Delhi frown freezes Ram-page
Petrol strike from Friday
Litigants take law in their hands
Globalisation-busters go global with city
Ready flats only at Salt Lake, not plots
Work code for teachers
Four waylay factory car, loot staff wages
CESC dons police cove
High turnout for Manipur polls, 3 killed
Lyngdoh rapped on rebel hold-up

 
 
DELHI FROWN FREEZES RAM-PAGE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 22 
After Mitra in the north, it was the turn of Priya cinema in the south to feel the heat of Hey Ram on Tuesday.

Members of the state Congress unit, Chhatra Parishad, Youth Congress and Seva Dal, demanding that the screening of Kamal Hassan’s film “denigrating Mahatma Gandhi” be stopped, tore down posters, smashed lights, glow signs and a glass window — all in the presence of a posse of policemen who preferred to wait and watch.

Two attacks carried out by Congress activists in two days forced the party high command to step in.

The AICC conveyed its displeasure over the manner in which the two halls had been vandalised by party supporters and demanded an explanation.

After the rap from Delhi, PCC vice-president Pradip Bhattacharya directed the Chhatra Parishad not to agitate against the film from Wednesday.

A gang of about 60 protestors, led by PCC members Sudhangshu Shekhar Roy and Pradip Mitra, descended on the hall beside Deshapriya Park before the start of the noon show, on Tuesday.

The mob, which included 15-odd women, raised angry slogans against “BJP agents” airing the “filthy film”.

Some of the protesters claimed that the film had been passed by the BJP-run central censor board to “insult Gandhiji”.

And, in a new twist to the tale, to “humiliate Jibanananda”.

Apparently, the scene where Rani Mukherjee (Kamal Hassan’s Bengali bride) recites a work of the late poet is “vulgar and provocative”.

Some college girls who had come for the film were heckled for being “BJP supporters”.

“When we tried to force our way into the hall, they surrounded us and started abusing us. We couldn’t believe this was happening to us here,” said a visibly-shaken young girl.

After a small force from Lake police station reached the spot, the agitators turned violent, brick-batting the hall and attacking its entry points.

It was not until reinforcements were rushed in from nearby Gariahat and Tollygunge police stations and two people had been injured in the brick-batting, did the police force get into the act.

A mild lathicharge and the arrest of seven demonstrators was enough to disperse the mob. The noon show got under way, after a half-an-hour delay.

“There is no question of stopping the screening. In fact, with this ugly act, the Congress-backed protesters have defeated their own purpose. A film that would not have run for more than two-three weeks otherwise, will now stay on for much longer,” said hall-owner Arijit Dutta.

Police pickets have been posted in all halls screening the film, which tells the story of Saket Ram, who plans to kill Mahatma Gandhi until he has a change of heart before the end.

“The Congress party should stop its organisations from committing such nuisance. We will not tolerate such vandalism. The police have been asked to take action against those involved,’’ said deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya.

The attacks have obviously embarrassed the Congress high command, which has repeatedly accused the Sangh parivar of resorting to “cultural policing and fascist methods”.

“We do not believe in the use of force or violence to achieve any objective. We always follow the Gandhian principle of non-violence,” said spokesman Ajit Jogi.

“The initial protest by the students’ wing is nothing but an emotional outburst against the portrayal of Gandhiji,” argued Pradip Bhattacharya.

Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress has said that the violent demonstration was in “bad taste”.

Members of the ruling coalition in West Bengal have decided to protest the “unjustified attacks”.

“What is scary is the tendency of political parties in search of issues to use popular sentiments to whip up passions which leads to violence,” said filmmaker Buddhadev Dasgupta.    


 
 
PETROL STRIKE FROM FRIDAY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 22 
The West Bengal Petroleum Dealers’ Association has called an indefinite strike in all 1,300 petrol pumps in the state from Friday. This will include the 264 pumps in Calcutta.

“We have no alternative but to go on an indefinite strike from Friday as the administration is silent on our demands,” association president Kalyan Bhadra said on Tuesday.

The association has demanded sealing of underground tanks, recording of density in accordance with marketing guidelines, upward revision of dealers’ commission and abolition of shrinkage allowance in hill areas.

