Stop this monstrosity
Mayhem over malaria death
Tiljala killing a damper on crime drive
Click tricks in big-byte debut
The City Diary
�Prize catch� in kidnap case gets bail
Mayor deflects Beniapukur barb
City hub for racket in girls
Tax-waiver plea on AIDS drugs
Greeting cards spotlight on eight heritage houses

Calcutta, Dec. 2: 
Chaos to replace confusion. That is what the mayor and his men have in store for shoppers and cinegoers as they go about changing the ground rules for traffic in the New Market area.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee is hell-bent on Parkomat-II, between New Market and Globe cinema, plus an apology of a �Lindsay Street pedestrian plaza� between the market fa�ade and the mega structure.

�The second Parkomat, after the Rawdon Street one, will be a boon to the people who frequent this part of the city,� assures Mukherjee. �It will be 25 ft wide, 600 ft long and 50 ft high. It will accommodate 212 vehicles, as opposed to the 97-odd cars that can find a place in the current parking lot. We will ensure that it is operational by early next year.�

According to the mayor�s grand parking project, cars turning into Lindsay Street from Chowringhee Road or coming down Bertram Street will be directed to the two-tiered Parkomat. While the narrow stretch between the entrance to New Market and the parking plaza will be off-limits for cars (the civic body�s idea of a �pedestrian plaza�), they will even be allowed to pass between Globe and the Parkomat.

A group of citizens, laying legitimate claim to knowing the area and its needs, has termed this a recipe for disaster � for pedestrians and vehicles alike. Comprising town and traffic planners, besides social activists, the group has decided to do what it can to �stop this monstrosity from destroying the look and feel of the area�.

Concern For Calcutta president A.V. Iyengar says: �New Market is not like Lake Market or Gariahat. It has a character of its own� Parking is absolutely vital, but nobody wants a solution which is worse than the problem.� According to Iyengar, the �like-minded people who have come together to oppose the Parkomat� are not against �the technology� of automated parking lots, but united in the belief that �any solution, which destroys the character of the place, is not a happy solution�. The answer, he feels, is in arriving at a solution �to give the people of Calcutta something like Times Square in New York�.

Architect Dulal Mukherjee, another key member of the group, is convinced that a Parkomat in the middle of the market courtyard will �kill� the area. �Not only will New Market be obscured, so many wonderful old buildings in the vicinity will be dwarfed by this ugly, intimidating structure. The mayor�s enthusiasm is commendable, but this is definitely not the right location for a Parkomat.�

Mukherjee, who has spent �quite some time studying the area�, is convinced that �mixing of vehicular and pedestrian traffic� on Lindsay Street has to be stopped. �Parking has to be provided elsewhere and the New Market courtyard must be utilised imaginatively to enhance the charm of the place,� says the architect who feels �design solutions for the right parking-pedestrian model can be sought in the form of a competition�.

But there is no stopping the mayor, yet. �Where else is the space for such a huge structure? When Mamata Banerjee was railway minister, she had discussed the use of the Maidan � which is army land � as a parking space with defence minister George Fernandes. But despite our best efforts, the army did not give us permission. So, we have to make the best use of whatever little space we have in our jurisdiction.�

The mayor is already chalking out traffic plans to support the Parkomat � turning Corporation Place into a �pedestrian zone with a parking lot for CMC vehicles�; carving out a road between New New Market and Chaplin Park to divert traffic towards Nizam�s...

B.N. Sadhu, chief traffic planner, state transport department, dismisses the mayor�s road route: �Such diversions, along with a Parkomat taking up half of Lindsay Street, will result in complete chaos in the entire area.�


Calcutta, Dec. 2: 
The death of a boy suffering from malignant malaria sparked mayhem at R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital on Sunday.

Family members and residents of Circular Canal Road, in Ultadanga, went on the rampage, alleging that three-year-old Sunil Mondol had died �due to the negligence of hospital staff�.

