Buddha unjust tag on REC mass suspension
Biswas takes lesson of ‘69 to Naxalite terrain
BSF border alert on al Qaida
Gangster at home in jail
Fake marksheet racket busted
The other Bhuvan
Dirt gushes out of party pipeline
Stung CPM attacks BJP for slinging mud
Parveen plays truant again
House closure shadow looms

 
 
BUDDHA UNJUST TAG ON REC MASS SUSPENSION 
 
 
OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Durgapur, Aug. 8: 
The chief minister today described the suspension of 450 students at Regional Engineering College in Durgapur as “unjust”.

“I spoke to the higher education minister yesterday. The students may have some demands, they should be heard,” Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said after inaugurating an exhibition in Calcutta.

However, the college authorities are yet to decide on the fate of the second-year students even after higher education Satya Sadhan Chakraborty declared that the suspension be revoked.

The entire second-year batch was suspended after a section of the students, demanding national status for the college, prevented Chakraborty from inaugurating a new hostel and a lecture hall on the campus on Friday.

College principal S.P. Ghosh has gone on leave on a personal errand.

The inquiry committee, comprising members of the college disciplinary committee and three deans, have not yet finalised its terms of reference. However, deputy registrar S.K. Roy said the panel would meet shortly to decide “how best to conduct the inquiry”.

Back in the hostels, the few remaining second-year students were busy packing their belongings. Rajesh and K. Ramesh from Tamil Nadu and P. Hemanth from Andhra Pradesh among others are hesitant to continue their studies at the college.

“We are peace-loving students and we were in no way involved in the demonstration in which some placards were shown to the minister. Why are we being thrown out?” asked a computer science student.

Students from Nepal and Bhutan are contemplating on seeking transfer certificates. “We are apprehensive about the whimsical attitude of the college administration which has punished innocent students,” one of them said.

The apolitical college students’ union today cancelled its one-day strike as the affected students and the principal were not on campus. “We are seeking solidarity from political college unions to strengthen our hands,” said union secretary Jaideep Chattoraj.

Representatives from the Students Federation of India and the Chhatra Parishad from Jadavpur University and Shibpur’s Bengal Engineering College have visited the campus here.

The students’ union held a general body meeting last night where it was decided to call today’s aborted strike. Chattoraj said the union also despatched a letter to the higher education minister today, seeking a solution to the impasse.

The union had called the strike to express solidarity with the suspended students. “We want everyone to know that we were not in collusion with the authorities regarding the suspension,” Chattoraj said.

The union secretary had earlier said that some of the second-year students had a scuffle with union members after the seniors wanted the agitation to be withdrawn.

   

 
 
BISWAS TAKES LESSON OF ‘69 TO NAXALITE TERRAIN 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Paschim Midnapore, Aug. 8: 
After announcing in Calcutta the party’s strategy to politically tackle the People’s War, CPM state secretary Anil Biswas today briefed the cadre on the ground rules.

Recalling how the party countered the Naxalite upsurge in 1969, Biswas asked district party activists to face the challenges posed by the People’s War in a similar manner. The CPM leader stressed on having grassroots contact with tribals by touring extensively.

Biswas trip to the district — once a Red bastion — follows reports of growing influence of the People’s War in the economically backward tribal belt. Naxalite activists have allegedly killed at least five local CPM leaders in the past few months.

Representatives of the district CPM’s 142 local committees and 25 zonal committees attended today’s closed-door meeting at Saheed Prodyot Smriti Bhavan here. In the hour-long session, Biswas emphasised the need to formulate a political strategy to combat the Naxalite threat in Paschim Midnapore, Bankura and Hooghly, party sources said.

He said the best way to tackle the extremists would be to win back the confidence of the poor tribals.

“We have to go back to them and find out what their grievances are. This cannot be done sitting in party offices in towns. Our workers should stay in the villages and work with the people to restore confidence,” Biswas said at the meeting.

The party state secretary alleged that the Trinamul Congress offered shelter to the Naxalites to ensure that the CPM faced a setback in Assembly election last year.

“Trinamul’s conspiracy did not succeed as the people voted for us. Now you will not find many Trinamul workers there. They have taken shelter with ultra-Left forces,” Biswas told the cadre.

The CPM leader will return to the district on Saturday to address a meeting at Panskura — a move aimed at encouraging the cadre to face the People’s War politically.

   

 
 
BSF BORDER ALERT ON AL QAIDA 
 
 
PROBIR PRAMANIK
 
Kadamtala, Aug. 8: 
A BSF official today said there were intelligence reports that “terrorist organisations like al-Qaida” were training youths across the Bangladesh border.

At the end of a four-day meeting on infiltration and militancy with senior officers of Bangladesh Rifles at Kadamtala near Siliguri, inspector-general of Border Security Force (North Bengal) K.S. Vohra said the militant groups had plans to send the activists into India through the porous border for subversive activities.

