Full plans or no flyovers, warns mayor
Teen crusade comes to aid of kids
Microsoft touchdown signal in early August
For want of a syce, their steeds suffered
Floods cut short trains
Hospitals in civic body’s malaria drive
Inter-state gang of car-lifters busted, 4 in net
Army offensive sparks Bodo backlash fear
Gogoi for change in funding pattern
Assam Rifles replaces CRPF in Tripura

Calcutta, July 18: 
‘Hundred Nos Flyover. Now Kolkata Will Move.’ That’s what the billboards plastered all over town proclaim. But the writing is on the wall: The great flyover dream will be grounded if the commission agency doesn’t play it by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) book.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee made it clear on Wednesday that work will not commence on three flyovers — at the Circus Avenue end of A.J.C. Bose Road, on Park Street and on Lockgate Road — until the Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners (HRBC) submits the complete plans to the CMC.

The flyovers, to have been completed by 2003-end at a cost of Rs 310 crore, have already been assigned to Larsen & Toubro and Senbo-Kvaener. The hardening of the CMC stand comes in the wake of the Gariahat flyover construction which, according to the civic body, has damaged the 42-inch waterline, sewerlines and gully-pits and pavements along the dusty corridor of chaos.

“If the agencies don’t take us into confidence about their construction plans, we won’t allow them to start work,” Mukherjee said. “The sewer-lines and gully-pits have been blocked by the Gariahat construction. Will the agencies or HRBC be there to explain the situation when the area is waterlogged... Will Yachio Engineering, the Japan-based firm, be there to explain if a three-metre stretch of Gariahat Road sinks lower?”

According to chief engineer (roads) Sajal Banerjee: “Senbo has destroyed half of the six-metre pavements to widen the road.” Chief engineer (water supply) Dibyendu Raychaudhuri feared the CMC would “never be able to repair the old water line” at Gariahat.

Submission of plans for infrastructural projects by all agencies, except the defence sector, had earlier been made mandatory by an Act (74th Amendment to the Indian Constitution) and a high court verdict. HRBC vice-chairman Buddhadeb Mukherjee said: “The previous civic board had not raised the question as both the Corporation and the government were run by the Front... We will soon submit the Gariahat flyover construction plan for the civic authorities’ formal endorsement.” He maintained that the CMC had “not been kept in the dark”, as “former chief engineer (civil) Manikeshwar Mondal had been on several coordinating panels in the run-up to the Gariahat project”.

The CMC, however, has dismissed the claim, as “Mondal is no longer part of the CMC and is now Senbo’s technical adviser”.

HRBC chief project manager Dilip Datta said “alternative drainage and sewer lines” had been laid at Gariahat. “We haven’t touched the main sewer lines or the existing water-lines,” he claimed.

“We will believe them (HRBC) only when we see the plans and whatever alternative arrangements they are talking about,” concluded the mayor.


Calcutta, July 18: 
It is nearly 9.30 pm, when Craig finally reaches his destination. The children, however, are still weaving baskets. “This is my 100th basket for the day. I can go home now,” says a weary Saiful. “All this hard work for only 20 rupees,” mumbles Craig, before slumping to the ground.

Craig Kielburger, 18-year-old founder and chairperson of Free The Children (FTC) is in Calcutta with 40 other members of the organisation, from six countries.

From visiting Mother House and homes for the destitute to spending time with street children, Craig and his team are on a hectic tour. Dividing themselves into small groups, the FTC team is meeting child rights groups, child labourers and overseeing construction of three new schools for the destitute in North 24-Parganas. “We will open 400 schools all over the world by the end of 2001, with 65 of them in India,” announces Craig, who founded FTC when he was just 12.

This is Craig’s fourth visit to the city, but “very little” has changed. “If an organisation like ours, with members with an average age of 18 years, can initiate a worldwide movement, I wonder why Indian children can’t come to the aid of their countrymen.” Unlike Craig, the rest are here for the first time. “The deplorable condition of the children here is similar to those in Philippines,” observes Swiss-born Mark Nunin.

