Rifle row rips police hub
Hospital hit by labour unrest
Sizzler rerun ruled out
Shout clout for skipper Sourav
The city diary
Back to battle over roads
Woman jewel thief in cop net
Added areas boycott slashed civic budget
Police for the people
Paper window to the world

Calcutta, June 3: 
American Center, January 22: Scores of Calcutta policemen were soft targets for two motorcycle-borne terrorists, who fired at them at will, without a single shot being returned.

City police headquarters, Lalbazar, June 2: While tired policemen return their arms after night-long duty, a lone constable picks up his rifle and fires five shots in the air, terrorising colleagues and sending shock waves through the police top brass.

“It can’t happen here.” This was the reaction of the city police when the shots rang out in front of the American Center. But it did. On Sunday morning, as senior officers were woken up with news of the gunshots at Lalbazar, the reaction was the same.

For the first time ever, security at Lalbazar had been breached by a trigger-happy policeman. “Temporary insanity” was the reason proffered for the constable’s action. Till the medical results come in, officials at Lalbazar are not venturing any other explanation.

But what really happened?

According to DC, headquarters, Shivaji Ghosh, and additional commissioner of police Kiriti Sengupta, about 70 policemen from different battalions were on duty at Lalbazar through Saturday night.

One of them was constable Raghunath Sadhukhan. Reporting for duty at 8 pm, Sadhukhan was part of a posse sent off to raid a few places. Returning to Lalbazar at around 4 am, Sadhukhan told colleagues he was tired and wanted to call it a day.

He went to the armoury to surrender his weapon, as is the custom at the end of duty hours. But, the policemen who made the log book entry at the armoury asked him to wait another two hours, till 6 am, before returning his .303 rifle.

There are no details of what happened in the next two hours. But from accounts pieced together from Sadhukhan’s colleagues, he was not happy with what had transpired and he kept repeating that he wanted to go home. A few witnesses said one or two of his colleagues even taunted Sadhukhan for being turned away from the armoury. Sadhukhan sat sullenly, clutching his rifle.

At 6 am, when the other policemen went to the armoury, Sadhukhan stayed back. Instead, he went in front of the police control room, cocked his rifle, and started shooting in the air till he had spent the five cartridges loaded in his .303.

As the first shot rang out, the other policemen fled. Later, they overpowered him, snatched the rifle and pacified him. The constable was taken to the police hospital and later shifted to M.R. Bangur Institute of Neurology.

For the moment, Sadhukhan has been suspended. “But we are awaiting the medical reports to find out whether he was suffering from temporary insanity before initiating any other action against him,” Sengupta said.


Calcutta, June 3: 
Calcutta Medical Research Institute, among the city’s largest private, multi-disciplinary hospitals, has been forced to turn away patients in the wake of protracted “labour trouble”.

Superintendent Amitava Mukhopadhyay said on Monday: “Only three critically-ill patients were admitted in the past 24 hours.” The hospital normally admits more than 200 a day.

The Trinamul Congress-run trade union, fearing that a section of the staff may be “struck off the rolls” following a change in the duty roster, has demanded that the management settle the “contentious issue”.

Accusing the management of levelling false charges against its staff, Sovandeb Chattopadhyay, Trinamul MLA and leader of the party’s labour wing, said the union would not tolerate the management’s “coercive measures”. “We have been forced to launch an agitation after the management refused to entertain requests for a dialogue and even falsely accused our members of damaging hospital property,’’ said Chattopadhyay.

Mukhopadhyay, however, said there was no question of conceding ground to the union’s “unjustified agitation”. “I am all for a dialogue, but I consider it the right of the management to make changes in the roster. Why should I consult the union?”

The hospital authorities recently changed the duty roster of Group-D staff in the cabins, curtailing the number on duty and creating a reserve pool of ‘additional employees’.

Staff from the reserve pool would be put on duty “anywhere in the hospital, according to the demands of the situation”. The move sparked the fear of downsizing among the staff.

