2 slain as gang war stalks streets
Mamata green signal for new rail projects
Chase for exam cure from pox
Shutdown threat hangs over Waldorf
Police stations to be linked by computer
Heart care unit to make surgery affordable
Mange left jail 17 times
Minister’s killer gunned down
Arson mars Tripura district council polls
Arrested Khasi leaders shifted

Calcutta, April 30 
Gang wars struck terror in Behala since early on Sunday morning as local crimelords clashed openly in the marketplace, leaving two dead and an entire neighbourhood panic-stricken.

Early on Sunday, residents of B.L. Shah Road were horror-struck when a taxi pulled up near the Siriti crematorium and dumped a sack on the road with the dismembered limbs of a man sticking out of it.

A few morning walkers immediately informed the police about the incident. Word spread in the area that Behala’s underworld dons, quiet for the last few months, had got into their act once again.

“He was hit all over the body with a blunt object before his limbs were cut off,” said the officer-in-charge of Behala police station, Subir Chatterjee, who had examined the body after it was taken out of the sack. “It was a very painful death. It is obvious that a very harsh message was being sent across.”

Police said initial investigations had revealed that the man who had been killed belonged to Mahesh Sharma’s gang, which controls the extortion and narcotics trade in that area.

He had apparently been killed by the rival Shahazada gang, which has been trying to make inroads into this “territory” for some time.

The police’s suspicions were confirmed when a few hours later, five members of Mahesh’s gang, armed with swords, iron rods and revolvers, descended on Siriti market and ferretted out Guddu, a young man known to be close to Shahzada.

As soon as Guddu saw members of the rival gang approaching him, he ran for his life. Dodging cars and rickshaws, Guddu first dashed down Pashupati Bhattacharya Road, then ran along B.L. Saha Road and finally made a lunge towards Tollygunge.

All the while, the five members of Mahesh’s gang were in hot pursuit, with local residents watching helplessly.

Some terrified shopkeepers even downed their shutters, fearing further trouble.

Guddu’s luck finally ran out near the Siriti Jewels Club, when the rival gang caught up with him. The first blow on the back of his head came from an iron rod wielded by Kochi.

Then, as he was falling, the others came down on him.

He was repeatedly hit with iron rods, pierced with swords and kicked and punched. Guddu writhed in pain for a few minutes and then his body became lifeless.

Just to ensure that he was dead, he was shot through his head at point-blank range before the Mahesh gang members calmly walked away.

Stunned residents who had witnessed the gory killing rushed indoors even as the body lay in a pool of blood for the next half an hour before the police arrived.

Though the police superintendent of South 24-Parganas, A.K. Maliwal, rushed in with a large police contingent, tension continued in the area throughout the day, with an impromptu bandh being declared in Behala.

“The bad days are back again,” said Joyprakash Ghosh, a local resident who witnesses the killing. “There is bound to be more retaliatory killings after this, especially now with the civic elections approaching.”

Police said the last few months had been relatively peaceful, as Mahesh and Sahazada had been negotiating to mark out their respective zones of operations.

While Mahesh has the backing of the local CPM, Shahazada has been negotiating with the Trinamul for patronage.

“Obviously, Sunday’s events have proved that no agreement has been reached,” said a police officer. “We can expect more trouble in the coming months.”

The deputy superintendent of police (town), Subhankar Chatterjee, said that the Siriti crematorium is a “gold mine” for the local underworld and this is one of the main reasons for friction between the rival gangs.

Through the day, the police carried out raids in different parts of Behala, Haridevpur and Karunamoyee but could not trace any of the assailants of the Mahesh gang, even though four of them have been identified as Hori, Pocha, Bolku and Kochi.    

Calcutta, April 30 
Union railway minister Mamata Banerjee chose two functions on Sunday to unveil several plans for the city and its surroundings.

After flagging off the Sealdah-Howrah shuttle train and then laying the foundation stone for the extension of the Circular Rail from Prinsep Ghat to Majerhat, Mamata announced some “extensions” on the periphery of the city and the setting up of commercial complexes on railway land at Ballygunge and Behala.

