Chetla ‘terror’ mowed down at doorstep
Radio amateurs tuned in for Sagar mela safe
Cell to pave path for IT switchover
‘Myth-breaker’ Mithun shot in the arm for leukaemi
Five killed in N-E ambush
Demolition move irks Bihar church
Tripura rebels get life terms
Fresh I-T notice served on Laloo
Ghostly Orissa village spooks govt officials

 
 
CHETLA ‘TERROR’ MOWED DOWN AT DOORSTEP 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 8 
The former leader of a gang active in the Chetla-Alipore area was shot dead on Saturday morning at the crossing of Raja Santosh Road and Alipore Road, about 50 metres from his home.

Bhola Mohapatra, who had links with a former deputy mayor of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, had unleashed a reign of terror in the Chetla-Alipore area in the early 90s. He was involved in cases of extortion and rioting.

Mohapatra was sipping tea at a roadside stall around 7.45 am when four assailants, allegedly with CPM affiliation, walked up to him and shot him from point-blank range.

Mohapatra, 42, chief organiser of Alipore Kalyan Samity, a social workers’ association with premises close by, was wounded in the chest and leg. He was rushed to Calcutta Hospital and then to Kothari Medical Research Centre, where doctors declared him dead.

Residents tried to block the intersection, saying Mohapatra had been murdered because he crossed over from the CPM to Trinamul Congress. Policemen from Alipore and New Alipore police stations resorted to a mild lathicharge to have the roadblock lifted, samity secretary Amitabha Roy said.

The deputy commissioner, detective department, Narayan Ghosh, however, said later that the killing was an outcome of a long-standing gang feud. A post mortem would be conducted on the body, he added.

Pronab Dutta, an executive member of the club, said Mohapatra had parked his Zen around 7.30 am on the club premises and walked across the road for his morning cup of tea at the stall. About 15 minutes later, people heard four gunshots. Mohapatra slumped to the ground, while his killers walked away briskly.

The police later named two of them as Kushal Guha, alias Kalu, and Dilip Pramanik, alias Dilua. The other two remain unidentified. “Club-members rushed Mohapatra in a car to hospital. On the way, he was gasping for breath and tried to speak. But he could not,” Dutta added.

Debu Chatterjee, president of the club, said Mohapatra was arranging the annual sports of the club, scheduled between January 22 and 26. As it was a major event, involving hundreds of participants, he had come early to supervise the arrangements, he added.

Kalyan Samity members are at a loss over the motive behind Mohapatra’s murder. According to Debu Chatterjee, “Mohapatra had helped a large number of distressed people in the area. He inspired affection in many, especially among the under-privileged.”

But the members recall that on January 10, 1995, just before the club’s annual sports, Mohapatra was attacked by rivals in front of his house. He had received splinter injuries, but the assailants had gone scot free, the president added. Shops in the area were shut down as a mark of respect to Mohapatra and to protest the crime.

The club president alleged that the police “were not taking steps to nab the assailants. They have not conducted raids so far to track down the killers.”

Actor dies in hospital: Bengali film and stage actor Saumitra Banerjee died at the Ramakrishna Mission Seva Pratishthan on Saturday. He was 46. He had been admitted to hospital after a old ailment took a turn for the worse.    


 
 
RADIO AMATEURS TUNED IN FOR SAGAR MELA SAFE 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Jan 8 
Strapped by an overburdened wireless network, the South 24-Parganas district police is roping in the ham radio operators of Calcutta to help locate missing persons during the Sagar mela, beginning on January 12.

This is the first time the district administration has officially turned to the Calcutta VHS Amateur Radio Society for help during the hectic three-day pilgrimage at the shrine of Kapil Muni on Sagar island.

“We have a problem with our overloaded wireless network and the hams will play a key role in the smooth management of the mela,” said Gyanwanth Singh, additional superintendent of police of the district.

There will be nearly half-a-million pilgrims converging on the island from all parts of India.

“We can only speculate on the numbers that are going to come this year,” Singh said.

People reported missing is a major headache for the district police. Getting them back to their groups or family members is no easy task.

With the ham operators exclusively monitoring missing persons at the mela grounds, the island’s embarkation points as well as the entry points for pilgrims in the mainland, the task of re-uniting missing persons with their relatives should be easier, Singh said.

The ham operators will man points at Lot 8, Namkhana on the mainland and Chemaguri, Kachuberia, the district information tower, the bus terminus and the Sagar beach on the island.

“We will also have three roving teams on the mela grounds who will be relayed descriptions of the persons who are missing and they will then correlate the information,” said Indranil Majumdar, one of the team members.

The ham society has put together a 17-member team, which will be provided with accommodation and food by the district administration.

