Don downed in dawn raid
ISC, ICSE results caught in Net jam
Woman flees from bookshop abductors
Business boos back-to-back bandhs
City awash in morning rain
Final exams at Jadavpur get teachers’ nod
HBO wins over cablemen
Poll rhetoric fails to move Assam voters
3 tribals lynched in Tripura village
Task force to revive ailing Bihar units

 
 
DON DOWNED IN DAWN RAID 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 23 
Weeks of investigation finally paid off for Calcutta Police when they tracked down and shot the Casanova-king of the city’s underworld, Laloo Das, in Howrah early on Tuesday.

The police pumped bullets into Laloo — wanted in about a dozen cases of murder, several more of extortion and dacoity — and his accomplice, Barun Sadak, in a half-hour encounter that sent the chills through Chatterjeehat, in a middle-class locality on P.K. Roy Chowdhury Road.

Samir Sengupta and Atindra Halder said they woke to the rat-a-tat of gunfire. “There were bullets flying all across the narrow alley, bullets ricocheting off walls and houses,” they said. Bombs were also hurled. It took 30 minutes for the policemen in special commando gear to storm the ground floor of the two-storeyed house where Laloo and his gang fought for their lives.

When the gunfire stopped, police entered the house to find the handsome, 27-year-old mafia don and his trusted lieutenant in a pool of blood. Their arsenal was a large quantity of arms and ammunition, “sufficient enough to wage battles against rivals and the police,” said one officer.

News of Laloo’s death sent ripples through the underworld. Described by the police as a “ruthless killer”, he led a gang of 35 that terrorised traders, businessmen, promoters and residents of south Calcutta from Behala through Thakurpukur, New Alipore and Tollygunge.

He lived in style and always had three cellular phones handy. He fancied sleek cars and pretty women, planted moles among police informants. He almost always had three heavily-armed bodyguards and never stayed in one place for too long.

The police deployed a team to look for Laloo after information on him trickled in about a month ago. They shadowed his accomplices and late on Monday, arrested Arun Biswas from Dakshinpara.

Biswas squealed under intense interrogation by deputy superintendent of police Subhankar Chatterjee and inspectors Subir Chatterjee and Kalyan Moitra.

He led the police to a village in Dakshin Buxarah, in Howrah. The village is about five km from the nearest motorable road and policemen in plainclothes had to trek the distance in the dark.

But the police were disappointed because they reached the spot only to learn that Laloo had moved out a fortnight ago. They found Kishor, another of his accomplices. Kishor led the team to a neighbouring village, where another criminal, Uttam, was picked up. DSP Chatterjee said Uttam was the key man, as he was with Laloo on Monday night. Initially, Uttam was hesitant and refused to cooperate but later cracked under pressure.

It was around 4.30 am when a 15-member commando team took up position opposite the two-storeyed house where Uttam said Laloo and his bodyguards were staying. DSP Chatterjee and inspector Subir Chatterjee moved to either side of the front door and knocked. At the same time, another police team covered the rear.

Laloo woke with a start, barked orders to his men to open fire. The policemen retaliated. Bombs hurled by the gangsters filled the area with smoke and Laloo made a dash for the back door, only to run into a police team firing on all cylinders.

He returned to his room and fired at the police team, which had by them moved inside through the front door. Three bullets caught him on the head, shoulder and chest. Barun was shot through the chest. The criminals were taken to Howrah General Hospital, where doctors declared them dead.    


 
 
ISC, ICSE RESULTS CAUGHT IN NET JAM 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 23 
The Internet brought joy to many and sorrow to a few after principals of most affiliated city schools started downloading this year’s ISC and ICSE examination results from early on Tuesday morning.

Nearly a lakh of candidates from Calcutta and West Bengal had taken the examinations, conducted by the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations, in March.

Printed results and marksheets will reach city schools from Wednesday.

Unlike last year, when the students themselves could access results once they knew their school’s code, this year only the principals are equipped with the password to access results of their respective schools.

Parents held angry demonstrations at St Thomas’, Howrah, and St Thomas’, Kidderpore, two schools with Internet connections which failed to access the results till late on Tuesday.

At Kidderpore, the principal, the only one with the all-important password, is away in Australia.

According to information coming in (a few schools are yet to get through to the site till reports last came in), among those in the higher marks bracket in the ISC examinations are Minal Bathwal of Don Bosco School, Park Circus, who has secured an average of 97.75 per cent, while Pinaki Bhattacharya bagged 97 per cent. At Calcutta Boy’s School, Shourya Sircar secured 96.5 per cent. The topper at La Martiniere for Girls is Pranjul Bhandari, with 96.75.

