Airport high on risk list
Foreign hand in funds racket
Sheriff slaps graft charge on staffer
Tip-tap-type, and it’s picture perfect
Prawn, mango sale after carriers collide
Burrabazar blocked over power cuts
Most N-E states in the dark
Militant hideout busted in Assam
Three killed in Golaghat road mishap
Tripura rebels abduct two, torch houses of non-tri

Calcutta, June 1 
Alarmed at a joint probe committee’s report on poor security at Calcutta airport, the minister of state for civil aviation, Chaman Lal Gupta, hotfooted it to the city on Thursday and urged chief minister Jyoti Basu to take steps urgently.

Calcutta airport figures high on the list of the most unsafe airports in the country.

“We have exchanged views over beefing up safety and security at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport. I have told the chief minister that the Centre will render all cooperation,” Gupta said after the meeting.

Sources said arrangements have been made to deploy jawans of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) at the airport by the end of June.

“The city airport is one of the most important in the country, at which many flights, including foreign ones, touch down. In the backdrop of the present situation in the country, it is of prime importance to step up the airport’s security,” he told Basu.

The meeting was also attended by deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya and home secretary S.N. Roy.

After last December’s hijack of flight IC-814 from Kathmandu to Kandahar, the Centre commissioned a team to study the security situation in important airports.

Based on the findings of the study, the Union home ministry has asked the civil aviation department to tighten security.

A team, comprising officials from the Union home and civil aviation ministries, recently visited Calcutta airport. Their report convinced the civil aviation ministry that security at the city airport was not up to the mark.

However, Basu told Gupta that the state government had chalked out a blueprint to improve security at the airport.

“We have created a post of superintendent of police exclusively to look after safety and security at the airport. We have also taken other steps to strengthen security arrangements,” Basu told Gupta.

The Union minister’s observation on the security set-up is not misplaced. Regular visitors to the airport know that it is not difficult to cross the initial security barrier.

Recently, a passenger had managed to enter the airport with a revolver after hoodwinking security personnel.

They came to know about the revolver when the owner declared it. It was found that the metal detector and the X-ray machines through which the passenger’s luggage had passed were faulty.

An airport staffer alleged: “There is an unholy nexus among Customs, police and airport officials, which must stop.”

He said it was not true that there was a shortage of security forces. It was their attitude that was wanting, he said.

The district magistrate of North 24-Parganas, Alapan Bandopadhyay, who oversees administration at the airport, said meetings are held regularly with the SP (airport) and other officers to monitor security.    

Calcutta, June 1 
All the five people arrested for their alleged involvement in the hundi racket funding militant groups in the Northeast are of “foreign origin”, possibly Pakistanis, the police said on Thursday.

“They have all been booked under the Foreigners’ Act, as our investigations have revealed that they are not Indian nationals,” said deputy commissioner of police (central), R.K. Kanojia.

On Tuesday night, Mohammad Amin and Mohammad Yusuf were arrested after they were found to be moving “suspiciously” on their new scooter in central Calcuta. A search of the vehicle revealed Rs 15 lakhs stashed away in a compartment next to the engine.

Interrogation of the youth led to information that their accomplices were holed up in a house on Zakaria Street. A raid on Wednesday led to the arrest of three more suspects who operated accounts in the Zakaria Street branch of the State Bank of India.

Huge sums of money, which found its way to the city from Surat, were kept here. after which they were dispersed to militant outfits in the Northeast.

Amin and Yusuf told the police that they were “mere carriers” who received messages on their cellphones and collected and handed over money from and to people they were not acquainted with.

Police said on Thursday that this hundi racket had been flourishing for the past couple of years.

In the past eight months, they said, money had been suplied to the ultras on at least four occasions. Yusuf and Amin further revealed on Thursday that they had crossed over to India from the “western border” about a year ago. After spending about six months with “contacts” in Gujarat, they had made their way to the city early this year.

It was further revealed on Thursday that Yakub Sattar, one of the kingpins of the racket, had visited Guwahati on several occasions this year to meet “contacts”. Yakub is also “from across the border”, Kanojia said, and had also spent time in Gujarat before making his way to Calcutta.

“We have already established contact with our counterparts in Gujarat and hope to get some useful information from them,” Kanojia said.

“We also have an idea who the other kingpins are, but would not like to reveal their identity till their role in this racket is established,” Kanojia added.    

Calcutta, June 1 
The only foreign liquor shop in Salt Lake has been sealed by the state excise department after its high-profile owner, sheriff Pankaj Roy, was charged with tampering with government documents.

The alleged malpractice has cost the state exchequer several lakhs of rupees.

Roy, who was not available for comment, has filed an FIR against one of his employees, charging him with fraud. “We have begun an inquiry to unearth the truth behind the charges of forgery,” said Alapan Bandopadhyay, North 24-Parganas district magistrate, on Thursday.

