Blacklist threat over deadline
Fewest fires in Puja pandals in ten years
State asks for more flood assistance
Bringing joy to unfortunates
A slice of Bengal for Gujarat
Rs 36 lakh to beautify central Calcutta
Re-use of tin containers for oil to be banned
Two Siliguri workers stabbed to death
Rail contracts under cloud
Manipuri films to be shown in US

Calcutta, Oct. 7: 
The city police on Saturday issued an ultimatum asking Puja organisers all over the city not to keep images beyond Tuesday, the last day for immersion of Durga images.

“We will blacklist organisers keeping the images beyond the period we have fixed for immersion,” said Nazrul Islam, deputy commissioner of police, headquarters. He hinted that the police might not give permission to the “errant” Puja organisers next year.

He said adequate arrangements have been made for immersion. In addition to sufficient lighting arrangements at the ghats where immersion will take place, divers and boats too will be kept on the ready on immersion days.

The police have imposed restrictions on movement of vehicles on all the roads connecting the bank of the Hooghly. Parking of vehicles will be banned on Rabindra Sarani, Aurobinda Sarani, Ramesh Dutta Street, Nimtala Ghat Street, Abhedananda Road, Strand Road, K.K.Tagore Street, Jagannath Ghat Road, Sovabazar Street and Harish Mukherjee Road.

Traffic will be diverted on Abhedananda Road, Nimtala Ghat Street and other roads connecting several ghats “as and when necessary” to enable the immersion processions to reach the ghats. Moreover, lorries and other heavy vehicles will not be allowed to move on the roads leading to Babughat during immersion.    

Calcutta, Oct. 7: 
With only two fires in Puja pandals this year, the state government on Saturday claimed this was the lowest figure in the city in the last ten years, according to fire service minister Pratim Chatterjee.

Fire brigade officers said a Puja pandal on Banstala Street and another on Bankim Chatterjee Street were gutted during the last two days.

A pandal under construction had caught fire in Ekdalia lane before the Pujas.In the rest of the state, eight pandals caught fire and one in Salt Lake was completely gutted.

Three Puja organisers, Shivmandir on Lake Temple Road, Selimpore Palli Sports and Recreation Club on Selimpore Road and Children’s park in Taltalla, received awards from a panel of judges appointed by the fire service department.

State governor Viren Shah will hand over the prizes on October 13 at Sisir Mancha.

The safest pandal, Shivmandir, will win Rs 50,000 while Selimpore and Children’s Park will be given Rs 20,000 and Rs 10,000 each by Indian Oil which sponsored the programme.    

Calcutta, Oct. 7: 
The state government on Saturday increased its demand for central flood assistance from Rs 962 crore to over Rs 1000 crore following the latest assessment of flood damage to the tune of Rs 4000 crore.

State finance minister Asim Dasgupta will place this new demand at the meeting with Union finance minister Yashwant Sinha and Union agriculture minister Nitish Kumar in Delhi on Monday.

Dasgupta said at Writers’ Buildings 2.10 crore people in 171 blocks and 69 municipalities were affected by devastating floods in nine districts. At least 1,097 people had died so far and another 103 were still missing. The loss of property, crop and lives has been estimated at over Rs 4000 crore. The state government has already allotted Rs 231.50 crore as grant for relief and rehabilitation work. In addition, the state cooperative bank has agreed to provide a Rs 200 crore agriculture loan to distressed farmers.

Although no additional flood assistance is forthcoming from the Centre, Dasgupta is optimistic about the outcome of his proposed meeting with the two Central ministers. It is learnt that Dasgupta has prepared reports with minute details about flood damage to claim more money from the Centre. The meeting will be held at the Union finance ministry office where Nitish Kumar will be present. Dasgupta is leaving for Delhi on Sunday.

Enteric diseases have reportedly killed six people at Bhatpara in North 24 Parganas during the past two days. Dasgupta claimed that the Bhatpara deaths were not related to the floods in the district. “We have reports about enteric deaths at Bhatpara. But the place is not affected by the flood. We have asked the district authorities to send medical reports to find out how the people fell victim to the disease’’, Dasgupta said.

There is a marked improvement in the overall flood situation in the state save some areas of Nadia and North 24 Parganas. There is no sign of flood waters receding early in Nadia’s Hanskhali as the Churni is still in spate. The situation is unchanged in the Swaroopnagar, Baghda, Gaighata and Deganga areas of North 24 Parganas where the stagnant water is still 4 ft high.

Marooned people of Baghda, Swaroopnagar and Basirhat started leaving their villages to save their lives. Affected people took refuge on different railway platforms and at relief camps.

