Hrithik-rage ruins Nepal trip
Trio on Delhi trail stopped at station
Shibpur trader shot
Taxi-hijacking gang arrested
Doctors sound ischaemia alert
Swraj Paul preaches ‘can-do-it’ mantra
Top scientists review Bengal contribution
Curfew clamped in Ranchi
Court moved on abduction
Alert to block arms shipment

 
 
HRITHIK-RAGE RUINS NEPAL TRIP 
 
 
BY SOUMYADIPTA BANERJEE
 
Calcutta, Dec. 29: 
The flare-up in Nepal over Hrithik Roshan’s alleged remarks has taken its toll on the tourism industry in the city. Calcuttans are redrawing New Year travel plans, giving old favourite Kathmandu the skip.

The statistics tell the story. An Indian Airlines official said on Friday that only 44 passengers had taken the Airbus-300 to Kathmandu, while the flight returned full, with all 248 passengers on board. Bookings for Saturday’s Calcutta-Kathmandu flight dropped from 200 to 137 on Friday, and more cancellations are feared on Saturday.

Travel agents and tour operators in the city have either cancelled or postponed their conducted tours to Nepal for an indefinite period. Last winter, too, the trade had suffered due to the hijack of an Indian Airlines Airbus by militants from Kathmandu airport.

“I had to cancel all my bookings with Indian Airlines. I am not getting any new tourists for Kathmandu, either. I have suffered huge losses,” lamented K.B. Singhania of Himalayan Holiday Tours and Travels.

“We had sent 35 tourists to Kathmandu a couple of days back. We brought 20 of them back on Friday,” said Netai Sengupta, tour manager of Kundu Travels.

“In Kathmandu, an Indian friend of mine had his shop ransacked two days ago... How can I guarantee the safety of tourists?” said Samar Roy of Safeway Travels, who has stopped all bookings to Nepal.

But if holiday-goers are planning to replace Kathmandu with either Darjeeling or Gangtok, they might as well think again, as the Nepali Bhasha Parishad has decided to launch a “large-scale agitation” in those areas against the filmstar.

“We have decided to launch a full-fledged agitation in Darjeeling and Sikkim from January. All we are demanding is an apology. I don’t understand why Hrithik is constantly denying that he has spoken against the people of Nepal,” said Raj Gopal Bhandari, president of the Nepali Bhasha Parishad. Bhandari claimed the Parishad would also file a criminal suit against Hrithik in the first week of January “if he does not apologise by then”.

The Nepal consul-general in Calcutta, B.R. Ghimire, however, played down the incident. Referring to it as a “minor hiccup”, he said: “Our relation with India is time-tested. It can’t be strained by any individual. Governments of the two countries are against the agitation and are trying to put an end to the imbroglio.”

Meanwhile, the tourists who returned to the city from Kathmandu on Friday had harrowing tales to narrate. “The whole town was tense. Hrithik’s poster with garlands of shoes were being burnt on roadsides. We didn’t dare to venture out of our hotel,” said Palash Dey, a schoolteacher from Bhowanipore.

Tour operator Samar Ranjan Gupta, who has been conducting guided tours of Nepal for the past 17 years, said: “My friends in Nepal told me to go back to India as soon as possible. I don’t see Calcuttans spending their winter holidays in Kathmandu this time.”

But A.K. Banerjee, regional director of tourism (eastern region), said: “It’s just a matter of two or three days. After that, the whole matter will die down.”

   

 
 
TRIO ON DELHI TRAIL STOPPED AT STATION 
 
 
BY DEBASISH CHATTOPADHYAY
 
Calcutta, Dec. 29: 
Sushanta Mahapatra, 12, Ajoy Routh, 11, and Chandan Jha, 12, fled home on Wednesday with stars in their eyes. But they weren’t headed for Bollywood to meet or become Hrithik. Instead, it was destination Delhi. The dream — to meet the “Prime Minister, home minister...” who would help them become “powerful politicians”.

But their great Dilli Chalo dream went bust even before they could board a train on Thursday. Alerted by three unescorted boys demanding tickets for the Capital early in the morning, railway police detained them and got in touch with their parents and guardians.

The story that unfolded bordered on the bizarre. Ajoy, a student of Class VI in Adarsh Hindi School, Bhowanipore, along with Chandan, of Class VII at Jagadamba High School of Lake Market, and Sushanta, a school dropout, are residents of Bedi Danga Second Lane, in Kasba. While Ajoy and Sushanta live in the Lumbini Hospital staff quarters, Chandan resides nearby.

It was Sushanta who played the lead role in the ‘political’ plot. “After watching on television how a chhotamota aadmi can become a powerful leader, we wondered, why not us? For that, we needed to go to Delhi, for which we needed money. So, on Wednesday, when I saw my father keeping lots of money in the locker of his almirah, I decided to put our plan into action. That night, I stole Rs 1,900 from the locker when no one was at home,” confessed Sushanta.

