Killer bridge strikes again
Trinamul stages road raj repeat show
Ruckus over death after ward transfer
Cold winds break Bay cyclonic barrier
Crack force on trail of fugitive don
Credit card racket busted
Law college mishap protest
Cong snubs JMM faction
Assam urged to boost fish production
Bihar asked to step up pre-poll vigil

 
 
KILLER BRIDGE STRIKES AGAIN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 17 
Vidyasagar Setu, a much-used link of the city with Howrah, is fast turning into a death trap. A police constable was run over by a speeding vehicle on the bridge early on Monday.

This mishap comes within four days of the ghastly crash on the bridge, in which five passengers of a Tata Sumo were killed when their vehicle slammed into a stationary truck.

Constable Dhruba Kumar Saha, 38, was manning the Vidyasagar Setu outpost near the toll plaza early on Monday morning, when his colleague, Ranabir Ghosh, on the other side of the bridge, suddenly heard a cry for help.

“I rushed to the spot and saw Saha lying in a pool of blood on the side of the bridge. I could not see the vehicle. But he was probably hit by a city-bound luxury bus,” said Ghosh.

Saha was taken to SSKM Hospital, where he was declared dead.

Officials admitted that the bridge, inaugurated in October 1992, had witnessed fatal accidents earlier, but six deaths in four days had set the alarm bells ringing.

“The probable reason behind the recent accidents is that vehicles are plying at break-neck speed, violating all speed limit rules on the bridge,” said deputy commissioner of police (II), traffic, K.A. Karim.

These accidents have finally forced the traffic department to swing into action.

Officials have chalked out several measures to try and check accidents on the bridge.

According to the city police’s traffic rules, vehicles cannot exceed the 40 kmph mark on Vidyasagar Setu.

“But we have noticed that most vehicles pick up speed once they hit the bridge, in clear violation of the speed-limit rules,” reiterated K.A. Karim.

The traffic department has now decided to instal a speed gauge on the bridge in order to keep a check on passing vehicles.

“The instrument could have been in place some time back. But we failed to use it, as it was the only equipment of the traffic department lying out of order for the past few months,” said a senior officer.

From now on, policemen stationed on the Setu will keep a strict eye on drivers hitting the accelerator on the bridge.

Those who exceed the permissible speed limit will be will be fined or taken to court.

Meanwhile, traffic department officials have expressed anxiety over the anticipated rise in traffic on the bridge from this week.

With Howrah Bridge closing down partially from January 19 for repairs, the entire city-bound traffic from Howrah will be diverted along the second Hooghly bridge.

About 35,000 vehicles use the Setu every day. This is expected to double once the Howrah bridge allows one-way traffic only.

“With no city-bound private cars, taxis, lorries and Matador vans being allowed to ply down the Howrah bridge, they will all be diverted to Vidyasagar Setu. This will put an enormous load on the bridge. And so, the probability of more accidents looms large,” warns one official.

The traffic department had sent a proposal some time ago to the home (police) department regarding deployment of more policemen to the Vidyasagar Setu traffic guard.

The traffic guard now has an assistant commissioner of police, two officers-in-charge and 50 constables.

“With vehicular movement on the bridge increasing substantially, the traffic guard needs at least 120 policemen to control the bridge and its adjoining areas,” said a traffic department official.    


 
 
TRINAMUL STAGES ROAD RAJ REPEAT SHOW 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 17 
A Trinamul Congress leader created chaos in north Calcutta on Monday morning after breaking traffic laws.

Trinamul MLA Sanjoy Bakshi and his supporters blocked the crossing of CR Avenue and MG Road, accusing the police of demanding a bribe from him in exchange for letting him off after a traffic violation..

Another Trinamul leader, Subrata Mukherjee, blocked Gariahat Road to protest power cuts in the area. As a result, traffic was disrupted for two hours on the busy thoroughfares.

Monday’s incident on CR Avenue is the second instance in recent times of a Trinamul leader taking the law in his hands after breaking rules.

Madan Mitra had slapped a traffic constable a few months ago after he was caught by policeman violating traffic rules near Lindsay Street. No action was taken against him.

None so far has been initiated against Bakshi either.

Around 10.30 am on Monday, Bakshi was reprimanded by a traffic police officer for taking a U-turn on CR Avenue.

