Demand for station derails services
Court drags parties into rally-ban case
Prize and punishment policy for civic boards
Subhas steers clear of Beni bribery case
Sultan to woo minority votes for Mamata
Trinamul in Keshpur bandh call
HC extends stay on Crorepati injunction
Sculptor spotted in Tinsukia
Manipur CM presses Atal
Five killed in attack on CRPF convoy

Calcutta, Aug. 25: 
Train services were severely disrupted in Eastern Railway’s Howrah division when a large number of local residents squatted on the tracks between Bhadreshwar and Baidyabati stations on Friday morning.

The agitators, blocking the tracks from 8 am, were demanding a halt at Kurigachhi between Baidyabati and Bhadreswar stations.

The blockade, which continued for four hours, affected train services on the Howrah-Burdwan main section.

The Down Delhi-Janata Express was stranded for three-and-a-half hours. The train, which was scheduled to reach Howrah station at 8.05 am, finally arrived at 11.30 am.

Beside holding up some long-distance trains, the protestors threw local train services off-track, leaving thousands of daily passengers stranded near the Baidyabati-Bhadreswar stretch.

The agitators were raising slogans against all political parties for not keeping their promise of arranging for a station at Kurigachhi.

“Political leaders from all parties came to us for votes and promised to ensure a stop at Kurigachhi. But they have done nothing,” alleged the protestors.

Office-goers and schoolchildren were left stranded for hours with the police nowhere in sight. Some crossed over to hail Calcutta-bound buses. Private car drivers cashed in on the situation by demanding hefty amounts to take some office-goers and schoolchildren to the city. “We have an examination today, and we must get to school in time,” said two distraught children in uniform.

When police officers arrived on the spot, they were gheraoed by local residents, resulting in a minor scuffle. The blockade was finally withdrawn around noon.

Koushik Mukherjee, chief public relations officer, Eastern Railway, said the agitators’ demand cannot be met because of “various technical reasons”.

“Most long-distance trains were diverted through the chord line. These trains reached Howrah station on time, but local services were disrupted”, he added.

Classes suspended

Classes at St Thomas School in Howrah were suspended for an indefinite period on Friday following a demonstration by guardians on the school premises, says a staff reporter.

The guardians were protesting a hike in tuition fees by the school authorities since Tuesday. Things came to a head on Friday as the guardians became engaged in heated exchanges with the school’s management staff, even as exams were being conducted.

Principal S.C. Banerjee, who refused to comment on the possibility of a roll-back of the fee hike, lodged an FIR with the Dasnagar police station, alleging that some of the guardians had “misbehaved with the teachers”.    

Calcutta, Aug. 25: 
The division bench of Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice B. Ghosh on Friday directed petitioner Supradip Roy to serve notices to all political parties in the state in the case relating to the ban of rallies on city streets.

The petitioner had asked the court to bring political parties within the ambit of the case after the state government refused to convene an all-party meeting to ban rallies on city streets.

The Left Front government had passed the rally-ban buck to the Trinamul Congress-BJP board of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC). Filing a report before the High Court on August 11, the government had reasoned that under Section 167 of the Bengal Municipal Act, 1993, roads, streets, lanes, parks and open spaces of the city were vested with the CMC and fully controlled by it.

The government said political parties and others should obtain permission from the CMC to hold rallies on city streets and that it was the responsibility of the police to maintain law and order during such rallies.

Funds for Sabars: The high court has directed the district judge of Purulia to order an inquiry into the distribution of funds allotted by the state for the Sabars, a tribal group. Novelist Mahasweta Devi has filed a complaint that the funds meant for the Sabars never reached them though the government claimed it had sanctioned Rs 23 lakh.    

Calcutta, Aug. 25: 
Reward and retribution. That’s the two-pronged policy devised by the municipal affairs department to clamp down on corruption in civic bodies.

“We plan to punish the corrupt civic boards and reward the good ones. This, we hope, will encourage municipal authorities to improve services,” said municipal affairs minister Ashok Bhattacharya.

The department has also drawn up a seven-point guideline to ensure smooth functioning of the municipalities. The guidelines include formation and activation of ward committees, internal audit, presentation of fund-utilisation certificates after completion of projects, ban on recruitment of casual staff, emphasis on resource mobilisation, checking diversion of funds, maintainance of discipline.

The department’s move follows violation of rules by several municipalities. The charges levelled against them are “diversion and misuse of funds, recruitment of casual employees and failure to conduct internal audit”.

“We will block funds to these municipalities and initiate action against the chairmen of these boards,’’ said P.K. Pradhan, secretary, municipal affairs department.    

Calcutta, Aug. 25: 
Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty has reportedly told his close associates that he had “not taken any money” from the owner of the now-shut Beni Engineering, Ganesh Singhania.

