Swamiji’s birthplace to bridge past and future
Mayor orders land deal probe
4 vehicles in pile-up mishap, 10 injured
Neuro care at affordable rates
Police draft new plan to crush rebels
Koijam flags off camp on integration

Calcutta, March 25: 
Ramakrishna Mission’s dream project of restoring Swami Vivekananda’s birthplace on Simla Street is finally taking shape. After being caught in a protracted legal tangle over acquisition of land, the work on the “spiritual, cultural and educational centre” has picked up pace over the past few months.

Besides a museum depicting Swamiji’s early life, the Rs 11-crore restoration plan includes a reception wing, a text-book library for needy students, a research centre and library for scholars, and a building for philanthropic activities and monks’ quarters.

“The most difficult part of the project was evicting 54 occupants and 22 trade licence-holders from the building. We finally reached an out-of-court settlement and the Mission paid Rs 6 crore for their relocation. Now, things are moving smoothly,” said Partha Maharaj, overseeing work at the site.

Already, “around 70 per cent” of the heritage building-cum-museum is complete, and piling work for the other four buildings has begun. Mission authorities and Development Architects are confident that the project will be ready by July 2003.

The sprawling 4,900-sq-m centre will spread the message of Shri Ramakrishna, Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda, and showcase Indian heritage and Vedanta philosophy. “The centre will be a great attraction in Calcutta for the devotees of Ramakrishnadeb, Saradama and Swamiji, spread all over the world,” said Partha Maharaj. It will also act as a bridge between the past and the future. The technical facilities at the fully-functional computer centre for researchers, will be state-of-the art.

“Restoration of the 250-year-old dilapidated building and recreating it just the way it was at the time of Swamiji’s birth in 1863 was a great challenge for us,” explained Shanta Ghosh, vice-chairperson and deputy managing director of Development Consultants Ltd.

The restoration layout was drawn on the basis of the original plan of the building submitted to the court in 1885 during the division of property in within the family. So, everything from Bahir Mahal to Thakur Dalan, Andar Mahal to Atur Ghar are being recreated.

“We had to demolish the structures constructed by the occupants to give it the original look,” added Ghosh of DCL, which is executing the project for the Mission for free. “We are using the same material, composition and structural system of the 19th century.”

Among the only departures would be the main entrance — not from Gour Mohan Mukherjee Street, but from Bidhan Sarani — and a parking lot on the ground floor of the building for social and philanthropic activities.

Both the Central and the state governments are contributing to the cause. “The state government, which committed Rs 6 crore for the project, has already given us Rs 2 crore, while the Centre has paid up 50 per cent of their promised amount of Rs 1.4 crore,” said Partha Maharaj.


Calcutta, March 25: 
Driven by the scent of a scam, mayor Subrata Mukherjee has ordered a full-fledged inquiry into the estate department deals of the CPM-led civic board.

Mukherjee has directed the estate department to probe losses to the tune of Rs 100 crore, incurred by the former board while handing over land and maternity homes to private players.

“I have so far identified 11 cases in which 135 acres (more than 400 bighas) of prime land in the Dhapa area and five maternity homes were handed over to business houses and NGOs at throwaway prices. In some cases, the Corporation received no payment at all for the land or buildings,” alleged the mayor.

The six major land transfer cases under a cloud, claims Mukherjee, involve the Bengal Chamber of Commerce, the Calcutta Stock Exchange, Science City, P.C. Chandra, ITC and Taj Group. The five maternity homes handed over free were at Behala, Chetla, Dilkhusa Street, Canal East Road and Dr Biresh Guha Street. Of these, the Corporation managed to reclaim land from the Taj Group and prevent the transfer of the maternity home at Behala, added Mukherjee.

The mayor claimed the CPM board had handed over 33 acres beside the E.M. Bypass to P.C. Chandra, on a long-term lease, for just Rs 50,000. Then, Bengal Chamber of Commerce had been given 19 acres in east Calcutta free, to set up a crafts village, and over 50 acres were handed over for the construction of Science City at a cost of Rs 19 crore. “It was a Central government project and the market price of that land would easily have been more than Rs 50 crore,” said Mukherjee. “The Corporation could have earned more than Rs 80 crore if these two plots had been leased out through a tender.”

Leader of the Opposition Kanti Ganguly claimed that land had been given to ITC, Taj Group and the Stock Exchange at “market price” and the transactions had been made “within the rules and regulations” of the Corporation.

