Mariner wife stabbed in apartment
Bullets fly in battle for woman
CMDA roped in for infotech fillip
Unions demand CU star status report copies
Crouching tiger, hidden hood
Cowsheds back in Dum Dum
Pigeon theft charge sparks bloodbath
Buddha buys time on stadium statement
House uproar on security blanket
Hill wary of language pledge

 
 
MARINER WIFE STABBED IN APARTMENT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 19: 
When the police entered the fourth-floor apartment on Thursday evening, Jyoti Riat was lying on the bedroom floor, blood oozing from multiple stab wounds. It was clear, the police said, that she had just been murdered.

Wife of a merchant navy officer, 38-year-old Jyoti and her 12-year-old daughter lived in their plush Raja Basanta Roy Road apartment, with husband Sudarshan out on the high seas most of the year.

The durwan of the building felt something was amiss when, at around four in the afternoon, Jyoti did not leave home to pick up her daughter from school, as was her practice. Her car was parked in the portico, with her driver at the ready.

“I went up to her apartment and knocked on the door to see if everything was all right,” said the durwan. “But there was no response. It was then that I realised something was wrong. I thought she had fallen ill.”

He went downstairs to the office room and tried to call her over the intercom. There was no response. He then leafed through a security register for the phone numbers of “contact persons” in case of emergencies.

Against the Riats, he found the phone number of Jyoti’s brother-in-law, Surinder Singh Matharoo.

He put through a call immediately and within a short while, Jyoti’s sister arrived with a set of duplicate keys to the apartment.

By this time, Lake police station was also informed and, together, they went up to the apartment and found Jyoti dead.

The following is the sequence of events that the police reconstructed after speaking to neighbours and the building security:

At around noon on Thursday, Jyoti’s 24-year-old nephew, Gautam, visited her.

This is entered in the log book, which all visitors are required to fill in. They were together for some time, after which they left the apartment and went out for a walk.

Neighbours who saw them said they found Jyoti talking “very animatedly”. Gautam also appeared “ agitated”, the police said. After some time, they returned to the apartment and, according to records with the building security, Gautam left at around 2.30 pm.

The police are now recording Gautam’s version of events to get a clearer picture of what happened on Thursday afternoon. The police are also investigating if anyone else entered the apartment once Gautam had left the building. “All aspects of the murder will be thoroughly examined,” a police official said.

Jyoti’s daughter, not finding her mother at school, came home with some friends but was whisked away by neighbours to another apartment. Efforts are on to contact Sudarshan Riat, who is said to be in Hong Kong.

   

 
 
BULLETS FLY IN BATTLE FOR WOMAN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 19: 
Jealous over his friend’s fondness for a woman he liked, 23-year-old Manoj Sau tried to kill Gopal Das by shooting him with an improvised revolver a little after midnight on Tuesday. The victim is now in hospital, fighting for his life

The police were quick to net the assailant. A team from Bhowanipore police station swooped down on Sau’s hideout at Ladies Park, in central Calcutta, on Thursday. He was arrested and a revolver and a few rounds of ammunition were seized. A senior police officer said investigations revealed that Sau, a trader, had fired two rounds at Das, who is a year his junior and also a trader. Das and the 34-year-old woman were sleeping after a bout of drinking in the two-room apartment at 43/1/1, Chakraberia Lane, in south Calcutta.

The door was not locked and Sau pushed it open. Finding them together, he fired at Das. The bullets caught him on the shoulder and arm. Sau escaped, leaving Das bleeding. The woman was petrified. Neighbours and the police had to take Das to SSKM Hospital, where his condition was stated to be critical on Thursday.

Inquiries have revealed that Das and Sau were close friends and knew each other for a long time. The woman was a common friend. Over time, Sau developed a fondness for the woman.

Police questioned Das and Sau’s friends to find that the woman had politely rejected his overtures a number of times. The woman, who lived alone, was, however, was “extremely fond’’ of Das.

The official quoted neighbours as saying that “she drank a lot with Das in the evenings.” Das had recently made inquiries about a plot at Oriyapara, a neighbouring locality. Sau, too, was interested in the same property and a dispute arose between the two.

