Jewellery cache found in maid�s house
Prime accused in murder case arrested
Factories gutted in spate of fires
AGP has rebel links, says Laxman
New year�s day bandh called in Manipur
Erasama buries ghosts, limps back to normal
Church mulls court seal on conversion
Orissa cold to �plagiarist� label on expert
Trinamul gears up for Keshpur rally
Jharkhand dam row with Bengal

Calcutta, Dec. 30: 
The city police on Friday arrested a domestic help at Potashpur in Midnapore on the charge of stealing cash and jewellery worth more than Rs 8 lakh from a Moira Street apartment on December 21.

The jewellery, recovered from the house of the woman, Basanti Jana, includes two diamond necklaces, two earrings, diamond nose-studs and other necklaces studded with precious stones. The seized jewellery is worth about Rs 4 lakh. No cash was found.

The police said Basanti worked in the apartment of D.K. Goel, a government contractor, for more than 10 years. Recently, she fell in love with a local youth, Kshudiram, alias Khudi.

Basanti told the police that Khudi, a taxi driver, also from Midnapore, had promised to marry her if she could rob valuables from her employer. �The money and the jewellery would be for our wedding, he told me�, Basanti added.

Goel said Basanti had access to the keys of his almirah for the past six years. According to him, Basanti must have been passing on the valuables in the locker over the past two years. But on December 21, she was caught red-handed.

Goel lodged a general diary on the same day and Basanti confessed to the theft.

�On realising that Basanti has smuggled the jewellery to her village through Khudi, we sent a team to Potashpur with Basanti on Friday�, according to Shakespeare Sarani police station sources.

When a joint team of the city police and men of the local police station raided Basanti�s hut, people of the village gheraoed them. But after the police told them about the theft, the locals cooperated with the team.

The jewellery, wrapped in a soiled plastic packet, was hidden in an earthen pitcher buried under the floor. Basanti has been put in police custody while her mother and Khudi are absconding.


Calcutta, Dec. 30: 
After a playing a cat-and-mouse game with the city police for three months, Nisel Ekrar alias Vicky, 22, prime accused in the Kishore Hirawat murder case, was arrested in Karnani Mansion on Park Street on Friday afternoon.

Kishore, 28-year-old son of a wealthy jute merchant and a resident of Vivekananda Road, was found murdered behind Ruby hospital on September 25. According to police, Kishore had gone out on September 25, telling his mother that �he had an appointment with a schoolfriend�.

Kishore was taken to an apartment on Topsia Road. He was bundled into a Maruti van, after which his body was found near Ruby hospital.

On September 26, Vicky called up Bimal Jain, Kishore�s brother-in-law, to tell him that they were holding the latter hostage. Vicky demanded Rs 50,000 from Jain. After bargaining for an hour, they settled for Rs 15,000, which was to be delivered near Birla Mandir the next day.

Kishore�s parents handed over the cash at the appointed time, but Vicky again called them up on September 28, and demanded Rs.1 lakh, later settling for Rs. 10,000. In desperation, Kishore�s parents lodged a complaint with the Jorasanko police station on September 29.

Police started a case against Vicky and his gang on October 1.

In November, Sukhdev Singh and Raju Dutta, alias Honey were arrested. Sukhdev confessed that he had shot Kishore. They admitted that they had shared the ransom.

On being tipped off, plainclothesmen raided Karnani Mansion. Vicky was caught unawares, but his accomplices escaped. Vicky was produced at Bankshall court on Saturday. He is in jail hospital as he was injured.

Three arrested: The South 24-Parganas police on Saturday arrested Jishu Jain and two of his accomplices at their hideout in Tangra. They were wanted in connection with a number of cases, including murder, extortion, smuggling of narcotics and intimidation. There was shoot-out before the gang surrendered. The gang used to operate in Behala, Thakurpukur, Tangra and Kidderpore. Police managed to obtain Jishu�s cellphone number and traced his den after tapping his calls.


