Street cricket stumped
Wife was drugged, set ablaze on bridge
Third super seat for tech studies
Practising goodness in black and white
Pitched battle marks repoll
Auto recorder for phone complaints
Truckers hurt in mob attack
Sikkim panel to study demands
N-E states reel under floods
Skeleton trade thrives in Bihar

Calcutta, June 27 
Scores of aspiring Saurav Gangulys on the streets of Calcutta might as well retire ‘hurt’, following a court ruling that threatens to signal the end of the all-too-familiar game under the lights.

Para cricket, from Beleghata to Ballygunge, Topsia to Tollygunge, came under the hammer of Justice K.J. Sengupta on Tuesday, as he passed an order restraining “reckless cricket matches” blocking city streets.

This was in response to an application filed in Calcutta High Court by a resident of Bagbazar.

The court directed the officer-in-charge of Shyampukur police station to ensure that cricket matches disrupting the traffic are not held in the area between 4 pm and 11 pm. Justice Sengupta also directed OC Tarapada Dutta to file a report before the court within 12 weeks in this regard.

What is significant is that the judge’s directive will apply to similar street matches in other parts of the city, virtually putting an end to floodlit para cricket, which has, for so many years, provided an alternative to those who can’t fork out the forbidding fees of organised Maidan cricket or afford to play by day.

The petitioner, Rajen Sen of Bosepara Lane, alleged that the floodlit cricket craze was blocking traffic in the bylanes and also threatening life and property of local residents.

Sen, in his petition, claimed that the involvement of “rowdies” in such tournaments was on the rise, as was “rampant gambling”.

The petitioner’s counsel, Subroto Mookherjee, told the court that the organisers of such para tournaments often violate the Sound Pollution Act, using loud-speakers for running commentary, as well as during the prize-distribution ceremony.

At a time when the game under the lights has become the rule rather than the exception, and Kerry Packer’s ‘big boys play at night’ slogan is something of an anthem, Calcutta’s cricket-crazy youth is in no mood to shoulder arms.

“We have been playing floodlit cricket tournaments for years now. There is so much excitement generated and some real good talent on display. I am now playing first-division cricket, thanks largely to the highly-competitive night cricket tournaments I have played all over Calcutta,” says Probal Bose of Jodhpur Park.

Over the past few years, night cricket in Calcutta has donned a more professional look.

It all probably began with Pepsi pitching for para cricket, after being denied pouring rights in the 1996 World Cup. “Nothing official about it” proved a perfect slogan for the soft drink giants to take floodlit cricket to the streets of Calcutta.

Since then, sponsors — from local minors to multinational majors — have contributed to the success of para tourneys under lights. Some give away the prize money, others cricket gear, T-shirts, while the rest chip in with organisational costs.

Former Bengal skipper Arun Lal, a regular para cricketer at one time, was careful not to criticise the court order while sympathising with the youngsters: “I feel sad for these boys as there are hardly any playgrounds in the city to cater to their needs.”    

Calcutta, June 27 
Nineteen-year-old Mina Das, whose charred body was found on Ananda Palit Road, in Entally, on Monday, was murdered as she refused to sleep with other men, as her husband was forcing her to, according to police. Initially, the police thought it was a dowry death, but Mina’s elder brother came out with the true story.

Mina was married to Pintu Das five months ago. Her charred body was found near a bridge on Ananda Palit Road, half-a-kilometre from her Chhatu Babu Lane residence. Pintu and two of his friends were arrested.

Police said on Tuesday that her husband ill-treated her because she was not good-looking and was squint-eyed. The detective department has taken over the investigation.

Police, going by circumstantial evidence, said the woman was not murdered at home. She was killed near the bridge. A lighter and a can of kerosene were found close to her body. Pintu’s mother confirmed that the lighter belonged to her son.

Investigations revealed that Pintu and his friends,Vijoy Seth and another youth, drank at home on Sunday night.

Pintu told the police that Mina was missing from Sunday night and he went to the police station the next morning to lodge a formal complaint. But he came back without registering a diary.

Police said Pintu, an employee of a shoe shop, went to the police station to prove his innocence. When the officer on duty asked him to wait, he returned home, fearing that the police had already got wind and he would be arrested.

Police said circumstantial evidence proved that Pintu was aware of his wife’s death on Sunday night itself.

