Bets on ballot for civic poll
Crash kills computer centre owner
Crack force to check poison air
Shunned in Cambridge, hallowed in Calcutta
Senbo sued for pipe breach
Jadavpur exam boycott illegal, says minister
CID rules out foul play in actress� death
Neepco issues final warning to N-E states
AGP loses base in Karimganj
Truck strike hits supplies to Nagaland

Calcutta, May 30 
Its the season of the fixers: from cricket to elections. The Calcutta and West Bengal police have sought the Union home ministry�s permission to tap the telephone lines of politicians and candidates suspected to be part of a betting syndicate that runs an illicit business worth crores of rupees during city civic polls.

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation polls are slated for June 25. Police sources said the stakes are especially high this time, as the Trinamul-BJP combine is widely tipped to wrest power from the Left Front. Bookies say the Trinamul-BJP combine is tipped to win in about 75 of the 141 wards and form the board in the CMC.

�We have information that a lot of betting is going to take place over both the land lines and cellphones,� a senior police officer said. �That is why we have asked for permission from Union home secretary Kamal Pandey.�

�We are awaiting permission on phone-tapping as this is essential to curb crime,� confirmed the inspector-general of police, south Bengal, K.J. Singh.

The chief general manager of Calcutta Telephones, K.R. Ramanujam, said he does not have the authority to allow the police to tap phones. �The permission will have to come from the Union home ministry,� he said.

Last week, deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya held a meeting with senior police officers after the matter was brought to his notice.

Present at the meeting were city police chief D.C. Vajpai and state DGP Deepak Sanyal. The question of tapping the telephones of those suspected to be involved in the racket was discussed.

It was then that police officers approached Ramanujam and representatives of Command and Modi Telstra, the two cellphone service providers in the city. It was also decided that a joint team comprising officers of the city and state police would also be formed to tackle the betting racket.

The police are also investigation if the betting syndicate has approached any candidate to �fix� the elections.�We have been hearing that some candidates may be approached to throw away the elections to allow a dark horse to emerge the winner,� an official said.

The police got wind of the extent of betting for the ensuing municipal elections after interrogating gangsters arrested after a crackdown in parts of south Calcutta some days ago.

Sources said the arrest of Chandan Das, a history-sheeter, has thrown some fresh light on the betting racket, especially in south Calcutta. He has revealed the names of local politicians who are hand-in-glove with the betting syndicate.

�For the sake of investigations, no names can be revealed,� said an officer. �But we have got details on some politicians and we will be going after them soon.

The police is now looking for some of the criminals close to Chandan, as they believe that they would lead them to the politicians in the betting racket.

�Chandan is becoming a central figure in the civic polls betting racket in south Calcutta,� said deputy superintendent of police of South 24-Parganas Subhankar Chatterjee. �His criminal record includes murders and extortions, and a lot of criminals in the betting racket were also in close contact with him.�

The police have also confiscated a number cellphones belonging to people connected with the betting racket. �We are checking the phone numbers that have been called up from these phones to further establish establish links with the racket,� Chatterjee said.    

Calcutta, May 30 
Suresh Chandra Lakhotia, one of the owners of Lakhotia Computer Centre, was killed in a car crash on the National Highway in Bethuadahari, Nadia district, early on Tuesday.

Lakhotia, 45, was head of an IT empire spread across 650 computer educational institutes in the country, with an annual turnover of around Rs 70 crore.

The accident occurred while Lakhotia was returning to the city after a short summer vacation with wife Kirti and two sons in Darjeeling.

According to his wife�s uncle, G. K. Gupta, �while Kirti and their two sons stayed back in Darjeeling, Suresh was rushing back to Calcutta as two new computer centres were to be inaugurated on Tuesday�.

The third son, now in the US, has been informed.

�The accident took place when the Calcutta-bound Maruti Zen was hit by a speeding lorry from behind on the National Highway (NH-34) around 4 am,� said Vivek Bharadwaj, district magistrate of Nadia.

While Lakhotia died on the spot, one of his friends who was also in the car was seriously injured. He was shifted to a nursing home in the city. The driver was admitted to hospital. The lorry driver, however, managed to flee with the vehicle.

�He was a firm believer in Vaastu and so would always sit on the left side of the car. But we heard that on this trip, he was sitting on the right,� said an LCC employee.    

Calcutta, May 30 
The state government has decided to form a core group to check auto emission in and around the city.

The group will comprise officials from the environment and transport departments, police and representatives of automobile associations.

The task force will implement the guidelines being framed by the transport and environment departments, along with experts in checking pollution.

The state government had been directed by the high court green bench to submit a comprehensive plan to reduce air pollution levels in the city. The bench had also formed a 10-member committee for the purpose. The guidelines will first be submitted to the court.

