Brothers killed as bullets fly at dawn
Spurned youth bombs rival, loses own arm
Experts rue rising HIV graph
Airport on hijack alert
SEB chief receives threat on life
Trinamul rejects Ray offer
Mamata joins Keshpur fight
Two missing after boat capsize
Broadcast blues for hymns

 
 
BROTHERS KILLED AS BULLETS FLY AT DAWN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 30: 
Two brothers were murdered at Mandirbazar, in South 24-Parganas, early on Saturday. x

Gangsters shot them at point-blank range, killing both on the spot. The youth were identified as Sanjib Karmakar, 58, and Sudhir Karmakar, 27.

“Sudhir died in trying to save his elder brother Sanjib,” said D.S. Rudra, sub-divisional police officer of Diamond Harbour.

Preliminary investigations have revealed that the murders were the offshoot of a long-standing rivalry. No arrest has so far been made in this connection.

According to police sources, Sanjib, a criminal wanted in a number of cases, including murder, returned to his Kechopukur residence late on Friday. “He was absconding for the past few months,” said Rudra.

When Sanjib arrived at Mandirbazar, the information reached his rivals. They hatched a plot to finish him off early in the morning. “They chose the early hours for the attack since they knew Sanjib was spending the night at home,” said a police official.

Accordingly, a group of 12 miscreants surrounded Sanjib’s house and started hurling bombs. They warned that if Sanjib did not come out on his own, the house would be blown up.

Sanjib then surrendered to the goons, who dragged him to a corner of the courtyard.

The ruckus alerted his brother Sudhir, who was sleeping on the terrace of the house. He raised an alarm but none of the neighbours stepped out.

Sudhir rushed downstairs to Sanjib’s rescue and grappled with one of the miscreants. At this, two other goons hit his head with the butt of their revolvers. As Sudhir slumped to the ground, they pumped two bullets into his chest.

By then, the other gangsters had fired three rounds at Sanjib. The miscreants also threatened people in the neighbourhood not to venture out till they left the spot. The goons walked out unchallenged, leaving the two in a pool of blood. It was then that the local people informed the nearby Mandirbazar police station of the shootout.

“We are certain that the attack was a fall-out of a gang rivalry. We are working on some specific leads. The hideouts in and around the Diamond Harbour sub-division are being combed. We hope to make a breakthrough soon,” Rudra said.

   

 
 
SPURNED YOUTH BOMBS RIVAL, LOSES OWN ARM 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 30: 
Spurned in love, a 30-year-old youth hurled a bomb at his rival and lost his right arm in the explosion. The incident occurred in New Alipore on Friday night.

Babu Das was pronounced dead when taken to hospital, while Rabi Mondol has been shifted to Nilratan Sirkar Hospital, where he is battling for life.

According to the police, a relationship developed between Babu and Sunayana (name changed on request), both 28, when they met seven years ago at Kakdwip. “Babu would often meet the woman and had even planned to marry her,” said a senior police official.

A month ago, Sunayana complained to Babu that a local youth, Rabi Mondol, was harassing her. Rabi would make passes at her and had even made an “indecent proposal”, she said.

Babu asked Sunayana to be on her guard and promised that he would soon come over to “sort out” the matter, sources said. Thus assured, Sunayana reportedly threatened Rabi to mend his ways or pay for his ways.

Earlier this week, Babu had reportedly promised Sunayana to spend a day in the city with her, and take her to Kakdwip afterwards.

On Friday night, Babu stayed with Sunayana at her New Alipore residence. A little after midnight, he heard someone calling him from outside. On stepping out, he found Rabi in an inebriated state.

“Rabi lobbed a bomb at Babu, blowing off his head. His own right arm was ripped off in the blast,” said deputy commissioner of police (south division) Kuldip Singh.

On hearing the explosion, neighbours rushed to the spot and found Babu lying on the ground. A few yards away, Rabi lay writhing in pain.

“We were aware of the strained relationship among the three. But we never imagined that things would come to such a pass,” Amrit Lal, a neighbour, told the police.

Both the youth were rushed to hospital. “We are probing whether anyone else was involved,” Singh added.

Murder probe

Investigators probing the murder of Sujash Sen at Cossipore on Friday are still in the dark about the killers. A girl from Lake Town was interrogated on Saturday. “She has failed to provide any leads,” said an officer of Cossipore police station.

Sujash, a photographer, was hacked to death in his sleep on the terrace of his single-storeyed house in Cossipore. Police are now on the lookout for Sujash’s friends.

“We are questioning the residents of a housing complex in Dum Dum where his family had bought a flat. We are also probing whether there was some dispute over the purchase of the flat,” said an investigator.

   

 
 
EXPERTS RUE RISING HIV GRAPH 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 30: 
Doctors at the School of Tropical Medicine (STM) have expressed concern at the spiralling number of HIV-infected patients. The figure has increased manifold in the past five years.

“Earlier, the disease was concentrated mainly in Midnapore, but it may soon pose a threat to the residents of Hooghly and Howrah as well. Now we are receiving cases from Nadia, Murshidabad, Burdwan and Birbhum. It will gradually spread to other districts like Bankura and Purulia,” said D.K. Neogi, head of the department of virology at the STM.

