Dacoit duo in night trap
Road-rage after woman’s death
Mamata pitch to rescue PSUs
Architects flash Bypass alert
BJP member quits panel
Plea to save democracy in Manipur
CM speaks infotech home truths
Road robbery
Sikkim seeks Bengal boost to tourism
CRPF men ambushed

 
 
DACOIT DUO IN NIGHT TRAP 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 24: 
In a late-night operation, which continued till early Saturday morning, the city police swooped down on a ramshackle Narkeldanga house to arrest gangsters Bishnu and Paresh Das. Six revolvers, a huge quantity of ammunition and 28 bombs were seized from a room in the house where the gangsters had taken shelter.

Bishnu and Paresh were wanted in more than two dozen dacoities in the city and in North and South 24-Parganas.

According to the police, Bishnu and Paresh were a part of an inter-district gang of criminals. The two admitted that they shared information with gangs of other districts and often committed dacoities together. Sleuths of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and senior officers of North and South 24-Parganas will interrogate them at the Amherst Street police station where they have been detained.

Police had been tipped off that Paresh and Bishnu were hiding in a house in Narkeldanga. On Thursday, policemen chalked out a plan to storm the house. On Friday evening, eight police officers in three private vehicles set out for Narkeldanga. Officers said the lane was too narrow for vehicles to enter. So they parked them on the main road.

“We walked about half a kilometre to reach the ruined house,’’ the officer said. Three policemen took up positions near the entrance, while others surrounded the house to cut out all escape routes.

Paresh and Bishnu were sleeping on a mat in one corner of a room. Policemen barged into the house and asked them to surrender. The two startled men woke up and gave themselves up. While two policemen stood guard, the others began to search the house. Suddenly, Paresh made a dash, but he could not proceed very far as three policemen standing guard at the entrance caught hold of him and pinned him down. A search of the house yielded large quantities of arms and ammunition and bombs.

According to officers investigating the case, Paresh and Bishnu told policemen that they had been on the run for the past three years, and they never stayed in any particular house for more than six months.

“We have seized a diary and some documents from them. Investigators are working on information and cross-checking the names mentioned in the diary,’’ police said. Another team will soon raid other areas mentioned by the two gangsters.

Rescuer rescued

Firemen rescued Swapan Paul, 35, from a manhole near the Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday. Paul had gone down the manhole to rescue a goat which had fallen in. Local people discovered Paul gasping for breath in the manhole and informed the fire brigade.    


 
 
ROAD-RAGE AFTER WOMAN’S DEATH 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 24: 
There was tension in Rajabazar on Saturday morning after a 60-year-old woman, Hamida Begum, was knocked down by a private bus on APC Road around 11 am.

A mob set the vehicle on fire but the driver managed to flee. The police resorted to a lathicharge to disperse the mob that blocked APC Road immediately after the incident. Traffic movement in north Calcutta was disrupted for about half an hour following the accident. A Sealdah-bound bus on route 44A hit the woman while she was crossing the road, police said.

Locals demanded that speed humps be constructed as soon as possible on the road. A number of accidents have taken place in the same area over the past couple of months and neither the police nor the government has bothered to take action, they said.

“Only last month, a 19-year-old youth was run over by a private bus at the Sahitya Parishad Street-APC Road crossing. But the police have not taken any initiative to impose discipline on speeding vehicles, especially the private buses, which often violate traffic rules”, alleged Tapan Banerjee, a local resident.

Meanwhile, traffic was disrupted on Saturday for over an hour as members of the Pashchimbanga Byabsayi Sramik Sanghstha put up a roadblock at the Amherst Street-Mahatma Gandhi Road crossing in support of the demands of workers in the hardware business.

They said the employees were not getting bonus and other financial benefits for the last one year. The member, mayor-in-council of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation ( Parks and Gardens) Hridayanand Gupta alleged that some businessman assaulted the workers while they were demonstrating.

