Woman rescued in cop chase
Joint Entrance Board okays calculators in exam hall
Fire breaks out at Writers’
Competition shuts out 26 schools
Breathless start to herbal wonderdrug
Patient’s kin duped, fraud alert at hospital
Now, cyber power for firemen
Museum to shift art gallery
NLFT militant killed, 2 held
Talks on for release of Naga leader

 
 
WOMAN RESCUED IN COP CHASE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 19: 
A dramatic rescue act by a police patrol on Wednesday night thwarted an alleged abduction bid of a 32-year-old woman by two youth near Shyambazar.

At around 9 pm, three policemen on night patrol noticed a taxi speeding past their van on Jatindra Mohan Avenue. They suddenly heard a woman’s cries of help from the vehicle. The police van set off in chase. After 15 minutes of hot pursuit, the police jeep overtook the fugitive taxi and blocked its path. The doors of the cab swung open as the youth attempted to flee. But the three cops surrounded and grappled them to the ground.

The woman was rescued and taken to Burtola police station. Her parents in Beleghata were informed and they arrived later to take her back home. “The woman was crying and trembling with fear,” said an officer of Burtola thana. “She claimed the youth, whom she had met in her office, had offered to drop her back to her Beleghata house after work. Initially, she claimed, she had refused. But when they kept persisting, she relented. In the taxi, she was asked to sit between the youth. After about 10 minutes, when they hit a dark and relatively deserted stretch, the youth allegedly tried to molest her. It was then that she began to shout for help.”

But the arrested youth from Howrah, Mohammed Irfan and Mohammed Farooq, both 22, had a different story to tell. According to a Burtola police officer, Farooq told investigators that they had just completed their graduation and were looking for jobs. The two had left home on Wednesday afternoon to appear for a couple of interviews in the Dalhousie area.

The first interview was, apparently, in a sales and marketing office on Hare Street, where they were made to wait for over three hours with a host of other applicants. So, they turned up for their second interview, at a private firm on Central Avenue, around 5 pm, and found a large crowd there as well.

Irfan said they struck up a rapport with the woman, who was a receptionist at the office. She, apparently, helped them jump the queue. The interview over, the two hung around, waiting for the woman, as she had agreed to meet them after work.

The three decided to go to a restaurant at Esplanade. From the restaurant, it was the woman, Irfan claimed, who had suggested that they all go for a night show in a north Calcutta cinema, before returning home.

“In the taxi, the woman started acting strangely... She suddenly began screaming for help, alleging that she was being molested by us. We have been framed... we are innocent,” claimed Irfan and Farooq.

According to deputy commissioner of police, north, K.L. Tamta, prompt intervention by the three policemen on night patrol had resulted in a dramatic chase and rescue of the woman in distress.

Irfan and Farooq were produced before the chief metropolitan magistrate at Bankshal Court and remanded in police custody for seven days.

   

 
 
JOINT ENTRANCE BOARD OKAYS CALCULATORS IN EXAM HALL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 19: 
After Higher Secondary, it’s now the turn of the Joint Entrance board to go hi-tech.

Students taking the Joint Entrance Examinations this year will be allowed to use electronic calculators for writing their papers, Amal Jyoti Sengupta, chairman, Joint Entrance Board, said on Thursday.

Nearly 50,000 students from Calcutta and the districts will take the entrance tests for admission to engineering, medical and dental colleges in the state. The tests will be held on April 28 and 29 at 44 centres in the city and 91 in the districts.

The decision to allow calculators in the exam hall comes in the wake of persistent demands from students over the past few years and the move in the same direction by the West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education, which permitted use of calculators during this year’s Higher Secondary exams.

However, according to the board chairman, the students will not be allowed to use any programmable calculators.

They can only use non-programmable, scientific calculators, having trigonometric, logarithmic and exponential functions. Students will be punished if found using programmable calculators during the exams.

According to the Joint Entrance board sources, programmable calculators will be barred as students can derive solutions to the test questions using such calculators in the examination hall.

The chairman of the board said that the exam venue for 300 students, allotted seats at Titagarh K.N. Municipal High School, has been shifted to Barrackpore Debiprasad High School due to “unavoidable circumstances”.

Students allotted seats at Barrackpore Debiprasad High School include E-type with index numbers 251 to 375, C-type with index numbers 251 to 375 and M-type with index numbers 101 to 150.

