Rabindranath role for Ray hero
Kidnap duo was trained in Pakistan
Hospital unions turn deaf ear to vacate order
Up the garden path with the Governor
Dozens detained in decibel drive
The City Diary
Calphones cell service takes Wing
Funds scheme for urban poor

Calcutta, Nov. 14: 
If Ben Kingsley can play Mahatma Gandhi, Soumitra Chatterjee can surely play Rabindranath Tagore.. And for Satyajit Ray�s favourite actor, the call to prove Ismail Merchant right has come.

According to the Oscar-winning producer-director, now in town for the 7th Kolkata Film Festival, .good friend. Soumitra is the right man to play the part of Bengal�s Bard in a forthcoming project revolving around French legend Romain Rolland�s historic interaction with Tagore, set against the Europe of the 1920s and 30s.

Catherine Berge, who directed Soumitra in Gaach three years ago, and Caryl Philips, who wrote the screenplay of The Mystic Masseur, have begun researching the project. .I will definitely be involved with the production,. said Merchant on Wednesday.

Soumitra has already been sounded out. .I met Ismail on Tuesday, and he told me that he is planning something like this. I am extremely excited about playing Rabindranath,. smiled the man, who has portrayed many a Tagore character. .It will also be the first time that I will be depicting a reallife persona,. added the chairman of this year�s film fest. .

When Romain Rolland invited Tagore to visit Switzerland, it became such a symbolic meet,. observed Mumbai-born Merchant. And so, it provides a perfect backdrop for a historical drama centred around two great intellectuals.

Merchant is .looking forward. to the screening of his latest directorial venture, The Mystic Masseur, on Thursday, for which actor Om Puri will also be flying in. The Golden Bowl, a Merchant Ivory Production, was .well received. at Lighthouse on Tuesday. .

If you have a film which is out of the ordinary, then you should bring it to Calcutta, a city that understands good cinema,. reiterated Merchant, making his fourth appearance at the festival.

The New York-based filmmaker, with the likes of A Room With a View and Howards End to his name, is just waiting for the .right subject. before making another film in Calcutta. He remembers fondly shooting at Tolly Club during the making of Gaach, .Robi Ghosh�s last film..

Having started his career with Subrata Mitra behind the camera (cinematographer, Shakespeare Wallah and The Householder), Merchant always visits his old friend when he is back in town. .

Mrs Ray, Aparna and Soumitra. are also on the must-see list. Bengal�s stalwarts have had a definite influence on Merchant. .In Mumbai, Bengali films would be screened in the morning. They always had such a glow . good films, with strong storylines shot in black and white. Uttam Kumar, Suchitra Sen, Chabbi Biswas and Pahari Sanyal kept the industry thriving..

From here, Merchant,who has just completed shooting Merci Dr Ray in Paris, will touch base in Mumbai, before heading for New York.


Calcutta, Nov. 14: 
Arshad Khan and Arshi Rezak Khan, alias Rajan, arrested by Delhi police on charges of being involved in the abduction of Khadim�s vice-chairman Parthapratim Roy Burman, had been trained in subversive activities in Pakistan, said CID officials on Wednesday.

Officials of the Subsidiary Intelligence Branch (SIB) and CID said Rajan, 30, and Arshad, 26, had crossed over to Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK) last year and were trained there for three months.

CID officials said Rajan was the Calcutta contact of the Dubaibased gang which kidnapped Roy Burman. .The gang had recruited around two dozen boys from Tiljala and Topsia. These boys, all in their 20s, had been selected by Rajan and sent to Mumbai, where they were given assignments after training,.. CID officials said.

According to investigators, both Rajan and Arshad confessed to being part of an international group of criminals. Rajan told CID officials that he had studied in a reputed English-medium school in central Calcutta and had been to college, too.

The duo, along with Arshad�s girlfriend, Anita Das, was brought to the city for interrogation by the morning flight on November 14. The two were initially taken to the CID headquarters at Bhabani Bhavan.

