Telecom men in CBI net
Better care at a price in primary health centres
Gang in police garb foxes law-keepers
Hunt on for Mithun replacement
One killed, 5 injured in spate of mishaps
Centre sinks Lakes fund promise
Pak pressure on Thailand to free Muivah
Khaplang forced to flee Myanmar
JB-Biswal feud over CLP leader

 
 
TELECOM MEN IN CBI NET 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 10 
The CBI has busted a racket providing ISD and international fax facility to subscribers at a rate which is much cheaper than what is charged by the telecom department. The trail of the scam led to a senior telecom officer, a raid on whose residence yielded cash and assets worth Rs 1.5 crore.

Investigations revealed that divisional engineer of Terratti Bazar exchange Chittaranjan Halder and junior telecom officer Gour Chandra De had helped a private firm, Softline Services of Jhowtala Lane in Park Circus, set up connections with two Delhi-based firms and a US-based organisation to provide an ISD and international fax service to a select group of customers at much cheaper rates.

CBI officials said that with the help of Halder and De, the firms set up a “twin converter” in the offices of Softline Services.

The gadget converted an international call into a return local call almost as soon as the call was made. Subscribers wanting to make international calls dialled Softline Services’ number and thereafter got connected to the overseas number.

“We have enough evidence to prove that the two senior telecom officers had full knowledge of what was happening. In fact, we suspect that they had guided the private firms in setting up the system,’’ CBI joint director U.N. Biswas said.

Calcutta Telephones carried out a preliminary survey to check the amount of loss. “It is too early to calculate the loss, but it could be around Rs 10 crores,” Calcutta Telephones chief general manager K. Ramanujam said.

CBI officers said Softline Services was operating the parallel international call and fax service for the past six years.

A high-level CBI team, led by deputy inspector general Vijay Kumar and superintendent Niraj Nayan Pandey, conducted simultaneous raids at six different places in the city, including Halder’s Kasba residence, and also at the Greater Kailash offices of Softline’s Delhi collaborators.

Kumar said the CBI team found more than Rs 1 crore in Halder’s bedroom. In another room, sleuths found unaccounted gold ornaments worth more than Rs 4 lakh, evidence of 16 bank accounts, three bank lockers, bank passbooks which shows more than Rs 3 lakh balance in each of them, National Savings Certificate and Indira Vikas Patra worth more than Rs 20 lakh.

“We also recovered several incriminating documents from Halder’s house,” Kumar said. The divisional engineer had apparently got wind of the raid and had left the house before the sleuths arrived. CBI said both Halder and De are absconding.

Raids were also carried out at the house of Narendra and Kabita Devar of Softline Services. They are also missing.

The offices of the two Delhi-based collaborators, Worldwide Telelink and Global Fatcom, were sealed, CBI officers said.

“Investigations are on and we are scrutinising the role of some more telecom officers,’’ Kumar added.    


 
 
BETTER CARE AT A PRICE IN PRIMARY HEALTH CENTRES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 10 
The state government has, in principle, agreed to slap a “user fee” on patients benefiting from services at primary and subsidiary health centres.

Till now, such a fee was levied only in district and teaching hospitals. The introduction of a special fee is meant to help sustain of health care in the districts once the ongoing Indo-German venture, Basic Health Project, West Bengal, is completed.

The project, being undertaken in seven districts of the state, is meant to qualitatively and quantitatively improve basic health delivery systems.

Among other plans, 10 new primary health centres and 15 subsidiary health centres are slated to come up.

Two German organisations, KfW (or German Development Bank) and GTZ (German Technical Cooperation) have joined hands with the state government to implement the project.

While KfW will take care of construction, renovation and equipment, GTZ will provide the technical software, logistics and training component of the project, explained Michael Neinhaus, GTZ department head for South Asia, at a workshop in the city.

The two-day workshop was attended by health and administration officials from the districts, health department officials, NGOs. KfW and GTZ officials from Germany and New Delhi were also present.

GTZ project team leader Heide Richter said the workshop was held to prepare the framework for district planning. “We worked out various issues based on the project’s aims and the past experiences of the district officials.”

State health secretary Ashok Chakraborty said the project proposals will be finalised by September. The fee to be levied will be determined after discussions with local leaders at the panchayat level in various districts.

The first phase, costing Rs 150 crore, is expected to be completed in four years, with German aid adding up to Rs 120 crore.

