Fast-track flyover slow to take off
2-lakh heist in 7 minutes
Court denies teachers tuition cover
The City Diary
Cops, sex workers on vigil panel
Unsafe tag slapped on 1000 buildings
University bans ragging
Holy water clash at temple
Raid on Sonia threat-mail cafe
Bengal in talks for Italy funds

Calcutta, April 17: 
A few cars hitting the high road at high speed; the rest caught in a crawl at Gol Park and Ballygunge Phari� First day, first show at the flyover south Calcutta has been waiting for, for 29 months.

Wednesday was the first �working� day for the Gariahat flyover after it was thrown open to traffic on the morning of Poila Boisakh. And it was no smooth sailing for Calcuttans on way to office. Metro tracked the traffic flow � or the lack of it � in the area from 9.30 am to 11.15 am. Here�s a clock watch to the chaos in the area at rush hour:

Time: 9.35 am

Place: Ballygunge Phari

The fear that the Gariahat flyover would add to the confusion at Ballygunge Phari came true on Wednesday. The five-point crossing witnessed bumper-to-bumper traffic, on both the Dhaba and Kwality flanks. While top cops were busy manning the flyover, two lonely constables struggled to get the Phari traffic going.

The police later admitted that with the focus being on the flyover, Ballygunge Phari was �neglected� during morning peak hours. This, they said, will be rectified.

But a masterplan to manage traffic at Phari better is eluding the police. �The only enduring solution will be extending the Gariahat flyover beyond Ballygunge Phari,� said one of the constables on duty.

Time: 10.05 am

Place: Gol Park

�There are more policemen at the flyover approach than cars on the flyover,� observed one passerby. That summed up the scene at Gol Park.

From assistant commissioners of police to constables, more than 30 cops were tripping over each other to get it right on Day I. Three jeeps were parked beside the southern slope of the flyover. Deputy commissioner of police, traffic, M.K. Singh, spent an hour at the spot. But the queue of cars not taking the flyover stretched from Dhakuria bridge to Gol Park.

Needed: Prominent street signs alerting motorists about the change in road rules � cars headed for Bijon Setu from Gol Park are not allowed to take Fern Road; they have to turn right from the Gariahat crossing under the flyover. Cars headed for Gol Park from Bijon Setu will have to take Fern Road to Mouchak; they will not be allowed to turn left from Gariahat.

All the police could manage was a scrawl in blue near Gol Park: �For Bijan Setu/EM Byepass (sic!) take right turn from Garihat Xing�. Also, the realisation that a large number of vehicles approaching Gariahat from Dhakuria is headed either towards Bijon Setu or Rashbehari calls for some modifications in traffic management.

Time: 10.45 am

Place: Gariahat Road-Rashbehari Avenue crossing

The crossroad is the clear winner after the completion of the flyover. With some of the load being taken off by the high road and proper traffic management in place, the Gariahat-Rashbehari Avenue crossing could breathe easy on Wednesday morning.

Time: 11 am

Place: On the flyover

Gol Park to Pantaloons in 60 seconds flat. Zip, zap, zoom. But can you forget the 30 minutes it took to get to Gol Park from Dhakuria or the 30 minutes to reach Beckbagan from Ballygunge Phari?

But things, promise the police, can only get better. �This being the first day, there was a problem, both for the people and for us. But we hope to sort out the problems and streamline traffic in the area over the next few days,� concluded Dilip Ganguly, assistant commissioner of police, traffic.

South Calcutta sure hopes so.


Calcutta, April 17: 
They entered Allahabad Bank, near Gariahat, unnoticed on Wednesday morning. They left unseen after seven minutes. In between, they had collected Rs 2,42,000 from the cashier�s box, that too unnoticed.

Not a single shot was fired. None of the 23 employees or the 35-odd customers present was threatened. �We have been caught off guard,�� said Uttam Saha, senior manager.

�The bank opened after a four-day holiday. There was a rush of customers and the employees were busy,�� he said.

Nobody noticed the five youths entering the bank at 11.20 am. One of them went round the counter towards staffer Gautam Sengupta, who sat next to the cash cabin, and asked for details on how to open a savings account.

Simultaneously, another youth questioned staffer Bidhan Mondol on fixed deposits. Two other youths walked to assistant managers Rahul Bose and Sanjay Gupta, sitting next to each other, close to the cash counter, and inquired about soft loans.