“The experience has been overwhelming at times,” admits Kazuki Shibashi, leader of his six-member Japanese team. Ed Gillis from Ottawa, Canada, can never forget “putting together 40 people in 20 rickshaws” for one of their visits.

The FTC team’s sojourn has taken them to Jangalpur and Amdanga, where Gillis and his colleagues helped masons complete a school building. A medical programme at Kolsur in Deganga and time spent with child labourers at a basket-weaving centre in Habra and a leather tannery in Duttapukur, figure in their tight schedule. “The children are exposed to huge health hazards in the tanneries and they have never heard of school,” says Kazuki.

“By the end of the year, we will raise $ 1.5 million for schools stretching from Nicaragua to India,” promises Craig.


Calcutta, July 18: 
The IT dream of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee may become a reality soon. Microsoft Corporation is expected to arrive in the city in the first week of August. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) will be signed between the government and the company on its involvement in the IT sector.

IT secretary Jaya Dasgupta confirmed that Microsoft is coming in a “big way”, although the modalities “will be finalised in due course,” she added.

A draft of the MoU has been sent to the company. Senior government officers say Microsoft is very enthusiastic about the proposals in the draft MoU.

Writers’ Buildings sources say Microsoft has been told that the government is eager to use its expertise in e-governance in the education sector. Besides, the company will also be engaged in training teachers in computers; the students’ turn will follow.

Microsoft may also come up with a software development unit in West Bengal, say officers. But they could not specify the volume of Microsoft’s investment in the state. “That will be decided at a meeting between the chief minister and Microsoft’s representatives,” a senior officer said.

After coming to know of Microsoft’s positive response, the chief minister held a series of meetings with IT minister Manab Mukherjee, chief secretary Manish Gupta and the IT secretary, at which it was decided that the education sector is the place for Microsoft.

The IT minister has already had a discussion with the five ministers looking after the various education-related departments to gather data needed for e-governance in these sectors. The government has decided to ask Microsoft to develop a software for introducing e-governance in education. An exclusive education network will be created which will connect all the major educational institutions throughout the state.

Bikash Bhavan in Salt Lake, which seats the education department, will be connected with all the universities, important non-technical colleges, engineering and technological colleges, offices of the district inspectors of schools, research organisations and other institutions of importance.

The ministers concerned and senior officers will be able to interact with all the institutions and organisations. It will enable them to hold video conferences too, say officers.

People can expect data on education services provided by the state, courtesy the network. There will be at least one information kiosk in each block, from which students will get information about colleges or schools in any part of the state. Application forms for medical and engineering courses at IITs and other colleges will also be available at the kiosk.

“If the government does manage to set up an independent IT corporation, and rope in big players like Microsoft and Wipro, it will send out right signals to investors,” said a member of a chamber of commerce and industry.


Calcutta, July 18: 
Bijoy-II, 24, is struggling to stay alive — one of the many horses suffering due to lack of care in the stables of the mounted police. On Wednesday, after six long years, the police conducted a recruitment drive for stable hands, to take care of the horses and bolster the department.

With 69 horses in its stable, the mounted police have been in dire need of syces. According to officials of the mounted police, there were “not enough stable hands” to take proper care of the horses. “There are very few people in the city who know how to care for horses and we haven’t been able to find anyone for the past few years,’’ a senior police officer of the mounted police section said.

Police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty had entrusted Harmeen Preet Singh, deputy commissioner, port, an accomplished rider, with the responsibility of recruitment. “More than 70 youth turned up, via employment exchanges, at the mounted police headquarters for the interview on Wednesday,’’ Singh said. The candidates were grilled on the basics of horse-keeping — carrying a 50-kg sack, fixing a saddle, mounting and dismounting a horse. They were also quizzed on grooming, changing of horseshoes, checking the condition of the mouth and mixing fodder. Finally, there was a written examination. According to Singh, more than 50 per cent of the candidates had no clue about horses. “But eight were short-listed for the final round, from which six managed to make the grade,” he said.

Inspector of the mounted police wing, Dilip Basu, said the new hands will be trained by experienced personnel. “They will then be posted at the S.N. Banerjee Road and Bodyguard Lines stables,’’ Basu added. The stable hands will feed the horses and look after their day-to-day needs and fitness.

