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Sunday, September 19, 2010

GRA till 2012... GL No. new vehicle no of GRA

SHEEM & KalimNews: GJMM has categorically agreed upon the proposal of the center to run the GRA till 2012. It was told by Binay Tamang that GRA will be in function till 31 December 2012 and GJMM will govern it. Tamang further said that as Motor Vehicle department ( Regional Transport Authority) is enlisted transferred department of GRA it will implement the use of GL number officially. As GRA has its discretion to use its own number, it will use GL as new registration number of all vehicles under its jurisdiction.
In another statement Roshan Giri, Secretary of GJMM warned that if Dooars is not included in GRA then if violence erupts in the hills and the plains then the sole responsibility is of the state. Addressing a conference of youth wing at Darjeeling Gynmkhana hall Giri said that earlied we had the whole of Dooars now we have relaxed demanding only the Gorkha dominated areas and it is the last option.
Maximum Bonus for hills- - 20% festival allowance before interim wage revision talks
TT, Darjeeling, Sept. 19: The Darjeeling tea industry, which has registered a decline in productivity, increase in production costs and is grappling with high percentage of absenteeism, has decided to give the maximum permissible annual bonus of 20 per cent to its workers this year.
The bonus announcement comes at a time when negotiations for an interim wage revision are on. Industry observers believe that the management will use the bonus as a lever to turn the deal in their favour during the talks for the interim wage hike.
Two separate settlements between the unions and the Darjeeling Tea Association and the Indian Tea Association have been inked, and both bodies have agreed to the same bonus rate.
Sandeep Mukherjee, secretary of the Darjeeling Tea Association, said: “The agreement was inked last night. We have agreed to pay bonus at the rate of 20 per cent for gardens falling within Grades A, B and C and at the rate of 17 per cent for Grade D.” Many yardsticks are used to categorise the gardens — productivity and the financial health of the companies managing the estates being two of them.
The bonus percentage is calculated on the total annual earnings of a worker. The upper limit has been fixed at Rs 9,000. This means that if the bonus works out to be more than the upper limit, the worker will be entitled to only Rs 9,000.
A.K. Roy of the Teesta Valley Tea Company who represents the ITA that inked the deal today said: “We had no option as an agreement had already taken place for other gardens (with the DTA). We have to respect the decision of the other associations.”
Bhaskar Prasad Chaliha, secretary of the Terai branch of the ITA, said the hill gardens had to face drought like conditions, general strike and high production costs this year. “Production went down by 15 per cent compared to last year and there has been an increase in production cost by 20 per cent,” said Chaliha.
Roy said the hill gardens were also grappling with a high percentage of absenteeism. “The absenteeism is as high as 30 per cent (among permanent workers). We have told the unions that this is detrimental to the industry.”
The unions claimed that a hard bargain had produced such bonus rates. “Our hard bargaining has given us this result. Since 1991 the gardens had not received a 20 per cent bonus. This is the highest in recent times as in 1990 the bonus rates were already on a high,” said Suraj Subba, vice-president of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha affiliated Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union.
Last year, the bonus rate was 17, 16, 15 and 13 per cent for Grades A, B, C and D gardens. This means that workers of some estates have got even a five per cent hike in bonus. According to the bonus act, the maximum rate cannot cross the 20 per cent mark while the lowest should not be below 8.33 per cent for any garden. “We cannot but think that maybe the interim wage hike will not take place after such a bonus,” said an industry observer. The tea unions have, however, refused to link the bonus settlement with the wage revision. “These are different issues altogether and should not be linked,” said P.T. Sherpa, president of the Morcha tea union.
Subba said the three gardens under the West Bengal Tea Development Corporation had agreed to disburse bonus at the rate of 18 per cent. “Last year, the WBTDC gardens had given bonus at the rate of 14 per cent,” said Subba.
The bonus settlement for other Darjeeling gardens, which are neither affiliated to the DTA nor the ITA, will take place at the district magistrate’s office tomorrow. 
