Missing youth mystery
Gariahat house robbed at noon by four gunmen
Cured and freed, but not yet home
This is life, so full of CARE
Exciting new-age works of art
Students held for duping trader
Cancer haven for death with dignity
Petition filed in high court against graffiti
Iranian duo moves court for shelter in city
Desertions gnaw at BJP edifice

 
 
MISSING YOUTH MYSTERY 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, April 11: 

Name: Inderjit Singh

Age: 21 years

Last seen: Monday, April 9, at father’s office in Mominpur

Reason for disappearance: Unknown

For the past 48 hours, Inderjit’s father, Udham Singh, a transport operator and president of the Behala gurdwara, has been running from pillar to post to trace his son. Inderjit had recently joined the family business. But till late on Wednesday evening, his disappearance lies wrapped in mystery.

According to Udham Singh, on Monday evening his son attended a meeting at his office, where plans were chalked out to spruce up the premises. Thereafter Inderjit left on his scooter for Esplanade to meet some people who would undertake the work.

“He was to have attended a party that night, so when he did not turn up till late, we did not really bother for a while,” Udham Singh said.

“But when we enquired at his friend’s place and found that he had not attended the party, we really got worried.” Singh then called the police headquarters at Lalbazar, giving them the number of his son’s scooter. Late that night, while on a patrol, the police found an abandoned scooter near Lover’s Lane, off the Maidan. The scooter’s number matched the one provided by Singh. Next to the scooter lay a helmet, slightly dented. When Singh reached the spot and identified the scooter, he was certain that a scuffle had taken place and that his son had been forced off his bike. “My son is strong and well-built,” Singh said. “He wouldn’t give up without a fight. Besides, judging by the state of the helmet, it is obvious that there had been some kind of fight before Inderjit was forcibly taken away.”

The rest is shrouded in mystery. Nobody, till now, knows what Inderjit was doing in Lover’s Lane, nor why he did not attend his friend’s party. Still more mysterious is the fact that even two days after Inderjit’s disappearance, there has been no ransom call.

The only clue so far has been some torn documents found a few feet away from the scooter. “We are examining the documents to see if they can provide us with some leads,” a police official said.

“It could be the handiwork of anti-socials,” said Singh. “As president of the Behala gurdwara, I had resisted the activities of some criminals there and they had vowed revenge. It is possible that they have struck to teach me a lesson.” Police officials admit that there has been a spurt in criminal activities in the area.

Police, however, are not ruling out business rivalry behind this “kidnapping”. “We are presuming that this is a case of kidnapping, in the absence of any other clues,” said deputy commissioner of police (south), Ranjit Pachnanda. “But we are also exploring all other possibilities.”

He said that a fortnight ago, trouble had broken out between Singh and a section of New Alipore traders over some “business deals” and a case in this regard had been registered at New Alipore police station.

“It was pretty serious trouble,” said a police officer. “There was violence involved, leading to injuries to some people. We are sure that Inderjit was also a part of this ugly business.”

On Tuesday evening, a few of the traders involved in the violence were questioned by the police to get a “clearer picture” of Inderjit’s disappearance. “They told us a lot about the trouble between them and Udham Singh, but could not shed any light on Inderjit’s whereabouts,” an officer said.

   

 
 
GARIAHAT HOUSE ROBBED AT NOON BY FOUR GUNMEN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 11: 
Four young men stormed the Saha house on Hindustan Road, held three women of the household at gunpoint and walked off with gold ornaments worth Rs 2 lakh and Rs 45,000 in cash. The 10-minute operation was carried out on the congested south Calcutta street just after noon.

The Sahas, who have a confectionery and a transport business, have lived in the three-storeyed Hindustan Road house for years. Septuagenarian S.R. Saha and wife Jamini live on the ground floor, while the three sons occupy the floors above.

According to eldest son Samir Saha, his wife Arundhati, daughter Dalia and mother Jamini were the only ones in the house on Wednesday afternoon. At around 12.30 pm, the family dhobi Babulal came up to the first floor, leaving the door open as usual.

Minutes later, four men, in their mid-20s, brandishing revolvers and bhojalis, rushed in. One of them stood guard by the door, while the other three threatened Arundhati and Dalia with their weapons and demanded the keys to the cupboard.

