‘Ripper’ held for child rape
Trader’s killer gunned down by rival gang
Cadre corner college posts
Yesterday, tomorrow... and forever
Porters push Posta to closedown
Ruchika died of torture: Father
Spot-the-error in health ad
7 dead in fresh N-E carnage
Orissa move to curb coterie raj
Govt bid to remove Manipur Speaker

Calcutta, Nov. 17: 
There was a diabolical design to the trail of death. He was the ‘friendly neighbourhood uncle’ who would first befriend little boys with little sisters. Friendships with the boys would inevitably transform into “deep affection” for the girls. The boys would soon be abandoned and then, in a grisly turn of events, the bodies of the innocent little girls, murdered after being raped, would be found in fields near their homes.

There was one other recurring image: a young man, near the scene of the crime, bathing repeatedly, as if to wash away his guilt.

It was finally this act of “cleansing himself of his sins” that gave Tapan Das away. Known in Barasat police circles as their “Jack the Ripper”, the 26-year-old was arrested on Friday morning near Madhyamgram investigation centre. Das, accused of raping and murdering two minor girls, has been remanded in judicial custody.

In the past five months, Das had unleashed a trail of terror in the Barasat and Madhyamgram areas. According to sources, while police records only show his involvement in two cases, Das could well be found guilty of more assaults on minors.

Das, who owned two Trekkers, first entered police records with the rape and murder of eight-year-old Sonam in July this year. He befriended members of her family to gain access to the girl. He started spending time with Sonam and taking her out for evening walks.

On July 2, Sonam left with Das, never to return. Her body was found in a paddy field three kilometres from her house. She had been stripped, raped and strangulated.

Das struck again in November. Shahnaz Khatun, 6, was his next target. After worming his way into the family through her brother, Das would spend long hours with Shahnaz at her house. He pampered her with gifts, sweets, and joyrides on his Trekker. On November 2, Shahnaz went missing, only to be found in a nearby mango orchard. She, too, had been stripped, raped and strangulated.

This prompted the Barasat police station to form a special team of four and launch Operation Jack. During questioning of the victims’ family members, Das’ name kept cropping up.

“We started keeping a strict watch on Das. From his activities, we found out he had four women tucked away in the city and its suburbs. All these women were tracked down and interrogated,” said Shyamal Ghosh, inspector-in-charge, Barasat police station.

The women, who claimed Das had ‘married’ them, confessed to the cops that he was “fond of little girls” and, most significantly, was in the habit of “washing himself repeatedly”. The police finally intercepted Das on Friday morning when he was headed for Ultadanga from Barasat on his Trekker. “The arrest of Das is a major breakthrough, as it will ensure the safety of girls in the area,” said Kuldeep Singh, superintendent of police, North 24-Parganas.    

Calcutta, Nov. 17: 
Armed and hooded miscreants have gunned down Ramu Bhagat, one of the main accused in the Mullick Bazaar trader Joyprakash Gupta kidnap and murder case. He was shot behind the Belghoria railway station on Thursday evening.

Sources close to underworld kingpins operating in the area said Bhagat, also known as Ramua, was on the run since Gupta’s murder in November 1999. He had returned to the locality in the past few months. On Thursday, he was spending the night at a friend’s place behind the station.

Belghoria sub-divisional police officer Basab Dasgupta said Ramua was sitting at a tea-stall when three motor-cycle-borne killers closed in from different sides. Ramua was taken by surprise. Before he could react, the criminals opened fire.

Witnesses said the criminals wore hoods and were armed with country-made revolvers. They fired from all sides. Four bullets hit Ramua in the chest and head. Three bullets missed and hit the cement walls of the tea stall.

He slumped on the ground in a pool of blood. The shooting spread panic in the locality, even though it is notorious for gang wars and street fights.

Shopkeepers downed their shutters and locals ran away from the spot as Ramua lay on the ground. The hooded criminals lobbed three bombs while escaping on their motorcycles.

The police arrived and cordoned off the area. The body was sent to hospital for post-mortem.

Ramua’s associates have sworn to avenge their leader’s murder. “We know the killers and our boys will take appropriate action,” said Hari, who was with Ramua when the assailants struck.

