Alipore zoo charged with negligence
Britannica to be sued for calumny
Boy who killed classmate in
Circus owner, two others in custody for girl’s de
Report links child labour to school attendance
Governor welcomes poor kids
50 hurt in lathicharge on Ganjam lawyers
70% turnout in Tripura elections
Orissa MLAs ask govt to rein in corrupt NGOs
Naxals want tribal land returned in Rayagada

 
 
ALIPORE ZOO CHARGED WITH NEGLIGENCE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec.16: 
Charging the Alipore zoo authorities with “negligence”, the police on Saturday started a case against the zoo administrators and detained two security guards for failing in their duty.

The deputy commissioner of police (port), Zulfikar Hassan, said on Saturday night that two securitymen, Akul Kumar Nayek and Tarun Kundu, had enough time to prevent the man from reaching the tiger had they been “alert enough”. But they did not manage to do this.

The around 30-year-old man, who clambered over two sets of protective fencing and swam across a 25-feet wide moat before embracing tiger Bob which mauled and bit him to death, is yet to be identified.

Hassan said that a number of additional security measures were taken after a similar incident had taken place in 1996 when two men entered the enclosure of tiger Shiva. While one had been killed instantly, the other had a miraculous escape after being injured badly.

“In the next few days we are going to examine in details what the lapses were and if the zoo authorities could have prevented such an incident from happening,” Hassan said. “We will also determine whether the directives of the Central Zoo Authority were being followed at the Alipore zoo.”

The zoo authorities too are amazed that the “increased protective wall”, set up after the Shiva incident could be breached so easily. Before this, there was only one fencing around the enclosure, followed by a 25-feet-wide moat. But a second fencing was erected after the 1996 incident.

“We thought this would be enough,” said a zoo official. “We never thought there could be someone so determined to die that he would surmount such obstacles.”

Alipore zoo director Adhir Das said on Saturday that the security arrangements especially around the tiger enclosure had been beefed up and worked at in great details by an expert panel after the 1996 incident. The committee included police, forest and army officials and their recommendations were strictly followed.

On Saturday, Das said rather ruefully, “Bob has never attacked anyone in the past, neither has it ever killed anyone. But if someone sneaks into his enclosure like this then there is precious little we can do.”

Shortly after the Shiva incident, the committee had also said that drunken persons would not be allowed inside the zoo premises. In fact, a bar inside the zoo had also been closed down.

But, concede zoo officials, it is hardly possible to screen each and every person to find out whether that person is drunk. “Unless a person is behaving in a drunken manner, we cannot prevent anyone from entering the zoo provided he is carrying a valid entry ticket,” Das said.

Police officials pointed out that the committee had also said that tranquiliser guns should be kept on the ready especially around the tiger enclosure. But it did not appear on Saturday that any such precaution had been taken.

“We will have to look into all these aspects,” Hassan said.

“If all such measures had been taken then perhaps such a tragedy could have been avoided. But we expect a lot of such anomalies will surface in the next few days,” he added.

Test aid: FIITJEE has introduced the Rankers Test Papers File for the IIT-JEE screening test. The file consists of 10 papers on the IIT-JEE pattern, designed for the screening test in 2001.

   

 
 
BRITANNICA TO BE SUED FOR CALUMNY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec.16: 
The Centre will take legal action against the Encylopaedia Britannica authorities for including in its section on Ramakrishna the names of two books, containing derogatory remarks on the sage.

Union human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi announced the government’s decision at a function at Aurobindo Bhavan on Saturday afternoon. He also launched a project to improve Sanskrit teaching in the country.

Joshi, who was here on a two-day visit, said the Centre had written to the Britannica authorities more than a month ago requesting them to delete the names of the two books, included as reference texts. “Since they have not responded to the letter, the governement will appeal to the International Court of Justice,” Joshi added. The law ministry has been asked to examine how legal action can be taken.

Earlier, Joshi said in his address that the Centre in its newly-drafted education policy has stressed the learning of Sanskrit and unveiled plans to incorporate its teaching in school curricula. He said the state government had not yet sent any proposal to improve Sanskrit teaching.

n Man run over: Rampada Konar, 26, was electrocuted on Harish Mukherjee Road on Friday night. Police said the incident took place when Konar was working on a live wire at a roadside shop. He was taken to SSKM Hospital where he was declared dead.

