Twin ploys for trouble plot
Mobile bills submitted to counter doctor claim
Crossed wires over cable damage
Giving credit where it isn’t due
The City Diary
Right to shoot reality on reel
Zee-Turner back on beam
Hormone feed under scanner
Explosives link traced to Bihar
Mayor hires firm to vet colony plots

Calcutta, March, 19: 
Barren land on the Bypass or crafts village; plot of contention or fair ground-cum-art gallery…

Suddenly, after an eight-year lull, it’s all happening at the 19-acre plot opposite Science City. Friday morning saw Calcutta High Court admitting a petition filed by a city businessman against the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) for its decision to reclaim land allotted to the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) for setting up a crafts village in 1994.

By evening, the CMC had shaken hands with the state government to unveil grand plans of a Pragati Maidan-style centre-cum-art gallery on the disputed plot. “After the idea was cleared by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and his predecessor Jyoti Basu, I met chief secretary S.N Roy to discuss the project in detail,” said mayor Subrata Mukherjee.

The need for such a twin project, said the mayor, arose from the fact that the city “lacked even one permanent fairground away from the central business district”. A plan to set up such a centre at Kalikapur, off the Bypass, with German collaboration, had fallen through with the land being entangled in litigation, recounted Mukherjee.

This time, despite the crafts village controversy taking a turn towards the courtroom on Tuesday, the mayor expressed confidence that the plot adjacent to the upcoming ITC Hotel would be reclaimed and the convention centre, plus gallery, put in place. Mukherjee claimed the earlier plan had to be aborted following the failure of the crafts village committee of the BCCI to make any progress. “The state government, too, did not pay the CMC the promised amount after handing over the plot,” added the mayor.

In the high court, Justice Barin Ghosh gave CMC lawyer Alok Ghosh two weeks’ time to obtain instruction from the Corporation and fixed the matter for hearing after three weeks. According to Ghosh, the agreement for the handover of the 19-acre plot clearly mentioned that the structure would have to be built as per the sanctioned plan of the civic body. The CMC lawyer alleged that the crafts village committee had “violated its contractual liability and erected 219 temporary structures” without the requisite permission from the civic body.

The CMC served a land-reclamation notice on the Chamber committee in early-2001. But the crafts village committee has decided to fight the move in court, for which the hearings commenced on Tuesday.

When contacted on Tuesday afternoon, Pradip Dasgupta, secretary, BCCI, denied that a petition had been filed in the crafts village case. “Nothing of the sort has happened and I do not know where you’ve heard such things,” Dasgupta told Metro, even as the case was being heard in high court.

But a former president of BCCI admitted that the crafts village controversy had even caused a rift within the committee. “It’s become a long-standing dispute… The project just couldn’t take off due to a lack of coordination at every level,” he alleged.

Reacting to the ongoing fracas, he added: “The plan to set up an integrated complex showcasing the skills of rural artisans from Bengal and the adjoining states was unique, but the implementation process proved faulty. The crafts village blueprint had even provided space for a performing arts centre to promote folk culture and a herbal treatment unit. But eight years have passed and except for the rise in project cost, there has been no other development.” The initial cost of the proposed project was pegged at Rs 5 crore, which shot up to around Rs 20 crore.

The sudden CMC-government initiative to abort the crafts village and pitch for a fairground and gallery, elicited a not-so-positive inital response from the business fraternity. “It is doubtful whether the government, CMC and the BCCI can give Calcutta the world-class convention centre it needs,” said a city-based industrialist.


Calcutta, March, 19: 
After the prescription, mobile phone bills. Computerised printouts of cellphone bills were placed in the Alipore chief judicial magistrate’s court on Tuesday by the counsel for US-based doctor Kunal Saha to substantiate his having contacted the three doctors accused of negligence in the death of his wife Anuradha.

The counsel requested that judicial notice be taken of the bills, which had details of the calls made between May 12 and 16, 1998, the period in which Anuradha was admitted to the AMRI hospital in Dhakuria .

The cellphone belongs to Anuradha’s brother-in-law, Moloy Ganguly, one of the complainants in the case. Saha had used it while his wife was in hospital. The submission also attempts to refute statements made by the defendants, during their deposition under Section 313 CrPC, that after the initial consultations, the patient’s relatives had not contacted them for an update.

Saha had received three calls from the residence of senior medicine consultant Abani Roy Chowdhury, who has deposed that he was not consulted in the case.

The bills were sent to Saha last week from his office in the US, which had traced them and other relevant documents.

The counsel for the accused objected, saying that the documents and petitions were being filed at a stage when concluding arguments in the case were being heard. “We request your honour to ask the prosecution to complete placing any other documents they may have and then continue with the concluding arguments,” the counsel said.

