Lowdown on festive high
AIDS bogey drives man to suicide in hospital
Gun-toting guest at Buddha fair
Roadblock after bus runs over woman
For water in Salt Lake, pay
Shoppers, sit-in paralyse traffic
Rail crackdown on free-trippers
Bodo rebels mow down Bhutanese
Bofors clouds Delhi decision on Manipur
NDA allies blast Marandi for

 
 
LOWDOWN ON FESTIVE HIGH 
 
 
BY AMIT UKIL
 
Calcutta, Dec.22: 
Welcome to the annual week of temptations. Between today and January 2, every hung-over and acidic morning is simply the beginning of the wait for night to arrive. And every night the beginning of the war against the craving for one last morsel, one last peg and one last dance as dawn breaks.

After some sleep and a shower, the warmth of well-being seeps back into tired bones and it’s time to plan for the next round. But wait.

Empirical data gathered from doctors, diagnostic centres, hospitals and fitness centres confirm that continuous binges, in which there is overeating, and overeating of the wrong kind of food, overdrinking and oversmoking, can do lasting damage in some cases. So, indulge by all means but do it right.

Dr K.N. Jalan, senior consultant gastro-enterologist at Kothari Medical Centre, warns of the risk of eating contaminated food at mass-cooked meals. “Germs leading to infections are likely to occur in such meals because hygienic procedures are not always followed.”

Credited with setting up the first intensive care unit in the city for stomach and intestinal disorders, Jalan advises to always eat a hot meal. “Also, oily and fatty foods should be avoided, as they can upset the lipid metabolism, leading to chronic digestive problems.” To keep the stomach working well, chew a morsel of food at least 32 times.

He also suggests that “drinks should be taken after meals, and not before, as most Indians do”. This lowers alcohol consumption and helps its absorption in the system.

London’s Science Museum offers some tips to make the painful mornings after the big nights a little less so.

Take plenty of vitamin B6 during and after drinking. It reduces hangover severity.

Stick to clear drinks, in which there are fewer impurities.

And, drink water through the evening and night.

“Eating and drinking in excess continuously for a fortnight will not have any immediate effect on a person with a normal heart,” points out Dr Anil Misra, senior interventional cardiologist at the B.M. Birla Heart Research Centre.

“But for border-line conditions, overeating can strain the heart, as there is a blood flow diversion for digestion.” The hypertense should avoid salty nuts and chips that go with drinks.

Excess alcohol weakens the pumping action of already diseased heart muscles, says Misra, and could lead to spasms.

Other than an adverse lipid profile, including a rise in triglycerides, over-indulgence leads to obesity and high blood sugar, the bane for diabetics.

“Yes, we do have to do several of these tests in the post-festive season,” says Dr Subhendu Roy, director of Roy and Tribedi diagnostic centre. Even if there are no complaints, he advises a routine check on sugar and blood pressure levels.

The traffic department is deploying extra personnel to keep a check on drunken driving. Dr Saurav Kolay, secretary, Critical Care Society (Calcutta chapter), suggests that a member in each party-hopping group should be a teetotaller — or people can take turns — to drive the others back home safely.

It may be too much to ask for, but a fitness expert says: “It’s a win-win situation if one can get up early, do some workouts, have juices and a light lunch if you have one or more places to go to again in the evening.”

   

 
 
AIDS BOGEY DRIVES MAN TO SUICIDE IN HOSPITAL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec.22: 
A middle-aged man, fearing he had been infected with HIV, committed suicide at Sambhunath Pandit Hospital on Friday morning. Ironically, at around the same time, the health minister and other Left Front leaders were inaugurating a counselling centre for AIDS victims.

Sailen Haldar, 47, of Kulpi, South 24-Parganas, had been admitted to the hospital with TB on November 25. He was discharged on December 20, but refused to leave the hospital, convinced that he had AIDS. Even after tests were conducted and doctors told him that he was not HIV-positive, Haldar’s phobia persisted.

On Thursday night, nurses noticed he was not in his bed. The next morning, when he was still not to be found, a search was launched. He was ultimately found in the patients’ common room, hanging by the neck from the ceiling fan.

“He kept saying he had this big disease,” his family members said. “We didn’t know where to take him and thought it better that he continue to stay in the hospital.”

