Security blanket envelops Red Road
38 booked on bus to Bangladesh
Raids to halt recruitment
Oops! Age-old rifles go automatic
The City Diary
Charges fly in campus closure
Held in bank, grilled for terrorist link
Billboards draw municipal wrath
Computers, karate and a touch of class
No panic at channel ban

 
 
SECURITY BLANKET ENVELOPS RED ROAD 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 25: 
No cellphones, no binoculars, no transistors or cameras. If possible, please don’t carry a bag either.

That’s the message from the police to Calcuttans planning to queue up on Red Road for a glimpse of the Republic Day parade.

Never before, say senior officers, has the run-up to the R-Day parade been marked by such frenetic activity.

First, the army pulled out of the parade following the attack on Parliament and growing tension along the Indo-Pak border.

Then, just as the police were gearing up for their first parade down Red Road, the AK-47s went off in front of American Center.

Now, the January 26 roadshow has been overshadowed by Terror Tuesday.

Unprecedented security arrangements have been made, with the police throwing a ring around the Red Road-Hospital Road area. In all, 12,000 policemen and commandos have been deployed, including 3,000 of them in plainclothes.

Police sources said the entire stretch from Curzon Park to Victoria Memorial has been divided into 120 sectors, with additional commissioners, joint commissioners and deputy commissioners monitoring the situation.

Chief secretary Sourin Roy visited the parade venue on Friday afternoon with senior officials, including home secretary Amit Kiran Deb, police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty and state director-general of police D.C. Vajpai, for an on-the-spot inspection. Senior officers oversaw two anti-sabotage drills, complete with metal detectors and nine sniffer dogs.

By Thursday night, a few hundred policemen had taken up position on top of tall structures, like Eden Gardens, All India Radio, Tata Centre and Jeevan Deep buildings. They were armed with powerful night-vision binoculars to keep an eagle eye on the area. Sandbag bunkers have been erected in front of Fort William.

A senior police officer said all cops on duty will display their identity cards prominently on their chests. All visitors, including VIPs, will have to pass through metal detector gates and have their bags checked. Governor Viren J. Shah will take the salute at the 40-minute parade.

Police Medal: Inspector-general of police, CID, Partha Bhattacharya, has been awarded the Indian Police Medal. This was announced by the Centre on Friday. The medal will be awarded to Bhattacharya in recognition of his role in cracking the Khadim’s abduction case.

   

 
 
38 BOOKED ON BUS TO BANGLADESH 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 25: 
A busload of 60 Bangladeshis was intercepted at the intersection of Barrackpore Road and NH-34 late on Thursday. None of the “infiltrators”, heading from New Delhi towards the Indo-Bangla border in Bongaon sub-division, was carrying a passport.

The local police arrested the driver and helper of the bus. The police booked 38 passengers, as 22 others were children, under the Foreigners Act. They were produced at Barasat court on Friday. All those arrested are from Firozpur and Bagerhat districts in Bangladesh.

According to preliminary investigation conducted by the district police, all the arrested Bangladeshis were going to cross over from Bagda, with some help from a “tout”.

M.H. Harisena Verma, superintendent of police, North 24-Parganas, said: “These daily labourers were living in Delhi for the past few years. After the attack on Parliament, the Delhi Police have been carrying out extensive raids. Fearing arrest, these Bangladeshi infiltrators fled the Capital.”

The group had, apparently, boarded a Howrah-bound train on Wednesday. “After reaching Howrah, the Bangladeshis went to Sheoraphuli, in Hooghly district. There they struck a deal with a tout to help them cross the border,” Verma said.

Officers of Barasat police station patrolling the intersection of Barrackpore Road and NH-34 stopped the bus late on Thursday. When it became clear that none of the passengers was carrying a passport, the district police took them into custody and alerted all police stations along the Indo-Bangla border.

“We have told our officers-in-charge to keep a strict vigil on all roads leading towards the border checkposts. People will be questioned at the slightest hint of suspicion,” said a district police officer.

Night vigil

All efforts to beef up security at Calcutta High Court will come to naught if night vigil at the complex is not intensified. That’s what members of the Howrah Ganatantrik Nagarik Samity have conveyed to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhatacharjee and Chief Justice A.K. Mathur, after they found “at least 250 outsiders sleeping on the court premises” on Thursday night. “Not a single guard was around,” alleged Samity general secretary Subhas Dutta.

Meanwhile, armed police were deployed at the various gates during court hours on Friday. “From Monday, metal detectors will be installed at the gates and courtroom doors,” a high court official said. Hawkers have also been asked to vacate the court premises.

   

 
 
RAIDS TO HALT RECRUITMENT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 25: 
With the Special Branch of Calcutta Police launching a probe into how a banner of the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (Simi) was displayed at a busy intersection of Ekbalpore, the police initiated swift, though belated, action against the banned organisation.

