Bookshop kidnap of woman
Husband gets jail remand for actress suicide
CMC junks vats for vans
For the right Jumpstart, you Knoware to go
Flurry of pre-poll foundations
Tripura ethnic riot toll 43, bandh today

Calcutta, May 22 
A phone call from a desperate mother to a city police deputy commissioner has led to the unearthing of a daring kidnap of a 25-year-old woman from Bihar from a busy street in New Alipore.

On Saturday, Dr (Mrs) A. Jha of Muzaffarpur called up a senior city police officer and told him that her daughter, Akriti Seva Singh, had made a call to her from a PCO in Chennai and told her that she had been kidnapped from New Alipore and was now being held in a room in that city.

Dr Jha said her daughter told her: “I have been kidnapped... I was confined in a dingy room in Chennai, from where I have managed to escape. I am scared... Please help me... I am calling from a PCO.”

However, before the line got abruptly disconnected, Akriti told her mother that a person by the name of Malla Raju was behind the kidnap. She did not call back again.

According to the New Alipore police, which has simply registered a “missing person” case, Akriti had come to the city from Dhanbad on May 13 and spent the day with family friends in Behala.

Early the next day, she went to the airport to receive her marine engineer husband Satish Singh, who was flying in from Tokyo.The couple then checked into the Marine Club, in the port area.

On May 15, Akriti and her husband visited a beauty parlour in New Alipore. But since her favourite beautician was not in, she decided to return the next day.

Recalled Saifuddin, the manager of the beauty parlour: ``Akriti had visited us earlier and was happy with the work of our beautician Mandira Singh. But that day was Mandira’s day off.”

The following day, Akriti did return with her husband at around 9.45 am, but as Mandira had not yet reported for duty, she said she would be back in 15 minutes.

According to Satish’s complaint with the police, Akriti told him that she would browse through books at a nearby bookshop and then return to the beauty parlour. Satish said he had a few errands to complete and they agreed to meet in front of the local branch of Grindlays bank in an hour’s time.

That, according to the police, was the last time that Satish saw his wife. After looking for Akriti for the next few hours, he registered a complaint at the New Alipore police station.

“We at the beauty parlour also waited for her to return,” Saifuddin said. “Mandira, in fact, was waiting for Akriti and refused to take on any other customer, but there was no sign of her.”

No one has seen Akriti being kidnapped, which is not unusual, but in the absence of any witnesses, the police are refusing to register a kidnap case.

On Dr Jha’s call to the city police, all that deputy commissioner of police Narayan Ghosh was willing to say was that the police are probing “all angles” and they have also got in touch with their counterparts in Chennai.

The missing persons squad of the city police, which has been entrusted with probing this case, too, seemed to be in no hurry to crack this case.

The officer-in-charge of this squad, Nitendra Bhattacharya, said he was not aware of this case, even though Satish had registered his complaint a week ago.

“I don’t know anything about this case,” he said. “Now that you tell me, I will have to find out about it.”    

Calcutta, May 22 
Five days after actress Rumni Chatterjee committed suicide, her husband, Debangshu Sengupta, was produced in court on Monday afternoon.

Sub-divisional judicial magistrate Biswanath Bhattacharya remanded the tele-serial director, arrested last Friday, to judicial custody till May 31.

The judge directed the authorities at Alipore Central Jail to monitor his physical condition and provide necessary “medical help”.

“Having completed our interrogation, we decided not to appeal before the court for police custody,” additional superintendent (industrial) S.N. Gupta said.

The police picked up Sengupta from a nursing home in Jadavpur on Monday morning after doctors there declared him fit.

He was first taken to Jadavpur police station for interrogation.

The police had been questioning Sengupta, arrested for “abetting suicide” and “torture on a woman”, at the nursing home for the past few days.

According to sources, preliminary police investigations have revealed that the 24-year-old actress was “never physically tortured” by her husband and her death was, indeed, a case of suicide.

Investigations have also confirmed that the marriage was “strained” due to various factors.

The main reason appears to be the fact that the actress continued to keep in touch with her ex-husband, Prasenjit Pal, despite Sengupta’s disapproval.

“We are also interrogating the couple’s maid, who lives in Dhakuria. On Wednesday evening, Rumni Chatterjee had given her Rs 10 and asked her to leave. Soon after that, she hanged herself,” said Salil Bhattacharya, officer-in-charge, Jadavpur police station.

On Sunday, the police had searched the Prince Ghulam Hussain Shah Road flat, in which the couple had been living since last September.

They were accompanied by Sengupta’s sister, Debjani, a school teacher at Santiniketan, and a neighbour, Jyotsnamoy Guha Thakurta, as “witness”.

“As far as I could make out, the police did not find anything of note in the flat,” said Guha Thakurta.

