Go, murder your mothers...
Aid crunch threat spurs independent census
Special cell for sport betting
Baby AB’s battle with father & son
Meet on jobs for disabled

 
 
GO, MURDER YOUR MOTHERS... 
 
 
 
 

Munir Mohammad, 42, talks to Avijit Nandi Majumdar about the 18 years he spent in jail. Convicted for murder in 1981, Munir was released in 1999.

The first blow came from the back. As I lay sprawled on the ground, my vision blurred by the attack that was splitting my head, I could barely make out that my tormentor was a tall, hefty figure.

In the fading light of the evening, the buckle on the belt in his hand was glistening.

“******, you have come here and not yet said salaam to me,” the man rasped. “Every day that you are her, I will beat you black and blue till you bleed through the mouth unless you keep me happy...”

Welcome to Presidency Jail.

Half an hour ago, 11 of us were taken from the prison van and pressganged into the jail superintendent’s office. Handcuffed, we waited in a corner as an abusive warder entered our details in the jail register.

Eighteen years later, the words still ring in my ears: “Go murder your mothers and rape your sisters. Why do you have to bother me with so much work? You all really need to be softened up.”

What did he mean? I wondered. I didn’t have to wait long. All of a sudden, a few warders and a couple of jamadars descended on us and beat us.

This was an “initiation ceremony”. I learnt later that it was meant to warn us of the consequences if we, all “first-timers”, strayed.

From the jail superintendent’s office we were delivered into the hands of the “jail matrons”— veteran jailbirds — who had a complete run of the prison. The “bidding” for us was just about to begin.

There was Kallu Goala, Stephen Anthony, Samsu, Bhola and Ram Dua, the “matron” who had struck me on the head. Leather belts in hand, they stood in a row.

Still bleeding from the wound in my head, I was herded into the “aamdani” room, a dark cell where newcomers have to quote a price to be spared the daily torture.

Inside, the head warder sat at a table, presiding over the “reception”. Then the belts started swishing onto bare flesh.

After a brief but hopeless attempt at bargaining, the deals were clinched. I went for Rs 5,000 a month; another newcomer, obviously much wealthier, fetched Rs 40,000. I had bought my peace with Ram Dua, I would, henceforth, be his keep. The money, once it arrived from my family, would find its way right up to the top.

Later that night, I wondered what was worse: this, or being strung up from the ceiling in Lalbazar’s central lock-up a fortnight ago while policemen kicked me and asked me to surrender my “murder weapon”.

A man had died at my hands over a scrap disposal dispute in Phoolbagan in August 1981 but it was an accident. The bhojali my rival was wielding got wedged in his chest while I grappled with him. He died on the spot and I fled to Bihar. The police picked me up from there.

Once the matrons were paid off, jail life settled down to a routine. Up at four in the mornings, when the jamadars kicked us awake, we worked through the day doing sundry chores. But it was in the evenings that the jail came “alive.” Every other evening, some jail warders and matrons would sit in a circle in a cell, glasses of liquor in their hands. A bunch of helpless prisoners (the “weak” ones) would be brought before them and then the “fun” would start.

Hot iron rods would be poked into them and the warders and matrons would laugh while their victims screamed in pain. This would go on for about an hour, with the matrons and warders taking turns in hurting the prisoners.

It was in Alipore Jail where I was sent a year later that I saw how a privileged few among the prisoners really lived it up.

There was the colourful Gabbar, who strode up and down the jail with a cellphone in his hand. He would summon warders and bark orders at them and they would meekly oblige. He would have his gang members over at the jail and they would meet in his cell.

Gabbar also liked his women, and jail employees — including the powerful union leaders, all of whom he had “bought over” — would work overtime to please him. Every other night we would see jamadars scurrying with clean sheets to the jail superintendent’s office. They would make a bed there and then a girl would be ushered in and Gabbar would lock himself with her in the room.

Alipore was more organised than Presidency. The head warder “sold” liquor contracts to the highest bidder among the inmates. They would then procure country liquor from outside —- bribing their way through —- and sell it every evening.

I was mildly amused by the “entertainment centre” that Alipur Jail had developed. That is, until the incident a few years before my release.

