Baby swap twist to rape tale
Camac Street crucible for ready-to-erupt retail battle
Triple mishaps leave one dead
Fraud fund to save ailing father
Part II exams from Friday
Residents resent ‘shady’ resorts
Brawl among friends leaves one dead
Atal for CM meet on truce
Dissidents’ salvo rattles Koijam
12 injured in bomb attack

Calcutta, May 17: 
Has her baby been switched? That’s the latest twist in the tragic tale of the deaf-mute girl, allegedly raped by policemen last year, who gave birth to a baby girl (and not a boy as reported) at SSKM Hospital on Wednesday.

“We fear the baby may have been switched to protect the guilty policemen,” advocate Tapas Bhanja, fighting the girl’s case, told Metro on Thursday. Bhanja confirmed that he will move high court for a DNA test to first establish the relationship between mother and daughter.

The high court has already directed the CID, which is investigating the case, to match the baby’s DNA samples with those of the accused policemen. “But before that is done, the baby’s relationship with the deaf-mute girl has to be confirmed,” Bhanja said. “I fear there is foul play involved, as switching the baby will ensure that the DNA fails to match that of the accused and exonerates the policemen.”

The two constables accused of raping the girl in a police van last September had earlier been given a clean chit by the detective department of Calcutta Police, before the CID took up the case.

According to records available with SSKM Hospital, the baby, born a month premature, weighed two kg and was measured at 43 cm.

Two specialist doctors at SSKM Hospital attending to the baby, Dipankar Gupta and J.B. Ghosh, have, meanwhile, filed a report stating that the baby’s “second, third and fourth toes of the left foot are missing while the second and third toes of the right foot are joined”.

“Somehow, things don’t seem quite normal... Something does seem to be amiss here,’’ Bhanja said. “The doctors have also told me that the baby is occasionally refusing to be fed.’’

The deaf-mute girl’s ordeal began last September when she was picked up by the Watgunge police from her Mominpur home on charges of stealing from a house she worked in as a domestic help. She was remanded in Presidency Jail by Alipore court.

A few days later, while she was being taken to Alipore court from Presidency Jail, she was allegedly raped by two constables in the police van. The cops claimed there were two policewomen present in the van, who dismissed the girl’s allegation.

The Presidency Jail authorities had filed a complaint with Alipore thana but the city police had found nothing irregular with the conduct of the accused.

It was then that Bhanja filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the high court. On the basis of the PIL, the court ruled that the CID should deal with the case. After taking over the case around five months ago, the CID formed a medical board to monitor the girl’s treatment.

Senior CID officials visited the hospital on Thursday to enquire about the condition of both the mother and the child.

Sources said ADG, CID, K.K. Mondol, held a high-level meeting to discuss the case. A police picket has been posted at the entrance to the ward where the girl is recuperating.

D.D. Chatterjee, superintendent of SSKM Hospital, said a detailed report on the condition of the girl and her baby had been sent to the director of health services. He, however, refused to comment on the baby swap charge.


Calcutta, May 17: 
The address: 22, Camac Street. The agenda: To spearhead a retail revolution in town.

The sprawling six-storeyed structure, with a glazed-curtain wall facade, wrought-iron gates and elegant white arches opposite the Camac Street-Ho Chi Minh Sarani crossing, will be more than just another market round the corner. It is set to host the ready-to-erupt retail war in town this summer — with a Westside to spar with a Pantaloons, a Planet M to square off against nearby MusicWorld. And on the success of the 380,000-sq-ft building will ride a business boom, feels the buoyant industry.

The building, designed by Hafiz Contractor, will house retail outlets as well business offices, with parking space for around 300 cars. On the Camac Street side of the glitzy building will be the largest single retail outlet our city has seen till date: Pantaloons’ second venture, all of 35,000 sq ft. Bang opposite will be another retail biggie: Westside, a Tata chain under Trent Ltd. After picking garments, household products or cosmetics, one can cross over to the first Planet M outlet in town, to choose the latest chartbuster CD. Worked up an appetite? Head straight for Cafe Bollywood, the Aqua Java food court.

If the obvious winner will be the Calcutta consumer, the retailer isn’t complaining either. The power to choose for the customer means more visibility for the organised retail sector. “With only around two per cent of Calcutta shoppers turning to big retailers till now, there is enough market for all of us,” says Himanshu Chakravarti, general manager, Trent Ltd. The 20,000-sq-ft department store, Westside’s seventh in the country, will stock exclusive ladies’, men’s and kidswear, as well as gifts, household products and accessories, starting early-June.