The youth quickly emptied the contents of the locker. On their way out, they snatched a necklace from Dalia and another one from the maid.

All the while, a yellow taxi was waiting opposite, some 50 yards from the main entrance.

A tea vendor opposite the Saha front door later said he had noticed the taxi waiting, with its engine running, while a youth stood beside it watching the house. The goons ran out of the house and drove away in the taxi.

Moments later, Arundhati rushed out of the front door, shouting for help, while Dalia called the police.

Preliminary investigations have hinted at an ‘inside job’. Debu Bhattacharya, officer-in-charge of Gariahat police station, said: “The criminals knew exactly when to strike, where to go, what to take. For example, they weren’t really interested in the keys to Dalia’s cupboard, as they must have known that it did not contain valuables.”

According to the Sahas, the youth were “all Hindi-speaking”. The gang leader, they said, was “a little polished”, but the others looked and behaved like “petty criminals”. Late on Wednesday, deputy commissioner of police, south, Ranjit Pachnanda said two persons had been detained for interrogation.

   

 
 
CURED AND FREED, BUT NOT YET HOME 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, April 11: 
He almost lost his right leg in a traumatic accident in September last year. After a miraculous recovery, he was discharged by the doctors in November. Six months on, he occupies the same bed in the same nursing home, as neither his needy family back home in Jhargram, nor his employers, awaiting a rehabilitation package, can afford his medical bills for his release.

Mohammed Allauddin, 36, a generator operator with Universal Paper Mill, Jhargram, was admitted to Saviour Clinic Private Limited on September 8, 2000, with a serious leg injury. Allauddin, a casual worker with the Jhargram mill, had met with a machine accident while on duty and was taken to a local hospital.

Later, the staff union and the personnel manager removed him to the city nursing home on Dr Suresh Sarkar Road.

Having already spent Rs 1.3 lakh towards treatment of the trauma patient over the last eight months, Saviour Clinic is now at its tether’s end.

“He was admitted with an open fracture of the tibia, fibula and the metatarsals and the wound was so badly infected that he was close to needing an amputation,” recalls Dr Indrajit Sardar, the orthopaedic surgeon treating Allauddin.

A string of operations — including external fixator installation and skin grafting — later, the patient recovered “to the extent of 95 per cent” and could move about on crutches. He was officially discharged by Dr Sardar on November 2 last year, but no one came forward to pay the dues and get the patient released.

“We have informed the mill’s personnel manager P.K. Patra repeatedly about the discharge, but no step was taken about releasing the patient. Thus, Allauddin has stayed on at the nursing home for eight months now and his medical dues add up to Rs 82,000. We owe the doctors another Rs 20,000,” says Sujata Mukherjee, general manager of the nursing home.

Allauddin needs a bone graft and an internal fixator to get rid of the crutches, but the medicare unit is not ready to bear his cost burden any further. Mukherjee has also appealed to Entally police to “take necessary action”. But the police have pleaded helplessness.

“The company, supposed to meet the entire treatment cost, has till now contributed a mere Rs 30,000. Repeated feelers to the company in Jhargram and its Calcutta office yielded the routine reply ‘We will pay up soon’. In March, the mill’s general manager, S. Jha, promised the dues would be cleared in a couple of days. But nothing has happened till now,” says Mukherjee.

The mill’s city sales officer A. Ghosh admitted that the company was in “poor financial health” and was hard-pressed to pay Allauddin’s bills. “We are awaiting a BIFR package and under the circumstances, it will be difficult to garner the entire amount at one go. However, the management will try and pay in instalments,” he said. The union has pledged a sum of Rs 20,000, but even that money is yet to reach the nursing home authorities.

Allauddin, who has to support his wife and three kids, says he wants to go home. “I can sell off my belongings and repay part of the debt. The staff here have been wonderful to me,” he says.

   

 
 
THIS IS LIFE, SO FULL OF CARE 
 
 
BY MADHUMITA BHATTACHARYYA
 
Calcutta, April 11: 
They’re adept at handling road rage, through years of practice at helping friends start their day on time. After all, when you really care, nothing can stand in your way. And the members of CARE (Come And Restore the Environment), at G.D. Birla Centre for Education, are willing to give all they have to make a change in their world.

