Bill boost for tenant, landlord
City scan for torture marks
Mamata targets CPM twin tracks
Relic and old habits return
Rot spreads to social sector
Familiar faces in finance panel
Atal names Bhairon for Kant post
Bhagat�s bravehearts back Gill
Rail flashes flushout threat to Sulabh
Army�s dilemma: All�s fair in love & war

Calcutta, July 17: 
The Assembly today passed the West Bengal Premises Tenancy (Amendment) Bill, 2002, by a voice vote.

According to the new provisions, which amend those of the parent Act of 1997, the tenant will continue to stay in premises as long as he pays a fair rent. A formula for this has been drawn up for both residential and commercial tenants. The earlier system of renewable contracts need not apply.

Besides, by redefining the term tenant, the provisions give the right for continuity, on certain conditions, as a tenant to the son, daughter, parent or widow of the deceased tenant�s son (who was residing with the tenant till the tenant�s death). This applies to premises let out for non-residential purposes as well, and also includes a person authorised by the tenant who is in possession of such premises.

Landlords will welcome the clause that state the new rules do not apply to tenancy executed as the result of a deed drawn up under the 1908 Registration Act.

The process for getting payments from the rent controller has also been expedited. The property owner can also evict a tenant if he does not live in the premises for 10 months in a year, minister for land reforms Abdur Rezzak Mollah said.

A major concession for the landlord is the sharing of municipal taxes with the tenant on a 50-50 basis according to the floor area rented out. While the landlord pays for the common entrance and staircase, the tenant pays taxes for the area he stays on.

As for maintenance, the tenant has to annually pay 10 per cent of the rent.

Benefits for the tenant:

Self and heirs (son, daughter, parent and widow) continue to stay as tenants as long as fair rent is paid;

Landlord has to give reasonable reason, cleared by the court, for seeking eviction of tenant;

Non-resident tenants can authorise someone other than his heir to be the tenant;

Sub-tenants can approach the landlord directly after two years of staying on the premises;

In case of eviction process or any other dispute referred to the rent controller, the tenant can pay the last monthly rent with 10 per cent interest to the controller.

Advantages for the landlord:

The provisions do not apply to tenancy in force as a result of a deed drawn up and registered under the Registration Act of 1908;

Five per cent increase in rent after every three years;

Tenant to share municipal taxes with landlord on basis of floor area rented out;

Ten per cent of rent to be paid annually by the tenant towards maintenance;

In case of disputed tenancy, the landlord can get payments faster from the rent controller after applying for the same.

Fair rent formula:

For houses constructed in or before 1984, the formula for calculating the fair rent rate for residential purposes is based on the period of tenancy. For example, where a tenancy has continued for 20 years or more, the rate will be the rent charged as on July 1, 1976, plus three times that amount. That is, if the rent was Rs 100, it will now be Rs 400.

In the case of tenancy between 10 and 20 years, the rate will be the rent charged on July 1, 1986, plus two times that amount. That is, if the rent was Rs 100, it will now be Rs 300.

Disagreeing with several provisions of the Act, Opposition members pointed out that in the case of a joint family the continuance of tenancy was unclear. Besides, the eviction clause has made it easier for landlords to evict tenants.


July 17: 
Kaushik Ganguly, arrested for being an alleged People�s War activist, will be brought to Calcutta shortly for an examination of wounds sustained in police custody.

Doctors attending on the lecturer in Midnapore said they had advised hospital authorities to form a medical team for effective treatment. Ganguly has been in hospital for the past few days after being remanded in judicial custody.

�We are considering the proposal as Ganguly is an important person. We already have general physician Kripasindhu Gantait, psychiatrist Ashis Acharya and surgeon Shaymal Sarkar attending on him,� said N.K. Marik, West Midnapore district medical officer.

The defence counsel for the accused, Arun Majhi, appealed to the judicial magistrate in Midnapore today to allow Ganguly to be shifted to either SSKM Hospital or Calcutta Medical College Hospital for a report on his wounds.

