World Bank freeze threat
Basu summons Dunlop boss
SSKM set to offer graduate courses
Land mafia eyes Rs 10,000-crore thika pie
Hudco funds Bypass, Salt Lake road repair
5 die in spate of mishaps
Shootout, chase net 3 dacoits
Sangma frets over attack
Allies battle it out in Mandar
Laloo sits pretty in Misa sasural

Calcutta, Feb.9 
The World Bank will not extend the time frame for implementing a Rs 701-crore project for modernisation of some city and district hospitals, virtually plunging them into uncertainty.

The bank�s global director of health, nutrition and population projects, Christopher Lovelace, on a visit to the city to inspect the hospitals, told The Telegraph: �The question of extending the time frame for project implementation is ruled out. Work on similar projects in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh has been moving at a much faster pace.�

The World Bank-funded Health Systems Development Project (HSDP) was to modernise, upgrade and spruce up 171 hospitals in the state, including over half-a-dozen in greater Calcutta.

Work on the health project started in 1996 and if it is not completed by mid-2001, the remaining portion of the project will stay incomplete, with the World Bank stopping further funding.

In a number of these hospitals, work is not be even half-complete, according to state health department officials.

Lovelace also cast doubts about the World Bank funding future health projects in the city and state. �Future projects will have to be seen with a different eye,� he said. �A second look will be required.�

Elaborating, he said that the World Bank would have to evaluate whether the state would have the finances to maintain the new health facilities being provided in the hospitals.

Recently, the state government had lost World Bank funding by refusing to carry out an economic survey, saying it would �infringe on the state�s sovereignty�.

Of the 171 hospitals, work on 104 hospitals remains largely incomplete. �We are working night and day and through holidays now and we are confident that we will make it,� said a senior project official told the World Bank team.

The first 18 months of the project saw very tardy progress, mainly because of the non-completion of civil construction works at these hospitals.

This was delaying the implementation of most of the other components as well, so much so that chief minister Jyoti Basu intervened in December 1997.

The review meeting he held led to the revamping of several organisational and executional aspects of the project. But a mid-term appraisal by the World Bank, scheduled to have taken place in July last year, was deferred to December as the Bank was still not confident of the state government�s commitment.

The project was given a satisfactory report two months ago after a Bank team, led by Tawhid Nawaz, senior economist looking after health and population projects in the south Asian region, was convinced that the state government would maintain the pace of work.

Lovelace also said he was satisfied with the present pace of implementation. He had a good word for the staff and doctors for �the commitment they were showing�. He was also happy at the quality of equipment that had been purchased.

He visited Bhatpara and Belur General Hospitals, as well as the M.R. Bangur Hospital, during his two-day trip to the city. In addition, he saw the progress of the Indian Population Project (IPP 8) being implemented by the CMDA.

He met health minister Partha De on Tuesday and discussed how the refurbished hospitals would be maintained once the project was over.    

Calcutta, Feb. 9 
Taking the initiative to reopen Dunlop�s Sahagunj factory, chief minister Jyoti Basu on Wednesday summoned Dunlop president M.D. Shukla for talks.

Basu, who had charged the management with �falsification� of the minutes of the January 6 meeting, said on Wednesday that Shukla had been asked to be present here for talks with the government. But Shukla, who is in Chennai, has deputed another officer for the meeting on Thursday. He has informed Basu he will not be able to attend because of previously-scheduled discussions with Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi.

P S Sharma, senior vice-president, will represent the company at the meeting, to be held at Basu�s residence. Leaders of the Citu union, which the company has blamed for failing to reopen the factory on February 7, will attend. Kali Ghosh, of the Bengal Citu unit, said: �We have been asked to attend the meeting to sort out the imbroglio. However, this is not a formal tripartite meeting.�

The Dunlop Workers� Union has refused to soften its stand on wage arrears. �This is a legitimate demand and we will not backtrack,� said Dipankar Roy, general secretary. Citu had not signed the minutes of the January 6 meeting at which the management proposed that the factories at Sahagunj and Ambattur (in Tamil Nadu) would be reopened on February 7.

Citu sees the management proposal for a year�s moratorium on outstanding issues as anti-worker and, therefore, unacceptable to it.

Basu intervened in the dispute after state Intuc chief Subrata Mukherjee sought his involvement. Mukherjee, who was on a hunger-strike with other Intuc leaders in front of the Dunlop headquarters here since Tuesday, led a 13-member team to meet the chief minister on Wednesday. On Basu�s assurance, the Intuc leaders called off their fast.

