Blood spilt on Bypass
Lawyers continue boycott of judge
Headmaster held for molestation
Howrah arrest
School for girls amid squalor and grime
Pitched battle with budget protesters
Exams ahead, but teachers away on census duty
New CEO for Birla clinics
Rajarhat deeds handed over
Tourists warned against N-E visits

Calcutta, March, 1: 
Wednesday, 11.05 pm, EM Bypass. Gopal Krishna Roy, 60, and his wife, Samita, were returning to their Salt Lake home, from their daughter’s residence in Behala, on their scooter. Suddenly, after they had passed Science City and taken a turn towards Salt Lake, the two-wheeler ‘tripped’ over a bamboo, sending the couple flying. The goon, who had wielded the bamboo to fell his prey, attacked the Roys and robbed them. Gopal Krishna Roy succumbed to “fatal head injuries” on Thursday morning, at Ruby General Hospital.

As news spread of the death of Roy, former development officer in the state agriculture department, senior police officers, including Gautam Mohan Chakraborty, deputy inspector-general (presidency range), and Gyanwant Singh, additional superintendent of police (industrial), rushed to the hospital. Police have started a massive manhunt but no arrest was made till late on Thursday.

Samita, nursing injuries on her right hand and shoulder, sat in sufferance at her FD Block house, with daughter Satarupa by her side, awaiting the arrival of son, Shwetketu, from Bangalore.

She narrated, haltingly, how her world had been shattered in a few, violent minutes — “We had been to our daughter’s house. On our way back, we stopped briefly at my brother-in-law’s house in Gol Park. We left for home around 10.45 pm. My husband was driving slowly. We took a left turn from Parama Island, near Science City, and were proceeding towards Chingrighata when we spotted a man standing by the road, holding a bamboo. Sensing trouble, my husband picked up speed. Suddenly, I heard a loud sound and then... I realised that I was lying in the middle of the road, with the scooter rolling down...”

The young man, in a “black T-shirt”, first attacked Gopal Roy. He then approached her and started tugging at the briefcase she was clutching on to. After a brief struggle, he managed to wrest it away from her. But before he could make a grab for her jewellery, a car coming from the opposite direction pulled up, forcing the goon to flee the spot.

“I discovered my husband lying in a pool of blood oozing out of his head. I called out to him repeatedly, but he did not reply... He was groaning in pain,” recounted Samita.

The car that had stopped was occupied by music composer Kalyan Sen Barat and his family. “We were returning home from Baguihati when I spotted a youth beating up a man who was lying on the road. My husband and I stopped and raised an alarm. The youth fled as we approached the injured couple,” said Tanima Sen Barat.

The Barats helped Samita pick up Gopal Roy. “I was screaming for water... I, along with the Barat family, tried to hail a taxi, but two drivers refused to stop. Finally, we managed to stop a taxi and rush to the nearest hospital,” added Samita.

Roy, who slipped into a coma, died at 11.10 am on Thursday.

The attack on the “high-security” Bypass has sent shock waves through Lalbazar. Samita Roy, in her statement, mentioned they had not spotted any policeman “either at the Park Circus-Bypass connector or on the stretch between Parama Island and Chingrighata”, on Thursday night.

It has also brought back fearful memories of the ‘bamboo gangs’ in the early Eighties, which would stalk dark, empty stretches, waiting to ‘trip’ two-wheelers and rob passengers.

Gyanwant Singh said the police have been patrolling the Bypass throughout the night to curb crime in the area. “Two crimelords and 16 gang-members have been arrested in the past three months. But we will intensify our drive against criminals along the Bypass,” he said.

However, a policeman at the Parama Investigation Centre admitted: “It is practically impossible for us to patrol the entire area, right from Dhapa to Bantala, with a force of only 11 cops and two vehicles.”


Calcutta, March, 1: 
Even on Thursday, lawyers of Calcutta High Court continued to boycott Justice Barin Ghosh. Later in the evening, a solution to the stalemate was found at a meeting between the bar and the bench. Bar association secretary Arunava Ghosh told reporters that he was expecting the problem to be sorted out on Friday.

