Short-circuit, CPM on Firpo�s blame list
Train murder jolts police out of stupor
Indefinite taxi strike from Monday
Delhi rap for power funds delay
Govt whip to check contempt
Two boys drown in canal, two youths in Hooghly
Four held for fake teacher papers
Lightning kills 13 in six districts
Tigers prey on honey collectors
Women push man off train

Calcutta, April 27: 
Even as the city police zeroed in on the �short-circuit� angle as the most likely cause for Tuesday night�s fire at Firpo�s market, mayor Subrata Mukherjee alleged that the ruling CPM party was stonewalling the probe.

�As long as the CPM is in power, no one is likely to get arrested in this connection. Even in the Biswaroopa theatre case, only a few watchmen were arrested, while the real culprits went scot-free,� the mayor said. The police would surely sum up the case as a short circuit, he alleged.

A police team probing the incident has found evidence that the fire might have started from an under-construction shop located on the southeast corner of the ground floor of Firpo�s market. �We have found out that wirings were being fitted at the new shop till Tuesday evening. The electricians most probably tampered with the dangling old wires of the building which ignited the fire,� said a senior official associated with the probe.

Investigations also revealed that several hawkers operating in the Chowringhee region were using the ground floor of the market to store highly combustible goods, like clothes, every evening. �We are trying to trace who had given them permission to do so,� a senior police official said.

Meanwhile, the owner of Firpo�s market, Rajen Poddar, in a letter to city police chief Sujoy Chakraborty, said he would �fully cooperate with the police and would also undertake repairs at the building.� The police have �no plans� of arresting Poddar at the moment, since he has promised cooperation. �It is still early to take a decision. Let us receive the forensic test results first,� said DC, DD-I Soumen Mitra.

So far, State Forensic Sciences Laboratory officials had visited the fire-ravaged site thrice, but failed to collect samples for testing. �Since entering the market now is next to impossible, the officials said they would collect proper samples only after the debris were removed from the market complex,� the official said.

On Saturday, work continued at the site with fire brigade officials and Corporation-appointed contractors removing the debris manually. A joint inspection of the site conducted by the fire brigade, the city police and the CMC revealed that using heavy payloaders and bulldozers would cause the entire roof to cave in. �We have decided to remove the debris manually at the moment and later involve the payloaders to remove the overhanging chunks of concrete,� said an inspection team official.

The fire-fighters were kept on their toes on Saturday, as smoke continued to billow out from certain parts of the building. Two fire tenders continued to spray gallons of water on the site. Unless the debris heaped over 1500-2000 sq feet area of the collapsed roof are removed, the smoke would be difficult to control, sources said. It will take nearly a week to clear the area, they added.


Calcutta, April 27: 
Alarmed at Thursday�s murder of a Citu leader inside the compartment of a Diamond Harbour-bound local near Park Circus station, the railway police have decided to deploy plainclothesmen at some �vulnerable� stations in both Sealdah and Howrah sections of Eastern Railway.

The Government Railway Police (GRP) will also lay greater stress on intelligence-gathering to help them keep tabs on organised gangs active at the sections concerned.

�The assailants have been identified. But henceforth, we intend to play a pro-active role in dealing with the criminals, instead of simply reacting to their activities aboard the trains,� said S.R. Das, special inspector-general of railway police, West Bengal.

�We have noticed that sometimes even a petty crime like snatching snowballs into an armed dacoity, claiming lives. The gangs follow a set modus operandi to rob passengers. They board the trains at particular stations disguised as passengers. While the train is on the move, they whip out arms and threaten passengers to part with their belongings. They don�t even hesitate to use weapons if they face resistance,� Das said.

The special IG said the police have also identified the spots where the gangs have been operating. �There are several areas between Sealdah and Diamond Harbour like Ballygunge, Park Circus and Sonarpur which have recently witnessed a spurt in criminal activities. We have also prepared a list of crime-prone spots in the stretch between Barrackpore, in North 24-Parganas, and Behrampore, in Murshidabad district, on the basis of crime records of the past five years,� he observed.

Another major source of worry for the GRP is the procurement of arms by gangs operating in neighbouring states. �These goons often flee to another state after committing crimes in Bengal and thereby evade arrest. We are trying to improve our co-ordination with the Bihar police and have also alerted our forces deployed at different railway stations,� Das said.

