Girl picked up at Howrah, raped
Gang of five storms flat, flees with gold, cash
Shower to shower, city submerged
Jadavpur teachers register protest
Labour trouble in biryani cauldron
Medical test rules out double suicide pact
Gherao greets hawker shift
For every new car, plant three trees
Full Left house for Basu class
Bid to recruit 17000 teachers

Calcutta, June 18: 
A 13-year-old girl was picked up near Howrah station by two youth who allegedly raped her in a Matador van on Sunday night. Police have arrested one of the accused, while a hunt is on for the other.

The girl left her Konnagar home after an argument with her parents on Sunday evening. She boarded a local train and reached Howrah station around 9.30 pm.

�She was headed for a relative�s house on Amratala Street, in the Burrabazar area,� said deputy commissioner, detective department, Banibrata Basu.

On reaching Howrah station, the girl started asking around for directions to Burrabazar. In the steady drizzle, she set off alone in search of Amratala Street.

Around 10 pm, two youth, later identified as Laddu and Shankar, spotted the girl while they were passing by in a Matador van.

When she asked them for directions, they asked her to board the van and promised to drop her off at her relative�s place.

The police claim that the two young men then raped the teenager.

Around 10.45 pm, they dumped the girl near Burrabazar. The girl then got up and started searching for help.

It was then that she spotted two policemen at a distance. The girl stopped the constables from Burrabazar police station and narrated her tragic tale. �She was weeping inconsolably and was clearly in pain,� the policemen said.

One of the constables stayed put with her while the other rushed to the thana for reinforcements. He soon returned to the spot, in a van, with other policemen.

After the girl gave them a detailed description of what the two accused looked like, the cops launched a thorough search of the area.

The girl, suddenly, drew the attention of the police to a Matador van parked in a bylane of Burrabazar. She insisted that it was the van in which she had been assaulted.

The cops surrounded the van and then opened the door to find Laddu in the driver�s cabin. He was dragged out of the van and arrested.

The girl was escorted to the police station by one of the constables and later taken for medical examination.

The police then combed the entire Burrabazar area in search of Shankar, but failed to track him down.

�It is likely that Shankar had gone to get dinner for both of them, while Laddu remained in the van. He must have seen his partner being arrested and fled under the cover of darkness,� police said.


Calcutta, June 18: 
In another daring robbery, a gang of armed miscreants stormed a city businessman�s apartment on Jhowtala Road, in the Beniapukur police station area, late on Sunday night and looted jewellery and cash in excess of Rs 1 lakh before walking out.

The five criminals, in their early 20s, entered 45-year-old Jafar Alam�s flat around 11 pm, armed with revolvers and bhojalis. They didn�t face any problems getting in, as the main entrance was open. After the looting spree, they walked out unchallenged.

Banibrata Basu, deputy commissioner, detective department, said the miscreants entered the premises through the open front door, taking the residents by surprise. �Alam was chatting with his two NRI sisters, Nasreen Khaled and Farzana Bhakat, in the courtyard after dinner,� Basu added. Nasreen had come to the city from Qatar and Bhakat from Bhutan.

The armed youth then took their positions and cordoned off Alam and his sisters, while one of them stood on watch at the main entrance. One took out a country-made revolver and ordered Alam and his family members not to shout or move.

The goons first asked the two sisters to hand over their jewellery. �When they refused to comply, two of the miscreants started snatching the ornaments away,� said Basu.

After that, two of the gang entered Alam�s drawing room and took Rs 18,400 from the almirah. The operation was completed in less than 20 minutes.

According to Alam, the goons threatened him with �dire consequences� if he informed the local police. �They just walked away towards the Park Circus crossing,� Alam told the police.

The criminals were clad in trousers and T-shirts and spoke haltingly in Hindi.

Sleuths of the detective department�s dacoity wing visited the flat after the incident. After preliminary investigations, they said the criminals might have come from the Tangra area.

�Our officers are combing the nearby areas and we hope the goons will fall into our dragnet soon,� said the detective chief.

This was the third case of dacoity in the last two weeks. On June 9, four armed youth stormed a petrol pump on B.T. Road, under Cossipore police station, and decamped with Rs 1.10 lakh. They also opened fire, seriously injuring an employee of the pump.

