Braveheart battles goons
Homoeo halt in Bangla war pilot’s road tour
Dry war peaks with ouster demand
‘Witch’ under fresh attack
One 2 ka 4, movie buffs cry for more
US couple’s gift boosts neo-natal care in city
Mumbai firm opens tech institute
Militant attack upsets truce
CPM out to regain ground
Orissa govt clears liquor sale in dists

Calcutta, March 29: 
Have gun, will kill.

Only, the gun didn’t fire. And there was one other factor that the criminals who looted the Central Bank of India’s Mominpur branch on Thursday afternoon had not worked into their plans: That they would meet a brave policeman who would risk his life to foil their designs and, by the end of the day, win an award from the police commissioner.

Shortly after noon on Thursday, two criminals tailed an employee of a petrol station in Garden Reach, Arun Dubey, on his way to the bank to deposit about Rs 5 lakh.

As Dubey was about to deposit the money, one of the criminals held a revolver to his head, and snatched the briefcase full of cash. Before dashing away with his accomplice, the criminal warned Dubey that if he cried for help, he would be gunned down.

After the two had fled a safe distance, Dubey did raise a hue and cry. Hearing his shouts, a constable of Ekbalpore police station came rushing.

Dubey narrated what had happened and gave the cop a brief description of the criminals. Then the chase began.

Constable Apal Chandra Halder caught sight of them at a distance and, without sparing a thought, ran across to grab the briefcase one of the criminals was carrying.

Seeing his accomplice in trouble, the other miscreant put a revolver to Halder’s head and fired. There was a sharp click, but nothing happened. The revolver had not gone off, and the constable had escaped with his life.

All through the commotion, however, a crowd that had gathered remained mute spectators.

The constable fought his battle alone. He wrestled with the criminals, even managing to pin one of them to the ground and kicking the other on the shin.

Finally, beaten and on the retreat, one of the criminals bit Halder viciously on his arms, tearing some of his flesh away, while the other kicked him hard on the chest.

All the while, the constable held on tightly to the briefcase, refusing to let it go. The two criminals then took to their heels, leaving even their revolver behind.

By now, word had spread and soon, a few other policemen arrived, who rushed Halder to SSKM Hospital with injuries in his chest and arm.

“It is an act such as this that raises the morale of the force,” said officer-in-charge of Ekbalpore police station, Deepak Dutta. “We should have more people like him in the force.”

This was corroborated by police commissioner Dinesh Vajpai himself later in the day, when he awarded Halder Rs 5,000 for bravery and exemplary conduct.


Calcutta, March 29: 
His cargo: Tonnes of grain, fish powder, money and even people. His route: From Dum Dum to Chittagong to Dhaka, twice a day for a year. His cause: Providing relief to the people of erstwhile East Bengal.

In 1971, Rolf D. Wang-Norderud first touched down at Dum Dum airport. A pilot, he travelled from Norway to Bengal, to help the “suffering people” during the Bangladesh Liberation War. With relief material sent from Scandinavia to Calcutta by the World Council of Churches, Rolf would travel back and forth with the supplies, and often with Indian officers who wanted to come back to Calcutta to meet family.

When Bangladesh decided to start a national airline, Rolf flew Biman’s “first international flights” to Calcutta airport.

The 57-year-old is back in town now for a very different reason. “When you are flying, you get to see everything without seeing anything at all,” smiles Rolf, father of three. So he set out in a 20-year-old Subaru, on a drive from Singapore to Norway. “I have all of the airports memorised,” says the pilot of over 34 years. “Now I want to see people, towns, villages...”

The retired aviator has been in Calcutta for the past three weeks. Having visited Calcutta last in 1999 with wife Berit, he had met a homoeopathic doctor, Somnath Mitra, with whom he has been in touch over e-mail. “Dr Mitra has been treating and teaching me,” says Rolf. Eager to learn how the alternative system works, he has gone through the doctor’s research materials, in addition to visiting patients with him.

A lot has changed in the Calcutta Rolf remembers. “The area south of the airport used to be green and swampy... now it’s Salt Lake!” he grins. “I used to stay in Victoria Hotel when I was in Calcutta,” relives Rolf. “I haven’t been able to find it...”

This has been the longest stop on the route. From Singapore, Rolf drove through Malaysia and Thailand, where he stayed for a week at a Catholic monastery to teach children about flying and physics. From Kuala Lumpur, his car was shipped to Calcutta. He has strayed as far as Midnapore, but his visit to Dhaka will have to wait for when he comes back in October.

The handsome Nord with an Arnold Schwarzenegger-style twang, is scheduled to be in North Cape, “the end of Europe” and the northern-most region of Norway by June 23. The Midsummer Festival and the midnight sun are what Rolf is looking forward to, before driving down south to his wife and his home.


