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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Buddha gets PCs call agrees to send team ...Ashoke not in team...Talks on Interim Setup...Landslides destroy houses

State willing to participate in talks
Sabyasachi Bandhopadhyay, IE, Kolkata: The uncertainty about the tripartite talks between the Centre, state government and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), convened in New Delhi on July 24, was cleared on Wednesday as Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram called Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and persuaded him to let the state government attend the meeting. Bhattacharjee had written to Chidambaram on July 18, expressing his unwillingness to send a team to the meeting that would be held at a political level. He had opined that it should be postponed till All India Gorkha League (AIGL) president Madan Tamang’s killers were nabbed.
On Wednesday, however, Chidambaram called the Chief Minister and urged him to send a team to the talks, to which Bhattacharjee had to agree. Reacting to the latest development, Urban Development Minister Ashok Bhattacharya fumed saying the meeting would give legitimacy to an organisation which is now looked down upon by the people of the hills. “It is because of its Constitutional obligations that the state government is attending the meet. But I am not ready to sit with tainted people. I believe these talks will enhance trouble in the hills,” Bhattacharya said. The All India Gorkha League expressed deep anguish and disappointment at the state government’s decision to attend the tripartite talks. 
“They have agreed to sit with the very people they should throw behind bars. The state government has committed an act of treachery against us. They will have to repent that,” Gorkha League Spokesman L. N. Pradhan told The Indian Express from Darjeeling.
KalimNews: Home Ministry has set a condition with GJMM for  withdrawal of strikes to make congenial situation for talks. From a reliable source it is known that GJMM is willing to comply with the request of the Center,  but so far it has not yet received any such official request. It is evident that  GJMM will announce withdrawal of the Office strike in the GJMM meeting today to be held in Darjeeling.  Study Forum of GJMM met twice on 20th and 21st and had planned a strategy for the talks. Meanwhile Dr.H.B.Chhetri. Dr. R.B.Bhujel and L.B.Pariyar is leaving for Delhi today. Another team with Roshan Giri  will leave Darjeeling on 23rd July. 
In the sixth political level tripartite talks Suryakanta Mishra, Health Minister and  Samar Ghose Home Secretary will represent the state.
7 accused and arrested in the Madan Tamang murder case was again allowed by the District court for 14 days custodial remand .
Talks of 24 on Set up
TNN, NEW DELHI: The next round of tripartite talks involving the Centre, West Bengal government and Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) will be held in the capital on July 24.
Home ministry sources said the issue of setting up an interim authority in Darjeeling for the Gorkhas and its territorial jurisdiction would come up for discussion.
Both the Centre and the ruling Left Front government are for limiting the proposed Darjeeling regional authority to just the three hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong.
However, GJM, which has been demanding a separate Gorkhaland state, is demanding parts of north Bengal plains as well. It has been rooting for inclusion of Siliguri sub-division and contiguous Nepali-speaking areas in the Dooars in neighbouring Jalpaiguri district to the proposed administrative set up.

Landslides destroy houses
TT, Gangtok, July 21: Five houses were destroyed by landslides triggered by incessant rain at Zang in East Sikkim early this morning. Nobody was hurt as families living in these houses could escape just before the slides struck.
The mud slides also blocked the Singtam-Mangan road, which is an alternative route to North Sikkim Highway. The rubbles were cleared by the Border Roads Organisation for light vehicles later in the afternoon.
A.B. Karki, the subdivisional magistrate (East), said after touring Zang in Dickhu block that slush and big rocks had entered some of the houses.
“However, no one was injured as the rocks had crashed into empty rooms. Another house was partially damaged by the slides in the village,” he said. Zang is located 70km from here.
Three of the houses had been acquired by the NHPC which is operating a 510MW hydel power plant at Dickhu. The families were paid compensation and they were getting ready to leave the houses.
“The houses were taken over by the NHPC as they had developed cracks in the houses because of the work at the power plant site,” said D. Anand, the district collector of East Sikkim.
Karki said compensation would be paid to the owners of the other houses after an assessment of the damage. Cardamom plants of three villagers were damaged and 30 chickens were also killed by the slides. The affected families were shifted to safer locations by the authorities.
A road connecting Tumin to Tintek was also blocked by the landslides and work is on to restore traffic.
Bridges washed away, gardens gobbled Water woes for 15000 residents
TT, Kalchini, July 21: The Basra bridge that connects Kalchini block headquarters to the Jaigaon-Hasimara area was washed away last night along with 25 houses in rain-lashed Dooars where tea garden authorities have asked for army assistance to shift their workers.