Had the family known about counselling centres at the Calcutta Medical College hospital or the one run by the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, Haldar may not have met this fate.

“The main problem with HIV/AIDS is the uncalled for fear that people harbour,” pointed out CPM politburo member Biman Bose at the inauguration of the new premises of the committee’s city counselling centre.

“This fear stems from the lack of awareness and knowledge most people have,” he told the 200-strong audience, most of whom were sex workers and members of the committee.

Health minister Partha De also commended the work of such centres.

   

 
 
GUN-TOTING GUEST AT BUDDHA FAIR 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec.22: 
Bansidhar Agarwal, 62, had been invited to attend the inauguration of the Industrial India Trade Fair on the Maidan on Friday.

He turned up with a sophisticated, .32 revolver, loaded with four cartridges and was detained minutes, before chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee showed up. Former chief minister Jyoti Basu also attended the function.

The businessman from Hooghly, who is also secretary of a traders’ association, claimed to have bought the revolver recently but failed to produce a licence.

“I bought the gun in the wake of the recent spurt in crime in Hooghly. I fear for my life, which is as important as that of the chief minister’s. There is no law and order in Hooghly,’’ Agarwal told interrogators.

Around 4 pm, on the fair grounds, businessmen and invitees were being ushered in through a gate fitted with a metal detector. Securitymen were on the alert as the chief minister was expected any moment.

Agarwal, clad in a grey safari suit, strode in waving his invitation card. There were five police officers at the gate, two of them manning the metal detector. The moment Agarwal passed under the bar, the metal detector went wild. The two cops immediately stopped the businessman.

Witnesses said Agarwal then walked up to a senior officer and surrendered his revolver. “I carry it for my security,” he told the startled policemen.

Agarwal, managing director of a brick kiln company, claimed to have forgotten the relevant papers at home. But members of the special branch were not convinced.

Agarwal sent his son, who was accompanying him, to their Hooghly residence to fetch the papers. Police officers took him to Shakespeare Sarani police station, where he was detained, and got in touch with their counterparts in Hooghly to probe Agarwal’s antecedents.

While some police officers on the spot said it was too “far-fetched” to suspect that Agarwal had turned up with an intention to attack the chief minister, deputy commissioner of police, headquarters, Narayan Ghosh later said at Lalbazar that “nothing can be ruled out” at the moment.

“Police are probing all possibilities and exploring every angle,’’ Ghosh said.

   

 
 
ROADBLOCK AFTER BUS RUNS OVER WOMAN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec.22: 
A 60-year-old woman was crushed to death under the wheels of a private bus near the intersection of APC Road and Rajabazar on Friday morning and two women on bicycles were run over and killed by a Matador van near Gaighata, about 50 km from the city.

The unidentified woman was crossing the road around 11 am when a bus on route 39A, speeding towards Phoolbagan, hit her. Just two days back, a three-year-old girl was run over and killed by a minibus in Gariahat.

Passers-by reacted swiftly to rush the woman to hospital, but she died on the way. A police patrol vehicle, which was witness to the accident, chased and intercepted the bus near the Phoolbagan crossing.

Local residents blocked the road, crippling traffic on the stretch between Rajabazar and Phoolbagan. Senior police officers, including deputy commissioner of police (north) Somen Mitra, rushed to the spot with a large contingent.

The blockade was lifted only after an assurance from the police top brass that steps would be taken to check rash driving. Deputy commissioner of police (traffic) K. Harirajan said that the police have been blaring instructions to the public over loud-speakers, telling them to abide by traffic rules for the past few weeks.

Such awareness campaigns have also been taken up at several other major intersections of the city, Harirajan said. “However, despite our sincere efforts, we find pedestrians and daily commuters don’t abide by traffic rules,” he said.

In a separate incident, two women on bicycles were killed and three other persons injured when they were hit by a speeding Matador van on Jessore Road near Gaighata, about 50 km from Calcutta, on Friday. Local people caught up with the bus and damaged it in a flurry of stones and brickbats. The driver was held.