The complainants had on Monday submitted a petition enclosing a prescription, allegedly written by Abani Roy Chowdhury in favour of Anuradha Saha, when she was taken to Ruby Hospital on April 23, 1998.

In his deposition, the doctor had denied that he had seen the patient during the period under question. The petition sought that the doctor’s handwriting be compared with the script on the prescription.

Chief judicial magistrate Ananda Raha took note of the documents submitted on Tuesday. He later issued an order rejecting the previous day’s petition, seeking comparison of the handwritings, based on a counter-petition filed by Abani Roy Chowdhury’s counsel.

It was mentioned that the prescription in question was dated prior to the “charge period” of May 12 to 17, 1998, and hence, outside the purview of the case. It was also pointed out that at no point during the hearings did the complainants state that the patient had been treated at Ruby General Hospital.


Calcutta, March, 19: 
The battle hasn’t yet begun — one of the competitors is only into laying cables right now — but the truce is tenuous between the Reliance group and Calcutta Telephones.

Though both sides would like to play down the spat that threatened to snowball into a showdown, officials said a meeting at Telephone Bhavan between the two camps “barely managed to resolve things for the moment”.

It all began with BSNL alleging last week that Reliance’s cable-laying work had delinked around 10,000 homes from the fixed-line network. “It resulted in our officials feeling that the Centre was being stepmotherly towards its own unit,” a middle-ranking BSNL official said.

The BSNL top brass was quick to invite Reliance officials for discussions.

“We asked them (the BSNL top brass) what happens if a Calcutta Telephones team inadvertantly damages our cables six months from now,” a senior Reliance official later told Metro. “We did not receive any satisfactory reply,” he added.

The fault for the “inadvertent error”, Reliance officials claim, lay with the BSNL. Calcutta Telephones could not provide an ‘AS-PUILT’ drawing (sketching the position of cables), despite several requests, they alleged.

“Still, we tried trial-digging at spots a little away from each other to ascertain the position of BSNL cables,” a senior Reliance official said. “What could we do if the trial-digging itself damaged some lines?” he asked.

BSNL officials, however, claimed Reliance didn’t inform them about their digging drive. “Exchanges were informed in a haphazard way,” an official alleged. “We have now asked them to give a seven-day notice to the area manager concerned,” he said, adding that they would now try to depute a “supervisory person” wherever Reliance dug up streets.

The most contentious issue — money — is yet to be resolved, admit officials. BSNL officials claimed that they had drawn up a detailed list of the damage cost of the Reliance work. But Reliance said no compensation could be given till BSNL justified the demand as there was no consensus in the damage claim from different exchanges.


Calcutta, March, 19: 
From tending to patients to doctoring credit cards, Dr Radhaballav Choudhury has travelled a long distance in his profession.

An MBBS from NRS Medical College and Hospital, 65-year-old Choudhury has a thriving private practice. That is, till Tuesday, when he was rounded up by the police from his Rashbehari Avenue residence for duping a multinational credit card company.

According to DC, DD, Soumen Mitra, a multinational bank on Netaji Subhas Road had issued him a credit card, with a limit of Rs 2 lakh in 1995. Of this amount, he had spent Rs 1,84, 789 in the next three years. Mitra said the doctor only paid the minimum amount due and let the total pile up.

At the end of three years, when his card came up for renewal, Choudhury moved court and declared himself bankrupt. “According to a court inquiry, it was found that there was no property or major assets registered in Choudhury’s name,” Mitra said. “Even his Rashbehari residence was in the name of relatives.”

However, according to Mitra, Choudhury did not let matters rest there. The following year, in 1999, he applied for a second credit card from the same branch and using his own name. Only, he changed his age, increasing it to 76 years, and used the services of an agent to procure his card. The card was issued to him, this time with a credit limit of Rs 50,000.

It is still not clear how the bank issued the credit card, since the address given by Choudhury was genuine. A cursory computer check would have revealed that the same man, who had declared himself bankrupt, was again applying for a credit card from the same branch of the same bank.

Choudhury once again used the credit card almost up to its limit, clocking up Rs 49,500 on gold jewellery and airline tickets. Once again, he kept paying the minimum amount due but refused to clear the amount he owed the bank. At this point, the bank authorities decided to check on its list of defaulters and found that the same name with the same address figured on it. They realised that, for the second time, the man was trying to hoodwink the bank. The bank lodged a complaint with Gariahat police station, which alerted the detective department. The doctor was produced at Bankshal court on Tuesday and remanded in judicial custody till March 27.