This evening, another wooden bridge, part of NH31, gave away near Falakata where the Buri Torsha is in spate.
Ten huts have been washed away in Bhatpara Tea Estate and eight in Uttar Mendabari. In Nimtijhora and Radharani gardens, five and two dwellings have been lost to the water.
Another 100 houses are under threat and at least 15,000 people in Alipurduar subdivision have been affected by water-logging and overflowing rivers.
The Torsha, Kaljani, Basra, Pana, Rydak and the Sankosh originate in the Bhutan hills, where there has been heavy rainfall in the past 24 hours. All six rivers are flowing much above the danger level. Red alerts have been sounded for the Torsha, and the Kaljani that passes by Alipurduar town.
Around 50 metres of the Basra bridge was washed away at Hamiltanganj, 34km from here. The bridge, which has iron pillars and topped with wooden sheets, was built in 1931 and had been in a precarious condition in the absence of maintenance for years.
Students, office-goers, businessmen and garden residents from Satali, Hasimara, Dalshingpara, Malangi and Jaigaon will now have to travel an extra 30km to reach the block headquarters.
A section of Basra bridge, which connects Kalchini to the Jaigaon-Hasimara area, and 25 houses were washed away by overflowing rivers in Jalpaiguri on Tuesday. Tea garden authorities in the rain-lashed district have requested the army to shift the workers to safer places. The Torsha, Kaljani, Basra, Pana, Rydak and Sankosh rivers, which originate in the Bhutan hills that have seen heavy rain in the past 24 hours, are overflowing. At least 15,000 people in Alipurduar have been affected by water-logging. Picture by Anirban Choudhury.
People in Mendabari close to the bridge have to trek 15km more to reach Kalchini.
The Shikari bund, too, has been washed away by Pana river and Radharani tea garden is completely detached from the rest of the block. The Pana has entered the Chuapara and Bhatpara tea estates.
In Nimtijhora Tea Estate, 30 families have been shifted from the Patras line to the garden factory and local high school because of erosion. The Kaljani has gobbled up 28 acres of the garden. The Reti is flowing through Riabari and Karbala tea estates as the embankment has been damaged. The plucking in the gardens in Banarhat has been suspended.
A source in the Dooars Branch of the Indian Tea Association said the Riabari and Karbala estates had asked for army assistance to shift their workers. “They have forwarded their plea to Jalpaiguri divisional commissioner A.K. Singh,” he said.
The Uttar Mendabari fire brigade personnel shifted at least 20 people to safer places. Avijit Narjinary, the pradhan of the Mendabari gram panchayat, said: “Around 7,000 people in our panchayat have been affected. Till now, eight houses have been washed away by the Basra river. The 250 families that have been rescued are in a flood centre now. About 500 metres of an irrigation embankment have been washed away. Several bamboo bridges over streams have been swept away.”
The Chhoto Mechia Basti and Manglabari areas in Jaigaon are flooded by the Torsha and the Jogi Khola. In Tapshikhata and Banchukamari areas of Alipurduar Block I, 2000 people have been brought to a flood centre as the embankment has been damaged and river water has flooded the villages. Country boats have been used to shift marooned people. In Goabarnagar gram panchayat of Falakata block at least 300 huts have been damaged by the waters of Mujnai and Dudua rivers.
Water has entered the Jateswar Primary Health Centre too. Anurag Srivastav, the subdivisional officer of Alipurduar, said: “In Kalchini, the situation is grave as Basra bridge has been washed away. We have deployed people for rescue operations. We assure the people that they will not have to face any crisis.” 
Two die of hunger - Succour eludes garden
Abhijit Sinha, TT, Siliguri, July 21: Two retired workers of Mujnai Tea Estate in the Dooars have died from malnutrition in the past one week, bringing to focus the condition of the brew belt where healthcare and food schemes elude dwellers.
Dhaniram Ganju, aged around 70 years, died after suffering from several diseases because of malnutrition and absence of healthcare facilities on July 15. He used to reside in a dilapidated hut at Factory Line in the garden. His death was followed by that of Kanchi Doli’s — also of the same age — who breathed her last yesterday afternoon. Both the septuagenarians were not included in the BPL category and they were not given old age pension either.
“The two had not got adequate food and developed several ailments with no treatment available,” said Ashish Biswas, the health assistant serving at Mujnai. “There are at least four-five other people who are in a similar state on the estate.”
G-Nesep, a Cooch Behar-based NGO, claimed that it had specifically told the block development officer of Birpara-Madarihat about the condition of Dhaniram and Kanchi a month back.
