Rampaging river roars in on crest of high tide
Tug-of-war over disaster tag
Tax raids on Bollywood biggies
Roti, kapda, makan and bandwidth
Palace on Wheels, desi & dry
Calcutta weather

Calcutta, Sept. 26: 
Water from a swollen Hooghly crept up on a sleeping Calcutta just before midnight last night. By midday, areas adjacent to the two canals, Tolly’s Nullah and Bagjola, were in at least knee-deep water, which stood menacingly stagnant waiting for the high tide rumbling in at midnight.

Water flowing from the Hooghly into the canals broke through the sandbag barriers put up yesterday, the lockgates in its way failing to protect the city, having fallen into disuse.

Whipped into action by fears of widespread flooding over the next 72 hours, the government launched one of the largest disaster management and evacuation programmes in the city since 1978.

Behind the fear was the possibility of sporadic but heavy rain combining with a string of high tides, slated to get under way tonight, over the next three days. “We in Calcutta will be in real trouble if the combination becomes real,” said deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya.

The weather office said the high tides will start at 12.15 am on Wednesday, reaching a maximum height of 6.4 metres on Thursday and Friday. R.N. Goldar, director of the Alipore Met office, said bhara kotal, or high tide, a regular phenomenon at this time of the year, will have a greater impact since the Hooghly is already in spate.

“The downward movement of water from flood-stricken Nadia and other districts is going to power the river’s backward assault on the city,” Goldar said.

The high tide will peak around 3 am on Wednesday, when the water level in the Hooghly is expected to cross 18 feet above sea level, putting in danger of flooding areas on the Calcutta and Howrah sides of the river bank. The tide is expected to begin to lose its punch around 6.35 am.

Riverside police stations were asked to draw up area-specific contingency plans for flooding and evacuation.

At 11.55 am today, breaching a bulwark of sandbags that had been put in place to repair the lockgate at Chitpur, river water started to engulf one neighbourhood after another across north Calcutta. Chitpur, Cossipore, Baranagore, Nimtolla, Sovabazar, Ahiritolla, Bagbazar and Posta were awash in its inexorable march.

Down south, Behala, New Alipore, Tollygunge, Kalighat, Chetla, Rashbehari, Garia, Bansdroni and Tiljala were flooded when Tolly’s Nullah overflowed. Water flowed in through the race course lockgate, too.

Heavy rain in the afternoon fed the accumulation of water in areas where underground sewers were already full with water from the Hooghly.

By afternoon, the administration was grappling with the daunting task of shifting nearly 25,000 men, women and children, all settlers along Chitpur, Keshtopur and Bagjola canals and Tolly’s Nullah, to safer places.

Local municipal officials, people’s representatives, policemen and political activists went around the vulnerable areas, appealing to settlers over public address systems to move out.

By evening, a large section of settlers had been evacuated. But many decided to stay put, lulled into a false sense of safety as the water level began to recede after the onset of low tide at 6.05 pm.

At Chitpur, Bagbazar, Behala and a few other areas, the water level had dropped by about a foot.

The administration pressed ahead with its contingency plans, aware that the respite was to be shortlived.

The high tide might not only cause fresh flooding in these areas but roll into contiguous regions, said municipal commissioner Debashis Som.

The Salt Lake administration has been alerted to the threat of inundation from Keshtopur canal. Similar warnings have been given to residents of Dum Dum, Baguiati, Lake Town and Nagerbazar, for whom danger lurks in the overflowing of Bagjola canal.

The government also cautioned those planning to perform tarpan in the Hooghly on Mahalaya on Wednesday.

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The Calcutta Municipal Corporation, CMDA, Central Municipal Water and Sanitation Authority, irrigation department, Calcutta Police and power utilities have asked their employees to be available for round-the-clock duty and recalled those on leave.    

Calcutta, Sept. 26: 
The CPM-led government today demanded that the Centre should immediately declare the floods in Bengal a “national disaster”, but Mamata Banerjee sowed the seeds of a fresh controversy by saying it is “immaterial” how a calamity is described.

