Govt eyes early-warning gadgets to avert crisis
Pujas cut budget for flood aid
Gunmen mow down youth in Dum Dum
War of words over market makeover
A new home by the Lakes for Kali
21 shifted from Ranaghat jail
Govt gears for Euro-II mode
Class boycott at Shibpur College
Laloo axis bodes ill for Paswan
Manipur CM threatens to quit

Calcutta, Sept 27: 
With fresh city areas inundated by the high tide in the Hooghly, the civic authorities and the state government announced on Wednesday a rash of measures to prevent the recurrence of a similar crisis.

“The past seven days have taught us a lesson,” said Debashis Som, Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s (CMC) new commissioner. He said a strategy would be worked out for an early warning system as well as prevention of waterlogging.

The CMC has decided to collaborate with the Alipore weather office to increase the number of meteorological stations in the city

With only a couple of stations for measuring rainfall, the CMC lacks a proper database to tackle waterlogging. Presently, rainfall is measured at Dum Dum and Alipore. The rainfall in the rest of the city goes largely unrecorded. “We need more data, so that our efficiency level increases,” Som said.

“We need to know how much rainfall causes what magnitude of waterlogging, instead of tackling the situation as it comes,” the commissioner said.

l The CMC will provide space to set up three more weather monitoring stations. They will come up at Ultadanga, Hrishikesh Park and Raja Subodh Mullick Square

“When it rained heavily last Monday in central parts of the city, Alipore and Dum Dum did not record the precipitation,” Som said. Talks were held with the meteorological office to set this strategy in motion.

The weather stations will have rain and temperature meters and will operate round the clock. They will be manned by either staff from the Alipore weather office or the CMC itself. “We will send our staff to Alipore for training in recording the daily readings,” the commissioner said.

l The CMC’s drainage department has decided to erect sluice gates along the sewage outfalls along Tolly’s Nullah and other canals in the city

Mayor-in-council for drainage, Rajib Deb, said that sewage in the city, especially in the added areas, flows into the canals but there is no measure to prevent tide water from entering the sewage system and spilling over onto the streets. “Most of the waterlogging in the stretch from Kalighat to Garia was due to this,” Deb said.

The CMC plans to instal a valve-like gadget that will allow sewage to flow into the drainage canals and prevent tidewater from entering the sewage network.

l The civic authorities have approached the state government to hand over the sluice gates in the city to the CMC.

The ill-maintained gates, like the one leaking water into the Bagjola canal in Chitpore, need urgent repairs.

Deb said the CMC had repeatedly requested the state to repair the gates but nothing had been done so far. “The state government has assured us that they will cooperate in this direction,” Deb said.

The CMC has engineers who are capable of maintaining the sluices and a decision has been taken to build up a core group of officials to look into this matter.

l The CMC will ask the state government to make budgetary provisions for the CMC to maintain the lockgates and sluice gates. “The amount that is now allocated to the irrigation department should be now handed over to the CMC,” Deb said.

This decision is being taken up by the CMC with the state irrigation department, in tune with an Asian Development Bank (ADB) reccomendation.

It is a conditional clause in the proposed Rs 1,575-crore loan the ADB has lined up for the city environmental development. The ADB wants the CMC to have direct control over the maintenance of sluice gates in the city.    

Calcutta, Sept 27: 
With floods wreaking havoc in the state and millions marooned or homeless, puja organisers across the city have decided to curtail their budget and extend a helping hand to the flood victims.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee has also taken the cue and decided to cut down spending at the Ekdalia Evergreen Club puja, of which he is president.

Mukherjee promised that the club will “donate at least Rs 1 lakh” for the flood victims. “Instead of collecting used garments, we will buy new clothes for distribution among the flood-affected,” Mukherjee said. “We will also send foodgrain for the victims,” the mayor added.

Most of the community puja organisers have opted to tone down festivities in a show of solidarity with the suffering. Aishani, run exclusively by women, has already despatched 1,000 pieces of tarpaulin, 1,000 saris, medicine worth Rs 50,000 and used garments for flood victims at Tarapith, in Birbhum district.

