Tax rein on racing club
Murder motive stays murky
Crackdown on errant drivers from July 1
Buddha roar on realtor
Rickshaw seat to mother’s lap
The City Diary
War as mirrored on young minds
Shift threat after labour row
Youth in fatigues and two friends detained
Kit crunch at hospital

 
 
TAX REIN ON RACING CLUB 
 
 
BY TAPAS GHOSH
 
Calcutta, June 13: 
If mayor Subrata Mukherjee has his way, it is the end of the race for Royal Calcutta Turf Club (RCTC).

Brushing aside its objections and pleas, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) on Thursday served an “ultimatum” to the club stating that if it failed, in the next 30 days, to pay a Rs 10-lakh annual licence fee to run its races, it would disconnect water supply, stop collecting garbage and withdraw all other civic facilities.

“We have served them the letter today and we are awaiting their response,” Mukherjee told Metro on Thursday. “If they do not comply with our instructions, we will force them to shut down the races and go to court.”

Mukherjee said RCTC would be forced to go the Oberoi Grand and Hotel Hindustan International way. Both the star hotels had been made to pay up by disconnecting their water supply. CMC senior counsel Alok Ghosh said that even that would not be necessary. “Just as CMC teams, accompanied by the police, go to undertake demolitions, they can go to the RCTC and shut the place down.”

The CMC had set the ball rolling on April 4, when it sent a letter to the club claiming a licence fee of Rs 10 lakh under Section 422 of the CMC Act to run its races. The CMC contention was that since the races provided entertainment and amusement and the club fell under the jurisdiction of the municipality, this particular section of the CMC Act would apply to it.

Then followed a series of correspondence between the RCTC and the CMC, where the club pointed out that it did not come under the CMC Act for the following reasons: First, the ground where the races are conducted belongs to the defence ministry; second, the race course is not a place of amusement as defined in the CMC Act; and third, there is no “quid pro quo between the services offered by the CMC and the fees imposed on the club”.

The CMC thereafter referred the matter to the legal department, got the opinion of senior advocates and decided it had enough ground to go ahead and serve the “ultimatum”.

RCTC’s chief executive officer, Vineet Verma, said on Thursday evening that neither he nor his office had received any communication from the civic authorities. His contention was that the civic authorities were trying to “kill” the RCTC.

“We are doing all that we can to keep a crumbling institution alive, but the CMC is simply trying to kill it,” Verma said, adding: “We don’t understand why they are doing all this.”

Verma said that the club already paid a betting tax, licence fees and entertainment tax to the state government, along with a fee to the army for taking the land on lease. “So, why should there be this duplication of taxes?” he asked. “We are already paying all the taxes that are required of us, including tax to the CMC for some of our properties. Therefore, I see no reason why the club should pay another amusement tax to the CMC.”

Verma, however, refused to comment on what action the club is contemplating. “I can only inform you of this after I have gone through the contents of the letter, not before.”

   

 
 
MURDER MOTIVE STAYS MURKY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 13: 
The Deshapriya Park murder plot thickened on Thursday, with the police detaining two persons for interrogation. But the motive behind the stabbing of 40-year-old Sushila Samsukha and daughter, Pragati, 9, on Tuesday afternoon, remains murky.

The needle of suspicion, say the police, now points towards a distant relative of the Samsukhas, Chandan Bermecha, who had visited their third-floor apartment at 4, Park Side Road, on Tuesday. Chandan was identified by Sushila’s son, Modit, who had left the house to play when the killers struck.

Sleuths refused to identify the two men picked up for questioning. Sources said they were both rounded up from the Burrabazar area. “They are close to the Samsukha family. We are cross-checking information that Chandan had met them on Monday, a day before the murder,’’ said a sleuth.

Deputy commissioner of police, south, Kuldeep Singh, and deputy commissioner, detective department, Soumen Mitra, are known to have interrogated the duo. Information provided by the youth prompted the police to despatch two teams to Barabanki, in UP, and Guwahati.

