3000 lines, STD crash
Twin deaths spark road rage
Safety pin pulled out of baby’s intestine
Chronicler of nature’s chants
Howrah station crime-prone zone
Pre-puja crackdown on extortion
Probe into baby swap charge
Probe into gangrape by rebels ordered
Bihar calls for asset reversion
Tribal bank manager shot dead

Calcutta. Sept.6: 
With telephone lines crashing all over the city on the first day of the ceasework by the telecom employees, Calcutta Telephones officials battled till late on Wednesday night to work out a strategy “to keep the lines alive”. At least 3,000 went out of order on Wednesday itself, bringing the total number of non-functioning phones to a staggering 25,000. STD and ISD lines became increasingly inaccessible,

Chief general manager of Calcutta Telephones, K. Ramanujam, who on Wednesday provided some “home remedies” to subscribers to repair minor faults, admitted that complaints were piling up but said he had set up a “think tank” to work a way out of this impasse. “We will put a stop to the situation getting totally out of hand,” he said.

Ramanujam’s call to subscribers to repair minor faults on their own came after an emergency report revealed that 80 per cent of the telephones are out of order because of snapped wires either inside the line junction unit or the distribution point box. “These faults are numerous but so simple to repair that subscribers can easily handle them,” he said.

Almost 70 per cent of the 16,000 employees of Calcutta Telephones have gone on an indefinite strike from Wednesday to protest the Centre’s plans to corporatise telecom services. Most are linesmen or booking clerks, who receive complaints and then repair them. As a result, no faults are being attended to.

Dilip Saha of the Telecom Engineering Officers’ Association, the apex body of junior engineers, sub-divisional engineers and divisional engineers who are on a work-to-rule, said STD lines to Mumbai and Chennai had collapsed for couple of hours in the evening, even as lines to West Bengal began collapsing in a “trigger effect” from the afternoon itself.

The northeastern states, mainly Assam, remained largely inaccessible through the day.

Sources in the Eastern Telecom Region (ETR), which supervises the STD and ISD network, said the situation will turn for the worse on Thursday, despite assurances to the contrary by the telecom authorities.

But all that ETR chief general manager S.K. Jain would say is: “We are looking into the matter.”

Through the day, complaints continued to flow into Ramanujam’s office, especially messages on the e-mail.

His technical secretary, S. Chakraborty, said the office staff recorded 250 complaints during the day. “The complaints have been forwarded to the respective general managers and area managers,” Ramanujam said, adding: “We have requested the union members to help rectify the emergency cases.’’

The convenor of telecom unions of the striking Group C and D employees, Alok Nandi, reiterated on Wednesday that they will continue to be on indefinite strike till the Centre gives a written assurance on their demands. The employees sat in protest at Telephone Bhavan and the exchanges across the city from Wednesday morning, discouraging employees from entering the premises. “Let us see for how long the government can hold out,” Nandi said.    

Calcutta. Sept.6: 
Reckless driving claimed two lives in the city, forcing residents to take to the streets on Wednesday morning.

Jaishankar Thakur, 30, was crushed to death by a speeding lorry near Convent Bridge at Entally. The driver managed to flee with his vehicle.

A little later, at around 11 am, a private bus hit three people waiting near a bus stop at the crossing of VIP Road and Lake Town.

While one of them, a 40-year-old unidentified man, died on the spot, two others, including a boy, were seriously injured.

The accident occurred when a city-bound private bus on route 221 was trying to overtake a Trekker. “The bus driver was at fault. He was speeding on the crowded thoroughfare,” said eyewitness Somen Das.

As word spread, local youth blocked the road, demanding “adequate traffic policemen in the area”. They squatted at the crossing of Lake Town and VIP Road, disrupting traffic in the area.

“This stretch has become a death trap, despite a foot-bridge. People hardly use the bridge to cross the busy road, with virtually no traffic policemen around,” residents complained.

Policemen from the local thanas were heckled when they tried to intervene. The residents were demanding “round-the-clock posting of traffic policemen” on both sides of VIP Road near the Lake Town crossing “with immediate effect”.

The inspector-in-charge of Lake Town police station, S. N. Roy, assured the protesters that “adequate traffic arrangements” will be made soon “despite lack of personnel at the thana”.

The agitation on the busy VIP Road disrupted movement of airport and city-bound traffic for over an hour. But a senior police officer insisted that while city-bound traffic was affected for a while, movement of airport-bound traffic was normal.

“We did not allow the agitators to stall movement of airport-bound vehicles,” he declared.

Policemen later said the victim was probably an employee of a bank with a branch at Bangur Avenue, as an identity card had been recovered from his body.

“We have informed the bank. Their officials will come to identify the body,” a officer of the Lake Town police station said.

