Green signal for flyover twin
Kidnapped boy freed
Lawyers run amok at arrest
Salt Lake logs on to Kharagpur
Hospitals sign tie-up pact
Pepsi fights logo tax demand
Pact to end Northeast border dispute
Principal stripped in Ranchi
Centre to talk to Bodo Tigers
Six killed in Assam road mishap

Calcutta, March 15 
Transport and finance officers of the West Bengal government have begun a frantic search for funds to build a second flyover on Gariahat Road at Ballygunge Phari.

The search follows a belated realisation that the Gariahat flyover at Rashbehari crossing could wreak havoc with traffic in south Calcutta unless another was built at Phari.

“We have to build the (Phari) flyover immediately. There will be tremendous pressure at Phari after the Gariahat flyover is built and we are now processing the project,” transport secretary D M Kanwar told The Telegraph.

The urgency for the flyover at Phari has overtaken the transport department after a study by experts advised against delay if south Calcutta is to survive “vehicular mayhem”. The study noted that it will be impossible to close Gariahat road — an arterial north-south corridor — to traffic for construction at Phari after the Gariahat flyover is built.

It has advised building the flyover at Phari simultaneously with the Gariahat flyover.

Transport department officials first sounded out counterparts in finance but they were advised to scout for institutional funding. Unlike the four flyovers — at Gariahat, Park Street, Chitpur Lock Gate and A J C Bose Road — that are being built with a loan from the Japan International Banking Cooperation (JIBC), no foreign aid is committed for the Phari flyover.

The government is approaching Hudco and also ICICI for an infrastructure development loan.

It has been worked out that the Phari flyover will cost Rs 65 crore for a four-laner or Rs 40 crore for a two-laner. But given the intensity of traffic, it is unlikely that the transport department will settle for a narrow two-lane flyover.

The government is banking on Hudco to bail it out. Hudco is currently funding nine of 17 flyovers being built in Chennai. It approved an infrastructure development loan to the Tamil Nadu government last year at 15 per cent interest.

If West Bengal settles for a similar loan, the government will be paying through its nose for a plan drafted without foresight.

Had it pushed the case for a flyover at Phari alongwith the Gariahat, its interest burden would have been less — the JIBC loan is being serviced at a rate that is considerably less than what Hudco has charged the Tamil Nadu government.

One transport department officer said the government was now acting so fast that it might not be left with enough time to scout the market for a loan that will not be usurious for its treasury.

He said if a loan for the Phari flyover was not arranged immediately, there is the possibility that the Gariahat flyover cannot be opened immediately to north-bound traffic after it is completed.

The Ballygunge Phari flyover will be around 900 metres long, stretching from Mandeville Gardens to Queens Park Road.

Its dimensions will be larger than the Gariahat flyover because it will have to leave large space for traffic to cross under it between Hazra Road, Ballygunge Circular Road and Bondel Road, the three thoroughfares that converge on Gariahat Road.

Though transport department officers are not giving details, it is unlikely that trams will be allowed on Gariahat Road beyond Park Circus depot after the Phari flyover is built.

Engineers are trying to ensure that a temple in the middle of the Phari crossing is left untouched but a park at the mouth of Bondel Road will have to be shifted.    

Calcutta, March 15 
Nearly a month after a kidnapper lured Rahul Misra, 7, with a mouth organ from his Mumbai home, the boy was rescued from Khardah on Tuesday night.

The chief of the detective department, Narayan Ghosh, said on Wednesday that Rahul was rescued after a joint raid by Calcutta and Mumbai police from a house in the northern suburb where he was held captive. The kidnapper, Chanchal Guha, had demanded Rs 1 crore as ransom. He was arrested.

Chanchal, alias Pintu, a commerce graduate from Hazaribagh in Bihar, and the boy were living with relatives. Pintu told his relatives that Rahul was a friend’s son and he had brought him to Calcutta for medical treatment.

“We are convinced the abduction was a solo job,” said Ghosh.

Pintu worked for Rahul’s father, Sailesh Motilal Misra, a confectioner. He visited the Misra residence at 10th Road, Benarasi Bhavan, Khar (West) on February 17 and took Pintu with him, promising to buy him a mouth organ.

He had gained Rahul’s confidence by using his access to the Misra residence. “We used to play together,” he told the police. Pintu and Rahul stayed overnight in a Mumbai railway station and took the Gitanjali Express to Calcutta the next day. Police said the kidnapper and his captive spent three days in Howrah station, after which they moved to a house near Malancha, in south Calcutta. Two days later, they moved in with relatives at Khardah.

