Twin tragedies claim couple
Teachers signal signature boycott
Church schools in job fix
Blackout cloud on sports duo
Cold war that won�t thaw
The City Diary
Sleuths hot on killer trail
Turn off road taps to boost supply: CMC
Security shroud over Howrah landmarks
Core tests halt for want of kits

Calcutta, June 17: 
He was an engineer in a private firm on Park Street. She was a lecturer in Bengali in a north Calcutta college. They were, according to neighbours in Muraripukur, �a lovely couple�. By Sunday morning, they were both dead. And by Monday afternoon, the police were saying that Swastik Dutta, 42, had murdered wife Paramita, 34, before ending his life under the wheels of a train.

�We came to know of the incident around 8 am on Monday, when some neighbours of the Duttas complained to Maniktala police that a putrid smell was coming from their second-floor flat in the three-storeyed apartment on Muraripukur Road,� said Soumen Mitra, deputy commissioner of police, detective department.

A police team broke open the door. �Paramita�s body was on the bed. She had died of strangulation, which was apparent from the marks on her throat. Everything else in the bedroom was in order. There was no sign of a break-in or any kind of struggle,� added Mitra.

The headless body of Swastik was recovered by the Dum Dum Government Railway Police (GRP) on Sunday morning from the railway tracks near Patipukur, between Dum Dum and Bidhannagar stations. The couple had been married for 11 years.

Preliminary investigation revealed that Paramita had been killed late on Saturday. �It seems that Swastik killed his wife and then slipped out of home early on Sunday. He appears to have headed straight for the Patipukur railway bridge, where he jumped on to the tracks in front of a local train,� said Mitra.

The security guard of the apartment block told the police that Swastik left the apartment around 4.30 am on Sunday. �It was unusual, as he would go out at around 8.30 am every day. But I did not suspect anything and so did not think of alerting anyone,� he added.

Acting deputy commissioner, eastern suburban division, B.K. Mullick, said there was a newspaper lying beside Swastik�s body on the railway tracks. �The keys to the apartment were in his pocket. But initially, the Dum Dum railway police could not figure out who he was or where he was from,�� added Mullick.

The railway police alerted the Lalbazar control room about the body of a middle-aged man being discovered on the tracks. Mullick said the police picked up some leads from the Muraripukur apartment and traced them to the body recovered at Patipukur.

The security guard of the building later identified the body as that of Swastik. The body has been sent for post-mortem.

Till late on Monday, the police were struggling to piece together the tragedy and find a possible motive. �We are still in the dark about what triggered the murder followed by suicide. The statements of the neighbours and some relatives of the victims have not revealed anything either. Officers of the homicide wing are busy probing all aspects of the case,� said Mitra.

According to residents of Muraripukur who knew the couple, there was no hint of any trouble between the two. �Several people told us that they had never seen Swastik and Paramita quarrel. They were, neighbours said, quite clearly in love even after 11 years of marriage. They did not have a child but there was no apparent tension about this, either,�� said Mullick.


Calcutta, June 17: 
The recent marksheet forgery scandal has cast a shadow over Presidency College. The first casualty: attestation of marksheets by teachers at the time of admission.

The teachers� council of Presidency College has adopted a resolution urging the institution�s admission committee to change the format of the admission forms. The council felt the column where applicants are required to mention details of marks scored in previous examinations should be dropped so that students do not have to approach teachers for attestation at the time of admission.

According to officials, the proposed solution is to just ask for a photocopy of the original marksheet, which students get attested from gazetted officers before picking up their application forms.

As the institution is directly controlled by the government, teachers of Presidency College enjoy attestation powers. �We will participate in the process of admission of students to first-year classes, due to begin next month, but we are determined not to attest any marksheet,� said some members of the teachers� council, on Monday.

The move comes in the wake of the controversy involving a second-year student gaining admission to the college with a forged marksheet. He had got his form attested by one of the college teachers.

A section of students had alleged that the scandal could have been avoided if the teacher concerned had examined the original document properly before attesting the marksheet.

This has prompted the teachers to stop attesting any such document brought to them by students. And now, following the teachers� council decision, the no-attestation move is official.

�The recommendation of the council is under consideration. We hope to place the matter before the admission committee for approval soon,� said Debaprasad Chakraborty, head of the zoology department and convener of the college admission committee.

