Monthly Archives: April 2016

Eyewitness accounts


A journey through the Indian independence movement of the 1920s through an illuminating collection of notes, letters and personal correspondence

Author Madhuri Bose, granddaughter of Sarat Chandra Bose (elder brother of Subhas Chandra Bose) and daughter of Amiya Nath Bose, takes the reader through the most important period of the Indian Independence Movement of the 1920s by reproducing the personal correspondence between the Bose brothers — notes and information collected mostly from her father who was an eyewitness to happenings during the crucial years of freedom struggle. She declares in her introduction, “this is not a biography of the Bose Brothers but based on family perceptions, insights and analyses of the roles of the key personalities, with a focus on Sarat and Subhas over the three decades from the early 1920s”.

The story is told mostly from the view of her father and his notes. Chapter 1 describes Amiya’s close connection with the Bose brothers, though they are physically separated. The narration is both informative and highly touching. She talks of the time Subhas was detained on January 2, 1932.

For a few months, he was allowed to stay with his brother Sarat in prison, but was shifted to Madras penitentiary where he became ill. He was then transferred to Bhowali in Northern India when the seriousness of illness was recognised. Subhas was then sent to Europe — by train to Bombay and then aboard a ship to Vienna on February 22, 1933. The authorities allowed young Amiya to accompany Subhas from Calcutta to Bombay. It was then that Subhas showed Amiya the copy of his hand written thesis on Hindustani Samyavadi Sangha that he had written during his Madras detention. Incidentally the contents were discussed with three members of Comintern (Communist International) later by Subhas in Vienna.

Chapter 2 deals with the difficult time faced by the family when the brothers were under detention by the British. In 1921, 24-year-old Subhas had returned from London after declining to join the Indian Civil Service and joined the movement for freedom.

While interned in Mandalay jail, Subhas wrote Pebbles on the Seashore, a collection of stray thoughts.

The third chapter deals with his reaction to Gandhiji’s suspension of the Non-Cooperation movement and the starting of a new daily with C.R. Das as editor and Sarat as Managing Director.

Chapter 4, the most important chapter of the book, deals with parting of the ways between Gandhiji and the Bose brothers. Copies of telegrams are reproduced here, indicating the beginning of the divide. On January 31, 1939, Gandhiji wrote of the defeat of his candidate Pattabhi Sitaramaiyya and concluded that he rejoiced at the victory of Subhas “. . . after all, Subhas Babu is not an enemy of his country.” In a lengthy letter, Sarat addressed Gandhiji on the prevailing condition in the Congress and how unhappy he was by the turn of the events.

However, at a later date, Gandhiji asked Amiya to convince Sarat to join the Congress again, and Amiya, in hindsight, felt that Sarat could have played an important role had he re-joined the Congress then.

More recent past is explained in the chapter ‘Partition — a Bitter Pill’. Sarat was to write later, “Gandhiji’s acceptance of Rajaji’s formula is nothing short of a tragedy in India’s political life.”

The epilogue deals with all principal characters of the book and it is heart-rending to read some of the letters. The book closes with a touch of disappointment in Amiya’s feeling of not being able to realise his father’s dream.

K.R.A. Narasiah is a writer and historian.

The Bose Brothers and Indian Independence: An Insider’s Account; Madhuri Bose, Sage Publications, Rs. 750.

source: / The Hindu / Home> Books> Literary Review / by K.R.A. Narasiah / April 30th, 2016

The Butterfly Brigade of Kolkata

Roy teaching students about nature ina butterfly garden
Roy teaching students about nature ina butterfly garden

Arjan Basu Roy has a dream—to turn the City of Joy into the City of Butterflies. Luckily for Kolkata, it hosts at least a hundred butterfly species. Roy and his band of nature lovers are on a mission to transform, restore and conserve the disappearing urban wildlife in the city. As secretary of Nature Mates, one of Kolkata’s foremost nature conservation groups, Roy has overseen multiple conservation projects, the most prominent of them being Banobitan, India’s first open air butterfly garden.

