Smoke in public, land up in jail
Rajarhat plots from February
Man gunned down in crematorium
New-look Lindsay Street ahead
Virus survey
Health goal for doctors
Chinatown fire
Ranchi police open fire on mob, 3 killed
Doctors on ceasework to protest assault
Nine killed in Manipur ambush

 
 
SMOKE IN PUBLIC, LAND UP IN JAIL 
 
 
BY SHANKAR MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, Dec.28: 
A month and a half after unleashing the campaign to make its employees work-conscious, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government said on Thursday that plans had been drawn up to sensitise the people to health hazards associated with smoking and spitting.

Officials said the government would place a Bill in the winter session of the Assembly, scheduled to begin on January 22, seeking to make smoking and spitting in public places a punishable offence. “The Act envisages stern measures against a smoker in a public place because the government’s aim is to safeguard people’s health,” the officials said. The planned Act was first reported by The Telegraph early this year.

The government’s concern has been heightened by, among other things, the realisation that every year, nearly 500,000 Calcuttans , in addition to a sizeable chunk of the population elsewhere in Bengal, are falling prey to cancer and lung disorders, thanks to smoking.

The health department has finalised the draft of the Bill after consulting various doctors’ bodies, individual oncologists and non-governmental organisations.

According to the officials, smoking and spitting will be made a cognisable offence in government offices and establishments, educational institutions, cinemas, cultural centres, parks, gardens, stadium stands, bus termini, railway stations, airports, in moving or stationery vehicles and certain categories of markets.

The Bill also envisages a ban on advertising or selling cigarettes around educational institutions or public places. Any violation of the rules will earn a fine of Rs 1,000 and/or imprisonment up to six months.

“Our aim is to save thousands of people from cancer, tuberculosis and other diseases caused by smoking and spitting. We want citizens to cultivate clean habits, do things in moderation and enjoy a healthier and longer lifespan. The Act we have in mind flows out of that philosophy,’’ said health minister Partha De.

He would soon hold a meeting with the chambers of commerce to prohibit smoking in their offices and establishments. “We shall also interact with different employees’ unions and associations to caution them and convince them to give up smoking,’’ said a senior health department officer, adding that film and TV serial-makers will be advised not to show actors smoking a cigarette or using tobacco products.

Realising that the tobacco companies lure customers, especially the young, through advertising, sponsorship and glamorisation of tobacco in films, music, art and sports, the government has decided to launch a counter-advertisement campaign.

“We know smoking cannot be totally stopped by either force or legislation. So, apart from bringing in an Act, we are drawing up plans to sensitise people to the ill-effects of smoking with the help of mass organisations and NGOs,’’ said Ashok Mohan Chakraborty, principal secretary of the health department.

Eminent oncologists lauded the government’s initiative in checking smoking and spitting because the habits were at the root of many diseases. “We are happy that finally, a concrete step has been taken towards bringing about the Act, for which we have been pressing the government for a long time,” said Dr Urmi Sen, associated with Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute.

   

 
 
RAJARHAT PLOTS FROM FEBRUARY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec.28: 
Housing was the operative word for the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government on Thursday. At a function where the chief minister laid the foundation stone for a flyover to connect Rajarhat with VIP Road, the government announced that possession at the mega township would be handed over from February 2001.

According to housing minister Gautam Deb, 1,25,000 people who had bagged the plots through lottery could start “construction from the very next day”. Nearly 1,000 flats built by the housing board will be sold to the poor at a nominal rate, which they can pay back in easy instalments.

“Salt Lake was the dream of Bidhan Roy and we have achieved the dream. The Rajarhat township, three times bigger than Salt Lake, is our dream and we are giving real shape to it,’’ Bhattacharjee said. “Initially, we had some doubts about whether we would be able to implement such a giant project, but now we are sure we can see this through. And the new township will be more beautiful and better planned than Salt Lake.’’

The Rs 21-crore Rajarhat project will be implemented by PWD with funds from Hidco, the implementing agency. Hidco officials said 640 hectares of land will be allotted in the first phase, which will involve the construction of 41,000 dwelling units. Bhattacharjee said new townships will come up at Sonarpur and Dankuni.

The chief minister said the flyover would enable people of the new township and Salt Lake to avoid congested Ultadanga and take some load off VIP Road. PWD minister Kshiti Goswami said two flyovers at Baguiati and Keshtopur would be constructed soon.

