Bagchi murder suspect held
Green force for decibel drive
Kerosene crisis looms as IOC punishes agents
After cave-in, disruption of work at airport
Winter ends in a blaze
Army talks tough on extortion
Ulfa, Naga rebels face 3-pronged offensive
Schoolgirl dies in Bihar road mishap
Better ties with Bangla sought

Calcutta, March 3 
In a major breakthrough, the Gariahat police arrested Shyam Raut, wanted in connection with the murder of Gurupada Bagchi, from his Sonarpur hideout on Thursday night.

Raut is a close associate of Tarak Halder, prime suspect in the killing of the local CPM leader on January 23 at Kasba market.

Raut was produced in court on Friday and remanded to police custody for 12 days.

During the probe, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) had come across a man who was standing next to Bagchi, buying fish, when he was shot.

Senior CID officers visited the Gariahat police station on Thursday night and on Friday morning.

They claimed that the witness had seen a picture of Raut and identified him as the man who had gunned Bagchi down.

The sleuths, however, refused to disclose the possible motive behind the murder.

“It is too early to come to a conclusion but from what we could gather after initial interrogation of Raut, somebody had hired him to kill Bagchi,’’ a senior CID officer who visited Gariahat police station on Friday morning said. “It is too early in the day to say who had hired him,” he added.

Additional superintendent of police, South 24-Parganas, S.N. Gupta said Raut was wanted by the Kasba police on charges of murder, extortion and kidnapping.

Deputy commissioner of police, south, Ranjit Pachnanda, said Raut had been picked up in connection with the attempt on the life of Kartick Gupta, one of Bagchi’s associates, at Ballygunge Place.

Gupta was on his way to his residence on the evening of February 22 when Raut and two other assailants shot him from close range.

Gupta was lucky to survive the attack and later identified Raut as one of the men who had shot him.

Raut and Halder are said to have been waiting for the heat on Bagchi murder case to die down before plotting another attack on Gupta.

Raut and Tarak Halder used to share an apartment on Ballygunge Station Road. They were forced to abandon the area following a police crackdown.

Local people had kept up the pressure by filing a series of complaints against the criminals at Kasba police station.

Criminal shot at: A 35-year-old man, Kamal Ari, was shot at by a group of four miscreants on Panditiya Road in south Calcutta, on Friday morning.

Police said Ari, who had been arrested in connection with the murder of Swapan Das on March 19, 1999, and was out on bail, had been attacked by a group led by Rajesh, a wanted criminal.

The victim was taken to the Ramakrishna Mission Seva Pratishthan in “critical condition” and is now battling for his life, said deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Narayan Ghosh.

According to Amal, the victim’s brother, Rajesh and his associates came to the area on two motorcycles and started firing at Kamal.

Amal, who was nearby, retaliated by hurling stones at the assailants. The criminals kept firing before escaping on their two-wheelers.

The motive behind the attack is yet to be ascertained. “A long-standing gang rivalry might have been the cause,” said a police official. No arrests have been carried out so far.    

Calcutta, March 3 
A “green force” is the need of the hour if the High Court directives on environment, especially noise pollution, are to be implemented.

Alarmed over complaints pouring in over the use of loudspeakers during the ongoing Madhyamik examinations, state director-general of police Dipak Sanyal said: “The police are already over-burdened and that is why an extra force is needed to tackle these things.”

Sanyal said all police stations have been put on alert during the school-leaving exams.

“We will seize loudspeakers and equipment as well as prosecute offenders,” the DGP said. No loudspeaker will be allowed in the ‘silence zones’ of a 100-metre radius around schools. A close watch will also be kept on the decibel level on Shivratri on March 4.

Gitanath Ganguly, lawyer and special officer appointed by the High Court green bench to oversee the implementation of the noise ban, has already met Sanyal in this regard.

“Ganguly requested the police to be kept on full alert during the Madhyamik, higher secondary and ICSE examinations,” the state police chief said.

A proposal for appointment of a special force for the districts has already been sent to the state pollution control board.

“We will need a sub-inspector and four constables for each unit. Some of the districts will need several such teams, depending on their size,” Sanyal said.