He drew the police officer into a heated exchange and protested against his misbehaviour. The officer let him off without starting any case against him. The officer told Bakshi that he was not taking action against him because he was an MLA.

Bakshi promptly accused the police for harassing him without provocation and demanding a bribe.

The MLA was seen shouting on the road to attract the attention of passers-by. He then proceeded to protest police atrocities on common people.

Bakshi telephoned his supporters and told them to arrive and set up the blockade.

The policemen were not expecting such a demonstration on a busy road like Chittaranjan Avenue. The local police station was informed and officers rushed to the spot.

On seeing the policeman, the Trinamul supporters became agitated and asked the traffic police officer to tender an unconditional apology for harassing their leader. They also demanded his immediate suspension.

The policemen threatened the agitators with serious consequences if the roadblock was not withdrawn.They chased away the demonstrators with lathis. The blockade lasted an hour.

The police, however, could not say whether any action would be taken against Bakshi.

The MLA was not available for comment.    


 
 
RUCKUS OVER DEATH AFTER WARD TRANSFER 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 17 
The death of a patient in the state government-run SSKM Hospital sparked tension and trouble on the campus late on Monday evening.

Trinamul Congress supporters rallied round the relatives of Tarit Sen who, they said, had died “due to the negligence” of the hospital authorities.

They squatted in front of the cardiology ward, where the doctors on duty had allegedly, “failed to attend to the heart patient”.

The angry protesters claimed that although the patient had paid Rs 750 for treatment in the cabin from January 15 to January 25, he was forcibly removed on Monday morning to the general ward on the ground floor. This, they said, resulted in his death.

According to the hospital authorities, Tarit Sen, a resident of Dhaluguri, in Sankrail, was admitted on January 15 with severe coronary thrombosis.

The head of the department of chest, Manotosh Panja, who was treating Sen at SSKM, told The Telegraph: “He was accommodated originally in cabin number 6. The cabin, however, had been booked for Pratibha Das, mother of the hospital’s matron, who had just been transferred to the intensive cardiac care unit for treatment. As the cabin was empty, we put Sen into it on humanitarian grounds.”

Pratibha was released from the ICCU on Monday morning, “We had to take her back to the cabin. So, Sen was shifted to the general ward. We had kept his relatives informed about the developments,’’ claimed Panja.

Relatives of the deceased claimed otherwise.

“My uncle died because he was moved from the comfort of the cabin to the filthy general ward,’’ said Sujit Sen.

“As his condition was improving steadily, the doctors told us that we could take him home in a few days. But when we came to see him today, we found that he was being removed to the general ward, where he had to share his bed with several other patients.

“When we asked why he was being been shifted, the authorities said that as the cabin was in a VIP ward, the matron’s mother would be given the cabin,’’ Kewal Kanti Sen, brother of the deceased, said.

Sujit Sen further claimed that when no bed was available on the first day, they had given a tout Rs 500 for the cabin for his uncle.

Till late at night, Trinamul leader Madan Mitra and his supporters did not allow the hospital authorities to release the body and demanded that state health minister Partha De visit the spot and take action against the errant doctors.    


 
 
COLD WINDS BREAK BAY CYCLONIC BARRIER 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 17 
Those who thought winter had bid adieu, perk up. There is a nip in the air and weathermen promised on Monday that colder days are ahead.

After a week of abnormal warmth, the mercury at last dipped on Monday, sending Calcuttans scurrying for their woollens once again.

The weather office said the minimum temperature had dropped by two degrees to 17.5 º Celsius during the day, against 19.6 º on Sunday. The maximum temperature, too, plunged by four degrees to 24.4 º Celsius, three degrees below normal.

“The temperature will go down by another two degrees by Tuesday and if the weather remains clear, the mercury will dip further, as the north wind is blowing again,” a meteorological department official said.

A week ago, the temperature climbed after an “anti-cyclonic circulation” formed in the north Bay, leading to heavy incursion of moisture and blocking of the north wind.

Another factor responsible for this sudden increase in temperature was a “cyclonic circulation” over Bihar and adjoining sub-Himalayan West Bengal, extending up to 1.5 kilometre above sea level.

Under the influence of these conditions, the temperature shot up and a blanket of fog descended. For a few days, dense fog had taken over the city in the early mornings, disrupting flights and train services.