Calcutta, Dec. 30: 
Four fires have been reported from various parts of the city since Friday night. No casualties were reported.

Firemen said two rubber factories at Kustia near Tiljala and at Batanagar were gutted. A fire broke out at the Kustia factory early on Saturday morning. Firemen fought the blaze for over five hours. Though the cause of fire is yet to be ascertained, the extent of the damage was reported to be �enormous.�

Within hours, another fire broke out in a rubber factory at Uttar Jagtala near Batamore in South 24-Parganas. Three fire tenders were pressed into service.

Around 4 am, a lorry loaded with bottles of foreign liquor caught fire on J.N. Mukherjee Road in Howrah. This created panic among locals as the fire spread to a nearby slum, damaging a number of shanties. Firemen brought the blaze under control within an hour.

Around the same time, an electrical equipment shop on Ezra Street in central Calcutta caught fire, probably due to short circuit. About 10 fire engines took four hours to douse the flames.

Criminals held: Three criminals were arrested in the Port police station area after a night-long raid on Friday. The three, wanted for murder and extortion, were identified as Mohammed Mehboob, Raj Kumar Rai and Bapi Dhara. Arms and ammunition were seized from them, the police said./p>    

Guwahati, Dec. 30: 
BJP president Bangaru Laxman today alleged that the ruling Asom Gana Parishad-led alliance government is �hand-in-glove with the militant organisations of the state.�

He accused the state government of �patronising the antisocial activities of the surrendered Ulfa militants�.

Laxman said the recurrence of mass killings in the state and the absence of strong measures to prevent them �lends credence to the feeling that the state government is indeed hand-in-glove with the militant organisations�.

Expressing concern over killing of more than 100 Hindi-speaking people by rebels over the past two months, the BJP chief alleged that the terrorist outfits were having a free run in the state and the government has miserably failed to protect the lives of innocent people.

He appealed to the people of Assam to raise their voice against the �failure of the government to control sectarian violence and its criminal indifference to the fundamental duty of protecting people�s lives�.

Training his guns against the Congress, Laxman said, �There is a strong suspicion that several Congress leaders are encouraging the activities of the Ulfa. In fact, some Congressmen have written to their party president to this effect.� He hinted at the letter written by dissident Congress leader Hemoprova Saikia.

�It is high time that the people of the state show the door to the governments and parties that are incapable of crushing militancy and restoring peace in the state,� he added. As of now there is no proposal for his party to strike an alliance with the ruling AGP for the forthcoming Assembly elections, he said. Though he said it is too early to say anything on electoral strategy, Laxman gave enough indication that the BJP has not shut the door to AGP as yet.

The BJP chief also kicked off his party�s election campaign for the forthcoming Assembly election by addressing a public meeting organised by the Bharatiya Janata Yuba Morcha at Khanapara here. The rally marked the culmination of an awareness campaign launched by the party youth wing on December 5. Laxman appealed to the workers to strengthen the party so that it can contest all the Assembly seats.

Youth wing national general secretary Shivraj Singh Chouhan said 200 public meetings and 45 group meetings were organised in 29 organisational districts to establish direct contact with more than two lakh people. The meeting also spread the message to 20 lakh people to make them aware about the BJP�s poll preparedness besides highlighting the gravity of the influx problem and the mass killings.

Laxman said the upswing of violence in Assam, the recurring terrorism in Kashmir, the attack on the Red Fort and the whipping up of anti-India sentiments in neighbouring Nepal fall into a definite pattern. The militant organisations like the Ulfa are getting all kinds of aid from the ISI, he added.

�The BJP warns these forces that their isolation is complete and their game is over. The Union government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee will crush these forces if they try to subvert the peace initiative,� he said. He said the ISI has intensified its activities of late as the �prime minister�s ceasefire initiative has begun to yield positive results�.


Imphal, Dec. 30: 
A two-day Manipur bandh has been called by various women organisations in protest against the infamous Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 in the state. The recently-formed �Women�s Front against Black Laws� has called the 48-hour bandh on December 31, 2000 and January 1, 2001.