The employees� attention was riveted to the youths. As the youths engaged the four employees in conversation, the telephone rang. The caller asked for cashier Alok Mitra.

He came out of the cash cabin to take the call. In his haste, he forgot to lock the cash counter door. The caller wanted to know about national savings certificates, and hung up after about five minutes.

Mitra hung around for some work for another five minutes. By this time, the youths had finished their conversation with the bank employees and left abruptly.

The cashier returned to the cash counter. Three persons were waiting in the queue to collect their payment. When he entered the counter, the bundle of currency notes was not inside the locker.

He came out asking if anybody had entered the cash cabin and taken out the currency notes. But nobody seemed to have done so.

Police suspect it was an �inside job�, because no one seems to have noticed anybody enter the cashier�s cabin, pick up the cash and leave.

The bank employees described the youths as slim, dark and of average height. They spoke in broken Bengali and English.

Deputy commissioner of police (detective department) Soumen Mitra said he would tell the bank�s insurance company about its �callous approach.�


Calcutta, April 17: 
For teachers who had packed the high court to attend the hearings on the two petitions filed against the government�s decision to ban private tuition, it was a day of disappointment. First, the court did not take up the hearing on Supriya Chattopadhyay�s petition challenging the government�s directive to teachers on submitting a written undertaking against private tuition.

In an earlier hearing, the court had granted a 15-day stay on the government�s directive. The stay lapsed on Wednesday.

In effect, this means that from Thursday, the government is free to demand the undertaking from teachers. If Chattopadhyay has reason to feel dejected, the West Bengal Teachers and Employees Association, which had filed a second petition against the government�s order, has no cause for cheer either.

The court heard its petition, but the judge said that unless the first petition was cleared by the division bench, he could not give a verdict, since both cases were related.

While Chattopadhyay had challenged the government rule, the teachers association had argued that the order was ultra vires of the Constitution.

Chattopadhyay�s lawyer Kalyan Banerjee had earlier argued that it was beneath the dignity of teachers to furnish such an undertaking and that the government had no right to claim it. However, the trial bench had dismissed the petition, provoking Chattopadhyay to move the division bench of the court.

Arguing before Justice S.B. Roy on Wednesday, counsel for the teachers Sundarananda Pal reiterated that the government notification was illegal and violated a Constitutional right. �The state government has no jurisdiction to issue such a notification,� he said. The notification had only two positive provisions: one, that soon after retirement, all the dues, including provident fund, would be settled; two, salaries would be paid within a stipulated time.

Additional government pleader Debasish Kargupta told the court that a similar case was pending before a division bench. �At least on two occasions, the trial court had dismissed petitions filed by the teachers challenging the move of banning private tuition,� he said.

Meanwhile, CPM sources said the party would launch campaigns in all parts of the city against private tuition by school teachers. �We have asked our party members to hold street-corner meetings in the city and the districts to convince guardians not to encourage private tuition by school teachers,� a party leader said.

It is learnt that the education department has set up a vigilance cell to keep a strict watch on teachers of government-aided schools.

The state government has also requested the income-tax authorities to check whether the teachers regularly settle their dues.


Calcutta, April 17: 

Medical camp to curb cholera

Three more persons were admitted to the Infectious Diseases Hospital from south Calcutta on Tuesday following an outbreak of cholera in two wards (72 and 73) on Sunday. More than 60 people have so far been affected and 20 of them had to be transferred to ID Hospital for treatment. The affected areas were parts of Harish Mukherjee Road, Girish Chatterjee Road, Patuapara and Kalighat Road. A medical camp has been set up in the area from Wednesday. According to officer on special duty (health) Atanu Mukherjee, it is still not certain whether the outbreak was caused by contamination of water. The water supply department has collected samples from a number of localities.

Student�s body traced in river

The river traffic police recovered the decomposed body of Rintu Ghosh, 17, a Madhyamik examinee, from the Barrackpore Gandhi ghat on Wednesday morning. Police said Rintu drowned along with two of his friends on Tuesday. A search operation is on to trace the bodies of his friends.

