Computer, not crowd at court
Bleeding teachers battle for Basu ear
Burrabazar to be moved out
Cheque-out point for legends of Bengal
Old buses made new for jobless youth
Alipore district headquarters being shifted
‘Most-disturbed’ tag slapped on Tripura
6 die as Assam bus overturns
Arson leaves 1500 homeless
Kohima frees nine jawans

Calcutta, March 27 
Calcutta High Court is getting a makeover. And topping the reforms list to give the 137-year-old institution a brand new look is computerisation, coupled with a crackdown on the crowds in court.

Elaborate plans to regulate entry and exit points have been drawn up to stop hundreds of litigants, who routinely throng the court now, from gaining admission into the ‘open-to-all’ premises.

Court officials said on Monday that once the measures are implemented, only two persons from each side will be allowed to attend a hearing, after being cleared by court authorities and the police.

“At present, the court is overrun by people who are both connected and not connected with the day’s proceedings. This invasion makes us all — judges, lawyers, court officials — extremely vulnerable to various threats. This is what has prompted us to limit the number of general entrants,” said a senior official of the high court’s administrative committee.

By a rough estimate, nearly 10,000 litigants and their relatives, friends and associates crowd the court premises every day. For many, life revolves around the 33 courtrooms, where nearly 2,000 lawyers plead their cases before 29 judges burdened with a backlog of nearly 300,000 cases.

According to officials, a Rs 5 crore-plus modernisation package has prompted the court to chalk out a change of image. The programme is to be implemented over the next two years, with the highlights being;

Installation of a dozen electronic screens, at an estimated cost of Rs 3 crore, to flash the position of hearing of various lawsuits.

Computerisation of judges’ chambers at an estimated cost of Rs 1 crore.

Air-conditioning of the court and bar association rooms at an initial investment of Rs 1 crore;

As Bhagabati Prosad Banerjee, former judge and a major force behind the computerisation programme, explained, the working of the court will definitely improve once the old manual typewriters are replaced with computers.

“Correction of a judgment on an old typewriter or issuing a certified copy of a judgment by the present manual system takes up a lot of time. The computer will make things move very fast, beside enhancing the quality of work,” said Justice (retd) Banerjee.

The state government’s plans include installation of central air-conditioning systems after the completion of the computerisation programme. A preliminary outlay of Rs 1 crore has been made and an additional Rs 8 to 9 crore will be made available in the near future. “Computers and ACs seem to be linked,” said Justice Gorachand De, judicial secretary.

A modern health clinic, complete with specialist doctors, a mini intensive-care unit and an ambulance to ferry critical patients from court to a city hospital is another vital feature.

“There have been instances of lawyers and litigants falling sick, but not being given on-the-spot medical care. The new measure will take care of that,” said Arunava Ghosh, general secretary of the Bar Association. The government is chipping in with Rs 22 lakhs for the proposed clinic.    

Calcutta, March 27 
Primary school teachers and the police fought a pitched battle for over an hour in central Calcutta on Monday afternoon. Consequently, at least 15 teachers and three policemen were severely injured. Most of the teachers were well over 60.

At around 2 pm, about 500 primary school teachers, protesting non-payment of salary, assembled in front of Raj Bhavan on Rani Rashmoni Avenue to march to the Assembly and submit a memorandum to the chief minister.

But policemen threw a security cordon and blocked the road to the state legislature.

The teachers tried to break through the cordon, when the police resorted to a lathicharge.

Ten teachers, including a few women who were beaten up, collapsed on the road. Some of them were bleeding profusely.

The teachers, too, fought back. So the police decided to go on a second round of lathicharge, injuring some more teachers.

At least three policemen were injured in the fray. Some police officers assaulted press photographers on assignment.

With the situation fast spinning out of control, an SOS was sent to the police control room for reinforcements.

Senior Lalbazar officers requested finance minister Asim Dasgupta to give the teachers a hearing. The minister met a teachers’ delegation later in the evening. “The government has been deliberately withholding for the past five years the salary and even the provident fund and gratuity of teachers who are over 60 and still in service, and of those who had retired after 65,’’ said Sanat Misra, association general secretary.    

Calcutta, March 27 
All wholesale markets in the city will be relocated by 2002.

For starters, the government has announced that the wholesale markets at Burrabazar, the hub of commodities trading, will be shifted to Kona, in Howrah.

Urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya said on Monday that the markets in Kona will be located close to the truck terminal that is now being built.

Government officials will meet Burrabazar traders’ representatives on Wednesday and seek to convince them on the urgency of the relocation.

