Lawyer vs people in arrest blow-up
Shah vitriol for varsity sloth
Money matters block movie channel launch
Loot splurge sends knave of hearts behind bars
Gateway regains pride of place
April launch for infotech kiosks
Workers of closed unit stall trains
Sikkim row over merger
Kohima arrests

 
 
LAWYER VS PEOPLE IN ARREST BLOW-UP 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 16 
Rival unions of lawyers and clerks demonstrated inside the Bankshall court and residents put up a blockade on Beniatola Street on Thursday over the arrest of Asit Dutta, a lawyer accused of molesting his tenant.

Dutta’s arrest on Wednesday had sparked an angry protest from lawyers who had ransacked the court. Police said 12 lawyers named in the first information report surrendered to the magistrate late on Thursday evening.

Dutta was forwarded to court on charges of molesting a tenant, Alpana Dutta. Lawyers defending their colleague went on the rampage, ransacking several rooms, beating policemen and damaging the chief metropolitan magistrate’s chamber. The magistrate, S.K. Maity, was a mute spectator.

On Thursday morning, the bench clerks’ association went on a wildcat strike to protest against the lawyers’ behaviour. Association spokeswoman Shukla Majumdar alleged that the lawyers had destroyed vital documents. “They are nothing but a bunch of hooligans. Why are they protecting a lawyer who is accused of molesting a woman?’’ she asked.

The association shouted slogans against the lawyers and demanded punishment of the guilty.

Just after the clerks’ demonstration, hundreds of lawyers’ forced their way inside the chief metropolitan magistrate’s room and demanded action against the bench clerks. The lawyers’ shouted slogans against the CMM.

Maity sat through the demonstrations quietly.

At Beniatola and adjoining areas, residents set up blockades at the Rajabazar four-point crossing and in front of Amherst Street police station to protest lawyer Asit Dutta’s release. In two separate memoranda to the deputy commissioner of police, north, Soumen Mitra, the residents served a 24-hour ultimatum for Asit Dutta’s re-arrest.

“If the administration fails to protect the dignity of a woman, we will be forced to take the law into our own hands. Dutta and others trying to protect him will be lynched,’’ said Wasim Ahmed of Rajabazar. Locals alleged that Dutta has a notorious record. He assaulted his wife and drove her away 12 years ago.

“On March 8, Mita Chatterjee complained to Amherst Street police station, alleging that Dutta had confined her in his room,’’ Mitra said. Residents alleged that Dutta was beaten several times by local youth of Beniatola and Rajabazar when he teased a woman.

“He is also known to misbehave after his daily bouts of drinking at Rajabazar,’’ Prasun Mitra of Beniatola Street said.

Police said there are several cases pending against Asit Dutta. He is accused of defrauding South Suburban Branch School in south Calcutta of Rs 2 lakh. The DC (north) said the school principal got in touch with the police on Thursday. The case is being handled by the local police station.    


 
 
SHAH VITRIOL FOR VARSITY SLOTH 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 16 
Governor Viren Shah, who is also chancellor of Calcutta University, pulled up the campus administration for “delays in submitting annual audit reports and in conferring Ph.D degrees on students”.

Shah launched a scathing attack while speaking at the annual convocation, being held after two years, on Thursday.

Expressing deep dissatisfaction over the constant delay in important administrative matters, Shah asked vice-chancellor Ashis Banerjee and other senior officials present on the dais: “What is the cause of the delay? Please let me know the reasons soon.”

Banerjee and the other officials, who were obviously not prepared for the outburst from their chancellor, could not come up with an answer.

A few minutes before Shah was to deliver his speech, one of the recipients of the Ph.D degree sitting among the audience suddenly stood up and started criticising the university officials for awarding him his degree four years after he had completed his thesis.

A research scholar in law, Tushar Kanti Saha complained that he had submitted his thesis in 1996.

He alleged that the authorities had sat on his thesis needlessly, despite repeated requests to speed things up. The delay, Saha alleged, had “damaged his career”.

The Governor took up Saha’s cause and lashed out against the university’s lackadaisical attitude.

“This cannot be allowed to go on. Proper measures have to be taken to ensure that the Ph.D degrees are given without delay,” said Shah.

The Governor was also annoyed over the fact that the university was not up-to-date with the internal audits of its accounts.

“I have received the university’s audited accounts of 1995-96 and 1996-1997 before the convocation. But where are the audit reports of 1998-99 and 1999-2000?” he demanded of the vice-chancellor seated beside him.

