Das probe slams into witness wall
Serial track blockades stall trains
Factory owner in web of terror
Court nod for teacher posts
Prodigal daughter, pretty and pious
CU teachers split over extension
Delhi freezes Old Mint water plant
Mamata takes case to Advani
CPM split on Subhas censure
Buddha maps Dunlop dialogue

Calcutta, Aug. 21: 
After making four �significant� arrests in the past seven days, police on Tuesday hit a stonewall as the witnesses �failed� to identify any of the four held in connection with Sailen Das� murder.

The same day, two key CPM functionaries of the Dum Dum belt claimed to have received threat letters from the outlawed People�s War. Those under �threat� were CPM south Dum Dum municipality chairman Srihir Bhattacharyya and party Dum Dum zonal committee secretary Rabi Sarkar.

What stopped the sleuths in their tracks were statements by Montu, Das� driver, who witnessed the killing, and Sandip Biswas, whose motorcycle the killers used to get away. Both said they found it difficult to identify the criminals.

Investigators felt that the witnesses were scared of a fatal backlash from the gangs if they identified the assailants.

At the back of their minds was the case of a rickshaw-puller, the only witness to a daylight killing off Mrinalini cinema, on Jessore Road, five months ago. He had been assisting the investigators but was found murdered in the Dum Dum area. �Everyone in this area knows about the incident. How can one expect people to come forward and identify killers?� asked one of the investigators.

Sandip, whose motorcycle was snatched, told the investigators on Tuesday: �I saw no one. I remember nothing much. I was frightened by the sight of the revolver. I don�t even remember the colour of their clothes.�

The investigators admit that Biswanath Burman, alleged mastermind of the Das murder, continues to elude the net. Police, however, continued their marathon interrogation and raids on Tuesday. Burman�s brothers Satya and Alok, picked up from Tiljala on Monday, and Debu, another accused picked up the same day, were detained for further grilling. The cops are still confused about Debu�s real identity. As Burman is a small-timer, investigators do not have much of a dossier on him.

�As the witnesses �failed� to identify the arrested, we are now left with one option: To recover the weapon used to commit the murder,� an investigator said.

In another twist to the case, a letter � purportedly sent by the People�s War � reached the South Dum Dum municipality office on Monday, threatening to eliminate chairman Srihir Bhattacharyya, Dum Dum zonal committee secretary Rabi Sarkar and Citu municipality employees� union leader Nilu Biswas. Sarkar, however, is yet to inform the police.

Political observers are not ready to attach much importance to the �threat�. The outfit does not have much of a presence in Dum Dum, Calcutta or North 24-Parganas. �It�s likely that the letters were sent to deflect the police,� they said.

The death threat could be the result of an intra-CPM feud, admitted some leaders. The local leadership was preparing a promoter-criminal list backed by some key functionaries. �These people are now disturbed over the local unit�s decision to draw up the list and submit it to higher-ups,� a senior Dum Dum leader said.


Calcutta, Aug. 21: 
A series of blockades on railway tracks on Tuesday morning disrupted train services in the Sealdah (South) and Bongaon sections.

Local residents squatted on the tracks on both the sections from 8 am. Official sources said agitators blocked the tracks around 7.58 am at Champahati, disrupting services to and from Canning. On the Diamond Harbour line, tracks were obstructed at Mograhat and Bahirkua stations.

Around the same time, tracks were blocked at Krishnamohanpur, on the Lakshmikantapur line. Tracks at Park Circus were also obstructed, disrupting services on the Budge Budge line. The impasse continued for over an hour.

Though the blockades were lifted after 9 am, it took a few hours for the situation to return to normal.

In Sealdah�s Bongaon section, residents squatted on the tracks at Dum Dum Cantonment. Senior officials rushed to the spot and persuaded them to withdraw the blockade. Services were restored in the afternoon.

At several places, office-goers and students jumped out of compartments and headed for the nearest bus terminus. Many were stranded in trains and at stations.

In the southern section, several markets remained closed, as wares could not be reached on time due to the disruption.


Calcutta, Aug. 21: 
First, the threats. Then, the assault. Now, a successful city-based entrepreneur is running scared, from Baranagar to �a safer place�.

The spectre of violence and the �anti-industry atmosphere� in the industrial suburb has claimed another casualty � Naistoco India, manufacturers of steel machinery. Co-owner and director Aditya Sureka was threatened for several months over �some old tenancy disputes�. On July 31, he was beaten up inside his Baranagar factory by a group led by two local Citu leaders. Sureka has not gathered up the courage to return to his factory more than once � �for five minutes� � in the past three weeks.