“I have never taken a single paisa either from Singhania or any other businessman”, the minister has reportedly told his followers. Chakraborty is in Delhi and will return to the city on Friday.

The transport minister has been drawn into yet another controversy after he accused senior partymen of receiving “undue favours” from Singhania. This was after Chakraborty’s name was dragged into the Beni Engineering bribery case.

The Beni Engineering bribery case was unearthed last year after the police arrested a Citu leader of North 24-Parganas, Lakshmi Chatterjee, from a restaurant in central Calcutta while accepting Rs 1 lakh from representatives of Singhania.

The CPM state leadership had set up an inquiry committee, comprising Citu chief Chittabrata Majumder and Kali Ghosh, to probe the incident. The inquiry committee had sought explanations from Pronab Mukherjee, nephew of veteran CPM leader Samar Mukherjee.

The inquiry committee had also questioned the role of Subhas Chakraborty in the case. Chakraborty reacted sharply and complained in the last state committee meeting that two prominent Citu leaders, Chittabrata Majumder and Kali Ghosh, had received “undue favours” from Singhania.

The transport minister’s outburst irked the state party leadership. Another inquiry committee was set up to find out the “basis of Chakraborty’s allegation”.

CPM MP Biplab Dasgupta and Mohammad Amin are members of the inquiry committee. It is learnt that the committee has completed its findings and will submit the report to Anil Biswas soon.

Meanwhile, Amitava Nandi, a member of CPM’s North 24-Parganas district secretariat, who has also come under a cloud in this case, refused to comment. “I will not tell you anything in this regard. Ask state party secretary Anil Biswas about this,” Nandy said.

Homoeopath arrested: Officers of Malipanchghara police station arrested Kartick Chandra Das, a homoeopath after the death of a three-year-old boy at Ramakrisna Mission Seva Pratisthan on Thursday night. The FIR was lodged by the child’s parents, Mita and Kabir Malik, residents of Sashibhusan Mukherjee Lane in Howrah. Vikram was suffering from bronchitis and was taken to Das for treatment. But he had to be shifted to the hospital in south Calcutta after his condition deteriorated on Thursday night. Das will be produced in court on Saturday.    

Calcutta, Aug. 25: 
Congress MLA Sultan Ahmed, who is all set to make the switch to the Trinamul Congress, will sponsor a Muslim conference in early October at Netaji Indoor Stadium to woo Muslim voters for Mamata Banerjee.

Ahmed, who returned from Delhi on Friday morning, claimed later during the day that state transport minister Subhas Chakraborty and minister for food and civil supplies Kalimuddin Shams will be present at the conference as the main speakers, along with Mamata.

“My aim is to strengthen the Muslim vote bank for Mamata as the community has traditionally sided with either the CPM or the Congress,” Ahmed said.

Ahmed called on Mamata in the capital to inform her that he, along with five MLAs from his community, will switch allegiance to the Trinamul in the middle of September.

“With the state Congress reduced to a signboard, we are left with no option but to take the plunge to survive,” he admitted.

Ahmed also discussed details of the proposed conference with Mamata. “She asked me to go ahead with the conference, which will be attended by nearly 12,000 Muslim leaders,” he added.

Ahmed said the Left Front’s “dismal failure” in securing job reservations for the Muslim community in Bengal will figure high on the agenda of the meet.

Shams, who would attend the rally “if the party allows” him to do so, surprisingly echoed Ahmed on the state government’s failure in the field of job reservations for the Muslims.

“It is true we have done nothing towards job reservations for Muslims in Bengal,” he admitted.

Some other Front leaders, preferring anonymity, feared if Mamata can garner a sizeable portion of Muslim votes, it would be difficult for the Front to return to power this time.

It is learnt that Chakraborty, who met Mamata in Delhi, has agreed to share the platform with the Trinamul supremo at the stadium.

The state transport minister, however, was not available for comment.

In another development, A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury, who has been replaced by Rajya Sabha member Pranab Mukherjee as PCC chief, will return on Saturday to take stock of the situation in the state Congress.

“Barkatda is unhappy at the way he has been removed overnight from the key post,” said Ahmed, one of Chowdhury’s close aides.    

Calcutta, Aug. 25: 
The Keshpur killings continued on Friday, even as the Trinamul Congress called for an “indefinite bandh” in the area from Saturday.

Two CPM supporters were killed, allegedly by Trinamul activists, in Baburayma and Dotaal villages in Keshpur of Midnapore district.

The Trinamul has called for an “indefinite Keshpur bandh” to protest CPM’s atrocities, police inaction and the “total failure” of the administration.