The two-year-old company has tailored its “competitively-priced selection” to suit the city’s tone. Variations have been made targeting the average middle-class Calcutta family, from the introduction of saris (not available in their other stores), to conservative colours and lower-priced lines. “For example, we found that men in Calcutta like to see film stars sport psychedelic colours, but they would prefer to pick up sober solids for themselves. And more working women here wear ethnic clothes than in the other metros,” says Chakravarti.

Westside’s closest competitor, Pantaloons, is upbeat about the entry of another megastore. “We hope to complement each other,” observes Taposh Bhattacharyya, head, operations (east). “We are happy, because we can broaden the appeal of this kind of shopping,” he adds. Pantaloons-II, set to open its Camac Street doors by May-end, will house a range of products beyond that available at the Gariahat store. Travel items, watches, shoes, cosmetics will have a much larger presence.

What Pantaloons hopes will give them the cutting edge is Cafe Bollywood, the food court managed by Aqua Java Private Limited. “The 3,000-sq-ft restaurant will be quite different from Aqua Java,” explains Saket Agarwal, managing director, Aqua Java. Though an Aqua Java kiosk will be present, the self-service eatery, with seating for 120 diners, will serve up a range of both north and south Indian as well as continental cuisine. “We will be catering to shoppers as well as the office crowd, with an emphasis on value for money,” says Saket.

The response to the Williamson and Magor building, says promoter Ram Vilas Agarwal of Circular Properties Private Limited, has been “superb”. “Our clients have compared this complex to the best in Asia,” smiles Agarwal. “We have already received bookings from two large jewellers, too.” And the bazaar buzz about McDonalds coming to Camac Street, Agarwal insists, is “just market gossip”.

Planet M, the Times Music chain, will launch its first Calcutta shop in the building before the Pujas. The store will include a small dance floor, a DJ box, a cafeteria and a greetings-card section. The competition from MusicWorld, the RPG store on Park Street, Planet M feels, will be healthy, and encourage “improvisation and improvement”. Dipra Jha, area manager, MusicWorld, says: “This augurs well for the Calcutta market. In Delhi and Chandigarh, where both stores exist, we have seen our total sales go up.”


Calcutta, May 17: 
A 35-year-old man was killed and three persons, including a traffic constable, were injured in three accidents on Thursday. A Matador ran over a man sleeping on the pavement, in the shade of the parked van, on APC Road, in the Amherst Street thana area, around 11.40 am.

The victim, yet to be identified, succumbed to his injuries at NRS Medical College and Hospital. The police impounded the vehicle and arrested the driver.

Early in the morning, a speeding Tata Sumo knocked down Aurobindo Ghosh, a traffic constable on duty at Burrabazar. The driver sped away. Ghosh was hospitalised.

Around 10 am, a luxury bus collided with a Maruti car and an autorickshaw on the Park Circus bridge no. 4. Drivers of the car and the auto were admitted to a nearby hospital in critical condition.

After the collision, about 100 local residents gathered at the spot and smashed up the bus. They were stopped from setting it ablaze by the police. But the mob blocked traffic for an hour, protesting “police callousness”.


Calcutta, May 17: 
Desperately seeking funds for his father’s treatment, 23-year-old Sandip Ghosh, an employee of a financial institution on Park Street, cheated the bank of more than a lakh of rupees. Additional officer-in-charge of Park Street police station, Jawahar Dhole, said the young man was from a “respectable” family and was not a history-sheeter. He used the money to pay off portions of his father’s hospital bills.

“Sandip said his father, Pradip Ghosh, was suffering from throat cancer and it was quite impossible to raise funds for his expensive treatment in hospital. So, he was forced to adopt unfair means to raise the money,’’ Dhole added. Police said Ghosh, a doctor, was currently undergoing treatment in a nursing home on Broad Street.

Nursing home authorities said Pradip Ghosh, 55, suffering from a severe throat disease, was admitted on May 13. According to a resident medical officer of the nursing home, Ghosh’s condition is “not too good.’’ “He is on anti-tubercular drugs. It is an expensive treatment,’’ he added. The nursing home authorities confirmed that Sandip visited his father and paid a portion of the bill.

Mother Shova Ghosh, 51, a senior typist with a Central government office, told policemen that her son was very close to his father and could not bear the fact that financial constraints would hamper his treatment. “He is not a criminal. He did it for his father. Please forgive him,’’ Shova Ghosh pleaded with police.

Deputy commissioner of police, south, Ranjit Pachnanda, said Ghosh is a commerce graduate from a renowned south Calcutta college. The young man lives with his family at Sree Colony, in Jadavpur. He was produced in court and remanded to 14 days’ judicial custody. He joined the institution’s marketing division three months ago, said regional head, east, A K Manocha. “We had checked his credentials,’’ he added.

