Kolkata fire: Caretaker, assistant in 14-day custody

A notice informing public about demolition work hangs on the gates of the Stephen Court building in Kolkata on Thursday

The caretaker of the fire-ravaged heritage building on Park Street and his assistant were on Thursday remanded to 14-day police custody as the blame game intensified with the Chief Minister warning civic officials of stern action over the ‘racket’ in illegal constructions.

Tarun Bagadia, the caretaker of Stephen Court, and his assistant Ramshankar Singh, arrested on negligence and other charges, were sent to police custody by a court of the chief metropolitan magistrate.

Acting on a petition, the Calcutta High Court granted interim stay on the demolition of any portion of the 150-year-old Stephen Court.

Debraj Sharma and other residents of Stephen Court submitted that the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, in the name of demolishing the two top floors of the building, was destroying their property and not allowing them to enter.

The fire that broke out on Tuesday claimed 24 lives.

While Fire Services Minister Pratim Chatterjee put the number of missing at 24, Kolkata Police Commissioner Gautam Mohan Chakraborty said 12-15 people were untraceable.

Buddhadeb talks tough

Facing public outrage over the absence of safety norms, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee accused the civic administration of being hand in glove with the ‘coterie’ of illegal builders.

“The top floors of Stephen Court are illegal. We are investigating what the KMC’s role was at that time…The city has a coterie of illegal builders with whom the administration is involved. Exemplary punishment will be given. The fire has taught the government to intervene in such situations immediately,” he said in the State Assembly.

He went on to say that “a racket is working” in connivance with a section of the administration.

Search still on

Firemen continued search for the third day for those missing after the fire in the building as a stench was coming from the rubble on the upper floors.

“We can’t rule out more bodies as debris is yet to be cleared,” a fire brigade official said.

The residents demanded that they be allowed into the building, which was out of bounds for them, to collect their valuables.

The police and KMC officials had a tough time in facing the demonstrators, who included women with some lunging at the officials. “Save our houses. Don’t demolish them,” read one of the posters of the demonstrators.

And now, a museum on Sachin

Mumbai: The Maharashtra government on Thursday announced that a museum on the career of Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar would soon be built in the state.

The museum will depict the life and cricket career of the master batsman, who recently became the first player in the history of the game to score a one-day international double hundred.

Sachin is also the first Indian sportsperson to have his wax statue erected at the famous Madame Tussauds wax museum in London.

The statue was erected last year on Sachin’s 36th birthday. The statue had been formally launched by Tendulkar in Mumbai, who had exclaimed “it was so real, it was fanastic! I’m glad it doesn’t breathe.”

 He became the first Indian sportsman to make the grade and joined cricket legends Brian Lara and Shane Warne.


India Fashion Week opens after fire permit delay

NEW DELHI — Organisers of India’s leading fashion week said the event would finally open on Thursday after a missing fire permit forced the cancellation of all shows on the first day.

Designers, models, traders and the media waited in vain at the venue until late in the evening on Wednesday as police conducted a surprise check on the paperwork for the five-day Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week in New Delhi.

“The event will open on Thursday. We have the fire safety certificate now,” said Bhavna Katyal, a member of the organising team.

Katyal said they had failed to obtain a certificate from the fire department showing that all safety arrangements were in place at the venue which led the police to order its closure.

The event, in its 15th edition this year, will feature 130 Indian designers showcasing their collections, and had eight shows planned on the opening day.

Among India’s host of fashion events, the biannual India Fashion Week along with the Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai are considered the most important events on the calendar.

Katyal said she was unsure how the cancelled shows would be rescheduled at the Okhla exhibition centre in the south of New Delhi.


