Woman shot in bid to save son
Police-CMC brakes on Parkomat
Rs 6-lakh fine for fire flouters
Mamata steps in to save school on platform
Police see Baruipur link in Regent Park killing
Row over building boom
Producers draw up draft code
Hindi demand
Ranvir Sena trains guns on CPI-ML
JMM toys with �alternatives�

Calcutta, Sept.11: 
Suchitra Majumdar, 45, died trying to stop her son from being shot by one of the 16 armed men who broke into their Regent Park home early on Monday.

At 2.15 am, two private cars screeched to a halt on Gosthotala Main Road. The goons strode down Vivekananda Sarani to reach the house of the chief manager, circle audit, State Bank of India, Achintya Kumar Majumdar.

Three men broke open the lock on the garden gate to enter the compound of the two-storeyed house on 15, Vivekananda Sarani.

Once inside, four men began pounding on the iron grille with shovels and other sharp weapons.

Achintya and Suchitra, who were asleep on the ground floor, woke up with a start and, realising the danger, started piling up chairs and other furniture against the main wooden door. Their daughter, Sudeshna, meanwhile, rushed upstairs to alert brother Kaustuv.

By then, the criminals had got past the grille and were hammering away at the wooden door.

�We started shouting for help, hoping that our neighbours would hear us and come to our rescue,� 22-year-old Kaustuv told The Telegraph on Monday afternoon.

�I saw the wooden door giving way and one of them poking a revolver through the opening, while the others kept on pounding on the door. Our dog was barking like mad,�� he added.

Sixteen-year-old Sudeshna picked up the phone to try and call a relative, but the line had been disconnected.

The assailants burst into the house, all but their leader�s faces covered by black hoods. They were armed with huge iron rods, shovels and cement slabs.

A petrified Kaustuv was standing to the right of the door. His father was just behind him, while Suchitra was huddled on the sofa with her daughter.

One of the men pointed a gun at Kaustuv and ordered them to �shut up�. His mother, fearing that her son was in danger, rushed towards him. The criminal fired and the bullet caught Suchitra on her forehead. She collapsed in a pool of blood.

�I saw my mother dying in front of me,�� mumbled Kaustuv. Achintya, who had recently undergone a bypass surgery, crumpled to the floor.

A couple of men then turned their attention to Kaustuv and Sudeshna.

Pressing revolvers to their head, they said: �You saw how we killed your mother. Show us where you keep your money and valuables, or else all of you will meet the same fate.��

Kaustuv took a few men to the room where the family kept their valuables in the locker of an almirah.

�They took Rs 6,000, two gold chains and my mother�s mangal-sutra,�� Kaustuv said.

�They then locked us up in one of the rooms and walked off. In the silence of daybreak, I heard the sound of cars starting and leaving the area.�

The police, some neighbours and a few local politicians arrived within a few minutes of the criminals leaving the place.

Till late on Monday night, the police were clueless about the motive of such an attack. Sniffer dogs and forensic experts were called in to try and pick up a trail.

Inspector-general of police Ajoy Prasad visited the spot but said: �We are still looking for leads.�

Superintendent of police A.K. Maliwal, additional superintendent S.N. Gupta and deputy superintendent Subhankar Chatterjee were camping on the spot and interrogating people in the area.

�We are shocked. This is the first time such a heinous crime has occurred here. Police should increase vigilance in the area at once,�� said Biren Ghosh, local CPM councillor.

According to local residents, the incident �highlights the growing lawlessness and police inefficiency in the the constituency of home (police) minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya�.

n Baruipur link, Page 19    

Calcutta, Sept.11: 
While the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) seems to have changed its mind on Parkomat, a multi-layered, fully automated parking bay, the city police and CMC are at loggerheads once again over how to park cars on Calcutta roads.

During office hours, 50,000 cars require parking space, while the CMC has created parking facilities for about 4,000 cars in 48 different zones of the city. If private space is taken into account, there is room for 16,000 cars only.

Things have taken a turn for the worse, as city police have cut down to half the total capacity of official-fee parking lots. It has banned parking perpendicular to pavements. And second, the new Trinamul-BJP combine board in the CMC has decided to keep in hold the Parkomat projects.

The two Parkomats could have accommodated 389 cars in their three-storey structures.

In a Parkomat, a motorist leaves his car in a computer-operated elevator which takes the vehicle to the floor where space is available. A mechanical carrier then picks up the vehicle and places it in the assigned lot.

The first Parkomat with accommodation for 200 cars was slated to become operational at the Park Street end of Rawdon Street by January. The second such facility, with a capacity for 189 cars, was to come up at Humayun Place in front of Lighthouse cinema.

