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Mom threatened by bus owner with acid attack

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KOLKATA: The mother of a Class-III student was allegedly threatened by a private school bus owner and his henchmen with and molestation after she lodged a complaint with the two RTOs about the accused running a condemned bus reportedly with fake number plates to ferry students to a reputable English-medium school at Liluah in . The son used to travel to school in this alleged rickety vehicle.

The Sinthi resident, who teaches dance in the Mamata Shankar ballet group, claimed she had initially complained to the school and asked the bus service owner, , to replace the bus. The school told the bus owner to replace the vehicle. But the owner allegedly repainted the condemned bus and continued ferrying schoolkids using a new fake number plate. When she went to RTOs, the bus owner allegedly threatened to hurl acid at her and molest her.

Refusing to buckle under pressure, the woman on Tuesday approached chief minister through her office and lodged a complaint. “It is a question of safety of around 30 students. Our complaint letter was received by a senior police officer at the CM’s office and he spoke directly to the IC of the police station. He accepted a larger racket could be involved and promised action. He asked us to approach the officers at the Baranagar police station. We did as instructed. We have faith in the administration,” she said.

Trouble started in 2015 when the woman’s son began going to school by one of the buses provided by Sarkar’s Sarkar Pool Car and Catering Services. The woman claimed the bus was not only old and rickety, but was also condemned. It had no GPS services as claimed even though the owner took Rs 5,000 as advance at the start of the session, she claimed, adding they had asked Sarkar to change the vehicle, but to no avail.

However, she said that despite all the requests, the bus was not changed and they stopped sending the boy to school by the bus. But realizing the safety of other children were still at stake, the woman and her husband wrote to the Barackpore RTO on June 27. The woman claimed on recommendation of the RTO the school stepped in and asked the owner to replace the bus.

“Fifteen days later, the owner apparently replaced the bus but what he actually did was merely repaint it and put up another registration number,” claimed the woman. Based on the new number plate, the couple lodged a second complaint last month, this time with the Burdwan RTO. “Within days, the bus owner and his associates began stalking me on roads and threatening me. They used objectionable language to mock me and my profession,” the woman alleged.

Cops at Baranagar police station said an FIR on the threat was registered on Tuesday. “Both sides had lodged complaints against each other in March and April. They were earlier family friends. Possibility of personal enmity playing a role cannot be ruled out,” said a senior officer at the Baranagar police station.

The bus service owner Sarkar refuted all claims: “Why is she trying to tarnish my image and the reputation of my services? She tried it even earlier. Around 200 children use my vehicles to go to school. None has ever complained. I have been in this business for long and have earned a reputation.”

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2-wheeler slips through bridge gap, trio escapes

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KOLKATA: employees and his wife were triple-riding a scooterette, along with friend , last Sunday when they suffered — and survived — an accident they call not only “miraculous”, but something that can become a textbook example of avoiding two-wheeler accidents.

Around 6.30pm on Sunday at the Beliaghata Road-Lorry Road crossing, rider Gopal (25) lost control, hit the median divider and fell 28 feet on to the railway tracks adjoining Sealdah station. Raju (32) and Padma (28) also fell. While Padma’s fall was cushioned by pipes, on which she lay dangling precariously for several minutes, Raju was the luckiest, in that the pipes completely caught him.

All three had gone to the Bhutnath Mandir area in Nimtala and were headed home to Christopher Road in Tangra, happy at having avoided police sergeants, who could have fined them heavily for triple-riding. But all three had been wearing helmets, a “safety measure” that Raju claims he had adopted after riding bikes for years. On Sunday, though, it was Gopal who was riding, with Raju sitting in the middle and Padma the second pillion-rider.

“We had just reached the railway overbridge on Beliaghata Main Road near the crossing, a few metres from the Sealdah station platform, when the scooterette suddenly skidded while negotiating a mild left turn at the point where the bridge begins its incline. The two-wheeler felt head-down and went through the median gap that demarcates the two lanes,” Padma recalled.

The two-wheeler fell into the median gap. Gopal fell 28 feet onto the train tracks, somehow missing the intricate layers of pipes running just under the bridge. Even as Padma’s fall was halted by the pipes, her helmet fell off when she hit the pipes and she passed out.

