Tram runs over schoolgirl
Mamata draws a lakh, steals Panja’s thunder
Accidental shot kills policeman
Snake spell cast over Midnapore
Promise rap on Buddha
JU students protest fee hike

 
 
TRAM RUNS OVER SCHOOLGIRL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 21: 
The death of a nine-year-old girl, who was run over by a tram on Charu Avenue, triggered violent protests on Saturday morning. Local residents threw stones at a passing tram and held a sit-in on Charu Avenue for over two hours, causing a traffic snarl in the peak hour.

The deceased was identified as Malati Sinha, daughter of a Railway Protection Force constable and a Class IV student of Adarsha Vidyamandir. She was run over while crossing the tram tracks on her way to school.

Malati was dragged from under the vehicle. Sensing trouble the driver sped off with the vehicle. The girl was taken to MR Bangur Hospital where she was pronounced dead. As the news spread, local people blocked the road. When another tram arrived, they threw stones at it. They also uprooted the divider of Charu Avenue.

Traffic movement was disrupted for over two hours on Charu Avenue, Anwar Shah Road and Netaji Subhas Bose Road. The blockade was lifted around 9.30 am after police intervened.

In another incident, an unidentified man aged about 63 was injured when an autorickshaw knocked him down on Fern Road. He was taken to a nearby hospital. His condition was stated to be stable.

   

 
 
MAMATA DRAWS A LAKH, STEALS PANJA’S THUNDER 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, July 21: 
Despite suspended Trinamul Congress MP Ajit Panja’s challenge to Mamata Banerjee, he failed to draw a sizeable crowd to his rally at Ghorimor at Chinsurah, in Hooghly district on Saturday. By contrast, about one lakh people gathered at Mamata’s meeting at Esplanade in Calcutta.

None of the Trinamul MPs, legislators or councillors invited by Panja turned up at Chinsura. Barring state BJP vice-president Muzaffar Khan and general secretary Pratap Banerjee, NDA leaders were also conspicuous by their absence at the rally.

BJP workers came to Panja’s rescue to fill up the rally site as his loyalists like Tapan Dasgupta, Bani Sinha Roy, Kalyan Chakraborty, Dilip Das and Gautam Barman failed to mobilise a goodly crowd.

Whereas Mamata commented at her Esplanade rally that Trinamul workers “can never be purchased by money,” the suspended MP accused her of engaging “two private detective agencies to keep a watch on party MPs, mayor Subrata Mukherjee and mayor-in-council, Pradip Ghosh, as she does not trust them”. However, Mukherjee and Trinamul chief whip in the Lok Sabha, Sudip Bandopadhyay, ridiculed Panja’s effort to challenge Mamata, saying the massive turnout at Esplanade was the surest proof of her “growing popularity”.

Panja, who is desperate to get a berth in the Vajpayee Cabinet, announced the formation of an “NDA core committee” in Bengal, saying the Prime Minister has asked him to “modify the Bengal package and send it to Delhi”. While Mamata made the CPM the sole target of her attack, Panja launched an offensive against the Trinamul leader, resorting to mild criticism of the CPM and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Both Mamata and Panja announced separate programmes to observe Trinamul Chhatra Parishad Foundation Day on August 28. Panja will address a meeting at Howrah on the day, whereas Mamata is expected to attend a meeting at the University Institute Hall. The Trinamul chief will visit Nanoor, in Birbhum district, on July 29 to commemorate the killing of 11 party workers by CPM cadre last year.

Mamata gave the call for “Medinipur Chalo” on August 9 which will be observed as a “Protest Day against CPM’s terror”. Panja, on his part, will visit Jalpaiguri in September to “strengthen the organisation”. The Trinamul leader announced that the party would hold district and state-level conventions in September.

Saturday’s rally at Esplanade indicated Mamata’s complete control over her parliamentary party after Panja’s suspension. Panja made it clear that he had no intention to move court to challenge his suspension, which, in his opinion, went against Trinamul’s constitution. “Many have suggested that I go to court to challenge the decision, but I would like to take up the issue in the people’s court,” he said.

   

 
 
ACCIDENTAL SHOT KILLS POLICEMAN 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Murshidabad July 21: 
A sub-inspector of Beldanga police station in Murshidabad district was accidentally killed when the service rifle of a constable went off while it was being loaded.

Officers said the deceased, Sahadev Nandy, 53, died on the spot when the bullets passed through his right eye. The constable, Apurba Banerjee, was arrested and is being interrogated.

There was commotion at the police station as hundreds of angry villagers gathered there. Additional superintendent of police, Shankar Singh promised to look into the matter. Reiterating that the firing was “purely accidental,” Singh said: “We have sent the constable for medical examination to see whether he is mentally sound or not.”

Telecardiology launch: A telecardiology project linking Bankura with Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences, in Calcutta, was inaugurated on Saturday at Bankura Sammilani College and Hospital. Health minister Surya Kanta Mishra and Dr Devi Shetty, Asia Heart Foundation chairman, were present.

