Bill boost to promoters
MLA�s driver found dead
Apex court postpones DG case
Lake Gardens eviction row
Storm claims 10
Mayavati puts sarvajan before bahujan
NDA targets Sayeed for second day
Centre in a bind on Article 355
SC notice to Gujarat
Court pulls up Rabri on illegal mining

Calcutta, May 3: 
The state environment department has come up with a draft proposed legislation that will pave the way for filling up waterbodies in urban areas in the state.

At present, filling up waterbodies measuring five cottahs or more is banned. Any violation is a cognisable offence under the West Bengal Inland Fisheries Act, 1984, which was amended thrice to save waterbodies from the clutches of building promoters. However, the move aims to allow individuals to submit applications to fill up large waterbodies to construct buildings.

The proposal is lying with the state legislative department for its opinion. The department�s secretary has sought the opinion of fisheries minister Kiranmay Nanda, as the proposal will supersede the Fisheries Act and open a floodgate to wipe out water bodies in most urban areas in the state, if translated into a legislation.

The minister has protested the move and even drawn the attention of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee about the serious consequences of giving promoters a free hand to fill up waterbodies, say legislative department sources.

Hundreds of complaints have poured in from all over the state to Writers� Buildings about waterbodies that were filled up illegally by unscrupulous promoters. Nearly 43 cases were filed against people on the basis of these complaints.

The proposed legislation, which is called the West Bengal Protection of Large Ponds Act, 2002, says �any person or body intending to fill up any large pond shall make an application in writing to the competent authority seeking permission for such work�.

On such application duly made and on payment of charges as prescribed the competent authority may pass an order granting permission unconditionally or conditionally and even refuse permission as it may think fit��.

The proposal clarified that �competent authority� � any person or body authorised by the state government by notification � may grant or refuse permission as it �thinks fit�.

The proposal suggests guidelines regarding granting permission. These include checking the building plan to ensure proper drainage and fire fighting systems, as well as recharge of underground watertable.

If the area is more than 10 cottah, the authority should hold a public hearing before granting or refusing permission.

�No suit or legal proceeding shall lie against the state government or the competent authority for anything done in good faith under this Act,� the proposed legislation said.


Calcutta, May 3: 
Trinamul Congress MLA Jyotipriyo Mallik�s driver was found murdered at Barasat, while the Tata Sumo the MLA used to travel was spotted yesterday in Jessore, Bangladesh, with a Dhaka registration number plate.

Tapan Saha, the driver, was abducted with the grey Sumo (WB-26-C-0271) from Gaighata area in Bongaon subdivision when he was returning home on April 18.

The body was identified only this morning, though police found the body at Amdanga in Barasat subdivision a few days ago. �We had no idea that the deceased was Tapan Saha, the MLA�s driver. Only this morning, Gobindo Das, the owner of the Sumo, identified the body,� said North 24-Parganas additional superintendent of police Rahul Srivastav.

The vehicle is now in the custody of Jessore district Kotwali police, sources said. Mallik said he would appeal to the Bangladesh deputy high commissioner and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to get the car back as soon as possible.

Preliminary investigations revealed that the vehicle was smuggled through the Indo-Bangla frontier in Bagdah. �The miscreants entered Bangladesh at least a week ago. They changed the number plate to Dhaka Metro A 2211 as soon as they crossed the border,� said a police official.

The gangsters were intercepted by Sarsha police station in Bangladesh. �But they managed to escape,� said an official of the North 24-Parganas police. They then went straight to Jessore town.

�This time, however, fortune did not favour them. Kotwali police seized the car when they found it parked near Manihar cinema hall,� sources said.

�All the miscreants managed to flee. Bangladesh police brought the vehicle to their police station,� they added.

Three days ago, the Border Security Force got the information that the vehicle was in the custody of Bangladesh police. �Das, the owner of the car, was also informed. He accompanied BSF officials went to Jessore yesterday and identified his car,� said a police official.

Mallik said the incident was well planned. �A few days before the abduction, the gangsters threatening message through my driver, asking me not to travel in this car,� the legislator explained.

�We think the crime was committed by professional gangsters with the help of Bangladeshi criminals. We think that those involved in the killing are now in Bangladesh. However, all police stations across the Indo-Bangla border have been alerted,� Srivastav added.


