Jethmalani blends slur with truce
BJP-backed police union flexes muscle
Mahajot hits the streets today
Tele-teaser walks into wire-tap trap
Drive for better English policy
Shunned burns victim finds a home
Howrah taps dry in supply snag
Tripura rebels raid village, kill hostage
MLA son rejects police version
Scholars accuse govt of flouting UGC norms

Calcutta, April 18 
Before the conflict over appointment of nominees as judges to Calcutta High Court could reach a flashpoint, the state government and Union law minister Ram Jethmalani have worked out a truce plan.

According to the compromise formula — hammered out by two key judicial figures over the past few weeks — 14 new judges will shortly assume office in the high court, judiciary officials said on Tuesday.

The process of appointment of the first batch of eight judges will be over by the end of the month and the oath of office will be administered in the first week of May.

The second and last batch of six judges will be in office by June, the officials said, adding that the effective strength of justices in the high court will be 42, eight short of the sanctioned number.

The compromise formula worked out between local authorities and the Union law minister has taken most observers by surprise.

Viewed through the prism of practical politics, Jethmalani’s criticism of the high court’s pace of functioning was a shrewd move, designed to force the local authorities on the defensive before popping the question of nominees. According to reports with The Telegraph, as many as nine advocates will leave the bar to be elevated to the bench, while five officials from the state cadre of higher judiciary services will don the robes of justice.

The only female judge from the bar will also be inducted by June. The last female high court judge, Ruma Pal, was elevated to the Supreme Court in January.

The state government and Jethmalani are likely to now have seven and three nominees, respectively. This is not the first time that Jethmalani has wielded his clout in matters of the high court. In March, he had pushed his judicial candidates for Haryana and Punjab.

In the Calcutta High Court expansion plans, five lawyers — Pronab Chatterjee, Subhro Kamal Mukherjee, Asit Ranjan Banerjee, Ashoke Chakroborty and Maharaja Sinha — will figure among the eight judges to be appointed in the first phase.

Meanwhile, the state government has sprung another surprise on the legal establishment by reaffirming that the state be consulted ceremonially in regard with appointment of high court judges.

“It’s time the state’s role in the matter of appointment of judges was acknowledged,” said Naranarayan Gooptu, advocate-general of Bengal.

In a related development, the Bar Association of Calcutta High Court has written to chief justice A.K. Mathur that the lawyers will launch a campaign if the vacant posts of judges are not filled within a fortnight.    

Calcutta, April 18 
It was the storming of the red bastion by the saffron brigade.

Around 300 policemen owing allegiance to the newly-formed, BJP-affiliated police association staged a demonstration in the Lalbazar city police headquarters on Tuesday. They were protesting the “stepmotherly attitude’ of the police top brass towards members bringing up the rear of the force.

They were also demanding an end to the “politicisation of the police force.”

This was a first, as no other body, apart from the CPM-dominated Calcutta Police Association (CPA) has held such a demonstration against the police top brass before.

The protesters, led by local BJP leader Arun Gupta, gathered at the main gate of the city police headquarters around 1.30 pm.

The BJP leader later described the demonstration as a “show of strength”. He said that this sounded “a warning” to the CPM-affiliated CPA, that the BJP was ready to break its stranglehold on police affairs.

“We have already formed a rival police body. If the government discriminates against us, we will take necessary action. After all, our party is in power at the Centre,’’ said Gupta.

The protesters were planning to gherao the city police chief and submit a memorandum to him, with demands to improve the service condition of personnel languishing on the lower rungs of the police ladder.

A strong police contingent barred the Lalbazar gate to prevent the demonstrators from reaching police commissioner Dinesh Vajpai’s chamber.

This did not deter the agitators from holding a meeting, in which the speakers lambasted the ruling party for “using the police as a tool” to further its political interests.

“Senior police officers are at the beck and call of ruling party leaders and local functionaries. This should stop. Policemen should perform their duties impartially,’’ a leader of the association said.

Rattled by the day’s developements, CPA leaders went into a huddle at their Lalbazar office in the evening with office-bearers of the associations’ divisional units.