At another function on Thursday, the chief minister handed over keys to flat-owners of the Calcutta Greens complex, near the E.M. Bypass. He took the opportunity to blast a “section of promoters” cheating the people. “I am receiving several complaints from those duped by such promoters. We have now made it mandatory for promoters to obtain registration certificates from the government,” he said.

Bhattacharjee also invited industrialists to joint-sector housing schemes. “The Ambuja group is already carrying out construction of a complex with the government and I believe many others will join us in our drive to solve the housing problem of the people of Calcutta,” Bhattacharjee said.

   

 
 
MAN GUNNED DOWN IN CREMATORIUM 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec.28: 
Four young men got off a taxi, walked into the crowded Keoratala crematorium and shot Manoj Singh, 40, on Thursday afternoon. They then walked away, while policemen and bystanders watched.

Manoj had come with friends and relatives to cremate the body of Shew Narain Singh. Police said Manoj shuttled between Howrah and Garden Reach and had several cases pending against him. Initial investigations revealed that the murder was the handiwork of Manoj’s rival, who had specific information that he would be present at the crematorium on Thursday.

Police suspect that crimelord Papul Bahadur of Garden Reach was involved in the murder. Bahadur had taken the help of some local criminals to guide him to the spot and provide him with safe passage out of the crematorium. Bahadur was arrested five months ago, but is out on bail.

Witnesses said Manoj and about 300 relatives and friends had arrived at the crematorioum in the afternoon. “Suddenly, we saw three men walk up to him and fire three rounds. They also fired while walking away,’’ said Sanjoy Singh, a close friend of Manoj. Angry residents blocked cremation and traffic on Sahanagar Road for more than two hours.

   

 
 
NEW-LOOK LINDSAY STREET AHEAD 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, Dec.28: 
Close on the heels of the beautification of the stretch around Manohardas Tarag, opposite Oberoi Grand, the civic authorities have announced plans for a new-look Lindsay Street-New Market-Globe cinema belt. By the next Pujas, a tree-lined pedestrian plaza, complete with modern car-parking facilities, fountains, telephone kiosks and coffee shops will be in place, promised mayor Subrata Mukherjee. The mayor, who returned from Mumbai on Wednesday night, said Rs 10 lakh will be earmarked for the beautification of the Lindsay Street area.

Mukherjee said the idea came to him following the CMC’s recent demolition of five road-side gardens created by a city-based shoe-manufacturing company. The company had been entrusted with the responsibility of beautifying Lindsay Street by the former CPM-led civic board. But, after the Trinamul Congress took over, Mukherjee declared that the company had not done its job properly. So, he ordered the demolition of the five gardens.

“Lindsay Street will no longer remain a thoroughfare. Only vehicles carrying shoppers will be allowed admission. Those coming in their personal cars will be allowed to park their vehicles in the fee-parking zone,” Mukherjee said.

As a consequence, cars and taxis will not be allowed to reach Free School Street through Lindsay Street. “To reach Free School Street, the motorists will have to use the parallel Sudder Street connector from Jawaharlal Nehru Road,” he said.

According to plans, the entire stretch of the 50-ft-wide Lindsay Street will be mainly for pedestrians.

There will also be roadside kiosks, where shoppers will be able to refresh themselves with a cup of steaming hot coffee. Fibre glass shades will also be constructed, under which they can take shelter.

About six-ft-high palm and coconut trees will be planted in a row in the middle of the road.

The mayor has already held a meeting with the officials of Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s borough VI.

“The area will be kept completely free of hawkers and shoppers will be able to walk around in peace,” said Swapan Mahapatra, assistant director of the conservancy department, borough VI.

Mala Roy, member, mayor-in-council, conservancy, said the beautification project of Lindsay Street was important as it was situated in front of New Market, one of the city’s prominent heritage structures.

   

 
 
VIRUS SURVEY 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Dec.28: 
Alarmed at the large number of diarrhoea patients at B.C. Roy Children’s Hospital, Beleghata, the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases on Thursday said it would conduct a survey of all city hospitals and nursing homes from Friday. Institute director S.K. Bhattacharya said he will submit a report to the government on Friday.

Institute deputy director and head of virology division T.N. Naik said nearly 60 per cent of the patients in Children’s Hospital, admitted since September, carried the deadly rota virus. They were aged between six months and two years. The rota virus is basically water-borne and is often passed on through oral faecal contamination or from hospitals, where it abounds. The virus causes severe diarrhoea in children.

