Woman in wheelchair molested
Teenager shot, dumped in ditch
Court raps cops for arrests in false kidnap
Friday date for new fares
Fergie finds different ways of learning
Teachers want fresh probe for pieces of history
32 robberies, spurt in real estate crime on Bypass
10 grilled for Kasba raid
Imam in pulse polio drive
Politics buries graveyard upkeep

 
 
WOMAN IN WHEELCHAIR MOLESTED 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov.8: 
The handicapped granddaughter of late Asit Baran, filmstar of yesteryear, was molested by a group of 15 goons at her Karunamoyee residence, in Thakurpukur.

Even though the incident occurred last Saturday and a complaint, naming the culprits, was lodged with the police, no arrest has been made till Wednesday.

Arpita Chakraborty, 29, was pushed out of her wheelchair, beaten up and molested, her father Narayan Chakraborty said in the complaint lodged with Thakurpukur police station. Chakraborty, married to Deepa, Asit Baran’s only daughter, said: “Four days have passed, but we have not seen any police action so far.”

“We are carrying out a thorough inquiry into the matter. The culprits will definitely be arrested,” said Gyanwant Singh, additional superintendent (industrial), South 24-Parganas.

According to Arpita (called Rumpa by Asit Baran), at around 7 pm on November 4, there was a knock on the door of their two-storeyed house at 38/2, Mahatma Gandhi Road, in Karunamoyee.

Narayan Chakraborty opened the door to find about 15 goons, who forced their way into the house. Arpita recognised some as ‘para’ criminals, who were apparently looking for her elder brother Sanjiv, who is fighting a divorce suit with wife Baishali, and living “separately” in a friend’s house on his “lawyer’s advice”.

“Six of the goons came towards me and suddenly started pushing my wheelchair around, ordering me to tell them the whereabouts of my brother,” recounted Arpita. She was hurled down the stairs in her wheelchair, and then molested, said mother Deepa.

Arpita added: “I have not been able to walk since I was three years old. I could not fight them... My father, too, was in no position to come to my rescue as three of them pinned him down. My parents pleaded with folded hands, asking them to leave me alone, but...”

They punched Narayan and Deepa when the couple tried to stop them from attacking their daughter. The goons then locked the main door and went on the rampage. They smashed furniture, the wheelchair and the music system on a cupboard.

The goons finally walked out when Arpita’s parents raised an alarm.    


 
 
TEENAGER SHOT, DUMPED IN DITCH 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov.8: 
Biplab Sarkar was fighting for his life at SSKM Hospital on Wednesday with serious bullet injuries when he should have been busy preparing for the selection test for the ensuing Madhyamik examinations.

Sixteen-year-old Biplab was admitted to hospital on Tuesday night after his relatives found him lying in a pool of blood with multiple bullet injuries in a roadside ditch at Jyotirmoynagar, near Thakurpukur.

Three boys, in the same age group as Biplab, came on a motorcycle and picked him up from his residence on Tuesday evening. They took him to a lonely place, shot him from close range and threw him in a bush near the roadside ditch before fleeing.

No arrest was made in this connection till Wednesday evening, according to Thakurpukur police station officials. The police are yet to figure out the motive behind the murder attempt.

Subhankar Chatterjee, deputy superintendent of police (town) South 24-Parganas, said there is no criminal record against Biplab. Preliminary investigations revealed though that the association of Biplab and his family with a notorious criminal of the locality could have led to the attack.

Local residents, who knew Biplab as a “clean” youngster, are shocked.

“He was always studying for the forthcoming Madhyamik exams,” said Jayanta Ray, a relative. “We don’t understand why the miscreants targeted him.”

“I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw my son lying in a pool of blood, groaning in pain,” said Pratyush Chandra Sarkar, Biplab’s father. “Around 8.15 pm, while returning from work, I saw three boys sitting on a motorcycle parked in front of our house, talking to Biplab,” said his father.

They were seeking the whereabouts of one Babusona. “Biplab gave them the directions, but they insisted that he went with them.” When Biplab refused, the boys approached his father to allow him to go with them.

