Flyover faces halt hurdle
Theft charge shadow over servant suicide
Dentures removed from foodpipe
Big Cat banks on little saviours’ league
Eviction row
Quota guidelines for township plots
CSTC rap for errant drivers
Graft whiff in handcart deal
Garden staff signals strike over upkeep
Sen clean chit for Subhas

 
 
FLYOVER FACES HALT HURDLE 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, July 15: 
Stop work. That’s the notice the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) plans to hang at the construction site of the Gariahat flyover from Monday.

“We will not allow Senbo to carry on construction work on a CMC road unless a formal agreement is drawn up to sort out a host of basic issues,” mayor Subrata Mukherjee said on Sunday. “Who maintains the road? Who owns the space under the flyover? Who allots the space? Without these contentious issues being resolved, work on the Gariahat flyover will not be allowed to resume.”

At a meeting on Saturday, the mayor and his council also decided to meet chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to sort out the matter.

Having failed to push the hawker-eviction or the street-washing issues past Trinamul Congress boss Mamata Banerjee, the mayor has now targeted something closer home: The corridor of chaos outside his Ekdalia front-door.

“Though the CMC owns the road, it has been kept in the dark about the project... We are flooded with complaints about the appalling condition of Gariahat Road. We can’t tell taxpayers when the project is going to be completed and when the roads are going to be restored. That’s because the Corporation doesn’t have a clue. Also, the underground sewerlines are being choked and damaged by the construction work and the noise pollution is terrible,” fumed the mayor.

“The stopwork notice, if it is actually issued by the CMC, will delay the completion of the project and about four lakh people will end up being inconvenienced for a longer period,” said Kajal Sengupta, Senbo chairman-cum-managing director. “We are ready to sort out any problems being faced by the CMC to ensure that the flyover is finished on schedule, by March 31, 2002.”

Refuting the allegation that the CMC had been kept in the dark about the flyover project, Sengupta claimed that an officer of the Corporation, a member of the coordination committee on flyovers, was “fully aware of things”, but had never raised any objection.

“I don’t want to know about what a CMC officer did or did not do. The fact remains that we don’t even have a plan of the flyover in our possession,” retorted Mukherjee. This move by the mayor comes exactly a fortnight after a bunch of local residents had staged a demonstration at the Gariahat crossing demanding that Senbo “repair the road” or “stop work”.

The Gariahat flyover is part of a package of six under the Calcutta Transport Infrastructure Development Project (CTID) for which the Japanese government is shelling out a Rs 400-crore loan.

Mukherjee made it clear that for proposed flyovers at Moulali, Mullickbazar, AJC Bose Road, Chowringhee and Lockgate Road in Chitpore, those carrying out the construction work would have to submit plans to and obtain approval from the CMC. “One has to realise that the roads belong to the CMC and so the people demand an explanation from us. So, it is only logical that the matter is routed through us,” said Mukherjee.

   

 
 
THEFT CHARGE SHADOW OVER SERVANT SUICIDE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 15: 
A 28-year-old man, employed as a domestic help in a Harish Mukherjee Road apartment, leapt to his death from the fourth-floor terrace of the building.

The man, identified as Tilak, had been working in the second-floor flat of Padam Kumar Jain for the past year and a half. He had been charged with theft by the Jains last week, police said.

“A friend of the Jains had introduced them to Tilak. Three days ago, when Padam Jain noticed that Rs 3,500 was missing from the house, he hauled up Tilak,’’ said deputy commissioner, south, Ranjit Pachnanda. Tilak however, denied the charge.

On Saturday, Tilak, who hails from Giridih, returned to the apartment after the Jains summoned him from a relative’s place on Kalakar Street. “We asked him to come over and settle his dues,” claimed a family member.

On Sunday, Tilak, apparently, had lunch at a nearby shop, before climbing up to the terrace around 1.30 pm. He jumped to his death from there, said officers of Bhowanipore thana.

“I heard a loud thud and heard people shouting from their apartments that someone had fallen from the terrace,” said a neighbour. Residents of the apartment then took Tilak to SSKM Hospital, where he was declared “brought dead”. Tension prevailed in the area, as residents demanded “an explanation” from the Jains, suspecting “foul play” behind the death. Tilak was popular in the locality. The police had to cordon off the entrance to the apartment in order to restore order.

“Tilak was a very polite and helpful young man. His sacking following a charge of theft took us all by surprise,” said a local resident. A case of “unnatural death” has been registered by the police.