Investigations revealed that about a month and a half ago, Sushila and the children — Modit, Pragati and Monica — had gone to a relative’s place in Guwahati for a family function. Uttam Samsukha, a businessman, could not accompany his family. Chandan is said to have attended the same function.

Singh said they had tried to contact the Samsukhas’ relatives in Guwahati. “But no one answered the telephone. I have contacted my counterparts there for the details,’’ he added.

Sleuths on Thursday tried to piece together the murder puzzle. They said Sushila may have come to know some secrets about Chandan, considered a “black sheep” of the family. Police are verifying information that Chandan had visited the Samsukhas days before the murder. The gatekeeper of Sukriti Apartments, Phatik Sardar, told police that Chandan had visited Sushila about a fortnight ago.

Chandan could have looted gold ornaments worth Rs 3 lakh and Rs 80,000 in cash from the apartment in a bid to throw sleuths off the trail. “If his motive was to rob the Samsukhas, Chandan would not have murdered Sushila and Pragati. He and his friends could have easily overpowered the two and locked them in a room. Modit had already seen Chandan and so there was no question of wiping out witnesses to avoid identification,’’ said a detective.

   

 
 
CRACKDOWN ON ERRANT DRIVERS FROM JULY 1 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 13: 
The city police have decided to take harsh measures against errant drivers from July 1. Deputy commissioner of police, traffic, M.K. Singh, said drivers have to obtain an authorisation slip from the owner of a vehicle to drive it on city roads. “You have to obtain an authorisation slip even if you are driving your friend’s vehicle,’’ Singh said.

Singh warned that if the person behind the wheel was not the owner of the vehicle and did not have an authorisation slip, policemen would arrest him/her without a warrant.

“Policemen have been directed to arrest people for rash and negligent driving, drunken driving and driving without authorisation,’’ Singh said. “Police will also impose the usual fines on drivers violating traffic rules under these sections,’’ he added. Policemen have been empowered to arrest without warrant under Section 202 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, Singh said.

Asked what would happen if a policeman arrested a bus driver on charges of rash driving during peak hours, Singh said there was a provision which allowed the officer to book the driver and let him go, on condition that he surrenders to the traffic guard at the end of his route. “If the driver jumps bail, a warrant of arrest will be issued against him,’’ he said. Singh added that these were bailable sections.

These steps are being taken to discipline drivers and reduce the number of accidents. “We have had more than 430 deaths every year. Records indicate that more than 65 per cent are due to rash driving. Moreover, there has been an increase in thefts of motor cars,’’ Singh said.

Singh said police have changed the traffic violation card for minor offences. “We have made it simpler for people to understand the violations and pay the fines,’’ he said.

The police also announced a few more measures to streamline city traffic. Kyd Street has reverted to the two-way system. The one-way timing on Brabourne Road and Strand Road has been extended by half an hour, to 8.30 pm, to facilitate the movement of traffic in that area. Restrictions on the movement of vehicles on Lord Sinha Road will be withdrawn as work on the flyover project in that area is complete. Vehicles can enter Lord Sinha Road from its intersection with AJC Bose Road.

Heart check: Commissioner of police Sujoy Chakraborty will inaugurate a special heart check-up and treatment programme for traffic police at Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences on Saturday, in the presence of hospital chairman Devi Shetty. The hospital on the EM Bypass will extend free cardiac check-up and low-cost correctional medical services to traffic constables and sergeants above 35 years.

   

 
 
BUDDHA ROAR ON REALTOR 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 13: 
Pradip Kundalia, the realtor responsible for building a house in south Calcutta which collapsed on June 19, 1989, killing several people, figured in discussions in the Assembly on Thursday. “I will send him to jail if found guilty,” chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee told the House.

Reacting to points raised by the Opposition during the debate on the police budget, the chief minister, who is also in charge of the home (police) department, said the promoter is “free now, but very soon he will be behind bars if proved guilty.”

Admitting that the American Center attack was the only major blot on Calcutta Police’s recent records, Bhattacharjee said the attack was unexpected. He cited the resolution of the Khadim’s kidnap case as a police success story. Regarding the pending Ananda Margi massacre case, the chief minister said: “They don’t have the courage to fight the case.”

