Suicide bid by couple on Metro tracks, services hit
Eviction team meets only Mamata muscle
Upbeat govt to continue Nullah drive
Sulking Subrata stays away
Godown gutted
Rampage after soiree ban
Businessman rescued
Green package for hills

Calcutta, Sept. 22: 
For the first time, a couple tried to commit suicide by jumping in front of a Metro train at Jatin Das Park station on Saturday afternoon. The woman was taken to hospital with serious head injuries.

Minutes before a Tollygunge-bound train arrived at the platform at 3.27 pm, commuters saw the young couple (names withheld) arguing while waiting for the train. Then, all of a sudden, they jumped hand in hand in front of the rake.

Power to the third rail was immediately switched off. They had fallen on the hollow part of the central drain on the track. Four compartments had gone over them before the train screeched to a halt.

“We had to take a lot of precautions before we could pull them out from under the train. They were scooped out around 4.05 pm and rushed to SSKM Hospital,” recalled Narayan Nath Majumdar, station master at the Jatin Das Park station.

Tollygunge police officials later said the couple had eloped and married six months ago. The marriage has recently been accepted by their families. Both study at the same college.

Train services were stalled till 4.24 p.m. Seven trains had to be cancelled.

Training centres: Arena Multimedia, a division of IT training major Aptech, launched four Arena Animation Academies in Calcutta on Saturday. The centres at Chowringhee, New Alipore, Salt Lake and Park Street will provide specialised animation training for the growing digital entertainment industry. Course fees will range between Rs 30,000 and Rs 60,000.


Calcutta, Sept. 22: 
It was billed as the “toughest” eviction drive of the decade, with encroachers expected to fight a pitched battle with the police, in a desperate bid to hold on to their home and hearth. In the end, the only resistance that came was from Mamata Banerjee and her group of councillors, who staged a dharna and warned of dire consequences. But even this effort lacked the firebrand leader’s characteristic punch.

At 8.20 am, a huge contingent of police and state government officials arrived at Garia with two pay-loaders to begin the first phase of evicting illegal encroachers on either side of Tolly’s Nullah. The CMC had reluctantly decided to pull out of the drive on Friday night in deference to the wishes of the Trinamul leader.

The officials were surprised to find that most residents along the 2.5-km stretch from Garia station to the bridge had decided to leave on their own. Some had pulled down their homes to retrieve the bricks which they could reuse.

For the next four hours, the pay-loaders went to work, flattening the abandoned houses and shops that still stood on either side of the Nullah, watched not so much by their former occupants but by hordes from the neighbourhood. When the pay-loaders had finished their work, about 325 structures lay razed to the ground.

“Even though we have been staying here for the past 10 years, we realised that it was futile to hang on since the authorities seemed determined,” said Ranen Choudhury, who had demolished a part of his house on Canal Side Road, to retrieve the bricks.

“The entire operation was unexpectedly peaceful,” said South 24-Parganas district magistrate Alapan Bandopadhyay. One measure of the resistance that the administration had expected was the presence of over 600 policemen, including Rapid Action Force personnel, all in their battle gear.

But the officials’ sense of relief was short-lived as Mamata and her troupe of councillors, MLAs and partymen descended on the spot and demanded to have a ringside view of the demolition work. The police prevented them from proceeding, saying that Section 144 CrPC had been imposed.

But Mamata would not give in so easily. Her followers tried to break through the cordon and a scuffle ensued. After a back-and-forth struggle for over 20 minutes, she finally decided to withdraw to Garia More, where she staged an “indefinite” sit-in.

“I have been attacked and manhandled by the police,” Mamata alleged as she and her supporters blocked the road to stage their dharna. “The police have hit me and I will teach them a lesson for misbehaving with a woman.”

Fishing out a mobile phone, she called up Sudheendra Kulkarni in the Prime Minister’s Office and lodged a complaint with him against the “brutal Marxist raj”. “These chamchas of the Communists are beating up everyone and people are going to die,” she told Kulkarni. “They hit me even though I am a former Central minister and an MP.”

She also delivered an impromptu address to the gathering, comprising partymen Sougata Roy, Javed Khan, Pankaj Banerjee and Mala Roy, where she warned the administration of dire consequences in case the eviction drive continued. Then, excusing herself “for half-an-hour”, she left with some of her followers to attend a panchayati raj meeting.