Principal Amitava Chatterjee refused to speak on the matter. But some officials of the college admitted that the teachers� proposal to delete the column in the admission form is being considered seriously.

A number of students � especially those who come from far-off places � often fill and submit their admission forms on the same day. They invariably turn to Presidency College teachers for attestation of the column of the marksheet that requires a statement of their�s to be authenticated.


Calcutta, June 17: 
Several Bengali-medium schools, run by Christian missionaries, are facing uncertainty as the government plans to take away from the church the powers to recruit teachers for the institutions. The authorities of at least a dozen missionary-run primary schools, most of them in Calcutta, are finding it difficult to hold classes due to the delay in granting permission to fill up teaching posts.

In political and academic circles, the delay is seen as a retaliatory gesture by the government, under pressure recently to withdraw its decision to gradually bring all the 100 missionary-run primary schools under the jurisdiction of the district primary councils. The councils are mostly controlled by the CPM.

Once that is done, the church authorities will not be allowed to recruit teachers and this will give the ruling party an opportunity to appoint its own candidates.

Reacting to the government decision on transferring administrative control of the schools from the church to the primary councils, the Association of Christian Schools raised protests and lodged a complaint. The state school education department issued a circular last month withdrawing the decision.

�We are happy that the government promptly withdrew its decision responding to our appeal and allowed the churches to recruit teachers for the institutions run by them. But we are now facing a fresh problem, as the respective district councils are not giving their approval to the churches to fill up the vacant posts. The church cannot fill up the posts without prior permission from the councils,� said Hirod Mullick, spokesperson for the Association of Christian Schools in West Bengal.

The 100 primary schools, run by the Christian missionaries in the state, are guided by special rules framed by the government in 1974 on the basis of an agreement between the government and the Association of Christian Schools. Going by the provisions of the special rules, the church is empowered to recruit teachers but it is mandatory for the schools to take permission from the government. This is necessary as all the 100 institutions are provided funds for payment of the teachers� salaries.


Calcutta, June 17: 
With the city tuned in to the soccer World Cup and Ten Sports hogging the eyeballs, the other sports twins on beam, ESPN and Star Sports, have for the moment been consigned to the back-burner.

But by Tuesday night, ESPN and Star Sports could become conspicuous again � by their absence. With cable operators resenting the increased connectivity sought by ESPN-Star Sports, both the sports channels face a boycott, even as the Indian team leaves for a summer tour of England, �live and exclusive� on Star Sports.

In keeping with their new-found solidarity, major operators� associations under both RPG Netcom and SitiCable, have all but decided to black out the channels from Tuesday midnight, refusing to cough up a �65 per cent hike in declared connectivity� sought by the channels.

A final decision on going ahead with the �indefinite strike� will be reached on Tuesday morning, after taking the other unions into confidence.

�The decision is unanimous, as we can�t go on yielding to their pressure every time. As it is, ESPN-Star Sports enjoys nearly 80 per cent declaration levels, the highest in the industry. We thought if we can take on an event-driven channel, we can stop the others in their tracks,� said an operator on condition of anonymity.

The joint forum of cablemen, which has been working towards a floor rate of around Rs 300, feels it will be impossible to �burden the consumer any further�.


Calcutta, June 17: 
The cold war has never been hotter; the ice-cream labels battling for the Calcutta palate have never been so numerous. And the results are far from predictable. The latest ORG-MARG figures confirm that the new brand on the block, Metro, had in April 2002 scooped 44.1 per cent of the market share in terms of volume, overtaking the 2001 favourite, Kwality Walls. The survey pegs the market demand for ice cream in greater Calcutta, excluding institutional and pushcart sales, at �around 10,500 litres a day�.

Kwality Walls, Metro, Rollick, Amul, Big Ones, Baskin Robbins, Movenpick, Thacker�s, Naturals� Local names are competing with national and international brands for freezer space this summer. What is clear, however, is Calcutta�s taste preference: tingling the tastebuds here, unlike any other metro, is two-in-one, �especially for marriages�, while vanilla, strawberry, butterscotch and chocolate are also among the pop picks. The Walls range is cashing in on Cornetto, while Amul�s mango Fundoo has been a smash-hit.