Sources said discussions centered around the kind of inroads the BJP had made into the police units. “Today’s incident clearly shows that the BJP has gained ground steadily and is now ready to make its presence felt in the police force. We are worried, as this will have serious repercussions on the forthcoming civic polls,’’ warned a CPA office-bearer.    

Calcutta, April 18 
Traffic will be thrown out of gear when the Mahajot finally hits the streets on Wednesday.

Trinamul Congress party workers will take out seven large processions from different corners of the city. These will converge on Esplanade East for the “law violation programme”.

Originating from Howrah, Sealdah, Girish Park, Hedua, Subodh Mullick Square, Sraddhananda Park and Birla Planetarium, the processions will reach Esplanade East around 2 p.m.

The rally is being held to protest “Jyoti Basu’s corrupt ways and the deteriorating law and order situation in Bengal.”

While the BJP and the Congress, partners in the Mahajot, have been invited to participate in the programme, the latter is unlikely to join forces, following a directive from the party high command on Tuesday evening.

Pradesh Congress chief Abdul Ghani Khan Chowdhury received a call from Prabha Rau, AICC general secretary in charge of West Bengal, inquiring about his press statements on a possible tie-up with the BJP.

The PCC chief clarified that he was only talking to Trinamul supremo Mamata Banerjee and there was no question of any “adjustment” with the BJP.

Chowdhury will leave for Delhi on Wednesday evening to apprise the high command of the “ground realities in Bengal and the party’s political compulsion to join the Mahajot”.

Senior BJP and Trinamul leaders are expected to address the rally at Esplanade. Till Tuesday evening, many Congress leaders were gearing up to attend the rally.

But the PCC chief made it clear that he will not join the Mahajot alongside the BJP till he meets Sonia Gandhi in Delhi on Thursday.

Sanjay Bakshi, Trinamul Youth Congress president, said the rally will demand home minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya’s resignation and highlight the Mahajot’s commitment to fight the communists unitedly.

Trinamul Congress and BJP leaders on Tuesday held “meaningful talks” on seat-sharing for the coming municipal polls.

Both Paras Dutta, state BJP general secretary, and Pankaj Banerjee, Trinamul chairman, expressed satisfaction over the progress of talks on seat-sharing.

“I don’t foresee any major hurdle to seat adjustments. Grassroots workers have already completed the first round of discussion on the issue,” Dutta said.

Ghani Khan Chowdhury also addressed district Congress functionaries and urged them to “go ahead” with the talks with their counterparts in the Trinamul Congress to forge the electoral alliance.

Legislators from the three parties are expected to submit a joint memorandum to Governor Viren J. Shah on Thursday to draw his attention to the state government’s “complete failure on the law and order front.”

A section of Congress legislators, however, are hesitant to go in a joint deputation to the Governor. “It’s okay with the Trinamul but we still have reservations about the BJP. Let us see. We will do what our leader Barkatda asks us to do,” said a Congress MLA.    

Calcutta, April 18 
A 32-year-old man was arrested at New Alipore on Tuesday for bothering and threatening a receptionist of a reputable company on Chowringhee Road. Deputy commissioner of police, south division, said the man, Bikram Chowdhury, a commerce graduate from a well-known educational institution, had been threatening the woman over the phone for the past few months.

“We have arrested him on the basis of the woman’s complaint,” the deputy commissioner added.

Investigators said Chowdhury, a former executive of a company who now runs his own small business, is a tall and handsome man. Police said whenever this ‘Casanova’ used to follow the receptionist on Chowringhee Road, he used to wear a white T-shirt, blue jeans, and spectacles and carried an English magazine in hand when she came out of her office in the evening.

The woman told the police that Chowdhury had entered her office and assaulted her for refusing to meet him in October last year. “But the woman preferred not to complain to the police to avoid further trouble,” police said. “I thought that the problem will resolve on its own if I ignored him,” she told the police.

Interrogation revealed that Chowdhury had had an affair with the receptionist a long time ago. But the relationship soured and they stopped seeing each other.

While the man said she had ditched her, the woman said Chowdhury had let her down by getting married on the sly. He had married a doctor’s daughter.

