Ansari aides held in Surat
Trouble over maid suicide
Civic cheque on ghost employees
BE College set to reopen
Goa waves on Sagar beach
CM says sorry for rail roko
Buddha in unity cry
Britain top marks for Bengal
Police net ‘DSP’ in forest raid

 
 
ANSARI AIDES HELD IN SURAT 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, Feb. 16: 
The arrest of three accomplices of Aftab Ansari in Surat on Saturday has given the police fresh insight into the Dubai-based don’s arms-smuggling operations.

The trio, picked up in a joint raid by the Delhi and Surat police, would provide “safe passage” to arms shipments from Pakistan to different parts of the country. According to the police, they supplied the weapons used in the American Center shootout.

Delhi police commissioner A.J. Sharma told The Telegraph: “Three of Ansari’s aides were picked up from Surat in the morning. They are suspected to have played a key role in the American Center attack.”

Apart from nine pistols, nearly 100 rounds of ammunition, RDX and half a dozen detonators were recovered from them.

Ansari, the mastermind behind the American Center strike, was produced before Randhanpur court in Ahmedabad on Saturday and remanded in CBI custody till February 22. He was flown from Delhi to Ahmedabad in a BSF plane and then taken to Randhanpur by car. He was produced before the court in connection with the arms and explosive seizures from Patan district in October.

The police said the three arrested in Surat — Imanul Haq, Hussain Ahmed and Assad Ahmed — were with Ansari for the past two years. The police rounded up the trio from the outskirts of Surat. The three were allegedly “contact persons” for the ISI in Pakistan.

Shakeel Ahmed and Dilip Patel, arrested in Jaipur last Thursday, were produced before Bankshal Court on Saturday and remanded in police custody till March 2.

Police said the duo had links with Jamaluddin Nasir, who provided shelter to the American Center attackers. “We are verifying whether Patil, a hawala operator who funded the purchase of Nasir’s jeep in Jaipur, has any link with Ansari,” an officer added.

Two officials from Rajasthan arrived in Calcutta on Saturday to interrogate Nasir.

   

 
 
TROUBLE OVER MAID SUICIDE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 16: 
A 55-year-old domestic help, employed in a Salt Lake residence, was found hanging from the ceiling of a room on Saturday.

As the news spread, hundreds of maidservants gathered in front of the house and demanded the arrest of Lakshmi Rajbanshi’s employers. “She was regularly tortured,” they complained to the policemen.

Lakshmi had been employed with the family for the past seven months.

She was suffering from depression for the past few days, police said. Although, no external injury marks were found on the body, foul play is yet to be ruled out.

   

 
 
CIVIC CHEQUE ON GHOST EMPLOYEES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 16: 
For the first time, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) employees will receive their salaries in cheques. The CMC authorities have taken the decision in order to eliminate “ghost employees” from the pay-roll.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee on Saturday said 16,000 of the CMC’s 41,000 employees will receive their wages in cheques from April. The payment will be made in phases.

“We have already started enlisting the employees and recording the matter on electronic database. The process will take less than a year,” Mukherjee said during his first visit to the Calcutta Press Club after being nominated mayor.

Mukherjee also announced that the CMC would complete a power-generating unit within a year near Dhapa by recycling the garbage dumped there.

“The city produces 25,000 metric tonnes of garbage everyday. We run a huge cost for dumping the litter at Dhapa. Recycling of the garbage will generate 20 mw of electricity,” he added.

   

 
 
BE COLLEGE SET TO REOPEN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 16: 
Academic activities at Bengal Engineering College (Deemed University), Shibpur, are likely to resume next week. “Classes will start on February 19,” said vice-chancellor Amal Jyoti Sengupta.

The three-member committee, probing the clashes that led to the closure of the college, submitted its report on Saturday. “Guilty students will have to apologise in writing. Only then will they be allowed to join classes,” Sengupta said.

Guardians of the students found guilty will be required to sign a bond stating that their wards will not involve themselves in “hooliganism” on the campus.