“The decision to do away with a 30-year-old system is the first step towards retrenchment,” alleged union representative Rajaram Mandal.

As the two sides traded charges, the doors of the hospital were slammed shut on a few critically-ill patients on Monday. Among them was a 70-year-old man with a liver ailment. Relatives who brought him were told that no doctor was available and the hospital was not admitting any patients “now’’.


Calcutta, June 3: 
It was a sizzling Monday, but it came nowhere near the record-breaking temperatures reached a few days ago. At 38.4 degrees Celsius, the maximum temperature during the day was three degrees above normal.

The weather office dispelled fears of a return to the heat wave conditions (five degrees above normal) that Calcutta and many parts of the state had experienced. “We are expecting monsoon clouds to arrive on schedule around June 8. The chances of temperatures crossing 40 degrees before that are extremely remote,” said R.N. Goldar, Alipore Met office chief. The south-west monsoon had arrived on time in the Andamans in mid-May, and had hit Kerala three days early, on May 28.

“North Bengal and Sikkim are already experiencing pre-monsoon thunderclouds, which is a good sign for the monsoon’s arrival over Gangetic West Bengal,” the Met official added.

But, on the flip side, the sluggish activity of monsoon clouds over the Bay of Bengal was not very encouraging. The officer explained that clear skies during the day had led to the rise in temperatures in the city on Monday.


Calcutta, June 3: 
There’s going to be some tough competition for the Pommies and the Aussies in the 2003 World Cup — for cricket, that is — from India. No, we are not talking about the challenge from our men in blue on the pitch, but from the guys and girls in blue off it.

Two cricket-crazy Calcuttans have decided to give England’s Barmy Army and Australia’s Foster’s-guzzling fans — the ones who go around the cricketing globe cheering their team along — a run for their vocal tonic. Shashi Sharraf and Vikash Gupta, both alumni of South Point School, have formed a club and floated a package to enable Indian fans to hitch their travel plans to their favourite cricket team’s tour itinerary.

Can you imagine a bit of Eden Gardens at the Wanderers? That’s precisely what Shashi and Vikash promise to create for Sourav and his boys. “One of the reasons why the Indian cricket team under-performs overseas is because it lacks support from the stands. The morale of the team can be lifted by the presence of a large and loud band of supporters,” feel the two young men.

The club, christened Sports Mania Cricket Fever, will make its entry on the world stage in the NatWest Trophy. Pitting India against England and Sri Lanka, the June-end tourney will be the first ‘overseas’ halt in the fan brigade’s run-up to the World Cup in South Africa.

National selector Ashok Malhotra has already agreed to lead the ‘team’. “We could not have hoped for a better captain,” say Shashi and Vikash. Sixteen other Calcuttans have signed up and the organisers are confident of taking “a full bus of 35 spectators” for their first tournament.

“It is a loose sort of a club with provision for membership,” says Shashi. The total package for the NatWest Trophy — including tickets for the six matches featuring India at the league stage, airline bookings, hotel accommodation in England and inter-centre transfer — has been pegged at Rs 1.29 lakh for each member.

The Shashi-Vikash duo feels it is the hassle-free tour programme — along with the chance to be present at some of the most revered cricket stadia, like Lord’s and Old Trafford — that will draw the cricket buff out of the drawing room and into the ‘tour bus’. The International Cricket Council and the Sports Tourism Council have already been informed of their plans and the duo is convinced that the ‘come-cheer-your-team’ concept is a winner. But will their heroes give them enough to cheer about?



Power hike case reaches apex court

The vacation bench of the Supreme Court on Monday accepted the special leave petition filed on behalf of the Federation of Consumer Associations, West Bengal, against the CESC’s decision to hike power tariff. The bench, comprising Justice Santosh N. Hegde and Justice S.N. Vairava, is hearing a case filed by the state government following Calcutta High Court’s permission to allow the CESC to hike electricity tariff without permission from the State Electricity Regulatory Commission. The Supreme Court will take up the matter during the next hearing slated for July.