Ekbalpore police removed the banner and raided several places in the area to seize incriminating documents.

The police swung into action after The Telegraph published a photograph of a Simi banner on Sudhir Bose Road, accompanied by a report saying how Simi activists sit near a school on Hussein Shah Road to recruit people. The dated banner urged youth to join the Islamic students’ convention on Hussein Shah Road in June 2001.

Local residents said Simi had organised a students’ convention at the school in June last year, when the organisation was not banned yet, and had decided to undertake a year-long recruitment drive.

Police questioned several persons of the area during the day. Raids were conducted at Hussein Shah Park, adjoining the school.

Special Branch and port police officers admitted that there were reports of Simi secretly recruiting students and youth in the Ekbalpore, Watgunge, Garden Reach and surrounding areas. There is a special cell at Ekbalpore police station which monitors Simi activities.

The congested area of Ekbalpore was deserted in the afternoon. “Police asked us to remain indoors,” said Sheikh Nooruddin, of Sudhir Bose Road.

Deputy commissioner of police, Special Branch, Gaurav C. Dutt, has asked his officers to investigate the matter.

Special Branch sources said Dutt has pulled up an Intelligence officer, charging him with dereliction of duty.

A senior inspector of the Special Branch said the officer under the scanner was supposed to keep tabs on Simi. But, apparently, he had failed to collect relevant information.

According to deputy commissioner of police, port, H.P. Singh, security agencies are keeping tabs on eight Simi activists of Ekbalpore.

“They are meeting police officers at Ekbalpore police station every day with details about their current activities,’’ he said. “But there are no Simi activists in this area.”

Residents of Mayurbhanj Road, Hussein Shah Road and Sudhir Bose, however, reiterated that they had seen young men urging students to join their organisation.

“Last week, I asked the men about their organisation. They filled up a form and urged me to meet them at an appointed place in the area. But my parents asked me to stay out of it,’’ said a 22-year-old local resident.

Later on Friday evening, senior security agency officers visited Ekbalpore police station to investigate the matter.

   

 
 
OOPS! AGE-OLD RIFLES GO AUTOMATIC 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, Jan 25: 
First, the failure to fire. Then, the misfire. Forty-eight hours after they failed to fire a single shot in front of American Center, the focus was once again on constables of the armed police for misfiring while loading their .303 rifles.

Not once, but twice in a day. Early on Thursday, the first shot went off at the armed police headquarters at Bodyguard Lines, in Alipore. The bullet, ‘fired’ by a constable of the 6th Battalion preparing for duty, hit the ceiling and burnt a gaping hole in it. Barely 18 hours later, at the same place, it was the turn of a member of the 7th Battalion to pull the trigger by mistake, while loading his .303.

Joint commissioner, armed police, Raj Kanojia, confirmed the misfiring but said a senior officer was probing the incident.

Kanojia was quick to quell doubts raised over the efficacy of the .303. “Around 8,000 policemen patrol the city with these rifles. The .303 is a perfect weapon for law and order duties. Manufactured by the Ordnance Factory Board, our rifles are 15 to 20 years old,” Kanojia said.

An initial probe on Friday evening revealed that the guns could have gone off for a variety of reasons:

The bolt may not have been pushed in properly

The bullet may not have been properly fitted in the chamber

The person handling the rifle may have been careless

The chamber and the bolt may not have been cleaned properly

The morning gunshot had senior officers rushing to the spot. One of the constables who witnessed the day’s first ‘misfire’, told his seniors: “Fortunately, the rifle was pointing to the ceiling. Otherwise, the bullet could have hit any one of us.”

According to sources, efforts were on to brush the incident under the carpet. But then, the other bullet went off. Neither has been recovered yet.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

15-day deadline to vacate Nullah banks

The state government has given a fortnight, starting February 10, for people to remove encroachments along the Kudghat-Hastings stretch of Tolly’s Nullah. “We will begin identifying the families residing on both banks of the 9 km stretch of the canal so that we can hand them the Rs 2,500 shifting cost when we begin removing the structures,” said minister for municipal affairs Asok Bhattacharya. The minister said mayor Subrata Mukherjee had assured all help in providing the equipment for the job. There are about 1,800 structures on the stretch concerned. Bhattacharya said he would make an appeal through the media as well as through the public address system asking the encroachers to remove their shanties beyond the 15-foot zone from the high tide line. “I am hoping that they do so by February 25 when we begin the eviction drive,” the minister said.

Tagore memorial

Sahara India has sent a proposal to the government for the beautification of Rabindranath Tagore’s memorial at the Nimtola crematorium. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee said on Friday that the proposal was placed at the executive committee meeting of the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA). “Sahara officials will meet me and municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya on February 21,” Mukherjee said.

