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West Bengal

Extremely severe cyclone Fani to hit Odisha coast on Friday afternoon

The extremely severe cyclonic storm, Fani, over westcentral Bay of Bengal, was very likely to cross the Odisha coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali, around Puri, on Friday afternoon, the India Meteorological Department said on Thursday.
The extremely severe cyclonic storm, Fani, over westcentral Bay of Bengal, was very likely to cross the Odisha coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali, around Puri, tomorrow afternoon, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said here today.
 
The IMD has already issued a cyclone warning for the coastal areas of Odisha and West Bengal and Srikakulam, Vijayanagaram and Visakhapatnam districts of Andhra Pradesh.
 
In a bulletin issued at 1230 hours today, the IMD said Fani had moved further north-northeastwards with a speed of about 16 kmph in the previous six hours and lay centred at 1130 hours IST near latitude 16.7°N and longitude 84.8°E, about 360 km south-southwest of Puri (Odisha), 190 km south-southeast of Vishakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) and 550 km south-southwest of Digha (West Bengal). 
 
"It is very likely to move north-northeastwards and cross Odisha Coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali, around Puri by the afternoon of 3rd May with maximum sustained wind speed of 170-180 kmph gusting to 200 kmph," the bulletin said.
 
The cyclone is being tracked by Doppler Weather Radars Vishakhapatnam & Machilipatnam.
 
The bulletin said light to moderate rainfall would occur over most places in North Andhra Pradesh with isolated heavy to very heavy falls over Visakhapatnam and Vijayanagaram districts and isolated heavy to extremely heavy falls (>20 cm) over Srikakulam district today.
 
There could be heavy to very heavy rainfall at isolated places over Srikakulam district tomorrow, it said.
 
In  south coastal and adjoining interior Odisha, the IMD said there could be light to moderate rainfall at most places today, with heavy to very heavy rainfall and extremely heavy falls over Ganjam & Gajapati districts at isolated places.
 
"It is likely to increase with moderate rainfall at most places and heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places and extremely heavy falls at isolated places over coastal Odisha and adjoining districts of interior Odisha on 3rd. Light to moderate rainfall at most places with heavy to very heavy falls at isolated places over Balasore, Mayurbhanj districts of north Odisha on 4th May," it said.
 
The bulletin also forecast light to light to moderate rainfall at most places with heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places and extremely heavy falls at isolated places very likely over coastal and adjoining districts of West Bengal tomorrow; and heavy to very falls at isolated places over Gangetic West Bengal on May 4.
 
"Light to moderate rainfall at most places with heavy falls at isolated places over sub-Himalayan West Bengal and Sikkim on 4th May," it said.
 
The bulletin said Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Meghalaya would experience light to moderate rainfall at most places, with isolated heavy to very heavy falls on May 4 and 5. There could be isolated extremely heavy falls over Assam and Meghalaya on May 4.
 
There could also light to moderate rainfall at many places over Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura on May 4, with isolated heavy falls.
 
The bulletin said gale winds, with speed reaching 180-190 kmph, gusting to 210 kmph, were very likely to prevail over westcentral Bay of Bengal around the system centre during the next 24 hours and decrease thereafter.
 
It said squally winds, with speed reaching 40-50 kmph, gusting to 60 kmph, were very likely to prevail along and off north Andhra Pradesh and Odisha Coasts and become gale wind, speed reaching 60-70 kmph gusting to 85 kmph, from tonight. It is very likely to become 170-180 kmph, gusting to 200 kmph, along and off south Odisha and adjoining north Andhra Pradesh (Srikakulam district) coasts; and 90-100 kmph gusting to 115 kmph along and off remaining districts of coastal Odisha and north Andhra Pradesh (Visakhapatnam and Vijayanagaram Districts) by tomorrow forenoon for the subsequent 12 hours and decrease thereafter.
 
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"Squally wind speed reaching 40-50 kmph gusting to 60 kmph is very likely along & off West Bengal coast from 2nd May evening. It is very likely become gale wind speed reaching 60-70 kmph gusting to 85 kmph from 3rd May afternoon and become 90-100 kmph gusting to 115 kmph from 4th May early morning for subsequent 12 hours and decrease thereafter," it said.
 
The sea condition will be phenomenal over westcentral Bay of Bengal, off north Andhra Pradesh coasts, till tomorrow and over northwest Bay of Bengal off Odisha and West Bengal till May 4.
 
Sea conditions are very likely to be very rough to high off north Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, along and off south Andhra Pradesh coasts till May 3.
 
The bulletin warned that storm surge of 1.5 metre height above astronomical tide was very likely to inundate low-lying areas of Ganjam, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts of Odisha at the time of landfall.
 
Fishermen were advised not to venture into deep sea areas and those out in deep sea in the above aeas were advised to return to the coasts.
 
The bulletin said the cyclone could cause extensive damage to kutcha houses and old pucca and badly managed pucca structures in Ganjam, Gajapati, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts of Odisha.
 
It said there could be extensive uprooting of communication and  power poles. There could also be disruption of rail and road links and extensive damage to standing crops, plantations and orchards. Large boats and ships may get torn from their moorings.
 
The IMD suggested total suspension of fishing operations, extensive evacuation of people from coastal areas, and diversion or suspension of rail and road traffic. People in affected areas have been advised to remain indoors.
 
The cyclone could also cause damage, on a lesser scale, in Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Jajpur, Balasore districts of Odisha and east and west Medinipur, south and north 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hoogli, Kolkata districts of West Bengal and Srikakulam, Visakhapatnam and Vijayanagaram districts of Andhra Pradesh, the bulletin added.
 
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Opposition slams Modi government at Mamata rally, calls for BJP ouster

Leaders of more than 20 opposition parties attended a massive rally in Kolkata organised by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and joined her in giving a clarion call for the ouster of the BJP government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Centre in the coming elections.
 
TMC rally: Opposition unites in a show of strength
Leaders of more than 20 opposition parties attended a massive rally in Kolkata organised by West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) Chairperson Mamata Banerjee and joined her in giving a clarion call for the ouster of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Centre in the coming elections.
 
All the leaders who were present at the "United India Rally", which attracted thousands of people, spoke of the problems being faced by the poor and vulnerable sections across the country because of the present regime's policies and measures and urged the people to vote it out in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
 
Ms. Banerjee also said the question about the Prime Ministerial candidate could be decided later, stressing the immediate task was for all of them to come together and oust the BJP from power.
 
Congress President Rahul Gandhi and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) did not attend the rally but sent their representatives. Mr. Gandhi also sent a message in which he extended his support to "Mamata Di" on the show of unity and hoped that they send a powerful message of a united India together.
 
"Across India, there are powerful forces afoot. Forces that are fanned by the anger and disappointment of hundreds of millions of Indians who have seen through the false promises and lies peddled by the Modi government," he said in the message.
 
"These forces are moved by the hope of a new tomorrow; a tomorrow filled with the idea of an India in which  the voice of every man, woman and child will be heard and respected no matter what their religion, economic status or region.
 
"The entire opposition is united in our belief that true nationalism and development can only be defended on the tested pillars of democracy, social justice and secularism, ideas that the BJP and Mr. Modi are intent on destroying.
 
"We commend the great people of Bengal who have historically been at the forefront of defending our ideas," he said.
 
