Slack board finds fall guy
Pre-mixed fuel for two-wheelers
Tagore, bayonets and B-basics
Billboard death triggers off upkeep drive
Crack force for Salt Lake stadium
Rebels abduct 12 ONGC workers
Naga budget session tomorrow
Meghalaya asks Centre to ban Khasi outfit
CAG finds anomalies in Assam flood schemes
Vigilance probe into N-E scam

 
 
SLACK BOARD FINDS FALL GUY 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
March 19: 
The West Bengal Board of Secondary Education has made a scapegoat of Ashis Kumar Mondal, the examiner who was given the life science Madhyamik answerscripts that were found near a garbage vat at Howrah station on Saturday.

“As a penal measure, we have decided to withhold his increment,’’ a board official said. But the board took no step to plug gaping holes in its system of collecting and distributing answerscripts for evaluation.

The railway police charged Mondal with being “rash and negligent” and has started a case against him, said the deputy inspector-general of police S.R. Das. But the charge could just as well be levelled against a board that does not ensure even a modicum of security in its administration of an examination that determines the careers of 600,000 candidates.

A police report on the incident said the board has not even taken as elementary a step as distributing the scripts in sealed covers. Glossing over its own failures, the board has, however, contacted the authorities at Lakshmibari High School in Pingla, Midnapore, where Mondal is a senior teacher, and asked them to penalise him.

This is not the first instance of the board’s callousness. About two years ago, a bundle of answerscripts of the Madhyamik geography examination was found by a farmer from a field in Hooghly.

On Saturday, a RPF patrol, led by sub-inspector K.K. Tewary, noticed a torn packet lying near a garbage vat between platforms 12 and 13. Tewary asked one of his constables to pick it up, The pack contained 18 answerscripts..

“We have managed to locate the other eight missing scripts. Now all the scripts which were supposed to be in the abandoned packet are in our custody,’’ said Arun Kiran Chakraborty, board president.

The answers to the life science examinations, held on March 9, were written in Bengali.

Earlier that day, Mondal was given about 400 scripts, weighing about 10 kg, by a head examiner in Calcutta for correction. He put the lot in a cloth bag and rushed to catch a train back home to Midnapore. Apparently, one packet fell out as he jostled to get a toehold in the crowded suburban train.

An urchin picked up the packet but after tearing it open, found only paper in it and threw it in the dustbin, officials feel. The urchin was identified and questioned by the police late on Saturday night.

The police have pointed out several defects in the board’s system of distributing scripts:

a)The scripts are carried to regional offices from the examination centres, from where the papers are distributed to several thousand head examiners, who take them home. Each of these head examiners, in turn, re-distribute the papers to several thousand examiners. The examiners take the scripts home. Police have pointed out that the scripts are distributed and redistributed too many times.

b) The examiners are paid Rs 2.50 for examining each script. They arrange for their own transport and usually opt for the cheapest — and most insecure — mode. They are reimbursed only bus and train fares for the journey.

c) The scripts are usually carried in cloth bags or plastic bags. According to police, there are practically no guidelines on how the answerscripts should be kept. The board must ensure that scripts are kept in a sealed cover that will be opened by the examiner only before correction, the police said.

But some examiners do take the task of examining answerscripts, an integral part of their duty, very lightly, teachers admit.

“If, due to a lapse, their examinership is cancelled, they are happy, because this job involves high risk and very little incentive,” said a head examiner.

Asked how it could improve its administration, a board official said there are two options: “Either we send the scripts by post or we arrange for a centrally-located venue, where all examiners can sit together and correct the papers without having to move out.”

But, he admits, this is not feasible. First, sending 5.4 million scripts by post will inordinately delay publication of results. Second, to organise a centralised venue for checking answerscripts will prove too costly, he said.

Subrata Deb of the West Bengal Headmasters’ Association said the board should provide the examiners with adequate cover to carry the papers back home.    


