Prime plots for top schools
And now, malls at 3 Metro stations
Plush lounge for foreign flights
Skip Ultadanga, enter Salt Lake from VIP Road
Stash away the shorshe ilish
19 killed in Tripura massacre rerun
New database to tackle crime
Kingpin evades police dragnet
Mystery shrouds Shillong arrests

To meet the growing demand for land to expand leading city schools, the state government on Sunday decided to recover and re-distribute land lying unused with universities, organisations and individuals. For now, higher education institutions will be targeted, said Ashoke Bhattacharya, urban development minister.

The urban development department has already shot off letters to such educational institutions, asking them to return unused land immediately. A committee has been set up to screen the applications for plots at Salt Lake.

South Point, La Martiniere for Boys, St Xavier�s, St Thomas�, Kidderpore, Apeejay, Welland Gouldsmith, Queen of Missions and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan are believed to be some of the schools which have approached the state government for land in Salt Lake, Rajarhat and on or around the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass.

�All the plots at Salt Lake and EM Bypass are prime land. We simply can�t allow the universities and institutions to sit over their projects and block the land, year after year,� said Bhattacharya.

He said the state government had less than 10 plots along the EM Bypass earmarked for educational institutions and the situation at Salt Lake was no better. �There has to be some stringent screening,� he added.

For instance, the minister said, St Xavier�s School authorities had approached him a few months ago for a plot near the Bypass. But he was unable to oblige them because nothing was available.

Schools like St James� and La Martiniere for Girls are understood to have sought the civic authorities� permission for new constructions on their existing campuses.

According to sources in the Church of North India (CNI), all the nine schools in Calcutta controlled by it have been asked to undertake expansion schemes.

According to government sources, Rabindra Bharati University, Calcutta University, Vidyasagar College and several other institutions had acquired land on the Bypass and Salt Lake 10 to 15 years ago to expand them but none have utilised them.

Bhattacharya said privately-owned institutions, too, have not used land on the Bypass.

A vast tract of land earmarked for the expansion of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan was lying unused. So it has been asked it to return the land.    

Want to shop till you drop and beat the summer sun as well? Just go underground.

In a desperate bid to make the Metro more �attractive� and �financially viable�, underground showrooms and stores will come up at Esplanade, Central and Shyambazar stations within a month.

This will enable about 2.20 lakh commuters every day, and �outsiders� as well, to pick up stuff or simply window-shop in a dust-free, cool ambience. The mezzanine shopping plazas will be open to all.

Metro authorities claim these shops won�t affect normal functioning of the stations.

�We don�t need any new construction for these underground shopping complexes, as space was kept aside for the purpose,� said A. Chakraborty, deputy general manager of RITES, a specialised wing of the railway ministry.

RITES will float tenders for allotting space to businessmen willing to open shops and showrooms underground.

�The response from the corporate sector has been overwhelming,� Chakraborty added.

Ashok Sengupta, adviser to RITES, feels about 50 showrooms can be set up in the mezzanine sections of each station.

The showrooms will be rented out on a 50-year lease. Shopowners will have to pay a token amount towards electricity and maintenance charges every month.

Snack outlets will not be allowed to cook anything in the complex. They can only heat food items in microwave ovens before serving.

According to a senior officer, �An amount of Rs 50,000 is likely to be charged for small showrooms and Rs 1 lakh for middle-category showrooms.�

Some of these will be air-conditioned. The shops� timings will tally with the Metro � between 7 am and 9.30 pm on weekdays and between 2.35 pm and 9.30 pm on Sundays.    

A new, swank international arrival lounge, to greet tourists and business travellers, will soon be unveiled at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose airport.

Apart from a VIP lounge, there will be a salon with a conference hall for executives.

A special visitors� parlour is also being planned.

The new wing, being built at a cost of Rs 11 crore, will be spread over 7,000 sq metres, 4,000 sq metres bigger than the existing one, and will accommodate 500 passengers, as opposed to the present capacity of 250.

It will have one aerobridge to begin with, while another one will be added later. There will be three conveyor belts, besides an increased number of counters, for quick immigration and customs clearance.

The arrival wing will host counters for medical care, money exchange, tourist information, car rental, pre-paid taxis, mobile phones and pager rentals and left-luggage facility, besides postal and telecommunication offices, a shopping plaza and counters for airlines and railways ticket.

The structure is an assemblage of geometrical forms, typical of the Central Public Works Department (CPWD).

A lot of glass, smoked and otherwise, will be used. �The idea is to give the place a sparkling, dazzling look,� said an airport official. �For lighting, we have decided on varieties of fluorescent tubes and shades from Philips.�

Marrying tradition to modernity, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) plans to restore the Rabindra Art Gallery, providing a canvas for young artists, in the lounge.

