No new street pandals: Mayor
Ceasework at rail yard hits wholesale markets
Port police fumble as phones go dead
Bomb hoax at airport
Tripura rebels kill 8 hostages
Manipur reels under floods
Dhindsa denies bias in Kunjarani exclusion

Calcutta, Sept. 2: 
The Calcutta Municipal Corporation may have failed to stop large Puja pandals, led by the mayor’s very own Ekdalia Evergreen, from blocking roads and stopping traffic. But the civic authorities have decided not to issue any “fresh permission” to Durga Puja organisers wanting to construct “pandals encroaching on roads”.

Subrata Mukherjee said on Saturday that three organisers from central and south Calcutta had already been denied Permission.

“Puja pandals are mushrooming on city streets and that is why we are determined to put an end to this menace,” declared the mayor.

But what about the large pandals, including Ekdalia Evergreen? “Those who were in power in the CMC for the past 15 years and who do not even believe in pujas, allowed the organisers to construct massive pandals. So, why can’t I allow these organisers to build such pandals for the next 10 years?” he demanded.

Every year, Ekdalia Evergreen, “the mayor’s club”, erects a path-stopping pandal at Gariahat. This time, too, work on the 3,600 sq. ft structure has started a good six weeks before the Pujas, inconveniencing residents and disrupting traffic.

“I have been seeing the pandal this size from my childhood. I cannot change a 57-year tradition,” said Mukherjee. “While people may be facing some problems for the ongoing construction, during the days of the Puja everyone will flock to see the pandal,” he added.

The mayor made it clear that all he could do was to put a stop to “new” pandals, not clamp down on existing ones. “I cannot possibly ask the organisers to reduce the size of their makeshift pandals,” said Mukherjee.

School resumes bus service: South Point School will resume bus services for students on a temporary basis on Monday. However, the school will not follow the police’s instruction to park the buses on the premises, a senior official said. “An ad hoc arrangement has been made to park the buses on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass,” he said. The school had suspended bus services for its junior section last week following police restrictions on parking.    

Calcutta, Sept. 2: 
Workers at Shalimar railway yard have declared an “indefinite ceasework” to protest the death of a labourer who was run over by a truck on Friday.

The ceasework in the largest railway yard of the region is expected to take its toll on the wholesale markets in the city and elsewhere in the districts.

Wholesalers said thousands of tonnes of perishable food items, including onions, jaggery, pulses, mustard seeds, have not reached the retail markets since Friday morning.

The labourers have also been refusing to load trucks which head for the Posta and Burrabazar wholesale markets.

Sharad Gupta, an importer of perishable food items at Burrabazar, said: “The wholesale foodstuff markets in Calcutta and Howrah are fully dependant on the supplies via the railway yard. The retail markets will be hit hard if the ceasework continues.”

Anil Mahato was crushed under a truck on Friday morning. According to eyewitnesses, Anil slipped and fell while ‘loading’ a truck. The driver failed to notice this while reversing the vehicle and ran over the 32-year-old man. The vehicle was later impounded by the railway police.

“We are not going to resume work unless the trucks, which are illegally parked inside the yard, are removed,” said Santosh Singh, one of labourers.

Sultan Singh, IG, Railway Protection Force of South-Eastern Railway, added that the agitating loaders were demanding a compensation of Rs 3 lakh for the victim.    

Calcutta, Sept. 2: 
The telephones at seven police stations in the port division went ‘dead’ on Saturday morning.

The police said despite repeated complaints to the telephone authorities, the phones remained out of order till late evening. According to officers at Lalbazar, the communication breakdown cost local residents dear, with the police unable to respond to five incidents of petty crime in the area.

“The criminals went scot-free as the local people could not inform us over telephone,’’ confirmed an officer at Garden Reach police station. Enquiries with the telephone authorities revealed that a major cable fault had occurred in the area. “The engineers have detected the fault and started repair work. But it will take some time for the situation to normalise,’’ a senior official at the Alipore telephone exchange said.

Custody death: Sanjay Shau, who died in Presidency Jail hospital on Friday was in jail custody for the past 61 days, the police clarified on Saturday. Five criminals, including Shau, had been arrested from Puddapukur on June 17 and a large cache of arms and ammunitions were recovered from them. Shau is said to have been suffering from malaria. Inspector general of prisons Balkar Singh is probing Shau’s death.    

Calcutta, Sept. 2: 
A third anonymous call in the space of 36 hours sent security agencies and bomb squad personnel at Netaji Subhas Airport scurrying on another elusive hunt for explosives on Saturday.

Around 12.30 pm, a man called up the offices of the Airports Authority of India and said that a powerful bomb planted at the airport would explode soon. As on the previous two occasions on Thursday night and Friday noon, the search yielded nothing.

Debate: A debate on “Political parties are responsible for the harassment of journalists”, organised by North 24-Parganas press bureau at Madhyamgram on Saturday, sparked heated exchanges between leaders of various parties.    

