Fan fury over beam blackout
Court cover for flat-owners
Cyclists run over, Bypass blocked
Guest who got the bride
The City Diary
CU course in human resources management
Cops net 7 for truck hijack
Salt Lake ban on private sweepers
Water booster unit vetoed
Buddha promise ends coal blockade

Calcutta, June 21: 
Disappointment as Ronaldo powered into the penalty box; despair as Rivaldo scored; depression as Ronaldinho floated a dream free kick… It was heartbreak at high noon for countless Brazil fans in various pockets of Calcutta and Howrah on Friday. They were happy for their team but inconsolable that they had missed it all. For 90 tension-filled moments, they had waited in vain for the cable beam to be back. By the end of it, their dream to cheer the giants of Brazil to victory over Beckham’s boys had been dashed by a cable fault.

RPG Netcom cable homes in Kasba, Topsia, Park Circus, Bhowanipore, Ritchie Road and Park Lane were the worst hit as television screens went blank a few minutes after kick-off at 12 noon. In Howrah, service was disrupted from Andul to Baidyabati.

As frustration turned to fury, a section of viewers in Kasba went on the rampage. The master control room of South Calcutta Unicable Pvt Ltd, beside Bijon Setu, was attacked. “More than 3,000 people stormed our control room and smashed window panes and furniture. They also beat up some of our staff, injuring them seriously,” said an operator in Kasba. Later, residents put up a roadblock in front of Kasba police station. It took the police a while to pacify them. News filtering through that Michael Owen had put England ahead did not help matters.

“We received a number of phone calls from different areas of south Calcutta. But fortunately, the football fans did not turn violent at other places,” said Shibaji Ghosh, deputy commissioner of police, headquarters.

But football fan fury was far worse in Howrah. Residents of south and central Howrah stormed several cable control rooms. There were reports of cablemen being beaten up, their offices being damaged and a police vehicle being smashed. Roadblocks were put up at four spots.

The situation spun out of control at Khurut More, in the Bantra area, where a 1,000-strong mob attacked the control room of Star Waves after a rumour spread that the beam had been blocked as the operator had not cleared RPG Netcom bills. They smashed open the iron-gate, damaged the furniture, ceiling fans, air-conditioner and all transmission equipment, before burning all documents. A large police force from Bantra, Shibpur and Howrah rushed to Khurut More to control the mob. Star Waves owner Sunit Das said: “They beat up one of our partners, Shankar Khanra... We just could not convince them that it was not our fault.”

“The allegation levelled against the operators is totally baseless and irresponsible. The problem was a technical snag in the RPG Netcom cable circuit and we were utterly helpless,” said Tarak Saha, spokesman for the operators’ joint-action committee.

This was corroborated by RPG Netcom. “The disruption of services had nothing to do with non-payment of dues by operators. It was caused by some faults in the optical-fibre cable circuit. We regret the inconvenience caused to our consumers, particularly the football fans,” said a spokesperson for the multi-system operator. “Our engineers were successful in restoring services in Howrah around 1.45 pm and in south Calcutta after 3 pm.”

There was disappointment for Metro commuters hoping to catch some of the action on the platforms, courtesy Incoda. All that they got to see was the English Premier League and some ‘old classics’.

Amidst all the strife, the solidarity between the two competing cable service providers shone through in parts of south Calcutta. In the Bhowanipore area, RPG Netcom operators resorted to tapping SitiCable’s signal during the blackout.

“We came to know about this illegal action as the signal in some of our own areas weakened. But considering the enormity of the occasion, we chose to turn a blind eye,” said a SitiCable operator.


Calcutta, June 21: 
Owners of apartments in multistoreyed buildings who have not registered their ownership agreements won the first round against the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) in the high court on Friday. They will not have to pay the general valuation tax for their individual apartments, as is being demanded by the civic authorities. Instead, they can pay a lesser tax being levied on the entire building.

