At crossings, beware of robbers in beggar guise
Technicians’ hits hi-tech track
Ground water study sounds alert in south
Sunday rain drags down mercury
BJP rebuffs offer to join Nipamacha govt
Dibrugarh reconciles with firing trauma

 
 
AT CROSSINGS, BEWARE OF ROBBERS IN BEGGAR GUISE 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAZUMDAR
 
Calcutta, May 14: 
A bearded man hobbled from car to car, begging for alms whenever traffic stopped at the Park Street-Jawaharlal Nehru Road crossing. Suneeta Sharma, travelling in a Maruti with two other women, rolled down the window glass as the man approached their car.

“Hum ne kuch khaya nahin. Garib pe thora daya karo (I haven’t eaten a thing. I am a poor man. Please help me),’’ he pleaded.

Moved, Suneeta pulled out her purse and rummaged through it for loose change. Suddenly, the man snatched the bag, dodged his way through the traffic and was lost before Suneeta realised what had happened.

By this time, the signal had turned green and vehicles behind were honking. The lady said she lost Rs 750 and some documents.

Suneeta Sharma — not her real name — is the wife of an IPS officer who is now posted in the districts. She used her access in the service to alert the police. Officers of the Park Street police station travelled with her through the locality the next day. “While going through the area the next day, I did not notice him at that particular crossing,’’ she said.

“I think he has gone to some other place because I checked up with the Park Street police station later and found that they had not been able to locate him.’’

Like Suneeta, Pallabi Dasgupta, too, fell victim to a robber-in-a-beggar’s-guise. This was at the Shakespeare Sarani-Camac Street crossing last Wednesday.

Shortly afterwards, a company executive reported a similar incident. A “beggar” had snatched his bag from the rear seat of his car at the Esplanade four-point crossing.

A series of incidents in quick succession has convinced the police that a gang is at work in downtown Calcutta, snatching valuables from unsuspecting people in cars that stop at traffic signals in busy crossings. Detective department sources of the city police have reported at least five such incidents in the last fortnight.

Investigations so far indicate that the gang is originally from Bihar. The crooks pose as beggars and steal mobile telephones, valuables, bags. There have also been complaints of chain-snatching.

The gang is mostly active at five crossings: Park Street-Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Esplanade four-point, Camac Street-Shakespeare Sarani, Park Street-AJC Bose Road and Rawdon Street-AJC Bose Road, near Minto Park.

Senior officers have called a meeting at Lalbazar on Monday to plan how the gang can be caught. Officers said the beggars could be rounded up from Tuesday.

Preliminary investigations point to the possibility of about a dozen men from Darbhanga, Ranchi and Dhanbad districts of Bihar operating in the city streets for the past two months.

Deputy commissioner of police, enforcement branch, M.K. Singh, who is in charge of a drive against beggars under the Vagrancy Act, admitted that incidents of snatching have been taking place. But, he said, “we do not arrest beggars merely on suspicion and without enough evidence.”

“The problem lies after their arrest. They have to be produced before the vagrancy magistrate and remanded to vagrant homes. But officials of the vagrancy department are unwilling to accommodate more than 20 beggars at a time. They say there is not enough space in their homes for more,’’ Singh said.    


 
 
TECHNICIANS’ HITS HI-TECH TRACK 
 
 
BY SUVRO ROY
 
Calcutta, May 14: 
Technicians’ Studio, where time has stood still for years, is getting a move on. The government on Sunday unveiled plans for a Rs 2.25-crore, state-of-the-art sound and music scoring theatre at the Tollygunge studio.

On the ground floor of a two-storeyed building at the site of the present sound recording studio, it will have the “latest equipment and technology”. The first floor will house a 50-seat preview theatre and projection room. The building, to be constructed by the CMDA, forms part of the government’s modernisation scheme for the 70-year-old studio. “We will have a multi-track system in the theatre to record and re-record songs, music, dialogues, dubbing. We will soon form a technical committee which will decide on the gadgets to be installed,” said Apurba Chatterjee, administrator of the Technicians’.

Once complete, it is billed to be the most “modern scoring theatre” in the city and take the load off the government studio at Rupayan, in Salt Lake. Satyen Chatterjee, a veteran sound recordist who worked on Satyajit Ray’s Pratidwandi at the Technicians’, feels that it’s high time the studio was modernised.

“We in the advisory committee to modernise the Tehnicians’ have been suggesting a number of things. The scoring theatre is one of them,” said Chatterjee. The government will also seek advice from noted sound recordist Anup Mukherjee for setting up the studio.

