Wet week for revenue high
Maruti-case Trisha walks into police hands
Wockhardt staff dragged out of car, roughed up
Madhyamik results in record time
Shut shadow on computer centres
Polythene ban in pollution checks
Garbage pile-up at Dhapa spells spillover vats in city
Fourth nominee joins fray
Car-loan rush to make a quick buck
From killers to dacoits

 
 
WET WEEK FOR REVENUE HIGH 
 
 
BY TAMAL SENGUPTA
 
Calcutta, June 4: 
The state excise department has taken a liberal approach to the liquor trade after the decision to replace Asim Dasgupta with Probodh Chandra Sinha as excise department minister. Sinha is considering a proposal which, if vetted, will give liquor shops the option of remaining open throughout the week, as long as they don’t violate the existing labour laws. That means all liquor shop-owners will have to give rotational holidays to their staff at least once a week or hire a new set of counter staff for the seventh day in the week when the shops remain open. Shops, however, have the option of choosing their own holidays.

The liberal approach has manifested itself in another decision of the department — a licence to serve liquor at Nicco Park, in Salt Lake. The new bar at Bowlers’ Den, a restaurant adjacent to Nicco Super Bowl, is to open on Wednesday. The restaurant has been closed for the past two weeks for remodelling. “There will be an air-conditioned indoor bar and an outdoor garden bar, where more than 50 people can be served,” a senior Nicco Park official said, preferring anonymity. The decision follows allegations that visitors to the park would lace their cola with alcohol, say officials.

There’s a rationale behind the decision to do away with dry days too, say officials. They forward the examples of Left-ruled Kerala and Tripura besides, of course, Maharashtra, which don’t have a dry day. The decision was also taken keeping in mind the need to give liquor vendors a level-playing field with owners of bars and pubs, which can serve alcohol every day, said officials. Calcutta has 123 foreign liquor shops and 121 pubs and bars.

Doing away with dry days will also mean, officials hope, less consumption of illicit liquor in the suburbs and villages.

“The weekly markets and village fairs, usually held on Thursday, become another excuse for buying and drinking illicit liquor,” a senior official said.

The no-dry-day decision, officials estimate, will mean a two per cent rise in revenue. The annual liquor consumption is nine million litres and the revenue earned Rs 110 crore. Both are rising at the rate of 10 per cent annually.

The excise department is also considering applications submitted by thousands of businessmen who want to open foreign liquor shops in the city and its suburbs.

A few months ago, the department conducted a lottery at Girish Mancha, in north Calcutta, to select the applicants for giving new licences.

   

 
 
MARUTI-CASE TRISHA WALKS INTO POLICE HANDS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 4: 
Two arrests, one surrender, two absconding. That’s the police count in the Maruti murder case.

After eluding the police for more than two weeks, Trisha Roy, who was present with Rashid Alam, alias Gabbar, when 24-year Sanjeev Jhulka, alias Bunty, was murdered on May 20, surrendered on Monday afternoon.

The police arrested 21-year-old Trisha as she entered the South 24-Parganas police headquarters in Alipore, along with her lawyer, around 2 pm. She will be produced in Alipore court on Tuesday. Two others wanted in the Bunty murder case, Gabbar and Ranvijay Singh Rathore, are absconding.

Last week, police rounded up two others accused in the case — Sonam and Gabbar’s aide, Clive Fernandez Brookes, alias Fatman.

The duo confessed during interrogation that on May 20, Gabbar pulled the trigger of his 9-mm revolver during a scuffle in the car between Bunty and Fatman. The bullet pierced Bunty’s chest. When they realised that Bunty was dead, Gabbar stopped the car on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass and dumped the body there. Next day, police recovered the bullet-ridden body.

Gautam Chakraborty, deputy inspector-general of police (Presidency range), told mediapersons at Bhabani Bhavan: “Trisha was forced to surrender because of the pressure exerted on her by the police. She was moving from place to place and found it difficult to hide any longer. As a result, she decided to give herself up.”