It has also protested the steep increase in establishment and operational costs of retail outlets, high electricity charges and enhancement of professional taxes by the state government. “Our main demand is that underground tanks be sealed by officials of oil companies because pilferage during delivery is a headache for dealers,” said Bhadra.

He said though establishment costs had risen sharply, the oil companies have not revised dealers’ commission. This renders many outlets financially unviable.

Bhadra said the dealers were also being subjected to high taxation by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and other local bodies. There has been a 300 per cent increase in taxes in recent times, he alleged.

Taxi strike off

The taxi strike, called for Friday, was withdrawn after the public vehicles department agreed to implement a notification that reduces licence renewal and registration fees.    


 
 
LITIGANTS TAKE LAW IN THEIR HANDS 
 
 
BY TAPAS GHOSH
 
Calcutta, Feb. 22 
Samir Maity has never been to law college, has little knowledge of the Constitution and its intricacies. But, on Tuesday, he fought his own case before Justice Pinaki Ghosh, to reclaim “lost property.”

Saptanshu Roy, whose results for last year’s Higher Secondary examination are yet to published by the West Bengal Higher Secondary Council, petitioned the court seeking its intervention.

He has come to Calcutta from Jalpaiguri. Saptanshu, too, is pleading his own case.

The ceasework by advocates is turning many a litigant into a lawyer in Calcutta High Court.

They fumble and they stammer but they make up with grit what they cannot with punditry.

In Justice Shyamal Kumar Sen’s courtroom, a litigant placed thick law tomes on the table and pleaded his case.

When the judge asked for case laws, he searched through the chapters. But the judge was patient and allowed him the time.

Some, of course, still do need the advice of lawyers. Saptanshu’s lawyer, Kallol Guha Thakurata, says: “I help him from outside the court. My client is a student and he has to bear the expenses of coming to Calcutta from Jalpaiguri and staying here.”

Two days into the five-day ceasework, proceedings in the court are still on, if tardier than ever. All the judges attend courts in time but most cases cannot be heard because the lawyers are absent. It is only when a litigant pleads his own case that the court gets moving.

The total number of cases pending in Calcutta High Court has reached 292,000. Every year the number has been increasing by 40,000. The court usually has 260 working days a year. With cases piling up, the backlog is likely to cross 300,000.

The lawyers’ stir intensified on Tuesday with Ashit Dutta, member of the High Court Bar Association, starting a sit-in in front of the gate of the court demanding immediate appointment of judges to vacant posts.

The members of the bar associations of the lower courts of the state have also ceased work from Tuesday. They will abstain from court till Friday.    


 
 
GLOBALISATION-BUSTERS GO GLOBAL WITH CITY 
 
 
BY SUJAN DUTTA
 
Calcutta, Feb. 22 
The message was clear, point blank, censorable: “**** you, Nike” and it was scrawled hastily with black paint across a white wall of the multinational’s office. But it wasn’t in Calcutta.

Now Seattle’s savvy troublemakers are here building bridges with many of those who wondered who was behind last November’s “festival of resistance” against the World Trade Organisation.

They are are also giving a lesson or two in state-of-the-art agitprop. But they don’t want “imperialism in activism.”

The song that Leone Reinbold, David Taylor and Harley Shuford have brought to India is not a jingle for the Windows Millennium version — Seattle is Bill Gates’ hometown — but a pedagogy of the oppressed.

There’s poverty and misery all over the land

The corporations have blood on their hand

When so few own so much

It’s time to take a stand

They clap and chant in their room in a central Calcutta hotel. If corporations must go global, so must the tide of opposition to them, the fresh-faced threesome, students of political economy in Evergreen State College, Washington, believe. “We’ve actually studied the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO in class before coming to the conclusions we have,” explains Leone.

They are also activists of the Direct Action Network Against Corporate Globalisation, a coalition of 15 groups, that was the driving force behind the streetfighting that forced the WTO ministerial summit to end in an impasse on December 3.