“Unlike the Rs 701-crore World Bank-funded Health Services Development Project (HSDP), the German funding is not a soft loan but a grant. The state government will be providing 20 per cent of the total project cost,” said S.A. Siraj, HSDP special officer, medical.

And while the HSDP is for secondary-level hospitals, the Basic Health Project will benefit units from clinics right up to the block hospital level. The districts that will benefit from the programme are Darjeeling, Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Purulia, Bankura, Birbhum and Midnapore.    


 
 
GANG IN POLICE GARB FOXES LAW-KEEPERS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 10 
The detective department has busted a gang looting people in the guise of policemen, income-tax and customs officials in various parts of the city.

Deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Narayan Ghosh said on Friday that the six-member gang is now in police custody and Rs 4 lakh has been recovered from them.

The police first learnt about the cheats after Rs 5 lakh was looted at Canning Street a few days ago from an employee of a jewellery shop.

Rajan Ojha, travelling in a taxi from Nalini Seth Road, was intercepted at Canning Street by four men claiming to be customs officials. They accused him of carrying “fake notes”.

Ojha was taken to a lonely place in Topsia “for interrogation” where the entire amount was “seized” by the imposters.

To convince the victim that they were vigilantes, one of the gang members called up Ojha’s employer on his mobile phone, saying they were from the police and warning him that they would raid his godown.

The number of the mobile phone from which the call was made, was registered on the phone of Ojha’s employer.

This set the police on the trail of the gang. The mobile phone was traced to an address in Park Lane, where gang leader Tony was arrested.

Later, his accomplices, including Sahid Ali and Parameshwar Lal Soni, were rounded up from Behala.

According to Narayan Ghosh, preliminary interrogation has revealed that Tony was wanted for drug trafficking and a dacoity five years ago.

Tony was involved in smuggling of gold biscuits. He had contacts in the jewellery business and was tipped off about Ojha carrying the money to Canning Street.

Such incidents have earlier been reported to the police. But the police felt that the tale of policemen or other government officials looting people were concocted by those carrying the money.

“We earlier thought that the carriers had taken the money themselves and were making up the story to avoid suspicion,” said a sleuth.

The gang members — posing as policemen and enforcement officials — have committed at least four crimes, looting around Rs 10 lakh, in the past few months.    


 
 
HUNT ON FOR MITHUN REPLACEMENT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 10 
With filmstar Mithun Chakraborty dropping out of the race, the Trinamul Congress on Friday began to scout for another Rajya Sabha candidate to back in West Bengal.

Trinamul spokesman Jayanta Bhattacharya said the party was looking for a non-controversial person acceptable to all parties. “We are looking for a person who, as an independent candidate, can win votes cutting across party lines.”

Party sources said even former chief minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray’s name had cropped up as a possible candidate. Ray, however, was not available for comment as he was away in New Delhi.

Railway minister and Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee may pay a hurricane visit to Calcutta on Saturday morning to resume her hunt for a suitable candidate.

She has to placate the old party faithfuls who are upset with Mamata’s letter to Jyoti Basu, requesting support for Mithun Chakraborty. They believe that Tuesday’s missive has tarnished the party’s anti-CPM image.

Mamata loyalists, who have been with her since the founding of Trinamul, feel it was unwise on her part to write, in her own hand, a letter to Basu at a time when the party’s main policy is to expose the “corruption of the CPM, Basu and his son Chandan”.

The issue is likely to come up for a debate at a party meet on March 27 when she will be present to chalk out the Trinamul’s strategy in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation polls slated for May.

“Many of us feel demoralised by the way Mamata approached Jyoti Basu. Mithun may be a good soul and a filmstar. But the party should not cross the lakshmanrekha and compromise with the CPM and one of its top leaders to make him an MP,” said a senior Trinamul leader.

Party insiders said Mamata had played her cards too close to her chest while deciding on Mithun’s nomination.

“There was so much secrecy about it that she did not even mention Mithun’s name at a meeting with legislators of the Trinamul and those loyal to her in the Congress on March 4... The news became public the next day,” said another party leader and a close associate of Mamata from her Congress days.

Others like him feel let down by the fact that they did not even get a chance to caution her on the consequences of backing Mithun.

“We feel bad that Mamata’s letter seeking the communists’ support was rejected by CPM state secretary Anil Biswas. There was no need to bring Mithun into the Rajya Sabha fray and woo Basu to ensure his victory,” said a leader.

However, Subrata Mukherjee, a Mamata loyalist but a Congress MLA, said a section of the Trinamul leadership was making a mountain out of a mole hill.

