6 city bookies in betting backlash
Madman plays ‘catch’ atop Howrah Bridge
Jethmalani slur upsets lawyers
Power cuts
Sourav to monitor playgrounds
Advice, aid for heart patients
Striking teachers move minister
Clashes render 5000 homeless
BLT wants Advani at post-truce Delhi meet

Calcutta, April 11 
Six city bookies were in constant touch with Sanjeev Chawla and Rajesh Kalra during the recent South Africa-India series, before being arrested from a central Calcutta restaurant in early March.

An examination of their mobile telephone print-outs and a scrutiny of their dairies have not only revealed their “close connections” with Chawla and Kalra — prime players in the Hansie Cronje match-fixing drama holding centrestage at the moment — but also their easy access to some Indian cricketers and politicians in New Delhi.

This forms the basis of a report sent by the city police to their counterparts in Delhi on Tuesday.

The names of Chawla and Kalra surfaced this week after a re-examination of the documents seized from the city bookies in the wake of the Cronje bribing scandal.

Delhi police had sent a note to the state government requesting that it provide all information relating to the bookies arrested in connection with cricket betting and their modus operandi.

“Till this happened, the names of Chawla and Kalra did not really mean much to us,” a senior police official confessed.

The police said that the six city bookies — Anil Agarwal, Kishen Saraf, Mahinder Karwat, Palash Nahata, Mustafa Palanpushwala and Brijendra Singh — were arrested in early March from a city restaurant on betting charges. It was the second time that these bookies were being picked up.

Last year, they had been arrested for accepting bets during an India-New Zealand match and a chargesheet had been filed against them under Sections 3 and 4 of the West Bengal Gambling and Price Competition Act.

Besides large sums of cash, television sets, mobile phones and computers had been seized during the swoop on the bookies.

“We had put them behind bars but later they managed to obtain bail and resumed gambling,” said deputy commissioner of police (south) Ranjit Pachnanda.

The police said interrogation of the bookies had revealed that they often met some Indian cricketers when they came to the city to play matches.

“But there are some other city bookies who also met Indian cricketers on their trips to the city,” said a senior police officer. “We are working on leads to bring them too into our net.”

Officials also said that some of the telephone numbers found in the cellphone computer print-outs were traced to hotels in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore.

The police have ascertained that the calls were made when cricket matches were on in these cities.

“We are now trying to find out to whom the calls were made,” said an official, adding that all this information has been included in the report sent to Delhi police on Tuesday.

The police have found from the cellphone printouts that the bookies maintained contact with “very influential people” in the major metros of the country.

All these telephone numbers have been forwarded to Delhi police.

Howrah police superintendent Surajit Kar Purakayastha said that earlier, the name of Chawla had figured in the diary of another betting kingpin, Om Prakash Dhanuka. Several documents had been seized from Dhanuka’s residence during a raid some years ago.

The city police, however, have no plans of reopening any of the cases against the bookies in view of the Cronje case.

“Delhi police have sought a report from us and we are providing them with every detail we have,” a police official said.

“While we are unlikely to press fresh charges against the bookies for the moment, we will cooperate with Delhi police in every possible way,” said Kar Purakayastha.    

Calcutta, April 11 
There was high drama on Howrah Bridge on Tuesday morning.

A 24-year-old ‘mad’ youth climbed up the bridge and remained precariously poised for over three hours, holding up traffic, driving fire brigade officials and the police crazy, and providing prime-time entertainment to thousands of commuters.

Prakash Charsa led at least 15 fire brigade personnel, including two senior officers, and a huge posse of policemen on a merry chase before he was brought down to earth after three hours. Prakash, described as a ‘lunatic’ by the police, has been detained at the Golabari thana, in Howrah.

Traffic, from Howrah Bridge to central Calcutta on one side and Howrah on the other, was thrown out of gear as passersby camped to watch the show. Burrabazar, Brabourne Road, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Golabari and Howrah Maidan were clogged, causing problems to office-goers and students.

