Criminal cop caught in act
Crackdown on contacts
Motive muddle in executive murder
Afternoon drizzles
Tried and tested, in trust and rust
The City Diary
Building of Hastings’ Belvedere
First Haj flight takes off
AK-47 bonus for jail guards
Showcase Andhra as tourist hotspot

 
 
CRIMINAL COP CAUGHT IN ACT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 29: 
The place: Lalbazar

The crime: Extortion

The criminal: A constable of the 6th Battalion of the State Armed Police

The casualty: The image of the man in uniform.

When Ratan Boral withdrew Rs 17,000 from his account in a nationalised bank on Tuesday afternoon, he did not know what lay in store. A constable confronted him, herded him to the police headquarters and succeeded in extorting the money from him.

The ordeal ended on a happy note for Boral, 28, whose tears alerted policemen, who managed to collar the criminal cop.

Boral, a resident of Dasnagar, in Howrah, left his office in Phears Lane, central Calcutta, a little early and went to the Rawdon Street branch of SBI, from where he drew the money.

Stepping out of the bank, he walked towards Minto Park. “I was going to catch a bus back to office,” Boral told the policemen who saved him from being robbed.

As soon as he reached the bus stop, he was intercepted by constable Barun Sarkar. “The money you are carrying in your bag comprises forged currency,” he told a bewildered Boral. “I am a policeman,” Sarkar added, flashing his identity card. He ordered Boral to hand over the money and pulled out an airgun when he hesitated.

Boral ran and boarded an Esplanade-bound bus. But Sarkar followed suit. Catching Boral by the collar, Sarkar told him to accompany him to Lalbazar.

They reached the police headquarters around 4 pm, said deputy commissioner of police (headquarters) Banibrata Basu.

When securitymen posted at the entry gate challenged him, Sarkar flashed his identity card yet again. “He told the guards that he was going to assistant commissioner (headquarters) Ashok Dutta, who had summoned him for an enquiry,’’ Basu said. Boral was being taken along for the “interrogation”, Sarkar had added.

On reaching the second floor of the building, which houses the police control rooms, Sarkar demanded the money. Pointing at the senior officer’s chamber, Sarkar said: “I will take the notes to my superiors for investigation. I have definite information that they are fake.’’

He directed Boral to a chair for visitors, and headed for the staircase on the northern wing.

Boral began to cry, attracting the attention of some cops, who heard him out. Three of them ran down the stairs towards the exit and spotted Sarkar on the opposite footpath. He was taken into custody.

Hare Street police station has started a case against Sarkar after the money was returned to Boral. Additional director-general (Armed Police) R.K. Mohanty said: “Sarkar will be suspended and we will initiate departmental action against him.’’

   

 
 
CRACKDOWN ON CONTACTS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 29: 
The day after being left completely in the dark by a joint Delhi-Hazaribagh Police operation cracking the American Center case, the Calcutta Police stepped on the probe pedal.

Sweeping raids were carried out on Monday night and Tuesday morning in a bid to flush out the facilitators of the crime.

An alleged ISI agent, Raj Kumar Bahatia, was arrested from Nandaram Market, in Burrabazar, on Tuesday.

Deputy commissioner, central, Zulfiquar Hasan, said Bahatia was a hawala operator. “He has funneled a lot of money through the hawala route for ISI operations,” Hasan said.

Sheikh Dilshad, an ISI operative held in Siliguri by Darjeeling police, had earlier told interrogators he took the help of Bahatia during his stay in Calcutta. “Bahatia will be handed over to the Darjeeling police,” Hasan said.

The police are also on the lookout for Nasir, believed to have been a key contact in the Terror Tuesday attack.

An alert has been sounded for Sadaqat, a criminal with “Mumbai connections”, who is absconding after the Hazaribagh encounter.

But Calcutta Police are still trying to figure out the role played by Salim, who was killed in the Hazaribagh shootout along with Mohammad Idris. “That he had a role to play is obvious,” the officer said. “But when he fitted into the plot and his role is what we are still trying to figure out.”

Also under the sleuth scanner is Dubai-based Amir Reza, brother of Asif Reza, who was killed in an encounter with the Rajkot police in December. Police claim Amir had called up home on January 22, the day four policemen were killed in front of the American Center.

