Signals of fear, shroud of silence
Buddha pins faith on 5-man rescue force
Gun shadow over B-brigade
Racket in skeletons, skulls busted
After the shock, the endless wait
No more dry taps in two years
A way with languages
Cure for corneal ulcers developed
Khadim ballast for Mamata
Gridco card to tackle NTPC

 
 
SIGNALS OF FEAR, SHROUD OF SILENCE 
 
 
BY BAPPA MAJUMDAR AND PRONAB MONDAL
 
Calcutta, July 26: 
Was it a case of nervousness and fright, or was Parthapratim Roy Burman’s driver deliberately misleading the police during the several hours of his interrogation?

Initially, on Wednesday, while sifting through the few clues that the kidnappers of the shoe magnate left behind, the police were willing to give Naba Kumar Mondal the benefit of the doubt. But as the night proceeded, his arrest, they said, became inevitable.

Interrogators said Mondal’s replies were not that of a person “in a daze”, but of a person who seemed nervous about revealing the whole truth. “We are not saying he is guilty or involved in the crime,” an officer warned. “All we are saying is that he was not blabbering in a state of panic. He was cool and composed and only after sustained interrogation did the inconsistencies surface.”

Mondal was not Roy Burman’s regular driver. He was a security guard who doubled as a driver on the day of the kidnapping. Neither was the Tata Safari, from which Roy Burman abducted, the shoe magnate’s regular car.

His was an Opel Astra, which had to be rushed to a garage for minor repairs. Mondal told the police the air-conditioner of the car was faulty. The police checked on Thursday and found the car had been sent to the garage, but its airconditioner was in perfect order. It was the air-conditioner of the Tata Safari that was malfunctioning.

Among the other inconsistencies the police found are:

Mondal said the abductors used two cars, not one. He said there had been a white Maruti waiting near the Khadim’s warehouse, while another emerged from a bylane and the occupants of both cars carried out the kidnapping. But none of the other witnesses examined by the police corroborate this. They all said they had seen only one Maruti 800 on the scene of the crime.

Mondal insisted that Roy Burman had been driven away in a Maruti van. But it later became evident that it was a Maruti car that had been used.

“We lost time because of this,” an officer said. “We sent out search parties to look for a white Maruti van and did not even check the Maruti 800s.”

Immediately after the incident, despite the urgings of bystanders to rush to the nearby Tiljala thana and inform the police, Mondal decided to take a taxi to the Salt Lake residence of the Roy Burmans. Only mid-way did he decide to stop at the Paroma police outpost and report the kidnapping.

Mondal insisted that the crime took place at 11 am. It occurred half an hour later, by all accounts.

Mondal said all the doors of the car were locked. Then, how did the abductors get Roy Burman out of the back door without breaking the glass of the window and unlocking the door, ask the police.

   

 
 
BUDDHA PINS FAITH ON 5-MAN RESCUE FORCE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 26: 
“It (the kidnapping) is a stray incident. I think it will be unwise for us to use it to judge the overall law-and-order situation in Bengal.” With these words, spoken in the Assembly on Thursday, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee tried to stop the Opposition from blowing the “shocking” abduction of Parthapratim Roy Burman out of proportion.

“We are extremely concerned We have put the administration of all districts and the bordering states on the alert... I want to assure the House in no uncertain terms that all possible steps will be taken to rescue the man,” the chief minister added.

Bhattacharjee was quick to announce the formation of a five-member committee to track down the shoe magnate. The team has been asked to find out whether the abductors had been helped by “some local residents”, whether Parthapratim had fallen victim to some business rivalry or family feud, and how the abductors could lie in ambush for nearly three hours without attracting attention, he said.

Led by Prasun Mukherjee, inspector-general (South Bengal), the committee includes Goutam Chakraborty, deputy inspector-general (Presidency range), V.V. Thambi, deputy inspector-general, criminal investigation department, Banibrata Bose, deputy commissioner of police (detective department), and Deb Kumar Ganguly, police superintendent, South 24-Parganas.

