Police failure puts Buddha in the dock
Basu turns heat on Kasba partymen
2 killed in Falta mishap
Govt calls for Keshpur arms
Kenya Airlines crash victim
BJP scoffs at Laloo’s anti-corruption zeal
Ex-minister in judicial custody
Naveen defends rival’s ouster, aides unhappy

 
 
POLICE FAILURE PUTS BUDDHA IN THE DOCK 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb 4 
The Left Front has summoned deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya at its next meeting to explain the failure of the police to tackle growing political violence in the state.

At its meeting on Friday, the ruling coalition decided to organise a rally at the Brigade Parade ground on March 26 to mobilise public opinion against the “terror unleashed by the BJP-Trinamul combine in rural Bengal”.

The decision to summon Bhattacharya, who is also in charge of the police department, was taken after a number of Left Front constituents like the RSP and the CPI expressed concern over growing law-and-order problems.

The CPM’s allies have expressed reservations about the role of the police in tackling violence in Kasba, Keshpur and other areas in North and South 24 Parganas. They urged the state administration to find out whether a police-criminal nexus existed.

The situation has also prompted the state government to convene an all-party meeting next week. Bhattacharya said the date of the meeting would be announced in a day or two.

“The police is looking into each and every incident but the political parties should take the initiative to maintain peace and order in the larger interest of the state,” chief minister Jyoti Basu told reporters at Writers Buildings on Friday.

On whether the recent incidents of lynching and political violence indicate the people’s lack of faith in the police force, Basu said: “It is true that in some areas people are taking the law into their own hands. This is not desirable. If the political parties really want to put an end to this state of affairs, they must promise not to give shelter to criminals and anti-socials. The parties should in no way allow these elements to create law and order problems in their areas.”

The director-general of police, Dipak Sanyal, called active support of the people. “The police alone cannot prevent violence in distant areas. There are clubs, associations and different mass organisations as well as political parties which can help the police to restore peace and order in the affected areas,” Sanyal asserted.

Asked whether the incidents of lynching amount to lack of trust in the police, Sanyal said: “It is not true in all the cases. But on a few occasions, people have taken law into their hands and beaten the criminals to death without caring to hand them over to the police.”

The state government as well as CPM honchos are concerned that the party rank-and-file indulged in large-scale arson at Kasba following the murder of a local leader.

The Trinamul-BJP offensive against the CPM at Keshpur has also prompted a rethink on its political strategy.

The CPM has also been caught on the wrong foot by the alleged involvement of the minister of state for transport, Sushanta Ghosh, in the violence at Keshpur. The state BJP has sought Governor Viren Shah’s permission to file a suit against the minister.

A BJP delegation also called on Bhattacharya on Thursday and discussed the law-and-order situation.    


 
 
BASU TURNS HEAT ON KASBA PARTYMEN 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Feb 4 
The CPM, on Friday, pulled up the party’s Calcutta district unit for its failure to prevent cadres from participating in the largescale violence and arson that rocked Kasba following the murder of Gurupada Bagchi on 23 January.

Minutes after the brutal murder of the local CPM leader, frenzied party cadre had set the entire Kasba market ablaze and ransacked the Kasba thana, injuring a number of policemen.

Convinced that its cadre was involved in the incident, the CPM summoned key functionaries of its Calcutta district unit to the secretariat meeting. The apex body sought “explanations” for their failure to control the mob.

Chief minister Jyoti Basu, who was present in the meeting, told The Telegraph that he had information about some partymen being involved in the violence. “Some partymen must have joined forces with the mob to mastermind the vandalism in the aftermath of Bagchi’s murder... Those found guilty will be brought to task,” he said.

Urged on by Basu and some other leaders, the CPM plans to launch an image-building exercise through a door-to-door campaign in the Kasba area.

“We have asked local leaders to visit every household in the Kasba area and help family members rebuild their confidence,” said CPM state secretary and politburo member Anil Biswas.

On Sunday, the CPM will hold a meeting in Kasba to condole Bagchi’s death. Top party leaders will meet members of the Kasba local committee on Monday to review the situation.    


 
 
2 KILLED IN FALTA MISHAP 
 
 
BY DEBASISH CHATTOPADHYAY
 
Calcutta, Feb 4 
Two persons were killed and at least 20 others injured when a private bus skidded off the road and fell into a pond at Mamudpur village, about 50 km from Calcutta.

The two victims, Lal Mohan Bibi and Kahangir Seikh, were bathing in the pond when the bus turned turtle, crushing them.

The private bus on route no. 246 was on its way to Burul from Dolonghata in Diamond Harbour with about 25 passengers. At about 10.30 am, the speeding bus skidded after the driver swerved in a bid to avoid a cow which had wandered into the middle of the narrow road passing through Mamudpur.

