Computer chaos invites policing
With sympathy, PM goes to tea at Mamata’s
School staff warn of longer strike
Fountain by daylight leaves campus fuming
Killer bus sets off roadblock
Plus return odds bright
Sweet makers bitter about milk
Militancy takes toll on governance
New telecom loop connects Bihar villages
Jharkhand goes hi-tech with portal of its own

 
 
COMPUTER CHAOS INVITES POLICING 
 
 
BY SHANKAR MUKHERJEE AND DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, July 5 
Tushar Chatterjee made a one-off payment of Rs 25,000 and then paid Rs 1,500 every month for a six-month course at a Salt Lake computer education centre. He was promised a certificate recognised by the government of India.

At the end of the course, Tushar (not his real name) was handed a certificate on the centre’s letterhead. Under pressure, all that the centre could produce by way of “recognition” was a trade licence for “computer maintenance”.

By not putting in place a self-regulatory system, the booming computer education business is inviting government intervention. The technical education department of the Bengal government has already asked the Centre to step in, pointing out that the education imparted at many of these centres is “sub-standard”.

The government’s move comes in the wake of numerous complaints lodged by students and parents against some computer education centres with school education minister Kanti Biswas and technical education minister Bangsha Gopal Chowdhuri.

“Some people are just playing with the future of young boys and girls. This cannot be tolerated any more. I have requested the government to take steps immediately,’’ said Pabitra Sarkar, vice-chairman of the West Bengal Council of Higher Education.

“I have learnt that some centres are claiming to be ‘recognised’. I must make it clear that we have not given any recognition to any private computer centre,’’ said Bangsha Gopal Chowdhury.

According to the technical education department, there are over 1,000 computer centres and institutes in Calcutta and its suburbs. Nearly 100 are in Salt Lake alone. With stories of software engineers turning into millionaires overnight abounding, parents are pushing their children into computer centres and paying anything between Rs 25,000 and Rs 200,000.

“I admitted my son to a computer institute at Dhakuria and paid Rs 1.5 lakh after selling off my wife’s ornaments. I did it because the institute promised my son a job abroad immediately on completion of the course. It was only much later that I understood it was a farce,” said Rajat Sen.

According to Debnath Bhattacharya, education officer at Computer Society of India, computer centres have to fulfil certain infrastructure requirements laid down by the Union government’s department of electronics to acquire accreditation. “Smaller centres can’t apply for accreditation, as they can never fulfil the requirements and so they just devise their own courses,” Bhattacharya said.

Some centres, however, maintain that as private organisations they are free to do so. “We design our course and syllabus on our own and students come to us fully aware of what we have have to offer,’’ said Padma of LMIIT.

But industry observers say education centres cannot continue to enjoy this freedom without some sort of standardisation that they themselves should devise. Otherwise, government intervention in some form will be inevitable.

“We have asked the Centre, the All India Council of Technical Education and the department of electronics to formulate definite guidelines along with a prescribed syllabus,’’ said Bangsha Gopal Chowdhuri.

Sandeep Chatterjee, zonal manager of computer education centre ASSET International, welcomed the government move: “Laying down proper rules and regulations may take some time, but the government can definitely ask Nasscom (the national-level computer industry association) to stop these institutes from using pirated software.”    


 
 
WITH SYMPATHY, PM GOES TO TEA AT MAMATA’S 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, July 5 
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee will visit Mamata Banerjee’s tiled-roof house at Kalighat on Thursday, apparently to meet her mother, but actually to pacify the firebrand leader who is upset over the closure of four public sector undertakings in West Bengal.

The Cabinet decision on closure of the units had earned the railway minister’s ire on the eve of the civic polls in Calcutta and Salt Lake. But Mamata, on Wednesday, said it was a matter of “great pride and honour that Vajpayeeji is coming to meet my mother and other family members”.

Trinamul sources said Mamata herself will prepare “some special items”, to be served during a short tea session with the Prime Minister at her residence.

This is the first time the Prime Minister’s schedule does not include any official meeting with a Left Front minister. Deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya, who is scheduled to receive the Prime Minister at the airport and later see him off, will not attend the Shyama Prasad Mookerjee birth anniversary programme at Netaji Indoor Stadium, where Vajpayee will be the main speaker.

Bhattacharya said it was his party’s decision not to attend the function. “I cannot go because we are opposed to Dr Mookerjee’s political thinking,” he asserted.

Citu and other Left-affiliated trade unions have planned a rally on Rani Rashmoni Road to coincide with the Prime Minister’s visit on Thursday. The leaders will also submit a memorandum to Vajpayee condemning the closure of the public sector units.