The government has given top priority to purifying drinking water to prevent an outbreak of enteric and other water-borne diseases in the flood-affected areas. About 4 crore water purifying tablets have already been distributed and another 4 crore will be distributed within this month. The government has issued orders to the public health engineering department to clean and purify all tubewells in the affected districts.

Train services both in Howrah and Sealdah divisions still remain cut off due to flooding. According to Eastern Railway, the Teesta Torsa Express will start running from Sealdah from Monday. The Hatey Bazare Express too will resume service from Sealdah on the same day.    

Calcutta, Oct. 7: 
For young Jagannath, this has been his best Puja ever. His mother, a maid, is too busy with her work and invalid husband to take him out. Yet he is smiling.

Saptami marked a high point in the lives of Jagannath and 24 other underprivileged children when they were given new clothes and taken around pandals in a bus to eight prominent Pujas in south Calcutta.

Utsav Parikrama 2000 took shape as a group of concerned citizens at Bartika, a voluntary socio-cultural organisation, came forward to share the joys of the festival with children losing out on their childhood.

“Enjoying the Pujas seems natural to us. But for the poor, particularly children, even pandal-hopping is not possible,” said Bartika social secretary Dipankar Banerjee, speaking on how the scheme took shape.

After discussions Bartika members sought out social worker Rakhal Roy to select the “deserving” children. Roy, who runs a slum rehabilitation programme on Hazra Road, Nava Jeeban, responded with alacrity and chose 25 children between four and 14 years, mostly from single-parent homes of the slum he works for, and from the red-light area of Lokar math near Tollygunge.

A few more phone calls from the white collar executives who make up Bartika brought in new clothes (white T-shirts and denim shorts) from Narendra Seva Trust and a bus, courtesy West Bengal Contract Carriage Owners’ and Operators’ Association. The parikrama was on.

The convoy — the bus carrying the children and the cars of Bartika members — set off at 10.30 am on Wednesday from Nava Jeeban amid encouraging words from chief guest Nabaneeta Dev Sen and loud cheers from the excited children.

As the bus weaved its way through the heavy morning traffic from one port of call to another, the children shook off their inhibitions and broke into songs and happy chatter. Which was the Puja they liked best? “The one with the globe,” came the prompt reply, meaning Ekdalia Evergreen. But Sujoy, with a sombre look belying his age, thought the panjika murals in Babubagan were better.

The Puja committees joined in the effort to make the day memorable for the children, most of whom never get to visit more than a couple of pandals during the Pujas. Many organisers arranged for refreshments and food packets, setting off squeals of delight. The shy smile on the face of four-year-old Mampi, clutching her candies, biscuits and soft drink with one hand, and Class IV-student Sushanta Das’ hand with the other, said it all.

So did the look of contentment on the face of Bartika president Jharnadhara Das. “The smiles on their faces is our success. It is a never-before feeling of their joy being our joy. We would like to organise more such programmes to keep that smile on their faces,” she said.

Last heard, little Jagannath was praying hard for an encore.    

Calcutta, Oct. 7: 
When our flamboyant Governor Viren Shah last visited Santiniketan, he had very sportingly taken part in the dandiya dance. Several decades before it was to become a rage in the city, Tagore had introduced this rhythmic and graceful dance form imported from Gujarat at the Vasanta Utsav celebrated each year at the university town.

Many Gujarati litterateurs had passed out from Visva-Bharati who made direct translations of Bengali novels and poetry.

The well-known Gujarati folklorist, Zaverchand Meghani, used to work in an aluminium factory at Belur before he left for his homeland. His nephew, Ramanik, who had won the Sahitya Akademi award for his translation of Tarashankar’s novel, Ganadevata, used to own a shop in Amratala Lane where he stocked Gujarati magazines and books. Nalin Patel, former principal of Bhowanipore College, has in the recent past published a compilation of Bengali poetry covering contemporary poets as well.

If one delves into the history of Gujarati literature, one can discover that its heartstrings are attached to the city even now.

Perhaps, this explains why the popular Gujarati magazine, Hul Chul, published from the city, brings out an equally popular “Sharadiya” number devoted entirely to Calcutta and its literary and cultural tradition.

Bhavesh Sheth and Sanjay Shah, who are the editors of Hul Chul, say the magazine is 15 years old, but this is the third year that the Puja number has been coming out without fail on Mahalaya day. “Since we try to highlight the richness of Bengali literature we try to run as few ads as possible. To make the point, Gujarati and Bengali headlines are printed side by side,” they say.Hul Chul is circulated in eastern India and in Madhya Pradesh and Baroda as well, and in last month’s number they had covered Bengali Sharadiya magazines. The duo can also take credit for publishing the Gujarati directory which is a listing of all Gujarati-speaking people in the city, irrespective of religion.