According to Asraf Ali, an eyewitness, the bus hit a tree and fell into the pond. “Some of the passengers who were standing on the foot-board jumped out while the others were trapped inside. The pond was full and some villages were bathing in it,” he said,

Local youth immediately launched rescue operations. The passengers were pulled out and sent to the Diamond Harbour hospital. But Lal Mohan Bibi, 55, was killed on the spot, and 15-year-old Jahangir Seikh, alias Khokan, died in hospital.

Hamida Bibi , daughter of Lal Mohan Bibi said: “When the bus fell into the pond, at least 15 people were bathing there. While some ran away, the bus fell on my mother and a few others. She was found crushed under the bus.”

“My son was a student of class VII. He was bathing in the pond with his friend Sabir Seikh. Sabir was saved but Khokan, my only son, died at 4.05 pm in hospital,” said Nurul Seikh, father of young Jahangir.

According to Pratip Kumar Dutta, officer-in-charge of Falta police station, “One person has been sent to M.R. Bangur hospital after his condition deteriorated, while six are in Diamond Harbour hospital. The others have been released after first-aid”

Locals, who put up a road blockade, lifted it once the injured were taken to hospital and the site cleared. They let the driver and conductors go after they promised to surrender to the police.

“I have asked the local bus unions to make arrangements for their surrender after they contacted me over the phone,” confirmed Dutta.    


 
 
GOVT CALLS FOR KESHPUR ARMS 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Feb 4 
The state government will ask licensed firearms owners in Keshpur and adjoining areas in Midnapore district to deposit their weapons at their local police station.

Deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya at a meeting on Friday reviewed the situation in Keshpur where last month’s political clashes left 11 dead.

State home secretary Sourin Roy, director-general of police Dipak Sanyal and Midnapore district police chief Gaurav Dutt were present at the meeting.

The police report submitted to the state home department has indicated that the clashes were mainly between share-croppers and landowners, sources said.

The report pointed out that there was a large number of licensed arms in the area. These were used during the clashes with deadly results, police said.

With a case on the possession of licensed firearms pending before Calcutta High Court, the state government is going to file an affidavit informing the court about its decision in Keshpur.

Pep-talks are on the anvil for the district police. It was decided at Friday’s meeting that senior police officers, including Sanyal, would visit Midnapore to try and boost the morale of the force.

Howrah bridge repairs: Calcutta High Court on Friday directed the Port Trust and the state government to submit affidavits on repairing the underside of Howrah bridge and steps taken by the government to address the problems of commuters while the bridge was being repaired.

Habra agitation: A state transport bus was damaged and rail services on the Sealdah-Bongaon section were paralysed for two hours from 10 am when a group of Chhatra Parishad supporters of Chaitanya College went on rampage at Habra, North 24-Parganas.    


 
 
KENYA AIRLINES CRASH VICTIM 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb 4 
Sanjib Bhattacharya,42, who was on board the Lagos-bound Kenya Airlines Jet which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on Sunday, is dead. He is survived by his wife, son and daughter.

Confirmation of his death reached his Bondel Road residence on Friday. Bhattacharya, an electrical engineer from IIT, had gone to Lagos to meet a friend.

Two of Bhattacharya’s relatives, who had gone to Abidjan , faxed the news of his death.

“His body may be brought to the city if the situation permits,” relatives said.    


 
 
BJP SCOFFS AT LALOO’S ANTI-CORRUPTION ZEAL 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Patna, Feb. 4 
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Laloo Prasad Yadav today sprang a surprise, promising to set up a cell to “uproot corruption at all levels”.

The “promise”, listed last in the ruling party’s manifesto, evoked derisive comments from the Opposition, particularly the BJP. However, Laloo Yadav appeared unperturbed, saying the campaign against his party was also a form of corruption.

“The RJD is determined to fight a decisive battle against all kinds of corruption and wipe these out from all levels of government. The party, therefore, promises to open a grievance cell. Complaints, whenever received, will be expeditiously disposed of,” the manifesto states. The RJD’s third list of candidates was also released today. Missing from the list are the names of five “tainted” ministers in the Rabri Devi government. “All these ministers are unworthy of being re-elected. They are either idle or inefficient,” Laloo Yadav said, adding that the party had chosen candidates who were “relatively” less corrupt.

Altogether 12 Bihar ministers are in the dock for largescale embezzlement of government funds during the past 10 years.

“It is comical, to say the least,” said leader of the Opposition Sushil Modi about the RJD’s manifesto. “Corruption has many faces. The campaign that the BJP is carrying out against my party is a form of political corruption,” Laloo Yadav retorted.

Apart from promises to end corruption and provide a stable government, the RJD manifesto is replete with “repackaged” anti-communal sentiments, outbursts against the Centre and criticism of multinationals allegedly out to ruin Bihar.