The Governor also took exception to the university authorities’ decision to allot just 10 minutes to “an expert like S.B. Rao”, director of Indian Statistical Institute, to address the gathering. Rao, invited by the university to deliver the convocation address, went on to speak for 45 minutes.

After giving vent to his frustrations over the functioning of the university, the Governor turned to larger issues on hand.

Commenting on the global trend, he said that “the power of knowledge will dominate in the years to come”. And if West Bengal is to keep pace with the changing times, the spirit of knowledge and learning must be cultivated in different spheres. “And Calcutta University has a very strategic role to play in this direction,” concluded the Governor.

The university felicitated 23 eminent persons from different fields and conferred doctoral degrees on 292 students at the convocation.    


 
 
MONEY MATTERS BLOCK MOVIE CHANNEL LAUNCH 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, March 16 

Wednesday, the night of the big movie launch on the small screen, came and went with no sign of HBO, and just the SitiCable homes being able to catch Zee English and Zee Movies.

Turner International India Pvt Ltd’s new movie channel, HBO, which began its one-week free-to-air preview period with The Specialist, remained out of bounds for Calcuttans. Neither RPG Netcom nor SitiCable could put the channel on the menu, as commercial parleys with the Turner bosses remained inconclusive.

Said Probir K. Bose, chief executive, RPG Netcom: “HBO has set its terms and three-way commercial talks are on, pending which nothing can be done. Only after the rates are finalised will they provide the decoders for the cable operators to air the channel.”

Cable operators are sticking to their stand that the channel must provide “at least three months’ preview period” for viewers.

Tarak Saha, convener, Forum of Cable Operators, said: “HBO must officially announce in the newspapers that it is a pay channel. They can’t just say we are going ‘pay’ from Day One.”

It is learnt the terms spelt out by HBO (Rs 5.45 per connection per month for the new channel when clubbed with TNT and Rs 7 for HBO alone) have been turned down by cable operators.

Meanwhile, the new Zee channels could not be beamed from Wednesday night on the RPG network as the decoder boxes did not reach the city’s largest cable service provider’s office on time.

“There was a technical hitch and the decoder boxes couldn’t be delivered,” said Manas Chatterjee, resident director, Zee Network. “After the boxes arrive, it will take a couple of days before the channel can be beamed,” he said.    


 
 
LOOT SPLURGE SENDS KNAVE OF HEARTS BEHIND BARS 
 
 
BY PRONAB MONDAL
 
Calcutta, March 16 
Thirty-two-year old Rajesh Misra could have got away with Rs 30 lakh in cash, stolen from a city nursing home three days ago, to the snazziest casino in Nepal. But, love-struck, he made the mistake of returning to his girlfriend to talk her into accompanying him.

Rajesh rode his motorcycle into a trap laid by police on Wednesday evening in front of the girl’s house at Bhowanipore.

On arrest, he led the police to a sweet shop on Sudder Street, where the briefcase containing the cash was found.

Tall and handsome, his good looks made rakish by a scar above his right lip, Rajesh had already blown Rs 86,000 on an Enfield Bullet motorcycle, a Nokia cell phone, Rayban sunglasses and two Titan wristwatches. “He was buying as if there was no tomorrow,” a police officer said. The police found Rs 70,000 in his trouser pocket. The rest of the money was in the briefcase in the sweet shop.

Deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Narayan Ghosh, said Rajesh was sacked about a year ago on charges of theft by a nursing home on Rashbehari Avenue. On Monday evening, he returned to the nursing home, apparently to look up old colleagues. Around 7 pm, a power cut occurred and Rajesh sent the security guard away to fetch cigarettes and entered the ground-floor office, where he knew the cash was kept. He hid under a table till the office was closed and the main door on the floor bolted from inside.

Around 2 am, he emerged from hiding, broke the lock on the chest of steel drawers and found the money. “I myself was surprised to find so much cash,” Rajesh reportedly told the police. On his way out, Rajesh almost collided with the guard, who was shocked to see him at that hour. But Rajesh threatened him and escaped.

On Tuesday morning, the nursing home lodged an FIR reporting that Rs 1 lakh was missing. A few hours later, the amount was revised to Rs 30 lakh.

