Hunt for 2 hitmen in port killing
Cops relent, New Market reopens
Trade bosses pitch for wall clean-up
Smooth passage over zone of chaos
If music be the medicine for body and soul, play on
Child given acid, not medicine
Law on anvil to ban nails on trees
Airport jawan’s kin grilled
Manipur rival factions patch up for berths
Bhutan braces for backlash over flushout

Calcutta, Feb. 16: 
A week after the murder of waterfront don and local Congress leader Mohammad Jahangir, better known as Moghul, in Garden Reach, the police launched a manhunt for two professional hitmen. Ghulam Usman, alias Hedu, and Aslam Warsi, alias Polu, are suspected to have been hired by one of Moghul’s men for the strike. “The two are linked to at least half-a-dozen murder cases, and Hedu was arrested twice before,’’ a senior policeman of the port area said on Friday.

But for police commissioner D.C. Vajpai, this was too little, too late. Vajpai blasted the investigating team for its “slow progress” on the Moghul murder case. In a crime-control review meeting at Lalbazar, the commissioner then turned the fire on the rest of the force for its “inability to resolve a string of recent cases”.

According to sleuths, the case against Hedu and Polu hinges on the account of a witness. Inside a high-security ring, the witness gave the police a graphic description of the murder on the night of February 11. The two killers were waiting, at the corner of a dark alley, for Moghul to return home from the party office. When he came within range, they shot him down, and then escaped in a waiting Maruti van. Police did not rule out the possibility of the two hired killers having taken shelter either in Bihar or Uttar Pradesh. Insiders said the change of guard at the port division, with Harmanpreet Singh replacing Zulfikar Hasan, had slowed down investigations for the past two days.

The Moghul case has drawn a lot of attention as he not only headed a huge business empire, but was also expected to be given a party ticket in the coming elections.


Calcutta, Feb. 16: 
After holding customers to “ransom” and “blackmailing” the police for four days, about 6,000 traders in the New Market shopping district emerged “victorious” on Friday. The police conceded their demands and decided to revert to the old parking rules on Lindsay Street and even allow taxis in. While the flower section did business on Friday evening, the rest of New Market will reopen on Saturday.

At a meeting in Lalbazar on Friday, senior police officers decided to allow perpendicular-to-the-kerb parking on Lindsay Street, south of the main market gate, from Saturday. Taxis with passengers will be allowed to approach Lindsay Street via Humayun Place and Bertram Street, between 10 am and 2 pm. Between 6 pm and 8 pm, taxis with passengers will be allowed to enter Lindsay Street from Chowringhee, and exit through Free School Street. Taxis, however, will not be allowed to be parked in the area.

Two demands that the police did not concede were allowing parking perpendicular to the kerb on Bertram Street and Hogg Street (west and east of New Market), and removal of hawkers from area. “We will conduct a study over the next seven days to see which mode of parking suits traffic movement around New Market,” said joint commissioner of police, traffic, Anup Chatterjee.

But sections of the force were left grumbling about how “at a time when new shopping centres with modern facilities have stolen a march over New Market, the traders used the parking issue to grab public attention once more”.

Most shopping plazas in the city have “far less” designated parking place than New Market. Yet, places like AC Market, Vardaan, Emami Shoppers’ City, and even retail stores like Pantaloons continue to draw customers by the hordes.

“This is simply because these plazas have introduced various innovations and value additions that attract shoppers. In stark contrast, the traders’ body at New Market has refused to move with the times. Let’s face it, New Market, in its present form, is something of an anachronism, which cannot hope to draw the crowds, especially the young, anymore,” observed a top cop.

The head of a major retail store took the argument one step further. “The attitude of shop-owners in New Market is amazing. At a time when customer is king, they behave as if they’re doing the customer a favour by attending to them. And this, after they pay ridiculously-low rents, ranging from seven paise to 15 paise per sq ft, per day, for such prime property.”


Calcutta, Feb. 16: 
The city’s trade and industry captains have reacted strongly to the uncontrolled commercial exploitation of civic infrastructure, like building walls, and called for immediate measures to stop the trend.

Representatives of the Indian Chamber of Commerce, Confederation of Indian Industry and Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry said on Friday that to showcase Calcutta as an investor-friendly city, a clean-up drive was needed.

They felt firms which publicised their products and services on city walls, should be penalised.

Nazeeb Arif, secretary-general of the Indian Chamber, said the civic authorities should come out with a strong reminder of its law in the media, cautioning against graffiti. The advertising agencies, too, should tell clients that product publicity on walls is illegal.

