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..what angry flood victims told the touring ministerial duo:
Asim Dasgupta
Buddhadeb Bhatta-
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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 ...

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General News Reports: Vol 2 (10/98-11/98)
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If the article you wish to read has been archived (due to paucity of space), please contact us/mail to:sankalpatrust@hotmail.com
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Picture gallery on 'ROADS'
01 Most puja organizers flouted sound rule: PCB ;The Statesman, October 3, 1998, page 3.
Sound limiters in loudspeakers were not used, violating the Calcutta High Court directive in April that made sound limiters in microphones mandatory
02 Damaged roads disrupt life in North Bengal: The Statesman, Oct. 7, 1998, page 2.
Floods have wreaked havoc on both state and national highways; journey through Dooars to Alipurduar in Jalpaiguri district through Falakata has become a nightmare due to innumerable pot-holes and because the tarmac has been washed away. The journey from Birpara in Dooars to Alipurduar used to take one and a half hours; now it takes four hours, if the vehicles does not breakdown ...
03 Fifteen accidents in a month on the fast track: The Statesman, Oct. 8, 1998, front page.
The narrow stretches of the Kona Expressway, inaugurated a month ago, creates major accidents.
04 Man run over by a bus: The Statesman, Oct. 7, 1998, page 5.
A 45-year old man was run over by a private bus; more than 500 locals rushed to the spot and burnt the bus, before police and fire brigade men could arrive.
05 Police help sought in Salt Lake: The Statesman, Oct. 9, 1998, page 4.
The Marxist municipality has called for police help to tackle the sweeper's strike, allegedly being backed by the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, the BJP's trade union wing.
06 Basu in Malda: All this is worse than propaganda; Editorial in The Statesman, page 9 (circa September 18,1998).
Reviews the ineptness of the state's response to the flood, the politicisation of relief and the Basu administration's failure to eliminate it.
07 F-I project may be relocated: Residents oppose land acquisition; The Statesman, Oct. 10, 1998, page 4.
The state govenment has dropped the idea of making the country's first Grand Prix Formula 1 car racing track at Bantala, South 24-Parganas, following stiff resistance from local residents. It is learnt that the government is planning to relocate the track at Rajarhat in North 24 Parganas.
08 Lack of maintenance led to accident, says Iisco MD: The Statesman, dated Oct. 10, 1998
The IISCO MD has admitted that lack of maintenance led to yesterday's accident.
09 Goons beat up GRSE employees: The Statesman, dated Oct. 29, 1998.
Hoodlums at the behest of contract labourers beat up employees and senior officers of Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers
10 "Visva-Bharati neglected Amartya": The Statesman, Oct. 25, 1998, page 3.
Mrs Amita Sen, Prof Amartya Sen's mother, is bitterly miffed at Vishva-Bharati ...
11 Railway mail staff pilfer insured packets: The Statesman, Oct. 31, 1998, page3.
Reports the modus operandi of RMS employees who pilfer from registered and insured packets ...
12 Varghese comrades up in arms: Call to punish Naxalite Leader's "killers"; The Statesman, Nov. 4, 1998; front page.
A retired Kerala police constable, Mr Ramachandra Nair, has accused senior police officers threatened to kill him unless he shot the defenceless Varghese 28 years ago; one of them is the current DIG, Mr Lakhsmana.
13 Iran onions can be sold at Rs 20 a kg: FB ministers: The Statesman, Oct. 30, 1998, front page.
One ship carrying onions from Iran is arriving at Bombay port every day. Private operators are bringing a large quantity from there to Calcutta and selling at prohibitive prices. The Iranian onion is selling at Rs 17 a kg in Mumbai and it should not cost more than Rs 22 a kg in Calcutta. Two state departments have suggested that onions from Bombay can be brought either in railway wagons or though direct shipment. However, neither the Center nor the state government showed any urgency to check the spiraling prices. Now, the people's anger has reached boiling point and a deteriorating law and order situation is on the horizon.
14 Policemen using fake ration cards: audit survey: The Statesman, Nov. 7, 1998. page 6.
8,000 fake ration cards belonging to policemen were detected in Calcutta in 1995. Policemen enjoy a Rs 14.4 million annual subsidy on their rations. This year's audit in 7 ration stores reveals that police ration cards are misused not only in the city, but all over the state.
15 Fire-traps on the rooftop: Illegal constructions a hazard; The Statesman, Nov. 10, 1998, front page.
Rampant illegal rooftop homes are disasters waiting to happen.
16 House of cards: Waking up only after disaster strikes: Editorial in The Statesman.
Reviews the collapse of dillapidated buildings in Calcutta and the Corporation's perpetual and ineffective knee-jerk reactions
17 Rooftop fire-traps will be pulled down: CMC; The Statesman, Nov. 12, 1998, page 3.
Reports the knee-jerk reactions of government authorities to the news reports documented in # 15 and 16 above.
18 Private agencies to check fire safety; The Statesman, Nov. 12, 1998, page 3.
Buildings will be required to get safety certificates which will be issued jointly by the CMC and the fire brigade
19 Boy run over; mob stones buses, sets fire to one; The Statesman, Nov. 12, 1998, page 5.
A 14-year old schoolboy was run over and killed before his mother's eyes, by a private bus of route no. 234, as it tried to overtake another bus covering the same route at the Rashebhari-Sarat Bose Road intersection. The grievous incident was followed by another burst of mob violence; throwing of stones and bricks that broke the windscreens of several buses.
20 Child prostitution charge stings state; The Statesman, Nov. 12, 1998, page 3.
The state leads the country in the clandestine child prostitution trade. Murshidabad topped the list of districts in the state, followed by Birbhum, Bankura, Purulia, Jalpaiguri, Midnapore, Nadia, North 24-Parganas and Burdwan.
21 Baby switch case: police in a spot : The Statesman, August 11, 1998, page 4