The women organisations (Meira Peibi) were agitated over the state and Union government�s apathy towards the fast-unto-death by three Manipuri women. The three � Irom Sharmila, Hidangmayum Pakpi and Yumnam Memcha � had launched the strike demanding the withdrawal of Act following the killing of 10 innocent civilians by the Assam Rifles on November 2.

While Sharmila launched her fast-unto-death on November 5, two others joined her on November 17. Sharmila stepped out of J. N. Hospital yesterday after she obtained a personal bond from a duty magistrate. She continued her fast at the Porompat PDA complex even as her condition deteriorated. This has compounded the situation. Police re-arrested Sharmila this evening and admitted her to the hospital.

The bandh on Sunday and Monday is likely to be effective as many voluntary organisations have supported it. However, the Christian community has appealed for postponing the bandh.

Evangelical Fellowship of India, Imphal, said Christians would be celebrating New Year eve and the bandh would disturb the religious proceedings.

All-Naga Students� Association, Manipur, while supporting the demand raised by the three women, suggested that the bandh be deferred so that it was backed by all communities.

The Kuki Students� Organisation has also appealed for relaxation of the two-day state bandh saying it would create inconveniences to Christians. The KSO, however, supported the fast launched by the three women. Despite appeal from various quarters, the women organisations seem determined to go ahead with their bandh.

Alumina controversy

Environmentalist Banka Behary Das has said that the Orissa government�s failure to follow the law had resulted in the serious conflagration in the Kashipur area of Rayagada district recently, reports PTI.

Referring to the police firing in Maikanch village under Kashipur block on December 16 last in which three tribals were killed, Das, in a letter to chief minister Naveen Patnaik, advised the administration to retrace its steps and allow the situation to cool down.

He alleged that the firing at Maikanch was a pre-planned attack on the tribals who had been opposing the establishment of alumina plants in the area. It was hatched by some non-tribal leaders who are backing the company with the police and administration, he charged in the letter, copies of which were released to newsmen in Bhubaneswar today.

Stating that he had been appealing to successive chief ministers for over three years to follow the legal path of consultation as per the Central law in regard to the Kashipur problem, Das accused the politicians and bureaucrats of refusing to follow the law and wanted to impose their dictatorial whim.

Das said consultation could never take place fruitfully when all the parties stiffened their stand and a battle-line was already drawn.

�For heaven�s sake advise the administration to retrace its steps and allow the situation to cool down. Otherwise, it will be a disastrous step,� he added.


Erasama, Dec. 30: 
The scars of last year�s supercyclone may not have healed completely. But, Erasama, the block in Jagatsinghpur district that suffered the worst battering on October 29, 1999, appears to be leaving the nightmares behind.

Erasama, which was just another block headquarters of Jagatsinghpur till the cyclone struck, surfaced on international consciousness for all the wrong reasons. It was the place where the supercyclone made its landfall, snuffing out thousands of lives. The devastation wreaked on the 1.4 lakh populace can never be felt through cold statistics, though the numbers do give some kind of idea about the destruction.

Of the total casualty of 8,479, Erasama alone accounted for 5,828 lives. The rest of the 127 affected blocks accounted for 3,000 lives. Thousands of houses, public utility buildings and miles of roads were damaged or washed away by sea water. The entire crop area of 21,000 hectares was affected by saline ingress, leaving the farmers in a hopeless situation. More than a lakh of livestock perished. The supercyclone seemed to have taken the life out of Erasama.

But a year down the line with the new millennium beckoning, Erasama is slowly reviving. The process of reconstruction may be painfully slow. Yet, the resilience of the people to spring back from the point of no hope has been amazing.

Of the 10,000 houses being constructed in Erasama, nearly 2,500 houses have been completed while the rest are nearing completion. Nearly 6,300 pucca houses will be rebuilt under the Indira Awas Yojana. Of these, 638 houses have already been completed.

