Eat, shop, work and let live
City not fully quake-safe, say experts
Students battle Madhyamik language bar
Weapons bazaar busted, ‘Hitler’ held
Dacoit duo arrested for spate of raids on trains
Basu house
Gold at Rainbow’s end
Mob gheraoes police after runover death
Tripura rebels shut market
BJP demands white paper

Calcutta, Feb.9: 
An air-conditioned shopping mall, a multiplex cinema with four theatres, indoor games, a food court, speciality restaurants, office space, luxury apartments — all around the “focal point”, a half-acre multi-level plaza.

Welcome to City Centre, designed and conceptualised by architect Charles Correa. Billed as “Puja bonus 2003” by the Bengal Ambuja Metro Development Limited, a joint enterprise of Gujarat Ambuja Cements Limited and Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority, the foundation stone for the Rs 80-crore centre will be laid next week.

Work on the “largest mixed-use development” in the city, spread over 6.5 acres at DC Block in Salt Lake, will commence on Poila Boishakh, April 14. It will take around 30 months to complete. The complex, with a built-up area of 5.5 lakh sq ft, will be ‘cubist’ Correa’s second stamp on the otherwise drab Calcutta skyline, the first being a private residence. “His (Correa’s) architecture has its own flamboyance. We expect the City Centre to be a visually stimulating and infrastructurally well-provided facility,” says Harshavardhan Neotia, managing director, Bengal Ambuja Housing Development Ltd. Correa will be here to attend the foundation-stone laying ceremony next weekend.

“We hope to provide Calcuttans with a quality and yet affordable experience, where there is something for each member of the family — a one-stop destination for shopping, eating or entertainment,” explains Neotia.

The shopper’s stop will have everything, from designer goods to bakeries, bank to hair-cutting saloon. The multiplex will have four cinema halls, with a total seating capacity of about 1,200. Indoor entertainment will boast of bowling alleys, a pool parlour and video games. The food court will serve up both Indian and international cuisine, and there will be at least three speciality restaurants, including a coffee bar, on offer. One tower and other blocks will provide office accommodation, ranging from 1,500 to 5,000 sq ft. The complex will have about 50 deluxe apartments. There will be parking lot for nearly 500 cars within the complex and another 300 on the perimeter.

The plaza will be the focal point with a kund (waterbody) in the centre, which will also serve as the base of a musical fountain after sundown. “This will become a meeting point for the youth of our city,” feels Neotia.

The “philosophy” of the Correa complex is to create the feel of a “mini city”. “The spaces and the alleyways, besides providing flexibility, create a lot of interest for the visitors. As we turn each corner, we get a new and completely unexpected vista,” explains Neotia. The movement of the sun will allow different light intensities to fall on the alleyways, creating “interesting shadows” and accentuating the effect of light and shade. There will be a number of trees, flower shrubs and other greenery to create “its own microclimate”.

“If the city was a ship, it might not be seaworthy” — was how architectural critic Anupam Banerjee had described Calcutta some time back, and the architects’ convention recently held in the city had cried out for “better aesthetics” to redeem the city’s ugly skyline. City Centre might just be the skylight to let creativity filter through to this concrete jungle “devoid of artistic inspiration”.


Calcutta, Feb.9: 
Calcutta is not 100 per cent safe from earthquakes, specialists connected with the subject said on Friday. Not known to many, a devastating incident did take place on the night of October 11, 1737, in which three lakh people died. But the city itself is in a .1 zone, compared to zone 4 in the Sunderbans and zone 5 in Gujarat.

Over the past 10 years, eight “high-intensity” tremors have occurred in the region, two of which were felt in Calcutta. The quake of 1737, though measuring over 8 on the Richter scale, took place simultaneously with a major cyclone. “The records available are not clear whether the deaths occurred due to the quake or the storm,” said R.N. Goldar, director of the Alipore Meteorological office.

“Whatever caused that devastation, the fact is that there has been no recurrence in the next 263 years. The Alipore weather office seismograph has recorded 60 tremors since 1996, with epicentres within 200 km from Calcutta. But all of them have been between 2 and 2.5 on the scale,” Goldar said. He was speaking on “How Safe is Calcutta from Earthquakes?”, a discussion organised by the American Society for Civil Engineers (India section).

The Indian tectonic plate collided with the Asian plate, causing the Himalayan range and several faults or fracture zones. “The collision is a continuous process, with the Indian plate moving under the Asian plate at about 2 cm every year,” explained Prof. S. Sen, former head of the geology department, Jadavpur University. “The collision causes stress, leading to lifting of the plate.”