Those present at the rally included former Prime Minister and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) chief H D Deve Gowda, Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Abhishek Singhvi, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party chief N. Chandrababu Naidu, Karnataka Chief Minister and JD-S leader H D Kumaraswamy, Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmy Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal, former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav,  former Union Minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Ministers and National Conference leaders Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah and former Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Gegong Apang.
 
Others present included Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) chief Sharad Yadav, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) chief M K Stalin,  Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav, former Jharkhand Chief Minister Babulal Marandi, senior BSP leader Satish Chandra Mishra, former BJP Ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Ram Jethmalani, dissident BJP MP and actor Shatrughna Sinha, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) leader Jayant Chaudhary, Patidar leader Hardik Patel, Dalit activist Jignesh Mevani and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader Hemant Soren.
 
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"A new dawn is coming. We have taken the pledge to work together," Ms. Banerjee told the huge crowd.
 
"Some people are trying to destroy the country. As Arvind Kejriwal said, what Pakistan could not do in 70 years, the Government at Centre managed to do in just five years. They have managed to drive a wedge between communities. They have destroyed all the institutions. They have started politics of hate. They have destroyed the country’s economy," she said.
 
"Jan Dhan, NPA, Rafale, insurance are big scams. There are other big scams as well. Those who are dishonest are preaching about integrity. They are talking about honesty? How much money did they have five years ago and how did their wealth increase? I don’t want to make personal comments but they initiated it. I believe in politics of courtesy but they do not care about it. They crossed the Lakxman Rekha. They tried to implicate Sonia ji, Lalu ji, Akhilesh, Mayawati ji and even me. Why will they expect to be spared?" she asked.
 
"People are asking who will be the leader. There is no dearth of leaders here. Their party is leaderless, so there is just one Prime Minister. In our gathbandhan, we all are leaders, we all are workers, we all are the subjects and we all are the kings. This is democracy. We will later finalise who will be the Prime Minister. The time has not yet come," she said.
 
"Enough of Achhe Din, it is time to bid goodbye to BJP. It is time for change at Centre. For the sake of youths, farmers, labourers, and people of the country, we have to defeat the BJP," shhe said.
 
"We are against divisive politics. We are against hate. We do not want bloodlust. We are against discrimination. We want constructive politics, not destructive agenda.
 
"Hindu stands for sacrifice, Muslims represent integrity. Christians stand for love and Sikhs represent validaan. This is our country. A person who can work for all, without discrimination, will be the leader of the nation," she said.
 
Addressing the rally, Congress leader Kharge appealed to all parties to unite to save the Constitution and democracy. He said the BJP had promised two crore jobs every year, but has only helped its corporate friends.
 
"A rainbow of 22 parties is replacing dark clouds hovering over the country," Mr. Abhishek Singhvi said.
 
Mr. Chandrababu Naidu said Mr. Modi and BJP president Amit Shah had betrayed the nation. He said the public mandate that brought them to power also had the strength to overthrow them.
 
"If BJP tries to victimize our leaders and harass the public, it will pay a heavy price. We will fight fearlessly to save democracy," he said.
 
"All the leaders forming the Mahagathbandhan have one ambition, ‘Save India, Save Democracy'. Since coming to power, the BJP govt has used every strategy to divide the people. We have united India and a new Prime Minister will rise out of this union," he said.
 
Mr. Kumaraswamy said the government at the Centre was headed by "undemocratic persons". He said demonetisation had hit the poor in the country hard, especially in the rural areas. He said it was sad that the Union Government had turned a deaf ear to the needs and woes of the people.
 
Mr. Stalin said the 2019 Lok Sabha elections would be the second war of independence. He said Mr. Modi was sure that he would not get a second term as Prime Minister and that is way he was fiercely attacking the Opposition at every opportunity.
 
"He is afraid of our unity. We must come together to protect India," he said.
 
Dr. Farooq Abdullah said there was a need to save India from the BJP, which  was dividing people on religious lines. He said the parties present must fight the elections together, pointing out that the question of who should become the Prime Minister could be decided later.
 
Mr. Tejashwi Yadav said the opposition parties were united in their diversity and would not be scared by the government's intimidation tactics.
 
Mr. Arun Shourie said no Government had said so many lies or undermined institutions as the Modi regime had done. "We all should have one aim, of removing BJP from the Centre," he said. He said the Opposition must ensure a single candidate against the BJP in all constitutuencies and urged them to hold rallies in every corner of the country.
 
Mr. Yashwant Sinha said it was not about removing one man from power but about coming together to defeat an ideology.
 
Shatrughan Sinha said people kept asking him why he spoke against the BJP when he was still in the party. "The mood of the nation is for 'parivartan' (change). People want a new leader," he said.
 
"If speaking truth is rebellion then you should consider me a rebel. Along with truth, I also don't compromise with principles," he said.
 
Mr. Jayant Chaudhary said Ms. Banerjee had united the Opposition and said it was imperative to get rid of Mr. Modi from the Centre.
 
Hardik Patel, who was invited to be the first speaker, said, "Subhas Chandra Bose had given a slogan to fight against ‘goro’ (Britishers), we are fighting against ‘choro’ (thieves),” he said.
 
Mr. Jignesh Mevani said the country was facing an unprecedented crisis with the exploitation of the poor, minorities and Dalits under the present regime.
 
Mr. Pu Lalduhoma of Zoram Nationalist Party of Mizoram said minorities felt unsafe under the BJP-led NDA government.
 
Mr. Hemant Soren said the BJP must be uprooted from not just the Centre but the States, too.
 
Thousands of people turned up for the rally. The TMC put up flexes and posters with photographs of the visiting leaders on roads leading to the venue of the rally from the airport.
 
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Kolkata bridge collapse: Rescue operations on, suo motu case lodged

Rescue operations continue on Wednesday after a portion of a 40-year-old bridge collapsed in south Kolkata a day earlier, even as a suo motu case has been lodged against the persons responsible for the accident. Two persons are still reported missing.
 
Kolkata bridge collapse: rescue efforts on
 
 
Rescue operations continue on Wednesday after a portion of a 40-year-old bridge collapsed in south Kolkata a day earlier, even as a suo motu case has been lodged against the persons responsible for the accident. Two persons are still reported missing.
 
A part of the Majherhat Bridge between Taratala and Mominpur collapsed around 4.30 p.m. on Tuesday in south Kolkata, crushing a person to death and injuring 19 others.
 
"Two persons are still missing and a suo motu case has been lodged under IPC 304 and 308 against responsible persons," police said.
 
Four teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), fire brigade and personnel of disaster management teams are at the spot.
 
Cranes have been deployed and gas cutters are being used for the rescue operation. Three columns of army personnel are also present at the spot.
 
"Our team is still working on the rescue. Overnight and this morning, we tried to dig holes in the concrete slab decks that caved in to find out whether anyone is still trapped underneath.
 
"Cameras are also being used to find out what remains below the debris. Removing the rubble would take more time," a member of the rescue team said on Wednesday.
 
The West Bengal government has initiated a probe into the incident. "Investigations are going on. At this point, we cannot come to any conclusion regarding the possible reasons behind the accident," a member of the forensic team said.
 
Pedestrians and commuters in buses and cars who were on the collapsed structure were rescued.
 
The bridge was the main connector between central and southwest part of the city. Due to the partial collapse of the bridge, traffic has been diverted. Tram services on some routes have been withdrawn, a Kolkata Traffic Control official said.
 
