Hold patience till polls, says Mamata
Ray parrots ‘lawlessness’ charge
Hoax calls at airport set off bomb drill
Buddha defends cinema ticket control waiver
Headless tech school takes off
Som replaces Barman at civic body helm
Heavy rain, flood alert in Malda
Bright little boy from Blighty
Airline staff want pension hike
Man shot dead in Howrah

 
 
HOLD PATIENCE TILL POLLS, SAYS MAMATA 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, Sept. 2 
Railway minister Mamata Banerjee enthralled her rural supporters yet again by demanding “immediate” Central intervention in the state to restore the rule of law.

“Central intervention is imperative in view of total breakdown of law in the state,” a drenched Mamata said at Khanakul, in Hooghly district, on Friday afternoon.

Taking a dig at the ruling Left Front, Mamata said to date, the Jyoti Basu government had not bothered to convene an all-party meeting on steps to contain political violence in Bengal. “It shows the chief minister is not serious about restoring peace,” she said.

Three weeks after the rain-soaked rally at Chamkaitala, in Midnapore, Mamata’s second major rally in the trouble-torn areas of Bengal was a huge success, with over a lakh people attending.

The packed ground erupted with applause when Mamata said the next Assembly elections would be held under President’s rule. She urged her supporters to “bear with the situation till then.”

Trouble erupted in Khanakul when Trinamul supporters, marching towards the football ground, where the meeting was held, clashed with CPM activists, who reportedly attacked them. At least 16 Trinamul supporters were injured in the melee and three of them were hospitalised in a critical condition.

Supporters of the CPM and its frontal organisations forced traffic off the Arambagh-Khanakul road, preventing many people from reaching the rally site. Fearing trouble, a large number of shopowners downed their shutters.

CPM workers lined large stretches of the road to Khanakul with red flags. At some places, they put up posters describing Mamata as ‘bandit queen’ and asked her to “go back”. Cadre also blocked roads with tree trunks and waved black flags at Mamata.

Describing Mamata as the “next chief minister”, mayor Subrata Mukherjee and party MP Sudip Bandopadhyay warned the administration for “siding with the CPM and not initiating action against those involved in violence.”

In another development, a Trinamul worker, Sheikh Hamroj Ali, was killed, allegedly by CPM activists, at Keshpur, in Midnapore, on Friday. Seven other supporters were shot as CPM cadre attacked some villages, police said.    


 
 
RAY PARROTS ‘LAWLESSNESS’ CHARGE 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Sept. 1 
Former chief minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray on Friday joined forces with Mamata Banerjee, demanding imposition of President’s rule in West Bengal.

Bouncing back to Bengal’s political scene after his year-long hibernation, he said if a full imposition of Article 356 is not possible, the Centre should strip the state government of the power to handle law and order, as per constitutional provisions.

Ray met Governor Viren J. Shah at Raj Bhavan during the day to submit a memorandum to him. He later told reporters at his residence that there was “total lawlessness” in Bengal and called for a mass movement against the CPM under Mamata’s leadership. “The movement should be like the one held against the British in 1942,” he added.

Ray’s move is being viewed in political circles as his gameplan to contest the Assembly elections early next year. However, Ray himself said he had no political ambition. “I don’t want to even contest the elections,” he added.

In his memorandum, Ray spoke of a “complete breakdown” in law and order in Midnapore, Birbhum, Bankura, Burdwan and Hooghly districts.

By mentioning the districts, Ray echoed Mamata who, a few days ago, demanded that these five districts be declared “disturbed.”

Advocating Mamata’s leadership, Ray said he had spoken to several people who, too, had expressed their willingness to accept Mamata as their leader.

“I think even PCC chief Pranab Mukherjee would not object to the idea,” he added.

Ray, who quit political centrestage after losing the Calcutta North West Lok Sabha seat in October last year, met Mukherjee, vice-president Saugata Roy and former president Somen Mitra over the past two days and discussed the law and order scenario in the state.

He said the situation in Bengal had come to such a pass that differences in political ideologies were no longer important.

“I don’t advocate mahajot. I don’t differentiate who is Congress or who Trinamul. I only know that the anti-CPM votes must be consolidated,” he added.

