They came, saw and struck
Realtor survives revolver attack
Old fleet scrap plan in two weeks
No light in the lighthouse, says PM’s guru
Display ban on meat shops
Hotel staff want govt jobs
Minis serve 7-day ultimatum
A red rose for Basu, a rupee for the flood-hit
Stamp of a collector
No-trust salvo on Nipamacha

 
 
THEY CAME, SAW AND STRUCK 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, Nov.20: 
The deadly operation in the early hours of Monday, at Uttar Purbachal in Kasba, had been meticulously planned by the gang over the weekend.

Preliminary investigations revealed that gang members had conducted a recce on Saturday and then again on Sunday to chalk out their plan of action.

South 24-Parganas superintendent of police A.K. Maliwal confirmed that a few criminals had “toured” the area and planned the operation to its minute detail.

According to local residents, three youth, whose descriptions match those provided by Avik Deb, younger son of Akshay Deb, whose house the criminals raided around 2.30 am on Monday, had been spotted in the area on Saturday.

Piecing together information available after interrogating witnesses, Maliwal said the two dozen criminals who took part in the looting belong to different gangs. “The kingpin had specially drafted them in for this operation,’’ explained Maliwal.

Officers of the special six-member task force formed hours after the twin dacoities said the criminals are from Canning and Lakshmikantapur, in South 24-Parganans. Police have been able to identify some members of the gang based on descriptions provided by the victims and other eyewitnesses.

According to sources, Lalan Sheikh, Abdul Ali, Motin Sheikh and Munsef Ali are suspected to have been involved in the operation. Police records reveal that they were once close associates of Selim, the crimelord of South 24-Parganas, currently behind bars. Selim, along with associate Razzak Ali, was the main accused in the recent dacoity and murder at Regent Park.

The investigation is proceeding along the following lines:

The gang leader was co-ordinating the operation from a central position on Uttar Purbachal Road , equidistant from the Ghosh and Deb homes. The position he had taken up allowed him a clear view of both houses being raided. The police put this down to a “careful survey” conducted by the gang.

Two of the goons patrolled the four-point ‘Club more’ crossing about 50 yards from the Deb residence. Another armed criminal took up position in front of the house opposite the Deb house. Three armed men stood guard about 50 yards from the Ghosh’s house on Purbachal School Road. This was enough to keep the entire locality in the shadow of their guns.

The gang had already decided that cement slabs and stones would be used to smash the doors and windows of the two houses. There are several cement slabs covering the sewerage lines along the narrow lane in front of the two houses. But the criminals used one a little further away as it was easier to prise open. A local youth told the investigating officer at Kasba police station on Monday that he had seen a young man standing quietly, looking carefully at that particular slab on Saturday evening.

There are several well-to-do families in the neighbourhood, some clearly better off than the Ghoshs and Debs. So why were these two houses targeted? Police suspect a tip-off from “an insider”.

Akshay Deb is the deputy manager of State Bank of India’s Canning branch. He shifted to the area in 1984. Deb had just withdrawn Rs 50,000 for a wedding in the family. Investigators said the criminals must have learnt of this from “reliable sources”. Akshay Deb said the criminals were well-built and “looked familiar’’.

Shyamal Kanti Ghosh had recruited two domestic helps, Kanchan and Shefali, in the past 15 days. Kanchan is from Canning and her husband had been painting a room in the house. Shyamal Ghosh said his son Kaustuv had ordered a computer which was to be delivered on Monday. For this, he had withdrawn Rs 40,000 from the bank. Family members said Kanchan’s husband knew about this. Neither the maid nor her husband turned up for work on Sunday.    


 
 
REALTOR SURVIVES REVOLVER ATTACK 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov.20: 
In a daring daylight shootout, six goons, allegedly belonging to the Sheikh Vinod gang, attacked a promoter in the Ekbalpore police station area on Monday.

The gangsters, who swept into the area in a taxi around noon, spotted Sheikh Moin at a teastall on Sudhir Bose Road. As soon as the taxi screeched to a halt, the promoter fled the spot. Two of the goons, toting revolvers, ran after him. Moin managed to dodge the bullets and escape to safety. The gangsters left the spot in the same taxi.