Goods vehicles' movement has been restricted on some of the arterial roads between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m.
 
State government will pay a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the family of Soumen Bagh, who died in the accident.
 
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State Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim said on Tuesday that heavy construction work of the metro project beside the collapsed bridge could have weakened its pillars.
 
City metro railway authority, however, ruled out any such possibility.
 
Amid blame game over the partial collapse of the bridge, the Eastern Railway said it was not conducting any maintenance work at the accident site.
 
However, experts said the bridge was very old and as such structural defect or use of inferior quality material cannot be cited as the reason for the collapse.
 
They said the bridge has been withstanding heavy vehicles for more than 40 years and that the only reason that may have triggered the collapse could be "lack of maintenance".
 
According to a state official, the 40-year-old bridge was constructed by the Kolkata Port Trust and maintained by State Public Works Department.
 
However, a Kolkata Port Trust official said it does not have any records that show the bridge was constructed by it.
 
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Heavy turnout of voters in first phase of Assembly polls in West Bengal, Assam

More than 80.92 percent of the voters exercised their franchise in the first phase of polling in the elections to the legislative assembly of West Bengal and 78 percent in Assam amidst tight security on Monday.
More than 80.92 percent of the voters exercised their franchise in the first phase of polling in the elections to the legislative assembly of West Bengal and 78 percent in Assam amidst tight security today.
 
Polling was by and large peaceful in both the states, with no major untoward incident reported from anywhere, official osurces said.
 
In West Bengal, voting was held today in 18 constituencies in Phase IA of polling. They include six seats in Paschim Medinipur, nine in Purulia and three in Bankura district.
 
These constituencies have a total electorate of 40,09,171 voters, including 20,47,202 men and 19,57,453 women. There are 4500 service electors in these constituencies.
 
There were a total of 133 candidates in these constituencies, including 11 women.
 
The Election Commission had set up 4945 polling stations and made elaborate arrangements to ensure a smooth poll in these constituencies.
 
As many as 65 constituencies went to the polls in the first phase of voting in Assam. There were 566 candidates in all, including 44 women. Prominent candidates in the fray included Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi of the Congress, who is seeking a fourth conseccutive term, and Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, the chief ministerial candidate of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).
 
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16 dead, 63 injured as under-construction flyover collapses in Kolkata

At least 16 persons died and 63 others suffered injuries when an under-construction flyover, which has been more than six years in the making, collapsed in the busy and congested Bura Bazaar area of north Kolkata on Thursday.
 
Kolkata: 10 dead in under-construction bridge collapse
 
At least 16 persons died and 63 others suffered injuries when an under-construction flyover, which has been more than six years in the making, collapsed in the busy and congested Bura Bazaar area of north Kolkata today.
 
Police sources told NetIndian that the 16 dead included 14 men and two women, all of whom were crushed under the tonnes of concrete and steel that came crashing on them around 1215 pm today without any warning.
 
They said nearly 60 others had been taken to various hospitals in the city for treatment of injuries.
 
Officials feared the number of casualties could increase as search and rescue teams made their way through the mangled steel and concrete through the night.
 
Army personnel and teams from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) joined the local police, the fire brigade, other agencies and hundreds of volunteers in a massive rescue effort with specialised equipment, sniffer dogs and so on.
 
Several people were feared trapped below the debris of the bridge and frantic efforts were being made to reach them without loss of time. As people dug through the rubble, they found cars, taxis and other vehicles trapped under the concrete.
 
Hundreds of people of the locality and passers-by rushed to the spot and began trying to remove the debris with their bare hands, using whatever equipment they could lay their hands on, even as the authorities made arrangements to rush cranes, gas cutters and other machinery as well as ambulancesto the scene. 
 
Scores of witnesses told journalists at the scene that they heard a loud rumble and then a massive thud as the huge bridge suddenly came down without any warning.
 
Footage from a closed circuit television (CCTV) camera in the area showed people going about their normal business and traffic moving as usual under the flyover when it suddenly came crashing down.
 
Traffic in the entire area came to a total standstill and there were traffic snarls in several nearby areas as a consequence.
 
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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who was campaigning for the state assembly elections outside Kolkata, rushed back to the state capital and visited the scene of the tragedy.
 
She said stringent action would be taken against officials of the construction company, the Hyderabad-based IVRCL Limited, or any others found guilty of negligence.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is currently in the United States on an official visit, took stock of the situation and expressed shock and grief over the incident.
 
“Shocked and saddened by collapse of under construction flyover in Kolkata. Took stock of the situation and rescue operations. 
 
"My thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives in Kolkata. May the injured recover at the earliest," he said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who was touring West Bengal as part of the BJP's election campaign, asked the Director General, NDRF, Mr. O.P.Singh, to rush rescue teams to the spot.
 
An official press release said seven NDRF teams had been deputed to the site and two more teams were being mobilized for the rescue operations.
 
"I am deeply saddened to know that precious lives have been lost in the Kolkata accident," he added.
 
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Modi invokes spirit of Team India; says Centre, states must work together

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday described the Central government and the 29 state governments in the country as "30 pillars of Team India" which would together take the country forward.
 
Delhi alone will not run nation: Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today described the Central government and the 29 state governments in the country as "30 pillars of Team India" which would together take the country forward.
 
Addressing a public meeting after dedicating to the nation the 2.5 million tonne modernised and expanded IISCO steel plant at Burnpur in West Bengal, he mentioned various instances of cooperative federalism of recent months, including the setting up of the NITI Aayog, and the devolution of additional revenues to the States through acceptance of the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission. 
 
He also mentioned that the decades-old land boundary issue between India and Bangladesh had been successfully resolved through the same spirit of Team India, with all state governments concerned and political parties coming together to support a solution of the problem.
 
He said the nation would move ahead faster when the Centre and the states worked together.
 
"Sadly Centre-State relations were tensed for a long time. I have been Chief Minister for a long time and I know that such behaviour will not be good. We have brought in a change, we focused on co-operative federalism. Delhi alone will not run the nation," he said.
 
"India will not change without a 'Team India'. The Prime Minister and Chief Ministers are one team that will take India ahead. The nation is bigger than any party," he said.
 
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Mr Modi said the time had now come for India to address the issue of "geographical imbalance" along with the economic and social imbalances. He said that eastern India, too, should develop as fast as western India is developing, and for that, development of West Bengal is essential. 
 
"The eastern part of India has immense potential. The people are also skilled," he said.
 
He said District Mineral Foundations would be set up to help speed up progress and welfare of the poor in mineral-rich districts. He said that, within a year, the atmosphere of gloom in the country had lifted, and all global rating agencies were now agreed that India is among the world's fastest growing economies.
 
"A year ago the world had a different perception about India. Now the world says in one voice that India is a fast growing economy," he added.
 
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Modi "deeply concerned", asks for report on Nadia nun's gang-rape, Hisar church attack

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has voiced deep concern about the alleged gangrape of an elderly nun at Nadia in West Bengal recentlyand the attack on a church at Hisar in Haryana and sought an immediate report on the incidents.
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has voiced deep concern about the alleged gangrape of an elderly nun at Nadia in West Bengal recentlyand the attack on a church at Hisar in Haryana and sought an immediate report on the incidents.
 
"PM is deeply concerned about the incidents in Hisar, Haryana and Nadia, West Bengal," the Prime MInister's Office (PMO) said on micro-blogging site Twitter today.
 
