Rain, river rampage rings alert
Mill staff beat back bid for privatisation
Dy mayor dials distress
Soirees silenced in attack aftermath
The City Diary
Popular beyond Life and Time
Guards for Sajal friends
Ahimsa sermon by Dalai Lama
Toll tax hike on second bridge
Tower terror by lights only

 
 
RAIN, RIVER RAMPAGE RINGS ALERT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Sept. 17: 
The rains conspired with the first flush of bhora kotal on Monday to wash away two persons from the banks of the Hooghly and submerge low-lying areas close to it and Tolly’s Nullah. A 15-year-old girl was reported missing at Patulighat, Nakashipara, in Nadia from the banks of the Bhagirathi.

All three missing were offering tarpan on Mahalaya morning. Kamal Sinha, a resident of Sonarpur, was washed away from Babughat. Utpal Dutta, resident of Malanga Lane, in Bowbazar, was swept away at Baje Kadamtalaghat in the Port area.

Parts of Kalighat, Free School Street, Sadananda Road, Nimtala Ghat Street, Tollygunge, Bansdroni, Tiljala and Behala were submerged on Monday. And meteorologists have warned of a “deluge” on Tuesday, “when a bigger bore tide is expected in the Hooghly”.

The combined threat of rains and a series of high tides during the next 36 hours has put official agencies like Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), the state irrigation department, the public works department, the CMDA, the Central Metropolitan Water and Sanitation Authority (CMWSA), the police and the fire department on high alert.

The maximum height the tides reached on Monday was 22 feet at Garden Reach around 12.45 pm. “This was at least eight feet higher than the average daily tide,” said member, mayor-in-council (drainage), Rajib Deb.

If the high tide was not enough, the city was lashed by two spells of heavy rain on Monday. The rainwater refused to go down in many areas as the levels of water in the Hooghly and Tolly’s Nullah were way above the level of the storm-water channels connected to them, officials said.

Tuesday’s tide is expected to cross the 22-foot mark, according to Calcutta Port Trust intimations to the CMC. “We have requisitioned two rubber boats and deployed two vehicles carrying public-address systems to alert people, particularly those living along the embankment of Tolly’s Nullah in the Kalighat-Chetla and Tollygunge belts,” Deb said.

Slum-dwellers might be evacuated temporarily on Tuesday, CMC officials said. Schools in the belts likely to be affected have been requested to provide them with temporary shelter.

The civic authorities of Salt Lake and South Dum Dum have been alerted by the irrigation department, as the authorities fear “spilling over of water from the Bagjola and Keshtopur canals”.

Monday’s bhora kotal didn’t match last year’s in terms of damage. “Though the Kalighat temple was under knee-deep water for more than an hour and the water receded very slowly, it was nothing like the waterlogging last year,” said Raju Haldar, a resident of the area.

Ramesh Mitra Road did not disappear under water, either. “We were all apprehending a repeat of the last bhora kotal. Much to our relief, there was no waterlogging here. But then, there are four more days to go,” observed local resident Gautam Hari Chatterjee.

“The three lockgates installed at Harish Chatterjee Street and Madan Pal Lane on the embankment of Tolly’s Nullah pre-empted any inundation of the area,” explained chief engineer ( drainage) Dilip Sanyal.

   

 
 
MILL STAFF BEAT BACK BID FOR PRIVATISATION 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Sept. 17: 
Seeking to resist its proposed privatisation, workers of a closed mill of the state-run National Jute Manufacturers’ Corporation (NJMC) on Monday manhandled and chased away a team of prospective buyers. The team had gone to the mill in response to the government’s invitation for bids for the ailing NJMC.

Somen Mitra, deputy commissioner, detective department, said a group of workers of Union Jute Mill on Convent Road assaulted a team of executives from a firm named S.B. Enterprises who had gone there on a recce of the mill before formally bidding for it.