The Trinamul Congress leader will lay the foundation stone for the introduction of a railway service between Dum Dum Cantonment and the city airport on Monday.

Mamata announced that a new circular line will be laid to connect Titagarh, in the northern suburbs of the city, to Sonarpur, on the southern fringes.

Also, commercial complexes will be constructed at Diamond Harbour, Behala and Ballygunge. An on-line service will be introduced to provide computerised information on trains.

She reiterated that a monitoring cell would oversee the work on all ongoing projects to ensure that they are completed on schedule.

“I have instructed the general managers to ensure that the projects are completed on time and, if possible, in advance. The monitoring committee will take necessary steps to expedite the projects,’’ Mamata said.

State transport minister Subhas Chakraborty and former state Congress chief and MLA Somen Mitra attended the function at Sealdah. Both lauded the “initiative taken by Mamata for the state”.“None of the earlier railway ministers have shown such development activities like Mamata,” said Chakraborty. “She has created a momentum that was lacking in the railways. I appreciate her efforts because she really feels for the state,’’ he added.

Initially, two pairs of trains will run between Sealdah and Howrah. Later, the frequency of the service will be increased. It will take 65 minutes to travel 32 km from Howrah to Sealdah.

The Rs 82-crore Circular Railway extension project from Prinsep Ghat to Majerhat includes laying of new tracks, construction of bridges and electrification. The project, to be implemented by Metro Railway, is scheduled for completion by March 2003.

According to the rail minister, the extended Circular Rail will benefit a large number of people because it will link Dum Dum with the Budge Budge section.

“I don’t want any excuses for slow progress of work. I have given sufficient funds for all the projects for which I have laid foundation stones. So, work hard and complete the projects on time,’’ was Mamata’s message to the general managers of Eastern, South Eastern and Metro Railways on Sunday.    

Calcutta, April 30 
Alarmed at the large number of students missing their annual exams every year because of an attack of chicken pox, heads of various schools in the city have approached different boards to reschedule the exam period so that it does not coincide with the season when the incidence of the disease is particularly high.

Usually, annual examinations or class promotion tests in city schools are held between the middle of February and March. During that period, a large number of schoolchildren are unable to write them because they are down with chicken pox.

The heads of all the ICSE schools in Calcutta had recently approached the Delhi-based Indian Council of School Education authorities to allow annual exams to be held in December. Many organisations of teachers of Madhyamik schools, too, have appealed to the state government to hold annual examinations in December instead of March .

However, according to D’Costa Hart, West Bengal MLA representing the Anglo-Indian community and principal of Welland Gouldsmith School, the council has taken no decision yet.

Even this year, ICSE examinees from various schools suffered from chicken pox during the exams, and special arrangements were made for them to take the tests.

In South Point School alone, more than 500 of the 5,500 students were down with the disease every year on an average, sources at the school said. In 1999, so high was the number of victims in this school that supplementary annual exams had to be organised for those who had missed the tests because of the disease.

“If a child has fever during the annual exam, we may grant his absence for a single paper and allow him to write the rest. But this cannot be allowed in the case of chicken pox, because it may infect other children too. We face the problem year after year,” said Jayati Solomon, vice-principal of South Point School, which is affiliated with the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education.

A senior teacher of Loreto Day School, Sealdah, said more than 35 children suffered from chicken pox every year during the annual exams.

Kajari Mukherjee, principal of another ICSE school in the Girish Park area, said on an average, two to three girls in each class fell victim to chicken pox during annual exams over the past few years.

However, the worst hit were the students of many Madhyamik schools, where class promotions mostly depended on a student’s performance in the annual tests.

R. Laskar, a leader of an association of Madhyamik schools, said: “We cannot make it a rule to hold supplementary exams every year because some students would then dupe us with false medical certificates.”

