PCB in court against tanners
CMC slams hospital for cesspool
BJP lines up white paper for Laxman
BJP divided over CM for Jharkhand

Calcutta, Sept 16: 
In the past three years since the Supreme Court ordered their closure, tanneries in east Calcutta have dumped hundreds of tonnes of toxic chemicals in the local canals and drains, harming fish and vegetation in the area. They are being helped by an ongoing case in the Supreme Court concerning their relocation, which has resulted in a status quo on the issue.

Alarmed at the damage that this is causing, the state pollution control board (PCB) approached the apex court last week, seeking a directive to prevent the tanneries in Tangra, Topsia, Tiljala and Pagladanga from discharging untreated effluents into the wetlands.

According to a Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI) report, the 534 tanneries generate 30 million litres of waste water daily which is discharged untreated. According to CLRI estimates, the water contains 12 tonnes of chromium, 300 tonnes of chlorides and 600 tonnes of dissolved solids.

By the same estimate, since the Supreme Court gave its verdict in 1996, 15,330 tonnes of chromium, 383,250 tons of chlorides and 766,500 tonnes of dissolved solids have flown into the wetlands.

The court had ordered the tanneries to move out of the city into a complex with proper pollution treatment facilities.

In 1997, the court slapped a fine of Rs 10,000 on each tannery and asked them to shut down irrespective of whether the Calcutta Leather Complex (CLC) was ready or not.

The PCB alleges that the court�s periodical extension of the deadline to pay the fine is being interpreted by the tanneries as licence to continue operations without taking any steps to reduce the pollution load.

The PCB has stated before the court that the amount of the fine was too low compared to the extent of environmental damage.

PCB sources pointed out that the Supreme Court had slapped a Rs 120-crore fine on tanneries in Tamil Nadu. �Not only have the Tamil Nadu tanners paid up, they have also taken the initiative to set up leather complexes and paid for common effluent treatment plants (CETP),� a PCB official said.

The tanners, however, feel that the promoter of the CLC, M.L. Dalmia and Company, was dragging feet over the build-own-transfer project. �We will shut down if ordered. May be then the CLC will be completed,� a tannery owner said.

When contacted, Jagmohan Dalmia, the promoter, said work was in progress at the 1,100-acre complex at Karaidanga in South 24-Parganas, and tanners would be able to begin construction by March, 2001. A representative of M.L. Dalmia and Company said almost 70 per cent of the 48-km road network was ready.

�We have had only 14 months to lay the foundation as the monsoons were a hindrance,� a representative said. He said three main canals and overhead water tanks were completed.

The West Bengal State Electricity Board has also set up a 133 KV sub-station there.

But the rehabilitation of villagers displaced by the CLC is not yet complete.

�We have set up a committee to monitor the floating of tenders for the CETP,� a senior industry department official said.

The tanneries have a respite till October 18, when the next hearing is slated.    

Calcutta, Sept 16: 
As part of its anti-malaria drive in city hospitals, the civic authorities launched an operation to detect mosquito larvae in the SSKM Hospital premises and adjoining quarters of doctors, nurses and Group-D staff, on Saturday.

The team, headed by CMC chairman Anil Mukherjee and mayor-in-council (health) Javed Khan, pulled up SSKM surgeon superintendent D.D. Chatterjee and other officials for the poor healthcare system in one of the biggest hospitals in the city.

Khan said the civic authorities may file a case against the hospital authorities if �they do not follow the directives issued to keep the hospital clean�. �We are shocked at the prevailing mess in SSKM and the hospital authorities must be held responsible,� he added.

The CMC team directed the hospital authorities to clear garbage and medical waste from the premises immediately. Garbage has been piling up behind staff quarters, particularly those belonging to the doctors and nurses. The hospital�s sewerage system is also in bad shape. �Drains are hardly cleaned on a regular basis,� said Mukherjee. The CMC chairman ordered the Group- D staff not to rear pigs on the premises.

The civic authorities also pulled up the PWD for storing condemned water tanks, pipes and unused building material for months on the campus.

Surgeon superintendent Chatterjee later used this to try and blame it all on the PWD. �They maintain the hospital�s sewerage system. And it is the duty of the department concerned to clean the drains and underground pipes on a regular basis,� he said, adding that he would look into the matter on Monday.

The civic authorities will �issue certain directives� after a meeting with hospital authorities and Public Works Department officials.

Last week, a similar drive had been conducted at the Nil Ratan Sirkar Hospital. Officials said the rising cases of malaria among patients had prompted the civic authorities to launch a clean-up drive. At least 10 people have died of malaria between January and August this year.

