CPM cracks whip on free-Chunnu campaigners
Fight-Mamata forum floated by Panja
Doctors cross tech hurdle, cure rare disease
Puja date for nodal plan panel
Congress goes back to basics
MAMC bandh protest
Four dragged out of crowded bus, killed
Police cloud on ‘militant’ strike
State readies for examinee rush
Cops, smugglers clash at Bagdogra station

 
 
CPM CRACKS WHIP ON FREE-CHUNNU CAMPAIGNERS 
 
 
BY TAMAL SENGUPTA
 
Calcutta, Aug. 4: 
The CPM leadership on Saturday went into a tizzy over reports suggesting that functionaries in the Tiljala-Topsia belt, defying the party’s injunction, “were openly supporting” a campaign to defend controversial Tiljala businessman Mohammad Taslim, alias Chunnu, now in police custody in connection with the abduction of Khadim’s vice-chairman Parthapratim Roy Burman.

Till late Saturday evening, the CPM leadership was busy trying to pull level-party functionaries out of a meeting that close associates of Chunnu have, reportedly, lined up for Sunday to press for his release near the 42-A bus terminus on C.N. Roy Road —- close to the spot from where the shoe magnate had been abducted on July 25.

The move by the leadership to crack the whip on “some errant members” of the local party unit is a clear indication that the memories of the Rashid Khan episode are far from buried. The party had suffered a loss of face when it became public knowledge, after the Bowbazar blast, that several of its leaders had links with crimelord Rashid Khan.

Coming close on the heels of the Salt Lake stadium episode, involving transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, the accusation that Ballygunge MLA Rabin Deb had “close links” with Chunnu, has hit the party where it hurts.

Going by reports, several important local-level functionaries like Prabir Dey, Nabi Ahmed— both members of the Tiljala-Topsia II local committee — and Mukhtar, have played a part in the free-Chunnu campaign. The party leadership has also come to learn that some of these functionaries had been instrumental in organising the demonstration outside Alipore court the day Chunnu was produced and remanded in custody. According to reports reaching the party top-brass, the same set of local activists were masterminding Sunday’s proposed meeting in support of Chunnu.

On Saturday, it was clear that the CPM leadership and the local functionaries were looking at the Chunnu affair through two different and conflicting prisms. For example, Raghunath Kushary, the party’s Calcutta district committee, said “no party member will be allowed to get involved in such a meeting”. Echoing Kushary’s view, Badal Dasgupta, secretary of the local committee, said: “I am sure nobody from our party is going to attend any such meeting on Sunday. Taking recourse to semantics, he, however, added: “Of course, I can’t say whether a meeting on the issue is going to be organised by others.”

An influential member of the local committee said that Sunday’s meeting was “most probably” being held to mark the 113th birth anniversary of party stalwart Muzaffar Ahmed. “Since it is a local meeting , the Chunnu issue may well be raised at the meeting,” he added.

It is learnt that most shopowners in the locality have been asked to down their shutters and attend Sunday’s meeting. Chunnu’s associates have, reportedly, been going round the Topsia-Tiljala area, forcing local residents to sign-up for the campaign to free the strongman.

Jugal Kishore Mukherjee, officer-in-charge of Tiljala police station, said he was “unaware” of any such meeting scheduled for Sunday. “No one has taken police permission,” he added.

   

 
 
FIGHT-MAMATA FORUM FLOATED BY PANJA 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Aug. 4: 
Mamata Banerjee and Ajit Panja have crossed swords once again — this time over a convention on August 9. Trinamul Congress leader Mamata has ordered party workers to organise a meeting near Malbazar, in the Kranti Assembly constituency of Jalpaiguri, to commemorate the Quit India Movement. Suspended party MP Ajit Panja is busy chalking out plans to host a parallel convention at Rabindra Bhavan in Jalpaiguri town the same day. Mamata has urged her loyalists “not to allow an inch” to Panja and “spare no efforts to expose him before the people”.

The Trinamul will organise another rally at Contai, in Midnapore, on Thursday, which will be addressed by “Mamata and a host of party MPs and MLAs”.

