had called a strike in January last year on the same issue. The government had then assured us that it would look into the matter. But no steps were taken.”

Aniruddha Maity, director of Creative Bakers & Confectioners, which runs The Sugar & Spice, said: “Steps should immediately be taken to run the bakery business smoothly”.

Joydeb Dutta, manager of Hot Breads, too, echoed the concern. “Though we cater to a different clientele, we can still feel the problems caused by a sharp rise in prices of raw materials,” he said.


Calcutta, Sept. 9: 
Trinamul Congress activist Joy Bose was arrested early on Sunday for masterminding the murder of Golok Sen, CPI leader from Behala. Sen was murdered in the Barisha High School compound on February 23 by hired killers.

The murder sparked public outrage and Left Front constituents, including the CPM, demanded the culprits be arrested without delay. Joy’s arrest follows the detention of seven local goons, including Tathagatha Sarkar, alias Boombi, and Ashok Roy, alias Chingri, on Friday night.

Deputy superintendent of police, town, Subhankar Chatterjee, said on Sundaythat “Joy, in course of investigation, revealed that he had masterminded the murder along with Boombi at the instance of Jishu, lodged in Alipore Central Jail.” Officials said Joy is a member of the Sarsuna local committee, but local Trinamul leaders were quick to counter the charge.


Calcutta, Sept. 9: 
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today chose a CPM front’s platform within his Assembly segment to defend selective privatisation and West Bengal’s red-carpet welcome to American companies like Microsoft.

A few minutes after Jadavpur CPM leader Shyamal Kanungo spoke against the supposed ills of privatisation, Bhattacharjee welcomed private capital, especially in areas like urban development, health and education.

The housing sector was one field in which infusion of private capital was essential, the chief minister told the audience at the convention organised by the Ganatantrik Nagarik Samiti’s south Jadavpur unit.

“We have already had private participation in the housing sector,” he added, reminding the audience that the experiment had not been a failure. Private-sector help was also being accepted in the education sector, he said, but did not mention the government decision to involve private participation in state-run hospitals.

Bhattacharjee was at pains to explain the Left Front government’s move to involve American companies like Microsoft in its efforts to improve infrastructure. “Yes, I know Microsoft is an American company,” Bhattacharjee admitted in front of the audience made up mostly of CPM cadre culled from the colony areas of Jadavpur and Tollygunge who have been fed on years of anti-American diatribe by generations of CPM leaders.

“But we are being forced to accept their help,” he said. “We need that help in areas in which we don’t have expertise,” Bhattacharjee explained.

But there were areas where the Left would not follow the Centre, he said. “We will try to find ways of keeping the public distribution system afloat even if the Centre chooses to discontinue it.”

The chief minister tore into the BJP-led Centre’s alleged attempts to “saffronise” education. His speech laced with digs at the Prime Minister and the Union human resources development minister — Atal Behari Vajpayee with his “shut eyes” was “inscrutable” and Murli Manohar Joshi was the first physics teacher he had seen with such a “long tilak”, Bhattacharjee said — the chief minister said there would not be any compromise by the Left on that front.

Recalling his recent showdown with the Prime Minister at a meeting of chief ministers in New Delhi on September 1, Bhattacharjee said Vajpayee was reluctant to talk on uncomfortable issues. “I asked the Prime Minister why there was no mention of the debt burden the states are reeling under in the draft for the 10th five-year plan,” he recounted. “But he (Vajpayee) just walked away without bothering to reply,” he added, admitting: “I don’t know what to make of him when he sits with his eyes shut tight.”

Joshi, too, came in for some tongue-lashing. Why a physics teacher should sport such a long tilak or want to introduce astrology in the curriculum was beyond his comprehension, Bhattacharjee said. But he was confident that the CPM — with the help of non-BJP parties — would be able to defeat the BJP’s gameplan.


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