Friends forsake fugitive
Incentives for realtors to boost IT sector
Security agency owner freed from abductors
Rains weaken over Bengal
Buddha brakes on old buses, cars
Cast in mould of grinding poverty
Garbage pile-up at Wockhardt
Pumping stations on rain alert
CM joins Nirupam in job plainspeak
E-medicine pep-pill for patients

 
 
FRIENDS FORSAKE FUGITIVE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 5: 
First the girl, then her friend. Within 24 hours of Trisha Roy handing herself over to the police, Ranvijay Singh Rathore surrendered to Tiljala police on Tuesday night, unable to “take the strain of staying one step ahead of the cops”.

The two, along with Gabbar, a notorious criminal operating in the central and eastern parts of the city, have been accused of murdering friend Sanjeev Jhulka, alias Bunty, in a Maruti car on May 20.

Despite a series of raids since then, both in the city and outside, the three had managed to elude the police dragnet, shifting hideouts and cities and finally taking refuge in the Delhi house of Gabbar’s brother-in-law, Robert D’Souza.

“There was no point in being on the run any longer,” Rathore told Tiljala police after his surrender. “When the police reached our hideout in Delhi, we knew the game was over. Only Gabbar refused to give in, saying the police would kill him if he surrendered.”

The chase to Delhi began on Friday when a Calcutta Police team left for the capital with details of the trio’s whereabouts. On Saturday morning, a brief recce was carried out in a trans-Yamuna colony and the assault on D’Souza’s house launched at night.

But the trio was second time lucky. The police had missed Gabbar and company on a raid in a Topsia apartment last week by only a few minutes.

In Delhi, as soon as they announced their arrival and declared their identity, Gabbar and friends fled through a back door and managed to escape.

While the Calcutta team had to stay content by arresting D’Souza and relative Arvind Nigel, the three roamed the streets of Delhi looking for a place to hide and chalking out their plans.

“This was the time when I decided to surrender,” Trisha told the police during interrogation. “Thankfully, Ranvijay agreed with me and we decided to come back to the city together and hand ourselves over to the police.”

Trisha called up her family and told them to appoint a lawyer for her. On Sunday, she took a train to the city, along with Rathore, and the next day, surrendered to the police. Rathore followed suit on Tuesday.

Trisha has been remanded in police custody till June 13, while Rathore will appear in Alipore court on Wednesday.

Recounting her life over the past few months with Gabbar and gang, Trisha told the police that “it had been one long fun trip, full of drinking and dancing and having a great time.”

Deputy commissioner of police, central, Zulfikar Hasan, said the surrender of Trisha and Rathore had yielded a “wealth of information” on the case.

   

 
 
INCENTIVES FOR REALTORS TO BOOST IT SECTOR 
 
 
BY SHANKAR MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, June 5: 
There’s a space jam at Saltlec. Applications from IT shops keen on setting up base in Calcutta are piling up at Webel. But with no “quality space” available, there’s little that the government’s nodal IT agency can do.

Now, to try and tackle this space problem, the government has decided to dole out incentives to the real-estate lobby. The aim: To lure private players to boost IT infrastructure in a city boasting just three intelligent buildings — SDF, Infinity and STP II — where office space is up for grabs.

The government has asked the civic authorities to be “more flexible” in dealing with promoters working on IT infrastructure. Besides, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation has been asked to expedite clearance of mutation or registration of land for the IT industry.

The major incentives drawn up to boost IT real estate:

Exemption from stamp duty and registration fees required for registration of documents

Capital investment subsidy of 15 to 25 per cent of fixed capital investment, subject to a ceiling of Rs 150 lakh to Rs 250 lakh, depending on the area where the industry is to be set up. There will be added incentives to pave the path for the spread of IT infrastructure

Interest subsidy of 50 to 60 per cent of annual liability on the loan amount, up to a ceiling of Rs 1 crore to Rs 1.2 crore per year, for five years to nine years. The amount and duration will depend on the location of the industry

Waiver of electricity duties for five years

Fifty per cent of the contribution towards ESI and PF for five to seven years will be reimbursed by the government.