Two days earlier, Das and Sau had a bitter argument in the evening over the woman and the plot. Both left, threatening each other. Later in the night, Das allegedly fired at Sau, while he was walking along Chakraberia Lane.

The bullet missed and Das escaped. Sau swore revenge and waited till Wednesday to strike. He also lodged a complaint at the police station.

The police are questioning the woman to get to the bottom of the case. “We expect her to reveal more details. We have registered cases against both Sau and Das,’’ the official said. Sau was produced in court and remanded in police custody.

   

 
 
CMDA ROPED IN FOR INFOTECH FILLIP 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, July 19: 
Bricks for the click industry; the role of e-governance; computer classes for legislators — information technology took centrestage in the Assembly on Thursday.

IT minister Manab Mukherjee announced the government’s decision to rope in the CMDA to create “requisite infrastructure” for knowledge-based companies queuing up to set up shop in the city, following a space jam in Sector V of Salt Lake.

“From now on, besides Webel, the state’s nodal IT agency, the CMDA will also develop infrastructure for the industry on its own land,” said Mukherjee.

This move comes in the wake of a recent meeting between the IT minister and urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya. It has been decided that special IT infrastructure will be created on vacant CMDA plots along the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass and at some other prime locations in town.

The government has also decided to develop “four major IT parks” in Bengal. The parks will come up in Salt Lake, Nonadanga, Rajarhat and Durgapur.

“We are receiving a steady stream of applications from various companies seeking suitable land to set up IT-based industries. To provide them with quality infrastructure, we need plots where government agencies can create state-of-the-art facilities,’’ said a senior official in the IT department. “As the CMDA has the experience of implementing various urban development projects, it will be entrusted with the task of developing IT infrastructure with the help of experts.”

In the Assembly, Mukherjee made it clear that the government will now place “special emphasis” on IT infrastructure and education. He informed the House that “computer education has been introduced in 100 schools” and IT education would soon spread to “all schools in the state”.

Referring to the grand e-governance plan, the minister promised that “all district headquarters and sub-divisions” will be connected by a state-wide network by the end of this year, to improve speed and efficiency.

Claiming that talks with Microsoft had entered the last lap, Mukherjee said: “Representatives of Microsoft will soon be here to sign the MoU.” But he refused to comment on the exact role of Microsoft in the state’s pursuit of the IT dream. “Let the MoU be signed, I shall tell you in which field they will be involved and to what extent,’’ was all that he said.

Computers for MLAs: Earlier, Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim set the tone by announcing the government’s decision to run computer-training programme for legislators. This was in response to Congress legislator Saugata Roy’s demand that each MLA be provided with a computer.

“Before getting a computer, all members should know how to operate one,” observed Halim. “After the session, I shall arrange a computer training programme for legislators,’’ he added.

Responding to Roy’s demand, Mukherjee said the government was “open to the idea” of providing computers to legislators. “But a concrete proposal will have to be placed before the government and details of the fund requirement worked out,” he added.

   

 
 
UNIONS DEMAND CU STAR STATUS REPORT COPIES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 19: 
Transparency is the new buzzword on the Calcutta University campus, with students’ and teachers’ unions demanding that the National Assessment Accreditation Committee (NAAC) report be made public. On Thursday, they threatened to launch an agitation unless copies of the report — on the basis of which the university was granted five-star status — was distributed.

“It’s strange that the authorities have refused to disclose the findings of the report, although the other universities in Bengal — Burdwan, North Bengal and Kalyani — have officially released the reports to teachers and students, despite being granted three or four-star status,” said a CU student.

Ram Prahlad Choudhury, leader of the SFI-dominated students’ union, said he had urged vice-chancellor Ashis Kumar Banerjee to take “immediate steps to make the report public.

Teachers, too, are keen to “study” the report. “We have heard that the NAAC has praised the performance of some of the departments, like radio-physics and chemical engineering, while also focusing on some of our lapses. The NAAC has given its opinions on the university so we can learn from them, not keep them locked in a cupboard,” said a member of the Rajabazar Science College faculty.

Swapan Pramanik, leader of the CPM-dominated Calcutta University Teachers’ Union, said: “We have managed to obtain a copy of the report. If the authorities continue to sit on the report, we will xerox this copy and distribute it among students and teachers.”

