Tale of torture marks death of trader’s wife
Tug-of-war over civic loan
Great Eastern Citu unit backs out of joint action
Cool school for girls of port
Four injured in hostel dispute
Arun Prakash Chatterjee dead
Civic tax swoop on Metal Box
Asia-Africa meet of Lions in city
Coup-wary Nipamacha keeps flock cloistered
Tripura police plan new joint offensive

Calcutta, Nov.16: 
Ruchika Jalan, found dead inside a car in front of her Rabindra Sarani residence on Wednesday, was regularly “tortured” by her husband and had even fled to her parents in Kathmandu three times in the past four months, according to brother-in-law Sunil Agarwal.

While a post-mortem conducted on Ruchika’s body on Thursday has revealed that she died due to “asyphixation caused by throttling or choking”, the inquest report notes some “injury marks on the throat”.

After preliminary investigations, the police say it could either be a case of suicide after a quarrel with husband Aloke or a case of murder. Aloke, his grandmother, Draupadi, and the family driver have been arrested and remanded to 10 days in police custody.

None of them has been charged with murder but all three have been booked under mental and physical torture, abetment to commit suicide and concealment of evidence. “We need more evidence before a murder charge can be slapped on them,” said officer-in-charge of Shyampukur police station, Tarapada Dutta.

Around 9.15 pm on Wednesday, a group of people found a lifeless body inside a green Ambassador parked in front of 516, Rabindra Sarani. Immediately, they informed the police, who broke open the car and dragged out the body. On being rushed to hospital, the police were informed that Ruchika had died a few hours earlier.

Aloke, a trader, has said that around 5 pm on Wednesday, he received a call from his grandmother at his Burrabazar office, saying that Ruchika had been taken ill.

“I rushed home on hearing this and found Ruchika lying unconscious in bed,” Aloke told the police. He and his driver carried her to the car. According to Aloke, they went to a number of private hospitals and nursing homes in the city but returned home on being refused admission.

The investigating officer of the case, Asif Jamal, said that Aloke had told them that by the time he reached home after his “fruitless” visits to various hospitals, he had realised that his wife was dead.

“So, he simply locked up Ruchika in the car, sent the driver home and then went up to consult his relatives on what to do next,” Jamal said. It was at this time that some neighbours stumbled upon the body.

Police say Ruchika led an “oppressed” life in the Jalan household. The two years of her married life had been marred with fights and quarrels and her “drunken” husband would often beat her black and blue.

“Aloke used to be constantly drunk, partying with friends and bullying his wife,” said Dutta. “Life was also made unbearable for Ruchika by Aloke’s grandmother, who never let her out of the house and made things miserable for her at home.”

Aloke’s father died six months ago and his mother left for relatives in Assam, unable to bear the wayward ways of her son.

The police said that on Wednesday, Aloke had a “terrible” fight with his wife and he even beat her up severely, with Draupadi encouraging him all along.

What happened in the next couple of hours is not yet clear. But a neighbour, Sangeeta Jain, who lives next door, said she had dropped in at the Jain house around 6 pm on Wednesday, as a call for Aloke had come to her home.

“When I entered the house, I found Ruchika lying motionless on a mattress with Draupadi trying to pour drops of water into her mouth. I instantly realised that something was wrong,” Sangeeta said.

Police said that they are now waiting for Ruchika’s parents to arrive before embarking on the next course of investigations.    

Calcutta, Nov.16: 
With Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress entrenched in the Corporation, the state government is working out ways to route the largest-ever international loan for the city’s infrastructure development through the CMDA, instead of the civic body.

Officials said on Thursday the government would soon inform the Asian Development Bank (ADB) that it would not underwrite the Rs 1,557-crore loan it had originally contracted for receiving and disbursing directly by the CMC.

“We are not very sure about the proper utilisation of the loan by the new board in the CMC,” said an official dealing with the issue. He added that the civic body would not know how to manage such a hefty loan, three times its annual budget.

The government’s present stand is that it will underwrite the loan only if it is routed through the agency of its choice, the CMDA. The first part of the ADB loan is billed to reach the civic authorities, “through the CMDA”, by the third week of December. In the new scheme of things, the body will disburse funds to the CMC “in a staggered manner”, after being assured of its proper utilisation.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee has said that the Trinamul Congress will “vehemently oppose” any move to have the “loan-management responsibility” transferred from the CMC to the CMDA. “As far as we are concerned, the loan agreement has been signed. Any attempt to manipulate it now will be resisted,” he warned.

The government’s view that it was unable to guarantee the safe passage of the contracted ADB funds via the CMC to intended projects and identified beneficiaries was conveyed by Nandita Chatterjee, chief executive officer of the CMDA, when she visited the bank’s headquarters in Manila last week.