Arjan Basu Roy
Arjan Basu Roy

Nature Mates was formally launched in 2006, but it started much earlier in 1993 when wildlife enthusiast Roy and his schoolmates set up a WWF Nature Club in their school to pursue their interest in wildlife. As part of the school’s nature club activities, Roy and his friends participated in wildlife rescue missions and wildlife monitoring. Growing up with financial constraints meant that Roy could not visit wildlife reserves, nature parks or forests as a child. “That was when I realised that I did not have to go to a forest to see wildlife. I could find it here, in my city, around me. It was then that I started following urban wildlife,” he says.

The club works in tandem with the West Bengal Forest Department in conservation activities. “A healthy butterfly population is an indicator of biodiversity. They are the best pollinators; birds, lizards and frogs feed on them, so conserving butterflies will give opportunity for an entire spectrum of other species to thrive,” says Roy. “This biodiversity can be initiated by everyone. Any area can be transformed into a butterfly habitat—a sprawling garden, a front yard, a terrace or even a balcony. Placing butterfly-friendly plants in a home or garden will augur these colourful biodiversity agents.”

Roy believes that affirmative action to preserve nature makes a bigger difference than protesting or criticising wrong-doings. According to him, token gestures of planting saplings when a tree is uprooted to make way for construction amount to very little in the big scheme of nature. “We offer assistance to builders in relocating trees that would otherwise have been uprooted and replaced by five saplings elsewhere,” he explains. Nature Mates addresses a wide spectrum of conservation activities, including animal rescue, restoring endangered animal species, cleaning wetlands around Kolkata, working with the forest department to set up butterfly gardens, wildlife surveys, installing bird nests, etc.

One of the key contributions of Nature Mates is the research the group undertakes on biodiversity, wildlife conservation. “We present the data in the form of usable information to guide people. This information is made available in English and Bengali to ensure even rural communities can make use of it,” he says.

Over the years, Roy has noticed a change in people’s attitudes that is positively impacting urban wildlife, “but it is very slow, much slower than needed”. To augment this progress, Roy and his team are continuing their mission to improve biodiversity in Kolkata, one butterfly garden at a time.

source: / The New Indian Express / Home> Magazine / by Venkata Susmita Biswas / April 16th, 2016

Flower power pushes Kolkata Jewish population up by 1


Kolkata :

For 30 years, Flower Silliman lived abroad, keenly observing and recording Jewish life in the Middle East, Europe and the US.

Now, the 86-year-old is back in the city she was born taking the community count up by one. And, she has taken upon herself the onerous task of keeping the authentic Jewish flavours alive for her nine-member strong community. Yes, you read it right: nine.

Demographers put the strength of the Jewish community in the city at less than 20, but the members are rather strict about who they call “pure”. Those that have married “outside” the community are strictly not “pure” Jews.

“I have come back to the city because this is where the Jews have lived most safe and free, but unfortunately , this is where our numbers have dwindled the most…but I am keeping the flame alive,” she says.

Silliman also happens to be among the last keepers of the community’s ancient recipes and has decided to chronicle the unique tastes for posterity.

“Even the food that Jews here have today is not what we are permitted by our religion. There’s so much of mix and match that most of the authentic cuisine that is over 5,000 years old and has its roots in the Middle East, is lost. I am trying to keep the tradition alive by documenting the recipes and rustling up dishes for feasts,” says Silliman.

Jewish food is special because Jews just can’t eat cause Jews just can’t eat anything and everything, Silliman says.

Their food -kosher -has to abide by strict dietary laws which not only lay down what is forbidden but also the process of cooking, the ingredients and the kitchen specifications. Kosher, for example, does not permit meat to be mixed with milk or milk products.So, neither can you mix the two while cooking, nor can you consume milk or milk products after having meat.

Flower Silliman says: “Judaism has a great similarity with Hinduism so far as its antiquity and dietary specifications go.

It’s another matter that most followers of both religions have drifted away from these guidelines… perhaps because they have often found it difficult to cope with such restrictions. I am not saying this by way of criticism, but the fact is that cuisines, and even cultures, become extinct because of such interpolation.”

A traditional sit-down Jewish feast on Friday night can ideally start with beet khatta with koobah (beet soup with chicken or vegetable balls), followed by Jewish roast chicken, which is different from the European roast in the kind of marinades and spices used. “The authentic Jewish roast will be far milder, both in flavour and sharpness, compared to the European roast,” Silliman says.

