Web-side story of found and lost
Salt Lake trips on safety gates
Boundary wall caves in, 2 dead
The City Diary
Bypass schemes go CMDA way
Polybags abound despite total ban
Varsity top brass shields probe-tainted employees
Capital beckons Bangla bands
Sur truth-finding mission to grill De
Buddha clean chit to Front chief whip

 
 
WEB-SIDE STORY OF FOUND AND LOST 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 8 : 
A 16-year-old girl from a Salt Lake neighbourhood has gone missing. Rashmi (not her real name) apparently disappeared after leaving her BC block home on Sunday with teenagers, three of whom she had befriended on the Net.

To unravel the ‘web-side story’ of friendship and deceit, the police have detained all four youths. But the school-going gang has failed to offer any plausible explanation about Rashmi’s disappearance, the police said on Monday.

Trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together, the police said a classmate of Rashmi had dropped in on Sunday afternoon and asked her to go out with some friends. Rashmi accompanied the girl, despite her mother insisting that she not leave home at that hour. “Rashmi left home with her classmate around 3 pm on Sunday after a tiff with her mother,” police confirmed.

Rashmi and her friend then met up with three boys she had struck up a friendship with on the Net. The three boys — two of whom are sons of city-based businessmen, while the other is a student of a reputed south-Calcutta school — and the girl — whose father owns a factory at Sodepur, in North 24-Parganas — were named in the FIR filed by Rashmi’s father.

All four claimed during interrogation that they had not seen Rashmi since Sunday. They admitted that they had all gone for a drive in a car belonging to one of the boys. When they reached the Park Circus-Eastern Metropolitan Bypass crossing, Rashmi “just got off and ran away”, after which they did not see her.

The four teenagers could not explain why they had not accompanied Rashmi home, especially since they were going to FD block in Salt Lake to drop off her classmate. Neither could they tell the police why she chose to get off at Park Circus nor where she was headed.

“Several questions remain unanswered,” a Bidhannagar (North) police official said. “They not only failed to tell us why the girl got off at Park Circus, but also could not tell us in which direction she ran off. Most of our queries have elicited very vague responses from the quartet. We will continue our interrogation till they give us proper leads.”

Salt Lake sub-divisional police officer Satyajit Banerjee said he would personally interrogate the detained teenagers. The boys have been kept in a lock-up but the girl has been allowed to stay in the duty officer’s room.

Rashmi’s father has alleged in his FIR that his daughter has been “kept somewhere in Park Circus”. She had lately been hooked on to the Internet and spent long hours chatting with new-found ‘friends’. That was how she met the three boys, her parents said. They admitted that of late, they had been receiving complaints about Rashmi’s behaviour in school. “We learnt from her schoolteachers that she was paying less attention to her studies,” admitted her father, a forest department official.

   

 
 
SALT LAKE TRIPS ON SAFETY GATES 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, Oct. 8 : 
Fortress Salt Lake. Arguments for: Unchecked crime and insecure residents. Arguments against: Perceived charges of “elitism” and “snobbery” against the township, which is home to an ex-chief minister, several ministers and senior bureaucrats and police officials.

A proposal by residents of CG block, fed up with the steady stream of burglaries, to turn a part of the elite township into a fortress has been blocked by Bidhannagar Municipality. The reason: The residents’ plans are, apparently, too “snobbish”.

The plan was submitted to the municipality for approval last August, but it was only last week that residents went and met municipality chairman Dilip Gupta. They informed him of their plans to erect iron gates at nine entry points to the block, with inter-connected telephone lines, and insisted that their venture would be followed by most of the other 61 blocks, once it cleared the administrative hurdle.

Gupta, however, put paid to the residents’ self-security plans. The municipality would not allow any construction of private gates on public land, he told the CG-block residents outright.

“Every other block will want to erect similar gates if we approve CG block’s plans,” Gupta said on Monday. “As it is, we residents of Salt Lake have earned ourselves a bad name because of, what others feel is, our snobbery. We have a tendency to feel we are different and I don’t think it is right,” he added.

