Ambulance driver killed in mob mix-up
Cops do heckle cabbies: Subhas
Govt plans heritage bodies
Monsoon date for Rajarhat I
JU students threaten stir against authorities
Mahanta moots change in rebel aid package
Cong nominee elected in bypoll
Funds crunch hits NGO’s Orissa project
Joint N-E secretariat proposed

Calcutta, May 12 
The driver of an ambulance was lynched and six relatives of a patient were severely beaten up when villagers mistook them for dacoits near Joynagar, South 24 Parganas, late on Thursday night.

The ambulance belonged to Nimpith Hospital, run by a former monk of the Ramakrishna Mission.

The mob was apparently blind with rage over the killing of one of the villagers by dacoits who had looted five households in Kuler Dari village, 15 km from Joynagar.

The 15-member gang of robbers struck Gopal Mondal’s home first at 11.05 pm. One after the other, they forced their way into four other houses, looting cash, jewellery and other costly items, additional superintendent of police (headquarters) Damayanti Sen said.

As they fled, the victims raised a hue and cry and several villagers joined in the chase. In a bid to keep them at bay, the dacoits opened fire and hurled bombs.

Tushar Das (40), one of the villagers, was shot and died almost immediately.

While giving chase, the villagers saw an ambulance which they assumed was being used by the dacoits. They stopped the vehicle and started beating up the driver, Partha Kundu (35), and six relatives of the patient who were travelling inside.

The patient, being taken to hospital from a nearby village, was not touched. The ambulance was battered and then burnt.

Kundu died on the spot. The injured were first taken to Nimpith Hospital but were transferred to M.R. Bangur District Hospital on Friday morning in “serious condition”.

None of the dacoits, nor any of the villagers, has been arrested. Superintendent of police A.K. Maliwal and additional SP (rural) G. Singh rushed to the area, which continued to be tense for some time.

But the police at Joynagar got to know of the incident over an hour after the lynching, as messengers had to take a cycle van to reach the thana.

A road blockade was set up on Joynagar Station Road by the BJP workers, who demanded the arrest of the dacoits. It was lifted around 2 pm after police intervened.

Teacher commits suicide: A 30-year-old teacher, Sasadhar Jana, committed suicide by setting himself on fire at the police outpost in Canning in South 24-Parganas. Police said he was being hounded by local people demanding information about a woman who worked at his house and went missing a week back.    

Calcutta, May 12 
State transport minister Subhas Chakraborty admitted on Friday that the police do misbehave with taxi and truck drivers.

The minister said this after meeting representatives of taxi and truck operators’ unions who had gone on strike protesting “police harassment”.

Truck operators withdrew their “indefinite strike” at Chakraborty’s request, who assured them that he would look into the matter and put an end to police harassment.

The transport unions have given the transport minister a week to set things right. They have threatened “a bigger strike” if “police misbehaviour” continues. The situation will be reviewed next Friday.

Darjeeling disturbance: Eighty-two persons were arrested after Kamtapur activists put up road blockades at three places in the plains of Darjeeling district on Friday.

The road blockades were organised by the Kamtapur People Party (KPP) to demand compensation for victims of Wednesday’s firing on activists in Jalpaiguri district, constitution of a judicial commission, and punishment of policemen responsible for the firing. Police said the blockades were set up for about half-an-hour at Medical More, Ghoshpukur bypass and Panitanki, the entry point to eastern Nepal.    

Calcutta, May 12 
The state government has drawn up an ambitious plan to preserve heritage buildings in the city and elsewhere in the state.

West Bengal municipal affairs minister Ashok Bhattacharya said on Friday that a decision had been taken to push through the Heritage Commission Act. The commission will oversee the identification, restoration and preservation of heritage buildings in the state.

A semi-autonomous body, Calcutta First, will be set up to look into “heritage preservation” in Calcutta. This will be followed by the City Building Preservation Trust and the City Central Heritage Improvement Zone.

The City Central Heritage Improvement Zone will deal with heritage buildings located in the central business district of the city.

Calcutta First will comprise private and public sector experts and will be a task force to monitor the implementation of heritage preservation schemes.

“Deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya has asked our finance minister to look for Central assistance in preserving our heritage sites,” Bhattacharya added.

Fund generation for keeping up the preservation aspect was of crucial interest, he said.

