Blackmail on the Bypass
Basu deflates Dunlop’s union excuse
University in strike revolt
Govt clamps brakes on official car misuse
Gariahat bypass to Dhakuria under way
30 injured in violence after mishap
Zeliangrong Nagas oppose NSCN diktat
Cowherd school scheme in Bihar comes a cropper
Tripura rebels gun down 3

Calcutta, Feb 8 
Scene 1: Five youth barge into the construction site of a cooperative housing society near the Kasba connector and demand Rs 5 lakh. They are refused. A few days later, miscreants start bombing the site and attacking the labourers. The police refuse to take any action. Construction starts only after the extortionists are appeased.

Scene 2: A CMDA commercial complex is being constructed near the Kasba connector. A gang of youth turns up, demanding that the contractor will have to purchase the entire construction material from them, beside coughing up Rs 5 lakh. Work is stalled.

These are just two instances of what is now a regular feature of life — and sometimes death — on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass.

With the entire stretch from Park Circus to Garia in the throes of a construction boom, a tug of war between real-estate developers and anti-socials has reached alarming proportions.

At the moment, two gangs are following a divide-and-rule policy of a different kind along the Bypass. While a gang led by Amarendra Nath Halder, alias Amre, holds sway over the stretch from the Park Circus connector to Ruby General Hospital, Triloki Nath Shaw and his men control the turf till Bagha Jatin.

Some of the dreaded names operating in this area are Ganesh Sarkar, Rajua, Swapan, Shibu, Prashanta, Chennua, Jogeshland Bishu.

According to inhabitants of this red bastion, all these men operate in areas under the control of local CPM leaders like Ganesh Guha Thakurta, Amal Majumdar, Sanyasi Dalui and Ranjit Ghosh.

“The racket, involving criminals, politicians, local police and land officers, has grown so strong that no project on the Bypass can be started without serving up the salami,’’ said Gangadhar Mondal, a senior citizen of Kalikapur.

Various development projects, worth more than Rs 900 crore, are coming up along the 19-km Bypass. Most of these are government projects, to be executed by the CMDA, the housing board and other joint ventures. These are all prime targets for the anti-socials. “Pay-up or perish is the message these gangs are giving out to contractors,” said a CMDA official.

Already, four major projects — a CMDA commercial complex near the Kasba connector, widening of the Bypass, a Bagha Jatin housing complex and the flyover at Bagha Jatin railway station — have been stalled by extortionists. But no official complaint has been lodged for fear of reprisal.

According to CPM leader and Ballygunge MLA Rabin Deb, a number of government plots have fallen prey to the promoter-antisocial nexus. He alleged that a section of police and government officers are involved “in the land-grab racket”.

“I have submitted documents to the government listing about 170 bighas which are likely to be grabbed by anti-socials,’’ said Deb.

With the long arm of the lawless now threatening its own projects, the state government has finally woken up to the threat on the Bypass.

Last week, urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya took up the issue with deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya and urged him to activate the police in the area.

The home (police) minister has instructed the district magistrates and superintendents of police of North and South 24-Parganas to take “stern action” against the anti-socials.

South 24-Parganas district magistrate R.K. Vats said he knew about the growing incidents of real estate-related crime in the area but no official complaint had been lodged against the atrocities. “If any outsider tries to stall any construction work, the police will definitely do the needful,’’ vowed Vats.

SP A.K. Maliwal declared that the police would see all projects through without any resistance from anti-socials. He has already instructed his men to round up the crime lords along the Bypass.

Apart from demanding money, the miscreants often order the builders to purchase construction material from them at an inflated rate. Refusal results in physical assaults, bombing and, finally, stalling of the project.

“If some unemployed local youth want to supply construction material for our projects, we do not have any objection. But they have to follow government norms and, moreover, a government agency cannot purchase material at a higher rate,” said P.K. Pradhan, chief executive officer of the CMDA.

Meanwhile, minister Ashok Bhattacharya has stated that the government “will not bow” to any pressure or threat from anyone. “If anyone dares stall any government project, he will have to face the consequences,” he declared.    

