Mayor, police join hands for Sunshine rerun
Cricket betting racket busted
Special train for Lalgola passengers
Centre relaxes red tape for flood aid release
No vehicle dumping at police stations
CPM woos Naxal units
Tuskers fall to poachers, settlers in north Bengal
SI dead in Tripura encounter
Peace has returned to Assam: Sinha
Former Cong legislator held for rebel links

Calcutta, Oct. 14: 
The Calcutta Municipal Corporation and the Calcutta Police chalked out a joint plan on Saturday to make Chowringhee and the surrounding areas of Esplanade and BBD Bag a “hawker-free zone”.

The decision was taken at a high-level meeting in mayor Subrata Mukherjee’s chamber, attended by city police chief Dinesh Vajpai and DC, traffic, K. Harirajan.

The move is the first major eviction drive in the city after Operation Sunshine in 1997.

“A sustained effort is needed to ensure that hawkers do not return after being evicted. We cannot maintain a hawker-free zone unless we get the cooperation from the police,” Mukherjee said.

The mayor added that the drive against hawkers is part of the CMC’s scheme to beautify the stretch from Victoria House at the Esplanade junction to Victoria Memorial.

Other issues, including a sustained drive against illegal construction and banning of cyclerickshaws and cyclevans, also figured in the agenda for the meeting.

Talking to reporters later, Mukherjee said a sustained effort is necessary to keep the city free from hawkers.

Harirajan promised “whole-hearted cooperation” to the CMC . “We want to take a number of steps to ensure smooth traffic flow,” the DC, traffic, said. Vajpai was not available for comment.

The mayor pointed out that once the drive is launched, not a single hawker would be allowed to set up shop on any of the 12 roads, identified as hawker-free zones.

“This time, we will not even allow hawkers with wicker baskets to sit anywhere on the pavements of these roads”, he added.

Mukherjee also claimed to have undertaken a scheme to repair the pavements along the roads and arrange for better illumination.

The CMC has also sought cooperation from the city police to step up drives against promoters engaged in illegal construction across the city. He said the CMC had received complaints about more than 40 unauthorised buildings during the Puja holidays. All these illegal structures will be demolished soon, the mayor said.

Ban on cyclerickshaws

The Corporation has decided to ban the plying of cyclerickshaws and cyclevans across the city. The decision has been taken in view of the growing number of these light vehicles causing traffic snarls. Mukherjee said he had already directed municipal commissioner Debashish Som to stop renewal of cyclerickshaw licences with immediate effect. Cyclerickshaws are not allowed within the city police jurisdiction and major thoroughfares, according to the existing civic rules. But rickshaw-pullers are not adhering to the rules in areas like Tollygunge, Behala, Cossipore and Jadavpur.    

Calcutta, Oct. 14: 
On the eve of the ICC knockout championship match between India and New Zealand, five bookies were arrested following a raid conducted by the Lalbazar detective department on Friday night. All the arrested men were remanded to police custody till October 17.

The detective department has sounded an alert in the city on betting during Sunday’s match. The bookies were caught red-handed in course of the India vs South Africa match. The Anti-Rowdy Squad (ARS) received a tip-off that betting was on in an office on Prinsep Street.

A nine-member ARS team raided the office and seized a colour television, two telephones, a mobile set and betting sheets.

The bookies were identified as Bijoy Kumar Dawan, Shib Kumar Dawan, Nikunj Durani, Kiran Kanda and Rafi Ahmed.

“We have checked the betting sheets thoroughly and found 250 code numbers. We have also asked experts to trace the memory list of the seized mobile phone used during the betting procedure,” the police said.

The arrested bookies confessed before the investigating officers that initially, they had fixed the betting rate at Rs 150, against Rs 100.

But as soon as Indian skipper Saurav Ganguly scored a century, the rate was doubled to Rs 200, against Rs 100.

Preliminary investigations revealed that the betting racket had agents in Salt Lake and Beleghata.

“Now we are awaiting the script of the mobile phone used during the betting. On receiving the information, we will be able to track down the other members of the betting syndicate,” said deputy commissioner, detective department, Narayan Ghosh.    

Calcutta, Oct. 14: 
The Eastern Railways will run a special train between Sealdah and Khagraghat stations, via Bandel-Katwa-Azimgunj section, for the Lalgola-Behrampore-bound passengers in Murshidabad district.

