Child footballer drowns in Lakes
Babudom trips telecom towers
Turn off the TV, have a ball
Cable fault sparks powerless Sunday
The City Diary
No sewers to drain the rain
Benefits of intravenous catheter implant
‘Class foe’ turns friend in need for People’s War
Victims see rail workers’ hand in train robbery
Arsenic shroud over weddings

 
 
CHILD FOOTBALLER DROWNS IN LAKES 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, July 28: 
He scored a Ronaldinho-like goal for his team on Sunday morning, but paid the penalty with his life.

Thirty minutes into a ‘friendly’ match being played at the Dhakuria Lakes, Avishek Sau, 12, won a free kick near the slushy midfield and floated it over the goalkeeper’s head. The football sailed through the makeshift goalpost and landed in the Lake. Avishek’s friends asked him to fetch the ball. He went into the water, picked it up and threw it back to the boys.

Avishek, caked in mud, decided to take a quick dip in the Lake. “We were desperate to re-start the match. Avishek’s team was winning by a goal and we were in a hurry to equalise. We thought he would be back on the field in a minute,’’ recalled Bulbul Das, one of the players. The game went on — without Avishek.

A little later, the 15 boys, aged between 10 and 15 years, decided to take a break. “We walked towards the Lake and found Avishek’s clothes on the bank. But there was no sign of him,’’ said Hira, one of the players. “A man who emerged after a swim said he had seen a boy dive into the water.”

The boys panicked and ran back to their Tollygunge Road para to alert their parents. Avishek’s father Bhola and some neighbours rushed to the spot, while others went to Lake police station.

About an hour later, around 8 am, Avishek’s body was found floating near the spot he was last seen. “We were in no way involved in the incident. Our officer has gone to inquire about the cause of Avishek’s death,’’ said sub-inspector Debashis Dey of Lake thana.

Back in their modest one-room home at 63A, Tollygunge Road, Avishek’s mother, Chanchala sat in stunned silence and mumbled: “Avishek was unwell and I had warned him not to leave the house.’’ Neighbour Babu Das said the local boys, inspired by World Cup 2002, would regularly head for a game at the Lakes at around 5.30 am. “Avishek had woken up around 4.30 am on Sunday and was preparing to leave when Chanchala ordered him to stay back. But the minute his mother dozed off, the boy slipped out of the house,’’ said Babu. And he never came back.

Avishek was a student of Class VII in a local school. He was “not interested in books but was mad about football”, said a neighbour. He was the younger child of Chanchala and Bhola Sau, a trader with a shop in the local Tollygunge market.

   

 
 
BABUDOM TRIPS TELECOM TOWERS 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR AND SANJAY MANDAL
 
Calcutta, July 28: 
Officially, it’s the rain. But Reliance Infocom’s latest travails in Salt Lake have thrown up in greater relief the problems that new-age technology must face when it has to depend on the whims of officialdom.

Reliance Infocom, now in the process of installing its infrastructure that includes three towers, appears to have been caught in a tussle between the urban development department and the municipality. The towers will bring to Salt Lake the benefits of the Rs 955-crore national optic fibre project.

Reliance, eager not to get on the wrong side of the mandarins, is blaming the monsoon for the delay in setting up the towers, that will herald a single-window communication system, claimed to be “10,000 times more efficient and faster” than the present system. “We have been set back by the rains, as they are hampering excavation of the road surface,” Reliance vice-president and the man in charge of Calcutta operations, Kalyan Sarengi, told Metro on phone from Hyderabad.

But speaking on condition of anonymity, senior Reliance officers admitted that the work for setting up the towers — not linked to the monsoon — was being delayed because of “conflicting and confusing signals” from the municipality and the urban development department.

Reliance first approached Bidhannagar Municipality for permission to instal the towers, between 25 and 40 metres high. The municipality, however, told the firm that the parks, where the towers were to be erected, were the urban development department’s responsibility.

“We are not responsible for the parks, so we told Reliance to get in touch with the department,” municipality chairman Dilip Gupta said. But urban development department officers claim that the parks were transferred to the municipality some time ago, and it was for the latter to clear Reliance’s work.