This year’s Sharadiya number, like the ones in the previous years, has articles on just about everything that comes to mind when one thinks of the city — Ramakrishna, Saratchandra, Mother Teresa, Satyajit Ray’s films, Ritwik Ghatak, Manna De, Nazrul, Rabindrasangeet, the changing face of Calcutta and of course the Durga festival here.

The red cover has Durga’s visage imprinted on it in white and the inevitable kash phool..

The two editors say the Puja edition is immensely popular not only in the city but also in distant places and even with Gujarati newspapers brought out from elsewhere like Mumbai Samachar, Janmahoomi, Jansatta and Gujarat Mitra of Surat, whose editor has contributed to this issue. The Hul Chul number strengthens Gujarat’s ties with the city.    

Calcutta, Oct. 7: 
Urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya on Friday sanctioned Rs 36 lakh for the beautification of a section of central Calcutta from Birla Planetarium to Metro cinema.

The Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) recently took up the beautification scheme at an estimated cost of Rs one crore. The work started about two months ago, but came to a halt due to paucity of funds. Bhattacharya released the money to speed up the scheme and to complete it before Kali Puja. Two large tanks which fall between the planetarium and Metro cinema will be cleaned.

The vast stretch of land is being developed into small parks where people, particularly those working in central Calcutta offices, can spend some time. Trees are being planted in the entire stretch to minimise pollution hazards and offer more oases of green for the people of Calcutta.

“Work virtually came to a standstill due to paucity of funds. So I released Rs 36 lakh for quick implementation of the scheme,” Bhattacharya said.The state forest department and CMDA jointly took up the project in 1992. But they could not proceed due to objections from the Army. Of late, the Army has greenlighted the project.

The scheme envisages that no permanent structures will be constructed there as the land belongs to the Army. Moreover, there will be no pucca building in the tanks, said a CMDA official.The forest department has suggested that special trees be planted to help reduce air pollution.    

Calcutta, Oct. 7: 
The civic health department will restrict the re-use of tin containers for packing edible oils and vanaspati on health grounds after the Pujas.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee asked the member mayor-in-council (health) Javed Ahmed Khan to convene a meeting with oil millers and vanaspati manufacturers before imposing a ban. The meeting will be held after Lakshmi Puja.

The Central government decided to restrict the re-use of tin containers after adulterated mustard oil caused dropsy in Delhi in September 1998.

Consequently, the relevant section of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act as amended.

“We will simply enforce the provisions made by the Central government in the recent amendment to the Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act,” said member mayor-in-council (health) Javed Ahmed Khan.

While the Federation of West Bengal Trade Association (FWBTA) welcomed the decision, the Bengal Oil Millers Association (BOMA) described it as “impractical for a developing country like India.”

However, both FWBTA and BOMA apprehend that it would cause further escalation in the retail prices of edible oils and vanaspati, at least by one rupee per kilo.

Chief municipal health officer, Dr Sujit Ghosh, said the gazette notification of the amendment has already been made by the Centre.

The enactment strictly prohibits the use of used containers for selling and marketing edible oils.

Ghosh said there is always a risk of contamination in re-using a container for edible oils.

Moreover, it becomes difficult to determine the actual source of contamination.

The total output of mustard oil of the 800 oil mills in the state is around 4.4 lakh. But this is only 20 per cent of the total demand in the state.

“It is a Rs 4000 crore mustard oil market,” said a spokesman of BOMA.

At least 60 per cent of the total 16 crore 16-kilo tins of mustard oil which are sold every year in West Bengal were in used containers.

Javed Khan said the risk of contamination was high as there were no strict quality control measures before reusing a tin container in packing edible oils.

Recently, some traders told the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) that the ban will enforce a price hike of Rs three per kilo of mustard oil.

“It is absurd and highly exaggerated. They are quoting new prices for extra profit,” said a health official.

According to estimates by CMC, the ban might increase the prices of mustard oil and vanaspati by Rs 1.25 in the city.    

Calcutta, Oct. 7: 
Two young factory workers were stabbed to death by an unidentified gang on the outskirts of Siliguri town on Friday night. The incident spread panic in the area.

The two young men, Hari Krishna Biswa (20) and Nabin Krishna Sinha (18), were attacked and killed at Second Mile under Bhaktinagar police station in Jalpaiguri.

Bhaktinagar police said both Biswa and Sinha were labourers in a nearby cheera factory. The two were returning home on Friday night around 11.30 pm. They had gone out to do the rounds of Puja pandals.