Residents of CG block, the first to approach the municipality with the idea that has been successfully implemented in New Delhi enclaves like Greater Kailash, say they were giving voice to the entire township’s concern over lawlessness. The proposal was simple. The block would be ringed in with nine iron gates of varying sizes. Each gate will be closed from 10 in the night to 6 in the morning, with security staff armed with phones.

“From 10 pm to 6 am, anyone wanting to enter the block will be stopped at the gates,” said former secretary of the block welfare association Rathin Datta. “If the system is replicated in each block, Salt Lake will be a safer place to live in.” The gates will have to be installed with the association’s funds and by roping in sponsors, while residents will pay for maintenance of the security infrastructure.

Residents are, understandably, miffed with the municipal authorities’ response. Several Salt Lake areas, especially those near the Keshtopur canal, the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass and the Green Verge running through the elite township, are crime-prone, they say. Crime ranges from snatchings to stealing audio systems in dimly-lit lanes, admit Salt Lake police officials, explaining that the department is “severely understaffed”.

   

 
 
BOUNDARY WALL CAVES IN, 2 DEAD 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 8 : 
An engineer and a supervisor of a construction company were killed after the boundary wall of a highrise under construction collapsed in Umakanta Sen Lane, in Chitpur, on Monday. The wall collapsed in the morning when a lorry laden with stone chips dashed against it.

The victims were taken to R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital, where they succumbed to their injuries. The lorry driver was later arrested. The building’s contractor and promoter are absconding.

Deben Biswas, security guard, said: “It was around 8.30 am. Engineer Sujit Banerjee, 35, and supervisorAsmat Sheikh, 70, were on their inspection rounds. The lorry driver failed to negotiate a gate and hit the wall. Both Banerjee and Asmat were standing beside the wall, which collapsed on them.”

According to Biswas, the labourers tried to help the trapped duo but they died on way to hospital. The wall has collapsed more than thrice in the past year-and-a half, ever since construction started. “The approach road is in such a bad shape that accidents are just waiting to happen,” said Chandan Pandey, a local resident.

“We have told the promoter to repair the wall many a time, but he has paid no heed. Banerjee, a local resident, was a brilliant engineer. When the news spread, we neighbours were too shocked to react,” Pandey added.

Banerjee’s sister Mithu lamented: “Only eight months ago, I lost my father, and now I have lost him, too.”

S.P. Roy, officer-in-charge of Chitpur police station, said: “We are on the lookout for the contractor and the promoter.”

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Gunfire in Hazra showroom

Four armed miscreants on Monday barged into a car showroom on Hazra Road and attempted to shoot the owner, Anil Banka. Police said two youths entered the showroom, while another two stood guard near the entrance. Witnesses said the men asked for money and inquired about the owner. “Our owner was sitting outside when they fired at another man by mistake. The bullet missed him and smashed a glass window,” one of the employees told the police. Six months ago, in a similar incident, armed extortionists hurled bombs in front of the showroom. No one has been arrested so far.

Suicides

A 26-year-old housewife, Kaberi Bhattacharya, committed suicide at Baguiati early on Monday. Police said Kaberi was depressive. On Sunday night, when her husband was not home, she poured kerosene on herself. She was taken to SSKM Hospital, where she died. Another housewife, Lakshmirani Pal, 36, hanged herself at Netaji Nagar, in North 24-Parganas, on Monday. Police said the cause of suicide could not be ascertained.

CPT man drowns

A 31-year-old employee of Calcutta Port Trust (CPT) drowned in the reservoir of the Calcutta port. Police said Suresh Rajbhar, the CPT pumpman, fell into the water when he went to switch off the pump near lockgate 3. He was rushed to SSKM Hospital, where the doctors pronounced him dead.

Hurt in explosion

A 30-year-old man was seriously injured when a bomb exploded in a shanty on D.C. Dey Road, in the Tangra police station area, on Monday morning. The roof of the toilet was also damaged. No arrest has been made.

