Bloodspill on platform
College staff on indefinite strike
Hitmen in net, Subba in surrender signal
Promotionsunder vigilance scanner
Tourists & tremors keep Valthera awake
US proposes $10 million for Gujarat
Atal in world appeal on Buddha
BJP Big Two to flag off Bengal campaign
Crowning of prince rattles raja of Bihar
Police blood soaks Kashmir truce

 
 
BLOODSPILL ON PLATFORM 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Kalyani, March 2: 
Tension gripped Ranaghat after three youths were killed within 24 hours.

Two youths were killed yesterday as a fallout of gang rivalry. Another youth was murdered in broad daylight today. Police, however, could not ascertain the cause of the killing. No arrests have yet been made in connection with the killings.

At about 11.30 pm yesterday, Kamal Pal (30) was attacked on his way home from the Ranaghat station. Armed youths followed Pal, a resident of Railway Colony, as soon as he got off from the train.

Sensing danger, Kamal tried to flee across the overbridge. However, the six attackers, who had revolvers, dragged him to the platform and rained blows on him. The assailants then fired thrice at close range.

On hearing the shots, the government railway police on duty and some late-night passengers rushed to the spot to find Pal lying in a pool of blood on the plat form. He was immediately rushed to Anulia Hospital, where he succumbed to injuries.

Another youth, Bumbat (27), was found murdered at Majherhat in Dhantala area. Police said Bumbat was wanted in connection with a number of cases, including murder, extortion and snatching. Police suspect that Pal, who belonged to a rival gang, was murdered by members of Bumbat’s gang.

At 10 am today, about 11 hours after Pal’s death, Mangal Munia (35) was shot at Sardar Para in Dhantala police area. Munia was having tea with his friends at a roadside stall when a youth on a bicycle fired at him from close range.

Though the area was crowded, the assailant fled before anyone could react. Munia was taken to the local hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.

Police said attempts are being made to ascertain whether Munia was known to Bumbat and his gang members. Superintendent of railway police Gangeswar Singh said primary investigation showed that Pal belonged to Bumbat’s rival gang, but Munia’s association has yet to be established.

Residents of the area have become worried after the three murders. Most shops and markets were closed today. Senior police officers have rushed to the area and intensive search operations have been launched to nab the culprits.

“Recently antisocial activities in the station area have increased. Police are well aware of this. They were repeatedly informed of the situation, but they never took any action. If they do not do something quickly, the situation in the area will worsen.”

A senior police officer of Dhantala, however, said: “We conduct raids in the area from time to time. But if the railway police is not active it is difficult to check these crimes. Moreover, the situation becomes worse when these criminals are sheltered by political leaders for their vested interests.”

   

 
 
COLLEGE STAFF ON INDEFINITE STRIKE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Bolpur, March 2: 
Teachers and non-teaching employees of all colleges in Birbhum district have decided to go on an indefinite strike from tomorrow, demanding the arrest of the students allegedly involved in ransacking the Bolpur college principal’s chamber.

“After a meeting with a state-level delegation of the West Bengal College and University and Teachers Association (WBCUTA) on Thursday, we decided to call a strike on Saturday in Birbhum,” said Manas Santra, convener, WBCUTA, Birbhum district.

On February 24, a group of students, allegedly supporters of the Trinamul Congress, ransacked the office room and the chamber of the principal of Bolpur college after a clash with SFI supporters. The clash followed a quarrel between the two groups over filling up of examination forms. The Trinamul supporters had allegedly attacked Prasanta Mukherjee, teacher-in-charge of the college.

An FIR was lodged by the college authorities against the students. The college was closed indefinitely the same day.

The closure has affected students the most. “In June we will sit for the Part-I examination. But we are not able to fill up the registration forms because of the closure,” said Moutushi Guha, a student of BA (Part-I).