The gala inauguration, slated for January 23, had to be pushed back due to �unfinished work�.

�Now, work is going on round-the-clock to get the new wing ready as soon as possible,� said an AAI official.    

A new entry point to Salt Lake from Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue (VIP Road) will be opened soon. Located near Baguiati, it will be the only motorable entry point to the township from VIP Road.

A new bridge over the Keshtopur canal and two approach roads will be built. The Rs 45 lakh project will be implemented by the CMDA, Rajarhat Municipality and Salt Lake Authority. The bridge will be built by the CMDA and the two approach roads by the municipalities.

�Work has started and it is expected to be completed within a year. The new roads and bridge will improve communication between Salt Lake and its neighbouring areas through VIP Road,�� said Dilip Gupta, Salt Lake Municipality chairman.

There are five entry-exit points at Salt Lake, all along the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass. An entry-exit point on VIP Road at Lake Town is only for pedestrians.

As there is no motorable entry point along VIP Road, traffic from the airport side can get into Salt Lake only through Ultadanga, even though the township starts from across the canal at Keshtopur. The new roads will cut short this detour of around 10 to 15 km.

There are also three temporary footbridges that are used by a large number of people. The bridges, on bamboo stilts, are unsafe but pedestrians still use them for short cuts.

The new route will start near Baisakhee and terminate at Keshtopur after crossing the bridge. From Keshtopur, a new one-km road will connect it with VIP Road.

Traffic from the airport, Kaikhali, Baguiati, Dum Dum Park, Bangur and Lake Town can easily enter Salt Lake by the new route, that will help save both time and fuel.

It takes at least 15 minutes by car to reach EM Bypass from the airport and another five minutes to reach Salt Lake stadium. The distance to the stadium from the airport will be halved after the Keshtopur link is complete.

�Our aim is to ease traffic congestion at the Ultadanga crossing and increase communication between Salt Lake and other areas. We have built a slip road near Ultadanga to facilitate traffic headed for Salt Lake and the Bypass. Congestion will be eased further after the new roadbridge is built,��said urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya.    

Anjan Chatterjee took a long detour for his return to Calcutta. His road from Mumbai, where he threw up a job to turn entrepreneur, passed through China. Along the way, the trained hotelier picked up the subtleties that make Chinese cuisine a global favourite.

This month, Chatterjee brought Mainland China to town. That isn�t news for the Calcutta gourmet, who will be bored at more of the same. But Chatterjee isn�t apologetic.

�We know we are dealing with the discerning Calcuttan who is accustomed to the Chinatown in Tangra, but we�ll give him value for money � good food and service at within-reach prices.�

Anjan Chatterjee is the son of an agro-scientist and was born with a passion for food. After schooling in Delhi, he joined the Institute of Hotel Management in Taratala. A training stint with the Taj in Mumbai later, he made a peculiar switch to advertising and worked with a popular Calcutta-based publishing house for two years. He chucked the job to started his own advertising agency which now grosses Rs 30 crore.

But the passion for food stayed. On a friend�s advice, he opened a small, 32-seater seafood restaurant in 1991, called Only Fish, at Tardeo, in central Mumbai. The shorshe bata preparation and the hilsa flown in from Calcutta made it a runaway success.

By now, a company called Speciality Restaurants Pvt Ltd was begun, with a team of five erstwhile colleagues from the Taj, and Chatterjee as managing director. �We stayed in China for over two months, understanding the food and the people. Food is very important to the Chinese...there are several cases where husbands have divorced because the wives didn�t know how to cook tastefully.�

The first journey through Mainland China began at Andheri in 1994. The trip was a success after Chef Lam of Beijing and Hong Kong joined the venture. Half of the items are vegetarian, in a combination of Ying and Yang. A second Mainland China came up in Borivili, north Mumbai, in three years, and the combined 158 seats �are a venue where all good things happen, starting from signing of contracts to marriage proposals.� The Bangalore (St Marks Road) and Hyderabad (Banjara Hills) outlets followed.

�Calcutta was a later edition because we were looking for a suitable location out of Park Street.� Chatterjee settled for the 12,000 sq ft premises in the Uniworth building on Gurusaday Road.

The 140-seat restaurant, complete with a reception area and a scientifically-laid-out kitchen on the ground floor, a conference hall in the basement and the dining space on the first floor, is the largest of the five Mainland Chinas. It has a unique decor, with artefacts like copper fish and horses picked up from the heart of China. The ceiling is a gold-plated foil, typical of the mansions of the Ming dynasty. The lighting is �slightly brighter.�

The staff, trained in Mumbai and liveried in traditional Chinese, strives to please.Chatterjee denies rumours that the decor itself was worth Rs 10 crore. �We�ve invested in manpower, food ingredients (imported from China, Bangalore and Mumbai) and in making the place�ll notice there�s a lot of elbow room and two types of seating.�

As for the food, �Chef Lam is ruthless about detail. Despite the new entrees he introduces from time to time, standards have been strictly maintained for the past six years,� says Chatterjee.    