“We have no specific information in this respect, but this is what the intelligence reports say,” the official said.

Vohra’s remarks came after the Intelligence Bureau warned the police of a gang of militants, including suicide bombers, trying to sneak into North Bengal from Bangladesh.

Bangladesh Rifles officials were not present when Vohra spoke to mediapersons.

Though it was supposed to have been a joint news conference, BSF sources said the Bangladeshi officials left as they did not want to face the Indian media.

The inspector-general said his organisation was alert to any kind of threat from across the Bangladesh border, but added that “nothing had happened at the ground-level” that could set off the alarm on cross-border militancy.

“Intelligence reports are there about the existence of terrorist outfits in Bangladesh. These outfits are enrolling Bangladeshi nationals and there is a possibility of these trained terrorists being pushed across the border. But there is no specific report in this regard,” he said.

   

 
 
GANGSTER AT HOME IN JAIL 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Midnapore, Aug. 8: 
The don may be in jail facing trial for murders, abductions and extortion. But that does not prevent V. Rambabu’s associates from arranging worldly comforts for the crime lord.

Among other things, Rambabu has been charged with the murder of Gautam and Manas, the sons of Narayan Choubey, the deceased CPI leader of then undivided Midnapur district.

Rambabu was arrested soon after the murder of Gautam on September 11.

“We have heard from various sources that Rambabu is in touch with his henchmen outside prison and we are looking into the matter,” said Paschim Midnapore police superintendent K.C. Meena.

“Whatever Rambabu might be up to in jail, he is not going to get away as we have a watertight case against him,” he added.

But jail authorities are tight-lipped on Rambabu’s clandestine dealings with the world outside. “Do not ask me anything. I cannot say anything, write whatever you know,” said jail superintendent P. Biswas.

However, sources said Rambabu and his 19 associates are allegedly being supplied with liquor. “The merrymaking begins every day after 7 pm when the superintendent leaves.”

A senior police officer also claimed that Rambabu has been issuing cheques that are encashed by his associates to fund the goings-on in the prison.

Debashis Chowdhury, the prime witness in the murder case, has also drawn the attention of the police to the illegal activities in the high-security cell.

“A section of railway contractors is also sending money to Rambabu and his associates,” Chowdhury alleged. He claimed that the gangster used to run a syndicate with the contractors to misappropriate railway funds.

The sources said such is Rambabu’s clout that it is the gangster —and not the administration — who solves the problems of convicts and undertrials.

   

 
 
FAKE MARKSHEET RACKET BUSTED 
 
 
A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 8: 
A racket in forged marksheets was busted and two touts, Partha Bhattacharya and Biman Ghosh, were held from different areas of the city on Wednesday night.

Deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Soumen Mitra, said several documents were seized from Ghosh’s Ashokenagar residence in Habra.

Investigations revealed that Partha and Ghosh had taken Rs 30,000 from seven students, who had appeared for Madhyamik 2002 from Parnasree Satiprasanna Vidyapith, in Behala.

The initial marksheets, which reached the school after the results were declared in June, showed that the seven had failed to clear the examinations. A few weeks later, another set reached the school in an envelope of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Examinations, informing the authorities that the seven had, in fact, got though the examinations.

The baffled school authorities got in touch with the Board officials. On Wednesday, Gopa Basu, deputy secretary of the Board, registered a complaint with Park Street police station about the irregularities in the marksheets.

When the sleuths began their probe, they found out that four of the seven students took tuition from Sharmistha Bhattacharya, Partha’s wife, at their Behala residence.

“It seems when they failed to clear the examinations, Partha urged them to shell out Rs 30,000 and assured them of a pass certificate. He also got in touch with Ghosh for arranging the fake marksheets,” the police said.

Sources said the Bhattacharyas often picked on mediocre students, promising them pass certificates for a sum.

Detectives picked up Partha from his Behala house on Wednesday. He confessed that he had paid Ghosh to arrange for the fake marksheets.

Ghosh’s Habra house was raided late on Wednesday and forged marksheets, admit cards and other documents seized from there. Mitra said Ghosh and Partha were produced in court and remanded in police custody till August 17.

Detectives did not rule out the involvement of Board officials in the racket. “Ghosh is an expert in forging signatures of senior Board officials, and has also got hold of some letter-heads and envelopes. We think some of the Board officials are in connivance with Ghosh. We intend starting a probe soon,’’ a senior detective said.

Mitra said more arrests are likely in the next few days.