   

 
 
HITMEN IN NET, SUBBA IN SURRENDER SIGNAL 
 
 
FROM PROBIR PRAMANIK
 
Siliguri, March 2: 
Investigators on the trail of Subash Ghising’s attackers today claimed they had nabbed two prime suspects and are on the verge of getting militant Gorkha leader Chhattray Subba in their net shortly.

While two of the masterminds of the strike on Ghising were handed over to the special investigation team (SIT), Subba has sent feelers through Nepal police that he is willing to give himself up to the West Bengal police.

The Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) has alleged that Subba, who heads the Gorkha Liberation Organisation (GLO), had hatched the conspiracy to assassinate Ghising.

The SIT, which is in its fourth mission to Nepal as part of Operation Deer, is desperate for results because the GNLF has threatened to resume the indefinite hill bandh from March 19 if the assailants are not arrested.

An official with the SIT told The Telegraph that the Nepal police handed over two of the suspected conspirators — Sharan Dewan and Arjun Chettri — to the team at Morang in the eastern hill district of Ilam. Dewan is said to be the second most important person in the GLO hierarchy.

The official disclosed that Subba had indicated he is ready to surrender. “We have also made contacts with Subba, who has expressed his willingness to surrender himself to us. The matter is being discussed between us and our Nepal counterparts,” he said.

Both Sharan and Arjun were arrested by Nepal police at Chayanpur a week ago. Investigators said that the blueprint of the ambush was primarily drawn up by Sharan and Vijay Dewan, husband of Dimple Dewan — the housewife who was among the first to be arrested after the February 10 ambush.

Subba’s son, Santosh alias Gorey Subba, had arranged for the supply of arms and ammunition. O.R. Kothwal, who was arrested along with Dimple, was the main conduit for the arms supply. Police are now on the lookout for Vijay and Santosh.

“We have managed to trace Subba by tracking calls made from Siliguri and Kurseong to his cellphone. We got his mobile phone numbers from the five people arrested. We traced him to a particular spot in eastern Nepal,” the official said.

The two detainees were brought to the Morang police station from Chayanpur on Tuesday.

The assailants’ trail led to Nepal after Dimple squealed during sustained interrogation.

Dimple, a housewife, and Kothwal, a drug dealer-cum-car-hijacker, were picked up for questioning on the basis of records of calls made to the cellphone recovered from the attacker killed during the ambush.

Though Arjun was picked up by the SIT for questioning, he was set free after a couple of days. Sharan and Arjun had headed the Kurseong and Gayabari units of the Subba-led Gorkha Volunteer Cell — the GNLF militant wing — during the statehood agitation in the mid-eighties.

   

 
 
PROMOTIONSUNDER VIGILANCE SCANNER 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, March 2: 
The Bengal government has decided to strictly adhere to the norm of getting prior clearance from the vigilance commission before promoting officers to senior posts.

The decision has been taken in the wake of the large number of cases of corruption involving government officers received by the vigilance commission in the past few years.

According to the commission’s reports, it had received 1,430 cases in 1998, 1,010 in 1999 and 1,078 cases in 2000. Prior investigation by the commission about the integrity of employees to be promoted will help prevent corrupt persons from occupying key posts in the administration.

Getting prior clearance from the commission before promoting senior officers is not new. The norm was introduced soon after the vigilance commission came into existence in 1965.

However, heads of different departments did not attach much importance to this condition. This is evident from a government circular (587-GAC-vig) issued on May 25, 1976. The 25-year-old circular alleged that “departmental heads, while seeking clearance certificates from the commission, do not care to mention even full names of their officers and employees and their previous postings”.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee took keen interest in revamping the moribund commission to root out corruption from the state administration. R.N. Kali, a senior judicial officer with an excellent record as district and metropolitan court judge, was appointed commissioner in October 1999.

The appointment of a judicial officer with court experience was needed as most corruption charges brought against erring employees were dismissed in court because of legal lacunae.

