Met Office sounds heavy rain alert
Civic body loses Rs 1000-cr loan
Mop victim kin cry foul
Outsiders with an inside view
Historic school faces shutdown
Hi-tech plan for flower market
Biman to succeed Sailen at front helm
English bug bites MLA
CID summons stadium cop
Minister admits malaria deaths

Calcutta, July 11: 
Calcutta and large parts of south Bengal were lashed by heavy rain on Wednesday. Several city streets were waterlogged, leading to widespread disruption in peak-hour traffic.

“Monsoon is very active in south Bengal and we have issued a warning for heavy rain till Thursday noon,” said R.N. Goldar, director, Alipore Meteorological Office. The weather office recorded 27.6 mm of rainfall in Alipore and 62 mm in Dum Dum, till 8.30 pm.

Goldar said Wednesday’s showers were “fairly widespread” with “heavier rain” on the outskirts of the city. “The satellite picture shows dense clouds over Gangetic West Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand and north Bay of Bengal. But Tuesday’s low pressure over north-west Madhya Pradesh and adjoining Rajasthan has weakened further. One axis of the monsoon trough extends from Rajasthan to the east-central Bay across Gangetic West Bengal. Under its influence, fairly widespread rainfall, with isolated heavy showers, are likely over south Bengal,” Goldar said.

Office-hour traffic was thrown out of gear on Wednesday with stretches of Kasba, Bhowanipore, Southern Avenue, Nirmal Chandra Street, Ganesh Chandra Avenue, Kalakar Street, College Street, Thanthania, Rabindra Sarani, Burrabazar and Dum Dum under knee to ankle-deep water.


Calcutta, July 11: 
The World Bank loan offer:

Rs 1,000 crore-plus

The pre-requisite:

The guarantor’s financial details

The government’s reply:

Anything but a peek at our balance sheet

The Bank’s bottomline:

Forget about the loan

The World Bank mega loan offer to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) is, for all practical purposes, “lost”. This follows the state finance department’s continued refusal to submit details of its “money matters” to the Bank, despite the government agreeing to be the guarantor for the loan on offer.

“The World Bank authorities have informed us that the government’s repeated refusal has resulted in their not pursuing the loan proposal any further,” said mayor Subrata Mukherjee. “Unless the government, in the capacity of guarantor, agrees to the World Bank clause, the Corporation’s plans to develop the city’s basic infrastructure with the loan amount stand thwarted.”

This is the first instance of the World Bank coming forward with “direct funding” of CMC projects. The Bank had sanctioned the appointment of a US consultancy agency for conducting a survey and preparation of a pilot project on Calcutta’s infrastructure development.

“Revamping of the city’s basic infrastructure has become absolutely essential for bearing the burden of population and economic growth till 2025,” said director-general (projects) Raghabendra Das.

Admitting that the city’s development would be “hit hard” by the scrapping of the World Bank loan, the mayor said the amount would have been utilised for augmenting filtered water supply in all 141 wards of the city and revamping the 125-year-old underground sewerage system in the city proper, from Wards 7 to 100.

But on a brighter note, Mukherjee declared that negotiations for funds had “already started” with the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The ADB is already pumping in a loan amount of Rs 1,475 crore for Calcutta’s “environment improvement projects” till 2007. The fund will be utilised to construct an underground sewerage in the Cossipore area (Wards 1 to 6) of north Calcutta and in the added areas (Wards 101 to 141) of Behala, Garden Reach and Jadavpur.

The ADB will disburse loans in phases through the government of India and the CMC is expecting the first instalment by December 2001. The bank authorities have already accepted the feasibility studies submitted by an Australian consultancy firm, Aegis.

Mukherjee said the ADB has agreed to “consider a fresh loan proposal” for Rs 1,000 crore on completion of the ongoing project.

The British funding agency, Department for International Development, has also offered a loan of over Rs 150 crore “for institutional development” by the Corporation, the mayor claimed.