 
 
PRE-MIXED FUEL FOR TWO-WHEELERS 
 
 
BY SUVRO ROY
 
Calcutta, March 19 
Oil companies and the government have worked out a measure to check emission from nearly 400,000 twin-stroke (2T) motorcycles, scooters and auto-rickshaws in Calcutta.

Officials said on Sunday that several petrol pumps have been retooled to dispense pre-mixed petrol and 2T lubricating oil from a single nozzle in designated refuelling bays from next month.

Apart from cutting down on the waiting time while refuelling in the pumps, the new measure, expected to be replicated in other parts of the country soon, will enable the two-stroke machines to use petrol and lube oil in the recommended proportion.

Because of being mixed with 2T lubricating oil, this special fuel will cost a little more — Rs 27.72 a litre, instead of the existing Rs 26.33 for a litre of petrol.

“When we decided to check pollution by two-wheelers and three-wheelers, we mainly had scooters and autos in mind. Don’t you see the amount of smoke the over-used autos and old scooters let out?” said Manab Mukherjee, environment minister.

However, this system will be optional, with scooterists and auto operators being permitted to buy their chosen brands of 2T lube oil, like Servo and Castrol.

“We can’t put a total ban on separate pouring of petrol and lube oil because the latter is available in different brands. But, pouring of the 2T lube oil of a particular brand will only be allowed from pre-measured and sealed pouches,” said a senior official of Indian Oil Corporation. What will not be allowed any longer is pouring of the lube oil from open tins or measures, where both the quality and the quantity are suspect.

Gradually, this single-source fuel will be made mandatory for two- and three-wheelers when different brands of 2T oil will be available at the pre-mixed pumps.

After a meeting with the state environment department last January, the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), the nodal agency for the oil industry in the state, agreed to instal sophisticated electronic pumps for pre-mixed fuel will be set up in the city filling stations.

Already, these special pumps have been installed at two out of the 85 pumps in the city. They are on trial run at Uma Service Station, off Dakshinapan, in south Calcutta, and at Dwarka Service Station, off the Jessore Road-Lake Town crossing.

“We have informed other oil firms to instal the dispensers as soon as possible,” said N.K. Moitra, IOC deputy general manager in West Bengal and the state-level coordinator for the oil sector.

“In scooters and autos, one has to take a measure of mobile to add to the petrol. As the engine ages, there is a tendency to pour more lube oil for better mileage. This leads to increased emission of noxious gases. So, we were looking for an arrangement to control it,” said Mukherjee.

“Not only will this system save time for other motorists in rush hour, it will ensure quality lube oil. Some pump owners adulterate the lube for scooters and autos,” said Kalyan Bhadra, president of West Bengal Petroleum Dealers’ Association.

   


 
 
TAGORE, BAYONETS AND B-BASICS 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta. March 19 
The dream of Tagore and the discipline of the army come together on the sprawling campus of the National Institute of Management-Calcutta (NIM-C), in the Command Hospital complex in Alipore. For NIM-C is a B-School with a difference — it’s run completely by the Indian Army, under the aegis of the Army Welfare Education Society, and is affiliated to Visva-Bharati University.

The army grooming “modern managers” instead of foot-soldiers might seem surprising to most, but not to Lt.-Col. B. Chakraborty, registrar and chief administrative officer, NIM-C. “The army, which introduced the concept of management in the country, is now all set to discipline the corporate sector by educating young talent and making them disciplined managers,” says Chakraborty.

The MBA course was launched in July 1997, while an MCA course was introduced last year. Admission at NIM-C is not restricted to students with an army tag. At present, 20 per cent of the seats is reserved for the “general category”.

“This ratio of 80:20 is not rigid, and we will surely consider more civilian students if students from army background fail to measure up to the institute’s standards,” says Lt.-Col. Chakraborty.

True to the spirit of Santiniketan, management education at NIM-C is complemented with classes on ethics and values. “Regular interaction with senior officials from the armed forces inculcates in us the much-needed urge to perform and do well for ourselves and our country. And the lessons in ethics helps us become more complete and concerned individuals,” says Kaushik Chatterjee of the the students’ affairs committee.