On Sunday, the minimum temperature was 19.6 º Celsius, six degrees above normal.

Calcutta, during this period, remained the warmest city in the eastern part of the country.

“But from Sunday night, the anti-cyclonic circulation started clearing and moving towards Assam. The other cyclonic circulation, too, cleared a few days ago. The percentage of humidity has also come down. The days ahead will be colder,” an official said.

After a week of unseasonal warmth, the city woke up on Monday to a colder morning, making most cling to their blankets and quilts.

Woollens which, for the past few days, were tucked away in the closets, were brushed and dusted and readied for reuse.

The sky was clear and the sun shone brightly, helping the north wind build up the shivers. It was cooler in the after noon, compared to the last few days.

“But the temperature should dip further to remind people that it is only the middle of January and technically, the height of winter. Mind you, even though the minimum temperature came down to 17.5 º, it is still three degrees above normal. The normal temperature should have been around 14 degrees,” said an official at the weather office.

He said that normally, effects of conditions like the “cyclonic and the anti-cyclonic circulation” wear off in two or three days.

“But this time, we found that they persisted, making people wonder whether winter had left to make room for spring,” he added.    


 
 
CRACK FORCE ON TRAIL OF FUGITIVE DON 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 17 
The city police on Monday formed a five-member crack team of detectives to nab Sheikh Vinod and his associates — `dead or alive.

“Sheikh Vinod is a dreaded criminal. He is wanted in several cases of extortion, murder and robberies. Policemen have been given permission to shoot him in self- defence,’’ deputy commissioner of police, detective department, special cell, Manoj Malaviya said.

The city police chief, D.C. Vajpai summoned senior detectives to his Lalbazar chambers on Monday morning and directed them to launch an all-out bid to track down Sheikh Vinod, who has shot into prominence after the public lynching of ten of his gang members at Sonarpur on Thursday.

The police on Monday evening tracked down Sheikh Vinod to Naihati. “It is definite that he is in the north 24-Parganas. But he is constantly on the move.

“He might try to cross the border and slip into Bangladesh. We have alerted the border guards and security agencies at the check posts,’’ Malaviya said.

Earlier in the day, detectives had also picked up information of Vinod calling up three promoters in the Lake area of south Calcutta, demanding money.

“He has told them the amount of money but is yet to spell out where and whom to deposit it,’’ a senior detective said.

Sources said officers of the anti-rowdy section of the detective department have sent out “feelers” into the underworld to gather information on the whereabouts of Sheikh Vinod and his associates.

The police have roped in a criminal, who was a close associate of Sheikh Vinod till recently, to help them in their task. He is supplying them with vital clues about the gang leader and his men, including an insight into his “connections” with police officers and politicians.

According to Manoj Malaviya, Vinod and six others had initially fled to Thakurpukur from Sonarpur. There, they branched off into three groups.

While Vinod travelled with two of his associates, Shivkumar and Rambabu, one took shelter with some friends in Pailan, and two others reportedly went into hiding in Sodepur.

Vinod is said to be carrying four mobile phones. He and his travelling companion are constantly shifting base. They are said to be hitting the road within half and hour of reaching a village or small town.

Raids in the city: A team of detectives from the anti-rowdy section raided Behala, Thakurpukur and Pailan areas in the southern fringes of the city and tried to arrest Mansuf Mullah, Bhola, Sheikh Rashid.

The three are notorious criminals who have been terrorising local residents for some time.

Detectives claim that they have information about these men providing shelter to some “city-based criminals on the run”.    


 
 
CREDIT CARD RACKET BUSTED 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 17 
The detective department has busted a racket that involved duplicating credit card payment slips and charging customers twice for purchases made from a carpet shop in the city.

The deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Narayan Ghosh, said the kingpin was Subhas Chand Kapoor, the owner of a carpet shop in New Market.

He made customers sign two credit card payment slips and manipulated documents to send two bills to the bank and collected double the amount.

Ghosh said he duped foreign customers of Rs 25 lakh. He also operated a shop in Agra where he reportedly raked in Rs 35 lakh, detectives added.

Kapoor made Rs 1 crore by duping customers in 1998-99. Of this, Rs 40 lakh came from Indians who had purchased carpets by card. Although he tried to cheat several Calcuttans, “foreigners were his primary targets”, Ghosh said.