The district magistrate said the probe was expected to be completed in a week. “If the charges against the person or persons concerned are proved, no one will be spared,” Bandopadhyay said.

According to him, some of the charges against the shop had turned out to be true. “The picture will be clear once the inquiry is complete,” Bandopadhyay added.

Excise department officials maintain they had been receiving complaints against the shop, located in Salt Lake’s AE market. The liquor outlet owned by the former Test cricketer allegedly charged exorbitant rates. Liquor was also sold in the black market.

Excise officials failed to explain why no other shop in Salt Lake had been granted a liquor licence.

“The strategic position of Roy’s shop and the monopoly it enjoyed might have led to irregular practices,” said a liquor shop owner in central Calcutta.

The sheriff was not available for comment till late in the night, while Prabhat Roy refused to comment on the charges levelled against his father.    

Calcutta, June 1 
Even as Doordarshan was featuring a Chennai ‘artist’ as the pioneer in typewriter ‘painting’ this March, a diminutive Jiban Krishna Chakraborty was hunched over his old Remington typewriter in his modest home on the city’s northern fringes, creating vivid images of his life and times.

Jibanda, as his neighbours of Pratapaditya Nagar, in Dum Dum, call him, claims to be the pioneer in ‘typing’ out pictures, challenging the contention of the Chennai-based artist, whose name will reportedly go into the Guinness Book of World Records.

“I have written to the Guinness authorities, protesting the Doordarshan news item. I am the pioneer of this art, particularly in using water colours in a typewriter,” says 61-year-old Chakraborty, who first exhibited his works at the Academy of Fine Arts way back in 1968. The ‘pretender’ from down South started practising the art in 1985.

Chakraborty uses his typewriter keys as a paintbrush — from a vignette of a languid village afternoon in vibrant colours, a chirpy squirrel on its food trail, to portraits of Karl Marx, Indira Gandhi and Mother Teresa.

His technique is simple, yet telling. By releasing the margin-hold of the machine, he manoeuvres the roller with his left hand even as he doodles with the keys with his right hand, varying his touch from hard to soft for the nuances of the rare art. With patience and imagination, emerges a perfect picture.

The pioneer of ‘stenographic art’ or ‘stenographics’ — the genre is yet to be categorised — sure has the credentials to back his claim.

“A remarkable achievement, a neat tour de force in the use of the typewriter to produce a very pleasing series of pictures,” gushed Suniti Kumar Chatterjee after visiting Chakraborty’s second exhibition at the Academy in 1969.

His works have made it beyond the shores of Bengal. The portrait of Mother Teresa was sold to a London connoisseur, ‘Mother and Child’ was purchased by the Japanese Consulate, and ‘Indira Gandhi’ was procured by the Karnataka government.

The man ‘discovered’ this unusual art form shortly after he joined Gun and Shell Factory as a clerk in 1962. “I was the youngest in office and during the afternoon recess, had little to do, since I couldn’t join the banter of the elders. So I started fiddling with the typewriter and found that the keys could be used as a paint brush,” recalls Chakraborty.

Once he joined income-tax in 1964, he squeezed out more time to indulge what had by then become a passion. And a necessity too.

“I could marry off my three sisters with the money from the sales of my pictures at the exhibitions and the few commercial assignments I took up with publishing houses,” says Chakraborty, who has an ailing wife and two sons to take care of.

Apart from the four exhibitions at the Academy, he has displayed his works at Triveni Kala Sangam in Delhi and at Rabindra Bhavan in Guwahati.

Two of Chakraborty’s titles, ‘Hair Dressing’ and ‘Up and Down the Stairs’, have been preserved at the Guwahati museum. His ‘Please Send the Letter’ got an award of excellence from the state government in 1969.

“I want to start a school for typewriter-painting some time,” says the artist post-retirement. “Perhaps, there are youngsters who are more talented than me. But they must be taught the basics to keep the art alive.”    

Calcutta, June 1 
Thursday morning’s accident, in which two men were killed and 10 others were injured as two vehicles collided near Victoria Memorial, ironically cheered up many. The mangoes and prawns, with which the two vehicles were laden, were sold for a song.

Street urchins looted some of the mangoes and prawns. “We could get the scent of mangoes in the air,” one of the boys said.

The injured men were admitted to SSKM Hospital. One of the victims died on the spot, while the other succumbed to his injuries in hospital.

While the Tata 407 (WB-03A 0809) was loaded with mangoes, the truck (WB-03A 9205 ) was carrying prawns.

The accident occurred around 5 am, when their drivers lost control over both vehicles, killing Tinku Ali Mondal (20) and Mohammad Riazuddin (32), who were travelling in the Tata 407. The injured men, too, were in the same vehicle.

