More marriages on the rocks
Eight-degree dip sparks winter alarm
Karnataka team takes stock of Tipu estate
Youth slips off bus, run over
War on water hyacinth in drive against malaria
N. Bengal security review
Parents die in joint suicide, daughters battle for life
George plays down ‘Chinese incursion’
Bodo heartland faces threat of factional clashes
Repatriation of Reang refugees fails to take off

 
 
MORE MARRIAGES ON THE ROCKS 
 
 
BY TAPAS GHOSH
 
Calcutta, Oct. 29: 
Case 1: After 17 years of marriage, a bank manager starts to live separately from her husband, who is an executive in a Central government undertaking. She initiates divorce proceedings at Alipore court. The cause? Emergence of differences in choices and opinions. Example: She wants to listen to classical music after returning from work, he prefers Hindi film songs; her idea of a holiday well spent is playing cards at home. For him, it’s hanging out with friends.

Case 2: They met a couple of years ago, fell in love and got married in January 1999. She, an MA in Political Science, gives tuitions from home. He, an under-graduate, is a medical representative. They are separated and a divorce petition is pending in Sealdah court. The wife’s complaints: he’s carrying on an affair with one of her students. Also, he just refuses to kick the khainee habit.

These are just two of the thousands of divorce cases that city courts are struggling to cope with.

With 13,037 divorce cases having already been filed in the city courts till August 31 — nearly double the number filed in all of 1999 — the writing is well and truly on the wall. Divorce was never so common in Calcutta.

What explains the sudden spurt in separation statistics? Gitanath Ganguly, executive chairman of the Legal Aid Services of West Bengal, puts it down to the two ‘E’s: education (among women) and ego.

“The ego clash between husbands and wives in middle-class families is increasing with the rise in educational rate among women,” insists Ganguly.

For once, the statistics say it all. The family court, set up in 1997, has registered 6,521 cases till August 2000.

In 1999 and 1998, 3,998 and 2,352 cases had been registered. The family court deals with cases on the basis of complaints lodged in 13 police stations of the city,

In Sealdah Civil Court, 4,184 cases have been filed till August, a sharp rise over 2,179 in 1999, 1,424 in 1998 and 563 in 1997. The Sealdah court deals with cases lodged in Salt Lake and some other areas on the northern fringes of the city.

Alipore court, with jurisdiction over 10 police stations of south Calcutta, has registered 2,332 divorce cases up to August this year. Last year, 1,219 cases were filed, while in 1996, the total stood at 769.

Explaining the facts behind the figures, Ganguly says: “There are seven reasons behind the break-up of marital relations: Desertion, physical cruelty, mental cruelty, fraud, lunacy, adultery, and husband guilty of rape or any other social crime.”

A sitting judge of Calcutta High Court, engaged in research on cruelty on women, says: “With the advancement of society, the mental make-up of both husband and wife is changing rapidly. This is the cause behind the social problem.’’

In a bid to curb the alarming rise in separation suits “which cast a shadow over two generations”, the Legal Aid Services has started a ‘pre-marital counselling’ programme to make both bride and groom aware of the problems they might face after marriage.

According to councillor Padmini Roy, this programme extends to both, arranged marriages and love matches. While couples going in for a love matches are giving the programme a wide berth, it’s slowly starting to catch on among the more traditional.

“Many members of the Marwari community are coming forward for counselling immediately after the marriage dates are finalised,” says Roy.

But legal aid experts aren’t sure that ‘pre-marital counselling’ is the answer to the problem. Family members on both sides have to get involved and understand how to deal with the rapidly-changing social situation, they feel.    


 
 
EIGHT-DEGREE DIP SPARKS WINTER ALARM 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Oct. 29: 
Has winter arrived early? As Calcuttans woke up to a Sunday that saw the temperature drop to eight degrees below normal, that was the question blowing in the chilly wind.

But the woollens hastily pulled out — especially by morning-walkers — can safely be stashed away for some time yet. For, winter is at least three weeks away.

