Crossroad chaos this Puja
Mystery death of teenager in Liluah home
Mamata flies off after ‘commando’ action call
12 injured in union clash, rally rage
Father, son electrocuted
Gift of vision, for his eyes only
The City Diary
CU stamp on campus plan
Jurisdiction jolt for water checks
Widow fights AIDS stigma

Calcutta, Sept. 25: 
A real traffic-stopper. That’s what this Durga Puja is threatening to be. With construction of two major flyovers in progress, ‘no entry’ signs being put up wherever pandals have encroached on roads and a crore expected to hit the streets every Puja day, the police have pushed the bottleneck panic button.

Officials said the hardest hit will be south Calcutta, where the flyover construction has already constricted Gariahat Road. Work on the flyover between Circus Avenue and the south gate of Victoria Memorial along AJC Bose Road is causing massive traffic snarls in the whole area.

Anticipating the chaos, Puja traffic planners, including additional commissioner of police, S.I.S. Ahmed, and joint commissioner in charge of traffic Sandhi Mukherjee, visited Gariahat recently. They also held meetings with organisers of major Pujas in the area, like Ekdalia Evergreen and Singhi Park Sarbojonin.

“Our main focus is on the Gariahat crossing this year, because the road has been cut by half. We will have to place our barricades carefully to ensure smooth flow of traffic,” said Mukherjee.

“We have advised the organisers of the Singhi Park puja in Dover Lane to design their pandal in such a way that the idol is visible from the main road, which will help us control the crowds,” he added.

The police have also asked puja organisers in the Sealdah area, like Santosh Mitra Square and Sealdah Athletic Club, to “widen their entrance and exit points”. Traffic arrangements to control crowds and flow of vehicles during the Puja will come up for discussion at a meeting convened by police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty on Wednesday.

“During peak hours on any Puja evening, the crowd around the major pandals will be around 50,000 to 70,000. Near the Gariahat crossing, we have at least half-a-dozen major pandals. It will be very difficult to avoid chaos,” admitted a senior traffic official.

Apart from Ekdalia Evergreen, other south Calcutta pandals the traffic department is worried about include those at Hindustan Park, Triangular Park, Singhi Park, Adi Ballygunge, Babubagan, Jodhpur Park and Panchanantala. “We have widened a few key crossings in the Southern Avenue-Rashbehari Avenue area, keeping the completion of the Gariahat flyover in mind. These will help the police ensure a flow of traffic,” said Bibhas Kumar Sadhu, chief of the transportation planning and traffic engineering (TPTE) directorate.

According to statistics available, the flow of traffic along Gariahat Road is over 37,000 vehicles on an average weekday between 8 am and 8 pm. The figure is 32,000 on Deshapran Sashmal Road and 23,000 on Circus Avenue near Beckbagan.

“We have already sought additional forces to control traffic during the Pujas. The police commissioner is particularly concerned and will shortly unveil plans on how best to control Puja traffic and prevent the situation from spiralling out of control,” an official said.

Puja traffic planners said that the chaos around pandals will have a domino effect on all the surrounding areas.

So, special measures will also have to be taken on arterial roads like Chittaranjan Avenue, B.B. Ganguly Street, Vivekananda Road, College Street, Bidhan Sarani and Amherst Street in the north; Southern Avenue, Prince Anwar Shah Road, Ballygunge Circular Road, Broad Street, Bondel Road and the Kasba connector in the south.


Calcutta, Sept. 25: 
A 14-year-old, deaf-mute inmate of Liluah Home for Destitute Women died on Tuesday under mysterious circumstances. According to the home authorities, the girl died of a heart ailment, but the district administration said the cause is yet to be ascertained.

Sources said Reena, who had been at the home for the past year, had fallen ill on Tuesday. Along with high fever, she started suffering from respiratory trouble around 3.30 pm. She was rushed to Jaiswal Hospital, where the doctors pronounced her dead.