New Delhi, May 3: 
The Supreme Court today posted the case of Dinesh Vajpai�s appointment as Bengal�s director general-inspector general of police to the second week of September, even as counsel for the petitioners argued that the appointment had been made violating earlier decisions of the apex court.

The petitioners � Manas Chakrabarty, Siddharta Shankar Ray and P.P. Rao � contended that in an earlier case the apex court had laid down the principle of a �substantive DGP� heading the police force of a state. It had held that �DG-IGP is number one amongst the equals� and as such only the �substantive DGP� should be appointed to the post, counsel for the petitioners pointed out.

They argued that Vajpai was only an additional DGP at the time of his becoming the state police chief and many seniors were superseded by his appointment to the post.

A division bench of Justices Santosh N. Hegde and D.M. Dharmadhikari upheld the contention of Chakrabarty, one of those superseded.

The state government has come up with a special leave petition against the court order.

Additional solicitor-general for the Union government, Mukul Rohatgi appeared today for the state government. Senior counsel and former Union law minister Shanti Bhushan appeared for Vajpai.

Bhushan countered arguments advanced on behalf of Chakrabarty contending that Vajpai�s appointment was not a posting or promotion but only �placement of a responsibility�.

Chakrabarty�s counsel said in Vineet Narain�s case (Jain hawala), the apex court had laid down certain guidelines for appointment to sensitive police posts and recommended a high-powered committee for such appointments.

However, in the case of Vajpai�s appointment, the home secretary had just passed on his recommendation to the chief minister, counsel claimed. The appointment was effected on this basis, without any of the procedures or guidelines laid down followed, counsel added.

The date for the next hearing will be fixed after the summer vacation of the court in July.


Calcutta, May 3: 
Tension over the proposed eviction of encroachers in Lake Gardens by railway authorities spiralled tonight following the sudden arrival of Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee.

The Trinamul leader, who was scheduled to return to Calcutta from Delhi tomorrow, reached the city tonight.

She came straight to Lake Gardens and squatted at Govindapur gate no. 2 along with the encroachers, demanding their rehabilitation.

Encouraged by her presence, Trinamul supporters, led by MLA Pankaj Banerjee, raised the slogan �No eviction without rehabilitation�.

Saturday�s drive against encroachers on the either side of 850-metre track between Lake Gardens and Dhakuria bridge has become uncertain as mayor Subrata Mukherjee suddenly decided not to extend logistic support to railway authorities.

Mukherjee, who is well-known for his stand against encroachment, had accepted Rs 15,000 from railway authorities as charges for two payloaders. However, at 9.30 pm, on the mayor�s orders, municipal commissioner Debasis Som instructed the conservancy department not to take part in the eviction drive. The mayor was not available for comment.


May 3: 
At least 10 people died and several were injured when a storm ripped through the districts of South 24-Parganas, Purba and Paschim Midnapore last night.

The storm, which lasted for about 30 minutes, demolished about 1,000 houses and uprooted trees, blocking roads. Many telephone lines were also snapped.

Power supply was disrupted in many areas, with most electricity transmission lines in the region snapped.

Most of the deaths were caused by lightning and house collapses, according to the district administrations.

In Purba Midnapore, Haldia, Mahisadal, Sutahata, Contai, Narghat and Digha were worst-hit. Madhabi Sharma and her son were killed in a house collapse at Deulpota.

In Paschim Midnapore, four persons died in a house collapse. Additional district magistrate Surendra Gupta said the worst affected areas in the district are Khargram, Binpore, Jamboni and Kharagpur.

In South 24-Parganas, four persons were killed in storm. Many houses were damaged and several trees uprooted.


Lucknow, May 3: 
On the very first day of assuming power in Uttar Pradesh, Mayavati showed that aggression was her best form of defence.

The Bahujan Samaj Party leader had maintained a studied silence on the communal carnage in Gujarat till the BSP-BJP coalition government was installed. But almost immediately after Governor Vishnukant Shastri swore in Mayavati�s 24-member ministry, she virtually adopted the BJP�s line on the riot-savaged state, insisting that the silence of the �secularists� on the Godhra killings was �responsible� for what happened later.

Mayavati seemed upset that a section of Islamic clerics had called for the boycott of Muslim MLAs in the new ruling coalition. �They are badmouthing the BSP at the instance of Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav,� she said.

Talking to reporters after the swearing-in at the sprawling La Martiniere College ground here, Mayavati lashed out at Mulayam and the Congress for criticising her party�s tie-up with the BJP.