   

 
 
MAMATA PITCH TO RESCUE PSUS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 24: 
Railway minister and Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee on Saturday said she was negotiating with the Centre to keep the Central Public Sector Undertakings in West Bengal open.

The Centre has announced the closure of eight PSUs in the state and has offered voluntary retirement schemes to most employees.

“I had a talk with Union industry minister Manohar Joshi in Delhi on Friday, when I requested him not to close down the Mining Allied Machinery Corporation in Durgapur immediately. I also held discussions with other Central ministers and requested them to reconsider their decisions on coal mines under the Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL). I also urged the minister for textiles to consider the case of the mills under the National Textile Corporation,” Mamata said, while addressing a gathering at Sahid Minar organised by the Trinamul Intuc on its second anniversary.

Accusing the CPM of “turning the state into a graveyard during its 23-year rule,” Mamata claimed that the state government will pay salaries to its employees only till the next three months, by which time the Assembly polls will be over. “After that they will be asked to opt for voluntary retirement if the Left Front returns to power,” she added.

Mamata challenged Jyoti Basu and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to a political debate over the plight of West Bengal and wanted it to be telecast so that the people of the state could understand “who is their real friend — the CPM or the Trinamul Congress.”

She urged her party supporters to make their January 3 Keshpur rally a success. “CPM leaders are trying to browbeat Trinamul supporters but I am confident of a record turnout,” she added.

Told about Mamata’s demand for a political debate, CPM state secretary Anil Biswas said: “For a change she has developed interest in debate. Till the other day, she used to organise road blockades and gheraos.”    


 
 
ARCHITECTS FLASH BYPASS ALERT 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, Dec. 24: 
Top-notch experts in the field of architecture, who assembled from all over the world to attend the 17th National Convention of the Indian Institute of Architects organised by the West Bengal Chapter, had words of advice as well as caution for city planners.

Architect Balkrishna Doshi of Ahmedabad felt the West Bengal government should “exercise some control” on construction along the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass to ensure a better skyline and better quality of life. “The government should control the plot size, the setback line and even the quality of housing projects, if possible,” he said.

Doshi added that all hierarchies and income groups must be taken into consideration during city planning.

“We should think of conserving energy and generating income from every type of construction. Unlike in Pune or Hyderabad, there is a much smaller demand in Calcutta for new and quality projects,” Doshi observed.

If Doshi was mincing words, Anupam Banerji, professor of architecture and planning, University of Waterloo, Ontario, wasn’t. Launching a scathing attack on the city’s powers-that-be, Banerji said: “The sadly maintained glorious city of Calcutta has reached a critical stage and without political will, no amount of bright ideas or images can be brought to fruition.”

Banerji, a member of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and a Fellow of the Indian Institute of Architects, was back in the city from where he graduated (BE College, Shibpur) to speak at the convention.

Issuing a warning to the city’s administration, Banerji said: “Calcutta is a victim of mismanagement. The city fathers must put their heads together immediately and take a resolution to stop the political bickering, cut out the rhetoric and build the winning project instead of just talking about being in the race... The system here is endemic with corruption and complacency.”

Banerji doesn’t feel the city needs any offshore architectural expertise now. “We should freeze architecture for five years and just do proper planning. Cleaning up the city should be the top priority. We must make more room for pedestrians who are like hunted animals in this chaos, perhaps by making elevated pathways which will follow the streets. We must also return to our children their childhood by building parks along the riverfront,” he said.

   

 
 
BJP MEMBER QUITS PANEL 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, Dec. 23: 
Senior state BJP leader, Col. (retd). Haobam Bhubon Singh today resigned from the high-powered committee constituted by the United Front of Manipur (UFM) government to study the feasibility of withdrawing the Armed Forces’ (Special Powers) Act from the state.

Bhubon Singh termed the committee as a hoax and eyewash. He alleged that it was delaying its recommendations even as three women were on fast-unto-death against the repeal of the Act.