�Our policy is very clear. We shall no longer allow vehicles to pollute the air. We are determined to check it and we are ready to take any unpleasant decision in this regard,��said environment minister Manab Mukherjee.

Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty said the group will ensure that auto emission norms are enforced. Since it will comprise officers from the relevant departments and representatives of user associations, its work will also be better coordinated.

The new group will also organise seminars and awareness programmes on the problems of air pollution and suggest remedies.

The much-publicised plans of the government to check auto emission was nipped in the bud because of lack of infrastructure, inadequate technical back-up and lack of co-ordination between the departments concerned.

None of the three departments � transport, police and environment � want to take on responsibility for the failure and have been passing the buck. Despite the introduction of India-2000 norms, there has been little effort to reduce the number of old, highly-polluting vehicles on the road. Such rules are being enforced in other metros. In Delhi, the government has prohibited the use of taxis that are more than eight years old, unless they have been put through rigorous tests.

�Neither the police nor the motor vehicles inspectors follow the norms framed by the Central Pollution Control Board as per the Environment Protection Rules of 1991. What they do in the name of car-testing is a farce,�� said Kalyan Bhadra, secretary-general, Automobile Association of Eastern India.

�It needs engineers, technicians and effective manpower to conduct regular testing of vehicles, maintaining the Central norms. About 7,00,000 vehicles ply daily in the city. So, can you guess how many engineers will be required?�� asked deputy commissioner of police (traffic), K Harirajan, saying that the motor vehicles department has to play a vital role.

Director of the Public Vehicles Department T.V, Venkataraman expressed his helplessness. �What can I do? Where is the infrastructure or the manpower? I have only 20 inspectors. How much work can you expect from them ?�� he asked.    

Calcutta, May 30 
To teach or not to teach Shakespeare. That is the question agitating classy Camdridge University, where the compulsory paper on the writer that every writer that followed has read could be dropped from the syllabus. But if shunned by Cambridge, the Bard of Avon can always seek refuge in Calcutta. The city of Tagore is set to be the first Asian venue for the World Shakespeare Conference this winter.

Organised by Shakespeare Society of Eastern India, in collaboration with the British Council, the bi-annual conference is scheduled to be held from December 3 to 6.

Amitava Roy, president of the Shakespeare Society of Eastern India, set the process in motion during his visit to Oxford in 1996. Roy said: �Usually, the Shakespeare conference does not have a specific theme. But this being the millennium edition, it was decided that there would be a special focus � Colonial and Post-Colonial Shakespeares.�

The theme made members of the Anglo-French Initiative on Shakespeare, a European Union collaboration, consider holding the conference in Calcutta, possibly colonial Britain�s most accomplished outposts of Shakespearean teaching. Coming to know of this from Tom Wilson, a member of the Royal Academy, the Calcutta-based society pitched for the conference and won it.

�We are expecting about 500 delegates from different parts of the globe. Invitations have been sent to leading Shakespeare scholars, such as Tom Matheson of the Shakespeare Institute of Birmingham and Peter Von Becker, one of the editors of Teater Heute, the most prestigious theatre journal in Europe. All our sister bodies, which are part of the worldwide Shakespeare society network, have confirmed participation,� said Aparajita Nanda of Jadavpur University.

News of Calcutta getting the opportunity to host the conference came on a day the British press was agog with reports of Cambridge considering a proposal to drop the paper on Shakespeare and place him alongside contemporaries over a period stretching from 1550 to 1700. �I think there is something rotten at Cambridge,� a professor of English literature at Leeds University told the Daily Telegraph.

The proposal is unlikely to come into force for another three years. It follows from the university�s intention to make more room for Victorian and 20th century authors, something that Cambridge alone is not exercised about.

A former academic, who has taught Shakespeare at both Cambridge and Oxford, said such a trend appeared to be developing worldwide. As of now, though, neither of the two city universities, Calcutta or Jadavpur, is traversing the way of Cambridge. Both have separate papers on Shakespeare. They are more concerned about making the maiden Asian act of the Shakespearean drama a success. Quite literally. During the conference, there will be daily performances based on Shakespeare.

�We want to showcase Indian culture before an international audience. Every day from 5 pm, cross-fertilisation of how Shakespeare has been adopted in local cultures, be it through (b)Manipuri, Chhau, nautanki or gambhira, will be staged,� Roy said.

All the world may be his stage, but for those few days, Shakespeare will come to Calcutta. As poet John Keats said: �Shakespeare is enough for us�. Whatever Cambridge might think.    

Calcutta, May 30 
The Calcutta Municipal Corporation has lodged an FIR against Senbo at Gariahat police station for damaging of the underground emergency water mains during the construction of a flyover.

