Death verdict after two decades
Bombs, guns and teargas on repoll eve
Madhyamik results this week, but not on Net
‘Picture-perfect’ Portugal pop pick
Rs 3-crore facelift for 10 Metro stations
Eastern Rail train status at fingertips
Drought-aid drive for home
Four killed in rebel attacks
Parties warned against alliances
Cong faction skips meet

 
 
DEATH VERDICT AFTER TWO DECADES 
 
 
BY TAPAS GHOSH
 
Calcutta, June 26 
A death sentence was pronounced after 20 years in Calcutta when a city sessions court on Monday sentenced the mother of a four-year-old boy and one of her partners-in-crime “to be hanged by the neck till death” for the murder of three old women.

Rita Mondal, 35, in connivance with Raju Kamath and Manoj Singh, had murdered Bidya Devi Khandelwal, 65, Ramdulari Khandelwal, 73 and Prema Devi Khandelwal, 76, on December 15, 1994, at Rajendra Deb Road, in north Calcutta. Kamath is absconding,

Rita and Manoj were sentenced to death by judge P.N. Bhaduri. The death sentence will be executed “subject to the approval of the high court”. Rita’s counsel, Rabin Chakraborty, said his client would definitely move the high court against the session court verdict.

Pronouncing the judgment, Bhaduri referred to the case as “rarest of rare... More so because one of the accused was a woman”. The three elderly women had been battered to death by the trio, who used an iron grinder and a fan without blades as their weapons. The killers escaped with a huge haul of money, ornaments and equipment.

“I do not find any good and sufficient ground for being lenient in regard to the punishment of the convict Rita Mondal, even though she has a child of four years,” pronounced the judge.

Rita, who was accompanied by son Kaushik (who was born in Alipore Central Jail), surprised the packed courtroom by smiling through the judgment.

“Do you realise the implication of this judgment, and do you have anything to say?” asked Bhaduri. “Yes, I do,” shot back Rita, dressed in a white-and-black sari, “All I want is for you to take the responsibility of bringing up my son.”

The judge ordered that Rita’s father “may take custody of the minor son on furnishing the necessary bond in this regard”.

Even while leaving the courtroom, Rita remained perfectly calm and Kaushik, oblivious to the proceedings, was laughing and playing with his mother. But Manoj was a shattered man.

Alpana Bhowmik, lawyer for the state, said: “This is the most heinous crime case that I have personally dealt with. The fact that a woman could have been involved in such a brutal murder makes it all the more extraordinary.”

According to the prosecution’s case, Raju Kamath was a servant in the Khandelwal household. He had ganged up with two other servants of the neighbourhood, Rita and Manoj. On the afternoon of December 15, 1994, he let Rita and Manoj into the house and the three bludgeoned the old ladies to death before fleeing with whatever they could lay their hands on.

Ornaments worth lakhs, a VCP, six tape recorders, a colour TV set and expensive saris were later recovered from Rita’s home.    


 
 
BOMBS, GUNS AND TEARGAS ON REPOLL EVE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 26 
Rival political workers hurled bombs at each other and police teargassed mobs as clashes broke out on Monday in Beleghata, Garden Reach and Metiabruz, with the tension of the civic polls yet to ease.

The Trinamul Congress alleged that Sunday’s civic polls were rigged in many wards. Party leader Mamata Banerjee said the state election commission, comprising “a bunch of blacklisted officials”, was largely responsible for the disturbances during polling. “I will bring this to the attention of Chief Election Commissioner M.S. Gill, shortly,” she said.

Supporters of the CPM and the Trinamul used bombs and stones to settle scores in round after round of fighting in Beleghata. Police fired teargas shells to disperse the streetfighters.

Trouble began around 11 am when Trinamul workers, led by Mantu Sanyal, were returning after lodging a complaint at Beleghata police station. They alleged that Trinamul workers Shyamal Pal and Rabi Pal were being “tortured” by the CPM. Sanyal, a former CPM activist, joined the Trinamul some time ago.

Witnesses said hundreds of CPM cadre, led by local activist Naru, rushed to the police station as the Trinamul workers were coming out after lodging the complaint. Eyewitnesses said Naru was brandishing a revolver as he led the mob.