As Kapoor had an account with the Karaya branch of Andhra Bank, the bank officials filed an FIR after they were flooded with complaints.

Detectives said many visitors from Australia and the US had also got in touch with city police officials complaining that they had been duped.

They said that credit card companies had billed them double for several purchases made in Calcutta.

After getting details of the purchases made in the city, police found out that they were charged double only for the purchases made from Kapoor’s shop. They then tried to nail Kapoor but he was nowhere to be found.

After further investigation, they traced him to his house in Agra. A raid was planned and successfully carried out on Sunday after which Kapoor was arrested. He was brought to the city on Monday.

Kapoor was produced in court and remanded to custody till January 24. Police have sealed the carpet shop at New Market.

Ghosh said detectives are also investigating whether Kapoor was connected with anybody in foreign countries.

“Detectives are also investigating whether there are any similar credit card rackets,’’ Ghosh said.    


 
 
LAW COLLEGE MISHAP PROTEST 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 17 
Supporters of Trinamul Congress Chhatra Parishad staged a demonstration on Monday in front of Calcutta University in protest against the mishap at Law College on Hazra Road in which a a piece of plaster from the ceiling fell on a student.

The demonstrators demanded thorough check-up and immediate repair of the college building and submitted a memorandum to the vice-chancellor of the university.

After Friday’s mishap, law students held demonstrations and gheraoed officials, demanding immediate removal of the caretaker of the campus. They had demanded that renovations begin on Saturday.

Rajabazar arrests

Police nabbed 18 persons in connection with Sunday’s violence at Rajabazar in which four buses were set ablaze. The raid was carried out by officials from Amherst Street police station.    


 
 
CONG SNUBS JMM FACTION 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Ranchi, Jan. 17 
The Congress has turned down the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (Munda)’s proposal for an electoral alliance in south Bihar, party sources said here.

Struggling for a foothold since it was formed, the JMM(M) had offered to either merge with the Congress or forge an alliance with the party in south Bihar. The twin proposals were submitted to Congress spokesperson Ajit Jogi and AICC general secretary (Bihar) Mohsina Kidwai in New Delhi.

The AICC is believed to have decided against accepting either of the two proposals because of the controversy generated by its past alliance with the JMM. The Election Commission’s decision to recognise the faction led by Shibu Soren as the “real JMM” may also have prompted the Congress to reject the offer of an alliance with the Munda group, sources said.

The Congress suffered a rout in the Lok Sabha elections in Bihar last year despite an alliance with the ruling RJD. This time around, Congressmen are opposed to the idea of seat adjustments with any party. The AICC’s refusal to have anything to do with the JMM(M) has forced the latter to seek help from other national parties. It has also sought a fresh symbol.

The Champaran Vikas Party (CPV) today formally merged with the BJP brightening up the latter’s poll prospects in the districts bordering Uttar Pradesh, reports our special correspondent from Patna.

Dilip Verma, a former Janata Dal leader who formed his party in the early Nineties, said the CPV decided to merge as the BJP ideology broadly agreed with the rationale behind its creation. The BJP is likely to exploit Verma’s popularity in Champaran.

According to BJP sources, the party has also roped in three other MLAs from the Congress and the JMM(S).

Addressing the new entrants, party leader Kailashpati Mishra said the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will have no problem selecting a leader for the chief minister’s post once it is elected to power in Bihar.    


 
 
ASSAM URGED TO BOOST FISH PRODUCTION 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Guwahati, Jan. 17 
The World Bank, which is funding the Rs 567-crore Assam Rural Infrastructure and Agriculture Services Project (ARIASP), has asked the state government to improve rearing of fishlings to ensure the highest possible fish production.

World Bank task manager Harideep Singh said despite having tremendous potential to be a leader in fish production, the state is still lagging far behind. “During our survey, we found that adequate steps have not been taken by the state government to boost fish production,” he said.

Singh recently led a six-member team of experts to the state to review the progress of ongoing work under the ARIASP.

“Rearing of fingerlings is an essential prerequisite for obtaining optimum fish production from all kinds of water bodies,” Singh said, expressing dissatisfaction at the slow progress of work in the World Bank-funded fishery component.