“We have been working on the plight of tea workers in the Dooars and held a survey on four gardens in Birpara-Madarihat block in April and May. When we collected data in Mujnai, it was found that at least 15 people, most of them retired workers, have been spending days without any medical care and enough food. After the survey, we met the BDO on June 15 and submitted a list of these people who needed help. We requested the officer to provide the workers with old age pension, food and medicine. We had specifically mentioned that some of them are in vulnerable conditions and might die any day,” said Partha Pratim Sarkar, the director of the NGO.
However, the BDO, he alleged, was nonchalant and did not take any step.
“Finding that nothing has been done on his part, we again made a list of seven people, including Dhaniram and Kanchi, and submitted a memorandum to him on July 14. It was on the very next day that Dhaniram died. While Dhaniram’s name was included in the old age pension list by the (Madarihat) panchayat on July 15, Kanchi was never considered for the scheme.We feel if the BDO had acted promptly, the two persons could have lived longer,” said Sarkar.
The deaths have spurred the administration into action. The other five persons named by Sarkar were today given food and an ex-gratia of Rs 120 each. But they have not yet been included in the old age pension scheme.
A senior citizen in the BPL category is paid Rs 500 a month under the pension scheme. There are also several other government programmes which offer food to poor people. While food grain is supplied free of cost to old and poor people under General Relief, rice and wheat are made available at Rs 2 and Re 1 per kg respectively under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana to any BPL family.
The Madarihat panchayat denied that Dhaniram and Kanchi had died from starvation.
“It is unfortunate that the letter mentioning Dhaniram’s enrolment as a beneficiary in the old age pension scheme reached us the day he died. However, I found out during my inquiry that the two had died of old age ailments and not because of starvation,’ said Nisith Pal, the executive assistant of the panchayat.
The official admitted that the duo were not beneficiaries of any government welfare scheme. He rushed to Mujnai today to inquire into the deaths and report to the BDO office.
The Mujnai estate, 150km from here, had been closed down four times in the past 10 years.
The BDO, Naved Akhtar, also said geriatric diseases had caused the deaths of the retired labourers.
“Implementation of welfare schemes for the BPL people, particularly in tea plantations, is being consistently monitored by us. It is true that two persons have died in Mujnai but it would be wrong to say they have died because of shortage of food. The BMOH (block medical officer of health) has given me a report, saying they have died from diseases,” he said.
Akhtar evaded any queries on the NGO’s more specific charge that he had not taken any step to provide succour to Dhaniram and Kanchi.
Were the drivers drugged?
HT, Agencies, Calcutta: Preliminary investigations suggest the two drivers of the Uttarbanga Express that collided with Vananchal Express at Sainthia station in West Bengal may have had spiked tea that prevented them from acting to avert the accident that killed 61 people on Monday, according to a report on  The Telegraph.
Driver Madhab Chandra Dey and his assistant Nirmal Kumar Mandal had taken tea during their two-minute stopover at Gadadharpur station, 7.5 km from Sainthia, senior officials said.
However, only a viscera report of the drivers can establish drugging which will take as many as 15 days to come out, the report said.
Railway bosses had on Tuesday said there was “something wrong” with the drivers: they had sped along at 80-90kmph despite Sainthia being a scheduled stop, overshot the signal, eschewed the emergency brakes and not even tried to jump off to save themselves.
Speaking to the Telegrah in Malda, the wife of Somnath Sengupta, the injured Uttar Banga guard, said that when the train failed to slow down as it approached Sainthia yesterday, Sengupta had tried to speak to the drivers over the walkie-talkie. But one of them couldn’t speak at all while the other was groaning. This lends some credence to the drug theory.
The spiked tea thoery could also suggest a possibility that the tea was meant for passengers but reached the drivers by mistake. There are several such gangs operating in eastern India where they drug the train passengers with spiked beverages and rob them, and it’s possible that Dey and Mandal bought tea from one of such gangs.
The railway board has already issued a directive for drivers and guards, asking them not to buy or accept any beverages, not even tea or coffee, from any vendor or stranger while on duty.
tried to talk to the driver over walkie-talkie : train guard
HT, sainthia: The guard of the killer Uttarbanga Express, Somnath Sengupta, has said that he had applied the runaway train’s emergency brake after the driver did not respond to him on the walkie-talkie. But the brake failed and the speeding train rammed into the Vananchal Express at Sainthia station on Monday, killing 61 people.

