Don dares, cops call bluff
Sting squadron rides high on civic blunders
Health sector pep pill
Victoria, a volunteer with a vision
The City Diary
Centre wants muscle for mayor’s men
Theft unchecked on Rajabazar campus
Schoolkids’day out at Writers’
Pen protest over power tariff hike
Festive fever leaves blood banks dry

 
 
DON DARES, COPS CALL BLUFF 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, Nov. 13: 
It was a threat in true Gabbar Singh . or maybe Bihari goon turnedpolitician . style.

.Yeh galti mat karo.Hum sara Kalkatta hila doonga. (Don.t make this mistake of arresting me. I will shake the foundations of Calcutta),. warned former Bihar MLA Ranvir Singh, con victed of murder and on the run.

The warning was issued to the sleuths of the city police,who cor nered him in a hotel on Moti Sil Street, shortly after he had checked in early on Tuesday.

It was not just bluff and blus ter on his part. Singh has a formi dable reputation to fall back on. As prime accused in the massacre of 11 Dalits in Munger in 1982, he had been sentenced to life impris onment. He contested the Assem bly polls in 1990 from Khagaria from behind bars, and won.

And in a land where fortune sometimes favours the notorious, Singh managed to get bail and flee the law. Thereafter, despite a Supreme Court confirmation of his life sentence and several fresh arrest warrants, he has always managed to remain elusive.

Some say, and not without any basis, that the Khagaria police in Bihar did not arrest him because they lacked the guts.

But, fortunately for their Bihar counterparts, Singh’s track record was not enough to intimi date the sleuths from Lalbazar. They picked up Singh and dragged him off to the Lalbazar police headquarters, where a po lice team from Khagaria is sched uled to arrive to interrogate him.

For the city police, the search for Singh started a month ago, when his brother, Sanjay, a .businessman. in Calcutta, fled to Khagaria after defrauding a finance company. A city police team had gone after him and while they were returning with their .catch., they came up against Ranvir, who threatened to teach the police a lesson for making off with his brother.

Since then, the cops here had been expecting Ranvir to visit the city, for he did not easily forget a threat. Last week, they got a message from Khagaria, say ing that Ranvir was on his way to Calcutta.

.Our counterparts in Bihar also sent us a copy of the arrest warrant that had been pending against him,. said deputy com missioner, detective department, Soumen Mitra.

Thereafter, the sleuths got cracking, and with a little help from brother Sanjay, discovered that Ranvir’s favourite haunt was a hotel on Moti Sil Street, in cen tral Calcutta.

Four detectives, in the guise of travelling salesmen, checked into the hotel on Saturday and the wait for Ranvir began.

The sleuths noticed some .strange. activity over the next two days. Some people would visit the hotel late at night, inspect the premises and whisper into cell phones. Then they would leave.

On Monday, around midnight, the same routine was acted out, with one difference: The .scouts. did not leave the premises.

Shortly thereafter, a man in a pair of grey trousers and cream shirt entered the hotel. Even from a distance, the sleuths recognised Ranvir.

Just as he was about to proceed upstairs to his room, the detec tives emerged from their rooms and surrounded him. His game was finally up. One of Bihar’s most wanted criminals was in the police net.

   

 
 
STING SQUADRON RIDES HIGH ON CIVIC BLUNDERS 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, Nov. 13: 
Municipal mismanagement and myopia have sparked a malignant malaria menace in the city. The death toll from the dreaded bite has .more than doubled.. from six to 14 . postPujas, according to civic health department sources.

Municipal commissioner De bashis Som, while admitting that malignant malaria had returned to plague the city in a .big way., said: .We have identified nine wards where an abnormal rise in malignant malaria cases has been detected. Surveillance in these wards is in the process of being beefed up..

The alarm areas have been identified as Nimtala, Zakaria Street, Burrabazar, Maniktala, Sonagachhi, Behala and Jadav pur. .Director of the national anti malaria programme, Ashok Kumar, too, has stressed the need for increased surveillance in the postmonsoon phase,. said Som.

