Victoria guard beats up child
4 deaths mar Holi revelry
One-way traffic on more roads, islands smaller
Hobby Centre comes of ICE age
Subhas amends flyover bravado
Tripura clean chit to Church
CISF jawan kills inspector in Gangtok
Students’ union denies rebel links
Custody death to be probed
Body found in Shillong

 
 
VICTORIA GUARD BEATS UP CHILD 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, March 21 
A drunken guard at Victoria Memorial beat a three-and-a-half-year-old boy with a heavy baton on Monday evening, injuring him severely, to “punish” him for trying to climb on to Queen Victoria’s statue in the grounds.

According to Hastings police station, which has registered a case, the guard, A. Tirkey, was drunk and he sadistically beat up the boy, Alibaba of Topsia, for a minor offence.

Witnesses, too, corroborated the account. Police said earlier in the evening, the guard had beaten up two other boys, though less severely.

The child’s mother, Rani Begum, said the profusely bleeding boy was taken to SSKM Hospital on Monday evening, where he was treated and later allowed to return home.

A large number of people at Victoria Memorial Hall, who witnessed the assault, gathered near the museum staircase.

The crowd tried to catch hold of Tirkey but he managed to escape and has been absconding since.

Crowds gathered in front of the museum demanding Tirkey’s arrest. “We will not leave till he is arrested,’’ the crowd shouted.

A huge police force reached the spot and pacified them. A case has been registered.

Rani and a witness, Mohammed Hasim, alleged that Tirkey was drunk and he beat up Alibaba mercilessly.

“The guard attacked Alibaba with the baton, catching him in the back, shoulder and waist. He stopped only after my son collapsed,’’ Rani Begum said. The boy is still traumatised.

His family is from Topsia. His mother and grandmother said Alibaba complained of pain in his neck, shoulders and hips once again on Tuesday morning, and he was rushed to Chittaranjan Hospital.

“The doctors were surprised to find deep wounds on his back, shoulder and hip,’’ Rani Begum said.

The incident occurred at 5 pm on Monday. Rani Begum and her two sisters were strolling in the grounds while Alibaba and other children were playing near Queen Victoria’s statue.

“We heard a sudden commotion. I turned around to find the guard beating up my son. I rushed to save him but the drunken man continued to hit him with the baton. The boy collapsed,’’ Rani Begum said. Bystanders rushed to catch the guard but he fled.

Victoria Memorial curator and secretary, Chittaranjan Panda, however, rose to Tirkey’s defence. “He was trying to control the unmanageable crowd in the gardens on Monday,’’ Panda said. On the allegation that the guard was drunk, Panda reserved comment as he was not witness to the incident, and in the absence of the security officer, he was yet to receive the full report.

Deputy commissioner of police, south, Ranjit Pachnanda, said police were investigating the case. “We have asked Victoria Memorial authorities to force the guard to surrender at the local police station,’’ Pachnanda said.    


 
 
4 DEATHS MAR HOLI REVELRY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 21 
The festival of colours was stained by the blood of four people who died on Holi.

Mohan Singh, 35, was shot dead by policemen who were allegedly drunk on Rameshwar Malia Lane, in Howrah.

Another resident of the area, Dilip Paswan, has been admitted to Howrah State General Hospital.

Tension gripped the area on Tuesday morning with residents blocking traffic on G.T. Road.

According to Surajit Kar Purakayastha, SP, Howrah, some “drunken youth” were creating trouble in the area.

“When police rushed to the spot, they were attacked, forcing them to open fire,” stated the SP.

Singh, a bystander, was shot in the arm and head. “The police dragged him out of the house and down the pot-holed roads after shooting him,” wept Usha Devi, the victim’s wife.

The people of Howrah alleged that “drunk policemen” were patrolling the area, harassing people and extorting money.

The leader of the pack opened fire when residents refused to comply with an order to end celebrations and go indoors. The cops were later chased out of the area by angry women.

At Pathuriaghata Street, in north Calcutta, 22-year-old Umesh Yadav was killed in a brawl with some drunken men on Sunday.

Yadav, apparently, reacted angrily to some comments passed by the youth. Three people were arrested.

Police said Trinamul Congress worker Bechu Biswas, 24, died when “a friend” opened fire in Behala.

Residents ransacked Sarsuna police outpost on Tuesday morning in protest.

Rabi Roy, 30, was shot dead in Metiabruz. The reason for the murder is yet to be ascertained. Three persons were arrested.    