He became the father of a child and started the business of delivering bouquets, gifts and snacks to homes in New Alipore and its adjoining areas.

At the same time, he was furtively trying to re-establish contact with his former girlfriend, although she wasn’t interested. Chowdhury told his interrogators that he threatened her over the phone as he got a divorce for the receptionist’s sake.

But police are not buying that. They feel his wife was separated from him because of his tendency to womanise. “Chowdhury tried to blackmail the woman by saying she was responsible for his divorce,” police said.

Police started keeping track of Chowdhury’s movements after the complaint was made a few days ago.

The threat calls were traced and plainclothes policemen posted in front of his residence shadowed his movements.

“We managed to catch him at his residence at night,” police said. Chowdhury was produced in court and was granted bail.    

Calcutta, April 18 
An independent body of academics is launching a campaign for “meaningful teaching” of the English language in state-aided primary schools, where the government had adopted “a casual policy” towards the subject.

The West Bengal Primary Development Board said on Tuesday, that it will approach teachers of well-known institutions in Calcutta, like Hindu School, Hare School, Bethune School, Scottish Church School, and urge them to oppose the government’s move to impart “poor-standard” education in English at the primary level.

Sushil Mukherjee, board president and former vice-chancellor of Calcutta University, said: “Teaching of English has been reintroduced in the 51,000 state-aided primary schools from Class-II. But the way the language is being taught is terrible.”

On the basis of the recommendations of the one-man Pabitra Sarkar committee, the state government had introduced informal teaching of English from Class-II in state-funded schools last year.

“The content of the Class-II syllabus in English is practically covered in a pamphlet containing only a few pages. If the government really wants to teach the language, it should do it in a proper manner,” Mukherjee said.

The board, set up nine years ago as a parallel body to the government-controlled West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, has also been conducting scholarship exams for Class IV pupils studying in state-funded schools since 1992, as a mark of protest against abolition of English at the primary level and removing promotion tests till Class VI.

Mukherjee said more than 60 per cent students have passed the Class IV scholarship examinations this year. Nearly 2.5-lakh examinees from 32,000 government-aided primary schools in Calcutta and elsewhere in the state had appeared for the exams, conducted by the board in February.

In 1992, when the board had conducted the exams for the first time, only 20,000 pupils had taken the test. “The response among the parents has increased every year, without any kind of propaganda on our part,” said Kartick Saha, board general secretary. “This reflects the growing demand for English among the middle class in Calcutta and the districts.”

Students appearing in the scholarship exam are required to take tests in Bengali or Hindi, arithmetic, history, geography, science and English. According to Saha, the examinees have fared “extremely well” in English. This year, a student of Ramakrishna Mission school at Tamluk in Midnapore district topped with 394 marks out of 400.    

Calcutta, April 18 
Shibani Haldar has finally found a home. After five years at the burn ward of R.G. Kar Hospital for treatment of severe injuries, the “former” housewife and mother of two, now shunned by her family, has been able to take a discharge and go to the Sujoy Welfare Home on the E.M. Bypass.

On Tuesday, doctors, nurses and other staff of the ward and hospital assembled to bid fond farewell to Shibani as she left by a Medical Bank ambulance.

It was in 1995 that Shibani’s husband, Badal, allegedly set her on fire at their home in Vivekanandanagar, near Narendrapur, in South 24-Parganas. She was 37 then.

She had suffered 80 per cent burns. She had lost an eye, the left side of her face was burnt, as were parts of her torso and limbs.

Her treatment ended 18 months ago. But she had nowhere to go.

“Neither my husband and two sons, nor my parents came to see me even once,” she said.

“We contacted Sujoy Welfare Home and they agreed to give her shelter and work as well,” said D. Ashis, secretary of Medical Bank, a voluntary organisation of north Calcutta, which had been contacted by some R.G. Kar doctors.    

Calcutta, April 18 
Nearly a million people in Howrah town went without water in the intense heat of Tuesday as the Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC) suddenly suspended supply of filtered water from Tuesday morning.

Water was already scarce in the area, thanks to rationing of supply, which began last week. The residents woke up in the morning to discover the taps had run completely dry.

