Young driver thwarts bid to hijack his taxi
Wheels grind city to halt/Talks fail to appease bus men, Basu to move Delhi
CM rules out resettlement of encroachers
Dona’s day out with the babies
Four young men and an IT dream
Germany woos Indian scholars
Land worth Rs 5000 crore offered for colleges, homes
Hot pursuit nets criminal
CU overhauls selection procedure of examiners
Tripura police accused of excesses

 
 
YOUNG DRIVER THWARTS BID TO HIJACK HIS TAXI 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 2: 
A 20-year-old taxi-driver kept his nerve to thwart an attempt by a gang of armed dacoits to hijack his vehicle on Wednesday night.

It was 11.15 pm. Udrish Ray was driving back home in his taxi. Near Birla Planetarium, he was stopped by four youth who wanted to be taken to Majerhat bridge.

Udrish didn’t suspect a thing till he felt the touch of cold metal on his neck. The goons pressed a revolver to the back of his head and ordered him to drive to Santoshpur. Two of them searched his pockets and robbed him of his cash and other belongings.

By this time, all four men had taken out their revolvers and were threatening Udrish to follow their instructions. “They were also hitting him constantly to make sure that he did not try any tricks,” the police said.

But Udrish kept his cool and was on the lookout for an opportunity to fight back. His moment came near Brace Bridge, where he spotted a police jeep parked one side of the road.

The goons, too, spotted the police vehicle and ordered Udrish to step on the accelerator. But the young taxi-driver ignored the criminals and slowed down. As he neared the police jeep, he started shouting for help.

“The policemen stationed on night vigil heard Udrish’s cries and reacted immediately,” said Nasim Ali, officer-in-charge of Taratala police station.

When he saw the jeep in pursuit, Udrish brought his taxi to a halt. Three of the criminals fled. But the police managed to arrest Muhammed Salim on the spot. A loaded revolver and Rs 300 was recovered from his possession.

On Thursday morning, acting on information provided by Salim, the police conducted raids at Santoshpur and arrested Sheikh Sahajada and seized a revolver from him.

According to Nasim Ali, preliminary investigations have revealed that the miscreants were planning to hijack the taxi after forcing the driver to take them to a deserted spot in south Calcutta.

The Taratala police station officer-in-charge admitted that there had been a sharp rise in number of attempts at taxi-hijacking in the area.

“That’s why we have intensified night vigil at various points in the Taratala area. At various check-posts, taxis are stopped and checked. This is being done at various points of south Calcutta as well to try and curb attacks on taxi-drivers,” he said.    


 
 
WHEELS GRIND CITY TO HALT/TALKS FAIL TO APPEASE BUS MEN, BASU TO MOVE DELHI 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, Nov. 2: 
Commuters in Calcutta struggled through the first day of a bus strike, only to be informed that there would be no respite on Friday.

Life on the streets, and under ground, was thrown out of gear on Thursday as nearly 4,500 private buses and minibus-owners launched a three-day agitation demanding increased fares in the wake of the recent hike in petroleum and diesel prices.

Chief minister Jyoti Basu said he would try to contact Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee on Friday and request him to take an immediate stand on the rollback of prices. “We have a bus strike on our hands. We will have to take a decision fast regarding the demand for increased fares,” he said.

Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty failed to persuade the operators to withdraw the strike “in the interest of the people” at a meeting with representatives on Thursday evening.

“They have been asked to draw up a revised fare structure on Friday. This will be examined by our experts on November and we hope to implement the new fares from November 7,” Chakraborty said.

Ajit Saha and Sadhan Das, president and general secretary of Bengal Bus Syndicate and Joint Council of Bus Syndicate respectively, however, said they would wait and watch. “We will first see the fare structure recommended by the government on November 7. If it does not suit us, we will go in for an indefinite strike from November 11,” they warned.

The Bengal Bus Syndicate has demanded that the minimum bus fare be Rs 3 for the first six kilometres. The Joint Council has demanded Rs 3.50 as the minimum fare for the same distance. Minibus-operators have demanded a minimum of Rs 4 for the first two kilometres.

As the bus operators and administrators tried to arrive at a solution behind closed doors, out on the streets, office-goers and students struggled to get to their destination — fighting for a foothold in overcrowded government buses, chasing much-in-demand taxis and haggling with auto-rickshaw drivers. Stranded passengers were even seen clambering on to lorries and trucks on Jessore Road to try and get a move on.

In city schools, only students availing of chartered buses, hired or personal cars managed to make it to class.

