18 girls in trafficking trap
Maruti-borne gunmen slay youth at doorstep
Be not slaves to seniors: Buddha
Monks in power struggle
Big cats freed from circus shackles
Civic staff in for work sermon
Adulterators go unscathed
Minimum lines for maximum effect
Police assault charge on Trinamul trio
Pous mela set for tourist high

 
 
18 GIRLS IN TRAFFICKING TRAP 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, Dec. 21: 
The two have been on the prowl for the past year, waiting to trap young girls and pack them off to the brothels of Mumbai.

Changing identities and houses constantly, Sunil Singh, 45, and Archana Pande, 36, have lured 18 girls from the city and its suburbs and sold them for anything between Rs 5,000 and Rs 20,000 to pimps in Mumbai.

But 12-year-old Jayati Saini managed to “feign sickness” and plead her way to freedom from the brothel-keepers in Mumbai, after being abducted by the duo on December 12. She returned to her Naihati home earlier this week.

According to preliminary investigations carried out by the city’s detective department and crime branch of Mumbai police, the brothel in Mumbai where Jayati had been kept has been identified.

“We are in touch with the crime branch officers of Mumbai Police. We have learnt that a woman runs that brothel and most of the girls are from Naihati, Barasat and other parts of North 24-Parganas,’’ said detective chief Banibrata Basu.

Sunil and Archana have been posing either as husband and wife or brother and sister or brother-in-law and boudi, to first “befriend” the girls and other members of their family and then set the stage for their abduction.

That’s exactly what happened with Jayati, who was abducted from Alipore zoo, where she had gone with mother Ranee and brother Amit, after Sunil ‘uncle’ had promised to get the girl engaged to his son.

Detectives interrogating Ranee and Jayati for the past two days said Sunil Singh, alias Sunil Sarkar, is around “five-feet and 11 inches tall, fair and well-built”.

He is “sober and polite and can converse in Hindi, English and Bengali”. Detectives are taking the help of artists to sketch portraits of Sunil and Archana.

The two had rented apartments in Mandirtala, Shyambazar, Hatibagan, Circus Avenue and Central Avenue over the past year.

After speaking to their landlords, and some of the victims’ guardians, the sleuths have been able to explain their modus operandi.

“Unlike professional kidnapping gangs, Sunil and Archana did not use force. They won the trust of the girls and their guardians before striking. They would drug the girls and whisk them away to Mumbai,” said an officer of the detective department.

“But they definitely have a few goons helping them in the operation,” he added.

Investigations revealed that Sunil and Archana had taken up a rented flat at Shyambazar after arriving in the city a year ago. They had said they were music teachers.

After settling down, the two went around scouting for “vulnerable young girls’’. They targeted “sweet-looking young girls from lower middle-class families’’, peddling dreams ranging from “security and stability” in marriage to “fame and fortune” in Bollywood.

   

 
 
MARUTI-BORNE GUNMEN SLAY YOUTH AT DOORSTEP 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 21: 
The attack was deliberate and deadly. In a swift operation on Thursday afternoon, a youth was shot dead at the doorstep of his brother’s Braunfield Row residence in Ekbalpore by five gunmen. The victim was identified as Mohammad Irfan Khan, 26, a resident of Kamarhati, North 24-Parganas.

The goons, clad in white lungis and T-shirts, first hurled bombs at Irfan, blowing off his left hand. Then they zeroed in and shot him from point-blank range. Irfan died on the spot. A four-year-old girl suffered splinter injuries in her left eye when the gangsters lobbed another bomb while fleeing. Neighbours ran after them down the crowded street, but all five managed to escape in a maroon Maruti van.

Preliminary police investigation pointed at “underworld gang rivalry”. The deputy commissioner of police, port division, Zulfikar Hassan, said: “The motive behind the attack is not clear yet, but Salem, Irfan’s brother, has a criminal record. He was arrested earlier this year on charges of stealing material from the Calcutta Port Trust godown.”

At around 1 pm, the assailants parked their vehicle on Meher Ali Mondal Street, near Braunfield Row, They then walked to Salem’s residence, where Irfan had been staying for the past two weeks.

“I first heard the sound of bombs, and then gunshots. I rushed out to find Irfan lying in a pool of blood at our doorstep... He wasn’t breathing,” said Afsari Begum, the victim’s sister-in-law.

S.S. Karim, a neighbour, said: “On hearing an explosion, I came out of the house to see Irfan lying there and five men running down the road. We chased them, but they cut through the crowded Braunfield Market and finally managed to escape in their Maruti van.”

