Torture tales in bleak house
IIT topper turned guru chants mantra of resurgence
Buddha whets knife over dry city
Two held for gold shop heist
More-days diktat to school the teacher
Monitor panel for wetlands
Surrender signal from hunted duo
Miracle man, ‘special’ offspring
Another outfit rejects Koijam ceasefire offer
7 flee Tura jail, one nabbed

 
 
TORTURE TALES IN BLEAK HOUSE 
 
 
BY PRONAB MONDAL
 
Calcutta, March 30: 
Unable to bear sexual torture for over three years, two inmates of the Liluah Home for Destitute Women, a state-run outfit, attempted suicide early this month and nearly succeeded in taking their lives.

The incidents, kept under wraps by the home authorities, came to light recently when the Howrah sub-divisional judicial magistrate ordered that the main accused be produced in his court. The subsequent findings by the court, as well as the district authorities, have exposed the gory and perverted goings-on in an institution where even minor and homeless girls are lodged.

The two girls (names withheld) who attempted suicide are both in their early 20s and have been lodged in the home for the past three years. In their statements to the police, they said that they tried to take their lives as they were “unable to bear the barbaric sexual torture” inflicted on them by a section of inmates, who seemed to “enjoy” the patronage of the authorities.

While one of them consumed kerosene to end her life, the other hanged herself from the ceiling of the toilet. The first was rushed to hospital when she showed signs of being violently sick; the other was brought down by inmates who saw her hanging through the toilet window. Cases of attempted suicide have been registered at Bally police station.

According to the girls — one had been sent to the centre from Raidighi, the other from Bongaon, after they had run away from their homes — a set of “perverted” inmates ruled the roost at the home, torturing and physically abusing other girls and threatening the authorities in case they attempted to intervene. This ring, the girls said, was led by one Monalisa.

“Every night was an ordeal after Monalisa and her associates took a fancy for us,” one of the girls told the police. “They would regularly pounce on us and drag us to the toilet. There, after beating us up, they would do unmentionable things. We would cry out loud, leading only to more torture on us. But the authorities never did anything.”

One of the girls has said that Monalisa, who is big-built, would even terrorise the staff, smashing furniture and hitting out at anyone who came in her way.

After the matter came up in court and the judge ordered that Monalisa be produced before him, a police party had gone twice to the home to pick her up but had to return empty-handed. Monalisa, along with her associates, had locked the gates and did not allow the police to enter.

Additional district magistrate (judicial) B.P. Borat, under whose jurisdiction the Liluah home falls, admitted that things were in a mess at the institution. “It is true the girls have been tortured and a police case lodged against Monalisa,” he said. “But, unfortunately, the police were unable to get her.”

He added that the home staff would be dealt with sternly if they were found to be guilty of inaction. Home authorities said they were “helpless”, as the girls were “too scared” to lodge official complaints, fearing repercussion from the “network of perverts”. In the absence of such complaints, the home authorities said, there was nothing that they could do. More than 3,500 girls are lodged in the home and it was not possible to find out what was happening at night.

“But now the matter is with the police and we are certain that appropriate action will be taken,” said the additional superintendent of the home, Malabika Majumdar.

But the officer-in-charge of Bally police station, Shivshankar Dubey, said he was determined to see justice being meted out to the two tortured girls. “Twice, we have been turned away from the home, but the next time we go there, we will come back with Monalisa and also bring the slack administration to book,” he said.

   

 
 
IIT TOPPER TURNED GURU CHANTS MANTRA OF RESURGENCE 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, March 30: 
Saumyendra Nath Mukhopadhyay topped IIT Kharagpur in 1968 and bagged the prestigious Dr B.C. Roy Gold Medal for “all-round excellence”. A meteoric 10-year corporate career followed. Today, he is Saumyendra Nath Brahmachary, a spiritual guru driven by the dream of “resurrecting and spreading the affirmative interpretation” of the Upanishads throughout India.