Agartala, Sept. 2: 
The Borok National Council of Tripura militants gunned down eight non-tribal hostages on Wednesday in their hideout in Taraboncherra in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh.

The news of the cold-blooded massacre of the Bengali fishermen and labourers reached Gandacherra sub-division yesterday. All the victims, abducted in June this year, were buried in the thick jungles near the camp of the newly-formed outfit. Four fishermen — Priyalal Debnath, Kshitish Debnath, Parimal Sarkar and Lalit Debnath — were abducted by the Borok activists from Dumbur lake in Gandacherra sub-division in the first week of June.

The same week, the rebels kidnapped four Bengali labourers — Shital Saha, Narayan Das, Narendra Sarkar and Nikhil Chakraborty — from Ratan Nagar village in the same sub-division.

The rebels demanded “huge ransom money” from the relatives. When the families failed to pay up, the rebels lined up all the eight captives in an open space near their hideout and opened fire on Wednesday morning, the sources added.

Though seven captives died on the spot, fishermen Priyalal Debnath miraculously escaped. He managed to run across the Indo-Bangla border and sought shelter in the house of local CPM leader Shisha Chakma in Pancharatan village. However, he betrayed Debnath and handed him to the Borok rebels on Thursday. Debnath was gunned down and buried in the jhum field of Kalabaji Chakma. On being informed of the incident, Gandacherra police arrested Shisha Chakma.    

Imphal, Sept. 2: 
Heavy rains during the past two days have triggered severe floods in Thoubal district. Five rivers in the district have breached their banks since yesterday, inundating a large number of villages and damaging standing crop.

Sources in the state irrigation and flood control department said all the major rivers in Manipur valley were flowing above the danger level. The Iril, Imphal and Nambal rivers have crossed the danger mark, an official said.

The Sekmai, Arong, Thoubal, Manipur and Wangjing rivers in Thoubal district have overflowed. The rivers have breached their banks in at least 15 places in Thoubal district. Flood control offices are working on a war footing to tackle the problem.

Official sources said nearly 20 villages have been inundated by flood waters in the district. Over 7,000 houses have been affected by floods in the district and 10,000 hectares of paddy fields inundated in Thoubal district. The offices of the Thoubal district deputy commissioner and superintendent of police and the Thoubal police station are now under water. This is hampering relief work. National Highway 39 has been flooded at Khangabok.

Flood control officials are distributing gunny bags and bamboo matting to individuals, local clubs and gram panchayats. The state government has opened flood control offices in all the valley districts. However, even the flood control room at Thoubal has been flooded.

The state government has started distributing relief materials and food items to affected villagers. Most of the villagers in the district have been evacuated to safer places. The floods have caused damage worth crores of rupees. However, there was no report of any casualty till this evening.

In Imphal district, the Kongba river has overflowed in many places. Flood waters have entered residential areas of Imphal East district.

Flood control officials told The Telegraph that the water level of three major rivers — the Iril, Imphal and Nambul — were receding from this afternoon. They hoped the situation will come under control if there was no fresh downpour in the next few days.    

Imphal, Sept. 2: 
Union sports minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa ruled out favouritism and bias in the exclusion of veteran Manipuri weightlifter N. Kunjarani Devi from the Indian Olympic squad for Sydney.

Dhindsa told mediapersons here today that the international weightlifting federation has given India only two berths in the Olympic women’s weightlifting event.

“The selectors could choose only two among the best. Going by the recent records, they found Karnam Malleshwari and Sanamacha Chanu better medal prospects,” he added.

Dhindsa, who was here to inaugurate the North East Sports Academy at the sprawling Khuman Lampak Sports Complex, said the 12-member selection committee, comprising coaches, officials of the Indian weightlifing federation and Sports Authority of India, had minutely studied the performance of the three women lifters.

The sports minister said he even tried for a wild card entry for Kunjarani, chosen among the top 10 weightlifters of the century by The Weightlifting Magazine. “But India is not eligible for a wild card entry,” he added.

Dhindsa has asked the Weightlifting Federation of India to submit a report to the sports ministry on the selection procedure.

He found no favouritism or bias in the selection. Union minister of state for food processing Thounaojam Chaoba Singh, who held the sports portfolio for a short stint, said the Indian coach had ranked CRPF inspector Kunjarani above current India No 1 Malleshwari.

“It was a personal opinion of the coach,” he added, justifying the selection committee.

Dhindsa said 65 sportspersons will represent the country in the Sydney Games. On the prospects of Indian players, the minister said, “We hope our players will do better than in the last Olympics.”

Many people were disappointed by the exclusion of Kunjarani, a household name in Manipur. The Manipur Students’ Federation has alleged favouritism in the selection procedure. Boycotting the visit of the sports minister, the students’ body said Manipuri sportspersons were discriminated by the central authorities despite their good performances.

Praising the Manipur government for its efforts to develop sports in the region, Dhindsa said Rs 1 crore has been sanctioned for the new academy in the current fiscal.

Four other Special Areas Games centres will soon be opened in the Northeast, he added.    


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