Sources at Writers’ Buildings said the government has kept a provision of Rs 100 crore to bear the initial cost of these incentives.

“We are sure many developers and promoters will now choose IT infrastructure over residential highrises. There will be no restrictions in setting up IT-enabled services anywhere in and around the city. Besides, the developers will get immediate clearance of land and registration,” an official said.

According to Jaya Dasgupta, secretary, IT department, the incentive package is aimed at boosting both infrastructure and entrepreneurship.

“Already, several new IT-preneurs have approached us with project proposals. We expect the number of investors to rise sharply once these incentives are announced, more and more IT complexes come up and the industry spreads throughout the city,’’ Dasgupta said.

The attempt to reach out to private players in the IT drive is clear. “Two firms have chalked out plans to construct IT parks in the city. Two others have approached us to for a collaboration to build IT infrastructure,’’ said a senior officer of the IT department.

   

 
 
SECURITY AGENCY OWNER FREED FROM ABDUCTORS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 5: 
In a pre-dawn swoop, the police rescued the owner of a security agency who had been abducted for ransom from his office on Manindra Mitra Row, in the Muchipara thana area, on Monday evening.

Kalipada Saha, 35, was rescued from a hideout on Private Road, in Dum Dum. Two youth were arrested, while two others managed to flee.

Zulfikar Hasan, deputy commissioner of police, central division, said the abduction was carried out around 6 pm on Monday.

A gang of four arrived in front of Saha’s office and called out to him. As soon as he stepped out, the youth dragged him into a car and drove off.

On receiving the complaint from the Saha family, officers of Muchipara police station reached the spot but made little headway, in the absence of eye-witnesses.

At around 9 pm, abductors called up Saha’s residence and demanded Rs 4 lakh for his release. Saha’s family alerted the police immediately.

“We knew the goons would call again, and so a caller-line identification (CLI) machine was installed at the Saha residence,” said Hasan. The second call came around 10 pm. Police traced the call to the Private Road area, under Dum Dum thana.

A police team from Muchipara rushed to Dum Dum thana. The telephone number was used to identify a two-storeyed house on Private Road as the one from from where the call had been made.

The cops threw a cordon round the house. Some then smashed open the door and stormed in. They found Saha lying on the floor in a dingy room, his hands tied and mouth gagged.

Two of the goons, Suman Bose and Sanjeeb Ghosh, were arrested. The others managed to slip out through the backdoor.

Police later said that the abduction might have been carried out by some youth, promised jobs by Saha in his security agency.

There is even talk of Saha having collected money from them. “We are, however, not starting any case against Saha, as no one has lodged a complaint in this regard,” a police officer said.

   

 
 
RAINS WEAKEN OVER BENGAL 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, June 5: 
A day after declaring that the monsoon had arrived in Calcutta and elsewhere in south Bengal, the weatherman said on Tuesday that it is likely to weaken temporarily after 24 hours.

“The cloud cover is less over north and central Bay of Bengal and a trough of low pressure, accompanied by an upper-air circulation, has developed over the south-west Bay near the Tamil Nadu coast. As a result, the rains are likely to recede by Wednesday night. The monsoon may revive over the weekend,” said Alipore Met office director R.N. Goldar.

The monsoon was more fierce in north Bengal and Tripura. “In Calcutta, there was a drizzle and only 6 mm of rainfall was recorded on Tuesday,” Goldar said. A thundershower is likely in the next 24 hours, he added.

   

 
 
BUDDHA BRAKES ON OLD BUSES, CARS 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, June 5: 
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee made it clear on World Environment Day that owners of old taxis and buses would have to replace their engines or switch to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), failing which, the vehicles would be scrapped.

