Free incoming calls no more
Father hands over ‘killer’ son
Power repairs may black out Ballygunge
STD lines down
Car chase nets murder mastermind
JU a centre of excellence
3 more Congmen give Mamata majority in CMC
Clean-up drive to fight malaria
Strict fire vigil at 60 pandals
Section 144 clamped in Cachar

Calcutta, Sept 13: 
Spice Telecom, the larger among the two cellphone service providers in the city, has decided to “charge incoming calls” under most schemes, during prime time from September 15.

The move comes exactly one year after the company’s decision to make incoming calls free from August 1999 and expand consumer base.

Calcutta is the only city where incoming calls on the cellphone are free, as both the operators, Spice and Command, had realised it was the one ploy that would work in such a “conservative market”.

While Command’s top brass refused to comment on their future course of action, sources said the company, which was the first to make incoming calls free, was bound to follow suit.

Spice chief operating officer S. Venkatraman said the decision was taken to protect the network from the “gross misuse” of cellphones from 9 am to 8 pm.

“The company had freed incoming calls last year in anticipation of getting into Calling Party Pays (CPP) Regime, which was slated to be introduced in November 1999. But the CPP could not be implemented because of court cases and we continued to bleed,” Venkatraman said.

The Spice chief pointed out that the company has made substantial investment during the past year to expand the network capacity. “But even then, the network could not bear the load as a majority of the incoming calls dragged on, taking advantage of the free incoming schemes. This cannot be allowed to continue as people waiting to make or receive an important call are the ones to suffer,” he added.

Venkatraman said 88 per cent of calls generated in a particular base station were incoming and thus brought in no revenue for the company.

“Revenue comes only from 12 per cent outgoing calls which cannot justify the business logic,” the Spice chief said.

Venkatraman, however, admitted that the subscriber base of the company has witnessed a four-fold increase, to 70,000, since incoming calls were made free.

“We have decided to levy a small charge on incoming calls, that too for a limited hours, but we will compensate our customers with more value additions and improved services,” said Venkatraman.

Unfolding the “new tariff plans”, the Spice chief said incoming calls would be charged at 40 to 80 paise per minute, depending upon the schemes.

Incoming calls, however, remain free under Regular Spice and Hot Spice schemes with hefty monthly access and membership fees.

Asked if any discussions had been held between Command and Spice before such a step was taken, the Spice chief said he would “neither admit nor deny it”.

Spice general manager R. Mahesh said the new tariff plan would not put much pressure on existing subscribers and would not be a deterrent to prospective users either.

He pointed out that the new tariff structure “will not raise the revenue of the company much”, but it will definitely improve the “quality of services substantially” as it would cut down on junk calls.

Spice has also drawn up ambitious investment plans to double the number of base stations.

“We are investing Rs 60 crore to expand the capacity from the existing 44 base stations. One-third of the investment has already been made to add five base stations very soon,” a senior Spice official said.

Calls from Spice to Command, interestingly, will enjoy a 25 per cent discount while those from Spice to Spice will have a 50 per cent discount.    

Calcutta, Sept 13: 
In Vastav, a mother shoots her son, a dreaded don. In Fiza, a sister kills her brother, a young man who turns terrorist.

Real life imitated reel on Wednesday, with a father handing over his son to the police for the 17-year-old’s involvement in the “slit-throat murder” of a businessman in a New Park Street highrise late on Monday night.

Lionel Bernard Ray called in the police after Keith Ray, wanted for the murder of jeweller Bishnu Kishan Chand Mahatani, returned to their Elliot Road residence on Wednesday.

Keith was first taken to Beniapukur police station and then to court. He has been remanded to police custody for seven days. A student of Class IX, Keith had been thrown out of a prominent English-medium school in the city earlier this year for “indecent behaviour”.

Police said Aroti, the maid who lived with Mahatani, and the building’s securityman, Bijoy Jha, will be brought to Lalbazar police headquarters to identify Keith. A manhunt has been launched to track down a friend of Keith’s who was also present in Mahatani’s flat on the night of the crime.

According to deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Narayan Ghosh, Keith had fled after Mahatani’s murder.

