Militant cash conduit bust
Fair rate of success in CBSE
CMC in vat spat with Senbo
Twin peak-hour snags halt Metro
Chaplin rush to corner limelight
Police remand for actress’ husband
Life amid death, disease
Assam tries to stave off Neepco power crisis
Tokyo recalls experts after Imphal shootout
Deportees back in Assam to claim land

Calcutta, May 31 
Certain “foreign operatives” have been funding at least three militant groups in the Northeast through a city-based hundi racket for the past three years.

This sensational revelation came to light after two young men, travelling on a scooter without a numberplate, were arrested late on Tuesday night after they were found to be moving around “suspiciously”.

A sum of Rs 15 lakh was recovered from the scooter, stashed next to the engine. The ‘consignment’ was meant for a person who would cart it to destinations in the Northeast, confessed Mohammad Yusuf and Mohammad Amin during interrogation.

On the basis of information provided by the two, the city police carried out raids in Zakaria Street and arrested three others. However, the “kingpins” are said to be missing. A number of documents recovered during the raids have also indicated that “three terrorist outfits” in the Northeast were beneficiaries of the racket.

“While we have the documents with us indicating that some terrorist outfits were being funded via the city-based hundi racket, we shall not reveal the names of these outfits, as it might hamper investigations,” said a senior intelligence official.

However, indications are that at least one of the militant outfits may be operating in Meghalaya, as the inspector-general of police of that state was contacted by the city police after the raids. Besides the detective department of the city police, the special branch, subsidiary intelligence bureau and the enforcement directorate are all investigating the case.

Preliminary investigations have revealed that the racket in the city was primarily being operated by a “doctor saab” who has not yet been identified.

Police said that the mysterious ringleader had been receiving instructions from certain “operatives” in Surat and, thereafter, depositing “huge amounts” into accounts operated by four persons at the Zakaria Street branch of the State Bank of India.

The accounts were in the names of Arif Sattar, Tohid Wahid, Yakub Sattar and Wahid Sattar under current account numbers 2144, 1837, 2146 and 2140. All four are absconding.

Police said specified amounts were withdrawn “as and when the need arose” and handed over to Yusuf and Amin. The two, in turn, handed over the money to others at certain designated places.

“Yusuf and Amin were simply carriers,” explained the deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Narayan Ghosh. “They neither knew who ‘doctor saab’ was, nor were they acquainted with the persons to whom they were handing over the money.”

Yusuf said at the Hare Street police station: “We did not know any of the persons we interacted with. Last night, we received a message on the mobile phone telling us to go to a particular spot in Burrabazar, where a person would hand over two bags containing money.

“We were also told that thereafter, we should go to Naaz cinema, where a person would collect the money from us. It is just our misfortune that we got caught on our way to the hall.” According to Amin, they were paid Rs 3,000 for each such “assignment”.    

Calcutta, May 31 
Class XII examinees have fared fairly well in this year’s CBSE.

The results were announced on the Internet on Tuesday night. The examinations, conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Education, were held in March.

The Class X CBSE results are expected to be announced on the Internet next week.

The success rate in Mahadevi Birla Girls’ High School is cent per cent. Of 127 examinees from Mahadevi Birla, 126 have been placed in Grade I. Only one student has obtained Grade II.

The success rate at Birla High and Birla Girls’ is 99 per cent. Nearly 390 examinees had appeared from the two schools.

The results were available to nearly all the examinees of well-known CBSE schools with access to Net facilities.

However, there was confusion among students of at least 13 Kendriya Vidyalayas in and around Calcutta, as most of these institutions do not have Internet facilities. Except for the Central School in Fort William, no other branch of the school has an Internet connection.

The assistant commissioner of the Kendriya Vidyalayas in Calcutta, Radhakrishnan, said he had already sent an officer to the CBSE headquarters in Allahabad.

He will collect the results of all the schools in the entire Calcutta region and return to the city .

“The official is expected to be back by Thursday and the results will be distributed to the respective schools by Friday,” Radhakrishnan said.

Girl killed: An 18-year-old girl was killed in a road accident on Wednesday evening.

Ranjana Dey, a resident of Joynagar, on the southern outskirts of the city, was hit by a speeding truck while returning home.

