State bows to teachers’ demands
Free clinic opens at Gangarampur
Furnace fumes poison 2 workers
Rain shadow over Sunday
Three-year-old raped
Secret swoop on Masood papers
More examinees for Madhyamik
70% cast votes in Manipur, five killed
Three held

 
 
STATE BOWS TO TEACHERS’ DEMANDS 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Feb 12 
The government has conceded almost all the demands made by college and university teachers on their pay and promotion policy.

State higher education minister Satya Sadhan Chakraborty announced the government’s decision to begin payment of arrears of the teachers’ new pay-scales from April 2000.

The state government, by this announcement, pre-empted an agitation by the Jadavpur University Teachers’ Association from Tuesday. The delay in payment of arrears and other demands had also created dissent among the CPM-dominated West Bengal College and University Teachers’ Association (WBCUTA).

The new pay-scales were announced by the University Grants Commission in July 1998. After the Centre’s equivocation over its implementation, the All-India Federation of College and University Teachers Organisation went on a three-week strike in August the same year.

A person joining as a lecturer takes home about Rs 12,000 or more, whereas professors draw salaries between Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000 a month. There are 17,000 college and university teachers in the state.

After the Centre accepted the new pay-scales, states like West Bengal began paying the new salaries but remained silent on the arrears. With most of the funds for arrears having been released by the Centre, the teachers’ bodies began pressuring the state government to pay.

Chakraborty, along with finance minister Asim Dasgupta, met the WBCUTA executive body at the state planning board’s office on Camac Street on Saturday.

Chakraborty said later that the arrears, payable from January 1996, amounted to Rs 163 crore. The Centre was to bear 80 per cent of the arrears, he said.

According to the higher education minister, the Centre has released Rs 103 crore to date and would send another Rs 40 crore by March. “Once the funds arrive, the arrears will be paid from April,” Chakraborty said.

The minister said that under the new pay-scales, the state had to pay the teachers their house rent and dearness allowances.

The state has also conceded to the teachers’ demand of leave encashment up to a period of 240 days’ wages.

The Centre is paying an amount equal to the difference between the old and new pay-scales.

Saturday’s meeting also smoothened out the disparity in the payment of house rent allowances between college and university teachers.

“We have decided to pay both categories the enhanced house rent allowances from the same date,” Chakraborty said.

The teachers have been drawing the new pay-scales from April 1999.

The higher education department has a budget of Rs 400 crore annually, of which Rs 365 crore alone is disbursed as salaries.

Regarding upgradation of posts, the higher education minister said the University Grants Commission was processing a list of names of readers for promotion to the post of professors.

The list should be ready soon and will be effective from July 1998, he said.

Career advancement procedures applicable to senior lecturers and readers, too, would be granted with retrospective effect from the same date, he said.

Asked whether the West Bengal government, while conceding to the teachers’ demands, had laid down conditions to improve the academic atmosphere in its college and universities, the higher education minister said that would be addressed at another meeting with the WBCUTA.    


 
 
FREE CLINIC OPENS AT GANGARAMPUR 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb 12 
A free health clinic that will serve up to 20,000 women and children from neighbouring villages was inaugurated on Saturday at the Ramakrishna Sarada Mission at Gangarampur, on Diamond Harbour Road.

The clinic is an expansion of the one started about 10 years ago, almost with the inception of the Sarada Mission there. Specialist doctors will be in attendance thrice a week, in addition to general physicians.

The spacious two-storeyed clinic, as well as the Mission itself, is located in an 11-bigha plot just off the main road beyond Amtala. A school, with about 300 poor students, is also run there by the Mission, built with assistance from the O.M. Somany Trust.

Sarada Math president Pravrajika Sraddhaprana blessed the clinic last week during the annual day of the Gangarampur Mission. “What is needed is continued help in the form of medical supplies and other necessities,” said Ganga Somany, chairperson of the trust. “We hope various medical companies will come forward with assistance.”

Kharagpur bandh call: A 12-hour bandh has been called at Kharagpur from 6 am on Sunday to protest against the deteriorating law and order over the past month, during which 10 businessmen have been attacked and robbed. The local chamber of commerce and the Youth Congress have jointly called the strike. A trader, David Mullick, was shot at point-blank range on Friday afternoon at Gol Bazar.    


 
 
FURNACE FUMES POISON 2 WORKERS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb 12 
Two labourers of an iron factory at Belgachia, in Howrah district, died of asphyxiation when they climbed down a furnace on Saturday morning. The victims were identified as Tapan Samanta,32, and Jeevan Mondal,35.

