King Khan short on Josh
Jodhpur Park murder ‘inside job’
Javed vs Javed vs Javed: It’s all in the name
River swoop on cough syrup
Giving children what they’d prefer to read
BE College tie-up for techno campus
GRP jawan stabbed in Bihar
Interim V-C for Ranchi varsity
Undertrials flee court

Calcutta, June 13 
The Badshah vs The Challenger vs The Rising Son. With Hrithik Roshan threatening to dethrone Shah Rukh Khan and Abhishek Bachchan waiting in the wings, the battlelines are well and truly drawn in Bollywood. And Calcutta’s no silent spectator to the final countdown.

That the fans of Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan have donned the warpaint was evident from the trouble that broke out in front of Menoka cinema last Friday, as Mansoor Khan’s Josh hit town.

According to Sunil Ghosh of Menoka cinema, around 50 members of a Shah Rukh fans’ club clashed with rivals from a Hrithik fan club.

The immediate provocation: the decision of the hall management to refuse Shah Rukh supporters the permission to hang a huge portrait of the star inside the hall.

The angry fans surrounded the hall and shouted slogans against the management. “You are pro-Hrithik. He is a one-film star. East or west, Shah Rukh is the best,’’ they shouted.

Hrithik supporters soon gathered on the spot. “There was a heated argument between the two groups, which led to a free-for-all, with the fans throwing soda bottles at each other,’’ Ghosh said.

The streetfight — reminiscent of scenes from the latest Shah Rukh starrer — stopped only after policemen from Charu Market and Tollygunge police stations intervened.

The sideshow notwithstanding, Josh opened to packed houses. But by the fifth day, ticket sales in various halls across the city are starting to drop.

According to trade sources, Josh on Friday opened in 20 halls in and around the city.

Mahendra Sooni of Sri Venkatesh Films said the release cost in the city added up to Rs 40 lakh, minus print and publicity.

“Hrithik Roshan’s Kaho Na... Pyar Hai also went for the same amount. But the difference could be felt after five days. Ticket sales of Josh have dipped on Tuesday, while for Kaho Na.... it picked up with every passing day. Josh cannot possibly match up to Kaho Na ... Pyar Hai,” said Arijit Dutta of Priya cinema hall.

“We recorded sales of Rs 11,000 for the first two shows on Tuesday, instead of Rs 14,000 for a full house,’’ said Sunil Sen of Jagat cinema, where Josh is being screened.

Trade sources said 20,000 people at each of the theatres watched Josh till Monday. But on Tuesday, the figure came down dramatically to 12,000. Kaho Na... had run to full houses in all cinemas for the first seven weeks, and is still a top draw in two city theatres.

There has been a visible exodus from the Shah Rukh to the Hrithik camp in recent months. Rakhi Mukherjee, 17, a diehard Shah Rukh fan, has switched loyalties. “Shah Rukh was good, but Hrithik is the best,’’ she says. “I can fantasise about Hrithik because he fits into the macho college hunk image, but I can’t imagine Shah Rukh as a college student,’’ added Nilanjana Banerjee of St Xaviers’ College.

“A movie depends a lot on it’s music and songs. Here, Josh definitely lags behind Kaho Na ...,’’ explained Arijit Dutta.

According to Debasis Sur of Symphony, in Esplanade, 175 cassettes of Kaho Na... were being sold daily five days after the film’s release, while only 60 cassettes of Josh were picked up on Tuesday.

Even while fans grapple with the Josh vs Kaho Na... fever, the third force is waiting to hit town. Baby AB’s maiden film, Refugee, is set for release on June 30. “It has the potential to pip both Josh and Kaho Na... Abhishek can be the next star of the millennium,’’ said Pritam Jalan, the film’s distributor.

And two days before Kali Puja, the city can expect some real fireworks, as Shah Rukh and Hrithik clash head-on with Yash Chopra’s Mohabbatein and Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Mission Kashmir ,releasing on October 24.    