Sources said Das had broken down during interrogation. .Anita admitted to having an affair with Arshad, but claimed she knew nothing about the conspiracy,.. sources added.

Das,who was interrogated separately, told the sleuths that she worked as a part-time waitress in restaurants in Delhi and occasionally took part in stage shows.

Arshad and Rajan, however, stonewalled all queries.


Calcutta, Nov. 14: 
The road to hospital reform is a rocky one. Case in point: The roadblock at Lady Dufferin Hospital, on Amherst Street,put up by both CPM and Congress-controlled unions.

A significant portion of the largest government-run maternity centre in the state has, for some time, been under siege from the unions. And the seven-day ultimatum to vacate the rooms and beds has fallen on deaf ears.

State health secretary Asim Barman said the government was ready to launch a crackdown on unauthorised occupants if they did not budge by Thursday midnight. .If they don.t have the decency to move out,we will drive them out,. warned Barman on Wednesday.

The CPM�s labour arm for state government employees, the State Coordination Committee, the Congress. corresponding arm, the State Government Employees. Federation, and the Congress. trade union wing, Intuc, control around 35 beds and wield considerable clout in the hospital, with 274 beds and 306 staff members.

With 36 hours to go, the unions at the hospital showed no signs of backing out. Ramdhani, unit leader of the State Government Employees. Federation, said there was .no question. of moving out. .After all, we have been staying here since the 1980s,. he stressed. Intuc and the State Coordination Committee have, between them, overrun the entire .nursing home. block and cabins on the ground floor.

The State Government Employees. Federation occupies the entire kitchen on the ground floor. The two garages of the hospital now house outsiders, with the records room being occupied by an .active member of the CPMbacked union with his pets..

Superintendent Shikha Adhikari confirmed that the hospital was losing around 2.5 lakh, in terms of rental charges on beds alone, every year because of the unauthorised occupants. The beds inside the .union offices.which, according to hospital staff, are often used by .leaders for their siesta., have, therefore, accounted for losses to the tune of around Rs 50 lakh since the early 1980s. .Besides, this hospital is meant for women,. said Adhikari. .The presence of the unions has resulted in a breach of security and privacy..


Calcutta, Nov. 14: 
After showing two key government departments . rural development and part of the panchayat directorate . the Raj Bhavan gates,Governor Viren J. Shah is putting final touches to plans aimed at converting the lawns of his sprawling official residence into .one of the best-laid gardens in the country..

The two departments, housed on the ground floor of Raj Bhavan since the early 50s, are in the process of shifting out under instruction from Shah,who wants the space to develop an art gallery-cum-auditorium. .His Excellency is on a clean-up drive in Raj Bhavan, so that it can be converted into one of the finest gardens in India,. the Governor�s secretary Dilip Rath said on Wednesday..We plan to present an altogether new-look Raj Bhavan to Calcuttans in the new year..

Shah, on vacation abroad,was not available for comment. But officials confirmed that this is .the first move to convert the Raj Bhavan lawns into a perfect garden.. Garden superintendent Aurobindo Ghosh said: .All the irregular bushes and trees in and around Raj Bhavan are being cut, trimmed and arranged. But we are not uprooting old trees..The gardening staff have been working round-the-clock to plant nearly 2,000 varieties of rare flowers and plants. Seeds of bougainvillea plants have been sown on a 1.5-km stretch along the boundary wall.

According to officials, the .dream garden. will be spread over 20 acres, comprising two sideroads, lawns, flower beds, shrubberies and trees and both sides of two jheels.A Japanese garden is being laid. .A wooden bridge connecting two jheels, a meditation centre and a hanging lantern will be some of the highlights,. officials said.A herbaceous border, comprising small flowering shrubs below three inches,will line the south driveway of Raj Bhavan. .This will greet the visitors along the main entry point,. they added.


Calcutta, Nov. 14: 
In a bid to implement the Pollution Control Board ban, the city police on Wednesday rounded up revellers bursting noisy crackers. Twenty-nine persons were arrested from different areas of the city till evening.

