Teenager fails, kills herself
Police admit goof-up in Nangia ‘kidnap’
Eviction drive in blind lane
Detour puts Lake Gardens flyover on track
Mercury falls, flights fog-hit
Gadget helps Orissa police nab ‘stoneman’
Indo-US project sounds alert on Assam primates

 
 
TEENAGER FAILS, KILLS HERSELF 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 4: 
Roshni Bagla (16), who studied in an English-medium school in central Calcutta, committed suicide by hanging herself from the ceiling of her room on Tuesday. She lived on the second floor of an apartment block on Balai Singha Road, off Amherst Street.

Roshni’s neighbours could not believe their ears when they heard the news of her death because she had been a girl of cheerful disposition. It happened so suddenly that Roshni’s family, too, was stunned.

Roshni was a student of St Lawrence Day School. According to her businessman father, Omprakash Bagla, she was to write her school finals in March this year. Roshni had appeared for the mandatory qualifying examination in December last year.

Her schoolteachers told the police that a list of those who had qualified to sit for the board examinations had been put up on the school notice board on Tuesday. Roshni’s name did not figure in it. Students who fail are not allowed to write the board examination.

Family members said Roshni left for school as usual on Tuesday morning. “She had been in a good mood. There had been no sign of either tension or fear in the morning,’’ said a family member, who did not want to be identified.

She was in school till 11 am. There, she pored over the list of those who had qualified over and over again.

“Apparently, she could not believe her eyes, even after she scanned the list several times. She was quite confident of passing the examination,’’ Roshni’s classmate told the police.

The girl sat dejectedly on the school’s staircase for a long time. Though known for her perpetually merry mood in school, she was crestfallen on Tuesday.

“She was sulking for a long time. She was inconsolable and kept murmuring about what she would tell her parents,’’ another classmate said.

According to Omprakash, Roshni returned home around 11.45 am. “She entered the house quietly and went into her bedroom,’’ he said.

Relatives said she usually changed after returning from school and proceeded to the dining room for lunch.

Just before she entered her room, her mother noticed that she was not her usual cheerful self and wanted to know if anything was wrong. But she had only nodded her head, implying that everything was fine, and went in to her room.

Roshni’s mother laid out the table and waited for her daughter to come and eat. She started worrying when the girl did not emerge even after an hour.

The deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Narayan Ghosh, said a window in the room was shut but not bolted from inside. Roshni’s mother opened the window and found her hanging from the ceiling.

Neighbours and other family members broke open the door and rushed into the room. They brought her down and took her to the nearest hospital. Doctors examined Roshni and pronounced her dead. Her body was sent for post mortem. Roshni is survived by a brother and two sisters, besides her parents.    


 
 
POLICE ADMIT GOOF-UP IN NANGIA ‘KIDNAP’ 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 4: 
The Sharad Nangia case, involving the alleged abduction of a cellphone-dealer by three youth in south Calcutta, has come in for critical analysis.

On Tuesday, Calcutta Police assessed the progress made by detectives probing the case. While chief of the detective department Narayan Ghosh declined to comment, some officials admitted that it would be difficult to make the charges against the youth stick.

One November evening, Nangia had gone to the police claiming that he had escaped from the clutches of three “armed” youth who had kidnapped him near Ballygunge railway station.

The police had swung into action, arresting and then torturing Debajyoti Roy, Chandan Saha and Hridibrata Roy, despite the evidence against them being flimsy.

The court had granted bail to the youth after criticising the Karaya police station, where Nangia had filed the FIR.

At Tuesday’s meeting, discussions centred around the sharp dissimilarities between the department’s findings and the entries made by the Karaya police station.

The case diary at the police station records that the three “armed” youth were arrested on the charge of attempted abduction with a motive of extortion, whereas the detectives found that Nangia had never mentioned extortion in the FIR, sources said .Nangia had, instead, claimed his abductors had threatened to kidnap his son, sources said .

At the meeting, the detectives apparently explained that circumstantial evidence did not prove any of the allegations made by Nangia.

Some of the findings of the detective department are:

If the youth’s motive was to kidnap Nangia’s son, they would have rung him up on his “land line”, not his cellphone.

There was no evidence of the kidnap attempt on his son.

Kidnappers would not select a crowded place like Ballygunge railway station at 5 pm.

Why would Nangia be allowed to sit on the sideseat of the auto rickshaw?.·

Nobody in the crowded locality had heard any commotion.

Since Nangia confessed that the youth had raised the issue of a dispute over the suspension of his former employee, Saraswati, the case cannot fall under the jurisdiction of the Indian Penal Code.

The Arms Act does not stand against the youth as no arms were found in their possession.

The auto which was used, as alleged by Nangia, has not been found yet.    


 
 
EVICTION DRIVE IN BLIND LANE 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Jan. 4: 
Important files relating to the illegal occupation of government apartments by nearly 2,000 retired civil servants have gone missing.

