Cabbage to cucumber, prices too hot to swallow
Brother-in-law picked up in razor-slashing case
Monitor panel for eviction drive
Cyclone excuse for Burrabazar cheating
Boys on airport wall rattle minister
Delhi prod for fast courts
Pay clinics to cure private practice
Constables assaulted
Allies turn up terror law heat on CM
Congress activists beat up doctors

Calcutta, Nov. 24: 
The escalating cost of vegetables and fruits, just after the Pujas, has made Calcuttans a little apprehensive of the oncoming season. The phenomenon is same all through the city bazaars.

Retail and wholesale traders, however, offer various explanations on the rising prices. While some put the blame on rival sellers, a few others hold “outside forces” responsible. But some simply blame the weather. Yet, optimism is catching up with most traders, who assure that prices will soon be stabilised.

However, the ray of hope shown by traders is not uplifting the spirits of the citizens. “Not even a week has passed after the Pujas and vegetables have become so costly. Can you imagine potatoes selling at Rs 9 a kg, the chandramukhi variety at Rs 15 per kg, parwal Rs 12 a kg, tomato Rs 35 a kg, brinjal Rs 20 a kg and capsicum Rs 50 a kg? Similarly, apples are selling at Rs 50 a kg and small pineapples at Rs 20 a piece,” exclaimed Sujoy Raha of Gariahat.

Kanak Rao, a frequent shopper at New Market’s vegetable and fruit sections, agrees with Raha’s views. “Prices have soared unbelievably. Garlic has touched as high as Rs 100 per kg, cucumber Rs 15 per kg and parwal Rs 18 per kg. If the situation continues like this, we have no alternative but to stop going to the markets,” Rao said.

Sanjoy Mukherjee of College Street has also become quite concerned about the trend. He is shocked to find cauliflowers selling at Rs 15 per piece, cabbages for Rs 12 a kg, onions Rs 25 per kg and carrots Rs 20 per kg. “It’s unbelievable that a fruit like pomegranate is selling at Rs 60 per kg,” he added.

However, vegetable sellers are not pessimistic. According to Samir Pal, secretary of College Street Market Byabasayi Samity, prices of fruits and vegetables have skyrocketed because of the untimely rain in some states during the Pujas. We hope the situation improves by December.”

Dasarath Shaw, Kolay Market Sabji Byabsayi Samity president, said: “Prices usually go up during this period because of forcible collection of subscriptions from the truck owners. Actually, businessmen from other states send less quantity of fruits and vegetables to avoid being harassed. We have brought this to the notice of the government but it has not yielded any result.”

“Moreover, trucks can’t enter the city till 10 pm, which means those coming from other states have to wait with their goods for more than 24 hours. Since these are perishable goods, we have to pay through our nose. Besides, this year the prices have escalated tremendously because of the untimely rain,” Shaw explained.


Calcutta, Nov. 24: 
The recent attack on Sohini Sarker, a commerce student of Bangabasi College, took a new turn following the arrest of her brother-in-law late on Friday. The railway police arrested another youth, who was assigned to “harass” Sohini. The arrested duo was produced at Sealdah court and remanded in police custody.

With the arrests, the police made it clear that the incident was not a fallout of eve-teasing. “Initially, it was said that Sohini had been attacked by eveteasers from Sealdah. But now it is obvious that the attack was masterminded by her brother-in-law, Mahitosh Das,” said Gangeshwar Prasad Singh, superintendent of railway police, Sealdah.

Sohini was slashed in a crowded train compartment at Sodepur while she was returning home. Initially, the railway police did not register Sohini’s complaint. But following chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s orders at Writers’ Buildings on Friday, Tapan Dey, deputy superintendent of police (DSP), co-ordination, registered her complaint.

Mahitosh was netted by the officials of Dum Dum Government Railway Police (GRP) from his Kasba residence. After interrogating Das, police picked up his nephew, Shambhu Dey, from Aurobindapalli, in Sodepur.

Singh said that a family quarrel might have led to the incident. Preliminary investigation revealed that Mahitosh had married Sohini’s elder sister, Sonali, four years ago. “But after a few months, the in-laws started torturing her and Sonali had to finally leave her them,” said an officer.

Sonali, then, filed a case at Alipore court, demanding alimony from her husband. The court had fixed December 12 as the date of hearing.

Robin Sarker, Sohini’s father, alleged that with the date of hearing drawing near, Mahitosh started intimidating them. “He threatened to kill us last June. The attack on me is a consequence of this,” Sohini told policemen. The Sarker family had, then, lodged a complaint with Khardah police, but no action was initiated.