Police said a special squad caught the youth bursting crackers. They were taken to the police station and later released. Officials said 100 kg of banned crackers were seized.

Later in the evening, Lalbazar control room sources said the city was quieter on Wednesday than on Tuesday night. .

Police have been able to cut off the supply line of the banned crackers and hence, there are less crackers available in the city and the suburbs,. a police officer said.

The city police swung into action after receiving reports from different localities on Tuesday night that people were bursting loud crackers. A large number of people lodged complaints with the police control room.

Sources at the Lalbazar police control room said bursting of banned crackers was reported from Rashbehari Avenue, Deodhar Street, Hatibagan, Harish Mukherjee Road, Kalighat, Maniktala, Tangra, Beniapukur, Entally and central Calcutta. .

Whatever information we got, we immediately passed on to the concerned police station officer-in-charge over the wireless,. a police official at the control room said.

With the situation threatening to spin out of control, the superintendents of police of South and North 24-Parganas and divisional deputy commissioners of police were directed to patrol the streets and monitor the bursting of crackers and loudspeakers.

According to superintendent of police, South 24-Parganas, D.K. Ganguly, people were picked up from the Kasba and Jadavpur areas for violating the ban. .

I am doing the rounds of these places myself,. Ganguly said. He admitted that complaints were pouring in at the control but added that officials were looking into every case.

Deputy commissioner of police, north, K.L. Tamta said his officers have already warned people against bursting of banned crackers and campaigned for adherance to the timings imposed by the Supreme Court for lighting fireworks. .We have detained a dozen people so far, but they will be released later,. he said.

Joint commissioner of police Raj Kanojia, who was directed to patrol the sensitive Hazra and Ballygunge areas, said the area was quiet till late evening. .

It is not possible for the police to track down one or two mischief-makers, who lob a chocolate bomb from the roof-top, but by and large it was peaceful,. he said.

Gitanath Ganguly, special officer of the high court, said not too many complaints had come in.

Power theft

In a joint raid to check illegal tapping of power at Kali Puja pandals in the city over the past three days, officials of the CESC, the Corporation and the police detected and lodged FIRs against 394 organisers. Illegal connections were removed from 616 points, CESC sources said on Wednesday.



Two killed, two hurt in road mishaps

Two persons were killed and two others injured in a string of mishaps on Wednesday. In all the cases, the police failed to trace the vehicles. The first incident took place on Canal East Road, in Maniktala.A 35-year-old man, Shyamal Pal, an idolmaker from Kumartuli,was knocked down by a Matador van while he was returning home. Local residents rushed Pal to RG Kar Medical College and Hospital,where the doctors declared him dead.Two persons riding a scooter were injured when a vehicle hit them in front of Science City.Mohammad Nayim, 45, a resident of Alimuddin Street,who was in the driver�s seat, and the unidentified pillion-rider were taken to National Medical College and Hospital,where their condition was critical. In another accident on Jawaharlal Nehru Road, a 50-year-old unidentified man was hit by a vehicle while he was crossing the road. The man succumbed to his injuries at SSKM Hospital.

Thalassaemia hospital

The first thalassaemia hospital in the city will open its doors to the public on Monday. It is a joint venture of the Corporation and actor Mithun Chakraborty�s Thalassaemia Foundation. Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty will be chief guest. The CMC has offered a property on 19B, Chetla Road for the hospital. The minister handed over Rs 5 lakh to the actor on behalf of Friends of the Stadium on Wednesday. The money will be used to procure equipment for blood transfusion, the transport minister said..We are also helping Mithun raise funds for a state-of-the-art laboratory at the hospital,. he added. The CPM was vocal against handing over the CMC property to an NGO. However, the mayor�s decision was ratified at a mayor-incouncil meeting and in the civic house.