Tutor arrested

A private tutor, Arun Mazumdar, was arrested for allegedly molesting a student of Class VI at Thakurnagar, in North 24-Parganas, on Monday. Police said the girl was molested when she went to his house for tuitions.

Water sports

Around 80 children, aged between four and 10, participated in a swimming competition in a North Barrackpore Municipality pool, organised by Monirampur Swimming Training Centre. Veteran swimmer Pradip Mukhopadhyay supervised the programme. Harikrishna Dwibedi, district magistrate of North 24-Parganas, inaugurated the competition.

Train services hit

Train services were disrupted on the Sealdah Main section following a blockade by passengers at Chakdah, in Nadia district, demanding that a railway overbridge be repaired on Monday. The agitation continued for more than five hours from 9 am. Eastern Railway sources said a notice had already been issued that the bridge would be closed for repairs.

Power protest

About 300 Trinamul Congress workers demonstrated in front of the State Electrictiy Board office at Bansdroni on Monday, protesting power cuts.    

 
 
BYPASS SCHEMES GO CMDA WAY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 8 : 
As the Trinamul Congress-run Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) is increasingly failing to manage civic amenities, the ruling CPM has promoted the CMDA as a parallel body to the CMC.

According to the CPM, the civic body has stopped co-operating with Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government over city development schemes.

On Monday, officials said the Leftists’ overwhelming success in Sunday’s election to the newly-constituted Calcutta Metropolitan Planning Committee, India’s first urban development-monitoring umbrella body, has also contributed to the acceleration of the move.

Working as a parallel body, the CMDA will oversee road repairs, conservancy, water supply, drainage and sewerage services — areas the CMC has been neglecting so far, despite several reminders from the government, according to the CPM.

Recently, representatives of a flat-owners’ associations in the upcoming urban agglomeration on either side of the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass met the chairman of CMDA’s central tender committee, Sudhanshu Sil, with a request to construct roads and lay drainage lines in the area.

They told the CMDA that the CMC had turned a blind eye to their problem, despite requests that they had been subjected to higher tax burden than areas such as Behala and Jadavpur.

They also alleged that neither the state housing department nor the CMC took an interest in developing civic infrastructure in the area before constructing the flats. Sil said the CMDA has now decided to take up the construction of roads in the area.

He said the CMDA was also contemplating a proposal to develop the area between the Bypass and the railway track of Sealdah South section. Kasba, Dhakuria, Picnic Garden, Tiljala and Topsia were included in the area.

According to mayor Subrata Mukherjee, it would be better to lay stress on the development of civic amenities in these areas than to invest tax-payers’ money for schemes in Behala, Jadavpur and Garden Reach.

The objective of taking care of less-developed core area of the city-proper, thought Mukherjee, was that residents there paid taxes to the CMC at the same rate as those in city proper, which house-owners in the added areas did not.

Moreover, as the newly-formed Calcutta Metropolitan Planning Committee is likely to give the CMDA an upper hand, the development agency has started re-structuring its wings, CMC style.

Sil said a comprehensive civic infrastructure development scheme –Vision 2025- for the Calcutta Metropolitan Area (CMA) — was on the anvil and the CMPC would give it final touches before asking the CMDA to implement it. The objective of the scheme will be to prepare the area to cushion the projected boom in population.

   

 
 
POLYBAGS ABOUND DESPITE TOTAL BAN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 8 : 
In spite of the ban on plastic carrybags, recent surveys have revealed that 500,000 such bags are used every month in the Hatibagan area of north Calcutta alone. A double the number is used in Digha.

The West Bengal Pollution Control Board and NGOs such as the Society for Direct Initiative for Social and Health Action (Disha) have started initiatives to make the public switch over to alternatives, like cloth, paper, jute or nylon bags.

