Govt gears up to end rally raj on weekdays
Four former PMs to meet Basu in city
Crackdown on fake cassettes
Church-school talks trip over teachers� pay
Mange leg bandaged, not in plaster
Subhas sounds poll alarm
Five more killed in Karbi Anglong dist
Tripura rebels snatch arms
Sonia plea

Calcutta, April 28 
The state government will soon be taking steps to curb rallies and meetings on city streets during weekdays, the counsel for the government said on Friday.

During the hearing in the High Court of a case related to this issue, state additional government pleader Manik Das told the court that he had been instructed by the chief and home secretaries to pray for some time to file an affidavit in this regard.

�The process to solve the problem has been started by the government,� he said.

Earlier, the division bench of Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice A. Kabir had directed the state government to file an affidavit within two weeks, clarifying how it was allowing political parties and other organisations to hold rallies �illegally� on city roads.

The court also wanted to know from the government what steps it had taken to ban such rallies, which infringed upon the fundamental right of people by throwing traffic and life out of gear.

Das said banning of rallies on city streets required a �policy decision� by the government. �To take such a decision, an all-party meeting is necessary,� he added.

The bench had passed its interim directive to the state on the basis of a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a lawyer against the administration and political parties, seeking a ban on holding rallies and meetings on city roads and in parks on weekdays.

Lawyer Supradip Roy had moved the litigation, accusing the state government, police and civil authorities and all political parties, including the CPM, Congress, Trinamul Congress and BJP of causing public inconvenience.

The PIL petition requested the court to direct chief minister Jyoti Basu to call a meeting of all political parties in order to adopt a scheme or make a law, restraining rallies on the city streets on weekdays. Roy also urged the court to restrict political rallies to Sundays only.

During the hearing on Friday, Roy said he had specific suggessions in regard to controlling the situation.

The Chief Justice asked the government pleader to consider the suggestions of the petitioner.

Clinics move court

A case was initiated by city nursing-home owners on Friday before a division bench of the High Court, challenging the decision of the state pollution control board (PCB) to impose an environment tax on them.

Petitionor Urmila Khaitan, general secretary of Nursing Home Owners� Association, stated that the decision of the PCB was �arbitrary and unconstitutional�. The matter comes up for hearing next Friday.    

Calcutta, April 27 
As part of their move to take the Jana-jagaran (mass awakening) programme against the Sangh Parivar to the states, four former Prime Ministers � Chandra Shekhar, V.P. Singh, H.D. Deve Gowda, and I.K.Gujral � will meet in Calcutta on Thursday.

They will meet West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu at his Salt Lake residence over dinner that night, presumably to discuss the revival of the third front.

The four ex-PMs will also speak at a �Save Democracy� convention being organised by at least 12 �secular parties�. Official sources said V.P. Singh and I.K. Gujral will address a state government-sponsored programme to mark the bi-centenary of Tipu Sultan�s martyrdom, at Netaji Indoor Stadium.

Chandra Shekhar told The Telegraph that they will discuss the problems the country has been facing since the BJP-led alliance came to power.

�With Jyoti Basu amongst us, the discussion will definitely be more fruitful this time,� he added.    

Calcutta, April 28 
The enforcement branch of the city police seized 32,000 pirated audio cassettes, worth about Rs 10 lakh, from different parts of central Calcutta, the police said on Friday. Three persons were arrested in this connection.

The authorities cracked down after Indian Music Industry representatives had lodged a complaint against three shops on the Chandni Approach, Madan Street and Prafulla Sarkar Street.

The enforcement branch personnel, led by deputy commissioner M.K. Singh, raided the three shops and seized the pirated cassettes. This was the largest swoop on pirated cassettes in recent times. �Based on the complaints, we made our own investigations and decoy runs, with personnel in plainclothes posing as buyers,� explained Singh.

Police arrested Sishu Manna from the Chandni Approach shop, Dilip Gupta from Madan Street and Abdul Gafur from Prafulla Sarkar Street.

According to the police, 15,200 cassettes were seized from Manna�s shop, 2,080 from Gupta�s outlet and 14,503 cassettes from Gafur�s stock.