"PMO has asked for immediate report on facts & action taken regarding the incidents in Haryana and West Bengal," it added.
 
A 71-year-old nun was allegedly gang-raped by dacoits at a convent in Nadia district in the early hours of Saturday. The incident has triggered protests in West Bengal and the state government has ordered a probe by the CID in the case.
 
In the second incident, a church under construction at Kaimri village near Hisar in Haryana was vandalised by a group of people on Sunday.
 
Both the incidents have evoked widespread condemnation across the country, with the Christian community expressing serious concern about the safety of churches and other institutions.
 
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Polling underway for 41 seats in final phase of LS elections

Polling was underway on Monday amidst tight security in 41 constituencies spread over three states -- Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal -- in the ninth and final phase of elections to the 16th Lok Sabha.
 
Ninth phase of 16th LS polls underway
Polling was underway today amidst tight security in 41 constituencies spread over three states -- Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal -- in the ninth and final phase of elections to the 16th Lok Sabha.
 
Thousands of voters turned out to exercise their franchise in these constituencies and long queues of voters  were seen at many polling stations despite the sweltering heat,
 
All eyes were, however, on Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, the second constituency from which BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is trying to make his maiden entry into the Lok Sabha. His main rivals in Varanasi are Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal and local Congress leader Ajay Rai.
 
Mr Modi is also in the fray from Vadodara in Gujarat, where polling was held on April 30.
 
Around 1.6 million people are eligible to cast their votes in Varanasi in what is clearly the keenest contest of the 2014 elections. There were long queues of voters outside polling stations in most areas of the city.
 
The authorities have deployed around 45,000 security personnel to ensure free and fair polls in the constituency. More than 12,000 polling booths were put under surveillance with CCTV cameras and proceedings at more than 300 polling stations were being videographed.
 
The Election Commission has deployed Tamil Nadu Chief Electoral Officer Praveen Kumar as a special observer for the constituency following complaints of bias against the local election officials by the BJP. Several senior police officers of Uttar Pradesh are also camping in the city.
 
The constituencies that voted today included 18 in Uttar Pradesh, 17 in West Bengal and six in Bihar. They have a total of 66.13 million voters and there were 606 candidates in the fray.
 
The first phase of polling in the long drawn out election process was held on April 7. Counting of votes for all constituencies will be taken up on May 16 and all results are expected by that evening. Two members in the 545-member Lok Sabha are nominated by the President from the Anglo-Indian community.
 
Other prominent candidates in the fray in Uttar Pradesh include Samajwadi Party (SP) supremo and former Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav from Azamgarh and UP Legislative Assembly Speaker Mata Prasad Pandey from Doomariaganj.
 
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Union Minister of State for Home Affairs R P N Singh is contesting from Kushinagar and popular Bhojpuri film actor Ravi Kishan from Jaunpur, both on the Congress ticket. Veteran BJP leader Kalraj Mishra is contesting the Deoria seat. Quami Ekta Dal (QED) leader Mukhtar Ansari, who withdrew from the contest in Varanasi and later announced his support for the Congress, is in the contest from Ghosi.
 
In Bihar, the prominent candidates include well-known Hindi filmmaker Prakash Jha, who is trying his luck yet again, this time as a Janata Dal (United) candidate, and former Union Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).
 
In West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has fielded former Union Ministers Sudip Bandopadhyay, Dinesh Trivedi in Barrackpore and Sougata Roy in Dum Dum and actors Dipak Adhikari (Dev) from Ghatal and Tapas Paul in Krishinagar.
 
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has put up Ms Subhashini Ali against Mr Trivedi in Barrackpore, while the BJP has fielded well-known magician P C Sorcar (Junior) in Barasat. West Bengal Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury is the party's candidate in Berhampore.
 
The TMC had won 14 of the 17 seats that went to the polls today in West Bengal in the 2009 elections, while the CPI, SUCI and Congress had won one each. The TMC and the Congress were in an alliance then. The CPI (M) had not won a single seat from these in 2009.
 
There are a total of 328 candidates, including 18 women, in the 18 constituencies of Uttar Pradesh, which have a total electorate of 31.6 million voters.
 
In Bihar, more than 8.8 million voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in the six constituences which have a total of 90 candidates in the fray.
 
The 17 constituencies that went to the polls in West Bengal have a total electorate of  25.61 million and 188 candidates in the fray.
 
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Man who floated in sea for 5 days sans food brought to Kolkata

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Rabindranath Das, the master of a capsized fishing trawler who floated for five days clinging on to a bamboo pole in the turbulent Bay of Bengal without food and life jacket till he was rescued by a Bangladeshi ship off the Chittagong coast, has been brought to the city for treatment.
 
In a virtual epic struggle against the forces of nature, Das survived solely on 'water when it rained' from July 6 -- when his trawler capsized in the sea during a storm -- to July 10, when he was finally rescued by the crew of the ship MV Jawad.
 
Das, hailing from Narayanpur in South 24 Parganas district's Kakdwip, was the master of the trawler FB Nayan-I. He had set sail for the deep sea along with 14 fishermen on July 4.
 
Once the vessel capsized, three of the occupants got trapped in it, while Das and 11 others jumped into the sea, offloading fuel drums and tying them together with a bamboo pole and rope.
 
While all his 11 colleagues were drowned one after another over the next few days, Das displayed unbelievable resilience and grit to stay afloat.
 
Finally, he was spotted by the Bangladeshi vessel near Chittagong on July 10. After a two-hour heroic effort, during which the ship even lost sight of him once, Das was finally rescued.
 
"All I can recollect now is that my trawler capsized and we jumped into the water and were floating. I did not eat during the entire time I was floating. There were intermittent rain and big waves. I drank water when it rained," Das said on Sunday, a day after reaching Kolkata.
 
But amid the happiness and ecstasy over his miraculous survival, what hurts Das the most is the way his nephew got drowned only a couple of hours before he was rescued.
 
"We were floating together. He had a life jacket. But since he was very much scared, I was carrying him on my shoulders for days. But he drowned shortly before I was picked up by the ship," Das said.
 
IANS
 

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Kolkata Metro passenger dies as train starts moving with his hand stuck between doors

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A passenger on the Kolkata Metro railway died a horrific death after the train started moving with his hand stuck between the doors and his body hanging outside on Saturday.
 
Eyewitnesses said the victim -- a middle-aged man -- tried to board the Kavi Subhas-bound train around 6.40 p.m. at Park Street station, but could not get in fully due to a heavy rush of passengers.
 
He had only got his hand inside the compartment when the doors closed, and his hand got stuck. To the horror of onlookers, the train started moving towards Maidan station with the man's body hanging outside.
 
After the train had moved some distance, he fell down in the tunnel.
 
A passenger Sudip Roy said soon after the train started moving towards Maidan there was a burning smell and the train came to a halt.
 
Eyewitnesses said the victim lay in the tunnel for quite some time before security personnel ran and removed him.
 
The victim was taken to SSKM hospital where he was declared brought dead.
 
A Kolkata Metro spokesperson described the incident as "unfortunate" and said a three-member inquiry committee has been formed. The committee will view the CCTV footage and the circumstances leading to the incident.
 
IANS

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Trinamool leader shot dead in Bengal's Murshidabad

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A Trinamool Congress leader was shot dead in West Bengal's Murshidabad district on Friday, police said.
 
