Sleuths sew up Khadim’s case
Ruby faces loss of licence
A mix of files and football
The City Diary
March of man through fibre glass forest
Leather unit showcased
Cops on alert over flood of fakes
Private banks under consumer court scan
Cong chance to capture Mamata space
Criminals thrash cop on raid

Calcutta, May 30: 
Nearly a year after the kidnap of Khadim’s vice-chairman Parthapratim Roy Burman, the CID will finally bring the curtain down on its investigations into the sensational abduction case on Friday, when it submits its chargesheet in court.

What had started off as a probe into a crime by local dons took on international ramification when the sleuths traced the mastermind to Dubai and linked him to the attack on the American Center.

Quietly working behind an array of assumed identities, Aftab Ansari, alias Farhan Malik, had built up a terror empire in the Gulf by networking with Pakistan and Afghanistan-based jihadis and funnelling ransom money to further the cause.

“It is time to end the case,” said IG, CID, Partha Bhattacharya, on Thursday. “There are some people involved in this crime who are not behind bars and it may be impossible to get them, as they are in hiding either in Pakistan or Bangladesh.”

Chief among them are the four “executors” — including Sadaquat, who was riding the motorcycle during the American Center shootout — who had come to the city from Mumbai to carry out the abduction that Ansari had planned, along with his “chief of operations” in India, Asif Reza Khan.

But night-club dancer Swati Pal, the person who played the most significant role in the unmasking of Ansari, has been let off the hook. She is the “star witness”, who will help sew up a watertight case against the international criminals. It was Pal, along with boyfriend Abdur Rehman, Ansari’s liaison man in Mumbai, who revealed that the person hiding behind the name of Farhan Malik was actually Aftab Ansari.

“Swati was not involved in the crime. Her boyfriend was,” said Bhattacharya. “So, we shall not be prosecuting her.” The dancer, who had hit the headlines at the time of her arrest, is now in hiding, shielded by the police.

A few others, including Pal’s husband Jamil Ahmed, are not being prosecuted, either because they are innocent or because there is insufficient evidence.

But the list of those being prosecuted is long. Besides crime mastermind Ansari, the others who figure in the prosecution list are:

Naba Mondal: Roy Burman’s driver, who was behind the wheel of the Tata Safari at the time of the abduction. He has been charged with delay in informing the police and thereby, giving the abductors time to make a clean getaway

Chunnu, alias Mohammad Tasleem: As the don of Tiljala, he was the “facilitator” who provided sanctuary to the abductors, who had come in from Mumbai and Delhi to carry out the kidnapping

Shona and Naushad: They had helped as henchmen of Chunnu

Rabindranath Das: Operating out of his ashram in Salt Lake, police say he was the “spotter” who had identified Roy Burman as a possible target. He had known the Roy Burmans since the time they were visitors to his Bangur ashram

Abdur Rehman: Ansari used to run several of his business establishments in Dubai in Rehman’s name

Altaf Quereshi, Abdul Karim, Pawan Maheshwari, Vinod Tapadiya: They are some of the hawala operators who, police say, had channelled the ransom money

Happy Singh: He had not only arranged for the Maruti 800 in which Roy Burman was whisked away, but was manning the command centre in Gorachand Lane at the time of the abduction

Jamaluddin Naseer: He was part and parcel of the kidnap operation and was involved in the American Center attack

Last but not the least, there are two more names that figure in the chargesheet, neither of whom is alive: Asif Reza Khan, killed in an “encounter” with the Gujarat police; and Zahir, alias Wajed, who was shot dead by a Delhi police team in Hazaribagh.


Calcutta, May 30: 
Ruby General Hospital, the prominent health centre on the EM Bypass, finds itself in a critical situation, with the government announcing its decision not to renew its annual licence which expires a fortnight from now, on June 14.

State health secretary Asim Barman said on Thursday that a tougher decision — such as closing down the hospital, at the centre of a controversy following the discovery that it was turning away critical patients — would be taken only after watching how it responded to the government directive.

“We do not want to close down any hospital and are all for private-sector hospitals flourishing,” Barman clarified.

“But the government will keep a close watch on the situation. If Ruby improves its services, it will be issued the licence that has to be renewed every three months,” he added.