Barely 48 hours prior to that, five armed youngsters raided the office of Century Plyboards on Lyons Range, just behind Writers� Buildings, and looted Rs 10 lakh in broad daylight.

The detective chief said police have got some leads on the petrol pump dacoity. �We hope to round up the culprits within a day or two,� he said. No headway, however, has been made in the Century Plyboard robbery case.

Couple electrocuted: Ramesh Sardar, 40, and wife Kanti Devi, 36, were electrocuted in Radhagobinda Lane, in Jorabagan, on Monday. Kanti Devi touched a live electric wire while hanging a towel to dry. Her husband tried to save her and both were electrocuted.


Calcutta, June 18: 
Forecast: Light to moderate rain on Monday. Reality: Heavy rain lashed Calcutta and parts of south Bengal. Result: Large parts of the city and its adjoining areas were inundated and there was widespread disruption in traffic.

R.N. Goldar, however, was adamant. �Rainfall in the city on Monday was 39 mm between 8.30 am and 5.30 pm. In meteorological terms, heavy rainfall signifies 70 mm in 24 hours. So, our forecast was correct. Only Diamond Harbour came close, with 66 mm,� said the director of the Met office.

�There is a trough of low pressure spread over eastern UP and east-central Bay of Bengal across Jharkhand and Gangetic West Bengal. An associated cyclonic circulation lies over Gangetic West Bengal and its neighbourhood, extending up to 6 km above sea level. As a result, rainfall will be widespread in Bengal on Tuesday as well. The weather is likely to improve from Wednesday,� said Goldar.

At Ballygunge Station Road, six pavement-dwellers were injured when a wall caved in near the railway tracks. Tram services were suspended for hours at Kankurgachhi, Jorasanko, Bidhan Sarani and Bowbazar.

Large areas of Kasba, Bhowanipore, Southern Avenue, Nirmal Chandra Street, Ganesh Avenue, Kalakar Street, College Street, Thanthania, Rabindra Sarani, Burrabazar and Dum Dum were under ankle to knee-deep water. The Automobile Association of Eastern India received over 40 calls from motorists whose cars were stranded on waterlogged streets.

Airport sources said no flights were affected. Only the Calcutta-Kathmandu flight was cancelled for �shortage of aircraft�, an Indian Airlines spokesperson said.

Rajiv Deb, member, mayor-in-council, in charge of drainage and sewerage, said the �task force� to combat waterlogging, comprising engineers of the drainage and conservancy departments, cleared clogged drains on K.N. Sen Road and Swinhoe Lane. Three jetting-and-suction machines were used to desilt drains.

�The situation was compounded by a high tide in the Hooghly, which flooded a stretch of Strand Road. A number of pumps had to be pressed into service there,� said Deb, who has urged the irrigation department to clean �outfall� channels. �Otherwise, it will be difficult to avoid flooding of city streets this monsoon,� he warned.


Calcutta, June 18: 
The plan to introduce attendance registers for teachers at Jadavpur University has hit a formidable stumbling block. Teachers, who claim to have put the university in the top-five bracket in the country, have refused to record their arrival and departure and vowed to fight the �illogical� decision.

The university authorities plan to introduce a new system, making it mandatory for teachers to sign attendance registers every day. The new rule is being imposed to �improve administrative discipline and maintain financial transparency�, say officials.

But teachers argue that never before, in a university set up in 1956, has the need arisen to �discipline� the academic staff. The measure not only defies logic, the Jadavpur University Teachers� Association (JUTA) alleges, but is �unnecessary� as well.

The official version ascribes a different motive to the university�s sudden waking up to problems over teachers� attendance. Registers for the university�s teachers, explain officials, are necessary, as the university�s finance department often faces problems over �irregular� leave statements by teachers. JU registrar Rajat Bandyopadhyay has already prepared a report on the proposal, say officials. It will be placed before the university�s policy-making body for approval soon.

�Leave statements are not sent regularly and leave applications are not furnished on time,� says the report prepared by the registrar. �All these lead to an undesirable situation in different segments of the administration,� the report adds.