Cops arrested on theft charge

Two constables of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) were arrested by the Howrah Government Railway Police (GRP) on a platform on Monday night on charges of snatching money from a Bangladeshi citizen. According to the police, three Bangladeshis — S. Ali, I. Bibi and S. Islam — were waiting on platform nine for Kalka Mail, on their way to Delhi. The two constables, Sajal Chatterjee and Balai Ghosh, asked for their passport. Though they carried valid documents, the policemen were not satisfied. According to the complaint lodged by Islam, the two constables beat him up with the butt of their rifles and snatched Rs 12,000. The Bangladeshis went to the GRP office and lodged a complaint. The two constables were then summoned to the police station. Islam identified them and they were arrested.

Children hurt in explosion

Two children were injured on Tuesday morning when a bomb exploded in a dumping ground on Motilal Nehru Road in the Lake police station area. Both the injured were admitted to a local hospital where their condition is stated to be critical. Officials said the children were playing with the bomb, thinking it was a football.

New rail counter

Railway minister Nitish Kumar inaugurated a computerised railway booking centre and a railway ticket booking office at Dakshineshwar railway station on Sunday. The new building, a replica of the Kali temple at Dakshineshwar, has come up in place of the old structure. Inaugurating the building, the minister said many such state-of-the-art booking centres will be opened in the near future.

Drug haul

Customs officials on Tuesday seized 80 kg ganja from the domestic air cargo wing of Indian Airlines at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport. According to airport sources, it was being sent as cargo from Imphal. Police are on the trail of the sender and receiver of the consignment.

Shibpur suicide

A 29-year-old man committed suicide at Shibpur, Howrah, on Monday night. Police said the youth consumed poison after a quarrel with family members. He was taken to a local hospital where he died.

Lake Town murder

A 34-year-old man was murdered at Dakshindari, in the Lake Town area, early on Tuesday. Police said the murder was possibly a fallout of a long-standing gang rivalry. The hunt is on to arrest the killers.

Summer specials

Eastern Railway has extended the running of summer special trains up to July 2, instead of June 16. As a result, a total of 99 pairs of summer specials will be run this year. Earlier, there were plans to run 73 pairs of summer specials. Due to extension of the running period, an additional 26 pairs of trains will be run. Among them, 61 pairs will run between Howrah and New Delhi, 18 pairs between Howrah and Bikaner-Jodhpur, 10 pairs between Howrah and Dehra Dun and another 10 pairs between Howrah and Lucknow. The summer special trains will start running from April 27, said an official release.    

Calcutta, March, 19: 
The strife-ridden streets of the ‘cultural capital’ of the country, carrying the redolence of apathy, anguish, grief and despair have for long attracted the attention of photographers who have captured it all, time and again, to present a ‘true picture’ of the city. All it took to change this outlook was the initiative of the British Council Library (BCL), the co-operation of 11 city-based NGOs and a little help from a couple of photographers.

BCL ran a project with NGOs like the Emanuel Ministries, Sanlaap and the Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy to draw public attention to the nearly one lakh disabled and street children in Calcutta who are deprived of their basic rights. Working with photographers Jason Taylor and Achinta Bhadra, 55 children from 11 participating NGOs were given three-days-a-week crash course in photography, for three weeks.

At the end of the course, the youngsters took to the streets, cameras in hand, to capture on film a subject close to their hearts: child rights. For the next month, the children aged between 14 and 18 shot to their hearts’ content their perspective of the ‘right to life’, ‘right to protection’, ‘right to equality’, ‘right to access to public facility’, and ‘right to choose an occupation’, which they “identified as most important”.

Reality on Reel, as the exhibition of their ‘fruits of labour’ has been named, comes as a breath of fresh air. “They are the same scenes, same places and faces, but they don’t show forlornness, rather the higher emotions of joy and gaiety and, above all, the grit to triumph over the overwhelming odds that they are perpetually pitched against.”

Palash Pramanik, 17, of Vivekananda Education Society, whose candid photograph of three ill-clad kids swinging away merrily on a bamboo pole went down well, said: “We do all the household chores before going to school and do more of it when we come back home. But we still find time to play. We do not sit around to rue our fate whenever we have the time.”

The exhibition at the Academy of Fine Arts was a must-see. “Now I believe that photography depends on the person who looks through the viewfinder, and not on the camera one uses,” Sajal Mondol, an avid photographer said, admiring the frames of the first-timers.

The month-long enterprise not only gave the participants an opportunity to present their viewpoint to the public, but also gave them the chance to meet others like them and make new friends, felt Banibrata Saha, Vivekananda Education Society Arcadia, present at the exhibition with the ‘photographers’ to explain their work. “Because they were given the cameras for good, they just can’t seem to stop clicking anymore,” added Debshankar Roy. Many of the debutants showed “genuine interest” in their new-found pursuit, with some even agreeing to work as apprentices for some photographers.


Calcutta, March, 19: 
The Zee-Turner bouquet of channels was back on the RPG Netcom beam on Tuesday evening, following a fresh agreement on new rates signed by the multi-system operator.