   

 
 
FIRE BREAKS OUT AT WRITERS’ 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 19: 
After the fume fright at Stephen House on Wednesday morning, it was the turn of Writers’ Buildings to feel the heat early on Thursday. A fire broke out in the visitors’ room of the state’s administrative seat around 8.35 am.

According to officials of the fire department, an alarm was sounded by the staff who noticed smoke billowing out of the visitors’ room. Three fire tenders rushed to the spot. Firemen, with the help of an additional unit at Writers’, brought the fire under control within 15 minutes. Equipment in the room, which included computers, was damaged. But no one was injured. “A short circuit in the air-conditioner might have sparked the fire,” an official of the fire department said.

Last year, the ante-room of finance minister Asim Dasgupta’s chamber had been gutted by a blaze. An employee of the public works department alleged that Thursday’s fire at Writers’ Buildings proved, yet again, how faulty the fire-fighting system of the building was.

“It’s a wake-up call for the fire department, which should formulate a proper plan to make Writers’ fire-hazard free,” he said.

   

 
 
COMPETITION SHUTS OUT 26 SCHOOLS 
 
 
BY SHANKAR MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, April 19: 
If you can’t better private enterprise, just wind up. That’s the message from the state education department to 26 of its primary and junior high schools in and around Calcutta.

The mushrooming of privately-run, small English-medium schools has prompted the government to close down 26 institutions. The small schools that have sprung up in various neighbourhoods are attracting pupils as they are better equipped, better packaged and the medium of instruction is English.

Nearly 500 English-medium primary and kindergarten schools have sprouted during the past year in the northern areas of the city, threatening the very existence of the government schools. “How can we run the schools if there are so few students? What is the utility of running them at all?’’ asked A.K. Chakraborty, president of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education.

Supporting the government’s move, Chakraborty said the education department has to spend a good sum every month to meet recurring expenditure and salary of the teachers and non-teaching staff. Department officials said at least two teachers and one non-teaching staff are deployed in a primary school. At least Rs 35,000 is spent per month to run a primary school and Rs 50,000 for a junior high school. But since no fees are charged, there is no revenue.

The department has fixed a teacher-student ratio of 1:70. “How long will we run the schools with 20 to 30 students?’’ the officials asked.

School education minister Kanti Biswas said: “We have given recognition and upgraded nearly 1,000 primary schools in the state during the past year. Our plan is to open schools only where they are needed.’’

Asked why the number of students in the government-run schools was dwindling, Chakraborty said: “We have observed that most parents in the low or middle-income groups admit their children in English-medium schools, despite financial problems.” Those who cannot afford the cost, which could range between Rs 200 and Rs 400 a month, have no alternative but to send their children to the government-run schools. “But look at the difference. These schools are dirty, the furniture is broken, the toilets are dirty, there is no drinking water and no blackboards. Above all, the environment is all wrong,” said Akhil Neogi, a resident of Dum Dum, whose son attends a government-run school. “Why can’t the government take the initiative to improve the schools so that the students stay on?’’ asked P.L. Mishra, whose daughter goes to a kindergarten school near the airport.

   

 
 
BREATHLESS START TO HERBAL WONDERDRUG 
 
 
BY AMIT UKIL
 
Calcutta, April 19: 
A small drug store on S.P. Mukherjee Road, opposite Mudiali, has shot into the limelight overnight. It is one of two outlets in the city and state to stock and sell Asmon, a new herbal medicine for patients suffering from asthma. Developed and “tested” by a team of scientists at the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (IICB) in Calcutta, its launch by the CSIR director-general on Tuesday has caught the eye of the public. Moonlight Pharmaceuticals has sold more than 3,000 bottles over the past three days.

The other outlet, Sanchita Chemists on Colootola Street, has seen almost similar sales. Very soon, the manufacturer, Herbochem Remedies India Pvt Ltd, will be distributing the phials through its network of 52 shops in the districts as well. “We are increasing our capacity to keep up with the demand,” said Herbochem director Bhaskar Ghosh. The company, which has its factory in Narendrapur, has signed an MoU with IICB, giving it sole manufacturing rights for the next 25 years.

IICB has received inquiries from the Andhra government, Bangladesh, and even patients’ kin in the US and Canada. “We are directing them to the manufacturer,” said institute director Dr Samir Bhattacharya, leader of the four-member team that developed the formulation.

But doctors, including leading chest physicians, are sceptical about the way in which the product was introduced. “A new formulation or procedure has to go through controlled multicentric trials before being declared useful,” pointed out Dr Satadal Saha, medical director of West Bank Hospital. “Gauging from newspaper reports, I don’t think such trials have been carried out.”