   

 
 
DENTURES REMOVED FROM FOODPIPE 
 
 
BY BAPPA MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, July 15: 
Don’t ever sleep with your dentures on. This is the first piece of advice your doctor might give when you opt for them. Ajay Bardhan, however, failed to heed this age-old advice and nearly paid for it with his life.

Four-and-a-half months after the 38-year-old businessman swallowed his two-tooth single dentures in his sleep, a city-based doctor managed to remove them through an endoscopy, instead of a critical surgery.

On February 12, Bardhan retired for the night with his two “front teeth dentures” on. Next morning, he discovered the teeth missing. Bardhan, who shuttles between the city and Agartala, opted for medical advice at Agartala. An endoscopy conducted by doctors there revealed that the two-inch-thick denture was lodged in the foodpipe. “The doctors told me I had nothing to worry about, as it would be flushed out naturally,” recounted Bardhan.

But a recurrent pain in his abdomen took him to another doctor, who diagnosed “gastritis”, this time. “The medicines did not help and the specialist asked me to go in for another endoscopy,” continued Bardhan.

On June 2, doctors advised him surgery as the denture was still stuck in the foodpipe and had pierced the wall, causing pain. By then, Bardhan couldn’t swallow solids and was living on a liquid diet, leading to a loss of four-five kg in a few weeks. He contacted Mahesh Goenka, head of gastromedicine and endoscopy, AMRI-Apollo Hospitals and Eko Endoscopy Centre, Calcutta, for advice.

“It seemed like a critical surgery case, as it would involve opening the chest area, moving the heart, and surgically removing the denture from the foodpipe,” said Goenka. It would have been a five-hour operation, with the patient running a high risk of infection, as well.

With Bardhan refusing to go in for surgery, Goenka decided to try and pull out the denture through an endoscopy. On July 6, Bardhan underwent his third endoscopy in four-and-a-half months. The denture was lying transversely in the middle of the food pipe, behind the heart. With the aid of video endoscopes, the doctor assessed the situation on the monitor. Using special “alligator forceps” and “polypectomy snares” (wires of different diameters), the doctor disengaged the denture from the wall of the pipe and pushed it down. He then withdrew the endoscope along with the denture.

Bardhan was kept under observation for four days in hospital and fed through a Ryles tube. X-rays revealed the stomach wall had not been perforated. “I was back to my normal diet within a few days. The pain has disappeared. I will however, be more careful with my denture now,” smiled Bardhan.

   

 
 
BIG CAT BANKS ON LITTLE SAVIOURS’ LEAGUE 
 
 
BY SUDESHNA BANERJEE
 
Calcutta, July 15: 
The big cat is ready to raise its own brigade of little warriors. Kids for Tigers: The Sanctuary-Britannia Tiger Programme, reaching out to 650 schools in nine cities, aims to enlist a million volunteers by the year-end.

Ecologist Bittu Sehgal, who has conceived the project, is in town to lead kids up the tiger trail. The first leg of the drive started on Saturday at a meet-the-kids at Seagull Bookstore which drew participants from La Martiniere, Loreto, St James, St Thomas, Calcutta International School, Nava Nalanda...

“Children are the most natural allies of the tiger, to whom we are turning for hope in a scenario of deep despair. Our message is simple: To save the tiger, save the forests, and to save forests, save water. They can influence the adults, too. When these children grow up to become the nation’s leaders in various fields, the tigers and Nature itself, will be safe in the care of this green army,” said Sehgal, editor of Sanctuary Magazines and member of the Indian Board for Wildlife.

The Seagull session — slideshow, Q&A and all — proved such a hit with the kids that it had to be “cut short”. As Karan Malhotra, a Class VII student of La Martiniere, summed up: “We love watching the tiger on Animal Planet... We all wanted to help save the tiger, but didn’t know how to go about it.”

An orientation workshop for teachers of 35 city schools, organised by Concern for Calcutta and Teachers’ Centre, has been lined up for Monday, at Loreto. “We are banking on teachers to come forward and inculcate the basic principles of conservation in students,” said Sehgal.

Teachers will be put in touch with naturalists. The forest department has been roped in as an associate and nature walks will be organised, with students being taken to the nearest forest to gain a first-hand feel of flora and fauna.

The Sunderbans has been earmarked for visits by children from Calcutta. The next step would be inter-school tiger melas in every city with games, skits and poster exhibitions. Nine core groups, comprising teachers, naturalists and volunteers, will coordinate activities in each city.