The neighbours of the couple in Jadavpur are watching the developments in the case with keen interest.

“We had very little clue about what was going on in their household, but there was hardly any hint of trouble. The girl was always full of praise for her husband,” observed Samapti Dey.

But neighbour Tapas Sinha was less sympathetic: “The kind of lifestyle they used to lead was very different from anyone else’s in the locality. They used to come back late at night and all kinds of people used to drop in to their flat at odd hours. It was a typical filmi lifestyle.”

At the Alipore courts, members of the ‘Rumni fan club’ staged a noisy demonstration, demanding “exemplary punishment” for Sengupta.    

Calcutta, May 22 
Garbage collection is going mobile. Specially-designed conservancy vehicles will be deployed by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation soon to collect household refuse. This signals the end of the road for the Corporation sweeper.

The corporation’s ambitious plan has already taken shape in Jadavpur. The civic authorities say it will be extended to the rest of the city in five years. That is about the time it will take to bid good-bye to the conventional sweeper-oriented conservancy service.

“If implemented successfully, the plan will unlock Rs 100 crore a year, which can be invested for the city’s development,” claimed the member, mayor-in-council (conservancy), Kanti Ganguly.

The “one-touch handling system” will do away with vats, hand-carts and sweepers. The specially-designed conservancy vehicle will be a mobile, covered vat that can be tipped at the press of a button.

A “tipper” will be deployed in each of the city’s 141 wards. Each vehicle will go from house to house and let out an audible signal, alerting households that it is garbage clearance time.

It will be the responsibility of the households to empty their refuse into the mobile vats.

The chief engineer (conservancy), Arun Sarkar, recently designed a model vehicle in the Corporation’s Entally workshop, which is being used in Jadavpur.

The Corporation will invite tenders from contractors with such vehicles. The tentative rate offered by the CMC will be Rs 1300 daily. The annual cost of hiring a vehicle, one for every ward, will be around Rs 8 crore.

This is considerably less than what the CMC now spends on garbage clearance. It spends about Rs 20 crore a year on handcarts alone. The sweepers’ wage bill for a year totals about Rs 120 crore.

The Corporation employs around 20,000 sweepers and if the number is halved, it will net a saving of Rs 60 crore. The additional chief of municipal finance and accounts, Abdul Wohid, estimates the annual savings will be in the range of Rs 100 crore.

The World Bank and Asian Development have been advising the Corporation to rid itself of the burden of redundant employees.    

Calcutta, May 22 
For the six-year-old struggling to master ‘mental maths’, the golf freak looking to simulate his swing on the screen greens, or the homemaker keen to catch up with the latest Wanton recipe, Knoware promises to be a one-stop solution shop.

The first “specialised multimedia interactive software shop” in the city, this CD-ROM centre threw open its doors at 1, Tilak Road (behind Deshapriya Park) last week.

“Our aim is to project the personal computer as a tool for everyday use,” says Sanjay Chhajer, managing director of Advance Management Systems Ltd (AMS) and the brain behind Knoware. “Along with the increase in the penetration of computers at home and school, will arise the need for quality multimedia software and we are in a position to take full advantage of this,” he adds.

Knoware, with a CD-ROM stock of nearly 4,000 valued at Rs 20 lakh on the racks, offers edutainment for kids between one and 10, computer-based tutorials (CBTs) for school and college students, besides games, reference material and business productivity tools.

“We are confident of sourcing any CD-ROM from anywhere in the world through our tie-ups with Asia-Pacific distributors of global software majors,” declares Chhajer. “Once we can locate the publisher on the Net, the title can be easily accessed.”

In Calcutta, AMS has been the preferred vendor of multimedia CDs for mega stores like Landmark, Oxford Book Store, Computer Point, Music World, Charnock City and various other retail outlets. “For most of these big shops, CD-ROMs is just a fringe area of business,” points out Chhajer. Hence, the need for a specialised shop to meet a growing demand.

So, while ‘Toddlers’ of Fisher Price, a game of puzzles and music, will keep the infant engaged, the Jump Start series will provide user-friendly courses in decimals and percentage, metaphors and analogies, environmental science, biology, ancient history, musical and visual arts, spelling and geometry.

The ‘Super Tutor’ series will help students of Classes IX to XII to master science subjects and also prepare for competitive exams. Candidates for IIT or Joint Entrance can use a 3-CD set, providing comprehensive coaching and simulating exams.

For law students and practising lawyers, there is a 30-CD archive, storing case histories of all Supreme Court cases till date.

Chhajer is bullish about business and has figures to back his buoyancy. From Rs 40,000 in 1994, when AMS started its software distribution business, the turnover soared to Rs 1.5 crore last year.

