Metro on stilts over canal
Cracks on tracks force 3-hr standstill
Sit-in snarl on Central Avenue
Asim in tax rise defence
Tendulkar-class treatment for tendons
Bill problems? Simply dial CESC
Woman jailed for duping teenagers into flesh trade
NSCN doubts Centre’s intent
Bihar Buddhist monks launch peace mission
Police action sparks riot in Dimapur jail

 
 
METRO ON STILTS OVER CANAL 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, Jan 6 
The Metro Rail will run from Tollygunge to Garia over the snaking Tolly’s Nullah, popularly known as the Adi Ganga.

The decision was taken at a meeting between officials of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and Metro Railway on Thursday.

If the scheme comes through, the government will not have to go through the ordeals of land acquisition and the Metro will not have to pay compensation to oustees. “So, we will save about Rs 70 crore and complete the Rs 700-crore project on time,” a Metro official said.

At Thursday’s meeting, Metro Rail chief engineer K.K. Gangopadhyay suggested that the 8.45-km tracks be laid over a row of concrete pillars running down the middle of the Adi Ganga. The pillars will be erected from the bed of the canal.

Earlier, it had been decided that most of the Metro extension from Tollygunge to Garia would be above ground, unlike the rest of its services in the city.

Metro officials said at the meeting that if the tracks were laid over the canal, the electrified third rail automatically would remain out of bounds for the common people. “If we had to lay the third rail on the surface, there were chances of electrocution... We would have had to think up a special way to fence it,” a Metro Railway engineer said.

The decision to take Metro over Tolly’s Nullah will also help save the third rail from inundation during the monsoon. While putting forward the suggestion, Metro officials told municipal commissioner Asim Barman that the Adi Ganga would have to be reclaimed and cleaned if the work is to be carried out.

Barman said the clean-up programme could be taken up immediately, as the Centre has already provided Rs 27 crore for re-routing sewer lines away from Tolly’s Nullah as part of the second phase of the Ganga Action Plan.

This apart, the state government has allotted Rs 5 crore for re-excavation of the Adi Ganga and the state irrigation department has taken up a Rs 6-crore programme to desilt it.

“If all these schemes can be taken up together, Metro Rail can complete its work fast,” Barman said, adding: “The Tolly’s Nullah re-excavation will take three years’ time.” Pointing out that the erection of pillars from the canal bed would prevent flow of water down the canal, Barman insisted that it be widened by Metro at its own cost.

Metro chief engineer Ganguly agreed, and told Barman that Metro Rail would provide Rs 6 crore for the irrigation department to widen the canal and line both banks with concrete.

The meeting also discussed the need to demolish about 5,000 shanties on either side of Tolly’s Nullah.

“Eviction of encroachers will not be a problem, as all political parties have already signed on a proposal to clear the canal banks of unauthorised shanties to save the Adi Ganga from pollution,” said Arun Sarkar, chief engineer, conservancy.

Observers feel political parties will not hinder the extension of Metro Railway.

“The ruling Left Front wants the Metro extended up to Garia. The Opposition Trinamul Congress, which has a strong base in the Tollygunge-Garia belt, is not expected to put up any resistance either, as party supremo Mamata Banerjee is the railway minister... Also, the area falls under her parliamentary constituency,” an analyst said.    


 
 
CRACKS ON TRACKS FORCE 3-HR STANDSTILL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 6 
There was no respite for the hapless Calcutta commuter on Thursday evening.

While the demonstration by insurance employees brought traffic to a standstill in central Calcutta, the disruption of Metro Railway services for three hours left passengers stranded.

At around 5.30 pm, a Dum Dum-bound train developed a “technical snag” at Girish Park station.

According to sources, the third-line connector of the train snapped, causing sparks and smoke.

The Metro Rail authorities immediately cut off electric supply to the line and downed shutters at stations.

Though Tollygune-bound trains started running after some time, Dum Dum-bound services remained suspended for more than three hours.