‘I know who planted the bomb on Kingfisher flight’

A mysterious caller has been nagging the harried airport police and claiming to have information of the people who planted a crude bomb in the Kingfisher aircraft on Sunday.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (north east) Basavraj Malagatti received a phone call from a Mohan from Mumbai. He claimed that he has filmed the people who had kept explosives in the aircraft.
Malagatii said that the caller informed him that he has converted the recording into a CD and would give it to him if he gets suitably rewarded.
“I got the call at 7.15 pm on my landline number. The caller refused to divulge his complete identity and his phone number.
When I assured him that he’ll be rewarded if he gives me the CD and his phone number, he said he’ll contact me soon and took my mobile phone numbers,” Malagatti said.
Malagatti added that the caller said he would give his bank account number for depositing the money as he would need it to fly his associate down to Bangalore with the CD.
“I assured him that I’d give him two and fro charges along with the cash reward if I get the CD and asked him to send his associate. However, he didn’t reply to it and disconnected the call,” said Malagatti.
“I’ve asked my officers to track the number as I think he’s a prankster. However, we cannot rule out any possible leads.”
Meanwhile, the Kerala police have picked up a few people in Thiruvananthapuram, including a ground staff member of Kingfisher airlines.
They have also detained a scrap dealer and an explosives licence holder in connection with the case.
Also, on a tip-off from the Kerala police, the Bangalore airport police have detained three people who were travelling from Kerala to Dubai via Bangalore. They are presently being interrogated.

Rakesh Maria likely to be appointed Maharashtra ATS chief

Mumbai: Rakesh Maria, Mumbai’s Joint Police Commissioner of Crime is likely to be appointed as Maharashtra’s new Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) chief.

Maria replaces K P Raghuvanshi, as reports confirm that he made the mistake of going public with information critical to tracking down terror suspects in Pakistan.

Sources said Raghuvanshi has been asked to step down from his post following his fault of going public with regard to information on terror suspects.

Maria has been credited for solving the 1993 blast case and has been the face of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks probe.

Raghuvanshi’s second term as the Maharashtra ATS Chief was cut short with this transfer. He also has been facing criticism for the non-performance in the Pune Blast case. (ANI)

Gates Foundation to invest Rs. 250 crore in UP

Uttar Pradesh has been assured of an investment of Rs. 250 crore by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in medical, health and family welfare sectors in the state. Besides, the Foundation has also shown interest in extending its contribution towards improving the State’s health indices.

This was decided at a meeting between the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Mayawati and the Foundation’s founder, Melinda Gates in Lucknow on Wednesday. The meeting held at the Chief Minister’s 5, Kalidas Marg official residence was attended by the officers of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The programmes run by the Foundation in the State’s health and family welfare sectors, as well as the future plans were discussed in the meeting. Appreciating the initiative taken by the Founation, Ms. Mayawati assured all possible assistance from the Uttar Pradesh Government.

According to an official spokesman, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister was informed by Ms. Gates that schemes worth Rs. 500 crore have been launched by the Foundation with the maximum investment being made in U.P. . Ms. Gates said the Foundation was interested in extending the benefits to those sections who were unable to avail the medical, health and family welfare services.

Particular emphasis was laid on women and child welfare and polio and tuberculosis eradication programmes by Ms. Gates, the spokesman said.

Ms. Gates was apprised by the Chief Minister how the long period of political instability in Uttar Pradesh had ended following the formation of the Bahujan Samaj Party Government in May 2007. Ms. Mayawati said a comprehensive health and family welfare programme had been formulated by her Government to ensure that these services were extended to poor and deprived sections of the population.

Ms. Mayawati said the people of the State, particularly the poor, were now ensured of better health services.

Crane overturns at Delhi Metro site; two injured

Two persons were injured when a mini-crane at a Delhi Metro construction site toppled and fell on an autorickshaw in south-east Delhi this evening.

The incident took place at Alimore in Sarita Vihar at around 4:30 pm.

“The mini-crane called hydra toppled and fell on an autorickshaw at a construction site between Mohan Estate and Tuglaqabad Metro stations on the Central Secretariat-Badarpur line,” a Delhi Metro official said.

The driver of the autorickshaw and a labourer identified as Rajesh (30) were injured in the incident. They were rushed to AIIMS Trauma Centre where they are undergoing treatment, police said.

Eight dead as bus falls into Kerala river, toll likely to go up

At least eight persons, including two women, drowned and more are feared trapped as a private bus with around 40 passengers fell into a river near Kottayam on Tuesday.

Rescuers from the Meenachil River at Thazhathangadi have fished out eight bodies while efforts were on to lift the bus from the water, police said.

