Bypass blow fells children
Africans held in currency bust
Darkness after Kolaghat collapse
Naidu snatches bank cradle from Basu
Ferry services on alert
Pay Rs 20 for a piddle in public
Ulfa blows up tracks on PM tour-eve
High command fails to stem Tripura Cong rift
Naga undertrial flees hospital
Camp in Staines’ memory

 
 
BYPASS BLOW FELLS CHILDREN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 19 
Police teargassed a mob on Wednesday near Eastern Metropolitan Bypass after widespread violence, sparked by an accident in which two minor girls were seriously injured. The two sisters, Anjana (5) and Shantana Singh (8), were injured after being hit by an Ambassador, which was later set on fire by the mob.

The violence disrupted traffic for three hours after 1.30 pm. Vehicles bound for Calcutta airport and the city came to a standstill as traffic policemen fled.

Police said the two sisters were standing by the road in Sukantanagar when the car bound for the Bypass lost control and knocked them down.

In another accident, a 55-year-old woman, Jahura Bibi, was run over and killed by a Maruti van in Entally on Wednesday morning.

Immediately afterwards, local people damaged the vehicle. The driver, who did not have a licence, was arrested. Residents squatted on the road to protest the accident.

After the mishap, tension ran high on the EM Bypass and its adjoining areas when the 6,000-strong mob blocked on the road protesting the string of fatal accidents in the city. They demanded posting of traffic policemen as a deterrent.

The situation near Chingrighata at about 1.30 pm could not be brought under control.

The area is under the jurisdiction of North 24-Parganas police but there was confusion over whether the city police were actually in control there.

Consequently, areas falling under Calcutta Police jurisdiction, too, were affected and the city police hastened to the site.

In the meantime, the area had turned into a battlefield with the mob throwing stones at passing vehicles and policemen, who cordoned off the area.

Policemen were initially outnumbered. Reinforcements were sought over the wireless system and DC, eastern suburban division, Mihir Bhattacharya, was despatched to the spot.

The trouble-makers, who were later joined by local criminals, refused to allow senior police officers to approach the area.

They blocked roads and threatened to kill the policemen. Policemen, who were guarding the DC, were heckled and attacked.

Bhattacharya first appealed to the mob to disperse but they did not pay heed to his words.Instead, they went on a rampage, damaging passing vehicles, throwing stones and soda bottles at the policemen. The car, which hit the girls, was set on fire.

The policemen, in turn, resorted to a lathicharge but in vain. Tension did not ease even after Rapid Action force (RAF) personnel were deployed. The police then burst teargas shells and the mob fled.

The two girls, who received head injuries, were taken to Nil Ratan Sarkar Medical College and Hospital, where they were admitted. Doctors attending to them said their condition was serious. The driver of the vehicle managed to escape.    


 
 
AFRICANS HELD IN CURRENCY BUST 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 19 
Police on Tuesday arrested four Africans from Taltala, in central Calcutta, and Thakurpukur, in South 24-Parganas, in connection with a fake currency racket.

The arrested included a woman. They were produced in court on Wednesday and remanded in police custody.

Deputy commissioner of police, central division, Raj Kanojia, said preliminary investigations showed the foreigners had been staying in the city for the past few days and indulging in anti-national activities.

“Investigation is on for more details of the racket. Their statements are being verified,” Kanojia added.

During night-long raids in Taltala and Thakurpukur, the police seized a huge quantity of blank paper used for printing currency notes and some incriminating documents from the possession of the four foreigners.

Investigators said the four were holding fake passports. Security control officers were informed of the racket. The four are being questioned by the security control officers, who handle the entry and exit of foreigners in the city.

Officials of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and other Central intelligence agencies were informed about the arrests. The agencies have sought the help of the Union external affairs ministry.

City detectives are still in the dark about the modus operandi of the four, their hideouts in the city and other parts of the country.

The sleuths, however, were apprised of the phone numbers of their contacts in other countries. “We are not disclosing the names of the countries in the interest of the investigations,” a senior officer said.

Bangladeshi breakthrough: In another breakthrough over the past three days, the special branch of the city police arrested two persons in connection with another fake currency supply racket. Sleuths seized fake Bangladeshi currency from the two. Steps are being taken to smash the racket.    


 
 
DARKNESS AFTER KOLAGHAT COLLAPSE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 19 
The city and its adjoining areas experienced widespread power cuts on Wednesday following the collapse of a 210-mw unit at the power development corporation’s Kolaghat plant.

