Buddha claims breakthrough
Shanties gutted in Tangra blaze
Autos banned from main roads
Calcutta callous to poacher passage
CalTel ready to go cellular
Street food not safe, says mayor
Law lessons for top cops
Nip in air not winter, say weathermen
It’s the mood that makes the city
Orissa govt in line of Opp. fire

 
 
BUDDHA CLAIMS BREAKTHROUGH 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 27: 
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Monday claimed a “breakthrough” in the twin dacoities which rocked Kasba early last week.

Refusing to elaborate, Bhattacharjee told reporters at Writers’ Buildings: “We have achieved a breakthrough and the main culprits have been caught.”

Police officers said it was essential to remain “discreet” as a few of the criminals were still at large and revealing names would tip them off. The first lead in the twin dacoities came on Monday morning, when members of the families of Akshay Deb and Shyamal Kanti Ghosh — whose houses were burgled last Monday — identified a criminal from the police’s “rogues’ gallery” as one of the dacoits involved in the case.

This was corroborated by local liquor den-owner Anil, who said the criminal was among those who had been drinking at his shop just before the crime was committed.

It was on the basis of this disclosure that the police carried out a number of raids in nearby Choubagha and arrested the criminal later in the evening from a village in the Sonarpur-Bishnupur area of South 24-Parganas. “We shall disclose his name at an appropriate time,” said a police officer. “Some other gang members are eluding us and it may take some time before we round them up.”

Deputy inspector-general of police, CID, Chayan Mukherjee, said that though “good progress” had been made so far, they were still looking for the stolen goods. “That will provide the clinching evidence that it is this criminal’s gang that had committed the Kasba dacoities,” he said. Inspector-general of police (South Bengal), Ajoy Prasad, however, said it was an “inter-district” gang that was involved in the crime. “We are working on some leads and have made some progress.”

On the basis of a tip-off, the police on Monday also arrested Baul Sau, an “inter-district” criminal, from a train near Howrah. Superintendent of railway police, D.P. Tarenia, said Sau’s gang was involved in dacoities in the districts of Howrah and North and South 24-Parganas. The police said a few of Sau’s associates had also been picked up after he disclosed their whereabouts.

Meanwhile, even as the police carried on their search operations, criminals attempted to strike in Behala and in the Regent Park area late on Sunday night.

On J.K. Pal Road, in Behala, a gang of hoodlums tried to hijack a taxi after firing five shots in the air. However, residents raised an alarm and the criminals fled.

In another case, dacoits struck at Prantik Abasan, in Regent Park, on the second successive night, trying to break into a house there. They cut off the power lines and were preparing to strike when they were spotted by residents, who raised an alarm. Fearing they would be outnumbered the criminals fled, hurling a few bombs.    


 
 
SHANTIES GUTTED IN TANGRA BLAZE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 27: 
A devastating fire on Ramzan-eve rendered more than 4,000 slum-dwellers homeless in Meher Ali Lane, Tangra, on Monday evening. No one was injured. The blaze, which engulfed an area of 20 bighas on 9 and 10, Meher Ali Lane, adjacent to the Corporation’s slaughter-house, gutted 1,500 shanties, including more than 120 cottage industries of rubber, plastic and tallow. The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained.

The victims have been provided with temporary shelter at the Ashrafi mosque, Tangra slaughter-house and Mulkim Girls’ School.

Twenty-five fire engines were rushed to the spot to battle the blaze in an operation that lasted over four hours.

Fire services minister Pratim Chatterjee was heckled by local residents, who alleged that the fire engines arrived late. Local councillor Pankaj Makal said the fire broke out at 4.30 pm. “Despite repeated phone calls, the first fire engine reached the spot at 5.40 pm,” alleged Md. Daulat, a resident.

Senior fire brigade official Shyamalendu Banerjee, however, refuted the allegation.

The first fire officer to reach the spot, Kunja Behari Sarkar, said: “Initially, we faced a problem of water shortage, but then we were informed by residents of a pond nearby.”

The fire-fighters were also handicapped as a CESC transformer exploded soon after the fire broke out, plunging the entire area into darkness.

