Passengers foil Sealdah train robbery
Govt pledges to act on Sen’s education report
Shourie prod for disinvestment
Emergency care classes for doctors
Three kill selves at Burtolla
Slur on Trinamul in CPM murder
Art students on collision course
Civic chaos over garbage disposal
KLO rebels arrested
Relative held for Ranigunj kidnap

Calcutta, Aug. 17: 
Passengers on the Sealdah-Lakshmikantapur local foiled a daring dacoity on Saturday morning.

A member of the gang, that went on a looting spree on the running train, was caught by the passengers and handed over to the Government Railway Police (GRP). The police, later, recovered a country-made revolver from the arrested youth. Two others managed to escape by jumping off the train when it reached a station.

Three of the commuters were injured while trying to resist the armed goons.

According to the railway police, the incident took place around 6 am, on the stretch between Jadavpur and Bagha Jatin stations. Three youths in their late twenties boarded the Lakshmikantapur-bound train from Ballygunge.

“The compartment was not crowded. Most of the commuters were office-goers, vendors and businessmen. The three youths, initially, were sitting in the compartment pretending to be passengers,” said an official of the railway police.

As soon as the train left Jadavpur, they turned violent. Two of them took out revolvers while the third brandished a dagger. “They told us not to shout and to hand over our ornaments and wallets,” said one of the passengers in the compartment.

The miscreants, then, started snatching valuables from the passengers who did not comply with their demand. Stunned by the attack, none of the passengers dared to resist.

“Suddenly, we realised that the dacoits were only three in number. That made us feel confident and we raised an alarm. Fortunately, they did not open fire,” said Ramesh Jana, another passenger.

As soon as the train entered Bagha Jatin station, the outcry raised by the passengers caught the attention of the GRP personnel deployed on the platform. “On hearing the passengers scream, we rushed to the compartment and cordoned it off,” said a GRP official.

Sensing trouble, two of the miscreants jumped off the compartment onto the tracks on the side opposite to the platform and ran away. The passengers managed to pin down the third youth when he was about to escape.

“On entering the compartment, we saw the passengers clutching on to the youth,” said a GRP personnel.

After interrogating the miscreant, police said the youth, Khokan Das, had come from Mograhat along with his two associates. “They reached Ballygunge late on Friday with plans for the train robbery on Saturday morning,” said an officer investigating the case.

Gangeshwar Prasad Singh, superintendent of the railway police, said: “A manhunt is on to track down the other culprits. Our men have been directed to keep an eye on all the late-night city-bound trains. Security will also be tightened on the trains leaving Sealdah early in the morning.”


Calcutta, Aug. 17: 
Accepting the criticism contained in Professor Amartya Sen’s Pratichi Trust education report, the state government on Saturday admitted that absenteeism was high in the primary education system, and announced that immediate steps would be taken to remove any form of racial or class discrimination, as observed by the study.

The report, an outcome of an intensive investigation of education in 18 conventional primary schools and 17 Sishu Siksha Kendras in Birbhum, Purulia and Midnapore, was released by the Nobel laureate in Calcutta on Friday. It highlighted both the positive and the negative aspects of the system and sought “radical reforms” to remove the lacunae.

The measures the government proposes to take were outlined by finance minister Asim Dasgupta after a consultation with primary education minister Kanti Biswas. Among them are the re-introduction of mid-day meals to encourage poor students “to study and be healthy,” the improvement of infrastructure, and a drive to enrol the 89 lakh children in the 5-11 age group in schools.

“The enrolment rate at present is 87 per cent, and not 96 per cent as mentioned in the report. To achieve 100 per cent, we will set up 9,000 primary school buildings and fill around 80,000 vacant posts. The teacher-student ratio has to be brought down from the present 1: 51,” Dasgupta said.

An amount of Rs 450 crore will be allocated to help remove inadequacies in the state-delivered education system, of which 25 per cent will go towards primary school education. “Absenteeism, which stands at 49 per cent among primary school students and 36 per cent in the Sishu Siksha Kendras, will have to be tackled,” he said.