The faults that exist near Calcutta are not very active. But they are faults all the same. “It would do well to strengthen prediction and precautionary measures,” pointed out D.K. Rakshit, former director in the science and technology department of the central government.


Calcutta, Feb.9: 
The state secondary board is set for a showdown with thousands of examinees from Hindi, Oriya, Tamil and Telugu-medium schools in Calcutta. The point of contention: The demand for question papers in these four languages for Madhyamik.

The CPM-controlled West Bengal Board of Secondary Education prints question papers in Bengali, English, Urdu and Nepali. After years of “repeated appeals” to the government for a solution to their problem, a large number of non-Bengali students from over 150 institutions in Calcutta have threatened to launch an agitation.

According to sources, nearly a lakh examinees from “Hindi and other language schools” will appear for the Madhyamik examinations this year. The total number of examinees is six lakh. Students from Hindi, Nepali and Urdu-medium schools are allowed to write their papers in their respective languages. “Those from Oriya, Tamil and Telugu-medium schools are worst hit as, according to the rules, they have to write their papers in English,” said an official.

But the Madhyamik board is in no mood to accept the students’ demands. “We cannot afford to change the system and print questions in more than four languages. To print question papers in more languages will involve a huge number of teachers and examiners in those languages,” said A.K. Chakraborty, board president.

A spokesperson of Paschim Banga Chhatra Sangarsha Committee, an organisation which has been trying to persuade the government to accept its demand for a long time, said: “The number of examinees from institutions other than the Bengali-medium schools is increasing every year. We cannot understand why the board authorities are reluctant to consider the problem caused to such a huge number of students.”

The students, however, alleged that they had little support from the teachers. “We have been waging a lone battle. If the teachers had supported us, do you think the Board would have been able to turn a deaf ear to our demands?” asked a student from a Hindi-medium school.

R.S. Upadhay, principal of Tantia High School, a renowned Hindi-medium institution in north Calcutta, said: “I understand the students’ viewpoint, but it might be a good thing for the students to be given question papers in English, as its forces them to be serious about a language they cannot afford to ignore in today’s world.”


Calcutta, Feb.9: 
From outside, they look like old houses gone to seed. The plaster on the walls have long peeled off, the hinges on the door are broken and layers of dust cover the floors.

Inside, sit men looking equally grubby, but the wares they are selling are not. Instead, neatly locked up in boxes are gleaming revolvers of different types, all country-made, and rows of cartridges to go with them.

Enter the weekly arms bazaar in the city, which flourishes from such nondescript houses in Colin Lane, Beniapukur, Topsia, Lock Gate near Charu Market, Watgunge and Bedford Lane. They open twice a week, on Saturdays and Sundays, and strictly from 4 am to 7 am, when most of the city is asleep.

The police, at least the officials claim, were unaware of this racket till the chance arrest of a criminal, Kanu Shahzada, from Marquis Street last Wednesday. Kanu had strapped onto his waist a revolver he had bought from a Colin Lane bazaar.

Kanu was initially reluctant to confess where he had acquired the revolver from. He first said a friend had given it to him for “safe keeping”. He then said that it had been lying in his house for a long time. Finally, under “sustained interrogation”, he let out that, in fact, he had bought it for Rs 800 from an arms bazaar in Colin Lane.

Armed with further information from Kanu, the police tracked down Aslam, who had sold him the gun in Colin Lane, and from him emerged a larger story and how far the tentacles of the arms bazaar had spread.

The trail, the police found, led back to Murshidabad, where the country-made arms are manufactured. From here they are sold “wholesale” to arms dealers, who then resell them to retailers in the city and other district towns. The main person, Aslam, told the police, was Dhiraj Sheikh, alias Hitler, who hailed from Bansberia, in Murshidabad. The inspector-general of police (south Bengal), Ranjit Mohanty, conveyed to the Murshidabad police the information that the Calcutta cops had gathered and then asked them to check its authenticity. After preliminary enquiries, the Murshidabad police, dressed in plain clothes, laid a trap for Hitler.

Posing as buyers, five policemen in mufti approached one of Hitler’s associates, Chanchal Khan, and asked him to take them to his “boss”. Khan led them to Hitler’s “manufacturing unit”, which employs over 10 persons in making the illegal arms.

Once inside the unit, the policemen pounced on Khan and Hitler, who was supervising the operations. Hitler started firing at the cops even as he fell to the ground. The police returned the fire. As they shot at and injured two of the gangsters, the others fled, leaving their leaders behind.

Half-an-hour after the police had entered the unit, Hitler, Khan and another of their associates were under arrest. Along with them, the police also seized 20 revolvers, 100 cartridges, gunpowder, iron scrap and three machines for making illegal arms.