In their tour of India, (“to study the impact of globalisation”) they have talked to M K Pandhe and Ranjana Nirula of CITU and Brinda Karat of the CPM women’s wing; Nanjundaswamy of the the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangh that is leading a movement of farmers, the All India Peoples’ Resistance Forum which has Naxalite sympathies and to Medha Patkar’s National Alliance for Peoples’ Movement.

But it is Calcutta, more than any other place in the country they’ve visited, that they find most befuddling. “We have been made to believe that socialism and communism were dead. Yet here a version of it is alive,” says David.

“It takes a lot of emotional energy for us Americans to utter those words and think of them in terms of alternatives because US propaganda has always talked of democracy versus communism not capitalism versus communism. But we are aware what command-centred communism can lead to.”

The idea of agitation as state-sponsored action, therefore, is something they cannot really fathom. A visit during a bandh-day Calcutta might have cleared doubts best.

Seattle, they say, is the latest and best example of a modern day popular movement.

“Take November 30-31, for instance. The plan for November 30 was to blockade the convention centre and the hotels from 7 a.m.

“For a week, activists had been trained in workshops on how to go about it. We organised 10 clusters, each linked with mobile telephone and three-way radio systems to each other and to three communication and tactical centres.

“The communication was handled by real technical people. The guidelines were to be non violent and not to damage property. Of course, Nike and Adidas and Bank of America were attacked but the police action on peaceful demonstrators outraged many. At 5 p.m. on November 30, martial law was declared.”

Direct Action’s next target is Bretton Woods and Wall Street. From April 9 to 17, they are mobilising support to “shut down the IMF and the World Bank” in Washington.

That will be followed on May Day by a blockade of Wall Street.

Restoration bid

After almost destroying it, the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) is now trying to restore Currency Building, on BBD Bag, to its former splendour, reports a staff reporter. A senior officer said Rs 9 crore would be required for the project and funds will be sought from the ministry of urban development. The proposal is lying with the office of the CPWD director-general.    


 
 
READY FLATS ONLY AT SALT LAKE, NOT PLOTS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 22 
The state government will allot only floor space — not plots — to individuals and corporations who have applied for land in Salt Lake.

Applicants for residential plots will be offered ready flats, urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya said on Tuesday.

For commercial users, the CMDA will build a multi-storeyed office complex on a prime six-acre plot. Bhattacharya said there would be enough floor space for all commercial applicants.

“Earlier, we had allotted a few plots to some companies which intended to build offices there. But, unfortunately, most of them have kept the plots vacant,” he said.

He said CMDA will also build housing complexes in the township for middle and low-income categories.

Officials of the urban development department said more than 500 applications for plots for commercial purposes are pending. Besides, there is a great demand for land in the city proper.

CMDA’s chief executive officer, P K Pradhan, claimed the office complex will be a “centre of excellence”.

Bhattacharya laid the foundation for a multi-storeyed commercial complex near Sealdah station on Tuesday.

The complex will be built by the CMDA at an estimated cost of Rs 8.31 crore. Three floors of the 10-storeyed building have been earmarked for shops. Banks and financial companies will take up the rest.

Bhattacharya announced that CMDA would also build commercial complexes on the Rashbehari connector to the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, at Bagha Jatin and in Maniktala.

“We shall raise funds from selling space in those complexes. The profits will be used to improve the drinking water supply and sewerage systems,” he said.    


 
 
WORK CODE FOR TEACHERS 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcuttta, Feb. 22 
Annoyed by the poor standards of teaching and low success rate in its schools, the state government has decided to introduce a code of conduct for teachers at the primary and secondary levels.

Minister for school education Kanti Biswas said on Tuesday that the code will be different from the one applicable to state government employees.

The code will finalised by March this year.

“There are some legal problems in invoking the service rules under which state government employees work. But in the case of teachers, even if we cannot punish them, we will ensure that some amount of fear is instilled among them so that they perform their duties,” Biswas said.

However, in case of the primary schools, the government will have a say, as the teachers in them are appointed by its primary school education council.

“But government-aided secondary schools are run by managing committees and, therefore, the teachers are not direct government employees,” the minister said.

In the secondary schools, the government also does not want to hold direct control.

