The falling man
Never seen before, not on the beloved street where Calcutta goes to live its dreams.
A man falling like a leaf, death driving up from behind and devouring from below.
Burnt, scarred and no stranger to adversity, the city of tinderboxes had seen bigger blazes. Just another fire, it looked initially, with the attendant commotion, people running helter-skelter.
Then, Park Street froze.
Something — no, someone — is tumbling out of one of the high windows. A human body, possibly alive but crashing like deadweight.
A shriek explodes like a siren, then drowns in a chorus of horror-struck voices.
The man hits the ledges on his way down, once, twice, before hitting the ground.
The descent takes only a few seconds, beginning and ending with the abruptness of a whiplash.
Once the shock ebbs, another image bobs up — one we caught on the cold glare of the television screen on September 11, 2001.
As the twin towers of the World Trade Center came down, one of the free-falling bodies, photographed by Richard Drew, became an enduring image of 9/11. We still do not know the identity of the person who took that fatal plunge, although he is now referred to as The Falling Man.
The Falling Man has been the subject of immense speculation, and was featured in two novels, one by Jonathan Safran Foer and the other by Don DeLillo.
The awful moment of the man jumping off Stephen Court will sear itself into the city's collective memory of Park Street.
Never seen before, never likely to fade away.
What must have gone through the minds of the people who jumped, possibly realising that it could be a leap to death?
Growing anxiety giving way within minutes to a sense of utter helplessness and desperation may have pushed the people to gamble with gravity, psychologists and medical experts said.
Five among those who jumped about 50 feet from the ground died.
All those who jumped probably tried to escape burning by taking a chance with a fall, said Namita Kaith, a counselling psychologist in New Delhi. "Their anxiety would have generated a natural physiological response — a flight-or-freeze response," she said. "Each jump represented a flight away from the fire and possible burning — a desperate action to exit a bad situation they could not control."
Calcutta psychiatrist P.S. Biswas listed three reasons: some chance of survival, even though they might be injured; jumping out would be less painful than suffering burns; and extreme panic.
Is there a safe height? "There's really nothing like a safe height beyond eight or 10 feet," said Amit Gupta, a surgeon at the Apex Trauma Centre of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. "An elderly person may fall while standing — and break a hip."
Free fall — not retarded by a wire or a ledge — leads to what doctors call blunt injuries where the force of impact is spread across a wide area over the body. Even in free fall, a person may instinctively turn to fall on his hands. Such a fall will injure the hands, upper limbs, and shoulders but, Gupta said, may protect the vital organs such as the brain.
Someone who lands on the feet would hurt the lower limbs and the spine and experience a shearing force on the abdominal organs, Gupta said. Ribs could fracture and internal organs experience significant displacement when the back or chest strikes the ground.
Head injuries are among the commonest causes of death after uncontrolled falls. One medical study has suggested that a fall beyond 15 metres usually leads to injuries in at least two or three body regions.
"The restoration of high growth should not be taken for granted," he said at the meeting of full Planning Commission convened to clear the mid-term appraisal of the Eleventh Plan. He said demand creation by expanding investment in infrastructure should act as a counterweight to any weakness in export sector.
"A positive feature of developments in recent years is that the growth performance across states shows definite narrowing of dispersion," Mr Singh said, adding that the previous poor performing states were also accelerating. The prime minister directed the plan panel to prepare an integrated water policy.
"The Planning Commission should prepare an integrated water policy," the prime minister said in the context of the Cauvery water dispute. Speaking at a function organised by the commission, he said the country must target 10% growth for the Twelfth Plan period to eliminate poverty and create jobs.
"For eliminating poverty and providing productive employment for our young population in the near future, we must aim at accelerating the pace of growth to about 10%," he said. He said power sector will be crucial to achieving double-digit growth. Operationalising open access, or the permission to sell power to any buyer, is important for creating a vibrant market that would help attract investment and lower tariff through competition, he said.
