Hygiene rap for eateries
Women catch servant for theft
Arnica missing in Arnica oil
Massive power cuts follow snag in transformer
Fanning retail revolution
Transport deserts Subhas backyard after dark
Panja hunts for numbers
House uproar over ‘ban’ on star films
Freedom after 15 years
Dollar haul leads to fake note racket

Calcutta, June 27: 
The raiders of the larder returned again on Wednesday, turning over the kitchens of three more city restaurants and discovering some unsavoury details in the woks.

In its crusade against the unhygienic conditions in the kitchens of city restaurants, a team of food inspectors of the CMC has been relentlessly swooping down on restaurants for the past 10 days to check whether they have been adhering to the prescribed norms. In most cases, the results have left a lot to be desired.

First it was Astor, Golden Dragon and Shehnaz. The civic authorities found flies abounding in the kitchens, cockroaches moving around and a cat that had apparently made its home in the kitchen of one of the restaurants.

In the second round, the health team raided Silver Grill, China Garden and New Kenilworth. The civic authorities announced that hygiene was at its “worst” at Silver Grill, while the raid at New Kenilworth followed a complaint by a doctor alleging that he fell ill after eating there.

Tangra’s China Garden, the CMC observed, had a fridge that malfunctioned and a drain running through the kitchen.

On Wednesday, it was the turn of Amber, along with China Haus and the lesser-known Loongs in Tangra, to be in the line of the kitchen crackdown. Besides hauling up the eateries for the flies and cockroaches, which had a free run of the kitchens, the civic officials collected samples of chilli powder and biryani from Amber, and sent them for laboratory tests. A sewage pipe was found running through the kitchen.

At China Haus, the conditions were no better. An open drain runs through the kitchen. Flies buzz around the pots and pans.

But Loongs was as bad as it gets. Deputy chief municipal health officer R.N. Sanyal ordered its closure on the spot. Its owner, Arup Mukherjee, even failed to produce a valid trade and health licence. Noodles were found piled on the floor, there was no running water in the kitchen and cooked rice was kept uncovered in large pots, with the mandatory flies forming a thick cover over them. “Loongs is a health hazard,” a civic official said.

For now, the civic officials are drawing up detailed notices against all the raided restaurants, detailing what they should do to improve conditions. This will include ways to control vermin and pests, installation of facilities for hot water to wash crockery and inoculation of the food handlers against Hepatitis-A and typhoid.

After this, the civic authorities will take individual action against the restaurants, depending on the results of the food samples which have been sent for testing. “The restaurants which have not been raided should not sit easy,” said member, mayor-in-council (health), Javed Khan. “We shall pull up all restaurants which have not adhered to the norms.

Amber’s owner Sanjay Khullar said: “We conduct regular pest control drives in our restaurants and our food handlers have all been vaccinated. After this, if the civic officials want us to do anything else, we will certainly comply with their wishes.”

New Kenilworth’s M.S. Bharat said the charges against the hotel were “concocted”. “If anyone has fallen ill, it is not because of the food that he has eaten here,” he said. “He must have eaten something wrong somewhere else.”

Said Astor’s general manager R.K. Palta: “In the past, the CMC has never found anything wrong with our restaurant. This time, they came in when we were carrying out repairs in our kitchen, so a few flies may have entered.”

While Dennis Chen of China Haus and Ms Kim of China Garden said they would abide by all the suggestions of the civic authorities, M. Donald of Golden Dragon contended that no kitchen is free of flies and cockroaches.

A partner of Silver Grill, who would not identify himself, said the restaurant was working towards achieving ideal conditions in the kitchen.


Calcutta, June 27: 
Bhabin Mehta was to get married on June 30. The marriage is still on, family members insist, though Rs 4 lakh in cash and gold ornaments worth Rs 8 lakh have been stolen from the almirah.

The domestic help suspected of having cleaned up the house is in police custody, and the female members of the family can take full credit for that.

This happened in the first-floor apartment of businessman Ajay Shah on Justice Chandra Madhab Road. Mehta, 30, also a businessman who stays at Northern Park, is Shah’s brother-in-law. Shah’s family said they had brought out the valuables from the bank and kept them in Ajay’s house.

Police came in for sharp criticism from the residents of Justice Chandra Madhab Road, as no senior officer went to the spot for investigations.

