Jittery cops leave nothing to chance
Not a nod for birth control
Medical College staff ransack police outpost
City hospital takeover by end of July
Faltering Front earns Hill parties’ displeasure
Inter-party feuds worry Tripura govt
Widow files case over breach of trust
Naveen asks collectors to do more fieldwork
Shibu Soren re-floats colliery TU

Calcutta, June 24 
Senior police officers said on Saturday that they are leaving nothing to chance and have taken elaborate measures to ensure peaceful elections to the civic bodies of Calcutta and Salt Lake on Sunday.

City police commissioner D.C. Vajpai said all polling booths in Calcutta are being treated as “sensitive”. He said that altogether, 250 vans of the Radio Flying Squad will be pressed into service on Sunday, so policemen can reach any spot of trouble within three minutes.

Armed guards will be guarding the booths. Two companies of Eastern Frontier Rifles and State Armed Police have been detailed for deployment in different parts of the city on Sunday.

“The very sight of a large number of policemen doing the rounds has an impact on the trouble-makers,” Vajpai asserted.

In Salt Lake, too, the district administration has taken tight security measures. Adequate armed police forces have been deployed at all the six entry points of the township to prevent ingress to trouble-makers from outside.

The superintendent of police, North 24-Parganas, Kuldip Singh, said a 1,500-strong force, comprising policemen, and jawans of the Rapid Action Force and special force, would be deployed in the township to man the 124 polling stations.

Besides, police vehicles, fitted with radio transmitters, and officers and constables of the Reserve Force will patrol the township.

Deputy inspector-general of police (presidency range), Gautam Chakraborty, will be in charge of the security forces deployed in Salt Lake. The superintendent will monitor the police functioning along with his four additional SPs, four sub-divisional police officers and 20 inspectors. Intelligence sources, however, fear violence in the wards 9, 14, 15, and 23, which include Duttabad, Sukantanagar, Mahisbathan, Baisakhi and Karunamoyee

In wards 9, 15 and 23, the CPM is fighting rebels backed by the Trinamul Congress-BJP combine.

However, the ruling CPM is hoping to retain the Salt Lake board, as the Trinamul had failed to forge an electoral alliance with the BJP in as many as 11 wards.

The allies are facing each other in 11 wards out of total 23 wards. The Left Front and the Congress have put up candidates in all the wards. The Trinamul Congress is contesting 17 wards and the BJP 14.

Counting of votes will be held centrally on June 28 at Haryana Vidyamandir.    

Calcutta, June 24 
Not one candidate in the 1,200-strong Calcutta-Salt Lake civic election has taken up population control as a campaign plank, and no party has referred to it in its manifesto either.

This oversight occurs despite the ominous landmark of one billion heads the country crossed last month and the threat of being the world’s most populated country within another 40 years.

The population in Calcutta and Salt Lake is projected to rise to 5.5 million in the next five years (the period the new civic body will reign). In 1998, this figure was 4.8 million and in 1991, 4.2 million.

But the figures do not include the huge seasonal and daily influx of people who come to the city for work, which would take the number to over double the registered population.

Both civic and CMDA officials agree that these migratory workers and daily commuters draw on civic provisions and amenities, and, thus, have to be taken into account during budgetary planning and project implementation. Civic officials say it will be difficult to absorb the additional population pressure without increasing the city’s present infrastructure.

As it is, the CMC finds it difficult to cater to the existing population, be it water supply in Burrabazar, garbage disposal at Dhapa or drainage and sewerage in almost all of Calcutta.

None of the candidates in the city’s 141 wards has considered drawing up or talking about what he could do in helping existing government-run population programmes or how he could devise their own.

“Yes, it is true that the basis of all our problems is over-population. If the growth rate was less, the quality of life could have been better by the time our two children bore their children,” said Tanwi Sanyal, CPM candidate in one of Calcutta’s wards.

“But talking about it is a difficult and tricky proposition. The last thing right now would be to hurt people’s sentiments,” she said, explaining why she had not included the issue in her campaign.

Aparna Neogy, a councillor seeking re-election on a Trinamul Congress ticket, too, has not thought of indicating what she could do about population control if she was voted back. Like other candidates, she has concentrated on assuring her electorate only on improved civic amenities. But she admits Calcutta would be better off if it was not so overcrowded.

