Buddha oils security gun
Basu lights up concrete image of city’s Infinity
Five arrested after Howrah mill robbery
Bengal pharaohs dream history capsule
Students in traffic drive
CPM turns Kasba heat on police
Repoll in 35 Manipur booths today
3 Koderma officials shifted
Rebels abduct six fishermen
Ethnic strife threatens langurs

 
 
BUDDHA OILS SECURITY GUN 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Feb. 23 
Deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya on Wednesday announced a blueprint to strengthen security in Salt Lake after a spurt in crime put a question-mark on the ability of the police administration to face up to the situation.

Chief minister Jyoti Basu himself was angry with senior officers at a meeting in his house. He directed them to “get their act together or face consequences.”

The officers-in-charge of Bidhannagar South and North police stations were transferred, said the IG (South Bengal), Kanwal Jeet Singh.

Ministers at a Cabinet meeting made it a point to raise the issue of deteriorating law and order in the exurb after Monday night’s spate of dacoities.

Bhattacharya said a reassessment of the police administration in Salt Lake was being taken up.

The deputy chief minister’s plan suggests:

a) Reduction of the number of entry points into Salt Lake. The routes will be manned by sub-inspectors, instead of constables, and all vehicles will be screened at the point of entry.

b) Intensive patrolling at night in all blocks. Patrolling will be random and will concentrate on areas where wedding receptions are being held and shops are open till late.

c) Police will ask building promoters to issue identity cards to construction site workers. Builders will also have to send to the police addresses of all their projects.

d) Residents will be asked to submit details of domestic help with photographs to the police.

e) More personnel will be deputed to the Bidhannagar South, North and East police stations.

“If we can put into action these steps, there is bound to be some improvement in the law and order situation,” Bhattacharya said.

On the defensive after a barrage of criticism, Bhattacharya said he was “not one bit complacent about incidents of crime in the city and the state.”

The deputy chief minister pointed out that the city has fared much better than any other place in the country as far as crime was concerned. The looting spree in Salt Lake on Monday night was “unfortunate,” Bhattacharya said.

But Salt Lake residents were angry that the administration could give little guarantee of security. In the last six months alone, 120 incidents of robberies were recorded.

Chandan Basu, the chief minister’s son, who lives in Salt Lake, alleged that the intelligence-gathering machinery had failed.

“They had no information about the attack on my house on February 22, last year. Even this year, they did not have any information that a gang of criminals was planning a looting spree,’’ Chandan Basu complained.

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) was asked to investigate the recent crimes. But even 48 hours since Monday night’s orgy of looting, they are clueless.

Former Olympian Pradip Banerjee, who lives in GD block, is angry with the police. As are Rajesh Sengupta of HB block, Milan Gupta of CG block and Piyali Banerjee of BJ block.

“It is unsafe to be out in Salt Lake after 7 pm. I have spoken to a cross-section of residents and everybody is scared. They shut windows and stay indoors a couple of hours after sundown,’’ Pradip Banerjee said.

The district magistrate of Purulia, Atri Bhattacharya’s house in AE block was looted last month.

According to Arati Banerjee, a relative of the Bhattacharyas, the criminals used crowbars to break into the vacant house.

“The racket must have woken up the neighbourhood but the miscreants had a free run for an hour before the police reached. They took away everything. Even the airconditioner,’’ Arati Banerjee said.

Pradip Banerjee’s house was burgled twice in a month. Rajesh Sengupta said criminals had forced their way into his house around midnight last month when the family was on a holiday.    


 
 
BASU LIGHTS UP CONCRETE IMAGE OF CITY’S INFINITY 
 
 
BY SUMIT DAS GUPTA
 
Calcutta, Feb. 23 
One afternoon in the autumn of ’96, Bikram Dasgupta was herded into the chief minister’s chambers at Writer’s Buildings.

After hearing out the Globsyn CEO’s vision of creating an “intelligent environ for global information technology”, the chief minister looked at him and simply said: “Karo” (Do it).

On Wednesday, as dusk descended over Salt Lake, the octogenarian Marxist set all 11 floors and 150 feet of ‘Infinity’ alight with a click of the mouse. With ‘Calcutta’s first 21st Century building’ burning bright beside the VSNL campus, the city seemed to have acquired a brand new calling card.

