�Abuse� drives catering institute girl to attempt suicide
New home for shopper cars
17-year ghost returns to haunt police
Benarasi, biryani and videotape
Trinamul picket at Topsia thana
Howrah station out of bounds for hawkers
Chhaya Debi dies after cerebral attack
Someplace special
AGP discovers panchayat raj
Cong breathes easy as rebels pull out of fray

Calcutta, April 26: 
A second-year student of the Institute of Hotel Management and Applied Nutrition at Taratala tried to kill herself on Thursday to escape alleged �exploitation� by a teacher, two classmates and a hostel employee. The police said the �tormented� girl had attempted suicide by slashing her wrists. She is in a critical condition, undergoing treatment in the intensive care unit of a city hospital.

Deputy commissioner of police, port, Harmanpreet Singh, said investigators have started questioning institute officials, students and hostel staff to ascertain the truth of a tip-off that the 20-year-old girl was being �abused� for the past few months, forcing her to try and end her �misery� on Thursday afternoon. The girl�s parents, who live in a neighbouring state, have been informed.

A student of the institute had called Taratala thana around 3 pm to inform the police that a girl had tried to kill herself in her hostel room. The informant claimed that the girl was being �exploited by a teacher, a hostel employee and two of her classmates over the past few months, driving her to despair�.

Apparently, the girl had returned to her room after appearing for the food and beverages practical test, the last of her exams. Later in the afternoon, her classmates came to check on her after she failed to meet them as scheduled. They raised an alarm after repeatedly hammering on the door.

Police said the door of the girl�s room had been broken down. �She was found lying on the floor with her wrists slashed and marks on her hands and neck,�� they added. The unconscious girl, bleeding profusely, was rushed to hospital.

�We were told that the people who were abusing her had warned her not to tell anyone about her ordeal. She could not concentrate on her studies, and did poorly in her exams... On Thursday, something must have happened. She just couldn�t take it any more and decided to take the tragic way out,� observed Swapan Guha, officer-in-charge of Taratala police station.

Some of her classmates stood anxiously in the hospital foyer, awaiting word of their friend�s condition. Most chose to remain silent, but a few contested the police version. They insisted the girl had attempted suicide after failing to cope with the pressure of the examination system.

Authorities at the institute, too, dismissed the police case. �She is not a particularly bright student and I think she tried to kill herself after she realised that she might fail the exams,�� an official said, on condition of anonymity. �We don�t know from where the police have got the idea that she was being abused on campus,� he added.

A couple of the girl�s classmates, however, claimed that she had confided in them. �We would often find her crying in her room. Initially, we had no idea what was happening. But then, she told us about how she was being abused by a group of people. She even told us their names. We urged her to inform the head of the institute, but she was very scared. Her tormentors would always threaten her with dire consequences if she spoke about this.�

The head of the institute was not available for comment. But someone who identified himself as an administrative officer told Metro on Thursday evening: �This is an internal matter of the institute and everything will be sorted out by Friday.��

The police will carry out further investigations on Friday. �We have spoken to many people to try and get to the truth. But the entire case hinges upon what the girl has to say.�


Calcutta, April 26: 
Globe, not Lighthouse. Lindsay Street, not Humayun Place. That�s where Simpark-II, geared to house 300 cars and ease the parking problem in the New Market area, is going to be.

The first computerised, multi-tiered car park will be commissioned on Rawdon Street in July. After that, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and Simplex Projects Limited will start on their second hi-tech parking lot in front of New Market and Globe cinema, on Lindsay Street, before the Pujas. The decision to shift the proposed parking bay from Humayun Place to the present Lindsay Street parking lot, is, apparently, advertisement-revenue driven.

The stretch in front of Lighthouse would have allowed a smaller structure, accommodating just 111 cars. The site in front of Globe will allow 300 cars and much greater billboard space up for grabs. This would make the project, being executed on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis, that much more feasible.

�There is some open space on Lindsay Street in front of the clock tower, which is being used as a parking lot now. We will just add two low floors of fabricated steel to the existing facilities,� explained the Corporation�s chief engineer (project and development), Nilangshu Bose. �This will also merge well with the beautification plans for Lindsay Street that the mayor has,� he added.

Pradip Chakraborty, secretary of New Market Welfare Association, has welcomed the revision in parking plans. �Business activity in New Market is largely dependent on the parking facilities available. At present, hardly 80 cars can be parked in front of the market. The proposed parking plaza will benefit us greatly,� he said.

