Photo fix to end entry fraud
Police U-turn on parking lot proposal
Free passage to airport
Court turns taps off at hotels
Cablemen in Sony-block cry
The City Diary
Helping hand for sisters in need
National monument mantle for Currency Building
Love, lies and ransom calls
Mother, child run over on way to school

Calcutta, April 3: 
It takes a photograph to fight fraud. The imposter impasse at Presidency College, involving a second-year student of the Hindi department, has not just cast a shadow over the SFI�s first-ever conquest of the college union, but also brought into sharp focus the loopholes in the admission procedure. The college authorities on Wednesday decided to move the West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education so that photographs of examinees be affixed to admit cards and marksheets to curb fraudulent practices during admission.

The decision to petition the council comes in the wake of the police probe establishing that Shrishyam Jaiswal had gained entry into the Hindi department of Presidency College two years ago by furnishing Siddharth Shah�s marksheet. Jaiswal has been posing as Shah, who studies in Rishi Bankim Chandra Chatterjee College of Naihati, ever since.

�We will soon hold a meeting with the authorities of the HS Council and request them to arrange for inclusion of a candidate�s photographs on his admit card and marksheet,� Amitava Chatterjee, principal of Presidency College, said on Wednesday. According to Chatterjee, the fact that no photograph was affixed to Shah�s admit card or marksheet may have facilitated the �foul method� of gaining admission used by Jaiswal.

Jyotirmoy Mukherjee, president, West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education, said the proposal would be studied carefully. He, however, pointed out that it �may not be possible� for the Council to include photographs of students on marksheets, as such a system was �not practised by any other board of education in the country�. Moreover, this would involve an elaborate procedure.

Responding to the state government prod to the college to take action against the errant student, principal Chatterjee said the matter would be decided at a meeting of the institution�s disciplinary committee later this week.

�We must work out a more foolproof system before the start of admissions this July-August,� admitted Chatterjee. Among the proposals being discussed, say sources, is denying teachers the right to attest marksheets and other documents required during admission. Jaiswal had got his marksheet attested by a teacher of the college.


Calcutta, April 3: 
With criticism mounting against the joint Calcutta Police-Calcutta Municipal Corporation plans for a parking lot under the Gariahat flyover, the former showed the first indications of backtracking on Wednesday.

A senior police officer connected with the project told Metro that the department �was looking at alternatives� to the parking lot-cum-taxi stand-cum-police console idea. �The scenario is not exactly the same right now,� he said. �There are a lot of differences over the original plan,� he added.

Despite clarifying that the �ball was now in the Corporation�s court�, the official said Calcutta Police was not averse to �new and better ideas, if any... But we will have to implement whatever decision the government takes,� he added.

Senior officers at the city police headquarters indicated that the climbdown was the result of political pressure from a section of ministers, who were vocal in criticising the Corporation project to convert the space under the flyover into a parking lot.

Another factor has contributed to the climbdown, admit officials. �When so many former officials, who have served as deputy commissioners of the traffic department, lend their voice against the idea, it has to be given serious consideration,� one of them said.

�Besides, officers below the rank of deputy commissioner but still serving in the traffic department are also not convinced that the idea will serve any purpose,� he added. �If that is the case, we will be doing a great disservice to the city and its citizens if we do not seek alternatives.�

A section of the traffic department has also questioned the wisdom of having a police console a few yards from Gariahat police station.

�Not much thought seems to have gone into the plan,� said a deputy inspector-general, who at one time had served as deputy commissioner (traffic). �What purpose is an additional posse of traffic policemen going to serve, when so many policemen will be there at Gariahat police station?� he asked. �This is only going to add to the confusion,� he predicted.

Joining the campaign against the parking lot is a large section of businessmen in the Gariahat area. �We held a series of meetings over the past few days,� said the owner of a garments outlet near the crossing. �We felt that a parking lot would definitely increase traffic snarls in the area,� he added.

A section of shop-owners in Gariahat have decided to submit a memorandum to mayor Subrata Mukherjee to reconsider the decision. �For once, some political leaders were right when they said that Gariahat � with its high level of pollution � could have done with a garden,� said one of their representatives.

Deputy commissioner of police (traffic) M.K. Singh, meanwhile, has sounded out police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty on the parking lot controversy.


Calcutta, April 3: 
More than 700 families of squatters occupy the stretch starting from Nalban, in Sector IV, to Sarat Abasan, in AS block of Sector II of Salt Lake City.

They come in the way of the proposed road that will reduce the distance between the city and its only airport by at least seven kilometres.

But, at last, the government has decided to remove these hutments, which, besides occupying the banks of the Keshtopur canal and the Eastern Drainage Canal, are blocking the construction of a dream of a road bypassing VIP Road, that will ensure a tension-free journey to and from the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport.