Despite all this, there is no denying the World Bank blow. Earlier, while carrying out the survey to finalise the loan amount, the visiting experts had advised the Corporation to “cut down on overheads” and “pick commercially-viable projects so they could meet the maintenance cost after repaying the loan”. For this, they had insisted on levying charges on filtered water and trimming of civic staff. They had also advised the Corporation to form a separate water supply and sewerage agency, as it was incurring an annual loss of Rs 73 crore on water supply alone.


Calcutta, July 11: 
Sandhya Karmakar, 36, who survived with a mop in her abdomen for two long months, died early on Wednesday at SSKM Hospital.

Questions are now being raised about the hospital’s delay in conducting the operation. “Despite being aware of the critical nature of the case, they waited for several days before conducting the operation on July 3,” Sandhya’s relatives alleged.

Defending the decision, hospital superintendent D.D. Chattopadhyay said: “This is not a slaughterhouse. We had to conduct all necessary investigations, including an endoscopy, before deciding to go ahead with the surgery.”

Sandhya was rushed to SSKM Hospital in pain after surgical staff at a Kharagpur-based nursing home had forgotten to remove a mop from her abdomen during a gall bladder operation. A mop is used to clean the wound area of blood during an operation.

Sandhya’s condition worsened since the second surgery on July 3.

Dr M.L. Saha, who conducted the operation, had to first take out the mop and then remove part of Sandhya’s stomach, as a thick abscess had formed in her abdomen and eroded part of the stomach wall. She failed to respond to medicines and her pulse began to falter.

“It was an impossible case from the beginning. We detected pus in the diaphragm and it was also a clear case of septicemia. These are the usual symptoms in such critical cases,” said Dr D.D. Chattopadhyay on Tuesday evening. The patient died early on Wednesday of a cardiac arrest.

Grief-stricken Haradhan Karmakar blamed destiny for his wife’s death. “I have no complaints against anybody, although they (the doctors) should realise that care is the essence when a patient’s life depends on them,” the employee of a local cooperative in Kharagpur told SSKM staff.

“I harboured high hopes of doctors in Calcutta being able to save Sandhya... But I knew all was lost when for the past few days, she failed to recognise me,” he said. Karmakar has spent most of his savings on his wife’s treatment. “I have nothing left now,” he lamented.

On April 22, Sandhya was operated upon by a Kharagpur-based surgeon. After seven days at the hospital, she returned home, but the pain in her abdomen continued for some time.

Her husband pushed the panic button when she began to vomit and developed a high fever. Although medicines failed to revive her, doctors insisted that she be taken to the same Kharagpur nursing home for a second surgery. Karmakar did not take any chances and brought her to Calcutta for further treatment.

The Trinamul Congress has condemned the incident and called for strict action against the staff of the Kharagpur nursing home.


Calcutta, July 11: 
Have you been to Teej?

What’s that?

A new restaurant near The Park. They serve gorgeous Rajasthani dishes.

Really, So, should we go there for dinner, instead of Amber?

This is not the Sharmas chalking out eat-out plans with the Kapoors. It’s a motley group of foreigners, engaged in a lively Sunday afternoon chat, in one corner of the Shamiana at Tolly. Having finished a round of golf and a leisurely lunch, dinner plans now top their adda agenda.

They are the Friends in Calcutta. Top-shot corporates, members of consulates, NGO heads, dedicated homemakers — they’ve gathered from all corners of the world and made the city their home. These expats have come together, driven by a desire to ‘connect’ with Calcutta and are now some of its most responsible residents and loyal ambassadors.

“Unlike in many other countries where expats are shut out, Calcutta is extremely hospitable,” says Brampton Mundy, regional head of HSBC Bank. Heather Nice, the group lynchpin, recalls the first time they had gone Durga Puja pandal-hopping. “It was 12.30 at night. We were outside the Ekdalia puja, wondering whether we would be allowed in.

There were these musicians who had stopped playing and were whispering among themselves, pointing at us. I told the others ‘Let’s clear out’. Suddenly, they broke into Que sera sera, just for us. We all had tears in our eyes... This is possible only in Calcutta,” gushes the middle-aged blonde.

Friends in Calcutta was christened in 1997, says David Barker, from UK, who belongs to the “original bunch” that drew up a list of names and contact numbers of all expats in town seven years back. “The group gives us a chance to meet people from similar backgrounds and with similar tastes,” recounts the engineer in his fifties.

