Enter, big boys of snatch business
Doctor orders surgery, sleep
Sighs of relief, whispers of fear
Belated birthday gift for daughter
People power for civic projects
Forcible haircut for five
Mamata stability hand for Atal
Closure order sparks MAMC flash strike
Tigress murder sets off alarm
Rapist turns killer after revenge rape

Calcutta, Aug. 2: 
There is one thing that no police officer handling the Parthapratim Roy Burman case is disagreeing with: That it was an extremely professional gang that had carried out the abduction. The only thing that remains unanswered is why they would shoot at and injure a hostage.

There is another thing on which there is agreement: The abduction was masterminded by an international gang, certainly from one of the Gulf countries, possibly operating out of Dubai. Their modus operandi: Working through local facilitators on a commission.

The only point where there is no consensus among the officials is: Why Parthapratim Roy Burman? Does he qualify for the status of an A-1 businessman? Why would an international gang target him?

While officials tussle with this question, investigators are zeroing in on the henchmen of Dubai-based Fazlur Rehman. Rehman was at one time known to be a close associate of Dawood Ibrahim.

Police said that the modus operandi of this gang resembled the style of the villains in Bollywood films. In Hyderabad, where the “arrangement” between the Roy Burmans and the abductors was finally sealed, the means of identifying the abductors’ representative was through a number mentioned in a currency note. On presenting the note, the Roy Burman representative checked the number and proceeded with the deal.

“We have not seen this kind of operation in this part of the country,” a police officer said. “In fact, this style is quite alien here. This is one more pointer that it was an outside gang operating.”

Pointing at Rehman’s possible involvement in the crime, officials said that after falling out with Dawood in the late Nineties, Rehman, who hails from Azamgarh, in Uttar Pradesh, formed his own gang and started a kidnap and extortion network.

Investigations have revealed that they targeted “fertile yet untapped” areas in Bihar, Bengal and Orissa.

Investigations conducted by crime branch officials in Mumbai and Delhi also indicate this, CID sources said. They had conveyed as much to their counterparts in Calcutta.

CID officials said the fact that the entire conversation conducted by the abductors with members of the Roy Burman family was in Hindi made it clear that it was an outstation gang.

Besides, a crime branch official from Mumbai, who has been following the Roy Burman abduction case, said they have reason to believe that three key associates of Rehman — Hafiz Alam, Saudagar Singh and Abdur Rehman — were all in Calcutta before the abduction. “I think this is sufficient reason to suspect that they may have a hand in this.”

Officials also say that these outside gangs, almost always, have contacts in the city, especially in the Tiljala and Topsia areas. “These places are the recruitment grounds for the gangs,” an official said. “Once inducted, the modus operandi is worked out.”

A Dawood associate was arrested at Tiljala last year. Interrogation revealed that he had been operating in the area for some time and that extortion and kidnappings were proving to be lucrative business in the “middle-level” category.

Meanwhile, the CID has sought the help of VSNL and other agencies to track down the abductors of Roy Burman. They have been asked to help pinpoint locations from where certain calls were made.


Calcutta, Aug. 2: 
The kidnapping aside, shoe magnate Parthapratim Roy Burman is a very lucky man. One of the two bullets that went through him could have pierced his chest near the heart. So said Woodlands Hospital medical director S. K. Sen, under whose treatment the “brave and composed” Roy Burman was admitted at 3.45 pm on Thursday.

“Preliminary examination of the patient has revealed that he suffered two bullet injuries. The less serious one is on his right forearm. The other one, which will require surgery, is on the left upper arm.” There are no other visible signs of physical injury.

Luckily in both cases, the X-rays have revealed that the bullets are not still lodged in his arms. “His right arm was bandaged; there is no fracture there. We changed the dressing. His left upper-arm bone, the humerus, however, is broken and was in a plaster cast when he came in. We will open the plaster tonight to examine the wound,” Sen said.

Two senior orthopaedists and a surgeon attached to Woodlands have been called in for the detailed examination. “He will be operated on around 1 pm on Friday,” Sen added, after the various pathological examination reports are in.

“More importantly, the patient needs some physical and a lot of mental rest before he is ready for the operation theatre. Today, his treatment will focus on mainly the psychological aspects of the trauma that he has gone through, while the medical aspects will be undertaken tomorrow.”