Prakash was first spotted on the western side of the bridge by some passersby at around 5.30 am. “We saw him standing on top of one of the pillars of the bridge. He was shouting, but we could not make out what he was saying,” said Joydeb Seal, a vegetable vendor.

Golabari police station was alerted. Three fire tenders arrived on the scene. Some of the firemen tried to climb up the bridge, but gave up within 15 minutes, and asked the fire brigade headquarters to rush “modern ladders”.

By then, passersby had gathered by the hundreds — eyes firmly skywards — as the youth threatened to jump into the Hooghly every time the fire brigade officials or the police tried to force the issue.

When the ladders reached the site, the firemen swung into action. But as soon as he spotted them, Prakash fled. He slipped, adroitly, from one tower to another, with the firemen in hot pursuit. This cat-and-mouse game went on for over an hour, with the crowds cheering both the stalker and the stalked.

Finally, the fire brigade personnel managed to thrown a ring around the man, catch him and bring him down.

Rajesh Sekharan, additional superintendent of police (north), Howrah, said interrogations revealed Prakash is a lunatic. He hails from Obala village, in Maharashtra. The police could not get further details about Prakash as he was unable to communicate in Bengali or Hindi. He will be sent to a ‘home’ while the police try to find out more about the man.    

Calcutta, April 11 
City lawyers, upset with Ram Jethmalani’s disparaging remarks on Calcutta High Court, have decided to move a resolution condemning the Union law minister’s attack.

As reported in The Telegraph on Monday, Jethmalani has written to the chief justice, stressing that the average rate of disposal of cases by the high court was below the national average, and so it should concentrate on improving the disposal rate rather than appointing more judges.

Describing Jethmalani’s remark as “insulting, with a motive to tarnish the image of the century-old court”, High Court Bar Association secretary Arunava Ghosh said the “Bar Library club has decided to convene a meeting to discuss the issue”.

Sujit Mitra, high court lawyer, said the Union minister should be prosecuted for his “bogus comments”. The former secretary of the Bar Association, Uttam Majumder, said: “For over a decade, high court lawyers have been demanding appointment of judges to the vacant posts. We will step up our movement to counter the Union minister’s claim.”    

Calcutta, April 11 
Calcutta and its adjoining areas experienced widespread power cuts for the second consecutive evening on Tuesday after the giant 250-mw second unit of CESC’s Budge Budge plant collapsed following an “earth fault”. The shortfall in the CESC-served areas shot up to 274 mw around 7 pm.    

Calcutta, April 11 
Playgrounds in the city will soon be better kept, with the state government deciding to fund their upgradation and maintenance.

The state municipal affairs department will ask the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) to submit proposals for developing playgrounds. Municipal affairs minister Ashok Bhattacharya said on Tuesday he would draw up a panel of experts, including India cricket captain Sourav Ganguly, who would appraise the proposals. It will be taken up under the Megacity scheme.

The minister said the civic body can acquire land or identify government land that can be used as a playground. “Special attention will be paid to the grounds that educational institutions possess,” the minister said.

The state government will provide Rs 4 crore to the CMC . The civic body will be asked to earmark funds under its own budget for the same purpose. The minister, besides roping in Sourav Ganguly, has also spoken to football coach P.K. Banerjee, cricketer Sambaran Banerjee and former Davis Cupper Jaideep Mukherjea to be included in the appraisal panel.

“We will bear the cost of improving the grounds and even upgrade basketball, volleyball, tennis and badminton courts. But we will not allow the CMC to build galleries there,” the minister pointed out.

Bhattacharya said the CMC would be asked not to take into account grounds occupied by clubs. Club grounds could only be taken up as special cases.

“The CMC will have full control of the grounds that are developed under this scheme,” he said.

The minister said a government order would be issued to the CMC and the municipalities in the Calcutta Megacity area. The area stretches from Bansberia to Baranagar.