The special train will run from Sealdah and Khagraghat on October 15 and 17 respectively, covering the distance in seven hours.

Passengers can also avail of bus services and other modes of surface transport to reach Behrampore across river Bhagirathi, railway sources said. The railway authorities have also requested the government to arrange for buses from Khagraghat.

The stretch from Krishnanagar to Lalgola has been badly damaged due to the floods. Railway tracks and culverts have been washed out in many places. Restoration work is in progress but it will take some time before the whole stretch is repaired, an ER spokesman said.

n Building collapses: A portion of a two-storeyed house on Avay Sarkar Lane collapsed on Friday night.CMC men demolished the remaining portion of the house which has been declared condemned.    

Calcutta, Oct. 14: 
The Centre on Saturday announced the immediate release of Rs 63.26 crore as the second installment of its flood relief assistance to West Bengal.

State finance minister Asim Dasgupta said at Writers’ Buildings that Union rural development secretary Prasad Roy had informed him about the Centre’s decision over the telephone.

However, the Left Front on Saturday decided at a meeting to seek Central assistance amounting to Rs 1,400 crore to undertake relief and rehabilitation programmes in the flood-hit districts. Besides, a team of Left Front leaders will shortly leave for Delhi to meet Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and agriculture minister Nitish Kumar to impress upon them the devastation caused by floods.

The Left Front decided to start a programme akin to “Food for work” introduced in the state during the 1978 floods to provide work for flood victims.

Chief minister Jyoti Basu, who was present at the meeting, called for all-party meetings at the district level to ensure proper distribution of relief materials. Basu, too, will write to Vajpayee demanding more Central assistance.

Earlier, Dasgupta had sought Rs 100 crore from the rural development ministry and another Rs 50 crore from the agriculture ministry during his meeting with Union finance minister Yashwant Sinha in Delhi on October 9.

While the Union rural development ministry has quickly responded to the demand of the state government, the agriculture ministry is yet to make any commitment on the state’s requirements.

Dasgupta on Saturday sent separate letters to Sinha and Nitish Kumar, requesting them to immediately release funds to increase the rabi crop cultivation by 20 per cent and make up for kharif crop losses owing to the flood.

The Central assistance released on Saturday will be spent on the Rural Employment Assurance Scheme, Jawahar Gram Samridhi Yojana and the Indira Awas Yojana in the flood-hit districts.

Union rural development minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said in Delhi that the Centre had relaxed official procedures to ensure prompt release of funds for the people in West Bengal’s nine flood-affected districts.

“Keeping in view the gravity of the situation, we have decided to waive the conditions and release the second installment of assistance to West Bengal,’’ Naidu said.

The fund release followed requests from the state unit of the BJP and Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, who had met the Union finance minister, seeking early release of Central assistance to the state.

The official flood toll has mounted to 1262. Enteric diseases have so far killed another 43 people. The state government has already spent Rs 317 crore on relief and rehabilitation work.    

Calcutta, Oct. 14: 
The Calcutta Municipal Corporation has decided to ban dumping of abandoned vehicles in front of the city police stations.

The decision has been taken as part of the CMC’s prevention drive against malaria. Vehicles, after being impounded by the police, are parked before police stations for an indefinite period. The vehicles serve as breeding grounds for mosquito larvae when rain water accumulates in them.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee has urged police commissioner Dinesh Vajpai to take immediate steps to remove the vehicles.

The CMC had allotted a huge plot of land at Dhapa for dumping the vehicles. But the police have refused to shift the vehicles there as the area is reportedly inadequate for the number of vehicles that need to be dumped, CMC sources said.

However, the CMC will consider a proposal by the police to allot a separate plot of land in Dhapa to accommodate vehicles from all city police stations, sources said.    

Calcutta, Oct. 14: 
Faced with twin challenges from Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress and rebel leader Saifuddin Chowdhury’s proposed outfit, the CPM appears desperate to woo Naxalite factions.

The CPM is, however, not prepared to accept these factions as Left Front partners but intends to treat them as “additional allies”. CPM central committee member Biman Bose on Friday told Front partners that the Naxalite faction led by Santosh Rana would work as an “additional ally” of the Front.

Bose also announced that efforts were on to rope in another Naxalite faction CPI(ML) Liberation. Talks were also on with the SUCI, he said.