“It is a very exhilarating experience for me to back in this area which is so important for the state.

The inauguration of Phase-I of this project adds a new chapter in the realm of information technology,” declared the chief minister at ‘the beginning of Infinity’ function.

“The 21st century has opened up new frontiers of knowledge-based industries. We must not lag behind. We must learn to combine tradition with modernity and book-based knowledge with new technology and skills. Infinity is a positive step in that direction,” added Basu.

The towering blue-and-white structure, which has thrown its hi-tech doors open to IT companies, has been conceived by Bikram Dasgupta, powered by Globsyn-Webel, executed by architect J.P. Agarwal, financed by the IDBI and some private partners, and supported by the state administration.

Named Infinity after Dasgupta’s mantra that ‘there are no limits’, it has been labelled the ‘first intelligent building of the city’.

“Networked. Green. Energy-efficient. That sums up why the building is intelligent. An IT environ today can only be considered intelligent if it combines these three factors which enable the raw material in IT, the human brain, to create maximum capital,” explained the Globsyn boss.

To make the concrete colossus ‘intelligent’, the tower features ‘a brain’ — the integrated computer-controlled building automation unit that monitors and regulates all utilities.

Beside being 100 per cent wired, the quake-proof structure is clad in special Alucobond aluminium and sandwiched glass panels to minimise direct solar radiation.

Already, 60,000 sq feet out of the 110,000 sq feet office space up for grabs has been sold, with Modi Telstra cornering around 33,000 sq feet.

Announcing special schemes, for ‘dot com’ companies and a ‘launch offer’ for investors signing up within the next 30 days and completing the agreement of possession within 90 days, Globsyn Webel has promised to position In finity as a “high value and not a high-priced product” to encourage young entrepreneurs.

“Besides having the ambience and facilities to ensure optimal output of professionals operating from this building, the walk-in infrastructure available in Infinity will reduce gestation period for projects of prospective entrepreneurs,” pointed out industry minister Bidyut Ganguly.

Work on Phase Two — a 16-storey tower with 190,000 sq feet workspace — is already under way. Next in line are Smart Towers (each with 40,000-60,000 sq ft floorspace for large IT corporates and trans-nationals), Smart Centres (for small and medium companies, each requiring 5,000-10,000 sq feet) and an Intellivillage (a self-sufficient infotech habitat, with 1,000 apartments and condos spread over 23 acres of green).

“The Infinity building is just the start. My dream is to create a complete environ, a global synergy, wired and intelligent here,” says Dasgupta, gazing up at the first concrete glimpse of the city’s future.    


 
 
FIVE ARRESTED AFTER HOWRAH MILL ROBBERY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 23 
Barely 36 hours after the crime was committed, Howrah police tracked down the gang responsible for the Rs 8-lakh robbery at Tirupati Jute Mill early on Wednesday. Five persons, including two employees of the mill, were arrested in an overnight raid on different areas of Howrah and North 24-Parganas districts.

Police superintendent (Howrah) Surajit Kar Purakayastha said police seized Rs 1.25 lakh and the two briefcases used to carry the money. A country-made revolver and five rounds of ammunition were also seized. The arrested persons have confessed to their crime, Purakayastha said.

The mill driver, who had gone alone to collect the cash from a bank in Calcutta, had masterminded the robbery, along with another mill employee. They had sought the help of professional criminals. After extracting this information from the two employees, police raided Sweeper Colony under Cossipore police station jurisdiction late on Tuesday night. No one was arrested but Rs 25,000 was recovered.

Then another massive search was launched in Howrah and Rs 1 lakh was recovered. Purakayastha said the seized currency notes were sealed with the bank stamp.    


 
 
BENGAL PHARAOHS DREAM HISTORY CAPSULE 
 
 
BY SUJAN DUTTA
 
Calcutta, Feb. 23 
The accumulated knowledge of 2000 years of human history is being encapsulated in Calcutta.

This is not a Tughlakian fantasy.

