Cuisine chorus: Veg is the rage
Civic official’s killer arrested
HS failure drives girl to suicide
Lagaan leash on pirated prints
Parkomat pay-off probe in place
Two arrested for chit fund fraud
Fugitive Gabbar’s aide held
Subhas in party court
Naxalite alert in twin districts
HS students clash with police

Calcutta, July 6: 
It’s Saturday evening at Azad Hind. But the regulars at “M.F. Husain’s dhaba” are digging into masala dosas, not chicken reshmi kebabs, as a huge white banner blowing in the wind proclaims how “South Indian” has been introduced to the menu.

It’s lunch time on Tuesday. Office-goers climb down multi-storeyed buildings and make their way to the Everest House Ganguram Sweets. It’s not radhaballabi-alur dum rounded off with rosogollas for them, but veg thalis, followed by some kulfi.

The aroma of Aqua Java coffee is the same. So is the upmarket decor. But instead of chicken nuggets, it’s paneer pakoras that have the mouths of a college gang on a shopping spree watering at Cafe Bollywood.

A veg wave is sweeping the city. Apart from the pure vegetarian restaurants that have mushroomed, even multi-cuisine stalwarts are expanding their selection to include green options for their changing clientele.

The Ballygunge Circular Road dhaba — with Husain on the walls — may not be turning a vegetarian leaf, but they have found new bait for the few fish who’ve eluded them so far. From June 24, the dhaba launched a Udipi menu, featuring run-of-the-mill sada dosas to the more elaborate mushroom-cheese-masala dosa, whipped up by chefs brought in from Andhra Pradesh. “More than 70 per cent of our customers are vegetarian,” says dhaba partner Rajesh Sharma. “It makes sense to give them more choice. The most popular items on the old menu have been vegetarian — dal makhani, malai kofta, paneer butter masala — for some time now. And non-veg regulars have been shying away from red meat altogether.”

The menu from down-south has been designed to take care of in-between-times: From 6 am to 11 am and again from 3 pm to 8 pm. “We have had a tremendous response to the new menu...,” reveals Sharma. “We used to order dal and paneer,” explains Mridula Sharma, a dhaba regular, while tucking into a golden vada with her daughter. “We have been asking for more vegetarian dishes for quite a while now.”

The good ol’ dhabas are struggling to stay alive on their own tandoori steam, the Bangali kitchens remain few and far between, and swank cafes are having to modify their menu, too. Pantaloons’ Cafe Bollywood, the newly-opened arm of Aqua Java positions itself as “the upmarket Gupta Brothers”. Pakoras and chaats, dosas and veggie sandwiches are the snacks to go along with a rich range of coffee. “Our target segment is mainly vegetarian. With the kind of clientele Pantaloons has, we thought some may not appreciate non-veg food on the menu,” explains Saket Agarwal of Aqua Java Private Limited.

Customers couldn’t agree more. Bhawana Baid, a 22-year-old girl hanging out at the Cafe with her gang, is happy to find her kind of grub in such a ‘cool’ place. “We prefer this because there is a wide range of vegetarian items. Most places selling this kind of food don’t have seating arrangements. Here we can chill, and have an affordable meal of our choice,” she feels.

A quick trek up the Calcutta taste trail throws up one obvious reason for the changing choice in cuisine: The growing number of Marwaris and Gujaratis eating out. “Because of the large Rajasthani and Gujarati population here, there is never a shortage of vegetarian clients,” observes Sandip Nowlakha, owner of Fillers, Starlit Cafe and the recently-unveiled Aangan at Swabhumi. “But 50 per cent of my clients are Bengali and one of their most popular choices is always the masala dosa,” he adds. Starlit Cafe is closing down its Emami Shoppers’ City branch and relocating to Lansdowne Road. The “40-seater restaurant and activity centre” will open with a full fledged all-veg dinner menu.

Calcutta may also have its first vegetarian restaurant-and-bar at Teej. The Russell Street restaurant serves up Rajasthani and North Indian cuisine at around Rs 250 per head. “The response from Bengalis has been good, too... It seems they are quite happy dining out without meat or fish these days,” feels Nawal Joshi of Teej and Gangaur.