“Around 11 pm on Monday, we all decided to spend the night at my brother-in-law’s house to discuss some urgent marriage matters. We were back at Justice Madhab Road at 7 o’clock sharp on Tuesday. The front door wasn’t locked,’’ said Anish, 18, Ajay’s son.

The almirah, where the valuables were kept, was wide open. “Both the cash box and jewellery box were empty,’’ the family said. Lakshman, the part-time domestic help, who joined their service 20 days ago, was not around either.

The Shahs immediately informed landlord Hiran Majumdar, who lives in the next building.

They informed Bhowanipore police station, but even after an hour, neither the officer-in-charge nor any other senior officers turned up. The Shahs decided to investigate the case on their own.

While the men stayed home, the women went to a temple where Lakshman spent his evenings. They were told he might be boarding a train in Howrah.

“We rushed to the station and checked every compartment of a train leaving for Bihar, where Lakshman lives. We drew a blank, but we were tipped off that he might be hiding at Bansdroni, in Tollygunge,’’ Ajay said.

The women raided Lakshman’s Bansdroni hideout when he was cooking his dinner. They overpowered him with the help of local people, brought him to the Justice Chandra Madhab Road residence, and handed him over to the police.


Calcutta, June 27: 
There’s no splitting hairs about this: Can ‘Arnica Oil’, claimed to be a “remedy for hair loss”, be made without Arnica? The Calcutta District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum has been approached to solve this case. Saradindu Chakraborty, a city-based consumer, has hauled Hahnemann Laboratory (Herbal) to the court, saying that its Arnimax ‘Arnica Oil’ does not contain any Arnica at all. Eminent homoeopaths in the city support his contention. There is a growing tendency among drug-manufacturers to cash in on the Arnica craze, they feel.

Chakraborty, who spent Rs 19 to buy the ‘Arnica Oil’ manufactured by Orissa-based Welfare Private Limited and marketed by Hahnemann Laboratory (Herbal), has asked for a compensation of Rs 415,019, because, among other things, he suffered “mental shock” as a result of the “unfair trade practice” and the “non-productive approach” of one of the ingredients of the hair oil.

Chakraborty bought the oil in the belief that it would help relieve his continuing headache and take care of his sleepless nights, apart from extending “medicinal help in maintaining hair growth”, said his lawyer, Prabir K. Bose. But even when two bottles proved ineffective, Chakraborty thought of scrutinising the fine print, Bose added. “I was astonished ... to see that the manufacturer, according to the formula on the label, has not used any Arnica at all,” Chakraborty has petitioned the court.

Debashis Mukherjee, a Hahnemann spokesman, admitted that Arni, the ingredient used, was different from Arnica Montana, a herb widely used for medicinal purposes. “Our ingredient is a different type of Arnica herb,” he claimed. “The type of Arnica we use in our oil is called Arni in the Indian system of ayurveda,” Mukherjee added. “I have never heard of any Arni in homoeopathy,” said eminent homoeopath Bholanath Chakraborty. “There’s a growing tendency among oil-manufacturers to cash in on the heavyweight status and widespread credibility that Arnica enjoys, for the right reasons,” he added.

Drug controller of West Bengal Netai Bagchi admitted to receiving a similar complaint about Hahnemann Laboratory (Herbal)’s product a few weeks ago. “We conducted investigations but could not find any trace of Arnica in the ‘Arnica Oil’,” he said.

His office, however, was powerless, as the drug-makers had got the approval from the drug controller of Orissa, Bagchi said. Neither was the drug marketed from West Bengal.

“We would not have allowed any such practice within West Bengal and probably that’s why the drug-makers did not dare manufacture the product here,” he said.


Calcutta, June 27: 
The city and its adjoining areas were plunged into darkness after a technical snag in a transformer of the State Electricity Board’s supply point at Kasba on Wednesday evening. A senior CESC official said that as a result, the SEB’s supply to the CESC grid at Kasba “failed”, leading to a staggering shortfall of about 150 mw, the amount of power CESC receives from that particular supply point.

A unit of the CESC’s Budge Budge power plant is inoperative, which compounded the situation. “So, even though the SEB rectified its snag within 10 to 15 minutes, there was a 40 mw deficit in the city and we resorted to rotational power cuts,” an official said.