Primary education minister Kanti Biswas said the district councils had been empowered to suspend or even dismiss teachers who were not taking classes. On an average, as much as 20 per cent primary school teachers have been found to be absent. “We are happy that a person of Prof. Sen’s stature has conducted this study. We are taking the findings seriously,” he said, adding that the quality of primary education and the increase in the number of students over the past 25 years was due to the success in land reforms.

Pointing out that several aspects of the report matched the government’s statements in Budget 2000, Dasgupta said the practice of private tuition gave rise to class differences. “The report too pointed out that the poor would feel deprived if they were unable to take tuition,” he said.


Calcutta, Aug. 17: 
In a freewheeling interaction with leading entrepreneurs from the city, Union minister for disinvestment Arun Shourie on Saturday lambasted the West Bengal government for the “poor state of finances” in its industrial undertakings.

The point of his discourse, however, was to exhort the West Bengal government to join the disinvestment bandwagon.

On one hand, he tried to illustrate how the West Bengal government had wasted funds on unproductive companies, and on the other, how disinvestment by the Centre had helped realise the true “productive potential” of companies formerly owned and managed by it.

Shourie said the West Bengal government was the first to create a separate department for industrial reconstruction, but of the 23 companies referred to it at the time of its inception in 1973, around 21 are deeper in the red. “I couldn’t trace the other two,” he said, implying that they probably did not exist anymore.

Quoting extensively from the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) report for 2000-01, Shourie said the return on investments in companies owned by the West Bengal government had historically been less than 0.1 per cent annually.

“Yet thousands of crores of the state’s money remain invested in non-performing companies, and most of these funds were borrowed at exceptionally high rates of interest,” he pointed out, quoting the CAG report.

Through disinvestment of 31 units so far, the Centre has raised Rs 11,350 crore. “Divestment has benefited not only the government but also the private shareholders as the share prices of most government-owned companies have gone up significantly. What is more, the funds gained from disinvestment can be used to fund the budget deficit.

“Yet there is tremendous resistance to divestment, and a consensus on the subject will emerge only after the states join the Centre in selling shares in government-owned companies. States like Punjab, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh have already initiated the process,” he said.

Speaking on resistance from the trade unions, Shourie said there was a “dramatic change” in their attitude towards divestment. The Indian National Trade Union Congress (Intuc), in particular, had taken a lead role in bringing about the change, he added.


Calcutta, Aug. 17: 
Concerned at growing complaints about junior doctors lacking expertise to handle emergency cases, former students and retired doctors of the Calcutta National Medical College (CNMC) have started training sessions on the college premises from Saturday. Nearly 100 junior doctors from different medical colleges attended classes on the opening day.

“As junior doctors man the emergency departments in hospitals, we have decided to impart training on ways to handle critical situations,’’ said Dr S.P. Mukhopadhyay, president of the CNMC alumni association.

Mukhopadhyay said there have been instances when relatives of patients have ransacked hospitals and assaulted doctors on charges of “not taking proper care’’. According to senior doctors, the juniors are not always guilty. “As they are inexperienced, sometimes they become nervous and fail to take prompt decisions,’’ Mukhopadhyay said.

He added that more doctors would be inducted in the programme later.

Tourism convention: The Indian Association of Tour Operators will hold its 18th annual convention in the city between August 29 and September 1. Twelve states in the region will participate. Union minister of state for tourism Vinod Khanna and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will attend the inauguration, where ITC chairman Y.C. Deveshwar will deliver the keynote address.


Calcutta, Aug. 17: 
Three people, including a housewife, committed suicide in separate incidents at Burtolla on Saturday. The victims were rushed to RG Kar Medical College and Hospital, where they were pronounced “brought dead”. Three people were rounded up in connection with the housewife’s death.

Soumen Mitra, deputy commissioner of police, detective department, said the housewife, Rupa Mandal, 23, committed suicide by taking poison. “The victim got married three years ago. Her in-laws had been harassing her for dowry since then. Unable to bear the torture, she decided to end her life,” he added. Rupa’s husband and his parents were arrested on the basis of a complaint lodged by her family.