�It is these self-styled thekedars (dealers) of Muslims who thrive on the politics of communalism,� she said, assuring the minorities that the coalition government was the surest guarantee of their life and property. �There was no communal tension during my two previous stints in power and this time also I will not allow any place of worship to be damaged and desecrated,� she added.

The Congress and the Samajwadi boycotted today�s swearing-in, which was attended by BSP chief Kanshi Ram, Union human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi and Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Ajit Singh.

Though there will be no deputy chief minister, BJP leader Lalaji Tandon � who played the most enthusiastic role in forging the tie-up � was the undeclared second-in-command.

Former chief minister Rajnath Singh, who was till the end opposed to the BJP�s tie-up with the BSP, today said he wanted to step down as the BJP legislature party leader. He has asked the high command to relieve him of the responsibilities.

Within hours of assuming office, Mayavati tonight effected a top level bureaucratic reshuffle shifting 10 senior IAS officers and appointed P.L. Puniya as her principal secretary.

There are 19 Cabinet ministers (10 from the BSP, seven from the BJP and two from the RLD) in the new government, while four are ministers of state with independent charge (two each from the BJP and the BSP).

Unlike her earlier stints in 1995 and 1997 when she had adopted a policy of aggressive �Ambedkarisation�, Mayavati began on a cautious note this time. �While my government will take up special schemes for the Dalits and the weaker sections, it will give justice to all irrespective of their caste or religion,� she said.

She also assured that �merit and performance and not caste� would be the only considerations in transfers and postings.

To dispel the apprehensions of a section of BJP leaders, Mayavati talked of �sarvajan hit� (interests of everyone) instead of the well being of only the �bahujan samaj� (the deprived majority).


New Delhi, May 3: 
BJP members today brought proceedings in the Lok Sabha to a standstill, creating a ruckus when deputy Speaker P.M. Sayeed allowed a Samajwadi Party MP to raise the Gujarat issue. They demanded that the law and order situation in Bengal and Bihar be discussed instead.

The bedlam occurred during zero hour and the House had to be adjourned till 2 pm.

BJP leaders Madan Lal Khurana and Kirti Azad wanted to discuss the situation in Bihar under Rule 184. Trinamul Congress member Bikram Sarkar demanded to know what had happened to his notice for a censure motion on law and order in Bengal. The deputy Speaker told Trinamul leaders that their notice has been sent to the home minister for an assessment of the ground realities.

Trouble started when Samajwadi leader Ramji Lal Suman drew attention to a newspaper advertisement that appeared on Gujarat Day (Wednesday) in which Mahatma Gandhi had been �wrongly quoted� (as advocating violence instead of non-violence).

BJP leaders were immediately on their feet, protesting vociferously. They argued that the House had discussed the Gujarat issue two days ago for 16 hours and there was no point in allowing Suman to raise the matter again.

�We had debated Gujarat for 16 hours two days back and again he is raking up the matter. There are other issues related to Bihar and West Bengal,� Khurana and Azad said.

Azad said he had submitted a notice for a discussion under Rule 184, which entails voting, on the deteriorating law and order situation in Bihar, but he was not allowed to speak on the issue.

He continued to argue with the deputy Speaker and asked him: �Why can�t Bihar�s law and order situation be discussed in the House like in the case of communal violence in Gujarat.�

Sayeed lost his temper and reprimanded the BJP leader, saying: �Don�t equate Gujarat with Bihar.� Azad retorted: �We have to do something. Even today, four Dalits were killed in Bihar.� RJD members refuted the charge and said the notice should be rejected.

The deputy Speaker said every morning, a procedure is followed to prepare a list of those who want to speak during zero hour. �We are here to discuss important matters,� Sayeed said, adding that he had referred the matter to the home ministry and would give his ruling only after he gets the ministry�s report.

Khurana complained that he was being denied a chance to discuss the CNG crisis in the capital and the government�s move to raise bus fares. He said he had been submitting notices since Monday but they were being ignored. �You will not get a chance,� a visibly angry Sayeed responded.

Chandra Shekhar rose to say that what was happening in the House would certainly not increase its dignity. Taking exception to the behaviour of the members, he suggested that the deputy Speaker hold consultations with ruling and Opposition leaders to identify members who would run the House. �Till this is sorted out, the House should be adjourned.� Sayeed took his suggestion and adjourned the House.