Library protest

Employees of National Library, under the banners of National Library Staff Association (NLSA) and National Library Employees� Union (NLEU), will demonstrate on Thursday in front of the office of the director of the institute, S.K. Chakrabarty, to protest the Union tourism and culture department�s �veiled attempt� to grant autonomy to the institution.

A team of Union government officials, headed by Vivek Rae, joint secretary, ministry of tourism and culture, met the director and other officials at the library on Wednesday. The formation of an autonomous body was the first step to privatisation, the workers allleged. There are 541 vacant posts in the library even after officially reducing the staff strength from 781 to 703. �There will be further curtailment of staff strength once it is privatised and people will not be allowed to use the library free of cost,� Jaideep Sarkar, NLEU secretary, said. Rae said nothing had been finalised and the matter was being discussed at �all levels�.

Road mishap

An unidentified man in his forties died after he fell from a bus around 10.40 am on Wednesday, in Kidderpore. Police said he was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced �brought dead�.

Train services hit

Train services on Eastern Railway�s Sealdah South section were severely disrupted after supporters of Tuesday�s bandh hurled banana leaves on overhead wires near Lakshmikantapur, early on Wednesday.

Goon�s mother held

Sadhana Jain, mother of criminal Jishu Jain, was arrested in Behala on Wednesday morning. She was, allegedly, running the show in Jishu�s absence. She had even collected extortion money from some promoters in the past few days, police said. An unlicensed weapon was found in her house. The court remanded Sadhana in police custody till April 30.

Water woes

Residents of wards 19, 20 and 21 of the Howrah Municipal Corporation gheraoed the municipality building to protest water scarcity, on Wednesday.    

Calcutta, April 17: 
The Calcutta Police, a long time �foe� of the city�s �ladies of the night,� has proposed to set up a joint committee with them that will help prevent under-age girls from entering the profession as well as clamp down on pimps, extortionists and traffickers.

The proposal was raised at a workshop held at the Academy of Fine Arts last Wednesday, organised by the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC) in association with Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford University.

The workshop aimed to spread awareness about the role of Calcutta�s sex workers in bringing about community mobilisation, cultural change and participatory development, on which a collaborative research had been undertaken. It was attended by historians, government officials, NGO representatives and peer workers of the DMSC.

Senior police officials, attending the meet through the day, acknowledged the role sex workers in the city and elsewhere could play in bringing about community and social development. The work done by the DMSC over the past 10 years in building awareness among sex workers and for their empowerment was appreciated.

Deputy commissioner (Special Branch) Gaurav Dutt proposed the setting up of a joint committee, with police officers, officials of the social welfare and other related departments, non-government organisations DMSC members and the sex workers themselves.

�The committee, working in co-ordination, will identify under-age girls and try to return them to their homes. The DMSC members will also point out the problems they face with the police and lodge complaints in case of torture or application of force so that remedial action can be taken,� Dutt said.

Help from the sex-worker members will allow the police to become more familiar with the red-light areas so that they can track down offenders.

�We are waiting for the minutes of Wednesday�s meeting from the DMSC. The proposal will then be taken up with the police commissioner, who will decide on which department of the police force will spearhead the committee�s formation and activities.�

A periodical review of the panel�s work will be carried out �possibly every three months�, said inspector Kamal Bhattacharya of the Special Branch, who has been associated with the DMSC and the red light areas, especially Sonagachhi.

Deputy commissioner (detective department) Soumen Mitra, who was instrumental in forming the police-aided Disha intervention project in Asansol, said government functionaries were usually always willing to help out in any humanitarian project. �But there are grey areas in the law relating to the profession, and many take advantage of this,� he said.

�As policemen, we have no objection to the work being done by the DMSC. Over the past 10 years, the committee has been able to change the mindset of not only sex workers but quite a few policemen as well. But more has to be done. Training programmes on how policemen should treat sex workers are needed,� Mitra said.

Drawing on his Disha experience, Mitra said sex work was �a totally demand-driven profession�, and it was possible to check the entry of minor girls in the profession through dialogue and co-ordinated action.

Nandini Gooptu, University lecturer in South Asian studies at St Antony�s College, Oxford, conducted the dissemination meeting. Her research on the cultural transformation of Calcutta�s sex workers in the context of the STD-HIV intervention project has revealed that collective mobilisation of marginalised groups could result in all-round community development.