Around 6.20 pm, large parts of south and central Calcutta were in the grip of darkness. The areas worst affected were Kasba, Dhakuria, Ballygunge, Jodhpur Park, Gariahat, Rashbehari, Park Street, Dharamtala and Chittaranjan Avenue. Power cuts were also reported from the Lake Town, Bangur and Baguiati areas in the north.

Sources in the SEB said that the glitch was minor and was restored quickly. The Board on Wednesday supplied over 400 mw to the CESC “in an unrestricted manner”, the sources added.


Calcutta, June 27: 
Labelled once as the last stop for big business chains looking to expand, Calcutta is fast emerging as a major retail destination. Recognising the bullish growth in the sector over the past few years, which has catapulted the city into the mega metro market league, Confederation of Indian Industry (Eastern Region) is organising ‘Retail 2001 — Opportunities for Retail in Eastern India’ at Taj Bengal on July 12 and 13, a convention that promises to attract all the big names in the retail business.

“This is the first time a seminar on retail is being organised on such a big scale in this part of the country and it will provide an insight into the emerging trends in the industry and a perception of what the industry could become. The idea is to focus on the potential of retailing and bring all the key players together on the same platform,” says Harshavardhan Neotia, chairman, CII (ER). The co-sponsors of the meet are Sunsam Properties, Indian Oil, MusicWorld, Saregama, Hiland Park and Coca-Cola.

The symposium will cover every aspect of retailing and provide an insight into the transformation process, emerging opportunities and strategies that need to be adopted to seize the opportunities. Speakers at the seminar will include top guns from corporates and management consultants like RPG Enterprises, Pantaloon, Reebok, Vivek & Co, Trent, Indian Oil Corporation, Cognizant Technology Solutions, McCann Erickson India, Titan Industries, Arcus, Chesterson Meghraj...

“The demand for consumer durables in the city has climbed dramatically over the last three-four years and we at the CII have been tracking this development with great interest. The rate of growth in Calcutta in white goods and cars has, in fact, been higher than even in Hyderabad or Bangalore. Our aim is to motivate new as well existing players and facilitate this growth further,” says S. Niyogi, deputy director-general, CII (ER).

CII studies have revealed that Calcutta, with eight per cent of the national population, accounts for 13 per cent of the country’s colour TV sales, 11 per cent of frost-free refrigerators and nine per cent of vacuum cleaners. “These are encouraging figures and have led the big retail houses to believe that consumer behaviour is getting better here,” feels Niyogi.

Although organised retail now enjoys a mere two per cent share of the Indian market, it’s all slated to change, with increased consumer demand, improved sourcing options and increased availability of real estate. “The seminar is significant as it can showcase all these potentials and carry this retail revolution forward. This can even become an annual feature, depending on the response,” says Neotia.


Calcutta, June 27: 
Salt Lake City houses the state transport minister himself, but it does not have public transport after dark. To set things right, residents of the east Calcutta township have sought the intervention of neighbour Subhas Chakraborty.

Several councillors and representatives of block associations have submitted memoranda to Chakraborty, demanding improvement of transport services to and from Salt Lake.

According to residents, most state and private buses go off the roads in the evening and people are compelled to take autorickshaws at a premium.

Taxi drivers are also reluctant to go to Salt Lake from any part of the city after 8 pm, as they have to pay “entry tax’’ to police personnel on duty at the entry points.

Though the North 24-Parganas district superintendent of police denied the allegation, Chakraborty has assured the block associations that he will take up the matter with the bus owners and the police.

“Although the number of vehicles plying to and from Salt Lake is not insignificant, more vehicles are required, in view of the increasing population,’’ the minister said. The population has crossed two lakh and at least another half a lakh of people commute daily on work.

“Transport is available during peak hours. But at noon and after 7 pm, the buses and minibuses vanish from the streets. Even taxis are not available, as their drivers refuse to enter Salt Lake,’’ said P.K. Ghosh, a resident of Baisakhi Abasan.

Though public vehicles ply to Salt Lake on about 30 routes, the number of buses on each route is inadequate. “We do not get passengers after 8 pm. How long shall we continue running up losses?’’ asked Ratan Manna, a private bus operator on route 12/1.

Chairman of Calcutta State Transport Corporation B.K. Biswas said state buses are supposed to run till 11.45 pm. But services sometimes suffer due to lack of vehicles.

