Pandal-hopper’s almanac
10 you can’t afford to miss
Security alarm
Guest Column/ Water of life... and death
Bangla gangs set off red alert
Medical course put off by a year at SSKM
Opposition joins Bengal flood relief chorus
Bengal floods make Sikkim tour operators jittery
Eroding tribal base puts NLFT in a spot
Naxalites gun down Ranbir Sena leader

Calcutta, Oct 3: 


Medical assistance: 24-hour ambulance service; emergency services (doctors, oxygen, medicine, ECG) from 11 pm to 6 am on all puja nights by Medical Bank. 

Contact numbers: 555-7852, 554-0084.

Police Helpline: Control room numbers: 2350230, 2353024, 

Traffic control room: 2350644
Lalbazar missing persons squad: 2155000, Ext: 5153

Lost and found: One lakh identity badges for children to be distributed by police and Medical Bank volunteers through 42 police stations, booths at pandals and at Howrah and Sealdah stations. Parents/guardians are expected to fill in names and addresses on the badges to be worn by the kids.

Maruti vans will patrol the pandals, equipped with first-aid kits, toys and Mickey Mouse cutouts. Kids separated from parents/guardians will be handed over to the nearest police station. Contact numbers: 98300- 42343 (van) and 9831062157 (Medical Bank control room). 


Calcutta Police has made special parking arrangements for pandal-hoppers:
Samaj Sebi, Ballygunge Cultural and Samaj Sebi Park: On Jatin Bagchi Road
Ekdalia Evergreen: In front of Ballygunge Siksha Sadan
Southern Avenue: S.P. Mukherjee Road to Sarat Chatterjee Avenue
Md Ali Park: Poddar Court to CIT Road, west of Rabindra Sarani to Mahatma Gandhi Road
College Square: Eden Hospital Road to College Street, Bankim Chatterjee Street to Amherst Street
Kaiser Street: APC Road in front of Taki School
Santosh Mitra Square: CR Avenue to Nirmal Chandra Street and Wellington Square 
Telengabagan: Biddhannagar Road


The city police has set up 12 police assistance booths from October 4 to October 8:
On the southern slope of Dhakuria bridge
In front of Ballygunge AC Market
At the crossing of Abdul Rasul Avenue and S.P. Mukherjee Road
At the crossing of S.P. Mukherjee Road and Hazra Road
At the crossing of Ramkamal Street and Karl Marx Sarani
At the Park Circus seven-point crossing
At the Dorina crossing, Dharamtala
At the intersection of Sealdah Court Road and B.R. Singh Hospital Road
At the Shyambazar five-point crossing
At Bankim Chatterjee Square 
At the bus no. 15 stand, Ultadanga
At the crossing of Rabindra Sarani and B.K. Pal Avenue


Metro Rail 
Metro Rail will run 422 special trains during Durga Puja
On Saptami (October 4), trains will run every 10 minutes from 5 pm till 10 pm.
On Ashtami (October 5), first Nabami (October 6) and second Nabami (October 7), the special trains will run from 5 pm to 4 am at 10- minute intervals from 5 pm to midnight and every 20 minutes from midnight till 4 am.
On Dashami (October 8), special trains will ply from 5 pm to 8.30 pm at 15-minute intervals


Bengal Taxi Association will run special taxis during the Pujas in north, central and south Calcutta. Special cabs will be available from 10 am to 4 pm against a minimum charge Rs 400 and, subsequently, Rs 100 per hour. Commuters can dial 475-3505 and 555-4049 for details.


Private buses will be available throughout the Puja nights. However, Kalyan Bhadra, head of the association of private buses and minibuses, said the plying of minibuses at night would depend on availability of passengers
The following bus terminals have been shifted: 
Route nos 37, 37A and 47 from Dhakuria bridge to Prince Anwar Shah Road in front of Jay Engineering Works
Route no 240 from the crossing of Gariahat Road (South) and Prince Anwar Shah Road to the Golf Green-Prince Anwar Shah Road crossing
Route nos L-9, S-221 from Gol Park to Vivekananda Park

Circular Rail

From 8 am to 10.30 am, four trains will run from Dum Dum to Prinsep Ghat. The first morning train will leave Dum Dum at 6.03 am. Three trains will run between 4.15 pm and 6 pm. The last train will leave Prinsep Ghat at 6 pm.