Roy Burman seemed underfed. “He has hardly had any substantial food, probably because he was in a state of shock during the eight days in captivity. I’ve told the nurses to give him a hot meal. At the moment, he does not need any drip supplements, and nor is he on any diet restrictions,” the medical director said.

The police and other investigating officers were allowed to talk to him briefly. “A detailed interrogation session will be allowed only after we are satisfied with his condition,” Sen asserted. As of now, the patient will have to stay in hospital for at least five days.

Asked whether Roy Burman had received any medical attention in captivity, the doctor said: “He did get some sort of treatment, but the plaster on his left arm does not seem to be a professional job. He was in pain, and we have given him medication for that, and put him on antibiotics.”

The door to Suite C on the third floor was guarded by four or five policemen, two of them in uniform. But the ones in civvies, apparently CID personnel, seemed more formidable and glared at reporters when they walked past the room. The atmosphere was far different from the one outside the nursery just a few metres away (the floor houses the maternity ward of the hospital), where happy relatives were viewing the newborns.

Woodlands was chosen by the Roy Burman family because “several doctors here are known to us,” said the freed executive’s brother-in-law. He and Siddhartha, Parthapratim’s younger brother, brought him to the hospital in the afternoon, just before a possé of video cameramen arrived, jostling and ganging around CID officials and senior hospital personnel for a good view and a byte.


Calcutta, Aug. 2: 
Parthapratim Roy Burman’s back. Who’s next?

Sighs of relief mingled with forebodings of the future as the business brigade learnt about the safe return of the Khadim’s vice-chairman on Thursday evening.

But the mood at Khadim’s was ecstatic, after eight days of anxiety. Raja Banerjee, official spokesperson for the Rs 60-crore footwear major, said: “These past few days have been like a long nightmare. Everything was in jeopardy... But with his return, things at Khadim’s will be back to normal.”

It was a time for cautious optimism in the camp of the competitor. S.B. Dey, chairman, Sreeleathers, said: “The abduction in broad daylight shook the entire footwear industry. The timing, just before the peak season, came as a blow to all of us. To maintain a low profile and not attract attention, we had to put all our plans on hold... We are naturally relieved at the news of his return, but it will take some time for the industry to get its act together.”

In a scathing attack against the administration, Dey added: “It has been established that the abductors had local links. Tracing them could not have been that difficult. Why can’t the administration simply wipe them out? If such cases continue, industrialisation will remain a distant dream.”

The city’s B-lobby, which had been following the nine-day drama with fingers crossed, was quick to raise the demand for “better police action.” Nazeeb Arif, secretary-general, Indian Chamber of Commerce, said: “The abduction has created a threat perception in the minds of people. There is a growing need for a well-functioning police network and exemplary punishment in order to restore confidence.”

The “threat perception” created after the Roy Burman case has had a palpable fallout — businessmen dialling P for private security agencies. Captain Bharat Prakash, managing director of Black Boy Detectives, said: “We have been receiving a steady stream of enquiries from businessmen over the past week. They have asked us to work out a system by which they can enjoy a hidden 24-hour security cover. That is, they want private security without making it obvious.”

A representative of the trade lobby attributed this trend to “lack of faith” in the police. “Delhi has 350 patrol vehicles and 130 police stations, as opposed to just six and 23, respectively, in Calcutta... Things won’t improve unless the government allocates more funds for the police. With 95 per cent of the police budget being spent on salaries, how can you expect a force with ramshackle vehicles and outdated weapons to tackle today’s criminals?”

Bhaskar Sen, former president of Bengal National Chambers of Commerce and Industries, and a “family friend” of the Roy Burmans, also called for a “review” of the security network. “This has proved that Calcutta is not isolated from other parts of the country. To ensure that such incidents do not recur and give the state a bad name, the government may consider involving the industry in maintaining law and order and better police patrolling in industrial areas.”


Calcutta, Aug. 2: 
She was crushed when her father didn’t make it home for her 11th birthday on Wednesday. But Riddhima received the best belated birthday gift possible — the return of “Baba”, Parthapratim Roy Burman, the day after.

The smile was back on the 11-year-old’s face — after nine days of anguish — from 2.45 pm, when her father got off a taxi and stepped into their BH-180 residence in Salt Lake. Later, after the shoe magnate had left home for Woodlands, a relaxed Riddhima, in a yellow frock, came out to play on the terrace of their three-storeyed house.

“Yes, my father has come back. Now he has gone for medical check-up and will return soon,” the girl told waiting mediapersons.

