| || |
| || |
Seventy-two hours after the kidnapping, Ansari met officials of the CID on Friday afternoon. They asked him whether he had any idea of who could have committed the crime. If a group of hoodlums had been lying in wait for their quarry in Tiljala, wouldn�t some of his �people� have been curious?
Police said Ansari acknowledged that virtually everyone in Tiljala knew him; that he would normally also get to know if anything �untoward� was happening in his locality. But, after initially telling the police that he was �as baffled about the abduction� as they were, he reportedly told them that he had advised his people �to keep their eyes and ears open� and would report back if there was any news.
It is precisely this that has baffled the police all the more. Why would Ansari take so long to find out about a crime committed in his area? Or about who were behind it? Some eyewitnesses have claimed that a couple of the abductors were chatting with people around them.
Then, why did Ansari�s network fail him? What was so special about the gang that committed the abduction that it �virtually paralysed� an efficient information-gathering machinery that is almost legend in this part of the city? Or, does Ansari not want to �mess� with a crime he wants nothing to do with?
�People here will laugh if anyone told them that our Chunnubhai does not know what is happening in Tiljala,� one of his close associates told Metro. �You cannot walk the streets here, let alone commit a crime, without him coming to know about it.�
Through Friday morning and afternoon, the police have repeatedly questioned Ansari�s associates, wanting to know from them if they had seen and recognised any of the abductors. �If the police think because Chunnubhai has not revealed anything, they can get the answers from us, they are mistaken,� said the associate. �If Chunnubhai knows, then he will tell the police, only at the right time. And that is important.�
| || |
| || |
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the man behind the move to rename Calcutta, now wants to make the new name �legally binding�. The government is bringing in a legislation to make it mandatory for all government and semi-government agencies and organisations dependent on the government to use �Kolkata� instead of Calcutta. Bhattacharjee will place the West Bengal Capital City (Change of Name) Bill, 2001, in the Assembly on Monday.
According to provisions of the Bill, all documents or instruments, structures, buildings, monuments, roads, lakes, grounds, or any object �of public importance� carrying the name of the city, will have to use �Kolkata�. �The new name will have to be used in any Act, Ordinance, rule, notification, regulation, by-law, custom or usage or other instrument having the force of law,�� the Bill states.
For example, Calcutta Municipal Corporation, Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority, Calcutta Improvement Trust, Calcutta Tramways Company, CSTC and any such government or semi-government agency will be �obligated to use the new name�.
Names of Central government organisations, like Calcutta Telephones, Calcutta Port Trust and Calcutta Customs, will also have to be changed to Kolkata Telephones, Kolkata Port Trust and Kolkata Customs. Calcutta Police has already switched to Kolkata Police.
�As the proposal of the state government to rename the city has been approved by the Centre and it is soon going to be an Act, all Central government organisations will use the new name of the city where required,� said a senior home department official.
He added that though it was �not mandatory� for private companies, shops and establishments to replace Calcutta with Kolkata, �it is expected that they will all respect the law once it is enacted�.
Explaining the need for the legislation, Bhattacharjee said it was necessary to bring about �some uniformity� in the use of the city�s name on all occasions and the Bill can achieve that.
The government had issued the name-change notification on December 27, 2000. The move to rename the city � on the heels of Madras becoming Chennai and Bombay, Mumbai � had won the approval of a large section of the Bengali intelligentsia, but drawn murmurs of protest from several other quarters.
As a lot of documents, including file covers, letterheads of ministers and senior bureaucrats, other official documents, signboards at many district offices would have to be changed, the process involves a huge expenditure. It has been mentioned in the Bill that �appropriate provisions� will be made in the budget to meet the expenses of the switchover.
The spelling of the new name in Bengali, English and Hindi has also been put down in the Bill. In Hindi, it will also be Kolkata, against the earlier Kolkatta.
Many government organisations and development agencies have not taken on the new name due to some legal problems.
�After the legislation, there will be no problem for any organisation or agency to use the new name as and where necessary,�� officials said.
| || |
| || |
Debi Prasad Adak, 45, has been admitted to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital with bullet injuries. Till late on Friday, no arrests had been made.
