Rusty end at police doorstep
Rainwear rush sinks malaria alert
Wider tax net to repay civic debt
Liquor police in paper chase after Pankaj jolt
Diary adds fraud twist to Bypass murder case
Fake dollars seized, five arrested
New water plant nod for Howrah
Police on trail of Chetla gang
University yet to start environment course

 
 
RUSTY END AT POLICE DOORSTEP 
 
 
BY CHARLES NANDI
 
Calcutta, June 7 
Roads and sidewalks in front of city police stations are out of bounds for pedestrians and motorists, cluttered as these are with piles of rusty, old vehicles seized from their owners.

With the police and the judiciary both turning a blind eye to the problem, the spaces in front of police stations have become dumping grounds for cars over the past several years.

But Anupama Ghosh is not complaining. This elderly woman has been living in an auto-rickshaw (WB-04 8365) illegally parked in front of Burtolla police station, in north Calcutta, for the past two years. The autorickshaw, which was impounded by the police, was never disposed of. “My home is safe, as the auto is parked in front of the thana,” says Anupama, relieved that she has a roof over her head during the rains.

A car, parked in front of Hare Street police station, has been home to generations of street dogs. The run-down vehicle, seized several years ago, now provides shelter to a canine mother and her litter of puppies.

Another vehicle on the doorsteps of the Taltala outpost, on S. N. Banerjee Road, is a breeding ground for mosquitoes, with all the accumulated rain water.

These vehicles are all illegally parked, occupying valuable road space and pavement area, causing great inconvenience to the public.

Additional police commissioner (III) D. Sarengi admitted that the police have been negligent about removing the impounded vehicles.

Some policemen don’t even try to trace the vehicle-owners, so that the seized cars can be handed over to them, said Sarengi.

“However, sometimes, the police can do little if trial of pending cases is not expedited. A number of these cars shown in the seizure lists are not returned to the owners in the interest of investigation,” he added.

Sarengi said they were trying to device ways to remove seized vehicles quickly to keep the space in front of police stations free.

Even though the police have been allotted land on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass at Dhapa and near Vidyasagar Setu, the vehicles are rarely sent to those demarcated dumping grounds due to police inaction.

Officials said that the police can sell these cars through auction. The delay by the police stations to requisition the cars for auction by the Central Malkhana department at the Lalbazar headquarters has led to the piling up of the vehicles outside the thanas.

There are, however, examples of some city police stations removing old and rusty vehicles from Park Street, Shakespeare Sarani and other pockets.

“I have had the cars removed as they were occupying road space and causing traffic snarls in the area,” said officer-in-charge of Park Street police, D.P. Bhattacharya.

He added that the ugly cars piled up in front of the police station ruined the look of the upmarket area.

Senior officials of traffic department opine that these graveyards of seized cars cause “traffic congestion, visual pollution and environmental degradation” besides causing severe problems for motorists and pedestrians.

“With the monsoon breaking, these dumps will become breeding grounds of mosquitoes. They will also be an eyesore. So, immediate steps should be taken to tow the vehicles from the city thoroughfares to the designated dumping grounds,” said a senior official.    


 
 
RAINWEAR RUSH SINKS MALARIA ALERT 
 
 
BY AMIT UKIL AND DEBASHISH CHATTOPADHYAY
 
Calcutta, June 7 
Malaria might be the scare of the season, but for the moment, Calcuttans are more concerned about the latest in monsoonwear.

Experts and health officials have sounded the malaria alert with the monsoon breaking early. Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s chief medical officer Sujit Ghosh said: “We are expecting a substantial increase in the number of mosquitoes in the city in the coming weeks.”

He added: “We have produced two TV slots which are to be telecast from Thursday. These slots focus on vector control or breeding source reduction.”

Ghosh stressed the need for community participation in the control of mosquito-breeding and malaria. “Para committees should be formed to see that every household prevents water accumulation. On our part, we shall take care of what happens on the streets,” he said.

But on Wednesday, all the action seemed to be at shops selling raincoats and umbrellas.

Deepak De Sarkar, manager of the Duckback shop on Chowringhee, was struggling to cope with the demand for colourful raincoats, umbrellas, shoes and sandals. “We have no time to rest. Sales have suddenly shot up and it should cross Rs 2 lakh this month.”

