Teenager killed in cricket quarrel
Twist in kidnap tale with girl’s mystery return
Record number of Madhyamik candidates
Drive to rid streets of pigs
Villages of health and hope
State-of-the-art scan machine
Trinamul to beam Mamata budget speech
LF retains Tripura bypoll seat
Advani signals wider Naga truce
Tax holiday cut puts Tata Steel on the offensive

Calcutta, Feb. 25: 
Kamalesh Yadav, 14, died, on Sunday after being hit on the head with a bat and stumps by local boys following a quarrel over a cricket match at Nandan Ghosh Road, in the Golabari area of Howrah town, on Saturday. Five other boys were injured in the clash.

Treated at the dispensary of a local doctor on Saturday, Kamalesh, or Munna, began to throw up late on Saturday. He was rushed to Howrah General Hospital early on Sunday, where he died later of “internal haemorrhage”.

An FIR has been lodged at Golabari police station, on the basis of charges levelled by Shibram Burman, father of 14-year-old Bhola, one of Munna’s friends injured in the attack.

Burman accused a group of boys, all between 11 and 14 years old, of the assault. No arrests were, however, reported till late on Sunday night.

Police said Munna and half-a-dozen boys were playing cricket at Gulmohar Maidan on Saturday afternoon. Another group was playing close by. Trouble began after Munna and Bhola started objecting to the ball from the other group coming on to their pitch, forcing frequent hold-ups. “We had to stop our game repeatedly as their ball kept landing up on our pitch. We told them to be careful and not to disturb our game deliberately,” said Bhola, his head swathed in bandages.

But the other group of around seven boys, all of them students at local schools, refused to pay heed to Munna and Bhola’s protests. Suddenly, around 4.30 pm, they charged into the playing area of Munna and his friends, wielding bats and stumps.

They targeted Munna and Bhola, hitting them repeatedly on the head. “I pleaded with them to stop beating us. But they did not listen. From the corner of my eye, I could see Munna falling to the ground, blood dripping down his neck. Soon his shirt was soaked with blood,” Bhola sobbed.

The attackers, however, became nervous when they saw Munna lying motionless in a pool of blood, and fled. Bhola managed to get up and call four other friends, who had managed to escape with minor injuries.

Local residents rushed to the spot and removed the injured boys to a local dispensary. The doctor there stitched up Bhola and Munna, administered pain- killers and asked them to return after a week.

Around 8 pm, Munna started feeling nauseous, and vomited a couple of times. His condition deteriorated late at night and he was taken to Howrah General Hospital, early on Sunday. By then, he had slipped into a coma. Doctors declared him dead around 4.30 pm.

“The eyewitnesses are being unable to name the boys who are actually responsible. Bhola is a newcomer to the area and does not know all the local boys. There are so many groups that come to play at Gulmohar Maidan every day. So, what can we do?” demanded Subodh Biswas, officer-in-charge, Golabari police station.


Calcutta, Feb. 25: 
Twenty-four hours after her mysterious “abduction” from her maternal grandparents’ house on Harish Mukherjee Road, Sanjukta Basu Roy returned to her Bansdroni residence on Saturday night under equally mysterious circumstances. She was placed under “house arrest”, after grilling by detectives on Sunday at the Lalbazar headquarters threw up more questions than answers. Late on Sunday, police arrested Mohammad Mukhtar from the Park Circus area during night-long raids to crack the case.

Sanjukta told the police her abductors were planning to sell her off to Bangladeshi criminals. But how did the goons know she was going to the Ghosh Dastidar house?

A gang of goons had entered the house of her grandfather, Kalyan Ghosh Dastidar’s house on Harish Mukherjee Road on Friday afternoon, and escaped with cash and valuables and Sanjukta as well. Sanjukta told the police on Sunday that there were actually three criminals, and not six, as Ghosh Dastidar had told the police on Friday.

Sanjukta was brought to Lalbazar under tight security on Sunday morning. Kalyan Ghosh Dastidar and other relatives, too, were summoned to the detective department for questioning.

According to city detective chief Banibrata Basu, Sanjukta left her Bansdroni residence on Friday afternoon on some “work” but changed her mind on the way, to visit grandmother Meera. Sanjukta told interrogators she is “extremely close” to her grandmother, a claim denied by Meera and Kalyan.