Ruby would have to prove that it was conforming to all requirements laid down by the Medical Council of India and the courts, Barman asserted. The government had communicated to the Ruby management several reasons for its stand.

“A hospital, according to Supreme Court directives, cannot turn away a patient in a critical condition and Ruby has been found to have done exactly that,” he said.

The state health department woke up to the goings-on after CPM parliamentarian Rupchand Pal complained that a relative had died of negligence. A departmental investigation, initiated by health minister Surya Kanta Mishra, found that two patients who needed emergency treatment and were rushed to the hospital some months ago, were denied admission when their relatives failed to deposit the required advance.

Both the patients died and health department officials said on Thursday that the hospital should have taken care of the patients before asking for money. “This is a gross violation of all established norms,” the departmental report says.

Though the hospital can still get a quarterly licence, things will not be very easy, say health department officials. “We shall issue the quarterly licences only after being satisfied that the hospital has complied with all the conditions,” Barman said.

The conditions the hospital authorities would have to fulfil before applying for the renewal include, among other things, appointing trained nursing staff at a 1:5 ratio with the number of patients, displaying the names of all doctors serving in the hospital, maintaining a proper chart for patients’ medicines and keeping experienced doctors at the emergency, officials added.

Asked what would happen to the patients who were already being treated in the hospital, a senior health official said that the hospital authorities would get more than a fortnight to shift them to other hospitals or release them.

Tapas Mukherjee, administrator of the hospital, who accompanied DIG (IB) Shyamal Dutta to the meeting with the health secretary in the afternoon, refused to be quoted. He only said that he had also heard about the government decision but was yet to receive any official communication.

A section of the Trinamul Congress, however, activated itself late in the evening, attempting a last-ditch effort to retrieve the situation. Party leaders started making discreet enquiries whether the hospital could continue functioning with the help of the Trinamul-controlled Calcutta Municipal Corporation, following pressure from a senior MP from Calcutta.


Calcutta, May 30: 
All is fair, they say, in the love of football. So, it’s ‘goodbye work, hello World Cup’ in city offices, starting Friday afternoon. That’s the soccer-crazed message from the seat of power at Writers’ Buildings to the city’s first ‘intelligent building’ in Saltlec.

Adding to the cheer of Ten Sports going on beam on Thursday was the reiteration of the pledge of “uninterrupted viewing pleasure” from the power department and the power utility. CESC’s executive director (distribution) D.N. Majumdar said: “We have taken a series of steps to improve quality of service during the tournament. Our generating stations have also been geared up to ensure that there is no shortage of power during the matches.”

Office babus, meanwhile, are gearing up to beat the daytime telecast odds and have a ball in the afternoon. The rush for temporary cable connections has floored operators. “I have already given 30 temporary connections to various commercial establishments. The one-month connection costs between Rs 700 and Rs 1,000, depending on the length of the cable,” said Aniruddh Damania, an operator in the Park Street-Camac Street area. His Cup client list ranges from Gangurams to Global Trust Bank.

“Going on leave for a month — or taking off for crucial matches — is just not feasible. So, we requested the authorities to instal a TV in the recreation club,” said a GPO employee. The plea was heeded. “We have allowed the employees to organise a temporary cable connection. I have full confidence in my employees and am sure the matches won’t come in the way of their work,” said Tilak De, director, GPO.

Surinder Agarwal, a SitiCable operator, confirmed two new connections at Writers’ Buildings and a number of banks.

These include Union Bank and Central Bank. An employee of the State Bank of India main branch said: “We have installed two new television sets and given the size of our office, we expect some more connections in the next few days. Many of our branch offices have also arranged cable connections.”

Uttam Shukla’s men have taken the cable line into the Income-Tax Bhavan, besides providing connections to several some small shops. Enquiries are pouring in and he is confident of connecting more offices as the Cup enters the next rounds. “In some places, they are hiring TVs, while in others they are getting them from home,” said Shukla.

Saltlec, the IT hub of the city, is also ready to keep pace with the Cup. “Our company has bought a 29-inch colour TV. We don’t mind our employees taking time off to watch matches,” said the administrative head of a software firm.