Summing up the CMDA’s position, ex-member, mayor-in-council, Sudhangshu Sil, said the body was directly responsible for development of infrastructure in and around the city under the Rs 1557-crore ADB project, whereas the CMC was concerned “only with a part of the city”. So, if the CMC is entrusted with the development of the CMDA areas of Sonarpur, Rajpur and Bagjola, the ADB project would flounder. “So, the loan should be routed through the CMDA, which works with a larger mandate, on a larger scale,” Sil said.

In this tug-of-war, the advantage clearly lies with the guarantor. Having bagged the ADB loan after months of negotiations, the government is in no mood to allow the Trinamul-BJP Corporation from hogging the loan and the limelight.    

Calcutta, Nov.16: 
The Citu unit of Great Eastern Hotel on Thursday backed out from its decision to launch a joint movement with Intuc against the government’s move to hand over the hotel to Accor Asia Pacific.

Earlier, Citu had agreed to begin a joint movement and even attended a meeting called by Intuc in the hotel’s Durbar Hall against the privatisation move. It is learnt that the state Citu leadership has advised its hotel unit against it.

Atiar Rahaman, Intuc leader in the hotel, alleged that the leaderships of the Citu state unit, state CPM and the state government had jointly decided to hand over the hotel and it was not possible for the hotel’s Citu unit to “violate” directives from its state leaders. Rahaman said it will inform the government about its course of action on Monday.

Uday Chand Sen, member-secretary of the hotel, on Thursday handed over a letter to all the hotel unions, asking them to submit the names of their representatives to the government by Monday.

“The director of tourism has already informed us about this. Today’s letter from the member-secretary is nothing new. It only reflects the government’s unusual hurry to hand over the hotel to Accor Asia,” Rahaman said.

He added that the officers’ association had agreed to the joint movement.

Piyush Kanti Roychowdhury, Citu leader in the hotel, said Intuc had agreed to the VSS and VRS schemes.

“But we oppose such schemes and are against the privatisation move. Unlike Intuc, we demand a job alternative. So we decided against joining the movement with Intuc.”    

Calcutta, Nov.16: 
Going to school was never so cool.

On the waterfront, the Maulana Mohammad Ali Jouhar Girls’ High School is poised to become the first school in the city with central air-conditioning and close-circuit cameras in every classroom.

The foundation stone of the girls’ school, till Class VIII, with 1,100 students, was laid by former mayor Prasanta Chatterjee in 1991. Though the tuition fees range from Rs 25 and Rs 40 per month, the building, under construction for the past eight years in the port area, is extravagant.

The three-storeyed structure is spread over a nine-cottah plot on S.A. Farooqui Road, near Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers ( GRSE), at Metiabruz.

All classrooms are marble-tiled, with granite on the walls, but the air-conditioners and close-circuit system are awaited.

Clearly, the Metiabruz Muslim Educational Institution trustees are leaving no stone unturned to woo students.

“We have already spent Rs 30 lakh on the construction of the building with the total expenditure, including installation of air-conditioners and close-circuit TV, adding up to Rs 80 lakh,” said the trustee’s president and secretary Shamsuzzaman Ansari.

According to Ansari, who is also the member, mayor-in-council (market) in the Trinamul Congress-BJP led Calcutta Municipal Corporation, “the extravagance is justified, as a better environment will encourage students to attend school regularly.”

Ansari has chalked out a plan to create a corpus of Rs 50 lakh to foot the bill for the ACs by inviting 100 patrons to donate Rs 50,000 each. A hundred have already pledged their support.

But there is a danger of donor interest waning, with the “state government and the Board of Secondary Education taking so much time to recognise the school,” says Ansari. “The building could have been much earlier if the recognition had been granted on time.”

A deputy director in Bikash Bhavan explained the delay: “We are now considering the proposals forwarded in the late-1970s...”

For the past five years, the school management has repeatedly petitioned the state education department. But to no avail.

In 1996, education minister Kanti Biswas had, apparently, told the trustees that the education department could consider the appeal for recognition if they could show a fixed deposit of Rs 60 lakh to ensure salaries for teachers. “We were ready to fix Rs 25 lakh in a bank immediately with a prayer to give us five to seven years’ time to raise the quantum of fixed deposit. But he did not agree,” said trustee Seikh Bahadur.

“We even told education minister Kanti Biswas that our teachers will give an affidavit that they will never demand their wages from the government, but he still refused us recognition,” said Ansari. “The CPM, in the name of education, seems to be more interested in the pay packet of the teachers than the spread of education.”

With the school still awaiting recognition, it’s the students who are suffering, with the girls having to switch institutions after Class VIII to appear for their Madhyamik exams.

