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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Left wants package for plains

TT, Siliguri, Oct. 29: Darjeeling district Left Front will demand a special package for Siliguri and the Dooars and the strengthening of the administrative set-up in Siliguri after an interim authority is put in place for the hills.
District LF convener and Bengal municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya said the demands would be made before the chief minister ahead of the next round of tripartite dialogue.
“The date for the next round of tripartite talks has not been finalised. But we will urge the chief minister to demand a special package for the development of the Dooars and Siliguri as we feel there are so many areas in the plains which need development,” said Bhattacharya.
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has claimed that the next tripartite meeting will be held after Diwali. There are rumours that a deal will be signed at the next meeting at the political level to set up the interim authority for the hills.
“A new bridge at Sevoke for better communication between Siliguri and the Dooars is necessary and the Centre has to sanction it. Education, health, water supply and roads are the other areas which are to be developed in the plains,” said the minister.
Bhattacharya said many government offices would have to be opened in Siliguri subdivision once the hills were brought under the interim authority.
“For better administration and to avoid any inconvenience for the people in the plains, we will demand that offices of the land and land reforms department, regional transport authority and the chief medical officer be opened here,” said the Siliguri MLA.
Rescue reveals Kidney racket route
TT, Alipurduar, Oct. 29:A physically challenged youth from Alipurduar was rescued by his family members from a Bikaner-bound train in a semi-conscious state yesterday, 48 hours after he was allegedly abducted by a gang involved in a kidney racket.
The tip-off that guided the search team had been given by one of the gang members — a disabled man himself — arrested the same day Abhijit Saha went missing.
The 28-year-old graduate had not returned home on Tuesday evening after he had gone out on his tricycle for a regular short outing. According to Babon, his brother, the family from Ward 11 filed a missing person’s complaint at Alipurduar police station the same evening.
“On Wednesday evening, a friend told me that he had spotted my brother’s tricycle in front of a house in the Sovabazar area of town. I rushed there and found that it was indeed Abhijit’s tricycle and it was parked in front of the house of Raju Das who stayed there on rent,” Babon said.
Raju, an amputee who begged in the station area, was apprehended by the Sahas near the Alipurduar station at 11pm on Wednesday.
“We brought him to our house. Raju confessed that he had drugged and put Abhijit on a Guwahati-bound train on Tuesday. He admitted that he was part of a gang that was involved in kidney trafficking and was paid Rs 10,000 for each youth he sent to Guwahati where the kingpins of the gang are based,” Babon said. Raju, who allegedly confessed that he had sent about 10 other youths to Guwahati, was then handed over to police.
Based on the information provided by Raju, Babon and his cousin Debashis boarded a Guwahati-bound passenger train yesterday morning. They kept their eyes open on each station throughout the journey, hoping that they would spot Abhijit. “Around 1pm, we reached Kamakhshya station, where the Guwahati-Bikaner Express, headed for Rajasthan, had pulled up. We got off and began searching the train. Just as the train was pulling out, we spotted Abhijit sitting in front of the passage near the toilet of a bogie in a semi-conscious state. We immediately got up into the running train, pulled the chain and brought it to a halt,” Babon said.
He said that GRP personnel came running and demanded to know what was going on. “We showed the policemen Abhijit’s disability certificate and identified ourselves. They allowed us to board the Brahmaputra Express and we reached home last night,” Babon said.
After Abhijit was brought back home, the Alipurduar police station refused to accept an FIR that Abhijit’s father, Amal Saha, a kerosene oil dealer, wanted to file. “We had tried to file an FIR yesterday morning giving all the details that Raju had told us but the police showed no interest. We also named Tapas, a pantry car attendant, and a rickshawpuller Gopal, who had taken Abhijit to the Alipurduar station on Tuesday night. We had got the names from Raju,” Amal Saha said. Snubbed, the family turned to the chairperson of the municipality, Dipto Chatterjee, who accompanied them to the police station. The FIR was then accepted.
“The role of the police is very strange. Only after I threatened to contact the police superintendent that the police accepted the FIR. I have a feeling that the police are trying to shield the racketeers,” Chatterjee said.
The additional superintendent of police Alipurduar, Anup Jaiswal, and subdivisional police officer David Lepcha called on Abhijit.
Both the officers refused to elaborate on the visit. Asked about his ordeal, Abhijit said he remembered little. “I can only recollect that two persons put me on a train, and then meeting Babon.”
Jalpaiguri police chief Anand Kumar said: “We are also looking into why the police station initially refused to accept the FIR. One person has been arrested and he is now being interrogated.”

