Taps run dry, fans go off
Mange dodges cops at Dunlop
McKinsey help to pitch state as tech school site
Metro turns card smart for smoother service
Innocent amid jailbirds for 20 years
CMC machines, not men, to clean drains
More rain, storms ahead
Cong candidate blames PCC, quits Tripura poll
BJP exults over Naga entrants
Mizoram refuses to pay ransom to rebels

 
 
TAPS RUN DRY, FANS GO OFF 
 
 
BY SUVRO ROY AND DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, April 27 
Several areas of Calcutta and Howrah are in the grip of a severe power and water crisis. And things could take a turn for the worse over the coming days and weeks.

Purbachal in Salt Lake provided a glimpse of things to come when state jails minister Biswanath Chowdhury had to borrow a few buckets from neighbour and library minister Nemai Mal to hoard water after taps had run dry on Thursday.

“No one seems to know the reason behind this crisis or when it will end,” said Chowdhury.

This is part of a severe scarcity of potable water in several areas, caused by receding water table and wastage of at least 100 million gallons of water supplied by the civic bodies due to leaks in underground pipeline.

Large parts of Tollygunge, comprising 12 wards, continued to reel under a severe shortage of filtered water on Thursday as there was no supply from the Garden Reach water works.

The water mains carrying filtered water there from Garden Reach was damaged on Wednesday afternoon during construction work on the Metro underpass at Tollygunge.

Chief engineer (water supply) Dibyendu Roychaudhury said repair work was in progress and normal supply will be restored on Friday.

According to Roychaudhury, shortage of filtered water was plaguing several in city pockets. “Most problems relating to scarcity of water are due to low pressure,” he said.

Areas dependent on deep tubewells, where there are no reserve mains to carry the filtered water from the Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s (CMC) Tallah-Palta network will be the worst hit in days to come. New Alipore, Tollygunge, Tangra, Tiljala, Topsia, Jadavpur and Behala are areas where households are largely dependent on large tubewells for their daily need of potable water.

“We fear that a good number of deep tubewells will not function because of the receding water table within a month,” an executive engineer of the water supply department said.

He pointed out that while the city demand for filtered water was around 250 million gallons a day, the CMC produces 256 million gallons.

But there is still a shortage in supply as about 100 million gallons of filtered water is lost every day due to “leaking tanks and age-old underground pipes”.

The power front wears an equally gloomy look with CESC stations continuing to face a coal crunch. CESC sources maintain there is no shortage in power supply. CESC units are generating around 900 MW daily. The city’s 1,100-MW demand every evening is met by the CESC with the rest being supplied by the SEB.

But the private power utility was forced to shut down one unit at its Garden Reach Southern Generating Station on Thursday due to lack of coal.

This led to a 40 MW shortfall, affecting Garden Reach, Metiabruz, parts of Tollygunge, Bauria, Dum Dum, Rishra and Bally.

In the morning, Ritchie Road, Ballygunge, Ballygunge Place East and parts of Kasba and Entally suffered power cuts after two transformers at CESC’s Kasba sub-station tripped.

The strike threat by employees in the coal sector from May 8 has forced the CESC into a mad scramble for coal stocks.

The impact of last Monday’s nor’wester is still being felt in south-west and western parts of the city. And the met office has warned of more nor’westers to come.

Different parts of Calcutta and Howrah are also facing transformer overload owing to a construction boom. With several multi-storeyed buildings coming up on the northern and southern fringes of Calcutta, in Howrah and its suburbs, it has become difficult for existing transformers to cope with the growing load.

“The number of transformer faults is on the rise. We are prepared to instal new transformers in areas where there has been a rise in number of consumers. But we often find it difficult to find the space required to instal a transformer,” a CESC official said.

“There has been a 30-mw increase in the consumption of power over the past year, with more and more air-conditioning machines being installed,” said CESC sources.

Transformer overload is affecting power supply to Lake Town, Sribhumi, Bangur Avenue, Dum Dum, Dum Dum Park, Kalindi and Baguiati in north Calcutta; and to Behala, Thakurpukur, Kasba, Tiljala, and Haltu in the south. In Howrah, Shibpur, Sandhyabazar, Shalimar, Fazirbazar, Rameswar Malia Lane and Pilkhana are the affected areas.    