According to Khan, the CMC team will visit all city hospitals before the Pujas. �We are determined to make city hospitals free from the malaria menace,� he said.    

Calcutta, Sept 16: 
The state BJP on Saturday decided to submit a white paper on the state�s �deteriorating law and order situation� to all-India party president Bangaru Laxman.

Laxman, who arrives here on September 22, will visit the trouble-torn areas of Midnapore.

Laxman�s visit is significant as it precedes Union home minister L.K. Advani�s proposed tour to the affected areas.

State BJP vice-president Muzaffar Khan said Advani plans to visit the state �sometime early next month.� The party will organise a token hungerstrike demanding Central intervention, he said.

In another development, the BJP state leadership made it clear that members who had floated a separate forum had not sought the party�s approval. State party president Asim Ghosh even denied knowledge of such a forum being floated.

�Those sidelined in the organisation are left with no option but to float a separate forum,� said former state BJP president and dissident leader, Sukumar Banerjee.

Trouble in Malda: The police had to resort to lathicharge to disperse a mob at Kaliachak in Malda after an eight-year-old girl was run over on Saturday. Hasina and her mother were travelling in a rickshaw on NH 36, when a taxi hit the rickshaw from behind. Hasina fell on the road under the impact and a truck passing by crushed her to death.    

Jamshedpur, Sept. 16: 
Differences have surfaced within the rank and file of the BJP over the issue of chief ministership of the proposed Jharkhand state.

The absence of all the district committee members when the party�s projected chief ministerial candidate Karia Munda visited the steel city today is an indication of the fact.

Karia Munda arrived here this morning but no one from the district executive committee was present to receive him. Most of the members have been backing Union minister of state for environment and forests Babulal Marandi for the post of chief minister of the new state.

Even the differences between Marandi and Munda came to the fore when, addressing a press conference later this evening at the circuit house here, Munda said, �Marandi is immature and is also very junior to me. He is still in the learning process and needs to learn a lot more in politics.� However, he said he was not in the race for chief ministership.

He said the first chief minister of the new state would be from the �single largest party,� thereby ending all speculation over the candidature of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha president Shibu Soren for the post. �The chief minister would certainly be from the National Democratic Alliance but there will be a consensus,� he said. He added that the candidate would be decided by the end of next month.

Asked about Soren staking claim to the post, Munda said, �For the past six days, he has not uttered a word about it,� hinting at some understanding between the BJP and the JMM. But Munda preferred to remain non-committal when asked about the bickering within the party over the issue of the chief ministerial candidate. �It is the discretion of the party high command and the NDA leaders and everyone will have to abide by the decision,� he said.

Cong stand on Rabri Devi govt


Ranchi, Sept. 16: The Congress today ruled out any review of its support to the Rashtriya Janata Dal government in Bihar following the massacre of 15 people at Narkopi on Wednesday at Bero block under Ranchi district.

AICC general-secretary Mohsina Kidwai said today as part of the agreement with the RJD, the first review was to take place in six months time beginning April this year and that since the six months had not yet elapsed, the party was not prepared to undertake any premature review despite the Narkopi massacre.

Total confusion prevailed in the Congress ranks over its role in government formation in the new Jharkhand state with Kidwai stating that the issue was to be decided by the Congress Working Committee. Bihar PCC chief Chandan Bagchi and roads minister Furkan Ansari said the Congress along with the RJD would take the lead in forming a secular government in Jharkhand.

Talking to newsmen at Ranchi today, Mohsina Kidwai said the brutal massacres of innocent people at Narkopi village on Wednesday marked a total breakdown of the administrative machinery in controlling law and affairs in the Jharkhand region.

Blaming the RSS for the Narkopi massacres, Kidwai said efforts were being made by suspected groups to spread chaos in the mineral-rich Jharkhand region where premier PSUs as well as private sector industries in the region have their base.

However, Kidwai sought to give a clean chit to the ruling RJD government in Bihar while refusing to undertake any review of its support to the latter. She said the Congress would look for an opportune time to review its support.

However, the Congress appeared to be in two minds on its future course of action vis-�-vis the formation of the new government in Jharkhand. Kidwai said the issue was to be decided by the Congress Working Committee and that it was too premature on her part to announce any policy decisions in this regard.

Kidwai announced the conversion of the Jharkhand Congress Committee into a full-fledged and independent Pradesh Congress Committee following the creation of a new state. She said all the present office bearers including its chief Thomas Hansda would continue in office till the organisational elections were completed within two months.

Jharkhand Pradesh Committee working president Indranath Bhagat, in a letter to the AICC president, criticised the manner in which the list of the district returning officers to conduct organisational polls in the Jharkhand region had been drawn up.    


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