Police chief issues licence to kill
Basu backs Buddha line of fire
Walk with the river, by the river, for the river
Science for the kids
Perception shift key to Bengal’s infotech success
Disunity ails Manipur Opp. still divided
Xmas unites Orissa communities
Trader freed from captivity
Agartala-Dhaka bus service likely next year

Calcutta, Dec. 26: 
On Monday, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee told the police to “use those guns that the government has given you to combat crime”. On Tuesday, police commissioner Dinesh Vajpai carried the chief minister’s orders one step forward.

“I have instructed my officers to track down criminals and tackle them with an iron hand. Policemen have been clearly told to shoot down these criminals in encounters,’’ he said at his official chamber in Lalbazar.

Vajpai explained how a special cell, the criminal intelligence wing, had already been set up to get cracking on a list of criminals prepared by the police in the wake of the recent murders and robberies.

“We will provide all assistance to officers who risk their lives in encounters with criminal gangs, so that they are not harassed by certain sections of people who are more concerned about the rights of criminals than the lives of the ordinary citizen,’’ the police commissioner said, taking a swipe at the rights activists.

Admitting that the chief minister’s public declaration on Monday, while inaugurating the new Kasba police station, will boost the morale of the force in its drive against growing criminalisation in the city, Vajpai gave an assurance that his men would follow a policy of “iron fist in velvet glove’’.

“Police officers at every thana should know each and every individual residing in their jurisdiction and interact with them on a regular basis. They should have information on local residents at their fingertips. This will not only help the police gain the confidence of the people but will also deter young boys of the area from taking to crime,’’ he said.

Taking a tough stand on the criminal-cop nexus, the commissioner sounded a note of warning to officers maintaining links with the underworld.

“Such policemen will be punished... A policeman cannot and should not have anything to do with criminals. We have our way of finding out who has links with whom... Six thousand such policemen have already been punished.”

Promising “greater accountability in the force in 2001”, Vajpai said no distinction would be made between IPS officer and constable if either was found to have any truck with criminals.

The police chief claimed that the force was gearing up to meet the challenges of the new year. “The policeman of 2001 will be a complete man. He will be trained in medicine, management and psychology by experts.’’

The force will also carry forward public interaction programmes, like Janasanjog Sabha, Naba Disha, free medical camps, and community sports, to build bridges with the common people.

In what was an obvious reference to the chief minister’s instructions to the police to be more “accessible and sympathetic to the common man”, Vajpai urged citizens to get in touch with him “directly” if they were dissatisfied with the functioning of any local police station.

“I will look into their complaints personally. Any dissatisfied Calcuttan is free to approach me in my office,’’ he declared.

The police commissioner, however, reiterated that Calcutta was an “oasis of peace”.

Rattling off statistics to bolster his argument, Vajpai said only 72 murders had taken place in Calcutta in 1999, compared to 340 in Mumbai and 647 in Delhi.

The Crime in India statistics published by the Central government have mentioned that the crime rate of Calcutta, at 90.4 per one lakh of population, is the lowest in the country. Mumbai’s crime rate is pegged at 174.6 per lakh of population while that of Delhi is 528.3,’’ he concluded.


Calcutta, Dec. 26: 
Deflecting the criticism directed at chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Jyoti Basu on Tuesday sided with his protégé, endorsing Bhattacharjee’s message to the police to act tough against criminals. “If criminals attack the police with bombs and bullets, are the police expected to hurl rosogollas in return? Police will have to resort to firing as they don’t carry bombs,” Basu told The Telegraph.

The former chief minister felt his successor’s observation was a reminder to policemen of their fundamental duty to combat crime, if necessary, with guns.

“The police must first try to arrest criminals without applying physical force. But, if the criminals use guns and bombs to resist arrest, the police will have no option but to resort to firing,” Basu said.

“Dacoits come armed to the teeth, prepared for violent combat. To tackle such elements, the police have always had the right to shoot in self-defence,” he added.

CPM insiders said Basu’s support for Bhattacharjee was reflective of the state party leadership’s endorsement of a hard line against organised crime, which it reckoned, would impact favourably on the electorate before the Assembly polls in April next year. Senior CPM leaders, however, declined to go on record on the subject.

Several political parties and rights activists on Tuesday came down heavily on Bhattacharjee for offering the police a free hand to gun down criminals without bothering about human rights.

Members of the West Bengal Pradesh Mahila Congress held a demonstration at Bhawani Bhavan in Alipore, condemning the chief minister’s statement. Krishna Debnath, leader of the party, said they submitted a memorandum to the chairman of the human rights commission, Mukul Gopal Mukherjee, in this regard.

She said the party will move the National Human Rights Commission as Bhattacharjee’s instructions will prompt the police to “eliminate activists of Opposition parties in the state before the Assembly polls”.