The Calcutta Mounted Police, set up in 1840, shifted to its current S.N. Banerjee Road headquarters in 1912. “Ours is the oldest mounted police wing in the country and the only division in a metro to utilise it for daily law-and-order purposes,” deputy commissioner of police, headquarters, Raj Kanojia said. Sawars, or mounted sergeants, are deployed in the Maidan area. “They have the authority to arrest violators. We have kept the Maidan areas relatively crime-free because of effective patrolling by the mounted police.”


Calcutta, July 18: 
Floods in Orissa have forced the railway authorities to cancel a number of Mumbai and Ahmedabad-bound trains from Howrah on Wednesday. The arrival and departure of several other trains have been rescheduled as well.

The Mumbai Mail (via Nagpur), Gitanjali Express, Kurla Express and the Ahmedabad Express, scheduled to leave Howrah on Wednesday, had to be cancelled, a South Eastern Railway spokesperson said.

Services of the South Eastern Railway on the Howrah-Mumbai Trunk route and the Jharsuguda-Sambalpur-Talcher section were affected, as tracks along Ib Valley, Jharsuguda, Lapanga, Brindamal were inundated and breaches had formed in the Sambalpur-Talcher section.

Railway sources said tracks were submerged along a two-km stretch and work to repair the damage was in progress. The condition of the bridges near Cuttack are likely to deteriorate on Thursday due to the heavy discharge of water from dams. The Katjudi is flowing above the danger level, and the Mahanadi , too, is in spate.

The Howrah-Sambalpur-Koraput Express has been cancelled between Jharsuguda and Koraput. The train will run between Howrah-Jharsuguda-Howrah till further notice. The Howrah-Sambalpur Ispat Express has been cancelled between Rourkela and Sambalpur and will run only between Howrah and Rourkela.

The Down Ahmedabad-Howrah Express, the Down Mumbai-Howrah Mail and the Down Kurla-Howrah Super Delux Express will be diverted. They are expected to arrive at Howrah behind schedule on Thursday.

The 8034 Up Ahmedabad Express and the 2102 Up Howrah-Kurla Express will leave Howrah at 7.30 am and 6.30 am, respectively, on Thursday.


Calcutta, July 18: 
This time, the civic authorities have struck at the root of the alarming spurt in malaria cases in the city. In a novel gesture, they have decided to take over larvae-control measures in government hospitals and medical colleges to combat the disease.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee on Wednesday said the government hospitals were the largest breeding grounds of malarial mosquitoes and all efforts to check the disease will prove futile unless anopheles stephensai mosquitoes are checked on the hospital premises. The mayor has sought an appointment with chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to discuss the issue.

“We will write to health minister Surya Kanta Mishra and PWD minister Amar Choudhury to hand over the larvae-control activities in government hospitals to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation. We shall also request them to pay for the service,” said member, mayor-in-council (health), Javed Ahmed Khan.

According to Khan, malarial parasites are rampant in hospitals and, consequently, the adjoining areas are particularly prone to the disease.

In an important decision on Tuesday, the civic health department decided to extend the working hours at all civic health centres, including malaria clinics, by an hour, till 2.30 pm, daily.

The executive health officer of Borough VIII was showcaused on Tuesday after Khan, in a surprise visit to his office on Vivekananda Park, found it closed at noon.


Calcutta, July 18: 
The city police busted an inter-state gang of car-lifters on Wednesday. Four men were arrested from Dahighat, in the north port area. There has been a spurt in car theft cases in different areas of south Calcutta and the port area. The port police formed a special team to investigate the matter.

“We received a tip-off about a criminal called Ranjit Das. Our sources said Das and his associates had stolen a couple of taxis from Coal Berth Road, in the port area,’’ said deputy commissioner of police, port, Harman Preet Singh. The police raided Das’ hideout on Wednesday morning. “He revealed the names of Faizal Khan, Perveen and Netai Singh, his associates, and took the officers to the places where they had put up,” Singh added.

Deputy commissioner of police, headquarters, Raj Kanojia, said Das’ gang had stolen seven vehicles, including a couple of luxury cars.