The injured man was identified as the cleaner of the Trekker the bus was trying to overtake. He was first taken to a local nursing home and then shifted to R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital. Locals said the the boy was also hospitalised “in serious condition”.    

Calcutta. Sept.6: 
Ten-month-old Amanangkita Sarkar is lucky, in more ways than one. She swallowed a 1.25-inch-long open safety pin last Thursday, which travelled through her throat and stomach and lay embedded in her intestine. Two days ago, the pin was extricated without surgery and, on Wednesday, the baby was smiling and gurgling as she awaited discharge from Kothari Medical Centre.

Amanangkita is the youngest in Calcutta and the eastern region to have undergone therapeutic endoscopy, especially for such a complication. Endoscopy is a process by which a probe (tube) is passed through the throat into the stomach and intestine. A camera at the end of the tube shows the conditions of the digestive organs on a video screen and enables the endoscopist to diagnose and carry out corrective procedure using very small instruments, also at the end of the flexible tube.

The second of triplets born to Rikta and Samaresh, Mouri (Amanangkita’s nickname) was crawling around before her feed at her Balakoba home, 23 km from Siliguri, on Thursday morning when she started retching violently. “Her mother rushed to her and saw her putting her hand into her mouth,” recalled Dolly Majumdar, Mouri’s grandmother, who is taking care of the baby while the mother tends to the two at home.

“Sensing Mouri had swallowed something, Rikta forced the baby’s mouth open but could not see anything. She put her fingers in and felt the safety pin deep in the throat.

Before she could do anything, Mouri had swallowed it.” She was rushed to Siliguri, where an X-ray showed the pin lodged in the intestine. And the worst part was that it was open!

“Initially, the doctors in Siliguri said the pin would come out with the stool, but added that it could take up to a month,” said Samaresh.

“We immediately opted for the alternative, that is surgery. Then, a gastro-enterologist suggested a third option, a process called endoscopy. When he explained it, I was convinced that this would be the best way to save my daughter. He recommended Dr S. Pattnaik in Calcutta,” the state transport department official said.

Mouri was admitted on Sunday, the earliest they could arrive in Calcutta. A second X-ray was taken, which showed the pin was still embedded in the duodenum. “Therapeutic endoscopy to extricate harmful objects is now old hat, but in my 20 years of work, this case was very challenging,” said Pattnaik. “Not only was the baby my youngest patient but the object to be taken out, too, was unique.”

The interventional endoscopist had a surgery team on standby at the operation theatre, in case the endoscopy did not work.

“But, thank God, the process was successful. It took under 20 minutes. The baby was under general anaesthesia. We used a magnetic foreign-body extractor and a grasping forcep to pull the pin out from the duodenum and into the stomach. Then, with the open point downwards, the pin was pulled out through the throat.”

Today, the baby is back to her Cerelac and ready to leave.

“Had this incident not happened, I would not have known that a process called endoscopy existed,” said the beaming father. They are preserving the pin to show Mouri when she grows up.    

Calcutta. Sept.6: 
The music got Nihar when she was eight. As a landlord’s daughter, she was used to poor people having meals at their house in Goalpara, Assam. But one of them, a mad woman called Akkur Pagli, caught her eye.

Akkur was a domineering woman who would be the mistress of ceremonies and would throw a fit every time someone begged to differ. Then she would rave and rant, and break into song and dance, her feet pressed together, moving briskly, her body swaying to the rhythm. The music, unlike Akkur’s temper, was beautiful.

Nihar and her older brother Pramathesh watched fascinated. Pramathesh Barua became Bengali cinema’s first icon. Nihar Barua became a collector of the lusty songs that Akkur Pagli and other Rajbangshi women sang, mostly among themselves.

The 95-year-old Nihar Barua now has a collection of around 1,000 of those songs, sometimes deliciously raunchy, meticulously footnoted by her for the world. In the process, she has also preserved a unique feminine culture of nature-worshippers.

All this was not easy. Prantabaseer Jhuli, edited by Chandra Mukhopadhyay for Stree Publications, tells the story of Nihar Barua’s life and brings together her writings on the songs published intermittently in Bengali magazines for the first time. The book will be launched on Thursday evening at the Birla Academy.

Nihar, who was to do many other things in life — she wore a snake for a wristband posed happily before the camera, gun in hand, seated on the tiger she had just killed; and as early as the mid-Thirties, went on a European tour, solo — started off by scandalising.

The vision of the mad woman spurred the eight-year-old to ferocious bouts of singing and dancing. It was disgraceful behaviour, the daughter of the zamindar of Gauripur dancing! That, too, to the lowly villagers’ songs!

So, at 11, she was married off to a suitable boy. By 17, she had borne six children. But this wasn’t to kill her spirit. With a supportive magistrate husband and an equally supportive father, who had also taught her to roam the forests, behind her, she fell to her music again.