According to the DGP, the green force should be under the enforcement branch of the state police and the salaries and expenses should be borne by the state pollution control board.

“Every district has an enforcement branch set up to check adulteration and other matters and they should be ideally suited for the job. The board has offices in the districts and the special police teams should work closely with the board officials,” Sanyal said.

Language order: The West Bengal government issued the formal order on Friday asking all departments to switch to Bengali as the official language by April 14, the Bengali New Year’s Day.

All departments, including semi-government agencies and autonomous bodies, will have to change all signboards and nameplates to Bengali.

Birth and death certificates will be issued in Bengali as well. Police stations will have to accept FIRs written in Bengali.    

Calcutta, March 3 
Over 20 lakh Calcuttans dependant on subsidised kerosene distributed against ration cards are confronted with an Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) decision to stop supplying the fuel to its agents in the city and in Howrah.

The threat comes following reluctance of its agents to refund advances given to construct underground storage facilities.

At least 40 lakh litres of the blue-dyed kerosene are sold by retailers against ration cards in Calcutta every month.

IOC had allotted the money to the agents after making it mandatory for them to have underground storage. It had asked agents to refund the amount on the basis of an order of the High Court last year.

Agents, however, argue that they are unable to get land to build underground reservoirs.

“It is impossible to have underground storing tanks. The reason is simple. There is no land. The fire hazard, too, has to be taken into account,” said Kalyan Bhadra, president of West Bengal Kerosene Dealers’ Association.

Agents say that under government rule, kerosene lifted from IOC’s Mourigram depot has to be emptied at the retail outlets to be distributed to ration card-holders in a few hours.

“So, there is no question of stocking the kerosene in godowns in the first place. IOC asked us to build underground tanks but they did not tell us how and where,” an agent said.

There are 67 IOC agents only in Calcutta and 133 more spread across Howrah, North and South 24 Parganas.

Less than 10 per cent of the agents in Calcutta and its neighbouring districts have constructed underground storages as yet. But many have not refunded the advance, IOC sources said.

“We have to take a hard stand against the agents because the government has decided to get the money back from them. Moreover, whether the agents repay or not the government will deduct the entire amount from our funds,” said M.K. Moitra, IOC general manager.

The dispute began two years ago when the Union government decided to make it mandatory for all kerosene agents to have underground storage systems in their depots.

At the same time, the government announced that each agent will be advanced money, other than the general commission paid to them, to build storages. Advances were calculated at the rate of Rs 43 for storing every 1,000 litres of kerosene.

Once the government realised that after more than a year of the advance being extended not many agents had built storage facilities, it issued an order for refund.

Immediately, the order was challenged by some agents of Howrah who had banded together in an association. But the court threw out their appeal for relief.

IOC sources said they did not stop kerosene supplies much earlier in the interest of consumers, hoping that the agents would come around.

Green signal for CMC project: The Calcutta High Court on Friday gave permission to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation to start work on the Ranikuthi Water Reservoir Project.

The division bench of Justice S.B.Sinha and Justice R.K.Mitra dismissed the petition filed by Jyoti Bhusan Basu, a resident of Ranikuthi, and allowed the CMC to start construction work of the project, which was suspended as per the court’s earlier directives. The CMC is building the reservoir by encroaching one-third of a water body called Ranihil. Basu filed a writ petition alleging that the project would destroy the ecological balance of Ranikuthi.    

Calcutta, March 3 
The day after a portion of the ceiling in one of the booking offices at the domestic terminal of the Netaji Subhas Airport caved in due to “lack of maintenance”, agitating workers disrupted normal work at the international airport.

The Citu-affiliated Airport Ground Workmens’ Union and the Airports Authority Kamgar Union stepped up demonstrations on Friday for implementaion of their demands.

But airport officials insist that “services remain unaffected”.

Citu-backed workers have been demonstrating for over two months to make their demands, including permanent job and hike in remuneration, heard.

The Airport Ground Workmen’s Union ganged up last week demanding settlement of wages since January 1997 and scrapping of the privatisation policy.

Ramkrishna Bakshi, a member of the workmen’s union complained that nearly 300 members, employed in different departments, have been working on contract.

