Child falls to death in lift shaft
Speeding taxi crushes boy on the Bypass
Promoter taken hostage at gun-point
Civic guns trained on tax dodgers
Tanners cry foul over new site
TB drug regime fails to cover street-dwellers
Mike use to be monitored on HS exam dates
Bringing interiors to the masses, with a flourish
NLFT leader exposes rift in outfit
IPFT ends impasse over executive committee

Calcutta, March 19: 
A 10-year-old boy was killed when the elevator door he was said to be leaning against opened suddenly, sending him plummeting three floors down the lift shaft.

Witnesses said that around 7 pm, Prakash Mehtani, son of a New Market businessman, was playing in the lobby on the fifth floor of Ambassador Apartments, at 61/A, Park Street.

For some reason, the boy decided to lean against the elevator door. Inexplicably, the door slid open, sending the boy tumbling about 45 feet down the shaft. The lift was then on the second floor.

Reports said late at night that Prakash may have been electrocuted, as he was found in a tangle of wires on top of the elevator by fire brigade personnel, who rushed to the spot shortly after the incident.

Members of the Mehtani family, however, refused to speak to the media on the incident.

C.K. Poddar, a neighbour, said that Prakash was a �cute and bubbly� child and a student of a central Calcutta school.

Liftman Ram Singhasan Thakur gave an account of what happened on Monday evening. �It was around 7.15 pm and I was operating the lift,� he said. �I was moving up and suddenly. when the lift reached the second floor, there was a thud. The lift came to a halt. I did not realise what had happened. It was only when the fire brigade personnel arrived and rescued me and brought down the boy did the tragedy dawn on me.�

The police and fire brigade personnel, however, said that it was still not clear how the boy fell down the elevator shaft.

�We are investigating all aspects, including the theory that the lift door suddenly opened,� said deputy commissioner of police, south, Ranjit Pachnanda. �Till now, we have no authentic version of what really happened.�

At the time of the tragedy, Prakash�s father, Deepak Mehtani, was in his New Market shop, while his mother, Meena, was at home with her daughter.

Liftman Thakur said Prakash and his friends would often play cricket in the lobby. �I don�t know what happened,� Thakur said. �But it is a fact that the lift door, especially on the fifth floor, was defective. It is possible that Prakash had dashed against the door, which gave way on impact.�

Prakash�s friends, with whom he was playing on Monday, were too shocked to speak and were huddled inside their homes after the incident.

The police intend to speak to them as well as the elevator manufacturers to get a clearer picture of what had really happened.


Calcutta, March 19: 
A nine-year-old boy was killed and his 12-year-old sister was injured in a road mishap on Monday morning, less than two hours after a 50-year-old woman had been run over in a separate incident.

Bejoy Das, 9, and sister Shanta, 12, were on their way to school when they were hit by a Ultadanga-bound taxi at the crossing of the EM Bypass and Narkeldanga Main Road, around 10.30 am. The driver lost control after the brakes failed, and the taxi rammed into the road divider, crushing Bejoy against a lamp-post. Shanta, however, was flung on the road. Local people rushed the bleeding children to NRS Hospital where Bejoy succumbed to his injuries. Shanta was released after treatment.

At the accident site, a mob beat up the taxi-driver and set up roadblocks on the Bypass, blocking peak-hour traffic for over an hour. Angry residents of the area also demanded compensation for Shanta�s treatment.

Local Trinamul councillor Minu Chakraborty, who arrived on the spot, rescued the taxi-driver from the mob and handed him over to the police. �We have been demanding a police patrol in the area, as it is highly accident-prone. But no action has been taken so far,� alleged Chakraborty.

The roadblocks were withdrawn after officer-in-charge of Phoolbagan police station S.N. Kundu assured the protesters of �necessary steps� to prevent road mishaps in the area.

In a hit-and-run case, Janani Sardar, 50, died on the spot after being run over by a speeding Matador van at Golaghata, near Lake Town, around 9 am. A resident of nearby Natun Para, Sardar was run over by the airport-bound van while crossing VIP Road. The van sped away after the incident.

