Police dragnet for shoe magnate abductors
Postal scheme rip-off
CM lauds missionaries for Kerala high literacy
Witch-doctor arrested in Howrah
Borderless home for the big cat planned
It’s a dog’s life in the cop squad
Court clears air on highway toll
Basu brokers Subhas peace
Anil proposes, Trinamul accepts with a wink
Teenaged friends in murder net

Calcutta, Sept. 8: 
Massive raids were conducted in several parts of the city and north Bengal to hunt out the local contacts of the Dubai-based gang responsible for the abduction of Khadim’s vice-chairman Parthapratim Roy Burman.

After hours of intense grilling, Harpreet Singh revealed names of a few hardcore criminals — Youniz Khan, Meraz, Surinder Singh and Rohit (of New Delhi) — who might be involved in the abduction. CID teams have been despatched to several parts of the city in search of the local contacts of the abductors.

“We are co-ordinating in the raids with the city police,” was all that DIG (CID) V.V. Thambi would say on Saturday evening.

“He (Harpreet) has given us some names, but they cannot be revealed right now. We believe these people could be hiding somewhere in Siliguri,” said a CID official associated with the probe. “CID counterparts” in North Bengal have been alerted and all border outposts have been sealed, the official added.

The CID team in New Delhi is verifying the claims of Harpreet, alias Happy, about his accomplices. “Harpreet is a hardened criminal. He may easily mislead us if we do not cross-check his statements,” a CID official said.

Happy and his associates had apparently been instructed to abduct Roy Burman from Tiljala.

Happy was picked up by police on Wednesday in West Delhi. He was brought to the city from Delhi on Friday and was remanded in police custody till September 19.

During interrogation, police discovered that Harpreet “was extremely Net savvy” and had sent through e-mail the names of 30 top businessmen of the country, as well as their bank balances and financial status, to their Dubai-based leader, Farhan Malik, alias Raju.

Investigations revealed that the gang had zeroed in on six top city-based businessmen, an official said.

“He (Harpreet) has revealed that the gang had plans of collecting information about more city-based businessmen, but their scheme have gone awry follwoing the recent arrests,” he continued.

Efforts to find out more details about the elusive Farhan Malik through Interpol have so far drawn a blank. “We have found that Farhan has operated under nine names and has different passports for different countries,” the official said. “That he continuously shuttles between Dubai, Karachi and India has further added to the problems,” he added.

The CID brushed aside reports that Roy Burman has refused to identify Harpreet. Senior officials were confident that they would “surely reach to the bottom of the case”.


Calcutta, Sept. 8: 
The police are on the lookout for an Alipore post office employee in connection with a Rs 20-lakh siphoning case. Nepal Mitra, a 45-year-old employee of Alipore post office, signed hundreds of Kisan Vikas Patras and National Savings Certificates over the past few months and applied to the United Bank of India, Bhowanipore branch, for a huge loan, said DC, DD, Somen Mitra, on Saturday. All documents bore the official stamp of the Alipore post office. A Group-D employee, Mitra, would stay back in the office on the pretext of finishing work.

“The bank had even sanctioned an amount on the basis of the certificates furnished by him sometime ago,” police said. Bank officials became suspicious when Mitra approached them for another loan on Friday. When they questioned him on matters relating to the certificates, he faltered. “Officials then inquired at the post office about the certificates and learnt that the papers had been stolen,” a sleuth said. Police reached the bank on being informed by the post office. Mitra had fled by then.


Calcutta, Sept. 8: 
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Saturday said the literacy rate in Kerala was higher than in West Bengal because of the missionaries who played a vital role in educating the people there.

“But we can’t invite them to our state to increase the literacy rate here. We have to work hard to achieve the target of making our state hundred per cent literate”, Bhattacharjee said at a function organised to mark the international literacy day at Rabindra Sadan on Saturday afternoon.

Bhattacharjee came down heavily on the BJP government which had presented a defence budget of Rs 62,000 crore, but ignored the issue of illiteracy in the country. “I went to Delhi last week to attend a meeting with the Centre. We discussed the next Five-Year Plan. But I did not hear any Union minister say a word on education. Neither did they initiate any move to eradicate illiteracy. This clearly indicates the Centre’s attitude towards education,” he said.

The chief minister said it was not possible for the state government alone to eradicate illiteracy. “We need cooperation from all quarters to achieve full literacy,” he added. Bhattacharjee instructed mass education minister Nandarani Dal, present at the function organised by her department, to reduce illiteracy by 10 per cent in five years. “You have to fix a target and motivate your people to achieve it,” the chief minister told Dal in presence of education ministers Satyasadhan Chakraborty, Kanti Biswas and Iva Dey.