The chief judicial magistrate had passed a similar order on July 11. But the jailer of Midnapore central jail, M.S. Sardar, said he was yet to receive a copy of the order. However, Ganguly will have to be examined in Calcutta before July 25, when he is scheduled to appear before the chief judicial magistrate.

There were reports that Ganguly would be brought to Calcutta today but the city police had no information. However, Midnapore superintendent of police K.L. Mina was in the city today, making arrangements for the lecturer�s brief stay in Calcutta.

The state human rights commission has asked home secretary Amit Kiron Deb to order a police probe into allegations of mental torture on Abhijit Sinha, a government official who committed suicide at Dum Dum railway station.

At a convention in the city yesterday, several organisations passed a resolution, demanding the �unconditional� release of �workers of a democratic movement�.

The convention was attended by members of Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights and the Kanoria Jute Mills Sangrami Sramik Union among others.

The meeting condemned the Left Front government�s crackdown on political outfits that were opposed to police misdeeds.

Calling the arrests of Ganguly, Partha Bandhopadhyay, Mithu Roy, Chandan Roy as unjustified, speakers at the convention said no one should be arrested without a warrant.

The mother of Tinku Ghosh, another alleged Naxalite activist in Midnapore jail, returned to the city without being able to meet her son. �We tried a lot to see him but the jail authorities said they would inform us as soon as Tinku is allowed to go to Calcutta,� his mother said.


Calcutta, July 17: 
Upset over the CPM�s attempts to belittle her efforts to stall the bifurcation of Eastern Railway, Mamata Banerjee is set to �expose the party�s doublespeak on the issue� at the Martyrs� Day rally here on Sunday.

The Trinamul Congress chairperson, who is now fighting almost a lone battle with the NDA leadership in Delhi to stall the railway minister�s move, has directed party leaders to ensure a good turnout.

Sources said Mamata was upset by the CPM�s bid to connect her on-going tiff with Nitish Kumar with her possible re-induction into the Vajpayee Cabinet. �The CPM wants to paint me as power-hungry. Had I been so, I would have rejoined the ministry much earlier without bothering about the harm the bifurcation would cause to Bengal�s economy,� she told her aides when contacted in Delhi.

The Trinamul chief will also highlight the contradictory stand of Bengal and Bihar on the bifurcation issue. She wonders how the CPM could put up with the Bihar legislators� �defiant attitude� after the politburo expressed itself against the railway minister�s move.

�All this shows the CPM�s political opportunism. I will also narrate how the Marxists spurned my offer to launch a joint stir over the issue,� she said.

The sources said the state CPM intends to �wait and watch� as the party feels it should not say or do anything which may alienate its Hindi-speaking voters hailing from Bihar.

The CPM has so far made only low-key protests against the bifurcation. The party organised a demonstration at Sealdah yesterday and charged the railway minister with �playing one state against the other to serve his narrow political purpose�.


Calcutta, July 17: 
The Speaker�s mace was brought back to the Assembly amid applause and thumping of desks after it was sent to the storeroom last month following chaotic scenes in the House.

The Speaker�s mace, one of the last remaining relics of the Raj, has been part of the proceedings since the past 68 years. The 14-kg mace was withdrawn for �security reasons� when Trinamul Congress members snatched the object from the marshal of the House on June 24 and attacked the Assembly staff with it.

Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim decided to lock the mace in the storeroom as the legislators had scant respect for authority.

But today as the mace was carried into the House on the shoulders of the marshal, members, irrespective of party affiliations, greeted it by thumping desks. Shanta Chhetri of the GNLF was the first to thank the Speaker for having changed his mind and restoring the �proud possession� of the House in its rightful place. Abdul Mannan of the Congress also hailed the Speaker�s decision.

Opposition leader Pankaj Banerjee thanked the Speaker and argued that though the mace had no parliamentary significance, it had been a long-standing tradition of the Assembly.