“When news of the incident reached us, our officers from the Entally police station went to the mill and rescued the executives,” Mitra said, adding that no arrest had been made.

Acting chief minister Mohammad Amin said he was unaware of the incident but the government was committed to dealing firmly with industrial violence. “Our position is very clear,” he told Metro. Industry minister Nirupam Sen backed the stand.

Chairman of NJMC Braja Mohapatra, however, said he saw some justification in the workers’ action since privatisation would mean 20,000 people losing their jobs. “ I am against privatisation because I do not want to play with the lives of 20,000 workers. But if I am directed by the authorities to allow prospective bidders to have a look at the mills, I will have to do so,” Mohapatra said.

According to reports, about 300 workers, belonging mostly to the Intuc, Citu and Aituc, gheraoed and began to rough up the executives, who chose to visit the mill on Monday, assuming there would be fewer workers around on Viswakarma puja and Mahalaya.

Gurudas Dasgupta, Aituc state secretary, said all unions had decided to oppose the proposed privatisation of NJMC.

“We will resist prospective bidders who send in representatives for familiarisation with the NJMC mills in and outside Calcutta before submitting their bids. If people are assaulted in the process, we cannot help it,” Dasgupta said.

This was the fourth in a string of incidents of mill violence that has claimed three lives in nine months.

The Union Jute Mill, closed for over a year, was tense when the executives entered the premises around 2 pm. “The workers, along with their union leaders, were busy with Viswakarma puja. They were surprised to see three cars enter the factory gates. Trouble started when the officials went on a tour of the premises,” said an Entally police station official.

Soon, at least 200 workers surrounded them. As soon as they were told that the executives had come for a recce of the factory, they turned violent.

A section of workers went to the stockroom and brought out some goods manufactured in the factory. The workers put the goods inside the cars of the executives, claimed the police. Led by the union leaders, the workers, then, accused the executives of pilfering company goods and manhandled them.

The local police were called in and the executives handed over to them, with the demand that they be arrested on charges of theft. A demonstration was held in the factory. No comment was available from S.B. Enterprises.

   

 
 
DY MAYOR DIALS DISTRESS 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, Sept. 17: 
How much time should it take for Calcutta’s second citizen, the deputy mayor, who is also a Telephone Advisory Committee (TAC) member, to get a problem-free phone? Four months, if Meena Devi Purohit is to be believed.

The “exasperated” deputy mayor, “finding no other way”, raised the issue of her phone travails at the TAC members’ meeting last Saturday. This, of course, caused an uproar.

“My telephone has been giving trouble for the past four months and I cannot make calls,” she stood up and said. “I don’t know what I have to do to solve the problem,” she told the stunned gathering, which included the entire Calcutta Telephones top brass.

Though Calcutta Telephones officials said it wasn’t entirely their staff’s fault — Purohit wasn’t home when the telephone staff, after repairs, called her up to confirm whether the instrument was okay — there was no stopping the deputy mayor’s tirade. Soon, other TAC members joined in the CalTel bashing.

“If one of the most influential members of Calcutta society can experience such problems with the BSNL wing’s services, what happens to ordinary people?” they wondered. Ironically, the problem telephone had been given to Purohit by CalTel as one of the ‘privileges’ for her being a TAC member. Besides, Purohit comes from the same party — the BJP — to which Tapan Sikdar, minister of state for telecommunications, belongs.

Calcutta Telephones now has around 1.2 million subscribers; at any given point of time, say officials, at least 30,000 lines have faults.

The uproar led to newly-appointed Calcutta Telephones chief general manager S.P. Chakraborty immediately calling up the telephone of contention from his own cellphone; it was the first TAC meet after his appointment and he was not expecting such a stormy session, BSNL officials said.

According to officials, repairs had been carried out every time Purohit lodged a complaint during the four-month period. “But she was never there when our staff rang up the number to find out whether everything was all right,” a senior official said.

