Shot dead for drug crusade
Jadavpur students in retaliatory strike
Model of development in duress
Don versus Domino’s in pizza toss-up
Incinerator for remains of dead
Port ring busted in Bihar
Midway into Rail Week, Metro trips
Police crack fake stamp racket, 2 held
Tripura rebels kill tribal CPM activist
Chamling rallies Opp. to block income tax

 
 
SHOT DEAD FOR DRUG CRUSADE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 12 
A 26-year-old youth was shot dead at Dakshindari, on the northern fringes of the city, on Wednesday morning, apparently because he protested a drug-peddling racket in the area.

Residents of No. 26 rail gate in the area said the youth, Dilip Gour, was sleeping in his residence when on Wednesday morning, some men broke in and shot him from point-blank range. They alleged that Sona, Pundit and three others were involved in the murder.

Sona and Pundit broke the door of Dilip’s house. Dilip woke up immediately, and he was asked to disclose the whereabouts of two men, Byomkesh and Bhagat. When Dilip refused to oblige, two bullets were pumped into him. He succumbed to his injuries immediately.

The area witnessed a similar incident in 1993, when a social worker, Dilip Mondal, was murdered for similar reasons.

News of the killing spread like wildfire and local people blocked roads and held demonstrations, led by local councillor Sujit Bose, demanding the arrest of the culprits. Circular Railway services remained suspended for three hours.

The agitation was withdrawn following the assurance of the sub-divisional police officer (SDDO) that the assailants would be arrested.

Bose said police failed to control crime, drug-peddling and the sale of country liquor in the area. As a result, four killings took place there during the past two months. He said Gour was murdered for protesting the racket.

Lake Town police said the victim had no criminal record but he used to protest the illegal activities in the area.

His brother runs a country liquor racket in the area, they added.

Police added that Dilip had joined hands with the local dissident CPM councillor Sujit Bose. However, they stressed that the murder had nothing to do with his political background. The alleged murderers named in the FIR — Sona and Pundit — are known anti-socials who enjoy the support of local CPM leaders. According to police records, Sona and his henchmen run a drug and country liquor racket in the Lake Town and Dakshindari areas.

Senior officers of North 24-Parganas held a series of meetings during the day, planning a crackdown on the sale of country liquor and drugs.    


 
 
JADAVPUR STUDENTS IN RETALIATORY STRIKE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 12 
The impasse on account of the teachers’ work-to-rule at Jadavpur University (JU) took a new turn on Wednesday with students announcing that they would soon begin an agitation themselves to pressure the authorities to resolve the stalemate.

Accusing the university authorities of trying to instigate a confrontation with the agitating teachers, the students said the government owed them an explanation on the situation.

The students of science and engineering faculties called an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss how to pressure the authorities.

An impasse has been prevailing at the university since March 6 after a large section of university teachers began an indefinite work-to-rule in support of their financial demands.

If the movement continues till next week, it is likely to jeopardise the careers of a large number of students, particularly those in the final year, as the agitating teachers are boycotting invigilation, setting question papers, examining answer scripts and all other examination duties as part of their movement.

All the major under-graduate and post-graduate examinations of the university are scheduled to begin from April 29. Since most teachers are participating in the movement, question papers for the exams have not been set as yet.

Because of the movement, students’ union elections of the engineering faculty, scheduled to be held on Wednesday, had to be deferred. The science faculty election, which was to be held at the end of last month, too had been put off indefinitely because of the movement.

A.N. Basu, vice-chancellor, said measures were being taken to conduct the exams smoothly.    


 
 
MODEL OF DEVELOPMENT IN DURESS 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, April 12 
Lack of work culture, political interference, corruption, a large redundant work force. These are attributes that would normally relegate a city to the trash cans of any international development agency.

But it is precisely because of these that Calcutta has been chosen as a model case study on “development in difficult circumstances” at the annual general meeting of the ADB at Chiang Mai, in Thailand, early in May.

“The aim of the entire exercise is to focus on how, despite all such drawbacks, the city has managed to push ahead with its development programmes,” said Deb Kumar Sinha, director-general, projects, of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), one of the biggest beneficiaries of the ADB’s funding project. “Calcutta, incidentally, is the first Indian city to feature as a case study in such a forum.”

CMC sources said the ADB will mainly explore how development projects were pushed through despite political differences; a large workforce with a fixed “no change” mindset; and militant trade unionism.