Basu said Sanjukta took a bus to Harish Mukherjee Road from her Bansdroni residence. She had Rs 15 on her. Kalyan opened the door and closed it after she entered.

She exchanged pleasantries with Meera and then left the room, apparently to fetch a bottle of water. She came into the room, and within five minutes, the criminals broke in. They gagged Sanjukta and tied her hands.

The DC, DD said the three criminals did not enter through the main door but scaled the rear wall and entered through the back door. Before leaving, they even allowed Sanjukta to put on her slippers and grab her purse.

After emerging on the busy road at 4 pm, they stood on the pavement for four minutes, holding a revolver to her, Basu said. The third man hailed a taxi. They drove to Sealdah, from where they went on to Diamond Harbour Road. On reaching Joka, where they halted for tea, Sanjukta realised that the driver was an accomplice.

The men got off one at a time. They halted for half an hour at two other places en route to Diamond Harbour. A middle-aged man, whom Sanjukta identified as Mansoor Ali, arrived for the booty. They divided the money.

She claimed the men were drunk when they entered the Harish Mukherjee Road house. They drank even more on their way to Diamond Harbour and prevented her from opening the window.

They stopped the taxi in a field. Along with Mansoor, they got off to eat, while Sanjukta sat alone. Then they walked two km to Mansoor Ali’s hut. Sanjukta spent the night there with his wife.

On Saturday, around 7.30 pm, two unknown men arrived to take her back to Calcutta. After half an hour’s drive, the taxi developed a snag. One of the men went to fetch a mechanic, while the other got off to help the driver.

Sanjukta got out on the pretext of going to the toilet. She noticed a private bus, got in and requested the conductor to take her to the nearest railway station. (Investigations revealed there is no such bus service.)

Basu said Sanjukta reached Noorpur railway station (according to Eastern Railway, there is no station of that name) where an old man bought her a ticket to Garia. She reached Garia at 10 pm and took an autorickshaw home.


Calcutta, Feb. 25: 
The two major school-leaving examinations — Madhyamik and ICSE — begin on Monday. Nearly 650,000 candidates will appear for the exams in Calcutta and elsewhere in the districts. The Class XII exams, ISC, begin on March 1.

“A record number of students, nearly 5.75 lakh, will write the Madhyamik this time. We have taken all possible measures to ensure that there is no major disruption and the examinations pass off smoothly,” said Arun Kiran Chakraborty, president, West Bengal Board of Secondary Education. The exams will be held in nearly 1,800 schools in the city and districts.

The number of ICSE examinees has also touched a new high, with English-medium schools mushrooming in Calcutta and its neighbouring districts over the past few years. Around 200 schools in Calcutta will be used as exam centres, sources said.

“With the number of ICSE examinees rising sharply, we have requested the government to provide necessary support to the Council schools for conducting the examinations,” said G.R.D. Costa Hart, MLA and principal of Welland Gouldsmith School. According to Hart, the Council has also urged the government to make “special arrangements” in north Bengal schools.

School authorities have approached the government, requesting it to ensure uninterrupted power supply till the completion of the examinations. The state transport department will run special CSTC buses along 24 routes on days of the examination.


Calcutta, Feb. 25: 
The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has decided to enforce a ban on rearing pigs in its sweepers’ colonies and in compounds of medical college hospitals, in the wake of the killer contagion in Siliguri. The CMC Act does not permit foraging of cows, pigs and dogs on city roads.

“It will be a joint drive of CMC’s conservancy and health department,” said mayor Subrata Mukherjee. “It is unthinkable that pigs roam freely on the roads in an A-1 city like Calcutta,” commented member, mayor-in-council (health), Javed Ahmed Khan on Sunday.

The CMC has decided to seek police help for the drive. Khan said pigs harbour germs and act as vectors of killer diseases.

As the pathogen, which is playing havoc in Siliguri, is yet to be identified, the city health department should take steps to eliminate potential vectors from the city area, he said.

Khan held talks with conservancy chief Mala Roy, as sweepers’ settlements of the CMC and medical college hospitals in the city are breeding grounds of pigs.