From Armenian Ghat — 2-8 pm
Chandpal Ghat— 2-9.45 pm.
Howrah Ghat—- For Bagbazar, Ahiritola, Sovabazar and Chandpal Ghat, from 2.30 pm to 10 pm. A special service from Bauria to Budge Budge till 2 am.


Mansashree Auto Craft, 182/B Acharya Prafulla Chandra Road. Phone: 555 4049
Devi Commercial Company, P/254 CIT Scheme. Phone: 321-8146, 321 6513
Super Avenue Service Station, 80/1 Bhupen Bose Avenue. Phone-554 6591
Baranagar Service Station, 131 BT Road. Phone - 577 3229
Car Fill, 170 Sarat Bose Road. Phone: 466 4550
Pearl Auto Service, 141 SP Mukherjee Road. Phone: 466 6050
Karar Automobiles, 22/1 E Chakraberia Road (South). Phone: 475 2266
Camac Service Station, 2E & 2F Camac Street. Phone:229 3901, 229-2729
Dhakuria Service Station, 41-B, Gariahat Road (South). Phone-473-3766


The LPG service will continue on October 5 and 6


The West Bengal Pollution Control Board will monitor and receive complaints about loudspeakers at pandals crossing the permissible decibel levels. Teams to tour the city all five days. Control room no 335-8212


Last but definitely not the least, the weatherman brings fair tidings for the Puja days. Sporadic rainfall may be something of a dampener. But there’s no real fear of a heavy downpour. The Tuesday morning shower did set alarm bells ringing, but Mihir Guha, deputy director of the Alipore weather office, said: “It was caused by some localised thunderclouds.”


Calcutta, Oct 3: 
College Square on College Street
Dazzling white pandal resembling a temple in Brindavan. The image is towering, the lights magical

Kumartuli Sarbojonin at Kumartuli

Patas find pride of place both in the exterior as well as interior

Badamtala Ashar Sangha behind the Rashbehari Gurdwara

The hills of Ghatsila rise out of a blind alley. The Devi, Ranachandi model, sits atop a 35-ft-high bamboo-and-hessian knoll

Ballygunge Cultural Association on Lake Road

Recreation of a thakur dalaan to the strains of sitar, sarod and Puratani songs

Mudiali Club at Mudiali

‘Save animals’ is the theme of the pandal made of sand. The ornaments are shola and zari

Shibmandir on Lake Temple Road

A village near Tarapith, complete with ruined temples of plaster of Paris

Babubagan Sarbojonin Durgotsab at Dhakuria

Portrait of the pandal as an almanac. A page depicting various Bengali festivals inside, the zodiac emblazoned on the ceiling

Hindustan Park

Walk past a towering Ashok Stambh to encounter Buddha in meditation under the Bodhi tree. The protima on pata is small but stunning

Barisha Tapoban

The image is Adi Dhakeswari. The embroidered saris, pandal, canopy are tiny bits of hay pasted on cloth

Adarsha Palli in Behala

Dokra craftsmen from Burdwan have produced Naba Durga in a hut, with Adivasis and large owls


Calcutta, Oct 3: 
The police sounded a red alert in the city following the arrest of six Bangladeshi criminals on Monday night. Deputy inspector-general of police, railways, S.R. Das, said the six were intercepted while trying to enter the city. 

They have informed the police that two other gangs from Bangladesh have already reached Calcutta to go on a crime spree during the festival days. A large cache of arms and ammunition was recovered from them. 

Fearing a rise in train dacoities, the railway police launched a high-security drive in Howrah and Sealdah stations on Tuesday. 

Calcutta, Oct 3: 
For three years I’ve been absent from the Pujas in Calcutta; and, this year, finding myself here, I discover that the Pujas are girded on all sides by a deluge and by tragedy.

Yet, “About suffering they were never wrong,/ The Old Masters,” Auden said, continuing: “How well they understood/ Its human position; how it takes place/ While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along ...” 

Similarly, the delicate but monotonous preparations for the Pujas, the slow, careful erection of the pandals, have proceeded intently in these streets and alleys; and, walking about, I’ve inadvertently seen them evolve through their various stages. 

Last week, making a routine visit to a paediatrician in Ekdalia with our daughter, my wife and I confronted, looming above us in the lane, a curious artefact — a giant spherical structure, made entirely, it seemed, of small pieces of bamboo joined together. What was this to be? 