The post mortem report of the baby, exhumed on 6 August from Muraripukur Hindu burial ground, has put the state police in a spot in the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital baby swap case; the age of the baby boy was two to four months, the age of the CMCH baby is much less. Mr Narayan Ghosh, dy. commissioner (detectivedept.) said he would ask whether a DNA test could be conducted ...  the "circumstantial evidence" indicated the baby exhumed might be of Mrs Keya Bhattacharya ...
Previous story: Baby's sex not known: The Statesman, July 25, 1998, page 3
22 Govt. owns police 'excesses' during anti-hoarding drive: 'Letter to the Editor', The Statesman, November 16, 1998, page 8.
There have been reports of policemen extorting money from innocent traders by threatening to seize their stocks, and harassing drivers of lorries as well ...
23 Too much power is a problem too!: The Statesman, November 20, 1998, page 2.
At a time when many pars of the country are plagued by acute power shortage, the Northeast 's main power generating agency is faced with the problem of abundance - evacuating the power it generates. "We cannot produce more in Kathalguri even though the gas turbine generating units have been commissioned and commercial production was expected by the first week of next month," rued the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Chairman-cum-MD, Mr P K Katoky ...
24 Protest against eve-teasing and get beaten up: The Statesman, November 20, 1998, page unknown.
Sumit Dutta, a student of R G Kar Medical college and hostel resident, was beaten up when he protested against his friends for teasing girls of the neighbourhood ...
25 CPI-M meet on eve-teasing disrupted: The Statesman, November 23, 1998, page 3.
Enraged locals stopped a CPI-M meeting that tried to justify the alleged incidents of eve-teasing by SFI activists, and the partisan role of the police, who have arrested the father and brothers of the teased girl, while no action has been taken against the erring SFI student activists
26 Book a youth hostel, stay in a hotel: The Statesman, November 15, 1998, page 3.
A team of students from Vidyasagar College for Women, Calcutta had to put up in a private hotel yesterday though they had booked rooms at the youth hostel here. The hostel was locked and the warden missing. The Youth Service official admitted that the hostel employees are absent and the hostel was in a bad state.
27 State hits out at Center for denying funds: The Statesman, November 16, 1998, page 3.
Left Front Ministers hit out at the Centre for not releasing "promised funds" for development projects in the state, and for "deliberately" delaying the Rs 1,600 crore megacity project undertaken in 1993. Mr Asim Dasgupta also joined in the attack saying "The Centre takes away nearly Rs 5,000 crore in taxes, and an identical sum in the form of foreign exchange from the state. Yet when it comes to releasing funds for development projects here, they offer us a meagre sum ...?
28 Nameless roads & numberless houses: The Statesman, November 16, 1998, page 3.
Reports that most houses in some of the "added areas" of Howrah are numberless - they haven't got holding numbers. "Citizens" of thiese added areas face curious problems ... there are families who have lost marriage proposals for their daughters because the prospective groom's families couldn't locate their houses. "first get an address, and then worry about dowry," is the latest joke. These areas were added in 1984 ... Left political wisdom thought it would see them through the civic polls. But 14 years is a long time. This year only four of seven LF candidates expect to retain their seats.
29 Two Asansol houses looted: The Statesman, November 24, 1998.
Reports that four people were injured by armed dacoits who looted two houses at Rupnarayanpur late last night. The dacoits looted ornaments worth Rs 75,000, Rs 5,000 in cash, a tape recorder and a scooter. Police today found the scooter abandoned near the Bengal-Bihar border.
30 Foreign trips by state ministers, MLAs under scrutiny: The Statesman, November 25, 1998, front page.
The Accountant General's office has raised questions on irregularities in 43 foreign trips made by the chief minister (UK, South Africa, Bangladesh), Mr Asim Dasgupta (Bangladesh, Boston via London); Mr Budhhadev Bhattacharya (UK, Bangladesh), Bhutan, Vietnam); Mr subhas Chakraborty (Nepal), the LF chief whip, deputy speaker, leader of the opposition, and several ministers. The matter has created a sensation among officials at Writers' Buildings. In some cases, travel allowances were held back, sometimes for as long as a year, although trips were postponed. In others, TA was claimed for whole journey although it was cut short. While filing expenditure statements, details and overstay reasons were not mentioned. Some ministers overstepped limits. Many did not file expenditure statements within the stipulated 60 days of return, raising questions on what could have prompted them to  hold back the money.
31 Sunshine fades in 2 years: The Statesman, November 25, 1998, page 3.
Hawkers have returned to Hatibagan ...
32 LF to grill Sankar on tariff hike: The Statesman, December 1, 1998, front page.
A meeting of the Left Front Committee today decided to call Mr Sankar Sen, power minister, to seek an explanation for the recent hike in power tariff in the city. Electricity bills had nearly doubled since the hike. The decision to grill Mr Sen comes against the backdrop of a reported bitter difference of opinion between the minister and Jyoti Basu on the tariff and CESC surcharge - a quarrel in which Mr Sen is learnt to have the sympathies of a section of his colleaugues. The chief minister was not present at today's meeting.
33 Saved from prostitution: The Statesman, October 18, 1998, page 5.
Reports that Burtolla police rescued a minor girl from the Sonagachi area after she was sold off to a brothel by one Basanti Mondol. Police said the girl, a resident of Imprakash Lane, met Basanti Mondol in Sealdah where she was looking for work. Basanti then lured her to Sonagachi and sold her off. Police have arrested Basanti.
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General News Reports: Vol 2 (10/98-11/98)

Picture gallery on 'ROADS' ; courtesy 'The Statesman, Calcutta'.
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A yawning gap between two concrete slabs on Sukanta Setu
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A broken railing on a bridge near Matiagara, Siliguri
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A portion of a road connecting Berhampore and Debaipur has been washed away by the Padma.
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A stretch of Colootola Street, where the road has caved in, has remained unattended to for the past few months.