“Infrastructure and facilities here can be compared with the top B-schools in the country. And the balance that has been struck between freedom and restraint is just right,” says Moyna Shyam, a first- year student.

The administration, run by officers of the armed forces, has been both stern and sympathetic. Some students, hauled up for indiscipline, were given the marching orders last year. Excellent hostel facilities for boys and girls, fully air-conditioned classrooms and lecture theatres, an extensive ‘network’ with 60 computers, more than adequate library facilities and a dedicated and experienced team of faculty members have created the “perfect atmosphere for us to study”, said Sakshi Gopal, president, students’ council.

The strength of NIM-C lies in the quality of its core faculty. In addition, industry heads and academicians from premier institutes like ISI, IIM-C, XLRI and BE College, regularly visit the campus.

The placement records clearly indicate that this fledgling institute has already made its mark in the corporate sector. All 56 graduates of the first batch were recruited on campus by companies like EXIM Bank, HDFC, Berger Paints, ORG-Marg, Ernst & Young, and Mphasis Inc.

Says Prof. Aninda Kr. Haldar, faculty member in charge of the institute’s placement cell: “This year’s summer placements show that the interest in the industry to recruit disciplined managers from NIM-C is on the rise.”

   


 
 
BILLBOARD DEATH TRIGGERS OFF UPKEEP DRIVE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 19 
The administration has mounted a drive against poorly-maintained hoardings after a pedestrian was killed recently by pieces of a billboard that fell on him.

Mohammad Naziruddin was walking on the pavement of Jawaharlal Nehru Road around 12.30 pm when a glass pane broke loose. Shards of glass tore into his abdomen. Naziruddin died painfully, bleeding profusely for half an hour on the sidewalk.

His brother, Maksad Alam, said justice was denied. No action was taken against the owner of the killer hoarding.

“We will definitely start a case after receiving the complaint and finding out whose hoarding caused the accident,” said DC, south, Ranjit Pachnanda. The police are investigating if the billboard was licensed.

Pachnanda said he had asked all police stations to list hoardings that were ill-maintained. “We are writing to the agencies responsible for maintaining the hoardings,” he added.

The police have already alerted the Calcutta Municipal Corporation against nor’westers that could tear hoardings. Nor’westers usually strike the city in April.

Alarmed at Naziruddin’s death, municipal commissioner Asim Barman said he will cancel the permits of agencies that are guilty of not ensuring the upkeep of hoardings. “I have asked my officers to check the hoardings on Park Street and Jawaharlal Nehru Road to find out if there are any that are not properly maintained,” he said.

Officials of the CMC admitted there are illegal hoardings in the city and these huge boards may cause accidents.

There are about 2,000 hoardings in the city, according to the CMC. Nearly 500 of them are in the Esplanade, Park Street, Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Camac Street and Theatre Road areas.

The CMC earns nearly Rs 1 crore in taxes from these hoardings annually. There are specific rules for hoardings. The design of a proposed hoarding has to be submitted to the CMC.

The design is required to be scrutinised by its engineers to ensure they are structurally stable. The CMC sanctions them on the assurance that the agency concerned will ensure maintenance.

Media director of Hindustan Thompson Associates (HTA) Sabyasachi Ghosh was shocked at Naziruddin’s death.

S. Dey Niyogi, chief operation officer of Selvel, probably the largest billboard agency, said they have 200 people to ensure maintenance of hoardings.

“We instal hoardings after our engineers issue stability certificates for the huge boards. Besides, we have third party insurances in case of accident,” he said.    


 
 
CRACK FORCE FOR SALT LAKE STADIUM 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 19 
The government has formed a special force to control crowds in Salt Lake stadium. The proposal, pending for five years, was okayed by the state home (police) department last week. The force will be deployed at the stadium to control crowds during matches.

The inspector-general of police, south Bengal, K. J. Singh, said so far, crowds in the stadium were controlled by policemen requisitioned from police stations in Salt Lake and its adjoining areas. As a result, policing in Salt Lake suffered.