Day before yesterday, in the area again to find a fax shop and a courier, I saw a group of people staring at something; the giant but frail sphere had become a globe; the bamboo had been covered by, possibly, canvas, and on it were painted, upon oceans that still needed another coat of blue, the countries of the world, India the most prominent among them. Three or four workers were standing against the globe upon the tall bamboo scaffolding, applying the finishing touches. 

As for today, Sashti, it has been a day like any other; it began somewhat gloomily, threatening to rain, but transformed, by noon, to the more temperate weather one associates with this season. 

At lunch, we discussed the need to find a temporary substitute for the boy who works for us, so that he could go to Nadia, one of the flooded areas, to find out how his relatives are; there has been no news from them.

One world has been washed away as another one, here, is coming into being; in Auden’s poem, too (which is a commentary on a painting by Breughel), there is the presence of water. Icarus, his wings melted, falls with a “splash”, which no one hears, into the sea, his “white legs disappearing into the green/Water”, while, elsewhere, a ploughman is at work, and an “expensive delicate ship” sails “calmly” from the harbour. 

The maritime world of expansionism that the globe in Ekdalia so vividly commemorates is one that also, as Nature, routinely and annually engulfs one part of our population; the houses they live in are made of material hardly more resolute, after all, than those from which these pandals have been created. 

Calcutta, Oct 3: 
The police have issued a red alert in the city after receiving information that Bangladeshi criminal gangs have reached Calcutta to make a killing during the festivities.

Deputy inspector general of police, railways, S.R. Das said on Tuesday that six Bangladeshi criminals were arrested on Monday night while on their way into the city. The arrested informed the police of two other Bangladeshi gangs which are already in Calcutta. The police have recovered a large quantity of arms and ammunition from them.

As part of the stepped-up security drive, passengers on all suburban and long-distance trains were being frisked and their documents scrutinised. “We are also sending sniffer dogs to shops and hotels in and around the station premises,’’ Das said. Shop and hotel owners have been asked to keep the police posted about the arrival and departure of guests,’’ he added.

The intelligence branch had earlier warned railway police about a possible influx of Bangladeshi criminals to the city during this period.

Senior officers of the railway police detective and criminal investigation departments were huddled in a high-level meeting during the day. Later in the afternoon, the police issued an appeal to citizens to take certain precautionary measures.

Deputy commissioner of police, south, Ranjit Pachnanda has advocated the following security steps:

Do not leave your house unguarded
Lock your car and motorcycles properly and park those in authorised areas
Do not take food from an unknown person
Do not be misled by unknown persons and be a victim of rumour-mongering
Do not touch any unidentified objects

Interrogations revealed that the arrested Bangladeshi criminals are part of a dreaded gang in Pabna district in Bangladesh led by Mehboob Rehman. They had crossed over through the Hili border to strike during the Pujas. 

Calcutta, Oct 3: 
The commencement of undergraduate medical classes at SSKM. Hospital had to be put off by one year after the Medical Council of India disapproved of some of the facilities for conducting the classes.

The Council found fault with facilities at the University College of Medicine, where some of the hospital’s MBBS classes are proposed to be held.

State health minister Partha Dey met Calcutta University vice-chancellor Ashis Banerjee, medical faculty dean Manoj Bhattacharya, registrar Tapan Mukherjee and other senior teachers on Tuesday to discuss ways to iron out the problems. The issues include lack of space and equipment for teaching non-hospital-based subjects, among others.

The vice-chancellor said: “We will try to ensure that the classes commence from the next academic session in 2001. The council’s requirements must be fulfilled.”

He said the state health department, which runs the medical colleges, will hold another meeting after the Pujas to finalise measures to upgrade the medicine college.

A three-member Medical Council team was in Calcutta last month to inspect facilities and infrastructure at SSKM Hospital for conducting MBBS classes. The departments were given a facelift, teaching vacancies filled and new classrooms added for the inspection.

The state government at present offers postgraduate medical courses at the hospital. The decision to introduce MBBS courses here as well was taken in response to an increasing demand for medical education. The plan is also aimed at reducing brain drain to other states, sources at the state health department said. 

Shortage of MBBS seats in the state has also forced a large number of students to pay huge capitation fee for admission to medical colleges, both private and government. The government plans to have 50 more MBBS seats at the hospital. At present, there are seven state government-run undergraduate medical colleges in the state. 

Calcutta, Oct. 3: 
An all-party meeting, convened by chief minister Jyoti Basu at Writers’ Buildings today, unanimously backed the state government’s demand for Rs 962 crore as flood assistance from the Centre.