In the past, the traders have refused to move out of Burrabazar.

Bhattacharya said Burrabazar’s wholesale markets — like Falpatti (for fruit), Dimpatti (egg) and Lohapatti (iron) — and the garments market in Garden Reach will be shifted to Kona in phases.

“We will build another truck terminal in Dankuni, in Hooghly district, where some other wholesale markets will be shifted,” the minister said.

The Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) has sanctioned Rs 21 crore to hasten work on the Kona truck terminal. It will be spread over 44 acres and will accommodate 470 lorries at a time.

Infrastructure at Kona will be beefed up with new roads and administrative buildings.

“There will be four-lane roads. We have nearly finished building the two-lane roads and expect to open the terminal within a year and a half,”, Bhattacharya said.

The minister was speaking after the 132nd meeting of the CMDA, which was also attended by chief minister Jyoti Basu at Unnayan Bhavan, in Salt Lake.

It was decided to sanction Rs 416 crore exclusively for development work.

After the meeting, Basu said his government had sanctioned generous amounts for the city. Last year, it had allocated Rs 171 crore for Calcutta.

The government’s announcement comes in the early stages of the run-up to the municipal polls. A total of 82 municipalities, including Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), are due to go to the hustings in May-June.

Bhattacharya also announced new schemes that will come up soon with financial assistance from a British development agency.

He said the agency had agreed to sanction Rs 555 crore to improve drinking water supply. “We will be supplying an additional 100 million gallons of water in the city daily after completing schemes with help from the agency,” he added.

Bhattacharya said the Centre was not disbursing funds under the megacity scheme.

He claimed Calcutta will look much better by the end of next year, after a beautification plan drafted recently is implemented.

“We have plans to beautify the Maidan by planting new trees and cleaning the waterbodies,” Bhattacharya said.    

Calcutta, March 27 
How often would Rabindranath Tagore draw money from his bank? How much did Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar borrow to help the destitute? How did Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose deal with his bankers?

Calcuttans will be able to take a peek and more at the lesser-known facets of these legends at a State Bank of India archive, to be thrown open to the public early next year. The archive will be housed on the 11th and 12th floors of the splendid Samriddhi Bhavan, set on the Strand, where the Bank of Bengal once stood.

“The floors and stairs will be laid with exquisite Italian marble and the glass window panes will bear the bank’s cipher. The iron ceiling will be adorned with exquisite stucco work and motifs will reflect the grandeur and majesty of the bank,” said SBI officials. The bank has already floated a tender to choose the architect for the archive. The process of selecting technical people to be in charge of the archives has also begun.

The archives will mainly constitute the internal records of the bank, now nearly two centuries old. Minute books of directors’ meetings; balance sheets and statement of affairs; proceedings of annual general meetings; correspondence registers and files; annual inspection reports; branch records; opinion reports; select ledgers and registers will throw light on the numerous facets of the country’s financial and economic development. The past will unfold in the form of memorabilia like bank notes, cheques, drafts, seals, tokens and photographs. The historical agreements that the bank signed with governors-general will also be on display. So the archives will provide an insight into the ethos and growth of the colossal State Bank of India.

SBI is the only nationalised bank in the country to set up such an archive. “The management thought the archive should be set up in Calcutta since the bank started its journey from Calcutta in 1806,” said some senior officials.

Re-designated the Bank of Bengal in 1809, it was the first of the three Presidency banks in India, followed by the Bank of Bombay and the Bank of Madras. The three were merged in 1921 as the Imperial Bank of India. In 1955, by an Act of Parliament, the Imperial Bank was constituted as the State Bank of India with a new sense of social purpose.

European managing houses were the chief beneficiaries of the bank’s office in Calcutta. Prominent Indians like Dwarkanath Tagore, Rabindranath Tagore, Bipin Chandra Pal and Ashutosh Mukherjee were also closely associated with it. Others like Sookmoy Roy, Rajendra Nath Mookerjee, Ram Kamal Sen and Keshub Chandra Sen were with the bank as directors or employees. The archives will display how all these luminaries, and so many others, carried out their banking transactions.

In order to reconstruct the glorious past, SBI commissioned a project for writing an authoritative history of the bank. The task was entrusted to economist Amiya Kumar Bagchi, who has submitted his findings.

“A wealth of historical material of the bank, unknown and inaccessible to scholars before, has been unearthed. The archives will be of immense help to scholars,” bank officials said.    

Calcutta, March 27 
Disregarding the campaign against auto emission, the government has decided to overhaul about 2,000 superannuated state buses. This would provide jobs to 15,000 youth.

