Kidnapper parade for Exide chief
Currency racket reveals Pak link
Show on Mother shut out by suit
Nights of snoring, days of dozing
Presidency repair row
Vigil tightened on border
Power situation
Vajpayee to address security meet today
PM urged to specify Naga stand
Gangrape issue snowballs

 
 
KIDNAPPER PARADE FOR EXIDE CHIEF 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 20 
Ajay Singh, who masterminded the kidnappings of several city-based businessmen, including Exide chairman S.B. Ganguly, is being brought back to the city. A Calcutta Police team left Patna late on Wednesday evening with Ajay Singh, Ashim Singh and Upendra Singh.

The three were arrested by the Patna police on Wednesday. “They were arrested on warrants, to be handed over to the Calcutta Police,” said the deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Narayan Ghosh.

S.B. Ganguly will be asked to appear for a test-identification parade, Ghosh said.

“We will shortly call him to identify his kidnappers,’’ said the detective chief.

Preliminary investigations conducted by detectives interrogating the accused in Patna have revealed that Singh and his gang have extorted Rs 3 crore as ransom money over the past two years from Calcutta-based businessmen.

The Exide chief had been abducted from near the Alipore horticulture gardens on April 2, 1999, during his customary morning walk.

He was apparently taken to several places in Koderma, Hazaribagh and Ranchi.

“Singh’s gang had cultivated a network of informers in the city, who would provide detailed information about the activities of industrialists and businessmen,” revealed Narayan Ghosh.

Ajay Singh is said to have meticulously planned every kidnapping.

“He conducted dry runs and kept a close watch on the movement of policemen in areas from where the businessmen were kidnapped,’’ a police officer said.

According to the investigating officers, Singh had revealed the names of some of the gang’s Calcutta contacts.

City detectives faxed the list of names to the detective chief on Thursday night.

Sources said the names of three notorious criminals, three businessmen and a few traders figure in the hit-list

Late last year, a team of detectives from Calcutta had gone to Patna in an effort to track Ajay Singh and his men.

“Our team went to Bihar and conducted several joint raids with the Patna police to track down the accused,” Ghosh said.

A city police team had also gone to Patna and left a warrant for the arrest of the three accused. It was on this basis that the Patna police rounded up Ajay Singh, Ashim Singh and Upendra Singh.

Kingpin Ajay Singh’s father, Jai Mangal Singh, a former additional superintendent of Bihar police, had unsuccessfully contested the Aurangabad Lok Sabha elections on a Samajwadi Party ticket.    


 
 
CURRENCY RACKET REVEALS PAK LINK 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 20 
The fake currency racket busted on Wednesday with the arrest of three Liberians and a Kenyan has taken a serious turn, with a clear Pakistan connection coming to the fore.

According to investigations, Matthew, 31, A.C. Dan, 25, Royal Denis, 30, and Nur Anthony, 24, had been operating in the city for the past four months. They had sneaked into the country from Pakistan and camped in Calcutta while smuggling drugs, contraband, arms and ammunition.

Officers investigating the case have seized a diary with names, telephone numbers and addresses of the culprits’ contacts in Pakistan. “We called up the Pakistani numbers to verify the antecedents of the persons. Five of the names were that of Pakistani army officers in Rawalpindi,’’ an investigating officer told The Telegraph.

That the security agencies in the city had failed to pick up the trail of the Africans for four months has sent alarm bells ringing. “This is a gross security failure on the part of the state government. Indian law stipulates that any foreigner has to fill up a ‘C’ form with details about his travel documents and reasons for staying here, within a fortnight of his arrival. If anybody fails to submit the form to the security control office, the foreigners ought to be arrested. But the four foreigners in question did not fill any forms and the security agencies did not make any effort to track them down,’’ said a senior official of a subsidiary intelligence bureau.

Sources said the joint director of a Central intelligence agency has ordered a probe.

In a high-level meeting before the arrival of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in the city, senior officers of the Central security agencies pulled up the city and state intelligence officers for the “security failure”. According to police officers investigating the case, the arrested Africans had taken up a house on rent at Kabardanga, off the Thakurpukur area.