But value share, not volume share, is what matters for Walls. �In economic terms, it is the share of consumer wallet that makes the difference. Volumes can be artificially boosted through freebies,� says J.H. Mehta executive director, ice creams, HLL. �In April 2002, Kwality Walls had 41.8 per cent share of the revenue, according to ORG-MARG, while Metro had only 33.9 per cent.�

Kwality Walls �wants to create a line of highly differentiated products�, and is considering expanding the number of sundae shops to strengthen its dil ka connection with Calcutta. Ice cream competes with not only other ice cream brands, but sweets like rosogolla and gulab jamun, too, insist officials.

Rollick, with a number of popular sundae shops targeted at �middle-income families�, has been experimenting with mishti in mind. �Flavours like Rajbhog are doing very well,� says Sadhana Agarwal of Rollick. Metro, which had to fight initial resistance to its �milky taste�, has introduced the aamsatta flavour with Yum Aam. They had even taste-tested, with unfavourable results, a chatpata �spice-cream� range.

�Infiltration� is how Kwality Walls describes the Metro Dairy distribution technique.

�We have around 1,200 exclusive freezers in the city. Metro has infiltrated all of them by offering higher margins,� alleges Mehta. Metro Dairy MD Sumit Deb, however, puts the figure of outlets at 1,700. �We offer value-for-money to consumers and cooperate with our distributors closely, which has given us a market advantage,� says Deb.

Amul, which launched its ice creams here in January, had around 5.8 per cent of the sales in April, according to ORG-MARG. But company officials claim the share is already around one-third. �We estimate the Calcutta market to be around 300,000 litres a month, where we sold around 100,000 litres in May,� says Prashant Tripathy, branch manager, Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd.

Baskin Robbins� Elgin Road store is seeing fading footfalls, but �chocolate� is still a fave. �The loyal ones keep coming back, as they feel our product is the best,� says shopkeeper Krishna Mukherjee.



Road rage after death of youth

Residents clashed with the police on Deshapran Sashmal Road, near Charu Market police station, in Tollygunge, after 26-year-old Pratik Pal was run over by a CTC bus on Monday morning. Pal, a resident of Swarupnagar, in Thakurpukur, was on his way to work. He had got off his cycle and was waiting to cross the road when the bus, trying to overtake another vehicle, ran him over. Bystanders rushed Pal to MR Bangur Hospital, where the doctors declared him dead. Residents stopped and damaged a bus on route 218 and stoned other passing vehicles. Later, they tried to block the road. Officers of the Charu Market police station rushed to the spot. They, too, were assaulted. Police had to resort to a lathicharge to disperse the crowd. Traffic in the area was affected for an hour.

Man run over on Park Street

A 70-year-old man, Kalipada Dutta, was killed in a road accident on Monday. Police said Dutta lay at the crossing of Chowringhee and Park Street for half an hour with serious head injuries but no one bothered to help him. Later, policemen took him to SSKM Hospital where he was declared dead. Dutta was a resident of Circular Garden Reach Road and Rs 10,000 was found in his pocket.

JEE results

Students of English-medium schools in Calcutta and Ramakrishna Mission-run institutions dominated the merit lists of the joint entrance examinations (JEE) for admission to engineering and medical colleges in the state, the results of which were declared on Monday. Subhankar Mukherjee from Midnapore Collegiate School has stood first in engineering. Rudrajit Paul of South Point school has topped the medical section. Six among the 20 students figuring on the merit lists are from South Point. Three are from Ramakrishna Mission, Narendrapur. According to A.K.Das, member secretary of the West Bengal Board of Examinations for admission to engineering, medical and technological degree colleges, a total of 47,358 examinees had appeared for JEE 2002. According to Das, 25,622 examinees have qualified for engineering. The number of seats in engineering, however, is 9,300. A total of 4,923 students have qualified for the medical section, while the number of medical seats is only 905.

Train mikes off

The railways have decided to ban the use of microphones on local trains in order to curb �sound pollution�. A railway official said on Monday, the decision followed complaints from passengers of the Sealdah South section that some youths would enter the compartments, pull out battery-driven sound systems and belt out popular numbers.

Buddha meets Shah

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee called on Governor Viren J. Shah at Raj Bhavan on Monday. Though officials claimed that it was a courtesy call, Raj Bhavan sources said Bhattacharjee briefed Shah about the state�s law-and-order situation.

