Left loses grip after 29 years
Morale-booster win for Mamata’s flock
On trail of eve-teasers
World Bank aid for healthcare
Flood control panel sought

Calcutta, July 8 
It was day of reckoning for Trinamul Congress supporters. A staunch Trinamul worker, Sambhu Sarkar of Tollygunge, leapt in joy and dived off an electrical transmitter box on SN Banerjee Road, a few yards from the Calcutta Municipal Corporation headquarters, after it was announced that party nominee Subrata Mukherjee had beaten Kanti Ganguly of the CPM by four votes.

Jai ma Kali. Mamatadi, we have made it to CMC,’’ Sarkar shouted as he plunged off the power transmission box. Witnesses said Sarkar had perched himself atop the five-foot-high box to get a vantage view of the poll outcome.

Sarkar was badly injured in the fall and could not raise himself from the pavement. Dumbstruck bystanders watched as he lay writhing in pain. Trinamul activists who were milling around stopped a passing taxi and took him to SSKM Hospital.

There was a stampede seconds after the results were announced at 5.45 pm. A huge police force in riot gear had barricaded the building, but initially, they had been outnumbered. According to police and witnesses, two Trinamul workers fell to the ground and were trampled upon by their jubilant colleagues. However, there were enough policemen on reserve on the spot to prevent any untoward incident.

There was unprecedented security on the roads leading to the CMC headquarters. In an effort to nip any trouble in the bud, police had blocked all entry points to the CMC building. Securitymen kept a close watch on Trinamul supporters and others crowding around the place. Trinamul cadre, smelling victory, far outnumbered their CPM counterparts.

“It is difficult, but we are optimistic that about our nominee, Kanti Ganguly, scraping through,’’ said Sudhir Das, CPM local committee member from south Calcutta. Das was surrounded by two dozen party activists. “Ki hochchey, dada? Kantida berobey? (what is happening inside the building? Will Kantida swing it off?)’’ asked one of them.

Green abir flew thick and fast and cries of “Mamatadi zindabad, Trinamul Congress zindabad rent the air as jubilant Trinamul workers took to the streets. The CPM supporters had left the area.

Traffic was stalled in Esplanade for some time after the results were announced as Trinamul workers were dancing and singing on the streets.    

Calcutta, July 8 
Subrata Mukherjee’s victory in the mayoral election on Saturday will be a morale-booster for the Trinamul Congress-BJP combine to put up an effective challenge to the Left Front in next year’s Assembly elections.

The ruling CPM, on the other hand, considers Saturday’s defeat as the “first major blow to the organisation in past 23 years”. Key party members cited minor Front partners’ dismal poll performance as one of the reasons for the “poor show.”

Trinamul leader Mamata Banerjee, who secured a trouncing for the Marxists in the Panskura Lok Sabha by-election last month, will now be better placed to take on the ruling clique “in the final match, after having won the semi-final.”

Mamata is expected to evolve a new strategy to ensure a complete political polarisation against the CPM before the state goes to the Assembly elections. While it will not be possible for her to part company with the BJP, in deference to the wishes of the Congress high command, she may consider accommodating the state Congress’ plea for some kind of adjustment.

Mukherjee’s victory has also enhanced the combine’s prospects in the mayoral contest at Salt Lake, where the Left Front has just managed to scrape through after a violence-marred repoll at ward 16. The Trinamul, which won 11 seats in the 23-ward municipality, expects support from some councillors owing allegiance to dissident CPM leader and transport minister Subhas Chakraborty to form the board.

The Congress councillors, who indirectly helped the Trinamul-BJP combine win the mayoral election by abstaining from voting, are also expected to play a crucial role to keep it in power. There is, however, every possibility of a few Congress councillors joining Trinamul for strengthening Mamata’s hands. The Congress, on its part, intends to keep the combine on tenterhooks as long as the magic number of 71 continues to elude it.

The outcome of the mayoral election indicates that the rival sides have more or less succeeded in keeping their flock intact, with a lone councillor from the BJP-Trinamul combine resorting to cross-voting to raise the Left Front’s tally from 61 to 62. The charges and counter-charges traded by the rival combinations over possible horse-trading in the election have also been proved baseless.

The Trinamul-BJP combine has an uphill task before it, since its efforts to give the city a facelift may not be fully supplemented by the state government. The CPM would not like to see the combine’s success in improving civic amenities before the next Assembly polls. Mukherjee, who once served as municipal affairs minister in the Siddhartha Shankar Ray Cabinet, however, intends to fight for “every penny I can legitimately claim from the government to ensure the city’s development.”

