Red diary key to kidnap network
Dunlop shuts out another life
Explosives haul goes unchecked
HC admits smoking ban plea
Republic Day security alert in North Bengal
Vajpayee blames Pak for insurgency in N-E

Calcutta, Jan 21 
Kidnap kingpin Ajay Singh and associate Ashim Singh were expected to reach Lalbazar late on Friday night.

The criminals, who were arrested in Patna on Tuesday, were escorted by a seven-member Calcutta police team by road.

The two, accused of kidnapping five city industrialists between September 1996 and April 1999, will be lined up for an identification parade on Saturday.

Ajay, Ashim Singh and six others have been accused of kidnapping Sidhartha Siwalka on September 16, 1996, Jiten Agarwal on December 18, 1997, Rajesh Jain on August 13, 1998 and Sajjan Jalan on January 1, 1999. Their biggest catch was Exide Industries chairman S.B. Ganguly, who was abducted from Alipore on April 2, 1999.

The journey from Patna to Calcutta was broken by stopovers at police camps. The escort team was under strict instructions not to stop at any other point. A posse of policemen from Patna accompanied the team till the Bihar-Bengal border.

Police have recovered a small red diary from Ajay Singh’s Patna residence.This could lead the cops to the gang’s contacts in Calcutta and other cities.

Ajay had, recruited one Kallu Singh to help him plan the kidnappings in Calcutta. Kallu was well-versed with the city’s topography and had connections in Calcutta’s underworld. He fled to Bihar a few years back after being implicated in a murder case in the city.

The other gang members, according to a top secret police dossier, are Virendra Singh alias Veeru, Gautam Singh, Rais Khan, Ayub Khan, Shiv Pujan Singh and Mohan Singh, a CISF constable who was dismissed from service.

Ajay Singh was definitely the mastermind. From carefully planning the abductions to making the ransom demands, he controlled every move, said deputy commissioner, detective department (special), Manoj Malaviya.

Another gangster, Umesh Singh alias Mukesh Singh who operates in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, was Ajay’s mentor.

“Ajay and Ashim Singh were smart, suave and shrewd operators. Being the son of a police officer, Ajay was aware of the police’s line of investigations,” a detective department official said. Ashim Singh ran an air conditioned bus service from Gaya and Patna.

The gang used to took all their victims to a nondescript house in Aurangabad, belonging to one Pappu Singh. Two gang members would then fly to Delhi from where they called up the victim’s house with the ransom demand.

“They made phone calls from Delhi to fool the police. We were initially led to believe that a Delhi-based international gang was responsible for the kidnappings,’’ a detective said.

Kallu Singh would stay back in Calcutta to monitor the movements of the victim’s family and report back to the gang members in Bihar and Delhi.

A family member of the kidnapped industrialist would be asked to take a train to Gomo on the Dehri-on-Son railway section. He would be asked to put together currency notes of Rs 100 denomination in a bag and drop it from the running train after it crossed Rafiqgung, Ajay Singh’s hometown.    

Calcutta, Jan 21 
The two-year closure of the Sahagunj factory of Dunlop India claimed another life on Friday.

Samir Dutta, 59, an ailing employee of the planning department of the factory, died due to lack of treatment at his residence in Chandannagar, about 40 km from Calcutta, early on Friday morning.

“He was ill for some time and doctors had advised that he be admitted to Chandannagar Hospital. But with the factory closed, there was no money and we could not afford to admit him,” said Dutta’s widow, Sikha.

The Sahagunj factory closed on the midnight of February 8, 1998. Employees had not received pay for three months prior to the closure.

Dutta’s death comes within 48 hours of the suicide of Parbati Dutta, wife of another employee, Pradyumna Dutta. On Wednesday, 34-year-old Parbati hanged herself at their residence in the Dunlop Estate.

A year ago, the Dunlop impasse claimed its first victim when an employee, Prasenjit Sarkar, committed suicide at his Chandannagar residence. Sarkar’s six-year-old daughter was suffering from blood cancer and he could not organise money for her treatment.

Samir Dutta had developed fever and breathing problems since the beginning of last year. His wife and their two sons were barely making both ends meet.

