Trespasser alert at airport
Sikhs relive turban trauma
Accused ready to confess in kidnap case
Wall collapse leaves three dead
Move over MTV, CNN is here
The City Diary
SFI rallyists clog city centre
Surgery in a day at new unit
One man, his mission and miles to go

 
 
TRESPASSER ALERT AT AIRPORT 
 
 
BY NIHAR GHOSH AND PRONAB MONDAL
 
Calcutta, Sept. 14: 
Breaching the heavy security at the airport, two persons managed to enter the restricted area in the past three days for “undisclosed reasons” and almost got away with it. Both have been arrested on charges of trespassing. Other charges are likely to be slapped on them after they are interrogated, the police said.

Following the hijackings in the US and their horrifying consequences, the civil aviation ministry had sent out red-alert notices to airports across the country, with instructions to strictly maintain the security drill. However, on Wednesday, a 26-year-old man, identified as Thakur Mondal, managed to scale the northern boundary wall of the airport. He was spotted only after he entered the operational area and was immediately whisked away for interrogation.

More alarmingly, on Friday morning, another young man, Firdaus Alam, was spotted moving “suspiciously” in the prohibited area of the cargo zone of the airport. As the police approached him, Alam attempted to flee to the parking bay of the cargo vehicles, but was caught after a short chase.

The authorities, however, are not talking; nor are they disclosing how Alam sneaked past the security cordon to get into such a sensitive area of the airport. They are specially concerned about how he managed to get past the checkpost and enter a restricted area.

“The arrests have been made and interrogation is on,” said O.P. Gupta, superintendent of police, Calcutta airport. “We are also verifying the residential addresses they have provided us with and nothing else can be disclosed at this stage of investigation.”

The two major breaches in the airport’s security — that, too, on the footsteps of the New York tragedy — has led the authorities to raise a number of questions about the vigil being maintained at the airport. Recently, civil aviation officials had come to Calcutta to review the security at the airport after the theft of runway lights and high-tension cables.

Earlier, the decomposed body of a man was found near the boundary wall.

Gupta said that in view of the arrests, security has been further tightened at the airport and even the staff have not been spared scrutiny. “Along with the other measures, we are also checking and frisking the airport staff as they enter and leave the airport,” Gupta said.

Even the airport hotel has not been spared. Plainclothes policemen have been posted there to monitor the movements of all the guests. “Basically, we will keep an eye on whether they are behaving suspiciously or not,” an official said. “If they are, we will check where they are going, what they are doing in the city and carry out the security drill.”

Other security measures include random checks on cars approaching the airport, as well as a watch on all cargo being loaded and unloaded from aircraft. Also, the strength of securitymen at the airport has been beefed up.

Meanwhile, an Indian national headed for Bangkok was arrested at the international wing of the airport by immigration officials for travelling with forged documents. He is also being interrogated by the police. “We are checking whether he has any connections with an ultra outfit,” police said.

   

 
 
SIKHS RELIVE TURBAN TRAUMA 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR & TAPAS GHOSH
 
Calcutta, Sept. 14: 
It was a smallish gathering. The agenda: A prayer, to be followed by a meeting. For a change, however, both prayer and meeting had a common theme: The goings-on in distant America.

For the Shri Guru Singh Sabha and the Sikh community, whose life revolves around the gurdwara at Kalighat, this second week of September has been throwback to November 1984, the post-Indira Gandhi assassination riots.

Though the venue this time is some thousand kilometres away and not a single life has been lost here, Calcutta’s Sikh community finds itself reliving a nightmare.

Satnam Singh has a relative, Devinder Kaur, who teaches at a New Jersey school for Israeli children. Sabha vice-president Lakhwinder Singh has a niece, Pinky, in New York.

There’s Balbir Singh, a businessman, and Dharam Singh Khalsa, an attorney, both from New York. The calls they — and hundreds of others — have made to Calcutta-based friends and kin have been enough to remind the Sikhs of the turbulent 1980s when, according to Sabha president Major Singh Tusa, “every Sikh was branded a terrorist”.

The situation this time, say his colleagues, is “even more frightening” because of the inherent irony. “Never did we think that we would be targeted for looking like people we have no relation with,” Sabha general secretary Rajinder Singh said, referring to the attacks on Sikhs in the United States for their ‘resemblance’ to Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden, prime suspect in the Tuesday massacre.

“The calls we have got from New York paint a very frightening picture,” Rajinder said. “We had never imagined that American citizens would confuse us with Laden just because we, too, wear turbans and sport a beard,” he added.

A section of Americans, fed constantly with images of Laden on television and in newspapers, has started retaliating blindly, with abuse and attack, claim other Sabha members.