Bibek Sen Sharma, Dunlop�s assistant vice-president, industrial relations, claimed the Ambattur unit formally opened on Wednesday. �About 1,500 workers came to the factory and there was a Ganesh puja. They will join work from Friday,� he said.    

Calcutta, Feb. 9 
The state-run Seth Sukhlal Karnani Memorial (SSKM) Hospital, Calcutta�s premier post-graduate medical institution, will have an MBBS course from the next academic session.

It will start with 50 students. A.K. Maity, director of the Institute of Post-Graduate Medical Education and Research at SSKM Hospital and head of the hospital�s cardiology department, is likely to be the first principal.

The authorities are ready to take in 50 students in August for the coming session, provided the Medical Council of India approves infrastructure and teaching facilities. �We have informed the council that we are ready. Now we are waiting for them to come and inspect the hospital,� said health minister Partha De.

A team of council officials is to visit SSKM Hospital next month. The government�s decision follows a council directive that postgraduate institutions must have under-graduate courses as well.

Like the four other medical colleges in the city � Calcutta Medical College, Nilratan Sarkar, RG Kar and National � the MBBS course at SSKM will be under Calcutta University. �We want to increase the number of seats in our medical colleges,� said De.

Sources in the health department said 50 seats have been added at North Bengal Medical College. Seats are also being increased at Bankura Medical College. The government has also created additional teaching posts for the MBBS course at SSKM Hospital. An advertisement to recruit teachers will appear in the newspapers soon, De said.

Initially, however, the course at SSKM will begin without a hostel and students from the districts may have to squeeze themselves in with fellow-students of other medical colleges in their hostels.

�We have plans to build our own hostel. Let us see how soon we can build it,� the health minister said.

The SSKM authorities feel that there would be no problem in starting under-graduate courses because the 43-year-old post-graduate centre at the hospital already has the requisite infrastructure.

Gopal Ganguly of SSKM said that students for the MBBS course would be selected from candidates who had cleared the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE).

�It is the JEE authorities who will finally decide on the students who will study at SSKM,� he added.

�We have a good infrastructure for outpost-graduate institute. We only need to extend it a little for the MBBS course,� said Ganguly.

The health minister said the new course would cost the government Rs 25 crore a year.

�Without the institute infrastructure, the initial expense would have crossed Rs 200 crore,� he said.    

Calcutta, Feb. 9 
For years, the land mafia has cast a longing eye on large plots of prime real estate covered by slums. Now, with a little help from the right political quarters, land sharks are beginning to manipulate the system to bite off chunks of highly-valued plots governed by the Thika Tenancy Act.

Some 4,000 bighas of thika land � dwellers on these tracts used to pay tax to a landlord or zamindar � are scattered around localities such as Judge�s Court Road, Gariahat, Alipore, Bhowanipore, Sealdah, Ashutosh Mukherjee Road, Kalighat, Narkeldanga and Kidderpore. Almost all of the land is covered by kutcha, single-storeyed structures. Left to the realtor, the slums will be bulldozed to make way for highrises and turn what is �idle capital� into a Rs 10,000-crore cake.

Under the law, thika land cannot be sold. In reality, it can, on the sly. Newspapers have recently featured advertisements for sale of thika plots.

This is how the system works: a promoter approaches dwellers in a colony with offers to buy their land. But because the transaction is prohibited, he will be shown on paper as a tenant. If the promoter were himself to offer to build a pucca structure, the Controller of Thika Tenancy would turn it down. But if the proposal comes from a thika tenant, the controller will issue a �No Objection Certificate� (NOC).

This has been ensured by politicians after several recent meetings between leaders of the CPM-influenced Bustee Federation and the Controller. �Slum-dwellers should be allowed to build three-storeyed structures if they want,� said Mohammad Nizamuddin, a leader of the federation.

Once the controller issues the NOC, the Calcutta Corporation cannot but sanction the building plan (if it is in accordance with the building rules). No questions, like where do the slum-dwellers find the cash to construct buildings, will be asked. In most cases, needless to say, the cash comes from the realtor-disguised-as-tenant.

Nizamuddin claims to be innocent of such deals. �If thika land or property cannot be sold, how can promoters come into the scene?� Simple. They are guided in through the backdoor. Witness the number of multi-storeyed buildings coming up on erstwhile slumland. �I must not say anything about illegal and underhand deals as I am speaking about legal status only,� Nizamuddin defends.