Sunil was admitted to hospital on November 28 with �high and persistent fever�. According to father Gopal Mondol, the boy �seemed all right� when he last met him on Saturday afternoon.

Sunil�s condition, however, deteriorated late on Saturday. He was running a temperature and suffering convulsions. �I spoke to a few doctors around midnight, but they assured me that things were under control,� recounted mother, Phulu, who was staying with the child.

From around 4 am, the convulsions became more frequent. Around 5.30, Phulu rushed out of the ward and asked the doctor on duty to check the child. �The doctor refused to examine my boy� He said he was busy and would take a look a little later,� she alleged.

Fifteen minutes later, the convulsions stopped. And five minutes after that, a doctor confirmed that Sunil had died.

As news of the boy�s death reached Circular Canal Road, hundreds of residents of the Ultadanga area stormed RG Kar Hospital. Some, apparently, were armed with rods and bricks. �Where is the doctor who murdered our Sunil?� was the cry rising from the mob. With the handful of doctors and nurses on duty scurrying for cover, the mob went about smashing glass windows and furniture.

The protest march spilled on to the streets, with a roadblock being put up near the R.G. Kar Road-Shyambazar crossing.

On the hospital premises, protesters clashed with the staff. Some doctors finally managed to call up Chitpur police station. Order was restored and the roadblock lifted after a large police contingent, led by senior officers, arrived on the troublespot.

Wardmaster Ashok Kumar Bhattacharya later alleged that �relatives of Sunil Mondol� had tried to assault some doctors. �The timely intervention of the police saved the day,� said Bhattacharya. �It was a serious case of malaria. We tried our best to save the boy,� he added.


Calcutta, Dec. 2: 
The death of Jahangir Khan, Ekbalpore-based promoter whose area of operation extended to Topsia and Tiljala, has sent shivers down the spine of the area�s residents. Ten days ago, Khan had participated in a police-sponsored rally against Tiljala�s criminals. He died on Sunday.

Khan had been attacked on Thursday in front of some local youth, who had gathered at a cigarette shop in Tiljala. Three criminals, high on the police�s wanted list, fired on Khan from point-blank range, sending him to hospital with injuries in the chest and shoulder.

The youth chased the trio and managed to catch one of them, named Asghar. He was thrashed by the crowd before being handed over to the police. Asghar, too, is in hospital, recuperating from his injuries. Residents claim to have seen his accomplices roaming around the area, but the police say they are absconding.

Thursday�s shootout, say the residents, may slow down the anti-crime drive in an area which often echoes with the sound of bombs and gunshots. At a series of meetings in the Beniapukur and Topsia areas, organised under an apolitical banner on Sunday, speaker after speaker came down on the police for giving free rein to the criminals.

But the police, unwilling to admit that the �situation is out of hand��, passed off the Jahangir incident as a �one-off case��. They pointed to the five arrests in connection with the incident.

�Investigations have revealed that there was some dispute over money,�� said joint commissioner Raj Kanojia. �Police are on the job to flush out criminals,� he added.


Calcutta, Dec. 2: 
Venue: Vidhan Sabha. Time: 11.40 am. Kanika Ganguly, MLA from Bally in Howrah, strolls in to find computers on every table. �Emon jaygay boshi jekhane computer nei ar ektu ghumono jabe (Let me get a place where there is no computer and where I will be able to catch a wink).�

An hour later, Ganguly is desperately trying to make the mouse obey her fingers. She even raises a hand to question a command flashing on the screen�

Venue: Technicians� Studio. Time: 10.30 am. Yesteryear�s Tenida (Chinmoy Roy) walks in. �No, I don�t know much about computers though I have a son who owns one,� he says.