Ghosh withdrew money with automatic teller machines (ATM) cards of new applicants kept in the institution’s drawer for delivery to customers. “He had easy access and knew in which drawer the ATM cards were kept,’’ Manocha said. The authorities began an internal probe after a customer complained last week that without his knowledge, money was withdrawn using his ATM card. Manocha said that a concealed camera near the ATM vending machine caught Ghosh in the act on Saturday.

“We questioned him on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but he did not cooperate. Then we registered a complaint with Park Street police station on Wednesday night,’’ he said. Police said Ghosh has returned a part of the money to the institution.

Authorities claimed that Ghosh used the ATM cards of three customers. “He claimed to have withdrawn Rs 1.12 lakh, but we are cross-checking documents,’’ Manocha added.


Calcutta, May 17: 
The B.A, B.Sc and B.Com Part II examinations of Calcutta University will begin on Friday, May 18.

Sources in the university’s controller of examinations department said 30,160 examinees will write the tests.

The examinations, which will continue till the second week of June, will be held in 105 colleges in Calcutta and in its adjoining districts, the sources said. They will begin at noon.

The examinations, originally scheduled to be held in the first week of May, had to be deferred in view of the Assembly elections.

“All arrangements are ready to hold the examinations peacefully,” said Onkar Sadhan Adhikari, controller of examinations.


Calcutta, May 17: 
Activists, who feel that resorts that have mushroomed on the southern and northern fringes of the city are involved in shady business, have planned to start a bigger movement against these from next week.

The movement will include a sit-in in front of resorts, handing memoranda to district magistrates and blocking roads as the last resort. They will also try to rope in environmentalist Medha Patkar to pressure the government to crack down on them.

Activists feel that these resorts, at least two dozens of which have flourished in the past few years in Bishnupur and Falta (in South 24-Parganas), and VIP Road in North 24-Parganas and the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, are vitiating the social environment.

Abdur Rob, secretary, Anti-Resort Movement, said: “Most of these resorts carry on the flesh trade in the name of entertaining guests. Young girls of many schools and colleges and even housewives are employed by the resort-owners, who want to make a quick buck. They are also luring local girls with false promises of an opportunity to appear in films or a career in modelling.”

On April 11, anti-resort activists organised a big rally at Bishnupur, in South 24-Parganas. They organised a walk, blocked roads and burnt a replica of a resort. Apart from hundreds of local people, Sudhir Bhattacharjee, former MLA from Falta, and Tahera Begum, former panchayat member, joined the movement.

According to Rob,“resorts are flourishing in and around the city because of a nexus between a some policemen and unscrupulous resort-owners. Police know what is going on but they take little action. They arrest some people when pressure is put on them, but it is only an eyewash. The arrested people are out on bail within a very short period.”

Sukhendu Bhattacharjee, state convener of the National Alliance of People’s Movement said: “Resorts have flourished in and around the city for a long time. They are not confined to any particular area. We have carried on a movement against this for a long time. Environmentalist Medha Patkar, too, came to the city a number of times and joined our movement. We are trying again to bring her to put pressure on the government to stop this dirty business and also to develop awareness among the people.”

Superintendent of police (South 24-Parganas) Deb Kumar Ganguly said: “From time to time, we have conducted raids on the resorts and made arrests. It is a continuous process. We will carry out intensive raids and try to make efforts, along with the local residents, to stop any illegal business in the resorts.”


Calcutta, May 17: 
A brawl among three drunk friends ended with the death of one of them on Wednesday night in Howrah.

Police sources said three businessmen, Bijoy Goswami, S. Naskar and Bapi Batabyal — all in their mid-twenties — had gathered at a Liluah bar in the evening to chalk out plans for a joint venture over a drink.

Soon after, a brawl broke out among them over the investment of capital in the business.

After arguing for about half-an-hour, they paid their bill, bought more liquor and came out of the bar, eyewitnesses said. Still quarrelling among themselves, Goswami and Naskar took Bapi at a secluded spot near the railway tracks, stabbed him and returned to Liluah bazaar in their blood-stained clothes to buy some more liquor. People noticed them and immediately informed the police.

“Goswami and Naskar told us that the bloodstains were of a chicken they had killed a few minutes earlier,” said Robin Das, officer-in-charge of Liluah police station.

After half-an-hour of interrogation, the duo confessed to their crime and agreed to show the police the spot where they had dumped Bapi.

Police sources said Bapi’s neck was slit at least three times with a “small knife”. “Goswami and Naskar had planned to kill Bapi after one of them was allegedly beaten up by his friends last Sunday.

They had deliberately picked up a quarrel with him on Wednesday night,” added Das, after further probe.

