Court fracas over death in custody
Coke tonic for civic coffers
Suicide at noon cripples Metro
Crorepati clone in Kolkata
Law to keep tabs on guest houses
Garden shuts out Tagore jubilee
Living with a mop for two months after operation
CPM ages as young stay out
August power-punch alert
Subhas camp marshals forces

 
 
COURT FRACAS OVER DEATH IN CUSTODY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 4 : 
Lawmen and lawmakers clashed on the Alipore court premises after a man died in lock-up on Wednesday afternoon.

Deputy commissioner of police, headquarters, Raj Kanojia, said Satyajit Mondol, 37, who had been arrested by the Behala police and brought to court, died of “seizure caused by withdrawal symptoms” in the West Bengal police lock-up.

Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee was quick to react. The South Calcutta MP, accompanied by member, mayor-in-council in charge of water supply, Sovan Chatterjee, rushed to Alipore court. Mamata lambasted the police for their “high-handedness” and demanded an “impartial probe” into the incident. “I have full faith in the judiciary and hope that the victim’s family will get justice,” she announced.

Mamata arrived soon after lawyers and cops came to blows on the court premises. As news of Mondol’s death in custody spread, hundreds of men in black robes rushed out of the courtrooms and surrounded the policemen escorting criminals in prison vans. They attacked the handful of cops and even damaged some vans.

“Police are using third-degree methods on petty criminals. They have become inhuman,’’ an agitated lawyer shouted, before kicking the police van and grabbing the collar of a constable’s shirt. He pushed and punched the cop, who tried in vain to wriggle free.

Several lawyers joined in the fray and the court premises turned into a mini-battlefield. The heavily-outnumbered policemen from Behala thana and a few others on duty at the court finally managed to make a run for it.

A section of lawyers rushed to Mamata Banerjee’s house in Kalighat and urged her to intervene.

At Alipore court, with the lawyers in a militant mood, a large police team, led by Pinaki Mondol, officer-in- charge, Alipore police station, reached the spot and threw a ring around the vans. Witnesses later said policemen resorted to a lathicharge to disperse the demonstrators.

According to Subir Chatterjee, officer-in-charge, Behala police station, Mondol, a resident of Sil Thakurbari Lane, was a drug addict. “He had been picked up on Tuesday night from Manton during a routine drive against people indulging in disorderly conduct,’’ Chatterjee said. Around 25 other petty criminals had also been picked up in the raids. Mondol was kept in the lock-up and sent to Alipore court on Wednesday morning. According to Chatterjee, Mondol developed withdrawal symptoms in the Alipore lock-up.

“Towards the afternoon, he began to gasp and froth in the mouth. He began to shout out in pain, before collapsing,’’ a fellow prisoner said.

Mondol was taken to SSKM Hospital, where doctors declared him dead.

Debkumar Ganguly, superintendent of police, South 24-Parganas, confirmed on Monday evening that Mondol “was a drug addict”, whose condition had started deteriorating in the court lock-up, not in Behala thana. “As long as he was there in the thana lock-up, there was nothing apparently wrong about Mondol’s health or behaviour. However, I have ordered a departmental inquiry. If any policeman is found guilty, action will be taken against him,” Ganguly said.

Police also said that a report on Mondol’s death will be submitted to the state human rights commission soon.

   

 
 
COKE TONIC FOR CIVIC COFFERS 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, July 4 : 
Enjoy Coca-Cola at the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) headquarters. CMC needs the money, and the thousands of people who visit its headquarters on S.N. Banerjee Road need the refreshing soft drink.

Apart from the sickly sweet chai, no other beverage is available here. “We were approached by representatives of the firm today,” member, mayor-in-council (health), Javed Ahmed Khan, said. “We have asked them to get back to us with more details of what they propose to do here.”

The Coca-Cola proposal, when it comes with more details, may turn out to be a windfall for the CMC. It is willing to pay a royalty of Re 1 to the CMC for every glass — of Coke or any other soft drink from its repertoire — it manages to sell.