“After getting no response from the driver’s cabin, I pulled the emergency brake – but it didn’t work,” said Sengupta after an 80-minute interrogation by railway officials at the Sainthia station in Bengal’s Birbhum district on Wednesday.
Sengupta is the key witness in the collision, which is shrouded in mystery as the Uttarbanga Express hurtled down the Sainthia station’s Platform No. 4 at a speed close to 90 kmph before crashing into the stationary Vananchal Express.
The driver and his assistant didn’t respond to red signals and calls from the station manager who tried to stop the train.
Besides, the killer train was not diverted to another line, which former locomotive drivers have told HT is mandatory in such a scenario.
Forty-eight hours after the Sainthia disaster, the Railway Safety Commissioner and his team interrogated other railway employees and eyewitnesses at the Sanithia station on Wednesday.
Mohammed Nayeem, the driver of the Vananchal Express, who appeared before the probe team, said, “We didn’t start the train as the guard didn’t give us the signal. We spent 11 minutes at the platform for this reason.”
He told the media that he got the green signal from the Sainthia station at 1.54 am, minutes before the accident, but couldn’t move as the final signal was not available from the guard.
Diversion system not activated Duo on duty ‘booked off’
TT, Calcutta, July 21: The interlocking system that could have diverted the speeding Uttar Banga Express to an empty platform and prevented it from ramming into the Vananchal Express at Sainthia station on Monday had not been activated, preliminary probe by the railways has revealed.
The Telegraph had reported on Monday that the interlocking system at the station may not have been put in place or it did not work as the Uttar Banga Express rushed in.
The railways have “booked off”, or temporarily taken off duty, the cabin operator and the assistant station manager of Sainthia station who were on duty at the time of the tragedy and were supposed to apply the diversion system after the Vananchal Express stopped at platform number four.
“Two staff members at Sainthia railway station have been booked off,” said Parthasarathi Mondal, the manager of Eastern Railway’s Howrah division.
Railway sources said the interlocking system should have been activated after the Vananchal Express chugged into platform number four so that any train travelling on the same line could be diverted and a collision avoided even if it had violated the red signal.
“Had the system been activated, the Uttar Banga Express would have automatically got diverted to an empty platform. Even if the driver and assistant driver had been drugged, the collision could have been avoided,” a senior railway official said.
Railway officials said investigations had revealed that the possible drugging of the drivers and the error of not activating the diversion at the signal point were responsible for the tragedy.
Sources said there were complaints of snags in the interlocking system ever since it was installed in 2008. Even though it was being repaired, it was in operation.
The possibility of the two drivers of Uttar Banga Express, Madhab Chandra Dey and Nirmal Kumar Mandal, being drugged has triggered alarm in the railways.
Yesterday, the Railway Board had directed all zonal chiefs to ask drivers and guards not to have tea, coffee or other beverages at stations from vendors. “Today, the directive was circulated to all divisions. Drivers and guards have been asked to strictly follow it,” a railway official said.
The railways today began its official probe into the July 19 train tragedy.
R.P Yadav, the commissioner of railway safety in the eastern zone, questioned the two drivers of the Vananchal Express and the guard of the Uttar Banga Express.
Somnath Sengupta, the guard of the Uttar Banga Express, told reporters after the questioning: “The home signal (signal located 500 metres before the platform) was red. I tried to contact the driver repeatedly over my walkie-talkie but did not get any response. Then I applied the emergency brakes,” Sengupta said.
Mohammad Nayeem, the driver of the Vananchal Express, said that “even though the green signal was given at 1.54am, we could start the train only at 2.01am because we had not received any signal from the guard”.
Yadav refused comment saying the investigation was on. WITH INPUTS FROM SOUMI BHATTACHARYA IN SAINTHIA
Crowd cry music to her ears 
TT, Calcutta: Crowd count became more complicated than calculus on the day of Mamata Banerjee’s giant roadshow, with figures fluctuating wildly between three and 20 lakh depending on who was calculating.
“I see a 20 lakh-strong sea of humanity in front of me. This is the biggest ever street rally in the world,” declared Mamata to cheers from the congregation that stretched longitudinally for over a km from Victoria House to Indian Museum on Wednesday.
Lalbazar’s official head count of three lakh was less than one-sixth of the turnout touted by Trinamul, though officers of the Special Branch admitted in private that the actual figure would be between 5 and 5.5 lakh. “Let’s put it this way: the turnout would have made Mamata very glad and the Left Front even more glum,” quipped a senior officer on counting duty.
Although still far short of Mamata’s estimate, the unofficial police calculation makes this the largest street rally in town, if not the world.