On hearing of Reena’s death, the home authorities informed Bally police station. Sunil Biswas, inspector-in-charge of Bally police station, said the girl died of a cardiac failure. Asked about the source of his information, he said: “The home authorities told me.”

Vivek Kumar, district magistrate, ordered an in-camera inquest. “The girl was brought here from Tarakeswar on July 2 last year. She was rescued by Tarakeswar police and the sub-divisional judicial magistrate of Chandannagore ordered that she be sent to safe custody at the Liluah home,” said Kumar.

He added: “The girl came with respiratory trouble. She fell ill and had to be hospitalised on August 29. The hospital authorities released the girl on September 6. But after returning to the home, Reena fell ill again.” Initially, Anupama Kar, the home’s medical attendant, treated Reena. “When her efforts did not yield results, the home authorities decided to hospitalise her,” added Kumar.

The district magistrate has asked M.N. Bishu, an official of the Howrah district administration, to supervise the inquest. The post-mortem will be conducted on Wednesday.

Reba Das, home superintendent, said nothing could be deduced until the post-mortem report arrived. “We realised her respiratory trouble a little late, as she was physically challenged,” she added.


Calcutta, Sept. 25: 
On Monday, Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee likened the plight of the evicted settlers along Tolly’s Nullah to that of the Afghan refugees. On Tuesday, the eve of the second phase of the eviction drive, she declared jihad on the government of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Before leaving for Delhi to apprise the Prime Minister and the home minister on the “brutalities unleashed by the Marxists”, Mamata gave her nod to a proposal by the Trinamul Youth Congress to raise a lakh-strong “commando force” to thwart the “evil designs” of the government.

“It will be a special force to respond to the party’s political exigencies, including the Tolly’s Nullah crisis, and confront the administration whenever necessary,” said Madan Mitra, Trinamul general secretary. “If the government continues to behave with us in an irresponsible manner, we need not be polite towards its ministers.”

In jargon now made familiar by American generals, Mamata instructed her party’s youth wing to “be prepared for a long-drawn battle... It now has to be a sustained stir,” she said. “So you know what to expect.”

The government responded with caution. Ignoring Mamata’s “call to arms”, state municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya said the Trinamul was misleading the people by spreading “baseless claims... We are following the ruling of the high court and we will compensate the rightful owners of land and property at the existing market rate,” he affirmed.

On Monday, the chief minister had made it clear that “resistance or no resistance”, the eviction drive would continue. He said the entire city could not suffer for the sake of “a few families”, and that the eviction would be held during the weekend so as not to disturb office-goers.

But at Tuesday’s meeting, Trinamul Youth Congress leaders raised the war pitch, praising Mamata for giving them the “go-ahead” to build a “special force of dedicated and committed young party workers who will be prepared to meet any eventuality.”

“They will be given special training to carry out the party’s agitational programmes and will be required to take spot decisions, in the event of communication problems,” Mitra told mediapersons after the meeting.

The Trinamul Youth Congress also decided to organise an anti-eviction padayatra from Garia to Naktala, in south Calcutta, on Friday and hold demonstrations all over the state on Saturday morning. Trinamul youth workers intend to gherao offices of sub-divisional police officers on October 1.


Calcutta, Sept. 25: 
Twelve people, including three policemen, were injured and two private buses damaged in separate incidents in the city on Tuesday.

Rival minibus union members fought a pitched battle on Diamond Harbour Road and later threw stones at the police when they tried to quell the violence. Trouble erupted between rival unions at the Behala minibus stand at Manton around 9 am. An argument over who would control the area soon turned into fisticuffs.

According to Citu members, local criminals Laloo, Mona, Tapan Chanda and others, armed with bombs, pipeguns and other weapons, arrived in two minibuses to pick up Dilip Chatterjee, leader of the Behala minibus union. When the Citu union resisted, a fight broke out. According to deputy superintendent of police, Subhankar Chatterjee, the police team that reached the spot first had to face the wrath of both the warring groups. Three policemen were injured in the stone-throwing.