Calcutta, March 29: 
The heat is on, and the taps are running dry. With the water crisis in several parts of the city rising with the mercury, trouble spilled over on to the corridors of administrative power on Thursday. And it’s the water war between Calcutta and Salt Lake that’s taken civic centrestage.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee held a marathon meeting with urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya at Writers’ Buildings on Thursday. “The crisis will be resolved the minute we stop supplying the 10 million gallons of water every day to Salt Lake and South Dum Dum,” was the mayor’s point.

“I cannot allow supply to one area by rendering another area dry,’’ was the minister’s counterpoint.

Earlier, a delegation of Left Front councillors, led by former mayor-in-council Chanchal Ghosh, met Bhattacharya to seek his intervention in the matter and demand the mayor’s scalp.

“The civic board has failed to provide sufficient water to Calcuttans at the onset of summer. People are not getting water and yet, the mayor and his councillors have taken no initiative to resolve the crisis. A civic body which cannot provide drinking water to its people has no right to remain in power. We demand the resignation of the mayor and the board,’’ declared Ghosh.

“The present crisis is the outcome of the activities of the previous civic board,” retorted Mukherjee. “The people are suffering now for the callousness and lack of planning by the Left Front-run civic board for years.”

The mayor promised that the crisis would soon end. “The minister has pledged all technical assistance,’’ he said.

The government has, in fact, decided to deploy experts to identify the problem points, especially in terms of the distribution network. According to Mukherjee, a thousand tubewells will be sunk in the added areas to cope with the growing demand for water.

According to CMDA officials, the daily water supply in Calcutta is 210 million gallons. Of this, 20 million gallons are diverted to Salt Lake and South Dum Dum.

The present crisis has been caused by a technical fault at the Palta treatment plant and the choking of underground pipelines. “I have asked engineers to repair the Palta fault immediately and pump in an additional 20 million gallons,’’ Bhattacharya said. Another 30 million gallons will be supplied by the Garden Reach plant from April.

The CMC has been asked to prepare a blueprint for a new pipeline to transport water from the Garden Reach plant. The funds will be provided by the CMDA, with the CMC monitoring the project.


Calcutta, March 29: 
Urmila Mullick, widow of a Corporation employee who had been branded a witch and hounded out of her quarters on Kora Bardhan Lane last year, before being rescued, is under attack again.

Late on Wednesday night, a group of young men dragged Urmila out of her room in the complex housing Corporation staff, and beat her up. “Jan Guru has pronounced a death sentence for her,” they declared.

Last year, Jan Guru Sukku Das, a sweeper at the Calcutta Medical College Hospital, had said that the “evil spirit” of Urmila’s dead daughter Rajkumari was working through her and spreading pestilence in the sweepers’ colony. So, Urmila, he had declared, should be “burnt to death”.

On Wednesday, Tapati Mondol, a medical officer of the Corporation and Trinamul nominee for the Taltala Assembly seat, took her to Taltala police station to lodge a complaint.

But the police, allegedly, refused to register a case.


Calcutta, March 29: 
Picture this: It’s a week after the Oscars and the ISC exams are finally over. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is playing at Globe, Cast Away is on at New Empire, Gladiator is raging at Nandan and One 2 Ka 4 is playing at a theatre right down the street.

Instead, with most of the city’s movie halls downing shutters, the only way Calcuttans can catch One 2 Ka 4 is by making a trip to Metro, or down south to Basusree, and Gladiator is the sole antidote for those afflicted with Oscar fever.

With the strike continuing indefinitely and Star Movies still in the black, times have never been so hard for the city’s film buffs. “As it is, there’s nothing to do in Calcutta. Movies are a staple source of entertainment,” cribs Aakanksha, a student of Pratt Memorial, who appeared for the last of her ISC exams on Monday. “Obviously, I was disappointed to see the halls shut after my exams were over.”

While according to the Eastern India Motion Pictures Association, 530 out of its 720 halls are open, the majority of city halls have remained closed, particularly in north and central Calcutta. “We will lose between 30 to 40 per cent of the expected revenue,” says One 2 Ka 4 distributor Shrikant Mohta, of Shree Venkatesh Films. “We have to release the film on Friday, but of the 30 halls it would have been screened at, only 12 or 15 are open,” he continues.

Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, which had been playing at Metro till Thursday, has recorded “higher ticket sales after the strike set in”, according to Sanjeev Khandelwal, manager, Metro.

Nandan remains untouched by the fracas. “After the Oscars, we have had a full house for Gladiator each day. So we extended it on popular demand,” says Nitindra Gangopadhyay of Nandan.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Cast Away, scheduled for release on Friday, could have ridden the Oscar high as well. “We will be losing out on the hype,” admits Arijit Dutta of Globe.