Residents blocked VIP Road to protest the latest in a series of accidents on VIP Road. �This stretch is a pedestrian�s nightmare. There have been at least three accidents at Golaghata in the past month. We have repeatedly requested the authorities to deploy police patrols to check rash driving and ensure people�s safety. But they have turned a deaf ear to our pleas. How many lives will be lost before they respond?� demanded Sunil Basu, a resident .

Local councillor Sujit Bose said that even though the foundation stone for a pedestrian flyover had been laid by the PWD minister a month ago, work was yet to begin. Sambhu Roy, officer-in-charge of Lake Town police station, said that it was just not possible to post a traffic policeman at Golaghata every day due to �shortage of staff�.


Calcutta, March 19: 
In yet another case of kidnapping, a promoter was abducted at gun-point from a construction site on Southern Avenue on Monday afternoon.

According to witnesses, at around 3 pm, a white Ambassador stopped in front of the construction site. Three men, all armed, entered the premises and headed straight for where promoter Biswanath Ghosh was supervising construction work.

They first asked Ghosh to accompany them. When he refused, they beat him up and dragged him into the car. A few workers tried to come to the promoter�s aid. But they were scared away by the armed kidnappers. The car then sped away.

Some of the construction labourers, along with a few locals, then lodged a complaint with the Lake police station. Later, a team from the anti-rowdy squad of the detective department of the city police visited the spot but, so far, has not been able to make much headway in the case.

The police believe that the kidnapping was the handiwork of a group of extortionists.

�We think Ghosh did not oblige the extortionists and that is why he was kidnapped,� a police official said.

Ghosh�s family members have told the police that in the past, the promoter had received a number of extortion threats and had even paid up on a few occasions. But they had no idea that a fresh threat had been issued.

Debashis Roy, who lives in a house adjoining the construction site, said this was not the first time that the extortionists had visited the spot. �A few days ago, some people had come looking for the promoter,� he said. �But not finding him around, they started shouting and raised a din and finally left the spot after some time. Ghosh should have been more careful, which obviously he wasn�t.�

The police are keeping a watch on the Ghosh house on Lake Road, certain that a ransom call will come through sooner or later. However, till late on Monday night, the Ghosh family said it had received no such calls.

Only last week, a leather exporter was kidnapped from Narkeldanga while he was on his way to his factory in Topsia. Police believe that this was the handiwork of a local goon called Gudda, who is known as a teenaged terror. However, the police has not been able to find any link between the two abductions.

Deputy commissioner, detective department, Banibrata Basu, said the police had laid traps in different parts of the city for Ghosh�s kidnappers. �We have an idea about who they are, as Ghosh�s family has provided us with some vital leads,� Basu said. �Accordingly, we have been working for his rescue but nothing else can be revealed now for the sake of investigations.�


Calcutta, March 19: 
Subrata Mukherjee was shooting from the hip while presenting the Calcutta Municipal Corporation�s budget 2001-2002 on Monday. In the line of the mayor�s fire � house-tax dodgers and �surplus� civic employees.

In a bold move �to make tax recovery more effective�, Mukherjee announced that the Trinamul-BJP board had decided to amend the CMC Act 1980 to make non-payment of civic tax a cognisable and non-bailable offence. Blaming the �huge amount of unrealised property tax� as the main reason for the Rs 72.84-crore deficit in the Corporation�s Rs 846-crore budget, Mukherjee said evasion of tax was worst among a section of owners of commercial property and highrises. �The present provisions in the CMC Act are inadequate for dealing with unscrupulous tax-dodgers, promptly and firmly,� he added.

To ensure �better service to the tax-payer�, the mayor said the civic authorities had decided to �restructure the administrative set-up of the Corporation� and would not hesitate from declaring a number of posts �surplus�, thus rendering the workforce redundant. This is expected to pave the path for the first official move towards ridding the Corporation of excess manpower.

Civic doctors will have to devote �full office hours� to serve the people and they will be given non-practising allowance for this. Among other important provisions in the budget are the setting up of a malaria hospital, a burial ground for pets and mobile health clinics.

To check illegal construction, the fees for posting guards at the site of unauthorised constructions have been doubled. To give some relief to small and medium traders, the rate for water tax has been restructured on the basis of the �area� of the commercial establishment, instead of consumption, which was the case till now.