The two were produced at a Howrah court on Thursday and have been remanded in police custody.


New Delhi, May 17: 
The Centre may soon convene a meeting of the chief ministers of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh to discuss the issue of extending the ceasefire with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) in the so-called “other Naga” areas of the three states.

The outfit has been insisting on extending the ceasefire, currently in force in Nagaland, to Naga-inhabited areas of other northeastern states.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today chaired a high-level meeting which included Union home minister L.K.Advani, principal secretary Brajesh Mishra, home secretary Kamal Pande, Centre’s negotiator to discuss peace with the NSCN(I-M), K.Padmnabhaiah, and senior intelligence officials to review the situation in Nagaland.

The Prime Minister is also understood to have discussed the latest ceasefire with the NSCN’s Khaplang faction and its fallout on the ongoing truce with the NSCN(I-M). The latter had recently threatened to pull out of the ceasefire for the Vajpayee administration’s “indecision” on extending the truce to “other Naga areas”. The ceasefire with the NSCN(I-M) expires on July 31.

Padmanabhaiah had clarified last week that the chief ministers of these states “have an open mind” on the issue of the ceasefire extension in their territories. The Centre was trying to persuade them to extend the scope and operation of the ceasefire so that a “meaningful political dialogue” could begin with the largest insurgent outfit in the Northeast, he said.

Sources indicated that the government would now have to devise a new strategy to “convince” the new Congress regime of Tarun Gogoi in Assam.

“A new government has come to power and the meeting, partly, went into how the Tarun Gogoi government will react to the proposal of extending the ceasefire to Assam and the other two states,” a senior official said, adding that the Prime Minister was expected to meet the three chief ministers soon to evolve a consensus on the issue.

Bomb attack: Suspected United Bengali Liberation Front militants today exploded a powerful device on a jeep near Bhola Giri Ashram, two km from Agartala.

Nearly 12 passengers, mostly tribals, were injured in the incident. Inspector-general of police (law and order) K. Salim Ali said the jeep carrying tribal passengers was heading for Simna area in Sadar (north) from the Radhanagar bus stand.

Four of the injured were released after first aid while eight are undergoing treatment in G.B. Hospital. The condition of one of them is stated to be serious.

In a separate incident this morning, a group of Tripura State Rifles jawans traced two powerful landmines on the Shilacherri Karbook road and got them defused by experts of the Assam Rifles.


Imphal, May 17: 
Thirty-four dissident MLAs of the ruling People’s Front government demanded the resignation of Manipur chief minister Radhabinod Koijam citing lack of confidence.

Koijam will seek a trust vote on the floor of the House on May 21. In a letter to the chief minister today, the MLAs said they had “lost confidence” in his leadership and urged him to resign to pave the way for the election of a new leader.

They also accused Koijam of functioning in an arbitrary manner.

The dissident’s camp increased its tally to 34 today after deputy chairman of the state planning board, L. Jatra Singh, switched his loyalty. He also resigned from the post of deputy chairman.

Speaker Sapam Dhananjoy rejected disqualification proceedings against Jatra Singh after he switched his loyalty. State BJP president M. Bhorot Singh and Speaker S. Dhananjoy have left for New Delhi.

Speculation is rife that another split in Manipur State Congress Party (MSCP) is on the cards and the breakaway group may merge with the BJP.

The Koijam government plunged into a crisis after dissident MLAs, led by BJP legislature wing leader R.K. Dorendra Singh, rebelled against his leadership.

The BJP has emerged as the single largest party now with 26 members in the 60-member House. Koijam’s Samata Party has already been reduced to minority inside the ruling People’s Front, but he is still hoping to survive the dissidents’ rebellion with the blessing of NDA convenor George Fernandes. The effective strength of the present government is 58.

Fernandes is on the mission to salvage the Koijam government as it is the only Samata-led government in the country.

The Samata-BJP rivalry in the state has become a major issue with the NDA in New Delhi.

If the crisis in Manipur spilled over to other states, it was likely to affect the NDA government at Centre, sources from New Delhi said.

Union minister of state for food processing Th. Chaoba Singh arrived here today in view of the present political crisis, in a last-ditch attempt to keep his flock together.


Agartala, May 17: 
Suspected United Bengali Liberation Front militants today exploded a powerful devise on a jeep near Bhola Giri Ashram, two km from here.

Nearly 12 passengers, mostly tribals, were injured in the incident. Police said the jeep carrying tribal passengers was heading for Simna area in Sadar (north) from the Radhanagar bus stand.

Four of the injured were released after first aid while eight are undergoing treatment in G.B. Hospital.

In a separate incident this morning, TSR jawans defused two powerful landmines on the Shilacherri-Karbook road.


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