It was the women who drew her. Armed only with a few scraps of paper and banking on her memory, Nihar went from one Goalpara village to another, writing the women’s songs down painstakingly in days when a tape recorder was as unheard of as a woman’s vocation. At other times, she asked the servant women in her household to teach her their song and dance.

Later, when she came to Calcutta, she was also to co-found the Folk Music and Folklore Research Institute in the city with Hemanga Biswas and Khaled Chowdhury. The self-taught folklorist began to document her findings, encouraged by linguist Sukumar Sen.

The songs, no less astonishing than their anthologist, bear traces of a matrilineal set-up among the Goalpara Rajbangshis. But most stunning, perhaps, is their frank sexuality. The Meghpuja Nagnanritya (the naked dance in worship of clouds) that Nihar records is a case in point. She recounts how women, waiting for rain for days, would gather outside the village one night and dance naked to please the god of clouds. That night, it was forbidden for the men to step outside. On one such night, when after the communal dancing the clouds gather, and she sees the naked women embracing the bursts of rain, Nihar comes back wondering if she has witnessed some elemental drama — the poor village women embodying the feminine principle itself.

Women were always her abiding concern. Back home in Gauripara, she had established a co-educational school in 1935, and asked the boys if they knew the difference between “showing disrespect to” and “not respecting” their mother.

Today, in extreme old age, she is back again to Gauripur, where she sits among her magnificent collection of birds’ eggs. Time has played its tricks with her — she suffers from severe lapses of memory. But her doting grandchildren say that her feet still go tapping when she catches a song.    

Calcutta. Sept.6: 
The Government Railway Police on Wednesday declared Howrah station a “crime-prone zone” after the president of the CPM-affiliated Eastern Railway Men’s Union, Sudama Prasad, allegedly molested a middle-aged woman in the union office.

Police said the woman had approached Prasad for a job. The CPM leader asked her to meet him in the union office in the afternoon, where he allegedly molested her. Incidentally, the union office is a stone’s throw away from the GRP police station.

Sudama was produced in court and remanded in police custody.

On Wednesday itself, two persons were arrested on the charge of snatching a gold ornament from a middle-aged woman, Ratna Chatterjee, while she was boarding a Bandel-bound train in the evening.

Chatterjee was approaching the train compartment when two men stopped her and snatched a gold ornament from her. Superintendent of railway police, D.P Tarenia, said Chatterjee raised an alarm, which attracted policemen patrolling the area.

They chased the two men, who got into the train. They were arrested when the train pulled into Belur station. Police intensified patrolling in and around Howrah station from Wednesday morning.

Sources at the police headquarters in Writers’ Buildings said the state director-general of police, Deepak Sanyal, summoned senior GRP officers to his office for a meeting on Wednesday.

According to senior Eastern Railway officers, “Passengers, and even railwaymen, find it unsafe to venture into Platforms I, VIII, XIV and XV and near the cab road.’’ There are many unauthorised structures on the platforms and in the evening, certain sections become deserted.

Even Tarenia admitted that snatching and robbery cases were on the rise on the platforms.

“A number of gangs are operating there. A senior BSF officer was recently drugged and his belongings were stolen,’’ Tarenia said.    

Calcutta. Sept.6: 
With traders threatening to go on a prolonged agitation to protest extortion during the Pujas, the police raided different parts of the city to flush out criminals.

Besides, the state government has recently issued a notification in “public interest”, stating that officers at Lalbazar police headquarters should be informed if people are forced to pay puja subscriptions.

Police officers held a series of meetings with different traders’ associations after a token strike was observed recently at Tiretta Bazar. The aggrieved traders alleged that repeated complaints to the local police stations did not yield any results, even though the criminals had been identified.

City police chief D.C. Vajpai asked officers of all divisions to devise strategies to check this menace. “I do not want to hear complaints about extortion any more in the city. Businessmen should be able to ply their trade peacefully,” the police commissioner reportedly told the officers.

Sources said all police stations were asked to draw up lists of criminals who forcibly collect money in the name of pujas every year. “Accordingly, we have conducted several raids and arrested criminals during the past few days,” said deputy commissioner of police, south division, Ranjit Pachnanda.

He claimed that traders of south Calcutta had not yet faced any major problem from extortionists. “We are, however, not taking any chances. I have asked my men to remain alert and keep a watch on local criminals till the Pujas,” Pachnanda added.

The anti-rowdy section of the detective department has also been directed to carry out raids on criminal hideouts to maintain round-the-clock presssure on them. “The names of some criminals have been sent to the anti-rowdy section, so that they are arrested without delay,” the sources said.    

Calcutta. Sept.6: 
The state health department ordered an inquiry on Wednesday into the alleged baby swap at NRS Medical College and Hospital. The health department has nominated Soumendra Nath Banerjee, principal of National Medical College and Hospital, to probe the allegations of Jahid Hussein, the father. The director of medical education, too, has sought a report.