When his condition deteriorated, relatives and friends stepped in, pooled resources and removed Dutta to a local nursing home. But two months later in December, after his condition did not improve, the doctors referred him to Chandannagar hospital.

Dutta’s family was by then virtually penniless and he could not be admitted to hospital. he spent his last days at home, practically without any treatment.

“My husband remained depressed ever since the factory closed down. We had exhausted all our savings building the house and on our children’s education,” Sikha said.

“We knew his end was coming...He was supposed to retire in February and we had hoped that he would rejoin the factory at least once,” his widow said.

Tension mounted in Chandannagar and adjoining areas as the news of Dutta’s death spread. A large number of employees of the Sahagunj factory under the banner of Dunlop Bachao Nagarik Mancha went to Dutta’s house. “We will help Dutta’s family get his dues once the factory reopens,” said Tapan Mullick, another worker and a Mancha member.

The management has said that it is ready to reopen the factory on February 7 but on the condition that past dues to workers be written off. Negotiation is now on between the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction and the management with major trade unions like the Citu and the Intuc demanding payment of outstanding wages.    

Panagarh, Jan 21 
Two days after three powerful bombs and a container full of live and empty catridges bearing marks of the Pakistan Ordinance Factory (POF) were found between Mankar and Panagarh railway stations in Asansol Division of Eastern Railway, the police remain clueless. No arrests have been carried out so far.

A senior district official alleged that despite repeated appeals to army authorities in Fort William, Calcutta, no expert has yet arrived to examine the nature of the explosives. Intelligence department sources said that the container had 17 catridges, including four live ones, each bearing POF stamps.

BJP central committee member S N Lamba insists that the ISI had a hand in this.A senior district official said, “We are taking no chances. It is a very sensitive issue since the place where these explosives were found is very close to the Panagarh military air-base. We have taken it up with the appropriate authority.”

According to sources, the explosives might have been brought in by some Panagarh-based armymen as mementos from Kargil and abandoned on the tracks “to avoid any complication”. Panagarh air force base authorities dismissed this as a “baseless story”.

The divisional railway manager, Asansol, Suresh Kumar, has sounded a red alert. Patrolling on the tracks and stations by RPF personnel has been intensified.

Lamba said this industrial belt had become a safe heaven for militants, but the state authorities remain “silent spectators”.

Former CPM MP Haradhan Roy has drawn the attention of the Centre to the “regular pilferage of detonators” from the area.

Union minister L K Advani has expressed concern over these developments and called for a “thorough probe”.    

Calcutta, Jan 21 
Less than a year after Kerala High Court banned smoking in public places, Calcutta High Court on Friday accepted a petition seeking a similar ban in the state.

Advocate Kallol Guhathakurta moved a writ petition, seeking a ban on tobacco smoking in public places throughout the state. The division bench of Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice S.B. Sinha admitted the petition and asked the petitioner to find out whether a similar case was pending before the Supreme Court.

Guhathakurata said that Kerala High Court had delivered a judgment banning smoking in public places including educational institutions, hospitals, shops, restaurants, commercial establishments, bars, factories, cinemas, theatres, parks, and roads. The petitioner told the court that every year 1 million Indians die from tobacco-related diseases.

Last July, a division bench of Kerala High Court had observed that smoking-related deaths amounted to more than those caused by AIDS, drugs, alcohol and road accidents put together.

The judges said that tobacco smoking in public amounted to committing “public nuisance”. They categorised it as “air pollution” and said all pollution laws would apply to smoking.

The judges observed that non-compliance would mean that offenders would lose their fundamental right to a healthy life.

The court had asked Kerala police to arrest persons violating the judgment. The offenders would then be liable for a week’s stay in jail or a fine of Rs 500.    

Siliguri, Jan 21 
Police have stepped up vigil in North Bengal in view of a reported threat by the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) to boycott Republic Day.

Senior police officials from Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling and railway police authorities held a meeting here on Friday to chalk out plans to thwart terrorist activity on January 26.

Some Assam-based dailies have reported that the KLO was among several militant outfits who have called for a boycott.