01. Most puja organizers flouted sound rule: PCB: ; The Statesman, October 4, 1998, page 3.

CALCUTTA, Oct. 3. - Most puja organizers in the city and districts did not use sound limiters in loudspeakers, a West Bengal Pollution Control Board survey has revealed. They have also violated the Calcutta High Court directive given in April that made the use of sound limiters in microphones mandatory. The court had directed that users of microphones should install sound regulating devices available form either WEBEL or the WBPCB. Inquiries revealed that there were few takers for these devices.

Mr A Bandyopadhyay, Deputy General Manager of WEBEL, said a distributor had taken 2,500 sound limiters, but he was not sure whether the devices were sold to electricians or puja committees. There were 5,000 sound limiters lying in "finished condition" in WEBEL's godown but there were no buyers. New devices, he said, would only be made after demands were placed. PCB officials said only 20 limiters had so far been sold. The device costs Rs 1,500 each.

Asked about the probable punitive actions against puja organizers who flouted the High Court order, Mr K S Ramasubban, member secretary of the WBPCB said he had written to the city police chief on the matter. While the PCB officials admitterd that the noise pollution caused by the Puja organizers was much less compared to the previous years, the board had received more than 150 complaints ... many from residents of Behala, Kasba and Baranagar. 

PCB officials expressed their dissatisfaction over the police inaction. They said the police authorities were indifferent towards enforcing the court directive though the state environment minister, Mr Manab Mukherjee, dicussed the issue with the director-general of police and the Commissioner of Calcutta Police two weeks ago.

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03. Fifteen accidents in a month on the fast track: The Statesman, Oct. 8, 1998, page 2

HOWRAH, Oct 7. - When it was inaugurated a month ago, it was touted as the fast track to a new millenium. Now, at least four persons who used the Kona Expressway will not see the new millenium.

There have been at least 15 accidents, many of them major ones, since the expressway opened on September 5. The district police are alarmed enough to say it will put up speed breakers and warning lights to warn motorists and other users. Once the speed-breakers are installed, this will be an expressway in name only.

Local people say seven have died, higher than the official figure. In all 15 people have been injured. Police say accidents occur because large stretches of the road - in Jagacha and Chatterjeehat areas - are far too narrow for speeding vehicles. The expressway connects Vidyasagar Setu to National Highway 6.

Police say one person was killed and two critically injured - with serious injuries - following a head-on collision between a van and a car on September 10. Shyam Shaw, a pedestrian, was run over and killed by a speeding car on September 29. Two others - a cyclist and a two-wheeler rider - died after being run over by a bus. 

There have ben some fortutious misses too. Six people were seriously injured in a head-on collision between a van and a minibus near Domjur thana. Police say most of the accidents occur on the stretch between the overbridge at Santragachi station and Belpool areas because it is here that the expressway narrows down. An expressway should have at least four lanes, but a major portion of this 7.5 km long road has only two lanes.

Mr Surajeet Kar Purkayastha, superintendent of police, Howrah, said tha several small speed breakers and blinker lights will be put up at the expressay's intersections to avoid accidents. Police also plan to to carry out an awareness campaign among residents of adjacent areas, Mr Kar Purkayastha said. No one will be allowed to sit on the expressway's culverts, he added.

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05. Police help sought in Salt Lake; The Statesman, September 12, 1998; page 5.

CALCUTTA, Sept. 28. - A Marxist municipality has run into Indian-Leninist methods, but the stink is more than ideological as Salt Lake copes with mounds of garbage that aren't being cleared. Now the municipality has called for police help following an indefinite strike call by more than 100 sweepers.

At a meeting called by municipal authorities yesterday, the police were urged to ensure protection to municipal staff and contractors, who are being asked to supervise garbage clearence. The fear is that the striking sweepers, said to be agitated and more importantly backed by a political party, will resist these efforts. The police have been asked to impose Section 144 on Salt Lake if resistance from the sweepers becomes unmanageable. A control room has been set up to attend to complaints relating to garbage.

The sweepers are demanding permanent jobs with the municipality and salaries of Rs 2,000 each. According to municipal officers, the demand can't be met as sweepers are on the payroll of contractors. The contractors are appointed by the municipality to supervise garbage disposal. A member of the municipality's Chairman-in-council said: "We are told that the sweepers are being backed by the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, BJP's trade union wing."

The municipality decided yesterday garbage trucks will move into the localities, collect refuse from the vats and dump it in Mollarbheri.

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06. Basu in Malda:All this is worse than propaganda: Editorial in The Statesman on page 9 (circa September 18,1998).
It took about a week for Jyoti Basu to reverse his opinion that an invasion of VIPs only serves to impede relief operations. Now his visit is apparently devoid of "propaganda" and will help step up relief and rehabilitation as the waters are beginning to recede. The implication is two-fold: first, that the district administration is so inept that it needs the commanding presence of the chief minister to do its duty; and second, that his two senior ministers, Buddhadev Bhattacharya and Ashim Dasgupta, obviously made no impression on the officials. The conclusions are unflattering. It also leaves room for doubt on whether the Central grant of around Rs 6.05 billion demanded will be used to relieve the misery of the people or become the bone of contention among rival Left partners and panchayat bosses deciding where relief should go depending on the political composition of the victims.