Calcutta, March 19: 
Uncertainty looms large over the Calcutta Leather Complex (CLC), with tanners taking the stand that relocation will throw into jeopardy the fragile eco-system of the gateway to the Sunderbans.

The CLC is coming up at Karaidanga, a predominantly agricultural area about 17 km from eastern Calcutta. The area is surrounded by wetlands and channels carrying the city�s effluents into the Hooghly estuarine system.

The tanners, who are doubting the deadline for construction of a common effluent treatment plant, are also up against the promoter, M.L. Dalmiya and Company. A delegation of tanners visited Governor Viren J. Shah last Saturday to voice their grievances.

Jagmohan Dalmiya, chief of the promoting firm, said that things were progressing according to the Supreme Court�s directive. He said the Central Leather Research Institute had three chrome-extraction plants ready. �We are also taking steps to separate the solid waste in the tanning process. The tanners should shift, so that pollution in eastern Calcutta is reduced,� Dalmiya explained.

The tanners, especially the 230 Chinese units, have filed an application seeking modification of an order passed on January 23, 2001.

They are also cross over the payment of the last two instalments and are reluctant to pay up till the plot is fully developed before being handed over.

Earlier this year, only 33 units paid up and took allotment letters from the promoters. Of them, 11 units are new and not located in the Tangra-Topsia-Tiljala belt.

The Supreme Court judgment, passed by Green Bench judge Kuldip Singh in 1993, was aimed at protecting the city and its periphery from the highly toxic discharges from the tanneries. According to the tanners, the idea of relocating in order to have a pollution-free environment is being defeated.

�We don�t want to shift to Karaidanga and raise doubts about polluting the wetlands and the periphery. We have to protect not only Tangra by shifting, but also Karaidanga, where we will be relocated,� a Chinese tanner said.

Meanwhile, the efficiency of mobile chrome recovery units, to be installed at the new site to clean the effluents of the harmful metal, is being doubted. There is no estimate of the impact the pollutants, other than chrome, will have on the environment.

The tanning process also discharges salt, oils, dyes, tannins, boron, non-biodegradable chemicals like formaldehyde and carcinogenic, benzidine-based dyes.

�There is no proposal on how the effluents generated from using almost 200 tonnes of salt a day will be disposed of,� a tanner added. The huge load of salt will affect the environment in the absence of a common effluent treatment plant, he said.

The tanners complained that delay in completing the CLC was causing immense harm to the industry. As per the original agreement, the CLC was to be completed within 48 months from July 1997. The total number of tanneries up for relocation is 586.


Calcutta, March 19: 
Preparations are on by the health department and various organisations to observe World TB Day on March 24. But the World Health Organisation�s answer to the disease, in the form of the �revolutionary� directly-observed treatment shortcourse (DOTS) has not proved a complete success in Calcutta.

Introduced for the first time by the TB clinics of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation about five years ago, the treatment has been able to cure about 85 per cent of the active TB patients in the city, senior chest specialists said.

For one, street-dwellers (a few thousands of whom exist in the city) are not covered by the scheme. �Since they don�t have a fixed address, it is difficult for health workers to trace TB patients among them to see whether they are taking their medicine every day,� pointed out an official connected with the programme.

The basic principle of the treatment stems from the fact that TB is a disease that has the highest number of defaulters, or patients who do not complete the full course after they start feeling better. As a result, some of the bacilli remain and evolve to become drug-resistant.

This leads to the development of drug-resistant TB, a situation that is far more dangerous and worrying, as conventional medicine does not work on these patients. �So, to guarantee that the patients complete the full course, health workers have to go to the homes of defaulter patients to see that they take the medicine.�

A patient is registered for the DOTS programme on production of a ration card or a rent bill or any proof of address. But a street-dweller does not have any of these. �Quite a few of them suffer from the disease in its different stages of severity, and quite a few of them die of it.� What is of concern is that these street-dwellers also work on a temporary basis in homes, at roadside workshops, or even pull rickshaws. �It is internationally accepted that one TB patient can infect 10 new persons every year,� pointed out Dr Manish Pradhan, chairman of the Bengal TB Association.

The DOTS programme being followed in the city mainly has the patients coming to the clinic for their weekly supply of medicine. �On one or two occasions, it has been seen that if the patients don�t turn up, no inquiries are made from the clinic. The patients could very well have stopped taking the drugs, and this could lead to development of drug-resistant TB later,� a doctor said.