Tapas Halder, one of the harried commuters, said: “With the roads clogged, I had no option but to wait for the Metro services to resume. I wasted two hours in order to travel five kilometres.”

“Disruption has become a daily feature on the Metro. But no one seems to be bothered. There is no visible effort to repair old coaches or improve services,” grumbled I.P. Singh, waiting to go to Dum Dum from Central.

While passengers waited anxiously, the Metro top brass was busy preparing for a grand farewell party in honour of ex-general manager G.R. Madan.

On Monday, services between Tollygunge and Dum Dum were disrupted for one-and-a-half hours due to a crack in the tracks at Netaji Bhavan station.

Wednesday witnessed an action replay, with a hairline crack between Esplanade and Park Street bringing train traffic to a halt.    


 
 
SIT-IN SNARL ON CENTRAL AVENUE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 6 
Six thousand agitators, egged on by several members of Parliament, held up the traffic on the arterial Chittaranjan Avenue throughout Wednesday.

Police officers termed the meeting, organised by the CPM-leaning 12th July Committee in association with several other coordination committees, as “illegal.” “They did not take our permission to hold the meeting on that spot,” deputy commissioner of police (headquarters) Nazrul Islam said.

Police officers present said three ambulances carrying patients, one of them suffering from a serious heart ailment, were held up in the snarl for an hour.

But once again, top brass of the city police shied away from taking any action. They did not even make any effort to clear the road.

The chaos on Central Avenue had a cascading effect, with hundreds of vehicles standing bumper to bumper on S.N. Banerjee Road, Bentinck Street, Lenin Sarani, J.L. Nehru Road.

Later in the evening, officers of the central division of the city police blamed their counterparts at Lalbazar headquarters for the chaos.

An officer of Bowbazar police station said police had submitted a report to the deputy commissioner (headquarters) on Wednesday, stating that a “large number of demonstrators will gather in front of Hindusthan Building on Thursday morning. The organisers are constructing a dais and there are chances that Central Avenue will be blocked.”

Another officer said: “In the morning, just as the demonstrators were gathering, we informed our superior officers in Lalbazar and waited for instructions.”

But even as the crowd swelled by the minute at 12 noon, no clear orders came from Lalbazar, and soon the agitators took over Chittaranjan Avenue.

Desperate policemen gave a running commentary on the snarl over the wirelesss and requested the agitators to make some way for traffic.

Even as drivers and commuters fretted and fumed, speaker after speaker thundered away against the Centre for its “anti-people policy and for privatising the insurance sector.”

“I have an important appointment with a senior executive of a multinational company. But now I am stuck in the jam,” said Manoj Halder, a management official, while fidgeting about in his car.

Later at Lalbazar, joint commissioner of police (traffic), V.V. Thambi, announced that central Calcutta was clogged with vehicles because of the sit-in.

After a lot of deliberations, Bowbazar police decided to initiate a case against the organisers. “We will start a case and take action against the organisers,” DC (central) Raj Kanojia said.    


 
 
ASIM IN TAX RISE DEFENCE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 6 
Finance minister Asim Dasgupta said on Thursday that the West Bengal government “was helpless” on the issue of sales tax hike as it was an “all-India affair”.

“The chief ministers’ committee and, subsequently, a finance ministers’ committee, had unanimously recommended that there be a uniform floor rate of sales tax all over the country, which will end the unhealthy competition over trade,” Dasgupta said.

Of the 550 commodities on the list, no sales tax was earlier levied on 13 essential goods.

Now, to maintain uniform rates, a 4 per cent tax has been slapped on those items.

As a result, the prices of agricultural equipment, branded bread, packed milk, charcoal, oil cakes, poultry and cattle feed, branded salt, solar thermal devices, garlic, ginger, raw wool, cotton, and hosiery items have shot up.

Dasgupta said most other states had issued an Ordinance on the hike and a review meeting had been convened on January 10.    


