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Pawan Jaiswal, a student of Class XII in an English-medium school in Golabari, Howrah, stabbed his classmate and friend, Ajay Sarabhogi, to death on Tuesday. Seventeen-year-old Pawan was, apparently, taking revenge after Ajay had ticked him off in public for teasing their teacher.
Pawan confessed in the face of sustained interrogation, that ended late on Tuesday before he, too, was admitted to hospital for treatment of minor injuries to his hand, sustained while stabbing his classmate.
Tuesday�s murder was a sequel to an incident that occurred on May 10 in front of the school. �Pawan passed some lewd remarks at their teacher and Ajay protested, warning him not to repeat the act,� said Howrah superintendent of police Rajesh Kumar. But Pawan, instead of apologising to their teacher, abused Ajay. �Infuriated, Ajay pounced on Pawan and punched him in the face,� one of the investigating officers said.
For the past couple of weeks, Pawan was waiting to avenge the humiliation. �He (Ajay) beat me up in public and in front of my classmates� I made up my mind to teach him a lesson,� Pawan told interrogators on Tuesday.
The vendetta plan was amateurish, but effective. Pawan went to a hardware shop in the Burrabazar-Brabourne Road area on Tuesday afternoon to buy a knife and an iron rod. He did not return to Howrah till the evening, so that no one would spot him with the weapons.
From around 6.15 pm, Pawan lay in wait near Ajay�s residence in M.C. Ghosh Lane.
�I kept a close eye on the neighbourhood grocery and mithai shops, as I knew he (Ajay) would come out from his house at least once in the evening,� Pawan told the police.
A while later, Ajay came out to buy samosas from the sweet shop nearby. Pawan waited for Ajay to return � �the packet in his hands would make him an easier target�, Pawan later told policemen. As Ajay entered the lane in front of his house, his friend pounced on him.
The iron rod was the first to hit Ajay�s head. Then, the knife followed, repeatedly ripping Ajay�s stomach. Pawan, too, was bleeding from a gash in his hand, not used to handling a knife.
Bystanders rushed towards the two and separated them. But it was too late. Ajay was rushed to SSKM Hospital and Pawan was handed over to the police, who admitted him to Howrah State General Hospital later in the night.
�We have already interrogated the teacher to find out the exact incident that triggered the murder,� said a senior police officer.
Rajesh Kumar added that Ajay�s and Pawan�s friends would be interrogated too and �various aspects of the case were being probed�.
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�Today�s verdict is a very significant development. Doctors should learn a lesson from this case and maintain records of symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of all patients. They should realise that they will have to prove their innocence during a case such as this,� said Prabhakar Chatterjee, director of health services. He said the government always emphasised �proper maintenance of clinical documents� and repeatedly highlighted its need in seminars and workshops.
The Calcutta chapter of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has convened an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss the judgment and determine its course of action. Some doctors of the IMA took the line that the conviction of two eminent city physicians could not be used as an indictment of �all doctors�.
�It would be wrong to generalise the court verdict and assume that we deliberately cause harm to our patients by giving wrong medicines or an overdose of drugs,� said Sudipto Roy, president of the IMA, Calcutta branch.
The state medical council, which had earlier acquitted the two doctors along with physician Abani Roy Chowdhury, chose to wait and watch. �We have heard about the judgment. But we cannot comment on the matter, as we have not seen the judgment,� said Ashoke Chowdhury, president of the council.
Consumer groups said this was a reflection of the growing awareness among patients regarding wrong treatment by doctors. �But it will not be proper for us to comment on the case, as the doctors have the scope to appeal to the high court,� said Mala Banerjee of the Federation of Consumer Associations, West Bengal. Banerjee, however, added that doctors being dragged to court for negligence was a �positive and encouraging trend�.
Prabir Basu of Consumers� Unity and Guidance Forum, while stating that the matter was �yet to be tested in high court�, said most doctors tried to help patients. �In some cases, they don�t take adequate and reasonable care of their patients,� said Basu, who is a lawyer. �One of my clients was given a strong painkiller for ortho-arthritis without carrying out the necessary tests. She began to suffer hair loss, restlessness and insomnia and had to be shifted to Mumbai for treatment,� he added.