The mass education department on Saturday rewarded voluntary organisations and teachers who took part in the government’s literacy programme.


Calcutta, Sept. 8: 
The witch-doctor who had incited about a hundred residents of Bantra, in Howrah district, to beat up 60-year-old Satia Harijan on Thursday morning, was arrested on Saturday. Prasanta Harijan, alias Furgunda, was picked up from a slum near Jogomaya cinema, in Howrah.

Prasanta has been charged with intentionally assaulting a woman, said Samiran Roy, inspector-in-charge of Bantra police station.

The 30-year-old witch-doctor had accused Satia of putting a hex on four boys of the slum, who had fallen ill recently. Prasanta said Satia’s evil eye was on the boys and, therefore, ordered that she be beaten up to break the spell. The local residents, then, assaulted her but police rushed to the spot and rescued her. Later, Satia was handed over to the authorities of Liluah Home for Destitute Women.

Prasanta fled the area immediately after the incident. He returned to his shanty on Friday night. Acting on a tip-off, policemen of Bantra police station raided the shanty and arrested him.


Calcutta, Sept. 8: 
The Sunderbans Biosphere Reserve will be extended up to Murshidabad for better protection of the ecologically-fragile mangrove forests and its most valuable denizen, the Royal Bengal tiger.

India and Bangladesh will jointly carry out the scheme in the mangrove forests of the two countries. The Sunderbans Tiger Reserve and the ongoing Project Tiger will be brought within the purview of the Biosphere Reserve for the first time.

According to A.K. Raha, director-designate of the revamped Biosphere Reserve, the project in India will be funded by the Asian Development Bank.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the high-profile Fish and Wildlife Service of the United States will be also involved for the trans-border conservation programme.

“Tigers in the Sunderbans area roam across the border and there is a need to unify the conservation processes in both the countries,” Raha said.

With guidance from the Unesco and the IUCN, the Centre had asked the state government to extend the ambit and range of the Biosphere Reserve. The state cabinet recently issued a memorandum to set up the newly-formed Biosphere Reserve administration after receiving approval from the Central government.

The Biosphere Reserve included parts of North and South-24Parganas, encompassing about 9,600 sq km. Even then, it had control over 4,200 sq km of the non-forest area.

The aim of including the districts of Nadia and Murshidabad within the ambit of the Biosphere Reserve scheme was to reduce pressure on the Sunderbans from the hinterland.

In order to enhance monitoring of poaching and smuggling of forest products to the mainland, the Biosphere Reserve will have to be stretched eastwards till the Hooghly, up to Murshidabad, Raha said.

The Biosphere Reserve, set up in 1989, will follow these points:

lIn-situ conservation of the biodiversity of natural eco-systems and landscapes

lSustain economic development of the people living in and around the Biosphere Reserve

lCreate facilities for long-term ecological studies, environment education, research, training and monitoring

In order to achieve an efficient administration in the Biosphere Reserve, the zone will be classified into the buffer area, the high-impact core area and the transition area, which includes agricultural land as well as settlements.

The Sunderbans is also home to rare flora and animals, like the monitor lizards, estuarine crocodiles and Olive Ridley turtles. “The hinterland always creates pressure on the forest. We are working on schemes that will ensure that people don’t have to depend too much on the forest and its products,” Raha added.


Calcutta, Sept. 8: 
Her trip to the BSF Training Academy in Gwalior was imminent when Shanti got injured during a routine practice session. Instead of a vet, the dog squad officers asked an acupuncture expert to try his experiments on the limping bitch — one of the seven Labradors the city dog squad has at present.

In March this year, after Shanti fractured her leg, Academy officers decided to send her back, as she was “physically incapable of being trained.” It took repeated pleas from the top brass of the city police to stop Shanti’s return and, thereby, it spared them a huge embarrassment. Shanti is undergoing “light training” at the academy for “heavy duty engagements” once she returns.

This is a glaring example of the frightful state of the city dog squad, which is beset with problems. Ever since the medical consultant of the squad left in March this year, the squad has not had a regular “medical consultant.”

Swapan Ghosh, assigned to check the horses of the mounted police, has been asked to check the dogs too. “Ghosh will look after the dogs. He is on deputation,” said DC, DD (I), Somen Mitra. “This arrangement will continue till the appointment of a new doctor.”