   

 
 
RICKSHAW SEAT TO MOTHER’S LAP 
 
 
BY PRONAB MONDAL
 
Calcutta, June 13: 
A two-year-old girl, apparently abandoned by her mother in a rickshaw on a crowded street of Howrah town three days ago, was returned to her mother’s lap on Thursday.

Though the mother denied abandoning her child, investigators on the case were far from convinced. “Preliminary investigation indicated that the woman had, indeed, left her child behind. While the cause has not been ascertained, we suspect it had something to do with a family dispute,” said Rajiv Mishra, additional superintendent of police (town).

Police said the baby’s mother had left her in a rickshaw three days ago near Howrah Maidan. “She told the rickshaw-puller to look after the girl while she went to a local market. But the woman never returned,” said a police officer.

The rickshaw-puller went to the Howrah police station and handed over the girl and a leather bag — containing a feeding bottle and some clothes — the woman had left behind. Officers also found a slip of paper with the telephone number of a relative. Police then rang up the Behala number. “But our officers were shocked when the person at the other end, the girl’s grandfather, refused to take responsibility of the abandoned child,” said Mishra.

Police then decided to contact the district administration and sent the baby to the state-run Liluah Home for Destitute Women. “The baby kept pining for her mother,” said an employee of the home. On Thursday afternoon, the mother appeared, along with some officials of an NGO. “We handed over the baby after some mandatory paperwork,” the employee added.

The NGO that led the mother to the child refused to disclose any details, citing the “confidentiality clause” while helping out women in distress.

The cops heaved a sigh of relief when they heard of the child being reunited with the mother. “But the woman failed to provide us with a satisfactory explanation about how her daughter had gone ‘missing’,” said an officer of Howrah police station.

Rajesh Kumar, superintendent of police overseeing the probe, said: “The incident is unfortunate and we will conduct a thorough investigation. The person responsible for the abandonment of the baby will be booked under the charge of cruelty against children.”

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

CMC blames govt for flooded streets

Even as different pockets of the city remained submerged after the morning showers on Thursday, city drainage and sewerage chief Rajib Deb held the state government responsible for waterlogging. He demanded facts and figures from irrigation minister Ganesh Mondol over the amount spent on and the quantum of silt scooped from the beds of TP Channel, Begor Khal, Moni Khal and other outfall channels in the past 12 months. He said the citizens were not getting the benefit of the massive desilting operation undertaken by the Corporation during winter because of “callousness” on part of the state irrigation department.

Three rounded up in Salt Lake

The Bidhannagar (north) police station on Wednesday rounded up three miscreants from Vidyasagar island in Salt Lake. A six-chambered revolver, two rounds of cartridges and other weapons were seized from them. The three were produced in court on Thursday.

Man lynched

An intoxicated man was lynched at Silpara, in South 24-Parganas, when he passed obscene remarks at teenaged girls on Wednesday. Police said he was beaten up by residents of the area. He later succumbed to injuries at Behala hospital.

Godown fire

Fire broke out in a go-down containing inflammable material on Kailash Bose Street in north Calcutta. Three engines were pressed into service for three hours to control the blaze. Officials said an investigation is on to find out the cause of the fire.

Brake on Tiger vans

The city police have scaled down the number of centrally-monitored Tiger patrol teams from 90 to 35. Ten of the vehicles have become defunct. The remaining ones have been returned to their respective divisions. The authorities have decided to attach more importance to the Radio Flying Squad.

Youth electrocuted

A youth was struck by lightning while playing football at Kakdwip, South 24-Parganas, on Thursday morning. Police said Sudarshan Khora, 28, died on the spot. Another person was injured and is battling for his life at a city hospital.

Road mishap

A middle-aged man died in an accident near Titagarh on Thursday morning while trying to cross the road. The man was later identified as Ghar Varan. Police had to intervene to disperse a mob which had blocked the road to protest the accident.

College chaos

Trouble broke out at Serampore College after the authorities, following a government directive not to teach Higher Secondary courses in colleges, decided to stop admission to Class XI. Students demonstrated in front of the college, before being dispersed by the police.