Kosher allows Jews to only have fish that have scales, and not those with shells (prawns, crabs or lobsters). “So you have items like fish shoofta, which is minced fish skewers. Vegetable lovers have choices like vegetable mahashas, which is stuffed tomatoes and capsicum.But the magic is in the recipe for the stuffing. The authenticity of the dish is heightened when served with aloo makalla (a special potato fry), hulba (a sort of fenugreek, mint and coriander chutney) and cucum ber zalata. Another speciality is mutton or vegetable ingree -a layered meat dish baked with brinjals, tomatoes and potatoes -not unlike the Greek moussaka, but without dairy to keep within kosher limits,” Silliman explains with the lucidity of an expert.

And why not? While abroad, Silliman served as a souschef at the Plaza in Jerusalem and launched the world’s only kosher Jewish restaurant, Maharaja.

She taught cooking and ran masterchef shows in US and London and authored two books. “I have come back to Kolkata because this is where the Jews have lived most safe and free, but unfortunately , this is where our numbers have dwindled the most… but I am keeping the flame alive.”

source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Kolkata / by Jhimli Mukherjee Pandey / TNN / April 29th, 2016

West Bengal gets its first transwoman presiding officer

Kolkata :

Early this year, Riya Sarkar had spoken out about the ‘terrible alienation’ she was facing from some of her colleagues of Dum Dum Prachaya Bani Mandir For Boys’. She was being treated as an untouchable at her workplace for having undergone sex realignment surgery. Three months down the line, Sarkar finds herself empowered. She is perhaps the first transwoman in India to have been entrusted with the job of a presiding officer. On April 30, Sarkar will be seen at a South Kolkata booth manned only by women in Rashbehari area.

In the last Loksabha elections, Sarkar was approached for discharging election duty. “Back then, I was a transgender and was undergoing hormone therapy. I was too weak and had informed the authorities about my medical condition,” Sarkar recalled. This year when Sarkar was approached, she accepted the offer gladly. She is overwhelmed by the huge “honour” that Election Commission (EC) has given her.

Back in her school, her colleagues are sharing her happiness too. Teacher-in-charge of her institute Amar Nath Chatterjee told TOI that he is glad with the news. “Bhaloi toh (It’s good). We had a small misunderstanding earlier. But now everything is normal. All our staff members congratulated her. Since there is a vacation in school, students don’t know the news yet.”

Sarkar is satisfied with the turnaround of people who initially had problems accepting her sex realignment surgery. “I am grateful to TOI for standing by me and helping me in my fight for equal rights. Dr Manabi Bandopadhyay and my parents have also been very supportive. My colleagues, particularly Maitreyi Das and Subrata Biswas, have always stood by me. Those who were apprehensive subsequently apologised for their behaviour. They are saluting me now,” Sarkar said.

Subrata Biswas, who teaches Bengali in Sarkar’s school, feels this move by the EC will go a long way in empowering those who are undergoing sex realignment surgery. “It is a commendable decision for the EC to rope her for a job that’s linked to nation building. This is a great way to encourage her acceptance in the mainstream,” Biswas said.

Incidentally, Biswas too has served as a presiding officer at a booth in New Barrackpore on April 25. “Before the polls began, we exchanged notes on how to discharge our duties. There was no problem of fake voting in my booth. I’ve assured her that the Central Forces are doing a great job and that she should not feel scared at all,” Biswas added.

Does poll violence scare Sarkar? “No, I’m expecting complete cooperation from our polling agents. I’m a law-abiding and politically neutral person. I hope to get full support from the CRPF and female constables to conduct a fair poll,” she replied.

source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Kolkata / by Priyanka Dasgupta, TNN / April 28th, 2016

Meet Annie Roy, the only woman tunnel engineer of country



“She must be a visitor.” That’s the murmur she heard when Annie Sinha Roy walked into the construction site of Delhi Metro on the first day of her job. “There were about 100 men, most of them labourers and a few engineers. They thought I would not last long. There were no toilets, no place to sit and debris all around,” the country’s first and only woman tunnel engineer recalls.

“After a couple of hours, I was standing in front of a huge machine that had to break the ground but it was stuck. A German engineer and my boss asked me to get inside it and open a nut. Even before I realized what I was doing, my face was gushed by hydraulic oil. The colleague said my face would glow for the rest of my life. Today tunnelling is my life,” says Annie, 35, ahead of the inauguration of South India’s first underground Metro rail on Friday.