The Indian economy grew at over 9% in 2007-08, the first year of the current plan, but the global financial crisis pulled down growth to 6.7% in 2008-09. The government expects the economy to grow at 7.2% in the current year.
Emphasising the need for greater investment in infrastructure including for the rural India, the prime minister said private participation in infrastructure development has been shown to be feasible and could help expand infrastructure much faster.
Private investment in infrastructure had gone up to 2.42% of the GDP by 2008-09 in a total of 7.18%. For the entire Eleventh Plan, the share of private investment is pegged at 2.73% of the GDP. For the Twelfth Plan, infrastructure investment is targeted at 9.95% of the GDP.
The prime minister said the progress in power sector had been less than desired. "The distribution segment, which is entirely in the states sector, continues to be fragile," he said. Against a 75,000 mw target for the Eleventh Plan period, the actual capacity addition is likely to be only 62,000 mw.
The prime minister urged the states to come forward with PPP proposals in the urban infrastructure space to utilise the window available under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). He stressed the need for greater private involvement in social sectors, namely health and education.
The Indian real estate sector plays a significant role in the country's economy. The real estate sector is second only to agriculture in terms of employment generation and contributes heavily towards the gross domestic product (GDP). Almost five per cent of the country's GDP is contributed to by the housing sector. In the next five years, this contribution to the GDP is expected to rise to 6 per cent.
According to Jones Lang LaSalle, faster economic growth in Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) could result in the property markets of those nations recovering at a faster rate than the UK and US real estate markets. It has also been suggested that India's property sector could begin to improve from late 2009 and may attract up to US$ 12.11 billion in real estate investment over a five-year period.
Almost 80 per cent of real estate developed in India is residential space, the rest comprises of offices, shopping malls, hotels and hospitals. According to the Tenth Five Year Plan, there is a shortage of 22.4 million dwelling units. Thus, over the next 10 to 15 years, 80 to 90 million housing dwelling units will have to be constructed with a majority of them catering to middle- and lower-income groups.
Moreover, India leads the pack of top real estate investment markets in Asia for 2010, according to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Urban Land Institute, a global non-profit education and research institute.
The report, which provides an outlook on Asia-Pacific real estate investment and development trends, points out that India, particularly Mumbai and Delhi, are good destinations. Residential properties are viewed as more promising than other sectors and Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore top the pack in the hotel 'buy' prospects as well.
The study is based on the opinions of over 270 international real estate professionals, including investors, developers, property company representatives, lenders, brokers and consultants.
Apart from the huge demand, India also scores on the construction front. A McKinsey report reveals that the average profit from construction in India is 18 per cent, which is double the profitability for a construction project undertaken in the US.
The real estate sector is also likely to get a boost from Real Estate Mutual Funds (REMFs) and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs). In fact, according to a CRISIL paper, the REITs would have the potential to hold at least 5 per cent share of the total global real estate market by 2010, the size of which would reach US$ 1,400 billion in the next three years. The paper titled, 'Indian REITs; Are We Prepared', says that by 2010, REITs alone would hold a market size of US$ 70 billion of the total real estate market as its concept is gaining ground in countries like India and other developing nations.
According to the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), the Indian real estate sector is likely to experience consolidation wherein bigger players may opt for outright buy of smaller firms or forge joint ventures or business alliances with them.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) into India in the real estate sector for the fiscal year 2008-09 has been US$ 12.62 billion approximately, according to the latest data given by the Department of Policy and Promotion (DIPP).
Moreover, buoyed by positive market sentiment and demand revival in housing, four real estate companies—Emaar MGF Land, Lodha Developers, Sahara Prime City and Ambience Ltd—are looking to mop-up over US$ 2.35 billion through public offerings.
Eight more bodies were recovered from the 150-year-old heritage building in upscale Park Street, raising the toll in the devastating fire
Firefighters who began search operations last night from the top floor of the Stephen Court, housing restaurants, offices and residences, said the bodies were mainly recovered from the fifth and sixth floors of the seven-storeyed building.
