Flood alert over river shift
Municipal chief cracks whip as garbage grows
Lights, sound, action... and Ray
Ninepins for twins, and three alleys
Cong in mahajot team to Shah
Late results drive CU to form monitor cell
Teachers’ test pass rate up
Orissa CM to clean up corrupt bureaucracy
Tripura leaders hurt in mob fury
Mizoram home minister resigns

Calcutta, April 20 
Calcutta could soon become Waterworld. If a report prepared by Senbo Engineering Limited is anything to go by, the city will be flooded within two or three years unless drastic measures are taken to check erosion along the banks of the Bhagirathi.

The independent study, submitted to deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya and finance minister Asim Dasgupta on Thursday, warns that “a disaster of cataclysmic proportions” is imminent with “the diversion of the main flow of the Padma into the Bhagirathi, resulting in the flooding of the lower reaches of the latter river, including the Hooghly, with the flood water submerging Calcutta, Howrah and the industrial belt.”

At Fazilpur, downstream of the Jangipur barrage, the gap between the Padma and Bhagirathi has narrowed to about 600 metres — from 1.4 km 20 years ago.

“At an average rate of erosion of 350 metres per year, there is every likelihood of this narrow strip of landmass being eroded in about two or three years and the Padma joining the Bhagirathi,” states the Senbo study, conducted over the last two years.

Rough calculations reveal that once the rivers merge, the Bhagirathi near Calcutta will widen to around 16 km, as compared to the present 1.2 km width. The volume of water carried by the river towards Calcutta port will rise alarmingly.

“If this happens, it will result in the funeral of West Bengal, for there will be no way that this water can be checked. The two banks of the Bhagirathi-Hooghly system, comprising the towns of Berhampur, Katwa, Chinsurah, Chandannagore, Kalna and, finally, Calcutta and Howrah, will be submerged,” states the report.

As the bank towards Howrah is higher than that bordering Calcutta, Charnock’s city will bear the brunt of the water barrage.

This is not the first time that the Padma-Bhagirathi problem has been highlighted. A Central government report in the early Nineties had referred to the danger of the “merging of Padma and Bhagirathi and the consequences therein”.

But the state government has done nothing about this, yet. “We are aware of this problem. But as far as I know, the situation at Fazilpur has not really deteriorated. But we will have to study the report submitted on Thursday, in great detail, before taking any steps,” said Ganesh Mondal, minister of state for irrigation and waterways.

According to senior engineers of Senbo, many of whom have worked on the Farakka Barrage project, Calcutta is “in greatest danger” due to topographical reasons.

The gradient of water flow is least near Calcutta port, maximising the effect of overflowing and inundation. According to senior engineers associated with the study, Bhagirathi near Calcutta port “is about 18-feet downhill in comparison to Fazilpur, close to where the Padma and the Bhagirathi may join up”.

As a result, “the widening effect” of the river will be maximum around Calcutta, as there will hardly be any flow speed in this area.

Three maps prepared by the researchers, based on the data of the state irrigation department and some of their own, depicts the impending “disaster”.

Before the Farakka barrage was built (data of 1939) the main flow of the Ganga was inwards towards its left bank, Malda and Bangladesh. One of the main reasons for constructing the barrage was to maintain navigability of Calcutta and Haldia ports, as the natural water course of the Ganga was virtually “killing” the Bhagirathi.

Post-Farakka, with the feeder channel serving the Bhagirathi, the flow pattern of the Ganga gradually shifted towards the right bank, the Bihar side.

This started to cause huge amount of bank erosion. The change of flow pattern has also given rise to landmasses and islands on the Bangladesh side.

The report states that almost one lakh hectare of land in 19 blocks, has been washed away, affecting almost 1.5 million people in Murshidabad and Malda. The list of affected includes 284 village, 13 towns and 202 primary and high schools.

The Senbo report not only highlights the problem, but also proposes a “foolproof protective device against bank erosion”.

The detailed corrective plan proposes a Rs 750-crore programme in three phases, “as it is necessary to take corrective action now to prevent the submergence of this entire belt”.    

Calcutta, April 20 
The civic authorities have set up a “task force” and an “action line” to clean the garbage piled up on city streets in the wake of “mass absence” of sweepers over the past few days.