Writers, academics, technologists, politicians and administrators are being mobilised to contribute to the effort. The exercise is being conducted by the “Third Millennium Committee for Social Transition”, whose chairman is the Speaker of the West Bengal Assembly, Hashim Abdul Halim.

Last week, the committee held a brainstorming session with professors and researchers of Jadavpur University’s Faculty of Engineering and Technology. The Jadavpur University Vice Chancellor, Dr A N Bose, and the dean of the faculty are coordinating research by civil engineers, architects and metallurgists on how best to preserve the compendia of volumes and artefacts that will go into the making of an exhibition that will be a biography of the past.

After preliminary discussions, it was decided that all the paraphernalia will be kept in a capsule that will be made of stone and/or a metal alloy. Simulated tests would be carried out in the university’s laboratories to try the strengths of the element(s) with which the capsule would be made.

The “capsule” will be the size of a 20ft by 20ft room — or one-third the size of a full-blown passenger aircraft — and will be placed underground, probably within the precincts of the Assembly, by December 2000. The idea on how such a capsule might be prepared was first given by a metallurgy student of IIT Kharagpur. It will be made “bacteria-free” and the atmosphere inside will be monitored by computers.

Technologists have been asked to examine if papyrus instead of ordinary paper or compact discs was best suitable for the purpose. Egyptian and Chinese papyrus parchments have survived thousands of years in pyramids and tombs, the committee members have noted. The committee has decided it will demand that the site at which the capsule will be buried be declared a “tourist spot.”

The last time such an exercise was known to have been carried out in India was in 1972 by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. A committee set up by her compiled an offficial history of the Indian independence struggle and the first 25 years years of independent India. The compilation was placed in a metal container and buried in the Red Fort in New Delhi. It was hoped that even if there was a nuclear holocaust, a history of India will survive for use by future generations.

The hope was misplaced. After the Janata government assumed power in 1977, the capsule was dug out. It was found that even though there was an attempt at writing a history of India from the Battle of Plassey (1757), it was largely a history of the Congress (founded 1885). More than that, some critics said, it was a history of the Nehru-Gandhi family.

The current effort in West Bengal, no doubt, will raise questions on the validity of writing official histories. But the organisers insist they have risen above political divides to collaborate in the effort. Besides, the committee has co-opted notables in the academic field to make the effort credible.

The committee’s international coordinator is the economist, Dr Amalendu Guha, of the Institute for Alternative Development Research in Oslo, Norway. Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, too, has been invited to be an international coordinator.

“Our committee’s vice chairmen are Buddhadev Bhattacharya and 20 ministers of the West Bengal cabinet (not Jyoti Basu), the leader of the opposition, Atish Sinha, the sabadhipatis of 11 Zilla Parishads, even Jagmohan Dalmia and scholars from Bangladesh among others.

This is not a political exercise, it is a vision for posterity. It is what we will leave for future generations to learn if there is a nuclear holocaust tomorrow,” says Rabin Deb, convener, and CPM MLA from Ballygunge.

However, a brief of the project prepared by the committee gives an inkling of what is to come. In a section titled “Our Project is a Movement”, it says “..the ‘Third Millennium Committee for Social Transition’ is a part of the whole movement — for eradication of poverty and misery, for social uplift and human progress’ .” In another section, the brief notes, “Economic Globalisation in the present world has become very much alarming to us in developing countries.”

The work will primarily comprise a compendia of 10-12 volumes, each of 5000 to 6000 pages. It will be written in Bengali and subsequently translated to English. Pabitra Sarkar, former vice chancellor of Rabindra Bharati University, and leader of the Bhasha O Chetana Samity that leads the movement against introduction of English at the primary schools, is in charge of compiling the volumes.

The first phase of the project, which includes building of the capsule, compilation of the compendia and research is estimated to cost Rs 2 crore. A separate printing cost of the volumes, estimated at Rs 70 lakh, will be borne by the Bangla Academy. Academics of any single branch will be allotted only 50 normally printed pages or 15,000 words.

The most important section in the first phase is “Bangla’r Itihas”, a history of all that is Bengali for which the committee is collaborating with Dhaka University.