The block has already rebuilt 134 buildings and repaired 78 kutcha roads at a cost of Rs 76.45 lakh. Another 37 buildings are being rebuilt and 141 roads repaired under the food-for-work programme. Eighty new primary school buildings, costing Rs 2.3 lakh each, are in the pipeline under Operation Black Board.

The block, which had just two cyclone shelters, now has 28 multipurpose cyclone shelters built by the Red Cross and the Paradip Port Trust.

Principal secretary in the panchayati raj department Chinmay Basu said the way the people of Erasama block have recovered from a hopeless situation is really remarkable. Though Orissa has seen largescale migration from disaster-affected areas in the past, this time it was not repeated in Erasama.

Saroj Jha, who worked as additional relief commissioner in Erasama during the cyclone is quite satisfied with the pace of the work in Erasama. Jha is now the inter-sectoral team leader in UN House, overseeing the NGOs work in cyclone-affected areas.

The main hindrance to rebuilding of Erasama is lack of proper roads. With most of the roads washed away, the task of transporting building material to the housing sites becomes very difficult.

Jha said the state could use the Erasama experience to prepare itself for impending disasters.


Agartala, Dec. 30: 
The Catholic church in Tripura is toying with the idea of filing a compulsory affidavit in court by anyone converting to the Catholic sect.

The church follows this system in Orissa, West Bengal and Bihar to avoid misunderstanding between the communities to which the converts originally belonged.

An indication to this effect was available from Archbishop Lucas Sarkar of Calcutta who spoke to newspersons after addressing a function at the Catholic-run Montford school in Belari area under Jirania police station of West Tripura.

Sarkar, who is in charge of the Calcutta diocese, indicated that the church was concerned over growing allegations of forced conversions. It was examining the feasibility of making affidavit as a compulsory procedure for any conversion.

�This has become necessary in the wake of allegations against the church in different parts of the country,� he said.

Sarkar added that in Orissa, West Bengal and Bihar, filing affidavits in court declaring change of faith had been made compulsory.

He also said this legal recourse helped to ward off allegations of forced or induced conversions. �In Tripura, we have already introduced the system of an intending convert to file an application to the Catholic church expressing willingness to change faith voluntarily,� he said.

Robin Gomes, another church leader from Calcutta, said the Catholic church was engaged in rendering service to the poor tribal people in the interior areas of the state.

Refusing comments on the activities of the Baptist church, Sarkar and Gomes said 95 per cent of the converts in Tripura were from the tribal community and there were 18,000 Catholics in the state.

Assam Rifles deputy inspector-general Brigadier B.K. Ponwar, who also attended the programme, appealed to the church to help restore peace in the state by impressing upon the tribals.


Bhubaneswar, Dec. 30: 
October 29 pitted man against nature in coastal Orissa. It was a walkover.

Twenty-five foot tidal surges; wind speed of 300 kmph (when coconuts fly as fast as bullets), it just had to be that way. But the aftermath has pitted man against man.

Don�t believe the peace. It is the peace of the graveyard that I find in what is left of Panda�s home in Sarbapatho, a village in the once-fertile land of Erasama in coastal Orissa. Helpless I put my arms around him, but really what can you say?

These are �excerpts� from the book, Orissa disaster: Agony of the Living, by S. Suri, director of Hyderabad-based National Institute of Amateur Radio and now Orissa government�s partner in setting up Ham radio stations along the coast.

That�s all very well. Except that what Suri has written in the 168-page book on Orissa cyclone is not his own writings. Most of the contents have been plagiarised from a national newsmagazine as well as newspapers that published newsreports in the wake of the supercyclone in 1999.

The writings taken from the November and December 1999 issues of a newsmagazine and replicated to the last commas and fullstops, have been passed off as Suri�s original writing.

For example, the writings on the cover jacket of the book has been taken from the November 29 issue of a magazine. From the December 13, 1999 issue of the same magazine, the author has taken almost the entire article with commas and fullstops. The book is replete with similar efforts by the author.

