Fury over employment & effluents
Govt norm for kidney donor
Another CPM leader beheaded
Crores lost in leaky and creaky tax raj
Marxist school for cadre launched
Cop blames cops for son-in-law suicide
Hair raising: Not result, but a secret
Govt postpones terror law review
Voter Vaiko in dubious debut
Jaya stuns Advani with anti-terror blow

 
 
FURY OVER EMPLOYMENT & EFFLUENTS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Chanditala (Hooghly), July 15: 
Even as the chief minister shuttles between chambers of commerce to lure industrialists, his partymen clashed with police outside a newly set-up vegetable oil factory today.

The police fired eight rounds in the air to chase away an estimated 1,000-strong mob that went on a rampage outside Paceman Sales Promotion Pvt Limited.

The mob, protesting against alleged pollution from factory effluents and demanding jobs for local youths, clashed with the police throughout the day.

Hooghly superintendent of police Ajay Kumar said some two dozen policemen were injured, two police jeeps torched and a policeman’s rifle snatched. “We had to open fire when we found the situation was threatening to go out of control. They rained brickbats on us. Three of our men are in a serious condition,” he said, adding that 27 protesters were arrested.

Pollution Control Board officials said a public complaint was made against the factory for discharging effluents into adjacent fields, harming both paddy cultivation and pisciculture. “Our team went there today to ascertain the nature of the problems first hand. We are yet to get the report,” chief scientist Dipak Chakraborty said.

Residents claimed that the factory’s promoters also played a role in building up tension over the past few months by ignoring the demand for jobs, especially to youths whose families were ousted from the land on which the factory stands.

Instead, workers were being brought in from Murshidabad at lower wages, they added.

However, the directors of Paceman, Sajjan Agarwal and Kishor Pasari, denied the allegations and said the factory employed qualified staff unavailable in the area. Of the 100 employees, 18 are local residents.

With Pollution Control Board officials inspecting the factory today, Agarwal said some 1,000 CPM supporters laid siege to the factory since 9 am and shouted slogans against the management.

Local residents had gathered at the spot to watch the inspection. As soon as the officials left, the villagers began lobbing bricks at the factory gate and offices inside. They also tried to force their way inside the premises.

“We anticipated that such a thing would happen today. Local MLA Bhaktaram Pan met village elders and party workers last night and incited them to create trouble. We had informed Chanditala police about it,” Agarwal said.

The factory’s securitymen closed the huge iron doors and parked trailers and trucks behind the gate to prevent the mob from barging into the premises.

Initially, the police presence was sparse. “We tried to stop them, but the 1,000-strong militant crowd began to pelt stones at us. We were completely outnumbered,” said a bleeding officer-in-charge of Chanditala police station, Nirupam Ghosh.

Ghosh and circle inspector, Uttarpara, R.N. Bhattacharya, ordered his men to open fire in self-defence. “They would have killed us,” Bhattacharya said.

With no help coming from the headquarters, Ghosh along with other injured policemen fled, leaving their vehicles at the mob’s mercy. The villagers set fire to two police jeeps and damaged three buses that were passing by. For the next six hours, from 11 am till 4 pm, the villagers hurled stones at the factory.

Additional superintendent of police H.S. Kusumakar arrived with reinforcements at 4.15 pm and was greeted with brickbats.

A large police contingent and commandos of the Rapid Action Force and the Eastern Frontier Rifles then battled for an hour with the mob.

Combing operations began at 5.30 pm and 27 persons were arrested on charges of rioting.

Agarwal said trouble has been brewing since March. “Local CPM leaders and Pan demanded money as well as employment for their cadre in our factory,” he added.

But CPM district secretariat member Sunil Sarkar denied that his partymen had planned the attack on the factory. “It was a spontaneous reaction from the villagers. The factory emits toxic pollutants and the villagers had earlier pointed it out to the management,’’ he said.

“It is natural that the villagers would want to be employed in the factory. But neither my party workers nor the villagers had set fire to the jeeps or attacked the police. I think local anti-socials had mixed with the mob and created trouble,” Sarkar added.