   

 
 
BOY WHO KILLED CLASSMATE IN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec.16: 
Anjan Makal, the Class IX student of Howrah Vivekananda Institution, accused of killing Kuntal Ghosh, his classmate, inside the class room, was remanded in judicial custody till December 30 on Saturday.

After the sub-divisional judicial magistrate passed the order, Anjan was taken to Dhrubasram, a juvenile home, at Ariadaha.

The parents of 15-year-old Anjan broke down on hearing the judgment. According to police, Anjan has refused food since his arrest on Friday.

“He refused to eat last night and even this morning he kept weeping inconsolably when we offered him food”, an officer at Shibpur police station said.

“He is continuously saying to himself he did not want to kill his best friend,” he said.

Anjan was taken to court around 4 pm. He was hustled into the courtroom through a side door as hundreds of people had gathered outside to catch a glimpse of the boy.

Meanwhile, Kuntal ’s parents, who had also come to the court, did not wait for the judgment and left minutes after Anjan was taken to the magistrate’s room.

“I just wanted to see Anjan. I have lost Kuntal, I have nothing to do here,” Sisir Ghosh, Kuntal’s father, said on his way out.

Magistrate I.C. Ghosh, spoke to Anjan for well over two hours before pronouncing his directive.

Anjan has been charged with “unintentional murder” under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code. “We will apply for his bail in the next hearing,” Arun Kumar Banerjee, the defence lawyer, said. If convicted, Anjan faces a maximum 10-year term.

Their school, Howrah Vivekananda Institution, remained closed on Saturday. Teachers visited Kuntal’s residence and met his grieving parents. Sovanchandra Bera, the headmaster of the school, described the incident as a “mere accident.”

“We will hold a meeting to take necessary steps to prevent violence in the school,” the headmaster said.

Body found at Nimtala

The body of a 50-year-old man was found at Nimtala burning ghat on Saturday morning. He was later identified as Bijoy Das, a resident of Dum Dum Road.

Police said Das, an employee of a catering agency, died of cardiac arrest in a bus. He was returning home from a trip to Madhya Pradesh with his colleagues, who left him at the burning ghat on reaching the city around 9.30 am. However, no arrests have been made as Das’ family did not lodge a complaint.

   

 
 
CIRCUS OWNER, TWO OTHERS IN CUSTODY FOR GIRL’S DE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec.16: 
With the killer beast behind bars, it is prison time for the owner, promoter and the ring master of Olympic Circus in Howrah where a young artiste was mauled to death by a tiger inside the ring on Friday night.

The three, arrested by the Howrah Police in the circus tent in Gulmohar Maidan near Howrah station, were remanded in judicial custody till December 30 by the sub-divisional magistrate on Saturday.

Mantu Banerjee, the owner, Pratap Biswas, the manager and Ramananda Thakur, the ringmaster, were taken to Howrah jail after the judgment was pronounced.

People gathered at the circus tent as the scarred body of the 20-year-old performer, Rita Chhetri, was brought from the Howrah morgue. She was cremated later in the evening.

Tara Chhetri, 18, Rita’s younger sister, recounted the accident. “Didi had complained of dizziness minutes before her daring act. But she decided to go ahead with the show. I told her not to take any chances, but she refused to listen”, Tara said.

Rita and the ring master, Thakur, were supposed to enter the ring with three tigers. Rita would lie down and each animal would jump over her.

That evening, all of a sudden, Raja, instead of jumping over the girl, pounced on her. As Thakur stood dumbfounded, the tiger sank its fangs into her thighs, eye-witnesses said. There was a stampede as panic-stricken spectators tried to clear out. Meanwhile, the tiger kept mauling the woman, growling fiercely.

As the ring master was armed with only a stick, another performer jumped into the ring with an electric rod, used to stave off fierce animals.

By then, Rita had been bitten around her neck, thigh and torso and she lay unconscious in a pool of blood. The body was removed by the circus staff while the ring master tried to stave off Raja and the two other tigers.

The district magistrate of Howrah, S.K. Gupta, has ordered an enquiry into the incident and the circus has been ordered to stop all shows till further orders.

“I will find out if they have conformed to the existing rules and if there are adequate safety measures for spectators”, said Gupta.

