Bets back with the Test
Task force to check Metro suicide
Rule to rein in truant teachers
Cyber Romeos spin web to net prey
CESC gears up for summer power demand
Cracks appear in IPFT armour
Meghalaya no to quota for women
Macabre hue to ransom deaths
People backing bandh call, says Cong chief
Holi clash claims 30

 
 
BETS BACK WITH THE TEST 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 11: 
The signboard outside the sixth- floor apartment in the multistoreyed building on Kalakar Street in the Burrabazar area was nothing exceptional. It read: “General order suppliers.” But on Sunday morning, some residents of the building were engaged in a different trade altogether.

When the police burst into the apartment, they found three men huddled in front of a television set beaming the India-Australia second Test match being played at the Eden Gardens. There were sheets of paper strewn all over, full of scribbled figures.

The tip-off that the police had received was correct. A betting racket was in business and the two telephones and a couple of cell phones were busy taking messages and placing bets.

“We have raided several places, especially in central and south Calcutta, and picked up a number of people involved in running organised betting rackets in Burrabazar, Posta, Jorasanko and even in places like Ballygunge,” said deputy commissioner, detective department, Banibrata Basu.

The police also said that even as cricket fever in the city peaked early on Sunday morning, the police tightened the noose around the betting racket, rounding up 14 touts near Eden Gardens. They were accused of selling Test match tickets at exorbitant prices. “Four of them were caught in the act while handing over the tickets to potential customers,” an officer said.

Sources in the detective department said that those picked up by the police on Sunday mainly belonged to betting syndicates being run by central Calcutta dons Aftab Khan and Mohammed Ismail as well as other operators like Batuk Bhai and Raju Dusani.

“The gambling dens we busted are run by the henchmen of master racketeers based in Dubai,” said Basu. “They normally route everything through Mumbai and the people in the city are mere pawns in this international betting syndicate.”

Police sources said the principal bets were on the match being won, lost or drawn. The odds on Sunday morning read — Australia win 2.25: 1, India win 7:1 and draw 1.25: 1. By the end of the first day’s play, the odds had changed to Australia win 2.5: 1, India win 3:1 and draw 3.5: 1.

Among the other bets being placed on Day I were:

Who would win the toss?

Would Sourav Ganguly’s wife, Dona, come to see the match?

Would the match finish in three/ four/ five days?

Which Indian bowler would get the maximum number of wickets?

On Day II, the two top draws are expected to be:

Will Sourav score a fifty?

Will Sachin score his first Test century at the Eden?

Sources said about 30 plainclothesmen, along with a posse of policemen, had fanned out to different city locations on Sunday to bust the betting racket.

Raids were conducted at a house in Camac Street and a Park Street restaurant, where a betting racket had been busted during the India-Pakistan Test match in 1999.

Deputy commissioner of police, south, Ranjit Pachnanda, said: “This time, the operators had spread out, choosing small trading offices, some of them in multi-storeyed buildings.”

Police said the raids would continue on Monday. “With the match taking a dramatic turn in the post-tea session on Day I, the betting scene is bound to hot up on Monday,” a senior police officer said.

   

 
 
TASK FORCE TO CHECK METRO SUICIDE 
 
 
BY SOUMYADIPTA BANERJEE
 
Calcutta, March 11: 
The recent spate of attempted suicide on the Metro tracks has forced the railway authorities to device a safety net, in the form of a special police task force.

The special force, comprising Railway Protection Force (RPF) and Metro Railway Police personnel, will act as a mobile surveillance unit.

Officers of the new force will scour different stations to identify passengers who loiter around, miss trains deliberately, and spend a long time at the station. They will be interrogated and those who “cannot provide a satisfactory explanation”, will be asked to leave the platform.

“We have already formed two such special teams,” said Jayanta Kumar Mitra, chief operational manager, Metro Railways. “We hope this move will check suicide attempts at the stations,” he added.

According to Metro Rail sources, two more such teams will be formed soon.

Earlier, Metro Railway Police used to be posted in front of ticket counters at various stations and at the automatic gates. The sleuths were instructed to identify and round up free-trippers.

“We have received a lot of complaints from Metro passengers about a number of people simply loitering around on the platform for hours or just sitting on the stairs. I think it’s time we put a stop to all this and minimise the possibility of suicide attempts,” Mitra added.

“The shocking incidents of attempted suicides on the tracks are a serious cause for concern. We are trying to formulate various measures to try and put an end to this,” said I.I.M.S. Rana, general manager, Metro Railways. There have been about 52 suicide attempts on the Metro tracks, with around 20 proving fatal.