 
 
ONE-WAY TRAFFIC ON MORE ROADS, ISLANDS SMALLER 
 
 
BY SHANKAR MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, March 21 
One-way traffic system will be imposed on more roads in Calcutta, dividers and traffic islands will be cut down to size and new signal systems will be introduced in a move to ease traffic flow in the city.

These measures have been recommended by renowned traffic planner and transport specialist N. Srinivasan, whom the transport department invited early this year to find out means of reducing traffic jams.

Srinivasan, during his week-long visit to the city in February, inspected 15 major roads and intersections like Shyambazar, Sealdah, Esplanade, Moulali, Beckbagan, Gariahat, Rashbehari Avenue, Bidhan Sarani, BBD Bag and Howrah station.

He held discussions with the chief traffic planner and transport engineer of West Bengal, Ajit Bhattacharya, deputy commissioner of police (traffic) K. Harirajan and special secretary of transport department Pravh Das.

Srinivasan is the chief transport adviser of Chennai and cities like Mumbai, Vadodara and Bangalore have benefited by his planning.

He suggested one-way traffic system in more roads, construction of small flyovers at important intersections in the central business district, relocation of tram tracks, installation of signalling systems at all crossing points, smaller traffic islands and dividers, re-arrangement of bus stops, lane-marking on all the major roads and planning another bypass. Das said the traffic department and police will jointly begin work soon. The projects in the pipeline are:

One-way traffic system will be extended on Bidhan Sarani up to Shyambazar. It is now up to the Vivekananda Road crossing.

RG Kar Road will become one-way, too. Vehicles will have to take the canal-side road and Raja Dinendra Street to enter the city.

In the south, some roads will be either one-way or movement of traffic restricted. “We have to build alternative roads and improve the existing ones before introducing the one-way system. We are working on that,” police said.

To create space for two additional lanes, Park Circus maidan and the Gol Park traffic island will be cut down to size. Similarly, the width of the dividers on Southern Avenue, CIT Road and Rashbehari Avenue will be reduced. Besides, all the approach roads of Howrah bridge will be realigned.

New signalling systems will be installed at the 36 intersections without traffic lights.

“Every day, 900,000 vehicles hit the road and soon it will touch the one-million mark. Unless stringent measures are introduced soon, the future is alarming,” said Bhattacharya. “We know that some people will suffer but we hope they will bear with it,’’ said Harirajan.

Anticipating the anger of environmentalists, as greenery will be reduced following introduction of smaller traffic islands, Harirajan said more trees will be planted elsewhere in the city.

“We have reduced two islands at Kankurgachhi and Narkeldanga and traffic flow has become smooth there,” Bhattacharya said.    


 
 
HOBBY CENTRE COMES OF ICE AGE 
 
 
BY KUNAL SEN GUPTA
 
Calcutta, March 21 
That familiar landmark on Russel Street, India’s Hobby Centre, is all set to emerge in its new avatar — an information communication entertainment (ICE) centre with a large dollop of the creamy kind.

The Kumars, who own the popular hobby shop, which was one of its kind during the Sixties and the Seventies, have teamed up with Rollick ice-creams to pave the way for this unique entertainment centre.

Established as India’s premier toy and hobby shop nearly 50 years ago by Suresh Kumar, the hobby centre remains a favourite haunt of the young and the not-so-young at the crossing of Park Street and Russel Street.

Today, Suresh Kumar’s son, Rishi Kumar, wants the Hobby Centre to become a one-stop entertainment shop with something for everyone.

“We will have a Cyber Centre, a Rollick Centre and a Hobby Centre all under one roof very soon,” says Rishi.

He thinks there is still a keen interest in hobbies like philately and gardening. “Our seeds outlet is still popular. With gardens fast disappearing and people opting for potted plants and rooftop vegetable gardens, there is a good demand for seeds,” he points out.

On the mezzanine floor, a state-of-the-art cyber centre is being built.

“All the computers will bePentium-fitted and surfing will be provided at a very attractive price,” promises Rishi.

If things go according to plan, the new-look hobby centre will be ready to roll by the end of this month.

“It will be the best in ice-creams and fresh drinks, the best cyber centre and the best hobby centre in town,” declares Rishi.

Rollick’s S.S. Agarwal will manage the parlour and take care of maintenance, while the Kumars, who are the agents for the facility, will claim a commission on sales.

Agarwal believes in keeping it simple and targeting people who are not “price-conscious”.

