Rift in top brass hits Howrah civic body
Trinamul leader shot dead at doorstep
Medical forum slur on Saha
Ramsar tag sought for Sunderbans
MLA pullout jolts Ghising
Murder �inaction�: CPM
Bandh protest in court

Calcutta, June 1: 
Work at the Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC) has come to a halt due to a row between some members of the mayor-in-council and municipal commissioner Chanchal Bandopadhyay.

Several mayors-in-council are demanding the removal of the commissioner. Insiders said a number of senior officials were also displeased with Bandopadhyay as he was �ignoring� their advice.

Recently, the mayors-in-council of the CPM-led civic body went to Writers� Buildings to voice their grievances. The discontented lot included mayor-in-council, conservancy, Ramlal Chatterjee and mayor-in-council, buildings, Mamata Jaiswal.

The tiff between the commissioner and Chatterjee broke out when the former protested against the continuation of payment to casual workers. The matter was later sorted out with the intervention of HMC mayor Gopal Mukherjee. Jaiswal and Bandopadhyay are also at loggerhead over issues like the sanctioning of building plans.

�We want Bandopadhyay to be removed as he does not consult us on vital issues. This hinders the functioning of the civic body,� said a member of the mayor-in-council. HMC deputy mayor Dilip Sen added: �The commissioner has been vested with a lot of power to expedite work. But he has to consult the mayors-in-council and senior bureaucrats who are experienced in handling civic matters.�

Refuting the allegations, Bandopadhyay said he was working in accordance with the rules. �I won�t give in to pressure. It is up to the political leaders to resolve the matter,� he added.

Bandopadhyay said he would discuss the matter with the mayor and, if necessary, with municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya.

Resort staff held: Eight employees of Toshali Resorts International, a holiday retreat chain, were arrested on Saturday for fraud. The accused, including the area manager, were picked up from their Purna Das Road office. �The agency collected money from several families by promising them package tours,� a police official said.


Calcutta, June 1: 
In a daring daylight attack on Saturday, Trinamul Congress working president of ward 18 Rabindranath Das, 45, was gunned down on the crowded pavement of Deshpran Sashmal Road, in the Charu Market police station area. The ward falls under party chief Mamata Banerjee�s constituency.

The assailants came in a taxi, fired four rounds from point-blank range and sped away. The victim died on the spot. No arrest has so far been made.

As the news spread, Trinamul workers squatted on Deshpran Sashmal Road for over three-and-a-half-hours from 9.30 am, holding up traffic. The mob also damaged two vehicles.

Later Banerjee, along with leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Pankaj Banerjee and MLAs Sougata Roy and Sovandeb Chattopadhyay, staged a dharna in front of the Charu Market police station.

Banerjee alleged that the police were �incapable� of doing anything since they were acting as �stooges� of the ruling CPM. She said the party would organise a rally on Tuesday in front of Das� house.

According to the police, the victim was accused in a dacoity case in 1983. �We are probing whether past rivalry triggered the attack,� said Soumen Mitra, deputy commissioner, detective department.

The attack took place in front of Rabindra Sarovar Metro station around 9.15 am. Das, an employee of a Rashbehari-based construction firm, lived only a few metres from the spot. �There was a call from his office, asking him to go to Behala to supervise a construction. He was on his way there,� his wife Gopa said.

Police said four bullets pierced Das� forehead, chest and abdomen. He was taken to M.R. Bangur Hospital where the doctors declared him brought dead.

The owner of a paan shop, from where Das was buying cigarettes during the attack, has been detained for questioning.


Calcutta, June 1: 
The entire exercise of US-based doctor Kunal Saha to �humiliate the doctors� community� had been �designed and sponsored by foreign medical insurance companies�, Dr Sudipto Roy, president of the Indian Medical Association, West Bengal chapter, alleged on Saturday.

Two senior doctors were convicted for medical negligence in connection with the death of Saha�s wife Anuradha.

Roy said that the fact that no post-mortem was done after Anuradha�s death leads to the �suspicion� that there might be more to it than meets the eye.He demanded that a white paper be published on the issue. �The whole process is the product of after-thought,� Roy said.

Asked what prevented the IMA to raise these issues when the legal battle was on, Roy said they did not anticipate such a verdict. The IMA would announce its course of action after a convention at Calcutta Medical College on Monday. �The physician community may go for a strike against the unsatisfactory verdict,� he said.

Dr Ketan Desai, national president of the IMA, felt that the verdict would demoralise doctors and damage the �relation between the doctors and the patients which so far was based on mutual trust�.

�There will be a tendency among physicians to be over-cautious, escalating medical expenses. Doctors will recommend a CT scan for even a simple case of headache,� Dr Desai said.

According to Desai, the Consumer Protection Act provides adequate safeguards to patients.

Reacting to the IMA statement, Dr Kunal Saha said over telephone from the US on Saturday that he was ready to drop all charges against the doctors if the IMA could establish that he had framed them at the instance of foreign insurance companies. He rubbished the logic that he should have got a post-mortem done after his wife�s death. �When the cause of death is obvious, a post-mortem is unnecessary. The legal battle that I have been fighting was aimed at exposing malpractice among some doctors� he said.


Calcutta, June 1: 
Bengal is putting forward a request to the international convention on wetlands to declare the mangrove forests of the Sunderbans a Ramsar Site.

The Ramsar convention on wetlands lists high-priority conservation zones in the countries which are its signatories. India, a member of the convention since its inception in 1971, has eight Ramsar sites to date. The east Calcutta wetland is pending a Ramsar Site status.

�We are preparing a proposal that will be sent to the convention soon,� said Sunderbans biosphere reserve director A.K. Raha on Saturday.