Reliance still went to the urban development department and was given the assurance that necessary directives would be sent to the civic authorities, so that work could progress according to the firm’s time-frame. Gupta, however, said he had not received any such directive from the department and was “not interested in the matter”.

Since the municipality’s last board meeting did not have Reliance’s plea on its agenda, the earliest the matter can be resolved will not be before the next board meeting, a month away. Officers maintain that, given Gupta’s inflexible stand, they don’t expect Reliance’s plea to be considered even then.

Municipality officers say Reliance’s troubles began after it engaged private contractors to repair roads damaged by cable-laying work. The repairs were not considered up to the mark.

   

 
 
TURN OFF THE TV, HAVE A BALL 
 
 
BY AMIT UKIL
 
Calcutta, July 28: 
It’s a kick-start to draw the under-11s away from the small screen and back on to the play field. And it has worked well, considering that over 1,000 children from eight schools are involved and having a ball! Breaking new ground, a year-long junior inter-school festival is on at St Xavier’s. After a “trial run” last year, the Blue and White Junior Inter-School Festival, organised by St Xavier’s Primary School, has three more schools lining up and two more events on offer this year.

Jeffrey Menezes, music teacher and house co-ordinator of the primary school, says: “Many parents have told me that their children are glued to either the television or to computer games in their spare time. They have given up pastimes that involve exercise, which is a bad sign. So, some teachers from other schools and I got together and thought of a way to get them back on the playing field.”

The idea has caught on. In the “trial year”, six schools — St Xavier’s, St James, La Martiniere for Boys, Frank Anthony Public School, Loreto Day School and St Mary’s School — took part. This year, the students of Birla High for Boys, as well as Girls, and Albany Hall have joined the fest.

The year-long concept is also new. To avoid clashes with examination and holiday schedules, the eight events are to be held between June 2002 and March 2003. “The inter-school football tournament is going on at present, with the finals slated for Tuesday,” says Menezes.

The other events include cricket (in January-February 2003), relay races, chess and, from next year, basketball and table-tennis. Among the non-sporting events are elocution, art and quizzing.

“The fest is also an opportunity to identify and nurture talent at a young age,” points out Brian Gomes, a teacher of La Martiniere for Boys, who is also involved in organising the events. The principals of the participating schools have lent support to the festival. They include Terence Ireland of St James’, Mrs Imam of Albany Hall and Kaveri Dutt of the Birla schools.

And the students are loving the fun and games. “The tournament is great. Even if your team does not win, you get the chance to make friends with boys from other schools,” says Justine Quiggley, a Class IV student of La Martiniere.

   

 
 
CABLE FAULT SPARKS POWERLESS SUNDAY 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, July 28: 
Large areas of Lake Town-Jessore Road spent Sunday without electricity, following “a major fault” in the 33-kv underground cables supplying power to the distribution station of the CESC.

The areas affected by the fault, that occurred at around 3.30 am, included Lake Town, Patipukur, S.K. Deb Road, Green Park, Bangur Avenue, Kalindi and Dum Dum Park. As a result, about 1.5 lakh residents suffered the summer day with no rain and an acute water crisis, as pumps of the local municipality as well as the deep tubewells in highrises, choked.

“This is a very rare case. Both our 33-kv cables, which bring in about 18 mw of electricity for supply to these areas from our 132-kv sub-station at Maniktala, sprung faults simultaneously. Normal supply is likely to be restored on Monday,” said a senior CESC official.

The CESC authorities tried to maintain water supply in the morning by diverting power through an alternative route. But there was only a trickle of water, as the supply could not cope with the demand.

Sujit Bose, local councillor and Trinamul leader of Sribhumi-S.K. Deb Road area, said the power failure occurred early on Sunday but the area’s residents could not alert the local repairing depot of the CESC, as it does not have a telephone.

“We have repeatedly urged the CESC authorities to improve the infrastructure in their repairing depots, but they have not paid heed to us. Now, the power utility is charging us more but the quality of service and maintenance have not improved,” alleged Bose.

