Trader killed by kidnappers
2 die in CPM vs CPM fight for fisheries
Free taxi ride to protest fare hike
B-plan bonanza for bright ideas
Mobile squads treat 300 for enteric
Monitor panel to rein in Kalighat panda raj
Malaria drive stepped up
Corporation spreads tax net on colony buildings
Realtors flourish while high court holidays
Probe into Park Circus blaze

 
 
TRADER KILLED BY KIDNAPPERS 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, Oct.11: 
The kidnapping of Kishor Hirawat took a tragic turn on Wednesday with the police announcing that the diamond and jute trader had been murdered more than 10 days ago.

Till Tuesday, the police were claiming they were closing in on the kidnappers of the Girish Park trader. They also trumpeted a “major breakthrough” in the case after arresting mastermind Sukhdev Singh on Monday night.

But on Wednesday, the cops narrated a tale of horror, which brought back memories of the Jayaprakash Gupta murder case, in which police bungling had claimed the Mullickbazar trader’s life.

Apparently, trusting in an “informer”, Nigel Ekra, alias Vicky, Sukhdev’s right-hand man, the police had revealed in detail how they were closing in on Kishor’s kidnappers, sparking panic among the abductors and prompting the murder. Officers of Purba Jadavpur police station had recovered a body from Purbadiganta, on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, on September 28. With no one claiming the body, it was sent to the Katapukur morgue on September 29. The body had not been cremated as workers were on leave for the Pujas.

“Police officers went to Purba Jadavpur police station and matched Kishor Hirawat’s photograph with that of the body to confirm that it was the kidnapped diamond and jute merchant,’’ deputy commissioner of police, central, Raj Kanojia said.

Members of the Hirawat family later went to the Katapukur morgue and identified the body.

The police, however, denied any botch-up. Kanojia claimed that Hirawat was picked up and murdered on September 25, even before the family had registered a case with the local Jorasanko police station. “Kishor Hirawat had links with Vicky. He was a womaniser and had gone to meet Vicky to get introduced to a new girl. When Vicky, Sukhdev and the others realised that the trader had come to know a lot about their criminal activities, they killed him,’’ Kanojia said.

One of Kishor Hirawat’s relatives said he had been kidnapped on September 25. The family got in touch with the police on September 26, after receiving three ransom calls.

The Jorasanko police did not register a case but three officers were put on the job to monitor the telephone calls and track down the kidnappers.

The anti-rowdy section of the detective department, too, was informed about the incident. According to a source in the anti-rowdy section, deputy commissioner of police, special, Sanjoy Mukherjee, had been cultivating Vicky as an ‘informer’. He reportedly got in touch with Vicky and warned him that if Hirawat was not freed, the police would go after the gang with a vengeance.

Sukhdev, Vicky and the others then panicked and killed Kishor. Officers said there were three bullet marks on his chest, besides knife wounds.

The body was dumped on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass to make it look like a hit-and-run case.

Hirawat’s father and a cousin, unaware of all this, paid up the first instalment of Rs 25,000 to Sukhdev and Honey on September 29 near Dhakuria bridge. But there was no sign of Kishor and the kidnappers kept demanding the rest of the Rs 2-lakh ransom.

On October 9, the police laid a trap for the kidnappers at Eden Gardens.

When Sukhdev, Honey and Vicky turned up to collect the cash from Hirawat’s father, the cops managed to arrest Sukhdev and Honey, while Vicky escaped.    


 
 
2 DIE IN CPM VS CPM FIGHT FOR FISHERIES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct.11: 
“Territorial disputes” for control of the cash-rich Dhapa fisheries among local units of the CPM has led to open war which has claimed at least two lives in the past three days.

Early on Wednesday, the lacerated and bloated body of the CPM’s Dhapa branch committee secretary, Kalipada Kazi, was found floating in the waters of a bheri in the locality. He had been murdered a day earlier. The police said Kazi’s murder was a sequel to the death of a local crimelord and CPM supporter, Netai Mondal, suspected to have been poisoned on Monday night.

