HS student gunned down
Sinha and Paes lonely on R-Day honours list
Cellphone thieves fall into police net
Fewer deaths due to pollution drop
Rebel hideout busted, one killed
Meghalaya to retain BSF
R-Day celebrated
Tripura R-Day troubled
Manipur Samata chief dead
OBC reservations put Left Front govt in fix

Calcutta, Jan.27: 
Biswajit Bhattacharya, 20, a higher secondary examinee who was to sit for the final exam beginning March 28, was murdered in chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s Jadavpur constituency on Friday evening. He was gunned down under “mysterious circumstances” at Bijoygarh in the Jadavpur police station area.

Only last November, Kaustav Ghosh was shot dead by dacoits who raided his Purba Jadavpur house. Police said Biswajit was shot from point-blank range. The bullet pierced his right chest.

His family members are Trinamul Congress supporters and his elder brother, Himalay Nirjhar, is a Trinamul functionary. Police, however, denied that there was any political motive behind the murder. In spite of a combing operation no one could be rounded up. The death occurred around 8.15 pm when Biswajit went out to collect Saraswati puja subscriptions.

According to Sridhar Bhattacharya, the victim’s uncle, Biswajit had gone to a relative’s house to watch the film Border being shown on TV. After returning home he left again to collect puja subscriptions, never to return.

He then went to the local club along with his friend Ram. Biswajit went to the nearby field to relieve himself when he was shot. Viki, an 18-year-old boy, was the first person to discover the wounded Biswajit. Viki had heard the sound of firing but could see no one around. Locals took Biswajit to MR Bangur Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Local people described Biswajit as an “innocent” young man. They feel that the assailant had perhaps come to kill somebody from a rival group and failed to identify their man.

Shanties gutted: A fire broke out on Narkeldanga Main Road gutting five shanties in a slum on Saturday morning. Five fire tenders were pressed into service. The residents pelted stone at policemen when they went to the spot. Local people alleged that the fire brigade reached the site an hour late. No one was injured.


Calcutta, Jan.27: 
Sourav Ganguly did not get it, even though almost every one thought that he richly deserved it. With the exception of Dr Bikash Sinha, director of Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics and Variable Energy Cyclotrone Centre, and tennis star Leander Paes, both of whom got the Padma Shri, Calcutta was by and large ignored.

“This is such a shame,” said transport and sports minister Subhas Chakraborty. “I think Calcutta and our state have been totally neglected by the Centre. In fact, Sourav Ganguly was a prime candidate for the national honours and should have received one of the awards.”

This sentiment was echoed in many quarters, with some going to the extent of saying that Calcutta was virtually left out of the honours list because West Bengal is ruled by a Left government. Neither Sinha nor Paes was available for comment.

“The bias of the Centre is clear,” complained Runu Roy, who lives on Wood Street. “The Centre could have at least posthumously conferred the Bharat Ratna on Shyamaprasad Mookerjee.”

Calcuttans felt that while Dr Sinha, who has done significant work in the field of nuclear physics, and Paes both deserve the award, there were some others, too, who could have been similarly awarded.

Filmmaker Mrinal Sen believes that Calcutta has been deprived. “Don’t tell me there are no other deserving people in Calcutta,” Sen said. “There are so many creative people here and, thus, the city should be more fairly represented.”

At least one well-known author does not believe that any particular city, even Calcutta, should get preferential treatment. Said author Shankar: “Those who deserve it should get the awards. I do not believe that we should think along parochial lines. Our focus should be national.”

But magician P.C. Sorcar said: “I must say that we have a number of deserving candidates in Calcutta but they are not being chosen due to some unknown reasons.”


Calcutta, Jan.27: 
The mainly teen gang that specialised in filching cellphones and cash cards from the showrooms of dealers in the city and Howrah, and selling them to other gangs has been busted with the arrest of eight members in Howrah Maidan, Shibpur and Metiabruz on Saturday evening.

Posing as customers, the goons would walk into a dealer’s showroom minutes before it closed down. After a while, they would whip out revolvers and holding the dealer hostage, they would order the employees to hand over the handsets of mobile phones and cashcards to them. They would then tie up the employees and make sure they couldn’t leave the shop. They would take the shopowner along with them only to throw him out of their car in a desolate area, a few kilometres away from the shop.

