Strike cloud over film industry
Firemen assaulted at Topsia unit
Contractors call off agitation
Clash over liquor shop
Tech students on protest path
Teachers reject tuition bond
Firemen face fury for �delay�
BJP-Trinamul deal for bypoll
Elephant muscle in PWG war

Calcutta, May 11: 
Cinema halls across the state may close down indefinitely from Wednesday. The Eastern India Motion Pictures Association (EIMPA) on Saturday threatened to launch a strike to protest the assault on a member on Friday.

EIMPA president Ravindra Agarwal said the association would take a decision on the proposed strike after a meeting on Tuesday. He said the association would take recourse to an �indefinite closure of the industry� if persons named in the FIR were not arrested within the next 48 hours. He has written to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty in this regard.

If the strike takes place, all three major wings of the industry � production, distribution and exhibition � will be hit. �Nearly 800 halls across the city and the districts will down their shutters,� Agarwal said.

According to Agarwal, Shankar Dutta, general manager of Radhika Enterprise, distributors of the Bengali film Prem Shakti, was heckled on Friday by members of the Eastern India Motion Picture Distributors� Representative Association (EIMPDRA). They were protesting Radhika Enterprise�s deputation of a rival wing member to oversee the ticket collection at a city theatre. The film was released on Friday.

An FIR was lodged with the Bowbazar police demanding the arrest of EIMPDRA secretary J.A. Kalam, who was present during the incident. EIMPA executive members held an emergency meeting during the day where they expressed concern at the spate of assaults on its representatives.

The proposed strike has sent alarm bells ringing in the film industry. Actor Biplab Chatterjee said the assault was unfortunate but EIMPA�s decision to go on strike on every trivial issue was affecting the film industry. �The EIMPA representatives should talk to the government to sort out the impasse,� he added. An actress, preferring anonymity, said it was the job of the police to investigate the allegation of assault. The entire industry should not suffer as a consequence, she observed.


Calcutta, May 11: 
Fire brigade officials were assaulted when they tried to douse the flames at a shoe-manufacturing unit in Topsia, on the city�s eastern fringes, on Saturday. Local traders also refused them entry into the building. A fireman, Gopal Saha, was injured.

According to police, the people resisted the fire brigade since they wanted to prevent a probe into the incident which would reveal the status of the business centre. The four-storeyed building which houses the unit is illegal, sources said.

The fire broke out around 8 am. When the locals noticed smoke billowing from the unit on the ground floor, they tried to douse the flames themselves. After they failed to control the blaze, they rang up the fire brigade headquarters.

When the fire-fighters arrived, the mob snatched the pipes and started sprinkling water themselves. The firemen were made to wait and watch. They were allowed to work only after the situation went out of control.

The fire brigade officials said it would not be possible to ascertain the cause of fire. �The locals did not allow us to enter the house. We had to return without collecting samples,� they said.

There are several illegal shoe-manufacturing units around Topsia. �At least two dozen incidents of fire have occurred at the illegal factories,� sources said.


Calcutta, May 11: 
The Calcutta Municipal Contractors and Suppliers� Forum on Saturday called off its ongoing strike temporarily, following mayor Subrata Mukherjee�s assurance to consider its demands. Around 3,000 members had gone on strike from April 22 over arrears, rescheduling of rates and withdrawal of cases against them.

According to Subhendu Chatterjee, president of the forum, dues to the tune of Rs 180 crore have not been paid to the contractors till March 31. �If our demands are not met within 15 days, we will go on an indefinite strike,� Chatterjee said. The municipal authorities have also been implicating its members on flimsy grounds, he added.

Left Front chief whip at the Corporation Amal Mitra said the state had sanctioned a �huge amount� to the Corporation. �It is a mystery why the contractors� payments are being withheld,� he said. Anup Chatterjee, mayor-in-council, roads, admitted that their grievances were genuine. �I have asked the mayor to settle their dues as soon as possible,� he said.

