Bridge curbs put taxis on meter
CPM club clash leads to murder
Minister claims mob rough-up
Doctors still on strike over security
Reason sneer at faith-healer
Tripura rebels set shops afire
Militants abduct railway engineer

Calcutta, Jan 29 
Pre-paid taxi rates from Howrah station to destinations in north-central, north Calcutta and beyond will be suspended from 6 am on Sunday, when Rabindra Setu (Howrah Bridge) will be closed to city-bound private cars, taxis and chartered buses.

These vehicles will have to use Vidyasagar Setu (Second Hooghly bridge) via Foreshore Road, according to a transport department notification. So, taxis taking the detour will ply by the meter.

Station-bound vehicles can, however, continue to use the bridge. Buses and minibuses will be allowed to ply in both directions. The carriageway will be restricted, as the two southern lanes will be closed for structural repairs to the bridge.

Prepaid taxi rates will continue to places in south Calcutta. Once hired, taxis going to north-central or north Calcutta will run by the meter till the transport department, which had fixed the earlier pre-paid rates, fixes the new rates. These will remain effective till the bridge reopens fully.

The Hooghly Nadi Jalapath Paribahan Samabay Samiti, which runs the pre-paid booth at Howrah station, will submit a letter to the transport secretary on Monday, asking the department to declare the new rates. �Places like Lake Town, the airport, Baranagar, Salt Lake, Sealdah and even Park Circus will now be more distant from Howrah station, once taxis start using Vidyasagar Setu,� said Lagandeo Singh, Howrah MLA and samiti chairman.

�We have told our people manning the booths not to take pre-paid fares from passengers on routes that require the detour. They will pay by the meter,� he said.

Bengal Taxi Association president Kalyan Bhadra backed the decision. �Passengers will, of course, have to pay the Rs-2 toll tax on Vidyasagar Setu. This is the concession that is being offered to taxis,� he said.

Government vehicles, ambulances, fire tenders, school buses, milk vans and vehicles carrying newspapers can continue to use the bridge both ways, the notification adds. Pedestrians, too, can use the footpath on either side at all times.

The bridge will be closed both ways to trucks, tankers, autos, pick-up vans, rickshaws, carts and cycles between 6 am and 10 pm every day. The police on both sides have been informed and requisite signs will be put up on the bridge approaches. The repairs are likely to take up to two years.    

Calcutta, Jan 29 
Power tussles within the CPM triggered a fresh bout of violence on Friday night that left one person dead and another injured at Shyampur in Budge Budge.

The victim, Prasanta Khote, 28, was taken to Maheshtala ESI Hospital, where he died of his injuries. Rajeev Adhikari, who was also shot, is in hospital.

Protesting the killing and demanding early arrest of the assailants, Shyampur�s residents blocked Budge Budge Trunk Road for three hours from 9 am on Saturday. They were appeased only after police officers assured them of prompt action.

Police said the incident occurred while members of Kheyali Sangha were playing a round of carroms in the clubroom. Ananda, former secretary of the club, stormed into the room with his associates and opened fire.

Preliminary investigations show the club has been dominated by CPM men and the killing was a fallout of an intra-party rift. Local folk who knew Khote said there had been a dispute between his lobby and Ananda�s men over the collection of donations. Some club members said the rivalry had been intense.

Ananda had been sacked as club secretary a few weeks ago. And the dismissal had been masterminded by Khote. Shyampur�s residents see revenge as the motive for Friday�s killing. The two lobbies had been in conflict over wresting power in the Shyampur and Athpur areas, too, residents said.

Custody death: Mobs thronged the Asansol North police station on Saturday after an accused died in custody on Friday. Kamal Biswas, 27, arrested on charges of torturing his wife, was taken ill in court on Thursday. He was put in hospital, where he died.    

Minister of state for transport Susanta Ghosh claimed he was manhandled on Saturday morning by a group of Trinamul Congress and BJP supporters at a petrol pump on Chadrakona Road, where he had gone to rescue his brother and four others.

The police said BJP and Trinamul men saw an Armada at the petrol pump. The minister�s brother, Prasanto, was in the car with four CPM workers. Suspecting Prasanto of carrying arms in the vehicle, the mob dragged all five out and beat them up.

Susanta Ghosh rushed to the petrol pump on his two-wheeler, to be greeted with noisy protests. The mob ignored police attempts to extricate the minister from the melee and manhandled him.

BJP and Trinamul leaders in Calcutta said Ghosh had heckled a number of their partymen in a bid to save his brother, who was caught carrying arms in the car.    

Calcutta, Jan 29 
Healthcare collapsed and patients were turned away from National Medical College and Hospital on Saturday as 400 junior doctors continued their strike for the third day to protest the lack of security at the hospital.

On Saturday, residents of the area submitted a deputation to the hospital superintendent, demanding restoration of services.