That the measure has yielded results is evident from the commission issuing certificates to 3,359 officers awaiting promotions last year. Scrutiny of annual asset statements by government officers was one important criteria for getting a green signal from the commission.

However, non-cooperation by department heads continues. According to the latest report of the commission, 1,466 corruption cases against state government employees are pending for 10 years because of non-cooperation.

There are hundreds of instances mentioned in the report where the commission was forced to drop charges following the indifferent attitude of department heads.

   

 
 
TOURISTS & TREMORS KEEP VALTHERA AWAKE 
 
 
FROM ANAND SOONDAS
 
Valthera (Gujarat), March 2: 
Angry Mother Earth has not stopped shaking here.

The January 26 killer quake lasted for less than a minute, but the ground has not stopped rumbling in this village in Dholka taluk since February 9. Villagers fled their homes fearing a demon was at work.

Some of them returned, to find not an underground demon creating sound effects, but tourists crawling all over. Their village had become a hotspot.

Puriben Parshottambhai’s voice is laced with scorn. Though she doesn’t understand what the noise coming from a spot under her kitchen means, she knows outsiders looking out for stories are fast turning Valthera into a freak.

“Everyday some 500 people from as far as Mumbai come to our village and place their ears to the ground. They smile and joke at the noise. They take photographs and ask us how we feel,” she says. “We feel like killing them. I have been sleeping in the open with my three daughters and a son ever since the earth started roaring and these useless people think it is some kind of a tamasha.”

It is a nightmare without end for the villagers. “It is like the constant drone of an aeroplane hovering over our village,” Maheshbhai Haribhai says. Jethabhai Dayabhai, who hasn’t slept inside since the tremors started, says: “No, it is as if someone has installed a giant generator under the ground.”

Villagers are so troubled that they have started keeping a diary of the noises. A diary of the last week kept by Haribhai reads: “February 24, 4.30 pm started. Ended at 7.45 pm. February 25, 7.30 am started. Ended at 1.15 pm. February 26, started 5 pm. Stopped at 7.30 pm. February 27, 1.45 am started. Stopped 8 am. (Very noisy today).”

Though experts who have visited Valthera told villagers that it was a normal phenomenon and that there was nothing to worry, they still have not come back to them with the “categorical explanation” that was promised.

The villagers keep running away. “If it is a normal phenomenon then why is it not happening at Motiboru (the adjoining village)?” Girish Mundhawa asks. “It is not natural at all, something has gone drastically wrong here.”

They have taken very seriously the free advice doled out by Ratilal Verma, MP from the region. “Pray to the Mother God,” Verma told them. “She seems to be particularly angry here.”

Puriben sprinkles petals over the troublesome spot in her kitchen and twice everyday, she burns the best quality agarbattis around it. It is a sacred space. “All of us are doing puja everyday hoping to appease Mother Earth,” she says earnestly. “Even Verma saheb asked us to pray.”

While Puriben has declared the “sacred place” out of bounds for the less spiritually-inclined, Dayabhai has gone a step further and hung bells above the spot in his portico from where he hears the “generator roar” almost everyday.

Stay long enough in Valthera and it is easy to hear the rumbling sounds coming from the womb of the earth. It might take a little longer, though, to hear what Baluben Shankerbhai has heard.

“I distinctly remember the noise on the first day resembled the roar a huge truck makes while passing through,” she says, before adding with a sly smile: “With lots of brass bells around its tyres.”

   

 
 
US PROPOSES $10 MILLION FOR GUJARAT 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, March 2: 
As the earthquake relief effort in Gujarat enters the reconstruction phase, the US has proposed a $ 10 million initiative that would target the poor and families hit by the disaster.

Testifying at a rare hearing by tele-conference before the House of Representatives International Relations Sub-Committee on the Middle East and South Asia yesterday, the US ambassador to India, Richard Celeste, said the Gujarat Earthquake Recovery Initiative would be launched within two months to support “quick impact” activities to meet the most urgent needs of people who survived the disaster.