Naval divers from Kochi have joined the rescue operations.

At least 19 persons, who either swam to safety or were rescued, are under treatment in various hospitals. Their condition was stated to be out of danger, police said.

The exact toll would be known only when the bus, portion of which got stuck in the muddy riverbed, is lifted out.

The bus coming to Kottayam from Cherthala first hit an electric post and plunged head on into the deep river.

Four of the deceased had been identified; hospital sources said adding the conductor of the bus was among the dead.

Rajan, a survivor, said the vehicle was travelling at normal speed along the narrow road. It hit the electric post, went out of control and fell into the river.

“I cannot say how I escaped, except that it was due to grace of God,” said Rajan, who managed to come out through the backdoor as he was sitting in the rear seat.

He put the number of passengers in the bus at the time of the mishap at 35 to 40.

Kerala Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said entire official machinery had been geared up for rescue work. Ministers of Transport, Health and Public Works rushed to the spot on hearing the news.


Founder of India’s Maoist rebellion commits suicide: police

A founder member of the radical Maoist insurgency that has plagued large parts of India for 40 years committed suicide on Tuesday in the village where the movement was formed, police said.

Kanu Sanyal, 78, was found hanging in his hut in Naxalbari, 600 kilometres (370 miles) from Kolkata, in the eastern state of West Bengal.

“He committed suicide by hanging himself and we are investigating the case,” senior police officer Surojit Kar Purokaysatha told AFP.

Sanyal and Charu Majumdar established the extreme left-wing peasant uprising in 1967 in Naxalbari — giving Indian Maoist rebels their name “Naxalites”.

The insurgency is now active in 20 out of 28 states with strongholds in a so-called “Red Corridor” stretching across north and eastern India.

India’s government, which sees the Maoist rebels as its biggest internal security threat, has launched offensives against them in recent months but has failed to curb their operations.

At least 900 people died in Maoist attacks in 2009, the highest figure since 1971.

The Maoists have used administrative power vacuums and under-development to establish control over large tracts of land across state boundaries.

In February, the government gave a cautious response to a rebel offer of peace talks, saying the insurgents must first stop their attacks and make a formal proposal.

Produce Nithyananda case documents: HC to police

Bangalore: In a response to the plea filed by scandal-tainted Swami Nithyananda, seeking quashing of the police cases against him, the Karnataka High Court ordered the state police to produce all documents related to the cases

The judge, Arali Nagaraj, also posted the matter for further hearing to Mar 25.

Ramanagaram district police has slapped several charges on the godman after a sex tape showing Nithyananda in compromising position with Tamil actress Ranjitha hit the media on Mar 2, leading to widespread protests and outrage among the followers.

Seeking squashing of all the charges he faces, Swami Nithyananda submitted a writ petition in the High Court contending that he was innocent and that the whole controversy was a conspiracy tailored by his driver Kurup Lenin done to defame him and his ashram.

OneIndia News

Poacher killed in gunfight in Assam park

A poacher was killed in a gunfight with forest guards in Orang National Park, famed for tigers and elephants, in Assam’s Darrang district.

Three poachers had entered the park and exchanged fire with a patrolling team of forest guards at Jaroni camp area Sunday night, police said on Monday.

Two of the poachers escaped, while the body of the third was recovered on Monday, along with three rounds of live ammunition and as many empty cartridges, an axe and three carry bags, they said.

The poachers had entered the southern end of the park with the intention of killing animals but were prevented from doing so by the forest guards, officials said.

Kolkata: Negligent nurse cuts off infant’s finger

Kolkata: Similar to the ban on using mobiles while driving, the government may have to formulate a ban on the usage of cellphones by medical staff while treating patients as it has been reported that a nurse allegedly severed an infant’s finger while she was busy on the phone

The infant, who is barely one month old, lost her finger to medical negligence at Institute of Child Health on Friday, Mar 19.

The nurse “unwittingly applied the scissors on the little finger of the baby’s right hand while removing the plaster on the channel areas meant for saline administration,” the institute told a news agency.

