Twin traffic reliefs
Kiss of life for Currency Building
Factories mapped for move
Melody takes mega bow
Basu frown for police, blessing for IT school
Stamp racket by GPO staff busted
Violence mars Manipur high school examination
12 abducted in fresh Tripura raids
Jamir volte face on peace talks skews equations
Truck drivers threaten to shun Nagaland route

Calcutta, March 29 
The answer to the traffic problems in the city lies both above and under the ground.

While the West Bengal transport department is planning out a flyover on Vivekananda Road to connect Howrah station, Metro Railway authorities are constructing a subway near Tollygunge station to minimise traffic congestion at the Netaji Subhas Road crossing in south Calcutta.

The 2.308-km-long flyover, to be built at an estimated cost of Rs 60 crore,will take off 230 metres from the junction of Vivekananda Road and Rabindra Sarani and run above Kalikrishna Tagore Street till Strand Bank Road.

The project, if precast through steel fabrication, will be completed in 20 months.

“The facility will help streamline traffic, particularly in central and north Calcutta, to a great extent,” said K. Harirajan, deputy commissioner (traffic).

Sources in the Writers’ Buildings said the finances will be organised by the West Bengal Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation.

The flyover will be constructed on a build-own-operate-transfer basis for a period of 20 years.

“The government will recover the investment by leasing out space under the flyover and also may collect a toll from the traffic,” said a CMC official, adding that the flyover would be handed over to the CMC for maintenance after the build-own-operate-transfer period is over.

The state government has already carried out a feasibility study through the Delhi-based Consulting Engineering Services (I) Pvt Ltd.

The proposed flyover will have a double lane (7.5 metre-wide carriageway) facility with the traffic moving in a single direction towards Howrah.

The facility, with a design speed of 60 km per hour, will be made available only for fast-moving vehicles.

Goods vehicles will not be allowed during prime time.

Apart from the direct traffic from northern and eastern parts of the city to Howrah station, the flyover will also cater to traffic which now uses Mahatma Gandhi Road, and also from the north to Brabourne Road area.

“ The average daily traffic on flyover after its completion is estimated at 15,000 vehicles,” the study says. The transport department expects an average four per cent per annum traffic growth on the proposed corridor.

As far as the subway goes, Metro general manager IIMS Rana has said that it is being constructed at the cost of Rs 5 crore and will be used by Metro Railway commuters and other pedestrians from September 2001.

“The 25,000-plus Metro commuters who now cross the busy road to leave and enter the Tollygunge Metro station, risking their lives every day, will be able to use the safe subway instead,” said Rana.

Apart from the safety factor, the mouth of the Metro outlet has been experiencing massive traffic snarls for the past few years, with cars, buses and auto-rickshaws jostling for space with pedestrians.

The chief engineer of Metro, K. Gangopadhyay, said: “The subway will be 37 metres in length and six metres wide. Footpaths will also be constructed on both sides of the subway.”

Commuters can even grab a quick bite on their way back home. Snack bars will line the walls of the subway.

And the interiors will be specially decorated to give the underground corridor an aesthetic touch.    

Calcutta, March 29 
After dilly-dallying for over three years, the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) has finally agreed to try and right a wrong.

The PWD will soon engage a consultant for restoration of the damage inflicted upon the 160-year-old Currency Building by the department’s demolition drive three years ago.

This sudden sympathy for the building on 1, BBD Bag East, which figures in the city’s list of 72 heritage buildings, has been prompted by “pressure from above”. Both Governor Viren Shah and Union finance minister Yashwant Sinha have expressed “deep concern” over the deplorable condition of the building and called for “immediate intervention”.

The finance minister will be in the city soon. The Governor has prepared a comprehensive note on the Currency Building issue, which he will take up with Sinha.

Adding another dramatic twist to the tale, the CMC has raised serious doubts about the security cover on Currency Building.

Civic officials are in touch with the police after learning that the security agency engaged by the demolition contractor is, allegedly, involved in smuggling out valuable Italian marble slabs and Burma teak from the premises.

“According to an estimate drawn up by engineers of the municipal architect and town planners department, material worth more than Rs 2 crore has already been sold clandestinely from the site,” said a CMC official.

