Dacoits in cop garb flee with valuables
Signal row sets off arson attack
Buddha ‘breakthrough’ draws blank
New-age satta goes computer-savvy
Facade hides pile of filth
Trinamul rally cripples traffic for six hours
Drumming up a different beat
Opp. takes fight to Nipamacha camp
Berhampur students disrupt traffic
Patnaik to stay PCC chief

 
 
DACOITS IN COP GARB FLEE WITH VALUABLES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov.28: 
After Kasba, Regent Park, Tiljala and Usti in South 24-Parganas, dacoits struck in Barasat early on Tuesday. The dacoits escaped with more than Rs 50,000 in cash and ornaments. Till Tuesday evening, no arrests were made.

In Barasat, the dacoits successfully tried out a new strategy — they pretended they were policemen who had come to search the house. At about 4 am, four armed youth arrived at the house of Bimal Ghosh at Bamun Mura village. Ghosh runs a poultry farm in his house.

Ghosh said: “When the dacoits knocked on the door, we were in deep sleep. Suddenly, I heard the noise and woke up. On opening the door, I found four young men waiting outside. One of them assured me that there was nothing to be afraid of. They had information that a cache of arms was hidden in the house and they had come to conduct a search.”

Without wasting any time, the jittery family readily opened the almirahs and trunks. The dacoits began the search the way policemen do, but soon afterwards, they whipped out revolvers and asked the family members to hand over the valuables. The family silently did just that. Before leaving, the dacoits tied the hands of Bimal Ghosh and his son, Arun.

Immediately after the dacoits’ departure, the family raised an alarm. Neighbours ran out of their houses and chased the gang, but they fled towards the railway station.

Local residents informed the police and a large posse arrived on the scene and searched hideouts of criminals. Circle inspector Shyamal Ghosh said it was a new gang and this was, perhaps, their maiden venture.

Tiljala follow-up

A team of Criminal Investigation Department ( CID) officers visited the house at Chowbhaga, in Tiljala, on Tuesday, where 54-year-old Anita De was murdered under mysterious circumstances early on Monday.

Investigating officer S.K. Biswas said several aspects of the murder were being probed. The murder could be the fallout of the probable affairs the victim’s daughters had; it could also be the handiwork of local hooligans intending to commit a dacoity.

Deputy superintendent of police S.K.Dutta said: “We have already questioned the victim’s husband, her daughters and the son. We have found that they have no political enemies. They seldom socialise. The victim’s husband, Debendranath De, and his children are educated. We feel that the assailant may have known the victim. However, everything will come to light after we get the post-mortem and the forensic reports of the blood-stained log, which was probably used to beat up the victim, and her clothes.”

However, till Tuesday evening, no one was either detained for interrogation or arrested.    


 
 
SIGNAL ROW SETS OFF ARSON ATTACK 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov.28: 
A face-off between a taxi-driver and a constable at the intersection of A.J.C. Bose Road and Rawdon Street sparked fury and flames on Tuesday evening. A 200-strong mob assaulted two cops and set a police motorcycle ablaze near the La Martiniere schools. Later, the taxi-driver, Dipankar Dutta, was arrested and his vehicle impounded.

At around 4.40 pm, a taxi (WMT-2997) violated the traffic signal at the Rawdon Street-A.J.C Bose Road crossing and was stopped by constable Nemai Naskar. An argument broke out between the constable and the driver.

According to an eyewitness, “The taxi-driver started shouting that he had been harassed and even manhandled by the policeman.” As several other taxi-drivers and onlookers gathered on the spot, they started abusing the constable and pushing him around.

Dutta was, apparently, insisting that he would not leave the spot till Trinamul leader Mamata Banerjee and taxi union leader Madan Mitra intervened and ensured that the “guilty policeman was punished”.

When sub-inspector S.K. Chatterjee and another constable from Shakespeare Sarani police station reached the spot, they were surrounded by the mob. “While Chatterjee was trying to pacify them, some people started hurling stones at him. As Chatterjee and the others ran for cover, the mob targeted the bike (WB-O1 P-1217). Important documents, like impounded driving licences, were stolen and set ablaze,” said Prasanta Banerjee, AC-I (south division), who later reached the trouble spot.

While the motorcycle was burning, the mob turned towards the bank nearby, where the cops on the run had taken shelter.

“We let the wounded, panic-stricken police personnel into our office, downed the shutters and also locked the ATM counter,” an employee of the bank said. The demonstrators started pelting the bank with stones, damaging the glass door.

Traffic, meanwhile, had come to a standstill at the busy intersection, affecting the movement of vehicles in the entire area.