The enquiry report will be submitted on Saturday night after which a decision will be taken on whether the show can continue. The circus authorities have sought the magistrate’s permission to carry on the show without animals.

   

 
 
REPORT LINKS CHILD LABOUR TO SCHOOL ATTENDANCE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec.16: 
There is a close link between child labour and absence from school, a status report compiled by West Bengal Education Network (WBEN) has found.

About 78 per cent of children between the ages of six and 14 in Nadia, Purulia, North 24-Parganas and South 24-Parganas are enrolled in a “formal school”. This, according to the report, is “a reasonably good picture compared to other states”.

The report was presented at the State Convention on the Right to Education organised by WBEN and National Alliance for Fundamental Right to Education, at the St Xavier’s College auditorium on Saturday. It was compiled on the basis of a sample survey conducted in over 172 villages in 1999. The survey further found that only 15.47 per cent of non-school-going children are covered under some kind of non-formal education system.

Of the four districts, Purulia was found to be the worst-off, with 41.86 per cent children not attending school.

n Man run over: A 50-year-old unidentified man was killed on Saturday morning after being knocked down by a minibus on Brabourne Road. Police said the accident occurred when the man was trying to cross the road. The minibus driver is absconding with the vehicle.

   

 
 
GOVERNOR WELCOMES POOR KIDS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec.16: 
Raj Bhavan is throwing open its gates from December 19 till March or “as long as the season lasts” so that underprivileged children “can play in the grounds and enjoy themselves.

This was announced by Governor Viren J. Shah while presenting the annual Ladies’ Study Group Award at Nandan on Friday evening.

“Between 80 and 100 children will visit Raj Bhavan every day. On Christmas Eve, 600 orphans, children of sex workers and bustee children will come over for a party,” the Governor said.

The governor lauded the role played by the NGOs at the grassroots level.

“Some of them have gone to Diamond Harbour and even remoter areas. Whatever help I can extend to such activities gives me a sense of fulfillment,” he added.

The Ladies’ Study Group Award for 2000 was given to Veena Lakhumalani of the British Council, Calcutta, for her contribution towards combating AIDS.

The award ceremony was followed by the screening of Nidaan, a feature film on AIDS produced by R.V. Pandit.

Nidaan will be screened at Nandan II for five days, Madhu Neotia, president of the Ladies’ Study Group, said.

Held for torture: A constable’s son, Mahesh Singh, was arrested on Saturday on charges of torturing his sister-in-law. Police said the arrest was made following a complaint from Rima. She had married Joyram Singh six months ago. Since then, Joyram and his brother Mahesh have been torturing her for a dowry of Rs 3 lakh. Joyram is absconding.

   

 
 
50 HURT IN LATHICHARGE ON GANJAM LAWYERS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Berhampur, Dec. 16: 
The police today carried out a lathicharge on lawyers of the Ganjam Bar Association, who were protesting here during the visit of chief minister Naveen Patnaik.

Nearly 50 advocates as well as mediapersons were injured in the lathicharge. Ganjam Bar Association president Sachidananda Rath said 16 lawyers sustained serious injuries. Rath led the lawyers in the protest march and was beaten up by the police.

The lawyers are on strike in protest against the imposition of professional tax in the state. They had gathered in front of the MKCG medical college campus this morning, where the chief minister was scheduled to inaugurate a new building of the blood bank and attend a seminar.

The advocates were demanding that Patnaik discuss the professional tax imposition and accept a memorandum from them. Ten platoons of armed policemen had been deployed in the city, especially around the medical college. The main gate of the campus was heavily guarded.

The lawyers alleged that when the motorcade of the chief minister arrived near the medical college campus, the deputy inspector-general of police (southern range) and the Berhampur sub-collector ordered the policemen to carry out a lathicharge to disperse the lawyers. Several advocates received head injuries. A press photographer was also beaten up.

Rath said the Ganjam Bar Association is planning to call a bandh here in protest against the incident. He demanded action against the police and administration officials concerned.

When Naveen Patnaik was informed by newsmen about the lathicharge on lawyers during his visit, he said he would look into the matter.

Assembly deputy Speaker Ram Chandra Panda, who is also a member of the Ganjam Bar Association, said the attack on lawyers was deplorable.

