Badal cousins join Congress
Doctors in net for baby sale
Atal rejects dud trade cheque
Merchant culture crown for Calcutta
Sex parlours sprout in Patna
CM Delhi dash over influx
Keshpur violence rerun
Laden CDs in Siliguri market

Chandigarh, Nov. 10: 
Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal received a setback when three of his cousins joined the Congress here today.

Badal’s first cousins, Maheshinder, Hardip Inder, who was transport minister in the Surjit Singh Barnala government, and Sarabjit, said they deserted the chief minister as he had failed to safeguard the religious interests of Sikhs.

State Congress chief Amarinder Singh welcomed their entry, saying the move would boost the morale of party workers.

Congress sources said the party would field Maheshinder from Lambi in Faridkot, the chief minister’s pocket borough.

Maheshinder had campaigned against Badal’s son, Sukhbir, in Faridkot during the last Lok Sabha polls. Sukhbir had lost to Jagmeet Singh Brar of the Congress.

Amarinder said the final list of candidates would be announced by the middle of December. He expected the polls to be held on February 12 and 13.

Maheshinder’s selection could spell trouble for Brar, who is engaged in an unsavoury war of words with the state party chief.

Reacting to Brar’s statement that he, too, was in the race for the chief minister’s post, Amarinder said the demand was an isolated voice in the party and should not be given undue importance.

Brar and Amarinder are locked in a war of attrition over organisational matters, mainly the distribution of party tickets.

Brar has been demanding that relatives and children of party leaders and those with criminal records should not be obliged.

Amarinder loyalists alleged that “Brar’s desperate lust for power has upset his balance of mind”, and “such an irresponsible person should be immediately divested of all responsible offices of the party”.

Brar loyalists retaliated by issuing a counter-statement, attacking the “feudal lifestyle of the Punjab Congress chief”, which, they said, was adversely affecting the chances of the “party re-emerging as the ruling party in Punjab”.


Bhopal, Nov. 10: 
A doctor-couple running a nursing home and three employees were arrested here for allegedly selling babies. Police claim to have found evidence of at least two new-borns sold by the doctors recently.

The Madhya Pradesh police said they busted the baby-selling racket last evening when the doctors, Pramod Kumar Jain and wife Sarla Jain, were caught red-handed selling a three-month-old girl for Rs 30,000.

The baby’s mother is an unwed woman from a village in Betul, south Madhya Pradesh. She was brought to the nursing home by her relatives, who left the baby behind after delivery.

Superintendent of police Arun Pratap Singh, who is in charge of the investigation, said the police acted on a tip-off — Shanti Nursing Home near the old city was selling babies at fixed prices: Rs 50,000 for a male baby and Rs 30,000 for a girl.

The police swung into action, sending officer Aziz and inspector Lauren Victor to the clinic posing as a couple who wanted to buy a baby. They approached a nurse, Anu Sharma. She took them to a senior nurse, identified as Mary, who took the investigators to the Jains.

After bargaining, the price was settled at Rs 25,000 for a baby girl, who they argued was weak and needed medical attention. However, the accountant of the nursing home, Brajesh Goswami, argued that he had a share in the deal and demanded an additional Rs 5,000.

In the evening, the sleuths returned with the money and the police. When the child was being handed over, police struck. All registers and account books were seized.

The doctor-couple, the two nurses and the accountant were arrested. They were produced before the magistrate this afternoon and have been remanded in police custody.

Police sources suspect a chain of nursing homes, especially in the old Bhopal area, could be involved in the racket.

Singh explained that rural women who become pregnant outside wedlock often come to big cities like Bhopal for an abortion or to have their babies in secrecy. The Jains apparently advertised that their clinic was a haven of secrecy.

Detectives are now trying to match mothers with their babies from registers. The nurses have confessed that at least two more babies have been sold recently.


New York, Nov. 10: 
Unexpectedly, but appropriately, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee referred to the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) ministerial conference in Doha during his address to the UN General Assembly today.

Referring to India’s uncompromising opposition to a new round of trade talks before settling issues outstanding from the previous round, he said: “Our public is unwilling to accept another post-dated cheque when an earlier one has bounced.”

He said the earlier Uruguay Round of talks had done very little for most developing states. “Globalisation has constrained developing countries from mobilising public resources for poverty alleviation. This is why public support for the globalisation regime has vanished.”