The channels were switched off on February 22 following commercial differences between Zee-Turner and Netcom-affiliated operators, who had sought assurance of “at least a one-year” moratorium on price hike.

It is learnt that the cablemen obtained a “verbal assurance” from Zee-Turner that channel rates will remain the same over the next one year.

“We were under considerable pressure from the consumers to bring the channels back on our service menu,” conceded a cable operator.

Zee-Turner CEO Sunil Khanna, while choosing not to comment on the “verbal assurance”, welcomed the operators’ move to sign a new agreement. “After all, the viewers are paying for the channels,” he said.


Calcutta, March, 19: 
The All-India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health has stepped into the hormone-pumped chicken controversy, reported in Metro last Friday.

It has decided to carry out its own tests to ascertain the levels of hormones in chickens supplied by poultries, three days after the Environment Appellate Authority (EAA) asked a Calcutta University (CU) department to conduct a probe.

“We are collecting data from hatcheries and poultries on the quality of food, medicines and other nutrients — including hormones (if any) — they feed to the birds, the process of breeding and the quality of the birds,’’ said Institute director Indira Chakraborty.

The issue of chickens allegedly being fattened with high doses of hormones came to the forefront after the EAA directive to CU’s biochemistry department, made on the basis of a complaint lodged by a Calcuttan. According to him, poultries were pumping hormones into the birds to fatten them up in abnormally short periods.

“There are many vitamins, enzymes and nutrients that can be fed to poultry birds for their growth,” Chakraborty said. “But under no circumstances should hormones be pumped into chickens, as that may affect the human system,’’ she added.

The monthly consumption of chicken, according to poultry-owners, has reached the 16-million-kg mark, and the growth is estimated to be at least 15 per cent. “There must be specific guidelines which govern medicines, the quality of food and other nutrients given to birds in poultries,” Chakraborty said, echoing the EAA. With the number of poultries in the state crossing the 50,000-mark, the state animal resources development department has also lent its support to the CU probe.

Departmental minister Anisur Rahman said the government would do the needful after the CU submitted its report to the EAA. “We have specific norms on poultry-farming, which are followed in the rural and semi-urban areas, but we shall definitely take action if the poultry-owners are proved guilty,” he promised.


Calcutta, March, 19: 
The police claimed to have busted a racket in the smuggling of dynamite sticks from the coalfields in Bihar .

The racket came to light when CID officers, posing as agents, arrested three men recently. The trio was trying to smuggle the explosives through the city.

After interrogating the men and conducting subsequent raids at different areas in the city and suburbs, the CID detectives recovered a huge quantity of dynamite sticks.

“The sticks come in various shapes and sizes and are extremely effective in blowing up vehicles and buildings,’’ a CID officer said.

Experts say the sticks are priced at Rs 40 each in the market. “From the coalfields, they were brought to the city and stored in an east Calcutta godown,” an officer said.

Preliminary investigations revealed that the smugglers had contacted militant outfits and criminals in the country to strike a deal. The sticks were then packed in gunny bags and loaded into trucks. The money was paid through the hawala route and remitted in banks at Kanpur and Lucknow.

Police are now looking for the mastermind in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. His hideouts have already been raided but he has eluded the dragnet so far. Coalfields have been asked to beef up security on their premises and employ staff after careful scrutiny.


Calcutta, March, 19: 
Mayor Subrata Mukherjee has, for the first time, hired a private agency to assess buildings and apartments on colony land, following allegations of harassment by inspectors.

“I want to bring only those colony plots in the tax net on which buildings or apartments have come up,” said Mukherjee.

According to the mayor, flat-owners on these plots have not paid their dues to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), though they enjoy amenities like water, drains, roads and street lights. “If these flat-owners prevent the agency from carrying out the assessment, the CMC will disconnect their water and sewer connections, with assistance from the police,” said Mukherjee.

“Each time we tried to inspect these buildings, we were prevented from doing so by the settlers, with support from political leaders,” said former city architect Uday Sengupta, who was once confined in a flat by colony settlers in Tollygunge.

Member, mayor-in-council (building), Swapan Samaddar, feigned ignorance on the development. “Don’t ask me anything about such constructions. These areas may be under CMC jurisdiction on paper, but they lie beyond our purview.”

There are 50,000 three-cottah plots in 250 refugee colonies in Tollygunge, Sahapur, Behala, New Alipore, Beleghata and Jadavpur, said secretary of Azadgarh Colony, M. Nag.

According to a CMC estimate, more than 2,000 such flats have already been sold and the government has lost over Rs 100 crore in terms of registration fee, since the sale deeds were made on stamp paper worth Rs 10 and registered before a notary public. The CMC is losing Rs 20 crore a year since such constructions continue to remain unassessed, said a revenue officer.


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