Bias blot on region rule
Rain water wreaks havoc on phone lines
Mother rejects suicide theory
Paper chase in death row
The City Diary
Court prod on malaria drive
Suit �packs� a punch
Tip-off nets arms dealer
Airport road facelift ahead
Making sound go round

Calcutta, July 5: 
The city�s disappointment over practically missing out on the Higher Secondary (HS) 2002 merit list dogged the Salt Lake headquarters of the West Bengal Higher Education Council, on Friday.

Three days after the publication of results, some teachers� lobbies, school managements and guardians approached the Council to question the decentralisation drive that prompted region-specific assessment of answer-scripts.

This time, answer-scripts of HS examinees from various districts were evaluated by examiners from the districts, for which four regional examination centres had been set up in north Bengal, Midnapore, Burdwan and Calcutta. And most city scripts also travelled to nearby districts for evaluation.

�As a generic measure, decentralisation is welcome � essential, in fact, to lessen the workload on the Council headquarters or to optimise administration,� said Prithwis Basu, general secretary of the West Bengal Headmasters� Association.

�But what is unacceptable is the way they have stopped the old system of cross-region assessment of answer-scripts by getting them evaluated by examiners who, like the examinees, belong to the same region or districts. If this goes on, it will continue to be difficult for Calcutta students to make their mark on the merit lists,� he added.

But the Council claimed the present evaluation system was efficient and transparent. �The system we follow is impartial and suits students� requirements. It is free of any anomalies,� said Council president Jyotirmoy Mukherjee, adding that the system of region-wise evaluation was here to stay, as it was in conformity with government policy.

Under the new system, the north Bengal region of the Council handles scripts from districts like Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar, North and South Dinajpur, Darjeeling and Malda. Similarly, the Burdwan office assesses scripts from Burdwan, Birbhum, Hooghly and Bankura and the Midnapore centre covers scripts originating from Purba and Paschim Midnapore and Purulia.

Demanding a �level playing field� for city students, guardians and schools said the scripts from the districts should be assessed in �a neutral zone�. �Under the present system, fair evaluation is not possible,� claimed a senior teacher of Gokhale Memorial School.

Education officials admitted that many city schools and guardians� lobbies have petitioned the government to change the assessment system which, allegedly, ensured �rural dominance� of the merit list and revert to the system of �cross-region assessment of scripts�. This, they felt, was more transparent and less loaded against city schools.

Some anti-Left organisations have even demanded �region-wise merit lists� if the present trend continues. Others have called for creation of �an exclusive region� � along the lines of the rural centres � for evaluation of Calcutta scripts.


Calcutta, July 5: 
Twenty-five thousand telephone lines in south and central Calcutta are out of order following heavy rain over the past few days. Telecom sources said lines in the Park Circus, Minto Park, Beckbagan, Theatre Road, Hazra, Ballygunge and Kalighat areas were the worst hit by waterlogging after the recent showers.

�Construction workers had damaged cables while digging for the AJC Bose Road flyover. To add to our woes, water accumulated after the heavy downpour, is seeping into the cables,�� said a senior general manager of Calcutta Telephones.

Chief general manager of Calcutta Telephones S.P. Chakravarty, who met senior officials on Friday to take stock of the situation, instructed divisional engineers and area managers to work on a war footing over the weekend to rectify the faults.

Calcutta Telephones officials said senior telecom officers, including divisional engineers and area managers, were scheduled to attend a seminar on �Advances in telecom sector� at Ballygunge Place on Saturday. But on Friday, they were summoned and directed to report for fault-repair work in their respective areas.

�I have asked them to skip all programmes on Saturday and Sunday, and ensure that the faults are repaired and telephone lines restored by Monday. I will monitor the situation,�� Chakravarty said.

The chief general manager said 15,000 subscribers have registered complaints with the authorities. Officials, however, admitted that many subscribers do not register an official complaint and instead, inform senior officers that their lines are out of service.

�We conducted a survey during the past two days and found out that 25,000 lines are out of service. Many subscribers don�t register a complaint and obtain the mandatory docket number, which records the number of faults,�� the general manager added.

Officials said there are 1.3 million subscribers in the city and its suburbs and that 18,000 lines are dead as underground cable lines have snapped.