Civic health officials, mean while, blame the problem on the .myopic policy. of the municipal commissioner.

.Some of the recent decisions taken by him have left the depart ment without larvicide, spraying machines and expert guidance to combat the malaria menace,. they say.

CPM leader Sudhanshu Sil al leged that .seven members of the Jain family on 1, Shib Thakur Lane, in north Calcutta., had been affected, but civic officials were .strangely apathetic.

. Sil said: .When I informed OSD health Atanu Mukherjee, over the weekend, he said nothing could be done before Monday..

The civic health department is blaming the municipal body for its failure to:

.Stock enough larvicide, like pyrethrum and Solfac, despite repeated reminders

.Repair swing fog machines. About 75 of the total 92 ma chines, used to spray areas plagued by malignant malaria, have remained out of order for more than a year.

.Check the influx of junior and inexperienced doctors in the civic health department. The powers of experienced and sen ior health officials has, alleged ly, been clipped

.Conduct meetings of the malaria advisory committee, postAs sembly polls, as the aircondi tioned conference room has been taken over by a senior member of the mayorincouncil

Member, mayorincouncil (health), Javed Ahmed Khan, pointed an accusing finger at Som. .The municipal commissioner has been introducing anarchy in the health department in a calculated manner. He never consults me before taking a decision regarding the department. And he never takes any action if I send him a file,. he complained on Monday.

.A file for the procurement of 500 kg of Solfac was sent to him (Som) some three months ago.The file for repairing the swing fog ma chines was sent to him last year,. alleged Khan.

The municipal commissioner replied to the charges, claiming that he had already procured 20 litres of pyrethrum.

But the Calcutta Municipal Cor poration (CMC) requires more than 500 litres of pyrethrum to control malaria during this high risk phase.

.I will also be purchasing 100 kg of Solfac soon,. added Som.

Regarding repair of the swing fog machines, he said he had sent the file to mayor Subrata Mukher jee for .final approval..

   

 
 
HEALTH SECTOR PEP PILL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 13: 
The government is ready to ring in .sweeping reforms. to resusci tate its medical colleges.

The guidelines for these re forms, drawn up by Bengal Initia tive, were submitted to health minister Surya Kanta Mishra at Writers. Buildings on Tuesday.

This follows the move to bring all statecontrolled medical col leges under the aegis of a single university. .We have already de cided to bring all colleges within the purview of a single medical university,. Mishra confirmed on Tuesday.

.The process is underway and we are inspecting the various legal implications of the move,. Mishra added. But the minister felt it was too early to set a time frame for the project.

Health department officials said the minister has .studied. the proposals submitted by Ben gal Initiative on Tuesday and found them .wellintentioned..

But Mishra declined to com ment on the matter .without going though them carefully and comprehensively..

Bengal Initiative representa tives, who came to Writers. Build ings to meet the minister, were hopeful that their suggestions would contribute to the reform process in the health sector.

.We have observed that the health department is the only one introducing rapid changes in the system in an orderly fashion,. said chairperson Amiya Gooptu.

Among the Initiative’s sugges tions are:

.Complete overhaul of the post graduate medical curriculum, with options for specialisation;

.Maximisation of revenue from medical colleges without hamper ing social benefits;

.Outsourcing of all nonmedical services through a rewardbased scheme;

.Promotion and careeradvance ment through a transparent annu alperformance review.

The suggestions, finalised by the organisation’s health group, included some about the proposed medical university.

.These are being put forward at this stage to ensure that the uni versity turns out to be as good one,. health group spokesperson Saibal Gupta said. .We have sug gested the setting up of a fullyau tonomous centre for medical ex cellence. The legislation should be modelled on international centres of excellence,. he stressed.

   

 
 
VICTORIA, A VOLUNTEER WITH A VISION 
 
 
BY BAPPA MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, Nov. 13: 
She is still haunted by images of the 1998 terrorist attack on the US embassy in Nairobi,where she was working in an orphanage with AIDSafflicted children. She has vivid memories of an Australian deathrow prisoner she helped become a lifer at a highsecurity Bangkok prison.