Stating that the fire was completely under control although smoke was billowing out from one or two pockets, police said 20 of the injured were admitted to various hospitals.
So far six of the dead have been identified. Missing reports had been filed for 29 others, they said.
The sources said the search operations were continuing this morning but it was unlikely that there were any bodies trapped in the building.
A team of forensic experts will visit the spot to ascertain the cause of the fire.
Preliminary investigations indicated that the fire may have broken out due to a short circuit in a lift between the fifth and sixth floors.
Mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya had said the burnt portion of the building would be pulled down.
Anxious relatives thronged various city hospitals and were seen waiting in front of the morgue of the SSKM hospital to identify the bodies last night.
The street - where strategy meets reality. A streetside glimpse of India today, business, politics, technology, riffs on anything that interests me. Because nothing is permanent...only interim. All views expressed here are purely personal.
Friday, March 25, 2005
There is an unprecedented real estate boom in parts of India. These are the National Capital
region, certain parts of Bombay-New Bombay-Pune and outsourcing Mecca - Bangalore. It is to a great extent, driven by the huge growth of the IT (Information technology) and BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) industry. As the IT industry grew, employees got onsite (literally - at the client site, as opposed to offshore) opportunities. Onsite typically meant being paid in US dollars and thus many employees earned a lot of money.
The demand for plots of land went up with the boom in industries. But with the cost of a 30X40 ft plot plus home going for the equivalent of 5 million rupees in a good residential area, apartments soon came into favour.
The buyers yearned a lifestyle equivalent to the lifestyles abroad, and they had the capacity to pay. This reduced the "matchbox" apartments on offering and has spawned a host of self sufficient complexes. Soft interest rates on home loans, a tax incentive on home loans and the
general growth mode of the economy are other factors driving the real estate boom.
New apartments complexes have recreation facilities, basement parking, security, power back up, good lawns and even swimming pools, all of which are very difficult to get when one goes in for an individual plot.
When every builder began to offer these, the bigger ones began to offer multiplexes, shopping complexes and schools. Not content with differentiation, it is now snob value (at a premium) - Complexes modelled on resorts, European looks, vast open areas, pools lined with Italian marble are the latest fad these days. While this is a good thing, in the recent past, real estate in Bangalore has reached crazy levels of prices.
Even now, a significant percentage of the buyers are genuine ( not speculators) buyers who intend to stay in the apartment they book. But when there is a genuine demand, speculators cant keep off.
Some buyers take advantage of the sprialling prices (driven by the builders to a great extent)
to book say, 3 apartments when they want just 1. As the price increases, they sell off the first one, and then the second effectively getting their third ( and the one which they intend to own) apartment nearly free of cost.
At the recent launch of a highly advertised complex in Bangalore, about 2000 apartments were sold in 2 days flat and there was a congregation of about 6000 people waiting to book apartments. Among those who booked apartments, many just got to choose the floor and pay the booking amount. No real apartment has yet been allotted to them. But they dont care. They will get to own a house in "Superduper complex" which will be finished in 2007-08.
Considering the pathetic infrastructure in Bangalore, it is surprising why the rates are so high. Just outside these posh apartment complexes and layouts (local name for plots sold for buyers to build their own houses), roads are broken, small and there is no sign of any public transport at all.
Is it a bubble or the beginning of one ? Is the bubble on its way to burst or if it will continue to grow for a while is something that will be decided by the growth of the economy.
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Naxalism founder Sanyal kills self
Charu Majumdar and Jangal Santhal, the other two pioneering stalwarts of the movement had died long back. Sanyal lived, but lived in acute depression. Just two days ago, in an informal talk with ET, Sanyal had expressed his anguish: "Just carrying on with a body is not a life, and there is no life if I cannot be of any use to my party." His impaired vision, paralytic body was a torment that constantly wracked him. "He was very depressed due to his inability in taking part in party programmes," said Dipu Haldar, Darjeeling district committee member of CPI (ML) and close acquaintance of Sanyal.