Violence over rural job exam delay
TT, Alipurduar, Sept. 19: Police lathicharged more than 800 candidates who turned up at a school in Birpara for an exam for the post of gram panchayat karmee when they went on the rampage following the late arrival of question papers.
The examinees ransacked the Dim Dima Fatema High School and damaged a deputy magistrate’s car, seeking extension of the exam time and alleging that the questions had been leaked.
The exam was scheduled to begin at noon and end at 1.30pm. However, tension began as the question papers failed to arrive on time.
According to the police, when the question papers ultimately came around 12.45pm, the candidates wanted 45 minutes more for the exam. “Some candidates said they were receiving the answers to the questions through text messages from other centres where exams had begun at the scheduled time,” said a police officer.
Deputy magistrate A. Hussain and other officials tried to convince the candidates to sit for the examination. But the examinees were not ready to heed the pleas and began ransacking the school.
The police said they had broken windowpanes and damaged furniture, besides attacking the deputy magistrate’s car.
Soon, a large force reached the spot and resorted to baton charge. As the candidates ran helter-skelter, a hailstorm suddenly hit Birpara, about 60km from here. The storm ended the violence.
“The papers arrived at the centre around 12.45pm and some of the candidates had started receiving answers as text messages on their cellphones from other centres. We told the authorities that the questions had been leaked and wanted to know whether the exam would be held again. The officials were not ready to give any clarification and refused to extend the time. A section of the candidates suddenly turned violent. The police beat us up mercilessly and I was hurt on the leg,” said Ratan Sarkar, an examinee.
The subdivisional officer of Alipurduar, Anurag Srivastav, said he would find out why the question papers had arrived late at one particular centre.
“We told the job seekers that they would be granted 30 minutes extra for the exam. But some of them turned violent, shouting that the questions had been leaked, and demanded a fresh exam,” he said. Srivastav ruled out the possibility of the exam being conducted again. 
2 girls killed by elephant
TT, Siliguri, Sept. 19: Two teenaged sisters were killed by a wild elephant at Bhangabusty near Mungpong, 40km from here, this evening.
Uttam Singh, the officer-in-charge of Mungpong police outpost, said Dilmaya Mangar, 16, and Ranmaya Mangar, 14, had been returning home after private tuition at Nayabusty when the elephant attacked them. The sisters died on the spot.
Private buses back on roads today- strike put off for puja, relay fast from sept. 27
TT, Siliguri, Sept. 19: Private bus owners today withdrew their strike, but said it had only been “deferred” for the pujas. Those not willing to ply their vehicles on the bad routes will not be forced, the bus owners’ association said.
The service in Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar and Darjeeling districts will resume from tomorrow.
The North Bengal Passengers’ Transport Owners’ Coordination Committee said the 20-day-old strike was lifted keeping in mind the festival season but a 72-hour relay hunger strike would be launched from September 27 to protest the conditions of the national and state highways in the region.
Around 1,500 private buses went off the roads from August 31 in the three districts as part of the strike called by the committee to protest the bad roads.
“Ahead of the coming Durga Puja, the traders had already started incurring losses because of the strike. The common people were also suffering. Considering this, we decided to defer our strike and the bus services will resume from tomorrow,” said Pranab Mani, the committee secretary. “But we will not force any of our members to ply their vehicles, if they are not willing.”
The decision to defer the agitation was taken in a meeting attended by executive committee members of 25 striking transport owners’ association at the Birpara Dooars Motor Owners’ Association’s office.
“On September 2, public works minister Kshiti Goswami assured us after a meeting with the engineers and NHAI officials that the roads would be repaired within the next 15 days. But nothing happened. On September 14, we had a meeting with Nabakumar Burman, the subdivisional officer of Jalpaiguri, where again we were assured that the road condition would be improved within a week. This afternoon when I went to Birpara to attend the meeting, I noticed that the administration had tried to do some patch work on the potholed national highways but could hardly repair the damaged spots,” Mani said.