At the end of the day, however, the factory directors were wondering whether to pull out of the state and set up the unit elsewhere.

   

 
 
GOVT NORM FOR KIDNEY DONOR 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, July 15: 
The government today decreed that kidney donors would have to submit affidavits to the health department declaring that they were donating and not selling the organ.

Director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee said at Writers’ Buildings that it was clearly mentioned in the Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994, that there would be no commercial dealings for a kidney transplant. But the Act would now be strictly enforced following reports of kidney supply rackets.

After the affidavit is submitted by the donor, a state authorisation committee, which formally permits a transplant, takes a decision. Chatterjee said the government had given licence to transplant kidneys to SSKM Hospital, Command Hospital and two other private hospitals. Officials said the government had permitted 481 kidney transplants since 1995.

The health services director said the government had received a complaint from SSKM Hospital authorities regarding a kidney transplant in April which was performed without the mandatory human leukocyte antigen (HLA) test. A report was published in The Telegraph on July 11.

The nephrologist concerned chose to omit the HLA test, which is essential to establish “histo-compatibility” between the patient and the kidney donor, violating the 1994 Act. “We are inquiring into the matter and a decision will be taken soon,” said Chatterjee.

Malignant malaria

Health minister Suryakanta Mishra said cases of malignant malaria were on the rise in the state.

“It is a matter of concern that one-third of malaria attacks are malignant. However, 50 per cent of the attacks in the country today are caused by plasmodium falciparum. So the National Malaria Control Programme should be intensified,” Mishra said.

The minister said the high incidence of malignant malaria in neighbouring states like Bihar was having an impact on the state. He added that the alarming aspect was that the spraying of DDT was having no impact on mosquitoes as they had developed resistance against the pesticide.

Mishra urged the Centre to come forward and pump more funds in its malaria control programmes.

“We have held meetings with Calcutta Municipal Corporation authorities and assured them of all co-operation in combating malaria,” the minister said.

Mishra said there was a recent death caused by malignant malaria in Calcutta. He added that the incidence of malaria was highest between July and October.

It was of utmost importance that people used mosquito nets, the minister advised.

   

 
 
ANOTHER CPM LEADER BEHEADED 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Diamond Harbour, July 15: 
In less than a week, another Trinamul Congress-turned-CPM activist was decapitated in the district in the early hours today.

Shakti Mal (40) was returning home in Belgachhi village after requesting police to offer him security, when alleged Trinamul-backed assailants waylaid him.

On July 10, alleged Trinamul workers had murdered another Trinamul -turned-CPM activist, Reazul Laskar, at Kusum village in the Usti area. His head was also found severed from his body.

Ever since Mal changed his party affiliation, he had been receiving threats from alleged Trinamul leaders.

Last night Mal, also a businessman, went to the Mathurapur police station to request its officer-in–charge, Debasish Chakraborty, to provide him with security guards. He was accompanied by two of his party workers.

Ironically, a police official said Mal was assured that he would be provided with a security guard from today. The official added that the frightened man had also provided names of people who were threatening him. “We are looking for them and are sure to nab them without much delay,” he said.

When Mal and his companions were returning home, the assailants attacked the CPM worker with sharp weapons.

“Last night, when Mal did not return home from the police station, we launched a search for him. We waited throughout the night and then went to the police station to report him missing. At dawn, his beheaded body was founded besides a bush,” said local CPM leader Niranjan Kayal.

He said Mal was popular in the area and Trinamul leaders became afraid after his joined the CPM. Mal was expected to play a crucial role to corner votes for the CPM during the panchayat polls scheduled for next year.

Collision claims six

Six persons, including two girls, were killed and another six injured when a Tata Sumo in which they were travelling collided head-on with a truck on National Highway 34.

Police sources said the car driver died on the spot while five others succumbed to injuries in hospital. The condition of the six injured is said to be critical.

The deceased were identified as Badal Goswami (52), daughters Bipasha (21) and Paromita (14), his brother Lalmohan (45) and Sadhan Sarkar (34).

Police said the incident took place at 2.45 am on the national highway near Dhubulia in Nadia district when 13 persons, including the driver, were going to Tarapith from Payradanga.