Purohit, however, insisted that the argument was part of Calcutta Telephones’ efforts to evade its “customer-unfriendliness. That’s the standard reply whenever the government wing is at fault,” she added.

Chakraborty clarified on Monday that the problem had been sorted out.

   

 
 
SOIREES SILENCED IN ATTACK AFTERMATH 
 
 
BY MITA MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, Sept. 17: 
Calcutta’s artistes, regulars on the US-Europe classical-music concert circuit, are feeling the ripple-effect of the attack on America last Tuesday. Most artistes have had their programmes cancelled, or have themselves called off the concerts. Programmes in the United Kingdom, too, have been hit.

Pandit Ajay Chakraborty was scheduled to leave for England on Sunday. But he is still in Calcutta. “Actually, my family did not allow me to leave,” the vocalist said. “They thought it unwise for me to travel to the West now.” Chakraborty was to perform at four programmes and take some classes during his stay in England. “I doubt whether the US circuit will be able to recover from the financial devastation and the emotional upheaval,” he observed.

Bikram Ghosh has also been left stranded. The tabla exponent was scheduled to leave for the US on Tuesday — the day the World Trade Center was destroyed and part of the Pentagon damaged — to perform at a chain of programmes featuring Anoushka Shankar and other members of Ravi Shankar’s troupe for a fortnight. Ghosh, instead, took a U-turn home. “I am in constant touch with Raviji,” Ghosh told Metro. “But the news I am receiving from there is that things are going from bad to worse.”

Artistes say they have been advised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) to “suspend” foreign trips till the situation eases. The result: Sangeet Research Academy (SRA) artistes, including artistes Suvra Guha and Kushal Das, who were to leave for the US on Thursday to attend a chain of programmes, have cancelled their trip. SRA chief manager Krishna Chaudhuri confirmed that the attacks could not have come at a worse time for classical music exponents. “Usually, most of the concerts are organised by expatriates in the Fall,” she said.

Abhijit Banerjee, also a tabla-player, was all set to leave for London to attend a recording of a concert organised by the Asian Music Circuit, two days after the hijacked planes crashed into New York and Washington. But the programme was put off as an artiste from West Asia wouldn’t have been able to make it. From London, Banerjee was to carry on to the Big Apple and then to Pittsburgh University. “Calling off the tour means a loss of around Rs 4 lakh,” he said. The suspension of cultural activities has hurt sarod exponent Tejendra Narayan Majumdar, too. “I was signed on to perform at 16 concerts for three weeks,” he said. When the organisers called him up to inform him the programmes stood cancelled, he was left with no fallback. “I had kept this period free of assignments in India,” he explained. His loss: “At least Rs 10 lakh.”

Budhajit Mukherjee, choosing not to calculate the losses, admitted he was missing out on twin performances in the US. “The time is just not right for soirees there,” he said.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Traffic constable run over

A traffic constable, R.N. Tiwari, 42, was run over by a car on Taratala Road on Monday. Police said the incident occurred around 6.30 am while Tiwari was controlling traffic in the area. He was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced brought dead. The driver of the car fled with the vehicle immediately after the accident.

Pedestrian killed

lGopal Mondal, 60, was killed when a lorry, carrying potatoes, mounted on a pavement at Jadubabu’s Bazar, in the Bhowanipore area, on Sunday night. The vehicle was seized but the driver fled.

Flights cancelled

lAlliance Air has temporarily withdrawn the following flights from September 15 to 30 — CD 7542/7541 (Calcutta – Bhubaneswar – Calcutta) on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. CD – 7542/7541 (Calcutta- Vizag-Chennai and return) on Tuesdays. CD 7269 ( Calcutta-Jaipur-Ahmedabad-Calcutta) on Fridays and 7267 ( Calcutta-Ahmedabad-Jaipur-Calcutta) on Tuesdays.