The CMC headquarters is visited by around 52,000 people every day. If even 20 per cent of them down a glass of Coke or Thums Up or Fanta or Limca or Sprite — the number comes to more than 10,000 — it’s Rs 10,000 for the CMC coffers daily; and if the CMC is open for around 300 days every year, leaving aside the 52 Sundays and other holidays, it adds up to a tidy Rs 30 lakh.

A Coca-Cola representative from its Gurgaon office, along with a colleague from the Calcutta office, came visiting the CMC headquarters on Wednesday.

They met Khan and submitted a formal approach letter. Khan told them to submit a more detailed proposal, which he would place before mayor Subrata Mukherjee after he returns from Chennai. Mukherjee will take the final decision.

Coke representatives told Khan that they would supply all the vending machines, visi-coolers, soft drinks and purified water free. “We don’t need any deposit, which we usually ask for from other vending outlets,” said Dinesh Shankar, Coke representative who came down from Gurgaon. The CMC will only have to provide the 36-sq-ft space for each kiosk and electricity.

Khan, however, asked the Coke representatives to foot the power bill as well. He had another demand too: the personnel required to handle the kiosks should be appointed after consulting the mayor, so that he can have a say in it. Coca-Cola would consider his demand, they said.

   

 
 
SUICIDE AT NOON CRIPPLES METRO 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 4 : 
A suicide at Belgachhia station on Wednesday morning disrupted Metro Rail services for over an hour. Metro officials said the incident occurred at 11.48 am, when a middle-aged man threw himself in front of a Dum Dum-bound train. The victim has not been identified so far.

The man had been waiting at the end of the platform. The driver could not avert the accident as the train was speeding into the platform. The victim’s body did not touch the third rail but was crushed under the wheels. As the news reached the Metro control room, the authorities decided to suspend services. Jayanta Mitra, chief operations manager, said the body had to be extricated from the tracks, and services could be resumed only after 1 pm.

The delay and disruption sparked trouble at Tollygunge station, when a demonstration by a group of passengers in front of the station manager’s office turned violent. The demonstrators alleged that the station authorities were not announcing the cause of the disruption. But the station authorities said trouble erupted after the commuters were offered ticket refunds, which they were not ready to accept.

All 16 Metro stations were closed for an hour from noon. Booking counters were shut and tickets were refunded.

   

 
 
CROREPATI CLONE IN KOLKATA 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, July 4 : 
Pather Panchali te Apur maar naam ki chhilo? (What was the name of Apu’s mother in Pather Panchali?)

Rani Rashmoni kothakar rani chhilen? (Rani Rashmoni was the queen of which estate?)

KBC dubbed in Bengali? No way. Welcome to KKK — Bangla beam’s answer to the big-bucks gameshow on STAR.

From 9 am on July 22, these questions and many more will be hurled at contestants in the hot seat of Khel Kolkata Ka. Starting three Sundays later, the 30-minute ATN World show will be the first “prize-money quiz game” in Bengali.

The anchor: Actor Arjun Chakraborty. The jackpot: Rs 10 lakh. The format: Three choices to a question and two lifelines.

“The overwhelming success of KBC in this part of the country has prompted us to produce KKK,” says Mahendra Goyel of S.S. Entertainment.

Arjun Chakraborty, who is “fluent in Bengali, Hindi and English”, has been picked to host the show in which all three languages will come into play. “I have tried hard to give the programme a distinct identity and present the show in my own style, without copying the KBC pattern. The mood of the show is very homely and balanced, where I also interact with the participants, besides asking questions,” explains the Tollywood star.

To simplify the process of selecting contestants, five-rupee coupons have been made available at select outlets like Landmark, Swabhumi, Haldirams, Vardaan Market, AC Market, Pantaloons and Westside.

“The aspirants will just have to answer the question on the coupon and fill up the attached form. Ten contestants for each show will be picked by a draw of lots from the correct entries.

“No contestant less than 20 years old will be allowed. But anyone can buy these coupons and if anyone younger is selected in the draw, then he or she can pass it on to someone else,” says Santosh Jain, managing director, ATN International Ltd.