Front civic protest

Left Front councillors of Calcutta Municipal Corporation will stage a demonstration in front of mayor Subrata Mukherjee�s office on June 24 to demand repair of roads, timely payment of dues to contractors and regular supply of drinking water in civic wards across the city.

Dacoits held

Three dacoits were arrested from Malipanchghara in Howrah on Sunday night. Police said they had assembled to carry out a dacoity in a businessman�s house. Acting on a tip-off, policemen raided the spot and arrested all of them. A cache of firearms was recovered.

Patriot dies

Former MP and freedom-fighter Samar Guha died in a private hospital in south Calcutta on Monday after a prolonged illness. He was 85. A follower of Netaji Subhas Chandra Basu, he was a member of Janata Dal (S).    

Calcutta, June 17: 
The police are closing in on the Park Side Road killer. Investigations have revealed that prime suspect Chandan Bermecha and his brother Raju had boarded a train for Faizabad to reach their Tanda home, in the Ambedkarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh, on June 11 evening, hours after the murder of Sushila Samsukha and daughter Pragati.

Police said Chandan and Raju went to meet Sushila in the Samsukhas� third-floor apartment on Park Side Road at 3.30 pm. They are suspected to have stabbed Sushila and daughter Pragati to death minutes after son Modit left the flat to play with friends. Uttam Samsukha, husband of Sushila, later identified Chandan as a �distant relative�.

�After the incident, Chandan and Raju went straight to Howrah station and reached Faizabad station the next morning,�� sleuths said. �Initially, Uttam Samsukha did not have Chandan�s address. He later gave us an address in Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh. We sent a team there, which came to know that Chandan was not from Barabanki, but from the Tanda area in Ambedkarnagar district,�� they added.

Superintendent of police, Ambedkarnagar, Abhay Kumar Prasad, told Metro over phone that Chandan and Raju live in a house in the Tanda police station area. �I had sent some policemen to check on them. They found the house locked and were told that Chandan had left the place on June 13,�� added Prasad.

The superintendent of police added that Tanda was �a huge area�, with a population of three lakh. �It is difficult to track down an accused on the run if he is holed up here. We are keeping a watch on the house and the surrounding areas. Let us wait and watch,�� concluded Prasad.

Officers of the Tollygunge police station � under whose jurisdiction Park Side Road falls � said on Monday that Chandan�s sister had been recently married in Rajasthan. �We have got the sister�s address and a police team is headed there to try and track the duo down,�� they said.

Deputy commissioner of police, south, Kuldeep Singh, expressed confidence that both Chandan and Raju would soon be rounded up. As far as the motive of the twin murder goes, the probe till now has pointed to a �family dispute�. The robbing of ornaments and cash is being largely viewed as an attempt to throw sleuths off-track.

�The nature of the murder suggests that Chandan bore some kind of a grudge against Sushila. But the motive will not be clear till Chandan and Raju are arrested,�� said Singh.


Calcutta, June 17: 
Booster stations at Garfa, Bansdroni and a dozen other places will fail to serve the purpose of boosting the pressure in filtered water supply if the civic authorities do not impose an immediate moratorium on standpipes (roadside taps).

�More than 500 new standpipes in the city need to be plugged to avert a water crisis,� civic sources warned.

Residents of the affected areas have demanded mayor Subrata Mukherjee�s intervention in the matter. Mukherjee on Monday admitted that something needed to be done to check the growth of standpipes in the city.

�Such taps are wasting precious filtered water. At least 20 million gallons are wasted daily as the roadside taps are never turned off,� the mayor said. �It is a strange city, where tax-payers do not get adequate supply, thanks to our politicians� obsession with providing standpipes to those who do not cough up a single paisa for civic amenities. If the trend continues, it will lead to a crash at the Calcutta Municipal Corporation,� added Mukherjee.

According to civic engineers, when a booster station exerts extra pressure on the water supply line, the standpipes gush out water that goes largely unused.

�It is precisely the reason why people living in the B.B.D. Bag and Strand Road areas suffer from a perennial shortage of filtered water,� the civic sources said.

The extra pressure in the water supply line at Raja Subodh Mullick Square could push water up to a height of 100 feet through a one-inch diameter pipe, but because of several standpipes in the area, the pressure in the supply line has dropped to 14 feet at B.B.D. Bag, said a senior engineer.