There was temporary reprieve for cricket-lovers in the late afternoon, when the CESC managed to supply power from “an alternative source” to parts of Lake Town, Sribhumi and Kalindi, in phases, from around 4 pm. But most areas were plunged into darkness by the time the Indian batsmen took the field to try and salvage the Lord’s Test against England.

“This was a very temporary arrangement. Detecting such heavy-duty cable faults takes time. The faults were detected on VIP Road, near Golaghata, and the work on jointing the cables began around 7 pm,” said a CESC official said. “Repair work is on at full swing and a partial restoration of power supply is expected late on Sunday. But normalcy will not be restored till Monday.”

In another part of north Calcutta, power cuts sparked people’s protest on Sunday. Residents of R.G. Kar Road blocked the thoroughfare in the evening, demanding an end to the frequent power cuts, scarcity of water and the deteriorating law-and-order situation in the area.

As protesters held up traffic, senior police officers were forced to intervene. It was on their assurance that the angry residents lifted the roadblock around 8 pm.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
Calcutta, July 28: 

Knife seized from air passenger

A 12-inch-long knife, with the blade measuring around eight inches, was seized from a passenger boarding the Agartala flight on Sunday. Alert CISF jawans impounded the knife from a hand baggage of the passenger, who said it was for personal use. The CISF security personnel confiscated the knife but let the passenger take the flight.

CMC drinking water outlets

The water supply department of Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) will soon open a chain of 30 drinking-water outlets in different parts of the city, in a joint venture with Rotary International. Mayor-in-council (water supply) Sovan Chatterjee said cold and bacteria-free water will be served at 25 paise a glass.

Madarsa exams

The West Bengal Board of Madarsa Education has released the schedule for the High Madarsa, Alim, Fazil, Kamil and M.M. examinations it will conduct in 2003. The exams are slated to begin on February 25 and students will have to contact their madarsa for their admit cards by February 12.    

 
 
NO SEWERS TO DRAIN THE RAIN 
 
 
BY DEBASHIS CHATTOPADHYAY
 
Calcutta, July 28: 
Monsoon brings an annual ordeal for residents of south-west Behala. In the absence of a proper drainage system, the rainwater stands where it falls. And even a smart shower can flood the area for days on end.

The residents claimed to have taken up the matter with urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya recently. They sought immediate intervention, but were told that work could only begin after November.

So the angry residents held a meeting to chart out a “vigorous” course of action to press for their demand. They pointed out on Sunday that if their problem was not addressed within a fortnight, “we are left with no option but to go for a bigger movement”.

During last week’s meeting, organised by Dakshin-Paschim Sahartoli Nikashi O Paribesh Unnayan Samonnoy Samity, representatives from the area spoke of their anguish. Local Trinamul Congress MLA Partha Chatterjee, also joint secretary of the organisation, and Tarit Dutta, general secretary of Joka Organisation for Protection of Environment and Development, A.N. Basu, former vice-chancellor of Jadavpur University, and many others addressed the gathering.

According to Chatterjee, one reason behind the prolonged waterlogging is the rampant landfill of waterbodies. Land sharks and realtors have filled up most of the ponds to raise multi-storeyed buildings. “Ponds are being filled up overnight to make room for highrises, but the administration is blind to this menace,” he complained.

Four canals — Charial, Beggot, the Manipuri feeder canal and Kalagachia — are the main outlets of accumulated water in the area, but they are hardly ever cleaned. “We had urged the minister concerned to have the canals dredged. But he said work can only begin after November. So, does the minister want us to suffer till next November?” Chatterjee asked.

However, department officials said a complete lay-out needs to be made of the area to locate the canals and find out how the existing drains can be joined with them before starting the dredging operations. Moreover, new drains need to be laid in the area, which requires a huge amount of money.

Chatterjee pointed out that the Trinamul-controlled Calcutta Municipal Corporation would have to work in tandem with the irrigation department “to address our problem”. A delegation from the area will soon meet irrigation minister Amalendra Roy and mayor Subrata Mukherjee on this score.

According to Tarit Dutta, residents were trapped in their homes after Saturday night’s shower. “We are marooned, with waist-deep water around us. Residents of Naba Pally, Diamond Park, Bachhar Para and Dakshin Behala Road are the worst affected, since there is no drainage system in place,” he observed.