The battle began in July last year, when the civic authorities served notices on the owners of apartments in Poddar Point, on Park Street, asking them to pay the annual valuation tax individually for their apartments.

Till then, the CMC was valuing the entire building and fixing a tax; an administrator appointed by the owners was proportionately dividing the entire amount and realising it from the occupants; this amount was handed over as tax.

But the CMC objected to this, saying that this “proportionate payment of tax” for the entire building was far less than the amount the apartment-owners would have to pay individually. They said the owners were getting away as they had not registered their sale agreements.

In July, the CMC informed the apartment-owners that it had decided to mutate the apartments individually and hiked the valuation tax from about Rs 7.8 lakh per quarter for the entire building to amounts ranging between Rs 1.5 lakh and Rs 7 lakh for the same period for each apartment, depending on its size. There are 140 apartments in Poddar Point.

“They (the owners) occupy the area by virtue of an agreement of sale,” CMC lawyer Ashok Das Adhikary told the court. “They do not register the agreements... The civic authorities are losing a lot of revenue.”

Counsel for the owners P. Dutta and S. Gooptu said the “demand for tax from each owner was arbitrary, wrongful, mala fide, and made with an oblique motive of extracting as much as possible from our clients”.

The CMC lawyer said many owners of apartments in highrises were using the same “illegal tactics” to evade tax. This was especially so in the case of business establishments operating out of small apartments. They said under the CMC Act, 1980, all agreements of sale had to be mutated and the new taxes paid.

But Justice Barin Ghosh said the CMC Act made it clear that only those properties whose sales had been registered could be mutated. It was not mandatory to register sale agreements. At Poddar Point, none of the sale agreements had been registered. So, individual tax did not apply.

After the judgment, the civic authorities said they would try to amend the law to make any sale agreement automatically liable to mutation. They would also move a higher court.


Calcutta, June 21: 
Two people were crushed to death when a truck-driver lost control of his vehicle on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass on Friday. The driver fled, leaving the truck behind.

The mishap occurred around 10.30 am near Ruby General Hospital. The truck, heading towards Science City, spun out of control on the Ambedkar bridge and ran over the duo, cycling down from VIP Nagar.

“I was sitting at a tea-stall when the truck came speeding down and crushed the two cyclists. We rushed them to National Medical College and Hospital, where they were declared dead,” said Subesh Das, a local resident.

One of the victims has been identified as Tapan, 25, alias Shambhu Rana, a resident of Kasba. Additional superintendent of police, industrial, Rajesh Kumar Singh, said: “Rana was identified from the papers found in his pocket. Both men were on their way to work.”

After the mishap, around 500 residents blocked the Bypass, demanding measures to check accidents in the area. Later, officer in-charge, Tiljala police station, Subir Chatterjee, went to the spot and pacified the protesters.

According to Das, the local police have time and again been reminded to take steps to check rash driving in the area. “Since the bridge was opened to traffic, the number of accidents have increased. We fear that with monsoon around the corner, if motorists are not careful, there could be more accidents in the coming months,” said Das.

The police plan to put up glosigns, cautioning drivers and pedestrians, in the area.


Calcutta, June 21: 
The boy met the girl at a friend’s place. They fell in love at first sight. He was from Kharagpur, she from New Alipore, in south Calcutta. She was in her teens, he in his mid-twenties.

In May this year, after going around for five years, they decided to tie the knot. The two families were forced to agree because of the couple’s stubborn attitude. “Both of us will commit suicide if you people do not relent,’’ they told their families.

Then there was a hitch. Religion. He was Christian, she was Hindu. On Thursday evening, all hell broke loose as the boy arrived at the girl’s house with the his relatives and friends. Differences arose over the marriage procedure.

Arguments followed, ending in a free-for-all. The girl’s family beat up the 25-odd members of the bridegroom’s family and hurled stones at the police when they tried to intervene.

With the marriage threatened, and the girl weeping inconsolably, a Samaritan, who was among the invitees from the girl’s side, came to the rescue by volunteering to marry her. He did, and the police arrested the original bridegroom for duping the girl.