Elaborating on Trisha’s surrender, Ranjit Kumar Mohanty, inspector-general of police (south Bengal), said the girl told the police that she had just returned from Delhi. “However, we are not accepting her statement, as she is giving us contradictory stories about her stay in different places. We are interrogating her to find out where exactly she returned from and what her relations are with the other gang members,” Mohanty said.

South 24-Parganas police superintendent, Deb Kumar Ganguly, a key interrogator of Trisha, was not present at the media briefing. He was represented by additional SP Gyanwant Singh.

Police sources said that Trisha was with Ranvijay until she decided to surrender. On Sunday night, Ranvijay brought her to Salt Lake to her elder sister’s residence, from where she contacted her parents at Picnic Garden, on the southern fringe of the city. “Then, Trisha’s parents contacted their lawyer at Alipore, who advised her to surrender to the police at Alipore. She was put under arrest immediately,” sources added.

Mohanty said the question of Trisha turning approver and helping the cops with their investigation did not arise as she had been arrested under charges which include criminal conspiracy.

CESC cards:, CESC employees interacting with consumers have been provided with photo-identity cards. This follows complaints of consumers being duped or harassed by miscreants posing as CESC employees. Now, consumers can ask meter inspectors and fault-repairing employees to produce their identity cards.

   

 
 
WOCKHARDT STAFF DRAGGED OUT OF CAR, ROUGHED UP 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 4: 
The stalemate at Wockhardt Hospital and Kidney Institute took a violent turn on Monday. Local goons masquerading as unionists pulled Institute staff out of their car and beat up two of them.

The incident occurred around 5 pm, during change of shift at the renal treatment centre on Rashbehari Avenue. Seven staff members, including two women, were dragged out of the car just as they were leaving the Institute.

All five men were roughed up, with Satyen Hati and Shyam Mandal being picked out for special treatment. The two had to be hospitalised, said M.K. Singh, officiating as deputy commissioner (south).

On Monday evening, seven agitators were arrested in connection with the attack at Wockhardt.

There has been trouble at the Institute since May 28, three days after the hospital management decided not to renew the services of two contractors for “poor quality of work”. The two contractors supplied securitymen and general-duty attendants to the hospital.

Trinamul Congress leaders then jumped into the fray, supporting the agitators, who tried to prevent patients and staff from entering the hospital and threatened them with unsavoury consequences if they dared attend to their duties.

The hospital management has tried to maintain normalcy within the hospital. Patients are being admitted and treated, and operations conducted as usual. The management has received its share of cooperation from members of the staff who have braved threats for the past eight days to keep the hospital open and functioning. But with the agitators, who have put up Trinamul flags near the hospital gates, carrying out their threat on Monday evening, the crisis at the centre has deepened.

“The attackers are believed to be men owing allegiance to former Congress councillor Tulsi Mukherjee,” added a senior police officer.

Both the Trinamul trade union wing, the Inttuc, and the Intuc have been quick to try and distance themselves from the Wockhardt episode. Inttuc leader and local MLA Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay denied any involvement of his men in the agitation. “I went there (to the hospital) one day as the local MLA and not as any union leader,” he added.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee, also Intuc chief, claimed his union had nothing to do with the trouble at the centre. He also expressed concern over the piling up of garbage inside the hospital, the agitators having prevented Calcutta Municipal Corporation disposal vans from collecting the refuse from the troublespot.

On Monday, three vans turned up at the Institute, but were not allowed to collect the garbage.

Mukherjee said he would “wait another day” before seeking the help of the police in garbage collection. “The piling up of hospital waste cannot be allowed to go on, as it will endanger the well-being of patients,” said the mayor.

   

 
 
MADHYAMIK RESULTS IN RECORD TIME 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, June 4: 
The Madhyamik board, having taken the government’s “Do it now” slogan quite seriously, is set to publish the results of this year’s examination on June 7, nearly a month earlier than in previous years. The Madhyamik examinations began on February 26 and ended on April 7. The West Bengal Board of Secondary Education has, in the past few years, tried to publish Madhyamik results within 90 days of the exams’ completion. “Never before in the past has the Board been successful in publishing results so early,” said president A.K. Chakraborty.