 
 
MANGE DODGES COPS AT DUNLOP 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 27 
Twelve hours after Manjit Singh Mange’s escape from police custody, detectives came close to nabbing him at Dunlop early on Thursday. But the contract killer managed to give them the slip yet again.

Divided into eight teams, the detectives were combing several ‘fringe areas’ of the city when one group was tipped off by a source that a bearded, middle-aged man, with one leg in a plaster, had entered a small room behind a roadside hotel in Dunlop.

The detectives, with the help of the local police, drew up elaborate plans to raid the place around midnight, hoping to catch the sharpshooter of the Babloo Srivastava gang unawares.

But by the time the police got their act together, Mange had fled. Two men found sleeping in the room initially denied any knowledge about Mange but later confessed that “an injured, bearded man” was there for dinner.

“All our teams have drawn a blank,’’admitted deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Narayan Ghosh.

The detectives are addressing a few specific questions:

Why was the investigating officer not informed every time Mange visited SSKM Hospital for treatment?

Why were two ordinary constables escorting such a dreaded criminal?

Why had the jail authorities done nothing to prevent Mange from running his crime empire from the prison cell, through associates who visited him, and over the cellphone?

State jails minister Biswanath Chowdhury has blasted the police for blaming Mange’s escape on prison staff. “If the police knew that he had a phone, they should have informed us. As far as we know he had no such instrument in prison,” the minister said.

DC, reserve force, K.L. Tamta, reiterated on Thursday that the jail warder should have accompanied Mange to SSKM Hospital. “It is not the duty of policemen to track down doctors and carry his X-ray plate and prescriptions. Although I am not defending the constables, they are definitely at fault for leaving the criminal unguarded, the jail authorities, too, should take their share of the blame,’’ Tamta said.

Belal in court

Belal, alias Lalu Mian, arrested from Basirhat on Tuesday night for his alleged involvement in the hijacking of IC-814, was produced in court on Thursday and remanded to police custody. “We have come to know about his anti-national activities and modus operandi,” said a senior state police officer.

Acting on information provided by Belal, the police conducted raids in North 24-Parganas on Thursday. Some persons were detained but no arrests made.    


 
 
MCKINSEY HELP TO PITCH STATE AS TECH SCHOOL SITE 
 
 
BY SUTANUKA GHOSAL
 
Calcutta, April 27 
Portrait of the state as an “ideal destination” for knowledge-based higher education institutions with foreign participation. That’s precisely what the West Bengal government has approached consulting major McKinsey & Co. to sketch through a feasibility report.

The projects in question: Purnendu Chatterjee’s Global Institute for Science and Technology (GIST) and three proposals for setting up an Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT).

The decision to appoint McKinsey to was taken by deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya after a meeting with the higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakroborty.

Higher education department sources said both ministers discussed how West Bengal can host one of the six GIST centres that The Chatterjee Group plans to put up in the country. The IIIT proposals were also discussed.

A higher education department official said: “McKinsey has been approached to help the government prepare a feasibility report. Based on this report, the government will be able to justify why the state should be one of the locations for these institutions.”

This is being viewed by the industry as a “well thought-out move” by the government to outdo other states. Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab and Haryana have already approached GIST, requesting them to set up shop.

Financed by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, GIST has tied up with the University of California, Berkeley, and is in the process of enlisting the support of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Stanford.

McKinsey & Co. is also being commissioned by the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation for advice on improving Silpabandhu, the single-window project clearance facility, identifying key areas of growth and negotiating with investors, both in India and abroad. “The international consultant will prepare separate reports on both the projects,” Writers’ Buildings sources said.

The government is said to have cleared, in principle, the Lake Land Village project of Purnendu Chatterjee, which envisages setting up of a sprawling township with a GIST centre and a host of subsidiary research centres thrown in. “The state government will come out with an amendment in the Land Reforms Act which will exempt the project, spread over 5000 acres, from the Land Ceiling Act and bestow the project a township status,” said a state government official.    