The old recording studio comprises machines of the Recording Company of America (RCA), brought in over 40 years ago. These machines have witnessed sound-and-music recording of such perennial favourites as Uttam-Suchitra’s Kamal Lata, Uttam-Supriya’s Bilambita Loy and Uttam-Madhabi’s Chhadmabeshi, besides Pratidwandi.

“But now, the RCA machines have become old. These are valve sets and the spares are hard to find. The quality of sound production has also gone down,” explained Apurba Chatterjee. “We will have the latest equipment to make things easier for recordists and music directors... Modern-day digital machines make it possible for a singer in a hurry to just record his song and leave the studio. The music can be mixed with the song later,” he added.

The Technicians’ authorities are now poring over literature and data available on the leading audio companies in the world — from AKG to Sony, from Tascam to Yamaha. The Technicians’ team is collecting information on multi-track recorders, digital reverberators, digital audio processors, multi-effect processors, digital equalisers and the dolby stereo system.

“The Tascam and Yamaha machines are said to be best suited to Indian conditions,” revealed an official.    


 
 
GROUND WATER STUDY SOUNDS ALERT IN SOUTH 
 
 
BY SHANKAR MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, May 14: 
Years of indiscriminate tapping of Calcutta’s underground water reserves has resulted in high concentrations of harmful elements, prompting a government decision to seal deep tubewells.

Faced with the threat of widespread enteric diseases and even cancer caused by high doses of elements like iron, chlorine, total dissolved solids (TDS) and sulphates in water, the municipal affairs department has decided to supply the city with filtered surface water in a year’s time and put an end to tapping underground aquifers.

The Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) recently ended an analysis of the underground water quality in all 141 wards of the city, which revealed harmful quantities of unwanted substances (not arsenic) in it.

The CMDA team submitted its findings and recommendations to state urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya. The report said ground water in Ballygunge, Kasba, Tiljala, Tangra, Santoshpur, Jadavpur, Garia, Gangulybagan, Tollygunge and Park Circus contain the maximum quantity of unwanted elements, four to six times above the safe limit. North Calcutta, however, has water of an acceptable quality. Santoshpur records 1400 mg of chlorine in a litre of water, 4,000 mg of TDS per litre and 1 mg of iron per litre. At Tollygunge, the quantities are 1000 mg, 3,500 mg and 0.7 mg, respectively. The figures are almost the same at Jadavpur, Gangulybagan and Bagha Jatin.

The permissible limit of the elements, as fixed by the World Health Organisation and the Indian Council of Medical Research, are: chlorine 250 mg/litre, iron 0.3 mg/litre and TDS 1500 mg/litre.

The water table in south Calcutta its eastern areas has fallen below the danger level. The recommendations are :

n Seal all deep tubewells in the affected areas and supply filtered surface water

n Arrange for recharging with artificial water to fill the vacuum created by over-extraction

n Seal roadside taps and replace them with hand-pump tube wells (in safe zones) to check wastage

n Supply piped water to all slums.

n Build roadside bathing units.

n Check pipeline leaks.

Besides augmenting the Garden Reach filtration plant, officials said plants at Barrackpore and Kalyani and construction of underground reservoirs should take care of the city’s water needs.    


 
 
SUNDAY RAIN DRAGS DOWN MERCURY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 14: 
Two days of heat and dust, coupled with prolonged power cuts on Saturday in south and central Calcutta, gave way to welcome showers and a sharp drop in temperature on Sunday.

“A sudden cyclonic circulation over Gangetic West Bengal late on Saturday night led to southerly winds from the Bay over Calcutta,” explained Alipore weather office chief R.N. Goldar. “The winds brought in moisture and the formation of thunderclouds early on Sunday morning.”

The rainfall was not much — 5 mm in Calcutta, 7 mm at Dum Dum, 4 mm in Krishnagar. But what it did was push the mercury down to a pleasant 29.4 degrees from a sweltering 38 degrees.

Flights hit: But if the cloud cover made the Calcuttan’s day, it also threw flight schedules at the Netaji Subhash Airport out of gear, with six flights being delayed. The early morning Airbus to Delhi took off, but had to return to base because of “the unstable atmosphere”. It finally left at 9.30 am. The incoming flight from the capital arrived over three hours late.

The weather office has forecast “light rain” and “partly cloudy sky” for Monday, which is expected to be “warmer” than Sunday.

Meanwhile, power supply in the city improved on Sunday. Except for an overhead wire snap at Maheshtala, power in the city and suburbs was normal.