Justice T.K. Chatterjee, Justice Altamus Kabir and Justice Barin Ghosh held talks with the delegation of the bar association when a solution to the crisis was found, he added. On Wednesday, the lawyers decided to boycott Justice Ghosh’s court “indefinitely” after he accused a section of lawyers of being corrupt.

Trouble started on Wednesday when an advocate, Kalyan Banerjee, wanted to move an “urgent” matter. When the judge observed that he often found that these matters were not as urgent as they were made out to be. Justice Ghosh then remarked that “most of the appellate-side lawyers are dishonest.” Lawyers were incensed over the judge’s observation.

Soon after, advocate Banerjee wrote to the Bar Association narrating the incident. The association called an emergency meeting, at which the boycott resolution was taken.

On Thursday, Justice Ghosh took his seat at 10.30 am as usual. But the lawyers had chosen not to attend his court. In the first half, he could hear a few cases as the petitioners appeared in person. But in the second half, Justice Ghosh did not come to the court at all.

A group of lawyers staged a sit-in in front of his courtroom. Some police officers were present on the spot throughout the day. According to a court officer, during the hearing of cases, Justice Ghosh helped the petitioners in person by pointing out the legal methods.

The Bar Association of the court has taken strong exception to the judge’s remark and the association members have decided to continue the agitation till Justice Ghosh apologises in the open court. Arunava Ghosh said: “I have sent the copies of our resolution to the chief justices of the high court and the apex court.” He added: “We have requested our chief justice not to assign Justice Ghosh in any other determination during our boycott movement.


Calcutta, March, 1: 
A headmaster of a primary school in Howrah was arrested on Thursday for allegedly molesting two girl students of Class IV.

According to the FIR lodged with Malipanchghara police station by the parents of the two girls, headmaster Ram Prakash Tiwari of Ramkaran Mahavir Primary School would often call the girls into his office to “harass” them unnecessarily.

However, the police said, on Wednesday afternoon, he called the two girls separately to his office and kept them confined for a long time.

The FIR says when the girls emerged, they looked shattered and one of them even broke down while relating the incident to one of her friends. She was hurriedly sent home by the school authorities.

Back home, the girls told their parents that the headmaster had “misbehaved with them physically” and that he would often do this with other girls as well. They said the other girls were so scared of him that they would run away on being summoned to his office.

Outraged on hearing this, the parents went to the police on Thursday morning and related the matter to them. They then lodged an FIR. The police, accompanied by the parents, went to the school to pick up Tiwari.

On reaching the school, they found that the news of the incident had spread and the parents of a number of other students had already gathered there.

In fact, on seeing the police, members of the Group-D staff of the school rushed to them and told them that they heard of the 48-year-old headmaster’s “misbehaviour” with students a number of times in the past and that they were willing to testify against him.

The police then went to Tiwari’s office and on not finding him there, went to his residence beside the school. Without further ado, they asked him to accompany them to the police station.

After detaining him initially, the police interrogated him for an hour and then decided to arrest him. “We found that he could not provide satisfactory answers to establish his innocence,” said thana officer-in-charge Purnendu Acharya. “So we did not have any choice but to arrest him.”

According to Acharya, the headmaster denied the entire incident, stating that he had called the girls to his chamber as they were caught talking in class. He claimed their classteacher had complained about the girls to him and he had summoned them to his office to punish them.

“But he failed to say what kind of punishment he had in mind for them,” Acharya said. “Also, we find it hard to believe that a headmaster should punish girls for a small matter like talking in class, rather than the classteacher taking the appropriate action.”

The police said that since the two girls had been summoned alone to the office and that they complained of the same “treatment” at the hands of Tiwari, the police decided to arrest him under Section 354 of the IPC (relating to outraging a person’s modesty) after talking to the two girls.

“It is a shocking incident,” said Additional SP of Howrah Rajiv Mishra. “We will check to see if other guardians have similar complaints against him.”