The GRP official said attempts were being made to deploy forces in most of the passenger trains plying in the Sealdah and Howrah sections of Eastern Railway. �Earlier, GRP men were asked to keep vigil only on express trains. But now we are trying to deploy guards in as many passenger trains as possible. We hope their presence will help restore people�s confidence,� he added.

Rajat Majumdar, inspector-general of police (railways), however, described the Citu leader�s murder as an �isolated incident�.

�People need not panic unnecessarily as we are determined to find out the criminals� hideouts and bring them to book. We have received definite clues about Bose�s murder and hope to nab the culprits very soon,� he said.

Newborn found

A newborn girl was found behind a roadside bush at Falta, on the southern fringes of the city, early on Saturday. Residents spotted the baby, swathed in a piece of cloth, near the WBSEB sub-station in the Dastipur area around 6 am. She was rescued by Sanat Bayen and his wife Ashoka, a childless couple. The Falta police later handed over the baby to the Bayens.

There was commotion in the area as a number of couples flocked to the spot seeking to adopt the baby. A police teams camped on the site for hours to avoid any untoward incident. �This is a temporary arrangement and we have asked the Bayens to get the matter settled in court at the earliest,� said a police official.


Calcutta, April 27: 
Around 32,000 taxis will go off the streets in the city and the suburbs for an indefinite period from Monday to protest the government�s �failure to stop the menace of private vehicles offering shuttle service�, the decision to issue fresh licences to 5,000 new taxis and harassment by the police.

According to a statement issued by major taxi unions, including Bengal Taxi Association, Progressive Taxi Men�s Union, Calcutta Taxi Union, Calcutta Metropolitan Taxi Drivers� Union and Taxi Operators� Association, the strike would begin at 1 am on Monday.

A spokesman for the unions said the motor vehicles department�s decision to issue fresh license to 5,000 taxis was �suicidal�. �It will ruin the trade. We have already lodged our protest with the government and have also objected to issuing permits to car finance companies,� he said.

Shuttle taxi services pose another major threat to the trade. The spokesman alleged that despite repeated appeals to the state transport authorities, little has been done to stop this practice. The police, too, harass taxi drivers on flimsy grounds, he claimed.

The spokesman also added that corruption was rampant in the city office of the Public Vehicle Department (PVD). �This allegation was reported to the PVD director on April 22. But no action was taken,� he added.

The taxi unions also alleged that the number of parking lots in and around the city was inadequate. �Traffic police personnel are taking advantage of the situation by penalising taxi drivers. Illegal parking charges are slapped and we are made to cough up a fine of Rs 100 each time. But surprisingly, buses and minibuses are charged only Rs 50 for the same offence,� union members alleged.

Assault arrest

Another person was arrested on Saturday in connection with the alleged rape of a peer worker of the Durbar Mahila Samanyaya Committee (DMSC) on Wednesday. Three youths had been held and identified by the victim on Friday. The woman was attacked after she saved a young sex worker from the clutches of a group of ruffians in Ghoradanga, a redlight area in Howrah.


Calcutta, April 27: 
The Union power ministry has taken exception to the inordinate delay by different state governments in releasing funds for development projects in the respective state electricity boards (SEBs) and other utilities.

The ministry, in a recent circular to the state governments, has threatened to stop issue of funds under the Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme (APDRP) unless the allocations are disbursed to the utilities within 10 days of the release of the funds to the state governments. It has held all the governments guilty of the lapse during 2000-2001.

The APDRP � the revised version of Accelerated Power Development Programme (APDP) � is being pursued by the power ministry as it plays an important part in the power sector reforms.

�The ministry wants the state governments and the power agencies to work in tandem. The corpus under the APDRP has also been raised from Rs 1,500 crore in 2001-2002 to Rs 3,500 crore this year,� said power department sources.

According to sources, West Bengal had been receiving money from the APDRP since 1999-2000 and stands to gain if it can plug loopholes in the distribution system, ranging from theft to technical snags. The magnitude of the problem can also be gauged from the fact that losses in the power sector amount to 50 per cent of the average annual fiscal deficit.

State power minister Mrinal Banerjee said: �The drive against power theft has received a boost with the enactment of a new law against the offence. At least 132 privately-run transformers have been seized from Nadia, Murshidabad and Burdwan districts. We shall fight this menace.�

The governments of Delhi, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh have also enacted such deterrent legislations. During the past two months, a series of raids had been carried out against power theft in West Bengal.

