Flood-relief fury lashes city
Crunch-hour crush in heartland
Loaded gun plan to police LoC

Calcutta, Sept. 26: 
Trapped in water for three days, residents in many city areas were on a short fuse today, stoning vehicles and getting sucked into clashes over relief.

The army was deployed in flooded districts which continued to be buffeted by incessant rains. The situation in 15 districts, where over 30 lakh people were affected, has been described as grave.

The unofficial toll in the state has risen to 32, with 12 more deaths reported from the districts. The official figure, however, is 16 as some of the casualties are ?yet to be confirmed?.

Chief minister Jyoti Basu has called an all-party meeting tomorrow. Finance minister Asim Dasgupta said the government will watch the situation for two more days before requesting the Election Commission to postpone next Sunday?s polls.

Residents of Ekbalpore, parts of New Alipore and Tollygunge damaged passing vehicles, furious with civic authorities and the administration for not providing timely relief. They demanded immediate supply of drinking water and measures to drain out the flood waters.

Clashes erupted in Ekbalpore, Tangra, Topsia and Chetla. One person was hurt in a clash between Trinamul Congress and CPM workers at the Ekbalpore-Diamond Harbour Road crossing over distribution of relief. Residents of flooded areas attacked civic officials, heckled policemen and assaulted personnel manning water tankers for ?partiality and delay in providing relief?. CMC vehicles were the main targets.

The city police control room was flooded with reports of people squatting on Eastern Bypass, Fern Road and Burdwan Road, and in Park Circus and Ultadanga. Police wielded lathis to disperse the protesters. Deputy commissioners of police, Zulfikar Hassan and Ranjit Pachnanda, pleaded with the people to keep calm.

?We are without power and drinking water for two days. Ground floors of the buildings are still flooded, people are suffering multiple diseases and civic authorities are only making empty promises,?? said Mohammed Alamgir of Ekbalpore Lane.

Even as he was speaking, a mob rushed towards a lorry, which had a CPM flag on it, bringing drinking water and food. They threw lathis at the vehicle and threatened the relief workers with choppers, alleging that relief was being distributed only to supporters of the ruling party. The lorry sped away towards Kidderpore.

Angry residents of Tangra and Topsia clashed among themselves. Ritesh Talwar, of Tangra, said chest-high flood waters persisted in many areas, and 500 families had been shifted into a local school. Disruptions in long-distance and local train services of the Eastern and South-Eastern Railways continued.

The damage wreaked by the floods has been estimated at Rs 1,000 crore. The state has demanded Rs 250 crore from the National Calamity Control fund.

Basu today reviewed the flood situation with finance minister Dasgupta, chief secretary Manish Gupta and different secretaries.

?The position is grave and we are taking assistance from the army and air force for rescue and relief operations. We are taking all measures to rescue the people,?? Basu said.

Dasgupta visited four districts by helicopter. He said the situation in Murshidabad, Burdwan and Birbhum was grave as thousands of people were trapped.

Vast areas of Panskura, Ghatal and Debra are flooded as breaches have developed in the the Kangsabati river embankment. One lakh cusecs of water have been released from the dam, flooding many villages. Breaches were also reported in the embankments of the Ajoy, Damodar and Mayurakshi rivers. Over four lakh cusecs have been released by the DVC at Massanjore dam.    

New Delhi, Sept. 26: 
With the election race entering the fifth and final lap, all eyes are trained on Lucknow and Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, where the star candidates of the BJP and the Congress ? Atal Behari Vajpayee and Sonia Gandhi ? are battling it out.

Both parties are expected to pull out all stops to ensure huge victory margins for their high-profile contestants in the heartland.

Though 42 of the 120-odd seats that will go to the polls next Sunday are from West Bengal, neither party will invest much energy in the state as the real battle there is between the CPM and the Trinamul Congress.

Vajpayee will, however, address meetings in Bengal tomorrow and on Tuesday.