The fragile eco-system of the Sunderbans, which has the highest number of tigers in a single reserve anywhere in the world, is already a World Heritage Site under a protocol of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The Bengal government�s push for the recognition comes as the Sunderbans in Bangladesh has already been declared a Ramsar site as well as accorded a World Heritage Site status.

According to forest department sources, a recent scheme initiated by the United Nations Development Project (UNDP) is also underway in the area. This project aims at proving sustainable development in the mangrove forests on both sides of the international border.

According to sources, the Ramsar body has shown interest in the Indian Sunderbans. �Once the forest gets the status of both a heritage and a Ramsar site, it will attract international funding,� a senior government official said. The funding agencies are global bodies involved in conservation of flora and fauna.

The Sunderbans under the IUCN heritage management category is a �strict nature reserve�.

The Ramsar convention, named after the city in Iran where it was first held in 1971, has 131 member countries. It covers 1,171 sites covering about 75 million hectares.

�It should not be difficult to make the Ramsar list as the nature of the Sunderbans eco-system falls in the category prescribed by the convention,� the official said.

Being the habitat of the Royal Bengal tiger and other threatened species, the Sunderbans �can surely qualify for the status�. Moreover, the vast bio-diversity it shelters is unique to this region, the official added.


Siliguri, June 1: 
In a jolt to the Gorkha National Liberation Front, its legislator and chairman of the Darjeeling municipality Dhan Kumar Pradhan today resigned from the party along with 19 municipal commissioners on the issue of a separate state.

�Twenty municipal commissioners, including me, have resigned to the call of our conscience,� said Pradhan, popularly called DK.

�Though we are the true cadre of the GNLF, we have resigned in view of party chief Subash Ghising being part of a conspiracy to oust followers who still crave for Gorkhaland. The party was formed in the early eighties with the sole aim of achieving a separate state. The GNLF under the leadership of Ghising has utterly failed to achieve this,� the MLA claimed.

�In the GNLF if you win, you are the GNLF and if you lose, you are the opposition. My fellow commissioners and I will work towards achieving Gorkhaland,� the lawyer-turned-politician said.

�We will take up the Gorkhaland issue and if needed, I will resign from the municipality and the Assembly. But the commissioners and I will remain true GNLF members who will strive to attain Gorkhaland at any cost,� Pradhan said.

Following a meeting, GNLF Darjeeling branch committee president Deepak Gurung said Pradhan would be given seven days to resign from the post of the municipal chairman.

Calling Pradhan�s resignation a �gimmick�, Gurung said: �Pradhan was asked by the party to vacate the municipal chairman�s post soon after he was elected to the Assembly from the Darjeeling constituency. Not only has he failed to do so, but there have been several allegations against him as a municipal chairman. He was forced to resign because of corruption charges and rampant granting of permission to construct houses, flouting existing building rules.�

Charging that the party�s Darjeeling unit chief was �running the municipality by remote control�, Pradhan said: �Let the GNLF leadership come out in the open with the allegations against me and I will give a befitting reply.�

Gurung is, however, hopeful that the municipal commissioners who sided with Pradhan will �return�.

But Pradhan is confident of retaining control in the Darjeeling municipality with 22 of the 32 commissioners backing him.


Salboni, June 1: 
A day after suspected members of People�s War Group killed CPM leader Sristidhar Mahato�s wife, daughter and a relative here, local party leaders resented the administration�s �inaction� to arrest the culprits even 24 hours after the incident.

The CPM local unit has called a 12-hour bandh even as activists lashed out at the �inefficient� leadership for its inability to tackle the PWG which had let loose a �reign of terror� on ruling party workers for the past one and a half years.

�The government is ours and the MLA belongs to the CPM, too. Police are supposed to follow the government�s instructions. But our men are still murdered by PWG and Trinamul Congress workers,� local party activists � outnumbered in Jamirgote village by Trinamul supporters � told district CPM secretary Dipak Sarkar and other leaders who visited the area today.

The area remains tense though inspector general of police, western range, J.R. Bhagat, is camping in the village. The police have also launched a combing operation in Salboni and adjoining areas.

Officials said 18 persons were named in the FIR lodged by Sristidhar Mahato, who escaped with minor injuries in the alleged PWG attack. �A local Trinamul worker has been named as the prime accused,� they added.

The CPM appears worried as at least three key party functionaries were killed by the PWG in the past three months.

Party activists claimed that the police were aware that some miscreants led by Kumed Deb Singha were staying in the village. �They posed as Trinamul activists during the day and worked for the PWG at night. Yet, neither the police nor our party leaders took measures to save us�, complained a CPM supporter.

�The killers of Anil Mahato had assembled at Kumed Deb Singha�s house before the attack on Sristidhar Mahato. We had already arrested Kumed�s son, Kartick,� said district SP K.C. Meena.

Sristidhar Mahato said Kumed had been threatening him since Kartik�s arrest in connection with CPM leader Anil Mahato�s murder in February.

�We had informed our party leaders about the development, but our fell on deaf ears,� said a CPM worker.

District CPM secretary Dipak Sarkar said he had demanded the setting up of a permanent police camp at Salboni. He added that the party would plan a strategy to tackle Trinamul and PWG activists in the area.


Calcutta, June 1: 
A religious group will move the high court on Monday against the back-to-back bandhs in June even as the Trinamul Congress said it was not averse to talks with the government on issues over which it had called a strike, reports our special correspondent.

Idris Ali, member of the Indian Sufi Samaj, which will file the PIL, said the bandhs would cause hardship to businessmen and common people. Besides, people offering namaaz at mosques would be affected on Fridays, the day on which the bandhs fall.

Trinamul leader Pankaj Banerjee said his party would review its stance on the June 7 bandh if chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee sent an invite to hold talks.


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