It is also learnt that Amir, wanted by the police, may have visited the city a couple of times in the past few months. “It appears that Amir was aware of several details of the attack and may have been familiar with the planning of the crime,” an official said.

The police also believe Amir had arranged for the motorcycle used in the attack. They are keeping a watch on two garage-owners in central Calcutta.

After a high-level meeting, police said that raids would continue in central Calcutta to track down contacts.

   

 
 
MOTIVE MUDDLE IN EXECUTIVE MURDER 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 29: 
Twenty-four hours after a senior manager of a liquor company, Pranendra Roy Choudhury, alias Pappu, was gunned down at his Lake Gardens house doorstep, the police are still clueless about the motive of the murder.

Roy Choudhury, 39, was returning home around 10.30 pm when he was shot dead. As soon as his hired car (DIB 1247) pulled up in front of his Lake Gardens house, a slim, tall man walked up and asked him for Rs 25,000.

The unidentified man shot Roy Choudhury in the head before he could react.

The cold-blooded murder has sent shock waves in the otherwise peaceful locality. “The manner in which Roy Choudhury was killed has scared us. It can happen to any body here any time,’’ said a neighbour.

“This is the first time in many years that such a gruesome killing has taken place in our locality. What is the use of having a police patrol posted at the Lords Bakery crossing if killers can stalk us freely?’’ demanded another resident.

Deputy commissioner of police, south, Kuldip Singh, said on Tuesday that driver Binod Mahato had told investigators about the man demanding the money before Roy Choudhury was shot.

“The assailant used an improvised revolver. One of the bullets pierced Roy Choudhury’s head and grazed my left chin,’’ said Mahato, who is recovering in a south Calcutta nursing home.

But Singh said that neither Roy Choudhury’s family nor his employers had mentioned anything about him receiving an extortion threat. Police are also probing the travel agency from where he hired his cars.

“He had a personal car but would travel in vehicles hired from the agency,’’ said officer-in-charge of Lake police station, Anil Jana. “We have evidence to suggest it is not the handiwork of local criminals. We are investigating several angles,’’ deputy commissioner Singh said later.

   

 
 
AFTERNOON DRIZZLES 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Jan. 29: 
The sky remained cloudy on Tuesday, except for a brief spell of sunshine in the morning. A steady drizzle started in the late afternoon.

The weather office recorded the minimum temperature at 13.7 degrees Celsius, 5.8 degrees lower than that on Monday. The rainfall was 0.6 mm till 5.30 pm.

Sources in the Met Office said that the trough of low pressure, which had developed over Calcutta and the districts on Monday morning, weakened on Tuesday and moved towards Orissa. “It is expected to weaken further and the weather may improve by Wednesday,” they added.

Tuesday’s maximum temperature was 22.2 degrees, a degree higher than that recorded on Monday.

A Met Office spokesman said the current clouds and rain were a “temporary phenomenon. But this does not mean that winter will intensify. It is already on its way out and the temperature will gradually rise by the middle of February, when spring arrives.”

   

 
 
TRIED AND TESTED, IN TRUST AND RUST 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, Jan. 29: 
“To possess one’s own .303 rifle is to own a small part of world history.”

That’s how the legend about the good ol’ bolt goes. But the war veteran is now fighting a losing battle in the line of automatic fire.

Ask constable RK of the 5th Battalion of Calcutta Armed Police: “Kya saheb, bandook mein to jung lag gaya hai. Do goli daagna bhi mushkil hai… Isse hum unka muqabla kaise kar sakte hain (The rifle has become rusty. Firing twice is tough… How can we possibly face up to terrorists armed with automatic weapons)?”

RK’s colleagues failed to fire even one shot from their “tried and tested .303s” in front of the American Center as Terror Tuesday dawned. The blame needle is swinging wildly from the arms (“the .303 is obsolete”) to the men (“why couldn’t anyone pull the trigger”).

