Nor’wester brings relief and ruin
Coal shortage raises fear of blackout
CPM man shot in revenge strike
Mask off ‘cop-by-night’ Phoolbagan trader
State fuels GNLF anti-Delhi fire
Medical body takes stock
State fuels GNLF anti-Delhi fire
Cong demands central team
Meghalaya border dispute worsens
Trade meet begins in city from today

 
 
NOR’WESTER BRINGS RELIEF AND RUIN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
 
The year’s third nor’wester struck the city on Friday afternoon, bringing down temperatures sharply, but causing widespread damage as well.

A middle-aged woman was injured when a portion of the balcony of her home collapsed in Beliaghata. A jetty in north Calcutta collapsed, some trees were uprooted, power supply was disrupted, and at least one road accident took place as rains lashed the city streets. Train services were also disrupted for a short while as there was no power.

The winds coming in from the north, mainly from the Chhotanagpur area, brought clouds and rain and caused the temperature to drop by 7 degrees Celsius. After the second squall, the temperature fell from 31.5 degrees to 24.5 degrees around 1 pm.

At 5.02 am, the weather observatory at Dum Dum recorded a wind speed of 60 km per hour, which lasted for a minute, officials at the Alipore office said.

This wind spurt was enough to unsettle the weak moorings of a jetty at Shobhabazar, which collapsed into the Ganga.

Fortunately, the ferry service to Howrah had not started till then. But when it did, the launches had to offload passengers at a jetty some distance away.

“It is good that it was a holiday, and the number of commuters was less,” a Shobhabazar resident said. Local people and, later, Calcutta Port Trust personnel started work to set up the jetty by Monday.

The second squall of the day hit town at 12.45 pm. The wind speed picked up to 49 km per hour, and lasted for a little over a minute. This was followed by a downpour.

In a half-hour spell, the Alipore weather office recorded 30 mm rainfall, resulting in waterlogging on a few streets like Free School Street, parts of Chowringhee, a portion of Amherst Street. The wet surface, however, caused a taxi to lose control on Strand Road near the Man o’ War jetty and smash into another taxi. No one was injured.

The rain also caused the balcony of a two-storeyed house in Beliaghata to collapse. A 45-year-old woman was injured in the incident. Two fire engines rushed to the spot for rescue work.

Train services were disrupted in two spells after overhead wires snapped. The first occurred in the Sealdah-Bongaon section, where services were suspended between 5.30 am and 9 am. In the afternoon, another overhead wire broke, this time between Baghajatin and Garia stations in the Sealdah south section. Services had to be stopped between 1.30 pm and 4.30 pm. The sharp drop in temperature brought some cheer to Calcuttans wilting under hot and humid days.

The Alipore meteorological office has issued a 48-hour squall warning starting Friday morning. There is a likelihood of a recurrence of the rain during this period. Partly cloudy skies with “thunder development” has been forecast for Saturday, weather office sources said.    


 
 
COAL SHORTAGE RAISES FEAR OF BLACKOUT 
 
 
BY SUVRO ROY
 
 
Calcutta and its adjoining areas are likely to face a severe power crisis in the next 48 hours as the CESC’s generating stations are facing an acute coal shortage.

Power plants are supposed to have an existing stock of coal to last them two weeks. But the four CESC plants in the city and its fringes hardly have two to four days’ stock of coal left.

As a result, the CESC has cut down its generation by about 150 mw. The dwindling stock of coal has forced the CESC power stations to generate 2 million units of electricity less per day, for the last three days.

The city and its suburbs experienced sporadic power cuts on Friday evening as the power units generated 811 mw as opposed to the usual output of about 950 mw.

The CESC has an installed capacity of 1065 mw.

“We have appealed to the government to see to it that the supply of coal from the ECL and BCCL is stepped up,” a senior CESC official said.

On Friday, the demand for power was far less as a large number of offices and other establishments remained closed for Good Friday.

