Woman shot in business hub
Teenagers robbed in Metro tunnel
There’s hope for the horses yet
Building collapse kills mason
State cracks wetlands whip
Philanthropy crosses cash crunch hurdle
Doctors appear in death case
Lavish Orissa lunch defies austerity plan
NSCN factions unite over ‘Nagalim’
Villager killed by Bangla thugs

 
 
WOMAN SHOT IN BUSINESS HUB 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 29: 
Friday, 8.55 am, at the bustling R.N. Mukherjee Road-Mangoe Lane intersection. Navaz Eruchshaw Wadia, like so many others, was on her to office when a scooter screeched to a halt beside her. Two young men opened fire from point-blank range. The 52-year-old Parsee woman slumped to the ground as her assailants sped away. The office-hour crowd and the people manning the roadside eateries stood stunned. Wadia was later taken to a nursing home, where she was declared brought dead.

The deadly attack in the business hub has stumped the detective department of the police. “From what we have gathered, the woman did not have any enemies. We are still searching for a possible motive that could have triggered such a deliberate and brutal attack,’’ said deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Banibrata Basu.

Wadia, who lived in 25, R.N. Mukherjee Road, walked down the same stretch at the same time, every weekday morning, to reach her Chowringhee Road office on time. She was an executive at a multinational firm, where she had been serving for the past 32 years.

According to witnesses, the attack was so swift and sudden that the assailants were lost to the rush-hour traffic before anyone could raise an alarm. One of the bystanders later alleged that two traffic policemen were standing close to the spot, but they, too, did nothing to try and stop the killers.

Two local youth, Bharat and Raju, were the first to react. They recognised Wadia and rushed to an adjoining building to inform her neighbours and Catherine Kindo, 22-year-old domestic help who stayed with Wadia.

“I rushed down after being told that she (Wadia) had been shot,” said Sharmila Roy, a neighbour. “There were a number of people standing around. Catherine and I pushed our way through the crowd and found on the street, in a pool of blood. “I desperately sought help, but everybody was just standing there, staring blankly. No one made a move to pick her up and take her to hospital. Finally, policemen passing by in a jeep stopped and helped take her to a nursing home.”

The attack has sent shockwaves through the close-knit Parsee community in the city. “She was a simple soul... She had a wonderful rapport with streetchildren on Park Street, to whom she would often donate a portion of her savings,’’ said a friend.

Meeru Dodabhai Bocha, 75, said Wadia had lived all her life at the R.N. Mukherjee Road apartment, which her father had taken on lease. “She never married and has only one sister, who lives on Park Street,’’ Bocha added.

Wadia was a stickler for time. “Every day, at around the same time, Wadia would leave the house, walk up to the R.N. Mukherjee Road-BBD Bag intersection and catch a bus to office. She would return at around 7.30 pm and retire after a quiet dinner,’’ Roy said.

Catherine had worked with Wadia for quite some time. She married Munna, a boy from Cossipore, about a year ago. “He occasionally stayed over in Wadia’s apartment. But as far as I know, she never had any trouble with either Catherine or Munna,’’ Roy concluded.

   

 
 
TEENAGERS ROBBED IN METRO TUNNEL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 29: 
The Metro ‘muggers’ have struck again. On Friday afternoon, two 16-year-olds, Roudranil and Sayan, fell prey to a goon stalking the Esplanade tunnel during the “lull period between trains”. The two friends, who’ve just passed their Madhyamik exams, were robbed of two gold rings and Rs 250.

“At around 3 pm, we entered Esplanade station to head back home. Suddenly, a middle-aged man, in blue jeans and light green shirt, called out to us and asked where we were going,” recounted Roudranil. “As we stopped, he whipped out something from under his shirt that looked like a revolver.”

The man ordered the teenagers to hand over whatever they had. “He threatened to kill us if we did not comply and warned us that there were others waiting for us at the entrance. There was no one around in the subway and we were really scared,” said Sayan.

The goon first forced Roudranil to take off the two gold rings he was wearing. “I gave him the rings and the Rs 200 I was carrying. Then, he asked Sayan to surrender his wallet. Sayan was carrying around Rs 50, which he handed over. The man then instructed us to leave the station quietly,” said Roudranil.

According to the boys, some cops posted near the entrance to Esplanade station refused to help them, even after they had reported the matter to the police on duty at the station. “The policemen refused to try and track down the man who had robbed us. They simply us to go to Taltala thana and lodge an official complaint,” they said. An officer of Taltala police station later said that a complaint had been lodged but no one had been arrested in connection with the incident.