In order to publish the results by early-June, the Board appointed nearly 10,000 additional examiners this year. Several measures were taken to complete the evaluation of answer scripts by May 10, the day the Assembly elections were held. This helped avoid any delay due to non-availability of schoolteachers engaged in election duties.

In keeping with the hi-tech facilities being offered by counterparts in most other states, the Board has decided to announce the results on the Internet on Thursday. The results will be available on three websites, officials said on Monday. The Board has entrusted Webel with this exercise. “This is the biggest exercise of its kind till date. We have to upload the data of nearly 600,000 students on the site. This includes their roll numbers, names, schools and marks obtained. Uploading such huge data within the time we have, which is 24 hours, won’t be an easy task,” admitted Webel general manager P.K. Rudra. Apart from individual results, the merit list will also be available.

Officials promised a snag-free display of results on the Net, but did not rule out the possibility of jamming, as thousands of students will be trying to open the sites. A US-based server will have to be taken on rent, as no server with such enormous capacity is available here, Webel officials said, after discussing the matter with the Board president on Monday.

Chakraborty, however, refused to divulge any information about the success rate this year. “There isn’t much of a difference between last year’s success rate and this year’s,” he said. The pass percentage in last year’s Madhyamik was nearly 70 per cent.

Chakraborty also appealed to examinees “not to panic” in the wake of rumours that the mathematics results have been poor this year. “I have gone through the results. The students’ performance in all subjects is more or less the same as that of the past few years,” the Board president insisted.

   

 
 
SHUT SHADOW ON COMPUTER CENTRES 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, June 4: 
The confusion created after the closure of two Zap Infotech centres in Delhi has spilled over to Calcutta. In the past seven days, classes have been suspended in the Rabindra Sarobar, Hazra and Jodhpur Park centres and the computer training centre circles are abuzz about the other eight centres also pulling down their shutters by the end of this month.

While the centre owners have cited “unavailability of faculty” as the reason for the closure, Zap officials in both Calcutta and Mumbai initially denied any such report. Then, they pointed out “renovation work at the centres” as the cause of the “temporary closure”. Adding to the confusion among affected students, around 70 Zap employees have put in their papers over the past two weeks.

In the midst of these developments, caught at the crossroads are hundreds of students with shattered dreams and uncertain futures. “From day one, we were denied the facilities which the authorities had promised at the time of admission. Suspension of classes, changes in faculty, unavailability of machines and softwares and lack of courseware have been regular features at this centre,” said a student of the Jodhpur Park centre, whose course would have been completed in February 2001. But last Saturday, he discovered that the centre was closed and no computers were in sight. Alarmed, the 23-year old commerce graduate from a central Calcutta college came down to the zonal office of Zap Infotech on Monday, along with students from other centres, to find out what happens next.

Through a series of meetings, Samit Patra, zonal manager, tried to convince the students that regular classes would start from the end of this week, but most of them were in no mood to listen. A section of the students met S.K. Mondal, assistant commissioner, detective department, who has referred the case to the anti-cheating cell.

“Lured by the prospect of web-based technologies and e-commerce, we took admission. But they didn’t have the required expertise or infrastructure to teach these topics. The loss caused to us is irreparable. Now, we just want to finish this course and get out of the institute with our certificates,” said a student of the Rabindra Sarobar centre.

Patra admitted to a “cash crunch” in the company and the “temporary closure” of the centres. But he denied charges of poor quality of education and lack of infrastructure. “We are introducing courses on geographical positioning and smart cards shortly, which require upgradation of computers. The centres were closed due to that and classes will resume by the end of this week,” he insisted.

   

 
 
POLYTHENE BAN IN POLLUTION CHECKS 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 4: 
The government has lined up several programmes to check environment pollution, which will be announced by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Tuesday at a function to mark World Environment Day at Paribesh Bhavan.

Use of polythene packets will be banned and the smoke emission level of factories in Calcutta and Howrah will be reduced from 350 ppm to 150 ppm. The existing rule prohibits the use of polythene packets of more than 0.0005 mm thickness, said a state environment department source. West Bengal will be the third state to impose this ban. “A report by the state pollution control board shows that polythene packets have clogged the sewerlines in various pockets of the city, resulting in waterlogging,” said a Calcutta Municipal Corporation official.