Armed Trinamul workers from other localities ran to the aid of their partymen. Beleghata Main Road and the neighbourhood were taken over by the partymen. The police could do little.

Violence spread after bombs were hurled indiscriminately by both sides. Several youth were injured in the brickbatting. The police were also attacked.

Reinforcements, led by the DC, eastern suburban division, Mihir Bhattarcharya, and joint commissioner of police, (administration), P. N. Saha, reached the scene but the groups continued fighting in front of them. Local residents reported sighting firearms in the hands of the CPM cadre. They also said the police “simply stood and stared.”

“Even though the policemen were threatened with dire consequences by the CPM men, they did not dare to take action,” the residents added. Three bombs were thrown near the police station. The groups returned to fight even after police chased them away.

Shopkeepers downed shutters and passersby ran for their lives. The police resorted to a lathicharge and lobbed teargas shells to disperse the warring groups around noon.

Then, the CPM cadre went to Mantu Sanyal’s residence and hurled bombs in front of his house. Police rushed to the spot and managed to bring the situation under control.

Deputy commissioner of police, headquarters, Nazrul Islam, said the police have started a case against Naru for brandishing firearms and resorting to violence. One person was also arrested in connection with the clash.

The Rapid Action Force has been deployed.

Reports of violence also poured into police headquarters from Garden Reach and Metiabruz, where Trinamul and CPM men attacked each other.

However, no complaint was lodged with the police stations in these localities.

Tension was reported from Ahiritola, in north Calcutta, when supporters of CPM and Trinamul clashed on Monday morning. A Trinamul candidate of ward 141, Anathbandhu Maity, was attacked by an Independent candidate. Four persons were arrested from Metiabruz in this connection.    


 
 
MADHYAMIK RESULTS THIS WEEK, BUT NOT ON NET 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 26 
Results of the Madhyamik examinations for the year 2000 will be published this week, a senior education official said on Monday.

A.K.Chakraborty, president of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, said the date for publishing the results will be finalised on Tuesday.

But the board was unable to put this year’s results on the Internet, he said, because of “certain technical hitches,” even though it did try to do so for the benefit of the estimated 567,000 examinees.

“We were very keen to make the results available on the Net , but had to give up the idea as technical problems arose,” Chakraborty said. Apparently, the board gave up the idea after it was asked to create a website of its own instead of one only meant for publication of the results. This year’s examination began on March 2 and was over on April 16.

All the examinees across the state will get their marksheets on the day the results are published.

Four regional offices, located in Burdwan, Siliguri, Midnapore and Calcutta, will reach the marksheets to the schools under their geographical jurisdiction.

The board was reportedly ready to publish the results earlier, but it was advised to wait till the civic polls were over in Calcutta and Bidhannagar.

Conventionally, the Board publishes the results within three months from the commencement of examinations. Going by that unwritten rule, the results should have been declared by June 2. But as officials admitted, it has been delayed by nearly three weeks owing to the elections.

As in the earlier polls on May 28 and last Sunday’s civic elections, schoolteachers were recruited as presiding officers. During their week-long training, they could not go through the answer scripts.    


 
 
‘PICTURE-PERFECT’ PORTUGAL POP PICK 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, June 26 
With tactical talk being tossed out of the window, blackboard barriers being broken on the pitch with every passing game, and the Figos, Kluiverts and Zidanes invading our drawing rooms with a magic blend of flamboyant football, Euro 2000 has truly fired the imagination of Calcutta.

When it comes to international football fare, the Brazilian samba has always been the sentimental favourite of Calcuttans.

But as Euro 2000 reaches a pulsating climax and just four nations remain on course for Super Sunday, the man on the street seems to have adopted picture-perfect Portugal as proxy — “Latin and lovely-to-watch”.

“They have so many options while going forward,” gushes Sarthak Sen of Kankurgachhi, “and I simply adore Figo.”

The Barcelona midfield powerhouse has carved a niche in the Calcuttans’ minds, with most plumping for him as player of the tournament.

