Handcuffed in safe haven
Races called off after syce unrest
Halt! Shoppers’ Stop ahead
How KBC helps Calcutta cops
Fake kerosene clone floods city markets
Book Fair names in Bengali
Display board for hospital beds
Trade fair focuses on cuisine, culture
Mithi stresses on planned urban growth
Women to rally over killings today

Calcutta, Jan. 9: 
Abdul Rauf Dawood Merchant, arrested by Calcutta Police on Monday, is a hitman of the Dawood Ibrahim gang, wanted for the murder of music baron Gulshan Kumar. The 29-year-old was sent to Calcutta by the D-Company bosses as the city was considered “safest” for the sharp-shooter.

“With the heat on in Mumbai and other cities, I was asked to lie low in Calcutta for some time,’’ Rauf admitted on Tuesday. He was produced in court and remanded in police custody. Preliminary investigations revealed that while Rauf and Anil had pulled the trigger on Kumar, Adil was “the spotter”. Anil is absconding, while Adil has been arrested by the Mumbai police.

Mumbai police commissioner M.N. Singh said a team of crime branch officials will be coming to Calcutta to take Rauf back to Mumbai. Singh said that Rauf, one of the main accused in the case, had fled Mumbai immediately after the murder of the T-Series boss and the police had been trying to track him down since then with the help of Central intelligence agencies.

Rauf told sleuths in Calcutta that Chhota Shakeel had sounded him out about a “supari” towards the end of January. Senior officers of the crime branch of Mumbai police told The Telegraph over telephone that they had information of Chhota Shakeel engaging Rauf for a strike on a Bollywood star. They added that Rauf had also been involved in the abortive bid by Dawood’s men on Chhota Rajan in Bangkok.

Rauf, who took to crime when he was just 19 after his father, Ishaque Dawood Merchant, was murdered on the docks, said that he’s been to Kenya, Dubai, Sharjah, Karachi, Islamabad and even Paris, under instructions from Chhota Shakeel and Qayum, Dubai-based operators of Dawood Ibrahim. He was, apparently, summoned by Dawood to his Karachi residence last year but could not meet him as the mafia don was busy.

According to sleuths, Rauf arrived in Calcutta from Dubai “three months ago” and put up in a lodge on Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road. From there, he shifted base thrice, using pseudonyms like Bimal Das and Razzak. On October 20 last year, he took up a one-room mud-house on Raicharan Ghosh Lane, in Topsia, for Rs 600 a month. His wife, Meenaz, 28, joined him from Mumbai a week later.

Deputy commissioner, detective department, Banibrata Basu, said the Mumbai Police had tipped them off that Rauf was in the city. Detectives started checking transactions in ATM and savings bank accounts of all city-based banks in December.

“We found that on December 10, Rs 10,000 was transferred from the branch of a multinational bank in Mumbai to a branch in Calcutta and it was withdrawn within 10 minutes,’’ Basu said. The account was in the name of Ezaz Alam, a trader of McLeod Street. Alam told the police that he knew nothing about the transaction, as he had given his credit card to “good friend’’ Ghulam Ghouse of 110, Elliot Road.

Police said Ghouse runs a “dubious theatre company”, a video parlour and also sold cellular cash cards. “I didn’t know Rauf till he came to buy a cashcard. We became friends and when he told me that he was expecting some money from Mumbai and didn’t know anybody else in the city, I borrowed my friend’s ATM card to help him,’’ Ghouse claimed.

Detectives used Ghouse to call Rauf to his shop on Monday evening and trapped him there.


Calcutta, Jan. 9: 
The horse-stabbing case has taken a critical turn with the Royal Calcutta Turf Club (RCTC) deciding to call off Wednesday’s fixture. “This unhappy decision follows an uncalled-for and illegal disruption of work by a section of trainers’ employees. It has jeopardised the possibility of conducting live racing in Calcutta,” said Vineet Verma, CEO and secretary, RCTC.

The arrest of stablehand Rehmat Ali on Monday led to unrest among his fellow syces. Rehmat was granted bail on Tuesday.