Puja specials

lEastern Railway will run 66 pairs of Puja specials, including 43 pairs between Howrah and New Delhi, 11 pairs between Howrah and Bikaner/ Jodhpur, six pairs between Howrah and Dehradun, two pairs between Sealdah and New Jalpaiguri, three pairs between Sealdah and Guwahati. Passengers, who were wait-listed in regular Up trains up to September 10, shall be given priority to change their tickets and shall be provided confirmed accommodation on a first-come-first-serve basis. This facility will be available on windows 2, 6, 10 and 14 of the New Koilaghat reservation office, on Strand Road, on September 19 and 20.

House collapse

A 10-year-old girl sustained injuries when a portion of a dilapidated building on Subodh Mullick Square collapsed around 8 pm on Monday. The girl has been admitted to Nilratan Sirkar Medical College and Hospital. Fire brigade personnel were deployed immediately after the incident. Kallal Dutta, a neighbour whose maid’s daughter sustained injuries, alleged that the owner of the house would not repair the building since he was planning to build a multi-storeyed building in its place. Mala Roy, member, mayor-in-council, conservancy, and senior police officials visited the spot.

Free-trippers

lA total of 3.78 million persons were detected travelling without tickets or with unbooked luggage by Eastern Railway’s ticket-checking staff during the period April to August, against 3.49 million persons detected during the corresponding period in 2000. A sum of Rs 19.92 crore was realised from the free-trippers, against Rs 18.51 crore earned during the corresponding period last year.

Touts in net

lIn a special drive in August, Eastern Railway removed 70 touts from queues at booking offices for harassing passengers. Another 47 were prosecuted under Section 145 of the Railways Act.    

 
 
POPULAR BEYOND LIFE AND TIME 
 
 
BY RAJOSHI GHOSH
 
Calcutta, Sept. 17: 
For foodies, the name ‘Patiram’ can ring Pavlovian hunger bells. But this ‘little magazine stall’, ensconced in the heart of Calcutta’s boipara, has nothing to do with the ’mishti doi’ of Putiram. What Patiram does dish out is food for thought.

Mail sent to both 81, Harrison Road, or 55, College Street, reach the book store. Rarities like Jijnasha, Parichay, Sahitya O Sanskriti and Sandesh, even Kathasahitya, Anustup, Bitarkika, Korak and Anik fill this quaint little shop. But Patiram no longer offers foreign magazines, like Life or Time, which once adorned the shelves.

Small stall-owners make bulk purchases of magazines at Patiram. Even individual buyers get a discount of 20 per cent. This makes it a dream destination with intellectuals, academicians and students. Yet another reason for Patiram’s popularity is that browsers are never asked to leave. You can take your time to flip through periodicals and never be thrown out.

Legend on College Street has it that in the 1920s, Patiram Parija, a young man from Cuttack, got a job with Ananda Bazar Patrika following “the recommendation of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose”. Around 1925, Patiram opened up a book-stall and worked tirelessly to establish a name in selling Bengali ‘literature and culture’. Patiram wanted “to get people reading”, for which he even risked displaying the most controversial magazines in his stall. The shop had been shut down by the authorities a number of times, specially during the Naxalite movement. But Patiram remained unfazed. “It is my duty to pass on to people what has been printed,” he would often say. His sons, however, failed to keep this tradition alive and the shop changed hands even before the shop-owner’s death.

Bamandeb Bhattacharya, a colleague, came to the rescue when he heard that a sari shop would replace the magazine stall. Now, brothers Ashish and Tapas have become heirs to the Patiram legacy after their father Bamandeb passed away. And in spite of a changed title deed, the shop still retains the old name.

To keep the reading-lamp burning bright, the stall displays a new poster every week on the benefits of reading. Painted by Ramaprasad Dutta, the posters have been up, without fail, for 950 weeks now, with only one miss during the curfew following the demolition of the Babri masjid in 1996.