�The company�s morale is very low and we are finding it very difficult to work there,� said Sureka on Tuesday. �We have decided it�s best for us to shift to a place where we won�t be facing such threats.�

The factory is about a kilometre from Baranagar Jute Mill, where two company executives were lynched by angry workers earlier this year.

Officials probing the Naistoco case say that apart from a �labour problem�, those named in the FIR could be after the �one-bigha plot of land� which the firm had taken on rent from the owners of a neighbouring factory. Both Narayan Pal and Chandi Jha, the prime accused, were employees of that factory, which had been shut down more than a decade ago, police said. The factory, along with the several bighas of land it stands on, was recently bought by another industrial house, Shreyashi Trading, officials added.

Ever since the change of hands, local Citu activists, led by Pal and Jha, were allegedly threatening Sureka to settle �some old tenancy disputes� with the new owners. �We have reason to believe that the assailants on July 31 were instigated by the new owners of the plot,� Sureka said.

But Anupam Nopany, a representative of Shreyashi Trading, denied the charge. �Both Pal and Jha often visit our factory,� he admitted. �They are local Citu leaders and we don�t think it wise to pick a fight with them. But we were in no way involved with the attack,� he asserted.

Citu unit president Ranjit Das admitted that the two accused were union office-bearers. �Besides trying to intervene in the tenancy dispute, Pal and Jha went there to settle payment problems for some laid-off Naistoco staff,� he said. �No disciplinary action has been taken against them, but if they have committed a crime, they will be found guilty by law.�


Calcutta, Aug. 21: 
Fill in the blanks � that�s what a Calcutta High Court verdict will allow the government to do in various colleges of Bengal. Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghosh on Tuesday gave the government the go-ahead to appoint 700 teachers to posts lying vacant since February 2001, although the required number of �suitable� SC and ST candidates had not been found this year.

The Dalit Samaj Teachers� Association and 12 �unsuccessful� SC/ST candidates from the college services exams had petitioned the high court, challenging �the mode of selection� of teachers in various colleges. They argued that �no separate panel� with 22 per cent SC and 6 per cent ST representation had been prepared by the State College Services Commission, violating the West Bengal SC and ST (Reservation of Vacancies in Services and Posts) Act.

They also protested the move to �recruit general candidates for teaching post vacancies if suitable SC and ST candidates were not found�. Justice D.P. Kundu had passed an interim order in February, �restraining� the government from filling up the vacancies, till the final verdict.

Justice Ghosh okayed the appointments so academic activities would not be affected, but said the government should, �in future�, follow the norms framed under the West Bengal SC and ST Act, while recruiting teachers.


Calcutta, Aug. 21: 
�Be very careful... Please come back to us... Spare a thought for your child,� Sobharani Pal�s voice on the phone trailed off as she spoke to her daughter, Swati, from a Salt Lake ashram phone.

Investigations in the past 24 hours have revealed that Sobharani Pal, 53, known to inmates of Adhyatwik Ishwariya Vishwavidyalay as �Sobha mata�, kept in touch with her daughter �Manu� ever since she joined the organisation in 1994.

�Sobharani Pal is pining for her daughter,� CID officials said on Tuesday. �I don�t know what will happen to Manu now,� she has been repeatedly telling interrogators, since being informed of Swati�s arrest in Mumbai.

Contrary to her earlier statements to the CID, that she was �not aware� of her daughter�s brush with crime, she broke down in the face of constant grilling by the CID.

�She said that she would often plead with Manu to come out of the world of crime,� an officer said. �Swati used to call the Salt Lake ashram quite frequently to inquire about her mother�s health. This has been corroborated by the ashram inmates,� he added.

Both Sobharani and Sudhir Pal, Swati�s father, are disciples of the ashram. Sudhir Pal had gone to stay with Swati in Mumbai for two months this year. �Sudhir bhai told us that his grandson, Farzan, is a lovely child,� an ashram inmate told Metro.

Inmates at the Adhyatwik Ishwariya Vishwavidyalay remember �Manu� as a �slim and beautiful� woman who had visited the ashram three years ago. �She stayed here with us for several days, before heading back to Mumbai,� one of them said. �Sobha mata would spend hours with her daughter on the terrace. On several occasions, she would tell Manu to be careful and stop what she was doing... We didn�t have a clue to what Manu was up to.�

Inmates described Manu as a �cheerful woman� who was �deeply interested� in the Bhagwad Gita. �When she was here, she would spend quite some time in the prayer rooms and join in the bhajans,� said an elderly male inmate. �She would also listen with rapt attention to Rabindranath Das.�

One evening, Swati told Das that she had to head back to Mumbai to be by her ailing husband�s side.