The mechanical engineer-turned-acharya of Dev Sangha, a spiritual institution in Bompas, near Deoghar, is passing through the city he grew up in. The 55-year old guru is busy holding a havan to “restore normalcy in the behaviour of Mother Nature” and stem calamities. Hundreds of Calcuttans, including leading academicians, bureaucrats, industrialists and businessmen, besides a host of housewives, have been attending the week-long havan, to culminate in the Annapurna puja on Sunday.

“The havan has the potential to work wonders as an antidote to the disease caused by the universal balance being upset under the sustained abuse of mankind,” said the man in the middle.

But it was not on matters of spirituality alone that the Brahmachary was willing to hold forth. From education to politics, WTO to the changing face of the next generation, he had a word or three for everything, everyone.

“The only language that can unite India is Sanskrit. The adoption of Hindi as national language is the root cause behind the north-south divide. Sanskrit has the power to revive Indian culture,” he observed.

With a group of young boys looking on expectantly, the Brahmachary expressed “full faith” in the youth. “I am confident that they will lead a revival in this country. The fact that the process has already begun is reflected in the acceptance of Ayurveda and herbal beauty products by the younger generation, and the appeal that scientific Indian astrology has for them,” he said. Besides the Dev Sangha ashram, the Brahmachary also runs a school in Bompass, where students are trained in everything from Indian culture to the latest in computers.

At Friday’s havan, schoolboys sat patiently with professors of management and corporate fat cats as the guru, who had passed his HS from Mitra Insititution before proceeding to Kharagpur for his graduation, observed that the WTO would facilitate “the process of the country’s integration with the world”, as prophesied by Rabindranath Tagore.

“Today, the nation is in a state of flux. But I’m sure that round the corner, a giant leap awaits us... After all, stupid optimism is better than incorrigible pessimism, ” smiled the man in spotless white dhoti-kurta.

   

 
 
BUDDHA WHETS KNIFE OVER DRY CITY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 30: 
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Friday came down heavily on the Trinamul-BJP-run Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) for “its failure to supply adequate drinking water to the city”.

Bhattacharjee was addressing a meeting of the CPM women’s wing, the Paschimbanga Ganatantrik Mahila Samity, at the Centenary Hall of Calcutta University.

“Subrata Mukherjee has failed miserably to ensure adequate supply of drinking water to the city. I think the city fathers are not bothered about the water crisis. They are now busy drawing up strategies to pull down our government. But we will have to resolve the crisis,” Bhattacharjee added.

“I don’t know how they (the Trinamul-BJP) are running the CMC. During our tenure, we had taken adequate measures to improve conditions at the Tallah pumping station and Palta Waterworks to ensure adequate of drinking water to the people even in mid-summer. I think Subrata Mukherjee and his team have destroyed everything in the civic board,” Bhattacharjee added.

This is the chief minister’s first outburst against the Trinamul-run CMC at a public meeting. He hinted that the Marxists would highlight the failures of the Trinamul-BJP combine in running the CMCin their poll campaign. The campaign will, however, be confined within the city.

The Calcutta district committee of the Mahila Samity will gherao the CMC headquarters on Monday to protest the inadequate supply of drinking water to the city. Banani Biswas, secretary, said activists from 97 local committees will assemble for the rally on S.N.Banerjee Road on Monday.

   

 
 
TWO HELD FOR GOLD SHOP HEIST 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 30: 
Two persons were arrested on Friday in connection with a dacoity at a Bagbazar jewellery shop on Thursday evening. Deputy commissioner of police, north, K.L. Tamta, said Manoj Yadav, driver of the Maruti van used in the robbery, was picked up on Friday morning. “Yadav claims the car was stolen, but he is the owner of the car,’’ said Tamta.

Shyampukur police also arrested a former employee of the shop from his Birati residence in connection with the crime. The owners of the shop had fired him a few months ago, because he was allegedly stealing from the shop.

Three criminals stormed into Das Jewellery on Bagbazar Road on Thursday evening. The shop-owners claimed they stole ornaments worth Rs 25 lakh. The police, however, contested the claim.