New Delhi, May 3: 
The Vajpayee government has tied itself up in knots in the Rajya Sabha over the inconclusive two-day debate on Gujarat.

The Opposition is ready to tighten the screws after foreign minister and leader of the House Jaswant Singh said the government was in full conformity with the �letter and spirit� of the Opposition-sponsored motion seeking Central intervention in Gujarat under Article 355.

�The Central government has accepted the motion and it is now their duty to impose President�s rule on Gujarat,� said CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee. He also suggested that the government may replace Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi with another BJP leader, which, too, would signal Central intervention.

Unofficially, senior leaders and Cabinet ministers in the Vajpayee government are unhappy with the foreign minister�s �articulation� supporting the motion in the Rajya Sabha yesterday. They are also far from ready to meet the Opposition�s demand for steps like Modi�s resignation or imposition of Article 355.

On his part, BJP spokesperson Vijay Kumar Malhotra tried to wriggle out of the situation. Malhotra said the Centre has already �intervened� to bring the situation under control in the riot-ravaged state.

The BJP leader said deployment of the army in Gujarat was proof that the Centre had intervened. �In an indirect way, the Centre has already used Article 355 by sending the army to Gujarat,� Malhotra said. But his argument was rejected outright by both the Congress and the CPM.

Congress spokesperson Jaipal Reddy dismissed Malhotra�s claim. �Article 355 does not confer on the Centre the right to send the army to a state,� Reddy said. �The government has committed itself to supporting the use of Article 355 in Gujarat. Now it must act.�

The government�s strategy to dodge defeat in the vote in the Rajya Sabha by supporting the Congress-sponsored motion has landed it in another embarrassing situation. The Opposition parties have made it clear that they would continue to badger the government on the issue till it took measures that satisfied them.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee�s intervention in the debate is expected on Monday. His response may trigger another bout of bitterness between the ruling party and the Opposition.

Had the government been in a mood to get rid of Modi it would not have allowed the acrimony to escalate to this scale, Opposition members said.


New Delhi, May 3: 
The Supreme Court today issued notices to the Gujarat government, its home secretary and the director general of police on a petition seeking a CBI probe into �all incidents of communal riots� in the state, starting with the Godhra train burning.

A bench of Chief Justice S.P. Bharucha, Justice B.N. Kirpal and Justice Shivraj V. Patil issued the notices on a writ by Devendrabhai N. Pathak and 15 others, all of whom claimed to be social activists.

The bench ordered listing of the petition for hearing along with a PIL by Mallika Sarabhai alleging that the state machinery had been biased against the minorities during the riots and a special team be set up to probe it.

On Sarabhai�s petition, the apex court had earlier sent notices to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the BJP.

In his petition, Pathak pleaded that the court direct the CBI to take over the probe from the state police and order the state government to hand over all relevant documents to the agency.

The petitioners also requested that all cases in which �persons from the ruling party� have been named by a riot victim but against whom no action had been taken be handed to the CBI.

They said the apex court should monitor all cases as it had done in the Jain hawala case. The CBI should be asked to submit progress reports from time to time, the petition added.

It urged the apex court to set up special courts to speed up matters and urged that a timeframe be fixed for investigations and conduct of trial. Cases to be investigated by the local police should be monitored by special cells under a magistrate, it added.


Patna, May 3: 
The Supreme Court has rapped the Bihar government for failing to contain illegal mining.

The mining mafia�s nexus with politicians had led to the gruesome killing of a divisional forest officer (DFO), Sanjay Singh.�That the state government has handed over the probe of the DFO killing to the CBI can�t be reason enough for the state to show complete indifference towards the larger issue of illegal mining,� the Supreme Court�s division bench, headed by Justice B.N. Kirpal, said.

The statement came in the wake of the recent submission of the report of the Union ministry of forest and environment on the killing of the forest officer to the Supreme Court. The court scrutinised the report of the Bihar chief secretary on the incident during yesterday�s hearing.

Divisional officer of the Sasaram forest range, Singh was killed at Rohtas in February, bringing the quarry mafia�s operations to the fore. Even after the killing and the huge political furore that followed, the quarry mafia has been busy, depleting the hills and forests. The forest area is spread over the districts of Gaya, Munger, Sasaram in central and north Bihar.

In Munger last week, four people were arrested for their alleged involvement in illegal mining. But they could well form the tip of the iceberg.


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