Pitched battles on day of protest
Holiday mood on year’s first bandh
Youth untraced, parents fear abduction by friend
Coldest day of season ushers in winter chill
A step back in time, a return to nature with all amenities attached
I was born here, recalls Buddha at his old school
Bored with blackboard? Learn with computers
Final poll list on Friday
Non-Manipuris shot dead
Militant held, three abducted in Tripura

 
 
PITCHED BATTLES ON DAY OF PROTEST 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, an. 5: 
Clashes, teargas, lathicharges, burning buses and several injuries in many parts of the city and districts marked the first bandh of the year on Friday.

The 12-hour hartal was called by the Trinamul Congress to protest alleged attacks by CPM supporters at Keshpur on Wednesday, in which Trinamul leader Mamata Banerjee was also injured.

At the end of the day, claims and counter-claims flew as leaders on both sides harped on the success/failure of the bandh.

Trinamul spokesmen said the “people’s spontaneous response showed their dissatisfaction with the Left Front government.” The CPM, while admitting that the bandh was partially successful, said people had to stay indoors because of the terror unleashed by Trinamul workers. Most of the city and several parts of the state were affected by the bandh, with shops and schools closed and public transport mostly off the road. Trains and the Metro Rail did not run, though a feeble attempt was made by railwaymen.

Attendance at government and private offices and establishments ranged between 10 and 30 per cent. In Berhampore, Murshidabad district officials had to cross barriers set up by Trinamul supporters to enter office. But no staff were present.

In the city, trouble broke out near the Shyambazar five-point crossing, at New Alipore, and at Baishnavpara, in Shibpur.

Six teargas shells had to be fired near the Shyambazar crossing after Trinamul and CPM processionists clashed around 11 am.

A mini war broke out on Tollygunge Circular Road between Taratala and B.L. Saha Road. Fierce fighting between the Trinamul workers and the police resulted in 21 injuries.

The deputy commissioner of police (south) ordered a lathicharge. Trinamul councillor Arup Biswas and others were taken to SSKM Hospital and discharged after treatment, but not before they damaged eight state buses and set two more on fire near the New Alipore petrol pump.

The Trinamul and the police clashed also at Sakher Bazar, A constable was injured while the trickle of traffic was held up for about 90 minutes. Councillor Shyamadas Roy was attacked by CPM men while he was returning home. He was admitted to hospital.

Councillor Manila Choudhury and party supporters damaged a bus at Triangular Park and blocked traffic.

Incidents of violence also occurred at Belgachhia, Ultadanga, Beleghata, Wellesley Square, Ganja Park, Sadananda Road, Mominpur, Kidderpore and Behala Chowrasta. At most of these places, Trinamul supporters stopped state buses, threw stones at them and blocked roads.

Metro services had to be stopped after Trinamul workers squatted on the tracks at Bhowanipore, Jatin Das Park and Rabindra Sarobar. The Metro officials switched off power to the third rail.

Services could not resume after 6 pm as, this time, CPM supporters stopped operations at Dum Dum station, saying there was no use running trains that had been off the rails all day.

A total of 341 people, including MP Sudip Bandopadhyay, were arrested all over the city, police said. Tram services were “normal.”

   

 
 
HOLIDAY MOOD ON YEAR’S FIRST BANDH 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, an. 5: 
It was a lazy winter afternoon for Calcuttans, with the ‘gift’ of an extended weekend being enjoyed in true New Year spirit. While some preferred to spend it indoors, many did venture out — either for a game of cricket on the streets, or to head for the nearest funspot.

Among the first to hit the streets on Friday were those rushing to beat the bandh deadline and reach the airport before 6 am. According to a spokesperson, the bandh did not cause any disruption in flight schedules. Only the Indian Airlines flight to Bagdogra could not take off because of bad weather over Bagdogra. Passengers reached the airport in private cars, cycle-rickshaws and even by ambulance.

Also out before daybreak were the delegates attending the fifth annual conference of the All-India Ophthalmologic Society. With a majority of the 2,500 eye specialists reaching Science City before 6 am, the organisers stuck to their schedule. The Science City staff, which had stayed back on Thursday night, made the venue operational, but refreshments fell short as several enthusiastic visitors filed in, most of them on foot.

At the other end of the city, at the Agri-Horticultural Society of India in Alipore, the January flower show recorded 300 entries on the opening day.