Pradeep Mukherjee of Chowringhee Bata said: “The sales are just picking up. By next week, women and men will be queuing up to check out the latest fashions in monsoon footwear.”

It’s no different at the umbrella shops. Both K.C. Paul and Mahendra Lal Dutta at Gariahat expect “this year’s sale to be more, as the monsoon has set in early”.

‘Seasonal sales’ are also on at chemists’. As Amal Bardhan of Central Blue Print on Chowringhee Road said: “The rush for water purifiers has started. The sale of Zeoline and Aquadol doubles during the monsoon, as people become more careful about the water they are drinking.”

But what about the water accumulating in various places after the rains? A six-day accumulation of such water is enough for the birth of thousands of mosquitoes.

“The time is ripe for the anopheles (carrier of the malarial parasite) to take over from the culex mosquito in different parts of the city, leading to an increase in malarial cases” pointed out Amitava Nandy of the Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine.

Nandy fears that the pecentage of positive cases from the total blood tests conducted at the school will go up to around 65 per cent by the end of this month from the present 45.    


 
 
WIDER TAX NET TO REPAY CIVIC DEBT 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, June 7 
Whichever party wrests charge of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation(CMC) for the next five years, it will be compelled to make citizens pay more.

The present Left Front mayor-in-council has already planned some harsh measures to widen the tax net to increase revenue for paying back loans from international funding agencies.

“It will not be possible for any other political party except for the Left Front to carry out massive development with international loans. We will have to increase our revenue, not to pay salary bills, but for the city’s betterment,” said mayor Prasanta Chatterjee.

To collect Rs 100 crore a year, property taxes paid by residents of the added areas of Behala, Garden Reach and Jadavpur will be upwardly revised. Six lakh building-owners, including those living in flats in the 141 wards will have to pay water and drainage taxes.

The CMC, in a joint venture with a private company, will build a flyover from B.K. Pal Avenue to the Howrah Bridge approach. People will have to pay a toll tax to cross it.

The Opposition Congress, however, feels that the CMC failed to manage its own properties and assets in the city. “Only because of mismanagement of its immovable assets, the CMC is losing revenue,” said Partha Roy Chowdhury, leader of the Congress municipal party.

The CMC needs the funds badly to pay off the Rs 2,575-crore loan assured by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for the development of the city’s infrastructure and for a better environment. The CMC, on its part, promises to improve the quality of life in the city’s core area (wards 1 to 100).

In the added areas (the remaining 41 wards), the civic authorities will set up a modern drainage and sewerage system.

“If we win, we will have to increase taxes because of our commitment to the international funding agencies. But the people will blame us for hiked taxes,” said Mala Roy, chief whip of the Trinamul municipal party.

Be it the Left Front or the Trinamul Congress-BJP combine, the next mayor-in-council will be compelled to downsize the CMC. It has a 4,5000-strong work-force.

Employment records say that 15,000 are scheduled to retire in the next three years. So, the Corporation will save another Rs 100 crore per year.

Instead of further recruitment, the CMC has decided to go in for wider computerisation and mechanisation. For example, drains are being disilted with a Blo-vac machine.

The CMC plans to gradually hand over its schools and health centres to private organisations and NGOs over the next five years. This will help it save around Rs 40 crore a year. The CMC has started renting out some of its buildings for commercial use.

“I think no institution can achieve financial sustainability without these measures”, stressed Sudhanghsu Sil, member, mayor-in-council.

The World Bank and the ADB, who together are providing Rs 2,575 crore to the CMC, have decided to send representatives to Calcutta to monitor the development projects.    


 
 
LIQUOR POLICE IN PAPER CHASE AFTER PANKAJ JOLT 
 
 
BY BARUN GHOSH
 
Calcutta, June 7 
The excise directorate decided on Wednesday to check old records to ascertain whether any liquor shop in the city was depriving the government of duty as sheriff Pankaj Roy’s shop in Salt Lake had done all these years.

Excise officials said a closer watch was being kept on liquor shops following the charges of duty evasion brought against Roy, a former cricket hero. His licence has been suspended and his shop temporarily closed down.

All the licensees were asked to help the directorate get hold of old papers concerning their transactions with the government for the past three years, the officials said. The city has nearly 320 liquor outlets and bars, including those housed in clubs and cinema halls.