The government was told that a special force should be created for three reasons:

a) Per capita police coverage must be increased in Salt Lake to check crime. It is difficult to intensify patrolling in Salt Lake if local policemen are deployed for duty at the stadium.

b) Policemen deployed at the stadium during matches are not trained or physically fit. They cannot be expected to defuse an explosive situation.

c) The special force may be used for better policing in Salt Lake when there is no match on.

Singh said personnel of the new force will be aged between 20 years and 30 years. The 300 men selected will be put through rigorous training and be taught new techniques, including psychological policing.    


 
 
REBELS ABDUCT 12 ONGC WORKERS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, March 19 
National Liberation Front of Tripura militants today abducted 12 Oil and Natural Gas Corporation workers from Golakthakur Para in West Tripura district.

Police said the rebels raided an ONGC drilling site in the area and took the casual workers hostage. They, however, spared the tribal workers at the site.

The abducted workers have been identified as Subal Das, Pintu Das, Shyamal Das, Maran Das, Dipak Debnath, Biplab Mazumder, Sonamani Das, Pronoy Chakravarty. Indra Das, Liton Nama, Sukhen Nama and Monoranjan Das.

Senior police officials rushed to the spot with additional forces and launched a combing operation immediately after being informed about the incident.

Earlier, militants abducted five persons, including a tribal school teacher, from Sarama village under Gandacherra subdivision.

A group of rebels also torched the Birashimile market under Kailasahar subdivision.

Police sources said four non-tribal fishermen from Sarama village were abducted by All-Tripura Tiger Force militants while they were fishing at the nearby Dumbur lake yesterday.

The fishermen have been identified as Mantu Das, Chaubasi Das, Santu Das and Kanti Das.

Over the past three years, over 25 non-tribal fishermen were abducted from different areas adjoining the Dumbur lake. Only 10 of them returned home unhurt.

The 42-sq km lake in south Tripura is the state’s richest source of fish. Till recently, the trade was controlled by non-tribals. But the lake has been inaccessible to non-tribals since a ban imposed by militants.

A tribal schoolteacher, identified as Nripendranath Debbarma, was also abducted from Gandacherra subdivision yesterday.

Police sources said the abducted schoolteacher had links with the NLFT. “He may have been kidnapped because of discrepancies in financial accounts,’’ a source said.

In a separate incident last night, NLFT militants torched the Birashimile market under Kailasahar subdivision. Sources said militants raided the market late at night and set fire to at least 70 shops and sheds belonging to both tribals and non-tribals.

Sources said property worth Rs 1 crore was destroyed in the fire. However, there were no casualties.

Both the NLFT and the Tiger Force have intensified their offensive against non-tribals in the run-up to the autonomous district council polls.    


 
 
NAGA BUDGET SESSION TOMORROW 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Kohima, March 19 
The Nagaland government is unlikely to propose any fresh taxes to augment internal resources when it presents the annual budget for the next fiscal year in the budget session of the state Assembly beginning on Tuesday.

Chief minister S.C. Jamir, who also holds the finance portfolio, will present the budget on Friday at a time when the state is facing a severe financial constraint.

Sources in the finance department said all possible areas have already been brought under the tax net in the current budget presented in July last year. As a result the government now has limited options.

“Our efforts this time will be to streamline the tax-gathering mechanism in the state,” the sources said.

They added that even if the government rationalises the tax regime, it will not be possible to generate the targeted revenue unless the machinery is made efficient.

The fiscal situation in the state is so bad that the government has slashed the annual plan outlay by 50 per cent. It has landed in overdraft with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) since March 4.

Finance commissioner Lalthara attributed the immediate fiscal crisis to a downslide in revenue receipts, spiralling debt burden and mounting non-plan expenditure.

The problem has been further exacerbated by the fact that the Centre has decided to recover the entire ways and means advance of Rs 200 crore taken by the state in April last year at the end of the financial year. Lalthara added the state had not received any funds from the Centre in the past two months.