The team visited the Tiljala spot where Khadim’s vice-chairman had been attacked and abducted on Wednesday. The crime was reconstructed with the help of eyewitnesses.

When the Assembly convened on Thursday morning, the Opposition mounted an attack on the government. Sonali Guha of the Trinamul and M. Haque of the Congress moved separate adjournment motions, demanding a full discussion on the abduction.

When Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim rejected the motions, several legislators sprang to their feet, chanting anti-government slogans. Tapas Roy and Jyotipriya Mullick accused the Left Front of having failed to provide security to the city’s business community.

“If this is the state of law and order in Bengal, will investors feel safe here?” demanded Roy. Expressing fear at the fate of Roy Burman, he added: “Is there any way you can tell us if he is unharmed?”

At this point, the chief minister informed the Speaker that he wished to comment on the matter, for the knowledge of the House. Bhattacharjee then proceeded to go over the details of the abduction. He produced an action taken report, which highlighted the arrest of Parthapratim’s driver, Naba Kumar Mondal, and explained the steps taken to apprehend the culprits. Asking the Opposition not to press the panic button, the chief minister said he was “hopeful” that the abductors of Roy Burman would be apprehended before long, as the police had managed to crack almost all recent kidnapping cases in the state.

   

 
 
GUN SHADOW OVER B-BRIGADE 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, July 26: 
State commerce and industry minister Nirupam Sen said on Thursday that the abduction of Khadim’s vice-chairman Parthapratim Roy Burman would have no adverse impact on business or investment in West Bengal.

“Just as film stars didn’t desert Bollywood to flock to Tollywood after Gulshan Kumar’s murder, just as Maharashtra-based industrialists didn’t leave en masse for Gujarat after Datta Samant’s murder or, for that matter, just as Delhiites won’t run away from the capital after Phoolan Devi’s murder a hundred yards from Parliament, there’s no reason to believe that Roy Burman’s abduction will lead to any crisis in Bengal’s industry,” said the minister, who was in Midnapore to lay the foundation stone of the Zilla Parishad Bhavan.

The incident was an “isolated one”, and the police had taken up the case seriously. The culprits would be arrested soon and Roy Burman would be freed unharmed, Sen hoped.

Industrialists, however, were not so sure. “The news is extremely shocking,” said Indian Chamber of Commerce president C.K. Dhanuka. “This incident will send wrong signals to the investor,” he felt. The government should beef up patrolling to prevent a recurrence of such incidents, he added.

Many in trade and business circles feel Wednesday’s incident has come as a major blow to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s efforts to woo investors to Bengal. Aditya Khaitan, youngest son of B.M. Khaitan, said: “It appears that anybody can be kidnapped from anywhere in broad daylight.”

But industrialist S.K. Todi was not as pessimistic. “Abduction of businessmen has become an industry in itself in Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad,” he said. “Often, people don’t even go to the police, preferring to buy peace instead.”

The situation in Calcutta, he felt, was not that bad yet. “If industry can thrive there, I don’t see why we should press the panic button here,” Todi said.

Roopen Roy, executive director, PricewaterhouseCoopers, said: “This is the second such high-profile kidnapping in the city after S.B. Ganguly. Police and CID must do something soon to rescue him. I think it’s the handiwork of some local goons.”

A former president of the Indian Chamber of Commerce said: “It’s a pointer to the uncertain times that have seen such incidents rise in this city, even as the situation has improved in other cities.”

CPM state secretary Anil Biswas doesn’t feel the abduction will hamper growth of industry in the state or send wrong signals to investors. Describing the incident as “unfortunate”, Biswas said the chief minister himself has taken a keen interest in the case. “This is an isolated case and the police are trying hard to nab the miscreants,” he added. Bhattacharjee is likely to brief the party on the incident during the CPM state secretariat meeting on Friday.

The party, which is happy with the way police handled similar cases in the past, hoped Roy Burman would return home “safe and sound”.

   

 
 
RACKET IN SKELETONS, SKULLS BUSTED 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, July 26: 
A skeleton scam has been unearthed in the heart of the city. The civic health department raided the premises of 4A, Dihi Srirampur Road, in the Beniapukur area, on Thursday afternoon, and busted a racket in human skeletons and skulls.

