Railway eviction hits Mamata hurdle
Two held for MLA driver murder
Government official killed in brawl
Three die, power lines snap in Nor�wester fury
Heber house repair plea
Cap on scripts for examiners
State plot to curb chrome hazard
Husband shot dead, wife hurt
Uncle sets girl on fire
Inmates flee welfare home

Calcutta, May 4: 
Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on Saturday pulled the plug on the railways� efforts to clear shanties along a stretch of tracks from Dhakuria to Tollygunge by urging her supporters to stop the drive �at any cost�. She sat on a dharna and even called up Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, urging him to intervene in the matter.

Railway officials, accompanied by a contingent of armed policemen, had assembled there since morning, but as sporadic incidents of violence began to take place, the authorities called off the drive �for the time being�, possibly on instructions from �higher authorities�.

Besides the fact that the presence of the settlers was slowing down the movement of trains along this stretch, the high court had also directed the railways to remove the shanties as the settlers were polluting the Dhakuria Lakes.

The Trinamul Congress chairperson, who had reached the eviction site straight from the airport on her arrival from Delhi on Friday night, accused the railway authorities and the state government of �singling out� her constituency to undertake the drive.

Sporadic violence marked the administration�s preparation for eviction. A shanty and a bus were set on fire and the police resorted to �mild lathi charge� against a stone-throwing mob. Trinamul workers, led by MP Sudip Bandopadhyay and legislators Nayana Bandopadhyay and Tapas Roy, also put up blockades at important crossings in central and south Calcutta on Saturday morning to protest the drive.

Railway officials remained tight-lipped about the reasons behind postponement of the drive. The order came from �the higher-ups� is all they would say around noon.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, too, washed his hands of the matter, saying it was up to the railways to evict the settlers. �We had urged the railway officials to persuade the settlers to leave the stretch and agreed to help them. Obviously they could not do so and decided to postpone the drive,� he told reporters in Midnapore on Saturday afternoon.

Asked whether the drive could not be undertaken due to pressure from the Trinamul camp, an angry chief minister said: �You should address the question to the railway authorities.�

State CPM secretary Anil Biswas, however, blamed the Trinamul leader for frustrating the railway authorities� move to clear the stretch. �She has resisted the move as the area belongs to her constituency. Why did she not object when illegal settlers were evicted from Kalyani?� he asked.

Local police also shrugged off their responsibility for the failure of the mission. �We were all ready with our men. The onus was on the railway authorities to carry out the drive. They decided to call off the eviction at the last minute,� was how deputy commissioner of police (south) Kuldip Singh summed up the situation.

Around 9.30 am, the first signs of resistance from the settlers became apparent after police allegedly beat up a taxi driver. Agitated locals hurled bricks at the policemen who responded with a mild lathicharge. The mob, which was now growing in numbers by the minute, hurled a few bombs at policemen at Dhakuria.

A few yards away, a shanty, located beside the railway track near Dhakuria station, was on fire. While policemen claimed that a bomb had exploded inside, the mob alleged that the police had set fire to it.

Meanwhile, Mamata announced that she would sit for an indefinite dharna if the government decided to go ahead with the eviction.

The word going round the area, however, was that the eviction had been called off. �Didi pradhan mantrir sathe katha boleche, rail uchchhed korbe na (Didi has spoken to the Prime Minister, the eviction has been called off),� said a member of the Railway Colony Uchchhed Sangram Committee.


Calcutta, May 4: 
Police on Sunday claimed to have made a breakthrough in the murder of Trinamul Congress MLA Jyotipriya Mullick�s driver with the arrest of two youths from Bongaon.

The youths were netted during an overnight raid on Friday led by Rahul Srivastav, additional superintendent of police, North 24-Parganas. Six persons have also been detained for interrogation.

Mullick�s driver Tapan Saha was abducted on April 18 from Bongaon in the Tata Sumo in which Mullick would travel. A few days ago, North 24-Parganas police recovered a body that was identified by Gobindo Das, owner of the Sumo. The Sumo was later spotted in Jessore town in Bangladesh.

The police have already traced the route through which the vehicle was taken to Jessore town along the Indo-Bangladesh border.

�The house that the miscreants used as a temporary shelter before smuggling the vehicle was only 20 metres off the Bangladesh border,� said Srivastav. �There is no fencing and it is very easy to cross over at this point,� he explained.