With Charu Majumdar and Jangal Santhal, Sanyal had initiated the Naxalbari movement that later ran amok. Discords galore surfaced and while Sanyal, in his later years, disapproved of Majumdar's strategy of armed struggle, there are some even now in CPI(ML) who never thought Sanyal was in the same class as Majumdar was in being a "true communist". But for that matter, Sanyal wasn't ever too great a votary of excessive bloodshed and he always thought the present Maoist movement was utter rubbish.
Born in Kurseong in 1931, Sanyal joined the Communist Part of India (CPI) in 1950 and became a whole-timer. He worked mainly among the tea workers in Matigara and Naxalbari. He went to China in 1967 for three months to meet Mao Zedong. This inspired him to announce the formation of the original CPI(ML) in 1969 at a public meeting in Kolkata that coincided with Lenin's birthday.
He spent many years between 1970 and 1977 behind bars. After his release in 1977, he started living permanently at Hatighisa and formed Organising Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (OCCR). In 1985, he became the leader of Communist Organisation of India (Marxist-Leninist), a conglomeration of six Marxist Leninist factions. He formed the New CPI(ML) in 2003 and was general secretary of the organisation.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
|Communism in India|
Kanu Sanyal, (1929 – March 23, 2010) , was an Indian communist politician. In 1967, he was one of the main leader of the Naxalbari uprising. He was one of the founding leaders of Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (CPI(ML)) formed in 1969.
 Formation and growth of CPI (ML)
During this period, the communist-sympathetic media in West Bengal portrayed him as a "great revolutionary" and compared him to the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and Jatin Das, largely because of his charisma and his public showmanship, such as his displays of "wealth-renunciation" and his publicity campaigns where he tried to identify with the proletariat. Massive propaganda campaigns in his favor were financed by the communist politburo to that effect. Information about the secret inner workings of Sanyal's organization have been difficult to obtain. Nonetheless, political analysts write that his political paradigm was based on the concept of "Jugantar" in opposition to the "Anushilan" paradigm implemented by the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
Sanyal proposed that the Jugantar revolutionaries be a highly secretive and cabalistic group who would periodically surface to commit acts of terrorism such as political assassinations and armory raids. Sanyal actively solicited help from the communist regime in neighboring China to further his goals. Sanyal had publicly declared on several occasions that he was receiving some kind of support from the Chinese government. It was never established as to whether that support was moral, tactical or financial. The Indian home ministry has argued that Sanyal only managed to obtain ideological support from China.
After the failure of the Naxalite uprising, Sanyal went into hiding. The death of his colleague Charu Majumdar was followed by the breakup of the Naxalite movement, and Sanyal claimed to have abandoned violent means and accepted parliamentary practice as a form of revolutionary activity.
He was eventually cornered and arrested in August 1970. News of his arrest sparked of region-wide violence by the radical communists. CPI(ML) cadres destroyed property, raided and attacked educational institutions, and engaged in rioting.
 Jail life
For seven years Sanyal was imprisoned in a jail in Visakhapatnam Andhra Pradesh in the case known as the Parvatipuram Naxalite Conspiracy case.He was convicted in the Parvatipuram Conspiracy Case, by the Sessions Judge.
Sanyal was released from jail in 1977, following the shift of government in India as well as in West Bengal. Jyoti Basu, the new CPI(M) chief minister, personally intervened to ensured Sanyal's release. By the time of his release, Sanyal had publicly repudiated the original strategy of armed struggle of the CPI(ML).
 Formation of COI (ML)
In 1985 Sanyal's faction along with five other groups, merged to form the Communist Organisation of India (Marxist-Leninist). Sanyal became the leader of COI(ML).
 Later years
On January 18, 2006, Sanyal was arrested along with other fellow agitators who were also protesting against closures of tea gardens in the region for disrupting a Delhi-bound Rajdhani Express train at the New Jalpaiguri Railway Station in Siliguri, North Bengal, .
