Minors rescued from Delhi train
Gang war leaves trail of bullets, blood on campus
Mayor leans left on hawker eviction
Ministers play musical chairs at Writers’
Guard held for 3.5-lakh theft at music store
Kidnap vehicle seized, victim still untraced
Death at docks stalls cargo work
Panja rally reply to party punch
Bandh to protest Cong man murder
Five killed as Durgapur bus rams into tree

Calcutta, May 22: 
Minutes before the 2303 Up Poorva Express was to leave Howrah station on Tuesday morning, commotion broke out on platform 9 where the train had berthed.

Two minor girls, who were forcibly being taken to New Delhi, had been “rescued” from the train by RPF constables on duty on the platform.

The girls, one aged 16 and the other 14, had been forced to hide in the vestibule connecting the unreserved sitting coach with the air-conditioned sleeper coaches. The door between the two coaches was locked and they had nowhere to run when passengers spotted them.

When the constables were called in, two men who had led the girls to the coach and ordered them to sit in the corridor, started to flee. One of them, Babu De, alias Bangal, was caught, while Pratap Das managed to melt into the crowd.

Passengers and bystanders thronged the platform outside the compartment when the girls were brought out.

Along with Bangal, they were taken by sub-inspector Partha Biswas and constable A.C. Bera to the RPF post next to the cabway in Howrah station.

Preliminary interrogation revealed that the girls, Shyamali Das and Sujata Das, were residents of a temporary roadside shelter outside Deshapriya Park, near Priya cinema. Both hailed from Lakshmikantapur, in South 24-Parganas, and had come to the city in search of work a little over a month ago.

Sujata, the younger of the two, was befriended by Pratap almost immediately. “He married me two weeks ago,” she said while the trio were waiting for a senior RPF officer to arrive.

Shyamali, who used to work in the Gol Park area, was forced to leave the locality after some youth began to tease and pester her continuously. She moved to Deshapriya Park under the shadow of Jarina, who comes from the Lakshmikantapur area and also happens to be Pratap’s aunt.

Both the girls said Pratap and his friend Bangal had told them that there were jobs waiting for them in Delhi and that they should go there. “Pratap told me his mother stays in Delhi and would be able to give us shelter and jobs,” recounted Sujata.

Pratap even influenced Shyamali to go with them. “We did not want to go, but he assured us that life would be better in Delhi. He even beat us up to make us agree,” she said.

Finally, carrying a small cloth bag each, the four arrived at Howrah station on Tuesday and boarded the unreserved compartment without tickets. “The two men dragged us in and forced us to sit in a corner of the corridor,” said Shyamali.

The girls, with their few belongings, waited at the station without a clue as to what would happen to them.

Shyamali, who has seven brothers and sisters, had left home for the city to earn money. Her father, addicted to alcohol, had remarried after her mother died.

Sujata’s father had died a month ago, after which she left her four siblings and also came to the city in search of work.

“They would have been sold to brothel-keepers in Delhi,” said an RPF official, adding that traffickers had taken to this new route after a tight watch began on the usual Mumbai-bound trains. “Such cases are occurring every month,” he pointed out.


Calcutta, May 22: 
On Monday afternoon, bullets flew near the chief minister’s residence. On Tuesday afternoon, there was a shootout on a south Calcutta college campus.

Goons went on a shooting spree within New Alipore College on Tuesday, even as first-year students were busy writing an examination. Ganesh Banerjee, an ex-student of the college, was seriously injured.

Ganesh, alias Bappa, underwent surgery at SSKM Hospital in the evening. Police said the attack was sparked by the rivalry between two factions of local Trinamul Congress supporters. The examination, they claimed, was completed without a hitch.

Around 3.50 pm, three young men, faces covered in black cloth, stormed into the college compound on two motorcycles. They spotted Bappa sitting on the staircase along with a few of his associates. Two of the assailants whipped out revolvers and started firing at the youth from Chetla.

“Most of the bullets missed Bappa as he ran for cover. But suddenly, he slumped to the ground, blood oozing from his stomach,” recounted an eye-witness.