Mondal, residents of the area said, had been fighting a running battle with another local crime-lord, Meghnad Haldar, also a local CPM leader, over control of Dhapa’s fisheries, especially in the Chowbhaga area. This bitter fued had split the party through the middle in this area and with clashes between the two increasing over the past fortnight, Kazi, an influential leader, had tried to intervene to sort out the matter.

Last week, Kazi convened a meeting between the two. But instead of sorting out matters, it only led to a worsening of the situation, with the respective supporters of Mondal and Haldar hurling bombs at each other. “The failure of this meeting made Kazi a soft target, with both sides getting increasingly suspicious of him,” said Ashok Mondal, a resident of the area.

Matters did not rest there. On Monday night, Kazi decided to have a Bijoya drink with Netai and his son, Manik, and a few common friends. They drank late into the night and then, one by one, all — except Kazi and Mondal — left the place and went home.

Then, local residents said, Netai suddenly felt dizzy and collapsed to the ground. Kazi and some of Mondal’s supporters rushed him to hospital, where the doctors declared him dead.

A rumour started gaining ground that Kazi had poisoned Mondal after striking a deal with Haldar.

On Tuesday morning, Mondal’s supporters raided Kazi’s house, beat him up badly and then shot him in the stomach. They then threw his body in a nearby bheri.

South 24-Parganas CPM secretary Samir Putatunda, however, said that the killings had nothing to do with the party and were a result of “personal enmity”.    


 
 
FREE TAXI RIDE TO PROTEST FARE HIKE 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Oct.11: 
The Progressive Taximen’s Association (PTA) will operate “free services” to meet emergency requirements of commuters in Calcutta the day the government announces a hike in taxi fares.

A fleet of vehicles, urging people to “enjoy free taxi service and protest against the fare hike,” will ply in the city as soon as the increased fare comes into effect.

PTA president Madan Mitra said the association has decided to protest the state government’s decision to hike taxi fares after the increase in prices of petroleum products. “We regard the state government’s decision as politically motivated. It should have waited for a fresh announcement by Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, who had promised a re-think on the matter on his return to Delhi after his knee surgery,” Mitra said.

The PTA was not invited to the meeting between transport minister Subhas Chakraborty and representatives of several bus, minibus and taxi operators’ unions, held at Netaji Indoor Stadium on Wednesday.

“We have informed the state government of our decision of not accepting a fare hike, which will only cause greater inconvenience to taxi-owners and commuters. Nor will the PTA support any strike by transporters demanding a fare hike. A fresh fare hike will ultimately result in withdrawal of taxi services in many areas. More people will try to avail of taxis if the fare remains static against a hike in bus and minibus fares,” he said.

The Bengal Taxi Association (BTA), however, has demanded an increase in fares after the hike in oil prices. BTA president Kalyan Bhadra has demanded Rs 15 as the minimum fare. Mitra feels the government should consider steps other than a fare hike to strengthen taxi services. “We have sought action against tampered meters and permanent taxi stands at important city points,” he said.    


 
 
B-PLAN BONANZA FOR BRIGHT IDEAS 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, Oct.11: 
Have a novel business idea with a viable implementation strategy, but don’t want to go knocking on the doors of different government departments or forbidding financiers?

Just log into iimcatalyst.com and sign up for the largest B-plan competition of its kind in India — i2i (ideas to implementation).

Organised jointly by the entrepreneurship cell of IIM-Calcutta and Astral Systems, the contest is not just about rewarding the best business idea with a cash prize. It’s a comprehensive project to make the dreams of budding entrepreneurs come true, “by taking Indian ideas to global investors”.

The contest has three stages. In round one, contestants will have to submit an executive summary of their business plans. In the second round, the shortlisted teams will have to present detailed business plans, including the development and implementation aspects. Expert guidance for writing effective B-plans will be provided. In the third stage, the shortlisted teams will receive ‘mentoring’ from experts, culminating in a final presentation before a panel judges comprising venture capitalists, first-generation entrepreneurs, bankers, industry experts and faculty members from top management and technical institutions of the world.

