Gridlock fear on flyover
Private sector joins Rajarhat II
Metro back on trouble track
Canal dredging
Teacher held for torture death
Teacher claims device to kill the ‘silent killer’
Scrutiny panel for errant realtors
Students clamour for probe
New Manipur Speaker elected
PM not keeping word: Sangma

Calcutta, March 13 
The Gariahat flyover is shaping into a traffic management disaster of such magnitude that south Calcutta will be the scene of “vehicular mayhem,” a confidential study has predicted.

The only way to contain the chaos is by building a second overbridge on Gariahat Road at Ballygunge Phari, technocrats and traffic engineers involved in the planning and construction of the flyovers have concluded.

The possibility that the Gariahat flyover will choke Ballygunge Phari was first pointed out to Yachiyo Engineering, Japanese consultants for the Gariahat flyover project, in 1992. At the time, Yachiyo was conducting a feasibility study for six flyovers that Japanese International Cooperation Agency later agreed to fund.

But for an unknown reason, the suggestion for a flyover at Ballygunge Phari was given a wide berth by Yachiyo and the state urban development department till engineers carrying out a review after construction of the Gariahat flyover began in November 1999 revived the project.

The Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners (HRBC), the implementing agency of the flyovers being built with Japanese aid, is also aware of the traffic chaos that could result. But it is reluctant to stick its neck out and advise the government. The study has concluded that the Gariahat flyover will transfer so much traffic and at such speed from areas south of Rashbehari Avenue that Ballygunge Phari, a crossing where four main roads converge on the Gariahat artery, will be the scene of “traffic mayhem,” one engineer said.

Traffic congestion at Ballygunge Phari during peak hours is already a sore issue with daily commuters.

Visualising a scene after the building of the Gariahat flyover, one engineer said: “During the morning rush hour, the queue of cars will start from Phari. Its tail will be somewhere on top of the flyover, defeating its very purpose. If flyovers are made to ensure faster flow of traffic, the Gariahat flyover will achieve just the opposite unless it is supplemented by another at Ballygunge Phari.”

The study points out that at Phari, the traffic is already 106 per cent of the available carrying capacity (which is why vehicles drive over pavements and/or tramlines, where they do not have right of way). This observation is based on statistics first compiled in 1997. In the three years since, the auto boom in the country has added thousands of vehicles to Calcutta’s traffic.

Delays at Ballygunge Phari have also been mounting. The average delay per vehicle during morning and evening peak hours in 1997 were 51.63 seconds and 64.88 seconds.

Increase in volume of traffic translates into longer delays per vehicle. The cumulative impact of this will mean hours of standstill.

One engineer said it normally takes about 40 seconds for a vehicle travelling at around 20 kmph to cross Gariahat. After the flyover is built, traffic will run at 60kmph.

“This means that on either side of the flyover, there must be enough space available to disperse the load, which will otherwise accumulate at breakneck speed. If that is not done, Gariahat Road will be bumper-to-bumper with immobile traffic from early in the morning till midnight,” he said.

The study has suggested two alternatives for a four-lane Ballygunge Phari flyover.

Plan I: The bridge will be 900 metres long, stretching from about 200 metres north of Mandeville Gardens to Queens Park Road with a full vertical clearance of 5.5 metres across the junction for a length of 300 metres. The tram tracks will have to be shifted.

Plan II: The flyover will be about 800 metres long with a full vertical clearance of 5.5 metres for 200 metres where Bondel Road, Hazra Road and Ballygunge Circular Road converge on Gariahat Road. The key assumption here is that the authorities will give permission for a park to be demolished to make way for roads. Also, this will leave little room for the movement of trams. In design and specifications, both plans are like the Gariahat flyover. The cost is estimated at around Rs 65 crore. The Gariahat flyover’s sanctioned project cost is Rs 64 crore.

Like work for the Gariahat flyover, construction at Phari will also involve shifting of underground utility lines like brick sewers. But the engineers say unlike Gariahat, it might be quite impossible to ensure flow of traffic throughout the construction period. This is because the roads here are not wide enough. They also do not converge at right angles. A major difficulty in building the flyover will also be a temple that is in the very middle of the crossing.

Another facet of the chaos that may result after the Gariahat flyover is built, is the possibility that congestion at the mouth of the Dhakuria bridge will also increase manifold. This will be more likely in the evening peak hours when south-bound traffic is heavier. The study has noted that traffic capacity on the Gol Park-Dhakuria stretch is almost at the maximum — it was about 91 per cent of available space.    

Calcutta, March 13 
Buoyed by the popular response to the first phase of its new township at Rajarhat, the state government has decided to build 5,000 flats, with help from the private sector, in the second phase.

