Trinamul leader in line of fire
Quake panic at dawn, rain relief after dark
Taps dry for poll bounty
Stars fail to shine in unity streetshow
Community corner with cosmopolitan colour
Court nod for Metro stretch
Noise code rap for Mamata rally
Plea to open Imphal schools
AGP pits heavyweights in ‘friendly contests’
Hrangkhawal may become IPFT president

 
 
TRINAMUL LEADER IN LINE OF FIRE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aparil 16: 
Adding more heat to the rising poll temperature in the city, Trinamul Youth Congress state secretary Goutam Barman was shot at early on Monday morning at his Jorasanko home by half-a-dozen unidentified youth.

While Barman managed to escape unhurt, six persons, including a 12-year-old boy, were injured by bombs thrown by the retreating attackers. Barman, however, has not blamed anyone, including the CPM, for the attack. He only volunteered: “I have not been able to identify any of the boys but I know they are from the Amherst Street area. But, obviously, it is politically motivated.” Later in the day, he briefed party leader Mamata Banerjee on the attack.

Police are probing whether an intra-party feud lies behind the attack. Deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Banibrata Basu, said: “A few months ago, Barman had received threat calls and, with the help of a caller line identification instrument, we traced them to the residence of Trinamul MLA Sanjoy Bakshi. If necessary, we will interrogate him.”

Bakshi said in defence that the parallel line of his residential phone, placed in his office to which everyone has open access, may have been used by “someone” to make the calls. “This is a political conspiracy aimed at defaming me before the polls,” Bakshi said. “They can carry out a voice test to satisfy themselves, but I am not involved in this in any way.” Bakshi later visited Barman at his residence and condemned the attack as “heinous”.

“It was around 6.30 in the morning when some people knocked on the front door of my Balak Dutta Lane house,” Barman said, narrating the incident. “When I came to the door, the boys told me one of our party workers had been arrested the previous night and I had to accompany them to the local police station to get him released.”

Barman said that even as he was about to reply, he found one of the boys pulling out a revolver and pointing it at him. “In a flash, I knew he was going to shoot me and I quickly banged the door shut,” he said.

The bullet was fired, and it lodged itself in the wooden door. The attackers fled, covering their retreat with a flurry of bombs.

The six injured in the bomb attack were rushed to nearby Marwari Relief Society Hospital, where five of them were released after first aid.

Barman’s wife, Chandana, said she was “totally surprised” by the attack on her husband. “He keeps himself occupied in social work and we really cannot imagine who would want to hurt him,” she said.

Later in the day, local Trinamul workers brought out processions and held rallies to protest the attacks. “This politics of violence has to stop,” said Trinamul worker Nihar Sarkar.

Officer-in-charge of the Jorasanko police station, A.K. Hossain, said search operations were on. “We think a local hood named Raju was behind the attack and we have pulled out all stops to identify him,” he said. “By Tuesday, we should make a breakthrough.”

   

 
 
QUAKE PANIC AT DAWN, RAIN RELIEF AFTER DARK 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Aparil 16: 
The Basirhat and Gobardanga areas of North 24-Parganas, about 65 km from the city, experienced an earthquake measuring 4.4 on the Richter scale on Monday. The tremor, described by the weatherman as “of slight intensity”, occurred a little after 6 am.

“The tremor had its epicentre about 666 km from Calcutta. We don’t know the exact location, as this can only be determined by gadgets installed in Delhi. On our seismograph, it measured around 4.4,” said R.N. Goldar, director of the Alipore meteorological office.

He said a bigger tremor was reported around 2.30 pm on Monday in the Hindu Kush region, which measured 5.4 on the Richter scale.

The police said the quake in Basirhat was first detected when utensils in kitchens began rattling and some fell off the shelves. No one was, however, injured. With the Gujarat earthquake fresh in memory, people panicked and ran out of their houses. Women started blowing conches in a bid to ward off evil.

An officer of Basirhat police station said: “Local people called us up for help. We informed the fire brigade in Barasat and Barrackpore at once.”