Vice-chancellor Banerjee, however, claimed that “copies of the report” had been given to each member of the university’s syndicate body” and so most teachers knew exactly what the report contained.

   

 
 
CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN HOOD 
 
 
BY BAPPA MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, July 19: 
A karate black belt, who runs several martial art schools in the city, has been arrested for masterminding a “fake passport racket.” His is the sixth arrest since June 21 in this multi-crore international racket. Shahnaz Mustafi was caught red-handed at Calcutta airport while trying to pass off two Bangladeshis as members of his family. Superintendent of police (airport) O.P. Gupta told Metro: “Mustafi seems to be one of the key members of this racket, in which genuine passport-holders act as ‘carriers’ and help unauthorised persons sneak out of the country. He is now in Central Jail, along with the woman he was trying to sneak out.”

Investigations conducted by the airport police and security control revealed that Mustafi, who regularly travelled to countries like Poland, Austria, China and Australia for karate tournaments, escorted people with forged passports to their respective destinations for a fee of Rs 4 to 5 lakh per person. He has been charged with cheating and conspiracy, and the Bangladeshis were booked for unauthorised entry into India and travelling with fake passports to a foreign country.

On July 11 this year, Farhana Choudhury, 29, and her six-year-old son, Asif, arrived in the city from Bangladesh. She headed straight for a narrow lane in Karim Bux Lane, where Mustafi was waiting for her. Although the Australian authorities had turned down Farhana’s requests for visas in the past, she was determined to join her husband, Mohammad Hilal, Down Under.

Mustafi arrived at the airport with his clients on the appointed date to board a Singapore Airlines flight (SQ-415).

The passenger list showed the name of Shahnaz Mustafi, travelling with wife Nasim Mustafi and son Asif Mustafi. “Don’t forget your name is Nasim Mustafi for the next few hours,” Mustafi, reminded Farhana repeatedly, while she nodded affirmation.

Immigration officials turned suspicious when they found Nasim speaking in Bengali, but with a strong Bangladeshi accent. “They also recognised Mustafi, as he was a frequent flier. One officer remembered him escorting another woman as his wife,” a senior official at the airport police station said.

The trio was whisked away to the airport police station, where Mustafi was grilled. During interrogation, he revealed details of the racket and also the names of the persons involved in several states of India and in Bangladesh.

In an earlier incident on June 21, the airport police rounded up a man named Gautam Banerjee for escorting three Gujarati woman to Canada. Banerjee holds a master’s degree in bio-chemistry.

“Banerjee was using his wife and children’s passport to sneak his clients out of the country,” said the officer connected with the probe.

   

 
 
COWSHEDS BACK IN DUM DUM 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 19: 
The cattle have returned and the khatals (cowsheds) are back in business. About 23,000 cattle which had been removed from the khatals in Dum Dum about two years ago, have returned to the area. Helpless at the invasion, the South Dum Dum municipality has approached the North 24-Parganas district administration to undertake another eviction drive.

In 1999, the animal husbandry department, the municipality and the district police, in a joint raid, had evicted the cattle from about 500 khatals on Dum Dum Road. Two years on, they have reappeared, ignoring the municipality’s plea to vacate the area.

There are a number of two-storeyed khatals in the area, in which thousands of cattle are housed.

A municipality official said most of the evicted khatal-owners had shifted to Bally, in Howrah, and the panchayat areas in Rajarhat, after being removed from Dum Dum Road. But they came back in April-May, when the state administration was busy with the Assembly polls.

Most of the khatals are located on either side of Dum Dum Road, near Bagjola canal, and in Dakshindari, Golaghat, Bangur Avenue and Dum Dum Park. The municipality had earlier received complaints from local residents against the khatal-owners.

The canal is choked with waste dumped by the khatal-owners and the stagnant water has become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. This exposes about 200,000 people in the area to diseases like malaria, the residents alleged.

The commissioners of ward 14, 15, 22 and 30 have been urged by the municipality to mobilise opinion against the khatals. “We want people’s support in evicting these cowsheds from the densely-populated areas,” said Sreehir Bhattacharjee, chairman of the municipality. “We have no authority to evict them. The animal husbandry department will have to take the initiative. We have written to the district magistrate on July 9 in this regard,” he added.