State Congress leader Saugata Roy called Bhattacharjee’s remarks “irresponsible and undemocratic” and said: “The chief minister will only make the police trigger-happy. They will, henceforth, shoot innocent civilians and put arms in their hands to justify the shooting.”

Pankaj Banerjee of the Trinamul Congress threatened to move Amnesty International and the national and state rights commissions on the issue. “The chief minister’s remarks will encourage the growth of fascism,” he alleged.


Calcutta, Dec. 26: 
London, Sydney, Barcelona, Prague, Paris... all these cities by the riverside have turned their focus long ago on the beautification of the riverfront.

Calcutta stands a chance of being included in this list, going by recent projects. Over a year ago, after several meetings with all the agencies involved, the CMDA took the initiative to change not only the looks of the Hooghly banks but also the concept of what a river could mean to this 310-year-old city.

Tuesday marked the first anniversary of the opening of the Millennium Park on the Calcutta side of the river.

The anniversary celebration through a day-long Nadi Utsav, or river festival, provided an opportunity to create awareness about the riverside’s beauty.

The day started with a “walk for the river”, in which about 1,000 people covered a distance of 1.5 km on foot on the Strand from Prinsep Ghat to the Millennium Park. The walk was flagged off by Saurav Ganguly, whose presence created quite a flutter among the walkers. He could walk only a few paces before he was forced to get into a car, to be driven to the nearby destination, where he stayed till the close of the rally.

Many participants, quite a few of whom were schoolchildren, held banners saying: “Walk with the river, by the river and for the river.” They also conveyed the message that the river was not meant to be misused but was there for the people’s benefit.

The marchers included urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya, football players Chuni Goswami, P.K. Banerjee, Subrata Bhattacharya, and cricket players Arun Lal and Saba Karim. The evening’s function was attended by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and mayor Subrata Mukherjee.

Other than the CMDA, the other agencies involved are the Calcutta Port Trust, which lit up both Howrah bridge and Vidyasagar Setu, Coal India, the Army, which supplied music by the Gorkha training centre band, the river traffic police, which played a band on a boat, the Indian Chamber of Commerce, British deputy high commission, West Bengal state transport corporation and NGOs like PUBLIC, which organised a sit-and-draw competition for children.

“These organisations are all members of the task force set up for riverfront development,” said Debashis Sen, CMDA secretary. “The London River Commission, which was consulted on measures that could be taken up, had recommended efforts to build awareness about the river and its potential to improve the city’s identity.”

A magic show, Rabindrasangeet recitals, an Odissi performance by Dona Ganguly and a fireworks display were the highlights of the evening.

Five-year-old Samir had the time of his life. The child, who lives on Kidderpore streets, said a launch ride was beyond his dreams. On Tuesday morning, 25 children like him took rides on five launches.

Their faces covered with dragon masks, heads with sun hats, the children on four launches and seven country boats slowly reached the Millennium Park.


Calcutta, Dec. 26: 
The National Children’s Science Congress, a major event aimed at inculcating a scientific temperament in children across the country, will go into its eighth edition for three days beginning Wednesday on the BE College campus at Shibpur, Howrah.

Samar Bagchi, spokesman for the organising committee, said on Monday that nearly 700 children would form the bulk of the 1,200 delegates to the congress, at which discussions will be devoted to the theme ‘Indigenous scientific knowledge for a better tomorrow’. Young scientists from Saarc countries and Germany will also present their projects.

The child-delegates from India were chosen from a total of nearly 700,000 pupils who went through a multi-layered screening process in about 800 schools in different parts of the country. A child-delegate was picked only after he or she successfully completed the screening sequences between the school and state levels. Uttar Pradesh is believed to have sent the largest delegation to the congress, which takes into account the size of a state’s population while working out the strength of a delegation.

Bacchi Singh Rawat, Union minister for science and technology, will inaugurate the event in the presence of national professor of science Yash Pal, who is chairman of the congress network as well, A.P. Mitra, former director-general of CSIR, and a host of prominent scientists.

The child-delegates will be presenting their papers before eminent scientists in 10 parallel sessions over the next three days. This is the first time that the congress is being held in Bengal. The programmes include an exhibition, a nature fair, an activity corner for teachers and a children’s film festival.


Calcutta, Dec. 26: 
For Bengal to be the IT hub that Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee craves, the state will have to sell itself right to the western world.

That’s according to Kaushik Basu, C Marks professor of economics at the Cornell University: “The fundamentals of the state are favourable, but the perceptions are poor.” Basu was talking to The Telegraph after his captivating one-and-a-half hour lecture on ‘Policy Making in the New Knowledge Driven Economy: Policy Options & Prospects for India’, organised by the Calcutta Management Association in honour of its founder-president, Sir Jehangir Ghandy.