JUTA general secretary Tarun Naskar says the university�s proposal will be placed before teachers soon. �We will convene a meeting to discuss this never-before move by the university authorities,� he adds. Teachers, opposed to the move, cite the example of the faculty�s �high teaching standards�, which have resulted in the university gaining recognition as an institution of �national importance�. Another point in their favour, they say, is the University Grants Commission (UGC) certificate pronouncing it to be one of the five best institutions in the country.

�The UGC recognition has put the university in the top bracket among hundreds of universities in the country. This would not have been possible if the teachers had not performed their duties properly,� says a member of the science faculty. �We were never required to sign attendance registers all these years. Has this, in any way, prevented the churning out of brilliant students?�

The system of maintaining attendance registers for teachers was never introduced by previous managements to �encourage informal interaction between students and the faculty�, officials admit. �This encouraged research and academic activity beyond duty hours.�

The commitment shown by the teachers and the relationship they share with students are �quite unique�, claim JUTA members. They, however, admit that a small percentage of the 700-strong faculty was not as committed as the rest. �But why should everyone suffer because of the sins of a few?� they ask.


Calcutta, June 18: 
Bang opposite Nakhoda Masjid, a section of the pavement is covered with a blue polythene shade festooned with Citu flags.

Under it are rows of benches and tables, on which is arranged an array of large cooking utensils. Apart from plain dal, rice and sabzi, heavier meat curries are on offer.

Employees of New Aminia Hotel, at 8/10, Zakaria Street, have been serving up these meals after this restaurant, once famous for its Mughlai cuisine, closed down on February 3, 2000. This is not the first time the eatery, set up in 1929, has faced labour trouble. It had shut down in 1980 and reopened the next year.

Nadim Amin, who was looking after this restaurant, as well as two guest houses, one above the eatery and the other next to it, says he was compelled to close it down because, for the �last three to four years, business was very bad. For the last two years, we suffered losses only.�

They would do better during Ramzaan and the winter, when nehari, a thick trotter soup meant for breakfast, used to be cooked. But they could not depend on these spurts for the rest of the year.

Amin says he asked his 45 employees to take their dues, but they have refused to do so, maintaining that the closure is illegal.

�They claim we had more than 50 employees on our payroll and should have given two months� notice before closure. The upcountry workers still occupy the lodging space we provided them with. They cook food there and sell it on the pavement. They tap an electric meter and siphon off Corporation water with the help of a pump,� says Amin.

He has complained to the police, �but they say it is a labour problem so they can�t interfere.� He has even offered to negotiate but the workers are not willing.

On the other hand, Ahmed Husain, president of the Calcutta City Eating & Refreshment Establishment Workers Union, Unit New Aminia Hotel, says: �We have requested the owner to open the restaurant for two months, and if it runs at a loss, they can close it. They just don�t want to reopen it.�

He says his boys collect water from the roadside pipe with a bucket. Citu leaders have tried to negotiate but failed.

Amin had filed a writ petition last year, demanding police protection because his ex-employees were allegedly disturbing his guest house clients. The petition was dismissed on January 18, 2001. Now, he has filed an appeal in Calcutta High Court, which is pending.

Amin is so annoyed with the situation, he says: �Nobody is interested in finding a solution.� He plans to pack up and �leave the country� as soon as he has seen the end of the episode.


Calcutta, June 18: 
Quoting preliminary medical reports on the violent deaths of a police officer and his ailing wife, sleuths said on Monday that Jaya, wife of assistant commissioner Phatik Chandra Dutta, killed her husband before shooting herself in the police quarters.

The couple were found in two separate rooms in their first-floor flat at Alipore Bodyguard Lines quarters early on Saturday.

Bullet marks on the official�s body showed that he was shot in his sleep, said Banibrata Basu, deputy commissioner, detective department. The bullet pierced the left side of Phatik Chandra�s chest and was lodged in his right abdomen. This counters the preliminary theory of a �suicide pact... If he had committed suicide, the chest was an unlikely position to aim the revolver at,� Basu said. �Moreover, the bullet would have moved upward if he had shot himself.�

Detectives were trying to ascertain whether the six-page suicide note was written to deflect attention from what they believed was a pre-meditated murder.