Keeping the state of the roads in mind, the committee decided that although the bus services would resume from tomorrow, a 72-hour relay hunger strike would be launched on September 27 to pressure the government to repair the roads, the secretary said.
“We will sit in front of the office of divisional commissioner of Jalpaiguri and submit a memorandum to him against the worse condition of the roads in north Bengal.”
Jalapaiguri SDO Burman said the road repair would begin next month. “Since the rain continues to lash north Bengal, the roads cannot be repaired properly. The full-fledged maintenance work will begin early next month,” Burman said.
New College
TT, Siliguri: Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray College in Matigara will be formally opened by state finance minister Asim Dasgupta on October 4. Classes had started in the government science college on August 23. “The institution offers honours courses in physics, chemistry, zoology, botany and mathematics,” said municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya. Currently, there are 100 students in the college, 6km from here, 20 in each of the five courses. “The building was incomplete because of which a formal inauguration could not be done. We are expecting the ceremony to take place next month,” a source said.  
Accounts leash on private schools- Government move to stop institutions from hiking tuition fees arbitrarily
Mita mukherjee, TT, Calcutta, Sept. 19: The state government has decided to ask private schools to furnish details of their accounts to stop them from indiscriminately hiking fees.
Although all private schools will be required to reveal the data, the government’s focus is on English-medium institutions as they have been frequently accused of raising fees arbitrarily.
The state education department will soon send a circular to nearly 500 private English-medium schools — both unaided and partially aided (those getting dearness allowance) — telling them that it will be binding on them to provide details of their financial data (income and expenditure) whenever asked by the government.
The government can take legal action if the schools fail to reveal the figures.
Currently, private schools are required to inform the government about internal matters such as enrolment, admission procedures, syllabus, fee structures, teacher-recruitment procedure and pay scales of teaching and non-teaching staff.
The government has the power to de-affiliate schools if they don’t reveal the details but it refrains from doing so as the punishment would hurt the students.
However, schools are not bound to show their balance sheets to the government.
“The government may now ask any private English-medium school to show the details of their accounts. The existing schools will soon be informed about the new rule,” Amiya Ranjan Sanyal, the deputy director for “Anglo-Indian” schools, said.
Upcoming schools will have to give an undertaking to the government that they will reveal their financial data to the government whenever asked. The government will introduce a clause in the application forms for no-objection certificates to new schools, making it mandatory for them to submit the undertaking.
“From now on, the no-objection certificates will not be issued if the new institutions do not give the undertaking,” an education department official said.
There has been a series of agitations by parents at several English-medium schools since 2009 after the institutions increased tuition and other fees by 75 to 110 per cent.
Schools such as Don Bosco, Liluah, St Anthony School, St Teresa School, St Loyola School and St Aloysius School have witnessed protests by parents who have accused the authorities of financial mismanagement.
In 2009, the education department issued circulars to the schools, requesting them to hike fees judiciously.
“This is the first time that the schools will be compulsorily required to produce the details of their financial data,” the official said.
He said the move was in keeping with a code of regulations the government had framed in the mid-1990s for the running of private schools. One of the provisions mentioned in the code empowers the government to ask private schools for any data.
The official said the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act makes it mandatory for all private schools to reserve 25 per cent of their seats for poor children.
“To make up for losses suffered in providing free education to poor students, the schools may hike the tuition fees for the remaining 75 per cent students. The government’s move is also aimed at addressing this issue,” the official said.
However, the authorities of several private English-medium schools said the government was infringing on their rights by making it mandatory for them to reveal their financial data.
“How can the government compel us to show our balance sheets? We do not take a single paisa from the government to run our schools. We will oppose the decision and if necessary, we will challenge the move at a proper forum,” said Nabarun Dey, the principal of Central Modern School and general secretary of the Association of ICSE Schools.