With one of the two giant 250-mw units at the CESC’s Budge Budge plant being overhauled, the power cuts could continue if the Kolaghat unit does not start functioning properly by Thursday morning.

While repairs are on at the Kolaghat unit in an effort to ensure normal power supply on the day of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s visit to the city, the Budge Budge unit is not expected to be back in stream for another week.

The combined shortfall in the CESC and state electricity board-served areas shot up to 230 mw at 6.30 pm. The shortfall in the CESC-supplied areas alone was 110 mw.

Several areas of the city were plunged into darkness for an hour and more.

The Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, for one, was in complete darkness, with only a row of car headlights visible from a distance.

“Driving back from the city to Salt Lake was a real nightmare. It was some guesswork and lots of luck that saw me through,” remarked Sourav Roy, a businessman.

Many were caught in terrible traffic snarls as policemen at various crossings found it impossible to direct the traffic.

“This is terrible. We havejust entered the 21st century, and here we are groping in the dark in a bid to get back home after work,” remarked Deepak Biswas, while desperately seeking a cab near Dhakuria.

Wednesday’s power failure also caused a severe water scarcity in several multi-storeyed buildings.

“I am waiting for my daughter to return home from her tuitions. It’s pitch dark all around and I don’t know what to do,” said Urmila Das of Ballygunge.

The Wednesday blackout clearly exposed the city’s inadequate back-up infrastructure, both in terms of power supply and alternative arrangements like generators and invertors.

“It would not have been a problem if the CESC had its Budge Budge unit running. As it is shut down, the CESC is generating 230 mw less than what it usually does,” sources in the power department said.

A state electricity board official said that when the two Budge Budge units are in operation together, the CESC generally does not draw more than 120 mw from the board’s grid.

“So, with one Kolaghat unit breaking down, we decided not to let the CESC draw more than 170 mw from our grid around 5.30 pm, because we will have to supply power to the districts too,” the official added.

The CESC’s operating units generated a little over 700 mw and it drew 167 mw from the state electricity board’s grid.

The DVC contributed 34 mw to the CESC system.    


 
 
NAIDU SNATCHES BANK CRADLE FROM BASU 
 
 
BY RENU M R KAKKAR
 
Calcutta, Jan 19 
Calcutta’s loss is Hyderabad’s gain.The 135-year-old Allahabad Bank, headquartered in Jyoti Basu’s fast-turning industrial desert capital, has decided to set up its national training college in Chandrababu Naidu’s cybercity.

As soon as the project was posed to the Andhra chief minister in a letter from Allahabad Bank chairman Harbhajan Singh, state officials promptly replied, seeking specific locational requirements and preferences.

In contrast, home state West Bengal has not been able to come up with a suitable plot of 4-5 acres where the bank wants to relocate its head office.

The application was made last year after chairman Singh met chief minister Basu to request for land.

Allahabad Bank is the only one among the three Calcutta-based banks — the others being UCO Bank and United Bank of India — that is profitable.

Eager to host the fast-growing Calcutta-based bank, Andhra officials have already taken senior executives on a tour of the prospective sites. Allahabad Bank is seeking a nearly 10-acre plot to set up the training centre for top management cadre.

The bank is not linking its decision to go to Hyderabad with its failure so far to acquire land for a different purpose in Calcutta.

Refusing to comment on why it chose Hyderabad ahead of its home town, sources in the bank pointed to the attraction of being close to two high-profile training institutes.

Hyderabad is home to the training colleges of the State Bank of India, the country’s largest bank, and the Industrial Development Bank of India (IDBI), the biggest financial institution.

“The state (Andhra) has sprawling uninhabited stretches of land and we are confident of getting an allotment shortly,” said a senior official who was part of the team that visited the city.

“We have an old facility which was set up in Calcutta (Alipore) way back in the late 1960s, years before bank nationalisation. We also have something in Balanagar, Andhra, but that is a small centre. The plan for the Hyderabad college is on a much bigger scale and officers will benefit from exchange of the top-class faculty that visits the premier establishments of SBI and IDBI,” an official said.

Unlike Calcutta, which has seen steady industrial decline for two decades now, Hyderabad is an upcoming business destination, due largely to the personal initiative of Naidu. “It has the right intellectual environment as well. Thus, there will also be no problem in getting banking and non-banking visiting (guest) faculty for training courses there,” said a source.

Such a college will train handpicked officers from all over the country in branch management, inspection, audit and in specific focus areas (like the new retail banking business). With competition escalating with the entry of a large number of private banks, training has become more important than ever before.