“We do not want to take on the mammoth task of running 12,000 secondary schools,” Biswas pointed out.

The state pays Rs 280 crore a month as salaries for school teachers. There are 165,000 primary and 146,000 secondary teachers in the state.

Biswas said that unlike Karnataka, where they freeze increments to teachers’ wages for non-performance, West Bengal was not thinking in terms of such harsh steps.

“But we will ensure that students are taught in a proper manner and teachers take classes regularly,” Biswas said.    


 
 
FOUR WAYLAY FACTORY CAR, LOOT STAFF WAGES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 22 
A gang of four armed youth looted Rs 8.25 lakh from employees of a private firm in Kriparampur, Bishnupur, 30 km to the south of the city, on Tuesday.

According to the police, five employees of Worthy Plywood were carrying the monthly wages of labourers from the city headquarters to the factory.

The FIR lodged with the Bishnupur police station said the Ambassador, which was stopped and looted at Kriparampur, had been tailed by a Tata Sumo from Calcutta.

Some 300 metres from the plywood factory, the armed youth surrounded the car, snatched the bag containing the cash and robbed the passengers of gold rings and some other items. Those who tried to resist were beaten up.

The injured were taken to hospital.

Senior police officers, including the additional superintendent of police (industrial), S.N. Gupta, rushed to the spot, in between the city and Diamond Harbour.

Biswanath Gayen, a local resident said: “All the residents were stunned because it was all done so swiftly. The dacoits escaped before any one could realise what was happening.”

No leads in Salt Lake

The police are yet to pick up the trail of the gang of robbers who went on a looting spree at Salt Lake on Monday night.

Four armed youth had raided 10 places, including two medicine shops and two restaurants, spread over four blocks of Salt Lake. No arrest was made till late on Tuesday evening.

Medicine shops remained closed in Salt Lake to protest the “deteriorating law and order situation”. Representatives of five traders’ organisations met the sub-divisional police officer and submitted a memorandum demanding action. They accused the police of dragging their feet.

“We have called an emergency meeting on Wednesday to decide upon our future course of action,” said Bimal Saha, whose stationery goods shop was looted.

A team of policemen, led by inspector-general in charge of south Bengal, Kanwaljit Singh, DIG (Presidency range) Anil Kumar and the police superintendent, North 24-Parganas, Kuldeep Singh, visited the places where the dacoits had struck. The officials held a series of high-level meetings in the SDPO’s office to chalk out a strategy.    


 
 
CESC DONS POLICE COVE 
 
 
BY RENU M R KAKKAR
 
Calcutta, Feb. 22 
The CESC has offered to fund a Calcutta Police drive against power theft, by which eight million units of electricity are lost annually. The only condition it has set is that “the contigent be armed with police powers — the right to arrest or file FIRs on the spot”.

In a report to the police and the power department, the company has identified Tiljala, Cossipore, Kamarpur, Tangra, Entally, Topsia, Watgunge, Ekbalpore, the Kasba industrial estate and the Chitpur police station area as the main spots of power pilferage.

The company has said it will succeed in reducing power theft by two per cent with proper administrative and police support.

Police teams accompanying CESC raiding parties have clear instructions to protect the CESC officials, as disconnection often leads to mob violence. When the situation gets tense, the police advise CESC officers to leave.

The current proposal comes in the wake of the alleged assault last week on a CESC official who tried to inspect the meters at Moulin Rouge restaurant, on Park Street.

The CESC became suspicious because though its power usage had dropped 38,000 units in a year, its business had not reduced correspondingly. Power has been disconnected a couple of times on charges of meter tampering or theft in some other restaurants, too, mostly in the Park Street area.

On an average, CESC lodges 1,000-1,300 FIRs every year but action is hardly ever taken. It has to go in for a compromise settlement in court but pilferage continues while the case is on.

The CESC was unable to snap illegal connections on Ghulam Jilani Khan Road and Topsia Road as the Tiljala police station could not provide assistance for three days.

Of the 20 per cent transmission and distribution losses, about 8 per cent is on account of power theft. Of this, seven per cent is owing to meter tampering.    


