After 145 years, the crumbling silver throne
Pollution board blocks infotech township
Police rescue girl from Delhi
Outstation lines jammed by strike
Trader murder trail leads to London
High court seeks report on blood banks
Cinema staff warn of strike
Demand for press corner
1 killed in Shillong shootout
Bandh peaceful in Cachar

Calcutta, Sept 15: 
For the first time in the 145-year-old history of the Dakshineswar temple, the throne of Goddess Kali will be replaced.

The new 450-kg, 10-ft-high throne will replace the old, silver-cased wooden structure, which was first found to have weakened about seven years ago. The priests detected that the wood inside the silver casing had started to rot.

Since then, the temple authorities have been maintaining the throne by using external supports. The structure has already leaned backwards and its 12 wooden pillars have become feeble.

Though the temple�s board of trustees took up the issue immediately, it took seven years to get through the paperwork.

The move finally took shape two months ago. Ten workers and artisans are now working in a room inside the temple premises, building the new throne.

Kusal Chowdhury, secretary of Dakshineswar Kali Temple and Debottar Estate, said: �The new throne will be made of silver, brass and wood. It will have the same design and architectural view as the original. The material too will be the same.�

The trustees believe that the throne might collapse any moment. �It is not happening because of Ma�s blessings,� Chowdhury said.

According to official records, the throne was first installed in 1855, when Rani Rashmoni established the temple.

It serves as an extraordianry point of historical reference in contemporary India because Ramakrishna Paramhansa had started his spiritual quest from this temple.

The temple later evolved as the fountainhead of a powerful spiritual movement, thanks to a deep and abiding relationship with Swami Vivekananda. Over time, the Dakshineswar temple has become an integral part of Bengal�s ethos.

The trustees have had to buy 90 kg silver to rebuild the throne, the total cost of which is about Rs 12 lakh, including a labour cost of Rs 1.6 lakh. This has to be paid as per agreement to P.C. Chandra Jewellers, who are making the throne.

Immediately after noticing the cracks, the trustees held a meeting on July 29, 1993, and adopted a resolution to change the throne. The then board of trustees� chairman, Tapas Banerjee, who was appointed by Calcutta High Court as special officer, was approached in this regard.

Based on an appeal by the trustees, Justice Umesh Chandra Banerjee of Calcutta High Court directed that the work start on September 20, 1993.

�We told them that the new throne must be the same size and have the same design, and that the the key material, silver, must have the same purity, 97 per cent� explained Chowdhury.

�All the 12 pillars will be wrapped in silver. As a result, it will last another 100 years without any problem. We are also using Burma teak for the canopy,� said Chowdhury.

The temple authorities, however, are reluctant to set a date for the replacement of the throne.

�After its completion, the throne will be under observation for a few months and experts will see if the colour of the silver changes,� said the secretary. �We will fix the day that we replace the throne according to rituals and scriptures and without disturbing the puja. Visitors will not even realise that the throne has been replaced.� The old throne will be handed over to a museum.

Anjan Das, the superviser, said: �It�s our great fortune that we have been given the chance to do something for the goddess. But it is a tough task.�    

Calcutta, Sept 15: 
The location chosen for the ambitious Lakeland Village Township promoted by Purnendu Chatterjee has been �rejected� by the state pollution control board (PCB). The reason: It violates the landmark high court judgment protecting wetlands passed by Justice Umesh Chandra Banerjee in 1992.

The PCB issued a letter to the company stating that it could not issue a no-objection certificate to the proposed project, spread over 5,000 acres. The Lakeland Village Township envisaged the setting up of a unique habitat comprising information technology development and other modern research units, such as genomics, the study of the human gene.

The proposed site was in the Tardah-Kapashati area, under the Bhangar police station area of South 24-Parganas, on the outskirts of the city. The project envisaged technological complexes and a township with 15,000 houses, community centres, exhibition grounds, clubs and a golf course, to be built over 10 to 15 years.

The PCB, besides rejecting the application for no-objection on the grounds that the location violated legal provisions, also scuttled it as the project required the drawing of 20 million litres of groundwater a day. There is a check on the setting up of water-intensive projects in the area.