The 40-year-old who had a flourishing imitation jewellery business, with a shop in New Market, was found with his throat slit open and multiple knife wounds on his hands in his apartment.

Preliminary investigations have revealed that Mahatani was murdered around 10.30 pm. Detectives confirmed that Aroti had seen “Keith and another boy” leaving the flat at 10.40 pm on Monday, minutes before she found the businessman lying in a pool of blood in the drawing room.

Family sources said Lionel Bernard Ray, a businessman, was shattered by the news of his son being linked to the murder.

Ray rang up Ghosh on Tuesday night and assured him that he would inform the police as soon as his son returned home.

“I could never have imagined that Keith could murder anyone. He has fallen into bad company,’’ a sobbing Ray told Ghosh.

The detective chief got the all-important call from the father on Wednesday afternoon. He dispatched his team immediately. Officers from the Beniapukur police station also rushed to the spot.

A curious group of onlookers gathered outside the house as police vehicles screeched to a halt on Elliot Road.

Officers entering the drawing room found the father sitting stoically on the sofa. Other family members stood in one corner of the room.

Ray the got up slowly and led the policemen to a room which was locked from the outside. He fished out a key ring and opened the door. The policemen burst into the room to find Keith lying on the bed.

“I locked him up in the room to stop him from escaping again,’’ Bernard told the investigators.    

Calcutta, Sept 13: 
Large parts of Ballygunge will go without power on Friday as CESC will carry out maintenance of its 6-KV switchgear at its Ballygunge distribution station. The exercise, part of the utility’s preventive upkeep before the Pujas, will be carried out between 9 am and 12 noon.

The areas to be affected include Broad Street, Ironside Road, Ballygunge Park, Ballygunge Place, Ballygunge Circular Road and Ekdalia. “We may even finish work before noon. On an average, each locality will experience a blackout of about one-and-half hours,” a CESC official said.

Sources said power supply will be maintained through alternative sources for tram services and a Calcutta Municipal Corporation pumping station near Broad Street.

“We have notified the important installations and highrises so they can store water in advance,” a CESC official said.

Pre-Puja maintenance work has been completed in Kankurgachhi, Jadavpur, Santoshpur, Barisha and Kasba.    

Calcutta, Sept 13: 
Long-distance lines developed technical snags on Wednesday night, making it difficult to get STD connections to Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai and other cities. Telecom officials said large number of subscribers called up to say they could not get through to other cities. According to officials of the eastern telecom region, engineers were alerted for repairs. Junior telecom officers, sub-divisional engineers and divisional engineers are on a work-to-rule.    

Calcutta, Sept 13: 
A sensational car chase through Jadavpur early on Wednesday ended with the arrest of Bijoy Thapa, alleged mastermind of the dacoity and murder at Regent Park.

Early on Monday, 16 criminals burst into the house of bank manager Achintya Majumdar and shot dead his wife, Suchitra, as she rushed to protect her son. They then decamped with Rs 6,000 and a couple of gold chains.

Acting on a tip-off from a local goon, Tukai Das, who was arrested on Tuesday, a special investigating team probing the crime picked up Thapa’s trail. The 23-year-old, who has several cases of dacoity and murder pending against him, was to meet a few associates in the Purba Jadavpur area on Tuesday night.

The police team found a car moving around suspiciously near the house where Thapa was scheduled to meet his accomplices and pursued it.

For about half an hour, the police jeep trailed the car down the dirt tracks and finally caught up with the fugitive vehicle.

Thapa, with a country-made revolver tucked into his belt, was in the car with two others. While the two fled under the cover of darkness, Thapa was caught. His confessions have opened up a Pandora’s box of crime in south Calcutta and its fringe areas.

Thapa told interrogators that the 16-member gang comprised youth from the Ekbalpore, Bishnupur-Banagram, Baruipur and Sonarpur areas. This group had “tied-up’’ with an eight-member gang from Park Circus. Investigations revealed that the gang employs local rowdies as “tippers’’ to gain information about people of the locality: their schedule, how much cash and valuables they kept in the house, etc.