Accident: Bhagaban Das, 35, was killed when a truck loaded with sand hit him near St George�s Gate, in the Hastings police station area, on Saturday morning. Das was pronounced dead when he was taken to SSKM Hospital.


Calcutta, May 11: 
The police resorted to a mild lathicharge to disperse a mob which had gathered at Canal Street in the Lake Town police station area to oppose the opening of a liquor shop on Saturday. The shop-owner was assaulted.

The owner of the outlet said he had the requisite papers and a court order to run the outlet. �Some people had been provoking the local residents ever since I procured the licence. Posters have been put up in the area against the opening of the shop,� he said.

Sujit Bose, Trinamul Congress councillor, South Dum Dum municipality, who spearheaded the agitation, said they would move court against the owner of the liquor shop. �Residents are agitated as the liquor shop has come up near a school and a nursing home,� he added.


Calcutta, May 11: 
Picture I: S. Ghoshal passed out of a reputed engineering college five years ago; today, after several unsuccessful rounds of the job market, he is back at the same institute for his post-graduation.

Picture II: A businessman in the farm-produce sector decides that running private engineering-colleges could be more lucrative; today, he is the man behind no less than five engineering colleges in south and central Bengal, most of them failing to meet the requirements of All-India Council for Technical Education directives.

Picture III: One of the better-known engineering colleges in south Bengal, which cropped up in the late 1990s during the engineering-college boom, started in the first floor of a zilla parishad office; another started in rented space at a printing technology college. Into the next decade, the colleges have moved to bigger buildings but, according to students and officials, without most things that an engineering college should have.

These three vignettes sketch the state of technical education in Bengal, where too many engineering colleges have cropped up which fall far short of the standard.

Students of engineering colleges across the state went on a strike on Friday to protest the situation.

The AICTE guidelines governing the setting up of engineering colleges are �very strict�, say officials. Its specifications range from the teacher-student ratio to the essential infrastructure. But few colleges (including the likes of Jadavpur University and Bengal Engineering College) follow them, they admit.

Even JU, considered to be one of the best state-run engineering institutions, fares poorly when it comes to vacancies in teaching posts. The 350-post faculty of engineering and technology always has around 40 vacancies.

The situation in the newer colleges is worse, say West Bengal University of Technology officials. Jalpaiguri Government Engineering College, where last week�s �police assault� on students demanding more teachers and better infrastructure sparked off Friday�s strike, has less than 25 teachers for a student population of over 900.


Calcutta, May 11: 
Two SUCI-controlled teachers� associations today rejected the state government�s directive to submit written undertakings once every year that their members would not take private tuition.

The Secondary Teachers� and Employees� Association and Bengal Primary Teachers� Association also stuck to their decision to observe a token strike on May 16 to protest against the state government�s circular.

The BPTA sent an open letter to the chief minister today, demanding that the notice be immediately withdrawn.

�We will urge school education minister Kanti Biswas to withdraw the circular during our meeting with him on Tuesday. We will observe the strike and continue our agitation if the minister declines to concede our demand,� said Kartick Saha and Ratan Naskar, general secretaries of the associations.

�Submission of any such undertaking to the government is humiliating and we have instructed our members not to give any declaration on private tuition,� they said. The duo also contradicted the state�s claim that more than 90 per cent primary school teachers had submitted the undertakings. �In fact, a majority of the primary school teachers have not yet received the circular and declaration forms. Naturally, the question of submitting the declaration does not arise,� they added.

The West Bengal Headmasters� Association will support the strike. Teachers� associations owing allegiance to Left Front partners other than the CPM expressed concern over the government�s earlier decision to withhold salaries of teachers who have not submitted the undertakings. Representatives of the teachers� wings of the RSP, the Forward Bloc and the CPI will meet Biswas on Monday.

Amal Banerjee, general secretary of the CPM-controlled All Bengal Teachers� Association, said they had opposed the government�s plan to stop salaries soon after the official announcement. �We have information that most of the teachers have submitted the declarations. But the district inspectors of schools had failed to send these to the education department. Naturally, teachers should not be punished for their fault,� Banerjee said.

