Fees doubled, school shut
Hospital’s second debut delayed
Sealdah rocked by blasts ahead of Mamata visit
Dues with a difference at JU
Killers evade arrest
Curfew in Tripura district
Militant clash sparks tension in Nagaland
Orissa Cong soft-pedals on dissidents
Suicide by youth at puja pandal

Calcutta, April 13 
St Thomas Church School, Howrah, one of the largest and oldest English medium schools in the town, was temporarily shut down on Tuesday after trouble broke out between guardians and the management over a sudden 100 per cent hike in the tuition fees of students.

The sudden closure of the institution has put over 1,500 students and their guardians in deep water as the school’s new academic session for 2000-2001 began only on Monday.

A large number of boys and girls of the co-educational school knew nothing about the closure even till Wednesday morning, and they turned up to attend classes in full force, as on any other day.

But a notice was hanging outside the gate, announcing that the school would remain closed till April 24.

The reasons for the sudden closure were, however, not stated in the notice. Earlier this week, the school had announced in another notice that fees would be raised.

Surajit Kar Purakayastha, superintendent of police (Howrah) said the situation was now under control.

A Howrah police officer said trouble started at about 7 am on Wednesday after a large number of parents assembled in front of the school and protested the sudden decision of the school authorities to double the tuition and other fees of students.

The parents demanded immediate withdrawal of the decision.

A section of the teachers alleged that some senior students protesting the hike attacked them inside the school while their guardians were agitating outside.

However, the situation was brought under control as the police arrived immediately and intervened.

One of the guardians said the tuition fees of his ward were raised from Rs 275 to Rs 475 per month.

“We will not accept these exorbitant rates. The school mainly caters to students from middle-class families and they will not be able to bear this extra burden,” said another guardian.

In the senior classes, the fees were raised even higher, the guardians complained.

The school authorities said they were compelled to raise the fees to pay teachers’ salaries in keeping with the recommendations of the Fourth Pay Commission.

According to West Bengal government rules, the managements of private schools, like St Thomas Church School, are supposed to pay salaries to their teaching staff at par with the wages of the teachers of state-aided schools.

After the implementation of the Fourth Pay Commission last year, most of the English-medium schools had raised their fees to meet the demands of teachers.

“We are the only English-medium institution in both Calcutta and Howrah which has not increased the fees for two years,” said an official of the school.

Most of the other schools of this category have hiked the fees twice since the past three years, the official said.

The guardians of Howrah’s St Thomas School students, however, alleged that the school did not prioritise expenditure in a balanced manner, and the management failed to emphasise improvement of the quality of education even after the school hiked fees a few years ago.    

Calcutta, April 13 
The main building of the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital is set to be reopened after 15 years.

Health minister Partha De said the building, constructed in 1835 and closed for repairs since the mid-1980s, was scheduled to reopen last month.

“But some work is still pending. We hope to complete the job within six months,” said De. A sum of Rs 6 crore has already been spent on the renovation.

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) had declared the building — built by the British with generous donations from the Maharaja of Darbhanga — ‘unsafe’ in the early 1970s.

All departments housed in the building were relocated and patients shifted to other buildings on the campus to enable the public works department (PWD) to carry out repairs.

The state government had earlier planned to renovate and repair the building by 1990.

According to the health minister, after the building is fully repaired, additional space will be made available for several important departments like cardiology, cardiothoracic, medicine, orthopaedics and neurology.

“We have plans to accommodate more patients in the main building after completion of the repair work,” said De.

PWD minister Kshiti Goswami, too, confirmed that repairs will be completed “very soon”.

S.R.Banerjee, superintendent engineer, presidency circle of the PWD, said: “The building will now be four-storeyed, as we have constructed an additional floor to make more space for patients and other facilities.”

Hospital sources said that there were around 450 beds in the main building before it was shut down for repairs. The additional floor space will enable 150 more beds to be accommodated.

According to health department officials, 1,893 beds have been sanctioned for the hospital. But only 1,718 beds are available at the moment.

In the ‘outdoor’ section of Calcutta Medical College, an average of 4,200 patients are treated every day. The numbers will rise substantially after the the completion of renovation work at the emergency outdoor department.

