Bus fare hike from Tuesday
Protests after police bullets hit passersby
Basu to open film festival
Rebels, not securitymen behind killing, asserts Ar
Lathicharge on N-E mourners
Basu slams Centre on roads

Calcutta, Nov.4: 
The state government has decided to raise the minimum fare of buses and minibuses by 50 paise as the 72-hour strike by the operators ended on Saturday. Citu-controlled workers forcibly took out buses on many routes, defying their owners� orders.

Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty will formally announce the new fare structure on Monday, after a meeting with associations of bus, minibus and taxi operators. The revised fares will come into effect from Tuesday.

According to transport department sources, the minimum fares of buses and minibuses is slated to become Rs 2.50 and Rs 2.75 respectively. For taxis, the minimum fare is likely to be Rs 13. The existing minimum fares of bus, minibus and taxi are Rs 2, Rs 2.25 and Rs 12 respectively.

�If the bus and minibus operators go on strike even after the new fare structure comes into effect, we will take firm action against them,� Chakraborty said.

Private buses and minibuses went off the road for three days from Thursday, inconveniencing thousands of commuters. Buses, however, plied on the third day.

�The people�s plight made us resume services. They would have appreciated our stand if the bus operators observed a token one-day strike,� said Jahar Ghosal, joint secretary of North 24-Parganas Bus and Minibus Shramik Union.

Supporting Ghosal, the transport minister, who is also the president of Transport Workers� Federation, said the bus workers had taken the right step as the owners did not keep their promise to call off the strike on the second day. �We did not object to the strike call as we too felt that a fare hike was necessary to meet the rise in diesel price.�� Chakraborty said.

A bus plying on a city route makes five trips carrying 1,000 passengers on an average daily, for which 60 litres of diesel is required. Due to the diesel price hike, the operators have to bear an additional expenditure of Rs 200 daily. If the minimum fare is increased by 50 paise, the additional income will be around Rs 500 per day. The transport minister expressed confidence that the new fare structure would �more than compensate� the bus operators.

Bengal Bus Syndicate, the largest association of private bus operators, has decided to accept the proposed fare structure. �Though we demanded much more, we are ready to accept Rs 2.50 as the minimum fare,�� said Ajit Saha, president of the syndicate. However, Sadhan Das, secretary of Joint Council of Bus and Minibus Operators, said they would take a decision after meeting the transport minister on Monday.

While the Bengal Taxi Association is ready to accept the fare structure as fixed by the state government, the Progressive Taximen�s Union is against any fresh hike. PTU president Madan Mitra said people will not hire taxis if there is a fare hike.    

Calcutta, Nov.4: 
Traffic was thrown out of gear in Konnagar on Saturday morning when local people protested against police firing on Friday night.

A man and a teenagee girl accidentally received bullet injuries when the police opened fire in Dharmadanga. Officers from Uttarpara police station were raiding the hideout of Shyamal Mondal, a wanted criminal.

The police failed to net Mondal but held his henchman Bapi. A gang later attacked the police and tried to snatch the prisoner from them. The police fired and five of them were injured in the struggle. Passersby Atashi Das and Shyamal Chandra were injured and admitted to a local nursing home.

Protesting against the police firing, local people held a sit-in on the tracks on Saturday morning near Konnagar railway station. As a result, suburban train services were hit for over two hours from 9 am. They also blocked Grand Trunk Road. The blockade was lifted after senior police officials intervened.    

Calcutta, Nov.4: 
The Sixth Calcutta Film Festival, featuring over 130 films, will be inaugurated by Jyoti Basu on November 10. The seven-day festival will kick off with Adventures of God, directed by Eliseo Subiela of Argentina.

In the foreign category, 40-50 films from over 30 countries, including France, Italy, Germany, Cuba, Russia and Japan will be screened. Five films of Jean-Luc Godard will be shown, including Godard on Godard. Indian language films to be shown include Mani Ratnam�s Waves and Buddhadeb Dasgupta�s Uttara.

The festival will take place at 13 venues, of which four are reserved for delegates. Films for public viewing will be screened at Lighthouse, New Empire, Rabindra Sadan, Girish Mancha, Madhusudan Mancha and Chaplin.

Seventy-five per cent of the proceeds are meant for flood relief, with the rest going to the Technician�s Welfare Fund.    