The prize money: Rs 10 lakh for the winner, with Rs 6 lakh and Rs 4 lakh for second and third, respectively. But that’s just the beginning. “The most important aspect of the contest is that it will attract venture-capital funding from leading firms from Silicon Valley like Draper, Staenburg and Walden,” says Nitin Gupta, a second-year IIM student, who started the entrepreneurship cell at Joka this July “to foster the spirit of enterprise among those who have the ideas but not the resources”.

For the last few months, a 16-member core team has been working on the B-plan contest. “Anyone from any academic institution is welcome to take part in the contest,” explains Amit.

“There is no restriction on the number of members in a team, but half of them must be students,” add Sanjeev and Anant. The contest will be over by mid-January, but the IIM-C Entrepreneurship Cell will keep on providing information on every aspect of a business start-up.

“We liked the idea of the B-school boys to provide a channel by means of which budding entrepreneurs can present their business plans to venture capitalists and see them through till the implementation stage and decided to be a part of the contest,” says Dave Mukherjee, CEO of Astral Systems. Besides, sponsoring the prizes, Astral has also helped in developing the website. “We are sure that the contest will throw up some brilliant ideas, and we may make a bid to fund some of these proposals ourselves,” concluded the Calcutta boy who made it big in Silicon Valley.    


 
 
MOBILE SQUADS TREAT 300 FOR ENTERIC 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct.11: 
Mobile medical teams, formed by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation to take preventive steps against an enteric outbreak in the city, have treated about 300 patients during the past week.

Each team comprises 40 doctors, health staff and technicians. While one team visited Kalighat, Chetla, Kidderpore, Behala and Garden Reach in south Calcutta, the other toured Bagbazar, Sovabazar and Maniktala in the north.

The teams went to the homes of those affected, supplied necessary medicine and arranged for anti-malaria blood tests.

Local councillors have been provided with stocks of medicine, including halogen tablets and oral re-hydration solution (ORS) packets, for distribution among people suffering from enteric diseases.

The drive has been launched jointly by the CMC’s health department and Lions Club of North Calcutta. Sanjay Kejriwal, chairman of the club, said the teams were ready to cooperate with the CMC to combat malaria and enteric diseases anywhere in the city. “We have also provided field staff to man the CMC mobile teams,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Corporation is still running its medical camps at Patuli, in the eastern fringe of the city, where more than a thousand people suffered attacks of cholera and gastro-enteritis last week.

Eighty-nine of them had to be admitted to Beleghata’s Infectious Diseases Hospital. Six fresh cases were reported to the camps during the past 24 hours.

Two deep tubewells and 40 hand tubewells at Patuli have been decontaminated with chlorine and bleaching powder. The area’s residents have been instructed to mix halogen tablets in their drinking water as a pre-cautionary measure.

The people have questioned the role of the CMDA, which supplies drinking water to the area. “No senior CMDA official visited the area even after so many people fell ill,” a resident alleged. A CMC health official said the area witnessed the outbreak of enteric diseases last year, but the CMDA did not take any preventive step to avert a recurrence.

Clinical examinations have detected cholera germs in the water samples as well as the excreta of patient. The strain of vibrio cholerae was O-139. A cholera with the same strain had affected different pockets of the city in 1992, according to member, mayor-in-council (health), Javed Ahmed Khan.

Khan said the CMC has received complaints about skin diseases from a number of residents at Behala , Chetla , Kalighat and Tollygunge, which were flooded by tide water for successive days just before the Pujas. “We are looking into the matter and intend to take suitable steps,” he said.    


 
 
MONITOR PANEL TO REIN IN KALIGHAT PANDA RAJ 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct.11: 
Upset over painter Arpana Caur’s alleged harassment in the Kali temple last month, some pandas of Kalighat on Wednesday claimed to have revamped their organisation, called Sathi Brahman Sangathan (SBS), with nearly 700 members, to curb the activities of some men appointed by sevaits of the temple to protect the Garbha Griha (sanctum sanctorum).