The retired Army officer said though the panel was supposed to submit its recommendations within 20 days, it had met only twice and on two other occasions, the meetings had to be postponed.

The UFM government, under pressure to remove the Act, had constituted the committee headed by deputy chief minister L. Chandramani Singh on December 4.

The Act can be enforced only when an area is declared as “disturbed” by the state government. The entire state was declared as disturbed area in 1980, though it was enforced in some Naga-inhabited districts earlier.

If the government decides to remove the “disturbed area” tag from any specific area, the Act would cease to be in force there.

When the committee was formed, Bhubon Singh was selected as a member, despite criticism from other Opposition leaders. “I thought that I would be able to contribute my experience, but it (the committee) turned out to be a hoax,” Singh said.

Bhubon Singh had served in the Nagaland as a young Army officer during the height of the late A.Z. Phizo’s insurgency. “I have seen how the Act was imposed in Northeast, but killings had never stopped,” he added.

He said the main purpose of the Act was to contain insurgency in Northeast, but it has failed its purpose. “It is a licence to kill. I am deadly against the Act,” he added.

Indicating the collapse of state administration ever since the political crisis erupted, the BJP legislator said, “Today, I sent my resignation from the committee, There was no one to even receive my letter at the state secretariat. That is why I am making this statement to the Press.”

Chandramani Singh had said the committee would meet everyday at 4 pm. However, Singh said it had held only two meetings.

Law minister Gangmumei Kamei, a member of the committee, said the time limit for submitting the recommendations may be extended. Kamei, however, was unaware of Bhubon Singh’s resignation while making this statement.

The committee was formed after three women launched fast-unto-death demanding the withdrawal of the Act. While Irom Sharmila launched her strike on November 5, H. Pakpi and Y. Mema joined her on November 17.

The condition of the three have deteriorated after they refused to break fast despite repeated request by both the government and other public leaders.

The fast-unto-death was launched following the killings of ten civilians by Assam Rifles at Malom village near Imphal airport on November 2.

   

 
 
PLEA TO SAVE DEMOCRACY IN MANIPUR 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Dec. 23: 
A senior member of Manipur State Congress Party has alleged that the BJP, Congress and Union defence minister George Fernandes were plotting to get President’s rule imposed in Manipur through the backdoor as a prelude to instal a “hotchpotch” BJP-led government in the state.

MSCP members, who are camping here, submitted a memorandum to President K.R. Narayanan yesterday. The memo, signed by chief minister W. Nipamacha Singh, deputy chief minister L. Chandramani Singh, deputy Speaker K. Raina and 31 others, including Cabinet ministers and MLAs, urged the President to “use his good offices to save democracy” in the country.

Though the MSCP-led ruling United Front government has a strength of 35 MLAs in the 60-member House, the government was suddenly plunged into a crisis on December 1 when Speaker Sapam Dhananjoy announced that he had admitted the Opposition-sponsored no-confidence motion against the government.

But the House was adjourned sine die without fixing the date for discussion (within the mandatory 10 days) on the no-trust motion, the memorandum said.

MSCP vice-president Joykumar Sharma, who was here to meet the President, said “the bid to impose President’s rule is a ploy to break the nine-month-old government. It is interesting to see that the Congress and the BJP are campaigning and conspiring to topple our government,” he told The Telegraph here today.

State food minister H. Bidur Singh said though the deputy chief minister came here to apprise home minister L.K. Advani of the situation, he was not granted an audience.

The Speaker, though elected on an MSCP ticket, had switched loyalty to the BJP-Congress camp. Bidur Singh said, as of now, his party has no plans to remove the Speaker. Asked about the alleged interest of Fernandes in destabilising the UF government, Joykumar Sharma said the defence minister wanted the lone Samata MLA to be inducted as minister. However, Nipamacha refused to oblige to Fernandes as the Samata legislator was allegedly involved in controversial deals, he added.