Initially, police thought that Mina might have been burnt alive at home and that her charred body was then carried to the bridge to destroy evidence.

Inquiries, however, revealed that she was not murdered at home.

Pintu and his two friends took her to Ananda Palit Road on Sunday. She might have been offered spiked soft drinks somewhere in the neighbourhood and, in all probability, she began to feel drowsy soon afterwards. Then she was doused with kerosene and set on fire.

Had she not been drugged, she would have raised an alarm on the road while she was being set on fire, investigators said.

Police also suspect that Pintu and his two friends, who were arrested, might have been having an affair with another woman. And Mina may have been killed because she did not put up with the state of affairs.    

Calcutta, June 27 
After the specialised universities in agriculture and juridical science, the state is set to establish a third advanced seat of learning, with the setting up of a technology university in the city.

The West Bengal University of Technology Bill, 2000, will be tabled in the Assembly on Thursday. The new university will start functioning from next year.

“Our move is to refurbish engineering and technical education, keeping in mind the huge demand for such courses and the need for technology development in all aspects,’’ said higher education minister Satya Sadhan Chakraborty.

Sources said the new university will be housed on 10 acres in Salt Lake. There is also a proposal to build it at the new Rajarhat township, with housing minister Gautam Deb assuring a prime location there.

The government will provide Rs 85 crore for the university, of which Rs 5 crore will be disbursed this year. It will take at least two years to construct the building and other infrastructure. Till then, the university will function from an existing building.

All engineering and technical colleges and institutions imparting education in these fields, as well as the recently-set up Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) management and applied sciences, will come under the jurisdiction of the new university.

The exceptions will be Jadavpur University and BE College, Shibpur, which will remain outside the umbrella of the new university. The new university will, however, oversee the functioning of these engineering colleges.

There are 22 other engineering colleges in the state, including the Regional Engineering College in Durgapur and Jalpaiguri Engineering College. The rest are affiliated to other universities. Besides, there are 10 private engineering colleges which will also come under its purview.

After the Bill is passed, the University of Technology will enjoy the sole authority to affiliate any engineering or technical college in the state. It will have full authority to formulate syllabi, hold exams and constitute guidelines.

Apart from providing bachelors’, masters’ and doctoral degrees in engineering, technical education, basic and applied science and management, the university will offer consultancy services to industries and other organisations.

Colleges for super-speciality subjects like environmental science, conservation of energy and resources and bio-technology will be set up. The university will be ruled by a general council, an executive council, an academic council and an advisory board. Eminent educationists, veteran engineers and research scholars will be included in the advisory board.

To avoid legal problems, the government has kept a clear provision in the Bill that all employment will be done on contract basis.    

Calcutta, June 27 
He is equally comfortable in both white robe and black. As head of a church under the Roman Catholic congregation, he puts his logical, legal mind to good use in dealing with 3,000 people and their problems. And as a lawyer in Calcutta High Court, he draws upon the spirit of the church, preferring “out-of-court settlements” to courtroom conflicts — and that too, free of charge.

Meet Father Faustine Branc, head of Kalyanpur Church, in South 24-Parganas, and the only priest in the state practising in the high court.

Ever since his registration was granted by the Bar Council in 1994, Father Branc has been advocating out-of-court settlements. He takes his client into the courtroom only when no other solution seems possible.

“There are two reasons for this. First, I am bound by the church not to lie. And long-drawn-out courtroom battles cause prolonged suffering to the people,” says Branc.

The 45-year-old man, who travels over 35 km from Kalyanpur to Calcutta High Court on his M-80 Bajaj every week, decided to take up law as a profession after he witnessed the denial of proper compensation to families of some poor workers who had died in a chimney collapse at Hirakud in 1993.

Branc, already a law graduate from Ranchi University then, helped take the matter to court and the verdict went in favour of the families.

“I realised that unless I got myself registered as a lawyer, I could not fight for the people. So I approached the church and sought permission for practising law. There was a single condition imposed by the church — not to lie,” he recalls.

So, he is careful not to take up a case in which he could have to “lie in court” or to deal with clients who could force him to “twist facts”.

The good Father now has clients coming in from several spread parts of the city and its suburbs. Having settled over a few hundred cases, most of them outside court, he is a hugely popular figure.