A dermal nitrate test confirmed that Jaya had held the revolver. The test showed negative on Pathik Chandra�s hands. Police have sent his palm wash sample to a laboratory in Trombay for further tests. �We have not yet received the post-mortem reports. Experts have asked for another day to study the case in detail,� Basu said.

Sleuths confirmed on Monday that Jaya had been suffering from ailments for the past five years. In her suicide note, she had said that Dutta used to torture her physically and mentally. The couple had picked up a quarrel on Friday night. Jaya went off to sleep around 9 pm. Younger daughter Indrani joined her later.


Calcutta, June 18: 
There were noisy scenes at Sealdah station as hawkers held a series of demonstrations throughout Monday, protesting an Eastern Railway drive to evict them.

The agitation, however, did not disrupt the train services.

A large number of hawkers assembled at the station on Monday morning as soon as railway employees reached the spot to fence off a plot of land in front of the station with barbed wires to prevent hawkers from selling their wares there.

The agitators gheraoed railway officials and refused to leave the station until they got an assurance from the authorities that they would be rehabilitated.

A senior railway official said: �The eviction is necessary to implement a scheme to beautify Sealdah as a model station.�

The railway authorities have asked the hawkers to shift to a nearby site, adjacent to the Sealdah flyover. But it is only a temporary arrangement, as the space is Corporation property.

Mrinal Das, a Citu state secretary who looks after the unorganised sector, said the union will oppose the eviction unless the authorities arrange for rehabilitating the hawkers.

�We will not accept eviction without proper rehabilitation,� Das asserted.

The railway authorities plan to set up six car-parking zones. One of the zones will be reserved for VVIP passengers, like the Governor and the chief minister.

Another will be reserved for Army personnel, specially passengers of trains like Pathankot express and Lal Qila Express. Three of the queues will be for use of ordinary passengers. The car parking zone will cover 200 metres by 25 metres.

Meanwhile, protesting the �high-handedness� of the railway authorities, members of the Indian Railway Hawkers Association have decided to leave for Delhi to hold a discussion with the railway minister.

�We will meet the railway minister and request him to take appropriate measures to solve our problem,� said one of the leaders.

They threatened to intensify their movement if their demand was not met within a stipulated period of time.


Calcutta, June 18: 
The monsoon is here. To use the rainy season to make Calcutta greener, and a better place to live in, the Alipore-based Agri-Horticultural Society of India has drawn up plans for �Varsha Mangal� � a festival to �celebrate greenery� and �spread environmental awareness�.

During the two-month festival, which will begin shortly, the 180-year-old Society has set a target of distributing over 30,000 saplings to city-based schools, colleges, business establishments, factories and other enthusiasts. To rope in a larger cross-section of people and make the festival a success, the Society is in touch with various city schools, colleges and charitable organisations.

�It�s common knowledge that the pollution level in the city is increasing by the day. As Calcuttans, we must do our bit and, hence, our campaign will aim at inspiring people to plant trees and combat the alarming situation,� said D.S. Erasmus, Society secretary-cum-CEO.

�Every new car that hits the road increases the burden of air pollution and we are requesting new car-owners to plant at least three trees and restore the environmental balance in the city,� he added.

While promoting the �go green� campaign in the concrete jungle, the Society has made it clear that space will not be a constraint. �We can offer tree saplings for even a 4ft-by-4ft space,� said Erasmus.

To give the tree-loving Calcuttan a wide spectrum of choice for saplings, the Society has already networked with some city-based nurseries and the forest department. The saplings available with the Society will include Akashbani, Kanchan, Palash, Bottle Brush, Amaltus, Naglingam, Cordia, Sishu, etc. �On request, we can even deliver specific varieties,� added Erasmus. With its expertise, the Society will also help the tree-planters in maintaining these trees.

As the programme aims at planting a maximum number of trees in the city, the Society plans to distribute these saplings at affordable prices. Depending on the variety of the saplings, the price will range between Rs 25 and Rs 35.

Erasmus, however, added: �We won�t mind distributing the saplings free to charitable organisations and schools that may find it difficult to foot the bill.�


Calcutta, June 18: 
Like it or not, all the 199 Left Front MLAs will have to attend a once-of-its-kind meeting at Alimuddin Street tomorrow that Jyoti Basu and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will address.