The more pertinent question is whether Basu felt obliged to visit North Bengal because the mess his party has made might result in political problems in future. Taking a quick look at rehabilitation work could help rehabilitate discredited party activists. There may also have been pressure from Alimuddin Street. He discovered the stark reality himself. Which was that the starving population was so incensed that they defied party cadres and security men and gave the chief minister the true message. Basu responded by revamping the flood relief committee - for what it was worth. The real question is whether persistent human failures to tackle annuall scourges has any chance of being eliminated and whether the administration has realized once and for all that relief has nothing to do with politics. Mamata Banerjee, by conrast, showed an exquisite sense of timing - as she did during the tornado in Midnapore - the Congress also plans to draw some mileage from Sonia Gandhi's impending tour. The fine distinction that Basu draws between VIP visits during the deluge and those - like his - has some merit but this is lost in political calculations of how relief will be handled. We come straight back to the politics of relief and the need to eliminate it. Any takers?

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08. Lack of maintenance led to accident, says IISCO MD; The Statesman, Oct. 10, 1998, page 4.

BURNPUR, Oct. 10. - The Indian Iron and Steel Company Ltd has admitted that lack of maintenance led to yesterday's accident. The workers alleged that the unit had become accident-prone because the equipment hadn't been maintained properly for the past 50 years.

Yesterday, two people died and seven others fell seriously ill after inhaling carbon monoxide following a leak in a gas pipe near No 4 furnace. S K Kant (26), a mechanical engineer and Sarman Singh (47), a foreman, died at the IISCO hospital. Mr S P Banerjee, an assistant general manager and Mr K P Mondal, a senior manager, are still in hospital. The IISCO management announced that compensation will be paid to the injured and families of the deceased.

Ms G S Garcha, Managing Director, IISCO, said today that lack of maintenance led to yesterday's accident. A 3-member committee headed by the General Manager (Safety), Mr S Roy, has been set up to probe into the accident.

IISCO officials said out of the four blast furnaces. the first and the second were shut down a long time ago. The third and fourth furnaces were in operation. The fourth furnace was installed in 1958. A number of basic instruments were installed in the thirties. Since then IISCO was facing a severe funds crunch and had no money to renovate the aging equipment. Five rolling mills were installed between 1939 and 1960 and all of them needed overhauling. Similarly for the seven open hearth furnaces commissioned between 1938 and 1958. "The 10 12 km long gas pipelines have been neglected. These were installed 50 years ago and a leak could mean death of workers," an official said.

Mr Chandrasekhar Mukherjee, CITU leader and Chairman - Save IISCO Committee - alleged that 12 people were killed in the past one year due to lack of safety. He demanded Rs 5 billion to save IISCO, which employs 26,800 people.

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09. Goons beat up GRSE employees: The Statesman, dated Oct. 29, 1998, front page.

CALCUTTA, Oct. 28. - Some employees and officers of Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers were beaten up by hoodlums at Garden Reach today. GRSE authorities had reportedly refused to go by the goons' diktats on recruitment of contract labourers and their entry and exit to and from the factory.

The GRSE chairman, Mr R B Vora and the director (Shihbuilding), Mr J S Brar, were not allowed to enter their offices in the morning. Even later in the day, they had to take a roundabout route to reach their chambers.The GRSE financial director too was manhandled yesterday by the hoodlums of the area.

The chief minister, Mr Jyoti Basu told the Statesman tonight: "I have asked the chief secretary to take steps and ensure adequate police protection at Garden Reach. Initially I didn't know about the incident but was informed later. Some people have to be arrested. I am told the the police are maintaining a vigil in the area".

Officers coming to work in the morning were forced out of their cars, beaten up, threatened at gun-point and told not to try and enter GRSE office in future. Mr S P Saha, a GRSE manager sustained injuries. Mr R Chattoraj, a deputy general manager, was kicked, hit on the back and thrown on the road.

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10. "Visva-Bharati neglected Amartya": The Statesman, dated Oct. 25, 1998, page 3.

SANTINIKETAN, Oct.24. - Mrs Amita Sen today hit out at Visva Bharati as the university gets set to roll out the red carpet for her Nobel laureate son, due here in December-end.

"You will find everything in Visva Bharati News save perhaps Amartya Sen. Show me a single entry where it made even a passing reference to his achievements," she told The Statesman. This was no slander against the institution that cradled her and her son and also gave a very respectable berth to her father. Things, however, turned out to be different after Tagore's death. "But truth, plain truth, must be told. I've nothing to hide," she bitterly recalled. She said her father, Pandit Kshitimohan Sen, a scholar of astounding ability, was one of the the closest associates of Gurudev, Still, he was thrown out of his cubicle in the library he was occupying for research work, immediately after his retirement. This was the greatest shock of his life, which he couldn't overcome till death, she recounted.

"As for Amartya, Santiniketan is a life-long affair. He was born, grew up, studied here. As he topped the I Sc merit list, he was of course patted as having brought back some old glories of Visva Bharati ... but he finally decided to opt out," the 87-year old mother rued. "He found Calcutta academically more congenial. If I'm not mistaken, Presidency College (Calcutta) and Trinity College (Cambridge) played a much bigger role in making Amartya what he became later in life," she pointed out.

Mrs Sen's views seem corroborated by the Professor's official biodata, updated recently. Although he did his entire schooling and two years in college at Visva Bharati, it finds no place in the data sheet. Visva Bharati had awarded him Deshikottama (Honorary D. Litt.) in 1983. "But it was due mainly at the instance of the then Vice-Chancellor, Professor Amlan Datta, who has had a great fascination for Amartya," she said. "Still, he (Professor Sen) never disobliged his alma mater. He had responded whenever they called him, despite his heavy schedule elsewhere. "I won't be surprised if this might have prompted them to take him for granted," she said.