Panja, on Saturday, announced the formation of “a full-fledged parallel committee” to take the fight to the Mamata camp. “A Trinamul presidium comprising 220 members has been formed to begin the organisational work afresh. It will function as an independent entity,” Panja announced. “The 66-member apex body of the presidium will meet shortly to form an executive committee comprising functionaries from 15 different cells. The youth cell, with 46 members, will have a vital role to play as the induction of fresh blood will help strengthen the organisation,” he observed. A “special recruitment drive” has also been launched in “different districts” to strengthen Panja’s hand.

Trinamul leaders reacted angrily, claiming that “a suspended partyman” had no right to form a committee. “Panja has already been suspended and he is a nobody in the organisation,” said Pankaj Banerjee, leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly and chairman of the Trinamul policy-making body. On Panja meeting chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at Writers’ Buildings on Friday, Banerjee observed: “The party was not aware of the meeting. As far as we are concerned, he (Panja) went there in a personal capacity, not representing the party... It is best to ignore what he does.”

According to Swapan Barman, state secretary of Trinamul, and the party’s observer for North Bengal, the Malbazar meet will be attended by “a number of important functionaries”. “Beside reiterating the party’s pledge to fight the CPM’s terror, we will focus on the problems of North Bengal’s development at the convention,” said Barman.

Panja, meanwhile, said the August 9 Jalpaiguri convention would discuss issues relevant to the development of North Bengal. “We expect a good turnout from all seven districts at the meet,” he added. “This will be followed by a rally in Howrah on August 28 to mark the foundation day of the Trinamul Chhatra Parishad... We have also lined up a string of agitational programmes over the next few months under the banner of the Trinamul task force committee.”

According to observers, Panja’s actions are aimed at “getting himself expelled from the party”. But the Trinamul leadership is in no mood to play the expulsion game. “Panja’s political ambitions will never come true as we are not going to expel him. Instead, he will remain suspended with a probe pending against him,” said Sudip Bandopadhyay, Trinamul chief whip in the Lok Sabha. “Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi has been informed officially about Panja’s suspension.”

   

 
 
DOCTORS CROSS TECH HURDLE, CURE RARE DISEASE 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, Aug. 4: 
In end-June, the world seemed to be falling apart for the Mehras. Twenty eight-year-old Shalini (not her real name), was afflicted with a “mystery disease”.

Now, a month later, the mother of two kids is “doing fine” after a team of city doctors successfully battled adult haemolytic uraemic syndrome, “a very rare ailment”, through plasmapheresis, a line of treatment “scarcely attempted here”.

Shalini was admitted to a city hospital with severe upper abdominal pain and vomiting in the last week of June and was diagnosed with “pancreatitis and jaundice”. She was shifted to AMRI Apollo Hospitals, at Dhakuria, on June 30 after her condition deteriorated.

“When she was admitted, her haemoglobin count was a sorry 4.6 gm/dl and she was passing red urine which led us to believe that the problem was not pancreatitis and jaundice alone,” says Mahesh K. Goenka, head of the department of gastromedicine and endoscopy, AMRI.

Elaborate blood tests revealed that the patient’s red blood corpuscles (RBCs) were breaking down constantly and hence, even blood transfusion failed to raise the haemoglobin count.

“It’s a very serious and complicated condition rarely seen in adults. The endothelium or the inner lining of blood vessels is damaged by a virus infection which exposes the abnormal molecules like VWF multimers to the circulating blood. This incites stickiness of the platelets, leading to clots which project like spikes, damaging and breaking down the RBCs in small blood vessels or capillaries in organs like the kidneys,” explains nephrologist Arghya Majumdar who, along with Goenka and physicians Mani Chhetri and Sukumar Mukherjee, successfully treated Shalini.

In a “healthy individual”, doctors say, the protease enzyme breaks down the “abnormal molecules”. But in Shalini’s case, there was an acquired deficiency of protease, due to antibodies, triggering the problem.