Madhepura in Bihar, where Laloo Prasad Yadav and Sharad Yadav have locked horns, also evokes interest, but the BJP has the Samata Party for support in the state.

All energies are, hence, focused on the heartland hub, and contingents of BJP and Congress leaders from across the country are making a beeline for it.

A Congress team is already stationed in Uttar Pradesh. Sushil Kumar Shinde, the Maharashtra-based leader in charge of the state, has been shadowing Priyanka Gandhi on her campaign trail in Amethi.

Ghulam Nabi Azad, who misled reporters when Sonia went on a hush-hush trip to Bellary to file her nomination, is also camping there.

Rajasthan PCC chief Girija Vyas and Nawal Kishore Sharma are in Uttar Pradesh. Ahmad Patel has made a few trips. With the Madhya Pradesh elections over, chief minister Digvijay Singh, the Congress? most successful leader in the Hindi belt, may make time to visit the state.

Madhavrao Scindia, whose preoccupation with Guna is over, has moved to Lucknow to give direction to Karan Singh?s campaign.

Scindia has been allotted the job of Singh?s campaign manager as he is the only Congressman to have defeated Vajpayee. He won against the Prime Minister from Gwalior in 1984.

Several BJP stalwarts are camping in Lucknow to lend a helping hand to the beleaguered Kalyan Singh government. General secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh, Govindacharya, is chipping in.

Narendra Modi, lauded for his administrative capabilities, is in Lucknow. Kushabhau Thakre and L.K. Advani will also visit the state.

Vajpayee will land in Lucknow after chairing the Cauvery river water authority?s meeting in Delhi on Wednesday.

The Prime Minister may go to Amethi to campaign for Sanjay Singh, who is fighting the Congress chief. Vajpayee had gone to Bellary to address a public rally against Sonia.

The Congress, however, has not yet finalised if Sonia would go to Lucknow for campaigning.    

New Delhi, Sept. 26: 
The Centre is drawing up a ?forward? policy to make the 740-km Line of Control (LoC) impregnable.

The plan will be set rolling before November when the winter begins to bite. Thereafter, this surveillance system will be maintained round the year.

The policy draft, being discussed by the home and defence ministries, will soon be sent to home minister L.K. Advani. The Prime Minister?s Office and the defence minister will also have a say.

According to the policy, the army will maintain an ?aggressive? posture along the LoC as it did in the mid-Eighties when the limited Siachen war ? in which Indian forces were effective ? was on. This implies that troops will keep Pakistani forces guessing by marshalling more forces and equipment than necessary at particular points.

The army will even engage Pakistanis in restricted, mock battles by mounting artillery attacks across the border.

The army has already announced that the 14th corps ? in addition to the existing 15th and 16th corps ? will be deployed exclusively in the Ladakh sector, north of Kargil. The 14th corps will help strengthen vigil in areas like Turtuk and Chorbatla, a frequent target of Pakistani raiding detachments.

The policy dictates that border outposts left unguarded for long periods, especially in winter, be occupied. Army sources said the ?inadvertent? crossing of the LoC by an Indian patrol party of six soldiers, including a captain, on the night of August 29, was just one instance of the ?forward? posture that will be adopted.

The incident, in which two soldiers were taken prisoner and four are feared dead, also underscored the high risk involved in the policy.

The sources said in the Kargil sector, care will be taken to deploy soldiers 1,000 metres from the LoC in keeping with an Indo-Pak agreement. Still, there will be stretches where Indian and Pakistani soldiers will have eyeball-to-eyeball contact.

The policy lays emphasis on making the LoC impenetrable. The architects of the draft say all gaps should be bridged by greater troop deployment, landmines and high-tech surveillance. The army has already requisitioned gun-locating radars and satellite imagery systems.

Intelligence agencies will have to be more ?pro-active?. They will be encouraged to cultivate sources in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and elsewhere as well as ?undertake? operations in areas of Indian interest. The operations will be clandestine and somewhat in the mould of the activities of Pakistan?s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in India.    


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