Working on a tip-off, member, mayor-in-council (health), Javed Ahmed Khan, along with deputy chief municipal health official R.N. Sanyal and borough chairman Debasish Kumar, were startled to see “a huge pile of anatomical specimens, including several skeletons and hundreds of skulls”, which were seized by the police.

Vinesh Aroon, owner of Young Brothers, engaged in “exporting anatomical models”, was taken into custody after he failed to produce a valid trade licence or explain the procurement of the skeletons and skulls. Aroon claimed the anatomical specimens were “leftovers” of old stocks, rotting on the premises since the Centre banned their export.

But the inspection by civic offi cials on Thursday revealed a flourishing business of skulls and skeletons, which were piled up in the workshop, spread out on rooftops or wrapped in old saris and packed into plastic bags.

“These were all stolen from graveyards,” said Javed Khan. According to a ‘price list’ seized by the cops, a male or female skeleton would fetch Rs 8,000 and the skeleton of a child Rs 9,500. A human skull would fetch Rs 3,000 and a foetal skull for Rs 1,300. Neighbours alleged they were “never allowed” on to the premises. Aroon told people he was a medical bookseller and several students would frequent his firm. But the “nauseating stench” that would often rise from the premises alerted neighbours.

   

 
 
AFTER THE SHOCK, THE ENDLESS WAIT 
 
 
BY MITA MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, July 26: 
Time has stood still at the Salt Lake residence of the Roy Burmans ever since news of Parthapratim’s abduction broke on Wednesday afternoon. It’s now a seemingly endless wait by the phone for family and friends — either for the ransom call or for word about the whereabouts of Khadim’s vice-chairman.

Seven-year-old Rishika, youngest among Parthapratim’s three daughters, had not been informed about the abduction till Thursday morning. But on Thursday, every time the phone rang at their BH Block residence, she was the first to react, hoping for “some positive news” about her father. Parthapratim’s eldest daughter, who studies in Ajmer, had not been informed about the abduction till late on Thursday.

The two other residences of the Roy Burmans in Salt Lake — the family shifted four years ago from their ancestral home in Bangur — were also shrouded in silence. At their EC Block house, Parthapratim’s parents, 63-year-old father S.P. Roy Burman, who is chairman of Khadim’s, and mother Namita shut out the world in their hours of anxious anticipation. “The kidnap has come as a such a shock to them... Baba is extremely unwell,” said Siddhartha Roy Burman, younger brother of Parthapratim, who also lives in BH Block. “We had to call in the doctor after he (S.P. Roy Burman) complained of uneasiness. He has been advised complete bed-rest by the family physician,” a relative added.

But this did not stop the patriarch of the Khadim’s family from calling up chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to inquire about the investigations. He also requested Bhattacharjee to take “all necessary measures” to ensure that his son returned home safely. “The chief minister assured him that all possible steps were being taken to ensure Parthapratim’s safe return,” a member of the family said.

The telephones at all three Roy Burman homes rang incessantly as relatives, friends and business associates from various parts of the country were anxious to find out what was happening. Senior government officials and police officers, too, called frequently.

“The close-knit family is numb with shock... No one can still believe that such a thing has happened to Bapi (Parthapratim). There is nothing we can do but wait. And hope for the best,” a distraught family friend said.

A police cordon was thrown around every residence and entry of outsiders was restricted. A large number of onlookers gathered in front of the houses since the morning, curious to know the latest developments in the kidnapping case that has shocked Calcutta.

   

 
 
NO MORE DRY TAPS IN TWO YEARS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 26: 
The water crisis in the city will be resolved in a couple of years. On Thursday in the Assembly, urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya promised to provide enough drinking water to the city within two years. A mega Rs 1,260-crore water project for greater Calcutta will solve the long-term crisis in several areas, the minister said, adding that the shortage of supply was due to low pressure in the pipeline. All the municipal towns up to Bansberia in Hooghly, Kalyani in Nadia and Amtala in South 24-Parganas, will be included in the project.