On Thursday, the trio met at around 8 am, boarded a taxi and headed for Howrah station. “We went to the counter, where the man issuing tickets became suspicious and asked us to wait,” said Ajoy. “I became very nervous, as we sat there for over an hour.”

The railway police contacted Sushanta’s father, Govinda Mahapatra, and Bhagwan Jha, Ajoy’s father, along with Udaynarayan Jha, the maternal uncle of Chandan, who rushed to the station. “Railway officer B.D. Bhattacharjee became suspicious over three boys wanting to go to Delhi, without knowing what train they would board. He also checked the currency notes and found them numbered serially, as it was my salary. He found out our addresses from the boys and called Kasba thana, which contacted us,” said Mahapatra. Chandan’s father was furious and refused to go to the station or allow his son back into the house. “Chandan is staying with our uncle,” said sister Bandana on Friday.

An officer of Kasba police station said: “The three boys represent a new trend. Till now, we had heard of kids running away to Mumbai to become filmstars, but never to Delhi to become politicians.”

   

 
 
SHIBPUR TRADER SHOT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 29: 
Fifty-three-year-old criminal-turned-businessman Pravas Dhara, alias Bapi, was killed by four youths, who pumped bullets into him while he was standing in front of his office in Dharmatalla Lane, in the Shibpur police station area, on Friday morning.

Police said Dhara had been accused of killing two locals, Utpal Bhowmick and Debu Ghosh, a few years ago. He was arrested several times in the past few years on charges of extortion, murder and womanising and was out on bail.

A couple of years ago, he had a miraculous escape when three men on a motorcycle fired at him. “Dhara was a notorious gangster who extorted money from businessmen and terrorised women of the area in his heyday,” said a senior Shibpur police station officer.

According to relatives, Dhara had returned from a business tour to Orissa a couple of days earlier to attend his nephew’s birthday.

“He woke up early in the morning and was feeling giddy. So, he wanted to rest till afternoon, but remembered that he had to pay a couple of traders,” said Dulal Dasgupta, neighbour and close associate of Dhara.

Dhara, whose office is hardly 100 yards from his residence, was standing in the narrow lane in front of the office when four young men approached him.

Before he could realise what was happening, they rushed forward and pumped four rounds of bullets into his chest and face. Eyewitnesses said the killers, in their mid-twenties, were waiting for Dhara near a shop, about 100 yards from his office.

As he slumped on the ground, the assailants turned around and got into a white Ambassador that was waiting nearby. Dhara was rushed to SSKM Hospital, where doctors declared him dead.

Initial investigations revealed that Dhara’s rivals were behind the attack. His one-time aides-turned-rivals, Khoka and Pasha, had recently been freed on bail. Police said Khoka had sworn revenge on Dhara, who had raped one of his relatives.

Police suspect that someone who was aware of Dhara’s whereabouts had tipped off his rivals. “Not many people knew he had returned from Orissa to attend his nephew’s birthday,” they said.

“His office and residence are connected by serpentine lanes and bylanes. It is impossible for an outsider to kill a person and flee if he doesn’t know the area,” a Shibpur police station officer said.

   

 
 
TAXI-HIJACKING GANG ARRESTED 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 29: 
A gang of three, who had hijacked at least a dozen taxis to loot a number of business establishments in Ballygunge, Gariahat, Dhakuria and Lake Gardens, was arrested in Sonarpur, South 24-Parganas, on Friday. Detective department officials identified the trio as Jagadish Halder, alias Jaga, Sanjoy Pal, alias Lambu, and Rajesh Chowdhury.

While Jaga and Lambu lived at Chandipur, in Sonarpur, Rajesh lived in Garcha, in the Gariahat police station area. All three were drug-addicts and had been on the hijacking spree since gangleader Jaga escaped from police custody on June 7 last year.

The gang used to start operations early in the mornings and finish before 6.30 am, police said.

   

 
 
DOCTORS SOUND ISCHAEMIA ALERT 
 
 
BY AMIT UKIL
 
Calcutta, Dec. 29: 
Senior cardiologists warn of an increase in the incidence of ischaemic heart disease, so much so that it may take on the form of an epidemic, not only in Calcutta and Bengal, but the whole of south Asia. Based on present lifestyles and trends as well as findings of international studies, these specialists say that people in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh are becoming more prone to the disease, in which there is an inadequate flow of blood to the heart, caused by constriction or blockage of blood vessels, like the coronary arteries.