“The idea behind the project is that despite tremendous drawbacks, progress is still possible,” said CMC commissioner Asim Burman. “Calcutta has been chosen over other Indian cities, where more development has taken place, because we have had to combat greater odds to get on with the job of infrastructure building. This is why Calcutta is being projected as the role model for international funding agencies.”

A draft case study lists five projects which have been completed successfully and details the hurdles that have had to be crossed in the process. They are:

Supplying filtered water to different parts of the city: A highly-politicised commodity, water would be distributed according to the politicians’ needs. The CMC reorganised the distribution system, bringing experts in and shutting politicians out. The result was a broader and better distribution of filtered water.

Creating road infrastructure: The entire business of constructing and repairing roads has been controlled by corrupt engineers, local politicians and contractors. Two years back, the CMC took over the task of road repairs. Now, “commissions” are less and the condition of the roads are better than what they used to be.

Clearing and laying of drainage and sewage lines: Left to a group of corrupt engineers and contractors, false billing was the order of the day. This has been largely eliminated, with computer checks.

Solid waste management: Till the CMC began to address the issue two years ago, the mafia, politicians and contractors fought for control of solid waste management. The CMC cut down on losses and assumed control by introducing computers, modern disposal methods and by marginalising the trade unions.

Widening the tax base: The CMC’s earnings from property tax were meagre, thanks to vested interests which would under-value a property for a ‘fee’. Introduction of computers, quality manpower and tough measures have helped the CMC raise its earnings from the tax.    


 
 
DON VERSUS DOMINO’S IN PIZZA TOSS-UP 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, April 12 
With global leaders Domino’s biting their teeth into the toppings, the battle for Calcutta’s nascent pizza market is piping hot. It’s a US versus Italy showdown. Domino’s Pizza, the renowned chain so popular in the US and having a presence in 63 countries, has set up its 50th Indian outlet here to give Don Giovanni, the sole player in the city all this while baking “authentic Italian” pizza, a run for its money.

“We are really bullish about Calcutta. Hence, the move to set up our fourth commissary here,” said Pavan Bhatia, CEO, Domino’s Pizza India Ltd, on Wednesday. The “passion” for the east may partly stem from the fact that the Bhartias, owning 75 per cent stake in Domino’s India, earned their first rupee in this town.

‘Nobody delivers better’ claims Domino’s Pizza, already the second-largest retail chain in the country after Bata. It’s trump card: a unique 30-minute delivery promise. If a pizza doesn’t reach within 30 minutes of the order being placed, the customer will have to pay Rs 30 less. “Unlike the other big players, we are not a restaurant, but just a retail delivery company. So we don’t need big overheads and also needn’t restrict our business to the number of chairs in the shop,” explained Bhatia.

The chain, which has captured 80 per cent of the pizza market share in Delhi, is looking to sell around 1,000 pizzas a day from its Calcutta outlets and has effected a flat price reduction of 40 per cent on its fare over the last weekend.

City rival Don Giovanni, however, is not wilting under the Domino’s effect. “We welcome competition, as it will only increase the size of the pizza market,” Rikki Dewan, proprietor of Don Giovanni which has five outlets in the city, told The Telegraph.

Dewan is confident that with Domino’s entering the fray, business will get a “big boost” and he is even hoping to double his own sales volume by cashing in on a pizza craze.

Asked if he looks at the price cut by Domino’s as a threat, the Giovanni chief countered: “But our pricing is more competitive, anyway.

Domino’s, which promises to feed two mouths for just Rs 49 (the price of its eight-inch pizza), is confident of capturing a large slice of the office lunch segment through its corporate ‘combo’ menu designed exclusively for Calcutta.

“We will launch special flavours, keeping in mind the Calcuttan’s taste buds, like shrimp and fish toppings, adding new fare as we move along,” maintained Bhatia.

“We already have shrimps, tuna and bacon, besides tandoori chicken and tandoori paneer pizza to combat their Peppy Paneer,” counters Dewan, “and our mini-meals for the office crowd can easily hold their own against Domino’s’ combo menu.”

The Giovanni boss is also pretty sure his “authentic cheese-oriented Italian fare” has a loyal clientele which the American flavour will not be able to eat into. “I would like to wait and watch how things go. But I’m sure we can coexist.”