Police suspect Ramua was killed by Raju Naik and his own associates. Underworld sources said Ramua was fed up with a life of crime and tired of being on the run for the past year.

One of Ramua’s associates, Bhiku, said he had recently told gang members that he wanted to surrender to the police.

Ramua was sending feelers to several senior police officers of North 24-Parganas and the anti-rowdy section of the detective department. But there was a difference of opinion between the two police groups.

While the district police wanted to arrest Ramua and put him behind bars “for good,’’ the anti-rowdy section wanted to use his contacts in the underworld to get to the rest of the criminals connected with the Gupta case.

The Mullick Bazaar trader was picked up by the criminals while he was on a morning walk a year ago. The goons demanded ransom from the family for his release.

The Gupta family informed the police, who were able to identify the criminals, and began to close in on them. But the goons managed to escape and, in the process, killed Joyprakash Gupta.

According to information with the detective department, the Raju Naik gang and Ramua’s gang had got together for the kidnap and murder.    

Calcutta, Nov. 17: 
The appointment of principals of several under-graduate colleges in the city has triggered off protests in academic circles. It is alleged that most of these appointments were made on “political considerations”. Candidates who did not qualify for the posts are contemplating legal action against the College Service Commission. They complained that members of the CPM-controlled West Bengal College and University Teachers’ Association were chosen principals in several city colleges.

For example, Ranajit Dhar, secretary of the association’s north Calcutta unit, has been appointed principal of Maharaja Manindra Chandra College. Bijan Mahanti, secretary of the CPM-dominated Tripura College and University Teachers Association, has been appointed principal of Vivekananda College in Thakurpukur. Mahanti is a known CPM activist in Tripura.

A professor of physics of Calcutta University had applied for the post but he was not selected as “he has no CPM support.” He is planning to challenge the selection of some principals whose academic qualification is no match for his own.

Chinmoy Sarkar has been appointed principal of Surendranath College. Sarkar, too, is said to be an associate of CPM state secretary Anil Biswas. Muktinath Mukherjee, another party supporter, has been appointed principal of Charuchandra College. Debabrata Chowdhury has been selected principal of Ashutosh College.

State higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty said: “The government has nothing to do with these appointments. It is the College Service Commission that recruits principals and teachers of different under-graduate colleges.”

Ajit Banik, chairman of the commission, said 16 principals have been selected for city colleges. There are no full-time principals in 22 city colleges.

It is learnt that the CPM is concerned at the Centre’s proposed move to control recruitments. P. C. Alexander, Governor of Maharashtra, has submitted a report to the Union human resources development ministry and recommended some changes in the recruitment system.Union minister for human resources development Murli Manohar Joshi is likely to meet higher education ministers of all states next month to discuss Alexander’s recommendations.

Once the Centre accepts Alexander’s recommendations, Delhi will be able to control all academic appointments in the state. So the government is trying its best to fill up all the vacancies of principals before the 2001 Assembly polls.    

Calcutta, Nov. 17: 
“The name is Rosalind, as in Shakespeare,” said Rosalind Jones of Lawrence D’ Souza Old Age Home, a smile lighting up her wizened face.

On other days, this octogenarian would spend the morning (starting 5 am) worrying about getting warm bathwater, taking medicines, sipping tea or, alternatively, writing letters to distant relatives.

But Friday was different. Rosalind was in Nicco Park, one of a group of 75 elderly people on Granny’s Day Out, an inter-generational activity organised by HelpAge India, and sponsored by Lions Club of Calcutta and Greenways Shipping.

“Of course, I am enjoying myself. I haven’t been out anywhere for months,” smiled Rosalind, tapping her feet cheerfully to the music played on the keyboard by another veteran, Menezes.

But the old folk were not alone. It was their turn to be helped along by their young escorts — from 10 Calcutta schools. Seventy-year-old Robertson of Navaneer, an old-age home in Tollygunge, was discussing “junk food” and the “good old times” with teeny-bopper Poulumi Chatterjee.

Tarun Surana, Class IX, Apeejay School, was helping 80-year-old Roma Guha get off the toy train. Hair matted with sweat, an arthritis patient barely able to support herself, Roma was jubilant: “I loved the ride. This is really good for me.”