Earlier operations undertaken by the conservancy department to eradicate pigs from the Hogg Market area were frustrated as CMC conservancy workers refused to cooperate. If they refuse this time too, CMC will hire experts from the Sunderbans to catch them, Roy said.

Pigs forage in Free School Street and the fish and vegetable sections of New Market. A good number of them are reared in the compounds of Medical College Hospital, SSKM Hospital, NRS Hospital, R.G. Kar Hospital and in the CMC’s sweepers’ colonies on Cossipore Road, Judges Court Road, Hazra Road and D.C.Dey Road.

According to assistant director (conservancy) Swapan Mahapatra, there are several thousand pigs in the city. In June 1998, he said, the CMC rounded up more than 150 pigs from the area and sent them to the pig pound of the slaughter house at Suormari, on Govinda Khatik Road.

Mahapatra said catching pigs is a tough job: It requires both strength and skill. Moreover, pigs became aggressive when chased and can bite. Then, anti-rabies shots are a must.

No less aggressive are their keepers, because pigs mean money. Rearing pigs is the traditional business of the Khatiks, who jointly run the piggeries near conservancy staff quarters. A full-grown pig weighs more than 120 kg and yields 100 kg of pork. Since pork sells for Rs 70 a kg, a mazdoor with a herd of 50 pigs can boast of an asset of Rs 2.5 lakh.


Calcutta, Feb. 25: 
She is the para’s universal ‘Mom’, providing education, shelter, healthcare and protection to streetchildren for well over a decade now. But Edith Wilkins, born in Cork, Ireland, who “fell in love” with this city 19 summers back, on her first trip here with friend Roselyn, wants to “give Calcutta more”.

Edith (overseas director), who founded The Edith Wilkins Hope Foundation in January 1999 along with friends Maureen Forrest and Celina Daly, now wants to fulfil her ultimate dream in Calcutta — setting up twin villages for kids, to “give them a total family atmosphere with surrogate parents”. To be set up by the Foundation near Behala, the ‘Health Village’ and ‘Asha’ will cost around £400,000 each. “The Health Village will have a mini-hospital for streetchildren, a hospice for AIDS and cancer victims, a special unit for malnourished children and a child-orientation centre. Asha will have a cluster of 20 village-style houses — each housing 10-15 kids who will have long-term house parents — for them to help grow up amidst love,” explains Edith, who had set up Cini-Asha in collaboration with GOAL.

Both the ‘villages’ should be “up and running in three years”, with Maureen and Celina busy raising funds for the projects back in Cork.

The EW Hope Foundation, with its Indian headquarters in Calcutta, was conceptualised for “total rehabilitation”. It works with seven local NGOs, focusing on rehabilitating, counselling and educating “street children, and children in difficult circumstances”, providing funding and voluntary consultancy, healthcare, and nutrition.

Edith, who comes from “a typically large Irish family”, feels children are on the streets for various reasons — dysfunctional families, poverty, alcoholism, abuse... “They are constantly open to the threat of physical, sexual and drug abuse. Our aim is to give them security, love and a family atmosphere,” she says.

The Foundation premises on 39, Panditiya Place, is home to 23 kids at present, including two-and-a-half-month-old Karishma and seven-year-old Amar, children Edith has adopted. “Yes, they are Wilkinses and can have Irish passports. Amar was very attached to Mamata, another kid here who succumbed to cancer when she was 10. I felt he needed a sibling to cope with the trauma. Hence, Karishma,” explains Edith.

All her foster-children go to school or to various professional training courses. “They also take lessons in classical dance, music and painting, besides playing football and going for swimming, because we believe they need these to become strong individuals,” says ‘Mom’ Edith, in halting Bengali. It is this ‘strength’ which helped ‘wards’ Ruma and Soma, both 19, to “help out” in quake-ravaged Bhuj.

“It’s one big family here at the Foundation and Edith’s our Mom. It’s a great home to come back to,” smiles young Jayanti.


Calcutta, Feb. 25: 
The first magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine in a state government hospital will become functional in Calcutta from Monday.

The Rs 6.5-crore Wipro ‘G’ machine from the US will be inaugurated at the Bangur Institute of Neurology, SSKM Hospital, by former chief minister Jyoti Basu.

