Gariahat flyover in place, civic body to repair road
Woman run over, killer car torched
Cost hiccup for cell plan
Cops unleash canine corps to curb crime
Distant thunder spells deluge doom for residents
Speed-up plea to HC
Hunt for 400-yr-old tome
Sibling feud in Arnica row
Mamata sounds return-NDA alert
Biswas joins clear-Subhas drive

Calcutta, July 16 : 
Work on the Gariahat flyover will not stop. And the corridor of chaos will be repaired. The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has taken over responsibility of restoring the potholed road at the construction site, the cost of which will be borne by the Hooghly River Bridge Commission (HRBC).

The Corporation has also given the Commission — the nodal agency for all flyover projects being funded by the Rs 400-crore loan from Japan — 24 hours for the “kerb channels” by the side of Gariahat Road which had been removed by Senbo during construction work “without the permission” of the civic body. If the “kerb channels” are not returned to the site by 6 pm on Tuesday, the Corporation could well file an FIR against Senbo.

All this was decided at a dramatic three-hour-long meeting between CMC and HRBC top-brass on Monday evening. Following Monday morning’s report in Metro about mayor Subrata Mukherjee’s decision to issue a stop-work notice to Senbo, chief secretary Manish Gupta directed HRBC officials to sort out the matter “immediately”.

HRBC vice-chairman Buddhadeb Mukherjee, accompanied by principal technical adviser Debdas Bandopadhyay, held a closed-door meeting with municipal commissioner Debasish Som.

At the end of the marathon session, Mukherjee said: “We should have kept the Corporation posted about the Gariahat flyover project. We will submit a full copy of the project to the Corporation within a week. And we will seek its permission before taking up the remaining four flyover projects. As for leasing out space below the flyover, etc, all that is up to the Corporation.”

Highlighting “road rights” as the principal issue in the CMC-HRBC talks, Som said: “A joint inspection involving CMC, HRBC and Senbo was conducted at Gariahat on June 16. It had then been decided that the road would be restored within a month. But with no sign of any repairs, we have decided to restore Gariahat Road.”

When Som raised the matter of the “illegal construction” of a Senbo site office at Gol Park and staff quarters on Southern Avenue, the HRBC officials promised to “look into the matter”. On July 24, the chief secretary will convene a review meeting with CMC and HRBC officials.

In the Assembly on Tuesday, transport minister Subhas Chakraborty dismissed talk of “the prolonged flyover projects” throwing traffic out of gear. “Construction of all ongoing flyovers should be completed by the end of 2003, three months before the target date... And the traffic congestion, being caused by the rise in the number of vehicles, will be eased once all these flyovers are in place,” Chakraborty said.


Calcutta, July 16 : 
A 25-year-old woman was killed and at least nine others were injured, one of them critically, when the driver of a Tata Sumo lost control and mounted the pavement on Diamond Harbour Road, near the Behala tram depot, around noon on Monday.

Angry residents set the vehicle on fire after the driver fled. South-bound traffic down Diamond Harbour Road was disrupted for about an hour. Cane-wielding policemen had to chase away the crowd, which had prevented firemen from dousing the flames.

The injured were rushed to nearby Vidyasagar Hospital, where three of them had to be admitted. The condition of Tairul Haque Mollah, 50, of Maheshtala, is stated to be critical. The others were, however, released after first aid.

The victim has been identified as Malati Rahut, 25. She was the adopted daughter of Urmila Mitra, a resident of Sarisa, and was a B.Ed student. Both of them were on their way to a doctor’s chamber in Behala when the mishap occurred.

The Tata Sumo hit them from behind while they were crossing the road. Malati was crushed to death, while her mother escaped with minor injuries.

Sandhya Das, 52, and her three-year-old grand-daughter, Manti, are two of the injured who have had to be hospitalised . Recounting the incident, Das said in a faint voice: “Manti and I were on our way to this very hospital to see my daughter, who is due to have a baby. But before we could cross the road, the car hit the rickshaw we were in.

“The car was travelling at a high speed and before we could realise anything, it began hitting several people and injuring them. It came to a halt near the Kali temple,” Das said.