Confronted with overflowing garbage vats, unswept roads and choked gutters, officials of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) decided to force the issue on Thursday. They urged citizens to call them directly if they had specific complaints regarding garbage management in their neighbourhood.

At an emergency meeting, commissioner Asim Barman said complaints received on any of the dedicated action line telephone numbers — 244-6015,244-2365,244-2748 and 244-7064 — will be addressed “within two hours of their automatic registration”.

“They (the citizens) must give us details of the name of the affected area, the exact location of the offending garbage vats and the present method of its disposal. I promise that their complaints will be sorted out in two hours flat,” announced Barman.

According to reports, the worst affected areas are New Alipore, Swinhoe Street, Ballygunge Place, the EM Bypass and large parts of north Calcutta.

The CMC boss also issued a circular directing all conservancy officers to ensure that “not more than 10 per cent of the workforce under them were on leave at any given point of time”.

“The controlling officer concerned will be liable for disciplinary action if he cannot keep a check on the number of his staff going on leave,” Barman added.

The CMC has about 16,000 conservancy workers, out of which around 5,000 are now on leave “without sanction”, allegedly at the behest of certain non-Left trade unions.

The unions have locked horns with the CMC over its decision to dispense with the system of perpetuating jobs for these sweepers and their families. The sweepers usually go on leave around this time of the year, after leaving behind nominated replacements. This time, they just left to teach the CMC bosses a lesson.

“We are going to be very tough with those who went on leave without notice,” said Kanti Ganguly, member, mayor’s council.    

Calcutta, April 20 
The spotlight is back on the maestro. India’s first son-et-lumiere on a filmmaker will soon come alive at the Technicians’ Studio in Tollygunge, where Satyajit Ray shot a number of his films, including the timeless Apu trilogy.

Government officials said on Thursday that Technicians’, in south Calcutta, might turn into a “top draw for the serious international tourist”, thanks to the light-and-sound show being planned to honour the man.

The show is being planned in a 3,000-square-feet area of the five-storeyed building, coming up shortly at the studio as part of its modernisation programme.

The project, which seeks to recapture Ray not only as a filmmaker but also as a gifted music composer and brilliant science fiction and detective story writer, is now being processed by the government.

“We are looking into the various aspects of the proposal ,” said Dilip Basu, director (films) of the information and cultural affairs department. An advisory committee is expected to be set up for the purpose.

The committee will include, among others, Ray’s widow Bijoya, son Sandip, filmmaker Gautam Ghosh, cinematographers Subrata Mitra and Soumendu Roy, and editor Dulal Dutta.

The committee is expected to meet for the first time by the end of this month.

“This is very good news. Apu was, in fact, born at the Technicians’. I still remember the shot by Manickda there in 1954, with a dated Mitchell camera. Harihar was nervously pacing the courtyard outside the room where Sarbajaya was giving birth to Apu,” said Soumendu Roy, who worked as Subrata Mitra’s assistant in Pather Panchali.

“But,” he points out, “it should be done very carefully, with a good script and the right mixing of sound and light.”

At present, the government’s archives on Ray at Nandan is the only place where one can find his scripts, etc.

“We feel this needs to be expanded and the son-et-lumiere will, to a great extent, satisfy the curiosity of tourists as well as researchers. We will trace his life and works in the show as much as possible,” said an official.

To get the necessary raw stock on Ray’s shootings of different films for the show, the government plans to approach the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI). Officials have also decided to contact Nemai Ghosh, Ray’s still photographer.

The information and cultural affairs department also has a lot of material on Ray as the state government had produced of a number of his films.    

Calcutta, April 20 
It’s time for the twin cities of Calcutta and Howrah to have a ‘bowl’.

Three bowling alleys — at Nicco Park, Lakeland Country Club (on Kona Expressway, in Howrah), and the Upaban Complex near Joka — are being planned for guys and gals looking out for some fun ‘n’ games.

The first bowling alley in the city, set in a sprawling 20,000-square-feet complex at Nicco Park, will be commissioned in September.

Nicco Park and Resorts Ltd has already started work on the six-lane alley at Salt Lake.

To be housed in a fully air-conditioned complex, it will have additional features like pool tables and a fast-food centre, for which talks are on with Domino’s Pizza.

The technical collaboration is with AMF Bowling of the US and the investment amounts to Rs 3 crore.