“We have always wondered how these criminals operate in the city with cellphones, as we generally check the antecedents of a customer and even his address before providing him connection,” a Spice Telecom official said.

The last time the gang had struck a fortnight ago, they had walked off with 32 mobile handsets and cash cards from a shop in the Howrah Maidan area. According to the police, the gang used to sell the loot at a cheaper rate within days of committing the crime, as the demand for cutprice mobile phones and cashcards is very high.

After being tipped off that the gang operated from Howrah, the police decided to form a special team to track down the criminals in Shibpur, Howrah. After the arrest of two members of the gang in Shibpur, it did not take long to catch up with the rest.

According to police, all the members of the gang are not history-sheeters. Some of them are absolutely new to the world of crime. “The leader of the gang is Sunil Ray, alias Babua. He used to be the right hand man of Ramua, one of the most dreaded criminals of Howrah,” police added. Ramua is in jail now.

Four mobile handsets and cashcards worth about Rs 30,000 and three revolvers were seized from the criminals. More raids will be conducted, the police said.

Book release: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will release his biography Buddhadeb — Anya Manush, written by journalist Shyamalendu Mitra at College Street Coffee House on Sunday at 3.30 pm. Sheriff-designate Suchitra Mitra will also be present.

He will meet writers intellectuals, ministers and political leaders at an adda session there.


Calcutta, Jan.27: 
A significant lowering of air pollution in the city has resulted in a drop in Calcutta’s annual death figures. This was announced on Saturday by state environment minister Manab Mukherjee, who quoted air quality monitoring data and associated the same with the lowest death rate since 1997.

While the count of the respirable particulate matter (rpm) in air has come down from 176 micrograms per cubic meter in 1997 to 99 micrograms per cubic meter in 2000, Mukherjee pointed out that the mortality figure in Calcutta, too, was down from 58,970 in 1997 to around 40,000 in 2000.

“We are not saying that the lowering of rpm count is the only cause for a lower mortality rate but it has certainly contributed in lowering death of heart and lung patients,” the minister said.

While the levels of sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide and oxides of lead are within limits, the main problem is excess of particulate matter in air. Of the 25 tonnes of particles emitted by city industries, 64 per cent comes from Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation’s Cossipore generating station.

“We have suggested that the CESC keep the plant shut, at least in winter, when people are most susceptible to respiratory diseases,” Mukherjee said.

In 1995, the World Health Organisation had put the number of deaths in Calcutta due to exposure to air particles at 5,700. Eighty per cent of the city’s population suffered from respiratory disorders, he pointed out.

Mukherjee said the transport department has once again been asked to phase out old vehicles. “I am not saying that we junk all old cars but that old car owners be given the option of changing the engines or running the car on liquefied petroleum gas,” he said.

The next biggest pollution source is boilers in small units that use coal.

There are 30 such units in the Corporation area and 125 in the Calcutta metropolitan area. Mukherjee said these units would be asked to use oil as fuel in their boilers.


Shillong, Jan. 27: 
Security forces gunned down a hardcore A’chik National Volunteers’ Council militant at Dobangle and arrested another in East Garo Hills district today.

A.R. Mawthoh, superintendent of police, East Garo Hills, told this correspondent over telephone from Williamnagar that they got information early in the morning that the villagers of Bataka had captured an ANVC militant, Wedison Sangma, who was trying to extort money from them.

“We immediately sought the help of Assam Police and CRPF personnel to carryout an operation in the area,” Mawthoh said.

The team later busted an ANVC camp at Dobangle. Hardcore militant Moti Marak died on the spot during the gunbattle. An AK-56 rifle, several rounds of ammunition and two Chinese-made grenades were recovered from the camp.

However, two NSCN, two NDFB and a few ANVC militants, operating from the camp, managed to escape. A combing operation has been launched in the area.

“The credit for today’s operational success goes to the people of Bataka village, who helped the police to arrest the ANVC cadre and bust the militant camp,” Mawthoh said. This is the first major encounter with ANVC in Garo Hills districts this year.