As the HMC authorities suspended water supply without notice, long queues could be seen in front of tubewells, as people made a mad scramble to store every precious drop they could procure.

Arun Roy Choudhury, Congress councillor, said the HMC authorities usually inform the individual councillors over the phone if they have to suspend water supply for some emergency repairs. “This time, the officials did not deem that necessary.”

The disruption started on Monday evening after a power failure due to a major cable fault at the HMC’s raw water pumping station near Botanical Gardens.

Gour Chatterjee, chief engineer of the HMC’s water supply department, said the cable fault was repaired on Tuesday afternoon and that “supply will improve by evening”.

Protesting the frequent disruption of water supply, the Ganatantrik Nagarik Samiti, a local welfare organisation, will stage a unique kind of demonstration on Thursday.

Subhas Dutta, general secretary of the organisation, said they will organise a puja of river goddess Ganga in the HMC head office. “For residents of Howrah, the only source of water now is the Ganga. We have repeatedly appealed to the corporation authorities to look into the water crisis, but to no avail. Thus, there is no other alternative but to keep the goddess happy,” said Dutta.

The areas worst affected by Tuesday’s disruption were Shibpur, Bataitala, Botanical Gardens, Chatterjeehat, Ramkrishnapur, Sandhyabazar, Kazipara and other parts of south Howrah.

“Whatever little water we had in the tanks was supplied to parts of central Howrah,” an HMC official said. Places like Salkia, Benaras Road and other parts of north Howrah went dry as well.

Since most of the tubewells in the area don’t function, locals, especially those living on the upper floors of highrises along G.T. Road (south) and Shalimar, had to buy water at exorbitant rates.

Sanjay Khanna, resident of one such building near Aloka cinema, said he had to buy a bucket of water for Rs 8, which usually comes for half that price.

The latest crisis has only added to the woes of Howrah’s residents, already reeling under drastic cuts in duration of water supply in all the 50 wards because of non-functioning pumps. The HMC chief engineer, however, hoped the rationing will be lifted after a month, when the pumps get repaired. At present, only five of the eight pumps are working.    

Agartala, April 18 
Militants of the National Liberation Front of Tripura shot dead a tribal youth and abducted a subzonal officer of the autonomous district council (ADC) last night in Dhalai district. The officer is still untraced.

Police sources said at 9 pm last night a group of heavily-armed NLFT militants raided remote Shuknacherra village under Ambasa police station on the foothills of the Atharomura ranges.

The militants abducted a group of youth, including subzonal officer Santi Debbarma, at gunpoint and then went deeper into the thickly wooded hills.

After covering a short distance, the group reached a desolate place where the rebels shot dead one of their hostages, Jatindra Debbarma, 26. He had been struggling to wriggle out of their grip. The rest of the hostages were taken away.

Shortly after receiving information of the raid, security forces led by Dhalai district superintendent of police T.B. Roy reached the spot and launched combing operations. However, no one has been arrested so far.

In a separate incident, police and Assam Rifles jawans arrested altogether six hardcore collaborators of NLFT and All-Tripura Tiger Force militants.

Police sources said a combined team of policemen and Tripura State Rifles jawans led by Bahadur Debbarma, a sub-inspector of Kanchanpur police station in North Tripura, raided Satnala area yesterday. The team arrested a leading NLFT collaborator, Premananda Reang, and recovered a countrymade gun from him. Sources said the militant was involved in the abduction of Sarbajay Reang, 70, the father of CPM candidate in the ADC elections Rajendra Reang.

An official press note issued by the Assam Rifles said its jawans yesterday raided Kangrai, Tuisama and Ananda Bazar villages under Kanchanpur police station and arrested hardcore NLFT collaborators Biranjay Reang, Nidhiram Reang and Dhananjay Reang. The press note said Nidhiram Reang was involved in the abduction of Sarbajay Reang from Gochhiram para area on April 9. Sarbajay Reang is still untraced.

Police sources said the police in Kamalpur subdivision yesterday arrested two hardcore Tiger Force militants from Bishnupur.    

Dhanbad, April 18 
Barely a day after Dhanbad police claimed to have identified the killers of slain Marxist Co-ordination Committee MLA Gurudas Chatterjee, senior party leaders and the legislator’s son, Arup Chatterjee, rejected the police theory. They have pinned their hopes on the CBI instead.