The police located Rajesh’s convent-educated girlfriend working with an advertising agency. They discovered that Rajesh, who passed Madhyamik from Calcutta and Higher Secondary from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, where his well-to-do, land-owning family lives, was married with two children. After the Rs 30-lakh windfall, Rajesh tried to convince his girlfriend to accompany him to Nepal, where he told her they would get married. But the girl wanted the marriage to take place in Calcutta.

The police lay in wait in front of the girl’s house since Wednesday morning. At 6.30 pm, Rajesh arrived on his Bullet. When the girl was about to get on, the police arrested Rajesh.    


 
 
GATEWAY REGAINS PRIDE OF PLACE 
 
 
BY TAMAL SENGUPTA
 
Calcutta, March 16 
After a gap to 122 years, a Buddhist stupa, one of the most precious objects in the possession of the Indian Museum, will be displayed once again.

It was exhibited in the museum’s Ashoka gallery for the last time in 1878, soon after it was brought there. It was closed down some time after 1878, as a number of new galleries had to be opened and there was no space to display this enormous objet d’art.

The Indian Museum has restored the stupa and Governor Viren Shah will inaugurate the Bharhut gallery on Saturday. Chief minister of Assam Prafulla Kumar Mahanta will be present. A sum of Rs 27 lakh has been spent to refurbish the gallery. The ancient work of art depicts the life of Lord Buddha, particularly his childhood.

Alexandar Cunningham, then director general of the Archaeological Survey of India, discovered the ancient ruins in an obscure village called Bhairanpur in Madhya Pradesh in the winter of 1873. The village was also known as Bharhut, after which the gallery will be renamed.

British archaeologists later found a gateway, pillars, cross-bars, coping stones and medallions at the Bharhut stupa. They depicted the way people lived in India in the pre-Christian era. Local people had unwittingly destroyed many portions of the stupa where they used to wash their clothes.

Museum director Shyamal Chakraborty said the new Bharhut gallery is still in the museum’s ground floor, as the original gallery was.

“It is at the main entrance of the museum. The stupa, which was profusely carved in red sandstone, depicted Jataka stories, floral and animal motifs. It is still considered the most precious architectural structure of the 2nd Century BC,” Chakraborty added.

Bharhut gallery is 82 feet by 40 feet and it took eight months to renovate it. It will be the prime attraction of the museum, particularly to scholars. Television screens will display the history of the stupa. “The stupa was restored and displayed in the new gallery to mark the completion of 185 years of the Indian Museum,” Chakraborty added.    


 
 
APRIL LAUNCH FOR INFOTECH KIOSKS 
 
 
BY SUTANUKA GHOSAL
 
Calcutta, March 16 
The government has finally been bitten by the IT bug. Two information kiosks for better public interface, one on education and the other on municipal affairs, will be launched next month.

West Bengal Electronics Industry Development Corporation (Webel) is ready with the kiosks. Managing director S.K. Mitra will make a formal presentation before chief secretary Manish Gupta and other members of the IT task force later this month.

“These projects involve presenting data to the public regarding various aspects of public interest, on education and municipalities. The technology will be based on websites and touch-screen kiosks which, we believe, will be deployed for the first time in the state,” said Mitra.

The education kiosk will be set up at the department of higher education, Bikash Bhavan, Salt Lake. Students can log on to the website to get relevant information as well. “It will be a great help for students seeking admission to different colleges, in general streams, after their Higher Secondary exams,” added Mitra.

The kiosk will provide information on the subjects being offered by various colleges, the cut-off marks, the faculty members, date of admission, admission fees, etc. Initially, 21 colleges, including Presidency, Lady Brabourne, Scottish Church, Bethune, Goenka and Maulana Azad, will figure on the log-in list.

The information kiosk on municipal matters will provide procedural details for tax assessment, birth and death registration, trade licences, obtaining water connection, approval for organising cultural events, etc.

It will also give the history of the municipality, along with a full directory of councillors of the area. The cost of setting up such a kiosk is Rs 10 lakh.

The first such information kiosk is being set up for the residents of the Bidhannagar municipality at the Mayukh Bhavan reception counter and will be manned by a municipality employee.

“The kiosks can also download the relevant forms at a nominal charge from the people,” explained a senior Webel official.

It has taken Webel around three months to develop these kiosks. “We will keep on adding features to the kiosk,” said the managing director of Webel.    


 
 
WORKERS OF CLOSED UNIT STALL TRAINS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 16 
Train services on Eastern Railway’s Sealdah South section were disrupted for three hours on Thursday morning when workers of Hindustan Development Corporation (HDC) squatted on the tracks at the Bondel Gate level crossing, near Ballygunge railway station.