For a few hours, ‘granddad’ John Rodrigues, 85, had adopted Arnab Dutta, 16. Rodrigues’ own son has long settled in America. Close at hand, a girl had stooped to put on ‘ granny’ Patsy’s shoes.

The groups of old and young participants had turned up earlier than expected, driven in on three buses provided by the CSTC. They took two rides on the toy train. Some had even dared the cable-car and giant-wheel. The small amphitheatre echoed with strains of Five hundred miles and Jamaica Farewell as yesterday and tomorrow sang and clapped in unison.

Stanley Rodrigues, 80, of St Joseph’s Home, confessed that he hadn’t seen his daughter for years.

A Jim Reeves fan, Rodrigues reached into the depths of his personal grief to belt out two soulful numbers.

A magic show was followed by lunch of biryani and mishti, accompanied by music (which reminded one old-timer of “biye barir bhoj”). The post-lunch session saw everyone being declared a “winner” in a boisterous game of musical chairs.

With boundless enthusiasm, the golden oldies started another session of song, and even dance. As young and old joined voices in singing Purano sheyee diner kotha, it was well past the scheduled time of departure.

Unwillingly, still begging for a little more time, they were helped on to waiting buses, bringing the momentous day to a close.

“All through the year, we have activities for the old, some of them inter-generational. But we have never taken them to a recreational park before. Now, I realise we should have done this long ago,” concluded Anuradha Sen, a senior principal executive officer, Help Age India.    

Calcutta, Nov. 17: 
The porters and traders of Posta, in the Burrabazar area, seem headed on a collision course, with both sticking to their guns on Friday. As the porters’ agitation entered its fifth day, traders threatened to shut down the market from Tuesday if daily transactions continued to be hampered. But the porters said the agitation would continue unless they were paid more on an ad-hoc basis.

Biswanath Agarwal, general secretary, Posta Bazaar Merchants’ Association, said on Friday that some porters were intimidating them. “Our association president Aswini Kumar Khan was assaulted when he refused to accept their illogical demands,” Agarwal said.

“The government was informed of the incident but no action was taken. We are receiving threat calls,” Khan alleged. The merchants’ association has submitted a memorandum to the government on Thursday.

The sprawling market, comprising nearly 800 shops, wore a deserted look on Friday. “Customers are staying away due to the agitation,” said businessman Arun Kedia.

“There have been no transaction since Monday,” said Mahesh Singhania, spokesperson for Federation of West Bengal Trade Associations.

As per the agreement signed in October, porters’ pay was hiked from Rs 870 to Rs 1,040. “The agitation is untenable, as members from all four major porters’ unions were signatories to the agreement,” Singhania said.

But porters said they would continue the agitation unless the amount was raised to Rs 1,225.

“The unions have betrayed us by secretly signing the agreement with the traders,” said Promod Roy of Mazdoor Kalyan Samity.

Caught unawares by the stir, members of the Citu-affiliated Posta Shramik Sangh said the ceasework was “uncalled for.” Sangh spokesperson Barun Bhattacharya said: “The movement is being engineered by some rogues. We will not let them disrupt business in Posta Bazar for some illogical demands,” he added.    

Calcutta, Nov. 17: 
The body of Ruchika Jalan, found dead in a locked car in front of her Rabindra Sarani residence on Wednesday night, was cremated at Nimtala ghat on Friday afternoon. Her body was handed over to her father, Satyanarayan Gupta, who arrived here from Kathmandu early on Friday.

Officials of Shyampukur police station questioned Gupta for more evidence against the Jalans. Ruchika was found dead with injury marks on her throat. The post-mortem report revealed that she had died due to “asphyxiation caused by throttling or choking.” The inquest report had indicated some scratch marks on the body.

Deputy commissioner of police, headquarters, Narayan Ghosh, said: “Gupta blamed son-in-law Aloke Jalan and his grandmother, Draupadi, for his daughter’s death. Police recorded his statement, which will be produced in court.”

Ruchika’s father told police that the Jalans “had been torturing my daughter for the past year. She complained to us several times and even fled her in-laws’ house thrice to come to us in Kathmandu. Each time, Aloke would call up, requesting us to send Ruchika back and promising not to torture her again.” Gupta said: “My daughter died because she could not bear any more torture.”