In another incident, Moumita Ghosh, 23, was found hanging from the ceiling of her bedroom. After preliminary investigations, police said the woman decided to end her life after a quarrel with her mother on Friday night. “Her mother had rebuked her as she was not concentrating on her studies,” said an officer of the Burtolla police station.

In the third incident, Sujit Gupta, 31, hanged himself from the ceiling of a room. “Gupta was a small-time trader. He was going through an acute financial crisis for the past few months. Failure to repay loans prompted him to take his life,” added Mitra.

CPI leader killed: Tension prevailed in Patiraj village, in the Itahar police station area in North Dinajpur, after Budhman Sarkar, 34, a CPI leader, was killed by miscreants on Friday evening. Sarkar was asleep in his residence when he was attacked by around 20 armed men, police said. The CPI has called a bandh in the area on Sunday to protest the killing.


Calcutta, Aug. 17: 
Miscreants raided the house of Gokul Mandal, 60, a CPM worker at Pranballavpur, in the Usthi police station area in South 24-Parganas, on Friday night and killed him. No one has been arrested.

Police said nearly 25 armed men knocked on Mandal’s door around 9.30 pm and took him to a nearby paddy field on the pretext of discussing an urgent business. They stabbed him repeatedly before shooting him. Locals rushed Mandal to a health centre, where he was pronounced “brought dead”.

“The murder appears to be pre-planned,” said a sleuth on Saturday. A probe had been ordered to find out if the murder was the fallout of a gang rivalry, he said, adding that raids were being conducted to trace the killers.

Officials admitted that there had been a spate of murders and political clashes in various parts of South 24-Parganas in the wake of the panchayat elections early in 2003. Locals alleged that the killers owed allegiance to the Trinamul Congress.

Kalipada Halder, local committee secretary of the CPM, said a delegation would visit the village on Sunday. He demanded that those involved in the murder be arrested. “The murder was engineered by Trinamul Congress-backed criminals. The party is desperate to consolidate its position before the elections,” he added. He also criticised the police for the delay in arresting those named in the FIR.


Calcutta, Aug. 17: 
Students of the Government College of Arts and Crafts have been boycotting classes from August 8 because the house at 20 Jadulal Mallik Road, which has served as their hostel since the 60s, is unsafe and unfit for habitation. The five-storied building, which accommodates 51 boarders, has 35 rooms.

The side facing the street looks just shabby though not dilapidated. But the rear section of the building, that houses the toilets, is in such a state of disrepair that students, who go to answer the call of nature, do so risking life and limb. Four of the seven latrines have been closed, and in the remaining three, water drips through the ceilings. Huge chunks of the ceilings on all the floors have come off, and only the skeletons of the pillars that support them have survived.

Kashyap Basu, general secretary of the non-political students union, says for the past seven years students have been demanding that the building be repaired but nothing has been done yet. Hence they have started a movement. The principal of the college, Biman Bihari Das, has all his sympathies for them, he says.

The Director of Public Instruction (DPI), education directorate, had rented the building from Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama, Narendrapur, in the Sixties. The annual rent is a paltry Rs 36,060, and the Mission pays corporation tax of Rs 20,404 every year.

The state government, besides footing the rent bill, pays the salaries of the three cooks and three employees, which comes to about Rs 43,000 a month, says Das.

On August 8, the DPI cleared an ad hoc emergency grant of Rs 5 lakh. But that has yet to materialise. On August 13, the principal secretary, department of higher education, requested the public works department to visit the house and give the cost estimate for repairs. Nobody has done that yet either.

The secretary of the Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama, Narendrapur, reserves comment on the issue. But the principal secretary had faxed a message to the Ashrama on August 13, and in a letter dated August 14, the secretary of the institution wrote back to him saying “we have been requesting for the last 25 years the Director of Public Instruction, who is the tenant, to vacate the house and give back the premises to us”.