On each show, the first contestant, selected through a buzzer round, can win a maximum of Rs 10 lakh. Those coming in second and third will be allowed a crack at Rs 5 lakh and Rs 2.5 lakh, respectively. So, Rs 17.5 lakh in prize money will be up for grabs on each episode of KKK.

The questions for the show are being provided by the Argus Quiz Club. “Since the programme is not for the hard-core quiz enthusiast, and the accent is on the show being fun, the questions have been kept simple,” says R.M. Sen of Argus.

To reach out to more viewers, ATN has drawn up plans to make coupons available in the suburbs and districts.

   

 
 
LAW TO KEEP TABS ON GUEST HOUSES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 4 : 
Legislation will be enacted soon to enable the government to exercise more control over the “pleasure resorts” and guest houses that have spawned in and around the city and in the districts, state tourism minister Dinesh Dakua told the Assembly on Wednesday.

The decision follows allegations of rampant criminal activities and flesh trade in some resorts along Diamond Harbour Road, south of Joka, and agitations by local people, who complained that the resorts were vitiating the environment in the area.

The government was aware that many resorts were being run without valid permission, Dakua admitted on Wednesday. The issue was first raised by Trinamul Congress legislator Subrata Bakshi. A number of resorts have come up in the city and on the outskirts, including Diamond Harbour Road, in the recent past, and many of them were illegal. Some of them were hotbeds of criminal activity and the government should take action against them.

Bakshi found support from the Left Front benches too. At least 80 lodges have come up in Santiniketan and 50 others in Tarapith, RSP legislator Tapan Hore said. Since the tourism department has no specific rule or guideline governing these resorts, a set of rules and regulations was being drafted — to be enforced by an Act — to enable the government to exercise more control over their activities, Dakua said.

The resorts were a major source of worry for political parties, as grassroots-level party members were increasingly getting involved in them. People living near resorts have often complained of a resort-police-politician nexus.

   

 
 
GARDEN SHUTS OUT TAGORE JUBILEE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 4 : 
Morning-walkers at Shibpur Botanical Gardens have locked horns with the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) over holding a cultural programme on the garden’s premises.

The BSI has turned down an offer by the morning-walkers to organise Rabindra Jayanti in the garden. The daily visitors, comprising some senior teachers of Shibpur B.E. College, complained on Wednesday that they were being “unnecessarily harassed” on the issue, as they had earlier opposed a decision to impose entry fees on visitors.

“We had sought a small spot near the garden’s main gate to put up a brief function one morning this week to commemorate Tagore’s birth anniversary,” said A. Mitra, one of the morning-walkers.

According to another member, the outpost police were harassing them for vague reasons. “They urged us to meet the officer-in-charge of Shibpur police station, but police officials there said they were not informed by the garden outpost,” the member said.

“A private organisation can’t be allowed to use the garden premises. If it is granted permission, some other club may come up with a request to hold a pop music show. The garden is maintained by the Centre-controlled BSI and we have to abide by some rules,” said G.S. Giri, a Botanical Gardens official.

Employees said that the morning-walkers were asked to organise the function in one of the pavilions, which are let out to picnic parties, in the morning and wind up by 10 am. But they had refused the offer.

   

 
 
LIVING WITH A MOP FOR TWO MONTHS AFTER OPERATION 
 
 
BY BAPPA MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, July 4: 
Imagine living in pain with a “handkerchief” in your abdomen for over two months. Sandhya Karmakar went through the ordeal.

The 36-year-old woman from Kharagpur had got herself admitted to a local nursing home for removal of gall-bladder stones, only to return home with a “surgical mop” inside her abdomen. A mop is used to clean blood from the wound area during surgery. Worse, for two months, Sandhya suffered severe pain and high fever, accompanied by vomiting.

She was rushed to Calcutta after authorities at the Kharagpur nursing home detected a “tumour” inside her abdomen and suggested a second surgery. Her family members, however, did not take any chances and got her admitted to SSKM Hospital, where the “mop” was removed.

“She is still in extreme danger. I had to take out the mop and then surgically remove part of her stomach as thick abscess had already formed inside her abdomen and eroded part of the stomach wall,” said M.L. Saha, who carried out the surgery yesterday.

