Safety-first signal at schools
Realtors resent crime-link slur, at Buddha door
Arrest in Khadim’s case
Dazzling lights for Dream Girl’s Draupadi
Blasts mark murder aftermath
CMDA parallel wing for eviction drives
Police nail CPM on Nanoor
Bandh bandobast for Buddha in Contai
Jail staff hauled up after drunken brawl
IT solution for old & new

 
 
SAFETY-FIRST SIGNAL AT SCHOOLS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 17: 
Better safe than sorry. That’s the latest motto in many a city school. Alarmed by recent cases of crime, especially abduction, a number of south Calcutta schools have decided to step up security measures “to ensure safety of students, especially those in the junior sections”.

Larger the school, greater the threat. Going by this simple rule, it’s the South Points of the city that have been the first to push the panic button. Authorities of South Point, with over 13,000 students in the junior section alone, have distributed a notice among guardians this week, requesting them not to avail of transport facilities, like car pools, that are not approved by the school, or make any arrangement with private escorts.

“We want to ensure that our students are not exposed to any kind of hazard. That is why we have cautioned guardians through a notice,” said N.G. Khaitan, vice-president, South Point. “Of late, it has also been noticed that a large number of students, in some cases more than a dozen, leave the school with a single escort. This could prove dangerous and so we will not allow a single escort to take the responsibility of more than three students at a time.”

Ballygunge Siksha Sadan, on Gariahat Road, has also introduced a string of new rules to beef up security. As part of the no-risk drive, Ballygunge Siksha Sadan authorities “for the first time” did not allow guardians to enter the school premises to watch their wards perform on Independence Day

“We took the decision not to allow parents to enter the premises on August 15 in view of the recent mishaps in the city. It wouldn’t have been possible for us to identify each and every parent on that day. So we decided not to allow any guardian to enter the premises. We are happy that the guardians understood that the decision was taken in the best interest of the students and they cooperated with us,” said Phool Acharya, principal.

According to Acharya, plans are afoot to instal close-circuit televisions and a metal detector to keep a check on all visitors.

To check entry of unauthorised visitors, the authorities have already scrapped the earlier system of allowing guardians to meet the principal and teachers any time. From last week, a time has been fixed for parent-teacher meetings every day.

At Birla High School, on Moira Street, “several security measures” were introduced earlier, “under police guidance”. “Following the recent spurt in crime, we have been keeping a strict vigil to ensure that they are strictly followed,” said N. Banerjee, a senior official of the school.

Apart from abduction, accidents are the other thing that the school authorities will be guarding against. With traffic congestion on the rise, thanks to flyovers coming up at Gariahat and on AJC Bose Road, several schools are struggling to “reduce road hazards”, especially when they give over.

   

 
 
REALTORS RESENT CRIME-LINK SLUR, AT BUDDHA DOOR 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, Aug. 17: 
The blood on the doorstep of slain civic leader Sailen Das is yet to dry, but it’s the city’s real estate developers who are seeing red. “Alarmed and hurt” at the administration’s repeated harping on realtors’ “nexus with criminals”, they have now turned up at the chief minister’s door.

In a strongly-worded letter to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, A.N. Shroff, president of City Developers’ Forum, has expressed “deep concern and regret” on being made “scapegoats by the administration”, despite the “contribution of real estate developers to the growth and economy” of the state.

Copies of the letter, highlighting grievances of developers, besides suggesting remedial steps, are being sent to the urban development and housing ministers.

“On the one hand, the government is inviting private players to play a larger role in the housing sector. On the other, it is clubbing all promoters together and painting them black,” complains Shroff.

Referring to the “finger-pointing” in the wake of the Dum Dum municipality chairman’s murder as “a glaring example of this partisan and irresponsible attitude”, the CDF, a nodal body of eminent Calcutta real estate developers, has criticised the authorities for “casting aspersion on the entire building fraternity”.

Shroff wrote in the letter: “Going by news reports, this heinous crime was supposedly committed as a sequel to a long-standing land-filling dispute of a fishery. If this is true, then we are constrained to state that the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the government, the fisheries department, the administration and local politicians for sleeping on their job.”

The developers are upset that their entire fraternity is being tarred with the same brush.