After preliminary investigation, police have hit upon two motives behind the crime. �Snatching and personal rivalry seem to have triggered the incident. At least seven youths were involved,� added Srivastav.

The MLA�s driver would use the vehicle to ferry passengers after duty hours. On the day of the abduction, one of Saha�s acquaintances boarded the car to travel to Gaighata. �After sometime, a few others got in, posing as passengers. Saha, however, did not sense any foul play,� added Srivastav.

The ASP, however, was not ready to hold the Border Security Force (BSF) guilty for failing to stop the car from being smuggled out to Bangladesh. �The topography of the area helped the miscreants. It is not possible for the BSF personnel to keep watch on all the huts round the clock,� he explained.

�We are on the look-out for a few other youths who might have been associated with Saha,� Srivastav stated.


Calcutta, May 4: 
An employee of the state sports and youth services department was found dead at Barasat, in North 24-Parganas, early on Saturday.

According to police, 51-year-old Ashesh Roy had been attacked and strangulated by at least three persons.

Residents of Akrampore informed the Barasat police station after Roy�s body was found in a field. One person has been detained for interrogation.

The incident occurred soon after midnight. According to Rahul Srivastav, additional superintendent of police, North 24-Parganas, Roy left home around 11 am on Friday. In the evening, along with three of his associates, he went on a drinking spree.

�Roy reportedly had an argument with his friends. As all of them were drunk, frayed tempers led to fisticuffs. The three men started beating up Roy. They strangled him and poured hot water into his mouth. The body was then dumped in the field,� Srivastav added.

�We are still in the dark about the motive behind the killing. This does not seem to be a case of pre-planned murder, as the killers did not use any weapon,� said Srivastav.

Investigators claimed to have identified three persons involved in the incident. �We have also spoken to a number of people who had witnessed the altercation,� said an official.

In a related development, B.P. Gopalika, director of the youth services department, said on Saturday that he had sought a report from district welfare officer Ranjit Mukherjee about the incident. �It is unfair to comment unless we get the report from the district authorities,� Gopalika added.

Dum Dum case remand

Dulal Banerjee, CPM activist and member of the Dum Dum-Belgachhia zonal committee, who allegedly masterminded the murder of two men on March 9, was produced before the chief metropolitan magistrate on Saturday. He has been remanded in custody till May 18.

The Government Railway Police will produce Banerjee in a separate case at the Sealdah Court on May 6. Sanjib Goswami and Chandan Chakraborty, the victims, were lynched on charges of snatching earrings from a housewife in Dum Dum. The victims were dragged out of their houses and killed in front of their families.


Calcutta, May 4: 
Three persons, including a 12-year-old boy, died and half a dozen persons were injured after a Nor�wester, blowing at over 101 km per hour on Friday night, left trees uprooted and a number of buildings all over the city partially damaged.

The storm also took a toll on train services. Commuters taking the last trains home from Sealdah station had to spend the night inside the compartments as either overhead lines snapped or uprooted trees blocked the tracks.

As the storm increased in fury, portions of old buildings collapsed in the Entally, Ballygunge, Bagha Jatin and Shyambazar areas.

Extensive power cuts were reported from various parts of the city on Friday. Several places in South 24-Parganas, including, Mahamayatala, Sonarpur and parts of Garia, were plunged into darkness as electrical lines snapped on Garia Main Road and other places. Power was restored around 8 am.

The storm also claimed three lives in two separate incidents.

Late on Friday during the heavy rains, a portion of a wall of a run-down building in Beleghata collapsed on the adjacent shanties. A huge chunk of concrete fell on a sleeping father and son in a slum. The duo, identified as Subodh Seal, 45, and his son Pradip, 18, sustained serious injuries.

Shanty-dwellers scurried for safety braving the rain and the strong wind. The injured were rescued and rushed to Nilratan Sirkar Hospital around midnight.

Both father and son were declared dead after an hour. This infuriated local residents, who beat up a doctor on duty at the emergency ward.

The doctor, identified as Amitabha Seal, had to be admitted to the same hospital for treatment. Five persons were arrested in this connection.

A court case had prevented the owners from repairing the building. However, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation has decided to demolish portions of the building for safety reasons.