Half an hour later, the veteran comedian at the computer crash course is a picture of concentration, trying to pick up whatever he can to prove a cyberpoint or two to his son at home�

Netas and abhinetas (read: legislators and Tollywood stars) were bitten by the byte bug on Sunday. For most of the 100-odd amongst Ganguly�s 293 colleagues who turned up for the World Computer Literacy Day programme by NIIT, it was their first close brush with the binary world. Among the 35-odd film stars, some admitted entering a never-before-visited domain.

The response from the students in the Assembly classroom united both ruling-party and Opposition MLAs � beginning the session with trepidation, most had graduated to a �working relationship� with the modern medium. Jaan-e-Alam, RSP MLA from Suti, in Murshidabad, was among of the nervous beginners. �I have never touched one before,� he admitted, as he furiously clicked the mouse, left and right, probably trying to make up for the lost, �untouched� years. A row in front, but on the other end of the political spectrum, was Trinamul legislator from Panskura (east) Biplab Raychaudhuri. He was slightly more �advanced� than Alam. �I have seen computers twice or thrice and can distinguish the mouse from the monitor,� he claimed.

Trinamul legislators from Calcutta and its fringes � Saugata Roy, Tapas Pal, Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay and Ashok Deb � stuck together. Other old habits, like nettling the Speaker, died hard, too. As Hashim Abdul Halim received a memento from the organisers, there were barbs from Trinamul legislators about the �gifts� he was getting: �What did they give you? A prize for the speech?�

An hour earlier at Technicians� Studio, a fair sprinkling of Tollywood stars wrestled with the tech tool of the day. But they were a far more disciplined lot than their lawmakers. Despite the odd drop-out � Rupa Ganguly left 10 minutes into the session and Tapas Pal headed off for the Assembly (he was the only student who had to attend both classes) � the others, including Rituparna Sengupta, Satabdi Roy, Indrani Haldar and Biplab Chatterjee, stuck diligently to the monitor and the mouse.

With support from the Centre and state governments like West Bengal, Karnataka, Kerala and Gujarat, the NIIT crash-course for first-timers was conducted at 3,000 centres throughout the country.



Test telecast under rate-hike cloud

With the India-England Test series set to start in Mohali on Monday morning, there is uncertainty among cricket buffs about whether they can watch the match on TV from the first ball. RPG Netcom, which supplies signals to around 70 per cent of city cable homes, has switched off DD Sports, the channel which has rights for the series, pending rate negotiations. DD Sports has hiked fees from Rs 5.90 to Rs 7.15, effective December 1.

�We will sit with DD Sports officials on Monday to discuss the issue. A lot depends on viewer pressure too. If there�s great demand for the match, the channel may be back by the end of the first day�s play,� said Tarak Saha, secretary, Forum of Cable Operators. Saha maintained that the issue wasn�t the Rs-1.25 hike effected by DD Sports alone. �This is a mark of protest against the impending rate hike by other broadcasters as well,� he added.

Fourth flight to Bagdogra

Jet Airways will operate its Calcutta-Bagdogra flight four days a week from December 4, instead of three days. Airline sources said the flights will operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. The afternoon flight will leave Calcutta at 12.30 pm and reach Bagdogra at 1.30 pm. The return flight will leave Bagdogra at 2 pm and arrive at 3 pm.

Trauma unit

The joint-venture trauma-care unit that the West Bengal government was to set up in collaboration with Asia Heart Foundation on the SSKM Hospital premises, is now likely to come up at NRS Hospital instead. State health secretary Asim Barman said the government will be hard-pressed to provide space within SSKM, following Medical Council of India guidelines that post-graduate courses can be run in only those institutions that have under-graduate infrastructure. SSKM will have to instal under-graduate facilities, which will eat up the space earmarked for the trauma unit.

Court tribute

Calcutta High Court will pay tribute to Dr Rajendra Prasad on his 117th birth anniversary on Monday, said Raghunath De, president, All-India Dr Rajendra Prasad Memorial Committee.    