Two matrons, Jehangir and Shankar, pounced on a 16-year-old convict the day he was brought in. In full view of the other prisoners, they sexually abused him almost every day.s

That, by itself, was no surprise. What complicated matters was when Jehangir took a “special” liking for the boy. He would provide him with good food and shelter him from other prisoners. This angered Shankar.

One day, we had just finished lunch when a shriek cut through the jail from the ward in the far end of a corridor. By the time we reached the cell, the boy’s lifeless body was on the floor and Shankar stood menacingly over it. The boy had been strangled to death.

I am lucky to be alive to tell the tale.    


 
 
AID CRUNCH THREAT SPURS INDEPENDENT CENSUS 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
 

With external aid becoming increasingly dependent on the size of the city’s population, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation has decided to conduct its own census, as it feels that the report prepared by the Centre is “unrealistic”.

According to the current census, released in 1991, Calcutta’s population growth rate has been pegged at 6.34 per cent, while for Mumbai it is 20.2 per cent, 37.35 per cent for Hyderabad, 38 per cent for Bangalore and 20.01 per cent for Patna.

Also, CMC commissioner Asim Barman said there were a number of anomalies in the current census. For instance, the civic authorities found that in the 1991 census report, the city’s population has been put at over 43 lakh.

“But,” Barman pointed out, “the 1990 voters’ list for the civic polls contained about 40 lakh names. In other words, according to the census report, there are only two lakh children in the city. How can this be possible when in Calcutta this year 2.27 lakh students appeared for the Madhyamik examinations alone?”

This will be the first time that a census will be conducted by an agency other than the Commissioner of Census. According Barman, the civic body had written about its reservations to the Commissioner of Census and it has now been given the permission to go ahead with the census. It has also assured the CMC that its findings will be incorporated in the census report for 2001.

An office for this has been set up in the CMC building and work on gathering data has started. The census will be carried out by CMC’s block sarkars and district conservancy officers. The CMC has mobilised altogether 2,000 employees for the purpose.

Funding from the World Bank for the megacity project, as well as Central funds for poverty alleviation and slum development schemes and infrastructure building, are almost totally dependent on the size and the rate of growth of a city’s population.

And this is precisely where the CMC has begun to feel the pinch, especially the figures on the population growth rate, which shows almost all other metro cities having a larger population growth rate.

This, CMC officials said, could lead to a cut in World Bank funds for the megacity project. The deputy chief of municipal finance and accounts of the CMC, Abdul Wahid, said the civic body received annual Central grants of nearly Rs 30 crore for development. “This would have been double had the actual growth rate been reflected in the report,” Wahid said.    


 
 
SPECIAL CELL FOR SPORT BETTING 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
 

Expressing unhappiness at the manner in which the city police has been handling cases of cricket betting, Union sports minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa has urged the state government to set up a special cell to monitor the entire business of illegal sports betting in the city.

“There should be an exclusive cell in the city police department where officers will cultivate sources, investigate tip-offs and take necessary action,’’ Dhindsa told state sports minister Subhas Chakraborty on Saturday night.

Dhindsa, on a visit to the city to inaugurate a football academy at Panihati, in North 24-Parganas, on Saturday, told The Telegraph: “The underworld is remote-controlling the racket from outside the country and we have information that in Calcutta, too, they have made major inroads. It is time the city police got down to seriously tackling the menace of cricket betting.”

The police here had busted a betting scandal and arrested several known bookies from central and south Calcutta and Howrah last year and in 1998.

Computers, diaries, mobile phones and some “incriminating” documents were recovered from them. However, no further progress was made to get to the root of it.

Sources said the Union sports minister was unhappy that the police here did not coordinate with their counterparts in other states and cities to trace the persons whose names were found in the diaries and computer print-outs.

The Union sports minister met officials at the Sports Authority of India complex in Salt Lake.

He also requested Subhas Chakraborty to ensure that Calcutta Police passed on all information they had collected on cricket betting in the city to the CBI.

City police officials agreed that setting up a special cell, as suggested by Dhindsa, would definitely help in cracking down on bookies.

“This would definitely help in investigations,” said additional commissioner of city police, Sujoy Chakraborty. “But we will have to examine the matter thoroughly.”

Currently, the anti-rowdy section of the detective department of the city police is handling the cases against cricket bookies.

There are occasional raids but police officers working there said they are bogged down by other departmental work.