A K Chakraborty, president, of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, said apart from chicken pox, there were other reasons, too, for holding the Madhyamik exam some time in the first week of February every year. If the Madhyamik exams are held in advance, the annual exams, too, will have to be brought forward. Now, Madhyamik exams are held in March.    

Calcutta, April 30 
The city’s food buffs might not get to savour the Peking Duck at Waldorf after Tuesday. The landmark Chinese eatery could well join Sky Room in the pages of Park Street’s culinary history as promoters are stalking the prime prey.

Waldorf’s fate now hinges on a high court decision, to be passed by Justice Shyamal Sen and Justice D.P. Kundu. A suit filed by the landlords, who want to convert the premises into an office block, resulted in an eviction notice being served by high court judge Ronojit Mitra on April 20.

The Waldorf management appealed against the court directive and the appeal is pending before Justices Sen and Kundu.

If an interim stay is not granted or the appeal is not admitted by Tuesday, the doors will slam shut on the second-oldest Chinese restaurant in town after Nanking, closed and collapsing at Tiretta Bazar. In that event, more than 100 employees will be rendered jobless.

“I have told my people that they all stand to lose their jobs, should the court dismiss our appeal and uphold the eviction order,” said partner Charles Mantosh.

“The mood in the restaurant is extremely gloomy, as the employees are all panic-stricken,” added manager U.K. Ghosal.

Waldorf was founded by Weng Wong, a Chinese immigrant, in 1947. It has, over the years, hosted the likes of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Dr. B.C. Roy, governors A.L. Dias and Dharam Veer, S.S. Ray, Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand.

While most other food stops on Park Street became ‘watering holes’, Waldorf, with its stodgy ‘no-liquor’ policy and old-world ambience, continued to be a “family favourite” with connoisseurs of Chinese food.

The building housing the restaurant was originally owned by the Duttas of Hathkhola, who sold it for a ‘princely’ Rs 7 lakh in 1970. Urmila Devi Poddar now owns the building and her late husband had filed the eviction suit immediately after purchase. It has taken the high court 30 years to give a ruling on the case.

On the eve of May Day, Waldorf wore a woe-begone look. Nur Mohammed, area secretary (Park Street zone), Calcutta City Eating and Refreshment Establishment Workers’ Union, is among the 100-odd facing imminent unemployment. “I have been working here since Independence and I will request the chief minister to do something about the restaurant,” said the old man, a picture of despair rather than defiance.    

Calcutta, April 30 
Calcutta Police is going high-tech.

It has embarked on a massive computerisation drive, in association with the West Bengal Electronic Industries Development Corporation (Webel), to connect all 42 police stations through Intranet.

“Calcutta will be the first metro in the country to have an Intranet-based police network once all the 42 police stations are connected. The computerised network will help us maintain records of criminals as well as streamline control-room operations,” said additional police commissioner S.I.S. Ahmed.

This is part of an elaborate modernisation package drawn up by the city police to improve the law-and-order situation, which is drawing heavy fire from the Opposition Trinamul Congress.

Explaining the advantages of the Intranet, Ahmed said if a crime took place in a particular area of the city, all the thanas would be put on an alert within seconds. “This will not only facilitate investigation but also help us zoom in on criminals as quickly as the information,” he said.

Currently, the police are largely dependent on manual handling of records and on dated systems of communication. This not only slows down the process of investigation but also creates a communication gap.

Besides networking the police stations, moves are on to add several features to the rather lacklustre website of Calcutta Police.

Among the additions to the site being planned are lists of the “most wanted criminals”, missing persons and important cases solved by Calcutta Police.

“All this is certainly going to make our Internet site more interactive and user-friendly,” Ahmed said.

What’s more, citizens will also be able to lodge complaints or share relevant information with the police through the site.

The authorities are also exploring the possibility of receiving FIRs (first information reports) through the net.

“Now, we cannot register an FIR, which requires the signature of the complainant, through the Internet because it needs a change in the legal framework. But once the legal framework is in place, there will be no problem in accepting FIRs through the net,” said Ahmed.    

