Tram route under river
Saha-stung doctors eye legal cell
Guard goof-up at Writers’
Weatherman signals spell of showers
Radar power blurs the beam
The City Diary
Court fines suspended civic worker
Mayor nod for rights review
Wife tortured for cash sets herself ablaze
State readies wetlands law

 
 
TRAM ROUTE UNDER RIVER 
 
 
BY JAYANTA BASU
 
Calcutta, June 10: 
Want to go from Esplanade to Howrah station in 12 minutes of air-conditioned comfort, for Rs 10? Just dive under the Hooghly — in a tramcar!

Swimming with the tech tide of modern transportation, the state government is planning to take the plunge by bridging the riverine divide between Calcutta and Howrah with a super-speciality tramway service. A ‘hush-hush’ project report prepared by the Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) has laid out the grand ‘underwater tram’ plan in great detail.

According to senior CTC officials, the Rs 300-crore ‘Underground Tramway System from Esplanade to Howrah Maidan’ will have one terminus,next to the Esplanade Metro station, and another at Howrah Maidan.

The proposed three-and-a-half-kilometre-long, fully underground and air-conditioned LRT (Light Railway Transit), or modern tram system, will connect the twin cities through a 700-metre-long under-river channel, marginally south of Howrah bridge.

“The idea is to build up an integrated network involving the existing Metro system and the proposed underground tram system. Once the project is complete, Howrah will become easily accessible, even from Garia,” says Sudhir De, chairman-cum-managing director, CTC.

On-paper calculations show the average traffic load to be maximum at Howrah station (about 3.5 lakh on weekdays), with Mahakaran and Esplanade stations close behind (about 2.75 lakh on a working day).

The frequency of the four-coach trams, fed by power from a third rail, and running at a maximum speed of 60 kph, will be three minutes during peak hour. The ‘subway’ width has been pegged at 5.5 metres, widening to 10 metres at the five stations.

“The average depth will be about 100 feet and we will mostly use the tunnelling method. But the construction will not affect any navigation channel or normal flow of water,” observes senior CTC engineer C. S. Bhattacharya.

The fund flow for the four-year project is being worked out. “Various private funding agencies have come into the picture. One German agency has stated its willingness to invest in Calcutta’s infrastructure development,” confirm officials.

But does the proposal fit in with the city’s transport masterplan? “When the Metro Rail was planned, there was a proposal for one branch from Ramrajatala, in Howrah, to Salt Lake. We are virtually following part of the same route,” says De.

   

 
 
SAHA-STUNG DOCTORS EYE LEGAL CELL 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, June 10: 
Shaken by a court ruling in the Kunal Saha case that could end up with the imprisonment of two senior physicians, an influential doctors’ lobby is moving towards setting up a permanent legal cell, a step neither it nor its other units in the state had hitherto considered necessary.

Medical practitioners belonging to the Calcutta chapter of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) came together for an emergency meeting at the unit’s central office on Monday and discussed ways to cope with the fall-out of the court ruling.

The meeting — which, according to senior IMA members, was “unprecedentedly important” — lasted over two hours, and various ideas to “protect” the community from “frivolous” cases were heard out.

The most important idea that found “widespread acceptance” was the necessity to form a permanent legal cell. There are, at present, less than 50 cases against doctors in various courts and other forums — consumer courts, for instance. But the IMA feels the threat of an increasing number of litigation involving doctors is real, especially after the “success” of Kunal Saha’s legal team in convincing the Alipore chief judicial magistrate’s court of the alleged wrongdoings of two senior members of the community, Sukumar Mukherjee and Baidyanath Haldar, that contributed to the death of Anuradha, Kunal Saha’s wife.

“There are bound to be grievances against doctors,” admitted Journal of the Indian Medical Association editor Sudipto Roy. But the Kunal Saha case might open a floodgate of litigation against doctors, he feared. “There are bound to be quite a few who, taking advantage of this particular ruling, will harass doctors with unwarranted litigation,” Roy said, clarifying that the move to appoint a legal team should not be seen as an effort on the part of the IMA to protect genuine wrongdoers.