While the driver managed to escape, locals damaged the truck and set up a roadblock, which was lifted after the police intervened.    

Calcutta, May 31 
Work on the pedestrian subway at Esplanade came to an indefinite halt on Wednesday when the running battle between the civic authorities and Senbo Engineering, the main contractor for the the first phase of the Calcutta Urban Transport Infrastructure project, further intensified after a garbage vat was removed from the site.

Corporation officials said Senbo staff engaged in building an underpass had removed the vat without permission.

The Corporation’s conservancy department slapped a stop-work notice on Senbo because it had not made alternative arrangements to store and dispose trash in the commercial hub.

Wednesday was the third time that the Corporation and Senbo ran into each other. On Monday, the Corporation complained to the police after Senbo staff working on the Gariahat flyover damaged south Calcutta’s only underground water mains.

“We are not against city development projects. But permission must be taken. The vat belonged to us. On what authority did Senbo remove it without an alternative arrangement?” asked CMC commissioner Asim Barman.

The district conservancy officer of borough VI, Swapan Mahapatra, said the vat was the only garbage dump for the central business district. Nearly 35 tonnes of garbage accumulates at the spot daily. “If Senbo demolishes it, where are we to deposit so much rubbish?” Mahapatra asked.

A spokesman for Senbo, however, said that on May 17, the company had written to the member mayor in council, Kanti Ganguly, informing him that there was a vat at the site. Though, Senbo did not specifically ask for the vat to be removed, it did urge the corporation “to send your personnel to take any necessary action as deemed necessary.” Senbo also attached a map of site giving the location of the vat.

Corporation officials said Senbo had not waited for the civic authority to take action but had gone ahead on its own. The underpass is being dug from the pavement in front of Peerless Hotel. It cuts diagonally under Jawaharlal Nehru Road and Rani Rashmoni Road. It will use the entry/exit point of an existing underpass on J.L. Nehru Road. The other end will be in Curzon Park, near the Calcutta Tramways office.

The selection of Senbo as primary contractor for traffic infrastructure improvement project had sparked off a controversy, with some quarters questioning its credibility.

But the controversy died down after chief minister Jyoti Basu gave Senbo the all-clear.

The company has run into trouble frequently since it began work on the Gariahat flyover and road-widening schemes that comprise Package I of the urban traffic infrastructure project. The project is funded by the Japanese.    

Calcutta, May 31 
Metro services developed snags twice on Wednesday.

At 11.34 am, a loud report was heard while a Dum Dum-bound train was running between Rabindra Sarovar and Kalighat stations. Passengers were thrown into a panic when they noticed sparks and smoke and the floor turned quite hot.

Commotion broke out as the compartments were filled with smoke and the train moved at a snail’s pace. The driver asked the passengers to keep their cool. They were finally allowed to alight at Jatin Das Park station. Services remained disrupted till 1:10 pm.

Earlier, Metro services were paralysed for an hour from 10.00 am, when an Up train developed a technical snag at Sovabazar. Twenty-two pairs of Up and Down trains were cancelled. Ticket counters at all the stations had to be closed.

Metro officials said there was some obstruction in the third rail which carries power. Thereafter, the control room discontinued electricity supply. Though engineers were rushed to inspect the site, a senior Metro official said the cause behind the snag was yet to be ascertained.

Many office-goers and students were inconvenienced by the disrupted services at peak hour. As the shutters of the stations were downed, commuters were annoyed for having to wait outside in the heat.

Though services resumed at 1:10 pm, the first train was driven slowly, to be on the safe side, and, as a result, took almost double the usual time to reach its destination. Moreover, the train was so crowded that the doors could not be shut.    

Calcutta, May 31 
What’s in a name, after all? Ten long years have passed since good ol’ Minerva was renamed Chaplin by information and cultural affairs minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya, in a bid to revive the fortunes of the government-owned theatre.

Bhattacharya has gone on to become deputy chief minister and heir-apparent to the chief minister’s chair, but nothing seems to have changed at the hall which looks out on a prominent red bastion, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) headquarters.

