Cops hit out in clash fear
Girl run over by her school bus
Housing complex after Sourav
Save-heritage Presidency cry
Fun comes to learning Bengali alphabet
Boys rescued from Paradip
Manipur CM, Cabinet to be sworn in today
Drive to clean up illegal poppy farms
Cigarette majors sign up N-E units
Ulfa plans to revive central publicity cell

Calcutta, March 1 
BJP workers battled with police in Esplanade on Wednesday afternoon after blocking the road and violating prohibitory orders. Twenty BJP workers, including five women, and five policemen were injured. Five BJP men were admitted to SSKM Hospital.

Paras Dutta, general secretary of the state BJP, blamed two panicky IPS officers for the clash, but DC (central) Raj Kanojia said women volunteers of the party, who blocked the main road, were responsible for it.

The BJP had organised a rally and had asked its members to court arrest to protest the “deteriorating law and order” situation in the state.

Consequently, traffic was thrown out of gear. Apart from the BJP programme, the Left Front held a rally on Rani Rashmoni Avenue, and the Chhatra Parishad demonstrated in Burrabazar, at Hazra crossing and Hatibagan.

Even on Red Road, where vehicles usually move fast, traffic froze. Movement of traffic was severely affected on Diamond Harbour Road following a two-hour demonstration by Congress workers during the day.

As a result, long-distance buses bound for Namkhana and other destinations in South 24-Parganas came to a halt for hours.

A Congress agitation brought traffic to a halt also at Birati in North 24-Parganas. The Congress workers were protesting the “anti-people budget.”

About 5,000 BJP activists rallied in front of Metro cinema around 4 pm. Many of them courted arrest and boarded buses bound for Presidency Jail. Suddenly, a group of women blocked the road in front of Metro cinema, when an unidentified youth threw a stone.

Women BJP workers held policewomen by their collars and began to scream. Senior officers, led by Kanojia, ordered their men to forcibly lift the blockade.

BJP workers, shouting “Jai Shri Ram” threw stones at the policemen.

“Ram had never chucked stones, he used bows and arrows,” some policemen shouted back.

The police were a little afraid of the violence escalating because a Left Front rally was being held on Rani Rashmoni Avenue, adjacent to the spot where BJP workers were demonstrating.

“We thought that the BJP might have planned the agitation to clash with the CPM procession,” an official said.

The Lalbazar control room, which was informed about the seriousness of the situation, immediately despatched a large contingent to quell the violence.

While the policemen were being stoned, more men in uniform appeared on the scene and began a lathicharge to disperse the crowd. A BJP worker fell on the road after being hit by a lathi, which immediately snapped.

Togo Ram... Amago Raban achhey,” said the policeman after hitting the worker.

On seeing the policemen beat up the agitators, BJP leader Rahul Sinha fled the scene. BJP women workers then swung into action and attacked the police. Policewomen, who were outnumbered, sought the help of senior officers. The street fight ended after senior officers dispersed the agitators.

The BJP men who were arrested were sent to Presidency Jail in buses.

The agitators blocked the road near the jail and staged a demonstration there to protest the “unprovoked” lathicharge.

The police said 1,145 people, including 124 women, were arrested and later released on bail.

The BJP has decided to organise a silent procession of women on Thursday to protest the lathicharge.    

Calcutta, March 1 
Two school buses claimed the lives of a 12-year-old girl and a 60-year-old man in north and south Calcutta, respectively, on Wednesday.

Swati Chowdhury, a Class VI student of Balika Siksha Sadan on Vivekananda Road, was run over by a bus of her own school.

The tragedy occurred around 12.30 pm, when Swati was standing with her elder sister, a student of Class X, in front of the school. A bus driver backing his vehicle failed to notice the girls.

Suddenly, realising that they were directly in the path of the bus, the two sisters tried to scurry to safety.

But the strap of Swati’s schoolbag got entangled in a lightpost. Her sister’s attempts to pull the girl away failed and the bus ran her over.

Swati, a resident of Shibpur in Howrah, was taken to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital where she was declared dead.

“Their school broke early on Wednesday because of Thursday’s Madhyamik examinations,” said eyewitness Sumita Mukherjee, who had came to take her daughter home from school.

“Swati’s death was so horrific that it cannot be described in words. The parents who had come to fetch their children were simply too stunned to react,” she added.

A crowd of agitated local residents immediately gathered at the site of the accident.

But senior police officers managed to bring the situation under control.

In another incident, a bus of a south Calcutta school knocked down Sukumar Roy Chowdhury on Bijon Setu, near Gariahat.

The 60-year-old, who was trying to cross the road when he was hit, died on the spot. The victim was a resident of Kankulia Road, near Gol Park.