At around 5 pm, officers from Shakespeare Sarani police station arrived at the site. “As news of the trouble reached us, we virtually ran to the spot. But most of the miscreants had fled by then and only Deepankar Dutta, the taxi-driver who started the trouble, was arrested,” said officer-in-charge D. Dutta Burman.

Before the fire brigade personnel could reach the spot, fire extinguishers from the bank were used to douse the flames of the burning bike. Deputy commissioner of police, south, Ranjit Pachnanda, said S.K. Chatterjee, who suffered “multiple injuries”, was admitted to NRS Hospital.

“Given the poor traffic management and faulty signalling system on this busy stretch, an incident like this was waiting to happen,” alleged an eyewitness.

The police, however, claimed otherwise and blamed Tuesday’s flare-up on the taxi-driver.

“This vital stretch, which connects south to central and north Calcutta, and has two schools has traffic personnel deployed at every important intersection,” said Banerjee.    


 
 
BUDDHA ‘BREAKTHROUGH’ DRAWS BLANK 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov.28: 
Twenty-four hours after a kingpin of the Kasba twin dacoities was arrested and almost as many hours after chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee claimed a “breakthrough” in the case, all that has transpired is the “tentative” identification of two silver coins which the dacoits had stolen from the house of Akshay Kumar Deb.

On Monday, from a string of photographs from the police’s “rogues’ gallery”, Deb and another Kasba resident, Shyamal Kanti Ghosh, had identified a criminal as one of those who had burgled their homes last week.

On the basis of this, the police conducted a series of raids and picked up the criminal, identified as Shyamal Mondal, from a village in South 24-Parganas. After sustained interrogation and subsequent raids, the police recovered a bag of loot but almost none of it matched the goods stolen from the Kasba households.

Deb on Tuesday told the police, who produced the loot for identification, that he could recognise only two silver coins as part of the effects stolen from his house. But a senior police officer admitted that even these two coins could be from another dacoity that Mondal had committed in the recent past.

As inspector-general of police, South Bengal, Ajoy Prasad, confessed: “Unless the police recover the stolen goods, which are identified by the victims, there is no reason to believe that the case has been solved.”

Police sources said that through Monday night and early on Tuesday, Mondal was taken to different parts of Kasba, Tiljala, Sahid Smriti and Jamunanagar and asked to explain how he and his gang committed the dacoity.

He was also taken to Anil’s liquor den in Kasba. Anil had earlier told the police that the dacoits had spent some time in his shop before committing the crime. Mondal admitted that he would frequent the den, but said he had not come on the night of the dacoity.

Specifically, Mondal was asked whether he had hired a vehicle on the night of the dacoity and, if so, where from; why he had targeted the homes of Deb and Ghosh and who had provided his gang with the tip off; and, what he had done with the stolen money and goods.

To all these posers, police sources said, Mondal maintained that while he had committed some dacoities in the past, he was not involved in the Kasba dacoity and that he did not know what the police were talking about.

However, during “sustained” interrogation Mondal provided leads about the whereabouts of some of his associates.

On the basis of this, the police conducted raids in different parts of South 24-Parganas and picked up two of the gang members.

But on being questioned separately, police said that they gave contradictory statements about the past dacoities, confusing the police even further.

DIG, CID, Chayan Mukherjee, was more optimistic. He said that they were following some “useful leads”, which could “probably help in nabbing the culprits”. He, however, refused to elaborate any further, saying it would hamper investigations.    


 
 
NEW-AGE SATTA GOES COMPUTER-SAVVY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov.28: 
Satta has gone hi-tech. It’s no longer about hassled operators huddled around a table laden with sheaves of paper, furiously scribbling figures on special satta sheets. It’s about a smooth operator working the magic numbers at the click of a mouse, cellphone in hand.

The changing face of the city’s thriving illegal industry came to the fore with the busting of a ‘modern’ satta racket early on Tuesday in the Burrabazar area. Two operators, Pawan Joshi and his nephew Prabir, were arrested and one computer with laser-printer impounded. Police also recovered the ‘board-money’ (the latest amount transacted) of Rs 51,070 from their office on Goenka Road, under the Posta police station. The accused were produced in court on Tuesday and remanded in police custody till December 6.

At first, the computer stumped the police, who were looking out for the good ol’ satta khatas. The investigating officials thought the computer was being used just to maintain the accounts. But when computer experts were called in, the ‘software’ of the satta story started to unfold. “We found satta software stored in the computer,” said deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Banibrata Basu.

Preliminary investigation revealed that the satta operators were well-versed in computer programming.