“The powers-that-be must realise the difference between small-time para builders using muscle power and political clout and organised, reputed real estate developers who make a real difference to the way a city looks and lives,” says Shroff. “Therefore, referring to real estate developers as land sharks and land-grabbers is grossly unfair and totally uncalled for.”

According to Forum secretary Sushil Mohta, managing director, Merlin Projects, although the Centre has granted real estate industry status, there seems to be a “communication gap” in West Bengal between builders and the authorities.

“There should be proper dialogue between real-estate developers and the administration, policy-making bodies and enforcement agencies. Builders should be taken into confidence, as they are in other states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, and there should be greater transparency to ensure that the private sector can take a load off the government in the housing sector.”

CDF members fear the “constant baiting” is sure to have an adverse impact on the city’s development scenario, alienating investors and home-seekers alike. “Insinuations like these will confuse the house-seekers and put the brakes on urban development,” observed the Forum president.

   

 
 
ARREST IN KHADIM’S CASE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 17: 
In a pre-dawn swoop on the Tiljala and Topsia areas, 26-year-old Pervez was arrested in a shanty deep inside an alley.

Police identified him as one of the “facilitators’’ in the plot to kidnap Khadim’s vice-chairman Parthapratim Roy Burman.

Five police teams had fanned out in the Topsia and Tiljala areas around midnight to ferret out three “boys’’. They stormed several shanties but the youths were not around. Early on Friday, sleuths tracked down Pervez.

Police said Pervez is the brother-in-law of fugitive crimelord Sona. Underworld sources described Pervez as a daredevil operator.

“He carries out Sona’s orders, collecting extortion money and threatening traders, businessmen and promoters. He is also a sharp-shooter,’’ sources in Tiljala said.

CID and South 24-Parganas police said they had been on the look-out for Pervez for the past fortnight. “We raided his hideout several times but he had slipped out of the city. Our source said Pervez was forced to return, as his funds had dried up and he could not sustain himself while on the run,’’ police said.

Sleuths said preliminary investigations revealed that six criminals had enabled “outside gangsters’’ kidnap Roy Burman from Sapgachi Lane, in Tiljala.

“The area was their backyard. They were lords of the locality and, hence, they figured that there will not be any resistance from local goons,’’ police said.

Investigators said they reached the spot around 8.45 am on that day. Pervez and an accomplice waited on a motorcycle at the four-point Sapgachi Lane crossing, a few yards away from the spot from where Roy Burman was kidnapped.

According to police sources, Pervez and the other criminals had identified the Khadim’s vice-chairman.

Police claimed they had clinching evidence to suggest that these criminals were paid a “handsome amount’’ for the job.

Tiljala police said several criminal cases were pending against Pervez. “He was arrested many times but always managed to obtain bail. He was out on bail,’’ said a police officer who is a part of the investigating team.

CID and South 24-Parganas police hope to seek out the rest of the “facilitators’’ with Pervez’s help. Police said several raids will be carried out on Friday night and Saturday morning to hunt out the rest of the gang.

   

 
 
DAZZLING LIGHTS FOR DREAM GIRL’S DRAUPADI 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, Aug. 17: 
His visiting card says he is a sub-divisional engineer (commercial), Calcutta Telephones. But Dannyel Karkee is leaving the city on Saturday on an assignment that has nothing to do with telephones. It involves “lighting up Hema Malini” and raising ‘fires’ on stage.

When yesterday’s Dream Girl emerges as Draupadi from a ‘fire’ on a Pune stage without a hair being singed, she will have to thank Karkee for making the fiery birth painless.

For, it will be the Calcutta technician’s projectors which will light up the stage to tell the audience about Draupadi’s origin.

Draupadi, Hema Malini’s latest project to be premiered on August 26 as part of the Pune Festival, will depend heavily on Karkee’s brand of magic. Besides the opening sequence, lights will come heavily into play again during the vastraharan scene.

The many-hued lengths of the never-ending sari that Krishna used to drape Draupadi will actually be an optical illusion created by the BSNL officer.