“The law-enforcement officers are tied to the apron-strings of the CPM government and taking orders from them,” he said in the memorandum to the Governor, adding: “There is, therefore, internal disturbance of the worst kind being brought about by the CPM government itself and its law-enforcement officers.”

The CPM leadership, however, brushed off Ray’s salvo. State CPM secretary Anil Biswas said: “Who is he to make such a claim? Who will listen to him ? Even Congress supporters don’t accept him as a leader.”

Biswas called Ray the key figure behind the Baranagar killings in the early 1970s and the one who established police raj in Bengal. “The people of Bengal rejected him many years ago. They will never accept him as a sincere politician,” he said.    


 
 
HOAX CALLS AT AIRPORT SET OFF BOMB DRILL 
 
 
BY OUR AIRPORT REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Sept. 1 
Two anonymous telephone calls within 12 hours of each other sent security agencies and bomb experts on an explosives hunt at Calcutta airport on Friday.

Both the calls were received by the Airports Authority of India offices at Dum Dum. The first call came in at midnight on Thursday, while the second one was received around noon on Friday.

The callers warned that “bombs made with highly-explosive material had been placed in the airport area and would go off any time.” A thorough search, complete with bomb-detecting equipment, was carried out twice in the airport periphery, especially in and around the terminal buildings and the hangars, an AAI spokesman said. But nothing was found.

The searches, which ultimately turned out to be drills for the bomb squad and other security agencies, did not, however, disrupt flight operations. There was also no need to reimpose a ban on visitors to the terminal building, the spokesman said.

Bangladeshis detained

Seven Bangladeshi nationals were detained at the airport on Friday for travelling without proper documents, airport police said.

The Bangladeshis arrived by a Biman flight on Friday morning and were detected at the passport counter. They were taken away for interrogation and are scheduled to be sent back to Dhaka by the return Biman flight late Friday night, the sources said.

Convict dead: Sanjay Shau, 18, a resident of Girish Mukherjee Road, in Bhowanipore, died in Presidency Jail hospital on Friday. He was convicted under the Explosives Act and for extortion. Trinamul Congressmen staged a sit-in at the jail demanding an immediate probe.    


 
 
BUDDHA DEFENDS CINEMA TICKET CONTROL WAIVER 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Sept. 1 
Deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya, who also holds the information and cultural affairs portfolio, on Friday justified the government’s stand on withdrawing control over cinema ticket prices.

“The cinema-owners have been demanding this relaxation for quite some time now and we have taken the decision after several discussions at various levels. I think the government should not have any control in fixing the prices of tickets. It should be at the sole discretion of the hall-owners,’’ Bhattacharya said at Writers’ Buildings.    


 
 
HEADLESS TECH SCHOOL TAKES OFF 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Sept. 1 
The Indian Institute of Information Technology-Calcutta (IIIT-C), the government’s ambitious tech school with three private partners, was inaugurated on its new rented campus at the Technical Teachers’ Training Institute building, Salt Lake, on Friday.

But the director’s chair remains vacant. S.K. Magon, principal secretary, technical education and training department, told The Telegraph after the inauguration: “We had initially shortlisted six candidates for the director’s post. But later, we decided to extend the scope of search, as we really want to appoint an internationally-renowned IT expert as director. We hope to complete the selection process by the end of this month.”

Magon said the city IIIT, with a hundred students, will “definitely shift” to its own dedicated campus by the end of next year.

“A couple of sites have already been identified in Salt Lake and we hope to finalise a plot within a month, after which a reputed architect will be appointed to design an aesthetically-pleasing campus with state-of-the-art facilities,” he added.

Director of technical education and training, government of West Bengal, R.C. Bhattacharya, is functioning as acting director, while Col Saumitra Ray, CEO, Salt Lake Stadium, has been appointed chief administrative officer.

Inaugurating the institute on the third and fourth floors of the Salt Lake building, minister in charge of technical education Bangsagopal Chowdhury said: “Our only aim is to develop IIIT-C as a centre of excellence. Functioning of the institute will never be affected by bureaucratic red tape.”