The grand building was the first Reserve Bank office in the country, where currency notes were printed. The CPWD had launched a demolition drive for constructing a new multi-storeyed office complex three years ago.

An exposé by The Telegraph had forced the authorities to abandon plans of pulling down the age-old structure.

With the Governor now taking an active interest in safeguarding the heritage structure, CPWD officials have approached municipal commissioner Asim Barman.

“We must engage a consultant for restoration of the building before the arrival of the finance minister,” a CPWD superintending engineer said.

The CMC has helped the CPWD officials establish contact with M/s Dulal Mukherjee, currently engaged in restoring Metropolitan Building at Esplanade.

The matter has also taken on a political hue, with BJP members of the CMC conveying the sorry state of affairs to Yashwant Sinha.

“We have urged the minister to take action for the preservation of Currency Building and the Old Mint, which fall under the purvew of the finance ministry,” said Santi Lal Jain, BJP state secretariat member.    

Calcutta, March 29 
The state government has identified the industrial units located in 141 wards of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) and is planning to relocate them outside the city.

Though the relocation site for these industrial units has not yet been decided, the government plans to shift them near Bantala or somewhere on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass.

On instructions from the government, the CMDA has recently prepared a unique map showing the industrial units, the number of employees engaged in these, their products and the pollution hazards posed by them. All such units will be relocated outside the city. However, units whose annual turnover is less than Rs 1 lakh will remain untouched.

Environment minister Manab Mukherjee said: “Already, the process has begun. We are shifting tanneries in Topsia and Tiljala outside the city. In phases, we will shift all industrial units to industrial complexes which will come up outside Calcutta.”

Tapas Ghatak, geophysicist and chief of the CMDA environment cell who prepared the map, said it was found that within 1,400 square kilometre in the city, about 10,000 industrial units were located in residential areas and they posed a health hazard to residents.

“Most of these units are located in north and central Calcutta and produce plastics, chemicals, bleaching and dyeing chemicals and acid — which are threats to human habitation.”

Most of these units fall under the Red category of industry, as described by the Pollution Control Board.

The board has identified three kinds of industrial units, going by their polluting capacity. The Red category tops the list and industrial units which fall under it pollute the environment most (100 per cent).

Sources in the environment ministry said that for the past few years, the state government had been planning to identify the industrial units located inside the city and relocate them.

The CMDA, which was entrusted with the task of conducting a thorough study and preparing a map based on it, completed a pilot project last year, in which it covered ward numbers 1, 2, 4, 6, 37 and 38 under the CMC.

Satisfied with the project report, the government asked the CMDA to carry out a total survey of the city, which it completed recently. “Anyone can get detailed information on industrial units located in the city after going through the map we have prepared,” Ghatak said.

“This will help the government relocate these units, as we have detailed reports on these units. We have recorded the exact number of employees engaged in these units, their products, the extent of environmental pollution caused by them, their annual turnover and the area of each unit. If the government wants to relocate these units, our data will help them carry out the job”, Ghatak said.

He said all the data collected during the survey was stored in the geographical information system (GIS). Those interested will be able to look it up on the computer.    

Calcutta, March 29 
Big is beautiful, believe today’s music marketing moguls. In keeping with the modern trend of mega stores, RPG’s MusicWorld will throw open its doors to connoisseurs and kids at 18G, Park Street, next to Flury’s, on Thursday morning.

Two of the city’s singing icons, Sandhya Mukherjee and Suchitra Mitra, will light the traditional lamp.

According to marketing guru Shunu Sen of Quadra Advisory, the future in music belongs to mega stores and “more and more retailing formats will come about”.

The revolution has already swept the West, with even bookstores shedding their cosy image and going in for spacious, snazzy layouts.

And now, the future is here. A stone’s throw from where Gauhar Jan, the country’s first recorded artist (1901), lived, the mammoth one-stop shop for music, spread over 7,000 sq ft, will give Calcuttans the chance to pick and choose their favourite cassettes and CDs in air-conditioned comfort. The shop will remain open on Sundays as well.

As a special treat, the fabled guitar of Carlos ‘Supernatural’ Santana, with which he swept the Grammys 2000, will be on display at the showroom between 4 and 8 pm on March 31.