Hussein told the hospital superintendent, Shyamal Kumar Rudra, that his live baby boy was replaced with a dead child by the staff on duty on Saturday night.

Rudra said preliminary investigations revealed that the mother, who was carrying a dead foetus, was hospitalised and taken to a special room. Doctors told her about the stillborn baby that night itself and put up the message on the bulletin board outside the labour room. Even her relatives and her husband had been told about the stillborn baby, but they were not ready to accept it.

NRS Hospital authorities are conducting a separate probe into the incident. “We, too, have formed a three-man inquiry panel with the heads of the gynaecology and nursing sections,” said Rudra.

Hussein said he put his wife, Parveen Sultana, nine months’ pregnant, into hospital last Saturday. Late that night, she gave birth to a boy. But the doctors told him the baby was ill and did not allow him to see it. For the next two days, too, the doctors did not allow him to see his wife and baby, but on Tuesday, they declared that Parveen had given birth to a dead boy.    

Agartala, Sept. 6: 
The state Wakf Board has ordered an enquiry into reports that militants of the National Liberation Front of Tripura raped a number of women at Jamtoli village in West Tripura recently to create a communal divide in the state.

Faizur Rahman, the lone Muslim minister in the Left Front government, today issued a statement condemning the incident.

“The militants killed a Hindu priest sometime back. Now they are targeting Muslim families in the Takarjala area to create communal disharmony,” said Rahman, who is also the chairman of the state Wakf Board.

Sources in the Takarjala police station confirmed the incident, but declined to give details. Government officials here also kept mum. Since the NLFT attack, over 70 of the 100-odd Muslim families based in Jamtoli village have fled to Bonkumari on the northeastern fringes of this capital town.

One of the refugees, 43-year-old Mohammad Hussain Mian, told The Telegraph that at least 30 NLFT militants raided Jamtoli on August 25 and indiscriminately assaulted the villagers with rifle butts and sharp weapons.

Fearing fresh attacks, the villagers initially kept quiet about the incident, Mian claimed. The police station at Tarkarjala came to know of the NLFT attack only when the villagers began to flee the area instead of bowing to the rebels’ demand that they embrace Christianity, sources said.

There was a similar exodus from Raiabari village in Udaipur subdivision after NLFT militants raped a number of women in February. The Tripura Women’s Commission raised a hue and cry over the incident, forcing the government to institute an inquiry. However, the report is yet to be submitted.

State BJP chief Brajesh Chakraborty today blamed the Left Front government for the atrocities in Takarjala. Demanding the resignation of chief minister Manik Sarkar and his “incompetent colleagues”, the BJP leader said, “If they do not go, the people will throw them out soon.”    

Ranchi, Sept. 6: 
The Bihar government has sought reversion of all its assets involved in the World Bank-funded Plateau Development Project.

The project was scrapped after the implementing agency failed to complete it by the extended deadline of June 30.

All officials involved in executing the project have been directed to close accounts latest by December 31. Government staff on deputation have also been asked to rejoin their original departments.

The government assets that were transferred to the nodal agency for executing of the project will have to be handed over to the public works department, sources said. These assets include laboratories, office buildings, guest houses, furniture and mechanical equipment.

The project envisaged construction of roads in the state’s rural areas, improvement of drinking water and irrigation facilities and development of agriculture in 67 blocks in the Jharkhand region. The initial Plan outlay was Rs 389.52 crore, which was later revised to Rs 444.05 crore. The deadline for completion of the project was set to expire on June 30 last year, but it was later extended by a year.

Soon after the extended deadline expired, the agriculture department sought a short-term extension so that the unfinished work, particularly construction of roads, could be completed. However, the passage of the Bihar State Reorganisation Bill in Parliament last month stymied the possibility of an extension.

Privatisation plan: A development plan drawn up at the initiative of Bihar Governor Vinod Chandra Pandey has suggested privatisation of the Heavy Engineering Corporation Limited, which is in dire straits.

The plan, entitled “Vision 2020”, is a blueprint for all-round development of the new state of Jharkhand.    

Agartala, Sept. 6: 
A tribal manager of Taidu Gramin Bank was killed along with another passenger and six others were seriously injured when an unidentified group of militants ambushed their jeep.

The vehicle was going from Taidu market in South Tripura to Teliamura market in West Tripura today. The passenger jeep heading for Teliamura came under militant attack at 3.30 pm in the Satmile Quarry area, police sources said.

In the gunfire from militants perched atop hills, 35-year-old Pradip Debbarma died on the spot, while Parimal Das died in hospital. Police could not identify the militant group responsible for the attack.

Police also recovered bodies of two tribals, identified as Pacchiram Reang and Sanjib Reang, killed in a separate incident in remote Chaplingcherra under Natunbazar police station in South Tripura, the sources added.    


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