For the second day on Tuesday, residents of Ballygunge faced an acute drinking water crisis, following a breach in the pipeline on Sunday night. CMC�s chief engineer (water supply) Dibyendu Chowdhury told The Telegraph: �The FIR was lodged on Tuesday for wilful damage to emergency water supply. Repairs have started from 10 pm on Tuesday.�

About half-a-million people living on Gariahat Road, Rashbehari Avenue and adjacent areas have gone without drinking water from Monday morning.    

Calcutta, May 30 
The deadlock at Jadavpur University continued on Tuesday with state higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty announcing that the boycott of examination duties by the agitating teachers was �illegal and immoral�.

He also ruled out the government accepting the teachers� demand to step up retirement age from 60 to 62 years. The minister, breaking his silence on the agitation for the first time, said: �The teachers are bound to participate in all examination duties. They have no right to punish innocent students and affect their careers by staying away from examination duties. They cannot create pressure on the government like this.

�Yes, they (the teachers) do have a democratic right to agitate, if they feel deprived of their legitimate claims. But we won�t accept a movement which penalises innocent students,� Chakraborty said.

He also announced that the existing law, which makes it mandatory for teachers to attend examination duties, will be made more stringent very soon to prevent recurrence of similar agitation by college and university teachers.

�We understand the students are the worst sufferers. But we are helpless. Let them (the teachers) first resume exam duties. There is no question of negotiating with them unless they withdraw the boycott,� the minister said.

The government, though, is taking steps to release salary arrears in instalments to the Jadavpur teachers, as well as those of other state-aided universities.

The Jadavpur University Teachers� Association (JUTA) began a work-to-rule in March for implementation of University Grants Commission recommendations. Their demands include payment of arrears in one instalment, retirement at 62 and implementation of the career advancement scheme from January 1, 1996.

Tarun Naskar, JUTA general secretary, said there was no question of withdrawing the boycott. �The minister is spreading malicious propaganda against us by describing the movement as illegal and immoral,� he said.

According to Naskar, the CPM-controlled West Bengal College and University Teachers� Association (WBCUTA) had resorted to a similar boycott in the early sixties, in which Chakraborty himself had participated. In 1973, too, the WBCUTA had resorted to a similar agitation.

�We are launching a five-day relay hungerstrike and will continue the agitation till all our demands are met,� Naskar added.

The deadlock at Jadavpur University has been prevailing since March 7, after the JUTA went on the work-to-rule.

Most of the major exams scheduled to begin last month have been postponed by the university authorities, following the continuing boycott.    

Calcutta, May 30 
The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has confirmed that actress Rumni Chakraborty committed suicide, thus absolving her director-husband Debangshu Sengupta of the charge of murder.

Debangshu was arrested from a south Calcutta nursing home on May 19 after Rumni�s mother lodged a complaint. He is now in judicial custody.

A senior CID official said on Tuesday that Rumni�s suicide had been confirmed by the autopsy report. Rumni had committed suicide by hanging herself from a ceiling fan on 17 May at the couple�s Ghulam Hussain Shah Road flat in Jadavpur.

Shortly after the suicide, the police seized Rumni�s diary, in which she had written of her suffering caused by her husband�s suspicion that she was continuing a relationship with her ex-husband, Prasenjit Pal.

In her complaint lodged with Jadavpur police station, Rumni�s mother had stated that her daughter was �forced to commit suicide� because of mental torture by her director-husband. He was arrested on charges of abetment to commit suicide and torturing his wife.

CID sources said that investigations revealed that on the day of the suicide, both Rumni and Debangshu had been drinking since the morning. Debangshu was apparently upset after a dispute with a teleserial producer and was even contemplating quitting the profession.

A number of their friends had dropped in to their flat that evening to try and convince Debangshu to sort out differences with the producer for the sake of his and Rumni�s careers.

After the guests left, the couple had a fight, following which Debangshu had stormed out of the house. By the time he returned, Rumni had taken her life.    

Guwahati, May 30 
The chairman-cum-managing director of North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (Neepco) P.K. Kotoky said there is no question of blackmailing the state governments of the Northeast for payment of arrears to the corporation.

Reiterating his statement to stop power supply to the north-eastern states from June 1, Kotoky said here today that this should not be construed as �blackmail�. He suggested that it is a warning in advance.

�I want to keep the corporation alive. So this sort of an action had to be taken,� he said. It would be impossible for the corporation to survive if the governments do not pay the arrears, he added.

Asked why the corporation did not issue such warnings before, the Neepco chief said, �We have been in constant touch with the authorities. We were afraid that such a decision would affect the common man.�

�The corporation should be allowed to survive so that it can serve the interests of the Northeast,� Kotoky said. The continuous non-payment of outstanding dues have jeopardised the survival of the premier power corporation, he added.

He said the corporation will supply only 50-60 MW of power to Assam instead of the 230-240 MW it supplied earlier. �The notice was served to the states/state electricity boards on April 10, requesting them to clear 50 per cent of the dues within a period of 30 days from the date of notice,� he said.