Victoria Bauer from Adelaide,Australia, has travelled from Africa to Tibet, spreading the word of freedom. Just 24, this virtual onewoman army has worked in 24 different countries as a .crisis volunteer. and is on her third visit to Calcutta. She is helping people living on the streets here and in villages by mobilising assistance from Down Under.

.People living in Australia have no clue about the circumstances under which these people live. I have tried to inculcate the importance of forming selfreliant groups to tackle poverty among people,. says Victoria. Beside teaching children at schools in the city for the past few weeks, she has also impart ed embroidery tips to the womenfolk of every vil lage she has visited. .I have learnt the art from my mother, Margie, back in Adelaide,. she smiles.

Her trip to Calcutta this year has taken her to the destitute home run by .Free The Children. (FTC), near Dum Dum. .I first heard about the wonderful work done by FTCIndia from a radio talkshow involving its foundermember, Craig Kielburger. I immediately contacted the authori ties here and expressed my desire to work with these destitute children,. she says, taking a break from teaching the kids.

Victoria first came to Calcutta two years ago. .My father, Peter,who used to work for an organi sation called .Save the Children. in Bangladesh, was trying to locate the interpreter he worked with during the turmoil of the 1970s, in erstwhile East Pakistan.We had gone back dejected after failing to trace the person,. recalls Victoria.

.When all hope of retracing him seemed lost, my dad suddenly came across his longlost compan ion in Salt Lake earlier this year..

Victoria first started .serious social work. with the aborigines in Australia. She then moved on to help drug addicts and alcoholics in Tanzania, Somalia, South Africa and Indonesia. .Sometimes, the trips get very expensive. I had to spend US $ 60 every day to survive in Tibet,. she remembers.

So, how does she cover her costs? .I work for six months and travel as a volunteer for the next six in different countries,. reveals the blonde. .I have worked on en tertainment projects during the Sydney Olympics and have written for a host of magazines dedicated to the uplift of the poor. I have also tried my hand at marketing jobs..

Victoria, who travelled hun dreds of kilometres to spend some time with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala in 1999, plans to raise funds for destitute children in Cal cutta. .I have travelled to so many village schools and found they lack the basic infrastructure. I hope to help these schools with funds. I will be back next time with my father,. she promises.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
Calcutta, Nov. 13: 

55 picked up in preDiwali raids

Fiftyfive persons were arrested on charges of selling banned crackers and illicit country liquor, rioting and extortion. In spe cial raids carried out over the past three days, sleuths arrested 19 criminals from the Burrabazar, Jorasanko and Posta areas. The criminals, from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, sprinkle chilli powder in the eyes of businessmen while snatching their bags. The other 36 criminals were picked up from different areas during raids conducted on Monday.

Rayís Sarbajaya passes away

Actress Karuna Banerjee died after a prolonged ail ment at her south Calcutta residence on Tuesday. She was 82. She is survived by her husband Subrata Banerjee and daughter Shampa. The role of Sarbajaya in Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali was her maiden venture in films. Later, she worked with Ray in Aparajito, Devi and Kanchen jangha. She also worked with Mrinal Sen.A film directed by Ritwik Ghatak, a screen adaptation of Shankar’s Kon Ojanare, was never complet ed. Banerjee also acted in sev eral IPTA productions and has some books to her credit. Her death was mourned by eminent personalities, includ ing chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Mrinal Sen, Soumitra Chatterjee,Aparna Sen and Tarun Majumdar.

Pandal gutted

.A Kali Puja pandal on Lake View Road was damaged by a fire which broke out early on Tuesday. Primary investiga tion revealed that the fire was caused by a shortcircuit in the electric supply line. Two fire engines were brought to fight the blaze.

Knocked down

.An unidentified person was knocked down by a private car at Esplanade on Tuesday evening. The man was re moved to SSKM Hospital where his condition was stat ed to be critical.