Less than two weeks ago, the creative art director of ABP Ltd was attacked by two men armed with bhojalis at the Chandni Chowk station entrance around 9 pm. This prompted a police posting at the spot for a couple of days. But now, there’s no cop in sight as the area turns into a den of vice after dark.

   

 
 
THERE’S HOPE FOR THE HORSES YET 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, June 29: 
Masoom, Shabnam, Time Pass... Day in and day out, they canter along the vast stretches of the Maidan, providing joyrides to kids and often adults too. Earlier, they would go thirsty for days, even though they could smell the water from the Fountain of Joy. They would subsist on the sparse Maidan grass in the absence of any fodder. Yet, they had to be ready for a gallop on the double as their greedy owners cracked the whip at the sight of customers. Straying on to Red Road often proved fatal, as there was no means to treat hit-and-run injuries.

Now, there’s hope for the 70-odd Victoria ponies. They can quench their thirst thrice a day during the scorching summer, grab a bite when hunger strikes and even see a vet for ailment or injury. Better, they have a shelter to recuperate, should they need it.

A small initiative taken by the Compassionate Crusaders Trust is now on the trot with the coming-up of Ashari, the animal hospital in Mukundapur, on the Bypass. And these mute, yet graceful, animals on the Maidan are no longer helpless.

The weekly medical camp for hackneys and ponies, initiated by Compassionate Crusaders Trust way back in 1996 and joined by the army a year later, now heals better as the “seriously ill or badly injured” ponies can be shifted to Ashari after initial treatment on the spot.

“I once had to do a Caesarean section on a mare in pouring rain out in the open and the animal didn’t survive since there was no shelter,” recounts Col. A.J. Singh, army vet who, along with Biplab Arya and Dr M.K. Ballav of CCT, conducts the Sunday morning camp in front of the Fountain of Joy.

“We had made repeated appeals to the Calcutta Port Trust to build a temporary animal shelter beside Strand Road. We even sought permission from the Calcutta Police to use the Calcutta Kennel Club premises for this purpose, but to no avail. Now, we can transport the serious cases to Ashari,” smiles Purnima L. Toolsidass, trustee, CCT.

Water and feed comes from the Royal Calcutta Turf Club and is transported several times a day by CCT vehicles and a colourful 1,000-litre water tanker on wheels donated by the Nimchand Thakershi Charity Trust, which can fill up all the three troughs opposite the Victoria in a single trip.

   

 
 
BUILDING COLLAPSE KILLS MASON 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 29: 
A mason was killed and three others were injured when a wing of the toxicology building of the state forensic science laboratory complex at Belgachhia caved in on Friday. The portion that collapsed was under construction.The victim was identified as Sheikh Saber Mallick, 21.

The incident occurred around 11.15 am while the masons were working on the third floor. It was drizzling and the floor was slippery. Four of the masons were at work on the southern end of the building, which suddenly gave way and collapsed with the masons.

Sheikh Manzur Mallick, elder brother of the victim, who was working on the other side of the same floor, said: “Suddenly, I heard a thud. At first, I did not realise what had happened. Then, I found that many people had gathered in front of the building. I climbed down the scaffolding and found some people trapped under the debris.”

With the help of hospital employees, fire brigade men , Calcutta Municipal Corporation workers, police and other masons, the debris was cleared. Three masons were found under the rubble.

The wounded were taken to R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital in a critical condition. Saber’s father, Sheikh Halim Mallick, who was working in Salt Lake, rushed to the spot. Halim and his two sons have come from Murshidabad.

Member, mayor-in-council (building) Swapan Samaddar declared the construction illegal and that a stop-work notice would be issued soon. N.K. Nag, director of the organisation, said: “The portion under construction would have housed an explosives laboratory. The complex is looked after by the PWD. It is they who make the necessary plans and designs. If anybody is to blame, it is them.” Police said a case of negligence has been started.

   

 
 
STATE CRACKS WETLANDS WHIP 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 29: 
The government has decided to ask the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) to prepare a list of the wetlands in order to stop unauthorised filling of waterbodies in the city.

Announcing this at the Assembly on Friday, fisheries minister Kiranmoy Nanda said the government would also take measures to stop filling of the existing wetlands of east Calcutta. The bheris there can produce 30,000 tonnes of fish a year, he said.

The government, which has already banned filling of waterbodies, now aims to take strong action to curb the menace for the sake of the development of pisciculture. “Constant filling up of the waterbodies is posing a serious threat to projects of the fisheries department. We will now deal firmly with the matter,” Nanda said.