Patnaik inaugurated 96 houses built by the public sector unit ITI at Chasakanamana village for families affected by the supercyclone.

   

 
 
70% TURNOUT IN TRIPURA ELECTIONS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, Dec. 16: 
Nearly 70 per cent voters exercised their franchise in the election to the Agartala Municipal Council and 12 nagar panchayats amid allegations of irregularities, threats and intimidation.

According to reports received by the state election commission, the turnout was initially low. But polling picked up during the afternoon and most of the booths were crowded.

Unlike the previous elections, polling began at a snail’s pace around 7 am, with voters in the urban areas — mostly government employees — showing a “marked reluctance” to cast ballots. Barring wards 8 and 15, only 15 per cent cast their votes till 10.30 am in the rest of the 15 wards.

In ward number 8, bordering Bangladesh, brisk polling was reported in the morning and by 11 am, more than 35 per cent voters had cast their ballots. Intuc leader and Congress legislator Dipak Roy, who was the Congress observer in ward number 8, said, “Polling has been normal and our candidate Sadhan Das is sure to retain the ward.’’ He, however, refused to comment on the elections in other wards.

Similarly, in ward number 15, where Amitava Ghosh of Congress was locked in a direct contest with CPM youth leader Prabir Chakraborty, 45 per cent voters cast their ballots by 1 pm.

Sources said political tension mounted in the ward as rival parties mobilised a large number of poll workers from outside.

Ghosh and Chakraborty traded charges on irregularities. Former chairman and Trinamul Congress candidate from ward number 13, Asish Saha alleged that CPM workers had destroyed his propaganda materials last night and prevented his workers from setting up an office near the polling booth inside the information department office. “I have informed the West Agartala police station but no action has been taken so far,’’ Saha added.

Trinamul Congress leader Manish Kar Bhowmik said the CPM had brought a large number of “armed workers” in ward number 17 and in all the wards of Ranir Bazar nagar panchayat. He said Trinamul Congress workers had been “directed to remain cool in the face of provocation.”

Reacting to allegations, official sources said the election was peaceful because of tight security measures in sensitive wards where commandos of the special task force were deployed in addition to the police and Tripura State Rifles jawans.

Election to the 12 nagar panchayats was also peaceful, election department sources said. High turnout was reported from Belonia, Sabroom, Amarpur, Teliamura and Dharmanagar.

While the CPM expressed “satisfaction” with the peaceful election saying, “The fact that such an election has been trouble-free is in itself a great achievement,” Congress leader and MLA Samir Ranjan Barman refused comment.

Trinamul Congress convenor Ratan Chakraborty said his party’s reaction would be made available after receiving details from all the nagar panchayats.

In a letter to state election commissioner B.B. Senapati, BJP president Brajesh Chakraborty demanded repoll in ward number 7 of the Agartala Municipal Council. Chakraborty alleged that rivals pasted posters in the ward this morning saying BJP candidate Atash Chakraborty had withdrawn from the contest in favour of Trinamul Congress contender Sangram Singh. Describing this as an “electoral fraud,” Chakraborty said the BJP candidate was still in the fray.

Trader abducted

Tribal militants abducted a Bengali trader from South Tripura district yesterday even as the police arrested two “listed” NLFT rebels, who were on their way to Shillong.

Police sources said trader Barun Saha, a resident of Amarpur town, had gone to ADC Colony, nearly six km from the town for business transactions. He was abducted by a group of NLFT rebels while returning. Opposition leader Jawahar Saha and food minister Gopal Das went to his house and met his relatives. Despite intensive combing operations, Saha remained untraced.

In a separate incident, policemen from Manu outpost in Dhalai district arrested two hardcore NLFT rebels, who were going to Shillong in a Maruti car.

Officer-in charge of Manu police station P. K. Das set up a decoy in remote Lambabil area on the Manu-Chhailengta road. Around 2 pm, the Maruti vehicle was detained by the police and its occupants arrested. Though the passengers, Surajit Debbarma and Mohanta Debbarma, denied any association with the NLFT, they later buckled under pressure and admitted that they had been active NLFT cadres for the past three years.

   

 
 
ORISSA MLAS ASK GOVT TO REIN IN CORRUPT NGOS 
 
 
FROM DEBABRATA MOHANTY
 
Bhubaneswar, Dec. 16: 
Members of the Orissa Assembly today criticised non-governmental organisations in the state for being non-accountable and running a parallel administration.