Named after Charles Chaplin in 1990, it is today a tragic sight. Plasters peeling off the defaced walls, water dripping from the damp ceiling, ill-maintained interiors and sub-standard films have rendered this hall an absolute no-no for filmgoers.

“These days, we are incurring heavy losses due to a slump in the sale of tickets. The attendance has dropped to 30 per cent in the past couple of months,” says hall manager Aurobindo Roy.

Alarmed by the rapid decline, the West Bengal Film Development Corporation (WBFDC), which looks after the management of the hall, has finally drawn up a desperate plan to give the hall a brand new look after the rains — with video parlour, snack bar and all.

“We have decided to close down Chaplin for over a month to complete renovation work,” said Dilip Basu, director of films, government of West Bengal.

According to Basu, the new-look hall will lure the young and restless with video parlours, a coffee-cum-snack counter, and, maybe, a bar.

“We will procure a host of CDs and cassettes to attract youngsters,” announced Basu.

WBFDC managing director Subrata Mukherjee said the renovated hall will be “a gift to the city” during the film festival, scheduled for November. “I’m sure the management will be able to attract viewers by doing up the place and giving it a youthful look,” he added.

The proposal to increase the capacity of the hall from 707 to around 1,000 is being studied.

The age-old mono sound system will be replaced by the digital stereo system to match the audio quality in nearby halls.

“Cine-goers often leave the hall frustrated with the faulty sound system,” confessed a Chaplin employee.

If the sound is bad, the air- conditioning is worse. With hardly any maintenance over the years, Chaplin often doubles as a sauna in summers.

Officials at the hall said the bar, which was an integral part of erstwhile Minerva, should be revived to draw in the crowds.

Mohammad Shafique, former bartender now manning the gates, says: “The bar is a must to attract the crowds. One of the reasons why all other halls in the vicinity, like Globe, New Empire and Lighthouse, are flourishing is because they have proper bars for their customers.”

But while the hall employees insist that a bar makes good business sense, the government will think thrice before letting the liquor flow at Chaplin.

“We are against reopening the bar at the hall because this may trigger public criticism,” observed Basu.

Pay hike demand

In another development, the Chaplin hall employees have threatened to launch an agitation soon, demanding revision in their pay scales.

“The present management is responsible for the prevailing state of affairs in the hall,” alleges B.K. Behra, secretary of the West Bengal Film Development Corporation Exhibition Employees’ Association.

According to Behra, the Chaplin staff will submit a memorandum to the deputy chief minister for redress of their grievances.    

Calcutta, May 31 
Teleserial director Debangshu Sengupta, who was produced in court by officers of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on Wednesday, has been remanded to police custody for two days.

Sengupta was arrested in connection with the death of his actress-wife, Rumni Chakraborty on May 19.

Rumni had committed suicide by hanging herself from a ceiling fan on May 17 at the couple’s Prince Ghulam Hussain Shah Road flat in Jadavpur.

The case was handed over to the CID after her mother lodged a complaint with the police.

However, officials of the CID probing the case have come to the conclusion that Rumni had committed suicide.

“We have urged the court to remand Sengupta to police custody for further interrogation, so that we can unearth the reason behind the suicide,” the officials added.    

Calcutta, May 31 
More than 2,000 residents of the dilapidated blocks of the CMDA housing estate on Chetla Hat Road are living in fear of death and disease.

“We are simply counting our days now. We don’t know in which form death will strike first — the collapse of the building, or an outbreak of malignant malaria”, said Raghunath Mahato, an elderly tenant of the crumbling complex on 19A, Chetla Hat Road.

There are seven five-storey blocks in the campus, comprising 482 single-room flats. Any of the buildings can collapse like a pack of cards in the event of a strong cyclone. Lack of maintenance has turned the basement halls into pools of accumulated rain water, breeding malarial mosquitoes by the millions.

The disease doesn’t spare anyone in the housing complex.

“It is doubtful if repairs can restore the structural stability of these five-storey structures,” said a CMDA engineer.

G.P. Sen, director of CMDA, Surat scheme, who is in-charge of the complex, admitted that the condition of the buildings was “deplorable”, but said: “We have no funds for maintenance.”

The Chetla CMDA Building Tenants’ Association lodged an FIR with Alipore police station in November, complaining that the complex was unsafe.