Trains to Mumbai

.In order to clear the extra rush of passengers, the South Eastern Railway (SER) has decided to run a pair of addi tional superfast special trains between Howrah station and Lokmanya Tilak Terminus in Mumbai on November 17. The train will leave Howrah at 4.30 pm and will reach Mumbai on November 19 at 4 am. Similarly, the train will leave Mumbai at 11.30 pm on November 19, reaching Howrah at 11 am on November 21.

Poison charge

. Sujay Singha, 61, a resident of Jagaddal in Barrackpore, North 24Parganas, died mys teriously after visiting a tantrik to seek a .remedial potion.. His family members alleged that he was given poi son by the tantrik,which caused his death, Ajoy Ranade, district additional superintendent of police, said. No arrest was made.

Roadblock

.About 100 supporters of Bharatiya Janata Mahila Mancha put up a road block ade at the junction of Mahat ma Gandhi Road and College Street around 3 pm on Tues day. Police said the members were protesting the alleged atrocities on minorities in Bangladesh. They also burnt an effigy of Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia.

Flights combined

.Indian Airlines has com bined its flights IC 765 and 766 on the CalcuttaChennai Calcutta sector and flight IC 771 on CalcuttaBangalore sector on November 14 and 15. The combined flight will operate on the CalcuttaBan galoreChennaiCalcutta sec tor and has been rescheduled to leave Calcutta at 6.30 pm on both the days.

Motorcyclists hurt

.Two unidentified youths, riding a motorcycle,were se riously injured after their ve hicle skidded and climbed the pavement at the junction of Harish Mukherjee Road and Sambhunath Pandit Road on Tuesday afternoon. They were admitted to SSKM Hos pital in a critical condition, police said.

Run over

.Parameswar Shaw, 55,was run over by a bus on Monday night on AJC Bose Road. He was admitted to SSKM Hospi tal where he died.    

 
 
CENTRE WANTS MUSCLE FOR MAYOR’S MEN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 13: 
The mayorincouncil (MIC) sys tem of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has come under the scanner of the Centre.

A review of the MIC system in the CMC, ordered by the Union ministry of urban development, has recommended that council members be given executive pow ers like the mayor.

On the basis of the report, the Centre will advise the state mu nicipal affairs department to change rules and give some execu tive powers to the members in the mayorincouncil, according to a deputy secretary in the municipal affairs department.

The review, conducted by Shibaranjan Chatterjee, has sug gested the change to make the council .more responsive and ef fective..

The CMC Act, 1980 gives execu tive powers to only the mayor and the commissioner.

The council has all executive powers, the Act says, but adds that only the mayor . through the commissioner . is empowered to implement his council’s decisions on its behalf.

Though Chatterjee’s report . conducted with a grant of Rs 60,000 from the Centre . has found support from mayor Subra ta Mukherjee, it runs contrary to a Maharashtra government deci sion taken two years ago.

The western state had decided to scrap the entire mayorin council system as it found that having mayoral council members merely added to politicking, with out any corresponding push to development.

The report mentions that members of the present mayorin council enjoy a .significant de gree. of freedom and power. But the denial of executive powers to them is a lacuna that should be corrected.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee said: .It is useless to have the MIC system in the CMC unless some executive powers are given to the members of the mayorincoun cil..

Chatterjee said the report is ready and will be submitted soon to the ministry of urban develop ment which had commissioned the review. The MIC system, he said, came into being after the 74th Amendment to the Indian Constitution to experiment with a concept of city government and a miniCabinet.

But while under the state gov ernment’s rules of business, the ministers were given some execu tive powers in the CMC Act, 1980, no such power was given to the members of the mayor’s council. Hence, the MIC system has a uni tary bias, he concluded.

   

 
 
THEFT UNCHECKED ON RAJABAZAR CAMPUS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 13: 
Thieves have struck Calcutta University’s Rajabazar Science College campus again. The tar get of attack this time was a labo ratory of the university’s bio physics department.

The thieves broke open the windows of the laboratory after twisting the iron rods and fled with a digital camera, worth more than Rs 50,000.

A day after this burglary, the miscreants scaled the boundary walls and took away scrap iron and other material kept in the university’s storerooms.