Manu would call her mother regularly from Mumbai. �The phone calls were long and Sobha mata would seem very disturbed... She used to tell us that her daughter was not listening to her pleas and weep silently.�


Calcutta, Aug. 21: 
Post-graduate course teachers are against it. Under-graduate course teachers are for it. The government�s decision to �stop re-employment of university teachers� has split Calcutta University�s Syndicate down the middle.

Members of CU�s highest policy-making body, who are teaching at the post-graduate level, have urged the authorities �not to implement the government decision�. But representatives of more than 200 CU-affiliated under-graduate colleges in the Syndicate have asked vice-chancellor Ashis Banerjee to �stop re-employing teachers in the university, as directed by the government�.

A recent Syndicate meeting witnessed heated exchanges between the two groups. �University teachers should not be allowed to extend their services beyond 60. We are shocked to find that some teachers in our university are making this demand. Why should university teachers enjoy this benefit when their counterparts at the primary, secondary, higher secondary and college levels are not granted extension of service?� demanded Shyamapada Pal, head of the state chapter of the All India Federation of West Bengal College and University Teachers� Organisation.

The government had issued the circular to eight state-aided universities, including Calcutta, Jadavpur and Rabindra Bharati, early this month. The no-extension order is �applicable to every organisation and institution availing grants from the government for payment of employees� salaries�.

Bhaskar Chakraborty, of CU�s history department and a member of the Syndicate, however, opposed the no-extension move: �A section of teachers is unnecessarily trying to make an issue out of this. We don�t want the university to take a hasty decision on the issue.�

At the meeting, teachers argued that the no-extension policy was not applicable to CU, �an autonomous organisation�. But others maintained that the university should comply with the government directive as it �depends on government grants for more than 85 per cent of its expenses�.


Calcutta, Aug. 21: 
Mayor Subrata Mukherjee and deputy mayor Meena Devi Purohit have decided to meet Union finance minister Yashwant Sinha in Delhi as his ministry has turned down the Calcutta Municipal Corporation�s proposal to set up a 20-million-gallon water treatment plant on the Old Mint campus on Strand Bank Road.

An under-secretary of the department wrote to the Corporation, regretting that the finance ministry had plans to set up a museum on the spot.

Mukherjee said the civic authorities had taken up the project with an eye to meet the projected daily demand for 355 million gallons of filtered water by 2011. The city now produces 250 million gallons a day.

�We require at least two bighas of land for the treatment plant and a booster pumping station. Since there is no room on the Mullickghat pumping station premises, we approached the ministry of finance for the plot,� the mayor said.

During his tour of France, Mukherjee asked a French company, Vivendi, to take up the water treatment plant project. The company agreed to prepare a project report to supply filtered water which would be 99.5 per cent pure. The CMC�s present supply from the century-old Palta treatment plant is 90 per cent pure in terms international standards.

�We preferred the campus of the abandoned Old Mint for its vicinity to the Mullickghat pumping station,� he added.

Mukherjee said the CMC had drawn up a Rs 14-crore plan to turn Mullickghat into its third filtered water pumping station for the city, after Palta and the Garden Reach waterworks.

The Mullickghat station, which has been supplying unfiltered water for 115 years, will be tuned to spew filtered water. The civic authorities had decided to take loans from financial institutions to carry out the project. It will benefit about two million people living in the areas along the eastern bank of the Hooghly and in the Burrabazar area.


New Delhi, Aug. 21: 
Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, who is set to rejoin the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), today informed home minister L.K. Advani about the �worsening� law and order situation in West Bengal.

Mamata met Advani in the Central Hall of Parliament and sought an appointment for further discussions on the issue. Sources said the home minister told her that he would meet her tomorrow. Mamata, along with Trinamul MPs, will give a detailed account of law and order in the state and the alleged ill-treatment meted out to her MLAs by the CPM.

The Trinamul Congress chief had yesterday met NDA convenor George Fernandes and discussed with him her return to the coalition.

Mamata tried to raise the issue in the Lok Sabha, but deputy Speaker P.M. Sayeed, who was in the chair, did not allow her to do so because there was no zero hour today.

When the House reassembled after the lunch recess, Mamata, who was sitting in the last row of the treasury benches, flanked by her party colleagues Sudip Bandopadhyay, Nitish Sengupta, Akbar Ali Khandokar, requested the chair to allow her to raise the issue of the alleged ill-treatment. �Be a gentleman, please allow me to raise the issue,� the Trinamul leader pleaded. Sayeed said she could raise the issue tomorrow after giving a separate notice.