“We could not judge the exhibits, but the number of entries on a bandh day was definitely encouraging,” said P.K. Das, joint secretary of the society.

A few hundred metres away, the Alipore Zoological Gardens was open and had visitors trickling in through the day. Director A.K. Das said well over a thousand tickets were sold by the afternoon. “People came walking,” he added.

With the Trinamul Congress bandh-enforcement brigade focusing their attention on public transport, private cars were also seen zipping around in far greater numbers than on earlier bandhs.

At Nandan, the screening of Rituparno Ghosh’s Utsav was held on schedule. “There was a decent turnout for the 1.45 pm show,” said Nandan’s director Angshu Sur. By mid-afternoon, the Nandan-Rabindra Sadan campus wore a festive look. “My friends and I came by bus from New Alipore for an afternoon adda,” smiled Mitali Roy.

There were over 500 visitors to Millennium Park. And at Eden Gardens, a few hundred spectators turned up to bask in the sun and watch Bihar battle Bengal. Supporters for the visitors outnumbered those rooting for the home team.

   

 
 
YOUTH UNTRACED, PARENTS FEAR ABDUCTION BY FRIEND 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, an. 5: 
A 21-year-old final-year B. Com student of a reputed city college has been missing from his Burrabazar residence for over a month. His parents, fearing he has been kidnapped by a “friend and her family”, lodged a formal complaint with Posta police station on December 11. They have also taken the matter to the missing persons squad at Lalbazar.

Narayan Ghosh, deputy commissioner, headquarters, confirmed on Friday that the police had received the complaint. He added that preliminary investigations have revealed that the boy may have fled the city with a girl.

According to the diary lodged by the boy’s father, a businessman based in Ranigunj, his son has been kidnapped by the family of a 19-year-old girl who is reportedly “missing” from the same day.

But the girl’s mother, who works in a private company in the Dalhousie area, held the boy and a common friend responsible for her daughter’s disappearance. “Initially, I didn’t want to make the matter public, but then, after meeting the boy’s parents, I lodged a diary with Ekbalpore police station on December 20,” she claimed.

The boy, who had been studying in Calcutta for the past five years after shifting from Ranigunj, met the girl at a private computer centre in south Calcutta, run by a family friend, who said: “He was a very sincere young man and was handling my work quite efficiently... I don’t know why he disappeared suddenly,” he said.

According to the boy’s father: “He was to leave for Renukoot on December 4 for a family function, but when he hadn’t reach there till the 8th, we got worried.” A missing diary was lodged with Posta police station three days later. Then, they started contacting his friends, who told them about a girl he had met recently through a common friend, and added that the latter had quit her job just before the two disappeared.

“We then tracked down the girl’s mother, who confirmed that she was missing from December 5. We were shocked to learn that she had not informed the police,” said the boy’s mother.

Some of the boy’s friends also feared that he had “fallen into a trap”. “He got friendly with the girl recently... He often told us he wanted to avoid her, but she kept hounding him,” one of them said.

“He called me on December 4, and urged me to meet him as he was in some trouble. He told me he was leaving for Mumbai. But I thought it was just another joke and didn’t bother to meet him,” said another.    


 
 
COLDEST DAY OF SEASON USHERS IN WINTER CHILL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, an. 5: 
Calcutta experienced the coldest day this winter on Friday, with the mercury dipping to 12.9 degree Celsius. It was also the second coldest day on this date in the last three years, according to the Alipore Met office, with 11.8 degrees being recorded on January 5 last year, one degree below normal.

The weather office said this sudden dip in temperature was “routine” and predicted that the cold spell would continue in the coming days, with the mercury plunging further. “The mercury will drop more, at least by a degree, and the chilly conditions will persist in the next three-four days,” said R.N. Goldar, director, Alipore Met office. The cold spell has been caused by cold and dry north-west winds blowing over Gangetic West Bengal.

The lowest temperature recorded in the last decade on this date was in 1990 — 10.4 degrees, three degrees below normal. The Met office said moderate cold-wave conditions were likely to prevail on Saturday over Jharkhand and adjoining districts of the state including Birbhum, Murshidabad, Burdwan, Purulia and Bankura. In Darjeeling, the mercury plummeted to 1.2 degrees on Friday.

The immediate forecast is for a mainly clear sky, with the minimum temperature likely to hover around 11 degrees. On Friday, the maximum temperature recorded was 22 degrees, five degrees below normal. Goldar, however, said: “There is no chance of rain in the near future, as the wind blowing now is dry.” If the dry and chilly conditions prevail, Ganga Sagar pilgrims should enjoy fine weather during Makar Sankranti.