He said the conspiracy to destabilise a democratically-elected government enjoying majority does not augur well for the state. “Before the UF government assumed power, the situation in Manipur was worse. Our government has been able to check violence and any move to topple it will only help extremists in the state.”

   

 
 
CM SPEAKS INFOTECH HOME TRUTHS 
 
 
FROM UTPAL BANERJEE
 
Burdwan, Dec. 23: 
Taking the work-culture crusade outside Calcutta, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today asked employees not to take the guidelines on punctuality and performance “lightly”.

“One should not take it lightly. I mean it. I talked to various unions on the issue,” Bhattacharjee said at a reception organised by the district Left Front committee here this evening.

He conceded that the state was lagging behind in information technology because of its initial hesitation to encourage privatisation in engineering education. “But we have to overcome that. We have already set up some engineering colleges in West Bengal with private entrepreneurs,” he added.

The chief minister said even though West Bengal was much ahead in agriculture and primary education, its record in industrialisation was “not satisfactory”.

He, however, added that the scenario was changing fast. Despite adverse publicity and criticism, Haldia Petrochemicals had become a reality. The target was to set up 160 factories in the first year in the downstream, but it has already crossed 355, he said.

Bhattacharjee expressed confidence that by next year, the project will capture “cent per cent” market in Eastern India.

Without mentioning Mamata Banerjee by name, Bhattacharjee said he had told Union home minister L.K. Advani to restrain his Cabinet colleague so that peace could be restored in the violence-scarred areas of the state.

Bhattacharjee rubbished the demand for imposition of President’s rule in the state. “There are 446 police stations in West Bengal. It is true that some disturbances are there in four police station areas. We are trying hard to bring peace. Cooperation of all the political parties are required.”

Bhattacharjee also attacked Mamata’s demand for reservation of jobs for the minority community and on the Kamtapuri movement. He said Mamata was fomenting divisive forces to gain political mileage.

“But her tactics won’t help. The people of Bengal are politically conscious. And they will give a fitting reply in the next Assembly elections,” he said.

Referring to reports that “extreme steps” were being contemplated against transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, Bhattacharjee said: “I have no such knowledge. But some irresponsible statements are causing confusion. So, he has been advised not to indulge in acts or speeches which might create problems.”    


 
 
ROAD ROBBERY 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Midnapore, Dec. 23: 
Passengers of six buses and several trucks were looted this evening at Arabari forest under Salboni police station, police said.

The dacoits fled with more than Rs 5 lakh in cash and jewellery, injuring at least 10 persons.

About 25 armed men, wearing masks, stopped the vehicles with the help of spikes that were hidden under the road.

The passengers, on their way to Durgapur from Puri, have launched a road blockade near Chandrakona road.

   

 
 
SIKKIM SEEKS BENGAL BOOST TO TOURISM 
 
 
FROM PROBIR PRAMANIK
 
Gangtok, Dec. 23: 
Sikkim is all set to court wanderlust-bitten Bengalis to boost its tourism.

Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation (STDC) executive director P.K. Dong made no bones about his intentions. “With the Bengalis’ penchant for holidaying, the STDC is showcasing the 3rd Teesta Tea and Tourism Festival 2000 (TTTF 2000) to target high-yielding tourists from neighbouring West Bengal.”

Dong’s interest in the domestic traffic has been heightened with the suspension of flights to Bagdogra, the only air link to the region, restricting the participation of foreigners.

He believes domestic tourists want to see the maximum number of places in the minimum time at minimum expense. This is where Sikkim steps in.

“The Darjeeling hills have been a favourite haunt of Bengalis for ages. So when people visit Darjeeling and other destinations in north Bengal, we would like to bring them to Sikkim, which is endowed with an abundance of natural and scenic beauty.”