At the two other residences of the Roy Burmans’ (BH-180 and 164), the relief was palpable. “My brother just returned from the clutch of his abductors. I could not meet him as he was rushed to the nursing home for treatment,” said sister Jayashree Burman. “Everyone, right from Riddhima to the West Bengal chief minister, have been waiting for his (Parthapratim’s) return. We are all so relieved and happy.”

According to neighbour Aneeta Bengani, Parthapratim returned around 2.45. “I was on the terrace when I saw a taxi screeching to a halt in front of their house. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw him (Parthapratim), in a white kurta-pyjama, get off the taxi alone and enter his house. There was no police jeep around. Then, one of their relatives came out and paid off the taxi-driver. A few minutes later, a Toyota Qualis emerged from their other house (BH-164) and entered this one. Soon, he (Parthapratim) came out of the house and boarded the vehicle with three others. The car sped away.”

In the Roy Burman home, the anxiety is over, but the wait goes on. As do the prayers. “We are still reading the Chandi in front of Ma Kali. We believe the goddess will help my brother return safely from the nursing home,” said Jayashree. Parthapratim’s father S.P. Roy Burman, who had been taken ill, is said to be feeling “much better”, while his mother, whose blood pressure had shot up, is now “stable”.


Calcutta, Aug. 2: 
Concerned over poor development work and deterioration of civic amenities in Calcutta and Salt Lake City, the government has decided to involve common people in welfare work.

At the recently-concluded budget session, the government passed a set of rules empowering ward committees with the implementation and supervision of several projects, among other things.

The West Bengal Municipal (Ward Committee) Rules, 2001, formulated by the municipal affairs department, make it mandatory for all civic bodies to have ward committees. Led by the councillors concerned, the committees will comprise 10 to 14 residents of the area.

“This move has been initiated to ensure people’s participation in development activities. Citizens will contribute to the planning and implementation of schemes. Ward committees will function as watchdogs and as a mini-administration in the locality,’’ said municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya.

Ward committees will check unlawful activities, like illegal construction, encroachment on public properties, evasion of taxes, plying of unlicensed vehicles, public nuisance, waste of resources and violation of municipal rules.

The committees will, accordingly, suggest punitive or rectification measures to the Corporation or municipalities.

Maintenance of community halls, libraries, dispensaries and beautification of parks, boulevards, islands and roadside gardens, will also be their responsibility.

The ward committees will be able to keep a vigil on the activities of realtors, check illegal transfer of plots and verify blueprints of constructions.

Resource mobilisation will be one of the top priorities. All sorts of development work will be monitored by the committees jointly with the mayor or the chairman. Projects will be taken up by the committees and sent for approval to the municipal affairs board. The committees will also have to organise awareness programmes on various public issues.

Construction of commercial and housing complexes, business centres and parking lots also fall within their purview.

The minister said it had been categorically mentioned in the new rules that the Corporation and municipalities would have to abide by the decisions of ward committees.

“The ward committee will have to meet at least once a month to identify problems related to the locality and take initiative to resolve them,’’ he added.


Calcutta, Aug. 2: 
A school teacher snipped off the hair of five students on Wednesday in order to “discipline” them. The boys, all Class IX students of Vidya Bhavan, in Behala, were reluctant to attend school on Thursday. One of them has fallen ill. Only four of them attended school.

On Wednesday, Rama Adhikary, a teacher of English, stood at the school’s main gate with a pair of scissors in hand and made the five boys queue up in front of her. She snipped off their hair, threatening them with dire consequences when they protested.

Parents of the boys lodged a complaint against Adhikary with Thakurpukur police.

Sachin Ghosh, father of Chandan, a victim, said: “My son’s hair wasn’t long. But the teacher forcibly trimmed it and asked all the boys to get their hair cut properly on reaching home. My son was so shocked that he is not willing to go to school. He has become absent-minded, too.”

“The teacher did the same thing six months ago. She was then urged not to hurt the students, but she did not bother to mend her ways,” said Mamata, Chandan’s mother.

Jayanti Mondal, mother of another victim, Souvik, said: “My son went to school with a proper haircut. If the teacher didn’t like it, she could have told us, instead of forcing her way on the boys.”

Sourav Mallick, one of the five, said: “We are worried about Soumik Mukherjee, who has fallen ill after the incident.”

Adhikary and her colleagues are least perturbed over the incident. “What is wrong if I try to discipline the students?” Adhikary asked.