“I have seen Mamata’s letter to Jyotibabu. It was a personal letter. Also, Mithun was not a political candidate. He would have been an independent candidate with the Trinamul ready to lend only moral support,” said Mukherjee.    


 
 
ONE KILLED, 5 INJURED IN SPATE OF MISHAPS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 10 
A woman was killed and four women and a man injured in a spate of accidents on Friday.

According to the police, Swapna Sil, 48, was run over by a state bus on route number S-16 on Manicktala Main Road around 8 am. She was taken to Nil Ratan Sarkar Medical College and Hospital where she was declared dead. The bus driver was arrested. Residents held up traffic for an hour.

Around 1 pm, Arati Chowdhury, 40, was hit by a Maruti van on Vivekananda Road. She was admitted to the Marwari Relief Society Hospital.

Anjali Biswas, 55, was injured after a lorry knocked her down on Beadon Street around 1.30 pm. She was rushed to a nearby nursing home.

The incident sparked trouble with residents blocking the road for half-an-hour. The demonstrators relented only after senior police officials intervened. The driver of the lorry was arrested.

Another woman and a taxi driver were injured after being hit by a Tata-407 on Strand Road around 1.30 pm. They were both taken to SSKM hospital.

At D.L. Khan Road in south Calcutta, a woman was injured when she was hit by a scooter. She was taken to SSKM Hospital for treatment. The scooterist managed to flee.    


 
 
CENTRE SINKS LAKES FUND PROMISE 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 10 
The Centre has gone back on its promise to treat Rabindra Sarobar in Dhakuria as a “national lake” and sanction a grant of Rs 2 crore to the Calcutta Improvement Trust (CIT), which maintains the lake.

In an affidavit submitted to Calcutta High Court on Friday, deputy secretary in the Union ministry of environment and forest, Bhag Singh, said it is not possible for the ministry to take Rabindra Sarobar under the purview of National Lake Conservation due to “lack of funds”.

So the Centre has shifted the entire responsibility of maintaining the lake to the state government.

“Immediate effective measures need to be taken by the government of West Bengal so that the lake is prevented from further deterioration till funds are available with the Central government,” read the affidavit.

Last year, the Centre had decided to include 11 lakes in the country in its ‘National Conservation of Lakes’ programme.

In September, the high court heard a case filed by environmentalist Subhas Dutta, alleging that large-scale pollution in Rabindra Sarobar had upset the ecological balance of the area.

Dutta had requested the court to ask the Centre to release Rs 2 crore immediately for the development of the lake, included on the list for National Conservation of Lakes.

Subsequently, the Green Bench of the high court had asked the Centre to explain why it was unnecessarily holding back the funds allotted for the purpose.

Marriage officer’s retirement age: A division bench of chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice S.B. Sinha on Friday ruled that the state government has the right to reduce the retirement age of marriage officers.

This implies that marriage registrars must retire at the age of 60, instead of 65. A notification reducing the appointment age of a marriage officer from 40 to 25 years and retirement age from 65 to 60 was issued by the state government earlier.

Marriage registrars have filed a petition challenging the government’s notification.

Rape probe: A division bench of chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice A. Kabir has directed foreign minister Jaswant Singh to inquire into reports that an Indian had been allegedly raped in Dhaka and to furnish a report to the court.    


 
 
PAK PRESSURE ON THAILAND TO FREE MUIVAH 
 
 
FROM CHANDAN NANDY
 
New Delhi, March 10 
At least three countries, including Pakistan, are believed to be mounting pressure on the Thai government to release National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah.

According to intelligence reports, the Dutch, Pakistani and Chinese governments are pressuring the Thai government to release Muivah.

Several representatives of national as well as international non-government organisations are already in the Thai capital to lobby for Muivah’s release. The negotiators include a former secretary-general of the Unrepresented Peoples’ Organisation, a forum often used by various rebel outfits of the Northeast to highlight their problems.

The Netherlands, China and Pakistan have different reasons for championing Muivah’s cause. Pakistan is interested because the NSCN(K) is believed to have links with its intelligence establishment. Muivah’s four-day trip to Karachi was made with the aim of convincing the ISI to continue supplying arms.

India is now trying to ascertain the extent of Muivah’s links with ISI officers and his outfit’s interaction with the Pakistani intelligence agency.