Calcutta, June 13 
Clues gathered so far in the murder of retired CESC officer Pritamoy Gupta point to an “inside job”, the police said on Tuesday.

Seventy-two-year-old Gupta’s body, with his hands tied behind his back and legs bound by a cord, was found in his Jodhpur Park apartment with strangulation marks on his neck.

The police said he had also been hit on the head with a blunt object to make sure that he died.

“The circumstantial evidence makes it clear that the crime is the handiwork of some persons who knew their way around the place,” said DC, DD, Narayan Ghosh. Cash and ornaments worth over Rs 50,000 were missing from the apartment.

Police said that for the past 13 years, Gupta had been living with Smita Mitra, a teacher of an east Calcutta school.

Together, they were constructing the residential building of which only their apartment was complete. The 50-year-old Smita Mitra was grilled by the police for over three hours on Tuesday..

Gupta’s wife and one of his daughters live in a flat on Rashbehari Avenue, while the other daughter is married and lives in Salt Lake.

According to the police, Mitra and Gupta used to operate a joint bank account, which at present has a balance of over Rs 8 lakh. Mitra draws a salary of about Rs 3,500 from her school.

The school teacher told the police that they had intended to sell the other apartments in the building, once it was complete.

“After selling the apartments, which would have fetched them a large sum, the two had planned to move out of the city,” said officer-in-charge, Lake police station, Anil Kumar Jana.

It is learnt that Gupta never offered any financial help to his wife or his dependent daughter, both living in abject poverty.

Ghosh said the killers had easy access to the apartment and probably, had a spare key to the main door ,which was not broken open.

Besides, if it had been the handiwork of outsiders, they would not have needed to kill Gupta. They could simply have overpowered the old man and fled with the money.

“It is obvious that Gupta knew the intruders, which is why it became essential for them to kill him, so that he would not live to tell the tale,” Ghosh said.

Bank dacoity: Armed dacoits fled with Rs 10 lakh from Sagar Gramin Bank, Hatiara branch, in North 24-Parganas, on Tuesday afternoon. Police said the dacoits arrived in a car and left without any opposition. No arrests were made.    

Calcutta, June 13 
Both the Congress and the CPM have fielded candidates named Javed so that those who would like to vote in favour of Javed Ahmed Khan, Trinamul Congress councillor at Topsia in ward 66, get confused.

The former’s opponents are both named Mohammad Javed and their symbols are the ‘scale’ and ‘two leaves.’

Both Congress and CPM have apparently taken a leaf out of Ajit Panja’s book, who, in the last Lok Sabha election, had fielded an Independent candidate, whose namesake is CPM’s Mohammad Salim, in the North East parliamentary constituency.

Javed Ahmed Khan has been compelled to change his campaign strategy.

Instead of wall writing and posters, he has started an extensive door-to-door campaign to familiarise the people with his symbol — blades of grass and a pair of flowers.

There are 60,000 voters in ward 66 and Javed Khan won the last civic poll by a margin of 1100.

The CPM has targeted this ward, as the fate of the Ballygunge Assembly constituency, where an election is scheduled to be held by December, is largely dependent on it. Javed Khan has a mind of his own and he will certainly try to get an assembly ticket if he wins the CMC polls.

Hence, besides planting dummies who share his name as Independent candidates, two attempts have already been made on Javed Khan’s life during the past three weeks. On May 16, supporters of Ishtehaq Ahmed, CPM candidate for the ward, allegedly made an unsuccessful attempt to shoot him.

Again, on June 6, a loaded truck tried to crush Javed’s car. Javed himself was driving the car. Later, only a minor case was registered and to date, police have not recorded his statement. Now, two private armed bodyguards keep a vigil in front of his office.

Trinamul councillors and chief whip of the party in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), Mala Roy and Ruby Datta, respectively, said the CPM resorted to violence in some pockets and this would escalate as the election came closer.

At least two important mayor-in-council members fear there could be an outbreak of violence on election day.

Leaders of both the CPM and the Trinamul do not rule out violence in the city core area during election as false votes are the deciding factor in the 100 wards (Wards 1 to 100) of the city.

