Wanted: a few Samaritans
Poison twist to couple death
Political posers, Left and right
Error-free push delays HS results
The City Diary
Lessons of life beyond classrooms
Star-ESPN off cable beam
Undoing effects of callousness and cement
Parking peril at envoy hub
Central prod on judge posts

Calcutta, June 18: 
On Tuesday morning, Sunil Kumar Basu Roy, 80, fell off the roof of his three-storeyed house near Dhakuria bridge. For 30 minutes, the octogenarian lay dying on the streets, but no one came forward to help. Instead of rushing him to hospital, some neighbours were busy blaming family members for the fall�

On Monday evening, Kalipada Dutta, 70, a resident of the Garden Reach area, collapsed on Chowringhee Road and lay there for over 30 minutes. No one lent a helping hand. A radio-flying squad noticed Dutta and took him to SSKM Hospital, where he was declared �brought dead��

Is there any one out there? Calcutta, famed for its �friendly people� and often crowned for its compassion, is slipping into an abyss of apathy. Road accidents are on the rise and instances of people turning a blind eye to strangers in distress is becoming the rule, not the exception.

The police are well aware of the problem that this poses. �Take the case of Kalipada Dutta. His life could have been saved if a pedestrian had alerted any of the cops on Chowringhee,� says Shibaji Ghosh, deputy commissioner, headquarters. �The tendency among Calcuttans these days is to avoid helping anyone in distress. The common line is that no one wants to get into trouble.�

And if Tuesday morning�s incident is anything to go by, the �steer-clear-of-trouble� syndrome has not spared the cops, either. Residents of the area � instead of trying to save Basu Roy � stormed his house, assaulted family members and damaged furniture. Through all this, officers of nearby Lake police station allegedly stayed far from the fracas. The reason: the site of what the police said appeared to be a suicide, fell under the Jadavpur police station jurisdiction. �If this was the case, the Lake police station should definitely have acted. What is jurisdiction if a man�s life can be saved?� asked Shibaji Ghosh.

This was no isolated incident of indifference. Anutosh Karmakar sat in his jewellery store, Alankar, in Park Circus, for over 40 years. He was well-known and well-liked in the area. Yet, when he suffered a stroke in his shop recently, some local goons walked in and looted the shop, while a customer watched in silence. No one else came forward. Karmakar died soon after.

Has the city sold its soul? �It�s pathetic that people have become so uncaring towards fellow-humans, but that is the present trend,� says Prasanta Roy, head of the sociology department, Presidency College. �Compassion is the first casualty of an urbanisation that breeds a culture of dehumanisation� Also, the �bhadralok� these days is afraid of rushing in to avoid possible police harassment.�

Shibaji Ghosh counters: �Why should police harass people who come forward to help others?�


Calcutta, June 18: 
The mystery surrounding the deaths of engineer Swastik Dutta and his lecturer wife Paramita deepened on Tuesday. The police remained in the dark about whether the twin deaths were a case of suicide or murder.

The post-mortem report, received on Tuesday, indicated that Paramita had died after comsuming copper sulphate. It also said there were no strangulation marks on her throat.

But one vital question remains unanswered: did she consume the poison herself or was it administered to her along with her food?

Police had initially said that Swastik, an assistant chief engineer in a reputed firm, had strangled his wife and then committed suicide by jumping in front of a running train on Sunday morning. But on Tuesday, deputy commissioner, headquarters, Shibaji Ghosh, said that the post-mortem report had added a twist to the tale.

�There were, in fact, no strangulation marks on Paramita�s throat. We had been misled yesterday, as the body was decomposed,� he said. �But the post-mortem report clearly mentions that there was copper sulphate in her stomach and this indicated that her death had been caused by the poison.�

Investigators have also found that Paramita had rented a two-room apartment in Belghoria. This was revealed from rent receipts recovered from the couple�s Purbachal Housing Cooperative Estate apartment on Tuesday. This has baffled investigators. Was Swastik aware of this? The police are not sure as the rent receipts were found tucked away in a corner of Paramita�s locker.