“We, too, feel that there should be a separate cell against the betting syndicate, since a large number of bookies operate from the city,” admitted a senior police officer. “This is especially since betting is catching on in other sports in the city as well.”

Sources said senior police officers have called a meeting at Lalbazar police headquarters next week to discuss the issue.

Police sources said CBI officials from Delhi are expected to arrive in the city shortly to collect information.

A senior CBI official said on Sunday that they have already got in touch with some officers of the Calcutta Police who were investigating the betting racket.    


 
 
BABY AB’S BATTLE WITH FATHER & SON 
 
 
BY SUMIT DAS GUPTA
 
 

Within weeks of Hrithik Roshan sweeping the city off its wobbly feet, Abhishek Bachchan, taking first stride in the footprints of his father, led the Refugee caravan to Calcutta on Sunday. The contrast was too stark to avoid comparison. The eloquent Calcutta crowd reaction said it all — if one had sparked a mindless craze after Kaho Na... Pyaar Hai hit jackpot, the other, on the eve of his first release, evoked mild curiosity.

“The difference is simple: Rakesh Roshan is already known as Hrithik’s father, but whatever Abhishek does, he will always be Amitabh’s son,” was the popular refrain.

“Comparisons are something I know I’ll have to live with,” said the archetypal TDH (tall, dark, handsome) young man in brown jumper and blue jeans, with the shadow of a smile. “I feel honoured to be compared to my father because he’s my hero and I have no problems being compared to Hrithik because he’s a very good actor.”

On his first ‘professional’ visit to Calcutta (the earlier trip being a ‘personal’ one with the Big B taking him on a conducted tour down memory lane) Abhishek worked the charm on the few who had turned up to catch a glimpse of The Rising Son — at Science City or in and around Music World.

“I love Calcutta. It’s a city with a lot of character. A character defined by its people... This is where my father started his career, and, of course, my mother (of whose films he has just seen Ray’s Mahanagar) is Bengali. So, Calcutta is special,” intoned Abhishek, using his favoured left hand to emphasise the point.

And he wasn’t just being politically correct. He was, in fact, being serious and sincere — the qualities that the legend has, apparently, handed down. “The only advice that my father gave me was that I must work seriously and sincerely,” said the latest star son on the Bollywood block, just before taking the stage at Science City for a “special HMV promo” of his first film, along with fellow-debutante Kareena Kapoor, director JP Dutta, lyricist Javed Akhtar, music director Anu Malik and actor Ashish Vidyarthi.

“Having inherited acting from both his parents, Abhishek will make people sit up and take notice,” declared Dutta.

Javed Akhtar, the man partly responsible for the father’s ‘angry young man’ image, without wanting to “flatter the young man”, did admit that he brought “a similar brooding intensity” to the screen.

That’s what the Bachchan brand name will be banking on. “Abhishek will be the thinking woman’s sex symbol,” prophesied a petite 17-year-old on Park Street.

But is AB Baby man enough?    


 
 
MEET ON JOBS FOR DISABLED 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Guwahati, May 7: 
An action plan to generate more job avenues for the disabled in the region will be unveiled in a Northeast-zone seminar on employment opportunities for disabled people in the city tomorrow.

The seminar is being jointly organised by the National Centre for Promotion of Employment of Disabled People and Pragati — a confederation of organisations working for the disabled in the city.

Javed Abidi, executive director of ncpedp told newsmen here that the seminar is also aimed at creating a common platform among the government, the corporate sectors and the NGOs working in this field.

“Our basic aim is to create a platform for exchanging ideas and evolving an action plan that can help resolve the problems relating to employment of the disabled,” he said.

Besides focusing on the factors that affect the issue of employment of disabled people, the seminar is also aimed at evolving a consensus to generate more job opportunities for them, he added.

“Despite having an impressive infrastructure, the condition still remains pretty pathetic,” Abidi said. He informed that only a meagre one lakh disabled people have been provided jobs since 1958 — the year when the first special employment exchange was set up in Mumbai.

There are 28 special employment exchanges in addition to 17 vocational training centres and 55 special cells attached to the state employment exchanges throughout the country.

“But still the average recruitment rate every year is only a little more than 3,000 in the entire country,” he said.

Apart from various ngos of the eight north-eastern states including Sikkim, senior officials of corporate houses and government agencies have also confirmed participation in the meet.    

 

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