Karkee was contacted first by the choreographer of the show in early July. That was followed — “unexpectedly”, he says — by a call straight from the one-time Bollywood heroine no. 1. “It was incredible,” Karkee said on Friday, hours before leaving Calcutta. “To be associated with such a prestigious project sounds too good to be true.”

Karkee admits to be a “little overawed” by the sequence of things, but the dream project is just one more feather in his cap. From creating illusions and lighting up pavilions of public sector units like SAIL and NTPC at international trade fairs to helping a little-known Calcutta puja beat its more reputed rivals in the race to Sharad Samman awards, Karkee’s is a dazzling list of achievements.

But it was a tableau for ONGC in the 1999 Republic Day parade in the capital that remains closest to Karkee’s heart. At least 10 huge acrylic mirrors, special lights and some motor-driven thermocol models of marine creatures and helicopters converted a nondescript truck into a scene from one of ONGC’s off-shore oil-rigs. Marine life without involving a single drop of water and fooling thousands of people in daylight made the assignment one of his “toughest”.

The man who works wonders with lights, finds the dark — when most of Calcutta is asleep — the best time to work. With a regular ten-to-five job, “cutting down on sleep” is the only way Karkee can find time for his first love, “the power of lights”.

   

 
 
BLASTS MARK MURDER AFTERMATH 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 17: 
Tension prevailed at Raigachhi, under jurisdiction of Rajarhat police station, for the second consecutive day on Friday as gangsters exploded bombs from early in the morning, in retaliation for Thursday’s murder of a Trinamul Congress activist. Rapid Action Force (RAF) jawans have been deployed to quell further violence.

Sheikh Rahamat Ali, 42, was gunned down by five unidentified hoods at Rajarhat Bazar, a stone’s throw away from the Rajarhat police outpost. The goons stormed a tea-stall, shot Ali from point-blank range and walked out without any resistance. No one was arrested till late on Friday evening.

Irked by police inaction, the Trinamul on Friday announced that party activists will gherao Rajarhat police station, demanding the immediate arrest of those named in the FIR. “We will intensify the movement if the culprits are not arrested,” said the leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Pankaj Banerjee. Trinamul leaders Sudip Bandopadhyay and Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay will lead the demonstration on Saturday.

Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee visited the family of the victim on Thursday night and directed party activists to launch a bigger movement. She told her associates that if necessary, she would visit the area once again to kick off a movement against rising crime. “We will not allow the CPM to unleash terror on our innocent party activists,” she told a rally organised by local Trinamul workers.

Senior officers, including additional superintendent of police, Praveen Kumar, are camping in the area. Additional reinforcements were brought in from the Barasat and Airport police stations.

“We have started massive raids in different hideouts and hope the culprits will be arrested by Saturday,” said Kumar.

   

 
 
CMDA PARALLEL WING FOR EVICTION DRIVES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 17: 
Realising that the Trinamul Congress-run Calcutta civic body will not cooperate with the city development agencies — all run by the ruling Leftists — in undertaking drives either against unauthorised street vendors or squatters, the CMDA has decided to develop a captive conservancy wing which will come in handy while demolishing illegal structures without the help of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC).

The CMDA’s move follows the CMC’s refusal to participate in a recent drive to evict squatters from the Nilratan Sirkar Hospital on August 11. This is the first time that the CMC has refused to help the government remove squatters.

A senior CMDA officer said that the parallel conservancy wing will be equipped with pay-loaders, bulldozers and the manpower required to carry out eviction drives.

Fearing that in future, the Trinamul-led CMC may also object to the dumping of debris generated during CMDA-conducted drives, the CMDA is trying to create a small dumping ground. “We have plans to set up a small dumping ground on the outskirts of the city, as the civic conservancy department may one day decide not to allow our trucks to dump debris at Dhapa,” said Sudhansu Sil, leader of the Opposition in the CMC and chairman of CMDA’s tender committee.

“It is not the first time that the CMC has stayed away from cleaning drives in hospitals. The conservancy department had decided not to take part in a clean-up at SSKM Hospital, undertaken by the CMC itself,” said Sil.

Even though mayor Subrata Mukherjee, currently touring France, had decided that the CMC will not cooperate with the government during the eviction drive, he is cross with his own council mates, particularly Mala Roy, for staying away from the drive.