In February 2002, a four-day training camp for child ambassadors from each city will be held at Ranthambhor National Park. A global tiger meet in the UK is being planned around mid-2002, where children from India will exchange ideas and experiences with ambassadors from other countries.

The Kids for Tigers project has tied up with local NGOs. Says educationist Ayesha Das, of Teachers’ Concern: “We will start by circulating study material which can be integrated with teaching programmes of schools, without being an extra burden. This way, kids can learn to love both the city and the tiger as their own.”

   

 
 
EVICTION ROW 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 15: 
Cops from Shakespeare Sarani police station were in the eye of a storm over evicting the owners of a property on Camac Street on Sunday. The property belonged to Arvind Jaiswal and his family, who had been running a business on the premises for the past 20 years. Jaiswal’s office, too, was located in the plot.

“Till Saturday, I attended office and was not informed about any eviction. On Sunday, men of Butorea Dealers Private Limited came with policemen and started vacating my land,” said Jaiswal.

He went to the thana and requested officer-in-charge S.R. Roy to show him the court order for eviction, but he refused, complained Jaiswal. Roy countered: “How do you think we were present at such an operation if there were no proper court orders?”

   

 
 
QUOTA GUIDELINES FOR TOWNSHIP PLOTS 
 
 
BY SHANKAR MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, July 15: 
Tired of the mud-slinging that followed the allotment of Salt Lake township plots through the chief minister’s quota, a guideline has been formulated for distributing the New Township plots through this quota.

Housing minister Gautam Deb, who is also the chairman of the Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation (Hidco) — the nodal agency for implementing the project — has reserved 10 per cent of the total plots for distribution under his discretion.

According to the guidelines, persons belonging to the 18 scheduled categories will be entitled to the New Township plots through the Hidco chairman’s quota.

The categories include top-ranking Central government officers, national or state-level political workers of recognised parties, freedom fighters, economists, litterateurs, national award-winning sportsmen, journalists, police or armymen awarded for gallantry and personalities from the cultural circuit.

Hidco will invite applications through advertisements in dailies. Of the 1,680 plots that Hidco has distributed through lottery so far, the number of plots under the quota is 168. “If the number of applications exceeds that of the plots, distribution will be done through lottery. The number of plots per category has not been fixed yet,” the officials said.

The urban development department is still facing criticism from different corners, as large number of plots in Salt Lake were allotted under the then chief minister Jyoti Basu’s jurisdiction.

Some people had moved the apex court, challenging the procedure of allotment of plots through Basu’s quota. The case is still pending at the Supreme Court. Though the high court had earlier ordered that the chief minister will be the sole authority for allotting plots, opponents alleged that there were no guidelines as to who would qualify for a plot.

“We don’t want to face such consequences. The process will be transparent and the names of those who acquire plots will be made known,’’ Deb told Metro.

The minister said several people, including some influential persons, have been urging him for plots. “I have told them that there is no scope for favouritism in this matter,” Deb said.

Norms and policies are being framed for the New Township by identifying the loopholes in the Salt Lake township case, the Hidco chairman said. “Plots in Action Area-I have been allotted to common people through lottery. Even the location of the plots was decided through lottery. Nobody has questioned the allotment procedure to date. We want to maintain it,” said Asok Bhattacharya, Hidco general manager.

   

 
 
CSTC RAP FOR ERRANT DRIVERS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 15: 
The Calcutta State Transport Corporation (CSTC) is taking punitive action against 10 employees for dereliction of duty. A number of others face harsh measure on the same charge. To check the spate of corruption among CSTC drivers, the transport department has decided to appoint ex-armymen to drive its fleet.

Concerned over a series of allegations over poor bus services, transport minister Subhas Chakraborty had ordered an inquiry to ascertain why CSTC was performing unsatisfactorily, in spite of having a sufficient number of vehicles and employees.

The CSTC authorities found after a preliminary enquiry that a large section of drivers and conductors do not carry out their scheduled duties. “We found that some drivers make a trip or two and then park the buses in the garage, claiming a breakdown. Some drivers even break a journey midway on the same ground. Thus, at least 250 to 300 buses go off the road daily,’’said a senior CSTC officer. Besides, the officer said, 35 to 40 per cent of the drivers and conductors absent themselves from duty every day. The CSTC has 1,200 pliable buses, 2,300 drivers and 2,600 conductors.

The transport department will conduct a separate inquiry into the condition of the damaged buses dumped in its garages. The report will be submitted to the minister, along with recommendations from experts on steps to minimise vehicle breakdown.