Later, a reinforcement, led by Chatterjee, lathicharged the mob. A dozen people, including Laloo and Mona, were arrested. Arms and ammunition were also seized from the warring groups. Normalcy was restored at around 11 am.

In the second incident, traffic was disrupted from 11 am when tribals supporters under the banner of Adivasi Educational and Cultural Association started a march from Sealdah and Howrah stations towards Rani Rashmoni Road. The procession, through Strand Road, S.N. Banerjee Road and A.P.C. Road, caused a major traffic snarl at peak hour.

Trouble started at the intersection of Strand Road and Fairlie Place when the tribals found themselves caught in a traffic jam. They turned violent when they were not allowed to move. Armed with bows and arrows, they smashed the windscreen of a private bus. Later, they protested in front of Netaji’s statue and damaged another private bus. No arrests were made.


Calcutta, Sept. 25: 
A father and son were electrocuted while trying to save the mother in Howrah early on Tuesday.

Police said Lakshmi Mondol, a 45-year-old housewife of Salap Bar Bagan, in Howrah, received an electric shock while hanging clothes to dry on her second-floor terrace. The washing line had got entangled with an electric wire from an adjacent pole.

Lakshmi’s 55-year-old husband, Gokul, rushed to her aid. “He managed to free Lakshmi, but was electrocuted himself. The couple’s son, Sambhu, 21, rushed to help, but he, too, was electrocuted.

Neighbours called up the authorities to snap power supply and rushed Lakshmi to a local hospital, from where she was discharged after a few hours.

Trouble broke out later in the day, with angry residents blocking several roads and blaming the West Bengal State Electricity Board for not taking proper precautions or carrying out regular checks of power lines.


Calcutta, Sept. 25: 
“Chokher aloy dekhechhilem chokher bahirey, antare aaj dekhbo jokhon aloke nahire. (There was light in my eyes and I had seen the world without/ Today, with my light gone, I shall behold the one within.”)

He used to sing this Tagore song when he was alive. After death, his eyes are now helping two blind children see the world.

Dum Dum municipality chairman and Rabindrasangeet singer Sailen Das, who was shot dead at his doorstep, has given a four-year-old girl from Basirhat and a five-year-old boy from Rajarhat the gift of sight with the decision to donate his eyes.

Doctors of the Susrut Eye Foundation and Research Centre, in keeping with Das’ last wish, preserved his eyes soon after he was shot dead on August 13. Three weeks after his death, Mafiza from Basirhat and Santanu from Rajarhat — both completely blind — were given Das’ eyes.

“Though Das was old, the cornea of both eyes were in a good condition. As we found that both would function properly for many more years, we decided to transplant it on the minors,” said Susrut chairman S. Bagchi. “We here are proud to be associated with the effort which has enabled the two kids to see the world, and, most importantly, their parents.’’

Eye specialist Ratish Pal said the only consideration that doctors had in donation cases was the longevity of the donor’s cornea. “We do not consider any caste, religion or sex while transplanting cornea. We just see the age of the receiver. We do not disclose the name of the donor to the receiver. All I can confirm is that the cornea of Sailen Das have been transplanted on two little children and they have got back their eyesight,’’ Dr Pal said.

Mafiza was invited to a function held recently at Salt Lake, where Governor Viren J. Shah and other dignitaries were present. Mafiza, who had lost her sight when she was two years old, was welcoming guests with bouquets and a smile. Her father, a daily wage-earner, could not spend much for his daughter’s treatment, which was conducted at Basirhat state general hospital.

“I had all but given up hope to gift a ray of light to my daughter. The local doctors told me her sight would not be restored. Later, I came to Susrut and enlisted my daughter. After waiting for a few months, I got a call,’’ recalled Sahida Bibi, mother of Mafiza. “I shall never forget the moment when Mafiza held my hand and whispered, ‘Amma, I can see.’’’

Asked whether she knew who had gifted her daughter with sight, Sahida said: “I don’t, but whoever the person is, Allah will bless him.’’