   

 
 
SNAKE SPELL CAST OVER MIDNAPORE 
 
 
FROM KUMARESH GHOSH
 
Midnapore, July 21: 
They hide behind bushes and trees and throw snakes at passersby. Unless the victims are willing to pay at least Rs 5, the serpents encircle their necks.

For over a month, a group of snake-charmers in Midnapore have frightened people by throwing snakes at them and forcing them to pay up. “The money is for the lord. These serpents are god’s creatures, so don’t deny them the money,” the snake-charmers would tell the people.

About 100 snake-charmers would gather at the central bus stand, before spreading out in various directions. “It had become a menace. They put a six-feet-long snake around my neck after I refused to pay up,” said Moumita Sarkar, a student of the local women’s college. She was about to board a Kharagpur-bound bus when the incident occurred.

Several victims ended up in hospital. “They threw a snake inside the bus after I told them to get lost,” said an assistant inspector of schools, Nivedita Jana. She spent some hours at hospital recovering from the shock. “The incident was horrifying. I haven’t been able to join work yet,” she added.

Finally, a local college student, Dipanwita Jana, took the initiative to mobilise public opinion and submitted a mass deputation to the local police station, forcing the police to conduct a raid on the central bus stand premises.

With the police hot on their heels, the snakecharmers left. “This was the only way left for us to earn our living. Now we will move to another town,” said a 25-year-old snake-charmer, Sanath Behera. But the reprieve may be temporary, as the snake-charmers promise to come back when “the situation improves”.

   

 
 
PROMISE RAP ON BUDDHA 
 
 
BY RANJIT ROY
 
Calcutta, July 21: 
A House panel keeping tabs on the implementation of promises made by ministers in the Assembly has submitted a damning report, pulling up 18 ministers of the previous government.

In its report for 1999-2000, the committee has noted that 260 promises were made in the House since 1998 on development programmes. Of them, only 84 were kept.

The committee pointed an accusing finger at 18 ministers, who made tall promises but cared little about their implementation.

The errant ministers headed the social welfare, PWD, relief, refugee rehabilitation, food processing and horticulture, civil defence, science and technology, industry, sports and youth welfare, information and cultural affairs, tourism, Sunderbans development, cooperation, transport, agricultural marketing, home-police, power and health and family welfare departments.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, then the information and cultural affairs minister, fulfilled only 11 of his 35 commitments. As police minister, Bhattacharjee promised 16 schemes, but implemented only nine.

Former tourism minister Manab Mukherjee made 28 promises to offer better services to attract more tourists. But he cared to keep only eight.

Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty kept only five of his 24 promises to improve public transport services.

Social welfare minister Biswanath Chowdhury made 10 promises and honoured five. His colleague in charge on the public works department, Kshiti Goswami, lived up to six of 10 promises. Biren Moitra, former agricultural (marketing) minister, made 17 pledges to provide a better deal to farmers. Five have been implemented.

Most of these ministers have got another innings in government. Only health, PWD, tourism, industry, agricultural (marketing) and science and technology departments have new bosses.

The report shows that former health minister Partha De was the worst offender. De had promised to implement 23 projects by January 2000, but completed only one: a healthcare project for mother and child in Murshidabad district.

The list of De’s unkept promises runs long:

A private medical college in Midnapore

Acupuncture therapy units in all district-level government hospitals and three centres in Calcutta. The House passed the West Bengal Acupuncture Therapy Bill, 1996, on the basis of the minister’s pledge, but only five district hospitals have got the facilities.

A dialysis centre in National Medical College and Hospital

Housing for medical college teachers

Post-graduate courses for homeopathy students

Hepatitis-B and gastro-enteritis eradication programmes.

Power minister Mrinal Banerjee had assured the Assembly of time-bound implementation of 37 projects. He honoured only nine.

Almost all the errant ministers during their deposition before the House panel blamed the finance department for not releasing funds.

   

 
 
JU STUDENTS PROTEST FEE HIKE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 21: 
A section of students at Jadavpur University today gheraoed vice-chancellor A.N. Basu and executive members to protest their decision to increase fees and introduce a new fee structure from the current academic session.

The DSO, the students’ arm of the SUCI and the All India Students Association (AISA), a Naxalite students union, organised the gherao after the university decided to introduce a new fee structure. “We will continue it until the new fee structure is withdrawn,” a DSO spokesman said.

Earlier, the Faculty of Engineering and Technology Students Union (FETSU) held a demonstration at the campus protesting the decision. A spokesman of the DSO said that they will continue the gherao for an indefinite period.

Under the new fee structure, an engineering student will have to pay Rs 300 per month as tuition fee and Rs 100 as laboratory charges. Sujoy Das, assistant general secretary of FETSU, said they used to pay Rs 20 as tuition fee and there was no provision to charge laboratory fees from engineering students.

The university has also increased examination fees. “We had to pay Rs 28 as examination fees for each semester. But now we have to pay Rs 10 for each paper in each semester”, Das said.

He said FETSU will launch movement against the new fee structure next week. “We will hold demonstrations in each department of the engineering and technology faculty on Monday and will intensify our agitation if the new fee structure is not withdrawn immediately”, Das added.

   
 

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