The implementation of Euro norms on vehicles will be postponed for a few more months.

   

 
 
GARBAGE PILE-UP AT DHAPA SPELLS SPILLOVER VATS IN CITY 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, June 4: 
Garbage at the Dhapa dumping ground has risen by eight feet, and litter may continue to accumulate in the vats this monsoon because the six approach roads to the dumping site are in such a deplorable condition that a loaded truck cannot negotiate them after a heavy shower.

Worried over the situation, city conservancy chief Mala Roy paid a surprise visit to Dhapa and found that levelling work was not being done properly. “Citu leaders and workers are indulging in politics at Dhapa to discredit the Trinamul Congress-led civic board,” Roy said. If the ground is not levelled by a bulldozer after garbage is dumped daily by the conservancy trucks, further dumping will become impossible, as loaded trucks fail to scale the heap of garbage, she pointed out. This will result in spillover vats in the city.

Citu leaders said whimsical directives by the conservancy chief were creating confusion at the dumping ground. For instance, she frequently changes drivers of bulldozers, they alleged.

Conservancy officials said that every year, the conservancy department’s civil wing undertook a pre-monsoon road repair project at Dhapa and work would be completed by May.

But there has been an unusual delay this year and work has only recently been started. Despite repeated reminders, Roy had showed no interest in the work.

“It is impossible to complete a Rs 2.5-crore road repairing project in just two weeks,” a conservancy engineer said.

An estimated Rs 10 lakh was drained out of the civic exchequer on ghost workers in the conservancy department, said an accounts officer. The money was shared by trade union leaders, conservancy officials and other workers.

A conservancy worker said: “If we want to take leave without informing the authorities, we have to share half of our salaries with the leaders and officers.” Six hundred litres of diesel allotted for bulldozing are being sold in the open market by the union leaders and civic officials, he added.

The 524 vats in the city generate 2,600 tonnes of garbage daily and only 75 per cent of these are cleared regularly.

   

 
 
FOURTH NOMINEE JOINS FRAY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 4: 
The race for the nominated seat in the West Bengal State Legislative Assembly, to represent the Anglo-Indian community in the state, was given a fresh twist on Monday, with Charles Mantosh deciding to join the fray.

Mantosh, who owns a number of businesses in the city, including cinema halls, restaurants and the Suttons nursery, will file his nomination for the Assembly seat on Wednesday, he said. Till now, it was a three-cornered contest, with Barry O’ Brien and Antony Sayers challenging sitting MLA Gillian D’ Costa Hart.

“It’s true that Ms D’ Costa Hart is a respected person in the community, but at the same time, we had expected more from her during her tenure. Under the present circumstances, a change can work in favour of the community,” said Mantosh.

While he admitted he knows nothing about Sayers, Mantosh doesn’t feel Barry, notwithstanding his popularity in the community, can be a good choice, “since he doesn’t have any political background”.

Barry himself felt there was something fishy in Mantosh’s eleventh-hour appearance.

“The Mantoshes are very close family friends of Ms Gillian D’ Costa Hart. Charles Mantosh is nothing but a dummy candidate. This is obviously nothing but a strategy on Ms D’ Costa Hart’s part to complicate the issue,” Barry said.

Sayers was more circumspect. “Any number of candidates can join the fray. It doesn’t make any difference as the best person for the job should get the nod,” he observed.

   

 
 
CAR-LOAN RUSH TO MAKE A QUICK BUCK 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, June 4: 
A handicapped person will not be given a driving licence. But, if he is a government employee, he can still get a soft government loan for buying a two-wheeler or a car.

He may not buy a car or a two-wheeler. Instead, he can — if he wishes to — invest the amount he gets as loan in a more profitable venture.

It’s illegal. But at least one out of every five state government employees who avail of the loan does it, say Writers’ Buildings officials, as there has not been a single case where an employee or an official has been penalised for cheating the public exchequer.

