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PREAMBLE
Today, especially in Bengal, there are many things going wrong. Many people believe it is because of the moribund bureaucracy - government, institutional, private ... whatever - that is responsible for the unacceptable state of affairs ...

Our Objectives:
The objective of 'Stop'n Look!' is simply to throw the searchlight on the problems created by those people who are thriving in an obsolete bureacratic system - at our expense. We will compile information from the media, as well as first-hand reports from our correspondents, that show how callous our elders have become.
You will be the ultimate judge of our succes.
Viva la vox populi!


General News Reports: Vol 1 (7/1998-8/1998)
Bloopers & Capers
If the article you wish to read has been archived (due to paucity of space), please contact us/mail to:sankalpatrust@hotmail.com
#
SYNOPSIS OF CONTRIBUTIONS:
(Click link to see the full contribution)
01 Baby's sex not known: article appearing in page 3 of The Statesman, dated July 25, 1998. 
Relates to the baby-switch mystery, which deepened today after the body was exhumed
02 Two Trinamool workers killed: article appearing in page 3 of The Statesman, dated July 25, 1998 
Relates to the killing of opponents of the government, by the ruling party's supporters.
03 Dacoits stop ambulance, loot passengers: article appearing in page 3 of The Statesman, dated July 26, 1998. 
Family taking a patient to a hospital is robbed by iron spike scattering criminals
04 Fire Power - Will West Bengal's guilty policemen get away? Abridged Editorial appearing in page 8 of The Statesman, dated July 25, 1998 
Relates to the murder of three young motorcyclists who were shot dead by the police, simply because they refused to stop.
05 SFI men beat up NRS boarders: Copy of article appearing in The Statesman, dated July 27, 1998 : page 3 
Relates to the brutal abuse of the opponents of the governments students' wing.
06 Where there's a bill, there's a way :Copy of article appearing in The Statesman, dated August 9, 1998 : page 3 
Reports of 'greasing of palms' and bribery regime at Sales Tax offices, after the introduction of the 'Way Bill' by the West Bengal Government.
07 Move to 'paralyse' Baranagar RKM school was official : Copy of article appearing in The Statesman, dated August 5, 1998 : page 3 
Reports the highhandedness of government officials and gross abuse of power to intimidate people and groups with differing viewpoints, even if they happen to belong to the eminent Ramkrishna Mission system. 
08 ANDHRA PICKLE: West Bengal needs a Chandrababu Naidu : Copy of 'Editorial' appearing in The Statesman, dated August 17, 1998 : page 8 
Reports the runaway success of Chandrababu Naidu's industrial programs in Andhra Pradesh, in sharp contrast to Jyoti Basu's failure in West Bengal.
09 "Communists and the Bomb", by Ashoke Sen (Calcutta, 12 August) in the Section: "Letters to the Editor" in The Statesman dated August 17, 1998: page 8)
10 Bomb attacks haunt Mission school: Copy of article appearing in The Statesman, dated August 22, 1998 : page 3 
Reports the night-time attacks on the college-cum-hostel complex of the Ramakrishna Sarada Mission Vivekananda Vidyabhavan for women, in Dum Dum. The Mission official's anlaysis of the pattern: terrorize and bully educational institutions run by missions which do not see eye-to-eye with the state government's educational policies. Click to read a related event.
11 Cough up Rs 1,000 and get a 'free' hospital bed: Copy of article appearing in The Statesman, dated August 22, 1998 : page 3 
Reports the 'sale' of free beds at Calcutta Medical College and Hospital by a number of the hospital's aggressive General Duty Assistants.
12 Mob burns 3 buses, injures police after street accident: Copy of article appearing in The Statesman, dated August 22, 1998 : page 3 
Reports the wanton destruction (with a picture) and mob violence following a street accident involving a 13 year old boy.
13 CPM leaders an edgy lot: State Committee to be decided today: Copy of article appearing in The Statesman, dated August 29, 1998 : page 3 
Reports the hectic parleys at the 19th state conference of the CPI-M over the party's new state committee.
14 HMCworkers skip work to attend CPM Meet: Copy of article appearing in The Statesman, dated August 29, 1998 : page 3 
Reports the absence of several sycophantic Howrah Municipal Corporation employees, who have been signing the attendance registers at their offices in the morning and going away immediately for the last three days to attend the CPM's state conference, doing odd-jobs as "volunteers" while the leaders engage in "brain-storming". Among departments hit are health and education.
15 'Marxism strong as ever': Copy of article appearing in The Statesman, dated August 29, 1998 : page 3
Reports the comments of Mr. Prakash Karat, CPI-M Politburo Member, that there is no need for pessimism about the future of Marxism, despite the collapse of the Soviet Union.
16 Relief still eludes Malda flood victims:Copy of article appearing in The Statesman, dated Aug. 30, 1998 page 7.
Reports the voice of discontent and anger of the flood victims of Malda district.
17 Transport strike hits life in city: Copy of article appearing in The Statesman, dated August 25, 1998 : page 3 
Reports the strikes called by transport operators that made life miserable for Calcuttans. Even private car owners were harassed as petrol pump dealers went on strike. Many schools declared a holiday.
18 All Strike Now! When the privileged stop working: Copy of 'Editorial' appearing in The Statesman, dated August 25, 1998 : page 8
Discusses the changed notion of strikes as a form of protest, and the failure of the government to set up effective avenues of channeling grievances.
019 Mithun's soccer project in money mess: Copy of article appearing in The Statesman; dated August 29, 1998 
Reports the dreadful muddle in Mithun Chakraborty's much-trumpeted Bengal Football Academy, because of money mismanagement. To avoid the wrong kind of media blitz, the megastar has told the BFA functionaries to immediately prepare the accounts of fundraisers in which cricketer Sourav Ganguly and Mithun himself took part. One reason it couldn't be done is because an ex-captain of the Indian football team had not returned the Rs 64,000 that was worth the tickets he took to sell. He had previously held on to Rs 50,000 in a previous exhibition match at Naihati. And by paying former footballers who played in the fund-raisers - which contradicts the purpose of trying to revive Bengal's glory by grooming youngsters - BFA has let an imprecise but substantial amount of money to be wasted.
20 Fry By Night: Why food adulterators are never caught: Copy of 'Editorial' appearing in The Statesman, dated August 29, 1998 : page 8 
Discusses the way Kalimuddin Shams, the minister overseeing the operation to ban the sale of mustard oil in West Bengal, in collaboration with traders could possibly profit from the crisis, as they allegedly did during the potato crises.
21 Oxygen cylinder in hospital empty, girl dies: Copy of article appearing in The Statesman, dated August 11, 1998 : page 5 
Reports that a 14-year old girl died at Asansol sub-divisional hospital due to lack of oxygen
22 An accident waiting to happen: Copy of article appearing in The Telegraph, dated August 30, 1998 : front page 5
Reports the sheer providence that saved the lives of 78 people when an Airbus-320 miraculously came to a halt in the grassy part of Calcutta's airfield.
23 Excerpts from 'Toxic gases threaten Belur Mutt'; The Statesman, dated Aug. 11, 1998; page 3 
Reports that toxic gases from factory chimneys are threatening the historic Sri Ramkrishna temple at Belur Mutt, headquarters of the Ramkrishna Mutt and Mission.
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General News Reports: Vol 1 (7/1998-8/1998)
01. Baby's sex not known : The Statesman dated July 25, 1998: page 3
Statesman News Service 