According to Singh, Das and his associates drove to Nabadwip, en route to Bihar, instead of taking the usual road via Asansol. “Das feared being caught at the border. So they drove to Nabadwip, from where the vehicles were put on a launch and taken to Rajmahal, in Bihar. Then they drove to Muzaffarpur, via Bhagalpur.’’ In Muzaffarpur, Das sold the vehicles to garage-owners. “The garage-owners would fit the engine and the spare parts of the stolen vehicles in other cars,’’ Singh said. A police team left for Muzaffarpur on Wednesday night.

Road blocked: Residents blocked BT Road for an hour on Wednesday morning, protesting the death of an elderly woman, who was knocked down by a private bus on route 234 .


Guwahati, July 18: 
Fear of retaliation by the National Democratic Front of Boroland looms large as the army kept up its offensive and killed three more rebels of the banned outfit in separate encounters since last night.

Two pistols and a grenade were recovered from the slain militants who are yet to be identified. With this, the death toll of NDFB militants killed in encounters in the last 48 hours has gone up to 11.

Army sources said troops operating in Kokrajhar district gunned down a cycle-borne militant near Datkari village after he lobbed a grenade at the patrol unit. Another militant was killed near the Ripu reserve forest, in the same district, when he tried to flee.

The third NDFB militant was killed near Baithalangso village in Nagaon district after the rebel fired on an approaching Army patrol unit.

The army had, on Monday, killed eight rebels in three separate encounters in Darrang, Kokrajhar and Dhubri districts. Eight other rebels were arrested from Nalbari district.

Intelligence sources said the stepped-up offensive may spark fresh turmoil in the Bodo Autonomous Council area.

“The NDFB will try to get even sooner than later as it has lost 11 men in the last 48 hours. Under pressure, it is likely to take up desperate measures to make its presence felt,” a top intelligence source said.

Apart from targeting security forces, the NDFB may pick on members of the Bodo Liberation Tigers. The NDFB suspects the BLT, which is in the process of negotiations with the Centre, of acting as “informers” of security forces.

The NDFB, known for its expertise in handling explosives, may target government installations, the sources warned.

There are apprehensions that the latest offensive may, in some way, seriously hamper the ongoing talks between the BLT, the Centre and state government. A new Bodo accord is reportedly being given finishing touches.

The talks mainly revolved around the modalities for the formation of the proposed “Bodoland territorial council” which will replace the failed Bodo autonomous council. The last round of talks were held in New Delhi on June 13.

“Though inconclusive, the participants at the two-day talks expressed hopes of a breakthrough soon,” sources had earlier said, referring to the negotiations.

The talks, which were in an “advanced stage”, had to be temporarily suspended because of the Assembly elections in May.

The parleys, however, resumed well before the July 31 deadline set by the All-Bodo Students’ Union.

Unlike the BLT, the NDFB has repeatedly spurned peace offers from both the Union and state governments. The outfit — which considers the BLT as a “stooge” of the Union government — is against anything short of an “independent Bodoland”.

Political analysts have linked the Army offensive to the ongoing talks.

“Since there are reports that the accord may lead to widespread violence, the authorities are trying to neutralise the NDFB as much as possible before signing any deal with the help of the BLT,” an observer said.

The analysis is mainly based on a Central intelligence agency report which warned of “further controversies and trouble owing to serious ethnic/communal violence and breakdown in the law-and-order situation in the state” if the proposed new council is formed.

The “exclusion and inclusion” of villages in the “renotified” BAC could spark off “communal and ethnic” turmoil in the districts of Darrang, Nalbari, Kamrup, Bongaigaon, Dhubri and Kokrajhar. “From whichever angle one looks, we will witness largescale violence. These killings are only setting the pace,” a source said.


Guwahati, July 18: 
Hard-pressed to raise funds for development works, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today dashed off a letter to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee seeking a change in the Central funding pattern for rural development.

Gogoi, who completed two months in office today, admitted his government’s inability to raise Rs 217 crore to avail the Central grant of Rs 650 crore for rural development, an amount held back by the Union government for the past four years.