A technical fault at CESC’s Kasba receiving point on Saturday had resulted in transformers tripping, first at Entally at 4.06 pm and then at Ritchie Road at 6.54 pm. This led to blackouts, lasting between three and five hours, in central Calcutta, Ballygunge, Gariahat, Rashbehari, Lansdowne Road and Golf Green.    


 
 
BJP REBUFFS OFFER TO JOIN NIPAMACHA GOVT 
 
 
FROM OINAM SUNIL
 
Imphal, May 14: 
The BJP has turned down Manipur chief minister W. Nipamacha Singh’s invitation to join his government.

The chief minister had written to state BJP chief Haobam Bhubon in this regard on May 4. However, Bhubon and his colleagues rejected the offer after discussions with BJP general secretary K.N. Govindacharya and secretary in-charge of Northeast affairs P.B. Acharya.

“There is no question of joining the Nipamacha Singh government,” Acharya told a press conference here today.

He also accused the chief minister and his Manipur State Congress Party of betraying the BJP on several occasions.

“The MSCP is the most unreliable and corrupt party. The BJP formed the Manipur Democratic Alliance after parting ways with the ruling party and there is no possibility of us joining the United Front of Manipur government at this juncture,” Acharya said.

Replying to Nipamacha Singh’s letter, the state BJP chief had sought a clarification as to whether the United Front of Manipur only wanted his party’s support. Bhubon later discussed the issue with the central BJP leadership. A source said the BJP was against the idea of joining the Nipamacha Singh government because of the latter’s growing unpopularity and the financial crisis in the state.

“The BJP suspects that the chief minister wants it to join his government only because it will help him clean up the financial mess,” he said.

The source said the BJP had realised that it was prudent to work towards formation of an “alternative government” instead of making a “suicidal move” like joining the United Front of Manipur.

“The party leadership has already asked former chief minister and legislator R.K. Dorendra Singh to take appropriate steps in this regard,” he said.

What is worrying the central BJP leadership is the possibility of the recent developments affecting the MSCP’s relationship with the National Democratic Alliance. The Nipamacha Singh-led party is a constituent of the BJP-led alliance and any move to dislodge the Manipur ministry is likely to send the wrong signal to other parties which comprise the NDA.

In the event of a split in the MSCP due to differences between Nipamacha Singh and Union minister of state for youth affairs and sports Thounaojam Chaoba Singh, there is a possibility of the BJP joining hands with the latter.

In a bid to step up pressure on Chaoba Singh to sever links with the MSCP, Acharya today held him responsible for the defeat of three BJP candidates in the last Assembly elections.    


 
 
DIBRUGARH RECONCILES WITH FIRING TRAUMA 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Jorhat, May 14: 
Dibrugarh is limping back to normalcy with shops and business establishments opening over the weekend.

The premier tea town continued to resemble a ghost town since Monday when two persons died in police firing at a funeral procession. A dawn-to-dusk curfew was imposed following the incident. The curfew was the first of its kind in an Upper Assam town since the Assam agitation.

The processionists alleged that former Ulfa militants were involved in the killing of a businessman, Shiwadhari Paswan, and his son Dhiraj. The beheaded bodies of the duo, who were missing since May 4, were recovered from the char area on Tuesday.

“Although there is tension in some areas, the situation has improved. All shops and business establishments have opened,” deputy inspector-general of police Umesh Kumar told The Telegraph. Kumar was camping in the area since Monday to monitor the situation. Yusuf Khan, a hotelier, and Jiban Chandra Pal, a United Commercial Bank employee, were killed when police fired to control the funeral procession.

A former Ulfa cadre, Nayan Jyoti Das alias Guli, was arrested in connection with the beheading of the Paswans. “He is the key accused in the incident and has been remanded in five days’ police custody. Interrogation is on,” the DIG said.

Four other persons were also picked up by the police in this connection. However, the arrested Sulfa activist had denied his involvement in the twin murders.

At a press conference, Guli and several of his colleagues stated that they “have been observing with concern that a section of the Press and antisocial elements have tried to derive personal gain by accusing us of being involved in the twin murder.” Guli added, “We once again clarify that we are constantly trying our best to bring the situation back to normal.”

State industries minister Gunin Hazarika has assured the local people of a high-level inquiry into the incident. A magisterial inquiry has already been ordered into the firing. A bandh called by the Labour Party of undivided Dibrugarh district on Saturday in protest against the firing had been called off.

Woman commits suicide: A woman with her seven-month-old child wrapped around her chest set herself ablaze at Milanpur Borgong in Sonitpur district, reports UNI from Tezpur.The victim was identified as one Sneha Mandal, police said.    

 

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