Admitting the problem, deputy chairman of State Transport Authority, Lakshman Bhattacharya, said he had already discussed the matter with bus and minibus owners.

“We are meeting the private bus owners and state transport authorities to improve services,’’ Bhattacharya said, adding that lack of passengers could not be an excuse for withdrawal of services. “The government should not think that everyone here has a car,’’ said councillor of Ward 3 Ujjal Das.


Calcutta, June 27: 
Trinamul Congress MPs today appeared to have spurned Ajit Panja’s invitation to attend Saturday’s convention of dissident workers at Mahajati Sadan even as the rebel MP continued to bank on their support for the meeting’s success.

“I have invited all party MPs, barring Mamata Banerjee and Sudip Bandopadhayay, to the convention and have even spoken to two of them. But they may not turn up owing to political compulsions,” Panja told a news conference this afternoon. He, however, hoped that the convention would be a “grand success” with the participation of grassroots workers from all the 42 Lok Sabha constituencies.

Sources close to Panja said only a few of those leaders who are sore with Mamata are expected to attend the Mahajati Sadan meet. “Only a few hundred disgruntled party workers will attend the convention despite Ajitda’s tall claims,” said a Trinamul leader who joined Panja’s camp only two days ago. He, however, said some BJP workers, particularly those loyal to Union minister and Dum Dum MP Tapan Sikdar, are expected to attend.

The Trinamul MPs, whose support Panja is depending on, reiterated that there was no question of attending Saturday’s convention as it would amount to an “anti-party activity”. “Not only us, no genuine party worker will attend,” said Jadavpur MP Krishna Bose, who returned to the city on Monday after a successful knee surgery in Mumbai. She regretted Panja’s decision and felt that this would weaken the organisation.

The dissident leader’s elder brother Ranjit Panja echoed Bose. “I feel Ajit is going the wrong way by organising such a convention. Instead, he should have come to the negotiating table for settling his differences with Mamata,” he said. Bikram Sarkar, the MP from Panskura, agreed.

Panja said that though NDA convener George Fernandes might not attend the meeting, at least two representatives from the Central coalition will be present. Both Sikdar and his ministerial colleague Satyabrata Mukherjee are expected to attend. Panja has also sent an invitation to Mayor Subrata Mukherjee, but is not sure whether he will attend.

Desperate to rope in the mayor, Panja praised Mukherjee’s hawker-eviction drive and accused Mamata of overruling him on the issue. “I have invited Subrata and expect him to attend the convention,” the rebel leader said.

Mukherjee made it clear that none of his council members will attend Panja’s convention. “Ajitda is misguiding party workers by saying all this about me. I have no differences with Mamata on hawker eviction,” he said.

Panja also criticised Mamata for interfering with the day-to-day functioning of the mayor-in-council. “This is not true. Instead, Mamata as our leader, always guides us in the hour of crisis,” said Mala Roy, mayor-in council member in charge of conservancy. Her colleague Rajiv Deb went a step further by charging Panja with causing a split in the party by resorting to such a “nasty game”.


Calcutta, June 27: 
The Assembly erupted today following allegations levelled by Trinamul’s star MP Tapas Paul that films featuring either him or Nayna Bandopadhyay had been banned from screening at Contai in Midnapore district.

Proceedings were disrupted as Trinamul and Congress members walked out to protest against the alleged ban clamped by the CPM.

The legislators insisted on a discussion on the issue in the House, but the demand was turned down by Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim. The ruling enraged the Opposition members and, led by Pankaj Banerjee, they stormed out of the House, shouting slogans condemning the CPM attack on “culture”. They stayed away from the Assembly for the few minutes that remained for the morning session to be over. They, however, returned during the second half.

Paul raised the issue during mention hour and complained that the local panchayats and CPM cadre had forced all video halls at Bhajachauli in Contai to stop showing films starring either Nayna or himself.

“They are targeting only those films in which Nayna and I had acted in. Our offence is that we fought the elections on TMC tickets,” said the actor, who won the elections from Alipore. Nayna, the wife of Trinamul MP Sudip Bandopadhyay, was elected from Bowbazar.

“The CPM cannot prevent artistes from supporting a political party of their choice in this way. This kind of unethical political interference will lead to serious threat to the development of art and culture, especially Bengali cinema,” he added.