The State Bank’s institute is headed by a chief general manager — the top post in local head offices — which is an indication of how the management views its utility. Even Allahabad Bank’s establishment in Alipore is headed by a chief manager.

These colleges also generate income by creating excess capacity to train the staff of other banks who do not have such facilities.

Allahabad Bank, which came up in the early days of capital formation in colonial India, was founded in April 1865. In 1923, on business considerations and for operational convenience, the headquarters and the registered office moved to Calcutta.    


 
 
FERRY SERVICES ON ALERT 
 
 
BY TAMAL SENGUPTA
 
Calcutta, Jan 19 
The impending partial closure of Howrah bridge has sparked a move to improve ferry services between Howrah and Calcutta.

Officials of the Hooghly Nadi Jalapath Paribahan Samity on Wednesday said more vessels would be pressed into operation and frequency of services increased to handle the “big load”.

“It’s going to be a daunting operation. Never before have we operated under such great pressure,” said Lagan Deo Singh, chairman of the CPM-run-samity.

The bridge, the principal link between Calcutta and Howrah, was to be partially closed from Wednesday for repairs, but the move has been deferred at the last moment. The current port strike is the primary cause behind the deferment, sources said.

The samity had a dry run of sorts during the day when it put out extra vessels and increased frequency during peak hours.

“We were prepared to carry the extra rush of passengers from Wednesday. However, the bridge is still open. During peak hours in the morning, there was tremendous pressure on the Howrah-Fairlie Place route,’’ Singh said.

According to an official estimate, more than one lakh passengers use the ferry daily. After the partial closure of the bridge, the number is expected to go up to 1.7 lakh. Howrah-Fairlie Place and Howrah-Chandpalghat routes are going to be most difficult to manage, samity officials said.

Three vessels ply between Howrah and Chandpalghat and two between Howrah and Fairlie Place. Vessels sailing between Howrah and Chandpalghat make 108 trips a day. The samity is planning to increase the frequency.

On the Howrah-Fairlie route, another additional vessel might be pressed into service, samity officials said. Two vessels on this route make 120 trips a day. With another vessel, the number may go up to 150, carrying an additional 10,000 passengers.

On the less crowded Howrah-Bagbazar route, six vessels operate daily. The samity is planning to withdraw one vessel which will be deployed on the two busy routes in case of an emergency.

Samity officials want to utilise this to cope with extra rush of passengers in the coming days.    


 
 
PAY RS 20 FOR A PIDDLE IN PUBLIC 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 19 
The drive to stop people urinating in public made a dramatic comeback in central Calcutta on Wednesday afternoon.

In a surprise hour-long swoop in the Chowringhee and Esplanade areas, 244 people were caught in the act.

Among those ticked off by the conservancy officials of Borough VI, were an army subedar and 45 trade union workers of the All India Trade Union Congress who were attending a trade union meeting at Esplanade. Each of the offenders was fined Rs 20 on the spot.

The long lay-off in the operation, launched way back in September 1998, seemed to have lulled the citizens into a sense of security.

According to the CMC conservancy department’s estimates, at least 50 people urinate on the pavement or in a public place every minute.

“The average rate of committing nuisance in public place was 167 people per hour in the Esplanade area in August 1999. This was only 77 per hour when we had launched the operation in September ’98,” said the district conservancy officer (DCO) of the borough, Swapan Mahapatra.

A senior civic official pointed out that there are about 40 pay-and-use toilets in the city which were not running well “as most people preferred to relieve themselves on the roads”.

There are quite a few public urinals or pay-toilets in the Chowringhee and Esplanade areas. But the record `haul’ on Wednesday afternoon revealed that these had been rendered redundant by the average man on the street.

The only Sulabh complexes which are running well are the ones at College Street, Sradhananda Park,Gol Park, Hazra Park, Deshbandhu Park and Moulali.    


 
 
ULFA BLOWS UP TRACKS ON PM TOUR-EVE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Guwahati, Jan. 19 
Suspected Ulfa militants detonated a powerful bomb on the railway tracks in Upper Assam’s Golaghat district early this morning derailing 10 bogies of a coal-laden goods train.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is expected to arrive here on his way to Shillong tomorrow.