But, instead of taking any action, the CMDA is now trying to sell the dilapidated flats to the occupants at Rs 25,000 each. The tenants’ association recently brought the matter to the notice of municipal affairs minister Ashok Bhattacharaya, citing three accidents last year.

Things took a turn for the worse in the past two months, as the CMDA’s conservancy contractor refused to clear garbage for non-payment of dues. The CMC collects garbage from the campus, as it belongs to the CMDA.

The deep tubewell at the housing complex has run dry, precipitating a crisis of potable water. The overhead tank has not been cleaned for ages.    

Guwahati, May 31 
In a last-minute bid to resolve the crisis arising out of the Shillong-based North Eastern Electric Power Corporation’s threat to cut off power supply to Assam, state power minister Hitendranath Goswami rushed to the Meghalaya capital today for discussions on payment of outstanding dues.

“The government is trying to garner Rs 10 crore and avert curtailment of power supply,” Goswami told newspersons here.

“We want to discuss the matter with the corporation authorities across the table as there is a difference between verbally issuing orders and giving written statements,” the power minister said.

The minister said it was impossible to clear at least 50 per cent of the state’s outstanding dues immediately. He said the power corporation issued an ultimatum for payment of the amount only on Monday, leaving the state government with very little time to arrange the money.

“We will suggest a payment schedule during our meeting with the corporation authorities,” he said. Goswami telephoned Union power minister P.R. Kumaramangalam today to apprise him of the matter. He also urged the latter to ask the power corporation to supply 100 MW of power to Assam.

Kumaramangalam reportedly advised the state power minister to discuss the issue with the corporation authorities.

Goswami said the Assam State Electricity Board paid Rs 7.5 crore to the power corporation in May and another Rs 10 crore would be handed over shortly.

Asked if the decision to pay Rs 10 crore was prompted by the corporation’s threat to cut off power supply, the minister replied in the negative. He said the electricity board had been paying its dues to different power-generating agencies since February. “We will open a letter of credit account, in return for which the power corporation should supply 100 mw of power,” Goswami said.

The minister said there would be a 29 per cent shortfall during peak hours if the corporation switched off power supply, but none during the rest of the day. Goswami said he would pressure the government into clearing its dues every month from now on. The board has to pay the corporation Rs 15 crore per month.

Of the 220 MW of power it gets from the corporation, 100 MW is hydel power (costing Rs 2.5 crore) and 120 MW is thermal power (costing Rs 12.5 crore).

“As thermal power is more expensive, we have asked the corporation to cut its supply by half,” Goswami said.

ASEB tough stand

The Assam State Electricity Board (ASEB) has decided to act tough against erring government departments and set July 1 as the deadline to clear their outstanding power bills.

“Power supplies to the government departments will be discontinued if they fail to pay their dues by the deadline,” state power minister Hitendra Nath Goswami said here today.

Goswami said the board is yet to realise power tariff worth Rs 127 crore from the government departments. Another Rs 88 crore is due from the public sector undertakings and municipal boards, he added.

The major defaulters are the irrigation and the public health departments which owe Rs 52 crore and Rs 47 crore respectively to the board, Goswami said.

“Janata Bhawan, which houses the offices of various ministers, will be the worst-affected,” he added.

The action has come in the wake of the threat from North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited (Neepco) to stop power supply to Assam as the state electricity board has failed to pay Rs 654.21 crore to Neepco.

Goswami said ASEB has to pay money to different power corporations to buy electricity, so a one-time retrieval of Rs 200 crore from its defaulters will put the board in good financial stead for the moment.    

Imphal, May 31 
Four Japanese nationals involved in a sericulture project here have been summoned to Tokyo by their government in view of the shootout between militants and the police at their residential building here on May 18.

The Japanese consultants, all from the Nippon Koei Company Limited, came here for implementation of the Rs 490-crore “Manipur sericulture project” funded by the Overseas Economic Corporation Fund, since rechristened as the Japanese Bank of International Corporation.

They recently moved into an apartment at Wangkhei Wangkheimayum Leirak, the site of the shootout. However, none of them was there when the incident took place.