“We were concerned after we heard about the quake in Basirhat and adjoining Gobardanga. We were relieved to be told that residents were safe and that no damage was reported,” said district superintendent of police, Kuldip Singh. The police informed the state administrative headquarters at Writers’ Buildings about the tremor.

“We also contacted the relief and health department offices at the district administrative headquarters in Barasat and alerted them, in case the tremor recurred,” a police official said.

Goldar said the Monday morning quake was no cause for alarm. “Over the past few years, there have been a few tremors within a 200-km radius of the city, including in places like Bankura and Purulia. Many of them were not felt but were reflected on the seismograph,” he added.

Rain relief: It was a busy day for weathermen, with a Nor’wester lashing Calcutta and the south Bengal districts in the evening. The Met office recorded rainfall of about 15 mm. Some parts of Calcutta, Burdwan, Birbhum, Murshidabad, Nadia, Howrah, Hooghly, North and South 24-Parganas were swept by wind with a speed of a little below 40 kph.

Goldar said that the Nor’wester brought down the temperature by at least three degrees. The government issued a storm alert which warned of windspeeds touching 100 kph. The alert was withdrawn later in the evening.

   

 
 
TAPS DRY FOR POLL BOUNTY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aparil 16: 
The skies opened up on Monday evening, but the taps continued to run dry. Residents in several pockets of the city hit the streets to protest the water crisis.

The dharna on Dilkhusa Street, where people squatted on the roads, empty vessels in hand, brought traffic to a halt in the Park Circus area on Monday morning.

According to engineers in the civic water supply department, thousands of houses in several parts of the city have been hit by the low pressure in filtered water supply due to installation of about 5,000 stand posts (roadside taps) during the past four months.

With an eye on the forthcoming Assembly elections, leaders from every mainline political party have gone on a reach-the-water-to-the-voter overdrive.

The number of stand pipes in the city has shot up from 11,000 to 16,585 in the past four months. “The result,” says a senior executive engineer, “is that the water pressure at different points in the supply lines has dropped by three feet on an average. It is likely to drop further before the elections, as more standpipes are being constructed,” he added.

The affected areas include Burrabazar, Beleghata, Topsia, Tangra, Kasba, Rashbehari, Chetla, Southern Avenue, Jadavpur, Golf Green and Garden Reach.

Another reason for the fall in pressure has been the sudden rise in the number of direct ferrule connections from the reserve water mains, to facilitate supply in several areas.

This is particularly rampant in Behala, with about 30 kilometres of new pipelines having been laid in the area in for direct ferrule connections from the reserve grid in the past four months.

Incidentally, Sovan Chatterjee, the Corporation’s member, mayor-in-council, water supply, is from Behala.

“If stand posts and ferrule connections, which are unscientific and unethical means of water supply, go on increasing, it’s just a matter of time before household taps run dry,” said a senior engineer in the water supply department. “Councillors and candidates are demanding one stand post or ferrule connection after another, and so the water supply situation will only get worse in the coming weeks,” he warned.

With the drop in pressure, the spectre of contamination of filtered water also looms over several parts of southern and eastern Calcutta.

“The fall in pressure will invariably lead to contamination of filtered water in the supply lines. Tests already carried out in some parts have confirmed our fears,” the civic official added.

   

 
 
STARS FAIL TO SHINE IN UNITY STREETSHOW 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aparil 16: 
It was billed to be Tollywood’s Hum Saath Saath Hain show. But it turned out to be Akele Hum, Akele Tum, instead.

On the 25th day of the statewide strike of cinemas, members and officials of the Eastern India Motion Pictures Association (EIMPA) took to the streets, armed with slogans and placards to “save the film industry” from the high-handedness of the Bengal Motion Pictures Employees Union (BMPEU). The stage of solidarity against the Union strike was set on Monday afternoon. Only the stars failed to shine. The Association had requested “a large number of actors and directors” to join the roadshow.