As the toll galloped past 500, the Left Front requested all parties to come together “for carrying out relief operations rising above petty politics”.

“All political parties should stand by the distressed people cutting across party lines,” Front chairman Sailen Dasgupta said.

The situation improved marginally in Murshidabad, Birbhum and Burdwan but Nadia remained submerged. Vast areas of North 24-Parganas, including Bagda, Bongaon and Gaighata, were inundated afresh during the day.

Chief minister Jyoti Basu, who met his deputy Buddhadev Bhattacharya and finance minister Asim Dasgupta to review the situation, said a preliminary report had been sent to the Centre on the damage caused so far.

Basu later told reporters that he had urged Delhi to send a team of experts for an aerial survey. “We want them (the Central team) to come right now... Unless they carry out the survey at this time, they will be unable to assess the intensity of the damage,” he said.

Dasgupta said the damage has so far been estimated at Rs 3,089 crore. Altogether 144 blocks and 37 municipalities across nine districts have been inundated, affecting 1.71 crore people.

“The situation certainly deserves to be declared a national disaster. We have asked for Rs 962 crore from the Centre,” the finance minister added.

Asked whether she supported the state’s demand, Mamata said: “It is immaterial how a calamity is defined in words. The most important thing is to stand by the affected people.”

The Trinamul leader said Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had assured her that Bengal would receive relief from the Centre as Orissa had after last year’s killer cyclone.

However, her party colleague Pankaj Banerjee had, earlier in the day, agreed with the Left call. “Vast tracts have been inundated and it is necessary for the Centre to declare the flood a national calamity. At the same time, we condemn the state government’s failure to take any long-term measures to prevent floods. They have become a yearly ritual,” Banerjee said.

The government found support from the Congress which backed its demand that the floods be treated as a disaster.

“I have assured Basu of the Congress’ support if the issue is raised in Parliament,” state Congress president Pranab Mukherjee said.

Sonia Gandhi will make an aerial survey on Thursday. “The government will provide a helicopter to the state Congress on rent basis,” Bhattacharya said.    

Mumbai, Sept. 26: 
A constellation of Bollywood’s hottest stars and directors today woke up to the knock of taxmen as a string of raids rolled through their premises.

The raided houses and flats included that of stars Aishwarya Rai, Salman Khan, Rani Mukherjee, Urmila Matondkar, Amrish Puri and directors Yash Chopra, Yash Johar and Karan Johar.

An undisclosed amount of cash and jewellery were seized from some premises, income-tax officials said. Another official said 15 lockers were sealed.

Accompanied by 60 armed policemen, 150 tax officials raided the houses and flats in the suburbs of Versova, Bandra and Santacruz. Contacted late this evening, Rani Mukherjee said she was not in a position to make any comment because the raid on her Versova home was still on.

Officially, the tax sleuths were tight-lipped about any seizure in the raids that were going on till late this evening. Documents related to fixed deposits and investment in prime properties were also found.

Union minister of state for finance Dhananjay Kumar, who is here on a visit, is expected to make an announcement tomorrow.

Inspector-general (investigation) P.K. Sarma said in a statement that 33 premises of people involved with the film industry were raided.

The officials also searched the houses of a leading raw film manufacturer and a chartered accountant with a wide clientele in Bollywood.

From one of the stars’ house, the officials reportedly seized documents which indicated huge payments received for performances abroad.

Similar raids had been carried out by the income-tax department four years ago.

The premises of around film personalities were then raided and cash and documents seized.    

New Delhi, Sept. 26: 
India’s cyberkids may soon coin a new slogan: roti, kapda, makan, bijli aur bandwidth.

Nasscom president Dewang Mehta set the tone for a three-day India Internet World 2000 (IIW 2000), kicking off tomorrow, by setting his priorities right for the largest gathering of netizens in the country.

IIW 2000 begins tomorrow against the backdrop of the strike by telecom workers that showed convergence of policy and reality does not occur at the click of the mouse.

