Alert, not alarm, at airport
Record footfall at Book Fair
Catch a falling Star, gift it to the city
Health course runs into state stonewall
Nipamacha left in the lurch
Tripura forces rescue hostages in dawn raid

Calcutta, Feb. 11: 
The police are unsure what drove Ravi Dev Burma, CRPF constable on duty at the immigration counter of Calcutta airport, to go on a shooting spree early on Saturday, killing two policemen before shooting himself. Three others shot on Saturday have been admitted to SSKM Hospital.

Security at the airport was beefed up and the entry of visitors restricted throughout Sunday.

Superintendent of Police, airport, O.P. Gupta, airport director Kaushal Narinder and commander of the CRPF, 43 Battalion Unit, Naveen Bhatt, visited the spot and recorded statements of the airport staff, who were on duty near the immigration counter on Saturday. Later, a high-level meeting was held at the airport director’s office to review security arrangements.

Sources said the meeting concluded that

There is no security threat to passengers

One CRPF constable will continue to be on duty at the immigration counter

Only minor changes will be made to the security arrangements at the international terminal

“Saturday’s incident does not prove that there is a threat to the security of passengers,” said Narinder Kaushal, airport director. “The entry of visitors is being restricted because of the Haj pilgrims, who are leaving in batches from the international terminal. No existing rule of the airport has been altered,” added Kaushal.

Preliminary investigations have revealed that Burma had not been provoked into opening fire.

“We have recorded the eyewitness accounts, including that of Sanjib Basak, but we are yet to ascertain the reason behind Burma’s sudden fit of insanity,” said Naveen Bhatt CRPF commandant.

Police sources said Sanjib Basak, an engineer from IIT, Kharagpur, surrendered himself for interrogation at the airport police station on Sunday morning.

“Basak’s statement is nothing but an eyewitness account of what had happened on Saturday,” said officer-in-charge of the airport police station, Kalyan Chakraborty.

Bikramjit Pal, officer-in-charge, resting in his cabin at Woodburn Ward of SSKM Hospital, said there had been no altercation with Burma before the incident.

P.K. Dey, who was shot in his shoulder, is still in a serious condition and is recuperating at the cardio-thoracic unit. Burma, now in the Curzon Ward of the hospital, is in no condition yet to make a statement.

The next of kin of the policemen killed on Saturday have been promised Rs 2 lakh from the state government, Rs 1 lakh from the police commissioner’s fund and Rs 1 lakh from group insurance. The government has also announced that it will bear the cost of medical treatment of the wounded policemen.


Calcutta, Feb. 11: 
The 26th Calcutta Book Fair ended on Sunday with a record number of visitors — 2.2 lakh. More than 2.5 million people attended the fair this year, which officials of the Booksellers and Publishers’ Guild claimed was the highest turnout in the past 26 years. Books worth Rs 15 crores were sold at the 12-day fair, according to Kalyan Shah, general secretary of the guild. This, too, is the highest figure in 26 years.

The fair which began on January 30, concluded on Sunday evening with the guild’s announcement of the Netherlands being chosen as the focal theme of the fair in 2002. The theme of this year’s fair was India.


Calcutta, Feb. 11: 
The Star must shine bright, again. The mood of optimism shone through at a rally to revive Star theatre on Sunday morning. First citizen Subrata Mukherjee led politicians, actors and actresses from the residence of Girish Ghosh to the more-than-a-century-old theatre on Bidhan Sarani.

Politicians Ajit Panja, Sudip Bandopadhyay and Sadhan Pande joined film personalities like Madhabi Chakraborty, Moon Moon Sen, Shatabdi Roy, Tarun Kumar, Tapas Pal and scores of theatre-lovers in the ‘save-Star’ march.

According to the mayor, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation has set aside a corpus of Rs 8 crore for the project, to be monitored by a ‘Star revival committee’. “We have requisitioned the theatre building and the conservancy department has started clean-up operations from Sunday,” said Mukherjee. “We hope to gift the city a new-look Star this Puja.”

Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee has “welcomed” the mayor’s initiative to revamp the historic theatre hall, which is yet to be granted heritage status. Star used to be the property of former mayor Gobinda Chandra De. The hall was shut in 1990, and large parts were gutted in 1998.

Meanwhile, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s Rs 1- crore scheme to revitalise Minerva theatre, in north Calcutta, has been finalised. The government has already taken over the Beadon Street theatre hall, which is more than 125 years old. The chief whip of the CPM in the Corporation, Sudhanshu Sil, is overseeing the reconstruction of Minerva. If things go according to plan, the doors of the renovated, air-conditioned theatre will be thrown open on Poila Boisakh, April 14.

Of the Rs 1 crore required to purchase it from the Bakliwals, and revive Minerva, the government is pumping in Rs 50 lakh, with an equal amount to be contributed by Left Front MPs.


Calcutta, Feb. 11: 
After churning out thousands of scholars for several decades, Presidency College has run into rough weather with a scheme to provide students with an opportunity to build up their health.

A proposal to include physical education in the curriculum has been rejected by the state government, following objections raised by some education department officials.

Department sources said the officials were against the proposal because they felt starting a course in physical education could affect standards of academic excellence at Presidency College. Piyush Kanti Ganguly, state director of public instruction, admitted on Sunday that approval for the proposal is hanging fire. “No, we have not granted permission to the college to start the course. But the proposal is still with us,” he said.

