Ringed for rapid transit
Fallen soldier’s head retrieved
Go by the pulse, for patient’s sake
High spirits over bar bonanza
The City Diary
Heroin haul follows arrest of trio
Persian miniatures in historic house
Mamata backs hospital protest
Fire sparks panic in Colootola
Buddha, Mamata in exodus war cry

Calcutta, Nov. 2: 

400-km circular roads to take load off city hub

Number of vehicles plying in Calcutta and its adjoining areas in 2001: One million.

Number of vehicles expected to ply in Calcutta and its adjoining areas in 2025: Three million.

In a quarter of a century, a traffic planner’s nightmare is about to unfold and travelling may become a hazardous task. Keeping this in mind, city planners put their heads together recently and drew up a masterplan for traffic and transportation in the Calcutta Metropolitan Area (CMA), which factors in both the growth in traffic as well as in population.

The highlight of the plan, which the state government is set to implement: Two ring roads around Calcutta which will handle the increased flow of traffic and ease the pressure on the core of the city .

According to state urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya, the inner ring road will encircle the CMA, stretching from Kalyani in the north to Baruipur in the south, and Barasat in the east to Hooghly in the west.

The outer ring road, nearly 100 km away from the core of Calcutta, will connect the districts in a rough circle around the city.

Bhattacharya said the ring road schemes formed part of a Rs-16,000-crore traffic and transportation masterplan of the CMA and would shortly be placed before the newly-formed Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC). Bhattacharya is vice-chairman of the MPC, which comprises both state and Central agencies, like the PWD, CPWD, CMDA and the National Highway Authority.

Short stretches will have to be constructed to link portions of existing roads to complete the circles around the city. The minister said that an additional 66-km of roads would have to be constructed to complete the rings.

In all, the two rings together will stretch to over 400 km and ease traffic pressure within a radius of 50 km to 70 km of the city.

“We know that in 25 years, Calcutta will be bursting at the seams. So, we have decided to draw up plans in advance,” Bhattacharya said. It has been estimated that 1.2 million persons enter and leave the CMA by road and train daily. With the increase in population in the areas adjoining the CMA, this figure is expected to touch the two-million mark by 2025.

The ring roads scheme is expected to have a trigger effect of encouraging urbanisation away from the city by developing road infrastructure. “As a result of the new road constructions, we hope to build growth centres about 50 km from Calcutta, which can be developed to function as satellite growth centres of the city,” a CMDA official said.

The downstream industries of Haldia Petrochemicals will also benefit directly from the ring roads scheme, officials said.

“From now, we will carry out all development work in the CMA and other areas keeping the next 25 years in mind. We are already late in our endeavour. But it is better late than never,” they added.

Officials of the CMDA, the principal agency which will carry out the work on the inner ring road, said that the idea was basically borrowed from Delhi and the way in which it had developed its road links with Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

“Outside the 1,800-sq-km CMA, there are towns like Burdwan, Kalna, Kharagpur, Midnapore, Shantipur and Arambagh, which are emerging as new growth centres. We will be able connect these places better with the ring roads,” an official said.

Bhattacharya said the government had already agreed to the proposal and the modalities would be worked out after the meeting of the MPC, at which details of the construction would be finalised.


Calcutta, Nov. 2: 
Destroyed on Thursday morning; retrieved on Friday afternoon; to be restored in the near future. The saga of the Cenotaph soldier, knocked off its pedestal by a speeding bus early on Thursday, moved towards a not-so-sad ending by Friday evening.

The police recovered the missing head and rifle of the soldier from a dry ditch on the Maidan. According to deputy commissioner of police, headquarters, Banibrata Basu, two youths had stolen the cemented head and rifle and were planning to sell them on Friday. A CTC bus had rammed into the war memorial at 3.50 am on Thursday, destroying the cemented soldier of the Cenotaph. The Cenotaph was built by the British in memory of World War I martyrs.

Rabi Das, 25, a ragpicker, who doubles as a rickshaw-puller in the evenings, was loitering in the Maidan at 4.30 am on Thursday when he noticed rubble near the Cenotaph. He found the cemented head and the rifle in the rubble. Hiding the rifle in a dry ditch behind Mohammedan Sporting ground, he took the head home near Poddar Court, half a kilometre from the Lalbazar police headquarters.