Domino’s won’t be resting on its dough, though. The chain has already entered into strategic alliances with MTNL (for orders on phone), Grey for expertise in impulse food and CB Richard Ellis for market review, location feasibility, site selection, acquisition and project management. “We are also talking to IT firms for national connectivity,” said Bhatia.

The pizza war has come to town. Brace for the big bite!    


 
 
INCINERATOR FOR REMAINS OF DEAD 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 12 
The civic authorities have decided to instal a centrally-located incinerator — possibly at the Dhapa dumping ground — where belongings of corpses, collected from different city crematoria, will be burnt to stop the booming trade in recycling of these items.

Municipal commissioner Asim Barman said on Wednesday, that the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) will invest Rs 25 lakh in the incinerator.

“If we don’t do something about it now, we will pay a heavy price later,” warned Barman, adding that a large number of people have written to the civic authorities, bringing to their notice the booming, unwelcome trade.

The size of this illegal business is estimated at Rs 20 crore. According to the rules, it is the CMC’s responsibility to destroy the belongings of the deceased —- clothes, biers, mattresses, quilts and pillows.

“What can we do? We simply lack the infrastructure to dispose of these items,” said mayor Prasanta Chatterjee.

Consequently, the likes of Swapan, Sridhar, Pancha, Bhola and Bhagat, with the help of doms at various crematoria, have been minting money at the expense of the dead.

They carry out their flourishing business in the burning ghats of Nimtola, Kashi Mitra Ghat, Keoratola, Siriti, Sahanagar, Garden Reach and Ratan Babu’s Ghat, the seven major crematoria in the city.

A CMC official said about 2,000 bodies are burnt daily at the burning ghats of the city and its adjacent areas.

A civic health official added that the rule is to strip a body of all clothing, but a thin sheet or sari, before it is consigned to the flames.

According to the CMC Act, it is the duty of the civic health department to destroy, by incinerating or by other means, the belongings of a corpse. But, the rules are never followed.

The doms claim the belongings and pass them on to the racketeers. Each item — the pillow, the blanket, the bedsheet, the mattress, the sari and the dhoti — has a separate price tag.

The bier is immediately sold off for Rs 20 to an agent of one of the burning ghat ganglords. Within a few hours, the same bier is resold for Rs 150. Thus, a single bier is recycled several times during the day.

There is also a market for the cotton wool in the mattresses and pillows. The cotton wool is extracted and reused for making new pillows, mattresses and quilts.

The clothes of the dead are washed, ironed and resold. There is one such ‘clothes’ market on Chittaranjan Avenue between Liberty and Prabhat cinema halls, which is quite popular with the locals.

Police station gherao: Suppporters of the Trinamul Congress Chhatra Parishad gheraoed Cossipore police station till late on Wednesday night after their supporters at Rabindra Bharati University were injured in a clash over the university election.

Parishad president Sonali Guha alleged that their supporters, including some women, were attacked by CPM cadre. Three of them had to be admitted to RG Kar Medical College and Hospital with serious injury. They demandeded arrest of those who were involved in the attack.    


 
 
PORT RING BUSTED IN BIHAR 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 12 
A gang operating in the city’s port area, but with its roots in Bihar, has been busted.

Police officials from Calcutta crossed the Bengal-Bihar border near Asansol and tracked down four persons accused of stealing a truck carrying a consignment worth Rs 12 lakh from Calcutta port to Nepal.

Claiming credit for busting the inter-state gang, the deputy commissioner of police, port, Zulfikar Hasan, said officers of the special cell in the port division raided three villages in Bihar to arrest the gang leaders. The truck was impounded and part of the consignment, worth about Rs 10 lakh, was recovered.

According to Hasan, the gang would carry out their operations in the city and then head straight for hideouts in Raxaual and Biharsharif.

Police sources said a consignment of 72 washing machines had arrived at Calcutta port from South Korea. The consignment was meant for Hemant Trade Centre of Viratnagar, in Nepal.

The consignment was loaded on to a truck hired from a city transport operator. The vehicle left for Nepal on March 10.

A week later, when neither the consignment nor the vehicle reached its destination in Nepal, the worried owners began to make enquiries with their agents in Calcutta and the transport operator. With no trace of the transported material, they registered a complaint with the port police towards the end of March.