When Mamata returned in the evening, the police had just finished pulling down another structure, the only instance where they met with some resistance. She rushed to their rescue, but it was too late. So she settled down at the dharna site at Garia. “I will stay here till the people get justice and rehabilitation,” she said.

The sit-in ended around 9 am.


Calcutta, Sept. 22: 
With encroachers barely putting up a resistance during the eviction drive along Tolly’s Nullah, the government on Saturday decided to go full steam with the operation.

Apprehending an agitation by the encroachers, the Left Front chairman and CPM politburo member Biman Bose had hinted on Friday that there would be a token eviction. “We will carry on the drive in a phased manner,” he had said.

But after the peaceful eviction on Saturday, industry minister Nirupam Sen made it clear that the government would not go slow on the drive. He said: “It is necessary to clear the zone to extend the Metro Rail and improve the drainage system.”

On the face of opposition from Left Front allies on Friday, Bose had said that settlers with valid documents would be rehabilitated. But talking to reporters at the party office on Saturday, Sen reverted to the party’s earlier stand that there would be no rehabilitation. “The government has no specific plan to rehabilitate those evicted,” he said.

Sen claimed Saturday’s drive was a “complete success” despite the Corporation’s decision to stay away. He announced that similar operations would be carried out in other parts of the city and the state. “We are happy that nearly 80 per cent of the settlers vacated on their own and many of them even helped the administration carry out the operation,” he said.

“The government is sympathetic to those who co-operated with the administration. We shall give Rs 2,000 to each family,” the minister said. Asked if the government is violating the Left Front’s “go-slow” directive, he said: “We will have to carry on until the canal becomes free from illegal settlers.”

Session on mental health: A three-day training programme on Human Rights and Mental Health is being held at Ashutosh Memorial Institute from Saturday.

The programme will be organised by Sevac, a mental hospital and rehabilitation centre at Thakurpukur.

A number of important Front constituents, including CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc, however, argued during Friday’s Left Front meeting that settlers along the Tolly’s Nullah could not be evicted unless a thorough rehabilitation package was made for them.


Calcutta, Sept. 22: 
Having been forced to pull out from the eviction drive at Tolly’s Nullah, mayor Subrata Mukherjee sat sulking at the civic headquarters on Saturday. He even refused to visit the eviction site where Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee spent a large part of the day. He also stayed away from the Trinamul-sponsored panchayati raj convention at the Netaji Indoor Stadium.

Trinamul sources said some mayor-in-council members, including conservancy chief Mala Roy, tried to persuade Mukherjee to join Mamata, but he refused, pleading a busy schedule at the CMC headquarters.

Later, talking to reporters, Mukherjee made it clear that he was still in favour of the drive against the illegal settlers along Tolly’s Nullah. “The entire city can’t suffer for a handful of people. The drainage system will collapse once the canal gets choked,” Mukherjee warned.

Reportedly, Mukherjee was upset after Mamata forced him on Friday to pull out of the government’s much-hyped eviction drive along Tolly’s Nullah in the wake of chairman Anil Mukherjee’s resignation from the municipal body.

He also explained that the Corporation would have to utilise the Rs 1700-crore loan from the Asian Development Bank for the development of 41 wards. “ It is mandatory for the CMC to clear the canal from encroachers if we want to utilise the money,” he argued.

“The excavation is also important for the extension of Metro Rail up to Garia,” he added.

Asked to react to Mamata’s statement describing CMC chairman Anil Mukherjee as “the most honest man”, the mayor shot back: “Does it mean that all other functionaries in Trinamul Congress are dishonest?”

Mukherjee flared up on being asked why he did not attend the Trinamul-sponsored panchayat convention. “Why should I? It was the conference of panchayat functionaries and I am in no way connected to them,” he reasoned.

Mukherjee said he had referred the CMC chairman’s resignation to the office concerned, adding that he had nothing to do with the acceptance of the resignation. “If the chairman wants to withdraw his resignation, he will have to inform me in writing,” Mukherjee said, indicating that he was not “bothered” with the issue.


Calcutta, Sept. 22: 
A godown on the third floor of a building on Jackson Lane, in the Burrabazar police station area, was gutted early on Saturday. However, no one was injured.

The incident occurred around 3 am. Local residents spotted smoke billowing from the godown that stocked plastic goods. Seven fire engines were pressed into service. Police said an electric short circuit might have led to the incident.


