Living anguish for funeral city
Mamata sole solace in hour of grief
Students force HS return to colleges
Bail for Punjab policemen
Cops clueless about Writers’ break-in
Civic poll banners to be pulled down this week
Court scraps Board nod for new schools
6 more Karbi tribals mowed down
Survey re-run on Tipaimukh
Cauvery shadow over Bihar water demand

Calcutta, July 18 
Keening over their loved ones who died in Monday’s plane crash in Patna, friends, colleagues and relatives bade a tearful farewell as the bodies of 11 victims were consigned to the flames on Tuesday at a number of crematoria in the city.

The bodies arrived by a special flight at Calcutta airport around 1 am on Tuesday.

At the crowded Keoratala burning ghat, where most of the victims were cremated, the mood was grim. Women wailed and the men paced the compound withexpressionless faces.

Hundreds of local people thronged the crematorium to take a look at the bodies. They were joined by those who had brought in their own dead for the last rites.

Sajal Das, grandson of Bibhamoyee, an 89-year-old woman who died on Tuesday in Calcutta, was overwhelmed with grief after a look at the bodies of crash victims Ajoy Kapoor and Karan Pathak, both about 35 .

While Ajoy’s entire body was cast in plaster, Karan’s mangled remains were kept in a wooden coffin. Both managers in well-known companies, they were flying to Patna on official work.

“We don’t know what to do with Ajoy’s wife, Pooja, and her two children,” said B.S. Chopra, Ajoy’s uncle, between sobs. Ajoy’s father, Shashi Bhusan, stood speechless with grief.

Karan, transferred to Calcutta a month ago from New Delhi, was staying at New Alipore. His brother, Arun, was left wondering how to take his brother’s body to Keoratala. Finally, he was helped by local councillor Arup Biswas.

Family members and relatives of Goutam Roy, director of a leading paint company, took his body to Keoratala at the crack of dawn. “My grandmother is still alive and we don’t know how to console her,” his son Sandip said.

Family members of S. Krishnamurthy, 56, who was also cremated at Keoratala on Tuesday morning, are inconsolable because had it not been for the lunar eclipse on Sunday, he would not have taken the Monday flight.

“My father, a senior Bank of India officer, was to fly on Sunday. But he cancelled his trip because of the lunar eclipse and vyas purnima,” said his eldest daughter K. Gayatri, a student of science at Viharilal College.

Sitting in his Rail Vihar flat near the E.M. Bypass, Krishnamurthy’s brother, S. Kannan, a corporate executive, said he had the shock of his life after he was informed by his Patna office that his elder brother’s name was on the list of passengers of the ill-fated plane. “I preferred to cross-check with my Patna office instead of calling up my sister-in-law,” Kannan said.

Krishnamurthy’s exhausted son, K. Ganesh, 21, was sleeping on the floor of the flat. Krishnamurthy is survived by his wife, two daughters and a son.

The bereaved family members of B. R. Sen, also a resident of Rail Vihar, came down heavily on the airlines for operating a 20-year-old defective plane. “What right do they have to play with people’s lives?” they demanded.

Sen’s sister-in-law, Shyamali Deb, could not give words to her anguish. All she could say was that 55-year-old Sen was cremated at Boral on Tuesday.    

Calcutta, July 18 
Rupa Dey emerged from Calcutta airport’s domestic arrival lounge, lugging a coffin containing the lifeless form of her husband, Sandip.

She looked around frantically for a familiar face in the crowd who would take her Sandip home. But she failed to find anyone in the ensuing chaos.

There was not a single representative from the state government around to lend a helping hand to Rupa or the rest of the bereaved family members who arrived early on Tuesday.

With no officials in sight, those accompanying the coffins were left to fend for themselves.

The victims’ bodies reached Calcutta airport around 1 am in wooden caskets.

The only people’s representative in sight: Mamata Banerjee. The railway minister had flown down with the family members and even at the airport, did her best to make arrangements for their passage back home.

Standing outside the airport, she was seen directing the long queue of hearses leaving for various parts of the city.

She tried to console several family members of the crash victims, who broke down while waiting to get back home.