The deputy commissioner, detective department, Narayan Ghosh, said the four poured chemicals on the dollars to blacken them. “They discoloured the dollars to clear the X-ray check-plate,” said deputy commissioner of police, security control, D.P. Tarenia, in charge of investigations. Drugs and other contraband were transmitted in the black dollars.

“They knew people in Calcutta, Mumbai and Chennai. We are trying to follow up the lead,’’ said an investigating officer. Sleuths have also found a half-burnt map with lots of sketches and jottings on the accused. “We are trying to decipher the data,’’ said Tarenia.    


 
 
SHOW ON MOTHER SHUT OUT BY SUIT 
 
 
BY TAPAS GHOSH
 
Calcutta, Jan 20 
It’s been “blessed” by Mother Teresa, it’s got the “best wishes” of Vatican City and Buckingham Palace. Yet, an exhibition of paintings on Mother Teresa and her work remains ensnared in a legal tangle in the city.

While a metropolitan magistrate’s court weighs the claims of Nemai Sengupta, city-based artist and sculptor, and businessman Raj Bagaria, the disputed paintings are languishing at the former’s south Calcutta residence, following a stint at the Park Street police station.

The story dates back to October 31, 1992, when, in a letter to Nemai Sengupta, Mother Teresa had given ‘official sanction’ to the art teacher of St Xavier’s School: “I have known Mr Nemai Sengupta for a very long time, and for almost as long as I have known him he has had a vision to paint the works of the Missionaries of Charity and to hold an exhibition. I hereby give my approval to this exhibition — may everything be for the glory of God and the good of the poor.”

Over the years, Sengupta’s ‘Sacred Soul’ collection grew to 26 oil paintings, 12 sketches and two bronze busts. Sengupta was approached by a former student, Raj Bagaria, who was keen to help the artist hold the unique exhibition. He even moved Sengupta’s collection to his house on Park Street.

“The trouble began when Bagaria started claiming that the paintings were actually his, as he had paid me for them. He even showed me ‘proof’, in the form of forged signatures, regarding my having received money from him. The only money I have ever received from him was a sum of Rs 5,000 to buy some canvas and stuff,” Sengupta told The Telegraph.

With no solution in sight, the art teacher took the matter to court last year. The 10th metropolitan magistrate’s court then instructed the Park Street police station to seize the paintings from Bagaria and remove them to the thana’s ‘malkhana’ till the case was settled.

Sengupta appealed to the high court to restore custody of his works for “proper maintenance”.

In December 1999, Justice M.H.S. Ansari ordered that the paintings be taken from the police station to Sengupta’s house at Nazirbagan, Dhakuria.

But the Sengupta vs Bagaria matter over the ownership of the paintings was returned to the magistrate’s court.

“Mother herself had said that the paintings with her signature were not for sale, while the others would be sold or auctioned. Once the legal matter is resolved, I will hold an exhibition as my tribute to Mother. And most of the proceeds will go to the Missionaries of Charity,” said Sengupta.

“We normally do not participate in any exhibition of this kind, but if this one has the blessings of Mother, we will certainly discuss the matter with the artist,” said a sister at Mother House.    


 
 
NIGHTS OF SNORING, DAYS OF DOZING 
 
 
BY AMIT UKIL
 
Calcutta, Jan 20 
Pradeep Dasgupta is the envy of his Metro co-passengers. Every morning, the 36-year-old HRD professional takes the 9 o’clock train from Kalighat to his office in Esplanade. By the time the train leaves the station, he is snoring in a corner seat.

His co-passengers think he is blessed. They could be wrong. It is likely that Dasgupta suffers from a sleep disorder called daytime hyper somnolence that takes a toll on many snorers.

Snoring can lead to neurological disorders and sexual dysfunction.

A just-finished survey by a city clinic reveals that 11 per cent of Calcuttans suffer from daytime hyper somnolence, or a tendency to doze during waking hours. One of the main reasons for this is restive sleep due to snoring.

“There are quite a few in this 11 per cent who have a severe snoring problem,” says Ranjan Das, a co-author of the study and director of Pulsar, a sleep-associated clinic and research centre.

The survey by the clinic, using the Epworth sleepiness scale, sampled 738 persons in the city between 30 and 70 years, who were mostly from the middle and upper classes. There were as many as 84 cases of daytime hyper somnolence.