 
 
HIGH TURNOUT FOR MANIPUR POLLS, 3 KILLED 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, Feb. 22 
Kuki militants ambushed a sitting legislator’s convoy and killed three Manipur Rifles personnel. But it did not deter over 70 per cent of the electorate from exercising their franchise in the second phase of Assembly polls in Manipur today.

Chief electoral officer D.S. Poonia told The Telegraph that barring the ambush on Manipur State Congress Party legislator L. Lala Singh in Khundrakpam constituency under Imphal East district, no major incident took place in the 32 Assembly constituencies which went to the hustings today.

However, another firing incident did take place in Langthabal constituency. Two girls were accidentally injured when police opened fire on two armed youth who were trying to barge into a polling booth.

The attack on Lala’s convoy took place when the MSCP candidate was on his way to Ekou village to monitor polling. The militants struck as the convoy was crossing a hillock at Gangpijang. Three of Lala’s Manipur Rifles guards were killed in the ambush, while 12 people, including the legislator, were injured.

Apart from inflicting casualties, the rebels snatched 15 weapons, including 14 .303 rifles and a carbine. They also took away two jeeps. In Keirao constituency under Imphal East, security guards of MSCP candidate H. Bidur and FPM nominee Nabachandra Singh exchanged fire due to a misunderstanding. Nobody was injured.

Elsewhere in the state, polling was by and large peaceful, Poonia said. However, repolling is likely to be recommended in over 15 polling booths in the four districts of Imphal East, Imphal West, Thoubal and Bishenpur.

Poonia said the presiding officers of these booths had complained about snatching of ballots and other election materials by activists of rival parties.

Wangkhem and Thoubal constituencies recorded the highest turnout of 90 per cent. Chief minister W. Nipamacha Singh’s constituency Wangoi recorded one of the lowest turnouts.

With Amsu calling off its bandh today, voters thronged the polling booths since early morning. However, the government took no chances, beefing up security in all “sensitive” and “hyper-sensitive” areas of the constituencies where polling was held.

Assam Rifles, Central Reserve Police Force, Border Security Force, Manipur Rifles and India Reserve Battalion personnel were deployed in various parts of the Manipur valley. Barring votes polled in Churachandpur district, counting will begin on Friday. Counting will commence in Churachandpur the next day. Results will be announced by Sunday.    


 
 
LYNGDOH RAPPED ON REBEL HOLD-UP 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Shillong, Feb. 22 
Meghalaya Governor M.M. Jacob today directed the government to normalise the situation in the Borsora area of the West Khasi Hills district where militants are holding six trucks to ransom for the fourth day today, reports our Shillong correspondent.

Sources said reports of the government losing control of the situation in the district prompted Jacob to summon chief minister B.B. Lyngdoh. The chief minister has deputed home minister T.H. Rangad to brief the Governor about the situation in Borsora.

Rangad told the Governor that flushing-out operations have started in the Borsora area where the Achik National Volunteers Council and National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) were holding the trucks.

A company of armed Meghalaya Battalion Police is camping in Borsora proper and another platoon of CRPF will reach there by tomorrow morning.

Chief secretary J.P. Singh said the “situation was now under control”. Two militants have been arrested while the others have escaped into the jungle, he said. Singh said over 50 trucks are stranded on the roads at Nongjri and Chergoan, a few km from Borsora point. “We are looking for the drivers who have abandoned the vehicles,” Singh said.

Though the government claimed to have “rescued” the trucks from the militants, sources said the ANVC and the NSCN(I-M) militants had already extorted the ransom money of Rs 10,000 per truck. “Instead of doing something, the Meghalaya police were simply camping at Borsora proper while the militants held the trucks a few km down the road,” a local resident of Ranikor alleged.

In another incident, church sources denied that the ANVC rebels had taken over a Catholic school in Nonghallam, near Borsora. The Federation of Khasi Jaintia and Garo People has criticised the government for its failure to protect the citizens in the state, particularly in the remote border areas.

Assam mishap

At least a dozen people were injured, two of them critically, when two buses collided head on at Baihata Chariali in Kamrup district this morning, sources said. The injured included the drivers of both the buses. Most of them have been admitted to hospital.    

 

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