“Figo’s balance on the ball and his strength make him the most resourceful player in the meet,” says 18-year-old Arundhati Sinha, swept off her feet by Portugal’s flexi-football.

However, Chuni Goswami, one of the most gifted footballers the country has ever produced, wouldn’t tip Figo, Costa, Pinto and Co. for the championship. “Portugal, France and Holland have all provided us with a feast of refreshing, attack-minded football. But I would put both France and Holland slightly ahead of Portugal, simply because their defence organisation is better, with the likes of Marcel Dessailly and Jaap Stam marshalling resources. And Portugal is also short on experience at the highest level.”

Mayoral candidate Subrata Mukherjee seems to have his finger firmly on the popular pulse. He admits it was “love at first sight” with Portugal this time. “Their tremendous hunger for goals and fluidity in attack make them a personal favourite. I hope they win the crown.”

The carnival football of Eusebio’s Portugal has also enchanted former Indian cricketer Arun ‘Piggy’ Lal as well, but he “will go with Holland all the way, after their amazing show against the Yugoslavs”.

With ‘Pitbull’ Davids snapping at opposition heels, Overmars and Zenden flying down the flanks and man-in-the-hole Dennis Bergkamp making bullets for Kluivert to fire, the Orange wave has clearly swamped Lal and several others.

Industrialist Aditya Khaitan, for example, has always rooted for the Oranje.

“If Holland is in the fray, there’s no question of supporting any other side. I have been a fan of Dutch flair for years and my money is on Ronald de Boer’s side,” he quipped.

But often skill on the ball is not the sole criteria for blind support. Take Model Celina Jaitley.

“For me, it’s always ‘Viva France’, as they are the best-looking team. In the World Cup, I had put my money on the French and pocketed Rs 1,000,” she laughed, ready to root for Deschamps and Zidane on Wednesday.

Clearly, the flamboyant Dutch-Portuguese-French trio has consigned the dour Azzuris to the back-burner. Chuni Goswami sums up Calcutta’s feelings when he says: “If Italy, with its sit-back-and-hit-on-the-break ploy, manages to lift the Euro Cup on July 2, it will be a sad day for football.”

Style, after all, is everything.    


 
 
RS 3-CRORE FACELIFT FOR 10 METRO STATIONS 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, June 26 
The Metro Rail authorities are clearing the tracks for a Rs 3-crore joint venture project with the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) to beautify 40 entry points of 10 stations between Tollygunge and Chandni Chowk.

Three stations have been chosen for the first phase of the spruce-up scheme — Netaji Bhavan, Jatin Das Park and Esplanade. Being the ‘home station’ of railway minister Mamata Banerjee, Jatin Das Park, at Hazra, will be the first to be given a facelift from July.

A Metro Rail delegation, headed by deputy general manager R.K. Jha, called upon municipal commissioner Asim Barman last week to finalise the project.

Besides beautification, keeping the station and the area near the entrance and exit points clean was also discussed in the meeting.

It was decided that while Metro Rail would foot the bill of Rs 3 crore for beautification, the CMC would be responsibile for maintaining the station areas.

Barman has entrusted the “task of maintenance of cleanliness on the station campus above ground” to the conservancy department. The district conservancy officer of Borough VI, Swapan Mahapatra, said the entry points of almost every Metro station had been turned into public urinals. “This stretch is a real eyesore for passersby and a hindrance for Metro commuters,” he said.

To stop “this nuisance”, narrow strips of green will be planted on three sides of each entry point. Besides the garden, trash bins and drinking-water facilities will also be provided here.

But embarking on the beautification scheme, Metro Rail has drawn the attention of the civic authorities to the problem of waterlogging and garbage accumulation around the entry points of the 10 stations between Tollygunge and Chandi Chowk.

Waterlogging is said to be “particularly bad” in front of the Rabindra Sarobar station entrance, the south-eastern side of Kalighat, north-east and north-west side of Rabindra Sadan, west and south-eastern side of Maidan, south-eastern side of Park Street, north-western side of Esplanade and north-western side of Chandni Chowk stations.    


 
 
EASTERN RAIL TRAIN STATUS AT FINGERTIPS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 26 
Passengers will no longer have to queue in front of the enquiry counter at railway reservation centres. Eastern Railway has brought all information to their fingertips — quite literally.