The committee had earlier rejected the authorities’ decision to expel the 25 students named in the FIR, after the December 23 incident. Shantanu Karmakar, general secretary, Bengal Engineering College (Deemed University) Teachers’ Association opposed the university’s decision to punish the students on the basis of an internal inquiry

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GOA WAVES ON SAGAR BEACH 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Feb. 16: 
If Subrata Roy — who calls himself the managing worker of the Sahara family — has his way, Sagar Island’s beaches will swing to the tune played in Calangute or Baga in Goa.

“We have proposed to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee that we would like to develop the beaches of Sagar and make them even better than those at Goa,” Roy said after meeting the chief minister at Writers’ Buildings today.

Sahara India has already proposed to set up a luxury floating hotel in the Sunderbans and golf links in the Teesta valley in north Bengal. The Sunderbans, Teesta and the Sagar facilities will come up at an investment of Rs 900 crore.

After Bhattacharjee heard about the Sagar scheme, he asked Roy to first develop it at par with Goa. “He (the chief minister) has asked us to present him with details. He is very eager to get to the depth of the project,” Roy said.

The Sahara India dream is to foster foreign tourism in Bengal through these high-value projects. One plan is to start a 12-day cruise between Sagar Islands and Amby Valley, a project Sahara is developing close to Lonavla in Maharashtra along the lines of Sun City South Africa.

The company will submit an environment impact assessment for the project to minister Manab Mukherjee.

Both the Sunderbans and the Sagar Islands projects will have water sports as well as display zones for marine life.

“We are paying attention to the safety aspect as well. Our floating hotel will have full security as well as satellite communication. Fast boats will ensure that they can rush to the mainland within moments of an emergency,” Roy said.

Sahara India feels that by November the project will be under way. According to Roy, it will take some five years to complete the project.

The company also wants to make its presence felt in the state by going into the housing sector and by developing a hotel-cum-club.

Sahara had approached urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya in January this year and suggested help to transform Rabindranath Tagore’s memorial in Nimtola Ghat crematorium into a place of pilgrimage.

Roy had suggested that unlike Mahatma Gandhi’s and Indira Gandhi’s memorials in New Delhi, there was no such place in Calcutta where people could pay homage to Tagore.

   

 
 
CM SAYS SORRY FOR RAIL ROKO 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, Feb. 16: 
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today regretted the prolonged demonstrations and blockades by Citu-affiliated hawkers at different suburban stations yesterday.

The hawkers were protesting against the demolition of nearly 50 structures at Kalyani station by the railway police.

The demonstration spread to Kanchrapara, Naihati and Dum Dum and later to Baruipur, Jadavpur and Bagha Jatin stations in the Sealdah section, inconveniencing passengers. Several Intuc supporters also joined Citu members to disrupt traffic.

“It is regrettable that train services were badly hit yesterday due to prolonged demonstrations by hawkers. I must seek people’s pardon for this,” the chief minister said at Writers’ Buildings this afternoon while reacting to yesterday’s traffic snarls.

Bhattacharjee, however, maintained that the police should have spoken to hawkers before embarking on the eviction drive.

“Both railway police and our police were involved in the drive. I told them that they should have been more prepared before carrying out the drive,” he said, adding that urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya would shortly arrange a meeting with the hawkers’ representatives to sort out the problem.

The chief minister said “such processions are for people’s cause and they are inevitable in any democracy”.

Echoing Bhattacharjee, state CPM secretary and politburo member Anil Biswas also blamed the railway police for demolishing the hawkers’ stalls without giving them prior notice.

   

 
 
BUDDHA IN UNITY CRY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 16: 
So what if it was a college fest. It was an opportunity too good for chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to let pass when it came to applying the madarsa balm.

At the closing ceremony of the platinum jubilee celebrations of Maulana Azad College, Bhattacharjee did his best to present the secular face of his government. Accompanying him were two minority ministers — labour minister Mohammad Amin and minister in charge of minorities’ development and welfare Mohammad Salim. Higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty was also present.