Chairman-in-council (conservancy and public health) of the municipality Atin Roy said the local residents had submitted a memorandum to the municipality, asking the authorities to evict the khatals. “Though it is not our duty to remove cattle from the sheds, we will co-operate with the district administration once they launch a drive,” he added.

   

 
 
PIGEON THEFT CHARGE SPARKS BLOODBATH 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 19: 
Baruipur witnessed a bloodbath on Thursday over some missing pigeons. Two youth lost their lives — one was stabbed to death with a screwdriver and the other was lynched.

The gory incident has created tension in the area, 10 km south of Garia, in South 24-Parganas. The local market remained closed all day.

The incident occurred around noon. Habu Ben Mondal, 22, was chatting at a tea stall in Suryapur-Keyatala market when Ghiasuddin, his neighbour, came along. Mondal accused him of stealing his nephew Rafiuddin’s pigeons. Ghiasuddin refuted the charge.

According to Badal Mondal, a witness, it all happened within minutes. “At first they were arguing in a low voice. Suddenly, Ghiasuddin brought out a screwdriver and drove it into Mondal’s abdomen.” Mondal collapsed, screaming in pain.

The wounded man was taken to the sub-divisional hospital by others present at the tea stall. He succumbed to his injury on being admitted to the hospital.

As soon as the news spread, Mondal’s friends caught hold of Ghiasuddin and started to beat him up with iron rods and wooden planks. They left him writhing in pain.

On receiving the information, a team from Baruipur police station reached the spot and took Ghiasuddin to the same hospital, where he was pronounced brought dead.

Later, district superintendent of police Deb Kumar Ganguly said: “Both Mondal and Ghiasuddin had criminal backgrounds. They were wanted in various cases, including drug peddling and snatching.” A police picket has been posted in the area.

   

 
 
BUDDHA BUYS TIME ON STADIUM STATEMENT 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, July 19: 
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today said he would make a statement on the Salt Lake stadium issue only after the CID completed its investigation.

Replying to a debate on the police budget in the Assembly, Bhattacharjee, who also oversees the police department, said he had instructed the CID to arrest two more persons without whom investigation will be incomplete.

“I will not divulge anything now in the interest of the CID probe. But I promise you that I will not hide anything. I will disclose everything,” he said.

Responding to interruptions by Trinamul MLAs, Tapas Roy and Sonali Guha, Bhattacharjee said he had also received a report on the stadium issue from sports and transport minister Subhas Chakraborty but would not make any statement on it for the sake of the CID investigation.

Roy and Guha had argued that the report submitted to him by Chakraborty was the property of the House and it should be made public. Chakraborty was present in the House along with Bhattacharjee during the debate.

Bhattacharjee agreed with Trinamul MLA Sougata Roy’s observation that there was an immediate need to set up a police headquarters in north Bengal to combat the growing presence of terrorists and insurgents in the area.

“We are trying to develop and increase our intelligence network in the area and we know that the Ulfa and the KLO are jointly attending training programmes in Bhutan. But I refuse to believe that Bengal has become a haven for militants comparable to Punjab, Delhi, Hyderabad and Coimbatore,” Bhattacharjee said.

But there was no need to undermine the police, he said, adding that 52 ISI activists and 110 members of insurgent groups like the Ulfa and KLO had been arrested by the police over the past one year. “We also arrested those who were running away with vital information from the rocket launching centre at Chandipur in Orissa,” he added.

Countering the Opposition’s charges, Bhattacharjee said it was not true that police officials were loyal to the ruling party. “But it is a fact that crimes are being committed and there is no room for complacency,” he added.

Admitting that the Rs 1,009-crore police budget was higher this year in keeping with the rate of inflation, Bhattacharjee said the department’s infrastructure was way behind requirement, particularly in rural areas.

“However, we are going in for modernisation of the force within our limited means. We will soon build a computer network connecting all police stations in Calcutta and Salt Lake. Also, we have given the responsibility of recruiting police personnel above a constable’s rank to the Public Service Commission,” he added.