Ranjit Panchnanda, deputy commissioner of police, south division, said the trio then zoomed out of the college gates, before students and staff members, alerted by the sound of gunfire, could raise the alarm.

As the news of the attack spread, students of the college took to the streets, protesting police inaction against growing antisocial activities in and around the college campus.

Half an hour after the incident, policemen from New Alipore thana and Panchnanda arrived on the spot. They questioned several students who had witnessed the incident. “One of the miscreants who led the attack has been identified as Shanku,” the deputy commissioner, south, said.

Both Bappa and Shanku, police said, are Trinamul supporters with underworld links. “The notorious duo initially belonged to the same group. But a few months ago, they split the gang in two. Since then, the rival gangs have been engaged in a power tussle. The strike was well-planned as they had been tailing Bappa for quite some time,” said a police officer. “That the gang war in the area has now entered the premises of an educational institution is indeed cause for concern.”

The gunfire on campus has spurred the local police into action. Till late on Tuesday, the cops were carrying out extensive combing operations in an attempt to flush out Shanku and his associates.


Calcutta, May 22: 
Mamata Banerjee wants them to stay. Subrata Mukherjee wants them to go. To evict or not to evict hawkers — that’s the latest tug-of-war in the Corporation. For, defying the whip of the Trinamul Congress leader, the mayor is ready to support the Left Front government’s hawker-hatao drive “for the development of the city”.

Mukherjee will soon call upon municipal affairs minister Asoke Bhattacharya at Writers’ Buildings to discuss the anti-hawker drive on 21 major roads. “Hawking in its present form cannot be allowed on pavements of the city’s thoroughfares,” the mayor said on Tuesday.

Mamata had forced the mayor to push back his drive against hawkers in Esplanade after Durga Puja last year. Trinamul leaders like Subrata Bakshi and Madan Mitra had managed to convince her that “hawkers constituted a major vote-bank”. Citu leader Md. Nizamuddin and Hawker Sangram Committee leader Shaktiman Ghosh had hailed Mamata’s move and declared that hawkers would soon occupy pavements on all major thoroughfares.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, too, had played the please-hawker card three weeks before the elections, by allowing them back on 21 major city roads.

Now, with the battle for Writers’ lost and won, the mayor has made it clear that a few union leaders and pressure groups had tried to create a false impression that hawkers “would be allowed to return to the pavements”.

“Every day, I receive several complaints from pedestrians and motorists protesting the encroachment of pavements and major roads by hawkers,” said the mayor. “The pavements had been constructed with tax-payers’ money for their convenience... The CMC is nothing but a statutory body duty-bound to preserve and safeguard the interests of citizens, and it is answerable to them for any dereliction of duty.”

According to the mayor, it’s up to the state government to undertake the drive against encroachers, as the Corporation “does not have its own police force”. The Corporation and the government have already sunk nearly Rs 12 crore to create alternative accommodation for hawkers displaced by Operation Sunshine three years ago. “We have constructed several hundred stalls and plan to build a total of about 5,000. Barring the 200-odd hawkers of Gariahat and about a 100 in Entally, none of the others has moved into the new stalls,” said Mukherjee.


Calcutta, May 22: 
An eviction-and-a-half and one digging in; that would sum up the fiasco over ministers’ rooms, which continued into the second full working day of the new ministry at Writers’ Buildings.

First, the eviction: minister of state for irrigation and waterways Ganesh Mandal is in for an unpleasant surprise when he returns to Writers’ on Wednesday. The room allotted to him, room no. 12 on the second floor, saw an encroacher on Tuesday afternoon — minister of state for Sunderbans development Kanti Ganguly, armed with an order from the public works department.

Mandal was away in his other room at Bidhannagar’s Sech Bhavan and learnt of the development from his department officials at Writers’. When contacted, he seemed more angry at the “minimum lack of courtesy” shown by the sudden decision than the inconvenience caused. “I haven’t had such an experience throughout my political career... The least they could have done was tell me before taking the decision,” said Mandal. “I have told the PWD minister (his RSP colleague Amar Choudhury) to grant me another room at Writers’, as the departments related to irrigation, like finance and agriculture, operate from there,” he added.