So how were all the calculations made? For the Trinamul leadership, 20 lakh was a figure based on what the eye wanted to see from Mamata’s dais.
The police’s calculation was far from foolproof — there is still no consensus on the turnout at Barack Obama’s historic swearing-in last year, or at Lyndon B. Johnson’s for that matter — but there was a method to it.
“Be it a CPM gathering or a Trinamul one, our calculations are an amalgam of two methods — number of parked vehicles multiplied by estimated average passenger count per vehicle and the people-per-block method,” said a member of the Special Branch team that carried out Wednesday’s crowd count.
In the first method, the police counted the number of rally vehicles parked across nine designated lots in the north, central and Maidan areas, picked an average number of passengers per vehicle and multiplied the two. The final figure was arrived at by adding an estimated number of people in processions from various parts of the city.
“We classify vehicles into three categories — normal buses, deluxe buses and Matadors/vans. The counting pattern is 15-20 people per matador/van and an average of 40 per bus, both normal and deluxe. Then we take into account the number of processions, based on data available with the traffic control room,” said an officer.
The total vehicle count on Wednesday was 3,960, but the break-up was not available.
The police’s second method of putting a figure to the crowd was to take the rally area to be approximately one km in length — Bentinck Street to Indian Museum — and around 120 ft (37 metres) in width. The 37,000sq m area was then divided into four blocks — Dais to KC Das, KC Das to Dorina Crossing, Dorina to Lindsay Street and Lindsay to Indian Museum.
Each of these blocks was divided into smaller squares, based on “eye estimates” of how many people were there in each square. An average was arrived at and multiplied by the number of such squares. The margin for error was taken to be 3-5 per cent.
But there was no official announcement to contradict or challenge the Trinamul estimate.“We generally never quote the turnout at any rally or meeting,” Jawed Shamim, the joint commissioner of police (headquarters), told Metro.
fun with numbers
Mamata has Obama for company. The turnout at his swearing-in on Jan. 20, 2009, was estimated to be between 8 lakh and 3 million
The 8 lakh figure was based on satellite images and simple math. Experts figured out how many people there might have been per sq ft and then factored in the surface area. The equation was: total area divided by sq ft per person, depending on crowd density. The standard calculation for the space in front of the stage at an open-air gig is 2.5sq ft per person.
Rally breaks records and norms....
SNS, Kolkata, 21 July: The Martyrs’ Day organised by the Trinamul Congress in the city today violated a slew of norms on noise pollution.
While the loudspeakers fitted in silence zones, near hospitals and schools, blared out Nachiketa’s song Ei dushon e te pran bache na, nishash nite chai, cholo hawa bodole te jai…(Can’t live amidst such pollution, want to breathe free, let us welcome wind of change)”, patients in numerous hospitals tossed and turned in their beds praying for the loudspeakers to stop. “People have been screaming into the microphones from morning. I can’t bear it anymore. I just want to run away from this place,” said Ms Namita Saha, who has just given birth to a baby in the maternity ward of Lady Dufferin Victoria Hospital. Loudspeakers have been put up every 6-7 metres away just across the road where the maternity ward is situated.
Loudspeakers were put up from Girish Park metro to Dharmatala irrespective of hospitals such as the Islamia Hospital, Calcutta Medical College and Hospital and School of Tropical Medicine in clear violation of the norms set by the state pollution control board, Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000, and Calcutta High Court order. The High Court order stated that microphones should not be allowed to operate for any time in the silence zone, i.e. 100 metres around the premises like hospitals, nursing homes, educational institutions and courts. Moreover, the High Court order had also stated all the loudspeakers should be fitted with Sound Limiter. And in the commercial areas the noise decibel limit should not exceed 65 dB/Leq. The limit had been set as 55 dB/Leq for residential areas.
“My father is mentally unstable. The noise has driven him crazy since morning,” said Ms Lipika Das, a resident of Chittaranjan Avenue. A loudspeaker is fitted just outside her window.
Mr Tapan Das, proprietor of Das Sounds, who was controlling the amplifiers beneath the main dais in Dharmatala, said that he has put up 375 loudspeakers in the areas such as Park Street, Jyoti Cinema, Corporation Building, Bowbazar Thana, Rani Rashmoni and Dharamtala only. He also said that more than 300 might be fitted in other areas. “The High Court has extended the limit to 90 decibels so we have fitted sound limiters with seven amplifiers at 85 decibels.”
However, none of the amplifiers was seen fitted with sound limiters. Mr Subhas Dutta, green activist, said that Calcutta High Court had set the limit at 65 decibels and not 90 decibels.

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