Officer-in-charge of burglary section Z. Rehman and his men kept a night-long vigil near the Maidan. Rehman detained a dozen youths who were roaming aimlessly in the area early on Friday. One of the detained youths mentioned the name of a central Calcutta trader, who deals in stolen goods. The youth told the police that he often sold his stolen articles to this particular person.

Rehman got in touch with the trader and asked him whether anybody had approached him with “the head of a statue”. The trader mentioned that Sheikh Pappu, a rickshaw-puller near Poddar Court, had come to his house on Friday morning with the intention of selling the cemented head and the rifle.

Pappu had told the trader that he would get back to him with the goods in the afternoon. Rehman laid a trap and arrested Pappu as soon as he arrived. Investigation revealed that Das had passed on the stuff to Pappu for sale.

The recovered goods were brought to Lalbazar and kept in the detective department building. Das and Pappu were remanded in police custody. The government said it will have the statue re-installed at the same spot.


Calcutta, Nov. 2: 
How many times have you felt dissatisfied when a doctor, without examining you properly, asks you to go in for a series of diagnostic tests on the basis of the complaints you have narrated? Often, if not always, is the pet patient peeve.

The trend of bypassing a proper clinical or physical examination and relying almost entirely on test reports is on the rise. This has prompted a national annual conference to focus on the need for doctors to restore faith in clinical, rather than laboratory, findings.

One of the main objectives of the ninth annual conference of the Indian Academy of Clinical Medicine, inaugurated by Governor Viren J. Shah on Thursday, is to “promulgate the apparently vanishing art of clinical medicine in an era of hi-tech instrumentation and imaging techniques”.

The Academy is a body of medical specialists dedicated to propagate the importance of clinical medicine “at a time when technology is threatening to overwhelm every field of medical practice”, with a battery of sophisticated X-rays, USGs, CT scans, MRIs and even nuclear medicine-aided diagnostics.

“Till the late Seventies, general physicians and specialists depended mainly on the stethoscope for diagnosis. Today, doctors seem to be completely dependent on machines. This can sometimes be harmful for the patients,” observed Dr Subir Saha, one of the joint secretaries of the three-day conference.

“One of the reasons for doctors turning to tests is that if something goes wrong, the laboratory can be produced in support of a diagnosis, either in court or at the Consumer Redressal Forum,” pointed out Saha.

The conference, being organised by the Bengal chapter of the Academy, will make an attempt to “encourage clinical medicine” among the 300-odd participants in “a disciplined and scientific manner”. Most of the delegates, converging from all over the country, are post-graduate doctors who have “super-specialised” in various fields of medicine.

“It must be remembered that diagnostics always supplement clinical findings, because of which a doctor’s clinical knowledge must always be sound,” pointed out conference organising secretary Madhuchanda Kar.

Sophisticated, state-of-the-art instruments and machinery are undoubtedly an advantage, but the tests may not always provide “a complete or foolproof picture”, she warned.

After the Governor urged doctors to “feel the pulse” of the people, conference organising chairman Sukumar Mukherjee said: “Clinical medicine is the solid foundation from which all high technicalities spring up and are sustained. Even today, 60 per cent of the population has to be entirely treated on a clinical basis… A strong clinical foundation gives an insight into the diagnosis and management of diseases.”


Calcutta, Nov. 2: 
Three cheers for the excise department, hic, hic, hurrah!

That’s as close as it comes to a shout in Salt Lake, with the state government granting licences to three bars in the township and its adjacent areas.

Till recently, Salt Lake, a hub of VVIPs, had only two bars — one in the Udayachal tourist lodge (popularly known as Mishra’s) and the other at the Charnock City complex. In the past few months, another two bars have been uncorked, one in DD Block of Sector I and the other in Sector V. Now, with three more given the go-ahead, Salt Lake is set to go wet with a vengeance.

Sources in the excise department said seven restaurants in Salt Lake have applied for bar licences, but permits have been granted to three, for now.

“Requests for bar licences in Salt Lake had been pending with us for quite some time,” said an excise department official. “So we thought it only fair that residents of the area should not have to run to Calcutta to get to a bar.”

Dilip Gupta, chairman, Salt Lake municipality, welcomed the move. “There’s nothing wrong with this trend. The area may be small, but so many VVIPs live here. Aami tader tulsi pata-dhoa jol khete bolte pari na (I can’t ask them to drink tulsi leaf-washed water). Also, how can restaurants in the area run without a liquor licence?” Gupta asked on Friday.

