IIIT strike called off after minister meet
Spurned lover sets self on fire
Arrests foil attempt to kidnap promoter
Youth caught for fraud
Arms course for city cops
Big four from Big Brother in core committee
Bill opens up social sector
Birla school bags better city prize
Pak ‘agent’ escorted to Siliguri

Calcutta, Feb 9: 
After a weeklong deadlock, the crisis seems to have been resolved at the Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Salt Lake.

Following a meeting with state technical education minister Mohammad Salim on Saturday, the students have decided to call off the strike. Classes will start from Monday, February 11.

The students at the fledgling institute were on strike from Friday, February 1, to protest the “poor state of academic and physical infrastructure” at the state-promoted tech school.

Salim declined to comment on the specifics of the discussion with the students. “The meeting went off quite well. The students talked about their problems and I tried to convince them about the state government’s commitment to improve the state of affairs at the institute,” he said.

The students announced their decision after a marathon meeting at the recreation hall of their hostel in Labony on Saturday night. They admitted that the minister did not make any specific commitment to fulfil their demands, but they were satisfied with his response.

“No one invited him to the campus. He came on his own and gave us a patient hearing. He has assured us that some of the problems will be solved within six months,” said a student.

According to students, during the one-and-a-half-hour-long closed-door meeting, Salim promised that the government would try to complete the construction of the IIIT campus on the 6.4-acre plot of land in Sector V, Salt Lake, within six months. The 15-month-old institute does not have its own building, and classes for Ist-year students are held on the TechnoIndia campus in Sector V, while IInd-year students attend classes at Technical Teachers’ Training Institute in Labony.

“The minister informed us that the government was looking for funds to set up the campus,” said another student.

While the minister had something to offer on the campus issue, he did not have a “convincing stand” on the status of the tech school. IIIT is awaiting affiliation from the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), which has asked the institute to drop the “Indian” tag from its name. It has also given the institute six months to construct the campus.

Besides, the government has yet to take action for the institute to be granted deemed university status.

The students rejected Salim’s offer of a degree from West Bengal University of Technical Education. At present, they are eligible for a graduate diploma in information technology, but the institute had promised them a B.Tech degree.

“We are not interested in a degree from a lesser-known body,” said a student. They were, however, willing to settle for a degree from Jadavpur University. The minister promised to reach their request to Union minister for human resources development Murli Manohar Joshi who he would meet during his trip to Delhi next week.

During the meeting, the students also raised the issue of the “quality” of IIIT’s corporate partners. The minister told them that the corporates associated with the institute were not partners but only donors, a student said.


Calcutta, Feb 9: 
Spurned in his offer of marriage, a youth sought to end his life at the doorstep of his girlfriend in Ultadanga.

Lokenath Shaw, 24, set himself on fire on Gorapada Sarker Lane late on Friday after the girl’s father refused to accept their relationship as his daughter was a minor.

Local residents admitted the youth to RG Kar Hospital where his condition was stated to be critical.

Lokenath, who hails from Bihar and works in a local welding unit, had fallen in love with a girl a few months ago. Trouble started when the girl’s parents came to know about their friendship and refused to accept it.

“Lokenath wanted to marry the girl soon. The youth went to the girl’s house around 11.30 pm on Friday with the marriage proposal. He told Gajanan Saha, the girl’s father, that he wanted to marry his daughter immediately. But Gajanan turned down his proposal and refused him entry to the house,” said an officer of Ultadanga police station.

But Lokenath would not take no for an answer and tried to enter the house forcibly. He also called out to his girlfriend to come along with him. An infuriated Gajanan shut the door on his face.

Lokenath headed for his workplace, from where he collected a barrel of kerosene oil. He returned to the girl’s house, poured the oil and set himself ablaze. On hearing him scream, local people rushed to the spot. They tried to douse the flames by wrapping him in a blanket and took him to RG Kar Hospital.

Later, senior police officials, including the deputy commissioner, eastern suburban division, visited the spot and spoke to the girl’s parents.

Two held in chit scam

Two persons were arrested in Chitpur over the recent chit fund scam. Police said the agents — Jaiprakash Sharma and Rajivranjan Srivastava — used to work for Citi Securities, a non-banking firm. With the arrests, the total has shot up to 28.

Three picked up: Three people were arrested in Topsia on Saturday. Police said two of them were wagon-breakers while the third, picked up near a madarsah, was held for “suspicious movements”.


Calcutta, Feb 9: 
They thought it was a foolproof plan and had even conducted a “dress rehearsal” to see if it would work. Armed to the teeth, they had entered the city through Bihar and plotted to kidnap a policeman. At stake was a ransom of several crores. But they had left a few loopholes unplugged and those finally led to their arrest on Saturday after a brief scuffle with the police.

Early on Saturday, Sheikh Sagar, alias Bangal, Feroz Alam and Anwar arrived in Ekbalpore in an Ambassador to abduct Mohammad Moin, a promoter. Another car with two occupants — Zakir and Shakeel — was parked in a nearby alley, ready to provide cover to the criminals once they picked up the target.