Culture meet

. About 500 authors, poets, sportsmen and artistes will come to Calcutta from Bangladesh to participate in the 16-day Banga Sanskriti Sammelan,beginning December 16 on the Maidan.Poets from Bangladesh expected to attend include Samsur Rahman,Nirmalendu Gun,Asad Chowdhury and Belal Chowdhury.Among the 11 singers who will participate are Rezwana Chowdhury Banya, Firdausi Rahman and Shefali Ghosh.A procession will be taken out on the inaugural day.

10 injured

Ten persons were injured when a minibus overturned on GT Road near Howrah station on Wednesday morning. Police said all the injured were admitted to Howrah State General Hospital,where the condition of two persons was stated to be critical. The officials of Golabari police station impounded the vehicle and arrested the driver.


. Eminent citizens were felicitated by the West Bengal Sports Council and Friends of the Stadium at Salt Lake Stadium on Wednesday. The list included film stars Mithun Chakraborty and Biswajeet, sportspersons Masudur Rehman, Bula Chowdhury and Monotosh Roy.

Teacher dies

Professor of geography and former head of the department at Calcutta University Kanai Gopal Bagchi died of cardio-pulmonary failure on Tuesday. He was 83.He took part in the freedom struggle. Bagchi was an authority of delta formations in rivers and authored a book entitled Ganges Delta.    

Calcutta, Nov. 14: 
Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited is set to spread its wings this month. But whether it will soar is a point in question. Calcutta Telephones top bosses have whittled down the choice . about the brand name for its cellular service, scheduled to go on air this month . to one name. It is going to be, save a lastminute change in plans,Wing.

The name, say officials, is a .natural. choice, given Calcutta Telephones. desire to soar above private competition from Command and Spice. But if only burning desire was enough to out-soar competition, then the cellular services provided by Mahanagar Telecom Nigam Limited (the brand name there is Dolphin) would have done much better, they admit.

The MTNL experiment which, according to senior BSNL officials, does not look very successful, is at the back of the mind of the Calcutta Telephones top brass. It was one of the several factors that influenced the decision to reach the skies while giving the cellular service its brand name, they explained.

Calcutta Telephones still has some catching-up to do with the private operators, officials admit. For one, the number of base towers it has planned . around 65 . is much less than the 100 base towers each that Spice and Command have in and around the city now.

Besides, the number of deferments the launch has seen . at least five . may have unnerved prospective clients, say officials.A section blamed Union minister of state for communication and local MP Tapan Sikdar for goading Calcutta Telephones into a series of abortive launches that may have dented customer confidence.

Officials using Calphones mobiles for the past few weeks have complained of .echo-cancellation. during calls (hearing unwanted echoes that hamper quality of reception), but officials are sure there will no further glitch.

The indecision over the launch was one of the factors that kept the number of first-phase mobile lines to only 15,000. Calcutta Telephones has around 1.2 million land-line subscribers.

There is another problem: The secrecy over the product�s brand name and tariff structure has put Wing�s marketing agencies in a spot.Without knowing the details of the product, they are .confused. about the marketing pitch.


Calcutta, Nov. 14: 
With the imposition of water tax imminent on the city�s slums, the state government has decided to pursue income-generation programmes for the urban poor.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has spelt out his strategy to state municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya and senior officials of his department. .He said the municipal corporations must take up schemes other than providing water, roads and sanitation and also look at means to help the poor,.

Bhattacharya said. Bhattacharjee has also decided to lay down his plans before the mayors of Calcutta and Howrah and other urban centres. This is necessary so that the urban poor do not feel the pinch of paying for civic amenities like water. .

Buddhadebbabu wants the mayors to be the motivators for securing income schemes from Central agencies, as well as banks,. the municipal affairs minister said. Under the chief minister�s prescription, the civic bodies will have to lay particular emphasis on self-help groups in slums, women and child health and literacy.

Bhattacharjee also reviewed the status of loans sanctioned by nationalised banks. .The banks have sanctioned only 4,000 applications,when the number submitted is over 29,000,. Bhattacharya pointed out.


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