“The car driver, Bhola Bin, lost control and rammed into the truck carrying stone-chips,” said Narayan Ghosh, DIG, headquarters.

Preliminary investigations revealed that the car was overcrowded. “The driver might have failed to notice the small turn on the highway where the incident took place,” said an official.

Ghosh said there was no one to rescue the injured as villagers were asleep. The victims were found lying on the road by other travellers who raised an alarm.

The local people then rushed the injured to Shaktinagar hospital, 15 km from the accident site.

   

 
 
CRORES LOST IN LEAKY AND CREAKY TAX RAJ 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 15: 
An audit report has identified huge revenue leaks and an inefficient tax collection machinery in Bengal.

In its report on Bengal government finances for 2000-01, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has revealed a revenue loss of Rs 3502.45 crore for the year through underassessment or short levy of taxes. The CAG came to this conclusion after a test check of records of major levies, such as sales tax, excise and land revenue.

Since this was only a random check, the actual revenue loss could be even greater.

The report also brings into sharp focus how outmoded and inefficient the collection machinery is. It says the average cost of collection of revenue as percentage of total revenue is 5.45, compared with the national average of 3.26. “This can be explained by high wage bills. In a bid to generate employment, the government has actually created a huge pool of redundant people in the system. They are now facing the consequences,” an economist said on condition of anonymity.

Requests for a response from the finance ministry, headed by Asim Dasgupta (picture in chart), drew a blank.

Highlighting an important area of inefficiency in the system, the report draws attention to the rising number of cases where tax assessment has either not been done or remain unresolved. “The increasing arrears in assessment call for revision of norms of assessment by the finance department,” it adds.

“The tax structure is based on the old economy. But the last few years have seen growth in agriculture and services. The system has failed to mop up revenues from these sectors,” the economist said.

Confirming the hypothesis, the report says the government’s actual receipts in 2000-01 from land revenue and taxes on agricultural income have been 37 per cent and 63 per cent lower than the budget estimates. Taxes on agriculture income generated a paltry sum of Rs 2.93 crore against the budget estimate of Rs 8 crore.

In the past five years, the report says: “Except in the case of non-tax revenue in 1999-2000, the actual receipts were always lower than the budget estimate figures.”

For example, actual collection of sales tax — the largest revenue earner — was over 8 per cent short of estimate.

Six departments — public enterprise, power, industrial reconstruction, commerce and industries, urban development and co-operation — were studied for their record of recovery of loan and interest. The report estimates the loss by way of unrealised interest by these departments between 1995-96 and 1999-2000 at Rs 783.77 crore.

The CAG has hauled up government departments for not preparing budget estimates for interest income. It has identified a major flaw in the system. “...there is no such provision in the West Bengal Financial Rules or any other Act/Rules of the state government relating to maintenance of registers/records in respect of sanction and recovery of loans and interest thereof”.

In the single largest case of excise revenue loss of Rs 355.05 crore, the government either did not charge or short-levied duty on rectified spirit to be used to make Indian-made foreign liquor.Mismatch between the actual and the estimate, absence of a proper revenue collection system and failure to reclaim dues is seen by many in industry as indicators of poor governance.

“A few international names can do little for the state. Investors prefer looking at the performance figures to get a feel of the ground reality. The government must set its house in order instead of introducing cosmetic changes,” said an industrialist.

   

 
 
MARXIST SCHOOL FOR CADRE LAUNCHED 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Hatsimul (Burdwan), July 15: 
Join the Marxists and go to school. The CPM has opened one to impart training in communist thought and Marxist socialism, the first of its kind in the country.

The school, set to educate the CPM leadership and its cadre, was inaugurated by party politburo member Prakash Karat yesterday.

Karat said that Marxism should be imparted through theoretical studies and practical experiences. “Those who want to embrace Marxist thought will find great use for this school,” Karat said on the Matar-Benoy Trust, set up in memory of Syed Sahedullah (Matarda) and former minister for land reforms Benoy Chowdhury.

The school should be able to merge the experience of the 20th century with the unfolding world in the new millennium, the politburo member pointed out.