Most of the cassettes were songs from popular Hindi films, while some were from Bengali films. The pirated cassettes, though available sometimes at half the official price, are almost always of very poor quality. �Some of them are locally manufactured. At least two or three groups are involved in this. The racket had been doing business for some time. But unless we get specific complaints, we cannot take proper action,� Singh said.

Lake Gardens arrest: Asoke Bhattacharya, a resident of Lake Gardens, was arrested on Friday for allegedly throwing acid on 12-year old Mandakini Das. The girl and her pet dog were injured.

Sonar Sansar: The fourth Sonar Sansar, exhibition of gold jewellery, organised by Swarno Shilpo Bachao Committee, which started on Thursday at Netaji Indoor Stadium, will continue till Sunday. A fashion show has also been organised.

This year, 56 jewllery shop-owners are participating, with 150 representitaves from different parts of the world attending the meet.    

Calcutta, April 28 
An emergency meeting between the authorities of the Church of North India (CNI) and heads of all nine CNI-controlled Anglo-Indian schools in Calcutta has failed to resolve the crisis arising out of teachers� demands for higher payscales, as recommended by the Fourth Pay Commission.

Sources in some of the schools said the teachers had raised three major demands, of which two were turned down at the meeting. Only the granting of special increments to teachers on completion of 10 and then 20 years of service was approved.

The demands regarding exclusion of perks and other allowances from gross salaries and payment of 20 per cent of basic and dearness allowance as house rents were not accepted.

�The authorities have not informed us about the outcome of the meeting. Our decision still stands. Our demands are legitimate and we expect the management to consider them,� the agitating teachers said.

They alleged that the state government provided a considerable portion of the teachers� salaries and it was �highly irregular� on the part of the school authorities to merge the perks and other allowances with the gross salaries of the teachers.

Bishop Raju, the CNI head in Calcutta, has, apparently, directed the principals of all the institutions to chalk out a strategy and hold an immediate meeting with the teachers.

The Bishop is also believed to have told the principals to see that normal academic activities were not affected in any of the institutions.

Teachers from St Thomas Boys School, Kidderpore, St Thomas Girls� School, Kidderpore, St Thomas� Church School Howrah, St Thomas School (Free School Street), La Martiniere for Boys, La Martiniere for Girls, St James School, Pratt Memorial School and St Pauls Mission School had earlier approached the CNI head and threatened to launch �a movement� if their demands were not met.

A spokesman of the heads of the CNI schools said the pay-scales at these schools had not been framed in accordance with the Fourth Pay Commission, but if perks and other allowances were taken into account, the gross salaries of the CNI school teachers were higher than their counterparts in state-run schools.

A leader of the Anglo-Indian School Teachers Association said a meeting between the members will be held on Sunday to discuss the issue.    

Calcutta, April 28 
Escaped convict Manjit Singh�s leg was not in a plaster cast, but swathed in bandage, when he was brought to the SSKM hospital on Wednesday. This was stated by deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Narayan Ghosh, on Friday.

Earlier, the police had clearly stated that Manjit Singh, alias Mange, had escaped from his unguarded ambulance at SSKM Hospital, with his leg in a plaster.

�The X-ray report of Mange�s fractured femur, injured during a shootout on Park Street two years ago, revealed that he would be able to walk, but not run,� Ghosh added.

Meanwhile, the police raided four places in Asansol, Burdwan, Howrah and Panagarh, but failed to track down the criminal.    

Calcutta, April 28 
Controversial Marxist minister Subhas Chakraborty has expressed doubts about the Left Front�s prospects in the coming civic polls.

�Being a minister, I should be saying that we will win the civic polls, but my personal feelings are not so optimistic,� Chakraborty said, on Friday.

�The Left Front has been in power for the last 24 years and there will be anti-establishment reactions,� said the transport minister, while admitting that the Left vote bank had eroded steadily since 1984.

�The votes will decrease further this time around,� warned Chakraborty, while fielding questions during the announcement of a three-day conference of Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) workers at Salt Lake stadium from May 4.

