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..what angry flood victims told the touring ministerial duo:
Asim Dasgupta
and
Buddhadeb Bhatta-
charya
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Answer: 'MINISTERS!'
'STOP WASTING FUEL, HAND US THE MONEY'
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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 3 (since 12/98)
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If the article you wish to read has been archived (due to paucity of space), please contact us/mail to:sankalpatrust@hotmail.com
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SYNOPSIS OF CONTRIBUTIONS:
(Click link to see the full contribution)
001 Gardens planned on VIP Road to prevent littering: The Statesman, dated December 02, 1998; page 3 
Jyoti Basu has requested the PWD to take immediate steps to prevent littering on the footpaths of VIP Road, as garbage on the road that connects the city with its airport was creating a bad impression on those visiting the city. 
002 Huge chemical haul at city airport: The Statesman, dated December 02, 1998; page 4 
A record quantity of ephidrine hydrochloride, a precursor chemical used to turn morphine into pure heroin, was seized by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence officials from the Calcutta airport today.
003 YC vandals run riot at Victoria: The Statesman, dated December 04, 1998; Front page 
Youth Congress vandals ran amok at Victoria Memorial, smashing furniture and torching vehicles in a post facto protest that left the hapless decorator of the controversial bash on the premises poorer by some thousands.
004 3 murders in 24 hrs in S 24-Parganas: The Statesman, dated December 10, 1998;  
Three persons were murdered in South 24-Parganas district in the past 24 hours. Mosaraf Gazi, a 40-year-old land labourer was killed after he suffered grievous blows during a scuffle at Hanabari in Jaynagar area of the district today. He was declared dead after he was taken to a local hospital. Twenty-eight-year-old Kalyan Biswas, who had no criminal past, was killed last night in the Thakurpukur area. His body bore multiple injuries.And twenty-six-year-old Yunus Gharami’s body was fished out of a roadside canal in Usthi area of the district last night. Gharami had been missing for the past few days.
005 State prison conditions very bad, says Basu: The Statesman, dated December 11, 1998; Front page 
Mr Justice V R Krishna Iyer and a plethora of political dignitaries, including the Governor, chief minister, home minister (police) threw allegations at their own government for the "very bad conditions". Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, however, promised to crack down on corrupt unions, irrespective of their political affiliations. 
006 Buddhadev brushes off court order on bandhs: The Statesman, dated December 12, 1998; Front page
The state home (police) minister, Mr Buddhadev Bhattacharyya, said, "If people have the right to take out their vehicles during a bandh, demonstrators also have the right to stop them" ...
007 Factory workers want jobs, not strikes: The Statesman, dated December 12, 1998; page 5 
A random survey of people in North and South 24 Parganas - working in factories reopened after long closure or in those which are struggling to keep afloat - revealed their dread of strikes. "Lal Jhanda doesn’t help open a factory, but makes it paralytic," one said, adding they weren’t even sure why the industrial strike was called today.
008 Questions over govt copter rides: The Statesman, dated December 13, 1998
Two helicopters purchased exclusively for emergency situations were used on occasions like opening of private clubs ... Between 1993 and 1997, the Governor, Chief Minister, the transport minister and other VIPs used the helicopters 298 times. But the purpose of these journeys were not recorded in the log books. Hence, private trips and official assignments could not be distinguished from each other.
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General News Reports: Vol 3 (since 12/1998)
01.   Gardens planned on VIP Road to prevent littering: The Statesman, dated December 02, 1998; page 3
Statesman News Service 

CALCUTTA, Dec. 1. - The state PWD will set up roadside gardens on VIP Road to prevent people from littering the pavements. 

The decision was taken after the Chief Minister, Mr Jyoti Basu, requested the department to take immediate steps to prevent littering on the footpaths of VIP Road. Mr Basu told senior officials of the PWD that garbage on the road that connects the city with its airport was creating a bad impression on those visiting the city. 