According to veteran CPM leaders, some of whom are mayor-in-council members in the CMC, only 20 per cent of bona fide voters cast their votes in the 100 wards.

Following the Panskura debacle, the ruling CPM will leave no room for chance in the civic poll. The elated Trinamul, on the other hand, will try its best to wrest the civic board. So, both parties will try to grab as many of the 80 per cent absentee votes as possible.    

Calcutta, June 13 
The narcotics cell of the detective department seized 3,200 bottles of Phensydril cough syrup bound for Bangladesh at Chandpal Ghat on Monday. Detectives laid a trap on the riverbank to seize the consignment, worth Rs 1.2 lakh. “The medicine is in great demand among drug addicts in Bangladesh, as a bottle costs only Rs 40,” police said. Phensydril is being smuggled into Bangladesh through the border in North 24-Parganas for the past few months. One suspect has been tracked down and it is learnt that the consignments were being sent from “another state” via Calcutta.    

Calcutta, June 13 
The printed word is under no threat as long as kids are allowed to be kids and to make their own choice. That’s the firm conviction of Arvind Kumar, managing director of Scholastic India.

And he should know. After a long innings in the publishing world, including a decade-long stint as director, National Book Trust, Kumar is now at the helm of the Indian subsidiary of Scholastic Inc, the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books.

“The notion that television has drawn children away from books is a myth. Children still want to read, but are deprived of quality reading material of their choice,” said Kumar, during a visit to Scholastic’s Calcutta office on Tuesday.

That’s exactly the void Scholastic India aims to fill.

With the bouquet of books, ranging from classics-made-easy to cricket, mad maths to graphic design — divided into pre-school to Class III, Classes IV & V, and Classes VI to VIII — the US-based giant’s subsidiary has been doing its bit to impart “meaningful literacy” to schoolkids throughout the country.

That involves, among other things, tailoring supply to demand. “For instance, in Calcutta, kids tend to go for Scholastic books dealing with language- development skills, while down South, children choose mathematics and science,” says Kumar.

Having started from Delhi in August 1997, Scholastic India is poised to make its presence felt in 75 cities and towns, touching two million families this quarter.

After invading homes and schools through book clubs, monitored by local advisory councils in each city, Scholastic is set to conduct Writing Awards 2000, the first such competition involving kids from over 3,000 schools in the country, and also enter into tie-ups with the media.

“The aim is to make books attractive and relevant to kids, and encourage creativity and freedom of choice,” commented Kumar.    

Calcutta, June 13 
Bengal Engineering College, Shibpur, has tied up with a US-based charitable foundation, Research Engineers Inc. of California, and CMC Limited to set up an autonomous state-of-the-art information technology school on the campus.

The institute hopes to be an answer to the IIIT coming up at the Globsyn Technocampus in Salt Lake. The school, Purabi Das School of Information Technology, named after Research Engineers CEO Amrit Das’ late wife, will be fully sponsored by global IT giants like Intel, Fujitsu (Japan), Precision Opticals Machine, Chicago, IBM and Compaq.

It will begin its M.Tech course in August and students will be admitted on the basis of a countrywide selection test on July 9. The degrees will be awarded by the Bengal Engineering College Deemed University.

According to Prof. P. Pal Chaudhuri of BE College’s Computer Science and Technology department, planning for the course began in 1998. “We decided to set up the institute with private funds and make it financially and functionally autonomous, in consonance with the Centre’s new higher education policy, which discourages subsidies,’’ says Pal Chaudhuri.

The college’s task was made easier by the overwhelming response it received from Indian and foreign companies. Amrit Das pledged Rs 10 crore from his private foundation, while his firm agreed to provide the technical expertise.

CMC has pitched in with “server technology’’ and “lab modules’’, designed specially to tackle “on-job” problems.

“I set up the foundation to promote higher education and quality healthcare in West Bengal, a vision cherished by my late wife,’’ says Amrit Das, an alumnus of BE College. For him, this is the “best opportunity to do something for his alma mater.’’

