Warm-up for civic poll battle
Climbdown Congress cuts bandh by half
Roof accident fails to daunt La Marts topper
Husband’s quit-TV plan led to last row
Girls score higher marks in ISC, ICSE
Metro short of coins
Tripura front rallies for peace
Manipur results

Calcutta, May 24 
Trinamul workers went on the rampage at the Alipore Treasury building on Wednesday during the filing of nomination papers for the coming Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) elections. Two CPM workers were seriously injured after being attacked by Trinamul Congress workers while candidates of both the parties were filing nominations.

The CPM activists then put up a roadblock on Belvedere Road for three hours and gheraoed Alipore police station to protest the attack on their party colleagues.

Consequently, traffic movement was disrupted in and around the Alipore area.

Tension was palpable in the Treasury building around 2 pm when Trinamul candidates, including Subrata Mukherjee, went there, along with hundreds of supporters.

Slogan-shouting Trinamul and CPM workers arrived at the building in cars, waving their party flags in the afternoon.

Even though the candidates were not supposed to enter the building along with their supporters, they violated all rules by taking their men along with them.

Since there were not enough policemen on duty, they failed to prevent the supporters entering the building in large numbers.

Nominations were being filed peacefully enough. But trouble began when the Trinamul members suddenly started throwing stones at the CPM members from the fourth floor of the building.

The CPM members, who were standing at the entrance of the building, were taken by surprise as this attack on them was entirely unprovoked.

The CPM cadre became worked up as one of their party colleagues was profusely bleeding. He had received serious injuries on his nose.

Another CPM worker received injuries in his head on being stoned. So, tension ran high in the area.

The CPM members, who tried to storm the building, were stopped by policemen on duty.

The CPM leaders restrained hundreds of their agitated party supporters by announcing that: “We’ll fight them out in the ballot box but not by striking terror here. Do not taint the party’s image.”

Subrata Mukherjee was asked to comment on the fracas after he came out of the building, having filed his nomination.

Mukherjee laughed and said: “Filing of nomination papers for Assembly elections is conducted quietly. But young members of the party are more enthusiastic about leaders filing nominations for the Corporation polls. Hundreds of young supporters have come here today. However, I do not know anything about the incident.”

He left after being virtually whisked away by his men.

The CPM members asked the policemen on duty to arrest those who were responsible for the unprovoked attack. But their appeal fell on deaf ears.

Then they blocked the road in front of Bhabani Bhavan and shouted slogans demanding the presence of acting DC, south, Banibrata Basu.

Alipore police station was gheraoed. Banibrata Basu immediately came to the spot and met the CPM leaders at the police station. An FIR was lodged.

The blockade was withdrawn around 5.15 pm following an assurance from Basu that stern action would be taken against the trouble-makers.

Basu assured leaders that adequate police arrangements would be made at the treasury building during filing of nomination from Thursday.

The two injured youth were taken to SSKM Hospital.    

Calcutta, May 24 
Under pressure from the public, the state Congress has reduced the duration of the Bangla bandh on Thursday from 24 hours to 12. With the state Congress backing down and the government determined to meet the bandh threat, life is expected to be normal in Calcutta and elsewhere in Bengal.

But Calcutta University has deferred all its under-graduate and post-graduate examinations scheduled for Thursday.

Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty said on Wednesday that the Calcutta State Transport Corporation, the Calcutta Tramways Company and other undertakings will ply a total of 2,000 buses and 200 trams in the city.

“Checking assistants will stay overnight at the Metro stations to roll up the shutters on Friday and ensure normal services,” said Madan Mitra, president of the checking assistants’ union, on Wednesday.

PCC chief A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury told reporters at his residence that the bandh, called to protest CPM’s reign of terror in Keshpur and the general state of “lawlessness”, has been shortened under “great public pressure”. He said he received a number of requests from different quarters to revoke the bandh or reduce its duration.

“Besides, the bandh date coincides with the birth anniversary of rebel poet Kazi Nazrul Islam. A large number of weddings are also scheduled on Thursday. So, we have decided to make it a 12-hour affair,” he said.

City intellectuals, writers, poets and actors condemned the bandh-call on the birth anniversary of Nazrul.

Annada Shankar Ray, Hiren Mukherjee, Arun Mitra, Soumitra Chattopadhyay, Mahasweta Devi, Manoj Mitra and Buddhadeb Guha have all voiced their displeasure. Jana Unnayan Mancha, a body of social workers, has also condemned the bandh.

However, city traders, even though they don’t support the bandh, are likely to play it safe. “Who is going to risk life and property? All bandhs are against the interest of the state’s economy,” said Mahesh Singhania of the Federation of West Bengal Trade Associations.

Private transport operators have also kept their options open. Bengal Bus Syndicate spokesman Rahul Chatterjee said: “We have not told our staff not to ply on the routes.” Tapan Banerjee of the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates said their drivers and conductors have been told to report for duty.

Congress sources said another factor which forced the climbdown from 24 to 12 hours was the refusal of the Trinamul Congress-BJP combine to back the bandh.