The victim Shofiul Hasan was travelling in his car when miscreants surrounded the vehicle, forced him to alight, hurled bombs and fatally shot him in Hariharpara.
 
Shofiul died on the spot. Police later reached the site of the crime and took possession of the body.
 
The incident has triggered tension in the area.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 

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SpiceJet technician crushed to death at Kolkata airport

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A SpiceJet trainee technician died a horrific death early on Wednesday when he got stuck between hydraulic door flaps while carrying out maintenance work on an aircraft at the NSCBI airport here, officials said.
 
The incident occurred around 1.45 a.m. and the technician was identified as Rohit Bhushan Pandey. 
 
"He was doing maintenance work on a Q400 aircraft, and accidentally the landing gear door closed on him. He died almost on the spot," a highly-placed airport official told IANS.
 
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation will carry out an inquiry into the incident, the official said.
 
A SpiceJet spokesperson said Pandey was working in the right hand main landing gear wheel well area of the aircraft, which was parked in bay no. 32 when the accident took place.
 
"Inadvertently, the main landing gear hydraulic door closed and he got stuck in between the hydraulic door flaps. The doors had to be broken to rescue Pandey but he was declared dead," the spokesperson said.
 
A case of "unnatural death" has been lodged at the Kolkata Airport police station, while police and forensic teams visited the site.
 
Police have spoken to the eyewitnesses to ascertain whether the incident happened due to technical glitches or human error.
 
The landing gear is in the aircraft's undercarriage that is used for take-off and landing. The landing gear door covers it during a flight. A hydraulic opening system and a hydraulic closing system are two of the constituent parts of the landing gear door.
 
IANS
 

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Another Trianmool MLA, zilla parishad members in Bengal switch to BJP

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In yet another blow to West Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress, party MLA Wilson Champramary and several Zilla Parishad members from South Dinajpur district joined the BJP on Monday.
 
The Trinamool leaders switched to the saffron outfit at the party's New Delhi headquarters in the presence of BJP's General Secretary and Bengal in-charge Kailash Vijayvargiya, its Bengal president Dilip Ghosh and senior leader Mukul Roy.
 
Former Trinamool Congress district President Biplab Mitra, known to have played a key role in building the party organisation in the South Dinajpur district, led the defectors which included 14 members of the Zilla Parishad, the highest tier of the three-tier Panchayat system in the country.
 
The chairperson of the local body -- Lipika Roy -- also joined the saffron party.
 
With this defection, the BJP, that has successfully snatched away a number of municipalities from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's party in Bengal since the 2019 elections results were announced on May 23, has now gained control over the first Zilla Parishad in the state.
 
Champramary, a three-term MLA of Kalchini constituency of north Bengal's Alipurduar district, said he decided to switch to the BJP as he was fed up with the violence unleashed by Trinamool Congress in the state.
 
He also alleged that he was not allowed to work for the people in his constituency by the local ruling party leaders.
 
Attacking Trinamool supremo Banerjee, Mitra said that, due to her "autocratic behaviour", it had become impossible to continue in the party of which he was one of the founders. 
 
"I built the party from scratch in South Dinajpur. But it is now impossible to work with dignity in Trinamool," he said.
 
Mitra was apparently cut up with the Trinamool ever since the party leadership this year turned down his plea that he be nominated as its candidate from Balurghat constituency replacing then sitting MP and theatre activist Arpita Ghosh.
 
Ghosh lost to BJP's Sukanta Majumdar and then accused Mitra and his associates of not working for her.
 
BJP leader Mukul Roy claimed more such defections will take place in near future and many more Trinamool Congress legislators are willing to switch over.
 
A number of Trinamool Congress MLAs joined the saffron party in recent weeks. On June 16, Bongaon MLA Biswajit Das along with 12 party councillors joined BJP. A day earlier, Trinamool's Noapara legislator Sunil Singh with 15 party councillors, joined BJP.
 
Senior BJP leader Mukul Roy's son and Bijpur MLA Subhrangshu Roy also switched to the saffron party after being suspended by Trinamool Congress for six years for making anti-party comments.
 
Trinamool Congress, however, said the desertions would not affect it much and claimed that many of the 14 Zilla Parishad members will rejoin Trinamool once they come back to Bengal.
 
"Many of the party leaders were intimidated and forced to join BJP. But they will come back to us as soon as they reach Bengal. We are confident that we will be able to hold the majority in the South Dinajpur Zilla Parishad if an election is held," said Arpita Ghosh, party's current district president.
 
Senior Trinamool leader and state urban development minister Firhad Hakim said those switching over to BJP lack ideals and claimed that the saffron outfit will eventually "use and throw" the defectors.
 
"We (Trinamool) believe in the ideology of Mahatma Gandhi and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. I think these people were there in our party because they also believed in those ideals. Then how come they are joining a party that encouraged Gandhi's assassination?" Hakim questioned.
 
"BJP believes in the use-and-throw policy. They will use these leaders and later throw them away," he added.
 
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Three suffer bullet injuries in Bengal after BJP-Trinamool clash

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Three persons, including a boy, suffered bullet injuries after a clash between workers of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) broke out at Panchasayar in West Bengal's Bankura district on Saturday.
 
Trinamool Congress held a rally led by state Minister and party's senior leader Suvendu Adhikari in the area and the clash erupted after the BJP activists allegedly shouted 'Jai Shri Ram' slogans at Trinamool workers when they were returning from the meeting.
 
BJP's Bankura MP Subhas Sarkar accused police of firing a bullet at the party workers.
 
"All three injured persons suffered bullet injuries. Police said they had resorted to firing rubber bullets, which is wrong," he said after visiting injured persons in the Bankura Medical College.
 
IANS
 

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Another Bengal BJP worker thrashed, dies in hospital

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Amid reports of ongoing political violence in Bhatpara in Bengal's North 24 Parganas district, another BJP activist died on Saturday after being brutally beaten up, allegedly by Trinamool Congress-backed miscreants, in the same district's Amdanga, a state BJP leader said on Saturday.
 
According to saffron party sources, Karim, a former CPI-M worker, switched to the BJP during the 2019 polls. He was attacked by Trinamool workers on Friday.
 
"Many CPI-M supporters, including Karim, joined the BJP. They worked for the party during the polls. He was also a booth agent. That is why he was killed. Trinamool activists are murdering our supporters with the help of the administration," said BJP's Barrackpore MP Arjun Singh after meeting the victim's kin.
 
Police said Karim was brutally beaten up by a group of men after an altercation between them, but did not confirm the political affiliation of either the victim or the accused.
 
"Nazimul Karim (23) was brutally beaten up during an altercation at a local market. He was admitted to a local hospital. Then, he was referred to a Kolkata hospital where he died this morning. A complaint has been lodged and investigation is going on," police said.
 
A clash broke out between the BJP workers and the police when security personnel reached the spot at Amdanga after the incident.
 
Amdanga, known for its history of political violence, was on the boil during panchayat elections last year.
 
IANS
 

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BJP delegation visits Bengal's violence-hit Bhatpara, demands probe into killings

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A three-member BJP delegation on Saturday visited violence-hit Bhatpara in West Bengal's North 24 Parganas district where two persons were shot dead during a clash on Thursday, and demanded a probe into the killings even as it accused the state police of opening fire on innocent people.
 