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This is due to the government�s failure to upgrade enough Madhyamik schools in the districts to the HS level. It had promised to do so after abolishing teaching of HS courses in colleges.
Two years ago, acting on a Central directive, the government had begun the exercise to stop teaching of HS in undergraduate colleges. But even though it abolished HS courses from nearly 150 colleges in the districts, it failed to build up quality infrastructure in the corresponding schools where the courses were introduced.
Most students who do well in Madhyamik seek admission in colleges where the teaching standard is better.
But now that they cannot depend on local schools, a large number of meritorious candidates from the districts are flocking to city schools for admission to Class XI. So, even the lesser-known schools have become inaccessible to city students.
Not only the science stream, but gaining entry in the arts and commerce courses, too, is difficult. So, school authorities have raised the admission bar.
Till last year, 65 per cent was the cut-off mark. This year, schools like South Point and Patha Bhavan are not accepting applications from students who have scored less than 70 per cent in toto, and less than 75 per cent in English for arts.
Jyotirmoy Mukherjee, president of the West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education, appealed to students seeking admission not to depend on a select few schools, as �the government has taken adequate steps to ensure that proper teaching standards are maintained in each school upgraded to the Higher Secondary level�.
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And now, Ten Sports is ready to bring World Cup �02 to Calcutta homes � and offices. Late on Wednesday evening, RPG Netcom, the multi-system operator (MSO) which feeds more than 75 per cent of the city�s cable homes, signed an agreement with the Dubai-headquartered channel, following protracted �commercial negotiations�.
Ten Sports, which has sole India rights for the Cup, is already on the network of the other MSO in town, SitiCable. RPG Netcom subscribers will welcome the much-awaited channel into their drawing rooms either on Wednesday night or Thursday morning, once the technical loose ends are tied up.
Besides beaming 56 matches live and eight on a �deferred live� basis, the channel will also show a highlights capsule during prime time every night, called Today at the World Cup. Before each match, there will be a half-hour warm-up featuring Indian star Baichung Bhutia and former England international Gary Stevens, from the studios in Dubai.
�Yes, we have finally signed a deal with Ten Sports, which is great news for football fans in Calcutta,� said a spokesperson for RPG Netcom. Although no official explanation was forthcoming from the MSO as to why it took so long to clinch the deal, it is learnt that talks were deadlocked over the per-point fee of Rs 14 being sought by Ten Sports and the content it offered post-World Cup.
Chris McDonald, CEO of Taj Television, which owns Ten Sports, has expressed satisfaction over the resolution of the RPG impasse. �We have agreed on commercial terms which both the parties are comfortable with. I am glad that the people of Calcutta will now be able to catch the World Cup live,� McDonald said from Dubai. He was not ready to disclose the per-connection rate at which the pact was sealed.
The Ten Sports boss was quick to dispel doubts about the channel�s fare once the World Cup is over. �I fail to understand why this question keeps cropping up. We are here to do long-term business and will obviously acquire property to match the competition,� he said. For starters, Ten Sports has telecast rights for �all the Manchester United games, all cricket tours out of Sri Lanka, the three- nation cricket meet in Morocco, Champions Trophy hockey, Formula One racing, Indian European golf tours and WWF�.
There is good news for Doordarshan viewers too. According to officials of B4U, which has procured terrestrial rights for four Cup matches from Ten Sports, a deal was signed with Mandi House on Wednesday. �We have sold rights to the opening ceremony and opening match, the two semi-finals, the closing ceremony and the final to DD. All the matches will be beamed on DD on a deferred-live basis. The opening ceremony will be telecast from 11.30 pm and the rest of the games will go on air from 11 pm, except Friday, when the telecast will commence after the feature film,� confirmed Debashis Dey, chief distribution officer, B4U.
Doordarshan will also beam a one-hour capsule for all the other matches every night at 11 pm, according to the B4U official. �It�s great brand-building for the channel, even though we have had to fork out huge sums for the rights and for advertisement slots on DD,� said Dey.
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Banerjee, successful on every past occasion to put a stop to Mukherjee�s project, argued irrefutably that filtered water was too precious a commodity to let go down the drain.