Preliminary investigations identified three of the goons as Nur, Lal and Rajesh. Deputy commissioner of police, headquarters, Narayan Ghosh, said the gang had been calling up the promoter for the past week and demanding Rs 1 lakh. With Moin refusing to pay up, the goons decided to force the issue on Monday.    


 
 
OLD FLEET SCRAP PLAN IN TWO WEEKS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov.20: 
The government will soon introduce a policy on scrapping old automobiles, though its own decrepit fleet is likely to be spared. An official-level exercise is now on to determine the age of vehicles and other environmental parameters to scrap vehicles.

But the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) is opposed to a wholesale scrapping of vehicles. The society feels the government should organise “relocation’’ of old vehicles from highly-polluting zones, such as metropolises and big towns.

State transport minister Subash Chakraborty said on Monday a policy on scrapping old vehicles would be announced within two to three weeks. He said at a SIAM-sponsored “inspection and maintenance” clinic for vehicles that various factors were being considered before a decision is taken.

Environment minister Manabendra Mukherjee, present at the inauguration of the clinic, seconded Chakraborty’s views. He said the transport and environment ministries were together working on the issue and a decision would be announced soon.

Mukherjee, in reply to a question, said there were hardly any government vehicles, including state transport buses, old enough to be scrapped.

Although there is no national policy on scrapping old vehicles, the Delhi state government, following a Supreme Court ruling, notified scrapping of all eight-year-old commercial vehicles from April 1, 2001. The Delhi government has also decided to scrap 20-year-old two-wheelers from that day.

Vinay Nevatia, a leading city-based two-wheeler dealer and a past president of the Federation of Automobile Dealers Association, said the state had not sought the opinion of any association of automobile organisations on its move to scrap old vehicles on pollution grounds.

He believed the move would specifically target heavy commercial vehicles and is bound to face stiff resistance from vehicle-owners. A decision to scrap private vehicles would require tremendous political will, Nevatia said, adding that the government should offer some incentive package for replacing old vehicles.

Nevatia said there were over a million vehicles in and around Calcutta but replacement was restricted to the upper income bracket.

K.K. Gandhi, senior adviser of SIAM, said the country was not yet ready to implement the vehicle-scrapping policy. The government would have to establish scrapyards before it could decide on such a move.

SIAM felt the government should restrict entry or movement of old vehicles within the highly-polluting areas in metropolises and large towns, Gandhi said, adding that these vehicles should be allowed to ply in rural areas.

Prabal Chatterjee, senior vice-president, Hindustan Motors, said vehicle-owners and users should be educated on the need for regular inspection and maintenance.

Earlier efforts to phase out old cars, starting with 15-year-old taxis and commercially-used cars, had failed owing to stiff resistance from the transport lobby.

Environment and transport department officials had chalked out a phase-out plan early last year. However, the move came to naught because of ensuing Lok Sabha elections.

This time too, with the Assembly polls due early in 2001, it seems unlikely that the government will rub anybody the wrong way.    


 
 
NO LIGHT IN THE LIGHTHOUSE, SAYS PM’S GURU 
 
 
BY SUMIT DAS GUPTA
 
Calcutta, Nov.20: 
“Atal Behari Vajpayee is a great leader handicapped by the people around him.” That’s how the Prime Minister’s spiritual guru, Swami Satyamitranand Giri describes the man he has known closely since the early Sixties.

On a private visit to Calcutta, the founder-trustee of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad elaborates: “He recently told me that ‘I may be the leader of the majority, but I do not have a majority’. This only shows how handicapped he is in this government... But what sets him apart is the fact that he is truly liberal. He listens seriously to every suggestion and thinks them over before arriving at a decision.”

The 68-year-oldsadhu should know. For the Prime Minister is known to turn to him at every critical juncture, whether he is in Hardwar, London or Los Angeles.

It’s at Hardwar that he has built a seven-storeyed Bharat Mata Mandir — a tribute to the heroes of our land. “It all started in 1983, in the presence of the late Indira Gandhi, who had initially refused to attend the function as I was a VHP leader but later changed her mind. She then went on to make me a member of the national integration council,” recalls Satyamitranand with a twinkle in his dark eyes.

