Dance, drink laced with killer instinct
Two firms in fray for toll bridge to Howrah
Power hub office heist
Madhyamik websites
Big Apple debut for Bangla designs
Rats hold centrestage at theatre
Birth control the key to progress
Bypass flats dearer for water project
150 monitors deployed in malaria zones
Subhas jabs at Asim ‘stunt’

 
 
DANCE, DRINK LACED WITH KILLER INSTINCT 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, June 6: 
The first girl said he was shifting hideouts every day in Delhi and its periphery. The second said he could be arrested only if a proper vigil was kept on the capital’s discos. The third confessed that going by his lifestyle and mode of operation, he would give the police the slip again.

Through Wednesday, the police detained and interrogated three girlfriends of Gabbar, prime accused in the killing of Sanjeev Jhukla, alias Bunty, to get some leads on where the gangster was. The trio was let off later in the day.

On Saturday, a Calcutta Police team had stormed the trans-Yamuna house of Robert D’Souza, Gabbar’s brother-in-law, where he was hiding with Trisha Roy and Ranvijay Singh Rathore. As in Calcutta, in Delhi, too, Gabbar and his friends managed to give the cops the slip, escaping through the backdoor. But the incessant chase by the police forced Trisha and Rathore to surrender, fed up as they were of “trying to keep one step ahead of the law”.

The first girl to be interrogated told the police that Gabbar had called her up on Wednesday morning as he wanted a message passed on to one of his associates. “He said that his associate’s cellphone was switched off and he could not get through to him,” the girl told the police. “Gabbar wanted to know from me whether his associate had been arrested.”

The girl added: “I told Gabbar I did not know the fate of his friend, but he insisted that I try and contact him.”

The police had got to know of the three girls from Trisha and Ranvijay, who also furnished their addresses. “Ranvijay and Trisha told us that if Gabbar got in touch with anyone, it would be one of those girls,” an official said. The three girls were picked up from their homes in Ripon Lane, Broad Street and Metcalfe Street.

Apart from providing the cops with clues on Gabbar’s whereabouts, the girls also gave them an insight into his style of operation and his life in the fast lane. “For Gabbar, life started only after nine at night and ended just before the crack of dawn,” the second girl told the police. “He loved fast cars, dancing at discos and his drink. It seemed he lived for nothing else.”

But it was in between his dancing and drinking that he planned most of his crimes, one of the girls told the police. He would often leave the disco for a few hours and disappear, “God knows where”, and emerge later to pick up from where he had left off. “I am sure it was in this period that he either committed or planned most of his crimes,” the girl said.

One of the girls even pointed to the “enormous clout” that Gabbar enjoyed with the police. “At night, whenever a patrol car stopped us, Gabbar would stick his head out of his vehicle and smile at the police and they would let us pass without any questions,” she said. “Gabbar had more than a nodding acquaintance with almost all of them.”

On Wednesday, Robert D’Souza and his relative, Erwin Nigel, arrested in Delhi, were brought to the city. “From them, we have come to know that Gabbar has deep roots in the capital’s underworld as well,” said DC, central, Zulfikar Hasan.

   

 
 
TWO FIRMS IN FRAY FOR TOLL BRIDGE TO HOWRAH 
 
 
BY SHANKAR MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, June 6: 
The Rs 60-crore Girish Park flyover, the first project of its kind to be funded and implemented fully by a private firm, is well on track.

The transport department has shortlisted two companies for the flyover, which will start from Ganesh Talkies, off Rabindra Sarani, and end at the terminal point of the Brabourne Road flyover near Howrah Bridge, crossing Burrabazar, Malapara and Posta.

The firms in the fray to bag the build-operate-transfer (BOT) project are Gammon India Ltd and a consortium of companies led by Srei. The Transport Infrastructure Development Corporation will supervise and monitor the project.

The conditions laid down by the transport department specify that the firm to whom the project goes will have to arrange for funds, but will be allowed to collect toll from vehicles, sell advertisement space on and floor space under the flyover.

The toll amount will be fixed by the firm, with the approval of the transport department. Sources said the toll could be at par with Vidyasagar Setu.

Work is scheduled to start after the monsoon. “Our target is to complete the flyover within two years. Officials from the police and transport department have already chalked out plans to divert traffic from the congested Girish Park area during the construction period,’’ said G.G. Bhattacharya, managing director, TIDC.

According to Bhattacharya, the flyover will go a long way in solving the traffic problem in north Calcutta, with Howrah-bound vehicles avoiding the congested Burrabazar stretch.

