Mamata chugs to Delhi for dharna
Deadline for transporters
Money motive behind twin slit-throat murder
Harassment allegation in parking row
Furore over Board ‘bias’
Mosque in airport take-off way
Biswas sets term for rebel talks
Road jobs for dry districts
Dormant units get the boot
REC report likely today

 
 
MAMATA CHUGS TO DELHI FOR DHARNA 
 
 
OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Aug. 10: 
Sending a clear message to party MPs who want to continue with the NDA and join the government in Delhi, Trinamul Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee on Saturday threatened to launch a “do-or-die” battle against the Centre to stall Eastern Railway’s bifurcation, saying “the bait for Cabinet berths can never make us ignore Bengal’s interests”.

“I have no sympathy for those who only want to be ministers,” she said at a rally in the city. Among those who have been lobbying to stay on with the NDA are party MPs Bikram Sarkar and Sudip Bandopadhyay.

Mamata, who left the city on Saturday afternoon for Delhi along with other party MPs, MLAs and councillors to stage a dharna in front of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s residence on Monday, ruled out any compromise with the Centre over the issue. “Our movement will continue for years till the bifurcation is revoked. Our minimum demand is retention of the Dhanbad division and inclusion of Katihar in Eastern Railway. The Centre will either have to concede our demand or perish,” she said, indicating her party’s imminent dissociation from the ruling coalition.

Announcing her decision to organise a mega rally in the city on August 21, Mamata said she intended to “expose the Marxists who have connived with the Centre to accept the bifurcation as a fait accompli”.

The Trinamul leader reminded the gathering how she had quit the Narasimha Rao Cabinet in 1992 “in Bengal’s interest” and the NDA ministry over the Tehelka issue to protest corruption.

Mamata also recounted how she was asked to rejoin the NDA Cabinet on July 1. “But the decision to bifurcate Eastern Railway had already been taken on June 14 and the notification was issued on July 4. We could not join the ministry which sought to strip Mother Bengal by way of the bifurcation,” she observed.

The Trinamul leader accused both the CPM and the Congress of remaining silent spectators to the Centre’s “gross injustice” to Bengal. “The Centre is also planning to shift the headquarters of Coal India and Damodar Valley Corporation from Calcutta to other states. The Congress and CPM MPs have not raised their voices against these moves,” she said.

Mamata, who has decided not to attend the Prime Minister’s dinner on Sunday, said her party workers would not rest till the bifurcation order was withdrawn. “We will demonstrate in front of the Prime Minister’s residence. Let the police beat us up and arrest us,” she said.

The Trinamul leader, who was addressing the rally in front of Bidhan Chandra Roy’s residence, urged her party members to draw inspiration from the role the former chief minister had played in stalling a similar move to split Eastern Railway in 1953 along with Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, the Jan Sangh leader. She also had a dig at the BJP leadership, saying there is “no point in observing Shyama Prasad’s birth anniversary if you cannot appreciate his role”.

   

 
 
DEADLINE FOR TRANSPORTERS 
 
 
A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 10: 
State transport minister Subhas Chakraborty on Saturday gave transport operators two days in which to submit their opinion of the action plan drawn up by the government to check vehicular pollution in the state.

According to the plan, all vehicles, run on petrol or diesel, will have to conform to Bharat-II norms or convert to LPG-driven engines. The Supreme Court has set August 15 as the last date for submitting the action plan.

Transport operators had sought more time but the minister rejected their plea on the grounds that the government would have to meet the deadline. “Please submit your views in writing by Monday so that we can go through them before giving finishing touches to the plan,” he told transporters, adding that the new rules would come into effect only after a notification was issued by the government subject to the court clearing the plan.

Ajit Saha, president, Bengal Bus Syndicate, told Chakraborty that they needed “both time and money to adapt to the new situation”. “It will be difficult for us to form an opinion by Monday as we need to consult experts,” said an operator on Saturday.

   

 
 
MONEY MOTIVE BEHIND TWIN SLIT-THROAT MURDER 
 
 
A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 10: 
A sensational double murder rocked Sonarpur on Saturday morning. Tarubala Bhattacharya, 92, and her daughter-in-law Deepali, 56, were found lying on the floor of their Haritakitala residence with their throats slit.

According to the police, the murders took place early on Saturday. “The killers entered the victims’ single-storeyed house through a window. They stole around Rs 1 lakh. No valuables were touched. A cell-phone, however, was damaged,” said Deb Kumar Ganguly, superintendent of police, South 24-Parganas.