“From Metro reports, we came to know that Grasim Cement was actually unaware of the law and had allowed its ad agency to canvass its product on the Tollygunge Club boundary wall. This goes to show that the civic authorities couldn’t educate the citizens properly about the laws,” said Arif.

He added that the corporate sector can be taken to task for using the city walls to advertise products. “But what about the political parties which deface city walls with posters and slogans? If there is a law against visual pollution, it should apply to all uniformly,” Arif said.

Pradip Dasgupta, Bengal Chamber secretary, said: “We don’t want to lose our walls. The city and its buildings should be kept clean. In 1991, we had launched a campaign against defacing of city walls, inviting Shanu Lahiri to paint on the walls of La Martiniere School,” he said.

Chairman of the state council of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Dipankar Chatterjee, said the civic authorities should draw up plans to make the city more attractive to the investor.


Calcutta, Feb. 16: 
The Plan: A 2.5 km-long, two-lane flyover.

The Prize: A smooth passage high above the congested streets of north and central Calcutta.

The Price: Toll tax between Rs 3 and Rs 30, depending on the type of vehicle.

Welcome to the first BOT (build, operate and transfer) flyover in the city. It promises Calcuttans a congestion-free corridor, over a chaotic stretch, but for a price. The proposed flyover, to be constructed by private firms under the aegis of the West Bengal Transport Infrastructure Development Corporation (WBTIDC), will connect Vivekananda Road with the Howrah Bridge approach and Strand Bank Road. If things go according to plan, the flyover will be ready by June 2003.

Rising slightly east of the Vivekananda Road- Rabindra Sarani crossing, the alignment of the 7.5-m-wide flyover will run along Vivekananda Road and Kali Krishna Tagore Street up to Strand Bank Road. At this point, the flyover will bifurcate into “two arms”, one leading towards Howrah to merge with the existing Brabourne Road flyover, and the other carrying on towards Mayo Hospital. There will be two ramps, one on Jadulal Mullick Road and the other on Strand Road.

According to the preliminary survey conducted by Stup Consultants Ltd, movement to and from Howrah Bridge will be “much easier”, as the vehicles will be able to give Vivekananda Road, Strand Road, Strand Bank Road and Kalakar Street, the fly over. “By facilitating two-way traffic movement, it will also take the load off Brabourne Road, Mahatma Gandhi Road, and the adjoining areas,” said a Stup official.

To recover the investments, estimated at Rs 50 crore by WBTIDC, the promoters will be allowed to levy toll tax for access to the flyover, use the space under the flyover commercially and allow advertisements.

The foundation stone will be laid on February 21 by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, in the presence of state transport minister Subhas Chakraborty.

The “prestige” project has been conceptualised and designed with the approval of Calcutta Municipal Corporation, Calcutta Tram Company, Traffic and Transport Engineering Directorate and Calcutta Police. Extensive surveys have been conducted to tackle the problem of relocating underground utilities. WBTIDC has also agreed in principle to help out the promoters.

The “tendering process” is expected to be over by the first week of March, with 22 firms queuing up for the contract, which clearly mentions that the promoters, who will run and maintain the two-lane flyover for a period of 25 years, will have to complete construction “in two years” or be liable to be slapped with penalties. Similarly, WBTIDC will have to provide “all support” to the project in “a time-bound manner”.


Calcutta, Feb. 16: 
Case I: When Jolly learnt last year that she was carrying her second child, the 28-year-old from Behala decided to undergo ‘sound therapy’ to facilitate the baby’s movement in her womb, and to stay ‘relaxed’ herself. Two half-an-hour sessions every day, of special tunes and hymns set to flute and string instruments, for the past four months, have helped her achieve just that. “It’s so soothing,” smiles Jolly, weeks away from becoming a mother again.

Case II: P. Mani, a senior officer in the telecom department of Chennai, just couldn’t fall asleep before 3 am, and one bottle of whisky. Following a chance meeting with a young man from Calcutta, he sought solace in ‘sound therapy’. Today, several sessions of violin, sitar and Gayatri mantras later, he goes to sleep by midnight, after three pegs. “It’s changed my life,” declares Mani.

Music now has a medical mission. And giving scientific form to this are Sanjoy Chakraborty and Sumanta Thakur, both in their 30s. The first step — a “proper” sound therapy unit to be opened this summer, off VIP Road, housed in the New Life Institute of Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Research Care Centre, being built by former sheriff Dr Sunil Thakur.

“Doctors from various disciplines will recommend this form of therapy for particular patients, who will then be directed to us,” says Sanjoy, younger brother of vocalist Ajoy Chakraborty, and a multi-faceted musician himself. “A case-history of each patient will be prepared before we formulate the ‘dose’ of sound, combining string instruments, bamboo flute, chanting of Vedic hymns and nonsense words.”