There is only one recognised secondary girls’ school in the locality, inhabited by several lakh girls. The Garden Reach Maulana Azad Girls’ High School operates in three shifts to cope with the pressure and at the start of every new session, there is a mad scramble for admission forms.    

Calcutta, Nov.16: 
Four students of Calcutta Medical College were injured when supporters of the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) attacked boarders of the under-graduate students’ main hostel on Thursday afternoon.

About 100 SFI supporters from different medical colleges thronged the hostel on Thursday, protesting against the “outsiders” lodged on the premises.

College vice-principal A.K. Gupta admitted the injured to hospital. Three of them have been identified as Debasish Manna, Avijit Kumar and Prasanta Saha. Two of them are in a critical condition. Rajiv Pandey, working committee member of the Medical College Students’ Association, said: “Manna was hit in the abdomen and Prasanta on his head, while Avijit received an injury on the face. All of them are in 5th-year MBBS.”

Trouble started around 3 pm when the SFI supporters entered the hostel on 217, B.B. Ganguly Street, and demanded that unauthorised boarders be ousted.

They entered the building and, apparently in a pre-planned move, attacked some of the inmates. They prevented the boarders from getting out of the hostel. They even detained college principal Shyamal Basu till late in the night, demanding an immediate solution. Basu had gone there on hearing about the disturbance. Hostel superintendent Nirjhar Bhattacharya, who stays in the building, was also present.

The trouble continued till late night. Deputy commissioner of police (central), Raj Kanojia, said the situation has reached a stalemate. Senior police officers were keeping a close watch.    

Calcutta, Nov.16: 
Former parliamentarian and veteran lawyer Arun Prakash Chatterjee, 78, died while swimming in a pond at Kasthodanga, in the Thakurpukur police station area.

A post-mortem report revealed that Chatterjee died due to “cardiac-respiratory failure”, additional superintendent of police, headquarters, Damayanti Sen said. “He suffered a massive heart attack while swimming in a pond near his house,” Sen said.

Police said Chatterjee, who owns a house in Salt Lake, was holidaying in Kasthadanga for the past few days.

Chatterjee, an illustrious lawyer and a former counsel of the state government, had a chequered career in politics. He was a CPM member of the Rajya Sabha, but was later expelled from the party. He joined the CPI and contested the Assembly elections twice unsuccessfully on the party ticket.

State law minister Nisith Adhikari has condoled his death.    

Calcutta, Nov.16: 
The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has decided to attach the property of Metal Box, a closed unit, to realise a pending tax of more than Rs 8 crore.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee said the decision was endorsed at a meeting on Thursday. “Vinod Krishna, owner of the unit, has started selling the company’s landed property and we must take immediate steps to realise the dues before all of it is sold out,” Mukherjee said.

The revenue department has been directed to swoop on the Barlow House office of Metal Box and attach its immovable property until the dues are paid. A senior official in the revenue department said a distrant warrant would be served soon and if the company failed to cough up the dues, the CMC would take possession of its office.

Deputy municipal commissioner (revenue) N.K. Roy said dues of several hotels and offices in the city would add up to almost Rs 50 crore. “We have prepared a list of the big defaulters and started sending notices to them,” Roy said.

“Many of the city’s big tax-payers are habitual defaulters. Some of them even find it profitable to fight legal battles for years than pay up,” the revenue department official said.

The drainage and sewerage department has been directed to take action against highrises with illegal drainage connections. “Recently, we snapped the drain connection of a complex on Park Street. The owner of the building had to apply for a drainage connection after depositing the requisite fees,” Mukherjee said.    

Calcutta, Nov.16: 
The 28th South Asia, Africa and the Middle East Forum of Lions Clubs is being held in Calcutta, with over 1,200 delegates from 50 countries in the region participating. The four-day forum is being held in the city for the first time. The inaugural session will be held at Science City on November 17.

Various social activities have been organised in conjunction with the meet, which is designed to define international club policy. Frenchman Jean Behar, president of the International Association of Lions Clubs, distributed 50 tricycles, 10 wheelchairs, 40 artificial limbs and 50 hearing aids to physically challenged persons at Lions Safari Park on Thursday morning. He also inaugurated a blood transfusion centre for thalassaemia patients at Lions Blood Bank on Waterloo Street. The centre, according to District Governor A.P. Singh, “has been designed like a playroom, to make children feel at ease while undergoing transfusion”.

Under the Lions ‘SightFirst’ programme, an eye hospital, similar to the Lions Netra Niketan at Golf Green, will “open shortly” at Kankurgachhi.    