Trinamul leaders met chief election commissioner M.S. Gill, in New Delhi on Friday. They were armed with video-tapes and newspaper clippings to prove their point about the “total breakdown of the law-and-order machinery in Bengal”. They demanded that the CPM be declared an “anarchist” party and debarred from taking part in the parliamentary process.

“According to the law of the land, a political party with such an anarchist attitude should be debarred from the mainstream,” said Trinamul spokesman Pankaj Banerjee.

“Our MPs and MLAs will meet Governor Viren J. Shah on Monday to apprise him of the situation,” added Banerjee.

He said hundreds of Trinamul supporters and workers have been rendered homeless by the spate of CPM attacks.

Banerjee claimed that CPM activists in Keshpur, were “armed to the teeth” with sophisticated weapons. He accused a CPM minister of supplying these weapons to Keshpur and Garbeta.

“The administration is not taking any steps against the minister and we condemn this,” he said.

Meanwhile, the youth wing of the Trinamul has started a signature campaign in Calcutta to drum up support for its demand that President’s Rule be clamped in West Bengal.

From camps set up in various corners of the city, Trinamul youth leaders exhorted the people to sign in favour of imposition of Article 356 in the state “before the next Assembly elections”.

Keshpur order: The division bench of Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice B. Ghosh has directed the director general of police, Dipak Sanyal, to furnish a fresh report on the present situation in Keshpur and its adjacent areas of Midnapore.

Earlier, the DG had submitted a report on August 11 before the court, claiming that the situation in Keshpur was “under control”. The court had asked the police to file the report in response to petitions filed by Uttam Majumder and Subroto Mukherjee demanding court intervention to restore normalcy in the disturbed district.

On Friday, Majumder and Mukherjee claimed that the DG’s report had been proved “bogus” as “Keshpur and other areas of Midnapore are still burning”. This prompted the division bench to issue a fresh directive.    

Calcutta, Aug. 25: 
A division bench of Calcutta High Court has extended the stay order on the injunction imposed by a trial court on Kaun Banega Crorepati? till September 8, 2000.

Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice Barin Ghosh have directed News Television (India) Limited and petitioners Debasmita Sridhar and Bimalendu De to furnish “supplementary affidavits” on that day, when the case about the game show being a form of gambling will be heard again.

The hearing on Friday lasted for over two hours . The counsel on behalf of News Television (India) Limited argued that the programme had nothing to do with gambling and was helping to improve the general knowledge of viewers.

The counsel for Debasmita Dhar had initiated the case before Justice A.K. Ganguly and obtained an interim injunction order on August 13. News Television (India) Limited had filed an appeal challenging the order. A separate case challenging the validity of the programme has also been filed by advocate Bimalendu De.

Train accident: A 45-year-old woman, Uma Devi, was knocked down by Santiniketan Express between Belur and Bally railway stations on Friday morning. She was crossing the tracks to see an unidentified body recovered from a 15-feet deep hole, when she slipped and fell on the tracks. She was hit by the Up Shantiniketan Express and thrown in front of the Howrah-bound Rajdhani Express.    

Jorhat, Aug. 25: 
It has been a long journey for Latika Katt. Head of the arts department at the Jamia Millia Islamia University, Delhi, Latika is camping in Upper Assam’s Tinsukia district in search of her husband, Balbir Singh Katt, Dean of the faculty of visual arts at the Benaras Hindu University.

A sculptor of international repute, Katt has been missing since he left home on January 30. He was reportedly last seen wandering in Tinsukia.

Latika said though Katt had never visited Tinsukia, he was a nature lover and Assam’s greenery might have attracted him. Many of his students in the BHU were also from Assam, she added.

“I arrived here on August 8 and have since been moving in and around tea gardens and villages and hanging up posters for any information about my husband,” Latika told The Telegraph over telephone.

Latika said a senior police officer of Benaras had informed her about Katt’s whereabouts in Tinsukia district.

The officer had received a letter from one Rangan Bhuyan of Dhigal Tarang tea estate in the Doomdooma area on July 28. “The letter informed that my husband had been spotted in the area. Subsequently, the officer informed me and here I am,” she added.

Latika said Katt was spotted in the Choikhowa, Doomdooma and Chabua areas in the district by several people, many of whom she had talked to.

“Most of them said he was not in a right frame of mind and used to roam around in dirty clothes. He attracted their attention because of his fluency in English,” she added.

Latika said her husband may have lost his mental balance after being given the short shrift by the authorities of the Benaras Hindu University.

Katt was removed from the BHU’s financial committee in April because he allegedly knew about misappropriation of a large amount of university funds. “He was hounded out of Benaras,” she alleged.