At the centre of it all is the gun that stayed silent on January 22. Designed in 1879 by James Paris Lee, using the Metford style of rifling in the barrel, the .303 was officially adopted by Great Britain in 1903. The Lee-Metford soon became Lee Enfield and was then launched as Lees Enfield No. 1 Mark I. It was the rifle of choice for the British infantrymen in the Boer War. From 1903, these rifles have gone down in ‘ammospeak’ as Short Magazine Lee Enfield (SMLE).

The next version of SMLE (No. 1 Mark III) was launched in 1907 and became the rifle of World War I.

“These rifles were the mainstay of the British Army during some of the most turbulent times in history. Only the Mauser came anywhere near achieving the sterling service that the .303 rifle in its various guises delivered,” is how arms experts have immortalised the SMLE.

That was then and now is now. With the .303 having been phased out in England, Canada and Australia some 50 years ago, isn’t it time to run a utility check in Calcutta where around 5,400 such rifles are used by constables and head constables?

Rajat Konar (name changed on request) of the reserve force sure thinks so. “The constables at the American Center had no option but to duck. It takes so much time to load and fire the .303s. What can you do with such a weapon when you are facing a shower of bullets from AK-56s?”

But what has kept the nine-pound rifle using .303 British cartridges on the crook of the Calcutta cops’ shoulder since Independence?

“The rate of fire, around 10-12 rounds per minute, is adequate in law-and-order situations. It has a fantastic range of 300 metres and also gives the force an option of using plastic bullets to control mobs,” says joint commissioner (armed police) Raj Kanojia. “But we do need more automatic weapons for our specialised forces, who are meant to combat terrorism.”

Adds Col (retd) Saumitra Ray, Shourya Chakra: “The AK-47 is a high-velocity weapon that sprays bullets which drill small holes at entry and exit points. Bleeding is much less and the chance of fatality is low if the bullets miss the vital organs. But the .303 is an accurate low-velocity killer weapon that hits the target with much greater impact and burns bigger exit points.”

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Desilt drive after eviction at Beleghata

The urban development department is gearing up to start desilting Beleghata canal and widen roads on both its sides. Before that, an eviction drive will be undertaken to remove encroachments. Urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya, who held a meeting with mayor Subrata Mukherjee, environment minister and local MLA Manab Mukherjee and local Trinamul Congress MLA Sadhan Pande in his office at Writers’ Buildings on Tuesday, said the irrigation department would conduct a survey in February to assess the extent to which the canal would need to be dredged. Desiltation will be undertaken on a seven-km stretch from a point near RG Kar Medical College and Hospital to the Bypass. “The Corporation and elected representatives will start a campaign in the area explaining the necessity of the exercise,” the minister said. A sum of Rs 6 crore has been earmarked for the purpose from the Ganga Action Plan. Another amount in the range of Rs 12 -14 crore will be spent by the irrigation department on desiltation, he said.

Eunuchs as CMC guards

The Corporation plans to engage eunuchs to guard the no-parking area near the Parkomat. The Parkomat has failed to attract vehicles as the CMC found that drivers preferred the cheaper ground-level parking space in the vicinity of Park Street despite the construction of India’s first multi-storeyed, fully-automated and compu-terised parking lot at an expenditure of Rs 8.5 crore. This continued even after Calcutta Police declared a 500-metre area around the Parkomat a no-parking zone in December.

Bomb scare

There was a bomb scare at Hindustan Building on Chittaranjan Avenue on Tuesday morning. Employees of the building, which houses a number of offices including that of Life Insurance Corporation, rushed out on the streets after a call around 10.45 am warned people on the sixth floor of a bomb being planted there. The Hare Street police station was informed. Officials from the bomb disposal squad arrived with a sniffer dog. The building was vacated. But a search yielded nothing.

TB hospital MoU

A memorandum of understanding was signed between the state government and the UK-based private company, National Health Service of U K, for setting up a 300-bed hospital at the Kumud Shankar Roy TB Hospital on Tuesday. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was present during the meeting at Writers’ Buildings. Director of medical education Chittaranjan Maity said the state government had agreed to allot a 55-acre plot for the hospital. The British company will invest Rs 300 crore in the first phase. Work is scheduled to be complete in three years. The MoU was signed by Dr Maity on behalf of the government and K. Priestly on the British side.