Arun Mishra, commissioner of excise, said the government will first complete the investigation before issuing 300 new licences in the city and elsewhere. He said the government’s decision is aimed at mopping up more revenue through the sale of liquor. Mishra said excise officials will visit liquor shops and verify whether the challans they deposited with the treasury were genuine or not.

The excise chief said the government will act on the basis of the report submitted by the officials concerned. “Those found tampering with challans will get their licences forfeited,” he added.

Prasanta Nandy, collector of excise, Calcutta, said the city will be divided into eight zones, each of which will come under the direct supervision of a deputy excise collector. Nearly a dozen sub-inspectors will assist them round-the-clock during interactions with licensees.

He said the officers will carry copies of the challans deposited with the treasury for the last three years to cross-check them with the receipts lying with licensees.

Sources in the excise directorate felt that a probe would reveal that a large number of licensees have been cheating the state of duty worth several lakhs of rupees taking advantage of the callousness of a section of officers.

In the meantime, the government is believed to be considering a proposal to allow the seven beer pubs in the city to be turned into bar-cum-restaurants. The beer pubs opened with much fanfare in 1984-85 to provide jobs to unemployed youth.

“However, almost all the beer pubs in the city are on verge of closure these days due to a slump in sales,” said excise chief Mishra. The beer pub-owners had pleaded with the directorate to allow them to sell liquor.

“We have been incurring heavy losses these days because the rate of sales is abnormally low. We can at best sell 100 bottles of beer a day,” said Monaj Trivedi, who runs a beer pub on Chittaranjan Avenue.

He said in 1993, the government had allowed him to convert the pub into a bar-cum-restaurant. “But this has been kept in abeyance since then,” he said.

Another beer pub-owner, Dinesh Shah, said sales pick up only in summer. “Barring April and May, we don’t have any market during the rest of the year,” Shah said.

He said he had sought the government’s permission to convert the pub into a bar-cum-restaurant.    


 
 
DIARY ADDS FRAUD TWIST TO BYPASS MURDER CASE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 7 
Nantu Roy, arrested for alleged involvement in the murder of Kunal Bose on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass on May 26, had cheated several people of lakhs of rupees. This has been revealed in investigations into the case, which has thrown up several twists and turns.

The police investigating team, headed by Jugal Kishor Mukherjee of Tiljala police station and Debojyoti Ghosh of Parama investigation centre, interrogated Nantu and Kunal’s widow, Aparajita, or Munmun, throughout Wednesday.

The sleuths also raided Nantu’s Behala residence and questioned Munmun’s employer in her Kidderpore office.

Investigators found names of several “influential persons” in Nantu’s diary. Fake employment-exchange cards and marksheets, rubber stamps and other items were also seized.

It is now evident that Nantu was a middleman who duped people by promising them jobs, licences, flats and loans.

Officers said Nantu maintained a list of his business contacts and the amount of money that he collected from them as “fees”.

Police are investigating whether Nantu is involved in any other racket. “He had cheated many people. We have alerted all police stations to find out if there are any cheating cases against Nantu,’’ an investigating officer said.

Meanwhile, Munmun protested her innocence on Wednesday. “Our marriage was strained but I never urged Nantu to kill Kunal. I sought his help to get a divorce,’’ Munmun told the police.

Munmun’s brother Sudipto said his sister was “extremely worried” when she heard Kunal was missing and immediately started contacting his friends.

Police are yet to pick up the trail of Gautam, Nantu’s driver. The team which went looking for Gautam in Diamond Harbour has returned without him.

Officials of Parama investigating centre on Wednesday afternoon traced the murder weapon. The ASP (South-Industrial), South 24-Parganas, S.N. Gupta, said policemen found the bhojali at around 2 pm in the bushes near the spot where Nantu had told investigators earlier in the day that Gautam had thrown the bhojali.    


 
 
FAKE DOLLARS SEIZED, FIVE ARRESTED 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 7 
The police have busted a gang engaged in the circulation of fake US dollars and Kisan Vikas Patra certificates worth Rs 26 lakh.

Officials of Jorasanko police station arrested five persons in this connection from different parts of the city on Wednesday.

Police said the fake dollars might have been brought in from Bangladesh. “We are trying to trace the kingpin of the racket,” he added.

The racket was unearthed last month with the arrest of a man who disclosed that “the dollar can be sold at a cheaper rate”.