“Polybags have become a way of life with us,” pointed out Sasanka Dev, secretary of Disha. “They are light, cheap, durable and waterproof, which is why their use has spread so extensively,” he said, speaking at a citizens’ meet on Friday.

“But, unknown to most, these bags are doing more harm than good. They are not bio-degradable. They contaminate the food that they carry, especially if the bags are coloured. They cause animals to choke while eating grass, and they clog drains. They even cause landslides and spoil the soil.”

On September 5, the environment department announced three major directives that would lead to a total ban on the use of polybags.

The first was a ban on the use of plastic carrybags from September 15 in Darjeeling, the Sunderbans, and coastal areas like Digha, Sankarpur, Sagar Island and Bakkhali.

The department also banned the use of coloured plastic bags that were less than 20 microns thick (1 mm is 100 microns) in Calcutta and Bidhannagar from September 15. A total ban on all types of plastic carrybags less than 20 microns would come into effect throughout the state from December 1 this year.

The citizens’ meet, organised by Disha and other NGOs, noted that polybags continued to be used in the ecologically-sensitive areas and in Calcutta. It asked the government to be strict in implementing the directives.

The meeting suggested that the authorities impose more taxes, so that manufacturers reduced plastic bag production. At the same time, production of jute and cloth bags should be encouraged, it suggested.

Pollution Control Board (PCB) officer Dhrubajyoti Ghosh pointed out that the public could lodge complaints at the PCB (358-0663; 334-5975) or with the officer-in-charge of the police station concerned. “Violation of the ban can entail a jail term of up to five years,” he said.

   

 
 
VARSITY TOP BRASS SHIELDS PROBE-TAINTED EMPLOYEES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 8 : 
Calcutta University on Monday rejected an inquiry committee recommendation for punishment against two influential members of its employees’ union, affiliated to the CPM.

The university authorities also made a move to set up a new committee to repeat the inquiry, at the tax-payer’s expense, to ‘protect the duo’ from further investigation, sources said.

A one-man inquiry committee of B.K. Basu, a senior teacher of the commerce department, had found two employees guilty of breaking open the doors of a room in the university, when all its offices were closed for the Puja holidays last year. The inquiry report was placed before the university’s Syndicate last Thursday.

After a case had been registered with the local police station, the police, too, had started a separate inquiry.

The Syndicate, dominated by CPM members, dismissed the recommendations of the B.K. Basu committee and called for the installation of a new three-member panel to conduct a fresh probe into the allegations against the duo.

“The police inquiry threw up a lot of additional information, which does not tally with the B.K. Basu report. This is why the Syndicate has recommended further probe,” said Shyamapada Pal, a senior member of the Syndicate.

The three-member panel will now take the views of both the inquiry committees into consideration and conduct a fresh probe. The university will take a final decision after the new committee submits its report.

The university authorities had ordered the first inquiry last year, after anti-CPM staff members had threatened an agitation, demanding action against the culprits.

Preliminary investigations revealed that the two employees had broken the locked doors of the office and opened an iron chest, in which several important documents had been kept.

Even though the documents were intact, the scattered files revealed that the culprits were looking for some vital information.

However, anti-CPM organisations of the non-teaching employees of the university came down heavily against the present decision of the Syndicate.

   

 
 
CAPITAL BECKONS BANGLA BANDS 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, Oct. 8 : 
They’ve made it to the music mainstream this year, performing at college gigs and corporate shows, street corners and Science City auditorium. But Bangla rock won’t set too many city pandals on fire this Pujas. Even as a slew of releases is planned for the festival season, many of the Bangla bands are ready to head out of town for gigs at “greener pastures” during the four Puja days.

With Bengalis settled out of Calcutta craving for a sampling of the sound which has been ruling the airwaves at music stores of late, the Bangla brigade is keen to cash in.