A profusely bleeding Raju was the first to regain composure. “I do not know how long I lay at that spot,” he said. “When I could manage to pull myself up on the pipes, I had my hands slashed and was bleeding from the mouth. I wished for help as I had about one-and-a-half feet to climb on to the road, but no help came. All around, car drivers kept peering down at us. No one offered to help, even though some tried to click photographs. I summoned all my strength to pull myself up, when a kind-hearted van driver agreed to take me to NRS. It was difficult to pull my wife up. She was bleeding from the head and was barely conscious. On the way to hospital, we alerted a traffic cop at the Sealdah station crossing about Gopal, who was still lying on the railway tracks. I was arranging a stretcher for my wife when they brought in Gopal. It was finally then that a cop asked me whether I was about to faint, as my entire shirt was soaked in blood.”

Padma and Gopal were later shifted — she to RG Kar Hospital and he to . All three were discharged after treatment.

On Tuesday, Padma still complained of dizziness, a headache, and the swelling on her right eye was still visible. “I took her to hospital and then met Gopal, who will take some more time to move around. I cannot manage to sit at home as all medicinal expenses have to be borne by me. Hence, I rejoined work on Monday. Padma will join once doctors declare her fit,” said Raju.

“The accident, though, has taught us that nothing in life can be on expected lines,” he said. “Three things saved our lives last Sunday — the helmets we were wearing, the pipes, which halted our fall, and finally, sheer luck. But lying on the rickety pipes and bleeding profusely, with my wife lying senseless near me, I also realized that you cannot count on fellow human beings to help you out in a crisis. With no one — save the van driver — offering help, it was left to me to fend for not only myself, but also my wife and friend.”
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New Town homes can have eateries on ground floor

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KOLKATA: House owners in can now turn entrepreneurs to set up a restaurant on the ground floor or lease it to a café or ice-cream parlour.
Taking a leaf out of neighbouring Salt Lake where ground floor shops have infused life into locatities, particularly those along First Avenue, the New Town Kolkata Development Authority (NKDA) has decided to allow houseowners to commercially use the ground floor. The civic authority will charge a nominal fee for the usage change.

In Salt Lake, shops had sprung up on the ground floor of many houses along First Avenue as well as FE Block opposite . They ranged from banks to restaurants to shops of various nature. But it was only in 2010 that the state urban development department recognised these establishments and permitted such conversion.

NKDA to kick off plan with eateries

In New Town, NKDA has decided to make a tentative beginning with eateries. It has listed out the preferred options: shop, snacks and tea & coffee bar, shop and dry food shop. The house owner will need to seek permission from NKDA and obtain a trade licence against payment of a nominal fee. “The procedure for seeking permission and obtaining trade licence will be easy and transparent,” an official said.

Though some food joints have already come up in a few houses in the township, they operated with a lot of restrictions. Not only was the permission fee rather steep at Rs 80 per sq ft, only 45% of the floor could be used. Moreover, the scrutiny was also severe. Hence, not many food joints or cafés popped up. Now with the fee revision and relaxed norms, NKDA hopes owners will be encouraged to set up these joints that will in turn make the localities more habitable and also create jobs.

“If you have shops in an area that are open till 10pm or 11pm, it automatically adds to the sense of safety in the neighbourhood,” said another civic official.

Officials said that once trade licence is issued, will also be revised to factor in the commercial use as per the unit area assessment (UAA) system that is in vogue since April 1.

NKDA is also planning to set up road side cafés at multiple locations in the township like the one it the one that operates at the bus terminus in Action Area I.
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Green-blue makeover for forest signage

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KOLKATA: The state forest department, deviating from a more than 100-year-old practice, is set to change the colour scheme on its signboards from red-and-green to green and-blue. The idea is to stress the importance of water conservation, say forest department officials.
The reported urgency of the change (the existing signage, including those on roads, has to be replaced in a fortnight) has taken staff at Aranya Bhavan, the forest directorate, by surprise. With at least 250 range offices and 600 beat offices spread across the state, officials have a Herculean task at hand.