Calcutta, July 24 - The baby-switch mystery deepened today as forensic experts refused to reveal the sex of the new-born baby whose body was exhumed yesterday.

Meanwhile, the two nurses accused in the case were remanded to police custody till 31 July.

The Congress and Trinamul Congress held protest demonstrations in the city.

Mr. Narayan Ghosh, deputy commissioner (detective department), said that Dr. R N Bose, the forensic expert, told him that it was difficult to determine the sex of the baby since the body had been buried for two months.

Dr. Bose, who conducted the post mortem himself, reportedly told Mr. Ghosh that it would be two to three days before the report was submitted. There was some confusion, and he would have to conduct more tests, Dr. Bose is known to have said.

A portion of the remains have, meanwhile, been sent to the Central Forensic Laboratory for a DNA test.

Officers at Lalbazaar said that if it were proved that the body exhumed yesterday was that of a girl, police would then have to trace the lost child of Mrs. Keya Bhattacharya. And in that case, a baby-switching racket at the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital might be unearthed.

If, on the other hand, the body turned out to be that of a boy, its DNA report would have to be tallied with DNA samples taken from both Mrs Keya Bhattacharya and Mrs Maya Shaw.

The court of the chief metropolitan magistrate, meanwhile, witnessed noisy scenes today, as the two arrested nurses were produced before the judge. Some women supporters of the Youth Congress, masquerading as nurses, had taken up seats inside the courtroom. As soon as the proceedings got underway, they began raising slogans and wave party banners. They were later driven out.

Another flutter was created outside Bankshall Court, where more than 300 people staged a demonstration, demanding punishment for the accused. As the nurses were taken out of the building, some of the demonstrators hurled bricks at the vehicle taking them to the central lock-up.

Supporters of Trinamul Mahila Congress and Trinamul Chattra Parishad squatted in front of Calcutta Medical College and Hospital protesting against alleged baby-switching rackets in government hospitals in the state. They demanded a CBI enquiry into the matter. Later, they submitted a memorandum to the Director of Health Services at Writers' Buildings.

DISCUSSIONS:

Comment # 1: Received from S. Mukherjee on July 25, 1998

This is not the first time that a baby-switching fiasco has been unearthed. And this is not the first time that Congress (and now Trinamool Congress) supporters have tried to make political capital out of the miseries of the victims. And this is also not the first time that the Marxist Government - caught in deep hibernation for the last twenty years, except at meal times - will fail to bring the culprits to book. The question is how much longer should this continue? How long will politicians be interested in raising hell for dead babies of 'commoner', especially when bills in parliament to raise their own salaries (to a whopping Rs.40,000 per month) needs to be pushed through (or maybe I'm wrong, it has already been pushed through) By the way, doesn't this salary increase for MPs stink. If at all, they should be paying the people for the privilege to dare I say more? 

A second disturbing question is why must the people tolerate brazen political interference with judicial proceedings? We must find a way to send a message to politicians that raising slogans in a court just for the heck of it can be a vote-loser, rather than an eye-catcher. 

However, throwing bricks and brickbats at the accused is simply barbaric. People are innocent until proven guilty. There are many more effective ways of punishing people, than throwing bricks at them. 

This reminds me of something else. Mob violence just after a car accident is most harmful for the victim. Instead of the victim, attention is showered on the offending driver. Obviously, the offending driver will try to escape if he or she knows that, no matter whose fault it was, it is the driver who will be lynched. Elsewhere, it is the norm that the offending driver carries the injured person to the nearest medical facility for treatment. This is because people expect other people to do the rational thing, and not go berserk, instead. 

It is time that we initiate a public debate about how to reform our approach to establishing guilt and handing out summary punishments. What would be our prize? We could end up punishing the guilty and setting the innocent free, instead of having it the other way round as at present, thanks to our sleeping bureaucracy. Is that saying, or asking for, too much?

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02. Two Trinamool workers killed : The Statesman dated July 25, 1998: page 3
Statesman News Service

Calcutta, July 24 - Two Trinamool activists were killed today, allegedly by CPI-M supporters, in two separate incidents in South 24-Parganas and Nadia

Nizam Ali Dhali (32), a Trinamul supporter, and Shurat Ali Dhali, a gram panchayat member, were shot during a clash at Dhalipara in the Thakurpukur area of South Parganas. Nizam Ali Dhali died at at the Vidyasagar Hospital.

Demanding the immediate arrest of the culprits, Trinamul supporters staged an agitation outside the Thakurpukur police station.

The police have been unable to make any arrests so far.

Trinamul supporters are planning to take out a procession with the body.

Police said, supporters of the two parties clashed over the control of a playground at Dhalipara.

DISCUSSIONS:

Comment # 1: Received from S. Mukherjee on July 25, 1998

This is simply not cricket! I am reminded of Voltaire, who said "I disagree with every word you say, and will defend to the death your right to say it". Okay! It is too far fetched to expect our modern-day Marxists to adhere to Voltaire's high standards or even Lenin's or Karl Marx's standards, for that matter. But this is simply intolerable, that people have to be put to death (it used to be, that only the hands of Congress supporters were chopped off till the last elections) so that the Marxists can continue to win elections. But what good is that doing for the people of Bengal?

Perhaps the oddest thing is, this murder was prompted over the control of a playground. Can matters get any more inane than this?

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03. Dacoits stop ambulance, loot passengers' : The Statesman dated July 26, 1998: page 3
Statesman News Service 

PURULIA, July 25. - Dacoits looted Rs 35,000, six wrist watches and ornaments from a family traveling in an ambulance in Hutumra village under Hura police station in Purulia last night, police said. The family was taking a patient to the Bankura Medical College Hospital. The criminals stopped the ambulance by scattering iron spikes on the road.