While some of the goodies lay scattered on the road, most of it, surprisingly, remained intact in the truck.

It came as a godsend to passersby. They were more interested in collecting the fruit than helping the injured and taking them to hospital. Some urchins joined them in this operation.

“My elder brother collected the mangoes and kept them safely to sell them later,” said a streetchild, carrying the fruit in a small bag as he walked around the Maidan. “We ate some of them,” he added.

Besides the goodies sold, a large quantity of prawn was despatched to different parts of the city and its adjoining areas.

The prawns were sent to different city markets, like Chuni Babu Market and other neighbourhoods, at noon and were sold cheap.

The carriers of the prawns managed to hire a van and sent some of these to Bantala and its adjoining areas.

“We managed to hire the Bantala-bound van on the spot,” they said.

“We had no option to selling them cheap, as the prawn could not be sent to traders on time owing to the accident,” said one of the carriers, Mohammad Giazuddin.

Some mangoes are still lying in the local police station, as there were no takers.

“We have every right to auction them, as the Calcutta Police Act empowers us to do so. We are waiting for the owner to claim the mangoes,” said Jayanta Das, officer-in-charge of Hastings police station.

n Youth commits suicide: Rajendra Jain, who had consumed poison at a hotel near Howrah station on Wednesday night, died at Howrah State General Hospital on Thursday afternoon.

The 26-year-old had come to the city from Gorakhpur, in Uttar Pradesh, on a business trip. According to the police, though it appears to be a case of suicide, the cause is yet to be ascertained.    

Calcutta, June 1 
Traffic in the Burrabazar area was severely disrupted on Thursday morning when residents, angry at constant power cuts in the area over the past three days, blocked the arterial MG Road.

Police said about 200 residents, grouped under the Rajakatra Tenants’ Association, assembled at the junction of Mir Bahar Ghat Street and Strand Road, blocking peak-hour traffic. As news of the traffic snarl reached Lalbazar, senior officers rushed to the spot and persuaded residents to lift the roadblock.

Taher Ali, resident of the area, said: “The power crisis in mid-summer has made our lives miserable. Repeated requests to the authorities have fallen on deaf ears. We had no alternative but to take to the streets.”

The CESC authorities said power supply, disrupted for a day due to a fault in the ‘DC’ line, had been restored on Thursday evening. They blamed “tapping” for the power disruption.    

June 1 
The Gauhati High Court today passed an order restraining Neepco from implementing its decision to slash power supply to Assam which has defaulted in payment. However, most states experienced prolonged powercuts.

Neepco had threatened to cut off power supply to all the north eastern states from today if the dues, amounting to a staggering Rs 933.61 crore, were not cleared within the set deadline. Of this, the Assam State Electricity Board (ASEB) owes the corporation Rs 654.21 crore. The court issued this directive following a public interest litigation by city-based advocate Gautam Uzir.

However, Assam today paid Rs 16.11 crore and has decided to increase ASEB’s production by 35 MW. It has also decided to procure an additional 25 MW from Meghalaya State Electricity Board and another 25 MW from the National Thermal Power Corporation.

The ASEB has issued notices to consumers to clear outstanding dues following the Neepco threat.

Passing the order, the court said Neepco would continue to supply power as usual and there will be no decrease in supply to Assam till further notice.

The petitioner termed Neepco’s threat “as uncalled for in a democratic country” and sought the court’s intervention in prohibiting Neepco from executing its threat to slash power supply.

Justifying the petition, Uzir questioned the corporation’s authority in cutting power supply, considered to be an essential service, at so short a notice. “Since Neepco is a state-owned power utility, it cannot take any decision detrimental to public interest.

“As such, the Neepco is not competent to take any decision to slash supply of electricity upto 70 per cent because of the ASEB or the state government’s failure to clear the arrears,” Uzir said, adding that “because of the ASEB or the state government’s fault, Neepco could not hold the entire population of the state to ransom.”

Power position in Meghalaya was affected today following drastic regulation of power supply by the Neepco. The state received only 3 MW of power against its usual 27 MW.

Neepco’s Executive director (commercial), P. Das said power supply has been regulated since 12 noon. He said of the total installed capacity of 625 MW, the corporation’s projects at Kopili, Kathalguri and Agartala reduced generation to 165 MW. “We cannot totally stop generation of power as some electricity is required for auxiliary functions,” he said.

Life was also affected in Tripura following severe powercuts and rising temperature, reports UNI. P.K. Ghosh, project manager of Neepco’s Ramchandranagar thermal power project, which has a capacity of 84 MW, said they were yet to receive any assurance or indication about the payment of dues to the tune of Rs 45 crore from the Tripura government.