Congress MLA Tapas Roy, who had resigned from the Assembly sub-committee on health to protest the “negligent attitude” towards improvement of government hospitals, alleged that the delay in reopening Calcutta Medical College’s main building only confirmed that the Left Front “is not really serious about providing adequate medical facilities to the poorer sections of society”.

Roy added: “That the government has delayed the repair of such an important hospital by 10 years just shows their attitude towards such a vital issue. Even our demand for introducing a scan machine at the hospital is yet to be fulfilled.”    

Calcutta, April 13 
Barely half-an-hour before railway minister Mamata Banerjee’s meeting at Sealdah station on Thursday afternoon, local hoodlums hurled three bombs in front of the enquiry counter, taking policemen off guard and creating panic among commuters.

In this glaring lapse of security, at least six people were injured. Among them was an 18-year-old girl, admitted to B.R. Singh Hospital in a critical condition.

Deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya said at Writers’ Buildings that a high-level probe has been ordered to find out how the gangsters could get past the security cordon such a short time before the Union minister’s arrival. The city police will carry out the probe. Investigators said Mamata was not the target of the miscreants and that the incident was a fallout of inter-gang rivalry.

“However, the probe will cover all aspects,” Bhattacharya said.

Witnesses said around 1.30 pm, some gangsters carrying bombs entered the North ticket booking counter of the station, even as policemen of duty were milling around the place. Then, after waiting for about 15 minutes, they suddenly spotted a man and started chasing him. This was soon followed by the criminals hurling the bombs at the man, who was hit by the splinters and fell to the ground, severely wounded.

Police later said the man was a dismissed railway employee, Rambilas Choudhury, who had apparently cheated friends of a local hoodlum, Kelo Bhola, of several thousand rupees by promising them jobs in the railways.

Police said some henchmen of Bhola spotted Chowdhury moving around the station on Thursday afternoon and immediately informed him. Bhola rushed to the station with some other gangsters, determined on revenge. The group managed to fell him in the shower of bombs, but could not kill him, as they had planned to, the police said.

However, the incident triggered such panic that within minutes, the entire station was deserted, with some policemen in a futile chase with the gangsters.

Railway employees promptly downed shutters at the ticket counters while RPF personnel cordoned off the station complex.

Till late on Thursday, the police have not been able to make a single arrest, even though Choudhury has been extensively interrogated on the identities of his assailants.

Deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Narayan Ghosh, said: “The area around Sealdah station has become highly criminalised. We have made several efforts to clear up the place but the gangsters keep re-emerging.” Deputy inspector-general of police, railways, S. R. Das, said security will be beefed up around the complex.    

Calcutta, April 13 
In a glaring example of favouritism, the state government has decided to release house rent arrears to Jadavpur University teachers who owe allegiance to a non-CPM organisation.

The arrears will be paid to the teachers in three annual instalments from October 2001. But their counterparts owing allegiance to CPM-controlled unions in Calcutta University, Rabindra Bharati and other state-aided universities will be paid in one go.

The state government will deposit the house rent arrears of teachers of all the universities in their provident fund. So, teachers will benefit, as the interest will come as a bonus.

But there is no such provision for the arrears of the Jadavpur University teachers. The state government announced this in an order released on Wednesday.

The order was aimed at resolving the ongoing impasse on account of the indefinite work-to-rule by a large section of Jadavpur University teachers.

State higher education minister Satya Sadhan Chakraborty confirmed: “Yes, we will not deposit the arrears of Jadavpur University teachers to their provident funds.There is a problem in doing this.”

Trying to explain it away, Chakraborty said Jadavpur University had a scheme of its own to maintain the provident fund deposits of its employees. Hence, the government decision.

Moreover, the minister pointed out, there was some irregularity in Jadavpur University’s provident fund accounts, which prompted the government to take the decision.

The teachers said they were shocked on receiving the order. They said their movement was mainly against non-payment of arrear salaries of 39 months. But the order did not mention that demand.