The PWD will set up roadside gardens on the 7-km stretch from the airport to Ultadanga. The department is putting up railings near Joramandir where the first garden will be built. 

Senior PWD officials said, despite requests, many residents were littering VIP Road. At times, even dead animals were thrown on the road. The department had initially tried to clean the garbage but finally gave up after the amount of litter went up alarmingly. 

Rajarhat Gopalpur municipality officials said clearing the accumulated garbage daily was not possible. They said they had requested residents of adjacent apartments to throw their garbage in the municipality’s dumping vat. 

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02.  Huge chemical haul at city airport: The Statesman, dated December 02, 1998; page 4
Statesman News Service 

CALCUTTA, Dec. 1. - A record quantity of ephidrine hydrochloride, a precursor chemical used to turn morphine into pure heroin, was seized by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence officials from the Calcutta airport today. The consignment arrived from Chennai on a cargo flight. 

"Three hundred kilos of ephidrine hydrochloride was being shipped to Dimapur. Our intelligence reports suggest that it was supposed to reach More in the Indo-Myanmar border," said Mr Sumit Dutta Majumdar, ADG, DRI. 

The Narcotics Control Bureau has been informed about the seizure. International drug dealers are smuggling raw chemicals into Myanmar and pure narcotics is siphoned back into India and other countries. Last month, DRI officials had seized one kilogram of heroin at Silchar. The consignment had arrived from Myanmar via Mizoram. 

One person was arrested in this connection.

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03. YC vandals run riot at Victoria: The Statesman, dated December 04, 1998; Front page
Statesman News Service 

CALCUTTA, Dec. 3 - Youth Congress vandals ran amok at Victoria Memorial today, smashing furniture and torching vehicles in a post facto protest that left the hapless decorator of last night’s controversial bash on the premises poorer by some thousands. 

Mr Paresh Pal, Youth Congress president and 10 others were arrested from the spot. 

About 11.30 the morning after the Sangeet ceremony at the marriage of the NRI industrialist, Mr LN Mittal’s son, Aditya, more than a hundred Youth Congressmen stormed Victoria’s western lawns, targeting decorators in the process of packing up after last night’s "private" function. 

Labourers carting away furniture were assaulted. Chairs, already loaded onto trucks, were tossed to the ground. Jute carpets were ripped apart. When the decorators protested, mineral water bottles, thermocol glasses and left-overs from the party were hurled at them. 

Victoria securitymen and the handful of policemen on duty - hopelessly outnumbered - were rendered totally helpless by the rampaging vandals. Two persons were injured. 

Three of the decorator’s lorries were smashed and set on fire. Rolled-up jute carpets were sprinkled with kerosene and torched. Slogans against the Memorial’s board of trustees and Mr Mittal rent the air.  

As the lawns rapidly turned to resemble a veritable battlefield - charred furniture, twisted, mangled chairs, wooden boards and glass shreds strewn over - forces from the Hastings police station and the Lalbazar headquarters rushed in. The rampaging mob was stopped, its leaders herded into vans. 

No one seemed to be able to comment with certainty on the real reason for today’s hooliganism. Several NGOs and Intach had earlier moved court against the decision to rent out a heritage site for a "private" function.  

The Youth Congress protest had ostensibly been against the NRI and Victoria’s trustees. Yet, the function had passed off smoothly last night, and the vandals could touch neither Mr Mittal nor Victoria’s trustees. 

Mr Pradip Bhattacharya, Pradesh Congress leader couldn’t condone his party youth wing’s action. "I do not support this kind of protest," he said. Yet, Mr Bhattacharya refused to elaborate on his criticism. And he insisted on slamming the "way in which Victoria Memorial was let out for wedding parties." 

The only sufferer of today’s mindlessness, in fact, seems to be Mr Samir Ray Chaudhuri, the unfortunate decorator. His losses would run into thousands, he said.  

Worse, police have prevented him from taking away his things - whatever remains of them. And Victoria has set him today’s deadline for clearing out.  