In Bengaluru, she alone steered Godavari, the tunnelboring machine that recently finished boring underground from Sampige Road to Majestic. She calls it her tunnel because the machine had got damaged just when she joined as assistant engineer in Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation (BMRC) in May 2015. After that, she used to spend eight hours in the tunnel every day. “Sometimes when people see me with the helmet and jacket and learn that I work for Namma Metro, they would only ask when the work will get over,” she says. Recalling her long journey, she said she wanted to pursue her masters after completing degree in mechanical engineering from Nagpur University.

“But I lost my father and I had to get a job to bail out my family from financial crisis. I got a job offer from Senbo, a contractor with Delhi Metro, and took it up in October 2007,” says Annie, who hails from a middle class family in north Kolkata.

In 2009, she joined Chennai Metro. And then went to Doha for six months in 2014. “My visa application was rejected thrice by Qatar because they do now allow unmarried women to go and work there. But the fourth time, I fought it out with them,” she laughs.

Annie is proud of her work in the tough male world around her, which has helped her “not bother about what is going to happen tomorrow”.

She wants women to break stereotypes and work in the male-dominated professions. “I want women to drive a tunnel boring machine. I want them to work in the tunnel,” said Annie who lives in HSR Layout with her husband, a techie.

source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Bangalore / by Aparjita Ray, TNN / April 29th, 2016

City food start-ups make it big

Calcutta :

City-based food start-ups are spreading across the country, displaying an entrepreneurial flair that is otherwise in limited supply in Bengal.

One such start-up is Wow Momo Foods Pvt Ltd. It started selling dumplings or momos in 2008 from a single outlet in Bansdroni. Today, it has over 70 outlets in India, with at least 36 in Calcutta alone. It aims to open 100 outlets, which include both kiosks and quick-service restaurants,by December.


“People have varied tastes in each part of the country, yet every region has accepted us pretty well, including south India, where a sort of taste revolution is happening now,” said Sagar Daryani, co-founder of Wow Momo.

Besides Calcutta, the momo chain is present in Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Kochi and Pune, selling over two lakh momos per day. About 80,000 momos a day are sold in Calcutta alone.

“The best part is that over 90 per cent of our outlets are profitable,” said Binod Homagai, co-founder and chief operating officer of Wow Momo.

In 2015-16, the start-up’s turnover stood at about Rs 32 crore compared with Rs 19 crore a year ago, a rise of 68. 4 per cent.

“We are aiming for at least Rs 55 crore in March 2017,” said Daryani, who is also the CEO of Wow Momo.

The momo maker offers around 12 flavours across different varieties of steamed, fried, pan-fried, sizzler and baked momos, besides their signature chocolate momo.

The company is also planning to raise funds by December. “We intend to go for another round of funding to raise Rs 30-60 crore at a valuation of over Rs 350 crore,” Daryani told The Telegraph.

In August last year, Wow Momo had raised Rs 10 crore from Indian Angels Network at a Rs 100-crore valuation.

Another food chain reaching out to customers beyond Bengal is Chai Break. Starting in 2011, founders Anirudh Poddar and Aditya Ladsaria offer a variety of options in tea.

“The idea to begin a tea chain struck us over a cup of coffee at a coffee shop. We found a coffee shop at every nook and corner of the city but unlike coffee, there was no such ‘tea lounge’ offering a wide variety of tea,” they said.

Today, the chain offers 25 varieties of hot and iced tea, including their speciality “royal tea”, a hot beverage blended with kesar.

Moreover, customers can choose between Indian, Italian and Chinese cuisines in most of their outlets.

“No region in the country offers so many kinds of tea as Calcutta and that is what we will offer to the states outside Bengal,” Ladsaria said.

The company sources about 1,000 kg of organic CTC tea from Assam and 200 kg of Darjeeling tea per month. Sixty per cent of its total beverage revenue come from tea.

The start-up claims to be making profit and is eyeing a Rs 10-crore turnover in 2015-16.<>

In the preceding fiscal, Chai Break’s turnover was Rs 6 crore. The start-up expects a turnover of Rs 20 crore by March 2017.

Chai Break has seven outlets in Bengal. They plan to take the number up to 10 by the end of this fiscal.

“People from all over the country have been requesting us to open a store in their city and we have now decided to begin expansions,” Ladsaria said.