“This will be the most sophisticated MRI machine in eastern India, used in the detection of brain-stem lesions, spinal tumours, cardiac tumours and peripheral vascular diseases,” said Debdaipayan Chatterjee, SSKM surgeon superintendent.

A.K. Maity, director of SSKM’s Institute of Post-Graduate Medical Education and Research (IPGMER), said “post-doctoral researchers” would benefit greatly from this machine, as it would help in the study of the brain, cardiac and neurological functions.

“The machine has a very powerful electromagnet, with a field of 1.5 tesla, compared to 0.3 tesla to 0.5 tesla in other MRI machines available at four or five centres in the city,” he said.

Gopal Ganguly, a member of the SSKM managing committee, said: “We will try to keep the cost of an MRI test at least Rs 3,000 less than private units, which charge Rs 7,000 to Rs 8,000.”


Calcutta, Feb. 25: 
The Trinamul Congress has decided to mount colour television sets, some with giant screens, at major road intersections and parks on Monday so that people can see railway minister Mamata Banerjee presenting her budget in Parliament.

Television sets will be installed at the Shyambazar five-point crossing, Hatibagan, Sovabazar, Dunlop Bridge, Burrabazar, the crossing of Vivekananda Road and Rabindra Sarani, Shraddhananda Park, Hazra, Gariahat, Bhowanipore and Behala tram depot. The party has placed orders for 100 colour TV sets.

The police fear this will lead to major traffic snarls, but Trinamul leaders assured them that their party workers have been instructed to ensure smooth traffic.

“TV sets will be installed on pavements and in parks. We will not block any road or pose problems for the traffic,” said Tapas Dutta, vice-president of the Trinamul youth wing.

The Trinamul has also tied-up with a private cable operator to beam a budget analysis by an experts’ panel, comprising retired railway officials, politicians and media persons.

After the budget, viewers can call up 219-2113 or 219-2114 with their queries, which will be answered by the experts.

The biggest TV screen will be installed at Girish Park. Here, financial analysts, cost and chartered accountants will analyse the budget on-the-spot for the common people.

Didi is under tremendous pressure to increase passenger fares. But we think she will not go for a hike, keeping the common people in mind,” said Trinamul youth wing president Sanjoy Bakshi.


Agartala, Feb. 25: 
The ruling Left Front has retained the Kadamtala Assembly seat, election to which was held on February 19.

It won the seat with an increased margin cashing in on the bitter infighting in the Congress. Counting for the Kadamtala seat in Dharmanagar subdivision, originally scheduled to come off on Friday, had to be put off because of the 48-hour Tripura bandh called by the Congress in protest against the assassination of party legislator Bhola Saha on February 20.

Counting began today amid mounting political tension but CPM candidate Subodh Nath established an early lead. According to the final results, the CPM candidate trounced his nearest Congress rival and former Speaker Jyotirmay Nath by a margin of 2,555 votes.

BJP candidate Karna Nath polled 1,014 votes which indicated a clear erosion of the party’s support base. In the 1998 Assembly polls, the BJP had polled over 3,000 votes. Janata Dal candidate Sundar Mookherjee polled 1,524 votes as against 3,000 in the last Assembly polls.

The results indicate a steady growth in the Left Front’s share of votes. In the last Assembly polls held in February 1998, CPM candidate Umesh Nath won the Kadamtala seat by a margin of only 500 votes against Jyotirmay Nath of Congress. The BJP and the Janata Dal had taken away 3,000 anti-Left votes each.

The erosion in the BJP and the Janata Dal’s share of votes in the just-concluded election shows that the CPM and not the Congress has been the major beneficiary. Byelection to the Kadamtala seat was necessitated by the death of former CPM legislator Umesh Nath on September 7 last year.

Trucks looted: Six ginger-laden trucks were looted on the National Highway 54 near Lalliapore check gate on the Cachar-Mizoram border last night. The thugs also looted a tidy amount cash from traders accompanying the trucks. Police sources said the robbery was the result of rivalry between two trading lobbies. However, they said the cash looted was less than the stated amount of Rs 7 lakh.


Kohima, Feb. 25: 
In an attempt to broaden the scope for peace in Nagaland, Union home minister L.K. Advani today said the Centre was considering proposals to extend the current ceasefire to other areas of the Northeast.