�Another cause of breakdown is water seeping into drop-boxes fitted on lamp posts or walls of buildings,�� he explained. The drop-boxes are exposed to the rain and connections are short-circuited,�� a senior official said.

Senior telecom officials have charted out duty rosters for engineers, linemen and supervisors. �We have formed two dozen teams, to be headed by divisional engineers and area managers. Repair work will begin early on Saturday morning and we hope to restore the lines within Monday morning,�� Chakravarty said.


Calcutta, July 5: 
In the afternoon of April 5, students and staff at the nursing students� hall of Assembly of God Church Hospital were drawn to the smoke emanating from one of the first-floor toilets. According to the police, none of those present on the spot tried to break open the door. Instead, the police were called.

On arrival, they smashed open the door to find the charred body of a girl on the floor. By the time she was taken to hospital, nurse Uma Kundu was dead.

Murder, or suicide?

The police have maintained that it was a case of suicide. Uma was reportedly suffering from depression for having fared badly in a nursing examination. After the exam, she walked into the bathroom, poured kerosene on herself and struck a match. For the police, it was an �open-and-shut� case.

But on Friday, Uma�s mother, Durga Kundu, decided to reopen the case and filed a petition in the high court, claiming that her daughter had been murdered.

Her plea: she was convinced her daughter had not committed suicide. Durga, therefore, sought the court�s intervention to direct the detective department of the city police to start a criminal case and seek out the killers.

Durga�s advocate P.K. Roy said his client was convinced that her daughter, who was training to become a matron, had no reason to take her life.

Uma used to travel to Assembly of God Church every day from her home in Thakurpukur. The day before her death, she appeared disturbed.

Durga claimed that two men came to visit her daughter at Assembly of God Church hospital. Uma�s friends told her that after the three spoke for some time, Uma suddenly appeared distraught.

What had transpired? Who were these two men? Durga believes that they may provide a clue to her death.

Besides, Durga has also punched a few holes in the police claim of suicide. The body that was handed over to her did not have burn marks.

If Uma had been charred to death, as the police claim, then why were there no burn injuries on her body?

Durga also says that the post-mortem report was not handed over to her, despite repeated requests.

She claims that the behaviour of the Park Street police station officials was �suspicious�. They fobbed her off whenever she went to inquire about her daughter�s death.

The court directed the police to file an affidavit explaining the circumstances of Uma�s death and replying to the charges that Durga has levelled against them.


Calcutta, July 5: 
A dark, dingy six-ft-by-four-ft cell of Alipore Central jail, with a dust-coated 60W bulb burning constantly, has been his space, since December 1999. It�s the last address of a man sentenced to death. And there seems to be no way out for Sheikh Naushad.

His appeal has been pending before the high court since January 2001 � just for want of a �paper book�, the compilation of the case history, comprising everything from the FIR to the trial court judgment. This, despite a clear Supreme Court ruling that an appeal in a death case must be heard within three months.

�My innocent client will die in the condemned cell if there is any further delay in hearing the appeal,� laments his lawyer, Subroto Mookherjee. �And the tragedy is that there are so many others like Naushad who are suffering for the delay by the paper book department. Judges often try to speed up the case, but the paper book slows it down.�

Burdwan police arrested Sheikh Naushad for allegedly murdering an officer of Gramin Bank on August 4, 1996. The additional district sessions judge of Burdwan sentenced him to death in December 1999. Naushad, a motor mechanic in Burdwan, filed an appeal in Calcutta High Court, challenging the order of the trial court.

Mookherjee, on behalf of Naushad, has moved different benches of the high court for the past year. On several occasions, the judges asked for the paper book in order to hear the appeal. �But the paper book is not ready yet and the appeal is still pending. And my client is rotting in jail,� says Mookherjee.

According to the prosecution, the Gramin Bank officer used to borrow money from his own bank and lend it to the poor at a higher rate of interest. Naushad borrowed Rs 25,000 from the officer at 25 per cent interest per annum.

�My client had returned the principal amount in time, but as he failed to pay the interest, the officer started hounding him almost every day. Out of frustration, Naushad once told the officer he would kill him if he came to his house again,� explained Mookherjee.

A couple of days later, the officer was found dead on the streets. The police then arrested Naushad. �My client had no connection with the murder,� states Mookherjee.