Auto-rickshaws had a field day, with drivers demanding double or more than the usual fare. A ride from Lake Town to Belgachhia Metro station on Wednesday cost Rs 5 to Rs 6, instead of Rs 2.50. Even rates of ‘shuttle’ taxis shot up.

The Metro Rail provided the one lifeline. But hundreds thronged ticket counters at various Metro stations since morning and every train was packed to capacity. About 3-lakh commuters used the Metro, at least 75,000 more than on other days.

J.K. Mitra, chief operations manager of Metro Railway, said that ticket sales on Thursday recorded a Rs 3.5-lakh rise above normal. “On weekdays, we generally sell Rs 10-lakh worth of tickets. On Thursday, we sold over Rs 13.5 lakh,” he said, adding that additional counters had to be opened at various stations to cope with the rush.

There was good news for shoppers at New Market, with the Progressive Taximen’s Union opening a 72-hour special taxi camp near Lindsay Street to bail out passengers hit by the bus strike.

PTU president Madan Mitra said over 12,000 thousand trips were made from the special camp on Thursday. “We are allowing passengers to share the taxis, without any extra charge.” Mitra reiterated the union’s decision not to go in for a fare hike as it would “inconvenience the common man”. He described the transport strike as a “deliberate game being played by the state government and bus and minibus-owners”.    


 
 
CM RULES OUT RESETTLEMENT OF ENCROACHERS 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Nov. 2: 
Jyoti Basu, on his penultimate day in office, laid down the ground rules for encroacher eviction. He made it clear that encroachers should not be resettled after eviction.

Basu summoned urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya to his chamber on Thursday, asked him to contact the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and convey to them that the re-settlement clause was “unacceptable”.

The ADB is funding a Rs 1,600 crore project for the development of the city’s drainage system and canals. Of this, the bank has earmarked Rs 35 crore for a re-settlement programme.

Bhattacharya said Basu told him firmly that if encroachers were resettled under the project, it would set a bad precedent.

“He told me if this was done, other urban development work would suffer. Once this happens, we will not be able to demolish illegal cowsheds or evict squatters, he added,” Bhattacharya said.

Basu then asked the minister to get in touch with mayor Subrata Mukherjee and discuss the issue. Mukherjee rushed to Writers’ Buildings and held talks with Bhattacharya. The minister later said that the mayor was supportive of Basu’s stand.    


 
 
DONA’S DAY OUT WITH THE BABIES 
 
 
BY MADHUMITA BHATTACHARYYA
 
Calcutta, Nov. 2: 
Ten minutes from Joka lies the sprawling grounds that is the destination of hundreds of women every Thursday. Between 600 to 700 come to the Child In Need Institute (CINI) clinic at Pailan for antenatal and postnatal care.

With Children’s Day round the corner, an unexpected guest dropped in this week: Our captain’s captain, Dona Ganguly.

Curious faces greeted her as she entered the emergency ward at the centre. Dona was distributing a low-cost baby formula substitute, ‘nutrimix’ (a cereal and pulse combination) to mothers in the ward.

Thirteen-month-old Babuli was down with a stomach bug, but she showed no hesitation in leaping into Dona’s arms, her toothless smile the coup de grace.

Dona was ready to make her social service debut, following in the footsteps of mom-in-law Nirupama Ganguly, who has been associated with CINI for over two years. The “Adopt-a-Mother” scheme run by the clinic caught her imagination. By this programme, a mother can be “adopted” just after she conceives. She receives a quarterly sum to ensure she eats properly and gets adequate care during pregnancy. The sponsorship continues until the child is two years old.

In 1998, Nirupama registered as a sponsor, adopting Purabi Khelo, who gave birth to a healthy, 2.5-kg baby girl. Supriya has now started to walk and talk.

“A healthy birth depends entirely on how the mother takes care of herself during pregnancy,” said K.P. Pappu, acting director of CINI. “The first two years are the most crucial for the child, with 80 per cent of brain development occurring at this stage.” As of now, one-third the babies born in India have low birth weights, and malnutrition is rampant, both of which the programme is trying to combat.

Thursday’s tour of the CINI centre ‘bowled’ Dona over. She spent a good part of the day, interacting with the patients and members of the NGO. And she has plans of her own, already. “I have spoken to representatives of CINI. I would love to arrange a fund-raiser dance concert, or a show for the children to watch,” said the Odissi danseuse.

Dona plans to visit the clinic with Sourav “on a quiet day”. Fitting it all in may be a challenge, as she is currently dividing her time between concerts, the dance school she is /FONT>


 
 
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