There has been a spate of road dacoities in Purulia recently. A new technique has reportedly been adopted by the criminals. They scatter iron spikes on the road to puncture the vehicles and rob the passengers.

DISCUSSIONS:

Comment # 1: Received from S. Mukherjee on August 9, 1998

Till some time ago, it would be inconceivable that even criminals would stoop so low as to waylay and rob sick and infirm people. The paralytic state of the administration is responsible for this aberration. The Ministers and bureaucrats are more busy buttering their own bread, than to worry about the effects of their inactivity on the people.

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0.4 Fire Power - Will West Bengal's guilty policemen get away? The Statesman dated July 25, 1998 - Editorial, page 8
To the crimes committed by the West Bengal's police has now been added the ghastly incident on Sunday night in which three young men on a motor cycle in Baguiati became targets of unprovoked firing simply because they refused to stop. The mindless display of firepower contrasts sharply with insecurity on the highways where dacoits run amok within handshaking distance of police outposts. Both suggest rank incompetence. In the case of the Baguiati incident, all the policemen needed to do was give chase or use wireless sets to tip off the next outpost. Which rule in the police manual permits firing on motor cyclists moving at high speed and without helmets? As it turned out, these were three men with no criminal records but who are now lying in hospital, two of them in a critical condition. The excuse that the police were keeping the area free of dacoits is matched by the story that the young men were armed with bombs and pipeguns and the policemen acted out of "self-defence". Does anyone have to fall back on the State Human Rights Commission's proof of police records in thanas being shamelessly tampered with to shield the guilty?

It is clearly not enough for the Police Minister to order the guilty policemen to be suspended pending a departmental enquiry. What is needed is action and punishment of the guilty as the best insurance against a repetition. Criminals continue to have a free run of the highways while Buddhadeb Bhattacharya trots out cool statistics of the number of times police have fired on dacoits. The people know better. The trust the Minister so desperately seeked is crushed in one swift stroke by a force that mixes ignorance with a matching degree of arrogance. If he has reason to be shocked after Sunday's nightmare, he also needs to be reminded of the times when he has tried to defend the indefensible. Here is another question for the police. If the men did not stop because they feared the policemen would extort money from them, just who do you think is to be blame!

DISCUSSIONS:

Comment # 1: Received from S. Mukherjee on July 25, 1998

This editorial raises several disquieting issues, beyond the obvious one that three young men are shot by the police, and yet criminals roam free. It has been obvious for quite a while that there is a link between criminals and policemen. What is disturbing in this editorial is the suggestion that the policemen shot the young men because they were afraid that a precedent would be set for people to run away without paying bribes.

Is that why we want to have a Police Department: to collect bribes and parley with criminals. In that case, it is better that we have anarchy, because our elected government has proved to be useless it is not for us, or by us, or even of us. 

The editorial has also raised the question of conformity of actions with a Police Manual. The question is important. Are all policemen aware that there is such a thing as a 'Manual'. Or to put it more starkly is there even one policeman in the whole Police Department who is completely familiar with the contents of the 'Police Manual'? Is it available for reference at police stations, so that conscientious policemen can refresh their knowledge from time to time. These are grave accusations. But one of the perquisites of being a government servant nowadays is that, one can brush away one's ignorance by being bellicose and arrogant in the face of criticism. But does it have to stay this way?

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05. SFI men beat up NRS boarders : 'Punished' for forming Trinamul Chhatra Parishad; The Statesman, dated July 27, 1998 : page 3
STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE

CALCUTTA, July 26. - Twelve boarders of the Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital boy's hostel were beaten up on Friday evening by more than 50 SFI activists.

The victim's crime: they had mustered courage to form an anti-SFI forum in the hostel for first time in this decade.

On 6 May, some medical students formed a unit of the Trinamul Chhatra Parishad at the hostel. The retribution, which took more than two months to come, was brutal.

After being beaten up for two hours, the 12 students were left inside locked rooms, without water or food for the whole night. They were denied medical treatment though the hospital was on the same campus a few metres away.

The violence started around 7 p.m. on Friday. Only a few boarders were at the hostel, as most had gone home for the weekend. The 12 Trinamul supporters were taken out of their rooms and beaten up till 9 p.m.

All hostel gates were locked and telephone lines cut off, so that no one could inform the police.

Some hospital staff, however, heard the student's cries for help from outside the hostel. They informed the Entally police station, from where a force arrived within minutes.

The 12 victims were immediately locked into three rooms. They were threatened with more beatings if they should shout for help when the police came.

The students did what they were told to do. "I heard policemen's footsteps on the balcony outside my room, but could not shout for help as we were told that we would be beaten up again after the police left." One of the victims said.

The rooms were not opened till next morning. The injured students, some of them bleeding profusely, did not get any water or food. Nor were they allowed to go to the hospital's emergency ward.

The rooms were opened next morning and the students asked to leave Calcutta. Some of them were even "escorted" to Howrah and Sealdah stations by SFI goons.

The attack was led by two SFI activists, one of them, the son of a very senior state-level CPI(M) leader and the other, the son of a chairperson of one of the 15 Boroughs of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, senior doctors of the hospital admitted.

The SFI's immediate cause for wrath was an appeal for the postponement of hostel elections by the Trinamul unit after the nomination papers of six of their candidates were cancelled, the doctors added. The court has upheld their plea and hostel elections have been postponed. 

DISCUSSIONS:

Comment # 1: Received from S. Mukherjee on July 29, 1998

The students learn well from their teachers. Just a few days ago, there was an article about two opponents of the CPI(M) being killed. Perhaps what is most galling is that the inhuman treatment of fellow human beings reported in this article, could have taken place in a medical college, which is supposed to be the breeding ground of people with the most humane touch. What kind of people are we becoming? Can we ever trust a doctor again, if we know that he is capable of such violence, just to stay in power at the local student union's office. Perhaps the stakes are much higher than we imagined. 

The state-level CPI(M) leader and the chairperson of the CMC Borough have to bear responsibility for their wayward childrens' activities, and be punished suitably. How can they hold positions of responsibility, and retain the peoples' trust, if the newspaper report is proved to be accurate on all counts.

But an even greater question is: why should this happen in the first place? Is this what the people had in mind when they booted the Congress regime out of power in 1977 and (...hope springs eternal in the human breast ...) brought the Marxists into power? For this?