This, Bhattacharjee said on Tuesday, applied to state-owned vehicles too. Speaking at a function at the state pollution control board (PCB) headquarters at Paribesh Bhavan, in Salt Lake, the chief minister, for the first time since the Left Front’s return to power, spelt out his government’s environmental agenda.

This is the second attempt by the state government to scrap old taxis and buses. It had to backtrack after making the policy announcement in 1999. The taxi and bus-owners’ lobbies were successful in stalling the move by resorting to a series of strikes that year. The environment and transport departments, too, bickered while formulating the policy.

“We won’t have any differences in our policy for phasing out old cars this time. We will fix a time-barred programme and implement it without compromise,” Bhattacharjee announced.

The chief minister’s announcement bolsters the PCB effort to phase out old vehicles. According to PCB sources, the official old-car ban will be announced “by the year-end”.

The PCB and the state transport department have, however, not yet fixed the age of the vehicles to be phased out. But, by all indications, it will be between 20 and 15 years.

In its effort to reduce particulate matter in the air, the PCB is focusing primarily on diesel-driven vehicles, such as taxis and buses. Private cars, senior PCB officials pointed out, are mostly petrol-driven and don’t emit particles into the atmosphere.

Out of the estimated 800,000 vehicles that ply in the city on a weekday, there are about 6,000 taxis and 4,500 buses and mini-buses which are over 15 years old.

“These old diesel vehicles, once phased out or converted to LPG, will have a significant impact on reducing air pollution in Calcutta,” a senior PCB official pointed out.

Bhattacharjee also took up the issue of the highly-polluting, furnace-based units in the city. “I propose that the PCB issue them notices so that they shift to our industrial growth area or shut down,” the chief minister said.

The PCB is in the process of monitoring conversion of these 228 coal-based furnaces to oil-fired ones.

The chief minister said if the need arose, the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority as well as the Calcutta Municipal Corporation would look for land to relocate these units.

Announcing the setting up of a single-window complaint cell to monitor waterbodies and wetlands, the chief minister admitted that the state had failed miserably in waste management.

   

 
 
CAST IN MOULD OF GRINDING POVERTY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 5: 
Bhramar Karmakar and Ashok Karmakar sit in rickety chairs surrounded by plaster casts of classical statues at the Government College of Arts and Crafts. Shabbily dressed, both the scrawny young men in their 30s are obviously poor.

These two Dokra artisans had come from Gushkara, in Burdwan district, to conduct a workshop for students on the art of casting, as practised by these traditional craftsmen. It ended on Monday.

About 20 to 22 families live in their village and, the two Karmakars say, they live in abject poverty. Unfortunately, their only means of eking out a living is Dokra craft and that helps them earn a paltry Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000 a year. “Our cooperative society gives us orders for producing artefacts and if we don’t get any, we just sit idle. For example, during the monsoon, we have no work. We have a limited markets and limited means,” they say.

Most of the money is spent on buying raw material. Brass used to be Rs 75 a kg two-three years ago. Now it is Rs 100 a kg but prices of their creations remain unchanged. The government has provided water and power and even made roads but has hardly done anything to improve their lot.

Quite some time ago, their fathers were given loans but the younger people have not seen any sign of governmental munificence. The artisans don’t even have anybody to advocate their cause. So they continue to live in grinding poverty.

Children pick up the tricks of the trade by the time they are eight, and since they have to earn their own keep they are compelled to drop out of school. “I can’t afford to send my children to a school. So they are fated to keep the craft alive,” says a resigned Bhramar.

Earlier, both of them had conducted similar workshops at various Calcutta institutions. Dokra casting is an intricate process, which involves the use of cowdung, mustard oil, incense, coal, and takes anything between seven and eight days from the time the form of the sculpture is given shape, to the point when it emerges from the makeshift kiln after firing. Although the same lost wax process is used in bronze casting too, the indigenous form is cheaper, although only small pieces can be created by this process.