“We really don’t know why none of the big names showed up, despite our repeated requests,” said J.K. Agarwal, vice-president, EIMPA. Some refused, others promised to turn up, but no one finally did. Victor Banerjee and Biplab Chatterjee were “busy shooting”, Naina Das was “busy electioneering”, while others simply steered clear. It was left to Somali Guha, a small-screen actress, to do the star turn.

The cinema strike, called by the employees’ union to press for its charter of demands including wage revision, has already caused the industry losses to the tune of half a crore. Bollywood blockbusters hit by the impasse include David Dhawan’s Jodi Number 1 starring Govinda and Sanjay Dutt. Stalled Bengali releases include Pratibaad, Rakhi Purnima and Churiwala.

At the end of Monday’s flop show — which caused little more than traffic snarls on Central Avenue and Bentinck Street — senior EIMPA officials at submitted a memorandum at the chief minister’s office. “We are incurring an average loss of Rs 10 lakh per film because of the strike,” complained Agarwal. “There are around a thousand licensed and 12,000 unlicensed video parlours that are crippling our industry through piracy... In the wake of this strike, our very survival is at stake,” he added.

Now, the employees’ union is planning a streetshow of its own. “We have been taking out small processions regularly to protest the baseless allegations levelled against us by the hall-owners. But on April 18, we will stage a massive demonstration in front of the EIMPA headquarters at Dharamtala,” said Union joint general secretary Swadhin Aloke Mukherjee.

   

 
 
COMMUNITY CORNER WITH COSMOPOLITAN COLOUR 
 
 
BY RESHMI SENGUPTA
 
Calcutta, April 16: 
It was the need to forge a bond between those hailing from the South, but living in Calcutta, that prompted Dr C.V. Raman and Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan to form the South India Club in the early 1920s. In a span of 75 years, the club has expanded its activities to serve the community and provide a cross-cultural platform, without much fanfare.

The low-key style is, perhaps, distinctive of the club located in the quiet ambience of Hindusthan Park. Founded on Vijaya Dasami in 1926 at Deshapriya Park, with Dr Raman and Dr Radhakrishnan as its president and vice-president, respectively, the club recently celebrated its platinum jubilee with a three-day music concert at Uttam Mancha.

With about 450 members from the Gujarati, Marwari and Bengali communities, the South India Club has now gained a truly cosmopolitan character. A majority of the south Indian members, mostly bank employees, are from Tamil Nadu.

In its early years, the club had organised and sponsored concerts of several upcoming South Indian artistes in Calcutta. Thus, Hema Malini’s maiden dance show here was staged by the club at Kala Mandir in 1971. As was one of playback singer Hariharan’s concerts. Both classical and western musicians were promoted. Carnatic vocalists, instrumentalists and a rock band, all receive the club’s backing.

“It’s a club for the whole family, with separate sections and timings for women and children,” explains secretary Unnikrishnan Nayar, whose memories of the club date back to his childhood. “My father was a member and I would regularly come here to play and participate in other activities,” he recalls.

Today, members can participate in games ranging from badminton to table tennis to carrom.

They can access a well-catalogued library, a reading section with dailies and over 40 magazines, a dispensary for free consultation and a canteen rustling up south Indian dishes. And all for a membership fee of Rs 30 a family per month.

Of the various round-the-year events lined up for children, a unique item is the Balavihar course serving as a window to Indian culture through fun-filled lessons and bhajan sessions.

Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam classes also keep the kids on their toes. There’s a children’s day each month with competitions and games galore.

Apart from the once-in-two years fun fiesta, the Ladies Section organises crafts and painting exhibitions, demonstrations of recipes and occasional trips to old-age homes. The 15-year-old educational trust run by the club provides scholarships to needy students.

“Anyone who lands up in Calcutta from the South and is aimless, eventually finds us. We try to help them with food and lodging,” says Nayar. “Earlier, South Indians would stick to the Rashbehari stretch. Nowadays, they have gone as far as Behala, Bansdroni and Brahmapur. But the club continues to be a meeting point for building bridges between themselves and with other communities,” says Nayar, with a glimmer in his bespectacled eyes.