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06. Where there's a bill, there's a way: The Statesman, dated August 9, 1998 : page 3
Kshaunish Sarkar, Statesman News Service

CALCUTTA, Aug. 8 - Are you a trader trying to procure way bill forms? Be prepared to pay money to the receiving clerk, the peon who carries your file up one flight of stairs, the issuing clerk and even the man who merely stamps your papers.

Or else your business suffers, as consignments you are seeking to bring into the state are held up at check-posts.

This is how the state finance minister, Mr. Ashim Dasgupta's assurance of a curruption-free, smooth way bill" regime translates in practice.

This reporter was witness to money changing hands at every step when he accompanied two traders to the state commercial tax office at Beliaghata on Tuesday.

The traders, one dealing in electrical goods and the other in fasteners (nuts and bolts), went there to collect 10 way bills for bringing in consignments to the state.

They submitted applications for 10 way bills each to the commercial tax officer in charge of the area in which their respective offices lie. Both officers signed the applications but one of them indirectly asked for a packet of foreign cigarettes saying he had run out of stock.

The traders promptly obliged by going out and buying him a packet.

Both traders then took the signed application forms to the receiving clerk under their respective CTOs. Each receiving clerk opened files in the names of the firm of each trader.

The files with order sheets were then forwarded to the respective CTOs who issued instructions that way bill forms be issued.

The files came back to the receiving clerks who were supposed to send them to the issuing section on the floor above. But both traders were asked to dish out money by the receiving clerks handling their respective files. The peons and record keepers of the receiving clerks also asked for money. Or else, the traders were curtly told that their files would not move up.

The one trading in electrical goods was asked to pay Rs.150 to the receiving clerk, Rs. 50 to the peon for merely carrying his flight upstairs to the issuing section and also Rs.10 to the record keeper whose only job is to place the file in the record room after the way bill forms are issued.

He agreed to pay up but bargained and reduced the receiving clerk's share to Rs 100. The other person was asked to pay Rs 200 to the receiving clerk. He refused, saying he could pay no more than Rs 50. The clerk said he could not accept such a low amount and asked the trader to pay "next time".

Both traders now went to the issuing section on the sixth floor of the building. A clerk in that section openly asked the traders to pay a bribe of Rs 75 each for issuance of the way bill forms.

One of the traders said the amount was too much. The clerk then agreed to accept Rs 50 from each of them. At least 30 other applicants for way bill forms were also waiting at the issuing section.

This clerk asked for Rs 50 from each of them. He noted the sales tax code numbers of those who agreed to pay. The ones who did not were bluntly told to come the next day.

The clerk then brought out the files of those who agreed pay. But the file of the trader who had refused to pay the receiving clerk had not reached the issuing section.

The trader returned to the receiving clerk only to find his file still on his desk. The trader was again asked to pay. When he stuck to his stand the clerk asked him to be patient patient and wait at the issuing section. Till that evening, his form did not reach the section.

By now, the clerk at the issuing section had begun greasing his palms with Rs 50 notes handed to him by each trader.

Those who paid were now asked to proceed to the counter of the section from where the way bill forms were being issued . The person manning the the counter also openly asked for Rs 10 from each trader before stamping and issuing the forms.

"Why are traders yielding to demands for bribes?" asked Mr. M N Roy, commissioner of sales tax. Corruption is a two-wau system, he said. The traders should complain to officers if clerks asked them to pay bribes. "If the complaint is proved, we will immediately suspend the guilty staff," he said.

But he refused to acknowledge that corruption existed across the department. "You have only been to the issuing section on the sixth floor. If you go to the one on the eighth floor, you won't find any such thing," he said.

DISCUSSIONS:

Comment # 1: Received from S. Mukherjee on August 9, 1998

A few days ago, I had seen a report about dacoits robbing ambulance users in Purulia. The modus operandi was to "scatter iron spikes on the road to puncture the vehicles and rob the passengers". The principle is simple. Create an insurmountable obstruction (the iron spikes) that the ambulance driver cannot ignore - which brings the vehicle to a stop; then relieve the occupants of whatever precious belongings that the robbers can lift.

The West Bengal Government seems to be doing the same to the people of Bengal. In this instance, enact laws that brings movement of goods and commerce to a halt. Then let their cronies masquerading as government employees rob the people of whatever the robbers can lay their hands on. 

This is absolutely disgraceful.

What is most upsetting is the reported attitude of the Commissioner, no less. He wisely refuses to acknowledge at first that corruption exists across the department, then drops the bombshell that the 'corruption' exists only on the sixth floor - and that only angels are to be found on the eighth floor. What does he take the people to be? Fools? What is the Chief Minister and Finance Minister doing after reading this report (and if they didn't, that speaks volumes about their sincerity to their jobs)? Are we infer that they, too, are somehow involved in this racket, and like Laloo Prasad Yadav (whom they are covertly supporting in the name of secular credentials, whatever that means) are making hay while the sun shines?

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07. Move to 'paralyse' Baranagar RKM school was official: : The Statesman dated August 5, 1998: page 1
Sunando Sarkar
Statesman News Service

CALCUTTA, Aug 4 - It was official after all: the decision to create disturbances at the Baranagar Ramakrishna Mission school and 'paralyse' its administration was implemented by a state education department official with the help of a CPI(M)-backed teacher's organization.

The written instruction came on a West Bengal government pad and spoke of the instruction to some teachers of the school to "paralyse R K Mission".

The letter, marked "most confidential" came from the former Sub-inspector of schools (Primary Education), Baranagar Circle, Ms Chitra Sharma. Her signature is at the bottom of the letter and has been verified by The Statesman with her signature on other official communique.

And the person whose help she sought in carrying out her task was Mr Biswanath Kar, former Secretary of the CPI(M) backed All Bengal Primary Teacher's Association (Baranagar Circle).

The letter to Mr. Kar, which is in possession of The Statesman, addresses him as "Dear Biswanath Babu,". Ms Sharma, in the letter, admits to having "advised" some teachers of the RKM-institution to "stop their duties immediately" with the aim of "paralyzing the institution".

"Please you do something and meet me for the above purpose as early as possible," she urged Mr. Kar.

The four teachers, who were "advised" by Ms Sharma of their "new duties", were Mr. Sachinanda Kanrar, Mr Lakhmi Kanta Chowdhury, Mr Nitish Kumar Banerjee and Mt Tapas Ranjan Das. They were exhorted to come out in support of one of their colleagues. Mr.Tarak Nath Banerjee.

The letter was written last October. The five teachers, all members of the ABPTA, were quick to oblige: they stopped attending school from 6 November last year.

"Reward" from the education department, too, has followed quickly.