Delhi is destination number one, with a number of groups lining up concerts in Chittaranjan Park and elsewhere. Among those capital-bound this year are Cactus, which bagged the best Bangla band award at the Chancellor Anandalok Awards Nite 2001 on Saturday, and Chandrabindu, which has created quite a stir with their new album Chaw. “We first did a show in Delhi in 1996, even before our first album Aar Jani Na was released,” recalls Anindya, lyricist and singer of Chandrabindu. The group has committed to six gigs in the capital this time, two every evening, with Bhopal being another stop on the autumn tour.

Does it pay to pack up and hit the road to thrill Dillir Bangalis? “Sure, we make more money there. As opposed to around Rs 20,000 a gig here in Calcutta, the Delhi shows have been sealed at Rs 30,000 per concert and we don’t have to carry our own sound and lights, which gives us a neat package,” adds Anindya.

Cactus’ Shibaji stresses the business sense of moving out of Calcutta for the Pujas. The band, which played to a full house in Jaipur last Pujas, plans to do six gigs in Delhi this year. “On an average, the returns there are about one-and-a-half times more than in Calcutta and because of the number of shows one can do there, it makes more sense,” he says.

What about the para Pujas in Calcutta? “Yes, there were some proposals from local organisers, but we opted for Delhi as we can do more shows there. The traffic congestion in Calcutta during the Pujas makes it impossible to ferry our stuff from one destination to another,” Shibaji explains.

Paras Pathar was planning to hit Delhi, Bangalore and Dehra Dun, but is now having a rethink thanks to the hectic schedule this month (they have 12 gigs lined up). “Last year, we played to packed audiences at the Mela Grounds, Chittaranjan Park, GK II and the Noida Kalibari. This year, too, we are booked to play at the Pocket 40 Puja in Chittaranjan Park,” says Subesh Ray, who manages Paras Pathar. The band, which has offers to play at Northern Park, Mohammad Ali Park and Maddox Square in the city, might still consider staying back. “If that happens, it will purely be because of the fatigue factor. But we will miss big money as the Bangalore stop alone would have raked in Rs 65,000,” says Subesh.

Bhoomi, however, will be home for the Pujas. “We had enquiries from Delhi, but the offers were not attractive enough to push us out of town. We will perform in Golf Green, Jadavpur and Salt Lake instead,” says the folk band’s Surajit.

   

 
 
SUR TRUTH-FINDING MISSION TO GRILL DE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 8: 

Isolated leader rides storm with bold face

For Lakshmi De, it’s a near repeat of 1993. Eight years ago, a CPM truth committee probed his links with jailed crime-lord Rashid Khan. The Left Front chief whip finds himself in a spot once again as yet another committee will have a go at him.

A day after CPM supporters ran amok in the state run Medical College and Hospital and assaulted superintendent Sachchidanda Sinha, the party asked former health minister Prasanta Sur to ascertain whether De had actually provoked the vandalism.

Announcing the decision to set up a one-man committee to investigate the matter, state CPM secretary Anil Biswas said Sur had been asked to report to the state secretariat within a week.

“We have doubts about the veracity of reports which say De was involved in the incident. So, there is no question of our asking the police to arrest him just because he has been named in the FIR. It is not for me to say why the police, on their own, are not arresting him. We will move only after getting a report from our committee. But, if you must know, Trinamul Congress supporters were involved in the incident as well,” the CPM secretary said.

Though Biswas kept his chin up, away from public gaze, the CPM leaders in their party headquarters and senior ministers in Writers’ Buildings were on the edge as the De affair raged through the day, thanks to the way the Congress and the Trinamul sought to gain mileage out of it.

De, however, tried to ride out the storm by acting normal. “I am not going to move for an anticipatory bail because I have not done anything wrong. I am going to submit my report to the party shortly,” De told The Telegraph.

He added that he had not shied away from the fact-finding committee that his party had set up eight years ago.

In 1993, the inquiry committee had indicted De for his association with Rashid Khan on the basis of which the CPM had suspended him.

The mood in the Calcutta District Committee – of which De is a member – turned black as most of the members appeared to be turning their collective back on him. Only a few faithful remained by his side. Like De, truth-finder Sur is also member of the CDC.