The authorities are also reaching out to city-based NGOs, to offer psychological counselling to passengers.

“If any NGO approaches us to offer counselling to passengers suffering from depression, we will be happy to extend all support to them,” said Rana.

Lifeline, an NGO offering tele-counselling to the mentally disturbed, has already been permitted to display its phone numbers at stations. “We cannot offer one-to-one counselling to Metro passengers on station premises for various infrastructural problems, but we are reaching out to people suffering from depression and contemplating suicide,” said Debadideb Dutta, co-ordinator of Lifeline.

Last year, the Metro Rail authorities had undertaken an extensive “counselling programme” in a bid to check suicide attempts. But that programme had failed to take off. But a senior Metro official confirmed that a series of fresh measures would be announced soon.

   

 
 
RULE TO REIN IN TRUANT TEACHERS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 11: 
Teachers playing truant in government and government-sponsored schools in Calcutta and elsewhere in Bengal will soon be taken to task.

The education department will shortly issue a circular, making it mandatory for teachers in schools like Hindu, Hare, Ballygunge Shiksha Sadan and Scottish Church to come in at 10 am and stay on till 5 pm. This means teachers can no longer reach and leave school according to their respective time-tables.

“We have learnt that teachers spend only one-third of the time they are supposed to in school, reporting only for their individual classes. We have already sent a circular instructing the headmasters to ensure that the teachers are present during school hours,” said Kanti Biswas, school education minister. Biswas said that a decision will be taken shortly to make it mandatory for teachers to attend school just like in government offices.

The minister said although such guidelines are already in place in secondary schools, those are largely ignored. The same set of instructions will now be extended to cover primary schools, he added.

Deputy director of school education Nityananda Sinha clarified that the school education department will send the circular only to the government schools, as their teachers come under the ambit of the Bengal Service Rule. “The circular to government-aided schools will be sent by the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education,” said Sinha.

“Teachers are service holders and their hours cannot be the same as that of students. They must come in at 10 am, one hour before school begins, and leave at 5 pm, one hour after school gives over,” said Asit Ghosh, member of WBBSE and a leader of the CPM-dominated All Bengal Teachers’ Association.

Ghosh said the teachers can spend the extra time fruitfully by taking special classes for weaker students and correct copies.

The headmaster of a city government school said he had already received a circular for strict enforcement of ‘attendance’ rules for teachers. “I have also learnt that another circular is due soon which will make it mandatory for teachers to be present in schools from 10 am to 5 pm,” he added.

Welcoming the decision, general secretary of the school inspectors’ body — Paschim Banga Vidyalaya Paridarshak Samity — Subodh Chakraborty, said the government should have taken this decision much earlier.

“It was the slack rules regarding teachers’ presence in schools which had helped a section of them to mint money in private coaching classes. The standard of teaching in many schools has fallen as a result,” he observed.

Chakraborty pointed out that the government spent over Rs 150 crore every month to pay teachers’ salaries which is about 99.5 per cent of the school education budget. “The sum which the government is spending on school education is nothing but taxpayers’ money. During school inspections, we have often come across headmasters who have expressed their inability to rein in the teachers in absence of specific instructions,” he said.

   

 
 
CYBER ROMEOS SPIN WEB TO NET PREY 
 
 
BY PRONAB MONDAL
 
Calcutta, March 11: 
Cyber crime is taking on a sinister hue, with city Romeos using the Net to get up close and personal with girls. Several teenagers seeking friends on the chatroom may have been lucky, but for some, it’s turned out to be a Net nightmare.

Take 18-year-old Anjali (not her real name), who logged on at a cyber cafe near her home in Ballygunge Place. Along with friend Barnali (also not her real name), Anjali embarked on a ‘let’s find a fun guy’ journey on the Net. It was to be a journey that ended in near disaster.

The first click brought them to ‘J. Bond’. “Forget it,” said the girls, and continued their search. After rejecting a few weird names, the two stopped at Mathew and Dev.

The initial introductions over, the chat turned to interests and hobbies, before the girls called it a day. The next day, the two were back at the cyber cafe to get to know the guys better. On Day-III, Mathew and Dev made their move. They described how they loved going for long drives in fast cars, and asked the girls to accompany them.

Last Wednesday, the boys suggested that they all go out for dinner. Initially, the girls were reluctant to go along. But when their new-found friends insisted, they relented. Mathew and Dev asked them to stand in front of an entrance to the Rabindra Sadan Metro station at 6.30 pm. The boys told them what they would be wearing to make it easy for the girls to spot them.