Heather says the group helps the “newly-arrived” see Calcutta in a positive light. “It is easy for those who come here to reconnoitre before accepting a posting, to be intimidated by the city. We help them settle down,” adds Ursula Hammerich, a social worker. The group also acts as an info-line for ‘freshers’, explains Dean Turner, a Bata executive — where to go shopping, where to hire a car, where to find a doctor...

Their social calendar is a busy one. While there are parties every other night, Sunday mornings are reserved for the ‘hash’. “It’s a running club,” explains Michelle Esperdy of the US Consulate, who, along with her British counterpart Harvey Bell, resurrected the practice in Calcutta. “The idea is to get some exercise out in the open and see more of the city,” says Michelle. Different locations are set for every jogging tour. Till now, the Maidan, Dalhousie Square, Fort William, Botanical Gardens and Raichak have been covered. There are plans to hire a tour guide for more adventurous discover-Calcutta trips.

Other activities include reading sessions of the Book Club, golf, bowling and, of course, embarking on the food trail. A four-page newsletter is brought out for private circulation. Recently renamed Kolkata Kronicle, it gives information on registration rules, forthcoming social dos, locations of new shops, contact numbers of English-speaking drivers, tips on hiring domestic helps...

With integration as their theme, Friends in Calcutta now includes quite a few Indians. So, it’s hardly surprising that Italian party-freak Trisha DiGiovanni has visited a Bengali home, attended an Indian wedding and learnt to wear a sari (“though the first pleat is an eternal problem”) — all within eight months of her arrival.

Life in Calcutta is no bed of roses, with the oppressive heat, chaotic traffic and potholed roads. But these Friends of the city insist that the reality is far better than the image of poverty and dirt. “Back home, they think Calcutta’s a black hole. We have to argue long and hard to change their opinion,” says Suzanne Sandral of Duncan Gleneagles.

“The city needs an image makeover,” declares Brampton. “It has such architectural splendour. The Dalhousie area, especially, is an absolute jewel,” he adds. Both he and Suzanne think it’s “a weeping pity” that the monuments are not well-maintained.

For Barker who has brought wife Sandra along, the city’s greatest plus is that women feel safe here. The women, meanwhile, freak out on the “fresh vegetables”. And the entire community is floored by the warmth that the city exudes. As Barker sums up: “You can’t stay for long in Calcutta without really liking it.”


Calcutta, July 11: 
A century-old school in Bowbazar is facing closure for want of teachers. Surendranath Collegiate School for Boys, at 24/2, Mahatma Gandhi Road, is tottering with five teachers for 110 students. There are no teachers for mathematics, science, history and geography.

The school was set up by Rashtraguru Surendranath Banerjee in 1882. Luminaries like Bijon Kumar Mukherjee, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and Harendra Coomer Mukherjee, first Governor of Bengal, as also physician Abirlal Mukherjee and politician Biplab Dasgupta had passed out from here.

Secretary of the Surendranath Group of Educational Institutions board of trustees, Jashadeb Choudhuri, said the school has lost 12 teachers since 1993. “Our requests for replacements have not yielded results,’’ he said. He has informed the secondary education minister that the school will be shut down if the government remains “apathetic”.

The situation is reflected in this year’s Madhyamik results. Fifty students took the examinations, but none passed. The school hours extend from 11 am to 4 pm, but students leave early as there are no teachers to take classes.

While the work education teacher is forced to teach other subjects, sometimes a teacher has to hold three classes simultaneously,’’ said Madhusudhan Halder, teacher-in-charge.

Both Halder and Choudhuri are optimistic that the institution will turn around if there are sufficient teachers. But the government takes a different view. Swapan Roy, district inspector of schools, south-east, said: “If students decrease over the years, we withdraw teachers from the school. The school does not have many students.”


Calcutta, July 11: 
Plans for the country’s most hi-fi fresh flower market, to be built in the city, have reached the final stage. After a meeting with the CMDA, municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya said on Wednesday that the project was almost finalised. The Calcutta Port Trust will hand over the 31-cottah plot at Jagannath Ghat, under the Brabourne Road flyover, to the state municipal affairs department.