Alcohol seized

State excise department officials seized a tanker carrying 11,000 litres of distilled alcohol which a gang was trying to smuggle out near Watgunge. However, all the men escaped. A hunt has been launched to trace them.

3 held for murder

Officers of the Habra police station arrested three persons for their alleged involvement in the murder of Kartik Mondal three years ago. Mondal was murdered on January 28, 1998.

Old gold

Singer Haimanti Shukla released an album of puratoni Bengali songs by Ramkumar Chattopadhyay at MusicWorld on Tuesday. Besides the two-volume album, the songs also come in a CD. Hindustan Records has provided assistance in compiling the 15 songs.

Surgery seminar

A three-hour symposium on surgery was organised on Tuesday as part of the 68th reunion of the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital. The speakers stressed training in modern management as a part of the medical curriculum. Over 1,000 former students are attending the three-day reunion.

Woman injured

Shikha Saha, 25, was seriously injured after a private bus speeding down Belgachhia Road mounted a pavement and hit another vehicle coming from Duttabagan Road side on Tuesday morning. Saha was taken to hospital for treatment and the vehicles were impounded.    

 
 
BUILDING OF HASTINGS’ BELVEDERE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 29: 
A belvedere, the dictionary says, is a summer house. And of the buildings which fit that description in this city, few could rival the beauty of what used to be the seat of Warren Hastings in Alipore, which has housed National Library since February 1, 1953.

But as historian P.T. Nair said in his lecture on the Belvedere at the library on Tuesday, originally the building was hardly as grand as we see it today. Over the years, its occupants added wings and rooms to the core structure consisting of a hall and a verandah in the south, in addition to six rooms.

Mir Jaffar Ali Khan had gifted the 400-bigha Belvedere Estate to Hastings for his support in reinstating him to the masnad of Murshidabad in 1763. Though Hastings stated in his Minute dated February 9, 1775, that he bought the house occupied by his predecessors, Mr Verelst and Mr Cartier, for 60,000 sicca rupees, the correspondence of his associate Richard Barwell provides evidence that he had owned Belvedere since 1763.

The then governor-general sold Belvedere Estate, which comprised Hastings House, Judges Court, Belvedere mansion, the land on which the zoo was built and stretches to the north and south of Belvedere Road, in lots in 1785-86. Hastings bequeathed 70 bighas to his step-son, Julius Imhoff, before selling off the estate.

The home of National Library and the 63 bighas attached to it changed hands before East India Company finally bought it for Rs 80,000. One of its owners was an Indian, Sambhu Chandra Mukherjee, who is not to be mistaken for the famous journalist of that name.

Between 1854 and 1912, the lieutenant-governors, who resided there, added on features to the building in the Italian Renaissance style, which enhanced its splendour. Electricity was introduced here in 1897, four years before the Governor’s residence was given a power connection.

The house used to be luxuriously appointed with paintings by the Daniells, portraits of the lieutenant-governors and statuary. The throne of the lieutenant-governors was made by J. Boseck.

It was the scene of many grand parties. Most of the treasures were removed to Victoria Memorial in early 20th century. The building has had literary associations since May 16. Archibald Fleming, editor of Oriental Star, which was published from the city between 1793 and 1820, used to live there. The Society for Diffusion of Useful Literature in India held its first meeting there on January 31, 1890.

Besides mahogany, mango, bamboo and banyan trees, the National Library grounds could boast a rare sundari tree and rare medicinal herbs. Unfortunately, scores of them were felled to make way for annexes.

   

 
 
FIRST HAJ FLIGHT TAKES OFF 
 
 
BY OUR AIRPORT REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 29: 
The first batch of 410 Haj pilgrims from Calcutta left for Jeddah on Tuesday morning.

Civil aviation minister Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, who flagged off the chartered flight at Netaji Subhas International Airport, said 70,000 pilgrims would be flown to Jeddah from different parts of the country by Air India, Indian Airlines and Saudi Arabian Airlines.

For the first time, pilgrims from Srinagar will be flown by Indian Airlines, the minister said. Air India will operate Boeing 747 daily till February 12 to fly 6,031 pilgrims from Calcutta. Pilgrims will be given foreign exchange at the airport from where they board instead of at Jeddah.