Sources said that during the first 18 days of April, the CESC power stations received only 1.56 lakh tonnes of coal against the usual supply of 2.1 lakh tonnes.

“We know that the CESC has been scaling down its generation because of coal shortage. They drew more power than usual from us last evening,” said a state electricity board (SEB) official.

“The CESC should manage to pull through tomorrow and on Sunday, as the demand will be low on holidays.

The real problem will start if coal supplies to the CESC power plants are not increased by Monday,” warned a power department official.

Coal stock at the CESC’s 135- mw southern generating station in Garden Reach and 130-mw one at Cossipore on the northern fringes have only two days’ stock of coal.

The coal stocked at the Titagarh generating station will last just four more days. The massive 500-mw Budge Budge generating station on the southern fringes also has a coal stock of only four days.

The CESC, which consumes 12,000 tonnes of coal every day, receives supplies from the ECL and BCCL.    


 
 
CPM MAN SHOT IN REVENGE STRIKE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Midnapore, April 21 
Sukumar Dolui, a CPM supporter, was gunned down on Friday morning in Chakjyoti village in Keshpur police station area, allegedly by Trinamul Congress supporters.

Superintendent of police (Midnapore) Gourav Dutta said the killers fired at Sukumar when he was harvesting his crop. His two brothers, also received bullet injuries. While Sukumar died on the spot, both fled the village immediately after the incident. No arrest has been made so far.

Friday’s killing is a sequel to the murder of two Trinamul activists here about two months back. They were reportedly killed by CPM supporters over a land dispute in which Sukumar and his brothers were allegedly involved.

The district administration and police authorities are worried over the deteriorating law and order situation in Keshpur. In a message to the state administration, the district authorities have pleaded helplessness in controlling the “reign of terror”.

On Tuesday, Trinamul and CPM activists had clashed at the same place where Sukumar was gunned down Friday morning. In all, 15 persons were injured in the clash as both the groups used firearms. No arrest was made in connection with the clash either.

On Wednesday, armed CPM and Trinamul activists assembled in Kurela, Kalagram and Gopinath areas of Keshpur.

police station.

   


 
 
MASK OFF ‘COP-BY-NIGHT’ PHOOLBAGAN TRADER 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
 
The police have arrested a Phoolbagan trader for his involvement in a series of snatching cases which took place between VIP Road and Dum Dum Park.

Kartik Shaw, who was arrested on Friday, is a paint retailer who used to run his business by day and rob passers-by on VIP Road by night in the guise of a police officer.

“He was involved in 20 cases of snatching during the past six months,” an officer said.

Shaw’s modus-operandi was simple. He would ride a motorcycle with a fake police identity card in his pocket. Shaw used to stop motorcycles and cars passing through VIP Road and Dum Dum Park for “checking”. He asked the drivers to produce their licences, and then fled with the belongings of the passengers.

Shaw also stopped two-wheelers, robbing the pillion-riders of their valuables. The victims lodged several complaints with the police authorities, furnishing the registration number of Shaw’s two-wheeler which was later found to be fake.

“Initially, we thought a traffic policeman might be involved, as his operations were meticulously planned,” an officer said. Later, plainclothes policemen were deployed to tail the suspect at night.

Shaw’s luck ran out Thursday night when he stopped a plainclothes policeman on a two-wheeler. After a heated exchange, the policeman summoned his colleagues on the wireless and Shaw was arrested.

Buddha praises police

Deputy chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya praised the police in West Bengal and described the state government employees as the “pride” of the Left Front government at two separate functions in Burdwan on Friday.

Bhattacharya said the law and order situation of the state was the best in the country. He said keeping in mind the risks the cops have to take, the government has started to bring them under insurance cover.

   


 
 
STATE FUELS GNLF ANTI-DELHI FIRE 
 
 
FROM KESHAV PRADHAN
 
Siliguri, April 21 
With state Assembly elections round the corner, the Left Front government is keen to pit Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) supremo Subhas Ghising against the Vajpayee government.