The housing department has formed joint venture companies with Ambuja Cement, Peerless, DCL, Shrachi and IFB to construct flats for people belonging to different income groups.

“We have already received about 37,000 applications and monetary deposit of Rs 7 crore. But we have only 2,600 plots in the first phase, so we have no alternative but to allot plots through lottery,’’ said housing minister Gautam Deb.

Involving private parties and builders was planned by the housing minister himself after chief minister Jyoti Basu instructed him to take “all necessary steps” to speed up implementation of the project.

“It is not possible for the government alone to build a township on over 3,500 hectares of land, three times more than Salt Lake. The involvement of various people is required for successful and speedy implementation of the project. Keeping this in mind, we have roped in some reputed private parties in the project,’’ explained Deb.

The housing minister added that even President K.R. Narayanan had “appreciated” the state governments’ efforts to build housing complexes through joint ventures to meet the huge demand and hailed West Bengal as the pioneer in “social housing”.

According to senior officials of the housing department, the joint venture companies will be authorised to procure land directly by negotiating with the landowners, develop it and construct buildings.

Hidco, the implementing authority of the entire project, will provide infrastructural support and other civic amenities.

“We shall allot plots to individuals and co-operatives in the first phase, but the emphasis in the next phase will be on providing ready flats. Allotment of land in Action area-I will be over within a few months and then we shall start work on Action Area-II,’’ said a senior housing department officer.

A few plots measuring 21cottahs, 42 cottahs and 84 cottahs will be allotted to cooperatives with 30 to 100 members.

The irrigation department will be provided with Rs 24 crore by Hidco to re-excavate the Bagjola canal as additional sewerage water from the township will flow into the canal.

The housing minister has clarified that though joint ventures had been formed, the project will be “steered” by the government.

The price of flats and their distribution system will be finalised by the government.

There will be a large number of flats for the low-income group, which will be subsidised.

Flats for the middle-income group will be sold on a ‘no loss-no profit’ arrangement, while the high-income flats will be sold at a premium.

“I want more people, more builders and more developers be involved in the giant project. The involvement of people from different fields is welcome as they can all contribute to the successful completion of the project,’’ Deb said.

Harsh Neotia, managing director of Ambuja Cement Ltd, which has already constructed the colossal “Condoville”, in association with the housing board on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, said the groundwork at Rajarhat has been completed and construction “will start soon”.    

Calcutta, March 13 
Office-goers had a harrowing time on Monday morning as Metro Rail services were disrupted for nearly an hour.

Trains stopped running between 8.36 am and 9.24 am after a Dum Dum-bound train developed a snag at Kalighat station. Commuters were stranded at various stations during peak hours. Serpentine queues were seen at ticket counters when normal services resumed around 9.30 am.

“For a few days, we had thought that Metro Rail had become reliable again. But today, it was back to square one, with people waiting in vain on the platforms for the next train to arrive,” said Dipto Bagchi, who could not make it to his Central Avenue office on time.

U.C.D. Shreni, chief electrical engineer, Metro Rail, later said the rake developed a problem within six minutes of leaving Tollygunge. The defective rake was taken to Noapara workshop, where it was found that the hose-pipe between two coaches had snapped.    

Calcutta, March 13 
>Work on the Keshtopur canal, where a ferry service is to be introduced, will begin in May and is to be completed by the end of next year. The Rs 93-crore project to make Keshtopur canal and Tolly’s Nullah navigable is to be implemented in two phases. While work on the Keshtopur canal will begin in May, work on Tolly’s Nullah will begin after Metro Rail starts its extension, as an elevated rail track will be built over the canal.

Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty has given his department officials the go-ahead after receiving an “assurance of Rs 8 crore from Planning Commission deputy chairman K.C. Pant”.    

Calcutta, March 13 
Bishnupur, about 25 km from Calcutta, was on the boil on Monday following the arrest of a teacher of Siksha Sangha, held responsible for the death of a Class-II student she had “punished” earlier.

Aloka Murmu was arrested after the local Congress in South 24-Parganas demanded “exemplary punishment” of the teacher.

The school authorities complained that the teacher was assaulted by the demonstrators in front of the students and her family members.

Seven-year-old Prosenjit Mondal died early on Sunday morning after he was punished in school by Murmu on Friday.

Officer-in-charge of Bishnupur police station, Utpal Saha, said that Aloka Murmu had been arrested on the basis of an FIR lodged by Prosenjit’s parents.

The Mondals alleged that the boy was first hauled up for “making a noise” in the classroom, told to kneel down under the sun, before being ordered to stand on a bench in class. The boy fell from the bench and hurt himself.

The teacher then sent him to his hostel room. At night, Prosenjit fell ill and a doctor was called to examine him. But the next night, his condition deteriorated and he died without any treatment.