The IMA has a few honorary legal consultants but the time has come, feel members, for the approach to be more professional. Another senior functionary said the IMA was now “actively considering” an attempt to get involved in the doctors’ appeal at the High Court.

Monday’s meeting, presided over by Nirmalya Banerjee and attended by IMA functionaries like Sunil Thakur, Manish Pradhan, Asim Raychaudhuri and Tarun Mandal, discussed the “exact modalities” of how to go about implementing the legal-cell idea.

“Eminent lawyers will be engaged by us,” a member present at the meeting said. “They will operate from our central office on Dharamtala Street,” he added. The association’s Calcutta branch is planning to take the issue to doctors elsewhere in Bengal.

   

 
 
GUARD GOOF-UP AT WRITERS’ 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 10: 
Monday, 10 am: There is no sign of the armed policemen assigned to the two sandbagged kiosks on the pavement on either side of the central gate of Writers’ Buildings. There are no policemen in front of the portico to the main entrance, either. A handful of cops are milling around the office of officer-in-charge and the assistant commissioner of police of the state secretariat....

Despite definite assurances by chief secretary S.N. Roy and police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty, that authorities have taken “all possible steps” to fortify Writers’ Buildings, on Monday morning, the main entrance went unguarded for almost half an hour from 10 am.

The main entrance is used by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, senior ministers and bureaucrats and even the director-general of police.

Deputy commissioner of police, reserve force, Debashis Roy, admitted that there was “some security lapse around the central gate” in the morning, but hastily added that “steps are being taken so such a thing does not occur in future.’’

Police later explained that the area was left unguarded because of a change of shift. “Policemen on night duty were waiting for the next shift to take over,’’ said a senior officer of the reserve force.

Roy said he is inquiring into the lapse. But a section of officers blamed him, alleging that in such “extra-ordinary situations, senior officers should supervise changeovers, specially after the American Center attack, which took place during a changeover.”

Police chief Chakraborty held a meeting on Monday afternoon with senior officers to review the security arrangements at Writers’ Buildings.

Deputy commissioner, headquarters, Sivaji Ghosh, later said steps are being taken to push in more men in plain clothes in and around the high security zone . Sniffer dogs were brought to the seat of power twice during the day.

Ghosh elaborated on the security steps at Writers’:

4Policemen in plain clothes to be posted on every floor to check visitors and others at random

Police jeeps will be positioned at the four corners of the building. No one will be allowed to park in and around Writers’

Several unauthorised persons live inside Writers’ at night. They have been asked to vacate. Police, along with the PWD authorities, will decide on who will be allowed to stay on at night

Vendors and temporary food stalls on the pavement adjoining Writers’ have been asked to vacate the area

“We are holding discussions with various agencies, including the PWD, to devise ways of restricting people from staying inside the Writers’ Buildings at night,’’ Ghosh said.

Around 13 canteen boys of Writers’ were rounded up on Sunday night. They were brought to Hare Street police station but were released on Monday morning.

   

 
 
WEATHERMAN SIGNALS SPELL OF SHOWERS 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, June 10: 
The south-west monsoon arrived in Calcutta on Monday and the weatherman expects it to be “normal” this year.

Alipore Met office chief R.N. Goldar said the monsoon has hit Calcutta, Howrah, Purba Midnapore and North and South 24-Parganas. “In the rest of south Bengal, the monsoon is likely to arrive within the next 48 hours,” he added .

Goldar said during the next 48 hours, there will be one or two spells of heavy rain. In meteorological parlance, a spell of rain can only be termed “heavy” if it is between 65 mm and 70 mm.

Outlining the monsoon’s progress, weather officers said the rains reached the Andamans on May 18, and Guwahati a few days ago. It reached north Bengal and Sikkim on Sunday.