Hospital worker held for molestation

An employee of Vidyasagar Hospital, in Behala, was arrested on Friday for allegedly molesting a 16-year-old girl who went there for treatment. According to the police, the employee told the victim�s father that he would speed up his daughter�s treatment and led the girl to a vacant room where he molested her.

Court orders park clean-up

The Green Bench of Calcutta High Court on Friday directed the Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC) to clear garbage from Bellilious Park and evict the settlers within six weeks. The court also directed the civic body to submit an affidavit stating the beautification plan of the century-old park spread over 100 acres. The court order was in response to a petition by Howrah Ganatantrik Nagarik Samity general secretary Subhas Dutta who informed the court that the development programme of the park had been abandoned following a court injunction 17 years ago. Dutta also informed the court that the park had now turned into a dumping ground and a portion of it was occupied by shanty-dwellers.

Cell appeal

Cellular service provider Command has appealed to its existing Yes! pre-paid subscribers to comply with the statutory requirement of providing proof of identity to the respective retailer. The company, which has taken initiatives to �align with the government directions for verification of pre-paid mobile customers�, said on Friday that it will be forced to �withdraw connections without further notice� if the customers don�t comply. �New Yes! cards will be available to customers only if they fill in the necessary forms and provide the supporting documents,� said Sunil Sood, COO, Command, Calcutta.

Saha hearing

Kunal Saha�s appeal seeking to set aside the earlier trial bench verdict of Justice K.J. Sengupta came up for hearing on Friday before the division bench of Justice A.K. Ganguly and Justice H. Banerjee. Justice Sengupta had disallowed Saha�s petition demanding the removal of Ashok Chowdhury from the post of president of the West Bengal Medical Council during the hearing of the Anuradha Saha death case. Pijush Dutta, counsel for Saha, told the court that that Chowdhury was biased and would not administer justice to his client. The division bench has fixed July 15 as the next date for hearing.

Funds fraud

A division bench, presided over by Chief Justice A.K. Mathur of Calcutta High Court, on Friday, directed the superintendent of police, Purulia, to arrest those guilty of siphoning off funds allotted for the betterment of Sabars. Earlier, the district magistrate of Purulia had submitted a report before the court stating that the pradhan of Manali gram panchayat, Ajit Singh, and a sub-assistant engineer had been found guilty of misusing the funds meant for the tribals.

Man kills self

A 65-year-old man committed suicide by hanging from the ceiling at his Harish Mukherjee Road residence on Friday. Police said Kartick Halder was suffering from depression and undergoing treatment. His body was sent for post-mortem.

Consumer plea

The Consumers� Unity and Guidance Forum, the Consumer Lawyers� Association and the Consumer Court Bar Association met state consumer affairs minister Naren De at Writers� Buildings on Friday to request him to reverse the decision to shift the city�s consumers� fora away from Bhabani Bhavan. The department has already decided to shift unit-I of the Calcutta District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum to Lindsay Street and unit-II to Brabourne Road. Both moves have drawn protests from consumers and lawyers who allege that the move will help traders.    

Calcutta, July 5: 
The high court on Friday directed the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) to ensure that the malaria-eradication programmes in the city are implemented properly. A division bench, comprising Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice J. Biswas, dismissed a public interest litigation seeking the court�s intervention in the matter.

Lawyers Idris Ali and Sreemoyee Das moved the litigation, alleging that different areas in the city were waterlogged during monsoon. �The CMC has not taken steps to drain out the accumulated water. As a result, some areas of the city are perennially inundated,� the petitioners said.

They claimed that there was every chance of an epidemic breaking out, as in the previous years. �The authorities wake up to the situation after several lives are lost. The civic body should have taken special steps to prevent malaria at the onset of the monsoon,� said the lawyers.

The CMC counsel said in defence that the civic body had taken several steps to check malaria in the city. He submitted a report stating details of the various malaria eradication programmes.

�The CMC has put up display boards, issued radio and television warnings and distributed leaflets in the slum areas. School students, too, are being briefed on the fallout of the disease. Health workers are providing counsel in different areas of the city,� he said.

The court then asked the CMC counsel to ensure that all these programmes were implemented by the letter.