Project deadlines and performance appraisals have taken a back seat as all planning revolves around what to watch and who to back. There is no need to hire TVs in Saltlec, as most offices have sets used for video conferencing. “There are 18 offices in our building and all of them have approached us to organise cable connections for them,” said Biswajit Chaudhury, president, Infinity Intelligent Parks Ltd.

And those fearing power cuts in the afternoon can breathe easy, said power minister Mrinal Banerjee, who has asked the state-run power plants to step up their generation to avoid any deficit during the World Cup matches. Banerjee has also urged the Kolaghat plant authorities to use oil to keep the boilers burning if the supply of coal is of inferior quality.

Sporting spirit is also sweeping the corridors of the DVC, which had imposed a restriction on its supply to the CESC grid from May 25 because of non-payment of power purchase dues. On Thursday, DVC announced that it was “temporarily withdrawing” its restriction from Friday. “We are withdrawing the restriction for a month, following a request from the Bengal government. We want the people of Calcutta and Howrah to watch the World Cup matches on television without a hitch,” said a DVC official.

This has boosted CESC efforts to provide uninterrupted power to subscribers during Cup matches as the DVC supplies 15 mw to 25 mw for distribution in and around Howrah. According to D.N. Majumdar, the power utility has taken “special precautions” to ensure uninterrupted supply and swift repair of faults as the matches will be held during peak office hours.

“On an average, there are 50 to 60 low-tension faults and at least one high-tension fault in CESC-served areas. These are difficult to avoid... But 136 emergency units, equipped with vehicles and wireless sets, have been deployed in three shifts. Fault repair facilities have been provided to each district office round-the-clock to tackle emergency situations. Senior executives have been asked to coordinate and oversee the entire emergency operation during telecast time,” added Majumdar.



Fresh Madhyamik certificates in July

Successful candidates of Madhyamik 2002 will be given fresh certificates in July. Haraprasad Samaddar, president of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, said on Thursday that the certificates will soon be sent to four regional offices from 42 camp offices. The colour of the certificates will be different from the earlier ones. The certificates which have already been issued carry a wrong date. Samaddar was escorted by officers of the Calcutta Police special branch to thwart any attempt by Trinamul supporters to heckle him.

Power tariff hike case in SC

The Federation of Consumer Associations, West Bengal, filed a special leave petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court on Wednesday, challenging Calcutta High Court’s judgment, on May 14. The judgment had allowed the CESC to increase electricity tariff, striking down the recommendations of the State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC). President of the consumer forum Mala Banerjee said the petition was likely to be heard along with the SLP filed by the SERC on June 3.

New tyres ruled out

Several bus-owners have expressed their inability to use new tyres in vehicles. A member of the Joint Council of Bus Syndicate said on Thursday that most of the 22,000 buses plying across the state use rented tyres. The price of a new tyre is about Rs 11,000 which is beyond the means of a bus-owner, the syndicate member said. Police are checking tyres of vehicles at important spots following the recent Chowbaga accident in which 46 passengers were killed on the spot after a worn-out tyre of the bus burst and the vehicle skidded off EM Bypass.

Gas cylinder raid

The district administration of South 24-Parganas will conduct surprise raids to curb use of gas cylinders without valid papers. Debkumar Ganguly, superintendent of South 24-Parganas, said on Thursday that the drive aims at reducing gas cylinder-related accidents. Recently one person was killed and five others, including three children, were injured in a gas cylinder explosion at Raidighi.

Green programme

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will be present as chief guest at the West Bengal Pollution Control Board’s World Environment Day programme at Paribesh Bhawan, Salt Lake, on June 5 . Bhattacharjee will release two reports — ‘Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan for West Bengal’ and ‘Health Effect of Urban Air Pollution: a study in Calcutta’. He will launch an Indo-Canadian environmental facility project on pollution prevention and waste minimization of small-scale industrial units in the Calcutta Metropolitan Area. The programme will be presided over by Manabendra Mukherjee, minister-in-charge, environment and information technology, and chairman of West Bengal Pollution Control Board.

Hoarding haul

The city police arrested 12 people and prevented a contractor from pulling down a hoarding of Ganashakti, the CPM mouthpiece, from AJC Bose Road on Wednesday night. Deputy commissioner, headquarters, Sivaji Ghosh said the Park Street police went to the spot on receiving a complaint that some people were pulling down the structure which was obstructing a highrise.

