Pumps down shutters in drive for pure fuel
Pro-mahajot Congmen to skip Pranab meet
Trinamul seeks extra cover for Mamata
Green body website names polluting units
Brakes dug in on errant drivers
‘Target’ villagers want rifle range shifted
Gherao over murder arrest
Building stuff swoop nets 85
Manipur BJP waits in wings for role in govt
Eunuch wows Tripura withplay on life

 
 
PUMPS DOWN SHUTTERS IN DRIVE FOR PURE FUEL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta,Aug.19 
All pumps in the state will stop purchase and sale of petrol, diesel and other products for an indefinite period from Sunday midnight, in response to a call by the West Bengal Petroleum Dealers’ Association.

The association has placed a nine-point charter of demands before the four major oil companies that supply petroleum products to the retail outlets. Among the demands are steps to prevent adulteration and a hike in commission.

The companies have requested their respective retail outlets not to stop sales. “We shall monitor the situation on Monday and take measures,” said a spokesman for the companies’ state-level coordinator.

The immediate demand, that of ensuring supplies in correct quantity and quality, stems from the detection of adulterated diesel at the CSTC depot in Belghoria last Wednesday. The diesel was detected mixed with kerosene after some buses filled with the adulterated fuel developed engine trouble and stopped running. On May 30 this year, diesel for Fire Brigade vehicles was found replaced with water.

Both incidents, however, took place after the tankers had left their loading point at Mourigram. Senior officials of IOC, which supplies diesel to the CSTC depot, investigated the complaint and found that the kerosene mixed with the fuel was white. IOC deals only with blue-dyed kerosene, so that it can differentiate with the white variety imported by various organisations.

Officials of IOC said the tanker that delivered the fuel to the Belghoria depot was loaded at a bay in Mourigram that is reserved solely for loading of high-speed diesel. “There is no question of kerosene entering the tanker at that point,” the officials said.

Sources said CSTC personnel had not carried out a check of the density of the fuel before decanting it from the tanker, as is the procedure. The density must match the level mentioned in the challan once the fuel reaches its destination.

But the petroleum dealers’ association, seeking foolproof steps against adulteration, has demanded that decanting at retail outlets take place by day and in the presence of oil company officials. It has also demanded that the underground tanks at petrol pumps be sealed by company officials after the fuel is offloaded. In addition, it has sought reimbursement of a part of the hike in electricity charges and municipal taxes, as well as a dealers’ commission of 5 per cent on an ad valorem basis.

All 1,400 pumps in the state, including 250 in Calcutta, will stop sale of products from the midnight of August 20 in a bid to get the oil companies meet these demands, said Kalyan Bhadra, president of the association.    


 
 
PRO-MAHAJOT CONGMEN TO SKIP PRANAB MEET 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta,Aug.19 
Congress Working Committee member Pranab Mukherjee, tipped to replace PCC chief A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury, will meet state Congress leaders and MLAs on Sunday, but pro-mahajot party functionaries will skip the meeting.

Mukherjee’s move is seen as an attempt to familiarise himself with the party affairs before resuming as chief for the second time. Mukherjee was appointed PCC chief in 1985 but resigned due to reverses in the civic elections the same year.

Congress working president Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, in the city on a day’s visit, confirmed that a change of guard was likely by the end of the month. Asked if Mukherjee would replace Khan Chowdhury, he said: “Let’s wait for a few more days.”

Congress president Sonia Gandhi has convened a meeting on Monday to discuss organisational affairs, including the selection of new state unit chief, he said. “Mukherjee and Ghani Khan Chowdhury and I will attend the meeting,” Das Munshi added.

He averred that he was not willing to head the party in Bengal. “My detractors are working overtime to instal me as PCC chief, but I have already declined the offer,” Das Munshi added.

Reacting to a possible exodus of party MLAs and councillors into Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress, Das Munshi said it was but inevitable, considering“our organisational lapses.”

Meanwhile, state Congress leaders said on Saturday that a large section of party functionaries would boycott Mukherjee’s meeting on Sunday as they were opposed to his being installed as PCC chief.

Mukherjee is, however, scheduled to meet the leaders in batches before attending the birth anniversary programme of Rajiv Gandhi on Sunday. He will also attend a function of Congress workers at a theatre in north Calcutta.

In another development, at least a dozen party MLAs and five councillors appear all set to cross over to Trinamul by early next month. The Congress MLA from Taltala, Sultan Ahmed, also an influential minority leader, is said to have spearheaded the move.