Among the “quick impact” activities which Celeste listed before the committee were: support to municipalities and NGOs in Gujarat to develop community renewal plans, cash-for-work and other NGO programmes to help repair roads, wells, water systems, homes and work places and survey support to assess damaged buildings and determine whether they should be repaired or demolished.

The initiative would also cover cash-for-work programmes to clear debris and repair public facilities such as health clinics and child nutrition centres. The US embassy in Delhi is now seeking the support of the government for this initiative.

Celeste said the US Agency for International Development (USAID) would be the lead agency for this initiative. It has identified $ 10 million for the initiative: the money would come from a reprogramming of resources within the existing USAID budget.

He said more details on support for Gujarat’s recovery would be available as the assessment report of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank are reviewed.

A Programme for the Enhancement of Emergency Response (PEER), which promotes earthquake preparedness and response capabilities, focusing on rescue search and training is to be held in India in March.

Organised by the USAID and the Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), it will be held in partnership with the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre in Thailand and the Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue Department in Florida.

Celeste told the committee that the US has a special interest helping the people of Gujarat because half a million American citizens trace their lineage to the state and they have millions of relatives in the affected areas.

“More than 6,000 American citizens reside in Gujarat on any given day, as residents (2,500) or as tourists (3,500).” He described the return of Indian-Americans to villages in Gujarat to search for relatives as “humanitarian tourism”.

Jim McDermott, the co-chairman of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans and member of the Congressional delegation to Gujarat last month was to have testified before the committee. But ironically, an earthquake in his home district of Seattle on Thursday kept him away.

McDermott said in a statement that he would propose amendments to this year’s budget resolution in Congress to allocate funds for Gujarat.

Ed Royce, the co-chairman of the Caucus and another delegate to Gujarat told the committee: “Charges that the government is intentionally discriminating in its aid distribution based on caste, religion or ethnicity at this point do not have merit.”

But he said aid providers should watch out to make sure that this remains so.

In San Jose, California, former president Bill Clinton, film actress Shabana Azmi, author Deepak Chopra and singer M.C. Hammer will come together tonight for a gala fund-raiser for the Gujarat victims.

   

 
 
ATAL IN WORLD APPEAL ON BUDDHA 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, March 2: 
India today offered to safekeep all important artefacts of Afghanistan, including the two priceless statues of Buddha in Bamiyan, that are in danger of being destroyed by the Taliban.

The offer coincided with an appeal to the international community, particularly the United Nations and “those countries that have an influence over” the student-militia, to convince it to stop the “senseless and destructive” act.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee wrote to world leaders this evening on the “disquieting development” in Afghanistan and urged them to raise the “collective voice of humanity” to make the Taliban see reason. Vajpayee also suggested that “countries that have influence with the Taliban” be urged to intervene.

Only three countries — Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE — recognise the Taliban regime. It was not clear, however, whether Vajpayee has written to any of them. The countries he has appealed to include the US, the UK, France, Japan, Russia, China, South Korea, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. He also wrote to UN secretary-general Kofi Annan.

Vajpayee said the decree “represents a further obscurantist regression — an assault on centuries of Afghan tradition and upon an irreplaceable civilisational inheritance of all mankind. We are disturbed to see reports that this demolition is already in progress.”

Though the UAE and Saudi Arabia recognise the Taliban, it is widely believed that the student-militia is basically loyal to Pakistan. So, if it succeeds in making the Taliban withdraw their decree, it would amount to diplomatic brownie points for Islamabad.

But the situation also puts Pakistan in a fix. If it succeeds, it would also establish how close it is to the Taliban — a charge India has often made.

The issue raised a storm for the second consecutive day in Parliament, with both Houses condemning the anti-civilisational intent of the Taliban.

“Even at this last stage, we would like to convey that the destruction of these precious manifestations of the cultural heritage of humankind should stop,” said foreign minister Jaswant Singh.