�What has been a startling revelation is that even panchayat-level political leaders are involved in power theft,� Banerjee added.

The power ministry, meanwhile, wants the state governments to spruce up their act and implement the reforms for which several new benchmarks have been set. These not only include reduction in the transmission and distribution losses, but also supply of quality power to the consumers.


Calcutta, April 27: 
The state judicial department will take �definite action� against government employees responsible for �the harassment of ministers and bureaucrats� in the wake of an increasing number of contempt notices issued against them by Calcutta High Court.

According to law ministry sources, senior bureaucrats as well as the ministers often receive contempt notices for their �failure to obey the court�s directive�. �A section of government employees sometimes do not supply the documents pertaining to different cases to the state judiciary and legal remembrance. The government side remains unrepresented during hearing, prompting the court to take a serious view of the matter,� sources said.

State advocate-general Balai Roy recently urged law minister Nisith Adhikari to direct all departments to maintain registers to keep records relating to cases pending in court. The registers will indicate what papers are sought by the empanelled advocates to fight the cases and also record the date when the papers are sent to the lawyers. This will help identify the persons handling the records in different government departments.

�If all employees co-operate with the judicial department, contempt notices against the government will decrease,� Roy said.

A section of lawyers, however, blame the government panel lawyers for the situation, a charge that additional government pleader Debasish Kargupta refuted. �We have engaged lawyers with the specific task of keeping a watch on court proceedings,� he said.


Calcutta, April 27: 
Four persons, including two brothers, aged five and eight, were drowned in separate incidents in the city on Saturday afternoon. All of them were pronounced brought dead when they were rushed to nearby hospitals.

The brothers, Akash, 8, and Bikash, 5, residents of a colony near Baguiati, drowned in the Bagjola canal. Witnesses said the brothers were playing on the canal bank for some time. �Suddenly both of them fell into the canal and disappeared. The water level, however, was not high,� sources said. On hearing other children cry for help, locals rushed to the spot and tried to save the brothers. After a long search, the bodies of the two were retrieved and taken to Maniktala hospital, where they were pronounced brought dead.

In another incident, two youths from Rajarhat, who were bathing in the Hooghly at the Ahiritola ghat in north Calcutta, drowned on Saturday afternoon. Officials from the north port police station said the incident took place when the youths, Prasanta, 17, and Laltoo 19, were bathing in the river on their return from a cremation at the Nimtala burning ghat.

�Prasanta slipped and fell into the water. Despite his efforts to stay afloat, he got caught in the current. Sensing trouble, Laltoo tried to help him but he too got sucked into the surging waters. Others accompanying them fished out the unconscious duo and took them to a nearby hospital, but by then both had passed away,� said the police.

Held for flesh trade: The detective department of the city police on Saturday evening arrested 14 persons, including nine women, under the Immoral Traffic Act from a guest house in south Calcutta.


Behrampore, April 27: 
Four candidates seeking jobs in primary schools in Murshidabad were arrested on charges of producing fake basic training certificates to the district primary education council.

The administration is also looking for 10 others who qualified in the examinations and produced fake basic training certificates to get the jobs.

Those arrested � Rajkumar Mandal, Arbinda Halder, Dinabandhu Das and Nabakumar Das � appeared in the Madhyamik examination between 1981 to 1995.

Sweta Chandra, president of the primary teachers� council, said a probe has been ordered to bust the racket. She added that prima facie it appeared that the certificates of 14 youths, who qualified the examinations, were not genuine.

�The cat came out of the bag when we asked the youths to produce their certificates for verification. In course of checking, it appears that the certificates are fake. So we had to contact all those basic training schools to ascertain whether they really completed their courses. They informed me that none of them had qualified from their schools and we decided to ask all of them to appear before us. However, nine of them appeared,� the council president said.

Mandal and Halder are from Benia village whereas Dinabandhu and Nabakumar are from Jaladipur village. The arrested candidates later alleged that Tarapada Biswas, an employment exchange officer in Farakka, forced them to buy the certificates and they had to cough up Rs 15,000 to Rs 35,000 for them.

�We were forced to procure them from Biswas. Had we not paid heed to his request, our names would not have been sent for the posts. Biswas misled us and we are facing the music,� one of them said.