Senior commercial manager of Simplex Projects G. Dasgupta allayed fears that Simpark-II would violate heritage rules governing New Market. �We are well aware of the fact that the market is a heritage structure. But the project will in no way violate the heritage conservation rules, as it will not block the market building in any way. Similar utility set-ups can be found in front of so many heritage structures in European countries,� he observed.

The Rs 8.5 crore Simpark at the Rawdon Street-Park Street crossing will open its computerised doors in July, six months after its scheduled inauguration. Dasgupta, who is overseeing the project, blamed the delay on technical problems faced in setting up the structures on Rawdon Street. �There is a four degree curvature on Rawdon Street, at the Park Street end, for which engineers from Aarding in Holland had to modify the original line of sight (LOS) design,� explained Dasgupta.

According to the agreement between the Corporation and Simplex, the company would cough up Rs 2.25 crore, while the civic body will provide a soft loan of Rs 3 crore. This will be repaid by Simplex in five years. Another loan of Rs 3.2 crore will be provided by Bank of Baroda. Simplex Projects will run the three-storeyed parking plaza for 20 years before handing it over to the Corporation. Simpark will accommodate 189 cars at a time, at Rs 10 an hour or Rs 50 for eight hours.

The Lindsay Street parking lot will add a new dimension to Subrata Mukherjee�s plans to beautify Lindsay Street into a tree-lined pedestrian plaza, complete with modern car-parking facilities, fountains and telephone kiosks. �Lindsay Street will no longer remain a congested thoroughfare for cars and cabs. Only shoppers� cars will be allowed to park in the new fee-parking zone,� said Mukherjee. Traffic will be diverted along Sudder Street, which connects Free School Street and Jawaharlal Nehru Road, and the Lindsay Street stretch will resemble �a real shopping mall�.


Calcutta, April 26: 
Seventeen years after 16 Ananda Margis were burnt alive on Bijon Setu, Calcutta High Court pulled up the police force for its failure to �bring the offenders to book�. Police chief D.C. Vajpai has been directed to furnish a report by May 21, stating what progress has been made in the investigation into the �mass murder� of April 30, 1984.

Justice Barin Ghosh delivered the rap on the knuckles of the police on Thursday morning, while responding to a petition moved by the Ananda Marga Pracharak Samitee seeking permission to hold a protest rally on April 30, from Deshapriya Park to Bijon Setu.

Bidyut Kiran Mukherjee, representing the Margis, informed the court that the rally was held every year to commemorate the black day and remind the people that the state administration �had done nothing� to punish the offenders.

At this, Justice Ghosh asked Bandana Mondal, counsel on behalf of the state, why the police had not �acted properly� in this case. �So many years have passed since the incident. Why couldn�t the police bring the offenders to book?� he demanded.

Justice Ghosh then directed Mondal to ask the police commissioner to appear before the court at 2 pm and clarify his position regarding the case.

At 2 pm, the state counsel informed the court that D.C. Vajpai was busy in pre-poll preparations. Justice Ghosh then directed the police chief to furnish a progress report on the case by May 21.

In court, Bidyut Kiran Mukherjee told Justice Ghosh: �Every year, the Ananda Marga is denied permission by the police to take out the procession, forcing them to appeal to the high court every time.�

Defending the decision to deny the Margis permission for their roadshow, Bandana Mondal, counsel on behalf of the state, informed the court that �they carry snakes and weapons� to the rally and also �dance holding human skulls�. Mukherjee denied the charge and said that it was a �silent protest march�, ending with a �prayer meeting� on Bijon Setu. �There is no question of carrying weapons or dancing with skulls,� he added.

Justice Ghosh gave the Margis the go-ahead for the rally, but ordered them not to carry snakes, weapons or human skulls.

According to police sources, at least 19 persons had been arrested for their alleged involvement in the crime. They were being tried at the Alipore courts. But Krishnananda Avadhoot, who deals with the legal matters of the Samitee, alleged that �no investigations had been carried out by the police, who had only managed to arrest a few cart-pullers and rickshaw-pullers� from Kasba. �None of the people named in the FIR, including the then CPM MLA from Ballygunge Sachin Sen, was arrested,� added Avadhoot.