“If the Taliban do not wish to retain this inheritance, India would be happy to arrange for the transfer of all these artefacts to India ... in the full knowledge and clear understanding that they are, in the first place and above all, treasures of the Afghan people themselves.”

But the offer may not be feasible. The possibility of the Taliban agreeing to hand over the artefacts seems remote. And even if it does agree, transferring the 100-foot tall statues of Buddha is a daunting task.

   

 
 
BJP BIG TWO TO FLAG OFF BENGAL CAMPAIGN 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, March 2: 
The BJP will hold its next national executive in Calcutta on March 30 and 31 when Parliament is in recess .

The party plans to hold a public rally in the city on March 31, which will be addressed by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani, to kickstart the Assembly election campaign.

BJP spokesman V.K. Malhotra said today that it was not decided yet whether the Trinamul Congress would participate in the rally.

The national executive will be preceded by a meeting of the central office-bearers in Calcutta on March 29. The session is expected to fine-tune the BJP’s strategy for the elections.

Malhotra announced that the BJP will launch a 10-day public campaign across the country from March 5 to propagate the salient features and “good points” of Budget 2001 and dispel the “misinformation” spread by the Opposition. However, party sources admitted that more than the public, the campaign was intended to clear the clouds of doubt in the minds of its own cadre about the alleged pro-elitist tilt of Yashwant Sinha’s budget.

Patting the NDA government on the back for defeating the CPM-sponsored motion against Balco disinvestment, Malhotra said: “Their effort to create a wedge between the allies misfired. The NDA allies stood together. But it is not merely solidarity of votes and the wide margin that are significant. It is the content of the debate which sent a strong signal.”

The spokesman claimed that the “Congress was demolished on all counts and was seen as a party obstructing economic reforms. The Left has been opposing reforms from the start, but the Congress’ somersault has exposed its opportunism”.

He urged the Congress not to indulge in such “misadventurism” again.

   

 
 
CROWNING OF PRINCE RATTLES RAJA OF BIHAR 
 
 
BY TAPAS CHAKRABORTY
 
Patna, March 2: 
It was not his fault that his father’s supporters crowned him prince. But the teenager’s coronation landed the Raja of Bihar in a spot of trouble, with his opponents in the Rashtriya Janata Dal rising in near-revolt.

Ahead of a mega rally on March 4, RJD functionaries put up banners all over Patna, projecting the 15-year-old son of Laloo Prasad Yadav as “Yuba Samrat Tejpratap Singh, the leader-in-waiting”.

But the efforts of over zealous partymen to please the Maharaj seemed to have backfired with Laloo behaving like a cat on a hot tin roof and demanding that the party waste no time in erasing the name of his son from the fluttering banners.

The not-so-zealous partymen had taken strong exception to what they believe is a shameless attempt to hoist the Yadav dynasty upon Bihar.

Only some time ago, it was speculated that Misa, Laloo’s eldest daughter, would succeed to the Bihar throne if her parents were convicted in the fodder scam.

Now, it is the turn of school-going Tejpratap. He is believed to have fast emerged as a power centre in the RJD, much to the disappointment of chief minister Rabri Devi’s two brothers — Subhas and Sadhu Yadav.

Tejpratap is the eldest of Laloo’s two sons. The younger prince, aged 11, is still considered underage for an active role in state politics.

Not so Tejpratap. Partymen are so taken up with him, they have named a whole colony near the Patna Bypass after him — Tejpratapnagar. However, a party member was quick to borrow the old Pepsi line and point out there’s nothing official about it.

After all this, a townful of banners screaming “Long Live Yub Samrat Tejpratap Singh” was enough to enrage senior RJD leaders who have decided to dissociate themselves from Laloo’s mega rally.

Anwarul Haque, an MP, and Samrat Chowdhary, a former minister, dubbed the rally as “a family show, rather than a farmer’s show”.