But the free flow may not be so smooth, after all. Trinamul Congress, the main opposition party in the Salt Lake municipality, has already started chalking out protest plans. “The government issued a permit to athlete Jyotirmoyee Sikdar’s husband to open a bar in a section of Sector V which is a residential area. This sends out a wrong signal to families, especially children, living here,” said local Trinamul leader Chameli Naskar.

Anupam Dutta, leader of the Opposition in the Salt Lake municipality, added that Trinamul’s Dum Dum MLA Arunava Ghosh has already filed a petition before the high court, challenging the excise department’s decision to grant a permit to a bar in Sector V. “We’re sure that justice will prevail once the court opens after the Puja recess,” Dutta said, alleging that “no sensible person can accept the opening of bars in a residential area with a couple of schools close by.

Vice-chairman of the municipality, Justice (retd) Sudhangshu Shekhar Ganguly, however, claimed that he was not aware of any hue and cry over “a few bars” coming up in the township. “This matter hasn’t even been mentioned or discussed in the municipality,” he said. “Frankly, I don’t think it’s a major issue. But we are in a position to tackle any problem that may arise out of the excise department’s decision to grant liquor licences in Salt Lake.”



Ballygunge bank robbed of 4.5 lakh

Miscreants looted Rs 4.5 lakh from the Ballygunge branch of Punjab National Bank on Friday afternoon. Police said four cellphone-toting youth entered the bank. They dialled the branch’s telephone number from their mobile and asked for the cashier. When she left her seat to take the call, one of them picked up the cash box. Before she could return, another youth engaged her in conversation, asking for directions to the Gariahat branch of the bank. Meanwhile, others escaped with the cash box. The cashier returned to her seat to find the cash box missing. The detective department is investigating the case.

Fake godman held for fraud

A 55-year-old sadhu was arrested from Prince Ghulam Mohammed Shah Road on Thursday for cheating a travel agent. Police said the sadhu, who identified himself as Amritanandaji Maharaj, alias Murarimohan Chakraborty, hired an air-conditioned car from October 15 to 31, but did not pay for it. The travel agent, Pannalal Das, repeatedly requested him to pay up, but the sadhu did not. Das lodged a complaint with the Jadavpur police and subsequently, the sadhu was arrested and remanded in custody till November 13.

Milk-drinking hoax

There were queues in front of a number of temples in north Calcutta till Friday morning as word spread that Goddess Parvati was drinking milk offered by devotees. This turned out to be a hoax. Officer-in-charge of Jorasanko police station said policemen were on patrol in front of the temples throughout the night to prevent any untoward incident.

Post office as PCO

The city post offices will start functioning as public call offices (PCO) from Saturday, according to Union communication minister Pramod Mahajan. The PCOs will have STD, ISD and e-mail facilities. Mahajan also said that Calcutta Telephones would start its cellular services from Diwali. The minister was addressing a parliamentary committee meeting on Friday.

Maps on CD

Union minister for culture Maneka Gandhi on Friday released a compact disc, containing 1,000 17th and 18th Century maps and sketches. According to Ghulam Nabi, a senior official of Victoria Memorial, the disc will soon be available at leading bookstores.

Train services hit

Train services on the Sealdah South section of Eastern Railway were affected on Friday morning, after banana leaves were thrown on the overhead wires on the Baruipur – Lakshmikantapur section. Railway sources said four pairs of trains had to be cancelled.

Puja decibel penalty

Police have prosecuted eight puja committees for using loudspeakers above the permitted decibel level, superintendent of police, South 24 Parganas, D.K. Ganguly, said. The loudspeakers were also seized. Fifty-one persons were arrested for forcible collection of subscriptions before Durga Puja.

Three injured

Three flower vendors were injured when a portion of a pillar of Howrah bridge collapsed on Friday morning. Police said a lorry rammed into the pillar. They were taken to SSKM Hospital. The driver fled with the vehicle.    

Calcutta, Nov. 2: 
In a special raid at Sonarpur, on the southern fringes of the city, the police seized 460 g of heroin, worth about Rs 46 lakh. Three people were arrested in this connection and more arrests are likely. All the arrested youths are in their twenties.