Investigations revealed that Thapa had got in touch with Tukai Das, another criminal who lived barely 300 metres from the bank manager’s residence, two weeks ago. Thapa had indicated to Tukai that they were planning to pull off a “major job’’ in the area.

“If you help us with some information on the Majumdar household and take part in the operation, we will give you a hefty ‘cut’ from the loot,’’ Thapa told Tukai a week before the incident.

Tukai stuck a deal with Thapa and started keeping a watch on the Majumdar household. Asked why they chose the middle-class family, Thapa said the gang had information that the family stashed away a lot of money in the almirah locker.

Deputy superintendent of police Subhankar Chatterjee, who led Tuesday night’s raid, said Thapa was also involved in a dacoity at Kasba on February 5. His gang is said to have committed two dacoities in Midnapore and was wanted by the Contai police as well.

Additional superintendent of police S.N. Gupta said raids are continuing and police are hopeful of arresting the rest of the gang members shortly.

“We have got in touch with the Midnapore police to verify certain facts which Thapa has passed on to interrogators,’’ Gupta added.    

Calcutta, Sept 13: 
Jadavpur University is likely to be the first institution in West Bengal to be declared a centre of excellence in the field of engineering and technological education.

A team of officials of the Central government’s department of science and technology (DST) visited the university on Wednesday and inspected various departments of the university’s technology faculty. The departments are chemical, electrical, mechanical, instrumentation, computer science and electronics and information technology.

After the inspection, the team officials are believed to have praised the performance of the six departments. The university, however, runs 22 departments in all its three faculties. The six departments which have been chosen by the DST are the oldest ones.

The Centre had recently shortlisted a few institutions across the country for declaring them seats of excellence in different fields of education. Jadavpur University is among them.

In West Bengal, there are 17 engineering colleges, many of which are run by private organisations. Shibpur Bengal Engineering College, Deemed University, is another premier engineering college.

The DST selected the institutions as centres of excellence on the basis of their department-wise assessments.

The parameters are the departments’ infrastructure, faculty members and quality of teaching, syllabi contents and academic standards and the quality of research carried out by them.

University registrar Rajat Banerjee said during Wednesday’s inspection that the DST team was happy with the academic standards maintained by the six departments. The final recommendation will be made after examining the reports of Wednesday’s inspection, Banerjee added.

The final approval for declaring the institution a centre of excellence will also depend on the viability of a composite research project of the university. The university has already submitted the project to the DST.

After the shortlisting, the university was asked to prepare a research project jointly by the six departments.

The project aims at developing technology which may be utilised for the development of industries like power plants and petroleum.

If the project is cleared, the DST will fund the research.

University sources said approximately Rs 3.5 crores will be required for carrying out the research. However, the sources said, the university itself will be also required to generate funds.

To do so, the university has been directed to increase its interaction with industries. This aspect will be also taken into consideration by the DST for declaring the university a seat of excellence.

Sources said the university will be required to generate Rs 30 lakh out of the total project cost 0f Rs 3.5 crores.    

Calcutta, Sept 13: 
The Trinamul Congress-BJP combine on Wednesday achieved majority in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, with three more Congress councillors deciding to shift their loyalty to Mamata Banerjee. The combine’s strength rose to 72 in the 141-member House, with Iqbal Ahmed, Manzur Iqbal and Suman Singh joining Trinamul.

Altogether seven of the 15 Congress councillors have joined Trinamul. They cannot be subjected to the anti-defection rules passed in the Assembly after the civic polls. They will submit a written undertaking to CMC chairman Anil Mukherjee on Thursday on their decision to join Trinamul.

The four Congress councillors who had earlier shifted loyalty to Trinamul had not officially communicated their decision to the chairman, since that would have disqualified them under the anti-defection rules.

The rules do not apply if one-third of the total number of councillors of a political party defects at a time.

The ruling combine will no longer be dependent on the Congress councillors to adopt any proposal in the house. Nor will it have to solicit the Congress’ support to rebuff a no-trust motion brought by the CPM in future.

Iqbal Ahmed, younger brother of Sultan Ahmed, Congress legislator from Taltala, who has also joined Trinamul, has been made chairman of borough VI. Manzur Iqbal will head another borough, as a result of an understanding among the Trinamul, BJP and Congress councillors.