The proposed site falls within a 10-kilometre radius of the proposed Calcutta Leather Complex, where the PCB has restricted drawing of groundwater. The leather complex, when functional, will draw about 20 million litres a day. Any added withdrawal of water will have an adverse effect on groundwater levels in the area.

There was no immediate reaction to the court order from the promoters as company officials were unavailable for comment.    

Calcutta, Sept 15: 
Police on Thursday night rescued an 18-year-old girl from a Delhi brothel, where she had been sold by a Behala couple six months ago.

The wife, Nabanita, was arrested, while husband Sudip is absconding, police officers on the case said.

Nabanita had sold the girl for Rs 20,000 to a pimp, Jitendra Pandey, in Delhi�s Lajpat Nagar. Pandey, too, was arrested.

According to investigators, acute poverty drove the mother of the girl to withdraw her from school and put her to work in the house of the Behala couple.

Nabanita and Sudip had taken an apartment in the Bangur complex at Buroshibtala, in Behala.

They told neighbours they were looking for young boys and girls to work in their house.

�We will employ a couple of them in our house and our relatives and friends are in desperate need of a few full-time maids,�� Nabanita told one of her neighbours, who refusd to be identified.

The girl�s mother told The Telegraph her daughter began working in Nabanita�s house from April. � I kept checking with Nabanitadi about my daughter from mid-June, because she did not contact me nor visited the house. It was very unnatural, because my daughter was extremely homesick,�� the mother said.

Each time, however, Nabanita told her: �Your daughter is fine and working for one of my relatives.��

Finally, the worried mother registered a complaint with the Behala police station a week earlier.

Police detained Nabanita and questioned her for several hours. They also checked the Roys� antecedents with their neighbours at the Bangur complex.

Nabanita broke down during interrogation and said the girl was at Delhi. A special investigating team, led by Pranab Moitra, accompanied Nabanita and the girl�s mother and a couple of women constables to Delhi earlier this week.

�Initially, Nabanita tried to confuse the police. She said the girl was working for one of her distant relatives but the family had moved out of the country,�� a police officer investigating the case said.

�We suspected the girl was sold to a brothel. So policemen, posing as customers, made a round of the brothels and questioned a few Bengali sex workers and enquired after the girl,�� said Subir Chatterjee, officer-in-charge of Behala police station.

One of the sex workers hinted that a girl from Calcutta was working for Jitendra Pandey at a hotel in the Lajpat Nagar police station area.

The officers proceeded to the area and discussed with the local police how to raid the place without attracting Pandey�s attention.

The Behala police officers described Pandey as an extremely shrewd person.

�If he even suspects that the West Bengal police are on the lookout for him and the girl, he will flee the city with her. So, we decided to tail him for some time to be absolutely sure that the girl was indeed the one we were looking for,�� Chatterjee said.

Her mother, waiting outside the hotel, identified the girl on Wednesday night and police decided to swoop down.

They arrested Pandey and rescued the girl from a room. A middle-aged man, too, was taken into custody and handed over to local police.

Pandey told policemen he bought the girl for Rs 20,000 from Nabanita, �She has sold me many other young girls before,�� he told the police.    

Calcutta, Sept 15: 
With the junior telecom engineers, sub-divisional engineers and divisional engineers on a work-to-rule, the STD and ISD connections in the city continued to be affected on Friday.

Calcutta Telephones offices were flooded with complaints from subscribers that they are unable to connect with Mumbai, Delhi, Bhopal and other places.

According to telecom department officials, subscribers called up to complain that on dialling any outstation telephone number, they were being greeted with a beep, after which the line went dead.

�We have been trying to get in touch with our ailing relatives in Delhi since morning, but in vain,�� said B.K. Ghoshal of Behala.

Sources at the Eastern Telecom Region (ETR), which monitors STD and ISD connections, said there had been a major breakdown on Thursday night and Friday morning.

�Our engineers worked overtime to repair faults and ensure that subscribers can call numbers in Delhi, Mumbai and other cities by evening,�� a senior manager of ETR said.

General manager of ETR, Ajit Singh, inspected plants at Amta and Jagatballavpur on Friday morning. According to ETR engineers, an STD call is routed through different paths before it reaches its destination in another state.