Six months ago, a series of thefts were reported from the campus. Several thousand ru pees, computer monitors, cam eras and cellphones had been stolen at that time.

The university administra tion, as well as Amherst Street police station, had carried out two separate inquiries. But the culprits have not been rounded up so far.

The theft of the digital cam era has worried students and teachers.The teachers of the bio physics department have lodged a complaint, demanding an in quiry into the incident.

On the basis of the complaint, the authorities have registered a case with Amherst Street police station again. Policemen visited the campus on Monday night to conduct an onthespot inquiry.

Students and research schol ars said they were concerned as neither the police nor the au thorities had been successful in preventing theft on the campus.

Aggrieved students said the culprits have been able to evade arrest as the police and the uni versity authorities are playing a passingthebuck game and have not taken adequate measures to prevent such incidents.

In fact, the statements of the police and university officials jus tified the students. grievances.

According to the police, they were unable to round up the cul prits as preliminary investiga tions revealed that a section of the university employees were involved in stealing the goods.

.We have conducted inquiries and found that it is an internal problem of the university. The complaints generally come to us from the university after long va cations. The incidents can be checked if the university authori ties maintain a vigil on the labora tories,. said a senior police officer.

Manab Kumar Sengupta, sci ence secretary, who looks after the administration of the Raja bazar Science College campus, however, stressed the need to beef up the security in the areas surrounding the campus. .The locality is taken over by the crim inals after dusk. These incidents cannot be checked unless police raids are conducted on a regular basis,. Sengupta said.

   

 
 
SCHOOLKIDS’DAY OUT AT WRITERS’ 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Nov. 13: 
The phone call was made about two months ago and chief minis ter Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had promised 10yearold Bratin Maity that arrangements would be made so that the boy from Namkhana could visit Calcutta.

On Tuesday, Bratin’s school mates made it to the city but the boy, who had called up Calcutta Doordarshan’s Jukti Takko phonein show in late July to speak to Bhattacharjee, could not make it due to illness.

.I have heard Bratin could not come. His dream of seeing Calcut ta remains unfulfilled,. the chief minister mused, after being greet ed by six students from Ganeshna gar Free Primary School in Namkhana, bordering the Sun derbans in South 24Parganas.

Free of any inhibitions, the boys and girls had a lot to say to their chief minister. But much to the amazement of those present, Bhattacharjee’s formal ways were hardly evident.

Three large buses trundled to a halt in front of Writers. Buildings at about 11 am. A curious police force stood by as 192 boys and girls from the notsodistant primary school emerged. Two teachers ac companied three boys and three girls into the restricted area of the Secretariat. Leading the way was South 24Parganas district magis trate Alapan Banerjee. It was Banerjee who had made all the arrangements, in accordance with the chief minister’s promise.

.Dadu, amader school bari bhenge gechhe,. (Grandfather, our school building is in a shambles) began nineyearold Saltu Jana, much to the chief minister’s con cern. .I will see to it that your school is repaired as soon as possi ble,. Bhattacharjee promised, asking the district magistrate to make a note.

It was initially the chief minis ter’s queries that the children had to fend. .When did you leave Ganeshnagar? Did you have tif fin? What did you like best in the city?. the chief minister inquired.

The banter turned serious when Saltu and friend Sambhu Ojha decided to complain about things in Namkhana. .Can you do something about the price of kerosene? It is so costly that some times we cannot study after dark,. pleaded Sambhu. .Listen, I cannot promise you anything about kerosene, as it is looked after by Delhi, but I definitely can get your school building repaired,. Bhat tacharjee promised.

The boys said that the girls had all been given uniforms, while they had to do with tattered shirts. Bhattacharjee listened to their en treaties till the teachers and offi cials in the chief minister’s office signalled an end to the interface.

By then, a curious crowd had gathered in the corridor, eager to catch a glimpse of the children who were on a treat arranged by the chief minister.