Calcutta, April 17: 
Mayor Subrata Mukherjee�s Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has slapped �unsafe� notices on more than 1,000 buildings in the city. According to the civic body, the number of such buildings is growing because of landlord-tenant litigation, closure of sick units and lack of maintenance.

The list includes residential buildings, markets, cinemas, theatres, schools and colleges.

A recent survey revealed that the maximum number of unsafe buildings was located in south Calcutta, especially Tollygunge.

�We have started issuing notices to owners of these buildings and caution boards have been put up on 250 of them,� said member, mayor-in-council (building), Swapan Samaddar, on Wednesday.

Besides 23 Corporation schools and 12 civic markets, the list of unsafe structures includes Raja Katra in Burrabazar, Purna cinema, Kalighat tram depot, Ahindra Mancha, Ekbalpore police station, Muralidhar Girls� College, Nava Nalanda school, a mosque on Beleghata Main Road, Deshbandhu College on Rashbehari Avenue, the staff quarters of SSKM Hospital and at least five defunct cinema halls. According to Samaddar, either the entire structure or portions of the buildings have been tagged �unsafe�.

At Muralidhar Girls� College, the roof has been declared unsafe, and at Deshbandhu College, the shed (chajja).

The schools termed unsafe are Deshbandhu School, Surendra Chakraborty Institution, Abhoycharan School and Deshapran Birendranath Vidyayatan.

Notices have also been slapped on Harisha Market, Hatibagan bazaar, Shyambazar market and Ultadanga�s market and post office to carry out immediate repairs.

�The Corporation can only send notices when it finds certain buildings unsafe. Other than that, we can do nothing,� Samaddar said.

In case the owners ignore the warning and an accident occurs, the Corporation cannot be held responsible, he added.

Building department sources said five years ago, there were a total of 600 unsafe buildings in the city.

�It�s on the increase every year, since landlords are not interested in maintaining the properties once they rent them out. Even the Corporation does not repair the markets after leasing them out. Look at the state of New Market or College Street market,� said an official.

Amar Mitra, president, All Calcutta House Owners Association, said as long as the Tenancy Act exists, the trend will continue. �Till the Act is repealed, I do not see a future for Calcutta�s buildings.�

Station hawkers: The government has decided to ask the Railways to allow �genuine� hawkers to operate at Howrah and Sealdah.

�We agree with the Citu-affiliated railway hawkers� union that only genuine hawkers be allowed to carry out business on the platforms,� said urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya on Wednesday.

Bhattacharya and home secretary Amit Kiran Deb will meet senior railway officials on Thursday to finalise a strategy to clear platforms and station premises of encroachers.


Calcutta, April 17: 
Calcutta University (CU) on Wednesday banned ragging and declared it a punishable offence at a meeting of the Syndicate.

�The ban applies to the university as well as the 200 under-graduate colleges affiliated to it,� sources said. �Going by the directive of the University Grants Commission (UGC), the word �ragging� was included in the CU Ordinance today. Now, we will forward the decision of the Syndicate to Governor Viren J. Shah for his approval. The ban will be put into effect as soon as he gets back to us,� said Ashis Kumar Banerjee, CU vice-chancellor, after the meeting.

According to Banerjee, the university�s decision follows an earlier order of the UGC to all universities to take appropriate steps in making ragging punishable through expulsion, cancellation of examination results and penalty.

Following the Supreme Court ruling, the state government introduced an Act, banning ragging at all educational institutions. As directed by the UGC, teachers, officials and CU employees will be penalised if they fail to report complaints of ragging. Apart from facing expulsion, students found guilty of ragging may be required to pay a fine to the tune of Rs 10,000.

For the first time in its 146-year history, the university, as part of its new anti-ragging rule, made it mandatory for students to give written undertakings at the time of admission, stating they would neither indulge in nor instigate ragging.


Tarakeswar, April 17: 
Pandas at Tarakeswar temple today assaulted activists of a local NGO when they tried to spread awareness about the polluted charanamrita being offered from Dudhpukur, the holy pond attached to the shrine.

Ten persons, including five students and three women, were injured.

The agitated priests did not spare the newspersons who had reached to cover the event. They were beaten with lathis and their cameras were damaged. Two FIRs were lodged with Tarakeswar police.