“Preliminary investigations revealed that the bus probably carries students of South Point School,” said a senior police officer. The police said both the buses had been impounded and the drivers arrested.

Alarmed at the two accidents, the city police’s traffic department has decided to ask owners of school buses to submit technical reports of their vehicles.

“We have noticed that these buses develop mechanical faults because of poor maintenance,” a senior officer said.

Drivers of school buses are often “not efficient enough”.

“The poor condition of these buses and the lack of professionalism on the part of the drivers might cause many more major accidents on the roads,” warned the police.

Tannery fire: A fire broke out in a second tannery in the Tangra area on Wednesday night.

Ten fire tenders fought the blaze for about two hours. Fire brigade sources said the cause of fire and the extent of damage could not be ascertained. However, no one was injured in this incident. A fire on Tuesday had gutted another tannery in the area.    

Calcutta, March 1 
The current hero number one in Bengal is having a housing estate named after him.

Days after Sourav Ganguly was named the next Indian cricket captain, the CMDA has announced a decision to name as Sourav Abasan a block of about 90 flats in one its buildings in Salt Lake. Another Salt Lake complex will be named after Amartya Sen.

State urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya said on Wednesday that he had spoken to Sourav earlier and sought his approval. He added that the skipper-in-waiting had called him up from Bangalore, where Sachin Tendulkar will hand over the reins to Sourav at the end of the second Test against South Africa.

Sourav Abasan, part of a CMDA proposal to build about 500 flats in Salt Lake, will come up in ED block. The rest will be spread out over EE, AL and CL blocks. “The ED block flats of Sourav Abasan will be about 1,200 sq ft in area and are meant for the higher income group,” Bhattacharya said.

The blocks will have flats for the middle and lower income groups too. They will be distributed by lottery. Deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya is expected to inaugurate the project on March 29.

The CMDA has also drawn up plans to build two more markets in Salt Lake. These will come up in blocks AG and FD.

The rise in Salt Lake’s population has also necessitated widening of roads and a move to carve out a traffic corridor between Sealdah and the township.

Ashok Bhattacharya announced that a new bridge spanning the Beleghata canal is being built near Chaulpatti. The road along the canal has been widened at a cost of Rs 3 crore. The minister said once the bridge, to be built at a cost of Rs 4 crore, is complete, travel between Salt Lake and Sealdah will become easier and faster.    

Calcutta, March 1 
Presidency College students on Wednesday threatened to tear down a recently-erected iron grille along the ground floor corridor as it changed the heritage character of the 179-year-old main building. They, however, relented when the college authorities agreed to call PWD officials to discuss the issue.

As a member of the governing body, the general secretary of the Presidency College Union is supposed to be informed of major decisions. But the college authorities had not done so, the students said. Principal N.C. Mukherjee refused to comment.    

Calcutta, March 1 
The word game that has made learning fun for a whole generation and more is poised to take a leap over the language barrier.

Mattel Inc. of USA, the world’s largest toymaker, is introducing Scrabble in Bengali. The Tamil and Hindi editions will follow shortly, with Scrabble (Maths) not far behind.

The $6-billion US company, with worldwide Scrabble sales of $150 million, has decided to bring out vernacular language versions of the vocabulary-development game, for which it has had to “redo tile sizes” to accommodate the script.

“Making Scrabble available in separate languages will increase the reach of the game, enabling even those not knowing English to play the game. The eastern region market is significant, though it is not possible at this stage to give exact figures,” Amit Bose, CEO, Mattel Toys (I) Ltd, told The Telegraph on Wednesday.

“We have cracked about 90 per cent of the Devnagri and non-Devnagri script codes and are confident of launching the product shortly. The code is quite complex as, unlike the English word which is a separate type, a Bengali word is a combination,” explained Bose.

If these combinations are used to create the words on normal tiles, the number of tiles in the game will go up by eight times or more. So, a new format is being devised. This involves introduction of a new kind of tiles — which can be used in two different ways, printed on reverse or a square tile split from corner to corner with two different compositions which when put together construct one composite letter.

Scrabble has more than 200 ‘fan clubs’ across the world which hold no less than 175 tournaments every year.

The National Scrabble Association in the US coordinates all fan clubs and holds world as well as national-level Scrabble championships in various countries. The world competition held at Melbourne in December ‘99 had four Indian participants.

Knowing a potential market when it sees one, Mattel India has decided to start inter-school Scrabble competitions in the four metros.

To exploit the “enormous potential” of the Indian market, Mattel — which markets brands like Barbie and View Master in 150 countries — is planning to introduce a whole range of other games as well, and push up its sales turnover to Rs 400 crore from the current Rs 26 crore.