The college planned to introduce physical education as an elective subject at the under-graduate level, following a directive from the University Grants Commission (UGC). “We are surprised the government is sitting on the proposal for so long, though we have all the facilities for teaching the course,” said a Presidency teacher.

If the subject is introduced, students will be able to opt for physical education as one of the main elective subjects for B.A. and B.Sc.


Imphal, Feb. 11: 
The 11-month-old United Front of Manipur (UFM) government led by Nipamacha Singh was reduced to a minority today after eight Manipur State Congress party (MSCP) legislators defected to the Opposition camp. The UFM now has only 27 legislators in the 60-member Manipur House.

In a series of dramatic events today, the MSCP’s central executive meeting chaired by working president Thounaoujam Chaoba Singh expelled chief minister Nipamacha Singh, deputy chief minister L. Chandramani Singh and five other Cabinet ministers for six years from the primary membership of the party for alleged anti-party activities.

Union minister of state for food processing Chaoba Singh, an arch rival of chief minister Nipamacha Singh arrived here from New Delhi. Addressing a news conference at the Speaker’s official residence, Chaoba Singh blamed the chief minister for precipitating the ongoing political and financial crisis in the state. He said 11 of the 17 members in the central committee decided to expel Nipamacha Singh and more expulsions were likely to follow.

The Union minister denied any split in the party and said his group was the original MSCP. When asked about the leadership issue in the Opposition camp, he said it would be settled amicably. Though he denied being in the race for leadership, he hinted that he was not averse to accepting the responsibility if offered.

MSCP vice-president G. Joykumar Sharma, a Nipamacha Singh loyalist, termed Chaoba Singh’s actions as illegal. He said the Union minister was not authorised to take any such action and added that Chaoba Singh and two of his supporters had been expelled from the party for alleged anti-party activities. He said the central executive meeting had no validity as it was held without party chief Nipamacha Singh.

The latest crisis in the MSCP surfaced after its legislature wing led by Nipamacha Singh decided to pull out of the National Democratic Front Alliance at the Centre. However, Chaoba Singh said the legislature wing was not authorised to take any such decision.

Today’s central committee meeting also decided to continue with the NDA. Chaoba Singh said he would approach Speaker Sapam Dhananjoy asking him to retain the seven expelled members as “unattached’’ members of the House. Sources said the Speaker, in favour of Chaoba Singh, may treat the chief minister, his deputy and other Cabinet ministers as “unattached’’ members.

Despite procuring a majority, the problem in the Opposition camp was far from over. The intense leadership tussle was expected to delay formation of an alternative government. The 22-member Manipur Democratic Front, which includes the BJP and the Samata Party, has two contenders to the post of the BJP legislature wing leader— R.K. Dorendra Singh and Radhabinod Koijam. Besides Chaoba Singh is also eying the leader’s post.

At present the ruling United Front of Manipur has 27 members in the 60-member House, whose effective strength is 59 because of the death of a Samata Party MLA.

MSCP, the dominant partner, has 22 legislators, the Federal Party of Manipur four and the Independent, one. The Opposition Manipur Democratic Front has 22 members of which the Samata Party has 12, BJP six, NCP two, the Janata Dal (S) one and MPP one. The breakaway Chaoba Singh faction has eight legislators. The Congress, which stayed away from the crisis, has one member and the Speaker.


Agartala, Feb. 11: 
In a major success in counter-insurgency operations, a combined force of police and Tripura State Rifles jawans of the second battalion today rescued six hostages from a militant hideout deep inside the forests of Tainani in South Tripura.

Inspector-general (law and order) K. Salim Ali said officers of Santir Bazar police station of South Tripura had arrested a hardcore National Liberation Front of Tripura militant Gitarai Reang on Friday.

During the course of his interrogation, Gitarai revealed that six abducted persons, including a teenaged girl, were being held captive in an NLFT hideout inside Tainani forest under Radhakishorepur police station.

Acting on the tip, the officer in-charge of Monpathar police outpost of South Tripura, Sajal Sharma, began combing the “extremely difficult” terrain from late last night. At 5.30 this morning, the militants, holed up in the hideout, found Sharma crawling up the mound on which the hideout was perched, leading a large force. As the militants opened fire, the police and TSR jawans fired back and forced the militants to flee.

The forces rescued 12-year-old Pinki Mitra who had been abducted on December 23 last year and labourers Rakhal Nama Samir Pal, Biswajit Sutradhar, Pradip Debnath and Sudip Debnath — all of whom had been abducted together on February 6.

Expressing satisfaction over the successful operation, Ali who has been touring the rebel-infested areas of the state, said, “The credit goes to the force and especially Sharma who has done exceedingly well in a very hostile situation.”

In a separate incident, the tribal civilians in Ballavi Sardarpara under Jirania police station overpowered a listed NLFT rebel and dreaded criminal Bishu Debbarma and handed him over to the police. Sources said villagers in Ballavi Sardarpara came to know yesterday that Debbarma had taken shelter in the village.

They surrounded the house, overpowered Debbarma and handed him over to the police. Debbarma is wanted for a series of murders, abductions and rape of tribal women.


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