Trail of death on millennium Sunday
Call for student-friendly mathematics syllabi
Govt steps up heat on civic bodies
M’s the word, Maqbool’s made a Discovery
Ulfa blows up oil pipeline
Plot dispute ignites tribal arson attack
Rush for backward votes in north Bihar
JMM irked by Centre’s stand on state

Calcutta, Jan. 2: 

Four people were killed and six injured in three separate road accidents on the first Sunday of 2000. One of these, on AJC Bose Road, sparked off the now-familiar routine of mob violence and police retaliation.

The first accident took place early in the morning, when three residents of Hatgachia in Tiljala area were crushed to death after a lorry collided with their matador on the EM Bypass, near Parama Island.

The driver of the lorry escaped. While Sanatan Das was injured in the crash, his wife Anjali, son Ramesh, and driver Pappu Sheikh, who were loading vegetables on to the matador, were killed.

A few hours later, two youth on a cycle were hit by a Maruti car near the four-point AJC Bose Road-Ripon Street crossing.

“The pillion rider was run over by the rear wheels of the vehicle, while the cyclist was flung on to the pavement,” said Sheikh Sajid, a local resident. The vehicle sped away from the scene of the accident.

According to witnesses, a militant crowd soon went on the rampage, damaging buses and stoning policemen posted there.

A large team, led by DC (traffic) K. Harirajan, rushed to the spot, along with Rapid Action Force personnel.

When the brickbatting continued, the police resorted to a lathicharge and fired three rounds of teargas to disperse the mob. Two people were arrested on charges of rioting.

At least three private buses were damaged and six people, including three cops, were injured in the clash. The area was closed to traffic for nearly three hours during prime time.

Local councillor Iqbal Ahmed later accused the authorities of “not taking any action” although ten people had died in a dozen road accidents over the last few months.

``Locals here violate road rules at random, just like the cyclists did today, and policemen are assaulted if they dare to book violators,’’ retorted K. Harirajan.

Late on Sunday evening, six pedestrians were injured when a private bus rammed against a railing on Mahatma Gandhi Road while trying to overtake a truck.

A police patrol party rushed to the spot, arrested the driver, seized the vehicle and took the injured to Medical College where they were discharged after first- aid.

Man falls off roof: Dilip Saha, 19, was killed after he fell from the terrace of his Collin Street residence in the early hours of the new millennium. Saha was celebrating the day with his friends on the terrace when he slipped and fell off, said the deputy commissioner, detective department, Narayan Ghosh. He was taken to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, where he succumbed to injuries.    

Calcutta, Jan. 2: 

Teachers of well known city schools have called for more student-friendly mathematics syllabi.

They feel the existing syllabi are “intimidating” and need to be revised to remove the mental block many students develop while studying the subject.

Suicides by a number of students after failing to coming to grips with mathematics have also shaken up the conscience of science teachers in schools.

“A very wrong approach towards teaching of mathematics is one of the major causes behind the immense mental pressure on young students which sometimes forces them to end their lives,” a senior mathematics teacher said.

Since 1998, a number of pupils from city schools, including a Class VII student of Assembly of God Church, committed suicide for not being able to do well in math tests.

“The traditional notion is that mathematics consists of finding solutions to certain given problems. The conventional approach makes students believe it is an extraordinarily difficult subject requiring special attention. It is time we changed our approach and made math enjoyable for students,” said Arundhati Mukherjee, a teacher of Gokhale Memorial School.

The teachers initiated the move to scrap the existing mathematics syllabus during a discussion on issues related to science education at the annual conference of All India Science Teachers’ Association at the Presidency College auditorium last Wednesday.

The association members belonged to well-known Calcutta schools like La Martiniere, South Point, Diocesan, Gokhale Memorial, and Loreto. More than 100 city schools participated in the conference.

“There is no need to make students nervous by making them extra conscious about mathematics in school. Already, there is pressure on most students built at home by their parents. We have to change our method of teaching and the syllabus. Or else, the children will suffer,” said a teacher from Diocesan School.

“We have to convince students right from the primary level that mathematics is vitally linked with our everyday lives. We will soon put forward our suggestions to the government in this regard,” said S. N. Giri, association president and former chief of David Hare Training College.

Even elementary mathematics which is taught in schools has its application in life. A thorough change in teaching methodology is required to make the students aware about the areas of the subject’s application, the teachers observed.

A move to make the mathematics syllabus more “pupil-friendly” has been initiated by the state government. The council is trying to negotiate with various boards in this regard.

The association has sought suggestions from experts in the city as well as from other parts of the country before placing a coherent proposal before the government.