She, however, has no remorse. These are the ways of life. "I've taken it in my stride. And I hope Amartya would also take it easy. After all, Santiniketan is so close to his heart".

"Influence? Well, he grew up in the shadow of his grandfather, Kshitimohan Sen, the single most influencing factor in his life. He got two things from him - the philosophical bent of mind and the broad humanism he (Kshitimohan Sen) cultivated all his life," Mrs Sen said. She also remembered Amiya Kumar Dasgupta. Had he not advised the boy to switch over to Economics, he would have ended up a scientist. I don't know if it could still have brough him the Nobel Prize."

The parents never thought he would make such a grade later. After his I Sc, his father, Asutosh Sen said it looked his son had shown up well. "Keep an eye over the boy," he told Mrs Sen. "And that was all. He went back to his administrative duties in Delhi and I entered the kitchen to do my daily chores as ever. We were not as much concerned about children in those days as parents are now. Amartya grew up like a tree in the backyard, alone, under the open sky," she remarked.

Mrs Sen admits she feels more at home with Tagore as a Nobel laureate. She enjoys his wonderful creations, literature, songs and paintings. "Economics, however, is not my cup of tea. But I'm told Amartya's is just not dry abstraction. It has a human face. I wish it would help the people concerned to better understand human miseries," she hoped.

With curious visitors piling up by the hour and the telephone buzzing almost non-stop, the old woman finds it hard to cope with the Nobel aftermath. "Nobel is noble indeed! But it has its disadvantages as well. It's perhaps easier to win the prize, rather than act as a Nobel laureate's mother," she burst into a fit of laughter as she strode back into her bedroom.

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11. Railway mail staff pilfer insured packets: The Statesman, Oct. 31, 1998, page 3.

CALCUTTA, Oct. 30. - Don't be surprised if you open your insured and registered packet and find half the contents missing. Aracket in pilfering insured and registered articles in the Railway Mail Service along the Sealdah-Bongaon and Sealdah- Ranaghat routes was uncovered recently following an investigation by the postal vigilance department. Another racket has also been exposed: some postal staff replace the jute mail bags with cheap polythene bags and sel the jute bags.

Two RMS employees have been suspended, and departmental proceedings have been started against another after they were caught cutting through bags and taking out insured packets.The entire operation is carried out on trains after the mail has been released from Sealdah RMS Office. RMS employees first cut through the mail bag which is made of either jute or polythene. Then they take out the registry bag, a smaller blue one made of fabric, and cut it open. The mail is kept inside this smaller bag. Registered and insured articles are kept within enveloped, sealed with either lac or gum. The lac is either prised open with razors or is molten ober a lighter. The gummed envelopes are held over steam to get them open; vendors selling tea inside the trains help the postal employees; for a price, of course. Replacing the empty envelope is easier: it is resealed and put into the registry bag. The registry bag is then put back into the bigger mail bag, which is similarly sealed.

Members of the vigilance teams, who made surprise inspections, said they discovered a nexus between some RMS employees and local criminals.These criminals have access to the section of the compartment which is cordoned off for the safe-keeping of the RMS articles. Non-RMS staff are not supposed to go there.

Two of the inspections have yielded results. The first was carried out in the RMS compartment of a train on the Sealdah-Bongaon route. The vigilance team boarded the train at Madhyamgram and saw some letters. meant for the Basirhat Post Office, lying outside the registry bag. Another registry bag, supposed to be inside the mail bag, was lying outside. One of the insured envelopes had been prised open. It had not been re-sealed yet; the vigilance team had taken the two RMS men by surprise. Both the men - one a mail-guard and the other, a van-peon - have been suspended. They are now awaiting a charge-sheet.

The second successful surprise check was also made on the Sealda--Bongaon route.The modus operandi was the same. The pilferage had occurred before the vigilance officials boarded the train. But the superimposed seal on one of the bags gave the RMS emplyee away. "The seal, freshly applied, was yet to crystallize," a member of the vigilance team said. "Practice has allowed the RMS staff to perfect their art," a senior postal department official told The Statesman. "They can now finish their job by the time the train reaches Dum Dum Cantonment, about 15 minutes from Sealdah."

The lone RMS employee caught during the this inspection had already replaced the the costly jute mail bags with cheaper polythene bags. The jute bags find their way to markets in the Barasat area, postal officials say.

Another 'notorious' section, postal sources say, is the "Sealdah-Ranaghat" section. A number of Unit Trust of India cheques have been lost on this route over the past few days, but no one has been caught yet.

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12. Varghese comrades up in arms: Call to punish Naxalite Leader's "killers": The Statesman, November 4, 1998, front page.
THIRUVANTHAPURAM, Nov. 3. - Twenty eight years after his death, a Naxalite leader has reunited former followers for action - this time overground.

Recent investigations of how police brutally murdered the legendary Varghese has also spurred human rights groups and noted jurists to join his former comrades' demand for justice. Kerala police had claimed in February 1970 that it shot Varghese in an encounter. Now, a retired police constable has confessed that the Naxalite leader was captured, blind-folded and shot in the jungles of Tirunelli.

Haunted: Nair speaks of his nightmare

Mr Ramachandran Nair says it was he who was forced to carry out the order - under threat of death from superiors. The confession galvanized former Naxalite leaders, such as Mr A Vasu and Mr K Venu who quit politics decades ago. They have come together again and demanded that those who ordered the killing be punished. The leaders have called a convention at Allepuzha to look into ways of forming a fourth front in state politics - setting an alternative Marxist agenda on the path of parliamentary politics. They have decidedy7 to revive all cases torture and killing of Naxalites.