Calcutta, April 30 
Five years from now, Calcutta may well become the cardiac care capital of the country, with latest procedures being available at “reachable costs”. At the inauguration on Sunday of the Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences, the man at the helm, Devi Shetty, mentioned a number of features that the institute, billed as the largest in Asia, would have between now and 2005.

The institute starts off in May with 130 beds, two catheterisation laboratories, three operation theatres and a 30-bed ITU/ICCU. At the moment, 20 heart doctors, 12 of them from Manipal and Delhi, will be available at the outdoor department. Shetty himself will conduct operations two days a week.

The cardiac surgeon promised to do the highest number of heart operations in a single day (up to 20) at the 500-bed institute. “And half of these surgeries will be on children born with heart ailments, whose parents will pay 15 per cent less than what adults will be paying here.”

If the institute’s request to the state government for five more acres (adding to the existing five) comes through, there are plans to set up an under-graduate medical school at the institute in five year’s time.

Research will be “part and parcel of the Institute’s activities”, Shetty told The Telegraph. “The most important area would be a project on heart valve transplants. We are studying methods by which the cost of homographs (heart-valve transplants) can be brought down to between Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 from the existing Rs 50,000.”

Under the “package to suit every pocket” scheme, an open heart surgery that costs between Rs 1.5 lakh and 2.5 lakh would be available at Rs 75,000 onwards.

Chief minister Jyoti Basu, present at the inauguration, recalled Shetty’s reply when asked why he was leaving B.M. Birla, Calcutta. “I’ll come back in a bigger way,” he had said. “It seems he has fulfilled his promise,” Basu said.    

Calcutta, April 30 
Underworld don Manjit Singh, alias Mange, had been planning his escape for quite some time. A police probe revealed that he had visited SSKM Hospital several times in the past three months on the pretext of treatment. “He paid 17 visits from January 17 till his escape on April 26,” an officer said.

The police learnt this after cross-checking with Presidency Jail records, he added. The jail officials have failed to explain why Mange was not treated at the jail hospital.

Investigators have interrogated the ambulance driver, the two jail sweepers and the two constables who were guarding him on the day of his escape. They claimed that while one of the constables had gone to meet the doctor on reaching the hospital, his colleague went to look for him after some time, leaving the criminal unguarded. The sweepers said they had gone to the toilet. The driver, too, had disappeared. The police are exploring twin possibilities: that Mange may have been freed en route to the hospital, or that his escorts intentionally left him alone

Sources said the authority violated jail code by sending the two sweepers along. “Jail wardens are supposed to guard an accused when he is going out for treatment,” officials said. The city police are introducing a new escorting system.

Henceforth, the Lalbazar reserve force office, which provides escorts, will be informed about the antecedents of the criminal. The reserve force will categorise criminals on the basis of their notoriety.

Officials of Radio Flying Squad will also be deployed on escort duty. Movement of criminals who are now behind bars are being monitored. Their visitors will also be kept under vigil.    

Guwahati, April 30 
The Army today claimed to have gunned down an Ulfa militant involved in the assassination of Assam forest minister Nagen Sarma in February.

An Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) heavyweight and close associate of chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, Sarma was killed in an Ulfa-triggered blast on February 27. The explosion blew him and four others into bits at Nizbahzani village in Nalbari district.

Terming the Ulfa rebel’s killing as a “major breakthrough,” a defence spokesman today said Bipul Das was shot dead by troops operating in Lower Assam’s Barkhulla village near Kalag in Nalbari district early this morning.

In a pre-dawn operation, the troops, acting on a tip, cordoned off Barkhulla village and began searching some “specific houses.”

According to a spokesman, Das, who was probably using one of the houses as his hideout opened fire and tried to escape. He fired nearly four rounds on the Army. “The soldiers chased the militant and shot him dead,” the official said.

A revolver and several rounds of ammunition were recovered from the slain extremist.

While searching some “specific houses” in the village, suspected to be used by the Ulfa as hideouts, two militants of the banned outfit — Dinesh Chandra and Jiten Bezbaruah — were also arrested. Preliminary interrogation of the arrested rebels revealed that Bipul Das was a member of the action group and was among those responsible for the killing the state forest minister. They had kept an improvised explosive device buried in a nearby field.