The market sees a daily trade of flowers worth a crore. The Rs 10-crore project is being subsidised to the tune of 25 per cent by the National Horticultural Board. The state horticultural department will shoulder the rest of the expense. Once ready, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation will take over the market’s maintenance. For proper preservation of the blooms, air-conditioning plants will be installed, apart from equipment to maintain the humidity level. Storage, delivery of consignments, packaging and waste disposal will be done systematically.


Calcutta, July 11: 
CPM Politburo member Biman Bose will succeed Sailen Dasgupta as Left Front chairman following the veteran leader’s death in Mumbai last night. The party will soon formally announce Bose’s name as chairman.

State CPM secretary and politburo member Anil Biswas, who returned to the city this morning with Dasgupta’s body, said Bose will continue to serve as the front’s acting chairman till a formal announcement is made.

Assembly Speaker Hasim Abdul Halim said the House will remain adjourned tomorrow as a mark of respect to the departed leader.

The chief whip of the Trinamul Congress Legislature Party, Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay, accused Halim of taking the decision unilaterally without discussing it at the Business Advisory Committee. Halim, however, said it was the Speaker’s discretion to adjourn the House and the committee had nothing to do with it. He said the House had been adjourned in 1997 for three days during the AICC session in Calcutta and once earlier during an SUCI convention.

Bose has been serving as acting chairman of the ruling coalition since Dasgupta was taken ill shortly after the formation of the Cabinet under Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. His elevation will bring the CPM under greater control of the triumvirate — Bhattacharjee, Bose and Biswas.

CPM insiders said the three, who had vowed to provide collective leadership after Jyoti Basu stepped down as chief minister a few months before the Assembly polls, intend to enforce discipline in the party and maintain the “pro-people image” of the new government.

Bose, who had been promoted in the party along with Bhattacharjee and Biswas by the late state secretary Pramode Dasgupta, has held successful talks with other front partners like the Forward Bloc, the RSP and the CPI over the past two months. It was mainly because of his initiative that seat distribution among the constituents for the polls was completed without any hitch.

RSP and Forward Bloc leaders have accepted Bose as the future front chairman. RSP state secretariat member Sunil Sengupta described Bose as “an efficient and accomplished leader”. “We have had a number of meetings with him and did not face any problem,” he said.

Forward Bloc state secretariat member Jayanta Roy said the party would not object to Bose’s elevation as he has been “interacting with different Left Front partners in a very effective manner”. CPI leaders, too, expressed a similar view.

The state CPM secretariat met this afternoon to discuss preparations for Dasgupta’s funeral procession. CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet and a number of politburo members are expected to attend. CPM supporters, who braved a heavy downpour to receive the late leader’s body at the airport this morning, chorused “Sailen Dasgupta Lal Selam” and “Sailenda amar rahe” as the coffin was placed on a waiting van.

Biswas said Dasgupta’s body will be kept at Peace Heaven till 8 am tomorrow. It will then be taken in a procession to his residence at Lakshmi Narayan Colony near Garia, south Calcutta, through Rafi Ahmed Kidwai road, Shakespeare Sarani, AJC Bose Road, Sarat Bose Road, Southern Avenue and Raja Subodh Mullick Road.

The body will be brought to Muzaffar Ahmed Bhavan, the CPM headquarters, by 11 am and kept there till 2.50 pm, before being taken to the Keoratala burning ghat.


Calcutta, July 11: 
The Trinamul MLA was adamant. The guard, he insisted, bit the snake, not beat it.

Many in the Assembly tried to explain to Kashinath Mishra that in this case, the English text book for Class V published by the state education department was not wrong, he was.

A sentence from the book read: The guard soon came there. The snake was angry. It hissed. The guard beat the snake to death. The MLA’s contention was that the sentence was wrong as it should have read: The guard bit the snake to death.

Mishra, who had raised the topic during Mention Hour, continued undeterred. He pointed out more “mistakes”, demanding action against the officials for distributing such a book to students of state-funded schools.