   

 
 
HEALTH GOAL FOR DOCTORS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec.28: 
The biggest nationwide annual meeting of doctors was inaugurated in Calcutta on Thursday with a call to the profession to assist in providing health for all “before we cross China’s population.”

The 76th meeting of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) focussed on several areas on which stress would have to be laid in the new millennium, including treatment for the poor, population control, medical education and abolition of quackery.

The association, the largest national organisation of doctors with 1.3 lakh members in 1,400 branches, was born in Calcutta in 1930 with the aim of contributing to the freedom movement and safeguarding Indian doctors from the injustices of the British.

But now, “the IMA must have a much bigger role in reaching treatment to the poor and in the rural areas,” urged chief guest and Union railway minister Mamata Banerjee. “Indian doctors are the best all over the world, but due to several factors, especially our population, we have not achieved health for all.”

The association’s new all-India president, Dr Ketan Desai, who is also president of the Medical Council of India, said: “We must see to it that health becomes a fundamental right.” The IMA is against commercialisation of healthcare. “We will also make continued medical education for doctors a requisite for their re-registration every five years.”

Over 4,000 doctors from India, the US, UK and Bangladesh are attending the three-day meet. The IMA felicitated cricketer Sourav Ganguly for his recent success as captain of the Indian team.

   

 
 
CHINATOWN FIRE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec.28: 
A fire broke out in a rubber factory in Tangra First Lane, opposite Kim Li Loi restaurant in Chinatown, on Thursday afternoon. Ten fire tenders battled the blaze, and doused it after two hours. The factory manufactured chappals from recycled rubber.

Sparks from the fire damaged or destroyed at least 10 shanties alongside the premises. Fire brigade sources said a short circuit in the factory at 1.30 pm may have set off the blaze. There was a shortage of water in the area, so firemen failed to check the blaze before it could spread to shanties.

The factory had flouted all fire-safety norms, firemen said. Five firemen were injured when a cylinder containing engine oil exploded in the factory. A 10-year-old child was also injured when he slipped and fell over hot acid in the factory.

   

 
 
RANCHI POLICE OPEN FIRE ON MOB, 3 KILLED 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Ranchi, Dec. 28: 
Three people were shot dead when police fired at demonstrators protesting against the death of a minor girl, who was run over by a speeding Bihar Military Police vehicle here today.

The incident dampened Id festivities in the Jharkhand capital and Section 144 was clamped as a precautionary measure.

Demonstrators tried to torch nearly a dozen vehicles, including a fire tender and two police vans while shops and business establishments downed shutters.

Around 11 am, as people from the Muslim community were leaving the mosques after offering ceremonial prayers, an eight- year-old-girl was crushed to death by a speeding Bihar Military Police vehicle near Rajendra Chowk at Doranda.

Soon after the incident, people from the nearby residential colonies set up a road blockade disrupting traffic from Ranchi city to Hatia and the Heavy Engineering Corporation townships.

As the crowd began to swell, deputy superintendent of police, Hatia range U.C. Jha reached the spot and tried to persuade the protesters to lift the blockade and ease tension.

However, the protesters alleged that the Hatia deputy superintendent of police had made “unparliamentary remarks” and refused to budge. A CRPF contingent, which was deployed in the area to maintain law and order during Id festivities, suddenly opened fire on the demonstrators killing two and injuring another.

The injured person was rushed to the Rajendra Medical College Hospital Ranchi but was declared “brought dead’’ on arrival.

The news of the accident and the death of three persons in an “unprovoked” police firing spread like wildfire in the city triggering communal tension.

Eyewitnesses alleged that no prior warning had been given to the protesters nor did the police fire in the air as per the usual norm to disperse the mob. They alleged that the CRPF jawans fired indiscriminately at the crowd.

Irate people pelted stones at vehicles damaging more 150 buses and cars. A group of people even tried to set ablaze two police vehicles and a fire tender.

Senior superintendent of police, Ranchi, Neeraj Sinha today said instructions have been issued for filing of an FIR against U.C. Jha, deputy superintendent of police, Hatia range, for dereliction of duty.

Chief minister Babulal Marandi condemned the incident and appealed to the people to maintain peace.

