Subrata spouts cut-off line
Tanners told to refresh output capacity list
Road rage stalls Hazra
Not qualified to tie the knot
Jail, bail, terror tag on priest
The City Diary
Nippon flavour for technokids
Doctor stand challenged
Power pact breaks supply deadlock
Cops jailed for lock-up lynching

Calcutta, March 21: 
The panic button has been pressed. Nearly 150,000 Calcuttan households stand to lose their water and drainage connections for failing to clear property tax dues to the tune of Rs 300 crore, said mayor Subrata Mukherjee.

On Thursday, Mukherjee ordered his officials to start disconnecting the water and drainage connections of all domestic and commercial tax-payers who have not responded to the calcutta Municipal corporation’s offer to waive interest on long-standing dues. The lines will be cut on Monday.

Other defaulters, who had applied for the waiver scheme but did not pay up, too, face the consequences from April 1. “Our officers will even disconnect the filtered water connections of the defaulters,” he added.

According to civic officials, if the disconnection drive is finally carried out, as per the mayor’s orders, then taps will run dry and drains will overflow in more than a lakh houses, offices and business establishments in Calcutta by April-end.

Prominent on the list of defaulters are Calcutta Port Trust, a hotel on Park Street, buildings in the central business districts and residential houses and flats.

Most of these defaulters were habitual offenders from the upper-income group, said the mayor. “They prefer not to pay property tax since it is more profitable for them to invest the money in business. Most of them also have the capacity to pay their dues any time,” he added.

Mukherjee pointed out that the civic authorities were not empowered earlier to disconnect filtered water and drainage lines for non-payment of tax, as these fell under the purview of ‘essential services’. Subsequently, the state government, through an amendment to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation Act, 1980, and Bengal Municipal Act, 1993, empowered the civic body to disconnect filtered water and sewerage connections if house-owners defaulted for a year.

The amendment came into force in June 2000, but the CMC was not able to enforce it because of the interest-waiver scheme offered by the mayor on long-standing tax dues. The waiver offer is valid till March 31.

Civic officials said that after floating the interest-waiver offer, the CMC had hoped to rake in a revenue of Rs 150 crore. To date, however, it had mopped up only Rs 16 crore.

So far, the CMC had received applications from 28,000 house-owners, seeking to avail of the waiver offer. About 90 per cent of them received a feedback from the civic authorities, asking them to clear their dues, without having to pay the accumulated interest to the tune of Rs 100 crore. “But only 14 per cent of them have deposited the money with the CMC,” sources said.

“We cannot call the waiver scheme a flop, as the exercise of billing those who responded to the scheme has helped the CMC indirectly prepare a list of target defaulters within a tight deadline,” said Mukherjee.

The mayor said the CMC could no longer sustain itself on charity. “It spends crores to maintain waterworks, drainage stations, roads and streetlights. House-owners cannot be allowed to enjoy ‘free’ amenities any longer,” he added.


Calcutta, March 21: 
The industries department on Thursday asked the tanneries to re-submit forms, explaining their production capacities and input requirements, to dispel the controversy on overstepping the production limits set for the Calcutta Leather Complex (CLC).

“We have told the tanners not to overstate their capacities,” said Jawhar Sircar, principal secretary, commerce and industries department. Sircar had convened a meeting with representatives of 15 tanning associations during the day.

He has contacted officials of the state pollution control board (PCB), who have already given the go-ahead to relocate about 217 tanneries at the CLC. According to the PCB, consent granted to the tanneries had touched the 1,000-tonnes-a-day production limit set for the CLC, keeping in mind the daily groundwater requirement to produce the amount.

The Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI), after extensive studies on the tanning industry in Topsia, Tangra and Tiljala, had fixed a tanning output of 1,000 tonnes a day in units spread across about 330 acres, based on the availability of groundwater, which was set at 30 million litres a day.

“It is obvious that some tanners had overstated their actual capacities and created an unnecessary confusion,” Sircar said. He added that the PCB had agreed to treat the consent given so far as provisional.

Fresh provisions will be screened, keeping in mind the present capacity of each individually-relocated tannery.

The government, keen to set things on motion before the Supreme Court reviews the situation on April 2, has also made it clear that the tanners have to act fast, so that the process of relocation becomes realistic and shows progress.

The 530-odd tanneries in the city had been served with a closure order by the Supreme Court from March 1 this year.

The commerce and industries department has asked the district administration in South 24-Parganas to process all building plans, submitted by the tanners, without delay.

The CLC complex at Bantala, as well as the constructions on it, fall under the jurisdiction of the South 24-Parganas zilla parishad.

The building department of the zilla parishad has been asked to increase the number of counters at its Alipore office so that permissions can be granted without delay. In fact, barring Muharram and Doljatra next week, the counters have been ordered to be kept open to facilitate speedy processing.