When cops arrived on the spot, they were heckled by a group of residents protesting “police inaction”. Another youth had been murdered in the area on Kali Puja, but no arrests have been made.

   

 
 
BE NOT SLAVES TO SENIORS: BUDDHA 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 21: 
“Don’t be slaves in the houses of your senior officers. Dedicate yourselves to the cause of the common people.” That was Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s message to “low-ranking” members of the force on Thursday, during his first visit to Lalbazar as chief minister.

Bhattacharjee was addressing the open session of 13th annual conference of the CPM-controlled Calcutta Police Association, after being given a guard of honour at the headquarters.

“I know many lower-ranking policemen have to function as domestic servants in the homes of senior officers. But I have also been told that a section of lower-ranking policemen actually volunteer their services — the reason for which is unknown to me,” observed Bhattacharjee.

Even as some senior members of the force shifted uncomfortably in their seats, the chief minister carried on with his message to the men in uniform.

“Be friendly with the people and improve the image of the force... I know a poor man with dirty clothes and a rich man getting down from a car are treated differently at any police station. But why should the police refuse to listen to the poor man and pay extra attention to the rich man?” he demanded.

But Bhattacharjee packed the most powerful punch when it came to the crime-cop nexus. “I don’t want to hear from any quarter that a single policeman has links with the underworld. If you have to be rude towards anybody, be rude to anti-socials and criminals and deal firmly with them. The ruder you are to anti-socials and criminals, the happier I will be,” he thundered. “I know the majority of the force is honest and clean and only a handful of police officials is involved in corrupt practices. But the people will blame the entire force for the misdeeds of a few. You have to remain alert and try to earn the confidence of the common people.”

In what resembled a moral science sermon, the chief minister said: “We know there is corruption in every corner of society. But the people talk about a police constable being caught red-handed accepting a bribe of Rs 2 from a truck-driver, and not about corrupt practices in five-star hotels. People cannot accept a corrupt police officer or constable... You must learn to read the mind of the ordinary citizen, who wants a clean police force.”

Bhattacharjee hinted at replacing police ration with allowances, while pledging that the government would “bear all cost of medical treatment” for personnel suffering any injury on duty.

   

 
 
MONKS IN POWER STRUGGLE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 21: 
Tension gripped Chaitanya Research Institute, at the intersection of Rashbehari Avenue and Pratapaditya Road, following a scuffle between two groups of monks late on Wednesday night. Observers said the clash was a fall-out of a long-standing power tussle at the institute.

Police said the scuffle broke out around 10.30 pm after a heated exchange of words. Mala Roy, mayor-in-council, conservancy, had to intervene to restore order.

The institute’s affairs were handed over recently to a new set of monks after five years. On Wednesday morning, members of the new set threw out the belongings of Bhaktikumud Maharaj, one of the older monks, while he was out on his morning walk. They even locked the room from outside.

On his return, Bhaktikumud lodged a complaint at Tollygunge police station. Local people rushed in to advocate for Bhaktikumud. The scuffle erupted when older monks tried to break open the door. The police helped Bhaktikumud re-enter his room.

   

 
 
BIG CATS FREED FROM CIRCUS SHACKLES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 21: 
The state government has banned all performances involving tigers, lions, panthers, monkeys and bears. Forest minister Jogesh Barman said on Thursday that the elephant, too, could be brought under the purview of the ban.

The decision will come into effect from Friday and has been conveyed to all the district administrations and the Calcutta Municipal Corporation.

“We have imposed the ban by exercising the Protection for Cruelty on Animals Act, 1996. We could not enforce the Act earlier as some people had moved the Supreme Court challenging the Act. But the case has been vacated recently. Now, there is no bar on exercising the Act,’’Barman said at Writers’ Buildings.

The government was exploring the possibility of impounding all the tigers and lions owned by circus companies. Sources in the forest department said the state was in favour of sending the animals either to zoos or freeing them in the Sunderbans.

“I know the circus will lose its charm and the number of spectators will decrease in the absence of any performance by the Royal Bengal Tiger or the lion, but we are helpless,’’ Barman said.

The ban follows the incident in Howrah on Friday night in which a teenaged circus employee was mauled to death in the ring by a tiger. Many animal-lovers organisations demanded that the government step in to stop cruelty to animals. They said the tigers are sedated and beaten into submission before being forced to perform.