Police also believe that Swastik tried to commit suicide by setting himself on fire. But, unable to bear the pain, he abandoned the bid. This the police have deduced from a half-burnt shirt soaked in kerosene recovered from a bucket near the toilet. There were burn patches on Swastik�s body found on the train tracks at Patipukur.

Additional commissioner of police, Kiriti Sengupta, said: �This points to the fact that Swastik first tried to commit suicide by setting himself on fire and then opted for a less painful way of ending his life. It also means that he knew that his wife was dead. But did he poison her? To this we have no answer yet.�

Police also say that in recent months, their relationship may have soured. They had consulted doctors as they were childless and, friends of the couple say, Paramita blamed her husband for it.

Sengupta said that though the couple were �very different� in their ways, they had been happy together, at least in the initial years of their marriage. But did the differences finally begin to catch up leading to this tragic end? The police hope to provide answers in the next few days.


Calcutta, June 18: 
What is the role of the Trinamul Congress in West Bengal politics? What is the BJP�s so-called hidden agenda? Does it shatter India�s tradition of unity in diversity?

These are extracts from a Jadavpur University (JU) entrance examination, seeking to test the mettle of aspirants queuing up for the one-year post-graduate diploma course in mass communication. This has put the department of adult, continuing education and extension � responsible for setting the admission paper � in the line of fire. The accusation: the questions reveal the department�s political bias. The apprehension: students not toeing the Left line will be victimised.

Though departmental head Ashok Bhattacharyya allayed such fears by conveying to examinees that there would be no victimisation of students on such grounds, senior university officials admitted that the questions, and the resultant controversy, could have been �best avoided�.

The department, with 140 seats, was seeking applications from post-graduates pursuing mass communication as a career option. Eight hundred students appearing for the entrance examination had to answer three questions for the 50-mark, two-hour paper. The first question was compulsory and carried 20 marks; among the rest, students were asked to answer any two 15-mark questions.

�The Gujarat carnage only revealed the hidden agenda of the BJP. What is the so-called hidden agenda? Does it shatter India�s tradition of unity in diversity?� That was question no. 2. Question no. 5 asked examinees to write notes on any two of the three choices given. One of the options was: �The role of the Trinamul Congress in the politics of West Bengal.�

Students later said they were not prepared for these �political� posers. �I wrote what I thought would be more politically acceptable in West Bengal than what I really felt,� admitted one of them.

Bhattacharyya, however, said: �All we were looking for in the examinees was the ability to grasp the political situation. Any student wanting to be a journalist should be able to see both sides of an argument and then express it logically. After all, biased political commentary is bad journalism.�

Another faculty member, seeking anonymity, said the dominant media perception was that the Gujarat carnage was a manifestation of the BJP�s �hidden agenda�. �What�s the problem if we ask students to debate the issue?� he asked. Besides, the role played by the Trinamul Congress two years ago was that of a �very effective Opposition party�, he argued.

A senior university official, however, admitted that �overtly political questions were best avoided� in any university entrance exam, as they attracted negative publicity.


Calcutta, June 18: 
In a bid to be safe rather than sorry, the West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary (HS) Education has decided to take �extra precautionary measures� to ensure that the results of HS 2002 are �fool-proof�. If that is good news for students, here�s the bad news � the date for publication of results is all set to be pushed back. The HS exams were held in end-March and the results scheduled to be published by July 5.

The �slow-and-steady� policy has been adopted by the Council in the wake of the controversy involving printing of a wrong date on the pass certificates of Madhyamik examinees. The date of issuing pass certificates is meant to coincide with the date of publication of results. But this time, examinees found the date on the certificates was March 7, when the Madhyamik exams were still on.

Jyotirmoy Mukherjee, president of the Council, said: �Efforts are on to publish the results by July 5. But the announcement of results may be delayed for a few days, as we are trying our best to make the entire process as fool-proof as possible.� Mukherjee, however, dismissed talk of the results being announced on June 20 and categorically said that there was �no possibility of the results being published before the first week of July�.