The instructions were clear: Shoot at anyone who comes in the way. Sagar and Alam, who planned to bundle Moin in the car the moment he stepped out, waited outside his house.

Acting on a tip-off that the five-member gang would try to “abduct or extort” money from local businessmen, Ekbalpore police threw a security ring around the area. “We had stepped up vigil since the past few days. The criminals walked straight into our net,” said deputy commissioner of police (port) Harmanpreet Singh.

Feroz was the first to spot the approaching cops and opened fire at them. Bombs were also hurled. But the police had surrounded them by then. Sagar, Feroz and Anwar were caught after a brief scuffle, while Zakir and Shakeel, who waited at a distance, managed to flee. Two firearms and several rounds of cartridges were recovered from them.

The arrested trio was taken in custody and interrogated. “They confessed to plotting several dacoities and extortions,” said Singh.

Preliminary investigations revealed that a few months ago, Sagar, a notorious criminal from Bhangar, in South 24-Parganas, contacted his old ally, Feroz of Ekbalpore, to work together. Feroz started contacting local criminals and within a few days, a five-member gang was formed.

“The plans would be hatched in Ekbalpore and Bhangar. The gang started off by extorting promoters and small-time businessmen,” said a police officer involved in the investigation.

The five joined the big league with the abduction of a leather goods manufacturer, who was released on payment of a hefty ransom.

“We suspect that they were involved in many such cases in the past. Investigation will reveal the exact number of cases pending against them,” said an officer.


Calcutta, Feb 9: 
A 21-year-old youth was arrested for cheating a trader in Sodepur on Saturday.

According to police, Dhurjati Roy posed as an assistant manager of a foreign bank and promised the trader a Rs 3-lakh loan. “Roy even used the trader’s credit card,” police said. Following a complaint, the sleuths picked up Roy from Panihati.


Calcutta, Feb 9: 
Following the Centre’s refusal to grant additional companies of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) for Calcutta and its adjoining areas, the state government has asked lathi-wielding policemen to start training in automatic weapons.

Apart from 70 members of the commando force who carry AK-47s, around 2,000 policemen are being trained at the police training school, said joint commissioner (armed police) Raj Kanojia.

The crowd-control contingent, which used to wield lathis and unsophisticated weapons, are now handling carbines and Self Loading Rifles (SLR).

Police commissioner Sujoy Chakroborty has directed all officers to carry revolvers. “We have also decided to give SLRs to policemen on picket duty,” said deputy commissioner of police (headquarters) Banibrata Basu. There are also plans to enhance firepower by “at least 50 per cent”.

Immediately after the attack outside the American Center on January 22, the state government had sought four battalions of CRPF for deployment in Calcutta and its adjoining areas to tackle terrorist outfits. At present, Calcutta has only one CRPF company. With the Uttar Pradesh elections round the corner, the Centre turned down the request. Consequently, the home (police) department had asked the force to seek training with sophisticated weapons.

The trained gunmen will replace the lathi-wielding police force in front of key installations by the year-end.


Calcutta, Feb 9: 
The proposed core committee for better co-ordination among Front constituents and the government will consist of four key CPM ministers and one senior minister from each of the smaller Front constituents.

The CPM, which has already okayed the formation of such a committee under pressure from its partners, feels that this would help in better governance.

Front sources said the issue will be on top of agenda for the Left Front meeting slated for February 26. The CPM will formally accept suggestions from its minor partners on the formation of the proposed committee, the sources added.

According to them, four key CPM ministers — Nirupam Sen, Suryakanta Mishra, Asim Dasgupta and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee — will be enrolled as members of the proposed core committee. The RSP, CPI, Forward Bloc, Democratic Socialist Party, Socialist Party and Marxist Forward Bloc will also depute their senior ministers for the committee.

“We are happy that the CPM is serious about instituting a core committee, which we have been demanding for quite a long time,” Forward Bloc state secretary Ashok Ghosh said here today.

“We had raised the issue time and again when Jyoti Basu was the chief minister, but the CPM had then ignored our plea on the ground that setting up of another coordinating unit will not serve any purpose,” the Bloc leader added.

According to Ghosh, the Forward Bloc had insisted on the formation of the core committee even as the CPM argued that the cabinet of ministers and the Left Front committee were enough for maintaining better co-ordination among the ministers as well as the Front leadership.

However, the CPM had to yield when another Front partner — the CPI — joined forces with the Forward Bloc to mount pressure on the Marxists. CPI state secretary Manju Kumar Majumdar had raised the issue at the last Left Front meeting held on February 6.

In that meeting, Majumdar was learnt have vociferously demanded the setting up of the core committee. Citing some recent cases in which chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had taken a number of major administrative decisions without taking Front partners into confidence, the CPI leader argued that the core committee “is a must” for better cohesion among Front partners and the government.