Karat said the school would also help to chronicle the communist movement in India.

“We will also have short films as well as biographies of departed leaders for the students to learn,” said CPM central committee member Benoy Konar.

Konar, an influential Burdwan leader, said unless the cadre was made aware of communist thought, revolution could not be achieved. “The school will help participants in the revolution to be aware of social norms.”

Built at a cost of Rs 15 lakh, the three-storey building is located at Chandsona village.

   

 
 
COP BLAMES COPS FOR SON-IN-LAW SUICIDE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 15: 
The father-in-law of Abhijit Sinha today alleged that the Central excise and customs officer committed suicide after suffering mental torture in police custody.

In a confidential letter to superintendent of North 24-Parganas police M. Harisena Verma, Moloy Sinha, also deputy superintendent of police (CID), today called for an investigation into the “alleged mental torture” undergone by his deceased son-in-law.

The Midnapur police had detained Abhijit Sinha for interrogation on his suspected Naxalite links. The officer had to go to Midnapore where district police officials interrogated him.

Moloy Sinha, who handled the investigation into the abduction of Khadim’s co-owner Partha Roy Burman, asked the police to investigate into the circumstances that led Abhijit Sinha to commit suicide by jumping on railway tracks on July 7.

“We will inquire into the allegations levelled by Moloy Sinha,” said a police officer..

Abhijit Sinha’s father-in-law also wants an investigation on the role of the railway police, who recovered his body from the tracks. “There is no confusion about the fact that he committed suicide. In any case, an unnatural death case has been recorded and investigations are underway,” the officer said.

According to the family, Abhijit looked shocked after returning from Midnapore. “He was not even in a position to talk normally. He felt nervous whenever the telephone rang and did not to receive calls.”

   

 
 
HAIR RAISING: NOT RESULT, BUT A SECRET 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, July 15: 
Missile man A.P.J. Abdul Kalam is set to be crowned the 12th President of India with most of an estimated 90 per cent MPs and MLAs voting for him in today’s presidential elections.

Kalam, beaming and feeling “fantastic”, was present at the most important polling station in Parliament House where Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, his Cabinet colleagues and leader of the Opposition Sonia Gandhi cast their votes.

Sporting his favourite blue shirt, Kalam let out a little secret about his hair. “I get it done once in four months. Some time they go up, some time they go down,” he said, tucking his hand under the now-famous silver locks.

Kalam was willing to answer everything. When someone asked him if he had seen Oscar-winning movie A Beautiful Mind, he said he had not but narrated the story of the novel on which it is based.

Sources said Kalam would wear a Jodhpuri bandhgala for the July 24 swearing-in, finally discarding his casual blue shirt and grey trousers.

He wants 1,000 school children from across the country to attend the ceremony but the government has requested him to cut the number to 100 because of a space crunch in the Central Hall of Parliament.

MDMK general secretary and Lok Sabha MP Vaiko, arrested under the anti-terror Act, cast his ballot in the Tamil Nadu Assembly secretariat. Vaiko was brought to Chennai from Vellore Central prison, 140 km away, amid tight security.

Polling began on a brisk note at 10 am and by forenoon nearly 65 per cent of the votes had been cast. According to returning officer R.C. Tripathi, the turnout was 90 per cent.

Tripathi said the electoral college for the presidential poll consisted of 4896 members — 776 MPs and 4120 MLAs. In all, 735 members of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha exercised their franchise.

The Rajya Sabha secretary general said 13 MPs — 10 from the Lok Sabha and three from the Rajya Sabha — could not vote for various reasons.

Kalam’s rival, Captain Lakshmi Sahgal, did not make an appearance in Parliament. “I am facing an election, so I am naturally looking for victory,” Kalam said.

Neither Kalam nor Sahgal were part of the electoral college that elects the President.

A Congress MP from Assam, A.F. Ghulam Osmani, felt giddy and fainted after he cast his vote in Parliament House.

There was some tension in the afternoon after a loud burst of crackers. Security staff immediately went on high alert, but someone reminded them that BJP workers were celebrating the appointment of Madan Lal Khurana as the Delhi unit chief.