On Thursday, following a tip-off, a police team led by Sahabul Hossain, inspector-in-charge of Sonarpur police-station, raided a hideout in Laskarpur, from where the three were arrested. The trio had reportedly been dealing in drugs for quite some time.

Rajesh Kumar Singh, additional superintendent of police, said residents of the area had been complaining of the drug menace for a long time. The trio was reportedly luring teenagers into taking drugs.

Following a clue, the police raided a house at Laskarpur and arrested the trio. They are now looking for the other gang members, who had managed to escape during the raids. The police are also looking out for the kingpin of the organisation.

Singh said: “It is one of the biggest hauls in the recent past. We have just arrested the last member of the chain. In the international market, the value of the seized quantity will be about Rs 46 lakh. Now, we will send the consignment to the forensic laboratory for chemical tests. We are also investigating how heroin is smuggled into the area.”

Singh said that both land and water routes have to be carefully manned and police personnel increased, since criminals usually escape by the water routes.

Peddlars have become active in the Garia, Narendrapur, Sonarpur, Subhasgram, Mullickpur and Baruipur areas, a policeman said. It is possible that heroin comes from Canning and Ghutiarisharif through the riverine areas like Gosaba, Kultali, Basanti and other places, he added.

Singh said: “The officers who participated in Thursday night’s raid will be rewarded to inspire them to better work.”


Calcutta, Nov. 2: 
There is a buzz of excitement in the air, in and around the villages of Guptipara, about an hour’s drive from Bandel towards Nabadwip. The Sens of Guptipara, who boast of the oldest barowari Durga Pujas, have stumbled upon a rare archaeological discovery which could well be just the tip of the iceberg, feel experts.

While the famous thakurdalan was being renovated for the pujas a month back, members of the Sen family found a series of miniature carvings with designs which have a Persian touch.

“The carvings are about two to two-and-a-half inches diagonally and are very ornate,” says Shaktibrata Sen, one of the descendants of Maheshwara Sen, who was believed to have attained enlightenment through the Panchamundi Asan in the 15th or 16th Century and started the tradition of the Guptipara Sens.

The house of the Sens, which had been exposed to diverse cultural and historical influences over the centuries, is likely to throw up plenty more such exotic artefacts from the past, if excavated systematically, using proper scientific means, according to the present generation.

“We are aware of the immense possibilities which our ancestral house, steeped in tradition, presents and will seek expert advice soon,” says Shaktibrata, whose uncle, Saibal Sen, had chanced upon the Persian miniatures.

The brains trust of the family — Shaktibrata’s grandfather Sabyasachi Sen, aunt Ratna Dutta and sister-in-law Diti Sen — have been huddled in meetings, trying to figure out how best to do justice to the discovery.

The Chandramohan Sen Trust, which was formed by family members in 1997, will co-ordinate the entire process of research and excavation.

“We will surely get in touch with the Archaeological Survey of India once the festival season is over and invite experts from the institute over to our ancestral home to evaluate the miniature carvings. The Asiatic Society will also be approached to help us reconstruct the history of the family, which is of utmost importance if we are to take this discovery to a logical conclusion,” says Shaktibrata.

The main source of information for the Guptipara Sens is oral history and the tantrik scriptures, which speak of the family’s links with tantrik traditions of 14th and 15th Century Bengal. This period saw a revivalism of tantrik traditions by Brahmananda Giri and Purnananda Paramhansa.

“The central ideology of this revivalism was the attainment of oneness with the formless, attributeless supreme existence known as the Parampada of the Devi. The deity worshipped in form was Kali… Rituals never were the mainstay of this tradition,” observes Shaktibrata, who has been trying to stitch together the Sen saga.

In Guptipara, this tradition was alive as well and Maheshwara Sen achieved enlightenment through the Panchamundi Asan, which was made of one human skull, one of a jackal, a serpent, a dog and an ox. No idol was established over his sadhanapith. Only the asan or the seat remained. The idea was to have a feeling of the formless.


Calcutta, Nov. 2: 
The agitation by special duty attendants ( SDAs), or ayahs,in hospitals took a new turn on Friday after Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee asked activists of the state Youth Trinamul Congress to stand by them and continue the movement for their reinstatement. She has, however, asked her boys to ensure that hospital work is not hampered.

