Fare hike fuels fire on streets
Life’s dream in moment’s magic
Office set right, Asim back
Cops crack down on Kalighat’s keepers
Deprived children get Japanese shelter
Monday date for examiners
Injunction on cable channel
Green bench pulls up pollution panel
Army to probe firing
Reang refugees restive, seek to return home

 
 
FARE HIKE FUELS FIRE ON STREETS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 10: 
Life in Calcutta and Howrah was thrown out of gear on Friday as Congress, SUCI and Samajwadi Party supporters took to the streets to protest the bus fare hike announced on Thursday.

Demonstrators set fire to a bus, damaged four others and stoned three taxis. Supporters of the Congress and SUCI students’ wings put up roadblocks in at least a dozen spots all over the city during the rush hour. People had a harrowing time, having to cope with the resultant traffic chaos.

A hundred and forty-six demonstrators, including two women, were arrested. They were released later. Chhatra Parishad demonstrators set fire to one state bus and severely damaged two others on Bagbazar Street around 9.30 in the morning. Police chased away the demonstrators.

Police said around 3 pm, nearly 100 Chhatra Parishad members blocked the Hazra crossing. When the police lathicharged them, the agitators stoned three taxis. Seven persons were arrested. Auto-rickshaw drivers, who were being pulled up for taking passengers beyond the stipulated limit in Hazra, joined in with Chhatra Parishad members. They were lathicharged.

In Howrah, Chhatra Parishad demonstrators blocked roads near Howrah Maidan and damaged a state bus and a private bus. A few hundred Chhatra Parishad members took over Sealdah flyover at the intersection of M.G. Road and A.P.C. Road around 2 pm.

Traffic came to a standstill in Sealdah for more than an hour. Policemen with lathis chased the demonstrators and arrested 83.

Nearly 100 agitators blocked Rabindra Sarani near Sovabazar between 11 am and noon. At Esplanade, about 200 Samajwadi Party supporters took over the intersection of J.L. Nehru Road and S.N. Banerjee Road around 2.15 pm. Police chased them with lathis, arrested 32 of them and seized a loudspeaker.

Around the same time, SUCI supporters came in procession to Esplanade East and burnt an effigy symbolic of the government.

On Chittaranjan Avenue Chhatra Parishad activists put up roadblocks at two places. Supporters blocked Ganesh Chandra Avenue near Hind cinema around 1.30 pm. Around noon, Congress activists put up a road block at the Gariahat crossing.    


 
 
LIFE’S DREAM IN MOMENT’S MAGIC 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA AND MADHUMITA BHATTACHARYYA
 
Calcutta, Nov. 10: 
Sujoy Acharya and Niraj Kayal, both 10 years old, sat quietly, waiting for their last wish to come true. For the two thalassaemia patients, time is running out. But they didn’t mind the five-hour wait for the five minutes of magic with Hrithik Roshan.

“He asked me my name,” smiled an exhausted Sujoy. “He wanted to know about my sister,” grinned Niraj, proudly displaying his autograph book, with two autographs... one for Niraj, and one for Tripti.

While Sujoy raves about Hrithik’s acting in Kaho Na... Pyar Hai, Niraj was floored by the moves of the Ek pal ka jeena” man. On Friday, their dream date with their hero was set up by Make a Wish Foundation.

The wish to meet the man of the moment — despite the drubbing in the city that Mission Kashmir has received from Mohabbatein — caused chaotic scenes whenever Hrithik stepped out of Hotel Hindustan International.

On his third visit to the city, for the Roshan Show organised by the state sports department, Hrithik drove straight from the airport to the Salt Lake stadium after a “hush-hush” landing on Thursday night.

“What a colossal stadium!” Hrithik exclaimed, as stadium CEO Saumitra Ray showed him around. “Will there be enough people to fill up the stands?” wondered Rakesh Roshan.

When he was assured of a full house on Saturday, papa popped the vital question: “What was the crowd at the Shah Rukh show?” More than 1.25 lakh, came the reply.

“And how many are expected on Saturday?” Around 1.40 lakh. “Wowww...,” was all that Rakesh could manage.

By then, Hrithik was in a world of his own. Lying on his back on a dirty carpet near the tunnel, he appeared to “meditate” for a while before trotting up to the stage and dancing the next three hours away under the floodlights.