Chief public relations officer of Northeast Frontier Railways (NFR) Utpalparna Hazarika said the bomb, which was planted on the tracks between Chongajan and Bokajan stations, nearly 15 km east of Dimapur, went off around 1.10 am. However, no one was injured in the blast, sources said. The train, which was loaded from Ledo, was bound for Haryana, police sources said. Security forces led by superintendent of police, Golaghat, rushed to the spot after the blast and recovered a 68-metre-long wire and an electric bulb.

Police are yet to identify the type of explosive used for the blast. Samples are likely to be sent to the state forensic science laboratory here for analysis. Security forces have launched a massive search operation in the area.

More than a dozen youth have been picked up for interrogation. However, no one has been arrested so far.

Police sources said the impact of the blast created a deep crater and damaged nearly 100 metres of the track. “The militants were probably trying to target passenger trains,” the police said. The Tinsukia-bound Brahmaputra Mail and the Up and Down Intercity Express trains were scheduled to cross the area around that time.

Railway links in Upper Assam districts of Dibrugarh and Tinsukia have been disrupted. Hazarika said normal services are likely to be resumed by tomorrow. The N.F. Railway has arranged buses for transhipment of stranded passengers between Bokajan and Dimapur.

The blast, which comes barely a week before the Republic Day, has worried the state administration. Earlier, the Ulfa blew up a pipeline of the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) at Disangpani in Upper Assam’s Sibsagar district on January 1. The militants also made an abortive attempt to blow up an Oil India Limited (OIL) pipeline at Parghat near Numaligarh in Golaghat district on January 12.

Several trains were either cancelled or controlled, railway sources said. The New Delhi-bound Rajdhani Express, which was scheduled to leave Dibrugarh this morning, was cancelled. The Intercity Express trains between Guwahati and Tinsukia have also were also cancelled for the day. Hazarika said the Sealdah-bound Kanchenjunga Express scheduled to leave Guwahati on January 20 has also been cancelled.

Joint raids

Assam police is likely to approach its Meghalaya counterpart for conducting a series of joint raids to flush out Ulfa militants who have taken refuge in the neighbouring state.

A highly-placed police official said the details of the joint action are being worked out. He said the banned outfit, after facing stiff resistance in Bhutan, is trying to establish its base in Meghalaya.

The official said the proposal has been forwarded to the Assam government for its approval. “Only after it is approved, we will approach Meghalaya police for carrying out the joint raids. But the Meghalaya government must also give its consent,” he added.

“It is important that a strong counter action is taken at the earliest to flush out the militants before they establish roots in Meghalaya,” the official said. The Ulfa has taken full advantage of the porous border and the difficult terrain there to consolidate its stranglehold, he added. “The intelligence failure has compounded the problems,” he said. The official said Meghalaya is one of the “most inconspicuous” states in the region where the militants can easily carry out their activities.”    


 
 
HIGH COMMAND FAILS TO STEM TRIPURA CONG RIFT 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, Jan. 19 
Adding a new dimension to the power struggle in the Tripura unit of the Congress, the high command yesterday appointed legislator Birajit Sinha as president of the party’s state-level steering committee.

The PCC was left untouched, but Sinha claimed here today that it had been dissolved. “The PCC is now defunct as its president resigned last month. My job is to revamp it,” he said. Sinha is backed by leader of the Opposition Samir Ranjan Barman, PCC member Amar Ranjan Gupta, Indian National Trade Union Congress leader Nirod Baran Das and state Youth Congress chief Billal Mia.

The newly-appointed steering committee president told newspersons that he hoped to rejuvenate the party before the autonomous district council and nagar panchayat polls.

Asked how he planned to end dissidence, the former Youth Congress president refused to be “drawn into any controversy” on the issue. According to observers, Sinha is likely to face opposition from party activists who want legislator Surajit Datta to be appointed the president of the steering committee.

“A meeting will be held tomorrow to chalk out our strategy. We will take steps in accordance with the situation,” said a legislator opposed to Sinha’s appointment.

He hinted at a revolt against the high command unless the latter acceded to the rebel camp’s demands, including Barman’s removal from the post of leader of the Opposition. Barman, who was elected to the post, is believed to have informed the party high command that he would quit only if he was defeated in a fresh polls.

AICC secretary Mukul Wasnik and Nagaland chief minister S.C. Jamir are scheduled to arrive here on February 2 to sort out the problem.

PCC president Gopal Roy, who resigned last month in accordance with the recommendations of the Antony Committee, left for Guwahati today to attend the Northeastern Congress Coordination Committee meeting. Sources said he sought permission from AICC general secretary Ambika Soni before confirming his participation in the meeting.