If senior government officials are to be believed, the government has cleared the decks for making the space obstacle-free by April-end.

The decision was taken at a high-level meeting at Writers� Buildings in the third week of March, officers said. The meeting, held on March 21, was chaired by the chief secretary. The director-general of police, too, was one of the participants.

The meeting also decided to set up a special team to monitor the post-eviction scenario, officers of the Bidhannagar Municipality said.

�This is one of the first instances of a team being set up to ensure that squatters do not return,� one of them said.

The leader of the opposition in the Bidhannagar Municipality, Anupam Datta, agreed that the hutments were posing a problem to �healthy civic life� in the township. No action was ever taken against these squatters, as they come in handy as a potential vote bank for the ruling party.

The joint secretary of the AK block residents� association Arun Biswas said the eviction of squatters was a long-standing demand of the residents of Salt Lake.

�Although some of the squatters were removed, new encroachments came up to take their place,� he complained. The squatters contribute to the increase in petty crime in the area.

Apart from regular cases of snatching and the flourishing trade in illicit liquor, the squatters have also contributed to the rise in prostitution in the exurb, say senior officers of Salt Lake sub-division.


Calcutta, April 3: 
The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) on Wednesday moved the division bench of Calcutta High Court against the order of Justice A. Lala, of the same court, asking the CMC to restore water supply to the Oberoi Grand and Hotel Hindustan International (HHI) for alleged non-payment of taxes, amounting to over Rs 4 crore. The hearing of the case has been fixed for Thursday.

The management of both hotels moved high court on Monday after their water supply was cut off and obtained an interim order from Justice Lala. He directed the CMC to restore water supply within 24 hours. But the CMC did not oblige.

�Our water line is still cut off. As of now, things are running normally at the hotel as we have a stock of water. A team of hotel officials is in touch with the Corporation officers,� said Nazreen Haidar, communications manager of Oberoi Grand. HHI general manager Sanjeev Kapoor was unavailable for comment.

At the high court on Wednesday, counsel on behalf of the Grand demanded that the division bench, comprising Justice Samaresh Banerjee and Justice Indira Banerjee, pass an order asking the CMC to restore water supply immediately. But the court refused to do so.

Justice Banerjee asked counsel for Grand Shaktinath Mukherjee to immediately deposit Rs 2 crore on an ad hoc basis to the CMC, before requesting reconnection of the water line. �Or else, ask your client to wait till tomorrow, when the case will again come up for hearing,� the judge said.

The counsel, after consulting his client, said it would not be possible for it to deposit the amount, as the CMC�s claim was disputed.

A good number of people from both sides, including member of the mayor�s council in charge of water supply, Sovan Chatterjee, were present at the hearing. After the judges refused to direct the CMC to restore water supply to the hotels, they rejoiced by distributing sweets.

Civic officers claimed they had won the first round of the case. �We will abide by the interim order of the division bench of Calcutta High Court. The CMC would no more allow well-off people to enjoy civic amenities and utilities free,� said Chatterjee.


Calcutta, April 3: 
A couple of weeks after the Zee-Turner package has been back on RPG Netcom beam, the Sony bouquet of channels has come under a cloud.

The Forum of Cable Operators and Cable Television Operators Association, the two leading cablemen�s unions in the city under the RPG Netcom umbrella, indicated on Wednesday that they will not accept Sony�s increased rate. The package price � covering Sony, SetMax, AXN, CNBC, Discovery and Animal Planet � has been hiked from Rs 26.50 to Rs 40. Operators, who will press for a rollback when they meet Sony officials on Thursday, have threatened a �possible boycott� if the broadcaster sticks to its revised rate card.



NAAC grades, not stars, for colleges

Educational institutions will no longer be awarded stars by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) for their performance. Instead, the council has introduced grades for assessing colleges and universities. The abolition of the star-rating system and the introduction of grades were officially announced by V.N. Rajsekharan Pillai, NAAC director, on Wednesday. Pillai was addressing a workshop organised by the West Bengal chapter of the All India Federation of College and University Teachers� Organisation to create awareness among under-graduate colleges about NAAC evaluation. According to Pillai, the grade system has been put into effect from March 15. There will be three grades A, B and C, which will be sub-divided on a nine-point scale. For example, institutions scoring 95 to 100 points will be awarded A++ and those obtaining 85-90 will be given A+. The NAAC director also said the University Grants Commission had agreed to provide funds to institutions to meet their expenditure during the run-up to the accreditation. More than 225 teachers attended the workshop.