“How can the government adopt a different method of releasing arrears to different universities? The teachers of Jadavpur University enjoy the same rights as all the other state-aided universities,” said Tarun Naskar, general secretary, Jadavpur University Teachers’ Association (JUTA).

The teachers said they were victimised only because JUTA did not owe allegiance to the CPM.

The order, however, conceded the Jadavpur University teachers’ demand on leave encashment benefits at par with the teachers of other universities.    

Calcutta, April 13 
Even 36 hours after Dilip Gour was mowed down by a group of gunmen at Dakshindari, near Lake Town, none of his assailants have been arrested.

Residents of the area alleged that the killers were “roaming free” in the area.

Dilip, 19, was pumped with bullets while he was asleep at home in early on Wednesday. The assailants broke open the door of his room and shot Dilip from point-blank range.

Though preliminary investigations have revealed that drug rivalry triggered the killing, local residents insist that “Dilip was killed because he was part of the anti-drug movement”.

The trouble began in 1993, when Lake Town residents launched a clean-up drive against rampant drug trafficking in the area. They also set up a rehabilitation unit to help addicts kick the habit.

But, in a brutal retaliatory strike, the drug peddlers, led by Golla, raided the rehabiliation camp and gunned down Dilip Mondal, a member of the anti-drug squad, on August 12, 1993, in broad daylight.

Rabiul Haque, a local resident, said Nutanpara and the nearby slum areas constitute the hub of anti-social activities.

Two gangs have been active in the area for quite some time. One, led by Shona and Pandit, runs the country liquor racket, while rivals Dukhua and Janna are said to be concentrating on drug peddling.

A few days ago, the peddlers demanded Rs 50,000 from Sayad Hussein, who runs a meat shop in the area. But the police did not take any action against the extortionists. Kuldeep Singh, police superintendent, North 24-Parganas, said “efforts are on” to trace the culprits.

Local councillor Sujit Bose, pledging solidarity with the local residents, said: “We eradicated the drug trade five years ago and cured more than a hundred addicts. No matter what happens, we will continue this crusade against drugs.”    

Agartala, April 13 
The Tripura government imposed a 24-hour curfew and shoot-at-sight orders in Jirania subdivision last night following largescale rioting and ethnic violence in at least 15 villages over the past four days.

Assam Rifles jawans staged a flag march in the subdivisional headquarters yesterday.

The administration has also deployed CRPF and Tripura State Rifles jawans to thwart violence.

Government sources hinted that the curfew could be extended further. The Assam-Agartala National Highway, which runs through the area, has been exempted from the curfew.

Official sources here said 14 relief camps, including one in the Tripura Engineering College (TEC), have been set up to accommodate refugees. Putting the total number of refugees at more than 12,000, sources said, “All of them are being provided with adequate ration and relief.’’

Narrating yesterday’s incidents, sources said rival ethnic groups waged battles with bow and arrows at Shankar Bazar area near the engineering college. At least 20 people belonging to both the communities were injured before the CRPF jawans dispersed the mob.

Widespread arsoning was also reported from Bhalramisip Para, Daspara, Shankar Bazar, Bhagwankobra Para, Laxminagar, Chelithang Para and Bhumiheen Colony. Tribals of the area set the abandoned houses on fire.

Similarly, houses abandoned by non-tribals in three villages near the Tripura Engineering College were also torched. So far more than 30 people have been arrested.

Stressing the need for drastic administrative measures to restore normalcy, sources said the tribal-dominated Madhabbari village was the worst-affected and “the house of local CPM leader Badu Debbarma has also been been gutted.” People belonging to rival communities were fleeing to safer areas, they added.

Trouble has been brewing in Jirania over the past seven years with tribal militants intimidating the Bengalis and forcing them to leave the area.

Highly placed CPM sources said the latest round of trouble was triggered by the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) to wrest control of the autonomous district council.

Sources said IPFT leader Harinath Debbarma, who had filed nomination from the Jirania ADC constituency, had allegedly unleashed a communal campaign to rid the area of non-tribals.

This sparked tension and led to sporadic clashes late last month. Things reached a flashpoint with the recovery of the body of an unidentified tribal from near the Ramthakur temple under Jirania police station on April 2.