Before leaving for France, Mukherjee had repeatedly advised the conservancy department to help the state health department and provide pay-loaders, conservancy trucks and man power for the purpose.

Before the mayor left, the CMC’s chief engineer (conservancy) Arun Sarker held meetings with state health officers and the CMDA to chalk out the strategy. A conservancy team even inspected NRS Hospital on August 9.

A senior conservancy officer said the CMDA had requested the mayor to send five pay-loaders, several conservancy trucks and officers during the drive.

“But at the last moment, municipal commissioner Debasish Som told the CMDA that the CMC would not be able to cooperate as civic conservancy workers were busy removing garbage in the morning,” the official said. As it was not possible for either the CMDA or the state health department to call off the drive, Som requested Senbo, the agency constructing the Gariahat flyover, to supply the pay-loaders.

“It was the first time that an eviction drive was carried out in the city without any help from the Calcutta Municipal Corporation,” an official said.

Health secretary Asim Barman said eviction drives in other medical colleges and hospitals will be taken up soon.

   

 
 
POLICE NAIL CPM ON NANOOR 
 
 
FROM BISWAJIT GHOSH
 
Bolpur, Aug. 17: 
Fifty-four CPM men are among the 81 people named in the police chargesheet on the Nanoor massacre in which 11 Trinamul Congress workers and landless labourers were killed on July 27 last year.

The chargesheet and investigation report, which left the CPM red in the face, were handed over to the Bolpur sub-divisional court yesterday.

The chargesheet is likely to be a source of major embarrassment to the CPM, which claimed after the killings that the murdered Trinamul men had assembled near Suchpur village to commit a dacoity and were lynched by “ordinary villagers”.

Last year’s killings, which Trinamul leader Mamata Banerjee had then said was not the result of any clash, had prompted her party to allege that the ruling front was working towards a plan to exterminate all opposition. The chargesheet is likely to help Trinamul, still smarting from a humiliating defeat in this year’s Assembly elections, renew its allegations.

The one-year delay in filing the chargesheet, senior police officials said, was because they wanted to prepare a water-tight case. “We prepared the chargesheet after gathering enough evidence which establishes the charge against the accused,” sub-divisional police officer Sujit Sarkar said.

All the 54 CPM cadres named in the FIR filed by the Trinamul found place in the chargesheet, senior police officials said. The other 27 named in the chargesheet comprise persons arrested from in and around Suchpur, the village in the Nanoor area where the 11 were killed. All 81 have been charged with criminal conspiracy, rioting, murder, attempt to murder and bombing.

The investigation report prepared by the police says a long-standing land dispute preceded the killings. The murder was pre-planned, the report adds. And, contrary to Bolpur CPM MP Somnath Chatterjee’s allegation that the Trinamul men were beaten to death by ordinary villagers as they had assembled there to commit a dacoity — a claim later echoed by his party — the police report does not say a single word about it.

The district CPM today refused to react to yesterday’s developments. CPM Nanoor zonal committee secretary Ananda Bhattacharyya said the party did not know anything about the chargesheet. “But we still believe that the Trinamul goons attacked Suchpur to loot its residents who unitedly resisted the goons,” he insisted.

District Trinamul president Sushovan Banerjee was upbeat. “It (the chargesheet) has established what we have been saying,” he said. “The CPM was working towards stopping the growth of the Trinamul organisation in the area before the polls,” he added.

   

 
 
BANDH BANDOBAST FOR BUDDHA IN CONTAI 
 
 
FROM NARESH JANA AND KUMARESH GHOSH
 
Midnapore, Aug. 17: 
A two-day bandh called by a faction of the Trinamul Congress in Contai, which started this morning, will greet chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee when he arrives here tomorrow to discuss the issue of bifurcation of the state’s largest district.

But both Trinamul and the CPM appear to be divided over the issue. Queering things further are the demand by the Jharkhand Party (Naren) that Jhargram be made a separate district and the SUCI stand that the district be left as it is.

The 48-hour bandh gave ample evidence of the fractious nature of the response within Trinamul. Called by Trinamul MLA from Contai Sisir Adhikari, the bandh evoked a vastly different response in other Trinamul Congress leaders.