Mizoram is the only state which has been exempted from the regulation of power supply as it has been consistently clearing dues, reports PTI. Chief minister Zoramthanga said the state would not have to weather prolonged powercuts along with the other northeastern states.

Arunachal Pradesh received only 15 MW of power against a normal supply of 22 MW. Manipur received 10 MW as against a quota of 33 MW, Nagaland 10 MW against 25 MW and Tripura 18 MW against 34 MW.    

Silchar, June 1 
A joint team of the Assam police and the Central Reserve Police Force busted a hideout of the People’s United Liberation Front in Assam yesterday afternoon. One hostage was also rescued.

The raid was conducted at Boma Punji village near the border township of Jirighat in Cachar district.

The PULF is a two-year militant outfit comprising fundamentalist Bengali and Meitei Muslims. The PULF has of late become very active in Cachar.

A 45-minute gunbattle ensued and a Meitei youth, abducted by the militants from Lacoaopur village under Lakhipur subdivision on Tuesday, was also rescued.

The rebels, however, managed to escape into the nearby dense forests towards Manipur. They left behind their hostage, 26-year-old K. Rajen Singh, son of a retired policeman.

A senior police official said as the securitymen moved through the jungles to the hideout, they were fired upon by the militants. The securitymen fired a total of 38 rounds. A search at the camp yielded a US-made gun and 17 rounds of ammunition.

The police had earlier arrested a frontline PULF leader, Shahjahan Uddin, from a tea shop at Sonabarighat near here.

Since August last year, over a dozen tea planters, traders and teachers have been abducted by militants, but in each case they have been set free only after payment of hefty ransom in cash.

Rajen told the police he was abducted by a 12-member armed squad of the PULF. Seven of them kept vigil on him at the hideout.

The police last night also arrested a 26-year-old activist of the banned United National Liberation Front at Lakhipur, a subdivisional town of Cachar district.

Police said Narendra Singh, a resident of Jiribam town in Manipur, went to a leading cloth store of the town and demanded Rs 7,000 as part of an extortion campaign.

But Narendra was soon overpowered by the police and the CRPF, who arrived at the shop after being informed by an employee of the cloth store. The employee managed to slip out unnoticed as soon as the rebel, who was unarmed, arrived.    

Jorhat, June 1 
Three persons were killed when a truck carrying them overturned on National Highway 39 near Nambar reserve forest in Assam’s Golaghat district at 8.30 am today.

Police said a front wheel of the truck deflated, leading to the accident. The victims, Chitranjan Ghosh, Ranjit Das and Bubu Ali, were all traders on their way to the Borpathar market.

Bandh disrupts life

Normal life was disrupted in Golaghat and Jorhat districts today following a 12-hour bandh call given by the Ulfa in protest against the killing of its assistant publicity secretary Swadhinata Phukon on Saturday.

Schools, colleges, offices and business establishments were closed and vehicles remained off the roads. But no untoward incidents were reported.

The bandh, however, had no impact in Majuli, a subdivision of Jorhat district, as the newspapers reached the island late. The Ulfa had issued a release to local newspapers regarding the bandh late last evening.    

Agartala, June 1 
Militants of the National Liberation Front of Tripura torched four houses belonging to non-tribals and abducted two persons in North Tripura district last night. The militants were allegedly accompanied by local tribal thugs.

The NLFT rebels attacked Ganganagar village under Fatikray police station at 8 pm last night. Most of the inhabitants of the village are non-tribals. Sources said the militants were dressed in olive-green fatigues.

The militants cordoned off the village and then opened fire indiscriminately. The local thugs accompanying the rebels set houses belonging to Churamani Debnath, Dayananda Debnath and Nikhil Debnath on fire.

Another group of militants attacked the adjacent Laljuri Shabdakarpara and Amrapasha villages. They assaulted some non-tribal villagers and abducted one Shyamal Shabdakar from Laljuri and one Bhuchi Datta from Amrapasha.

After the incident, superintendent of police (North) Nepal Das rushed to the spot with a large contingent of securitymen and launched a search operation to capture the militants.

Security arrangements have been beefed up in the Fatikray police station area to defuse communal tension.

The NLFT attack has sent an ominous signal about the spillover of ethnic tension from riot-hit West Tripura district to North district, which witnessed stray violence and protests by non-tribals against militant attacks in the past.

North Tripura, considered a stronghold of the United Bengali Liberation Front, is considered a “highly sensitive” district.

Ulfa rebel held

A hardcore Ulfa militant, Gajen Duwara alias Nayon Phukon, was apprehended by the Tinsukia police from the Santipur area yesterday, reports our Jorhat correspondent. Golaghat police arrested two persons, posing as Ulfa activists, last night for extorting money from a businessman.

One person was trampled to death by a herd of wild elephants in Falengi village of Golaghat district last night.    


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