They were accompanied by another labourer, Birendra Biswa, who happened to be their friend. The three were attacked by a gang of seven at a secluded spot off the national highway.

While Birendra managed to escape in the dark, Biswa and Sinha were not spared.

The armed gang first snatched their watches and then stabbed them repeatedly. Biswa was stabbed in the stomach while Sinha received injuries in his chest.

While Biswa was declared “brought dead” at the North Bengal Medical College Hospital, about 10 km from Siliguri, Sinha succumbed to his injuries at the Siliguri sub-divisional hospital on Saturday morning.

Biswa was from Nepal while Sinha was from Bihar. So far no arrests have been made. But police said the were still carrying on investigations.    

Silchar, Oct. 7: 
Construction work for upgradation of the 198-km-long Silchar-Lumding metre gauge railway track into a broad gauge line has been jeopardised by a syndicate which has links with a section of surrendered Ulfa (Sulfa) activists. This syndicate is allegedly trying to manipulate the contracts for the Rs 648-crore project in the favour of a particular contractor.

Top officials of the Northeast Frontier Railway at Maligaon today confirmed that the syndicate was pulling strings to block submission of tenders for contracts by all contractors, except a chosen one, through force. The chosen contractor would then quote the lowest bid in order to bag the contracts. Sources alleged that the syndicate corners 10 per cent of the amount that is bid in the contracts by the firm.

The sources alleged the hand of the “powerful syndicate” was visible at the Northeast Frontier Railway (construction) offices at Lumding and Maligaon, where the submission of the contracts is being manipulated.

Such manipulative practices allegedly reached their peak when tenders were floated in separate groups for a Rs 10-crore earth-cutting project for gauge conversion in the 22-km Chandranathpur-Ditakcherra section of the track.

The sources revealed that the Northeast Frontier Railway (construction) authorities were forced to postpone the date of opening of tenders twice recently — the first one scheduled on August 30 and the second on September 15. The new date for the opening of the tenders has been fixed on Tuesday. To bring about transparency in the tender process and end such malpractices, the Northeast Frontier Railway (construction) has allowed contractors to submit the tenders at the railway offices in Calcutta, Alipurduar and New Jalpaiguri.

The local contractors are peeved with the coercive pressure being mounted by the syndicate on them to prevent them from submitting the tenders. Local BJP legislator Bimalangshu Roy said he had drawn the attention of the Union minister of state for railways Digvijay Singh to such malpractices by the syndicate.

The current delays in the finalisation of the contracts caused by the manipulations of the syndicate will stymie the pace of construction work for conversion of the track, the deadline for which has been set in early 2006.

Northeast Frontier Railway (construction) deputy chief engineer Ajay Kumar said construction work is now proceeding apace in three sections comprising 90 km of the total 200-km track of the proposed 6.81-metre-wide broad gauge line between here and Lumding.

He said the detailed survey for yet another portion of the track along the 32.5 km Ditakcherra-Maigringdisa section of the track has also been completed and the estimate for its total outlay has also been sent to the Railway Broad for approval.    

Imphal, Oct. 7: 
The Brooklyn Academy of Music of New York will screen four films by noted Manipuri film director Aribam Syam Sharma in the retrospective section of the Brooklyn Academy of Music Cinematek this month. This is the first time that a Manipuri filmmaker is being honoured in a foreign country with a retrospective of his major films.

The four films by Syam, to be screened from October 27 to 29, are two feature films Imagee Ningthem (“My son, my precious”) and Ishanou (“The new self”) and two documentary or short films Orchids of Manipur and Sangai — Dancing Deer of Manipur.

The Brooklyn Academy of Music is organising Syam’s retrospective in collaboration with the consulate-general of India at New York, the Directorate of Film Festivals, New Delhi and Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi.

Syam’s films were also recently honoured at the retrospective section of the Mumbai International Film Festival, 2000. Ishanou was entered at the Cannes Film Festival a few years back.

“I feel honoured by the decision of the Brooklyn Academy of Music Cinematek,” Syam told The Telegraph here today, adding, “Though Manipuri films were screened at many international film festivals, this is the first time that they will be screened in the retrospective section.”

Sixty-five-year-old Syam has a Master’s degree in Philosophy from Shantiniketan. He has so far won 11 national film awards, five for feature films and six for documentaries. His latest short film, Thang-Ta, won the best film award for art and culture at the 47th National Film Festival in September.

Orchids of Manipur, produced by the state forests department, will also be screened at the 24th Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival in the US between November 3 and 11. This prestigious film festival is being organised by the American Museum of Natural History.    


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