Stock market crash drives sub-broker and wife to suicide
RSS throws weight behind Vajpayee
Mamata ready for talks with Cong
Calcutta Weather

Calcutta, March 18: 
The stock market crash claimed its first victims when Abhishek Banka, a sub-broker, committed suicide and, unable to bear the loss, his wife Sona threw herself from a highrise.

The bloated body of 22-year-old Abhishek, missing since Wednesday, was today found floating along the bank of the Hooghly.

Six hours later, Sona jumped to her death from her parents’ ninth floor apartment on Russel Street.

Police said Abhishek appeared to have been driven to suicide after suffering losses of Rs 86 lakh in the stock market collapse since the budget. They said the sub-broker with Suresh Kumar Fogla & Associates blamed himself for the losses.

“Our preliminary findings suggest that Abhishek was deeply unsettled when he learnt about the losses suffered (mostly between March 10 and 14). His own bankruptcy left him devastated. As is evident from the stray comments he had made in his close circles, he blamed himself for the way things went wrong,” said Ranjit Pachnanda, deputy commissioner of police.

The young couple, who married just over a year ago, lived in the Ganga Jamuna building, a landmark on Shakespeare Sarani.

The officer-in-charge of the Shakespeare Sarani police station, S.R. Roy, quoting from records the police have found, said Abhishek had invested a sizeable chunk of his personal savings as well as clients’ funds in the market in the first week of March. On February 28, when the budget was presented, the stock market went up sharply, possibly raising hopes in Abhishek of a sustained upswing, which did not happen, catching many unawares.

Between March 1 and 14, the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) sensitive index dropped 546 points and the market lost Rs 14,883 crore in share value.

Such was the impact of the plunge that it has led to an inquiry, claimed the head of the BSE president and caused a payment crisis on the Calcutta Stock Exchange.

S.K. Sonkhalia, a relative, said Abhishek had looked “disturbed and hassled” on the evening of March 14 when he returned home.

“Abhishek barely ate anything. He went to his room where he was alone till Sona returned from the neighbour’s where she had gone for a chat. Detecting the tension in her husband, she spoke to him for about 10 minutes, trying to set his mind at peace,” Sonkhalia added.

The gateman at Ganga Jamuna building and a neighbour, who were the last to see him, recall that Abhishek looked “disturbed” as he walked out on March 14 evening. “Let me discuss the matter with a couple of friends,” Abhishek had told Sona.

When he did not return till late night, the family lodged a missing diary at the Shakespeare Sarani police station.

In the early hours of Sunday, his body was found near Howrah bridge. After the news was broken to Sona, her parents and family decided to bring her to their apartment at 5B Russel Street. “We wanted to be with her, console her. Family members were resting in their rooms when Sona went out on the verandah around 2.45 pm,” her brother Sanju Nangolia said.

Suddenly, there was a sound followed by commotion. A durwan knocked on the door and told Sanju that Sona was lying downstairs in a pool of blood.


New Delhi, March 18: 
After neutralising the initial misgivings within the coalition and the BJP about the role of the Prime Minister’s Office in defencegate, Atal Bihari Vajpayee has managed to get the RSS on his side.

RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan gave a clean chit to the government, saying it had made a “sincere effort” to change the system and, therefore, should be given an “opportunity” to continue its endeavour.

“The government and the Prime Minister have assured the nation that a Supreme Court judge will probe the allegations contained in the (Tehelka) tapes and they also stressed that the guilty will not be protected. Furthermore, the government has stated that it is ready to have a discussion in Parliament under any rule. The government has taken the necessary steps,” Sudarshan said.

Vajpayee won the RSS’ support as the Opposition resolved to cripple Parliament again when it re-convenes tomorrow. The Congress has also decided to take the issue to the streets. The ruling coalition, too, has announced a series of public rallies, while Vajpayee challenged the Opposition to a trial of strength in Parliament.