Hitler has provided the police with the names of the “retailers” in Calcutta to whom he sold the guns. “We are on their track now,” said a police officer.


Calcutta, Feb.9: 
Two most-wanted dacoits were arrested by officials of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and the Belur Government Railway Police on Friday morning. The two criminals, identified as Mahesh Mahato and Shakil Ahmed, had been spearheading dacoities in local and express trains for the past eight years and successfully evaded the law after each operation.

After being tipped-off that a gang of dacoits was assembling near Bandel station, a huge contingent of plainclothes policemen, led by the officer-in-charge of Belur GRPS and the district detective inspector of the CID, cordoned off the area. Sensing that the police were close on their heels, three dacoits fled the spot, leaving the duo behind. Mahesh and Ahmed tried to escape, but they were immediately surrounded by the police.

Pipeguns, daggers and cartridges were recovered from the two, who have been remanded in police custody for five days.

Both Mahato and Ahmed had been involved in several dacoities in trains, including the one on the Punjab Mail near Boichi station, on October 23 last year. Three dacoits of the gang had been lynched by passengers after they tried to jump off the running train, said Subrata Bhaumik, officer-in-charge of Belur GRPS.

But the police are yet to get hold of Bhola, kingpin of the gang. Bhola, a resident of Chandernagore, runs a flourishing business of country liquor. He would recruit criminals from Hooghly, South 24-Parganas and Bihar on a short-term basis, police sources said.

Most of the criminals were released from his gang after one or two operations, which successfully kept the police in the dark. The police thought that several small gangs were engaged in snatching from early morning to late at night on local and express trains.

“With the arrest of these two criminals, the rate of snatching and dacoities in trains will climb down,” said Bhaumik. Raids will be conducted in several other areas in Howrah and Calcutta to nab Bhola, the police said.


Calcutta, Feb.9: 
A division bench of Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice R.K. Mitra of Calcutta High Court on Friday admitted a petition challenging the state government’s decision to provide accommodation and other facilities to former chief minister Jyoti Basu, says our legal reporter. The petitioner was asked to serve notice to Jyoti Basu and the matter fixed for hearing after two weeks.


Calcutta, Feb.9: 
Where they “strive to educate the heart”, where “children can be nurtured into freedom”, where under-privileged children “are called Rainbow...”. Loreto Day School, Sealdah, with “visionary” Sister Cyril at its helm, was honoured for its exemplary work in social service, with the Outstanding Achievement award at the Better Calcutta Contest 2000-2001, on Friday, at the Science City auditorium.

Organised by the ICC Calcutta Foundation, in association with The Telegraph and Britannia Industries Ltd, the annual awards function recognises schools which have supplemented their curriculum with activities that contribute to a “better Calcutta”.

The Rainbow programme, where schoolchildren stay after hours to teach street children; the classes for children on a Sealdah platform; rural education in Amgachhia — are just some of the reasons Loreto Day School, Sealdah, bagged top honours out of the 30 participating schools.

The Telegraph Trophy for achievement in the social category went jointly to Aditya Academy Secondary and Sreegopal Vidyamandir. Aditya Academy has not only expanded its project of feeding platform dwellers at Dum Dum station to include 200 people from 50 people last year, but it is also supporting eight platform women who keep the station clean. Students of Cossipore’s Sreegopal Vidyamandir, on the other hand, have created an inventory of all trees near the school over 20 years old. The children have put identification plates on each tree, in addition to printing a booklet distributed to neighbouring residents. GD Birla Centre for Education and Binodini Girls’ High School stood joint third in the same category.

The Britannia Trophy for health-related projects went to Chowringhee Kindergarten and High School for its health check-ups, malaria awareness programme and eye-camp. The All Bengal Women’s Union Primary School bagged second place, with the Sir Syed Group of Schools coming in third.

The ICC Trophy for innovative ideas was carried away by Modern High School for its initiative to help the blind by learning Braille themselves and creating study materials for blind students. National High School for Girls came in second, with Modernland Girls’ School securing third place.

In addition, Special Merit and Merit awards were distributed to 17 city schools.


Calcutta, Feb.9: 
There was tension early on Friday in the Mahatma Gandhi Road area after 50-year-old Mohammad Alam, a resident of Colootola Street, was run over by a private bus. The mishap occurred in front of Purabi cinema hall when the bus, on route 3B, heading towards Amherst Street, knocked Alam down while he was crossing the road. The rear wheels of the bus ran over his chest.

Local residents and shop-owners rushed Alam to NRS Medical College and Hospital. He succumbed to his injuries on the way to hospital.