A senior official said the move is yet to be implemented, though insiders claim the order to this effect had already been mailed on August 17.

The prevailing colour scheme is believed to have been in place across India since the Forest Research Institute, Dehradun, was founded way back in 1906.

N K Pandey, the state’s head of forests, said the new colour scheme is being implemented to lay thrust on water conservation. “We are planning to replace green-and-red with green-and-blue to promote the message of saving water,” he said. Pandey said the matter was still at the proposal stage, but a communique regarding the new signage colour scheme was mailed to Aranya Bhavan staff on August 17. TOI has a copy of it.

Urgency over new colour scheme surprises staff

An official, on condition of anonymity, expressed surprise at the need for urgency in implementing the new colour scheme. “The red-and-green colour combination is used on forest department signboards in almost every region of the country, particularly northern India. Then why this urgency to change the colour scheme now? Leave aside range and beat offices, such signboards have been installed in sites of field works and places where plantation drives have been undertaken. Besides, there are road-side signboards that need to be replaced with the new colour scheme within a week. So, a few thousand signboards have to be replaced,” the official said.

Pandey countered this, saying, “The green-and-red colour scheme is being used across the country as a convention; there’s no rule making it mandatory for states to follow the colour scheme. Signboards with green-and-blue colour scheme are being used in and .”

Ravi Kant Sinha, the state’s chief warden, agreed with Pandey, saying the greenand-red scheme is being used in the country as a convention. “The red symbolises the soil and green means trees on it. But some states like use a colour combination of blue-and-yellow, while Tamil Nadu uses blue-and-green,” he added.

Former chief wildlife warden Pradeep Vyas said the red-and-green colour has been used on forest signboards for years. “I have been seeing this colour combination on forest signboards ever since I joined the service in 1983. Apart from symbolising soil, the red colour is easily visible from a distance. That’s why the colour is also used in traffic lights or by the railways. Green and blue are both moderate colours; will they stand out?” he asked.

An official who didn’t want to be quoted said they were confused. “Why this urgency? Our group is abuzz with only one query: will bringing the blue colour in signboards raise awareness about saving water?” he said.
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No animal slaughter in public place: HC to WB

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KOLKATA: The held on Tuesday, a day before Eid-uz-Zoha, that sacrifice of the cow was not an integral part of the festival and was not a religious requirement under Islam.

The division bench of Chief Justice and Justice Arijit Banerjee cited a Supreme Court ruling to underline the observations, directing the state government to incorporate this clause in its notice to be issued regarding the observance of the festival on Wednesday.

The bench also asked the government to mention in the notice that the slaughter of animals, including cows and buffaloes, was “strictly prohibited… in open public space”.

The division bench expressed its “surprise” that the state government did not have the or the machinery to implement the West Bengal Control Act, 1950, despite the Act being “68 years old”. “It is not a new Act,” the order said, adding, “One could have definitely expected that the state, by this time, would have its machinery in place.”

State gets time till next year

The division bench passed the order after state advocate-general Kishore Dutta sought a revision application for an order passed by the same court on August 16. “The necessary infrastructure to strictly adhere to the provisions of the Act is not available with the state,” Dutta said. He also submitted that the state did not have enough slaughterhouses and there was also a dearth of veterinary surgeons and officers. Dutta added that the government would take steps to adhere to all the provisions of the Act by the next year, prompting the division bench to express its “surprise”. But it allowed the government time till the next calendar year to implement all these provisions while adding the two important clauses to be included in this year‘s notice itself.

Advocate Meghnad Dutta, appearing for Rajyashree Chaudhuri, said they would wait for the government to follow the order next year.
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HDMC to use AR tech to plug billboard revenue loss

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HUBBALLI: If a plan of Hubballi-Dharwad Smart City Limited (HDSCL) goes as expected, Hubballi-Dharwad Municipal Corporation (HDMC) should be the first urban local body in to use (AR) technology to plug revenue loss due to billboards which are illegal, inaccurate in size and with expired approvals.

