Accident claims four youth
Attack on civic official sparks revenge kidnap
CU to slap fee for maiden name change
Cheers, tears and swoons for Chocolate Boy
June date for cell service
Myanmarese set to return home
Speaker turns neutral in MSCP tussle
Tripura CM reviews state law and order
Subba issue
Gopalpur beach resort to have marine museum

Calcutta, April, 5: 
Early on Thursday morning, the bodies of four youths, with their skulls smashed, were found near a garbage vat on Strand Road. A few feet away lay another boy, bleeding profusely from the head and arms. He is now battling for life at Medical College Hospital.

Later in the day, all five were identified as residents of Titagarh. According to the police, when the five boys, all between 13 to 18, did not return home till Thursday morning, their parents lodged a diary with Titagarh police station. Subsequently, messages were sent all over the state, along with a brief description of them.

“The message said that the boys had the Muharram ropes tied round their waists and this tallied with the description of the bodies found,” said inspector-general of police, South Bengal, Ranjit Mohanty.

Relatives of the boys, who were then informed, came to the Calcutta police morgue and identified the bodies.

The relatives told the police that the boys had gone out in a group of nine friends the previous night. Four others, also residents of Titagarh, were picked up by the police in the afternoon and interrogated for several hours after being brought to the city.

City police commissioner D.C. Vajpai said the boys told the police that on Wednesday night, they had stopped a Matador van at Barrackpore and asked the driver to take them to Titagarh. Five of the boys sat on one side of the van.

According to the boys’ version, which the police conveyed at three different press conferences during the day, just as they had reached Empire Jute Mill, on the outskirts of Titagarh, a truck coming from the opposite direction hit the side of the van on which the five boys were sitting.

According to 16-year-old Mustafa, one of the boys who managed to escape unhurt, the accident “unnerved all of us... We really did not know what had hit us,” Mustafa told the police at the city morgue. “We panicked on seeing our injured friends and as soon as the van came to a stop, we got off and ran.”

Another of the boys, Sohrab, told the police that a couple of them had run after the van after being dropped off when they realised that their friends lay injured in the vehicle.

Mustafa maintained that he had come back home and gone off to sleep, “secure in the knowledge” that the van-driver would admit the injured boys to a Calcutta hospital.

Sohrab, however, said he had informed the secretary of a local club, Abdul Ansari, who had then called up a number of city hospitals for news of the boys.

“The rest is conjecture,” Mohanty admitted. “We presume that the driver of the van must have noticed the dead and injured boys once he entered Calcutta and then decided to simply dump them, so as not to get into any problems with the law. These details are still very unclear.”

The van and its driver remain untraced, but the police have arrested the four boys who remained unhurt on grounds of suppression of evidence.

“They should have informed the police immediately after the incident,” Mohanty said.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said at the party headquarters on Saturday evening: “This is a clear case of accidental death and nothing else should be read into it.”


Calcutta, April, 5: 
Within hours of the attack on Budge Budge civic body chief Sailendra Ghosh in New Alipore, his supporters retaliated by kidnapping Babloo Mullick, 35, a close associate of rivals Haran and Nripen Giri.

Budge Budge police said Babloo, a resident of Chaturang, had got off a local train at Budge Budge station on Thursday morning when four young men intercepted him.

According to the FIR lodged by Babloo’s wife Anima Mullick, they forced him into a car parked near the station as he was returning home, and sped away.

An elderly woman, a neighbour of the Mullicks, was witness to the kidnapping and informed Anima. Police said the witness identified three of the abductors who are close to Ghosh. Patrolling has been beefed up in the area.

Inspector-general of police, South Bengal, Ranjit Mohanty, said an intensive search was on for Mullick.

“We have got some names and our personnel have already left to raid a few places,’’ he said. According to local police officers, Babloo was close to the CPM’s Budge Budge zonal committee member Ratan Bagchi, a bitter rival of Ghosh.