Chief secretary Manish Gupta hoped the IIIT graduates would become “perfect ambassadors for West Bengal and India”.

Gupta also congratulated the private partners in the project — Globsyn Technologies, the Institute of Computer Engineers India and the Institute of Engineering and Management — for making the institute happen “four months ahead of schedule”.

The institute has kicked off with a core faculty strength of 20 (mostly from Jadavpur University), two computer labs with 25 computers each, two lecture rooms and a speciality library.

There was a dearth of hostel rooms till Friday, as the institute had to make do with a 52-bed hostel for 78 students. Consequently, some students had to be housed in a dormitory.

“But, we have sorted things out and organised accommodation for 30 others in a nearby hostel,” said the acting director.    


 
 
SOM REPLACES BARMAN AT CIVIC BODY HELM 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Sept. 1 
Debashis Som, an IAS officer of the 1983 batch, took charge on Friday as commissioner of Calcutta Municipal Corporation, replacing Asim Barman.

Som has served as director of cottage and small-scale industries. Prior to that, he had a long stint as secretary in the state electricity board. He is a graduate of Kharagpur IIT.

The Telegraph reported on Thursday that Barman was being shunted out as secretary, state animal resources department.

Soon after assuming office, Som met senior officers of the Corporation and enquired about all pending projects.

He could not call on mayor Subrata Mukherjee, who was away in Khanakul to attend a public rally. However, Som met mayor-in-council members.

Later, he said he would meet members of the press for an official briefing next week.

Transfer ire: Meanwhile, a move by mayor Subrata Mukherjee to transfer 12 employees during the day created serious resentment among CMC employees. They alleged that most of the 12 transfers were made on “flimsy grounds”, leading to “unnecessary harassment.”

“This is nothing but mental harassment. I have been transferred twice in nine days,” said Somnath Sarkar, one of the employees. Sarkar was transferred as personal assistant (PA) to the leader of the Opposition. Barely nine days ago, Sarkar had been transferred as PA to the chairman of accounts committee. Earlier, he was PA to the mayor.

The transfer of another employee, Kanu Gopal Chakraborty, due to retire after three months, also irked the Corporation staff.

Reshuffle suit: In another development, Kanti Ganguly, CPM councillor and leader of the Opposition, said that two of his party’s councillors would move court against the mayor, the municipal commissioner and the state municipal affairs department for the recent move to reshuffle two borough committees. The Corporation decided at Thursday’s monthly meeting that the two boroughs would be restructured by exchanging two wards between borough VII and VIII.

The Congress, however, welcomed the CMC move on restructuring the boroughs. Sailen Dasgupta, leader of the Congress Municipal Party, on Friday joined issue with the Trinamul Congress on this score. “This will help better functioning of the two boroughs,” Dasgupta said.

Pension not paid: Meanwhile, a number of pensioners who have not been paid for months assembled at the CMC head office on Friday to meet the mayor and lodge a complaint. But they had to return disheartened, as Mukherjee was not available.

CMC officials said on Friday that the Corporation would incur additional expenses to the tune of Rs 11 crore to provide pension benefits to 10,800 employees.    


 
 
HEAVY RAIN, FLOOD ALERT IN MALDA 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT IN MALDA
 
Calcutta, Sept. 1 
Incessant rains over the past two days forced the administration to issue a red alert in Malda district on Friday. The continuous rainfall of 150 mm in past two days has also inundated a major portion of Malda town. Roads and premises of the district magistrate’s office and residence have been submerged. Fearing a devastating flood, the administration opened an emergency control room to tackle the situation. According to officials of the irrigation department, relief material has been sent to the affected areas. Already, 833 families have been shifted from Kaliachak-2 area. The Old Malda municipality has asked the district administration to allot Rs 50,000 as relief for 20,000 people. Mrinal Kanti Rano, block development officer of Kaliachak-2, said: “The river at Manutola can breach its banks at any time. We are trying to evacuate 30,000 people from Jagirtola, Alitola and Manutola villages.”    