He pointed out that the state’s success in the social sector and recording higher growth rates in the ’90s should be publicised to generate interest in the state.

“Such endeavours will change the perception that nothing happens here and will reflect the enthusiasm of the government in bringing in new investments. States like Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have been successful in creating this perception and have attracted investment.”

Referring to the industrial scenario in the state, Basu blamed the government’s inward- looking policies and its overemphasis on domestic capital.

“Business in West Bengal has been primarily dominated by a small and protected group. Exposing these businesses to international competition and capital will be to the state’s advantage,” he added.

Earlier, in his lecture, Basu touched upon the various facets of a global economy in the knowledge era. He mentioned the opportunities and threats for India from globalisation and prescribed ways to handle it. Basu, however, concluded his presentation on a positive note: “We can’t sit back and we must take part in the global competition. Given the opportunities, I think India will do better.”

A panel discussion chaired by ITC chairman Y.C. Deveshwar followed Basu’s lecture.

The panellists included J.P. Chowdhary, chairman, Titagarh Industries, Ranjan Das, professor, IIM-C, Raj Jain, managing director, R.S. Software, N.R. Madhava Menon, vice-chancellor of National University of Juridical Sciences, Roopen Roy, executive director, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Abhijit Sen, co-chairman, Nicco Corporation and Joe Silva, chairman, Caltiger.com.


Imphal, Dec. 26: 
Disunity in the Opposition over the issue of leadership has come as the main hurdle in toppling the W. Nipamacha Singh-led United Front of Manipur ministry.

Though the Opposition has arrived at a consensus on Speaker Sapam Dhananjoy’s leadership, things are not sailing smoothly.

The differences between the BJP and Congress has also been a stumbling block. A senior Congress leader told The Telegraph today that they agreed to Dhananjoy’s leadership, but warned against the saffron party’s “opportunist moves”. He said some BJP leaders were undoing the Opposition’s plans.

“We cannot be at the mercy of BJP,” he said, adding that his party may be compelled to walk out if the “BJP continues playing treacherous games.” He said his party was sincerely working to provide an alternative government in the state.

The cloud of confusion prevailed in Manipur politics as the current impasse entered its 42nd day today. While many ruling UFM ministers were not sure of the government’s survival, the Opposition was also not confident about forming an alternative government.

However, many leaders in the ruling and Opposition camps were of the opinion that President’s rule was the alternative at this juncture.

Speaker Dhananjoy, BJP legislature wing leader R.K. Dorendra Singh and Congress legislature party leader Radhabinod Koijam are in a tug-of-war over leadership. The bitter battle between Dorendra Singh and Koijam has prevented many ruling members from switching to the Opposition camp and these “ministers” also do not approve of Dhananjoy’s leadership.

Many Congress legislators were planning to split the party and join ranks with Samata Party headed by Union defence minister George Fernandes. But sources said the idea has not gone down well with the BJP as it would enable the Samata Party to stake claim to leadership because of its higher numbers. The BJP has six MLAs in the 60-member Assembly, but Samata Party’s strength would exceed it in case of a split in the Congress.

“Why are BJP leaders so concerned about the Congress? Earlier, they wanted the Congress to split and when it has become a reality, they (the BJP) are opposing it,” said a dissident Congress leader. He alleged that BJP leaders were informing Rishang Keishing about its dissidents’ moves. Keishing is trying to keep his flock together.

The major partner in the ruling UFM, the Manipur State Congress Party of Nipamacha Singh is still trying to establish a rapport with central Congress leaders.

Nipamacha thinks that a Congress-MSCP coalition could be the only answer to the BJP’s threat of President’s rule in the state. However, no concrete shape could be given to the plans.

A senior Congress leader said there was no question of his party supporting the MSCP’s leadership. He said if the MSCP offered Congress the leadership, such a proposal could be discussed.

Sources said while Nipamacha proposed an MSCP-Congress coalition, the Congress was insisting on MSCP’s “home-coming” to the party. Nipamacha Singh had engineered a split in the Congress in December, 1997 and Congress leaders are still sore about it.

Fifteen MSCP legislators, including several ministers, have sent feelers to the Opposition camp saying they can split the party only if the leadership issue is finalised.


Berhampur, Dec. 26: 
The situation in the Kotagarh area of the Kandhamal district is back to normal as Harijans and tribals celebrated Christmas in harmony.

The two Christian communities clashed last week over the death of a tribal, who was allegedly killed by the Harijans. Subsequently, the Harijans said nearly 120 of their houses were torched following which they fled their villages.

Kandhamal police said the Harijans and tribals attended Kotgarh churches in great numbers to celebrate Christmas and no untoward incident was reported. Most of those who fled their villages returned home on the eve of Christmas, police said.

