Left floats body to retain civic sway
March poll sends early Madhyamik signal
Mayor first, disabled children later
Free hospital for leather belt
Museum’s mobile restoration lab
Ex-army chief at training body helm
Bihar police identify killers
3 securitymen die in ambush
Mahanta takes welfare leaf out of Naidu book
Nipamacha replaces police chief

Calcutta, April 17 
The Left Front is busy planning for life after the civic elections. With or without a municipal mandate, the power, it seems, will remain with the Left.

As soon as the civic elections are over, presumably by mid-June, the state government will float the supreme guardian of all urban development activity in Calcutta — the Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC).

With the new, powerful body in place, the ruling CPM will continue to have a significant say in the affairs of the city and its fringe areas, even if Mamata Banerjee’s brigade storms Jyoti Basu’s civic affairs bastion in the forthcoming elections.

State municipal affairs minister Ashok Bhattacharya said on Monday that the MPC will be framed as per guidelines of the 74th Amendment to the Constitution. Two-thirds of the MPC will comprise elected members and the rest will be nominated by the state government.

According to the minister, the special body will consider, approve and even plan urban development projects undertaken by both the state and Central government agencies, including Metro Rail, Calcutta Telephones, Calcutta Port Trust and the railways.

“This is being done to have better inter-agency coordination while implementing the project,” explained Bhattacharya.

The body will scrutinise all development in the 1,400-sq-km Calcutta Metropolitan Area (CMA).

The CMA includes three municipal corporations, 38 municipalities and several gram panchayats. “Of this entire area, 85 per cent falls within the urban zone,” said Bhattacharya.

As per the blueprint drawn up by the state’s municipal affairs department,

All schemes, plans, projects undertaken by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) will have to be routed through the MPC

The MPC technical wing will integrate all plans with the existing master and perspective plans on urban development before giving the go-ahead

The MPC will function with sub-committees on transport, water, drainage, sewerage, housing and other infrastrutural areas

Agencies like the public works department, transport department, public health engineering department will have to clear urban schemes with the MPC.

According to Bhattacharya, the MPC will ensure that development work is carried out in a more systematic and organised manner. The MPC secretariat will be run by the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA).

Members will be elected by the people’s representatives in corporations, municipalities, panchayats and zilla parishads. These members, in turn, will nominate the rest from state and Central government agencies.

The government is yet to decide on a chairman for the MPC. According to municipal affairs department sources, it could be a senior minister of the Left Front government.

With an eye on the civic polls, deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya released a booklet, entitled Municipal Administration in West Bengal: The last 23 years, on Monday. The booklet lists all urban development projects, completed or pending.

The deputy chief minister, praising the activities of his erstwhile department, pointed out that in the past two years, 318 illegally-constructed buildings were demolished.    

Calcutta, April 17 
The state government has asked the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education to consider holding the 2001 Madhyamik examinations in February, instead of March, next year, as the state Assembly elections are due in the latter month, state government sources said.

It is understood that the directive has been sent so that the Election Commission can take over school premises well in advance to hold the polls.

The government does not want the Assembly elections and the Madhyamik examination to coincide, as there may not be enough policemen available for both events.

Moreover, school teachers, deployed in large numbers during the polls, will not be available if the Madhyamik exams are not completed well in advance.

“We are now busy preparing the results of the current year’s Madhyamik exams, held last month. We will have much more to do if next year’s examinations are held earlier,” said A.K. Chakraborty, board president.

Board sources said a few lakh examinees write the Madhyamik examination in the city as well as in the districts.

“Measures will have to be taken to ensure that the students are not inconvenienced in any way,” the sources said.

Nearly six lakh examinees had appeared in the current year’s examinations.

If the exams are held in February, the selection tests for the 2001 Madhyamik examinees will have to be held earlier as well. Now, the selection tests in nearly 6,500 secondary schools affiliated with the board, of which a few hundred are in the city and the adjoining districts, are held in December.

But if the 2001 Madhyamik exam is held in February, the selection tests in the board-affiliated schools will have to be held in November. The respective Madhyamik institutions will have to proceed accordingly.

Usually, the annual examination in the board-affiliated schools are held after the Madhyamik exams. Arrangements will have to be made to ensure that annual exams are not delayed.

The board will have to ensure question papers are set, and the dates fixed for the examinees to fill their examination forms.

Education department officials said both the government and the board were against holding the exams any time after the middle of March because of the heat.

Prithwis Basu, general secretary, West Bengal Headmasters’ Association, said schools should be informed immediately if exams are held in February.

He felt the programmes of the entire academic calendar will be disturbed if the exams are held early.    