Dr Ranjan Das, consultant chest specialist and secretary of the Bengal TB Association, said: “The formulation appears to have some leukotriene inhibitors (leukotriene is a lipid compound in the body, the excess of which creates conditions for asthma) that provide relief to patients... But all this should be reported in a standard peer review journal, even if it not an allopathic drug. By announcing the launch of the medication through the media, the IICB scientists have more or less appealed to the patients to buy their formulation.”

And buying it they are. Asthma patients, from even Durgapur and Siliguri, are making a beeline for the two shops. The demand is so great that Herbochem on Wednesday instructed Moonlight not to sell more than one bottle per customer. They have also asked the shop to take down the complete address of the buyers. “They need the information to carry out studies on the efficacy of the medicine,” the shopkeeper said. “Company representatives will be visiting these people two weeks from now to find out whether the medicine has helped them.”

Dr B.C. Pal, one of the scientists in the IICB team, said the formulation had been tested on 200 asthma patients. “We will be conducting more tests to evaluate the long-term benefits. Of the 200 patients, over 80 per cent have reported improved breathing, and stopped using steroids or inhalers for relief during an attack.”

Pal related how the team, which also comprises cell biochemist Dr Ranjan Bhadra and Dr Krishna Das, stumbled on the project. “A colleague’s wife was trying out some plant derivatives to reduce her flabbiness about two years ago. It didn’t work, but she noticed that the breathing problem she was suffering from had improved dramatically. The colleague told us about this and we launched our research... We applied for an international patent last September, under the Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT) which has 117 countries as signatories.” Asmon is available in capsule form, but there are no supplies in the city as they have been despatched to the Northeast.

   

 
 
PATIENT’S KIN DUPED, FRAUD ALERT AT HOSPITAL 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, April 19: 
Lily Chan, 26, went to Kothari Medical Centre last week to bring her mother-in-law back home. Around 3.30 pm, with an hour to go for visiting hours, the reception wore a deserted look. After submitting receipts for her earlier payments of Rs 31,000, Lily was waiting there for the final discharge papers. A smart, young man walked up to her, introduced himself as being on the hospital staff, and said: “Patient party room number 7036... The discharge papers have been forwarded to the computer room. Let’s go to the patient’s room to finish the formalities.” In room 7036, the man informed Lily that she should hand him “the outstanding amount of Rs 10,776”, so that he could “hurry up the process and bring her the discharge papers”.

Twenty minutes later, there was still no sign of the man. Lily went down to the reception. But the woman at the counter didn’t have a clue. “We didn’t send anyone for the payment, and we haven’t received your outstanding amount,” she said. “Then how did he know the exact amount?” demanded Lily. But there was no answer forthcoming.

“Everyone blamed me for handing over the money to a stranger. But being on the guard against a fraud in a supposedly high-security hospital was the last thing on my mind. And what was an unauthorised person doing there, before visiting hours, anyway?”

Lily finally had to arrange for another Rs 11,000 to take her mother-in-law home. A day after the incident, Lily and her husband Jeff lodged an FIR with the Alipore police station. Police have carried out preliminary investigations and learnt of other such cases, as well.

S.K. Bansal, general manager, commercial, of Kothari Medical Centre, admitted to some “security lapses” having occurred. “We sympathise with the patient family and administrative measures will be taken to ensure that such events aren’t repeated.”

   

 
 
NOW, CYBER POWER FOR FIREMEN 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, April 19: 
(Place: A city fire station. Time: Some date in the near future)

The telephone rings and a fire is reported. The fireman, who receives the call, immediately alerts the station crew and reaches for his computer keyboard. Even as the fire tenders charge forward, the station is relaying details about the location over the wireless set.

By the time the firemen reach the spot, they have the neighbourhood on their fingertips — the street width, the nearest source of water and alternative sources.

Far-fetched as it might sound, it rings the shape of things to come, once CD-ROMs loaded with information mapped by a geographical information system, being compiled by the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority’s (CMDA) environment cell, is made available to the fire services department.

Says state fire services director B.B. Pathak: “The lack of comprehensive data has been a hindrance to the force. We are always criticised. No one looks at the constraints under which we work.”

The CMDA’s environment cell is putting together inputs on the city’s streets, buildings, industries, slums, squatters’ colonies, markets and locations where inflammable material is stored. “We will even provide information like whether a fire tender can drive into a particular lane or not,” explains Tapas Ghatak, chief of the CMDA’s environment cell.

