Kill for a lakh, let realty thrive
Jailmate with a lust for power
Conspiracy whiff in arrest wake
Blood on hands of Big B devotee
New varsity gets CU tech schools
Blitz Bengal as favoured destination
Get to the root of giddiness
Ilish and tips for turnaround
Mahanta seeks Rs 10-cr damages
JB falls out of Sonia favour

Calcutta, Aug. 24: 
Asleep in his hideout at Arjunpur, in Baguiati, a pipegun tucked under his pillow, Paltu Ghosh did not know that within hours of being arrested, he would set off a chase that would end at the door of the man who masterminded the murder of Sailen Das. This, despite the fact that Paltu had nothing to do with the slaying of the Dum Dum municipality chief.

On Monday, acting on a tip-off that Paltu was in his Arjunpur hideout, a police team from Baguiati swooped down late at night and picked him up. Paltu, a criminal with a number of murder cases against him, had been a prime suspect in the Das murder. Informants had told the police that the killing looked like a “Paltu operation”.

Paltu claimed he was innocent and said that if anyone in the area had any knowledge of the killing, it would be his associate, Debu Das. Paltu led the police to Das, but the only two witnesses to the killing — Das’ driver Montu and Sandip Biswas, whose bike the killers had hijacked and escaped on — failed not identify either of them as the killers.

Hours of interrogation later, when it seemed that the entire exercise was proving to be futile, Paltu came up with a name: Babulal Sharma, a local promoter.

On Wednesday evening, a police team returned to Arjunpur. Babulal had just returned home and the police asked him to accompany them to Baguiati thana. It didn’t take the promoter much time to “crack up”. He said he and his partners, Mrityunjoy Ghosh and Tapas Bhattacharjee, were aware that the murder was being planned but it was actually Debashis Ghatak, a local goon, who was really involved in it.

Later the same night, the police went to Rajarhat and picked up Mrityunjoy and Tapas. On the way back to the police station, they stopped at Baguiati and brought Ghatak along.

Through most of Thursday, the police questioned the four, with each one confessing that they were a part of the plot. But, they insisted, they were only cogs in the wheel. They had neither masterminded the crime nor carried out the killing. Later that day, Babulal cracked again. He said he had been paid some money by municipal hospital employee S.P. Kamat, which he had handed over to Ghatak for organising the crime.

Kamat was on duty at Dum Dum municipal hospital when the police came to pick him up on Thursday night. Sensing what was happening, Kamat, a man with “wide contacts”, quickly organised a series of protests by other employees. But the police managed to bring him to the interrogation table at Dum Dum police station. Early on Friday, Kamat told the police that former Dum Dum municipality chairman Sudhir Bhattacharya had paid him Rs 1.10 lakh to organise the crime.

At around 6.30 am, two policemen went over to the Bhattacharya house, a five-minute walk from the police station. They were told by his family members that he was asleep and had had a severe headache the previous night. Could they return after half an hour? When the police returned, Bhattacharya was ready. He got on to a cycle-rickshaw and went along without a fuss.


Calcutta, Aug. 24: 
An evening in a jail compound in 1960. Three persons arrested for the same cause — participating in the Food Movement. One of them sang, the other two listened. “I was in jail with Jyoti Basu, and Sailen (Das) had also been arrested. He used to sing and we would listen,” recalled Sudhir Bhattacharya, the longest-serving chairman of Dum Dum municipality, speaking to The Telegraph a week ago.

But that was 41 years ago. In 2001, Bhattacharya is back in jail, this time for his alleged involvement in the murder of the same Sailen Das. The intervening years have witnessed several developments, starting from the rise of Bhattacharya in the party’s echelons while remaining municipal chairman; his drawing Das into a carefully nurtured Dum Dum region; his breaking away from the party; his hiring killers to gun down Das at his doorstep.