Teachers from top-rung schools in Calcutta are being roped in to develop several innovative educational toys. A history game for Class III to Class IX, for example.

Some games aimed at the summer vacations, ones which can be played easily on trains, will be ready to hit the market by June.

Among other playthings in the pipeline are special ‘return-gift packs’ to help mothers round off children’s birthday parties — Hot Wheels packs for boys and Barbie packs for girls at a flat rate of Rs 45-50.

While the boys’ pack will contain seven to eight items like a small car, car stickers or tattoos, the girls will probably get a tiny Barbie prototype, rings, hair-clips, friendship bands, etc.

Howrah has been chosen for a pilot project to make Mattel’s presence felt at traditional toy stores and regular shops.    

Bhubaneswar, March 1 
Orissa police arrested a Bangladeshi national, suspected to be involved in a kidney-selling racket, in Paradip yesterday. They also rescued five teenage boys he had lured from a West Bengal district.

The police arrested Bipul Mistry, who hails from Khulna district in Bangladesh, in Nuasungara village, nearly 50 km from Paradip. The boys were traced to a slum in Paradip.

The boys, all of whom were from Udaypali village in Burdwan district, ranged from 13 to 19 years of age. Three of them were students at a local school.

Paradip additional superintendent of police Asit Panigrahi said the police had handed over the children to their parents at Paradip. Mistry, suspected to be a kingpin in a kidney-selling racket, was handed over to a police team from Bengal.

The boys told the police they had agreed to come with Mistry after he promised them a good job with a car. They said they did not suspect him because he was a frequent visitor to their village, four km from Burdwan town, and often stayed there with a relative for days together.

Panigrahi said Mistry had first taken the boys to a village in Bengal on the Indo-Bangladesh border on February 22 and tried to smuggle them across. The boys became suspicious and refused to walk across the border with the “agents.”

After the plan fell through, Mistry threatened to kill the boys if they opened their mouth. He brought them to Balasore on February 23. After spending the night at the railway station, the boys were taken to Paradip and “handed over” to a Bangladeshi refugee working there.

After the missing boys’ parents filed a complaint, the Burdwan police arrested two villagers who disclosed that the boys had been taken to Paradip. After the Bengal police tipped off their counterparts in Orissa, Panigrahi said he started raiding suspected hideouts of Mistry and finally traced him to a farmhouse near Chandikhol. The boys were spotted by a village guard in a Paradip slum. The police were informed and they were rescued.

Tribals plan rally

Tribals organisations are planning a rally in Bhubaneswar after the new government is formed to press for the fulfilment of their demands.

Two tribal organisations, the Kui Lewanga Sangh and the Chasi Mulia Samity, have been trying to unite the tribals in Rayagada and Gajapati districts since long. For this, they have been focusing on local issues and cashing in on the anti-police sentiments harboured by the tribals after the Majhiguda incident in which seven tribals were killed last year. The tribals feel the police is protecting the Pana community with whom they have been battling over ownership of cultivable land, adds our Berhampur correspondent.    

Imphal, March 1 
United Front of Manipur leader Wahengbam Nipamacha Singh will be sworn in as the state’s new chief minister tomorrow.

Governor Ved Prakash Marwah today dissolved the current Assembly after receiving a formal notification from the Election Commission regarding constituting of the seventh state Assembly.

Marwah has asked Nipamacha Singh to submit his list of council of ministers after taking oath. Sources said the Governor has asked Nipamacha Singh to make the ministry small in view of the state’s financial crisis.

Sources from chief minister’s office said Nipamacha Singh was advised by astrologers to take the oath at 10.45 am tomorrow.

BJP leader attacked

BJP national secretary in-charge of Manipur P.B. Acharya was assaulted by two unidentified gunmen today. State BJP officials declined to comment on the incident. Sources said five persons arrived at Hotel Anand where Acharya was staying. While three of them waited outside the hotel, two barged inside his room when he was talking to state BJP leaders M. Bhorot Singh, R.V. Shirang and two workers.

The two men pushed the four state leaders inside the toilet and locked it. They then assaulted Acharya and asked him to leave the state immediately.

After the duo left, Acharya was taken to former chief minister R.K. Dorendra Singh’s house at Moirangkhom here. Acharya will leave Imphal for New Delhi tomorrow, sources said.

The BJP failed to decide on a Legislature Party leader even today. Though the party has won six seats, it has not been able to decide on a leader because of the tussle between state BJP president Haobam Bhubon Singh and Dorendra Singh.

BJP president Bhubon Singh has asked Dorendra Singh to explain why he gave a statement to a local TV channel without seeking permission from the party. The intra-party friction came to the fore today when the letter was circulated to the Press.