Pal Chaudhuri said talks are under way with IBM to instal an All-India Competency Centre in e-commerce for the school in Salt Lake and with Compaq for a similar centre on LINUX hardware and software. “We will eventually shift the institute to the second BE College campus in Salt Lake,’’ said Pal Chaudhuri. He hopes to pump $ 1.5 million into the institute from a research project sponsored by Intel.

Besides, the course fee of Rs 30,000 per semester will make the institute self-sustainable. The course, divided into five semesters, will be a part-time, post-graduate programme based on practical projects. During the last two semesters, students will earn Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 as stipend, depending on the nature of the projects.

The faculty will include BE College staff and experts from the industry with a strong “industry-academia’’ collaboration.    

Dhanbad, June 13 
A Government Railway Police jawan was stabbed to death as suspected Maoist Communist Centre extremists raided the Chandrapura-Hatia passenger late last night near Baseria station, 50 km from the district headquarters.

The victim was identified as Jaynandan Singh. The extremists also looted the regular service rifle of the slain jawan.

Superintendent of railway police Abhay Kumar Upadhyay was not available for comment as he was camping at the spot. Railway police sources said nearly 15 militants raided the general compartment of the Hatia-Chandrapura passenger train where the GRP jawans were on duty.

Quoting eyewitnesses, railway sources said the assailants boarded the train at Baseria. As soon as the train left the station, they tried to snatch Jaynandan Singh’s rifle. The assailants stabbed Singh when he tried to resist. The thugs fled when the train reached Kusunda, where the railway authorities retrieved the body of the jawan from the compartment. Eyewitnesses said the assailants shouted slogans like MCC Zindabad before escaping.

But sources said the incident was the handiwork of coal mafia gangs active in the area.

Several of the important trains, including the Howrah-Dhanbad Coalfield Express, the Dhanbad-Tatanagar Subarnarekha Express, the Dhanbad-Sindri and the Dhanbad-Chandiraptra passenger trains, ferry coal allegedly pilfered from Bharat Coking Coal Limited and Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL) mines.

The gangsters employ hundreds of men, women and children for the job. The GRP recently arrested three persons for their alleged involvement in pilfering coal. The trade flourishes under the patronage of the local Government Railway Police and Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel, sources alleged.    

Ranchi, June 13 
Regional development commissioner Laxmi Singh, who was nominated by the Bihar Governor as temporary vice-chancellor of Ranchi University, today decided to accept the additional charge. Singh will replace Prof. L.C.C.N. Shahdeo who was arrested by the vigilance department on June 4. The special vigilance court at Patna today granted bail to Shahdeo in five cases relating to irregular appointments.    

Ranchi, June 13 
Four undertrial prisoners escaped from a jail van at the civil court campus here after overpowering and injuring the two policemen escorting them.

The four undertrials were armed with revolvers, knives and a bomb.

They threw red chilli powder into the eyes of their escorts and hit the two policemen on their heads with revolver butts, injuring them seriously.

They then broke open the rear door of the jail van and fled.

The escapees took advantage of the large crowd milling in and around the civil court campus and vanished.

The two profusely bleeding policemen N.B. Horo and Suleiman Horo, were rushed to the Sadar Hospital here, where they were given first aid.

The prisoners who escaped were identified as Imran Ansari of Chanho village in Ranchi district, Tukurmul alias Zafar Ansari alias Turkman of Kuri in Lohardaga district, Rakesh Mahato of Mandar in Ranchi district and Rahim Khan, also of Mandar, all murder accused. All police stations in the rural areas of the district have been alerted and a manhunt has been launched to trace them.

The daring jailbreak occurred after the prisoners were brought from the Birsa Munda Central Jail and produced in court here.

At the end of the court proceedings, they were taken to a jail van. As soon as the van left the court campus on its way to the Central Jail, the four prisoners took out red chilli powder and arms from a large tiffin box and overpowered the escorting policemen and fled the premises.    


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