Ganguram echoes the view. After introducing a pure-veg thali four months ago, they have been keeping a “full house” on most office days. “Bengalis make up a good 25 per cent of the market. In fact, we regularly supply bulk orders to the New Secretariat and the Strand Road State Bank of India headquarters,” says Rahul Chaurasia, partner, Ganguram Sweets. At their Chittaranjan Avenue outlet, a kulfiwallah has been occupying pride of place from June — making it the ‘right choice’ for many over Bangali mishti.


Calcutta, July 6: 
Haran Giri, prime accused in the murder of Sailen Ghosh, chairman of the Budge Budge municipality, was arrested from Kasba early on Friday. According to the police, Giri told officers that Ghosh had paid the price for backing rival crimelord Netai Mondol.

Giri, on a motorcycyle, had tailed Ghosh on April 4 from Alipore court to a lawyer’s house in New Alipore’s P Block. The municipality chairman, who was travelling in an Ambassador with associate Uttam Ghatak, had just stepped out of the car to enter the lawyer’s house, when Giri hurled three bombs and fired three rounds from his revolver at him, before fleeing.

A passing police jeep rushed Ghosh to SSKM Hospital, where he died a few days later.

With the police on his trail, Giri slipped into Diamond Harbour, where he hid for about a month. Over the past three weeks, Giri had started to contact his friends and associates in Chetla, Kalighat and Kasba, hoping the heat had died down. He had also visited these areas a couple of times.

Deputy commissioner of police, south, Ranjit Pachnanda, said the cops picked up Giri’s trail after he was spotted in south Calcutta. “We sent plainclothesmen to shadow Giri and find out where he was going and whom he was meeting, before picking him up,” Pachnanda added.

Finally, early on Friday, the police decided to move in. A heavily-armed team surrounded the one-storeyed house in Kasba, where Giri was supposed to be holed up.

“But Giri was not in the house. Just when we thought that he had given us the slip and were preparing to return to the thana, a man on a motorcycle arrived and entered the house,’’ said a police officer, who was part of the raid team.

The informer who had accompanied the police posse, immediately identified the man as Haran Giri. The cops first threw a ring around the house to seal off every possible escape route. Then, three policemen went up and knocked on the door.

It was opened by a boy. The revolver-toting cops stormed the house and caught Giri unawares. He was arrested and a revolver and some bombs were recovered from his possession.

Budge Budge police said Netai Mondol and Giri were engaged in a power tussle in the underworld. Giri also bore a grudge against Ghosh as the municipality chairman had, apparently, used his political clout to shut him out of the area.

Police said Giri has several cases pending against him at Budge Budge and Mahestala police stations. Giri will be taken to Budge Budge on Saturday for further interrogation.

Trade strike threat: A traders’ lobby, Federation of West Bengal Trade Associations, on Friday said it would organise a trade bandh for an indefinite period if the state government did not drop its plans to implement the New Tenancy Act, 1997, from August 1.


Calcutta, July 6: 
A girl who failed her Higher Secondary examinations committed suicide by setting herself on fire after the results were declared on Thursday. Jamuna Ghosh, 18, wrote the test at Bijoygarh College as a student of humanities. She had failed in political science.

Jamuna is survived by her widowed mother and four brothers, who live in a rented house at Garfa First Lane. Her mother, Asha, could not hold back her tears on Friday afternoon, as she said: “Jamuna was my only daughter. We loved her very much. Yesterday, when she returned with the results, we found she had failed in political science. But we did not scold her at all. She was very sincere in her studies. She had done well in her Madhyamik, too.”

After returning home, Jamuna had lunch with her family. Then, she, her mother and eldest brother, retired for a siesta, while the others went out on work. Asha recalled: “I was asleep. Suddenly, I heard a thud and saw flames leaping out of the bathroom. At first, I thought a fire had broken out.But soon, I saw Jamuna engulfed in flames. She had taken the petrol my elder son Bapi keeps for his car and poured it on herself.”