Adak was attacked around 6.20 am while returning home after dropping off daughter Pinky to school in nearby Dharmatala. Recuperating at Calcutta Medical College and Hospital on Friday evening, the owner of a lathe machine factory and car-repairing unit on G.T. Road, recounted: �The school is a five-minute walk from our place. On my way back home, I was surrounded by three youth on a motorcycle. Their faces were covered with cloth. Suddenly, one of them opened fire. The first bullet missed, but the second hit me in the chest. After that, I cannot remember what happened...�
Haru Mallick, a relative and neighbour of Adak, added: �All of us came out on hearing the gunshots. We found him lying on the ground, bleeding profusely. We took him to Jaiswal Hospital, but as his condition deteriorated, the doctors there advised us to transfer him to Calcutta Medical. He was operated upon and a bullet removed from his chest.�
Adak claimed he had �no enemies� and was never involved with any political party... I cannot imagine why they would want to kill me.� But Somen Mitra, superintendent of police, Howrah, refused to give Adak a clean chit. �He must have had some shady connections, as the assailants seem to have been known to him... All police stations in the area have been put on alert.�
| || |
| || |
The institute at which budding actors will be taught how to throw a punch and take a tumble with some finesse is the dream child of Arindam Ganguly (who had shot to stardom with Sreeman Hansaraj) and wife Kheyali Dastidar (of Tero Parban fame).
�Bengali films are moving more and more towards the Bollywood staple, replete with fast-paced action sequences,� says Arindam, referring to the box-office pickings of two Tollywood top-grossers � Aghat and Pratibad � as a recent example. �That is the reason why we thought of incorporating fight-sequence training in our 24-class course.�
Kheyali carries the argument a step further. �Gone are the days when most Bengali films had a strong narrative base,� she says. �Actors, therefore, must know everything they may be asked to perform in front of the camera.�
The course � which comes at a fee of Rs 3,000 � has 24 two-hour classes. Santanu Pal, who trains actors, their dummies and extras for many of the big-budget stunts in Bengali films, has been given charge of the more violent component of the course.
But Bengali boys and girls still have a �certain type of stiffness� during fight sequences, admits Arindam. The boys of the institute are first taken to a multipurpose gym to �loosen them up� and then directed to Pal�s classes.
The fight-sequence training is conducted in the �open air� by the Dhakuria Lakes. �Girls don�t find a place in the outdoor fight-sequence classes as the unit does not want to attract a crowd of oglers,� admits Arindam. �But we are in the process of finding out the right garden-house for training girls as well.�
The school, claims the actor, has some other novel features, like honing skills in front of the camera and improving memorising methods of tomorrow�s actors and actresses.
But he, too, admits that the course may not be enough to make brilliant actors out of non-actors. �That�s why we put a lot of stress on picking the right students,� he explains. Growth plans for the Arindam-Kheyali institute include driving and riding classes. �But the best thing for the Bengali film industry would be if we stuck to strong narrative-based films with good stories,� feel both husband and wife.
| || |
| || |
Spice, which will retain the current brand name until formalities are completed to change the name to the AirTel brand, has increased the grace period to recharge pre-paid coupons from 15 days to 30 days across all denominations. Customers will be reminded of the status of their coupons through the short message service.
Says R. Mahesh, vice-president, marketing: �We will provide STD and ISD facilities on the pre-paid cards.� The pre-paid customer can avail of the facility based on the balance on his cards. The minimum balance required for ISD activation is Rs 1,000 as against Rs 2,500 earlier, and Rs 600 for STD activation against Rs 1,000 earlier.
The company is also introducing call management services like call wait, call hold and call conference on pre-paid cards. The new SMS-based mobile chat will replicate the Internet chat experience.
The company is focussing on infrastructure development. Forty more base stations will be added to the existing 61 within 60 days. It has identified important locations in the city to improve the in-building signal coverage.
A group from SingTel will visit the city shortly to study seamless coverage in the metro. The company will increase the international sites where it provides the roaming facility from the present 60 to 125.
Adds Mahesh: �We want growth in the pre-paid segment, where we are already the market leaders, as also leadership in the post-paid segment. For this, Fast Talk, the instant connection post-paid facility, will drive our growth. By December, we expect to have around 1,000 distribution centres for Fast Talk.�
The company, which has a customer base of 80,000, aims to achieve 200,000 customers by June 2002.
| || |
| || |
�Buddha (Bhattacharjee) shares my concern and has told me that policemen are working overtime to trace the abducted businessman,� Basu said. He, was present, along with Bhattacharjee and West Bengal unit secretary Anil Biswas, at Friday�s meeting of the CPM secretariat.