This coupled with the cancellation of Debbarma’s nomination for the Jirania ADC seat compounded matters.    

Kohima, April 13 
Tension mounted in the Konyak-dominated Dizit area of Nagaland’s Mon district today with the outbreak of the first ever factional clash.

Both factions of the NSCN traded fire inside the forests of Tiru bordering Assam this morning when senior NSCN (Khaplang) leaders were on the verge of resuming discussions to finalise the modalities of ceasefire.

Violence erupted as soon as officials from New Delhi and Kohima left for Tuensang from Mon.

NSCN(K) sources told The Telegraph that senior leaders of the outfit including its general secretary K. Zhimoni had been engaged in “threadbare discussions” for the past three days to finalise modalities of the ceasefire. A senior legislator from Mon said clashes were unheard of in the peaceful Konyak territory before.

The district police said tension has been mounting over the past week after a large group of NSCN(I-M) activists sneaked into Dizit and Tiru areas of the district, which is a NSCN (Khaplang) stronghold.

The Centre has decided to relax the controversial restricted area permit (RAP) for four districts in Nagaland in response to the state government’s plea. The move is expected to boost tourist inflow.

Joint secretary (Northeast) in the Union home ministry G.K. Pillai today said the regulation would be relaxed on an experimental basis in Kohima, Dimapur, Wokha and Mokokchung districts on the lines of Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura.

Pillai said if the provision helped to boost tourism, it would be extended to the other four districts in the state also.

Pillai is here to attend a two-day seminar organised at Mon and Tuensang to identify the development needs of the two backward districts and recommend suitable schemes.

Inaugurating the seminar here this morning, chief minister S.C. Jamir stressed the need for drawing up a “special economic package” which would address all issues with emphasis on specific projects. The package would be taken up with the Centre for approval and funding. Once the schemes were approved, a high-level committee would be constituted to monitor their implementation, he added.

Jamir attributed the socio-economic backwardness of Tuensang district to historical reasons and geographical isolation. He said the people never got the opportunity to participate in the development process till Nagaland attained statehood in 1963.

The seminar, organised jointly by the Union home ministry and the state government, cleared several development schemes in the past two days.

Pillai said special recruitment drives would be conducted to induct youth from the two districts into paramilitary forces.    

Bhubaneswar, April 13 
The Congress high command, still smarting under the impact of rebellion in the party’s West Bengal unit, appears to have developed cold feet about punishing party legislators responsible for cross-voting in the Rajya Sabha elections in the state.

The leadership is also playing down the differences between two former chief ministers — J.B. Patnaik and Hemanand Biswal — with their supporters continuing to snipe at each other. Both leaders have been locked in a bitter power struggle since Ramakanta Mishra, a Patnaik loyalist, was appointed leader of the Congress Legislature Party.

The PCC promised action against at least five party legislators who cross-voted in the March 29 Rajya Sabha elections, helping the Biju Janata Dal and BJP bag all the three seats in the state. On the strength of their members, both parties could win one seat each, but cross-voting helped the regional party bag the third seat as well.

On March 30, PCC spokesman Arya Kumar Ganendra told newsmen that the AICC had taken strong exception to the cross-voting and a two-member committee would be formed within a week to probe the allegations.

Though two weeks have elapsed, the AICC is yet to appoint a committee. Several senior leaders said they found the high command’s inaction baffling after the PCC openly accused the ruling parties of “buying” Congress legislators.

Patnaik, who is PCC president, said he had no information about the probe committee.    

Agartala, April 13 
A youth beheaded himself in front of goddess Durga in Kunjabam colony here yesterday.

Ganesh Chauhan, 35, was chanting mantras along with his family and a few neighbours when he suddenly lunged forward and cut his throat with a ramdao (matchet).

The ramdao, which had been sharpened for sacrificing a goat to propitiate the goddess, was lying in front of the mandap (place of worship) along with flowers and other materials for worship. Chauhan collapsed in a pool of blood soon after slitting his throat. When stunned family members took him to the G.B. Hospital here, he was declared dead.

A neighbour, Khitish Sarkar, said Chauhan suffered from mental depression recently because of an eye problem.    


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