“There was rain and the sky was cloudy for the past two or three days, which kept out the sun rays. The temperatures of both the soil and the atmosphere have come down sharply, resulting in a nip in the air,” explained Alipore Met office director R.N. Goldar.

“How can this be the beginning of winter? The atmosphere is laden with moisture. The dry wind from the north-west heralds the onset of winter,” added Goldar. “It’s not possible to predict whether winter will come early to Calcutta this time. But if it remains dry and cloudless for the rest of October and early November, and the wind blows consistently from the north-westerly direction, then the onset of winter could well be in the last week of November, as has been the case in the past few years,” an official said.

Another reason for the sudden dip in temperature on Sunday is an upper-air cyclonic circulation, now spread over Bangladesh and extending up to 3.6 km above sea level. As a result, wind is blowing towards Calcutta at a lower level from the north and the north-east. “This has contributed to the temperature drop. The eight-degree drop in day temperature is rare. There was a two-degree drop in night temperature as well,” said a senior official of the Met office.

The sky remained overcast on Sunday under the influence of a low-pressure trough which has weakened further and is now spread over south-east Bangladesh and Tripura, causing heavy rainfall in those areas.

Calcutta and its suburbs are likely to experience “light rain” over the next 24 hours. The sky is, however, expected to start clearing from Monday.

The weather office is also keeping a close watch on the Andamans and the Myanmar coast, from where depressions and cyclonic storms emanate during this period.

“Generally, we have around six depressions and cyclones during October and November. We have already had three. Going by experience, the couple of depressions which are yet to be formed are likely to affect the Andhra coast,” an official said. “But it is unlikely that there will be another depression over the Bay of Bengal or Myanmar coast in the next 10 or 15 days,” he added.    


 
 
KARNATAKA TEAM TAKES STOCK OF TIPU ESTATE 
 
 
BY BARUN GHOSH
 
Calcutta, Oct. 29: 
With the Board of Waqf, West Bengal, expressing its inability to settle litigation involving Waqf properties in prime localities across the city, the descendants of Tipu Sultan are in dire straits.

This came to light last week when a three-member fact-finding team from Karnataka visited the city to inspect the condition of Waqf properties, once belonging to Tipu Sultan. Tipu was killed at Seringapatam in 1799, and in 1806, the British shifted all his 12 sons and other family members to Calcutta.

The team was constituted after one of Tipu’s descendants filed a petition with the Karnataka Board of Waqf, complaining that he was not being allowed to manage the property. “We are upset at the way the Waqf properties are being maintained here, much to the disappointment of Tipu’s descendants,” said Professor Sheikh Ali, a historian from Bangalore. Ali headed the team, of which the two other members were Khaled Ahmed and M.N.Panali, chairman and chief executive of the Karnataka Waqf Board, respectively.

Khaled said they will move the Karnataka government to help Tipu’s descendants. “We will take the children to Karnataka for education and arrange funds for girls of marriageable age,” he said. The team will submit its report to the Karnataka Waqf Board early next month. The team was taken to Shaw Wallace building on Bankshall Street, Royal Calcutta Golf Club, Tollygunge Club and the two mosques of Tipu Sultan in Dharamtala and Tollygunge. “We have recorded complaints from several descendants,” said Panali.

Anwar Ali Shah, one of the descendants living in Tollygunge, complained that his family was leading a “hand- to-mouth existence, as nothing is coming to us from the Waqf properties.”

Equally aggrieved is Dilawar Khan, who lives in a dingy room in Tollygunge with his family, including five children. “We are almost starving,” he said. “Two members of my family pull rickshaws for a living,” complained another descendant, who did not want to be named. He charged that prime property was being encroached upon in connivance with Waqf Board officials.

Asked about the steps being taken by the Waqf Board for redressal of grievances, Nazrul Islam Mollah, chief executive officer, state Waqf Board, said they were “handicapped due to litigation involving Waqf properties.”

Ismail Nihal, another board member who took the team members around the Waqf properties, said efforts were on to settle the litigation.