“I have been able to prevent a number of divorces by giving proper counselling to aggrieved husbands and wives, and resolve property disputes by talking to the family members,” says Branc. “But some times, there is no way out and the case has to go to court,” he adds.

Between holding prayer services, conducting weddings and funerals, Father Branc runs various programmes to teach the ABC of law to the common man. He has also published small booklets to teach people basics, like how to file a general diary, the difference between a general diary and and FIR, the Marriage Acts practised in India, and legal requirements for purchase or transfer of landed property.    

Calcutta, June 27 
Violence marred repolling on Tuesday at Beniapukur, where a free-for-all broke out between Congress and CPM workers near Anjuman High School, in ward 54.

The streetfight brought traffic to a halt for over an hour.

Repolling held in four other booths in the city and one in Salt Lake was, by and large, peaceful.

Trouble started at Beniapukur around 1.15 pm when CPM cadre tried to capture the booth. Congress workers resisted and a clash ensued.

Bombs were hurled indiscriminately and voters took to their heels. Both the police and the Congress alleged that CPM workers were hurling bombs from an election camp, about 100 yards from the polling booth. The police chased away workers of both parties and demolished the camp.

Later, the CPM workers clashed with the police. Rapid Action Force personnel rushed in but faced a barrage of brickbats. Five policemen were injured.

The police fired seven rounds in the air and 14 rounds of teargas shells to disperse the mob. Normalcy was restored around 2 pm, after deputy commissioner of police (eastern suburban division), Mihir Bhattacharya, arrived with a large force to defuse tension.

CPM Politburo member Biman Bose criticised the police, saying they indiscriminately lathicharged party workers, injuring sitting MLA Tapati Saha and candidate Snehangshu Roy.

“The police also demolished our party’s makeshift election office near the booth,” he added. The CPM will lodge a formal complaint with deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya in this regard.

The state Congress, however, lauded the police for remaining “neutral”. “For at least once, the police did not play a partisan role and the CPM was prevented from booth-capturing,” said PCC leader Sultan Ahmed.

Post-civic poll clashes were also reported on Tuesday from Beleghata, Garden Reach and Metiabruz.

Roads blocked

Supporters of the youth wing of Trinamul Congress blocked several roads in the city on Tuesday in protest against Monday night’s incident.

Party leader and MLA Sanjoy Bakshi was taken to Jorasanko police station. Roadblocks were put up at the Girish Park crossing on C.R. Avenue, at Hazra, on B.T. Road, Nimtala Ghat Street and other parts of Calcutta. Traffic was disrupted as a result.    

Calcutta, June 27 
Calcutta Telephones will instal automatic complaint-registering machines at exchanges in the city and the suburbs. Union minister of state for communications Tapan Sikdar on Tuesday inaugurated the first such machine at the Ramakrishna Sarani exchange in Behala.

Chief general manager of Calcutta Telephones K. Ramanujam, said a telephone with special switches will be installed outside the exchange, where subscribers can lodge their complaint. “Everything is computerised and automatic. A subscriber will only have to press the start button and follow the recorded instructions from the voice recorder,’’ he added.

The machine, which will be in operation at all hours of the day, will give the subscriber a docket number and he can follow up his complaint after a few days on it. Sikdar iterated that cellular phones will be launched in the city during the Pujas.    

Agartala June 27 
Altogether 20 non-tribals, mostly truckers, were injured when a group of tribals attacked a convoy of Agartala-bound vehicles at Mungiabari in the Atharomura hills under Teliamura police station in West Tripura district. The tribals also looted a Food Corporation of India truck.

Curfew has been clamped in the Teliamura police station area following sporadic clashes yesterday. Police sources said a Bengali farmer and four tribals were killed in ethnic clashes.

The administration set up a relief camp for tribals at Mungiabari this morning under the supervision of subdivisional officer, (Khowai) Manas Deb and additional superintendent of police (West) Pradip Pal.

As the camp was about to down shutters after distributing 140 sacks of rice, the tribals clamoured for more.

When the authorities failed to provide them with additional rice, the tribals, backed by CRPF jawans at Mungiabari, vent their ire on a convoy of food-laden trucks. They looted a Food Corporation of India truck carrying rice and assaulted the driver. Eleven of the injured were rushed to the G.B. hospital.