The three-member delegation, comprising BJP MPs S. S. Ahluwalia, Satya Pal Singh and Vishnu Dayal Ram, visited the house of the two deceased -- Rambabu Shaw and Dharambir Shaw -- in Bhatpara on Saturday afternoon and said the bereaved families would be given financial aid of Rs 10 lakh each.
 
"When the clash between the two groups took place, police baton-charged one group and shot at the other. We want to know who took that decision? Who was behind this conspiracy? There should be a thorough probe into this. We will submit the report to (Union Home Minister) Amit Shah and apprise him of the on-ground situation here," Ahluwalia said.
 
"Police opened fire on innocent, common people. They have shot everyone here. Police held a press conference and said they fired in the air. If it was true, then how did the people get shot? Were they flying in the air?" he questioned.
 
The BJP MP from Asansol-Durgapur parliamentary constituency accused the state's ruling Trinamool Congress of indulging in constant violence even after the 2019 poll results have come out and urged its leaders to fight a "democratic battle" with the BJP instead of "murdering" common people.
 
"I want to ask Trinamool Congress, how long will this violence continue? When there was violence during elections and people were killed we tolerated that. Now the poll result has come out. If you (Trinamool) have any complaint or grudge against Modiji or the central government, you should debate on that in Parliament. That is the biggest space for democratic discourse. But why are you killing these poor people? This is unfortunate," he added.
 
The region under the Barrackpore parliamentary constituency has been tense since the election results were announced on May 23. Former Trinamool MLA from Bhatpara Arjun Singh, who defected to the BJP just before the 2019 polls, won the Barrackpore Lok Sabha seat while his son Pawan Singh won the Assembly by-election from Bhatpara.
 
A fresh flare-up in the area killed two persons and left at least four others injured while the police opened fire on Thursday, prompting the administration to impose prohibitory orders in the affected areas.
 
IANS
 

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One dead in Bengal's Bhatpara violence, prohibitory orders imposed

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One person was killed and several others were injured as violence flared up again at Bhatpara in West Bengal's North 24 Parganas district on Thursday. The police opened fire to quell the violence and impose prohibitory orders under Section 144 in the affected areas.
 
BJP MP Arjun Singh alleged that the the victim was shot in the head by the police "from point-blank range" while six others received bullet injuries.
 
None of the police officers, including Barrackpore Police Commissioner Tanmay Roychowdhury, could be contacted despite repeated attempts.
 
The violence erupted on a day the new Bhatpara police station was scheduled to be inaugurated by Director General of Police Virendra. But such was the ferocity of the clash that the DG returned midway and rushed to the state secretariat Nabanna where the government called an urgent meeting to tackle the situation.
 
While state Home Secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay announced after the meeting that the new police station has become functional, Virendra returned to Bhatpara with more reinforcements and reviewed the situation with senior police officers.
 
The condition of some of the injured is reportedly very critical.
 
"My husband went out of the house on hearing about some disruption. He was hit by a bullet on his head," the victim's wife said.
 
According to locals, miscreants threw bombs and fired at each other. The police opened fire after teargas shells failed to control the situation.
 
Police have recovered some arms and crude bombs from the area.
 
"The West Bengal government is taking a serious view of the deterioration of law and order situation in areas like Jagaddal, Bhatpara and other places under Barrackpore police commissionerate. Section 144 has been imposed... All efforts are being made to restore normalcy," Bandopahyay said.
 
The Rapid Action Force has been deployed and fresh police reinforcements sent to the area, which has been volatile for over a month now, largely due to clashes between BJP and the Trinamool Congress activists for capturing political turf.
 
"A new police station has been opened in Bhatpara. Route marches will be conducted and ADG south Bengal Sanjay Singh has been sent to the spot," the newly appointed Home Secretary said.
 
Bandopadhyay said some anti-socials are active in the area and some outsiders are also joining them resulting in the disruption of normal law and order situation.
 
"Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and other officers are looking into the matter with utmost seriousness," he said.
 
"Since I am in Delhi, the police have allowed some Trinamool activists to do all this. They are a mute witness to looting and violence over the last three days. They are giving free hand to them (Trinamool activists) and the total game-plan has been hatched by the police. Seven people have been shot at," BJP MP Arjun Singh said.
 
On the other hand, Trinamool leader Madan Mitra pointed out that Bhatpara has been witnessing violence for over a month.
 
"It is sad that Arjun Singh has cited police firing for a person's death. Police officers have said that they fired in the air," Mitra said.
 
"The BJP is seeped in politics of violence. Even if the administration tries to control the situation, they are targeting those officers who are risking their lives to restore peace in the area," said Mitra.
 
IANS
 

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Bengali actress-cum-MP Nusrat Jahan ties the knot in Turkey

Bengali actress and TMC MP Nusrat Jahan with Kolkata-based businessman Nikhil Jain after their wedding at Bodrum in Turkey, on June 19, 2019. (Photo: Twitter/@nusratchirps)
Bengali actress and TMC MP Nusrat Jahan with Kolkata-based businessman Nikhil Jain after their wedding at Bodrum in Turkey, on June 19, 2019. (Photo: Twitter/@nusratchirps)
Bengali actress and newly-elected Trinamool Congress MP Nusrat Jahan got married to her businessman beau Nikhil Jain in the picturesque Turkish town of Bodrum
 
The newly-wed couple shared a picture of themselves walking hand-in-hand after they tied the knot on Wednesday.
 
"Towards a happily ever after with Nikhil Jain," the Basirhat MP captioned the image on Twitter.
 
She looked stunning in a red designer lehenga while Jain, who is a city-based entrepreneur with a thriving textile business, opted for a whitish outfit.
 
The 29-year-old actress was working as the face of his textile chain when they got acquainted last year.
 
Jain is a former student of MP Birla Foundation Higher Secondary School. After studying management at the University of Warwick, he worked as a consultant in a UK-based multi-national company.
 
The couple got married in the presence of close relatives and friends in the port town in Mugla province on the southern Aegean coast of Turkey. Nusrat's parents and sister and other close relatives flew with her to Bodrum on June 16.
 
Bengali actress and Jadavpur MP Mimi Chakraborty, who is one of Nusrat's friends from the industry, was also present.
 
Chakraborty opted for a bright pink lehenga.
 
Both the actresses who recently became MPs couldn't take their oath in the Lok Sabha because of Jahan's wedding.
 
Mimi had also organised 'Aiburo Bhaat' (bachelorette feast) as per Bengali traditions for Nusrat in Kolkata before leaving for the D-day.
 
Also, her 'haldi' ceremony was both emotional and full of mirth. While she seemed emotional in the company of her father M. Shahjahan, the actress's fun-loving persona came out while she was in the company of friends.
 
The couple has planned a gala reception ceremony in Kolkata on July 4. A large number of Bengali film personalities and political leaders are expected to attend the reception.
 
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TMC MLA, 12 councillors join BJP

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In another blow to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress, an MLA from her party joined the BJP on Tuesday.
 
TMC MLA from Bongaon Biswajit Das joined BJP in the presence of senior leaders such as Kailash Vijayvargiya and Mukul Roy.
 
Das was accompanied by 12 TMC councillors and Congress spokesperson Prasanjeet Ghosh.
 
On Monday, TMC MLA Sunil Singh, along with the 15 TMC councillors and another Congress councillor, had joined the BJP in the presence of West Bengal BJP leaders. 
 