Fans of the rock legend can even hope to lay their hands on those dream-strings, thanks to a quiz to be organised at the shop in association with Channel ‘V’ and BMG.

Designed by Fitch Plc of the UK, the mammoth retailing outlet brings to the city a sumptuous banquet of 80,000 titles. Nakamichi listening posts and Bose speakers will give music buffs crystal-clear sampling clarity and overhead zone markers will enable them to locate their genre of choice.

“Our shops in Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kochi, Delhi and Chandigarh have been a huge hit,” said Raghu Pillai, CEO, MusicWorld Entertainment Ltd.

The Calcutta outlet will start with more than 50,000 SKUs (stock-keeping units) of 116 labels. “We plan to add at least a thousand new titles every month,” said S.K. Chowdhury, controller of the chain.

A special section will house selections in various regional languages like Assamese, Bhojpuri, Gujarati, Malayalam, Oriya, Punjabi, Rajasthani, Tamil and Telugu.

“The regional section has been a rage in all our six outlets up until now,” revealed Pillai. For the quintessential Bengali, there will be 14,000 titles in the language to choose from.

A real bonus awaits the international music lovers of the city. “Sony, Polygram, Time-Warner and BMG-Crescendo have all agreed to release their global repertoires on CDs exclusively to our chain,” said Chowdhury. Audio-Quest of Germany, a big label owning a plethora of jazz giants, will also market their latest releases through MusicWorld.

Unlike Planet M, MusicWorld’s rival chain from the Times of India stable which also houses books, toys, multimedia products, the RPG outlet will target music lovers alone. Also on sale are CD ROMs, music videos and audio accessories.

The chain has also entered into co-branding marketing tie-ups with Coke, Channel ‘V’, Titan FasTrack and CitiBank.

“The idea is to build equity in their brand and drive traffic into our store,” explained Pillai who hopes to open 20 MusicWorld outlets throughout the country by 2002.

With the market growing at the rate of 50 to 60 per cent annually, and generationext calling most of the shots, the sound of music has never been so sweet — for cash registers and connoisseurs alike.    

Calcutta, March 29 
A day after his government announced that it would roll out the red carpet for The Chatterjee Group’s proposed tech school campus, chief minister Jyoti Basu blessed another ambitious IT school project and blasted the police for beating up primary teachers during a demonstration on Monday.

Basu criticised the city police for the brutal lathicharge and ordered an inquiry into the incident while addressing a meeting of minibus and private bus operators at the Netaji Indoor Stadium.

“The teachers may have violated the law. But the police can’t take such harsh steps against those engaged in a noble profession. They over-reacted to the situation,” said the chief minister.

Mihir Sanyal of the All Bengal Teachers’ Association (ABTA) told The Telegraph: “We are openly condemning the incident. Police shouldn’t lathicharge teachers.”

MoU signed

On Wednesday, Basu also supervised the signing of a MoU between S.M. Chatterjee, vice-chancellor of B.E. College Deemed University and Amrit Das, CEO of Research Engineers Inc. of California, USA, to establish the Purabi Das School of Information Technology at BE College.

The total financial commitment from the Purabi Das Foundation for the school of information technology is Rs 10 crore over a period of four years.

The school is expected to be a premier institution for post-graduate teaching and research in the area of information and technology.

Over the past few years, the BE College, one of the oldest institutions of engineering education in India, has decided to break new grounds and venture into the IT world.

The culmination of this effort by the BE College has been the collaboration with Das, an alumnus of the institution, to set up the IT school.

As an autonomous school under the BE College umbrella, the school will offer post-graduate diplomas, master’s and doctorate degrees in IT.

The Purabi Das School of Information Technology aims at:

Fostering a strong link between IT industry and academia.

Translating academic research outputs into leading-edge IT products and services.

Training and developing IT professionals to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

A partnership between the IT school and CMC Ltd, a leader in IT industry in India, is a key aspect of the master’s programme which will be launched in July 2000.    

Calcutta, March 29 
Two employees of the General Post Office (GPO) were arrested on Wednesday on charges of running a fake postal stamp racket in the city.

The deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Narayan Ghosh, said the two employees, Sushanta Mondal and Manick Chandra Mondal, were arrested at their residences in Sonarpore and Joynagar, respectively, in South 24-Parganas.