According to some local residents, stoves used to melt animal fat might have caused the blaze. “The fire spread quickly, as the shanties were stocked with combustible materials like bamboos, plastic and plywood boards,” said Sheikh Bhutto.

Fire officials have sought the help of a forensic expert to trace the cause of the blaze.

The debris will not be removed till the tests are carried out.

With mayor Subrata Mukherjee out of the country, mayor-in-council members Mala Roy and Javed Ahmed Khan visited the spot. “I will be contacting the Ramakrishna Mission and the Bharat Sevashram Sangha for relief work,” said Roy.

She also promised to send milk on Tuesday morning for about 400 children in the slum area.

Javed Khan, supervising the arrangement for emergency supply of potable water in tankers for the victims, said a medical team would visit the area soon.    


 
 
AUTOS BANNED FROM MAIN ROADS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 27: 
The government has fixed 65 routes in and around the city for three-wheelers. In a notification issued on November 23, the transport department made it clear that no autorickshaw will be allowed to ply on any road in the city other than the identified routes.

Besides, autos have been banned from the central business district zone, including Esplanade, BBD Bag, Lalbazar, Bowbazar and Chowringhee.

No three-wheelers will be allowed to ply on the main roads, including Chittaranjan Avenue, SN Banerjee Road, Jawaharlal Nehru Road and BB Ganguly Street. The Motor Vehicles Directorate took the decision after discussing the issue with senior police officers.

The transport department announced the setting up of an auto cell in the Motor Vehicles Directorate and all the regional transport offices to oversee the plying of three-wheelers. The cell will ensure that autos abide by the new set of rules. “We are determined to impose the new rules on three-wheelers. We will take harsh action against violators of the rules. They may have to pay a hefty cash fine or their permits may be seized,’’ said T.V. Venkatraman, director of Motor Vehicles.

Concerned over three-wheelers plying illegally and creating traffic chaos at almost all road intersections, the transport department initiated a move to frame a set of rules for autos. Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty after holding a series of meetings with the police, auto operators and the Motor Vehicles Department, finalised the new set of rules, effective from January 1, 2001.

According to the new rules, obtaining a licence and a permit is mandatory for plying an auto; three-wheelers will be allowed to ply only on selected routes carrying a maximum of four passengers; the fare will be fixed by the Motor Vehicles Department and regional transport authority; the number of vehicles to ply on each route too will be fixed.

Venkatraman said no new permits for autos will be issued till further notice. He said permits would be issued only to those who were plying autos earlier.

Deputy chairman of the State Transport Authority, Lakshman Bhattacharya, on Monday said the fare structure for three-wheelers will soon be announced. He added that between 40 and 50 autos will be allowed to ply on each route.

Sources in the transport department said the fare is likely to be Rs 2 per kilometre.    


 
 
CALCUTTA CALLOUS TO POACHER PASSAGE 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, Nov. 27: 
The Calcutta airport and Veerappan top their hate-list. One, because it’s the “most active hub” for the traffic of poached items in the region and yet no one seems to be bothered. The other, because he’s been killing elephants by the hundreds and yet, is glorified like an “Al Capone”.

On a two-day stopover, animal rights activists Merritt Clifton and Kim Bartlett trained their guns on the gateway to the east and the bandit king of the south. The husband-wife duo, on a research trip of Asia — Hong Kong, Mumbai, Jaipur, Calcutta, Visakhapatnam and Chennai — expressed their “amazement” at the “amount of importance” attached to Veerappan. “The guy must have slain more than 2,000 elephants and murdered more than 150 people and the locals still glorify his deeds like the Italian-Americans did with Al Capone,” said Merritt, editor of Animal People, widely acknowledged as the leading animal news monthly in the world.

Accompanied by publisher-wife Kim and activist-son Wolf, 10, Merritt had much to say about the state of affairs at the state-of-the-art Calcutta airport: “Calcutta being close to the Sunderbans, the Dooars and the Northeast, it is an obvious transit axis for tiger skin and other valuable remains of hunted animals... Maybe it’s not as bad as Indonesia, but the situation is alarming, with at least 10 to 15 Bengal Tiger skins, as well as some leopard skins from north Bengal and the Northeast jungles, being smuggled out every month. Bear skins from the Himalayan foothills on the Nepal border and rhino horns from Jaldapara also make their way into such contraband parcels.”