With the 12-hour bandh on Friday, most of the Calcuttans had to spend the coldest day at home. Attendance at offices was poor and most of the favourite winter destinations like the zoo, the museum, Victoria Memorial and Millennium Park drew far fewer visitors.

   

 
 
A STEP BACK IN TIME, A RETURN TO NATURE WITH ALL AMENITIES ATTACHED 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, an. 5: 
Satisfy my soul, that’s all I want you to do....That’s all I’ll take from you— Bob Marley had reggaed.

Satisfaction of the soul is the key to a project that combines the past and the future. It’s a step back in time, a return to nature, but with all modern amenities on hand.

Just an hour’s drive from the city centre, 11.5 km from VIP Road, on the Baguiati-Rajarhat route is Vedic Village. Being developed on Vedic and Vastu principles, by Sanjeevani Projects Pvt Ltd of Clubtown and The Circle fame, it offers Calcuttans sprawling acres of farmland. The aim — to blend the ‘pleasures of nature with the comforts of modern civilisation’.

“It will offer a unique combination of community and resort facilities, organic farming, ayurvedic and natural therapies and a holistic lifestyle for both residents and visitors,” says Raj K. Modi, director, Sanjeevani Projects.

“It’s somewhat unfortunate that the more-developed countries have drawn heavily from our age-old practices of yoga, ayurveda, naturopathy and made these concepts immensely popular abroad through smart packaging. We just want to return to Calcuttans our heritage,” he adds. Vedic Village is thus “a deliberate attempt to return to a simpler and more natural lifestyle, away from the concrete jungle, junk food and urban pollution”.

The raison d’etre of the Village, currently spread across 75 acres, is the farmlands, holdings in multiples of one acre which can be bought by individuals or companies. “But the plot-owners can’t just go ahead and build houses on their own. All farmhouses will be designed by us to blend with the surroundings adopting Vastu principles, using natural materials and traditional building practices,” explains Piyush Bhagat, also a director of the group.

The farmhouses will have thatched roofs, mud-relief walls and terracotta tiles, all typical of rural Bengal, but will incorporate modern amenities inside. The Village will encourage farming without the use of chemical fertilisers or pesticides. Besides cereals, vegetables and fruit plantations, it will have a captive poultry and dairy and plot owners, even if they don’t stay in the Village, can get fresh vegetables, fruits and milk from their farms delivered at their doorstep anywhere in Calcutta.

Besides the unique experience of “real farming”, the Village will offer a complete range of ayurvedic and nature-cure therapy at its health spa. Overlooking the largest lake in the complex, the ayurvedic centre, coming up in collaboration with Ayurveda Pharmacy of Coimbatore, and the naturopathy centre will offer a variety of regimens. “From two-week feel-good sessions to a month-long therapy for chronic disorders like asthma and diabetes,” explains Modi. “One can get rejuvenated through various detoxification programmes using techniques of colonic irrigation, mud baths, body wrap, etc.”

Close to the health spa and surrounding the largest water body in the Village, luxury villas are being built to be rented out for those looking for a weekend retreat or a healing programme. Designed around private courtyards, the villas will be spacious and will offer all modern comforts in a traditional setting. With the area designed just for pedestrian traffic — only silent, elective golf carts are to be permitted — peace and tranquillity will be built-in at this pastoral paradise. A club and a resort will add to the “relaxation and rejuvenation qualities” of the Vedic Village. While the club, with a modern swimming pool, will cater to daily visitors, besides offering packages for residents, the two-storeyed resort will provide various types of accommodation with perhaps a timeshare element attached. The resort will also have a public restaurant designed on the lines of Vishalla of Ahmedabad, serving ethnic gourmet food.

There’ll be an interactive crafts centre as well to enable residents and visitors to try their hand at pottery, weaving, spinning, wood-carving, etc. “We hope to complete the entire project by end-2002, but a large portion of Vedic Village will become functional by this year-end itself,” promises Bhagat.

   

 
 
I WAS BORN HERE, RECALLS BUDDHA AT HIS OLD SCHOOL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 5: 
It was not a pleasant day for the chief minister, but a day of celebration for students of Sailendra Sarkar Vidyalaya, where the chief minister had spent the formative years of his life.