The sadhu in saffron expresses dismay over the “darkness that has descended over the country”, with leaders failing to set an example for the youth. “There is no light in the lighthouse, so what will guide the travellers at the sea?” he wonders. Politics today is dictated by “the greed for purse and power, weapon and wealth”. And it’s in this context, feels the swami, that Mamata Banerjee “shines through”. “Though I haven’t met her yet, she is a rare lady. She is blotless, untainted by charges of corruption or wrongdoing.”

For the former student of DAV College, Kanpur, who embarked on the “path of social service at the age of 22” inspired by the teachings of Vivekananda, coming to Calcutta is “like a pilgrimage... I make it a point to visit Dakshineswar and Belur Math every time I come here,” he says, hands clasped as if in prayer.

And what impression has he formed of the city he visits once or twice a year to conduct pravachans? “It’s the cheapest city in India,” smiles the Swami, “where ordinary people can survive on very little. And I like meeting the people here, as they are simple and retain an appreciation of the arts.” The former Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath, who now divides his time between his Hardwar home and his centres in the US, UK and East Africa, has been encouraged by a “growing response” to “spiritual discourses” among the “youth in Calcutta”. “The young must realise that it is their responsibility to lead the nation from darkness to light”.

Next stop, Jabalpur for the 108-kund mahayagna being hosted by Digvijay Singh. But the swami is “looking forward” to his return to Calcutta in early December, as a guest of ‘BK Babu’ and Sarala Devi Birla.    


 
 
DISPLAY BAN ON MEAT SHOPS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov.20: 
Calcutta Municipal Corporation has decided to act tough against meat-suppliers and sellers, as its fiat to stop transportation of meat, beef and pork in uncovered vehicles by November 6 has gone unheeded.

Member, mayor-in-council, health, Javed Ahmed Khan, and member, market, Shamsuzzaman Ansari, held a meeting with meat-sellers and suppliers on Thursday to convey the civic authorities’ decision to them.

Khan said slaughtering of animals would not be allowed unless the suppliers procured covered vans to carry the meat.

“Proper transportation is essential from the hygienic point of view. Just see how beef is carried from Tangra to different parts of the city. The gunny sheet which is used as a cover is itself infested with germs, as it is never washed”, said Khan.

Sometimes crows are found pecking at the meat while it is carried in open carts, added Ansari.

The suppliers were also asked not to sell to unlicensed beef shops.

The shop-owners would have to use tinted-glass doors or plastic nets in front of their shops and to cover the floor and part of the walls with glazed tiles. Most shops, at present, display the meat in the open.

The CMC has been dithering for about three years on imposing a ban on open display of meat in shops. The former CPM-led civic board had deferred the renewal of licences to enforce the regulations, but the response was not encouraging.

Several meatshop-owners only renovated their shops partially, while most prayed for time. But even after the extended deadline, they did precious little.

There are about 2,700 licensed and unlicensed outlets selling meat and poultry in the city.

To conform to the new regulations, a meatshop-owner will have to instal a swing door at the entrance, a showcase fitted with tinted glass for storing his products and a special cell out of public view to keep the animals and birds awaiting slaughter.

Moreover, the regulations also ban the packaging of raw meat in recycled polybags. A butcher or vendor will now have to use paper or sal leaves for the purpose.

By the CMC’s estimate, the city consumes about 25,000 kg of meat, 15,000 kg of chicken, 10,000 kg of beef and over 5,000 kg pork every day.    


 
 
HOTEL STAFF WANT GOVT JOBS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov.20: 
The handing over of Great Eastern Hotel to Accor Asia Pacific may not be a smooth affair, as both the Intuc and Citu units of the hotel staff have demanded alternative government jobs. They have also refused to accept the voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) or the voluntary separation scheme (VSS) packages offered by the government.

“We want re-employment of our members in government departments and won’t accept the VRS or VSS,” said Piyush Kanti Roychowdhury, leader of the hotel’s Citu unit. Intuc leader Atiar Rahaman spelt out similar demands, but with a rider. “My union won’t accept jobs in any state government undertaking. We want jobs in government departments only,” he added.