 
 
TENDULKAR-CLASS TREATMENT FOR TENDONS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 6 
Playing like Sachin Tendulkar may not be possible for everybody, but they can certainly get themselves treated by his doctor, and that too in this city.

Orthopaedist Anant Joshi, who has treated an array of renowned sports personalities, and who was in the news recently after he tended to Ajay Jadeja’s shoulder injury, will be visiting the city every four to six weeks to see patients from the region.

Having specialised in arthroscopy, which is a minimally invasive and is a new technique of diagnosing and rectifying limb and shoulder ailments, Joshi is a much sought after sports surgeon.

Several footballers from leading Calcutta clubs have gone to Mumbai for consultations and treatment. “They can now avail of his services here,” said S. Sahay, medical director of Kothari Medical Centre, where Joshi conducted about five operations and saw an equal number of patients on Thursday.

“This centre is within the reach of many sportspersons who do not work for companies that reimburse medical bills,” Joshi said after the operations. So, the Mumbai-based doctor has kept his fees structure flexible.

Joshi has treated Sachin’s back problem, Kapil’s shoulder, Prabhakar’s ankle, Hirwani’s knee... the list is quite long and impressive. Among his present patients are Srinath and Prasad.

Footballers like Amit Das of East Bengal, Proloy Biswas and Srikanta Dutta of Tollygunge Agragami, hockey players like Rajiv Misra and former cricketers like Arun Lal are among his patients from Bengal. “I felt my presence would be beneficial to them and many others after I saw the number of players coming to me in Mumbai during the Rovers Cup tournament there,” Joshi said.

Several players are back in action after undergoing surgery through arthroscopy. The procedure, which is a little over 10 years old in the country but is practised by very few orthopaedists, has seen fairly rapid changes over the years. It involves the use of a telescope, camera, TV monitor, cutting instruments, power shavers and rotating blades that cut and suck out damaged tissue, and ligament reconstruction equipment.

Knee or elbow swellings due to fluid accumulation, ligament ruptures, arthritis, bone TB and several other types of diseases and injuries to the joints and bones can be effectively and quickly treated by this process.

Even osteo-arthritis can be treated through arthroscopy, if detected at an early stage — one reason why 50 per cent of his patients are outside the sports world.

Joshi leaves on Friday for Silchar and has a tight schedule after that. “I treat out of my suitcase,” which is fairly large, considering that he and his assistant carry 80 kg of equipment wherever they go. “I’m always charged for excess luggage,” Joshi says with a grin.    


 
 
BILL PROBLEMS? SIMPLY DIAL CESC 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Jan 7 
Value-added service seems to be the flavour of the season. After Calcutta Telephones, it’s the turn of CESC Ltd to try and make life easier for consumers.

CESC has decided to introduce a voice-interactive response system, enabling its 15-lakh consumers to check the bill amount and get instant answers to basic bill-related queries by simply calling a designated number.

Sources in CESC said the system will also be used to log complaints with regard to power supply or bill amounts, and even to process new connections.

The need for such a system has been identified by an internal study currently being conducted by Anderson Consulting.

The foreign firm has suggested other changes like reducing the time gap between meter readings for monthly consumption and the receipt of bill by the consumer. The issue of averaging out bills as per past consumption pattern is also under review.. Final recommendations are likely to reach the board by the end of the month.

The exercise was kicked off four months ago after CESC faced flak for increasing fuel surcharge. Since then, a complaint redressal system has been put into place and city-wide operations have been streamlined to ensure prompt response to consumer grievances.

To suggest vital operational changes in the 100-year-old organisation, the RPG group has roped in Ernst & Young and Price Waterhouse Coopers, beside Anderson Consulting,

While E&Y has helped the CESC to cross the Y2k hurdle without a hitch, PWC is engaged in the development of software solutions consistent with market requirements.    


 
 
WOMAN JAILED FOR DUPING TEENAGERS INTO FLESH TRADE 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 6 
The civil and sessions court on Wednesday sentenced Manoka Mukherjee of Gouri Shankar Lane to three years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1,000 for luring two teenagers into prostitution by promising them jobs in the city.