Counting of votes will take place on July 18. The results will be announced the same evening.

   

 
 
GOVT POSTPONES TERROR LAW REVIEW 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, July 15: 
The government has no immediate plans to amend the Prevention of Terrorism Act despite the NDA voicing its support for MDMK chief Vaiko, who was arrested under the Act for making pro-LTTE statements.

A day after the ruling coalition passed a resolution criticising the Jayalalithaa government for arresting Vaiko, government sources said today that till the Tamil Nadu court disposes of the case, there is no scope for amending the Act.

Any amendment is unlikely to come through before the monsoon session of Parliament is over, the sources added.

“You cannot start review of Pota just because somebody has been arrested,” a highly-placed source said.

“We are not going to do anything in a haste. The government will wait for the Chennai court to interpret the case. If the court sets aside the arrest, it will be construed as an administrative misuse and the government cannot do anything about it. If it interprets that the use of Pota was right, the government may have to do some rethinking,” a source said.

The government may also wait till the judgment before deciding on the propriety of the two MDMK ministers continuing in the council of ministers following Vaiko’s arrest.

The BJP, along with some NDA partners like the DMK, the PMK and the Samata Party, is in favour of amendments to the Act to curb its misuse.

“Some NDA allies did express apprehensions when Poto (Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance) was being taken up and, therefore, when the NDA feels the need to amend Pota, it should be done,” BJP spokesman V.K. Malhotra told reporters.

He said though precautions were taken while enacting the law, “we have to look into the matter when somebody goes to court. At the moment, we will wait for what the court decides…. But, the misuse of Pota has to be stopped”.

However, Malhotra added, the Act should be used against anyone supporting a terrorist organisation with either moral or financial assistance.

DMK president M. Karunanidhi welcomed the NDA’s announcement yesterday that the Act would be amended.

“It is for the Centre to come out with some safeguards to prevent its misuse,” he said. The DMK had stated this view at the NDA meeting, he added.

   

 
 
VOTER VAIKO IN DUBIOUS DEBUT 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Chennai, July 15: 
MDMK leader and MP Vaiko was the cynosure of all eyes as he arrived at the legislative Assembly complex, where the entire spectrum of the political class had turned up to vote in the presidential election today.

Vaiko, the Lok Sabha representative from Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu, became the first MP held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act to be allowed to exercise his franchise in the presidential poll, on permission from the Madras High Court.

The entire media attention was focused on Vaiko as he was brought amid tight security from the Vellore prison to the specially-arranged booth in the Assembly Secretariat to cast his ballot along with other MPs and MLAs from the state.

The police van with armed escort carrying Vaiko drove in at precisely 2.25 pm, more than two hours after ADMK leader and chief minister Jayalalithaa had cast her ballot. Polling began at 10 am under the supervision of returning officer Rajaraman.

Vaiko, dressed in a white shirt and a dhoti with a black shawl wrapped around his neck, walked briskly into the polling booth and was whisked away into the waiting police van less than five minutes later.

He did not utter a word to the waiting reporters but nodded when some reporters said they would like to speak with his deputy, Union minister of state for finance Ginjee Ramachandran, who had also cast his vote here. Acknowledging the breather that Vaiko got to cast his vote in the presidential poll, Ramachandran told reporters that the MDMK would continue with its fight against its leader’s arrest “legally and democratically”.

He said his party was satisfied with the Centre’s response to the developments till now, particularly the NDA resolution condemning Vaiko’s arrest.

Asserting that the state government had no powers to ban the MDMK, Ramachandran clarified that deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani had not said he would consider Tamil Nadu’s request to proscribe the MDMK. All that Advani had said was he would “think about it” if a request came and there was a world of difference between the two, he added.

The terror law was enacted to deal with terrorists infiltrating into Jammu and Kashmir and the sections invoked to arrest Vaiko were “baseless and devoid of any sense of responsibility by the state”, Ramachandran said. The MDMK will challenge the arrest in the high court, he said, adding that Vaiko would not seek bail.

Ramachandran denied that there were any links between Vaiko’s arrest under the terror Act and the Centre not withdrawing an old FERA case against Jayalalithaa and her confidante, Sasikala.