   

 
 
COURT NOD FOR METRO STRETCH 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 16: 
Calcutta High Court on Monday declined to intervene in the construction work on the Adi Ganga for extending Metro Railway from Tollygunge to Garia. The directive has helped the Metro Rail authorities proceed with the extension work.

A division bench, comprising Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice Girish Gupta, also observed that according to the Railway Act, Metro Railway need not obtain a no-objection certificate from the environment department. The court has, however, directed the authorities to submit an Environment Impact Assessment Report on the construction work to the state pollution control board.

Earlier, environmental activist Subhas Dutta had filed a public interest litigation, seeking court intervention and demanding an order of injunction on the work.

Dutta had stated that construction on the Adi Ganga would disturb the ecological balance and that Metro Railway had started work without obtaining a no-objection certificate from the environment department.

The project contradicted a high court order to the state to desilt the Adi Ganga,Dutta said. Lawyers for Metro Railway submitted a petition stating that a survey on the construction site had ruled out chances of pollution.

Theft bid: Two youth attempted to rob Rs 1.54 lakh from an employee of a Central undertaking in the port area on Monday. But timely intervention by local residents forced them to flee.

   

 
 
NOISE CODE RAP FOR MAMATA RALLY 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Aparil 16: 
Advocate Gitanath Ganguly on Monday told the chief electoral officer of the violation of decibel limits at the Shyambazar rally organised by the Trinamul Congress and the Congress on Sunday.

Ganguly, special officer appointed by the high court to monitor noise pollution, alleged that political parties did not maintain the sound limit at meetings. He said he had received several complaints from residents, who alleged that not less than 20 microphones were used on both sides of Bhupen Bose Avenue. Chief electoral officer Sabyasachi Sen sought a report from Ganguly.

Sen appealed to all parties to observe sound control guidelines. “We expect political parties to observe the election code of conduct voluntarily. Taking punitive measures is not desirable,” Sen said.

The state electoral office will convene state and district-level meetings with parties to discuss violation of the poll code and seek their assistance in maintaining peace during polling.

   

 
 
PLEA TO OPEN IMPHAL SCHOOLS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, April 16: 
The All-Manipur Students’ Union and the guardians of the students studying in the eight Catholic missionary schools of Imphal have appealed to the authorities of the schools and the “insurgents” to re-open the institutions. The schools have closed down following a huge monetary demand by an insurgent outfit.

Worried about the future of the students, the Amsu held a joint meeting with the guardians yesterday. It was resolved at the meeting that the differences between the Catholic authorities and the “other party” should be settled amicably to “save” the students. Another meeting is scheduled to be held on April 22.

Sources said the militant outfit had demanded Rs 5 lakh from each of the eight Catholic schools. When the schools had refused to pay, the outfit slapped a fine of Rs 2 crore. The militants also told them to close down their institutions if they were unable to meet their demands, sources said.

What surprised the guardians was that the authorities did not spell out the details of the demands made by the outfit. They also did not reveal the name of the outfit to the guardians or the police. If the impasse continues, it would affect the students adversely, as it is too late for them to seek admission in any other school.

Meanwhile, the director of school education department has issued a notification asking the Catholic missionary schools to resume classes from April 18 in the interest of the students. The department was reported to be very concerned about the issue.

No Catholic missionary was available for comment. All functionaries of Catholic mission schools have preferred to remain silent on the issue and were exerting pressure on the guardians to help restore normalcy. Sources said that some of the school administrators have even left the state.

Employees’ strike: The S. Narendra faction of the joint administrative council of All- Manipur Trade Union Congress and All-Manipur Government Employees Organisation has launched a ceasework from today. The faction is demanding that the government led by Radhabinod Koijam revoke the decisions which had adversely affected the employees. It also demanded rectification of pay anomalies.

The other faction of the council, led by Madhuryajit Singh, has also threatened to launch a cease-work from April 18.

Though the response to today’s strike was partial, work was affected in many departments.