China, felt Kim, was one of the possible destinations for the illegal traffic from Calcutta. “In China, it was long considered bourgeois to care for animals. Although the state attitude towards animal protection there has changed somewhat, the demand for poached items remains high,” she observed.

On their second visit to the country and their first to Calcutta, both felt the “visible cruelty towards animals” here was “not consonant with the traditions and religious beliefs one associates with India, the land of Mahavira and Buddha”.

“True, people in India are generally more compassionate towards animals than perhaps in the US, but welfare groups still draw a lot of flak and are often impeded by lack of co-operation from the local administration,” said Kim, who along with her husband helped Pradeep Nath, founder of the Visakha SPCA, defend endangered Olive Ridley sea turtle females.

Merritt and Kim were “most impressed” with the aviary at Karuna Kunj, an animal shelter run by Compassionate Crusaders’ Trust, on the south-western fringes of the city.

“It’s the best birdhouse I have seen anywhere in the world and I plan to recommend it as an international model,” said Merritt. At the shelter, Wolf — a keen animal lover in 4th Grade — made friends with the three-legged dog, Whitey, and loved the way injured birds are given flying lessons.

Animal People, which serves to link potential donors directly with animal welfare organisations throughout the world, is planning to get involved in setting up a monkey sanctuary in Calcutta.

“We are harnessing resources in tandem with the Compassionate Crusaders to create a shelter for retired performing monkeys, where their keepers, too, will be rehabilitated,” said Kim and Merritt, who define their roles as “animal protection watchdogs”.    


 
 
CALTEL READY TO GO CELLULAR 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 27: 
Calcutta Telephones on Sunday started to test the market for the launch of its own cellular service in the city. “All necessary instruments have been put in place and we are ready to launch,” chief general manager, Calcutta Telephones, K. Ramanujam said.

Twenty base stations have already been installed in different areas of the city, he added, explaining that a base station is a component that transmits signals from the caller to the receiver, and vice-versa.

General manager, planning, Somnath Maity, who is monitoring the cellular services, said the mobile switch has been commissioned at Tiretta Bazar. “It is operational and everyday we are checking the instruments,” Maity said.

The telecom utility is providing SIM cards, used to gain access to the network for connection, to their officials from next week.

“The SIM cards will arrive next week and our officials will move around in the city with the handsets to check whether the network is available in areas covered by the Calcutta Telephones,” Ramanujam said. In the next phase, Ramanujam intends to gift the SIM cards to 50 prominent Calcuttans. “We will request them to use our services for a fortnight and give us a feedback. We are keen to find out how we fare vis-a-vis the private operators,” Ramanujam said.

Maity added that the mobile handsets available in the market could be used to get connected to Calcutta Telephones’ cellular network. “Consumers will only have to use our SIM card,” Maity said.

Telecom authorities said the “acceptance testing” or checking of the network is expected to take about a month’s time.

Calcutta Telephones will be the third cellular service provider in the city, after Command and Spice, two private operators.

The chief general manager said Calcutta Telephones’ cellular service will cover Kalyani to Budge Budge to Baruipur-Bishnupur to Chandannagar.

The department of telecom in Delhi will fix the call charges, Maity informed. “We are waiting for the billing software to arrive from Delhi,” he said.

Calcutta Telephones officials said statistics reveal subscribers mostly complain about excess or wrong billing. “We have to plug that loophole in our service first,” Maity said.

The telecom authorities are hoping for a mid-January launch. “We are in a position to launch today but the department of telecom is taking a long time to fix the rate structure,” an area manager of Calcutta Telephones said.    


 
 
STREET FOOD NOT SAFE, SAYS MAYOR 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 27: 
Mayor Subrata Mukherjee has painted a gloomy picture of street food available in Calcutta at the international conference of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) in Bangkok on Monday.