The Burrabazar raid was sparked by a tip-off received by officers in the detective department’s anti-rowdy squad on Monday evening. A team of six sleuths reached the site early on Tuesday and knocked on the door of the first-floor flat. As soon as a youth opened the door, the officers forced their way into the office. The computer was on and the code-names were flashing on the screen.

The arrested duo disclosed how the software was being used to run the satta operations. According to preliminary reports, the two were playing a “different kind of game”, called Phataphat. “While in normal satta, the money is paid once a day, in Phataphat the winner rakes in the earnings every hour,” explained Basu.

The Burrabazar bust-up has forced the police to rethink their strategy to curb satta. “We had assumed that the trade had all but died down,” said Basu. Ten years ago, at least two dozen satta dons, including Ram Avatar, Rashid Khan, Kan Singh, Anwar and Bhola used to mastermind a nationwide racket from Calcutta.

“But now, we are chalking out plans to track down the rest of the satta players. Tuesday’s arrests suggest that a fresh group may have spread its network of new-age satta in the city,” said an officer of the detective department.    


 
 
FACADE HIDES PILE OF FILTH 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov.28: 
The reconstructed and renovated Medical College Hospital building, a grand piece of architecture and history that had been in disrepair for decades, will be dedicated to the people with much fanfare on Wednesday.

Visitors at the ceremony, to be attended by both former and present chief ministers, several ministers and officials, will see a freshly-painted, spotless majestic construction, complete with frills like flower pots and shamianas.

But most of this grandeur at the hospital is skin-deep, for not everything is in place. A visit on the eve of dedication day brought out several anomalies.

For starters, a huge pile of stinking garbage from all sections of the hospital lies strewn on the main road leading from Gate 1 and can be seen and smelt by all passing by. The pathway, three-fourths of which is blocked by the refuse, is right behind the building (on the north side) being dedicated on Wednesday by Jyoti Basu.

“Patients and doctors at the chest department, in front of which lies the garbage heap, go through an ordeal every day because of this,” said Swapan Bhattacharya, secretary of hospital unit of the state government employees’ federation. Its office is just next to the refuse and, on the eve of the dedication, they lodged a complaint with the Bowbazar police.

“The vat is broken and the PWD wing at the hospital has been busy with the hospital building and has been unable to carry out repairs,” said superintendent S. Sinha. Hectic efforts were, however, on to get the garbage removed by the morning.

As for the invisible problems, the “reclaimed” building will house the same departments it housed 70 years ago, as per the recommendations of the chairman of the hospital’s board. “But this will lead to a lot of inconvenience, which a hospital cannot afford,” an official said.

For example, after the cardiology department shifts here, it will be almost 400 metres away from the cardio-thoracic department in the David Hare Block. “Similar equipment will have to be bought twice. More important, if a patient with a cardiac problem suddenly requires attention at the cardio-thoracic unit, he will have to be rushed all the way.”

Then, the orthopaedic department is planned on the fourth floor. “If the lift breaks down, it will be a problem taking the patient up... all this is very unscientific and against the wishes of the doctors,” the official said.    


 
 
TRINAMUL RALLY CRIPPLES TRAFFIC FOR SIX HOURS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov.28: 
Traffic was thrown out of gear for nearly six hours on Tuesday afternoon after hordes of Trinamul Congress supporters descended on the streets to attend a rally addressed by party supremo Mamata Banerjee.

Officers of the Lalbazar traffic police control room said Matador vans carrying the Trinamul supporters clogged Chittaranjan Avenue, A.J.C. Bose Road, S.P. Mukherjee Road, Ashutosh Mukherjee Road and B.B.D. Bag. The police had to divert vehicles moving north to south through Corporation Place, S.N. Banerjee Road and Free School Street, as Esplanade was paralysed by the rally crowd.

The supporters began to arrive from noon. A large contingent, led by deputy commissioner of police, central, Raj Kanojia, and DC, south, Ranjit Pachnanda, manned Esplanade and its surrounding areas. The meeting was held opposite Metro cinema, instead of Mayo Road, as announced.

Vehicles stood bumper-to-bumper on Chowringhee Road, Lenin Sarani, B.B.D. Bag and the surrounding areas for an hour in the evening. The lanes and bylanes, too, were clogged with vehicles. The situation limped back to normal towards 5.30 in the evening.    