“They are not being made permanent by the Airport Authority even though there is a government notification, issued last November, in this regard. We will intensify our agitation till our demands are met,” he said.

Supporters of Kamgar Union, staging a ‘dharna’ since February 24, said they would meet Union minister for civil aviation Sharad Yadav on Monday.

“We will go in for an indefinite strike if the minister fails to meet the demands,” said Samir Kumar Das, union assistant general secretary.

MLAs’ protest: Security personnel were caught unawares when Trinamul Congress MLAs Dilip Das, Sanjoy Bakshi and Somen Das demonstrated in front of the chief minister’s chamber in the Assembly, on Friday. They were objecting to Jyoti Basu becoming the chairman of the North Bengal Development Board.    

Calcutta, March 3 
Winter’s extended run came to an abrupt end in midsummer-like blaze on a fiery Friday.

The weatherman was cool as a cucumber, though. “Mind you, the maximum temperature on Friday was very much normal (33 degrees Celsius),” said Alipore weather office director R.N. Goldar. “But people will obviously feel uncomfortable when the season changes.”

The heat will continue. “There is no indication that the maximum or minimum temperatures will change much,” he said.

Hope for any form of relief lies in the nor’wester season. “This usually happens in the second half of March,” Goldar said. “It could happen earlier.”

Before that, if the partial cloud cover over the city moves away, there could be a slight fall in temperature.

For those wondering why there is no sign of rain in any case, the weather office says that though January was drier than usual, February was normal.    

Guwahati, March 3 
The Army today hinted at a fresh crackdown on all those who are still contributing to the coffers of militant outfits.

In a statement issued here this afternoon, the Army stated, “The public is warned to desist from paying extortion money to the militants.” It added that defaulters would be identified and legal action taken against them under provisions of the CrPC. It said the Ulfa was planning to carry out explosions at public places in Guwahati and other towns in the near future.

Asked if the Army has already identified some of the defaulters, general officer commanding (GOC), Four Corps, Lt. Gen. D.B. Shekatkar told The Telegraph, “We have reports that the militant outfits are slapping extortion demands.” He claimed that some tea companies were at the receiving end.

He, however, skirted a query on whether the tea companies were responding to the extortion notices, saying, “We don’t know whether they are paying or not.”

Reiterating its charge that leaders of the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) were “living in five-star luxury in foreign countries,” the Army claimed that the leadership living abroad had “directed their minions to collect money. An amount of Rs 15 crore is required to be collected by March 15. It is an established fact that this money will be utilised by these leaders for their personal comfort and entertainment.”

In 1997, after the unified command — a joint formation of the Army, the police and paramilitary forces — came into existence, it was decided to choke off the funds flow. Anti-insurgency operations in the subsequent period were quite successful in this regard.

Shekatkar said extortion has become a “cottage industry” in the state, with even petty criminals masquerading as insurgents and extorting huge amounts of money. This was corroborated by the police.

A senior police official based in the city said they had recently come across a number of extortion notices served on Ulfa letterheads to affluent people in the city. “We are more than sure that most of these letters had been issued not by the rebel outfit, but by petty criminals,” he said. He explained that the language used in the letters was a giveaway.

He, however, said the militant outfit was still collecting huge amounts of money from the city. “Some businessmen are now acting as agents of the Ulfa,” he alleged.

The Army release also condemned the killing of public works department (PWD) and forests minister Nagen Sarma and said Drishti Rajkhowa, leader of the Ulfa’s “volcano unit,” was responsible for the attack.

Appealing to the people “not to be mute spectators to the atrocities committed by the rebels,” the release said any unidentified object must be reported to the nearest security post.

Contraband haul: Smuggled goods worth Rs 3.29 lakh were recovered from two coaches of the North Bengal Express during a raid recently. A Customs official was injured when a group of smugglers attacked the raiding party.    

New Delhi, March 3 
After years of persuasion by New Delhi, at least two neighbouring countries — Myanmar and Bhutan — have turned the heat on some militant outfits of the Northeast which had set up bases in their respective territories and used to carry out operations against Indian security forces from there.

Top government sources said over the past two to three weeks the Myanmarese Army has launched a massive flushing-out exercise in the Naga Hills area. Indian officials claimed that the results so far have been “encouraging.” At least 30 militants belonging to the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang), the United Liberation Front of Asom and the People’s Liberation Army have been killed.

