An eve to trap a tease
Father persuaded to drop duster case
Go-slow threat to petrol supply
Groom 7, bride 5, and Kali’s the witness
Bypass blocked, officer robbed of gold and cash
UGC observer to vet recruitments
Forest funds to revive city parks
Centre seeks CBI free hand
NLFT rebel arrested in Tripura
Tripura Cong votes for Sonia Gandhi

Calcutta, Nov. 12: 
She is young. She is smart. She is on a secret mission. She can be spotted, these days, taking a stroll down a lonely stretch in Salt Lake or thumbing a lift from a stranger. No wonder, then, that she’s attracted lots of attention from the road Romeos. And, in the process, nearly a dozen of them have landed behind bars in the past two weeks.

For, Tina (not her real name) is no ordinary “babe”. An expert in martial arts, a superb marksman and a yoga freak, Tina is an undercover cop. She is a vital member of a team of hand-picked 20-something female police operatives deployed by the administration to trap eve-teasers on the prowl in Salt Lake.

In daytime or at dusk, these smart young women “hang around” Central Park, the swimming pool or blocks like KB-KC and FE, which have earned notoriety in recent times.

“Our strategy has paid dividends, as we have been able to arrest quite a few Romeos, besides gathering definite information regarding others in the past weeks,” said Piyush Pandey, additional superintendent of police, North 24-Parganas, in charge of Salt Lake.

The matter of growing eve-teasing in Salt Lake was first taken up by then deputy chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and finance minister Asim Dasgupta in August this year. Dasgupta was even requested by parents “do something” to protect their young girls.

In early September, a batch of women constables passed out of the Police Training College in Barrackpore and nine of them were posted — three each in the three police stations — in Salt Lake. The police then decided to use them as “bait” for eve-teasers. They have also contributed to the curbing of “immoral activities” in Banabitan Park.

“They are fresh out of the police training college. They are young, fit and athletic and do not ‘look’ like cops,” explained Prabir Das, inspector-in-charge of Bidhannagar (North) police station.

After the nine women constables, all in their early 20s, joined the three police stations, inspectors-in-charge Das, Dhiraj Banerjee and Biplab Bagchi held a meeting with senior officials and decided to put their plan into action from the third week of October.

The target areas: Bidhannagar Swimming Pool, Banabitan Park, the eatery Gangotri, KB-KC, FE and FD blocks and the road beside the Keshtopur canal parallel to VIP Road.

“We asked them to dress up and cruise these areas in the evenings alone, or in twos. A jeep with a force of half-a-dozen policemen would follow from a safe distance. We asked them not to protest or reveal their identities if approached by eve-teasers so that we could catch them red-handed,” said Das.

The policewoman often waits under a tree and frequently looks at her watch as if waiting for her boyfriend. “This makes them easy targets for the Romeos,” he added.

“We generally roam alone or sit down at Banabitan Park and maintain a watch on couples and eve-teasers,” smiled Aparna Das, a member of the undercover team. Last week, she trapped two young men in front of the Swimming Pool.

Women constables Jaba Goswami and Rina Gope helped the Bidhannagar (South) police arrest four eve-teasers from KB-KC block last week.

“The raids will continue with the three police stations working as a team,” said Dhiraj Banerjee, IC of Bidhannagar (East) police station. He said that the two women constables on duty this week, Ruby Das and Aparna Roy, are ready to hit the streets from Monday, well aware of the mission on hand.    

Calcutta, Nov. 12: 
Under pressure from the Vivekananda Institution authorities, the father of Ankan Chakraborty, a Class I student of the school who was severely injured when his teacher allegedly threw a duster at him, withdrew his complaint from Shibpur police station on Sunday afternoon.

Shyamal Roychowdhury, a part-time teacher, had “punished” Ankan last Thursday for talking in class, according to Debashis Chakraborty, Ankan’s father. Chakraborty had lodged a complaint with Shibpur police station soon after the incident.

Shibpur police station sources said Chakraborty went there on Sunday afternoon, accompanied by some representatives of the school management and submitted a statement to the effect that the school was not responsible for the incident.

“This is a question of my son’s future,” said Chakraborty. “After the report appeared, the teacher in charge of the primary section and the secretary of the school came to my house and requested me to withdraw my complaint from the police station for the sake of my son and the school. So, I had to oblige,” he added.

Shibpur police station had not lodged an FIR even four days after the incident. Officer-in-charge Swapan Bagchi was not available for comment. However, an officer on duty said: “If we had filed an FIR, then we would have been compelled to take action.”

According to a representative of the school management, the incident was blown out of proportion by some people who were refused a part-time job in the school. “Such incidents happen all the time. If a boy refuses to listen to his teacher he must be punished,” said Sovan Chandra Bera, the headmaster.