Announcing a string of measures to tackle the panda raj, Sangathan chairman Malay Ghosh-Dastidar said on Wednesday that those found guilty of harassing devotees would not only be thrown out of the organisation but handed over to the police for “legal action.” He admitted that the outfit, floated in March, was in disarray till the other day. “But last month’s incident acted as an eye-opener and helped us to regroup ourselves,” he added.

Ghosh-Dastidar complained that the sevaits’ men had assaulted the painter but passed the buck on to the pandas. “We are determined to prove that all of us are not corrupt,” he added. He announced that a mass convention would be organised at the month-end, involving all local clubs, to step up a campaign against the “errant” pandas.

The organisation has already opened an exclusive cell to receive complaints from devotees.

“We will drive out those against whom complaints are lodged at the cell,”said Bidyut Roy, another member of the organisation.

According to Roy, the cell received a complaint barely seven days ago, regarding the theft of three mobile phones from the devotees while they were offering puja inside the temple.

“We are now probing the matter and the culprits will not only be thrown out of the organisation, but handed over to the police for necessary action,” he added.

Referring to other measures, he said large-size banners would be put up on the road leading to the temple to warn devotees against unruly pandas. Besides, regular street-corner meetings and procession have also been planned to to warn devotees not be misled by pandas.

The organisation’s members alleged they were not being allowed to enter the Garbha Griha under a court order.

In another development, a section of sevaits, under the banner of Sanatan Dharma Samsad, has come in aid of the organisation carrying on a campaign against the pandas.

Alokenath Mukherjee, spokesman of the Samsad, said on Wednesday they were backing the organisation taking up the cudgels against the “dishonest pandas.”

Even some pandas supported the movement undertaken by the Sangathan. “We are against those harassing the devotees. We want the culprits be identified and brought to book,” said Kamal Banerjee, who has been working as panda for over 40 years.

Asked to react to the Sangathan’s move, Arun Mukherjee, secretary of the Kalighat temple committee, refused comment.    


 
 
MALARIA DRIVE STEPPED UP 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct.11: 
The Calcutta Municipal Corporation has intensified its drive against malaria in the city, following the death of a housewife at Kalighat on Wednesday.

With Krishna Moitra’s death, the malaria toll in the city rose to 12 this year. Last year, the toll had reached 64 by this time. Javed Khan, member, mayor-in-council (health), said Moitra was suffering from both malaria and jaundice.

Blood tests carried out by the civic health department have confirmed that more than 16,000 people are infected with the malarial parasite. Of them, around 2,000 have the deadlier malignant strain of plasmodium falciparum.

“The health department is particularly worried about this fresh spate of malaria cases in the city after the pre-Puja showers,” Khan said.

Lions Club of North Calcutta has also chipped in to control the menace by providing field staff and technicians to help detect malaria cases.

Chief municipal health officer Sujit Ghosh has directed health officials to intensify larvae-control activities in different parts of the city.

“We will deploy two more mobile clinical laboratories for door-to-door monitoring in the malaria-prone zones, such as Chetla, Tollygunge, Beleghata and Topsia,” said Khan.    


 
 
CORPORATION SPREADS TAX NET ON COLONY BUILDINGS 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, Oct.11: 
The Calcutta Municipal Corporation has decided to bring more than 50,000 buildings on colony land under its tax net.

The CMC’s revenue department feels the measure will increase its earnings by about Rs 30 crore a year. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee also believes that the prevailing stiff rates of tax on buildings in the city proper may be whittled down once the colony houses are subjected to assessment.

The total area of colony land under the CMC fold is 7,500 bighas, spread over Beleghata, Ultadanga, Maniktala, Chetla, New Alipore, Sahanagar, Tollygunge, Behala, Jadavpur and Garia.