The operations are still continuing. Sources said at least 10 of the insurgents slain are believed to have belonged to the Ulfa. One of the Ulfa men killed has been identified as Dilip Saikia.

This is part of the quid pro quo arrangement between India and Myanmar, which is grappling with its own separatist problems. Acting on Yangon’s request, Indian security forces are simultaneously carrying out “silent but effective” operations against armed militiamen belonging to the Chin National Army, who have hideouts in areas bordering Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.

The ongoing exercise of the Myanmarese authorities was the result of an understanding reached between India, Myanmar and Bhutan last year to co-operate in extending all assistance to prevent the use of their respective territories by insurgent outfits and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to foment trouble in the region. “There has been a great deal of co-operation from the Myanmarese junta, especially its Army and its intelligence agencies,” a senior official said.

Recently, both the Indian and Bhutanese Armies undertook a monthlong joint operation to destroy Ulfa camps and hideouts. Though officials are tightlipped about the number of Ulfa camps that have been overrun, they said the joint operations were “successful” and will resume.

The brunt of the raids launched by the military junta in Yangon against the militant outfits of the Northeast has been borne by the NSCN(K). At least four of its training camps around Chamnyu in the Naga Hills in north Myanmar have been smashed. Even the outfit’s central headquarters, in which NSCN(K) chief K.K. Khaplang often took refuge, was overrun by the Myanmarese Army a few days back.

In fact, the Myanmarese security forces narrowly missed apprehending Khaplang who, sources said, may have sneaked into Nagaland. Indian officials are also upbeat about the “positive” role being played by the Thai police which arrested NSCN(Isak-Muivah) general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah twice in January. He has been shifted from the Songkhla prison in southern Thailand and was recently brought back to Bangkok to stand trial on the charge of trying to leave for Malaysia by jumping bail and without a valid passport.

An NSCN(I-M) office in Bangkok was raided a few days ago by the Thai police. Though no arrests could be made, the Thai police have seized incriminating documents.    

Chaibasa, March 3 
An 18-year-old girl was strangled to death in an accident on the Chaibasa-Chakradharpur road, 12 km from here, today.

Kumari Kanjan, a resident of Barajamda town, was going to Chakradharpur to appear for her board examination. On the way, her dupatta got entangled in the tyre of the motorcycle she was travelling on. Her relative, who was driving the motorcycle, was seriously injured. The girl was proceeding on the motorcycle as buses were off the roads due to a bandh.

In another incident, a wild bear was shot dead after it created havoc here today. The bear, which first appeared in Asura village, crossed college corner, Gitilpi, Tuibir and Tamarband before entering Tunjri mohalla of the town. On the way, it attacked several people, injuring three persons.    

Shillong, March 3 
The Meghalaya International Traders’ Association (MITA) has demanded opening of a Bangladesh consulate here for promotion of mutual trade between the neighbouring country and the seven northeastern states.

Secretary of the association of exporters and importers D. Khonglah told The Telegraph that by opening the consulate, paperwork relating to trade and commerce between Bangladesh and the northeastern states would be considerably reduced.

The MITA secretary said it would also boost border trade with Bangladesh. “We usually go to Agartala to get visas,” she said. Khonglah said they have submitted several memoranda to the Centre as well as the Bangladesh government for opening up the consulate.

Meghalaya, which shares a 442-km international border with Bangladesh, exports coal and limestone to that country.

“There is tremendous scope for development of border trade,” Khonglah said. President of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry Abdul Mintoo had also emphasised a “greater mobility” of businessmen and investors between the two countries for promoting economic cooperation.

Mintoo had suggested the introduction of multiple visa facilities for the exporters and importers between the two countries as there was a need for “better interaction” between the business communities to identify areas to accelerate growth. Echoing Mintoo’s suggestions, Khonglah said the Centre should immediately consider the introduction of multiple visa system for the exporters and importers.

Emphasising on infrastructure development, Khonglah accused the government of doing “nothing” for improvement of border trade. “In spite of earning so much revenue, the government has done nothing for the development of infrastructure,” she said.    


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