In the ICSE examinations, Krishna Mehera of Don Bosco, Park Circus, figures among the toppers with 95.6 per cent.

A clearer picture will emerge on Wednesday once the results of all schools are known. But reliable sources said the level of overall performance this year was a bit lower than last year’s.

The principal of St Thomas School, Howrah, G. Arathoon, said: “By Wednesday, we expect the picture to be much clearer as by then, all the schools, including those that do not have Internet facilities, would have got the results. After this, we will get to know how the schools have fared individually.”

Don Bosco, Liluah, was perhaps the first school to access the site a little after 2 am. It had been announced earlier that the results would be available from Tuesday morning on the Net.

A few schools managed to avoid causing tension and anxiety for their students by downloading the results early. Through the day, the site became jammed, with schools all over the country trying to log in.

This delay, and the confusion over how to access the results on the Net, led to frayed tempers at several centres.    


 
 
WOMAN FLEES FROM BOOKSHOP ABDUCTORS 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, May 23 
Ending a week’s trauma, 25-year-old Akriti Singh, wife of a marine engineer from Bihar on a visit to Calcutta, managed to break free from her abductors shortly after reaching Mumbai on Tuesday afternoon.

On May 16, Akriti, accompanied by her husband Satish Singh, had visited a beauty parlour in New Alipore. But as her favourite beautician had not yet reported for duty, she said she would return later.

She told her husband she would be at a nearby bookstore while he could run a few errands. That was the last time Satish saw his wife.

On Saturday, Akriti called up her mother, Dr A. Jha, in Muzaffarpur, to tell her that she had been kidnapped and taken to Chennai and that a person by the name of Malla Raju was behind the abduction.

The line got disconnected and Akriti did not call back.

On Tuesday afternoon, Akriti once again called up her mother, this time from Mumbai, and told her that she had finally managed to escape from her abductors shortly after landing at Mumbai airport and that she was now safe with a relative in Mahim.

Recounting her ordeal, a tearful Akriti told The Telegraph from Mumbai that on May 16, as she was leafing through some magazines at a New Alipore bookstore, a lady approached her and said that her husband had suddenly been taken ill. Akriti at once followed the woman, who identified herself as Mala.

“Mala, who was soon joined by another person, bundled me into a waiting taxi which sped off. Suddenly, the two overpowered and blindfolded me,” said Akriti.

Thereafter, Akriti said, she was sedated. She woke up to find herself travelling in a green Maruti 800 “somewhere along a highway” before losing consciousness again. She finally came around in a dingy room, which she later learnt was in Chennai.

From snatches of conversation exchanged between her abductors, Akriti gathered that the Chennai police “under the DCP, crime branch, Sanjay Rai Rathore” was closing in on them and so she was spirited out of the city.

“As I was being taken near the railway station, I managed to escape from my abductors for a brief while and call up my mother,” Akriti said. “But they soon managed to catch up with me and took me to Madurai.”

From Madurai, they took a flight to Mumbai. After landing there, she excused herself, saying she had to go to the toilet. From there, finding her abductors distracted in the busy terminal, she managed to flee to freedom.    


 
 
BUSINESS BOOS BACK-TO-BACK BANDHS 
 
 
BY SUTANUKA GHOSAL
 
Calcutta, May 23 
Domestic investors and multinationals squirmed as they geared to face another in a series of bandhs this week that has cost West Bengal dear, apart from projecting the image that it is ungovernable.

Standard Chartered Bank, which has recently taken over ANZ Grindlays, had decided to hold its first Indian advisory board meeting after the takeover on May 25 in Calcutta. But the board decided on Tuesday to shift the venue to Mumbai, where the meeting will be held on May 27.

The meeting would have been held in Calcutta after two years. The Indian advisory board meets four times a year.

“This is an important meeting of the bank after the takeover. But Calcutta has failed to host the meeting. How do we expect that the bank will expand its business in Calcutta after all these incidents? What image are we projecting for these multinationals?,” wondered president of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce B.D. Bose. Bose is also a member of the Indian advisory board.

The bandh called by the Congress has provoked the chambers of commerce and industry bodies to put their heads together and chart a “pro-active action programme” to thwart further disruption in work. To start with, the chambers will make a joint representation to the state government and to all the political parties.

Leading industry figures heaped scorn on the sponsors of the bandh call. A.V. Iyengar, managing director of Infar India and chairman of the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (eastern region) said: “The recent bandhs called by various political parties and actively supported and encouraged by non-action on the part of the authorities effectively ensures that there is no fertile ground (for investments) and whatever little fertility there was in Bengal has been destroyed. Rip Van Winkle woke after 20 years — Bengal still sleeps.”