The state housing department stumbled upon the startling fact early this week while working out a strategy to reclaim apartments in housing estates from retired employees and allotting them to legitimate claimants.

The department swung into action after The Telegraph reported last week that the government was drawing up drastic steps, like blocking part of the unauthorised occupant’s retirement benefits, in a bid to evict them.

The “mysterious” disappearance of files has taken department officials by surprise. “It may be due to poor maintenance of records,” admitted joint secretary Sabyasachi Roy. Sources in the department said some officials had deliberately removed the important files to help the illegal occupants “for monetary gains”.

“Some of our staff must be involved in the plot to remove these crucial files,” said an official on condition of anonymity. This development threatens to halt the housing department’s much-hyped eviction drive in its tracks.

On Tuesday, officials had launched a random survey in and around the city. A high-level team, comprising key officials, made a door-to-door survey at two major housing estates at Tollygunge and central Sinthee, in north Calcutta.

There are 34 government housing estates, comprising 6,000 flats, in Calcutta alone. Nearly 2,000 of these are occupied by retired government employees. The door-to-door survey was to be carried out in all the city-based housing estates by March.

“From April, we plan to go for either blocking a part of retirement benefits of the unauthorised occupants or evicting them with police help,” said Sukumar Mahapatra, deputy secretary.

Mahapatra, who also heads the survey team, said: “Those occupying government flats are neither owners nor tenants but simply licencees. And licences have to be renewed every three years.”

None of the retired employees have responded to a circular asking them to renew their licences. Many have even sub-let their apartments to outsiders. Reports confirm that residents in housing estates at Barisha, Jadavpur and Tollygunge have sub-let their flats to outsiders. “One third of the 504 flats at Barisha housing estate have been let out,” said an official.

And retired government employees seem confident that they are here to stay. “The government can neither block our pension benefits nor evict us by using force, since we have been paying rent to the government,” said Subhas Dasgupta, at Banaphool Abasan, Lake Town.

With the retired employees refusing to budge, and the relevant files disappearing from the housing department, it could be a long wait ahead for the 4,500 civil servants awaiting a flat allotment for the last two years.    


 
 
DETOUR PUTS LAKE GARDENS FLYOVER ON TRACK 
 
 
BY SHANKAR MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, Jan. 4: 
The path seems to have been cleared finally for the long-awaited Lake Gardens flyover — but not without a significant twist in the tale.

The government has decided to deviate from its original blueprint to break the six-year-old deadlock over construction of the flyover in south Calcutta. Urban development officials said on Tuesday that the plans had been “slightly modified” so that the flyover would pass through areas where it would cause displacement of a “minimum number of families”and two government offices. “All hurdles can be said to have been removed. We now hope to commission the flyover as soon as possible,” said the officials.

The Lake Gardens project is a joint venture of the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) and the Public Works Department (PWD). The urban development department is funding it as part of the megacity project.

Railway minister Mamata Banerjee and the CPM’s Biplab Dasgupta have already provided Rs 20 lakh for the project from the MPs’ local area development funds.

Concerned over the delay, chief minister Jyoti Basu has urged the urban development department to expedite the Rs 20-crore project.

Urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya has met the other ministers concerned and senior officials from the CMDA to finalise a blueprint for completion of the construction within a year.

It has been decided that the 10 families will be rehabilitated on a plot owned by the food department, where a two-storeyed house will be constructed for each of them.

The CMDA will also construct an office building for the food department and another for the information and culture’s Sangeet Akademi.

The new office building of the food department will be located near the flyover and the office for the Sangeet Akademi will be built at the New Theatres studio complex in Tollygunge.

But all this might not be enough to prevent Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress from highlighting the government’s failure to resolve the problem for six years in the CMC polls.

   


 
 
MERCURY FALLS, FLIGHTS FOG-HIT 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, Jan. 4: 
The Alipore met office on Tuesday recorded the coldest day of the season, with the minimum temperature dipping to 12.4º Celsius, a degree below normal.

The maximum temperature, too, was below normal by three degrees, at 24.3º Celsius. The chill is mainly because of the cold winds blowing from the north. The met office has issued a moderate cold wave warning for Bihar and interior Orissa for the next 36 hours. The dense fog over Delhi threw flight schedules out of gear on the Calcutta-Delhi sector for the fourth day in succession. Indian Airlines’ morning flight from Delhi landed at Calcutta shortly after 4.30 pm, eight hours behind schedule. The Delhi-bound morning Airbus took off around 9.30 am, two hours behind schedule. While the Jet Airways’ morning flight from Delhi arrived on Tuesday afternoon eight hours behind schedule, the evening flight to the capital left at 3.30 pm to avoid the fog over Delhi airport. British Airways postponed its Calcutta-Delhi-London flight because of fog over Delhi.    