The Varghese murder has also become a focal point of the human rights movement in Kerala. The act puts to shame even the Hitler regime, Mr Justice Krishna Iyer has said, demanding that the case be reopened and none of the guilty - whether politician or policeman - be spared.

Many new cases, too, have been filed, including one by Varghese's brother, Mr Thomas.

Mr Nair has declared he is willing to "suffer the punishment I deserve". But some of his former superiors must be spending sleepless nights, their hopes of a blissful retirement ebbing with every passing day. The retired constable has in various interviews named some senior police officers who threatened him after he objected to the plan of shooting a defenceless Varghese. One of them is the current DIG, Mr Lakshmana.

The CPI's Achuta Menon was Chief Minister when the big Naxalite hunt of 1970 was on. The Home Minister was the Muslim League's C H Mohammad Koya, who later became Chief Minister for a few days. Even the Naxalite leaders do not allege that Mr Achuta Menon had direct knowledge of how Varghese was murdered; but many believe that Mr Koya had given the go-ahead to "terminate" him.

The current chief minister, Mr E K Nayanar, whose party CPI(M) was then in the opposition, had at first ruled out reopening the 28-year old case. But now the ruling party has shifted its position and left the issue to be settled by the courts.

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15. Fire-traps on the rooftop: Illegal constructions a hazard: The Statesman, Nov. 10, 1998, front page.

CALCUTTA, Nov. 9 - Illegal rooftop homes are disasters waiting to happen in the city's commercial district. Should a fire of the sort that destroyed offices in the Mackinon Mackenzie building reach the roof of any of these buildings, many lives will be lost. The authorites know, and so do those living and working in these buildings. But nobody will act.

Even the Mackinon Mackenzie building has its share of illegal rooftop structures. There are rooms where families stay, light fires and cook. And if there is anything that stands between residents and disaster, it is a Shiva temple, also illegal, on the rooftop. Municipal authorities are aware of the presence of these structures. From time to time they announce their resolve to pull down illegal constructions. Yet within hailing distance of Writers' Buildings, in the BBD Bagh-Burrabazar area, these structures sneer at the government which shall not act.

Understandably, families living in these structures view government announcements with skepticism, even contempt. "We know that neither the police nor corporation can drive us out. We pay regular rent to the dadas (local toughs) and they have assured that no one can tiuch us," said a person aged about 40 whose father took three rooms on rent on the roof of Ganesh Market on Old China Bazar Street 10 years ago. The man does not want to be named, nor will he name the dada. But about one thing he is clear - his dada has more influence over municipal policy than the chief minister or the municipal affairs minister.

A cluster of rooms exist on the roof of Bhutaria Bhavan on Pageapatti and atop a commercial building at 16 Netaji Subhas Road. The families occupying the rooms built illegally at both place sell plastic products and chemicals. Huge plastic containers storing chemicals have been placed on the roof. If a fire breaks out, lives will be lost and buildings razed. The caretakers of both buildings refused to comment.

Rooms have come up on the roof of several buildings on Monoharipatti and Rajakatra. Several rooms have been constructed on the open space situated at the back of Nandan Market. They have been let out. A row of unauthorized rooms has been set up on the roof of P-11 New Howrah Bridge Approach Road. Inquiries reveal that a gang of youths, most of whom are members of a local wrestling club, are engaged in constructing and letting out rooms. A person interested in occupying the space has to pay a salami of between Rs 20,000 and Rs 100,000 - depending on the size and the number of rooms. The size of the rooms vary from 75 sq ft to 200 sq ft. The monthly rent is between Rs 250 and Rs 500 ...

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16. House of cards: Waking up only after disaster strikes: Editorial in The Statesman.
The collapse of a dilapidated building in a congested area of north Calcutta was a disaster waiting to happen. Three lives were lost and another suffered grievous injuries bfore the civic authorities were stirred into action. Action follows tragedy. never precedes it; no wonder when the corporation's records revealed that there are nearly 800 buildings notified as condemned but which are still inhabited. It does no good to shift responsibility; it is clearly a case of neglect. Yet the CMC Act of 1980 empowers the Corporation to take whatever steps are necessary to repair or, in extreme cases, demolish buildings that are unsafe. It is pointless to expect house owners getting ridiculously low rents from old structures and burdened with civic taxes without the means to pay them to repair houses when they can neither raise rents nor seek new tenants. It is even less reasonable to expect tenants to undertake repairs. In the circumstances, it is the responsibility of corporation inspectors to ensure that condemned buildings are vacated, if necessary by force.The vicious circle of the hapless landlord, the impoverished tenant and callous civic administration can only result in the loss of more lives.

The Corporation cannot expect to redeem itself by setting up a five-member committee under the City Architect. There is a Building Department that ought to be already on the job of identifying unsafe buildings and taking prompt action. But it is no secret that a section of the staff in this department succumbs to temptations while unscrupulous promoters and their agents run amuck. Illegal constructions abound in areas in the grip of a certain kind of promoter while the task of protecting citizens from tragedies in old localities is neglected. The Municipal Commissioner, Mr Asim Burman, is known to be a hard taskmaster when it comes to fixing responsibility. He can make amends for what has happened by making sure that corruption and neglect do not come in the way of work that remains to be done - as speedily as possible.

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17. Rooftop fire-traps will be pulled down: CMC The Statesman, Nov. 12, 1998, page 3.

CALCUTTA, Nov. 11. - A special team will be set up to identify illegal constructions on the tops of commercial buildings in BBD Bagh and Burrabazar, the municipal commissioner said today. Mr Asim Burman's announcement came a day after the Statesman published a report, with photographs, on rooms illegally built on roofs ...