Since Monday, syces had stopped taking horses out for their morning exercise. They had also threatened to disrupt Wednesday’s races.

The city police on Tuesday questioned several syces and jamadars. A large contingent of police reached the stable in the Hastings police station area after the syces and jamadars threatened to strike against the arrest of their colleague.

Rehmat was arrested after trainer Vijay’s Derby runner, Alvarada, was found bleeding from a cut injury on the leg.

Withdrawn from Sunday’s Derby line-up, Alvarada was expected to give a tough fight to the favourite, Altimara, who went on to win the event.

The RCTC official circles have vowed to get to the bottom of the issue. Conducting its own inquiry, RCTC sent a sample of horse’s urine to a Hong Kong laboratory for analysis. It takes about three weeks for the report to arrive. The club sources said they had no intention of victimising anyone.

The police, who said they are waiting for the urine report, will meet the trainers and their employees on Wednesday in the course of their investigation.


Calcutta, Jan. 9: 
It’s official. Shoppers’ Stop, the Rs 160-crore retailing major, is coming to town. The biggest organised retail chain in the country has taken up 60,000 square feet of space in what will be Calcutta’s answer to Spencer Plaza, Crossroads and Ansal Plaza.

The K. Raheja group chain, which bagged the best apparel retailer award in the country last month, will be the anchor store in the Rs 100-crore retail and entertainment mall coming up on Elgin Road. “We have just finished the formalities of tying up with Shoppers’ Stop after nearly 15 months of negotiation,” said Rahul Saraf, director, Sunsam Properties (P) Ltd of The Saraf Group, developers of the swank mall that will open its doors to the city in August 2002.

“Internationally, the success of such mega malls has always depended on the anchors, which are usually supermarkets or multiplexes. So, we needed to pick our anchor tenant very carefully,” explained Saraf. And Shoppers’ Stop surely topped his wish-list. In India, it is the most sought-after anchor, boasting a footfall of 10,000-plus on weekends at the Ansal Plaza in the capital.

“We are delighted to go to Calcutta and promise to bring to the city and its discerning consumers a retail ambience of international class and a quality of service which is unmatched in the country. I’m sure the long wait for Calcuttans has been worth it,” said Sashi Kumar, head of business development, Shoppers’ Stop, speaking from Mumbai.

The Saraf Group, which concentrates on “generating rental income from one project to keep the cash flowing for the next one down the line”, is confident Shoppers’ Stop can attract other big brands to the Elgin Road plaza. The 2-lakh-sq-ft mall will have 140,000 sq ft of retail space, and about 30,000 sq ft each dedicated to entertainment and food courts. “Calcutta has very few destinations for entertainment and our effort is to provide something inside the mall for every member of the family,” Saraf said.

Thus, while talks are on with the Big Macs and the Pizza Huts to add international flavour to the “speciality restaurants”, the high-voltage entertainment centre will definitely have bowling, pool, ice-skating, tennis, squash, wet ’n wild for kids, bumping cars, interactive video games — the works.

“My role is just of the service provider in this huge plaza. The anchor’s role is of the watchdog to see that the mall does healthy business,” said Saraf, who with his architect J.P. Agarwal, is designing everything inside the mall, going by the Shoppers’ Stop’s customer profile.

Shapoorji Pallonji are the main contractors of the six-level mega mall with tips on layout, planning, marketing kit, brand positioning and draft lease agreements coming from Jones Lang LaSalle, international property consultants.

“Once complete, our project should generate around Rs 10 lakh corporate tax and Rs 1 crore sales tax to the state exchequer every month. All I want from the government is support for this Rs 100-crore industry I’m bringing to the city,” Saraf smiled.


Calcutta, Jan. 9: 
A triple crown for Jaya Bachchan — she abhors the term Bollywood, she is not a superficial cause-espouser, and she is quite clear that she will not turn director. She will remain Jaya, whom Ray discovered, whom Hrishikesh Mukherjee conferred a longed-for role on, and who emotes for audiences today as an actress playing the saddest of roles, but really, really wants to hark back to the Guddi days.