“They appeared to be of the same age as my son, and I allowed him to go in good faith. I never dreamt such a ghastly thing could happen to him. I should never have let him go with them,” Sarkar sobbed.

Biplab’s relatives suspected something was amiss when he didn’t return home even after two hours. At 10.30 pm, his friend Bapi came to inform his relatives that he had seen him lying in the ditch.

Biplab’s folks rushed to the spot and took him to a local nursing home, which refused to admit him. He was then taken to SSKM Hospital, where an emergency operation was conducted to extract the bullets.

Before he lost consciousness near the ditch, Biplab could whisper a few words to his father. “They shot me” was all he could utter.

Doctors said he was responding to treatment but his condition remained critical. “We need to watch his progress for at least 72 hours,” they added.    


 
 
COURT RAPS COPS FOR ARRESTS IN FALSE KIDNAP 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov.8: 
Alipore court has heavily censured the Karaya police for the alleged torture of four teenaged students, arrested on a false complaint lodged by Sharad Nangia, a city businessman.

On the basis of this ruling passed on Wednesday, the police have decided to arrest the businessman for lodging the false FIR. The boys were “mercilessly” beaten by the police after being taken into custody.

Special sub-divisional judicial magistrate Sudhir Kumar discharged all four accused and reprimanded the policemen involved for not being cautious and not carrying out proper investigations before taking action against them.

Nangia had lodged the complaint on November 18 last year, stating that the teenagers were regularly threatening him over the telephone with dire consequences and demanding money.

He also said that the boys — Debojyoti Roy, Hridabrata Roy, Chandan Saha and Mihir Saraswati — had called him on his cellphone and asked him to come to a spot near Ballygunge railway station. Nangia had met them there and was subsequently “abducted” by the boys in an auto. He managed to jump off when the three-wheeler slowed down near the 8B bus stand in Jadavpur, his FIR had said.

On the basis of this complaint, the Karaya police arrested the four the next day and allegedly tortured them in lock-up. On production in court, they were remanded to jail custody. The boys were released on bail in December.

After making elaborate investigations, the detective department found that the allegations against the four boys were completely baseless. Tamal Mukherjee, lawyer on behalf of the accused, filed a petition at Alipore court, demanding an order directing the police to produce the investigation report.

The police submitted the report on Wednesday, saying that these boys had been arrested on the basis of a false complaint.

On behalf of the police, the public prosecutor sought a court order instructing the police to start a case against Nangia.    


 
 
FRIDAY DATE FOR NEW FARES 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Nov.8: 
After a three-day strike and hours of deliberation, the fare hike for buses and minibuses will finally be announced by transport minister Subhas Chakraborty on Thursday. The revised fares will come into effect from Friday.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, on his second day in office, okayed Chakraborty’s proposal to raise bus fares from Friday. He, however, refused to specify the revised structure. “Please wait for another day. My colleague (Chakraborty) will let you know what the government has decided on Thursday,” Bhattacharjee said.

While the Bengal Bus Syndicate has demanded that the minimum fare be raised from Rs 2 to Rs 2.50, the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates has pegged it at Rs 3.50. Minibus operators have demanded a minimum fare of Rs 4, in place of Rs 2.25.

The hike spells trouble for commuters in more ways than one. All Opposition parties have labelled the move “anti-people”. They are gearing up to hit the streets from Friday, disrupting traffic and urging people not to pay the revised fare.    


 
 
FERGIE FINDS DIFFERENT WAYS OF LEARNING 
 
 
BY MADHUMITA BHATTACHARYYA
 
Calcutta, Nov.8: 
An old woman, at Nirmal Hriday, dividing a mishti she had been given and handing over half to her friend, with trembling hand. That’s the lasting image of Calcutta Sarah Ferguson will carry back home on Thursday.

”They have so little, and yet...” wondered the Duchess of York, as she recounted her “intensely moving” day in the house for the dying and destitute at Kalighat that Mother Teresa built.