Calcutta, April 17 
No open-and-shut case this. While the Trinamul Congress is accusing mayor Prasanta Chatterjee of being “anti-children”, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) top brass is sticking to its stand of “reopening” Mysore Garden.

The gates of the new-look Mysore Garden at Chetla were thrown open to the public by a group of handicapped children at a function chaired by Trinamul Congress councillor Maya Roy, on Poila Boisakh.

But soon after the inauguration, civic officials drew the bolts on the imposing gates to the garden.

And now, the site bordering Keoratola, renovated at a cost of Rs 24 lakh by the CMC, will be “formally opened” by mayor Prasanta Chatterjee on April 20.

The garden drama is snowballing into a political tussle between the ruling bosses of the CMC, led by the mayor, and the Trinamul Congress, led by councillor Mala Roy.

It was the mayor who was to inaugurate the garden on April 14. But Chatterjee failed to make time for the function.

So, councillor Mala Roy had the garden gates thrown open by some handicapped children from a local school.

Member, mayor-in-council (parks and garden), Abdul Ali, said Mysore Garden belonged to the CMC, hence the inauguration will be fixed by the parks and gardens department.

“I requested Mala Roy to defer the date of inauguration but she did not pay heed to the request,” complained Ali.

“This is in very bad taste on the part of the CPM and it proves that the mayor has no respect for the feelings of the children,” said leader of the Trinamul in the CMC, Durga Mukherjee.

“Reopening Mysore Garden by the mayor would be an insult to all the handicapped children,” added Mala Roy.

The Trinamul is gearing up to stage a “children’s demonstration” in front of Mysore Garden to protest the mayor’s move on Thursday. Mayor Prasanta Chatterjee was not available for comment.

The renovation of Mysore Garden is regarded as the costliest beautification programme undertaken by the CMC. The four-year-long programme — freeing the garden from the clutches of anti-socials and turning it into a spectacular site — has been touted as a “huge success” story by the CMC, in the run-up to the civic polls.    

Calcutta, April 17 
In an era where a heavy premium is usually slapped on quality medical facilities, a 50-bed hospital is coming up at Picnic Garden, where patients needn’t cough up a fee to get treated.

The hospital, complete with two operation theatres and modern diagnostic equipment, will have an initial investment of Rs 50 lakh and the maternity and paediatric wards will be functional before the Pujas.

The four-storey hospital will be built on a five-cottah plot acquired on Roycharan Ghosh Lane, behind Purba Abashan of the state housing board.

Railway minister Mamata Banerjee laid the foundation stone last Friday and construction is expected to commence this week.

The brain behind the project, local councillor Javed Ahmed Khan, also a member in the managing committee of Islamia Hospital, said it would be a family venture.

“A seven-member trust was formed in 1993, called the K.B. Charitable Trust, in the memory of my father (Karim) and mother (Bilkis). Even medicines will be offered free to the patients”, Khan said.

The trust is confident that funds will never be a problem, as several big leather exporters and tannery owners of the Tangra-Topsia-Tiljala belt have come forward to contribute to this noble project.

Several tannery owners want to reserve beds at the hospital as well and they can do so, by paying Rs 4 lakh for a bed. “The hospital will help us check loss of man-days due to water-borne diseases,” said Parvez Ahmed Khan, a leather exporter.

“At least a million mandays are lost every year in 700 tanneries here because of water-borne diseases”, according to the leather trader.

The water of the area gets frequently contaminated, thanks to the dense concentration of tanneries. Large portions of the water supply line runs through sewage pipes and the seepage leads to water-borne diseases like diarrhoea, enteric diseases and hepatitis in the area.

To make matters worse, there is no hospital in the locality. The nearest is ID Hospital, more than five km away.

The local councillor feels the area has enough wealth to support the “healthy” project.

He said the locality donated about Rs 10 crore every year for the running of madrassas and charitable organisations in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.    

Calcutta, April 17 
Restoration of antiques can be a paying pursuit, realises the Indian Museum. So, it has decided to rent out its mobile conservation laboratory — the first of its kind in the country — to people of the city as well as institutions if they want some antiques restored.

“We have carried out feasibility studies on the commercial use of our mobile laboratory over the past year and are now ready to run it commercially,” said Shyamal Chakraborty, director, Indian Museum. The mobile lab has already restored an 1880 typewriter, a 1930 gramophone and an 1872 sewing machine at the National Council of Science Museum (NCSM), in Salt Lake. All these machines can now be used.

It has also visited Raj Bhavan, the postal museum of the GPO, the Gurusaday Museum in Joka, Rabindra Bharati Museum, Academy Of Fine Arts, besides the NCSM, restoring 85 art objects.