On Friday, Team Hrithik (including Amisha Patel and Namrata Shirodkar) turned on the charm. “Calcutta is the place we got all the love from, so we wanted to give back some,” said Rakesh Roshan, explaining why the city had been picked to launch his son’s mega show, an act slated to tour 50 cities.

Though the details of the concert remain strictly under wraps, grandmom Ira will definitely be there in the front row for Hrithik to touch her feet, in true Bangali style, before setting the stage on fire with hits from Roshan films.

The proceeds of the “biggest show Calcutta has ever hosted” will go to flood victims.    


 
 
OFFICE SET RIGHT, ASIM BACK 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 10: 
Finance minister Asim Dasgupta was back in his room in Writers’ Buildings on Friday, a day after an electrical fire damaged large sections of it. The blaze broke out on Thursday afternoon, while he was away taking classes at Presidency College

Back in office, Dasgupta told reporters that soon after the probe report on the blaze is submitted, major steps will be taken to revamp the safety of the state secretariat.

The minister categorically ruled out sabotage. “There is no question of sabotage. And I am happy to tell you that not a single file has either been damaged or destroyed,” Dasgupta said.

He said the four-member team probing the fire, as well forensic experts, would complete their report within a week. “We will go through the report and look for alternatives to strengthen the safety of the 18th Century building. New improved fire-resistant wiring systems are available in the market and we will instal them,” he said.

Faulty wiring of the fax machine in the minister’s ante-chamber caused the fire on Thursday afternoon. The fire destroyed books and documents.

The fire department is installing fire alarms and improved fire-fighting equipment. “Let this work continue. We will add the improvements while the project is being executed,” Dasgupta said.

Technicians set off a fire alarm near Dasgupta’s office in the afternoon, sending people scurrying out of their rooms. “We are testing the installed alarms,” a technician said.

Overnight, PWD employees have repaired the damaged section where the ante-chamber is located. It has been repainted a sober sky blue and even the polished wooden panels and sliding doors have been replaced.

The minister was against a new carpet being laid. “The carpet was badly burnt and is flammable. I don’t want another one,” Dasgupta said.    


 
 
COPS CRACK DOWN ON KALIGHAT’S KEEPERS 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, Nov. 10: 
A recent “assault” on a lady relative of a senior police officer by the Kalighat temple pandas has put lawmen on a collision course with the temple’s keepers. The police have vowed to “teach the rogue pandas” a lesson; the pandas have sworn revenge.

Two months after Delhi artist Arpana Caur was heckled and assaulted by the temple pandas, a 35-year-old lady, along with her husband and sister, were pushed around and manhandled by a group of pandas keen to corner their ‘prey’.

On a visit to the city from Allahabad, the three were pushed around and pulled by their hands and virtually dragged to one of the shops selling flowers. It is only after they started shouting for help did the pandas relent and let them go.

Related to a senior police officer, they complained to him and the police action began.

On Friday, they chalked out a plan to rein in the pandas after deputy commissioner of police (south) Ranjit Pachnanda visited the spot with a team of officers. It has been decided that pandas will not be allowed to crowd the temple gate on the look-out for devotees.

Five policemen will be posted there to ensure that this is carried out from Saturday morning. They will also keep a watch on pandas harassing devotees.

“It will not be necessary for any devotee to lodge a complaint against the pandas,” said Pachnanda. “If we find any of them misbehaving, we will promptly arrest them.”

The police will also take control of the VIP entrance to the temple, as well as regulate the queues to the garva griha (sanctum sanctorum).

But the pandas are in no mood to listen. “We will launch an agitation if this is carried out,” said Molay Ghosh Dastidar, secretary of the Sathi Brahmin Society, an organisation of the pandas.”How we operate is our business and the police have no right to interfere. In any case, if any panda misbehaves, we have our own mechanism to set matters right.”    


 
 
DEPRIVED CHILDREN GET JAPANESE SHELTER 
 
 
BY DEBASISH CHATTOPADHYAY
 
Calcutta, Nov. 10: 
Mala Tudu, Debabrata Paria and Sujata Tudu — all between four and five years old — will be moving into a bright, new home on Saturday.

These three kids from the Salvation Army centre will be the first inhabitants of Rainbow Home, at Ketopole, in Behala, about 17 km from the city centre.