He, however, found nothing wrong in the government�s circular, asking teachers to furnish declarations that they are not taking private tuition. �There is nothing wrong in it. We also feel that teachers should concentrate in class-room teaching instead of coaching a handful of students privately,� he added.


Calcutta, May 11: 
Mobs attacked firemen when they arrived to douse a devastating fire near Kakdwip bus terminus, injuring three officials and damaging a fire engine. At least 15 shops and a video parlour were gutted in the late night blaze.

Later this morning, the shopowners and local people demonstrated in front of Kakdwip police station, protesting against the negligence of the fire brigade. They accused the fire-fighters of arriving late.

Police said people noticed smoke coming from a shop around 2.15 am. They informed the fire brigade headquarters at Shilpara, around 80 km away, at 2.30 am. Seven fire engines were rushed to the blazing market.

But as they took time to cover the distance, people turned violent when they arrived. Three fire-tenders were dragged out and beaten up. They had to be hospitalised. Others pelted stones, damaging one vehicle.

�The fire brigade rushed there when everything was finished. They had nothing to do,� said one angry shopowner. �We tried our best, but the fire station is 80 km away,� retorted a fireman.


Calcutta, May 11: 
Succumbing to pressure from the central leadership, the state BJP today withdrew its candidate for the Onda Assembly seat and decided to support Mamata Banerjee�s nominee. Earlier, the BJP had decided to put up local schoolteacher Gunamoy Chatterjee for the bypolls.

Sources said the BJP�s move follows Mamata�s meeting with the party�s top brass in New Delhi.

The Onda byelection, necessitated by the death of deputy Speaker Anil Mukherjee, is due on May 31. Five municipalities � Dhupguri, Panskura, Durgapur, Coopers� Camp and Nalhati � will go to polls on May 26.

�We are ready to forge electoral alliances with the Trinamul Congress in the Assembly bypoll and in all five municipalities as per the directive of the central leadership. We are confident that the new alliance will pose a challenge to the ruling CPM in the coming days,� said state BJP vice-president Muzaffar Khan. He said party leaders met here during the day to take the final decision.

Chatterjee, a teacher from Bankura who was supposed to submit his nomination this morning, was asked to withdraw and work for Trinamul candidate Sabyasachi Banerjee instead. �Even in the five municipalities we have almost finalised the electoral deal with the Trinamul Congress, barring some problems at Panskura that will be sorted out at the local level. We want the Trinamul Congress to ensure a tie-up for the municipal polls which will be held five days before the Assembly bypoll,� he added.

BJP national executive member Devdas Apte, who is overseeing the Bengal unit, is said to have been instrumental behind the forging of the fresh electoral alliances with Trinamul.

Reciprocating the gesture, Trinamul state president Subrata Bakshi tonight promised efforts for a joint campaign for the candidates.

State Congress chief Pranab Mukherjee said local schoolteacher Brojobasi Biswas will be the party�s nominee at Onda.


Jhargram (Paschim Midnapore), May 11: 
Elephants are emerging as the unlikely heroes in the recent crackdown on Naxalites. The herds of wild elephants descending from Jharkhand�s Dalma hills along the Kakrajhor-Banspahari corridor have restricted the movement of the People�s War Group activists.

The district police had suspected that the migratory elephants� movement was instrumental in hampering the Naxalites. A week-long pachyderm census in the south Bengal forests confirmed this today.

B.C. Sahu, additional divisional forest officer, Midnapore West division, said the animals were also indirectly helping the spread of literacy among tribals. �These tribals are fond of mahua, a country liquor. They often skipped the evening literacy classes run by the National Literacy Mission for a round of the liquor. Elephants, who have developed a taste for it, often attack the brewing units, forcing the tribals to go without it. So, the tribals have developed the habit of attending evening classes,� census officials said.


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