“The treatment was two-fold: Removal of the dirty plasma containing antibodies and replacing it with healthy plasma containing the protease enzyme. This is an intricate procedure fraught with risks,” says Goenka.

The AMRI team didn’t have a proper plasmapheresis machine. “So, we improvised, using the dialysis machine and imported the plasma membrane from Germany,” explains Majumdar. Shalini needed 15 sessions of plasmapheresis, receiving 225 units of blood plasma in all. She was discharged on July 28 and her condition is now “stable”, with the platelet count rising from a mere 40,000 at the time of admission to a healthy 2.25 lakh.

“It is indeed a most uncommon disease in adults and plasmapheresis was definitely the accepted mode of treatment in this case,” concurs Prof. Mukherjee. Without plasmapheresis, the mortality rate in such cases is said to be 90 per cent.

Shalini’s husband is a relieved man today. “We had to run from pillar to post to procure the blood plasma and I have already incurred an expenditure of over Rs 5 lakh. But as long as the problem doesn’t recur, it is always money well spent,” he says.

The doctors, who have authored this success story, are now “confident” they can handle such cases in Calcutta.

   

 
 
PUJA DATE FOR NODAL PLAN PANEL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 4: 
The Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC) will start functioning from October. The committee will act as a nodal agency for development in Calcutta and other district towns across the state. It will formulate plans and execute projects proposed by the state government.

An Act to this effect has already been passed in the Assembly and rules for formation and functioning of the committee framed.

Urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya said 40 of the 60-member committee will be elected while the rest will be nominated by the state government. “The committee is unique as it entails people’s participation in development work,” Bhattacharya observed.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee or his chosen representative will head the committee.

Bhattacharya said the election process will have to be completed before the Pujas. The members of the committee will be chosen by councillors of different municipalities.

The MPC will have a separate office, where the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) will act as its secretariat.

“Our aim is to decentralise power for effective and speedy implementation of urban development projects. This committee will ensure balanced development in urban towns,” the minister said.

Earlier, the state government had formed the District Planing Committees (DPC) to monitor planning and implementation of projects in rural areas.

Officials said the committee will hold regular discussions with local residents and people’s representatives. “Development plans will be drafted taking into account the need and demands of the people,” they said. The draft of the proposed plans will be sent to the urban development ministry for approval.

The move to form a separate planning committee for urban areas follows complaints of uneven and scattered development in the state.

   

 
 
CONGRESS GOES BACK TO BASICS 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIALCORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Aug. 4: 
A week after officially snapping ties with Trinamul Congress, the beleaguered state Congress has started to revamp its organisation.

The party on Saturday decided to reconstitute its district committees. The decision was taken at the party’s executive committee meeting, attended by PCC chief and Congress Working Committee member Pranab Mukherjee, former PCC president Somen Mitra and vice-president Pradip Bhattacharya, among others.

Mukherjee later told reporters that party leaders would tour the districts to oversee the process. “We want to streamline the organisation,” he added.

Bhattacharya said the process would be completed by the month end. He felt the move would help strengthen the organisation before the panchayat elections, due in 2003. “We will do better if we fight the elections independently,” he observed.

A two-day training camp, to be held in the city on August 25 and 26, will be attended by districts leaders.

   

 
 
MAMC BANDH PROTEST 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 4: 
Even as the Mining and Allied Machineries Corporation (MAMC) Bachao Committee today organised demonstrations in Durgapur, pledging to make Monday’s bandh a success, the Burdwan district Joint Trade Union Action Committee vowed to oppose the “ill-designed” bandh.

The bandh call was given in protest against the Centre’s decision to close down the sick public sector undertaking.

The action committee, including representatives of Citu, Intuc, Aituc, HMS and BMS, felt that the bandh call was “not only hasty but also suicidal for the workers of MAMC”.

A spokesman of the committee and a prominent Citu leader, Somnath Hazra, said that “while we condemn the lathicharge on the workers on Wednesday night, we see no reason why the bachao committee members gheraoed the chairman-cum-managing director at night”.