Ganguly said Tarubala’s son, Bhola, who was employed with the public works department, died last year and the lady had been living with her daughter-in-law since then.

“On August 3, Deepali withdrew her husband’s dues from his office. The miscreants seem to have been after the money. They must have also known that there were just the two of them in the house,” said an officer of the Sonarpur police station.

Shibdas Bhattacharya, CPM South 24-Parganas district secretariat member, who was known to the family, said dacoity was not the sole motive of the killers. “A family dispute may have led to the incident,” he added.

Police sources said every morning Deepali used to walk down to the nearby milk booth with her neighbours. “On Saturday morning, one of the neighbours called her as usual. But repeated knocks on the door drew no response,” said an officer.

Sensing trouble, she called other neighbours, who broke open the door. “On entering the house, we saw the two bodies lying on the floor. There were injury marks on their throats. The Sonarpur police later took the bodies away for a post-mortem,” said a resident.

Deepali’s only daughter, who stays at New Alipore, was informed of the incident. “She told us that her mother had received more than Rs 1 lakh as her father’s dues from his office. She has no idea where the money was kept. She thinks that the killers might have been after the money,” sources said.

Demonstration: Around 50 girls of a south Calcutta college held a demonstration on Saturday on SP Mukherjee Road to protest police action on SUCI members during Thursday’s rally. Traffic was disrupted for over half-an-hour. They submitted a memorandum to the Bhowanipore police station.

   

 
 
HARASSMENT ALLEGATION IN PARKING ROW 
 
 
A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 10: 
The wife of a retired colonel lodged a complaint with the Maidan police on Friday against three army officers for “misbehaving” with her. The woman, whose name has been withheld, alleged that the trio deflated the tyres of her car even after she identified herself.

Ashish Sengupta, officer in-charge, Maidan police station, said: “The altercation between the woman and the army personnel took place during a drive against illegal parking of cars in military zones. The army has initiated the drive as part of its security measures before August 15. The city police are assisting them in the drive.”

According to sources, the army personnel found the woman’s Maruti parked near the Book Fair ground. They requested her to park the car elsewhere. “When the woman refused to remove her car, the armymen deflated the vehicle’s tyres,” said Sengupta. “Nearly 15 cars were booked during Friday’s drive,” he added.

The Maidan police station has been directed to keep vigil in and around its jurisdiction till Independence Day.

Management courses: Higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty inaugurated management courses at JIS College of Engineering on Saturday.

   

 
 
FURORE OVER BOARD ‘BIAS’ 
 
 
A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 10: 
A statement by Haraprasad Samaddar, president, West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, has sparked a controversy in state school circles.

In the June-2002 edition of Parshad Barta, the Board’s monthly journal, Samaddar mentioned in his column that the Board had “distributed 20 extra computers to schools in South 24-Parganas, which is the chief minister’s district”.

Teachers and guardians of Madhyamik schools are perturbed as the statement smacks of favouritism to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s constituency. Samaddar’s statement has embarrassed the state government as a section of teachers feels this is a “blatant attempt” by the Board president to please the chief minister.

According to a state education department source, Samaddar’s statement is “misleading” as it emphasises on the 20 additional computers that the schools in the district received of the 200 distributed by the Board in the state. “This gave an impression that the schools in South 24-Parganas did not actually need the computers,” he added.

Teachers’ bodies have demanded a retraction of the statement. Such remarks, they said, would send “wrong signals” about the state’s education policy. Amiya Basu, general secretary of the CPI-controlled Bengal Teachers and Employees’ Association, said: “The remark will tarnish the image of the Left Front government.”

Samaddar, however, said that he was simply following the directive of the Centre, which is providing funds for the computer programme. “The Central directive had clearly stated that we should provide 20 computers for the chief minister’s district.”

   

 
 
MOSQUE IN AIRPORT TAKE-OFF WAY 
 
 
A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 10: 
Union civil aviation minister Syed Shahnawaz Hussain on Saturday served an ultimatum to the state government — either take initiative for relocation of the mosque, located on the city airport premises, or provide alternative land for immediate construction of two new runways.

With more and more international airlines taking off from the Calcutta airport for reasons ranging from poor passenger traffic to small runways, dialogues have long been initiated by the civil aviation ministry with clerics and the All India Muslim Law Board (AIMLB) members. But the talks have so far failed to provide any solution.