 
 
GADGET HELPS ORISSA POLICE NAB ‘STONEMAN’ 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Berhampur, Jan. 4: 
It was with a sigh of relief that Berhampur police announced the re-arrest of Mahesh Padhi, the alleged psychopath who was behind the gruesome murders in the city last year.

The police had arrested Padhi, a Girija Square pan shop owner, on August 29 last year suspecting him to be the “stoneman” who had sparked panic here with a series of murders since May.

The stoneman’s first victim was Biswanath Nayak, murdered on the night of May 22. He struck again on June 13 and 14 near Ramlingam tank killing P. Sanyasi and Parsuram Patro. On June 22, he crushed to death Y. Rama Rao at Bijipur market. His next victims were Subash Mohanty on July 17 and Sudhansu Joshi on August 15.

He was caught while allegedly attempting another murder on August 29.

While Padhi denied the charges, all circumstantial evidences were against him. Even eyewitnesses testified against him. A polygraph test at the state forensic laboratory in Bhubaneswar found Padhi’s responses deceptive.

Padhi, however, claimed he was innocent and refused to accept the results of the lie-detection tests. He was then taken to the Indian Institute of Hypnotism in Hyderabad where five attempts to hypnotise him failed.

On their way back, Padhi managed to give the slip to the police team. He escaped when the Falaknama Express slowed down near Palasa in Andhra Pradesh on September 22.

An apprehensive Berhampur police kept track of his family and friends. Their perseverance was rewarded when they arrested Padhi again on Sunday, a little over three months after his escape.

Berhampur superintendent of police Sudhansu Sadangi said a small electronic machine, worth Rs 350, helped them trace Padhi. The police installed the gadget, which flashes the number of the caller on its screen, on the telephone of a video cassette library near Padhi’s pan shop. Padhi was on good terms with the owners of the video library. When he called up the library, the police easily traced him to Chandikhol in Jajpur district.

The police team which rushed to Chandikhol found Padhi selling bananas near the PCO from where he had called up.

During interrogation yesterday, Padhi confessed that he had visited several places, including Mumbai, Cuttack and Rupsa, after escaping from the train. But he decided to stay in Chandikhol where an old man had helped him to start a small business of coconuts and bananas. He had also decided to marry a girl there for a dowry of Rs 40,000.

The four persons who escaped the stoneman’s attack identified Padhi today. This will be the only evidence against Padhi as little was gathered from the murder scenes.    


 
 
INDO-US PROJECT SOUNDS ALERT ON ASSAM PRIMATES 
 
 
FROM ANIRBAN ROY
 
Guwahati, Jan. 4: 
The Indo-US primate project has called for a revision of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 to protect several “critically endangered” primate species.

The Northeast centre of the Indo-US project, in its annual report for the period December 1998 to November 1999, said several species included in Schedule II should be considered for inclusion in Schedule I so that no one can kill, capture or keep them as pets. The centre is working in the region for conservation of endangered primate species since 1994.

“Primate hunting is difficult to control because in many cases, it is a part of a traditional way of life of the people,” the report said. It added that the need of the hour is to educate people and control human population for protecting wild fauna.

The report said eight out of the nine primate species of the Northeast are dependent on forests. “All possible priority should be given to maintain the forest areas either by increasing protected area networks or by creating more and more community-based conservation,” the report said.

“Since habitat loss is the principal threat to primates, topmost priority should be given to conservation of the wild habitats,” the report emphasised. During the past five years, the Indo-US project has encountered nine species of primates in the northeastern states. The report said of the nine primate species, four have been categorised as “critically endangered” species.

The Indo-US project report said although the 1996 red list of threatened animals by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) is comprehensive and identifies a significant number of Northeast primate species as “threatened,” revisions are required. “The revisions should ensure that all the distinct threatened species are given proper consideration,” the report said.

After carrying out a series of surveys, the Indo-US project also said more armed staff were necessary in the Holongapara wildlife sanctuary as there has been selective felling in the fringe areas by local tea garden labourers. “The illegal activities are beyond the means of the forest guards to halt,” the report said. The wild habitat, which has a total area of 19.5 square km, is located in Upper Assam’s Jorhat district. It has been renamed the Gibbon wildlife sanctuary.

Holongapara is home to seven species of primates. The Indo-US project report said after the detailed survey, they have been able to locate 29 groups of five primate species with a total of 338 individuals in the sanctuary.

However, the research team could not locate any Assamese macaque in the wild habitat. In 1998, eight Assamese macaques were located in Holongapara sanctuary.

A research team of the Indo-US project first took up a survey of the wild habitat in May 1996. Research fellows have been constantly monitoring the area to document the rate of change in primate population and to prepare a comprehensive conservation and management plan.

“During monitoring in 1997-99, there was no evidence of hunting or trapping in the wildlife sanctuary,” the report said.

   

 

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