A high-powered-committee, constituted last year to review the functioning of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, has forwarded some proposals to chief minister Jyoti Basu. These had been earlier rejected by the Rajiv Gandhi government.

The seven-member committee headed by state municipal affairs minister Ashoke Bhattacharya has also put forward a number of recommendations to “give more autonomy to the council”.

The state government and the GNLF-administered council have been urged to jointly take up the issues of granting constitutional guarantee to the council, enhancing annual Central assistance to the council from Rs 20 crore to Rs 50 crore, formation of a separate Gorkha Regiment for Indians of Nepali origin and creation of a parliamentary constituency for the hill people.

The constitution of a separate Gorkha Regiment was one of the three demands dropped by Ghising while signing the Darjeeling Accord, to which the Centre, the state government and the GNLF were signatories on August 22, 1988. The other two were the formation of a Gorkhaland state and constitutional recognition for the Gorkha language.

Last month, Ghising had written to the Prime Minister seeking “redelimitation” of the Darjeeling parliamentary seat. He wanted certain Nepali pockets in the Dooars to be restored to the constituency in lieu of Islampur and Chopra. Parts of the Dooars were taken away in the Seventies.

Last October, the GNLF had boycotted the general elections demanding the restoration of the old Darjeeling seat. But this only helped the CPM retain the seat.

Though Ghising, during his visit to Delhi last month, had requested Vajpayee to initiate a dialogue between the three signatories to the Accord, he is yet to hear from the Prime Minister’s Office.

The GNLF supremo wants the Centre to extend the provisions of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution to the council, the only major demand the state government has declined to support.

The state government feels that since the Sixth Schedule primarily concerns the North-East tribals, it is not applicable to the Nepalis. But its latest stand will help Ghising make his presence felt in Delhi. And a disgruntled Ghising could come in handy for the Left Front to embarrass the Centre just as it is preparing to grant statehood to Vananchal, Uttarkhand and Chattisgarh.    


 
 
MEDICAL BODY TAKES STOCK 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
 
In the first exercise to improve services and build patient confidence, the recently-formed Association of Hospitals in Eastern India held its first interactive session, Health Care Services in West Bengal: 2000-2020, at the B.M. Birla Hospital and Research Centre, on Thursday.

The discussion also aimed at informing the public of the various services available in Calcutta so that patients need not leave the state seeking “proper treatment”.

“In case of general health complaints, the cost of treatment is either lower or at par with hospitals in the south,” said S.K. Todi, president of the association.

“There are certain areas where Calcutta hospitals are lacking, and the members of the association shall endeavour to change that by improving infrastructure and ensuring quality service. We must meet the rising expectations of customers,” he added.

The Kothari Medical Centre and Research Institute, the Calcutta Medical Research Institute, the Woodlands Hospital and Research Centre, the Advanced Medical and Research Institute, Peerless Hospital and B.K. Roy Research Centre, Ruby General Hospital and Belle Vue Clinic are the other members of the association.

The association will introduce a helpline to guide the public about hospitals and the services they offer. The state government is willing to support the association, minister Partha De said, provided it could share the burden of health care delivery to all sections of the people.    


 
 
STATE FUELS GNLF ANTI-DELHI FIRE 
 
 
FROM KESHAV PRADHAN
 
Siliguri, April 21 
With state Assembly elections round the corner, the Left Front government is keen to pit Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) supremo Subhas Ghising against the Vajpayee government.

A high-powered-committee, constituted last year to review the functioning of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, has forwarded some proposals to chief minister Jyoti Basu. These had been earlier rejected by the Rajiv Gandhi government.

The seven-member committee headed by state municipal affairs minister Ashoke Bhattacharya has also put forward a number of recommendations to “give more autonomy to the council”.