“Bengal is increasingly making itself irrelevant in the economic life of the country. It is becoming a laughing stock. All the political parties are using economics as a hostage to their political agenda. They are worse than the terrorists in IC-814 (the Indian Airlines flight that was hijacked to Kandahar last December). Bengal should understand that we, the box-wallahs, will not be affected by this. It is the common man on the road who will be worst affected. How will I attract US investors to Bengal if this is the image of the state?” he added.

Iyengar was only echoing what lakhs of commoners have been complaining about in private. The offices of the Pradesh Congress and the Trinamul Congress were flooded with telephone calls from citizens since Tuesday morning, urging the leaders to call off the bandh. Most complained that May 25 was an auspicious day for weddings, according to the Hindu almanac, and all preparations will have come to nought in the event of a bandh.

This month alone, there have been frequent work disruptions due to bandhs and strikes. There was a taxi strike on May 10, a Bharat bandh called by the left parties on May 11 and a hill station bandh on May 22.

Sumit Mazumdar, chairman (eastern region), Confederation of Indian Industry, said: “Bandhs or strikes cannot resolve a problem. West Bengal suffers from a negative image. We are losing potential investors.”    


 
 
CITY AWASH IN MORNING RAIN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 23 
A downpour in the morning sent office-goers scurrying for cover and led to traffic snarls on almost all the busy thoroughfares on Tuesday. The rest of the day remained cloudy, with intermittent rain persisting till late in the afternoon.

Similar conditions are likely to prevail on Wednesday, as the long trough of low pressure is expected to linger over south Bengal.

The heavy rain on Tuesday morning affected traffic in several parts of the city.

Sudder Street, Free School Street, Thanthania and parts of Mominpur were flooded till late in the afternoon.

But there were no reports of vehicles getting stalled or any serious damage being caused.

On Tuesday morning, the low pressure extended from north-west Madhya Pradesh to the Andaman Sea, stretching across north-east Madhya Pradesh, the Bihar plateau, Gangetic West Bengal and the north Bay of Bengal, weather officials at the Alipore centre said.

“The trough of low pressure had been there for the past six or seven days,” said R.N. Goldar, director of the meteorological office.

“The heavy rain on Tuesday morning resulted from the intensifying of the low-pressure trough over south Bengal, and cloudy skies with intermittent rain will continue as long as the trough persists over the area,” Goldar added.

Was Tuesday’s rain a harbinger of an early monsoon?

“The usual date for its arrival is June 1 over Kerala and June 8 over Bengal. It has already advanced into the Andaman Sea and a clear picture should emerge after Thursday,” said Goldar.

The low-pressure trough, which is expected to weaken but not move immediately, does not signal an end to the hot and humid days either.

“The day the trough dissipates and the clouds move away, the sun could be as strong as it was a week ago, which is normal at this time,” warned Goldar.

The Alipore office recorded 58.4 mm of rainfall till 5.30 pm. Between 11 am and 1.15 pm, the period that the rain was heaviest, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s pumping stations at Ballygunge measured 24.5 mm, Palmer Bazar 28 mm, Maniktala 25.7 mm, Dhapa 27 mm, and Mominpur 76.25 mm.    


 
 
FINAL EXAMS AT JADAVPUR GET TEACHERS’ NOD 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 23 
Without withdrawing its agitation, the Jadavpur University Teachers Association (JUTA) has decided to hold the final-year examinations in all faculties.

But the continuing agitation by Jadavpur University teachers over payment of arrears, house-rent allowance, leave encashment and career advancement schemes, will affect examinations for the first, second and third year students, mainly in the engineering streams.

JUTA general secretary Tarun Kumar Naskar said that besides teaching and research, the teachers will not take part in any administrative work till their demands are met.

The decision was taken at a JUTA meeting on Monday.

“We are holding the final-year examinations as a gesture towards state higher education minister Satya Sadhan Chakraborty, who, we hope, will reciprocate,” said Naskar.

While there are about 3,000 students in the university, the uncertainty over holding of examinations was affecting about 350 engineering students of the final year the most. They have been waiting for their exams to get over in order to join companies which they have already signed up with.

The final-year examinations in the university’s faculty of engineering and technology were scheduled to start from May 15. In the arts faculty, however, teachers decided not to toe the JUTA line and went ahead with the Part-II examinations.

Demanding the immediate payment of arrears in a “single instalment”, JUTA has also announced a three-day relay hunger-strike from May 24.

