Air Chief designate’s Purulia connection

AIR MARSHAL ARUP RAHA STUDIED AT PURULIA SAINIK SCHOOL; HAD NAGALAND CHIEF MINISTER NEIPHIU RIO AS BATCH MATE

By bappaditya paul

The announcement that Air Marshal Arup Raha will be the India’s next Air Chief has given a reason to the Maoist insurgency-hit backward district of Purulia in West Bengal to cheer.

Air Marshal Arup Raha
Air Marshal Arup Raha

The Purulia Sainik School located at Maguria off Purulia town happens to be the alma metar of Air Marshal Raha, who studied at this residential school in the 1970’s.  With this, the school has joined ranks with two other Sainik schools in the country ~ the one located at Kunjpura in Haryana and the other at Satara in Maharashtra ~ which had given two Service Chiefs to the country in General Deepak Kapoor and Air Chief Marshal P V Naik.

Purulia Sainik SchoolThe news of Air Marshal Raha being named the Air Chief designate was welcomed with much joy in the Purulia Sainik School, which hailed this as a major achievement. “While other schools dream of shaping the future of students, we dream that our students will shape the country. This news would immensely motivate everyone in this school,’ said Col B S Ghorpade, the school principal. ‘It is a big achievement for West Bengal too,” he said.

There is another twist to the story: when Air Marshal Raha was studying at the Purulia Sainik School in the 1970’s, he had a batch mate in Mr Neiphiu Rio, the present Chief Minister of Nagaland. The alumni of the school identify themselves as “Esspeans’.Purulia Sainik School logoWhen the school celebrated its golden jubilee in January last year, Air Marshal Raha, who was then the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Central Air Command, graced the occasion as the chief guest. “Now, the alumni are eagerly awaiting the next reunion due in mid-January next year, and are looking forward to fete the new IAF Chief, who has brought immense glory to the school,” said Col A Sikdar, a former classmate.

The Purulia Sainik School was established on 29 January 1962 at Bongabari near Purulia town and it was relocated to a 280-acre campus at Maguria on Purulia-Ranchi Road in 1966. It is one the 24 schools across India that are run by the Ministry of Defence.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 31 October 2013.)

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Coast Guard to build hovercraft base for Sunderbans

By bappaditya paul 

The Indian Coast Guard will build a state-of-the-art forward operating base for hovercrafts at Frazerganj in South 24-Parganas district in West Bengal for surveillance over the Sunderbans ~ more than two-third of which lies in Bangladesh. The hovercraft base will come up on a 7.5 acre piece of land being provided by the West Bengal government free of cost.

Sunderbans 1

The project is part of the integrated Coastal Security Scheme (CSS) that the Government of India formulated post the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai. Estimated to be spread over 4,110 square km, water bodies occupy some 1,700 square km, Sundarbans is considered an easy transit route for seaborne terrorists as dense forests in Bangladesh surrounds it on the south, east and west.

At present, the surveillance over Sunderbans is carried out using hovercrafts that are based at the Coast Guard Station at Haldia in East Midnapore. But due to low endurance of the hovercrafts, they often face difficulties in covering such a long distance and this reduces the effectiveness of the surveillance.

Sunderbans 2

The proposed hovercraft forward operating base will come up at Lakhipur Abad mouza under Namkhana police station in Frazerganj, which was named after Andrew Frazer, a lieutenant governor of Bengal in British India. West Bengal government is providing the Coast Guard free of cost a 7.5 acre plot worth Rs 32 crore for the purpose. The identified plot belongs to the state Land and Land Reforms Department (L & LR).

“Both the Finance and L & LR Department have cleared the land allotment and the matter is now awaiting a customary nod from the state Cabinet. Hopefully, this will come through by the first half of November,” said a senior official in the West Bengal Home Department. “The state government is keen to see the hovercraft base at Frazerganj operational as we too recognise the threat emanating from the Sunderbans.”

Sunderbans 3

Once the Bengal Cabinet okays the allotment, the Home Department will issue a notification, and transfer the ownership of the land to the Coast Guard. “There is no encroachment on the plot and hence the Coast Guard will be able to start work at once,” the official said.

After coming into being, the hovercraft forward operating base at Frazerganj will in particular maintain surveillance over Frazerganj, Jambudeep and other swallow areas around the sand heads in Sunderbans. It will also supplement the Coast Guard’s air surveillance capabilities based at Haldia.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 31 October 2013.)

CALCULATE YOUR NEW KOLKATA METRO FARE

By bappaditya paul 

How to calculate your new Metro fare that is coming into effect from 18 October?