Air India will operate departure and return flights on the Mumbai- Calcutta- Guwahati-Bangkok route twice a week from April. It has acquired five aircraft on lease. Talks are on for two more, the minister said.

   

 
 
AK-47 BONUS FOR JAIL GUARDS 
 
 
OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Jan. 29: 
The government has launched a drive to overhaul security arrangements of three central jails in the city, in the wake of Tuesday’s attack on the American Center. Nearly 4,000 prisoners, including the “high-risk” Khadim’s abduction case accused, are lodged in these jails.

The prison directorate has decided to arm warders and senior staff with sophisticated weapons, such as AK-47 rifles. There are 3,000 warders and executive staff, including superintendents and jailers. In addition, modern arms are supplementing armouries in all three jails.

The decision to upgrade the security in jails was taken at a meeting at Writers’ Buildings on Friday, attended by inspector-general of prisons Anil Kumar and senior jail staff, including superintendents of the central jails.

“The time is ripe to revamp the security system in jails, particularly after Tuesday’s attack. Unless it is done on a war footing, the staff may find it difficult to tackle prized prisoners,” Kumar said. Some employees will be trained at the Police Training School, at Hastings, on how to use sophisticated arms.

Stressing the need for “rigorous” training, Kumar said a majority of the prison staff, who were armed in the early 70s after rampant imprisonment of the Naxalites, must have forgotten how to use them. “I feel that my staff need to pick up skills by learning the knowhow of modern weapons,” he added.

Welcoming the move, Gopal Sarkar, a warder posted in Presidency Jail, Alipore, said the supply of sophisticated weapons would definitely boost the morale of the force. “In fact, the watch and ward staff, comprising warders, are crippled by the absence of modern armoury. We will be reduced to a laughing stock if asked to tackle the Khadim’s case accused with our obsolete weapons,” he said.

Echoing Sarkar, Anil Das, chief discipline officer of Dum Dum Central Jail, said: “We have been asking for sophisticated arms for quite some time but nothing has been done so far.”

Riten Guha, jailer of Alipore Central, however, felt that unless proper training was imparted to the staff, use of modern weapons would be an uphill task.

Another major highlight of the proposed prison reforms programme is to recruit a fresh batch of warders to fill vacancies. Officials admitted to a shortage of nearly 160 warders in five central jails in the city and elsewhere in the districts.

“We have begun the process of recruiting at least 80 warders on an emergency basis through the employment exchange,” announced deputy inspector-general of prisons (headquarters) P.D. Mondal. The watchtowers adjoining the jails will be manned by the new recruits.

This apart, officials said, all superintendents and jailers have been asked to regularly interact with warders and sub-ordinate staff to brief them about the antecedents of the inmates. All leave stands cancelled for the jail employees.

   

 
 
SHOWCASE ANDHRA AS TOURIST HOTSPOT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 29: 
To boost Andhra Pradesh tourism, members of the state tourism development board visited Calcutta to announce plans for developments across the state.

Two Calcutta-based companies signed MoUs with the tourism department for projects. Plans are on to develop a ropeway, for which Conveyor Ropeways Services has been commissioned to conduct a feasibility study. The proposed site for the 1.6-km project is Thotlakonda. The estimated cost of such a project is around Rs 3 crore.

Bhagvati Oxygen Pvt Ltd, also based in Calcutta, has signed an MoU for the construction of a Rs 10-crore multiplex, combining theatres with a shopping complex in Hyderabad.

“Bengalis have been statistically proven to be the biggest travellers in the country,” said Chandana Khan, secretary, tourism and culture, government of Andhra Pradesh. Visakhapatnam is high on the destination list for most travellers from Calcutta, with Tirupathi rated amongst the most-visited spots.

The Board also announced new theme parks, hotels and resorts. At Tirupathi, a “religious theme park” is on the anvil, as well as a Rs 6-crore visitor’s zone with a multiplex, ropeway, water and amusement park. Resorts and centres for ayurvedic therapies, forest camps and beach resorts are currently under construction as well. In Hyderabad, a 3D Imax theatre, snow park and golf course are just some of the soon-to-be-unveiled projects.

   
 

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