“We are now in a position to restore any kind of art object or antique item at our lab,” claim R. K. Mukherjee and A. B. Mitra, the two archaeologists in charge of the unit.    

Calcutta, April 17 
In a desperate bid to improve efficiency and the image of the bureaucracy, the state government has turned to General (retd) Shankar Roychowdhury to revamp its training programmes.

A state advisory committee for training has been set up by the home (personnel-administrative-reform) department under chairmanship of the ex-army chief.

“General Roychowdhury has already participated in the three meetings of the panel for drafting a new training policy,” said Bimal Pande, director, Administrative Training Institute (ATI), which grooms government officials.

The 12-page draft awaits the approval of the state government. According to Sunil Oberoi, additional director of ATI, proper co-ordination between the various state-level institutes has been emphasised in the draft policy.

Besides proper training of the administrative cadre, with emphasis on ‘behaviour’ and ‘knowledge’, the draft suggests that the people’s representatives be trained as well.

The ATI trains 1,600 officials every year. “This year, we have set a target to train 4,500 cadre,” said Oberoi. It is now involved in providing need-based support to five states — Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh — and monitoring the training programme in six districts of West Bengal — Jalpaiguri, Birbhum, Midnapore, Nadia, Murshidabad and South 24-Parganas.    

Dhanbad, April 17 
Police have registered a case of conspiracy against Forward Bloc leader Sushanta Sengupta and two coal mafia dons, Chora Master and Nuren Master, in connection with the killing of Marxist Co-ordination Committee legislator Gurudas Chatterjee.

The police also recovered the Kawasaki-Calibre motorcycle used by the assailants. The killers were identified as Shiv Shankar Singh and Umesh Singh. While Shiv Shankar is Chora Master’s son, Umesh is one of his employees. The case was filed on the basis of statements made by eyewitnesses and Arup Chatterjee, the son of the slain legislator with Govindpur police.

Earlier, the police had arrested one of Chora Master’s servants and an employee of his coke kiln. District superintendent of police Anil Palta said the motorcycle used by the assailants was recovered from the hard coke kiln.

Palta pointed out that based on the evidence and statements made by eyewitnesses, the police have concluded that while Chora Master’s son Shiv was driving the two-wheeler, Umesh killed Chatterjee with a 9 mm pistol.

After committing the crime, they took shelter at Chora Master’s coke kiln. They abandoned the motorcycle at the kiln and escaped in an Ambassador car. Besides a 9 mm pistol, Shiv was carrying a revolver, Palta said.

The police have launched a manhunt for the duo. “It will not be difficult to trace them. Once we start attaching their property they are bound to surrender”. Besides the complainant Arup Chatterjee, the legislator’s son, other eyewitnesses include Apurba Ghosh who was driving the Hero Honda motorcycle with the Chatterjee as a pillion. Two local residents, Lal Mohan Mahato and Quddus Ansari reportedly saw Shiv and Umesh tailing the legislator before the shootout.

Forward Bloc leader Sushanta Sengupta had lost the Nirsa seat to Gurudas Chatterjee by a narrow margin in the recent Assembly polls. MCC leaders alleged that since Chatterjee had launched a crusade against coal mafia gangs, the gangsters had instigated Sengupta against Chatterjee.

Sengupta has been named a conspirator by the slain MLA’s son in the FIR lodged in connection with the incident.

However, the police chief said he was yet to collect evidence against Sengupta, who is absconding along with Chora Master’s eldest son Vinay and another accused Zahis Ansari. The police said on April 10 the slain MLA had an altercation with Umesh Singh.

The special investigating team constituted by chief minister Rabri Devi has expressed satisfaction over the line of investigation by the Dhanbad police.

Coal workers threaten strike: The central trade unions active in Bihar’s coal belt have called for a weeklong strike from May 8 to May 14 in protest against the Centre’s decision to throw open coal mines to the private sector. A decision to this effect was taken at a joint meeting of the trade unions at Jagjivan Bhavan staff club here on Friday. The unions will formally tell the Coal India Limited management on April 24.    

Agartala, April 17 
Militants of the National Liberation Front of Tripura ambushed a convoy of three police and Tripura State Rifles vehicles at remote Sonaicherri in Khowai subdivision this afternoon. Three TSR and police constables were killed and 11 others, including the officer-in-charge of Kalyanpur police station, seriously injured.

Police sources said at 12.30 pm today, Khowai subdivisional police officer Bijay Nag and officer-in-charge of Kalyanpur police station Manindra Debnath, accompanied by policemen and TSR jawans, left for the Santinagar area to inspect the site where a police outpost would be opened. The convoy comprised a one-tonne truck and two jeeps.