Unauthorised and illegal filling up of waterbodies, measuring five cottahs or more, in and around Calcutta, has been made a non-bailable offence, punishable under the West Bengal Inland Fisheries Act (Amendment 1998), the minister said in his Budget speech.

According to Nanda, in West Bengal, the total area covered by waterbodies is the lowest among all states in the country.

The government deems it necessary to preserve the waterbodies as the state’s net production of fish depends largely on the quantity of fish produced in such wetlands. “The largest number of the state’s pisciculture schemes are carried out in the waterbodies in the wetlands. No further encroachment can be allowed in such areas,” said Nanda. He said the government had allotted Rs 50 crore in the current financial year for the development of the waterbodies.

In recent times, the state government had received nearly 119 complaints of illegal encroachment of waterbodies from different parts of the state.

Of them, action has been taken in 109 cases, with FIRs being lodged in 25. So far, the government has stopped 47 projects which were coming up after filling waterbodies.

The minister urged all MLAs to create awareness among the people of their localities for preservation of waterbodies.

   

 
 
PHILANTHROPY CROSSES CASH CRUNCH HURDLE 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, June 29: 
The Bengal Service Society, a city-based NGO, is all set to start its second innings of philanthropic activity. After a break of three years, things will start rolling again at the Society’s Sapgachhi (Tiljala) centre, spread over 10 cottahs and housing a school and a hospital.

Set up by Anglo-Burmese activist Milton McCann in 1968 to help out slum-dwellers, the NGO was hard hit for funds for the past three years, with Swiss funding agency Terre des Homme pulling out of the project in 1997.

“In view of the deteriorating health condition of residents of the area, we have decided to resume services at the hospital. From our kitty, we have created a corpus and will start with the outpatients’ department. We have already networked with some eminent city-based doctors, who have agreed to render free services,” said Pradipta Kanungo, vice-president of the Society. The hospital will be inaugurated on July 2001 by Dr T. K. Biswas of Calcutta Medical College and Hospital.

The next step: Restoration of the schools under the Society. The one at Sapgachhi had a register of more than 1,200 students, but the cash-related uncertainty has brought down the number to 40.

The other two schools at Palm Avenue and Dakshindari, in Ultadanga, were closed down for paucity of funds.

Only the school at Bowbazar for children of sex workers is functioning, with 500 students on the rolls. “It was closed for over two years, but Maneka Gandhi helped us by releasing funds from the ministry of social empowerment and justice.”

Despite the funds crunch, the Society is keen to reopen the schools and beef up activity for the economically-challenged people of the city. “We are planning an old-age home for sex workers,” said Kanungo. It will be housed in the Society’s vacant school building at Dakshindari and shelter 50 aged sex workers.

   

 
 
DOCTORS APPEAR IN DEATH CASE 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 29: 
Three doctors — Sukumar Mukherjee, Baidyanath Haldar and Abani Roy Chowdhury — appeared at the chief judicial magistrate’s court in Alipore on Friday in the Anuradha Saha death case.

Kunal Saha, a US-based doctor and Anuradha’s husband, identified the doctors to chief judicial magistrate Purnendu Bhattacharya. The court had directed the doctors to be present in court in a criminal trial initiated against them by Saha, alleging that the doctors were to blame for his wife’s death. The proceedings of the trial started with a deposition by Kunal Saha.

   

 
 
LAVISH ORISSA LUNCH DEFIES AUSTERITY PLAN 
 
 
FROM DEBABRATA MOHANTY
 
Bhubaneswar, June 29: 
Cabinet meetings in Orissa these days are a dull affair. Gone are the days when the participants used to have something to chew on. Following austerity measures undertaken by the Orissa government, the ministers have to do with two biscuits and a cup of tea.

Today, however, was different. Scores of bureaucrats, ministers and ex-ministers had a lip-smacking time as they feasted on chicken hyderabadi and kadhai paneer after attending a workshop-cum-seminar at Hotel Crown, a posh hotel of the town.

The two-day workshop on financial and governance reforms was organised by the finance department, which issues routine circulars to various departments on how to undertake austerity measures. Chief minister Naveen Patnaik inaugurated the seminar.

As spoonfuls of prawn manchurian, chicken hyderabadi, chicken makhni, garlic fish, subz meloni, kadhai paneer and fruit truffle, among others, jostled for space in the plates of 300-odd invitees, the so-called austerity measures seemed to fly out through the nearest window.