Accusing the NGOs of being a law unto themselves, members of the treasury bench and the Opposition said they were one of the biggest sources of corruption, with no checks and balance system to rein them in.

Though the members were all praise for organisations like the Ramakrishna Mission for their philanthropic activities, they criticised the government for its ineffectiveness in controlling the 5,800-odd NGOs in the state.

Initiating a debate on the issue, Janata Dal(S) member Ashok Das said these organisations had proliferated with active help from the bureaucracy in the last few years. “Now an NGO called Agragami would review the government’s work in KBK districts. This is a new phenomenon,” he added.

Das asked why Agragami had been entrusted with the job of reviewing government activities when planning and co-ordination minister Ramakrushna Patnaik had admitted that the state had little control over the activities of the NGOs. “It is better if we all resign. The NGOs, hereafter, will do all the work,” he said.

Das alleged that barring some honourable NGOs, most of them looted public money. “If necessary, the state should initiate criminal proceedings against them,” he added.

“Forming an NGO has become the best way to launder money. Crores of rupees came for the cyclone areas, but they were not utilised properly. What is worrying is that some of these NGOs are busy converting people from one religion to another, using relief as a bait. It is high time that the government reviewed the performance of the NGOs,” Gajadhar Majhi said.

Majhi’s allegation of proselytisation found support from ruling alliance members. BJP member from Balasore Jiban Pradip Dash said an NGO had been distributing the Bible among the people.

The construction progress report of 28 NGOs in the cyclone-hit areas shows that the publicity blitz carried out by the NGOs did not actually match the work done by them on the field. The NGOs had promised to build 5,000-odd houses, but they have built only 2,700.

The Centre for Youth and Social Development (CYSD), a leading NGO of the state, had promised to build 17 school-cum-cyclone shelters. But it is yet to start construction. Another high-profile NGO, CASA, has not fulfilled its promise of building 37 multi-purpose cyclone shelters.

   

 
 
NAXALS WANT TRIBAL LAND RETURNED IN RAYAGADA 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Berhampur, Dec. 16: 
The CPI(M-L) has demanded return of disputed agricultural land under benami possession of non-tribals in Rayagada district to tribals.

In a memorandum submitted to the Rayagada district collector, the CPI(M-L) said until the benami owners returned the land they had seized from the tribals, tension between the tribals and the non-tribals in the district could not be resolved.

CPI(M-L) leader Dandapani Mohanty said the tribals were becoming aware of their rights and were forcibly cultivating disputed agriculture land. But the benami owners created problems for them during harvesting and tried to take away the yield with the help of the police.

Mohanty said the administration had to end the benami occupancy of arable land in the tribal areas of Kolnara, Padamapur and Ramanaguda to dissolve the continuing tension between tribals and non-tribals over land.

The CPI(M-L) also criticised the police and the administration for torturing tribals in the name of searching for Sabyasachi Panda, the main accused in the murder of tribal leader Madhav Sabar. The CPI(M-L) alleged that the police conducted late night raids, terrifying tribals. The male members had deserted most of the villages to escape police harassment.

CPI(M-L)’s Rayagada district secretary Tripati Gamang alleged that policemen misbehaved with the tribal women and looted their belongings during the search operations. This also led to destruction of standing crops grown by the tribals in the area, he further alleged. He demanded compensation for tribal families whose harvested crop was destroyed and return of belongings taken during the search operations.

The CPI(M-L) alleged a nexus between the police and the benami landowners in Rayagada district. It also demanded that the recent practice of lodging “false cases” against tribal leaders be stopped as it was aggravating tribal anger.

The tribals are also demanding that the illicit liquor trade run by the Sundhi community be stopped. Some Scheduled Caste families are traditionally involved in the making and trading of illicit country liquor in the tribal areas. The Sundhis have money and power and play a major role in local elections. The tribals alleged that the Sundhis are destroying tribal unity and, therefore, their liquor trade should be stopped.

The CPI(M-L), which is quite active in Rayagada district and is trying to expand its base among the tribals, has also demanded that the tribals in the drought-affected areas of the district be provided rice at Rs 2 per kg and their daily wage for menial work be increased to Rs 70 per day.

   
 

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