Transport department officials said private cars, taxis and goods vehicles will be allowed on the flyover, while buses and other passenger vehicles would have to pass below the bridge.

“We have decided to implement some more projects on BOT basis, include road humps on Wood Street, Camac Street and two more flyovers,’’ Bhattacharya said.

   

 
 
POWER HUB OFFICE HEIST 
 
 
BY PRONAB MONDAL
 
Calcutta, June 6: 
A gang of armed goons struck close to the twin seats of power in central Calcutta on Wednesday evening. In a 10-minute operation, five youth stormed the Century Plyboard India Ltd office on Lyons Range, close to both Writers’ Buildings and Lalbazar, and fled with Rs 10 lakh.

Around 4.40 pm, the goons entered the first-floor office and asked the receptionist to direct them to the chairman’s room. “When I asked them who they were, one of them whipped out a revolver and pointed it at my forehead. I tried to alert the deputy managing director through the intercom, but they pulled out the telephone wires and threatened to shoot me,” said receptionist Tultul.

Then, four of the goons, brandishing revolvers and bhojalis, stormed the room where the officers and employees sit, while one stood guard at the front door.

When Sanjay Agarwal, deputy managing director, was ordered to hand over the cash, he directed the goons to the chamber of vice-chairman H.P. Agarwal, where the cash was kept inside an iron safe. The youth then entered H.P. Agarwal’s chamber and asked for the key to the locker.

“When I hesitated, one of them slapped me... I was forced to hand over the key. They opened the locker, took out all the money and stuffed it into a green airbag. Before leaving the room, they snatched my watch and gold chain,” alleged Agarwal.

On their way out on the office, the youth snatched four cellphones and three watches from the employees, before herding everyone into the room of B.L. Agarwal, chairman, and bolting the door from outside.

Zulfikar Hasan, deputy commissioner of police, central division, said the company officials had withdrawn the money from a bank an hour before the incident.

“According to preliminary investigation, the goons had specific information about the money being in the office safe. We are questioning the office staff,” said Hasan.

Sajjan Bhajanka, managing director, Century Plyboard, who arrived minutes after the goons fled, said the money had been withdrawn for payment of workers’ salaries at the Bishupur factory on Thursday.

“Earlier, we would send the money a day before the payment date. But last year, miscreants had attempted to snatch the money from the factory. Since then, we despatch the amount on payment day. Policemen from Bishnupur thana escort us to the factory,” Bhajanka added.

He gave a clean chit to his employees, while not ruling out the possibility of the goons having prior information about the money withdrawal.

Banibrata Basu, deputy commissioner, detective department, however, said: “Nothing can be ruled out at the moment. We are awaiting results of fingerprint tests carried out at the spot.”

   

 
 
MADHYAMIK WEBSITES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 6: 
Madhyamik results for 2001 will be declared on Thursday and will be available on website from the afternoon. The education department has entrusted Webel with the exercise of posting the results on the Net.

The results will be available on the state government’s own sites, www.westbengal.gov.in, and on www.westbengalgovt.org

This year, about 600,000 candidates appeared for Madhyamik, which began on February 26 and ended on April 7. The results are being declared nearly a month earlier than in previous years, a Board official said on Wednesday.

   

 
 
BIG APPLE DEBUT FOR BANGLA DESIGNS 
 
 
BY MADHUMITA BHATTACHARYYA
 
Calcutta, June 6: 
New takers for Calcutta designs, new ramps for Calcutta models, new stage for Calcutta music. All to breathe new life into the entertainment industry of Bengal. In a first-of-its-kind showcase, eight models, eight designers and a band will make their first mark on the New York fashion-scape in July, with a 30-show, 450-day tour of the US and Canada to follow in September.

And if all goes according to plan, London and fashion capital Milan will not be far.

For starters, a 20-strong squad (minus the young designers who’ll be hard at work for the September shows) will take off for a test-run on the Big Apple ramp in mid-July.

The best of Calcutta’s most-wanted showhouse, Rampedge, will strut the stuff of a new fashion house in town, John Galt Associates, to the beat of one of the city’s more popular bands, Cactus. This will be the professional debut show for most of the young designers.

Neither has the crew at Rampedge, boasting trips to Dhaka, Sri Lanka and Kathmandu, ever strayed this far from home.

“A splash of this kind is a huge break for all of us,” says Jayeeta Mukherjee, from the first graduating batch of NIFT Calcutta, now a consultant and production manager with John Galt Associates.

The same goes for the models who’ll soon be packing their bags for the July jamboree. “We are trying to treat it like any other show... But this is really exciting,” laughs Pinky.