"The BJP has emerged as a strong player in West Bengal politics and is the first preference for those who want peace and development in the state," Vijayvargiya had said earlier.
 
The BJP leader alleged that under the leadership of Banerjee, democracy had vanished from the state.
 
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Former Miss India Universe chased and attacked in Kolkata, 7 held

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Seven persons were arrested on Tuesday for allegedly attacking former Miss India Universe Ushoshi Sengupta here and vandalising the cab she was travelling in, a senior Kolkata Police officer said.
 
Sengupta, the winner of Miss India Universe pageant in 2010, was attacked on Monday night while coming back from a five-star hotel in Kolkata in an Uber cab. 
 
"Seven persons -- Sheik Rahit, Fardin Khan, Sk. Sabir Ali, Sk. Gani, Sk. Imran Ali, Sk. Wasim and Atif Khan have been arrested on Tuesday for allegedly harassing the complainant, assaulting an Uber driver and vandalising the cab. A detailed inquiry is going on into the case," Joint Commissioner of Kolkata Police, Crime, Praveen Tripathi said. 
 
Following the attack, the model-turned-actress posted about the incident on social media where she claimed that the gang of miscreants tried to drag her out when she was dropping her colleague.
 
"Last night 17th June 2019 at around 11:40 pm I took an uber from JW Marriott Kolkata. I was accompanied by my colleague. We were taking a left turn from the Exide crossing towards Elgin while few boys in a bike (without helmet) came and hit the Uber. To which they stopped the bike and started yelling at the driver. 
 
"In a fraction of second there were 15 boys and they all started banging the car window and dragging the driver out. They dragged the driver and started beating him up. This is when I stepped out and started shouting taking a video of the incident," Sengupta wrote in a Facebook post which has gone viral. 
 
"The boys followed us till my colleague's house and right when we were dropping him near lake gardens govt housing, 6 of the boys in 3 bikes came and stopped my car, threw stones, broke the car. Dragged me out and tried to break my phone to delete the video. My colleague jumped out out of fear and I was completely shaken. I came out started shouting by now the locals had come out," she said. 
 
In her post, Sengupta also questioned how 15 boys were allowed to travel on bikes without helmet and said such incidents can happen to anybody. 
 
IANS
 

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Mamata to skip all-party meet, demands white paper on 'One Country, One Election'

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Indicating that she would skip the meeting of presidents of all political parties convened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Wednesday, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday wrote to the Centre saying it should not go about "hurriedly" on a "sensitive and serious subject" like 'One Country, One Election'.
 
In a letter to Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi, who formally invited her to the meeting, Banerjee demanded a white paper be circulated among all political parties seeking their views by providing them "adequate time".
 
Banerjee also opposed development of 'aspirational districts', arguing it would not conform to the objective of achieving a balanced and uniform development of all districts.
 
"I have gone through the agenda of the meeting. In this context, I would like to mention that a proper response on such a sensitive and serious subject like the 'One Country, One Election' in such a short time would not do justice to the subject it deserves. The matter requires consultations with constitutional experts, election experts and above all the party members.
 
"Instead of doing the matter hurriedly, I would request you to kindly circulate a White Paper on the subject to all political parties inviting their views by providing adequate time. If you only do so, we will be able to give concrete suggestions on this important subject," she said.
 
The Prime Minister has convened the meeting of heads of all parties who have representation in the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha to deliberate on a number of issues including the 'One Nation, One Election' idea, as also the celebration of 75 years of independence in 2022 and 150 years of Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary this year.
 
On the matter of development of aspirational districts, Banerjee informed Joshi that her party Trinamool Congress has already conveyed to the NITI Aayog at its June 15 meeting that it did not support "selection of a few districts as aspirational districts as it would not conform to the overall objectives of achieving balanced and uniform development of all the districts of the state"
 
"Our state is committed to ensuring social and economic development of all districts uniformly so that regional imbalances do not rise," she said.
 
Banerjee said she and her party would wholeheartedly participate in the celebration of the country's 75th independence and the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
 
Banerjee has been on a collision course with the Centre and scaled up her fight by skipping the oath-taking ceremony of Prime Minister and his new Council of Ministers late last month. She also stayed away from the June 15 NITI Aayog governing council meeting.
 
IANS
 

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Bengal's week-long health services logjam over as doctors end strike

The week-long junior doctors' strike across state-run hospitals in West Bengal was withdrawn on Monday shortly after a meeting between Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and representatives of the agitating medics from various medical colleges.
Representatives of the striking doctors of the state-run NRS Medical College and Hospital address a press conference at the hospital in Kolkata on June 17, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
Representatives of the striking doctors of the state-run NRS Medical College and Hospital address a press conference at the hospital in Kolkata on June 17, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
The week-long junior doctors' strike across state-run hospitals in West Bengal was withdrawn on Monday shortly after a meeting between Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and representatives of the agitating medics from various medical colleges.
 
"We withdraw our strike after our meeting with the Chief Minister. The meeting has been positive and fruitful. We appeal to all junior doctors across Bengal to resume work as soon as possible. We have decided to give time to the state government to implement our proposals raised in the meeting," a representative of the striking doctors said at the state-run NRS Medical College and Hospital, the epicentre of the movement.
 
Earlier in the day, a 31-member team of junior doctors from all the state-run medical colleges in West Bengal participated in the meeting with Banerjee and senior state government officials at the state secretariat Nabanna where a 12-point charter of demands related to doctors' security, hospital infrastructure and patient-doctor relationship was discussed at length.
 
The doctors demanded exemplary action against the attackers in the NRS incident and urged the Chief Minister to issue a "strong written or verbal message against such offenders".
 
Banerjee termed the over one-and-a-half-hour long meeting as "positive and productive" and urged the doctors' to immediately end the strike for the sake of the ailing patients. The young doctors said they were eager to get back to work, calling the deliberations a "move towards the positive direction".
 
The Chief Minister promised to ensure on-ground implementation of the proposals discussed during the deliberations.
 
Accepting the proposals from the medics, she announced a dedicated mobile number and email address for doctors to lodge complaints of assault, appointment of nodal officers in medical college to monitor security and asked police to take immediate action in cases of attack on medical practitioners.
 
She told the state Health Department officials to increase the visibility of patients' grievance cells in all hospitals and hold campaigns to make the patient parties aware of their existence.
 
Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi also welcomed the resolution of the ongoing crisis caused by the state-wide strike of doctors.
 
At NRS, relief was writ large on the faces of many terminally-ill patients, afflicted with diseases like renal failure and cancer.
 
It was the end of the ordeal for Chirashri Bhattacharya, who had to constantly boost the morale of her ailing mother, with whom she spent six days on the pavement outside the NRS hospital waiting for treatment.
 
Her ageing father, who accompanied his wife and Chirashri on the pavement, seemed a relieved man.
 
"My mother Pragati Bhattacharya, 70, has a kidney problem. She needs immediate treatment and is unable to bear the pain and tremendous heat," Chirashri, a resident of Bolpur in Birbhum district, told IANS.
 
Loud cheers, whistles, and claps greeted the announcement of the withdrawal of the junior doctors' strike, as the protesting young medicos rejoiced at their victory.
 
"It is our victory," said an intern, who had been shouting "We want justice" through the seven days of the "cease work" that started in protest against the brutal attack on two junior doctors by family members of a dead patient at the Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital on Monday night.
 