“We have asked the state government several times to gear up work in this sector. It has tremendous scope for greater revenue earnings and can also generate employment avenues for rural people,” he added.

“Even though many local unemployed youth have shown keen interest in implementing various fish culture programmes, the government is yet to respond in a fair manner,” the task manager said. He added the government should encourage unemployed fishery graduates to take up fish and seed production under self-employment ventures.

“This will provide a steady source of fish fingerlings to the progressive fish farmers participating in the ARIASP,” Singh said.

He said the team has submitted an aide-mémoir to the government, strongly advocating the need to place more emphasis on the rearing of fingerlings.

“It has been clearly understood that stocking of fingerlings of the right size is the most important prerequisite for the success of beel fishery. In view of the limited supply of quality fingerlings, we have proposed that every beel should invariably have within its close vicinity adequate facilities for fingerling rearing,” Singh said. He added the mode of rearing should be determined according to local conditions.

Singh said in order to enhance the rearing capacity, adequate steps should be taken by the implementing agencies. “To avoid genetic depression through inbreeding, it is necessary to replenish the brood stock periodically from the wild and maintain them in selected fish seed farms of the department,” he said.

The World Bank has asked the state government to submit fresh proposals for upgrading the zonal fish seed farms, he added. It has also proposed that the state government should encourage small and marginal fish farmers. “In view of the shortage of fingerlings for stocking various water bodies, a trend should be set to rear fingerlings in small water bodies like tanks and ponds,” he said.    


 
 
BIHAR ASKED TO STEP UP PRE-POLL VIGIL 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Patna, Jan. 17 
The Bihar government has been directed by the Election Commission to deploy forces in the Naxalite-affected areas a fortnight before the election to thwart pre-poll violence.

The state government received the directive today along with a sanction letter for 400 companies of central paramilitary forces which the state would receive before January 20.

State election commission sources said the police was asked to “take affective steps in flushing out the militants from Naxalite- affected areas of central and south Bihar”.

Intelligence agencies have been asked to provide the state police adequate information about the “landmines and their strategic placement areas.’’ In the last election, landmine blasts killed 40 security jawans. State home commissioner U. N. Panjiyar said in response to the state’s demand for 800 companies of central paramilitary forces, the commission has sanctioned just 400 companies. “We have to ensure peace during the polls with the sanctioned forces”, the home commissioner said.

Panjiyar said the state government will hold a high-level meeting of divisional commissioners, DIGs and SPs at Palamau tomorrow “to take stock of the situation.” In an attempt to combat the Naxalite menace during the polls, the state police have stopped routine night patrolling in the sensitive areas to avoid loss of lives of security personnel.

“Minimum number of policemen would travel in a jeep so that landmine blasts do not take heavy toll’’, he said. According to intelligence sources, Naxalite groups, specially the People’s War has decided to reduce the number of guerrilla wings and form smaller hit squads or dalams at the local level. These dalams are active in Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. Sources says the smaller units are more effective operationally and difficult for the police to track down.

But senior police officers said the state and central forces would also form smaller units armed with much more sophisticated weapons. The state government has been contemplating life insurance cover of Rs 10 lakh each for the security and poll personnel. Poll personnel in the state launched an agitation demanding insurance covers after the series of landmine blasts in the September 1999 Lok Sabha polls.

The state government has so far spent Rs 5 crore as compensation for the security personnel killed in the blasts.

MCC poll boycott call

The outlawed Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) today issued a strict diktat calling for a boycott of the coming Assembly elections in the state. The outfit has warned local people of Gumla and Lohardagga districts of dire consequences if they dared to disobey , adds our Ranchi correspondent.

The MCC diktat comes at a time when political parties are gearing up for the polls. Candidates began filing their nomination papers today for the first phase of the Assembly elections, scheduled for February 12. Eyewitnesses said hundreds of MCC posters were found pasted on walls, government buildings and trees and at market places, community centres and bus stands throughout the militant-infested districts of Gumla and Lohardagga.

The posters gave local people a choice between staying indoors on election days or having their hands chopped off. Residents said some posters reminded the people about the gruesome fate of local Congress leader Ram Sharan Jayaswal. Jayaswal was gunned down by MCC militants for actively participating in last year’s Lok Sabha elections despite being warned by the outfit. Intelligence agencies have also warned the state government of largescale violence.    

 

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