According to the 1991 census, West Bengal and Calcutta were the most densely-populated state and city, respectively, in the country, having crossed Kerala’s figure, which had been in the lead since 1950.    

Calcutta, June 24 
A police outpost on the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital premises was ransacked by Group-D employees of the hospital on Saturday morning.

Deputy commissioner of police, headquarters, Nazrul Islam said trouble began on Friday night after a Group-D employee was bitten by a stray dog. He consulted a doctor on duty but alleged he was not taken care of and accused the doctor of negligence. The doctor countered by saying the employee was drunk.

A heated exchange ensued. The man’s colleagues gathered on the spot and protested against the doctor’s negligence. They met the hospital superintendent on Friday morning and gheraoed him for an hour and a half.

Policemen were prevented from intervening by the superintendent, who said the agitators had not gheraoed him. They were only discussing the matter with him.

A doctor, Aparajita Maji, was attacked by the agitators when she went for duty at the emergency ward. She rushed to the police outpost for shelter.

The employees followed her and tried to attack her in the outpost. The policemen who tried to protect her were abused and attacked. The security personnel managed to rescue her and sent her off the hospital premises with strong police protection.

This angered the agitators, who went on the rampage, overturning furniture and snapping phone lines of the outpost. A few policemen were roughed up. The rampage continued for half-an-hour, after which the outnumbered policemen fled.

They contacted Bowbazar police station and a large contingent was sent. Seeing the policemen, the employees began a demonstration in the hospital, preventing patients from being admitted. They also prevented doctors from attending to emergency ward patients.

With the situation spinning out of control, senior officials warned the agitators of stern action. Policemen then chased them away with lathis.

The deputy commissioner of police, headquarters, said a case has been registered with the police station against those who were involved in the ransack.

“We are now busy with Sunday’s civic poll. Action will be taken after the results are announced next week. Arrests will also be made then,” police said.    

Calcutta, June 24 
The Apollo group of hospitals will take over management of the 160-bed, joint-sector AMRI Hospital next month, according to S.K. Todi, chairman of the nearly-decade-old hospital. Its new name will be AMRI-Apollo Hospital.

“By July-end, all the norms, systems, treatment protocols and procedures that are followed by the Apollo hospitals will be enforced here,” Todi said. “An exchange of doctors and nurses will be conducted for training and to improve standards.”

The Telegraph had first reported on Apollo’s entrance into Calcutta in March, days after the MoU had been signed between directors of AMRI and Pratap Reddy, chairman of Indraprastha Apollo group of hospitals. Once the new management and systems are in place, patients requiring to go outside the city for super-special treatment may no longer need to do so.

“But some patients, depending on the case and the advice of the Apollo team, could be sent to centres in Chennai or Hyderabad, owing to the insufficient infrastructure the new management will initially face here,” Todi said.

The Rs 50-crore second phase that AMRI planned two years ago will also be taken up by the new Apollo management.

“They will design, procure equipment, hire doctors and other personnel for the new 200-bed wing of the hospital.”    

Siliguri, June 24 
The Left Front’s vacillation over providing a constitutional guarantee to the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council has shown it up in poor light in the hills. After repeatedly turning down the demand for bringing the hills under purview of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, the government has now shown its keenness to take up the matter with the Centre.

The Gorkha National Liberation Front and the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council are the two main supporters of the demand. The Council, under leadership of Subhas Ghising, submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister on March 8 in this regard.

Barely 48 hours after the state government formally inserted the word “autonomous” in the nomenclature of the Council, municipal affairs minister Ashoke Bhattacharya, in charge of hill affairs, said here on Saturday the government would seek a tripartite meeting comprising it, the Centre and the Council on the issue. Bhattacharya said the government favoured elaborate autonomous powers to the Council, in which all 28 elected councillors are from the GNLF.

The government’s volte-face comes in the wake of the renewed bid by the GNLF and other pro-statehood parties, like the Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM), to make the Centre accept the Gorkhaland demand along with Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttaranchal.

The provisions of the Sixth Schedule cannot be extended to the hills as they are exclusively for the tribal regions of the Northeast.To implement them here, the Centre has to either amend the Schedule or declare Darjeeling a tribal belt, though a majority of its people are non-tribals.

