Tough traffic rules set for last day of immersion
Loudspeakers play soft at most pandals
Cops draw flak for Hooghly debris
Helpline for non-resident Bengalis
Actor dies
Bomb attack for panchayat control
Murder and rape on highway
Rescue centre for injured animals
Kiss of life for dead hydel units
Train fire

Calcutta, Oct. 27: 
Puja organisers have been asked to complete all immersions by Sunday. The city police have issued an order threatening to prosecute puja committees which would fail to honour the deadline. The police are expecting heavy traffic congestion on Sunday, the last day of immersion. �Most puja organisers will immerse their idols on Sunday. A number of major city thoroughfares will remain closed to general vehicular traffic. We will have to divert the traffic movement,� said Banibrata Basu, deputy commissioner of Calcutta Police, headquarters.

The police have also restricted the movement of lorries and other heavy goods vehicles during the immersion days. �We have mentioned it clearly in our guidebook that no lorry will be allowed to ply in the city before Monday,� added Basu.

Police have decided to allow immersion processions to be taken out only after 4 pm. �Vehicles will not be allowed to ply on 16 major city roads from 4 pm till immersions are over on Sunday night,� said Basu.

Police personnel will be deployed on river banks on Sunday to keep vigil on the law and order situation during immersion. �We are requesting all participants in the immersion processions not to violate traffic rules and follow our directives,� Basu said.

Stray incidents of violence marked immersion in the city and its outskirts. Altogether 1,700 idols were immersed at different ghats along the Hooghly on Friday.

Miscreants damaged the pandal of Ballygunge Pally Sarbojonin Puja committee on Dover Road, in south Calcutta, late on Friday.

Sanchayan Club, which organised the puja on Dover Road, lodged a complaint at the Ballygunge police station against three persons. The organisers alleged that the attack was aimed to upset the diamond jubilee celebrations of the puja this year. No arrest has been made in this connection.

Seven persons were also injured at Jagaddal, in North 24-Parganas, when members of two local clubs fell out. As the news of the clash spread, there was tension in the area. The local police brought the situation under control.

Meanwhile, two persons were killed in incidents unrelated to the Pujas on Saturday. Forty-year-old housewife S. Mitra was knocked down by a private bus on VIP Road near Lake Town. Tilak Shukla, 40, was run over by a private bus on route 71 on Mahatma Gandhi Road.


Calcutta, Oct. 27: 
The Pujas this year were relatively quiet. The police received only 40 complaints on violation of sound rules framed by the high court, a spokesperson for the state pollution control board (PCB) said on Saturday.

According to the police and PCB officials, almost all the big puja committees used sound-limit machines in their microphones. Gitanath Ganguly, high court-appointed special officer, described the development as �a very healthy sign�.

�This time all the big puja committees have conformed to sound pollution rules,� he said, adding that crackers above 65 decibels were not burst during the immersion processions on Friday.

Ganguly recalled that complaints usually came from areas like Burrabazar and Jorabagan. �But not a single complaint from these areas was received by the PCB or the police this time,� he claimed.

Altogether 18 puja committees had to pay a fine for flouting sound pollution norms. The police confiscated microphones and other sound equipment from Halshi Bagan and Sahitya Parishad Sarbojonin Durgotsav committees for not heeding to police warning, said Ganguly.

�I was present at both the puja pandals during the police raids. Other puja committees, against which complaints had been lodged by local residents, responded to police requests to maintain the noise level under 65 decibels,� Ganguly said. He, however, admitted that the real test for the police as well as the PCB would be on Diwali.


Calcutta, Oct. 27: 
Environment activists of the city complained on Saturday that Calcutta High Court�s directives on pollution in the Hooghly, after immersion of idols, were not being properly adhered to. Last year, a vacation bench, comprising Justice Ashok Ganguly and Justice Amit Talukdar, directed the police to make necessary arrangements to remove the debris immediately after the immersion.

The high court also held that the police would have to do the job under the supervision of the state pollution control board (PCB).

The order of the court, dated October 23, 2000, said: �The remains of the idols � accumulated debris, straw, jute strings � would have to be removed from the water to save the Hooghly from further pollution.�

The PCB had directed all civic bodies to take measures to clean the Hooghly or any other water body after immersion in accordance with the court order.

Subhas Dutta, general secretary of Howrah Ganatantrik Nagarik Samity, had filed a writ petition before the vacation bench of Calcutta High Court last year, alleging that the Hooghly was getting polluted as rotting debris remained in water long after the immersion.

The petitioner further contended that when a nationwide programme had been undertaken by the Centre to clean the Ganga, an effort should be made to keep the river clean in Bengal as well.