A stunned Haradhan Karmakar, Sandhya’s husband, is now at his wits’ end. Employed at a local cooperative in Kharagpur, Karmakar has no money left to pay for his wife’s medical expenses in Calcutta. “I spent most of my earnings during the first operation,” he reportedly told SSKM Hospital authorities.

Surgeon superintendent DD Chattopadhyay appeared perturbed. “Such cases often leads to septicaemia, causing death. This is an unfortunate incident,” he said.

On April 22, Sandhya was operated upon by a surgeon from Kharagpur. After seven days, she returned home but the pain in her abdomen persisted. “I became extremely worried as Sandhya started throwing up regularly and had high fever. No medicine helped her. The doctors, however, insisted that everything was fine and the pain would subside soon,” Karmakar reportedly told doctors. Her condition took a turn for the worse when the vomiting increased and so did the temperature. Finally, on Tuesday, Sandhya, was operated on and out popped the mop from her abdomen.

Trinamul Congress leader Madan Mitra said the incident was “outrageous”. “I think a surgeon who commits such a mistake should be punished,” he fumed.

Doctors here, however, rallied behind the “villain”. A few consultants argued that the removing the mops is also the duty of the surgeon’s assistants. Usually, five to six mops are required during surgery. “This was a mistake and can happen to anybody. The doctor alone should not be blamed,” said Dr Saha.

   

 
 
CPM AGES AS YOUNG STAY OUT 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, July 4: 
The CPM said today it continued to experience a sharp fall in the number of youth members, but a substantial growth in the ranks of the Students Federation of India (SFI) and the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) had offset the fall many times over.

Releasing last year’s membership figures, state CPM secretary Anil Biswas said the party enrolled 39,960 members till December as against a total enrolment of 2,38,829 members.

The CPM has been experiencing a low response from youths to its membership drive over the past few years owing to a host of factors like the party’s long stay in office, gradual shrinking of its anti-establishment character and unemployment.

State CPM leaders are hard put to explain the party’s failure to mobilise the young generation. Party insiders, however, ascribe the development to the Left Front government’s “inability to create adequate employment opportunities and proper educational environment”.

Asked whether the youths were getting disillusioned with the party and attracted to Mamata Banerjee, Biswas declined to comment. “I don’t know any thing about this,” he said.

While state DYFI secretary Tanmoy Bhattacharya claimed tonight that over 52 lakh youths have enrolled this year, SFI president Somnath Bhattacharya said the membership had increased to nine lakh in the students’ front.

Almost 50 per cent of the party members (1,18,669) belong to the age group of 30-45 years. The age of over 57,000 members range between 45 and 60 years, while 9,583 others belong to the 60-70 year age-group.

The figures, released by Biswas today, also indicate a slight erosion in the total membership. While the state CPM succeeded in admitting 8,066 new members last year, it lost 9,580 old members, including 8,280 who refused to renew their membership, and 207 others who joined the Party for Democratic Socialism launched by Saifuddin Chowdhury.

   

 
 
AUGUST POWER-PUNCH ALERT 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, July 4: 
Both CESC and the state electricity board are likely to effect a sharp increase in their tariffs from next month, a senior power department official said tonight. Electricity rates are being raised for the first time in two-and-a-half years.

CESC has demanded a 28 per cent hike from the State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC) which will fix the new tariff structure. The SEB has sought a 22 per cent rise. While CESC hopes to garner an extra Rs 450 crore from the hike, the SEB would net an additional Rs 512 crore.

“We don’t consider it to be a steep hike considering that the tariff structure was last revised in January, 1999,” an official said.

The SERC finished hearing CESC’s and SEB’s demands in May-end and is expected to announce the revised tariff by the end of this month. Both power utilities had submitted petitions, seeking a revision in the tariff structure last October.

Power minister Mrinal Banerjee also indicated today that a rise in power tariff was on the cards and the regulatory body would make the announcement at the end of July.

Replying to a debate on his department’s budget for 2001-02 in the Assembly, Banerjee said there has been no rise in power tariff since 1999.