The 500-sq-ft unit is being prepared “very carefully”. “This is not just another parlour where ghazals will be played and passed off as sound for cure. It’s a proper clinic,” emphasises Sumanta, son of Sunil Thakur. “So, it’s really important to get the ambience right. The colour, the lights, the plants, all have to create a soothing effect.”

The emphasis, initially, will be on pre-natal and stress-related problems. Gradually, a healing hand will be lent to those suffering from Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, ulcer, skin disease, and to the mentally-challenged.

“Adult insomnia will be one of our prime focus areas. This is becoming increasingly common in today’s competitive world, and it can lead to no less than 62 maladies,” points out Sumanta.

Another prime target group is the youth. “GeneratioNext is on a roll, little realising what damage a frenzied lifestyle of loud music, alcohol and nicotine inflicts on the system,” observes Sanjoy. “Our heart beats 72 times per minute. Loud ‘party’ music pushes it up to 100 to 120 per second, with the adrenaline secretion heightened when accompanied by alcohol or nicotine. Without a healthy pause, it leads to cardiac problems in the under-35 age-group. What is needed is deep sleep, in a short time, for which sound therapy plays a vital role.”

The first scientific approach to sound therapy in the country is finding favour among an increasing number of doctors in the city. Besides Sunil Thakur, gynaecologist Dr Arati Basu Sengupta, cardiologist Dr Kishore Nandi, Dr Bidhan Sanyal, ex-SS, SSKM, Dr Santanu Banerjee and Dr Gopal Sarkar, are among those who have voiced support for the Indian Sound Therapy Association.

The American and the British music therapy associations, highlighting the role of ‘melody as medicine’ for the past few years, are now increasingly turning to Eastern classical music, and meditation.

“But here, sadly, people are reluctant to draw inspiration from our musical and yogic heritage... This is just the beginning, and we dream of the day when Calcutta will be the pioneer of an IT-driven sound therapy R&D and application institute, and then a Sound Village,” signs off Sanjoy.


Calcutta, Feb. 16: 
Owners of a medicine shop were arrested in Garia on Friday after the death of a 10-month-old boy, Sheikh Totan, on Thursday.

Totan’s father, Majbur Sheikh, was sold medicines across the counter by shop-owners Dilip Banerjee and Champak Banerjee.

On taking the medicine, Totan turned black in the face. Majbur reported the child’s condition to the shop-owners but they did not listen to him. By the next day, Totan had to be admitted to MR Bangur Hospital. He died at Calcutta Medical College and Hospital on Thursday afternoon.

Majbur lodged a complaint with Sonarpur police station, alleging that he was sold acid instead of medicine. The shop has been sealed.


Calcutta, Feb. 16: 
The government is drawing up legislation to prevent cruelty to trees in the state. This was announced by a government-appointed lawyer in the court of Chief Justice A.K. Mathur on Friday, during the hearing of a petition on the matter by the Green Bench.

The proposed legislation, called West Bengal Protection of Trees in Non-Forest Areas Act, bans planting nails on trees.

A petition was filed by environmental activist Subhas Dutta nearly six months ago, seeking an order restraining different agencies from hanging hoardings and display boards on trees by driving nails into their trunks.

The bench, comprising Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice Girish Gupta, directed the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) to prepare a report on the effect of the act on trees.

The BSI director on Friday submitted a report, saying that the nails affect trees adversely.

The government counsel informed the court that legislation is being drawn up, prohibiting cruelty to trees in non-forest areas, particularly in the city proper.

Chief Justice Mathur directed the state government to expedite the enactment of the proposed legislation and stop further nailing till the new Act comes into force.


Calcutta, Feb. 16: 
The police team sent to Tripura to collect information on R.D. Burma, the CRPF jawan who went on a shooting spree at the airport, returned on Friday.

Burma had killed two policemen before turning the gun on himself last Saturday.

The policemen spoke to Burma’s relatives but did not find anything wrong with the jawan’s family life which may have caused a fit of depression.

The police, however, could not question Burma, now under treatment at SSKM Hospital.

Inspector-general of police, south Bengal, Ranjit Mohanti said officers had gone to the hospital, but doctors stated that Burma was not in a condition to face interrogation.


Imphal, Feb. 16: 
In yet another twist to Manipur politics, the warring factions of the Manipur State Congress Party reunited, raising questions on the stability of newly-installed People’s Front government led by Radhabinod Koijam.