Another stumbling block for the publication of results on time is the failure of the HS Council to recover some of the answer-scripts of the English second paper that were lost in Naihati. Nine English answer-scripts were reported missing by an examiner; six have been recovered by the Council, but three remain untraced. According to Mukherjee, the Council has lodged a police complaint.

Sources among examiners said the evaluation of answer-scripts has been completed, but the computer firm entrusted with the task of compiling the results is yet to convey to the Council a date when it would be in a position to post the results.



Bus and taxi strike threat over fare hike

The Bengal Bus Syndicate has called a 48-hour state-wide strike to protest the increase in diesel prices and �excesses� of police and public vehicles department officials. The strike will be held on June 27 and 28. Ajit Kumar Saha, president of the Bengal Bus Syndicate, said the union had submitted its demands to the transport minister but nothing concrete had emerged. The Bengal Taxi Association has also decided on an �indefinite� strike. Taxis will go off the road in Calcutta, North and South 24-Parganas from the midnight of June 26 till the association�s demand for an increase in fare is met. However, drivers affiliated to the Progressive Taximen�s Association (PTA) will ply their vehicles, said Madan Mitra, president of PTA, though he supported the demand for an increase in fare.

CBI raid on cybercafe

Sleuths from Central Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday raided a cybercafe in the city and arrested one person for alleged involvement in a bribery case. The CBI team, led by S.R. Mazumdar, deputy superintendent of police, CBI, arrested T.K. Roy, an inspector of the ministry of industries, for demanding a bribe of Rs 4,000 from the complainant. The raid was the result of a complaint filed with the anti-corruption wing of the CBI.

Tenant evicted

A family was forced to come down on the street after the owner of a building at Akshay Pal Road in Behala allegedly evicted it. The local police said they were aware of the fact but could not help as there was no provision under the law to intervene in the matter without a court order.

Anti-drug day

The city police will hold a series of rallies, street plays and seminars from June 20 to June 26 in different parts of Calcutta to mark international day against drug abuse and illicit trafficking. Eminent personalities from different walks of life will take part in these rallies and dramas, sources said.

Congress rally plan

The state Congress is planning to bring out a rally on June 24 in the city, protesting the hike in power tariff and the deteriorating law and order situation in the state. Pradesh Congress president Pranab Mukherjee will reach Calcutta from Delhi on June 20. Party sources said the rally will start from Hedua Park and terminate near the Gandhi statue on Mayo Road.

Two run over

Two persons were run over near Science City on EM Bypass, in the Tiljala area, early on Tuesday morning. Police said the victims, identified as Babu Dalui, 60, and Sanatan Das, 50, were hit by an unknown vehicle. Both were taken to National Medical College and Hospital where they succumbed to their injuries.

Lorry overturns

Residents of the Cossipore area had a tough time on Tuesday morning as the road was closed for more than two hours. Around 9 am, a truck carrying containers fell on one side of the road and blocked the passage, police said .    

Calcutta, June 18: 
Asima Sarkar stitches clothes to run her family, with hardly any help from husband Manik. But that does not stop her from spending six afternoons a week at the Hastings police phari, near Babughat. That�s where streetchildren from the shanties hemming the Hooghly near Babughat � selling fruits, lemon juice or begging most of the day � turn up, without fail, between 1.30 pm and 5 pm. They learn the alphabets, the numbers and some lessons of life.

Thanks to Shikshyalaya Prakalpa, jointly undertaken by Cini Asha and Loreto Sealdah, these children have been given an opportunity their parents never had. Run by Asima under the supervision of the Hawkers Sangram Committee, Unnati Vidyapith is an effort to give the waifs a curriculum that goes far beyond the boundaries of the classroom.

�All the learning is through fun and games to keep their restless minds interested,� says Asima. There are games to acquaint them with numbers and alphabets, and poems with �charade� thrown in to enlighten them on the importance of �hygiene� and the �rights and wrongs�. The classroom comprises a polythene sheet for the children to sit on and a black board for the lone teacher to write on. Come rain, they retreat to an adjoining shelter that once was used by the police as their �gymnasium�.