 
 
METRO TURNS CARD SMART FOR SMOOTHER SERVICE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 27 
Metro Railway is introducing smart cards for smoother underground travel. Metro users can avail of other facilities, too, with these cards, to be launched soon.

Metro Rail’s chief operations manager Jayanta Kumar Mitra said smart card-holders will not need to have them punched at entry points on the platforms.

“Electronic eyes installed at the gates will detect the card in the holder’s pocket and automatically revolve the turnstile, allowing the passenger to pass through. These super-sensitive gadgets at the entry and exit points of almost every station, to be installed at a cost of nearly Rs 20 crore, will even record the number of rides and zones that the passenger has travelled,” Mitra added.

Commuters can use the card at the pay phones and soft drink dispensers at Metro stations.

Mitra said: “We have decided to approach the CSTC, too, so that our smart card-holders can use them on buses linking Metro stations with other destinations.”

Underground commuters will have to open a card account with Metro Railway for using the card. The account will automatically debit the money on the basis of feedback from the ‘electronic eyes’ on the number of rides taken.

An initial sum of Rs 100 will have to be paid for the card and the holder will be given concessions for underground rides. Metro officials may consider waiving the fee for opening an account.

“But users will have to pay a token sum for the card. We will also approach the corporate sector for advertisements on the cards to minimise manufacturing costs,” the officials said.

The deposit for the card will be returned to the user on surrender of the card. “Details of the package are being worked out,” a senior Metro Rail official said.    


 
 
INNOCENT AMID JAILBIRDS FOR 20 YEARS 
 
 
BY BARUN GHOSH
 
Calcutta, April 27 
For nearly 20 years, he has been rotting in two central jails at Alipore for no fault of his own.Picked up by police from Sonarpur under a magistrate’s order in June 1981, Gouranga Das, then a dumb 14-year-old, was first lodged in the Alipore Centre Jail as a “stray boy” for safe custody.

It was in August 1986 that he was first produced before an executive magistrate at Alipore. And after long 10 years, Gouranga was shifted to the adjoining Presidency Jail in August 1991. But since then, he has been languishing in jail, in blatant violation of a Supreme Court order.

In a petition moved by social activist Sheela Barse, the apex court ruled in the early 90s that “stray boys and girls” kept in jails for safe custody, must be sent to government-run homes instead.

But the jail authorities here appear quite oblivious of this landmark judgment. And as a result, Gouranga, now 34, had to spend the best part of his boyhood among hardcore criminals.The government has, however, no dearth of homes located in the city and outside. Officials said Gouranga could easily have been sent either to Dhruvashram or to Kishalaya home for children.

Jail sources said Gouranga is the odd man out among 1,500 criminals in the Presidency Jail. Denied basic education, he had little choice but to mix with the other inmates during the “unlock” period.

Inspector general of prisons, Balkar Singh, said on Wednesday he would order a probe into the matter. “I am under the impression that all safe-custody boys have been shifted from jails to welfare homes,” he said, pleading ignorance. Jail warders say although Gouranga was suffering from some acute psychological ailments, he wasn’t treated.

Ranjan Sen, attending psychiatrist attached to the jail, maintained that he was yet to diagnose the ailment. “We have examined the dumb inmate a number of times, but he is unable to express himself,” Sen said. Even convicts say the innocent Gouranga should have been sent to a welfare home a long time ago. Former High Court judge Bhagabati Prasad Banerjee said on Wednesday the court could be moved in this matter. “It is a penal offence to confine an adult in jail for no fault of his own,” he said.    


 
 
CMC MACHINES, NOT MEN, TO CLEAN DRAINS 
 
 
BY TAMAL SENGUPTA
 
Calcutta, April 27 
The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has decided to phase out its century-old system of manually cleaning underground sewers.

To date, the CMC’s drainage mazdoors risk life and limb climbing down manholes into the underground sewer lines to desilt the drains. The Left Front is trying to abolish this “inhuman” system.

For doing so, the CMC has bought a root-blower machine from Chennai at a cost of Rs 1.40 crore. The machine will help the drainage department clean underground sewers without any individual having to descend into the drains. The CMC has placed orders for two more machines.