For office-goers, the shop will also provide a sandwich lunch with either fresh juice, coffee or iced-tea for as little as Rs 25 a throw. “We will sell the 25 flavours from imported dispensers at affordable prices to children from age 6 to 16,” he says.

Agarwal also has plans to develop the place into an “edutainment” centre for children.

On-line quizzes, games and interactive learning processes will be the order of the day in the cyber zone of the new India Hobby Centre.

Agarwal is also looking for ways to upgrade the hobby centre by introducing more trendy, modern stuff.

Do-it-yourself kits, which are very popular elsewhere in south Asia, as well as games for all ages, are what he is looking at.

There will be weekly events, like quizzes and debates, with attractive prizes thrown in.

Working closely with schools, the kids’ club is expected to be functional soon after the hobby centre’s net room starts operations.

“I want our children to have fun at a reasonable price. After all, the new India Hobby Centre will be a showroom and not just a profit centre,” says the Rollick’s boss.    


 
 
SUBHAS AMENDS FLYOVER BRAVADO 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 21 
Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty offered an unconditional apology before Calcutta High Court on Tuesday for his remarks last December regarding the court’s role in stopping construction of the Gariahat flyover.

Addressing a rally in Shibpur on December 11, Chakraborty had said that even stay orders by the high court would not be able to stop construction of flyovers in the city.

“I am ready to go to jail if the court punishes me for supporting the interest of the people,” he had announced.

Soon after Chakraborty’s remarks, Congress leader and lawyer Idris Ali filed a case against him, praying that the court take action against the minister as he was out to “malign the image of the judiciary”. On the basis of Ali’s petition, the high court had slapped a show-cause on Chakraborty, asking him to file an affidavit stating whether he had, indeed, made such a comment.

In an affidavit submitted on Tuesday by government pleader Manick Das, the minister said he had no intention of tarnishing the image of the judiciary, as he had “every regard for it”. He also tendered an “unconditional apology”.

Accepting the minister’s affidavit, the division bench of Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice A. Kabir passed an order directing Chakraborty to apologise to the judiciary through the media within two weeks, when the matter will come up for hearing.

Order 16 years later: It has taken nearly 16 years for a high court ruling to reach Chakdah municipality in Nadia district.

Tapan Singha, a resident of Chakdah, had moved the high court seeking action against the municipality over demarcation of his land. The then Justice Sukumar Mukherjee had ruled against the municipality on September 19, 1985.

Bikash Bhattacharya, counsel for the municipality, said on Tuesday that his client had received the copy of the ruling on February 20, 2000. It had been posted by the High Court administration on February 8, 2000.    


 
 
TRIPURA CLEAN CHIT TO CHURCH 
 
 
FROM SEKHAR DATTA
 
Agartala, March 21 
In a bid to win over the Christian missionaries on the eve of the Autonomous District Council (ADC) polls, the Left Front government has exonerated the Church of all blame of abetting militancy.

The state government has already filed a report to the Union home ministry. Over the past year, chief minister Manik Sarkar and finance minister Badal Chowdhury made indirect references to the ‘unholy nexus’ between the Church and tribal militants. But no such allegation was made in the recent report submitted to the Union home ministry.

Official sources here said the Union home ministry had sought a detailed report on the activities of Christian missionaries in the context of aiding tribal militants.

The report expressed reservations over the role of the church but stopped short of accusing it of aiding insurgents. Sources said, “There is no conclusive evidence of missionaries having direct links with the outlawed militant outfits and their activists.”

However, the report noted “certain disquieting facts regarding activities of a section of missionaries.” The report also referred to threats and intimidation of Hindu tribals by militants in the interior areas for practicing their faith.

Over the past few years, militants imposed a ban on Saraswati Puja, Durga Puja and Garia Puja and also threatened the Hodaokra (head priest) of the Jamatya community with dire consequences if he continued to protest against conversions in tribal areas.

Seven churches have formed a “United Christian Forum” in the remote districts.

Sources said the purpose behind forming the forum may be to counter the propaganda launched by Hindu organisations like the RSV and the VHF regarding receipt of foreign donations by the church.

The activities of the church have been embroiled in controversy over the past many years. Bryan K. Smith, a New Zealander and former secretary of Tripura Baptist Christian Union (TBCU), the most influential Church denomination here, had been expelled by the Centre in the early Seventies.

Last year, chief minister Manik Sarkar also expressed reservations about the activities of the church saying, “It is the responsibility of the Church to prove that they want peace”.

The church countered the chief minister’s claim with a peace march in the state capital.