C. K. Ghosh, director, Indira Gandhi National Open University is one such expert. According to Ghosh, most average students are not made aware of fact that the term ‘chord line’, associated with the railways and found in train time tables is the same chord they learn in their geometry lessons.

“One can travel from Howrah station to Burdwan by train along two routes: the main line and the chord line. The distance between Howrah and Burdwan along the chord line is 95 km whereas the distance along the main line is 107 km.

Similarly, the distance between Asansol and Mughalsarai along the main line is 557 km and along the Grand Chord, 461 km,” Ghosh said.

He recommended that after defining chord, the students should be given a brush-up in geography with the help of a map and a rough diagram of the tracks to make the subject interesting and meaningful.

Giving another example, Ghosh said that while travelling by train, a student may be anxious to know the position of his berth. By application of the concept of modulus, a student can easily determine the position of his berth.

In a three-tier coach, if the berth number is divided by eight and if the remainder is one or four it is a lower berth. If the remainder is two or five it is middle berth and if it is three or six it is an upper berth. If the remainder is seven it is window side lower berth and if there is no remainder that is if the berth number is exactly divisible by eight then it is a window side upper berth.

“But, this kind of application of mathematics is never taught in schools,” Ghosh regretted.

The teachers will soon approach the state government to introduce the association’s suggestions on a trial basis in schools as soon as possible, said Robin Ray, headmaster and science teacher of a state-aided school.

Arundhati Mukherjee observed that many average students are capable of scoring high marks but cannot not do so. Such students can do well if there is scope of illustrating the application of mathematics, she added.    

Calcutta, Jan. 2: 

After truant secondary board employees, it’s now the turn of errant civic body officials to feel the heat.

Concerned over growing irregularities in municipalities, the state government is bringing an amendment to the Bengal Municipal Act to enable it to take action against civic bodies.

Officials in the municipal affairs department said after the amendment, the government will be able to summarily dismiss any municipality chairman if any allegation of wrongdoing is proved.

The new provisions will empower the government to block allotment of development funds, dismiss the municipal board and arrest a corrupt chairman or councillor.

“There are some municipalities which do not follow guidelines and there is plenty of evidence of corruption. Though we take action from time to time, it is not sufficient,” said a senior officer from the municipal affairs department.

The municipality or its chairman will have to face the music for misutilisation of funds, appointment of casual workers and not running the civic board according to democratic norms.

The state government took a firm stand after the Comptroller and Auditor-General pointed out irregularities in municipalities, mainly in utilising government funds. Allegations on violating regulations in running the civic bodies have also flooded Writers Buildings.

Municipal affairs minister Ashoke Bhattacharya recently held a meeting with chairmen of the big municipalities and asked them to follow the municipal rules. Guidelines have been issued to chairpersons of all 123 municipalities.

“Our policy is to implement development projects in urban areas through municipalities involving local people. The government will not pardon anyone charged of graft,’’ said Bhattacharya.

Criminal held: An associate of criminal don Nadeem, arrested a couple of months ago, was held in Colootola by officers from Bowbazar police station on Sunday. Deputy commissioner Narayan Ghosh said Mohammad Shabinur had been hiding in a ‘safe house’ in the area. A revolver has been seized.

Man killed in scuffle: Sisir Saha, 35, was killed in a scuffle at Kulpi on the southern fringe of the city on Saturday. Saha and his friends, all residents of Kasba, had gone on a picnic to Kulpi, police said. He was admitted to Diamond Harbour sub divisional hospital, where he died.    

Calcutta, Jan. 2: 
Take Maqbool Fida Husain on the last night of 1999; give him canvas and colour.; add a dash of ‘Mrs & Mr Madhuri Dixit’. What you end up with is a millennial masterpiece.

It was close to midnight when Husain took up the brush, “with no real plan”, at friend Naresh Kumar’s residence in central Calcutta. By the morning of the new millennium (after a short break for chai at his favourite Ballygunge Circular Road dhaba), “Discovery” had dawned.

The colourful eight-ft by four-ft creation revolves around the rising sun, glimpses of Generationext, a director’s chair with a 2000 label and, of course, the master’s muse.

The Woman pouring water on to the horns of a bull is at once Ganga and Madhuri. What about the theme of Aquarius and Taurus?

“At one level, they symbolise ‘life-giving water’ and ‘Shakti’. But the secret is that while Madhuri is Taurean, you can guess who is Aquarian,” Husain told The Telegraph, bearded face breaking into a broad smile. “I was thrilled to meet him (Sriram Nene), he’s such a wonderful young man. She’s so fortunate to find him,” he addded, before turning to caress The Woman’s tresses with a brush of blue.