“We also want to run a round-the-clock kitchen for the flood-affected in Tarapith and have sought necessary permission from the government for this”, said Jolly Walia, a spokesperson for Aishani.

Another puja committee official said they will set aside nearly Rs 2 lakh for flood victims from their budget of Rs 6 lakh.

Pradip Ghosh, president of the Santosh Mitra Square Sarbojanin Durgotsab Committee, said the committee will hand over cash for flood victims to Governor Viren J. Shah on Saturday, when he comes to inaugurate the pujas.

Gopal Ghosh, convener of the Vivekananda Sporting Club puja committee, said they have decided to spend a large chunk of their puja budget for flood victims this time.

“Last year too, we had donated Rs 10,000 to the Ramkrishna Mission as flood relief,” Ghosh claimed.

An official of the Mohammad Ali Park puja committee, too, pledged support for the flood-affected in the districts and promised to send clothes and other relief materials. “It is our moral duty to stand by them,” he said.

Organisers of the smaller puja committees, however, maintained it would be difficult for them to trim their budget and extend financial help to the flood victims. “Although we may not have much funds left after paying off the decorators and the electricians, we will still try to help the flood victims as best we can,” said a puja organiser in south Calcutta.    

Calcutta, Sept 27: 
Early on Wednesday, the silence on a street in Dakshinpara, Dum Dum, was shattered by gunfire. Unidentified assailants shot a youth, chased him down the street, and then, as he stumbled and fell, pumped bullets into him to make sure that he was dead.

Narayan Das, 26, was on his way to a local hospital where his cousin had just died in childbirth. He was riddled with bullets by a gang of five while his elder brother watched in horror from the balcony of their Shyamnagar Road home.

“I was standing on the first floor, when I saw my brother talking to some boys. I did not suspect anything. But suddenly, I heard the sound of firing,” said Shibu, “Narayan started running but collapsed at our doorstep. The assailants surrounded him and pumped bullets into him. I was in a state of shock... When I reached him, he was lying in a pool of blood.”

None of the neighbours dared to step out till the assailants had left. “I came out on my balcony on hearing the sound of gunfire. But I did not open the door as all the gangsters were armed. After killing Narayan, they shouted, ordering us to stay indoors. Then, they walked away,” said neighbour Anjana Rakshit.

As news spread, the killing donned a political hue. Scores of Trinamul Congress activists held a demonstration in front of Dum Dum police station, demanding immediate arrest of the assailants.

Preliminary police investigation pointed to a “real-estate murder”. Narayan used to supply building material to local promoters. The killing is said to have been sparked by a long-standing feud between two local groups of suppliers.

Kuldeep Singh, SP, said: “We are trying to asertain whether Narayan Das had made any enemies.” Neighbours insisted the youth had “no underworld links”.    

Calcutta, Sept 27: 
The battlelines are drawn at New Market over a proposed reconstruction plan. Stall-owners have said they will cooperate with the Calcutta Municipal Corporation only if the renovation is carried out “on their terms”. But mayor Subrata Mukherjee has threatened to shut down the ill-maintained, cash-strapped market if the traders adopt a hardline.

“I am not afraid of closing down the market. In the early 1970s, I had not hesitated in declaring a lockout in the Calcutta Corporation itself,” he thundered.

“It’s not so easy to close down the market,” countered the general secretary of S.S. Hogg Market Shopkeepers’ Welfare Association, Pradip Chakravorty. He said the association has submitted a 16-point proposal to the CMC, demanding “immediate intervention of the civic authorities” to revive New Market.

“Till today, it is the only market in the city where everything can be found under a single roof,” he added. The number of daily visitors has dwindled to just about two per cent of what it used to be 25 years ago. “These days, foreigners mean only Bangladeshi customers,” lamented the official. Chakraborty said the roof in several blocks of the market was leaking and crumbling and the electrical wiring was in a mess.

The mayor is adamant that the market be air-conditioned immediately. “How can the CMC invest in New Market where the monthly rent for a shop is as low as Rs 36 and incur a loss of Rs 2 crore every year just to maintain it?” demanded Mukherjee.

According to him, the encroachment on the passages inside the market must be tackled and the rent structures revised at once. But this is being opposed by the traders’ lobby, which is open to the renovation provided it does not affect the stall-owners.    