The decision to give Sur the responsibility of the inquiry was taken in a stormy secretariat meeting during the day.

Raghunath Kushary, secretary of the CDC, Haridas Malakar and Aloke Majumder – two secretariat members of the CDC – today met state party leaders, including Biswas and Left Front chairman Biman Bose, and briefed them about the incident.

The CDC leaders are believed to have admitted the fact that De was indeed present at the Medical College at the time of the incident. But they were unsure about De’s reported involvement in programming the assault on the superintendent.

It is learnt that CDC leaders originally wanted to assign the responsibility of inquiry to Aloke Majumder. But the state leaders shot down the proposal because of the known rivalry between De and Majumder. Later, the task fell on Sur.

Three persons arrested in connection with the assault of the superintendent — Sankar Prasad, Sambhu Prasad and Rajendra Prasad – were produced before chief metropolitan magistrate Samir Kumar Neogy in Bankshall court. All the three accused were granted bail by the magistrate.

The police, however, did not arrest De — another FIR-named person. De spent most of his time at the state Assembly during the day and attended a mock assembly session in which school students took part.

   

 
 
BUDDHA CLEAN CHIT TO FRONT CHIEF WHIP 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, Oct. 8: 
A series of protests and threats to halt work at city hospitals marked the day after Calcutta Medical College and Hospital superintendent Sachchidananda Sinha and his son were assaulted, allegedly by CPM supporters led by Front chief whip Lakshmi De.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today gave De a clean chit, saying he was not involved in the heckling and beating up of Sinha and his son.

The chief minister also reaffirmed that his government would not tolerate any opposition to the current clean-up drive in state hospitals. Bhattacharjee said he had reassured Sinha that “all assistance would be extended to him” so that he could function properly.

“The eviction drive will continue tomorrow. I have instructed the police to see that the operation is carried out without any incident,” Bhattacharjee said. He added that three persons have been arrested after yesterday’s assault and “more culprits would be rounded up soon”.

But this assurance failed to appease Trinamul Congress MLA Paresh Pal, who barged into the chief minister’s secretariat and then squatted outside his room, demanding the arrest of all those who have been named in the FIR. The Maniktala legislator was bodily lifted from the corridor and taken to Lalbazar.

The chief minister was not present when this incident happened around 1.20 p.m.

Chhatra Parishad activists blocked College Street outside the main gate of Calcutta Medical College between 1.50 and 2.50 pm protesting against yesterday’s assault and police inaction.

They, too, demanded the arrest of those named in the FIR, specifically chief whip De who had “masterminded the attack”.

Sinha and his son Rupak were seriously injured yesterday when a group of CPM activists beat them up in retaliation to the removal of illegal occupants from the hospital premises on Saturday.

The police, the victims claimed, reached the spot much later, though an outpost is situated just 100 metres from the superintendent’s quarters, where the incident took place.

Rebel Trinamul Congress leader Ajit Panja visited the Sinha family and assured them “all possible help”. He gave an ultimatum to the government till 12 noon on Friday to arrest De. Panja, however, could not meet Sinha, as he was called to Writers’ Buildings.

“It is strange that the chief whip of the government which had recently realised that hospitals should be kept clean and initiated a drive against unauthorised structures, had masterminded an attack on the superintendent,” Panja later said.

The chief minister, however, said De had gone to the hospital as he had “promised four hospital staff that he would take up their plea to postpone the removal of their shanties”.

“De told me that when he arrived at the hospital, the situation was already chaotic,” Bhattacharjee said, adding that, “he left the place after he realised that he could not tackle the situation himself. I can assure you that he did not go there to foment trouble.”

The superintendents of the four teaching hospitals in Calcutta met minister of state for health Pratyush Mukherjee and department secretary Asim Burman this afternoon.

They said they would continue to implement the measures against encroachers and illegal structures. Sinha said they would jointly urge the government to provide security to the hospital staff.

   
 

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