Another document, in which three BJP legislators’ had promised to support Bhubon Singh, was also circulated. State BJP officials expressed surprise over the circulation of the documents. They expressed unhappiness over the way some leaders were washing their dirty linen in public.

While Nipamacha Singh’s camp was jubilant, constitution of the new ministry posed a problem with several legislators seeking ministerial berth. Nipamacha Singh held a closed-door meetings with his deputy L. Chandramani Singh and Th. Chaoba Singh.    

Guwahati, March 1 
The Central Bureau of Narcotics has launched a massive operation in Arunachal Pradesh for destruction of “illegal” poppy cultivation.

Sources said the officials, accompanied by security forces, launched the operation in Tirap, Changlang and Siang districts in the last week of February. It is still on, they added.

“Huge areas in the three districts are under illegal poppy cultivation. While poppy grows in the wild in some of the areas, in others, tribals have started its cultivation for commercial use,” a source said.

Sources said the narcotics bureau which issues licenses to take up poppy cultivation for medical use only, undertook the operation following reports of largescale abuse among tribals.

“Illegal poppy cultivation cannot be allowed to continue in Arunachal Pradesh as it can lead to a catastrophe in future,” the source said. “Some of the consignments are even smuggled to Myanmar for production of heroin,” he added. “We cannot let Arunachal turn into another Golden Triangle,” the source said.

The enforcement agencies are worried over the increase in smuggling of ephedrine to Myanmar. Huge quantity of ephedrine, originating from Hyderabad and Chennai, is being smuggled to Myanmar through the northeastern states for production of amphetamine, which is subsequently smuggled to the European countries.    

Guwahati, March 1 
Cigarette majors, unwilling to set up production bases on their own in the Northeast despite the granting of Excise duty relaxation, have tied up with seven local units.

The Union finance ministry had on January 17 rescinded its notification issued on December 31 last year on Excise duty exemption on cigarette and pan masala. The state governments of the Northeast had raised a big hue and cry on the withdrawal of the notification which had let to the companies withdrawing out of the region. The exemption of duty had followed soon after.

The companies are reluctant to set up units on their own primarily because of the huge costs involved. The cost of setting up a plant is higher in the Northeast as raw materials are not available, leading to spiralling transport costs.

Besides, most of the manufacturing units of these companies in other parts of the country are not operating at full capacity.

The cigarette companies also had to tie up with local units as they did not get the necessary industrial license to start production bases. Only one local company has got the licence to manufacture cigarettes and pan masala in the Northeast.

Of the seven units set up in Assam, three are operating from the export promotion industrial park. Those operating from the park are being given concessions. The rest have opened their bases in Tezpur, Rani and Badarpur.    

Jorhat, March 1 
The Ulfa is planning to set up its central communication centre at Majuli.

The centre, which was earlier located in Guwahati, had been busted a couple of months ago.

This was revealed during the interrogation of two central committee members, who were arrested by the Jorhat police from the Neemati ferry ghat, which connects the world’s largest reverine island to the mainland.

The duo, Aditya Baruah alias Bhaskar Dutta and Samiran Bhuyan alias Rituraj, were later killed in a “cross-fire” between the police and the Ulfa in Nagaland on Monday.

The duo was leading a police team to a Ulfa camp in Nagaland’s Mokokchung district bordering Jorhat district in Assam when the militants opened fire. The slain rebels allegedly sent to Majuli by Ulfa commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah to reorganise the outfit. Several computer floppies were recovered from them.

Once a hotbed of Ulfa activity, Majuli hit the headlines after social worker Sanjoy Ghose was abducted and killed by the outfit.

The killing had an adverse impact on the outfit’s image and it lost much of its clout in the island. Majuli recorded 77 per cent polling despite the Ulfa’s boycott call and the seat was retained by the AGP.

Moreover, politicians, who were on the outfit’s hit list, campaigned vigorously and some of them even stayed in the remote areas without security .

Security forces attribute Ulfa’s plan to revive its operations in Majuli to the suspension of counter-insurgency operations in Jorhat district, of which Majuli is a sub-division.

The island’s topography provides safe hideouts and easy escape routes should the outfit come under pressure from security forces, they added.

Documents recovered from the duo’s possession revealed that the Ulfa has codenamed the proposed strikes as “Operation M”.

The operation is “aimed” at eliminating several surrendered militants, specially one Montu Nath. He surrendered before the Golaghat police recently.

What lends credence to the police findings is the warning issued by the outfit last month to its former cadre to return all that they took with them (arms or cash) while deserting it.

However, sources here did not rule out the possibility of “M” implying a minister’s elimination.

State Forest and PWD minister Nagen Sarma was killed in a blast triggered by the Ulfa in Nalbari district on February 27.    


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