While the CPI(ML) Liberation has a strong base in parts of Nadia and Midnapore districts, the SUCI has retained the Joynagar and Kultali Assembly seats since 1977, defeating the CPM nominees.

But, CPI(ML) Liberation state unit secretary Kartik Paul said they would spurn the overture.

would not join forces with the ruling CPM because of its “anti-people policies.”

Echoing Paul, SUCI leader Manik Mukherjee also said they were averse to joining the CPM because of its “anti-Left policies.”

“Although the CPM has held a number of meetings with us, we cannot align with the party because of the corrupt policies it has followed for all these 24 years,” said Mukherjee.

The SUCI leader maintained that efforts were instead on to float a forum of anti-CPM Left forces in Bengal to counter the ruling communists as well as the rightist forces.    

Calcutta, Oct. 14: 
Elephants of north Bengal are fighting a losing battle to retain their habitat in north Bengal.

The tuskers are falling prey to both poachers and human settlers in the reserve forests and tea gardens in the Dooars and Terai foothills.

A spate of deaths has taken place recently within the wildlife-II division, under which the the Chapramari and the Gorumara reserve forests fall. “In July this year, an adult elephant was electrocuted in Sonagachhi tea garden. Two pachyderms were run over on the meter gauge line passing through the Chapramari reserve forest. One was run over in August, while another female tusker met a similar death last Wednesday,” divisional forest officer (wildlife-II) Jalpaiguri, Raju Das said. A trained elephant of the forest department also died of illness at Lataguri under the Gorumara reserve forest earlier in October. An elephant was found dead on a river bed at Buxar Tiger Reserve near Alipurduar. Its tusks were missing. Another died an unnatural death at the Bamanpohari reserve forest under Kurseong forest division in September.

Das said: “An elephant census conducted earlier this year put the pachyderm population at around 292 in the region. Elephants, being migratory animals, need a lot of space. With the invasion of man in their territory, a herd cannot move without confrontation with humans.”

“In the late Eighties , a proposal was mooted to create a one-km-wide elephant corridor connecting the Buxar Tiger Reserve bordering Assam and the Mahananda sanctuary through Bhutan. It was not implemented due to problems of land acquisition and funds,” Das said.

“With more than 3000 hectares of forest land being converted to agricultural land, what used to be a 150-km long corridor, stretching from Assam to the Terai foothills, has today shrunk to barely 10 to 15 km at a stretch,” said north Bengal coordinator of Centre for Environment Education, Animesh Bose.

“Tusks of Indian elephants are in great demand in the Southeast Asian countries. A tusk weighs between five and 10 kg, which in the international market can fetch Rs 12 lakh ,” experts here said.    

Agartala, Oct. 14: 
A police sub-inspector and a militant of the National Liberation Front of Tripura were killed and several rebels injured in an encounter today. Policemen and Central Reserve Police Force jawans jointly took part in the raid this morning on a hill near Golokpur tea estate under Kailasahar subdivision of North Tripura.

Giving details of this morning’s operation, police sources said Kailasahar police had received information that a group of heavily armed NLFT militants had crossed over from their base in nearby Sylhet district of Bangladesh and were holed up in a hideout in a hilly area near Golokpur tea estate. A large contingent of policemen and CRPF jawans led by sub-inspector Tapan Das left for the hideout this morning.

When the team approached the militant hideout after climbing up a steep hill, the NLFT rebels sighted them and opened fire. The police party retaliated strongly. The encounter last for over half-an-hour, in the course of which sub-inspector Tapan Das, who was leading from the front, sustained a serious bullet injury and fell unconscious.

A group of policemen and CRPF jawans immediately took Das to Kailasahar hospital while the remaining jawans overran the hideout of the militants, who had fled. They seized some incriminating documents. An NLFT rebel, identified as Satyaranjan Debbarma, was found lying dead in a pool of blood. Sources said the trail of bloodstains which the policemen and CRPF jawans saw going towards the jungle indicated that more militants had been injured in the encounter. The sources added, “It will take some time to get all the relevant details.”

Deputy inspector-general of police (range) K. Nagraj and superintendent of police (north) Puneet Rastogi, who had come here in connection with official work, rushed to Kailasahar shortly after hearing of the incident.

In separate incidents, two Bengali civilians have been abducted during the past 24 hours from different parts of the state.

Police sources said Thakur Chand Rudrapal, a 49-year-old Bengali farmer, was working in his vegetable field in Shankhala village under Ampi police station of South Tripura at 10 am yesterday. A group of NLFT militants appeared and abducted him at gunpoint.