“Fake stamps worth Rs 10,000 were seized from them. The stamps are of Rs-50 denomination,” the detective chief said.

The racket came to the notice of the postal department after a businessman lodged a complaint with the director of GPO in February. The businessman, Pawan Sharma, had gone to Burrabazar post office to send a parcel. Post office employees discovered that the postal stamps on the parcel were fake.

“They told Sharma the parcel could not be sent because the stamps were fake,” Ghosh said. Though the businessman told the postal employees that he bought the stamps from the GPO, he was refused, investigators said.

Sharma met the GPO director and lodged a complaint with him. The director started an independent probe and found out the fake stamps were kept in the drawers of the two GPO employees.

The detective department was informed and a case registered. Police conducted raids on the residences of the two employees, who were absconding.

Acting on a tip-off, their homes were raided again on Wednesday and they were caught. The employees confessed to running the racket for the past few years and selling the fake stamps from the GPO counters. Preliminary investigations revealed that they may have links in Patna.

They were produced in court on Wednesday and remanded to police custody till April 11. A few months ago, a fake revenue stamp racket was busted.    

Imphal, March 29 
The first day of the High School Leaving Certificate (HSLC) examination in Manipur today was marred by violence. A student was killed and another injured in clashes between the police and students.

The victims were allegedly trying supply “notes” for “copying” to examinees inside the hall.

Twenty-three-year-old N. Premkumar, a student of Mayai Lambi College, had come to Myangimphal Bengun High School to help out his relative who was appearing for the examination. But he was spotted by the police while supplying “notes” for the Science Part-I paper in the afternoon.

The police chased him and Premkumar fell into a pond while escaping. He was fished out and allegedly beaten up by the policemen. After some time, the youth collapsed and died. The exact cause of his death could not be ascertained.

Activists of the Meira Paibis (women’s organisation) have demanded action against the police.

Another student was shot by militants after he was found supplying “material for copying” in Bishenpur district. Twenty-year old M. Bhubonsana was caught red-handed by some militants while supplying “notes” to one of his friends at the T. G. English School.

He was taken by the militants to a nearby area and shot in the leg as “punishment.” Bhubonsana was rushed to Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) hospital and was stated to be out of danger. An underground outfit, Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (Oken group) recently warned of stringent action against those supplying material for cheating during the school leaving examination.

The KYKL (Oken group) even announced a “public curfew” within 500 meters of all examination centres. A special task force was constituted by the outfit to tackle the “copying” menace.

The outfit has asked the students not to threaten invigilators and officials and warned that the outfit might even award death penalty to those who encouraged unfair means during examination. It has asked the teachers to prevent students from using unfair means in the examination. It was, however, not known whether the KYKL (Oken group) was involved in today’s shooting incident at Bishenpur.

Altogether 35,855 students are appearing in the school leaving examination this year. The examination which started today will continue till April 8.

There are 92 examination centres all over the state. Of the 35,855 students, 26,633 are from the general category, 8,182 tribals and 1,040 from the Scheduled Caste category.    

Agartala, March 29 
The outlawed National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT),which has stepped up its offensive following the announcement of the Autonomous District Council polls, abducted 12 people in two separate incidents today.

According to police sources, a large group of heavily-armed NLFT rebels stormed the remote Manikpur market under the rebel-infested Chaumanu police station at 11 am and abducted eight non-tribals. The market was crowded since it was the weekly market day.

In another incident, a group of NLFT militants stopped a passenger jeep in the remote Ekjoncherra area under Ampi police station in South Tripura district at 10.30 am and abducted four persons.

Those abducted are still untraced. The police have not been able to ascertain the identities of the victims and said more details were awaited. The rebel outfit has been trying to intimidate voters in the ADC areas.    

Kohima, March 29 
In a volte face prompted by widespread protest against his government’s likely participation in the peace talks, Nagaland chief minister S.C. Jamir today said the question of being party to the negotiations between the Centre and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) “does not arise”.

Various organisations, including the Naga Hoho and the Nagaland People’s Council, have expressed apprehension that the NSCN(I-M) may back out of the peace talks in the event of the Nagaland government being allowed to participate in the process.