Murshidabad district magistrate Manoj Panth said: �A fake basic training certificate racket has been operating in the district for the last few years. We will arrest them soon. After receiving the complaint, I sent Ashis Mukherjee, the sub-divisional officer, to the spot along with the circle inspector of police to investigate into the matter. Then we arrested the four accused for producing fake certificates. Five others, however, gave the police a slip.�

District police chief Rajesh Kumar said they would arrest the remaining 10 very soon. �We will arrest all of them. Investigation is on to find out the nexus between Biswas and all those appearing before the council. If we find his involvement in the case, we will also arrest him,� he said.


April 27: 
At least 13 persons were killed and 10 seriously injured when lightning struck in the districts of Murshidabad, Birbhum, Malda, North Dinajpur, Burdwan and Darjeeling on Friday night.

Officials at Writers� Buildings said relief minister Hafiz Ali Sairani, touring north Bengal, was informed of the matter.

Relief secretary Nikhilesh Das contacted the district magistrates to keep himself abreast of the latest developments.

In Murshidabad, Angura Bibi (21), Selina Khatun(16) and Begbur Seikh (14) had died while their hut caught fire in the lightning, district magistrate Manoj Panth said.

One and a half-year old daughter of Angura Bibi also received serious injuries as the family was sleeping in their Gopalpur village residence. The child is undergoing treatment at Berhampore Sadar Hospital and her condition is stated to be critical.

In Birbhum, two youths, Bikash Bauri(22) and Ramesh Bauri(23), died due to the lightning. Additional superintendent of police Manoj Verma said the youths, residents of Rasulpur under Dubrajpur police station, died when they had gone out of their house to answer to the nature�s call.

In Malda, three children were killed when the tree under which they took shelter was hit by the lightning at Harishchandrapur.

Two persons were killed in Darjeeling. While one was struck by the lightning, the other was crushed to death when a tree fell on him.

Two others were killed in Jamshole village in Burdwan district after being hit by the lightning, sources said.

Storms accompanied by rain destroyed mango, lichi and standing paddy in the districts.


Calcutta, April 27: 
Tigers killed three licensed honey collectors in the Sunderbans in the past few weeks, spreading terror among the local residents who venture into the forest to collect honey or wood.

The forest department came to know of the deaths only on Friday, when two other honey collectors, both injured in the attacks, returned.

The three victims, identified as Ananda Ali Sarder, 35, Abul Hossein, 38, and Sudeb Mandal, 43, were reported to be the first tiger victims of this season. The three bodies have not been traced so far. Forest officials said a search was on to find them.

Tiger attacks claimed 20 lives in the Sunderbans in 2000. It scaled down to five last year.

According to forest officials, the season for honey collectors to enter the forest is usually in the months of April and May. About 450 honey collectors in 20 groups have already ventured into different islands in search of honeycombs.

The attacks took place in three different islands, Netidhopani, Chamta and Chandkhali, Sunderban Tiger Reserve field director Pradeep Vyas said in Calcutta.

�The honey collectors were told that the core areas of Chamta Island were highly active zone for the tigers. They were clearly warned not to venture into these areas for collecting honey,� said Vyas.

According to forest officials, the strange thing in all three cases was that the tigers eventually preyed on those who came to the rescue of their associates during the attack. All the three men whom the tigers had attacked initially escaped with minor injuries.

According to information provided by the two injured honey collectors, Ananda was killed as he tried to rescue his friend in Netidhopani Island on April 13.

The next attack took place in Chamta located in the core area of the tiger reserve. Abul was attacked when he tried to rescue Ilias from the jaws of the tiger.

The last attack took place on April 18 in Chandkhali, which falls in the buffer zone of the reserve located in the Basirhat area of North 24-Parganas. �Sudeb died in a same way when he tried to free Pashupati from the tiger�s grasp,� added Vyas.


Calcutta, April 27: 
A 25-year-old youth was critically injured when some women allegedly pushed him off a ladies compartment of a local train between Belghoria and Dum Dum stations on Saturday. The incident occurred around 3 pm, minutes after the train left Sealdah station.

Police said the women protested when some youths boarded the ladies compartment at Sealdah and Dum Dum stations. A scuffle ensued in which the women reportedly pushed one of the youths out of the compartment. He was taken to a nearby hospital by other passengers.


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