Railway-CMDA projects: The Calcutta Metropolitian Development Authority (CMDA) will construct an underpass at Dum Dum station and widen Dum Dum Road to ease traffic congestion there, Bhattacharya said.

He held a meeting with the general manager of Eastern Railway, S. Ramanathan, at Writers’ Buildings and discussed some projects involving the railways. “I have urged the GM to ensure beautification of the circular railway stations,” he said. Talks were on with the Calcutta Port Trust (CPT) to develop the flower market near the Howrah Bridge approach.    

Calcutta, April 11 
A group of social workers has taken on a unique mission: offering any one with a cardiac problem guidance and even funds, for treatment. That, in short, is what over a hundred people from different city and district organisations geared up to do after they met leading cardiologists and cardiac surgeons. And from what these specialists said, ailments of the heart are likely to increase.

The unique movement is being spearheaded by Goodwill Mission, a welfare organisation dedicated to the well-being of heart patients. Its chief trustee, Ashish Dutta Chowdhury, said the need was evident.

“Hundreds of patients and their families are at a loss when suddenly diagnosed with heart disease. There are many people who do not even know they have a problem,” he said.

“We explained to the 122 participants their role in helping people with heart complaints.” The workshop on Sunday was the first such exercise of its kind in eastern India. “Representatives of various NGOs in the city and district capitals of Cooch Behar, Purulia, Bankura, Midnapur and Burdwan attended,” Dutta Chowdhury said.

In a scenario where government hospitals either have their hands full with patients or, conversely, are not equipped to deal with cardiac problems, the social workers were told that their role was multifarious. They would

Counsel patients and kin: On many occasions, people do not know what sort of a doctor to consult or which hospital to go to, once they are diagnosed with one or more forms of heart problems. The NGOs will guide patients to the right place or doctor;

Build awareness: Counselling in the form of solace or appropriate pre- and post-operation advice to the family members and the patient, especially in the case of a major surgery. For many specialist doctors, this is very helpful and complements their work;

Funding: Patients from low-income groups are often burdened by the cost of cardiac surgery, which, in some cases, has to be carried out as soon as possible.

The NGOs will guide the patient’s relatives to places where funding is available. “Up to Rs 50,000 is usually always available for deserving cases,” Dutta Chowdhury said.

Diagnostic camps: The NGOs will organise regular camps for any abnormality. “This is essential, as many persons are often unaware that they have a problem,” pointed out Kunal Sarkar, consultant cardio-thoracic surgeon.

Several questions were taken up, starting from symptoms of a heart attack and carrying of a patient to dealing with hypertension and rheumatic heart disease.    

Calcutta, April 11 
The Jadavpur University Teachers’ Association (JUTA) on Tuesday sought the state higher education minister’s intervention to break the impasse arising out of the work-to-rule by the university’s teachers.

From March 6, JUTA members have boycotted all examination duty, like standing guard at the halls and setting question papers.

Except for routine discourses and holding class tests, the teachers have stayed away from other administrative duties too.

The teachers kicked off the movement protesting the state government’s feet-dragging over implementation of the financial benefits to university teachers accorded by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the Centre last year.

The agitation has created great inconvenience to a few hundred final-year students of post-graduate and under- graduate courses, especially in the engineering faculty. Their final exams are likely to be deferred following the agitation.

According to JUTA general secretary Tarun Naskar, there was ample time for the government to review the teachers’ problems, since the movement began on March 6.

“We feel sorry for the students, but are helpless. We are ready to withdraw the agitation as soon as the state government takes a positive step,” said Naskar.

What has angered the teachers most is non-payment of arrears, despite the Centre releasing Rs 103 crore to the state government.

The state needed Rs 163 crore to clear the dues of the teachers, according to the revised pay scales.

“The non-payment of dues at this stage is a bad omen for us because the Centre will not release the remaining Rs 60 crore if the state can’t come up with proof of its spending by the end of this month,” said Naskar.    