It all started with traffic control in Ranikuthi. “This whole place is such a mess in the morning,” explains one of the coordinating teachers, Sangeeta Mukherjee. “We first approached the police, but they couldn’t help us out then,” she adds.

But one red light wasn’t enough to stop these girls. “We decided to take to the streets ourselves,” grins club president Shradha Lohia, a student of Class XII.

So, every morning, from 8.50 to 9.20 am, 15 nature club members don sashes and put out ‘No Entry’ boards, flag through cars, guide nursery toddlers to safety, take on lorry drivers, CMC garbage trucks, buses, autos, before running into class.

The morning rounds are only part of CARE’s agenda. The club, comprising girls from Classes IX to XII, launched a campaign last year to eliminate polythene bags from the school grounds.

They surfed the Net to find out all about paper-making. Old newspapers are now recycled to make handmade sheets, and turned into paper bags or posters.

“Cows, pigs, dolphins die by ingesting polythene,” reads a poster on all the bulletin boards, as well as on the colourful school boundary wall.

“We went to all the shops in our area to tell them about the ill effects of using plastic bags, and even handed out some paper bags,” says Class XII student Ishani, while blending soaked newspaper into a fine pulp.

They put their skills to practical use, too. A fair is held with handmade-paper crafts, like bookmarks, bags, cards and stationery. The profits from the sale are used for one of their favourite projects: a summer camp for slum children.

“Paint, papier mache, health and hygiene... we keep it as diverse as possible,” explains 15-year-old Payal.

The funds from the fair, as well as The Telegraph Trophy prize money from the Better Calcutta competition, are enough for the various activities and meals for 25 children.

The club is planning ssa few more forays next year.

High on the list: wormy manure. First, a pit will be dug, to dump bio-degradable waste collected from around the campus. To that will be added earthworms. “We will either dig them up, or buy them,” grins Pooja, without a squirm.

After 21 days, what is left is used as fertiliser. “Chemical fertiliser is expensive and bad for the environment,” smiles Sanghamitra, who feels that the club is the “best thing” that ever happened to her.

They will also like to start vocational training, like carpentry, for adults between 18 and 20, and try to find them placements, as well.

   

 
 
EXCITING NEW-AGE WORKS OF ART 
 
 
BY SOUMITRA DAS
 
Calcutta, April 11: 
The exciting new works of six artists, who, in spite of the differences in their ages, can all be said to be belonging to the new generation of Indian artists, are on display at Galerie 88 now.

Stepping into the gallery is like walking into Jayashree Chakravarty’s large scroll that touches the ceiling and encircles a column that rises from the middle of the gallery space. With light seeping through the translucent material used, one feels as if one is in the middle of a magical grotto.

Like her beautiful large canvases on display, these are painstakingly painted, imprinted with the impressions of packing material, and sometimes painted over with signages and symbols of her own making. These complex, textured surfaces could have been a cartographer’s creation. But instead of mapping any particular geographical territory, she charts her mental landscape, as indicated by the various casually-jotted verbal clues.

Clusters of penile shapes (or are they slugs?) encased in satin sprout from the black and white panels in Chittrovanu Mazumdar’s installation. One of these lookalikes of erectile tissue is jarringly blood red. The artist has also created a set of photocopied prints from these shapes by placing them under a sheet of glass. The sheen of satin is in stark contrast with the jet black background of these prints. Anjum Singh’s large canvases are send-ups of images in adverts. A tiny mineral water bottle amidst a huge polka-dotted red mouth. A row of soft drink bottles (the last one inverted) engulfed by a sea of pink polka dots. The impression of shears loom above the image of drifting roses.

Owais Husain’s dark, brooding canvases capture the desperation of Bollywood, verging on melodrama through images of a barebodied peasant (?) clutching a tiny underfed baby, a woman holding her man in a tight embrace, a raunchy dancing couple.

Paint that looks as if it were corroded with acid or scraped off violently effectively captures the hard scrabble of urban existence in Jitish Kallat’s canvases. No other image could have as much impact as that of daily commuters struggling inside a local train.

While all these artists work with great restraint, Manisha Parekh lays bare her delicate sensibility through her rice paper images in the softest of blues, greys and ochres. She creates fossil-like striations with pieces of thread. It is the most sensuous of all the works on exhibition and the most feminine too.