The memorial is done up once a year on Tagore’s death anniversary. Sahara wants to beautify the place so that it becomes a tourist attraction. “People can come here and pay their respects to the poet throughout the year,” the mayor pointed out. Mukherjee said the project could be a joint venture between the CMDA and Sahara.

Critical care

Indian Society of Critical Care Medicine (ISCCM), in association with Belle Vue Clinic, has arranged a seminar on ‘Disaster preparedness’ at Belle Vue Clinic on Saturday. Members of ISCCM will narrate their experiences in Gujarat after the earthquake while helping the victims.

CM for development

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee sought suggestions from engineers to speed up development. Speaking at the 15th general meeting of the Association of State Engineers and Technical Officers, he said the government wanted to install computers to improve services and added that they would not deviate from the decentralisation process.

Smooth passage

In order to devise means of solving their problems, a convention of north suburban train commuters has been organised by the Co-ordination Committee of Passengers’ Association on Sunday. The convention will take place at Golden Jubilee Ground in Belgharia on the northern fringes of the city. The conventioin will be inaugurated by state public works department minister Amar Chowdhury.

Flight schedule

The Indian Airlines Calcutta flight IC 263 to New Delhi on Saturday will leave at 10.30 am instead of 7 am owing to closure of the airport at Delhi from 8 am to 12 noon for Republic Day celebrations.    

 
 
CHARGES FLY IN CAMPUS CLOSURE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 25: 
Students and teachers of Bengal Engineering College (Deemed University) are worried as uncertainty prevails over the reopening of the institution. It was closed nearly a month ago for an indefinite period, following a series of clashes between a group of students and some local CPM supporters on December 24.

There is no hope of a solution in sight after the institution’s board of management failed to settle the matter at its meeting this week.

The authorities have called another meeting of the board of management next week, college sources said on Friday.

The situation took a turn for the worse on Thursday, after the authorities held the university convocation in the absence of 1,600 under-graduate students. These students were packed off home a day after the trouble erupted on December 23.

Teachers boycotted Wednesday’s programme, protesting the authorities’ decision to hold the convocation before restoring “peace on the campus.”

“How could we disregard the contribution of the under-graduate students? Many of them had illustrious careers,” complained Santanu Karmakar, general secretary, Bengal Engineering College Deemed University Teachers’ Association.

Amal Jyoti Sengupta, deemed university vice-chancellor, brushed aside the charges, saying the under-graduate students should not “feel let-down” as they “have nothing to do with this kind of programme.” All the post-graduate students were invited.

He said the management was trying its best to reopen the college as early as possible. It was unable to do so as non-teaching employees were still hostile and tension prevailed on the campus.

Last month, students beat up and seriously injured a non-teaching employee owing allegiance to the CPM-controlled employees’ union.

Students, particularly those in the final year, on Wednesday demanded that the government take measures to break the deadlock and reopen the college. They are concerned because following the closure, a number of under-graduate examinations have been deferred.

And after September 11, the job market has shrunk. So their careers could be at stake.

   

 
 
HELD IN BANK, GRILLED FOR TERRORIST LINK 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 25: 
The police are trying to establish links between the youths picked up from a nationalised bank in Ballygunge on Friday and the terrorist attack on American Center on Tuesday.

On Friday, at 12.45 pm, three youths — Abdur Rezzak, Mohammad Rezzak and Mohammad Pappu — in their 20s, entered a branch of Central Bank of India on Rashbehari Avenue. An alert guard noticed the trio and started questioning them. At this, the trio tried to escape.

Bank customers and Gariahat hawkers managed to catch the three. Sources said the trio might have been lynched if the police did not arrive on time.

Brajeswar Bhattacharya, assistant commissioner, said: “The Rezzaks look like Kashmiris. They were speaking with a Kashmiri accent.” They claim to have come from Nizamuddin, in Delhi, and are cousins. For the past two months, they had been staying in a rented house in Ekbalpore. Mohammad has recently married a girl from Metiabruz. Pappu is a resident of Metiabruz, with an uncle in Delhi.

The police are baffled by the confusing replies given by the trio. D.P. Bhattacharya, officer-in-charge, Gariahat police station, who interrogated them, said: “Initially, they said that they had gone to the bank to rob money. They had also targeted a customer, who had withdrawn Rs 50,000, but could not say what they were doing in the city for the past two months. While Mohammad Rezzak said he had come alone from Delhi and was here since his marriage, Abdur Rezzak said they had come together.” About Rs 12,000 was recovered from them.

   

 
 
BILLBOARDS DRAW MUNICIPAL WRATH 
 
 
BY TARAK NATH DE
 
Calcutta, Jan 25: 
Calcutta showed the way to do away with visual pollution. Now, Howrah follows suit. Taking a cue from the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), the Howrah civic authorities said they would pull down illegal billboards, mounted on buildings and elsewhere.