That evening, at 6.30 pm, Anjali and Barnali stood at the appointed spot for the boys to turn up. Soon, a Santro pulled up with two young men inside, and the four Netizens met for the first time.

The introductions over, Dev suggested that they go to his apartment which he said, was nearby. The girls refused. Mathew then suggested they head for Nalban, on the Eastern Metropolitan. But Anjali and Barnali stood their ground. Finally, it was agreed that the four would go for an early dinner to a Park Street restaurant.

After dinner, the boys urged the girls to come along for a spin on the Vidyasagar Setu. The girls agreed. But the boys had other ideas. Instead of heading for the bridge, they veered off towards Hastings and the Man of War jetty. Finding an isolated spot, they parked the car, and Dev asked Barnali to help him fetch ice-cream from a nearby vendor.

Fifteen minutes later, when Barnali returned to the car with Dev, she heard Anjali screaming for help. Mathew trying to molest her in the car. Luckily, a couple of ice-cream vendors rushed to the spot, drawn by Anjali’s cries. In the ensuing chaos, Anjali and Barnali quickly hailed a taxi and rushed back home.

“I have received a verbal complaint and I am investigating the matter. But this is not an isolated case,” admitted deputy commission, detective department, Banibrata Basu.

Girls often choose not to lodge a complaint in such cases, said Basu. “But with this kind of Net crime on the rise, we are in the process of setting up a team to look into this new nature of crimes,” Basu said.

   

 
 
CESC GEARS UP FOR SUMMER POWER DEMAND 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, March 11: 
With the approach of summer, the CESC is gearing up to supply more power to the city.

At a meeting held last week, the utility has figured out that the demand from May will peak to around 1200 MW, an increase of 100 MW over the present figure.

“To meet the increased demand in the coming season, we have overhauled a massive unit in Budge Budge and carried out the necessary repairs and maintenance work at Titagarh, New Cossipore, Mulajore and Southern Generating Stations,” said D.N. Majumdar, CESC’s executive director in charge of distribution.

One unit each has been overhauled at Budge Budge and Southern Generating Stations, while two units have been repaired at the Titagarh plant.

“Also, a new 50-MVA transformer has been installed at New Cossipore to enable us to supply more power to the north,” said Majumdar.

Power department sources said that the State Electricity Board (SEB) is ready to supply around 240 MW to the CESC grid during peak summer as the private power utility has arranged to pay up its dues.

In January, the SEB had imposed a restriction on supply to the CESC as the latter’s outstanding dues had run up to over Rs 900 crore.

“The CESC is now paying its current dues and has also charted out the settlement of its past dues,” SEB chairman G.D. Gautama said.

During the summer months, the CESC will hold fortnightly meetings to keep tab on the situation.

Vigil on power theft is also being stepped up. The company has deployed 40 engineers to deal exclusively with power theft. According to an assessment, 10 per cent of the power generated in the summer months is illegally tapped from overhead wires.

The SEB, too, has taken up elaborate measures to ensure uninterrupted power supply to the city’s outskirts as well as Salt Lake City.

“The newly-commissioned third unit of the Bakreswar power plant will begin commercial generation from the middle of April. Also the units at the Durgapur Projects Limited (DPL), which is undergoing a Rs 262-crore renovation and modernisation programme, will add another 200 MW to the SEB system by May,” said Gautama.

“We have made all arrangements to ensure uninterrupted power supply to the city,” a CESC official said.

   

 
 
CRACKS APPEAR IN IPFT ARMOUR 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, March 11: 
The deadlock in the autonomous district council over the resignation of its chief executive member Debabrata Koloi continued even as the Governor, Lt. Gen. (retd.) K.M. Seth passed an order last night empowering the chief executive officer of the ADC to carry on the administration under rule 158(2) governing the Tripura tribal areas autonomous district council.

Earlier, the Governor accepted Koloi’s resignation and directed ADC chairman Hirendra Tripura to convene a special session under rule 173 to elect a new incumbent and reconstitute the executive council.

The Governor had sought the government’s opinion on the matter. The Cabinet, at a meeting yesterday, had said the Governor was free to pursue any course of action as per the provisions of the 6th Schedule of the Constitution.

Sources in the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura, which heads the ADC, said there were differences within the party over electing a new chief executive despite several meetings.

Executive member (education) Sridam Debbarma, who, along with party president Harinath Debbarma, took the lead in ousting Koloi was now being opposed by certain elected members, sources said.

Rivalry between the Koloi faction and the Sridam and Harinath Debbarma faction was so intense that it led to a scuffle at a meeting yesterday. Seeing the senior party leaders fight in this manner, IPFT workers at Mandai under Jirania police station were flustered and closed down the party office there.