Soon after the Howrah incident, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee asked the forest and law ministers to explore legal steps to block performances involving wild animals. “Lions and tigers are ferocious animals and teaching them tricks is not only dangerous but means inflicting cruelty on them. Torture cannot become a source of income,’’ the forest minister said.

   

 
 
CIVIC STAFF IN FOR WORK SERMON 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 21: 
The state government plans to rope in private agencies to deliver sermons on work ethics to Corporation employees. Announcing the decision, urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya said on Thursday that consultancy firms will train civic staff in both the city and the districts.

While a reputed firm, specialising in professional management, would train CMC staff, a private consultancy firm, Indian Institute of Bio-social Research and Development (IIBRAD), would impart training in the municipalities elsewhere. “From the mayor to the sweeper, everyone will come under the purview of the training,’’ the minister said.

There will be lessons on implementation of projects, trouble-shooting, public relations and resource mobilisation, as also on keeping records of accounts, fund utilisation, and computer operations.

According to sources, while discipline has been imposed at Writers’ Buildings and other government offices through vigil by senior officials, the situation has not improved in the municipalities for want of watchdogs. “I have instructed the executive officers to maintain order,’’ Bhattacharya said.

IIBRAD has started work at Siliguri Municipal Corporation to make it a model.

Asian Development Bank will fund the scheme in Calcutta, the minister said. “ADB is providing Rs 1,200 crore for the city’s development. The CMC staff should be trained to implement such expensive projects. Since more than 50 per cent of our development funds are spent through the district civic bodies, training is required at the local level, too,” he added.

   

 
 
ADULTERATORS GO UNSCATHED 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 21: 
The civic authorities are suspiciously indifferent about pursuing the long-pending food adulteration cases in the high court. Not a single person charged with adulteration has been punished in the past 12 years.

According to civic health department records, more than 150 cases, filed by the Corporation, are pending for 12 years. “A section of the Corporation’s law department is involved with the offenders,” said a senior official of the civic food laboratory.

Over the past 20 years, more than 300 traders were sentenced to jail by municipal magistrates. But they were neither punished nor their trade licences cancelled by the Corporation, a senior health inspector said.

“The offenders challenged the municipal court verdict in a higher court while the Corporation’s law department sat on the cases,” another official said.

Subrata Basu, superintendent of the Corporation’ food laboratory said: “We haven’t receive any order on these cases from the high court in the past 10 years.”

Of the 150 adulterated samples tested between 1996 and 1999, more than 35 per cent of the cases were caused by edible oils and 16 per cent by spices.

Cases were slapped against major restaurants, oil dealers and spice and ketchup manufacturers. Among these were eateries like Chung Wah, Aliah, Sweet Home and Punjabi Hindu Hotel, Pavan Caterer of Burrabazar, wholesalers of paan masala and oil dealers in Posta and Burrabazar.

   

 
 
MINIMUM LINES FOR MAXIMUM EFFECT 
 
 
BY SOUMITRA DAS
 
Calcutta, Dec. 21: 
Perhaps he doesn’t have a cutglass accent. But even while he is being interviewed, it becomes apparent that Gerard Hemsworth does have some of the qualities one associates with a good teacher. He speaks in measured tones, he never seems at a loss for words, and he has a dry sense of humour that may catch one unawares.

Thankfully, he does not have pedagogic views — which is quite understandable, as Hemsworth is director of post-graduate studies and professor of fine arts at Goldsmith’s College in London, one of the most progressive art schools anywhere.

He was in Calcutta earlier this week on a 10-day trip because it is “important for me to learn about other cultures.” Besides meeting artists in the city, he made a short trip to Bhubaneswar to sample the indigenous culture.

Back again in the city, he looks cool and collected, somewhat like the pictures he paints. A passing acquaintance with an artist is not one of the best ways of forming an opinion about his/her work. And to do so from the transparencies of his/her works is nothing short of sacrilege. But since the transparencies were very large and clear in this case, one can perhaps hazard a guess. Hemsworth uses the minimum of lines to maximum effect. Leavened with his wry humour, he could be a minimalist Beardsley.

About the “style” of his paintings, Hemsworth says: “I never feel I have to restrict myself to a particular style.”

He does consider himself a conceptual artist, though “I never really liked the title. All art has a concept, even by default. I am interested in producing art that is meaningful — as opposed to something that has meaning.” Half in jest, he makes it clear that he is “competing with artists of this generation,” rather than his own.

Hemsworth is a product of the exciting times when the Coldstream Report of 1963 radically changed art education in England. A whole new set of criteria was introduced to assess young artists. Hemsworth was at the St Martin’s School of Art, and though he had chosen sculpture, he had painted all along. He has been doing so for the past 20 years and has held 51 personal shows in Europe and the US.