Howrah bottleneck

The Howrah district administration and the police have decided to crack down on reckless bus drivers. Traffic congestions are a regular feature at the Howrah bus terminus, as buses parked haphazardly block the main passage. People have for long resented this bottleneck at the entry point to the city. District superintendent of police Rajesh Kumar said that the police administration has already chalked out an action plan in this regard.

Boy hurt in mishap

Nine-year-old Bhabotosh Panda was seriously injured on Thursday when he was hit by a private bus at Ajoynagar in the Purba Jadavpur area. He was taken to MR Bangur Hospital. Police said his condition was critical.

Road blockade

Traffic at Thakurpukur in Behala, was disrupted for more than four hours on Thursday morning after residents put up a blockade demanding road repairs. Police said the blockade was lifted after PWD officials intervened.    

Calcutta, May 30: 
An eerie tropical jungle after sundown comes alive in the Museum of Environment and Man at the Narendrapur school of Ramakrishna Mission Ashram. It is inky dark inside. A moment later, crickets burst into a full-throated chorus as the last rays of twilight begin to define the foliage and the trunks of trees. With the lumens on the rise, the denizens of the jungle begin to slink out. Or so it seems, momentarily.

Birds start chirping amidst the cathedral of trees. Civets scurry out. The light flickers, and once again the critters are enveloped in darkness. The antlers of a deer stand out clearly against the backdrop of trees.

As on stage, the spotlights focus on a particular animal for a couple of seconds, fade out and highlight another bird or a king cobra battling unto death with a common mongoose.

A blood-curdling roar, and a white tiger materialises out of a clump of shrubs. It signals nightfall. A couple of steps forward, and the gloom begins to clear in the distance. A new morning is breaking and the jungle path comes into sight. Later, a group of excited if slightly dazed children emerge.

This make-believe forest with the feel of the real thing, took ages to create leaf by leaf and tree trunk by tree trunk. Each leaf was made of tissue paper with brass or iron wires as veins. The trunks are paper pulp and plaster of Paris. The forest is only a component of the museum, though, admittedly, the most exciting one. But it is not only handmade, and taxidermy was not the only skill on display. State-of-the-art technology was used to make it and the entire museum work.

In the walk-through forest, the lighting and sounds are perfectly synchronised. The avian calls match the birds that are being highlighted. The same goes with the animals.

Visitors are greeted into the museum, the only one of its kind in India, with the chants of Rig Veda slokas. It has two distinct sections. The first is about the creation of the earth and the various ecosystems that exist in the world. The second is about the evolution of man and the march of civilisations down the ages.

It begins with glowing lights representing the creation mystery as interpreted by scientists. Dioramas with skilfully-painted backdrops and animals crafted out of fibre glass depict plant life through the ages and the various ecosytems that exist, including the fascinating life under the blue seas. The world of insects, particularly the butterflies, could not have looked better.

Plaster casts of famous museum pieces and photographs bring India’s cultural history in focus. The accompanying narration is in English. Soon a Bengali version will be introduced.


Calcutta, May 30: 
The West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) showcased the Calcutta Leather Complex (CLC) on Thursday, calling it a “major industrial infrastructure” in the state.

“The complex will have the maximum operational economy and will score over those in other states,” said WBIDC chairman Somnath Chatterjee at a media presentation, with CLC promoter Jagmohan Dalmiya by his side.

According to Dalmiya, 338 tanneries — located in Tangra, Topsia and Tiljala — have taken possession of land at the CLC. “The 116 tanneries, which had asked for very small plots, have been given extra land at the existing rate,” he said.

The common effluent treatment plant has been awarded to an Austrian firm, Dalmiya said, adding that “the plant will be ready in two years and the effluent will be discharged in the adjoining outflow channel meanwhile”. The tanners will bear the cost for using the plant and the amount is being worked out.


Calcutta, May 30: 
The enforcement branch of Howrah Police is on high alert following reports that traders, in connivance with criminals, are flooding the market with adulterated goods. In the recent past, a number of goods and a sizeable amount of cement and iron rods have been seized in swoops at various places in the district.