Calcutta, Nov. 4: 
The Eastern Command today clarified that �a group of unidentified underground cadres unsuccessfully tried to ambush a column of the Assam Rifles at approximately 3.30 pm on November 2, 2000, by planting an improvised explosive device approximately 1.5 km southwest of Tulihal at Malom village on Tiddim Road.

�As the last vehicle of the column crossed the spot, the device was exploded which caused a deep crater. Immediately thereafter some underground cadres opened fire at the vehicle from the culvert located on the Eastern side of the road which resulted in two Assam Rifles soldiers sustaining gunshot injuries and killing of seven to eight person waiting at the nearby bus stand and NOT due to the firing of Assam Rifles as alleged.

�On the contrary, Assam Rifles troops exercised adequate caution while returning the fire of underground militants and shot dead three underground cadres who were trying to flee on two scooters. Later during the search operation, one M-16 rifle with eleven live rounds and a AK-47 magazine with 10 live rounds were found hidden amongst nearby bushes by the Police. Seven empty cartridge cases of AK-47 ammunition were also recovered from the culvert where from the underground cadres had fired.�    

Imphal, Nov. 4: 
Mourners at Malom village were lathicharged by the police today allegedly because of a rivalry between the superintendents of police of Imphal West and Bishenpur districts.

Curfew was lifted from greater Imphal at 4 pm after the families of the firing victims accepted the five remaining bodies for funeral.

Ten civilians, including a woman, were killed in a firing on Thursday at Malom Makha Leikai following an attack on an Assam Rifles convoy by suspected militants. More than 40 villagers were allegedly hospitalised when Assam Rifles jawans beat them up during combing operations.

The state government has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incident.

Trouble broke out today when police officials tried to work out a plan at the request of the villagers to allow more vehicles for ferrying the bodies from the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) morgue to Malom.

The villagers requested the officials to allow the mourners to collect the bodies as curfew was still in force.

Senior police officials agreed to allow three vehicles (two trucks and a bus) to ply to RIMS from Malom. But differences of opinion between the two SPs fuelled tension. Bishenpur SP Chandramani Singh refused to allow the mourners to move around in large groups while Imphal West SP S. Ibocha Singh said he would not allow more than one family member of each of the five victims to cross his territory.

The situation was brought under control with the arrival of inspector-general of police (law and order) A. Romenkumar Singh. The mourners left for the morgue in two vehicles.

Though Malom village falls under the Imphal West revenue district, it is located on the border of Imphal West and Bishenpur police districts.

After the Bishenpur SP refused to allow the mourners to move in large groups, they broke through the cordon and headed for Imphal West. Chandramani Singh allegedly did not resist their efforts.

Once the mourners reached the periphery of Imphal West district, there was an altercation between the police and villagers. Imphal West SP Ibocha Singh subsequently ordered a lathicharge on the mourners. Police also lobbed teargas shells to disperse the mob.

After the bodies reached Malom, the villagers took out a procession with placards condemning Assam Rifles.    

Calcutta, Nov. 4: 
Jyoti Basu today accused the Centre of �adopting step-motherly attitude towards Bengal� with regard to maintenance of national highways which passed through the state.

�The Centre was not careful about the national highways in West Bengal and other states of the eastern region. It should follow a �balanced policy� regarding construction and maintenance of the national highways,� the chief minister said.

Inaugurating the 61st annual session of the Indian Road Congress, Basu also criticised the Centre for allotting only Rs 35 crore to Bengal under the newly-formed Special Central Road Fund. �While the state government has increased its plan outlay on state PWD roads from Rs 554 crore in the last year to Rs 874 crore in the current year, the Centre�s allotment of only Rs 35 crore for West Bengal is nothing,� Basu added.

He, however, appreciated the formation of the National Highway Authority Of India which will take up several improvement schemes for national highways. He also praised the Indian Road Congress which is currently drafting a guideline for highway safety and said that the organisation had dedicated itself for the cause of the people since its inception in 1934.

Basu also suggested developing an efficient highway construction industry in the wake of the Centre�s recent plan to develop the national highways as well as the construction of new highways.

The Union minister of state for road transport, Hukum Deo Narayan Yadav, praised Basu a number of times during his half-an-hour long speech.

Yadav urged the engineers and technocrats of the Congress to construct roads and highways which will suit Indian climate and society. �You have to keep in mind that India is a country of villages and our highways, which will pass through thousands of villages, should be constructed carefully so that village life doesn�t get disturbed,� Yadav said.

State PWD minister Kshiti Goswami, transport minister Subhas Chakraborty and city mayor Subrata Mukherjee also attended the session.    


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