At Goldsmith’s College, the course is unprescribed and the student, his/her concerns and ideas, are at the centre. It is the job of the tutor to enable him/her to develop a programme both reflective and critical. Finally, it takes a count of what a student learnt and s/he is expected to take responsibility for what s/he does.

London, Hemsworth asserts, has had the most exciting art scene for young artists for the past 10 years. Earlier, New York and Cologne were the international art capitals, but now it is London. Many young artists have moved into London from all over the world. He mentions the name of Charles Saatchi, who owns the largest gallery, as being very supportive, snapping up the works of young artists.

Meantime, Hemsworth is planning a meet between 12 British and Indian artists. If everything goes smoothly, that will happen in Calcutta at the end of next year.

   

 
 
POLICE ASSAULT CHARGE ON TRINAMUL TRIO 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, Dec. 21: 
Police have lodged an FIR against three Trinamul Congress leaders, Pankaj Banerjee, Sanjay Bakshi and Dilip Das, for assaulting on-duty policemen and ransacking the Pursura police station in Hooghly on Wednesday, inspector-general of police (law and order), Prasun Mukherjee said today. All three leaders are MLAs on Congress ticket.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said he had asked the home secretary and director-general of police to submit a report on the incident. “No one will be spared whoever he may be. The administration will take stern action against those involved in assaulting the police and ransacking the police station,’’ Bhattacharjee said.

Rail and road traffic in Hooghly district was crippled as Trinamul workers put up chain blockades to protest against the arrest of two of their leaders over the incident. Police today arrested two Trinamul leaders, Hasan Imam and Samir Bhandari, and conducted raids in different areas of Uttarpara and Konnagar in search of another party functionary, Dilip Yadav.

Pinaki Dhamali, chairman of the Trinamul-controlled Uttarpara municipality, said: “We had to organise road blockades at four places as the police raided several houses of Trinamul supporters during the night in search of Dilip Yadav.”

Party activists squatted on the rail tracks and roads at Dankuni, Uttarpara, Makhla, Rishra and Konnagar for several hours.

Banerjee, along with other MLAs, including Jatu Lahiri, Ambika Banerjee and Pulak came to Writers’ Buildings to meet the chief secretary and lodge a complaint against “police atrocities” in the districts. They, however, failed to meet both the chief secretary and the home secretary.

Later, they met DGP Dipak Sanyal and lodged a complaint with him in which they alleged that the police is working in tandem with the CPM.

Speaking to reporters later, Banerjee said the CPM and the police were jointly attacking Trinamul supporters. But he denied assaulting the policemen, saying the charge was a “conspiracy”.

   

 
 
POUS MELA SET FOR TOURIST HIGH 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Santiniketan, Dec. 21: 
A record number of tourists will flock to Santiniketan in the next few days as the annuapous mela coincides with the centenary celebrations of Patha Bhavan.

Thousands are making a beeline for the township from across the country and abroad, giving owners of hotels and lodges a trying time. Over 25,000 tourists have already arrived and several thousand more are likely to land in the coming days, sources said.

The centenary celebrations of Patha Bhavan, founded by Rabindranath Tagore to impart education under the influence of nature, will begin on December 23. The attraction is greater this time as Nobel laureate Amartya Sen will be present.

“There will be more than 10 lakh tourists in the next three to four days. On an average, there will be a rolling population of three lakhs daily during the period,” a government official said.

He said there were only about 75 hotels in the township, including private and government ones. These could accommodate a maximum of 6,000 visitors. “You can imagine the rush in the hotels as the total capacity is far below the total tourist turnout,” he added.

Most hotels, resorts and lodges are packed to capacity. A large number of tourists are being accommodated in residential houses at exorbitant rates. Hotels with vacant rooms are charging high rates, up to even five or six times more than the original charge.

“We have hired a room in a local residential house near the mela ground for three days,” said M. Mukherjee, a bank employee from Calcutta. He will put up in the room, at Rs 800 a day, along with five family members.

Visva Bharati University officials said there would be a larger number of stalls in this year’s mela. A committee will ensure that stalls have proper fire fighting arrangements.

Hourly bus services could be introduced to ease the tourist rush. Measures have been taken to streamline traffic. A police control room will be set up.

Book on Ray

Amartya Sen will release a book on Satyajit Ray written by Bijoya Ray and Bangladeshi photographer Amanul Huq tomorrow.

   
 

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