In her complaint, Sohini mentioned that her brother-in-law had engaged some professional miscreants for attacking her. “I could not see who slashed me as the train compartment was overcrowded. They attacked me when I was about to get off the compartment,” Sohini told the police.

In the wake of the incident, the students’ wing of Trinamul Congress staged a demonstration in front of the Sealdah railway police office and submitted a deputation on Saturday. The Chhatra Parishad, too, demanded a miscreant-free Sealdah station. Students of Bangabasi College demanded punishment for the culprits.


Calcutta, Nov. 24: 
The state government, on Saturday, constituted a taskforce to co-ordinate and monitor the eviction of encroachers and resuscitation of Tolly’s Nullah and three other canals in the city. The next major phase of eviction along the Hastings-Kudghat stretch is all set to start in December.

“About 2,000 settlers along the 9-km stretch of Tolly’s Nullah will have to move in the interest of the city’s welfare,” minister for urban development Asok Bhattacharya said on Saturday.

The government has taken up the canal desilting and renovation project with the help of funds from the Ganga Action Plan and a Rs 1,600-crore project financed by Asian Development Bank. The irrigation department will also receive loans from the Housing and Urban Development Corporation.

Bhattacharya held a meeting with irrigation minister Amalendra Roy, senior officials of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), the CMDA and the irrigation department to discuss the canal improvement project.

“We have roped in the district magistrate and superintendent of police, South 24-Parganas, as they had the experience of removing encroachers along Tolly’s Nullah. The city police commissioner is a member of the body, too,” Bhattacharya said. The eviction of numerous shanties along the Beleghata Circular Canal, Kestopur Canal and the New Cut Canal, which flows past the R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital, will also be taken up simultaneously.

Bhattacharya said that desiltation of a 3-km stretch of the Beleghata Canal was in progress. Accumulated silt will be removed from a 7-km stretch of the canal between the Ghaznabi Bridge to Palmer Bazar.

The state government hopes to begin work on the Kestopur Canal and the New Cut Canal by February. Bhattacharya added that some of the canals have the potential to be navigable once more. “I can assure you that Tolly’s Nullah can be made navigable for passengers and freight in a short while,” the minister said. Once the silt is removed from the canal bed, the tidal flow to and from the Hooghly would revive the navigability of the system, he added.

“I shall take up the matter with MLAs and CMC councillors of the wards through which the canals flow, prior to the eviction drive,” the municipal affairs minister revealed. He assured that there would be transparency in whatever decision the government takes.

The three-day Ganga Festival, which begins on December 26, will be used as a massive awareness building campaign to stave off protests against eviction. The government has already written to the London Rivers Association (LRA), asking for their participation in the festival. The LRA had heaped praise on the state government for its riverside beautification programme.

Shanties pulled down

In a joint drive conducted by Eastern Railway and Calcutta police on Saturday, around 5,000 people were evicted along Circular Railway. About 600 illegal constructions, mostly shanties, on the stretch between Howrah Bridge and Shovabazar Metro station were pulled down, sources said.


Calcutta, Nov. 24: 
Three businessmen were arrested late on Friday on charges of cheating some Burrabazar traders of Rs 6 crore. Narayan Jhawar and his two nephews, Madhusudan and Nandkishore, were rounded up from their Burrabazar residence and produced in court on Saturday. They have been remanded in police custody.

According to preliminary investigation, a private company in Burrabazar entered into an agreement with at least 50 local traders and borrowed Rs 9 lakh from them immediately after a devastating cyclone hit Orissa a couple of years ago.

The Jhawar family, which runs the company, told the traders that they had notched a contract for supplying tarpaulins to the cyclone-hit Orissa and needed Rs 9 crore for the deal, said Zulfiqar Hassan, deputy commissioner of police, central.

“The company assured all traders that the money would be refunded after 18 months with the interest mentioned in the agreement. Later, the Jhawars backtracked on the agreement saying that they could refund only Rs 3 crore. This led the traders to lodge a police complaint and obtain a court order,” sources said.

A police team, then, went to Orissa and found that the Jhawar family had started a new business there. Three family members had already shifted to Orissa for supervising the new venture.


Calcutta, Nov. 24: 
Alarmed at the spate of incidents relating to security lapses at the city airport, Union minister for civil aviation Shahnawaz Hussain, on a visit to the city, set in motion a string of measures to revamp security and plug loopholes on Saturday.