While Union minister of state for food processing Chaoba Singh masterminded the compromise formula in this political drama, Speaker Sapam Dhananjoy, also a leader of the MSCP, played an important role. The MSCP had split earlier, Chaoba Singh leading one faction and W. Nipamacha Singh the other.

The patch-up was prompted by the Centre’s instruction to limit the size of the Koijam ministry. At a meeting held yesterday in the Speaker’s residence, leaders of the People’s Front decided to induct 28 MLAs in the new council of ministers. The list included the legislators who had opposed Nipamacha Singh while in Opposition and members of the Chaoba Singh faction of the MSCP.

Chief minister Koijam did not finalise the list because Union home minister L. K. Advani had asked him to keep the size of new ministry at 20. Koijam, therefore, decided to clear the list from central NDA leaders.

As Koijam’s support has already risen to 57 in the 60-member Assembly (its effective strength being 59), he was facing great difficulty in selecting his council of ministers.

As every MLA was an aspirant for a berth, Koijam’s delay was sending the wrong signals.

Fearing trouble, the legislature wing of the MSCP patched up, taking its tally in the People’s Front to 23. Along with the eight unattached members, the MSCP’s strength is now 31.

Addressing a news conference this afternoon, Chaoba Singh, working president of the MSCP, announced the reunion of its legislature wing, saying he had worked out the compromise formula. The Union minister said he was also ready to team up with Nipamacha Singh again. If the deal worked, the expulsion of eight members (unattached members) from the party would be revoked, he added.

Chaoba Singh said he had launched the reunification drive in the spirit of the NDA and also to end political uncertainty in the state.

He said a united MSCP will make the government more stable and eradicate any threat of President’s rule. Chaoba Singh also told newsmen that the allocation of ministerial berths was the chief minister’s prerogative.

If the MSCP really unites, the party will have a major say in the running of the government.


Guwahati, Feb. 16: 
Bhutan may at last be bracing for a military confrontation with the Ulfa and National Democratic Front of Boroland militants with the king warning people of six border districts to be prepared to face “any emergency situation”.

The state-owned Kuensel newspaper quoted King Jigme Singye Wangchuk as saying that the royal government was making arrangements to build up reserves of food stock for the six eastern dzongkhags (districts) as a face-off with the rebels will make it impossible for the people of the kingdom to travel to Assam.

“If hostilities with the militants break will result in a complete blockade of goods and supplies which come into Bhutan through Assam,” Wangchuk told the people’s representatives of Trashigang, a border district.

Bhutan’s fear of a backlash by Assam militants stemmed mainly from the attacks on Bhutan vehicles and killing of Bhutanese travellers to Assam in December. As many as 14 Bhutanese nationals were killed by suspected NDFB rebels in Assam.

Though Thimphu is not keen on military action against the rebels, it has been forced to rethink its hands-off policy as “Bhutan is running out of peaceful options” to make the rebels leave the Himalayan kingdom.

Kuensel reported that the kingdom was, however, worried that military intervention would lead to loss of lives and “disruption of all development activities in the affected districts”.

The King expressed concern that if Bhutan was left with no option but to send its armed forces to evict the militants, it would mean a war. He, however, assured the people that the royal government would every effort to persuade the militants to leave the Himalayan kingdom through dialogue which, he said, must be pursued.

On the steps taken by the royal government, the newspaper quoted the King as saying “the government would buy agricultural produce which farmers usually sell in Assam and divert them to other markets in India”. He also said the royal government would bear the loss incurred by the people.

Trashigang district alone imports food items worth 49 million in Bhutanese currency from Assam and exports agricultural produce ranging from 30 to 40 million annually.

A new storage facility with a capacity of 800 metric tonnes would be built in addition to the godown at Khngma and two others at Trashigang town. Similar facilities would be extended to Samdrup Jongkhar and Mongar, the newspaper added.

Counsellor for the Royal Bhutan Embassy at New Delhi, Thinly Penzor, however, refused comment on the developments. “The royal government of Bhutan believes in peaceful co-existence but when peace and security of the country is threatened, the government cannot remain a mute spectator,” he said.

The Ulfa and NDFB rebels had set up camps in the jungles of the kingdom, bordering Assam, after Delhi launched military operations in the state in 1991. Since then, the militants have entrenched themselves in that country. Apart from training camps, the rebels have also build up well-stocked arsenal with heavy firepower.

Militants killed

Three persons, including two suspected activists of the People’s Liberation Army, were killed in militant-related incidents in Manipur since last night, adds PTI.

Official sources today said a passer-by was killed and another injured when a bomb, planted by militants, went off at the crowded Chingmeirong area here this morning. The two suspected PLA men were killed in an encounter.


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