The Controller of thika tenancy, Chanchal Banerjee, says that since a thika tenant is entitled to let out rooms or flats, his directorate can do nothing about it. The state government is also a loser in such deals, as no stamp duty is paid.

Some times, though, the deals get disputed, as in the case of a Beleghata plan. The Controller of Thika Tenancy has repeatedly requested the CMC to demolish a highrise being built on 3B, Rammohan Mullick Garden Lane, in Ward 33. He has also demanded cancellation of the mutation and apportionment done in favour of private parties.

The promoters, S. Jalan & Company, after purchasing a portion of the plot, got the premises apportioned and mutated in their favour. They started construction of a five-storey building after the CMC sanctioned the building plan.

Municipal commissioner Asim Barman said the CMC had acted on the controller�s request and served the private parties with notice for hearing to cancel their mutation.

But the CMC cannot cancel the mutation or demolish the structure, as hearing of an appeal before the joint secretary, land reforms, is pending.

However, Barman said, the promoter has been instructed to stop further construction.    

Calcutta, Feb. 9 
All Salt Lake roads are to be repaired and the arterial Eastern Metropolitan Bypass widened within the next few months, following the release of funds by the Housing and Urban Development Corporation (Hudco), Asim Dasgupta, state finance minister, said on Wednesday.

The state government had sought Rs 800 crore from Hudco for various development projects, of which Hudco cleared Rs 213 crore on Tuesday.

With municipal elections round the corner, the state government will spend a considerable amount of the loan in implementing development projects in the 122 municipalities, including Salt Lake. A chunk of Rs 100 crore will be spent on repairing roads in municipal areas in the state.

A sum of Rs 50 crore will be allotted to development authorities, like the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority, Haldia Development Authority, Asansol Development Authority and Siliguri Development Authority.

The finance minister, however, warned the municipalities that the government would stop allotments to those who tried to misuse the money or divert funds.

He also made it clear that the municipalities and the corporations will not be allowed to recruit additional staff for implementing the schemes. The government will not sanction any new post for the projects, the minister said. �We have conducted a survey which shows that the projects can be implemented with the existing staff,� said Dasgupta.

Deteriorating road conditions is a major complaint of residents in Salt Lake. Apart from the increasing traffic load, the condition of the Bypass has worsened due to severe waterlogging in monsoon during the past few years.

A large portion of the funds will be spent on improving the drainage system of Salt Lake and other municipalities. Apart from conducting road repairs at Salt Lake and the Bypass, the funds will be utilised for carrying out development projects in Howrah, Hooghly, and North and South 24-Parganas.

�Each and every road in Salt Lake will be repaired thoroughly,� the finance minister said.

A substantial amount will be spent to widen the Bypass at several points. Besides, a considerable amount will be spent for strengthening the Kalyani Expressway, Old Calcutta Road and the Bhatpara New Chord Road.

State urban development department minister Ashok Bhattacharya on Wednesday held a meeting with the heads of 122 municipalities and mayors of eight municipal corporations.

Meanwhile, the finance minister has said that a team of officials from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), in the city at present, have agreed to provide necessary funds to the state government to develop the major roads and national highways in West Bengal.

Apart from constructing new highways, the ADB will be giving funds for constructing the North- South corridor between Siliguri, Calcutta and Haldia.

The first phase of the project is likely to begin by the end of 2001. Approximately Rs 2000 crore will be required for implementing the projects, the finance minister said.    

Calcutta, Feb. 9 
A string of road accidents in the city left three persons dead and six, including two women and a child, injured on Wednesday. The condition of four of the injured is said to be critical.

Traffic was paralysed in three places when angry residents blocked roads protesting against reckless driving. However, no incident of violence was reported.

Around 9.30 am, a 25-year-old man was run over off Central Garden Reach Road. He was taken to SSKM Hospital, where the doctors declared him dead. Police said a speeding private bus on route 12A knocked down the victim. The driver escaped with the vehicle.

Soon after, about 500 residents put up a roadblock for an hour protesting against reckless driving. Traffic movement returned to normal around 10.30 am, after senior police officials intervened.

In an another accident, a 22-year-old man was killed when a minibus knocked him down at the crossing of S.N. Banerjee Road and Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road around 10.30 am.

The unidentified victim succumbed to his injuries en route to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital. The driver was taken to Taltala police station. The minibus has been impounded.

Around 1.50 pm, a 50-year-old man was killed and another injured when they were knocked down by a private bus at the crossing of B.T. Road and Galiff Street. The injured has been admitted to R G Kar Hospital. The driver of the bus managed to flee with the vehicle.