But won’t it hurt Darjeeling? No, says Dong. “Darjeeling can always tap the increasing tourism traffic from Sikkim as it has the infrastructure. Tourists holidaying in Sikkim can be sent to Dooars, which has an untapped tourism potential.”

Dong, who managed the Indian tourism bureau in Europe, said: “The TTTF 2000 will help both Sikkim and Bengal to share the tourism benefits. Sikkim tourism, compared to Bengal’s, is in its nascent stage. If we work together by holding annual tourist fests, we can fulfil our aim of promoting the eastern Himalayan region as a ‘composite’ destination.”

The STDC director sees tremendous potential for Bengal’s Dooars region, which is rich in wildlife, covered with lush tea gardens and speckled with heritage sites.

“The Dooars region is an untapped sector. It offers holidaymakers the excitement of trailing wild animals while indulging in the new concept of ‘tea tourism’, where they can spend a couple of days at the tea gardens. Bengal must project the Dooars as the next-generation tourist destination,” he said.

Dong is optimistic of the festival’s success. “Though the civil aviation authorities are yet to give us a final date for resumption of flights, we are hopeful that it will be done by the time the second phase of the Sikkim chapter of the festival gets under way in the second week of January,” he said.

   

 
 
CRPF MEN AMBUSHED 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, Dec. 23: 
Four persons were killed in an ambush and subsequent shootout at Laldangabari under Manu police station in Dhalai district today.

Two jawans were killed when National Liberation Front of Tripura militants ambushed a CRPF patrol party. The other jawans retaliated and two tribal civilians were killed in the crossfire, CRPF sources claimed.

Police sources said two platoons of the 62nd battalion of the CRPF had gone to the interior areas under Manu police station last night to carry out a special counter-insurgency operation. On their way back to Manu this morning, the jawans at the rear of the patrol party were ambushed by NLFT militants.

Two CRPF constables, Rakesh Chanda and Naresh Sharma, died on the spot. The militants took away a self-loading rifle from one of the slain jawans.

The CRPF personnel travelling in front fired back at the militants who were fast escaping into the jungles. The two tribals killed in the crossfire are yet to be identified, the CRPF sources said.

Deputy inspector-general (range) K. Nagraj and inspector-general of CRPF George C. Podypora rushed to the spot on receiving the information.

Sources said intensive combing operation had been undertaken in and around the Laldangabari area to track down the militants. With today’s casualties, altogether 13 CRPF personnel have been killed by militants in the trouble-torn Dhalai district over the past year.

Ex-rebel killed

A former NLFT militant, who had laid down arms in response to the call of Jamatya Hoda (community council), was shot dead by his former colleagues in Thelakum under Killa police station in South Tripura.

Police sources said Subal Kumar Jamatya of Chhechuabari village had been an active NLFT member till the first week of December. He laid down arms in response to the call of Jamatya Hoda Okra (head priest and community leader) Bikram Bahadur and joined the mainstream.

Within days of his surrender, Jamatya was beaten up and threatened with dire consequences unless he rejoined the NLFT, but he refused to budge.

Yesterday morning, he was dragged away from his residence at gunpoint and taken to an NLFT hideout in Thelakum where he was shot dead.

Infuriated tribals of the area are combing forests in search of NLFT militants responsible for the cold-blooded killing.

Chief minister Manik Sarkar has renewed his call to “misguided elements” of the banned NLFT and Tiger Force for laying down arms and joining the mainstream.

Inaugurating the 55 CRPF Battalion’s “civic action” programme at Kunjaban area under Kalyanpur police station, Sarkar said the militants were doing the “greatest disservice” to the impoverished tribal community by denying them the fruits of assistance and development work of the administration. The “civic action” programme provides assistance to poor tribals and non-tribals and undertakes development work.

Describing the militants’ goal of free Tripura as a “day dream”, Sarkar said it would never come true, but the state and its people would suffer in the process. “Militants should immediately surrender and join the mainstream of life,” he added.

   
 

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