Monteswar (Burdwan), Sept. 22: 
It was meant to be an evening of fun and songs. It ended with eight of 30 injured men having to be rushed to hospital with bullet injuries after a police firing.

The Trinamul-affiliated Monteswar Bus Workers’ Union had organised a soiree at the local school as part of its Viswakarma Puja celebrations.

However, Burdwan superintendent of police B.N. Ramesh claimed that the organisers did not take permission from the police to hold the function at the school ground.

Block development officer Sanjay Das and officer-in-charge of Monteswar police station Shyamal Biswas, along with a posse of policemen, went to the spot and asked the organisers to stop their unauthorised musical programme.

But far from stopping, some 1,000 members of the audience chased the policemen and later attacked the police station, alleging that the police had lathicharged hundreds of innocent persons, mostly women and children, who were present at the function.

It was then that the police opened fire on the rampaging mob. Thirty of them were injured. Fifteen policemen also sustained injuries.

The Trinamul, the Congress and the BJP have called a 12-hour bandh in Monteswar in the district on Sunday to protest against the police firing.

Narayan Hazra, a spokesman for the Monteswar Bus Workers’ Union, alleged that the “unprovoked” police action was aimed at dislodging the Trinamul leadership from the union.

“We had applied for permission from the local police station much before the function. We have been organising Viswakarma Puja and musical programmes for many years at the same place.

“However, around 8 pm on Friday, a large group of policemen in plainclothes suddenly entered the high school ground and started beating up members of the audience,” Hazra claimed.

According to eyewitnesses, Das ordered a lathicharge and then asked the police to open fire when the irate mob attacked the police station where Das and the police personnel took shelter. Ujjwal Kundu, who was lathicharged, said the police did not warn the people before taking action.

People in Monteswar town observed an undeclared bandh on Saturday as Trinamul, BJP and Congress activists took out separate protest rallies against the police firing. Leaders of these parties claimed that the police had fired indiscriminately, as a result of which a vendor was hit by a bullet.

Of the eight persons who have received bullet wounds, five — Susanta Garai, Haru Boira, Nur Jamal, Abu Sheikh and Babulal Hazra — were admitted to Burdwan Medical College and Hospital.


Calcutta, Sept. 22: 
A businessman from Khargram in Murshidabad, who had been kidnapped from Berhampore on Wednesday, was rescued by police today.

Murshidabad superintendent of police Rajesh Kumar said the businessman, Ratan Sarkar, had gone to Berhampore to set up a rice mill in partnership with one Chand Seikh.

Seikh and his men whisked away Sarkar on the pretext of paying him. However, after reaching Indrani village in Khargram, they overpowered Sarkar and demanded a ransom of Rs 15 lakh.

Police later conducted raids and rescued Sarkar from the house of one Teshar Seikh.


Calcutta, Sept. 22: 
In a bid to arrest the haphazard development and environmental damage, the state government plans to bring the Darjeeling hills under the purview of the state’s Town and Country Planning Act.

The state municipal affairs and environment departments have set up a task force to address the environmental problems in the four sub-divisions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong and Mirik.

Municipal affairs minister Ashoke Bhattacharya and environment minister Manab Mukherjee met councillors and MLAs from these areas in Darjeeling last week and discussed ways to improve the eco-system of the region.

Environment department sources said there was no system of disposing of solid and liquid waste in the hills. Most of the refuse were being dumped in the small waterfalls and hills.

Deforestation, too, has taken its toll. But what has possibly had the most damaging impact are houses built at random on the slopes of these sub-divisional towns.

“Every known action that can totally spoil the hills has been taken in the past few decades,” a senior environmental official said.

The state government now plans to:

Formulate new building designs to allow people to harvest rainwater

Put in place a total restriction on buildings on slopes less than or equal to an angle of 30 degrees

Identify zones prone to landslides and relocate people

Prevent constructions up to a certain distance from streams and waterfalls

Identify “safe” zones for development of buildings and tourism

The two department’s have set up a core team which is garnering all information on the environmental and development status of the hills.

One of the major areas which the department’s are looking at is water supply and drainage in the hills.

Officials said the last time any step was taken was by the British. “This is now totally inadequate for the population the hills support at present,” municipal affairs officials said.


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