Members of the NGO, Love and Care, mediapersons and people from the local clubs and organisations staged a dharna at the police station after the incident, demanding the arrest of the culprits.

The protest was withdrawn in the afternoon after district superintendent of police N. Rameshbabu�s assurance to arrest the pandas involved in the assault.

Trouble started in the morning after a team of environmentalists led by Subhas Dutta assembled near the temple, where the NGO had mobilised about a hundred students and women for the awareness campaign.

Some pandas rushed there and asked them to disperse. But the activists continued their campaign against the water, citing a report that said the water of Dudhpukur was polluted.

The pollution control board had tested the water of the pond on instruction from Calcutta High Court and found it highly contaminated. The board had submitted its report to the court on Friday.

Angered, about 20 pandas attacked them with batons and umbrellas. Some of them hurled stones, splashed water on the activists and set ablaze their banners and placards. Two of them snatched the camera from a TV channel correspondent and damaged it.

Panicky schoolchildren and women scattered and some took shelter in a roadside shop. But the priests chased them and ransacked the shop.

The activists were rescued by the police, who failed to round up any of the pandas as they had fled. Later the victims assembled in front of the police station and staged a dharna, demanding the immediate arrest of the rogue priests.

Joint estate manager of Tarakeswar temple B.N. Bhaduri condemned the incident and said the temple management had no hand in the attack. It would identify the pandas and punish them if found guilty, he added.

The district police chief said he had received the complaints and asked the force to pick up the persons involved in the incident.


Asansol April 17: 
A team of the Delhi police special branch yesterday raided the cyber caf� from where threats were mailed to Congress president Sonia Gandhi in mid-December.

Accompanied by the state police, the team sealed the cyber caf� and seized seven computers. After inspecting the computers for about four hours along with experts, the investigators revealed that attempts had been made to erase the documents by feeding a virus into the computer.

Police arrested the threat mailer, Kulwant Singh, from Jalandhar in Punjab last week and drew out the details of the cyber caf� from him. Kulwant was earlier based in Asansol.

Kulwant, believed to be a Sikh extremist, was brought to Asansol on Monday by the probe team and taken to Anchal Cyber World Centre at S.B. Gorai Road.

Ramadhar Singh of Parbelia in Purulia, owner of the cyber caf�, said: �Kulwant�s younger brother Balwant was an employee of this shop. He came twice between December 10 and 15 to this establishment.�

The Intelligence Bureau had obtained evidence that threat e-mails had been sent to Sonia from Jalandhar and Varanasi, besides Asansol.

Investigations have revealed that 26-year-old Kulwant, the son of an Iisco employee, was born and brought up in Hirapur. After taking the school-leaving Madhyamik examination, he had gone to England in 1994. He returned to India in 2000 and settled in Jalandhar.

Police confirmed that he came to Asansol last December and stayed with his father for a month before leaving for Punjab. �We could never have expected that such a smart boy with a pleasing personality and fluency in English like Kulwant could be an associate of a Khalistani terrorist group,� said Kaka Singh, his next-door neighbour on Gurdwara Road in Hirapur.

Hirapur police station officer-in-charge Shankar Ghorui said: �Delhi police brought Kulwant here for investigation and they left with him last evening. The team also went to his house in the Iisco quarters on Gurdwara Road in Hirapur, but the flat was locked.�

Their neighbour said the whole family has gone to Punjab. His father was supposed to have joined office last Monday, but he has not turned up.

Investigating officers said Kulwant came in contact with the Khalistani terrorist groups in England. He became an active member after shifting to Punjab in 2000.


Calcutta, April 17: 
Bengal is looking at prospects of investments from the Italian province of Lombardy.

The president of the Lombardy region, Roberto Formigoni, called on chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at Writers� Buildings today and expressed willingness to invest in Bengal. �We have also told them about the prospects of setting up leather units at the upcoming Calcutta Leather Complex,� Bhattacharjee said.

Formigoni held talks with industry minister Nirupam Sen and urban development minister Ashoke Bhattacharya.

Insurance topper

Calcutta absorbed the highest number of life cover policies of TataAIG Insurance in its first year of operations.

Frank G. Wisner, former US ambassador to India and current vice-chairman (external affairs) of AIG, and Sunil Mehta, country head and chief executive, AIG, India, were in Calcutta today to inaugurate the company�s office in the city.


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