The KLO, believed to have been set up in 1996, has been seeking a separate state for Rajbanshis in North Bengal. A large number of Rajbanshis also live in adjoining districts of Assam.

The Kamtapur Peoples Party (KPP), the mainstream party of the Rajbanshis, has categorically dissociated itself from the KLO’s programmes. “We have no relation with the KLO because ours is a democratic organisation fighting democratically for a Kamtapur state.”, KPP president Atul Roy told The Telegraph.

During his first visit to North Bengal after becoming deputy chief minister last month, Buddhadev Bhattacharya alleged that the KLO had received arms training abroad and had forged links with the ISI and the Ulfa.

Police suspects the KLO to be behind the November 22 looting of railway money worth Rs 9 lakh from Rangapani station, 20 km. from here. Three railway employees were shot dead in the incident. The police hold the KLO responsible for the abduction of a tea garden owner, Roshanlal Garg, in Jalpaiguri district six months back. The victim is yet to be traced.

Additional policemenhave been deployed along railway tracks passing through North Bengal which links the Northeast with the rest of the country. Border posts along Nepal and Bangladesh have also been put on alert.

n Free bus service: South Eastern Railway is will run a free bus service between Howrah and Shalimar from Saturday to enable passengers to catch the Shalimar-Haldia Azad Express. The bus will leave from Howrah station new complex at 5-50 am and reach Shalimar at 6-20 a.m. On the return leg, the bus will leave Shalimar at 9-25 p.m.and reach Howrah at 10.20 pm. This service will not be available on Sundays.From February 1, Azad Express will leave Shalimar for Haldia at 7-45 a.m instead of 6.30 am.

Tourism fair: Paryatan 2000 was inaugurated at the Durgapur Society of Management Science campus on Friday. Tourism departments of Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Orissa, Tripura and West Bengal have put up stalls in the fair which ends on Sunday.

Sri Lankans held: Two Sri Lankans were arrested at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport for travelling with forged Indian passports. Police said a 45-old-year man and 18-year-old woman were going to London from Hong Kong. Hong Kong police airport suspected their passport were forged and sent them back to Calcutta.    

Shillong, Jan. 21 
Blaming the twin maladies of insurgency and “weak” governance for the woes of the Northeast, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today said the Centre was determined to pull the seven states of the region out of the rut.

Finance minister Yashwant Sinha, who accompanied Vajpayee to the conference of chief ministers and governors here, announced at a press conference later that all special-category northeastern states had been upgraded to the status of “special special-category states”.

Sinha’s announcement was in consonance with the Prime Minister’s assertion that the Northeast deserved the “highest priority”.

Earlier, addressing the chief ministers and governors of the region, Vajpayee said the Centre was aware of the financial problems plaguing the northeastern states and was doing everything possible to ease the situation. However, he said allocation of additional funds was not the panacea for all ills.

“Insurgency, extortion and weak governance have sapped the energies of the people. The Centre has been allocating additional funds and reimbursing security-related expenditure, but this cannot compensate for the price extracted from the region by insurgents,” the Prime Minister said.

He also accused the ISI of aiding and abetting militancy in the region and blamed Pakistan for backing militant groups of the region.

Vajpayee said the Centre’s priority was to ensure that the northeastern states were “at par, if not ahead, of other states”. However, he said this would not be possible unless the state governments and the people of the region extended their cooperation.

“Some northeastern states are in the habit of making excuses for being backward. These states claim this is because they were included in the Plan process later than other regions of the country,” Vajpayee said.

Stating that there was no excuse for corruption, the Prime Minister said the state governments should do a bit of self-introspection before accusing the Centre of apathy.

“It is a matter of concern that large sums of money meant for various development projects find their way elsewhere,” he said.

Vajpayee said the governments of most northeastern states lacked fiscal management skills. He said reduction of non-Plan revenue expenditure and augmentation of revenue resources were imperative for revival of the economy.

The Prime Minister arrived here at 11.30 am and immediately left for the Raj Bhavan. He was accompanied by the finance minister, defence minister George Fernandes, Planning Commission deputy chairman K.C. Pant, and Union ministers of state Bijoya Chakraborty and Thonoujam Chaoba Singh.    


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