‘Normal’ rains take toll on tea
Rajeev Ravidas, Kalimpong, Oct. 29: The monsoon has taken its toll on tea this time although experts said it was a “normal” year in terms of rainfall with fewer landslides compared to last year.
Landslides in the nearly five months of the rainy season that began in mid-June and ended yesterday have claimed three lives compared to over 30 deaths in 2009. Even normal life was disrupted less this year. The situation in tea gardens, the main industry in the hills, however, is not as cheerful with production likely to dip this time.
“The monsoon withdrew from the sub-Himalayan Bengal and Sikkim yesterday. Overall, the monsoon was normal in the hills as well as in the plains of north Bengal. Sikkim also experienced normal rainfall this year,” said G.N. Raha, the meteorologist in-charge of the flood meteorological office in Jalpaiguri.
Data available with Save the Hills, an NGO that works on landslide-related issues, corroborated the recordings of the met office. Earlier this year, the STH had installed three automatic rainfall gauges in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong. “Of the three major hill towns, Kurseong received above normal rainfall, while Darjeeling and Kalimpong received a notch less than normal,” said Praful Rao, the STH president. Rao said even though it was a relief that few lives were lost, the landslide hazard should be seen from a different perspective. “It does not cause death like an earthquake but impacts human lives over a longer period of time,” he said.
As far as tea is concerned, the industry apprehends further fall in production. “Production of Darjeeling Tea was 14 million kg in the early 90s which came down to 9.3 million kg in 2009, according to the Tea Board of India.
“We apprehend a further shortfall in production this year,” said Sandeep Mukherjee, the secretary of Darjeeling Tea Association. The monsoon was erratic this year in keeping with the trend of the last decade. “Over the past decade, there has been a 22 per cent shortfall in rainfall. This (shortfall) is likely to go up further in the future…(Moreover) in the last three years, drought-like conditions prevailed at the start of every year.
College axe on smut clip accused
TT, Siliguri, Oct. 29: The directorate of technical education and training has decided to expel polytechnic student Anindya Garai, whose alleged circulation of an MMS on intimate moments with his girlfriend prompted her to kill herself.
“The directorate has taken the decision to rusticate Anindya from the college today. The formalities will take a day or two to be completed and a letter will be issued declaring his rustication,” said Subrata Sarkar, the principal of Siliguri Government Polytechnic.
The accused is missing since September 18 when the girl, a second-year student of the college, had lodged an FIR against him.
Yesterday, the principal had said he did not have the power to expel Anindya, a third-year architecture student of the college. The institution is governed by the directorate.
Police who had detained Tapas Singha Roy, a cellphone storeowner in the Siliguri Junction area last evening, suspect that the businessman had helped Anindya make the video clip. His shop has been sealed.
The police said the search for the accused student was on and they were in touch with their counterparts in Bankura. Anindya is a resident of Balarampally in Bankura’s Sonamukhi.
“We have already sent a four-member team to Bankura and another team will leave for the district. We are expecting the student to be arrested shortly,” said Gaurav Sharma, the additional superintendent of police of Siliguri.
This morning, state urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya visited the girl’s parents at their Pati Colony residence where she had committed suicide on Wednesday evening.
Bhattacharya, accompanied by councillor of Ward 47 Nurul Islam, assured the girl’s parents of speedy arrest of the accused.
“Whatever happened to the girl is shocking and I will talk to the district police superintendent and the inspector-general of police (north Bengal) to speed up the investigation and arrest the culprit, who forced the girl to commit suicide, immediately. I will also talk to the Bankura police in this regard,” Bhattacharya, the CPM MLA from Siliguri, told reporters after visiting the bereaved family.
Residents of Pati Colony and several students’ organisations, including the Chhatra Parishad, SFI and the AIDSO, submitted memorandums to the administration urging for action against the accused.
“What we want now is that the student who had forced the girl to take such a drastic step should be punished,” said Mintu Sarkar, a neighbour of the victim’s family.
Pinak Priya Bhattacharya,TNN, SILIGURI: One person was arrested on Friday in connection with the suicide of a first-year student of Siliguri Polytechnic on Thursday. Her boyfriend had secretly filmed them together in bed and circulated the explicit MMS and even uploaded it on YouTube.
Tapas Singha Roy runs a mobile repairing shop at Old Matigara Road in Pradhannagar, Siliguri. Darjeeling police have found other sexually explicit videos stored in a computer at his shop. After preliminary probe, police believe he could have had a hand in the circulation of the MMS and also in uploading the video.
A day after Neha's (name changed) suicide, neighbours claimed that it was actually due to pressure exerted on her family from CPM-sheltered land mafia that the girl ended her life. They have also claimed that Singha Roy has closed links with the mafia and that the MMS was circulated only at the goons' "orders".
The locals alleged that after the sleaze MMS was circulated, five land brokers, who are also local CPM leaders, had started pressuring the girl's father to sell them the 7.5 cottah of land he owned. They had allegedly passed lewd comments at the girl's father after he refused to do so.
"Neha's father was already upset with the MMS and his problems doubled with the land mafia trying to force him to sell his land. This also instigated him to rebuke his daughter. Already traumatised after the leak, the girl was shattered after her father held her responsible for the trouble," a neighbour said.
The names of the land brokers taken by the locals are Buddheswar Burman, Amar Das, Bachchu Sarkar, Mintu Sarkar and Swapan Saha. Two of them are CPM local committee members.
Jibesh Sarkar, the CPM state committee member, rubbished the charges against his party members and said Trinamool workers were spreading false information to malign the CPM.
Gautam Deb, Trinamool's Darjeeling district committee secretary, said it was only because the culprits were CPM members that they had evaded the police net so far.
"This is a sensitive case and all arrests have to be made only after we are satisfied with the investigation," said Darjeeling SP D P Singh. 
Students hurt
TT, Alipurduar: Five students were injured when they were swept off the roof of a private bus they were travelling on by a passing branch of a tree along NH31 near Dimdima on Friday morning. About 10-12 boys were on the roof of the crowded bus plying the Gayerkata-Birpara route, police said. Satish Bara, 12, a Class VII student, has been referred to the district hospital in Jalpaiguri with head injuries. All the boys were students of Fatema High School in Dimdima.

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