Calcutta, April 26: 
If there is a roll call at the next wedding you attend, don�t be too surprised. With the peak wedding season approaching, and the number of robberies at weddings escalating, the Calcutta Police have come up with a host of measures that citizens can take to prevent theft. This includes recording the proceedings on video and sending a list of all invitees to the local police station.

The Lalbazar detective department had received a complaint from Babulal Jain last January that gold ornaments and other gifts worth Rs 2 lakh were stolen from a marriage party. The sleuths were clueless even after interrogating more than 100 invitees. They finally found a lead two months later, during the screening of the video recording of the reception. The cops identified seven �unfamiliar faces�. On further investigation, they found that three of them had a police record. The teenagers, residents of the Tiljala slum area, Ishaq, Reyaz and Raj, were picked up, and the stolen items recovered.

The modus operandi? The boys, all dressed for the occasion, strode smartly into the wedding hall. They kept to themselves, and politely smiled at passers-by. They had dinner along with the other guests too. While relatives and friends were busy watching the marriage ceremony, they quietly picked up the presents, kept in another room, and left.

�We have prepared the list of suggestions on the basis of the arrested boys� statement. Their confession helped us draw up the guidelines,� said Banibrata Basu, deputy commissioner, detective department. The suggestions are:

Send the list of invitees to the police station

Record the proceedings on video

Keep a close eye on people coming in and leaving

Set up a video camera near the entrance

If possible, instal close-circuit television sets at different points

�The arrested boys confessed that they plan such operations carefully. They save up enough money for clothes to wear to the wedding. They then keep a watch on a few wedding halls during peak season and pick what appears to be the softest target,� explained Basu.

The boys had been booked a year ago on charges of snatching and theft in residential areas. This was the first time they had planned to rob a wedding party. According to Basu, the trend is catching on among teenage thieves, who target such functions where security is lax and no one really notices who�s walking in and out.


Calcutta, April 26: 
Trinamul Congress workers demonstrated in front of Topsia police station and blocked Congress Exhibition Road for more than two hours on Thursday evening. Sultan Ahmed, sitting MLA and Trinamul Congress candidate for the Entally Assembly seat, said the demonstration and roadblock were organised to protest the attack on Nikhat Alam, a party worker.

Ahmed said CPM supporters slashed Alam with a razor on Wednesday night. The police, however, rubbished the allegation and said Alam, in an FIR lodged at Topsia police station, had complained that her husband had hired the miscreants. Alam told the police she had regular quarrels with her husband, and he had threatened her of dire consequences.


Calcutta, April 26: 
No hawking will be allowed in Howrah station, railway officials said on Thursday.

Station officials convened a meeting in the office of the divisional railway manager on Thursday morning and decided to promulgate Clause 144 of the Indian Railways Act, which prohibits hawking within the station.

However, the hawkers� unions have warned of a �bigger� agitation, which may affect the running of trains, if the station officials enforce the Act.

At least 55 hawkers, including seven women, were injured on Wednesday evening after they fought a pitched battle with Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel at the station. The hawkers went on to ransack the RPF office.

Railway Hawkers� Union secretary Uttam Lahiri lodged an FIR with the Howrah Government Railway Police station on Wednesday night.

He said the RPF men had �misbehaved� with a woman hawker on Platform number 5 on Wednesday night.

The RPF described Wednesday�s incident as �premeditated�. �We asked some of the hawkers to clear the area, as they had left no space for commuters. Suddenly, some of the hawkers started pelting stones at our men,� said a senior official of the RPF.

The RPF strongly reacted to a GRP statement which said that the force had �overstepped their jurisdiction�. The GRP had said that maintaining law and order within the station was their responsibility and not that of the RPF.

�We are deeply hurt. We will drive out the hawkers again if they encroach on passageways,� an official added.

�The allegation of molestation is baseless. The woman is 60 years old and resells used tickets. Moreover, she was caught red-handed by a woman RPF constable,� said a senior spokesperson of Eastern Railway. The senior security commissioner of the RPF, in a written complaint to senior railway officials, said the GRP had refused to lodge an FIR by three RPF constables injured in the clash.

�We will step up our drive against hawkers from Friday. Most of the railway crimes are committed by them. We have the support of the passengers,� the spokesperson added.


Calcutta, April 26: 
Noted actress Chhaya Debi passed away in a city nursing home early on Thursday morning. She was 80. Chhaya Debi was admitted to the private nursing home on April 19 after suffering a cerebral attack.