Trinamul MLA from Tamluk Dipak Ghosh, who wants Tamluk to be the separate district’s headquarters, has opposed the bandh. Trinamul district youth leader Prodyut Ghosh went on record opposing the bandh. “The Trinamul as a party is not connected in any way with the bandh,” he added.

Trinamul leader from Keshpur Mohammad Rafiq has another opinion. His leader, Mamata Banerjee, was opposed to Contai being carved out of Midnapore, he said. It was Mamata who had prevailed upon Adhikari and a few other Trinamul MLAs to cancel their appointment with the chief minister at Writers’ Buildings even after they had reached the state headquarters from Contai, he recalled.

But Adhikari, who has been instrumental in forming the Contai Citizens’ Forum, insisted that the struggle for making Contai a separate district was a “second freedom movement” for them. “We have planned a tax-boycott and a non-cooperation movement if our demand is not met,” he said.

Disturbed over the differences of opinion in her party, Mamata has nominated one of her trusted lieutenants, Mukul Roy, to represent her party in Saturday’s all-party meeting to be chaired by Bhattacharjee.

Anti-CPM agitation

The Trinamul Congress said it would step up its anti-CPM activities from next month. The party announced a string of programmes, which include holding conventions and workshops with its grassroots workers in the districts in order to strengthen its organisation in rural Bengal before the panchayat polls in 2003.

   

 
 
JAIL STAFF HAULED UP AFTER DRUNKEN BRAWL 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Behrampore, Aug. 17: 
The superintendent of Behrampore Central Jail, Sachidulal Chakraborty, was transferred and three employees suspended after a drunken brawl marred Independence Day celebrations inside the jail.

Those suspended include jailer Kumaresh Roy, chief discipline officer Chittaranjan Roy and warder Netai Das.

Prabir Ghosh, an inmate of the jail, who protested against a musical soiree inside the jail, was beaten up by the prisoners and had to be hospitalised. His condition is critical.

District officials said the prisoners had organised a musical programme to celebrate Independence Day from 9 am. “Suddenly we got reports that liquor was flowing like water inside the jail and convicts and warders alike were having fun which is not only illegal but also unheard of. About 40 outsiders had somehow got inside the jail to participate in the programme. They cannot do this without prior permission of authorities and that too only after signing a register,” an official in the investigating team said.

“It is unthinkable how so many bottles of whisky and rum found their way inside the jail. At least 50 convicts were found in a drunken state. We have now come to know that a liquor supply racket was thriving inside the jail,” an official said.

The district magistrate said not only did liquor flow freely inside the jail, but also drugs like brown sugar. “We found out that malpractices were rampant in the jail. All this could not have gone on without the active cooperation of a section of jail employees,” Kumar said.

   

 
 
IT SOLUTION FOR OLD & NEW 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 17: 
It was IT all the way for chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today — whether it be at the inaugural ceremony of a tech school or the flagging off of an efficient pollution control device at an Old Economy factory.

Speaking at the inaugural function of Narula Institute of Technology at Kamarhati, the chief minister clearly spelt out the role of Microsoft in the state’s IT endeavours. “With the inauguration of this institute, we have 37 engineering colleges in the state. We expect the number to increase and we will require qualified teachers for these institutes. Microsoft will help us in meeting that need,” said Bhattacharjee.

Referring to greater utilisation of IT in governance, the chief minister said: “The days of calling the district magistrates in Writers’ Buildings for a meeting are over. All the districts will be connected and we will use video conferencing facilities to save both time and resources.”

Expressing concern over students leaving Bengal in search of better educational opportunities, the chief minister invited private initiative to set up more engineering and medical colleges in the state. “We will extend all possible help to such endeavours and retain the best brains in the state,” he said while complimenting the Narula Educational Trust for setting up the technical institute.

From tech school to India Potteries. During the inaugural ceremony of a new pollution-free temperature-controlled tunnel kiln plant at the 50-year-old factory, the chief minister stressed the need to strengthen traditional industries like ceramic, leather, handloom and sericulture for the state’s development. But, Bhattacharjee made it clear that the development will have to be carried on in close synergy with IT.

   
 

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