The first such outlet is coming up in Chennai, which will be operational in the next few months. The start-up is also looking at properties in Guwahati and Bhubaneswar.

According to industry body Nasscom, there are over 15 food start-ups in the state.

source: / The Telegraph,Calcutta,India / Front Page> Business> Story / by Abhranila Das / Monday – April 25th, 2016

Armenia still lives in the heart of Kolkata

City’s 195-year-old Armenian school had a near-death experience when its student body shrank to one. But it has now returned to life, thanks to immigrant students.

What Parsis were to Mumbai, Armenians were to Kolkata -a refugee race that washed up on Indian shores before the British, and proceeded to establish iconic businesses and institutions that live to this day.One such in Kolkata is the Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy (ACPA), nearly two centuries old.

Built in 1821 as a residential school for children of Armenian descent, ACPA was founded by two Armenian merchants, Astvatsatur Muradkhanian and Manatsakan Vardanian who hailed from Julfa (now in Iran). The school was founded to impart an `Armenian’ education to its students, in their language, and about their culture.

In the early 19th century, the Armenians were a prominent business community in Kolkata that ran coal mines, indigo and shellac businesses, and built some of the city’s famous landmarks, including Stephen Court on Park Street and Grand Hotel (today Oberoi Grand).

But after the British quit India, so did most of the Armenians, who migrated abroad. Half a century ago, Kolkata’s Armenian population dwindled to just 2,000, vanishing still further to leave behind only around 150. Two of these Indo-Armenians are counted among the 68 students currently studying at the school; the rest are immigrant Armenians from Iraq, Iran, Russia and Armenia.

The school -in whose original building novelist William Makepeace Thackeray was born -has had its ups and downs. Its student body shrank and expanded -going from 138 in 1932, to 149 in 2003, and even plummeting to a solitary student in 1990, perhaps marking the most trying year in the school’s long history.

In February 1999, a Calcutta high court ruling transferred the school’s administration to Armenia’s Mother See of Holy Etch miadzin, the administrative headquarters of the Armenian Apostolic Church. It is now the Pope of Armenia who appoints the school manager.

“Since the institution’s guardianship was vested with the church, the school has maintained its standards and a minimum number of students,” said Rev. Zaven Ya zichyan, manager of Armenian College and pastor of the Indian-Armenian Spiritual Pastorate.

Following the transfer of power, the first batch of 34 immigrant students reached Kolkata from Iraq, Iran, Russia and Armenia -sent here for the free education and boarding provided by the school. Often, Armenian families in places like Iraq and Iran send their children here even as they plan to migrate to the West, the school be coming an interim harbour for their children. ACPA now routinely invites the diaspora abroad to enroll their children here.

In the run-up to their 200th year celebrations in 2021, Rev. Yazichyan has been at tempting to revive the institution. Among the ambitious projects is the preservation and digitization of the Araratian library, set up in 1828 and named after Mount Ara rat, the place where Noah’s Ark landed after the Flood. Other efforts include the creation of a databank of all Armenians from Kolkata (the last was created in 1956) and for malassociations with other international educational organizations.

To retain a cultural identity , ACPA teaches Armenian history , language and religion.

On visiting the campus on Free School Street (some say it got its name from the free Armenian school), the students seem content. Hovhannes Saringulyar, who teach es Armenian history, says, “If they miss their parents, they talk to them on Skype.”

Incidentally , the school also provides boarders with a free passage back home once every three years.

source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Kolkata / Ajanta Chakraborty / TNN / April 24th, 2016

‘This one is special’

Monali Thakur on winning the National Award for Best Playback Singer (Female) for ‘Moh Moh Ke Dhaage’

Monali Thakur
Monali Thakur

Monali Thakur shot to fame with ‘ Zara Zara ’ from Race in 2008. She sang two songs in the film, which instantly became favourite dance numbers.

But it is ‘Moh Moh Ke Dhaage’ from Dum Laga Ke Haisha , an Anu Malik semi-classical composition, that recently won her the National Award for Best Playback Singer (Female).

The Bengali beauty, who has also acted in a few Bengali and Hindi movies, is busy writing and composing songs for her singles, where she will also be seen flaunting her dance skills. In a telephonic interview, she spoke about her career, industry stereotypes, indie music scene and more. Excerpts:

How does it feel to win the National Award?