Gold biscuits seized at airport

Gold biscuits worth Rs 15 lakh were recovered by customs officials from three passengers on Tuesday night. The passengers, all Indian nationals, arrived at Calcutta from Bangkok. They were carrying 3 kg gold biscuits on them. The passengers were detained for interrogation.

DVC cuts power

DVC has stopped supply of power to CESC on the west bank (Howrah-Hooghly) for two hours from 8 am, starting Wednesday. Normally, about 30 MW is supplied to this area every day during peak hours. Howrah and Hooghly suffered brief spells of power cuts as the CESC grid faced a shortfall of around 5 MW. The DVC has taken the step after repeated requests to the private power utility to pay up its dues failed to draw a reaction, sources said. The CESC authorities said the matter will soon be sorted out with the DVC.

Exam specials

South Eastern Railway will run one pair of examination special trains from Howrah to Bangalore and back for the convenience of students appearing for Joint Entrance Examinations in Bangalore. The train will leave Howrah at 10.25 am on May 6 and arrive at Bangalore at 10.30 am on May 8. On the return journey, the Bangalore-Howrah examination special will leave Bangalore at 8 pm on May 10 and reach Howrah at 9 am on May 12.

Mystery death

A 16-year-old maid was found dead under mysterious circumstances at Ballygunge, in the Lake police station area, on Wednesday afternoon. Police said the deceased was identified as Sajani Sarder. Sajani hails from Hasanpur, in Sonarpur. The body has been sent for post-mortem.

Four die in mishaps

Three footpath-dwellers were crushed to death and three others injured when a truck mounted the Strand Road pavement, in the North Port police station area, early on Wednesday. Two of the men died on the spot. Later on Wednesday, an unidentified cyclist was run over by a private bus on route 234, near Minto Park.

Flights cancelled

Shortage of aircraft compelled the cancellation of the Indian Airlines� Calcutta-Bangkok flight and Alliance Air�s flight to Jaipur on Wednesday.    

Calcutta, April 3: 
Tona Bera was separated from her family at the age of six while travelling on a train. She was handed over to the police by a group of young men who saw her crying in a deserted railway station in Midnapore district. The next 12 years she spent in the government-run Child Care Home in Salt Lake.

Three years have passed since she left the Home after turning 18. She earns around Rs 2000 a month and has a bank balance of over Rs 15,000. Be it paper bags or hand-made greeting cards, fancy gift items or note books � customers pick up the products made by her by paying a premium.

Tona�s story is not an isolated case. There are others like Nilanjana, Swapna, and Sabera, who lost everything before they could even realise their loss. But today, they are not only self-reliant, but also are very much a part of the mainstream, thanks to Karmyog, a three-year-old NGO run by two sisters, Sobha Kanoi and Urmila Pasari. Their mission: effecting a change in the lives of destitute women.

�We have been visiting the Salt Lake Home regularly for the past 12 years to take music and vocational training classes for the kids. But we always wondered what would happen to these kids once they are adults and leave the Home. We set up Karmyog to ensure a normal and healthy life for women,� chorused Sobha Kanoi and Urmila Pasari.

For the past three years, the sisters have been picking up girls with artistic skills from the Home once they are adults and giving them an avenue to use their talent in a commercial way and earn money. Karmyog also provides them with hostel accommodation. The NGO has extended its helping hand to around 50 such women over the past three years.

�Once I visited my village Rajkool and met my family members. Though they wanted me to return to them, I have decided to live here and work,� said Tona, oozing with confidence. And according to Sobha and Urmila, the �confidence� among the women to lead a life on their own is their biggest �achievement�.

The women get extensive training from the two sisters and some professionals to create products that can compete with the best in the market. �Then we provide them with designs and raw materials for a range of items. The products, priced between Rs 10 and Rs 250, are then sold through our outlet in Rainey Park. Companies like Hallmark are among our clients,� said Urmila, the elder of the two sisters. The outlet�s monthly sales volume is around Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000.

The sisters� efforts to get the women back to the mainstream doesn�t end at providing them with an opportunity to earn a livelihood. The �aunties� have even married off some of them. �It�s good to see them settled in life. Some of them still work for Karmyog, while others make it a point to visit the workshop at least once a year,� said Sobha.

Enthused by the Karmyog success model, Sobha and Urmila are drawing up plans to scale up the scope of their mission and help more such women in the other parts of the state.


Calcutta, April 3: 
In October 1996, the Central Public Works Department (CPWD), to which it belonged, began demolishing the Italianate Currency Building, prominently situated at a corner of Dalhousie Square. The CPWD had planned to construct a highrise on the same plot. On November 6, 1996, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation put a stop to this act of vandalisation.