Agartala, April 11 
Militants killed three non-tribals and injured two in Tripura today, while ethnic clashes between tribals and non-tribals in Sadar (East) subdivision rendered over 5,000 people homeless.

Police sources said some non-tribals from Ghagracherra village under Manu police station in North Tripura were walking to a neighbouring village today when a group of militants opened fire. Three villagers — Kalachand Biswas, Mukesh Sarkar and Swapna Sarkar —were killed on the spot. Two other non-tribals, Pushpa Rani Sarkar and Haridhan Sarkar, were injured in the attack, which took place at 10.30 am.

In another incident, police recovered the body of an unidentified youth from remote Kauabon village under Jirania police station yesterday. Two other persons were killed in mob attacks in the Jirania area yesterday. The Ramkrishna Mission in Chakbasta village was also set ablaze by a tribal mob.

With the situation in the area worsening, over 5,000 tribals and non-tribals have fled their homes and taken shelter in seven camps, including the Tripura Engineering College.

The situation in these relief camps is also tense, with tribals accusing the state administration of helping “Bengali rioters” and the non-tribals charging the tribal community with helping the National Liberation Front of Tripura. Official sources here said displaced tribal families were being paid compensation at the rate of Rs 100 each per day, while non-tribal families were getting Rs 90 each per day.

West Tripura district magistrate Manoj Kumar, who visited the relief camps today, was gheraoed by tribal women at the Madhabbari School. They allowed the official to leave only after being assured that 14 people belonging to either community had already been arrested in connection with the clashes in Jirania.

Inspector-general of police (law and order) K. Salim Ali and Assam Rifles deputy inspector-general, Brig. B.K. Panwar, also visited Chakbasta and other riot-torn areas today. Sources said violence had also spread to Mandai Colony, North Mohanpur and Harijay Chowdhurypara.

The ethnic clashes were sparked by a bomb attack on tribal students by United Bengali Liberation Front militants at Chakbasta yesterday.    

Guwahati, April 11 
The next round of talks — the first since the declaration of ceasefire on March 15 — between the Centre and the Bodo Liberation Tigers will take place in New Delhi on April 28 and 29, leaders of the militant outfit said here today.

BLT chairman and commander-in-chief Hagrama Basumatary will take part in the talks for the first time in the next round. The outfit has demanded that Union home minister L.K. Advani be present for discussions.

Six rounds of negotiations had been held to prepare the ground for formal talks, BLT publicity secretary Mainao Daimary said here today. On March 15, the Union home ministry had announced that the Centre had decided to initiate a dialogue with the BLT in view of the outfit “unilaterally suspending its operations against security forces and abjuring the path of violence”.

However, Daimary said the outfit had imposed three preconditions to start dialogue — that the ban on the BLT should be lifted, operations against the outfit should stop and all arrested and detained cadre be released.

Agreeing to the first two pre-conditions, the Centre did not extend the ban on the outfit after it expired last year and agreed to the ceasefire. However, it said the arrested or detained cadre will have to go through the judicial process.

A joint monitoring group headed by the joint secretary (Northeast) in the Union home ministry, G.K. Pillai, will check whether the ground rules of the ceasefire agreement were being adhered to, Daimary said.

The joint monitoring group will have two representatives each from the Centre, BLT and the Assam government and one each from the Army and paramilitary forces.

If the Centre is sincere about restoration of permanent peace in Assam, it should also involve the Ulfa and the National Democratic Front of Boroland in the peace process, said BLT vice-chairman Kamal Mushahary.

However, the BLT leaders said they were not concerned whether other overground Bodo groups are involved in the ongoing talks to solve the Bodoland imbroglio. The BLT, like the All-Bodo Students Union and the Bodoland State Movement Council, is demanding the creation of a separate state for the tribe on the north bank of the Brahmaputra.

“We will have no objection if they participate in the process,” said Daimary. “However, only time will tell if there is any need for unification of all the groups,” he added.

On the BLT’s tie-up with the NDFB last year, Daimary said it was “an agreement to stop fratricidal killings”.    


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