Calling each standpipe an �authorised leak� in the water mains, the civic sources said politicians have already forced the civic engineers to instal more than 20,000 such �leaks� all over the city.

According to a civic estimate, there are about 500 water-scarce pockets in the city proper (Wards 1 to 100) and new pockets are being added every year with the rise in the number of standpipes.

Two more booster stations are coming up at Garfa and Bansdroni for the benefit of the added areas, though work has been suspended on an earlier project in Bagmari.

Senior engineers in the water supply department are of the opinion that the water supply situation in the B.B.D. Bag area will improve with the commissioning of Raja Subodh Mullick Square booster pumping station.


Calcutta, June 17: 
The district administration has beefed up security at vital installations and offices of the Central and state governments in Howrah, following reports of possible terrorist attacks.

The state government has already alerted the district administration on this score. The warning comes in the wake of a Central red alert asking the state government to beef up security around Writers� Buildings and other important landmarks.

�We have thrown a security blanket around all important spots in the district, including Rabindra Setu (Howrah bridge), Vidyasagar Setu, Howrah station, Bengal Engineering College (Deemed University) at Shibpur, Belur Math and Central and state government offices in the town,� said Rajesh Kumar, superintendent of police, on Monday.

He said officials are in contact with the security agencies of the Central and state government over steps to thwart any possible attack.

�Sharing information with the Special Branch and Calcutta Police is important for coordination and teamwork, given the network of the suspected terrorists,� the superintendent said.

Kumar added that officials were working in tandem with the superintendent of Government Railway Police, Howrah, Benoy Chakraborty, to strengthen security on and around the Howrah station premises, as it could be a key target of the terrorists. Plainclothesmen have been deployed in the area too.

Special security measures have been taken at Howrah bridge, Belur Math, Bengal Engineering College, Botanical Gardens and the offices of the district magistrate and the superintendent of police.

�Since these are important landmarks, drawing lakhs of visitors every day, we have decided to be extra cautious about them. However, there�s no reason to panic. What we expect from the people is that they stay alert,� said a district Intelligence Branch officer.

All major market areas and cinema halls have been put under the scanner. Bunkers have been built and police personnel, guarding these places, have been provided with sophisticated arms to combat the terrorists.

The district administration has asked the residents of Howrah to get in touch with its officials in case they notice suspicious movements around sensitive establishments.


Calcutta, June 17: 
Subhomoy Chatterjee of Shyambazar is suffering from Hepatitis B. As he cannot afford the costly HBE antigen test, he had gone to the virology department of the School of Tropical Medicine (STM). But a lack of kits forced him to return

Abhijit Basu of Sealdah went to STM for the same purpose but was informed that the laboratory is not conducting core antigen tests for the past three months

Hundreds of poor patients, unable to afford tests at private labs in the city, are being refused HBE antigen and core antigen tests at the referral laboratory of the virology department at STM.

Health minister Suryakanta Mishra is unaware of the development. When informed of the shortage on Monday, he expressed his displeasure. �Hepatitis B is a serious disease but it can be cured if proper tests are carried out. Nobody informed me about the situation at the virology department. We cannot let patients suffer,� said Mishra, adding that he would inquire into the matter.

According to Mishra, poor patients come to hospitals with the hope of these tests be conducted. �If STM did not have adequate kits, they should have taken up the matter with higher officials. It is surprising that essential tests for Hepatitis B are not being conducted for the past three months,� said a shocked Mishra.

Sources at the virology department said despite repeated reminders to P. K. Sarkar, director, STM, there had been no change in the situation. �We had informed the director that the kit crunch is hampering our work but till now nothing has been done. All we could convey to the patients are our helplessness,� said a doctor of the virology department. When contacted, Sarkar said: � I am aware of the situation. I have sought a report from the virology department, but they have failed to submit one. The situation is unlikely to change for some time.�

Patients, however, are furious on being turned away. �It is the duty of the hospital to arrange for kits. I think the state government needs to intervene to solve the crisis,� said the family member of a patient. Aparna Lahiri, noted micro-biologist and former professor of Nil Ratan Sirkar Medical College, said there are certain parameters to judge the clinical condition of patients and HBE antigen tests and core antigen tests are important markers, like surface antibody and envelope antibody. Asim Barman, state health secretary, has assured patients that he will take necessary steps to make arrangement for the kits.


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