However, Lalthara today said the Centre has agreed to provide Rs 75 crore as “extended ways and means advance” by Tuesday to help the state come out of the RBI overdraft, which touched the Rs 50 crore mark.

The Nagaland government had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Centre in April last year giving assurances to slash non-plan expenditure, bring efficiency to fiscal management, privatise the transport and power sectors, downsize the workforce and impose a blanket ban on fresh appointments.

Apart from stopping fresh appointments, the government failed to implement the other conditions of the MoU, insisting that all the proposals cannot be implemented “overnight” in insurgency-hit Nagaland where the unemployment problem is acute.

Although the government projected internal resources at Rs 100 crore during the current fiscal year, revenue generation underwent a downslide and may just touch Rs 75 crore at the end of the year, Lalthara disclosed.

The government also announced a 50 per cent cut in this year’s plan outlay of Rs 315 crore last month.

However, the basic minimum services programmes, earmarked programmes, district plans and salary component of plan expenditure will remain intact.

Sources in the finance department pointed out that the government will not be able to raise the loan component of Rs 55 crore of the total plan outlay of Rs 315 crore during the year.

The government is not interested in raising funds from financial institutions as it already has a large debt burden to both the Centre as well as financial institutions.

The government has also announced withdrawal of all restrictions imposed on general provident fund (GPF) advances by its employees.

The Gauhati High Court had recently directed the government to revoke the restriction order on GPF withdrawals.    


 
 
MEGHALAYA ASKS CENTRE TO BAN KHASI OUTFIT 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Shillong, March 19 
The Meghalaya government has initiated the official formalities to ban the underground Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC).

State home minister T.H. Rangad told The Telegraph that the state government has already submitted the relevant official papers to the Union home ministry for banning the Khasi outfit.

“It now depends on the Union home ministry, whether they wish to ban the HNLC or not,” he said.

The HNLC, which is fighting for a Khasiland since the early Nineties, has been extorting from people and targeting the security forces to fight for their cause. During the past year, the militants have shot dead 14 police and paramilitary personnel in the state.

“The police will not spare the militants now,” the home minister said, adding that the operations that are now being conducted are based on hard intelligence reports. He said the state police have intensified operations in the capital city so that the militants cannot carry out subversive activities in future.

Rangad, a senior BJP member inn the E.K. Mawlong-led coalition government, said they have asked the people of the state not to accept anything either in cash or in kind from the underground outfit. The HNLC, which has been extorting from the people for their cause, has also been engaged in social services like erecting bus stands and providing ambulance services to the people.

“Now the people have stopped accepting favours without checking the antecedents of social organisations,” he said.

However, Rangad said the doors are still open for the militants to hold talks with the state government.

Mawlong had issued an appeal to the militant outfit to shun violence and come forward for talks on Tuesday.

“If the Centre can hold talks with a dreaded outfit like the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), why cannot we hold talks with the HNLC, which has not been banned as yet?” asked Rangad.

Asked why the HNLC rebels have intensified operations after the new government was sworn in, Rangad said, “They will be the right persons to tell.”

Rangad said steps have also been initiated so that militant outfits of other states cannot use Meghalaya for safe sanctuary. “We have geared up our intelligence to counter such activities,” he said.

Bodies handed over: The East Khasi Hills district administration today handed over the bodies of two slain HNLC militants to the family members at the civil hospital after the post mortem examination.

The two militants, identified as Donkupar Marwein and Yanlan Lyngdoh, were killed following an encounter between the HNLC and the police near the Pasteur beat house on Friday night.

District additional deputy commissioner K.K. Wallang was present at the civil hospital campus and supervised the handing over of the bodies to the family members of the militants under tight security.

Wallang said the two bodies were brought to the hospital during the wee hours yesterday. The bodies could not be handed over to the families as no one had claimed them till yesterday.    


 
 
CAG FINDS ANOMALIES IN ASSAM FLOOD SCHEMES 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Guwahati, March 19 
The comptroller and auditor-general (CAG) has indicted executive engineers of the Guwahati East and West embankment and drainage divisions for incurring extra expenditure through “inflated rate-fixation for boulders used in anti-erosion projects”.