Mamata stayed back till every one had left the airport with the bodies of their loved ones.

At around 2.15 am, a weary Mamata ignored ministerial protocol to climb into close aide Gautam Basu’s Maruti, accompanied by Trinamul Congress MP Sudip Bandopadhyay.

The Opposition raised the issue in the state Assembly, where a two-minute silence was observed on Tuesday morning.

Members blasted the government’s “callousness” in not sending a representative to receive the bodies of the crash victims.

“It is a matter of shame that the government was not represented at the airport to oversee arrangements,”. said Congress MLA Saugata Roy.

Immediately after hearing about the crash, Mamata had rushed to Patna on Monday afternoon in a special train.

“On reaching Patna, I found that there was total chaos at the hospital. The injured had severe burn injuries and there were large crowds around them... I immediately asked the crowds to move on,” Mamata said on Tuesday.

She complained that there were no adequate burns unit at the Patna hospital. “The administration should have shifted some of the injured to private hospitals in Patna... We could have made arrangements with private hospitals from the railways to treat the emergency patients,” she added.

Even at the Keoratala crematorium on Tuesday afternoon, victim Ajoy Kapoor’s uncle, B. S. Chopra, was all praise for Mamata.

“It was because of Mamataji that Ajoy’s body reached here safely from Patna,” he said.

Sandip, whose father Gautam Roy died in the crash said: “It is only because of Mamata Banerjee that my father’s body could be brought from Patna and all of us could pay our last respects. We do not have words to thank her.”    

Calcutta, July 18 
Bowing to student pressure, the state government on Tuesday decided to reintroduce Higher Secondary (HS) courses in certain colleges across the city and elsewhere in the state.

But the agitating unions, unimpressed by the government’s “half-hearted gesture”, have threatened to carry on their protest movement.

Going back on “a policy decision”, state higher education minister Satya Sadhan Chakraborty announced the restoration of HS courses in 16 colleges.

The list of institutions: New Alipur College, Netaji Nagar Day College, Gurudas College, Hari Mohan Ghosh College, Kidderpore College, Barasat Evening College, Dum Dum Motijheel College of Commerce, Taki Government College, Uluberia College, Prabhu Jagatbandhu College, Shibpur Dinabandhu College, Narasingha Dutta College, Lalbaba College, Bijoy Krishna Girls’ College, Budge Budge College and Jhargram Raj College.

The government climbdown comes in the wake of a series of demonstrations, roadblocks and even hungerstrikes by members of various student unions. What embarrassed the ruling communists most was the participation in the anti-government stir by members of the CPM-affiliated Students’ Federation of India (SFI).

Although the SFI did not resort to any public demonstration, it announced its support for the Opposition-backed bodies’ move to mount pressure on the government. “We want the government to continue with Higher Secondary courses in the colleges until adequate infrastructural facilities are made available in schools,” SFI secretary Partha Mukherjee said on Tuesday.

According to Mukherjee, SFI members had submitted a memorandum to the minister on July 14 requesting him to build up infrastructural facilities in schools on a priority basis before shifting out Higher Secondary courses from colleges to schools.

“We had decided to scrap the courses from all 71 colleges, but had to roll back the decision in 16 colleges due to admission problems ,” the minister said. The government will, however, do away with HS courses from another lot of 55 colleges “in a phased manner”. Last year, HS courses had been scrapped from 34 colleges.

The order, however, did not go down well with the agitating unions. Chhatra Parishad and Democratic Students’ Organisation (DSO) members resented the government’s “half-hearted effort” to reintroduce the courses.

Chhatra Parishad will organise a protest march to Writers’ Buildings on Wednesday. A students’ strike is being planned on July 24. The ABVP has lined up a protest rally on College Street on Thursday.    

Calcutta, July 18 
Five Punjab Police officials, sentenced to life by a city court for murdering a Sikh couple at Tiljala, were granted bail by Calcutta High Court on Monday.

A division bench of Justice N.A. Chowdhury and Justice P.K. Sen granted the bail pleas of Sant Kumar Singh, police superintendent, Sukhdev Singh, deputy police superintendent of Bhatinda, and three other police officials from Punjab.