The three buses left Writers. Buildings for Victoria Memorial. But before that, they visited the Calcutta zoo, where Saltu said he saw an elephant for the first time. Sambhu, however, voted for the curiouslyshaped buildings and exhibits at the Science City.

   

 
 
PEN PROTEST OVER POWER TARIFF HIKE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 13: 
The All Bengal Electricity Con sumers. Association, a voluntary body of electricity consumers in Calcutta and its surrounding areas, started a signature cam paign on Tuesday, urging people to .boycott CESC bills. for a month as a mark of protest against its proposed tariff hike.

The signature campaign, un dertaken in front of the CESC’s cash office on C.R. Avenue on Tuesday, has been described as the first phase of a prolonged agita tion against the tariff increase.

The consumers are being re quested to sign a form asking them whether they regard the pro posed hike as steep and whether they support the call for boy cotting electricity bills for a month as a token protest.

A spokesman of the associa tion said the consumers. response to the campaign has been quite en couraging. The association will organise a .continuous dharna. in front of the CESC office as soon as the hike is put into effect.

He said the power regulatory commission could not offer any sat isfactory explanation for its recom mendations for the sharp increase in electricity tariff. .The commis sion has accepted CESC’s argu ments for incurring a loss of 16.8 per cent for 20002001 and 16.1 per cent for 20012002 without any valid reason. Besides, it has brought down crosssubsidy as per the Cen tre’s directive,.he asserted.

The association spokesman claimed that the hike would hit lowtension consumers more than businessmen and traders. The or dinary consumers will also not be able to pay arrears for 19 months within four months, as proposed by the commission.

The association’s agitation is expected to supplement Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Baner jee’s proposed stir against the power tariff hike.The spokesman, however, said the association did not have any political connection and only intended to look after the interests of the consumers.

   

 
 
FESTIVE FEVER LEAVES BLOOD BANKS DRY 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, Nov. 13: 
Check out the Central Blood Bank here, the largest blood bank in the state. Chances are it does not have the blood you are looking for, specially during an emergency.

Documents with Metro show that the postfestival scarcity of blood at the Maniktala institute is more due to the bank’s refusal to entertain requests for hosting blooddonation camps during the Pujas and the runup to the state’s largest festival.

The month of October saw the institute . which is also the nodal centre for blood transfusion and haematology in the state . refusing to respond positively to at least 50 pleas to organise blood donation camps, mostly from clubs and associations organising Durga puja.

Some of those refusals came more than three weeks before the actual date when willing donors wanted to queue up to give blood.

The four days of the Pujas and the five days preceding it had the largest cases of turning away donors; voluntary donors, incidentally, are the only source of blood after the ban on professional donors, say officials.At least 15 clubs and political organisations,which had finished making arrangements and preparing lists of voluntary donors,were turned away between October 20 and October 28,when the festival ended with Dashami. Though blood bank director Ashis Bhaumik defended his staff . the bank did not have enough men to respond to every voluntary camp . documents prove something else.

On Nabami,when the blood bank did not help in arranging more than four camps, it turned away Shyambazar Sarbojanin Durgotsab Committee,which had asked for necessary help at least three weeks earlier; the place where the camp was to be organised was less than 10 minutes. drive from the Maniktala institute.

Bhaumik, however, said the institute turned down requests only when its hands were full. .If we are organising 15 camps,we will naturally have to turn away the 16th voluntary donor,. he said. He, however, admitted that the bank could not organise more than .three or four. camps during the Pujas.

The refusal to work to capacity . the institute has its own set of doctors and medical technologists, besides several provided by the health department on a daily basis and, according to senior health department officials, can .easily. arrange many more than .three or four camps. every day . occurred even on October 1 which, to donors and voluntary associations, is a very important date on the calendar; it is the National Blood Donation Day.

Despite a circular issued by the State Blood Transfusion Council, asking all blood banks to observe the day in a befitting manner, the blood bank rejected at least five cases and conducted, according to officials, only three.

Those denied a chance to serve the society by arranging voluntary donors included even .powerful. political parties; a DYFI unit in North 24Parganas and a Congress unit of Dankuni in Hooghly.

   
 

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