However, a worried Subha Chowdhury, the school’s headmistress, said: “After all, we got affiliation only a year ago. So, we are very concerned about the incident.”


Calcutta, Aug. 2: 
Mamata Banerjee today said her Trinamul Congress will spare no effort at ensuring the continuation of the Vajpayee government and prevent a mid-term election to the Lok Sabha.

“I am going to Delhi to vote against the adjournment motion brought by the Opposition parties against the NDA government over the Unit-64 issue. We do not want destabilisation of the government as it will only lead to an expensive mid-term poll,” she told reporters before leaving for New Delhi.

Mamata’s decision to vote in favour of the government on a crucial issue came after a detailed discussion between the Trinamul chief whip in the Lok Sabha, Sudip Bandopadhyay, and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) over the modalities on reviving ties between the party and the NDA. The Trinamul chief has decided to offer issue-based support to the Central coalition, but is yet to accept any code of conduct as a condition for her party’s return to the NDA.

Asked to elaborate on her stand on the Unit-64 issue, Mamata said: “The government must protect the interests of two crore investors and initiate a probe, if necessary. We will like the Prime Minister’s intervention in the matter and want stringent punishment for persons who will be found guilty. There must be proper monitoring of funds invested in the scheme. But the issue does not warrant a change of government. We cannot afford to have a Lok Sabha election every alternate year.”

The Trinamul leader did not reveal her immediate plans vis-à-vis the NDA but reiterated that her party intended to “strengthen Prime Minister Vajpayee’s hands”. Sources said Mamata would like to extend her party’s support to the NDA government from outside like the Telugu Desam instead of joining the ministry.

Mamata, who could not attend the monsoon session of Parliament earlier due to illness, decided to leave for the capital this afternoon after receiving an urgent message from the PMO in the wake of the discussion on the adjournment motion. The BJP leadership sought Mamata’s and her party MPs’ support to ensure the government’s survival in the crucial voting over the Unit-64 issue.

The Trinamul leader is expected to call a meeting of her parliamentary group to discuss the party’s stand vis-à-vis the NDA “in the changed situation”. She may also meet Kamal Nath, the AICC general secretary in charge of Bengal, to explain the progressive deterioration of Trinamul’s relationship with the state Congress after the polls. Mamata had earlier made it clear that it would be difficult for her party to maintain a “working relationship” with the Congress if the high command did not “change the PCC leadership”.

Mamata, however, has directed her party legislators to maintain floor coordination with the Congress inside the Assembly as far as possible to keep the Left Front government on tenterhooks. She has also taken note of the discontent expressed by some senior Congress legislators over PCC chief Pranab Mukherjee’s “unilateral announcement terminating the entente between the two parties”.

Mamata’s decision to stand by Vajpayee in “his hour of crisis” triggered derision from the state CPM. State secretary Anil Biswas said the Trinamul leader’s politics was “devoid of any ideology”. “She is alternately courting the Congress and the BJP as her party lacks political direction,” Biswas said.


Calcutta, Aug. 2: 
Work at the Mining and Allied Machineries Corporation (MAMC), a Central government undertaking at Durgapur, was crippled with no executive or worker reporting for duty today following last night’s clash with police inside the company’s premises.

The clash was sparked by the Centre’s decision asking the chief of MAMC to close the unit from October 29.

The MAMC Bachao Committee has called a 12-hour Durgapur bandh on August 6 to protest against the Union government’s decision. They held demonstrations outside the company throughout the day.

At least 35 people, including six jawans from the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), had sustained injuries in last night’s clash.

Of the 20 persons admitted to Bidhanagore hospital, the condition of three is stated to be critical. Citu and Intuc have extended support to the workers’ agitation. MAMC has about 1,500 employees.

The fate of MAMC and Bharat Ophthalmic Glass Limited (BOGL), another Durgapur-based sick Central public undertaking, has determined political fortunes in the Durgapur II Assembly constituency. The CPM lost the seat to the Trinamul Congress in the May elections.

“The CPM’s failure to keep its trade union leaders on the right track in these undertakings gave birth to the MAMC Bachao Committee, consisting apolitical employees. Frustrated over Citu’s mishandling of the situation, more and more employees joined the bachao committee,” said convener of the committee Tapan Purakayastha.

According to Purakayastha, BIFR had recommended the closure of the company in its final verdict on July 13, saying it was “just equitable and in public interest, it should be wound up under Section 20(I) of Industrial Dispute Act, 1947”. The BIFR had specified the cut-off date as October 29.