Mukherjee’s victory has brought a non-left combination to power in the CMC after a gap of 29 years. Way back in 1971, Shyam Sunder Gupta of the Forward Bloc had won the mayoral poll with the Congress’ support, but survived only till September 1972, when the municipal board was superseded and an administrator was appointed by the state government. The Left Front captured the board only in 1985, when elections were held on the basis of a new municipal Act.    

Calcutta, July 8 
It was 10.30 in the morning and 21-year-old Smita (not her real name) got off the bus near Esplanade on her way to college on Park Street. She recounts: “After crossing Grand Hotel, I suddenly realised two men were trailing me and muttering something. It took me another few seconds to realise they were making some indecent proposals.”

Smita started walking faster, and near National Museum, she saw the two vanished. “Minutes later, someone whispered an obscene remark once again. I looked behind and saw two clean-shaven youth in their mid-20s. The footpath was full of office-goers, and before I could draw their attention, the youth disappeared. I was quite shaken and dropped the idea of attending classes.” She took a taxi back home. Smita’s case is not an isolated one. Similar incidents are happening frequently in the city.

The boys in these groups are glib-talkers and it is very difficult to pin them down as they operate in chains. “They wait for girls in groups of two to three in different spots and one group doesn’t bother any girl for more than five minutes. Then the next group takes over and the chain goes on,” explained Srimati Mukherjee, a 17-year student of Ashok Hall.

“Our school has requested parents to send an escort for their wards to avoid trouble,” she said.

“You’ll find them in front of girls’ schools and colleges and crowded spots,” said Diksha, a housewife who was harassed by a similar gang near New Market last week.

“I escort my daughter to school and back. But that cannot be a solution. It is not possible for all gurdians to escort their daughters. Police should protect the pupils,” said Shukla Mukherjee, mother of a student.

Nazrul Islam, deputy commissioner (headquarters), admitted: “We are receiving complaints of eveteasing in groups from different city spots. We have noticed the new trend in the modus operandi, where the eve-teasers form chains to harass office-bound ladies and collegians.”

He added: “We shall intensify our vigil on the culprits. Plainclothes policemen will be deployed in front of schools and other crowded spots.” However, he said, “most cases are not reported and so we can’t take appropriate action.”

A detective department official said a special team of women had been formed a few months ago to track down the eve-teasers.

“These women sleuths are ith martial arts experts and will keep a vigil in crowded city areas. We got a positive feedback, as more than 50 eve-teasers were caught from different areas in last five months,” said a DD official.    

Calcutta, July 8 
The government has taken up a project for improving health conditions of mother and child in 10 towns. The project includes opening health centres and maternity clinics, organising awareness programmes on family planning and holding immunisation camps. The government is also keen to educate mothers on general healthcare for themselves and their children.

The towns selected for the project are Alipurduar, Balurghat, Burdwan, Darjeeling, Durgapur, Englishbazar, Jalpaiguri, Siliguri, Kharagpur and Raiganj.

Under the project, 285 health centres and 10 maternity clinics will be opened. Doctors will be appointed on contract to man these centres and clinics.

Besides, 1,500 female volunteer health workers will be recruited on some nominal remuneration. These health workers will make door-to-door visits and collect critical data on health conditions of mothers and children in the area. The centres will study the data to understand the health hazards in the area and carry out appropriate immunisation programmes.

“We had implemented similar projects in the city’s slums and the response had been overwhelming. The success has prompted us to spread the programme to other parts of the state,” said P K Pradhan, municipal affairs secretary.

The project cost is estimated to be around Rs 50 crore. A major part of the cost will come from World Bank, while the state’s municipal affairs department will bear rest of the expenditure.    

Siliguri, July 8 
The North Bengal Development Council has sought the formation of an Indo-Bhutanese joint commission to control the floods that ravage the region every year. The Council held its first meeting in Jalpaiguri on Saturday.

It had been set up two years ago, following demands for a special agency to look after development in the six northern districts where separatist forces are active.

The 23-member Council decided to pressure the Centre for setting up a joint river commission with Bhutan, where most of the rivers of the region originate. For quite some time, political organisations and environment groups have alleged that lack of flood control programmes, rapid deforestation and rampant extraction of dolomite from the riverbanks in Bhutan cause annual floods in the tea-rich Dooars, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar districts.

Besides, the Council will draw a long-term development plan for north Bengal. Its second meeting, due at Raigunj, Uttar Dinajpur, on August 5, will discuss the projects to be brought under this plan.

Mishaps injure 8

Eight persons were seriously injured in accidents across the city on Saturday, says a staff reporter.

The first accident occurred at the crossing of Lover’s Lane and Kidderpore Road, in which seven people were wounded when a state bus collided with a minibus at 10 am. In another accident at Behala, a speeding auto dashed a passer- by and fled.The accident occurred at the Taltala crossing.    


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