   

 
 
FOR WATER IN SALT LAKE, PAY 
 
 
BY SUVRO ROY
 
Calcutta, Dec.22: 
The upper crust of Salt Lake, Dum Dum and South Dum Dum will have to cough up water tax from next year. Apart from residents in the high-income group, industries located in these areas will also be required to pay for consuming water. The water tax is likely to be imposed after the 2001 Assembly elections.

The Trinamul Congress-BJP combine has opposed the imposition of the proposed tax and threatened to expose the government’s “politics of water” in the days ahead. But urban development minister Ashoke Bhattacharya made it clear on Friday that the move was “not negotiable”, as the Bidhannagar municipality is under compulsion to square off a huge loan taken from Hudco to build up the local supply system of water from Tallah and Palta.

Bhattacharya said the modalities of the tax collection will be finalised by the board of councillors of the respective municipalities. “We will have to impose tax on water consumed in the three municipalities sooner or later. The tax collected from the higher-income groups and industries will range between Rs 25 and Rs 50 a month,” he said.

The government has been exerting pressure on the Salt Lake civic board for the past year to repay the Hudco loan. Of the Rs 51-crore scheme executed by the CMDA, Rs 30 crore was a loan from Hudco, taken in 1991 at an interest rate of 14 per cent, payable in 10 years with a four-year moratorium. The rest was pumped in by the West Bengal government.

Salt Lake started receiving nearly 45 lakh gallons of ‘sweet’ water every day from Tallah and Palta about two years ago. Salt Lake requires about seven million gallons of filtered water every day and the deficit is met with water from deep tubewells which has high iron content. The two are mixed and supplied through pipes.

While South Dum Dum gets another 4.5 million gallons, Dum Dum gets a million gallons of filtered water every day. “The tax on the water is unavoidable. We will soon decide from when we can impose the tax,” said Tapan Talukdar, member in charge of water supply in the chairman’s council of Bidhannagar Municipality.

The municipality has earmarked Rs 20 lakh for tax collection in a revised budget proposal. When chairman Dilip Gupta placed the revised budget on Wednesday, Trinamul councillors opposed the move vehemently. “We are not getting sweet or pure water from Tallah and Palta... Moreover, we are getting only 4.5 million gallons of water a day against our requirement of seven million gallons,” said Sabyasachi Dutta, Trinamul councillor.

   

 
 
SHOPPERS, SIT-IN PARALYSE TRAFFIC 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec.22: 
Friday turned out to be a nightmare for those on the streets.

Traffic in north and central Calcutta ground to a halt, thanks to protest rallies, Ramzaan namaaz and X’mas shopping.

Members of the Hawker Sangram Committee led a delegation to the commissioner of police on Friday afternoon to protest “police atrocities” on them.

About 10,000 hawkers accompanied the nine-member delegation. They assembled at Subodh Mullick Square from various parts of the city and suburbs — Howrah station, Gariahat and Shyambazar — before marching to Lalbazar around 2 pm. They also brought along 100 auto-rickshaws, which were used to block Chowringhee Approach.

“The protestors decided to sit-in on Chittaranjan Avenue and B.B. Ganguly Street. It threw traffic out of gear,” said deputy commissioner of police (traffic), K. Harirajan. The sit-in continued for about two hours . Vehicles were diverted via Ganesh Chandra Avenue. “We could not normalise traffic till late in the evening,” Harirajan added.

Adding to the woes, vehicles clogged the streets in Park Circus, Lenin Sarani, Rabindra Sarani and Circular Garden Reach Road, where Muslim devotees offered Ramzaan namaaz on the roads around the local mosques.

The DYFI staged a demonstration on Rani Rashmoni Road around noon against the Centre’s decision to shrink job opportunities. The situation was compounded by the heavy rush of Christmas shoppers at New Market, Lindsay Street, Park Street, Mirza Ghalib Street and Esplanade.

“Our traffic force had a tough time all day controlling the rush of vehicles. Even traffic in front of Lalbazar was thrown out of gear,” said Narayan Ghosh, deputy commissioner of police (headquarters).

Housewife death: A housewife, Bina Haldar, 24, committed suicide by throwing herself under the wheels of a Lakshmikantapur Local at Karanjali station, in the Sealdah South section of Eastern Railway, early on Friday. Police said family problems drove her to kill herself. They are on the look-out for her husband.