Two passenger-operated terminals have been installed at the New Koilaghat reservation centre at Fairlie Place, which will supply information at a touch of the screen.

Arvind Sharma, additional general manager, Eastern Railway, inaugurated the self-operated, touch-screen enquiry terminals at the New Koilaghat reservation office on Monday.

“All information regarding reservation status, availability of berths, current fare and an up-to-date time-table for the 2,500-odd trains presently registered in the railway computer system will be available here,” Sharma said.

These machines, each costing Rs 1 lakh, have been installed by Sriven Multitech of Secunderabad, who will also look after their maintenance. The company, which has set up these touch-screen machines in Chennai and Mumbai, plans to cover operation and maintenance costs through on-screen advertisements.

Officials said three more machines will be installed, one each at Fairlie Place, Howrah station and Sealdah station.

Sharma said the project is a step towards privatising some of the customer-benefit services of the railways.    


 
 
DROUGHT-AID DRIVE FOR HOME 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, June 26 
Even as reports of rainfall trickled in from the drought-stricken areas of Gujarat and Rajasthan, the city-based associations of Marwaris and Gujaratis have reaffirmed their pledge to carry on relief activities in their respective homelands.

“It’s impossible for us to ignore the sufferings of our people in our native states. Hunger and thirst continue to stalk both man and cattle in several parts of Rajasthan, away from administrative and media glare,” said Milap Dugar, treasurer of Rajasthan Seva Samiti, on Monday.

“After the rains, most of the relief camps have been wound up. But the need for relief operations persists, as just a few spells of rain are not enough to improve the lot of people and cattle,” explained Dugar.

The month-old organisation, formed with the sole objective of helping out victims in Rajasthan, has already sent Rs 25 lakh for the drought victims and is still “collecting donations” to carry on the relief work.

A six-member delegation from Calcutta had been despatched recently to assess the nature of the relief required in the worst-affected districts of Churu, Barmer, Sikar, Jaipur, Bikaner, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur.

“We are sending yet another team in a week’s time to ascertain the present condition and draw up our plan of action accordingly,” announced J.R. Laddha, in charge of the fund-raising in Rajasthan Seva Samiti.

Gujarati effort

The Gujarati community in the city is also stressing the need to continue relief work in the drought-hit areas.

“The situation hasn’t improved drastically after the rain in many parts of Gujarat and relief work has to go on,” says Ravindra Vaghani of the Gujarati Samaj.

The Samaj’s volunteers are still working with the drought victims in the suburbs of Baroda, Bhavnagar, Chotila, Jamnagar, Chuda and Junagarh.

“The relief work in the larger and more accessible villages are carried on by the government and other agencies, and so we have focused our activity in the rural areas,” said Vaghani, secretary of the Samaj in Calcutta.

While there have been “significant individual contributions” from Gujaratis in the city towards relief and rehabiliation in their native villages, “people have also contributed liberally to the fund set up by the Gujarat Relief Society and the Gujarat Club”. The collections have crossed Rs 22 lakh.

“We have added 10 per cent to the donated amount and then despatched it for the drought relief activity,” said Vaghani.    


 
 
FOUR KILLED IN REBEL ATTACKS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, June 26 
Four persons were killed and 20 injured in separate incidents today as militants launched a fresh offensive, triggering attacks on tribals by non-tribals in Teliamura of West Tripura district.

In view of the escalating violence and possibility of militant attacks on Teliamura market, district magistrate (West Tripura) Manish Kumar imposed indefinite curfew on the entire Teliamura police station area from noon today. Senior police officials including inspector-general of police (law and order) K. Salim Ali have rushed to Teliamura.

Till reports last came in, ethnic tension had gripped the Teliamura and adjoining Kalyanpur police station areas.

Police sources said a non-tribal farmer, Girindra Biswas, a resident of Koroiling village under Teliamura police station, went to his deserted ancestral village of Dhanchakma at 7 am today to inspect the paddy fields. He was waylaid by a group of National Liberation Front of Tripura militants and hacked to death. The news of the killing reached Teliamura around 10 am, triggering ethnic tension.