Probe sought

Tripura legislator and PCC general secretary Jawahar Saha today demanded a CBI inquiry into the alleged rape of several women by National Liberation Front of Tripura rebels at Raibari village in Udaipur subdivision recently.

In a letter to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, the Congress leader said similar incidents would take place elsewhere in the state if the Centre did not take steps immediately.    


 
 
NAGA UNDERTRIAL FLEES HOSPITAL 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Kohima, Jan. 19 
An undertrial admitted to the Dimapur civil hospital for treatment escaped yesterday.

The incident comes close on the heels of a security lapse that led to another criminal escaping from the Kohima civil hospital.

Sources said the undertrial, Mughato, who was admitted to the hospital on Sunday, was found missing from his cabin yesterday morning. Two policemen were immediately arrested for dereliction of duty.

Mughato was arrested on January 4. He was wanted in over half- -a-dozen cases, including theft and arson. The director-general of police had awarded the police team which arrested Mughato a cash prize of Rs 10,000.

Sources said Mughato was admitted to hospital at the behest of the jail authorities, who reported that he was suffering from chest pain and had vomited blood. Though the undertrial’s legs were bound by chains and there were seven policemen guarding him, his escape was an “easy one”, the sources said.

Police suspect that the escape was planned in connivance with the police personnel on duty at the hospital. “Four of the seven policemen were not where they should have been. Steps have been initiated against them,” an official said. It is believed that Mughato was taken out of the hospital by someone as he was too weak to walk.

A doctor and seven policemen were arrested when a top National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) activist escaped from the civil hospital in Kohima on January 8. The doctor was later released on bail, while the police personnel were remanded to judicial custody.

In another incident, a section of undertrials and convicts at Dimapur Central Jail tried to spark a riot yesterday.

Sources said tension gripped the prison after the authorities segregated a convict due to security reasons. At least 80 inmates subsequently laid siege on the jail and refused to go back to their cells. However, the jail authorities averted a riot.

A policeman was injured in a similar incident that took place in the prison last week.

Rebels’ appeal

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of Manipur has sought the release of nine of its activists who were “arrested” by suspected National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) rebels in Dimapur recently.

Kuki festival: Kukis in Nagaland celebrated their biggest festival, Mim Kut, with traditional gaiety. The harvesting festival was mainly celebrated at Molvon village, on Monday. Thousands of people thronged the high school ground in their best traditional attires on the occasion.    


 
 
CAMP IN STAINES’ MEMORY 
 
 
FROM DEBASHIS BHATTACHARYYA
 
Bhubaneswar, Jan. 19 
Defying death threats, a handful of Christian families in Manoharpur will pray at a three-day “jungle camp” from Friday to mark the first death anniversary of Australian missionary Graham Stewart Staines and his two sons, killed by antisocials last year.

Unwilling to get drawn into any controversy, Gladys Staines, the slain missionary’s widow, will not attend the camp.

Staines and his two minor sons, Timothy and Philip, were killed at a similar camp in Keonjhar on January 23. They were burnt to death inside a jeep in front of the Manoharpur church.

Gladys and her daughter Esther, who is back home from her boarding school in Ooty for the winter vacation, will mourn the deaths “privately” at their Baripada residence on Sunday. They will visit the local cemetery, where missionary and his sons are buried. The mother and daughter will also attend church services in Baripada.

With the police failing to trace Dara Singh, a religious fanatic and prime accused in the killings, Christian families in Manoharpur have been living in fear for the past one year.

Singh has warned the local Christians not to participate in the camp, saying it was a front to convert poor tribals.

Superintendent of police, Keonjhar, Arun Kumar Roy said the police has thrown a security ring around Manoharpur. Two platoons of armed police have been deployed in the village. Senior officials, including the circle inspector of Anandpur and officer in-charge of the Anandpur police station, are camping there.

At least 10 policemen were camping inside the local church. Four jeeps and a motorcycle have been kept ready at the village to deal with any emergency. Checkpoints have been set up on the road approaching the village to frisk visitors.

Roy said the police would allow local Christian families to hold prayer services but outsiders would not be allowed to take part in the camp. He said the police wanted to keep the turnout to a minimum.

“We are not leaving anything to chance since Dara Singh is still at large,” the SP said over telephone.

Father Jacob Kallupurackel of the Keonjhar Catholic church said he would send a Catholic delegation to attend the “jungle camp” in Manoharpur to express solidarity with the Protestants.    

 

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