(Laughs) Awesome! But honestly, I think I need time to believe it, especially because I never thought of it, nor did I expect it. My phone was on flight mode and once I switched it on, messages were pouring in. I thought I probably got a big film offer, or I was getting married. A filmmaker friend of mine from Bengal then called and gave me the news.

For a moment, I was silent, and then I started jumping around. I called my mother at home, who was equally overwhelmed.

You started your Hindi film career with pop numbers like ‘Khwab Dekhe Jhuthe Muthe’ and then surprised music lovers with the melodious ‘Sawaar Loon’. Do you think that helped music directors notice your versatility?

It is unfortunate that the industry stereotypes people. And especially for women, there is not much scope in film music to experiment. Because music in the movies is created according to the script, and these days, even the female lines are sung by male singers. But mine, fortunately, is a different story. I started getting offers for similar kind of songs — songs that conveyed no meaning — so I consciously refused them, although I was not earning enough. Then, I met Amit Trivedi, who offered me ‘Aga Bai’ for Aiyyaa . He liked my work and then ‘Sawaar Loon’ happened. Amit knew I was trained in Hindustani classical (Patiala gharana). So, it certainly helped people notice the other side of me, that I can even sing a thumri.

You are also an actor. Your last big-ticket venture, Lakshmi may not have got rave reviews, but you were appreciated. Are we going to see you more on screen now?

Well, I like to think of myself as an entertainer. You meet creative minds as you move ahead in life. I met a few people who saw that I was interested and can act, so that’s how it all started. I enjoy filmmaking and I want to express myself as an artiste in every creative form possible.

So yeah, sure, why not?

Given that you had started acting and singing almost simultaneously, as a child, what did you want to become?

I always wanted to become a musician. At the age of six, I had my first song recorded with HMV. So, I was clear that in order to reach the maximum number of people I needed to become a playback singer, because sadly, only film music gives you that kind of recognition.

But now, I want to do different things, from dancing and composing to writing songs: anything that interests me.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

Definitely family. Baba [her father, Shakti Thakur] himself being a professional singer and even Maa, who is also a singer, have always been a great inspiration. Other than that, I have also been influenced by the music of the West. I would listen to indie music, blue, pop rock, basically anything that appealed to me. It will be unfair to name just one; there are many.

What is your take on the present indie music scene in India?

Not much is happening in the indie scene, and the reason is that there is not much support from big banners. If producers start taking initiative in individual projects, things will improve.

We need to push harder to reach the level where we have singing divas and superstars in the country because we have so much talent.

What are your future projects?

I am working on my album. In film music, ‘Cham Cham’ from the Tiger Shroff and Shraddha Kapoor-starrer Baaghi has been released and there are a couple of other songs that are yet to release. But I don’t want to name any until they are out.

I have finished shooting for Mango , which is yet to be released. Last Christmas, a short film, Jangle Bells , was released.

source: / The Hindu / Home> MetroPlus / by Debashree Purkayastha / April 15th, 2016

Power for 500 garden families

Siliguri :

Around 500 families of a Terai tea garden who had been living without electricity for the past 13 years got power supply in February following the State Legal Services Authority’s instruction to the West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited .

Amir Sarkar, the general secretary of the Darjeeling District Legal Aid Forum (DDLAF), a voluntary organisation, said the residents of Girja Line in Gayaganga Tea Estate, 20km from here, had been facing hardships for a long time.

“The information came to us from Dhumkuriya Legal Aid Clinic, Dagapur, which is a unit of the DDLAF, in 2011. We took up the matter with the Sub-Divisional Legal Services Committee here in Siliguri,” Sarkar said.

It was followed by a visit of a team from the committee and some representatives of the DDLAF.

“It was found that even though the WBSEDCL had installed meters in the houses, there was no electric supply,” the DDLAF secretary said.

After the visit, the residents submitted a mass petition demanding power supply to the DDLAF, which took it up with the State Legal Services Authority (SLSA) and the West Bengal Human Rights Commission in Calcutta.

Representatives of the DDLAF and local people appeared before the commission and the SLSA where the case was heard.

“We also pursued the case in a circuit bench of the state human rights commission in Siliguri. Around 100 residents of Girja Line were present at the hearing,” Sarkar said.

Both the bodies ordered the chairman of the WBSEDCL to extend electricity supply to the affected families.