“I was born here. I lived here. I belong here. I belong to this school,” said Buddhadev Bhattacharjee, as hundreds of students gave him a standing ovation.

The chief minister inaugurated a library in his school to commemorate the birth centenary of his teacher and the school’s ex-headmaster, Jyoti Prakash Mitra.

Bhattacharjee arrived at the venue around 5 pm. After a brief felicitation by Sutanuti Parishad, he entered the school to inaugurate the library. “Everything here seems so familiar,” he remarked.

The school sported a fresh coat of red paint. “I distinctly remember where my classroom was, the staircase where we used to hang around and the courtyard where we used to play,” Bhattacharjee recalled.

After the chief minister reached the makeshift dais, it was the turn of his teachers, classmates and students of the school to play their part. The chief minister was greeted with a bouquet. He was then presented with a citation and a memento by classmate Tapan Bhattacharya, now a teacher of the school.

Bhattacharjee was then taken to meet his teacher, Nitai Chandra Kapat. The octogenarian fondly hugged the chief minister when he bent to touch his feet.

“Buddha was one of my favourite students, as he had a heart of gold,” Kapat said. “He came here as such a little boy and when he left the school after Class XI, he had imbibed the best of values,” he added.

Local schools, including Sailendra Sarkar School and Bagbazar Multipurpose School for Girls, handed over bank drafts for the chief minister’s flood relief fund.

The stage was then left to the chief minister. His speech was brief but appealing.

“I still remember Ivanhoe taught to us by our headmaster Jyoti Prakash Mitra. It remains one of my favourite texts till this day,” he said. “Now, subjects like information technology, bio-technology, computer science and astrophysics are revolutionising the world,” he added.

   

 
 
BORED WITH BLACKBOARD? LEARN WITH COMPUTERS 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, Jan. 5: 
For Sneha, 9, and Krishnendu, 10, going to class was never such fun before. The reason is not hard to spot — a computer which, for all intents and purposes, has replaced blackboard and books.

And it’s not for just Sneha and Krishnendu that learning’s suddenly become fun. All 843 students in the Patha Bhaban primary and Montessori sections are “thrilled” with computers coming into their classrooms.

The school has tied up with Calcutta Creative to developed customised software for each subject, except mathematics. English, history, geography... are all brought to life through graphics and animation.

The CDs are used in classes from Montessori to Class IV, with the teacher providing the voice-over.

The impact of the visual medium is immediate and lasting. For example, in geography, kids react to ‘real’ scenes from active, dormant and extinct volcanoes, from life in Pompeii... Multimedia and graphics are used to elaborate principles of science and intricacies of English and Bengali grammar.

“Computers are a necessity in today’s world. But as we didn’t want to add another subject and burden the kids, we have introduced computers in a different way,” explains Pradipta Kanungo, headmistress of Patha Bhaban.

The experiment, which the school authorities introduced in September 2001 after consulting parents, has clearly started yielding positive results.

Computer-aided learning in class has helped teachers “communicate in a comprehensive way and innovate in their teaching style”, and the students have been found to be “more attentive” in class.

So, is it bye-bye blackboards? Well, not with just one computer in each class. “Also,” says Kanungo, “for spontaneous description, the blackboard is still the best tool... Supplementing it with computers can work wonders. Our experience confirms that the audio-visual medium has a lasting impact on kids’ and they enjoy the process of learning without much stress.”

Tanmoy Bhattacharya, director and CEO of Calcutta Creative, is confident that the Patha Bhaban experiment will lead to “a major change” in the way kids are taught in schools.

“We have already sent proposals to more than 30 city schools and most are contemplating introducing the system from the next session,” said Bhattacharya.

   

 
 
FINAL POLL LIST ON FRIDAY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 5: 
The final electoral list will be published on January 12 and the Assembly elections will be held on the basis of that voters’ list, state chief electoral officer Sabyasachi Sen said on Friday.

Sen said polls to all the 294 Assembly seats will be held through the electronic voting machine (EVM). He said 78,000 EVMs have been requisitioned for the 62,000 polling booths in the state.

The electronic voting machine was first introduced at the three parliamentary constituencies in the city. It was then used during the CMC polls and the Salt Lake municipal elections.

Sen said the district magistrates of North 24-Parganas and Nadia have been asked to screen all applications for inclusion in the electoral list, as far too many people had applied. He said issuing photo-identity cards will resume in the second week of January.