Howrah’s police superintendent Surajit Kar Purakayastha said Jeevan suffocated while descending into the furnace to save his colleague. Soon after the deaths, residents of the area and the unit’s workers gheraoed the police for two hours and demanded compensation for the victims’ families.

The incident took place around 10.05 am at Kejriwal Iron Works Factory, on Q Road, under jurisdiction of Liluah police station.

Ratan Koley, a worker, said the furnace was being readied for melting iron. Four workers were heaping wood, coal and other inflammables into it. “A few bits of iron, too, had dropped into the melting chamber. Tapan climbed down to retrieve the iron. But after a minute, we saw him slouch on the coal, lifeless,” Koley said.

When other workers raised an alarm, Jeevan, a foundry section staff, went down the furnace.

Mahananda Malik, who was supervising work, said: “Jeevan wound a length of rope around his waist and clambered down. He told me to hold on to the other end of the rope. He planned to tie Tapan and hoist him up.”

Malik said barely two minutes later, Jeevan was standing beside Tapan’s body,signalling for help. “We threw down another length of rope for him to climb up with. But his jerky movements gradually became still”, Malik said.

The workers and members of Apanjan, a local club, called the police and fire brigade. The firemen arrived in 10 minutes but the police reached an hour later.

Factory officials, including manager Robin Ghosh, ordered work stopped and left the factory.

The firefighters recovered Jeevan’s body but had trouble extricating Tapan’s. They had to prise open the lower door of the furnace and clear the coal. They recovered the body after half-an-hour’s effort. Golapi Samanta, Tapan’s wife, fell unconscious when she was brought to the factory and saw the her husband’s mangled body.

A case had been started against the unit’s owner. Residents said they had complained to the police repeatedly about the black fumes and fly ash from these small factories polluting the air.    


 
 
RAIN SHADOW OVER SUNDAY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb 12 
The weather on Sunday will remain cloudy over Calcutta for most of the day. Officials at the Alipore met office said intermittent rain, too, was likely.

They said a trough of low pressure from north-central Madhya Pradesh had extended over eastern Uttar Pradesh to Gangetic West Bengal, resulting in cloud formation. In addition, two cyclonic circulations were causing precipitation of moisture-laden clouds. One of them was over the Bihar plateau and neighbouring areas, and extended up to 1.5 km above sea level.

The other cyclonic circulation lay over north-east Bay of Bengal and adjoining south Bangladesh on Saturday evening and was about a kilometre above sea level.

Rain-bearing clouds were passing over the city under their twin influences, the weatherman said.

The rain on Saturday disrupted several programmes. The annual sports at La Martiniere for Boys could not be held. The turnout was low, too, at the Lexpo, inaugurated a day before.    


 
 
THREE-YEAR-OLD RAPED 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Naihati, Feb 12 
A three-year-old child was allegedly raped by a 46-year-old man at Hazinagar, near Naihati, in North 24-Parganas, on Friday night.

The accused and a woman have been arrested. An officer of Naihati police station said Jang Bahadur confessed to the crime during interrogation.

The girl was abducted from a playground near her house. Her mother, Sonali Chowdhury, informed neighbours when she did not return home till late at night. The girl returned on Saturday.

Police said the girl bore marks of injury and was admitted to hospital. Preliminary investigation confirmed the rape, police said.    


 
 
SECRET SWOOP ON MASOOD PAPERS 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, Feb 12 
Police raided several places in Daulatpur, in South 24-Parganas, and arrested two persons for circulating booklets written by Pakistani militant Masood Azhar, released recently by the Indian authorities in exchange for hostages of an Indian Airlines plane in Kandahar.

Police said the two men, who had been living in Daulatpur, are of “foreign origin”.

Several incriminating documents, including booklets written by Masood, have been seized from their house

Police refused to identify the house or the persons arrested, saying it would hamper investigations. The raid was kept a secret. Even the Bishnupur police station was kept in the dark about the operation.

Later in the day, senior officials met at the state police headquarters to review the situation.

Tension was palpable in Daulatpur through the day.

“Police officers surrounded Pailan Park and the School More since the morning. They forced their way into three houses and picked up two persons. But those arrested are not residents of the area. They arrived in Daulatpur from somewhere else and were staying here as house guests of a resident,’’ said Aminul Mollah, a Daulatpur resident.

The local contact of those arrested was identified as Samad. He is absconding.

The raid on Saturday is a sequel to the seizure of booklets written by Masood Azhar, ostensibly to fan religious fervour. Since then, the police have been on the lookout for local contacts of Pakistan-based terrorists.

Deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya had summoned IB, CID and district police officers and expressed his displeasure about reports that “fundamentalists of foreign origin’’ were freely operating from certain areas in South 24-Parganas, close to the city.