The five had been convicted by the additional sessions judge of Alipore court in May for the murder of Basir Ahmed, alias Laxmi Singh, and his wife, Sakina Begum, alias Rani Singh, at their Tiljala residence on May 17, 1993.

In the high court, lawyers Balai Roy, Tapen Roy Chowdhury and Thakurdas Roy Chowdhury argued that the five accused were neither “present on the spot” of the murder nor in any way connected with the case. The advocates said the police officials had come to Calcutta on the trail of some Sikh terrorists.    

Calcutta, July 18 
The city police on Tuesday started investigating into Monday’s incident of file-tampering and theft in the ‘non-protected area’ of Writers’ Buildings, while the public works department minister passed it off as the work of a ‘pervert’.

“I have information that some people have tampered with and sprinkled ink on the files and typewriters to harass the women employees who work there,’’ state PWD minister Kshiti Goswami said.

Deputy commissioner of police, reserve force, K.L. Tamta, in charge of security at Writers’ Buildings, visited the spot and spoke to employees of the land and land revenue and the small-scale industries departments.

According to the complaint registered at Hare Street police station, several “confidential files’’ were found tampered with, almirahs broken and a clock missing.

Policemen in charge of Writers’ security and PWD officials passed the buck, though officers of Hare Street police station admitted the incident was a security breach. “We will beef up security arrangements,’’ Tamta said.

He was tightlipped about the progress of investigations, but department officials said they are in charge of security of only the protected area, from where chief minister and his Cabinet colleagues function.

“The PWD is responsible for the non-protected areas behind the main block. The incident happened at Block E,’’ an officer said. But Goswami said: “The PWD is in charge of maintaining the edifice and it is the police’s duty to monitor illegal activity.’’

Goswami met senior officials on Tuesday morning to take stock of the situation. He ordered a high-level official inquiry into the incident and asked for the report to be submitted within a fortnight. PWD’s assistant chief engineer, Dipankar Mukherjee, will head the inquiry team.

The minister said he was surprised at such “reckless vandalism.” Deputy commissioner of police, central, Raj Kanojia, said on Tuesday that the police, too, are clueless.

Home secretary Sourin Ray also held a meeting with city police commissioner Dinesh Vajpai and deputy commissioner, special branch, Suman Bala Sahoo, at Writers’ Buildings during the day.

It was decided that the police would conduct surprise night raids in and around Writers’ Buildings. The minister, however, admitted that a fool-proof security arrangement was not possible for the entire premises.

He said he planned to visit Writers’ at night to keep watch whether outsiders were staying on the premises.

Former PWD minister Jatin Chakraborty was known to pay such surprise, nocturnal visits.    

Calcutta, July 18 
“Press button on this symbol for a green Calcutta”.

Banners such as these flooded the city in the run-up to the municipal elections, as the political parties sought to woo the electorate with aggressive, no-holds-barred banners and hoardings.

But now it’s time to clear the clutter. The city’s civic authorities have taken up a programme to pull down all the political banners and hoardings relating to the civic polls by this week.

New city conservancy chief Mala Roy, at a meeting with the district conservancy officers on Monday, asked them for immediate removal of the jungle of banners and hoardings from the streets of Calcutta.

But what about the graffiti? “Those will be erased in a phased manner, since conservancy officials are too occupied with their regular tasks”, she said. The civic polls had led to serious visual pollution in the city as 1,122 candidates in 141 wards vied with one another to take over walls and trees, paying scant regard to the environment.

From Tobin Road to Tollygunge, there is not a single locality the walls of which have not been uglied by graffiti, even though defacing of walls and trees is punishable by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation Act, 1980.

According to the deputy chief engineer of the conservancy department, there are more than six lakh residential buildings and 25,000 office premises in the city. About a million walls of the city buildings had been defaced with election slogans during the polls.

Roy said it was possible for the CMC to clean up all the walls sullied by slogans. After removing the banners and hoardings, however, the conservancy department will engage its staff to clean the walls of government and CMC offices.    