AK-47s for Rapid Action Force

In a bid to launch effective counter-insurgency measures, the city police are equipping the Rapid Action Force (RAF) and the Commando units with AK-47 and self-loading rifles. Joint commissioner of armed police Raj Kanojia said 15 AK-47s and self-loading rifles are being provided to them. There are 120 commandos and 270 RAF personnel in the city police unit, who train with the National Security Guard at Manisher, in Haryana. They are specially trained for combat and counter-terrorist operations, police sources said. There are also plans to impart assault training to the commandos and the RAF at the police training institute in Calcutta.

Taxi hijack bid

Police foiled a bid to hijack a taxi in front of Victoria Memorial on Tuesday morning. OC, Hastings police station, Jayanta Saha said a police team which was on duty in front of the Memorial noticed five men assaulting the taxi driver. Three were arrested while two others fled the spot.

Court powerless

Work at the high court was hit by prolonged power cuts on Tuesday. The judges had to suspend proceedings around 2.30 pm for the day. Though power was restored an hour later, the court did not resume.

Rail roko

Members of Passengers Association of Sealdah South section will organise a rail roko on November 21 to press for their demand of 12-bogey local trains. Presently there are nine or 10 bogeys in trains plying on the section.

Bomb hoax

There was panic at the Indian Oil Corporation office at Dhakuria on Tuesday morning, following a hoax call threatening that the entire building would be blown up. The incident took place around 9 am. The 10-storeyed building was evacuated. Sniffer dogs from the Lalbazar bomb squad were deployed to conduct a thorough search of the building.

Channel off

ATN Bangla, a Bengali satellite channel with strong Bangladeshi content, has been blacked out of cable homes in the city and its suburbs from Monday night. Both the service providers in Calcutta, RPG Netcom and SitiCable, have switched off the signal of the channel “because of regulatory issues”. It is learnt the channel had violated the Cable Television Act by airing cigarette advertisements which are banned all over the country.

Criminal held

The Behala police arrested Bijli, a notorious criminal, and two associates from the Barabagan area on Tuesday. A huge cache of arms and ammunition was recovered from him. Bijli is wanted in five cases of dacoity.

Body found

An unidentified body with multiple injuries was recovered on VIP Road, at Teghoria, on Tuesday morning. According to the police, a youth had been repeatedly stabbed and his body left on the roadside.    

Calcutta, Sept. 25: 
The Calcutta University (CU) authorities have found a new way to raise funds for setting up a technology campus at Salt Lake. They are planning to sell a collection of 50 rare US stamps and first-day covers of the country, donated to the university in 1999 by a US-based NRI. He was a CU graduate.

The university is now negotiating with California-based philatelist, Satyen Das, to get his consent for selling the stamps. Das, however, has already donated nearly Rs 70 lakh to CU for creating a professor’s post, as well as for several development projects of CU.

“The stamps and the first-day covers donated by Das have antique value and we hope to earn a good amount by selling the stamps. They may fetch a sum as high as a crore,” said Hiran Kumar Banerjee, CU pro vice-chancellor, in charge of finance and business affairs.

In another measure to generate funds, CU has decided to sell two of its properties in the city.

The CU scheme to set up a separate technology campus at Salt Lake is aimed at introducing modern and job-oriented subjects under the technology faculty and also to shift the various technology departments to one campus.

The first-day covers were released from various US states. Sources said CU is looking for prospective buyers for the collection. “The stamps were lying at the university-run Ashutosh Museum on the College Street campus ever since Das donated them more than one-and-a-half-years ago,” said Joydeep Sil, estate and trust officer of the university.

The proposal to dispose off the stamps will soon be placed at the meeting of the university’s Syndicate for final approval.

“We plan to look for buyers abroad, as we expect to get a higher bid from them. We will sell the stamps only when we get prospective buyers,” said Sil.

The decision to sell the collection has been mooted as Das had expressed a desire to utilise the collection for the development of the university’s technology faculty.

