Shib Shankar Patra is one among thousands of die-hard Argentina fans in Kolkata and there’s nothing unusual about it. But then die-hard fans at times can be weird too and the 53-year-old Mr. Patra has that weird streak in him.Next best thingTrying to garner enough savings from his modest earnings through a tea stall, Mr. Patra harboured a dream — to watch ‘The Albiceleste’ live from the stands in Russia. But when a Kolkata-based travel agent informed him that his savings — a princely amount of ₹60,000 ($900) is not enough to fund his World Cup trip (travel agent gave him a budget of ₹1.5 lakh), he decided the next best thing — paint his entire three-storeyed building in Argentina colours.“I don’t smoke or drink. I have only one addiction and that is Lionel Messi and Argentina. I don’t earn much but ensure that bulk of my earnings is kept aside for these indulgences when World Cup comes calling,” Mr. Patra, owner of a tea and snack stall in North 24 Parganas’ Nawabganj township said.You don’t need a GPS to track Patra’s house once you get down to Ichhapore Railway Station. Ask any cocky teenager or elderly uncle about “Argentina Chaayer Dokan” (Argentina Tea Stall), they will be more than happy to oblige.The street leading up to his tea stall-cum-house is dotted with Argentina flags.Every four years coinciding with the World Cup, Mr. Patra gives his building a fresh coat of light blue and white shade. Enter his three-room apartment and the craziness hits you instantly. All the walls are painted in Argentina colour, even the small prayer room. The walls of each room adorn a life-size poster of Messi.Addiction can be contagious but if its ‘Messi mania’, Mr. Patra doesn’t mind that his wife Swapna along with his children — 20 year-old daughter Neha and 10-year-old son Shubham are equally mad about the fleet-footed genius. “My kids know everything about Messi. The food he likes, the car he drives, everything,” Mr. Patra says with a glint of pride in his eyes.
The Assam government on Wednesday rolled out a slew of pro-farmers sops worth ₹1,000 crore annually, but insisted they were not copycat debt relief schemes.Himanta Biswa Sarma, the State’s Finance Minister, announced the Assam Farmers’ Credit Subsidy Scheme, the Assam Farmers’ Interest Relief Scheme, and the Assam Farmers’ Incentive Scheme to cover 27 lakh farming households across 26,000 revenue villages serviced by 1,800 rural and semi-urban bank branches.“These are subsidy schemes, not loan or debt waiver schemes and have been in the process after having been included in the State’s Budget for the 2018-19 fiscal. It was incorporated to mark 125 years of the Patharughat peasants’ movement and not copied from Madhya Pradesh or Gujarat or anywhere else,” Mr. Sarma said.Some 140 peasants were killed in police firing on January 28, 1894, at Patharughat in north-central Assam’s Darrang district. The farmers had gathered there to protest arbitrary increase in taxes levied by the British.Under the credit subsidy scheme, launched this year as a pilot project, the government would reimburse 25% of the loan repaid by farmers in their accounts. The cap on reimbursement will be ₹25,000.“This will cover 2.62 lakh farmers who have taken loans through Kisan Credit Card. Those who have repaid the loan fully or partly will be reimbursed, and those who are about to pay will have to pay only 75% of the returnable money,” Mr. Sarma said.The scheme, to cost the government ₹500 crore annually, has been extended to small tea growers and rubber planters too.The interest relief scheme, to cost the government ₹200 crore, intends to make krishi loans interest-free. “The Central government provides 3% subsidy on interest on such loans. The Assam government will take care of the remaining 4%, which means we will move towards zero interest on farm loans,” Mr. Sarma said, adding that the scheme would be for loans up to ₹2 lakh.The incentive scheme, worth ₹300 crore, targets about 3 lakh farm loan defaulters to bring them back into the banking system. “We will give ₹10,000 to make the NPA (non-performing assets) accounts of farmers active again. We hope this will encourage some 8 lakh more farmers in Assam who have never taken loans,” Mr. Sarma said.Tractors to be givenApart from these schemes, the Assam government would be distributing tractors in all revenue villages. Some 7,000 tractors have already been given, the Minister said.The government would also be providing ₹5,000 each to 27 lakh farmers as agricultural input subsidy. The scheme will start with 5 lakh farmers who registered for it. read more
Human skeleton remains were found strewn near a garbage dump close to the post-mortem section of the Sri Krishna Medical College Hospital (SKMCH) here on Saturday, officials said.The SKMCH is in news for the death of more than 100 brain fever-afflicted children since June 1.“Unclaimed bodies after post-mortem are cremated in due course. These skeletal remains are found at the spot where cremations are said to take place. But I agree this should be done in a more humane fashion,” Sunil Kumar Shahi, Superintendent of the SKMCH hospital said.The embarrassed hospital superintendent was replying to queries from a swarm of journalists who have been camping in the town to cover the epidemic-like situation that has arisen in the wake of the outbreak of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome, which has claimed close to 140 lives across the state, with this north Bihar district alone accounting for 127 deaths.Also Read The Hindu Explains: How litchi toxin is causing the deaths of undernourished children in Muzaffarpur Bearing the brunt, the SKMCH, which is one of the largest government hospitals in the State, has witnessed the death of 107 AES-afflicted children since June 1.“The post-mortem section comes under the administrative control of the principal of the medical college attached to the hospital. I have asked him to set up a committee to look into the matter and take remedial measures,” Dr. Shahi added.Meanwhile, as news channels beamed the horrific images, the district administration swung into action and Sub Divisional Magistrate (East) Kundan Kumar and Superintendent of Police (City) Neeraj Kumar rushed to the spot.“We will not like to comment on this episode until we conduct a thorough inquiry”, the SP (City) said.Locals say with disgust that improper disposal of dead bodies has been a long-standing problem in the area and stray dogs can be often seen pouncing upon half-burnt corpses. read more
Domestic phone maker Karbonn has added a new smartphone in its Titanium series, the S1 Plus. Karbonn Titanium S1 PlusPriced at Rs 6490, the Karbonn Titanium S1 Plus comes with a 10.1-cm WVGA capacitive touch screen. The device is powered by a 1.2 GHz Quad Core Processor and 1GB RAM with 4GB ROM architecture. Its expandable memory stands up to 32BG via a microSD card. It runs Android 4.3 Jelly Bean OS.The Titanium S1 Plus sports a 5-megapixel rear camera and a digital front camera for video calling.The new Karbonn smartphone comes with dual SIM support where SIM 1 supports 3G and SIM 2 supports 2G network for faster network access. As per company’s claim, its 1500 mAh battery offers long backup.A host of networking options is also available on the device where GPS navigation, G-Sensor, Proximity & Light Sensor, 3G & Wi-Fi are offered as standard features.The Karbonn Titanium S1 Plus also offers features like touch and swipe gestures, customizable widgets and smart notification panel. read more