They continue to receive their monthly salary through the local branch of a nationalized bank, though they have not taken a single class in the past nine months.

And Mr Tarak Nath Banerjee, who was chosen leader of the "revolt" at the school by the education department official and the ABPTA, was made the head teacher of the Baranagar RKM Junior Basic Unit II last month.

The order making him the head teacher, however, had one flaw. It spoke of Mr Banerjee's promotion to the post of head teacher from that of teacher-in-charge. But he had never been made the teacher-in-charge nor had he acted as the teacher-in-charge even once during his 34 years of service at the school.

Not content with with their attempt at "paralyzing" the institution, the North 24-Parganas District Primary School Council has "promoted" a teacher to the post of head teacher of the primary section of the school nine days after his death.

The deceased, Gour Kishor Pal, was president of the local unit of the ABPTA. Inquiries revealed that the letter was mailed from the Barasat post office on 25 July; Gour Kishor Pal died on 16 July, nine days before the mailing of the order, and was cremated at Ratan Babu Ghat at Baranagar the same day, inquiries at the crematorium revealed.

The dead teacher has not been able to claim his post and Mr Tarak Nath Banerjee, too, has not come to the Baranagar RKM to stake his claim.

Ms Sharma has since been transferred out of the Baranagar Circle and Mr Kar has lost his post of the local ABPTA unit's secretary.

A senior DPSC official, speaking only on conditions of anonymity, admitted that the former Baranagar Circle SI of Schools had tried to destabilize the Baranagar Ramkrishna Mission "extra-constitutionally".

 

DISCUSSIONS:

Comment # 1: Received from S. Mukherjee on August 9, 1998

This news is quite revealing. It reveals a pattern of deception and high-handedness that is the hallmark of Marxist regimes in general, in this country and abroad. It is noteworthy that the people of Russia and the Eastern Bloc took almost 70 years to shake them off.

Meanwhile, closer to home, the RKM system - despite certain debatable flaws - is acknowledged as having one of the best primary educational facilities in the state. The government-run schools, on the other hand, are distinguished by their mediocrity at best, and utter absence of facilities at its worst. Yet, children who want to avail the better RKM system have to contend with obstacles in their path to knowledge, just because the RKM system mercifully does not toe the Marxist doctrine. 

There is another economic question which remains unanswered. Who has paid the salaries of the five teachers for nine months for doing absolutely nothing?

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08. ANDHRA PICKLE: West Bengal needs a Chandrababu Naidu; Editorial in The Statesman dated August 17, 1998: page 8
That the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Chnadrababu Naidu, should have acted coy when asked by our reporters for his views on West Bengal's attractions as an investment destination sends a clear message: his "no comments" were loud enough comments. West Bengal, by his reckoning, does not have mush to offer but courtesy demands he does not say it. Naidu is, of course, right in what he did not say. And West Bengal-based industrialists who went a little gaga after Naidu's slick promotion of Andhra Pradesh can be forgiven their enthusiasm. As some of them reportedly remarked: when would Jyoti Basu make a presentation like this? The answer is he won't. Rather, after his return from his annual sojourn abroad, he will take the momentous decision on what to do with Subhas Chakraborty. In his absence, but doubtless with his knowledge, his government has spent Rs. 20 crore-plus [Rs 200 million-plus] of public money it could not afford to buy an office property - from the ailing Jessop - in Calcutta's business district. The purchase, claims the state Finance Minister, Ashim Dasgupta, kills two birds with one cheque: money for Jessop's revival and more space for the government's employees. What happened to the plans for de-congesting Calcutta's business district, to which end the state government departments were moved to Salt Lake. No doubt the CPI-M wants its clerical brigade close at hand. More important, why should the state government spend money that has a hundred better uses to prop up a single company? This is of a piece with CPI-M's mad hatter ideas about reviving Dunlop. And that is the limit of the government's ideas on industrial revival, subject of course to the caveat that trade unions must be occasionally given the freedom to beat up management's, as in Bata.

Chnadrababu Naidu, by contrast, knows that one-off handouts don't create industry, proper environment does. To be sure, Naidu's presentations are not all substance, there's hype, too. But hype matters in image building and image building matters in getting investors interested. In any case, the proof of Naidu's promotional pudding is in the endorsements he received, including from the World Bank, whose officials reckon the state is the best performer in effecting reforms and, therefore, the best candidate for structural loans. In 1997, the Bank formulated a loan scheme - the Adaptable Lending Program - for supporting well-planned and phased reforms. Andhra Pradesh is a recipient, so is Haryana. But states which were once considered safe for commercial ventures, for example, Punjab, do not pass muster anymore. In Punjab's case, it is not terrorism that is the problem but the Akali government's ludicrous populism. On the other hand, Rajasthan, which despite having a wobbly BJP government, has shown some measure of commitment is being considered as an option. The South, led by Andhra Pradesh, is emerging as arguably the most attractive destination for investment. The traditional "hegemony " of the North may be weakening, a sign of which may be its falling share in net domestic product (from 27.6 percent in 1991-92 to 25.6 percent in 1995-96). Where's West Bengal in all this? No where. Its industrial decline began long ago. Now, with some states rapidly improving, its relative performance is sinking even lower. But the Marxists are all set to preside over that - with absolute conviction.

DISCUSSIONS:

Comment # 1: Received from S. Mukherjee on August 17, 1998

I believe there is a serious divergence between the meaning of the caption and the content of this editorial.

From the beginning to its end, the author has wonderfully established how woefully inadequate the West Bengal government has been, and continues to be, for projecting a favourable image to possible investors to come to West Bengal, or even retaining the ones who have chosen to stay behind against all odds. By corollary, there is no hope that the Marxists can arrest the nose-diving fortunes of the people of West Bengal, let alone engineer a turnaround in terms of industrial development.

However, the caption (i.e. 'West Bengal needs a Chandrababu Naidu') misses the entire point. Our problem for the last fifty years has been that we have mistakenly relied on a messiah or a Superman to ride in from the horizon and gently pick us up like babies and deliver us to Shangri-la! This is an elitist dream. If at all there is going to be any picking up, it will be by the scruff of our necks, a la Stalin or Hitler. The preferred solution surely must lie elsewhere.

We have known for more than a decade that neither is Jyoti Basu qualified to be our saviour, nor are the West Bengal Marxists any different from Nicolai Ceaucescu's 'merry men' (remember how the Romanion commoners discovered the golden faucets in the bathrooms of Ceaucescu's Palace! ... and how passionately the West Bengal Marxists, led by Jyoti Basu, mourned for the Anti-Christ and his men when the Romanion commoners nailed them). And yet, we continue to moan and groan about the non-appearance of messiahs and supermen. Do we even have the listening posts up and running to herald their coming? Who knows how many may already have come and gone, and found us wanting?