On their way back, a massive landmine blast at 2 pm in Sonaicherri area immobilised the truck and seriously damaged it. A heavily-armed group of NLFT militants perched atop hills on the sides of the road fired indiscriminately from sophisticated automatics, killing TSR constable Padmasadhan Jamatya on the spot and seriously injuring 13 others including Manindra Debnath.

Bijay Nag sustained a bullet injury on his shoulder but remained on duty till all the securitymen were rescued. Despite being trapped inside their vehicles, the policemen and TSR jawans put up a valiant fight and forced the NLFT rebels to flee. While being shifted to Kalyanpur and later to G.B. Hospital here, Agartala police constable Shitol Sarkar died on the way while TSR constable Kalipada Debnath died in G.B. Hospital. Combing operations have been launched at Sonaicherri and Santinagar.

Shortly after the incident, a group of armed non-tribals from Sonaicherri attacked the nearby tribal-dominated Boroikuta village and torched at least 17 hutments. A 90-year-old woman, Kanchanmala Debbarma, was burnt to death, taking the toll to four.    

April 17 
Taking a leaf out of Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu’s book, the Asom Gana Parishad-led ministry is formulating a 25-year “vision plan” aimed at bringing about all-round development.

“The government is preparing a vision document, an action plan for the development of the state, and we seek the cooperation of the people, including non-government organisations and other agencies,” chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta said at the inauguration of a report, entitled Assam Beyond 2000, in Guwahati today. The report is sponsored by the Assam Tribune Group.

Assam Planning Board deputy chairman Debo Kumar Bora told The Telegraph in Jorhat that a committee headed by the agricultural production commissioner would finish drafting the “vision plan” by the end of this year and submit it to the Planning Commission for approval.

“The panel will borrow ideas from Andhra Pradesh, which has brought about revolutionary changes in the implementation of development schemes. It will also hold discussions with economists and intellectuals,” Bora said.

The “vision plan for 2025” will suggest ways to increase literacy, achieve self-sufficiency in foodgrain production and power, develop infrastructure, check floods and improve health-care and housing facilities at the grassroots. “Assam spends Rs 400 crore annually on import of foodgrain to feed a population of 2.5 crore. This is why we need to increase production fast,” Bora said.

The planning board official said the government had already launched a scheme to improve irrigation facilities in the state. “One lakh shallow tubewells have been dug and an equal number of pumps distributed among farmers since the scheme was launched last year,” he said.

The farmers had to pay Rs 7,000 each, while the government paid Rs 15,000 for each tubewell and pump. Releasing Assam Beyond 2000, Governor Lt. Gen. (retd) S.K. Sinha said the state would soon witness a green revolution, thanks to the shallow tubewell scheme. “More than half the target has been achieved,” he said.

“Initially, when the scheme was being planned, I was told it would be a success in places like Dhubri, which has a large concentration of hardworking Banglade-shis, and would fail in Upper Assam, where indigenous people are in a majority,” he said. But contrary to all such forecasts, the scheme has been a success across the state.

Pointing out that Assam’s per capita income was higher than the all-India average at the time of Independence, the Governor said unabated infiltration from Bangladesh had caused an economic imbalance through increased pressure on land.    

Imphal, April 17 
L. Jugeswar Singh was today removed from the post of Manipur director-general of police. He has been replaced by D.S. Grewal by an order of the state government.

Jugeswar Singh has been posted as an officer on special duty at Manipur Bhawan in New Delhi. This is Grewal’s second stint as Manipur police chief. He was replaced by Jugeswar Singh when W. Nipamacha Singh came to power in December 1997.

Jugeswar Singh’s removal was expected as Union home minister L.K. Advani was against his continuance as Manipur DGP. The CBI is now carrying out an investigation against Jugeswar Singh in a case of disproportionate assets. Though Singh had earlier challenged the CBI inquiry, the Gauhati High Court dismissed his petition recently. He was directed by the High Court to present himself before the CBI’s anti-corruption branch in Calcutta today for interrogation. However, he is still in Imphal.

Advani had told chief minister Nipamacha Singh to replace Jugeswar Singh in view of the CBI case against him. Sources said Advani had blamed him for the fact that the state security forces have frequently lost their weapons to rebels during the past few months.

Despite the CBI case, Nipamacha Singh had been unable to remove Singh as he was a close relative of Union minister of state for youth affairs and sports Chaoba Singh. The ongoing rift between Chaoba Singh and Nipamacha Singh is believed to have prompted the chief minister to initiate action against the DGP.    


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