Welcoming the move, Sudhangshu Sil, CPM legislator and councillor, alleged that because of the civic body�s negligence, malignant malaria was rampant in the Nimtala-Sovabazar-B.K. Pal Avenue area. �Spraying of larvicide, fogging and door-to-door blood sample test services have been done away with over the past year. The civic health department�s awareness campaign is only to shift the focus of the issue,� he said.

Sil added that almost every fog machine was lying defunct for about two years and the civic authorities had just not taken the initiative to repair them.

Countering the charges, CMC�s officer-on-special duty, health, Atanu Mukherjee, said on Friday that blood samples of 66,000 people had been tested at 58 civic clinics till June 30 and malarial parasites were found in 17 per cent of them, against 19 per cent last year.

He claimed that not a single malaria patient, treated in the civic clinics, had died. �I am ready to face court action if anybody can point out instances of malarial deaths in the civic areas,� said Mukherjee.


Calcutta, July 5: 
On one side is a watch-making giant. The other combatant is a state government wing. And they are fighting over a small alarm-clock seized by the latter during a raid way back in 1996.

But the legal battle between the private-sector firm and the government wing, besides determining who among them is right, could ultimately have a bearing on the way a large number of complaints by Calcuttans, who buy consumer durables like clocks and watches, are treated at courts and consumers� fora.

Calcutta High Court has now admitted a case that has Titan and the government�s legal meteorology wing locking horns over the classification of various types of time-pieces � both the sleek wrist-watches and the larger clocks that are hung on the wall � and whether they can be grouped under the �packaged goods� group or not.

Among the cases the city�s consumer disputes redressal fora are frequently asked to adjudicate are those relating to complaints from consumers claiming to having been duped by watch-makers. And one of the most common points of argument that lawyers debate at these fora is whether the consumer durable is a �pre-packed� item or not.

The particular case that Calcutta High Court is going to hear dates back to more than six years ago and, then, it did not look like making it to the court or determining future transactions. As in many cases involving government wings with inspection staff, the original tiff was between some ground-level legal meteorology staff and an establishment stocking Titan watches.

A dispute with the legal meteorology inspectors led to them seizing an alarm-clock and slapping a fine of Rs 9,000 under certain sections of the Packaged Commodities Act and the Standards of Weights and Measures Act, spokespersons of Medicos Agencies (a shop on Elliot Road, from where the seizure was made) and Titan said.

Senior legal meteorology officials, despite admitting that they did not remember the particular case, said it had become a �habit for wrong-doers� to complain about being harassed whenever they found themselves in the dock.

But the case, apparently, is not over such �trivial issues�. �The case is far more important, as Titan has challenged the very act of the department in seizing items and then slapping a fine on the grounds that alarm-clocks, wrist-watches and even straps are not packaged items,� said a senior consumer affairs department official, under which the legal meteorology department works.

Titan officials and advocate Gaurav Basu said they had placed before the court the relevant rules. �Never does a customer buy a watch or a clock without checking it thoroughly,� Basu said. Therefore, these could not be called �packed items�.


Calcutta, July 5: 
On a tip-off, an arms dealer was rounded up from Dhalipara, in the Thakurpukur area, late on Thursday. Arms, including a six-chamber revolver, were recovered from his possession.

Additional superintendent of police, industrial, South 24-Parganas, Rajesh Kumar Singh, said that on Thursday, the force was tipped off that criminal Khokan Dhali and his associates had sneaked into the area and were trying to set up base.

Immediately, a few policemen, led by officer in- charge, Thakurpukur police station, Chandan Kanti Neogi, raided Dhalipara to net the criminals. The group, however, fled in the cover of darkness. They were chased by the police, and Dhali was caught. His associates, however, escaped.

A six-chamber revolver, two double-barrel guns, two dozen live bombs and bomb-making material were found in Dhali�s possession. Singh said Dhali had been arrested earlier on charges of dacoity and was out on bail. Efforts are on to trace his associates. The weapons haul is in police custody.

According to Singh, the recovery of arms from Dhali has raised questions on illegal trading in weapons and explosives. �When we interrogate Dhali on Saturday, we will try to find out the source of his haul. We have got some names and will pick them up soon,� Singh said.

About 600 criminals were arrested during raids in the past week at Thakurpukur and arms recovered from them. �The raids will continue for some time,� Singh added.