 
 
BRIGHT LITTLE BOY FROM BLIGHTY 
 
 
BY MADHUMITA BHATTACHARYYA
 
Calcutta, Sept. 1 
He’s been to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen, to 10 Downing Street to tell Tony Blair how to run the country better and now to Raj Bhavan for a rendezvous with the Governor of Bengal.

Though 13-year-old Inderjivan Singh Samra thought all three were “pretty cool”, none was quite as cool as Millennium man Robbie Williams, whom he met briefly in London last year.

On Friday morning, Viren J. Shah met the boy from Newcastle, featured in Children of Britain : Just Like Me, a book sponsored by Unicef that profiles 32 children from different ethnic backgrounds across the United Kingdom. Children... has been chosen as one of the 10 books to be kept in the Millennium Dome.

“Raj Bhavan is nice... I went all around,” said Indy, thrilled with the guided tour, and the Parker he was gifted by the Governor.

But meeting heads of state is nothing new for Indy. He’s met Queen Elizabeth three times and Prime Minister Blair twice.

On his trip to Downing Street with the other chosen children last year, Indy passed on a tip or two to ‘Tony’.

“I said I wanted to see less poverty, better welfare and better schools,” declares Indy. “And I would have said the same thing to the Governor today if he had asked me. All countries basically have the same problems.”

‘Cool’ as the queen and her counsel were, they were not a patch on pop star and Unicef ambassador Robbie Williams, who who penned the forward for the book.

“We talked and I got his autograph, but he couldn’t sing for us because we ran out of time,” recalls Indy.

In the country for two weeks, the boy from Britain’s sure he likes Calcutta “better than Delhi and Mumbai” because “it’s friendly and my grandfather (Hari Singh) lives here”.

Indy’s mother would like him to take a year off to do social work, but he wants to “go to university, specialise in IT and make big bucks”.

The ultimate fantasy of the teenager balancing Tai-chi and tabla, however, is “joining the Indian Army”.    


 
 
AIRLINE STAFF WANT PENSION HIKE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Sept. 1 
Members of the British Airways Pensioners’ Association (India), long seeking “justice” and an enhanced rate of pension from Life Insurance Corporation of India’s (LIC) annuity schemes, called a press conference at International Club on Friday to tell their tale of woe.

“I am a victim of the LIC’s inhumane disregard of facts,” said Bikash Majumdar, who retired as a British Airways (BA) employee in August, 1982. “There is no provision for consideration of the cost of living index in the LIC’s annuity scheme, and consequently, a whole lot of private sector employees are suffering after retirement,” alleged Majumdar.

BA and the LIC had entered into an agreement in the Seventies whereby retiring staff would receive a pension by way of purchase of annuity from LIC. But, the lack of appreciation of the pension amount has left many retired BA staff struggling after superannuation. Thus, many like Ramanand Rai draw such ridiculously low amounts like 67 pence (approximately Rs 52) as pension.

For some category of staff, the pension amounts have remained stagnant for 18 long years. The association has also demanded that all pensioners be treated equally, “irrespective of whether they are public sector or private sector pensioners”.

Association secretary S.N. Banerjee has also sent a letter to Lord Collin Marshall, chairman, British Airways, in London, urging him to arrange for payment of the ex-gratia amount promised to the employees on a regular basis.

Canal order: Calcutta High Court on Friday directed the state government to file a report within a fortnight on the progress of desiltation of Bagjola canal. It also asked the government to clarify whether the canal is being made into a waterway for transporting passengers from Bidhannagar to BBD Bag.    


 
 
MAN SHOT DEAD IN HOWRAH 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Sept. 1 
Uttam Samanta, 35, was shot dead by unknown assailants at Chatterjeehat, in Howrah, on Friday evening. Uttam was co-accused in the murder in April 1999 of Surajit Sanyal, a promoter in Behala.

Uttam’s wife, Kakoli, said three youth called Uttam out of home “on some urgent work”. Uttam was shot twice. The bullets pierced the back of his head.

Surajit Kar Purakayastha, SP, Howrah, said Uttam was a part of a gang of extortionists in Behala. Neighbours said Uttam maintained a low profile and they were not aware of his being involved in any anti-social activity.    

 

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