Water supply: There will be no supply of filtered water in south Calcutta on March 7 because of major repairs to be undertaken at the Garden Reach waterworks. Member, mayor-in-council (water supply), Sovan Chatterjee, said supply in some pockets of central Calcutta may also be affected.


Calcutta, March, 1: 
The detective department of Calcutta Police arrested Chikna Raju, a key member of the Gudda-Nadeem gang of Dasnagar, in Howrah, on Wednesday night. A loaded revolver and several cartridges were seized from him. “Raju is the key accused in a number of extortion cases. He is the prime accused in the kidnapping of Puran and Pawan Jaiswal,” said Banibrata Basu, deputy commissioner, detective department.


Calcutta, March, 1: 
The road in front is chaotic, the pavement a garbage dump, the walls a public urinal. Inside, more than 2,000 students of the Holy Child Girls’ High School, at Entally, are struggling to shut out the squalor and the stench.

With no way out of the hell-hole, headmistress Sister Philomina has urged mayor Subrata Mukherjee to “provide cleaner surroundings for the smooth functioning of the school”. In a letter to the mayor, the Sister has drawn attention to the “alarmingly unhygienic environment around the school, causing health hazards” to students, teachers and guardians.

“I was shocked to hear about the unhygienic condition under which the students have to attend school. The Corporation cannot sit idle... I have asked Mala Roy, member, conservancy, to take immediate steps,” said Mukherjee.

According to the Sister, Holy Child is run in two shifts, from 6.30 am to 9.30 am, and then 10 am to 4 pm. The narrow road in front of the school is “crowded with buses, private vehicles, autos and cycle-rickshaws”, causing “traffic inconvenience and minor accidents” all the time. Between 6 am and 1 pm, this stretch is converted into a bazaar, with vendors selling “vegetables, fish, pork, chicken”, making it difficult for students to “enter the school premises safely and punctually”. Adding to their misery is the public urinal built adjacent to the school wall, not only raising a stench, but also causing “embarrassment” to the girls.

All four sides of the school building, complains the headmistress, have been converted into dumping grounds, making it “disgusting and nauseating”. The garbage is allowed to pile up, which attracts street dogs, adding to the “unhygienic” atmosphere and even posing a threat to students and guardians.

Requesting the mayor to take steps to “ensure cleaner and safer surroundings for the educative community and its neighbourhood”, Sister Philomina has suggested the following steps:

Erect iron grills on either side of both roads to prevent the market from spilling over to the pavement in front of the school gate and allow school-children and pedestrians a free passage

Plant guarded trees and lay a garden on the pavement

Abolish the open urinal and build a Sulabh complex on the pavement opposite the school building

Place garbage bins at all four street-corners to stop rubbish being strewn all over the place

Remove the street dogs

Mala Roy said while it was not possible to evict the vendors, the Corporation would take immediate measures to enable the students to have “a better environment to pursue their studies”.

Regarding the stray-dog menace, Javed Ahmed Khan, member,mayor-in-council, health, said: “With animal rights organisations engaged in sterilising strays, it’s not possible for the Corporation to take any harsh steps to tackle this threat. But I have asked the chief municipal health officer to make arrangements for sterilising the dogs in the school’s vicinity.”

But the school authorities will only believe in the promises of the civic authorities when they see action being taken. Former mayor Prasanta Chatterjee and local councillor Dipali Das had earlier promised the authorities that they would create a better environment for the school. Das did organise an “awareness rally” once, but nothing else was done.


Calcutta, March, 1: 
Four policemen were injured after a large number of SUCI supporters clashed with the police on Thursday afternoon in front of the main gate of Raj Bhavan.

The police resorted to a lathicharge when the supporters started pelting stones at them. The injured policemen were rushed to hospital and discharged after being administered first-aid. Traffic services were disrupted for over three hours on the roads leading to Raj Bhavan.

Ten party activists, including the MLA of Kultali, Probodh Purkait, were arrested. Purkait had led the demonstration.