Born in Bhagalpur, Bihar, in 1921, she made her debut in Pather Sheshey in 1936. She acted in more than 200 Bengali, Hindi and Tamil films, with Tomar Rokte Amaar Sohag in 1994 being her last. A cousin of Ashoke Kumar, Chhaya Debi received the President�s award for her role in Tapan Sinha�s Apanjan. She also did playback recordings, having received singing lessons from Krishna Chandra De.

A pall of sadness descended on the news of her death. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said Chhaya Debi was an unparalleled actress. Governor Viren J. Shah said playing romantic to character roles, Chhaya Debi had enthralled the audience down the years. Director Mrinal Sen rated her as a performer of a high calibre. Theatre personality Sobha Sen observed that her death marked the end of an era in Bengali films.

Some of Chhaya Debi�s memorable performances are in films like Saheb Bibi Golam, Harmonium and Saptapadi.


Calcutta, April 26: 
Kaustabh, 8, would hide behind the cupboard in class, banging the desk repeatedly with his fists, rocking to and fro violently. Worse, he was �difficult� during the bus ride to and from school and his mother had a tough time controlling him. Now, he mingles with his class much more freely, can copy letters of the alphabet legibly and doesn�t bother �Ma� on the bus any more.

Along with Kaustabh, who is an autistic child, 51 others, in various levels of �developmental delay� and �intellectual impairment�, have found a perfect home in Noble Mission School, on Monoharpukur Road, in south Calcutta. A group of professionals, volunteers and families with special children has come together to create this platform for remedial education. The day-care school, opened by the non-profit organisation in March last year, has already been recognised by the social welfare department of the state government and awaits the mass education department�s recognition.

�We have in our school slow learners, children with borderline intelligence and mentally-challenged children, and our principal objective is to provide assessment, counselling and educational facilities for the developmentally delayed,� explains Lina Bardhan, clinical psychologist and vice-principal of the school. Noble Mission tries to �focus on functional ability� according to the child�s level of intelligence and reasoning. �Our training methods depend on our assessment of the child through a standardised checklist and interaction with the parents. We also have pre-vocational and vocational training programmes where we involve the parents,� says Bardhan.

The Noble Mission Parents� Self Help Group is being formed for parents. The school also takes up sibling counselling �to lessen the shock factor� at home. �We are like one happy family here at the school and our children have shown remarkable progress in this ambience of security,� says Shikha Halder, whose autistic son, Rajarshi, 15, has settled down here after traumatic stints at various normal schools.

�The best thing about Noble Mission is that the teachers are always accessible and keen to share with us their experiences at various seminars and workshops. This helps us help our children better,� smiles Sumita Chatterjee, whose 13-year-old-son Debomitra can�t wait to reach school every morning. Piyali Sen, 14, who used to suffer from violent epileptic fits and was �very aloof and withdrawn�, has now grown in self-confidence and knows how to interact with her peer group. �I love the painting, singing, drama and dance lessons here,� she smiles.

�Of course, our efforts are always directed towards integrating special children with regular children. But mainstreaming is easier said than done... Acceptance is still extremely poor in our society. A more realistic target would be sheltered employment or self-employment,� feels principal Manju Banerjee.

Kunal Dugar, 24, who represented the country in floor hockey at the Special Olympics in Austria �93, has benefited immensely from his stint at Noble Mission.

�I run an STD booth with my elder brother Pramod (who is �moderately-challenged�) after school,� says �mildly-challenged� Kunal. �He (Kunal) has excellent leadership qualities and has really developed his social skills here. He can count change and also handle customers at the STD booth,� says Bardhan.

The vice-principal, however, laments that parents usually seek expert assistance quite late in the day. �This is often due to lack of information and awareness regarding such institutions, or even worse, due to the social stigma still attached to developmental delay in our society. We simply wish they came to us earlier,� she says.


Guwahati, April 26: 
Taking a stand at variance with its decision to keep panchayat elections on hold for no less than five years, the Asom Gana Parishad has promised to decentralise power to the extent of allowing it to percolate down to the �lowest� level.

�To fulfil the wishes of the father of the nation and ensure a development-oriented society, the state�s powers will be decentralised and distributed at the lowest level,� says the ruling party�s manifesto under the heading, �Panchayati Raj system�.