Ahmed, once a close associate of former PCC chief Somen Mitra, said during the day that he had already made up his mind to join Mamata’s camp. “I am fed up with the present state of affairs in the state Congress. At this juncture, we are left with no option but to switch over to Trinamul, which can alone fight the ruling CPM here,” he observed.

Another batch of Congress MLAs, like Abdul Mannan, Shankar Singh and Paresh Pal, are planning to float a platform before aligning with Mamata.    


 
 
TRINAMUL SEEKS EXTRA COVER FOR MAMATA 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta,Aug.19 
State Trinamul Congress leaders have moved the Centre for “greater security cover” for party leader Mamata Banerjee during her “mass contact” programme in the districts next month.

Mamata has decided to go on an intensive “mass contact” in the state in September, after the monsoon session of Parliament ends, as part of her pre-Assembly election campaign.

Trinamul leaders fear stray attacks on her, in view of the “poor security arrangements provided by the state government and the CPM cadre’s belligerent mood.”

Trinamul general secretary Mukul Roy faxed a message to Union home secretary Kamal Pande, drawing his attention to the need for tightening security arrangements for Mamata, in view of the growing political tension in the state.

“Both chief minister Jyoti Basu and Mamata Banerjee are supposed to be given Z-category security. While Basu is getting the cover, our leader is not and appears vulnerable to stray attacks,” Roy said.

Mamata, in a recent interview with a private television channel, talked about possible “attacks by the ruling communists.”

The state CPM, however, has alleged that the Trinamul leader was “misusing power as a Union minister by engaging the Railway Protection Force to oversee her personal security.” The party considers this “an interference with the state government’s internal matters and rights.”

Notwithstanding the “threats”, Mamata intends to intensify her anti-CPM stir in the coming months. She has decided to visit Khanakul, a trouble-torn area in Hooghly district, on August 26, before leading another mahamichhil (grand procession) in the city on September 3.

A team of Trinamul legislators, including Sadhan Pande, Pankaj Banerjee, Jatu Lahiri, Robin Mukherjee and Dipak Ghosh, will leave for Khanakul on Sunday to pave the way for Mamata’s visit.    


 
 
GREEN BODY WEBSITE NAMES POLLUTING UNITS 
 
 
BY KUNAL SENGUPTA
 
Calcutta,Aug.19 
The state pollution control board (PCB) has taken a leaf out of Central Vigilance Commissioner L.N. Vittal’s book and posted in its website the names of several big industries for violating green norms.

Vittal had earlier this year created a stir by making public the names of senior bureaucrats and police officers against whom he had recommended action. On www.wbpcb.gov.in, launched on June 5 by chief minister Jyoti Basu, the pollution control board has decided to post information on what kind of policing it was up to. “We have seen that repeated press statements on our activities are ignored,” a senior official said.

So, the pollution control board decided to post on the website data on action taken against errant industries for those interested in monitoring their work.

According to pollution control board member-secretary K.S. Ramasubban, the decision to post the names of the offending units in the public domain has the full approval of environment minister Manab Mukherjee.

“We have updated our site four days ago and facts on the latest development are there for all to see,” Ramasubban said. Updates would be more rapid as and when fresh decisions are taken.

The website lists the names of six large industrial units that have been slapped with bank guarantees pending fulfilment of their air and water emission standards. Even government organisations have not been spared. The National Thermal Power Corporation’s (NTPC) Farakka unit, the website says, has been asked to submit a bank guarantee of Rs 20 lakh by the end of August.

Similarly, the West Bengal State Electricity Board’s (WBSEB) Kolaghat thermal power plant has been asked to submit a bank guarantee of Rs 10 lakh.

The pollution control board, in this manner, hauls up errant units by asking them to deposit a particular amount and then rectify their emission standards.

If they fail to achieve emission standards in a particular deadline, the bank guarantee is forfeited and more stringent action is taken.

The website also gives a summary of the action taken throughout the state, starting from March 2000. In July this year, the PCB issued 15 closure orders, suspended six of them and disconnected the power supply of a polluting unit.

The highest number of pollution-related offences were committed in June, when 34 units were asked to be shut down. Only four of them were allowed to resume operations after inspection. The power lines of three units were snapped in June.

Besides the action-taken data, the PCB has posted valuable data on air and water pollution in its website. The air pollution data, which is monitored year-long by the PCB, is available on a monthly basis. Currently the data collected during July has been posted.

A new addition to the site is the air pollution map of Calcutta. The map indicates the good, bad and dangerous levels of air pollution across the length and breadth of Calcutta. The national ambient air quality standards are provided to draw comparisons.

Data on the quality of the water of the Hooghly, monitored along different points on either bank, is another feature available on the PCB’s cyber address.    