Birth anniversary

The birth centenary of Monikuntala Devi will be celebrated on Saturday at Ramakrishna Sangha, Adyapith. A seminar on ‘Ideal of Motherhood’ will be held. It will be attended by Justice Bhagawati Prasad Banerjee and author Sanjib Chattopadhyay.    

 
 
WAR AS MIRRORED ON YOUNG MINDS 
 
 
BY NISHA LAHIRI
 
Calcutta, June 13: 
The border, not their bedroom, diplomatic ties, not inter-personal relationships, is what the teenager today is worried about.

The stresses and strains of being a young adult in today’s fast-paced world was to be the subject of “Beautiful Mindset”, an event organised at Oxford Bookstore on Park Street. But the result was a heated debate on Indo-Pak relations.

“In my experience, the younger generation is often more perceptive than we give them credit for,” said Uma Ahmed, educationist and the chief guest on the occasion. “There was a young girl who was passionately vocal about the Kashmir issue. Her father is an army man, and is posted on the Kashmir border. She was part of a group of Indian soldier’s children who had travelled to the region to speak to the children of militants. She said she was very moved by the experience. But every time her father told her about militants being killed, she said she had a sense of satisfaction. She knew it was wrong to feel that way, but couldn’t help it,” Ahmed added.

“There was an honest and open interaction between adults and children. No one was in favour of war. Although this generation hasn’t faced a war, they know what it means, and they are against it,” said Maina Bhagat, event manager at Oxford.

The sentiment was echoed by the 14 to 18 year-olds participating in a two-day debate workshop at the Seagull Resource Centre.

After watching Hey Ram!!! Genocide in the land of Gandhi by Gopal Menon, Sameen Ansari, 17, from Calcutta International School (CIS), burst into tears. The young girls said they were “shocked, horrified and disgusted by the images of the riots, and the level of communal hatred”.

Tuesday’s debate was on “human rights over national sovereignty”.

“There are 17 languages on a Rs 10 note. This shows how many differences there are in our country. It’s impossible to keep everyone together all the time. Exceptions have to be made,” declared Trina Chakravarti, 16, of CIS. Her teammate, Mandakini Banerji, 16, also of CIS, felt “India and Pakistan are imposing on the people of Kashmir. They are not being allowed to voice their opinions.”

The opposition argued that human rights is just one aspect of the larger issue of national sovereignty. Anokhi Chatterjee, 16, of Modern High pointed out: “The Kashmiris are being self-destructive. The government is protecting what is essentially ours.”

As Sameen summed up: “India has the right to protect its borders. After all, our border is what makes India a country.”

   

 
 
SHIFT THREAT AFTER LABOUR ROW 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 13: 
Vishal Garments Pvt Ltd, with five showrooms in the city besides water park Aquatica, has threatened to shift operations from West Bengal following labour trouble this week.

The workers — recently registered with the Citu-affiliated Paschim Banga Dokan Karmachary Samity — are alleged to have threatened and roughed up officials at the GT Road corporate office on Tuesday. A group of 50 to 60 employees then proceeded to the Foreshore Road factory, where they are said to have “damaged property and beaten up a showroom manager”.

Officials of Vishal Garments, which reported a turnover of Rs 75 crore last year, said on Thursday they have spoken to the chief minister’s office about the labour trouble.

“The police have been co-operative, too, and have beefed up the security on our premises. But unless the matter is resolved, we will be compelled to shift operations out of the state,” a spokesperson said.

   

 
 
YOUTH IN FATIGUES AND TWO FRIENDS DETAINED 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 13: 
Three men in their 20s, one of them in military fatigues, were arrested from near the state Assembly on Thursday for moving suspiciously in the vicinity of a “sensitive” establishment.

Sources said legislators were taking part in a debate over the police budget at that time.

Deputy commissioner of police, headquarters, Shibaji Ghosh, said the trio — Satpal Singh Parmar, Dharampal Singh Thakur and Deb Singh Thakur — were walking towards the Assembly when guards of Akashvani Bhavan turned suspicious and informed the Maidan police. The three were picked up and grilled extensively.