But the disease and, thus, the epidemic, is preventable. The cardiologists, who were participating in a panel discussion on ‘Cardiac Rehabiliation in West Bengal’, said the incidence can be checked provided people follow a healthy way of life, including regular exercise. “Other than changing lifestyles, studies are on to find out whether the genetic disposition of the population in the region has anything to do with the increasing number of cases,” said Dr Anjan Dutta, president-elect of the Cardiological Society of India.

A symptom of ischaemic heart disease is a pain in the centre of the chest when one is breathless due to exercise, a situation called angina pectoris. This condition is relieved by rest.

The constriction or blockage of blood vessels occurs because there is a degeneration of the walls of the arteries due to formation of fatty plaque.

“This condition is harmful, as it predisposes a person to thrombosis or heart attack,” explained Dr Arup Das Biswas, consultant cardiologist. If drugs do not help relieve the situation, then intervention like coronary angioplasty or bypass surgery may be required to prevent heart attacks. “A diet rich in animal fats and refined sugar, as well as smoking and obesity, coupled with inactivity, are the main causes of the disease,” said Dr Mrinal Kanti Das, senior cardiologist. “The entry of fast food has made matters worse. Such diet is extremely harmful.”

Speaking on cardiac rehabilitation, which is required after surgery or even diagnosis of heart disease, the specialists said there are three phases involved: the first in the hospital, where initial exercise is shown to the patient, second at the outdoor department (where follow-up advice is given); and the third at home, at the workplace and in society.

“The third phase is the most important, as this is where emotional and social rehabilitation of the patient is required.” They said cardiac rehab required involvement and participation of a team, comprising doctors, social workers, physiotherapists and psychologists. “These teams are lacking in our state.”

Cardiac rehabilitation basically means the support package necessary for patients back home from hospitalisation. The discussion was organised on the annual reunion of the Calcutta National Medical College.

   

 
 
SWRAJ PAUL PREACHES ‘CAN-DO-IT’ MANTRA 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, Dec. 29: 
From B.C. Roy and Jyotibabu to Sourav Ganguly, the population problem and corruption to brain drain and wealth of nations to the scope of IT — Lord Swraj Paul spoke about it all when he met students of the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management at the institute’s convocation at Kala Mandir on Friday.

To a question on the population problem, he said: “The government should stop bothering about the population explosion and concentrate instead on spreading education.”

Paul, an ambassador for British Business and the co-chairman of the India-UK Round Table, added that the government should be involved primarily in managing law and order, education and health and “keep itself out of business”. He said raising productivity was the “need of the hour” for Indian business to survive.

On social security, he advocated the path of privatisation for government-run units. “Creation of wealth is the most important thing, as it serves as the base for social security for the majority of the population,” said Paul. He urged the students to feel proud as citizens of India and work towards changing the society.

“Corruption is a problem here, but the concept of zero-corruption is a myth,” said Paul, when asked how difficult it is conducting business in India, compared with the UK.

Paul, who is also chancellor of the universities of Wolverhampton and Thames Valley, felt that successful Indians abroad have increased the demand for Indian professionals and “this presents a great opportunity for young people.”

“But, how do we market and promote ourselves?”, a student asked. “We must believe we can do it. That is the success mantra,” suggested Paul, an alumni of Massachussetts Institute of Technology.

Earlier, at the convocation, students were awarded medals for academic excellence. Dr Pratap Chandra Chunder, president of the board of governors, and Prof Ashoke K. Dutta, director of the institute, addressed the gathering. Lord Paul delivered the convocation lecture on ‘Management Education for Global Business Today’.

   

 
 
TOP SCIENTISTS REVIEW BENGAL CONTRIBUTION 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 29: 
The world would have known Jagadish Chandra Bose better had he continued with his research in microwave radioscience. Even then, eminent scientists on Friday agreed that Bose had “such a wide-thinking brain that he had made a mark in several areas.”

Top researchers from various institutes in the country took part in a lecture session on prominent path-breaking scientists from Calcutta. Other than Bose, names of Meghnad Saha and S.N. Bose also came up for discussion.

The session was organised at the S.N. Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences at Salt Lake on the 66th anniversary of the Indian National Science Academy.

“We have missed many things by not taking J.C. Bose seriously and by relying on the developments in the western world,” said Dr Raja Ramanna, nuclear physicist and mastermind of the first Pokhran n-blast.

Dr A.P. Mitra, former director-general of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, said Bose’s work in millimetre wave radioscience was 30 years before Marconi began his studies in the ionosphere.

Talking of Meghnad Saha, Dr Bikash C. Sinha, director of Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, said: “Saha was an enigma. His association with freedom fighters, whom he had given shelter, delayed his election to the Royal Society.”

Director of the S.N. Bose centre, Prof. S. Dattagupta and Prof. S.P. Sen also spoke on the occasion.