Some state Congress leaders, who feel the party shouldn’t have called the bandh in haste, were initially in favour of terminating it at 4 pm itself.

The state CPM has reiterated its decision to oppose the bandh even if it is called for 12 hours. “We are opposed to the bandh, irrespective of its duration. The Congress decision is obviously an outcome of the people’s hostile reaction to its move,” said Left Front chairman Sailen Dasgupta.    

Calcutta, May 24 
Till a month before her ISC, she wasn’t sure she would make it to the examination hall. She did finally make it, on an elbow-crutch, and sat through her papers on a specially-designed chair. Immediately after the exams, she went in for another operation.

Today, Megha Murarka is on top of the world. The 18-year-old from La Martiniere for Girls — one of the four students involved in the ghastly rooftop accident last December — has topped her school and her city with 97.75 per cent.

“Yes, it has sunk in and I’m obviously thrilled. But I owe it all to my parents, my teachers and my doctor,” says Megha, sitting pretty in her south Calcutta apartment on Wednesday afternoon. “I had been aiming very high till the accident happened. After that, I really didn’t think about the marks but just took it one day at a time,” she says.

On December 10, while posing for some school-leaving pictures, Megha, Kusum, Ujjaini and Deepti got atop an asbestos sheet which collapsed, sending the four friends hurtling down a shaft.

Megha fractured her femur and injured her tailbone. After undergoing surgery, she returned home by December-end, but didn’t get back to books before mid-January.

“I couldn’t study for more than 15 minutes at a stretch. Exercises and physiotherapy would take up around four hours every day. It was a painfully slow process and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do my best,” recounts Megha.

But when the exams got under way, with special arrangements being made for Megha and the other injured girls, “the pain was forgotten”. Immediately after, she was wheeled into hospital for surgery. Another major operation awaits her next year.

But for now, it’s time to celebrate and then plan ahead. The one regret: friend Deepti Baid failed to recover in time and couldn’t sit for the exams.

Deepti, meanwhile, is just about starting to walk on her own, at home. If things go according to plan, she could be back in school by September.

“Megha’s always been a good student,” Deepti said, reacting to the news of her friend’s success.

Boasting a scorecard of commerce 99, economics 98, accounts 97 and mathematics 97, Megha is poised to choose between CA and MBA.

Father M.L. Murarka is fretting over the fact that “there are so few options for girls studying commerce in Calcutta”.

But Megha is just waiting for the Asia Cup to start. “I’m otherwise a very practical person, but I’m absolutely crazy about Sachin. I hate to miss any match of his,” she admits with a smile.    

Calcutta, May 24 
Television serial director Debangshu Sengupta had talked about “quitting the profession” after a row with the producer of Mahaprabhu, a popular Bengali serial starring wife Rumni Chatterjee, police investigators disclosed on Wednesday.

This had led to a “heated argument” between Rumni and Debangshu on May 17, the day the actress committed suicide. Rumni had, apparently, told her husband not to take any “drastic step” that could jeopardise their careers.

The police had arrested Debangshu on May 20, following a complaint from Rumni’s mother. He was produced in court on May 22 and remanded to judicial custody till May 31.

Deputy superintendent of police Subhankar Chatterjee and officer-in-charge of Jadavpur police station Salil Bhattacharya interrogated Debangshu on Wednesday. According to the director, producer Kamal Doshi had threatened to drastically slash Debangshu’s pay packet and the production budget as he felt the director was “overshooting”.

This altercation took place during the shooting of an episode at a south Calcutta location.

This hurt Debangshu, who said he would quit, return to his roots in Bihar and work in his father’s shop. “Acting and direction is an art and I cannot compromise for commercial interests,’’ Debangshu told the investigating officers.

The afternoon of May 17 saw Rupak Majumdar, producer of Sanghat, another serial being directed by Debangshu, dropping into the couple’s Prince Ghulam Hussain Shah flat with two associates, Rabin and Tapas Biswas.

Majumdar tried to reason with Debangshu and persuade him not to quit the profession.

But he failed to convince the director, who said he couldn’t compromise. After Majumdar and the others left, Debangshu broke down. With her husband refusing to budge from his stand, an infuriated Rumni — who felt that the serial was so popular that Debangshu’s walkout would harm both their careers — withdrew into her room and locked herself in.

The couple was supposed to go to a programme organised by Khelar Mela at Rabindra Sarobar that evening. Rumni, being one of the prominent office-bearers of the organisation, had asked Debangshu to perform at the function. But Rumni refused to attend the function. “You change your decision of quitting the industry first, only then will I think about going to to the function,’’ she told her husband.

Debangshu then left the house in a huff, but returned within 10 minutes to plead with her to accompany him to the programme.

When Rumni turned down his request, an angry Debangshu tore off his kurta and left the house in shorts, T-shirt and chappals.

“If you go like this, I will commit suicide,’’ Rumni shouted after her departing husband, who did not pay heed.

Debangshu drove till Dhakuria bridge but then decided to return home. When nobody answered the door, he tried to climb up the pipe at the rear of the building, but failed.