Said B.N. Saha, additional officer-in-charge of the local police station: “The boy is an engineer in a private firm in Kharagpur. The girl is from a middle-class family. They decided to get married in May. The boy arrived with his relatives and friends around 8.30 pm on Thursday. He wanted a simple ceremony, but the girl’s family had already made preparations for a gala affair,’’ Saha said.

“An altercation started between the two families,’’ he added. “The arguments turned violent and the boy’s family found itself heavily outnumbered. They were severely assaulted,’’ Saha said.

When neighbours alerted New Alipore thana, a police team arrived in a jeep to settle the matter. But they were greeted with stones and rods. Three policemen were injured and the jeep damaged. A relative of the boy was seriously injured and was admitted to hospital. The additional OC rushed to the scene with reinforcements and brought the situation under control.

“There was complete confusion and the girl locked herself in a room. A local youth, who had been invited by the girl’s family, volunteered to marry her,’’ Saha said. This saved the day. “A 500-strong mob had gathered and they were adamant not to allow the bridegroom and his friends to leave,’’ Saha said.

Additional police commissioner S.K. Sarkar later said the boy was arrested under Section 420 IPC for refusing to marry the girl.



Man stabbed to death, wife injured

Sikandar Malik, 22, was stabbed to death on Thursday night in Barrackpore. Police said the murder was the fallout of an old dispute. Malik’s wife was also injured while trying to resist.

Security drill at airport

A six-inch knife was recovered from the handbag of an Agartala-bound passenger on Friday by Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel at the Netaji Subhas International Airport. Prem Ranjan of the CISF discovered the knife while checking the bag. It was later revealed that the knife had been planted in the bag as part of a security drill and the passenger carrying it was O.P. Yadav, a senior official of the Civil Aviation Security Bureau.

Body recovered

The police recovered the body of a 60-year-old man from inside an abandoned car on Jatindra Mohan Avenue in north Calcutta on Friday morning.

Aerobridge launch

The third aerobridge at the domestic terminal of the airport started operations on a trial basis from Friday. A Jet Airways plane from Delhi was the first to use the new aerobridge. The domestic terminal already has two aerobridges. A spokesperson for the Airports Authority of India (AAI) said the international terminal will have its first aerobridge commissioned next week. The cost of the two bridges is Rs 2.4 crore, he said.

Road mishap

Santosh Gayen, 32, was killed in an accident at Barasat on Friday morning after he was hit by a private bus heading towards Calcutta. Police said the driver fled with the vehicle. Gayen was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Goon killed

A goon was shot dead at Shyamnagar on Thursday night. Police said the body bore several bullet injuries and bruises. The murderer has not been identified, police added.

Officers’ meet

The West Bengal Civil Service (WBCS) executive officers’ association will organise a blood donation camp on Saturday from 9 am at Bidhannagar Government College. Industry minister Nirupam Sen will inaugurate the programme. Finance minister Asim Dasgupta, health minister Suryakanta Mishra and transport minister Subhas Chakraborty will also be present.

Memorial lecture

Sraddhalu Ranade from Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, will deliver the Rishi Aurobindo annual lecture on ‘India’s Destiny and the Present Crisis’ at Aurobindo Bhavan on Shakespeare Sarani on Saturday evening.

Bankim fair

Howrah Citizens Forum will organise Bankim Mela from June 22 to 26 at Bankim Park to celebrate the 165th birth anniversary of novelist Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay.    

Calcutta, June 21: 
As part of its new policy to widen avenues for students, the Calcutta University (CU) authorities have decided to introduce a master’s degree course in human resources management from the next academic session in July.

CU is the first university in the state to introduce the course, sources said.

Considering the rising demand among students for taking up courses in professional studies, the university recently modified its policy of charging low fees from students. It had introduced the bachelor’s degree in business administration (BBA) last year, charging Rs 30,000 per year, which is at par with private institutions.