   

 
 
MORE-DAYS DIKTAT TO SCHOOL THE TEACHER 
 
 
BY TAMAL SENGUPTA AND DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, March 30: 
More days in the classroom. That’s the first step towards righting the wrongs of the education system in the state. The government has instructed all its city schools to make 200 teaching days mandatory in a calendar year “to improve academic standards”. Pradyut Kumar Haldar, secretary of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, has already issued a circular to this effect.

About 10,000 secondary and higher secondary schools throughout the state, including the likes of Hindu School, Hare School, Scottish Church, Mitra Institution, Ballygunge Government High School and Bagbazar Multipurpose in the city, will be guided by the government directive.

The West Bengal Headmasters’ Association has taken exception to the diktat. “It is impossible to carve out 200 teaching days in an academic year because most of the schools are used as venues for Madhyamik and HS exams, for which they have to be kept shut,” said Prithwis Bose, general secretary of the Association. “Moreover, the central advisory committee on education had recommended creation of 180, not 200, teaching days a year. We will definitely oppose the government’s decision,” he added.

In another move aimed at bringing “errant teachers” to book, the government has made it mandatory for school teachers to examine answer scripts of Madhyamik and HS exams.

School authorities have been asked to nominate six representatives from among the guardians to the school managing committee. “This will enable guardians to play a direct role in shaping the school’s policies. Schools have also been directed to observe a Guardians’ Week once a year and to convene meetings with guardians twice a year,” said Haldar.

Teachers have been urged to hold periodical examinations to monitor the progress of students and to allow them to take home all scripts, except those for their annuals. Guardians will have to return the scripts within seven days with their remarks.

Board president Arun Kiran Chakraborty that the circular was in tune with a recent government directive instructing the Board “to take every possible step” to improve academic standard in secondary and HS schools.

   

 
 
MONITOR PANEL FOR WETLANDS 
 
 
BY KUNAL SENGUPTA
 
Calcutta, March 30: 
The east Calcutta wetlands has been given a new lease of life, with the government deciding to monitor development projects in the area. A body of experts has been formed at the behest of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee for the conservation of the wetlands.

The six-member committee includes representatives from the pollution control board, the departments of environment, fisheries and small-scale industries, the state planning board and the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority.

Of prime importance as far as acting as a natural waste water-treatment zone, about 12,500 acres of wetlands exist at present. The state government is bound by a high court judgment not to alter the existing waterbodies. “We have to see to it that the area remains free from activities that may cause damage to the prevailing environmental and ecological balance,” said environment minister Manabendra Mukherjee.

With the rejection of a water park and an NRI residential complex in the area by the state pollution control board, there are no pending projects slated to come up in the area. The experts’ body has been asked to decide on an approach to development around the wetlands so that economic prosperity and environment progress together. A preserve-the-wetlands movement led by minister for Sunderbans development, Abdul Rezzak Mollah, has been fighting tooth and nail to stop all development in the area.

The movement, called the Jalabhumi Bachao Committee, has submitted a memorandum to the experts, urging them to preserve the waste water-fed fisheries that abound in the area. “We have notionally accepted the panel’s thrust that no alteration can be made in the east Calcutta wetlands,” said Dipak Chakraborty, one of the experts and the chief scientist of the pollution control board.

The government wants to preserve the environment-friendly development in the buffer zone of the wetlands under the high court judgment. “We will have to chalk out our strategy carefully and for this, we have to make several inspections of the area,” Chakraborty said.

The east Calcutta wetlands has shrunk to the present size from an area of over 20,000 hectares following the development of Salt Lake City.

Ramsar site status

In another development, which will provide crucial support for conservation of the wetlands, the state government has made a formal application to the International Convention on Wetlends for declaration of the east Calcutta wetlands as a Ramsar site.

Ramsar sites are sensitive ecological areas, protected under the Ramsar Convention, which has 123 contracting countries, including India. The convention stresses the conservation and wise use of wetlands by national action and international cooperation.

The map of the east Calcutta wetlands has also been sent to the Union defence ministry, as it is slated to be an internationally recognised site, state government sources said.

India has five Ramsar sites: Chilka in Orissa, Harike Lake in Punjab, Loktak Lake in Manipur, Wular Lake in Kashmir and the Keoladeo Ghana national park and Sambhar Lake in Rajasthan.