The storm claimed another victim in Tangra on Saturday morning when a 12-year-old boy, Kartik Das, accidentally touched a live wire, which had snapped on Friday night. He died in front of his house in Pagladanga, in the Tangra police station area.

Witnesses said Das was found lying on the ground with his legs entangled in the wire. Das was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.

�We are checking whether any more electrical wires have snapped in the region,� deputy commissioner of police (eastern suburban division) Sanjoy Mukherjee said.

Alipore met office director R.N. Goldar described the Nor�wester as �routine and normal�. Such storms would continue till the first week of June, especially in the evenings. �It is developing in the afternoon in places like Burdwan, Purulia and the Chhotanagpur plateau, and hitting Calcutta in the evenings,� he said.


Calcutta, May 4: 
Calcutta High Court admitted a case filed by the Destiny of Calcutta Anglo Indian Association asking for a court permission to renovate and reconstruct a building at 5, Russell Street, which used to be the first official residence of bishops in this city, including the famous Bishop Heber.

On Friday, the court directed L.C. Behani, counsel of the petitioner, to serve a notice on the national council of the YMCA in New Delhi, believed to be the owner of the building, requesting it to appear on May 17 when the case will be heard again before the division bench of Chief Justice A. K. Mathur and Justice J. Biswas.

Behani told the court that the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) had declared the house as a heritage building. Six months ago, he had written to the owner of the building asking it to renovate the building along with its arched gateway, now partially destroyed. �But the owner of the building is still silent in this regard,� he said.

The counsel on behalf of the petitioner informed the court that his client was the biggest association of the Anglo-Indian community in the city. They felt that the building should be protected and wanted to renovate it at their own cost. �But the YMCA is not bothered at all,� Behani said.

Behani told the court that in August last year, some vandals had attempted to demolish the arched gateway of the building but had to flee due to some local resistance. �Two plaques recording the history of the building were removed. These plaques are still with Shakespeare Sarani police station,� Behani said. He said a group of people, along with the promoter, were behind this act of vandalism.

Behani sought an order of the court asking the police to arrest all the people involved in the demolition of the gateway. He prayed to the court to ask the CMC to take proper measures against the owner of the building for non-compliance of its order with regard to the renovation of the building and the broken gateway. Earlier, it had ordered that the gateway arch should be reconstructed.


Calcutta, May 4: 
Following the state Higher Secondary Council�s initiative to haul up errant examiners, the Madhyamik board has decided to appoint more teachers to ensure better assessment and timely publication of results.

Madhyamik board officials said the move would allow teachers to do a better job with the answer scripts. �We have decided to assign a maximum of 100 answer scripts to every teacher. Even a few years ago, an examiner had to go through nearly 400 to 500 scripts. This took its toll on the quality of evaluation,� said Amar Patra, secretary, West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, on Saturday.

According to Patra, by reducing the burden of answer scripts, an examiner would be less prone to mistakes. Sources in the school education department pointed out that the Board�s move is also part of a drive, initiated by the government, to involve as many teachers of state-aided secondary schools as possible in checking answer scripts.

Out of approximately 1.2 lakh teachers working in 7,000 secondary schools across the state, nearly 30,000 were engaged for examining scripts of Madhyamik 2002.

�This year, we were able to appoint 10,000 more teachers for the job. We hope to raise the number to at least 52,000 in future,� said Patra.

Given that nearly six lakh examinees appeared for Madhyamik examinations this year, the Board had to make arrangements for the evaluation of nearly 54 lakh scripts.

However, some state-aided secondary school teachers� organisations have opposed the move on the ground that involvement of too many examiners would defeat the purpose of holding public examinations.

According to them, in order to increase the number of examiners, the Board recently abolished the practice of engaging only those teachers with 10 years� experience. �Since such veteran teachers are difficult to come by, the Board started roping in those with less experience. The quality of assessment suffers as a result,�said Prithwis Basu, general secretary, West Bengal Headmasters� Association.


Calcutta, May 4: 
The state government has provided land to the chrome-producing units around the city for the disposal of the hazardous waste they produce.

The plot located near Dankuni will be the first scientifically managed disposal site for hazardous waste in the state.

With seven units located in Calcutta�s hinterland becoming a major pollution threat, the state pollution control board has been pursuing the chrome-producing units to stop discharging the waste locally as the practice might lead to serious environmental hazard.