A New Jersey gurdwara, founded five years ago, has been under attack. Attempts have also been made to damage the New York gurdwara, callers from the US have told Sabha members. Sikh men, easily identified by their turbans and beards, are now afraid to go out, while many women have stopped wearing their usual salwar-kameez, the callers told the city-based gurdwara.

The prayer, which also condoled the deaths in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, was followed by a meeting in the evening. “If the attacks don’t stop, we will approach the American consulate and other appropriate authorities and try to do our bit from here,” said Satnam.

Contact has been established with SMARD, a US-based Sikh organisation, and “God bless you” is the chosen line to keep the peace.

   

 
 
ACCUSED READY TO CONFESS IN KIDNAP CASE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Sept. 14: 
Hawala operator Mohammad Feroz Anwar, arrested in Hyderabad in connection with the abduction of shoe magnate Parthapratim Roy Burman, informed Alipore court on Friday that he would “confess to the crime”.

Sub-divisional judicial magistrate Santanu Mukherjee ordered that Anwar “be kept in isolation in jail” and allowed to make a confessional statement on Saturday. Mukherjee remanded nine others, including Swati Pal, to jail custody till September 28.

Public prosecutor Taj Mohammad announced, for the first time, that the Khadim’s vice-chairman had made a statement to the police. Appearing on behalf of the accused, Tamal Mukherjee and Sankar Mukherjee claimed that the police were victimising “innocent” persons. “Despite a month having elapsed since their arrest, no specific charges have been framed against them. The police have also failed to substantiate the charge of monetary transaction against the accused,” they argued.

   

 
 
WALL COLLAPSE LEAVES THREE DEAD 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Sept. 14: 
Three persons were killed and four seriously injured when a wall, unable to take the weight of stone chips piled against it, collapsed in a lane off Prince Anwar Shah Road.

The police said a group of seven people was walking down the lane, near Navina cinema, at around 5.30 on Friday evening when the wall, already weakened by the recent rain, collapsed on them, along with the stone chips.

All seven were buried under the rubble and local people had to dig them out. They were rushed to M.R. Bangur Hospital, were three of them were declared dead.

The victims were identified as Sheikh Shahjehan (24), Chandradeep Singh (65) and Shikha Ghosh (35). While Shahjehan and Singh lived in a slum near the spot of the accident, Shikha lived in an apartment nearby.

“It is not that they knew each other, “ said superintendent of police, South 24-Parganas, Deb Kumar Ganguly. “They were all passing by the wall when it collapsed. It was a thick and tall wall — about five feet high — and almost a 30 feet of it collapsed. What compounded the problem was the stone chips, which did not give the passers-by much of a chance.”

Shortly after the mishap, the police visited to spot to ascertain what caused the collapse. Officials said that the wall belonged to a construction site where an apartment block was coming up. They said that instead of piling the stone chips against the wall, a gap should have been maintained.

The police, who have registered a case against the site manager, are also on the lookout for the promoter of the building. Till late on Friday night, they had not been able to locate him.

“Shikha had just stepped out of the apartment that she had recently bought and was on her way to the bus stop,” said Sheikh Jumma, a local resident who was involved in the rescue operation. “It is unfortunate that she happened to be passing by just at that moment.”

The duty medical officer at the emergency department of M.R. Bangur Hospital said that by the time the three were brought to the hospital, they were already dead. “The victims were crushed under the weight,” he said. “Some of the others who were trapped under the debris are in a very serious condition.”

Later, Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee visited the spot and demanded the arrest of those responsible for the negligence which caused the tragedy.

   

 
 
MOVE OVER MTV, CNN IS HERE 
 
 
 
Calcutta, Sept. 14: 
As the world watches the US pick up the pieces of “the worst terrorist attack ever”, young Calcuttans are hanging on to every word, frame and news flash. But has the curiosity and concern for the plight of America overtaken all else? Has CNN won over MTV? Metro gets the lowdown from the action zone…

Sarmistha Roy

IIIrd year, St Xavier’s College

Now, it’s CNN over MTV: Definitely. But the coverage is more emotional than analytical. Fox is more matter of fact, while Star News is more relevant to the subcontinent

Chat line: Politics is usually completely out of place on campus, but now it’s on everybody’s lips… People are even taking newspapers into the canteen and class, to read it all and analyse it with friends

Keya Ghosh

23-year-old graduate of Loreto College

Now, it’s CNN over MTV: Yes, hands down

Chat line: What’s happening across the Atlantic? We are anxious about our friends in the States. But we are also worried about whether or not a war will break out. If so, will we all live to see the end of it?