Nirmal Hriday was the last stop for Sarah on her three-day “private visit” to Calcutta. From here, it’s back to London, having been to Dharamsala (where she met the Dalai Lama and discussed “a lot of things”), Jalandhar and Delhi, for a BBC documentary on ‘the influence of South Asia on western culture’.

“You never know what you will find in Calcutta... it is a fascinating place,” said the founder of London-based NGO Children in Crisis, who has been “staggered by the poverty” but surprised by the “strength” that its people exhibit.

“I would like to do something for the orphans here, in my small way,” added Sarah, who travelled to the villages of flood-hit Bishnupur on Tuesday. Walking the two miles from Bishnupur to Nagbari with a family who “had lost everything”, the Duchess got on a boat to get to their home. “I helped move their few possessions back into the hut they had to evacuate because it was almost submerged in water.”

The estranged wife of Prince Andrew, who tries to use her position to mobilise funds for the under-privileged, has heard of the recent floods in Britain from friends. “The scale of loss is different. Here, if you lose your possessions, you lose everything. Back home, insurance takes care of it.”

Poverty is not the only issue Fergie’s fighting. “Education is the most important thing,” said the woman who has “never been to university” herself, visiting the UK Education Fair 2000 at the Oberoi Grand.

Going from stall to stall, she had the same question for every university representative she spoke to: “Do you organise any scholarships for students from India?”.

While speaking to Tim Westlake of Cardiff University, she proposed a programme to “pluck children off the streets and give them a chance”, impressed by how “bright, passionate and alive” the people she had encountered in the city were.

“I am not very good at wearing these!” exclaimed Sarah, on finding the dupatta of her golden salwar kameez trailing while touring the fair. The time she spent at the fair may well have been with an ulterior motive. “This is a great chance to gather information for my two kids,” she smiled.

Her daughters, Beatrice (12) and Eugenie (10), are sure to be sent to university by their mother, who feels that she could have “learnt a little earlier” the things she knows now. “Do you have business and economics courses for old people, like me?” she enquired at a few stalls.

In a passing reference to her tumultuous life as a member of the British royalty, she observed: “There are different ways of learning... you pick up things along the way, through common sense and understanding people’s emotions”.

Sarah hopes to be back in Calcutta “early next year” to work with “women and mentally-challenged children”, to meet those whom “everybody has forgotten”. But first, she has to go back home to get a go-ahead from Beatrice and Eugenie.    


 
 
TEACHERS WANT FRESH PROBE FOR PIECES OF HISTORY 
 
 
BY MITA MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, Nov.8: 
Bethune College teachers and veteran archaeological experts in Calcutta will jointly approach the Centre for starting fresh excavations on the campus, where a number of medieval objects and an ancient structure were found three years ago.

Their move follows dissatisfaction over the state government’s decision to stop further excavation and investigations.

In the process of digging the foundation of a new auditorium in 1997, workers stumbled upon a large number of medieval objects and artefacts. The institution became the centre of attraction of archaeologists and historians. The state authorities were informed but, after a hurriedly-carried-out probe a year ago, they stopped further digging. In their report, possibilities of further recovery of anything of significance were ruled out.

Early 17th Century pots and earthenware with terracotta designs were among the objects recovered. Experts said this was evidence of a human settlement there. During the digging a huge stone structure was found. Construction of the auditorium has been kept in abeyance in view of these finds.

The authorities of the college, which is run by the state higher education department, while informing the government, had urged that the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) take over the excavations. The government, however, insisted that the state archaeology department should conduct the probe, not involving the ASI at all.

“We do not have faith in the findings of the state archaeology department as the diggings carried out by them were incomplete,” said historian Dilip Biswas, who is also an expert in archaeology.

“Further investigations should be held, as this was the first time that such remains were found in the heart of the city, showing evidence of pre-British settlements. We will fight till the end to ensure a complete inquiry,” he said.

In their letter, the teachers will also urge the Centre to ask the state government to ensure that the excavated structures were not disturbed by the construction of the auditorium.

Among those joining the teachers in writing to the Centre are Biswas, archaeologist Debaprasad Guha and Rama Neogi, a retired teacher of the college.