There were enough women wanting to convoke, confer or confabulate with Jaya Bachchan in the honey-gold sunshine at a Ladies Study Group tête-à-tête hosted by Madhu Neotia in her Queen’s Park garden on Sunday afternoon. The gathering was as glamour and celebrity-studded as the star of the chat session. And the devastating designer creations did outshine the more subdued Patola that Jaya sported.

Seated beneath a charming bower, her answers were pithy, not preachy, and she ended up, not making the audience wring wet hankies as they had done after Dr Mukta, but by doling out dollops of the mother-wife-homemaker role that she continues to play daily. A grandmother function has been added, too, as she has become “a complete slave” to her grandchild.

But slavish to the Big B she is not, giving him his due by occasionally watching KBC, though admitting that it was the hard work and talent that went into this which brought them out of the woods. When informed that Calcutta was completely hooked on to KBC, she said, with a twinkle in her eye, that it must be “keeping the traffic police happy if so many people are staying indoors”.

The plain-speaking took us back to her childhood days in Bhopal where “we were like anybody else, simple, normal, brought up in a Bengali atmosphere”.

This Bengali-ness, however, is not something that she would want to highlight today.

There is no mad craving for Bangla ranna, although, being a foodie, which Amitabh is not, she certainly enjoys Bengali cuisine, both the creating and the consuming of it.

More rewinds to her early life came, spontaneously, from Bharati Deveshwar, who was her senior in NCC and admitted that “she never realised Jaya would reach such heights” but did commend her prowess as a cadet when she won the junior cadets award.

And there was news for the Bachchan fan brigade.

The family is likely to do a film together, though Jaya dreads the fact that she might exceed her brief and turn nagging amma to Abhishek, rather than nifty actress, when they are thrown together on the sets.


Calcutta, Jan. 9: 
It looks so much like the original that the slight difference in colour misses the eye. But markets in the city and the suburbs are being fed a third, adulterated variation of kerosene, other than the blue one sold in ration shops and the white variety sold in the open market.

Oil X is pale yellow, smells exactly like the other two and can easily be passed off as white Super Kerosene Oil. The unsuspecting buyer is lapping it up as Oil X is relatively cheaper, selling at around Rs 12.50 a litre, whereas the going rate of SKO is around Rs 14.

According to officials in Biecco Lawrie Limited, a Government of India enterprise involved with the import of SKO, Oil X is “a major pollutant”, emitting black fumes with a distinct odour.

Its calorific value being less than that of SKO, a given quantity of Oil X produces less heat than kerosene. So, more oil is consumed for the same amount of heat generated. “This is a major problem in the industrial sector, where a furnace has to generate adequate heat for proper production. Even the domestic user will take longer to cook using Oil X,” said Partha Sarathi Basu, assistant general manager (international trade) of Biecco Lawrie.

The increasing penetration of Oil X in the market is putting SKO importers out of business. Sales have plunged to about four per cent of what it was in December 1998. While there were 11 importers in 1998, the number has dwindled to five now, with two more set to shift out of the state.

“Oil X is actually blue kerosene, to which a chemical is added to change the colour. That way, it escapes being seized by the police as, by a Government of India notification, white kerosene comes under free trade items,” explained Amitabha Ghosh, executive director of Exim India, another SKO importer.

The crisis has been heightened by two factors — extra allocation of blue kerosene due to the floods and smuggling from neighbouring states. The food department has received a warning from Indian Oil Corporation on Thursday about tankers containing the blue variety sneaking into the state from Bihar. “Our field officials and the police have been alerted,” said food secretary Ajay Sinha.


Calcutta, Jan. 9: 
For the first time, every participant at Calcutta Book Fair, beginning on January 30, will be required to display its name in Bengali. However, Booksellers and Publishers Guild officials said on Tuesday that there was no possibility of changing the name of the fair or deleting the word “Calcutta”, in view of the recent renaming of the city.