Some residents started chasing the killer vehicle. The driver, sensing trouble, jumped out of his cabin and fled, leaving behind the vehicle at the intersection of Amherst Street and Mahatma Gandhi Road. The crowd rushed to the bus and hurled stones at it.

When Muchipara police station officials reached the spot, they were gheraoed by the mob, who protested poor traffic vigil on the busy road, and demanded round-the-clock vigil in the area. Traffic was partially disrupted for some time as the crowd refused to budge.

The private bus has been impounded. The driver later surrendered to the police.


Agartala, Feb. 9: 
Teliamura police recovered the body of a non-tribal, triggering fresh ethnic tension, while National Liberation Front of Tripura militants closed down the remote Ekrai market under Kalyanpur police station in West Tripura yesterday.

In another incident, an illegal gun-manufacturing factory was busted and its owner arrested in Kailasahar subdivision of North Tripura. Arms and ammunition were also recovered.

A Bengali farmer Samanta Sarkar of Madhya Brahmacherra village under Teliamura police station was abducted by NLFT militants from nearby Balucherra village while tending cows on June 27 last year, police sources said. Sarkar did not return even after his family members paid a ransom to the militants.

Yesterday a group of villagers from Madya Brahmacherra went to Balucherra to collect firewood and came across Sarkar’s skeletal remains. Sarkar’s family members identified the skeleton from the pieces of clothing lying beside it. Later, police personnel from Teliamura visited the site and recovered the skeleton for post mortem.

Market closed: Sources said a group of armed NLFT militants raided the remote Ekrai Bazar under Kalyanpur police station yesterday and forced total closure of the market.

The tribal traders of the market had refused to pay “tax” to the NLFT this year and continued normal business. Infuriated, the NLFT militants forced the traders to down shutters. As a result, not only have the traders and shopkeepers lost their livelihood, the people have to travel 14 km to Teliamura market and back.

Earlier, the All-Tripura Tiger Force militants had also put a ban on tribal traders in Barkathal market in the Sadar (North) area.

Gun factory busted: Sources said police personnel from the Kailasahar Khaoarbil area under Irani police station stormed an illegal gun-manufacturing factory run by one Arun Nama on the basis of a tip-off. They arrested the owner and recovered four countrymade guns, three countrymade pistols and a large quantity of ammunition. The factory was closed down.

The sources said the countrymade pistols manufactured by Nama were of a high standard and could match the fire-power of .303 rifles. “The arrest of Nama will lead to the disclosure of a lot of sensitive information,” the sources added.

Undertrials’ agitation: Altogether 96 undertrials, on an indefinite hungerstrike in a Tripura sub-divisional jail since Wednesday, have withdrawn their agitation following an assurance from the jail authorities, reports PTI. the undertrials were protesting the lawyers’ strike which affected family members of 1,000 undertrials languishing in jails.


Shillong, Feb. 9: 
In a significant statement, BJP general secretary for the northeastern states P.B. Acharya demanded a white paper on law and order in the state from the Meghalaya government.

Acharya’s demand holds significance as BJP legislator Thrang Hok Rangad holds the home portfolio in the state government.

Only a white paper on the subject can bring out the true picture of the law and order situation in the state and dispel the confusion among the people, Acharya told newsmen here today after a party meeting.

“Home minister Rangad says the crime rate is coming down but people do not think or feel so,” he added. Acharya expressed serious concern over the political instability plaguing the state and hoped that chief minister E.K. Mawlong will be able to tide over the crisis.

On whether the BJP will continue to support the chief minister in case of a split in the Mawlong-led United Democratic Party, Acharya said if the party wants to change the leader “it should do so democratically”.

He said the BJP will support any political formation minus the Congress as the latter has done great harm to the country. “We will encourage any group which wants to come out of the Congress,” Acharya added.

Acharya said the BJP had grievances which the chief minister had not responded to. Mawlong had assured that his government would give 10 per cent representation to BJP members in all the government committees. But nothing has been done till now, he added.

BJP state president W. Kharshiing also alleged that the Meghalaya Parliamentary Forum government had not yet included the state BJP in the party co-ordination committee.

New Nehu V-C sought

The Federation of Khasi Jaintia and Garo People has demanded immediate appointment of a vice-chancellor to head the North Eastern Hill University (Nehu). This was one of the main issues raised in a seven-point memorandum to chief minister E.K. Mawlong. The university has been running without a vice-chancellor for the past one year.

The organisation expressed concern over the delay in the appointment of a headmaster for the Government Boys’ Higher Secondary School. It also felt that the recent closure of the school hostel will greatly affect the poor students from the rural areas.

UDP meeting: The United Democratic Party will meet on Wednesday to discuss the political situation in the state. This will be followed by an MPF meeting on Thursday.


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