The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) took charge of security at Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International airport on Saturday for better vigil. Security of most of the country’s airports will be handed over to the CISF on the same grounds, Hussain said. To date, the CISF has been handed over the charge of 20 airports including Chennai, Amritsar and Bhubaneshwar.

“At the airport, I found some boys squatting on the boundary wall adjacent to the runway. This is a serious security lapse. I will also speak to the state government regarding the buildings which have been illegally constructed adjoining the boundary wall,” the minister said. Hussain felt that construction of highrises near the boundary was in direct violation of the airport safety guidelines laid down by the government.

The minister also said that a mosque, located a few metres off the runway, would figure high in the discussion. “This is a religious and sensitive issue. However, the matter will soon be taken up along with the security measures,” he said.

According to the aviation minister, efforts were also being made to encourage air traffic in the country’s airlines. While the disinvestment process of Air India is underway, the Centre has decided to increase the flight frequency and expand the network in the domestic sector. “We have decided to induct another 39 flights into the Indian Airlines (IA) wing at an estimated cost of 9,000 crore,” the minister explained. Old airbus A-300s will be included in the expansion programme.

The IA network in the Northeast region will also be enhanced with the induction of four 50-seater aircraft.

Keeping in mind the huge distance between the domestic and international terminals at the city airport, the civil aviation ministry will build an “aerobridge” between the two wings.

“We also have plans to replace the old X-ray machines with new colour monitors and install close-circuit television sets even in runways. We are, however, satisfied with the overall contingency plan for a crisis situation at the airport,” Hussain added.


Calcutta, Nov. 24: 
Union law minister Arun Jaitley has expressed concern over the slow progress in introducing Fast Track Courts (FTCs) in West Bengal. The minister, in a letter to state law minister Nishith Adhikary last week, has requested to step up the process of implementing all FTCs by this financial year. A copy of the letter has also been sent to the chief justice of Calcutta High Court.

In the letter, Jaitley has reminded the state government that the Centre had already disbursed the matching grant to the state for implementing the scheme. The government was required to set up 153 FTCs during the current financial year.

“But the state has introduced only six such courts and notification for seven others has been made to date,” Jaitley said.

The minister also stated that the Centre has been disbursing Rs 20,000 per month for each court, but is yet to receive the results.

The Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh governments had already set up FTCs and a number of pending cases have been disposed off, the Union minster added. According to him, the West Bengal government should “also try to dispose off pending litigation through FTCs”.

“Nearly 7 lakh cases are pending in the courts of West Bengal. No other state in the country has so many pending cases,” said a source in the high court.

Though the Union minister was hopeful of disposing off pending matter through FTCs, judicial officers of the state government opined that the Central scheme would not succeed in West Bengal.

A member of State Judicial Services Association, who wished anonymity, told Metro on Saturday: “At least 20 per cent posts of judges in different district courts are lying vacant. It would be wiser if the governments, both the Centre and state, took the initiative to fill up the vacancies,” he said.

Man found dead: An unidentified body was found floating in a hyacinth pond near Birati on Saturday morning. The man was “probably strangled” to death by unknown miscreants, police officials said. The man was around 28 years, said a police official.


Burdwan, Nov. 24: 
The state government has hit upon a novel idea to stop private practice among government doctors who are often accused of neglecting their duty and making a quick buck from private clinics and nursing homes run by them.

Government doctors will man “afternoon pay clinics” to be opened at a number of state-run hospitals from early next year to “provide specialised treatment”.

The government also intends to privatise security and canteen services in hospitals from December 1. From now on, “collectors”, engaged by private agencies, will approach individual patients every day to find out the kind of meal they will prefer to take. This will also help the doctors prescribe different diet for different patients.

Dr C.R. Maity, director of medical education, said here today that the proposed clinics would remain operational between 4 pm and 6 pm every day.

A patient, intending to avail of the specialists’ services at these clinics, will have to make an initial payment of Rs 100 in Calcutta areas and Rs 50 in places outside the city. For subsequent visits to the pay clinics, a patient will be charged Rs 60 and Rs 30 respectively.

Forty per cent of the fees thus collected will go to the authorities of the hospitals concerned. Forty per cent of the rest will be given to the doctors and 60 per cent will be distributed among the hospital employees as an incentive.

Dr Maity said patients would be free to select doctors from a panel at the pay clinic. “All the specialists attached to government hospitals will be bound to attend the pay clinics and treat the patients. This will be part of their duty,” he said.