Discovery’ that “spawned two millenniums” in the process of being born, is both Maqbool (Fida About Madhuri) Husain’s tribute to “the complete actress, the eternal symbol of beauty and grace”, and to a millennium that he is “most optimistic” about.

In Calcutta to see his dentist for a “special face-lift” (designer dentures dictated by the painter’s pencil), Husain’s decision to create a little bit of magic on a canvas that had been awaiting him at the Kumars’ for two years, was “completely spontaneous”. “It’s such a pleasure to be back in Calcutta every time. It remains a city of warm artistic appreciation,” said Husain, hands smeared with paint, feet bare but bright.

The painter-turned-director is ready to hit the road with Gajagamini. “The film is finished, but now the real work starts. I have decided not to release it like any other film, for it is a complete aesthetic experience, combining various art forms. So, from end -January or early-February, I will personally take it to places where it can be understood and appreciated.” Kerala and Calcutta are sure stopovers for the “operatic ballet” depicting “the journey of a woman through the eyes of a painter”.

“Kerala, to me, remains the only place in India where meaningful cinema is still being made. Sadly, in Calcutta, while filmlovers remain, there are no good films. For me, the two great Indian filmmakers were P.C. Baruah and Ritwik Ghatak. After Ghatak, there has been a void,” declared Husain, waving his black stick like a magician’s wand.

He might well need to conjure up a trick or two to wriggle out of the controversy that his “first and last film” has already caused. Howls of “sacrilege” and “obscenity” have been heard from Visva-Bharati over shapely maidens swaying to snatches of Rabindrasangeet in one of the five parts of the film.

For the moment, though, the spotlight is on the showman and his latest work of art. And he certainly couldn’t have timed it better.    

Guwahati, Jan. 2: 

Seven persons were picked up for interrogation today after suspected Ulfa militants blew up an ONGC pipeline in Upper Assam’s Sibsagar district late last night causing fire and oil spill.

According to Sibsagar deputy commissioner L.N. Tamuly, oil supply through the line has been restored this evening.

The total monetary loss suffered by the ONGC because of the blast has been estimated at Rs 5 lakh.

The blast, triggered by a time device, took place on the banks of Disangpani river. It damaged 10 ft of the pipeline carrying crude from Moran to Lakwa. The bomb was strategically placed near the bridge of the river.

Sibsagar police officials said the blast took place at 10.30 pm at Saphrai village under Kakotibari police station in Saraihat sub-division of Sibsagar district, damaging the pipeline. No casualty was reported as the area was isolated with no human habitation nearby, Tamuly said.

A major fire broke out at the site because of the oil spill and it took fire fighting personnel almost three hours to douse the blaze. “The sound of the blast could be heard from the Lakwa ONGC colony, which is nearly six km from the site,” officials said.

Senior police and ONGC officials have rushed to the spot to take stock of the situation. A combing operation has been launched to nab the culprits, police sources said.

ONGC officials said it would take a day to repair the pipeline. Security measures have been intensified in the area.

The official said as the line belonged to the central trunk firm (CTF) which had no connection with supply of oil to the refineries, normal activities of the ONGC were not affected.

The blast followed a recent announcement by the banned organisation to carry out subversive activities this month, Tamuly said, adding that the information was received by the district administration from a “secret source” and the authorities were working to ascertain its veracity and initiate counter measures .    

Berhampur, Jan. 2: 

Seventeen houses belonging to the Panas, a Scheduled Caste community, were set ablaze by tribals at remote Amarpur village under R. Udaygiri block of Gajapati district on Friday, a delayed report reaching the district administration said. No one was killed or injured in the incident.

The incident of arson occurred a day after the attack by tribals on a police picket at Majhiguda village in the district, in which eight persons were killed. Three persons have been detained and are being interrogated in connection with the incident.

Tension had been simmering between the tribals and the Panas for the past eight months over land disputes.

Intelligence and police sources said five months ago , the situation took a turn for the worse as tribals alleged that plots of land near Amarpur which they had cultivated for generations, had been registered in the name of the Panas.

Following threats by tribals, the 17 Pana families of Amarpur had abandoned their homes nearly two months back and had come to R. Udaygiri.

A police picket, which had been posted in Amarpur eight months ago, was withdrawn to Raipanka following Thursday’s violence at Majhiguda. The tribals took the opportunity and torched the deserted houses of the Panas on Friday to ensure that the residents do not return. However, the massive deployment of police in the tribal-dominated areas of Gajapati district has prevented any further untoward incident.

Fishermen’s demand

The traditional marine fishermen of Ganjam have threatened to launch an agitation if speedboats for patrolling the sea are not provided within immediately.