Far from satisfying the hill parties, the government’s decision to add the word “autonomous” to the Council’s name has earned it only derision. The CPRM member and Gorkhaland United Front spokesman, D.S. Bomzan, said: “Was there any need for it, when the Council Act framed by the state Assembly 12 years ago describes the Council as an autonomous body?” The GNLF dismissed the change in nomenclature as inconsequential.    

Agartala, June 24 
Increasing incidents of clashes between the Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura and CPM activists in tribal areas have become a major concern for the state government, sources said.

During the run-up to the recent Autonomous District Council (ADC) polls the IPFT workers and NLFT militants allegedly killed many CPM workers and supporters.

The newly-formed party allegedly wrested the seats reportedly through massive rigging, the sources added.

Political observers in the state pointed out that the CPM’s tribal wing, the Gana Mukti Parishad, has been mobilised to counter the disappointing ADC poll results of the ruling party.

Incidents like 40-year-old IPFT worker Khirod Debbarma, who defected from the CPM, being brutally hacked to death, and the abduction and killing of two young IPFT activists, Nihar Debbarma and Rakesh Debbarma, have triggered fresh tension in the tribal areas.

On Thursday night, a gang hacked IPFT worker Surya Debbarma to death at the tribal-dominated Anandapur village under Melaghar police station and severely beat up eight other party workers warning them of dire consequences unless they snapped links with the organisation, the sources said.

The TUJS general secretary Rabindra Debbarma observed that the situation in the ADC area was fast deteriorating.

Senior IPFT leader and ADC chief executive member Debabrato Koloi alleged that the Gana Mukti Parishad was responsible for the killing of his party workers. Officials fear that the situation may worsen after the nomination of village committee chairpersons.

Earlier, the IPFT-dominated district council dissolved all the village committee chiefs comprising CPM men.

Since the funds flow at the grassroots level is controlled by village committee chairpersons within the ADC areas, the new nominations will create a problem, the sources said.

Custody death

The death of a youth in police custody on Friday has triggered tension in the Jirania police station area of West Tripura. Altogether four police constables have been suspended while a special post mortem is being conducted under the supervision of a high-powered medical team.

Police sources said Phulkishore Debnath, a non-tribal resident of Bhumiheen colony under Jirania police station, was arrested on Monday in connection with the killing of a tribal youth, Ranjit Debbarma, on June 17.

While being brought to court at Agartala on Friday in a police vehicle, the youth jumped out and was killed.

The news of the youth’s death spread like wildfire and a large number of villagers from Ranir Bazar, Khayerpur and Bhumiheen colony staged demonstrations in front of Jirania police station. The youth’s sister-in-law, Basana Debnath, alleged that Phulkishore had died as he had been tortured by the police.

Sources said police authorities have put four constables escorting Phulkishore in the police vehicle under suspension and have ordered a special and foolproof post mortem. The outcome will be known on Sunday.

Northeast cut-off: Road links between the Northeast and the rest of the country have been severed following damage to two crucial bridges on National Highway 31 in Kokrajhar district in the flood waters from the river Sapat, which was flowing above danger mark.

The overall flood situation in Assam has turned grave following incessant rain in most parts of the Brahmaputra and Barak Valleys, besides the upper ridges of Arunachal Pradesh, report agencies.    

Imphal, June 24 
A widow of a Manipur Police personnel has filed a writ petition challenging the breach of confidentiality regarding the HIV-positive status of her deceased husband.

The petition in Gauhati High Court has set off a debate in the state on the safety of blood banks in government hospitals as the victim was reportedly infected during blood transfusion.

Justice W.A. Shishak of the Imphal bench of the High Court has directed seven respondents, including the state government, to give their replies within one month. The court has agreed to maintain the confidentiality of the petitioner and respondents during the hearing of the case and assured that everything related with this case would be done in “code words”.

The policeman was shot at by unknown assailants on January 6, 1994. He was operated on in a hospital here but treated in another hospital. However, he died on September 15, 1997.

His widow did not know that her husband has been infected with HIV during the operation. Both the hospitals are run by the government.

The matter came to light when the widow applied for an LPG distributorship from Indian Oil Corporation under the widow of ex-servicemen quota. But, another contender for the LPG distributorship — a widow of an Army personnel killed in action — revealed in the court that the policeman had died because of AIDS.