“We have a history of Hindu-Muslim unity in our state and we must carry this forward despite threats from communal forces,” the chief minister said.

During his 30-minute speech, Bhattacharjee drew parallels between the saffron brigade and the ISI for using religious sentiments to destabilise the country. “Bengal has always been regarded as an epitome of communal harmony and we must thwart any move directed at disrupting this tradition,” he said.

The positive reaction from the audience made it easy for the chief minister to broach his favourite topic — the need to modernise the education system. “In modern India, we need a modern education system,” said Bhattacharjee.

He reassured his government’s commitment to carry on with its agenda of modernising both the madarsa curriculum and the higher education system. He also informed the students that the government was working on a project to put in place a full-fledged vocational training system in the state.

Reacting to the demand from the students’ union for introduction of undergraduate courses in information technology and microbiology in the college, he said: “It’s good that students are keen on modern education. I assure you all necessary support.”

The star of the evening was Amin who addressed the gathering in Urdu and talked about global tension in the context of post-WTC developments. Amin, in an America-bashing mood, accused the superpower of creating the Taliban.

   

 
 
BRITAIN TOP MARKS FOR BENGAL 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Feb. 16: 
A CII-World Bank study might have lumped Bengal with the worst investment destinations in the country, but Britain ranked the state among the top three in the country.

“Bengal can achieve the status of an investment grid of the country with its present position among the three best states in this aspect in India,” British high commissioner Sir Rob Young said. He met chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at Writers’ Buildings today.

The CII-World Bank study was done on the basis of reactions of potential investors who put Bengal at the bottom of the heap with Kerala and Uttar Pradesh.

But senior government officials pointed out that the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) had ranked Bengal second only to Gujarat on investment flows.

Rubbishing the CII-World Bank study, the official said CMIE had ranked Bengal sixth in 1999-2000, and its position had improved since then.

“Some of the best firms in the UK are working in this state and new industries are coming up as well,” Sir Rob said. He said many new industries were on their way from Britain to Bengal.

The two discussed aspects of economic development as well as commerce. Bhattacharjee laid stress on information technology and the agro-business. The chief minister requested Sir Rob to explore possibilities of fruit -- both processed and fresh — exports to the UK.

“We are also involved in setting up a 1,000-bed hospital in Calcutta and are looking into public literacy and schools,” Sir Rob said. The British Department for International Development (DFID) is contributing £33 million to the Bengal district primary education project.

The British high commissioner expressed satisfaction at the way Bengal police had rounded up people involved in the January 22 attack in front of the American Center.

Junior minister for foreign and commonwealth affairs, Ben Bradshaw, will be in the city next week. Sir Rob said Bradshaw could meet the chief minister if the latter could find time.

   

 
 
POLICE NET ‘DSP’ IN FOREST RAID 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Siliguri, Feb. 16: 
Villagers reported to police that some “suspected” militants were conducting a clandestine arms training camp deep inside the remote Panighata forest bordering Nepal. Without wasting time, Darjeeling police swung into action.

The raid on the alleged terrorist training camp, though, failed to yield any “terrorist or militant”. The police instead netted a conman posing as a deputy superintendent of police (DSP).

The trickster claimed he was conducting a “physical training-cum-recruitment” operation for Delhi’s fire services department. But luck ran out for Biren Das alias Ranjit Banjerjee.

According to deputy superintendent of police, Siliguri, C.S. Lepcha, the police, acting on a tip-off, raided the forest on Saturday and arrested the impostor.

Das, it turned out, had lured some people to the forest for training. He had promised them jobs in return for money. To get the jobs, he had said, the physical training was essential. He had demanded Rs 30,000 for a post of inspector, Rs 15,000 for a constable’s post and Rs 10,000 for a cook’s post with the Delhi fire services department.

“We seized several fake appointment letters along with fake identity cards of the Delhi fire services department. The police also recovered several uniform of the department in the camp,” Lepcha said.

   
 

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