While the institute told the news agency that she did it ‘unwittingly’, the parents allege that the nurse ended up cutting the child’s finger as she was on her mobile phone.

The infant has lost majority of the finger in the incident.

The institute has suspended the nurse.

OneIndia News

18,622 police posts in Ahmedabad unmanned

Gandhinagar: Leader of opposition in the Gujarat assembly, Shaktisinh Gohil, on Thursday alleged that there is a deliberate move by the state government to keep the police force weak.

Reacting to the demands of the state home department, Gohil said that Gujarat should have a strong and efficient police system as it is a border state.

“It is unfortunate that millions are spent to make CM’s security impregnable while 5.5 crore people of Gujarat are left to fend for themselves. As of March 2009, 18,622 posts in police department were vacant,” he said.

He said no arrangements are made in the chowkies on the border. The Central government had allocated huge funds, but the state government delayed its annual plan and the money could not be utilised, he said.

“There is not even a single bullet available for INSAS rifle and there is shortage of 17 to 100 per cent in ammunition for different arms.” Gohil said, “The CM wishes that terrorists should come to Gujarat so that his vote bank becomes strong and he can promote his politics of terrorism. Akshardham was not provided security cover and so terrorists had struck. The murder of Haren Pandya did not move the government.

“Soon after the chief minister in his public speeches challenged terrorists to come, there were serial blasts in Ahmedabad. And this gave fresh lease of life to the chief minister’s politics of terrorism.” He reminded the government that terrorists had taken boat from Porbandar in Gujarat for striking in Mumbai.

However, rejecting Gohil’s claims, minister of state for home, Amit Shah, said: “Compared to the time of the Congress rule, the population has increased by 37% but the crime rate has gone down in the state.

The percentage of attempt to murder has gone down by 40%, incidence of loot has decreased by 26% and incidence of housebreak has gone down by 18%. According the data of National Crime Records Bureau, the crime rate is lowest in Gujarat in the whole country.”

Shah told the House that the process of recruiting 13,149 jawans in police was over and the recruitment of 14,000 jawans more was in process.


Fresh FIR filed against Swami Nithyananda

Bangalore: The Ramanagaram district police have formed a team of officers and personnel to trace tainted godman Swami Nithyananda Paramahamsa, who runs a dhyanapeetham at Bidadi

District superintendent of police SB Bisanahalli said that a first information report (FIR) had been registered against the swami at the Bidadi police station, based on the ones filed by the Chennai and Coimbatore police.

“The fresh FIR was filed after the FIRs registered by Tamil Nadu police were translated into Kannada. It was filed under sections 295 (a), 420, 376, 377, 506 (b) and 120 (b), based on a complaint filed by K Lenin of Athur in Salem district. In his complaint, Lenin had accused Nithyananda of misbehaving with women and forcing them into performing ‘indecent’ acts with him,” the officer said. The police team will be headed by deputy superintendent of police (Ramanagaram sub-division) Devaraj.

The district police officers said that they would be tracking the movements of the godman, who was yet to be traced. “We will despatch the team to various places where the swami is believed to be hiding,” an officer said.

Police said that they would question some of the ashram inmates in Bidadi to get more information, which could be used as evidence against the godman. “However, we still have not decided if we should arrest Nithyananda. We will let the law take its course once the swami is traced,” another officer said.

The police will have to record Lenin’s statements before proceeding ahead with the case. Besides filing a complaint that resulted in a case being booked against Nithyananda by the Chennai police, Lenin had also handed over a CD containing “raunchy” bedroom scenes of Nithyananda and a Tamil actress to the police commissioner of that city.

On Wednesday, there were speculations that the case may be handed over to the Crime Investigation Department (CID) because, as an officer put it, “the case had inter-state ramifications.”

Meanwhile, the swami kept mum as he had reportedly gone on a maun vrath.


No new taxes in Tamil Nadu budget

An inside view of the new Tamil Nadu Assembly hall. Finance Minister K. Anbazhagan presented the 2010-2011 State Budget here on Friday

Tamil Nadu Finance Minister K. Anbazhagan on Friday presented a Rs. 3,396.45 crore deficit budget and refrained from imposing fresh taxes.