   

 
 
CURFEW CLAMPED IN RANCHI 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Ranchi, Dec. 29: 
The Ranchi administration today clamped an indefinite curfew in all “communally-sensitive areas” of the capital city as mob fury continued over the death of three persons in police firing at Doranda yesterday.

Police opened fire again to disperse an unruly crowd that had gathered at the Doranda cremation ground for the funeral of the persons killed yesterday. One person was seriously injured in the firing.

Two policemen, assistant sub-inspector Sitaram Mahato and his driver Harish, also sustained injuries in the riot that ensued. U.C. Jha, the deputy superintendent of police of Hatia, was injured in a similar riot after the firing at Doranda yesterday. The condition of the police official, who was hit on the head, remained critical today.

An official source said curfew had been clamped in all areas under the jurisdiction of the Hindpiri, Doranda, Hinoo, Lalpur, Daily Market and Lower Bazar police stations. He said additional companies of the Central Reserve Police Force had been requisitioned from various districts of Jharkhand to maintain law and order. The series of incidents since yesterday was sparked by a road accident in which a minor girl was killed. A Bihar Military Police vehicle ran over the girl, killing her on the spot.

Shops and other business establishments downed shutters today in protest against the firing that followed mob fury over the accident.

Despite the administration pulling out all stops to restore a semblance of law and order, tension continued to grip the city. A mob tried to set fire to the Sujata police outpost along Ranchi Main Road even as social workers from the minority community visited various localities and pleaded with the people to exercise restraint. Jharkhand director-general of police T.P. Sinha told newspersons that the situation was tense, but under control. He said the administration had no intention of imposing curfew, but did so in the interest of peace.

Chief minister Babulal Marandi announced compensation of Rs 2 lakh for the kin of each of the three persons killed in police firing. He also instituted an inquiry into the incident. The probe will be conducted by the commissioner and the police DIG.

   

 
 
COURT MOVED ON ABDUCTION 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Jamshedpur, Dec. 29: 
Dhanbad police today pleaded before the district chief judicial magistrate for issuance of arrest warrants against five persons believed to be involved in the abduction of leading industrialist Ashok Jalan.

The five alleged gangsters are Umesh Singh, Manoj Singh and Sanjay Singh from Gaya, Md. Iqbal from Asansol and Bidhan Singh from Dhanbad.

The police and the Criminal Investigation Department are, however, yet to confirm whether a ransom was paid for Jalan’s release. The police have also failed to locate the bus in which Jalan was brought to Dhanbad after his release from captivity.

   

 
 
ALERT TO BLOCK ARMS SHIPMENT 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, Dec. 29: 
A red alert has been sounded along South Tripura’s border with the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh to prevent the entry of a major arms consignment for insurgent outfits of the Northeast.

Apart from deployment of two battalions of special Army commandos, security has been tightened all along south Tripura’s border with the Chittagong Hill Tracts, particularly in Sabroom subdivision, which is only 40 km from Chittagong port.

Police in South Tripura have imposed restrictions on movement of people along the border in Sabroom and also on assembly of people for meetings or processions without prior approval. Police sources here said the personal security of VIPs, including chief minister Manik Sarkar and Governor Lt. Gen. (retd.) K.M. Seth, has been beefed up.

“The hilly areas of South and North Tripura bordering the Chittagong Hill Tracts have emerged as an important corridor for transborder movement of militants of the Northeast. So we are taking no chances,” a source said. A Press note issued by the information department said the ban on meetings and processions in South Tripura would remain in force till March 21 for security reasons. “We are leaving nothing to chance as far as security measures are concerned in the present situation,” the source added.

After receiving feedback from “unimpeachable sources,” Lt. Gen. T.S. Shergill, general-officer-commanding of the 3 Corps based in Dimapur, arrived here on December 6. He had said that two battalions of special Army commandos were being deployed in Tripura to prevent the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah), aided by the ISI, from smuggling in US $ 7.5 lakh worth of arms.

On December 17, a patrol party of the Bangladeshi Navy intercepted a trawler in which 250 boxes containing arms and ammunition were being taken to the Cox’s Bazar area. But before they were caught by the Navy near St. Martin Island on the sea route to Cox’s Bazar, ISI officers and their collaborators dumped all the boxes into the sea. A search for recovering the boxes is continuing. Two senior ISI agents and 28 sailors were arrested and all of them are now in jail or police custody.

Though the first attempt to smuggle in arms had been foiled, there was concrete information that the ISI would make a fresh bid to send the consignment across the border for insurgents of the Northeast as the agency had already received a huge payment. Bangladeshi Navy chief Giasuddin has expressed the hope that the boxes containing arms that were dumped will be recovered from the sea bed as the depth of the sea there is only 85 metre deep.

   
 

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