The project, which has been given approval, is estimated to cost of Rs 93.22 lakh. Revenue from billboards is one of the major sources of income for urban local bodies, be it HDMC or Bengaluru’s Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). Sources in the HDSCL said urban local bodies are incurring revenue loss due to violations in billboards. At present, the size of billboards are measured physically which is of great risk as they are placed at a height.

HDSCL special officer S H Naregal told TOI that the local bodies can incur revenue loss pertaining to billboards in three possible ways. “Illegal billboards are put up without permission. In some cases, approval is taken for one billboard but two billboards are put up facing both sides of the road. Advertisers also increase the size of billboards marginally beyond the approved size. The billboards with expired approvals are also a major loss of income. In this case advertisers do not renew the timed-lease contracts,” he said.

HDSCL is adopting AR technology to address the issue. AR can help solve the billboard issues by using scale algorithm to determine the dimensions of billboards located too far for convenient measurement. A QR code is independently identified and serves as a record matching mechanism for pulling the relevant billboard details like approved height, dimensions, company name etc. Using a or AR glasses, one can see if there is any violation. The technology ensures cent per cent compliance to approving authorities.

As on June 2018, there are a total of 415 billboards within the jurisdiction of HDMC. “We have invited tenders for the selection of an agency to design, develop and support an AR-based application. We are also procuring devices from them. The handheld device can help us determine the size and violation, if any. The project will be released soon. The twin cities will be the first to have such a facility in the state,” Naregal said.

He added that the AR app will work without internet connectivity. The app will be with a GIS-based billboard database and HDMC‘s existing billboard database. The data will flow seamlessly between the app and database which will be secured and encrypted.
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Forum opposes ban on plaster of Paris Ganesh idols

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BELAGAVI: Madhyavarthi Sarvajanik Shri Ganeshotsav (MSSGM), a forum of all mandals in Belagavi that install Ganesha idols in public places, is unhappy with the decision of the district administration to seize plaster of Paris (PoP) idols and taking action those who make such idols.
The decision was taken by Deputy commissioner S Ziyaullah on Monday at a meeting with police, pollution control board and other officials regarding the ban on PoP idols owing to environmental concerns.

According to the Mahamandal, the administration took this decision when the festival is just three weeks ahead. “Almost all the idols are ready and the decision was taken at the last moment. This is nothing but playing with the religious sentiments of Hindus,” said Vikas Kalaghatagi, public relations in-charge of the Mahamandal.

The Mahamandal has already told the administration that the decision is impractical at the present stage. The forum has also decided to submit a memorandum to the administration along with BJP, various Hindu outfits, idol makers and office bearers of over 400 mandals who install idols on public places.

According to the Mahamandal, the Ganesh festival in Belagavi has a glorious history of over 100 years after it began when Bal Gangadhar Tilak the leader of the freedom movement installed the first in the city. Lakhs of people from Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa visit the city during the 11-day festival only to see the idols and decorations. It is the biggest festival of the city and involves the turnover of crores of rupees. Any decision taken in a hurry, like banning PoP idols may affect the celebrations, the Mahamandal said.

The district administration is advising mandals and the public to opt for eco-friendly idols but the forum claims that there is a dearth of clay needed to make the idols. Some idol makers say they bought clay from Maharashtra after paying a hefty price. Environment friendly colours are also not easily available in the region and the administration must consider all these aspects before imposing a ban, they say.

Vikas Kalaghatagi said awareness about environment is growing among the people and gradually they are opting for clay idols despite the high cost. “The change is happening by itself and it takes time for a complete transformation. Forcible implementation of sensitive decisions may create law and order problem,” he said.

According to Kalaghatagi, the use of Pop idols in Belagavi is not an environmental concern as no mandal in the city immerses idols in a river, well or lake. “Instead, the idols are immersed in 8-10 ponds constructed by the Belagavi City Corporation. Later, the water and silt is disposed of properly. Hence, there is no chance of contamination of water bodies,” he said.

Noted idol maker Sanjay Killekar said the timing of the decision is wrong as 90% of the work of making idols has been completed. “Idol makers would have considered not using PoP had the administration passed strict orders banning PoP 4-5 months ago. One has to use PoP while making large idols, as large clay idols do not have strength and may develop cracks, which is considered as a bad omen,” he said.

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