Sources alleged that instead of preventing attacks on innocent civilians, CRPF jawans beat up the truckers. The situation was brought under control by the Teliamura police. There has been no relaxation in curfew and superintendent of police (West) Anurag Dhankar is camping at the site.

Governor’s stand

A difference of opinion has surfaced between the state government and newly-appointed Governor Lt. Gen. (retd) K.M. Seth.

Addressing a news conference after being sworn-in, Seth said security forces deployed in the state for counter-insurgency operations were adequate. He added that the question of “deploying the Army could be considered” only after a careful assessment of the situation.

Information minister Jiten Chowdhury, however, differed on the issue. Briefing newsmen, Chowdhury said, “We are not aware of the Governor’s statement.” When pointed out that the Governor’s statement had been “printed and telecast by the national media,’’ the information minister said, “I don’t know what prompted the Governor to make such a statement. We want Army deployment as the Armed Forces (Special Powers) act is already in force in Tripura.”

He claimed that the situation in the state was no better than that in Kashmir.

Official sources here indicated that the rift between the government and the Governor was likely to widen.

Besides, the government’s “dwindling control” over security forces is also compounding matters. The CRPF has failed to play an effective role in counter-insurgency operations and the state government has reportedly submitted a report to the Union home ministry against it.

In many cases, the CRPF has failed to counter militants and the jawans have allegedly “abetted tribal rioters” in Kalyanpur, Teliamura and Khowai police station areas for the past two months.

The situation in Teliamura took an ugly turn yesterday because of the involvement of CRPF jawans. CPM mouthpiece Daily Desher Katha has also published several reports on the “dubious activities of CRPF.” On June 17, a group of CRPF jawans were caught smuggling timber at Chakmaghat. They also beat up two forest officials.    

Siliguri, June 27 
The Sikkim government has set up a special committee to examine the demands for constitutional amendments raised by various parties to safeguard the interests of different ethnic groups in the erstwhile Himalayan kingdom.

A senior official attached to the chief minister’s office today said the committee would recommend the proposals for amendment of Section 7 (1A) of the Representation of People’s Act (1950) and Section 5 A of the Representation of People’s Act (1951) and the Sikkim Scheduled Tribe Order (1978) after thoroughly studying them.

Chief minister Pawan Kumar Chamling has indicated that he would lead a joint delegation of different parties to Delhi to press for such amendments if they are justified by the committee.

The 11-member committee, headed by health minister D.D. Bhutia, will have members from various walks of life. The government has asked Nar Bahadur Bhandari, former chief minister and leader of the Opposition, to send two members from his Sikkim Sangram Parishad (SSP).

Bhandari and other SSP legislators had sought re-introduction of the parity system of reservation of Assembly seats for the state’s three ethnic groups — Bhutia, Lepcha and Nepali — during last week’s six-day session of the Assembly. The SSP wanted 16 seats each for the tribals (Bhutia and Lepcha together) and Nepalis prevalent during the rule of the Chogyal. There are 32 seats in the House.

The SSP’s proposal drew flak from pro-Nepali groups like the Nepali Ekta Sangharsh Samity which wants proportionate representation of various communities. The community comprises 80 per cent of the state’s population.

At the moment, 12 seats are reserved for Bhutias and Lepchas, two for Scheduled Castes and one for the sangha (monasteries) while the rest are open to all. The system of reservation of seats for the Nepalis was abolished by Morarji Desai in 1979.

The Bhutia community wants an amendment to the Sikkim Scheduled Tribe Order (1978) which has categorised non-Bhutia ethnic groups like Sherpa, Yolmo, Dukpa and Tibetan as “Bhutia”. It said these communities are different from Bhutias and should be separately identified as tribals.    

Itanagar, June 27 
Crops, forest resources and property worth Rs 130 crore were destroyed by the flash floods in Siang Valley of Arunachal Pradesh, according to state information minister Takam Sanjoy.

The minister told newspersons here today that an exact assessment of the damage would be possible only after receipt of reports from all flood-hit districts of the state.

Sanjoy said the Mukut Mithi government had already informed the Centre about the extent of damage caused by the floods.

“The government will request the external affairs ministry to find out how flash floods took place in the whole of Siang Valley despite the state not experiencing heavy downpours before the calamity struck,” he said.

The minister said the district administrations of East Siang, Upper Siang and Dibang Valley were not prepared to handle the crisis caused by the flash floods.