“It was I who brought Sailen into the CPM fold. He used to practise (medicine) in Bhowanipore. I requested him to come to Dum Dum to serve the people here as a doctor at the municipal clinic. Then, in 1967, the party was looking for a suitable candidate for the Rajarhat Assembly seat. I went to the CPM headquarters, where Basu and Bibhuti Deb were preparing the list of candidates. Basu could not recall Das. But when I told him about the singer in prison, he did. Das got the Rajarhat ticket and won.”

Bhattacharya, now 82, joined the party in 1952. He became chairman of Dum Dum municipality in 1967 and remained so even in 1974, when the party expelled him. He continued to reign till 1999, as the Dum Dum Poura Unnayan Sanstha, a local political outfit he formed, kept winning the civic polls. The main reason was that, despite his expulsion, the CPM backed his party to keep the Congress out of Dum Dum.

Before his expulsion, he had become secretary of the CPM’s Dum Dum local committee. The man was part of the political lore in the region.

Local CPM leaders are of the opinion that Bhattacharya had a lust for power. He never wanted to quit as chairman. For that, he had to sacrifice his party membership. But Bhattacharya is still a popular man in Dum Dum.

Though his relations with the party snapped way back in 1974, many important CPM party functionaries would keep in touch with him. Even some district secretariat members of the party’s North 24-Parganas district unit are very close to him. After his defeat in 1999, Bhattacharya was ready to join the Trinamul Congress. It was transport minister Subhas Chakraborty who convinced him not to join Mamata.


Calcutta, Aug. 24: 
Scapegoat or mastermind? Is it too much of an open-and-shut case, with the reasons being provided for the crime too simplistic? Is it a “conspiracy” hatched by the reigning bosses of the North 24-Parganas unit of the CPM to punish a former comrade who had turned against the party?

Or could Sudhir Bhattacharya, even at age 82, and known to be ambitious, have been the fountainhead of this crime? Did he want to reclaim the chair of the Dum Dum municipality chief to protect the interests of his promoter-son?

There are many who are refusing to buy the theories put out by the district police that an “old man” would plot a killing to get back a post he had occupied for 31 years. And already, the case has started to take on political contours, with the recent CPM breakaway groups readying to rally behind Bhattacharya.

After news of the arrest, general secretary of the Party for Democratic Socialism (PDS) Samir Putatunda said that the CPM was trying to “shield” the real killers by arresting Bhattacharya. “If you scratch the surface, you will realise that it is the CPM promoters who are the real culprits in this case,” Putatunda said. “Bhattacharya is simply being framed. We will campaign against the arrest in Dum Dum.”

One of the main contentions of this group is that there is absolutely no possibility of Bhattacharya occupying the chair left vacant by Sailen Das. Their logic: The municipality has 22 seats; two are vacant due to the deaths of the chairman and vice-chairman; the CPM has 11, the Congress four, Trinamul Congress one, Sudhir Bhattacharya’s Dum Dum Poura Unnayan Sanstha two and Independents two. Even if all the non-CPM parties supported Bhattacharya’s candidature for chairman, he would still not have the numbers to make it to the post.

“Why would an old man like him, who knows Dum Dum politics inside out, plot a murder when there is no chance of him becoming chairman?” asked one of his supporters. “He is far too astute a politician to do some thing as foolish as this.”

Besides, they said, the Das and Bhattacharya families have been far too close for a murder to be plotted. Bhattacharya had initiated Das into politics; Bhattacharya was instrumental in projecting Das as the party’s candidate for the Rajarhat polls; in 1999, it was once again Das who was instrumental in catapulting Das into the hot seat at the Dum Dum municipality. So, would Bhattacharya, at the fag end of his career, kill a friend?

Also, they point out, the police claimed that the murder had been plotted before the May Assembly elections. So why did it take so long to execute it, especially since Das did not move around with armed guards and was always an easy target?