The manifesto, a rehash of the previous one, was unveiled by chief minister and AGP president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta at the party headquarters here today.

However, Mahanta did not utter a word on the manifesto and left immediately after releasing it. Party leaders said he and some BJP leaders would attend a media briefing at the same venue tomorrow. Though panchayat elections were due in December 1996 � six months after Mahanta took over as chief minister for the second term � his government used up all possible excuses to postpone the polls.

With the Opposition, especially the Congress, using the issue as a stick to beat the AGP-led government with, elections were finally announced in December last year.

The Gauhati High Court intervened after the Mising and Rabha-Hasong autonomous councils said that conducting the elections without proper demarcation of the areas under their jurisdiction could lead to administrative problems.

As the nationwide population census began soon after, the State Election Commission put off the panchayat elections �for an indefinite period�.

All panchayat organisations elected during the previous Congress regime were dissolved by the Mahanta government in 1997.

The AGP�s �sudden� desire to decentralise power is obviously an electoral exigency, for it would not like to be seen as a party that espouses the cause of greater autonomy for the states but is loath to decentralising power in its domain. The AGP�s manifesto insists that its demand for the right to �self-determination� does not imply secessionist tendencies.

This clarification was necessary as the banned Ulfa caused many faces in the party to turn red in embarrassment in 1996. The militant outfit said the AGP included the issue of �self-determination� in its manifesto after consulting it.

The new AGP manifesto refers to the autonomy issue just the way the previous one did. �India is a union of states, and hence the central administration should rest on a federal base. This means vesting more powers on the states,� it says. Like the 1996 manifesto, the new one makes no mention of the contentious Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act.

On the issue of illegal infiltration, the AGP�s statements are guarded. Putting the ball in the Centre�s court, it says, �The AGP will pressure the Centre into taking immediate steps to resolve the issue without harassing any genuine Indian citizen.�

Claiming to have succeeded in restoring peace and ushering in a �green revolution�, the party blames the Congress for all the problems plaguing the state.

The AGP manifesto even asks the electorate a question, �How could the Congress, once rejected by the people, come back to power (in 1991)? History will not forgive anyone if the anti-people Congress is voted to power again.�


Guwahati, April 26: 
The snowballing dissidence in the Assam PCC today blew over when several rebel Congressmen withdrew their nominations in favour of the party�s official candidates.

PCC chief Tarun Gogoi had appealed to all rebel candidates to pull out of the contest yesterday.

The battlelines have been drawn for the May 10 Assembly election with a total of 914 candidates left in the fray for the 126 seats. Fifty-three contestants withdrew their candidature today, the last date of withdrawal of nominations.

Dissident Congress candidates who withdrew their nominations include Prasanna Malla Buzarbaruah whose followers went berserk at Rajiv Bhawan on Tuesday after he was denied the party ticket. Buzarbaruah was arrested but released later.

The PCC leadership also managed to convince Rashidul Haque, Phani Sharma and Kiron Gogoi among other rebel candidates to withdraw from the fray in favour of the official nominee.

However, the PCC president�s promise to accommodate those who were denied candidature in �development projects� if the Congress came to power, failed to woo senior dissident leader Mukut Sharma in Nagaon.

Sharma claimed that thousands of Congress workers had resigned from the party and started campaigning for him to defeat the official nominee. He told newspersons at Nagaon today that about 400 minority people have offered to donate a day�s wage towards his election fund.

The Opposition party is ready with its poll manifesto which will be released by the PCC president tomorrow. The ruling AGP and its ally, the BJP are also scheduled to jointly announce their poll strategy tomorrow.

Chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta is contesting from both Barhampur and Dispur. While six candidates are in the fray in Barhampur, there are 12 contesting from Dispur.

In Tezpur constituency, eight candidates are in the fray. Tezpur is likely to witness a keen contest between Brindaban Goswami (AGP), Rabin Goswami (Congress) and �dissident BJP leader� Bijit Saikia.

The central executive committee of the All-Assam Students� Union today decided that the organisation would remain neutral and not back any party in the polls.

AASU general secretary Amiyo Kumar Bhuyan said the student body was of the view that the people of Assam would accept only those parties or candidates with a clear stand on issues like the Migrants� Act, reservation of seats in Parliament for indigenous people and preparation of correct voters list. The total number of candidates this time is less than that of the 1996 polls. There were 1,228 candidates in the fray in the last Assembly elections.


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