On 23 Mar 2010, he was found hanging at his residence at Seftullajote village, 25 km Siliguri (West Bengal) from where Naxal Movment began under his leadership. 78-year-old Sanyal was suffering from old-age related ailments. At the time of his death he was general secretary of a new CPI(ML), formed by merger of several splinter groups of the original party.
- ^ Nandigram can excel Naxalbari, Statesman, 31 March 2007
- ^ a b c d e f 
- ^ Naxalites on Hard Times
- ^ Bengal Left Front Govt Steps Into 28th Year
- ^ The road from Naxalbari
- ^ naxalism today
- ^ Maoist Revolutionary parties and organizations in India
- ^ , , , 
- ^ The Hindu : Front Page : Kanu Sanyal arrested for ``rail roko''
- ^ 
 External links
The measure will extend the run of all these trains by at least an hour since the original speed was set at 110-120 kmph. The decision was taken after a home ministry warning of more Naxalite attacks on soft civilian targets in retaliation to Operation Greenhunt.
This is the first time the Railways have placed speed controls on Rajdhanis outside the northeast for security reasons. The measure came amid a sharp spike in violence in the Naxal-affected eastern region, and clear signs that red ultras were gearing up to retaliate against offensives which have forced them on the backfoot.
While passengers on board the Bhubaneswar-New Delhi Rajdhani had a narrow escape because of an alert driver, R K Singh, as well as the sturdiness of coaches designed in Germany and equipped to withstand shocks, the attack exposed the vulnerability of these trains and brought home to authorities the risks in the Naxal-dominated areas.
Gaya SP Sushil Khopade said Maoists came on 10 motorcycles and planted IEDs on the tracks late on Monday night. The blast tore off a three-foot section of the track. The train derailed as it crossed the mangled section.
They saved the Rajdhani
But for drivers R K Singh and A K Khalko who slammed the air-backed brakes as soon as they saw a red banner between Kastha and Paraiya stations, the blast that derailed the Rajdhani on Monday night might have led to a far bigger tragedy. The train slowed to 75 kilometres per hour, against the usual 120-130 kmph, reducing the impact. Singh and Khalko, both in their 50s, have over 22 years of experience in driving Rajdhani and mail trains. Both were given a reward of Rs 30,000 each by Union railway minister Mamata Banerjee.
SOUL STREET SCORCHED
DEVADEEP PUROHIT AND ZEESHAN JAWED
Calcutta's hip 'n' happening street witnessed a fire disaster on Tuesday that was as much the doing of an ill-equipped fire services department and poor co-ordination between departments as the callousness of Stephen Court's caretakers.
Smoke billowed out of the top floors of 18A Stephen Court till 11pm, around nine hours after flames were first spotted on the fourth floor, with firemen unable to confirm whether the fire had been finally put out.
"I don't know what they have been doing all these hours. They don't move a bit without instructions from their superiors, who are equally clueless," said J. Dasgupta, a resident of flat 6A on the top floor of the massive building with landmarks like Flurys, Peter Cat and Music World on the ground floor.
Around 5.30pm, she and her husband, K. Dasgupta, were pleading with the firemen to use the staircase of the adjacent block to reach the top floor even as a man claiming to be a senior fire services official approached her for details of occupancy in the building.
"I need to submit all these details to my saheb (boss). We need to prepare a report," the bespectacled bald man, in a kurta and trousers, said.
The Dasguptas had no option but to share with him whatever details they had even as flames engulfed their flat.
A group of firemen, leaning against the parked fire tenders at the open courtyard, stood motionless at the rear of the building as a blast rocked the area.
"LPG cylinders are bursting in the flats on the top floor. The upper floors are full of smoke…It is difficult to reach the root of the flames," said a fireman, pleading helplessness.
The water-soaked khaki uniform and a handkerchief around his nose, of course, meant that he had attempted to reach the top floors through the rear of the building. Some of his colleagues continued trying to make their way up through the spiral stairs along Block 3.