“Severe snoring can lead to a cessation of breathing, sometimes for up to 50 seconds. The condition is called Obstructed Sleep Apnea Syndrome, and there is no medicine as yet to cure it,” Das adds ominously. The syndrome can lead to hypertension, cerebral strokes and heart attacks.

In the one year of its existence, Calcutta’s snore clinic has come across lawyers and engineers, businessmen and even doctors who are being treated. “We have treated lawyers who used to doze off in court. Then, there’s a patient from Haldia who met with accidents twice because of nodding off to sleep while driving,” said Das, a specialist in diseases of the chest and lungs.

A city entrepreneur brought to the clinic by his wife — most of the patients are taken to the clinic by their spouses — underwent a sleep study, or polysomnography. He stayed overnight with 16 electrodes wired to different parts of the body.

“These are for the electroencephalogram (EEG). He is also plugged into snoring and nasal air flow detectors, as well as an electromyogram (EMG) for muscle movements.”

All these parameters are recorded at hourly breaks on a specially-programmed computer and an analysis is made from the readings. A doctor and two assistants monitor the movements of the sleeping patient through the night.

A person suffering from the syndrome has several telltale symptoms. Other than snoring, he or she could experience a choking sensation and wake up gasping for breath. The snorer may also break into sweat.

“When snoring obstructs breathing, the oxygen intake by the body comes down. The patient wakes up, either consciously or in the EMG, where even micro-arousals are recorded,” Das explained.

The patient goes back to sleep and wakes up again. The whole night’s sleep is fragmented, resulting in daytime somnolence. About three per cent of the adult population in the world have such a problem.

Till the late 1980s, there was no treatment for this syndrome. Then an electronic gadget called “continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)” machine was developed which has cured 90 per cent of the cases.

“The machine is available in India but costs almost Rs 50,000,” Das said. Of the 72 cases of serious snoring that the clinic has taken up for treatment, only nine have bought the machine.

Operations by ENT and plastic surgeons are also possible to remove the blockage in the air passage. This is advised when CPAP, which comprises a mask over the nose through which pressurised oxygen is administered, cannot be tolerated by the patient.

A leading landscape designer used to fall asleep during work. Her sleep was so inadequate that her speech had become slurred.

After going through a dozen doctors and tests and trying sleeping pills (not knowing that such medication increases the problem), her condition has improved dramatically with CPAP.    


 
 
PRESIDENCY REPAIR ROW 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 20 
A student of Presidency College on Thursday publicly accused the authorities of destroying the Gothic structure of the college, which has been declared a heritage building by the government.

Rajesh Pandey, general secretary of the Presidency College Students’ Union (PCSU), alleged that last month’s renovations had destroyed the original structure.

The old arches have been replaced with iron grille gates at the entry to the main building of the college. The spaces under the arches along the ground floor of the corridor, favourite adda spots for students, have been blocked by iron grilles.

Pandey attacked the authorities while addressing the 183rd founder’s day meeting on Thursday. Senior teachers, principal N.C. Mukherjee, state director of public instruction P.K. Ganguly and several ex-students present on the dais were mute spectators as Pandey castigated the authorities for not consulting the students before the renovations and accused the administration of managing the college in an “undemocratic manner”.

“The original structure has been destroyed without informing the students. We had strongly opposed this. But the authorities ignored us,” said Pandey.

Since the college has been declared a heritage building, any alteration of the original structure was wrong, students said.

The fact that the authorities had disregarded the students’ plea to preserve the original structure of was only one instance of the undemocratic way college was being governed, Pandey added.

He said the general secretary of the students’ union is also a member of the governing body of the college and his presence as the students’ representative is mandatory in every meeting of the governing body.

Pandey said he had not been informed about any meeting. “We don’t even know who the members of the governing body are,” he added.

A senior college official, however, said the green signal had been given to the public works department for carrying out renovation only after consulting students and teachers.    


 
 
VIGIL TIGHTENED ON BORDER 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Silchar, Jan. 20 
Authorities in south Assam’s Karimganj district yesterday rushed a contingent of the Central Reserve Police Force to Longai reserve forest to flush out the Tripuri and Bru tribal militants who have infiltrated across the border from Tripura.