The result: a gold-rush for availing the soft loan.

Here’s what happened last month: the finance department released Rs 1 crore, out of the year’s sanctioned sum of Rs 5 crore, to help government employees buy two-wheelers.

Any employee who earns a basic salary of more than Rs 4,600 can get a maximum of Rs 30,000 loan at a simple interest of nine per cent per year — deducted from his salary — for buying two-wheelers.

By May 20, twenty days after the department received the money for disbursement, the released amount of Rs 1 crore was exhausted as applicants got their loans on a first-applied-first-served basis. That has left many times the number who got their loans stranded without the two-wheeler which would have taken them to office faster.

“Yes, that is the idea behind giving the loans,” an official admitted. Those left in the lurch will now have to wait for the next quarter for getting the loan.

Last year, too, officials had noted a similar rush for buying two-wheelers on government loans. Rs 2.25 crore was sanctioned for the purpose; the total number of applicants meant a demand of more than Rs 15 crore, officials told The Telegraph.

Among those who got loans were several handicapped persons, they added, people who could not possibly get driving licences from the motor vehicles department. The result: a backlog of over a thousand applicants, some of whom would have really spent the money they were claiming it for.

The government has similar loans for its employees for buying four-wheelers and constructing houses. But there, too, there is a similar tale, say officials.

The amounts sanctioned by the government — Rs 1.5 crore for buying four-wheelers and Rs 110 crore for constructing houses — are easily outstripped by the demand, say officials. The reason is the same: many of those who take the loan invest the money elsewhere. The result, too, is the same: many needy employees do not get the loan.

Penalty for not using the government loan for the avowed purpose within a month of drawing the amount includes repayment of the entire loan-amount with interest. But it’s just another set of words; there hasn’t been any probe into this fraud on the public exchequer, say officials.

Assistant secretary in the finance (budget) section D.N. Rakshit admitted that his department was yet to probe even a single case. “We haven’t received any complaint,” he explained.

Officials, however, said that is precisely the problem — why should one employee report against another and end an easy way of earning a fast buck?

   

 
 
FROM KILLERS TO DACOITS 
 
 
FROM KUMARESH GHOSH
 
Midnapore, June 4: 
Mercenaries engaged by political parties in Midnapore during the elections to protect their respective territories from rivals are behind the spate of dacoities in Contai, police said.

“Now that the polls are over, these mercenaries, with huge quantity of arms in their possession, are not getting any political patronage either from the Trinamul Congress or the CPM. They have taken to committing large-scale crimes,” a senior police official said.

In Contai town, at least 13 dacoities have been committed over the past fortnight.

Midnapore superintendent of police A.K. Maliwal said the police are in search of Sheikh Munna, originally from Gujarat, in connection with the dacoities. Twelve persons have so far been arrested, he added.

Sources in the district intelligence branch said some of these arms are being used to commit dacoities while some others are being given to Naxalite outfits such as the Maoist Communist Centre and the People’s War Group.

The official said the hired mercenaries were used either by the Trinamul or the Left Front to control territories in trouble-torn Keshpur, Pingla, Sabang, Danton, Narayangarh, Khejuri and Contai.

“After the elections, these people became unemployed. They are now joining either different gangs of dacoits or the Naxalite outfits. As a result, dacoities have increased in the southern part of the district like in Contai and Naxalite activities in the western part like in the Belphari-Banspahari region,” the official said.

The district police authorities have submitted a report to the newly appointed director-general of police, Dinesh Vajpai.

Maliwal had rushed to Contai yesterday to monitor the situation. He has posted an additional SP at the Contai thana to control the crime situation. He has also sought an explanation from the officer-in-charge of the Contai police station.

The Congress, the Trinamul and the SUCI have given a call for a dawn-to-dusk bandh in Contai town on Wednesday in protest against the increase in dacoities and “police inaction”.

On the other hand, the CPM will take out processions the same day also in protest against the spate of dacoities. Party leaders in Contai alleged that those Trinamul supporters who have been rendered homeless have taken to dacoity.

People in Contai town are spending sleepless nights and are keeping guard at night.

   
 

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