But what appeared to be the immediate provocation to the employees was a letter from chairman and managing director P.R. Rohatgi to the Union labour secretary on July 27 (Ref. MAMC\RO\ND), stating: “After hearing the concerned parties, the BIFR bench came to conclusion on June 29 that the promoters of MAMC are not serious in rehabilitation of the sick company nor are they resourceful enough to mobilise funds for the purpose.”

The convener of the bachao committee said: “We wonder what prompted Mr Rohatgi to send such a letter to the labour secretary. We just stumbled on the letter while discussing the burning issue of closure with senior executives last evening.”


Calcutta, Aug. 2: 
The eco-development programme of the forest department suffered a setback when villagers killed a tigress in the Sunderbans on Monday.

Forest minister Jogesh Barman conceded that the eco-development committee in Dayapur, where the tigress was killed, was “not functioning properly”.

These committees were set up as part of an income-generation programme to reduce the villagers’ dependence on forest produce. But these committees were also expected to build a close rapport between villagers and the forest staff to help protect the flora and fauna of the region.

“In many areas, the local people inform us about animals which stray out of the forest so that they can be tranquillised and taken back to their habitat. Unfortunately, this did not happen in Dayapur,” the minister said.

Forty-eight hours after villagers butchered the animal, police and the forest department have yet to name or arrest the culprits. Sunderbans Project Tiger field director Pradeep Shukla is investigating into the incident.

The minister said initial reports have suggested that the tigress was killed in a planned manner by some villagers. The fact that the tigress’ feet, claws and whiskers were missing from its mutilated torso suggest foul play. “When forest guards went to investigate on Monday, they were denied access by a group of women,” Barman said. He said women told the forest guards that the animal had swum back to the forest after mauling three or four men.

“Usually villagers inform the forest range office if there is an incident of straying, but strangely, this time they not only kept the forest staff in the dark, but also kept them from entering the village,” the minister said.

Even a police force camping in Sajnekhali could not be deployed because of misinformation, the minister said. He added that a close watch was being kept on two persons who had been mauled by the animal. Another person, hurt in the attack, is still in hospital.

Though the forest department has lodged an FIR, no one has been named yet. “We do not want to involve any innocent villagers,” the minister said.

The minister pointed out that a couple of years ago villagers in the same area had poisoned a straying tigress. The forest department is still fighting the case in court, Barman said.

Elephant menace meet

The state forest department has decided to rein in wild elephants who encroach upon human habitat and ravage paddy fields.

A high-level meeting of the state forest department will be held at Mandalpuskarani in Midnapore tomorrow to draw up a plan to prevent wild elephants from entering human habitat in Bankura, Midnapore and parts of Purulia. Forest minister Jogesh Barman will preside over the meeting which will be attended by senior officials of the wildlife wing.


Siliguri, Aug. 2: 
An alleged rapist out on bail raped the same girl a second time on Tuesday night before killing her and burying the body under a construction site at Moynaguri in Jalpaiguri district.

Police recovered the badly mutilated body of a 20-year-old girl yesterday and promptly arrested the rapist, a local youth Jagdish Bagchi.

“Twenty-two-year-old Jagdish Bagchi had served a three-month term in jail for allegedly raping the same girl. Out on bail, Jagdish had apparently threatened to ‘avenge’ his punishment and had been plotting a similar crime. On Tuesday, he somehow managed to convince the girl to accompany him. Taking the girl to a secluded spot where a building was under construction, he repeatedly raped the girl after subjecting her to physical torture,” said Moynaguri circle inspector Gourishankar Kanjilal.

According to Kanjilal, Jagdish had been accused of raping the same girl a year-and-a-half ago. He was arrested and served a three-month jail term before being released on bail.

“The accused somehow managed to win the confidence of the girl over the past few months. He lured the girl to the deserted construction site on Tuesday evening and repeated the crime. This time, not only did he rape her, he killed her in a gruesome manner. The girl was subjected to inhuman physical torture and then throttled to death and buried. As soon as we discovered the girl’s body buried at the construction site, we swung into action and arrested Jagdish, the prime suspect. He confessed to the crime during interrogation. This is indeed the first time such an inhuman and cold-blooded murder has been committed in this region,” Kanjilal said.

Bagchi said during interrogation that he vowed to rape the girl again and kill her as he was “upset” over his arrest, the police official added.


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