Open clashes between rival groups of the IPFT were reported from Khumlung, the ADC headquarters, where CRPF jawans had to be deployed.

Sources said the party’s divisional conference had been postponed because of the latest development.

Koli confidantes like Raju Jamatya and Kripa Reang are likely to be dropped to accommodate supporters of Harinath Debbarma and Sridam Debbarma in the new council.

Former chief minister and sitting Congress MLA Samir Ranjan Barman refused to comment on the latest bickering in the IPFT saying they were internal matters of the party. However, state CPM secretary Baidyanath Mazumdar said, “Though this is an internal issue of the party, we had expected such a thing as the IPFT came to power with force with help from the National Liberation Front of Tripura.” Veteran Tripura Upajati Juba Parishad leader said, “This had to happen as the party does not have a constitution nor any organisation.”

After an unexpected win in the district council elections held in April-May last year, the IPFT now faces the wrath of tribals at the grassroots. Even the NLFT is confronting resentment among the people over the way they helped the party win the last election at the point of gun.

   

 
 
MEGHALAYA NO TO QUOTA FOR WOMEN 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Shillong, March 11: 
Meghalaya, home to three matrilineal tribes — the Khasi, Garo and the Jaintia — is as unwilling as any of its neighbouring “patriarchal” states to give its women the benefit of 33 per cent seat reservation in all the decision-making bodies.

“Blanket reservation will do more harm than good , both for the women’s uplift as well as to the political processes,” chief minister E. K. Mawlong told The Telegraph when asked to comment on this much-debated issue.

The chief minister reasoned that for reservations of this sort to succeed there should be enough qualified women to fill up the space reserved for them. Otherwise, he said the entire exercise would end up as a farce.

If the reservation came into force, the state would have nearly 20 seats reserved for women. There are not enough women, who are qualified or feel they are qualified to fill up this vacancy, he said. “Even without reservations, we are constantly on the lookout for qualified women to represent the segment,’’ he said and added that during the 1998 elections, his United Democratic Party could find just one woman to represent the Pariong constituency in West Khasi Hills. The only other woman is Roshan Warjri, who is one of the three women in the state Assembly.

Mawlong said even if the reservations came into force, urban women would have to be fielded in rural constituencies, where women are not qualified, he said.

   

 
 
MACABRE HUE TO RANSOM DEATHS 
 
 
FROM SEKHAR DATTA
 
Agartala, March 11: 
Killing for ransom has assumed macabre proportions in Tripura.

The skeleton of a 16-year-old boy, abducted last year, was exhumed from Koaiphang area in South Tripura yesterday. The recovery sparked tension in the area.

Police sources said Mohini Lal Kar, a non-tribal Class X student of Koaiphang school, was abducted on December 6 last year by a group of NLFT militants. His father Niranjan Kar, a teacher, ran from pillar to post to trace his son, but failed to do so. Two NLFT militants Dhani Mohan Tripura and Arendra Tripura, who were arrested by Baikhora police on March 5, confessed to abducting and killing the student. He was later buried in the jungle.

Jawans of the second battalion of the Tripura State Rifles reached Toofanbari .area, southeast of Koaiphang and exhumed the body. The victim’s father identified him from the pieces of torn clothings.

The state government has so far recovered 27 skeletons this year on the basis of confessions by militants.

On March 7, the remains of Haradhan Roy, a former teacher of Kamarbag Junior Basic School under Udaipur subdivision in South Tripura, was recovered by police from Lovestory Bazar. Pushpa Jamatya, an arrested NLFT militant, confessed to killing Roy.

The slain teacher was abducted from near his school on May 4, 1999 and killed despite the payment of Rs 1.40 lakh as ransom by his family.

Earlier on March 3, the Udaipur police recovered three skeletons, including that of a Muslim woman, from Sungrungbari area. The woman, part of a large group of daily wage earners, had gone to the forest to collect firewood. The militants abducted and killed the labourers for their inability to pay ransom.

On March 19 last year, 10 ONGC labourers were massacred by the NLFT from Arjunthakurpara area under Takarjala police station area. The labourers had been hired by an ONGC contractor to work on a corporation project.

The contractor reportedly refused to pay the NLFT area commander in Takarjala police station, whose henchmen beat them to death with wooden clubs. Their skeletons were exhumed by the police in February this year.