Coming to the aid of the doctor, the officer-in-charge of the dog squad, Probash Mondol said: “Ghosh is a qualified doctor too. The dogs are all safe with him.” However, some officers believe there is more to it than meets the eye. “Officers at the BSF Academy recently said the vaccines administered to both Ayesha and Shanti, were substandard. They were not sure how long the vaccine’s effect would last”, a dog squad official said.

To make matters worse, lack of a laboratory and the absence of a breeding centre has added to the dogs’ woes. Since they cannot mate, some of the bitches suffer from various hormonal diseases,” a senior vet said.

“We do have plans of opening a breeding centre. A laboratory is more necessary as we have to wait for routine blood test reports for two days now,” the OC added. The pathological samples are now sent to the Belgachhia veterinary college for examination.

Controversies have dogged the squad for several years now. For some years, the squad’s only Alaskan, Begum, was sent on duty, although she was not properly trained. “Senior officers always stressed that Begum should be taken for sniffing duty, although she was merely a child,” a trainer associated with the squad revealed. Begum died a year ago.

The situation at the dog squad in Barrackpore is equally deplorable. The eight-dog strong squad does not have even the basic facilities, said a senior official.


New Delhi, Sept. 8: 
The Supreme Court has restored the right of the National Highways Authority of India to “collect and regulate and control the collection of toll” on the Durgapur Expressway.

The court set aside an order of Calcutta High Court and restored an earlier decision of the trial court in the matter.

Clearing ambiguities, the apex court said the state government was only an instrument acting on behalf of the Centre to collect the toll and remit it to NHAI.

The 19-page judgment will be a beacon to all future cases relating to road toll collections. With the government determined to create a 62,000 km Golden Quadrilateral connecting the four metros, most of it comprising expressways with toll stages, there could be a spate of similar litigations.

Allowing an appeal by the highways authority, a division bench of Justice S. Rajendra Babu and Justice Doraiswamy Raju said the “advocate-receiver appointed by Calcutta High Court shall stand discharged forthwith and he shall cease to function from the day NHAI directly assumes supervision and control of the highway and the collection of the toll in question”.

The case arose on account of arrears from the first respondent, M.R. Mondal, who was the toll collector on the Durgapur Expressway between Palsit End and the intersection with B.T.C. Road at Singur. Mondal had run up total arrears of Rs 4,55,06,460.

The public works department was criticised for its “rank favouritism” by the apex court as the department, oblivious of the huge arrears, had also decided to give another section of the same expressway to Mondal for toll collection.

The Bengal government’s “grievance”, the apex court noted, was that the receiver was not able to “cope with the work and there had been default in not only filing the returns properly but also in the remittance of the amounts”.

The judges said the public works department of the state had shown “reckless favouritism” by extending benefits and changing the terms of the original contract “unmindful of the interest of the Central government, the beneficiary on whose behalf alone the state government was acting”.

The bench also observed that the act had the consequence of “doing grave injustice to public interest and great loss to public revenue”.

“We are also of the view that not only the order of the division bench (of Calcutta High Court) is liable to be set aside, but consequential direction should be issued to retrieve the situation before any further irreparable damage is caused to the public exchequer,” the judges said.

“The national highways authorities, who have jurisdiction and control over the stretch of the highways, are hereby authorised and permitted to assume the right to collect and regulate/control the collection of toll by serving a letter to that extent on the advocate-receiver and, on such service, the advocate-receiver shall stand discharged for all purposes, except for rendering accounts to the collections already made to the authorities of NHAI,” the Supreme Court ruled.

“If there is any dispute in this regard, it shall be worked out by obtaining appropriate directions from Calcutta High Court, which appointed the receiver.”


Calcutta, Sept. 8: 
Determined to put an end to the stand-off between transport minister Subhas Chakraborty and the party leadership which has taken a heavy toll of the organisation, Jyoti Basu finally intervened last night and brought about a rapprochement.

“Subhas (Chakraborty) is a closed chapter now and you, the media people, will have to learn to write without him. Henceforth, you will have no opportunity to distort our affairs,” Basu said this afternoon.

The former chief minister said Chakraborty had regretted some of the statements he had made over the past few months causing embarrassment to his party.

“At the same time, Subhas also complained to us last night that the media had distorted his observations many a time to malign him,” he said.

Chakraborty, Basu said, had promised not to make any statement in future on other departments. Basu said he was “upset” at the way Chakraborty had described some criminals as social activists immediately after they were arrested either in connection with the Salt Lake scandal or the abduction of Khadim’s vice-chairman Parthapratim Roy Burman. Asked if he was satisfied with Chakaborty’s explanation, Basu was evasive. “Don’t forget, he is one of the senior party members,” he said.