Blockade hits city centre

Traffic movement in the Esplanade area was disrupted on Monday afternoon following a sudden agitation by SUCI activists at the crossing of Lenin Sarani and JL Nehru Road. The SUCI had organised the agitation to protest the recent hike in petrol, diesel, electricity and hospital charges. About 300 members of the SUCI cadre gathered at the crossing and blocked roads for about an hour from 3 pm. The police were caught unawares by the protest and vehicles on Lenin Sarani, Chittaranjan Avenue, JL Nehru Road and adjoining streets in central Calcutta came to a halt. A scuffle ensued when the police resorted to a mild lathicharge to remove the blockade. Three SUCI activists, including a woman, were arrested. They were later released from the city police headquarters in Lalbazar on a personal bond. The SUCI claimed that 16 of its activists were injured in the lathicharge.

Teen run over

A teenager died in a road accident on Sunday night. He was run over by a bus on route 57, which was trying to move faster than another bus on Nabin Pal Lane in Howrah. A mob threw stones and bottles and broke the window panes of a number of vehicles. Police said Debasish Chatterjee, 17, is from Dasnagar. A large contingent of police from the Bantra police station rushed to the spot to disperse the mob and bring the situation under control.


Vinod Gupta, 40, was killed when a concrete slab fell on him from an eight-storeyed building on Ganesh Chandra Avenue around 7.30 pm on Monday. Gupta, a resident of Rajarhat, was walking along the road when the accident occurred. He was rushed to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital with severe head injuries. He died within half an hour of reaching the hospital.

One dead, two hurt

A woman was run over and two others were injured at Titagarh on Sunday. Sumita Ruidas, 46, died and the other two victims were taken to hospital, police said. Tension ran high in the area and police had to intervene to bring the situation under control.


An 18-year-old boy died in Khardah when he was trying to connect his television set to the power line to watch the World Cup. The boy, Mukunda De, was taken to a nearby hospital where he died.

No CMC overdraft

For the first time in 30 years, Calcutta Municipal Corporation disbursed salaries to its 45,000 employees without taking an overdraft from banks. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee said even after paying the salary bills and Rs 77 crore to contractors, the CMC would be richer by around Rs 46 crore.    

Calcutta, June 3: 
After Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), it’s the turn of another civic body to pick a fight with Reliance Infocom.

Residential areas like Lake Town, Motijheel and both sides of Jessore Road have become the turf for the latest round of battle between Reliance Infocom and South Dum Dum Municipality, (SDDM) with the latter asking Reliance to stop digging up roads for laying its cables.

The private-sector giant is entering the basic telecom service sector and the optical fibre cable-laying work is part of its Rs 900-crore broadband project.

CMC mayor Subrata Mukherjee was the first head of a civic body to ask Reliance to lay off Calcutta roads. The issue was, however, amicably settled after a round of discussions.

SDDM chairman Sreehir Bhattacharya, along with commissioners cutting across political lines, met senior Reliance officials on Monday. After an angry exchange of words, the municipality chairman asked Reliance officials to stop all cable-laying work till they agreed to pay a compensation for the damaged roads.

Bhattacharya later told Metro that the company had reached an agreement with SDDM for laying underground cables. “They (Reliance) agreed to pay us adequate compensation for the damage being inflicted on our roads,” he said.

“But, despite damaging a number of roads, they are not paying the promised compensation,” he alleged. Most of the municipality’s commissioners, cutting across political barriers, had approached him to do something about the damage to roads in Lake Town, Kalindi, Motijheel and Jawpur. The municipality, therefore, had decided to take a tough stand against Reliance.

The company is supposed to lay cables in a four-kilometre stretch of the municipality in the preliminary stage. Cable-laying work will be taken up in other areas in the future, according to the firm’s plans.

A Reliance official, however, said the company had entered into an agreement with the state government for laying cables across the state, including Calcutta and its neighbouring areas. “Both the Centre and the state government are aware of what we are doing and have given us the green signal,” he added, asking why the company should sign another agreement with yet another organisation.