Raising the issue in the Assembly, Trinamul Congress MLA Saugata Roy wanted to know the steps being taken by the government in this matter. Bhattacharya replied that an additional 100 million gallons a day would be available from the Garden Reach plant within two years. Construction of reservoirs at Ranikuthi, Garfa, Bansdroni, Maheshtala and Bagmari will be completed by the same time.

“Another 40-million-gallon-a-day treatment plant will be constructed at Palta. An underground pipeline from Palta to Tala and from Garden Reach to Behala will be laid. All the projects will be completed in two years,’’ Bhattacharya said. At present, deep tubewells yield nearly 70 million gallons a day. “Once the quantity is increased, deep tubewells will be removed from the city,” he added.

The French government is helping restore the old underground pipeline. “Several other steps have also been initiated to minimise the leaks and reduce waste. The situation will be monitored through computers,” he said.

   

 
 
A WAY WITH LANGUAGES 
 
 
BY SHOVONA MUKHERJI
 
Calcutta, July 26: 
Sudhir Dutta was in a real bind. He had a document in Swahili that needed immediate translation into English. Not a soul he knew in Calcutta could help him with the task. Just as he was about to lose heart, Dutta found the Mono Translation Bureau (MTB).

In one week, he had the perfectly-translated English document in hand.

The woman who made it possible — Malobika Choudhuri, who runs “eastern India’s first translation bureau”. Established on June 3, 1989, the bureau, at 22, Jatin Das Road, is named after Malobika’s late maternal grandfather, Dr Monoranjan Sengupta. “Mono also signifies that the bureau is one of a kind here, and that the entire show is run alone by me,” says Malobika.

Today, MTB finds a place in Max Mueller Bhavan’s list and the Directory of Translators (published by the Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages, Hyderabad). It offers transliteration, crash courses in a host of foreign and Indian languages, voice-overs and subtitles for foreign films, in addition to translation and interpretation.

Malobika has worked hard to put a team of linguists together, which has set “high standards in accuracy and punctuality”. At present, there are about 50 on the panel — covering a wide spectrum of languages, ranging from French and German (handled by Malobika) to Japanese, Finnish, Dutch, Danish, Spanish, Armenian, Czech, Korean, Swahili, Luchai and other tribal languages. “The bureau offers to do field work in any regional or international language,” says Malobika, who is helped by mother Aruna Choudhuri and sister Malosree Sanyal (“they are a tremendous source of support”) in poetry translations.

The bureau has translated many a literary text. One such project was translating Tagore for the Hospice Organisation of the US, which works with mentally-challenged children. Malobika herself had earned kudos from William Radice for her translation of Satyajit Ray’s Class Friend.

Though the bulk of the work is commercial, legal or technical in nature, it is by no means uninteresting. In 1994, a bank asked the MTB to check 10 cartons of German currency. A German who fled his native country after World War II had taken up residence in Berhampore district. After his death, his grandson claimed a million Marks from the bank. Malobika realised that the currency had been devalued. Still, she was overawed by the bottle-green notes bearing Kaiser William’s portrait. “I couldn’t believe I was holding history in my hands,” she recounts.

Malobika’s romance with languages, which began as a hobby in Loreto College, has now become her profession and passion. She plans to expand her bureau on foreign soil soon. Her ever-growing catalogue of languages and the success of MTB justify her claim that she is “ready to take on any language in the world head-on”.

   

 
 
CURE FOR CORNEAL ULCERS DEVELOPED 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 26: 
The Regional Institute of Ophthalmology, Calcutta, has developed an eyedrop that can revolutionise treatment of corneal ulcers caused by fungal infection (fungal keratitis).

The medication, once it hits the market, will benefit up to four lakh people every year by preventing pain, blindness or even the need to extract the eyeball to prevent an infection from spreading.

“There are three fungal agents that cause corneal ulcers, the most common of which is aspergillus. In eastern India, up to 50 per cent of corneal ulcers are caused by fungal infections,” said Pankaj Agarwal, consultant ophthalmologist at the RIO, who had taken initiative in developing the eyedrop.