India will be the theme of the fair for the first time. “We will also have a computer conclave. Purnendu Chatterjee of Haldia Petrochemicals will launch a website, bengalline.com, where people can buy books on-line,” said Kalyan Shah, guild general secretary.

The President of India has been invited to inaugurate the fair. Pere Vicins, president, International Publishers Association, Geneva, and Sitakant Mahapatra, chairman, National Book Trust, will be present. Scientist Monilal Bhowmik will deliver the Ashok Sarkar Memorial lecture.


Calcutta, Jan. 9: 
In another measure for reforms in government hospitals, the health department will instal electronic boards that will display the bed positions of seven major city hospitals. The system will keep a track of about 10,000 beds a day.

Patients and their kin will know at a glance the availability of beds at all the seven hospitals, once they reach any of them. Details of every department and ward will be displayed.

The first such board will be set up at SSKM Hospital and will be switched on by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Friday, health department sources told The Telegraph. The move follows the setting up of a high-powered cell that will monitor the functioning of the state’s medical services.

The nine-ft-by-16-ft board will be put up outside the SSKM emergency department and will have details of all the 1,800 beds there, as well as the 400 beds at the Bangur Institute of Neurology.

It will also have details of the 1,800 beds at NRS Medical College and Hospital, 1,900 beds at Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, 1,300 beds at R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital, 1,100 beds at National Medical College and Hospital, 900 beds at Sambhunath Pandit Hospital and the 478 beds at M.R. Bangur Hospital.

Once the boards are set up, touts, who know the bed position of a hospital by working in collusion with the staff, will no longer be able to “allot” beds on a commission from the patients’ relatives. Several complaints have been lodged with the public grievance cell in this regard.

“Our aim is to provide better treatment facilities to the people. The display boards will let them know what the bed availability position is and bring in more transparency in the working of hospitals,” health minister Partha De said.

Department sources said funds for the boards have been made available from the World Bank-financed Health Systems Development Project.

The boards, to be operated through an inter-connected computer network, are being set up by Webel and will be updated thrice a day, the sources said.


Jorhat, Jan. 9: 
To promote Assamese culture and food, the organisers of the second Jorhat Trade Fair have decided to observe the concluding day as Assam Day.

The fair which began on January 2, will conclude on January 13. The 10-day event was extended by a day following tremendous public response.

On the concluding day, the venue will being decorated with traditional japis and phulam gamochas

Over 50,000 people visited the fair during the past seven days and nearly 15,000 on Sunday, forcing the organisers to extend the timing by an hour.

Altogether 176 units are participating in the fair. Of these 75 are from outside the state and 20 small scale units are from northeastern region.

In the tiny sector category, 63 entrepreneurs, dealing in traditional handicrafts from the Northeast, are participating in the fair. Organisers are giving a 50 per cent discount to promote the tiny sector. The fair has provided budding entrepreneurs with an exclusive platform for marketing.

The state’s rural development department and city-based Observatory Home, which houses juvenile delinquents, have been given free stalls to promote their products. The main attraction of the fair was a fabric show held on Saturday. Seven models from Guwahati displayed handloom garments of the northeastern region.

The festive atmosphere of the fair has provided people a break from everyday life, the organisers said. It is not only the organisers or the people who are happy, but traders appear happy too, judging by the response.

The owner of Lakshmi Enterprise of Bangalore, dealing in Malaysian crockery, was elated with the response. Women have been thronging her stall since the opening day of the fair.

Traders dealing with household items like cleaning aid, woollen garments, crockery, handicraft items are also much in demand. Among the electronic gadgets, microwave oven has been much in demand. Its demonstrations are drawing potential customers.

The Magic Toys from Uttar Pradesh has become quite a hit with children. On display are toys which perform magic like changing colours of feather.