Shradha Lohia

Class XII, GD Birla Centre for Education

Now, it’s CNN over MTV: Yes, to a large extent.

Chat line: The US attacks. From the first day, we have been hanging on to every word.

Dibyadeep Datta

Class VIII, La Martiniere for Boys

Now, it’s CNN over MTV: But followed closely by Fox

Chat line: All we are talking about is the US disaster. During our school founder’s day function on Wednesday, we observed a moment of silence… And we are expecting a war to break out any moment.

Deepa Thawrani

22-year-old, working with Citicorp

Now, it’s CNN over MTV: Without a doubt

Chat line: US, US and more US. Everyone feels Afghanistan will be attacked any moment. We are all watching the oil and gold prices, too.

Sambit Pal

IIIrd year, Presidency College

Now, it’s CNN over MTV: I usually prefer BBC. But from Tuesday, it’s been CNN all the way. CNN has the most detailed, emotional, personal and lively coverage, Star News has been pretty good, too.

Chat line: From Wednesday morning, it has become a part of campus life. A couple of guys even got into a fight over it. People have been taking sides. Some feel America had it coming, while others are defending US policy. All talk, even wisecracks, seems to revolve around the attack on America.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Daily Puja trains to Delhi

For the first time, Eastern Railway will run daily Puja special trains between Howrah and New Delhi from October 18 to November 30. The specials will leave Howrah station at 6.45 pm and reach New Delhi at 6.30 pm the next day. This train will have 15 coaches, including 10 sleeper classes, one AC two-tier, two general second class and two second class-cum-luggage vans. Besides this, ER will provide a pair of special Rajdhani Express between Sealdah and New Delhi. In addition, ER will also run 11 pairs of puja specials from Howrah to Bikaner-Jodhpur and six pairs from Howrah to Dehradun. From Sealdah, two pairs to New Jalpaiguri and three pairs to Guwahati will also be run.

Sweets from soya

It is possible to make Bengali sweets, like rosogolla, from paneer out of soyabeans. At a conference for industrialists and doctors in the city on Friday, representatives of the American Soyabean Association said soyabeans were a cheaper health food suited for the Indian masses. “The intake of soyabean as a nutritional supplement is picking up,” one of the representatives said. According to the US Food and Drug Adminisration, soya-based food can help reduce risk of heart trouble.

Telephone offer

Calcutta Telephone has launched a special Puja offer—telephone connection at Rs 300. The offer will be valid till September 19. A security deposit of Rs 3,000 for the connection will be adjusted in three bi-monthly instalments against telephone bills without interest. The authorities, however, made it clear that in this case, the subscriber will have to buy the telephone set as per his own choice. Connection with a telephone set will cost Rs 800.

Blast on tracks

An employee of Eastern Railway’s engineering department, Rajkumari, 40, was injured in an explosion while clearing the railway tracks, near the Dankuni railway station. A bomb placed near the tracks went off on Friday. She has been admitted to the Railway Orthopaedic Hospital, Howrah.

Flood relief

The state government has earmarked Rs 20 crore to combat floods in the state. The decision was taken at a meeting attended by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, finance minister Asim Dasgupta and state irrigation minister Amarendralal Roy. Dasgupta said the money will be used to repair bridges and embankments.    

 
 
SFI RALLYISTS CLOG CITY CENTRE 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Sept. 14: 
A week after chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee convened an all-party meeting to stop activity that disrupts normal life, the city on Friday witnessed prolonged traffic snarls when the CPM’s students’ wing, Students’ Federation of India (SFI), organised a rally on Rani Rashmoni Road to protest the BJP’s bid to saffronise education.

The SFI activists held the city to ransom for at least four hours since noon on Friday. They came in processions from the districts to join the much-hyped rally. Politburo members Sitaram Yechury and Biman Bose were among those who addressed the gathering.

Former chief minister and Politburo member Jyoti Basu disapproved the manner in which SFI activists brought traffic to a standstill on a weekday. “Traffic jams are not desirable on weekdays,” Basu said. Bhattacharjee will hold the all-party meeting after his return from Japan.

An angry Biman Bose publicly blamed the police for the prolonged traffic snarls. “I have been informed of heavy traffic jams in several pockets. It is due to policemen’s inability to predict the huge turnout for the rally,” he said, amid cheers from the gathering.

Deputy commissioner of police, headquarters, Banibrata Basu, however, said snarls were caused on some road intersections as processionists came from different directions. “But everything was normal by 3 o’clock in the afternoon,” he claimed.