Fearing the worst, he alerted some neighbours, who helped him break open the front door of the flat and found Rumni hanging from the ceiling.    

Calcutta, May 24 
Girls have fared better than the boys as an overall picture of this year’s ISC and ICSE results in the city emerged on Wednesday.

At least two schools were yet to get their results till late in the evening. The authorities of Julien Day School, Elgin Road, and St Stephen’s School, north Calcutta, said they had not yet received the Internet passwords from the Council in Delhi.

Most other schools have by now received their results through the Internet, including St Thomas’ School, Howrah, and St Thomas Boys’ School, Kidderpore, where parents and guardians had agitated on Tuesday over the delay.

An exact and comparative analysis of how and where the marks, awarded by the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations, went was not possible as the schools are closed now for the summer vacations.

But some principals and teachers agreed that, on an average, girl candidates or girls’ schools fared better, securing higher marks than the boys.

One or two boys’ schools have, however, proved an exception. The candidates in both ISC and ICSE exams from Don Bosco, Park Circus, for example, have done better than last year’s batch.

“The results this year have been better,” said Father Manipadam.

Of the 154 students who appeared for the ISC exam, 49 scored 90 per cent and above. Ronojoydipak Duffadar of Calcutta Boys’ secured 96.5 per cent in the ISC exam.    

Calcutta, May 24 
Faced with a severe shortage of small change, Metro Railway has sent an SOS to the Reserve Bank of India for fresh supplies.

Senior officers said the RBI has agreed to provide small change worth Rs 2 lakh a week, to be supplied in two batches.

“Shortage of small change at our ticket counters has become quite a problem for us. People often miss their trains, having to wait for a long time to get back their change,” said a Metro Rail official.

Some employees feel passengers do not put out small change even if they have it. “At times, passengers have parted with the right fare in small change after we refused to accept their Rs 10 or Rs 50 notes,” they said.

Metro Railway employees manning the ticket counters at Dum Dum, Belgachhia and Chandni Chowk stations said scarcity of Rs 5, Rs 2 and Re 1 coins often force them to turn down passengers with currency notes of Rs 100, Rs 50, Rs 20 and Rs 10 denominations.

To solve the problem, Metro Railway has opened exact-fare counters at Dum Dum, Shyambazar, Esplanade and Tollygunge stations.

Shekhar Chakroborty, station manager of Dum Dum, said: “We are opening each counter with coins worth Rs 800 to Rs 1,000. But they run out of stock after a few hours.”

Last month, S.C. Banerjee, senior public relations officer of Metro Railway, along with the chief cashier of Metro Railway, met RBI officers requesting them to provide small change.

“They agreed to provide us with Rs 2 lakh-worth of coins a week in two instalments,” Banerjee said.

About Rs 1.4 lakh is in five-rupee coins, Rs 40,000 in Rs 2 coins and the rest in Re 1 coins. “The situation has started improving from May,” Banerjee claimed.    

Agartala, May 24 
Fresh from a comprehensive victory in the Autonomous District Council elections, the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura yesterday offered to help the Centre and the state government initiate peace talks with various militant outfits in Tripura.

The newly-formed party is suspected to be the political wing of the outlawed National Liberation Front of Tripura. IPFT president Harinath Debbarma, general secretary Debabrata Koloi and the party’s student wing chief Mebar Kumar Jamatya told a Press conference here that any initiative to hold a dialogue with the militants was welcome.

However, the tribal leaders said the Left Front government in the state did not appear to have the desire to make a move in this regard. “We want peace, but those who are supposed to take the initiative for peace are not doing so,” Debbarma said.

Lauding the Nagaland government for joining hands with the Centre to bring Naga militants to the negotiating table, Jamatya said Tripura required a similar initiative from its leaders.

Koloi said the Left Front government had failed to bring about any change in the law and order situation in Tripura and the “lone alternative” was to extend the Disturbed Areas Act to all parts of the state.

The IPFT general secretary also blamed the police and paramilitary forces for the ethnic riots in Khowai subdivision of West Tripura.

Cong delegation: A delegation of Congress leaders comprising Pranab Mookherjee, Mukul Wasnik, Ambika Soni and S.C. Jamir will arrive here tomorrow to take stock of the situation in the riot-torn West Tripura district.

The delegation will visit Kalyanpur and Khowai police station areas in West Tripura, where more than 48 people have b een killed and over 10,000 rendered homeless in the recent riots.

They will also meet chief minister Manik Sarkar to discuss the situation. Stating this in a Press meeting PCC president Birajit Sinha said he had asked AICC president Sonia Gandhi to send a delegation to Tripura to assess the situation and raise it at the national level. Sinha said Tripura was in the grip of virtual anarchy.

He added that normalcy could be restored in the state only by invoking Article 356 and inducting the Army.    

Imphal, May 24 
Girls have topped the Arts and Science streams of the Manipur Higher Secondary Examination, results of which were declared last night, our correspondent reports.

Altogether 23,413 students had appeared for the higher secondary examination this year.

The number of successful candidates was 17,059, which was an all-time high.    


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