The strike followed an assault on a group of doctors and nurses after a five-year-old boy died of malaria on Thursday. A mob raided the fifth floor of the Medicine Building and went on the rampage, forcing doctors and nurses to seek refuge in the toilet.

The hospital wards are almost empty, and only a few relatives were waiting in front of the Surgical Building. No doctors were present at the emergency ward.

The doctors blame the hospital authorities for the crisis. �We are forced to continue the cease-work as our most of the demands have been ignored.� They added: �Security has to be tightened on the premises. Only then will we resume work. It will take us less than half an hour to bring the hospital services back to normal.�

New exchange: Union minister of state for communications Tapan Sikdar on Saturday inaugurated the 694 exchange at Hindmotor.    

Calcutta, Jan 29 
Faith healer or fraud? Not for the first time in recent years, a public performance in the city by �a man chosen by God� promising a mix of magic and medicine, religion and redemption, has run into stiff resistance from rationalists.

�New millennium evening celebration and musical evening with Dr P. P. Job,� screamed newspaper adverts and billboards early last week. They were welcoming everyone to the three-day show of �a man chosen by God�, with �free food� and �special prayers for the sick and depressed� as top draws.

While thousands flocked to the St Thomas High School grounds to watch the faith-healer in action on Friday, the city�s rationalists rallied together to �put an end to this nonsense�.

The Science and Rationalists Association of India first submitted a memorandum to police commissioner Dinesh Vajpai on January 27, seeking �stern action against P.P. Job and associates Thomas George and. Anjan Singh�, under the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisement) Act, 1954.

They then landed up at the meet on Thursday. �After witnessing the shameful spectacle of lame people walking and deaf people�s hearing being restored by Job, amidst chanting of hymns, we started distributing leaflets and sloganeering,� said Rajesh Dutta, secretary of the rationalists� association.

After a skirmish broke out between the demonstrators and the organisers, the police stationed at the site stepped in and rounded up the rationalists. �When one of us contacted the police commissioner from the spot, he ordered the Watgunge OC not to carry out any arrests and promised to look into the matter himself,� said C.R. Pal of the rationalists association.

The activists then filed an FIR with the Watgunge police station, demanding action against Job and Co, for �cheating by personation�, �fraud�, �conspiracy� and for exploiting the poor in the name of religion.

But the show went on, albeit without the miracle cure act, on Saturday evening. �There is no tension at the site today, as it is just a religious congregation,� said Zulfikar Hassan, deputy commissioner (port).

The rationalists are in no mood to give up. Incidentally, under pressure from this lobby, the police had cut short Morris Cerollo�s �miracle crusade� of �healing and salvation in the name of Jesus� at Park Circus Maidan in October 1992. Former commissioner Tushar Talukdar had assured the rationalists that no such public performance would be allowed without the sanction of scientific experts.

�We are gearing up for the final round on Sunday. The police must be held responsible for whatever happens from now on,�� warned the rationalists.    

Agartala, Jan. 29 
Militants injured nine persons, torched several shops and launched an abortive attack on a CRPF camp in Tripura over the past 24 hours.

Official sources said a group of militants raided Chelikhola in Bishalgarh subdivision yesterday and set several shops ablaze. All the shops belonged to non-tribals. In retaliation, a mob later set fire to 40 houses in a nearby tribal-dominated village. At least 10 persons sustained injuries when police resorted to a lathicharge to bring the situation under control.

Five non-tribals abducted from Chelikhola on Thursday were released by their captors earlier in the day. Sources said rumours about the involvement of some tribals from the area in the abductions may have sparked the riot. In another incident, nine persons travelling in a jeep were injured when suspected United Bengali Liberation Front militants hurled a bomb near Kiranmalakar Basti in West Tripura district. The condition of three of the injured is stated to be critical.

A police team, including Takarjala circle inspector Nanigopal Biswas, was also ambushed by the militants yesterday. Biswas and his colleagues were heading for Bishalgarh from Takarjala. In yet another incident, unidentified militants opened fire on a Central Reserve Police Force camp at Dataram in South Tripura district late last night. However, the security personnel in the camp retaliated, forcing the rebels to flee.    

Guwahati, Jan. 29 
Suspected Ulfa militants today abducted a Northeast Frontier Railway junior engineer from Tiplai Chowk under Rangjuli police station in Assam�s Goalpara district.

Police said the engineer, Moloy Baruah, was whisked away by four motorcycle-borne rebels at 11.30 am. Senior police and railway officials have rushed to the area. Sources said Baruah�s abduction could be the fallout of his refusal to �pay� the banned Ulfa.

Woman killed: A civilian was killed during an encounter between the police and A�chik National Volunteers� Council militants at Warikobgre near Jenjal in East Garo Hills district of Meghalaya yesterday, reports our Shillong correspondent. The woman, identified as Pina T. Sangma, was caught in the crossfire.    


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