Asha’s cries of alarm woke up Bapi. Neighbours rushed in to help. They doused the flames and rushed Jamuna to M.R. Bangur Hospital, where she succumbed to her burns. Usha Bhattacharya, a neighbour, said: “Jamuna was a very pleasant girl who never quarrelled with anyone.” Brother Bapi lamented: “If I had any inkling of what was on her mind, I would not have gone to sleep. We have lost our only sister....”


Calcutta, July 6: 
Operation Lagaan. That’s the joint crackdown being carried out by the enforcement branch (EB) and the Eastern India Motion Pictures Association (EIMPA) to prevent pirated prints of the Aamir Khan blockbuster from being beamed into homes. Acting on a tip-off from EIMPA, the EB has rounded up eight people, including three cable operators, on charges of “video piracy” in the past 48 hours. “All the accused were caught while screening Lagaan or selling VCDs of the film,” said D.N. Biswas, inspector-general, EB.

EIMPA was tipped off on Thursday about Lagaan being screened by a cable operator in Metiabruz. A team of sleuths and Association members stormed the operator’s control room, seized the VCD and arrested him. On Friday, officials raided a shop at Chandni Chowk and arrested two people for selling Lagaan VCDs.

J.K. Agarwal, vice-president, EIMPA, said the producers, hall-owners and the government would incur huge losses if pirated prints of the Bollywood chartbuster were allowed to be screened. “In this operation, speed is of the essence, as the duration of the crime is just three-and-a-half hours. If we reach the spot after the screening of the movie and the VCD is not around, no action can be taken against the culprits,” added Agarwal.

In an extension of the Lagaan drive, five people were arrested from Nabadwip, in Nadia district, for screening the film. “Our members informed us that a video parlour-owner was showing Lagaan. We contacted the EB and left immediately. We reached there with only 15 minutes to spare,” said Agarwal. According to EB officials, raids are being conducted throughout Bengal. A number of VCDs have been seized from Siliguri, Dinhata, Nadia, Bongaon and Khardah, besides Calcutta.

The government had recently issued an order to the police and district magistrates to take stern action against cable operators found violating the provisions of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995. To “speed up the operation”, the EIMPA has offered to instal television sets in every police station of the state. “Now, we have to alert the police about cablewallahs screening a new release. If thanas have TV sets, they can monitor what the cable operators in their area are showing,” explained Agarwal.


Calcutta, July 6: 
Municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya has asked his department secretary to probe the Rs 3-crore Parkomat pay-off deal in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation. Bhattacharya said he will make a statement in the Assembly based on the secretary’s report on July 12. “I will clarify the matter that day,” he added.

The issue involves the interest-free payment of Rs 3 crore to Simplex, the company constructing the multi-level Parkomat on Rawdon Street. The pay-off charge was raised recently by CPM councillor Nirmal Mukherjee, who alleged that by paying the amount to the company, the Trinamul Congress-led civic body had flouted the rules and laws binding the CMC council.

Bhattacharya, too, pointed out that it was wrong on the CMC’s part to pass the resolution giving the money to Simplex without the consent of the council.

Questions have also been raised over the signature of the present civic commissioner, Debashis Som, on a document concerning a meeting held with Simplex and civic officials in April 2000. Asim Barman, and not Som, was civic commissioner during that period. Som joined the CMC in September 2000.

The entire episode is being used by the CPM to point out the corruption present in the Trinamul-BJP combine running the civic body. It will be a year of non-Left rule in the CMC on July 8, when Mayor Subrata Mukherjee is scheduled to hold a grand function, with Bhattacharya present.

The Parkomats were conceived during Prasanta Chatterjee’s tenure as mayor. It was planned that two Parkomats will come up, one on Rawdon Street and the other at Humayun Place, adjacent to New Market.

The CMC had decided that the venture should be profit-making, failing which the CMC would allow Simplex to undertake other commercial ventures on the sites by leasing out space for advertisements and banners.