Later, participating in a debate on a proposed legislation regarding the influx of migrants from Pakistan, Mamata demanded that the government take adequate steps to ensure proper settlement of those who had migrated from Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Bill, repealing a 1952 Act under which Pakistani nationals had migrated to India after Partition, was passed after a short discussion. The Bill was passed by the Upper House on August 6.

Supporting the Bill, the Trinamul chief said: �People who came from Bangladesh should not suffer because of political or religious reasons.�

Mamata said she was emotionally attached to the displaced people and demanded a economic package for them.

Several members, including Priya Ranjan Das Munshi (Congress), Raghuvansh Prasad Singh (RJD), Rupchand Pal (CPM), Ramjilal Suman (Samajwadi) and Ramdas Athavale (RPI), spoke on the Bill and asked the government to ensure the proper settlement of those who had migrated from Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Minister of state for home C. Vidyasagar Rao said the stay and movement of Pakistani nationals in India is regulated by the system of residential permits in accordance with the Indo-Pak visa scheme of 1974 and the system of permits introduced by the provisions of the Influx from Pakistan (Control) Act, 1949, has lapsed.


Calcutta, Aug. 21: 
The CPM state leadership is divided on taking disciplinary action against transport minister Subhas Chakraborty despite his repeated violations of the party directive not to make statements to the media.

While a section of party leaders wants severe action to be taken against Chakraborty, others led by Jyoti Basu have advised a �go-slow� policy.

Sources close to the CPM brass said hardliners such as Benoy Konar and Biman Bose would like to see the party take drastic steps against the transport minister.

Konar and Bose have reportedly argued that the minister has been repeatedly ignoring the party�s directive and making statements in the media on issues beyond his jurisdiction. Chakraborty had recently criticised the police for arresting a number of anti-socials such as Mohammad Taslim, alias Chunnu, and Gobinda Dey.

Chakraborty had described them as �social workers� and blamed the police for framing false charges against them. State secretary Anil Biswas had openly criticised Chakraborty for issuing statements in favour of the two arrested persons a couple of days ago. Biswas had told reporters that it was not the duty of politicians to issue character certificates.

But the two-day CPM state committee meeting, which concluded today, did not discuss the Chakraborty issue. Though hardliners like Konar and Bose wanted to take up the issue during the meeting, at which Chakraborty was present, they could not do so probably because of Basu who wanted the matter to be discussed at the state CPM secretariat.

It is learnt that Chakraborty will be summoned by the secretariat and asked to explain why he had made such statements ignoring the directive. Usually the secretariat meets every Friday, but it is not yet clear when the transport minister will be summoned.

Chakraborty was present at the state committee session, which ended today, for some time in the afternoon. CPM sources, however, indicated that the party would not take any drastic step against the transport minister before next year�s state conference. But before that, Chakraborty is expected to be summoned by the secretariat.

It is learnt that Chakraborty is determined to issue statements disregarding party directives. �I am a dedicated party wholetimer. I have given a lot of blood and sweat for the party. I know how to protect the party�s interest,� he is learnt to have told his associates.


Calcutta, Aug. 21: 
The Dunlop tyre factory in Sahagunj was deserted but for a police picket in front of its gates.

Work at the factory was suspended on Monday as the management felt �insecure� in running the factory. The Bengal government is, however, keen that the factory, which was shut after it was run for 17 months, reopens and is eager to enter into a dialogue with the factory management.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has instructed labour minister Mohammed Amin to look into the Dunlop closure. Amin, who met a delegation from the Intuc and Citu units of the factory, said the state government would approach the management, but it was yet to receive a copy of the suspension of work notice from the company.

Amin said the Dunlop management�s suspension of work was illegal.

�The way the notice was served on the workers is not proper as it did not follow the legal norms,� he said.

The minister said he had asked the labour secretary to get in touch with the management. �We want the factory to reopen as fast as possible,� Amin said.

Citu-affiliated Dunlop Workers� Union general secretary Dipankar Roy and Intuc-affiliated Dunlop Rubber Factory Labour Union leader Ranjit Neogi, submitted a joint memorandum to the labour minister, along with CPM leader Santasree Chatterjee, seeking his intervention for the immediate reopening of the unit.

They wanted the state government to direct the management to lift the �illegal suspension of work notice�.

Demanding payment of arrears, wages and salaries, the unions have urged the state government to evolve a revival scheme for the company so that it could pay the workers �in a viable manner�.


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