So, is Bhattacharya being framed to protect corrupt CPM leaders? “The party is ready to hold an inquiry against any leader if adverse reports are received against him,” CPM state secretary Anil Biswas said on Friday. In North 24-Parganas, where politics and crime are easy partners, he would not have to look too far.


Calcutta, Aug. 24: 
His “god’s” latest film was about the duality of good and evil; about ‘a stranger in your mirror’. On Friday, Dum Dum’s “saviour by day” emerged as a “devil by night”.

S.P. Kamat — high-profile secretary of the Amitabh Bachchan Fans Association (ABFA) — was arrested late on Thursday night in connection with the murder of Dum Dum municipality chairman Sailen Das. “Kamat had taken Rs 1.10 lakh from his mentor and former chairman of Dum Dum municipality Sudhir Bhattacharya to engage professional hitmen to kill Das, who had been obstructing their illegal business operations and favouring their rivals,’’ superintendent of police North 24-Parganas Kuldeep Singh said on Friday.

Kamat, 38, had shot to stardom when he spearheaded the deification of the Big B with a yagna for the construction of a temple for their hero in Dum Dum. On July 19, when Bachchan came to town to promote Aks, he made it a point to spend some time with Kamat at a city hotel.

“Bhai, kyon ye sab paagalpan karte ho?” the superstar of the millennium told his “crazy fan”, while lending a patient ear to the fan club’s “social service” plans.

“He has been our inspiration in whatever we do, organising blood and eye camps, opening a thalassemia detection centre... He is our god,” Kamat had told Metro that day.

Now, the police claim to have blown the lid off his do-gooder-by-day and don-by-night act. “Kamat, a group-D employee of Dum Dum municipality hospital, is a land shark in the garb of a social worker,” said inspector-general of police, south Bengal, Prasun Mukherjee.

Kamat, who formed the ABFA in the early 90s, lives with wife Chandana and seven-year-old son Aayush in a modest municipality quarter, on Dum Dum’s Mall Road.

But his clout in the area is redoubtable. “Nothing moves in the area without his approval,’’ said Sanjoy Bose, member of a local club.

Along with co-accused Babulal Sharma, also an ABFA member and local promoter, Kamat would supply building material, fill up lowlands and invest in land deals. According to police records, Kamat was involved in three major land deals on Rishi Bankim Road. He had also invested in six properties in the Dum Dum area, which, allege local residents, had come up on illegally-filled plots. “The building plans to these constructions had been passed between 1995 to 1998, when Sudhir Bhattacharya was municipal chairman,” Dum Dum police sources said.

But Kamat and Babulal’s illegal operation ran into trouble soon after Das took over as municipal chairman.

Kamat’s first brush with Das was in February this year, when his request for a promotion was turned down by the chairman. Then, two of his building plans, on Mall Road, were refused approval by Das. When nothing could convince Das to sanction their plans, Sudhir Bhattacharya conspired with Kamat to “eliminate Das”, police said.


Calcutta, Aug. 24: 
All technological institutes and management colleges run by Calcutta University will henceforth function under the Technology University, set up by the state government eight months ago.

Students of Calcutta University’s ceramic, leather, textile and other technological courses will, from the current year, be awarded under-graduate and post-graduate degrees by the new university. An order in this regard has already been issued.

“The affiliations to our technology institutes have already been transferred to the new university after we received a directive from the government in this regard. We are waiting for the government order on the transfer of affiliation of our management colleges,” said Ashish Kumar Banerjee, vice-chancellor of Calcutta University.

Technology institutes run by other universities in Bengal, like Kalyani, North Bengal, Burdwan and Vidyasagar, will also come under the Technology University. Students of these universities will also get their degrees from the new university from this year.

The Technology University now functions from the premises of the state archives department in south Calcutta. It was set up by the government to reduce the increasing load on the existing universities after a number of private engineering and technological colleges came up in Bengal.

The government has already earmarked a 100-acre plot in Haringhata to construct the university building.