The CAG report for 1998-99 says the two divisions incurred “extra expenditure of Rs 47.30 lakh on boulders due to inflated analysis of rates”. It refers to two anti-erosion projects at Alikash and Hahuapathar, and two at Dharapur and Goral, in this regard.

Work on these projects required procurement of hard-blasted boulders (between 25 and 30 cms in size) from approved quarries.

According to the report, the engineers concerned separately analysed and fixed the rates of boulders at Rs 213.56 per cubic metre in September and December 1996.

The boulders were to be procured from a quarry at Bamunigaon.

“The rates included an element of 1.41 drillers for drilling one cubic metre,” the report says.

“This was approved by the superintending engineer in the same month. During 1995-96 and 1996-97, the divisions procured 43,400 cubic metres and 34,417 cubic meters of boulders respectively at the approved rate,” it adds.

The anomalies came to light when the CAG undertook a test-check of records pertaining to another project — protection of Palasbari town from the Brahmaputra river — in July and October 1998.

This project had also been undertaken by the West Guwahati E&D division.

During 1994-95 and 1997-98, the division procured 70,000 cubic metres of boulders of the same specification from the same quarry at the rate of Rs 86.89 per cubic metre.

“The rate included an element of 0.40 drillers for drilling one cubic metre. Thus, the actual requirement of drillers for one cubic metre was 0.40, while the element was taken as 1.41 in the rate analysis for the other anti-erosion projects,” the report of the comptroller and auditor-general says.

“The inflated rate analysis by both the divisions led to extra expenditure of Rs 47.30 lakh on collection of 77,817 cubic metres of boulders,” it adds.

Though the matter was referred to the state government in March 1999, the latter did not file a report till December that year, the report says.    


 
 
VIGILANCE PROBE INTO N-E SCAM 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, March 19 
A multicrore scam involving a section of employees and officials has come to light in Purbasha, the official marketing agency of the Tripura government’s Handloom and Handicraft Development Corporation (HHDC).

Following specific complaints of corruption, the Tripura government has ordered a vigilance inquiry into the scandal. Official sources here said a 15-member vigilance inquiry team raided Purbasha’s Calcutta office, godown and Shilpa Bhavan in the Salt Lake area of the city. The team, led by additional superintendent of police Saumitra Dhar, seized sensitive documents which yielded prime facie evidence of corruption.

Giving details, official sources here said shortly after coming to power in 1978, the first Left Front government launched the HHDC to assist the weavers and artisans who manufacture cotton garments and other materials as well as handicraft products made of bamboo and cane found in the state’s jungles. While the corporation provides assistance to the weavers and artisans and purchases their produce, the marketing is carried out by Purbasha, which was floated along with the corporation. During the past two decades the artisans and weavers of the state have benefited substantially from the corporation and Purbasha.

But the government has been steadily losing revenue because of corruption among a section of employees. Describing the modus operandi, sources said handloom and handicraft products are packaged with specific price labels before they are sent by road to Calcutta and Purbasha centres in other places. But a section of the employees, particularly in Calcutta, show a disproportionately high volume of products as “damaged during transit” and tear off the price labels. Taking advantage of the high demand for Tripura’s handloom and handicraft products, the corrupt employees sell the items at prices much higher them the official prices on the labels, thereby lining their pockets everyday. This has been going on for the past six years and a number of employees have accumulated assets disproportionate to their known sources of income. These assets include property, such as several houses per head in Calcutta. -Sources said after the raid and seizure of papers in Calcutta by the vigilance team, a large number of documents was also seized from Purbasha’s Agartala office. But a number of employees charged with embezzlement of funds has remained safe because of patronage from high officials, who get a share of the booty. Accounts officer Samar Bhowmik has been charged with embezzlement of Rs 3.85 lakh but has gone scot-free though he was earlier suspended for a similar offence.    

 

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