   

 
 
NON-MANIPURIS SHOT DEAD 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, Jan. 5: 
Three non-Manipuris, including two officials of the National Project Construction Corporation (NPCC) — an executive engineer and assistant accounts officer, were shot dead last midnight near the Singha dam in Imphal West district.

Though police suspect the involvement of militants, the motive behind the killings is not known. Nearly 15 non-Manipuris were killed in the state last year. Last month, three non-Manipuri traders had been shot dead at Sugunu Bazaar in Thaubal district.

Sources said suspected rebels numbering around five kidnapped the two officials, Arun Kumar Mathur and P.K. Das along with the son of a special contractor, Sashibhushan Verma, around 7.30 pm last night. Their bullet-riddled bodies were recovered this morning on the Imphal-Kangchap Road at Balaram Uku near Singha dam.

According to the police, the victims were first made to lie down on the road and then shot dead from automatic weapons. Search operations have been launched in the area to trace the marauders.

The Singha multi-purpose project which supplies drinking water to the state capital is under the NPCC. The Singha dam is the biggest water reservoir in the state and the corporation has been working here since its construction.

Director-general of police D.S. Grewal told The Telegraph that killings of non-Manipuris have set a bad trend in the state. Underground militants in Manipur were now training their guns on soft targets, he added.

Asked if the incident had any link with similar killings of non-Assamese in Assam, the senior police official said the police so far has no knowledge of any link between the perpetrators of the crime in Manipur with that of those in the neighbouring state. He said security cover would be provided at the project site.

While Mathur, the executive engineer, was from Agra, Das hailed from Silchar in Assam. Sashibhushan, the third victim, hailed from Bihar. He was assisting his father M.P. Verma, a contractor with the corporation.

The NPCC has been facing threats from militants. Rebels had burnt down its offices along a garage and vehicle at the Singda dam in May last year.

Convoy ambushed

Militants ambushed a convoy of the Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) at Oksu village in Manipur’s Imphal East district today, reports PTI. Nobody was injured.

Official sources said heavily-armed militants ambushed the IRB vehicles, which were carrying the force’s salary withdrawn from a bank in Imphal, at 1.30 pm.

The IRB personnel retaliated and the ensuing encounter lasted 10 minutes. The militants failed to loot arms or money. Nobody was injured.

The militants, however, escaped in the nearby jungles.

   

 
 
MILITANT HELD, THREE ABDUCTED IN TRIPURA 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, Jan. 5: 
Three persons were abducted and a market torched by irate tribals over the past 24 hours even as a hardcore National Liberation Front of Tripura militant was arrested from Bishalgarh subdivision.

Police sources said two non-tribal small traders Alfu Mia and his friend Asish De of Kshetricherra village were abducted by a group of NLFT rebels last evening when they were returning home from Chawmanu market.

Though combing operations have been launched by the police, both of them are still untraced.

In a separate incident, a tribal was kidnapped by armed NLFT militants from his house in south Ichacherri village under Baikhora police station in South Tripura district last night.

The abducted person — Sonachandra Tripura — is yet to be traced. Police personnel from Baikhora have conducted a hunt in the nearby jungle.

Sources said Sonachandra might have been abducted because of a dispute with the NLFT over payment of “tax” to the banned outfit.

A person identified as Barnaram Tripura has been arrested in connection with the abduction, while two others have been detained for interrogation, the sources added.

Political tension has escalated in the remote Champa Haor area in Khowai subdivision following the killing of two tribal youth by the NLFT on Wednesday.

A large group of tribals ransacked the Champa Haor market where the youth had been killed. The agitated mob torched seven shops and one rice mill belonging to a tribal.

Police sources said a group of rebels shot dead Tinku Debbarma and Bijay Debbarma for their alleged links with the All-Tripura Tiger Force.

They said the killing was a sequel to the continuing fight between the rival outfits for extending their area of hegemony.

A person identified as Dinesh Debbarma was arrested yesterday in connection with the killings. Assam Rifles jawans posted in the Khowai-Champa Haor area have also launched a special operation to flush out militants from the area. A hardcore NLFT rebel — Buddha Debbarma — was arrested from his house in Padma Mohan Para village under Takarjala police station yesterday.

Sources said the rebel had come to his home “on leave” from the NLFT base camp in the Chittagong Hill tracts of Bangladesh. He was wanted in nearly 20 cases of killings, abductions and extortion.

   
 

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