Multi-storeyed buildings have come up at least on 100 bighas without sanctioned plans. Those who bought flats in these areas enjoy all the amenities without paying a single paisa as tax.

Member, mayor-in-council (buildings), Swapan Samaddar said: “We are exploring the feasibility of setting up assessment camps in the colony areas.”

Samaddar said the CMC will try to clear the buildings if plot-owners voluntarily apply to the CMC for regularisation of building plans.

This will help the Corporation raise about Rs 15 crore, he claimed. The regularisation, however, will not require any clearance from the colony committees. The former CPM-led civic board had made clearance from the colony committees mandatory for regularisation.

The mayor also plans to restore parity in the prevailing tax structure in the city proper and areas like Behala, Jadavpur and Garden Reach.

Mukherjee has already initiated talks with Tata Consultancy and other agencies to work out details of the tax parity scheme.

Alternatively, the mayor feels tax rates can be revised by dividing the CMC area into 20 to 25 “tax zones.”

“We can’t expect a house-owner at Bagbazar to pay the same taxes as a house-owner at Park Street,” Mukherjee said.

The mayor said the amount of tax for a building should not be fixed on the basis of the rent bills produced by the landlord. The CMC will decide on the tax rate after studying current market rents, he said.

The former CPM-led civic board had kept the colony buildings outside its tax net so as not to disturb the party’s votebank.    


 
 
REALTORS FLOURISH WHILE HIGH COURT HOLIDAYS 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct.11: 
Calcutta High Court is closed for the Puja vacation and some city-based promoters are making the most of this golden opportunity.

A section of them is busy with illegal construction in different parts of the city as the high court is closed for a month and no vacation bench is allowed during this period.

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) issued notices to stop work in some cases. Copies of these notices were sent to the respective police stations but illegal constructions are continuing as the police is not “active enough”, alleged the CMC authorities. The CMC has to wait till October 16 to seek demolition orders in these cases, when a vacation bench will sit in the high court.

The month long Puja vacation of the high court started from September 29. A vacation bench heard few cases on October 4 and a second vacation bench is scheduled to sit on October 16. The high court judges hold the authority to hear a case at their residences too.

But the chief justice recently passed a directive restraining the judges from hearing any case at home during the vacation.

The ruling has prompted city promoters to carry on with illegal constructions.

The CMC has received 141 complaints of illegal constructions during the Pujas from various parts of the city and served “stop-work” notices to promoters in 65 cases. “But we don’t get adequate help from the police,” said Swapan Samaddar, CMC mayor-in-council (buildings).

Citing an earlier incident, Samaddar said: “Even when we had obtained a stay order on an illegal construction in the South Port area from a lower court, a police officer-in-charge challenged our authority to demolish the building and demanded an order of injunction from the high court.”

CMC counsel Aloke Ghosh said: “Whenever the CMC issues stop-work notices on illegal constructions, the promoters approach the trial court and easily obtain stay orders on the CMC notices. However, we get justice when we challenge the trial court order in the high court.”

Ghosh added: “It becomes difficult for us to combat the situation when the high court remains closed,”

“The promoters get favours from the judiciary when they succeed in completing a construction even when it is illegal as per CMC rules,” said Sailendu Rakshit, an expert in CMC laws. Promoters should not get such opportunities, he opined.    


 
 
PROBE INTO PARK CIRCUS BLAZE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct.11: 
The government on Wednesday ordered an inquiry into Tuesday’s fire at an unauthorised store of petrol on Shamsul Huda Road.

Deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya said at Writers’ Buildings that an additional commissioner of Calcutta Police will conduct the inquiry.

It will also probe allegations that the drivers of some government pool cars would sell petrol and diesel to the store.

A minor girl was burnt alive and two youth suffered severe burns when the fire broke out at the store on Tuesday.

The girl, who was trapped inside the store, died on the spot. The youth who went in to rescue the girl, suffered serious burns.

In all, seven fire tenders were commissioned to fight the blaze, which was believed to have started accidentally and went out of control as the petrol stocks blew up.    

 

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