From Thursday, SDAs were debarred from joining their duties following a government order. Protesting against the order, SDAs staged a dharna and held a relay hungerstrike in front of the hospitals. Party general secretary Madan Mitra and chief whip in the Assembly Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay led the demonstrators in separate groups.

On Thursday, they met the superintendent of SSKM Hospital with their supporters and submitted separate memoranda. Later, Mamata felt that the dual movement might send out wrong signals and asked them to stand by the SDAs unitedly.

On Friday, all the unions backed by Trinamul brought out silent processions, led by Mitra and Sanjoy Bakshi. The SDAs, in bare feet, had their faces covered.


Calcutta, Nov. 2: 
The ground floor of a building was gutted in a fire on Colootola Street on Friday afternoon. Though no casualties were reported, residents of neighbouring buildings panicked and started running out of their homes as soon as they noticed smoke and flames.

Seven fire engines were deployed to douse the flames. The firemen fought for over two hours to bring the blaze under control. Forensic experts have also been asked to investigate the cause behind the fire.

Banbehari Pathak, director of fire services, said a huge quantity of rapeseed oil was stored in a ground-floor room of the building.

“We have sent fire brigade officers to find out the exact cause of fire,” Pathak added.

Banibrata Basu, deputy commissioner of police, headquarters, said apparently some inflammable articles, like plastic sheets and polythene bags, were also stored in the room. “However, as soon as the fire was detected, officials from local police station rushed to the spot and relocated the residents in safer places,” Basu added.

The locals first noticed smoke coming out from the ground-floor room around 3 pm.

“After we informed the fire brigade, three fire extinguishers were rushed to the spot but faced trouble in dousing the flames since the water tanks became empty within an hour. Nothing worked, not even sand,” said Ratan Adhikary, a local resident.

An emergency message was sent to the control room, which send another four engines after which things became normal.

Aniruddha Talukdar, a resident, alleged that the owner of the ground-floor room had storing inflammable articles in it for a long time. “We have been complaining to the police regularly about this but they have simply paid no heed to our warnings,” said Aniruddha.

The owner of the storeroom is at large. “We are looking for him. We have started a case against him,” said Basu.

The fire also damaged three of the adjacent buildings.


Calcutta, Nov. 2: 
A month after the exodus of Hindu families from Bangladesh began, the Left Front as well as the main Opposition parties condemned the “atrocities” being committed ever since Khaleda Zia came to power.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said he would take up the matter with the Centre “if required”.

Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee felt the state government and the Centre should initiate a joint move to hold talks with the Bangladesh government to defuse the crisis.

Fearing a backlash, Mamata said: “The fundamentalists in Bangladesh should keep in mind that they are in a minority elsewhere.”

The state BJP too has drawn the Centre’s attention to the problem which, it feels, has already assumed alarming proportions.

Former PCC chief Somen Mitra said the state Congress has sought immediate intervention of both Bhattacharjee and home minister L.K. Advani to ensure the safety of minorities in Bangladesh.

“I had discussed the matter with the chief minister before he left for Delhi to attend a party meeting. We want the Bangladesh government to take strong action against the miscreants responsible for the attacks on minorities,” Mitra said.

Bhattacharjee told reporters before leaving for north Bengal that the state government was keeping a close watch on the developments. “But the situation is not as alarming as it is being made out to be,” he said. Asked about the number of people crossing over to Bengal, Bhattacharjee said: “I am not going to disclose it right now.” However, he hastened to add that the number was “not negligible”.

The chief minister made it clear that he was keeping himself informed about the exodus of refugees to the border districts. “We are collecting district-wise reports on the exodus from the authorities on a regular basis,” he said.

State home department officials, however, declined to divulge the details about the exodus. An official spokesman said people crossing over to Bengal “were being treated as refugees, not infiltrators. We have asked authorities of border districts to treat them humanely.”

The Trinamul chief, however, was much more forthcoming on the subject, expressing her anguish over the plight of the hapless people. “We are really concerned over the situation and will expect both the state and the Centre to initiate steps to ensure the security of the Hindus in Bangladesh,” she said.

Mamata said she had urged the Bangladesh deputy high commission here to provide protection to the minorities. “I shall also request the state government and the Centre not to push back the refugees. After all, people on both the sides of the border have the same culture and speak the same language ,” she said.


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