Mr Burman asserted that the rooms would be pulled down, but could not specify the date from which the team will begin its on-the-spot survey.

The CMC and police are meanwhile blaming each other for the delay in demolishing illegal constructions in various parts of the city. Senior officers of the building department said police had failed to inform the CMC about illegal constructions in the various parts of the city, though they had been told to do so. But Mr Sujay Chakraborty, additional commissioner of police (now acting commissioner) said it was impossible to go around the city spotting illegal constructions. Officers at local police stations already had their hands full. Police said they have always sent forces to help the CMC whenever it pulled down illegal constructions.

Meanwhile the state fire services officials said steps should be taken immediately to pull down illegal cpnstructions on rooftops. In most of the old commercial buildings, the electrical wiring was in very bad shape, and a short circuit could cause a major fire anywhere at any moment. Besides, explosive materials are stored without licence on roofs of many commercial buildings, turning them into virtual fire-traps ...

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18. Private agencies to check fire safety: The Statesman, Nov. 12, 1998, page 3.

CALCUTTA, Nov. 11. - The state municipal affairs department will hire private agencies to scrutinize fire-fighting facilities in old highrises and factories in and around the city. The buildings will be required to get safety certificates from these agencies every year.

About a year ago, the department had asked the government to create the post of a director-general (fire) because there had been so many fires in the city. The plan is lying with the finance department, a senior official said. At present, a committee of state fire services officials visits commercial buildings and old highrises to review the safety standards. Though it was decided in 1996 that fire brigade officers would visit these buildings every year, this wasn't followed in practice, the official said. "Safety rules have been implemented in only a few cases. Fast food is cooked in the corridors of many commercial complexes and government offices, and few buildings have underground water reservoirs or high-pressure water outlets". Plans for new buildings, however, are not cleared if they do not meet the standards of fire safety, he said. "We are more concerned about old structures".

CMC Meeting: The next mayor-in-council meeting is likely to discuss a proposal on fitness certificates for buildings. The certificate will be issued jointly by the CMC and the fire brigade, a building department official said.

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20. Child prostitution charge stings state: The Statesman, Nov. 12, 1998, page 3.

CALCUTTA, Nov. 11. - The state government has formed a high level committee to probe child prostitution following a report that the state leads the country in the clandestine trade. The state home department had formed the committee comprising officials of the Criminal Investigation Department and led by the Inspector General of Police, Mr T A Khan, to investigate the cases of child prostituion in the state. The committe would submit its report to the Home (police) Minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharya at the earliest.

The director of the Center of Concern for Child Labour, Mr Joseph Gathia, in his book "Child Prostitution in India", published by the National Human Rights Commission, has said child prostituion has been alarmingly thriving in five states including West Bengal. He said that Murshidabad topped the list of districts in the state, followed by Birbhum, Bankura, Purulia, Jalpaiguri, Midnapore, Nadia, North 24-Parganas and Burdwan. The other four states where child prostituion had risen alarmingly were Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh. The sources said the state government had taken a serious view of the report and Mr Bhattacharya convened a high level meeting to discuss the issue ...

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22. Govt owns police 'excesses' during anti-hoarding drive: 'Letter to the Editor', The Statesman, November 16, 1998; page 8.

CALCUTTA, Oct. 26. - The State government today admitted "excesses" by police during the drive against hoarders of essential commodities. There have been reports of policemen extorting money from innocent traders by threatening to seize their stocks. Drivers of lorries carrying essential goods too are being harassed, the state's food department has learnt. The department's officials virtually admitted the allegations, saying the drive against price-rise would come to nought if police are given a free-hand.

Even the state Cabinet and police top brass - who also admit the commission of excesses - are worried. The home (police) minister, Mr Buddhadev Bhattacharya and the finance minister, Mr Ashim Dasgupta, have both been told about the situation. State police authorities have reportedly been directed to restrain the erring policemen.

The government fears that the traders may hit back with a strike, further hurting the consumer whoo is reeling under the already erratic supply of essential goods. It is also worried that the police excesses would hand the opposition another stick to beat the government with. The Left Front government has been facing criticism for failing to curb the prices, though it has put the blame on the center, accusing it of causing an artificial scarcity by holding back supplies to the states.

There is also concern over a lack or coordination between police the police, civic authorities and officials of the departments involved in the drive against hoarding of onions, potatoes, mustard oil, etc., and the unauthorized transport of essentials across state boundaries. Certain food department officials, too, have reportedly been found to be lackadaisical.

Another thing worrying the government is the absence of any "local civil administration" (unlike in the districts, where a district administration exists) which could keep a check on police excesses. This, it feels, is letting guilty policemen go scot-free.

The government is now wondering how best to go about checking the price rise. For all that, it claims that ever since the raids on hoarders began, the prices of goods such as onions, potatoes and mustard oil have been falling. The price of onion fell to Rs 25 a kg today - the lowest since prices had begun spiralling.

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24. Protest against eve-teasing and get beaten up: The Statesman, November 20, 1998, page unknown.

CALCUTTA, Nov. 19. - This is what happens if you protest against your friends teasing girls of the neighbourhood, where your hostel is located: you are beaten up and sent to hospital. That is what happened to Sumit Dutta, a student of R G Kar Medical College. Now he is undergoing treatment at the same hospital where he studies medicine.

Over the past few days, inmates of the Manicktala hostel of the college have been teasing girls of the locality, off APC Ray Road nar Manicktala crossing, officials in the local police station said. Their enthusiasm peaked over the first half of this week and coincided with the general enthusiasm about the meteor shower: stones were thrown at girls waiting to see the meteor show from a nearby meteor roof on Monday night. When the girls protested, they were told that "meteors" had hit them, local residents alleged today.