“We had a trial run last year and we found it quite useful,” Majumdar said. Besides, the operators will provide feedback to the information tower about fires being lit where they are not supposed to be, as well as report trouble.    


 
 
CELL TO PAVE PATH FOR IT SWITCHOVER 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 8 
The state government is setting up a separate department of information technology (IT) to smooth over the transition to its professed policy of E-governance.

Once harshly critical of computerisation, the mandarins at Writers’ Buildings have now decided not to lag behind Andhra Pradesh’s aggressive IT policy.

As part of its policy, the government plans to draw up, implement and monitor all state-run projects through its computer network. Even routine administrative tasks will be conducted through e-mail, voice mail, video conferencing and the Internet.

The IT department has been entrusted with an IAS officer, P. Banamali. A minister with independent charge of the new department will be chosen at the next Cabinet meeting.

The process has been expedited by chief minister Jyoti Basu, who emphasised the need to switch over to IT to bring speed and transparency to government activities.

The IT policy was drafted by a 23-member task force, headed by chief secretary Manish Gupta. The creation of an exclusive department was part of the task force’s recommendations. An independent website, www.westbengal.gov.in, and an e-mail address, prsecycm @ wb.nic.in, have been launched from January 1, 2000.

According to the policy, all government departments, including those in the districts, will be networked with the computers in Calcutta. Besides, all departments and organisations will be connected on e-mail for quicker interaction between one another.

Each department will have a chief information technology officer for monitoring and implementation of IT applications.

The network will interlink all the government departments, organisations, corporations, development agencies and financial institutions. The government will also set up an independent, wireless satellite-based communications system which will not only provide connectivity to remote locations but also remain operational during emergencies.

The state police communications network will also benefit from the system. Control centres at district headquarters and police stations will be provided with telephone connections, fax machines and a personal computer with Internet connection.

Vehicle registration, land records, birth and death registration, employment exchanges, payment of excise duty, sales tax and income-tax, payment of electricity and telephone bills, civic taxes, work of police stations and various police departments will be carried out through the electronic system.

“We need not search hundreds of dusty files and wait for months to get any information either on availability of land or a crime record. Whatever we want to know will be made available to us within a second and at the press of a computer button,’’ said A.K. Deb, principal secretary to the chief minister.

All major government policies, Acts, regulations and notifications will be made available to the public through e-mail, the Internet and public terminals.

A number of terminals, to be called service delivery points, will be set up at government offices and other convenient locations for easy popular access. The government also plans to set up such terminals at all public call offices (PCOs) and telephone booths, with help from the Centre.

To implement the policy, a massive training programme will be launched for government employees. The state has decided to introduce IT degree and diploma courses at all engineering colleges, polytechnics and specialised institutions to meet the demand for the IT professionals.    


 
 
‘MYTH-BREAKER’ MITHUN SHOT IN THE ARM FOR LEUKAEMI 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 8 
Leading haematologists, oncologists, paediatricians and biochemists from the city have constituted a Leukaemia Research Society to arrest the need for patients and their guardians to look for treatment outside Bengal.

Actor Mithun Chakraborty is chief patron of the society. “I am always available for whatever is done for the good of Bengal,” Mithun said during the inaugural meeting on Friday.

“We must break the myth that we are not capable (of providing proper treatment). The members of this society are not what they are by fluke. We must also break the myth that once a person has contracted the disease, it is only a certain type of water or God who can cure it. The cure is available in Calcutta now,” he said.

In fact, bone marrow transplants, a very fragile and costly treatment, will very soon be conducted at Kothari Medical Centre. “This is the first such society in India,” said Asis Mukherjee, consultant haematologist, who will be conducting the first transplants.

Thalassaemia, another genetic blood disorder common in Bengal, is another area of battle for the society,” said Sharmila Chandra, who was instrumental in forming the Thalassaemia Society of India almost 20 years ago.

The society will make available to needy patients the latest advances in leukaemia treatment. “For this, a fund will be set up, part of which will be earmarked for research work.”

The forum will bring together pathologists, researchers and haematologists from different institutions in the city to pool resources. “With 80 per cent leukaemia cases now curable, this will be a great boon,” said Sukumar Mukherjee, consultant physician.

All members agreed the society would be a step towards “stopping the Netralaya or Vellore Express from leaving Bengal.”    


 
 
FIVE KILLED IN N-E AMBUSH 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, Jan. 8 
Five persons were killed and six others injured when suspected All-Tripura Tiger Force militants ambushed a jeep in Amtoli area under Khowai police station of West Tripura district today. The militants then escaped to Bangladesh.

Giving details, police sources said a passenger jeep carrying Bengali traders from Khowai town left for Asharambari area at around 11 am today.