“Although the direction was given back in 2011, the WBSEDCL took time in executing it. We had to take up the matter again. Finally, the residents of Girja Line got electricity in February this year,” Sarkar said.

On April 10, the residents organised a programme.

“They celebrated the occasion. They had invited members of the subdivisional judiciary and also the DDLAF. All those present were felicitated by the residents of the garden,” Sarkar said.

Ajay Kumar Das, the additional district and sessions judge (first court) of Siliguri and chairperson of the subdivisional legal services committee and Sridhan Su, civil judge (senior division), Siliguri, attended the programme with others.

The judges spoke on the free legal assistance process and justice accessibility programme and apprised the tea garden workers and their families as to how to get justice through the alternative dispute redressal mechanism, Sarkar said.

source: / The Telegraph,Calcutta,India / Front Page> North Bengal> Story / by The Telegraph Correspondent / Saturday – April 23rd, 2016

Gravitational waves ‘sixth sense’ to understand universe: US-based Indian researchers

Kolkata (IANS):

Thrilled at the detection of the elusive gravitational waves a century after Albert Einstein’s prediction and the first observation of collision of two black holes at the Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), two young US-based Indian researchers working on the project say the waves act as a sixth sense for humans to comprehend the universe.

In fact, these “ripples in the curvature of space and time” will provide information on the cosmos that wouldn’t have been possible by peering through any kind of telescope, say Karan P. Jani and Nancy Aggarwal, who are elated at the prospect of India getting a third LIGO (observatory) and being at the forefront of new-age astrophysics.

Last month, India and the US signed an agreement for a new LIGO project in India during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington. The agreement was signed between India’s Department of Atomic Energy and the US’ National Science Foundation (NSF).

The prime minister also met Indian student scientists, including Aggarwal and Jani, associated with the LIGO project.

“Gravitational waves are a completely new way of seeing the universe. It’s like humans can now perceive the sixth sense beyond the five, to comprehend the universe,” Jani, a fourth year PhD researcher in astrophysics at the Georgia Institute of Technology, told IANS via email.

The gravitational waves were detected on September 14, 2015, by both of the twin LIGO detectors, located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington. The LIGO Observatories are funded by the NSF and were conceived, built, and are operated by Caltech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Physicists have concluded that the detected gravitational waves were produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole. This collision of two black holes had been predicted but never observed.

Jani and Aggarwal explained the detectors led to “direct observation of existence of black holes as also a direct observation of mergers of two black holes into a bigger black hole.”

“The energy released during collision was 50 times more than all the stars in the universe combined at that instance,” added Jani, whose work involves simulating black holes on supercomputers and searching for massive black hole collisions in LIGO data.

The breakthrough was made by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) (which includes the GEO Collaboration and the Australian Consortium for Interferometric Gravitational Astronomy) and the Virgo Collaboration using data from the two LIGO detectors.

The LSC currently includes over 1,000 members from 90 institutes and 16 countries. India is the third highest right now in terms of membership.

At the heart of the mammoth hunting game to catch the unicorn are tools called interferometers which work by merging two or more sources of light to create an interference pattern that can be measured and analyzed.

“It is a four km light interferometer… in fact LIGO is the most precise measurement ever done. This means a lot of technology research has to be done to make LIGO,” Aggarwal, a fourth year Ph D student at MIT LIGO Lab, told IANS via email.

Aggarwal is studying quantum mechanics to improve the precision of gravitational wave detectors and is glad that the starting of the LIGO India project opens up a new opportunity for her to work in her native country.

“A lot of technological developments that were made for LIGO have found independent applications in science as well as industry and LIGO India will create a lot of opportunities for Indian scientists and engineers and improve the general scientific and technological environment,” Aggarwal emphasised.

They hope to “share the discovery with a larger audience”, a request put in by Modi during their meeting.

“During our meeting, the prime minister said he would like the LIGO scientists to make frequent India trips to popularize the science in colleges in India. We also talked about physics outreach in India for school children, the importance of hands-on demos and the importance of learning material in languages other than English,” Aggarwal informed.

“Also, due to the participation, the travelling of Indian scientists abroad and international scientists to India will definitely strengthen the international relations for India,” she said.

(Sahana Ghosh can be contacted at

source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Kolkata / IANS / april 22nd, 2016