�After Dashami this time, we have noticed mud, straw, wooden structures,chalchitras of idols and other material floating in the Hooghly,� said Dutta. He said the organisation would file a contempt petition against the police and others before the vacation bench.

Another organisation, Calcutta�36, working for the betterment of the city, also demanded that the authorities concerned be more active in cleaning the Hooghly and the Adi Ganga after the immersion.


Calcutta, Oct. 27: 
A helpline for brethren settled beyond the boundaries of Bengal. That�s the essence of Sahamarmi -� an organisation of the Bengali, by the Bengali, for the Bengali floated recently, with the �full support� of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Rallying to the cause of the Bengali in distress are city intellectuals and academicians, including Pabitra Sarkar, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Mrinal Sen, Chandrakala Pandey, Usha Ganguly and Gitesh Sharma.

Pabitra Sarkar, president of Sahamarmi, said: �This organisation has been set up to highlight discrimination against Bengalis in other states and to ensure that they are not deprived in any way. They should get proper opportunities to learn the Bengali language, practice Bengali culture� We will bring such matters to the notice of our own government and request for negotiation with other states to solve the problem.�

According to Chandrakala Pandey, MP and CU teacher, there are some places in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Assam, Manipur, Gujarat and even the Andamans where Bengalis are �deprived� of proper facilities. �We have conducted extensive tours across the country to see the condition of Bengalis. Our experience was not too pleasant in many places,� explained Pandey.

Nitish Biswas, a deputy registrar of Calcutta University and secretary of Sahamarmi, said the chief minister had assured them of doing �the needful� whenever his intervention was required.


Calcutta, Oct. 27: 
Actor Pradeep Kumar died after prolonged illness at Ramakrishna Mission Seva Pratishthan on Saturday, says a staff reporter. He was 76. Among his prominent Hindi and Bengali films were Grihadaho, Kajal, Dil Ek Mandir, Anarkali, Taj Mahal and Chakravyuha. His daughter Bina is an actress. Kumar will be cremated on Sunday.    

Oct. 27: 
At least 15 people were injured in a series of clashes between the CPM and Trinamul Congress supporters during the Puja days at Nasigram village under Bhatpar police station in Burdwan over exercising control of a local gram panchayat.

Eight persons, who sustained serious injuries, have been admitted to the Burdwan Medical College Hospital.

The district administration has deployed the Rapid Action Force (RAF) to bring the situation under control. A strong police contingent has also been posted in the area where supporters of both parties are still in a belligerent mood.

Anirban Roy, additional superintendent of police, said five persons had so far been arrested. He said bombs, lathis, iron rods and tangis had been freely used during the clashes which began on Thursday. Patrolling has been intensified in the area. A number of houses, belonging to supporters of both the parties, were also damaged.

Trinamul chief whip in the Assembly Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay said in Calcutta today that the CPM activists had provoked the violence in their bid to take control of the gram panchayat. �We have already sought a report from our district leadership in connection with the incident,� he said, adding that a party delegation will visit the area to make an on-the-spot study of the situation.

He said the CPM was out to wrest control of the panchayat from the Trinamul. �We shall call on state home secretary Sourin Roy on Monday seeking his immediate intervention,� he added.

Subrata Banerjee, deputy superintendent of police, led a strong force comprising RAF and armed police to the village on Friday morning as reports of clashes reached the district headquarters.

But as the security forces reached the scene of violence, they became the target of both CPM and Trinamul activists.

The police resorted to lathicharge to enter the village and brought the situation under control for the time being. However, clashes broke out again after sunset.

Giving a first-hand account of the clashes, Siddheswar Roy, a resident of Nasigram, said: �We were all busy with the Puja on the night of Mahashtami when the entire village shook with the loud explosion of bombs. The villagers rushed back to their homes. Many of them later fled the village.�

He added: �We somehow carried out immersion on Friday, but no procession could be organised because tension ran high. A few clashes occurred this morning as well.�

Aswani Rej, a spokesman for CPM�s Bhatpar local committee, said: �The Trinamul is planning to create another Keshpur. Our organisation is weak here. Our party workers have become easy targets of the Trinamul goons. A gang of at least 50 armed Trinamul activists has unleashed a reign of terror.�

Rej said his party recently undertook a drive to strengthen the organisation. �But the Trinamul workers attacked one of our members on Thursday. We are, of course, determined to resist Trinamul�s attempts to create lawlessness,� he added.


Midnapore, Oct. 27: 
A woman in her early twenties was raped and then murdered before her body was abandoned on state Highway No. 41 under Haldia police station. Her face was badly mutilated.