Calcutta, July 18 
Calcutta High Court on Tuesday quashed a notification of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education and ordered that it will not be mandatory for an individual or an organisation to take the Board’s permission for opening a new secondary school.

The court passed the judgment on the basis of a petition filed by the authorities of Jadupur Sukanta Memorial High School, in Nadia district. The petitioners had challenged the notification as the Board had refused to grant recognition to the school on the grounds that it had not sought prior permission.

Describing the Board’s existing rule concerning granting of recognition to new schools as “illegal and unconstitutional”, Justice Amitava Lala of Calcutta High Court directed the board to grant recognition to the school with immediate effect.

The Board had issued a notification in 1978, stating that it would be compulsory for a new secondary school to get a clearance if it wanted to be affiliated with the Board.

“There are many formalities which are necessary to be complied with for setting up a new school. Seeking permission is just one of them,” said A.K. Chakraborty, Board president.

He added that he was not in a position to comment on the court order before going through it.    

July 18 
At least 10 people were killed in the Northeast in a renewed spell of violence since last night. Unidentified killers gunned down six Karbi villagers in Assam’s Karbi Anglong district last night while four Central Reserve Police Force jawans were killed and one injured in an ambush in Manipur’s Churachandpur district this morning.

The Karbi villagers were dragged out of their houses and gunned down in a retaliatory strike. “Last night’s killing is probably in retaliation to the massacre of migrant Biharis by United People’s Democratic Solidarity at Kheroni police station area on Saturday,” a police official said.

The police said the manner in which half- a- dozen Karbis have been killed “appears to a replay of Saturday’s massacre”. On Saturday, the UPDS killers had descended on two villages of Langparpan and Telohal. Last night too, the unknown killers chose their prey from the two villages.

The killers surrounded Rangkori and Diklame villages, north of river Kopili and dragged out the sleeping villagers. While six of them died on the spot, a 25-year-old woman was admitted to the Hojai civil hospital with serious injuries.

Refusing to comment on whether last night’s massacre was retaliatory in nature, director-general of police P.V. Sumant said, “Investigation is on. Our men are on the spot.” However, the police chief confirmed that four of the victims had “links” with the UPDS.

The DGP accompanied chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and senior bureaucrats to the site of Saturday’s massacre yesterday. “We tried to speak to the people but they were not forthcoming,” Sumant said.

Those killed in Rongkori village under Bathalangsu police station have been identified as Basa Kro, Liza Derapi, Haru Signor and Amphu Kramsapi. The victims from Diklame village under Kheroni police station include 60-year-old Hemari Topi and 18-year-old Ranjit Topi. Sumant said all the victims were sugarcane cultivators.

In a separate incident, two National Democratic Front of Boroland rebels were killed in Sonitpur district today. NDFB “lance corporal” Ita Daimary was killed in an encounter at Santpur village near Batasipur while another militant, Piel was gunned down by security forces.

In Manipur’s Churachandpur district, nearly 40 militants attacked a CRPF team, which was patrolling the hills on foot. The rebels snatched two rifles from the jawans after a 30-minute shootout.

Police sources suspected that some of the rebels were injured as there were bloodstains at the site. However, a PLA spokesman said none of their militants were injured. A CRPF platoon comprising 35 jawans led by sub-inspector Marwal Khujur were on patrolling duty at Lamdam this morning when the ambush took place, nearly 2 km from the outpost. All the four jawans, including platoon commander sub-inspector Marwal Khujur, were killed on the spot. Three others were identified as Arun Kumar, Mukesh Kumar and Ranga Lal (all constables).

Injured CRPF constable Mool Singh was evacuated to the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences hospital at Imphal. The victims were from the 112 battalion of the CRPF. Official sources here said the militants were camping in the area since last night but their presence was undetected as the nearest village was 2 km away.    

Imphal, July 18 
Manipur chief minister W. Nipamacha Singh today said his government has ordered another survey of the proposed Tipaimukh dam to determine its height. A final decision would be taken only after studying the final survey report, he told the Assembly.

Earlier, raising the issue, former chief minister Rishang Keishing of the Congress said he wanted to know the government’s stand on the power project. The government had earlier opposed the dam on the ground that it would submerge large areas of the state.