Meanwhile, the state government has decided to renovate the Mysore family cemetery on Satish Mukherjee Road at Kalighat, and name it after Tipu.    


 
 
YOUTH SLIPS OFF BUS, RUN OVER 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 29: 
Traffic was disrupted for over an hour in the Kankurgachhi area on Sunday evening after 26-year-old Md. Sayeed was run over by the rear wheel of the bus he was travelling in. Sayeed slipped and fell while trying to get off the private bus in front of the Maniktala fire service station.

He was rushed to Nilratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital, where he was declared “brought dead”. Residents of the area chased the bus, but the driver managed to speed off towards Phoolbagan. Later, a mob gathered on the spot, demanding a “speedbreaker” on the “accident-prone stretch” and police action against reckless drivers.    


 
 
WAR ON WATER HYACINTH IN DRIVE AGAINST MALARIA 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, Oct. 29: 
Social welfare bodies will be entrusted with maintaining nearly 3,000 city tanks and waterbodies, which are a major source for spreading malaria, city health chief Javed Khan said on Sunday.

The CMC will keep the waterbodies free from hyacinth as health officials have discovered that these are closely connected with malaria, he said. Anopheles mosquitoes, vectors of the malarial parasite, prefer to breed in the water accumulated on the leaves of hyacinth.

The CMC’s drive against malaria in the city was intensified after the recent unseasonal rain. “Malaria tends to spread by the last week of October and this shower will aggravate the situation if precautionary steps are not taken immediately,” said Khan.

“I have held talks with Lions Club of North Calcutta, and chairman Sanjay Kejriwal has agreed to undertake a water hyacinth-cleaning operation in various ponds in the city,” said Khan.

“There are over 3,500 ponds in 141 wards and at least 40 per cent of them are filled with water hyacinth. The number of such ponds is more in the added areas of Behala, Garden Reach and Jadavpur,” Khan said.

Of the 255 such ponds in the city proper, the major ones are at Haji Md. Mohsin Square, NRS Hospital, SSKM Hospital, Asiatic Society, Zoological Survey of India and Victoria Memorial Hall. According to the scheme, Haji Md. Mohsin Square will be cleaned first.

While Lions Club will pay the labourers, the CMC will provide trucks to despatch the load to Dhapa. The cleaning operation will start from this week and each pond will be cleaned in a day to prevent further generation of water hyacinths.

The CMC health department has decided to ask the CMDA, CIT and the PWD to take steps in cleaning the ponds in their respective areas.

Blood samples so far tested by the civic health department has indicated that more than 16,000 people are carrying the malarial parasite.

Of them, about 2,000 tested positive for plasmodium falciparum, the malignant malaria parasite.

“We have decided to deploy two more mobile clinics for door-to-door monitoring in the malaria-prone areas like Chetla, Tollygunge, Beleghata and Topsia,” said Khan.

The CMC’s health and conservancy departments have launched cleaning drives in the city’s medical college and hospitals from October 26, beginning with NRS Medical College Hospital, as part of its malaria control programme.

CMC conservancy chief Mala Roy said the cleaning operation included draining out stagnant water from nooks and corners of the hospital campus, clearing trash and spraying larvicide.    


 
 
N. BENGAL SECURITY REVIEW 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 29: 
Concerned over the activities of the banned Kamtapuri Liberation Organisation (KLO) in north Bengal, the state government will review the law and order situation there at a high-level meeting at the state secretariat on Monday to initiate steps to counter them.

Chief minister-designate Buddhadev Bhattacharya, who will convene the meeting, said on Sunday that the government will try to assess the situation arising out of the KLO activities during the past few months.

The meeting, he said, will also help the administration ascertain the possible role of Assam-based militant organisations in the KLO activities in the state.

The meeting, which will be attended by the state chief secretary, home secretary, director-general of police and the inspector-general (north Bengal), will ascertain whether any political party was masterminding the movement by instigating the KLOs, Bhattacharya said.

In spite of taking steps against the outfit, the activities of the KLO, including killing and abduction for ransom, could not be contained, he said. So, “the arrangements required to be geared up,” he added.    