Other volumes will list and explain scientific and technological developments, cultures, traditions. “Even what we wear, we eat,” explains one organiser. The committee has approached universities and institutions to engage 250 scholars in “voluntary work.”

“We will cover everything — from the chatai to the internet,” claims Deb.    


 
 
STUDENTS IN TRAFFIC DRIVE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 23 
Fed up with the police’s inability to control rash driving, accidents and jay-walking, the government has decided to enlist schoolchildren and non-government organisations to streamline movement of vehicles and pedestrians. The government plans to position schoolchildren and volunteers at 25 permanent traffic assistance and information booths at the accident-prone intersections. The government will construct a fibre-glass box, fitted with microphones, through which the volunteers will guide pedestrians and bus-drivers on traffic rules. State deputy chief minister, Buddhadev Bhattacharya directed home secretary S.N. Roy to sent circulars to the officers-in-charge of all city police stations, asking them to organise traffic education and awareness camps in schools and colleges in their areas. Sources said the deputy chief minister had expressed his displeasure over the manner in which policemen are controlling vehicles at a recent meeting with senior Calcutta police officers. Police chief D.C. Vajpai, joint commissioner V.V. Thambi and deputy commissioner (traffic) K. Harirajan were among those present at the meeting. Bhattacharya said the OCs of all police stations should motivate schoolchildren and guide them on traffic rules and regulations. The trained students could then be asked to help the police streamline movement of traffic and pedestrians on congested roads. The home (police) department sent the circular to city police stations last week. The officer-in-charge of Shyampukur police station, Tarapada Dutta, was the first to organise a programme at Bagbazar Multipurpose for Girls. He and two other officers lectured 130 students of the school on Monday. The awareness programme started at 2.10 pm and lasted till 3.30 pm. Police officers told the students of traffic rules, specially no-entry and parking regulations and how and when to use zebra crossings. There was a half-an-hour-long question-and-answer session later. Dutta plans to take some of the students to the traffic awareness centre, which he said will come up shortly at the Shyambazar five point crossing. This crossing in a high-risk zone for accidents. Dutta said the next awareness session will be held at Bagbazar High School on February 28. “I have lined up several schools for next week,’’ he said.    

 
 
CPM TURNS KASBA HEAT ON POLICE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 23 
CPM leaders Rabin Deb and Tapas Bose have blasted the police for their failure to track down the murderers of Gurupada Bagchi, the party’s Kasba unit leader. MLA Deb, addressing a street-corner meeting at Gariahat on Wednesday evening, said: “One month has passed, but the police are yet to trace Bagchi’s killers or carry out any arrest. I have been told that they are still preparing the list of suspects.” Deb claimed that the police had been given the names of probable assailants soon after Bagchi was gunned down in Kasba on 23 January. “The gang responsible for Bagchi’s murder has been threatening his family over telephone even now,” he announced. SFI leader and CPM’s Calcutta district committee member Tapas Bose said on Wednesday that people had “lost faith in the police... As they have failed to arrest the killers even a month after the incident, we have no option but to launch a campaign against police inaction,” said Bose. Nirmal Majumdar, another CPM leader, claimed that a section of the police “are not very keen to solve the case”. He added: “The police are shielding some anti-socials in Kasba even after the murder and we have to protest against it.” “We cannot take the law into our own hands like the Trinamul Congress, but we can definitely ask our government why the police are taking so much time in solving the case,” declared the two leaders. This comes in the wake of CPM state secretary Anil Biswas’ recent appeal to party leaders not to intervene in the functioning of the police. With a certain section of the party determined to quiz the police on the Gurupada Bagchi case, the CPM top brass might well have to step in again.    

 
 
REPOLL IN 35 MANIPUR BOOTHS TODAY 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, Feb. 23 
Repolling will be held in 35 booths covering 12 Assembly constituencies in Manipur tomorrow.

State chief electoral officer (CEO) D.S. Poonia said security personnel will be deployed in all the 35 polling stations.

The Election Commission had ordered the repolling following destruction of polling materials by rival political party workers yesterday.

The maximum number of repolls — in 11 booths — will be held in the Keirao Assembly seat. Largescale violence occurred in the constituency yesterday with supporters of rival candidates snatching ballot boxes, tearing up and even burning ballot papers and resorting to firing.