Accepting the presence of 1.3-lakh food vendors on the streets of Calcutta as part of the city’s socio-economic reality, he said: “Unfortunately, street food is the cause of several food-borne diseases, as vendors are not aware of hygienic practices, proper storage and handling of foods.”

He said a study of street food was jointly conducted by the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health and FAO in 1992-94, on the basis of which a “city plan of action” was chalked out to ensure that it was safe to eat street food. The study, which bagged the Edouro Souma Award of FAO on the golden jubilee of the UN in Rome, said contamination occurred mainly due to prolonged storage under poor conditions and unclean water.

However, the nutritive value of the food was satisfactory, the mayor said. He maintained that if cleanliness was ensured, street food had tremendous potential for providing enough calorific value at very low prices.    


 
 
LAW LESSONS FOR TOP COPS 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, Nov. 27: 
The Bureau of Police Research and Development of the Government of India is all set to send senior IPS officers from around the country to Calcutta for a seven-day training session.

As part of the Vertical Interaction Course, a team of 30 IPS officers, from the SP to DG ranks, will spend seven days at the six-month-old West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences. The law enforcers will take part in the training programme designed to expose them to the “principles of law and the realities in life” and make them “responsible and responsive to the needs of time”.

“Though the bureau conducts several training programmes around the country at academic institutes like Tata Institute of Social Sciences and IIT, it’s the first time that Calcutta will be hosting such a session,” said a senior officer of the state police force.

Authorities at the NUJS and the Police Training Department are rushing through the formalities to start the course by January 2001. “We are proud to be entrusted with the responsibility of this training and have started working on a comprehensive course material for the participants,” said N.R. Madhava Menon, vice-chancellor of the latest law school in Calcutta.

The fledgling institute in Salt Lake has already conducted in-service training programmes for pollution control board officials, magistrates and munsifs in district courts of the state. A training programme for the medical practitioners is also on the cards.

Explaining the orientation of the proposed training programme, Menon said: “The police are expected to keep a strict vigil on diverse areas, ranging from cyber crime to communal activities, and there is an entire gamut of challenges involved in the policing process.”

The programme is woven around a detailed analysis of case studies “where the police found it difficult to perform their duties”. These include communal riots, electioneering, slum clearance and labour disputes. “This will enable the officers to understand what should have been the response of the police in the line of the Constitution and the conditions under which they failed to perform,” explained Menon.

And this is no one-off course either. “It will be institutionalised and will be conducted thrice a year,” said a senior IPS officer.    


 
 
NIP IN AIR NOT WINTER, SAY WEATHERMEN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 27: 
There may be a nip in the air, but winter has not yet set in over Calcutta, weather officials said on Monday. The morning and evening chills are deceptive, as far as a change of season is concerned, as unless the minimum temperature (at 5 am) drops to 17 degrees Celsius, “we cannot say that winter has arrived,” pointed out R.N. Goldar, director of the meteorological office at Alipore.

On Monday morning, the minimum temperature recorded was 18.7 degrees. Though the maximum temperature is not an indicator, it usually falls below 30 degrees during the winter in the city.

Other parameters that are considered are the fall in minimum relative humidity to around 30 per cent and intermittent to continuous cold winds from northern India. Neither has started yet.

“Usually, winter arrives during the last week of November. But a cyclonic development in the Bay of Bengal off the Tamil Nadu coast has led to a cloud cover over coastal Orissa and Bengal. This cover is likely to continue for the next few days, preventing the temperature from dropping,” Goldar said. “We now expect the winter to arrive by the first week of next month.”    


 
 
IT’S THE MOOD THAT MAKES THE CITY 
 
 
BY SEBANTI SARKAR
 
Calcutta, Nov. 27: 
Calcutta “surprised” her the first time she came here, in 1998. Instead of the ‘difficult place’ she had heard about, she found “an enchanting city with a special mood... A mood that I hope will remain with Calcutta,” Annette Leday said on Monday, back in the city as co-director of The Tempest, to be staged on Tuesday by Annette Leday Company and Bremer Shakespeare Company.

“Take the old architecture. I would hate to see it all replaced by modern concrete monstrosities. Even the crowded streets, to me, are so full of life. I still remember the vibrant bustle round Howrah Bridge,” recalled the French choreographer.