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09. "Communists and the Bomb", by Ashoke Sen (Calcutta, 12 August): in the Section: "Letters to the Editor", The Statesman dated August 17, 1998: Page 8
SIR,

I wholeheartedly endorse the contents of your editorial "Bombastic" )8-9 August), but feel you have not exposed fully the dubious role of the Indian Communists vis-a-vis the nuclear bomb. Though now, they are shedding crocodile tears over the victims of the atom bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they actually supported the dropping of the bombs on the hapless civilians of these two cities. Obviously, they could not do otherwise, since Stalin not only supported the act, but congratulated Truman on it. Later, the explosion of the bomb by the by the Russians and the Chinese caused unbounded joy among the communists in India, though in the same breath they were condemning America for exploding the bomb.

With reference to Pokhran, their condemnation of it is insincere and anti-national. Ever since the first explosion at Pokhran in 1974, no government at the center, including V P Singh's United Front government, objected to the making of the bomb. Thus, there exists a kind of tacit national consensus regarding the bomb. When the first Pokhran explosion was carried out, leaders like Namboodripad, Jyoyi Basu, Rajeshwar Rao and Achyut Menon welcomed it, but this time Communists condemned it. The reason is quite obvious - the BJP has done it. The so-called mahamichil of 6 August was not so much against the bomb, as it was against the BJP. Of course, the Communists anti-national stance with regard to the bomb is not something unexpected. In the past they have always jettisoned the national interest and indirectly served the cause of our enemies. India has been invaded by Pakistan three times (1948, 1965 and 1971) and by China once (1962). On each occasion they supported our enemies and are still condoning the actions of Pakistan and China over the bomb.

Your criticism of the "intellectuals" is quite justified. In the two decades of Marxist rule, the tribe of such "intellectuals" has increased to an alarming extent. In the West, the word intellectual means "a person with a highly developed mental ability" (Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary) or "someone who spends a lot of time studying and thinking about complicated ideas" (BBC English dictionary), but in West Bengal, writers of pulp fiction, pretentious film-makers, mountebanks and discredited academics pass for intellectuals. Such were the people who joined the mahamichil and made an absolute nuisance of themselves at public expense. 

DISCUSSIONS:

Comment # 1: Received from S. Mukherjee on August 17, 1998

To this excellent tabulation of the Communists' indiscretions I wish to add one more that may have been overlooked: the Communists sided with the British against our own freedom fighters!

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11. Cough up Rs.1,000 and get a 'free' hospital bed: The Statesman dated August 23, 1998: page 3
CALCUTTA, Aug. 22. - A 'free' bed in Calcutta Medical College and Hospital costs between Rs 500 and Rs 1,000.

The 'sale' of beds usually takes place after noon, when the out-door departments close and direct admission from there is stopped. Two or three men stay in the Emergency Room Casualty Blocks of the medicine, surgery, orthopedic and pediatric departments to 'help out' people in distress.

Most of these men are not GDA staff, but local hooligans affiliated to political parties.

One doesn't have to seek them - the men, who claim to be General Duty Assistants, find out their prospective 'clients'.

They read the tell-tale signs of anxiety, the desperation on the faces, walk to them and ask lazily: "What's the case?"

A casualty ward usually has around 50 beds each. As a patient recovers, he is shifted to the chronic beds, and his place in the casualty department becomes vacant.

The GDA staff keep tab of this and start looking for 'clients'.

The cost of a 'free' bed depends on the circumstances and on the seriousness of the case.

The rush hour in the hospital is between 2 pm and 10 pm. If someone is brought in during this time, the rate is around Rs 800, or more. It goes up if the patient's condition is critical.

But it is not as if the beds are sold only to the very sick. They are available even to those who are not as seriously ill. Their families only have to approach the GDA staff to get a bed. "This is when the problem begins" says a doctor.

"We often refuse a patient, noting that he needn't be admitted in the emergency. But his family insists we take him in. They get the patient admitted through these GDA employees," he said.

It is an age-pld practice. "A senior medical officer is usually on duty at the casualties. He is forced to get the papers in order for the patients. He dare not refuse for fear of reprisal from the GDA staff," said a doctor at the Orthopaedic Department.

So, the casualty blocks often have a not-so-ill person blocking a bed which could have been occupied by a dying patient.

Recently, a doctor was "punished" for pointing out such a case in the Orthopaedic Casualty Ward. The patient's family reacted promptly. They told the doctor: " We have paid you people Rs 500 to get the patient admitted. You can't refuse the patient now!"

The doctor was later manhandled by the GDA staff for speaking against them.

The patient's family is given the impression that the money they have coughed up is for the doctor. "We are always at he receiving end," said a doctor at the Orthopaedic Department. "When we face the wrath of an irate mob, the policemen in the outpost are nowhere in the vicinity," he said.

The hospital superintendent, Dr. D P Chatterjee, said: "I have many verbal complaints regarding this. But there has been no written complaint." 

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12. Mob burns 3 buses, injures police after street accident: The Statesman dated August 23, 1998: page 3

CALCUTTA, Aug. 22. - Seven policemen, including an assistant commissioner, were injured in a clash and three buses burnt after a 13-year old boy was knocked down by a private bus at Mahatma Gandhi Road this morning.

The additional officer-in-charge of Jorasanko police station too was injured in the attack, in which bombs and bricks were thrown. Police had to lob teargas shells to control the mob.

The violence brought traffic to a halt. No one was arrested.

The boy, Md Saufuddin, was crossing the road when the bus (route number 24) knocked him down. The injured teenager was, however, released from hospital after treatment.

See comment related to a similar occurrence 
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15. 'Marxism strong as ever': The Statesman dated August 29, 1998: page 5.
BALLY (Howrah), Aug. 28. - There is no need to pessimistic about the future of Marxism, despite the collapse of the Soviet Union. The apparent triumph of capitalism is a passing phase, Mr. Prakash Karat, CPI-M Politburo Member, said here today.

The South Asian economic collapse only shows how Capitalism is riddled with contradictions. Countries such as South Korea, Indonesia and Thailand are classic case studies in the fallout of globalization. Industries and banks in these countries have closed down and their currencies [have dropped in value].

Indian advocates of liberalization such as Dr. Manmohan Singh and Mr. Yashwant Sinha, who preach the gospel of Capitalism, believe in abject surrender to international capital, Mr. Karat charged.

