Students clash with cops
Penury pushes father to dump dead daughter
Flat looted in Kalighat
Right of passage, rites of spring
PWD faces malaria suit
Fireman hurt in factory blaze
Partners bicker over berths
CPM bandh over assault
Food crisis triggers exodus
Distress paddy sale after labourer-FCI tussle

Calcutta, Feb. 20 : 
For nearly an hour on Tuesday afternoon, students and the police fought a pitched battle in Esplanade. Nearly 30 people were injured and the police were forced to fire tear-gas shells to restore normalcy.

Around 2 pm, several hundred students of city madrasahs had set out in a procession from Haji Mohammad Mohsin Square to protest the “abysmal conditions” at these institutions. They intended to meet chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at the state Assembly and present a memorandum of demands to him.

But when they reached Rani Rashmoni Road, in the Esplanade area, an hour later, they found policemen barricading the stretch. The cops refused to let the students proceed, saying that Bhattacharjee had not agreed to meet them.

The students were in no mood to be stopped and insisted that they be allowed to proceed. But the police, too, were adamant and repeatedly urged the students to back off. Suddenly, some of the students decided to break through the cordon. Pushing and shoving their way through, row after row of students started to make a dash towards the Assembly.

The police promptly went on a lathicharge. They claim that at this point, the students started pelting them with stones and soda-water bottles. This forced to cops to fire four rounds of tear-gas shells.

For the next 45 minutes, the police and students fought fiercely. By the time the protesters began their retreat, 22 of them and seven policemen were nursing injuries, some of them serious.

But the police kept the heat on and arrested nearly 40 of the students. All over the road, bricks and glass,and some rods, lay scattered, with damaged vehicles lining both sides of the thoroughfare. People waiting for buses and taxis had long dispersed and traffic had been diverted to safer routes. Nearby shops had downed their shutters and passengers alighting from buses ran for cover.

“It is very clear that the students had come to fight it out with the police and they seemed to be well prepared for it,” said DC, south, Ranjit Pachnanda. “They had no business acting in the belligerent manner they did.”

However, student protester Shafikul Islam claimed that all that they wanted to do was present a memorandum to the chief minister. “The government has been deliberately ignoring our justified demands for a long time,” he said. “The condition of the madrasahs is pathetic and nobody is doing anything about it. We want our voice to be heard.”

DC, central, Zulfikar Hasan, who had rushed to the spot with his force, said no one was denying the students the right to voice their grievances. “But this is no way to do it,” he said.

The students proceeded to the madrasah board office and held a dharna. They were finally persuaded to leave late in the evening. The injured students were admitted to National Medical College, Islamia and SSKM Hospitals.


Calcutta, Feb. 20 : 
An impoverished father left his 10-year-old dead daughter in a municipal corporation vat in Bansdroni, south Calcutta, on Monday night. He did not have the money to pay a doctor for the death certificate, take the body to the crematorium, or perform the last rites.

The man was detained for interrogation, while Regent Park police started an unnatural death case, pending a post-mortem report.

Little Mun Mun was born to Tapas and Gita Das of Bansdroni, near Regent Park, 10 years ago. She was born a spastic, with no control over her movements. Her brother and sister, born later, were normal.

Mun Mun’s father, a peon at Howrah court, drew a meagre salary, and could just manage to make ends meet.

But when the girl developed complications relating to rheumatic heart disorder, he did not have the funds to get her operated upon.

As a result, she was treated at home and, over the past five years, her condition deteriorated. She was bedridden for the past five months and finally died on Monday night.

The parents were at a loss over what to do with the body. “We thought of the costs involved,” recalled Das at the police station. “The doctor’s certificate, taking her to the burning ghat, the charges there... We had only Rs 100 with us to buy the next day’s food for our two other children. If we spent it on cremating Mun Mun, how could we get food for the others...” he asked, breaking down in front of the interrogators, who included Gyanwant Singh, additional superintendent of police, South 24- Parganas.