   

 
 
THE OTHER BHUVAN 
 
 
SAMARJIT GUHA
 
Calcutta, Aug. 8: 
His contribution to Indian films has never been questioned. Pit him in a commercial set-up, such as Do Anjaane or Barsaat ki ek Raat, or a jejune Tollygunge production like Mahajan or its ilk, Utpal Dutt stood out for his “tremendous sense of proportion”. A fact that ace film-maker Mrinal Sen would love to highlight during the forthcoming Chalochitre Utpal, a four-day retrospective of the actor, at Nandan from August 17.

Sen, in whose Bhuvan Shome Dutt played the title role to perfection, cannot stop reminiscing about the shooting schedule that took place in the early 70s. “It was the first time I was attempting a Hindi film and also the first time Dutt acted in one. Together, we jelled very well and that’s why Bhuvan Shome remains so dear to me,” said the filmmaker, who will lead a seminar on the actor’s contribution to films.

The print of Bhuvan Shome that will precede the seminar during the four-day retrospective, organised by Utpal Dutt Foundation in collaboration with Nandan, has finally been procured. “We are happy that the print is finally arriving and we will screen the film on August 18. It cost us a lot of money but, nevertheless, we could get hold of it after a lot of trouble,” said the actor’s widow, Shova Sen.

The event will take off on August 17 with the screening of Shakespearewallah (starring Dutt, Jennifer Kendall, Shashi Kapoor and Aparna Sen) and Satyajit Ray’s Agantuk. On August 19, Jhor and Shaukeen will be screened and on August 20, Guru and Padma Nadir Majhi.

For Mrinal Sen, the fact that a series of Dutt films is being screened is good enough. “ I would not like to comment on whether the initiative came too late but the fact that it’s happening is good. Many people are not aware of his potential. They go just by the rolling of his eyes and his staccato comedy. If you watch my Chorus, he did a wonderful job.” Mamata Shankar, one of Dutt’s last co-stars in Satyajit Ray’s Agantuk, is elated that the “actor with tremendous talent” is getting his due. “When I did Agantuk with him, I was in awe of him. It was not so during Kalankini, which I did with him much earlier. But my parents (Uday Shankar and Amala Shankar) were his fans, and Michael (the character Dutt immortalised on stage) was their favourite,” said the actress.

The Foundation, committed to preserve, celebrate and disseminate the actor’s creativity and contribution, is for the first time hosting an event like this. “I think the films being shown will open avenues of studying his style of acting seriously,” said Shova Sen. Those expected to grace the occasion are Dutt’s former producers and directors, comprising Sen, Gautam Ghose and Basu Chatterjee, besides an eclectic group of technicians.

Epic Theatre, the bilingual mouthpiece of the Foundation, will publish in a future issue a complete transcript of the proceedings of the seminar.

   

 
 
DIRT GUSHES OUT OF PARTY PIPELINE 
 
 
KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, Aug. 8: 
The scam-stung BJP has dug out more details of earlier scandals to drag the Congress through a petrol slick in an attempt to turn the tables on the main Opposition party.

Ignoring the Congress demand for a commission to probe the scam, the BJP today released a list of 36 Congress leaders in Karnataka who “manipulated” the system to get petrol, LPG and kerosene dealerships.

Moreover, about 110 BJP legislators urged Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to order an inquiry into all allotments made under the Dealer Selection Board system since 1983.

The Congress condemned the BJP move as a “dirty and diversionary” ploy and said it was intended to “obfuscate” the controversial allotments.

The dirty works department of the BJP is digging in other states too to “silence” the Opposition. A senior party leader said Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s cook could have got a dealership in Solan and “we are trying to confirm it”.

The party alleged that former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda’s son H.D. Kumaraswamy and another kin were allotted dealerships. Former Union minister S.R. Bommai’s relative too was a beneficiary, the BJP said.

After releasing the list, BJP spokesperson V.K. Malhotra asked the Congress “to shut up” and warned its leaders that their proposed campaign to highlight the scam will be answered with a counter agitation.

Karnataka chief minister S.M. Krishna’s brother S.M. Shankar is mentioned on the list as having been allotted an IOC outlet at Maddur while former Union minister B. Shankaranand is said to have received three outlets in Belgaum.

Home minister Mallikarjun Kharge’s brother-in-law and the son of revenue minister H.C. Srikantayya also benefited, it says.

The BJP also released recommendation letters by senior Congress leaders Manmohan Singh, Sushil Kumar Shinde, who is the Opposition vice-presidential candidate, Motilal Vohra, Margaret Alva, Oscar Fernandes and several others.

“I challenge Sonia Gandhi that just as the Prime Minister cancelled all allotments made since 2000, she should ask her partymen to surrender (their allotments),” Malhotra said.

The Congress hit back, saying the BJP wanted to spread its sense of guilt to others through mere association.

Manmohan Singh regretted the way he has been targeted for recommending a “genuine” case for allotment of a petrol pump to a widow.