�The call goes through the local trunk exchange, or TRAX, from where it is routed to the trunk exchange of the place the subscriber is trying to reach. There can be congestion in the link route between the Calcutta trunk exchange and that of the outstation location,�� an ETR engineer said.

Apart from this, there can be �faults in the trunk exchange or link problem due to lack of maintenance�.

�The engineers who attend to faults and complaints, are on a work-to-rule, hampering maintenance work,�� a telecom department official said.

Chief general manager of Calcutta Telephones, K. Ramanujam, said linesmen and other staff are working overtime to repair external and internal faults.

�There were 22,000 faults on Thursday and we have managed to bring that number down by 2,000 today,�� Ramanujam said. By evening, the ETR officials claimed the situation had improved, with city callers able to connect with other cities at fewer attempts.    

Calcutta, Sept 15: 
A police team may be sent to London to trace an associate of murdered jeweller Vishnu Mahtani. This was disclosed by the police on Friday after they interrogated Keith Ray, arrested in connection with the murder. Keith was inside Mahtani�s New Park Street apartment on the night of the murder.

Deputy commissioner of police (detective department) Narayan Ghosh told reporters that the associate, identified only as Alex, was close to both Mahtani and Keith and has been living in London for the past year. �Alex is not connected with the crime in any way,� Ghosh clarified. �We need him simply to fill us in on Keith�s relationship with Mahtani and we may need the help of an external agency to trace Alex in London.�

Meanwhile, the police have inspected the records of the Sudder Street hotel where Keith had checked into with a friend after arriving from Shillong, where he studied, on September 6. Registering under false names as tourists, they stayed on till September 12, the day after the murder.    

Calcutta, Sept 15: 
On receiving a petition from a middle-aged man who lost his ailing mother after the injection of contaminated blood, Calcutta High Court has asked the state government to furnish a report on the working of the Central Blood Bank in the city and its network of branches.

In response to a petition filed by Alok Sarkar, a division bench of acting Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice B. Ghosh on Friday sought the report within the next fortnight. The report seeks details on the process of collection, preservation and testing of blood by the bank and its branches before supplies were made to hospitals and nursing homes.

Sarkar�s mother, Rani, 55, undergoing treatment for renal failure in a nursing home on Loudon Street, died on July 13 of Hepatitis B after an emergency blood infusion. The blood was supplied by the Central Blood Bank in standard pouches, on requisition made by the nursing home. The attending doctors had prescribed an emergency infusion as the patient had developed acute anaemia.

Her condition deteriorated immediately after the blood was injected. A clinical test conducted on a blood sample collected from the patient�s body after the infusion revealed the presence of HIV virus which wasn�t found in the test conducted prior to the administration of blood.

The physicians are sure that the blood supplied by the bank was contaminated and the condition of the patient worsened only after infusion of impure blood.

Sarkar�s counsel Bikash Bhattacharya and Atanu Roy Chowdhury told the court that a number of voluntary organisations were donating blood. However, the health department and its agencies don�t have the technology to test blood collected from donors.    

Calcutta, Sept 15: 
Calcuttans planning to catch Shah Rukh Khan in Mohabbatein or Hrithik Roshan in Mission Kashmir � films slated for release during Pujas � may be disappointed.

Cinema hall employees have threatened to cease work unless their pay-scales are revised by hall-owners. Employees of nearly 100 city halls will meet on September 18 to decide a date for the strike.

�We have no option but to go on indefinite strike. The last pay revision was in 1996. The 5,000-odd hall employees in the city are very poorly paid,� said Swadhin Aloke Mukherjee, joint general secretary of the Bengal Motion Picture Employees� Union.

The good news is that television serial producers have decided to go back to work. Technicians who had said that they would not work until they received a 30 per cent hike in daily wages withdrew their demand and agreed to hold talks about formulating a code of conduct.    

Calcutta, Sept 15: 
Scribes have decided to boycott coverage of all programmes attended by the police commissioner and official statements made by him till they are provided with a press corner at Lalbazar. The commissioner refused to talk to them on the issue on Friday.