   

 
 
SURRENDER SIGNAL FROM HUNTED DUO 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 30: 
Hours after they gave the slip to a police team hot on their trail in Howrah on Thursday night, the city’s two most wanted criminals, Gudda and Nadeem, sent out feelers to sleuths that they wanted to surrender.

A possé of policemen from the anti-rowdy section of the detective department had tried to trap the two criminals in a Dasnagar slum on Thursday night. On Friday morning, Gudda and Nadeem renewed their appeal to the cops that they wanted to surrender. “We have been on the run for the past few years. It is not a life worth living. I took to crime to settle a score. Now that I have achieved my goal, I have no intention of running like a dog any longer,’’ Gudda said.

A senior officer of the detective department said Nadeem and Gudda had arrived in the city last week to work out the modalities of the surrender. “Everything was set and both would have been in our custody, but a deputy commissioner of police vetoed it,’’ he said.

Recalling Thursday night’s chain of events, an officer who took part in the raid said five policemen surrounded the slum and began to zero in on the spot the two crime lords were hiding.

But when they reached within handshaking distance of the house, an officer sneezed, which woke up a youth sleeping on a cot outside. On seeing strangers, he screamed. Gudda and Nadeem woke up and ran for cover. A cop grabbed the youth, while the rest chased Gudda and Nadeem.

After a half-hour chase through the serpentine lanes and bylanes of Howrah, the officers lost track of them. Gudda and Nadeem’s gang are charged with kidnapping businessmen for ransom, a dozen murders and extortion cases.

   

 
 
MIRACLE MAN, ‘SPECIAL’ OFFSPRING 
 
 
BY SHOVONA MUKHERJI
 
Calcutta, March 30: 
Mahashweta desperately wanted to be a mother. Doctors had gently asked her to ‘accept’ the fact that she never would. But Mahasweta refused to give up hope. Somewhere, something... Then, Dr Baidyanath Chakraborty, or BNC, showed her the path. Sampa, too, had all but given up hope when BNC stepped in.

Today, both are proud mothers of test-tube babies, with BNC as ‘godfather’ and his Institute of Reproductive Medicine the ‘miracle mart’. Mahashweta recounts how “stressful” was the period before the birth. “But now, everything seems worth it,” she smiles. “The going was very tough,” admits Sampa. “It is only because of my supportive family and the Institute’s dedicated group of doctors that I could stand the strain. Dr. Chakraborty and his team not only kept on encouraging me, they would even explain every step of the procedure.”

The sparkling, spacious Institute of Reproductive Medicine at Salt Lake is a dramatic departure from BNC’s erstwhile 4 ft-by-6 ft research cubbyhole on CIT Road. With the test-tube technique improving rapidly, about 400 babies, including twins and triplets, have been born at the Institute. “Earlier, for a repeat of the same treatment, a couple would have to pay about Rs 80,000. Now, the same process costs Rs 15,000. And in about two years time, the technique used for test-tube babies will drop to around Rs 5,000,” says Dr Chakraborty.

The success rate at the Institute has risen to around 45 per cent. “The dedicated team, comprising Dr S. Goswami, Dr R. Chatterjee, Dr S. Ghosh, Dr Subir Kumar Dutta and lab technicians M. Dam, R. Banerjee and so many others, must take the credit for this,” says BNC. Parents have trooped in from all over India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Iran, UK and USA.

“Test-tube babies are not just a special feat of science, they are also highly intelligent beings. Most of them are doing very well in life,” declares Dr Chakraborty, mingling with some of ‘his’ sons and daughters at a recent get-together.

Siddhant, 9, born to his parents along with his twin brother after 22 years of their marriage, has the final word: “We know we are test-tube twins but we don’t know what that means. But when we see our photographs in the newspapers... and we are congratulated by everyone, starting from our principal, we do feel special.”

   

 
 
ANOTHER OUTFIT REJECTS KOIJAM CEASEFIRE OFFER 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, March 30: 
The proscribed United National Liberation Front has rejected the state government’s ceasefire offer.