Calcutta, Feb 8 
The government on Tuesday directed the Dunlop management to reopen “immediately” the Sahagunj factory after chief minister Jyoti Basu said that Citu was ready to furnish a written pledge of support to the state administration.

The authorities at Dunlop had refused to reopen the unit, claiming that Citu had not signed the minutes of a meeting held on January 6 on work conditions.

Supporting Citu’s position, Basu said the trade union could not be expected to sign the minutes as they did not bear the endorsement of the management.

“Citu has been asked to give the written pledge in order to counter the Dunlop management’s attempts to walk out of the commitment to reopen the company’s largest unit,” Basu told The Telegraph.

“They (the Dunlop management) are being dishonest when they claim that Citu is not cooperating with them in reopening the unit. If anything, it is the Dunlop management which is fully responsible for the impasse,” Basu added.

The chief minister, who met Citu general secretary Chittabrata Majumdar earlier in the day, was highly critical of the Sahagunj management’s policies.

“It is a criminal offence on the part of the Dunlop authorities to resort to lies on the issue of reopening the closed unit and the management should be sued for maligning a trade union,’’ Basu said.

Chief secretary Manish Gupta, who held a meeting with the Dunlop management at Basu’s behest, said the factory should be reopened immediately to control the deteriorating law-and-order situation. Dunlop senior manager Pradeep Mitra attended the meeting, as the company’s president, M.D. Shukla, was away in Chennai.

“Mitra has assured me that his company will officially intimate the government about steps to be taken by the management to end the present deadlock’’, the chief secretary said.

“He also assured me that the controversial minutes and other papers on the issue will be placed before the state labour department by the end of this week’’, added Gupta.

At Ambattur in Tamil Nadu, the tripartite meeting to settle the dispute over dues was cancelled as the state labour minister was pressed for time.

Though the management has said the factory will reopen on Wednesday, the Ambattur union made it clear they would not accept the company’s proposal to discuss the payment of arrears after a year of operations.

Bibek Sen Sharma, Dunlop’s assistant vice-president (industrial relations), told a news conference in the city that the management was still hopeful Citu would sign the minutes of the meeting. The Dunlop authorities have said they want to reopen both factories by pumping in Rs 20 crore.

Chittabrata Majumdar has said Citu could not sign the minutes of the meeting stipulating that no issues would be discussed for a year from the start of the operations and talks on arrears would only begin in the second year, as this amounted to “blackmail” and “pressure tactics”.

Intuc leaders Subrata Mukherjee, Pramathesh Sen and Lalbahadur Singh have started a “fast unto death” in front of the company’s office on Mirza Ghalib Street, demanding immediate reopening of the Sahagunj unit.    

Calcutta, Feb 8 
Students, teachers and scientists of Jadavpur University have raised serious protests against the forcible closure of the campus by members of the CPM employees’ union last month. The teachers on Tuesday distributed leaflets and submitted an open letter to the authorities, demanding an inquiry.

Condemning the apathy of the university authorities, the students, too, sought a probe on Tuesday to find out whether the employee-forced closure had an official nod or not.

They said they were surprised as the same CPM union had come up with sharp criticism when some students had resorted to a similar measure and locked up some departments to protest the authorities’ decision to raise library fees a year ago.

Swapan Kumar Ghosh, general secretary of the CPM employees’ union, however, said the issue on which the students had closed the university offices and the one over which the employees had observed the strike were different.

“We struck work to protest the murder of a person closely associated with education,” said Ghosh.

The Kasba bandh was called by the CPM to protest the killing of local party leader Gurupada Bagchi on January 23. Bagchi had been an employee of the Higher Secondary Council.

At least 30 teachers of the university’s physics department, led by Amitava Dutta, one of the senior-most members of the faculty, have criticised the authorities for supporting the employees who obstructed their entry onto the campus that day. The closure had thrown out of schedule a major interview for appointment of staff to an important research project of the physics department.

Dutta and other members of his department have decided to meet the vice-chancellor and submit a memorandum against the closure.

Many scientists, teachers and research scholars were taken unawares on the day of the strike.