Sources spoke of plans to bring all private engineering colleges under the Technologiy University. Over the past few years, nearly 30 new private engineering colleges have come up in the state and many more are expected to mushroom to meet the growing demand among students for engineering education.

The new university has already introduced post-graduate courses in computer applications and business administration, which are now taught at various private engineering institutions like B.P. Poddar Institute of Management and Technology, Institute of Modern Management, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Salt Lake Institute of Modern Management, Netaji Subhas Engineering College and R.C.C. Institute of Information Technology.


Calcutta, Aug. 24: 
The three-day Travel and Tourism Fair (TTF) 2001 opened at Netaji Indoor Stadium on Friday. Inaugurating the August 24 to 27 fair, minister for tourism Dinesh Dakua said: “The government is determined to promote Bengal as a favoured tourist destination, both for domestic and international tourists, for which we are keen to involve private players.”

“TTF 2001, the biggest exhibition of its kind in the country, has 200 participants to offer an entire gamut of tour plans to Calcuttans, who are compulsive travellers. It offers travel plans to suit every pocket,” added Sanjiv Agarwal, chairman and managing director of Outbound Travel Mart (OTM), city-based organisers of the annual fair.

TTF, which began as “an experiment” in 1989 at a small space on Park Street, with just 10 participants, has now spread to Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore. This time, there will be “government-level representation” from Bangladesh, Nepal, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, South Africa and Dubai. Twenty-five state governments, hoteliers (including official hosts Taj Bengal), travel agencies and both domestic and international private tour operators have set up shop at TTF 2001.


Calcutta, Aug. 24: 
An answer to what to do to get rid of that inexplicable spell of giddiness has emerged. Other than cases of vertigo caused by an allergy to heights, lack of balance in a person can be due to over 50 different reasons. And estimates say that of every 100 patients going to hospital for any kind of treatment, five will have disorders of balance and hearing systems.

A very specialised branch of medicine, new to eastern India, can take care of these problems. Called neurotology, it deals with the diagnosis and treatment of patients suffering from vertigo and related ailments.

Belle Vue Clinic last week set up a separate department that takes care of such patients, complete with dedicated audiometry, CT scan, cardiology, pathology, immunology and orthopaedic systems that help in detecting why a patient suffers giddiness.

“Electronystamography, or ENG, is another important tool we are using for diagnosis,” explained consultant neurotologist and department head Anirban Biswas. “Once the reason of balance disorder is found, treatment — comprising physical therapy, medication and/or surgery — can cure the patient in 65 per cent cases. For the remaining, it is possible to greatly improve the quality of life.”

People whose heads reel on rising suddenly, or those who are unstable or have an unsteady gait, feel lightheaded or suffer blackouts can now find out why.

“And, unlike a patient now responding to treatment here, you need not go to Chandigarh or AIIMS or Vellore. Calcutta now has the equipment and the specialised knowhow to help you tread firmly,” asserts Biswas.


Calcutta, Aug. 24: 
From the world of test tubes and beakers to the field of finance — Udayan Bose, chairman and chief executive of Lazard India Ltd, has come a long way.

But he’s never “lost touch” with Bengal. “In view of the remarkable growth of agriculture here, I am really bullish about the future prospect of the state. But I also believe that a majority of industries here need restructuring for survival,” says Bose, a ’69 chemistry graduate from Presidency College.

Bose, who never misses the opportunity to come back to his city in August for some Gangar ilish and a session with school pals at Coffee House, is a “close observer” of economic developments in the state.

“Given a chance, I’ll always be available for the state government,” said the ex-Xaverian, who has worked as adviser to the finance committee set up by Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu.

Lazard India, which Bose set up with just his secretary, today employs more than 120 people and has full-fledged offices in Mumbai and Delhi. According to the merchant banker who anchored the Mittals’ takeover of Spice cellphones and is one of the 100 partners of the $500 million Lazard Worldwide: “The service sector will spearhead the growth of Bengal and it’s good that the government has also understood this.”