Others said they would petition Governor Viren J. Shah and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee if “nothing is done to make the area suitable for human habitation.”

   

 
 
BENEFITS OF INTRAVENOUS CATHETER IMPLANT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 28: 
To create awareness about the benefits of the intravenous catheter implant to lessen the agony of critically-ill patients suffering from nutritional deficiency, the first-ever workshop on the topic was held in the city on Sunday.

The Central Venous Catheter Insertion (CVCI) is used to treat terminally-ill cancer patients suffering from nutritional deficiency. A tube, known as the central line, is implanted through the veins for transfusion of fluids, medicines and nutrients into the patient’s body.

“We found that most nursing staff, who are required to clean the dressing on the arm where the implant is done, are not aware of the details of CVCI. Therefore, we decided to hold a workshop,” said oncologist Asish Mukherjee.

Oncologist S.H. Advani said catheter implants have gone a long way in treating critically ill patients. “When it was first used, people were suspicious. But now, we all know that it is extremely beneficial and the entire concept seems to have changed,” said Advani.

Director of medical education C.R. Maity opened the workshop.

The interactive session was followed by practical classes, when nurses and doctors got first-hand experience of handling CVCI patients. “The CVCI implant is not at all painful, and I can even go to office and do my daily chores while the medication is being administered,” said Sabita Saha, a critically-ill patient.

ICU specialist S.K. Todi explained the importance of daily cleaning of the dressing with dry gauze.

Several issues, including the maintenance of the central venous catheter, its history, development and surgical aspects were all discussed in detail. “We hope to train most nurses and doctors, so that patients benefit. Otherwise, an untrained nurse can make things bad for the patient,” said Mukherjee.

   

 
 
‘CLASS FOE’ TURNS FRIEND IN NEED FOR PEOPLE’S WAR 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR AND DEBARATI AGARWALA
 
Calcutta/Malda, July 28: 
When the first spark of an anti-state campaign was ignited at Naxalbari in the 1960s, the protagonists — Charu Majumdar included — couldn’t have possibly dreamt of the direction the movement would take in less than four decades.

Neither could they have imagined that one Naxalite faction would take the help of “class enemies” to annihilate members of another faction in a fight that essentially centred around a piece of land and two brothers.

But that was exactly what happened on Wednesday at Olonda, a village in Malda’s Bamangola area close to the India-Bangladesh border. Apparently, it was a clash over a plot that sent only one person to hospital in an area used to seeing much more bloodshed — even deaths — over property.

Wednesday’s gunbattle has, however, acquired greater political significance by becoming the first recorded clash in recent memory to feature CPM cadre fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with activists of the People’s War — the same organisation that killed several CPM leaders in south Bengal and was, consequently, giving sleepless nights to the government — to beat back members of a sister Naxalite organisation, the CPI(M-L) New Democracy.

The incident, say leaders of other Naxalite factions that claim to shun violence as the route to revolution, is symptomatic of the liaison that the People’s War has with mainstream political parties — including the CPM it is fighting in parts of Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia — in many areas of the state, highlighting the manner in which the outfit manipulates them to create bases where none exist.

Wednesday’s clash was like any other in the region over land. One Naren Ray was injured in the clash between men employed by Bahadur Mandal and Yusuf Mandal, both brothers, said M. Rahman, officer-in-charge of Bamungola police station. Ray was shot in the leg and was out of danger, he added.

But the political backing enjoyed by the protagonists tell a more complex tale, admit police officials. Bahadur belonged to the People’s War and those helping him in targeting his brother on Wednesday were “active CPM cadre”, they said. Yusuf, on the other hand, has been associated with the CPI(M-L) New Democracy for quite some time.

The area, said police officials, was a base for the Kamatapuri People’s Party till the other year. “But this trend — of CPM men helping People’s War activists to get even with New Democracy members — is much more worrying for us,” one of them admitted, explaining that the clash just before the harvest period boded ill.