What is common to all these artists is that while all of them were raised in Indian cities, their works demonstrate nothing identifiably “Indian.” They could have been working in any other zone of our global village. Which may raise the serious question: In this day and age, is the contemporary art of our land obliged to look distinctly “Indian”? Or should it use the international language in currency all over the world? Whatever the language, so long as they use it with conviction and confidence, freedom of expession should be theirs.

   

 
 
STUDENTS HELD FOR DUPING TRADER 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 11: 
Their style of inspection, interrogation and investigation was exactly that of detective department officials. But the ‘sleuths’, outwitted by the real ones, are now behind the bars at Lalbazar.

Four college students, in their early 20s, Ayon Ghosh, Manoj Dikshit, Saurav Dey and Dilip Khan, were arrested on charges of extorting money from software businessman Avijit Som by masquerading as detective department officials. Ayon and Manoj, posing as inspectors of the detective department’s anti-rowdy section, went to Som’s office on Mirza Ghalib Street on January 25 to “investigate” a complaint allegedly lodged against him.

“You have been teasing girls over your cellphone and land line. We have already recorded your voice and are here to re-record it. If the two match, you will be prosecuted,” Ayon told him.Som was instructed to make a call from his land line to his cellphone and his voice was recorded. After hearing the tape, they confirmed the charge against him. They agreed to go soft on him for Rs 1,000.

The next day, Saurav and Dilip, posing as constables, went to Som’s office and took another Rs 4,000. Deputy commissioner, detective department, Banibrata Basu, said all four visited Som’s office again on April 4. They asked him to accompany them to Lalbazar so they could prepare a “final report”.

On the way to Lalbazar in a taxi, they offered to close the case for Rs 10,000. Som was forced to withdraw the amount from his ATM account at HDFC Bank, near Central Plaza.

Som lodged a complaint at Lalbazar after being released. Police officials made a rough sketch of the gang members and came to know about their whereabouts. Later, they were arrested at their residences. The police are on the look-out for a fifth youth, who is now in Bangalore.

According to Basu, the plan was masterminded by Ayon. “The boys, all experts in computers, had been blackmailing the businessman since January. They were well aware about the detective department’s activities and even used the codes of the cops,” Basu said.

   

 
 
CANCER HAVEN FOR DEATH WITH DIGNITY 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, April 11: 
There may be a limit to cure, but there’s no limit to care. Driven by this philosophy, a family that has lost seven members to cancer has now decided to help others fight the malignancy with dignity.

After setting up the Saktipada Das Memorial Foundation, funded entirely by the family, they have been busy spreading awareness about the dreaded disease in Bengal and Assam. And now, they are ready to set up a hospice in Calcutta and start a home-care service for terminally-ill cancer patients.

“We have observed that some cancer patients in the last stages are abandoned by their family. These patients may not be curable, but they need a lot of care, medication and nursing to ease their suffering. Through our hospice, we want to add life to their last few days, so that they can at least die with dignity,” explains Samiran Das, secretary of the foundation.

Seven women in the Das family have died of breast cancer. While most members of the extended family live in Calcutta, the rest are scattered in the USA. So, NRI funding for the foundation set up in 1999, comes from the family fold.

First on the foundation’s agenda is a home-care service for cancer patients, run by a team of doctors, nurses and social workers. Starting April 14, Poila Boisakh, the foundation will provide “physical and emotional care” to terminally-ill patients after they are discharged from hospital. Kin of the patients will also be trained to take proper care of them.

For the hospice, two plots, one in Badu, near Madhyamgram, and the other on the Kona Expressway, have been identified. Development Consultants have been roped in to prepare the project report. Work for the Rs. 1.3-crore project is scheduled to start by the end of the year, and the hospice, assures Das, will be ready by 2003.

The hospice will accommodate 20 to 25 beds, with capacity being increased gradually. Besides all medical facilities, there will be resident doctors and nurses.

“But that’s just the medical part. It’s a dedicated team of social workers that can make the difference by allowing patient to die in peace,” adds Das. To meet this objective, he will approach organisations like the Missionaries of Charity.

The foundation is working with Indian Cancer Society and the Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute in Calcutta and its suburbs to ensure early detection of the disease.