Calcutta, Dec. 2: 
The CID probe into the abduction of Khadim�s vice-chairman Parthapratim Roy Burman received yet another setback after �contract killer� Malcolm, arrested for providing safe passage to Roy Burman�s alleged abductors, was freed on bail on Saturday evening.

DIG (prisons) Anup Tripathy said on Sunday that Malcolm was released on a court order. �We have thrown a tight security ring around the cell of Anita Das, the only other Khadim�s accused now in the jail,� he said. More than 16 persons arrested in connection with the abduction have been released to date because the CID failed to furnish chargesheets against them.

Malcolm, arrested in July- end, was considered a close ally of Mohammad Taslim, alias Chunnu, and extended a lot of help to the alleged abductors during their stay in the city. �He was a prize catch. He held the key not only to the Khadim�s case, but was also involved in several murders in the city,� a senior CID official said on Sunday.

After his arrest, Malcolm was taken to Bongaon, where he was grilled for several murders and dacoities. �We could not find sufficient evidence against him to nail him right away,� was all senior CID officials would say.


Calcutta, Dec. 2: 
Mayor Subrata Mukherjee smells politics or �something else� in the zeal displayed by CPM leader of the Opposition in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation Nirmal Mukherjee to prepare a list of illegal structures in the Beniapukur area.

Nirmal Mukherjee, after visiting two Beniapukur wards � 59 and 60 � with local CPM councillors on Thursday, charged the mayor with failure to check the mushrooming of unauthorised structures across the city. He also alleged that a nexus prevailed between a section of civic engineers and the police, which helped the �uncontrolled� growth.

Subrata Mukherjee responded by �welcoming the initiative Nirmalbabu has shown in drawing up a list of illegal constructions�. But, the mayor added, �why is Nirmalbabu interested in only two wards? He could help the CMC by adding to his list areas like Kidderpore, Metiabruz, Rajabazar and Garden Reach � all colonies � and submitting a list of the illegal constructions there as well,� the mayor said.

The Opposition leader�s allegation has also drawn barbed comments from Swapan Samaddar, member, mayor-in-council (building). Samaddar said he had a �lot of respect for Nirmalda� and a �request� for him: �I would like him to recall how many members of the mayor�s council in the last Left Front-controlled civic board stayed in buildings constructed illegally.�

It was not possible for the building department to post guards at all places where illegal constructions had taken place in the past, he reasoned, explaining that his department had only 50 sergeants. Hence, the decision to deploy private security agencies to prevent the admittedly rampant illegal constructions, Samaddar said.

The Left Front�s criticism of the CMC for �dilly-dallying� with the demolition of the city�s tallest building, Chatterjee International Centre, was also rebutted by Samaddar. �Let the Opposition first answer why it failed to raze the 12-storeyed building on 174, Chittaranjan Avenue, despite having the Supreme Court�s directive, when it was in power,� he said.

It was not possible to raze Chatterjee International Centre with the equipment available with the CMC, Samaddar added. �Besides, the original construction plan, which was sanctioned by the CMC decades ago, is missing from building department�s record section,� he added.


Calcutta, Dec. 2: 
Calcutta is becoming a key centre for both incoming and outgoing traffic in women and children, and in the absence of a concerted drive, the problem will become acute.

Non-government organisations, police officers, rights activists and the Unifem were unanimous in pointing out how illegal trafficking had shot up over the past few years, at a workshop organised by the West Bengal Human Rights Commission.

No one was forthcoming with figures but said the number of people rescued had gone up. The rescues either took place in the city or in other metros like Mumbai and Delhi, where illegal agents operating from the city had taken them.

�People have not yet realised the gravity of the problem,� said Shankar Sen, IPS, former director-general of the National Human Rights Commission. �Bengal today is among the top states where both supplying and receiving of women and children are taking place.�

He said trafficking was a �very lucrative and risk-free operation and, with the state being adjacent to Nepal and Bangladesh, movement through porous borders made international trafficking all the more easier.�

But Calcutta was the destination of and transit point for a large number of women and minors from the neighbouring districts as well. Girls were being brought in from Murshidabad, North and South 24-Parganas, Hooghly and Midnapore, said representatives of Sanlaap, an NGO that has been involved in the rescue of such girls from the red-light areas of the city.