“So, considering the increase in the prices of coal, oil and railway freight, a hike in the tariff structure is inevitable,” the minister said.

He said about 36 lakh consumers were covered by the state electricity board while CESC supplied power to 16 lakh people. He said the government would try to ensure that “common people” were not inconvenienced by the tariff hike.

Banerjee ruled out the possibility of an immediate privatisation of the power sector in the state.

But the minister was in for a spot of embarrassment when he arrived late for his department’s budget discussion in the Assembly which was slated for 1.30 pm.

Finding that the minister was absent when the discussion was about to begin, Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim adjourned the House for half-an-hour. Halim warned that if ministers concerned were not present at the time of their respective department’s budgets, he would adjourn the House for the day in future.

Banerjee, however, apologised when the House reassembled at 2 pm, saying he could not attend the House at 1.30 pm because of a communication gap.

In the Assembly, the Trinamul, Congress and SUCI alleged that the RPG-owned CESC had not paid up its dues worth several hundred crores to the state electricity board.

Initiating the debate, Trinamul MLA Pankaj Banerjee said: “The CESC is being favoured by the government and is looting its customers. Former power minister Sankar Sen had tried to control the price of electricity thinking of the common people but he was removed.”

Banerjee said: “CESC has to pay up its dues. There has already been an agreement with the CESC on February 28 and the private power utility has begun to pay up. If they pay less in one month, they make up for it the next month.”

The minister said according to the recommendations of the N.C. Bose committee, the thermal power generating units at Bandel and Santaldih, which earlier belonged to the SEB, had been brought under the Power Development Corporation from July 1. The transmission and distribution of power in Bengal districts will, however, be looked after by the SEB, he added.

   

 
 
SUBHAS CAMP MARSHALS FORCES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 4: 
The Assembly today witnessed noisy scenes as the Opposition Congress and Trinamul legislators walked out over the Salt Lake stadium controversy for the third consecutive day.

They walked out of the House after Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim rejected an adjournment motion moved by Congress MLA Abdul Mannan. The Speaker, however, allowed Mannan to read out the motion which demanded an adjournment of business to discuss the stadium issue.

Soon after the Speaker rejected the motion, the Opposition legislators started shouting slogans demanding the resignation of sports minister Subhas Chakraborty.

The MLAs rushed to the Well and continued protesting for about 10 minutes. They were, however, not as aggressive as they were in the previous days. Later, they walked out of the House and returned 10 minutes later.

According to sources close to Chakraborty, his followers have informed him they would stand by him, whatever the findings of the CID probe or the inquiry carried out by the party. A section of Chakraborty’s followers is also trying its best to prevent the CPM top brass from taking stern action against him.

“The Chakraborty camp is gathering documents and witnesses to prove that the stadium controversy is nothing but a conspiracy by Chakraborty’s detractors in North 24-Parganas and a section of the state leadership,” sources said.

The sports minister has already been crying hoarse that a conspiracy had been hatched against him to malign him.

Chakraborty has been trying to organise a lobby within the party to speak for him. At least three ministers, two MPs and some MLAs of the CPM are likely to meet state party secretary Anil Biswas in a bid to convince him that Chakraborty has been dragged into the stadium controversy, they said. By arresting Tapash Ghosh Dastidar, CPM member and one of Chakraborty’s trusted aides, Bhattacharjee gave the message that he could go to any extreme on this issue.

According to party insiders, several leaders from North and South 24-Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly and even Burdwan have called up Chakraborty to say that whatever the party decision may be, they are with him.

According to the minister’s camp, a few hours after the chief minister announced a CID probe into the stadium controversy, Chakraborty held a discussion with his followers at an undisclosed venue to know their stand.

Several aspects were discussed which included the extent to which the state CPM leadership could go on the stadium issue and what kind of steps, if any at all, could be taken against Chakraborty. The possibility of Chakraborty being sacked from the sports ministry was also discussed. “If any harsh action is taken against Chakraborty or his ministry is taken away, we shall not sit idle,” said a party MLA from North 24-Parganas.

However, political observers feel that the government will not take too harsh a measure against Chakraborty.

   
 

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