Ghosh and one of his close associates, Netai, were instrumental in throwing out Haran and Nripen Giri, two notorious rowdies who had been terrorising the area.

To settle scores, the duo attacked Ghosh and his associate, Uttam Ghatak, at New Alipore, where they had gone to visit a chartered accountant. According to Ghosh, Nripen and Haran had attacked Netai in September last year, injuring him seriously.

City police chief D.C. Vajpai said Ghosh’s condition was stable and that he was out of danger. The team of doctors attending on him at the hospital allowed detectives to speak to him for half an hour on Thursday morning.

A number of senior CPM leaders visited him during the day.

According to detective chief Banibrata Basu, the police had detained Ghatak’s driver for interrogation.

“I sent my officers to raid the Giris’ Kalighat and Chetla hideouts, but so far, they have been able to elude the police,’’ Basu said.

The kidnapping has triggered tension in the Budge Budge area. Ghosh’s relatives and local CPM leaders were apprehensive of retaliatory attacks by Giris’ men. “They might even come to the hospital to harm him,’’ a Ghosh supporter said.

Deputy commissioner of police, south, Ranjit Pachnanda, said security has been tightened at SSKM Hospital. “We are keeping a close watch on the situation,’’ he said.


Calcutta, April, 5: 
Girls students of Calcutta University (CU) may well have to pay the price of marriage — that is, if they decide to change their maiden names. In a desperate bid to mop up resources, cash-starved CU is planning to slap a fee of Rs 500 on girl students applying for name-change certificates, post-marriage. Till now, such certificates came without a price tag.

And it’s not just a matter of Rs 500 either. The move proposes a Rs-500 fee for each certificate carrying a name change. “So, if a girl has completed both her graduation and post-graduation from the university, she will end up paying Rs 2,000 for four certificates. This is absurd,” said Sarbani, a student.

The change-your-surname-for-a-fee proposal, placed at a recent meeting of the university’s Syndicate, ran into a storm of indignation. “The proposal is under consideration and more discussions on the matter are required,” said Ashis Kumar Banerjee, vice-chancellor.

A few hundred girl students, apparently, approach the university for such certificates every academic year. Both students and employees have opposed the move and urged the authorities to “withdraw the proposal” at once.

“This is unheard of in this 144-year-old university. We understand that the university is facing a cash crunch. But why should girl students be targeted in this bizarre fashion? I’m sure they can devise other methods to raise funds.”

Sources in the university accounts department confirmed that the institution was passing through a “severe financial crisis” and the move had been initiated to boost revenues. “We are exploring various possibilities to raise funds internally,” said an official. This comes close on the heels of Governor and CU chancellor Viren J. Shah hauling up the university authorities for “mismanagement of funds” and “failure to generate revenue”.

But the name-game gambit could well backfire, with the boys echoing the girl’s ‘it’s not fair’ line. “We will appeal to the authorities and demand immediate withdrawal of this bizarre proposal,” promised Manan Mondal, leader of the university’s SFI-controlled students’ union.


Calcutta, April, 5: 
She’s been writing to him for the last six years, all her secrets, her deepest thoughts. She scolded him after she saw Mela, she scribbled sweet nothings after catching Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak for the umpteenth time. On Thursday afternoon, she had a chance to show him just how much she cares...

Zainab, who also goes by the name of ‘Aammu’, is just one of the fans Aamir Khan met during 45 mad moments at MusicWorld. The 20-year-old had a brief tête-à-tête with her ‘Mr Perfect’ when the People’s Khan met the lucky 125 to first pick up the Sony soundtrack of his maiden home-production, Lagaan.

Though the doors of the Park Street store were closed to all else, the crowds outside tried their hardest to get in, bringing traffic to a standstill and forcing a lathicharge.

Like many others, Zainab just couldn’t contain herself. Shaking violently, in tears, she could barely utter a coherent word. No wonder. She’s been to Mumbai in search of her unknowing confidante. “I even kissed his dog, though he was away shooting for Sarfarosh,” she gushed, minutes before meeting the man she has written songs for. She and new-found friends Snigdha, Mahasweta and Rachita shared trivia before their heart-throb arrived. “His birthday is on March 14, he got married in 1986...”