A section of PWD officials were against Mandal occupying a place in the not-very-spacious Writers’, despite having an office in Sech Bhavan. But his ‘eviction’ did not please PWD officials. The reason: The man who evicted him, Kanti Ganguly, has two government offices in the city as well. Besides the Writers’ room from where he ‘evicted’ Mandal, Ganguly has an office at Salt Lake. “The minister will spend his mornings at Salt Lake and the second half every day at Writers,” said an official close to Ganguly.

Besides this ‘eviction’, there was a ‘half-eviction’, too. The room of contention was no. 11 on the second floor, allotted to state social welfare and prisons minister Biswanath Choudhury on Monday. His furniture and files had been moved into the room. On Tuesday morning, however, he found a computer print-out bearing state forests minister Jogesh Burman’s name stuck on the door, declaring room no. 11 to be his. When Choudhury contacted PWD officials, he was told that he had been shifted to an unnumbered room — actually a large cubicle — to make way for Burman. Choudhury, however, shot off an angry note to PWD and, when last seen, was staying put in ‘his’ room.

The other person involved in this room row was minister of state for municipal affairs Anju Kar. Ranking below both Burman and Choudhury, she was to have got one of the unnumbered cubicles. Instead, she had bagged a proper, numbered room on the same floor.

State industry and commerce minister Nirupam Sen moved into room no. 17 on the first floor, beside the chief minister’s room. On Monday, he had observed that this was a “temporary arrangement”. On Tuesday, however, he appeared to be in permanent-settlement mode, as even the furniture of his department staff was moved in.

The Writers’ room ruckus left PWD minister Amar Choudhury as muddled as the rest. “Things are confusing,” he admitted. “But matters will be sorted out to everyone’s mutual satisfaction,” was his prophesy.


Calcutta, May 22: 
A theft has been detected at MusicWorld, the premier city music store. On Tuesday, Muchiram Soren, a senior security guard, was arrested on charges of swiping Rs 3.5 lakh from the store’s cash vault.

A four-member police team left with him for his native village in Singbhum, Jharkhand, in the afternoon, after he told interrogators that he had sent the money through a ‘friend’ to his relatives there. According to deputy commissioner of police, south, Ranjit Pachnanda, the music store’s cash vault is on the third floor of the building. Soren, who has been working at the store for quite some time, knew the whereabouts and the contents of the vault.

On Monday, Soren, who was supposed to have been on duty on the ground floor, sneaked up to the third floor office and cleaned up the coffers. The incident came to light later in the day and the store authorities lodged a complaint with the Shakespeare Sarani police. Soren was grilled when investigation revealed that he was missing for some time from his ground-floor duty. After he failed to justify his absence, he was detained by the police.

Later, he broke down during sustained interrogation and confessed to the theft. He told the sleuths that he had given the money to a friend and directed him to catch the first train to his native village in Bihar. Pachnanda said he expected the money to be recovered by Wednesday.

AC room for Mala Roy: To beat the heat, city conservancy chief Mala Roy decided to occupy the air-conditioned conference room of the CMC from Tuesday. Her decision has raised eyebrows, as controlling officers point out that the CMC is left without a conference room. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee has already announced that air-conditioners will be installed in offices of the members of his mayor-in-council.


Calcutta, May 22: 
Industrialist Murari Mohan Ghosh, 76, abducted on Monday at gunpoint from Harish Mukherjee Road, remained untraced till Tuesday. Ghosh is the managing director of Dawn Enterprise, a premier stockbroking and ship-repairing firm. However, the police claimed a breakthrough on Tuesday evening. The Tata Sumo (WB-26C 1924), used for kidnapping Ghosh, has been impounded and Javed, the driver, arrested.

The vehicle was tracked down at Malancha, in the Minakha police station area of North 24-Parganas. Javed told his interrogators that four men, in their mid-30s, had hired the car, but he had no idea about their intentions. The men forced Javed to drive up to Gosaba, where they blindfolded Ghosh and dragged him into a bhutbhuti (motor-powered sailing craft). They, too, got in and sailed away.