Goldar said the monsoon this year is expected to be “normal” and yield about 121 cm of rain in Calcutta till early October. Last year, too, the monsoon in Calcutta was normal. “The official exit time of monsoon is October 8. There is no immediate indication of floods. But, a deluge can take place if there is an intense precipitation or very heavy rain within a short time span. In Calcutta, clogged drains, coupled with heavy rain, can lead to floods,” said Goldar.

Officers said the season of the Nor’wester was over and the rain in the days ahead will be accompanied by little thunder and lightning. “The skies will be overcast, with dark rainclouds hovering low, and occasional gusty winds,” an official said.

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation was informed about the arrival of the monsoon. Member of the mayor’s council in charge of drainage Rajib Deb has been asked to ensure that the pumping stations are ready to combat waterlogging.

   

 
 
RADAR POWER BLURS THE BEAM 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, June 10: 
Is it a local ‘cable fault’ or sunspots? Bursts of radio traffic generated by cellphone companies or a warship stationed in the harbour?

With small-screen images in cable and satellite homes often frosting over, freezing or cracking up, theories have ranged from the ground level to the extra-terrestrial. Now, the source of the “terrestrial interference” has finally been identified. The culprit, say cable industry sources, is the hi-tech cyclone-warning radar installed on the roof of New Secretariat building in April, from when the beam blur began.

“Thorough investigation has now proved beyond doubt that the source of the problem is the radar,” confirms an industry insider. “Probably, due to some faulty pieces of equipment, impurities or harmonics are spilling out of the frequency spectrum allotted to the radar and on to the satellite TV frequency band. This is leading to the distortion of images.”

RPG Netcom, the leading multi-system operator (MSO) in town, has urged the authorities to get the hitch fixed once and for all. “We have written to VSNL and the wireless monitoring cell, requesting them to find a solution, but the response has been kind of flat till now,” says Netcom CEO Ashim Dutta.

Unless the broadcasters themselves come forward and press for a solution, a government initiative will be elusive, feels a SitiCable official, admitting that control rooms have been flooded with complaints from viewers, “some even threatening to stop payment”.

The engineering departments of both RPG Netcom and SitiCable have managed to control the damage to a large extent by shielding and repositioning their ‘dishes’. “But some channels like Akash Bangla, with a weaker beaming intensity, are still suffering,” says Dutta. And there are intermittent disruptions on the other major digital channels as well.

Alipore Met office director R.N. Goldar is aware of the cable-trade line blaming it on the radar. “But nothing has been proved conclusively yet. Big agencies like RPG Netcom should engage a panel of experts to probe the issue. We will definitely forward the findings to our headquarters,” he says, adding that the powerful cyclone-warning Doppler weather radar is vital to the city, as it has the ability to “read windspeeds, besides detecting cloud height, direction and precipitation rate”.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Chargesheet for Dum Dum murder

The police, on Monday, chargesheeted Dulal Banerjee, a former CPM leader of Dum Dum, who was arrested on charges of masterminding the lynching of two persons at Nearabagan, in Cossipore, in March. Chandan Chakroborty and Sanjib Goswami were beaten to death at Cosspiore on March 5. The chargesheet, filed before the Sealdah court, also names six other associates of Banerjee. “We have enough evidence against them,” said Soumen Mitra, deputy commissioner of police, detective department. Four others wanted in the case — Pocha, Bhombal, Manab and Kelo Gupi — are yet to be arrested.

Twin suicides by hanging

A 30-year-old man hanged himself from a tree off Vidyasagar Setu, in the Kidderpore area, at around 8 am. A tattoo on his hand helped the police identify him as Sanju. In a separate incident, 36-year-old Rajkumar Jaiswal hanged himself at his residence on Amherst Street. The causes of the suicides are unknown.

Clash culprits

Some of the Trinamul Congress activists who were injured in a clash with CPM workers in Barasat have been identified as Bhadreswar Pramanik, Shiber Pramanik, Mohammad Islam and Nilu Mondal. Eight Trinamul MLAs met district superintendent of police, North 24-Parganas, Harisena Varma on Monday. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has instructed the police to investigate the matter.