Squad to keep away jumbos
TT, Siliguri, Sept. 19: Kurseong forest division will now have a wildlife squad to check elephant depredation in the villages near the India-Nepal border.
“Considering the recent animal raids in the villages across the Naxalbari block and the fringe areas of Kalabari, Tukuriajhar and Bamanpokhri, we had appealed to our higher officials to set up a squad earlier this year. We got the approval last month,” said Y.T. Eden, the divisional forest officer of Kurseong.
According to foresters, three persons were killed and more than 200 huts damaged by elephants in the Naxalbari block this year. “Earlier we had to depend on the squad of Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary based in Sukna to steer away animals that entered the villages. Once the new unit starts functioning, it will be easier for us to keep away the elephants from these areas,” he said.
The forest department will construct a new office for the unit at Bagdogra. “The squad will be led by a range officer assisted by a beat officer. We are also expecting a vehicle for the wing,” said Eden.
To check the number of elephant deaths on railway tracks, the World Wildlife Federation’s West Bengal State office along with the stakeholders will forward a proposal to the departments concerned to set up a core committee along with a five-point recommendation to departments concerned.
The decision was taken at a meeting last week where representatives of the World Wildlife Federation and officials of the railways, forest, army and members of different NGOs of north Bengal were present.
According to officials of the World Wildlife Federation, 74km of the track between Alipurduar and Siliguri passes through Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary, Gorumara National Park and Chapramari forests. Nineteen elephants have been mowed down since 2004.
Youth’s body found, finger at Citu leader
TT, Malda, Sept. 19: The body of a 21-year-old has been found near the Nimasarai railway tracks, with neighbours pointing fingers at a Citu leader who had allegedly taken Rs 50,000 for a job he had promised to the Harishchandrapur youth.
The body was found on Tuesday, and today, hundreds of villagers gheraoed the Harishchandrapur police station for six hours demanding action against the accused.
The situation was brought under control after lathi-wielding policemen chased away the mob. Subdivisional police officer of Chanchal Nima Narboo Bhutia assured the protesters that the culprits would be arrested soon.
Sushila Pal, a resident of Baroduary village in Harishchandrapur, alleged that the Citu branch committee secretary Ezabul Haque had taken Rs 50,000 from her son Bablu six months ago, promising him a job.
“When my graduate son realised that Ezabul had bluffed him, Bablu started pressuring him to pay back the money,” Sushila said.
According to the mother, on September 11, Ezabul had called Bablu out of the house. Since then he did not return home.
Next day, she had lodged a missing diary with Harishchandrapur police.
On September 14, an unidentified body was found beside the railway tracks at Nimasarai in Old Malda. An alert had been sent to all the police stations in the district. Sushila received the information from Harishchandrapur police. She went to the district hospital morgue and identified the body.
Around 9am today, a large number of villagers gheraoed the police station demanding the arrest of the Citu leader. The siege was withdrawn at 3pm after SDPO Bhutia said they had “no intention to shield the accused”. The Citu leader has fled, he said.
Additional district superintendent of police Kalyan Mukherjee said a murder case had been started.
Citu zonal committee secretary Maqbul Hossain described Ezabul as a “sympathiser” of the party.

Custom officers held
TT, Berhampore, Sept. 19: Three customs employees, including a superintendent and an inspector, allegedly snatched lakhs in cash from two traders after stopping buses on a Murshidabad highway on the pretext of checking yesterday.
Superintendent Nitai Chandra Das, 55, inspector Shilananda Tigar, 42, and constables Susanta Maity, 45, Fani Ghosh, 50, and Pradyut Goswami, 45, all from the Jangipur Customs division, have been arrested on the complaints of two traders.
The officers were held while randomly checking passengers on buses plying on the highway at Ahiron, about 10km from the border. Two constables were in uniform while the others were in plainclothes. 
North eyes south taekwondo
TT, Gangtok, Sept. 19: A 15-member team from Sikkim left today for Visakhapatnam for the first India Open International Taekwondo Championship that will have 50 participating countries.