On Friday, police questioned the Aloke Jalan, his driver and his grandmother. “The accused have not confessed so far. But the statements given by Aloke, Draupadi and the driver do not tally,” said an investigating officer.

10 injured in clash: A clash over harvesting left 10 persons injured at Bhangore, on the southern fringe of the city, on Friday. At least six houses were damaged as supporters of the CPM and Trinamul Congress fought a pitched battle.The injured were admitted to a local hospital and some of them are in a critical condition.

A strong police picket has been posted in the area.    

Calcutta, Nov. 17: 
A number of organisations in the city have termed as misleading the information and data on health facilities provided by the state government, as contained in a prominent advertisement in Thursday’s edition of The Telegraph.

The advertisement, with a smiling child holding up a placard saying “Good health for everyone”, claims several achievements in healthcare delivery for the people of West Bengal. But not everything is totally correct.

For example, a Rs 701-crore World Bank-funded project has been stated as a “project for upgrading Primary Health Centres.” The project, started in 1996-97, had a five-year deadline for upgradation of 170 rural, sub-divisional, state and district hospitals. Only a few PHCs in the Sunderbans have been included in the huge work.

When contacted, health minister Partha De admitted on Friday that there was a slip in the text, for the Health Services Development Project is primarily meant for the modernisation of secondary-level hospitals and not primary health centres.

There is a bloomer in the next point as well. “Primary health care development project for 12 districts of the state with Rs 150 crore aid from Germany.”

The project, being implemented by GTZ, a German government undertaking, and financed by KFW, the German development bank, is being carried out in seven districts. “There seems to be a mistake in the ad,” a project representative in Calcutta said.

The Indian Medical Association, Calcutta branch, has said some aspects of the ad are exaggerated. “The text does not match reality. Health facilities have not increased and are way behind the needs of the population,” said branch president Sudipto Roy.

“Private institutions are thriving because of the shortcomings even in teaching hospitals in the city. Speciality treatment is almost nil due to inadequate equipment and trained staff,” he said.

The ad is apparently an exercise by the government to reassure the public after the recent change at the helm, a doctor pointed out.    

Bihubor (Sivsagar), Nov. 17: 
In the continuing orgy of violence in Assam, seven persons —all of them non-Assamese — were killed and three others injured when gunmen swooped down on their settlement on the bank of Dikhow river last evening. The site of the massacre is barely 100 metres from the Bihubor police outpost.

The Sivsagar district magistrate has ordered a magisterial-level inquiry into the killings. Additional deputy commissioner Jatin Das, who will conduct the probe, has been directed to submit his report within a month.

Chief minister Prafulla Mahanta today condemned the kill-ings and asked the district administration to provide compensation to the next of kin of those killed.

The victims, including a woman and three children, are Sulochana Devi, Khusbo Agarwal, Gaurav Agarwal — all members of the same family — Mini, their domestic help, Ram Kailash Sharma, Joginder Singh and Suresh Chauhan.

The injured include Bandana Devi and Murali Devi. They belong to Sulochana’s family.

The police said 10 heavily-armed gunmen in Army fatigues came to the house of Radheshyam, a businessman who runs a stone quarry, around 7.45 pm.

They asked his mother, Murali Devi, whether there were any male members in the house. When the gunmen were told that no male member was present in the house, they started firing from sophisticated weapons. Ram Kailash Sharma, a driver, was injured when he tried to shield Murali.

Sensing trouble, Sulochana switched off the lights in the house. But the assailants entered and fired indiscriminately, killing her and her two children along with the maidservant.

Subhash Agarwal, brother of Radheshyam, said the gunmen —four of whom were masked and spoke in Hindi and Nagamese —forced Joginder Singh, owner of tea stall nearby, and one Anjan Ali to accompany them to locate Agarwal’s residence.    

Bhubaneswar, Nov. 17: 
The Orissa government shifted several bureaucrats today in a bid to check alleged coterie rule in the state’s administration.

Prominent among those shifted are finance secretary Ardhendu Sarangi, health secretary Madhur Sarangi, housing and urban development secretary Hrusikesh Panda and rural development secretary Arun Samantray.