Trinamul leader Mamata Banerjee hailed the decision of the three Congress councillors. “We will now be in a position to work for the city’s development in a more organised manner, despite the CPM’s persistent opposition to our efforts,” she said.

A few hundred slogan-chanting supporters accompanied the three councillors to Nizam Palace, where Mamata introduced them to mediapersons.

At one point of time, the supporters threatened to storm the room in which the Trinamul leader was briefing the press. Mamata had to persuade them to vacate the premises when other party leaders failed to do so. Even so, her security personnel had a trying time pushing them back into the corridor.

The development came as a major political setback for the CPM, which has been trying its best to prevent defection of Congress councillors to Trinamul.

Ashok Bhattacharya, municipal affairs minister, had on several occasions warned the Congressmen about possible disqualification under anti-defection rules if they tried to join hands with Mamata’s party.

An upset leader of the Opposition in the CMC, Kanti Ganguly, described the development as the “culmination of a hide-and-seek game.”

“Earlier, even two mayors-in-council could not convey their decision officially after taking oath as they were afraid of losing their councillors’ posts. The operation has been carried out unscrupulously and indicates the Trinamul’s scant respect for democratic norms,” he said.    

Calcutta, Sept 13: 
The health and conservancy departments of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) have decided to launch a special cleaning drive in the city’s medical college hospitals from Thursday. First stop: NRS Medical College and Hospital.

“Mayor Subrata Mukherjee will join Friday’s drive at SSKM Hospital,” announced member, mayor-in-council (health), Javed Ahmed Khan. The clean-up is part of the CMC’s check-malaria campaign. The drive is necessary because malaria takes on virulent proportions during the post-monsoon months, Khan said.

The CMC’s conservancy chief Mala Roy said the clean-up included draining rainwater out of every corner of the hospital and its roof, clearing trash and spraying larvicide on the premises.

A health official charged the PWD with callousness for not maintaining government hospitals, though the onus was on it.

To bolster the clean-up, the civic health department, in collaboration with Lions Club, has deployed five mobile malaria control clinics from Tuesday.

“The objective is to bring more malaria patients under clinical cover,” said Khan. Technicians and doctors of the mobile vans will conduct blood tests on the spot and administer medicine free if the tests prove positive.

This year, nine people have died of malaria in the city and three of them were Calcuttans. In 1999, the toll was 48.

The civic health department is being helped by the conservancy department in collecting street -wise and lane-wise information of people suffering from malaria and the number of them going untreated. This information will be passed on to health officials of the mobile clinics.    

Calcutta, Sept 13: 
The state fire services directorate will ensure that all Durga puja pandals drawing large crowds implement proper fire safety measures. Pratim Chatterjee, state fire services minister, said on Wednesday that fire officers would keep a strict vigil on 60 pandals in the city.

“We have been able to convince organisers about ensuring public safety,” the minister said. Safety measures include pushing back stalls selling snacks and using stoves at a safe distance away from the pandal. The minister admitted it was “not possible” to oversee all 2,000 pujas in the city and its suburbs. “But we hope to have an incident-free Puja, with the help of organisers and the police,” he said.    

Calcutta, Sept. 13: 
The Cachar administration has clamped Section 144 in the entire district yesterday following firing by Central Reserve Police Force personnel on a mob at Saidpur, six km from this south Assam town.

A college student was killed and seven persons, including six schoolchildren, were injured in the incident. The body of the slain youth, identified as Riazuddin from MCD College in Sonai, was laid to rest at Saidpur today.

Except for the funeral, there was no public activity in Sonai block due to a 12-hour bandh called in protest against the firing. School and college students here also boycotted classes in response to an appeal by the local unit of the National Students’ Union of India.

Police officials justified the firing, saying over 500 school and college students pelted stones at security personnel and damaged vehicles during a road blockade.

At least two police officials, including the officer-in-charge of the Silchar police station, and seven CRPF personnel were hospitalised after being hit by stones.

A student leader, however, said the firing was unprovoked. He said the road blockade was “peaceful” and the CRPF personnel had no reason to open fire. Additional police pickets were set up in Sonai block today.    


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