At the meeting, some secretariat members are learnt to have suggested that police vigil be stepped up in the sprawling Tiljala-Kasba belt, on the city�s estern fringe. Bhattacharjee assured them that the number of police outposts has been increased in the area.
| || |
| || |
Two of the three injured boys were admitted to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, while the other was treated at Howrah General Hospital.
Sonu Adhikari, 11, succumbed to his injuries in hospital. After the accident, Uluberia wore a deserted look, with all shops and schools closing down.
It was around 11 am when the four boys � Sonu, Sanjib Adhikari, 8, Bejoy Chowdhury, 10, and Uttam Sahu, 10 � were playing football in a field near the J. Road dumping ground, in Uluberia. Sonu found the bottle carrying the bomb.
The children mistook the bomb for a ball. Soon, the bottle burst in Sonu�s hands.
Mira Chowdhury, Bejoy�s mother, said: �We were home. The children had just come from school and were playing in the field. On hearing the blast, we came out and found the boys lying on the ground, blood dripping from the injuries. They were taken to Howrah General Hospital, but as the condition of Sonu, Sanjib and Bejoy was critical, they were transferred to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital. But Sonu did not survive.�
Pradeep De, a local resident, said: �Some years ago, two children were killed in a similar incident. This place is a haven for criminals. Usually, they store explosives here. The police are aware of the situation, but they never take any step.�
Somen Mitra, superintendent of police of Howrah, said: �We are enquiring how the bombs reached there. We are also carrying out raids in different areas to nab the culprits soon.�
| || |
| || |
Inaugurating the two-day seminar organised by the Millennium Institute of Energy and Environment Management (MIEEM), in association with the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology, Central Glass & Ceramic Research Institute and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Bhattacharya urged �the experts� to inculcate a culture of �research rooted in reality�.
�In Bengal, unfortunately, a lot of money and effort is spent on research which often has no connection with the grassroots and so cannot be put to practical use,� observed the minister.
Referring to the generation of domestic, industrial and medical waste as �the burning problem of urban existence�, Bhattacharya stressed the need for �more dumping grounds, sanitary landfill, improved sewerage and greater awareness among people�.
�We want to involve NGOs and experts at every level. We are also trying to work out a system by which establishments generating large quantities of waste will have to start paying for its disposal. After all, proper waste management must be a matter of collective resposnsibility,� Bhattacharya added.
Javed Ahmed Khan, member, mayor-in-council, health, Calcutta Municipal Corporation highlighted the role of the civic body in busting a racket of recycled syringes, cracking down on unclean kitchens of eateries, and leading an anti-malaria drive on hospital premises. �But to ensure efficient waste management, the people of Calcutta must get involved in a bigger way,� added Khan.
The seminar, being attended by around 150 delegates, including participants from 25 municipal corporations, will address a wide range of issues revolving around better management of urban waste. �A seminar like this provides the perfect opportunity for academicians, environmental experts and members of the industry to forge a partnership with the government in combating this modern menace,� said Bhattacharya. �The presence of representatives from various municipal corporations will ensure that the proceedings will not be just theoretical.�
Responding to the government call to combine theory and practice, R.N. Parbat, president, MIEEM, said: �We, from the fields of industry and research are ready to work shoulder to shoulder with the administration and the civic authorities to tackle this problem that affects all our lives.�
| || |
| || |
The text of the statement by Ulfa chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa on the occasion of �martyrs� day� has been reproduced in the outfit�s fortnightly newsletter, Freedom, in place of the regular editorial. �If a referendum is required to take a decision on the issue of sovereignty, so be it. Urgently and boldly, let us fill the air with our slogan � we want independence,� Rajkhowa said.
He warned the Centre against any delay in initiating the process, saying it would be �damaging�. He said it was time to ascertain the views of the state�s indigenous people on his outfit�s struggle for independence.
�My earnest appeal to all sections of the people of Assam is to remember that regional self-government, cultural autonomy, independent nationhood, the lot, can be discussed and decided amongst ourselves in the fullness of time. Now is the time to be united, putting aside caste, creed, religious and ethnic differences. This is what we need now to regain our freedom. To achieve this, we need to fight New Delhi (our common enemy) unitedly. We want a political solution to the Indo-Assam conflict,� the Ulfa chairman said.