However, the Congress demanded the resignation of the Marandi government for its “failure on the law and order front.’’ Senior Congress leader Roshan Lal Bhatia alleged that the firing was a “deliberate attempt by the BJP-RSS combine to stoke communal passion in the city and consolidate Hindu votes.’’

Bhatia added that the firing was uncalled for and the government could have easily quelled the mob and offered condolence to the bereaved family instead of “inciting the CRPF.”

The bodies of the victims have been kept at the Rajendra Medical College Hospital morgue.

Actress ill

Assam chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta today visited the residence of the first lady of Assamese cinema, Aideo Handique. She is presently bed-ridden at her Komargaon residence in Golaghat district, reports our Jorhat correspondent.

Mahanta assured the ailing actress that all necessary help would be provided to her.

PCC chief Tarun Gogoi also visited Handique’s residence. He pledged an amount of Rs 5 lakh from his MP’s development fund to build an institution in her name. Handique, who is unmarried, lives with her brothers. She survives on her artiste’s pension of Rs 1,500 per month and is facing hard times.

   

 
 
DOCTORS ON CEASEWORK TO PROTEST ASSAULT 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Silchar, Dec. 28: 
Government doctors in south Assam’s Hailakandi district went on a wildcat strike for an indefinite period last night.

The ceasework is in protest against the alleged assault on two senior doctors by a group of miscreants at a medical sub-centre near Hailakandi town yesterday in presence of irrigation minister Abdul Muhib Mazumdar.

A spokesman of the Hailakandi district unit of the Assam Medical Services Association, which called the ceasework, today said the agitation would continue till the culprits involved in the attack on chief medical and health officer Saroj Kumar Das and additional chief medical and health officer Sadhan Chandra Paul are put behind bars.

Reports reaching here said the two doctors went to Lalamukh tea plantation, 15 km from Hailakandi town, to attend a function at the health sub-centre there in which Abdul Muhib Mazumdar was the chief guest.

When Mazumder and his entourage arrived at the sub-centre, some persons accompanying the minister manhandled the doctors. The assailants, however, could not be identified.

Association members met Hailakandi deputy commissioner Alok Khere last night and demanded the immediate arrest of the thugs who beat up the two senior government doctors on duty. The doctors also held a dharna for a brief period last night at the official residence of the deputy commissioner.

The association then gave the call for an indefinite ceasework. No one was arrested till midday today.

Hailakandi superintendent of police A. Borghoain said police conducted raids at some places last night to capture the culprits, but nobody could be arrested.

Abdul Muhib Mazumdar described the incident as “most unfortunate.”

He has called a meeting at Hailakandi town of leading citizens tonight to express his grief at the incident.

   

 
 
NINE KILLED IN MANIPUR AMBUSH 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, Dec. 28: 
Nine persons, including a jawan, were killed in a gunbattle between the Army and militants in Tamenglong district of Manipur today.

Four Armymen, including a junior commissioned officer (JCO), were also injured in the encounter, Army officials here said.

Sources said at least six of the victims were civilians. But it was not clear how they got killed in the encounter.

Sources said the situation in Tamenglong district headquarters was tense after the Army did not allow even the sub-divisional police officer to enter the site. The driver of Tamenglong district’s deputy commissioner Mosses Chalai was assaulted by the jawans, they added.

Army officials in Imphal said a patrol from an Army battalion located in Tamenglong district headquarters came under heavy fire from militants near Tabunglong bus stop on Akhui-Khongsang road at 7.15 am. The militants were caught unawares by the patrol party while they were preparing for an ambush, they added.

According to the Army, the militants ran towards Tabunglong village after a brief encounter and took shelter inside houses. The troops came under fire again while they cordoned the houses. The militants lobbed grenades from inside, killing six “possible sympathisers or overground workers”, it added.

An Army release said two militants were killed on the spot. Securitymen recovered a 12 bore DBBL gun, a Chinese rifle, a revolver and two grenades from the site. Two militants managed to escape to nearby jungles by using women and children as shields.

The Army said apparently the presence of militants in the village was known as all male members except old people had left Tabunglong.

The deceased jawan was identified as sepoy V. Mahesh Kumar. The injured were taken from the encounter site by an Army helicopter to Leimakhong military hospital near here.

Bomb on highway

A powerful bomb, planted by militants, was recovered from Canchipur area under Singjamei police station in Manipur’s Imphal West district today, police said.

   
 

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