�In parliamentary democracy, convention has a place. What happened on June 24 in the House involving my party members is nothing new. Such things had taken place earlier, too,� he said.

Halim observed that the members must remember that the prestige of the House was also the prestige of the state. The legislators should see to it that the democratic system continued, he added.

�We have lots of problems to discuss � loss of jobs, lack of education and employment. We must concentrate on these and use the system to solve the problems,� the Speaker said.

Robin Deb of the CPM said there had been a consensus among the MLAs to abide by a code of conduct. �But there is a tendency among certain members to behave otherwise. I hope they will abide by certain ethics in future and maintain the dignity of the House,� he added.

However, moments after the mace�s comeback was lauded, the Speaker suspended Tapas Roy of the Trinamul Congress from the session for repeatedly shouting at the Chair.

Trouble began when Roy raised a privilege motion against sports minister Subhas Chakraborty �who was present � for having misled the House on the Salt Lake stadium scandal.

The Trinamul leader alleged that the sports minister had shielded several persons in his speech in the Assembly, saying that they were not involved in the row and that there were no criminal cases pending against him.

�A minister has the right to make a wrong statement as a judge has the right to pass a wrong judgment,� the Speaker said while disallowing the motion.

Protesting against the decision, Trinamul MLAs walked out on the last day of the current session.


Calcutta, July 17: 
The state government not only failed in managing its finances, it also faltered in doing its bit in the education and health sectors.

The 2001�2001 report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India finds the ruling Left shying away from its basic responsibilities in universalising non-formal education and prevention and control of diseases. It suggests that human deprivation in Bengal increased due to the state government�s failure in supporting various Central government initiatives to eradicate illiteracy and prevent diseases.

The government of West Bengal, the report says, discontinued the Centre�s non-formal education programme aimed at imparting elementary education to children between six and 14 engaged in domestic activities after pursuing it for 11 years. Since 1990-91 the programme has been implemented by non-government organisations (NGOs) with 100 per cent Central assistance.

Referring to the government�s apathy to the project, the report highlights that no non-formal education centre was set up under the government sector between 1995-96 and 2000-01. Pointing out the flaw in the system, the CAG report reveals that the state sponsored setting up of centres in districts with higher percentage of literacy, depriving backward districts like Malda, Bankura and Birbhum.

Lack of interest among the state government departments in monitoring the programme surprised the auditors. They said: �The state government, the mass education extension directorate and the district offices were totally unaware of the activities of the NGOs. They did not monitor their activities though copies of funds released to the NGOs were regularly sent to the directorate and state government by the government of India.�

According to the report, the programme suffered due to ineffective or non-existent inspection, supervision and monitoring. This led to a failure in meeting targets and poor utilisation of funds. For example, the survey report of six NGOs indicates that only one lakh learners could be brought under the ambit of education programmes while the target was 4.21 lakh. The CAG report hauls up the state government for its indifference to the project, resulting in the drying up of Central assistance for eradication of illiteracy programmes.

On the health front, the state�s show was equally bad, if not worse. The CAG report blames the state government of neglecting the AIDS prevention and control programme introduced in West Bengal in 1992. Due to a �deficient annual action plan�, the Centre reduced the amount sought by the state government by 30 to 67 per cent between 1996 and 2001, the report points out. The state government attributed this shortfall in expenditure to inadequate infrastructure, and at the end of March 2001, unspent balance aggregated Rs 6.63 crore. The report finds a rise in the number of HIV-positive and AIDS cases in the state and criticises the information, education and communication programme for failing to raise AIDS awareness.

Referring to bottlenecks in healthcare, the report says no new blood bank was set up between 1996 and 2001. �Blood collected was not HIV-tested to the fullest extent and was utilised endangering patients� lives. Sophisticated machines in the state blood banks valued at Rs 40.79 lakh have remained idle for years,� says the report.