Imphal, Nov. 16: 
Apprehending a political coup by Speaker Sapam Dhananjoy, Manipur chief minister Wahengbam Nipamacha Singh today kept the majority of his Cabinet colleagues and legislators of the ruling coalition cloistered at his official residence here.

Sources said Singh became jittery when Dhananjoy turned down his invitation to a dinner last night. He immediately ordered all ministers and legislators to move into his residence. Abiding by the chief minister’s directive, not a single legislator attended office today.

The Speaker, who returned here from Calcutta yesterday, summoned Assembly officials to his chamber today to discuss the cases pending against nine legislators of the ruling coalition.

Dhananjoy is reportedly planning to disqualify one of these legislators and virtually blackmail the rest into joining hands with him.

The nine legislators had defected to the Manipur State Congress Party immediately after the Assembly elections. The Speaker believes all of them can be disqualified on charges of violating the anti-defection law.

Observers feel Dhananjoy, who has long been eyeing the chief minister’s post, holds all the aces as he knows the inside story of the Singh-led coup against Rishang Keishing in December 1997.

The chief minister’s team of trouble-shooters has made several attempts to win over the Speaker, but in vain.

Leaders of all major Opposition parties are in touch with Dhananjoy. In its eagerness to topple the United Front of Manipur government, the Opposition has already offered the Speaker the option of leading an alternative government. Sources in the Dhananjoy camp said the Speaker had stepped up his campaign against Singh because the latter allegedly hatched a conspiracy to remove him from the post while he was in Calcutta.

Singh yesterday denied being party to any conspiracy against the Speaker and even sent five of his Cabinet colleagues to receive him at Imphal airport. However, sources said the gambit failed as Opposition members far outnumbered Singh’s men.

Ignoring the five ministers, the Speaker left the airport with a bevy of Opposition leaders in tow.

Information minister and spokesperson of the United Front of Manipur ministry, M. Kunjo Singh, however, said there was no threat to the coalition government.

The Opposition’s strength in the 60-member Assembly is only 21 at present.    

Agartala, Nov. 16: 
Tripura director-general of police B.L.Vora has said his department was working in tandem with its counterparts in Mizoram and Assam’s Karimganj district to launch a joint offensive against militant outfits. Superintendent of police (north) Puneet Rastogi was in regular touch with his counterparts in Mammith district of Mizoram and Karimganj district of Assam, Vora said. He said Tripura police had “authentic information” on National Liberation Front of Tripura hideouts in these states and joint raids would be conducted soon. Besides, the hideouts of other rebels known to be located within the state would also be dismantled in the course of the operations. During his visit to New Delhi last month to attend the all-India DGPs’ conference, Vora had held discussions with his counterparts from Assam and Mizoram on the need for joint trans-border raids involving the three states. The Assam and Mizoram DGPs had readily agreed to the proposal, Vora told newsmen here. The DGP, who has already brought about a major improvement in the morale and functioning of the state police, visited the remote Pitra area under Udaipur sub-division of South Tripura yesterday to inspect the civic action programme organised by the CRPF. He expressed hope that the outlawed NLFT and All-Tripura Tiger Force rebels would soon be on the run. He, however, admitted that the sporadic action of the ragtag United Bengali Liberation Front militants was complicating the task of the police, adding that a special offensive would be launched against UBLF activists soon. In a heart-warming gesture, tribals in the interior areas have invited non-tribal Bengalis to return to their homes. The Bengalis were forced to flee following depredations by outlawed militants. Tribals of the Gabordi area under Bishalgarh sub-division took out a rally recently and urged hundreds of displaced Bengali families to return home. Subal Debbarma, a tribal teacher told his former neighbours that Gabordi market had become deserted. The tribals said they had prevented collaborators of militant outfits from harvesting the paddy fields left behind by the Bengalis. “It was the militants and their collaborators who created the mischief but now they can not do so and you must come back,” a tribal leader pledged. Chaitanya Biswas told the tribals that he did not mind the tribals harvesting the paddy fields of the Bengalis provided they were given half the produce. The Bengalis also expressed their willingness to return if a police post was set up by the government in nearby Telarbon area. Cong defection In a major blow to the demoralised Tripura Congress, vice-chairperson of Congress-controlled Amarpur Nagar panchayat Badal Sen and Trinamul convenor of the subdivision, Prabodh Bhattacharya formally joined the CPM yesterday. The crucial nagar panchayat and Agartala Municipal Council elections are only a month away. The CPM leadership of Amarpur organised a convention in the town hall where state party secretary Baidyanath Mazumder presided over the function. Sen’s desertion has dealt a serious blow to the prospects of the Congress in the upcoming panchayat elections in Amarpur as he was one of the seniormost leaders of the party in the sub-division.    

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