Calcutta, July 6: 
Two top executives of a chit fund were arrested from Graham’s Land, in the Ranikuthi area, early on Friday for duping customers of several crore of rupees. The arrested persons, identified as R. Silvan and S.R.S. Narayan, are the city operators of a Hyderabad-based chit fund.

Silvan and Narayan had opened an office at Wellington Square two years ago. The office was later shut down. “Later, they opened their present office at Graham’s Land and collected several crore,” officer-in-charge of Jadavpur police station, Salil Bhattacharya, said.

A few days ago, Kalyan Kumar Ghosh, a resident of Shibpur, in Howrah, and 14 others lodged a complaint with Jadavpur police station that they had been duped of about Rs 6 lakh. The chit fund had collected the money from them with promises of high rates of interest. But when no money was refunded within the specified period, they approached the police.

A raid was conducted in the office at Graham’s Land on receiving the complaints and the arrests were made, said Bhattacharya. “A search has been launched for others associated with the chit fund. We are also trying to ascertain how much money they had cheated their customers of,” he added.


Calcutta, July 6: 
Chhota Raju, 25, a close associate of fugitive gangster Rashid Alam, alias Gabbar, was arrested on Friday from a restaurant in Tiljala.

Gabbar has been on the run since the murder of Sanjeev Jhulka, alias Bunty, in June. Detectives said Raju was in touch with Gabbar, sending him money through common friends.

Deputy commissioner of police, south, Ranjit Pachnanda, said detectives had been on Raju’s trail for a long time. “With the force closing in on Gabbar’s associates over the past month, Raju went underground,’’ he said.

Sources said Raju had been out of town but was in touch with another associate on Ripon Street. “We have raided his house several times but the criminal managed to give us the slip,’’ a police officer said. Assuming that investigations had slackened pace, Raju returned on Wednesday. In the meantime, Gabbar was in touch with him on his cellular phone.

With his funds running dry, Gabbar asked Raju to send him money. Detectives said Gabbar gave Raju an address where he wanted the money to be sent through associates Ashraf and Selim. Police said Raju had sent Rs 50,000 to Gabbar in three instalments.

Investigators, quoting Raju, said Gabbar was now in Bihar. Pachnanda said police officers had information that Raju was in a Tiljala restaurant on Friday evening, where he had gone with a friend for biryani. The cops reached the spot and found Raju having his food. He was arrested and brought to Park Street police station. Senior officers later interrogated him.


Calcutta, July 6: 
The CPM state leadership today summoned transport minister Subhas Chakraborty to the party headquarters on Alimuddin Street and reprimanded him over the stadium scandal.

Chakraborty was present at the state secretariat meeting this morning which discussed the arrest of criminals from Salt Lake Stadium on June 26. The CPM also took up the report the minister had submitted on the scandal.

CPM state secretary Anil Biswas told reporters that chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee would have the final say on this issue. But he did not rule out a party inquiry into the issue.

“The CID is investigating the case, let them submit the report. Then we will decide our future course of action,” Biswas said when asked if the party was planning to hold any inquiry into the episode that also involved Chakraborty.

Biswas also skirted a question on whether the minister would lose the sports portfolio. “It is the chief minister who will speak to you on this. But I can’t tell you when and where the chief minister will brief you,” he said.

Chakraborty has been under fire after police rounded up 16 people during a swoop on the Salt Lake Stadium hostel, the sports minister’s fief. Four of them were later arrested and arms and ammunition seized from them.

Sources said senior CPM leaders today asked Chakraborty to establish his claim that a section of party leaders and police officers had conspired against him and organised the raid at the stadium in his absence.

Chakraborty had also pointed at a nexus between sections of the police and the party in his report to the CPM top brass.

Though Biswas refused to say whether the party was satisfied with Chakraborty’s report, it is learnt that most secretariat members did not accept his allegation.

The sports minister, however, sought time from the party leadership, saying he would prove it.

Chakraborty told some of his close associates in the party’s North 24-Parganas district unit that he was satisfied with this morning’s meeting.