The three automobile giants — Tata Engineering, Maruti Udyog Ltd and Hyundai — are also pleased with the response. For them more interesting than bookings is the number of queries they have received from the people. “Our job is to develop people’s interest,” a Tata Engineering executive said. The Escorts, which is displaying several new designs of motorcycles, has been a hit with the youth. The highlight of the fair, however, is the Central Bank of India outlet where mutilated five, two and one rupee notes can be exchanged for coins.

Militant killed

One Ulfa militant was killed and another injured in an encounter with the Army at Kolakhowa village under Barbaruah police station in Dibrugarh district today. While Bolin Phukan, a rebel, was killed, another Badla Chetia was injured.

He has been admitted to the Assam Medical College Hospital. Two other militants escaped.

In a separate incident, the Army today shot dead two militants of the National Democratic Front of Boroland in Kokrajhar district, says a staff reporter from Guwahati.

Official sources said Army troops laid an ambush near Garaibil in Ripu reserve forest. The two rebels fired at the troops and attempted to flee.

The NDFB militants were killed in retaliatory firing. They are yet to be identified. Two rifles, ammunition and incriminating documents were recovered from the militants.


Itanagar, Jan. 9: 
Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Mukut Mithi today underlined the need for a master plan to streamline haphazard growth of urban areas in the state “without compromising the utility value”.

“Our urban areas are haphazardly growing without any master plan,” he said. “Time has come for urban development agencies to immediately prepare master plans for urban areas.”

The chief minister was speaking at the review meeting of the chairmen and member secretaries of state and district urban development agencies created in 1995. Mithi said the process of urbanisation in the state is in its nascent stage and with proper initiatives past mistakes could be corrected. Such initiatives should aim to make the towns of Arunachal Pradesh aesthetically pleasing “without compromising the utility value”.

Exhorting the authorities to take care of local factors while planning the development of urban areas, he said, “While constructing buildings, one must take into consideration the local culture and traditions. Like our attire, our buildings and houses should also reflect our culture and traditions.” The chief minister regretted that the “Swarna Jayanti Shanhari Rojgar Yojna”, a poverty-alleviation programme launched by the Centre in 1997 to commemorate the golden jubilee of the country’s Independence, has not been implemented properly.

He said the state urban development agency had allocated Rs 6,70.53 lakh to district urban development agencies over the past seven years, but “utilisation certificates for nearly Rs 4.74 lakh have not been submitted”.

Earlier, state urban development minister T.C. Teli called upon deputy commissioners, who are chairmen of the district urban development authorities, to play active role in urban development.

“It is very unfortunate that no chairman has taken interest in systematic planning and development of our towns since the last few years,” he said while asking the deputy commissioners to take initiative to keep the urban environment “clean and healthy for the new generations”.

He also said the ministry of urban development has recognised the state and district urban development agencies as urban local bodies for implementation of urban poverty-alleviation programmes and Finance Commission grants till the Municipal Act is enacted in Arunachal Pradesh.

Mithi said a number of development schemes could not be taken up due to a funds crunch and the ban on felling.


New Delhi and Calcutta, Jan. 9: 
Several women’s organisations have condemned the killing of five persons by militants last Friday. They have also organised a silent procession as a mark of protest tomorrow.

Representatives of Ka Synjuk Kynthei, Ka Lympung Ki Seng Kynthei, YWCA, Shillong, We Care and Meghalaya Women’s Alliance among others, who met yesterday, condemned all incidents of killings by militant organisations.

They also requested social and voluntary organisations to join the rally to register protest against senseless violence. The procession is scheduled to start from the State Central Library campus, a release issued here today, said. Police today beefed up security in city banks after Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council militants looted over Rs 3 lakh from the Meghalaya State Apex Bank’s Mawkhar branch yesterday afternoon.

The all-women branch, which was looted twice in less than seven months, opened today amid tight security. The staff was still panic-stricken. Security guards closed the main door in the morning and allowed people only after a thorough check.

BJP blames Govt: The state unit of the BJP, a partner of the ruling Meghalaya Parliamentary Forum coalition government, has held the government responsible for the continued killings, extortions and robberies in the state. It also called upon the government to initiate measures to control worsening law and order situation.


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