As the jeep reached the remote Amtoli area, 1.5 km ahead of Bachaibari, at 12.30 pm, a group of suspected Tiger Force militants perched atop elevated land beside the road fired on the tyres of the jeep and brought it to a halt. The jeep was heavily damaged. The militants got down, dragged jeep driver Lulu Das out and assaulted him. When the driver tried to escape, the rebels shot him dead from point blank range.

Taking advantage of the confusion, the other passengers also tried to escape but were mowed down on the spot. The victims were identified as Narayan Das, Manoranjan Shabar, Manik Santal and Ramlal Gour.

The spot where the incident occurred is very close to the Bangladesh border. It is covered by Assam Rifles jawans and a BSF patrol.

Shortly after the ambush, BSF and Assam Rifles jawans reached the spot. They made arrangements to send two injured persons, Dipti Roy and Param Telenga, to G.B. Hospital in Agartala in a critical condition. Two other injured persons, Pusparani Das and Nepal Das, were admitted to Khowai hospital.

The other two injured persons have not been identified yet. Sources said the suspected Tiger Force militants sneaked into Bangladesh after carrying out the attack.

After being informed of the incident, superintendent of police (West) Rajiv Singh rushed to the spot with reinforcements. However, no one has been arrested so far. Security forces have launched a combing operation in the border areas.

With today’s killing, altogether eight persons have fallen to militants’ bullets since the beginning of this year. Inspector-general of police (law and order) K. Salim Ali said the identity of the militants was still not clear. He said, “Generally Tiger Force militants sneak into Bangladesh after launching attacks in these areas while NLFT rebels retreat into the state’s jungles.”

Two abducted: Two boys were kidnapped yesterday by suspected tribal militants from Kalanchoura area of West Tripura.

Police sources said two Bengali youth, Ram Sarkar, 15, and Narayan Sarkar, 16, who had gone to nearby Gaitamura area to tend cows, were kidnapped from there by suspected militants. Their relatives in Kalanchoura area informed the Boxanagar police station.

Officers and jawans of Boxanagar police station carried out combing operations but the two youth are still untraced.    


 
 
DEMOLITION MOVE IRKS BIHAR CHURCH 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Ranchi, Jan. 8 
Churches in the city have decided to observe January 15 as a day of prayers in protest against the Ranchi Regional Development Authority’s reported move to demolish a portion of a church shopping complex here.

The churches are protesting against what they called continuous harassment of Christian community and threat to churches by the Regional Development Authority (RRDA) and its vice-chairman, Alok Goel.

Sources in the oldest church in Chotanagpur and Assam, the Gossner Evangelical Lutheran (GEL) Church, said hundreds of devout Christians from all the churches would assemble before the GEL Church shopping complex at the Main Road here on Saturday to pray for forgiveness of corrupt people and to prevent the RRDA vice-chairman from carrying out his threat of demolishing Church property.

The move by the Ranchi churches comes in the wake of threats issued by the RRDA, the regulatory body which oversees development activities in the district, that it would demolish a portion of the illegally constructed GEL Church shopping complex at Main Road here on Saturday.

However, GEL Church authorities alleged that despite complying with all the laws of the land, threats of demolition were issued to them following their refusal to “satisfy” corrupt RRDA officials.

The GEL Church has written to the Centre requesting its intervention.    


 
 
TRIPURA REBELS GET LIFE TERMS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, Jan. 8 
Two militants were sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of abduction for ransom. This is one of the rare occasions in the history of Tripura’s insurgency that militants have received such stringent punishment.

Police sources told newsmen that one Chitta Das, a resident of Kathaliacherra under Santir Bazar police station of south Tripura, was abducted on November 23, 1998 by a group of militants. He was released on December 6 that year after payment of ransom.

Sources said shortly after the abduction, the Santir Bazar police station registered a case and finally arrested two militants, Parshuram Reang and Sanjit Reang. After more than a year’s trial, the additional district judge of south Tripura presiding over the Belonia session court sentenced the two militants to life imprisonment for abduction. The culprits were also awarded five more years in prison and a cash fine of Rs 5,000 was imposed on each for illegal possession of firearms.

In 1985, erstwhile Tripura National Volunteers (TNV) commander Chuni Koloi was awarded the life term on a variety of charges including murder.

Ever since the third Left Front government headed by Dasharath Deb came to power in Tripura in April 1993, abduction of civilians has become a money-spinning business for militant outfits of Tripura.

Thousands of people including tea planters, businessmen and government officials have been kidnapped by militants over the past six years and later released on payment of ransom.    


 
 
FRESH I-T NOTICE SERVED ON LALOO 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Patna, Jan. 8 
The income tax department today served chief minister Rabri Devi and her husband Laloo Prasad Yadav a fresh notice along with a questionnaire to account for their income during the year 1996-97.