The man of the hour walked in at 3 pm, amidst screams, looking a little shy, a little exhausted. Taking the stage, he thanked the audience for the “warm welcome”, before the queue started moving. One-by-one, they all came up to have their picture taken with the star, and moved away, reluctantly.

Pooja Chawla was armed with a bouquet. However, she had company. “I am here as her bodyguard,” grinned husband Sanjeev. Pooja was not in tears, but equally thrilled. “He’s such a darling! He is a thousand times better than Shah Rukh!” she laughed.

Aamir, dressed casually in grey shirt and red six-pockets, smile firmly in place, appeared unfazed. Women with their husbands, mothers with their sons, young boys and girls, all queued up to try and shake Aamir’s hand, get his autograph, and maybe, just maybe, even a peck on the cheek.

Though not all collapsed into fits of hysterics, the consensus was clear: Aamir is the best. He is honest, he is versatile. And his chocolate boy looks beat the bicep brigade by a mile.

“He signed on my heart,” whispered Anshu, a Bhawanipur College student, holding up the heart-shaped paper she had brought along to take his autograph. “I’ll never lose this... How can I lose my heart?” she breathed, tears spilling down her cheeks.

Aamir finally ran out, amidst wails. Outside, he triggered yet more shrieks, plenty of pushing and shoving, a traffic jam and a lathicharge. Before wrapping up his first, hectic visit to the city after QSQT, he observed, with a smile: “The response here was extremely warm. And there was much more screaming, shouting, hugging and kissing than in any other city. I was thrilled... moved.”


Calcutta, April, 5: 
Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) hopes to launch its mobile cellular service in June, having failed the November 2000 target, said Union communication minister Ram Vilas Paswan at a press conference on Thursday.

“The scheme has been delayed as the mobile switching centres provided by the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT) for the pilot projects in Patna, Calcutta and Haldia have failed to stabilise,” Paswan said. The C-DoT has been given two months to stabilise its switching system, failing which the project will go ahead with an internationally-approved technology.

Armed with a licence for nation-wide cellular services, BSNL will be able to provide roaming facilities to its subscribers without having to align with other operators. BSNL is already late in the field of cellular telephony and is loosing revenue on a daily basis.

The minister plans to introduce a wireless on a local loop (WLL) system through Calcutta Telephones in the first quarter of this financial year. The WLL will provide customers the same facility as a mobile phone but within a 20 km radius. Other plans include the commissioning of managed leased data network (MLDN) and introduction of fibre in the customer access network.

Highlighting the achievements of Calcutta Telephones, Paswan said the organisation has provided more than two lakh telephone connections, against a target of 1.78 lakh during 2000-2001.


Calcutta, April, 5: 
After spending over four years in Presidency Jail, Alipore, 58 Myanmarese prisoners will walk free on Friday morning.

Although the court had ordered their release a year ago, they have continued to languish behind bars as no one seemed willing to pay for their air fare back home. Finally, with the Myanmarese government agreeing to foot the bill, the decks for their release have been cleared. The 58 Myanmarese fishermen will fly back home around 10 am from Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport.

Initially, it had been decided that the Myanmarese inmates would return by train through Tripura. But then, the decision was altered.

Last year, with no sign of either government making a move for their release, the prisoners had resorted to a hungerstrike to draw attention to their plight.

They had abandoned their protest movement when they were assured that they would be released in early 2001.


Imphal, April 5: 
Manipur Speaker Sapam Dhananjoy has removed the tag of “unattached member” from former chief minister W. Nipamacha Singh and six of his followers. The Speaker’s order said Nipamacha Singh, M. Kunjo, Kshetri Biren, P. Achou, L. Chandramani, S. Rajen and Samuel Jendai will be treated as full-fledged members of the Manipur State Congress Party.