Mun Mun’s mother suggested that the girl’s body be cast into the Adi Ganga (Tolly’s Nullah), still considered a holy waterway. In the dead of night, Tapas carried the body in a large jute bag (the 10-year-old’s body had shrunk due to her illness) and walked along Bansdroni Main Road towards the Ganga.

With street dogs snapping at his heels, Das was forced to beat a hasty retreat. He then decided to dump the body in a roadside vat near his home, presuming that the CMC would take the bag away as garbage.

The next morning, however, residents spotted the limbs of a child in the bag, which had been rummaged overnight by dogs and cats. They recognised the body. A crowd gathered at Das’ house and raised a din, thinking that the girl had been murdered. The police were informed.

“This is a very tragic situation,” said Singh. “The civic authorities and the government have provisions for cremation of the destitute but the Das family, apparently, did not know about them. The last rites can be preformed at only a fraction of the usual cost.”

Several councillors have appealed to the mayor to intervene so that Tapas Das is not punished for what he did.


Calcutta, Feb. 20 : 
A flat in Kalighat was raided on Tuesday afternoon, with the goons tying up a 75-year-old woman and decamping with cash and jewellery.

Rama Bose, one of the partners of Basusree cinema, was alone in her flat on S.P. Mukherjee Road when the dacoits struck. “Around 2.15 pm, I told my driver to go for lunch and return after half an hour. I entered my second-floor flat and had my meal. At around 2.30 pm, the doorbell rang. Thinking it was my driver, I opened the door.”

Two young men, aged between 25 and 28, barged in. They bolted the door, and warned Bose not to cry for help.

“They snatched my gold chain, rings and keys to the cupboard. Then, they tied both my hands, gagged me, shoved me into the kitchen and bolted the door,” Bose added.

According to Banibrata Basu, deputy commissioner of police, detective department, the goons then opened the cupboard and took Rs 30,000 in cash, and some jewellery. “After a swift operation that lasted hardly 10 minutes, they left the apartment,” said Basu.

Around 3 pm, Sandhya Pramanik, Bose’s yoga instructor, turned up. Finding the main door ajar, she entered the flat to find Bose in the kitchen.

She alerted the neighbours who, in turn, called in the police from Kalighat thana. Officers from the detective department’s dacoity section rushed to the spot.

“Preliminary investigations reveal that the goons had been tipped off about Bose’s schedule by some insider,” said Basu.

Roadblock: Taxi-drivers and residents of the area blocked Maniktala Main Road for over an hour on Tuesday evening, alleging that three traffic policemen had misbehaved with them.

But police said trouble broke out when some cops in plain clothes approached a cab during a taxi-refusal check. When the taxi-driver refused to ferry them, he was asked to hand over his licence. On refusal, the officer flashed his identity card. But the driver continued to argue loudly, drawing the attention of other taxi-drivers and passers-by.

Traffic at the congested crossing ground to a halt. With the situation threatening to spin out of control, deputy commissioner of police, north, K.L. Tamta arrived on the spot with a large posse and the protesters were forced to lift the roadblock.


Calcutta, Feb. 20 : 
Mark Misic, artist and former tram conductor from Melbourne, has been creating diamonds with the colours of spring at the intersections of tram tracks at the Howrah depot for the past few days.

On Tuesday afternoon, he repeated his performance in Dalhousie Square as a curious crowd gathered around him, wondering what he was up to. Mark is part of a group from Melbourne, the last preserve of tramways in Australia, to establish links with the only Indian city where streetcars have survived.

Having discovered a kindred soul in Calcutta six years ago, the artistes from Melbourne are back again to raise awareness about trams, which are imperceptibly being phased out from the city, and to collaborate with local artistes and tramworkers to produce a temporary art event, dubbed Tramjatra.