Officer in charge of Behala police station, Subir Chatterjee, said a contingent reached the spot within 10 minutes. The policemen had to resort to a mild lathi charge to chase away the mob that had set the Sumo on fire.

When the firemen arrived, they obstructed their path, shouting “Let the killer vehicle burn!” The policemen had to chase them away at that point. It was around 2 pm when traffic along Diamond Harbour Road became normal.

Residents said the area is prone to accidents, mainly because of the way in which autorickshaw drivers park their three-wheelers. Raju Das, a local shopkeeper, said the road was almost totally blocked by autos throughout the day.

“They have converted the spot into an auto stand without any permission from the authorities. I hope the police will take some action now. Otherwise more accidents will occur,” he added.

Urmila Mitra was dumbstruck on seeing her adopted daughter Malati die in front of her eyes. “It was about 22 years ago that I brought Malati from Sagar Island from her mother. I had a son, but I did not have a daughter. I brought her up like my daughter. Now what consolation do I have for her mother?” she sobbed.


Calcutta, July 16 : 
Calcuttans will have to stick to 98300-98301 and 98310-98311 for now; 98810, promised to subscribers going mobile via Calcutta Telephones, seems set to remain a meaningless sequence of numbers for quite some time.

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited’s much-hyped mobile phone service, scheduled to start by 2000-end, has not hit a technical hurdle. The fault, according to senior BSNL officials, lies with “faulty planning” (read: not taking into account a more realistic cost of the mega project meant to give mobile options to 43,000 BSNL subscribers of Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, besides West Bengal).

The pilot project, meant to test the waters before BSNL takes the plunge in the cellphone segment, pegs the estimated cost at Rs 49.5 crore; the BSNL think-tank did not cross the Rs 50-crore mark deliberately, as more time would have been lost in floating tenders.

But those who arrived at the figure of Rs 49.5 crore failed to keep in mind that about 88 per cent — or Rs 43.8 crore — would go into the coffers of C-DoT for supplying equipment and technology for the project, said a senior Calcutta Telephones official. That leaves only Rs 5.7 crore for all other expenses which, officials say, is “just not enough” to erect the number of towers that BSNL would need to provide “quality service” to subscribers. Besides, there’s the cost of the billing software. “A world-class billing software costs several crores,” a senior BSNL official said. “Now, we are trying to go in for a software that will cost much less.”

The Indian Mobile Personal Communication Service, by which name the BSNL project goes, promises signals of “40 per cent strength” inside a building and “70 per cent strength” in a moving car. But the field trials in progress — senior Calcutta Telephones and West Bengal Circle officials, as well as some prominent NGOs have been given sets for the purpose — leave much to be desired, admit officials. The signals are weak even outdoors, especially in the city’s fringe areas.


Calcutta, July 16 : 
Metcalfe Street, 10.30 pm. A man dashes across the street, snatches a purse from a woman and takes off. Hearing her cries, a police patrol team lets go Estella, a Dobermann, who corners the crook and retrieves the purse.

Robbers, beware; the streets of Calcutta will soon be manned by a squad of ferocious dogs. Calcutta Police’s ‘doggie’ dream — inducting “infantry patrol” canines into the present dog squad to curb crime — looks set to be realised within a few weeks. The informal nod has already come from the government and the final go-ahead should come soon.

“This is our dream project... Dogs are the most efficient patrollers and guards,” said police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty. Eight dogs, of which seven are Labradors, are the police’s best friends now. The squad is now awaiting the arrival of eight more canines. “The fresh recruits, all local breeds, will definitely bolster patrol and guard moves,” said Calcutta Police dog squad officer-in-charge Probash Mondol. “We have specifically asked the government for Dobermanns, but we are likely to get a few Alsatians as well.”

New kennels will be inaugurated at the squad’s home inside the Police Training School, where Jenny, Misha and Bina will welcome their new colleagues. Experts from Chilport, in the UK, will arrive in the city shortly to train the dogs and their handlers. Two of the new recruits will be trained for detecting explosives, the others for patrolling and guarding. The patrol-dogs will be deployed in “sensitive areas”.

