Cops in gear face judge fury
Business brigade’s agenda of hope
CID directed to report on rape
Beware, banana makes butter brighter
State keeps English out of tests for Class II
On-the-road signal for cops to check mishaps after dark
Child dies in fall from balcony
Gogoi takes over as new Assam CM
Senior Cong leader sidelined
BJP to support Koijam govt in Manipur

 
 
COPS IN GEAR FACE JUDGE FURY 
 
 
BY PRONAB MONDAL
 
Calcutta, May 18: 
Judge (amazed): “What is this? Why have you entered my courtroom in uniform?” Cops (nonchalant): “Why not? We are policemen... Judge (agitated): “Don’t you know you are appearing here as the accused? Why haven’t you taken off your caps and gun belts?” Cops (arguing): “Do you really expect policemen to move around without guns?” Judge (furious): “Throw them into the court lock-up at once.”

Three policemen were put behind bars twice in five hours by a lower court judge at Barasat on Friday. Judge Parthasarathi Chakraborty took “serious exception” to the “lack of court etiquette” displayed by the three cops — the officer-in-charge of Haroa police station and two sub-inspectors from Barasat thana.

All three, accused of “high-handedness” by a resident of Barasat, turned up in the courtroom of the judicial magistrate (first court) of Barasat on Friday morning in full gear — khaki uniforms, dark brown gun-belts and caps, revolvers in holsters.

Judge Chakraborty, appalled at the blatant flouting of court rules that require accused policemen to appear in plainclothes, started by asking them to explain why they were in uniform. Far from apologising, Madan Pal, officer-in-charge, Haroa police station, and Asit Sinha and Nemai Dey, sub-inspectors of Barasat thana, started arguing with the judge. “As policemen, we are expected to be in uniform and armed,” was the line they took.

The attitude of the cops left the judge fuming. “Throw them into that lock-up at once,” he ordered the security staff, pointing at the caged enclosure in the courtroom. The three policemen were herded into the court lock-up, where they huddled sheepishly.

“Have their uniforms removed here,” ordered the angry judge. Then, better sense prevailed. After spending around three hours behind bars, the cops were allowed to change into ‘civilian’ clothes, brought from home, in an adjoining chamber.

They returned to the courtroom, chastised. “Are you still carrying your guns or not?” asked judge Chakraborty. “No, my lord,” mumbled the policemen. “Put them into the lock-up again,” ordered the judge. “We are very sorry for our behaviour. Please pardon us,” pleaded the policemen.

As the cops continued to apologise from the court lock-up, the judge softened his stand. Finally, he granted Pal, Sinha and Dey bail against individual bonds of Rs 750. The trio had been summoned to court for the hearing of case no. 399/99, filed by Asit Kumar Ghosh, a tenant on K.B. Bose Road, in 1999. Ghosh had lodged a complaint with Barasat thana, stating that the three policemen had “tortured” him and his family.

Nimai Ray, a Barasat lawyer who was a witness to the courtroom drama with a difference on Friday, said: “Policemen should know how to behave in court.”

   

 
 
BUSINESS BRIGADE’S AGENDA OF HOPE 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT AND SUDESHNA BANERJEE
 
Calcutta, May 18: 
12.25 pm. Raj Bhavan. The last of the 47 members of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s Cabinet had just been sworn in on Friday. As Bhattacharjee stepped off the podium, the business brigade decided to make its presence seen and heard. Led by Sanjiv Goenka and Harsh Neotia, city industrialists swarmed around the chief minister. Vigorous handshakes, cacophony of congratulations, loud laughter...

“Ashar thekey beshi bishwas (We trust more than hope),” beamed Sanjiv Goenka, president of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), when asked later about hopes of an industrial resurgence in Bhattacharjee-led Bengal. “His image as a ‘make-it-happen, no-nonsense and I-mean-business’ kind of chief minister has made us all very positive... We believe that within two to three years, Bengal will emerge in the top bracket of industrially-advanced states, with progress in the vital sectors of IT, software, entertainment and e-services.”

Raghu Modi, president of Assocham, Pawan Ruia, S.K. Birla, M.K. Jalan, Sishir Bajoria, J.P. Chowdhary... all shared the optimism.