Non-utilisation and diversion of funds have plagued national programmes like control of tuberculosis, leprosy elimination and control of blindness in Bengal. While the Central grant of Rs 5.66 crore for leprosy elimination was diverted for payment of allowances to employees, the state government could utilise only Rs 3.38 crore of the Rs 4.21 crore granted to combat tuberculosis. The CAG report adds that the state government released only 32 per cent of the Rs 2.67-crore Central assistance to control blindness.


Calcutta, July 17: 
The government today announced a four-member committee to recommend ways to improve the resource position of the state and cut down non-Plan expenditure.

Finance minister Asim Dasgupta said at Writers� Buildings that the committee would be chaired by Amiya Kumar Bagchi, economist and member of State Planning Board. Other members include economists Prabhat Patnaik of Jawaharlal Nehru University and Deepankar Coondoo of Indian Statistical Institute as well as special secretary of the finance department Bikash Majumdar. The committee will submit its report within six months.

Bagchi, Patnaik and Coondoo are known CPM sympathisers and were part of various committees of the Left Front government in the past. Observers, therefore, feel that the committee�s recommendations will highlight the �faults� of the Centre�s economic policy rather than focus on the ballooning expenditure of the state government.

Asked if it was for the first time that the government was seeking the help of external economists to suggest measures to improve the state�s resource position, Dasgupta said at least one such committee was set up during Ashok Mitra�s tenure as the finance minister.

Dasgupta said his department had taken the initiative to meet the priorities of the Tenth Five-Year Plan. �The committee will also study the adverse effect of the government of India�s policy on the finances of all state governments in recent times,� he added.

The finance minister said the panel would also suggest changes needed in Centre-state relations with an emphasis on devolution of more power to the states.

Besides, the committee would recommend ways to mobilise additional resources and measures to cut down wasteful and avoidable expenditure.

However, Dasgupta clarified that another committee to suggest ways to control expenditure, appointed earlier this year and led by chief secretary S.N. Roy, would function simultaneously.

�Let there be no misunderstanding. The government�s internal committee will carry out its work without any hindrance,� he said.


New Delhi, July 17: 
The NDA today chose senior BJP leader Bhairon Singh Shekhawat as its vice-presidential candidate. If the former Rajasthan chief minister comes out on top in the August 12 polls, a BJP leader will occupy the second-highest constitutional post in the country for the first time.

A contest is inevitable with the Opposition planning to put up a nominee. But Shekhawat�s success seems a certainty as the NDA commands a majority in the electoral college.

The decision to field the 79-year-old Shekhawat was taken by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was authorised by the NDA on Sunday to finalise the alliance�s nominee.

Shekhawat will file his nomination papers tomorrow. K. Yerran Naidu of the Telugu Desam Party, Rashid Alvi of the Bahujan Samaj Party and the ADMK�s P.H. Pandian are some of the non-NDA leaders who would sign his nomination papers.

Announcing Shekhawat�s candidature, NDA convener George Fernandes told reporters that barring the Congress, most parties in both Houses of Parliament have conveyed to Vajpayee their support for Shekhawat, a three-time chief minister.

Vajpayee had spoken to Congress president Sonia Gandhi on phone yesterday, soliciting her party�s backing for Shekhawat. But she conveyed her regrets, saying the Congress would like to see a contest, parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan said.

The Prime Minister also spoke to CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. Surjeet, sources said, told Vajpayee that his party will make its stand clear tomorrow but Mulayam expressed reservations about supporting a BJP candidate.

Mahajan had contacted NCP leader Sharad Pawar, who preferred waiting for the outcome of the Opposition move.

Fernandes said Jayalalithaa assured the ADMK�s support for Shekhawat when deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani called her.

Talking of Shekhawat�s prospects, Mahajan said the ruling alliance had a comfortable majority of more than 110 votes in the Lok Sabha, but was short by about 25 in the Rajya Sabha. �Therefore, this gives the NDA a lead of about 85 votes,� he added.