In another incident last evening, Shiben Debnath, a 38-year-old trader, was abducted from Rajkandi market under Fatikroy police station of North Tripura by NLFT rebels. The militants dragged him out of his shop at gunpoint in front of several witnesses. Both hostages are still untraced.    

Jorhat, Oct. 14: 
Assam Governor Lt. Gen. (retd) S. K. Sinha today vindicated the state government’s relentless crusade against insurgency by saying peace had returned to the state.

“Till a few years ago, Assam used to evoke fear among people outside the state. But things have changed now,” Gen. Sinha said, addressing the inaugural ceremony of the second All-India Inter-Agricultural University Youth Festival, which began at the Assam Agricultural University campus here today.

“There is a sea change. Assam is as peaceful as any other state in the country. This is a triumph of the Assamese people over militancy,” Sinha said. Welcoming participants at the five-day Millennium Agriunifest, the Governor asked them carry the message of peace, and cultural prosperity back home. Talking to newsmen at the Circuit House yesterday, Lt. Gen. (retd) Sinha discussed issues confronting the state, particularly the controversial IM (DT) Act, ISI and insurgency.

He said though people harbour strong views on the IM (DT) issue, it should be used as a plank for the next Assembly polls. “This will enable us to know what people in general feel about it and legislators can adopt a suitable resolution cutting across party lines and submit it in Parliament for necessary action,” he said. The Governor also visited Lachit Barphukan’s maidam at Holongapara and promised funds for its restoration.    

Agartala, Oct. 14: 
Former Congress legislator Dilip Muhuri from Hrishyamukh Assembly constituency of South Tripura was arrested yesterday by officers of Santir Bazar police station in Belonia subdivision on the charge of abetment in the abduction and subsequent death of tribal doctor Pradip Reang.

The Tripura PCC has strongly protested the arrest, describing it as a conspiracy of the ruling Left Front to tarnish the image of the party before the forthcoming nagar panchayat elections.

Police sources said Muhuri, who had been elected to the state Assembly in the rigging-marred election of 1993, was arrested from his residence in Kalinagar by officer in charge of Santir Bazar police station Dilip Bhowmik and sub-inspector R.N. Das.

A large number of people from different parts of Belonia have gheraoed the police station, demanding his release.

Giving details about Muhuri’s arrest, police sources here said the 32-year-old tribal doctor had been kidnapped by suspected Bengali militants from his official residence in Santir Bazar in July 1998. The kidnappers extorted Rs 9 lakh from the doctor’s family as ransom for his release but Reang never returned.

Sources said there was information that the kidnapped doctor had been taken across the border to Bangladesh where he was killed because of the difficulty in keeping him there.

Santir Bazar police went about the case in a casual manner, only registering a GD entry though then officer in charge Ratan Mazumder made a suo moto FIR .

Last year in June and July the police in Santir Bazar consecutively arrested two youths — Sribas Saha and Abu Mia — in connection with the abduction and suspected killing but the youth easily obtained bail from court.

However, things took a serious turn when police arrested two other youth — Biswajit Vaishnab and Sankar Pal from the Baikhora and Kalsi areas of Belonia subdivision — for involvement in the abduction of tribal school headmaster Chandradoy Debbarma on July 15 this year. The head master was rescued by the police in a short while. However, the two arrested youth gave significant information to the police regarding the abduction of Pradip Reang two years ago, saying out of the Rs 9 lakh received as ransom, Rs 3 lakh had been handed over to former Congress legislator Dilip Muhuri for procuring arms for them from Bangladesh.

However, Muhuri failed to procure any sophisticated arms like the AK series rifles and gave them only revolvers and pistols. After recording the version of the two (Vaishnab and Pal) police officers in Santir Bazar arrested Dilip Muhuri, sources added.

Reacting to the former MLA’s arrest Tripura PCC president Birajit Sinha said Muhuri had been framed by the police at the instance of ruling CPM to tarnish the image of the Congress before the nagar panchayat polls.

“The ruling Left Front is playing a dirty game to win the polls at any cost because they know that people of the state will soon throw them out of power,” Sinha added He also threatened to launch a statewide agitation to secure the unconditional release of “our innocent party leader”. Former chief minister Samir Ranjan Barman seconded these views.    


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