Sources said milkman Naren Ghosh was buried alive within three days of his abduction from Ujanpathiala under Bagma police outpost in South Tripura on December 24, 1999. He had earlier been abducted in 1997 and set free after his family paid a ransom of Rs 50,000. But Ghosh was unlucky the second time when the NLFT buried him alive after tying up his hands and feet and later collected Rs 20,000 as ransom. His body was recovered by the police in January this year following confessions by an arrested NLFT rebel Falguni Debbarma in Bishalgarh police station.

Sources said many more bodies were likely to be recovered in the coming days as hardcore militants and their collaborators were being arrested and interrogated.

Decrying the brutalities perpetrated by the militants in the name of insurgency, sources said the militants had no “concrete political goals, ethics and morality. They were only interested in collecting money.’’

Rebel killed

A militant belonging to the National Democratic Front of Boroland was killed by the Army at Suwagpur village in Darrang district yesterday.

Recruitment drive: An Army recruitment rally for male candidates will be held from March 20 to 25 for soldier (technical) and soldier (general duty) at Narangi cantonment for all northeastern states.

   

 
 
PEOPLE BACKING BANDH CALL, SAYS CONG CHIEF 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Bhubaneswar, March 11: 
The Orissa Pradesh Congress Committee has called a 12-hour dawn-to-dusk bandh tomorrow to protest against the Centre’s apathy towards of the state.

Addressing a news conference here this morning, PCC president J.B. Patnaik said the state Congress unit had sent “protest letters” to the Prime Minister on March 4 regarding the NDA government’s indifference to the problems of Orissa.

“The Centre has always handed a raw deal. The railway budget doesn’t have anything major for the state. Even funds and relief for the drought-affected areas are not adequate,” Patnaik said.

The PCC chief said he had “warned” of a bandh in the letter to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, if the latter fails to respond to the state’s demand within seven days. All essential services such as hospital and water supply as well as the annual plus two examinations would be kept out of the purview of the bandh.

However, Congress supporters would disrupt train and bus services, the PCC stated. Congress legislators will also boycott the Assembly for the day.

The All-Orissa Private Bus Operators’ Association has come out against the bandh saying it would hamper bus services all over the state. A spokesman for the association said Monday being a day for marriages, many people had reserved buses.

Cancelling the reservation at the last moment would entail loss of several lakhs of rupees besides causing inconvenience to these people, it stated. The State Congress also seems to be divided over the bandh with a few dissident Congressmen questioning the efficacy of such a bandh.

Asked if any other political party was supporting the bandh, Patnaik said, “We have their tacit support.” The feedback received from party workers from different places and response from the people to the bandh call were very encouraging, he claimed.

The BJD ridiculed the bandh call alleging that it was politically motivated.

In separate statements, BJD working president and minister for works and housing Nalinikant Mohanty and party secretary-general Prasanna Acharya claimed that Orissa has been suffering because of the Congress’ incompetence and neglect while at the helm. While urging the people to reject the bandh call, the leaders said the party had taken up the state’s demands at the highest level.

   

 
 
HOLI CLASH CLAIMS 30 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Patna, March 11: 
At least 30 people were killed in stray clashes over sprinkling of colours during Holi in Bihar over the past 48 hours, according to information reaching the state headquarters here.

State police sources said over 200 people were arrested in connection with various incidents of Holi-related violence.

Police said while eight people were killed in Nalanda last evening, five were killed in Patna district alone.

Besides, four were killed in Samastipur district, three in Saharsha, one in Khagaria , one in Aurangabad, two in Lakhisarai and six in Sasaram.

In a gruesome incident last evening at Manpur police station area in Biharsharif district, members of the Koeri and Dhanuk castes clashed over water in a disputed pond. Police said the warring castemen used pipeguns and revolvers.

The rival groups fired indiscriminately at Sinthur village resulting in the death of five members of the Dhanuk caste and three Koeri men.

At least six persons are reported missing in Sinthur. They are suspected to have been abducted by rival groups. The victims included women and minors too. State director-general of police R.R. Prasad is camping there with senior officials.

In Patna district, five persons were killed in separate incidents. Two of the clashes broke out over eveteasing and pouring coloured water on reluctant revellers.

Violence broke out in different localities of Samastipur as drunk hooligans fought pitched battles with rival gangs.

Instead of coloured water, they rained bullets on their adversaries. It was difficult to identify the assailants as their faces were smeared with black colour.

In Lakhisarai, security forces staged a flag march after gangwar claimed two lives.

The violence subsequently spread and houses were ransacked in a particular locality, police said.

In Sasaram, violence broke out after a group of backward caste men sprinkled colour on upper caste women.

The upper caste men first lobbed “missiles’’ at the backward revellers and later whipped out guns and fired indiscriminately.

   
 

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