Calcutta, Sept 27: 
Kali will soon have a new, plush home at the Lakes. The congested confines of the hugely-popular Lake Kalibari on Southern Avenue will give way to a sprawling temple next year. Work on the “architectural milestone’, designed by Delhi-based Padmashree Achyut Kanvinde, is slated to start in January 2001.

The reconstruction plan was sanctioned by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation in March. The deity will be temporarily relocated to a makeshift site nearby till the new temple comes up.

The multi-crore complex, “comparable to the Birla temple at Ballygunge Phari in size and grandeur”, will be spread over a 15.5-cottah plot owned by the temple authorities on the existing site. “The model was prepared last year, but we were unable to start work for want of funds,” says chief sevait Netai Chandra Basu. But “assurances of aid from over 2,000 devotees” have given Basu the “courage’’ to go ahead. A website on the temple will also be floated by December to reach out to NRI devotees.

The Lake Kalibari was set up by Hariprasad Chakraborty, a tantrik, on a private plot in 1949. Since then, it has been managed by his disciples (sevaits) on an honorary basis. The temple, comprising a small sanctum sanctorum, an adjoining row of staff-quarters and prayer rooms, will be demolished. The proposed temple, in granite and marble, will have three sanctums topped by ornate cylindrical spires done up in cream and brown. The intricately-carved spires will have floral motifs, culminating in elaborate shikhars supported by a series of concave pillars. The central spire, the tallest of the three, will be at least 25 feet high. The central temple (sanctorum) will house Ma Karunamoyee (a variation of the mother goddess shakti), the one to the right will have a Shivalingam and the one to the left will house a statue of the founder.

The main deity will be placed in the central enclave, topped by a hexagonal chhatri. This will open to an elevated courtyard with a flight of marble steps leading down to the entrance.

The temple authorities will beautify a 100-ft stretch of the boulevard with concrete street-lamps shaped like panchapradeeps, a stone pavement, benches and a fountain.    

Calcutta, Sept 27: 
Nineteen women undertrials of Ranaghat sub-jail and two of their children were brought to Presidency Jail on Tuesday because their cells have been flooded. Presidency Jail superintendent Parimal Das said some prisoners of Krishnagar Jail, which is flooded too, will be shifted to the city jails shortly.

The women and children were brought from Ranaghat in a lorry, jail officials said.

“The women undertrials are being provided with all the facilities available in the jail,” the superintendent said.

The women, mostly Bangladeshis, were put behind bars for their involvement in smuggling and other crimes along the border.

Jail sources said the women were being attended to by Talat Sultana, in the jail for having murdered her husband, Ramjan Ali, a Forward Bloc MLA.

The inmates of Ranaghat Jail are now on a hungerstrike, demanding immediate rehabilitation of their family members affected by the floods.    

Calcutta, Sept 27: 
The government is busy putting into place a system to implement Bharat-II (Euro-II) emission norms. From November 1, all four-wheelers applying for fitness certificates have to be Euro-II compliant.

The government has approached Hindustan Motors with Kalyan Bagchi, environment secretary and chairman of the West Bengal Pollution Control Board, holding a meeting with the car manufacturers. Prabal Chatterjee, vice-president, HM, said: “We have given the state government two proposals — either to replace the old cars or to replace their old engines with the emission-compliant ones.”

The company can provide the engines along with some necessary fittings for Rs 90,000. D.M. Kanwar, state transport secretary, said taxis pose the biggest pollution problem.

“While we are working towards checking auto emission, we have to consider the fact that most taxis have owner-drivers and they cannot possibly afford to pay such a hefty amount.”

Keeping this in mind, the government is working on a scheme to provide subsidy to the manufacturers of Euro-II engines in order to bring the price down. The government is also holding talks with banks to provide taxi-owners with soft loans for procuring emission-compliant engines.

But there is no indication yet from taxi unions about adopting Euro-II norms. “It is a complicated issue,” admitted Kanwar. He added that the public vehicles department has been asked to keep a strict watch on issuing fitness certificates to cars from November 1. More auto-testing centres will also be set up in the city.