While Allahabad Bank, sole bankers of the theme park, is shelling out a loan of Rs 2.45 crore, the remaining Rs 55 lakh is coming from “internal accruals” of the park which recorded 1.4 million visitors last year. Nicco Corporation chairman Rajive Kaul said the bowling alley will be fully automatic to handle around 500 games a day.

“We will present one of the finest alleys to make it a natural attraction for today’s youngsters, who are opting for interactive rather than spectator sports,” said Kaul.

The alley, which will have a separate entrance for those not wanting to enter through the park, will remain open from 10 am to 10 pm.

“We expect young professionals and students to pour in during the evening hours. And it will certainly not be as expensive as the alleys in clubs at other metros,” said Abhijit Sen, co-chairman of Nicco Corporation.

At Lakeland Country Club, promoted by Panchvati Hotel and Resorts, the civil work for the alley is complete, but technical negotiations are on with both AMF Bowling and Brunswick. “This will be a four-lane, ten-pin bowling alley, accompanied by a pub, pool room and snacks counter,” said Panchvati marketing manager A. Kundu.

The Lakeland Country Park, spread over 30 acres, has allotted around 400 sq metre for the bowling alley, which will be open to club members and guests.    

Calcutta, April 20 
The mahajot (grand alliance) in the state took a significant stride towards a meaningful political partnership on Thursday with the Congress participating in a joint deputation of MLAs to Governor Viren J. Shah, along with the BJP, the Trinamul’s ally.

Braving the high command’s wrath, PCC chief ABA Ghani Khan Chowdhury argued there was nothing wrong in this move, as it was merely a deputation of the opposition MLAs against “the CPM’s atrocities.”

A team of 13 legislators, including Paresh Pal, Shankar Singh and Sasanka Biswas of the Congress, Pankaj Banerjee, Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay, Sanjoy Bakshi and others of Trinamul and Badal Bhattacharya of BJP met Shah to protest the “deteriorating law and order situation in Bengal”.

“We are in the opposition and we can always approach the Governor together. We sought Barkatda’s permission and he has given it,” said Shankar Singh. PCC general secretary and MLA Sultan Ahmed said the Congress had, on occasion, joined forces with the CPM in all-party delegations to submit memoranda to the Centre. “So why can’t an anti-left delegation meet the Governor?” he asked.

Trinamul MLAs carried with them blood-stained clothes of cadre who were at the receiving end of the police lathicharge at Esplanade on Wednesday.

Trinamul observed a ‘black day’ on Thursday to protest the police atrocities. Trinamul youth leader Tapas Dutta said party supporters demonstrated in front of 22 city police stations during the day.

Meanwhile, Khan Chowdhury has convened a meeting of party observers deployed in the districts on Friday to ensure the success of the ‘grand alliance’ in the coming municipal elections.

“Nearly 70 per cent of the alliance has already been achieved. There are a few disputes which are being ironed out at the PCC level,” a Congress official said.    

Calcutta, April 20 
Calcutta University (CU) has decided to monitor the performance of examiners whose negligence and carelessness are believed to be at the root of delayed publication of results of major under-graduate examinations.

The CU under-graduate council set up a cell on Thursday for the purpose. The cell will keep a tab on examiners to ensure there are no careless errors while going through the answer scripts or delay in submitting the papers to the authorities.

The council also decided to take “strong action” against the principal of Baruipur College, who is also a head examiner of modern history in the university, for failing to keep track of answer scripts of 152 students who had appeared in the 1999 BA (pass) exams.

The results of these 152 candidates were delayed by nearly four months since the university could not trace the answer scripts till last month.

The university declared the 1999 BA (pass) results in December last year. But the results of these 152 candidates remained ‘incomplete’.

Only last month, it was found that the answer scripts went to a college teacher in Hooghly district. But the head examiner did not keep any record of this.

The university also decided to take necessary action against the college teacher for not informing the authorities that he had the papers with him.

The university authorities had to take the help of the police to recover answer scripts from an examiner in law this year.

The inordinate delay in publication of results of major under-graduate examinations can throw the academic careers of about 1.5 lakh examinees in jeopardy.

Lack of co-ordination among nearly 1,000 examiners and head-examiners and the university over the years also lead to delays in publishing examination results.