Senior officers of South 24-Parganas areas admitted that there were reports of some people from the neighbouring countries illegally staying at Daulatpur.

“We have checked with the local post office and found out that a large number of parcels arrive there from Pakistan, Dubai and Abu Dhabi for certain people in that area,’’ a senior police officer said.

The local postmaster reported that a large amount of cash and even bank drafts arrived from abroad in the name of some residents of Daulatpur.

The director, IB, Debabrata Bandopadhyay, refused to comment or divulge any information. “We are investigating the case,’’ he said.    


 
 
MORE EXAMINEES FOR MADHYAMIK 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb 12 
The number of students who will write this year’s Madhyamik examination is 50,000 more than last year’s. The examinations are scheduled to begin on March 2. Nearly 600,000 candidates will sit for the examination.

The president of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, A K Chakraborty, said all measures have been taken to conduct the examinations smoothly. The papers will continue till March 13.

Admit cards will be distributed from the regional camp offices in the districts to the respective schools on February 21 and February 22.

The state transport department has assured the board of plying special buses in the city on the examination dates. The CESC and SEB have given an assurance of uninterrupted power supply to enable candidates to prepare for the examinations, Chakraborty said.

Admit cards will be distributed among students of the city’s schools from February 23.

Trinamul roadblocks: Trinamul Congress supporters blocked the crossing of Hazra Road and Ashutosh Mukherjee Road on Saturday morning to protest the killing of a student at Nodakhali, in South 24-Parganas. Senior police officers persuaded the activists to withdraw the blockade.

Trinamul workers also blocked Kali Krishna Tagore Street, in front of Ganesh Talkies in north Calcutta, for an hour on Saturday evening on the same issue.    


 
 
70% CAST VOTES IN MANIPUR, FIVE KILLED 
 
 
FROM OINAM SUNIL
 
Senapati, Feb. 12 
Booth-capturing, proxy voting and stray incidents of violence marred Assembly elections in Manipur’s Kuki-dominated belt today, but this was compensated for by “surprisingly peaceful” polling in the Naga-dominated hill districts.

Elections to 27 Assembly seats were held in the first phase of polling. Contrary to expectations, Naga voters in Senapati, Ukhrul, Chandel and Tamenglong thronged polling booths in defiance of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah)’s call for a boycott of the elections.

Chief electoral officer D.S. Poonia pegged the turnout at 70 per cent, but said the exact figure would be known only after polling officials deployed in the remote areas return to the district headquarters.

“There was no disruption of polling by NSCN(I-M) militants. We were allowed to cast our votes freely,” said a Naga voter here.

“We were apprehensive of violence, but there was a dramatic change overnight. I feel very good,” said K. Moses Chalai, deputy commissioner of Senapati district.

Sources said NSCN(I-M) rebels could not disrupt the polls due to public pressure.

While Naga militants steered clear of polling booths, Kuki rebels killed five persons, including a Border Security Force inspector and a Manipur Rifles junior commissioned officer, in separate incidents in Churachandpur and Chandel districts.

The militants ambushed a BSF party near Khoupibung village, killing an officer and injuring six persons, including two civilians.

Kuki militants also attacked BJP candidate Thangkholun Haokip and his entourage at Sajik Tampak village in Chandel district. Four persons, including a Manipur Rifles officer and three civilians, were killed in the attack. Four others were injured.

Haokip, who escaped unhurt, had gone to the village to monitor polling.

Apart from violence, electoral malpractices were reported in several Kuki-dominated areas. Kangpokpi additional deputy commissioner C. Ranjit Singh said Kuki gangs indulged in booth-capturing and snatched ballot papers from polling officials.

Similar incidents took place in Churachandpur district, particularly Henglep constituency, where security personnel were conspicuous by their absence.

Sources said Kuki militants held polling officials captive throughout the day to prevent them from informing the election office about rigging. The chief electoral officer said repolling was likely in at least 65 polling stations. The majority of these booths are in Henglep constituency.

Last night, suspected Kuki militants raided the residence of deputy Speaker and Manipur State Congress Party candidate for the Henglep seat, T.T. Haokip, and injured a Manipur Rifles jawan and a party activist.

The rebels fled when the Manipur Rifles personnel deployed there fired in retaliation.    


 
 
THREE HELD 
 
 
 
Guwahati, Feb. 12 
The Assam police picked up three youth from the Guwahati-bound Rajdhani Express at Rangiya station this evening and seized huge quantity of foreign currency from them. They are being interrogated at the Assam police battalion headquarters in Kahilipara, says our correspondent. In another incident, an assistant sub-inspector was injured in an encounter with militants in Kamrup district last night.    
 

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