But now that the Trinamul chief is in a tight corner following poll reverses, Mukherjee has not wasted any time, and has already bought, at a cost of Rs 1 crore, 10 sprinkler vehicles, which will hit the road for the first time on June 15.
Along with the seven old vehicles, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) now has 17 such sprinklers.
This time, too, Banerjee has tried to intervene. Again, her logic will appeal to Calcuttans who don�t have enough water to drink.
But, with CMC officer on special duty Shaktibrata Ghosh making it clear that the city�s thoroughfares will be washed from June 15, the Trinamul Congress-controlled civic board is now riven by another round of intra-party wrangles.
Significantly, many areas within Banerjee�s Calcutta South Lok Sabha constituency have been left out of the mayor�s project.
Though 15 of the roads to be washed every day are in the south and only six in the north, Trinamul leaders, unable to miss such a loud and, according to them, political statement, say the south-eastern part of the city happens to be one of Banerjee�s most solid votebanks.
Initially, 50 roads will be washed with water from the spout at the Raja Subodh Mullick Square pumping station.
Five lakh litres of water will be needed daily for the ritual, and this fact alone has been instrumental in bringing most members of the mayor-in-council on Banerjee�s side in this battle.
�When several pockets in the city are reeling under a severe scarcity of water, washing of roads cannot be welcomed,� said one of them.
The opposition Left Front, too, is not going to let go of this opportunity to chastise the Trinamul. �It is a luxury,� commented CPM leader Sudhanshu Sil.
The CPM-led board had to abandon a similar scheme. It was not technically feasible to use unfiltered water because of choked drains and defunct hydrants, Sil added.
Congress leader in the CMC Sailen Dasgupta, too, decried the move. �Washing the streets with filtered water means pouring Rs 10,000 down the drains every day,� he said.
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Dacoits loot house in Salt LakeSix armed dacoits raided the house of a businessman at GC block, in Salt Lake, around 10 pm on Tuesday and decamped with golden ornaments, cash and other valuables worth Rs 14,000. Officers of the South Bidhannagar police station are investigating the matter.
Prison term for HS script theftKamala Prosad Singh and Mohammad Mahasin were sentenced to three years� rigorous imprisonment for stealing the answer scripts of Higher Secondary examination. The judgment was delivered by the 11th metropolitan magistrate of Calcutta, Sashikala Basu, on Wednesday. Sources said the two entered the godown of the Higher Secondary Council at Ranji Stadium in 1986 and stole a large number of answer scripts.
Child drownedA seven-year-old boy, identified as Milan Bhattacharya, drowned in a pond at Buddhinagar, in the Thakurpukur area. The mishap occurred when he fell into the waterbody while playing. When he did not return home till late, his parents began to search for him. His body was later found floating in the pond.
Kidnap threatSambhu Ghosh was arrested at Belgharia on Wednesday for allegedly demanding money from Debasish Shaw, a transport trader of Maniktola. Police said Ghosh rang up Shaw and threatened to kidnap his son if he was not paid Rs 6 lakh. The police traced the call and picked up Ghosh, sources said.
Mayor�s criticsThere are voices of dissent in the Corporation against mayor Subrata Mukherjee, who is away in Seoul to watch the World Cup football matches. Leading the critics was Anup Chatterjee, member, mayor-in-council (roads) who, in the presence of colleagues Samsuzzaman Ansari, Javed Ahmed Khan and Arup Biswas, accused the mayor of stalling development activities in the city at the instance of the ruling CPM. Chatterjee also criticised him for going on an amusement trip when the party had received a setback in the by-elections. The mayor had neither intimated his office about the date of his return nor had he handed over charge to deputy mayor Meena Devi Purohit, they alleged. However, a civic law officer pointed out that under the CMC Act-1980, the mayor need not hand over charge when going out of town. It was an automatic process for the deputy mayor to take over, he said.
Kadapara demandNearly 1,000 labourers and residents of Kadapara, an industrial area near Swabhumi, demonstrated on Wednesday pressing for improved civic infrastructure. They handed over a memorandum to local MLA-cum-councillor Paresh Pal. They said that the drainage system of the area had collapsed as the waterbody in which the sewers would be emptied was filled up.