The incident occurred on Thursday, according to delayed reports reaching the district headquarters today. No arrests have been made so far.

Debashis Bej, sub-divisional police officer, said the post-mortem report confirmed that the woman had been raped and murdered. �There are reasons to believe that the woman had been brought from outside�. Some sharp weapons were used to deface her,� he added.

A pack of cigars was found beside the body. A pair of chappals was seized from the spot.

�Haldia was believed to be one of the safest industrial towns in the state. We will be more alert from now on. We feel it is necessary to have another police station here,� Bej said.

He added that all police stations in the district had been alerted after the incident came to his notice.

�We have got some clues, but it is not possible to divulge them in the interest of investigation,� he said.


Calcutta, Oct. 27: 
The state forest department plans to set up two rescue centres for injured and orphaned animals at an estimated cost of over Rs 1 crore. First of its kind in the country, these centres are expected to be operational within this financial year.

The animal rescue centres, planned to be started in Ayodhya Hills in Purulia and Dakshin Khayerbari, close to the Jaldapara wildlife sanctuary, are expected to attract more tourists and also help check poaching of wild animals.

The central zoo authority (CZA) has, however, cautioned the state wildlife department to ensure that these centres do not become permanent settlements for the animals brought in for medical treatment. Once they recover from their injuries they should be released in the wild, the CZA insisted.

�The idea is that these centres should not be treated as substitute for the zoo. Tourists will have opportunities of having a close look at the animals in their near-natural habitat,� state forest minister Jogesh Burman said. �Besides, orphaned animals will also be reared there till they are strong enough to fend for themselves.�

The Madarihat centre, close to the Jaldapara sanctuary, has gained popularity for rearing orphaned animals, particularly leopard cubs. It has become a mandatory stopover for tourists heading for the Jaldapara sanctuary.

A senior forest official said leopards sometimes abandon their cubs in the tea gardens of north Bengal following a chase by the garden�s labourers. The mother leopard never takes its cubs back when she detects an �alien smell� emanating from their bodies.

Not just leopards, other injured animals such as elephants and rhinos need a rescue and rehabilitation centre for treatment. Forest officials have long felt the need for a similar centre for wild animals in south Bengal. Elephants, in particular, have to face public wrath in Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia districts and forest officials face great difficulties nursing them back to health in the absence of a proper rescue centre.


Calcutta, Oct. 27: 
The state government has decided to re-commission three defunct hydel projects in the hill areas of Darjeeling at an estimated cost of Rs 6 crore. The three projects are expected to generate 5 mw after their renovation and will benefit people in the remote areas of Darjeeling and Kurseong.

The power department has identified the projects at Ringchington, Bijanbari and Sindrapong for thorough renovation and overhaul.

�Our aim is to improve power supply to the hills, especially in remote areas. As the installation of a new power project is costly and time-consuming, we have decided to restart the defunct projects. It will save both money and time,� power minister Mrinal Banerjee said.

He recently held a meeting with minister for hill affairs Ashok Bhattacharya and WBSEB officials to assess the power situation in the hills. Bhattacharya told Banerjee that inadequate power supply to the hills had already created a great deal of resentment among the hill people.

�It is very difficult to set up a hydel project in the hills because of non-availability of water. Besides, at least Rs 10 to 15 crore is required to set up a power project and we can hardly afford it at the moment. So, we thought it wise to renovate the three projects,� Banerjee said.

Bhattacharya and Banerjee visited the sites on Sunday along with the engineers and senior officers of the WBSEB. Both the ministers have issued orders to begin renovation work immediately.

The hill affairs minister has also proposed to build some tourist centres by developing the areas around the power projects at Ringchington and Sindrapong.

�The places can be turned into ideal tourist centres given the scenic beauty of the spots. Other related work, including road construction, augmentation of drinking water, sewerage system and housing, will start soon after the renovation is undertaken,� Bhattacharya said.

He is expected to meet tourism minister Dinesh Dakua, who also hails from north Bengal, to discuss the proposal.

The Ringchingtong hydel project, 70 km from Siliguri, has been closed since 1987 following technical problems and scarcity of river water. Besides, the plant, which used to generate 2 mw, was damaged due to a landslide in 1995.

The Sindrapong hydel project, established by the British in 1897, is the oldest in the country. It has been defunct for about 10 years.


Calcutta, Oct. 27: 
Train services on Eastern Railway�s Sealdah-Ranaghat section were disrupted for more than an hour after the motor coach of a Sealdah-bound local train caught fire a few minutes after it left Bongaon station this afternoon.

The train was immediately stopped after the fire was detected. Power supply was also disconnected. Fire engines rushed to the spot. Normal services were resumed around 5.45 pm.


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