Rainbow Home, a local charitable trust powered by the Japanese, has set up the modern, multistoreyed complex for 150 destitute children. The sprawling home, spread over 21 cottahs, will provide the children with food, shelter, primary education, playground, medical facilities, and a mother’s touch.

For the moment, the three kids will have one “mother”. But once more children, between “0 and 18” are allowed in, more “mothers” will be involved in the project. There will be trained nurses and other staff members on duty as well.

“This is an experiment to see if by giving the right environment and care to children with no future, they can be nurtured into responsible and successful members of society,” explained J.N. Khannah, president of Rainbow Home.

The medical unit of the complex, inspired by Seiji Kokawa of Rainbow International Association, started operations in August.

Open to local residents — now at the nominal rate of Rs 2, and soon to be made free — has already proved to be a top draw. There is one Japanese doctor and a trained nurse at the clinic.

“It is the aim of the organisation to take up abandoned and neglected children and provide them with love, care and the basic facilities that should be their birthright,” explained Sandeep Dave, the organisation’s secretary and the link with the Japanese philanthropists, led by Kaoru Igarashi.    


 
 
MONDAY DATE FOR EXAMINERS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 10: 
To prevent further delay in the publication of B.A. and B.Sc Part I results, the Calcutta University authorities on Friday directed all examiners to submit marks of students by November 13. The results are likely to be out on November 30.

The results of the Part I examinations, which were held in May, were scheduled for publication in September. Every year, the results are usually out before the Puja vacation.

On Thursday, vice-chancellor Ashis Kumar Banerjee held a meeting with all the head examiners to discuss ways to expedite the process.

The delay was also discussed at the university’s under-graduate council meeting on Thursday.

Concern over delay

The council members expressed concern at the delay and recommended a thorough revamp of the existing rules and regulations concerning appointment of examiners.

“At the meeting, we made it clear to the examiners that the marks of the students must reach us by November 13,” said Onkar Sadhan Adhikari, Calcutta University’s controller of examinations.

The vice-chancellor has already announced in a statement earlier this week that the Part I results will be published by the month-end.

University sources said that till last Monday, the marks of nearly 48,000 answer scripts had yet to reach the university.

The university authorities had attributed the failure of the examiners in completing corrections in time to the recent floods. “The answer scripts were not damaged,” said an official.    


 
 
INJUNCTION ON CABLE CHANNEL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 10: 
Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose of Calcutta High Court has passed an order of injunction on November 8, 2000, restraining Asia Television Network from “utilising the trademark and/or copyright and/or logo of ATN Bangla in any manner, whatsoever”.

This effectively means the channel has to go off the air immediately. The petitioner, K.K. Modi Investment & Financial Services Limited, claimed it had advanced money to Asia Television Network on the basis of a contract signed between the parties.

Later, following a dispute over dues, Bombay High Court passed an order attaching the logo under Order 21, Rule 54 C.P. Code on May 20, 1998. The KK Modi firm said Asia Television Network has been carrying on business within the jurisdiction of Calcutta High Court in violation of the Bombay High Court order.

The respondent has decided to challenge the injunction order in a division bench within a week.    


 
 
GREEN BENCH PULLS UP POLLUTION PANEL 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 10: 
The green bench of Calcutta High Court on Friday came down on the state pollution control board (PCB) on Friday for not taking any measures against industrial units polluting air and water.

In its order, the green bench said: “Either the pollution control board is not taking action against air and water polluting units deliberately or it has no knowledge about the provisions of pollution Acts.”

The bench, comprising Chief Justice Ashok Mathur and Justice Ranajit Maitra, said according to the Pollution Control Act, the board has enough powers to take steps against industrial units not complying with its norms.

Noted environmental activist M.C.Mehta, who argued the case himself, said in spite of the court’s earlier order, the board was not functioning properly.

A board report, the third of its kind since April 1996, when a case was initiated in Calcutta High Court, was filed on Friday, stating that industrial units of eight categories were violating the pollution control norms.

The green bench was displeased with pollution control board for producing such a “vague” report and wanted to know why it had not taken measures against offenders.

It directed the board to ask all the 2,800 industrial units of the state to implement the air and water pollution control system by December 31.

It asked the board to report before the second week of January 2001 what steps it had taken against errant units.

The court asked Subhas Dutta, environmentalist, who had filed a separate petition on Hooghly pollution, to file a list of the municipalities polluting the river.    