The report said bulk of the Lushai and Kuki tribesmen in the state have been converted and now effort was underway to convert the Hindus, Tripuri, Jamatya and Reang tribesmen.    


 
 
CISF JAWAN KILLS INSPECTOR IN GANGTOK 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Siliguri, March 21 
A CISF inspector from Calcutta, Gautam Banerjee, was shot dead by one of his jawans on the premises of the Governor’s House in Gangtok last evening. Both belonged to the 12th battalion of the CISF posted at the Sikkim Raj Bhavan.

The jawan, identified as Sukhvinder Singh of Gurdaspur, was arrested by the CISF and Sikkim police near Rangpur on the Bengal-Sikkim border at 4 am.

Banerjee had allegedly reprimanded Sukhvinder for dereliction of duty yesterday. The jawan fired at the officer from his self-loading rifle which he later deposited with the armoury. Sukhvinder, who had been transferred to Gangtok from Farakka five days ago, then fled from the Raj Bhavan.    


 
 
STUDENTS’ UNION DENIES REBEL LINKS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, March 21 
The All- Manipur Students’ Union (Amsu) has denied having links with any outlawed outfit or extorting money from businessmen.

“The Amsu being a union of students of Manipur, it had or has no connection or relation — implicit or explicit — with any outlawed or unlawful organisation,” Amsu president P. Premananda said in a statement.

The signed denial was submitted to the one-man inquiry commission constituted by the government to investigate Amsu’s alleged links with militants and involvement in extortion of money from businessmen. The inquiry commission is headed by Justice (retd) Hom Choudhury.

The Manipur government instituted the judicial probe after the Assam Rifles arrested Premananda, Amsu secretary-general O. Ratankumar and finance secretary H. C. Sharma in November last year. A United National Liberation Front leader was also arrested from Sharma’s house, which was allegedly being used as the outfit’s publicity cell office.

In his statement, Premananda said Amsu’s source of funds was donations and voluntary contributions. He said for every donation or contribution made in cash or kind, receipts signed by authorised office-bearers were issued by the students’ organisation.

“Amsu receives only those donations which are given voluntarily,” Premananda said.

The Amsu President told the inquiry commission that audited statements of accounts and balance sheets were perused during its general assembly meeting.    


 
 
CUSTODY DEATH TO BE PROBED 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Silchar, March 21 
Cachar district deputy commissioner Santanu Thakur has ordered a magisterial probe into a custody death at the district jail here on Sunday.

The probe has been ordered into the circumstances leading to the “controversial” death of a 53-year-old convict early on Sunday morning at the district jail here.

Silchar subdivisional officer (SDO) Rashid Ahmed Choudhury has been asked to conduct an inquiry within 10 days into the death of the prisoner, Manindra Singh. Singh, a carpenter, was sentenced for 14 years for strangling his five-year-old son Santi Kumar to death in 1984.

The custody death has become mired in controversy, with the Silchar district jail authorities and Singh’s relatives giving different versions. The jail authorities claimed Manindra Singh strangulated himself with a towel in cell number 5 in the prison early in the morning when the other inmates were asleep. But his eldest son Swapan Kumar Singh and other relatives alleged he was beaten to death by a group of jail officials and other prisoners.

The angry relatives of the deceased initially refused to accept the body, following the post mortem, for cremation. They relented only after the district administration pleaded with them.

Thakur has also asked the Silchar SDO to inquire if there have been instances of neglect in the overcrowded Silchar district jail. A number of Meitei Manipuri organisations, however, have not been mollified by the announcement of a magisterial probe and have demanded a judicial inquiry into the custody death.

The organisations included the All-Manipuri Students’ Union, the Manipuri Meira Paibi and the Assam United Club.

The controversy over Manindra Singh’s death erupted when a memo of the district jail here (number 561), which informed Singh’s relatives about the death on Sunday noon, did not give any cause of death. Later, another memo (number 563) was rushed to them which stated suicide as the cause of his death.

The charge has also been levelled that the jail authorities could not produce the towel with which the convict allegedly strangled himself. Singh’s death came barely a month before his scheduled release from jail after the passage of his 14-year term of imprisonment.    


 
 
BODY FOUND IN SHILLONG 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Shillong, March 21 
The police recovered the body of a 21-year-old taxi driver, Ganesh Chetri, near Elephant Falls in Upper Shillong this afternoon.

Police sources said local people informed the Jhalupara outpost about the body at around 3 pm. A police team went to the spot immediately and recovered the body. Sources said the police have launched search operations in the area but not yet identified anyone behind the killing.    

 

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