The operator will have to bear the repairing and operating costs and the government will take a licence fee of Rs 300 to Rs 800 a day per bus. Senior transport officers said an operator can earn a minimum profit of Rs 500 daily.

According to a rough estimate, the government could earn Rs 3 crore annually without investing anything.

Transport minister Subhash Chakraborty said at Writers’ Buildings that the government would let out the buses against daily fees to unemployed youth cooperatives. This is part of the plan to cut transport subsidy and increase operational efficiency.

The cooperatives would be allowed to park the vehicles in CSTC garages, but they will have to pay for the drivers and conductors.

Evading the question whether the jalopies would not contribute to the already alarming level of air pollution, Chakraborty said the measure was meant to address the unemployment problem.

The government will only operate the existing fleet and acquire new vehicles as well — altogether 1200 of them, 500 by June, Chakraborty said.

The new measures will enable the government to improve services and reduce losses being incurred by the different state transport corporations. Once this is achieved, Chakraborty said, the pressure of subsidy on the exchequer will ease significantly.

“We have to move away from the culture of subsidy,” he said. The government’s pay-out on account of subsidy for 1,000 state buses is about Rs 130 crore a year.

Strike off: The Calcutta Goods Transport Association on Monday called off the indefinite strike scheduled from April 3, the general secretary of the association, Gopal S Mittal, announced after holding a meeting with the transport minister at Writers Buildings.

The transporters called the strike to protest harassment by the sales tax authorities. The transport minister discussed the matter with finance minister Asim Dasgupta, who gave the assurance that he would look into the matter.    

Calcutta, March 27 
More than 100 acres of prime khas land in the heart of the city, which has housed Calcutta’s administrative hub for about two centuries, will soon be made available for other use, following the state government’s decision to shift the district headquarters of South 24 Parganas from Alipore to Baruipur.

Chief minister Jyoti Basu told a Left Front delegation from South 24-Parganas on Monday that the shift has already been started.

The Front delegation, led by Samir Putatunda and comprising Sujan Chakravorty, Kanti Ganguly, Subhas Naskar and Gokul Chatterjee, placed a 58-point charter of demands before the chief minister for development the district.

Although the state government is yet to decide on how to utilise this vast stretch of land and infrastructure that will become free once the shift to Baruipur is made, a PWD spokesman felt some of the offices from Writers’ Buildings, New Secretariat Building and other parts of the city might be shifted to vacant premises at Alipore.

South 24-Parganas is the only district in the country with its headquarters outside the district boundaries.

Alipore has all along been the state government’s second-most important administrative centre, outside the Writers’.

Prior to the bifurcation of the 24 Parganas, it housed the headquarters of the undivided district.

After the division, North 24 -arganas got Barasat as its ‘sadar’ town and Alipore stayed the headquarters of South 24 -Parganas.

Port plan at Kulpi

After meeting the chief minister, Kanti Ganguly said the demand for setting up the first atomic power plant in eastern India in the Sunderbans and building a private port at Kulpi also received Basu’s nod.

The chief minister assured the delegation that he will take up the proposal with Union power minister B. Kumaramangalam in the capital.

The Jalans’ proposal to set up a port at Kulpi through a private venture has already been cleared by the Centre.

A new metalled road will be constructed along the river bank from Budge Budge to Falta for the purpose.    

Agartala, March 27 
Union home minister L.K. Advani today termed the law and order situation in Tripura as the worst in the Northeast.

Criticising the ruling Left Front government for its failure to check militancy, he said, “Of all the insurgency-ravaged states of the Northeast, Tripura accounts for the highest number of killings and abductions.”

The home minister, who arrived here today to lay the foundation stone of the state’s new capital complex, said the spurt in violence had brought development work to a grinding halt. Citing official figures, he said 66 people had been killed and over 200 abducted by militants over the past six months.

Advani said no one would dare to set up industries in the state unless there was a remarkable improvement in the situation.

Reiterating the BJP-led government’s commitment to helping insurgency-ravaged states improve their economies, the home minister said Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Sikkim had already earned their share of the “peace bonus” promised by the Centre.

Advani said rubber, tea and natural gas were the major sources of revenue for Tripura, but the Left Front government was yet to exploit their full potential. “There can be major investments in these three sectors, provided peace is restored and the government takes the initiative in attracting investors,” he said.

Making a dig at the CPM, the BJP leader said certain parties were practising “politics of untouchability” instead of focusing on development of the state. “Untouchability is an evil in politics as much as it is in society,” he said.