There are no predictions as to when the strike will end. “We are sympathetic to the problems faced by our employees,” says John Mantosh of Lighthouse and New Empire. “But with the taxes so high, and the obsolete laws, there is very little we can do to meet the demands of the Bengal Motion Picture Employees’ Union.”

Recommendations from hall-owners include two salient points — reduction of taxes, controls over piracy and screening of films by cable operators.


Calcutta, March 29: 
The baby of Nilima Khatun (name changed) will have to undergo emergency surgery immediately after it is delivered through Caesarean section in the first week of April at the Assembly of God Hospital and Research Centre. An ultrasonography of the womb has revealed that the baby does not have an abdominal wall.

“It will have to be delivered pre-term and an operation conducted to rectify the congenital deformity,” said doctors attending on Khatun. Specialised post-operative attention and treatment would be required right after the operation so that the baby not only survives but can be a normal one as well. Such attention and treatment is possible at dedicated centres called neonatal intensive care units (NICUs).

Up to five per cent of the babies born in nursing homes and hospitals in Calcutta require specialised attention and treatment with trained staff and sophisticated equipment because of various emergency situations. This incidence is common in all cities in the country, paediatricians say.

With the inauguration of such a unit at the Assembly of God Hospital in Park Street last week, there are now five hospitals in the city that offer such specialised care. The other units are at Peerless Hospital, Calcutta Hospital, Park Nursing Home and West Bank Hospital in Howrah.

Babies aged between one day and four weeks that suffer from birth asphyxia, sepsis or infection during birth, or have severe, life-threatening congenital malfunctions or malformations, or are very pre-term deliveries weighing 1,000 gm or less require resuscitation and treatment at NICUs.

The one at AG Hospital was set up with the help of a donation from Dr Roane and his wife of the US in memory of Little Jack, their 11-month son who died in a swimming pool accident in 1999, the hospital’s executive director Z.P. Dadina, who is herself a paediatrician, said. “Equipment worth $40,000 has been installed at the NICU. Now, we will no longer have to shift emergency babies to other centres that have this facility,” she said.

The unit at AG Hospital has advanced electronic incubators as well as open-care beds that have overhead phototherapy attachments. It also has an electronic resuscitator, a special ventilator calibrated for newborn babies, electronic infusion pumps that make possible administration of minute quantities of intravenous medicine (instead of the usual IV drops), multichannel monitors and pulse oximeters.

“In addition, we have three consultant paediatricians, registrars and specially trained nurses who will be in attendance round the clock,” said Dr Amitava Sen, head of the department of neonatology at the hospital. He said neonatology was still lagging in the state, evident from the fact that not a single level-II NICU is accredited to the National Neonatology Forum. At least 15 per cent of all neonates need level II care, the Forum has assessed.

The hospital has also started the “Friends of the Newborn Society,” which will support parents who cannot provide the costs of specialised care at NICUs.


Calcutta, March 29: 
Mumbai-based Boston Education and Software Technologies Ltd., launched its first career education centre in Calcutta at Salt Lake on Thursday.

Opening the Calcutta centre is part of the software training major’s country-wide expansion plans, which was kicked off in end-1999. The 10-year-old institute, started by software professionals, is already an established name in Mumbai. “We have been able to place our students in reputed companies like Datametics, Reliance group, National Stock Exchange,” said Dipankar Mukhopadhyay, managing director of the company.

The institute, which has around 200 centres all over the country, has also lined up plans for going global. “We want to expand in neighbouring countries like Bangladesh and Nepal, and even beyond. We have already signed a few MoUs in this regard,” he said.

The company, which touched a turnover of Rs. 25 crore last year, has a strong software wing, too. “We have recently bagged a contract from the White House to develop a recruitment software,” said Mukhopadhyay.

The institute has a target of setting up around eight centres in the city in a year.

Describing the future plans of the company in Calcutta, Mukhopadhyay said, “We will surely go in for franchisee development, but we would like to come up with company owned centres first.” But, he indicated that the institute has a target of setting up around 8 centres in the city in a year’s time.


Imphal, March 29: 
Barely 12 hours after the Manipur government decided to extend the ongoing ceasefire by a month, militants today killed two Army jawans and a civilian near the 59 Mountain Brigade base in Leimakhong.

Sources said the rebels triggered a blast just when an Army team patrolling the Imphal-Leimakhong road was passing by on foot. Two of the security personnel and a civilian bystander were killed in the blast, while two jawans were seriously wounded.

Both the injured personnel are undergoing treatment at the Leimakhong military hospital.

The site of the explosion, which was triggered at 9.15 am, is only a km from the 59 Mountain Brigade base in Leimakhong.

An Army source in Imphal said the blast was possibly triggered with a remote control device. The rebels may have used “composite explosives”, he added.