“Subrata Mukherjee has started a smear campaign against the former civic board in a calculated move to deflect public attention from the Trinamul Congress board’s corruption in the Corporation,” said CPM chief whip Sudhangshu Sil, adding that Mukherjee should first explain how he had handed over the Corporation’s maternity home at Chetla to a newly-formed NGO without “getting the proposal ratified either in the mayor-in-council’s meeting or in the house of civic councillors”.


Calcutta, March 25: 
A private bus hit an autorickshaw. The auto rammed into a taxi. The taxi crashed into a police mobile patrol vehicle, and the cops’ jeep ploughed through a crowd of pedestrians and cyclists.

Ten people were injured, including a police constable, in the pile-up on Central Avenue on Sunday afternoon as thousands of CPM supporters were making their way to the city centre for the biggest-ever rally on the Brigade Parade grounds.

The serial accident occurred at the crossing of Mahatma Gandhi Road and C. R Avenue. The driver of the private bus (WBR 2296), ferrying CPM supporters to the Maidan, lost control of his vehicle after its brakes failed. The auto it hit was carrying CPM activists, too, from Jorabagan to the rally, according to deputy commissioner of police, traffic, K. Harirajan.

The taxi that the auto rammed into hit a Tiger mobile patrol, and constable Rajesh Tewar, 25, sitting in the rear seat, was injured.

The police vehicle knocked down a cyclist and several pedestrians. According to officers of the city traffic control room, a dozen persons were injured and had to be hospitalised. All through Sunday afternoon, traffic stood still on AJC Bose Road and the stretch of Jawaharlal Nehru Road near Victoria Memorial and Birla Planetarium as CPM workers arrived at the rally site.

Makeshift kitchens were set up on the Maidan to feed the activists, and the supporters clogged the roads around the Maidan as they waited for their meal.


Calcutta, March 25: 
Till Monday afternoon, little did Mrs Dutta-Ray or anyone in her family in Naktala know that something could be so drastically wrong with her. She had started vomitting earlier in the day, but it was put down to a gastric problem. But then, her right hand and leg became sluggish, she began to feel drowsy and, suddenly, lost consciousness around 8 pm. She was rushed to Peerless Hospital, where doctors put her immediately through a CT scan. It revealed a growth, the size of a cricket ball, just below the brain behind her left eye. Further examinations by neurologists revealed that it was a cyst that had grown and now had no room to expand. An emergency surgery, which lasted for four hours, was performed that night. By Tuesday morning, the 45-year-old homemaker was fully conscious and smiling. “Another hour’s delay, and she would have lost some of her faculties, if not all,” said L.N. Tripathy, senior consultant neurosurgeon.

Tripathy is a member of a team of surgeons, neurophysicians, neuroanaesthetists, intensivists and technicians who are available round-the-clock at the recently-set-up National Neurosciences Centre, a joint project with Peerless Hospital and B.K. Roy Research Centre. Since January, the super-speciality centre has conducted almost 150 vascular, brain tumour and spinal surgeries, many procedures for which patients from Calcutta continue to go to Vellore, Mumbai or New Delhi.

“For quite some time, Calcutta has had some shortcomings in neurological treatment,” medical circles say. Recognising this lacunae, three internationally-renowned neurosurgeons with roots in the city have come together to form the Neurosciences Foundation, Bengal. The three-man team comprises Professor Chandranath Sen, specialist in skull-based surgery and chairman of neurosurgery at Roosevelt Hospital, New York, Professor Abhijit Guha, head of brain tumours research, Toronto University, and Dr R.P. Sengupta, head of the department of neurosciences at Newcastle and founder of the Neurological Foundation of UK.

Joining hands with Peerless after a review and recommendation of the hospital by the World Federation of International Education in Neurosciences, the Foundation established the National Neurosciences Centre (NNC), a registered, autonomous and non-profit unit, on the Peerless Hospital campus. Its objective is to provide “competent, safe, modern neurological care at an affordable price”.

Besides giving regular voluntary services, the three NRI neurosurgeons bring neuroscientists from around the world to provide service to the people of this region. Senior nurses and technicians from the UK also come over to share their knowledge and methods, some of which have already been adopted at NCC.

“The NNC is a good attempt by a few neurosurgeons working as a team to develop this area of medicine,” said Prof Manoj Bhattacharya, head of surgery at Bangur Institute of Neurology. “They have educational plans as well, which will be a boon for young doctors specialising in this field. The government has good doctors and, to an extent, some good equipment. But there is no political will to improve, which is why such centres are useful at the moment,” he added.

“Their intentions are good,” commented former Calcutta University vice-chancellor and neurosurgeon Bhaskar Roy Chowdhury. “But it has to be seen how effective and useful the centre will finally turn out to be.”