The teacher in charge of the primary section, Ranen Basu, claimed that Ankan was injured in a fight during tiffin time, but admitted that Shyamal Roychowdhury had punished Ankan in the previous period on that day. “A friend hit him on his head with a bottle,” Basu added.

The school authorities have not even verbally warned Shyamal Roy Chowdhury. He is still taking classes. Almost all the schools in the city have unanimously condemned the incident and expressed their shock at it.

“We are against corporal punishment,” said Terence Ireland, principal of St James’ School. “I was shocked after I read the news. If anything like this had happened in our school, we would have taken action against the teacher,” added Ireland.    

Calcutta, Nov. 12: 
The threat of dry petrol pumps and empty LPG cylinders looms large over the city, thanks to an employees’ agitation at Indian Oil Corporation’s (IOC) installations.

Supply of petrol, diesel, kerosene and cooking gas to Calcutta from the IOC’s installations has already been affected by the go-slow, which is part of a country-wide agitation by the Indian Oil Corporation Employees’ Union. The oil staff are demanding, among other things, a revised pay structure.

Petrol, diesel and kerosene come to the city from the IOC’s installation at Mourigram, in Howrah, and cooking gas cylinders come from the oil company’s bottling plants at Kalyani and Durgapur. “If the agitation continues for another couple of days, it will lead to a severe crisis of petrol and diesel. Kitchens too will suffer for want of cooking gas and kerosene,” said Kalyan Bhadra, president of the West Bengal Petroleum Dealers’ Association.

The IOC said negotiations with the union are on in Chennai. “The situation is not critical yet. There is petrol and diesel in every pump in the city and essential supplies like LPG and kerosene haven’t been hit. Only 10 per cent of the supplies have been affected,” an IOC spokesman said.

The city requires about 200 kilolitres of petrol and 2,000 kilolitres of diesel at its 250 pumps every day. The LPG requirement is about 9-lakh cylinders a month.

Bhadra alleged that in the name of a “go-slow”, the IOC employees were virtually “on strike... Of the 300 to 350 tankers which fill up at Mourigram every day, only 50 per cent are rolling out now. On Monday, we will take up the matter with the IOC authorities,” he added.

To tide over the crisis, the IOC is buying petrol, diesel and kerosene from installations of HP, Bharat Petroleum and IBP at Budge Budge. IOC sources admitted that a large number of tanker-trucks have queued up at the Mourigram installation as employees are taking inordinately long to fill up the tanks.    

Calcutta, Nov. 12: 
Prahlad Rajbanshi, 7, and Jyoti Rajbanshi, 5, took their marital vows at the Kalighat temple on Friday. Present on the occasion were family members of both the children.

And they refused to admit that there was anything wrong in this alliance.

Both Prahlad and Jyoti live in the same housing complex — he with father Sitaram on the second floor, and she with grandfather Mithu and grandmother Rajrani on the ground floor.

Jyoti’s parents are farmers in Bihar. And immediately after the solemnisation of the marriage, Sitaram, too, left for his Monghyr home in Bihar.

But Rajrani said it as it happened: “In Bihar, my family and the family of Sitaram live in the same place. After the birth of Prahlad and Jyoti, it was decided by the two families that they would get married. From where we come, this is a common practice. Yeh Bangal hai, usiliye aap log shor macha rahein hain.

Jyoti’s grandmother, however, made it clear that the ‘married’ couple — one in Nursery and the other just starting with her alphabet — would not be allowed to live together, yet.

“As both are so young, I shall not allow my granddaughter to go to her sasural right now. She will go after attaining the right age,” she explained.

Mahesh Basfore, Jyoti’s cousin, a casual worker in public sector undertaking, however, chose to be ambiguous about the ‘marriage’.

“It was the handiwork of some people, who took Jyoti and Prahlad to Kalighat temple, dressed as bride and groom. They were married with the goddess as witness, and brought back home. All this happened in a hurry... But what’s extraordinary about it?”

The child marriage was the talking point in the locality opposite Central Jail, on Sunday. Most people claimed to have seen the ‘bride’ and the ‘groom’ returning home in a rickshaw last Friday.

Said Amar Seth, a neighbour: “Both the families knew exactly what they were doing. Now, they have started to understand the legal implications and are trying to distance themselves from the act. The marriage was solemnised to make sure that Prahlad would not be married off to any other girl.”

Everyone but the police seem to know of the incident. Just half-a-kilometre away from where Jyoti and Prahlad live, the Alipore police station remained clueless, 48 hours after a seven-year-old ‘married’ a five-year-old.

T.K.Biswas, officer on duty at Alipore police station, said on Sunday: “We are not aware of any such incident. No one has reported any case of child marriage to us. We cannot initiate action till a complaint is registered.”    

