City stuck in slow-retreat cesspool
Bihar behaves, ministers don?t

Calcutta, Sept. 25 
Large parts of the city were still submerged in knee-deep water for the second consecutive day today after a deluge reminiscent of the 1978 flood paralysed life.

In the drier and luckier parts, some managed to pick up the pieces and hobble back to a semblance of normality.

This evening another person was electrocuted in Ultadanga taking the toll in the city to six. In the flood-affected districts the toll stands at 20.

The weatherman, however, said the worst is over as far as the city is concerned, but north and south Bengal will probably be lashed by rain tomorrow, too.

?There will be one or two showers or thundershowers in Calcutta tomorrow, but this is part of monsoon activity. We will not feel the influence of the low pressure which has moved north from the Bihar plateau to the plains,?? said an official at the Alipore meteorological office.

Malda, Birbhum, Burdwan, Murshidabad and Jalpaiguri will have a fair amount of rain tomorrow. ?In fact, we have issued a fresh warning over south Bengal for the next 48 hours,?? he added.

In the last 24 hours till 8.30 am today, the Alipore met office recorded 90 mm of rain in the city.

A brief period of sunshine early this morning had raised hopes of a clear and brighter day. But around noon, the skies began to darken once again. Soon the rain came in sheets threatening to whip the city for the second consecutive day. The weather gods answered the prayers of the city and the shower stopped when the rivulets had started to rise.

The Alipore met office said it recorded 29.2 mm of rain between 12.30 pm and 1.30 pm.

Finance minister Asim Dasgupta slammed the Alipore met office saying the instruments were not sophisticated and hence the administration was not warned of the weather earlier. He said the state would instal its own weather forecast system. Yesterday, mayor Prasanta Chatterjee blamed the met office for not issuing a warning. But met office director R.N. Goldar today insisted that he had issued warnings to the CMC, its pumping stations and even civil defence 48 hours in advance.

Even as the rain relented the deluge stayed. Areas like Gariahat, Rashbehari, Ballygunge, Kasba, Garia, Jodhpur Park, Kidderpore, Chetla and Alipore in the south were under knee-deep water.

The picture was even worse in Ultadanga, Lake Town, Bangur, Dum Dum Park and Kalindi where one lakh people have been living in flooded homes for the last two days. There is an acute drinking water shortage because pumps and underground reservoirs have been submerged.

Residents said they are worse off than in 1978. ?There is a stench in the area and we feel that an epidemic can break out any moment. There us nothing to eat as most shops and markets are closed,?? said Sushil Sen of Lake Town. Residents blocked VIP Road for hours today protesting against the administration?s inertia.

Chief minister Jyoti Basu will hold an all-party meeting on Monday to discuss the situation.

The CMC, however, threw its hands up in despair saying high tide had prevented water from draining out. Member, mayor-in-council, drainage and sewerage, Chanchal Ghosh said the tide, at 6.1 metres, came around 9.50 am and was the highest this season.

But closer to the truth is the fact that the main canals which drain out city water ? Bagjola, Keshtopur and Tolly?s Nullah ? are choked up to 70 per cent with silt. Despite repeated warnings the administration has done nothing to clear them.

In fact, water receded at a painfully slow rate of 8 mm per hour all through the city.

Deputy commissioner of police headquarters, Nazrul Islam, said a 35-year-old unidentified man was electrocuted in Ultadanga as he was wading through the water.

The bodies of two persons, who were suspected to have drowned in the basement of a building on AJC Bose Road yesterday, were recovered today when the water was pumped out.

Many areas in the city had to go without power and telephones continued to go dead. CESC director of operations K.A. Siddiqui said Fern Road, Cornfield Road, Tiljala, Topsia, Ultadanga and Lake Town were plunged in darkness for hours because feeder lines have been shut down.

?Water has seeped inside and we are taking no chances. There could be a short circuit. We have, however, repaired most of the 30 feeders that collapsed last evening,?? he added.

Around thousand telephone lines went dead today and chief general manager of Calcutta Telephones K. Ramanujam said they can be repaired only when the water recedes.

Traffic snarls continued to plague the city and even policemen of the Alipore bodyguard lines squatted on Sterndale Road, holding up vehicles. They were protesting against the administration?s apathy in draining water.    

New Delhi, Sept. 25 
Five persons were killed and two ministers arrested in the second phase of polling in Bihar today, which was relatively peaceful compared to the first round in which nearly 50 people were killed.

Following the bloodbath on September 18, the authorities had braced for widespread violence today. Polling in other states, including Uttar Pradesh, was also largely peaceful.

Chief Election Commissioner M.S. Gill said: ?The deaths took place in police firing away from polling stations. There were two deaths each in Nalanda and Barh and one in Siwan.

?Shyam Behari Prasad, a minister in the Bihar Cabinet, was arrested in Motihari for disturbing polling at a booth. In Patna, sitting BJP MP C.P. Thakur was detained by the magistrate for trying to take ballot papers out of the polling booth. He was later released.? In the afternoon, another minister, Shiv Shankar Prasad, was arrested for having firearms in his possession. Unconfirmed reports said two more ministers were booked.

?In some 60-odd booths there could be no polling because of heavy rains,? Gill said.

In the first phase in Bihar, most of the victims had died in landmine explosions. Almost heaving a sigh of relief, Gill said: ?It has been a very satisfactory day today.?

The overall turnout continued to be low at 51 per cent. Polling was particularly dull in Nagaland and Mizoram. The turnout was 55 per cent in Bihar, 50 in Uttar Pradesh, 45 in Madhya Pradesh, 55 in Orissa and 52 in Himachal Pradesh.

Sixteen people were injured in the violence in Bihar where 19 constituencies went to the polls, including Nalanda where defence minister George Fernandes is contesting and Barh, where former railway minister Nitish Kumar is a candidate.

In both Nalanda and Barh, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Janata Dal(United) activists clashed with each other. They were involved in shootouts and snatching of ballot papers and police rifles. A villager was killed in the crossfire between supporters of Nitish Kumar and his RJD rival. In Siwan, where Mohammad Shahabuddin is contesting, activists of the CPI(M-L)Liberation and the RJD exchanged fire. A Naxalite was killed in the shootout.

Polling in Gopalgunge, Laloo Yadav?s home town, was disrupted when the polling party walked out following snatching of ballot papers.

The Dal(U) has demanded repolling in as many as 325 booths, including 148 in Barh and 64 in Hajipur.

In Nagaland, eight crude bombs exploded shortly before polling for the lone seat in Kohima.

The Samata Party has protested against the Election Commission directive asking Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala to stay away from Bhiwani, where his son is contesting, on polling day.    


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