Team leader Susumu Homma reportedly told officials of the state sericulture department that the Japanese government had asked them to suspend work for sometime and leave for Tokyo.

Six militants taking shelter in the building in which the Japanese nationals had been provided accommodation were killed in a three-hour-long encounter with the police and Assam Rifles personnel on May 18.

Though the Japanese team provided details about the incident to their embassy in New Delhi, Tokyo apparently wants to speak directly to them about the shootout and the progress of the sericulture project.

However, Homma declined to comment either on the project or the Japanese government’s decision to summon them to Tokyo.

The first secretary of the Japanese embassy and an official of the Japanese Bank of International Corporation are scheduled to arrive here tomorrow to assess the progress of the sericulture project and the security provided to the four consultants.

Sources said the funding agency was unhappy over the slow progress of the project.

While two of the Japanese consultants have already left the state, Homma and his other colleague are likely to leave on June 8. State government officials have requested the Japanese team to go on “duty leave” instead of suspending their consultancy services. Sericulture minister T. Hangkhanpao said his department was yet to receive an official intimation. He said there was no question of the project being put on hold as it was part of an agreement between the Centre and the Japanese government.

Bungling charge

Bureaucratic bungling by sericulture department officials is believed to be the reason behind the slow progress of the Japanese-funded “Manipur sericulture project”. Non-issuance of financial concurrence by the Manipur government for beginning of construction work is preventing the project from going full steam ahead, sources said.

The sericulture project has been divided into two phases. The first phase, spanning five years, envisages development of infrastructure. Altogether Rs 134.39 crore has been earmarked for implementation of the first phase of the project. The second phase, spanning a period of another five years, envisages silk production.

Though the Japanese Bank of International Corporation has already sanctioned Rs 116 crore and deposited it in the State Bank of India’s Tokyo branch, the money cannot be withdrawn due to the slow progress of work here.

As per the agreement between the Centre and the Japanese government, the state government has to first invest in the project. The amount spent by it will be reimbursed quarterly.

The Manipur government has invested only Rs 50 lakh in the project over the past two years.

Another reason for the delay in implementing the project is the tussle between the state sericulture and works departments over construction work.    

Nagaon, May 31 
Two Bangladeshi nationals, who had voluntarily quit the country in the late Sixties, have once again sneaked into Assam to take possession of their land which they had handed over to a Hindu family at Kanuamari near Samuguri in Nagaon district.

The duo, after losing a title suit and an appeal in the court of the district assistant session judge, managed to cross over once gain to file a suit at the Gauhati High Court. The migrants had earlier been pushed back twice in 1992 and 1995.

A status report submitted by the Nagaon branch of the border police to the additional director- generals of police and the CID last week said Mohammad Noor Rahman and Mohammad Noor Islam had infiltrated the border for the third consecutive time after being pushed back to Bangladesh from the Dawki passport checkpost on May 20, 1968.

The Nagaon branch was asked to probe the incident following a High Court directive to the department. “Both of them were declared foreigners on the basis of their voluntary option to quit the country following which they were pushed back to the other side of the border through the Dawki passport check post vide exit numbers 1,122 and 1,123 respectively,” the report said. The details of their exit had been put on record, it added.

The report, however, added that no specific case under the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act or the Foreigners’ Act were registered against them and they were deported as per existing norms.

While they were caught by the border police in Nagaon and pushed back through the Mohishason passport checkpost in October 1992 (vide exit numbers 1,530 and 1,537), the duo once again managed to cross over during the intervening period before being finally deported from the same checkpost in September 1995 (vide exit numbers 747 and 748).

A senior government advocate claimed that many such cases have been admitted to the High Court. He also added that the report by the Nagaon police will soon be tabled in court.

An official dealing with the investigation told The Telegraph that the duo had taken illegal possession of their land by throwing out Mahendra Chandra Das and his family. “Both Rahman and Islam had initially agreed to exchange all their immovable property with Das, who had migrated to Assam from Sarbhabanipur in Bangladesh,” he said.

He said the deal was struck under the provisions of the Nehru-Liakat agreement which allowed persons from both sides of the border to exchange their property through mutual agreement before being pushed back.

“The exchange was done before the Nagaon sub-registrar,” he added.    


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