Investigations revealed that the Sumo was registered in the name of Krishna Ghosh, who apparently is not connected with the kidnapping. “She usually lets out the Sumo on hire,” an official said.

A police team, led by DC, DD-II, Pradip Sanyal, have tailed the gang to Gosaba to locate the village where Ghosh has been confined.

A caller-line identification (CLI) was installed at Ghosh’s residence to trace the ransom calls. The kidnappers had called up his family thrice to say that Ghosh was fine and that they should be ready with the ransom. “On Tuesday, however, the caller did not mention either the amount, the spot or the person who would collect the money,” a family member said.

The police have failed to trace the ransom calls, as the phone number was not displayed on the CLI machine. Telephone authorities said CLI machines were incapable of picking up certain numbers.

Deputy commissioner of police, south, Ranjit Pachnanda said they were also focusing on business rivalry. Ghosh owes around Rs 30 lakh to a businessman.


Calcutta, May 22: 
Death at the docks on Tuesday morning disrupted work and created tension in the port area. A police team from the south port police station was sent to the spot to pre-empt further violence. According to CPT sources, work had to be suspended for more than four hours since the morning, resulting in a loss of lakhs of rupees.

Eye-witnesses said labourer Mohammad Badruddin, 56, was unloading logs of wood from Malayasian vessel Varuna in the morning, along with about 50 others. The labourers were carrying the logs in groups of four from the ship to the stockyard on shed no. 28.

According to Puniram Singh, another labourer, the ship manager was urging them to speed up work. So, the labourers split up into smaller groups. The incident took place around 9.30 am, when Badruddin was carrying a huge log all by himself. “Frail Badruddin could not take the load. His legs gave way and the log fell on him. He was crushed under it and died on the spot,’’ Puniram said.

As news spread, all work came to a halt. Blaming the CPT and the ship captain for the mishap, the labourers shouted slogans and demanded that Badruddin’s next-of-kin get his job. “Unless the authorities give us an assurance, we are not going to allow any movement of cargo in the docks,’’ the labourers shouted.

The CPT officials who had gone to the spot were manhandled, police said. The captain of Varuna and his colleagues were confined to the ship. A huge police team, led by the officer-in-charge of south port police station, reached the spot. “The labourers finally agreed to withdraw their agitation after the CPT officials gave an assurance that Badruddin’s family would be given adequate compensation,’’ said joint commissioner of police Anup Chatterjee.

The body was sent for post-mortem. The area was tense, with militant labourers threatening to disrupt work if the compensation is not disbursed to the family within a week.


Calcutta, May 22: 
Barely 24 hours after he was removed from a key party post, Trinamul Congress rebel Ajit Panja lined up a rally near the Sealdah flyover tomorrow to garner support against those responsible for his removal.

Stung by Panja’s recent statements, Trinamul MPs and MLAs convened an emergency meeting yesterday and had him removed from a key post at the instance of Mamata Banerjee. But they let him continue as a member.

Still smarting under the humiliation, Panja told reporters this afternoon that the rally will prove that “people are with me”. “Hundreds of Trinamul workers and leaders, including MPs, are expected to join. This is the only way to voice our protest against the way in which the party is being run these days by an inefficient leadership.” He claimed that some party leaders have confirmed their participation.

The Trinamul leadership has taken strong exception to Panja’s proposed rally, saying this would be another example of his going against the party line. “Panja is free to do whatever he likes, but he should have sought permission from the leadership,” said Trinamul general secretary Mukul Roy, adding that no party leader will attend tomorrow’s rally.

Undeterred, Panja’s men campaigned through the day for the rally. Sources close to Panja said defeated Trinamul candidate from Keshpur, Rajani Dolui, who had threatened to pull out of the fray to protest against Mamata’s negligence towards him, might attend. Other dissidents like Krishna Mukherjee from Serampore, Dilip Das from Raigunge and Mohammed Rafiq from Midnapore might also join the rally.

However, Panja’s daughter Mahua Mondal and elder brother Ranjit might skip. “I am still undecided whether I will attend the rally,” said Mahua, who lost as Trinamul candidate from Vidyasagar. Ranjit, who was present in yesterday’s meeting, will also not attend. “I think Ajit is going the wrong way,” he added.