Agartala, March 25: 
The beleaguered National Liberation Front of Tripura launched the three recent ambushes in desperate bids to gain lost ground. The outfit has been hit by widespread dissent among its cadre.

However, police and security forces in the state were confident of defeating the outfit’s designs, director-general of police Bhusan Lal Vohra told newsmen yesterday.

Vohra, currently preparing an action plan against the NLFT, is the key man behind rejuvenating the state police. He said the recent ambushes were a “seasonal phenomenon”. “During this time of the year, it is easy for the militants to use the hilly terrain to their advantage,”he added.

“Very soon you will see them on the run again,” the DGP said. “It is really heartening that the tribal people, even in the remotest areas, are coming forward with authentic information about movement of militants,” he said.

The police chief said 15 more Tripura State Rifles camps have been opened in the state because of which the tribals are “feeling secure”.

Vohra praised “hardworking police officers and personnel” engaged in counter-insurgency operations. He cited the example of sub-divisional police officer Manoranjan Debbarma of the Gandacherra subdivision. Eight hardcore rebels laid down arms in Gandacherra recently.

Vohra said from July 2000 to February 2001, there were 71 encounters in which 44 militants were killed and 104 weapons seized. “The NLFT’s collaboration network has been broken and abductions have also come down,” the DGP said, adding that the police had rescued several abducted civilians.

Vohra said despite working in tough conditions, the state police had a “clean” human rights record. “Officers have been strictly instructed not to violate human rights while carrying out duties,” he said. The police have also started “mass contact and civic action programmes” in the interior areas on market days. The DGP, who extensively toured rebel-infested areas of the state recently, said a renewed offensive would be launched soon to end militancy.

Militant stand

Dismissing all speculation about any imminent surrenders, the official faction of the National Liberation Front of Tripura today asserted that the outfit would carry on its struggle for the “liberation” of Tripura.

The NLFT also claimed responsibility for the killing of three BSF jawans and eight General Reserve Engineering Force personnel in an ambush at Reangbasti under Salema police station on Wednesday.

In a fax message from an undisclosed place to a local newspaper office yesterday, NLFT self-styled “chief of Army staff” “Col.” S. Nazrath Borok said the NLFT was determined to achieve a “free kingdom of Tripura through armed struggle against Indian forces and would not relent till the target was reached.” However, “Col.” Borok dismissed any possibility of a ceasefire, adding that the NLFT would be ready to hold peace talks in a third country “if the international community wanted it.”

Tripuri refugees: A large number of Tripuri tribals living in Mizoram and nearby Hailakandi district of Assam have entered Tripura in the wake of atrocities by Reang militants of the Bru National Liberation Front.

Official sources in Gandacherra, Longtarai and Ambassa subdivisions, where the refugees have arrived, could not confirm the influx. They said, “We have heard sporadic reports but nothing is clear.” The BNLF, which lost 12 of its activists in an attack by the NLFT on July 12 last year, launched retaliatory raids within Tripura initially.

It later spread its tentacles in nearby Mizoram and Hailakandi district of Assam.


Imphal, March 25: 
The Special Security Bureau and its sister organisation, the Village Voluntary Force, yesterday launched a major publicity campaign on national integration at Kangpokpi town in Senapati district.

Flagging off the publicity blitz, Manipur chief minister Radhabinod Koijam reiterated his appeal to all militant outfits to shun violence and come to the negotiation table. Koijam said his government had declared a monthlong unilateral ceasefire with all rebel groups in order to facilitate peace in the state.

“Guns and bullets cannot solve insurgency. Only a political dialogue can bring about a negotiated settlement to the problem,” the chief minister added.

Koijam, however, warned that his government was ready to face any challenges posed by those who did not support peace.

The campaign is expected to cover 98 villages in and around Kangpokpi, reaching nearly 40,000 people. Raised in 1963, following the Chinese aggression of 1962, the security bureau’s main task is to mobilise people in the border areas to fight external aggression.

Former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was instrumental in raising the force which is now under the Union home ministry. In Manipur, the bureau’s unit was first set up in 1965.

The campaign on national integration includes exhibitions, free medical aid, animal care and vocational training.

Divisional organiser of the bureau’s Manipur and Nagaland division R.D. Thongchi said the bureau’s members were deployed in remote areas.

“The Special Security Bureau is a people’s organisation,” Thongchi said. He said the bureau stood for peace and tranquillity. The organisation sought to bring about unity through local customs and tradition, he added. The campaign will continue till March 29 and is likely to cover all major areas of the Sadar Hills.

Freedoms fighters of the Kangpokpi area were felicitated as part of the programme. The Nagaland division of the bureau had organised the campaign last year at Mokokchung in Nagaland.


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