The CRPF and the Assam armed police commandos have also launched a drive against the Naga, Dimasa and Hmar militants along Cachar’s borders with Manipur as part of a precautionary exercise to pre-empt any disturbance on the Republic Day and its eve.

Reports reaching Karimganj town indicated that the militants of the Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) and the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) have been carrying out raids and extortions in the villages in the reserve forest for the past few weeks.

Police sources at Karimganj identified Chalamana, Jehanpur, Bazarghat and Basantanagar as vulnerable to rebel incursions.

The decision to beef up patrolling in the reserve forest was taken after insurgents raided a forest contractor Tazuddin’s house at Jehanpur yesterday.

Police said a 20-member rebel gang, dressed in olive-green fatigues, raided the village in the evening and torched Tazuddin’s cottage. Four persons, including two women, suffered burn injuries. Another such attempt to torch the house of Imamuddin, a farmer, at Chalamana was foiled by his neighbours. The militants fired two rounds before they escaped. Police and intelligence sources said the BNLF and the NLFT activists, based in the Damcherra area in north Tripura, indulge in sporadic incursions in the Longai reserve forest under for extorting money.

Police said the insurgents resorted to raids when the villagers did not buckle under the pressure of their extortion campaigns. The raids and extortions by tribal militants have sparked panic along Karimganj’s borders with Tripura.

Two die of asphyxiation: Two mechanics died of asphyxiation while two others became unconscious when toxic gas leaked out from cylinders at a motor repair shop in Badarpur, 30 km from here, last night.

Tea official freed

Lingri tea estate manager K.M. Sharma, who was abducted by unidentified persons on Saturday, was released yesterday, police said today, reports our correspondent from Kohima. However, it is yet to be ascertain whether any ransom had been paid, police said, adding that Sharma had left Dimapur immediately after his release.

Sharma was abducted from Natun Basti area of Dimapur town while he was coming from a nearby tea estate.

De-addiction camp: A three-month de-toxification and de-addiction camp is being held here from today.    


 
 
POWER SITUATION 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 20 
The power situation in the city improved on Thursday with five 210-MW units at the power development corporation’s Kolaghat plant generating nearly 1,000 MW.

The Kolaghat unit tripped on Wednesday, leading to power cuts in Calcutta and elsewhere in the state.    


 
 
VAJPAYEE TO ADDRESS SECURITY MEET TODAY 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Guwahati, Jan. 20 
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee will touch down here tomorrow en route to Shillong. He was earlier scheduled to arrive here this evening and stay overnight at the Raj Bhavan.

The change in plans has been termed “normal”. Assam director-general of police P.V. Sumant said, “Nothing much should be read into the change of schedule. Initially, the Prime Minister was not scheduled to stop at Guwahati, but even that changed.”

Vajpayee will address a conference of Governors and chief ministers of the seven northeastern states in Shillong. He is being accompanied by several Cabinet colleagues, including home minister L.K. Advani, defence minister George Fernandes and top security officials. The meeting will discuss issues related to the economy and security of the Northeast. Security has been beefed up in Shillong in view of the meeting beginning here from tomorrow. Additional companies of police forces have been deployed in the key areas and patrolling has been intensified.

Police pickets have been posted on the roads that the Prime Minister and his entourage are likely to take. A large number of VIPs, officials and Union ministers will attend the meet. The Prime Minister is expected to arrive by helicopter at 10 am. The meeting on the development issues will begin at 11 am and continue till 5 pm with a break in between. The security meeting will be held on Saturday following which Vajpayee will address a public rally at the Jawaharlal Nehru Mini Stadium in Polo.

Vajpayee is likely to discuss insurgency, activities of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, influx of aliens and development strategies for the Northeast tomorrow.

Official sources said the growing activities of the ISI and its nexus with some militant and fundamentalist organisations of the region will dominate the discussions. The high-level meeting, to be attended by Union finance minister Yashwant Sinha and deputy chairman of the Planning Commission K.C. Pant, is expected to announce action plans regarding major issues grappling the states. In a fresh initiative towards dealing with the problems of the region, the Vajpayee government had in the first phase set up a separate department for the Northeast under the Prime Minister’s Office.