“Take any three months and you will find that out of the 324 persons who came for counselling, 124 have tested positive. Those who tested negative will have to take serological tests again because they may show positive results later,” said Anurita Mukherjee, counsellor at the STM.

According to Mukherjee, 60 per cent of the patients are infected through unprotected sex. Other routes of transmission include blood transfusion, infected needles and vertical transmission from a mother who is a carrier.

   

 
 
AIRPORT ON HIJACK ALERT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 30: 
Security has been beefed up at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International airport following a red alert flashed by the Centre. According to intelligence sources, the bin Laden terror network, al Qaida, might attempt to hijack an Indian Airlines aircraft in eastern India.

For the first time since the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) took over the Calcutta airport’s security earlier this year, the aviation authorities have decided to conduct “surprise inspections” of internal security. Vigil has also been stepped up at Guwahati and Ranchi airports, said a Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) official on Saturday.

Minister of civil aviation Syed Shahnawaz Hussain reviewed the security at the Calcutta airport last week. He stressed on security drills as a measure to thwart untoward incidents.

“The CISF has been instructed to frisk everybody on the airport premises. We have introduced several checks before passengers board the aircraft,’’ Hussain told The Telegraph from Delhi.

The minister also expressed displeasure at reports that a large number of foreign nationals had flown in to Calcutta without proper documents.

Sources said the civil aviation authorities were unhappy on being informed that on two instances, people had managed to sneak into the high-security zone.

In another instance, a passenger was caught with a kitchen knife on board a private airline. The weapon was later seized.

The civil aviation authorities have asked several private airlines, including Jet Airways and Air Sahara, to conduct anti-hijack drills inside the aircraft.

Air Sahara official Uttam Basu said the company gave top priority to security. “Our men are trained in anti-hijack operations. We work in tandem with the security agencies,’’ Basu said.

   

 
 
SEB CHIEF RECEIVES THREAT ON LIFE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 30: 
The government has rushed to the rescue of the state electricity board chairman after he received threats from contractors. The government offered G.D. Gautama security cover, but the chairman has yet to take up the offer.

Power minister Mrinal Banerjee today admitted that he had asked Gautama to take a security guard. He said a section of contractors was aggrieved over the board’s new purchase policy under Gautama’s chairmanship.

“WBSEB purchases materials worth over Rs 500 crore a year. A racket involving contractors has become very active after WBSEB decided to modernise its transmission and distribution system with funds from Japan,” Banerjee said.

Power secretary Kalyan Bagchi had talked to Gautama over this issue. But as Gautama has yet to agree to the proposal, no one has yet been deployed for his protection.

An IAS officer, Gautama is also an engineer. He is the first technocrat to be appointed as chairman of the board.

According to sources, security around Gautama’s office at Vidyut Bhavan has been tightened. Visitors at the Vidyut Bhavan are being strictly scrutinised.

Sources said a businessman who happens to be close to a former CPM MP has been trying to exert pressure on the board over purchase of materials. This prompted the WBSEB authorities to transfer some officers having links with the businessman concerned.

Recently, some questions were raised over alleged irregularities in the purchase of materials by Amitava Roy Chowdhury, a member of WBSEB’s board of directors. His subsequent removal from the board has put a question mark on the transparency in WBSEB’s activities.

The power minister, however, denied the allegations, saying “Roy Chowdhury had to go as he could not reach unanimity with other fellow members on crucial issues. At a time when the board is passing through a difficult phase, differences of opinion at the top would have sent wrong signals to workers.”

Banerjee claimed the reforms introduced in the power sector had already started paying dividends. The board’s revenue collection has gone up from Rs 1,670 crore in 1998-99 to Rs 2,400 crore in the current financial year, he said.

“We have introduced new norms for generation of power. Rates have been fixed on the consumption of coal and fuel, generation of heat, etc. Bengal is now selling its excess power to neighbouring states during the off-peak period,” he said.

“But despite all this, we are incurring a daily loss of Rs 2 crore,” he added.

   

 
 
TRINAMUL REJECTS RAY OFFER 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, March 30: 
Mamata Banerjee today turned down Siddhartha Shankar Ray’s offer to join hands with the Congress, saying his party was acting in cahoots with the Marxists to “politically finish us in Bengal”.

“There can be no question of a merger with the Congress. Our party is ready to fight its own battle against the CPM,” she told reporters this afternoon.

Accusing chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee of preparing a blueprint to “systematically annihilate” key Trinamul functionaries in the districts before next year’s panchayat polls, Mamata said 10 party workers were killed during the past few days by “armed CPM cadre”.

“We have heard about red alert against communal forces and terrorists in different parts of the country. But Bengal’s chief minister has unleashed red terror against us in the districts before the state goes to panchayat polls. District magistrates and superintendents of police are acting on the CPM’s directive without maintaining the rule of law,” the Trinamul leader alleged.