However, Mehta estimates there would be about 120 million Internet users in India by 2008 from about 4.8 million users as of now.

“While the growth in Internet would happen, the bad news is that the Net is still not being used by women and whatever growth has been there is very slow. There is no increase in their usage,” said Mehta.

Pradeep Kar, Microland chairman, said: “It is important that ways are explored to use Internet purely for solving social issues.” The three-day exhibition-cum conference is meant to provide directions to a “mature Internet economy”.

It will provide technology concepts, perspectives on trends and new developments into emerging business models.

Karnataka chief minister S.M. Krishna is billed to deliver the inaugural address while John Scully of Scully Brothers, Alex Lightman, co-founder of Charmed Technology and Anand Sudarshan of Planetasia.com are expected to be present.

and Lawrence Lessig of Harvard Law School are expected to be present.

“India Internet World is more than just Asia’s largest Internet conference and exhibition. It serves not only as a meeting ground for Internet visionaries and key players, but also acts as a catalyst in breeding ideas and innovations while crystallising the mandate of the industry for the future,” said Kar.    

New Delhi, Sept. 26: 
If foreign tourists have a Palace on Wheels, the poor man will have four.

Encouraged by the success of the “five-star” train which runs in Rajasthan, the railways are planning to launch four new Palaces on Wheels for the average Indian.

But while the common man’s spirits may soar to know that he will have to pay considerably less than the $350 (approximately Rs 18,000) charged per person per night on the original train-palace, the fact that the people’s trains will have no bar, only a cafetaria, may have a sobering effect.

The new trains will run on routes with “tremendous” tourist potential. Delhi-Jaipur-Ajmer, Delhi-Agra-Jhansi-Gwalior-Bhopal, Delhi-Chandigarh-Kalka-Shimla and Delhi-Goa-Trivandrum are some of the routes under consideration, minister of state for railways O. Rajagopal said.

The original Palace on Wheels is run by the railways and the Rajasthan government.

Chandrababu Naidu wants one of the new Palaces for Andhra Pradesh and is ready to enter into a joint venture with the railways on the lines of Rajasthan. Naidu discussed the matter with minister of railways Mamata Banerjee, who was in Hyderabad yesterday.

The railways are also planning to build 100 “budget hotels” for middle-income tourists across the country. The ministry will rope in the Railway Catering and Tourism Development Corporation (IRCTDC) for the hotels. The railways will provide unused land for construction of the hotels.

Rajagopal said the proposal was discussed at the meeting of railway general managers here today. Mamata could not attend the meeting as she had to rush to West Bengal due to the floods.

The Palace on Wheels has been a tremendous success. Even though it runs only for three months a year during the tourist season, it is making huge profits.

Tourists, especially foreigners, are ecstatic. Apart from being treated like royalty on board, they also like the fact that the train runs during night and daytime can be used for sight-seeing.

Rajagopal said the railways are not just a vehicle for ferrying commuters, but can also be used for promoting tourism.

He said the panoramic hills along the Delhi-Chandigarh-Kalka-Shimla route and the scenic beauty of the Delhi-Goa-Trivnadrum routes could be used to draw more tourists. He added that Delhi-Jaipur-Ajmer and Delhi-Agra-Jhansi-Gwalior-Bhopal sectors are replete with magnificent, historic monuments. The new Konkan route has already become popular with Indian and foreign tourists, the minister said.

The ministry intends to collaborate with the tourism departments of various states. Kerala, with its expanse of backwaters and wildlife sanctuaries, has shown interest in a joint collaboration with railways. State tourism minister Chandrashekharan Nair discussed the matter with the minister of state for railways recently.

Rajagopal said railway facilities are going to online in metros.    



Maximum: 34.1°C
Minimum: 26.2°C


9.9 mm

Relative humidity

Maximum: 95%,
Minimum: 66%


Possibility of light rain accompanied by thunder in parts of Calcutta and its suburbs    

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