The disease occurs after foreign particles enter the eye. Though farmers and villagers are more susceptible, it is common among post-operative eye patients recovering in hospitals. “The symptoms are pain, photophobia, a vascular condition causing redness of the eyeball, pus formation in the ante-chamber of the eye, and ulceration of the cornea.”

Although there are drops for the treatment of ulcers caused by bacteria, the three types available for fungal infections “had a very narrow application and often did not work among some patients”, RIO director Prof. A.R. Banerjee said. “Now, with the development of eyedrops containing one per cent itraconazole, there has been a breakthrough in the treatment of corneal ulcers. The response among 80 per cent of the 54 patients in our study has been very good, with total cure reported in most cases,” he added.

This is the first time RIO has come out with a significant and innovative finding in eye treatment.

   

 
 
KHADIM BALLAST FOR MAMATA 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Nanoor (Birbhum), July 26: 
When Mamata Banerjee addresses her public rally here tomorrow, she will highlight the daylight abduction of Khadim’s owner from Calcutta on Wednesday as yet another example of the CPM-led government’s “dismal performance on the law and order front”.

The Trinamul leader discussed the issue with her associates at a closed-door meeting in Calcutta this evening before leaving for Basapara near here to inaugurate a “Martyrs’ Column” and address a local rally tomorrow afternoon.

Local Trinamul workers have raised the “Martyrs’ Column” on a piece of PWD land in memory of 11 party supporters who were massacred by CPM cadre at Suchpur on July 27 last year.

Sources said Mamata intends to target chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who also holds the home portfolio, for “his complete failure to maintain law and order in Calcutta as well as rural Bengal and continuation of the CPM’s post-election terror”. She was accompanied by Trinamul general secretaries, Gautam Basu and Madan Mitra, and a host of party functionaries.

PWD officials here today issued a notice to Trinamul workers for shifting the “Martyrs’ Column” to some other place as “it has been built illegally”. Shyamal Pratihar, assistant engineer, PWD, Bolpur sub-division, who visited the site, said he was convinced that the structure had been raised on PWD land.

“I have issued a notice to the local Trinamul leader to remove the structure, but have not specified any time frame for this purpose,” he said.

Abdul Karim, secretary of the Thupsara village committee of Trinamul, however, denied having received any such notice from the PWD.

“We had received necessary permission from local gram panchayat pradhan Badre Alam for constructing the Martyrs’ Column. We have completed the work and there is no question of shifting it elsewhere,” he said.

   

 
 
GRIDCO CARD TO TACKLE NTPC 
 
 
BY SUTANUKA GHOSAL
 
Calcutta, July 26: 
In a bid to insulate the state from the “whims and fancies” of the National Thermal Power Corporation, the West Bengal government has decided to buy 200 mw of power from Gridco for five hours in the evening peak period at a higher price. The exercise will help the state to put a check on frequent power cuts in the evenings.

Power minister Mrinal Banerjee said: “The talks are on. Nothing has been finalised as yet.” However, the government will keep on buying 350 mw of power from NTPC as usual.

Sources in the power department said the government will pay more than Rs 3 per unit to Gridco. The government will also sell 100 mw power to Gridco during the off-peak period, which will enable the state’s thermal power plants to maintain the plant load factor.

The arrangement with Gridco is expected to be in place from August, sources said. The West Bengal government has already started exporting 160 mw of power to Power Trading Corporation for the last few months.

The state faced a serious power crisis during the second week of July, when NTPC suddenly brought down its power supply by 40 per cent without giving any intimation. The crisis continued for a period of five days and was gradually restored after Banerjee initiated talks with the Union power secretary and Union power minister.

NTPC, for quite some time now, has been insisting the state government take 70 per cent of the quantum of drawal during the off-peak period.

The government is unable to accept NTPC’s proposal as it will be a blow to the state’s own thermal power plants at Bandel, Kolaghat, Santaldih and Bakreshwar.

   
 

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