Intuc has informed tourism minister Manab Mukherjee of its decision and sent the names of eight representatives who will sit in negotiation with the state government to formulate the VSS and VRS. “Though we will not accept the retirement schemes, we want to take this opportunity to press home our demands. Our representatives will oppose the retirement schemes and demand alternative jobs,” Rahaman added, claiming that his union represented 74 per cent of the entire hotel staff.

The Citu union, however, has not complied with the government directive of sending names of representatives. “We haven’t sent names since we are opposing the government’s plan to hand over the hotel and force us to accept its schemes,” Roychowdhury said. The unit has written to Citu’s all-India secretary M.K. Pandhe, keeping him posted on the developments.    


 
 
MINIS SERVE 7-DAY ULTIMATUM 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov.20: 
Minibus-owners on Monday served a seven-day ultimatum to the state government after a day-long marathon meeting ended inconclusively at Writers’ Buildings.

Lakshman Bhattacharya, deputy chairman of the State Transport Authority, convened the meeting at the instance of transport minister Subhas Chakraborty. Representatives from the Minibus Coordination committee, Bengal Minibus Owners’ Syndicate and Howrah District Minibus Association were present.

Lakshmi Kanta Das, general secretary of the owners’ syndicate, later said they would line up a course of action after a week. “We are are not going to accept the fares as revised by the government,” he said, indicating that they may even resort to an indefinite strike.

Abashesh Dawn, general secretary of the coordination committee, however, said they would ply minibuses in the city and the neighbouring Howrah but with black flags atop the vehicles before resorting to a strike.

Das said the government, instead of enhancing the existing fare, has decreased it by implementing the revised structure. “ There is essentially no increase after a six-kilometre ride. This is one of the major reasons for which we are not going to accept the new rates,” he added.

Taximen have also planned to press for a hike in fares. Subhas Chakraborty will meet them early next month.    


 
 
A RED ROSE FOR BASU, A RUPEE FOR THE FLOOD-HIT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov.20: 
A red rose and a rupee will be the entry pass to Yuba Bharati Krirangan when former chief minister Jyoti Basu and his successor, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, will be felicitated on December 10.

“I have appealed to everyone to bring a rose and a rupee. The roses will be offered to Basu as a token of the people’s respect and love, while Bhattacharjee will receive the money for rehabilitation of the flood-affected,” transport minister Subhas Chakraborty said on Monday.

People are also welcome to bring other items of use, such as candles, matches, utensils and clothes for the flood-hit, he added.

Chakraborty said about Rs 20 lakh, collected through a number of programmes, including the Hrithik Roshan show, would be handed over to the chief minister on the day.

The grand felicitation programme, being organised by Chakraborty under the Left Front banner, was earlier scheduled for November 30. It has been deferred due to the inability of some national leaders to make it on the day.

Chakraborty felt the occasion may pave the way for the formation of the third front, as a number of non-Congress, non-BJP chief ministers and former Prime Ministers like V.P. Singh, H.D. Deve Gowda and Chandra Sekhar, are likely to attend.

The state CPM has already formed a committee, comprising Chakraborty as chairman and tourism minister Manab Mukherjee and fire services minister Pratim Chatterjee as members, and directed the district leaders to ensure a massive gathering on the occasion.    


 
 
STAMP OF A COLLECTOR 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, Nov.20: 
He owned one of the five ‘The Bishop Mark’ covers that existed in the world, before gifting it away to a friend, and a rare ‘Red Scinde Dawk’ pair, invaluable items in a philatelist’s collection. But the vector which the late Deoki Nandan Jatia, of 55/1, Bhupen Bose Avenue, used to catapult India on to the global philately stage was his pioneering research on 1854 four-annas.

Now, after DN’s demise — a cardiac arrest on November 12 after a protracted battle with cancer — family, friends and the Philatelic Congress of India (PCI), of which he was the founder, are putting their heads together to figure out how best to preserve his invaluable collection and carry on his legacy. Among the suggestions is a museum or an archives in the city where he lived and died in relative anonymity to exhibit DN’s rare collection and “tell the people what a great ambassador he was for the country”.