"Don't you have masks?" asked a resident who joined the Dasguptas in the courtyard.
"I have been witnessing this operation since afternoon. They don't have proper equipment, they aren't trained either," said J. Dasgupta, seething.
Fire minister Pratim Chatterjee and Gopal Bhattacharya, the director of the fire services department, contested allegations about the lack of preparedness of their department as they rolled out details of the scale of the firefighting and rescue operation, which started at 2.25pm.
The duo said 41 fire tenders with over 280 firemen fought the blaze with the help of the "latest equipment" — two Bronco Skylifts, one 70 meters tall and the other 54 meters, and 20 new-generation bowsers (fire tenders).
According to fire control room records, the fire call came at 2.15pm and two fire tenders from the department's headquarters on Free School Street reached the spot at 2.25pm.
"The flames were first spotted on the fourth floor…The strong breeze pushed them towards the northern side and the upper floors of the building. Full-fledged firefighting started only after the skylifts reached the spot at 3.30pm," said Rajeev Biswas, an employee of YWCA, adjacent to 18A Stephen Court.
Neither the fire minister — one of his kind in the country as no other state has a fire ministry — nor officials of his department would, however, admit any fault at their end.
"We had to get the skylift from our depot in Sector V in Salt Lake. Besides, we had to face heavy traffic while we were on our way to Park Street," said a fireman.
The approach to the affected building was not smooth either as the cops sealed off Park Street only at 3.10pm although both police commissioner Gautam Mohan Chakrabarti and special commissioner R.K. Panchnanda had reached the spot by 2.45pm.
"It was a clear case of lack of co-ordination between the two departments (fire services and police). There was no point in keeping Park Street open for vehicular movements," said an employee of an eatery on Middleton Row.
Lack of co-ordination and absence of leadership were visible through the day, as lower-level firemen looked helpless while trying to carry out multiple tasks — rescuing trapped people from the building and co-ordinating with the cops and the civic authorities.
The arrival of the two skylifts added to the confusion as the firemen dithered over whether to deploy it to fight the flames or rescue trapped people. Then, the firemen had another trouble to tackle — cutting off the tree branches to open the lift.
"They didn't have any electric saws, which delayed the use of the lift. The ladder could be opened only after some firemen used an axe to cut off the branches," said a bystander.
Manpower constraints were also apparent in the operation, which stretched beyond nine hours. A source in the fire services department said out of 4,000 sanctioned posts, the department had only 2,050 fire operators.
"Fire operators are the main people who enter the fire site, douse the flames and rescue people. As new recruitment have been stopped, almost 80 per cent of them are above the age of 45. You need younger people in the force," said the official.
Lack of proper training to groom the firemen was cited as another reason for the poor show. Until two decades ago, firemen were required to follow a gruelling routine involving regular drills and other activities to keep them fit and trained.
"There would be a rope drill where the firemen would be trained to rescue people from highrises just with the help of a rope. I can challenge that none of them would be able to do that now; otherwise so many people could have been saved today," said the official.
PYRE STREET- Left in the lurch, people leap to death
Calcutta, March 23: Five people trapped in a towering inferno on Park Street today took a fatal leap of faith while 14 others were charred as firemen with primitive equipment and little training battled the blaze in the 80-year-old tinderbox structure housing several city landmarks.
The tragedy at Stephen Court, seven storeys tall and spread across four blocks that include the popular Flurys and Peter Cat restaurants along with the Music World store and assorted offices and residential flats, provided the first known instance in this city of people jumping to their death to escape a blaze.
The flames were first noticed on the eastern side of the building's fourth floor around 2.05pm, but it wasn't until 3.30pm that the requisite fire-fighting equipment, including skylifts meant to reach the higher floors, arrived. By then, nine of the trapped victims had jumped 40 to 60 feet from window ledges between the fourth and sixth floors even as the crowd milling on the street pleaded with them to wait for help.