A team from the dog squad will visit training centres at Udhampur, Bhopal, Hyderabad and the BSF Academy in Gwalior to study the facilities and decide on the centres where the Calcutta canines will be trained. Though the police top-brass is keen on the Hyderabad training centre, steep fees have forced them to consider the academy in Gwalior, where Shanti and Ayasha are already enrolled.

There are over 14 dog squads in the country with Punjab heading the list with 98 dogs. “Patrolling involves specialised training. I do not recollect seeing any such thing in the other metros,” said deputy commissioner (headquarters) Raj Kanojia.

While Compassionate Crusaders’ Trust representative Debasish Chakraborty welcomed the “concept, veteran film-maker Mrinal Sen appeared sceptical about the idea. “Keeping in mind the pitiable road conditions, I don’t know how effective the idea will eventually turn out to be,” he opined.

As part of a revenue model, dog-squad trainers will train canines owned by private security agencies and also start a new breeding centre. “Breeding is not carried out now due to infrastructural problems, which will soon be sorted out,” said deputy commissioner-I, detective department, Banibrata Basu.


Calcutta, July 16 : 
“I cannot imagine what will happen if it rains tomorrow... Every day, I go to work wading through knee-deep water... You will find snakes and poisonous insects in our bedroom,” says Sibnarayan Chakrabarty, a resident of Geetanjali, who is living out this ordeal with his wife and three-year-old daughter.

Sumati Sardar, a resident of adjoining Green Park, adds: “We have been living under water ever since the rains started. Most of us are suffering from diarrhoea and fever. Our houses have been damaged badly by the waterlogging...”

The monsoon has hardly set in, but the Behala-Thakurpukur zone has been turned into a waterworld, with most of the 50,000 residents in the area struggling to stay afloat.

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has done “precious little” to address the problem, allege residents of the area. “If the showers continue for the next few days, we will have to abandon our homes and take shelter in local schools or clubs,” says Bablu Chandra De, a resident. “Drains are almost non-existent and the outflow canal is heavily silted. But no one seems bothered about our plight.”

Newly-elected Trinamul Congress legislator from Behala (west) Partha Chatterjee has offered to pump in his MLA’s local area development fund to set things right. One of his principal poll planks was addressing the area’s chronic waterlogging problem.

“A drainage system of about 500 metres is needed in the area immediately. There are sewers along just a 100-m stretch now. In absence of a comprehensive drainage scheme, the area is flooded every monsoon. Drains should be laid and Charial Khal (the outflow channel) desilted. All this has been pending for long,” says Chatterjee.

Rajib Deb, member, mayor-in-council, in charge of drainage and sewerage, visited the area recently and promised to “look into the matter”. For the moment, arrangements have been made to shift some of the affected people to local schools and clubs and supply them with relief materials. “We have worked out a scheme which will be implemented in phases. The Charial Khal will be desilted manually,” assures Deb.

Hardest hit are residents of Geetanjali, Sonamukhi Das Para, Jibanananda Palli, Santi Palli, Sonali Park, Sathinagar, Poroi Para, Kancha Road and Green Park. All these CMC-served areas fall within ward 127. Nirmal Mukherjee, CPM councillor of the ward and leader of the Opposition in the CMC, admits “it is not an easy task”. “A drainage system has to be set up in the area at a cost of about Rs 23 lakh. I am not sure how far the CMC will be able to organise the funds,” says Mukherjee.


Calcutta, July 16 : 
Concerned at the huge number of cases pending with the high court, the Speaker has asked the law minister to take action for speedy disposal.

According to figures furnished in the Assembly, the figure stands at 279,370.

During a Q&A session, RSP legislator Tapan Hore asked law and judiciary minister Nishith Adhikari about the steps taken for speedy redressal of justice.

The minister said the state government could not intervene in the high court’s affairs. “We can at best improve the infrastructure of the court and give suggestions. But deciding on the cases is the court’s discretion,’’ Adhikari told the Assembly.

He said the state government had computerised the court and the judges had been provided with personal computers.