The CMC entered into an agreement for a joint venture with Simplex Projects for the Rs 8.45-crore Parkomat in 1999.

Former mayor Prasanta Chatterjee even laid the foundation stone of the project at Rawdon Street just before the civic poll.

But the fate of the Parkomat projects has become uncertain, as member, mayor-in-council (bustee and parking) Pradip Ghosh says: �The project requires fresh scrutiny as it fails to create adequate parking facilities commensurate with the cost involved in setting it up.�

Despite talks between chief minister Jyoti Basu and mayor Subrata Mukherjee, the problem of parking cars in fee parking zones remains unresolved, as the police have not lifted the ban on parking cars perpendicular to pavements.

The 48 fee parking zones in the city can take care of about 4,000 cars at a time.

The capacity became half overnight two months ago as commissioner of police Dinesh Vajpai ordered that cars were to be parked only parallel to the kerb channel of a pavement.

When Subrata Mukherjee took up the matter with the chief minister, the latter said he would direct the police to discuss the matter with the CMC. But city police said on Monday they had not received any direction from the chief minister to date to hold discussions with the CMC on the issue.    

Calcutta, Sept.11: 
The state government has identified nearly 60 high-risk Durga Puja pandals and decided to slap a fine �up to Rs 6 lakh� on organisers found to be violating fire safety norms. But, almost in the same breath, it has admitted that it is in no position to compel puja organisers to follow the rules.

�We can only impose fines. How can we stop a puja? If we do, we will be hurting public sentiment,� said minister of state for fire services Pratim Chatterjee.

This is also a pointer to the fact that most big pujas enjoy enormous political clout, money and muscle power. Among the two most popular ones are mayor Subrata Mukherjee�s Ekdalia Evergreen Club, near Gariahat, and member, mayor-in-council, Pradip Ghosh�s Santosh Mitra Square, near Sealdah.

Santosh Mitra Square is a potential fire hazard as the puja is held on a permanent dais on an underground water reservoir. In case of a blaze, the fire brigade will not be able to draw water from it readily.

Ghosh said it is not possible for them to follow every fire safety norm. �I will ensure maximum safety, but it is impossible for us to use fire-retardant cloth on pandals as it is very expensive,� he added.

General secretary of Ekdalia Evergreen, Achintya Mukherjee, a fire services official himself, admitted it would not be possible to follow all the safety rules strictly. �We will, however, have an elaborate range of fire extinguishers and fire engines ready to tackle emergencies,� he said.

Another puja, Sreebhumi Sporting, is spearheaded by Sujit Bose, councillor and close associate of transport minister Subhas Chakraborty.

At a meeting with his department�s officials on Monday, the fire services minister identified 58 puja pandals in Calcutta and its neighbourhood as potential �fire hazards�. Senior officials of the city police and the CESC were also present.

�I will personally visit these pandals to see whether they are abiding by the norms,� said Chatterjee. �We will not allow any cooking on open fires in the proximity of puja pandals. We will slap fines up to Rs 6 lakh on organisers for violations,� he added.

In order to encourage puja organisers to stick to fire safety norms, an NGO, Impact, has announced attractive prizes for the Most Safe Puja pandal. The first prize carries Rs 75,000, the second Rs 50,000 and the third Rs 25,000.

�We welcome this move, as it will serve as an incentive for organisers. The organiser who will receive the prize money can spend it on fire retardant material when they construct the pandal next year,� added Chatterjee.    

Calcutta, Sept.11: 
Railway minister Mamata Banerjee has taken exception to the demolition of a home for destitute children at Sealdah station by the Railway Protection Force personnel on Sunday afternoon.

In an eviction drive, Eastern Railway authorities demolished the home run by a city-based non-government organisation, Child in Need Institute (Cini).

�I will speak to the railway officials in this regard,� Mamata said on Monday.

The home had been set up on platform number 10 of Sealdah station (south section) in 1989. Since then, Cini had been providing shelter, food, education and health care to nearly 94 streetchildren in the locality.

Cini officials held several meetings and discussions with railway officials on Monday.

�We have not shut down the school. We are negotiating with the railway authorities to find out a solution,� said a Cini official.

The school without a roof drew almost all students on Monday. �Even though the home is in complete disarray, the attendance was almost normal,� said one of the teachers.

Amal, Raju, Suman, Sanjoy and other inmates sat on the floor of the tiny enclosure, studiously taking down notes while the teachers stood and took classes.

While the kids do realise that the future of their �home� hangs in the balance, their teachers assured them that �Cini members and Mamatadi� would sort out matters and �save their school�.    