Speaking to reporters at Rajasthan House here after his candidature was announced, Shekhawat said unanimous election of the President and Vice-President would have sent out a good signal.

Emphasising his humble origins, the BJP veteran said he had not even nursed hopes of becoming a village sarpanch. �The family I came from, I had little hope of even becoming a sarpanch�,� he said. Born on October 23, 1923, Shekhawat did not manage to clear high school, but has been walking tall in Rajasthan politics for five decades.


New Delhi, July 17: 
Who wants to be a losing vice-presidential candidate? Many, it seems. And even the famous: former chief election commissioner M.S. Gill among them.

Not that Gill � who appears to nurse political ambitions like his predecessor T.N. Seshan � has sunk to such depths as to lobby for himself. Others are doing the canvassing for him, if all too coyly.

Learning from the Laxmi Sahgal experience � she was a Netaji disciple and is a sure-loser presidential candidate � they have realised freedom-fighting history helps in impressing at least the Left.

Signed by �nephews and nieces� of freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh and Udham Singh, a leaflet has been dropped at the CPI headquarters, pushing Gill as the �most befitting candidate for this constitutional post�.

These �heirs� of Bhagat Singh and of leaders of the Gadar movement exhorted MPs to defeat �communal� forces by electing a �secular, non-political and non-controversial� candidate like Gill.

But the Opposition seems to be looking for variety in the choice of candidates and it�s a Dalit leader it prefers, having chased a �minority� nominee for the President�s post and lost the race to the ruling combine � for all practical purposes, A.P.J Abdul Kalam is already the President.

If there isn�t a last-minute agreement with the ruling alliance on a single candidate � a highly unlikely prospect � the Opposition can�t win the vice-presidential poll either.

According to insiders, the Left proposed the name of eminent advocate Fali S. Nariman, a nominated Rajya Sabha member, but the Congress does not want him.

This evening, Congress president Sonia Gandhi spoke to CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan and suggested the name of Sushil Shinde, a Dalit leader and AICC member from Maharashtra.

The picture as of today is bizarre with a string of candidates appearing suddenly on the horizon. �There are too many names, we have to look for someone from North India, preferably a Dalit,� a Left leader said.

Like Gill, the �candidates� are testing the waters through emissaries. On the list are former Governor Mahavir Prasad, Rajya Sabha member R.S. Gavai, social activist Swami Agnivesh and former Lok Sabha Speaker Rabi Ray.

�There are lots of people who are trying to push their own candidates, but we are looking for a face that will have wide acceptability,� said a Left leader.

Mahavir Prasad and Gavai have made it to the list as Dalit candidates.


New Delhi, July 17: 
The railway is raising a right royal stink over the state of its loos.

It has threatened to blacklist Sulabh, the non-governmental organisation (NGO) that specialises in running toilets, for the squalid state of lavatories at railway stations.

The organisation holds the contract for the maintenance of 50 per cent of the toilets at 450 railway stations in the country.

The railway ministry has sent a letter to the NGO, asking it to present an action-taken report and inform it of the investment it plans to make in the latest toilet-cleaning technology or face the prospect of being blacklisted.

As part of the drive to ensure cleanliness at stations, the railway ministry had given contracts to private agencies as early as 1989. Sulabh was made responsible for maintaining toilets in 25 stations.

�Initially, they used to be good and we had a good response. But over the last few years, their services have virtually gone down the drain. The people employed by them are not fully trained to maintain the toilets and have been found to be rude and discourteous to people,� said a senior railway official.

�We have written to them and asked them to prepare a report that will give details about the steps being taken to improve the situation, the investment they intend to make in new technology to enhance the cleanliness of toilets, and the training of their staff. If they do not undertake these measures, they will be blacklisted all over India,� the official added.

Sulabh was launched in 1974 with a system of operating and maintaining community toilets with bathing, laundry and urinal facilities (popularly known as Sulabh Shauchalaya Complex). Attendants were to be present round the clock and the plan was initiated at Patna on a pay-and-use basis.