Preliminary investigations revealed that the truck was waylaid somewhere near Asansol. A police team was sent to Asansol to check out some leads and speak to a few informers. During the course of investigation, police tracked down two suspects in Asansol.

Intially, the arrested persons denied their involvement in the crime but broke down after police interrogation. They informed officials that their partners in crime were hiding with the consignment and the truck in Bihar.

Officers then promptly crossed over into Bihar and headed for the neighbouring Biharsharif district.

Three villages under the Lahiri and Biharsharif police station areas were surrounded.

As word about the police presence spread, the robbers were alerted. Before the officers could swoop down on the house where the miscreants were holed up, two of them managed to escape. But the police rounded up the others, recovered the truck with a portion of the consignment.

Hasan later identified the arrested men as Md Raju, Zuber, Deepak and Rajendra Singh.    


 
 
MIDWAY INTO RAIL WEEK, METRO TRIPS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 12 
Metro Railway was beset with problems in the middle of Railway Week on Wednesday, as services were disrupted twice in the morning and escalators broke down at some stations.

At about 8.55 am, passengers panicked on a Down train that entered Esplanade station because the doors would not open.

Those trapped inside the coaches banged on the doors to attract the attention of people on the platform.

Metro Rail employees rushed about, and some inspected the doors to find the snag.

The train remained at the station with the passengers locked inside for about five minutes. The doors were subsequently opened by Metro Rail staff at the station.

The rake was cancelled and taken to the carshed for inspection, causing inconvenience to hundreds of office-goers, students and other commuters on the train.

As a result, two subsequent Down trains plying on the same track were delayed, adding to the woes of passengers.

Services were disrupted again around 10.35 am, when the driver of a Tollygunge-bound train noticed sparks on the tracks near Mahatma Gandhi Road station.

The services were kept suspended again for 10 minutes till the fault was detected and repaired.

In the morning, the escalator at Chandni Chowk station was inoperative. A few days ago, the escalator at Dum Dum went out of order.

The Metro Railway authorities, however, maintained that maintenance of coaches and escalators had improved.

The chief signal and telecommunication engineer of Metro Railway, Subir Basu, said that more coaches were now being overhauled per month and additional safety devices were installed in the escalators to prevent malfunctioning.

At present, all escalators have a device installed in them which prevents them from moving suddenly in a reverse direction. This has happened on occasion at Chandni Chowk station.    


 
 
POLICE CRACK FAKE STAMP RACKET, 2 HELD 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 12 
Two employees of the GPO were arrested on Tuesday in connection with a fake postal stamp supply racket involving several lakhs of rupees.

The deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Narayan Ghosh, said the two employees were arrested from their residences in Sonarpur and Joynagar, in South 24-Parganas.

“Fake stamps worth Rs 10,000 were seized from them. The stamps are of Rs-50 and Rs-100 denomination,” the detective chief said, adding that they had earned several lakhs by selling the fake stamps from GPO counters.

The postal department got wind of the racket after a businessman lodged a complaint with the director of the GPO in February. Pawan Sharma had gone to Burrabazar post office to despatch a parcel. The post office staff saw that the stamps pasted on the parcel were not genuine and told Sharma that the parcel could not be forwarded.

Even though Sharma maintained that he had bought the stamps from the GPO, the post office didn’t oblige. Sharma then met the GPO director and lodged a complaint with him.

The director initiated an independent probe and discovered that the fake stamps were kept in office drawers of the two GPO employees. The detective department was informed and a case registered in this connection.

Police raided the residences of the corrupt duo, but they were absconding. A second round of raids, carried out on a tip-off on Tuesday, resulted in their arrest.

The employees confessed they were running the racket for the past few years, selling fake stamps of Rs 50 and Rs 100 denominations from the GPO.

Preliminary investigations point towards links in Patna and a team of detectives is leaving for Bihar to trace the gang leaders.

The sleuths have asked the GPO authorities to keep a close check on the other counters, in case the racket operates elsewhere.    


 
 
TRIPURA REBELS KILL TRIBAL CPM ACTIVIST 
 
 
FROM SEKHAR DATTA
 
Agartala, April 12 
A tribal CPM worker was killed and another beaten up while two others including a tribal civilian were abducted as NLFT rebels continued their offensive over the past 24 hours.