The July trial run and the subsequent tours have been put together by Dr Babun Bhatia, a Sikh born and brought up in Basirhat, who all but gave up a career in medicine “to give suppressed artistic flair in Bengal a chance to express itself”.

A year ago, Dr Bhatia started John Galt Associates, “inspired by Ayn Rand and objectivism”. Now, he has a production centre in Salt Lake, where he has given eight designers from various backgrounds “full artistic independence”.

He has tied up with Rampedge, the agency which launched the likes of Celina and Koyna, to walk the ramp with collections from his in-house talent.

To keep the gig wholly desi, he is taking along “old friends” Cactus. “Bengali bands are just as good as any in the world,” feels the 29-year-old doctor.

He will also try to rope in “Parash Pathar, and another band from Punjab” for the show-series later this year.

Preparations have begun in earnest. “We will be taking some of the taller models from the group,” explains Ashish Banerji, choreographer, Rampedge.

A hectic schedule lies ahead of them, including private shows in June and July in Sharjah.

   

 
 
RATS HOLD CENTRESTAGE AT THEATRE 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, June 6: 
It was the evening of June 2. At a charity show organised by Smile at Madhusudan Mancha, actress Swatilekha Sengupta was holding centrestage in the enactment of Nandikar’s Shanu Roychoudhury. Ten minutes into the play, a ripple ran through the audience. Before she could pause to find out the reason of the suppressed commotion, the actress discovered, to her horror, a huge rat nestled near her feet.

“I quickly switched flanks and crossed over to the other side of the stage, before the big, black rat could do any damage... But it could so easily have bitten me,” recounted Swatilekha.

But some members of the audience in the Dhakuria auditorium were less lucky.

Rushati Sen, for instance. “I suddenly felt a shooting pain in my foot. I left the hall at once and discovered that the foot was bleeding profusely. I sought help from the hall staff, but all they did was refer me to a nearby homoeopathic doctor,” said the middle-aged lady, who is now having to complete the course of anti-rabies injections. An avid theatre-lover, Sen is not sure whether she’ll dare step into Madhusudan Mancha again.

“It was not only Ms Sen. At least four cases of rat bites were reported on Saturday evening,” said Chanchal Mukherjee, secretary, Smile. “We drew the attention of the hall authorities to the incident, but they just asked us to lodge an official complaint.”

Swatilekha Sengupta alleged that the government-run hall, opened in 1996, is in “a deplorable condition”, with everything, from the greenrooms to bathrooms, needing “immediate overhauling”.

Sushil Ghosh, administrative officer of Madhusudan Mancha, refuted the allegation that the hall was in bad shape.

“We are aware of the rat menace, but there is little that we can do. Despite repeated requests, people insist on bringing foodstuff into the hall. The leftovers, naturally, draw the rats. We can’t possibly start checking bags to stop members of the audience from carrying in foodstuff,” Ghosh retorted.

   

 
 
BIRTH CONTROL THE KEY TO PROGRESS 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, June 6: 
First control population, development will follow. This seems to be the buzzword among the civic authorities responsible for improving the city’s slum areas. They have ordered distribution of contraceptives in the slums as part of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s slum development plan.

“We are involving educated Muslim women to popularise family planning measures among housewives in the slums,” said Pradip Ghosh, member, mayor-in-council (bustee development). The CMC teams will visit the slums to educate men and women on family planning and distribute free condoms and contraceptive pills.

Ghosh said that over 35 per cent of the city’s population comprised slum-dwellers and the number of women in the child-bearing age group will be around a million. Water supply, streetlighting, drainage and toilet facilities are his priorities.

The schemes of the first phase include improvement of two big slums at Jhaldar Maath, in Tollygunge, and Munshi Bazar, in east Calcutta. “Sinking of deep tubewells in these slums will begin from the second week of June,” Ghosh said. It is for the first time a city slum will have its own deep tubewell.

A CMC record shows there are 2,500 registered slums in the city, but the number of unregistered ones is even higher. Of them, 73.5 per cent of the populations live in huts, 16.8 per cent in one-storeyed houses and 91.4 per cent share toilets.

As the first step towards development, Ghosh has brought all the funds available to the CMC for slum development under his purview. Unlike in previous years, CMC funds and those from other agencies allotted for slum development will fill up the bustee department coffers, from where disbursements will be made. Earlier, funds for a particular area of development went to the department concerned. Now, the bustee development department will place work orders on other departments and foot the bill.

For the past 30 years, the CMC has been receiving scheme-oriented finance from the Centre, the Finance Commission, CMDA, MP’s local area development fund and other sources for development of slums. “Despite spending several hundred crores on the improvement of slums, the quality of life has changed only marginally,” Ghosh said.