Annette has directed a team of Kathakali dancers and plastic artists to create the enchanted Island — the central symbol of the play, its spirits and Ariel. A magic world with which the actors interact. “The whole first scene has been translated into dance. We don’t use special effects for Prospero’s magic, they are described through dance mudras,” she said. Inter-cultural and inter-generic interpretations of Shakespeare are not new, even for Annette. Back in 1989, she presented Kathakali-King Lear, which has had five performances, including one at the Globe, London. “But that was an adaptation within the parameters of conventional Kathakali dance traditions,” said Annette. So, in 1995, she produced Trans-Malabar, in which she tried to “reach beyond... develop new uses of space and body language, do away with the typical dance costumes and make-up”.

Annette began as an actress in France but after numerous encounters with people from India, she joined the French university to study Indian literature and languages, especially Tamil (in which she converses freely). Greatly enthused by her learning, she first visited India in 1975. “It was a great shock and also a great love,” remembers Annette. She came to India looking for something that would roughly match the dance-theatre forms she had in mind. She found it in Kathakali. From 1978 to 1983, Annette stayed at the Sadanam Institute in Kerala, imbibing the intricacies of the discipline. But all along, she was yearning to improvise, to “do her own thing”. So with some fellow students from Sadanam, she formed her own company.

With successful performances all over the world and a French government award to boot, Annette is still restless. For her, every project has its challenges and sets fresh goals. She repents she is yet to make acquaintance with the “great theatre and dance talents of Calcutta”, but hopes to get lucky during her two-day stay this time.    


 
 
ORISSA GOVT IN LINE OF OPP. FIRE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Bhubaneswar, Nov. 27: 
The BJD-BJP government in Orissa is likely to face flack in the winter session of the Assembly for failing to tackle the drought conditions in west Orissa. The winter session is slated between November 29 and December 30.

With reports of largescale migration from west Orissa districts, the government may not only come under fire from the Opposition, but may also face criticism from some of its own legislators who feel that very little has been done for the victims of drought.

The report of the drought committee, formed by the ruling alliance, is likely to provide ammunition to the Opposition.

The committee, which toured the west Orissa districts recently, observed that ministerial monitoring was not satisfactory. It refuted government claims that no migration had taken place and reported that labour-intensive work had not reach the drought victims.

Other issues likely to be debated during the session include Naxalite menace, the WODC Bill and the Koshala state demand.

The recent killings of two south Orissa politicians by suspected Naxalites can trigger a debate in the House. The government is likely to face criticism for its inability to get more funds for the formation of a special force to counter the Naxalites.

More than any other issue, the WODC Bill, 2000, which was passed in the budget session of the Assembly, is likely to kick up a storm. Sources said the Opposition parties may gun for the government over the Bill, which has been waiting for the Governor’s consent for the past three months.

The issue of a separate Koshala state is likely to be debated hotly among the members during this session. While all the major political parties have rejected the demand for a separate Koshala state, support by some of their members may start a debate in the House.

The government will table three Bills before the House for ratification — the Orissa Zilla Parishad (Amendment) Bill, the Orissa Panchayat Samiti ((Amendment) Bill and the Orissa Self Help Cooperative Bill.

Sop for backwards

In a major sop for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in the state, the government has decided to allow the OBC candidates to appear for a maximum of seven times in the Orissa Civil Service entrance examination. Till now, the OBC candidates had a maximum of four chances for the examination.

The state council of ministers, which met at the state secretariat today, also hiked the maximum age limit to 35 years for all examinations taken by the OBC youths.

State chief secretary D.P. Bagchi told newsmen that the Cabinet had also decided to increase the amount given from the Advocate Welfare Fund to advocates who retire or die in accidents from Rs 60,000 to Rs 90,000. The government will move the Advocate Welfare Fund Bill in the Assembly for its approval during this session.

The council of ministers also decided to form a four-member sub-committee to discuss the changes to be effected in the Orissa Forest Act. The Act will be amended as the illegal trade in timber has grown over the years. The council of ministers also decided to bring in the human rights cell under the home department.    

 

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