Two women, a child and a man were injured when a lorry mounted the pavement and ran over them on Tollygunge Circular Road, under Charu Market police station area, around 2.40 pm.

The injured were admitted to SSKM and M R Bangur Hospitals, where doctors said their condition was serious. The driver has been arrested and the vehicle seized. About 1,000 residents put up a roadblock on Tollygunge Circular Road. The blockade was lifted around 4 pm.

A 25-year-old man, Manoj Mondal, was killed and another person injured in an accident near Wellington crossing in Taltala.

Local Trinamul Congress workers put up roadblocks in the area demanding proper traffic control. The injured person, identified as Bishnu Deo Mondal, was admitted to hospital in a critical condition. The driver of the bus, on route 213 headed for Esplanade, fled with the vehicle immediately after the accident.    

Calcutta, Feb. 9 
A gang of three auto-rickshaw-borne dacoits was caught in Salt Lake by the Bidhannagar police. One of the members was injured in an ensuing shootout on Tuesday afternoon. He has been admitted to Bidhannagar State General Hospital.

The police superintendent, North 24-Parganas, Kuldeep Singh, said the three were produced before the sub-divisional magistrate on Wednesday and remanded in custody till February 15. The driver of the auto-rickshaw, a resident of Ultadanga, was released on bail because of his father had died, the superintendent added.

Singh said the gang was on its way to commit a dacoity when they were caught. Two revolvers and a sharp weapon were seized from them. An officer from Bidhannagar (south) police station said the miscreants fired at the force, but no one was injured in the encounter.

The arrests took place while sub-inspector S. Banik and his team were on routine patrol in Sector I. They noticed that the auto-rickshaw driver and two of the occupants had covered their faces with scarves. Banik ordered the driver to stop the auto. But the vehicle picked up speed and headed towards HA block.

The police team chased the vehicle for about 10 minutes, after which the gang tried to flee, leaving the vehicle behind.

The policemen opened fire. One of the gang was shot in his left leg and fell on the road. The others were chased and caught.    

Imphal, Feb. 9 
Former Lok Sabha Speaker and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Purno A. Sangma had a miraculous escape yesterday when Assam Rifles personnel deployed in the Manipur border town of Moreh fired at the forest inspection bungalow he was staying in.

Two Manipur Rifles personnel were injured in the firing.

In another incident involving security personnel, one person was injured when Congress Rajya Sabha member W. Angou Singh�s guards opened fire on Manipur State Congress Party (MSCP) activists at Hiyangthang Bazar in Naoriya-Pakhanglakpa constituency.

Sources said the MSCP activists were trying to prevent Singh�s wife W. Loidang Leima from campaigning in the area. She is contesting the seat as an Independent.

Sangma told a press conference here today that he would lodge a complaint against the Assam Rifles with defence minister George Fernandes. He said the firing, which lasted 10 minutes, was unjustified as Assam Rifles officials knew that he was in the inspection bungalow.

Asked what he did when the firing began, the NCP leader said he lay down on the floor of the room. Sources said a group of Assam Rifles personnel arrived at the forest inspection bungalow at 9.45 pm and asked the sentry to let them in.

When the sentry did not relent, the Assam Rifles personnel fired towards the room where Sangma�s guards were staying. Two of them sustained serious injuries in the firing.

The room was adjacent to the one in which Sangma was staying. The former Lok Sabha Speaker had gone to the border town to campaign for NCP candidate Onzamang Haokip.

The commanding officer of the 7 Assam Rifles came to the inspection bungalow to apologise to Sangma for the incident. Admitting that the Assam Rifles personnel committed a �big mistake�, he promised to look into the matter immediately.

However, Sangma was unconvinced. He said an attempt on someone�s life could not be pushed under the carpet by terming it a case of mistaken identity.

�How could the Assam Rifles personnel open fire when their officers knew I was in the forest bungalow?� he said. A case has been registered at the Moreh police station. Suspected militants had also opened fire when Sangma was campaigning in Senapati last week.

Moreh is under Tengnoupal constituency, from where Onzamang Haokip is seeking election. His main rival is Congress candidate Morung Makunga.


Ranchi, Feb. 9 
The National Democratic Alliance and the BJP face a major trial of strength in the Mandar Assembly constituency in Ranchi district. All the three major NDA constituents � the BJP, the Samata Party and the Janata Dal (United) � will fight it out among themselves along with seven other candidates.