“Every organisation has the right to protest and observe a strike. But the manner in which the strike supporters obstructed the entry of staff and students was totally undemocratic. This sort of action is not expected in any educational institution,” said a student of the civil engineering department.

Some laboratories which are kept open even on holidays were under lock and key on that day.

Tarun Naskar, general secretary, Jadavpur University Teachers’ Association (JUTA), expressed his surprise over finding that all the security personnel had been withdrawn from the all the entry points of the campus on the bandh day. “ By whose permission were they withdrawn?” Naskar asked.    

Calcutta, Feb 8 
The chauffeur-driven days of comfort for the government babu — and, by extension, his family and friends — are numbered.

In a crackdown on the blatant “misuse of government vehicles”, the finance department has drawn up a detailed plan of action to cut costs and curb privileges.

Earlier, only the chief secretary, department secretaries, the director-general of police and the commissioner of police were entitled to government vehicles. Later, the facilities were extended to a few other senior officials. But at present, the entire rank and file of civil servants seems to be driven around in style.

According to the fresh guidelines, a large number of officers will have to forsake the use of “official vehicles” and, instead, hop on to a bus or take the Metro.

Those entitled to use official cars are: ministers, the chief secretary, secretaries, special secretaries, head of directorates, commissioners of divisions, the director-general of police, inspector-general, deputy inspector-generals, district magistrates, superintendents of police, sub-divisional officers and sub-divisional police officers.

Finance minister Asim Dasgupta has made it clear that he is determined to stop the misuse of government cars and instructed all department secretaries to ensure implementation of the new rules.

According to finance department officials, the government spends crores to maintain about 15,000 vehicles. An additional 800 hired cars per day are also pressed into government service.

“There is considerable scope to cut down on avoidable expenditure and increase income. I am sure we shall achieve our aim if the measures are imposed strictly. I have informed all concerned to follow the government norms or face the consequences,’’ Dasgupta said.

Sources in the finance department said they had been flooded with complaints from various departments about officers using cars for “personal use” — including the daily round of shopping, regular trips to schools and colleges, the occasional evening out at movie halls and restaurants, and even family picnics.

“We have probed some of the complaints and found them true. To travel by a car labelled ‘on govt duty’, or simply having one parked at home has become something of a status symbol for many civil servants who don’t care about the rules,’’ disclosed a finance department official.

Now, the finance department has asked all departments to submit a detailed report on their vehicles within a month.

These instructions have also been relayed to all state-run corporations, as several cars are drawn from organisations like the surface transport corporation, state transport corporation, CIT, CMDA and Webel.

As the city police use a large chunk of government vehicles — 1,000 cars at an annual cost of Rs 15 crore — the finance department has instructed the commissioner to monitor the use of vehicles in the department.

The government has not only decided to restrict the use of vehicles, but also fixed a ceiling on fuel consumption. According to the new rules, a maximum of eight litres of petrol will be provided for each car, every day. No vehicles will be sanctioned on holidays, except for emergency services.

Apart from initiating a move to check misuse of vehicles, the finance department has issued a notification banning purchase of new vehicles by any government wing “till further notice”.

Hiring of a car from outside has also been prohibited. If any department needs to purchase or hire a vehicle to meet an emergency requirement, prior approval has to be sought from the finance department.    

Calcutta, Feb 8 
The long-cherished dream of the residents of Kankulia, near Gol Park, for a bypass connecting them directly to Dhakuria avoiding Gariahat Road, has at last started taking shape.

City civic authorities flagged off the construction work on Tuesday. “This is an important day for us as we have been demanding the road since 1942,” said Asit Nath Banerjee, a retired railway employee, residing at Benuban housing complex.

Septuagenarian Sachin Mitra, who has been living here since 1933, was specially invited to the site when Sudhangshu Sil, member, mayor-in-council (roads), flagged off the construction work.

“Over the last 50 years, we have approached all the authorities, but to no avail. The work has started just when we were giving up all hope,” said Mitra.

The cause of this bypass had been taken up by Nagarik Sammelan, a citizen’s forum of the CPM, as well.

“The Rs 30-lakh project will be divided into two phases. Rs 11 lakh has already been sanctioned, and the first phase covering half-a-kilometre from Kankulia to Benuban, will be completed by March,” said Sil.