Dhananjoy’s sudden decision indicates he wants to remain neutral in the ongoing battle in the MSCP. The MSCP has split into two factions at an organisational level. While one is headed by Union minister of state for food processing Thounaojam Chaoba Singh, the other is led by Nipamacha Singh.

Despite the split at its organisational level, the MSCP legislature wing is yet to split in the Assembly. The Speaker still continues to treat all 31 MLAs of MSCP as one unit.

The Speaker first removed the label of “unattached members” from Achou, Rajen, Jendai and Chandramani on Tuesday. He issued similar orders for Nipamacha, Kunjo and Biren yesterday.

These seven MLAs had been declared “unattached members” by the Speaker in February following their expulsion from the party by the Chaoba Singh faction of the MSCP.

The Gauhati High Court then quashed the Speaker’s order and asked him to treat the seven MLAs as MSCP members. Despite the High Court’s order, the relationship between Dhananjoy and his erstwhile enemy — Nipamacha Singh — has considerably improved after the Radhabinod Koijam-led People’s Front government was installed.

Sources said Dhananjoy now wants to remain neutral in the current tussle in the MSCP, of which he is a prominent leader.

Securitymen killed: Two securitymen of the Indian Reserve Battalion were killed in an encounter with militants at Morcon village of Saikul subdivision this morning.

Police sources said the IRB team was attacked by militants when they went to the village to conduct an operation.

Police sources said they believed the attackers to be a combined team of National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) and Kuki Revolutionary Army insurgents. Additional forces have been rushed to the area to track down the militants. The attackers escaped after initiating the encounter, the sources said.

The IRB is a part of Manipur Rifles and is under the command of the state police chief. The force has been used for combating insurgency in the state.

Sources said the militants’ attack appears to have been carried out in retaliation against yesterday’s incident at Saikul where IRB personnel killed an NSCN(I-M) militant in a gunbattle. A Belgium-made G-3 rifle was recovered from the slain guerrilla by the IRB yesterday.

Trucks gutted: Three trucks belonging to the Border Road Task Force were gutted by unidentified gunmen yesterday near Nongada village in Imphal East district. The incident took place when the trucks were returning to Ukhrul after ferrying food for the BRTF personnel from Imphal.

BJP unit’s stand

The BJP unit of Cachar district — a saffron stronghold — has made it clear that it is against sacrificing any of the seven Assembly seats in the district to the AGP, reports our Silchar correspondent.

BJP sources here said the party had already finalised its candidates for Silchar, Kathigorah, Dholai, Borkhola and Lakhipur Assembly segments where electioneering was going full steam.

In the remaining two seats of Lakhipur and Sonai, the party claimed to be in an “unassailable position”.

Hence, the district unit was not willing to part with any seats to any party, sources said.

BJP district president Ajit Bhattacharjee today called the party’s national general secretary Narendra Mody and Assam observer Sunil Shastry in New Delhi and informed them about the views of the party unit.


Agartala, April 5: 
Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar has directed the police to intensify counter-insurgency operations in the state.

He said the police would have to carry on their operations in a spirited manner, in spite of every problem. The chief minister was addressing a meeting of senior police officials at the secretariat to review the law and order situation and insurgency.

Before addressing the high-level meeting, the chief minister met officers-in-charge of police stations, middle-rank personnel of special branch and other junior officials. The meeting was attended by chief secretary V. Thulasidas, and director-general of police Bhusan Lal Vohra. Senior police officials apprised the chief minister of ground realities through video shows of insurgency-prone areas.

Sarkar appreciated the good work being done over the past eight months by the police in fighting insurgency but asserted that the government wanted results and the police and other paramilitary forces would have to intensify their operations. Sources in the state police department said a special action programme to curb militancy would be put to effect soon through well co-ordinated anti-insurgency operations in rebel-infested interior areas.