During 1999-2000, Neepco sold electricity worth Rs 356 crore to the north-eastern states. But the revenue receipt has been just Rs 79.14 crore. The total outstanding dues from 1997 to April this year has been has been Rs 933.61 crore, Kotoky said. Neepco has a total installed capacity of 625 MW but it generates only 500 MW.

�I am not asking the governments to pay the entire money. The corporation is selling power worth Rs 40 crore every month and it needs Rs 25 crore to meet the expenses. In return, the corporation is not even getting Rs 7 crore,� he said.

The corporation has to pay a huge sum of money to the Gas Authority of India Limited. �The total gas liability is Rs 70 crore. But the corporation will not have to incur any additional liabilities for gas as there will be hardly any generation,� Kotoky said.

Power struggle

The Meghalaya State Electricity Board (MeSEB) today accused the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited (Neepco) of trying to mislead the people of the region by false propaganda, reports our Shillong correspondent.

Neepco chairman-cum-managing director P.K. Kotoky had threatened that the power corporation would stop supplying electricity to the north-eastern states from June 1 if the collective outstanding bills of Rs 933.61 crore were not cleared by the end of this month.

The Neepco chief had also said that the MeSEB owes Rs 11.31 crore to the corporation.

MeSEB public relations officer E. Lyngdoh denied this.    

Silchar, May 30 
BJP candidate Mission Ranjan Das� comprehensive victory in the byelections to the Karimganj North Assembly seat is an affirmation of the fact that the ruling Asom Gana Parishad is no longer the force it used to be in this south Assam constituency.

Das, a lawyer-turned-politician, defeated his AGP rival Golam Karim Mohammed Ali Murad Choudhury by a margin of 6,421 votes. The BJP nominee polled 34,849 votes, as against 28,428 by Murad Choudhury.

Karimganj district Congress chief Madhabendra Dutta Choudhury was relegated to the third spot in the three-pronged contest. He garnered only 12,000 votes.

But for the loss in Karimganj North, the AGP would have made a clean sweep of the three seats to which byelections were held on Friday. Party nominee and slain PWD minister Nagen Sarma�s widow Alaka Desai Sarma won the Nalbari seat, while Manoranjan Das emerged victorious in Bhabanipur constituency.

Despite the BJP having won the Karimganj North, allegations of rigging have been levelled against the AGP. The police and the civil administration have also been accused of looking the other way when rigging took place in several polling booths.

The AGP�s defeat is considered a major blow to the party because Karimganj North was one of its last remaining bastions. The party won the seat in the 1985 as well as 1996 Assembly elections.

Former Union minister and BJP campaign manager Kabindra Purakayastha attributed his party�s victory to three factors. He said most voters were angry with the AGP for failing to initiate any development work in Karimganj district over the past few years.

The majority of the voters also felt that the National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre would sanction funds for development projects in the district if the BJP won the seat, Purakayastha said.

�The people�s concern over unabated infiltration from Bangladesh, ISI activity in the district and the AGP�s failure to discipline a section of its activists finally tilted the scales in favour of our candidate,� he added.

Congress Rajya Sabha member from south Assam, Karnendu Bhattacharjee, said intra-party squabbles on the eve of the polls diminished his party�s chances of putting up a good performance.

Though the Congress fared much better than it did in the 1996 elections, Dutta Choudhury today owned moral responsibility for the defeat and resigned from the post of district party chief.

The result of the byelections in Karimganj North confirmed speculation that there would be a division of the Muslim votes.    

Jorhat, May 30 
Truckers affiliated to the Mariani Truck Drivers� Association stopped plying their vehicles on the Mariani-Mokokchung route today in protest against the assault on a driver in Nagaland�s Mokokchung district on Sunday.

The driver, Shree Kumar, was assaulted by three youth at a place between Langpal and Changki. He is undergoing treatment at a hospital here.

The drivers� association has informed the deputy commissioners and superintendents of police of both Jorhat and Mokokchung districts that the strike will not be withdrawn unless the three culprits are arrested.

If the strike continues, supply of essential commodities to the three Nagaland districts of Mokokchung, Tuensang and Zunheboto will be affected. �Incidents like the one on Sunday take place regularly. Unless the authorities take steps, the situation will worsen,� the truckers� association said. �Apart from being forced to pay illegal taxes at particular checkgates, we are constantly harassed in Nagaland,� it added.

Supply of essential commodities to Nagaland through Mariani was disrupted for two weeks in February when trucks remained off the road in protest against harassment by drivers. The incident forced the Mokokchung district administration to send a delegation to Jorhat to request the truckers to withdraw their strike. The delegation promised to provide security to truckers plying on the Mariani-Mokokchung route.

Truck drivers have accused groups of Naga youth of collecting �import tax� on cigarettes, eggs and even buffaloes.    


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