The state government and the GNLF-administered council have been urged to jointly take up the issues of granting constitutional guarantee to the council, enhancing annual Central assistance to the council from Rs 20 crore to Rs 50 crore, formation of a separate Gorkha Regiment for Indians of Nepali origin and creation of a parliamentary constituency for the hill people.

The constitution of a separate Gorkha Regiment was one of the three demands dropped by Ghising while signing the Darjeeling Accord, to which the Centre, the state government and the GNLF were signatories on August 22, 1988. The other two were the formation of a Gorkhaland state and constitutional recognition for the Gorkha language.

Last month, Ghising had written to the Prime Minister seeking “redelimitation” of the Darjeeling parliamentary seat. He wanted certain Nepali pockets in the Dooars to be restored to the constituency in lieu of Islampur and Chopra. Parts of the Dooars were taken away in the Seventies.

Last October, the GNLF had boycotted the general elections demanding the restoration of the old Darjeeling seat. But this only helped the CPM retain the seat.

Though Ghising, during his visit to Delhi last month, had requested Vajpayee to initiate a dialogue between the three signatories to the Accord, he is yet to hear from the Prime Minister’s Office.

The GNLF supremo wants the Centre to extend the provisions of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution to the council, the only major demand the state government has declined to support.

The state government feels that since the Sixth Schedule primarily concerns the North-East tribals, it is not applicable to the Nepalis. But its latest stand will help Ghising make his presence felt in Delhi. And a disgruntled Ghising could come in handy for the Left Front to embarrass the Centre just as it is preparing to grant statehood to Vananchal, Uttarkhand and Chattisgarh.    


 
 
CONG DEMANDS CENTRAL TEAM 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Guwahati, April 21 
The Assam PCC has urged the Centre to send a special Union home ministry team to Karbi Anglong district to take stock of the law and order situation after the massacre of 22 non-Karbis by militants over the past fortnight.

The United People’s Democratic Solidarity — a joint platform of the Karbi National Volunteers and the Karbi People’s Front — killed 11 persons from the Bihari and Nepali communities inside the Dhansiri reserve forest on April 9. The same outfit gunned down 11 more Nepalis in the east and west Umlapher villages on Wednesday.

PCC chief Tarun Gogoi told newspersons here today that a home ministry team should visit Karbi Anglong immediately to ascertain the ground realities and prevent a communal conflict in the wake of the killings.

On the Congress’ stand on the definition of “indigenous people” — as agreed to recently by a tripartite subcommittee on clause VI of the Assam Accord — Gogoi said his party was yet to be officially briefed about it. “We have not been invited to any discussion on the issue, but we believe there has to be some basis for fixing 1951 as the cut-off year for determination of citizenship,” he said.

The state Congress chief said his party would discuss the issue in detail before announcing its stand.

A meeting attended by representatives of the Centre, the state government and the All-Assam Students’ Union recently decided that people whose names are on the National Register of Citizens, 1951 and the electoral rolls of 1952 will be considered “indigenous people” of the state. Their descendants will automatically qualify for the same rights.

Referring to the memorandum of understanding on fiscal reforms between the Centre and the state government, Gogoi said neither the Congress nor the people were taken into confidence on the issue.

He said the party would stage demonstrations across the state in protest against the hike in the prices of various commodities. He also disclosed that a two-day meeting of block-level Congress presidents would be held in the city from April 28 to discuss various issues. Gogoi said his party would expose the anti-Assam policies of the BJP with hard evidence. He said several anti-poverty programmes had not been implemented in the state over the past couple of years.

“Allocations for Assam have been meagre in both the Union and railway budgets,” Gogoi said.

Citing an example, he said only Rs 295 crore of the Rs 6,000-crore budget allocation for agriculture was earmarked for Assam.

Gogoi disclosed that a private member’s Bill for granting of Scheduled Tribe status to the Koch-Rajbongshis, Ahoms, Motoks and tea garden tribes was introduced in Parliament yesterday by Congressman Paban Singh Ghatowar. The PCC chief said his party was ready for elections in the state, adding that the Prafulla Kumar Mahanta-led ministry had no moral right to continue in office.    