The two girls, Ruma, 14, and Pushpa, 15, were spotted by one of Mukherjee’s touts, Ramesh Maity, at Bhadreswar railway station in Hooghly district. They were asking passengers for employment.

Maity told the girls that he could provide employment if they agreed to go with him to Calcutta. The girls agreed and Ramesh brought them to the city and handed them over to Mukherjee. Police said Mukherjee sold Ruma and Pushpa to a city brothel. Mukherjee and Ramesh were arrested and the girls rescued and sent to a rehabilitation centre run by Sanglap, an NGO.

Earlier, Ramesh was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for four years. While sentencing Manoka Mukherjee, the judge said Manoka ran a flesh trade racket. The judge observed that “citizens should come out against such crimes”.

Public prosecutor Kazi Safiullah told The Telegraph that several cases had being registered containing allegations of poverty-stricken girls being duped into the flesh trade. “The judiciary is taking serious action against the offenders,” Kazi said.

Officer-in-charge, Bowbazar police station, Asit Chakraborty said: “Our department is taking actions against miscreants who are bringing girls into flesh trade.We have been asked to keep a close watch on such incidents.”

Robbers get five years’ RI

The additional sessions judge, city civil court, S. Chakraborty, on Wednesday sentenced Tapan Das and Sur Ali to five years’ rigorous imprisonment for snatching Rs 1.2 lakh from Dinesh Agarwal on Raja Suresh Road, in Howrah. Agarwal was going to his bank to deposit the money when he was robbed.    


 
 
NSCN DOUBTS CENTRE’S INTENT 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Kohima, Jan. 6 
The National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) today questioned the Centre’s sincerity in finding an amicable settlement to the vexed Naga problem.

While reiterating its commitment towards a negotiated settlement, the NSCN alleged that the Centre was not interested in resolving the problem even after its assurances to the people and had “maintained a studied silence over the violation of ceasefire ground rules by security forces and the state police.”

“It appears that all provocative activities of the Assam Rifles and the state police have the Centre’s tacit support. This clearly indicates the lack of sincerity and seriousness on the part of the Union government in finding a solution to the problem,” NSCN(I-M) information and publicity secretary Ng. Hungshi said in a statement today.

Hungshi said the Assam Rifles had arbitrarily closed down the NSCN(I-M) ceasefire monitoring cell office at Dimapur on December 1 following the ambush on chief minister S.C. Jamir’s convoy on November 29.

Security forces also arrested 17 activists in connection with the incident. Despite the odds, the outfit was committed to finding a lasting solution to the problem, Hungshi claimed, adding that the organisation was maintaining “utmost restraint even in the face of provocation by Assam Rifles and the state police.”

“Efforts to find a lasting solution to the Naga imbroglio have been jeopardised with the forcible closure of the monitoring cell office and stepped-up operation by security forces against NSCN (I-M) cadre,” the publicity secretary said. He said it was ironic that the Centre had remained silent over such developments when security forces and the state police disregarded the assurances given by the Prime Minister in solving the problem.

The current ceasefire between the Centre and the NSCN (I-M) expires on July 31. The ceasefire came into effect in August 1997 when both sides agreed to a negotiated settlement.

Nagaland Cong: The Nagaland PCC has taken exception to former chief minister Vamuzo Phesao’s comments on the “16-point agreement”. It said the pact between the Centre and the then Naga leaders “accommodated” the aspirations of the majority of the Nagas.

Wondering as to how Vamuzo could dub the agreement, which led to the formation of Nagaland state in 1963, as “outdated”, the NPCC said, “His condemnation of the pact is in fact a condemnation of himself because Vamuzo was a legislator and the chief minister (of the Nagaland state)”.

The NPCC said Vamuzo was confusing the issue of statehood with the on-going dialogue between the NSCN (I-M) and the Centre for an amicable settlement of the Naga political problem. The Nationalist Democratic Movement (NDM), a regional party, has refuted the Congress claim that the 16-point agreement has solved the Naga problem.