Boy run overSanjoy Das, 10, was killed when a private bus on route 238 knocked him down on Barasat-Taki Road in Barasat, early on Wednesday. Police said the accident occurred when the boy was crossing the road on his way to a coaching class. He succumbed to his injuries on the way to Barasat hospital. The driver managed to flee with his vehicle.
Four heldThe Jorabagan police arrested four persons suspected to be dacoits near Jorabagan Park on Tuesday night. The four are Satrughan Sharma, Sunil Pande, Amar Singh Sharma and Suraj Kumar Sonkar.
Madarsa feteThe toppers of this year�s High Madarsa, Alim and Fazil examinations were felicitated at the city press club on Wednesday by the West Bengal Madarsa Students� Union.
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Joining Subham Barna Mala, a theatre group, is what changed his life. �I was being productive in something I like doing. It made my mind free, lighter and I was able to concentrate better,� says Soureen, who has been offered a full scholarship at Labanhrad Vidyapith to complete his Higher Secondary studies, after which, he says, he will give his Joint Entrance Examination or pursue a maths honours degree. �I have the opportunity to choose. But no matter what I do, I will stick with this group,� he promises.
Subham Barna Mala believes theatre is the way to develop a child�s concentration, intelligence and determination, by giving them the opportunity to explore their creativity and express their imagination. Functioning despite a lack of funds for the past 18 years, they have formed their own group of children, as well as adults, who joined them young. The aim is to bring some light into the lives of these children.
Ashish Khan, the founder of the group, says: �We take children from government and other schools that are often unable to provide even an education to their students, let alone any kind of extra-curricular activity. For example, at a certain school from where we have received a few students, they don�t have a girl�s toilet. So, when a child excuses herself, she is allowed to leave for the day. As a result, there are often no students left in the class by 12 noon. We try to channel their energies in a positive direction.�
This year, about 150 children from seven schools have been selected for the Subham Natya Mela, from June 1 to 5, to coincide with the birth centenaries of eminent writers Sunirmal Basu, Charu Chandra Chakraborty, Akhil Neogi and Pramatha Nath Bishi, and the 125th birth anniversary of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. June 2 will give the children a turn to demonstrate their talent. Five plays will be put up at Girish Mancha. The school authorities have selected the stories from among the writings of the authors chosen.
�We specifically asked the schools to choose stories and not plays. Nor did we prepare the script for them. The children were meant to make the dialogue up on their own as they went along. That gave them a greater scope to develop their creativity and made them feel that they had a greater hand in the production process. This retains their interest.�
The trainers are theatre veterans from places as far as Naihati and Shantipur, who are doing it for the love of the job, asking for only travel expenses. Thus, stage personalities like Tirthankar Chandra, who has his own theatre group that works with children from lower-income backgrounds, lend a hand, bringing their years of experience to extract a disciplined performance from even the more boisterous ones.
Khan says over the years he has received enormous support from schools. �Often, the principals and teachers, who send their wards to my workshops, tell me that the children�s behaviour shows a marked improvement thereafter. But a lot of the time the parents are not so enthusiastic, because the kids sometimes skip classes or don�t do their homework to come to our workshops�
�We devise different ways of testing their commitment. For example, we started providing food, so some extra kids turned up. Later, we stopped it to see who was coming for the food and who was truly interested.�
The Subham Natya Mela at Girish Mancha is only the second to be organised by the group. Khan, a criminal lawyer, says his support system comprises his colleagues in court. The cash crunch casts a shadow over his plans, but not his dreams. �We try to do our best with what we have,� says Khan.
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Sources said both the departments are at loggerheads over the measures taken for the drive. �I am surprised at the attitude of the conservancy department,� said officer on special duty, health, Atanu Mukherjee. He alleged that the conservancy department had held back its support.
Refuting the charge, chief engineer, conservancy, Arun Sarkar, said: �No one from the health department approached me for helping out with the drive against cut fruits. I am ready to provide manpower and transport but first, I have to know the logistics behind the drive.�
A senior health official pointed out that last year, due to reasons of its own, the conservancy department had carried out an independent drive on cut fruits, without informing the health department. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee, in the presence of member, mayor-in-council, conservancy, Mala Roy and member, drainage and sewerage, Rajib Deb, had flagged off the drive.