Vajpayee said India would provide $100 million for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

Vajpayee concluded his speech with a quote from Rabindranath Tagore: “From now onward, any nation that takes an isolated view of its own interests will run contrary to the spirit of the New Age, and will know no peace. From now onward, the anxiety that each country has for its own safety must embrace the welfare of the whole world.”


London, Nov. 10: 
Ismail Merchant last night massaged the egos of Bengalis by declaring that “Calcutta is the only cultural city in India”.

The director will be in Calcutta from November 13 to 16 to promote his new movie, The Mystic Masseur, at the Calcutta Film Festival.

Realising that his words might offend other cities in India, especially Mumbai, the city of his birth — “I will be in Mumbai on Monday and go to Calcutta on Tuesday” — the New York-based Merchant paused for a moment and then said grandly: “You can say Ismail Merchant said Calcutta is the only cultural city in India.”

An ebullient Merchant was speaking at a post-premiere party at the famous Chor Bizarre restaurant after The Mystic Masseur had been shown at the London Film Festival. The reaction, on the whole, was positive.

Missing, although to no one’s surprise, was the man on whose first novel the film had been based — Nobel Laureate V.S. Naipaul.

Asked whether Naipaul would eventually see the film, Merchant replied: “Yes. He takes his own time.”

It is understood that Lady Naipaul, the former Nadira Alvi, had been shown a not totally finished version of the film. How had she responded?

“She loved it, she loved it,” responded Merchant.

He wanted to talk about Calcutta. “Calcutta has been very important for Merchant-Ivory films,” he said.

In Custody, for example, had met with a lukewarm reception in Delhi and other cities, but the people of Calcutta had appreciated the film. He implied that Calcutta filmgoers were more civilised and sophisticated.


Patna, Nov. 10: 
In downtown Patna, cushioned from the din and bustle of the city’s chaos, thrives a fashionable evil more familiar to the metros.

“Manav, Man’s Massage Parlour”, reads a glow-sign board that leads to the first floor flat. Rajesh Kumar, a business executive, walks in and is surprised at the swank interiors and plush décor.

A middle-aged man escorts him from the door and enquires: “Gold, silver or normal?” They cost Rs 2,000, Rs 1,500 and Rs 500 respectively, he adds. Rajesh feels his pocket and goes for “gold”.

The payment made, he waits for his turn.

He is led into one of the four air-conditioned cabins where a young woman takes charge. Police raid the apartment in minutes and Rajesh turns out to be a decoy.

A nexus of politicians, parlour owners and the mafia tumbled out of the dimly-lit parlour on Thursday night as police arrested four women and 12 men.

The arrested men included businessmen, politicians, contractors and a multinational company’s regional chief. The girls who were arrested said they were handpicked by “agents”. One of the girls was from Burrabazar in Calcutta.

On interrogation, the girls admitted to their involvement in a thriving flesh trade racket.

The police also raided Classic, another parlour on the ground floor of the same building on the Boring Canal Road.

“We have seized a diary along with other documents. The diary has names of a number of politicians and their telephone numbers,” deputy superintendent of police R.K. Dubey, who led the raids, said.

Police sources said the parlours were inaugurated a year back by a former RJD MP. His picture was found displayed inside one of the parlours. Their owner, Sunny Pal, could not be arrested.

Sources in the investigating agencies said the city has witnessed a mushrooming of massage parlours that are frequented by politicians and bureaucrats.

Friendship and Pleasure continues to operate within half-a-kilometre of the raided house. The “dubious” parlour operates in a different style. Once a client enrolls, they offer a Simcard through which he can make an appointment with the masseur.

There continue to be massage centres with proper medical facilities. But the owner of the upscale Swarg located near Jamal Road, Rajkumar Singh, admits that a section of his clients prefer women therapists.


Calcutta, Nov. 10: 
Alarmed at the steady influx of Bangladeshi Hindus to at least nine districts in the state, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has decided to raise the matter at the inter-state council meeting convened by Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee in New Delhi. Bhattacharjee will leave for the capital on November 15.

During his three-day visit, Bhattacharjee is also scheduled to discuss inter-state terrorist activities with home minister L.K. Advani.

According to officials at Writers Buildings, today’s incident at Raigunge has further aggravated the situation. Today, a Bangladeshi girl was killed and a teenaged boy injured when BSF jawans fired on some people crossing over from Bangladesh.

“We were worried at the way things are happening along the border. The government is keeping a watch on influx of Bangladeshis and has decided to take up the matter with the Centre at the earliest,” state chief secretary Manish Gupta said. He added that Bangladeshis have taken shelter in some districts but the exact number was still to be ascertained.