At around 2 pm, at least a hundred SUCI supporters assembled in front of the main gate of Raj Bhavan on Kiran Shankar Roy Road to protest the “anti-people” budget.

They had planned to meet the governor and submit a memorandum.

A scuffle ensued between the supporters and the police after guards at the gate prevented the former from entering the Bhavan. All of a sudden, a section of the supporters started hurling bricks, which prompted the police to lathicharge and disperse the crowd. Ten supporters, who had been arrested, were sent to the Lalbazar police headquarters.

SUCI supporters squatted on Red Cross Place, protesting the lathicharge, causing traffic snarls on Kiran Shankar Roy Road and Old Court House Street.

Zulfikar Hassan, DC (central), and Jayanta Basu, DC (RF), rushed to the spot with additional force. Irate members then assembled at Deckers Lane, disrupting traffic on C.R. Avenue, Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Lenin Sarani and S.N. Banerjee Road.

The demonstrators were pushed back again, but they have threatened to resume their protests on Friday.


Calcutta, March, 1: 
Academic activity in nearly 1,100 state-aided primary schools has been affected badly, with over 75 per cent of the teachers away on census duty for the past three weeks. The census duty for primary schoolteachers began on February 9 and will continue till March 5.

For the first time, the government has recruited the bulk of census staff from state-aided primary schools. In previous years, a maximum of 20 per cent of teachers were engaged. Staff from other government departments formed the rest of the group. Three to four teachers from each primary school, each with a strength of five teachers at best, have been engaged for the census this time, education department sources said.

Admitting that census work has affected classes, district inspector of primary schools in Calcutta, Sambhu Barui, said: “We are aware of the problem.” Teachers were asked to attend the maximum number of classes before or after census work. While very few teachers could manage, most of them absented themselves from class since February 9, Barui said. “The census is an important, nation-wide exercise. We were helpless, as we had to follow the government directives,” he added.

“Never before has the government deployed such a huge number of teachers from primary schools for this kind of an exercise,” said Kartick Saha, general secretary, Bengal Primary Teachers’ Association. Primary schools in the districts were also affected, he said.

However, schools were kept open since February 9. But with no teachers around, students sat idle all day long. Concerned with the continuous absence just before the annual examinations, several guardians have approached the school authorities, demanding regular classes.

“Children studying in the state-aided primary schools come mainly from the lower-income group strata and can’t afford private tuitions,” said Piyush Kanti Chakraborty, headmaster of Kshudiram Vidyalaya, in north Calcutta. The school has a total of five teachers, four of whom have been engaged for the census.

Two out of three teachers of Belgachhia Khalsa Primary School are also on census work.


Calcutta, March, 1: 
A senior doctor from the famous Cleveland Clinic in Ohio has been appointed the joint chief executive officer of the twin hospitals, B.M. Birla Heart Research Centre and the Calcutta Medical Research Institute.

Dr Atul Mehta, vice-chairman of pulmonary and critical care medicine and head of the bronchology and lung transplant team at the Cleveland Clinic, has set several goals to be achieved at the hospitals, which have a combined strength of about 500 super-speciality beds.

Mehta said the use of advanced technology could bring down the cost of several procedures at present being performed at both the hospitals. The collaboration with the Ohio clinic would also entail an exchange of doctors and introduction of telemedicine in all disciplines.


Calcutta, March, 1: 
When Sharmila Mullick received the deed of ownership for her 200 sq m plot in Rajarhat New Town from former chief minister Jyoti Basu on Thursday evening, she put a stamp on the largest urbanisation effort since Salt Lake.

Basu, along with chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, handed over possession documents to about 25 individuals and cooperatives in New Town’s Action Area I. Housing minister Gautam Deb, who was lauded both by Basu and Bhattacharjee for making the project a “grand success”, said about 25,000 families, chosen after a lottery, would soon be handed over their plots. “They can start construction work within a week,” Deb said.