The confusion increased when Mishra spoke on the use of the word “there”. He referred to two sentences in the book. “There is a book on the table. There lived a lion.”

Mishra argued that the word “there” in the second sentence should not have been used as a “lion could not live on a table”.

Opposition MLAs, however, expressed concern over the “genuine” mistakes mentioned by Mishra. The MLA urged the Speaker to rectify all the errors.


Calcutta, July 11: 
The CID on Tuesday summoned Howrah DSP Humayun Kabir to explain several anomalies in his “strange operation” on the night of June 26-27 when he raided and arrested 16 criminals from Salt Lake stadium.

“We found several anomalies in the way the district police carried out the raids, and later arrested the culprits. The DSP was asked to explain the irregularities,” CID sources said.

The criminals were charged with assisting Subhas Chakraborty during the polls.

Kabir confirmed that he did visit some senior CID officials on Tuesday. But he added that he had gone “merely to assist them”.

But the sources said the CID was likely to showcause Kabir for his actions after investigations carried out in the past few days revealed that the DSP had acted under the instruction of a powerful North 24-Parganas lobby and went “beyond his rights and jurisdiction” to arrest the criminals.

The decision to summon Kabir to the CID headquarters at Bhavani Bhavan was taken on Monday at Writers’ Buildings, the senior official said.

After receiving the message, Kabir rushed to the CID headquarters around 1 pm on Tuesday where he was grilled for over one-and-a-half hours.

“With every passing day, the whole story of criminals arrested from the stadium on June 26 appears to be getting murkier. It seems things might not have happened the way it has been portrayed,” a senior CID official associated with the probe said.

Kabir was also asked to explain why he had asked his junior officers at the Bantra police station in Howrah to register cases against the 16 arrested from the stadium though he had arrested them. It was learnt that all the cases were registered by sub-inspectors, assistant sub-inspectors and even the officer-in-charge of the police station.

But more than that, the CID believes it has evidence to prove Kabir’s “over-enthusiasm. Jayanta Biswas, a former constable-turned-criminal, and a close associate of a Subhas Chakraborty loyalist, was picked up from his Baguiati residence, and taken to Howrah for interrogation without informing the district police.

“He is a hardcore criminal. He is involved in a drugs racket. He was only asked specific questions which led to other arrests,” said Kabir. “I was not working under anybody’s influence, nor did I force junior officers to register cases against the 16 criminals.”

The CID is likely to summon Kabir again to their headquarters before deliberating on whether to serve a showcause notice.


Calcutta, July 11: 
Despite numerous government schemes to check malaria, 15 people in the state have died from the disease, including four in Calcutta alone, in May this year.

State health minister Pratyush Mukherjee said this while replying to a calling attention notice of Trinamul Congress leader Kashinath Mishra in the Assembly today.

According to the statistics placed by the minister, in May, Calcutta recorded the largest number of infected people. He said 75,020 samples of blood had been collected from patients in the city. The ordinary malarial parasite, plasmodium vivax, was present in 9,824 of the samples.

However, 1,288 were found infected with malignant malaria or the plasmodium falciparum parasite.

In north Bengal, malaria claimed seven lives in May, while four have died in other parts of the state. The blood sample tests in north and south Bengal showed 6,275 and 7,621 persons had been infected by plasmodium vivax.

The rate of plasmodium falciparum infection in north and south Bengal was found to be 1,785 and 1,620 respectively.

The minister, however, said the government has introduced a number of schemes to check the disease.

A programme to create awareness was launched last month, Mukherjee added. Besides, the government has also procured a huge amount of anti-malarial drugs.

DVC shift protest

The state government has strongly opposed the Centre’s move to shift the headquarters of the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) from Calcutta to Ranchi.

Irrigation and waterways minister Amalendra Lal Ray said in the Assembly today that shifting the headquarters had been discussed at a DVC meeting in the city last month.

The minister said Calcutta should continue to be the DVC headquarters and there are ample reasons to justify the demand, one of them being that Calcutta is a metropolitan city.

Ray said the government will suitably react to the Centre’s proposal when it seeks the state’s views on the issue.


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