 
 
BRAKES DUG IN ON ERRANT DRIVERS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta,Aug.19 
Two days after the accident in which a five-year-old student of Shri Shikshayatan was killed, the police on Saturday launched a crackdown on errant and reckless drivers in and around the city.

On Friday, the police inspected several schools and asked the authorities not to allow school buses to be parked on the compound.

Saturday’s day-long drive by senior traffic officials follows a directive from minister of state for transport Susanta Ghosh to police commissioner D.C.Vajpai, in the wake of Thursday’s incident.

Sources at Writers’ Buildings said the minister held a meeting with transport department officials to take stock of private buses that ferry schoolchildren from home to educational institutions.

“We are firm about punishing reckless drivers to minimise accidents,” said a transport official.

Early on Saturday, the police launched the drive from Shyambazar in the north to Park Circus and Ballygunge in the south. They rounded up nearly 20 schoolbus-drivers for not having licences and other papers with them .

The impounded vehicles have been towed to the police stations.

Deputy commissioner of police K. Harirajan said the drive was carried out to check the driving licences and other papers of private vehicles, particularly school buses. “We have booked a number of drivers for not producing valid licences. This apart, we have impounded a few private cars for illegally ferrying passengers,” he said. A few vehicles had been impounded because the drivers failed to produce fitness certificates.

The police also sent a note to the Public Vehicles Department (PVD), asking it to be more strict while issuing licences. PVD director T.V. Venkatraman said that the procedure of issuing licenses was being made more stringent.

“Drivers are being taken to a n open area for a rigorous test before licences are issued to them,” he said, adding: “We are also carrying out an awareness campaign for drivers.”    


 
 
‘TARGET’ VILLAGERS WANT RIFLE RANGE SHIFTED 
 
 
BY PRONAB MONDAL
 
Calcutta,Aug.19 
Villagers living around Jaffarpur, in North 24 Parganas, have moved the state human rights commission for help in shifting an army firing range, after shooting drills have claimed four deaths in the past four years.

People of four villages — Baliaghata, Mathurapur, Kayrapur and Hansia — have petitioned the state rights body to shift the firing range to a less-populated zone. The rights panel has referred the matter to its parent body in Delhi.

The army drills have claimed four lives and left six people injured. Stray bullets fired by the jawans have also killed a large number of cattle.The army, however, has not paid any compensation for the deaths. In dread, villagers have stopped cultivating fields around the shooting range.

“Agriculture is the only means of our livelihood. But we are afraid of the shooting and have stopped tilling the land,” said Tapan Das, a villager.

“Almost once a month, armymen arrive for shooting practice. Border Security Force (BSF) men, too, use this rifle range quite often. Though we manage to avoid the direct line of fire, we cannot stop our cattle from getting in the way of the flying bullets,” said Naresh Mondal, who has lost three cows in the firing.

The villagers are also upset over the manner in which the army conducts the practice sessions. “We do not get any advance warning about the date and time of practice and, thus, cannot rush out and rescue our cattle,” said Arun Bera, another villager.

The target practice has also robbed a family of its only earning member. “Pagal Mondal, the only earning member of his family, died on April 4, 1992. Bullets pierced him as he went into a nearby paddy field,” said Nilratan Biswas.

Santosh Mondal, a grocery shop-owner, was killed while returning from a nearby market.

The BSF has declined to accept any responsibility for the deaths. “The firing range belongs to the army. We are not involved in having it shifted,” said IG (BSF) S. Ramachandran.

Fort William said it had received the villagers’ appeal. “Efforts are on to locate a suitable zone where we can shift the firing range.”

The Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights(CPDR) supports the villagers. Dayamoy Biswas, CPDR president, said: “We are fighting to save these villagers. They have been drawing the district administration’s notice to the matter for the past few years, but no action has been taken yet.”    


 
 
GHERAO OVER MURDER ARREST 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta,Aug.19 
Nearly 500 members of the Youth Congress and the Young Intuc gheraoed Golabari police station in Howrah for more than three hours from 10 am on Saturday, demanding the immediate release of Youth Congress activist Sheikh Akram.

Akram has been arrested on charges of murdering his brother, Sheikh Rustum.

The protesters, led by local Congress leader Tapan Das, threatened to block Howrah Bridge on Monday if the police did not release Akram within the next 48 hours.

The police said Akram had been arrested personally by additional superintendent of police (north) M. Rajsekharan and the thana was not empowered to free him.

Tapan Das alleged that Rustum had been murdered by CPM cadre after a brawl broke out last Saturday. Rajsekharan was not available for comment.    