Starting from Kankulia, the newly-constructed stretch will pass behind AMRI, beside Dhakuria Bridge, before ending up in front of the Dakshinapan market complex. The entire bypass, covering 1.5 km, is set to completed by June. The 40-feet-wide bypass will then be thrown open to both light and heavy vehicles.

“Though around 100 shanties will have to be demolished for the construction work, all those evacuated will be suitably rehabilitated on CMC land nearby,” assured Sudhangshu Sil.

New police station

Work on the East Jadavpur police station, the 32nd thana in the south 24-Parganas, started on Tuesday.

Located at Purbalok, on the EM Bypass, the police station will cover the stretch from Kalikapur bridge to Peerless Hospital. A 10-square-km area, including Kalikapur, Borokala, Santoshpur, Naya Band, Chak Garia and Chak Masar, will fall under the thana’s jurisdiction.

But the East Jadavpur police station will not have a lock-up. The nearest lock-up is at Kasba thana, 5 km away.

“This area is fast becoming the hub of construction and development activities. So, a thana is a must,” said CPM leader Kanti Ganguly.    

Calcutta, Feb 8 
Thirty people, including five policemen, were injured in mob violence after a bus ran over a 50-year-old man near Baidyabati on the northern fringe of Howrah on Tuesday.

Six persons have been hospitalised. Police have arrested seven persons for inciting violence.

Police said local residents ran amok after Haluri Nayek, an employee of Baidyabati Municipality, was run over by a speeding private bus on G.T. Road. Locals turned their ire on the killer bus, pelting stones and trying to set it ablaze. Three passing vehicles were damaged in the melee.

A police team from nearby police station rushed to the spot. The 200-strong mob, stopped from setting the killer bus on fire, turned their ire on the police. They set up a road-block and forced the policemen to retreat.

Superintendent of police Gangeshwar Singh said police reinforcements were greeted with stones, forcing the police to resort to a lathicharge. More than 20 people were injured in the clash. The condition of seven is serious.

The killer bus has been seized. “Efforts are on to track down the culprits who masterminded the violence,” Singh added.    

Nungba, Feb. 8 
The Zeliangrong Nagas of Manipur’s Tamenglong district have mustered courage to oppose the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah)’s call for a poll boycott.

Unlike other Naga-dominated districts, Tamenglong has been witnessing door-to-door campaign by candidates and village-level election meetings everyday.

However, NSCN(I-M) militants forced the villagers to remove posters and party flags in Nungba, Tamei and Tamenglong yesterday.

“The flags and banners were removed because some NSCN(I-M) activists asked us to. We want to avoid a confrontation with them,” said a Federal Party of Manipur (FPM) activist.

Of the three seats in the district, Nungba is regarded as the most important because FPM chief and forest minister Gangmumei Kamei is contesting it for the second time.

Kamei is the man to watch out for in this election as he is expected to play a key role in the formation of a new government. His main rival is Congress leader Gaikhangam. Ten other candidates are in the fray.

While Kamei’s rivals are worried about his increasing clout in Manipur politics, the Nagas of Tamenglong district are apprehensive of attacks by NSCN(I-M) militants on the day of polling.

“We are prepared to vote, but we need more Army personnel to protect us,” said a resident of Nungba. “The level of deployment of forces is inadequate. Some remote villages in the three constituencies are still unprotected,” he added.

Another Naga villager from Khongshang on the Imphal-Silchar highway said it was high time the NSCN(I-M) stopped interfering in the election process, “We want to exercise our franchise, and we do not want anyone to prevent us from doing so,” he said.

Though voters in Tamenglong are wary of openly revolting against the NSCN(I-M), the Zeliangrong Nagas have made a beginning by expressing their desire to exercise their franchise.

The NSCN (Khaplang) and the Naga National Council (NNC) also have camps in the district, but these outfits are unlikely to prevent them from voting.

Sources said the rebel outfit was planning to impose a “collective fine” of Rs 50,000 on each village where polling takes place.    