Opposition parties like the Congress, Trinamul Congress and the BJP suggested that an all-party delegation should meet Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in Delhi to expedite release of funds. 

Basu welcomed the Opposition gesture and said he would write to Vajpayee informing him about the unanimity in the state’s claim for flood assistance from the Centre. He said finance minister Asim Dasgupta would soon visit Delhi to meet his Union counterpart Yashwant Sinha. Dasgupta might also meet Vajpayee to seek his help to expedite the matter.

However, Trinamul and BJP leaders did not buy the government’s argument that the devastating floods were “an act of god”. 

Trinamul MP Sudip Bandopadhyay and BJP MLA Badal Bhattacharya said “uncontrolled and reckless’’ discharge of water from Massanjore, Tilpara and Mython reservoirs was responsible for the flood havoc. “Only four days’ rain cannot cause such devastation in nine districts,” they said.

Bandopadhyay pointed out that the government did not make any effort to desilt the reservoirs since it assumed power in the state. As a result, all reservoirs have lost their actual capacity. Floods have become an annual curse in Burdwan, Hooghly, Midnapore, Murshidabad due to uncontrolled discharge of water from these reservoirs in September.

Bhattacharya said after large areas in North 24 Parganas were flooded last year, Dasgupta had announced in the Assembly that the government had borrowed Rs 79 crore from Hudco for desilting Ichamati, Vidyadhari and Yamuna rivers. But the government did nothing in this direction. 

“I had warned the government in the Assembly that due to this criminal negligence millions of people in this district will again suffer this year. But the government assured the House that there would be no flood in the state’’, Bhattacharya said.

The finance minister refuted the Opposition’s allegation that the flood was more man-made than an act of god. Placing official records at the meeting, Dasgupta said the catchment areas of DVC and Massanjore had received more than 1,000 mm rainfall in four days from September 18. Consequently, 10 lakh acre feet water was accumulated in Massanjore reservoir alone in this short period. 

“This is unprecedented since 1905. Massanjore receives 8 lakh acre feet water annually. In four days it has received more than that volume’’, he said. 

Siliguri, Oct. 3: 
Come Durga Puja, hoteliers and tour operators in Sikkim are at the end of their tether trying to meet the requirements of hordes of holidaymakers. 

They are losing sleep this year as well, but for an entirely different reason — the breakdown of the communication network due to floods in West Bengal is likely to lead to largescale cancellation of bookings made earlier.

Tour operators in Sikkim feel tourists will not venture into the Himalayan state unless road and rail links between north and south Bengal are restored. 

Hoteliers who have taken space on lease with hefty advance payments are also a worried lot. Most hotels are leased out for amounts ranging between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 8 lakh per year.

“Lower and middle class tourists comprise the majority of our guests. With the south Bengal districts being hit by floods, we stand to lose a major chunk of such visitors this year. All our pre-Puja bookings have been cancelled. We are now trying to contact our agents in Calcutta and the districts for new bookings. Unless we have at least 50 per cent room occupancy this season, we will lose a lot of money,” the manager of a budget hotel said. He added that room occupancy in his hotel during the holiday season was usually cent per cent. “But we will be lucky to have even 35 per cent occupancy this Puja season,” he added.

Managing director of Sikkim Tours and Travels, Lokendra Rasaily, said his company was also facing the prospect of financial losses.

“Mass cancellation of bookings for the Puja season has upset our schedule. A major chunk of the five lakh tourists visiting Sikkim annually come during the Pujas. They are mostly from neighbouring West Bengal,” he said.

Rasaily’s Sikkim Tours and Travels specialises in conducted tours and treks across Dzongri and Singalila in west Sikkim. The travel agency, which accepts bookings by overseas clients online, is now banking on prompt restoration of road and rail links.

“News of the floods prompted several prospective visitors from abroad to cancel their bookings. However, we expect the flow of tourists to resume after October 10, by which time road and rail links between Calcutta and Siliguri should be restored,” Rasaily said.

Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation executive director P.K. Dong said bookings in state-owned resorts and hotels had not been cancelled despite the floods. 

However, Dong admitted that the tourism corporation was wary of investing anything on special programmes this year.

“We are definitely worried. Unlike in the past few years, we have not organised any special programmes for the puja season. The usual festive ambience will be maintained, but there will not be anything special,” he said.

The corporation hopes to make up for the low-key Puja season by going all out to lure tourists during winter.“The STDC is focusing on adventure tourism. We are promoting white-water rafting on the Teesta river. There is a proposal to introduce aero-sports like parajumping and hang-gliding in Sikkim soon,” said Dong, who promoted India in Europe for a decade.