Secretary of Calcutta Press Club, Tapanayan Ghosh, said on Friday that state information and home (police) minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya would be informed so that a solution could be reached at the earliest.

On Thursday, reporters squatted in protest in the corridors of the commissioner�s office, demanding a press corner like the ones at Writers� Buildings or the Calcutta Municipal Corporation.

Beleghata bomb arrest: Eight persons were arrested on Friday in connection with the bomb attack on an Ananda Bazar Patrika car during Thursday�s roadblock on Beleghata Main Road.

The arrested were produced in court and remanded to judicial custody till September 29. The bomb had exploded on the windscreen of the vehicle, injuring the driver.    

Shillong, Sept. 15: 
Unidentified assailants today gunned down a shopkeeper and seriously injured three persons at Iewduh, the commercial hub of this capital town.

East Khasi Hills superintendent of police G.H.P. Raju said five youth wearing identical leather jackets stormed the fruit market in Iewduh at 1.20 pm and opened fire indiscriminately. Fabian Roy Jyrwa, a shopkeeper, was killed on the spot, while three persons sustained serious injuries.

The injured have been identified as Ellybistor Langstor, Gautam Choudhury and Khlur Roy Mawlong. Doctors at the Nazareth Hospital said the condition of all three was critical.

Police are yet to ascertain whether the underground Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council had a hand in the incident.

Sources said the assailants fired over 10 rounds, but the police found only three empty nine mm pistol cartridges at the site.

Security forces have launched an operation in the area. Security arrangements at Nazareth Hospital has also been beefed up.

Raju said the attack could be the outcome of rivalry between criminal gangs. �The Iewduh market area is infamous for smuggling and other criminal activities. So we are trying to ascertain the antecedents of the person killed and the three who were injured in the incident,� he said.

Jyrwa, who hailed from Laitumkhrah, owned a shop in the area.

The capital city has witnessed a series of encounters between HNLC militants and security personnel since August 15.

Ulfa rebels surrender

Altogether 201 militants, three of them women, today laid down arms before chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta at the indoor stadium in Nagaon, reports our correspondent.

It was the second major surrender ceremony in the state in just over a month. All except one of the 201 rebels who surrendered were from the Ulfa. The odd man out was a militant of the United People�s Democratic Solidarity.

The rebels were led by Swapnil Dekaraja, the chief parichalak of the Ulfa�s Kolong-Kopili Anchalik Parishad. As the militants surrendered one by one, they were given a rose and a gamocha each by the chief minister.

�Almost the entire Nagaon district has been cleansed of Ulfa militants, except for a handful,� said inspector-general (special branch) of police S.B. Ramachandran. The majority of those who came overground today headed various branches of the Ulfa�s Nagaon unit.

The arms deposited by the rebels include AK-47 and AK-56 rifles, M-21 and M-16 rifles, and Sterling carbines. A huge quantity of ammunition was also deposited.

Nagaon deputy commissioner S. Abbasi said the entire Kolong- Kopili Anchalik Parishad, which had great influence in Nagaon and Morigaon districts, had come overground. Welcoming the surrendered rebels to the mainstream, the chief minister said the idea that AK-47 rifles could win �independence� had been proved wrong.    

Silchar, Sept. 15: 
Normal life was disrupted today due to a 12-hour bandh in south Assam�s Cachar district. The bandh passed off peacefully, with no untoward incident reported from anywhere.

The bandh was called in protest against Tuesday�s firing by Central Reserve Police Force jawans on a mob of students at Saidpur, 6 km south of here.

The bandh, separately called by the Youth Congress, the National Students� Union of India and the Barak Valley Students� Front, crippled normal life in the district.

Government offices, banks and shops remained closed as a result of picketing by bandh supporters. Traffic kept off the roads.

Section 144 had been clamped on the district. The bandh was staged against the backdrop of lingering tension triggered by the firing, which killed a 20-year-old youth and injured seven other school students.

Police sources here said the bandh did not evoke any response at Kabuganj, Dholai and Nutunbazar townships in the southern part of the district.

The police today arrested 75 persons for picketing at various places.

While bus services in the district were adversely affected, a passenger train left the station here early this morning.

Indian Airlines also operated flights to and from the district.    


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