Calcutta, Nov. 12: 
Making a mockery of the security arrangements on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, 16 criminals armed with revolvers and sharp weapons ambushed the car of 50-year-old Srinivas Singh, a senior executive in a multinational company, and looted foreign currency, gold and other valuables on Sunday morning. Singh, who had gone on an outstation tour, was on way to his New Alipore residence from the airport in his office car. He was carrying a large amount of foreign currency and gold.

The criminals placed logs of wood and traffic dividers on the road and forced Singh at gunpoint to part with the valuables. Singh said the incident occurred at 1.40 am and there were not many vehicles on the road. His car, running at a speed of 60 kmph, had crossed the Maniktala-EM Bypass intersection and was heading down towards the Narkeldanga crossing when, suddenly, the driver noticed an obstruction on the road.

The car screeched to a halt. Within seconds, nine persons surrounded the vehicle and ordered Singh to hand over the cash and other valuables. He was carrying two suitcases and a purse.

Panic-stricken, Singh handed over all that he had and the criminals walked off into the dark towards Salt Lake. Singh then directed the driver to move slowly so that he could lodge a complaint with the police on night patrol.

Some police officers were on guard further down the road and Singh stopped his car to inform them of the incident. Strangely, instead of chasing the criminals, the cops passed the message over wireless to Phoolbagan police station.

Officer-in-charge of Phoolbagan police station, Samarendranath Kundu, said: “The officer on night duty rushed to the spot. I got in touch with Bidhannagar police station, as initial investigations revealed that the criminals were from the Duttabad area, which falls under their jurisdiction.”

This is the fifth such incident in the past four months on the Bypass, considered the city’s lifeline. In each of the earlier cases, criminals had blocked the road with logs. Once the car was forced to a halt, they robbed on the passengers.

Early in October, former chief minister Jyoti Basu and present incumbent Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had directed senior police officers to step up security along the Bypass.

Deputy commissioner of police, eastern suburban division, Mihir Bhattacharya, said on Sunday evening that night patrolling along the Bypass would be stepped up from Sunday night.    

Calcutta, Nov. 12: 
The University Grants Commission (UGC) has made it mandatory for Calcutta University and all other state-aided universities in the city to include a UGC observer on the selection committees set up by them to recruit teachers in posts ranging from reader to professor.

Sources in the UGC’s regional office in Calcutta said the move was initiated by the commission in view of complaints of irregularities in appointment of teachers in senior posts in the seven state-aided universities in Bengal, most of which are dominated by the ruling CPM.

The two other city-based universities which come under the purview of the UGC order are Jadavpur University and Rabindra Bharati University.

The CPM-dominated Calcutta University Teachers’ Association (CUTA) is very critical of the directive, calling it an “attempt to curb the powers of the university”, which is an autonomous body.

Senior teachers belonging to anti-CPM camps feel the UGC directive has come in the wake of large-scale complaints against the universities for recruiting under-qualified party symapthisers for senior teaching posts.

The UGC directive warned the universities that it could cancel a post if the universities failed to recruit any teacher without including a UGC observer. Usually, appointments to teaching posts in the universities are made after they are sanctioned by the UGC.

The UGC has also asked the universities to send all the necessary papers related to a recruitment to the commission in Delhi after a candidate has been selected. The UGC will vet the papers thoroughly and the universities will be in a position to finally select a candidate for the post only after the UGC clears it.

“The procedure is definitely a long one. But as of now, we have no option but to follow the order,” said CU vice-chancellor Ashis Kumar Banerjee.    

Calcutta, Nov. 12: 
The parks and gardens wing of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) is gearing up to complete several unfinished projects after the forest department sanctioned it Rs 1.5 crore. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee has asked member, mayor-in-council (parks and gardens) H.N. Gupta to draw up a list of pending projects.

Of the 300 parks directly supervised by the CMC, some are very poorly maintained for “paucity of funds”. Moreover, the parks and gardens wing, which looks after the city parks, is short-staffed. “We require at least 300 people to maintain all the parks. But at present, there are only 240. Once we get the money, we can engage some gardeners on a contract basis to beautify the parks,” said Gupta.

The government has recently decided to involve local self-governments, such as municipalities and panchayats, with other departments of the government in carrying out several development schemes. The government also plans to “decentralise some of its departments and lay more importance to the local self-governments”. The CMC will get this additional fund as per the government’s recent decision.

The state forest department was so far engaged in creating artificial forests in Calcutta and several other district towns. But now, the CMC will receive money to carry out these projects.

Apart from 300 parks, the CMC also maintains more than 100 boulevards in different parts of the city. Long ago, the CMC had drawn up a scheme to plant trees in these boulevards but work was stalled for want of funds, Gupta said.

“We planned to set up an artificial forest near Manohar Das Tarag, but the scheme has not been implemented as the state had already taken up a beautification scheme, covering the area between Birla Planetarium and Metro cinema,” Gupta said.    