Power protest

Residents of Sodepur, in North 24-Parganas, upset over frequent power failures during the soccer World Cup matches, roughed up Haradhan Karmakar, a West Bengal State Electricity Board worker on Sunday. Karmakar has been admitted to Ghola Hospital in Sodepur. Residents of the area have blamed local workers of the electricity department for the power situation. A deputation has been submitted to the divisional engineer of WBSEB and the district police by the Trinamul-backed WBSEB Employees’ Union.

Pond fill-up bid

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee and fisheries minister Kironmoy Nanda will visit Charubabu jheel in Behala on Tuesday. The visit has been sparked by a complaint from MLA Paras Datta that some promoters had started filling up the waterbody. Mukherjee said filling up of wetlands was rampant in the added areas of Behala, Garden Reach and Jadavpur.

Clinic agitation off

Normalcy was restored at Calcutta Medical Research Institute (CMRI) two days after an agitation by some of the employees to protest the “high-handed attitude” of the authorities. A CMRI spokesperson said on Monday morning: “The dispute has been resolved and patients are being admitted in all departments.”

Goon killed

A man was killed at Titagarh bazar on Monday morning . He was identified as Ram Bahadur. A group of youth fired at him and then stabbed him to death. According to the police, gang rivalry led to Ram Bahadur’s murder. The goon operated in Barrackpore and Khardah, said the police. The 45-year-old Ram Bahadur was recently released from prison.    

 
 
COURT FINES SUSPENDED CIVIC WORKER 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 10: 
Calcutta High Court on Monday rejected the petition of a suspended employee in the assessment department of Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) and directed him to pay a fine of Rs 1,700 to his employer.

The CMC authorities had suspended the employee, Ramendra Nath Chatterjee, for accepting “illegal gratification” from a tax-payer. The court also upheld the decision of the Corporation to hold an inquiry against the employee.

The petitioner, in connivance with another retired employee of the assessment department, Paresh Chowdhury, had taken money from an eminent doctor of the city. Following a complaint, the CMC suspended Chatterjee and stopped Chowdhury’s pension.

Both Chatterjee and Chowdhury filed separate cases before Justice P. K. Roy of Calcutta High Court. Justice Roy directed the CMC to disburse the pension of Chowdhury.

As the order of the court was not carried out, a contempt case was filed against mayor Subrata Mukherjee. Subsequently, a directive was passed, asking the city police chief to ensure the mayor’s presence in court.

Accordingly, the mayor had to attend court and was later released. Mukherjee’s lawyer, Alok Ghosh, told the court that Chowdhury’s pension had already been disbursed.

During the hearing, the counsel on behalf of the mayor informed the court that the present board had taken stern measures to stop corrupt practices at the CMC.

“Many people pose as employees of the CMC’s assessment department and squeeze money from general tax-payers,” he said. A special vigilance was being kept on such suspects, the lawyer added.

   

 
 
MAYOR NOD FOR RIGHTS REVIEW 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, June 10: 
Mayor Subrata Mukherjee on Monday sought to placate the traders’ lobby by getting a retired Calcutta High Court judge to review his decision that takes away the inheritance rights, enjoyed by the traders in nearly two dozen civic markets. But he set one condition: the traders will keep his boss, Trinamul Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee, out of the controversy.

“I know my decision is in conformity with the law. Even then, I am willing to refer it to a retired judge, acceptable to all parties concerned,” Mukherjee told Metro.

The mayor’s offer springs from an uncomfortable situation created by the lobby, which took a politically correct step in bringing Mamata into the picture. Sources said Mamata had chided the mayor for the measure, which she feels will make her party, running the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), unpopular and work to the advantage of the CPM in the city.

“Take your decision back,” Mamata is reported to have told Mukherjee during a meeting with senior members of his council.