As if on cue, the chief minister used his return to Writers’ on Friday to reiterate his commitment. “It will be my sincerest effort to restore Bengal’s lost glory in industrial development,” he pledged.

The party over, it’s down to serious business from Saturday.

A CII delegation, led by Goenka, will meet the chief minister. Harsh Neotia, chairman, CII (eastern region), said: “The various government-CII task forces will be activated... We will give our specific representations on infrastructure, procedure, policy and marketing.”

To help Bhattacharjee boost business in Bengal, the city’s industry associations have done their homework, drawing up their own wishlists. The combined charter of demand from the chambers touches upon an entire gamut of issues, ranging from policy shifts to specific suggestions, and a roadmap to market the state among potential investors. All this will be presented to the chief minister over the next few days.

Identifying the need for proper branding of the state to counter the “perception factor”, the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) has commissioned a study by Bates India on how to “market the state”. Pradip Dasgupta, secretary, BCCI, said: “Madhukar Kamath, CEO of Bates India, himself is preparing the report. It is almost ready and we are going to present it to the government shortly.”

Realising that marketing alone can do little for state, the chambers want the government to address infrastructural development, promotion of service industries and administrative reforms. There is an urgent need to improve the road network and the quality of roads, feels the B-lobby. Haldia and Siliguri, billed to be the new growth centres of Bengal, must be connected with a proper road network. The state’s achievements in the power sector are acknowledged, but there is demand for improvement in quality of power.

Keeping in mind the proliferation of IT and related activities in the state, the captains of industry feel that the service sector holds the key for solving the unemployment problem. More sops for investment to invite major players into the IT arena are also called for.

Roopen Roy of PricewaterhouseCoopers wants the government to “first solve infrastructure bottlenecks in Saltlec” before further expansion.

Then, there is growing demand from the knowledge industry for industry-friendly education centres “for quality human resources generation”. Administrative reforms and a pro-active, investor-friendly government also rank high on the priority list.

According to C.K. Dhanuka, president, Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the growth in the services sector will depend on the state’s ability to bring in overseas and domestic investments. “We need permanent fair grounds and proper convention centres in Calcutta. The government has earmarked a 40-acre plot on the EM Bypass for a permanent fair ground. It’s time to get things moving.”

Social sector reforms, agriculture and small and medium-scale industries are also on the business brigade’s agenda of hope. Both the ICC and the CII will urge the government to “focus on agro and food-processing sectors, and emphasise education and proper healthcare facilities”. The Bengal National Chamber of Commerce and Industries is championing the cause of small and medium enterprises. They will request the chief minister on May 21 to set up “an effective monitoring cell”.

   

 
 
CID DIRECTED TO REPORT ON RAPE 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 18: 
A division bench of Calcutta High Court has directed the CID to present a comprehensive report on the alleged rape by policemen of a deaf-and-mute girl last year. The girl gave birth to a girl on Wednesday. Her advocate on Friday moved court for an order asking the CID to conduct a DNA test on both the girl and her baby.

The report is to be presented within a week after the high court, now on vacation, reopens.

Tapas Bhanja, the girl’s advocate, demanded that a DNA test first be conducted on the mother and daughter, to establish their relationship, because he suspects the baby was “swapped” in SSKM Hospital, where she was born.

The girl, charged with stealing from a house where she worked, was allegedly raped in a police van by two constables while being taken to Alipore court from Presidency Jail last September.

The jailor had filed a complaint with Alipore thana, but investigating officers initially gave the accused a clean chit.

Later, on the basis of a public interest litigation filed by Bhanja, the court directed the CID to take over the case.

   

 
 
BEWARE, BANANA MAKES BUTTER BRIGHTER 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, May 18: 
From milk to chocolates to biscuits, adulterated foodstuff is flooding city markets. And the civic authorities have done nothing to stem the rot. The health department’s records reveal that not a single “central raid” has been carried out since February.

“Two types of adulteration take place in the city,” explains deputy chief municipal health officer R.N. Sanyal. “The food item in question might be wholly spurious or mixed with sub-standard stuff.” The Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act has “standardised” the quality of various edible items, ranging from cooking oil to mineral water, milk products to soft drinks. “Deviation from the PFA norms is also considered adulteration,” adds Subrata Basu, superintendent of the CMC food laboratory.