The Minister presented the State budget in the new Assembly-Secretariat complex on Omanthoorar Government Estate here on Friday.

Reduction in taxes on a variety of articles used by the common man was announced by the minister, who presented the fourth budget of the DMK government in the state.

The Vote on Account for 2010-2011 and Final Supplementary Estimates for 2009-2010 will be presented on March 26.

More details on the budget are awaited.

The swami who turned barren land into a gold mine

This Krishi Pandit Award winner, who turned what was barren land a decade ago into a lush green horticulture farm through a mixture of organic and conventional farming is not like any other farmer.

He is a swami heading a revered religious math with a large following in the district.

Sri Gurupadalinga Mahaswami, who heads the Virakta Math here, single-handedly converted 25 acres of barren land into a virtual gold-mine.

Recognising his contribution in the field of agriculture and horticulture, the State Government awarded him the prestigious Krishi Pandit award this year.

The swami participates in every aspect of agriculture, right from the preparation of the land, tilling, sowing and harvesting of the crop. He spends at least 10 hours in the fields supervising operations and has constructed a small farmhouse in the centre of the horticulture farm to be nearer to his work.

When the swami took charge of the math 25 years ago, after the death of Sri Chennaveera Shivayogi, the math only had five acres of dry land. The young swami, through sheer hard work and dedication, purchased another 20 acres of land.

The agriculture and horticulture farm owned by the math is self sufficient. It has an open well and three high-yielding borewells that provide sufficient water for the farms. The water management techniques followed by him has earned him many laurels. The entire horticulture farm is watered through drip irrigation; not a single drop of water goes waste. To improve the water table in the village, the swami donated five acres of land for constructing a tank and that has helped in improving the groundwater levels in the village.

The farm has its own vermicompost manufacturing unit that produces 200 tonnes of vermicompost from 18 pits a year. “Besides using the vermicompost to enrich the soil, 50 per cent of the compost is sold at the rate of Rs. 300 a quintal to farmers,” said agricultural scientist Raju Teggalli, who is the guiding force behind the success of the experiment of Sri Gurupadalinga Mahaswamigalu.

Dr. Teggalli, who heads the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) and works as an entomologist in the Agriculture Research Centre here, said from time to time the KVK provides technical help to the swamiji for following the correct agricultural practices and water management techniques.

The swami established a grape farm five years ago using technological backup from the KVK. Now the farm is one of the most successful experiments in producing raisins in the district.

On an average, the farm produces more than 10 tonnes of qood quality golden raisins which fetches a good price in the market.

The farm has one of the biggest scientifically established sheds, which can at a time hold 10 tonnes of grapes a day.

Other crops

The swami has also taken up cultivation of sugarcane on a small patch of land and is experimenting with the “paired row method of planting of sugarcane” which helps in retaining the moisture levels on the land for a longer period resulting in a higher yield. Traditional crops like jowar, red and green gram and vegetables are also grown.

The agriculture activities on the farm also provides employment for the womenfolk in the village, who get a monthly salary of more than Rs. 1,500. The horticulture and agriculture farm is frequented by the farmers from other districts as well.

Man to get brain-dead daughter’s kidneys


A view of Government General Hospital, Chennai

The kidneys of a five-year-old traffic accident victim are to be harvested and transplanted in her father.

According to the Government General Hospital authorities, Janani was injured in a road accident involving a two-wheeler in Chittoor on Tuesday morning. She was rushed to the CMC, Vellore from where she was shifted to the hospital here as her condition worsened.

Janani, who was brought to the GH around 4 a.m. on Wednesday, was declared brain-dead after the first mandatory investigation around noon.

However, the hospital will perform the second mandatory test to certify brain death around midnight and only by Thursday morning will the authorities take up the harvesting procedures. The hospital decided to wait until midnight to conduct the second battery of tests as the patient was a child, hospital authorities said.

Though Janani’s father is not registered or in the priority list of persons requiring kidney transplant at the GH, the hospital granted the request of the family considering the circumstances, the hospital Dean J. Mohanasundaram said.


“It is an unfortunate event. Since the child was providing the kidneys to her father, we agreed,” he said. As of now, since the donor is a child and the recipient is an adult, both kidneys would be given to the father, he added.