The chief minister said North Eastern Electric Power Corporation has been entrusted with the survey of the Tipaimukh project. Government officials are also involved in the survey, he added. “If the dam is going to cause more damage, we will not allow the construction. If the gains are more than losses, we will go ahead,” Singh said.

On the demand of Neepco to provide security protection during its survey work, the chief minister said the Centre should shoulder this responsibility.

Replying to Keishing’s question, power minister Govindas Konthoujam told the Assembly that initially the Brahmaputra River Board was entrusted with the survey work. He said the Brahmaputra board’s report had proposed the dam’s height at 162. 79 metres. A dam of such a height would submerge large areas in Manipur and Mizoram.

Subsequently, the Neepco had been entrusted to resurvey the project, he said.

The state Assembly had earlier in 1997 opposed the construction of the dam. However, the House reviewed its decision last year but only agreed to another survey of the project.

Govindas Konthoujam said the government has asked Neepco to lower the dam’s height. He said the government is not opposed to the Tipaimukh project provided it did not affect large parts of the state.

The power minister said 12 per cent of the total 1,500 MW power to be generated by the project will be given free of cost to Manipur and Mizoram.

The power minister had said the government was officially involved in the construction of the proposed Tipaimukh dam. But the chief minister said his government can only agree to its construction after studying the Neepco’s survey report.

Nipamacha Singh said the previous survey by the Brahmaputra Board had indicated that National Highway 53 (Imphal-Silchar road) would be submerged.    

Dhanbad, July 18 
Union minister of state for health and family welfare and Dhanbad MP Rita Verma today demanded adequate distribution of water to Bihar from the Damodar Valley Corporation. She also threatened to launch an agitation over the issue.

Verma spoke to newsmen today at the Jagjivan Nagar guest house of Bharat Coking Coal Limited soon after her arrival here from Durban, where she attended the world AIDS conference. Verma was of the opinion that injustice had been meted out to Bihar for the past 52 years over the issue of distribution of water.

“When the Damodar Valley Corporation project was conceived it was decided that of the total 34,000 cusecs of water in the reservoir, 30,000 cusecs would be given to West Bengal and the rest to Bihar,” Verma said.

She claimed that no government in Bihar had ever taken up the issue and that both chief minister Rabri Devi and her husband Laloo Prasad Yadav were not concerned about the issue at all.

She urged the government to put pressure on the DVC management for more water. “There should be rational distribution of water and the government should negotiate the matter with the West Bengal government and the DVC authorities,” she said.

She said large areas in south Bihar were reeling under one of the worst water crises, adding that availability of water from the DVC could ease the problem to a considerable extent.

Calling for public protests on the issue, Verma said if the need arose she would even resign from the Union ministry to lead the agitation.

“When I had raised the issue in Parliament, no MP from the Rashtriya Janata Dal had supported the matter,” she said. Verma added that the Union rural development ministry has allotted Rs 40 crore for providing drinking water facilities in Dhanbad, generating new water resources in the coal belt and constructing new water reservoirs.

Apart from this project, at least 91 villages in Giridih and Dhanbad districts will be supplied drinking water.

Referring to the incomplete Rs 40-crore Telpul dam project on the West Bengal-Bihar border, which was shelved a couple of years back, Verma squarely blamed the Left Front for it. In 1997, when the project was kept in cold storage, the United Front government was in power at the Centre and the Left Front was supporting it.

She said the trouble with the project began when undeserving candidates were given jobs instead of displaced persons. The local Dhanbad MLA and the Dhanbad district magistrate had allegedly prepared a forged list of 37 displaced persons who were given jobs by the DVC management. The matter went to the High Court, which directed the district magistrate to prepare a fresh list of those “genuinely displaced” while 37 persons were removed from service.

These 37 employees, who had got their jobs allegedly on the basis of forged documents, later launched an agitation which was supported by the Left Front. The project was finally shelved.

She criticised CPM member of Parliament from West Bengal, Basudev Acharya, alleging that he was “insisting that those who forged the documents should be reinstated.”    


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