Only four of those who jumped survived, landing on the outstretched hands of a few brave men who tried to cushion their fall in the absence of nets or mattresses that could have saved more lives.
Of the 19 dead, 14 remained unidentified till late tonight. The other five are Shruti Bansal, 45, Vivek Upadhyaya, 30, Saurav Barik, 25, Pradip Kumar Chokhany, 40, and R. Krishnan, in his 60s.
At least 25 of the survivors, most of them rescued from the lower floors, suffered trauma injuries and suffocation. Five of them are in intensive care.
Fire department officials blamed traffic congestion for the nearly one-and-a-half-hour delay in two skylifts arriving from the Sector V fire station, around 12km away.
Fire services minister Pratim Chatterjee fended off allegations about his department's delayed response to the blaze, saying the first two fire engines started from the Free School Street headquarters, a two-minute drive from Stephen Court, within 10 minutes of receiving the fire call.
"I do not understand why people are blaming the fire department. Stephen Court is an old building with wooden staircases. Within 30 minutes, the flames spread through the stairs. That is why the fire was so big. I think my department reacted very swiftly," said Chatterjee, lately obsessed with the alleged lack of fire-safety measures in the IPL Club Lounge deck at the Eden.
Forty-one fire engines deployed over six hours kept the blaze from spreading to the third floor but the upper tiers were gutted. Till 9pm, flames were visible inside the building, originally a five-storeyed structure to which two more floors were added in 1984.
Police commissioner Gautam Mohan Chakrabarti was heard blaming the caretakers of the building for the fire going out of control. "They did not have a building layout ready for the firemen to find their way through the mammoth structure," he said.
But nobody had any answer to questions about why the police had failed to seal off Park Street from all sides the moment the fire was reported or why all the equipment necessary to fight the blaze and rescue survivors wasn't on stand-by in the fire brigade headquarters.
Citizens and brave but untrained and ill-equipped firemen did their best to rescue trapped survivors, many of them elderly people. A 98-year-old woman, Ganeshri Devi Golcha, was among those rescued.
Sarla Butta, a resident of Stephen Court for the last 47 years, recalled that before the top two floors were built "there used to be a common terrace that connected all the four blocks". One could easily cross over and reach the ground floor from the eight staircases, including four spiral stairs, one at the rear of each block.
"But after the fifth and sixth floors came up, these exits were closed. Each block now has only one independent staircase. I believe that the lives that were lost today could have been saved had the staircases at the rear still existed," she said.
The top two floors have 32 apartments, most of them rented out. The police suspect "an electrical short-circuit in the lift" could have started the fire. Forensic officers will visit the site tomorrow.
The police have opened three helplines — 100, 22143230 and 22143024 — for information about missing persons.
Lack of firefight tools shocks Samaritan tourist
A US citizen, who reached Calcutta on Tuesday morning, tried her best to help firefighters rescue people trapped inside Stephen Court for around an hour before she gave up hope and joined the hundreds of helpless onlookers.
"When I saw that trapped residents and employees of offices in the building were trying to jump to safety, I rushed to firefighters requesting them to arrange for nets or soft mattresses to cushion their fall. But the firemen didn't even have a safety net," said Natasha Dedrick, a resident of California.
The tourist in her 30s, a specialist in medical massage, had checked into the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) hostel, adjacent to Stephen Court, and was shopping on Park Street when the flames were first spotted on the upper floors of the seven-storeyed building.
According to her, a call to 911 is enough in her country to alert the firefighters, who reach the spot in a flash. But the delay in the arrival of fire tenders to Park Street — before which some people started jumping off balconies and ledges — came as a surprise to her.
The scenes of people jumping off buildings to escape the flames did not spark memories of 9/11 but shock at the lack of resources in a major Indian city to save lives.