Ghatak is turning to the Corporation for a base map of the city, a road-width map as well as information about the water mains, hydrants and other details. A core group from the civic body and the fire brigade will work closely with Ghatak’s team. A similar GIS map locating the industries, especially those which store inflammable material, is also nearing completion.

The project, which will cost Rs 7 lakh, is being funded by the department of municipal affairs. The environment cell is targeting a four-month timeframe in which to get the system ready.

Pathak said the fire brigade has also begun procuring computers for all the fire stations.

Now the question is whether the leap into the future will be grounded by the city’s outdated water hydrant system.

   

 
 
MUSEUM TO SHIFT ART GALLERY 
 
 
BY TAMAL SENGUPTA
 
Calcutta, April 19: 
A new gallery of paintings is on the cards, with Indian Museum deciding to reorganise its first floor. Recently, the Zoological Survey of India, which had an office and library in the museum, has vacated about 5,200 sq ft on the floor.

The museum authorities have decided to utilise the space by shifting the gallery of paintings from the top floor to the first floor to enable the elderly enjoy the collection, drawn from the Mughal and Rajasthani periods.

The Zoological Survey and the museum authorities had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on April 3, in which the former agreed to vacate the space it had been occupying for the past decade. Governor Viren J. Shah, who is chairman of the board of trustees of the museum, was also informed about the development on April 4, the day after the MoU was signed.

The Zoological Survey has shifted its office and library from the first floor of the museum and the space has been handed over to the museum authorities. “The space will be used to relocate the gallery. Aged visitors could not visit the gallery because of its location. The new site will benefit them,” said Shyamal Kanti Chakraborty, museum director. Apart from shifting the gallery, the museum also plans to set up a study-cum-reserve area of art objects for scholars and students on the first floor, Chakraborty added. He said a team has been set up, comprising senior museum officials, to complete the shift. There are about 3,000 paintings with the museum, many lying under lock and key as there is hardly any space for display. “We think we will be able to put up most of our paintings now,” Chakraborty said.

   

 
 
NLFT MILITANT KILLED, 2 HELD 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, April 19: 
A National Liberation Front of Tripura militant was gunned down and two others arrested in two successive operations under the R.K. Pur and Shantir Bazar police stations of South Tripura last night.

The police also recovered large quantities of ammunition, two grenades, “tax” notices and other incriminating documents from them.

Officer in-charge of Shantir Bazar police station Ratan Mazumder said he along with additional superintendent of police (south) Arindam Nath led a combined force of police and Tripura State Rifles jawans to the Adipur area for a special search operation.

Around 11.30 last night, they spotted NLFT rebels Jatin Reang and Taranjay Reang in a deserted hut and arrested them after a duel. Both the rebels had two permanent warrants issued against them for cases of abduction, killing as well as extortion.

In the second operation, sub-inspector Dulal Dhar and assistant sub-inspector Sadhan Mazumder of Monpathar outpost, along with a TSR team, ambushed a group of NLFT rebels at the Gangarai-Loraipara area this morning. The bullet-riddled body of Dilip Debbarma was later found from the spot. Mazumder said Debbarma was a resident of West Ratacherra village under Fatikroy police station of North Tripura.

According to delayed reports, tribal villagers of Monirampara under Melaghar police station of West Tripura lynched NLFT collaborator Bidndurai Tripura on April 13.

The police recovered his body from a nearby jungle after being informed by his relatives.

Alert on border: The 1,286-km -long Tripura-Cachar-Mizoram border along Bangladesh has been put on “maximum alert” following the killing of 16 BSF jawans by Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) at Boraibari in Assam yesterday, reports PTI.

“All BSF outposts in Tripura, Mizoram and Cachar district of Assam along the Bangladesh border have been put on alert so that any attempt to attack our nationals or occupy our land by any foreign quarters can be thwarted,” said deputy inspector-general (G) S. Basumatari said.

The BSF strength has been increased in Muhurichar outpost in South Tripura district and Lakhitilla in Cachhar district of Assam following an exchange of fire between the BSF and BDR in those places over the occupation of disputed land, he said.

“We have taken all possible measures to defuse tension along the border areas and are keeping close vigil on the situation,” the DIG said, adding there was tension in some border villages.

Flood threat: Six sub-divisional towns in Tripura, bordering Bangladesh, are facing danger from floodwaters following construction of embankments inside the neighbouring country, says UNI.

Tripura finance minister Badal Chowdhury yesterday apprised Union water resources minister Arjun Shetty in New Delhi of the matter.