The UNLF’s reply to the ceasefire offer came in the form of the killing of two Army jawans yesterday. The jawans were killed by triggering off a remote-controlled bomb near the 59 Mountain Brigade base at Leimakhong near here.

With the UNLF jumping on the bandwagon, four insurgent outfits have rejected the ceasefire announced by the Radhabinod Koijam-led People’s Front government. The chief minister is now in New Delhi to discuss the further extension of the unilateral ceasefire for another month.

The outfits which have rejected Koijam’s truce offer so far are the UNLF, the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (Prepak), the Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF) and the Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup.

The attack on an Army column by UNLF guerrillas yesterday has complicated the situation. Two Army jawans were killed and two more jawans seriously injured in yesterday’s bomb attack.

A civilian passerby was killed when the Army fired in retaliation. He has been identified as Deepak Dahal Sharma, a Nepali labourer. A defence release said troops opened fire when a man who ran away after the blast refused to stop when asked by the jawans. He later succumbed to his injuries on way to hospital, Army sources said.

A spokesman for the banned UNLF last evening claimed responsibility for the bomb attack and said the outfit had carried out a similar bomb attack on March 13 at Sangakpham here, killing an Assam Rifles jawan. The UNLF spokesman also rejected the state government’s ceasefire offer.

The peace initiative launched by the Koijam government may be grounded before achieving anything positive. The all-party meet and the Cabinet have decided to extend the unilateral ceasefire for another month.

Former chief minister and lone Opposition MLA Rishang Keishing today said the People’s Front government had declared the unilateral ceasefire without preparing any groundwork. The veteran Congress leader, however, said his party would not oppose the ceasefire as it was an attempt to bring peace to the state.

Keishing said the government has not taken any concrete action during the past month when the ceasefire has been in force. He said the government must find out those people who can contact the insurgent leaders and should try to find out the pulse of the rebels.

The Congress leader said if the insurgents decline to accept the government’s peace offer, the law has to take its own course. He said all political parties were ready to help the government bring peace and normalcy to the state.

   

 
 
7 FLEE TURA JAIL, ONE NABBED 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Shillong, March 30: 
One of the seven undertrials who escaped from Tura district jail in West Garo Hills district yesterday was arrested by police this morning. A massive search operation has been launched to arrest the other six.

The seven undertrials, all hardened criminals, broke free between 1 am and 3 am on Thursday by removing the iron grills, said deputy commissioner B. Purkayastha.

The escapees used clothes and towels to scale the wall on the southern side of the jail compound.

The jail authorities were not aware of the escape. They were informed about it by the prisoners in the other cells.

This is not the first time that undertrial prisoners have managed to escape from Tura district jail.

Police sources said none of the surrendered A’chik National Volunteer Council cadre lodged in the jail escaped. “They did not even make an escape bid,” said a police official.

The deputy commissioner said yesterday a magisterial inquiry has been ordered into the jailbreak. An additional district magistrate will conduct the inquiry, he added.

The police have identified the arrested undertrial as Gregory Momin.

ANVC militants: Meghalaya home minister T.H. Rangad today told the Assembly that no surrendered militant of the banned A’chik National Volunteer Council (ANVC) has gone back to join the outfit.

Replying to a calling attention motion by Opposition member K.C. Boro of the Congress, Rangad said 29 ANVC militants surrendered before the government and not one of them had gone back.

The militants, who had surrendered, were given Rs 2,000 each per month, besides food and lodging as part of the rehabilitation package, he said.

Boro alleged that according to newspaper reports, six ANVC rejoined their group due to poor treatment meted out by the government.

Boro said the Assam government had paid Rs 3 lakh for each surrendered militant and the Meghalaya government should also enhance the amount.

Syiem case

The hearing of the case of the Hima Mylliem versus the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council over the suspension of the Syiem of Mylliem, L.M. Syiem, in the Shillong bench of the Gauhati High Court, slated for today, has been deferred till Monday.

The court had earlier stayed the Syiem’s suspension order and asked the KHADC to state why the stay should not be made a permanent order.

The KHADC filed its affidavit yesterday.

   
 

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