He has no idea of what he ought to do. Or whom he should approach for compensation. 

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05.  State prison conditions very bad, says Basu: The Statesman, dated December 11, 1998; Front page
Statesman News Service 

CALCUTTA, Dec. 10. - Mr Jyoti Basu today severely criticised the administration of jails in the state, while admitting that prison conditions in West Bengal was "very bad." In his speech at the 50th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights function, the Chief Minister said the state’s human rights record was "not entirely satisfactory," adding, "The state human rights commission had submitted a report to this effect." 

The state home (police) minister, Mr Buddhadev Bhattacharya, also admitted to reporters that conditions in police lock-up, morgues and jails could not measure up to human rights standards. Mr Bhattacharya singled out the Jail Ministry for criticism. "Why do you want me to comment on jails? The trade unions are aggressively disrupting administrative work. There is rampant corruption, harassment and pilfering of foods meant for undertrials. The condition is appalling," he said. 

Mr Bhattacharya, however, promised to crack down on corrupt unions, irrespective of their political affiliations. He said that despite the state’s poor record, West Bengal was the first in the country to set up a human rights commission. 

Mr Basu, in his speech, said the Human Development Report of 1997 published by the UN presents an "appalling picture." "While the number of billionaires in the world has increased from 358 to 447, 160 million children are malnourished, 840 million people live without clean sources of water and 1.2 billion lack access to safe drinking water," he said. 

Mr Justice V R Krishna Iyer, who also spoke on the occasion, said the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was cause for "lamentation and not celebration." He said the day should be observed as a national protest day to draw attention to the "predatory activities of the MNCs in our country." "The whole endeavour of the MNCs is to reap maximum profits, infringe upon human rights," he added. Mr Justice Iyer came down heavily on the USA and G-7 countries and other superpowers for exploiting the smaller countries and throwing human rights up for sale. "When $ 1.7 is the minimum per capita requirement of keeping a person alive, $ 179 is being spent on nuclear weapons. It is sheer hypocrisy and shame that we make tall claims on the right to life and livelihood," Mr Iyer said. 

The so-called dignity granted to women also came under Mr Iyer’s witty criticism. "When one out of 37 Indian mothers die at child birth and women are being raped and kidnapped everyday, it is shameful to celebrate human rights day," he observed. 

"Health is still a low priority area in our country and now with the giving up of the patent rights on products, we are throwing us open to the MNCs and powers that be to exploit us," he regretted. 

Mr Iyer has little expectations from judiciary. On the contrary he thinks mobilisation of people and consciousness about their rights will be the right approach. 

At another function organised by the West Bengal Federation of United Nations Associations, the state advocate-general, Mr Naranarayan Gooptu, said not much headway has been made in the realisation of the ideals of the universal declaration of human rights because of the UN’s emphasis on political and civil rights rather than social and economic rights. Even in India, the civil and political rights were guaranteed as fundamental rights, while social rights fell under the directive principles of state policy, which were not enforceable, he said. He regretted that the national and state human rights commissions did not have the power to investigate violations by the armed forces. 

The state governor, Mr A R Kidwai, said there was need to create awareness among people about human rights. If people know their rights, they can assert them, he said. 

Mr Saugata Roy, Congress MLA, said the police and other law enforcing agencies were not sensitive to the need to observe human rights. In fact, the police themselves resisted this requirement. 

The state Assembly Speaker, Mr H A Halim, said there was need for social change to help realise the goals of the human rights declaration. 

A rally was organised by the West Bengal Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights to observe International Human Rights Day. Mr Justice D K Basu, chairperson of Legal Aid Services West Bengal, said there is need for more awareness about human rights among the masses. 

Mr Gitanath Ganguly, executive chairman of LASWEB, said that violation of human rights can be considered a major crime.