During the early days of its association with the Indian Railways, Sulabh was also supposed to get the contract for maintenance of lavatories and compartments on trains.

�We were seriously considering handing over maintenance of lavatories and compartments on important trains along with cleaning of platforms, operation and maintenance of lavatories in waiting rooms progressively to Sulabh. But their performance has been so bad that there is no question of widening the ambit of their work within the railways,� a senior railway board member said.

Sulabh has several lucrative contracts from other organisations. For instance, the Bombay Port Trust has asked Sulabh to construct and maintain toilet blocks in the dock area.

It also handles cleaning operations at the Paradeep port in Orissa. Various coalfields have also entered into agreements with Sulabh for construction, operation and maintenance of complexes and construction of Sulabh Shauchalaya in individual houses.

�This organisation (Sulabh) has to realise that in a service industry any kind of drawback has a major impact. It also becomes a problem for us since we are responsible to Parliament and are a major player in the service industry. Dirty loos wreck our image.

There are many other organisations which have come forward to take on the work. If Sulabh is blacklisted, it will not hamper the maintenance of toilets at railway stations in anyway,� said railway board sources.


New Delhi, July 17: 
His avuncular seniors look on Captain Walia�s gallant effort to woo his lady love with some indulgence for youth but rules might force the youthful officer to be grounded.

Walia, an army pilot based in Jaisalmer, flew his Chetak helicopter so low that he could drop a gift with pinpoint accuracy for the girl he wanted a dance with. He now faces a court of inquiry for flying dangerously beyond the �authorised sortie�. Walia is with the Army Aviation Corps. If he did indeed find the target, many of his friends in the corps would consider it a minor feat.

The corps performs some of the most dangerous tasks in battlefield environs � like ferrying casualties from the front and transporting men and material under heavy fire. During the battle for Tiger Hill at the height of the Kargil war in 1999, they flew risky sorties through Mushkoh Valley.

They specialise in �nape of the earth flying� � flying so low amid hills that the enemy finds it very difficult to detect the Chetak till it is almost upon them.

One report reaching here says Walia had recently attended a party during his off-hours at a hotel in Jaisalmer. The girl who is in her early-20s is the daughter of the hotel owner and a regular at discos. Smitten by her, Walia had sought her attention with the intention to ask her for a dance.

The young army officer, however, lost out in the race to a European � some say American � tourist who was equally taken in with the girl. She, too, found the foreigner�s company more alluring for the evening.

A determined Walia resolved to do something extraordinary to catch her attention and win her favours. On Saturday, he flew his chopper low over the hotel. Hotel guests and residents were afraid the whirlybird might crash. Walia coolly lowered a gift on the roof addressed to her.

The army took note of the incident after local residents complained to police. At first, they thought the helicopter belonged to the air force.

A senior officer in the army, speaking with some nostalgia for his own halcyon days, said �his (Walia�s) is the kind of spirit that is largely missing among today�s youth � it is a vintage heroism. It is natural that such spirited young men will be a little adventurous and the army takes pride in them.� The officer says most pilots take to the profession out of a passion and grounding one is not only a severe punishment, it will also mean �a disgruntled officer�.

At the same time, the uniformed services cannot be lenient with such transgressions, not only because of stringent rules that govern all their activity but also because of the urgency to be �exemplary�, lest another lovelorn officer take Walia�s route to fly into the heart of his beloved.

�It is probably a little unfortunate for Walia that what he has done has become a little too public,� another officer said.

�You have to realise that this is a young officer � about 25 years old � and he must have tremendous confidence and skill with the helicopter to do what he has done,� the officer said. �It would be such a waste to kill his spirit and ground him.�

The reports reaching Delhi had no detail on whether the young Captain has successfully wooed the girl. It is also not known if the officer is now asking himself whether it was worth all the trouble.


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