Majumdar even pointed out that the chief minister had made some statements regarding unauthorised madarsas without consulting either Front partners or any of his cabinet colleagues.

The CPI leader also criticised Bhattacharjee’s unilateral move to bring in an ordinance to combat organised crime in the state.

Interestingly, Majumdar found support in CPM state secretary Anil Biswas, former chief minister Jyoti Basu and Left Front chairman Biman Bose. The CPM leaders agreed that the chief minister should have consulted Front constituents before taking a major policy decision.

The Revolutionary Socialist Party also felt that a core committee would contribute greatly towards improving relations among Front constituents. “Many a time, Front partners get involved in squabbles over petty issues and the core committee will help address them,” observed a senior RSP leader.

With the Budget session of the Assembly scheduled to begin shortly, the CPM will also discuss proposed budgetary allocations for various departments at the upcoming meeting.

Insiders say the CPM wants to ensure that departments looked after by ministers from minor partners are not denied requisite budgetary allocations.


Calcutta, Feb. 9: 
The urban development and municipal affairs department of the state is going to introduce a Bill in the forthcoming Budget session of the Assembly to facilitate private investment in social infrastructure projects.

The draft legislation has been prepared “with the purpose of attracting prospective investors from other states like Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra”.

The “comprehensive” legislation, the first of its kind in the state, has been drafted keeping in mind suggestions put forward by different chambers of commerce and industry.

The proposed legislation has become imperative “to expedite the process of massive expansion in social infrastructure with the help of private sector funds and expertise”, said urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya.

Bhattacharya declined to divulge details of the proposed law, but sources said one of its salient features is that it will allow individuals or groups of persons, organisations and consortium to enter into a “concession agreement” with a state government department, agency, statutory body, local body or authority.

According to the draft legislation, any authority that is willing to develop a project with private participation may opt for the “build, operate and transfer” and “build, lease and transfer” schemes. A recent example is that of the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation, which built a tourist lodge and then leased it out for 20 years to an individual.

Developers would be allowed to securitise project receivables and project assets in favour of lenders, keeping in mind the attractive terms for return from investments.

If a developer defaults in completing or implementing a project, the lenders will have the right to replace the developer with the consent of the state government.

A developer will have to open a special account to make available funds for renovation, operation and maintenance of the project. There will also be a conciliation board to assist the government body concerned in the resolution of dispute that might arise.


Calcutta, Feb. 9: 
“Tum se na koi achcha hai na tum se koi pyaara… You are, you are my Kolkata…” Participants of the Better Kolkata Contest 2001-2002 dedicated this song to the city they tried to improve in the past year.

The jubilation of 2,000 boys and girls from 25 schools at the award ceremony on Saturday at Science City was shared by the 40,000 participants from across the city.

Thirty schools conducted social awareness and environment improvement projects last year for the contest run by the Indian Chamber of Commerce Calcutta Foundation. The competition is held in collaboration with The Telegraph and Britannia Industries Ltd.

G.D. Birla Centre for Education’s traffic improvement campaign was just one of the projects that won them The Telegraph Trophy for Social Excellence.

The Britannia Trophy for Healthy Living was given to St Joseph and Mary’s School for their efforts in raising awareness on malaria and hepatitis B in New Alipore slums and teaching students of Corporation schools about health and hygiene.

For their outstanding all-round social contribution, the ICC Trophy for Creative Excellence was awarded to Loreto Day School, Sealdah.

The Special Merit Awards went to Modernland Girls High School, Mother’s Care Montessori, Parivarikee, Sanat Roy Chowdhury Institution for Girls and St Anthony’s High School. Eleven schools were also given merit prizes.


Siliguri, Feb. 9: 
Ashique Ali, whose fate was sealed by a bank draft, was escorted to Siliguri today by 12 heavily-armed Darjeeling district commando personnel and officials of the special investigating team of the Darjeeling police.

Twentyone-year-old Ashique Ali alias Sahaneen Tahir said he had entered India with a valid Pakistani passport and had landed in Hyderabad in June 2001. Ali, a resident of Hoshangabad in Sindh, lived at the Ahemadia mosque in Hyderabad.

“Documents seized from his residence reveal that, since he landed in Hyderabad in June last year, he has been going about setting up an ISI network in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu,” a SIT officer told The Telegraph.

“Ali is also believed to have been trained in the art of espionage by the Pakistani military intelligence for over two years,” the officer added. Ali said he collected intelligence reports on army installations by befriending army personnel and passed these on to Sindh via e-mail.

“Mai Pakistani MI ke liye kam kartha tha. Mujhe Sindh mein train kiya geya tha (I used to work for Pakistani MI. I was trained in Sindh),” Ali said a press conference held soon after his arrival from Hyderabad.

Arrested ISI agent Mohammed Dilshad had revealed Ali’s Hyderabad address after SIT zeroed in on drafts couriered to Ali from Siliguri..


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