The Ashrama secretary wrote that he will “undertake a major repairing work of the bathrooms, roofs, toilet on emergency basis.” But that could not be done quickly in the rainy season unless the students vacated the building. So “we are not requesting you to increase the rent but we are only requesting you to see that the premises is vacated and given back to the Ashrama as soon as possible”.

The students, however, have resolved to continue their agitation till repairs are undertaken. Even if they are provided with alternative accommodation, they will not accept it unless it is situated at a convenient place like their present hostel.


Calcutta, Aug. 17: 
For the past few months, three municipalities in the eastern and north-eastern parts of Calcutta are facing a problem in disposing garbage. Residents of Promode Nagar, in Dum Dum, are preventing the civic bodies from using the dumping ground in the area.

The Dum Dum, South Dum Dum and Rajarhat municipalities had, for long, been disposing garbage at the Promode Nagar dumping ground. But, with residential units mushrooming in the area, people are not allowing workers to dump garbage in their neighbourhood.

Locals complain that there is no system to recycle the garbage. “The civic bodies do not sprinkle bleaching powder, neither do they take steps to check the stink,” they say. Chairman of South Dum Dum municipality Sreehir Bhattacharjee on Saturday admitted that the people were living in “unhygienic conditions”. “We are trying our best to disinfect the garbage,” he said.

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation has refused to let the three civic bodies to dump garbage at the Dhapa grounds. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee said it was not possible for any other civic body to use the Dhapa grounds. “After inclusion of Behala, Garden Reach and Jadavpur in our jurisdiction, the volume of garbage has increased. It is impossible to allow others to use the ground,” he added.


Siliguri, Aug. 17: 
Two key Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) militants were arrested from separate places around Kharibari near here last evening.

Chandan Singh alias Raj Rajbangshi was picked up from a tea stall near Panitanki More and Shyamlal Singh alias Chila Roy was nabbed at Batashi. When confronted with police, both surrendered without resistance.

Police sources said the rebels were not carrying arms. Senior officers said both Chandan and Shyamlal had been on the run for the past year. They were produced before the sub-divisional magistrate in Siliguri today. The court remanded them in custody till August 25.

The twin arrests come close on the heels of the police picking up Bharati Das, the Kamtapur Women Rights Forum chief, from the Jalpesh area of Jalpaiguri district. Das is also said to be the fiancee of self-styled KLO chief Jeevan Singh.

A police team led by Bagdogra circle inspector Prodyut Das assembled near Panitanki More in the cover of darkness and threw a cordon around the tea stall. Chandan leaked Shyamlal’s whereabouts after his arrest. Shyamlal was picked up soon after.

“The militants probably came out of hiding to meet relatives. Chandan hails from Bhutsinghjothe and Shyamlal from Sukarujothe in the outskirts of Siliguri,” Das said.

The police claimed Chandan was a close associate of KLO action squad chief Tom Adhikary and Jeevan. The KLO chief is a “top-notch militant” wanted in several cases, including the murder of a local CPM leader in October 2000.

Dipankar Ghosh, a Matigara zonal committee member of the CPM, was shot dead from point blank range near Phansidewa. Ghosh, an advocate, owned a small tea garden in the Dooars.

“Police came across the names of Chandan and Shyamlal from two KLO militants arrested six months ago. Chiranjit Burman, Naresh Chandra Burman and Chandan had hatched the plan to eliminate the CPM leader,” said Siliguri additional superintendent of police K. Jayaraman.


Ranigunj, Aug. 17: 
The investigations into the abduction of Vijay Kejriwal, the 26-year-old son of a mica businessman, took a new twist today with the arrest of a relative.

Suresh Ganeriwal was picked up from his residence on charges of masterminding the abduction. Local cellphone dealer Santosh Todi was also arrested for calling the Kejriwal residence over his mobile phone demanding Rs 1 crore as ransom.

Vijay, who returned home yesterday, told police that an unknown person had called him on Tuesday and asked him to come near a local hotel to receive Rs 3 lakh as advance for a shipment of mica.

“I went there and saw four persons waiting in front of a pan shop. They offered me a bottle of soft drink. I became senseless after drinking it,” Vijay said.


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