“For this, we are also looking at the possibility of setting up a corpus fund by holding lotteries conducted by the state’s lottery directorate,” the minister added.

Social workers to contest civic polls

The Jana Unnyan Mancha, a city-based organisation of social workers, has decided to contest the civic polls. The Mancha will field “independent” candidates from north Calcutta, south Calcutta and Garden Reach.

“Our main target is the next Assembly polls. Most politicians are self-seekers who do not fulfil the promises made during their election campaigns. So we’ve decided to contest the elections,” said Mala Banerjee, spokesperson of the Mancha.    

Calcutta, May 12 
State housing minister Gautam Deb is confident that development of 50 hectares of residential plots in phase one of Rajarhat township’s first phase will be ready before the monsoon and handed over to applicants through a lottery.

Deb said on Friday that another 210 hectares in Rajarhat New Town will be ready by June. The housing department is turning to the state lotteries directorate to conduct the handing over of 2,600 plots to 13,285 applicants. The lottery begins from May 30 and will cover LIG, MIG and HIG categories.

The minister said that the housing department will invite applications for large cooperatives from employees of government department and professionals like lawyers and doctors. “About 5,700 families can be accommodated in these cooperative housing societies after checking their bona fides,” Deb clarified.

The housing department also announced that 60 hectares and 40 hectares of land will be kept aside for the development of industry and commercial centres respectively in the New Town Action Area-I.

Deb also said 52 buildings were being built for families who have been evicted by the new township. “The industries here will be of the green category without any polluting effects on the environment,” Deb clarified.

SER programme: Minister of state for railways Digvijay Singh inaugurated the annual fund raising and cultural function of South Eastern Railway Women’s Welfare Organisation at Kala Mandir and lauded it for the service rendered during floods and cyclones and for assisting the needy and underprivileged. At the function, over Rs 2 lakh was handed over to various social welfare organisations like the Ramakrishna Mission, Bharat Sevashram Sangha, Nari Seva Sangha, Calcutta Blind School and CRY.    

Calcutta, May 12 
Students of the engineering faculty of Jadavpur University will hold a meeting on Monday to finalise their decision for organising a movement against the authorities.

The students’ union of the JU engineering faculty have threatened to launch the agitation to protest the authorities’ failure to resolve the present deadlock arising out of the two-month-long teachers movement in the university. The impasse has cast a shadow over the final-year examinations of the engineering faculty, most of which are scheduled to begin from May 15. “Careers of more than 350 final-year students who have already got appointment letters from various companies will be jeopardises if they are not able to take their exams within this month,” said some students. “What have the university authorities been doing for two months? It is their responsibility to end this deadlock,” they added.    

Shillong, May 12 
Assam chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta today emphasised the need to bring in “substantial changes” in the surrender-cum-rehabilitation package implemented by the Centre.

Addressing the Northeast chief ministers’ conference, Mahanta said the content and quantum of assistance of the central scheme, designed to woo militants to the mainstream, required alterations if it was to become effective. The Centre had declared the package last year.

“In Assam, we have succeeded in bringing the misguided youth into the national mainstream,” Mahanta said. The government is trying its best to rehabilitate them.

Asking other states in the region to also take up the issue with the Centre, Mahanta said there was no doubt that they would “achieve similar success in bringing militants to the mainstream”.

“The issue of unemployment assumes difficult dimension in the trouble-torn region, where the avenues of private sector are almost non-existent,” Mahanta said. He urged the northeastern states to unitedly endeavour to get the recruitment quota in the defence sector doubled to bring an end to the problem. At present, the northeastern region is entitled to only 3.5 per cent reservation in the armed forces.

Mahanta also emphasised “increased co-ordination” in intelligence-sharing and anti-insurgency operations to “break the backbone of extremism in the region.”

“The growth of insurgency in the region has hampered growth and development,” he said.

“The police force available with us is ill-equipped and our resources are too insignificant to make any substantial improvement on the insurgency front,” Mahanta said. He stressed the need to improve the capability of and co-ordination among the police force to achieve “better results” with the existing machinery.

Mahanta called for “concerted efforts” by all the states for “very quick solutions” on the insurgency front in a bid to reduce the dependence on central paramilitary forces and the Army.    