This year, the health department took it upon itself to conduct the drive against cut fruits, coloured syrups and edibles, sold by vendors on pavements.
During its four-day drive, the health department has reportedly destroyed large quantities of cut fruits and roadside edibles in the business areas of the city.
According to Atanu Mukherjee, if not checked now, such edibles might cause cholera, hepatitis, diarrhoea and even cancer because of their unhygienic handling and carcinogenic colouring.
He added that his department�s work would be much easier if the conservancy department joined hands in the drive.
�Many areas are yet to be covered. The department is handicapped by limitations, which will lengthen the process of checking such a menace. I wish the conservancy department sees reason and joins hands with us,� he added.
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According to superintendent of Howrah Police, Rajesh Kumar, his force has already identified the accident-prone zones in the district, particularly on the National Highway and the Kona Expressway.
�We have realised that extensive patrolling and manning of the accident-prone zones are essential to apply the brakes on the rising menace,� said Kumar. Speedbreakers are also being erected near important intersections to check rash driving.
He added that drivers pay scant regard to road rules, such as checking air pressure in the tyres and the condition of the tyres, use of wipers and dippers at night and the condition of the brakes and gears.
�Many accidents take place due to low pressure in the tyres and punctures in the tyres of heavy vehicles. Our team will look into the condition of the tyres, besides conducting routine checks on vehicles,� said Kumar. Mobile patrols will also pull up drunk drivers. They will face prosecution.
The district police will also check whether the drivers abide by the speed limits near sharp turns, schools, colleges and hospitals, as these are considered �sensitive zones�.
�We had earlier put up the rules and regulations on billboards, but drivers hardly go through them. We will also be putting an end to the practice of travelling on the roofs of long-distance buses. We have already prosecuted passengers on this account and yet, the menace continues,� added Kumar.
The district administration is also worried about Trekkers, plying within Howrah town, which load passengers beyond capacity, giving rise to accidents. Trekkers, however, have been banned on highways.
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Soumen Mitra, deputy commissioner, detective department, said the kidnapping took place around 10 am. �A group of four youths in a taxi went to the saw mill in Shambhu Babu Lane, in the Entally police station area. They had been tipped-off that the merchant�s son, Zaheed, would arrive there.�
As soon as Zaheed approached the main gate of the saw mill, the youths whipped out revolvers and dragged the teenager into the taxi at gunpoint. The kidnappers managed to flee before residents of the area could raise an alarm.
The first ransom call came to Zaheed�s Entally residence after an hour. The abductors demanded Rs 50,000. �The sum was beyond the capacity of the family. So, they started bargaining. Finally, the demand was scaled down to Rs 15,000,� said Mitra. �The goons told Zaheed�s family members to meet them in front of Syed Baba Mosque, in the Hastings police station area, with the cash,� Mitra added.
The family, meanwhile, alerted officers in Entally police station, who relayed the message to Lalbazar. Officials of the anti-rowdy section (ARS) were asked to contact Zaheed�s family members.
The police then asked the victim�s elder brother, Saheed, to go to the designated spot with a briefcase. By then, the kidnappers had called Zaheed�s family twice and threatened them: �We are waiting here for the past two hours� You come soon, pay the money and take your son back.�
A team of 10 ARS officials, led by the DC, DD (special) Pijush Pandey, reached the spot around 3.30 pm with Saheed. �We split up into small groups. Officers took up position posing as hawkers and pedestrians. We told Saheed to engage the kidnappers in conversation to give us time to strike,� said Pandey.
After five minutes, two teenagers approached Saheed. �Saheed started talking to them� Within 10 minutes, two other youths turned up. As our officers closed in on them, they tried to flee. But three of them were rounded up. The fourth managed to board a running bus,� added Pandey.
The arrested trio was identified as Sheikh Arjun, 15, of Chhatu Babu Lane, Santosh Roy, 16, of New Alipore and Afsar Alam, 18, of Syed Ahmed Road.
Preliminary investigation revealed that Alam owed allegiance to the Chunnu gang. Chunnu had been arrested earlier on charges of extortion. �The two others are new faces and this might be their first crime,� said Mitra.