Another machine, the jetting pump suction machine, is extremely effective at the job. The CMC has five of them and has ordered another three. Each costs Rs 20 lakh.

The mayor-in-council, drainage, Chanchal Ghosh, said the root-blower machine was used at Maniktala and APC Road and “its performance is excellent... It is capable of cleaning 40 metric tonnes of sewage an hour,” Ghosh said.

Both the root-blower machine and jetting pump suction machine will help the civic body abolish the practice of manually cleaning underground drains.

“We have 2,000 drainage mazdoors. We hope to abolish this system in phases and these 2,000 men will be provided with alternative posts”, Ghosh said.

“Moreover, it is difficult for these men to clean the 170-km underground brick sewer lines and the 1,200-km pipe sewer lines in the city. In the past, many of them died while cleaning the drains and we don’t want a repetition of such incidents. No civilised society can imagine the existence of such an inhuman system in this millennium,” said mayor Prasanta Chatterjee.

The CMC had been planning to abolish the system since 1997. It had engaged an agency to take video photographs of the city’s underground drains. But the agency has so far managed to film only three km the drains at a cost of Rs 2 lakh.

“This little job, however, helped us in a great way and we have a detailed idea about the drains under Rashbehari Avenue and AJC Bose Road. We can take up any major repair work immediately and detect defects in the underground lines,” Ghosh said.

These machines will help the CMC keep the city free from waterlogging in the monsoon.

The CMC will inaugurate a new pump at its Palmer Bazar pumping station on May 2.

This new pump can flush out 240 cusecs of water an hour.

Four new pumps will be commissioned at Mominpur pumping station on May 8 to strengthen the capacity of draining out rain water in the monsoon.

Moreover, the CMC is trying to keep all its 100 pumps in 18 pumping stations in the city ready for the monsoon.

“We have desilted the underground drains at Amherst Street, Beadon Street, Chitpur Road, Sovabazar and Bidhan Sarani by using the root blower machine and expect that waterlogging in these areas will be less than in previous years,” said Ghosh.    


 
 
MORE RAIN, STORMS AHEAD 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 27 
With a low-pressure trough hovering over Gangetic West Bengal over the past few days, weather experts on Thursday predicted more rain, accompanied by gutsy wind, in Calcutta and its suburbs during the next few days.

The city recorded 7 mm of rain on Thursday afternoon, which resulted in the temperature dipping by about two degrees Celsius.

Alipore meteorological office director R.N. Goldar said the trough of low pressure extends from eastern Uttar Pradesh to Gangetic West Bengal across the Bihar plateau. Also, a cyclonic circulation lies in the upper air over south-east Madhya Pradesh.

“This situation will help develop rain clouds. If it continues, there will be scattered rain in Calcutta in the coming days. Thursday’s rain was under its influence,” he said.

Goldar, however, said if the low-pressure trough weakened or moved northwards, then the chances of rain will decrease and the temperature will rise. If there is another nor’wester in the next 24 or 48 hours, the windspeed will not be less than 75 kph.

However, if the sky remains consistently overcast, then the intensity of the storm is likely to reduce, met office sources said.

Goldar said the nor’westers had started blowing in Calcutta and other parts of the state since April 12. Bankura, Midnapore and the north Bengal districts too have experienced nor’westers.

Bridge order

Calcutta High Court on Thursday directed the state government and Calcutta Port Trust (CPT) to complete repairs of Rabindra Setu (Howrah Bridge) within 18 months, says our legal reporter. The court also directed the state to consider allowing two-wheelers to ply over the bridge round the clock while the repairs were on.    


 
 
CONG CANDIDATE BLAMES PCC, QUITS TRIPURA POLL 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, April 27 
In a body blow to the party’s already bleak prospects, Congress candidate Ranjit Debbarma of Simna- Tomakari Autonomous District Council constituency formally withdrew from the contest last night.

Debbarma held PCC president Birajit Sinha responsible for his decision but Sinha denied the charge. The PCC chief attributed Debbarma’s decision to a “fear psychosis” triggered by threats of militants.