 
 
PARENTS DIE IN JOINT SUICIDE, DAUGHTERS BATTLE FOR LIFE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 29: 
The mother of the two girls admitted to M.R. Bangur Hospital for consuming sleeping pills died on Sunday morning. Their father had died earlier. The two girls are still in hospital and the doctors are keeping a watch on their condition.

Sankaracharya Bhowmik (65), his wife Chhaya (52) and their two daughters, Sujata (26) and Suranjana (22), lived in a rented flat at Bagha Jatin. Before the family consumed the killer pills, Sankaracharya wrote a suicide note, saying he had set aside Rs 15,000 to pay the rent for October and to perform the last rites of the family. He also requested neighbours to deposit sale proceeds of his belongings to the chief minister’s relief fund.

On Friday, their landlord, Provat Ranjan Chakroborty, discovered that the family was locked in till as late as 10 am. He informed the local youth, who broke open the door with the help of the police, to find all four lying on the floor, unconscious. They were rushed to hospital, where Sankaracharya, a retired engineer of the Central Public Works Department, died. The landlord said: “They were very quiet people. Bhowmik rented the flat in December and paid the rent regularly.”

A neighbour said: “The elder daughter suffered from a neurological problem and her treatment was expensive. Sankaracharya was the only earning member and worried a lot about marrying his daughters off.”    


 
 
GEORGE PLAYS DOWN ‘CHINESE INCURSION’ 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Guwahati, Oct. 29: 
Defence minister George Fernandes today played down the “Chinese intrusion” into Arunachal Pradesh and said there was no concrete evidence to suggest that the Red Army had crossed the line of actual control.

Fernandes’ daylong visit to Arunachal Pradesh came in the wake of chief minister Mukut Mithi’s recent claims that mule tracks cleared by the Chinese Army had been “discovered” at Kaila pass in Dibang valley as well as other places along the border, which suggested that the Chinese army was making “repeated incursions” into the state.

Wary of antagonising Beijing, New Delhi took care not to convey the impression that it was paying too much attention to the issue. Fernandes said the “main purpose” of his visit was to discuss improvement of road communication. He even brought along director-general of Border Roads Organisation Lt. Gen. A.K. Puri “to be more specific about the matter”.

The defence minister told newsmen at Raj Bhavan that “our border with China is quite safe and there is no need for concern”.

Asked about Mithi’s claims of Chinese intrusions in at least four sectors of Dibang, Tawang, Taksin and Maja, Fernandes said that “there is no concrete evidence as such. Moreover such issues can always be discussed at flag meetings of both the countries”.

He added that border talks are held from time to time to thrash out such issues. Immediately upon arrival, Fernandes went into a huddle with the chief minister and Governor Arvind Dave. The closed-door meeting lasted more than two hours.

After the meeting, Mithi was also “subdued” and toned down his earlier claim. “Since the line of actual control is an imaginary line, both uniformed and non-uniformed people tend to cross it without any ulterior motive,” he said.

But he added that “we should be more vigilant” and repulse intruders from the other side in the guise of graziers.

Activities of both the National Socialist Council of Nagaland factions also figured in the meeting and the chief minister stressed the need for Army intervention to flush out militants from Tirap and Changlang districts.

“Their (Isak-Muivah and Khaplang) bid to establish control in these areas is wreaking havoc in the two districts and peace and development are taking a backseat,” Mithi added. Though Fernandes admitted to discussing NSCN activities, he refused to comment on it.    


 
 
BODO HEARTLAND FACES THREAT OF FACTIONAL CLASHES 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Guwahati, Oct. 29: 
The prospect of a fresh burst of fratricidal killings looms large over Assam’s Bodo heartland even as the state struggles to come to terms with the massacres in Doomdooma and Nalbari over the past week. Both the Bodo Liberation Tigers and the outlawed National Democratic Front of Boroland are in the mood for another bloody confrontation, sources said.

To make matters worse, grassroots-level activists of the People’s Democratic Front have resigned en masse following “pressure” from their political adversaries.