Bhattacharjee also invited the Opposition to come and discuss ways to put an end to political violence in the state. Referring to leader of Opposition and Trinamul MLA Pankaj Banerjee’s charge that 11,000 people were homeless, the chief minister urged him to submit a list by Monday.

“According to our estimate, there are only 300 people who were rendered homeless. But as you claim that there are 11,000 people, please give me a complete list, I will see to it that they return to their villages safely,” Bhattacharjee said. “I am determined to end political violence and please come forward and help me.”

   

 
 
HOUSE UPROAR ON SECURITY BLANKET 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 19: 
The Trinamul Congress today charged Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim with having a “Hitler-like attitude” and blasted him for throwing a security blanket on the House during the no-confidence motion against him.

The motion, moved jointly by Trinamul and the Congress, was defeated 61-166.

Trouble erupted when Trinamul MLA Sougata Roy stood up to move the motion. The RSP’s Tapan Hore intervened and questioned the validity of the motion.

Roy said the Speaker was not giving any importance to the Opposition. “Whenever we demand any discussion, debate or statement from any minister, he dismisses it. Even if we raise a hand to speak something, he ignores it,” he said.

“The Speaker’s attitude is like Hitler’s,” Roy added.

He hit out at Halim for the beefed-up security in the House. “Halim has deployed plainclothesmen inside the House in the name of security. Are we criminals, thieves or dacoits that police have to be posted in the House?” Roy asked.

The Trinamul leader wondered whether Halim had anything to hide. “Why have you become Speaker if you are so afraid?” he asked.

Leader of Opposition Pankaj Banerjee echoed his party colleague and alleged that whatever Halim was doing was politically motivated. He said that Halim was involved in political activities and had recently gone to his party office to take part in a meeting, which was a gross violation of House rules.

Left leaders countered the charge and dismissed the allegations against the Speaker. Parliamentary affairs minister Prabodh Sinha said West Bengal was the only state where the government gave the Opposition both honour and importance.

Raising his finger towards the Opposition benches, he said: “What do you do in the House? You raise slogans, create violence, unleash terror and damage furniture. Are all those as per rules?”

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, speaking against the motion, said nobody should dare question Halim’s democratic values and efficiency in running the House. Bhattacharjee said the Speaker was compelled to deploy security in the House because of the Opposition’s past behaviour.

“You have physically assaulted the Governor, the leader of Opposition himself snatched the microphone from the Speaker and unleashed terror. It is our duty to provide security to the Speaker and the Governor,” the chief minister said.

“You behave properly, restore normality in the House and avoid any violence, then no securityman will be needed in the House,’’ he told the Opposition.

   

 
 
HILL WARY OF LANGUAGE PLEDGE 
 
 
FROM PROBIR PRAMANIK
 
Siliguri, July 19: 
Nepali leaders are cautious about chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s assurance that candidates from the community appearing for the public service examinations will be exempt from the compulsory Bengali paper.

An eight-member delegation from the Nepali community had met Bhattacharjee during his recent visit to Siliguri. The representatives were reportedly told that Bengali, as a compulsory subject for the state PSC exams, would not apply to candidates in the three hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong.

The Cabinet decision last month to make Bengali a compulsory subject for the public service examinations had triggered howls of protest from the Nepali-speaking people in the Darjeeling hills.

“The chief minister assured us that Nepali linguistic candidates from anywhere in the state will be exempt from sitting for the compulsory Bengali subject in the state public service commission examinations. They will given an option,” said a member of the delegation.

“However, though we are pleased with the pledge, we would like to see the assurance in black and white,” he added.

The chief minister, blaming the media for misrepresentation of the issue that had fuelled the row, reportedly told the Nepali leaders that the government would maintain Nepali as the official language along with Bengali for the three hill subdivisions.

Convener of the Sahitya Academy’s Nepali Advisory Board R.P. Lama requested the government to safeguard the Nepali minority culture. “It would be a serious setback for the Nepali-speaking people of Bengal if the government went ahead with its decision to make Bengali compulsory in the public service commission examinations. But we welcome the clarification of the chief minister and would like to see the same formalised soon,” Lama said.

   
 

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