The new township, two-and-a-half times the size of Salt Lake, was the “most environmentally-friendly urban centre in the country,” said Deb. “We have planted thousands of saplings and created 42 hectares of waterbodies here,” he added. Phase 1 of New Town is only a few kilometres away from Nicco Park.

Basu, who had laid the foundation stone for the project as chief minister, expressed his satisfaction that the project was well under way. “Complete the work within the deadline,” he advised.

Housing companies and financial firms presented an exhibition offering loans and suggestions related to construction to the people of the new township.

People from the neighbouring villages came in large numbers at the evening-long soiree organised by the housing department.


Guwahati, March 1: 
In a major setback to the state government’s efforts to promote Assam as a major tourist destination for footloose Europeans, three countries have warned their citizens not to tour the militancy-ravaged state.

Though the state government insists that the law and order situation has returned to normal, not everyone is convinced.

Governments of United Kingdom, France and Switzerland have advised tourists against visiting Assam, Manipur, Tripura and Nagaland.

The “warning” has been posted in the official websites of the departments handling foreign affairs of the three European Union countries.

The website of the foreign and commonwealth office of United Kingdom says: “...we advise against all holiday and other non-essential travel to Manipur and Tripura as well as Assam (particularly in the run-up to elections in early 2001). While foreigners are not the targets of violence, attacks can be indiscriminate.”

The official Swiss and French sites have also put up similar warnings. Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Mizoram, however, have been listed as “generally safe.’’

Marie Baran, Press attache at the Swiss embassy in New Delhi, told The Telegraph over telephone that Geneva’s views were only “recommendations” to travellers intending to visit the Northeast “in view of the political unrest in the region. It has no legal basis, but then tourists visiting these areas do so at their own risk,” she added.

Fabienne Couty, Press counsellor at the French embassy in New Delhi, said the recommendations are based on “various sources like experience, contacts, newspaper reports, Indian administration and consultation among various European countries.”

The “negative projection” of Assam has come as a big blow to the state government’s “special drive to promote exotic natural tourism ... to the outside world” as mentioned in the AGP-led government’s performance budget on tourism for the year 2000-2001.

In the three-decade-long insurgency in Assam, only one foreigner has been killed by militants though he was not a tourist. In 1991, Russian engineer Sergei Gritchenko was abducted and killed by the Ulfa.

Amar Bora, president of the All-Assam Tour Operators’ Association, said the association, in a letter dated January 12, 2001, had informed Union tourism minister Ananth Kumar about a Japanese embassy security warning to all Assam-bound Japanese tourists.

The association requested the minister to take necessary steps so stave off such “alerts.”

Expressing displeasure over the lackadaisical attitude of both the state and the Centre on the issue, general secretary of the association Arup Barua alleged that Indian embassies in foreign countries were also responsible for this kind of “misinformation.

“An Italian couple was told by the Indian embassy in Rome that since Assam was a disturbed area, they should not go there,” he said.

The couple later contacted their country’s embassy in Milan which cleared their visit.

The “cyber warnings” have unnerved many first-timers. Pierre Jaccard, a Swiss travel agent in a recent communication to a Guwahati-based tour operator, said a group of Swiss tourists due to visit Kaziranga “finally decided to cancel the tour of Assam because of insecurity. All official sites of the Swiss, French, British and American governments advise against going to Assam.”

Arijit Purkayastha, general manager (tours) of Network Travels, rued that “efforts to promote tourism in the region” have been futile.

Assam minister for tourism Jagdish Bhuyan said he came to know of the “misinformation” campaign which was pointed out to him by European tour operators during his visit to the World Tourism Mart in London in November last year.

He claimed that he had conveyed the same to director of the country’s tourist office in London Alka Kohli, requesting her to take steps to ensure that these “adverse comments” were deleted.

He, however, expressed surprise that the “misinformation” has not been deleted yet. “The state government has written to the Centre,” he added.

However, Fabienne Couty of the French embassy said the Union government did not contact the embassy for updating the website’s information. “No one has contacted us yet. But we are always open to new information,’’ she added.


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