An enforcement branch officer said: “We are concerned about the mafia dimension that was added in the recent past. We need to swing into action immediately.”

The adulterated goods include rice, pulses and edible oil. “What is of more concern is fake medicine. If fake drugs flood the market, the repercussions will be serious. The size of the vials, and particularly the labels, are identical but the contents are spurious,” said another official.

Rajesh Kumar, district superintendent of police, said that the enforcement wing has been activated to thwart the underworld move to market fake goods.

“We have arrested a number of persons. A sizeable quantity of materials was seized from them. We intend to smash the network,” Kumar added. “We are also on the look-out for those who tamper with weights and measures. That invites stern action,” added Kumar.


Calcutta, May 30: 
A couple, owners of separate firms, have separate accounts in a top-notch, private-sector bank. The bank keeps confusing their account numbers, resulting in errors that would have been comic, had they not involved money.

A client of another A-grade private bank waits for more than 48 hours for a cheque to be deposited and then terminates his account. The bank, however, takes more than two days to deposit the cheque, resulting in the amount not being credited.

More and more cases against private banks, believed to be less error-prone and more customer-friendly than the nationalised banks, are being brought to the notice of Calcutta consumer courts.

In the first case, the aggrieved consumer, Ronen Mookerjee, alleging “deficiency in service” by ABN-AMRO, has asked for a compensation of Rs 3,50,000 because of the “harassment and loss of face”.

In the second, the Bajajs of Bangur Avenue have asked Standard Chartered for Rs 10,000, citing “mental agony”, for the termination of their account before the Rs-60,000 cheque was deposited.

The two cases, however, are not representative of the number of grievances against private banks, admit banking sector officials. “We offer much better day-to-day service but I cannot deny that we, too, slip up often,” admitted a senior customer relations officer of a private bank, with several city branches.

He added, however, that the slips usually were “inadvertent errors... We have to earn our keep and cannot afford to be deliberately lackadaisical,” he said.

In Mookerjee’s case, two separate firms belonging to him and his wife often had their account numbers interchanged. “We are now confused with the heaps of cheque books with contradictory account numbers,” Mookerjee complained.

But what took the cake was the dishonouring of a cheque issued by his son, Rajiv, another account-holder of the same bank. “The delay in getting the amount caused a serious loss of face,” Mookerjee told the forum.

He first moved the Bengal Federation of Consumer Organisations. Bank representatives told federation working president Prabir Basu they had already apologised and the “inadvertent errors were caused by software transition”. A frustrated Mookerjee, however, told the bank that he had made up his mind to take it to court.

Sandersons and Morgans, appearing on behalf of ABN-AMRO, however, have pleaded with the court that the issue, “involving elaborate documentary evidence”, was best not entertained by it. Some of the allegations, according to the bank’s plea, occurred due to “oversight” but some of the complaints did not have any basis. “The bank did not harass the complainant intentionally,” it added.

In the other case before the consumer court, Standard Chartered’s legal representatives told the forum hearing the case that the dispute fell within the jurisdiction of a civil court.

Centurion Bank customer services cell official Shankar Banerjee admitted there were aggrieved customers, most of whom complained against “fraudulent withdrawals... But if we ever hear of a case against any employee or branch, we have an internal mechanism that ensures such things aren’t repeated,” he added.

Other bank spokespersons agreed. “Though we don’t have any retail banking here and can’t offend individual clients, there are bound to be inadvertent slip-ups,” an American Express spokesperson admitted.


Calcutta, May 30: 
The results of Tuesday’s civic elections throw up two trends distinct from last May’s Assembly polls. First, there seems to be a further erosion in Mamata Banerjee’s popularity and the Trinamul Congress’ voteshare. Second, the Congress’ renewed march in the race for the non-Left political space in the state.

The shrinking of the Trinamul vote appears to be uniformly widespread, cutting across the rural-urban divide, social groups and religious communities. Coming close on the heels of the Gujarat communal carnage, the civic polls were the first test of the public reaction to Mamata’s shifting stands on Gujarat. The election results confirmed the Muslims’ growing suspicion of her alliance with the BJP and her prevarications on Gujarat.