Calcutta, July 5: 
The beautification of a 37-km stretch, from Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Dum Dum to Garia, will begin from Monday. The areas that will be covered under this project are the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, a portion of Kazi Nazrul Islam Sarani (VIP Road) and the Rashbehari and Park Circus connectors.

State municipal affairs minister and vice-chairman of Calcutta Municipal Development Authority (CMDA) Asok Bhattacharya will flag off the project at Ultadanga on Monday. The CMDA and the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) will jointly carry out the beautification at a cost of Rs 5 crore.

On Friday, Sudhangshu Sil, CPM legislator and chairman of the Central Tender Committee, CMDA, said the project will include planting 18 varieties of trees and around 22 types of shrubs. Sources said Gulmohur, Bakul, Kadam, Swarnajhuri and other types of trees will be planted, while the shrubs will include Rangan, Jui, Kamini and others.

�The spots being given prime importance are near Science City, Salt Lake stadium and around the upcoming hotels and hospitals that have the potential of landscaping at par with international standards,� Sil said.

He added that an NRI from Singapore would be appointed in an advisory capacity.

Elaborating on the importance of plantation, Sil said shrubs would not only increase the aesthetic beauty of the area, but will also work as a visual, sound and dust screen, considering the heavy vehicular traffic on this stretch. Trees will also act as indicators. He added that the trees planted will mainly be of the deciduous variety, so that in the tropical climate of Calcutta, they would provide shade in summer and allow sunlight to filter in during winter. A number of organisations have come forward to lend their expertise to the project. �We have asked them to contact the ICC, who are entrusted to do the job,� Sil said.

After the completion of this project, the CMDA will beautify the avenues on either side of Kona Expressway. �We feel that with constructions mushrooming all over the city, it is important to get back to greenery to supplement the trees that have been removed,� Sil said. �Our efforts are directed to that end.�

The success of this project will rope in the private sector for similar projects in future. Those in charge of the project also intend inviting applications for sponsors for the trees. �It will serve a dual purpose, since both environment and advertisement will co-exist in sylvan surroundings. We are expecting a good response when the invitations are sent out,� Sil said.


Calcutta, July 5: 
It�s a technology � based on transformation of energy � which promises to have quite an impact on the sound of music. Little wonder, then, that scientist Sajal Banerjee�s tryst with Aset (automatic spinning excitation transmission) has already been patented, by Western Technology Development, a Hollywood-based organisation on alternate energy.

A professor in applied kinetics, Banerjee has been thinking of rotation of sound for quite a few years. �While watching a picture in motion, I thought if I could rotate sound, the inverse reaction on the human brain would be tremendously beneficial. So far, sound was potential energy. What I did was activate the sound energy, called kinematics. The transformation creates a new environment on the bio-field, which I developed on a CD and, finally, on January 21, everything fell into place,� recounts Banerjee, at his Wingguard Institute chamber at Bowbazar.

His first successful experiment to rotate sound was on a Lata Mangeshkar album brought out by Gathani, and Taalyagna, a rhythm-based composition by Tanmoy Bose and Shubhankar Banerjee. �The Lata album was very difficult to arrange, since it was recorded in her early years. So, I had to re-orchestrate, filter in omnisonic sound and then simulate the quality,� explains the scientist.

The Western Technology Development team, which visited him this March, played the same CDs on the Denon sound machine with Boston Laboratory speakers and then on Parasound with JBL studio monitors. �I was pleasantly surprised to receive a fax from them saying they were patenting my concept and would act as negotiating agents for the world market. Already, a few Hollywood studios have shown an interest in the technology.�

Word has truly spread. Besides the melody queen, sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar has contacted Banerjee to collaborate on future projects. He is now busy putting the technology to use for Ramakrishna Mission�s Aritriak Bhajans and a classical album of sitarist Kushal Das and percussionist Tanmoy Bose.

Banerjee feels the concept has �tremendous potential in health-related projects�, especially to reduce stress, pain and hypertension. �Since the sound moves in circles, the brain�s bio-rhythm is kept in check and concentration level reaches a high. In this state, if a person listens to music, discourses or anything useful, it�s bound to make him feel rejuvenated,� he concludes.


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