The the issue snowballed, as doctors across the state stopped work at the outpatient departments in most government hospitals, while angry medicos all over the country erupted in protest against the assault on their colleagues in Bengal.
 
The representatives of the striking doctors were cheered and carried on shoulders by their jubilant colleagues on their return to the hospital.
 
The meeting, originally scheduled for 3 p.m., was preceded by high drama as the junior doctors stuck to their demand for live media coverage of the deliberations.
 
The formal invite from the government had agreed to the doctors' demand for recording the proceedings of the meeting, but had no mention of live coverage.
 
As the protesting medics refused to budge, at around 2.40 p.m., the government yielded to the demand, following which the junior doctors' representatives boarded the bus for Nabanna to attend the meeting which got delayed by almost an hour.
 
Shortly after the meeting, Banerjee went to visit the injured NRS junior doctor -- Paribaha Mukhopadhyay, who was beaten up following a patient's death at the hospital last week and has been admitted at a private medical facility in south Kolkata.
 
IANS
 

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Junior doctors call off strike in West Bengal

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The week-long junior doctors' strike across state-run hospitals in West Bengal was called off on Monday following a meeting between Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and representatives of the agitating medics.
 
"We withdraw our strike after our meeting with the Chief Minister. The meeting has been positive and fruitful. We appeal to all junior doctors across Bengal to resume work as soon as possible. We have decided to give time to the state government to implement our proposals raised in the meeting," a representative of the striking doctors said at the state-run NRS Medical College and Hospital.
 
West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi also welcomed the resolution of the ongoing crisis caused by the state-wide strike of doctors.
 
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Impasse to end as Mamata, doctors term meeting 'positive'

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The week-long junior doctors' strike across state-run hospitals in West Bengal seemed headed for a resolution on Monday after a meeting between Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and representatives of the agitating medics from various medical colleges, which was broadcast live on television.
 
While Banerjee termed the over one-and-a-half-hour long meeting as "positive and productive" and urged the doctors' to immediately end the strike for the sake of the ailing patients, the young doctors said they were eager to get back to work, calling the deliberations a "move towards the positive direction".
 
A 31-member team of junior doctors from all the state-run medical colleges in West Bengal participated in the meeting with Banerjee and senior state government officials at the state secretariat Nabanna where issues related to doctors' security, hospital infrastructure and patient-doctor relationship were discussed at length.
 
Visibly happy with the outcome of the meeting, Banerjee thanked the junior doctors for putting forward their suggestions and requested them to resume medical services immediately. She also promised to ensure on-ground implementation of the proposals discussed during the deliberations.
 
"Thanks for coming here and giving your suggestions. I have come to know about many pending issues during today's meeting, which has been very positive and productive. I request all of you to withdraw the strike. A lot of patients are suffering. If you promise to withdraw the strike, they will get the assurance," Banerjee told the doctors towards the end of the meeting.
 
The meeting, originally scheduled for 3 p.m., was preceded by high drama as the junior doctors stuck to their demand for live media coverage of the deliberations.
 
The formal invite from P. K. Mitra, Director, Medical Education, had agreed to the doctors' demand for recording the proceedings of the meeting, but had no mention of live coverage.
 
"The discussion will focus on all your demands. I also confirm that the discussions and resolutions taken in this meeting shall be recorded, and duly communicated to you," the letter said.
 
However, the protesting doctors refused to budge, and categorically said that they would go to Nabbanna only if there was an official confirmation of live media coverage.
 
At around 2.40 p.m., the government yielded to the demand, following which the junior doctors' representatives boarded the bus for Nabanna for the meeting which got delayed by almost an hour.
 
During the meeting, which was held in a congenial environment, the doctors demanded exemplary action against the attackers in the NRS incident and urged the Chief Minister to issue a "strong written or verbal message against such offenders". 
 
They also said that there should be on-ground implementation of the proposals that were taken up in the meeting.
 
Banerjee, on her part, asked the police to appoint nodal officers for the security of doctors at all the government hospitals in the state and take immediate action in cases of attack on medics.
 
"The police have to be more active and vigilant. Actions should be initiated against those who forcefully enter hospitals and assault doctors. Otherwise, complaints should be lodged against the concerned police personnel and actions will be taken," Banerjee said.
 
"Appoint dedicated nodal officers for addressing such problems at the hospitals. The officers should focus only on tackling patients' agitation and work in coordination with the local officers," she told Kolkata Police Commissioner Anuj Sharma, who was present at the meeting along with Director General of Police Virendra, Chief Secretary Malay Kumar Dey, Home Secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay and senior officers of the health department.
 
Banerjee also urged the state health department officials to increase the visibility of grievance cells in all hospitals and hold campaigns to make the patients aware of their existence.
 
"There are grievance cells in most hospitals but many patients and patient parties do not know about them. So set up the grievance cells at locations visible to everyone in the hospital. 
 
"Put out hoardings in Bengali, English and Hindi so that everyone can understand. Also, hold campaigns and put up ads so that people know about them. That way, if something goes wrong, people will know that they can lodge a complaint instead of attacking the doctors," the Chief Minister noted.
 
When asked by the junior doctors to visit their colleague Paribaha Mukhopadhyay, who was severely injured in the NRS hospital incident last Monday, Banerjee said she would go as soon as the strike was withdrawn.
 
IANS
 

(Our News Desk can be contacted at desk@netindian.in)

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Striking doctors ready to meet Mamata -- in media's presence

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The striking doctors in West Bengal on Sunday decided to hold talks with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to immediately end the impasse but said there should be media coverage of the deliberations to avoid discrepancies.
 
"The last press interview by our honourable Chief Minister was full of discrepancies which had led to false propagation of the motive behind our protests and the response of the government to it. Hence it needs clarification," a representative of the protesting doctors of the NRS Medical College and Hospital said after a general body meeting on day six of the strike that has badly hit state-run health services.
 
The meeting was attended by representatives of other hospitals participating in the strike.
 
"We want an immediate end to this impasse through discussions with the CM which, to maintain transparency, shouldn't be behind closed doors. The venue can be chosen by the CM, but that should be able to accommodate representatives of all medical colleges and the national media," he said.
 
"Doctors want to join duty as early as possible in the best interest of health care delivery to the common people once all our demands are met adequately and logically," the representative said.
 
"We are hopeful that our honourable Chief Minister will be considerate enough to solve the problems that our entire state is facing currently," he added.
 
Director of Medical Education Pradip Mitra, who attended the general body meeting, tried to mediate a middle path for the junior doctors and the government.
 
"The doctors had demanded two to five representatives from each medical college be present during their meeting with the Chief Minister. Even if a single delegate from each medical college attends the meeting the figure will be around fifteen and the final number will be decided by the CM," Mitra said.
 
Also, the chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights Priyank Kanoongo, who arrived in Kolkata on Saturday night, visited the paediatric wards of some state-run hospitals to assess the condition of patients.
 
"I found that children are not getting treatment and the situation is very pathetic. I will submit a report when I reach Delhi. Children's lives should be everyone's priority and no ego should come in between," Kanoongo said.
 
According to him, the cease-work and the disruption in the health care system should be solved through discussions without letting children suffer.
 
According to informed sources, the doctors and the Chief Minister would hold a meeting on Monday at the state secretariat. However, it is not clear if media coverage of the entire meeting will be allowed.
 
IANS
 

(Our News Desk can be contacted at desk@netindian.in)

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