Till February, the Corporation had seized more than 2,000 samples of edible items including table salt, loose tea, spice powder, ghee, loose butter, mineral water, sauce, vanaspati and chocolates. Laboratory test of the samples revealed pumpkin and hog plum in tomato and chilli sauce, carcinogenic red and yellow colours recommended for industrial use only in chilli and turmeric powder, used tea leaves in tea dust, vanaspati in ghee up to a concentration of 75 per cent, non-permitted colour and saccharin in cream biscuits, fake soft drinks and mineral water with bacteria, non-iodised table salt, banana paste and water in butter, and microbe-infested chocolates. Vegetable dipped in toxic green colours were seized from Jadubabu bazaar and Baithakkhana bazaar. “The ice used in most lassi and sherbet shops was not edible ice,” warns chief municipal health officer Sujit Ghosh.

The drive against adulteration hit a roadblock after municipal commissioner Debasish Som divested the superintendent, food laboratory, of powers over proper Calcutta, without consulting the member, mayor-in-council (health), Javed Ahmed Khan. Basu’s wings were, allegedly, clipped after he had carried out a successful crackdown on fake “Sapan Ghee” in Burrabazar. Khan protested the commissioner’s “strange move”, but to no avail.

According to Khan, Burrabazar is the hub of producing and marketing fake and adulterated foodstuff. Besides, adulteration is also rampant in Ekbalpore-Kidderpore, Sovabazar, Cossipore and Dum Dum. “How can just nine food inspectors monitor this menace?” demanded Khan. Of the 32 posts for food inspectors in the CMC, 23 have been vacant for years.

   

 
 
STATE KEEPS ENGLISH OUT OF TESTS FOR CLASS II 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 18: 
The state government has decided to keep English out of the newly- re-introduced Class II tests, which began in the state-aided schools in Calcutta on Thursday.

This has concerned the anti-CPM teachers’ bodies, who said the government move “flouted the recommendations of the Pabitra Sarkar committee.”

The authorities of the government-controlled West Bengal Board of Primary Education, which is conducting the Class II examinations, have refused to examine the pupils in English on the grounds that the Pabitra Sarkar committee had suggested only “oral exercises” in the subject at the Class II-level. According to state primary board officials, the teaching of English was reintroduced from Class II on the basis of recommendations of the Pabitra Sarkar committee.

“But it is an independent decision of the government, as far as introducing the new system of testing Class II pupils is concerned,” said Swapan Sarkar, state primary board secretary.

The one-man committee was set up by the Left Front government to decide from which class the state-aided primary schools should start teaching English, yielding to demands by guardians, who wanted the subject re-introduced at the primary level itself.

Sarkar said: “The recommendation of the Pabitra Sarkar committee had not suggested any written exercises in English. The Class II English syllabus has been framed accordingly. Other than English, there is no restriction of the committee on written exercises in the remaining subjects that are taught in Class II. So, testing the students’ ability in English by means of written tests does not arise,” said Sarkar. The Class II tests are being conducted by the Board not just for pupils in the city’s schools but also for students of all the 53,000 government-funded primary schools across the state.

Teachers’ bodies, however, demanded that the government “either introduce tests in English, or simply abolish the entire exercise from next year.”

Prithwis Basu, general secretary, West Bengal Headmasters’ Association, criticised the move and demanded evaluation in English. The Class II students are required to sit for written tests in their first language (Bengali) and arithmetic.

   

 
 
ON-THE-ROAD SIGNAL FOR COPS TO CHECK MISHAPS AFTER DARK 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 18: 
Plans are afoot to post traffic policemen at sensitive, accident-prone areas after a string of late-night accidents over the past week, which have left three dead and half a dozen injured.

Traffic police personnel man the streets from 7 am to 10 pm. In four areas, like the Mullickbazar four-point crossing, the Park Street-Jawaharlal Nehru Road intersection, the Shyambazar five-point crossing and the Mahatma Gandhi Road-Strand Road intersection, traffic policemen are posted till midnight.