The allies had fielded candidates on the assumption that the seat would ultimately be assigned to one of them as negotiations had remained inconclusive well past the last date for filing of nomination papers.

The seat was later left to the Samata Party and the allies warned all rebel candidates of disciplinary action, including a possible suspension from the party. But the BJP and the JD(U) candidates refused to quit the race, saying they were willing to face the consequences.

The BJP candidate maintained that he had not received any party communique to quit the race, while party spokesman for south Bihar Umashankar Kedia said an official communique had been sent and disciplinary action was being initiated against the rebel candidate.

The 10 candidates in the fray are sitting MLA Karam Chand Bhagat of the Samata Party, Diwakar Minj of the BJP, Arun Oraon of the JD(U), D.K. Dhan of the Congress, Martha Khalko of the CPI, Bandhu Tirkey of the RJD, Bishwanath Bhagat of the JMM (Soren), Prabhakar Tirkey of the JMM (Munda) who will contest on the Samajwadi Party symbol and an Independent.

Bhagat, who quit the Congress to join the Samata Party after being denied a ticket, (having quit the RJD to join the Congress in 1999) is likely to face the wrath of the people of Mandar where he failed to initiate any development work despite representing the constituency four times.

Neither the Samata Party nor the JD(U) has any functioning party apparatus at Mandar. With the Christians likely to back Samajwadi Party candidate Prabhakar Tirkey, the main contest at Mandar is likely to be focused between rebel BJP candidate Minj and JMM (Soren) candidate Bishwanath Bhagat. The Congress is likely to be relegated to the third spot. With Minj enjoying a distinct edge over other candidates, the outcome of the elections for the seat might prove to be important for the NDA alliances.    

Danapur, Feb. 9 
There have been moments in Malti Devi�s life over the past five years when her anger has turned into rage.

Refused old-age pension by the local block development officer (BDO) despite pledging her loyalty to Laloo Prasad Yadav, the 65-year-old woman nurtures a secret desire to smash the furniture in his office.

However, being too feeble to resort to violence, Malti Devi knows that she can only cajole the BDO to clear her pension.

Today, she claims that Laloo Yadav�s daughter Misa is her poti (granddaughter), a �relationship� forged after the latter�s marriage to an engineer from Danapur. Malti Devi hopes this new-found �relationship� with Laloo Yadav will be the clincher.

Malti Devi is just one among hundreds of Dalit women in Danapur who are ready to pardon the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief despite the latter�s failure to provide them with houses under the Indira Awas Yojana.

The rest of the electorate also seems to have forgiven Laloo Yadav, whom they elected to the Assembly in 1995. The former chief minister vacated the Danapur seat because he won from Raghupur as well.

A large section of Yadav voters and minorities do not view Laloo Yadav�s return to Danapur after his defeat in Madhepura as a climbdown. During his visits to Jalaluddin Chowk to meet Misa�s father-in-law Ram Babu Pathik, the RJD chief struck a rapport with the local people. All the baratis (people accompanying a bridegroom) seen at Misa�s marriage are now involved in Laloo Yadav�s campaign here.

Pathik, a low-profile person with no known political affiliation, has also been thrust into the limelight following the RJD president�s decision to contest the Danapur seat. He was seen on the dais in one of Laloo Yadav�s election rallies here.

The people�s response to the RJD president�s bid for re-election has not come as a surprise to his campaign manager Mohammad Saifuddin. �Laloo Yadav was never an outsider here. Misa�s marriage to a boy from Danapur has strengthened this bond and drawn larger crowds to her father�s election rallies.�

Though the going has been good so far, the setback in Madhepura appears to have made Laloo Yadav wary. The RJD chief�s rival in Danapur is Ramanand Yadav of the BJP, a man known to wield tremendous clout in the area.

Once one of Laloo Yadav�s closest aides, Ramanand Yadav is today not averse to daring his former benefactor to �rig the polls if he can�. Ramanand Yadav�s nomination for the Danapur seat generated controversy because he was given the BJP ticket at the expense of the party�s sitting legislator.

�The BJP�s strategy is clear. Ramanand Yadav is a former member of the RJD and knows the party inside-out. It makes sense to pit him against Laloo Yadav,� said a BJP leader.

With Ramanand Yadav contesting the seat, the Yadav votes are likely to be split. Being a former socialist, he is also expected to garner a chunk of the Dalit votes. As far as the upper-caste Kurmi-Koiri votes are concerned, the BJP is banking on its image to do the trick. Ramanand Yadav�s image as a college teacher could also earn him the support of the literate section of voters.    


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