Advani said the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, which later became the BJP, shared power with the CPI in Bihar in 1967. “The issue was raised at a meeting of the party’s national executive and several members criticised the alliance. But our then party president Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya said untouchability in any form was unacceptable,” he added.

Former Union minister and Planning Commission deputy chairperson K.C. Pant, who also addressed the gathering, urged the Manik Sarkar government to complete construction of the 152-acre capital complex within the stipulated period. He said release of funds for the Rs 177-crore complex would not be delayed if the state government was sincere in implementing the project.

Chief minister Manik Sarkar, however, said additional funds could be required due to the escalation in prices of materials.    

Guwahati, March 27 
Six persons were killed and 26 injured when a Chaygaon-bound bus from Guwahati overturned at Khanamukh near Azara this evening. The cause of the overturning has not been ascertained. The bus “Ma Bogola” (AS-25A-0408) was plying on route 24.

While five passengers, including a woman, died on the spot the sixth succumbed to his injuries at the Gauhati Medical College Hospital. Three of the victims were identified as Golok Choudhury, Dhananjoy Hazarika and Hem Chandra Kalita, a forest department employee who had got married only 19 days ago.

Local residents claimed that the driver of the bus escaped soon after the mishap. But additional superintendent of police (traffic) D. Hazarika said the Azara police were yet to find out if the driver had fled. “He may be one of those injured. We are trying to get more details,” Hazarika added.

While three of the injured have been admitted to a private nursing home near Azara, 23 others have been admitted to the Gauhati Medical College Hospital and the Mahendra Mohan Choudhury Hospital.

One of the injured Paresh Kalita said all that he could recall was a crashing sound. “After that I do not remember what happened. I lost consciousness and subsequently found myself in the hospital,” he said. He has been admitted to a private nursing home with a fracture. Kalita was returning home from Guwahati and was seated on the right side of the bus.

Hundreds of people thronged the Azara police station to find out if their relatives were among those injured or dead.    

Agartala, March 27 
More than 1,500 non-tribal families, belonging to three villages, were left homeless as tribal thugs, backed by militants, stepped up their offensive to rid the district council area of Bengalis before the elections to the Autonomous District Council.

The non-tribal families whose houses have been gutted have taken shelter in the Jirania market areas. The angry community put up a road blockade yesterday on the Assam-Agartala national highway.

Police resorted to a lathi-charge and burst teargas shells to remove the protesters, injuring 25 of them.

The arrest of seven non-tribal youth in connection with the killing of a tribal civilian on Saturday night has added fuel to fire.

Police sources said trouble began on Saturday when a group of tribals torched 10 houses in Kalikapur village under Jirania police station.

As news of the arsoning spread, irate non-tribals in the nearby Jirania Khola village, hacked to death a tribal who is still unidentified. The mob also set a tribal house on fire near the market.

Provoked, hundreds of armed tribal thugs, backed by militants, attacked Kalikapur, Bashkoora and Jirania Khola villages and went on a rampage. Though tribal villagers ran for cover, the rampaging mob continued to torch the huts. Eyewitnesses said at least 1,500 families were rendered homeless.

Police sources said the the situation is now “under control”. However, prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPC have been imposed in the entire Jirania block.

Reacting to the incident, PCC president Birajit Sinha said, “The All-Tripura Tiger Force is rampaging in Jirania to rid the council area of non-tribals and the state government is a silent spectator.

Sinha said he would apprise the Union home minister of the situation and ask him to initiate suitable measures.    

Imphal, March 27 
Nine personnel of 11 Manipur Rifles, who were arrested in Nagaland on the charge of assaulting a youth, have been released by the Kohima additional district commissioner (judiciary) on Thursday, a late report reaching here said.

The nine personnel, also known as India Reserve Battalion, were released from Kohima jail after signing a bond of Rs 10,000 each. Their release came after hectic negotiations between IRB’s commanding officer R.K. Dhiren Singh and authorities at Peducha Angami village.

The incident took place on March 1, when IRB personnel escorting an oil tanker assaulted an Angami youth for allegedly extorting money from truckers and tanker drivers.

Shillong robbery

Four men looted Basgitram, a paint and accessories shop in Laitumkhrah, yesterday. The robbers escaped with Rs. 30,000 in cash, reports our Shillong correspondent.

The owners said the dacoits came to the shop posing as customers and threatened the staff at gunpoint.

In another incident assistant sub-inspector D. Nongrum sustained bullet wounds when he tried to prevent a robbery on the highway at Nongpoh.

Guns seized: The police recovered two carbines from ANVC activists at Rongieng in East Garo Hills following an encounter.    


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