The group selected by the Sikkim Amateur Taekwondo Association will take part in the event that is to be held from September 22 to 24.
“The meet is being organised by the Indian Taekwondo Federation and is one of the six major tournaments sanctioned by the World Taekwondo Federation. Participants from 50 countries will be featuring in this event and it is a great opportunity for our players to represent the nation in such a prestigious tournament,” said chief coach of the Sikkim association, Trilok Subba.
The players have been selected from the state-level tournaments held earlier this month at the Paljor Stadium.
Subba said only black belts who have won medals at the national-level are allowed to participate in the international tournament at Visakhapatnam.
Subba admitted that winning medals at the event would not be an easy task.
“To win medals would be tough as there would be a large number of contestants in each weight group. We do expect some medals but it is not going to be easy. We have our hopes pinned on experienced international players like Sabina Sundas and Umesh Tamang,” he said.
Sabina had represented the country in the South Asian Games at Dhaka in 2009 while Umesh had participated in the World Taekwondo Championship in China in 2007.
Sabina, who will take part in the 46kg weight category, is confident about her performance.
“This is my second international tournament and I have prepared well with help from my coaches. I want to make my country and state proud by winning a medal,” she said.
The group is accompanied by coaches Sanjay Subba and Tamas Shetty along with team manager Bijoy Gurung. 
Bengalis play it safe, avoid Darjeeling and Kashmir
shukti sarma, SNS, KOLKATA, 19 SEPT: Bengalis love to travel and no wonder they are often  dubbed as compulsive travellers. And for many the Puja holidays are the perfect time to pack their rucksack and set out on a trip to a distant land. Sadly though this year two of their favourite travel destinations have been crossed out from the list ~ Darjeeling and Kashmir. "We had as many as 500 bookings for Kashmir,” said Ms Baby Pal of Jatrik Travel Agency in BB Ganguly Street. “But all have been cancelled. Even last year, we had innumerable bookings for Darjeeling. However, this year not a single booking has been made.”
Same is the predicament with several other city travel agents. According to a tour conductor of central Kolkata, many agents who used to depend on the rush for Darjeeling and Kashmir for their commission are in a tight position this year.
With political clashes, violence and unseasonal rains grabbing the headlines regularly for the past few months, Bengali tourists are eyeing other holiday destinations this Puja.
Instead of Darjeeling and Kashmir the favourite destinations this year are  Western India, Rajasthan, Mumbai and Goa. According to tour operators these destinations will see an increased number of city tourists this festive season. Even God's own country, Kerala, is not lagging behind. Though some Kashmir-bound tourists have decided to visit Simla, Kulu and Manali; many have decided against it. "The reason, said Mr Raktim Ray, a tour conductor from North Kolkata, is because of reports of landslides triggered by rains pouring in from Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
Mr Debashish Manna of Central Kolkata had planned a seven-day tour to Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong for the Pujas, but he cancelled the train tickets and hotel reservations last week.
“We are heading for Goa instead. We were hoping that the situation would improve. But the events hogging the headlines in the TV are far from encouraging. I do not want to be stranded there with my family,” he said. Many tour conductors and travel agents have voluntarily refrained from making any bookings for these two places. Representative of a Bhowanipore-based travel agency said that venturing out to Kashmir or Darjeeling would be a huge risk. Though no tours are being conducted in September, some agents have not cancelled the bookings for October; hoping against hope though for the unrest to settle down.

Prachanda thwarted, big brother India smug
Sankarshan Thakur, TT,  New Delhi, Sept 19: The unilateral and frustrated withdrawal of Nepali Maoist boss Prachanda from the prime ministerial race is occasion for a little glee and much gratification among India’s Nepal policy makers.
They won’t admit it publicly but Prachanda’s backing off is the consequence of sustained and often barely-concealed efforts by New Delhi to ensure he does not muster enough support in the Constituent Assembly to return as head of government.