M.G. Pittie, immediate past president, added: “Unfortunately, in his own backyard, DN never got the recognition he so thoroughly deserved and it’s time we set things right.”

As a first step, the Jatia family and the PCI have agreed to institute two awards, one, to be presented at every international exhibition abroad and another at international philately exhibitions in India. Efforts are also on to bring out a stamp in his name. “We will also propose philately as a co-curricular subject in schools and introduce more philately competitions at the grassroots-level to broadbase the practice,” said Rajesh Kumar Bagri, commissioner-general, Indepex Asiana 2000, the 14th Asian International Philatelic Exhibition to be held at Netaji Indoor Stadium from December 7 to 12.

As news of DN’s death filtered out, condolences started pouring in from all parts of the world. “His passing away will leave a vacuum in the philatelic world,” wrote Knud Mohr, who took over as president of the Federation Internationale de Philatelie (FIP), from Jatia. Mohr, who will be in Calcutta to inaugurate Indepex, will call on DN’s widow, Ratni Jatia, the inspiration behind his pathbreaking work.

It was Father Leo Vanbuynder of St Xavier’s School who initiated DN into Indian thematics. Then, guided by the late J.N. Sengupta, a family friend, he switched over to Indian Classics. His pursuit of philately earned him many a first — DN was the first non-European to be elected president of the FIP, and served an unprecedented two terms; the first Indian to be invited to sign the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists, started by King George V, in London, 1983... He was also awarded the highest civilian honour, the ‘Order of Sofia’ by the Bulgarian government in 1989 for his “dedicated work and contribution to the world of philately”.

But the crowning glory came in the form of his book — India’s Bi-Coloured Four-Annas 1854, A specialised Study of Third Printing — which he completed from his deathbed and was released on May 24 this year. Queen Elizabeth II sent DN a personal message, saying his book was valuable enough to be kept in the Royal Philatelic Library of Buckingham Palace.    


 
 
NO-TRUST SALVO ON NIPAMACHA 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, Nov. 20: 
The Manipur Opposition plans to move a no-confidence motion against the W. Nipamacha Singh-led coalition ministry in retaliation to the latter’s move to remove Sapam Dhananjoy from the Speaker’s post.

Urban development minister and new spokesperson of the United Front of Manipur, Paonum Achou, told newspersons here today that the government submitted the notice on Dhananjoy’s removal to the Assembly secretary on Saturday. “We will have a new Speaker soon,” he added.

The government has accused Dhananjoy of “threatening” the nine legislators against whom cases pertaining to violation of the anti-defection law are pending. It has also charged him with “openly supporting” insurgents and appointing 35 Assembly employees on contract despite a ban on recruitment being in force.

Another allegation against the Speaker is that he violated the “neutrality and sanctity of his office” by instigating the Opposition.

Undeterred by the UFM’s move to remove Dhananjoy, the Opposition camp today claimed “moral victory” in the ongoing political tussle.

Congress Legislature Party leader Radhabinod Koijam said that the Opposition would move a no-confidence motion against the Nipamacha ministry before it succeeded in removing the Speaker.

Koijam claimed the Speaker had the power to admit or reject any impeachment motion against himself after evaluating the merit of the charges. He said there were quite a few instances of speakers rejecting such impeachment motions.

On the UFM’s allegations against Dhananjoy, the Congress leader said all of these were baseless.

Samata Party leader Basantakumar Wangkhem agreed with Koijam, saying, “The UFM has charged the Speaker with violating the ban on recruitment. But what about the fact that the government has also recruited 2,508 employees since the ban came into force?”

The Opposition has already lodged a complaint with Governor Ved Marwah regarding the government’s attempts to remove the Speaker’s personal security officer.

The government has also been accused of trying to withdraw the security personnel assigned to several Opposition leaders.

With neither the government nor the Opposition willing to back out from the fight, the ensuing winter session of the Assembly is sure to be a stormy one. The session begins on December 1. Fifteen coalition members, 14 of them ministers, yesterday flew to Calcutta at the behest of Nipamacha Singh.

The latter apparently asked these coalition members to leave the state to avert the possibility of Dhananjoy luring them to his camp.    

 

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