T.V. Venkataraman, director of the Public Vehicles Department said: “We have received a circular about implementing Euro-II norms, but we are yet to receive instructions on how to go about it.”.    

Calcutta, Sept 27: 
Students of Shibpur Bengal Engineering College (Deemed University) decided on Wednesday to boycott classes till October 3 as part of their agitation against the authorities. They also gheraoed vice-chancellor Amal Jyoti Sengupta till Tuesday midnight.

Sengupta could not be contacted as he was out of station. The students were protesting the authorities’ failure to take positive measures in resolving the indefinite movement by the teachers’ association of the college.

For nearly two months, a majority of the teachers have been on an indefinite non-cooperation movement to demand a pay hike. The teachers have also been boycotting all examinations and administrative duties.

Arup Sarkar, general secretary of the teachers’ association, said on Wednesday that they would not resume examination-related duties “unless our demands are met... Although the government is serious about our demands, the college authorities have been sitting on them for months,” he alleged.    

New Delhi, Sept. 27: 
At last there is good news for Bihar. But it may not augur well for the BJP and definitely not for communications minister Ram Vilas Paswan. Sinking political differences, bitter foes Laloo Prasad Yadav, Sharad Yadav and Nitish Kumar — former Mandalites — today came together on a common platform hinting at future realignments in the politically-volatile state.

The ostensible agenda of today’s meeting was Bihar’s development and a financial package for the truncated state after the formation of Jharkhand.

Yesterday, Paswan had hinted at Patna that Nitish Kumar and Sharad Yadav were cosying up with Laloo Yadav and that he was determined to split the Janata Dal (United) unless Sharad Yadav stepped down as party president.

Paswan had said, of late, Kumar has been in regular touch with the former Bihar chief minister.

Nitish Kumar, in a bid to isolate Paswan in Bihar politics, had last month convened a meeting of Bihar MPs cutting across party lines but minus Paswan, to discuss development issues. He set up a core committee later, which is being merged with the larger group to be set up by chief minister Rabri Devi.

Laloo Yadav, Nitish Kumar and BJP MP Madan Jaiswal — all swore by the agenda of development.

But Laloo, speaking to newsmen later, gave hints of the course he is pursuing. Asked if the meeting had any political import, he said, “Now the political scene is quite calm. Whenever there is calmness, it means something is brewing.” He said the “Dal parivar” had split and he would be too happy if all came together again.

Another senior RJD leader also remarked in the same vein saying “who has seen tomorrow”, when asked if today’s meeting was the beginning of the coming together of former friends.

Some rebels in the RJD camp, however, feel that the entire exercise was to pre-empt the reported rebellion against Laloo Yadav’s family rule by a cabal of 45 legislators.    

Imphal, Sept. 27: 
Manipur chief minister Wahengbam Nipamacha Singh has threatened to resign in the event of the Centre extending its ceasefire with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) to all Naga-inhabited areas of the Northeast.

The Manipur State Congress Party chief left for New Delhi today to attend a meeting convened by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee tomorrow to discuss the issue. The chief ministers of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland have also been invited to the meeting.

Like his Manipur counterpart, Prafulla Kumar Mahanta has already expressed his government’s opposition to any move to extend the ceasefire beyond Nagaland.

However, Arunachal Pradesh is yet to make its stand on the issue clear.

Nipamacha Singh told newspersons here before leaving for New Delhi that he would not hesitate to step down from the chief ministership if the Centre acceded to the NSCN(I-M)’s demand.

All political parties in Manipur feel extending the ceasefire to Manipur will be tantamount to compromising on the state’s territorial integrity. A meeting attended by representatives of all parties, except the Congress, on Saturday suggested that the state government take up the matter with the Prime Minister.

The Apunba Manipur Kanba Ima Lup and the National Identity Protection Committee have jointly organised an “integrity rally” here tomorrow to mobilise public opinion against the move to extend the ceasefire to parts of Manipur. Several organisations representing different communities are expected to participate in the rally.The people of Ukhrul, Chandel, Tamenglong and Senapati districts had also organised rallies on Friday, albeit in support of the NSCN(I-M)’s demand for extension of the ceasefire. All four hill districts are dominated by the Naga community.    


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