After holding a meeting with the chief ministers of northeastern states, Vajpayee had announced a “non-lapsable pool of central resources” and 10 per cent additional funds from central departments for the region. Continuing the policy decision of the erstwhile United Front government, the BJP-led government at the Centre started releasing funds to militancy-hit states of the region as reimbursement for the security-related expenditure in view of such demands by the states.

However, the Centre, which seems to have adopted a “carrot- and-stick policy” towards militancy failed to make any major breakthrough in wooing the militants of the region into the national mainstream so far.

While addressing the Ao Students Conference at Mokokchung on Tuesday, Nagaland chief minister S.C. Jamir had accused the NSCN(I-M) of destroying the democratic edifice of the Naga society in the name of political movement. He urged the students not to be swayed by the ideology propagated by “these outsiders.”

“The Government of India has stated in no uncertain terms that sovereignty is not negotiable and the concept of a greater Nagaland is not acceptable. “In that case, should we not attempt to hammer out an honourable solution to resolve the problem of Nagaland instead of continuing to chase mirages?” he asked. Jamir asked the students not to confuse the Naga political problem with that of Manipur.    


 
 
PM URGED TO SPECIFY NAGA STAND 
 
 
FROM LINDA C.
 
Shillong, Jan. 20 
Nagaland chief minister S. C. Jamir has demanded that Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee spell out the Centre’s stand on the Naga issue in “unambiguous terms.”

Speaking to The Telegraph today, Jamir said he expected the issue to dominate discussions at the high-level security meeting on Saturday. The meeting is expected to have a direct bearing on the security of the region.

Jamir said the Centre’s “adhocism” on the issue was a threat to the security of the region. “On the one hand they are ignoring a constitutionally elected government in the state, while on the other they are allowing a reign of terror to prevail in Nagaland, where a ceasefire is in force,” he said.

The ceasefire was declared nearly two-and-a-half years ago between the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) and the Army. He urged the Vajpayee government to make the NSCN(I-M) adhere to the ground rules of the ceasefire. As the Centre’s stand on various issues pertaining to sovereignty and integration of the Naga-dominated areas will affect Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland, Jamir said he will use the opportunity to “pin down” the Prime Minister.

“Let them tell us the exact position with all other chief ministers and Governors as witnesses,” Jamir said.    


 
 
GANGRAPE ISSUE SNOWBALLS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, Jan. 20 
The gangrape of at least 20 women of the minority community by National Liberation Front of Tripura militants is snowballing into a major issue with the state women’s commission planning to file an FIR with the Radhakishorepur police station.

Police sources in South Tripura said Raiabari village in Udaipur sub-division has a population of about 50 poor minority families. The NLFT militants often take shelter in the village because of its proximity to the hilly interiors. Some of the villagers also act as collaborators to avoid trouble.

Sources said in the last week of December, a large group of NLFT militants descended on the village and took shelter in some of the huts. Over a week, they raped at least 20 women of the village. Their firearms kept the men at bay.

Before leaving the village, the militants threatened to unleash largescale violence if the villagers spilled the beans.

After they left, all the families left Raiabari village and took shelter in the Dhajanagar area near Udaipur town. Though reports of the rape filtered in, nobody came forward to lodge an FIR.

A police source in Udaipur said, “We know that the gangrape did take place but we cannot take action because there has been no formal complaint. But we are investigating the incident after registering a diary.”

Official sources here said there are reports of militant outfits raping poor tribal women in the interior areas.

“The situation is such that they even rape the women in the houses in which they take shelter,” a source said.

The Opposition parties, namely the Congress and the BJP, have threatened a statewide agitation against the ruling Left Front government’s failure to safeguard the lives and honour of minorities in the state.

Leader of the Opposition Samir Ranjan Barman and Congress steering committee chief Birajit Sinha condemned the incident saying the status of minorities reflects the true state of democracy.

State BJP president H.S. Roy Chowdhury said nobody was safe in Tripura .

Traders abducted

NLFT militants kidnapped four traders from the Baijalbari area in Khowai sub-division yesterday. They have also declared a ban on hoisting of the Tricolour at all government offices and schools on Republic Day.    

 

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