The official said on the basis of disclosures made by the two arrested militants, the Army was able to recover the device.

A defence release issued in this regard claimed that the killing of Das and the arrest of two of his associates in Nalbari had dealt “a severe blow to the Ulfa”.

Another hardcore Ulfa activist was killed in an encounter at Asharikandi village in Dhubri district today, adds our Dhubri correspondent. Four youth opened fire at the Gauripur police team patrolling the Taraghat bridge near the village. The police retaliated killing one Abdul Baten, an Ulfa activist, on the spot. The others managed to escape.    

Agartala, April 30 
Cocking a snook at security personnel, Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura activists and National Liberation Front of Tripura militants indulged in largescale rigging and intimidation of voters during the first phase of elections to the state’s Autonomous District Council today.

The 424 booths spread across 15 constituencies in Dhalai and West Tripura districts were chock-a-block with security personnel, but it did not count for anything as IPFT activists virtually took charge of the poll process.

Furthering the IPFT’s cause were NLFT militants, who prevented supporters of rival parties from exercising their franchise.

As reports of largescale rigging poured in from nine of the 15 constituencies, anger turned into despair at the CPM office here. Deputy election commissioner Kishore Ambuly pegged the turnout at 60 per cent, but CPM leaders said the actual percentage could be much less. “Elections in nine of the 11 constituencies in West Tripura were reduced to a farce by IPFT activists. We demand repolling in all these constituencies,” said CPM secretariat member Bijan Dhar.

He said elections in Takarjala-Jampuijala, Mandai-Pulinpur and Pekuarjala-Janmejaynagar were “totally rigged”, while eight other constituencies witnessed partial rigging.

“We are yet to receive comprehensive reports from four constituencies in Dhalai district. Depending on information from our sources, we may demand repolling in these areas as well,” Dhar said.

Gautam Das, another CPM leader and editor of the party organ Daily Desherkatha, said IPFT activists and NLFT militants went from house to house in several constituencies, warning voters against voting for Left Front candidates.

Das said the level of rigging would have been less had security personnel escorted voters to the polling booths. “The election authorities should order repolling in 117 of the 424 booths where elections were held today,” he added.

Sources said CPM polling agents in the Ghantacherra booth under Kulai-Champahaor constituency were driven away by IPFT activists as Central Reserve Police Force personnel looked the other way.

Security personnel deployed at the Padmamohanpara J.B. School booth under Maharanipur-Telimura constituency also allegedly turned a blind eye to rigging and intimidation of voters.

Unable to keep IPFT activists and NLFT militants at bay, polling officials deserted the booth at 1 pm, sources said.

The situation was much the same in a booth under Amtoli-Golaghati constituency.

In another incident, National Liberation Front of Tripura militants snatched the service revolvers of two guards assigned to Ramabahadur Debbarma, the CPM candidate for the Kulai-Champahaor seat.    

Shillong, April 30 
Meghalaya police today shifted the three Khasi Students’ Union leaders arrested on Wednesday from Jowai to Khhehriat for “further interrogation”.

Border Security Force personnel had arrested the student panel’s vice-president Gilbert Khongwir, organising secretary Kammon Shallam and assistant publicity secretary Shabor Ranee on charges of having links with the Hynneiwtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC).

The three student leaders were arrested along with another youth in Dona village on the Indo-Bangladesh border in Jaintia Hills district.

They were handed over to Umkiang police the next day and later taken to Jowai. A court remanded the arrested youth to judicial custody for five days on Friday.

Police sources today said the arrested Khasi students had confessed to visiting Dona village at the “request” of the Hynneiwtrep National Liberation Council. They were supposed to leave the village for Sadicherra in Bangladesh shortly.

Post office damaged: The general post office here was partially damaged when a tree uprooted in a storm last night fell on the building. However, no one was injured in the incident.    


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