In the prevailing funding system, the Centre and the state’s share stands at 75 : 25. But because of the cash-strapped state’s inability to release its share from 1997-1998, the Central ministry of rural development had held back its share, Rs 650 crore, for the past four years.

“It is urged that if the allocation made by the Central ministry is to be utilised to the maximum extent, the matching share of the state government in the schemes implemented by the ministry of rural development should be modified to 10 per cent from the existing 25 per cent,” Gogoi said in his letter, a copy of which was sent to The Telegraph.

Gogoi said downsizing of the state’s share would enable it to provide the same through the existing plan budgetary allocation. He said under the rural development programmes, the state government had been implementing various schemes for infrastructure development, self-employment, wage employment and housing.

Gogoi’s letter to the Prime Minister followed his breakfast meeting with four former chief ministers of the state on this issue.

The meeting with his predecessors is seen as a deft move by the chief minister to evolve a consensus on the critical issue. Asom Gana Parishad leader Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, however, could not attend as he is away in New Delhi. An official release issued this evening said Mahanta had conveyed his “thanks” to Gogoi for the invitation and promised to take part in similar get-togethers in the future.

The four former chief ministers present at the meeting were Sarat Chandra Sinha, Golap Borbora, Bhumidhar Barman and Anowara Taimur. Minister of state for home, Pradyut Bordoloi, who was also present described the meeting as “warm and cordial”. Grand old man of the state’s politics and Nationalist Congress Party leader, Sarat Chandra Sinha, was blunt in his views as he expressed concern over the “nexus” between political parties and extremist outfits. Without naming any political party, he asserted that this “nexus” had to end if there was to be a permanent solution to the insurgency problem.


Agartala, July 18: 
Five battalions of the Assam Rifles will replace the CRPF units that have been withdrawn from Tripura.

Official sources here said the Centre decided to substitute the CRPF battalions with those of the Assam Rifles because of their acknowledged efficiency in counter-insurgency operations.

Lt. Gen. A.S.Kalkat, general-officer-commanding (GOC) of the Army’s Eastern Command, informed the Tripura Governor of the Centre’s decision during a courtesy call yesterday.

The GOC returned to Calcutta after meeting the Governor, but 3 Corps chief Lt. Gen. T.S.Shergill stayed back to review the law and order situation with Assam Rifles officials. Even as security-related meetings were being held in the state capital, suspected Bangladeshi criminals abducted two schoolteachers from North Tripura district.

Police sources said Sadhan Das and Arabinda Deb, both residents of Kalaigiri village adjacent to the Indo-Bangladesh border in Kailasahar subdivision, were returning from school on their bicycles when they were abducted. The police later recovered the two bicycles from the spot.

The Border Security Force has requested the Bangladesh Rifles to trace the abducted teachers.

The high incidence of crime along the 840-km Indo-Bangladesh border in Tripura is a source of concern for the BSF. Two Indians were killed by Bangladeshis at Almara in Kamalpur subdivision of Dhalai district on July 11.

Intelligence reports say that the outlawed All-Tripura Tiger Force has joined hands with the Nayanbasi Jamatya faction of the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) to mount an offensive against the security forces. The Tiger Force-Jamatya combine also plans to target the “mainstream” NLFT faction led by Biswamohan Debbarma.

The Tiger Force leadership reportedly held a meeting with Jamatya and his aides at Satcherri in Habiganj district of Bangladesh on June 24. The two sides are believed to have decided to launch their joint offensive “soon”.

The Debbarma faction freed Jamatya’s wife and daughter last month after holding them hostage for several weeks at its headquarters in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. An intelligence source said both mother and daughter were now staying at the Tiger Force base in Satcherri.

“Jamatya has even got his daughter admitted to the Maharani Victoria High School in Srimangal,” he said.

Body exhumed

Police have exhumed the body of one Juri Koloi (40) — abducted over one-and-half years back — on the basis of information provided by an arrested militant.

Koloi was killed and buried in remote Ghantacherra under Ambassa police station in Dhalai district. He had been abducted from Kamalabagan on December 1, 1999. Police sources said Sonachandra Malsum, a militant who was arrested recently, admitted to abducting and killing Koloi. The body was exhumed soon after.


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