 
 
ARMY TO PROBE FIRING 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, Nov. 10: 
The Army will institute a court of inquiry into the killing of 10 people in firing by Assam Rifles personnel at Malom village near Imphal airport on November 2.

General-officer-commanding of the 57 Mountain Division, Maj. Gen. Iqbal Singh told a delegation from Malom and its adjoining villages at the Leimakhong brigade headquarters today that an investigation had already begun. He said the Army would not allow any errant personnel to go scot free. Maj. Gen. Singh said it had already been established that the “starting point” of the firing incident at Malom was the militant attack on the Assam Rifles’ convoy. Two Assam Rifles jawans sustained bullet injuries in the attack, he said.

Representatives of the village — including two pradhans, an up-pradhan and some secretaries of meira paibis (women’s organisations) — told the GOC that Assam Rifles personnel committed excesses even after the firing.

Over 40 people were injured in an unprovoked assault by the security personnel during combing operations after the militant attack, they said.

Maj. Gen. Singh said the Army would adequately compensate the affected villagers.

“Incidents like the firing at Malom cause misunderstanding between the Army and civilians,” he said.After hearing the villagers’ complaints, the GOC ordered officials of the 8 Assam Rifles not to enter Malom until further orders. He urged the villagers to inform him or sector commander Brig. Mukesh Sarbharwal if security personnel harassed them in any way.

Commending the role of meira paibis in betterment of society, the GOC asked them to convince militant outfits not to resort to violence.    


 
 
REANG REFUGEES RESTIVE, SEEK TO RETURN HOME 
 
 
FROM SEKHAR DATTA
 
Agartala, Nov. 10: 
The 31,000-odd Reang refugees sheltered in six North Tripura camps are getting increasingly restive because of growing uncertainty over their early return home.

Mizoram Bru (Reang) Refugees Committee president Chandramoni Molsoi said, “We are keen to return home at the earliest. But the Mizoram government headed by chief minister Zoramthanga is creating obstacles by questioning the number of refugees and their relation with the militant Bru National Liberation Front.”

He asserted that the refugees sheltered in the six camps located in remote areas of North Tripura bordering Mizoram had absolutely no connection with the BNLF as they did not believe in terrorism.

Chandramoni Molsoi’s frustration stems from the deadlock over the process of repatriation which was scheduled to begin from October 15. This process was in accordance with a decision taken at a tripartite meeting in Delhi involving Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar, Mizoram home minister Tawnluia and Union home minister L.K. Advani in August this year.

Following pressure from the Union home minister, Tawnluia had given an assurance that the process of repatriation could begin from October 15. But the Mizoram government raised questions about the actual number of genuine refugees in response to an official communication from the Tripura government in early October.

Highly-placed official sources here said the Mizoram government had agreed to accept only around 20,000 refugees after physical verification of their antecedents including citizenship records and electoral rolls to see whether the names of the refugees figure in the voters’ list and whether they have citizenship cards. Sources said as of date there are 31,828 refugees in the six camps of Kanchanpur subdivision.

Apart from this, the Mizoram government is adamant on rejecting the political demands of the refugees like creation of a separate district council based on the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution in Reang-dominated areas bordering Tripura and reservation of at least four seats in the state Assembly for tribals.

Chandramoni Molsoi said the Reangs had to flee Mammit district and adjoining areas of Mizoram after raising the demand for a district council in the first week of October 1997.

As soon as a resolution was passed by a Reang village committee in the district for a separate district council, the Mizos launched organised attacks on all Reangs. The influx of Reang refugees into Tripura actually started on October 23, 1997. The number of refugees finally stabilised at the present 31,828.

The condition in the refugee camps in Kanchanpur subdivision also leaves a lot to be desired though additional district magistrate Y. Kumar has taken certain measures to ensure health care facilities.

Official sources here said there was a major outbreak of enteric diseases in the camps in July 1998, as a result of which over 1,000 inmates, mostly infants and children, died.

Since then, steps have been taken by the North district administration to extend facilities for heath care. “The situation is far better now and any major outbreak of diseases has been effectively prevented,” sources said.

The Union government has already given Rs 22 crore for the upkeep of the refugees and funds will continue to flow but the sheer problem of maintaining such a huge number in the refugee camps is making the state government “desperate” to secure early repatriation of the refugees, sources indicated.    

 

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