Besides, the state and central administrative tribunal and the land tribunal had been set up to deal with the grievances of government employees and land disputes and reduce pressure on the high court, he said.

The Speaker told Adhikari to take concrete steps in this regard. “The pile-up of cases is not a problem with Calcutta High Court alone, but is a national phenomenon. Please raise the issue at the state and national level fora and devise some ways for speedy disposal of cases,” Halim told the minister.

Later, speaking to reporters, Adhikari said as per the provisions of the Constitution, the state government could not interfere in the court’s activities. “Though we are aware of the problems faced by the common people, we are helpless,” the minister added.


Calcutta, July 16 : 
1580: Father Anthony Monserrate journeys to Akbar’s court from his home in Catalunya, near Barcelona.

1906: A manuscript of Monserrate’s three-year-long travels with the emperor’s entourage is uncovered at St Paul’s Cathedral, Calcutta.

1914: The Commentary of Father Monserrate on his Journey to the Court of Akbar is printed in its Latin form by the Asiatic Society.

How did this precious manuscript reach Calcutta? And why did it remain here? These question have never been answered, but the hunt to uncover the 400-year-old tome has begun.

Now, the people of Catalunya want to hold an exhibition in honour of the padre. Joseph Alay, professor at the University of Barcelona, wrote to various libraries across India, asking whether anyone had heard of the manuscript recently.

Shyamalkanti Chakravarti, of the National Library, has now launched a search for the 300-page book. “Since it was last seen in Calcutta, there is a chance that it is still here,” feels Chakravarti, also director of the Indian Museum. Chakravarti has recently returned from Spain, lecturing at the University of Barcelona and an Institute of Tibetan and South Asian Studies in Catalunya, where he met both Alay and city officials keen on arranging “a large exhibition” on the Father’s life.

Coming to India with the first delegation of Jesuit priests in 1580, Monserrate travelled — from Goa to Peshawar, Surat to Kabul — with Akbar’s entourage until 1583 and the Spaniard recorded his experiences in a manuscript. He describes Fatehpur Sikri as “a city of victory, recently built by the King”. Of Agra, he writes: “... a magnificent city, both for its size and for its antiquity”.

Alay, and now Chakravarti, have written to St Paul’s Cathedral, Metcalfe Hall and Victoria Memorial, to see if there is any chance of recovering the ancient manuscript, while the National Archives has already sent word that it is not there. “It will be a historic find,” feels Chakravarti. “An original Latin manuscript of that age, written by a foreign emissary... Nothing of this sort has ever been discovered in Calcutta.”


Calcutta, July 16 : 
The case in the consumer court regarding the use of arnica in Arnimax Arnica Oil is actually the result of a corporate war between brothers who own Hahnemann Laboratory Ltd, manufacturers of the medicine have claimed.

The three Das brothers are now fighting a case over ownership of the family’s flagship company. Two of them have formed Hahnemann Laboratory (Herbal), makers of Arnimax, and the third is now owner of another competing firm called Hahnemann Laboratory (Ayur Research).

The person who filed the case in the Calcutta District Consumer Redressal Forum, alleging the absence of arnica in Arnimax Arnica Oil — as was reported by Metro — was not a bona fide consumer, spokespersons of Hahnemann Laboratory (Herbal) have claimed. “The complainant is associated with the rival company, owned by one of the feuding brothers,” spokesperson of the company Debashis Mukherjee said.

The lawyer representing the complainant, however, said he had no knowledge of his client’s relationship with any of the companies owned by the brothers.

The case, he said, originated in both the off-shoot firms now having their own brand of Arnica Oil, which was originally marketed by the flagship company. Arnimax used Arni, a herb with the Latin name Clerodendrum Phlomidis, and hence, the contention that Hahnemann Lab (Herbal) could not claim its product as “Arnica Oil” was unfounded, Mukherjee added, quoting Shibkali Bhattacharyya’s Chiranjibi Bonoushodhi, considered an authoritative treatise on ayurveda.