Currently, about 185 building plans have been approved and the rest have been asked to submit theirs in the next seven days. “We want to get as many building plans approved before the Supreme Court review on April 2,” an official added.


Calcutta, March 21: 
Traffic in Hazra was disrupted for more than an hour on Thursday after the death of a 55-year-old man in a road mishap.

The accident took place around 9 am when the victim, Kanailal Jai Sharma, on a bicycle, was run over by a private bus on route 12C.

Sharma, a resident of Bhukailash Road, in Chetla, was on his way to work. Residents took him to Sambhunath Pandit Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.

Police said Sharma had disobeyed the traffic signal.

After the accident, the bus driver tried to escape but was caught by bystanders near S.P. Mukherjee Road. The driver was pulled down from his cabin, beaten up and then handed over to the police.

The mob then tried to stop passing vehicles, which created chaos near the Hazra intersection. Later, a force from Kalighat and Bhowanipore police stations reached the spot and brought the situation under control.


Calcutta, March 21: 
The government on Thursday announced the names of 21 marriage registrars who have lost the powers to record marriages as they have overshot the retirement age of 60.

“We have already asked these persons to stop working as marriage officers and submit all papers and seals to the authorities,” said state law minister Nisith Adhikary at Writers’ Buildings during the day.

The minister’s announcement has brought into focus the contentious issue of the validity of marriage certificates issued by these registrars, after the Supreme Court dismissed a plea on February 12 this year by the Non-Government Marriage Officers’ Association on maintaining a retirement age of 65.

The confusion continues, as opinion is divided on the issue. The minister, himself a lawyer, maintained that the 21 registrars had lost their legal powers from February 12 following the Supreme Court ruling. Others said the cut-off date was July 1996, when the government fixed the retirement age at 60 instead of 65 through a notification. This notification was challenged and dismissed.

The minister suggested that couples who had been married off by these officers could file charges against them or take them to court for cheating. He gave the assurance that the government would evolve some mechanism whereby couples married off by these registrars could find a way to revalidate their marriages. Registrar-general of marriages Prabir Gupta said the legal implications would have to be scrutinised before the issue is sorted out.

Of the 21 names announced, 15 are from Calcutta. They are: Ashis Kumar Roy, Jayanti Banerjee, Shyamal Kumar Mukherjee, Gour Chandra Ghosal, Shyam Sundar Gupta, Subithi Bhattacharya, Sambhu Nath Kundu, Saktipada Sengupta, Jitendra Mohan Saha, Sukumar Chowdhury, Rashidul Hossain, Pran Gopal Pal, Paritosh Kumar Patra, Nitya Ranjan Guha, Krishna Ghosh, Prabir Banerjee, Jagadish Chandra Majumdar, Bidyut Kanti Dey, Manindra Nath Jana, Kalyan Kumar Majumdar and Priti Kana Saha.


Calcutta, March 21: 
The state police is in a quandary after a British national, who was convicted under the Foreigners’ Act and sentenced to five months’ jail by a trial court, was granted bail by the high court.

The accused, Reverend John Robert Thwayttes, was allegedly involved in anti-national activities, inspiring terrorists and practising religious conversions in Mal, in north Bengal, over the past few years.

Public prosecutor Kazi Safiullah on Thursday moved a petition before Justice S.B. Roy of the high court, demanding cancellation of the bail granted by him on Monday.

Since then, a lot of complaints had reached Writers’ Buildings, saying that Thwayttes was involved in anti-national activities. According to sources, Thwayttes was rousing “anti-national feelings” among the people and advising them to join a terrorist group “active in a part of north Bengal.”

Confirming the allegation, public prosecutor Safiullah told Metro that advocate-general Balai Ray, who was in Hyderabad to attend the CPM party congress, directed him over the telephone to give special attention to the case and try to cancel the bail. Safiullah said the court had admitted his petition and fixed the matter for hearing on March 26. Sources said Thwayttes came to India in 1954 and since then, was staying in this country by obtaining visas in different names. His last visa lapsed in July 2000.

The officer-in-charge of Mal police station booked him under the Foreigners’ Act, as both the state and Central governments had lodged complaints against him. On February 27, the magistrate’s court in Jalpaiguri convicted him and sentenced him to five years’ imprisonment.

Our correspondent adds from Siliguri: Thwayttes had initially worked with the downtrodden people of the Dooars tea plantation and in 1973, established a orphanage called Boys Town Mal Society. Later the same year, he established the Caesar School for under-privileged children. Both institutions grew into renowned and popular educational centres and were funded from abroad.

However, after Thwayttes’ visa expired in July 2000, the government of India refused to renew it and served a 15-day “quit-India” notice through the superintendent of police, Jalpaiguri.