She produced documents confirming the HIV-positive status of the policeman from the second hospital. The documents also revealed that the policeman was infected with HIV during blood transfusion in the first hospital.

Upset over the disclosure, the widow of the deceased policeman filed a petition in Gauhati High Court seeking action against the officials of the second hospital for committing breach of confidentiality on her husband’s HIV status. She demanded compensation from the authorities of the first hospital for negligence, which led to her husband’s infection. She also urged the court not to reveal her identity fearing social stigma.

According to her petition, Rule 15 of the state AIDS policy says that without a written consent of the persons concerned, the HIV status shall be kept confidential.    

Bhubaneswar, June 24 
Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik today asked the district collectors to come out of their plush offices and fan out into the interior areas to address people’s problems.

Speaking at the annual conference of districts collectors at the state secretariat, Patnaik expressed displeasure at officials spending more time in the district headquarters than working outdoors. He said officials should go into towns and villages to supervise the on-going government programmes and development projects.

The chief minister felt the strength of the administration was “intensive field supervision”. He said the tendency of officials to stay indoors “is a serious distortion, which needs immediate correction. Only when our senior officers are seen to be moving in the field, people will start believing that the government is on the move.”

Patnaik directed all secretaries to visit a district once a month from August to oversee on-going development projects. He asked the collectors to gear up for any natural calamity, including flood and cyclone that usually struck the state between July and November. He said inadequacy of the state’s disaster-management system was exposed in the aftermath of the October 29 supercyclone that killed more than 10,000 people and left tens of thousands homeless.

Patnaik wanted to know if the officials had learnt any lessons from last year’s disaster. He asked them if they had visited vulnerable areas and stocked up enough foodstuff and other relief material to deal with any eventuality.

Expressing concern over the high infant mortality rate, the chief minister asked the collectors to closely monitor the child development programme. He said officials should launch a campaign for supervised deliveries in government hospitals and health centres.

The chief minister said officials were paying little attention to the implementation of laws relating to minimum wages, money-lending and land alienation. “Unless we address these problems, no amount of money for rural poverty alleviation can yield satisfactory results,” he said.

The chief minister asked the collectors to involve people in development projects, watershed management and joint forest management programmes. He said the projects often failed because people were not involved.    

Ranchi, June 24 
The tussle for supremacy within the JMM leadership in the south Bihar districts came to light when party chief Shibu Soren refloated the Jharkhand Colliery Mazdoor Union to counter rival trade union Jharkhand Colliery Shramik Union. The latter is led by his newly-appointed deputy and party MLA Teklal Mahato, sources said.

The caste divide was apparent too as Soren has filled up 20 out of the 21 posts in his union with men from his Majhi caste, while Teklal ensured that Mahatos get the most number of posts in the other union, the sources added.

The idea of floating trade unions was not new to the JMM as they made a mass base in the collieries spread over Ranchi, Dhanbad, Hazaribagh and Giridih districts through the JCMU with Soren as its president in 1988. His protege Suraj Mandal was general secretary, the sources said.

The union’s registration was later cancelled for its failure to file the annual returns. However, it continued to function as an unregistered body.

Following the split in the JMM in 1993, the Mahato lobby, led by Teklal Mahato, floated the JCSU with Rajkishore Mahato as president, Teklal as vice-president and Krishna Mardi as general secretary.

Shibu Soren had to face a further split following the nomination of his wife Rupi as the party candidate for the Dumka Lok Sabha seat.

A disgruntled Suraj Mandal was ejected from the party but he hit back by expelling Soren from the JCMU and wresting the president’s post.

Mandal got the JCMU re-registered and gleaned affiliation from the Hind Mazdoor Sabha, the sources said. But the trade union failed to stand up to expectations. After a decade, Soren has set out to revive the JCMU.

With the Teklal rejoining the JMM fold after a gap of more than seven years, both leaders have launched a massive mobilisation campaign to garner support from among the coalfield workers.

Palamau killings

Four persons were killed in separate incidents in Bihar’s Palamau district over the past 24 hours, reports PTI. Two of the victims were killed by the Maoist Communist Centre who slit their throats.    


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