The pay clinics will be initially opened at the outdoor sections of government hospitals. Later, 12 to 15 per cent beds of the indoor section will be reserved for the pay-clinic patients. However, patients requiring indoor facilities may also be admitted to the hospital through emergency on the doctors’ recommendations.

According to Dr Maity, the clinics will make full use of the medical infrastructure at the hospitals concerned. He conceded that the move was aimed at putting an end to private practice among government doctors, but insisted that it would also restore their credibility and make them more accountable to patients. “We cannot bring about necessary changes in health services simply by enacting a legislation. We intend to bring back the government doctors to the mainstream of medical service by opening pay clinics,” he said.

The pay clinic service will be initially launched from all the state medical colleges and hospitals. Later, similar clinics will come up at district and sub-divisional hospitals having the required medical infrastructure.


Calcutta, Nov. 24: 
Two police constables were beaten up and the police outpost at Kuthirbazar ransacked this morning when police refused to chase a group of dacoits which had robbed passengers of a bus heading towards Raidighi.

Residents said the dacoity took place only 50 yards away from the police outpost. The passengers informed the police immediately but they did not take any action, saying they were “tired”.

The two injured constables have been admitted to a health centre. Their condition is stated to be stable.


Calcutta, Nov. 24: 
Unhappy with “inadequate” information about chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s proposed Prevention of Organised Crimes Act, Left Front partners today demanded a “threadbare” discussion on the issue at an emergency Left Front committee meeting.

Front allies, who had sought a draft of the proposed Bill, were only given a short note by Left Front chairman Biman Bose, asking for their opinion earlier this week.

“The note is slipshod and did not elaborate the government’s objective. We told the Front chairman that it was impossible for us to offer any suggestion unless we knew about it in detail,” CPI state secretariat member Satya Bhattacharya said.

He said a special Left Front meeting must be convened at the earliest to discuss the issue. “How shall we give our opinion about such a serious issue unless it is discussed threadbare?” he asked.

Convinced that more details should have been sent to the Front allies on the proposed law, Jyoti Basu said tonight they would be “enlightened” more on the matter soon.

“I think all Front partners would be taken into confidence before the draft for the proposed Act is made ready,” Basu said.

Taking a cue from the CPI, the RSP leadership, too, felt that the note given by Bose was inadequate and an “exclusive” Left Front meeting was necessary.

“Though we were given a note, there is nothing much about the proposed Act,” said RSP state secretariat member Bama Charan Chakraborty. He added that the party had taken strong exception to the manner in which the CPM had taken a “unilateral” decision without taking the allies into confidence.

“We should have been consulted before the draft was prepared,” he said. “It is unfortunate that we learnt of such a serious matter from newspapers,” Chakraborty said.

The Forward Bloc also trained guns on big brother CPM. “Such things are unwelcome when we have resolved to build an improved Left Front,” said a senior Bloc leader. He warned that differences in the Front would give the Opposition a weapon to beat the government with in the Assembly’s winter session beginning December 7.

The Congress, which has already demanded an all-party meeting on the issue, today said it would raise the matter in the House. The Trinamul Congress vowed to take on the government from the first day of the session and plans to table a no-confidence motion. “We will fight the CPM tooth and nail to expose its anti-people policies,” said leader of Opposition Pankaj Banerjee.


Asansol, Nov. 24: 
Congress supporters barged into the Durgapur Steel Plant main hospital and assaulted two doctors to protest against the death of one of their panchayat leaders this morning.

Both the doctors had to be admitted to the hospital, one of them — assistant director medical services Dr B.D. Ghosh — in the intensive care unit.

Official sources said Pranab Banerjee — a Congress member of Nachan Panchayat Samity and brother of former Congress MLA from Burdwan Ajit Banerjee —had been admitted to the medicine ward of the hospital with high fever. He was under Dr Dipen Roy’s treatment. He died this morning.

As news of his death reached Nachan village, nearly 50 youths came to the hospital on motorcycles. They laid a virtual siege to the ward and demanded an explanation from Dr Roy about the death.

An altercation followed after which the Congress activists assaulted the doctor and ransacked his chamber and the adjoining offices.

Dr Ghosh came to his rescue, but the youths beat him up mercilessly. Himself a heart patient, Dr Ghosh fell to the ground, bleeding profusely. He had to be removed to ICU immediately.

Tathagata Pandey, officer-in-charge of Durgapur police station, said a police picket has been posted in the hospital.

A senior official claimed Pranab had been a drug addict, but Intuc leader Samir Dasgupta denied the charge.


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