Communal campaign

Militants of the All-Tripura Tiger Force have launched a communal campaign through their mouthpiece Choba, as part of an effort to reassert their authority. An anonymous article published in the latest issue has described education minister Anil Sarkar, the minister of industry Pabitra Kar and the health minister Keshav Mazumder as “infiltrators” from Bangladesh. The article said Manik Sarkar was presiding over an “illegitimate government of infiltrators and refugees which had usurped power from the ‘sons of the soil’.”

The article also accused the state government of having brought only tribal areas under the Disturbed Areas Act. The Tiger Force and its political wing, the Tripura Peoples’ Democratic Front, will carry on the “liberation struggle,” it said.

Official sources however, refused to attach any significance to the contents of Choba, saying, “It is their old line. Now they have launched a fresh campaign to gain favour with the tribals who are increasingly disillusioned with insurgency”.


New Delhi, April 5: 
The shadow of controversial MP from Tezpur, Mani Kumar Subba, looms large over the selection of Congress candidates for the Assam Assembly polls.

PCC chief Tarun Gogoi, former Union minister Santosh Mohan Dev and a section of party MPs from the state have urged Sonia Gandhi to keep Subba out of the selection process.

These leaders alleged that Subba was using “money bags” to push through dubious candidates. Subba reportedly teamed up with Nagaland chief minister S.C. Jamir and some top AICC functionaries to “play a major role in the central election committee” which would be clearing the list of candidates for 126 seats.

Congressmen in Assam have expressed resentment against Subba’s “active interest” in the selection of candidates beyond Tezpur and his “easy access” to those close to the high command.

“We can understand his interest in his parliamentary constituency but his clout goes much beyond Tezpur. The manner in which he is making promises to fund the elections indicates that he wants to be the next chief minister,” said a disgusted party MP.

He wondered how an image- conscious Sonia Gandhi could allow Subba to flaunt his political clout.

Subba, who is facing a CBI inquiry into the disproportionate assets case, managed to get a Congress ticket in the 1999 general election despite stiff opposition from the AICC’s ethics panel comprising Manmohan Singh, A.K. Antony and Ahmad Patel.


Berhampur, April 5: 
Orissa’s first marine museum will soon be established at the Gopalpur beach resort.

According to Anadi Sahu, MP, Berhampur, a proposal has been submitted to the Union government for its approval and financial support. Apart from being an attractive tourist spot, the museum will be of help to marine biology research, Berhampur University authorities said.

The coast of Orissa harbours a great variety of plant and animal life. Of late, some marine and estuary fauna have become endangered. The museum will take steps for the preservation of these species.

The proposed museum will initially have seven sections. The Pisces’ section will preserve all varieties of fish found on the Orissa coast including edible, wild, and ornamental fish specimens of marine, estuarine, and brackish water environments. This section will have a further division-to preserve the bony fish and cartilaginous fish separately.

The different segments of the shell section will preserve shrimps, crabs, lobsters, molluscs and echinoderms. A special section for increasing public consciousness about preservation of coral reefs has been planned.This section will be devoted to the maintenance and storage of corals.

The coast of Orissa has one of the largest mangrove forests in the country. The section on mangroves and sea weeds will display various sea weeds and the commercial products made from them as well as important parts of the mangrove plants. Marine minerals found on the beaches of Orissa will be displayed in the next section, with special emphasis on manganese nodules and radioactive elements. Oceanographic equipment used by sea explorers will also be on display. Children will get to see working models of sea faring vessels.

The section on products derived from biotic and non-biotic elements of the ocean will be a special attraction for viewers. The museum also plans a large aquarium.

The museum is estimated to cost around Rs 4.66 crore. Its maintenance along with the salary of the staff will cost around Rs 28 lakh per year.

Tourist organisations and hotel owners have welcomed this proposal. The Ganjam Hoteliers’ Association has urged the Centre to provide the necessary financial help. Anadi Sahu is hopeful that once the museum becomes popular, steps will be taken to build a “historical” section to highlight the glory of British Orissa. Gopalpur was a major port during the British Raj. It was closed down during World War II.


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