Owners to get back Hemen Mazumdars

Sub-divisional judicial magistrate of Hooghly Sadar D.P. Dey passed an order on Wednesday, directing the Victoria Memorial authorities to return two Hemen Mazumdar paintings, which had been stolen from the Chowdhury residence in Bhandarhati, in Hooghly, to Rajat Chowdhury, the de facto complainant in the theft case. Kalyan Chowdhury, who has been helping his brother Rajat in the case, said the SDJM passed the order after hearing all the lawyers appearing for all the accused persons. They have applied for a certified copy of the order and will soon approach the Victoria Memorial authorities to take the paintings back. The two paintings — one entitled Memories and the other showing a lady with a pitcher — were stolen from the ancestral house of the Chowdhurys in mid-December, 2000. They were recovered by the police in November 2001. While one of the paintings was traced to a fine art auctioneer in Delhi, the other was recovered from a house in north Calcutta. The paintings were sent to the Victoria Memorial for preservation, following court orders.

Protest at theft in college

Work at the Calcutta University’s Rajabazar Science College was disrupted on Thursday after a section of teachers and employees protested the theft of around Rs 5,000 from the office of a senior faculty member of the applied mathematics department. The teacher complained that the theft took place when he left his room during lunch break. The university authorities later lodged a complaint with the Amherst Street police station.

Mission Officer dies

Nemai Mukherjee, who was associated with Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture as its programme executive for 39 years, died after a heart attack in a city nursing home. He was 67. Mukherjee is survived by his wife.

Civic protest

Work at the Calcutta Municipal Corporation headquarters came to a standstill on Thursday after employees owing allegiance to the CPM staged a demonstration against mayor Subrata Mukherjee. They were protesting measures like extension of working hours and the proposed retrenchment of 3,000 employees, among others. The mayor said CPM trade union leaders Anutosh Sarkar and Amalendu Bhattacharya would be asked to show cause for disrupting work.

Flights rescheduled

lBritish Airways has revised its timings for flights on the Calcutta-London-Calcutta route from April 1 to October 25. On Monday and Friday, BA 146 will leave Calcutta at 7.55 am. The return flights will reach Calcutta at 5.55 am on Monday and 5.10 am on Friday.

Dacoity on train

lDacoits robbed passengers of their belongings in the Lakshmikantapur local in the Sealdah south section, on Thursday at Baharu station. The dacoits had boarded the Sealdah-bound train at Joynagar. The passengers staged a demonstration at Sealdah station. Police said the armed men were chased away by the passengers.


lThe sixth hovercraft of the Indian Coast Guard was commissioned in the city by vice-admiral Raman Puri, flag officer commanding-in-chief, Eastern Naval Command.    

Calcutta, March 21: 
News for the Nippon-bound. In a bid to stop Bengal’s IT professionals from returning home after failing to adapt themselves to Japanese culture, the Visva-Bharati University authorities have decided to give them a foretaste of the country and its ways.

The university will soon launch a course on Japanese culture, history, cuisine and all other aspects that are part of the process of settling down. It is meant to benefit young students, especially IT professionals who want to settle in Japan.

The short course will be run exclusively in Calcutta and not at the university’s Santiniketan address.

Sujit Kumar Basu, Visva-Bharati vice-chancellor, said the university felt the necessity to introduce the course on the basis of information from officials in the Japanese government that a large number of youth, especially IT professionals, were returning to India, leaving plum jobs, as they were unable to adjust to the culture of the country.

“I was surprised to know that Indian students were coming back to the country only because they are failing to get used to the country. This inspired us to introduce the course,” said Basu.

Basu said he came to know of the situation from senior government officials during his visit to Japan in November. He said the Japanese government had given assurance of necessary help to the university to conduct the course.

Even though the duration of the course will be short — not exceeding 90 hours — it will cover almost every aspect of Japanese culture. The university is about to finalise the contents of the course. “If necessary, we may incorporate Japanese recipes as well,” said Basu.

Sources said the university was keen to run the course as the bulk of the Indian IT professionals settled in Japan is from Bengal.

The vice-chancellor, however, said the course was being introduced as a part of a series of programmes undertaken by the university to celebrate the “centenary of friendship” between Japan and Visva Bharati and also the 50th anniversary of Indo-Japan diplomatic relations.

The university will organise year-long academic and cultural programmes beginning on April 23. As a part of the programme, a team of 11 members from Japan will visit the university for participating in a special seminar on Okakura Kakuzo in August. A museum on Japanese culture will be also opened at the university this year.


Calcutta, March 21: 
Counsel for prosecution in the Anuradha Saha death case on Thursday pointed out the “contradictions” in the deposition of principal accused Sukumar Mukherjee on the effects of prolonged steroid use.