However, a senior home department official said the government was in a fix over how to determine the status of those who had crossed over to the Indian territory after being persecuted in their homeland.

“This is a very sensitive issue as those who are being forced to flee cannot be treated either as infiltrators or as refugees. This question is haunting us these days,” he said.

Sources said Bhattacharjee is carrying detailed papers on the current influx of Bangladeshis in the nine districts and its impact on the state’s economy.

Reacting to the chief minister’s proposed visit, Trinamul Congress spokesman and leader of Opposition in the state Assembly Pankaj Banerjee said the state government was not serious about tackling the problem concerning the current influx.

“The matter should have been referred to the Centre much earlier,” he said, adding that the state police were unnecessarily harassing those who had to cross over to the country after being persecuted there.

“We call upon the state government to treat these homeless and tortured sympathetically,” he said, adding that Mamata Banerjee would also meet the Prime Minister and home minister on the matter.

Left Front circles today welcomed the chief minister’s move. Leaders from key Front constituents, however, demanded that the matter be discussed threadbare at the Front committee meeting, slated for November 14.


Keshpur, Nov. 10: 
Barely two days before chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s visit here, the spectre of violence returned to haunt Keshpur again when a Trinamul Congress worker was killed allegedly by CPM activists.

The Trinamul claimed that Amit Ghosh, 38, who was found hanging from a tree near his house at Anandapur in the Keshpur area, was strangled to death by local CPM workers before the body was hung. The police have yet to arrest any of the culprits named in the FIR.

Local Trinamul leader Mahammed Rafiq threatened that the party would start a fresh agitation against the “reign of terror” unleashed by CPM men in connivance with the administration.

District officials fear the fresh dose of violence could upset the calculations of the CPM which was hoping to cash in on a number of development projects the chief minister is scheduled to inaugurate during his trip here.

Bhattacharjee, accompanied by six ministers, including health minister Suryakanta Mishra and power minister Mrinal Banerjee, is scheduled to arrive here on Monday.

The chief minister will inaugurate a 830-seat modern auditorium dedicated to Kshudiram and also unveil a statue of the martyr at Keshpur, the birthplace of the freedom-fighter. He will open a supermarket costing Rs 50 lakh.

Power minister Banerjee will inaugurate a 33-KV power sub-station at Dogachhia.

Mass education minister and CPM MLA from Keshpur Nandarani Dal told reporters that the sub-station would provide power to nearly 2.5 lakh people in 630 villages.

“This had been a long-standing demand of the people of Keshpur. Once the sub-station is installed it would help meet the demand in our area,” Dal said.

Health minister Mishra will inaugurate a 30-bed health centre.

“Over 50,000 invitation cards have already been distributed to the local people. We want to involve the local people in the development work in the area,” Dal said. This is perhaps for the first time that residents have been issued invitation cards to participate in any government function.

The whole of Keshpur has been bedecked with red banners and festoons. Party flags are fluttering along the 12-km stretch from Amrakuchi to Keshpur. A convoy of 100 motorcycles will lead Bhattacharjee from Midnapore town to Keshpur.

Dal estimated that over 50,000 people would attend the chief minister’s rally. Asked why a gathering of only 50,000 people was the CPM’s target for Keshpur from where she had won the Assembly elections by a record one lakh-plus votes, Dal said: “The crowd might be bigger. We never coerce people to attend any party programme.”


Siliguri, Nov. 10: 
Police last night raided the Hong Kong market here and seized video CDs promoting global terrorism and calling for a jihad on America.

Displaying the VCDs, some of which were called Path to Paradise and The Message, Siliguri additional superintendent of police Kaliappan Jayaraman said: “We received a report from Assam that CDs promoting global terrorism and highlighting the September 11 terror attacks on the US were finding their way here. Following the tip-off, we raided three shops and recovered (these) CDs.”

The VCDs were being sold a low rate of Rs 30 each.

Four people have been arrested so far. Preliminary investigations revealed that these VCDs had been routed through Nepal.

“There are no credit lines in the full-length films which laud the attacks on the World Trade Center. They explain how Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida network planned and executed the attacks. The CDs exhort the ‘faithful’ to join a jihad against America,” Jayaraman said.

Superintendent of police, Darjeeling, Sanjay Chander, today took up the issue of the smuggled CDs with his Nepalese counterpart at an Indo-Nepal border meet at Jhapa in the neighbouring country. Police beefed up security along the Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bangla borders.


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