“The system is rotten to the core, but the rot set in over 50 years ago. This government tried sincerely to change the system, so there were vested interests which were hurt in the process. The system is deeply flawed and corruption has seeped to the lowest level,” argued Sudarshan in what seemed to be another spirited defence of George Fernandes.

Sudarshan quoted Jan Sangh ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, perceived as the repository of morality in the parivar. Sudarshan said that during an election campaign, Upadhyaya was asked if he could guarantee that the Jan Sangh will not be corrupt if it came to power. “In a public meeting, Deen Dayalji said no, he could not give a guarantee. So the best thing for people is to change the government every five years.”

The RSS sarsanghchalak sounded critical only when he responded to questions on the role of Vajpayee’s son-in-law, Ranjan Bhattacharya, and principal secretary Brajesh Mishra. Responding to a question on Bhattacharya, Sudarshan said: “The PMO should not allow any extra-constitutional authority to rule.”

However, late tonight, Sudarshan issued a statement clarifying that it should “by no means be interpreted that I implied that there is an extra-constitutional centre in the present PMO”. The PMO also denied the existence of an “extra-constitutional authority”.

Sudarshan described Mishra as an “incompetent” official. “From the beginning, we have been saying the PMO does not have competent officials and he (Mishra) has certainly not lived up to our expectations.”


Calcutta, March 18: 
The Trinamul Congress today said it was ready to start talks with the Congress on an alliance for the coming Assembly elections.

“Our doors are open for the state Congress,” Pankaj Banerjee, head of Trinamul’s policy-making body, said.

“We may begin talks if Congress leaders are ready after their return from the AICC plenary session at Bangalore,” he said. But there was still no indication that Trinamul is prepared to dump the BJP in Bengal, where it has a seat-sharing deal with the party. “The Congress should not be under the impression that we are breaking ties with the BJP in Bengal.”

Banerjee said Trinamul would appeal to the Congress to fight the Left as part of a unified Opposition. “A one-to-one contest is the need of the hour to ensure the defeat of the communists in Bengal,” Banerjee said.

Trinamul sources said Banerjee had discussed the matter with party leader Mamata Banerjee during the day. Mamata was unavailable for comment.

The party’s seat adjustment with the state BJP has been standing in the way of an alliance with the Congress and even at the plenary today, Sonia Gandhi said clearly that there would be no compromise on ideological issues, keen though she is on an association with Mamata.

The Congress, having put its cards on the table — that it is ready to contest the elections with Mamata as the leader of the alliance — is awaiting Mamata’s response. Even though the response came today in the form of a readiness to talk, the basic position remains unchanged: the BJP is still getting in the way.

From Bangalore came also the pledge Mamata was publicly looking for: the Congress will not maintain any links with the Left. Sonia as well as the political resolution spoke of the Left’s “misrule” in Bengal and Kerala.

“Given the Bengal situation, we are ready to travel with the BJP as well as the Congress. Here, our main target is to bring together all anti-CPM forces to form a mahajot,” Banerjee added.

He even expressed hope that some minor hitches over seat adjustment with the BJP would be sorted out across the table. “The state BJP is satisfied with the 39 seats we have offered them and we are ready to talk to them if they have any problems,” he added.

Earlier, talks of an understanding had collapsed over Congress insistence to field candidates against the BJP. Asked what Trinamul’s response would be if the Congress still maintained the stand, Trinamul general secretary Mukul Roy said: “The talks will begin without any conditions.”

Reciprocating Trinamul’s gesture, the state BJP leadership said during the day that the party had no reservations if the Congress joined Mamata’s mahajot.

“We will ignore our national perspective and join hands with the Congress in Bengal in order to keep the CPM at bay,” said BJP vice-president Muzaffar Khan.




Maximum: 35.2°C (+1)
Minimum: 24°C (+2)



Relative humidity

Max: 98%
Min: 30%


Mainly clear sky. Maximum temperature likely to be 35°C.
Sunrise: 5.44 am
Sunset: 5.43 pm

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