Bangladesh had constructed several embankments with the rivers flowing from Tripura to Bangladesh creating major difficulties for these sub-divisional towns — Dharmanagar, Kailashahar in North Tripura, Khowai, Agartala and Belonia and Sabroom in South Tripura.The government had sent six projects to protect these subdivisional towns.

   

 
 
TALKS ON FOR RELEASE OF NAGA LEADER 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, April 19: 
Two negotiators, including a Christian pastor, held abortive talks with the Kuki National Front (Military Council) last night to secure the release of United Naga Council (UNC) president K.S. Paul Leo.

Leo was abducted by KNF (MC) militants on Tuesday from National Highway 39 near Kethelmanbi village (in Kangpokpi sub-division) to deter the Nationalist Social Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) from supporting the Kuki Revolutionary Army — a rival outfit.

The KNF(MC) has, in fact, demanded that the NSCN(I-M) stop propping up the KRA as a precondition to Leo’s release.

The negotiators met KNF (MC) leaders as well as Leo in the jungles of Keithelmanbi. The negotiators returned home with a hand-written letter from the Naga leader.

Sources said Leo appealed to the NSCN(I-M) to stop its alleged support to the KRA. Leo’s letter said he was in good health and taken care of by his abductors.

The situation in all the five hill districts of Manipur continued to be tense today, including the Naga-dominated areas of Senapati district from where Leo hails. Security forces and police have been alerted to prevent any communal flare-up over the issue.

Sources said Kuki Students’ Organisation (KSO), the Manipur Baptist Church and the All-Naga Students’ Association, Manipur (ANSAM) were the two main organisations which were involved in the negotiation.

The UNC leaders met Manipur chief minister Radhabinod Koijam this evening to discuss the issue.

Though security forces were heavily deployed in the Keithelmanbi area, they could not launch any operation to rescue the Naga leader fearing it might not produce the desired results.

Sources said the authorities laid emphasis on a negotiated release of Leo.

Sources said Naga leaders had assured that they would try to persuade the NSCN(I-M) not to aid the KRA in factional clashes with its rival outfit.

Tribal welfare minister Haokholet Kipgen, also the chief minister’s trouble-shooter, took charge of the negotiations. Kipgen has been authorised by Koijam to resolve the crisis.

Talking to The Telegraph today, Kipgen said he was hopeful of a positive result by tomorrow.

The minister said the negotiations went smoothly. Naga and Kuki leaders were trying to prevent a communal flare-up.

Koijam chose Kipgen, a Kuki minister, for the mission as he is considered neutral by both the tribes.

The NSCN(I-M) has, however, demanded an unconditional release of the UNC president. It warned the KNF(MC) against any fallout of its “irresponsible” acts.

Many voluntary organisations — including the All-Manipur United Clubs’ organisation, National Identity Protection Committee, Apunba Manipur Kanba Ima Lup and All-Manipur Students’ Union — have demanded the immediate release of Leo.

Former chief minister and Congress MLA Rishang Keishing, while demanding Leo’s release, called on the people to work for peace and harmony.

Manipur oil scarcity

Oil scarcity continues to affect Manipur in spite of the suspension of the strike by petroleum transporters. Though the state government is buying fuel from the Khatkhati oil refinery in Upper Assam, the crisis is not yet over. The government is rationing the sale of diesel and petroleum in all oil pumps of the state.

With militants continuing their threat due to the non-payment of extortion money by the petroleum transporters, the supply of fuel in the state has been severely affected. The government can bring in fuel from Assam only when the Army conducts the road-opening patrol on National Highway 39 (Imphal-Dimapur road).

State food and civil supplies minister, Kshetrimayum Biren told The Telegraph today that the petroleum transporters have suspended their strike till April 30 after the government assured to raise their demands with Central oil authorities. The petroleum transporters had demanded compensation for the oil tankers damaged in the militant attacks.

Forgery charge Former chief minister W. Nipamacha Singh has been accused of forging and impersonating the affidavits and signatures of six Manipur State Congress Party MLAs.

Nipamacha is the president of MSCP (Nipamacha faction).

He is now engaged in a bitter battle over the control of the party with the Chaoba Singh faction.

Union minister of state for food processing Thounaojam Chaoba Singh is heading the other MSCP faction.

The leader of the MSCP (Chaoba) legislature wing, M. Hemanta Singh, today alleged that Nipamacha Singh had forged the affidavits of six MLAs. He also alleged that Nipamacha submitted them to the Election Commission. The six MLAs were present at the Press conference today.

   
 

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