“This will be followed by a sit-in in front of the state higher education department in Salt Lake,” Naskar said.

According to JUTA, which has been leading the agitation from March, the state government had received Rs 103 crore from the Centre to pay off the teachers’ arrears. “The government is not disbursing the amount and not even telling us what they have done with the funds,” alleged Naskar.    


 
 
HBO WINS OVER CABLEMEN 
 
 
BY RENU M R KAKKAR
 
Calcutta, May 23 
At a quiet meeting with the city’s cable operators on Tuesday, Turner International paved the way for inaugurating its Hollywood movie channel, HBO, blacked out here since its countrywide launch on March 22.

Discontent over News India Television Ltd’s move to group all the STAR channels in a Rs-16.75 bouquet is nudging the cable operators towards HBO. They have even threatened the local STAR management with a blackout.

Ansuman Misra, managing director (India and South Asia), Turner International India Pvt Ltd, who was in the city on Tuesday, told The Telegraph: “We are willing to negotiate with the cable operators on connectivity and can work around the declared subscriber base as we understand they cannot collect Rs 7 — the package price from each subscriber.”

Tarak Saha, chief of the unionised cable operators under RPG Netcom fold, said: “The channel will be turned on as soon as possible. We will meet the local management this week again and work out a solution.”

Misra claims: “In terms of viewership, we have surpassed the competition, according to unofficial ratings. Cable operators now feel that if they offer HBO, the subscribers won’t complain even if they black out STAR Movies.”    


 
 
POLL RHETORIC FAILS TO MOVE ASSAM VOTERS 
 
 
FROM SANTANU GHOSH
 
Karimganj, May 23 
Frenetic campaigning by political parties for Friday’s byelections in south Assam’s Karimganj North Assembly constituency has failed to enthuse an electorate that appears to have had enough of false promises.

Several political leaders, including AICC general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress stalwart Santosh Mohan Dev, PCC president Tarun Gogoi, Union communications minister Tapan Sikdar, former Union minister Kabindra Purakayastha and state public health engineering minister Utpal Dutta, have arrived in the constituency to campaign for their parties. However, none of these leaders has succeeded in generating the kind of enthusiasm associated with elections.

Byelections in the constituency were necessitated by the death of Asom Gana Parishad legislator Sirajul Haque Choudhury. The ruling party has nominated his son Murad for the seat.

The Congress has fielded Madhabendra Dutta Choudhury, a former college teacher and president of the party’s Karimganj district unit. The BJP candidate for the seat is Mission Ranjan Das, a lawyer by profession.

The BJP is hoping for a three-way division of Muslim votes to upset the AGP’s applecart. If that happens, it will be a break from tradition as the Muslim voters — comprising 48 per cent of the constituency’s electorate — are known to follow a monolithic voting pattern.

The BJP is also targeting the majority of Hindu votes, as it did in the 1996 elections. Hindus comprise 52 per cent of the electorate in Karimganj North.

In the 1996 elections, Sirajul Choudhury defeated Mission Ranjan Das by a slender margin of over 1,300 votes. The AGP nominee garnered 36,866 votes, as against 35,561 by the BJP candidate. The Congress candidate polled a meagre 4,848 votes.

The Congress is, however, confident of doing much better this time. The thrust of the party’s campaign is the “BJP-AGP nexus” in Assam.

Apart from harping on the government’s bid to fix 1951 as the cut-off year for determining citizenship, the Congress has charged the BJP and the AGP with trying to repeal the Illegal Migrants’ (Determination by Tribunals) Act for their own benefit.

Dissidence in the party is likely to reduce its percentage of votes.    


 
 
3 TRIBALS LYNCHED IN TRIPURA VILLAGE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, May 23 
A mob lynched three tribals in north Maharanipur village under Tripura’s riot-torn Khowai subdivision yesterday, raising the toll in ethnic violence over the past four days to 48.

Sources said the slain tribals were part of a group which had been looting houses deserted by villagers.

Subdivisional police officer Bijay Nag later led an operation in Palpara village under Kalyanpur police station and arrested 20 people on charges of looting houses belonging to non-tribals.

Four bodies were also recovered from Bagber, north Maharanipur and Ghilatoli.

An official source here said the situation in Kalyanpur was still tense, but under control. He said no violence was reported in any of the riot-torn villages today, prompting the authorities to relax curfew for two hours.

“Two columns each of the Army and Assam Rifles staged a flag march in the area. The police and the civil administration are monitoring the situation round- the-clock,” the official said.

He said Central Reserve Police Force personnel based in Dushki under Teliamura police station and Balaram Kobrapara under Kalyanpur police station had been directed not to move out of their camps.