The 21 students used the Dokra process but created their own forms. The two Karmakars stuck to tradition.

   

 
 
GARBAGE PILE-UP AT WOCKHARDT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 5: 
The stalemate at Wockhardt Hospital and Kidney Institute, one of India’s leading renal treatment centres, stepped into its ninth day on Tuesday with contractors’ labourers, owing allegiance to a faction of Trinamul Congress, refusing to let the hospital function smoothly.

Patients, their relatives and Wockhardt staff continued to be threatened by the recalcitrant labourers, a day after the latter pulled seven employees, including two women, out of a car and beat them up. Seven arrests were made, police said. The condition of one of the injured, Shyam Mandal, continues to be serious and he is still in hospital. The other injured worker, Satyen Hati, was released from hospital on Tuesday.

No Corporation garbage disposal van came to collect bio-medical waste from the hospital. With garbage piling up, the hospital management is thinking of carrying out the garbage in cars and dropping them at nearby CMC vats. That was what Wockhardt general manager Sumedha Sen claimed to have done on Tuesday: She carried two bags of waste to a vat on Rashbehari Avenue, from where it was carried away by a CMC garbage disposal van.

Sen had met mayor Subrata Mukherjee on Monday. Mukherjee told Metro that the CMC was ready to help out the hospital authorities if the police promised security to CMC workers. “We are sending our garbage disposal vans, but what can CMC workers do if the police don’t help?” he said.

The hospital management on Tuesday alleged that the agitators were striving towards one end — shutting down the hospital. “All the threats, coercion and non-cooperation are being carried out towards that end,” Sen said, adding that it is up to the government to act now.

   

 
 
PUMPING STATIONS ON RAIN ALERT 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, June 5: 
The city civic authorities have alerted 18 pumping stations after the Met office announced the arrival of the monsoon. The Corporation is prepared to tackle two to three hours of rainfall, said mayor Subrata Mukherjee. On Monday, Mukherjee held meetings to oversee the arrangements made by the civic engineers.

“We have asked the engineers in charge of the pumping stations to record the rainfall and to keep in touch with the CMC control room,” said Rajiv Deb, member, mayor-in-council, drainage and sewerage. The executive engineers of all boroughs have been asked to be available during an emergency, Deb said.

“We have used our jetting sand suction machines to desilt the drains. The irrigation department has also been requested to desilt the main outflow channels under its jurisdiction,” Deb said.

The areas which the CMC has identified as being prone to waterlogging are Southern Avenue, Shakespeare Sarani, Park Street, Camac Street, Puddapukur, Kalighat, Behala, Chittaranjan Avenue, Amherst Street, College Street and Beadon Street. Many of these pockets were flooded in the showers over the past 24 hours.

With the chief engineer of the drainage and sewerage department, Dilip Sanyal, Deb inspected the CMC pumping stations in these areas on Monday. He also held a meeting with Mala Roy, member, mayor-in-council, conservancy, and requested her to ensure that garbage did not accumulate. “Plastic packets, leaves and twigs choke the drains in the monsoon. The engineers of the two departments will coordinate to keep the city garbage-free,” Deb said.

   

 
 
CM JOINS NIRUPAM IN JOB PLAINSPEAK 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, June 5: 
Earn your living by being your own boss. That’s the message chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee sent to boys and girls looking for jobs, which are becoming increasingly difficult to come by, urging them to look for avenues in entrepreneurship.

Making it clear that his government, too, will not be able to provide jobs to all, Bhattacharjee said: “Our youth will have to change the mindset that the ultimate goal in life is to get a job. The majority of our youth will not get jobs, only a small portion of them will.”

“But,” he added, “the trend among the jobless to turn into entrepreneurs is growing. Those involved in the information technology industry have already sought support from the government.”