The state government’s refusal to take this issue seriously has led to an independent research by teachers of the history department, during which they interviewed elderly people whose families have lived in the area for several generations. The interviews revealed that people from neighbouring districts had settled around the present site of the college off Amherst Street before 1660. The finding is important as it contradicts the state archaeology department’s conclusion that there were no settlements in the region at that time.

Uttara Chakraborty, one of the teachers who had taken an active part in the research, said some of the excavated samples had been tested by archaeological experts in Cambridge University as well as other well-known institutions abroad.

These experts have also corroborated the fact that the objects belonged to the early 17th Century and they had immense significance in terms of reconstructing the history of Calcutta, Chakraborty added.

Gautam Sengupta, director, state archaeology department, however, is firm in his decision not to allow further probe into the matter.

“We have consulted many prominent experts in the field who have recommended that we close the site,” he said.    


 
 
32 ROBBERIES, SPURT IN REAL ESTATE CRIME ON BYPASS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov.8: 
It was past 6 pm on Monday when Pradip Chatterjee, a state government employee, got off a CTC bus on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass and began ambling across the dimly-lit byroad to his house in Tagore Park. Chatterjee was in for a shock when he reached his house. The door was half ajar, the rooms and furniture were ransacked. Somebody had broken in and made away with the valuables.

The burglary at Chatterjee’s house is not an isolated incident in the sprawling Kasba-Tiljala area. Senior police officials on Wednesday provided the government with alarming statistics of criminal activities in the area.

There have been 32 cases of robbery on either side of the Bypass and near Ruby General Hospital in the past two months.

Armed miscreants broke into two apartments in Rajdanga and Kasba on Tuesday, beat up the residents and fled with valuables.

A day earlier, an apartment in the Kasba housing estate was also raided.

Sources said a large number of criminals have taken refuge around Ruby General Hospital and its surrounding areas in the Kasba-Tiljala belt, where several constructions are under way.

Real estate prices have skyrocketed, with plans to widen the EM Bypass and five-star hotels and industries coming up in the vicinity. With money flowing in, residents allege that there is a vicious nexus between the police and criminals.

A senior railway officer, who resides in an apartment near Ruby General Hospital, said Megha, a notorious criminal, controls this and the adjoining areas along with associates Anup, Tarak, Chhoto Tarak, Dulu and Kalyan. Megha and Anup have two murder cases pending against them, Tiljala police station officers said.

Sources said another notorious criminal, Pina, reigns over the Tagore Park area, while others, Munna and Shekhar, control Chakrabortypara, Singhabari, Kalikapur and the adjoining areas.

The criminals collect protection money, decide on the supply of materials for constructions and also rob households when the inmates are out. Their modus operandi is simple: Some local unemployed youth go around the area collecting information on the residents. Domestic helps from the neighbouring slums double up as informers as well.    


 
 
10 GRILLED FOR KASBA RAID 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov.8: 
Interrogation of over 10 “suspects” in the two Kasba dacoities has revealed that the crime was committed by a gang of local criminals, the police said on Wednesday.

A gang of about 20 heavily-armed dacoits broke into a two-storeyed apartment in Narkelbagan, in Kasba, at 2 am on Tuesday.

After snapping telephone lines and breaking the street lights, they barged in and split into two groups. While one group targeted the Bhattacharyas on the ground floor, the other took control of the first floor.

The residents were beaten up before the dacoits made off with cash, jewellery and some electronic goods. Before walking out, they threatened the two families with “dire consequences” if the police were informed.

The police conducted a number of raids in Jadavpur, Bagha Jatin and Garia and picked up over 20 criminals for questioning on Tuesday. However, no arrests have been made.

Additional superintendent of police (industrial), South 24-Parganas, Gyanwant Singh, said: “We have ascertained some vital clues and action will soon be taken. We will interrogate the detained and may be able to extract some valuable information from them on the Kasba dacoities.”

Residents sceptical

However, the residents of Kasba said these were “empty words” and no action would possibly be taken.

“The police are hand-in-glove with the criminals,” said B. Ghosh, a resident of Kasba. “It is hardly surprising that criminals get away scot-free.”