The hospital is also trying to find recipients for her heart and liver in Chennai and Bangalore. It has been proposed to send the corneas to the Government Eye Hospital in Egmore.

Surat police arrest former journalist for Maoist links

‘Incriminating’ documents, Oriya books on Maoist movement recovered

The Surat Rural police arrested a 37-year-old man from Pandesara on Tuesday night for his alleged involvement in Maoist movement in the city and different tribal areas of south Gujarat.

Niranjan Mahapatra was produced before a local court on Wednesday, which sent him to police remand for 10 days. Surat Range IG A K Singh said, “We are keeping a close watch in the region. We are investigating to find out his (Mahapatra’s) associates.”

The Special Operations Group (SOG) arrested Mahapatra, who was once a freelance journalist, following a tip-off. The police claimed to have found several incriminating documents and books in Oriya related to Maoist movements from his rented accommodation at Jagannath Nagar. They refused to divulge more details

Neighbours told the police that Mahapatra would rarely interact with them and many times his house remained locked for 15-20 days. According to the police, he earlier worked as a freelance journalist in Oriya newspapers. He is also believed to be associated with workers’ unions.

Delhi to phase out auto rickshaws?

If the state government has its way, the three-wheeled creatures will soon walk into the sunset. Chief minister Sheila Dikshit told the state assembly that their “service is very poor.”

“It is not acceptable. We are exploring ways to phase them out,” she said.

“Government was in touch with auto-makers Honda and Bajaj to provide battery-operated, eco-friendly vehicles so that the existing CNG autos could be replaced,” the chief minister said.

However, the auto drivers are not obviously amused. They said they would bring the city to a standstill, if the government goes ahead with the proposal.

Reacting to Dikshit’s statement on the floor of the House on Wednesday, Delhi Auto-rickshaw Sangh general secretary Rajender Singh Soni said that the government cannot target all of them for the “wrongdoings of a couple of bad fish in the pond.”

“It’s not a joke. Today they say we are replacing autos. Tomorrow they will say we want to replace battery-operated vehicles. They can not punish all of us. The city government is playing into the hands of few brokers,” he alleged.

“The government should first look into the real problems. There is shortage of CNG filling stations. Auto fares are very low. Majority of the autos are owned by a couple of influential people,” said Dharmendra Kumar, who runs an auto on rent.

The auto rickshaw union said that they would hold a dharna outside the Delhi Assembly on March 22.

The commuters gave a mixed reaction to the development. “I am glad if such a thing is happening. City auto drivers have made our life hell,” said Snigdha Kumari, a fashion designer who lives in south Delhi.

“It’s good that government has finally decided to rein them in. But no decision should be taken in haste. The government should formulate a policy so that the new mode does not go the same way,” said Sidharth Kumar, an IT professional who lives in Laxmi Nagar.

Beginning in the summer of 2000, Hong Kong airport began operating a 16-passenger Mitsubishi Rosa electric shuttle bus, and in the fall of 2000, New York City began testing a 66-passenger battery-powered school bus, an all electric version of the Blue-Bird TC2000. A similar bus was operated in Napa Valley, California for 14 months ending in April, 2004.

The 2008 Beijing Olympics used a fleet of 50 electric buses, which have a range of 130 km with the air conditioning on. They use Lithium-ion batteries, and consume about 1 kW·h/mi. The buses were designed by the Beijing Institute of Technology and built by the Jinghua Coach Co. Ltd. The batteries are replaced with fully charged ones at the recharging station to allow 24 hour operation of the buses.

12 injured in blast near Lakshmipur in Bihar

At least 12 people were injured, four of them critically, in a bomb explosion in a jeep near Lakshmipur in Bihar’s Jamui district on Thursday.

As soon as the jeep carrying passengers from Sangrampur to Jamui reached a petrol pump near Lakshmipur, a crude bomb kept in the vehicle went off, police sources said.

Twelve people, including the driver and helper of the vehicle, were injured in the blast.

Four of the injured people were admitted to Sadar hospital here where their condition was stated to be critical while others were given first aid at the spot