Pintu phoned Misra’s relatives, who live in Baranagar, North 24-Parganas, to demand the ransom. The calls were traced by the local police. He also contacted the Misras in Mumbai from a pay phone booth. The Mumbai police traced the calls by installing a calling-line identification (CLI) machine.

Around 9 pm on Tuesday, a detective team, led by DC DD, special cell, Sanjoy Mukherjee, visited Rahara in Khardah, where Rahul was kept. Two officers, including Mukherjee, entered the three-storeyed building in the guise of telephone department employees.

Rahul showed up with a mouth organ when the policemen were in the house. Minutes later, the officers came out on the plea that they needed to bring some instruments. Senior detectives monitoring the operation from Lalbazar were told that Rahul was, indeed, in the house. Lalbazar instructed the team to cordon off the residence quietly and ensure that the boy was safe.

The two officers re-entered the house and went upstairs. The boy was picked up and Pintu held at gunpoint. During interrogation, the kidnapper said he was planning to go to Hazaribagh on Wednesday with the boy.    

Calcutta, March 15 
Lawyers at Bankshall Court went berserk, ransacking the office of the chief metropolitan magistrate and assaulting senior police officers on the court premises on Wednesday afternoon. They also stalled court proceedings during the day, protesting the arrest of colleague Asit Dutta.

Dutta was picked up by the Amhest Street police station on charges of “outraging the modesty” of his tenant, Alpana Dutta, on Beniatala Lane, on Tuesday afternoon. While the woman, in her complaint, said Dutta “assaulted and molested her”, the lawyer said he was being framed as he had tried to stop her from running a “flesh-trade racket” from his house.

Residents of the area, however, claimed that Dutta was beaten up by locals after he molested the woman on Tuesday. He was then forced to flee the locality.

The lawyers at Bankshall Court went on the rampage after their colleague, produced in court wearing just a towel, alleged that the police had raided his house and seized some liquor bottles, a gold chain and other valuables.

All hell broke loose when the officer-in-charge of Amherst Street police station was summoned by the court. He was greeted with blows from the lawyers, forcing him to beat a hasty retreat.

Next, enter assistant commissioner of police, central division, and OC, Hare Street police station. They, too, met with the same fate at the hands of the black-robed assailants.

With the outnumbered police force standing by, the lawyers ransacked the office of the chief metropolitan magistrate and the adjoining rooms, smashing furniture and flower pots.

When senior police officers, including DC, central, Raj Kanojia, and joint commissioner, organisation, S.N. Sarkar, arrived on the spot, they were denied entry into the court premises.

The lawyers demanded the “immediate arrest” of the Amherst Street officer-in-charge as their pound of flesh for their colleague’s “humiliation”.

By the end of the day, Asit Dutta had been granted bail while the court had issued bailable warrants of arrest against the investigation officer of the case and the OC of Amherst Street police station, said DC headquarters, Nazrul Islam.

The DC, however, claimed Asit Dutta was in a “drunken state” when he molested the woman. A medical test had, apparently, confirmed that he was “inebriated”.

“This is nothing but a dispute between the landlord and the tenant, blown out of all proportion to try and teach Dutta a lesson,” claimed his fellow-lawyers.    

Calcutta, March 15 
Real-time distance education is where the future of learning lies. And in the first experiment of its kind, IIT Kharagpur is ready to start video-conferencing facilities by linking up with its Salt Lake centre.

By next week, professors in management and information technology will lecture as well as interact with students enrolled in post-graduate diploma courses at IIT’s Salt Lake wing and the off-campus Kharagpur centre, simultaneously.

Confirming this, IIT Kharagpur director Prof. Amitava Ghosh said: “The faculty here will directly interact with students and actually have immediate discussions through the new technology. After the experiment is successfully completed between Salt Lake and Kharagpur, we will extend similar facilities to the Bhubaneswar centre. In a year’s time, we will probably launch a management course.”

The first off-campus course, a one-year PG diploma in information technology, is already under way through video-taped lectures prepared by IIT Kharagpur professors to not more than a batch of eight out of the 82 students at a time. A ‘facilitator’ sits in with the class and answers queries and discusses issues. During weekends, faculty members from Kharagpur have to come down to the Calcutta centre to answer questions raised by the students.