The post mortem report of the tribal man, however, ruled out the possibility of murder, saying he had died of cold. The victim’s body was found on a village road on December 18. The tribals suspected that he had been killed by the Harijans over a land dispute.

According to official sources, although the Harijans alleged that the tribals had destroyed nearly 120 houses, investigations revealed only three cattle sheds were damaged. But anticipating violence, nearly 150 families of Sartuli, Pangalpaora, Sarkui, Sindhiguda and Subarnagiri villages fled to Kotagarh for shelter.

The deputy inspector-general of police (southern range), Kandhamal collector, superintendent of police were camping in the area for three days.


Jamshedpur, Dec. 26: 
Leading Dhanbad industrialist Ashok Jalan returned home early this morning under mysterious circumstances after being held captive for 12 days by his abductors.

He was abducted by unidentified, armed men on December 14 morning while on his way to the factory. Whether he was kidnapped for ransom is yet to be confirmed.

Dhanbad police have, however, taken credit for the industrialist’s “safe return” saying it was because of the pressure mounted by the police after intensified operations in at least three states, including West Bengal and Bihar, that the abductors finally gave in and released Jalan.

“No ransom was paid. He came aboard a bus and landed at the government bus stand at Bartand near his house. He then approached the policemen on duty at one of the pickets and disclosed his identity. The policemen identified him immediately and he was rushed home,” Dhanbad superintendent of police Abdul Gani Mir told newsmen.

Jalan was clad in the same attire that he was wearing at the time of his abduction. He had grown a beard and his hair, too, was unkempt when he arrived at the bus stand this morning. The only addition was a “monkey cap” believed to have been provided by the abductors.

“He looked ill and was even unable to speak properly. He was weak and pale and could hardly walk. The policemen on duty at the picket immediately provided him relief and rushed him home,” said one of the police officers of Dhanbad Sadar police station.

But the police have failed to locate the bus that brought Jalan to Dhanbad. What remains a mystery is the destination and the identity of the abductors. However, Mir claimed that the police would soon establish the identity of the gang involved.

According to Raju Jalan, one of the brothers of the victim, the SP had a close-door “chat” with Ashok Jalan soon after he returned home. “We do not know what transpired as all the family members were asked to leave the room. But we came to know later that he travelled for at least six hours before reaching Dhanbad,” he told The Telegraph over telephone. The industrialist was down with serious throat infection besides low blood pressure and a high sugar count, he said. “He was held captive in a dense forest and could not even sleep properly,” Raju said.

While Jalan refused to speak to newspersons, after many requests, his family members allowed some photographers to click his pictures. The police, however, said after being abducted in a blue Armada jeep, Jalan was forced into a Maruti van waiting at some distance and blindfolded. The abductors served him food, offered him cigarettes occasionally but did not provide him medicines for his diabetes despite entreaties.


Agartala, Dec. 26: 
The long-awaited bus service between Dhaka and Agartala is likely to begin early next year after a formal understanding is reached by leaders of the two countries.

An indication to this effect was available yesterday when a Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation bus carrying officials of the country’s surface transport department visited Akhaura checkpost on the western outskirts of the capital city.

A team of newsmen from newspapers and TV channels and photographers went there and waited for the arrival of the Bangladeshi bus. The bus reached no man’s land on the Bangladeshi side at 5.30 pm after covering a distance of 140 km from Dhaka and the team of officials made a thorough inspection of the road.

Sources at Akhaura checkpost said the officials of the Bangladesh transport department found that only a 16-km stretch of the 140-km-long road between Akhaura checkpost and Dhaka needed to be widened. The 16-km stretch of road which requires widening is from Akhaura checkpost to Dharkha in Bangladesh.

The Bangladeshi officials told the waiting newsmen that the road extension work would be completed within the next month to ensure that the bus service can begin on time. On the Indian side, a 2.5-km-long stretch of road from Agartala town to Akhaura checkpost has been converted into a double lane to facilitate easy movement of vehicles.

Officials of the state transport department feigned ignorance about the arrival of the Bangladeshi bus at the Akhaura checkpost yesterday but said a meeting was held between the foreign secretaries of India and Bangladesh in Delhi on December 13 to discuss beginning of train services between the two countries in the northeastern sector. The meeting decided that the Dhaka-Agartala bus service would start from early next year.

Union minister of state for external affairs Ajit Kumar Panja also indicated on December 10 here that priority was being given to start the service. The Dhaka-bound bus from Agartala will travel through Darkha, Ashuganj, Tongi and Bhairov Hari, sources said. They added that external affairs minister Jaswant Singh may visit Bangladesh to hold discussions on the matter.

Three killed: Three persons were killed by unknown miscreants in different places of West and South Tripura districts. Police said today two persons were killed at Aralia and Khayerpur in West Tripura district while another was shot dead at Birganj.


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