The sole aim of the imperialist forces is to mould India's industrial and agricultural production to their benefits, in the process threatening the country's sovereignty.

Mr. Karat, who was addressing a seminar on the relevance of Marxism today, said Western propaganda wouldn't be able to undermine the influence of Marxism in the fight against exploitation.

The concept of globalization was there in the Communist Manifesto and Marx's writings, Mr. Karat said. Mark had also outlined a strategy to counter the exploitative system of liberalization.

Other links which relate to the contents of this contribution:

1. 'Political Ideals', by Bertrand Russell
2. 'Individual Liberty and Public Control', By Bertrand Russell

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16. Relief still eludes Malda flood victims : The Statesman dated August 29, 1998: page 7.
Statesman News Service

MALDA, Aug. 29. - Flood victims of Malda district are voicing their discontent and anger over lack of adequate relief from makeshift shelters, submerged houses and huts.

People in the worst affected areas of Jalapur, Sujapur, Kaliachowk II, Manikchowk, Rathdari and Meherapur, are yet to receive even the minimum relief, a month after the floods hit the district.

The roadlink with the district headquarters being cut off, residents here are having a tough time fighting the floods.

Swapan Basak of Sujapur said: "See what we've got - only a few pieces of tarpaulin sheets for over a thousand people. We are half starved, besides."

The situation is almost the same in Malda town where hundreds have crowded the only flyover connecting the Malda central with Manikchowk, Valuka, Ratua and Harishchndrapur. People have been living on the bridge for the past seven to eight days, scared of returning to Manikchowk and Ratua.

Sunoju Adhikari, a resident of Harishchndrapur, said: "Ours is a peculiar district. Every year we are threatened by devastating floods, but is there any step towards a permanent or even a semi-permanent solution to the problem?" Residents of Prabal Palli, in Malda had to cope with a five feet water level for two days before two speedboats were despatched by the district administration.

The District Magistrate, Malda, Mr. M V Rao, told The Statesman: "Since the town people are more conscious of their needs, they always make an issue of everything, taking advantage of the proximity to the district authorities. But we are earnestly trying."

Two columns of army jawans have been deployed. Several NGOs have joined the relief operations.

The administration fears an epidemic and other health hazards, since drinking water has been contaminated in some places. There are too few medical teams.

Mr. Rao claimed the district administration had adequate stock of bleaching powder. It would help when the stagnant water dried up, a district health official said.

The district administration has asked for more doctors from Calcutta. Truckloads of grain are being carried for distribution among the victims.

But the victims complaints belie the administration's claim that the grain is enough. In some areas, rice, wheat and chira have been distributed in small quantities.

The West Bengal Civil Defence and Civil Force personnel are helping with the relief work, too.

"The BSF had been put on alert and they are providing logistic support to us," Mr. Rao, DM, told The Statesman.

There has been no change in the flood situation in Malda and the total loss of property in the district has been assessed at about Rs 245 crore, a senior official of the state relief department told reporters at Writer's building in Calcutta today.

The official said more than [1,160,000][this number should be rechecked] people have been affected by the floods in Malda. The state government has sanctioned Rs 10 Lakhs for relief.

However, the flood situation in the Jalpaiguri district is under control.

Other links which relate to the contents of this contribution:

1. Flood 1998: Special Reports
2. Picture Gallery of the 1998 Floods

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18. 'All Strike Now!' : When the privileged stop working : Editorial in The Statesman dated August 25, 1998: page 8.
Strikes, once an exclusively proletarian stratagem, are now a weapon in the hands of an unhappy bourgeoisie. Or so it seems in Calcutta. A violent traders' strike was followed by a teacher's strike that is continuing. On Monday, the city's notorious roads were suddenly navigable thanks to a transport operators strike. The demands behind these protests are of varying are of varying justification. What unites them is that none of them can be said to merit the extreme step of a strike. Take the complaint of police harassment of transport operators. There is little reason to doubt the veracity of this grievance or the frequency with which it happens. Harassment is a polite word for extortion. It also works the other way. The slightest effort to discipline these people raises a hue and cry of harassment. But what will a strike achieve? Less demands for bribes, better road sense on the part of the operators? Surely not. Police abuse is an institutional malaise. If the strikes against power-abusing policemen achieved anything, our law-keepers would by now be giving angels a run for their money. Yet this form of protest persists.

Part of the apparent paradox is explained by the changed notion of strikes as a form of protest. The original, "revolutionary" concept was centered around the logic that the only way for a group of "disempowered" people to shake the system was to step on where it hurts most; the need for production. But perversion was inherent even in this pristine, revolutionary form. For, a strike could only be effective if the stoppage could not be easily overcome by the system. So, strikers had to be sure of their power base. Power is a profoundly corrupting attribute, especially in the way it begets its own logic. Strikes therefore could be as much about protests and grievances as about posting notices by the striking group of their presence and reach and influence in the system that covers them. It is this aspect that leads so-called bourgeoise collectives - traders, businessmen and teachers, in the present case - to take to strikes, even though by classical theory their stake in the system's smooth running should make them enemies of production stoppages.

One can argue that there is, in a materially underdeveloped society where the rule of law operates by accident - remember the power-abusing policemen - very little chance of limiting such forms of protest. In fact, the danger is that the opposite may be true. Fewer people will feel they have a stake in the system, and more, therefore will join in not working. And of course, there's always the argument that if everyone goes on strike, no one will have a problem.

Attractive as it is, such nihilism cannot be the option of a right-thinking citizen, far less governments. What can the latter do? More than is usually thought. For one, governments can set up effective avenues of channeling grievances. These must be non-politicised to work. That means political parties must give up their habit of turning every association into appendages. The Marxist do this best and most frequently. Which is why even the bourgeoise of Calcutta prefer to stop work rather than extract surplus value!

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20. Fry By Night: Why food adulterators are never caught : Editorial in The Statesman dated August 29, 1998: page 8.
Governments in Delhi and West Bengal are congratulating themselves on being quick and decisive - sale of mustard oil, whether loose or in sealed packs have been banned in both following cases of adulteration in the capital. And in West Bengal, at least, more than just a knee-jerk stupidity may be involved. For one, the minister overseeing the operation is Kalimuddin Shams who knows a thing or two about the revolutionary tactics of profiting from a crisis. We also note that the Food Commissioner has been asked to arrange for a thousand tonnes of palmolein oil as an alternative. That strikes one as being suspiciously efficient. Ban mustard oil, create a major supply crisis, and some lucky local traders and their political backers just happen to make a killing by offering a readily available substitute. It has happened before. It can happen again. And both the Food Minister and his Food Commissioner should know that palming off palmolein - if there's such a plan - will not wash with public, not to mention this newspaper.

