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Eye in the sky to help conserve heritage sites

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KOLKATA: Keen eyes from the sky will help conserve national monuments and other heritage buildings that are under threat from frenzied construction activity.

Indian Space Research Organization (Isro) and the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) have joined hands to create a repository of satellite-based surveillance photographs on more than 3,000 protected monuments to begin with. Around 1,50,000-odd heritage structures will be added to the database in a phased manner.

Isro has been entrusted with the job of filing high-resolution digital images of each site and its peripheral areas to spot illegal structures that have mushroomed in the neighbourhood of protected monuments. These satellite pictures will help ASI to identify the worst affected areas and take corrective measures.

The Isro-ASI initiative assumes significance in light of the 2013 Comptroller Auditor General (CAG) report in which 92 nationally protected monuments in India were found to be ‘missing’. Of these, seven were in Bengal. Now, the Isro-ASI combine will be carry out remote sensing surveillance of all the monuments and prepare maps that clearly demarcate the prohibited and regulated zones around these monuments. “Initially, the project will encompass 3,000-plus nationally protected monuments. But eventually, it will cover 1,50,000 heritage buildings across India. The project will also throw light on the gradual degradation, encroachment and unauthorized construction in protected zones of heritage buildings. The systematic database of these heritage sites and site management plans generated using space technology will help take appropriate measures in conserving, preserving and monitoring activities of heritage sites. All this will happen in next seven months,” said ASI regional director (east) P K Mishra.

Nationally protected monuments, archeologists said, have been facing various threats of late, including severe weathering, urbanization, economic development, encroachments and smuggling of antiquities. The damage are, some times, irreparable, said an archeologist.

A standard operating procedure (SOP), using high-resolution satellite data as primary source and employing modern geo-spatial technology and open source tools, has been developed for operational use by ASI. It is modular and scalable, allowing the SOP to evolve with ASI’s changing institutional requirements and mandate. The project is already in advanced stage of completion in Karnataka and soon it will be extended to the rest of country.

Isro will also create 3D virtual tour of each site. The 3D initiative will enable a virtual walk through national monuments. ISRO is currently developing 3D digital models of the sites. The 3D digital model is overlaid over the satellite data.

“A 3D digital model of Clive House in Dum Dum will render a short movie clip for 360 degree visualization. This will fuel interest on heritage among in digital generation as well as among students of history and heritage conservation architecture,” he added.

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Source: TOI-Kol


8 cops hurt as TMC men clash in Kolkata

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KOLKATA: A two-hour clash between supporters owning allegiance to two Trinamool ministers in North Kolkata’s Shyampukur area following “disrespect shown to a Kali idol” left at least eight policemen, including the OCs of Shyampukur and Bathtala and additional OC of Tala and five locals injured on Sunday night. More than 12 parked cars and a dozen small shops lining the street were also vandalized.

Sources said trouble was brewing since the KMC elections over who gets to control the Trinamool bastion. The two neighbouring localities — Telipara Basti and Kanarajar Bagan — fall within KMC ward no. 10. While Telinipara is aligned with an influential North Kolkata mayor-in-council member and state minister hailing from a nearby area, Kanarajar Bagan is nursed by local Trinamool leader Prasun Ghosh, who is again close to another state minister from north Kolkata. It is alleged that Ghosh did not provid “full support” in ward 10 during the KMC polls.

Around 10.30 pm On Sunday, members of the 7-star club of Telipara Basti were placing the Kali idol in the pandal when some youths from Kanarajar Bagan allegedly made obscene gestures and used abusive language. Within minutes, the arguments and shoves turned into a free-for-all. Kanaraja residents claimed their shops were vandalized and cars damaged. Cops from Shyampukur had to beat a hasty retreat around midnight after which Lalbazar sent reinforcement from neighbouring police stations.

“We received a few brickbats, but we were not specifically targeted or forced out. It is a common occupational hazard given that we were separating the two groups and driving out the troublemakers. None of our own vehicles was touched,” said DC (North) Subhankar Sinha Sarkar. Two persons have been arrested and special deployment made in the area. Both factions blamed the other for fanning violence.

No senior Trinamool leader was willing to speak on the incident. “The matter has been reported to party national president Subrata Bakshi. This simmering rivalry isn’t new. However, it had stopped at the intervention of the party leaders. The fresh bout of clashes is being looked into,” a senior party leader said.

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Source: TOI-Kol


WBJEE to be an 8.5hr ordeal on May 17, a weekday 

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KOLKATA: The West Bengal Joint Entrance Examination 2016 for engineering and medical will be held on May 17, for the first time a weekday, to ensure that the crucial tests do not clash with the impending Assembly elections expected anytime between April 1 and May 15. For the 45,000-odd students who appear for both streams, it will be an eight-and-half-hour nightmare.

The announcement was made by WBJEE board chairman Sajal Dasgupta on Monday.

The practice till now was to hold the biological science test on a Saturday and physics, chemistry and mathematics tests on Sunday. Dasgupta claimed the board couldn’t slot the exams over a weekend in May as all slots had already been booked for other competitive examinations like CLAT, JEE (Advance) and AIPMT.

“Nearly 300 educational institutions need to be engaged to conduct WBJEE 2016 throughout the state. So many centres may not be available due to the Assembly polls that could be held anytime between April 1 and May 15. These centres will then be required for the poll process. Hence, we had no option but to select a weekday. Since schools will have to be blocked, we did not want to inconvenience students for two days,” Dasgupta explained.

The various boards that conduct school-level examinations —Madhyamik, Higher Secondary, ICSE, ISC and CBSE (class X and XII) — have already agreed to conclude these tests by April 20 to avoid a clash with Assembly polls. In fact, Madhyamik and Higher Secondary examinations have been advanced to early February.

As per the WBJEE board’s schedule, the test for biological science (150 marks) will be from 9 am to 11.30am. It will be followed by the physics and chemistry paper (50 marks each) from 12.45pm to 2.45pm. The mathematics test (100 marks) will be from 3.30pm to 5.30pm.

Since so many tests are being crammed into a single day, the WBJEE board has decided to reduce the number of questions in various categories. “Weightage awarded in each section and total number of multiple-choice-questions (MCQs) has also undergone some change. The details are available on our website,” added Dasgupta.

Incidentally, engineering and medical JEE were held on the same day from 2010 to 2013 but always on a weekend.

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Source: TOI-Kol

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