The failure to elect a Prime Minister even after seven attempts means that the disabling political deadlock in Nepal continues.
Madhav Nepal is a lame-duck caretaker in the Prime Minister’s office; the polity and the Constituent Assembly remain deeply fractured; and the peace process, pegged on the contentious issue of integrating the barracked People’s Liberation Army into the mainstream, has become an extended impasse.
Above all, the writing of a constitution for the new republic, the Constituent Assembly’s central mandate, is in peril of lapsing beyond the revised deadline set for end-May 2011.
“The political process remains in a state of ramshackle breakdown,” a top Nepali politician told The Telegraph. “At the moment, the constitution seems the least of the priorities because there is so much jockeying for power. And yet, there is no breakthrough in sight, we are in a state of fruitless drift.” He was probably hinting at the forthcoming eighth attempt at electing a Prime Minister scheduled for September 26.
Prachanda having withdrawn, senior Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Paudel is the frontrunner, but it is already apparent to most that he can’t breast the tape because he does not have the numbers to run on.
A victor must get a minimum of 301 votes in the Constituent Assembly. Paudel’s best count in previous attempts has been 125-odd, and he cannot hope to better that by too many because the United Marxist-Leninists (UML), the party of caretaker Prime Minister Madhav Nepal, has decided to play neutral.
But for all that, Delhi is content to have successfully circumvented Prachanda’s return as head of government and keep in place a precarious power balance in Kathmandu that it can manoeuvre from time to time.
On the face of it, the pro-active Indian mission in Kathmandu allays any suggestions of an interventionist role.
Speaking to a leading Nepali weekly, ambassador Rakesh Sood assumed a duly correct hands-off tone. “Political stability,” he said, “is first and foremost the task of the Nepali political leadership…. It is not Indian policy that can bring about political stability but the desire and commitment of Nepali political leadership. As in the past, India has always indicated its willingness to support the efforts of the Nepali political leaders.”
Events over the past few months, though, would suggest a higher level of Indian intercession than what ambassador Sood, or the foreign office, would admit to. Especially when it has come to blockading Prachanda’s attempts at regaining power.
When first elected Prime Minister as head of the largest party following the elections of 2008, Prachanda had been welcomed by India, if only grudgingly. Delhi had woefully misread the underpinnings of that campaign and a little startled that the Maoists had swept far ahead of the competition. Even so, it greeted the Maoists’ entry into the mainstream and hoped, perhaps, that they would slowly get co-opted into accepting the parameters of working under the Indian sphere of influence.
That expectation was jolted when Prachanda sought to install his own man as Nepali army chief, a move that India not only opposed but also saw as a sign that the Maoists would assert themselves more in power than the other Nepali political parties.
The crisis over the army chief culminated in Prachanda’s resignation, and the suspicions that erupted from the episode have yet to die down. Each time Prachanda has looked close to tipping the scales in his favour, something has happened to scatter away the support he shored up among non-Maoist parties, especially the four Madhesi (Terai) parties who together account for 82 Constituent Assembly seats and could well have swung things Prachanda’s way.
Delhi has effected a few sophisticated interventions. Like the sudden Kathmandu visit, between the third and fourth rounds of polling, of Shyam Saran as the Prime Minister’s roving emissary. Saran, a former ambassador widely respected in Nepal, called Madhesi members of the Constituent Assembly for dinner during his trip and is believed to have argued against a vote for Prachanda.
Saran’s counsel worked. 
Plastic puzzle
Not all plastic containers are suitable for use or reuse. Moumita Chakrabarti gives the lowdown on what’s safe and what’s not- TT, 20 September 2010
Monalisa Sen was taken aback when her daughter’s class teacher told her that the plastic water bottle the child carried to school was unsafe. “She advised us not to reuse beverage bottles for drinking purposes,” says Sen
Sen is not the only one who is unaware of the fact that not all plastic bottles are safe for drinking or storing water. Many of us reuse plastic bottles in which beverages or mineral water is sold. And we also use plastic containers without giving a thought to whether or not they are safe for storing food. But health experts warn that this may have some adverse side effects.