MP Nilmoni, believed to be close to RJD rebel and party’s working president Ranjan Yadav, said the “rally is a Laloo Rabri Private Company Ltd affair”.

“How does it matter if the rally is successful or not? Will it mitigate the suffering of the people if it succeeds?” he asked.

The mega rally against the Central government’s policies is the culmination of district-level meetings where Laloo had been mobilising support for his crusade against the Centre.

Party sources said this is the first time that the organisers failed to bring together all the senior leaders for a rally. They said the response of even Rabri’s brothers was lukewarm.

Ranjan Yadav has been conspicuous by his absence from Patna. He is believed to have told his close associates that he had no interest in such populist shows. However, he might make a token appearance during the rally.

Senior leaders also questioned the timing of the rally, slated only days before Id and Holi. Because of Id, a large number of Muslims may fail to turn up for the rally, and Holi preparations were likely to keep Hindus occupied.

   

 
 
POLICE BLOOD SOAKS KASHMIR TRUCE 
 
 
FROM MUKHTAR AHMAD
 
Srinagar, March 2: 
At least 17 policemen were killed when their vehicle was blown up by rockets fired by militants in Rajouri district of Jammu this evening in the biggest strike since the three-month extension of the ceasefire.

Police said militants perched on mountain tops fired several rockets and opened fire indiscriminately on the vehicle at Manjakote village on the Rajouri-Poonch highway around 5 pm. Nine policemen were wounded and have been taken to Rajouri hospital.

The police team was returning from Gandhar Mouglan village where two people were gunned down by militants last night.

“One rocket hit the vehicle and killed on the spot 17 policemen. It is a huge setback,” an officer said.

Reinforcements have been rushed to the area. Inspector-general of police (Jammu range) R.V. Raju will leave for Manjakote village, around 32 km from Rajouri, tomorrow morning. The bodies will be taken to Rajouri later tonight, police sources said.

No outfit has claimed responsibility for the attack which comes a day after a colonel was killed in an ambush in Anantnag district.

Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah condemned the massacre of the policemen, saying it was yet another blatant attempt to sabotage the peace process initiated by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

“Had Pakistan shown some sincerity to our peace proposals, these incidents could have been prevented,” Abdullah told PTI over phone from Jeddah where he is leading a Haj goodwill mission.

Abdullah warned that militant groups should not consider the suspension of combat operations against them as “our weakness”.

“These militants claim to be warriors of Islam. But they do not even know that such killings are condemned by all religions,” he said. “I will pray to almighty in this holy city that better sense prevails upon Pakistani rulers and militants who are leading the state to destruction.”

As news of the killings spread, the deputy inspector-general of police rushed to Manjakote with army columns to track down the militants.

Friday’s attack was the second on policemen since the ceasefire was extended for three months on February 21. Militants gunned down a station house officer and five security guards in Kokernag last week.

State home minister Ali Mohammad Sagar today said that a Pakistani national was involved in yesterday’s ambush at Janglat Mandi in which the colonel and four people were killed. Brigadier Bikram Singh, who heads a Rashtriya Rifles unit, was among the wounded.

Sagar said in the Assembly that one Mohi-ud-din, a Pakistani national in the guise of a beggar, opened fire on the army officers.

Brig. Singh, who was army spokesman during the Kargil war, was airlifted to Delhi last evening for specialised treatment.

Pak on budget

Pakistan said it is taking “appropriate steps” to counter India’s increased defence allocations. “Appropriate steps are in the offing to counter the threats posed by the increase in India’s defence budget,” director-general of Pakistan’s Inter-services Public Relations Rashid Qureshi said in Rawalpindi.

   
 

FRONT PAGE / NATIONAL / EDITORIAL / BUSINESS / THE EAST / SPORTS
ABOUT US /FEEDBACK / ARCHIVE 
 
Maintained by Web Development Company