Commerce and industry minister Nirupam Sen, virtually the number two in Bhattacharjee’s Cabinet, had made a similar assertion shortly after taking over. Sen, too, had asked the youths to set up their own businesses instead of spending time hunting for elusive jobs.

The chief minister’s assertion came at a felicitation function organised by the CPM’s women wing, Paschim Banga Ganatantrik Mahila Samity, at the Calcutta University centenary hall.

Bhattacharjee admitted that though the overall crime rate in Bengal is low compared to other states, atrocities against women are on the rise.

“There should be an organised effort on our part to make women more and more self-sufficient. There should be workshops on how women in small groups can choose production in the handicraft and garment sectors. Assistance from banks is also available. I have heard that similar schemes have been introduced in Bangladesh,” he said.

The chief minister urged the forum to organise workshops and help unemployed women become self-sufficient as a big chunk of the jobless comprised women.

Bhattacharjee said his government would have to be “sensitive” while dealing with people. “In our state, a tribal in tattered clothes is shooed away from government establishments, while a person getting out of a car is heartily welcomed. This can’t go on. I have said in earlier meetings that this attitude must stop. We have to be sensitive and behave properly with all kinds of people. I want this attitude to change not only in Writers’ Buildings, but in every government office in the state,” he said.

Bhattacharjee said the people had a lot of expectation from the newly elected government. “They (the people) want to see the government perform and the employees behave in a civil and courteous manner. Only then can we come closer to the people,” he added.

Referring to his recent meeting with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Bhattacharjee said he told the Prime Minister that rice cultivators in Bengal would be in dire straits if the Centre went ahead with its plans to import rice from Thailand and Taiwan.

“I told the Prime Minister how can you do this? You did not even bother to consult the states. What will happen to our farmers?” Bhattacharjee said.

   

 
 
E-MEDICINE PEP-PILL FOR PATIENTS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 5: 
The state public works department is now working on an ambitious plan to bring Writers’ Buildings and the major teaching hospitals in the city under a common network for sharing information on patients.

When the project does come through, West Bengal will become the first state in the country to have such an enormous database on even non-paying patients, claimed Writers’ Buildings officials.

The government has plans to bring the major district hospitals in the scheme as well after the initial plans of linking Writers’ Buildings and Calcutta’s major hospitals materialise, senior officials said.

Each hospital to be brought under the common network will first have to set up a special “smart room” for the purpose. This would be the room where the computers — that will store all the relevant information about patients’ medical history — would be kept, a senior state government official told The Telegraph.

The advantages will be manifold. The first and direct beneficiaries of the scheme are expected to be patients who stay at government hospitals; they will be able to get access to the complete history of their illness whenever they may need to refer to the past for future treatment, officials claimed.

Another beneficiary will be the state health department and doctors and researchers will have the complete history of complicated cases at their disposal at the click of a mouse. They will also be able to serve patients better as their case histories will be easily available when the state public works department finishes with its linking-up work.

For example, if a person has to be referred to SSKM hospital from Medical College hospital, doctors at SSKM will be familiar with the patient’s medical history even before they get to see the patient in person.

The same goes for patients being brought to the city from the districts; doctors in Calcutta will know the case history of their patient even before the patient sets foot on Calcutta, officials explained.

The technology that will be used to facilitate all these is the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), now only two years old. VoIP will, the officials said, allow a doctor in Calcutta to work on a patient’s case-file simultaneously with his colleague sitting in, say, Raiganj. This, in e-jargon, is called “application-sharing and collaborative work”, they added.

The government has plans to go right down to the sub-divisional and block levels with VoIP technology. All this is part of the plans to computerise the functioning of the entire administration, the officials said.

But the ambitious plan has already hit one speedbreak. Officials are now wracking their brains over ways to transfer ultrasonography reports and X-rays over VoIP. “We are working on the problem and this single hitch shouldn’t take too much to be sorted out,” confided a senior official.

And, funds willing, the first phase of the work might well be complete before the end of this year, he added.

   
 

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