 
 
DRUMMING UP A DIFFERENT BEAT 
 
 
BY MADHUMITA GANGULY
 
Calcutta, Nov.28: 
He’s on the tabla wherever and whenever Pandit Ravi Shankar is on the sitar. He’s recorded albums with George Harrison. Based in LA, he’s on the move eight months a year, playing on stage, teaching tabla and cutting fusion discs with top artistes. He’s received accolades aplenty, including the Critics Association Award for Best Tabla Player of 1999.

And now, Calcutta boy Bikram Ghosh is back with a different beat. Rhythmscape, the “dream project” of the 34-year-old son of tabla maestro Pandit Shankar Ghosh, aims to organise grand shows involving leading names in different genres of drumming at select metros.

“We shall present this show as an extravaganza — lights, sets, the works — though the essence will be classical Indian drumming,” explains Bikram, who conceived the project while touring the world and performing with a host of talented drummers.

“The more I interacted with them, the more I wanted to create a synchronised ensemble which would bring together different genres of drumming in a single integrated act,” says Bikram, currently in the city where he was born and where he studied at La Martiniere, St Xavier’s and Jadavpur University.

Rhythmscape brings together Paris-based Moroccan Khalid Kouen on the djembe, darbouka, conga and bandero, A. Sivamani on the drums, S. Shekhar on the mridangam, V. Suresh on the ghatam, B. S, Puroshotham with the khanjiram, and Bikram on the tabla. “The show,” says Bikram, “will be divided into two parts. The first will constitute short duets while the second will have the whole team playing syncopated as well as improvised rhythm, culminating in the traditional ‘sawaal jawaab’ session.” But before the curtains come down, Ustad Aashish Khan will put in a solo on the sarod.

Bikram took to the tabla under the watchful eyes of father Shankar Ghosh when he was two-and-a-half, matured under the tutelage of Pandit Gyan Prakash Ghosh, and trained in the Carnatic style of drumming under mridangam maestro Pandit S. Shekhar. For the past seven years, he’s accompanied Ravi Shankar to almost every concert. Having travelled the world, performed at the Royal Albert Hall, the Kennedy Centre and the Carnegie Hall, conducting workshops at every stop, Bikram is “all charged up” for what could well be his greatest challenge yet.

But when he takes a look back, he clearly remembers every milestone: performing with Ustad Ali Akbar Khan while his MA exams in JU were on, his first concert with Pandit Ravi Shankar in 1993, his first solo album Talking Tabla in 1996, a “very special” concert in France in 1998, where he played a symphony composed by “Raviji” with cellist Mihail Rostropovich, the Tabla Video with his father...

The months ahead read like a roller-coaster ride. A spring tour with Ravi Shankar and Anoushka, a tour with Sivamani, Sultan Khan and Aashish Khan in May, a duet tour with his father in the US in September, and a host of solos at various music conferences. Then, there is his own fusion album, a tabla school in London followed by another in Los Angeles. Not to forget his priority number one: setting the stage in Indian cities for Rhythmscape.    


 
 
OPP. TAKES FIGHT TO NIPAMACHA CAMP 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, Nov. 28: 
The Manipur Opposition claims to have prepared the ground for the ouster of the W. Nipamacha Singh ministry and deputy Speaker K. Raina.

Congress leader Nimaichand Luwang told newspersons here today that the no-confidence motion against the Nipamacha Singh ministry was moved yesterday through the Assembly secretary.

He said a notice on the no-confidence motion against the deputy Speaker was submitted to the secretary on Friday.

The Opposition has listed nine different allegations against the Nipamacha Singh ministry. The charges include failure to maintain law and order, feeble governance, corruption, financial mismanagement, misuse of funds meant for development and inability to extract additional funds from the Planning Commission.

The government has also been accused of being a threat to the judiciary, violating the ban on recruitment, interfering in the functioning of the Speaker and maintaining links with insurgents.

The ruling United Front of Manipur is, however, confident of nullifying the Opposition’s no-confidence motion. It has already set in motion a strategy to remove Speaker Sapam Dhananjoy during the winter session of the Assembly from December 1.

UFM spokesperson and urban development minister Paonum Achou Singh said the winter session would continue until the Speaker was ousted. He said the government was sure to survive the no-confidence motion moved by the Opposition as the ruling coalition’s numbers were “intact”.

However, Luwang dismissed Achou Singh’s statement as a manifestation of insecurity. He said the Opposition was bent on removing the deputy Speaker for blatantly supporting the ruling coalition and failing to convene a single meeting of the privilege committee of the House.

Raina is the chairman of the privilege committee.

The BJP’s central political observer, Ravi Shankar Prasad, today left Imphal for New Delhi after taking stock of the political crisis.

Prasad told newspersons before leaving that he would submit his report to Union home minister L.K. Advani and BJP president Bangaru Laxman.