Panja today raised the pitch of Mamata-bashing and dubbed her an “inefficient leader.” Stating that she has become “mentally ill”, he said: “I want her to take rest for a few more days to come to her senses.” He questioned whether Mamata and “loyal” MP Sudip Bandopadhayay were primary members of the party. “As none of them are primary members, they have no authority to remove me from the post,” he argued.

Panja saw nothing wrong in hankering after a berth in the Vajpayee Cabinet. “I am an experienced person. And then what’s the harm if I ask for a berth in the Cabinet? I still consider myself an integral part of the NDA as the Trinamul Congress has not officially severed its links with the NDA,” he reasoned.

Asked if he has any plan to split the party, Panja replied in the negative. “Instead, I want to strengthen the organisation by bringing in those being sidelined in the party,” he said, adding that he has no plan to quit the organisation.


Calcutta, May 22: 
A 24-hour bandh called by the Congress in protest against the murder of party leader Probir Goswami was observed in Swarup Nagar in North 24-Parganas. Arch-rivals CPM and CPI also supported the shutdown.

Shops and the local markets remained closed. Congress supporters also set up road blocks across the district. Deputy inspector general of police (presidency range) Goutam Mohan Chakraborty and other police officers visited the area, which has remained tense since last night’s murder.

State Congress president Pranab Mukherjee, MLA Somen Mitra and district party unit chief Debi Ghosal called on the murdered leader’s family. He is survived by his wife and son.

Goswami was killed within a week of the murder of a Trinamul Congress leader at Rajarhat in the same district. The police are yet to make much headway in the Rajarhat case.

Last night, an unsuspecting Goswami had gone out to the Hathatganj market near his house. Miscreants in a white Maruti van were following him for some time. Around 10 pm, the gang fired at Goswami from close range as he was passing by a tea stall. Goswami fell into a culvert. The miscreants escaped after hurling bombs to scare the shopkeepers and bystanders.

Goswami was rushed to Badartala sub-divisional hospital where he died. Before dying, he had identified three of his killers. But no one has been arrested even 24 hours after the incident. The police is continuing raids in different areas and promised some arrests soon.

Goswami was the block Congress president and member of the Pradesh Congress Committee. But he contested from Swarup Nagar constituency as an Independent for the recent Assembly polls after being denied a ticket by his party. The CPM candidate won, defeating the Trinamul Congress candidate by 6,538 votes. Goswami bagged 6,998 votes, which shows Trinamul would have won had Goswami not contested. Since then Trinamul workers were displeased with Goswami.

Arun Biswas, a local Congress leader, alleged that a section of Trinamul workers were involved in this murder. He said: “Some Trinamul Congress supporters were aggrieved with him since the defeat of their candidate. They had been planning to take revenge.”

However, Basirhat Trinamul Congress vice-president Sibu Banerjee denied the allegation, saying: “Such a brutal killing of a political leader cannot be supported.”


Durgapur, May 22: 
Five persons, including a student, were killed and more than 50 people injured when a bus rammed into a tree and rolled into a ditch near Bhasapool in Galsi police station area this afternoon. All the five passengers died on the spot. Forty-one passengers were shifted to Burdwan Medical College Hospital, where the condition of 20 was critical.

Two of the victims were identified as Raghunath Ghosh, 18, a student of Nilmani High School, and Kalideo Singh, 36.

Police said the mishap occurred when the driver lost control while trying to negotiate a truck coming from the opposite direction. The bus rolled into a slushy ditch after hitting the tree. The incident took place around 2 pm on G.T. Road.

“As we reached the spot, we saw the bus lying in the ditch. A number of passengers trapped inside were screaming. We realised that they could not breath,” said Haran Biswas, a local resident.

The villagers took time to pull out the passengers. “We did not have the equipment to rescue the trapped passengers. We had to wait for over half an hour to collect implements like axes,” said Ratan Malakar, another resident.

By the time they got their act together, five persons had died. The driver had jumped off just before the accident.


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