 
 
MEGHALAYA BORDER DISPUTE WORSENS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Guwahati, April 21 
Trouble is brewing between Assam and Meghalaya over allegations of encroachment of land on the outskirts of Guwahati. The charges come hardly a month after the two chief ministers agreed to solve border disputes amicably.

Kamrup deputy commissioner D.N. Saikia said the Meghalaya government had encroached upon 250 bighas of Assamese territory and had set up two toll gates, which were dismantled by the police on Wednesday.

[But Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council chief executive member B.M. Lanong today said the gates were “very much within the territory of Meghalaya,” adds our Shillong correspondent.

[Lanong said the area was not even disputed. “I met chief minister E.K. Mawlong yesterday and asked him to take up the matter with his Assamese counterpart,” he said. Mawlong is likely to meet the Assam chief minister tomorrow, he said. “If the Assam government does not take up the matter seriously, we might have to move court,” he added.

[The deputy commissioner of Ri Bhoi district has also been instructed to take “immediate steps,” he said, adding that all official documents have been sent to Nongpoh, the district headquarters, to enable him to take up the case strongly.]

Saikia has also written to the Ri Bhoi deputy commissioner “to stop encroachment of our land, failing which we will have to initiate tough measures.” Saikia, who visited the area along with two additional deputy commissioners and revenue and police officials yesterday morning, said the check gates set up by the Meghalaya authorities and demolished by the city police on Wednesday all fell under Basistha police station of the city.

However, Lanong said, “If the Assam police felt the check gates were within their territory, why did they not dismantle the check gate of the Meghalaya forest department which is also in the same area?”

When the two governments have in principle agreed to amicably resolve the border dispute, there is no point in escalating the problem, Saikia told his counterpart.

Saikia has also asked the Assam police to maintain strict vigil to foil all further attempts at encroachment and report immediately any signs of encroachment to the district administration in future.

Yesterday the city police carried out a massive eviction drive against illegal encroachers and demolished three check gates set up by the Khasis at Pilingkata, Latakata and Patharkuchi inside Assam.

Two persons were arrested in this connection. One of them has been identified as Washington Sangma. However, Lanong alleged Sangma had been “illegally” arrested.

Additional superintendent of police (headquarters) P. Mahanta said the drive was carried out following complaints that the Khasis were extorting money by setting up check gates in the area.    


 
 
TRADE MEET BEGINS IN CITY FROM TODAY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Guwahati, April 21 
Union minister of state for small-scale industries Vasundhara Raje Scindia will inaugurate a unique “buyer-seller” meet here tomorrow.

The meet has been organised by the National Small Industries Corporation Limited (NSIC).

All major public sector enterprises, financial institutions and associations of small-scale industries of the region will participate in the meet, NSIC chairman-cum-managing director M. Ahmad told a press conference here today.

“The corporation will provide assistance to traditional industries of Assam, provided they can form a consortia of their own,” Ahmad said.

The NSIC chief said small-scale industries were facing stiff competition due to changes in the industrial scenario, brought about by globalisation of the economy. “It will be difficult to provide individual assistance as they have different requirements. It will be helpful to everyone if they can form a consortia,” he said.

Ahmad said he would visit Hajo and Sarthebari — famous for bell metal products — for first-hand knowledge of the problems faced by small-scale units. On the units that have benefited from NSIC schemes in Assam, Ahmad said most of these were doing quite well. He said altogether Rs 20 crore had been provided to these units over the past three years for purchase of raw materials.

The corporation, which has depots and godowns for raw materials in various parts of the country, helps small-scale units get materials on a priority basis.

Ahmad said the corporation had supplied machinery worth Rs 1,5,95,000 to 1,156 small-scale units in the Northeast. Asked whether the corporation had assessed the requirements of small-scale units, he said it was the duty of the state governments.    

 

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