Residents said there have been four major dacoities in the area in the past 10 months but the police have failed to make a breakthrough in any of the cases.    


 
 
IMAM IN PULSE POLIO DRIVE 
 
 
BY AMIT UKIL
 
Calcutta, Nov.8: 
Religious leaders were roped in to convince parents of the necessity for children below five taking oral polio drops, even as hundreds of health department officials, workers, medical students, policemen and NGO volunteers went about administering the vaccine to 4.29-lakh children in Calcutta on Sunday.

Reports assimilated by the family planning and welfare department on Wednesday say 99 per cent of this target was achieved. About 17.5 per cent of this child population, however, had to be given the drops in a door-to-door programme on Monday and Tuesday, state family planning and welfare officer D.K. Ghorai said.

The city, along with the rest of the country, was participating in the intensified pulse polio immunisation programme, the first of three such days between now and January 21, during which the drops have to be administered to all children in that age group so that the wild polio virus is totally eradicated.

Some households in the minority sections mistakenly believe that polio drops lead to impotency. Video-cassettes with an elucidation and an appeal were prepared by the family planning and welfare department, in which the Imam of Nakhoda Masjid delivered a message dispelling such myths.

These cassettes were shown, with the help of local moulvis, last week at places where the virus is likely to exist or emerge. “There are a few areas in the city which are termed ‘weak’ because of the living conditions, leading to a high probability of a fresh case emerging,” said a health official.

Prominent among these areas are the Khalpatty region of north Calcutta, Metiabruz, Kidderpore and Maheshtola in the south, Pilkhana slum in Howrah and the Topsia-Tangra area in the east.

The immunisation programme on Sunday was carried out from 13,081 booths in the city, of which 1,240 were run by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee administered drops to children at a camp near Victoria Memorial.

Over the next two days, volunteers went from house to house to ensure that all children had received the drops. “The response was more than what we registered on September 24,” Ghorai said.

Nearly three lakh doctors, nurses, health officials, workers and volunteers were mobilised throughout the state to carry out the pulse polio programme. Boats had to be used to gain access to a few flooded areas in North 24 Parganas.

The target for the whole of Bengal last Sunday was 91.4 lakh children, of which 98.9 per cent was achieved, the official said.    


 
 
POLITICS BURIES GRAVEYARD UPKEEP 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov.8: 
For the first time, 10 burial grounds in the city, controlled by the seven-member Mohammedan Burial Board, will not get a facelift before Sabé Barat because of a political dispute over the reconstitution of the board.

The Trinamul-BJP board in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) reconstituted the board after the term of the former board had expired. Member, mayor-in-council (health), Javed Ahmed Khan, sent the relevant file to the municipal affairs department for ratification three months ago, but it has not been returned till date. Development work in the burial grounds has come to a standstill, as a result.

“The CPM is playing politics even with burial grounds. The municipal affairs department is deliberately sitting on the file, as some CPM members have been dropped from the new board,” said Javed Khan. A senior official in the municipal affairs department said: “The file was misplaced and it took time to relocate it. It is now under scrutiny.”

All the development and maintenance activities of the burial grounds are controlled by the board, with an annual budget of Rs 40 lakh provided by the CMC.

Javed Khan said the Gobra burial ground boundary wall needs to be repaired immediately to prevent anti-socials from intruding. A few burial grounds don’t have grave-diggers. Ajit Panja, MP, offered Rs 10 lakh for renovating the Bagmari graveyard but work has not been completed yet.

Sabé Barat revolves around burial grounds. “As thousands of Muslims visit burial grounds on the occasion, we have to arrange for drinking water, adequate lighting, proper roads and shelters inside the graveyards,” said the chairman of Borough-XV, Iqbal Hossain Gazi. “But this year, we have been forced to observe the festival in a shabby way,” he said.

In the absence of the board, rare trees and fish from the ponds in the burial grounds, worth Rs 4 lakh, have been looted over the past four months, Gazi said. The former board had asked for an extension of another five-year term shortly before the civic polls, but the plea was rejected by the government, he added.    

 

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