The book business is still going strong at Patiram. “We are doing quite well,” smiles Tapas Bhattacharya at the store. “Otherwise, how would we be able to devote one entire part of the shop to little magazines which hardly bring in revenue? Commercial magazines keep us alive, while by stocking little magazines, we strive to do our bit for society.”

   

 
 
GUARDS FOR SAJAL FRIENDS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Sept. 17: 
Even as the police remained in the dark about the whereabouts of fugitive Sajal Barui, a tight security ring was thrown around the houses of his two friends and partners in crime, who Sajal believes had “betrayed him”.

Police officials said Barui “swore revenge” against Subhroshil Choudhury and Alok Saha for “helping the police gather evidence” which eventually put him behind bars. The duo was exonerated of murder charges by Calcutta High Court on March 23, 1997.

Officials are not ruling out a possible attack by Barui and are keeping “a tight vigil” at the residences of Saha at Paikpara and Choudhury at Shyamnagar, North 24-Parganas.

Barui had earlier attempted to escape from Dum Dum Central Jail, during his four-year stay there, forcing the authorities to seclude him at a Midnapore jail.”

Investigations, after the lifer’s escape from a city hospital, have so far revealed “his growing nexus with criminals at his hometown in Naihati and even sections of the jail authorities during his stay in Dum Dum.”

Superintendent of Midnapore jail Panchanan Biswas told Metro: “He was shifted to our jail on July 29, 2000, as a precautionary measure. I was told that he was in contact with some outsiders.” On July 11 this year, Barui was shifted to Alipore Central Jail for treatment of a urinary tract infection he developed in Midnapore, Biswas added.

Initially, Barui was admitted to M.R. Bangur Hospital, before being shifted to the urology section of CNMC Hospital on August 28, from where he escaped on Saturday.

Meanwhile, raids to nab Barui came to a nought on Monday. Officials probing the case say circumstantial evidence leading to Barui’s escape points towards a section of the urology department officials, who might have learnt about the escape plot.

Senior police officials on Monday spent most of the time interrogating urology department staff. Investigations indicate that though some of the urology section staff might have been aware of Barui’s plans, they “did not bother to inform the security personnel”. The sleuths spoke to nurses and ward boys who had interacted with Barui during his stay in the hospital. Two reserve force constables have already been suspended for negligence and a probe is under way to determine their involvement in the getaway, if any.

Senior officials said Barui had several visitors in the past few days, mostly from his hometown, and that he regularly received money from his family. “Generally, he maintained a low profile, but Barui was very shrewd,” an officer said.

   

 
 
AHIMSA SERMON BY DALAI LAMA 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Sept. 17: 
The Dalai Lama on Monday said it “might not be appropriate” for the US to retaliate against the “uncomparable, shocking and sad” terrorist attack on the country.

The Tibetan spiritual leader said he had written to President George Bush, expressing his sympathies. “I said to the President that using violence may not be appropriate,” he told reporters during a two-day visit to the city.

Violence cannot be countered with violence, the Dalai Lama said, and it would be wrong to blame it on a particular religion.

“In this case, the enemy is invisible and just picking one individual is difficult. It is wrong to describe it as an act by Muslim terrorists. Because, I think, all religions have the same potential to strengthen human values and to develop harmony,” the Buddhist spiritual leader said.

He said any problem within humanity should be solved in a humanitarian way and ahimsa (non-violence) is the human way of approaching a target. He emphasised that the essence of all major religions was forgiveness and brotherhood.

Replying to questions on terrorist strikes in the US, the Dalai Lama said: “These things are a concern for humanity and not just one country. Ahimsa as a long-term measure should be explored to control terrorism of any kind.”

The spiritual leader, who also visited a Buddhist temple at Chowbhaga, said the terrorist strikes could have a basis in decisions or colonial rule in the past or even the economic factors, like the WTO or Gatt.