Police commissioner D.C. Vajpai told Metro on Friday that his department plans to post traffic personnel all night in certain areas. “Night traffic has increased manifold. In the absence of policemen, drunken drivers have caused several fatal accidents,’’ Vajpai said.

The police chief has asked deputy commissioner, traffic, K. Harirajan, to identify the after-dark accident-prone areas and submit a report to him at the earliest. Sources in the traffic department said Harirajan on Friday evening summoned officers to his office to give final shape to the proposal.

A truck laden with goods ploughed through the pavement on Rammohun Sarani (Amherst Street), killing a middle aged man and injuring four persons, after colliding with a Matador, at 1.30 am on Friday. The victims were sleeping on the pavement.

The dead man was identified as Chunnu Das, 45, a cobbler. The injured, including a woman, were admitted to Medical College Hospital. Doctors said their condition was serious. The mishap occurred at the intersection of Rammohun Sarani and Keshub Sen Street. Witnesses said the truck was speeding along Rammohun Sarani. Police said the driver, who later surrendered to Amherst Street police station, was drunk and lost control the vehicle.

Deputy commissioner of police, north, K.L. Tamta, said the lorry first collided with a Matador. It then climbed onto the footpath, where Chunnu and six others were sleeping. The front wheel of the vehicle crushed Chunnu’s head. The truck moved on and rammed into the boundary wall of a building. Local residents, woken from sleep by the loud cries of help from the injured, rushed to the spot, rescued the victims trapped under the wheels of the vehicle and sent them to hospital.

Last week, three persons were injured in accidents around midnight in south and central Calcutta. In one instance, a private car rammed into a scooter on AJC Bose Road, while in another, a lorry hit an autorickshaw on Diamond Harbour Road.

   

 
 
CHILD DIES IN FALL FROM BALCONY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 18: 
A four-year-old boy died on Friday morning after he slipped off the third-floor balcony of a building on Mahatma Gandhi Road, in Burrabazar police station area. The child was rushed to Marwari Relief Society Hospital, where the doctors declared him dead.

Zulfikar Hassan, deputy commissioner, central division, said Munna, the child, had been playing on the balcony. He slipped through a broken railing and fell on the pavement below.

A hue and cry by neighbours alerted the child’s parents, who were unaware of the mishap. Suresh Jhunjhunwala, the child’s father, works in a cloth store in Burrabazar. He has lodged a complaint against the house-owner and the police have started a case.

   

 
 
GOGOI TAKES OVER AS NEW ASSAM CM 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Guwahati, May 18: 
Sixty-five-year-old Congress veteran and PCC chief Tarun Gogoi today took over as the 16th chief minister of the state, heading a 17-member ministry.

Governor, Lt. Gen. (retd.), S.K. Sinha, administered the oath of office and secrecy to Gogoi and his council of ministers at a solemn function at the stately Durbar Hall of Raj Bhawan this afternoon.

Altogether 12 Cabinet ministers, three ministers of state and one with independent charge were sworn in by Sinha. Gogoi’s swearing in was followed by that of Bhumidhar Barman, former chief minister.

Other Congress MLAs who made to the Cabinet (likely to be expanded later) are: Sarat Barkotoki, Ardhendu Kumar Dey, Rameswar Dhanowar, Dinesh Prasad Gowala, Ismail Hussain Khan, Debananda Konwar, G.C. Langthasa, Bharat Narah, Hem Prakash Narayan, Gautom Roy, and Hemoprova Saikia.

Anjan Dutta, the MLA from Amguri, was sworn in as the lone minister of state with independent charge.

Pradyut Bordoloi, Rupam Kurmi and Nazibul Umar figured in the list of three ministers of state.

While AGP leaders stayed away from the swearing-in ceremony, former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta could not make it, ostensibly due to a traffic jam.

Prominent among those who failed to get a berth included former finance minister and speaker Jiba Kanta Gogoi, Bhubaneswar Kalita, a contender for the post of chief minister, Ripun Bora and Robin Bardoloi, son of Assam’s first chief minister, Gopinath Bardoloi.

The list of the council of ministers was kept a closely-guarded secret, with even those who were sworn in not informed about their inclusion in the ministry.

Gogoi had finalised the list of ministers in Delhi at a closed-door meeting with AICC general secretary Kamal Nath till late last night and which was approved by Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Gogoi flew in here with the list this morning.