Metro Railway has divided the entire route into six slabs: Rs 5 (0-2 km), Rs 10 (2-6 km), Rs 15 (6-12 km), Rs 20 (12-21 km), Rs 25 (21-30 km) and Rs 30 (30-40 km).

Now add the distance between two stations that you travel and find out in which slab it falls. For example, from Dum Dum to Esplanade, the distance is 8.804 km, and hence it will fall in the 6-12 km slab; the fare will be Rs 15.

STATION

DISTANCE

BETWEEN STATIONS

Noapara

Originating Point

Dum Dum

2.091 km

Belgachia

2.15 km

Shyambazar

1.62 km

Shovabazar Sutanuti

0.928 km

Girish Park

1.001 km

Mahatma Gandhi Road

0.766 km

Central

1.037 km

Chandni Chowk

0.597 km

Esplanade

0.705 km

Park Street

0.805 km

Maidan

0.727 km

Rabindra Sadan

1.016 km

Netaji Bhawan

0.848 km

Jatin Das Park

1.033 km

Kalighat

0.621 km

Rabindra Sarovar

1.243 km

Mahanayak Uttam Kumar (Tollygunge)

1.344 km

Netaji (Kudghat)

1.814 km

Masterda Surya Sen (Bansdroni)

1.722 km

Gitanjali (Naktala)

1.053 km

Kavi Nazrul (Garia Bazar)

1.245 km

Shahid Khudiram (Dhalai Bridge)

1.275 km

Kavi Subhash (New Garia)

1.576 km

TOTAL DISTANCE

27.217 km

*ADDED LATER: Following passenger outrage, Metro Railway  introduced revised fare from 7 November instead of 18 October as was originally plannd. Also they reworked the hike facilitating some relief to commuters. Read a 7 November 2013 post for details.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India.)

Kolkata Metro Fares to Get Dearer from 18 October

Near 100 per cent rise to affect 6,50,000 commuters

By bappaditya paul     

Kolkata Metro Railway fares will go up by about 100 per cent with effect from 18 October. The Railway Board has issued an order to this effect and sent it to the Metro Railway headquarters here today. The move will affect 6,50,000-odd commuters who travel by Metro trains daily.

Metro AC trainAccording to the existing fare structure, Metro charges between Rs 4 and Rs 14 in six slabs for a ride up to the full distance of 27.27 km from Dum Dum to Noapara. This will now range between Rs 5 and Rs 25.

That’s not all. The concession granted to prepaid Smart Card users has been slashed to a flat rate of 10 per cent irrespective of the amount  recharged. The concession, in the form of additional money value, will be credited at the time of recharging a card.

At present, Smart Card users get a cumulative concession ranging between 20 – 37 per cent depending on the  recharge amount, granted by way of additional money value credited at the time of recharge and by giving a concession on every ride undertaken.

Noapara Metro Railway station, Kolkata.
Noapara Metro Railway station, Kolkata.

In the new fare structure, the fare has been divided into six slabs: Rs 5 (0-2 km), Rs 10 (2-6 km), Rs 15 (6-12 km), Rs 20 (12-21 km), Rs 25 (21-30 km) and Rs 30 (30-40 km). The last fare slab has been decided keeping in mind the proposed expansion of Metro route in the near future, such as the one to Dakshineswar. The Metro now collects the fare in slabs of Rs 4 (0-5 km), Rs 6 (5-10 km), Rs 8 (10-15 km), Rs 10 (15-20 km), Rs 12 (20-25 km) and Rs 14 (25-30 km).

“We have initiated the upgrade work on our fare collection mechanism,  necessary for realising the fare as per the revised structure. We shall be working through the Pujas and start charging the new fare from 18 October,” said Metro Railway general manager Radhey Shyam.

The hike will bring the Kolkata Metro fare almost at par with Delhi Metro, which charges Rs 23 for a 25.15-km ride from Dilshad Garden to Rithala.

A Kolkata Metro AC train at Tollygunge station

The hike in fare will give the Kolkata Metro the much-needed revenue support at a time when it is running at an operating ratio of Rs 326.97 as on 31 March this year; meaning, the Metro spent Rs 326.97 to earn every Rs 100. The operating loss stood at around Rs 125 crore during the 2012-13 fiscal year.

As a result of this, the upkeep of the Metro trains and other facilities was getting affected and so were the Metro expansion projects. The last time Kolkata Metro fare was revised was in 2002.