He suspects his firm’s rivals to be behind the unsigned letters — purportedly written by one B.K. Chowdhury — that are being sent to his firm’s suppliers and distributors. “The unsigned letters are part of a design to finish off Hahnemann Laboratory (Herbal),” Mukherjee said.


Calcutta, July 16: 
Four days after she was mandated by her party MPs to decide on rejoining the NDA at the Centre, Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee indicated late tonight that “an honourable return to the NDA” was at hand.

During a two-hour-meeting of the All-India Trinamul Congress Committee, Mamata asked the MPs not to leave Calcutta between July 17 and July 19 as she and others might have to visit Delhi at short notice.

Mamata indicated to the MPs that she was expecting to talk to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee either over the telephone or during a visit to Delhi around July 18 after a talk with NDA convener George Fernandes, Trinamul officials said.

Another high point of tonight’s meeting was the suspension of rebel party MP Ajit Panja on charges of anti-party activities pending an inquiry.

The inquiry will be carried out by a five-member committee headed by mayor Subrata Mukherjee.

Other members of the committee include MP Akbar Ali Khondakar, MLAs Pankaj Banerjee and Subrata Bakshi and party leader Sardar Amjad Ali.

Mamata conveyed to the MPs the impression that she was expecting Fernandes, now in Mongolia in connection with a private visit, to help her work out the modalities of an “honourable return to the NDA”, the officials said. Briefing reporters tonight, party MP and spokesman Sudip Bandopadhyay said the inquiry committee has not been given any time frame to submit its report.

A section of the MPs, however, informed Mamata of their apprehension that Panja might move court challenging the inquiry committee. Panja was not readily available for comment, but a spokesman said he would state his position at a news conference on Tuesday.

Apart from the inquiry committee, the Trinamul leadership also set up a four-member rules-framing panel which will help tighten the existing norms.

The meeting, attended by almost all of the 17 members of the national-level committee of the party, discussed in detail Panja’s “anti-party activities” and concluded that he be suspended from the party.

Trinamul insiders said Panja was suspended and not expelled because Mamata does not want to provide him with an opportunity to become a minister.

The immediate provocation, though, is Panja’s decision to organise a counter-rally in Hooghly on July 21, the day Mamata is holding her much-hyped meeting at Esplanade East to condole the deaths of 13 Congress workers killed in police firing in 1992.


Calcutta, July 16: 
For the second time in the past 24 hours, the CPM leadership absolved state sports and transport minister Subhas Chakraborty from the Salt Lake stadium incident in which four criminals were arrested late last month.

Echoing industry minister Nirupam Sen who is also a CPM central committee member, state party secretary Anil Biswas said Chakraborty could not be held directly responsible for the goings-on in all the 30 state-run stadiums across Bengal.

“I fully support him (Sen).... Chakraborty may be the sports minister, but he is not involved in the Salt Lake stadium incident and it is not possible for him to know in which stadium criminals have taken shelter,” Biswas, a politburo member, said.

On Sunday, Sen had told a news conference in Burdwan that Chakraborty could not be connected with the stadium incident because it was not possible for him to know what was going on in the stadiums.

“Subhasda is not supposed to personally know the antecedents of all those checking into the youth hostel,” Biswas said, reflecting the party’s approach to the issue which was at the centre of a controversy for over a fortnight.

Apart from rising in defence of the sports minister, Biswas rejected the observation that Sen violated party discipline when he defended Chakraborty in Burdwan.

Early this month, Biswas had issued an injunction, asking all ministers to stop granting interviews or issuing statements to the media on subjects not connected with their departments. “As we look at it, Sen has not done anything wrong at all by talking to the media in connection with the stadium issue. He is a senior leader and member of the central committee. If he cannot talk to the media about this, who can? And what he said is absolutely right.”

To a question Biswas said it was not for the party to ceremonially announce its position on Chakraborty for the latter is a minister. “The chief minister will issue a statement in the Assembly on this. I will be seen as violating party discipline if I issue a statement before him,” he added.

The BJP also absolved Chakraborty when with Union minister of state for communications Tapan Sikdar telling reporters in Burdwan that Chakraborty was in no way involved in the stadium scandal.


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