A cordon was thrown in the area. Officials began to check all passing vehicles. The Lalbazar control room warned all police stations to be on the alert following the arrests.

Investigations revealed that Parmar worked in a Shalimar truck depot and Dharampal and Deb were his friends, who had come down from Himachal Pradesh in search of jobs. The trio hailed from Solan, in Himachal Pradesh.

Sources said the trio had gone sight-seeing in Esplanade and the nearby areas and were on their way back to Shalimar when the guards rounded them up.

“They were to take the ferry at Chandpal ghat. When they were walking through the area to reach the place, the guards detained them,’’ Ghosh said.

According to the police, the Akashvani Bhavan security guards became suspicious seeing Parmar in army fatigues without the regulation belt and boots.

In view of the Central red alert on possible terrorist activities in the city, especially around Writers’ Buildings, the guards became extra-cautious and informed their seniors.

Police said Parmar and his friends were initially taken to Maidan police station and later to Hare Street police station.

“During interrogation, we asked Parmar to avoid dressing in army fatigues, in view of the tense situation in the city. Parmar said he had been given the uniform by a relative, who happens to be a retired army personnel,” Ghosh said.

Deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Soumen Mitra, said the three were interrogated throughout the day.

“Our officers got the feedback that the trio did not intend causing any harm and were actually out on a stroll. So, we handed them over to the local police station. We will release them soon,’’ Mitra said.

Leader shot: Unidentified assailants shot at a senior CPM leader, Mahadeb Ghosh, in Khariberia, North 24-Parganas, early on Thursday. Police said that three men on a motorcycle shot Ghosh at close range. The bullet caught his left arm.

Ghosh was on his way to a neighbouring village, Kirtipur. “Hearing the gunshot, a group of youths in the area raised an alarm, but the assailants fled the spot,” said the police.

Ghosh is popular among the farmers of Kirtipur-1 panchayat area and was instrumental in thwarting Trinamul Congress attempts to control the region.

   

 
 
KIT CRUNCH AT HOSPITAL 
 
 
BY TARAKNATH DE
 
Calcutta, June 13: 
Shyamal, 25, from Jangipur, in Murshidabad district, had come to the School of Tropical Medicine (STM) to get his Elisa test done on Tuesday. He was sent back by the authorities as the referral laboratory does not have the necessary kit to conduct the test.

Zafar, 30, too, had come down from Nadia to get the Elisa test done at the STM, but had to go back on the same grounds.

These cases are just the tip of the iceberg, as patients from Calcutta and the districts have beenturned away in large numbers due to non-availability of kits in the past couple of days. As compensation, they are given pre-test counselling on HIV.

Suryakanta Mishra, health minister, is, however, not aware of the crisis. When told about it on Tuesday, he said he would look into the shortage and ask his officers to ensure the supply of kits. “I will take all necessary steps to make sure that the kits reach the STM. Actually, nobody informed me that the kits were in short supply. We cannot compromise on healthcare,” said Mishra, who is keen on a revamp of the state’s healthcare system.

Sources at the STM said if the shortage continues, they will have no option but to close down the laboratory, at least temporarily.

“Our sympathies are with the patients. But what can we do if the Central Blood Bank does not give us the kits? We had gone to the blood bank twice but were not given the kits,” complained a faculty member.

Like minister Mishra, STM’s director P.K. Sarkar is unaware of the lack of kits.

“I am not aware of the scarcity. This is the first time I am hearing about it. If it’s true, I assure you that I will write to the National AIDS Control Organisation and ask them to bail us out,” said Sarkar.

A. Bhowmick, director, Central Blood Bank, told Metro that efforts were on to procure the kits for the referral laboratory.

Sources at the STM also said that they did not have CD-4 and CD-8 count machines, flow- cytrometers and other essential equipment. “Even the existing machines are not being maintained due to the apathy of the administration,” they added.

Some of the patients felt that the hospital authorities should get the machines as early as possible, so that they can get their blood tests done at affordable rates (Rs 250-300), instead of spending Rs 1,500 at private institutes.

   
 

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