   

 
 
PETITION FILED IN HIGH COURT AGAINST GRAFFITI 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 11: 
Concern for Calcutta has filed a public interest litigation (PIL) to protest the proliferation of pre-poll graffiti. The litigation, filed in Calcutta High Court on Wednesday, will be heard on April 16.

“The Election Commission has been clear in its condemnation of defacement of property. The high court has also taken a strong stand... As concerned citizens, we want an active attempt to end this destructive campaigning,” said A.V. Iyengar, president of the 20-year-old organisation.

“The law is straightforward in this respect,” continues Iyengar. “And it is clear that someone has broken the law. We want the concerned parties to be held responsible for their offence.”

A copy of the plea reached the desk of Sabyasachi Sen, state chief electoral officer. Sen said he would await the orders passed by the high court. He also confirmed having spoken with the CPM and the Trinamul about cleaning government building walls. “After all, these are the two parties that have done most of the wall-writing,” Sen said. He held a meeting with the three returning officers for Calcutta, as well as senior police officials, on poll graffiti.

   

 
 
IRANIAN DUO MOVES COURT FOR SHELTER IN CITY 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 11: 
Two Iranians, Parvez Ali Zerani and Parvez Leia, who had been on a hungerstrike in Alipore Central Jail, have moved Calcutta High Court seeking political shelter in Calcutta.

The petitioners, reportedly of the Baha’i sect, contend that they will be tortured or even hanged by members of the Hazibul community if they are forcibly deported to Iran.

Zerani and Leia were arrested by the state police in September 1999 for entering into India illegally and were remanded in jail custody, as per a court directive. Since September 29, 1999, they have been in Alipore Central Jail.

The jail authorities have no option but to keep them in custody though their term of detention expired on April 1, 2001, as they are not in a position to return to Iran.

The government of India had directed the Iranians to leave the country as soon as their term of detention ended.

Tapas Bhanja, counsel for the duo, who convinced them to call off their hungerstrike, told The Telegraph: “They may be killed even if they are deported to some other state in India.”

   

 
 
DESERTIONS GNAW AT BJP EDIFICE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Guwahati, April 11: 
The Assam BJP had its roots shaken with reports of largescale resignations from across the state, triggered by widespread resentment over its tie-up with the Asom Gana Parishad. State BJP president Rajen Gohain — who had opposed the fledgling alliance — tried hard to prevent the party edifice from crumbling as unit after unit in various districts resigned en masse.

Gohain himself threatened to quit but kept his cards close to his chest till late tonight.

However, firebrand party leader Hiranya Bhattacharyya stormed out of the party along with a large section of workers at a meeting in Nalbari this afternoon. Gohain, who also attended the meeting, pleaded with the agitated workers not to take a “hasty decision. Even I am not happy with the alliance but the party comes first,” he told party workers.

But Gohain’s plea fell on deaf ears as workers burnt effigies of L.K. Advani, V. Satish and Bijoya Chakravorty. However, Chakravorty chose to shift the blame on central leaders for “forcing” the alliance. “We had nothing to do with the agreement. Everything was decided by them,” she said at the party headquarters this evening. Significantly, she said the BJP would contest 44 seats in Assam. However, the AGP has maintained that it has left 34 seats to the BJP while there will be “friendly contests” in the remaining 10.

“We don’t know anything about friendly contests. Advaniji has made it clear to us that we will be fielding candidates in all 44 seats,” she said. Even as she exuded confidence about a “good BJP show”, president of the Sivasagar town unit Jadav Bora wondered if the party “will be able to win even half the seats”. He told The Telegraph that the leadership had no idea of the ground realities. “What is the meaning of agreeing to contest in Nazira? Even Advani cannot win there,” a top party member from the Upper Assam town added. Nazira is the home constituency of former chief minister Hiteswar Saikia and his widow, Congress vice-president Hemoprova Saikia, is sure to be re-elected from the seat if she is nominated. Nazira is one of the 33 seats offered by the AGP to the BJP. Darrang district president of BJP’s youth wing Dhrubajyoti Sharma attempted self-immolation yesterday to register his protest against the tie-up with the BJP. Sharma, who sustained severe burn injuries, has been admitted in the Mangaldoi civil hospital, party sources said.

Alarmed by the violent rebuff in the BJP, the AGP today alleged that “vested forces are trying to drive a wedge in the alliance”.

   
 

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