Guwahati, Aug. 24: 
Almost a fortnight after reports of his allegedly “bigamous” marriage hit the headlines, former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta today sought damages to the tune of Rs 5 crore each from a newspaper group and a language daily for publishing “false news” about him and Sanghamitra Bharali.

The 22-page defamation suit against the Sadin Group of Publications and Dainik Agradoot, a daily published from Guwahati, were filed at the court of the civil judge number one (senior division), Kamrup.

Mahanta made the move less than 24 hours after Congress minister Sarat Barkatoki filed a Rs 5-crore defamation suit against, which accused him of “bribing” Sanghamitra to spill the beans about her alleged marriage to the former chief minister.

Denying that he had “any intimate relation or any illicit connection with Sanghamitra Bharali”, Mahanta said the newspaper report had caused “tremendous damage” to his “fame, reputation, popularity, integrity and dignity”, which he had earned by virtue of his “utmost sincerity, honesty and devotion” over the years. “The quantum of damage is estimated at Rs 5 crore for defamation done through the said news item, which is entirely based on imagination,” he said. Mahanta said the report compelled him to “take leave from the office of AGP president”.

Kanaksen Deka, the editor of Dainik Agradoot, welcomed the suit. “We heartily welcome Mahanta’s defamation suit against us. We are happy because both Mahanta and Bharali will be summoned to court, where they will have to confess everything. Now everything will be out in the open,” he said.

Haidar Hussain, the editor of Asomiya Pratidin, said the defamation suit would boomerang on the former chief minister. “The case has given us the opportunity to come out with more details about Mahanta’s misdeeds. Not only about the marriage, but on other issues as well. The case will cost Mahanta and the AGP dear,” he said.

Asomiya Pratidin is one of the publications under the Sadin group. It was the first newspaper to directly name Mahanta as the “ageing AGP leader who has been hit by Cupid’s arrow”. The weekly Sadin followed it up with a detailed “confession” by Sanghamitra.


Bhubaneswar, Aug. 24: 
If the recent shake-up in the Orissa Congress is anything to go by, PCC chief J.B. Patnaik seems to be falling out of AICC president Sonia Gandhi’s favour.

Patnaik has hit a rough patch with his detractors being appointed to plum posts in the state Congress. With the appointment of former minister Saraswati Hembram as the new chief of the Mahila Congress on Thursday, the party high command has ensured that Patnaik stands cornered.

Hembram, considered close to former chief minister Hemananda Biswal, replaces Umarani Patra, a Patnaik confidante. Besides this, many of Patnaik’s critics have already been appointed chiefs of the Youth Congress, Chhatra Congress and the Congress Seva Dal. These four are key posts in the set-up of the state unit of the party.

Earlier, Ranjib Biswal, son of former water resources minister and prominent Patnaik-baiter Basanta Biswal, was appointed state Youth Congress president. He replaced Lalatendu Mohapatra, a Patnaik supporter. Likewise, Swagatika Patnaik, was appointed president of Orissa unit of Chhatra Congress. “The Congress high command through these moves has indicated to the former chief minister that he is not indispensable,” a party source said.

AICC leader Kamal Nath’s appointment as general-secretary in-charge of Orissa has also dealt a blow to Patnaik. Nath reportedly is not amenable to Patnaik’s diktats unlike former Orissa in-charge Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Patnaik’s role in the recent violence inside the Congress Bhawan here has also served to harm his image. Supporters of former Chhatra Congress president Debasis Patnaik resorted to violence inside the Congress office and raised slogans against Sonia Gandhi on her decision to appoint Swagatika Patnaik.

The “explanations” forwarded by the PCC chief was reportedly “rejected” by the high command, which felt Patnaik could have “averted the situation”. The PCC chief has also failed to fill up several vacancies in the party since he was nominated as PCC president almost a year ago, sources pointed out.


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