At present, CU charges Rs 175 as monthly tuition fees for post-graduate courses in conventional streams. Even two years ago, before the university implemented its last fee-hike decision, the average fee for studying MA, M.Sc or M.Com was not more than Rs 20 a month.

The fee structure for the new course of two years is also likely to be higher than the BBA course, university officials hinted. According to them, the course will be taught initially at two centres — on the CU business management department’s Alipore campus and at the B. C. Roy Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management.

The proposal had been recently approved by the Syndicate, which is the university’s highest policy-making body. “We are ready to launch the course. Students from arts, commerce and science streams will be eligible for the course,” said Ranajit Chakraborty, dean, department of business management and social welfare, CU.

Initially, there will be 60 seats, between the two centres, allotted for the course. Sources said those who are working may not be able to attend the classes, as it is a day course. Advertisements for admission to the B.C. Roy Institute have already been issued in leading newspapers.

Sources at the institute said students of the course will be charged Rs 50,000 a year. CU officials said a move was on to introduce more such courses, as there had been a tremendous response to the BBA course.

Considering the demand, the university has given permission to another college to run the course from this year. Last year, the course was introduced in seven colleges.


Calcutta, June 21: 
Seven persons were rounded up early on Friday from a guest house in central Calcutta and in the Dum Dum area on the charges of hijacking a truck in Guwahati. The truck was carrying computers, valued at Rs 11 lakh, to Nagaland. It was hijacked off Nowgong on June 13.

All the miscreants were netted during an overnight raid conducted by the detective department. The computers were recovered from a godown in Dum Dum.

Soumen Mitra, deputy commissioner of police, detective department, said the consignment of computers was sent to Dum Dum airport by air from Guwahati on Wednesday.

“Two persons, believed to be the masterminds, arrived in the city last Sunday, intending to sell the computers. Acting on a tip-off, we first picked up Biren Sonar and Raju Dutta from a guest house in Nilmani Halder Lane, in the Taltala area. After interrogating the duo, we raided the godown, from where five more were rounded up,” Mitra added.

The five associates were identified as Kailash Sahu, Harmeet Kapoor, Partho Dey, Rabindra Pal Singh and Gautam Saraf. “All five worked as local contacts,” stated Mitra.

After conducting a preliminary investigation, the sleuths came to know that an employee of Guwahati airport was involved in the racket. “He helped the miscreants load the computers on to the Dum Dum flight. We have sent our findings to Guwahati police,” added Mitra.

Giving details of the hijack, the deputy commissioner said after the vehicle was commandeered, Sonar drove it to Guwahati airport, where he had a nexus with an employee.

The consignment was sent to Calcutta on June 15. All the 97 boxes were taken to a godown in the Kamalpur area, near Dum Dum airport. Sonar and Dutta rushed here. They were looking for the businessmen to sell the computers, said Mitra.

“It was not the first crime committed by the gang. Its members have some clients here. Which is why they rushed here from Guwahati after the hijack,” reasoned Mitra. “However, we have just arrested them. More raids will be conducted to track down those who had a link with this gang.”

A sleuth on the case said: “The miscreants had enough knowledge about the places near Dum Dum airport where they could hide their consignment. We have come to know that the godown, from where the computers were recovered, is a haven for hiding smuggled goods. A number of raids were conducted there last year.”


Calcutta, June 21: 
The Salt Lake municipal authorities have issued a notice to the township’s residents, requesting them not to engage sweepers to clean their underground sewer lines.

The move was initiated on Thursday, following the death of a sweeper last week. The victim was commissioned by a house-owner to clean his drain, in which he suffocated due to poisonous gases.

The municipal authorities have lodged a complaint against the resident with Bidhannagar, North police station. The police have initiated an inquiry. However, no arrests have been made.

Dilip Gupta, chairman, Salt Lake municipality, said residents would no longer be allowed to engage their own sweepers without informing the civic authorities.