“Yes, I did forward the application of a woman from Punjab. What crime have I committed? As a public servant, I forwarded a genuine case for consideration by the minister,” he said.

Party spokesperson S. Jaipal Reddy said his party has been demanding an impartial probe by a sitting Supreme Court judge to dig out all the dirt but the BJP was not willing.

   

 
 
STUNG CPM ATTACKS BJP FOR SLINGING MUD 
 
 
OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Aug. 8: 
Hitting out at the BJP for falsely implicating Left MPs in the petrol pump scam, the CPM today accused the party of slinging mud at the Opposition at random.

“Unable to come up with any face-saving answers, the BJP is now slinging mud at Opposition parties. We totally deny any wrong doing by Left Front MPs,” said CPM member of Parliament Somnath Chatterjee.

Yesterday, the BJP had released a list of Opposition MPs who had pushed through the applications of their candidates for LPG connections. The list included CPM’s Basudev Acharya and CPI’s Ajay Chakraborty.

Acharya had forwarded the application by a mental health-care institution based in Burdwan and sought for it exemption from payment of security deposits on 22 LPG connections.

In his letter to petroleum minister Ram Naik, Acharya had said: “The society for mental health is not able to pay the security deposit amounting to Rs 22,000 for 22 LPG connections. It is a charitable institution working with the sick, the disabled and women and children from weaker sections.

“The society has to depend mainly on government grants and public donations, which is why they are requesting an exemption from security deposit.”

In a press release today, Acharya said: “I had written two letters to Naik — one for opening a retail outlet in Malda and another for 20 per cent concession for LPG connection at a mental health care institution. During my 30 years of political life, I have never approached anybody for any favour for my relatives.”

   

 
 
PARVEEN PLAYS TRUANT AGAIN 
 
 
ANAND SOONDAS
 
Mumbai, Aug. 8: 
Former actress Parveen Babi, who claimed to have “evidence” of Sunjay Dutt’s “role” in the 1993 Bombay blasts, again failed to appear before a special court as a witness.

Babi told a news channel earlier in the day that she could not present herself in court even after receiving summons on August 5 because of a “very real threat to her life”.

She, however, filed a 33-page affidavit iterating that she possessed evidence against Dutt and other Bollywood stars “involved in an international conspiracy to foment trouble in India”. Copies of the affidavit were given to Dutt and the prosecution led by public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam.

Babi’s unavailability forced designated judge P.D. Kode to adjourn the matter to August 19.

On August 5, Babi had blamed the court for delivering the summons late and cited the delay as the reason for not being able to make it to court. Kode had reprimanded the registrar as well as the police for the “laxity” and asked why police had acted so carelessly.

Today, it was the turn of the prosecution to pull Babi up. Taking strong exception to her “disobedience”, Nikam said instead of sending the affidavit through a courier, the actress should have come herself.

“Had she asked for protection, we would have provided it,” he said. If there was no substance in her charges, they should be dismissed outright, he demanded.

Moreover, the prosecution is now contending that as there is “prima facie” no substance in her affidavit, entertaining it would only delay the case that is in its last stages.

   

 
 
HOUSE CLOSURE SHADOW LOOMS 
 
 
OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Aug. 8: 
Parliament may be adjourned sine die on Monday if the turmoil over the petrol pump scam does not subside.

With the government-Opposition standoff in Parliament continuing, Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi did not rule out a sine die adjournment of the House after the Vice President’s election on August 12.

Both the Houses were adjourned for the fourth consecutive day today with a united Opposition seeking Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s resignation and a judicial inquiry into the scam amidst pandemonium. The melee continued as the government rejected all the Opposition demands.

“I have made my best efforts. Both sides are firm, but I will try to persuade them,” Joshi told reporters here. The Speaker, who is likely to meet leaders of both sides informally to resolve the deadlock, said he would continue his efforts to ensure restoration of business in the House.

The monsoon session of Parliament that began on July 15 will conclude on August 14. Parliamentary sources said as there is no sign of a breakthrough, the government is planning to rush through the mandatory supplementary demands for grants (railways) and a Bill to amend the salaries of the leader of Opposition and officers of the Lok Sabha.

If the House does not return to normality, the government may be forced to issue an Ordinance to effect amendments to the Peoples’ Representation Act in place of the proposed electoral reforms Bill. Asked if there were plans to adjourn the House sine die before the scheduled conclusion, Joshi said: “Let me meet the leaders first.”

Parliamentary sources today said the Speaker had expressed his desire for an early restoration of smooth running of the House at the Business Advisory Committee meeting of the Lok Sabha. But most leaders felt the committee was not the forum for such efforts.

The proposed address to members of Parliament by President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam on August 13 has been deferred to the next session in view of the circumstances, Joshi said.

   
 

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