Particularly noticeable about the Muslim reaction is the spread of the disenchantment with Mamata from urban to rural areas.

Unlike their Urdu-speaking counterparts in urban areas, the Bengali-speaking Muslims in Bengal, living mostly in semi-urban and rural areas, have traditionally voted on political rather than communal lines. These elections reflected even the Bengali-speaking Muslims’ suspicion of Mamata’s continuation in the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.

The polls to the newly-formed Nalhati municipality in Birbhum illustrate this trend best. In last year’s election, the Trinamul-supported Congress candidate lost the Nalhati Assembly constituency to the Forward Bloc’s heavyweight nominee, Kalimuddin Shams, by a small margin of 3,134 votes.

A year after the break-up of the Congress-Trinamul alliance, while the former managed to win all six Muslim-majority wards along with five others of the 16-strong board, the latter drew a blank.

The collapse of the Trinamul was equally noticeable in Hindu-majority civic boards. In Coopers’ Camp notified area in Nadia, comprising only Hindu refugees from erstwhile East Pakistan, the Congress made a near-clean sweep, bagging 10 wards while leaving two for the Left Front and nothing for the Trinamul.

Even a semi-urban, partly middle-class municipality like Durgapur left the Trinamul in the lurch. Of the 43 wards in the Durgapur corporation, 33 fall within the Durgapur II Assembly constituency.

Last May, the Trinamul candidate for the constituency won it with a large margin of 9,500 votes. In the civic elections, the party managed to win just one of the 43 wards.

It is the same story of the Trinamul’s decimation, whether it is rural Dhupguri and Panskura, industrial Howrah or urban Calcutta.

In a reversal process that seems to have both breadth and depth, the lack of support for the Trinamul seems to have spread from the middle classes to peasants and even workers, who had flocked to it before the last Assembly polls.

Despite its defeat in the Assembly polls, the party had managed to spread its appeal among diverse social and economic groups.

Interestingly, the final tally of municipal wards — Left Front 82, Congress 26 and Trinamul only seven — is a repeat of the 2000 municipal elections, in which also the Congress came second to the Left, leaving Mamata’s party in the third position.

Tuesday’s elections have thus thrown up the question whether the Congress can resurrect itself in the coming days to occupy the biggest non-Left space, displacing Mamata. The two parties will fight it out for that space in Friday’s byelection to the Onda Assembly constituency in Bankura. But a bigger battle awaits the two parties in next year’s panchayat elections.

With the NDA’s fortunes plummeting all over the country and the Congress’ in the upswing, Mamata’s space may only reduce in Bengal. It is to be seen how fast — and how far —the Congress can increase its share of the non-Left space.


Howrah, May 30: 
A police officer was severely assaulted by miscreants in the wee hours today after he got isolated from his colleagues during a raid on a criminals’ den.

Sub-inspector Ujjal Das was later admitted in the intensive care unit of SSKM Hospital.

Howrah superintendent of police Rajesh Kumar said Das had gone to Dihi Bhoor Shoot village under Udaynarayanpur police station following a tipoff that a gang had gathered in the area.

“The criminals were in a liquor shop when Das reached the place close to midnight on Wednesday,” Kumar said.

Das and six other policemen had gone to the village along with a local source. “The village roads are narrow and muddy. The police jeep travelled till a certain area after which Das and the others were forced to get down,’’ Kumar added.

Das divided the team into two and proceeded to surround the area to cut off the criminals’ escape routes.

The sub-inspector led a group of three to the hooch den. The area was pitch dark. But as Das neared a hut, he saw some five persons talking and drinking under two small lamps.

With a revolver in his right hand, the police officer broke into the hut and directed the criminals to surrender.

Though the 15 criminals were caught unawares, they realised that the officer was alone. His colleagues were still groping in the dark for the hut’s door.

Locking the hut, the criminals overpowered Das and assaulted him even as the police officer shouted for help. It was close to 20 minutes before the bleeding police officer’s colleagues came to his rescue. In the meantime, the other group of policemen also reached the spot to save the sub-inspector.

Das was taken to Uluberia Hospital and then shifted to SSKM Hospital. The Howrah SP said 25 people were arrested in connection with the incident.


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