The BJP observer said Manipur was a “fit case” for imposition of President’s rule. He charged several ministers in the UFM government of having links with militants.

Continuing his criticism of the UFM government, Prasad said the BJP would back any move to oust Nipamacha Singh.

The BJP observer met leaders of various Opposition parties during his stay here.

One of these leaders, Manipur People’s Party chief O. Joy Singh, charged the chief minister with misusing the police force to defeat his political adversaries.

He alleged that the 14 ministers who arrived here today from Calcutta were “herded into a bus” and driven straight to the chief minister’s bungalow from the Imphal airport.    


 
 
BERHAMPUR STUDENTS DISRUPT TRAFFIC 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Berhampur, Nov. 28: 
Traffic was disrupted for several hours here today when students of the Khallikote Junior College put up a road blockade in protest against the hike in Higher Secondary Board examination fees.

The students, who blocked the road near the college from 7 am till noon, hung burnt tyres at the college gate to prevent the staff from entering. Around 10 am, they started pelting stones, but no one was injured. The traffic had to be diverted to bring the situation under control.

The principal of the college has assured the students that their demands would be submitted to the government.

Teachers’ agitation

The Federation of Orissa University Teachers’ Association (Fouta) is planning to launch another phase of agitation to press for the implementation of the revised University Grants Commission payscales.

Criticising the government for not implementing the revised payscales for university teachers, Fouta secretary J.K. Patnaik today said they were likely to take hard decisions in this regard.

Patnaik said though the Cabinet, in its meeting on August 25, had agreed to implement the new payscale, the government had not issued any notification so far.

Irrigation management: A high-level committee of the Orissa Assembly has recommended enactment of a law for farmers’ participation in irrigation management patterned after a similar Act in Andhra Pradesh, reports PTI.

The committee, led by deputy Speaker Rama Chandra Panda, suggested that farmers’ participation in irrigation management should be extended to all the districts of the state.    


 
 
PATNAIK TO STAY PCC CHIEF 
 
 
FROM RASHEED KIDWAI
 
New Delhi, Nov. 28: 
Amid hectic behind-the-scene activities and manoeuvrings, Orissa Congress chief J.B. Patnaik is tipped to stay on as the PCC president.

Patnaik has sought some more time to deliver. His plea to leadership is simple: “Give me eight more months and if the Congress condition does not improve in the state, sign my sack order.”

In the Congress circles, Patnaik’s candidature is backed by Madhavrao Scindia and Ghulam Nabi Azad. However, the veteran leader is facing stiff opposition from Arjun Singh, considered close to AICC chief Sonia Gandhi.

The division within the dissidents is also working to Patnaik’s advantage. Hemananda Biswal and other pro-changers are camping in Delhi demanding change, but they are unclear about the successor issue. Some leaders like Srikant Jena have floated the name of Lakhman Malik, a Dalit and vice-president of the PCC as Patnaik’s successor, but he is unacceptable to many on grounds of his old age.

In the past 48-hours, there have been a series of meetings to discuss organisational matters pertaining to Orissa. Sonia Gandhi met Hemananda Biswal, K.P. Singhdeo and Hema Gamang. AICC general secretary in-charge of Orissa Ghulam Nabi Azad has convened a meeting of state leaders to hammer out a consensus. Madhavrao Scindia is also involved with the exercise. “We have covered some ground and the matter will be sorted within three days,” Anil Shastri, AICC secretary in-charge of Orissa said. According to him the prospects of Patnaik’s survival are poised as 50:50 with advantage to him.

Another AICC functionary said Patnaik was unlikely to be changed as the AICC chief was giving every PCC chief another term. “Look around and you will see a pattern. From Girija Vyas in Rajasthan to Amrinder Singh in Punjab, Sonia Gandhi has retained almost everyone. There was no change of guards in Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya and West Bengal,” he said, exuding confidence that Patnaik will be retained. But others feel Patnaik will have to pass the “loyalty test” before getting the second term. “Since his removal as chief minister after the killing of Australian missionary Graham Stuwart Staines, Patnaik and 10, Janpath are not on best terms. However, the manner in which the PCC chief managed to mobilise votes for Sonia against Prasada has somewhat softened her stand,” an AICC functionary said.

Twenty-one out of the 32 state party units have authorised Sonia Gandhi to pick the new leader. However, the task of picking the PCC chief is difficult as she has to strike a balance between the warring factions.

The party president is also keen to accommodate leaders belonging to the weaker sections, women and minorities as state unit presidents in one third of states.    

 

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