The agitators, led by RSP leader and deputy mayor of Calcutta Municipal Corporation Nilratan Sinha, demanded re-opening of the Tiljala unit of HDC.

Services resumed around 11.20 am, but not before commuters, office-goers and students appearing for their annual examinations had been severely inconvenienced. During the blockade, 21 Down trains and 19 Up trains were cancelled. Two Down trains and 11 Up trains were detained for about two hours.

Shuttle trains were operated by the Eastern Railways on the New Alipore-Budge Budge, Hotor-Diamond Harbour and Baruipur-Lakshmikantapur sections. Special trains were also run on the Sealdah-Canning section.

On Wednesday, HDC workers blocked roads in Ballygunge Phari, throwing traffic in south Calcutta out of gear. Sinha said the RSP’s labour arm, Utuc, was carrying out a joint movement with the Congress trade union wing, Intuc, demanding reopening of the HDC unit.

According to HDC’s Engineering Majdoor Union, the Tiljala unit of the company has been shut since June 12, 1999. As a result, about 1,000 family members of the idle workers face starvation. “The management is avoiding us on some pretext or the other,” said a union member, vowing to “intensify the agitation.”    


 
 
SIKKIM ROW OVER MERGER 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Siliguri, March 16 
The ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) has questioned the locus standi of the proponents of the proposed Darjeeling-Sikkim merger.

The Sikkim Rashtriya Mukti Morcha, a constituent of the Darjeeling-based pro-Gorkhaland United Democratic Front (UDF), has been campaigning for the merger. The morcha is headed by two Gangtok-based journalists-turned politicians, Ram Moktan and P. B. Yata. Both are originally from the Darjeeling hills.

“The persons who are talking about the merger have no right to speak on behalf of Sikkim as they are not Sikkimese. Moreover, no Sikkimese has backed the demand,” SDF spokesman and former chief minister B.B. Gurung told The Telegraph from Gangtok today. However, Gurung, political adviser to the Sikkim chief minister, said the Sikkimese people would “certainly be happy if Darjeeling becomes a full-fledged state”.

The veteran Sikkimese politician, who was at the vanguard of the agitation for Sikkim’s merger with the Indian Union in the Seventies, said even the former Gyalmo (queen), Hope Cook, drew criticism from Delhi when she talked about Darjeeling’s return to Sikkim in a write-up.

“The Gyalmo had to retreat quickly, saying it was just an academic exercise,” he said. The proposal for a merger has not elicited much support in Darjeeling as well.

The only UDF constituent to support it is the fledgling Bharatiya Nepali Vir Gorkha. The remaining constituents of the UDF — the Bharatiya Gorkha Jan Shakti, the CPI, the Congress and the Trinamul Congress — have kept mum on the issue. The CPM and the Gorkhaland United Front have, however, been openly critical of the merger proposal. The SDF’s criticism is likely to help it consolidate its position in the state as both the Sikkim Sangram Parishad and the Congress have not gone public with their views on the issue. With the Opposition dormant since the defeat in the October Assembly elections, the SDF is even using the resignation of P.K. Pradhan, administrative advisor to the chief minister, to its advantage.

Pradhan, a former chief secretary, was recently chargesheeted by the CBI along with former chief minister Nar Bahadur Bhandari for his alleged involvement in a water scandal in the Eighties.

The duo allegedly allotted contracts for a water project to their “own men” in violation of rules. Gurung said Pradhan’s resignation had proved the SDF’s commitment to providing a “clean government”.

The corruption cases against Bhandari were filed at the behest of Gurung when the latter became chief minister for a fortnight in 1984.    


 
 
KOHIMA ARRESTS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Kohima, March 16 
A joint team of Assam Rifles and state police raided a house at a residential colony here yesterday and recovered some arms and ammunition, police said today.

Four persons, including two policemen, were also picked up for questioning. But the police refused to divulge their identity.

The patrolling party raided a house in Old Minister’s Hill, a high security area of the capital town, and recovered two revolvers, a Chinese hand grenade and 18 rounds of ammunition. However, two men escaped under cover of darkness with two Kalashnikov rifles, the police said. In a separate incident, the joint team arrested three NSCN (I-M) activists from PWD colony here yesterday.

The police recovered two highly decomposed bodies on the Kohima-Chakabama road.    

 

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