Also, he said, the attack was the “negative result of destructive emotion... If human intelligence was controlled and guided by negative emotions, then there would be real disaster,” he added. Asked whether he supported China’s opposition to a possible US aggression against Afghanistan, the Dalai Lama said: “If China has really opposed a war, I support it.”

The Dalai Lama also attended a function on Monday on the 137th birth anniversary of Bodhistava Anagarika Dharmapala, the founder of the Mahabodhi Society of India. “Promotion of religious harmony is very important. For the rest of my life, I will advocate for it. I also think that interaction with other religions and traditions is very important to understand their similarities and differences,” he said.

   

 
 
TOLL TAX HIKE ON SECOND BRIDGE 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Sept. 17: 
All vehicles plying on Vidyasagar Setu are having to pay increased toll tax since Saturday.

Buddhadeb Mukherjee, vice-chairman of the Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners, said this was the second time since the bridge was opened on October 12, 1992, that toll tax had been hiked. The first time was in 1995.

Mukherjee said the move is aimed at increasing the daily collection from the bridge. Moreover, maintenance cost of the bridge has increased threefold.

According to the revised tax structure, a trailer carrying heavy goods will have to pay Rs 80, against the earlier Rs 70.

For buses and trucks, the toll has been enhanced from Rs 40 to Rs 50 and for minibuses, Matador vans and tempos from Rs 20 to Rs 25.

Private cars, taxis and jeeps will have to pay Rs 10 instead of Rs 7. However, for two-wheelers, there is only Re 1 increase from the existing rate of Rs 2.

The daily collection from the bridge ranges between Rs 2.80 lakh and Rs 3 lakh. “We will be able to collect around Rs 5 lakh daily now,” Mukherjee said.

   

 
 
TOWER TERROR BY LIGHTS ONLY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Sept. 17: 
Till Tuesday, September 11, puja committee organisers were clear about the top draws of the season: Phoolan Devi’s murder, the abduction of Khadim’s vice-chairman Parthapratim Roy Burman, the doorstep murder of South Dum Dum municipal chairman Sailen Das.

Tuesday’s devastation of the World Trade Center in New York has changed all that. But there’s bad news for the puja committees keen to erect pandals recreating the fall of the twin towers of American economic might.

The agencies to which the committees have to apply for permission to organise Durga Puja have made it clear that the World Trade Center pandals are a strict no-no.

As a consolation, there could be an illumination copying the twin crashes or anything based on the disaster at New York. Already, the Chandannagar and Kumartuli illuminators have been flooded with requests from puja organisers to replicate the attack on America in lights.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee, deputy commissioner of police (headquarters) Banibrata Basu and fire brigade director Banabihari Pathak gave the thumbs down to potential emulators of the 110-storeyed, twin-towered structure.

Mukherjee, patron of the popular Ekdalia Evergreen puja near Gariahat, said that he has already received proposals to make the pandal look like the WTC.

“There is a very strong sentiment within the committee members for the WTC model but there could be a strong anti-American sentiment in a city, which has lent voice to many anti-American protests in the past,” he said.

Echoing almost similar thoughts, mayor-in-council Pradip Ghosh, chief patron of another popular puja at Santosh Mitra Square (Lebutala), said that though a WTC model is ruled out, smaller versions of the Pentagon could be allowed.

Fire services director Pathak obviously wants to play it safe. “All it takes is one half-crazy fool and one matchstick to destroy a puja. Why should we invite trouble by giving the go-ahead for a WTC model?” he asked. He ruled out any form of bending the rules as far as copying the WTC was concerned.

However, the Calcutta Police deputy commissioner (headquarters) said he is yet to receive any proposal on the issue. “If such offers come, we will think over the matter but the most likely result of the deliberations will be in the negative,” he said.

Clearly, the city crowd that was hoping to witness such “role models” will now have to be satisfied with the illumination or special effects created to showcase the chain of events that led to Tuesday’s disaster.

   
 

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