Chakraborty was not available for comment as he was out of station. He will be back on Monday. But sources close to Chakraborty said the minister was “happy” at the way Basu had resolved the matter.

Basu said the issue of Chakraborty would not figure in the CPM state committee meeting to be held on September 25. “The meeting has a different agenda... and Subhas is a non-issue now,” he added.

At a special meeting convened at Indira Bhawan last night, Basu gave a patient hearing to Chakraborty in the presence of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Left Front chairman Biman Bose and CPM state secretary Anil Biswas.

Chakraborty was also learnt to have resented the manner in which he was being constantly “sidelined” by some party functionaries, particularly those belonging to the CPM’s North 24-Parganas unit.

Basu, the sources said, asked both Bose and Biswas to see to it that Chakraborty and his men were given “due importance” in the organisation.


Calcutta, Sept. 8: 
The CPM today sought to drive a wedge between the BJP and the Trinamul Congress by pledging support to Mamata Banerjee’s resolve to fight the Centre’s move to “saffronise education”.

CPM state secretary Anil Biswas welcomed the Trinamul chief’s decision, saying: “If she really registers a protest on the floor of Parliament, our MPs will stand by her.” This is for the first time that the state CPM has publicly offered its support to the state’s main Opposition party on a vital issue.

The CPM has decided to step up its campaign on the saffronisation issue after chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee held a meeting of non-BJP chief ministers and education ministers in Delhi on September 1. The party is also trying to exploit the stand of NDA partners like the Telugu Desam over the issue.

Trinamul leaders, however, said they have seen through the CPM’s gameplan. “Our MPs are against giving any kind of colour to the system of education, saffron or red. We will welcome the CPM MPs if they join hands with us in Parliament when we take up the politicisation of education in Bengal,” said Trinamul spokesman Sadhan Pande.

Trinamul leaders feel that there is nothing wrong if the Centre tries to preserve the country’s tradition and heritage in the system of education. “We will, of course, oppose anything which goes against our secular character. But the Marxists are in the habit of distorting principles and policies to serve their political purpose,” they said.

State CPM leaders also expected Trinamul’s support to Bhattacharjee’s proposal opposing road and rail blockades. “We hope the Trinamul will support the chief minister’s move though the party is responsible for organising 90 per cent of such blockades and traffic disruptions,” said Biman Bose, CPM politburo member and Left Front chairman.

Bose also revealed that the state government had identified Shahid Minar, Maidan and Rani Rashmoni Avenue as venues for holding public rallies to spare citizens traffic snarls caused by processions and blockades. In the same breath, the CPM leader pointed out how Mamata “deliberately” chose the crossing of Central Avenue and Jawaharlal Nehru road in front of the CESC office to hold a recent rally.

Trinamul leaders said they were not opposed to the idea of holding public meetings at fixed venues provided all parties agree to the proposal.

They said the Trinamul leader had to organise her rally on July 21 in front of the CESC office as it was not possible to hold a meeting at Shahid Minar maidan during the monsoon.

Bose, however, was opposed to a blanket ban on rallies and processions in the city. “We have to find a way which will allow smooth flow of traffic and enable political parties and associations to organise processions,” he said.


Chinsurah, Sept. 8: 
Police today arrested five schoolmates of Rajdeep Bhattacharya, whose decomposed body was found lying along a canal at Bansberia in Hooghly district yesterday.

Of those arrested, three are 15 years old and two 16 years old.

Police arrested the five students acting on a complaint lodged by Rajdeep’s father, an employee of Ganges Jute Mill.

Police have also interrogated a girl in Rajdeep’s class in connection with the murder. The girl is reported to have told the police that she had no knowledge about the incident.

The girl, has, however, confessed that she had a steady relationship with Atanu Singh, one of the five who had been arrested. At the same time she has denied ever having any relationship with Rajdeep.

Investigating officials said the five boys on their bicycles first picked up Rajdeep before going to Mithapukur, an abandoned place in the area.

An altercation followed between Rajdeep and Atanu. Police have claimed that Atanu apparently had a suspicion that Rajdeep also had a relationship with his girlfriend.

“This is precisely what had prompted Atanu to hatch a plot to eliminate Rajdeep. Atanu with the help of four others first strangulated him and later buried him in the mud by the side of the canal on that very night,” police sources added.

The five arrested were produced before the sub-divisional judicial magistrate at Chinsurah.


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