“Bihar’s economic problems stem from the stepmotherly attitude of the Centre. Despite the recommendations of the 10th Finance Commission, the Centre has not provided us with panchayat funds. We are also being denied adequate royalty on minerals,” the manifesto states.

The ruling party is, however, silent on the issue of holding panchayat polls in the state. The Centre has refused to release funds till elections to panchayat bodies are held.

On the RJD’s “achievements” during the past 10 years, the manifesto states that the party has gained control over “communal forces”. It also claims that the party has improved the condition of backward castes considerably.

The sops promised by the RJD include concrete houses for the homeless, one school for every 300 families, continuation of the sari-dhoti programme, autonomy for universities, adequate wages for farm labourers, concrete roads linking villages to towns and regular supply of potable water.    


 
 
EX-MINISTER IN JUDICIAL CUSTODY 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Dhanbad, Feb. 4 
A special CBI court today remanded former Bihar road construction minister Illiyas Hussain in judicial custody “till further orders”.

The prime accused in the Rs 300-crore bitumen scam had earlier skipped several hearings on “health grounds”.

Rejecting Hussain’s plea that he be shifted to Patna because of inadequate health facilities at the Dhanbad Jail, CBI judge Justice Raj Narain Prasad Singh fixed February 9 as the next date for hearing of the case.

The superintendent of Dhanbad divisional jail had endorsed the petition submitted by Hussain’s counsel, saying that the prison did not have facilities befitting a sitting legislator.

As Hussain’s counsel presented his case before the special CBI judge today, the former minister sat underneath a banyan tree outside the jail premises. He burst into tears several times and was consoled by family members.

Hussain and co-accused Shobha Sinha allegedly swindled huge amounts of money on the pretext of purchasing bitumen for construction of roads in the state. Sinha is already in judicial custody. The CBI has filed altogether 11 cases against Hussain. He is the prime accused in at least three of these cases.

In January, the CBI raided the house and offices of 15 people accused of involvement in the bitumen scam. Of them, 13 are in CBI custody.

Sonia rally

Congress president Sonia Gandhi today launched a tirade against the Rashtriya Janata Dal, saying that it was solely responsible for Bihar being rated as the poorest state in the country, adds our correspondent from Chaibasa.

Addressing an election rally, she said it was unfortunate that a state with so much natural resources was today economically backward.    


 
 
NAVEEN DEFENDS RIVAL’S OUSTER, AIDES UNHAPPY 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Bhubaneswar, Feb. 4 
Biju Janata Dal chief Naveen Patnaik today defended his decision to sack his rival Bijoy Mohapatra. His aides, however, railed against him for keeping them in the dark about the expulsion and called the punishment unwarranted.

Angry supporters of the expelled leader ransacked the party office shortly after midnight. Apart from that, Mohapatra could not display any show of strength today because legislators loyal to him were away campaigning in their respective constituencies.

A day after he filed his nomination as sitting MLA from Patkura, Mohapatra’s fate was sealed yesterday when Patnaik replaced him with Atanu Sabyasachi, a young journalist, as the official party candidate. Yesterday was the deadline for filing of nominations and Mohapatra lost the chance to run as an Independent.

An unfazed Patnaik ruled out withdrawing the expulsion order, accusing Mohapatra of “hobnobbing with rivals.” He said he had “evidence” of his anti-party activities and stood by his decision.

“What I have done is done. There is no question of withdrawing the expulsion order,” Patnaik told this correspondent shortly before leaving for Hinjalicut, the Assembly constituency where he will to contesting from.

A front-runner in the race for chief ministership, Patnaik said he was not going to tolerate rebellion in the party. “I have had enough of it and am not going to put up with it any longer. I do not want people who work against the party’s interest and could damage our government,” he said.

Patnaik’s aides slammed the decision as “authoritarian.” They said the party chief had not consulted them before ordering the expulsion. At a time when the party should fight the polls unitedly to defeat the Congress, the expulsion had dealt a blow to the morale of the workers, they felt.

“The BJD president had kept us in the dark and never consulted any of us before taking the decision,” Prasanna Acharya, party secretary general and a close Patnaik aide, said. “We feel aggrieved by the act of the party president.’’

Acharya made his displeasure evident even to the party chief, but Patnaik said his colleagues should back him rather than “those indulging in anti-party activities.” He said his colleagues were “unaware” of his move, but “they were all apprised later.”

Ramkrushna Patnaik, another Patnaik supporter, called the expulsion “unfortunate.” He said the party chief should at least have taken senior leaders into confidence. Nalini Mohanty, working president, said he was “shocked” at the drastic step. “The party president should have consulted senior leaders,” he added.    

 

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