Chanchal Bandopadhyay, commissioner of Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC), said the decision was taken after complaints from pedestrians and residents. “A drive will be launched to pull down the billboards shortly. Residents have been lodging complaints about billboards obstructing the view and it’s time something was done,” he said. “Some billboards near the Howrah Maidan crossing obstruct traffic lights, posing problems for vehicle drivers.”

According to Bandopadhyay, HMC is losing sizeable revenue because of the illegal billboards. As per rules, billboards are not allowed on heritage buildings and government offices. Moreover, they cannot obstruct government notices and traffic lights.

About billboards that fall outside their jurisdiction, like those in the Port area, civic officials said they would have to review the situation and decide on a course of action. “We will talk to the respective departments before taking action,” said an HMC official. In the central business district of Howrah, advertisement agencies earn a lot from billboards but rarely do they abide by the rules, he said.

Jyotirmoy Chatterjee, resident of Mullickfatak, welcomed the HMC decision. “For the past couple of years, no effective steps were taken against this menace. There have been accidents because of the billboards,” he added.

According to M. K. Saha of Karukrit advertising agency, the decision to pull down illegal billboards was timely. “We are happy that steps are now being taken,” he added.

A Selvel official, A. K. Das, too, welcomed the decision. “These measures should have been implemented long ago,” he said.

   

 
 
COMPUTERS, KARATE AND A TOUCH OF CLASS 
 
 
SUDESHNA BANERJEE
 
Calcutta, Jan 25: 
A dream that germinated in 1998 in Howrah is finally coming to fruition. MCK Vidyapith, the district’s “first 21st century school”, is slated to hit top gear in the next session.

Built on a sprawling 120,000 sq ft in Liluah, it is an English-medium school for boys which seeks to “promote India’s cultural heritage” as well as impart new-millennium skills.

“There was a need for such a new- age school in Howrah. There are not enough quality English-medium schools in the district,” said Kishen Kejriwal, a member of the trustee board.

The school is functioning in a two-storeyed structure, with work on two more floors nearing completion. An auditorium is being readied in the basement.

The student strength is 1,400. “We are adding a section each to Nursery, Kindergarten and Class I from the next session. Our target is around 3,000 in six years,” informs principal P.E. Joseph.

The school, which is increasingly using audio-visual methods in classroom teaching, has recently got affiliated to the Indian Council for Secondary Education.

“We play CDs on computers in the Nursery classes. Cartoons make it easier for the kids to grasp the meaning of the rhymes. The higher classes are also starting to use the overhead projectors in our AV room,” says Joseph.

The school has an impressive line-up of extra-curricular dos. Karate, taught from Class III, tops the popularity chart, followed by tabla.

But budding karatekas like Bachan Lohia and Akash Dhamani, of Class IV, insist that they use their newly-learnt art “only in self-defence”.

The Saturday classes are now drawing full house, especially since the school will be holding its first karate championship this Saturday.

Calligraphy comes in handy for working on the wall-magazines that every house has to put up. The content is a mix of newspaper clippings, event-reporting and literary ventures.

“The teachers help us, but basically it is our product,” says Bachan, a Yellow House member. There is a keen spirit of competition, as the magazines are ranked every month. “From April, we will start clay-modelling,” says Kejriwal.

“Extra-curricular activities play a big role in all-round development of students. Howrah is so congested that the playground here is all the space they have,” adds the young industrialist.

Principal Joseph, however, insists that the school’s focus will be on academics. “After a student passes out, the first thing people ask is marks in the school-leaving exam,” he points out.

Embarking on a new journey has a different feel for Joseph, an academic for 30 years.

“Howrah used to be called the Sheffield of India. I want to see my boys grow up into entrepreneurs. Perhaps they can revive the district’s glory days,” he smiles.

   

 
 
NO PANIC AT CHANNEL BAN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan 25: 
More than 1.5 lakh cable and satellite homes in Calcutta under the SitiCable umbrella remained without ESPN and STAR Sports on Friday, with the two control rooms “pulled up” by the broadcaster showing little signs of panic.

Poorvi and Calcom, two of the three city cable networks affiliated to SitiCable, had the two sports channels yanked off their menu on Tuesday, following a dispute over declaration of paying points. But, the operators don’t fear any viewer backlash, citing a “lean season” fare on the two channels in the near future.

“We don’t foresee any pressure from the subscribers, since they (ESPN and STAR Sports) don’t have too many winning products now,” said a SitiCable spokesman, making it clear they won’t make the first move to resolve the issue.

“They had switched off the signals without giving us any prior intimation. Now, it’s up to them to sort things out,” said an operator under Poorvi.

   
 

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