Naxalite factions, however, say the incident is fraught with far-reaching implications. “This is the first time that the People’s War has targeted members of another Naxalite faction, also considered a sister-organisation, with help from the CPM,” a Calcutta-based leader of another Naxalite group said.

Intelligence officials say the incident points to a “disturbing trend”. The clash seen in conjunction with the literature that indicated that the party has decided to tie up with mainstream political parties to further its aim and recovered during raids on People’s War members pointed out that ground-level activists had taken the directives seriously.

   

 
 
VICTIMS SEE RAIL WORKERS’ HAND IN TRAIN ROBBERY 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Malda, July 28: 
Twelve passengers were injured when a 16-member gang went on a looting spree on board Guwahati-bound Dadar Express late last night between Sahebgunj and Barharwa stations in Jharkhand.

The injured, who were hit when the thieves demanded cash and valuables, were admitted to hospital in Malda town after the train reached at 4.20 am today.

Alleging a nexus between some railway employees, railway police and the gangsters, the victims said the ticket checker disappeared from the S-1 coach when the dacoits boarded the train at Sahebgunj in guise of travellers at midnight. Later, he was found asleep in an air-conditioned compartment. The victims alleged that before rolling into Barharwa station, the train slowed down, allowing the gangsters to escape near Maharajpur. They also complained that there were no police in the two affected coaches.

As soon as the train pulled out from Sahebgunj, the gangsters brandished arms. The bandits first beat up an officer of Mumbai fire brigade, Prabhakar Bhonsle, who was bound for Guwahati, and took away his belongings.

Next to Bhonsle was an officer of Indian Air Force, B.N. Yadav, and his wife Renu, who were bound for Hasimara in North Bengal. The gangsters struck Yadav on the head and face with a sharp-edged weapon before snatching the jewellery on Renu and Rs 10,000 in cash.

The robbers then hit Guwahati-bound Manjar Ali, a mason. “I did not want to hand over my savings of Rs 16,000. One of the dacoits took out a big dagger and started hitting my wrists. ‘Sab de do nehi to haath kaat ke fek dega (give us all you have or we will chop your hands off),’ they threatened. I was scared and I took out my money bag.”

One of the gangsters also snatched a nine-month-old baby and threatened to throw out the child from the window before Nirmala, the mother and wife of a railway employee posted in Guwahati, parted with her jewellery and Rs 11,800 in cash.

Angry at the government railway police for not lodging a complaint at Barharwa, the passengers beat up the station master and attacked the rail police station. The passengers were forced to return to the train when it began pulling out.

On arriving at Malda, the passengers lodged a complaint with the railway police there. A.K. Dayal and R.N. Yadav, the drivers, said the train moved slowly because of lack of proper signals. The train was scheduled to enter Malda station at 1 am but reached at 4.20 am.

   

 
 
ARSENIC SHROUD OVER WEDDINGS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Malda, July 28: 
Sheikhpura hasn’t heard the peals of wedding bells in the past three years.

Rahima Khatun was 20 years old when a prospective groom came calling at her home.

Today, three years later, the arsenic-affected woman remains unwed and unloved. The discoloured patches on her body are not a rare sight in this village.

Arsenic-contaminated water coupled with a passive district administration has wiped the smiles off the faces of villagers, many of whom have been physically scarred for life.

The gloom has been compounded by four arsenic-related deaths in the village in the past year. Sheikhpura lost 40 people to arsenic in five years and about 400 are battling for their lives.

Ironically, Sheikhpura, which falls under Manikchak police station, is barely a few kilometres away from the Rs 10-crore arsenic-free water supply set up by the state government and funded by the Centre.

Gone with the celebration is a stretch of pipeline that once brought safe drinking water to the village. Despite the villagers’ repeated pleas to district authorities, the pipeline remains cut. The tube-wells, the only source of water, churn out murky, poisonous liquid that the people are forced to drink.

An official of the public health engineering department squarely blamed the villagers for their plight, saying: “They are responsible as they stole the pipes themselves.”

However, Samsul, a villager, countered: “Why should we kill ourselves? It is their faulty plans and the passing vehicles that have damaged the five-point supply line.”

   
 

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