With Debbarma withdrawing from the fray, only 17 Congress candidates remain in the fray for the April 30 and May 3 ADC elections. The district council has 30 seats, of which 28 are elective. Two members are nominated.

Circulating a press note, Ranjit Debbarma said he had not received necessary help from Pradesh Congress despite commitments made earlier, prompting him to withdraw from the contest. The PCC president, however, said all help had been extended to Debbarma.

Rebel threat

National Liberation Front of Tripura militants have threatened government employees with dire consequences if they “helped the CPM rig the coming ADC polls”. Instead of issuing a formal statement, the militants have been getting in touch with government employees in interior areas and warning them against malpractices.

The employees and officers of Autonomous District Council have become the primacy targets of the NLFT’s terror campaign. The threats and intimidation have already made the listed polling officials panicky.

More killings

Three persons including a militant of the National Liberation Front of Tripura were killed and three CPM workers seriously injured in separate incidents in the state since yesterday. Besides, the bodies of two minor girls were also recovered.

A CPM worker and prospective polling agent of party candidate in Ramchandraghat autonomous district council constituency, Tapan Debbarma, was shot dead at 11 am yesterday. The NLFT militants responsible for the killing threatened the tribal voters with dire consequences if they voted for CPM candidate and incumbent ADC chief executive member Ranjit Debbarma.    


 
 
BJP EXULTS OVER NAGA ENTRANTS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Dimapur, April 27 
Twenty-eight senior political leaders from various parties were formally inducted into the BJP here today at a simple function held at the Dimapur Club premises.

Among those who joined the BJP today, 27 were from the Nationalistic Democratic Movement and one from the Congress — former planning minister Z. Obed.

The other prominent leaders who joined the party are former chief minister Hokishe Sema, former deputy chief minister I.K.Sema, former MP Chingwang Konyak, former finance minister Tiameren, and two other former ministers K. Zungkhum and Rothrong.

Welcoming them into the party fold, party general secretary and its Northeast in-charge P.B. Acharya said the joining of the “stalwarts” of state politics would strengthen the party and help boost to its effort to end “Congress’ misrule.    


 
 
MIZORAM REFUSES TO PAY RANSOM TO REBELS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Aizawl, April 27 
The “hostage” crisis looked grim today with the Mizoram government rejecting the ransom demand of Rs 50 lakh made by the Bru National Liberation Front for the release of three abducted Mizos.

The government’s decision was bolstered by a resolution passed at an all-party meeting today which demanded “immediate and unconditional release” of the hostages. Several non-governmental organisations also took part in the meeting.

The abduction of nine persons by the BNLF and the Hmar Peoples Convention (Democrats) has fanned tension among the people here. The three Mizos — Lalchhanhima, Jolly Lalzawnliana and Lalnunfela — have been held captive by the Bru militants for the past three weeks. The all-party meeting, held to express solidarity with the people, was convened by the ruling Mizo National Front government after the ransom notes were received from the BNLF yesterday.

The conference was presided over by home minister Tawnluia and attended by 19 leaders representing the Mizoram Peoples Conference, the main Opposition party, the Congress, the MNF(N), the Young Mizo Association, Mizo Zirlai Pawl and Mizoram Kohhran Hruaitute Committee, a federation of 13 churches.

Four ministers, Aichhinga, Lalchamliana, R. Tlanghmingthanga and K .Sangthuama, who are members of the newly-formed ministerial committee on security and related matters, took part in the meeting. Chief secretary H.V. Lalringa was also present.

The president of Young Mizo Association, an NGO, told The Telegraph that there was total unanimity among the leaders on the question of “not buckling under pressure from militant groups as paying money would trigger off a spate of abductions for ransom in the future”.

Tawnluia told the all-party meeting that the BNLF, holed up in its hideout in Bangladesh, has demanded Rs. 50 lakh to be paid before May 2 at West Kawnpui village along the Mizoram-Tripura-Bangladesh border.

The militants have also fixed May 5 as the deadline for payment of ransom by individual families at Khantlang village in Tripura, he said.    

 

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