But it has not prevented the government from virtually rolling out a red carpet for him. Suri recently met the mandarins in the administration, including chief secretary D.P. Bagchi, to discuss Ham radio networking in the state.

Suri said it would cost the state Rs 32 lakh to instal Ham radios along the coast. Apparently impressed with his credentials and slick presentation, the government is reported to have sounded out Suri for the job.

The government, however, could not clarify why it was collaborating with a �plagiarist�? Rather, the chief secretary defended the government�s discussion with Suri. �I don�t know if he has written such a book. But apart from plagiarising, what other crime has he done?� he asked, when The Telegraph informed him of Suri�s credentials.

The man, who has palmed off somebody else�s writing as his own, admits that it was a mistake on his part. Denying having written the book, Suri, however, had no convincing reply when confronted with the facts. �The publishers of the book, took advantage of my good faith in them. I wrote some parts of the book, while the publishers inserted something on their own during the final print. I got to know of the plagiarisations later on,� said Suri.


Midnapore, Dec. 30: 
Trinamul Congress supporters are working overtime to make Mamata Banerjee�s Wednesday rally in Keshpur a success.

�We will prove that the Trinamul Congress is still a force to reckon with in Keshpur by bringing in more than two lakh people for the rally,� Mukul Roy, party general secretary, said.

On December 6, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had addressed a huge rally in Keshpur where he called upon the villagers, including those loyal to the Trinamul, to join the CPM so that they could �live peacefully in the town�.

Hours after Bhattacharjee left, senior CPM leaders went across the villages asking people to join forces with the communists to fight the terror �unleashed by Trinamul workers�.

Roy, who visited the area this morning with Trinamul youth front chief Sanjoy Bakshi, said the CPM was terrorising Trinamul activists on the eve of the rally.

�We have reports that the CPM is desperate to wipe out our party workers because of the steady erosion in their support base in Keshpur,� he said.

He alleged that �some CPM cadre had raped a minor last week just because her father happened to be our supporter�.

Bakshi said they had also set fire to the house of a local Trinamul leader, Gour Ghorai, and beat up a party worker, Kshirod Dolui, for distributing leaflets for the rally.

Dinen Roy, district Trinamul secretary, said the CPM has begun a whisper campaign in Keshpur villages, warning that whoever joined the rally would be fined.

However, Tarun Roy, CPM district secretariat member of Midnapore, denied the charge, saying the CPM would not stop anybody from joining the rally. �But we have information that it will be a flop show as people will stay away,� he added.

Chanchal Seth, a resident of Sorui village, said he would join the rally. �We may have to carry the red flags under pressure, but at heart we are all Trinamul workers,� he said.


Calcutta, Dec. 30: 
West Bengal and the newly-formed Jharkhand state are locked in a tussle over sharing water and electricity from the Masanjore dam.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee last week held a meeting with chief secretary Manish Gupta and other officials to find a solution. Both the states are claiming authority over the dam.

Gupta later spoke to his counterpart in the Jharkhand administration over telephone, requesting him to take action against those responsible for closing the dam�s water and power supply to consumers in West Bengal for the past one week.

The BJP-led Jharkhand government has demanded that a fresh agreement on water and power be reached. It had scrapped the 1949 agreement with the Bihar government, saying it was �one-sided and harmful to the interest of the Jharkhand people�.

The Masanjore irrigation dam and power project was constructed by West Bengal government in Bihar�s Dumka district, bordering Bengal�s Birbhum district in 1955. There were no hitches on sharing water and power from the dam till recently.

However, about 150 BJP supporters in Dumka�s Ranishawar area went to Masanjore dam on December 12 and threw out employees engaged in water and power supply operations. Since then Masanjore dam is idle and its safety at risk in the absence of engineers and power.

It is learnt that the Jharkhand BJP leaders submitted a memorandum to the West Bengal government, demanding compensation for the farmers who had lost their land due to construction of the dam in 1955.

The memorandum warned the state government that unless the demand was met, the BJP would not allow water and power supply from Masanjore to West Bengal.


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