The directive follows allegations of inefficiency against the CRPF. Sources alleged a section of CRPF personnel deployed in Kalyanpur looked the other way as militants massacred non-tribals over the past 72 hours.

Captives rescued: Police yesterday rescued seven persons who were abducted by militants over the past 10 days. The operation was conducted by Santir Bazar police.

Army official’s visit

Lt. Gen. R.K. Nanavati, chief of the Army’s 3 Corps based in Dimapur, arrived here this morning to take stock of the situation in Tripura.

The visit occurred amid growing speculation of impending central intervention to tackle the deteriorating situation in the state.

Gen. Nanavati made an aerial survey of the state and tried to assess the situation through a series of meetings.

Official sources here said his visit might be in response to chief minister Manik Sarkar’s statement in New Delhi that the continuing crisis created by militancy in Tripura could be effectively tackled only by the Army.

Official sources here admitted that the Union home ministry was annoyed with the state government’s mishandling of the situation and was contemplating unilateral action in Tripura under relevant provisions of the Constitution without imposing Article 356. The sources said the tenure of Governor Siddheswar Prasad would end on June 16 and central action would start after the appointment of a new Governor.

“The whole state may be brought under the Disturbed Areas Act followed by induction of the Army with independent powers for fullscale counter-insurgency operations,” they added.

In a significant development, the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura has demanded extension of the Disturbed Areas Act all over the state and induction of the Army for counter-insurgency operations. Senior IPFT leader and chief executive member of the autonomous district council, Debabrata Koloi, said his party has no link with militants of the National Liberation Front of Tripura as “falsely alleged” by the CPM.

“The Left Front is blaming us only to cover up their own failure and the solution to the state’s current problem lies in the extension of the Disturbed Areas Act all over Tripura and induction of the Army,” Koloi said. His stand assumes significance in the context of Manik Sarkar’s statement in New Delhi.

At the same time, the CPM’s state unit is seething with severe discontent over the deteriorating situation in the state and the state government’s inept handling of the crisis.

The manner in which the administration virtually presided over the liquidation of so many tribals as well as non-tribals proved that the state government had lost its grip over the administration. Even central security forces, particularly the CRPF, remained passive onlookers as people died in Kalyanpur police station area. Highly-placed sources in the state CPM said resentment among party members was rising sharply against the chief minister.    


 
 
TASK FORCE TO REVIVE AILING BIHAR UNITS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Patna, May 23 
After a protracted cold war between Tata Engineering and Locomotive Company (Telco) and the Bihar government over the former’s refusal to purchase spare parts from the auto-ancillary units of Adityapur in Jamshedpur, there is a glimmer of hope for the ailing units at last.

Chairman of Small Industries Development Bank of India (Sidbi) S. Narain today said the bank would soon set up a task force to study the problems confronting the Adityapur Industrial Development Area and provide a package for its revival.

The Adityapur Industrial Development Area houses several auto-ancilliary units, which were set up to manufacture spare parts for the heavy vehicles produced by Telco. The units faced a recession following a slump in the market for heavy vehicles. The company slashed production and the need for spare parts decreased. Besides, Telco began feeding its plants with “spares” manufactured by its own ancillaries in Pune.

The industry ministry, which provided loans for the Adityapur units, shot off letters to Telco urging it to purchase spare parts from Adityapur. Narain said the task force will conduct a “crash” survey of the Adityapur units to ascertain if they could diversify or be merged for greater profits. The bank may also sanction loans upto Rs 10 crore to resuscitate the units. Narain’s optimism regarding the revival of the Adityapur Industrial Area stems from an experiment carried out by the bank in Tamil Nadu, where the auto ancillary units were on the verge of collapse following a recession in the heavy vehicle industry.

The Sidbi task force advised them to diversify so that they could manufacture spare parts for two and three-wheelers instead of four-wheelers, whose market was facing a slump. “I feel that the crisis in the heavy vehicle sector is over.

Many of these ancillary units can revive now,’’ Narain said. Besides efforts to solve the problems of the Adityapur Industrial Area, the Sidbi has also launched a micro-credit scheme for the well-managed non-government organisations and women’s co-operatives in Palamau, Hazaribagh and Lohardagga to encourage rural industrialisation. This, according to Narain, will develop the “habit of greater credit rating” by the rural bodies so that the banks may be involved in financing their projects.    

 

FRONT PAGE / NATIONAL / EDITORIAL / BUSINESS / THE EAST / SPORTS
ABOUT US /FEEDBACK / ARCHIVE 
 
Maintained by Web Development Company