Refusal by teachers to check answer scripts and their negligence in submitting the scripts on schedule, add to the list of ‘incomplete’ results.

Delayed publication of results often lead to serious problems in seeking admission to higher education courses.

The decision of the council will soon be placed before the university’s syndicate, its highest policy-making body, for final approval, said Surabhi Banerjee, pro-vice chancellor, academic.    

Calcutta, April 20 
The success rate in the 1999 State-Level Eligibility Test (SLET) has improved slightly, compared to last year, with 5.8 per cent of the candidates getting through.

The results were announced on Thursday by the State College Service Commission, which conducts the examinations for recruiting teachers in more than 340 state-aided colleges in West Bengal. Ajit Banik, chairman of the commission, said in all, 5,238 examinees wrote the test in 1999, of whom, 305 passed the exams.

The success rate in SLET has been dismal ever since the exams were introduced in 1994, hitting a low of 5.6 per cent in 1998.

Banik said the successful candidates can apply for lecturers’ posts in colleges of other states too. They can seek fellowships in state-sponsored research projects in all state universities.    

Bhubaneswar, April 20 
Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik has ordered a clean-up of the Bhubaneswar tehsil office following his visit to the department on Saturday.

The chief minister was reportedly irked by the gross irregularities in the department.

Patnaik ordered officials with “proven integrity” to man the revenue office in an attempt to stem corruption. He asked officials to expedite disposal of more than 12,000 cases which he found pending. To remove red tape, he ordered decentralisation of the revenue administration, simplification of procedures and computerisation of all land records. He asked officials to find out the lease cases sanctioned illegally and review them. Superiors were asked to set a deadline for work they had entrusted their subordinates with. Patnaik was livid when the tehsildar failed to furnish any record for over Rs 12.57 lakh disbursed to people who had lost their homes in the October 29 supercyclone, his aides said.

Patnaik found that the files were piling up as officials were going through them “too slowly.” Of the 12,097 cases found pending, more than 3,000 were encroachment-related.

Only 473 cases were disposed of in February. Officials were found guilty of not maintaining lease, mutation and encroachment case registers. Five of the six additional tehsildars were absent when the chief minister visited the office. The tehsildars tried to cover up saying the officials had gone to different areas to list the number of houses damaged in the supercyclone.

But when Patnaik cross-checked, he found that none of the absent officials had informed the sub-collector of their programmes.

Patnaik’s aides said he wanted to galvanise the bureaucracy into action without being too harsh. “The chief minister does not want to punish errant officials as suspension does not serve any purpose. He intends to reform the system so the errant officials fall in line,” they said.    

Agartala, April 20 
Two senior CPM leaders were injured in a mob attack at Panchabiti area under Sidhai police station of West Tripura last evening.

Police sources said a large number of Bengalis, protesting against the arrest and torture of six Bengali youth by Assam Rifles, had put up a road blockade in the area. CPM legislator from Simna, Pranab Debbarma, who was passing by, was stopped and heckled by the mob. Debbarma was finally rescued by security forces. His car was also damaged. At 3 pm yesterday, CPM Sadar divisional committee secretary Samir Chakraborty, senior tribal leader Ram Kumar Debbarma and CPM member of the autonomous district council Gongida Debbarma, were similarly heckled in the same area.

In a separate incident yesterday, NLFT militants abducted three persons, including the daughter of a CPM leader in South Tripura. Police sources said at 9 pm last night, NLFT cadre raided the house of CPM leader Hirendra Jamatya in the Killa area under Udaipur subdivision. Not finding Jamatya at home, the insurgents abducted his daughter and another relative. A non-tribal, Umesh Laskar, was also abducted from Bishalgarh yesterday.    

Aizawl, April 20 
Mizoram home minister Tawnluia today submitted his resignation to chief minister Zoramthanga owning moral responsibility for the recent spurt in abductions in the state, our correspondent reports.

Tawnluia’s resignation was prompted by the abduction of a person by the Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) yesterday. This is the third abduction over a span of two weeks. “I resigned owning responsibility for the abductions,’’ he told The Telegraph here. Deputy-inspector general of police (Range) Deepak Mishra said the Bru outfit abducted a person 4 km from Tuipuibari along the Mizoram-Tripura border. Earlier six Northeastern Electricity Power Corporation workers were abducted on March 31.    


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