Braving the red tape, dust and countless logistical odds, the artistes from both cities have been busy working at Esplanade and Gariahat tram depots. In Esplanade, architect James Legge has erected a structure of matting and plywood called Melbourne’s Vault, reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House. Jayashree Chakrabarty has created seven panels showing imaginary tram tracks, while patuas Swarna Chitrakar and Dukhushyam Chitrakar from Midnapore have painted scrolls depicting the values of tramways. Billboard painters will blow these up.

Michael Douglas, curator and producer of Tramjatra, said their story will unfold piece by piece over the next week. Documentary filmmaker Mahadeb Shi has been recording the event and will project it in the Vault as part of an installation.

At Gariahat, Suzie Attiwill from Melbourne and Jogi Panghaal from Calcutta have created installations inside a tram, which will travel on different routes. Lisa Young has produced Tram Baby, a series of cards and posters for free distribution. Amanda King has made lanterns to be hung in Esplanade. Both local and Australian conductors will perform inside trams.

Minister Subhas Chakraborty will open Tramjatra at 1 pm on Wednesday. Anjan Dutta will pitch in with his folk songs.


Calcutta, Feb. 20 : 
Alarmed by reports of fresh malaria cases in the city, the civic authorities have decided to file a suit against PWD engineers, charging them with negligence in checking the menace at Raj Bhavan, government offices and medical college hospitals. The civic health department, too, plans to draw the attention of Governor Viren J. Shah to this dereliction of duty by the engineers.

Deputy chief municipal health officer R.N. Sanyal said notices have been slapped on the PWD engineer in-charge of Raj Bhavan and the superintendent of SSKM Hospital for allowing malarial mosquitoes to breed on their respective campuses.

“Under Section 496 of the CMC Act, 1980, the CMC is empowered to take legal action against government officers,” said Javed Khan, member, mayor-in-council, in charge of health.

The decision to sue the officials follows the discovery of malarial larvae on the Raj Bhavan and SSKM Hospital campuses on Monday. Vector control officers collected samples of water teeming with larvae of the Anopheles stephensai from Raj Bhavan and SSKM Hospital and brought them to mayor Subrata Mukherjee.

Mukherjee said the CMC had launched a drive several months ago and cleared Raj Bhavan and all government hospitals of mosquito larvae.

The 12-member malaria advisory committee, too, expressed its concern over the lethargy of the state government’s public works department in controlling mosquitoes breeding in government office compunds.

The committee said almost all the heritage buidings in the city were potent sources of malarial mosquitoes. Whatever effort and resources the CMC had mobilised to control the disease would go waste unless the PWD engineers took the initiative to sustain the drive. Earlier, larvae were found on those campuses of these heritage buildigs only during the monsoon. But now it had become a perennial phenomenon, the team said.

The CMC’s health department will launch a pre-monsoon anti-malaria drive in the city. “We have already received a supply of eight metric tonnes of larvicide and Rs 20 lakh from the Central government, under the National Anti-Malaria Programme,” Khan said.


Calcutta, Feb. 20 : 
A blaze broke out at the godown of a lamp factory in Cossipore on Tuesday morning, injuring fireman R.N. Saha. Twenty-five fire-tenders were pressed into service and after a four-hour-long battle, the blaze was brought in control.

The fire took a devastating shape after gas cylinders stocked in the godown started exploding. The roof collapsed partially after at least 30 cylinders exploded, said K.L. Tamta, deputy commissioner of police (north). Another adjacent godown also caught fire.

An inquiry has begun against the factory owners. Preliminary investigations said the cooking gas cylinders had been illegally stored. Factory workers noticed smoke billowing out of the godown around 8.15 am. Saha, who was injured when he tried to enter the godown, has been admitted to hospital. The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained.


Imphal, Feb. 20: 
Confusion still prevails over the expansion of Radhabinod Koijam-led People’s Front (PF) ministry with differences existing among PF partners over the allocation of ministerial berths.

However, Koijam’s loyalists claimed that the confusion had been cleared and the chief minister would arrive here from New Delhi tomorrow morning.