Shillong firing: There were reports of firing in Upper Shillong last evening. Though the government claimed that the CRPF jawans retaliated after they were fired upon by militants, residents of the locality blamed the security personnel for the incident.

Villagers of Pynthor told this correspondent this morning that they were shocked when bullets hit their houses. Bullet marks were seen in many houses of the locality. “We don’t think the CRPF checkpost was attacked by any militant. There was no one on the road last evening,” some of the villagers said. They also alleged that the police did not visit the damaged houses even after a formal complaint was lodged.


Shillong, Jan. 27: 
Meghalaya chief secretary J.P. Singh today said the two companies of Border Security Force and three additional companies of CRPF, requisitioned by the government recently, would stay as long as their services were required.

The BSF and CRPF companies had been specially requisitioned by the government “to assist” the state police in maintaining law and order during the Republic Day celebrations.

“We are happy to see that the Republic Day celebrations passed off peacefully despite protests by the militants,” Singh said. The chief secretary said it was beneficial to be vigilant in maintaining law and order. “As there was no incident yesterday, we cannot take things lightly,” he added.

Special security arrangements were made in the state following a 36-hour bandh called by the militant outfits in protest against the “forceful occupation” of their land by “the Indian government”.

Singh claimed the law and order situation here was “totally under control” yesterday as the entire city was divided into sectors and senior police officials undertook regular patrolling. “The strategy worked,” he said.

Governor’s stand: Unfurling the Tricolour at the Jawaharlal Nehru Sports Complex here yesterday, Governor M.M. Jacob claimed that Meghalaya had remained free from communal disturbance during the past year.

“I congratulate the people of the state who remained unprovoked by various communal elements who have been trying to foment disharmony among different communities,” Jacob said.

The Republic Day celebrations here, despite being colourful, were a damp squib as few people participated, following a 36-hour bandh called by militant outfits.

Officer awarded: T.K. Dutta, intelligence officer of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Shillong, has been conferred with the presidential award on Republic Day for his meritorious service.

Militants killed: Two Naga militants were killed and one was arrested in an encounter at Richu village in Karbi Anglong district yesterday, reports our Jorhat correspondent. Troops of 2 Mountain Division arrested an Ulfa militant, Nandeshwar Dohotia, in Tinsukia district yesterday.


Kohima, Jan. 27: 
Nagaland joined the rest of the country in celebrating the 52nd Republic Day amid tight security yesterday.

Re-affirming the state’s commitment to peace, the function resolved to create an atmosphere congenial to all-round socio-economic development.

Unfurling the Tricolour in the state capital, Governor Om Prakash Sharma launched a scathing attack on terrorist activities in the state.


Agartala, Jan. 27: 
Republic Day celebrations in Tripura passed off more or less peacefully although two non-tribals are suspected to have been killed after being abducted from the Dalubari area under Dhalai district yesterday.

In a separate incident yesterday, four militants were arrested after an exchange of gunfire between a combined force of policemen and CRPF jawans and a group of National Liberation Front of Tripura militants in Amarpur subdivision of South Tripura.

Police sources said five non-tribal woodcutters had gone to a forest near Dalubari under Salema police station of Dhalai district yesterday to collect bamboo. Three of the woodcutters returned home safely but two of their companions did not return. They are as yet untraced although combing operations were undertaken.

Sources said the two woodcutters, who are yet to be identified, might have been killed by NLFT militants after abduction as the outfit has been enforcing a ban on entry of non-tribals into reserve forest areas.

In another incident, a combined force of police and CRPF jawans was attacked when it reached Nitya Bazar area under Killa police station of South Tripura yesterday to conduct a special operation aimed at flushing out militants. As soon as the force reached Nitya Bazar area, a group of nine NLFT rebels led by Punpun Jamatya opened fire.

The police personnel and CRPF jawans also retaliated, forcing the rebels to flee into deep jungles. Later they arrested two listed NLFT militants, B.K. Jamatya and Jiten Jamatya, as well as two collaborators, Hiramoni Jamatya and Ramen Malsum.