"The firefighters were so ill-equipped. They didn't have any special clothing unlike the firefighters in our country. Initially, they did not have ladders tall enough to reach the affected floors…. In my country, I have seen ladders going up to the top floors of highrise buildings," said Natasha, who checked out of the YWCA hostel after the tragedy.
The sight of firefighters yelling at each other instead of using modern communication equipment stumped the American.
"I have seen some small fire incidents in my country. But this one was big and many people lost lives. Had there been better firefighting equipment and prompt response, many of these people probably would not have died," said Natasha.
Park Street Tweets
Abhimanyu Chirimar, whose office is in Park Plaza, tweeted live from the fire scene till he saw a group of families in tears and didn't "want to do this anymore". Metro reproduces his description of the disaster on Twitter
A landmark building in Calcutta has been on fire for over 45 mins before the brigade showed up. 7 ppl stuck
8th guy shows up at the other end of the building in Calcutta and ppl are begging him not to jump
The fumes are getting worse & the fire fighters are obviously grossly ill equipped to battle…
It's a bleak scene in Park Street Calcutta's prime commercial area. There are more civilians helping than officials
60 min & finally the second truck arrived. Flames have started erupting outside in the Calcutta Flurys building fire
Last 3 need to be rescued. No clue how that single (storey) ladder will help
The fighters couldnt get ropes up so the victims themselves broke out cable tv wires and are setting up a line
Water pressure was inadequate to reach the top floor & they are now out of water. 2nd ladder emerges
More than an hour in and they finally bring out the big guns
All rescued.This is such a tragic sight. Our offices are in Park Plaza & this has been a regular hangout forever Calcutta Fire Brigade doesn't have the equipment to battle a fire this high up. It's Bara Bazaar 2008 all over again. Crowds furious
Another gas burst apparently worsening the blaze and the Calcutta Fire Brigade isn't able to cope competently 4 jumpers, few minor injuries, 0 deaths reported (so far). Last of the blaze remains
I have never seen Calcutta Park Street this grim and I hate it
A third loud noise worsens the blaze; crowd actually cheering when they manage to aim the water right
Finally some more water power seems to get the blaze to relent, everyone apparently evacuated safely
Music World, Peter Cat and Flurys and other retail places are all safe but soaked. One side of the buildings ok now Just saw a whole group of families in tears rush towards Flurys. Don't want to do this anymore partying, music at Park Street.. my deepest condolence to the ones who lost their life in the Park St blaze
witnessed the worst hazard in my life...the park street fire episode was scary, to say the least... saw ppl jumping off the floors in front of me...
Tone down, madamoiselle!!! You look as fiery as the fire @ Park Street!!!
Fire at Park Street, Kolkata - I happened to be at that spot on the road when it started. No fire engines till the time I left
Politicians frm the party hoping to wrest powers in West Bengal in 2011 have reached the Park Street fire site to create further nuisance
Fire rages in Park Street (Calcutta) building, 2 dead.... Oh freak! Peter Cat, my dear Peter Cat!
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Land hunt for IT park
Ranchi, March 23: The cabinet today agreed to look for 10,000sqft built-up space each in Dhanbad and Jamshedpur for setting up software technology parks.
In order to generate more employment, the decision to set up such IT parks across the state was taken by the Arjun Munda government a few years ago, but nothing much progressed.
Today's decision, however, does not clarify whether the state government will take rent or lease or acquire land to create 10,000sqft area in the two cities.
The cabinet also took a few other decisions some of which are as follows —
The state will release its share of Rs 6.53 crore for the development of the Adityapur auto component cluster
The Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF) schemes of the Centre and the state will be run in East Singhbhum
Power Finance Corporation Consulting Limited has been nominated the consultant to find out a joint venture partner developing Vanahardi coal block allotted to the JSEB.
It will be given a consultancy fee of Rs 21 crore. But the joint venture partner will have to pay back the consultancy fee to the JSEB.
The JSEB will be given another Rs 81 crore for renovation of Units IX and X at PTPS
The HEC has been given aid to the tune of Rs 72.80 crore against rehabilitation package