The stamps are valuable and in order to preserve them proper security and safety has to be ensured.


Calcutta, Sept. 25: 
The civic health department is in a fix over a drive against fake mineral water, as all such manufacturing units are located beyond the jurisdiction of the Corporation.

The Central government had asked the CMC to take steps against manufacturers selling mineral water without certification from the Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS). Till now it required only a clearance under Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Rules, 1955, to produce and sell mineral water or pure water in PET bottles.

Since the stuff sold in the market was found not adhering to norms and the PFA Act, 1954, not stringent enough for standardisation of mineral water, the Centre made it mandatory from March 29 for the manufacturers to obtain BIS certification. They have been given a six-month deadline.

Member, mayor-in-council (health), Javed Ahmed Khan, said though several brands were sold in the market, none was produced within the city limits.

A solitary company operating in the city, too, preferred to shift to the municipal area in Madhyamgram two years ago, as the CMC food laboratory conducted a raid on its premises.

The market for mineral water in the city had been growing at a phenomenal rate, with a steady awareness against water-borne diseases. Even in social functions, caterers have started serving mineral water bottles.

“The city is a Rs 500-crore market for bottled drinking water,” Khan said. “The civic bodies sell bacteria-free water to commercial users at a paisa a litre, while the manufacturers sell water in bottles for Rs 10 a litre,” pointed out Khan.


Calcutta, Sept. 25: 
This is the story of Farzana, 26, from the heart of Calcutta. The eldest of three sisters and two brothers, she had a lot of aspirations as a high school student: graduation, a decent job, a good and understanding husband. Today, she is a widow, thrown out by her in-laws because she is HIV positive.

Her hopes dwindled after her father’s ill health and its effect on his tailoring business. By the time she crossed 20, her parents were desperate to marry her off. They engaged a professional matchmaker who, after offering three choices, came up with a well-placed and propertied young man from the city. “His parents wanted a quick marriage. Thinking I would be well off, my parents agreed. I was engaged in June 1997 and married off eight months later,” Farzana told this correspondent.

Farzana’s husband was the only son. His youngest sister was married off a year after her marriage, with funds from his garments business. A week later, in February 1999, Farzana’s father-in-law died of a heart attack, and their fortunes plummetted. Business was bad, compelling her mother-in-law to sell a flat in the Taltala area of central Calcutta.

But the worst was yet to come. Around mid-1999, Farzana’s husband, Mohd Sajid, began feeling unwell. “He started losing weight, had bouts of diarrhoea and became very irritable. I looked after him day and night, as much as I could,” she recalled, tears welling in her eyes. Then, all of a sudden, her face hardened. She blinked away her tears, and blurted out angrily: “They didn’t tell me anything till the day he died. He knew, his parents knew, and right from the negotiations stage to the marriage and for three years after that, they did not say a word.”

Sajid died of liver and several other complications on October 25 last year at SSKM Hospital. Doctors said the complications had occurred in the wake of AIDS.

In 1995, Sajid was in Mumbai on way to Dubai, where some relatives had invited him over to expand his business. One of the conditions for a visa was a test for HIV. Sajid’s blood was examined and found positive. “From the beginning, his family knew and they cheated me,” Farzana said. After his death, her mother-in-law and Sajid’s sisters asked her to leave, even blaming her for his death.

When doctors advised her to get a test done at Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine, she still held hope. “If the result was negative, my family would not demand any share of the property I am legally entitled to.” But that was not to be. The young woman, too, had the virus. “My in-laws offered just Rs 10,000 for my treatment, on the condition that I did not make any more demands. I refused. I am determined to get what I am entitled to, as Sajid’s wife.”

Now, she wants a job to be able to fight a legal battle against her in-laws. Also, she will soon need about Rs 1,800 a month for the AIDS medicines that will help her stay alive. But Farzana is determined. “Why should I suffer? What is my fault?” she asks.


Maintained by Web Development Company