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06.  Buddhadev brushes off court order on bandhs: The Statesman, dated December 12, 1998; Front page
Statesman News Service

CALCUTTA, Dec. 11. - Court orders banning enforcing of bandhs and causing obstruction to public life are "a myth", the state home (police) minister said today. At a Press briefing today, Mr Buddhadev Bhattacharyya was told that at several places in the city strike supporters had stopped private vehicles - some even belonging to the Press - and challenged the identity of the passengers. Asked whether any action would be taken, Mr Bhattacharyya said, "If people have the right to take out their vehicles during a bandh, demonstrators also have the right to stop them."

"But stopping Press cars was certainly uncalled for," the minister added. Ambulance, Press, marriage parties, power department and some other emergency services were not included in the purview of the strike.

Asked whether he was aware of the court orders banning enforcement of bandh, he shot back: "Which court order are you talking about? Have you read the order of Patna High court? Wasn’t there a total bandh in Patna?"

The people had supported the strike because they believed in the cause. "Can the court’s verdict stop starvation, unemployment and price rise? Let the High Court give an order fixing the price of essential goods. If it could, there would have been no strikes or bandhs."

The Supreme Court has upheld a 1997 Kerala High Court order which ruled that calling and enforcing bandhs is illegal and unsconstitutional. Calcutta High Court has also passed an order stating that strikes can be held but not bandhs, which cause obstruction to normal life.

On the loss of revenue to the state because of the strike, Mr Bhattacharyya said: "No one can say that now. But what’s more valuable is the spontaneous response of the workers and the people in general."

Reminded that the state transport department had run buses during Congress-called bandhs, whereas no such step was taken today, he said most state transport corporation employees were Citu members. "If they have chosen to observe the strike no minister is powerful enough to force them to do otherwise," the home minister said.

BJP hits out at Buddhadev: Mr Buddhadev Bhattacharya favours denying people the right to free movement, the state BJP said today. Mr Bhattacharya had said at Writers’ Buildings: "If people had the right to move freely on a bandh day, the demonstrators had every right to stop them". Mr Paras Dutta, the state BJP vice-president, said the state home (police) minister seemed to be unaware of the law. Perhaps he is only aware of the laws of Alimuddin Street", he said.

Every citizen has the right to move freely; and any attempt to forcibly stop such movement is an infringement of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, Mr Dutta said.

Commenting on the Left parties’ support to the bandh, Mr Dutta said that Mr Jyoti Basu had made several tours abroad to invite foreign entrepreneurs to invest in West Bengal. 

The Left Front is protesting against policies it is following, and is trying to divert the people’s attention from its own failures, he said.

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07.  Factory workers want jobs, not strikes: The Statesman, dated December 12, 1998; page 5 
Bappa Majumdar & Debashis Konar
Statesman News Service 

CALCUTTA, Dec. 11. - A random survey of people in North and South 24 Parganas - working in factories reopened after long closure or in those which are struggling to keep afloat - revealed their dread of strikes.

At Titagarh’s Empire Jute Company, which reopened barely two months ago, both the employees and the Citu leaders are opposed to strikes. Mr Bankelal Shau, the secretary of the Citu-backed Bengal Chatkal Mazdoor Union, said: "This mill is one of the very few profitable jute mills in this industrial belt. Strikes should be avoided here unless there is no other way to deal with adamant employers".

The mill has its share of problems like most other jute mills of the state, yet the employees are glad to be back at work. Of the total workforce, 800 are temporary. One of them, Mohammed Sultan, said: "I haven’t been confirmed despite working for 10 years, yet most of us like me are happy to be earning once more". Things could have been worse, he said. The company has once retrenched several employees without prior notice.

Mr Kesar Rao, another employee, said, "Of late, the mill has started enjoying marginal profits. If the management buys a few modern machines, we can have bumper production. We all want to work towards that and earn; not indulge in unnecessary strikes".

Today’s industrial strike doesn’t help the cause of the employees of the EMCO Jute Mill and the Titagarh Jute Mill (No-1). Both closed down following differences between the employers and the staff. 