Police sources said a group of NLFT rebels raided Subalya Chakma’s house at Debacherra village under Chhawmanu police station in Dhalai district yesterday. They beat up Ratan Chakma, a close relative of the CPM worker and hacked Subalya Chakma to death. Before leaving, the NLFT militants threatened the rest of the family with dire consequences if they informed the police.

The rebels also ordered the local youth to burn Subalya Chakma’s body.

The injured Ratan Chakma, who did not get himself admitted to a hospital fearing militant reprisal, is being treated by a quack at home. CPM sources said slain Subalya Chakma was a member of party’s local committee in Debacherra and secretary of Gana Mukti Parishad, tribal CPM front in Chhawmanu. Sources said the NLFT has been systematically trying to eliminate CPM leaders and workers in the interior areas of the state.

Citing instances, sources said Kanai Debbarma, a leader of the Tribal Youth Federation, was severely beaten up by a group of NLFT militants led by Arun Debbarma yesterday for taking part in the party’s programme at Dhariatal under Bishalgarh subdivision. He has been admitted to the Bishalgarh hospital.

Two persons were abducted by militants from different parts of the state over past 24 hours. Police sources said Niranjan Sarkar was abducted by NLFT rebels from Ghagracherra yesterday. In another incident, a group of NLFT rebels abducted a tribal civilian Drabirmohan Tripura from Lalkhola village under Taidu police station in South Tripura.

Sources said Drabirmohan, a collaborator of the NLFT, had differences of opinion with the outfit over payment of “tax” which he had collected on its behalf.

The Tripura Board of Secondary Education has postponed the ongoing Madhyamik examinations in seven schools under Jirania police station area which has been rocked by clashes and arson for the past three days.

The riots have left one tribal dead and more than 10,000 people homeless. More than 14 temporary relief camps have been set up at several places, including the seven schools where examination have been cancelled. Official sources here said today, sporadic arsoning have been reported from Chakbasta, Daspara, Bidyachandrapara and Harijay Chowdhurypara villages.    


 
 
CHAMLING RALLIES OPP. TO BLOCK INCOME TAX 
 
 
FROM KESHAV PRADHAN
 
Siliguri, April 12 
As part of its campaign to retain Sikkim’s distinct identity, the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) government will oppose replacement of old laws framed during the Chogyal’s regime by Indian laws.

In last week’s budget session, chief minister Pawan Kumar Chamling resolved to stop extension of central income tax to the erstwhile Himalayan kingdom which was merged into the Indian Union 25 years ago.

He also sought co-operation of the Opposition Sikkim Sangram Parishad, which readily supported the move. Six years ago, SSP chief Nar Bahadur Bhandari, now leader of the Opposition, was thrown out of power after he failed to resist the Centre’s decision to impose central income tax on non-tribals.

In Sikkim, income tax is paid according to a manual introduced by its former rulers way back in 1948. A case filed by the Bhandari government against the imposition of central income tax is still pending in the Supreme Court.

Speaking to The Telegraph on the SDF government’s stand on the income tax question, political adviser to the chief minister B.B. Gurung said, “We will oppose tooth and nail any attempt to extend direct taxes to our state. We feel that such an extension will go against the spirit of Article 371 [F] of the Constitution which gives Sikkim a special status in the Union.”

Gurung, who was chief minister for two weeks in 1984, alleged that the Centre had partly imposed direct income tax in 1994 because Bhandari had agreed to this. Since SDF is part of the ruling National Democratic Alliance at the centre, Gurung is optimistic that his party’s government can explain to the Vajpayee government about the possible repercussions of direct taxes in the state.

In the early Nineties, Sikkim had strongly opposed introduction of sales tax.

Later it accepted it after a committee of finance ministers headed by West Bengal finance minister Asim Dasgupta made some changes which it found acceptable.

The SDF will continue to fight for restoration of reserved Assembly seats for Nepalis and Limboos.

Last week, leaders of the Organisation of Sikkimese Unity, an organisation of the state’s three major ethnic groups — Bhutias, Lepchas and Nepalis — submitted a memorandum to Sikkim governor Chaudhury Randhir Singh seeking restoration of reserved seats for Nepalis and Lepchas which were abrogated by the Morarji Desai government in 1979.

The system of reservation of seats for Bhutias, Lepchas, Nepalis, Limboos and Scheduled Castes was introduced by the former rulers much before Sikkim became a part of India.    

 

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