According to the final poll percentage released by the chief electoral officer today, there was 88.86 per cent turnout yesterday. Nineteen of the 32 seats of the valley which went to polls yesterday polled over 90 per cent. Seven of them crossed the 93 per cent mark.

As per the CEO office release at 3 pm yesterday, the poll percentage trend in chief minister W. Nipamacha Singh’s Wangoi constituency was 50 per cent. But the final turnout was recorded as 94.19 per cent.

The polling trend in violence-prone Keirao was 55 per cent according to a 3 pm release.

At the end of polling hour, the percentage stood at 96.22 — the highest recorded in yesterday’s election. Talking about the big difference in the polling “trend,” Poonia said the 3 pm release was based on reports available at 1 pm.

He said it was only a trend and they had collected the information from various sources like police and wireless department. Poonia said the final poll percentage given today was based on reports of returning officers who had calculated it from the presiding officer’s diary.

A comparison of the 1 pm trend and the final turn out at 4 pm shows that over 40 per cent of the voters cast their votes at Wangoi, Keirao and Lamsang in the last three hours of polling. Normally, voters turnout is high in the morning hours in Manipur.

While 90 per cent voting is normal in Manipur Assembly polls as voters always turn out in large numbers, 94 per cent polling is indicative of heavy proxy-voting and rigging.

According to the CEO’s report, 90 per cent polling was recorded in Wangkhem constituency and 88 per cent in Thoubal at 1 pm yesterday.

At 4 pm, Wangkhem recorded 93.39 per cent polling while Thoubal’s turnout was 92.39 per cent.

Orissa repoll

The Election Commission today ordered repolling in six polling booths spread across five assembly segments in Orissa.

Most of the the booths are located in Ganjam and northern Orissa districts, reports UNI.    


 
 
3 KODERMA OFFICIALS SHIFTED 
 
 
FROM SALMAN RAVI
 
Dhanbad, Feb. 23 
The Election Commission has transferred three senior officers, including the superintendent of police, a deputy superintendent and the sub-divisional officer of Koderma district following an attack on a poll observer.

Election observer Kalpana Mittal-Barua and deputy development commissioner M.A. Ashrafi were attacked by RJD activists on February 12.

A state government notification transferring the three officials reached the district headquarters last night and the officials were relieved of their posts “with immediate effect”.

The commission swung into action when the district magistrate-cum-returning officer, Vandana Kinny, wrote a confidential letter (number 198/C dated 15.2.2000) to the chief election commissioner, the state chief secretary and the state home secretary pointing out that “things would have taken a turn for the worse had observer Mittal-Barua and deputy development commissioner M. A. Ashrafi not applied maximum restraint.’’

Kinny said she had recommended repolling in 11 booths under Barkaththa Assembly segment in the district where nearly 93 per cent polling had taken place on February 12. Her decision was endorsed by Mittal-Barua.

When the candidates came to know of the recommendation, supporters of sitting RJD legislator Annapurna Devi, also one of the candidates, attacked the observer’s vehicle and tried to set it on fire. Ashrafi was also assaulted by RJD workers when he came out of his office.

“I wrote to the superintendent of police (Sido Hembram) to provide assistance and disperse the mob but to no avail,” Kinny said. Police inaction compelled her to issue a written order.

Mittal-Barua, who was held inside her car by the RJD supporters, was rescued by a magistrate on duty and the jawans of the Central Industrial Security Force, Kinny said.

In the September Lok Sabha polls, the Election Commission observer found himself in the eye of a storm following allegations of misconduct by the district administration and was subsequently withdrawn by the commission. In a written complaint, the district administration alleged that observer V. N. Maira ran up huge liquor bills during his stay in the city.

This enraged the city superintendent of police, who asked the latter to stay away from the district till elections were over. Hembram is to be the second superintendent of police from the region to be shifted during polls.    


 
 
REBELS ABDUCT SIX FISHERMEN 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, Feb. 23 
National Liberation Front of Tripura militants abducted six Bengali fishermen from Dumbur lake in South Tripura yesterday.