Latika said some of the people she talked to said Katt had mentioned having lost his way home. The Tinsukia district administration is providing all help to Latika to track down her husband.

“I am sure I will find him. He is somewhere here,” said Latika, who left for Arunachal Pradesh, bordering Tinsukia district, today in her search.

Ulfa rebels surrender

Two Ulfa militants surrendered before the Jorhat superintendent of police today. Myanmar-trained militants Mohen Bora alias Amar Saikia and Pradip Bora alias Surya Bora had joined the Ulfa in 1991.    

Imphal, Aug. 25: 
Manipur chief minister W. Nipamacha Singh has expressed resentment against the 11th Finance Commission’s recommendations to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

On his return from New Delhi, Nipamacha Singh told newsmen that he had briefed Vajpayee regarding the present financial position of the state and the non-inclusion of funds for the Loktak Development Authority and some other departments in the Commission’s recommendations.

Nipamacha Singh had gone to New Delhi to attend the chief ministers’ conference organised by Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu.

The chief minister said Vajpayee and finance minister Yashwant Sinha had assured him that the 11th Finance Commission’s recommendations were not final and could be modified. The Finance Commission’s report has been tabled before the Lok Sabha.

Nipamacha Singh said Vajpayee had expressed his willingness to include more funds for different states under the 11th Finance Commission by diverting funds from the state lapsable pool.

The chief minister said the 10th Finance Commission had provided Rs 46 crore to the state for maintenance of road and bridges. The amount was reduced to Rs 30 crore under the 11th Finance Commission. He said the funds allocated to the state were much less than those earmarked for Mizoram and Meghalaya despite the former having longer roads.

Nipamacha Singh also apprised the 11th Finance Commission’s chairperson about the state’s financial situation and sought funds for the Loktak Development Authority.

HC directive: The Gauhati High Court has directed the Manipur Public Service Commission (MPSC) not to declare the final results of the ongoing examination for the recruitment of Manipur Civil Service (MCS) and Manipur Police Service (MPS) officers.

The High Court asked MPSC chairman I.S. Khidem not to make the final recommendations until further orders. It, however, directed him to continue with the ongoing personal test and viva voce, scheduled to be completed on August 26.

The directive came after two unsuccessful candidates filed a petition challenging the MCS/MPS written examination results, alleging irregularities. These two petitioners were among the “top 10 ” in the last examination which was cancelled because of irregularities and malpractices.

Justice W. Shishak, who has reserved his order, announced the interim judgement at the Kohima bench of the High Court on August 22. The answerscripts of the successful candidates are now in the custody of the High Court.

Justice Shishak, in an interim order, has directed that the matter should be heard and disposed of in the first week of September.    

Guwahati, Aug. 25: 
Five persons, including two constables, were killed when suspected Ulfa militants blew up a CRPF vehicle at a remote village under Basugaon police station in Lower Assam’s Kokrajhar district early today.

Four CRPF men were injured in the attack. The condition of one of them is stated to be serious.

The incident comes a day after chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta reviewed the law and order situation in the wake of the killing of Bodo Sahitya Sabha chief Bineswar Brahma and People’s Democratic Front legislator Mohini Basumatary.

Kokrajhar superintendent of police K.K. Sharma told The Telegraph over phone that the militant attack took place when a CRPF convoy was returning from a raid on an Ulfa hideout at Durgabari in Bongaigaon district.

“The convoy, comprising two trucks and an Ambassador, had just reached a place called Lalkura, 22 km from Kokrajhar, when the suspected Ulfa militants triggered a powerful improvised explosive device. The truck (AS17/1593) in the middle of the convoy was blown up in the explosion,” the police official said.

Two constables — J.K. Tripathi and Shyambir Tomar — and three “civilians” were killed on the spot, the SP said. He identified the slain “civilians” as Abed Ali, Kharai Ali and Noor Rahman.

An assistant commandant of the CRPF’s 125 battalion, based at Champawati, said the three “civilians” were actually militants of the Adivasi Cobra Force. He said they had been arrested at Durgabari along with two other rebels.

The CRPF official said the two militants who survived the blast had been handed over to the police.

According to the Kokrajhar SP, the blast was so powerful that it created a crater 10 feet wide and five feet deep. At least 100 yards of flexible wire, some switches and a few dry cells were recovered from the blast site, Sharma said.

The police official did not rule out the possibility of the CRPF team falling into a “trap” as the raid on the hideout at Durgabari was carried out on the basis of information from “undisclosed” sources.

The SP said the raid on the suspected Ulfa hideout was conducted after midnight. The CRPF team picked up five persons — three from the same family — for interrogation and recovered two country-made pistols, 3 rounds of 9 mm pistol ammunition and a sheaf of incriminating documents, he added.    


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