Most of these bureaucrats were reported to be having serious differences with their ministers. Commissioner-cum-secretary to the chief minister and allegedly a prominent member of the coterie, Jugal Mohapatra, has been given additional responsibility of secretary in the public enterprises department.

Special relief commissioner Ajit Tripathy has been brought in as the finance secretary in place of Ardhendu Sarangi. Sarangi has been posted in the relatively minor department of forest and environment.

Industries secretary Meena Gupta has been posted as health secretary in place of Madhur Sarangi. Sarangi has been posted as agriculture secretary.

Housing and urban development secretary Hrusikesh Panda has been appointed the new special relief commissioner and managing director of the Orissa State Disaster Mitigation Authority.

Pension grievances and public administration secretary Jayant Kumar Dev has been posted as the new housing and urban development secretary. Arun Samantray, the rural development secretary has been shunted out to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes development, minorities and backward class development.

Aurobindo Behera, who was secretary in the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes development department, has been bro-ught in place of Arun Samantray.

Director of tourism, R. Balakrishnan has been rewarded with a promotional posting of tourism and culture secretary. Balakrishnan has also been appointed secretary in the information and public relations department.

Special secretary in the planning and co-ordination has been brought out of oblivion and posted as chief managing director of Grid Corporation of Orissa. Tourism and culture secretary R.N. Senapati has been shifted to women and child development department as secretary in place of Alka Panda.

Forest and environment secretary H.S. Chahar has been shifted to steel and mines department as secretary. Sports and youth services secretary Madan Mohan Mohanty has been entrusted with the additional responsibility of handloom and textiles department. Fisheries and animal resources development secretary Prafulla Chandra Mishra has been appointed as the chief managing director of the newly-formed Orissa State Beverages Corporation.

Drug traffickers held

Police arrested two drug traffickers and seized brown sugar worth Rs 50 lakh in Cuttack yesterday.

However, the kingpin of the racket escaped.

Sources said a joint team of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack police, led by additional superintendent of police (Bhubaneswar) Arun Bothra, raided Bombay Hotel in Cuttack on the basis of information provided by intelligence personnel. Two drug traffickers, identified as Bhupendra Jain and Ramesh Sharma, were arrested during the raid. At least 500 gm of brown sugar was seized from them.    

Imphal, Nov. 17: 
Manipur is set for a political showdown between Speaker Sapam Dhananjoy and chief minister W. Nipamacha Singh, with the ruling United Front of Manipur today deciding to replace the former.

Dhananjoy hit back immediately by announcing horticulture minister Thangminlen Kipgen’s disqualification from the Assembly. Kipgen is one of the nine legislators of the ruling coalition against whom the Opposition has filed cases pertaining to the violation of the anti-defection law.

All the Opposition members are camping at the Speaker’s bungalow after Nipamacha Singh “confined” the ruling members in his residence since Wednesday night. Ministers did not attend their offices for the second day today and the imbroglio continued to affect the state government’s activities, sources said.

However, information minister and ruling UFM spokesman M. Kunjo Singh claimed that all the ministers are attending office. He circulated a document signed by 37 of the 39 UFM members which stated that they have resolved to “remove Dhananjoy from the Speaker’s post”. However, they made no charges against the Speaker.

The state Cabinet has recommended that Governor Ved marwah summon the winter session of the Assembly from December 1.

Reacting to the ruling coalition’s decision to remove him Dhananjoy Singh said he was unanimously elected by both the UFM and the Opposition members. “Their decision cannot remove me and I don’t know their charges against me as yet,” he added. He said he will announce the verdict of the disqualification cases “step by step” as he is taking each case separately.

Manipur People’s Party president O. Joy Singh said the Opposition members are “guarding” the Speaker from being “kidnapped” by the ruling coalition.

Policemen ambushed

Two police officers were killed and four constables injured when unidentified militants ambushed the vehicle in which they were travelling at Kakching in Thoubal district this evening.

The ambush was in retaliation to the killing of two rebels by the police this afternoon in the Kakching area, sources said.

The rebels ambushed the police team when they were returning to the Kakching police station after conducting the post-mortem of the slain militants. A group of rebels fired at the vehicle, while another group targeted the police station, the sources added.

Kakching police station officer in-charge Rupachandra Singh and assistant sub-inspector of police Prabhudayal Singh were killed in the attack.    


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