As far as China is concerned, the “pressure” it is exerting on Thailand indicates its eagerness to renew links with the NSCN(I-M) after several years. The Chinese authorities had backed the Naga movement for “sovereignty” in the Fifties and Sixties.

Officials here believe the NSCN(I-M) may also have influenced the Dutch authorities into fighting for Muivah. Leaders of the outfit have met representatives of the Centre at the Hague or in Amsterdam on several occasions.

However, the Centre is unlikely to take things lying down if any of these three countries goes all out to get Muivah released.

Sources said the Nagaland government has already sent a copy of the non-bailable arrest warrant against Muivah to the Thai authorities. However, it is yet to be decided whether the actual warrant should be despatched to Thailand for its “execution” .

The S.C.Jamir government in Nagaland is keen to get Muivah extradited despite there being no extradition treaty between Bangkok and New Delhi.

Thai police arrested Muivah twice in quick succession in January — first for entering the country on a forged passport and later for jumping bail and trying to flee to Malaysia, again on a fake passport. Muivah was taken into custody soon after landing in Bangkok from Karachi because he was travelling on a fake South Korean passport.

After being released on a bail bond of 200,000 baht, the rebel leader escaped from a Bangkok hospital and fled to Hat Yai in southern Thailand. However, he was rearrested on January 29 when he tried to leave the country without a genuine passport.

Muivah was subsequently sentenced to one year in prison. He was recently shifted to the Thai capital from Songkhla so that he can be tried for jumping bail.

The trial has been adjourned till April 27.    


 
 
KHAPLANG FORCED TO FLEE MYANMAR 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENTS IN KOHIMA AND JORHAT
 
March 10 
A crackdown by the Myanmarese junta on the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) has forced its chief S.S. Khaplang to flee to Napani along the Assam-Nagaland border in Golaghat district.

Joint secretary (Northeast) in the Union home ministry, G.K. Pillai, told The Telegraph that the Myanmarese Army launched a three-pronged attack on the NSCN(K) headquarters at Chumnu in Myanmar recently, killing 30 militants. The casualties included five People’s Liberation Army rebels and 10 from the Ulfa. Four training camps were also busted during the raids. However, a PLA activist who was arrested by the security forces at Tizit in Mon district later claimed that only six rebels were killed.

The PLA militant was arrested along with five other rebels while trying to sneak into Nagaland. He said three groups of 500, 300 and 200 Myanmarese soldiers attacked their hideouts at Chumnu.

Khaplang, who was in Myanmar when the junta ordered the crackdown, took shelter in the nearby jungles in the wake of the attack. He later sneaked into Napani in Golaghat district, sources said. The NSCN(K) chief’s bodyguards, numbering at least 50, dispersed in different directions, the sources added. The militants said Myanmarese soldiers first raided their camps on February 9.    


 
 
JB-BISWAL FEUD OVER CLP LEADER 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Bhubaneswar, March 10 
Post-poll infighting has begun to wrack the Congress with J.B. Patnaik and Hemanand Biswal, both former chief ministers, locking horns over the selection of the Congress Legislature Party leader.

Biswal also demanded yesterday that Patnaik be sacked as PCC chief, saying his rival had no right to hold on to the top organisational post in the state after his own defeat in the polls. “It is a shame that a person who lost by more than 40,000 votes continues to be PCC chief,” he said.

Biswal said Patnaik should immediately resign in keeping with Congress’ tradition. He claimed that the high command had wanted him to lead the party in the Assembly, but Patnaik frustrated his chance. “How dare someone challenge the decision of the high command?” Biswal asked.

But in the next breath, Biswal, a tribal leader from western Orissa, accused the high command of bias against tribals and Dalits. He warned that the Congress would exist only in “signboards” if the high command did not mend its ways.Patnaik, however, claimed that Mishra’s election as CLP leader was unanimous.

He said all party legislators had proposed the Ranpur MLA’s name and there was no other contender for the post. Patnaik said he had no idea why Biswal stayed away from the meeting.

The Congress had never elected any outgoing chief minister as CLP leader, he said. Biswal had not been chosen CLP leader in 1990 since he had been chief minister in the previous Congress government.

New Speaker: Former minister Sarat Kar, a senior Biju Janata Dal leader, was appointed Speaker of the Orissa Assembly today.

Tibetan rally

Tibetan settlers at Chandragiri in Gajapati district remembered their homeland today through a protest rally against Chinese occupation of Tibet, reports our Berhampur correspondent.They also observed the 41st Tibetan Uprising Day.    

 

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