On Monday, some Congress supporters led by South-24-Parganas district Youth Congress president Shakti Mondal, descended on the school and demanded “action” against the teacher.

Santosh Sarkar, principal of the school run by the Church of Northern India and the Bengal Baptist Union, said: “In the morning, some people came to the school, and started slapping Aloka. I have formed a committee to investigate the matter. I have also asked the police to take proper action after conducting a full enquiry.”

“I shall not say anything. I have told everything to the police. Please don’t disturb me,” is what Aloka Murmu had to say.

Shakti Mondal, however, blamed it all on Aloka Murmu. “Besides punishing the boy mercilessly for something so trivial, she also hit him with a ruler, as there is a welt on the boy’s right leg.”

According to the Congress leader, another student of the school, Pronab Saha, had died “under mysterious circumstances” seven years ago. Pronab studied in Class VI.    

Calcutta, March 13 
A science teacher of a city college on Monday claimed that a device he has invented could control the emission of carbon monoxide (CO) from automobiles to conform to Euro-3 standards.

“Cars will neither need the costly catalytic converters nor unleaded petrol to raise the fuel octane level if my device is fitted,” said the dean of science, St Xavier’s College, Pradip Kumar Chakraborty.

The totally indigenous anti-pollution device will cost Rs 2,000, and once fitted, cars more than 15 years old will not have to be scrapped as planned by the government. He has already applied for a patent.

The device, a twin arrangement — an electronic ignition system and a chemical unit — is the fruit of six years of research. Chakraborty, a teacher of physics at the college for 35 years, says he is against sensationalism. “I am not after awards. I only want recognition for my work. The great scientist Michael Faraday is my guru. Like him, I also come from a poor family,” he added.

Chakraborty’s electronic ignition system is even smaller than half a voltage stabiliser and can be fitted into a car’s dashboard. The chemical unit is to be fitted to the car’s exhaust pipe.

He says in Calcutta, air pollution has reached a critical stage, where an estimated 60 per cent of the population succumbs to respiratory diseases. Carbon monoxide is the most lethal gas produced by incomplete combustion of carbon-based fuels like petrol. Emission of this “silent killer” peaks when a car comes to a standstill or has slowed down. Children, pregnant women and those with chronic bronchitis suffer when exposed to carbon monoxide.

“So, this emission becomes a problem when automobiles are stuck at traffic signals or are caught in snarls,” says Chakraborty. Oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds like hydrocarbons emitted by vehicles are also harmful but CO is lethal.

His Premier 118 NE car fitted with the device shows carbon monoxide emission levels of 0.83 per cent, 1.10 per cent and 1.16 per cent during tests carried out at three different petrol pumps.

“Euro-3 demands carbon monoxide emission around 1 per cent, and the device in my car was not properly adjusted. An average car without the device will record around 2.93 per cent emission of the poisonous gas,” he said.    

Calcutta, March 13 
To make things difficult for “unscrupulous realtors” cashing in on the building boom, the state is planning to amend the existing Act governing real-estate activity in and around the city. A Bill to this effect will be tabled during this Assembly session.

The housing department has set up a seven-member expert committee with Sunil Chakraborty, mayor-in-council member, in charge of buildings in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, as its chairman, to draw up the list of proposed amendments.

Other members include the deputy commissioner of police, headquarters, Lalbazar; a representative of the realtors and officials from both the CMC and the housing department. The committee met last month to work out possible amendments to the Act and another extended meeting is scheduled later this week.

The West Bengal Building (Regulation of Promotion of Construction and Transfer by Promoters) Act came into effect in 1995 after it was first tabled in the Assembly. The government has finally woken up to the need to plug the loopholes with complaints of errant realtors going unpunished piling up.

“Promoters are going scot-free on many occasions. By incorporating the amendments, we will be able to bring them under better surveillance,” said housing secretary Amal Ghosh, one of the seven panel members.

Some of the amendments likely to be incorporated are:

If a realtor is not registered with the government for carrying out construction business, it will be treated as a cognisable offence and the police will be empowered to arrest the offender.

(“We urge people to buy flats only from realtors registered with us,” said Amal Ghosh.)

Realtors will have to provide insurance cover to a new building from the start of its construction till its handing over to the buyer. This is in addition to the five years’ insurance cover that is provided by developers now, starting from when the construction is completed.

(“This will safeguard the interest of buyers who can reclaim the insured amount in the event of any collapse or damage to the building without giving any premium,” said officials).

The promoter will no longer be defined in the singular, so more than one realtor can enter into an agreement with the buyer.

But the amendment is not all anti-realtor.

“Some rules are being amended to help developers get their plans sanctioned without much hassle,” said a corporation official.

So, some rules are being made more flexible to ensure easy availability of sanctioned building plans from the corporation.