In another incident, a group of CRPF jawans of the 90th battalion had gone to remote Burburia-Gamakobari area yesterday to conduct search operations. On their way back in the afternoon, the CRPF jawans came under gunfire from a group of NLFT militants led by Ratan Jamatya, who were perched on top of roadside hills. The CPRF jawans retaliated, forcing the militants to escape into the jungles. No casualty has been reported.

Sources said over the past fortnight, a large group of heavily armed NLFT rebels entered the thickly-wooded areas of Amarpur subdivision of South Tripura from their base in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh and may go in for a major offensive soon.


Imphal, Jan. 27: 
State Samata Party president and MLA Basantakumar Wangkhem passed away yesterday following a cardiac arrest at Noida Medical Centre in Noida.

Basantakumar’s sudden demise has shocked the Opposition camp in Manipur as he was instrumental in ensuring that the Samata Party emerged as the largest Opposition party in the state.

Fifty-three-year-old Basantakumar, who is also a pioneer of food processing industries in the state, is survived by his wife, two daughters and two sons. He had left Imphal for treatment at New Delhi on January 15.

Opposition Manipur Democratic Front (MDF) leaders said Basantakumar had booked a seat at New Delhi’s Apollo Hospital for a kidney transplant. As there was hectic politicking to topple the Nipamacha Singh-led ministry, Basantakumar had tried to postpone the transplantation by undergoing dialysis at Noida Medical Centre.

Sources said the dialysis was conducted on Thursday at the Noida Medical Centre, but his condition worsened. He died yesterday at the centre following a cardiac arrest.

His body was brought here today. Chief minister Nipamacha Singh, his Cabinet colleagues, Speaker Sapam Dhananjoy and all the Opposition members paid their last respects to the departed leader at the Assembly campus.

After that his body was taken to the state Samata Party office for the party workers to pay their last respects. The body was then taken to Kshetrigao constituency, which he represented. The last rites will be performed tomorrow, family source said.

Basantakumar was first elected on a Janata Dal ticket from Kshetrigao Assembly constituency in 1995. But he could not complete the full term after he was disqualified from the House under the Anti-Defection Law. He then joined the Samata Party, led by defence minister George Fernandes.


Agartala, Jan. 27: 
The ruling Left Front government is in a fix over the growing demand for reservations for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in Tripura.

In the monsoon session of the Assembly last year, the state government had said efforts would be made to hold discussions with the attorney-general in Delhi to take a final decision on the issue.

But despite two successive meetings held by education minister Anil Sarkar, who is also in charge of Scheduled Caste affairs, the all-party team to be sent to Delhi could not be constituted in the absence of leader of the Opposition Jawahar Saha. The limit for reservations in the state has remained frozen at 47 per cent for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, physically handicapped and ex-servicemen.

Till July last year, the state government had made the plea that according to the Supreme Court judgment in the celebrated Indra Kumar Sawhney versus Union of India cases on November 16, 1992, reservation benefits in a state could not be taken beyond the 50-per cent limit.

But Congress MLA and OBC leader Ratan Lal Nath raised the issue in the Assembly and pointed out that the 50-per cent limit was not a mandatory ceiling and the judgment clearly spelt out that in exceptional circumstances, like remoteness of a state from the heartland and state of backwardness, more than 50 per cent reservation could be granted. Nath had also pointed out in the course of a short notice discussion that the Tamil Nadu government had enforced 69 per cent reservation.

Apart from this, Justice P.K. Shyamsundar, the then chairman of the National Commission for Other Backward Classes, had written to chief minister Manik Sarkar on July 20, 1999, pointing out the fallacy in the stand of the state government and stressing the need for extending reservation benefits to OBCs in Tripura beyond the overall limit of 50 per cent.

Replying to the discussion, education minister Anil Sarkar, who was officiating as leader of the House in the absence of chief minister Manik Sarkar, assured the House that the government was sympathetic to the cause of the OBC communities and would take positive action.

Nath said Sarkar had held two successive rounds of discussions over the issue for constituting an all-party team which would go to Delhi to seek the opinion of the attorney-general. But the team could not be constituted allegedly because of the ambivalent stand adopted by leader of the Opposition Jawahar Saha.

Nath said efforts were still on to send the team and he was sure the attorney-general would give the green signal to extend reservation benefits to OBCs beyond the 50-per cent limit.


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