So how does one know which plastic bottle or container is suitable for use and which is not? Well, there is a rule of thumb you can go by. Turn the bottle or container upside down and you will find a number embossed underneath. These numbers, ranging between 1 and 7, not only indicate the material the container is made of but also whether it is suitable for use.
In general, polyethylene terephthalate, commonly known as PET or PETE, which comes under Number 1, and is used in the manufacture of mineral water and beverage bottles, is considered safe. However, a few studies have shown that secretion of a toxic substance occurs when water is stored in a PET bottle for a considerable period of time.
Sunil Bhatnagar, senior manager (commercial), Pearl Polymers Ltd, which manufactures Pearlpet bottles, disagrees with this view. He says the material the company uses for manufacturing bottles has been thoroughly tested and approved and has been declared safe for food and other consumables by international health authorities. “Although most water and beverage bottles are lightweight and designed for single use, refillable and reusable Pearlpet bottles and jars are widely used.”
Not so, says a PepsiCo spokesperson. “PET bottles are not advisable for multiple use since they cannot be sterilised with hot water. If a bottle is not cleaned properly and used to store tap water, high TDS (total dissolve salts) might remain on the inner surface of the bottle and pose a health hazard. Ideally, these bottles should go back for processing,” the spokesperson says.
Concurs Sunil Pandey, fellow, Centre for Environmental Studies, “PET bottles used for long-term storage result in leaching (migration) of phthalates, a chemical compound of an acid used in making plastic, into water, which is harmful if ingested.” Phthalates can also cause infertility, obesity, breast and prostate cancer, heart disease and diabetes, adds Preeti Shah, director, Consumer Education Research Society (CERS), Ahmedabad.
The second (Number 2) type of plastic — high density polythylene (HDPE) — is not known to cause any health hazard and can be safely used for drinking water. It is also used in containers to store milk, cream and yogurt.
However, Number 3, which denotes polyvinyl chloride (commonly known as PVC), does pose some serious health risks. “This type of plastic contains plasticisers, which are used to soften hard materials, that can leach into food,” says Shah. Dr T.K. Joshi of the Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health (COEH), New Delhi, too says that bottles or plastic containers with Number 3 written on them should be avoided.
Ravi Agarwal, director, Toxic Links, New Delhi, points out that plasticisers added to PVC include phthalates and lead. “For this reason PVC is not used in children’s toys, teethers and even medical equipment in many countries,” he says. Lead impacts the nervous system and reduces the IQ level of children. It is one of the most toxic heavy metals, according to the World Health Organisation.
Though a Number 3 plastic container should be avoided, you can safely use containers with Numbers 4 (low-density polyethylene) and 5 (polypropylene) embossed on them. These are mainly used in take- away containers, those used for frozen food, bottles caps and food storage boxes.
In case you come across a Number 6 (polystyrene) type of plastic, that too should be given a wide berth. This kind of plastic is commonly used for making plastic cutlery, yogurt cups and coffee and tea cups. It is known to contain styrene, a chemical compound that is considered harmful.
The last type of plastic in the series, 7, contains bisphenol A (BPA), an organic compound that disrupts the endocrine system. This is not at all suitable for storing water and is mainly used for storing sauces and condiments. They can mimic the body’s natural hormones and thereby cause many health problems, say experts.
However, there are those who say that when it comes to the reuse of plastic mineral water or beverage bottles, the main danger lies not in any chemical contamination but in the fact that they may contain harmful bacteria. “If there is any risk from reuse, it probably comes from bacterial contamination as the bottle’s narrow neck makes it difficult to clean,” says Dr Joshi of COEH. He, however, agrees that not all plastic bottles can be used for drinking.
So do check the numbers beneath a plastic container before you use it. But, remember, even if it comes with the right number, it should not be used for too long. When it comes to plastics, use and throw seems to be the best option.

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