Agartala, May 21 
In a massacre reminiscent of the one at Gourangatilla early this year, National Liberation Front of Tripura militants mowed down 19 non-tribals in Bagber village under Khowai subdivision of West Tripura district last evening.

Seven more were killed at Ratiya and Chakmaghat under the same subdivision this morning, raising the toll in militant attacks over the past 48 hours to 34.

The West Tripura district administration today issued shoot-at-sight orders in Khowai and asked the Army to be on call.

Police sources said at least 60 militants, armed to the teeth, raided Bagber at 5 pm yesterday and headed straight for local CPM leader Ajoy Ghosh�s house.

As the rebels pounded the house with grenades, refugees staying at the adjacent Niranjan Sardarapara School came out of the building and began running towards Kanchanpur. This prompted the militants to open fire and kill three refugees.

The militants then trained their guns on villagers who were alerted by the commotion. Sixteen more non-tribals were killed in the indiscriminate firing.

The victims were identified as Nabin Debnath, Monica Debnath, Nakul Debnath, Rakhi Debnath, Suklal Nama Das, Premoda Debnath, Nirmala Nama Das, Abala Debnath, Suniti Sarkar, Supriya Debnath, Usha Debnath, Goranga Das, Sikha Debnath, Laxmirani Sarkar, Kumkudini Debnath, Kamalarani Laskar, Birendra Debnath, Dhanibala Debnath and Surendra Debnath.

Altogether 16 people were killed in a similar massacre at Gourangatilla in the same subdivision early this year.

A source in Khowai said CRPF personnel deployed near the village did not venture out of their camp when the NLFT militants raided Bagber yesterday. �It was only after Tripura State Rifles jawans reached the village that the militants fled,� he said.

The Left Front government also came in for flak from various political parties, organisations and individuals.

Expelled CPM leader Nripen Chakraborty said chief minister Manik Sarkar should own moral responsibility for the spate of killings and resign immediately.

Chakraborty, one of the few politicians to have refrained from making statements on the situation, broke his silence after yesterday�s carnage. �Manik Sarkar has failed to handle the situation. There is no dearth of leaders in the CPM to replace him,� he said.

A senior official, however, said the state government was not to blame for the spurt in killings. He accused security personnel of not doing their job properly, saying, �Casualties in several militant attacks over the past few months would have been lower had CRPF personnel reacted promptly.�

CM�s Army plea

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has promised to consider Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar�s request for deployment of Army battalions in parts of the trouble-torn state.

Sarkar, who is here for an inter-state council meeting, said the withdrawal of Army units from the state had emboldened tribal-dominated militant outfits to step up their offensive against non-tribals.    

Guwahati, May 21 
A sophisticated database built by Amtron in collaboration with a leading Calcutta-based Geographical Information System (GIS) solution provider will now enable the city police to keep tabs on the movement of all suspicious �elements�.

The database, the first of its kind in the Northeast, has been designed by the Riddhi Management Services Private Limited (RMSPL).

It will allow instant record display of any particular location making it convenient for the police to zoom in on that area during �any crisis�.

A senior Guwahati police official said this technique would give the police an upper hand in framing effective strategies in dealing with the insurgents and other criminals. He said by using the GIS as the base, the system will incorporate available feedback from the various intelligence agencies.

�This could be effectively used for having an easy access of every minute details of the city at the click of a mouse,� the official said.

According to him, the city has become a breeding ground for all kinds of suspicious elements, be it militant outfits or Bangladeshi infiltrators. �Earlier we faced certain problems in tackling the situation, but the launching of the GIS will enable us to track down all such elements,� he said, adding that the system would also help in determining the population pattern.

The official said the device would enable the police to immediately swing into action. �As soon as news of any untoward incident comes in from any corner of the city, we can immediately click on that area and find out the surrounding routes leading to and from the place and then take effective counter-measures,� he added.

According to Amtron managing director Prabal Das, the package will enable the police to zoom in on every minute detail such as the number of rooms in a particular household.

It will also facilitate the district administration in devising strategies on public service, fiscal and policy management, Das told The Telegraph. He said the GIS, one of the most user-friendly databases, can create thematic maps according to the user�s needs.

�It will also allow the users to navigate from one map to another related map, besides facilitating a full-fledged database manipulation through its own integrated modules,� Das said, adding that the package was a graphic, intuitive-to-use system at work �behind the scenes�. The package will help the authorities to take better decisions as the graphics can be easily found and analysed.

The World Bank which is funding a multi-crore development project in Assam has already made it mandatory for the government to update all data on this line.