But only after the CPWD had pulled down the three large domes above the central hall. Subsequently, an experts� team from The Associated Cement Companies inspected it and certified that its fabric was still strong. But though it is on the list of heritage structures, the building began to be sold Italian marble slab by Italian marble slab, and Burma teakwood door by Burma teakwood door. Till Governor Viren J. Shah intervened.

Now, Currency Building looks bombed out. On the R.N. Mukherjee Road side of it, it is fenced off with rusty corrugated sheets, which the public has dutifully turned into a urinal. Amid the mountains of debris one can distinguish the massive and handsome arches. The central portion seems to have been scooped out by a giant hand. The handsome gate, with a florid design in wrought iron, is the only thing that stands intact.

The signboards on the Dalhousie Square side scream: �Danger, danger. House being demolished.� Though the demolition squad left off work ages ago, nature has not been inactive.

A vertical jungle of peepul and banyan trees has a stranglehold on the remains of the building. Aerial roots hang like streamers. But Jagmohan, minister for tourism and culture, is expected to visit Currency Building on Thursday, and hopefully, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) will soon declare it a national monument.

A.C. Grover, director, conservation, ASI, said over the telephone that it should be notified shortly, calling for objections. Then, after two months, the final decision on its takeover will be made. But Grover did not anticipate any objections. That could happen only in the case of temples and mosques.

No additions or alterations will be made to the structure. It will be �brought back to its old status.� It will have to be reconstructed partially. Grover gave the assurance that ASI has the expertise to restore it, as it looks after similar structures. Once the building is declared a national monument, a decision will also be made on budgetary allocation, and more importantly, on its future use.


Calcutta, April 3: 
Last year, she won a bravery award. But perhaps, this year, she will never get to pick it up, for faking an abduction drama to harass her family.

On Wednesday, the detective department rounded up Sushmita Dasgupta (name changed), 24, a law graduate from Hazra College and a resident of Gariahat, for staging an abduction drama.

She was picked up from Galshi, in Burdwan district, 15 hours after her �disappearance� from the city.

Sushmita had helped the police arrest seven dacoits last year. The criminals had snatched her cellphone and cash from a crowded bus on July 10.

As the gangsters fled, she raised an alarm, drawing a policeman�s attention. They were soon arrested.

On Tuesday, Sushmita left her office around 5 pm. �Around 10 pm on Tuesday, an unidentified caller rang up the Dasguptas and told them their daughter had been abducted,� said Soumen Mitra, deputy commissioner, detective department.

A caller line identification (CLI) machine picked up the number and traced it to a booth in the Kalabagan area.

On Wednesday morning, Sushmita made the first call to her home. �This time, we noticed that the call was made from a telephone booth in Burdwan,� said Mitra.

When contacted, the Burdwan booth-owner, Ujjal Ahmed, informed the police that a woman in black trousers and yellow T-shirt had made the call and even boarded a Barakar-bound bus. The Galshi police intercepted the bus and rounded up the woman.

�Sushmita lied and identified herself as Saraswati Tripathi,� said Kaushik Chatterjee of Galshi police station.

Later, Mitra interrogated the woman over phone. �She said she was abducted by two men from Park Street, who later took her to Burdwan. However, the youths let her make phone calls. I was sure she was lying,� said Mitra.

Preliminary investigations revealed that Sushmita had married a web designer some time ago. Since her family opposed the relationship, she did not inform them of the marriage. Her husband did not help her in the crisis and waited for his in-laws to come around.

�When she found that her husband was not willing to take her away, she decided to fake a kidnapping drama to make her parents see reason,� said the police.


Calcutta, April 3: 
Reckless driving claimed the lives of a young mother and her five-year-old daughter on ednesday morning. They were run over by a van on B.T. Road, in Cossipore.

The mother, Nandini Dutta, 30, was taking her child, Kasturi, to school. She died on the spot while the child succumbed to her injuries later. The driver, however, escaped with the vehicle.

�The mother and daughter were walking on the pavement when a van of a courier company hit them from behind.� said Ramlal Sharma, a bystander.

Police said the driver of the killer van, heading towards Shyambazar, lost control after overtaking a private bus. �To avert a collision with another vehicle, the van ran over the duo,� said the police.

Nandini and her daughter, residents of Dum Dum, were rushed to R.G. Kar Hospital. Doctors there declared the mother �brought dead.� The child died after a few minutes.

As news of the accident spread, residents of the area squatted on B.T. Road to protest rash driving during peak hours.

Last week, a speeding private bus crushed another five-year-old girl, Puja, off Thanthania Kalibari. Deputy commissioner (traffic) M.K. Singh, was, however, not ready to accept that the mishap graph is soaring.

According to traffic department sources, the toll in road accidents in the past three months stands at 86. �It was 75 last year, in the corresponding three months,� said an officer.


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