He said the Centre was considering the S.C. Jamir government’s proposal to declare ceasefire with three other Naga outfits. The current three-and-a-half-year-old truce is between the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) and the government.

Advani said a three-pronged strategy has been chalked out to expedite the peace process and weed out insurgency from the region.

Stating that the problems in Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast are different, he said there could not be a uniform strategy to tackle the two situations.

“In Jammu and Kashmir, it is a state-sponsored terrorism perpetrated by our western neighbours against which we made considerable success in building world opinion,” he added.

Advani said necessary assistance and co-operation were being sought from Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar to flush out northeastern militants from these countries.

Deliberating on the three-pronged approach, Advani said economic development in the region gets top priority in the Centre’s scheme of things.

All Central projects — which are part of an economic package announced by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Shillong last year — are being monitored by the home ministry and the PMO, he added.

The Union minister, who was on a two-day maiden visit here, said militancy will be dealt with a firm hand, but doors will be kept open for militant groups willing to come to the negotiation table.

Advani told newspersons before leaving for New Delhi that he reviewed the law and order in the state with Governor O.P. Sharma, the state council of ministers, government officials and representatives of several non-government organisations.

Though Advani failed to give specific information about the progress of the dialogue with the NSCN (I-M), he admitted that the process was slow. However, the Centre is in favour of speeding up the process as its priority is to restore peace in the region, he added.

He said a new battalion of Indian Reserve Battalion will be raised in the state in the next financial year. On corruption in high places in Nagaland, he said if the Supreme Court orders a CBI probe in connection with a PIL filed in the apex court, the home ministry will definitely act on it. The CBI has been reportedly conducting a probe into alleged misappropriation of funds in five government departments.

Expressing happiness over people’s enthusiasm towards peace he said, “The kind of exuberance I noticed here for the past two days makes me confident that peace is really a dynamic force.”

Speaking to newspersons at Patna on his way back to Delhi, Advani said peace was returning to the northeastern states, especially Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, adds our special correspondent from Patna.

The chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh has favoured extension of the term for Disturbed Area Act in two districts — Tirap and Changlang, Advani added.

Though the term of the Act was supposed to expire in March, “it will be extended for another six months,” he added. The Centre, he said, would consider announcing a package of development if the peace process continued. Advani expressed concern over the spurt of ISI activities along the Indo-Nepal border and said the Centre was in touch with the countries like Myanmar, Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh to curb ISI activities, he added.


Jamshedpur, Feb. 25: 
Tata Steel has decided to go to court against a recent move by the Jharkhand government withdrawing the sales tax exemption being given to the company’s cold rolling mill here.

Talking to newspersons this afternoon, chief of the company’s corporate communications Sanjay Singh said, “The site for the cold rolling mill project was selected only after the government promised certain concessions.

“Originally, we had planned the project in another part of the country. No one wants to go to court but this is the last resort for seeking justice.We have decided to exercise our rights for safeguarding the interest of the company. No company wants to risk an investment of nearly Rs 700 crore.”

According to Singh, following the 1995 industrial policy of the erstwhile Bihar government, it was decided to give incentives to all new or existing units undertaking expansion, modernisation and diversification programmes.

The Bihar government had decided that purchase of raw material for such units within the state of Bihar and sale of finished products in the state would be exempted from sales tax for a period of eight to 10 years depending upon the location.

“There were four essential conditions laid down for availing sales tax exemption under the policy, all of which have been complied to by Tata Steel,’’ he said.

However, after the bifurcation of the state, commissioner of commercial taxes, Jharkhand, Amit Khare, stayed the earlier order of the Bihar government on February 22. The department also decided to review afresh whether the Tata Steel was entitled to any relief and also whether the industrial policy of Bihar was still applicable to Jharkhand.

Company officials have also decided to skip the February 27 hearing fixed by the commissioner. “The commissioner has issued statements to the Press, suggesting that he had pre-judged the issue and has taken a pre-determined stand on the matter. The government is yet to set up a sales tax tribunal in the state and under the circumstances, we will have to move the court of law,’’ Singh said.

But during a flying visit to the Steel City today, Jharkhand chief minister Babulal Marandi hinted that the government was examining the case and promised to announce his decision soon.

Earlier this month, Governor Prabhat Kumar had pulled up the state government for the delay in announcing its industrial policy.


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