Plainclothes policemen pretending to be customers proceeded to buy the dollars at Lyons Range, where they seized the fake currency.

Investigations also revealed that the gang was involved in the circulation of fake Kisan Vikas Patra certificates and stamps required for transferring shares.    


 
 
NEW WATER PLANT NOD FOR HOWRAH 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 7 
A growing population and increasing water scarcity in Howrah town have forced the Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC) to overhaul the town’s water supply system.

A new water treatment plant and three boosting stations have been sanctioned, which are expected to become operational by the begining of 2002, HMC mayor Subinoy Ghosh said on Wednesday.

With the setting up of the new plant, the HMC’s total water supply capacity will increase to nearly 65 million gallon a day. The Padmapukur Waterworks, which at present is the HMC’s main source of supply for more than 12 lakh residents, can provide a maximum of 40 million gallon a day.

“The state government has earmarked Rs 50 crore for the new plant. A considerable amount has also been allotted for other schemes as well,” the mayor said.

Residents of Howrah town have been facing water scarcity over the years due to inadequate supply of filtered water from Padmapukur Waterworks.

The crisis was becoming more acute with the construction of more and more multi-storeyed buildings.

The three boosting stations will help increase pressure of the supply from Padmapukur to north, south and central Howrah. Deep tubewells will also be dug in several wards, the mayor said.

Due to the absence of boosting stations and improper laying of water pipes. the HMC has failed to maintain proper pressure in the supply from Padmapukur. This has also prevented supply to many pockets in central and south Howrah.

Sources in the corporation said although the supply capacity of Padmapukur Waterworks was adequate for the daily requirement of Howrah, the corporation has never been able to supply more than 35 million gallon a day.

A committee has been set up with senior officials of the CMDA, CMC, HMC and the state urban development department in this matter, the mayor added.    


 
 
POLICE ON TRAIL OF CHETLA GANG 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 7 
The police are closing in on the gang that forced its way into the 100-year-old house of Rakhaldas Auddy on Chetla Central Road on Saturday and, at gun-point, stole ornaments worth around Rs 1 lakh.

Two local criminals, Raju Das and Bhombal, who stood on guard while the rest carried out the dacoity, were arrested on Tuesday night.

According to the officer-in-charge of Alipore police station, Pinaki Mondal, five officers have left for Canning, in South 24-Parganas, to track down Montu, a servant employed by 80-year-old P. Auddy in the two-storeyed mansion currently occupied by the great-grandsons of Rakhaldas Auddy and their relations.

“The criminals knew exactly where the old man kept his keys and how much money and jewellery there was,’’ said a family member.

“We are looking for another criminal, Sanjoy, who stays in the slum adjoining the Auddy mansion. Mantu, who was employed by the old man six months ago, has links with Sanjoy,’’ Mondal said.    


 
 
UNIVERSITY YET TO START ENVIRONMENT COURSE 
 
 
BY MITA MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, June 7 
The study of environmental science, made compulsory by the Centre at the under-graduate level, is yet to be introduced by Calcutta University (CU).

As a result, nearly one lakh students in various under-graduate courses of over 200 CU-affiliated colleges in the city and its adjoining areas won’t be able to study the subject this year.

The Centre had planned to introduce the subject to generate awareness among students, in view of the increasing rate of environment pollution.

The Supreme Court had earlier passed an order asking the university to introduce the subject. Later, the University Grants Commission (UGC), controlled by the Union human resources development (HRD) department, directed the university to include environment studies as a compulsory subject at the under-graduate level from 2000.

Accordingly, the CU syndicate, the university’s highest policy-making body, approved the proposal and the decision to include the subject in the syllabus from 2000 was finalised last year.

“Even though the study of environment entails the study of science, there are some colleges under CU which don’t have science faculties. Hence, we have a few things to sort out before we can begin the course in the current academic session starting July,” said Ashish Banerjee, CU vice-chancellor. The syllabus content and other details for introducing the subject were, however, ready. Sources at the university attributed CU’s failure to include the subject to the lack of qualified teachers.

According to the UGC directive, CU was to incorporate the subject into the under-graduate-level syllabus from the current year. The third-year students in B.A., B.Sc and B.Com are supposed to have already studied the subject earlier.

University sources said after the proposal was approved by the syndicate, CU had set up a committee consisting of environment experts to frame the syllabus. The committee has already submitted its report.    

 

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