Kohima, May 12 
Congress nominee and veteran Naga politician T.A. Ngully was elected unopposed in the byelections to the 37 Tyui Assembly constituency in Wokha district today.

The returning officer said the lone Independent opponent in the fray, C.Y. Kithan, withdrew his candidature today.

The byelections were necessitated due to the death of minister for tourism and border affairs T.C.K. Lotha on February 3.

The 60-member Nagaland Assembly now has 58 Congress members and two Independents.

T.A. Ngully, 63, was first elected in the 1964 general elections from the same constituency.    

Bhubaneswar, May 12 
When Milton McCann set up 11 schools in Kalahandi in 1986, he had only one dream — to provide food and education to impoverished tribal children and help them shape a future vastly different from that of their fathers.

Eleven years later, McCann’s dream lay shattered when he had to close down these schools due to paucity of funds.

“It was something terrible and very difficult to come to terms with. How can you slam the door on these unfortunate children?” says the Calcutta-based social worker, who was named “Member, Order of the British Empire”, for his work among the poor, especially street children.

McCann had to “pack up and leave” in 1997 because foreign funds stopped coming. “I was very sad to leave, but I had no other alternative,” says the 68-year-old secretary of the Usthi Foundation, an organisation he set up in collaboration with a Swiss couple in 1977.

Impressed by his work, former chief minister Biju Patnaik gave him 200 acres of land in the Bhawanipatna and Lanjigarh blocks of Kalahandi district.

Before he left Kalahandi “for good” three years ago, McCann returned the land in his possession to the state government and asked another Christian organisation to carry on the work. McCann is now focusing on cyclone relief in Orissa. He said the Usthi Foundation was also running a hospital for tribals in Keonjhar district.

But the social worker is worried that funds will dry up. “I need money to run schools and hospitals. I do not want to relive the Kalahandi experience again,” he said. To generate funds, McCann plans to open a diagnostic centre in Bhubaneswar soon.    

Shillong, May 12 
Meghalaya chief minister E.K. Mawlong has suggested constitution of a “permanent forum”, including a secretariat of chief ministers of the Northeast, to ensure implementation of the Centre’s development packages for the Northeast.

Addressing a meeting of chief ministers of the Northeast here today, Mawlong said a joint forum would also strengthen regional unity. “Once such a secretariat is constituted, we will be able to jointly take up various issues with the Centre,” he said.

The Meghalaya chief minister also made a case for reconstitution of the North Eastern Council, saying that further delay in doing so would affect several projects undertaken by the organisation.

Referring to the law and order situation in the Northeast, Mawlong said the insurgency-ravaged states should evolve a joint strategy to keep militant outfits in check. “The success of our efforts to combat militancy depends on the level of coordination between us,” he said. Mawlong also stressed the importance of sharing intelligence information.

The chief minister said there were several other areas where the northeastern states could collaborate. He said the ban on the timber trade was an issue the governments of the Northeast could jointly take up with the Supreme Court.

“The recently-revised criteria for supply of subsidised rice and wheat, establishment of a regional institute of management and upgradation of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research at Umiam are other issues we can jointly raise,” Mawlong said.

Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar said two of the major issues in the Northeast were lack of employment opportunities for youth and inadequate infrastructure.

“Unless the basic needs of the region are fulfilled, the sinister designs of divisive forces will continue to succeed. This is why today’s meeting assumes importance. We have to jointly pressure the Centre into regarding our problems as national issues,” he said.

Echoing Sarkar’s views, Nagaland chief minister S.C. Jamir said the Centre should realise that militancy and the region’s economic backwardness were interlinked.

Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Mukut Mithi said today’s conference was a step in the right direction. “This is the first time that we, the chief ministers of the Northeast, have come together to discuss our common problems. I am sure the Centre will be forced to listen if we speak in one voice,” he said.

Ransom deadline

The Bru National Liberation Front has extended the deadline for payment of ransom for the two government employees it is keeping as hostage, reports UNI.

Official sources said the deadline was extended from May 13 to May 15 following a breakthrough in the negotiations between the militants and the Church leaders at Zumuanthlang last night. The militants agreed to call in their senior leaders from Bangladesh on the request of the Church leaders negotiating on behalf of the Mizoram government. A senior home department official claimed that the Border Security Force has been requested not to arrest any BNLF leader entering from the Bangladesh side for negotiations.    


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