*ADDED LATER: Following passenger outrage, Metro Railway introduced the revised fare on 7 November instead of 18 October as was originally planned. Also they reduced the hike a little facilitating some relief to commuters. For details, read 7 November 2013 post on this blog.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report was first published in The Statesman on 9 October 2013.)

Hi-tech security for Bengal’s new seat of power

ON THE SPOT PHOTO I-CARDS FOR VISITORS

By bappaditya paul  
Gone are the days when armed with a visitor’s slip, people could go from floor to floor at the Bengal state secretariat! The Kolkata Police is putting in place an automated visitor’s management (VMS) system at Nabanna in Howrah ~ the new address of the state secretariat ~ wherein every single visitor will be issued an on-the-spot photo identity card that will restrict their entry only to the desired floor.   HRBC building in Howrah ~ Bengal's new seat of powerBefore a visitor is issued such a photo I-card using web cams attached to computers at the visitor’s desk, officials will record all relevant details of the person on the VMS such as name, address, occupation, the purpose of visit and the time of entry. A visitor will be required to hang the I-card from the visitor’s neck and will be allowed to climb up the 14-storyed building only using the lifts that will be manned.

Such automated visitor entry system is common in private corporate offices but is surely something new vis-à-vis a government establishment in Bengal.    The state government has hired a private agency ~ NIS Management Pvt Ltd ~ on a one-year contract for the upkeep of Nabanna  and management of the various facilities over there. The personnel deployed by NIS will assist Kolkata Police in manning the VMS.  HRBC Building front view“Apart from this, the NIS workforce will carry out all the cleaning, sweeping and mopping work, operate the lifts, water-pumps and generators and man the parking lot, stores and the main reception. In short, they will be the overall caretaker for Nabanna and all the room keys will remain with them. NIS is deploying around 120 personnel for the job,” said a senior official in the state PWD. At Writers’ Buildings, all these tasks used to be performed by the PWD staff.
To keep a tab on the NIS personnel who are mostly contractual staff, the Kolkata Police, which is in-charge of the security of Nabanna, will issue non-transferable photo identity card to them.A spiral view of the office floors at HRBC Building“Like the visitor’s photo I-card, the ones issued to the NIS men will also be floor or zone specific and they will be required to deposit the I-card with us before leaving for home everyday,” said Mr Ashoke Biswas, deputy commissioner (reserve force), who is looking after Nabanna security.

Kolkata Police is deploying around 265 police personnel lead by two assistant commissioners of police and four police inspectors. There will be 150 uniformed personnel from the Howrah City Police looking after the security outside the Nabanna building.  A view of Howrah skyline from HRBC BuildingThe traffic for Nabanna will be looked after by the Vidyasagar Setu Traffic Guard and two traffic inspectors, 12 sergeants, 50 constables and a number of home guards.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report was first published in The Statesman on 5 October 2013.)

Bengal to raise special police battalion for Greenfield airport at Durgapur

By bappaditya paul  
The Bengal government has decided to raise a new battalion under West Bengal Police to provide security to the Kazi Nazrul Islam Airport in Durgapur ~  a Greenfield private airport being developed by Bengal Aerotropolis Projects Limited (BAPL).Durgapur airport ATC and administrative buildingBAPL will bear the expenses incurred for raising, training and paying salaries to the battalion.  According to sources, the West Bengal Cabinet approved the proposal for setting up the  new battalion at its last meeting held at Writers’ Buildings on 27 September.

BAPL had first approached the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) ~ a Central government agency that oversees security-related matters for all commercial airports in India ~ for facilitating security at the new airport.

Durgapur airport Passenger Terminal Building“Usually, the security cover at airports is provided by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) that functions under the overall supervision of the BCAS. But in case of the Greenfield airport in Durgpur, the BCAS has asked us to raise a special police battalion; they will impart the necessary training on civil aviation security,” said a senior official in the West Bengal home department.

“The new battalion will carry out all the tasks that are performed by the CISF at any other airport. They will give security cover to the entire airport including the passenger terminal building, the Air Traffic Control tower, the runway etc and carry out security checks on passengers, freight and aircrafts,” the officer added.

West Bengal Police logoThe state government is creating 86 new posts of police personnel who will be part of the new special battalion and the troop is likely to be headed by an officer in the rank of a deputy inspector general or an inspector general of police.
“BAPL will bear the entire cost ranging from establishment, training, salaries and maintenance of the special battalion. The battalion shall have an ornamental name but the nomenclature is yet to be decided,” the officer said.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 02 October 2013.)