The CMD, P.R. Rohatgi, left for Delhi the next morning and he could tell the higher-ups in Delhi that there was total lawlessness in Durgapur, Hazra said.

“We smell something fishy. The way the bachao committee has been functioning will only hasten the process of closure instead of doing any good to the workers”, he alleged.

   

 
 
FOUR DRAGGED OUT OF CROWDED BUS, KILLED 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Krishnagar (Nadia), Aug. 4: 
An armed gang today forced four persons out of a crowded bus and hacked them to death at Fakirdanga, about 50 km from here.

Nadia superintendent of police Ramphal Pawar said the four — identified as Hamid Sheikh, Musha Karim, Hakim Sheikh and Akbar Sheikh — were accused in a murder case and were on their way to the Krishnagar district court. They had been summoned by the court, he said.

But the Nakashipara police station, under whose jurisdiction the area falls, said two of the victims were going to depose as witnesses in a murder, which took place two years ago.

Around 7.30 am, a gang of about 12 flagged down the bus at the Fakirdanga bus stop, posing as passengers. Witnesses said they waited for some time for the bus to reach the stop.

As soon as the gang spotted the four persons sitting inside, they whipped out revolvers and choppers. One of the goons opened fire on the bus while the others shouted at passengers not to move. Warning the driver and conductors not to intervene, the gang dragged the four out. Sensing trouble, the driver sped away with his bus.

The assailants then lined the four up and opened fire in full view of hundreds of people. When the four slumped to the ground, the gang started hacking them with choppers. People stood by silently as the men were stabbed repeatedly.

After the killers had left, people at the bus stop went to the Nakashipara police station to report the incident. Policemen arrived at the spot to find the victims lying on the road. They also seized two pipeguns and three catridges. The four men, three of whom were brothers, were taken to a nearby health centre where they were declared dead.

As the news of the incident reached the district headquarters at Krishnagar, the superintendent of police and other senior officers rushed to the spot.

Pawar said the police had got the names of all the assailants and a massive manhunt was on to track them down. “We are combing areas in and around Nakashipara. I hope we will get a breakthrough soon,” the superintendent said.

Sources at Nakashipara police station said the incident was the fallout of gang rivalry. Two years ago, one Abu Hakim was killed in a clash between members of two rival groups. The four victims, who had boarded the bus at Haranagar, were going to Krishnagar in connection with that case.

   

 
 
POLICE CLOUD ON ‘MILITANT’ STRIKE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Siliguri, Aug. 4: 
Suspected National Democratic Front of Bodoland militants swooped down on a border village in Jalpaiguri last evening and shot dead one man before taking his body away with them.

Jalpaiguri superintendent of police Ranvir Kumar said about 30-35 suspected militants in a bus and a Maruti van entered Barochauki Bosh village around 3.30 pm yesterday and opened fire, killing one person. After the firing, the militants took away the body. Two others, who were injured in the automatic weapons fire, were also taken away.

The village was deserted when the militants struck, with most of the men away in the market. Friday is the weekly market day. The village is located in the Alipurduar sub-division, about 25 km inside West Bengal, close to the Assam border at Barobisha.

The superintendent said the villagers claimed that the victim was not a resident of Barochauki Bosh. “We suspect that the militants must have come to kill the person who had possibly taken shelter in the predominantly- Bodo village,” he said.

Sub-division police officer, Alipurduar, Ajay Kumar Nand said: “The suspected militants, possibly belonging to the NDFB, had come in a Swaraj Madza bus bearing an Assam registration number while the Maruti van had a Nagaland number plate. Four spent cartridges of an AK-47 rifle were recovered from the spot.”

“Information suggests that four ‘outsiders’ — all Bodos — had taken shelter in the village over the past few days. While one was killed, three escaped unhurt.”

Nand said one of the four NDFB militants arrested last month in Siliguri were from the village. “Recently, we had arrested a man from the village on charges of harbouring militants. The shoot-out was possibly the result of intra-group rivalry,” he said.