Having started in February this year, Asima already has 50 �fast-learning� students, all aged between five and 10. As an incentive, Loreto also provides the students with bags, pencils and books. �This helps rope in new candidates,� confesses Shaktiman Ghosh, secretary, Hawkers Sangram Committee.

Asima herself goes to Loreto to learn how to deal with these children. This apart, she also finds time to meet the parents of these children to coax them into letting them go for a few hours every day. �Though they resisted at the outset, more and more of them are getting interested now,� she smiles.

Corporal punishment is not an option. �Though physical battery is something the children are born into, the parents cannot stand the same when it comes from a teacher,� says Asima. Instead, having won over the children with her love and, more importantly, her seemingly endless stock of stories, all she does is threaten to walk out of class to restore order.

Asima, who taught stitching to the underprivileged under the Jawahar Rozgar Yojana, gets Rs 1,000 as monthly reimbursement, an amount she has not received for the past two months. Yet, she has other things to worry about. �The project is only for four years,� she rues. �What will these children do after that?� Right now, there are no answers. But she hopes by the time the stint ends, the NGOs will have sanctioned another project which would enable Asima to be back with �her children�.


Calcutta, June 18: 
ESPN and Star Sports were blacked out of cable homes in and around Calcutta from Tuesday midnight in an �indefinite boycott�, after operators refused to yield to the broadcaster�s demand for a hike in connectivity declaration.

In an unprecedented move, both RPG Netcom and SitiCable, the two multi-system operators in the city, joined hands to knock off the twin channels from their feed across the city. Independent operators are also expected to join the blackout.

�Now, operators have to pay for other sports channels as well and they are not ready to yield to this fresh demand by ESPN-Star Sports. Thus, we have no option but to switch off the channels. We hope the broadcaster will try to lessen the burden on consumers,� said an RPG Netcom spokesperson.

�We can�t burden the subscriber any further. If we yield to ESPN, others will seek their pound of flesh as well,� said Tarak Saha, spokesman for the operators� joint action committee.


Calcutta, June 18: 
Two old buildings in Calcutta, which are the seat of the culture of which Bengal is so overwhelmingly proud, are being restored. Over the years, they underwent many arbitrary changes, which shrouded their original structures and beauty, and also changed the purpose for which they were constructed.

Jorasanko Thakurbari, which is the old campus of Rabindra Bharati University, and Markatkunja, a building on the Emerald Bower campus of the university on B.T. Road that is less known but far surpassing the former in architectural beauty, are ostensibly in good repair. But with the passage of time, they have become structurally weak.

Thakurbari comprises three-four buildings along with their courtyards, and the oldest plan available in the university library dates back to 1906, although the structures themselves belong to an earlier period, says architect Partha Ranjan Das, who was involved in the restoration of Town Hall and has now undertaken the Thakurbari project. Fortunately, all the old plans are well preserved in the library.

From time to time, verandahs had been appended in Jorasanko, and the ones on the verge of collapse were propped up with columns. After Independence, a part of the building was sold off. By the time the government had decided to take it over, that section was already damaged and the occupants had made many random changes. As a result, there is no access to a room in a building behind Maharshi Bhaban, a portion of which was turned into a museum and which is now being refurbished. When Jorasanko gets flooded during rains, foot-deep water stands on the campus courtyards. �If the buildings are to be saved, the drainage system of the entire area should be revamped,� says Das.

The roof, made of wooden shingles, supported by curved wooden beams on the second floor verandah of Maharshi Bhaban, added around 1916, has to be restored. Wooden beams and rafters of the first floor, which had started sagging under the weight of books and exhibits in the library and the museum, are being strengthened. Some of the bathrooms, which were leaking, are being waterproofed in such a manner that they are compatible with their present use. Das says the materials with which the buildings were constructed are being reused, but wherever a structure needs to be strengthened, modern materials, such as steel beams, are being used.

The cables used for the light-and-sound show, which attracts no visitors, have damaged the buildings. The fire safety equipment could have been installed less visibly, keeping in mind the heritage character. The same could be said about the air-conditioners. The new buildings on the campus show no respect for the original cluster of buildings. The Public Works Department was responsible for this. Das says his scheme will try to revise these faults.