Paul alleged that some of the hall-owners, who were found showing the films after the “ban”, had been fined as much as Rs 10,000 by the CPM and even the video cassettes of the films had been seized from them.

The CPM dismissed the allegations, terming them “baseless”.

“I spoke to the local CPM leaders after Paul made his statement in the House. I haven’t received any information about such a ban. Still, we will ask our party leaders from Midnapore to look into the matter,” Left Front chief whip Lakshmi Kanta Dey said.

Prabodh Sinha, minister for parliamentary affairs, said the matter would be referred to the information department for an inquiry.

As Paul completed his speech in mention hour, other Opposition leaders, including Abdul Mannan, Pankaj Banerjee, Sovandeb Chattopadhyay and Sougata Ray, stood up and requested Halim to allot some time for discussing the issue.

The Speaker, however, paid no heed to their demand and instead asked the next member to carry on with his speech.


Calcutta, June 27: 
Calcutta High Court today turned down a trial court order and acquitted a man accused of raping a teenager 15 years ago.

The trial court had sentenced Debendra Nath Roy from Phansidewa in Jalpaiguri to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment. But the high court directed the Jalpaiguri court to drop all proceedings against Roy.

In August 1986, a teenaged girl had lodged a complaint with the Phansidewa police station in Jalpaiguri, alleging that she had been raped in “broad daylight” by 30-year- old Roy inside a building under construction.

A case was filed against Roy and the hearing took place in Jalpaiguri district court. In 1987, the district court found Roy guilty of the charges and sentenced him to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment.

The same year, Roy appealed to the Calcutta High Court, challenging the district court’s order. After 14 years, the case came up for hearing.

Justice N.A. Choudhury and Justice N.C. Seal, in their verdict, observed that the accuser had lodged the complaint four months after the date she alleged the incident took place.

Besides, the judges did not believe that it was possible to rape anyone in “broad daylight” at the location where she claimed the incident occurred.

The accusation could have been made to tarnish Roy’s image. He was a political leader during the time of his arrest. The judges felt that such charges should not be levelled against anyone because of their larger social ramifications.

But legal circles are commenting that a man had to wait 14 long years to get justice.

Former secretary of the Bar Association, Uttam Majumdar, said there were many such cases pending with the high court for several years. “Why should people who get caught in legal tangles for no fault of their own suffer?” he asked.

Burdwan murder: A 41-year-old businessman, Biswajit Banik, was murdered over a family dispute in Burdwan.


Siliguri, June 27: 
Police stumbled upon a fake-note racket in north Bengal when they seized US dollars and counterfeit Indian currency from a remote village on the Indo-Bangla border last night.

Acting on a tip-off, the police last night raided the hideout of a gang dealing in counterfeit notes at Lichupakuri bazaar on the Indo-Bangla border under Phasidewa police station, some 28 km from here. They seized “mint-fresh” counterfeit notes totalling Rs 52,800 along with $1,400.

Additional superintendent of police, Siliguri, Ajoy Kumar, said: “On receiving information that a huge amount of counterfeit notes were stacked at one Kashim Ali’s house, Phasidewa police raided the place last night. They seized brand new fake notes of varying denominations along with 14 pieces of $ 100 bills. While Ali was arrested, another gang member managed to escape.”

The seized notes comprise 93 Rs 500 bills, 61 Rs 100 notes and four Rs 50 notes.

The police are now investigating whether such notes have already gone into circulation.

“The seizure from the border village is worrying,” said Kumar. “We suspect an organised trans-border gang is involved. We are interrogating Ali and hope he will reveal the gang’s modus operandi. We are also looking into the possible involvement of the Pakistani ISI. We suspect that the gang may have already circulated such notes. They are very high quality copies. It is difficult for any layman to detect that these are fakes.”

He added that during interrogation, Ali revealed that the counterfeits are being routed in India both through Bangladesh and Nepal. The notes are probably printed on state-of-the-art printing machines in a third country.

Naxalite alert

Director-general of police Dinesh Kumar Vajpai today alerted the Midnapore police administration against the expanding tentacles of the People’s War Group and the Maoist Communist Centre. “They are covertly gaining strength in inter-district border areas of Midnapore, Hooghly, Bankura and Purulia,” he said.


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