Cashing in on his experience, Dong plans to “hardsell” Sikkim to European visitors to the country. “We plan to participate in the World Tourist Mart in London later this year and also launch a travel magazine in collaboration with Nepal Tourism,” he said.

Sikkim received over 2.12 lakh tourists, including 12,000 from abroad, last year. “At least 25 per cent of our visitors come during the festive season. Room occupancy in the 300-odd hotels is 75-80 per cent. Tourism generated over Rs 16 crore last year,” Dong said. 

Agartala, Oct. 3: 
Riven by internal squabbles over various issues, the outlawed National Liberation Front of Tripura is now faced with a new and serious problem. It has to deal with the growing resistance of tribal communities living in the interior areas of Tripura and the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, where the NLFT has most of its camps. 

Tribals in Tripura and the Chittagong Hill Tracts, barring Chakmas and Mogs, come from a common ethnic stock. 

During the past seven years of insurgency, tribals in Tripura and a section of them in the Chittagong Hill Tracts provided support to the NLFT. But excesses committed by activists of the outfit in the form of rape, extortion from poor people, untimely entry into tribal houses and demands for food and shelter at gunpoint have alienated the fringe tribal communities in Tripura and the Tripuri tribesmen inhabiting the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The situation has reached a boiling point, so much so that on September 25 an NLFT militant, Radha Reang, was lynched by local tribals in a village in the Chittagong Hill Tracts for attempted rape. 

State and central agencies, keeping tabs on militant depredations, said in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, NLFT rebels used to take shelter and get food in villages dominated by Tripuri tribals in lieu of payment. But fed up with the activities of the NLFT rebels, these tribals have shut their doors on them. 

Sources said Tripuri tribals inhabiting Langang, Porabari, Bandarka and Jamtoli villages in Khagracherri district have stopped providing any help to the NLFT, even in exchange for payment. The tribals in Bandaban district have similarly imposed a ban on the entry of NLFT militants into their villages following a decision taken by the council of gaon burahs (village elders). 

The situation in Tripura is worse as tribals in the interior areas have started leaking out information about the movements of NLFT rebels to security forces. This has also led to the killing of more than 15 hardcore militants in encounters with the police over the past month. Even though ordinary tribals cannot protect themselves from the NLFT’s strongarm tactics , there have been cases of public lynching of rebels. 

On July 16, a hardcore NLFT militant, Shambhu Debbarma, was lynched by tribal villagers of Dhanlekha under Ampi police station after he had made an abortive attempt to rape a minor girl. Similarly, Arun Debbarma, another hardcore militant wanted in at least 50 cases including rape, was lynched and buried alive by irate villagers in Rongmaha under Bishalgarh police station. 

The third incident took place on September 25 when tribal villagers of Umraibari under Melaghar police station killed NLFT area commander Laxman Debbarma. 

Patna, Oct. 3: 
People’s War activists today mounted a fresh offensive on the upper caste Ranbir Sena killing one of its top leaders at Arwal in Jehanabad district. However, the landlord’s militia retaliated swiftly by gunning down three Harijans, including an woman, in the village this afternoon. 

Today’s killings follow the butchering of nine CPI(M-L) supporters by the People’s War in Punpun yesterday.

Tension was palpable in Jehanabad following the sudden spurt in caste violence and intra-factional feuds among the Naxalites. The Ranbir Sena had been warning for the past week that it was ready to take on the Naxalite groups. 

Reacting to the provocation, an armed squad of the People’s War raided Barheta village under Kinjar police station in Arwal at 12 noon and gunned down 35-year-old Lala Sharma, a Ranbir Sena top brass. 

The People’s War activists, attired in grey uniforms, fled the village before the police could arrive.

Soon after the killing, nearly 20 villagers, armed with automatic weapons, raided the paddy fields outlying Kinjar where 12 Harijan farm hands were working.

The Sena men opened fire killing three persons, including a woman.

Superintendent of police, Arwal police district, Sushil Kumar Khopre said the retaliatory attack took place at an open paddy field, nearly two km from Kinjar barely minutes after the People’s War strike. 

He said paramilitary forces were deployed in the area and the situation brought under control.

The Rapid Action Force and the paramilitary jawans staged flag marches in strife-torn Punpun police station area under Patna district today. Residents stayed indoors and shops downed shutters. 


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