At TJM, a despondent Mohammed Rehman said: "Our hands are already full with existing problems, the strike doesn’t make things easier at all. But there’s little we can do but abide by our leaders’ decisions".

Mr Vishal Sarangi, a worker of the Alliance Jute Mill said: "Bandhs are very bad for the company’s prospects. A day’s strike means a loss amounting to crores of rupees for several companies, which actually affects us adversely in the long run".

Mr Mrinal Pandey, a jobless worker of a factory at Taratala that closed down about a decade ago, was more critical. "This strike is solely for the purpose of garnering votes," he said. Several other jobless workers, whose factories in the Taratala-Hyde Road belt have closed down, expressed similar views. 

"Lal Jhanda doesn’t help open a factory, but makes it paralytic," one said, adding they weren’t even sure why the industrial strike was called today.

Most jobless workers in this industrial belt of South 24 Parganas struggle to make ends meet by working as daily labourers. Several have committed suicide, it was learnt. A strike like today’s only adds to their misery, as they lose a day’s earning. 

Mr Hariprasad Ray said he will be playing the trumpet at a marriage party despite the strike as that was his part-time job.

Of the 220 industrial units in this belt, only 90 remain. Closed units include Steel and Allied Products, Metal Box, Apeejay Industries, Mahindra and Mahindra, Machinery Manufacturing Corporation, Alcond and Universal Autocraft.

No posters or graffiti in support of today’s strike could be seen on their closed gates.
 

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08.  Questions over govt copter rides: The Statesman, dated December 13, 1998
Tanmay Chatterjee
Statesman News Service 

CALCUTTA, Dec. 12. - Politicians, filmstars and VIPs have taken hundreds of rides in the West Bengal government helicopters in the past few years, but there are no records as to who allowed the flights and why, the accountant general's office remarked after a recent audit inquiry. 

The two helicopters were purchased exclusively for emergency situations. But auditors found that these were used on occasions like opening of private clubs

Filmstars, Sridevi and Mithun Chakrabarty, and former cricketer, Kapil Dev, used the aircraft during 1996-97. The audit officials could not trace any record as to who permitted the flights and why. There was no record to indicate whether the VIP passengers had paid for these flights

Political parties too had used the helicopters free of cost during election though they are supposed to pay a fare of Rs 20,000 per hour. Inquiries revealed that the charges were not realised from them. The A-G office has remarked that the expenditure reported by the political parties during elections were incorrect. 

The helicopters were purchased in 1972 and 1981 for emergency use by VIPs within the state. The transport department is in charge of the helicopters. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited is maintaining them since 1989 for Rs 24 lakh a year. 

After scrutinising the records, the audit body made the following remarks: 

  • Till last year, the government did not fix any guideline to issue any notification for the use of these helicopters. Moreover, while issuing letters to sanction flights, the transport department did not indicate the purpose of the journey or the names of those accompanying a VIP.
  • In some cases, VIPs took flights to attend social functions like opening of private clubs. These could not be described as emergency situations, the audit body has said.
  • Between 1993 and 1997, the Governor, Chief Minister, the transport minister and other VIPs used the helicopters 298 times. But the purpose of these journeys were not recorded in the log books. Hence, private trips and official assignments could not be distinguished from each other.
  • During 1993 and 97, the annual operational cost of these helicopters (including salary of staff, insurance, maintenance and depreciation) ranged between Rs 32.46 lakh and 36.06 lakh. The fuel cost varied between Rs 4.78 lakh and 9.60 lakh. However, there was no norm to fix the cost of operation in terms of rate per hour.
  • Audit officials could not find any records regarding purchase of aviation fuel. During March 1992 and November 1996, the government purchased aviation fuel worth Rs 29.40 lakh but there was no stock register showing the actual quantity of fuel received. Even the fuel log book of the helicopters did not maintain these records
The government operated these helicopters in a very uneconomic and inefficient manner, which was also prone to misuse due to non-maintenance of vital records, the A-G office said. 
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