 
 
BUILDING STUFF SWOOP NETS 85 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta,Aug.19 
Eighty-five suppliers of building materials were arrested during a massive raid in different areas of south Calcutta on Saturday. Police said 35 cases had been registered against the arrested, who were held on charges of encroaching into roads and pavements to store the material.

Memo to Governor: Jana Unnayan Mancha, a recently-formed body of like-minded and apolitical social workers, will present a memorandum to Governor Viren J. Shah on Monday, expressing concern over the “political turmoil” in the state. It will seek his intervention for a resolution of the matter.    


 
 
MANIPUR BJP WAITS IN WINGS FOR ROLE IN GOVT 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, Aug. 19: 
Accusing the ruling Manipur State Congress Party (MSCP) of betraying the BJP, newly-elected Manipur BJP president Meinam Bhorot Singh today said his party will step in to “fill up the vacuum” if the W. Nipamacha Singh government crumbles due to “internal contradictions”.

Addressing his maiden Press conference, Bhorot Singh said, “The MSCP may not stand together for long”, and added, “The BJP will not attempt to split its ally in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA)”.

Though the MSCP is a constituent of the NDA at the Centre with its MP in the Union ministry, it has severed ties with BJP in the state level. When asked about the MSCP’s repeated invitation to the the BJP to join the Nipamacha Singh-ministry, Bhorot Singh said the offer was “hollow as the MSCP has failed to show a clear picture on the proposal”.

Asked whether the BJP would join a Congress-led government in the event of Nipamacha Singh’s fall, Singh said, “The day MSCP crumbles, the Congress will also automatically split.” The Congress is the second-largest party in the state Assembly.

The state BJP chief denied any differences between BJP’s state unit and central leadership over the continuance of MSCP in the NDA government at the Centre. There is an internal agreement in the BJP regarding the MSCP’s participation in the Union government, but BJP would go separately in the state, Singh added.

Singh said the BJP would accommodate Congress MLAs in case they want to join the BJP, but added that he had not received any feelers.

Bhorot Singh blasted the state government for its failure in handling the state’s acute financial crisis. He also said the government was doing nothing to improve the two national highways of the state.

A delegation of the state BJP unit will be proceeding to Nagpur to attend the party’s national council session during the last week of August, Singh added. The BJP president said he would raise the issue of poor road communication in the state during the session.

Regarding the ceasefire between the Centre and the NSCN(I-M), Singh said the ceasefire zone did not extend upto Manipur.

“The GOC has admitted the mistake of including the word ‘informal ceasefire in Manipur’ in one of their press releases,” he added.    


 
 
EUNUCH WOWS TRIPURA WITHPLAY ON LIFE 
 
 
FROM SEKHAR DATTA
 
Agartala, Aug. 19: 
Maharathi Shikhandi, the eldest Panchala prince in the epic Mahabharat, wanted to avenge his humiliation by Gangaputra Bhishma in his previous birth.

Shikhandi extracted his pound of flesh when Arjun sought shelter behind him on his chariot and rained poisoned arrows on Bhishma Pitamaha. As Shikhandi was born an eunuch, ,i>Bhishma was unable to retaliate because the “combat code’’ forbade armed confrontation with “lesser mortals.’’

Even Arjun had to spend a year as an eunuch called Brihannala in the Birat king’s palace after being cursed by Urvashi, the nymph. Mahabharat abounds in such anecdotes, which shed light on the social ethos.

Though people look upon Shikhandi and Brihannala with awe, eunuchs in reality are victims of social bias. They are treated with contempt because of their “indeterminable” gender.

Dakshini, a cultural organisation in Tripura, has taken up a social rehabilitation programme for the eunuchs in concert with the Union human resource development ministry.

Dakshini chief Pranab Saha has launched a mass contact drive to involve eunuchs in cultural activities. Even though 19 of the 20 eunuchs spurned the proposal, Saha efforts paid off when Nitai Pal alias “Chumki,” an eunuch from Aralia village in southern Agartala evinced interest in the programme.

After training Pal for a month, Saha made Pal stage a solo one-act play on the life of eunuchs at Rabindra Bhawan here today. A group of street urchins and sex workers also put up cultural programmes.

Speaking on his experiment Saha said, “I have obtained a fellowship from the Union human resource ministry for an interaction cultural project involving people living on the social fringe.”

Saha said he has discovered a “wealth of talent among the social dregs and with a little help they can be socially rehabilitated.”

Tripura cut off: Tripura remained cut off with the rest of the country for the last 15 days due to floods in Assam and landslides in Meghalaya, reports PTI. The traffic situation on the national highways worsened following fresh landslides in Meghalaya’s Sonarpur yesterday.    

 

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