Arup Chatterjee told superintendent of police Anil Palta that he did not agree with the police version when the SP called upon the legislator’s family at Nirsa.

The police had earlier recovered a Kawasaki-Calibre motorcycle allegedly used by the assailants. The vehicle was recovered from a hard-coke kiln owned by underworld don Narmadeshwar Singh alias Chora Master.

The police felt that Chatterjee was murdered by Chora Master’s son Shiv Shankar Singh along with Umesh Singh, one of Chora Master’s employees.

According to officials the conspiracy to eliminate Chatterjee was allegedly hatched by local Forward Bloc leader Sushanta Sengupta, Chora Master and another mafia don Nuren Master. The police said there was an altercation between the legislator and Umesh Singh on April 10, four days before the MLA was killed.

But Arup Chatterjee rejected the police version claiming that there was no altercation between his father and Umesh Singh.

“Had there been an altercation, my father would have informed us or other party workers,” Arup said. According to him, the assailant would not have kept the motorcycle in his own premises either.

In a written complaint to the Dhanbad SP, Arup Chatterjee aired doubts over the role of the Nirsa police. He urged the SP to probe allegations that a senior Nirsa police official was using the Maruti-Zen belonging to Shiv Shankar Singh.

The MLA’s son also alleged that a section of police officers were on the payroll of coal mafia gangs and local politicians.

Chatterjee’s family said they expected a “fair investigation” by the CBI, which has been formally asked by the state home department to take over the probe.

According to one of the slain MLA’s relative, Gurudas Chatterjee was reportedly vying for the post of the Dhanbad Mining Area Development Authority chairman. He has asked the police to probe this aspect to ascertain whether Chatterjee’s nomination to the chairman’s post had foiled any vested interest.

Dhanbad bandh today

An all- party condolence meeting held at local Kohinoor ground yesterday called for a Dhanbad and Bokaro bandh tomorrow in protest against the killing of Gurudas Chatterjee.    

Imphal, April 18 
Nearly 100 Manipuri students, who cleared the National Eligibility Test for lectureship and junior research fellowship conducted by the University Grants Commission, are being victimised by the state higher education department.

Not a single scholar who cleared the NET has ever been selected as full-time lecturer in government colleges, sources said.

Kh. Dhiren Singh, who did his PhD in computer science in February, 1998 and cleared the NET in June, is still jobless. Though the Manipur Public Service Commission advertised for the posts of 109 lecturers, no headway has been made. Instead, the state higher education department is planning to regularise over 100 part-time lecturers, who were appointed without fulfilling recruitment norms.

“I thought of surrendering my NET certificate as it is of no use now,” said Dhiren Singh.

Similar feelings were echoed by L. Suraj and Ninglu who cleared the NET and became junior research fellows in 1996. As per UGC norms, only those who clear the NET or those who have PhD degrees are eligible for lectureship in all the colleges and universities of the country.

When the MPSC advertised for the recruitment of 109 college lecturers, candidates who cleared the NET were supposed to be accorded top priority.

But following complaints from some candidates, the MPSC sought UGC’s permission for conducting a state-level eligibility test (SLET) equivalent to the NET. However, the UGC turned down the request and instead asked the MPSC to conduct a state-level test for the entire Northeast after consulting other states.

Unable to contact other neighbouring states, the MPSC had published a list of candidates who were eligible for interview as per UGC guidelines. Only those who cleared the NET and those who completed their PhD figured in the list. But the MPSC remained silent over the lecturers’ recruitment and some of the candidates sought legal assistance.

The Imphal bench of Gauhati High Court has recently ordered the MPSC to complete the lecturers’ recruitment process by June. Despite the court order, many candidates were worried over the manner in which the higher education department was trying to regularise part-time lecturers.

Ever since the UGC introduced the national eligibility test and framed recruitment rules for college and university lecturers, the state government have not conducted any formal tests for the recruitment of lecturers. But over the past few years, the state government appointed over 500 part-time lecturers, who failed to fulfil UGC norms.    


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