Nine die in rain, river havoc
Digha train ready to roll in March
Mamata 7, CPM double
Fugitive named dacoity kingpin

Calcutta, Aug. 5 
Nine people have died as incessant rain and swelling rivers submerged vast areas in four districts in north and south Bengal. Over six lakh people have been affected by the floods in Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Burdwan and Birbhum districts.

Of the nine killed, six died in Burdwan, two in Birbhum and a woman, Amina Bewa (55), in Cooch Behar. She was drowned in the Torsa on Friday. Her kin have been granted aid worth Rs 20,000.

About 30,000 people have taken shelter in 160 relief camps in Jalpaiguri alone. At least 70,000 people have been rescued and sent to shelters in Cooch Behar.

Flood waters wreaked havoc on roads and rail tracks in north Bengal. The national highway linking Assam near Nagrakata remains submerged. A rail bridge has been damaged in Dyana block, disrupting train services . Power supply has been affected severely in Cooch Behar and Alipurduar towns after a 135-kv transmission tower collapsed near Birpara, in Jalpaiguri district, on Friday.

State relief secretary P.S. Ingty said at Writers� Buildings on Saturday that the flood situation was still grim, though no rain has been reported from any part of the state. However, in Cooch Behar, the Raidhak, Siltorsa, Kaljani, Jaldhaka and Sankosh rivers are flowing above danger level. Embankments have been breached. Waters of the Jaldhaka have washed away many stretches of National Highway 31. The Kanchenjanga Express to Guwahati is plying only up to New Jalpaiguri.

Irrigation minister Debabrata Banerjee said many tea gardens in the Dooars have been inundated. Alipurduar sub-division, in Jalpaiguri district, is is worst-affected. The river Diana has washed away rail tracks in vast stretches of the Siliguri-Alipurduar section.

The Jalpaiguri-Birpara road is six-foot-deep under water. Kumargram, Hasimara and Nagrakata are submerged. Landslides were reported at Kalimpong but there was no report of death or damage to property due to landslides.    

Calcutta, Aug. 5 
The �Digha-by-train� dream, born 16 years ago, is finally seeing reality. By March, holidayers will be able to take a bump-and-jerk-free journey to the �Calcutta-by-sea� destination for a weekend sojourn, thanks to South Eastern Railway.

Overcoming several obstacles, including land acquisition and a funds crunch, work began full steam in mid-May this year after the state government made available 624 hectares and the Centre pumped in Rs 14 crore more to the original cost of Rs 74 crore. A total allocation of Rs 100 crore has been made this year.

Railway engineers have had to tackle several tidal creeks and waterlogged areas between Tamluk (where a railhead already exists) and Digha. As many as 148 minor bridges and 12 major ones are being constructed.

The most critical erection is the bridge on the river Haldi, over 500 metres long. Nine girders on the bridge, of a total of 11, will come up by November. The 87.5-km-long, broad-gauge route will have four stations and six passenger halts. After the civil work is complete, the railways will take up its electrification. Passenger amenities will be provided at all stations.

There are plans for inexpensive, furnished retiring rooms at Digha. And the journey to the sea will take a little over four hours.

Cong rampage: Congress activists broke into Binda Kumar�s house in the port area on Saturday to protest her defection to Trinamul Congress. Kumar, councillor of ward 80, joined Trinamul on Thursday, raising its councillor strength to 69, just two short of absolute majority in the CMC board. Police said hundreds of Congressmen assembled in front of her house and pelted stones. They damaged furniture and window-panes.

6 crushed: Six farm labourers were killed and four injured when a Matador van ploughed through them on National Highway 34 near Gacha, at Nakashipara, in Nadia, on Saturday. The labourers were sitting by the roadside. Two of them died on the spot. The driver fled with the vehicle.    

Calcutta, Aug. 5 
A day after chief minister Jyoti Basu left for Delhi to complain to Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee about railway minister Mamata Banerjee�s �irresponsible behaviour�, CPM leaders on Saturday announced a fortnight-long movement from August 15 to counter the �evil influence� of her party in Bengal.

The CPM announcement assumes significance in the light of Mamata�s proposed week-long agitation from August 10 to protest the CPM�s �reign of terror� in the districts.

Politburo member Biman Bose said: �Mamata Banerjee�s Trinamul Congress is emerging as a dangerous force in Bengal. We will have to launch a more intensive movement to isolate her from the masses.� Bose and state unit secretary Anil Biswas were at a function at Mahajati Sadan to mark party founder Muzaffar Ahmed�s 112th birth anniversary.

Although part of the party�s all-India programme to pay homage to Ahmed, CPM leaders used the function as a platform for Mamata-bashing.

�After 23 years of uninterrupted rule in Bengal, we are facing a challenge from Mamata, who has made a dent into the rural belt by creating a division among the poor,� Bose said. Without naming the Trinamul Congress, he said even dacoits had come under the umbrella of a particular political party �to unleash terror on innocent villagers... Dacoities are fewer in the districts these days. They have joined a political party,� Bose added.

He said the agitation will end with a mass convention on August 31, at which the Left Front will decide its future programmes.    

Calcutta, Aug. 5 
Three months on the case, the police have pinned the blame on Mohammad Sahid, alias Chikna, for masterminding a spate of recent dacoities in the city. Chikna, who has fled from jail custody twice in the past two years, is being blamed for robbing three affluent Calcuttans between April and July.

The detective department, clueless till Friday night, are now on a door-to-door drive to locate Chikna, armed with his postcard-size photograph. Narayan Ghosh, deputy commissioner of police, detective department, said: �His victims identified Chikna from his photograph. It is a breakthrough.�

Chikna, with four associates, raided three flats in Beniapukur, Taltala and Beleghata since April. He robbed the flat-owners of cash and ornaments worth Rs 10 lakhs.

�The modus operandi was the same. Chikna would knock on the door. When the door was opened, the men would storm in, brandishing firearms,� Ghosh said.

Chikna was first arrested on August 1997 for a dacoity in Taltala. He was arrested again in December the same year. But he and two other inmates fled Presidency Jail in September 1998. Re-arrested in December 1998 from his den in Baruipur, Chikna and three others escaped from Bankshal court lock-up while their trial was in progress.    


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