   

 
 
BYPASS FLATS DEARER FOR WATER PROJECT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 6: 
A dream flat off the E.M. Bypass will be costlier by Rs 100 per sq ft to foot the bill for a Rs 30-crore water supply project coming up in the area. The Calcutta Municipal Corporation, CMDA and the government have jointly resolved to realise the cost of the project from purchasers of flats.

The price of a kilolitre of filtered water has been pegged at Rs 2.50 for the present residents and Rs 10 for commercial users.

The CMC had earlier decided to prevent resinking of deep tubewells in housing complexes. The decision followed a move to check the city’s receding underground water table.

As an alternative measure, the CMC has come up with the Rs 30-crore project to bring the eastern fringe under its treated surface water coverage. The treatment plant for the project will be located either on the old Mint compound or at Dhapa. The Mullickghat pumping station, with a capacity of 50 million gallons a day, will act as a lifting station for the plant, said member, mayor-in-council (water supply), Sovan Chatterjee.

The new pipelines for the plant will have to be laid in the stretch between Phoolbagan and Dhapa, as a pipeline already exists between Phoolbagan and the Mullickghat pumping station, said chief engineer of water supply, Dibyendu Roychaudhury, and Swadesh Bhattacharya of the CMDA.

The drop in supply, caused by the distance, will be tackled by connecting four booster stations with the water mains to be laid under the E.M. Bypass. The demand for filtered water in the city was around 250 million gallons a day, Chatterjee said. The 256 million gallons that the CMC produces daily falls short, as about 100 million gallons is lost due to leaking tanks and worn-out underground pipes.

   

 
 
150 MONITORS DEPLOYED IN MALARIA ZONES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 6: 
The civic health department has beefed up its malaria surveillance programme with the onset of the monsoon. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee has passed a proposal, placed by the health department, to deploy 150 field workers for conducting door-to-door surveys in the malaria-prone pockets of the city.

Besides, the health workers will recheck the blood samples of those treated at the civic malaria clinics between February and May. Member, mayor-in-council (health), Javed Khan, said about 60 out of 166 posts for medical officers have been lying vacant in the CMC for years. The CMC plans to engage doctors on a contract basis to supervise its health clinics.

Moreover, steps have been taken to repair the Corporation’s swing fog machines. Of the 80-plus swing fog machines of the vector control department, at least two or three go out of order every week.

The CMC has targeted a 20 per cent reduction in the incidence of malaria over that achieved by the earlier civic board.

Last year, the incidence of malaria and deaths caused by it were reduced by 60 per cent in just seven months. Malarial deaths could be averted due to the dogged efforts of the civic staff, said Khan.

   

 
 
SUBHAS JABS AT ASIM ‘STUNT’ 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, June 6: 
Surprise checks on roads by ministers are “bourgeois stunts”; they don’t serve their purpose.

This was how transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, in his first salvo after the May elections that are bound to reopen old wounds, today described the efforts of his Cabinet colleague, finance minister Asim Dasgupta, in hitting the road to streamline Calcutta’s transport. Though Chakraborty did not take Dasgupta’s name, it was clear where he was hitting.

The minister has convened a two-day meeting at the Netaji Indoor Stadium on June 16 and 17 with transport-operators, trade unions and the police to find out ways to streamline transport in the city and the state.

Both director-general of police D.C. Vajpai and Calcutta police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty are expected to be called to the two-day meet. Most corporations and municipalities are likely to be told to send representatives to the discussion.

The meet, besides discussing how to enforce traffic rules better, will focus on the problems a section of operators are said to be having in implementing the proposed life insurance policy for conductors and drivers of privately-run buses.

The government had last year introduced insurance for conductors and drivers but the scheme could not take off as it was not mandatory. But this year the government plans to make it compulsory. The plan is to provide every driver with a life insurance. The sum assured will be Rs 20,000 and carry a yearly premium of Rs 1,200.

Fifty per cent of the cost (or Rs 600 per driver) will be picked up by the state, while the bus driver/conductor and owner will bear 25 per cent each (Rs 300).

The state had proposed the scheme last year, but bus-owners had proved reluctant to foot their share of the bill.

“I had appealed to bus- and minibus-owners to extend cooperation for the sake of the future of thousands of drivers. But only a few responded. That left us with no option but to take a tough stand,” Chakraborty said.

The state has set aside Rs 3 crore for the scheme. According to transport department estimates, nearly 10,000 buses ply in the state and the total number of employees is around 50,000.

   
 

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