Calcutta, Sept.11: 
Police suspect that criminals from Baruipur were behind the killing of State Bank of India chief manager Achintya Majumdar�s wife. Suchitra Majumdar was brutally murdered at her Gosthotala residence in Regent Park on Monday.

Senior officers of Regent Park police station said four youth were picked up from Baruipur late on Monday night for interrogation.

There has been a recent spurt in criminal activities in Sonarpur and Baruipur, with unscrupulous promoters busy grabbing land from farmers to build highrises. Debal Mondal, a local resident, said: �I sold my land recently to a promoter, but he didn�t pay me the promised amount.�

Both Sonarpur and Baruipur have become concrete jungles, with at least 50 highrises coming up in the past five years. This construction boom has prompted a spurt in suppliers of building materials in the area. Most of the unemployed youth in the area are on the payroll of the promoters and they frequently resort to snatching, extortion and robbery, according to the police.

Veteran CPM leader of the locality Sailen Sen said: �We are helpless, as the youngsters fall prey to easy money.� Shyamal Mondal, local Trinamul Congress leader, felt: �The promoters are either criminals themselves or financed by persons with a criminal background�.

Preliminary investigations reveal that the criminals suspected of involvement in the dacoity at the SBI manager�s house are wanted in a number of cases. �They were serving terms in prison, but had managed to obtain bail recently,�� additional superintendent of police S.N. Gupta said. Suchitra Majumdar was an employee of WBSEB at Bidyut Bhavan, Salt Lake.    

Calcutta, Sept.11: 
The Calcutta Municipal Corporation and the police have accused each other of turning a blind eye to the illegal construction boom in the Beniapukur-Tiljala areas, on the eastern fringes of Calcutta, even as two rival criminal gangs are fighting a fierce battle to control the extortion racket in the area.

Officers of Beniapukur police station admit that there has been a spurt in criminal activities in the area over the past 15 days, but plead helplessness, citing lack of manpower. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee on Monday accused the police of being hand-in-glove with the promoters who �have been flouting the civic body�s rules and regulations... I have sent a detailed report to the police on illegal constructions in Beniapukur, urging immediate action. But nothing has been done so far,�� the mayor alleged.

The police rubbished Mukherjee�s allegations, claiming that deputy commissioner of police (eastern suburban division) Mihir Bhattacharya has recently sent a report to the mayor with details of illegal constructions in the area.

Joint commissioner of police Kiriti Sengupta, in charge of the area, said police can only identify the illegal constructions. �We are not empowered by the CMC or the Calcutta Police Act to take action against these buildings,�� he added.

According to the police report, two four-storeyed buildings are coming up at 46, Ismail Street and 4, Tatibagan Lane. Rival ganglords Samsher and Tunna have exchanged fire several times in front of these buildings recently. Local residents gheraoed police officers on Sunday night, protesting police inaction and demanding a stop to the criminal activities in the area.

Sources said promoters pay between Rs 70 and Rs 100 per sq ft to police and another Rs 100 per sq ft to CMC officials. Besides, they have to cough up around Rs 1 lakh to 3 lakh to criminals as �protection money�, depending on the size and site of the building.    

Calcutta, Sept.11: 
Film and television producers, at a meeting on Monday drew up a draft code of conduct to deal with technicians, while continuing their boycott of Calcutta studios.

�We have decided to join forces with the producers of television serials because we work on the same studio floors and share the same technicians. We have drawn up a draft code of conduct. After finalising it, we will enter into an agreement with the technicians� body,� said Krishna Narayan Daga, chairman, producer section, Eastern India Motion Pictures Association.

Daga said the basic code said dispute or no dispute, technicians could not disrupt shooting. �Also, producers and directors will decide on the technicians they will employ. We will not allow enforcement of any guidelines set by the technicians� body in this regard,� he added.

As a result of the boycott by producers, there has been no production or post-production work on about 10 films and more than a dozen serials in the Tollywood studios for the past three days. �The technicians� body, Federation of Cine Technicians and Workers of Eastern India, will have to sign the code before we decide to withdraw the suspension,� Daga said.

Television producers on Thursday decided to call off shooting indefinitely after some technicians demanded that their daily wages be increased immediately by 30 per cent. On Saturday, film producers decided to stand by their small-screen colleagues.

After Monday�s meeting with the film producers, the TV producers went back with a copy of the draft code to have it approved by members of their body at a general body meeting on Tuesday evening, said Mallika Jalan, federation vice-president.

However, the technicians� association was not aware of the code of conduct. �We only want a 30 per cent hike in our daily wages. We never refused to work,� said Pantu Nag, general secretary of the association.    

Calcutta, Sept.11: 
Students of Hindi-medium schools on Monday urged the authorities of the State Board of Secondary Education to introduce the system of setting Madhyamik question papers in Hindi. Under the present system, they are given question papers in English.