Speaking to newspersons this evening, Samata Party leader Nimaichand Luwang said the problems had been thrashed out at a joint meeting held by Koijam with Union home minister L.K. Advani and Union defence minister George Fernandes today.

The problem compounded in New Delhi last night when Union minister of state for food processing Th. Chaoba Singh, Speaker Sapam Dhananjoy and BJP legislature wing leader R.K. Dorendra Singh walked out of the PF’s core committee meeting held at Fernandes’ residence.

Sources said Chaoba Singh, Dorendra Singh and Dhananjoy objected to the entry of Federal Party of Manipur and that of an Independent legislator in the ruling PF. But Koijam and Fernandes supported the entry of four members of the FPM in the coalition. In protest, the three leaders walked out of the meeting, sources from New Delhi said.

Koijam loyalists said both Advani and Fernandes had told Koijam to go ahead with the expansion of his ministry.

Luwang said the expansion of the ministry would be held either on February 23 or 24. Central Samata Party leaders like Fernandes, Union agriculture minister Nitish Kumar, Union minister of state for railways Digvijay Singh and Samata Party president Jaya Jaitley will attend the swearing-in ceremony. The ministry will be expanded as soon as these leaders landed here, he added.

Asked about the size of the new ministry, Luwang said it would be over 30. He said the size of the ministry would be discussed with Governor Ved Marwah after Koijam’s arrival. Koijam may arrive tomorrow if he gets a connecting flight from Calcutta, he added.

However, sources close to Dhananjoy said differences still existed and that National Democratic Alliance (NDA) leaders at the Centre had not cleared Koijam’s proposal.

The current tussle in the ruling PF started after Koijam tried to consolidate his position by including Nipamacha Singh loyalists and the FPM into his new ministry. This move was opposed by Chaoba Singh and Dorendra Singh. A source said Chaoba Singh and Dorendra Singh wanted the Koijam government to be a weak one. But having a clear knowledge of their gameplan, the chief minister tried to counter the move, he added.

Koijam has the support of 57 legislators in the 60-member Assembly, whose effective strength at present is 59. The chief minister is facing a difficult task in selecting his council of ministers as all the legislators are ministerial aspirants. Chaoba Singh compounded matters by bargaining for more berths for his loyalists. He insisted that the berths be distributed as per the size of the party in the ruling PF. But Koijam rejected this theory as the Manipur State Congress Party was already split into two factions — one led by Nipamacha Singh and the other led by Chaoba Singh.


Agartala, Feb. 20: 
The 12-hour Dharmanagar sub-division bandh called by the ruling CPM in protest against yesterday’s “police assault” passed off peacefully.

CPM divisional committee secretary Abhijit De was seriously injured when the police resorted to lathicharge at Kameswar under Kadamtala Assembly constituency.

All government offices and educational institutions remained closed and business establishments downed shutters during the bandh. Vehicles, except on the national highway, stayed off the roads. Party sources described the bandh as “total and spontaneous”.

PCC president Birajit Sinha, however, said the bandh was “an attempt by the CPM to divert the attention of people from its misdeeds as well as to create tension before the counting for the Kadamtala by-election”.

Official sources here said trouble started when CPM workers led by De and party candidate Subodh Nath approached the police to complain about the “unauthorised movement” of Congress MLAs Surajit Datta and Sudip Roy Barman in the constituency.

Even as additional superintendent of police Raja Murugon tried to assure them of taking appropriate action, party workers rode roughshod over the policemen and attempted to snatch the service revolver from a constable.

The ASP then ordered a lathicharge as the situation went out of control, they added. Five party workers were arrested while De was admitted to a hospital.

The police later detained Congress MLAs Datta and Roybarman and seized their vehicles. The duo was, however, released on personal risk bond along with the vehicle after the polling.

Chief minister Manik Sarkar is understood to have directed director-general of police Bhusan Lal Vohra to submit a report on the incident.