   

 
 
GRAFT WHIFF IN HANDCART DEAL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 15: 
The civic vigilance department suspects graft in the procurement of 1,000 handcarts at higher prices by the conservancy department. The deal has left the coffers poorer by Rs 2 lakh.

On June 19, said vigilance officers, the CMC had placed an order for 1,000 handcarts with five firms without inviting a tender. One firm, K.B.Corporation, which had quoted the lowest rate, was not given any order.

A conservancy engineer said K.B. Corporation quoted Rs 2,380 for each handcart, but orders were placed with the five other firms at Rs 2,480 each. Member, mayor-in-council, conservancy, Mala Roy, said procurement was being made at the lowest price quoted by suppliers.

An executive engineer in the conservancy department, who preferred anonymity, said K.B. Corporation had been unofficially ‘blacklisted’, as it had earlier demanded 18 per cent interest from the CMC for the inordinate delay in getting payment. But an officer in the secretary department said the firm had subsequently withdrawn its demand for interest.

Member, mayor-in-council, Pradip Ghosh, who oversees stores, said the store never received any complaint regarding the quality of materials supplied by the firm.

Leader of the Opposition Nirmal Mukherjee demanded a probe into the matter, as it involved lakhs of rupees.

   

 
 
GARDEN STAFF SIGNALS STRIKE OVER UPKEEP 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 15: 
A section of employees and scientists of the Indian Botanic Society have threatened to launch an agitation against the Centre for its “apathetic attitude” in checking the destruction of rare species of plants at the Shibpur garden. They have demanded better facilities for the maintenance of the garden.

The employees alleged that the Centre was “intentionally” neglecting the garden because it did not want to accord it the status of a centre of excellence. As a part of their agitation, the employees plan to go on a strike.

The Centre had promised to declare the Botanics a centre of excellence in plant research when it took over the garden from the state government in the early 60s. The employees held a meeting to adopt a resolution demanding remedial measures and submitted the memorandum to the garden authorities.

“The Centre does not want the garden to flourish, though it is the oldest in the country,” said A.B. Chattopadhyay, general secretary, Botanical Survey of India Employees’ Association. “The Centre is now only concerned with promoting its National Botanic Garden at Noida,” said Sital Adhikari, another leader of the association.

Scientists of the garden, too, expressed serious concern over some important units closing down due to shortage of staff.

The new plant division, of key importance because it maintains rare species, is non-functional. According to the scientists, the 214-year-old garden, which now has more than 2,200 species of plants, had boasted of having a collection of species that could be found nowhere else in the country.

The employees put the blame for the poor maintenance of the garden to a number of policies of the Botanical Survey of India, including abolition of posts and sending its scientists on fewer scientific tours.

   

 
 
SEN CLEAN CHIT FOR SUBHAS 
 
 
FROM RANJAN LAHIRI
 
Burdwan, July 15: 
Industry minister Nirupam Sen today gave a clean chit to transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, saying: “He is not involved in the Salt Lake stadium scandal.”

Sen’s statement reflected the CPM’s possible stand on the scandal. He is not only the second man in Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s Cabinet, but is also an influential member of the CPM Central committee.

The industry minister was here to attend a seminar organised by Burdwan—2000, a voluntary organisation.

Asked what the government and the CPM leadership were going to do with Chakraborty, Sen said: “Why are you mixing up the arrests of criminals from the stadium and the involvement of Chakraborty?”

“Will you blame the higher education minister for any misdeed by a student of Burdwan University?” he said when asked whether Chakraborty should tender his resignation on the stadium issue.

On the arrest of Tapas Ghosh Dastidar, a close associate of Chakraborty, Sen said: “Maybe Tapas is a close associate of Chakraborty. But it does not mean that Chakraborty will have to be aware of his whereabouts or be involved in his misdeeds”.

Sen said those arrested will be punished and “the law will take its own course. No one will be spared once they are proved guilty,” he added.

Sen’s statement indicated that Chakraborty may not face further embarrassment on the issue either from his party or the government. Bhattacharjee is supposed to make a statement in the Assembly on the scandal on Thursday.

Chakraborty, who had been asked by the state CPM leadership to be silent on the stadium issue, has not made any comment.

The anti-Chakraborty camp in the party’s North 24-Parganas district unit, is upset with the state leadership’s stand on the scandal.

It is learnt that they will wait for the chief minister’s statement on Thursday and chalk out their strategies on how to corner the minister.

CPM insiders, however, pointed out that the anti-Chakraborty faction, which is a majority in the district unit, is dissatisfied with the state leadership for not taking any steps against Chakraborty.

   
 

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