Five hurt in fire

Five people were injured when a fire broke out at a house in Haobam Marak area of Imphal yesterday. The fire razed two houses to the ground, damaging a large amount of property.

Sources said the fire broke out following a quarrel between a man and his wife. The fire spread fast after three liquefied petroleum gas cylinders exploded. When fire services team reach the spot, a major portion of the house had burned down.

   

 
 
AGP PITS HEAVYWEIGHTS IN ‘FRIENDLY CONTESTS’ 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Guwahati, April 16: 
In a move which is certain to raise the hackles of state BJP leaders, the Asom Gana Parishad today named four of its top guns in constituencies which have been marked for “friendly contests” with its latest ally.

Chief minister and party president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta renominated party vice-president and state cooperation minister Nurul Hussain in Hajo, sericulture minister Ramendra Narayan Kalita in Guwahati (West), deputy Speaker Renupoma Rajkhowa in Teok and former education minister Jatin Mali in the Palasbari constituencies.

The names of these four top leaders figured in the first list of 54 candidates announced by Mahanta at a crowded press conference this afternoon. Mahanta will be contesting only from Barhampur and left the Nagaon seat for sitting MLA Girindra Kumar Baruah.

Barring Mali, the other three AGP leaders named by Mahanta for the “friendly contests” were not present at the press conference. The four constituencies are among the 10 which the AGP claims to have been selected for “friendly contests” with the BJP. The AGP has also left 34 seats to its ally and hinted that in the 10 seats marked for “friendly contests,” it would only offer token resistance at the hustings.

However, the state BJP leaders deny that they have agreed to any friendly contests and insist that the party will put up candidates in all 44 seats.

Mahanta said the modalities for the “friendly fights” have not been finalised yet. But it is apparent that the AGP was aiming to “win” these 10 seats.

   

 
 
HRANGKHAWAL MAY BECOME IPFT PRESIDENT 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, April 16: 
Gripped by continued dissension in the wake of the ouster of autonomous district council chief executive member Debabrata Koloi from his post, the leadership of the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura is considering a major restructuring of the party to tide over the crisis.

According to information available from senior IPFT leaders, party president Harinath Debbarma will be replaced by the chief of the high-level monitoring committee, B.K. Hrangkhawal.

In order to forestall any revolt from the deposed party president — Harinath Debbarma is adept in breaking parties — he will be made advisor to the IPFT executive committee as part of the restructuring. Sources said the most important proposal to curb dissension within the party and its possible split is to make Debabrata Koloi vice-chairman of the autonomous district council to mollify his ruffled feathers.

Besides, another disgruntled leader, Sridam Debbarma, is proposed to be made an executive member in charge of rural development. Sridam Debbarma, who had been holding the post of executive member in charge of education, was dropped from the new council formed after the ouster of Debabrata Koloi.

Debbarma’s group, particularly his mentor and party president Harinath Debbarma is, however, trying to make Sridam party general secretary in place of Debabrata Koloi, who is proposed to be accommodated as vice-chairman.

However, the proposed restructuring, which will be discussed at the IPFT’s executive committee meeting on April 22 and formally ratified in the party’s state conference next month, has evoked mixed reactions among party leaders.

The deposed chief executive member, Debabrata Koloi, and his supporters have made it clear that he will not accept the post of vice-chairman until he is cleared of allegations of corruption raised earlier against him by two of his colleagues, Harinath and Sridam Debbarma. Besides, Koloi is determined not to concede the post of party general secretary to his arch rival, Sridam Debbarma.

The supporters of Koloi have pointed out that according to the constitution of the IPFT, one man can hold only one post, whether in the organisation or administration.Sources said the matter was being discussed and debated by senior leaders of the party and a decision would be taken soon.

What is, however, certain is that B.K. Hrangkhawal will be the next president of the IPFT while both Debabrata Koloi and Sridam Debbarma will be honourably rehabilitated. Sources added that the IPFT’s executive body meeting on April 22 would also be attended by leaders of frontal organisations and representatives of “invisible allies,” the militants of the NLFT.

   
 

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