“For three days between June 10 and 13, thousands of people were at the mercy of the floods,” Sanjoy said.

The floods washed away the Nubo bridge over the Siang river. Built at the cost of Rs 8 crore, it is the longest cable-steel suspension bridge in the region.

The Dite, Dime and Sangom bridges over the Siang river were also swept away by the floods.

The cash-strapped state government has sought an immediate relief package of over Rs 130 crore from the Centre. It has also urged the people of the state and non-government organisations to make donations for rehabilitation of flood victims.

In Assam, more than four lakh people have been affected by the second wave of floods with the major rivers still flowing above the danger level, add agencies.

According to official reports here today, 1,180 villages had been affected in 10 districts of the state with more than 44,670 hectare of standing crop damaged.

In the worst-affected Dhemaji district, though the water level of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries were gradually receding, road communication between Dhemaji and Lakhimpur had been cut off on National Highway 52 near Samarajan. In Jonai sub-division, the flood situation remained unchanged.

In Dhakuakhana sub-division of Lakhimpur district, 116 villages with a population of 28,390 had been badly affected by the current wave of floods.    

Katras (Dhanbad), June 27 
Four persons were found in possession of human skulls and bones here recently, giving the police reason to believe that gangs involved in smuggling of skeletons are still active in Bihar’s coal belt.

Sources said at least 20 skulls were seized from Swaroop Dom, Chandra Mallick, Mewalal Mallick and Subhash Dom — all hailing from West Bengal’s Burdwan district .

Officer-in-charge of Katras police station, Harish Chandra Singh, said the arrested persons claimed to be “official suppliers” of skeletons required for research in medical colleges across the country.

“They furnished certificates issued by the Calcutta Medical College Students’ Union and the research committee of the hospital. The certificates bear the signatures of Mrityupal Choudhury, Rajshri Mukopadhyay, Arvind Dey, Pankaj Kumar Mitra, Samik Nandi and Anil Dutta, all doctors,” Singh said.

The police are trying to verify the authenticity of the certificates.

Sources said the same persons could be behind the disappearance of six bodies from the Udaigarh Vaishnav graveyard at Niyamatpur under Asansol subdivision of West Bengal two years ago.

Though no one was arrested at that time, Niyamatpur police were certain that the bodies had been dug up by a gang of skeleton smugglers. Vaishnavaites from Niyamatpur, Asansol, Dhagarpara and the Chandrachud Mandir area bury their dead instead of cremating them.

Police officials here do not rule out the possibility of gangs of skeleton smugglers using Bihar as their base. Citing police records, a senior official said the state accounted for 90 per cent of the skeleton seizures in the country.

Altogether 98 skulls were recovered from the bank of the Phalguni river in Bodhgaya district. This was followed by the seizure of an equal number of skeletons at the Katihar railway station.

The skeletons were concealed in a wooden box carried by a passenger travelling on the Jayanagar-Darbhanga train. The passenger, one Anup Kumar, told Government Railway Police that he was from West Bengal’s Murshidabad district.

Tests in the Indian Forensic Science Laboratory in New Delhi revealed that the skulls were those of people in the age group of 25-30 years.

The first time Dhanbad police conducted an inquiry into smuggling of skeletons was in 1968. The probe was instituted after the disappearance of a body from the Rangatand burial ground.

The body was later found stuffed inside a parcel bag lying at the booking counter of the Dhanbad railway station.

In 1970, Bank More police seized two wooden boxes containing over two dozen human skulls. Irate Muslims subsequently ransacked the gravediggers’ colony and set their houses ablaze. The police arrested three gravediggers — Md. Idrees, Md. Salim and Nathunia — in this connection.

A decade later, the police seized 109 human skulls in Purnea district. R.C. Singh, the kingpin of the racket, escaped but his aide Mangni Devi was arrested.

Between December 1988 and 1989, the police seized over 200 skulls in different districts of Bihar. In 1990, one Ramnath Sonar was arrested in West Champaran district and 150 skulls seized from him.

In July 1994, two more members of Sonar’s gang were arrested by the Customs and Excise department at the Enarwa check post on the Indo-Nepal border.

In the early Eighties, a London-based journal published a story on how human skulls and organs were being smuggled out of the country for medical research in the West. The issue was raised in Parliament in 1992, forcing the Centre to cancel licenses issued to skeleton exporters.    


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