�Something must be done about pavement-dwellers. The medicine that the WHO has provided is good and free. But it must reach all the patients, no matter where they live,� felt D. Ashis, secretary of Medical Bank, an organisation assisting in the detection and treatment of cases.


Calcutta, March 19: 
With the Assembly elections round the corner, the West Bengal Council for Higher Secondary Education has appealed to the State Pollution Control Board on Monday to keep a tight vigil on the use of public address systems during the Higher Secondary examinations, beginning on Tuesday.

�The officials have assured us of keeping a watch,� said Council president Sudin Chattopadhyay on Monday. The CESC and the State Electricity Board authorities have also been asked to provide uninterrupted power supply during the examination days. All arrangements for holding the examinations have been completed, Chattopadhyay added.

The Council will operate a control room (phone: 337-4945) at its Salt Lake office between 7 am and 6 pm on the exam days. Control rooms will also operate in Midnapore (03222-60818), Burdwan (0342-568734) and Siliguri (0353-551280). The CSTC will ply special buses on 25 routes from Tuesday.

A total of 384,466 candidates will write the examination this year. Of them, nearly a lakh are from the city and its neighbouring areas. An undertrial lodged in Alipore Central Jail and 22 challenged candidates will also sit for the examination. Extra time will be given to the challenged candidates, officials said.

A makeshift centre will be set up on the jail premises, said additional inspector-general of prisons, Dilip Chowdhury. �Question papers will be sent in a sealed envelop to the jail superintendent, who will invigilate,� he added.

The examinations will continue till April 11.


Calcutta, March 19: 
The curtains came down on Interiors 2001, the eighth edition of the decor fair, and the third at the Netaji Indoor Stadium, on Monday. It recorded a collective footfall of more than 70,000 spread over the five days of the exposition, the only of its kind in eastern India.

�Our principal aim has always been spreading awareness about the business of interior designing and planning among Calcuttans, and today, I am glad that we have been able to take interiors to the masses,� says Ajit Singhee, president, Association of Architects, Builders, Interior Designers and Allied business (ABID) which organises the show.

Over the years, ABID has grown from nine to 150-plus members and Interiors, from just 30-odd stalls in 1994 to 112 at the recent edition.

�That�s the maximum we can accommodate here and plenty of applicants had to be turned down,� says Aloke Gupta, a founder-member and past president of ABID.

The clamour for participation at the fair has reflected in business, which has been growing at more than 30 per cent per year on an average.

�Over the last couple of years, my business has grown almost five times, largely thanks to this show, which is a great platform to exhibit new products,� says Sanjeev Jalan of Hardware Collection, specialists in modular kitchens and detachable glass display systems, who put up a Rs-75,000 stall for the five-day demonstration.

For someone like Anshu Choudhury, who runs her stained/etched/bevelled glass business, Sheeshkriti, from a small workshop and doesn�t have a dedicated showroom, Interiors provides the only platform. �This is the place where I get my entire year�s business from,� she smiles.

�Where else can we hope to interact with such a huge cross-section of people,� observes Sunil Hoon of, �the world�s first try-and-buy 3-D interiors portal�.

Interiors 2001 had business visitors pouring in from such far-flung places like Patna, Jamshedpur, Guwahati, Bhubaneswar and even Raipur. �Even five years back, the middle-class never built interiors into their budgets, thinking it was prohibitively expensive and the rich invariably turned to Mumbai or Delhi for their space planning or colour schemes. Now, that perception is fast changing and designers in Calcutta are very much in business,� stresses Singhee.

ABID�s ultimate goal is a degree course in interior designing, the �first of its kind in the country�.

�We are planning a full-fledged institute which will initially offer a diploma course for students as well as workshops for masons, carpenters, polishers, etc. ABID can create thousands of jobs in the city and its hinterland once it has its own premises,� says the president.


Agartala, March 19: 
Making fresh disclosures about the infighting in the National Liberation Front of Tripura, senior NLFT commander Nayanbasi Jamatya lashed out at the outfit�s official faction.