Even if one were to make a striking assumption on the purity of Kalimuddin Shams motives, his and Delhi counterparts's decision remains indefensible. First, the ban, by giving the impression that the governments are on the job, hides a gross dereliction of duty -m catching the adulterators and punishing them as severely as the law allows. This should have been the state government's first response, especially at Delhi. Why is Sahib Sing Verma's government not goading the Delhi Police to investigate the matter? Are we to be served the same non-arguments over who controls the capital's cops, even as the death toll rises. Will the BJP at the Center yet again look the other way as the party's local government compounds another mess? Asembly elections are not far off. If power cuts, water crisis and high crime rates were not enough to dethrone Verma, perhaps he and his party will slip on adulterated mustard oil and break their heads.

Consumers in Delhi and West Bengal meanwhile are not only loosing sleep trying to cope with an officially imposed scarcity but are also being hectored into believing that all private manufacturers of mustard oil are suspect. By the time the Food Adulteration Departments get down to issuing safety certificates, some, if not many, market reputations will have taken a severe beating, which no other justification bar the government's inability and/or unwillingness to deal with the criminal elements. In any case, what credibility do official certifications carry? A sarkari stamp of approval is ex hypothesis more suspect because the career prospects of official food inspectors are invulnerable to the consequences of sloppy or motivated decisions. Market operators who vouch for their own products, or independent agencies who formulate guidelines, on the other hand, have to be careful that their claims stand up to scrutiny. They have credibility to lose. When they do mess up is the time the new government come in - to catch the perpetrators and thus set an example for others who might be contemplating similar offences.

Food adulteration is widespread because the focus of government attention is always the legitimate market - easy to go after and manipulate for private ends - and rarely the shady operators. Compare the number of food adulterators you can remember to have been caught and jailed to the frequency with which Kalimuddin Shams presides over supply crises - be it potatoes or be it palm oil. 

Other links which relate to the contents of this contribution:

1. Jaipur students show the way
2. Price uprising rocks market

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21. Oxygen cylinder in hospital empty, girl dies: The Statesman dated August 11, 1998: page 5.
STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE

ASANSOL, Aug. 10. - A 14-year-old girl, Kruna Mondal, died at Asansol sub-divisional hospital yesterday due to lack of oxygen.

Her father, Mr Shyamapada Mondal, a resident of Lalganj in Gourandi, said that her daughter was admitted to S D hospital around 9 a.m. with chest pain.

She was provided with an oxygen cylinder; a few hours later, she screamed for breathing [difficulties]. Hearing her screams, the hospital staff came and they found the cylinder was empty, he said.

The attending nurses asked for another cylinder but there was no stock, he alleged. The B O C unit of Asansol has been closed for shortage of oxygen cylinders for the last one week.

DISCUSSIONS:
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22. An accident waiting to happen: The Telegraph, dated August 30, 1998 : front page.
By our Special Correspondent

Calcutta, Aug. 29: Sheer providence saved the lives of 78 people yesterday, but aviation sources said this particular Airbus - 320 had nagging snags and the authorities did not pay heed: an accident was in the offing.

The Indian Airlines flight to Dibrugarh had a miraculous escape when the engine burst 20 seconds before take-off. The pilots jammed the brakes and the aircraft came to a halt in the grass. (See graphic)

Engineering experts in Indian Airlines disclosed that this aircraft had given trouble thrice in the recent past. Sources said 10 days ago, a pilot noticed a "master warning" in his cockpit. This meant that there was either a fire in the engine or some other snag had developed.

Not being able to trace the cause of the warning, the commander took no chance and activated the fire extinguisher built into the engine. He, however, landed safely.

Then on Tuesday, another pilot noticed that the left engines vibration reading, which indicates the state of the engine, was 5. This is the outer limit, the normal reading being 1 or 2. Aviation sources said the pilot put this down in his report.

"Once the vibration reading is 5, it means that the engine needs to be thoroughly overhauled. It has to be taken off the aircraft, inspected and the snag fixed," the source said.

However, the same aircraft flew again on Thursday. The vibration reading was 4.2.

"All the symptoms of a serious disease were there, but no one apparently took any notice. Yesterday, the aircraft took ill. It is just luck that the engine did not blow off after the pilots were committed to take off. There could have been a fire or portions of the engine could have struck the wings which carry fuel. The aircraft would have been a fireball," an Indian Airlines engineering expert said.

The Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has started an inquiry. Director, air safety of DGCA, P Shaw, said preliminary inquiries revealed that the "hot section" of the high-pressure turbine of the engine had failed. It had ejected out of the aircraft.

Shaw said other parts of the engine had fallen on the runway and they have been collected for tests. "Only when the test reports are out, will we have a clear picture of what really happened as we are getting conflicting stories now," he added.

DISCUSSIONS:
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23. Excerpts from 'Toxic gases threaten Belur Mutt': The Statesman, dated Aug. 11, 1998; page 3
Tarun Goswami
Statesman News Service

CALCUTTA, Aug 10. - Factory chimneys spewing several toxic gases are threatening the historic Sri Ramkrishna temple at Belur Mutt, headquarters of the Ramkrishna Mutt and Mission.

This has been revealed in a report prepared by the Lucknow-based National Research Laboratory foe Conservation of Cultural Property ... The purpose of the survey was to monitor air-quality at various locations at Belur Mutt. A team of environmentalists from the research laboratory stayed at the Mutt in August last year and conducted the tests. 

There has been deposition of black staining soot on the temple's surface. Soot can absorb gases which can harm the temple's surfaces. Tests carried out at the Mutt revealed that the suspended Particulate Matter was rising in areas surrounding the Mutt.

The levels of Sulphur Dioxide and Nitrogen Oxide were much more than the permissible limits. Rainwater collected at the temple showed it was acidic in nature. Fly ash deposition and cracked stones on the temple's surface have been seen. On the temple's northern side, the sandstone has become discolored ...

Brick kilns. foundries and smelters located near the Belur Mutt were responsible for for environmental pollution ... The brick kilns burns coal which generates Sulphur Dioxide and emits fly ash ... Foundries and smelters emit SPM. The experts suggested that to stem the environmental pollution, no new industrial units should be allowed in the temple's vicinity ...

Architecturally, the Dr. Ramakrishna temple has an important place among modern temples in the country. It incorporates the Buddha, Gopuram, Rajput and Moghul styles of architecture.

DISCUSSIONS: 
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