   

 
 
RAIL CRACKDOWN ON FREE-TRIPPERS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec.22: 
In view of the rise in train dacoities, the South Eastern Railway authorities on Friday decided to keep a vigil at key stations and detain ticketless passengers.

A high-level meeting of senior police officers from West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Orissa was held at the SER headquarters in Garden Reach. The meeting was convened by Sultan Singh, inspector-general of the Railway Protection Force (RPF).

The RPF and the Government Railway Police (GRP) will jointly conduct the raids. The police suspect that dacoits board trains posing as passengers but without proper tickets. So dacoities on trains can be minimised by checking ticketless travel, officials said.

Police officers from Orissa reported that the railway had realised Rs 3 lakh from ticketless passengers, which indicated that thousands of unauthorised passengers use the stations.

It was also decided that the railway will educate passengers on the hazards of accepting food and beverages from strangers during a journey.

Constable injured: A constable, Netai Haldar, was hit by a Matador on S.N. Banerjee Road on Friday. The vehicle was impounded but the driver fled.

   

 
 
BODO REBELS MOW DOWN BHUTANESE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Guwahati, Dec. 22: 
Militants suspected to be from the National Democratic Front of Boroland added a new dimension to insurgency in Assam, killing 10 Bhutanese nationals and a Nepali of Bhutanese origin in separate incidents in the state last night.

Suspected NDFB militants also killed five rebels of the pro-talks Bodo Liberation Tiger in Lower Assam, raising the toll in violence since last night to 16.

The killing of 10 Bhutanese nationals and the Nepali settler comes two days after NDFB militants gunned down two persons from the Himalayan kingdom and injured 16. The rebels also set ablaze two vehicles with Bhutanese registration.

Assam chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta today condemned the spate of killings and assured full protection to Bhutias who come to the state on business.

Additional director-general of police (operations) G.M. Srivastava told The Telegraph that nine Bhutanese nationals and a Nepali settler were mowed down in Barpeta district, while another was killed in Darrang district. One Bhutia was injured in the Darrang attack.

In the first incident, which took place at around 3 pm, a group of heavily-armed militants raided Lakhibazar near Kokilabari under Patacharkuchi police station in Barpeta district and opened fire on a group of Bhutanese nationals dealing mainly in woollen garments. Nine of the Bhutias and a Nepali of Bhutanese origin were killed on the spot. The site of the incident is just seven km from the Indo-Bhutan border.

Due to the remoteness of the area, Barpeta police got wind of the incident only this morning.

Srivastava said the killings could be the outcome of Bhutanese monarch Jigme Singye Wangchuk’s visit to the border areas recently.

In the second incident last night, a group of 4-5 suspected NDFB militants raided a house at Bengbari under Paneri police station in Darrang district and opened fire on the Bhutanese traders staying there.

Darrang police said two persons were injured in the firing.

One of them, identified as Nawong Narbo, later succumbed to his injuries in the district headquarters town of Mangaldoi.

The Bhutanese traders had rented the house, owned by a local farmer, to run a woollen garments business.

On Wednesday, NDFB militants ambushed a bus in Kokrajhar district, killing two Bhutanese nationals and injuring 16. The bus was heading towards Phuentsholling from Gelephu in Bhutan.

In two other incidents the same day, a truck belonging to Bhutan police and a Toyota were set ablaze in Kokrajhar district.

In another insurgency-related incident last night, NDFB militants killed five Bodo Liberation Tiger rebels in Nalbari district.

Police sources in Nalbari said the NDFB rebels attacked a BLT hideout under Musalpur police station.

   

 
 
BOFORS CLOUDS DELHI DECISION ON MANIPUR 
 
 
FROM CHANDAN NANDY
 
New Delhi, Dec. 22: 
Fresh tension between the Vajpayee government and the Congress over the latest developments in the Bofors investigation has cast a shadow on the issue of imposing President’s rule in Manipur.

After initially indicating that it will support the Centre’s proposal to slap Article 356 on Manipur, the Congress appears to have made a subtle change in its stand.

Early this week, Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee had left it to the Union home ministry to take a decision on Manipur after describing the political and law and order situation in the state as “grave” and “bleak”.