“The municipality, too, has not given us anything in writing and all communication has been verbal only,” he added.

Bhattacharya, however, saw nothing wrong in the municipality’s stand. “We cannot remain bystanders when our roads are being dug up,” he said.

Municipality commissioners, too, have taken up the battle against Reliance. Senior Forward Bloc leader and commissioner of the Jawpur area Motilal Moitra admitted he had personally asked Reliance to stop digging up roads in the locality.

CPM commissioner Atin Roy, representing the area around Motijheel, and Trinamul Congress commissioner Sujit Bose, representing a part of the Lake Town belt, said they, too, acted similarly to protect “local people’s interests”.


Calcutta, June 3: 
She is smart, can hold her own in English, Hindi and south Indian languages and is a jewel thief to boot. But she could not give the police the slip.

On Monday, 32-year-old inter-state thief and cheat Anita Hanri, alias Suman, was arrested at Sodepur on charges of stealing diamond jewellery from S. Bali, an NRI, in Bangalore.

Investigators are now looking for her associate, who identified herself as Munmun, a resident of Taltala.

The police seized valuables worth about Rs 12 lakh from Anita. She was produced in Barrackpore court and handed over to Bangalore police on Monday.

It all started when the Bangalore police informed their counterparts in Calcutta that two women they were looking for on theft charges had fled to Calcutta and its adjacent areas.

“Initially, we had no idea who these criminals were. Our officers came to know about them only after getting a message from Bangalore police. Our job became easier as the Bangalore police sent us photographs of the two felons,” said Zulfiquar Hasan, deputy commissioner of police, central division.

The duo worked in a beauty parlour in Bangalore under the assumed names of Suman and Munmun. One day, they made off with valuables belonging to S. Bali while some other employees of the parlour were attending to her.

Bali was later able to identify them when the Bangalore police showed her photographs of the two women. “The records of the thieves showed that they had been arrested in the past too,” said Hassan.

The duo had committed a string of crimes in metros. “Anita got married a few years ago and her family members knew all about her activities. She robbed a number of long-distance train passenger impersonating as a passenger herself. Besides, she used to target the business hubs and banks, as getting away unnoticed is easier in these places” added Hasan.


Calcutta, June 3: 
All the 41 councillors, including Trinamul Congress mayor-in-council members and borough chairmen, of the added areas of Behala, Garden Reach and Jadavpur have boycotted the mayor’s budget allotment for development in their areas. The amount was 60 per cent of the previous year’s allocation.

A senior accounts officer admitted that he was yet to receive the demand for disbursement of budget allocation from the chairmen of five borough committees (boroughs XI to XV).

CPM chief whip Amal Mitra said: “All 41 councillors of the added areas are united in our claim, irrespective of party affilitation.”

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee said: “It is not true that the budgetary allocation of the added areas has actually been slashed. The allocation has only been made on the basis of the actual sum they could spend during the past several years.” The councillors’ fund, though, was raised from Rs 2.2 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh, he pointed out.

Mayor-in-council member from the added areas Sovan Chatterjee denied the claim that Trinamul councillors from the added areas were at one with them over the demand. He said: “Amal Mitra does not lead most CPM councillors in Behala, Garden Reach and Jadavpur.” Mitra said that Chatterjee was covertly supporting them.

Chatterjee said: “We, the three mayor-in-council members from the added areas, Moinul Haque Chowdhury, Samsuzzaman Ansari and Sovan Chatterjee, along with two Trinamul borough chairmen, had met the mayor earlier. He had then assured us of a favourable reconsideration of increasing the budget allocation for the added areas”.

The mayor was reminded at the meeting that the existence of the Trinamul board depended on the 17 party councillors from the added areas. Overnight, the board would be in a minority if they withdrew support. “It is nothing but political blackmail,” said chairman of borough VII Debasish Kumar.

“What will be the fate of the board if 20 councillors from east and north Calcutta threatened to withdraw their support, demanding ‘reasonable’ allocation for development?” asked Kumar.