The case had been transferred under the new Foreign Exchange Management Act, he said, adding that nobody from the ADMK had approached him or the finance minister to withdraw the case.

HC to hear Stalin plea

The Supreme Court today declined to interfere with Madras High Court’s order on the ‘one-man one-post’ amendment brought by the Jayalalithaa government in Tamil Nadu. Because of the amended law, M.K. Stalin, son of DMK chief M. Karunanidhi, had to vacate his office of Chennai mayor to continue as an MLA in the state Assembly.

A division bench of Justices G.B. Pattanaik and Ruma Pal, on a special leave petition filed by a DMK sympathiser, said the high court would hear final arguments in the matter in the first week of August, when the case is scheduled to come up again.

   

 
 
JAYA STUNS ADVANI WITH ANTI-TERROR BLOW 
 
 
BY MAHESH RANGARAJAN
 
July 15: 
Barely a fortnight after publicly felicitating L.K. Advani on his elevation to the post of deputy Prime Minister, Jayalalithaa has taken the Centre head on. Events in the south undermine the cohesion of the ruling alliance in New Delhi.

They also threaten L.K. Advani’s new image as a strong, decisive leader who can steady the ship of state. The home ministry’s brief does not end with law and order issues but extends to Centre-state ties.

The rapid action by the Tamil Nadu government in detaining V. Gopalsamy, better known as Vaiko, under the Prevention of Terrorism Act is testing these relations. The arrest brings to the fore deep conflicts inherent in the NDA’s attitude to terrorism. It also exposes the dangers of shepherding more parties into its tent than is wise.

Last summer, the arrest of M. Karunanidhi showed that the lady from Poes Garden could have her will and her way. This time, her actions threaten to further corrode the Centre’s ability to rein in state governments that decide to pursue a confrontationist mode of politics.

Vaiko’s is a much smaller party than the DMK. He does not have even one MLA out of 230. His close ties to the Tamil Tigers over the years have not prevented him from becoming a loyal BJP ally over the last four years.

In 2000, Advani was an honoured guest at a mass rally in Madurai where posters hailing Prabhakaran were removed from the walls only at the eleventh hour. Conflicts over the issue were bound to resurface.

Jayalalithaa’s MPs voted for the anti-terror law in both Houses of Parliament. Neither her opponents nor supporters imagined she would act so fast. Her timing has been impeccable, coming as it does within days of the Centre confessing to the limits of power in getting Karnataka to release Cauvery waters.

She has played her cards very well. The Congress, its ally in the Assembly polls only a year ago, is certain to support a strong stand against sympathisers of the LTTE. Karunanidhi’s party is facing serious erosion of its base and is a divided and weakened force. The BJP’s courtship of her party has been put to good use, but it is she who holds all the cards.

The arrest may be part of the chief minister’s crackdown on her opponents. But it is also a challenge to the authority of the Union government. At one stroke, she has exposed the contradictions at the heart of the NDA, which has been eager to take aboard any and all backers in a bid to swell the ranks of MPs who support it in the Lok Sabha.

The options in Tamil Nadu are politically more prickly than even the massacre in Jammu. On the killings, all parties will back the government’s bid to convince the international community that Pakistan needs to match words with deeds. With Assembly polls round the corner in Jammu and Kashmir, even Advani has been careful, moderate and measured in his remarks.

But Vaiko’s arrest will give a fresh impetus to critics of the anti-terror Act. It may raise doubts in the minds of some allies afraid that rivals, who are in office in their respective states, will use the Act against them.

The problem is very different from 1998-99 when North Block’s bid to pressure the then DMK government on the issue of militancy came a cropper. This time, it is the zeal with which the law is being applied and not any laxity that is under the spotlight.

The irony is that it is showing up the limitations of the Centre and the ability of a determined, if headstrong, state government to have its way.

Keen as it is to help Vaiko, the NDA cannot disown the law. The Sivakasi MP, in turn, will not denounce or disown the Tamil Tigers. The BJP and its alliance are caught in a cleft stick.

   
 

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