The government, however, was apprehensive and for the past few days was waiting for a “firm” decision.

The sudden change in Congress stand became clear yesterday during a discussion between Union home minister Lal Krishna Advani and Congress president Sonia Gandhi over telephone.

Top government sources told The Telegraph that when Advani asked Sonia about her party’s stand, she asked what the “proposal” was. To that, a surprised Advani remarked, “President’s rule in Manipur, of course.’’ According to sources, an evasive Congress president said she would consider the matter and convey her decision on December 22.

However, when Advani called her again today, she said the matter would be discussed threadbare at an all-party meeting. Sources said Advani was taken aback by Sonia’s attempt to “evade” the issue.

The Congress’ reluctance to define its stand on Manipur may be a fallout of Manipur chief minister Nipamacha Singh’s “friendly overtures” to the party.

After Governor Ved Marwah turned down the Cabinet recommendation for proroguing the winter session of Manipur Assembly yesterday, Nipamacha Singh sent feelers to the state Congress leadership to form an alternative government. Nipamacha Singh is prepared to team up with the Congress, the party which he split in December 1997 to form the Manipur State Congress Party.

Hectic political parleys between senior Manipur State Congress Party (MSCP) leaders and the Congress started last evening.

The home minister said the Centre was empowered to act “on its own” according to its own assessment of the law and order situation in which President’s rule was proposed to be imposed.

Sensing a distinct shift in the stand adopted by the Congress a few days ago, Advani is understood to have told Sonia that he would now take up the matter with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

Government sources feel that “the change in Congress’ views on invoking Article 356 in Manipur may have been influenced by developments that have taken place in the Bofors investigation.”

The sources were referring to the recent arrest of Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, a family friend of the Gandhis and a key accused in the Bofors scam, in Malaysia.

Advani will soon meet the Prime Minister and a decision on Central intervention in Manipur is likely to be taken before Christmas.

The Centre feels that nothing short of a two-year spell of President’s rule in Manipur can bring the administrative and police apparatus back on their rails and stem the deteriorating law and order situation.

   

 
 
NDA ALLIES BLAST MARANDI FOR 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Ranchi, Dec. 22: 
Serious differences between the allies today rocked the fledgling NDA government in Jharkhand after the Janata Dal (United) blasted the BJP and chief minister Babulal Marandi for running an autocratic government on its own without a common minimum programme.

Senior JD(U) leader and president of the Jharkhand unit Gautam Sagar Rana today warned that his party would be compelled to wage a war against the government if it failed to constitute a co-ordination committee comprising all the NDA allies within the next 10 days.

Talking to newsmen here today, Rana said within a “short span of 45 days since it was sworn in on November 15, the BJP and the Babulal Marandi government have already proved to be a disaster.”

Rana alleged that the minorities were still scared of the BJP government in Jharkhand and “no effort was being made to gain their confidence.”

He added that rumours were rife that the government was contemplating changes in the Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act as well as in the 5th Schedule of the Constitution.

Rana said most of the officials, including senior bureaucrats, who were indicted by the former Bihar joint legislative committee for their involvement in the multi-crore Ranchi land scam have been allotted Jharkhand cadre and awarded plum posts. No action has been planned against these corrupt officials.

Rana said though the National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre was functioning according to a common agreed minimum programme, there was no co-ordination committee comprising representatives of NDA allies in Jharkhand.

He claimed that repeated requests to NDA convenor Saryu Rai and Jharkhand chief minister Babulal Marandi to constitute a co-ordination committee seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

He further alleged that Jharkhand chief minister Babulal Marandi was yet to get used to the idea of consulting his allies before coming out with policy statements.

Rana demanded immediate setting up of a minority commissioner, Wakf Board, Haj committee, to gain the confidence of minorities.

He also demanded an inquiry by a responsible officer into the Kurpania nun rape case at Bokaro thermal power station with instructions to submit its report within the next 30 days and separate commissions to go into the problems and suggest remedies to tackle largescale displacement and migration of thousands of tribals.

Rana also demanded a review of the Koel-Karo multi-purpose hydel project, which has been unable to get off the ground over the past three decades because of tribal opposition. He also wanted a committee to review the utility of many public sector units staggering under mounting losses.

   
 

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