The meeting is likely to take place at 6.30 pm after Assembly hours. Front leaders have instructed their MLAs to attend the meeting at any cost. They can skip it only if there is an emergency.

Beside addressing the grievances of MLAs and instructing them on the dos and don�ts, the meeting could help project Left unity as the CPM�s allies will also come over to the party�s headquarters. Left watchers believe this is all the more significant as the CPM doesn�t have an absolute majority in the Assembly for the first time in 25 years.

CPM state secretary Anil Biswas may not be around for the meeting as he left for Vijayawada this evening to attend the funeral of CPM politburo member M. Hanumantrao who died today. Biman Bose, who is a politburo member, might speak in place of Biswas.

The meeting is likely to take up the grievances of several MLAs who complained to Bhattacharjee about some CPM ministers who did not turn up for the question-answer sessions in the Assembly.

MLAs told Bhattacharjee that because many ministers skipped question-answer sessions, a number of important questions raised by them remained unanswered.

Bhattacharjee had instructed ministers not to skip question-answer sessions in the Assembly and try to reply all questions raised by MLAs. It is expected that senior Front MLAs will raise the issue again tomorrow.

The meeting will be instructive for the 46 MLAs who were elected to the Assembly for the first time. �As they are newcomers, we have to help and guide them on Assembly proceedings and we will try to give them a guideline tomorrow,� said a senior CPM leader.

It is learnt that all the Front MLAs will be asked to attend Assembly regularly and participate in the proceedings. �There should be coordination between the MLAs and the ministers on different issues and to achieve this, regular attendance in the Assembly by the ministers as well as MLAs is mandatory,� said Bose.

Front MLAs will be asked not to get provoked inside Assembly by Trinamul Congress members. Trinamul MLAs had already made an attempt to provoke Left members on Friday, the first day of the current session.

Like the CPM, the Trinamul leadership, too, has started meeting party MLAs. Senior leader Sougata Roy met MLAs in the Assembly and guided them on the Assembly proceedings. Trinamul has the highest number of first-time MLAs.

Warning to civic bodies

The state government has read the riot act to civic bodies, threatening to stop funds if they commit any of the four cardinal sins.

If the civic bodies make illegal appointments, allow funds to lie unutilised, not conduct audit or misappropriate funds, then they are liable for the harsh punishment.

Urban development minister Asoke Bhattacharya has himself instructed the departmental officials to not release funds to the errant civic bodies.


Calcutta, June 18: 
The West Bengal government has decided to file a case before Calcutta High Court seeking its permission to allow the state to recruit 17,000 primary-school teachers in the districts.

According to a government spokesman, these posts of primary teachers have been lying vacant for several years because of injunctions imposed by different courts.

Recruitment of teachers at the primary level has been challenged by aggrieved contenders in almost all districts. In many cases, the government had been asked by the courts to be more transparent while recruiting primary-school teachers in government-aided as well as government-controlled institutions.

After the government asked advocate-general N.N. Gooptu to find a way out of the problem, he decided to initiate a case asking the high court to allow recruitment of teachers whose names have already been empanelled by the recruitment board.

A senior official of the state primary education department said a number of schools in the districts were suffering due to lack of teachers. �The government and recruitment authorities had already made a panel of teachers, but cases filed by the unsuccessful candidates created the problem,� the official said.

Dilip Roy, assistant-secretary of the Primary Teachers� Cell, affiliated to the Trinamul Congress, alleged that there have been gross violations of norms while recruiting teachers in primary schools. �Only those who had strings to pull or those who had the blessings of the CPM leadership got appointments,� Roy said.

Subroto Mukherjee, counsel for candidates who had �fallen victim to nepotism� from Nadia said his clients were the worst victims of CPM nepotism. �The authorities had followed no norms in recruiting teachers,� he said. Mukherjee welcomed the government�s decision to bring all pending cases before Calcutta High Court.

Pension cell

The government has formed a special cell to look into the grievances of retired teachers regarding their pension and other benefits. Education minister Kanti Biswas said at the Assembly that the cell was already active in Murshidabad district.

Replying to a question raised by SUCI legislator Debaprasad Sarkar, the minister said nearly 30,000 teachers had not got their pension and the education department was taking all steps to clear their dues.


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