An Amtron source said the system would �practically help� the state acquire more funds for development as it would give an opportunity to paint an exact picture of the requirements. A memorandum of understanding has been signed between Amtron and the RMSPL to launch the pilot project in the three districts of Kamrup, Nagaon and Nalbari, he added.

�However, some work is still left to be done,� Das said, adding that at least Rs 25 lakh was needed to roll out the first phase of the pilot project.

The minimum expenditure for each district will be Rs 5 lakh besides other installation costs, he said.

The next phase of the project, covering all the remaining 20 districts, will be launched accordingly, Das said, adding that the second phase would involve making the solution entirely intelligent with high degree of sophistication.

Another source in Amtron said the GIS used vectorisation techniques to map and simulate real-life scenarios and surroundings by using satellite images, topography charts and maps.

�The data collected from the various agencies and departments are then used in conjunction with other databases to form the attributed data,� he added.    

Guwahati, May 21 
The kingpin of an inter-state prostitution racket has managed to flee and avoid arrest.

Acting on an information, a police team went to Howli in Barpeta district yesterday to arrest Sanyara Begum, the kingpin of the racket.

Sanyara, the prime accused in the case, went underground soon after the arrest of her accomplice Mafiza Begum from Kirkera reserve near Sarthebari. But later she escaped from New Delhi to her original home in Howli.

The sleuths had earlier rescued one of the two teenaged girls sold to a brothel in New Delhi and arrested three persons involved in the crime.

The 60-year-old mother-in-law of the main accused and a pimp from Santanagar in Delhi were among those arrested.

Officer-in-charge of Jalukbari police station P.K. Saikia said the possibility of more people involved in the nexus should not be ruled out.

All the arrested members of the gang were today remanded in police custody for four days.

Mafiza along with two brothers of Sanyara lured teenaged girls with decent jobs in New Delhi and acted as the �main links� in sending them to the brothels, Saikia said.

Mafiza, who was deserted by her husband 10 years ago, had been frequenting her sister�s house at Katiyadalang near Adabari in the city where she developed a rapport with the two victims � Khusiman (18) and Nabiran (16).

�But when they landed at Delhi, they were forcibly married off to the two pimps,� he said. This was done to avoid suspicion.

The girls were then forced into the flesh trade.

Madan Paul, a painter from Santanagar in Delhi, Sanyara�s mother-in-law Bitauli alias Iddu and another woman Sarbey alias Kamli, have been brought to Guwahati and will be produced in the court tomorrow.

The three arrested persons have revealed during interrogation that more then 10 girls have already been sold to brothels at Delhi.

While Mafiza had a hand in most of the cases, Sanyara�s two brothers were also involved in the racket.

Khusimon was sold to Madan Paul and Nabiran, who is still untraced, has been sold to a rickshawpuller.

The police could not trace her as she was taken to Uttar Pradesh, Saikia said. �We are constantly in touch with our Delhi counterparts and efforts are underway to rescue her,� he added.    

Guwahati, May 21 
Mystery shrouds the arrest and subsequent release of six persons by a team of the Assam police in Shillong today. Sources claimed one of the arrested persons was the dreaded Ulfa hitman Munna Mishra. However, the Assam police have denied this.

Sources said the police team raided a house at Kenches Trace this morning. Though no one was found in the house, the police recovered two mobile phones and a number of incriminating documents. After this the police team raided the house of an Assamese person at Lower Lumpering near Laban and picked up six suspected Ulfa rebels.

They were identified as Utpal Deka of Janigog in Nalbari district, who had reportedly received arms training in 1988, Rahul Sarma alias Moni Saikia of Hilloidharigaon in Dibrugarh district, Neeraj Srivastava, Manoj Kalita, Jennifer Kalita and Gayatri Kalita. The sources claimed Neeraj Srivastava was the dreaded Ulfa hitman Munna Mishra, who had been evading the police dragnet for a long time now.

Mishra allegedly threatened the raiding police party with dire consequences and dropped names of top Assam police officials.

When contacted, the city superintendent of police, Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta, denied any such incident had taken place. He said the team had gone to Shillong following a tip-off about ISI presence. �When they did not find anyone there, they decided to take a look at a house which had been raided about a year ago,�� he said.

Mahanta said a �few normal people� were found at the house who were later handed over to the Laban police station.

However, a highly-placed police official in Shillong said no one was handed over to the Laban police station. �All the persons were released by the Assam police and even the mobile sets were given back,� he said.

Farmer shot

Suspected Adivasi militants yesterday gunned down a 58-year-old farmer at Balabari near Sapaguri village, five km from Kokrajhar town.

The victim, identified as Nibaran Brahma, was on his way to a paddy field with his 15-year-old grandson Holonga when they were fired upon by the militants.    


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