Imphal, Nov. 12: 
The Union home ministry had recently asked the Manipur government to give a free hand to the CBI to investigate various cases of misappropriation of public funds.

However, the W. Nipamacha Singh-led United Front of Manipur government is yet to react to the Centre’s request. The CBI needs prior sanction of the state government to investigate the cases. Talking to newsmen this evening, senior home ministry official G.K. Pillai said “a free-hand to the CBI” was needed to probe the misappropriation cases. Pillai, who is joint secretary (Northeast) in the Union home ministry, said Arunachal chief minister Mukut Mithi has set a precedence in the Northeast by allowing the CBI to investigate any case it desires.

Pillai said there was a big scam in Manipur state lotteries. According to him, the amount collected by Manipur lotteries was around Rs 5,500 crore, whereas the actual receipt was around Rs 68 crore. Had the government received even 20 per cent of the total amount, the state’s financial problems would have eased out, Pillai added. Emphasising the need for good governance in Manipur, Pillai said a “government should be transparent to deal with public welfare”.

Pillai attended a seminar on development sponsored by the home ministry in Tamenglong district. The senior bureaucrat said “militancy and corruption goes hand-in-hand” in the Northeast. There were a number of millionaires in the Northeast, Pillai said adding that “we need to ask them how these people have became so rich”.

Militancy in the Northeast has become a cottage industry and insurgent outfits have the financial strength comparable to multinational corporations. The National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) has invested huge sums of money in foreign countries, Pillai said. He said the United Liberation Front of Asom was floating companies in Bangladesh and the outfit’s “commander-in-chief” Paresh Barua owned them under a pseudonym, Kamiruddin Ahmed. Though the matter was brought to the notice of that country, Bangladesh denied knowledge of any such company.    

Agartala, Nov. 12: 
Police yesterday arrested a hardcore militant in the Taidu area of south Tripura and recovered the bodies of two non-tribals who were abducted in June.

Sources said the bodies were recovered on the basis of information provided by Ucharai Koloi, a National Liberation Front of Tripura activist who was arrested in Jakasiapara village on November 1. Ucharai told interrogators that Swapan Pal and Shibu Mazumdar, who were abducted from Rambabupara village under Taidu police station, were killed despite their families paying an unspecified amount as ransom.

A police team began looking for the bodies of the two slain non-tribals on November 7. They finally recovered the remains of the victims from a dense forest in Ramaipara, 12 km from Taidu, five days later.

Over the past five years, militants have killed several hostages despite being paid money for their release.

In another incident yesterday, the police arrested a hardcore NLFT militant at Rupraipara village in west Tripura. The arrested rebel has been identified as Brajendra Debbarma.

Sources said a group of tribal women had tried to obstruct the police team which conducted the raid. A section of leaders of the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura’s allegedly instigated the women to do so.

A joint team of the police and the Central Reserve Police Force, led by sub-inspector Ajay Chakma, recovered some arms and ammunition during another raid on a militant hideout at Satyaram Chowdhurypara village in the Chhawmanu area yesterday.    

Agartala, Nov. 12: 
Sixty-seven of the 68 members of the Tripura Pradesh Congress Committee cast their ballots in favour of Sonia Gandhi in the election to the post of AICC president here at Congress Bhavan today.

The lone PCC member and sitting MLA Kashiram Reang, currently camping in Delhi, is also set to vote for Sonia Gandhi in the capital. AICC observer for Tripura P.C. Chacko, who arrived here yesterday, conducted the elections peacefully. In keeping with Congress tradition, a number of party leaders greeted Chacko at the airport with catcalls yesterday to vent their grievances over the composition of the newly-formed PCC which features a number of political non-entities.

When Chacko protested, a Congress MLA attempted to strike him a blow. He was, however, rescued by other members and later put up in a hotel.

Before the election this morning at Congress Bhavan, Chacko held a meeting of the new PCC members and faced strident demands from a majority of them for immediate simultaneous election to the post of PCC president.

Only Birajit Sinha and his two supporters in the meeting said the matter should be left for the party high command to decide.

A few members said election must be held but only after the nagar panchayat polls. The PCC members also criticised the incompetence of Birajit Sinha to guide the party, adding that he had miserably failed to organise any protest against the malpractice committed by the Left Front government in reserving seats for the elections to Nagar panchayats and Agartala Municipal Council.

Having heard the members, Chacko said the date for election to the post of PCC president had not been announced earlier but a new schedule would be notified soon. He said an appropriate decision would be taken soon. The majority of the PCC members, however, said in case the party high command tried to thrust Sinha on the Pradesh Congress as president, there would be a revolt.

Former chief minister and sitting party MLA Samir Ranjan Barman said “the party high command should organise elections without any further delay to allow the elected PCC members to exercise their democratic rights, if not anything else”.    


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