“If this were so, there would not have been any more fighting or the need for further negotiations to settle the unresolved political problem”, former chief minister and NDM president Hokishe Sema said.    


 
 
BIHAR BUDDHIST MONKS LAUNCH PEACE MISSION 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Patna, Jan. 6 
Buddhist monks from Bodhgaya will launch a peace mission in central and south Bihar districts from tomorrow to combat terrorism.

The monks will visit the Naxalite-affected areas and persuade people to repose faith in Lord Buddha. The Naxalite groups have threatened more bloodshed and violence against “feudal forces” on the eve of polls. The Buddhist monks will try to counter them with messages of peace.

The monks will march to Nawada tomorrow with festoons bearing slogans like “Peace at any cost.” Nawada, located on the border of central and south Bihar, has been a hotbed of militancy with the MCC and the People’s War trying to expand their support base.

According to the district authorities, killing of farmers and traders by the Naxalites have been rampant in the district. This year militants killed six persons and blasted 10 houses.

The monks contend that the Magadh region, land of Lord Buddha, has always been known for peace. Bloodshed and terrorism have just been a passing phase. “We will restore peace here”, said Dhambirio Maheswari, a member of the All-India Buddhist Monks Sangh. The decision to lead a peace march in the troubled areas was taken at a convention of the Ashoke Baudhya-Bihar in Patna recently.

“In at least five districts including Gaya, Nawada, Jehanabad, Chatra and Palamau, terrorists are virtually holding citizens to ransom. The land is soaked in blood and hatred,” said Maheswari and added, “But we want to prove that blood cannot beget blood.’’

The missionaries have appealed to the Centre to allow the monks to move freely in all the militancy-affected states like Assam, Tripura, Nagaland and Kashmir. Prior to the monks’ efforts to restore peace in Bihar, at least two other social activists, including eminent Gandhian M. Subba Rao, visited Jehanabad and Gaya in June last year to help divert attention from caste conflicts to more positive issues like crop diversification and rural welfare to inculcate a feeling of brotherhood.

Subba Rao, who visited Jehanabad for the second time last week, attended a series of youth camps. Last Sunday, Gandhian leaders invited youngsters to attend prayer meetings, physical drills and literacy programmes.

“Our socio-cultural and economic programmes are aimed at developing self-confidence among the youth so that they become immune to the merchants of death”, Rao said at a peace rally.

The Naxalite groups, however, are sceptical of the monks’ role. “We have no animosity against the monks and the missionaries but they should also raise crucial issues that have divided the people on caste lines. “The monks should protest against faulty land reforms and feudalism,’’ said a People’s War spokesman.    


 
 
POLICE ACTION SPARKS RIOT IN DIMAPUR JAIL 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Kohima, Jan. 6 
A near riot broke out inside Dimapur central jail yesterday when prisoners assaulted a policeman and pelted stones at others, jail authorities said today.

The situation was brought under control after police reinforcements arrived. A departmental probe is being conducted to ascertain the circumstances leading to the situation inside the high-security prison.

Reports reaching here said trouble started when a police party, led by a sub-inspector, went to the jail on “confidential assignment” and tried to segregate the 270-odd inmates. In the process, a police constable slapped an inmate, provoking others to react, the prisoners alleged, adding that the constable was inebriated.

The police said the inmates also manhandled the sub-inspector and others who tried to intervene. The prisoners reached the front courtyard of the prison and started pelting stones on the police personnel. The jail authorities are probing the incident.

Kalkat visit: The general officer commanding (GOC), Eastern Command, Lt. Gen. H.R.S. Kalkat, reviewed the steps taken by the security forces to enforce ceasefire with the local Army commanders during his two-day visit to Nagaland.

Gen. Kalkat met chief minister S.C. Jamir and Governor Om Prakash Sharma here and apprised them of the roles played by the security forces in maintaining law and order in the state.    

 

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