Sources said a large number of people including tribals had gathered in Teliamura as it was market day there. Irate Bengalis armed with primitive weapons attacked the tribals and lynched two of them. They are yet to be identified.

At least 20 other persons, including three Manipuri truck drivers mistaken to be tribals, were seriously injured in the attack. Eight of the injured were rushed to G.B. Hospital here.

The sources said timely intervention by officers and policemen of Teliamura police station prevented further violence although gangs of Bengali youth prepared to attack nearby tribal-dominated villages. Police escorted 70 tribals into Teliamura police station and kept them in safe custody.

As news of the incidents in Teliamura reached tribal-dominated interior areas, a large number of armed tribal youth of Mungiabari village prepared to march to Teliamura but were prevented from doing so by the police. The help of Border Security Force jawans based in Khasiapunji area near Teliamura was sought for the operations in the interior areas while the entire Teliamura market was handed over to the Central Reserve Police Force. “The situation is tense but under control,” the sources said.

In a separate incident this morning, suspected All-Tripura Tiger Force militants shot dead a 35-year-old tribal farmer, Anil Debbarma, in remote Borakha area under Jirania police station in Sadar (East).

Police sources said the slain farmer had gone to his father-in-law’s house in Patni village along with his wife. At around 7.30 am, when the couple was returning home, a group of Tiger Force rebels shot Anil Debbarma dead though his wife managed to escape. Sources said a dispute over monetary transactions might have led to the killing.    


 
 
PARTIES WARNED AGAINST ALLIANCES 
 
 
FROM SEKHAR DATTA
 
Agartala, June 26 
The tribal-dominated Indigenous Peoples’ Front of Tripura to contest the forthcoming nagar panchayat and Agartala municipal elections has evoked sharp reactions from the Bengali militant outfits in the state, sources said.

The United Bengali Liberation Front and the Bengali Liberation Tiger Force — two major Bengali militant outfits in the state — have warned all the national political parties against forging an alliance with the IPFT, they said.

Launching a poster campaign, the rebels have sent letters to political letters warning them with “dire consequences” if they form any alliance with the IPFT, the sources added.

Having wrested the Autonomous District Council (ADC) from the ruling Left Front by a considerable margin in the recent polls, the IPFT has expressed its desire to contest the nagar panchayat elections in alliance with willing national parties.

Sources said that the Congress and BJP are toying with the idea of joining hands with the new tribal party, but they have not made any public statement regarding the alliance following the latest threats from the Bengali militants.    


 
 
CONG FACTION SKIPS MEET 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Bhubaneswar, June 26 
The Congress Legislature Party meeting fell apart today after the party high command failed to persuade rebel MLAs to attend the meeting.

Despite pleas by two AICC observers, 11 legislators belonging to the Hemanand Biswal camp stayed away from the meeting held on the eve of the Budget session. The two observers, Anil Shastri and Vayalar Ravi, finally left for New Delhi to complain about the intransigence of the Biswal camp to party chief Sonia Gandhi.

Earlier, Biswal’s supporters had threatened to stay away from the meeting if the high command did not remove Ramakant Mishra, a J.B. Patnaik loyalist, as Opposition leader. They have also been clamouring for removal of Patnaik as PCC chief.

Shastri, in charge of Orissa, called the incident “unfortunate”. He said they had promised the disgruntled legislators to look into their demands provided they attended the legislature party meeting. He said he and Ravi met Biswal, former chief minister and PCC chief, at his house today and tried to persuade him to attend the meeting with his supporters. But still they did not show up.

Ravi said the discontented MLAs should have attended the meeting to put up a united face in the Assembly’s Budget session.

He said the Congress should take advantage of the prevailing political situation in the state as the Naveen Patnaik government is fast losing people’s support.

Shastri said they would submit a detailed report to the Congress president on the state of affairs in the party.

A few former ministers including Habibullah Khan and Parama Pujari were among the MLAs who stayed away.

Patnaik reportedly has the backing of 15 of 26 MLAs in the party, but only 11 of them could attend the meeting. Patnaik’s aides said the four MLAs were out of town.    

 

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