The notice has landed the couple in a fresh controversy even as their plea to waive the Rs 40 lakh, which the department had asked them to pay in connection with earlier tax returns, remains pending. Referring to Laloo’s earlier statement that the Rs 10 lakh he had earned were proceeds from his dairy business, an income tax official said, “Now, as per their statement, there is no dairy business. How will they justify their income of Rs 10 lakh now?”

Assessing the tax returns filed for the year 1996-97, the department said that there was no way the first couple could now justify their extra income as all their dairy investments had already been made. “Laloo Prasad Yadav cannot claim that the income accrued from the dairy business he had talked about earlier,” the officer said. While the tax noose hangs over their head, the couple’s lawyers are struggling to stop the department from attaching their properties for defaulting on their Rs 40 lakh payment.

Though the RJD chief had moved the authorities, including the Central Board of Direct Taxes, seeking a stay on the order, his pleas were rejected. Tax officials said the appellate wing of the income tax department, to which Laloo had appealed as a last resort, was unlikely to reverse the order of the superior benches. “He is clearly buying time. He knows that this appellate wing cannot reverse earlier orders. But we are in no great hurry too,” the officer said. If the appellate body rejects Laloo’s plea, income tax officials will swoop down on his personal properties — his two houses in Patna, the ancestral house in Phulwari and the plots he has purchased on the outskirts of the city.

“Once we attach the properties, the owners cannot transfer it. The report will then be submitted to the court,” the officer said.

Regarding expenses incurred during their daughter’s wedding, the department has received a “partial reply” from Laloo and Rabri Devi. The couple said Misa’s marriage had cost them a little over Rs 7 lakh which they raised from party workers, MLAs and other sources. Though the couple said they would give a full account by the middle of this month, the Rs 7-lakh estimate has not convinced tax officials. “We have documentary evidence, including video tapes of every little item used during the ceremony. And we will make our own estimate,” an officer said.

The department is now going through documents to establish the market rate of the items and are also interrogating the suppliers. It has already questioned over 100 persons. Sources say once the department receives Laloo’s reply, it will wait for the couple’s income tax returns for 1998-99 and slap them with additional taxes after estimating their “undisclosed income”. Laloo’s lawyers said the tax dispute would be a long-drawn battle.

Sonia visit: AICC president Sonia Gandhi will visit north and south Bihar areas during her four-day campaign for the Assembly elections from January 17, reports UNI. The campaign will be in two phases. She will launch the campaign from Darbhanga on January 17 followed by Purnea.    


 
 
GHOSTLY ORISSA VILLAGE SPOOKS GOVT OFFICIALS 
 
 
FROM DEBASHIS BHATTACHARYYA
 
Polang (Jagatsinghpur), Jan. 8 
Shunned by neighbours and government officials, supercyclone survivors of Polang, a spooky village deep inside a jungle in Orissa, have no one to look to for succour.

Frightened officials and residents of neighbouring villages are staying clear of Polang following unfounded tales of “berserk” spirits running amok. Even two-and-a-half months after the cyclone battered Polang and killed most of the people, the handful of survivors have not received any aid.

“No one is coming here for fear of ghosts. But there are no ghosts,” said Palash Burman, a village youth. “The location of our village inside a jungle has added to the fear.”

Burman lost his father and his three nieces to tidal waves which swamped Polang on October 29. “If there were ghosts, I would have seen them by now at night,” he said. But residents of Nuagaon, a neighbouring village, refused to buy Burman’s tale. “Most of the people living there have died and their spirits roam even at during the day,” said Nuagaon resident Suresh Tarai.

Tarai said some people from Nuagaon tried to visit the village a few days ago, but returned scared. “As these people approached the village, they heard a hissing voice asking them to go away instantly.” Other residents of Nuagaon said they heard that ghosts of the cyclone victims were “running amok” in Polang and threatened to kill any outsider trying to enter the village.

Polang resembles a ghost village, lost in a jungle of uprooted trees sprawled at crazy angles.

All the 54 families have lost someone or other and the village is strewn with human skeletons and skulls.

“Those were my father’s,” Burman said, pointing to a few burnt bones lying in a field. “I found his rotting body 5 km away a few days after the cyclone. I dragged it back and cremated him.”

Desperate villagers climbed Jhau and coconut trees to flee the surging sea. But most trees, groaning under the weight of survivors, collapsed drowning villagers in the process.

Residents said they were forgotten because the village spokesperson, panchayat member Mutha Murmu, died in the cyclone. “There is no one plead on our behalf,’’ said Gopal Behera.

Most of the residents were fishermen and landless labourers. The landless labourers worked in the betel farms. But the farms were destroyed in the cyclone. “All our boats and fishing nets have been destroyed and we need them to eke out a living,” said Sudam Das, a fisherman.    

 

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