Sinha accused the CPM workers of provoking the police. He said Left Front ministers Subodh Das, Ramendra Nath and Faizur Rahaman had terrorised voters of the minority community. He added that the Congress was confident of winning the polls provided there was no malpractice during the counting.


Agartala, Feb. 20: 
With the lean season having set in, food crisis and outbreak of enteric diseases are stalking the tribal-dominated hilly interior areas of Tripura.

Last week, five tribals died of enteric diseases and malaria in the interior areas of Longtarai Valley and Sabroom subdivisions of North and South Tripura.

The situation has taken a turn for the worse in the remote areas under Chhawmanu police station in Dhalai district. Tribals in the interior villages have started deserting their habitat in the wake of a food crisis and threat of the outbreak of enteric diseases.

Sources in Ambasa, headquarters of Dhalai district, said 400 tribal families had left the remote Debacherra Gaon panchayat under Chhawmanu police station. While most of the Noatia and Reang tribal families have migrated to neighbouring Mizoram, some of them have also gone to Pecharthal and Machhmara areas of North Tripura.

Sources said over the past six months, employment generation programmes under various poverty alleviation schemes of the government and the Autonomous District Council (ADC) had totally stopped in the affected areas.

The tribals also failed to undertake jhum cultivation because they were not supplied with seeds and other implements by the government and the ADC in time.

For a long time, the tribals who deserted Debacherra village managed to survive by consuming wild edibles. But, of late, this source of food has also dried up because of over-exploitation.

Apart from this, 110 more tribal families have left remote Gunsindhapara, Buddhipara, Bijay Karbaripara, Jalchandrapara and Buddhimonipara villages under Chhawmanu police station for Mizoram and nearby areas of North Tripura because of the food crisis.

An acute shortage of drinking water in these hilly areas is making matters worse.

“There are places where people have to traverse upto four km up and down to get a drop of water,” a source said. Consumption of contaminated water often leads to outbreak of enteric diseases, he added.

He attributed the acuteness of the present crisis to tribal insurgency saying, “During the lean season, from the end of January to mid-April, there is a crisis. But the situation has become acute over the past few years as the administration cannot work in the interior areas because of threats of killing and abduction by militants”.

The source admitted that corruption also played a part in triggering the crisis. “This is because nobody in the administration is in a position to check what is happening in the interior areas as the whole system has collapsed,” he added.


Berhampur, Feb. 20: 
Farmers in the Gajapati district are facing huge loses as they have resorted to distress selling of paddy following the ongoing tussle between local labourers and the Food Corporation of India authorities.

Rice procurement activities in the district have come to a grinding halt as the corporation stopped collecting paddy for the 10,000-tonne-capacity godown at Minigaon in the district.

Sources said the villagers were demanding that the corporation authorities recruit more locals in their various operations. The stalemate continued as the authorities of the Minigaon godown in Kashinagar block of the district have stopped procurement of rice. The corporation happens to be a major rice procurer in Gajapati.

Faced with no alternative, the farmers were selling their paddy at throwaway prices.

According to reports, the corporation stopped collecting rice from the miller-agents after storing 20 per cent of the target citing “shortage of space”.

The district administration had requested the corporation to make their new godown at Minigaon operational. Sources said the corporation had agreed to this, but operations have been hit by the ongoing tussle.

The Gajapati District Millers’ Association has expressed its inability to procure more paddy from the farmers as they do not have adequate storage capacity. All the 37 rice mills in the district were overflowing with rice after the corporation stopped procurement, sources said.

At many places, paddy was being sold for only Rs 250 a bag though the actual price is more than Rs 400. Sources said farmers, who took loans for cultivation, were in a fix following the situation.

The sources added that the government was on the verge of losing sales tax as transactions in rice and paddy have stopped. As per a rough estimates, the government will lose nearly Rs 1 crore, if the present situation continues.


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