The City Developers’ Forum (CDF), a recently-floated outfit of nearly 100 realtors in the city, has, however, taken strong exception to the impending amendments. “The proposed amendments are one-sided and aimed at thwarting our construction activities in and around the city,” complained CDF secretary Sushil Mohta.

A memorandum will be sent from the forum to housing department and CMC officials, urging them to reconsider the possible amendments to the existing Act.    

Guwahati, March 13 
The medical college entrance scam exposed by The Telegraph is snowballing into a major issue, with students of the Guwahati Medical College today gheraoing the hostel in which the scamsters used to stay.

The students are planning to lay siege on the office of the director of medical education tomorrow and demand a “foolproof” inquiry into the anomalies in the system of conducting entrance tests. Student leaders said principal M.M. Deka, who assumed charge recently, had promised to write to the state government through the health secretary, seeking “tough action” against the offenders.

Deka said this was the most he could do as the college was in no way involved in conducting the entrance examination.

The test was conducted by the Gauhati University till last year, but leakage of examination papers prompted the government to hand over the responsibility to the Assam Higher Secondary Education Council. With the newly-constituted Guwahati Medical College Students’ Union refusing to take things lying down, tension gripped the campus today.

A group of students kept vigil at boys’ hostel number four till late afternoon, waiting for the prime accused in the scam to return. However, there was no sign of him till late tonight.

The accused had left the hostel early today after collecting the money other boarders owed him. However, one of the boarders said he took along only his music system. “He has maligned the name of he entire student community, especially those studying in this college. He must be punished,” said another boarder.

The students’ union is likely to approach the Medical Council of India in the event of the college authorities failing to penalise those involved in the scam.

A student leader said invigilators at entrance tests were also involved in the scam. “If they were not hand in glove with the scamsters, why did they fail to detect the forged admit cards?” he said.

Apart from laying siege on the office of the director of medical education, a section of students is contemplating staging a dharna in front of the Assembly. “This will draw the attention of all the legislators. The education minister owes an explanation in the Assembly,” a student said.

Several legislators have already expressed concern over the issue and decided to take it up at the political level.

“This is a very serious issue. I will raise it in the Assembly,” said Congress legislator Ardhendu Dey. “Unless such corrupt practices end, the future of the state is in peril,” he added.    

Imphal, March 13 
The Secular Democratic Front boycotted Manipur Governor Ved Prakash Marwah’s address to the Assembly today. The Opposition leaders said the boycott was a protest against the Governor for allowing a “super jumbo-sized” ministry when the state was facing a financial crisis.

Marwah addressed the House after it unanimously elected Sapam Dhananjoy Singh of the Manipur State Congress Party as the new Speaker. The address was boycotted by 12 legislators of the Congress, the Janata Dal (Secular) and the Manipur People’s Party (MPP). They entered the House only after Marwah left.

The Speaker’s election was delayed for two hours after the SDF complained about irregularities in the procedures of the House. MPP leader O. Joy Singh told pro tem Speaker Rishang Keishing that he was not satisfied with the seating arrangements. As per today’s arrangement, the seven defectors were seated on the treasury bench.

After the debate, the House was adjourned to arrive at a consensus. The ruling parties conceded a moral defeat when the House re-assembled with state legislative affairs and law minister Gangmumei Kamei admitting lapses on part of the government and the Assembly secretariat.

Keishing said the Assembly secretariat had not informed him about the filing of nominations for the Speaker and the seating arrangements. He expressed unhappiness over being ignored when the Governor had appointed him as pro tem Speaker to execute the Speaker’s election.

it was revealed that Speaker of the last Assembly K. Babudhon Singh had issued all the orders by-passing Keishing. Joy Singh said Babudhon Singh had ceased to be Speaker after he lost the polls and it was the pro tem Speaker who should have performed the duties.

Manipur budget: Finance minister Henam Lokhon Singh today presented the state budget for 2000-2001 with an estimated deficit of Rs 376 crore.    

Shillong, March 13 
Former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno A. Sangma has accused Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee of going back on his promise to develop the Northeast.

Sangma, general secretary of the Nationalist Congress Party, said it was unfortunate that the Rs 10,271-crore development package announced by the Prime Minister during his visit here on January 22 did not figure in the Union budget.

“The omission has raised eyebrows. Only the ministry of water resources and rural development has earmarked 10 per cent of its total allocation for the northeastern states,” Sangma said.

He said the ministry of water resources and rural development decided to give the Northeast its due because its minister Bijoya Chakraborty was from Assam. The former Speaker said his party would raise the issue at “different levels” and pressure the Centre into releasing more funds for the region. Sangma said former finance minister Manmohan Singh had also agreed to raise the issue in Rajya Sabha.    


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