In a statement here, Naga Hoho general secretary Vihuto Yepthomi said the Centre’s invitation to the Nagaland government could imperil the peace process instead of rejuvenating it.

“The Centre and the NSCN (I-M) have not held discussions for quite some time now and the last thing Nagaland needs is a complete breakdown of the peace process,” the Naga leader said.

Yepthomi’s statement followed Union home Minister L.K. Advani’s statement in Agartala yesterday that the Centre had agreed to include the Nagaland government in the process of negotiations with the NSCN(I-M).

The previous day, Jamir told newspersons here that the Centre had asked his government to play a larger role in the peace process in Nagaland and be party to the dialogue with the NSCN(Isak-Muivah). “The Centre has honoured the people’s mandate by taking us into confidence,” he said.

Unnerved by the possibility of the NSCN(I-M) misinterpreting the “understanding” between the Centre and the Nagaland government, Yepthomi said any move that might discourage the militant outfit from continuing the peace talks should be avoided.

He also urged the militant outfit not to contemplate backing out of the peace talks or breaking the ceasefire, irrespective of the circumstances.

“Before the Centre and the NSCN(I-M) signed the ceasefire agreement, both sides agreed that the Jamir government would not be involved in the peace process. If the Centre goes back on its promise, the outfit will have reason to back out of the peace talks,” the Naga Hoho leader said.

The Nagaland People’s Council has also taken exception to the Centre’s “invitation” to the Jamir government to participate in the peace talks.

“If reports on the involvement of the state government in the peace talks are true, it is another mistake committed by the Centre,” the regional party said.

The statement, signed by four leaders of the party, said the Centre should have taken all political parties in Nagaland into confidence before extending the invitation to the Nagaland government.

Reacting to the Naga People’s Conference statement, Jamir said the discussions he had with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Advani in New Delhi recently were in the interest of Nagaland and not the Congress.

“Discussions of this nature are necessary as the state government represents the people of Nagaland and not a political party,” he said.    

Jorhat, March 29 
Once again the supply of essential commodities to the three districts of Nagaland are likely to be hit following the Mariani Truck Drivers’ Association threatening to stop plying their vehicles on the Mariani-Mokokchung route. The drivers were protesting against harassment by Naga militants.

Essential commodities to three districts of Nagaland —Tuensang, Mokokchung and Mon — are supplied from Jorhat district by trucks via Mariani.

The association has set Friday as the deadline for the release of a truck driver who has been held captive at Angama village in Tuensang district of Nagaland since March 23. A couple of months back supply of essential commodities to these districts were disrupted for two weeks as trucks remained off the road because of alleged harassment by Naga thugs.

The incident had forced the Mokokchung deputy commissioner to request his Jorhat counterpart to end the impasse. “There has been a severe shortage of essential commodities,” he said.

The deadlock had ended after a written assurance by the Mokokchung administration to protect the truckers.

In the latest development, a Naga youth was reportedly run over by a truck (bearing the number plate NL01-A5295) near Angami village in Tuensang district of Nagaland. Two Naga youths had asked the truck to stop at gunpoint with the intention of demanding money. The duo jumped on to the vehicle when the driver, one Kumar, tried to flee, resulting in the death of one youth.

Following the incident, the villagers of nearby Angama village seized the truck and are keeping the driver hostage. A village council meeting demanded Rs 2,500 for the release of the driver.

“Let the law take its own course ...why should the driver be kept captive in a Naga village?” asked the secretary of Mariani Truck Drivers’ Association.

“If the driver, along with the truck, is not released by the end of this month we will not ply our trucks ... let them pay the price,” an angry driver fumed.

Trucks plying on the Mariani-Mokokchung route are plagued by some Naga youth regularly, the drivers allege. “Apart from paying “tax” at particular checkgates, we are constantly harassed by them,” another driver alleged.

Following the announcement of a ceasefire between the security forces and the NSCN in 1997, nearly 40 Marwari businessmen, who control almost 95 per cent of the business activities in Tuensang district of Nagaland, fled to Jorhat alleging harassment by Naga militants. Later, a goodwill team from Tuensang, led by the vice-chairman of the Tuensang Chamber of Commerce, came to Jorhat urging the businessmen to return.    


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