Scuffles greet civic budget
Copyright scan for Water script
Twin dacoities
Biswal camp seeks JB’s ouster as PCC chief

Calcutta, March 11 
Mayor Prasanta Chatterjee on Saturday tabled a Rs 85.32-crore deficit budget for Calcutta Municipal Corporation for 2000-2001 in the midst of pandemonium as councillors of the Trinamul Congress and the Left Front clashed for more than 45 minutes.

Chatterjee announced that the corporation did not plan to impose a new property tax or any other form of tax and ruled out a rise in any type of corporation fees in the next financial year while Left Front and Trinamul councillors exchanged fisticuffs in the budget meeting room.

Some Trinamul councillors stormed onto the chairman’s platform, snatched his microphone and disconnected it, then rushed to the secretary’s table and tore up the stenographers’ papers. Left Front councillors tried to resist the rampage. Women councillors scuffled with each other and some even pulled at each other’s saris.

Congress councillors, however, remained silent and watched the commotion.

The trouble started minutes after the budget meeting started at 1 pm, when Durgaprasad Mukherjee (Trinamul) sought the chairman’s permission to raise a point of order against the corporation’s failure to conduct an audit of its accounts in the past 15 years.

Mukherjee also wanted to know whether the budget had any funds allotted for paying a large number of retired employees their pension dues. Mukherjee and many of the 37 Trinamul councillors demanded that they be allowed to press their point of order and threatened to prevent the mayor from placing the budget.

Initially, the chairman rejected the Trinamul appeal because, he said, a discussion on the budget could be allowed only after the mayor had placed the budget. The councillors objected to this and rose to their feet to engage in a heated argument with the Left Front members.

The chairman yielded but urged Mukherjee to keep his point of order short. This sparked another round of noisy protests.

At this stage, the chairman asked the mayor to proceed with his budget speech. Chaos erupted.

As soon as Chatterjee stood up to read out the budget, all the Trinamul councillors left their seats and charged at the chairman’s table. Some clambered on to the platform and snatched away the chairman’s microphone. Others ran up to the stenographers’ table and ripped up the meeting papers. Another section disconnected the mayor’s microphone.

The Left Front councillors rushed up to the chairman’s table and tried to form a barricade between him and the agitators. This set off the clashes.

The mayor, however, continued to read out his budget without a microphone, though his voice was inaudible. The pandemonium continued for nearly 25 minutes, after which the Trinamul councillors walked out of the meeting room. The mayor’s speech ended five minutes later and the meeting dispersed.    

Calcutta, March 11 
Deepa Mehta’s Water is back in the midst of a controversy with the state government deciding to refer her script to Ananda Publishers to verify a charge of infringement of the Copyright Act by the film director.

Mehta, who has scripted Water, has been accused of presenting some dialogues, sequences and characters as penned by noted Bengali writer Sunil Gangopadhyay in Sei Samay, one of his bestsellers.

Mehta, who made a sudden visit on Saturday to Gangopadhyay’s south Calcutta residence to “clear misconceptions,” wondered if she would ultimately be able to make the film at all. The state government, which has permitted Mehta to shoot the film at sites of her choice, is expected to hand over her script to Ananda Publishers on Tuesday.

Badal Basu of Ananda Publishers said: “Our lawyers will first examine the script. We will take appropriate action if there is any infringement of the Copyright Act.”

Mehta, in a salwar kurta, arrived at the Gangopadhyay residence without police escort. She admitted to having been inspired by the English version of Sei Samay. However, she denied any similarity between sequences, dialogues and characters in her script and those in Gangopadhyay’s novel. “It is true that I read the English version of Sei Samay four times. It is also true that both the stories are about widows. But the concept and characters of my film have nothing to do with those in Sunilda’s book,” Mehta asserted after meeting Gangopadhyay.

She fumed: “People are trying to discern a similarity in the characters of my Janaki and Sunilda’s Bindubasini. But believe me, the characters are different. Some day, others may say a character in my film resembles Charulata’s Amal.” Mehta said some people were trying to scuttle her project because the film would be a “slap on their faces.”

Gangopadhyay later told The Telegraph that he had not read Mehta’s script. “But Aruna Chakraborty, who translated Sei Samay into English, has found some similarities between my book and Mehta’s script on Water. My publisher will go through the script and take steps deemed fit,” he said.

Mehta, however, has not given up hope about the making her film. “I am anxiously awaiting the state government’s response to the controversy. I hope to start shooting once things settle down,” she said.    

Calcutta, March 11 
Armed dacoits raided two flats in Salt Lake City’s AE block and on Mrigendra Mitra Road, in Beniapukur area. In Salt Lake, they fled with an unspecified sum of money. In Beniapukur, they looted ornaments worth Rs 1.5 lakh.

A spate of dacoities plagued Salt Lake last month but the criminals could not be caught. The police only managed to impound two vehicles used by them.

In the Beniapukur incident, a gang of four youth arrived at the flat at around 1.30 pm. Two waited outside the flat, the other two rang the doorbell. They introduced themselves as refrigerator mechanics. The flat-owner refused them entry. One of them then forced his way in and the other whipped out a revolver.

After warning the family against screaming for help, they broke open the almirah and scooped out the ornaments. One of them left his revolver and a bullet while fleeing in a hurry.

Police said the gang told the flat-owner they had tried to commit another dacoity a few days ago.

A similar incident was reported from Lenin Sarani a couple of days ago when the dacoits had to flee after being challenged. They opened fire while escaping.    

Bhubaneswar, March 11 
The battle between J.B. Patnaik and Hemanand Biswal, both former chief ministers of Orissa, has intensified with 12 Congress legislators calling for Patnaik’s ouster as PCC chief for “installing” his loyalist as legislature party leader through “manipulation.”

In a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, the legislators yesterday demanded that Patnaik be sacked as state party chief following his failure to lead the party to victory. They said Patnaik had no right to hold on to the post since he lost the Assembly elections by more than 40,000 votes.

The legislators accused Patnaik of “manipulating” the legislature party meeting on Thursday to “unanimously” elect Ranpur MLA Ramakanta Mishra as leader of the party in the Assembly. They claimed that Mishra’s selection was “not unanimous.”

These leaders met at Biswal’s house before they faxed the demand to the Congress president. Biswal had been eyeing the post of CLP leader after he resigned as chief minister following his party’s defeat in the elections.

Patnaik denied that he manipulated the meeting that elected Mishra as CLP leader. He said no second name was proposed and Mishra’s election was unanimous. Congress observer Ghulam Nabi Azad also backed Patnaik, saying most of the 26 MLAs had spoken in favour of Mishra.

The oust-Patnaik campaign gathered momentum after Habibullah Khan, a former minister, joined in. Khan was an aspirant for the post of CLP leader as he is the seniormost among the party MLAs. He accused Patnaik of being a “dictator” and said the PCC should have held an election by secret ballot to let the legislators voice their opinions freely.

Biswal said 16 of the 26 MLAs had wanted him as CLP leader.    


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