The expenditure, according to unofficial estimates, was about Rs 350 per plate. The seminar, spread over two days, should cost the government nearly Rs 4 lakh on dinners, lunches and snacks only. Some of the invitees had also checked into the hotel, further burning a hole in the state’s exchequer. All this when the state’s total debt burden stands at Rs 21,035 crore and is estimated to go up to Rs 37,063 crore by 2005.

Before lunch, the speakers, including finance minister Ramakrushna Patnaik, former finance minister Raghunath Patnaik and chief secretary D.P. Bagchi, stressed on the need for fiscal reforms and austerity measures.

   

 
 
NSCN FACTIONS UNITE OVER ‘NAGALIM’ 
 
 
FROM PULLOCK DUTTA
 
Jorhat, June 29: 
Bitter rivals in every sense of the term, the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) and the Khaplang faction have struck a rare note of unanimity on the issue of carving out a “Greater Nagalim”.

An NSCN(K) spokesman told The Telegraph that his outfit did not want an inch of the land belonging to the Meiteis, the Assamese and the Arunachalees.

He said the NSCN(K) would, however, not give up the land that “historically belongs to the Nagas”.

The statement is in consonance with the Isak-Muivah faction’s views on the issue.

The NSCN(K) spokesman, who requested anonymity, said “Naga territory” extended to parts of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and even Myanmar. “We cannot settle for anything less than this,” he said.

NSCN(I-M) “general secretary” Th. Muivah made a similar statement after the Centre extended its ceasefire with the outfit to all contiguous Naga-inhabited areas of the Northeast. “We do not have a Greater Nagalim or a smaller Nagalim. We only have the land that belongs to the Nagas,” he said.

The map of “Nagalim”, as envisioned by the NSCN(I-M), includes 14,000 square km of land in 11 districts of Assam.

Nagaland has an area of 16,579 square km, while the proposed “Greater Nagalim” encompasses an area of nearly two lakh square km.

The Centre recently extended the Naga ceasefire “without territorial limits”, triggering violent protests in Manipur.

The people of Manipur perceive the Centre’s move as an acknowledgement of the Isak-Muivah and Khaplang factions’ claims on parts of their territory.

The process of a dialogue between the Centre and the NSCN (I-M) was initiated on August 1997. The Centre, however, declared a ceasefire with the NSCN(K) only last month.

“We expect to begin a dialogue with the Centre soon,” the NSCN(K) spokesman said.

With the Isak-Muivah and Khaplang factions airing similar views on the “Nagalim” issue, both Manipur and Assam are becoming increasingly jittery.

“The people of Manipur and, to a lesser extent, Assam, were alarmed by the Centre’s surrender to the NSCN(I-M).

“Now that the NSCN(K) is backing its rival faction’s demand for a Greater Nagalim, they must be feeling doubly threatened,” an observer said.

According to a 1991 survey, Nagas have encroached upon 16,287 hectares of land in three forest reserves in Jorhat district alone.

The survey report mentions the existence of 13 Naga villages, 12 primary schools, two middle English schools, a high school, three churches and a water-supply project in parts of the Desoi Valley forest reserve.

Both factions of the NSCN have staked claim to parts of Sivasagar, Golaghat and Jorhat districts of Assam, Tirap and Changlang districts of Arunachal Pradesh and the hill districts of Manipur.

Official sources, however, said the territorial extension of the Naga ceasefire did not imply that the Centre would accede to the NSCN(I-M)’s demand for a “sovereign” state.

The Tarun Gogoi government has opposed the Centre’s move and warned of law and order problems if Naga rebels are given the “freedom” to move about freely in Assam.

   

 
 
VILLAGER KILLED BY BANGLA THUGS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, June 29: 
A villager was killed and another injured in Tripura during the past two days by armed Bangladeshi criminals, who crossed over to Gournagar area in Khowai subdivision to lift cattle.

The BSF authorities posted on the Khowai border have contacted their Bangladesh Rifles counterparts for a flag meeting to sort out the issue.

Police sources said a group of armed Bangladeshi criminals sneaked into Gournagar area on Tuesday and reached Samatal Padmabil to avenge the lynching of a Bangladeshi cattle-lifter by local villagers early this month. However, residents of Samatal Padmabil village resisted the Bangladeshi gang and injured some of them with clubs and arrows.

The intruders fled but returned on Wednesday to Gournagar area and beat up a 50-year-old villager, Birsa Munda, without any provocation.

   
 

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