But intelligence officials and some villagers suspect that the operation was carried out by Assam police, on the lookout for militants who had taken shelter in the village. “It is unlikely that militants would use a Swaraj Madza bus. The presence of the bus suggests that it was a police job. Bengal police, who may have been tipped off about the operation, did not bother to seal the Barobisha border checkpost to catch the killers,” an intelligence official said.

Dismissing the claim, a senior police official said the Barobisha border checkpost had been sealed but it was possible that the militants used the circuitous route of Khamakhaguri- Bhatibari- Toofangunj-Baxirhat route into Assam from Cooch Behar.

   

 
 
STATE READIES FOR EXAMINEE RUSH 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 4: 
The State Level Eligibility Test (SLET), to be held here in January, is likely to draw a record number of candidates because West Bengal is one of only two states that have so far got clearance from the University Grants Commission (UGC) to conduct the examinations in 2002. The other is Jammu and Kashmir.

A candidate clearing the SLET in any state is eligible to seek lecturership in a state-aided college anywhere in India.

It is mandatory for the college service commissions in every state to renew their UGC accreditation every year for conducting SLET.

Apart from proper infrastructure, the UGC also expects the commissions to fulfil certain guidelines for conducting the SLET. The guidelines are related to syllabi, pattern of questions and constitution of expert committees .

“We have fulfilled all the guidelines as laid down by the UGC. The UGC has given us permission to conduct the SLET for 2002. It has also awarded us a model state status for strictly complying with its guidelines. We expect a large number of students from other states to sit for the SLET to be conducted by us next year,” said Ajit Kumar Banik, chairman of the West Bengal College Service Commission. This year, about 15 per cent of the candidates were from other states.

According to Banik, the UGC has asked other states to follow the model of West Bengal if they wish to conduct SLET on their own.

But UGC sources in the city said that so far only nine states had been de-recognised for conducting SLET because of their failure to follow the guidelines. They are Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Haryana, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Bihar.

   

 
 
COPS, SMUGGLERS CLASH AT BAGDOGRA STATION 
 
 
FROM PROBIR PRAMANIK
 
Siliguri, Aug. 4: 
The Siliguri-bound 651 Down Katihar-Siliguri town passenger train was running late on Friday evening.

At the Bagdogra station, a team of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence was waiting for the “Contraband Express”. On any given day, contraband goods worth lakhs of rupees are believed to be carted on the train.

As the train screeched to a halt, the raiding party, led by deputy director Virotham Pradhan, found that the doors and windows of all compartments were bolted from inside. Smugglers on the train rained stones on the team when it tried to force its way in. Within minutes, a local mob had joined the smugglers.

Pradhan said today that they first approached the Railway Protection Force (RPF). When they refused to help, the team contacted the superintendent of railway police and the local Bagdogra police.

The smugglers and the joint force clashed for over two hours. Two personnel were injured. “To control the situation, the police fired 41 rounds,” Pradhan said.

“Though the smugglers managed to flee, we seized over Rs 25 lakh worth of contraband. The seizure included hundreds of bundles of electronic gadgets, Chinese-made velvet cloth, watches, household items and readymade garments,” the officer added.

“We have information that trains on the metre gauge line between Katihar and Cooch Behar are increasingly being used by smugglers to carry contraband. The goods are loaded on both passenger and goods trains at “unscheduled” stoppages between Dhulabari and Bagdogra and offloaded at Siliguri town, from where they reach the Hong Kong market in the heart of Siliguri,” Pradhan said.

The meter gauge track, that courses along a 70-km stretch of the Indo-Nepal border, is a favourite with the smuggler syndicate in the region.

Pointing a finger at the RPF, Pradhan said: “We have written to the higher authorities over the role of a section of the RPF in the sector who are allegedly hand-in-glove with the smugglers. We have requested the authorities to provide CRPF personnel to man the trains running along this Indo-Nepal border stretch.

“The smugglers’ syndicate uses evening trains — both passenger trains as well as goods trains with empty rakes — to carry contraband. A section of the railway staff is also involved. Without their collusion, unscheduled stoppages, which enable smugglers to load the contraband, are not possible.”

   
 

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