Soumen Mitra, deputy commissioner, detective department, said trafficking involved a web of hidden, profitable, efficient and expanding trade networks. The police needed all the co-operation from NGOs and others involved to get to the root of the problem, he said.

The problem was now increasingly being seen as a human rights violation, as it involved the forced movement of persons totally against their will, observed Justice Mukul Gopal Mukherji, chairperson of the state human rights commission.

An understanding was developing between police and NGOs, making joint programmes possible. The special branch of the city police has drawn up a few collaborative projects with voluntary organisations.


Calcutta, Dec. 2: 
A move is afoot to urge the state government for a waiver of a two per cent sales tax on AIDS drugs. The Centre has already decided to withdraw the tax it imposes on these drugs, also known as anti-retrovirals.

The initiative started from a unique interface held in the city between representatives of over 20 non-government organisations and community service organisations on the one hand, and media personnel on the other. It was organised by the WB State AIDS Control and Prevention Society and the American Centre.

Indian drug companies had brought down the prices of generic AIDS drugs earlier this year, forcing several multi-nationals to do the same. Though cheaper than the West, Indian patients still have to spend up to Rs 1,500 a month on life-saving drugs. The tax waiver will help many a household, it was pointed out.

State AIDS Society director S. Kumar said the issue could be taken up with the finance ministry after a proper representation was made. Organisations formed by persons with HIV, also attending the interface, welcomed the move.

The objective of the interface was to work together in fighting the spread of AIDS, which had entered the third wave, in which babies were getting infected. Kumar said funds would not be a constraint.


Calcutta, Dec. 2: 
Calcutta has beaten 5,000 cities across the globe to become the first and, to date, the only city whose heritage buildings are going to find a place on cards to be circulated throughout the world by Rotary International.

The decision to accord Calcutta the honour of being the first �heritage city� by the organisation, with 1.2 million members spread over 166 countries, follows an appeal by the local unit to �redress� the city�s image.

�Despite the praiseworthy work done by Mother Teresa and others for the city and its people, we have always found a tendency among the foreign media to concentrate on the city�s squalor,� said Swapan Mukherjee, project chairman of the �Cards that Care� series. �Hence, the decision to print cards featuring eight heritage buildings in and around Calcutta,� he explained.

The series, expect Rotary members, is going to net them around Rs 2.5 crore in worldwide sales. �But we are going ahead with a modest launch of 70,000 cards in Calcutta,� one of them said.

Appropriately, all the money that is raised will be pumped back into the city the cards are going to highlight.

It will be utilised for a host of charitable projects, say members, the most important of them being the project to supply arsenic-free drinking water to areas in Calcutta and on the city�s periphery, particularly North and South 24-Parganas.

Another large chunk of the money will go into the various literacy projects undertaken by the organisation; most of the money reserved for these projects, however, will go to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation-run schools for the city�s poor.

The eight buildings that find place in the series have been chosen with care, say members of the organisation. �We have kept in mind the city�s secular tradition,� Mukherjee told Metro, explaining why five places of worship � the Kalighat and Dakshineswar temples, the pagoda at Eden Gardens, St Paul�s Cathedral and the Chinsurah Imambara � were chosen among the eight heritage spots.

Three other buildings � Victoria Memorial, Writers� Buildings and the General Post Office (that once was Fort William) � are direct representations of the city�s rich colonial architectural heritage.

Besides the charitable motive behind the cards� worldwide circulation, they will help give a boost to the city�s tourist potential. The cards, feel Rotary members, will correct some wrong notions foreigners have, fed as they are on a diet of snapshots of urban squalor and garbage dumps.


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