Knoware plans to organise in-store interactive programmes on a regular basis. Immediately after the schools reopen, Knoware will invite kids for a “computer parallel to a sit-and-draw contest”.

The schools that have evinced interest in the shop’s interactive programmes are St. Xavier’s, Don Bosco (Park Circus), La Martiniere for Boys, St. James’ and the Assembly of God Church.    

Calcutta, May 22 
To retain control over the Bidhannagar municipality, three CPM ministers, including chief minister Jyoti Basu, laid the foundation stones of several market complexes, schools and office buildings and inaugurated some offices in Salt Lake in the past month.

“This was done to ensure votes in the June 25 polls,” stressed Sabyasachi Dutta and Anita Mandal, two Congress commissioners of the municipality, who have recently joined the Trinamul Congress.

Jyoti Basu inaugurated the new office building of the Bidhannagar municipality in FD Block. “The building was inaugurated in a hurry, but we are yet to shift there. A small civic body like ours doesn’t need such a massive building. We feel the government has misused money by constructing it,” said Dutta and Mandal.

On April 30, finance minister Asim Dasgupta laid the foundation stone of Vidyasagar market. Dasgupta assured the people that not much time will be taken to construct it.

Urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya laid foundation stones of a market, a school and a cultural centre on May 4. The same day, Bhattacharya laid the foundation of Sukantanagar market and that of a school building in IA Block. At Karunamoyee, he laid the foundation of a cultural centre.

School education minister Kanti Biswas inaugurated the new building of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education on May 3 in DJ Block. Another new building for the primary education board, too, opened in Salt Lake recently.

Congress commissioners now with Trinamul complained that since the CPM had failed to provide amenities, like smooth supply of drinking water, to Salt Lake, it was trying to divert attention by laying foundation stones and inaugurating buildings. “They are trying to convince the people that they are all concern for the development of Salt Lake,” said Dutta.

In Salt Lake, the main source of drinking water is deep tubewells. There are 16 major overhead tanks in Salt Lake through which drinking water is supplied to each block. The government had planned to supply drinking water to the township from Tallah. The process was started in 1998. The daily requirement of drinking water in Salt Lake is 70,000 gallons. But it does not get more than 30,000 gallons from Tallah every day on an average.

Opposition commissioners are highlighting the water problem as their main issue in the poll campaign. Both Dutta and Mandal said drinking water was being sold in Salt Lake by Salt Lake Sanskritik Parishad officers. Present Salt Lake chairman Dilip Gupta is its president.

“They’ve bought a tanker and sell water (Rs 300 per tanker). They are not paying tax or revenue for this. Why don’t the municipality and government try to supply adequate water to Salt Lake?” asked the commissioners.    

Agartala, May 22 
The death toll in the past three days of ethnic violence in the Kalyanpur police station area in Khowai sub-division has risen to 43 with the recovery of two more bodies from the worst-affected Bagber village. They are yet to be identified.

Another person, identified as Rabi Roy, died of his injuries in Teliamura hospital after being shot during a rebel attack on Chakmaghat market under Teliamura police station last evening.

Sources from Amarpur subdivision said the body of Tripura State Rifles jawan Rabilal Das, who had been kidnapped from his residence in the Malbasa area of Amarpur on Friday, was recovered from a jungle near Malbasa.

The Congress, Trinamul and the ruling Left Front have called 12-hour state bandh tomorrow to protest the ethnic violence in Khowai over the past three days. The Congress has extended its bandh call by another 12 hours.

PCC president Birajit Sinha and leader of the Opposition Jawhar Saha told newsmen that they have written to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and home minister L.K. Advani demanding imposition of President’s rule in the state.

Six hurt in blast

Six passengers were injured as a crude countrymade bomb hurled by suspected militants exploded on a jeep in which they were travelling in Dharmanagar sub-division this morning.

United Bengali Liberation Front rebels are suspected to be involved in the incident. On receiving information about the blast, a police force rushed to the site and shifted the injured passengers to hospital. The incident has triggered ethnic tension in the area.

Police sources said tension was already simmering in Amarpur subdivision of South Tripura following an organised attack by tribals on the Bengali-dominated Shankar colony area near Amarpur town.

The sources said at 8 am today, a large group of armed tribals attacked Shankar colony and opened fire. After putting up a brief resistance, several Bengali families took shelter in Amarpur town. A large number of terror-stricken Bengali families from militancy-affected areas of Bampur, Malbasa, Moilak and Birganj, also arrived in Amarpur town this morning demanding security and gheraoed the SDO. Another group also clashed with TSR jawans. There were no casualties.

Already, more than 12,000 refugees have taken shelter in six camps under the Khowai and Kalyanpur police station areas. The indefinite curfew in Kalyanpur and Teliamura police station areas is continuing for the third day today.    


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