Chrome, in the form of basic chrome sulphate, is used in the tanning of leather. It contaminates the ground water sources as well as goes into the food chain through fast-growing vegetables.

Studies in the past have detected alarming proportions of the metal in vegetables and edible leaves which grow in the farmlands of Dhapa. The pollution control board, along with the National Productivity Council, is helping units which fall in the red category of the board�s hazardous list, in cleaning up their act.

The seven units, engaged in manufacturing chrome salts for tanning, will be the first in the red category to get a specialised disposal facility for their waste.

�The problem has to be addressed and something should be done about it,� said Sudhir Mundra, secretary of the Bengal Chrome Chemicals Manufacturers Association.

The 11-bigha plot has already been acquired, pollution control board sources said. There has also been an announcement in the media for people to come forward with objections if any. �Since this deals with a hazardous chemical, if there is any opposition to setting up the disposal site at the proposed address, a public hearing will have to be conducted,� senior board officials said.

Mundra said the site will be insulated so that the chrome waste does not contaminate the soil or seep into the ground water reserves while being stored. The National Productivity Council has also conducted an environment impact assessment for the disposal site.

Mundra said about Rs 2 crore will be needed to construct the disposal site. �The site will prove its worth in the next decade,� Mundra pointed out.

The association has approached the board as well as the state government for funds to set up the site. �We do not know if we will get any assistance,� Mundra said.

In any case, with time still left for public complaints to come in and the rains due in another few weeks, work cannot begin until after the monsoons.


Calcutta, May 4: 
A 30-year-old man was gunned down at Daulatabad, in Murshidabad district, late on Friday. His wife, who was critically injured in the shootout, is battling for life at Behrampore General Hospital.

According to Daulatabad police, four goons broke into Mainuddin Sheikh�s house in the Hosseinpur-Noadapara area. They opened fire on the couple and walked out immediately afterwards.

Mainuddin died on the spot after bullets pierced his chest. His 26-year-old wife Nureja Bibi, too, sustained several bullet injuries.

On hearing the sound of gunfire, neighbours rushed in and took the couple to a local health centre where Mainuddin was declared brought dead. His wife was later shifted to the Behrampore hospital.

The superintendent of police of Murshidabad district said the murder was likely to have been the outcome of a family feud. No arrest has been made in this connection.


Calcutta, May 4: 
A 52-year-old man, Binoy Roy, was arrested on Saturday for trying to set ablaze his niece at Moyna, in Barasat. The victim was rushed to the Barasat hospital where she is reportedly in a critical condition.

Police sources said Roy�s niece, Shibani Kabiraj, who got married a week ago, had lost her father in her childhood and had grown up at her uncle�s house. Initial investigation reveals that Roy was incensed as Shibani did not inform him of her marriage.

�Roy went to Shibani�s in-laws� residence on Saturday when no one else was present. He locked Shibani�s room from inside, sprinkled kerosene on her and tried to set her ablaze,� police said.

Shibani managed to free herself and escaped from the room. Her cries brought neighbours to the spot, who helped douse the flames.

Roy also suffered burns. Both of them were admitted to hospital where Shibani�s condition was stated to be serious.


Behrampore, May 4: 
Five inmates of a home, run by the state social welfare department, fled over the last two days, putting a question mark on the quality of �care and shelter� provided by the centre.

The children ran away allegedly to escape torture by the home staff. The orphanage is at Banchetia under Behrampore police station.

The employees of the home had drank and smoked ganja during duty hours on April 27. When some senior inmates protested, they were beaten up. One of them had to be hospitalised. Soon after, the five inmates fled to escape torture.

Coming to know about the incident, Murshidabad district magistrate Manoj Panth ordered an inquiry into the incident by additional district magistrate Gurupada Bayen.

Bayen has submitted the report, which confirmed that two employees, Nirmal Bose and Pradip Saha, were allegedly involved in the drinking spree on April 27. Saha was also accused of torturing 48 inmates.

The district magistrate said he recommended disciplinary action against Saha. However, home superintendent Shantidulal Biswas supported Saha and other employees accused of torturing inmates.

Biswas has filed a FIR alleging that one of the missing boys had committed theft in the home and demanded their arrest.


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