“The new system which we are planning will benefit students much more than the existing distant mode,” says Prof. A.P. Gupta, director of IIT’s Salt Lake centre.

Interactive video conferencing will require a one-time investment of Rs 6 lakh for the hardware. While there plans to take up a leased line in the future, the institute has applied for a telephone line with an Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) connection from West Bengal (telecom circle). The cost of ISDN connectivity has been slashed recently by VSNL and MTNL, boosting the growth rate of the video conferencing market in India. The Kharagpur exchange has already been upgraded to enable ISDN connectivity.

“Many international vendors are vying for the project of linking the students and professors up through video-conferencing,” says Gupta.

For the moment, though, chief general manager, West Bengal (telecom circle), S.K. Chakraborty, will give the institute his own office equipment — bought recently from the $ 340 million video- conferencing solutions provider PictureTel Corp — to begin classes.

PictureTel Corp has linked district headquarters of the Andhra Pradesh government, worked for space agency Isro, the Gujarat government and corporates like the Reliance group.

Says GM (business development) R.N. Panda: “It is a cheap way for IIT Kharagpur to expand its operational area and reach out to students elsewhere. All they need to do is attach this to an LSD projector and the image can be blown up manifold.”

This move will transform IIT’s Salt Lake branch from a virtual front-office to a complete education centre — and can set a trend in techo-driven education tools.    

Calcutta, March 15 
A new spectrum to health care delivery in the city will be added when the tie-up between AMRI and Apollo Hospitals is put to effect from April onwards.

As reported in The Telegraph on Monday, top representatives of the two hospitals signed a MoU last week, whereby Apollo would provide its expertise, both in management and hospital systems, to provide better services to the ailing in Calcutta.

“We aim to stem the need for patients to go outside Bengal for super-speciality treatment,” said R.S. Agarwal, member of AMRI’s board of directors on Wednesday. “This is not a commercial venture but an effort for the benefit of people here.”

Apollo expertise will be important in the execution and functioning of the second, Rs 50-crore phase that AMRI is going in for.

In exchange, Apollo will be given a royalty, or management fees, based on the turnover of the new AMRI-Apollo Hospital.    

Calcutta, March 15 
The blue-and-white glow sign at the neighbourhood paan-shop has made the civic authorities see red.

But multinational soft-drink major Pepsi is in no mood to bow to the “illegitimate demand” for advertisement tax on what the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) views as publicity material “cluttering the cityscape”.

In July 1999, CMC had issued a notification stating that product displays in the form of neon glow signs, logos and hoardings at all retail outlets in the city would attract advertisement tax.

A senior CMC official said: “In August ’99, we informed around 1,000 shop-owners and major corporate houses in the city that advertisement tax at the rate of Rs. 65 per sq ft a year will be charged for such displays at retail outlets.”

Responding to the notification, heavyweights like ITC, VST, Sony and HLL contacted the civic body and agreed to cough up the advertisement tax. So did Coke. But not Pepsi, which preferred appeal in the high court for “an exemption” under Section 204 (2C) of CMC Act, which lays down the ground rules for levying the tax.

Justice A.N. Roy, in his interim order, has stated that CMC cannot collect advertisement tax from Pepsi for its product endorsements “till further order”. The judge has also directed the soft-drink giant to submit a comprehensive list of shops which display the product’s name.

“If the said list is not furnished in the court within 42 days, the interim order will be automatically vacated,” warned the judge.

Product endorsement through displays at retail outlets — paan-shops being the most popular — has painted the city red, blue and white, with Coke and Pepsi fighting over every inch of available space. “The cold-drinks companies pay between Rs. 500 to Rs. 20,000 a month to shop-owners, depending on the size and location of the shop,” explains Ram Babu at his paan-shop on Park Street.

“Soft drink advertisements through glowsigns, logos and hoardings have swept the city shops,” commented a senior CMC official. “The motive of tax evasion has prompted this shift from the conventional methods of product promotion.”    

Guwahati, March 15 
Assam and Meghalaya today signed an agreement to resolve the pending border dispute amicably and strengthen the age-old friendly ties between the two states.

The agreement, signed by Assam chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and his Meghalaya counterpart E.K.Mawlong, said field demarcation will resume in those sectors of the inter-state border where there is no dispute. In case of other sectors, chief secretaries of the two states will thrash out the contentious issues within six months.

The decision, arrived at by the chief secretaries, will be discussed by the chief ministers of the respective states before a final settlement. The chief ministers have agreed to make a joint spot survey of blocks I and II in Karbi Anglong district .