The statement is significant because it is for the first time that the Ulfa has directly spoken about a referendum and �people�s involvement� in the process of a dialogue. Rajkhowa�s call has, however, evoked hope and scepticism in equal measure. It is believed that the Ulfa is merely testing the waters before beginning a political dialogue with the Centre.
�Having realised the futility of an armed struggle, it is changing tack,� said a top functionary of the strategy group of the Unified Command, which plans and executes counter-insurgency operations in Assam.
But Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad chief Apurba Kumar Bhattacharjee said seizing the opportunity to hold talks with the Ulfa was more important than speculating about its motive. �The Centre should seize the opportunity and propose a tripartite dialogue. The people will be a party to the process,� he said.
The youth leader said the Ulfa�s call for a referendum was indicative of its changed attitude. �It has taken cognisance of the ground realities. This is why it has indirectly expressed confidence in the Indian democratic polity, where the majority opinion is decisive,� he said.
| || |
| || |
Although UCM leaders were not available for comment, a spokesperson for the All-Manipur United Clubs� Organisation (Amuco), a component of the UCM, said this was not the time to celebrate. The Amuco leader said people should instead mourn the death of 17 protesters during the anti-ceasefire agitation.
Residents burst crackers to celebrate the decision, which was taken after 40 days of curfew and 42 days of protest. Altogether 17 people were killed in the protest movement. Several government buildings, including the Assembly secretariat and the chief minister�s office, were also gutted.
State police officials are now apprehensive of a backlash in the Naga-inhabited areas of Manipur in view of the Centre�s decision. There is also a strong possibility of Nagas resorting to a highway blockade, sources said.
�It is now a case of peace in the valley and trouble in the hills,� a government official said.
Manipuri intelligentsia are observing the developments minutely to figure out how the NSCN(I-M) leaders finally agreed to the withdrawal of the ceasefire extension. Contradictory reports about talks between Centre�s interlocutor K. Padmanabhaiah and NSCN(I-M) general-secretary Thuingaleng Muivah had made the people of Manipur suspicious about the Centre�s stand. The situation was further aggravated by the attempts of several Naga leaders to secure the autonomy of the Naga-inhabited districts of Manipur.
Earlier today, thousands of Manipuris came out of their houses to stage sit-in-protests in all major roads of the city. Dressed in traditional white attire, people openly defied prohibitory orders to take part in the protest movement. Kukis and Kabut Nagas also took part in the demonstration. Residents of Thoubal district yesterday formed a human chain of 65 km to register their opposition to the ceasefire extension.
Concerned over the paralysing of administration in the state because of the UCM�s �civil disobedience movement�, the state government today directed its employees not to take part in the protests. However, they staged sit-in-dharnas in front of their offices to protest against the proposed ceasefire extension.
Life in the state capital was adversely affected despite the 13-hour curfew relaxation as the city�s main marketing centre, the Khwairamband Bazar, remained closed because of a bandh called by traders and women vendors.
In Dimapur, the mood was one of despondency. Chief minister S.C. Jamir said he had nothing to say as the agreement was between the Centre and the NSCN(I-M) and Muivah had reportedly agreed to the Centre�s terms. He, however, did not apprehend violence.
Lamu Longkumer of the Naga People�s Human Rights Organisation rued the fact that instead of building confidence, the Centre had created mistrust in the minds of the people. �If the Centre kept on retracting like this, it should forget about peace,� he said.
Naha Hoho vice-president Gaingam, however, refused to comment, saying, �We are yet to hear from the other parties.�
In Assam, the anti-ceasefire brigade was more than satisfied. �Our stand has been vindicated. We are very happy,� the AJYCP said. There were sighs of relief in Manipuri basti in the capital.
Earlier in New Delhi, the Nagaland Students� Union submitted a memorandum to the chief ministers of the northeastern states before their meeting with Vajpayee, expressing fear of resumption of violence if the ceasefire collapsed. �The consequences will be quite unfortunate for India, the Nagas and the Northeast India,� a union member said. The leaders urged the chief ministers to ensure the implementation of the Bangkok declaration in letter and spirit.