With the Airports’ Authority of India (AAI) trying to woo more foreign airlines to start operations from Calcutta, the civil aviation minister rolled the development dice in chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s court. Recently, the Dutch airline, KLM, suspended operations from Calcutta, and British Airways reduced its flights from three to two, forcing the AAI to look for solutions.

“We immediately require two more runways to enable more flights to operate from the airport. The mosque needs to be relocated since it is in the way. But as this is a local issue and can pose serious law and order problems, the state government has to take the initiative,” Hussain said, minutes before inaugurating two new air-conditioned aerobridges, imported from the US and installed at the domestic terminal.

Earlier, chairman of the AAI Development Committee and Union minister of state for chemicals and fertilisers Tapan Sikdar said the city airport needed more runways.

“There was a time when the city airport was considered one of the best. Now we have to cover lost ground by meeting international standards. The mosque has hampered development work and we must relocate it outside the perimeter area, where a mosque five times bigger can be constructed,” said Sikdar.

Muslim Law Board members and Muslim clerics and the ulemah (religious elders) have, however, opined that the shariat does not permit relocation of a mosque. “Hence, the mosque inside the airport cannot be removed at any cost,” a senior working committee member of the AIMLB, Maulana Irfan-Ul-Hussaini, told The Telegraph.

Development plans

Hussain also announced a Rs 16,000-crore development project with private investors for the airports at Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta and Chennai. In the next year, Rs 30 crore will be spent on Netaji Subhas International Airport alone.

With the decision to develop Bagdogra as the second international airport in Bengal, Hussain said several projects would also be undertaken there. The Calcutta-Kathmandu Indian Airlines flight will shortly begin to touch down at Bagdogra.

Hussain further said that the airline sector was looking up with Air India making “very good profits” in the past three months. “Air India has made a profit of Rs 15 crore and has carried 60,000 more passengers in this period,” the minister said.

   

 
 
BISWAS SETS TERM FOR REBEL TALKS 
 
 
NARESH JANA
 
Keshpur (West Midnapore), Aug. 10: 
State CPM secretary Anil Biswas today reiterated that his party would hold talks with the People’s War only if the Naxalite outfit shunned the “politics of murder”.

“No democratically-elected government can tolerate or negotiate with those who continuously kill common people and policemen,” he said at a public rally here this afternoon.

Biswas criticised Mamata Banerjee for alleging that Trinamul Congress activists were being arrested in the name of a crackdown on Naxalites. The CPM leader pointed out that Naxalite leaders have said in Calcutta that their cadre were being passed off by Mamata as Trinamul workers.

“Let Mamata and the Naxalites decide on their identity. But no one is being arrested for just belonging either to the Trinamul Congress or the People’s War. All those who are being arrested have taken part in violent acts, even murder,” he added.

Biswas also questioned Mamata’s rationale of launching a movement against the NDA government without quitting the alliance. “The BJP is creating small railway zones so that provincialism creeps in and any form of nationwide protest or movement is stifled,” Biswas said. He also hinted that the carve-up was a ploy to privatise the railways.

He also struck a note of self-criticism, saying the Left Front government had a lot to achieve. Citing an example, he said that while the drinking water crisis in Belpahari had been solved, there was still no power in remote villages of the area.

   

 
 
ROAD JOBS FOR DRY DISTRICTS 
 
 
RANJAN LAHIRI AND SOUMI BHATTACHARYA
 
Rajatpur (Bolpur), Aug. 10: 
Special schemes would be launched in the four drought-hit districts of the state for the benefit of farm labourers, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said here today.

“The farmers in these districts will be paid wages for working in pending and new road projects in the rural belt,” Bhattacharjee announced after inaugurating the Abani Setu across the Ajay river which links the districts of Burdwan and Birbhum.

The chief minister said he had asked public works minister Amar Chowdhury to release funds for these projects to mitigate the suffering of farmers. “He has assured me that there are sufficient funds with his department for these schemes and there is no problem in releasing them,” Bhattacharjee said. The government is finalising these schemes, he said.

The Cabinet had in its last meeting decided to declare Purulia, Bankura, West Midnapore and Birbhum districts drought-hit and had also unveiled plans to tackle the situation. In the 25 years of Left Front rule, various schemes have helped uplift the agricultural sector, he claimed.