Reacting to reports that he will not campaign for the CPM in the run-up to the civic elections, Chakraborty said he was yet to receive instructions from the party. �If I am told to campaign I will do so, if I am not told, I will not,� he declared.

But Chakraborty concluded on a positive note: �Pramode Dasgupta had once said that the Left Front cannot be dislodged from West Bengal, and that still holds good.�    

Guwahati, April 28 
Tension gripped the villages along the Assam-Nagaland border near Bokajan following the recovery of five bullet-riddled bodies from the banks of the Dhansiri river last night.

The incident comes close on the heels of an ethnic cleansing drive in the hill district of Karbi Anglong. Karbi militants have killed altogether 23 non-tribals in the district since April 10.

However, police sources today ruled out the involvement of Karbi militants in the killing of the five persons whose bodies were recovered last night.

A police official said all five were drug peddlers gunned down by members of a rival group, headed by one Julu Ali.

The victims have been identified as Harendra Prasad, Mantu Sahajee, Rajesh Thakur, Joi Singh and Md. Muslim.

According to the police, the five alleged drug peddlers were abducted from Lahorijan village at 2.15 am yesterday and shot dead on the banks of the Dhansiri.

The incident took place in a remote location under Khatkati police outpost, bordering Nagaland. Drug trafficking is rampant in the area.

�We are certain that Julu Ali and his henchmen, including Sajjan Ali and Saraf Ali, committed the crime,� a senior police official said. The killings were the outcome of �intense rivalry� between the two groups of drug peddlers, he said, adding that villagers heard gunshots and informed the police about the incident.

�Precautionary measures have been taken to prevent retaliation by the other group,� the official said.

Intimidation charge: The Northeast Coordination Committee on Human Rights today expressed concern over threats to the Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti secretary-general Lachit Bordoloi�s life.    

Agartala, April 28 
National Liberation Front of Tripura militants today snatched two .9mm revolvers from security personnel assigned to an Indigenous People�s Front of Tripura (IPFT) candidate for the Autonomous District Council elections.

The IPFT is the political wing of the militant outfit.

Sources said Rabijay Jamatya, who is contesting the polls from Maharani-Chelagang constituency in South Tripura district, was on his way to a village after addressing a meeting at Haticherra when a group of NLFT militants waylaid his vehicle and snatched two service revolvers from his guards.

Police officials said it was surprising that NLFT rebels targeted a candidate representing their political front.

The situation in trouble-torn Kanchanpur subdivision of North Tripura also continued to be tense today.

Largescale violence in the area over the past fortnight has rendered over 10,000 non-tribals homeless. The displaced families include that of CPM leader and party candidate for the Kanchanpur-Dashda seat, Lalit Debnath.

The Left leader has taken shelter at the party office in Kanchanpur. Debnath has not campaigned for the elections due to threats by militants.

Sources said the administration was likely to face problems in conducting elections in the Kanchanpur-Dashda and Damcherra constituencies as thousands of displaced non-tribals were taking shelter in government offices earmarked as polling booths.

Election commissioner Sudhir Sharma visited Kanchanpur yesterday to take stock of the situation.Kanchanpur election officer Uttam Chakma reportedly told Sharma that over 60 per cent of the electorate would not be able to cast their votes if elections were held on April 30 and May 3.    

Guwahati, April 28 
Congress president Sonia Gandhi today accused the Asom Gana Parishad of joining hands with the BJP-led National Democratic Front government at the Centre to get the Illegal Migrants� (Determination by Tribunal) Act repealed to harass the minorities.

Inaugurating the Northeast block Congress presidents� meet at Judges Field here, the AICC chief said the people of Assam were more interested in the implementation of the Act than its repeal.

�There is no place for illegal migrants in the state, but that should not entail hounding out the minorities on any pretext as they (minorities) are an integral part of Assam,� she said.

Flaying the AGP government for all-round failure, she said the AGP government has transgressed provisions of the Constitution by not holding the panchayat election. Castigating the state government for failing to implement the Assam Accord, she majority of the provisions in the accord had been implemented by the erstwhile Congress government in the state between 1991 to 1996.

The Congress president said her party will set a special panel to study the problems of the region.    


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