Presenting his concluding arguments before the chief judicial magistrate, Alipore, he said the doctor did not agree that overuse of cortico steroids had an adverse effect on a patient, including immunosuppression and sepsis. But he had also answered that immunosuppression may be associated with high doses of Depomedrol, a long-acting steroid that he prescribed to the patient. Reference was made to the statements of prosecution witnesses and text books. To another question, Dr Mukherjee had admitted that theoretically, overuse of steroids may lead to sepsis.

CJM Ananda Raha has reserved his ruling on a second petition, seeking co-accused Abani Roy Chowdhury’s view on whether a prescription produced in court was written by him. The hearing will continue on Friday.


Calcutta, March 21: 
The power situation in the state improved considerably today after NTPC withdrew supply restrictions on the eastern grid following a truce brokered at a high-level meeting in Delhi.

Union power minister Suresh Prabhu and his Bengal counterpart Mrinal Banerjee attended the meeting in which senior officials of the National Thermal Power Corporation were present.

NTPC had restricted supply to the eastern grid which feeds Bengal. The state power department was forced to step up generation to reduce power cuts that had become a menace to the students sitting for their Higher Secondary examinations which began yesterday.

Banerjee, who returned to the city this morning, told reporters that NTPC, which had been supplying only 200 mw to 250 mw for the past one week, today raised supplies to 425 mw.

The situation is expected to improve further by tomorrow, he said.

The Damodar Valley Corporation, which supplies power to its command areas, has been asked to borrow power from the state board.

Before leaving for Delhi the minister had met state-owned generating companies such as PDCL and DPL and asked them to step up generation to tackle the shortfall. He also faxed an appeal to Prabhu on Monday. “We are in the midst of examinations in the state. We had conveyed it earlier to the NPTC (but) in vain. I request you to lift the restrictions while the examinations are on.”

More than Calcutta, it was the districts that had been hit the hardest. Angry consumers had ransacked a state electricity board sub-station in Burdwan on Monday. Businessmen blocked roads in Malda.

As protests spiralled, an acute shortage of kerosene added to the common man’s woes. Apprehending power cuts, authorities in several schools made arrangements for generators.

District magistrates sent urgent notes to power secretary Kalyan Bagchi and state electricity board chairman G.D. Gautama, requesting them to ensure that the board employees attend immediately to complaints during examinations.

Banerjee said Bengal this time had been the victim of restrictions because BSES Ltd — operating in Orissa — had defaulted on payments to Gridco. Gridco, which owes NTPC around Rs 250 crore, failed to clear its dues as a result. NTPC, then, cut supplies to Gridco.

This affected the eastern region, including Orissa, Bihar and Bengal. To make matters worse, Bihar and Orissa overdrew power from NTPC, adding to the supply constraints.

The sudden control on the supply against a steady demand led to a lowering of frequency, putting out the feeder lines in phases.


Paschim Midnapore, March 21: 
Three policemen were today sentenced to five years in jail for beating in lock-up a teenager who later succumbed to injuries in hospital.

Additional sessions judge H.K. Guha Roy convicted circle inspector Gobinda Biswas, sub-inspector Ashok Ghosh and constable Sukumar Upadhyay yesterday. The three were also fined Rs 5,000 each.

Their punishments were announced in a packed courtroom today. The policemen were taken into custody and sent to Midnapore Central Jail after the judgment was announced.

The men from Gopiballavpur police station picked up 17-year-old Subhankar Sarengi from Chormunda village on May 16, 1988, on charges of stealing a pumpset.

Though he was not officially “arrested”, Sarengi was kept in the lock-up without being produced in court the next day.

Under instructions from circle inspector Biswas, Ghosh and Upadhyay beat up Sarengi in the police station, asking him to return the pumpset.

Sarengi’s repeated denials failed to convince the policemen that he had not stolen the set.

The next day, the three policemen beat him unconscious, demanding a confession. Sarengi was taken to the primary health centre where the police claimed he had been thrashed by local people. A deteriorating Sarengi had to be transferred to Jhargram sub-divisional hospital where he died.

There was an uproar in the area after the boy died. His father Aswini filed a case against the policemen of Gopiballavpur at the court of the Jhargram sub-divisional judicial magistrate.

Under pressure from various quarters, district intelligence officials started an inquiry and charged the three policemen.

They were suspended from service but managed to get bail. The case was then shifted to the sessions court.

In another incident, the court today sentenced the son of a sub-inspector to life.

Amitava Banerjee was charged with the murder of Snehasis Mondal, son of another sub-inspector, in the Jhargram police quarters in 1988.

Poisonous ice cream

Around 100 children fell ill after having ice cream at Panuhat in Katwa police station area this afternoon, says our correspondent in Burdwan.

The children were admitted to the Katwa sub-divisional hospital. The owner of the ice cream factory is absconding and police have sealed the plant.

The police said the children, aged between seven and 10, had the ice cream at the playground. Soon after having it, they started nauseating and some of them fell unconscious.


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