Leader of Opposition Pankaj Banerjee said the government wants to introduce the Prevention of Organised Crime Act to use it against Trinamul workers. “He will brand our members terrorists and get them arrested under Poca,” Banerjee alleged.

   

 
 
MAMATA JOINS KESHPUR FIGHT 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
March 30: 
Almost 36 hours after the murder of Trinamul Congress member Abdul Rehman Mullik at Uchahar village in Keshpur, police are still clueless about the killer’s whereabouts.

The murder has irked the local Trinamul workers who are planning a demonstration outside district police superintendent K.C. Meena’s office on Sunday. Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Pankaj Banerjee is scheduled to head the agitation.

Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee said her party MLAs would also make an on-the-spot inquiry and submit a report to her.

“We are worried at the way violence returns to Keshpur with CPM activists unleashing terror on innocent Trinamul workers,” she said.

Mamata also criticised the Keshpur policemen for their inability to arrest the guilty. “These policemen have become the stooges of the ruling CPM,” she alleged.

Local Trinamul leader Mohammad Rafiq said the party would organise “vigorous” movements throughout the district if the police failed to round up the “guilty CPM activists” within 48 hours. He said a public rally was also being planned where Mamata would be the main speaker.

On the delay in arresting the nine named in the FIR, Meena said the police had cast their net to capture the guilty. “We have raided several hideouts and picked up some people for interrogation. We are sure the culprits will be rounded up,” he added.

CPM zonal committee member Imtiaz Ali refuted the charges that his partymen were behind the murder.

“No one from the party is involved in the murder. My workers are being framed. This is a political move,” Ali said. He claimed Abdul was a gambler and had been killed by his accomplices.

District officials later said Abdul had bled to death though his injuries were not serious. Ali added that gambling in the area had increased despite “intensified” police vigil.

PWG activist held

Police arrested a PWG activist from Balukbasa forest on the border of Paschim Midnapore and Bankura. A rifle was recovered from the man.

Acting on a tip-off, a large police contingent tonight raided the forest where a group of PWG activists had assembled. The Naxalites fired on the lawkeepers. The police retaliated. The shootout continued for an hour.

All but one of the Naxalites fled deeper into the jungle taking advantage of the bad weather and darkness.

District superintendent of police Meena said the arrested PWG man used to operate from Sarenga in Bankura.

   

 
 
TWO MISSING AFTER BOAT CAPSIZE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Chinsura, March 30: 
A middle-aged man and his one-month-old daughter are feared to have drowned after their boat capsized last evening in the Hooghly river near Laxmi Ghat at Serampore, police said.

The man, identified as Prabhunath Ojha, was a resident of Pravasnagar in Rishra. According to the police, Prabhunath, his wife Sikha Devi and their daughter were planning to go to Titagarh in North 24-Parganas. They reached Laxmi Ghat in Serampore to catch a boat.

On reaching the ghat, they found the ferry service had been withdrawn for the day. But Prabhunath and some other persons hired a country boat to go to Titagarh. The police said there were about eight passengers in the boat.

The boat capsized immediately after leaving the ghat. Local people managed to rescue six passengers, but Prabhunath and daughter Saraswati have remained untraced. The police have deployed divers to find the missing two.

The local people, however, alleged that the sailor was intoxicated and fled immediately after the capsize. The police are on the lookout for the sailor.

Local people started gathering near Laxmi Ghat this morning when they heard of last evening’s capsize. They alleged that some fishermen were running an illegal business of using country boats to ferry passengers between Serampore and Barrackpore.

   

 
 
BROADCAST BLUES FOR HYMNS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Kharagpur, March 30: 
“Radio Kharagpur bolchhi (This is Radio Kharagpur),” Dulal Duari’s voice rings out, heralding hymns in praise of Lord Krishna. But the lawmen are not impressed.

Duari, who has designed his own transmitter and antenna, broadcasts these kirtans, which can be heard by people within 20 km.

Kirtans are also being privately broadcast in the Pingla, Sabang and Debra areas.

Duari is also very popular among organisers of 24-hour and 72-hour non-stop kirtan soirees, who hire his services for Rs 1,000 per day to play the devotional songs.

The organisers of the kirtans are, however, unaware that such unlicensed broadcasting is illegal.

“Instead of booking slots on cable television, we have organised our own broadcasting. It is done everywhere. What’s illegal about it?” says Phanibhusan Das, organising secretary of the Radha Kunja Milan Utsav, a non- stop kirtan programme in the Kharagpur police station area.

Duari said the kirtans had become very popular in Paschim Midnapore, as the names of those who donate to the kirtan committees are aired. At Chakmakrampur, he recently played for four days without a break.

The demand for kirtans increases during Holi when any such soirees are organised.

District superintendent of police K.C. Meena, however, was surprised when informed about the private broadcasts. “No permission has been granted for private broadcasting. These transmissions are illegal and we will take appropriate action. They can be misused,” he said.

But Duari makes sure that the law does not come calling on him. “Once I was jailed for three days for my private broadcast. So now I don’t offer my services without police permission,” he said.

   
 

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