The explosion was so powerful that the bodies of the slain army jawans were reduced to lumps of flesh and thrown at least 30 metres away from the road. The blast also created a deep crater.

The incident has virtually jeopardised the state government’s efforts to create an atmosphere conducive to peace talks with leaders of various militant outfits.

It was just last night that the Koijam Cabinet took a decision to extend the Yaoshang (Holi) ceasefire by a month. The truce came into effect on March 1 and was supposed to end on Saturday.

The Cabinet decided to extend the ceasefire in deference to the wishes of leaders of all political parties. Koijam had convened an all-party meeting here on Tuesday to discuss the issue.

While the people have been enthusiastic over the state government’s peace initiative, at least three militant outfits have not accepted the ceasefire. These are the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak, the Revolutionary People’s Front and the Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup.

Koijam today left for New Delhi to apprise the Centre of the state government’s decision to extend the duration of the truce, but the bomb attack on army jawans could derail the move.

The chief minister told The Telegraph before his departure that he would consult central leaders, including the Prime Minister, the Union home minister and the defence minister, before making an announcement on the issue.

Asked if he had second thoughts about extending the ceasefire, Koijam said his government would stand by its decision.

Sources said several central leaders were angry when the state government declared a festival ceasefire without consulting them.

Matric exams: As many as 39,575 students will appear in the High School Leaving Certificate examination, which begins in Manipur tomorrow.

Sixth Schedule: The Manipur Cabinet yesterday decided to bring the hill areas of the state under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.


Agartala, March 29: 
Factional squabbles in the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura have given the CPM an opportunity to regain lost ground in the state’s hilly interiors.

The Gana Mukti Parishad, the party’s tribal front, has already launched an agitation against the failure of the IPFT-controlled Autonomous District Council to fulfil the needs of the tribal community.

Shortage of food and an outbreak of enteric and malarial diseases are the major problems plaguing tribals in the interior areas.

Information minister Jiten Chowdhury and tribal welfare minister Aghore Debbarma are spearheading the CPM agitation by addressing rallies and leading processions in the tribal belt.

Sources in the CPM said the aim of the agitation was to highlight the hollowness of the IPFT’s promises before the Autonomous District Council elections last year.

Claiming that the law and order situation in the interior areas had improved due to sustained operations by the police and disunity among the militants, the sources said several senior party leaders had addressed meetings in hitherto inaccessible areas. All these meetings drew large crowds, they added.

Addressing one such tribal rally at Padmabil in Khowai subdivision, Aghore Debbarma said militant outfits were responsible for the backwardness of the people in the interior areas. He said militant-orchestrated violence had forced the Left Front government to halt development work in these areas.

The tribal welfare minister made similar statements at another meeting commemorating the “martyrdom” of Kumari, Madhuti and Rupashri, three tribal women killed by the Army on March 28,1949 while protesting against feudal oppression.

A huge crowd comprising both tribals and non-tribals attended yesterday’s rally.

A CPM leader said the “success” of the rally was a major boost for the ruling party, which won 15 of the 20 seats reserved for tribals in the last Assembly elections. “The death of former chief minister Dasharath Deb in 1995 and the absence of a leader of his stature pegged us back a bit. But we are now making up for lost time,” he said.

On the debacle in the Autonomous District Council elections last year, the CPM leader said it was largely due to the outlawed National Liberation Front of Tripura’s campaign in favour of the IPFT and the “dubious role” of a section of the security forces.

“The CPM will regain its political base in the tribal areas within the next two years,” he added.


Bhubaneswar, March 29: 
The Orissa government today decided to introduce the sale of country liquor in 16 districts of the state.

At a meeting held here this morning, the Cabinet decided that country liquor would be sold in sealed pouches and bottles at retail outlets in Ganjam, Gajapati, Nayagarh, Khurda, Puri, Cuttack, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Jajpur, Bhadrak, Balasore, Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Dhenkanal, Angul and Kandhamal districts.

The sale of liquor will be managed through the Orissa State Beverages Corporation.

The sale of country liquor was banned by Biju Patnaik in the early Nineties in the aftermath of the Cuttack hooch tragedy.

The Cabinet also decided that retired district judges and additional district judges would be appointed on contract basis in special courts to fight the huge backlog of cases.

Tripura party criticised

Deposed chief executive member and general secretary of the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura, Debabrata Koloi, raised the issue of corruption immediately after new chief executive member of the Autonomous District council, Kripa Mohan Reang, tabled a Rs 132-crore budget for 2001-2002, reports our Agartala correspondent.

Barely had council chairman Hirendra Tripura announced that the debate on the budget would be held today, Koloi stood up and let loose a volley of allegations against his own partymen. One of his allegations was that his arch rival and former executive member (education) Sridam Debbarma had sanctioned a printing contract in violation of rules.


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