They have demanded that speedboats be deployed for patrolling near the Andhra-Orissa border to check illegal incursion of trawlers from Andhra Pradesh into the Orissa coast for fishing.

A high-level meeting of officials of the local administration and the state fisheries department as well as leaders of the fishermen’s association was held at Gopalpur in August.

The meeting discussed the incursions by Andhra trawlers into the Orissa coast. It was decided at that two speedboats would be provided to the Ganjam administration for patrolling the sea near Gopalpur. Although four months have passed, speedboats have not been deployed.

The fishermen are eager for a quick solution as the season for prawn and shrimp collection has started and they do not want the Andhra trawlers to take away the lion’s share of the catch.    

Patna, Jan. 2: 
North Bihar is witnessing new caste alignments with national-level parties going out of their way to woo the Dalits and Other Backward Classes (OBC) voters.

The region, which till recently was an RJD stronghold, has become a battleground for backward caste leaders after Laloo Prasad Yadav’s debacle in the September Lok Sabha polls.

Gopalganj, the RJD chief’s home district, is now a hotbed of dissent with several Laloo Yadav loyalists deserting the party.

With the RJD dissidents terming the social justice campaign of their own party a “farce,” the CPI(M-L) Liberation, the CPI and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have stepped up campaign to drum up support of the Dalits and backward classes.

A Harijan woman was assaulted, stripped and paraded naked at Dhaman Khem village under Meergunge police station on December 28. The incident has become a rallying point for the parties, which are cashing in on the simmering resentment.

The common refrain is, “If a Harijan woman in the ruling party president’s home district can be humiliated in public, then imagine the condition of backward caste women in the rest of the state.’’

Enthused by the rise in share of the party’s vote in Goplaganj, BSP supremo Kanshi Ram mounted an anti-Laloo tirade at a rally in the latter’s home turf yesterday. He said, “State politics was still controlled by minority groups at the expense of Bahujan Samaj Party.” Kanshi Ram demanded 50 per cent reservation for the Extremely Backward Caste (EBC) groups, which account for at least 30 per cent of the electorate.

“The state will continue to serve Manuvadis till Bahujan Samaj members are installed at various levels of administration,” Kanshi Ram thundered.

The BSP, which won two seats in the 1995 polls from Sasaram district, now plans to consolidate base in neighbouring Gopalganj.

The Janata Dal (United) and BJP combine, which swept north Bihar in the last parliamentary polls, has promised the Dalits and the OBCs a reservation package envisaged in the Karpoori Thakur formula.

During his tenure as the chief minister of Bihar in the Seventies, Thakur had announced 12 per cent reservation for the Extremely Backward Caste groups and 8 per cent for the OBCs.

The Janata Dal(U)-BJP combine has also promised 33 per cent reservation in the legislative bodies of the state government for the Extremely Backward Caste and OBC groups. The combine has launched a campaign in 1,577 villages represented in six Assembly seats.

The Surajpuri Muslims, who were deprived of extremely backward status by Laloo Prasad Yadav, has become a handy campaign tool.

The combine is also making friendly overtures to the Pasamda Muslims, another minority group.    

Dhanbad, Jan. 2: 
The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (Soren) has criticised the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre for “dilly dallying” over the issue of the formation of a separate state comprising 18 south Bihar districts.

Addressing the first maharally of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (Soren) after the ouster of Suraj Mandal here on Thursday, party president Shibu Soren said the BJP was trying to gain political mileage out of the separate statehood issue. “It is easy to cash in on tribal votes with false promises, thereby cheating the poor people,’’ Soren said.

“Whosoever comes to power at the Centre always dithers over the issue,” Soren said.

The rally was significant because the turnout gave an idea of Soren’s support base after Mandal’s exit. Asked why he chose Dhanbad as the venue, Soren said, “The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) was formed in Dhanbad, it split in Dhanbad and now it has united again in Dhanbad”.

JMM (Mardi) chief Krishna Mardi, Surya Singh Besra, Sudhir Mahato, Teklal Mahato, Shiva Mahato, Champai Soren, Simon Marandi, Mangal Singh Bobonga and Dulal Bhuiyan were some of the JMM veterans present at the rally which continued till early this morning. Hundreds of tribals armed with traditional weapons and musical instruments thronged the venue from far-flung areas.

Surya Singh Besra threatened that the agitation for a separate state would proceed along the lines of the Bodo movement and turn violent if the government failed to decide on the issue.

Leaders threatened to intensify the agitation by launching economic blockades and bandhs. Analysts said the huge turnout at the rally gave an indication of Soren’s support base and the conveyed the message to the Mandal camp.    


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