“I think most of the secretariat members are convinced that a section of less important district party leaders hatched the conspiracy against me. The party is not going to initiate any action against me immediately,” he told them.

Imphal visit

A team of Left Front MPs, led by CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee, will visit Imphal tomorrow.

CPM politburo member Biman Bose said the team will go to Imphal to make an on-the-spot study on the situation there.

The Left MPs who will visit Imphal are Subodh Roy, Bajuban Riyang, Nikhilananda Sar, Ajoy Chakraborty and Birsingh Mahato, Bose said.


Midnapore, July 6: 
Naxalite activists have taken shelter in Midnapore and Purulia in large numbers over the past few days after being flushed out of neighbouring Jharkhand by crack commando forces of Punjab police.

Four battalions of the commando force have been pressed into service, forcing the Naxalites to take cover in the hilly and forest areas of the two Bengal districts.

Worried about the influx of PWG and MCC men, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee huddled with the superintendents of police of the two districts concerned, the DIG (Midnapore Range), the IG(Western Range), Intelligence Bureau director R.C. Sharma and state police chief D.C. Vajpai at Writers’ Buildings yesterday.

Vajpai and Sharma had been to Midnapore to review the situation.Vajpai admitted to reporters that the problem was really grave.

Yesterday’s meeting came up with some measures to tackle the Naxalite menace, a senior police officer said. It was decided that 15 police outposts on the Jharkhand border— nine in Midnapore and six in Purulia — would be immediately set up to monitor the movement of the extremists.

Three outposts were set up today, including one at the most sensitive Kankrajhore Hills. The rest would come up within a week, the Midnapore superintendent of police said.

The meeting also decided that special mobile teams should keep a vigil on the border with Jharkhand. They would keep tabs on the movements and the hideouts of the extremists.

The police stations on the border would be equipped with more manpower and better infrastructure. A new police station would come up soon at Banspahari as the Naxalites are mostly using the Belpahari-Banspahari Corridor and the existing police outpost at Banspahari is insufficient to deal with this problem.

A proposal for sealing the border with Jharkhand fell through as it covered a vast area of 1,90,000 hectares of jungle areas with Midnapore district alone.

The chief minister also stressed the need for economic uplift of the poor tribals living in these districts. Lack of development and rising unemployment in these hilly and forest areas were the root of all the trouble, he said.

Bhattacharjee agreed that healthcare, drinking water, education and employment generation as four areas that needed to be addressed immediately.

The meeting also stressed on the need for greater political activity in the area. None of the big parties has a presence in the area.

Dahar Sen, a member of the district CPM committee said: “I think that the party should be more active here to win over the confidence of the tribals so that they no longer fall a prey to these extremists.”


Chinsurah (Hooghly), July 6: 
Police used lathicharge and burst teargas shells to disperse a 3,000-strong crowd which attacked them when they went to rescue the gheraoed headmaster of Dakshindihi High School here.

At least six policemen, including the officer-in-charge of Jangipara police station, and 10 others were injured in the clash. The officer, who sustained serious head injuries, has been admitted to Serampore Walsh Hospital.

This morning, students of the high school and their guardians gheraoed the headmaster in protest against last night’s arrest of two students.

According to the police, students had gone to the school yesterday to collect their Higher Secondary marksheets. But they were refused entry as a meeting of the school managing committee was on.

Angry students had then barged into the headmaster’s chamber. This led to an altercation with the committee members. The students withdrew after the headmaster intervened.

However, one of the members lodged a complaint with the police last night, alleging that two students had assaulted him. On the basis of his complaint, Ramesh Ghosh and Rakhi Chakraborty were arrested.

Students and guardians gheraoed the headmaster today for initiating police action against the duo over a “minor issue”.

They also demanded an unconditional apology from the committee member who had filed the case and called for its withdrawal.

According to additional superintendent of police (headquarters) Rahul Srivastav, nearly 50 persons were arrested in connection with today’s incident.

The two arrested students have been released on bail.


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