The chief minister, however, told mediapersons, immediately after the swearing-in ceremony that the ministry would be expanded within a month to accommodate some of the first-timers, besides some of the important old-timers who were left out in the first phase. The chief minister said he will allocate portfolios tomorrow.

   

 
 
SENIOR CONG LEADER SIDELINED 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Guwahati, May 18: 
His “crown of thorns” firmly in place, new chief minister Tarun Gogoi today sidelined Bhubaneswar Kalita, one of the aspirants for the top job and the man likely to pose the most potent challenge to his leadership.

A source in the Congress said Kalita was “not even invited” to the swearing-in ceremony at Raj Bhavan. Of the 16 legislators inducted into the Gogoi ministry, 12 have been accorded Cabinet rank. The ministers include Hemoprova Saikia and former chief minister Bhumidhar Barman. Both wield immense clout in the PCC.

Gogoi said “first-timers” were not included “on principle”, but a source in the Congress remarked that he ignored Kalita’s claim to a ministerial berth more out of “fear” than anything else.

The new chief minister is believed to be trying to separate the triumvirate of Kalita, Saikia and Barman by including the last two in his ministry and overlooking the first. “Those who side with Kalita will be seen as rebels. But Saikia and Barman now have no reason to back Kalita against Gogoi,” an analyst said.

Prior to formation of the government, Kalita, a former Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha member, made no effort to hide his desire to be the chief minister. Robin Bardoloi, son of Assam’s first chief minister, Gopinath Bardoloi, is said to be “unhappy” as well.

   

 
 
BJP TO SUPPORT KOIJAM GOVT IN MANIPUR 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, May 18: 
The political situation in Manipur continues to be tense though the BJP Central leadership decided to continue its support to the Samata Party government, led by Radhabinod Koijam.

The dissident camp in the ruling People’s Front, however, is not satisfied with the BJP Central leadership’s decision and may even violate the party’s directive.

After a prolonged discussion between Samata Party and BJP leaders at New Delhi today, BJP national secretary in charge of the Northeast, Padmanabha Acharya, and state BJP president Meinam Bhorot Singh issued a joint statement saying the BJP legislators would vote in favour of the confidence motion brought by the Koijam ministry.

Governor Ved Marwah has summoned a special session of the Assembly on Monday for Koijam to seek a vote of confidence in view of the current political developments. The dissident camp, which has 34 MLAs, is still firm on ousting the chief minister.

The People’s Front has 58 members in the 60-member Assembly but the dissident camp already commands a majority.

The MLAs in the dissident camp include 25 of the BJP, four of the Manipur State Congress Party, two of the Nationalist Congress Party, two of the Federal Party of Manipur and one Janata Dal (Secular) legislator.

While the NCP and FPM have already withdrawn support from the ruling front, the JD(S) continues to be part of the front.

The BJP has increased its tally to 26 with the merger of 18 MLAs of the Progressive Manipur State Congress Party. Senior BJP leader and higher education minister Col. (retd.) Haobam Bhubon Singh, however, is supporting Koijam and has not taken part in the dissident’s camp held at Speaker Sapam Dhananjoy’s official residence since May 6.

Sources in New Delhi said Central Samata Party leaders have lodged a strong protest with their BJP counterparts, claiming that the move to dislodge the Koijam government was masterminded by BJP Legislature Party leader R.K. Dorendra Singh.

Samata Party leader and National Democratic Alliance convenor George Fernandes has even warned the BJP leaders of serious repercussions if the Samata-led government is dislodged.

Following Fernandes’ threat, the Central BJP leaders have decided to support Koijam’s leadership in order to preclude any further crisis in the NDA. The dissident MLAs are now holding a closed-door meeting to decide on their next course of action.

Sources close to the dissident camp said the BJP legislators may violate the party whip and vote against Koijam inside the House. They argued that the Central BJP leadership would be unable to take action against 25 MLAs.

They are ready to face any eventuality after Koijam is ousted, the sources added. Koijam loyalists are also worried about Monday’s vote of confidence. They suspect that the BJP legislators may violate the party whip and create trouble for the chief minister.

   
 

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