Meanwhile, the councillors and mayor-in-council members of the city proper were up in arms against higher allocation for the development of the added areas of Behala, Garden Reach and Jadavpur, which hardly generated any tax revenue for the Calcutta Municipal Corporation.

Kumar argued that if the added areas of Behala, Garden Reach and Jadavpur deserved special allotment on the ground that they were not as well developed as Calcutta proper, in respect of civic infrastructure, then a similar allocation should be made for the wards in east Calcutta as they, too, lacked civic infrastructure.

The wards in Tiljala, Topsia, Kasba, Tangra, Kalikapur and Dhapa deserved special allotment for development as they yield 10 times the property tax generated in the added areas.

According to the civic accounts department, whereas the added areas generated Rs 18 crore as tax revenue last year, the amount spent on their development was more than Rs 60 crore.


Calcutta, June 3: 
In a bid to make the police more people-friendly, the Howrah district administration has opened a new website detailing the functioning of the district police and the Mahila Ashray Committee (MAC), strengthening of resistance groups in villages, training of students of various schools in better traffic management, and cultural programmes in collaboration with the local people.

Unveiling the plan, Rajesh Kumar, district superintendent of police in Howrah, said: “We have already opened a website for bringing transparency in our functioning. We are more keen on joining all police stations through the Internet so that anybody can lodge a complaint through e-mail.”

The formation of the MAC is expected to empower women to bring their grievances to the notice of police officers. Women will work in tandem with the police to stop exploitation, mental and physical torture and dowry-related deaths.

Reshmi Sinha, additional superintendent of police (HQ) will look after this wing. Other senior officers, too, will keep a close watch on its functioning to strengthen it.

To increase the awareness of school students to traffic management and to sensitise them to problems of drug addiction and other related issues, the police administration will hold camps in collaboration with schools.

Police will also work in tandem with resistance groups to thwart any attempt to commit crime and receive feedback from far-flung rural areas.

The administration has decided to hold cultural programmes in various areas to improve their image.


Calcutta, June 3: 
His dream: to make a difference. His dream vehicle: words.

When Anupam Shrivastav, a graduate from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, first came up with the idea of a wall newspaper for the semi-literate rural populace of Bihar in 1996, his dream found no takers.

Six years down the line, Pratibaddh, or ‘commitment’, has become the proverbial ‘window to the world’ for lakhs of villagers in Bihar, Punjab, and now Bengal.

“I have always believed that dedication, even of a single person for a good cause, is bound to pay off,” says Anupam, in Calcutta for a feedback session from friends and fellow-dreamers.

True to its agenda, Pratibaddh has remained committed to its cause — socio-economic development. “There is no room for politics or controversy in my dream-child,” he says.

Instead, the trilingual fortnightly focuses on issues like information on healthcare, water, sanitation, primary education and family welfare, news on new and dependable knowledge in agriculture, animal husbandry, etc.

Simple language, in big, bold letters, and plenty of cartoons mark Anupam’s message machine. The formula has worked, with a loyal readership building up in all three states.

Launched in Bengal two years ago, Pratibaddh today reaches 13 districts, and over 2,170 villages. The key to the distribution mechanism also lies in its simplicity. In Bengal, it reaches homes with the morning milk van.

“Tying up with the West Bengal Cooperative Milk Producers’ Federation has ensured not only a secure mode of delivery, but also provided a nerve centre of activity, where people from all localities come to deliver their milk,” says Anupam.

The Federation, on its part, provided this service for free. “We understood the necessity of disseminating such important information to villagers,” says Trinath Krishna Sinha, managing director of the Federation.

Institutions like local schools, banks, post offices and panchayat bhavans have allowed the newspaper to be pasted on their walls. This makes the wallpaper visible and gives it a chance to create an impact.

With his drive to reach information to remote corners picking up steam, Anupam is ready to branch out into Orissa, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. “This is the beginning of my silent mission to improve the quality of rural life,” he says.


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