The residents did not take it lying down. They gheraoed the hostel on Tuesday night. Yesterday, they entered the hostel, controlled by SFI [the student's wing of the CPI(M)] students, and roughed up those they thought were the real culprits.

Sumit apparently committed another "mistake" yesterday. Last evening, during an informal meeting between hostek inmates, he protested against eve-teasing. He told them that if the local people had erred in entering the hostel and assaulting students, so had the students in teasing the local girls. That was enough for the other inmates to vent their pent-up ire. He was beaten up and had to be admitted to hospital.

Residents of the area submitted a deoutation at the Amherst Street police station this evening, demanding police action against the culprits. "They should not be left alone just because they belong to a students union," one of the residents told The Statesman.

The police visited the hostel last night and interrogated some students. Students, however, said those interrogated had nothing to do with the regular incidents of eve-teasing. "rather, they had joined Sumit in protesting against the others," they said.

Police admitted receiving complaints, both - from local people against the eve-teasing students and from students against the retaliation by local people. The complaints were being looked into, senior officials at Labazaar said.

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25. CPI-M meet on eve-teasing disrupted: The Statesman, November 23, 1998, page 3.

CALCUTTA, Nov. 22. - A CPI-M meeting - trying to justify the alleged incidents of eve-teasing by SFI activists of the Manicktala Medical College Boys Hostel - was disrupted by local people yesterday evening. Enraged locals shouted slogans and stopped the meeting midway after a local CPI-M leader had just finished saying : "We had done the same thing (eve-teasing) when we were children."

The timely intervention of the police brought things under control, as a heated altercation among residents and CPI-M workers threatened to go out of hand. Later, a police team escorted the SFI activists to safety. Although the situation was peaceful today, tension is still palpable in the area, adjoining the hostel.

Local residents alleged that SFI activists were pressurising them to withdraw the FIR filed with the local police station, related to the eve-teasing incident. Most of the youths of the area have fled, fearing arrests. Eight local residents were arrested by the Amherst Street police on the basis of the FIR filed by the SFI activists, who were roughed up earlier. Prominent among those arrested were the father and the brother of one of the girls, allegedly teased by the SFI activists.

"It is very unfortunate that the police have taken such a strange stand and have arrested the harassed instead of the teasers," said Mr Subrata Mukherjee, a local resident. Till date, the attackers of Sumit Datta and the eve-teasers - all alleged SFI activists - have not been arrested.

Meanwhile, the state secretary of the Medical Service Center, Dr Anup Maiti, condemned the incidents. "I condemn the incident of eve-teasing at Manicktala by a few SFI-activists-cum-medical students which prepared the ground for the local people to retaliate, albeit unwarranted," Dr Maiti said. "It is most unfortunate that the local police are playing a partisan role and have arrested the father and brothers of the teased girl, while no action has been taken against the erring SFI students who teased local girls on 17 November and later beat up Sumit Datta," he said.

A fact-finding team of the MSC also visited the hostel yesterday. The R G Kar Medical College unit of the SFI has strongly condemned reports that SFI activists had teased local girls. A SFI spokesman said, "... the DSO activists in collusion with local residents had beaten up SFI activists without any reason and blamed the SFI instead."

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31. Sunshine fades in 2 years: The Statesman, November 25, 1998, page 3.

CALCUTTA, Nov. 24. -
Place: Hatibagan.
Time : 2:30 pm.
Scene: Wicker baskets and polythene sheets all over the 4-ft wide pavement, leaving narrow, toe-hold gaps for the customers.The hawkers are selling almost everything, from cosmetics and women's undergarments to utensils.

Of course, the customers are free to stand on the edge of the road, with traffic whizzing dangerously past them - as they bargain with the hawkers. It seems hard to believe that exactly two years ago - on 24 November 1996 - the state govt. and the CMC's demolition squad had swept Hatibagan clean of hawkers. In a midnight crackdown dubbed "operation Sunshine", about 2,500 stall in the area were flattened, the wares were squashed or seized, and the sellers were evicted.

Today, the hawkers are back making brisk business. And so, in a way, ae their hounders. "Everyday, we are harassed by police and corporation staff. They come often, sometimes three times a day. We manage to survive by slipping the guard on duty a 50-rupee note," says Jitendranath Das, who began selling here 25 years ago.

Scenes at the other 21 streets - part of the government's "hawker-free zones" - are similar. Melmoware crockery, slippers, greeting cards, stationary are piled on the narrow pavements along Brabourne Road leaving just a small gap for passers-by.

Here too the difference is that the wooden racks and stalls have been replaced by polythene sheets and baskets - a concession to the governemtn's order that no "permanent structure" would be allowed on the 22 "hawker-free" streets.

The method, too, is the same. Chhotu, a hawker, explained: "You pay the constable Rs 100, and he will not bother you for the whole day." Rashid nodded in agreement. Yet, ther Burrabazar Police Station is just a stone's throw away. The story is the same at Gariahat Road, Strand Road, College Street, Amherst Street, A J C Road, APC Road and Lenin Sarani - the hawker's run their business right in front of the police's eyes.

The authorities say they are trying their best to keep the hawkers off the road. If the governemnt has not kept its promise to the public, it has treated the hawkers the same way. Very little has been done to rehabilitate them, though the government had promised to complete the task before the pujas last year ... Some hawkers claim that they have already paid the government one instalment towards setting up their stalls at the planned permanent hawking grounds. Yet the project has not even begun.

That's why the hawkers are back on the pavements.

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