Jamatya, who left the outfit�s hideout in Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh last month, said in a fax message to the local media that the former chief executive member of the Autonomous District Council (ADC) and senior leader of the Indigenous People�s Front of Tripura (IPFT) Debabrata Koloi met Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Delhi with a proposal for peace negotiations.

Senior IPFT leader B.K. Hrangkhawal and Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga also lent a helping hand in the process. But the issue was exposed much to the frustration of the NLFT cadre who were keen to end life in the jungle and return home.

Blaming the NLFT leadership for misguiding tribal youth, Nayanbasi said in 1999, Koloi had met commanders of the outfit with a signed letter from a colonel of the Assam Rifles for surrender, but Joshua Debbarma, political advisor to the group, arbitrarily shot down the proposal.

The proposal was given again and this time senior IPFT leader Ananta Debbarma met the NLFT commanders. But a few leaders of the outfit refused to surrender without allowing the cadres to express their views on the subject.

Jamatya, a former jawan of the 1st battalion of Tripura State Rifles who went underground in 1990 after being framed in a fund embezzlement case when he was posted as sentry in Barmura thermal power plant, criticised NLFT leaders for leading luxurious lives at the cost of the outfit�s funds, depriving cadres and middle-ranking commanders.

�The difference in lifestyle is so wide and obvious that common cadres who risk their lives in the organisation are totally frustrated,� he said. Jamatya also accused NLFT bosses like Mantu Koloi, Dhanu Koloi, Kamini Debbarma and Biswa Mohan Debbarma of carrying on personal business with NLFT money.

Jamatya disclosed that NLFT cadres were subjected to physical torture in the name of punishment for any offence and execution without trial was rampant. Giving a gory picture of the psychopathic violence, he said Bagala Debbarma (Amarpur), Kansaram Reang (Belonia), Asha Jamatya (Udaipur), Gaya Prasad Debbarma (Kamalpur), Padma Mohan Tripura (Dhoomacherra), Mayaram Reang (Belonia) and Chakradhar Tripura (Dhoomacherra) were executed without trial by NLFT bosses.

Accusing NLFT leaders of hatching a conspiracy against him, Jamatya said they had sent two NLFT cadre, Utpanna Tripura and Mokol Debbarma, to assassinate him and his associate sergeant Sumai. However, the news had leaked out and his loyalists gunned down the two after they entered his hideout and took out revolvers. Jamatya described Koloi as a RAW agent and asserted that he will carry on the struggle for freedom of Tripura. Official sources here refused to comment on Jamatya�s fax message but indicated that his contention was by and large correct.


Agartala, March 19: 
The Indigenous People�s Front of Tripura (IPFT) today formed a four-member executive committee headed by Kripa Mohan Reang, ending for the time being the fortnight-long stalemate over the issue.

Besides Reang, a surprise choice for the post of the chief executive member, the four other executive members who were administered the oath of office were Mohan Debbarma, Benoy Debbarma, L.V. Darlong and Krishna Kanta Jamatya.

The oath of office was administered by law secretary A.B. Pal at the headquarters of the Autonomous District Council (ADC) at Khumlung under Jirania police station.

The fact that the IPFT leadership did a lot of tight-rope walking to preserve party unity on clan lines is evident from the representation given to minority tribal groups. Reang, Jamatya and Darlong belong to the minority and backward tribal groups.

Chairman of the earlier council Hirendra Tripura has been allowed to retain his post and the majority Debbarma community has been given representation through Benoy Debbarma and Mohan Debbarma. The surprise omission from the council is Sridam Debbarma, an aspirant for the post of CEM and the key person behind the ouster of Debabrata Koloi from the post.

Sridam Debbarma and his relative and party president Harinath Debbarma had taken the initiative to oust Koloi by submitting a memorandum to the Governor, expressing no-confidence in his leadership as the CEM. Koloi tendered his resignation on March 9. Sources in the IPFT said Sridam Debbarma had been omitted because of a decision by �invisible friends� (NLFT militants) who felt that his omission would keep his rival, Koloi, happy.

Senior IPFT leader and party spokesman Bijay Kumar Hrangkhawal said the choice of executive members and the CEM was unanimous and the party was more united than ever before. Regarding the downsizing of the council from six to four, Hrangkhawal said, �This has been done as part of austerity drive�, but indicated that if the ADC�s finances improved, the size of the executive committee may be increased in future.


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