Bhattacharjee advised the affected farmers to opt for inter-cropping to improve their economic condition. “The government will provide funds to help farmers grow pulses and other crops along with the next paddy crop,” he said.

The chief minister said his government wanted to set up small industries for employing farm hands as labourers. The government has earmarked about 300 acres near Bolpur for this purpose, he added.

“We are going to have an industrial park, comprising small industries that will provide jobs for the predominantly farming areas of this region,” the chief minister said, adding that the Abani Setu would help farm labourers from Burdwan to come to work in the industrial park.

The Reserve Bank of India has also contacted the state government to assess the drought situation in the districts, particularly Purulia. The government might seek Central assistance to cope with the continuing dry spell.

Earlier in the day, Bhattacharjee inaugurated an amphitheatre outside the Gitanjali auditorium in Bolpur. He also unveiled a sculpture by Somenath Hore depicting a boy rolling a bicycle tyre with a stick in his hand.

The chief minister also lifted the curtains of a children’s film festival organised jointly by the Sriniketan-Santiniketan Development Authority and the information and cultural affairs department. Bhattacharjee urged the organisers to pay more attention to children’s movies and plays and stressed the need for an auditorium exclusively for children’s films.

Children’s Film Society of India chairperson Sai Paranjpe said in some states a day of the week is fixed exclusively for screening children’s movies in earmarked auditoriums.

   

 
 
DORMANT UNITS GET THE BOOT 
 
 
TAMAL SENGUPTA
 
Calcutta, Aug. 10: 
Nearly a decade after handing over land to industry promoters, the government is evicting those who are yet to set up their units.

“Under the West Bengal Small Industries Development Corporation’s stipulations, one cannot keep an unit shut for more than six months. But there are instances of units not running for over seven to eight years at a stretch,” said corporation chairman Benoy Krishna Chakraborty.

These units were given land and other infrastructure in the industrial estates on the condition that they will generate employment. The corporation gave land to industrialists in 33 commercial and industrial estates spread scross Bengal on rent as well as on lease.

The corporation has evicted seven units from the Baltikuri commercial and industrial estate in Howrah as the owners had kept their units shut for more than six months at a stretch.

Chakraborty said they would redistribute the plots to other industrialists willing to set up units in the estates.

“We have prepared a panel of interested industrialists to redistribute the plots among them after evicting those who are keeping their units closed for more than seven or eight years,” he said.

The authorities have received reports of illegal transfer of land in several industrial estates. “According to our rules, no one can transfer the land rented out to any other person for setting up industrial units. We have decided to take action against some unscrupulous businessmen who have transferred the land illegally,” Chakraborty said.

A senior official of the small industries corporation said they have received Rs 10 crore from the Small Industries Development Bank of India (Sidbi) after submitting a renovation proposal for four industrial and commercial estates in West Bengal. The money will be used to spruce up the estates in Tangra, Behala and Dabgram in Siliguri.

The corporation will start a new estate at Pagladanga in Calcutta. It will come up on 426 cottahs that belonged to the defunct Bengal Potteries.

“We have allotted 289 plots to interested parties for setting up units. Work will start soon,” the official said.

Distribution of plots was delayed as the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) had raised some objections regarding sanction of building plans at the site. “But recently, the CMC cleared the plans after a meeting with senior WBSIDC officials and we are receiving many applications from interested parties for setting up units in the Pagladanga estate,” the official said.

Pagladanga will be the seventh industrial estate in Calcutta after those at Behala, Kasba, Kidderpore, Tangra, Ultadanga and Maniktala. The WBSIDC plans to run several industrial units in its Behala and Kasba estates as joint ventures.

   

 
 
REC REPORT LIKELY TODAY 
 
 
OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Durgapur, Aug. 10: 
The inquiry committee probing the incident which led to the suspension of 450 second-year students at the Regional Engineering College here is expected to place its report tomorrow.

Principal S.P. Ghosh, who was out of town for the past two days is scheduled to return tonight.

Ghosh had suspended the second-year students after higher education minister Satya Sadhan Chakraborty was gheraoed when he came on a visit on August 2 .

The suspensions have been in force since then despite statements by Chakraborty and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee that the college authorities should have taken action only against those directly responsible for the demonstration.

The students were picketing demanding a “national institute” status for the engineering college. REC takes in its new students from August 16.

   
 

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