Lalbazar traffic control oficials confirmed that there was a three-hour jam on Amherst Street, Central Avenue, M.G.Road, B.B. Ganguly Street, College Street, S.N. Banerjee Road and Esplanade as a string of SFI processions wound their way to the rally site.

Tuesday’s attack on the World Trade Center in New York was condemned by both Yechury and Bose. The latter blamed the US for encouraging terrorism, and the former felt the US should seek UN mediation to solve the crisis.

   

 
 
SURGERY IN A DAY AT NEW UNIT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Sept. 14: 
By May next year, Calcutta will have its first day-treatment and surgery unit, set up jointly by the international division of the UK government’s National Health Service (NHS) and the newly-floated, city-based Indo-British Healthcare Limited.

This is the first time that a British government organisation has initiated a joint project with the private sector in eastern India.

The day surgery unit will be the first of its kind in the country, according to British deputy high commissioner John Mitchiner. All its departments will be fully dedicated and oriented to the concept of 23 hour, 59-minute surgical interventions.

“Patients needing elective or pre-planned surgery will spend just one day at the proposed centre,” explained Dr Tim Bentley, programme director of NHS International.

Samir Chakraborty, chairman and managing director of Calcutta Medical Centre, has floated Indo-British Healthcare. His proposal to NHS was among 200 others from all over the country submitted in February.

“We selected it because his proposal was fairly well-developed and cost-effective. The quality and volume of treatment from the centre would be quite high,” said Bentley. A memorandum of understanding has been signed and a formal agreement is expected by October end, Mitchiner said.

The total investment will be around Rs 40 crore. “This is the latest example of successful tie-ups between Indian and British companies,” he said.

“Day surgery units have proved a success in the UK and may be well-suited in India. We will be provide total medical and technical support,” explained Bentley. He and Chakraborty met chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Friday to discuss health issues.

There is a likelihood of state government participation, which is expected to emerge at the time of signing the agreement. The day surgery unit will provide services in ENT, ophthalmology, orthopaedics, general surgery, laparoscopic interventions and in gynaecological procedures.

   

 
 
ONE MAN, HIS MISSION AND MILES TO GO 
 
 
BY MADHUMITA BHATTACHARYYA
 
Calcutta, Sept. 14: 
“Concern for man himself and his safety must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavours. Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations.” For Dominique Lapierre, these words from Albert Einstein were the best advice he could give Mrs Peacock, principal, La Martiniere for Girls. Her question: “What do we tell our children who have become increasingly obsessed with technology, which did nothing to prevent incidents like the Bhopal gas tragedy?”

In town on Friday to promote his new book, It was five minutes past midnight in Bhopal, Dominique was his usual firebrand-activist self. This was not just a book he and Javier Moro had written. This was a mission with miles left to go.

“I invite you to visit Bhopal,” said the Frenchman. “This book is to ensure we don’t forget the 30,000 people who died and the 500,000 people who continue to suffer. But it is also to serve a warning to those engineers who are prepared to create another Bhopal.”

The New York tragedy is not comparable, according to the writer. “Bhopal is worse, somehow. The US attack is clearly the work of fanatics. Bhopal, the biggest man-made industrial tragedy ever, could have been avoided. It was the result of man’s greed.”

“The attack on New York is a declaration of war with the intent to kill,” he emphasised, recalling a similar scenario he had conjured in the novel, The Fifth Horseman.

Royalties from the book will go towards relief in Bhopal. The writer, who has spent three years researching the book with co-author Moro, has adopted a gynaecology clinic there.

There is much to be done in Bhopal, where “many victims have never received proper treatment. Dominique also has a suggestion for citizen action: To put pressure on Dow Chemicals, the company which has bought the assets of Union Carbide and is now operating in India, to reveal the composition of the gas which had leaked that night nearly 17 years ago. “Because they had never revealed what the gas was, no antidote could be found.”

But the Calcutta experience is the only antidote Dominique ever needs. Returning to the “source of his vitamins… my City of Joy,” Dominique noted with pride that Calcutta had “cleaned up” since his last visit a few months ago. The man who has been made a citizen of honour of Calcutta is also meeting the people with whom he works for projects such as Udayan and the Sunderbans hospital-boat on this whirlwind tour.

The energetic philanthropist has invested “over $5 million in Bengal” since his love affair with Calcutta began. “I am just one man…. But as Mother Teresa used to tell me, it takes many drops of water to create an ocean.”

But the writer in him is still ready for more, despite the energy he pours into social causes. “There are many tales of human courage which interest me. But I will never glorify the lives of the Monica Lewinskis and Osama bin Ladens of the world.”

   
 

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