They also agreed to co-operate on counter-insurgency operations in the two states. Both the chief ministers were accompanied by a number of their Cabinet colleagues and senior officials.

The last chief ministerial- level meeting on border dispute was held in June 1995 between the then chief ministers Hiteswar Saikia of Assam and Salseng C. Marak of Meghalaya. Mawlong, who has been a vocal critic of the establishment’s inability to settle the issue, wasted no time in getting down to business. As soon as he was sworn in last week, he contacted his Assam counterpart for a meeting on the issue.

The Assam-Meghalaya boundary dispute dates back to 1971, when Meghalaya was carved out of Assam. Many areas were left undemarcated in the hurry to expedite the birth of the hill state.

The following years were marked by skirmishes and unsavoury incidents, allegations and counter-allegations of encroachment, timber smuggling and growing criminal activities in the disputed areas.

In 1991, the two states agreed to settle the problem in a spirit of “mutual understanding” after Assam agreed to remove its police outposts from the disputed areas. A three-point formula suggested a joint survey of the disputed boundary area by the survey teams of the two states and the Surveyor of India and putting up of temporary markers following which villagers were to be consulted in which state they wanted to be.

However, Assam unilaterally built fixed permanent concrete boundary pillars along the temporary markers in the Garo Hill sector in 1992.

The pillars had to be destroyed after Meghalaya protested. Most of the Garo Hill sector remained disputed since then.    

Ranchi, March 15 
The principal of the Panchpargana Kisan College at Bundu in Ranchi district was beaten up, stripped and paraded naked following complaints of an attempted rape by a college sweeper.

However, local residents observed a bandh today in protest against the act. They alleged that principal Yugal Kishore Prasad was framed by a group in the college to divert issues.

Vice-chancellor of Ranchi University L.C.C.N. Shahdeo today set up a three-member probe panel to inquire into the charges levelled against Prasad.

Sources said students and a section of the college staff gheraoed Prasad after sweeper Reena Ekka complained that the principal had attempted to molest her and rape her when she came to the college at 7.30 am.

The sources said the agitated group stripped Prasad, beat him up, dragged him outside the college, garlanded him with shoes and slippers and tonsured him. He was also paraded naked on the streets of Bundu for two hours.

In an FIR filed with the Bundu police station, Prasad alleged that a section of college employees, led by the sweeper’s husband, had gheraoed him, beaten him up and forced him to parade naked after shaving off his head. He said a section of class III and class IV staff met him recently.    

New Delhi, March 15 
The Centre will initiate dialogues with the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) as the group has unilaterally suspended action against security forces and “abjured the path of violence” in Assam last year.

Following an assurance from the BLT, which was banned till October 1999, the Centre today announced suspension of operations against the outfit. “The BLT has not surrendered arms,” a home ministry spokesman clarified adding that the Centre’s offer for peace talks with other Northeast insurgent outfits was still open.

In response to the Centre’s “policy”, the BLT declared an unilateral suspension of operations in July last year. In October 1999, the government lifted the ban on the outfit as a “‘goodwill gesture.’’ The outfit will be outside the purview of the ban till July 8, 2000.

Preliminary rounds of negotiation have already taken place between home ministry officials, BLT representatives and Assam government officials. However, the Centre is preparing to set ground rules which have to be followed by both the security forces and the outfit.

According to a home ministry statement, the BLT has assured the government that it will “completely abjure the path of violence, not engage in any violent or unlawful activities like killings, kidnappings, extortions and intimidation and abide by the Constitution and the laws of the land.”

The statement said the Centre “fervently hopes” that other militant groups will also settle for peace following the BLT’s decision to come to a negotiated settlement.    

Jorhat, March 15 
Six persons were killed and nine injured in a road accident at Dadhora under Dergaon police station on the National Highway 37 in Upper Assam today. Sources said a truck hit the rear of a bus and collided with a stationary minibus, killing four persons on the spot and injuring 11. Two persons later succumbed to their injuries in hospital.

The Nagaon-bound minibus had been stranded on the road due to a technical snag, while the other bus had stopped to pick up some passengers. Just as the bus was leaving the area, a truck moving in the same direction hit the rear of the vehicle before ramming into the minibus.

Rhino kills guard: A forest guard was fatally injured when a rhino attacked a three-member census team in the Bagori range of Kaziranga National Park today. The guard died on way to hospital.    


Maintained by Web Development Company