Police sources said nine fishermen, all residents of remote Saramagaon panchayat in Gandacherra sub-division, were fishing in the lake when the militants swooped down on them at 1 pm. The rebels released three fishermen but abducted the others. Those released reported the matter to the Raisyabari police.

A search operation was immediately launched, but the police failed to trace the abducted. The kidnapped fishermen are Suman Sirkar, Keshab Sirkar, Narendra Das, Krishna Mohan Das, Aniruddha Biswas and Umacharan Das.

Sources said the militants had warned Bengali fishermen against fishing in the 40 square km lake. Over the past six years, they have kidnapped more than 100 fishermen, of whom several have died.

In a separate incident, an NLFT militant was gunned down by rival All-Tripura Tribal Front rebels at Gopal Bazar under Khowai subdivision of West Tripura yesterday.

Police sources said the militant was shot dead at 2 pm when he was returning after distributing “tax” notices. The body is lying unclaimed at the Khowai hospital morgue.

Bank relocation: The Tripura Gramin Bank has decided to relocate three branches in Dharmanagar sub-division for security reasons. The bank will relocate its Jalebasa, Shamicherra and Halflong branches to the Pani Sagar, Chandrapur and Rajbari areas in the sub-division respectively.

Sources said suspected NLFT militants had looted the Halflong branch on August 27 last year while an abortive bid to loot the Shamicherra branch was made on October 23.

The sources said large areas of the Dharmanagar sub-division have become unsafe over the past few months and the killing of Ganganagar tea estate executive D.K. Nath on February 18 has aggravated the situation. “We had no other option but to relocate these branches,” they added.

Trade bandh

Bengali businessmen in the Natun Bazar area of Amarpur sub-division in south Tripura launched a “business bandh” today in protest against continuing militant depredations and the government’s failure to provide security to the people.

Official sources said the “business bandh” was peaceful. They, however, expressed concern over reports that an indefinite road blockade programme would be launched in Natun Bazar and the United Bengali Liberation Front militants were planning a major offensive.    


 
 
ETHNIC STRIFE THREATENS LANGURS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Guwahati, Feb. 23 
Rehabilitation projects undertaken by the Assam government to end the ethnic strife in Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon districts have damaged golden langur habitats in Lower Assam.

The primate, listed as an endangered species, is found in Assam and Bhutan.

Researchers working with the Indo-US primate project to restore the habitats of golden langurs said ethnic strife in the state has dealt a major blow to the species.

Massive deforestation in western Assam have isolated the langurs, found in the semi-evergreen and evergreen forests of the district. Of the 3,000 golden langurs all over the world, nearly 1,500 dwell in the forests between the rivers Sankosh and Manas.

“Further rehabilitation programmes will compound the crisis” said Arun Srivastav, scientist-in charge of the Indo-US primate project (Northeast).

“A large number of trees and forests have been cleared by the villagers for cultivating mustard in Ultapani in Kokrajhar. This has affected the habitat of the species,’’ said Jesu Das, who is working on the project.

A satellite survey conducted by the Assam State Remote Applications Centre has indicated a loss of 50 per cent of the langur population over the past decade.

The wildlife agency in collaboration with community conservation consultants and the central land and forest protection committee have chalked out a three-point working plan to save the species and the forests.

The plan envisages a political strategy to support the forests, interaction with communities residing in and around the area and developing education material in Assamese and English to highlight the need to protect the prmates. The programme is supported by a grant from the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation.

Srivastav said the reserve forests should be given legal status and joint forest management should be introduced for scientific exploitation of resources.

The agency has built up a nursery and planted 1,400 saplings in the area. Joint patrolling of the forests have started and representatives from 72 villages have agreed to establish community groups around Ripu, Chirrang and Manas, where massive deforestation has taken place.

The resilient species, however, has been quick to adapt itself to the changing environment. A pair of golden langurs, which were released in Umananda, have given birth to a litter of seven.

The Indo-US primate project, which has been working on conservation and management of the primate species, is conducting research work on the adapatablity of golden langurs. Though the species has been included under the Schedule One category of endangered species, it is yet to be listed in the international list of “critically endangered species.”    

 

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