Torpa (Ranchi), Feb. 8 
A group of young cowherds hold aloft a placard and chant “Jai Jharkhand.’’

They are the new generation Jharkhand campaigners espousing the cause of a separate state. But ask them what a separate state is all about, they remain mute, unable to grasp its implications. During the non-poll season, these boys usually herd cattle in the grassy knolls that dot the landscape between Ranchi and Torpa. Sometimes they ride piggyback on buffaloes humming tunes of popular folk songs. Emaciated and malnourished, they graduate to working as daily wage earners at construction sites once they cross the age barrier.

In 1990, former chief minister Laloo Prasad Yadav promised them free primary education. But the dream turned sour as funds stopped pouring in for the charwaha (cowherd) schools.

One such school in Aru village, 10 km from Torpa, bears testimony to the sorry state of affairs. The roof has caved in and the windows bars have been removed. Eleven-year-old Ramdeo Bhengra says, “My elder brother used to attend this school. I heard that the teachers used to come with food and a picture book ”.

The former chief minister had singled out Torpa to launch his Charwaha Vidyalaya scheme in 1990 during his first term in office. The semi-formal education experiment started off well as young cowherds attended the makeshift schools during leisure.

Primary school teachers were asked to educate the boys through an innovative educational programme. “This is the first step for the empowerment of rural people”, Laloo Yadav had promised.

“From Torpa in Khunti to Jamtara in Dumka, the scheme generated interest among teenagers. But it collapsed within a couple of years”, said Aniruddha Chowdhary, a Jamtara-based social activist.

“The experiment was unique in many ways. But as it happened, it soon floundered due to lack of political will”, says N.E. Horo, a Jharkhand Party leader. The failure of the charwaha experiment forced the rural youth to revert to their old lifestyle.

A large number of Opposition leaders echo Horo’s sentiments, flaying the “trivialisation of educational programmes during the last 10 years of Laloo raj”.

“He not only became indifferent to his own programmes like the Charwaha Vidyalaya scheme, but also the institutional higher education system. The colleges and universities became centres for selling degrees without education” alleged Saryu Rai, the South Bihar unit head of the BJP. The literacy rate in the state is a dismal 38 per cent as against the national average of 52 per cent. There are no literacy programmes for the 23 per cent Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe population, who become breadwinners at a very tender age.

In the south Chhotanagpur hills, where the crop pattern is less diversified, children usually tend cattle. According to government officials, one of the reason for the failure of the programme is the absence of a monitoring agency.

Not to be deterred, Laloo Yadav has hit upon a new scheme to woo the tribals. He will set up schools for every 300 families in rural areas for promotion of primary education. “This will entail implementation of compulsory primary education,” he said.    

Agartala, Feb. 8 
National Liberation Front of Tripura militants shot dead three non-tribals and injured five at Dulugaon market in Kailasahar subdivision of North Tripura district yesterday.

The rebels also abducted three persons from the same area.

Sources said a group of heavily-armed NLFT militants came to the market at 8.30 pm and opened fire indiscriminately. Three persons — identified as Shital Kar, Dhirendra Shukla Baidya and Babu Lok Sinha — were killed on the spot, while five persons were seriously injured. Kar was a schoolteacher, Baidya a labourer and Sinha a bamboo trader. Before escaping into the nearby jungle, the rebels abducted three non-tribals from the area. They have been identified as Samarjit Sinha, Sunil Das and Babul Roy.

Normal life was paralysed in Kailasahar subdivision today due to a 12-hour bandh called by the ruling CPM and some Opposition parties in protest against the attack. Schools, colleges, government offices and business establishments remained closed throughout the day. Vehicles were also off the road.

However, no untoward incident was reported in any part of the subdivision.

In another incident, South Tripura superintendent of police Arindam Nath survived an attack by NLFT militants in Amarpur subdivision yesterday. Nath was on his way to Udaipur when the rebels waylaid his vehicle and opened fire. The police official’s guards retaliated immediately, forcing the militants to flee.

Road blockade: Over 5,000 people blocked the Assam-Agartala highway at Kumarghat in North Tripura yesterday in protest against the government’s failure to provide adequate security.    


Maintained by Web Development Company