Maharshi Debendranath used to live in Markatkunja, but the actual date of its construction is not known. Rabindranath wrote how he, in his childhood, had seen Bankimchandra at a college reunion in that building.

Callousness has scarred it and Das lists the damaged features � the exquisite Italian marble floors, after collapsible gates were installed; a portico where a collapsible gate and a concrete grille were appended; an open verandah covered with a brick wall; the carved wood encasing steel columns after collapsible gates were installed.

Das will try to restore the original look by removing the cement plaster and exposing the fluted columns, and repairing the columns of solid Italian marble. Moreover, the basement gets waterlogged. The source of the water has to be plugged. The funds allocated for this is Rs 41 lakh.


Calcutta, June 18: 
Security agencies have asked the city police to regulate parking in and around the American consulate and the British deputy high commission, after being informed that terrorists might plant remote-controlled explosives in cars.

Intelligence Branch (IB) sources said illegal parking of cars around the American consulate and British deputy high commission is posing a serious threat to security. Central and state intelligence agencies have pulled up the city traffic police for not imposing regulations in the area.

The Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau has written a three-page letter to police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty on Saturday, with measures to step up security. The letter comes in the wake of a car bomb explosion in front of the US consulate in Karachi.

The security agencies have pointed out that the following loopholes need to be plugged immediately:

Taxis parked illegally on Ho Chi Minh Sarani, near Metro Plaza, have to be removed. Vehicles are also parked in no-parking zones near a hotel on Ho Chi Minh Sarani.

Vehicles travelling along Ho Chi Minh Sarani and those that pass through Camac Street and Theatre Road are not checked for remote-controlled explosives. According to IB officials, it is important to check cars for explosives from at least half a kilometre of the two premises.

The American consulate and British deputy high commission are situated in the middle of a commercial hub. There are several offices in the area, where many outsiders frequent on work. The IB has urged the city police to frisk people before they reach these places.

There aren�t enough policemen in plain clothes in the area to keep tabs on commuters. IB officials have asked for deployment of more policemen in plain clothes.

Central security officials have directed that traffic police regulate parking in the area. Officials pointed out that vehicles are regularly parked at the Camac Street-Ho Chi Minh Sarani intersection, not far from the consulate and also near another hotel at the Theatre Road-Little Russel Street crossing.

Officials pointed out that there is an abandoned building on the west of British deputy high commission. It is possible for terrorists to camp in the building and carry out an attack.

Deputy commissioner of police, traffic, M.K. Singh, said: �I have asked my men to take necessary steps.��

Officers of the Special Branch surveyed the areas surrounding the American consulate and the British deputy high commission on Sunday.


Calcutta, June 18: 
Union law minister Arun Jaitley has requested Chief Justice A.K. Mathur to fill as early as possible the vacant posts of magistrates and judges in 202 subordinate courts across the state.

In a letter, the Union minister has said that the Supreme Court, in a case filed by the All-India Judges� Association, had delivered a verdict on March 21, asking the authorities to fill up the vacancies by March 31, 2003.

Jaitley advised Calcutta High Court to organise a special drive, as more than 100 legal posts are vacant, where nearly 700,000 cases are pending.

He has also urged chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to cooperate with the judiciary in this regard.

The minister pointed out that the state government usually forgets about the vacancies, after forwarding a requisition to the Public Service Commission.

�It has also been pointed out that many of the vacancies can be filled in the subordinate judiciary by the high court through a recruitment drive,� the letter added.

According to a Central spokesperson, around 1,875 posts for judges and magistrates are lying vacant in the subordinate courts across the country.

The number of vacancies is higher in Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.

West Bengal State Bar Council chairman Saradindu Biswas told Metro that at least 114 posts are vacant in courts of the state.

�It has been our long-standing demand to fill the vacancies. We also hope that after the directive by the apex court, the state government will take special measures in this regard,� Biswas said.

A spokesperson for the state law ministry admitted that a copy of the letter had been received. However, Chief Justice Mathur is on leave till June 25. �We will ensure that the vacancies are filled after his return,� the spokesperson said.


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