The PDF has accused the All-Bodo Students’ Union-BLT-BJP combine of “terrorising” its activists and forcing them to resign from the party. In a statement here, the party said the BJP was “instigating BLT militants” to intimidate its leaders and grassroot-level activists in several districts of Lower Assam.

Leader of the PDF Legislature Party, Deva Kanta Ramchiary, said BLT rebels were moving about with arms in violation of their ceasefire agreement with the government. He said these militants were using musclepower to force PDF activists to resign.

Director-general of police P.V. Sumant, however, said the police had no information about BLT rebels moving about with arms openly. He said counter-insurgency operations were under way to keep things under control.

The situation in the Bodo-dominated areas took a turn for the worse after Bodo Sahitya Sabha president Bineswar Brahma and PDF legislator from Bijni, Mohini Basumatary, were killed in August. The Absu’s campaign for unity among all mainstream Bodo organisations was subsequently derailed. The students’ organisation alleged that the PDF leadership had succumbed to pressure from the NDFB and backed out of the unity campaign.

The situation deteriorated further after grassroot-level workers of the PDF began resigning from the party in several districts following intimidation by BLT militants. Both Absu and BJP have, however, denied allegations that they instigated the rebels.

The NDFB, which has never been receptive to the idea of talks, has stepped up its activities despite suffering several reverses. The Absu leadership apprehends a fresh burst of killings in the Bodo-dominated areas if the NDFB is not reined in. Chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta claims that the NDFB has become “weak” and is, therefore, trying to make its presence felt by attacking the security forces and indulging in fratricidal killings.    


 
 
REPATRIATION OF REANG REFUGEES FAILS TO TAKE OFF 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, Oct. 29: 
Repatriation of over 35,000 Reang tribals has once again run into rough weather with Mizoram government imposing fresh conditions.

According to the decision taken at a tripartite meeting between chief minister Manik Sarkar, Mizoram home minister Tawnluia and Union home minister L.K.Advani in New Delhi on August 7, the repatriation process was supposed to begin this month. As per the agreed formula, 16,000 refugees were to be repatriated to Mizoram by October 21 and the process was to be completed by the end of the year.

But the Mizoram government created fresh obstacles by demanding identification of the refugees to ascertain whether their names figured in the voters’ list and whether they possessed ration cards. An official communiqué by the Mizoram government made it clear that they had grave doubts about the identity of the inmates.

The Mizoram government suggested that many local Reang tribals, including the Bru National Liberation Front activists, had taken shelter at the Tripura camps. Highly-placed sources in the state government’s relief and rehabilitation department said they had offered to conduct a fresh verification of the refugees in the presence of Mizoram government representatives.The dithering by the Mizoram government over repatriation of refugees has sparked resentment among Reang tribals in Tripura and Mizoram.

The Bru National Union (BNU), a Mizoram-based organisation and the Bru Refugee committee have condemned the role of the Mizoram government. A statement issued by the two organisations criticised the role of the Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga saying, “The chief minister seems to be more interested in blocking the repatriation process than completing it.”

The statement also dismissed the Mizoram government’s stand on the identity of refugees as “motivated and designed to block all avenues of repatriation.” It added that all the inmates of the refugee camps were indigenous Mizo people. Demanding immediate intervention of the Centre in the impasse, the Reang organisations said unless the Centre mounted pressure on Mizoram government, the refugees would never be able to return to their homeland.

Official sources here said the cost of providing ration to the refugees was a severe a financial drain on Tripura’s depleted exchequer. A senior official of the relief and rehabilitation department said, “The Centre is paying for the upkeep of refugees and Rs 22 crore has already been spent. It is a difficult task because of our slender resources.” The refugees have apprised the National Human Rights Commission of their plight and the role of Mizoram government in it.

Ganja seized: Police have seized 4,030 kg of ganja worth Rs 24.18 lakh over the past few days from different parts of Nagaland, a senior police official said here today, reports PTI. The contraband items were seized in Kohima, Dimapur and Mokokchung.    

 

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