“It is dangerous to hire outsiders. They are not skilled and have no idea about the possible hazards. We engage only those who are well-trained,” Gupta added. “We have also requested the residents to inform us whenever they need to clean sewer lines. It is our job.”

Sub-divisional officer of Salt Lake Debasish Basu handed over Rs 10,000 to the dead sweeper’s wife, Jashoda. “We are also trying to find other ways to help the victim’s family,” said Basu.


Calcutta, June 21: 
The municipal affairs department has turned down the demand of Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s (CMC) water supply department to set up a booster pumping station at Kasba.

Sovan Chatterjee, member, mayor-in-council, water supply, had sent out feelers to CPM councillors and MLAs to pressure the state government for a booster station at Kasba.

But municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya said: “We are not thinking about setting up a booster station at Kasba right now. There had been a proposal in 1999, but it has been subsequently dropped.”

Bhattacharya added, however, that two booster stations were coming up at Garfa and Bansdroni and clearance for the third one at Akra is in the pipeline.

Chatterjee said the filtered water supply booster station at Kasba would cater to the need of the sprawling township coming up on the eastern fringes of the city.

CPM legislator and former mayor-in-council member Sudhanshu Sil retorted: “It is strange why Chatterjee, who had suspended work on the booster station at Bagmari and Ranikuthi and sunk 50 per cent of the hand tubewells this year, has suddenly started rooting for the Kasba booster station.”

According to a CPM leader of the Calcutta district committee, Chatterjee’s plea for the booster station could stem from the growing pressure exerted by Trinamul Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee for supply of filtered surface water in the Tiljala-Topsia-Picnic Garden belt. The area falls under her Lok Sabha constituency.

Chatterjee had reportedly told the councillors, including CPM legislator Rabin Deb, that filtered water could not be supplied to the area till the Kasba booster pumping station was commissioned.

Several housing projects are coming up in the belt, including Hiland Park, which were to avail of filtered water from the CMC, since the civic authorities would not allow them to sink deep tubewells. “We will sink deep tubewells and set up a reverse osmosis filter system on our own for all the 943 apartments in the complex,” said Sumit Dabriwal, of the Hiland Park project.

If the CMC decides to supply filtered water in the complex for money, it must take up the matter first with the CMDA, since it was a joint venture housing project, he stressed.

At the same time, the CMC cannot charge extra for laying pipelines for the filtered water. “We are to hand over 233 flats in June 2003 and another 390 in September 2004,” added Dabriwal.


Asansol, June 21: 
The 12-day blockade of coal supplies to power plants has come to an end.

The Centre for Indian Trade Unions called off the blockade today following an assurance from chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee that his government would look into the grievances against Eastern Coalfields Limited.

Officials said Bhattacharjee would hold a meeting with Citu leaders of the colliery belt on June 28, where the problems would be discussed and a plan of action formulated.

The Power Development Corporation Limited — the agency that monitors power generation in all state-run power plants — has heaved a sigh of relief as almost every plant was running out of its stock of coal.

ECL authorities began despatching truckloads of coal from this morning. A number of rakes and trucks carrying coal had been stranded because of the blockade.

Citu activists had blocked coal despatch to power plants from four ECL collieries, including Pandabeswar, Jhanjra, Natunhat and Madalbani, in protest against the ECL’s decision to close down the Shamla mine near here from June 10.

The district administration tried to solve the dispute by convening a tripartite meeting, but failed.

Realising that power generation would be seriously affected if coal supply was not restored, power minister Mrinal Banerjee appealed to the Citu workers to withdraw the strike. However, the appeal was turned down and the blockade continued. The protest gathered momentum with Citu state secretary Chittabrata Majumdar declaring his support for the coal workers.

Banerjee brought the matter to the notice of the chief minister and warned him that the state would face a major power crisis if the blockade continued.

According to officials, although the chief minister supported the cause of the protest — ECL’ s move to close down mines despite possessing a huge stock of coal — he was not happy with the way the Citu activists were going about it.


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