At another meeting with Mamata and traders at Harish Chatterjee Street last week, Mukherjee had proposed his decision be vetted by a retired judge. “I will consider taking back the decision, if it is legally unsustainable. And the CMC will bear the cost of vetting by a judge,” Mukherjee said. “I am not against the stall-owners in civic markets, but as mayor, I cannot blow up Rs 4 crore to enable traders earn personal profits. I want to reserve the right to transfer a stall to the original allottee’s wife or children after his death. I will not allow a transfer unless the family of a deceased stall-owner proves beyond doubt that it is dependent on that stall,” said Mukherjee.

As a mark of protest against the circular, the traders had met Mamata on Wednesday and threatened to run their shops on the day of the bandh (Friday) called by her. However, they deferred their decision after Mamata decided to intervene.

“We have been enjoying the rights since 1941. How can it be taken away by Mukherjee?” asked general secretary of the traders’ federation of civic markets, Taraknath Trivedi.

“It is autocracy on the part of the mayor to take away the inheritance rights only in civic markets,” said member, mayor-in-council, markets, Samsuzzaman Ansari.

In private markets, the West Bengal Premises Tenancy Act governs the shop-owners’ interests. “But in civic markets, they are just licensees and their right over the stalls cease with their demise,” said the mayor.

   

 
 
WIFE TORTURED FOR CASH SETS HERSELF ABLAZE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 10: 
Mallika Raha, a 30-year-old housewife who had set herself on fire on Sunday night to escape routine torture by her husband and in-laws, succumbed to burns in the intensive care unit of SSKM Hospital on Monday, police said.

According to Deb Kumar Ganguly, superintendent of police, South 24 Parganas, Mallika, who lived on Bhupen Roy Road, Behala, managed to say in her “dying declaration” that her in-laws would demand cash from her parents, who are well off. Niloy and Sudha Raha, Mallika’s husband and mother-in-law, have been arrested and a case has been started against them, Ganguly said.

“It seems that she tried to reason with them but, in the end, she sprinkled kerosene on herself and set herself on fire,” Ganguly said.

Married in 1994, following prolonged courtship, Niloy and Mallika have a five-year-old son. Though tortured almost routinely, Mallika stayed on for the child’s sake, her relatives said in a complaint they lodged with Behala Police.

A laboratory assistant in a south Calcutta college, Niloy is described by police as an ambitious man who tried to make it big in business. He borrowed heavily from friends and relatives to go into business, and almost always put pressure on Mallika to ask her family to underwrite his business ventures.

But Niloy’s efforts failed and he was caught in a debt trap. His relationship with his wife started souring when he began to pawn off his wife’s ornaments. Mallika objected to it and they had regular fights.

Police said early this year, Niloy asked Mallika to arrange for some money from her father. She refused, when Niloy and his mother began to ill treat her.

In a complaint filed with Behala police station, Mallika’s relatives said her in-laws tortured her on a regular basis. Sometimes, Niloy would even beat her.

For the past two days, two of Niloy’s creditors threatened to lodge a complaint with the police if he failed to pay up by Monday. Niloy, in turn, pressured Mallika for the money. She refused, as usual, so both mother and son allegedly assaulted her.

Police said Mallika was not allowed to call up her parents. Niloy allegedly did not allow her eat lunch on Sunday.

With the situation becoming unbearable, Mallika went into her room at 8.30 pm on Sunday and poured kerosene on her sari. Then she set herself on fire.

Niloy and his mother panicked and took her to SSKM Hospital, where she died.

   

 
 
STATE READIES WETLANDS LAW 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, June 10: 
The state government has set in motion the process to get an umbrella law governing the utilisation, maintenance and protection of waterbodies and wetlands. The move follows chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s declaration on June 5 — World Environment Day — that that the state did not need several laws on conserving and preserving waterbodies.

Bhattacharjee’s comments followed months of controversy between the state fisheries and environment department, with the latter placing a new law on waterbodies for his consideration. With fisheries minister Kironmoy Nanda opposing this move, Bhattacharjee decided to go in for a single law.

“The law to be implemented will be tough on those who seek to harm the environment,” said environment minister Manab Mukherjee at Writers’ Buildings on Monday. He said that all departments were being consulted to get the new law ready as soon as possible.

   
 

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