The students said it was difficult to read the questions in English and answer them in Hindi. A large number of students organised a rally on Monday at College Square and held a demonstration in front of the Board�s office on Park Street.    

Patna, Sept. 11: 
Shifting its gun temporarily from villages with a strong Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) following, supporters of the Ranvir Sena have now found a soft target in the CPI(M-L). The party, which provided ideological moorings to the militant MCC and the Party Unity, shunned violence to come overground in the early Nineties. As a result, it is unable to follow the path of armed �insurrection.��

After the Mianpur massacre, which averted a vertical split in the upper caste landlords� militia in May, the Sena had to mastermind more operations against the Naxalites to gain lost ground and consolidate base among its various frontal organisations in central Bihar.

Emulating the MCC strategy of taking hostages, Sena hitmen abducted three villagers in Dumaria on Saturday and slit their throats.

The villagers, believed to be CPI(M-L) sympathisers, were fishing in a pond when Sena activists captured them. They dragged the victims to a nearby forest in the pouring rain and slit their throats.

Anti-Naxalite slogans rent the air as the Sena cadre threatened to �weed the Naxalite movement out by the roots.��

The killers then moved into another village, Dehri, where they overpowered three more villagers and slit their throats in a similar manner.

The Bhojpur police, which came to know of the killings at least six hours later, arrested one culprit after intensive combing operations .�We are interrogating him. The motive behind the killing can be known if the accused confesses,�� said director- general of police K. A. Jacob.

�What else can be the motive except the fact that the Ranvir Sena plans to whip up a fear psychosis in villages which have a strong CPI(M-L) base,� said Santosh Sahar, a state-level party committee member. He said the Sena had so far killed at least 20 CPI(M-L) supporters in vendetta strikes.

A Sena spokesman in Bhojpur told this correspondent over telephone that it could be an operation at the local level by people opposed to Naxalite activities. �But the war is on,� declared the spokesman based in Ara.

The state government which is already in the line of fire over the spurt in criminal activities, has drawn flak from allies like the Bahujan Party which espouses the Dalit cause. The victims were members of the backward Kahar community.

The state government today announced an ex gratia of Rs 1 lakh for each of the victim�s kin and houses under the Indira Vikas Yojana.

Although the Bhojpur killing follows a series of clashes between the CPI(M-L) and the Ranvir Sena, it may not trigger a Naxalite backlash for the CPI(M-L) is a revisionist party.

�Let them mutually destroy each other. This war will never end and it is not possible for the police to stop it. It is festering wound which is set to infect every new generation in Bhojpur,� said a senior police official.    

Ranchi, Sept. 11: 
The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) is chalking out alternative strategies to retain control over the new Jharkhand state.

Party sources, however, ruled out any truck with either the Congress or the RJD. Leaders conceded that their campaign to project party chief Shibu Soren as the chief ministerial candidate had been premature and hasty.

Sources said the JMM supremo has been made a victim of aggressive media campaign, which went hammer and tongs on his claim to the chief minister�s post.

�But at no point did the JMM thrust its opinion on the other constituents of the National Democratic Alliance,�� a senior party leader said.

Sources added that the JMM had only reminded BJP and Samata Party leaders that they had agreed to back Soren�s candidature in lieu of his support to the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar. �But the party had never intended to impose its will on others,�� the leader said.

Referring to the statements made by the BJP and the Samata Party against backing a chargesheeted politician for the chief minister�s post, JMM sources said apart from second- rung leaders of both the parties, neither the Prime Minister, home minister L.K. Advani nor senior Samata Party leaders like George Fernandes and Nitish Kumar have rebuffed Soren�s claim to the top slot.

JMM sources said the party was confident that top leaders of both the parties would concede the chief minister�s post to Shibu Soren. �The JMM kept its part of the bargain by supporting the Nitish Kumar government and now the NDA should honour its promise too,�� said a party leader.

However, party sources revealed that with the race for the chief minister�s chair hotting up, the JMM is exploring viable alternatives without snapping ties with the NDA.

Soren is pitted against the moderate leader from Khunti, Karia Munda and Union minister of state for forests Babulal Marandi.

The alternatives being toyed with by the JMM top brass include a Chandrababu Naidu-type operation wherein the JMM will press for the Speaker�s post without participating in the government if the BJP decides to field its own candidate for the chief minister�s post.

Sources added that the JMM would render issue-based support to the new government from outside while installing one of its stalwarts as the Speaker in the new Assembly.

Sources added that the JMM was also gearing up for an early election in the new state, which the BJP may engineer in case Shibu Soren became the chief minister of Jharkhand.    


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