Securitymen, including SPG personnel from Delhi, have already taken over the 120-yard stretch leading to 30B Harish Chatterjee Street, where Mamata lives. Police sniffer dogs were pressed into service on Wednesday. Officials visited the spot and briefed a hundred-odd residents on either side of Harish Chatterjee Street on the “dos and don’ts” during Vajpayee’s visit to Mamata’s residence. Plainclothesmen will be posted inside every house in the area on Thursday afternoon.

BJP delegation: An eight-member BJP delegation, led by Union minister of state for communications Tapan Sikdar and state BJP chief Asim Ghosh, is likely to meet Vajpayee at Raj Bhavan on Thursday to discuss Sunday’s organisational elections.    


 
 
SCHOOL STAFF WARN OF LONGER STRIKE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 5 
The staff association of La Martiniere for Boys and Girls have threatened to launch an “indefinite pen-down strike” if their demands are not met by July 19.

The staff association, which observed a token strike on Tuesday to protest the failure to meet their demands, served the ultimatum on Wednesday. In a letter to the principals of the two schools, the association members said: “We started negotiations more than a year ago and it is disheartening to note that nothing fruitful has materialised over this period.”

“If our demands... regarding anomalies in our pay revision are not met within 14 days of the receipt of this letter, we will be left with no alternative but to go on a continuous pen-down strike till our demands are met in entirety.”

The demands include a 60 per cent hike in basic salary; special increments to teachers completing five,10, 15 and 20 years of service and free education to their wards.    


 
 
FOUNTAIN BY DAYLIGHT LEAVES CAMPUS FUMING 
 
 
BY MITA MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, July 5 
The academic community of Calcutta University’s Rajabazar Science College has charged the authorities of using scarce resources to make cosmetic changes at the cost of necessary infrastructure.

At the centre of the row is an illuminated fountain, built as part of a Rs 10-lakh beautification drive on the campus. Students and teachers suspect a contractor and his cronies in the administration probably made a pile on the sly by selling the scheme to the university.

Scholars, students and staff argue that the money should have been used to tone up the laboratories and reinforce the weakening structures of the building.

They fear that the rotting structure could actually come tumbling down on them. They point to the death of Nabakumar Hudati, a researcher in zoology at Ballygunge Science College. A large chunk of a rotting pipe fell from a height of eight storeys, killing Hudati, who was collecting samples from a pond. That was in June 1999.

Even a year later, precious little has been done by the cash-starved university for the upkeep of its properties. But that has not restrained the university from building a fountain.

“It is a monument to the misuse of hard-earned resources,” say union leaders bitterly. “More so, because the illuminated fountain is inexplicably switched on by day but switched off at night.”

Calcutta University has more than 10 campuses and the respective campus committiees are empowered to implement any development project that costs less than Rs 25,000.

They certainly have no authority to execute a Rs 10-lakh scheme.

Students are particularly angry that money should go down the drain at a time when they are instructed to use necessary equipment, like test tubes, chemicals and even paper sparsely.    


 
 
KILLER BUS SETS OFF ROADBLOCK 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 5 
Local residents heckled the police and blocked Indra Biswas Road and other nearby roads in Belgachia on Wednesday morning after a private bus on route 227 lost control and mounted the pavement, killing a 60-year-old man and injuring three others.

The killer bus also rammed against other vehicles, damaging five private cars and taxis.

According to witnesses and police sources, the bus driver was speeding and had to brake suddenly when some vehicles in front came to an abrupt halt to make way for people crossing the road.

The bus’ brakes failed and the desperate driver tried to ram the vehicle against a lamp post to bring it to a halt. The bus hit a few taxis in front of it, but could not stop as it was moving at high speed and climbed onto the pavement.

The area was teeming with people on their way to office when the accident occurred at 9 am.

Panic-stricken pedestrians tried desperately to get out of harm’s way.

“Everybody was shouting and running in different directions. A few jumped and dived to avoid the bus. But an old man in his seventies failed to get out of the way,’’ said Sunil Mondal, a resident of Paikpara, who was waiting to board an Esplanade-bound bus.

The victim, who was later identified by the police as Salauddin, was crushed by the rampaging vehicle against the wall of a house. When the bus came to a stop, residents saw blood oozing out from the old man’s body. Hundreds of angry residents took to the streets and stalled movement of traffic along Indra Biswas Road and adjacent streets.

“How can the government allow a bus with faulty brakes to run? Who is responsible for the death of the old man?’’ asked Amal Pramanik, another local resident. The mob refused to budge from the spot and didn’t allow the local police to remove the body, heckling officers who had initially arrived to speak to them. “The police must answer how such buses are allowed to ply on the city roads,’’ an agitated resident demanded.

Senior police officers, including the deputy commissioner of police, eastern suburban division, rushed to the spot and pacified the crowd. The blockade was finally lifted at 12 noon, police said.

US vote: The US Consulate in Calcutta will assist American voters to exercise their franchise to elect their new President on November 7. The objective of the Federal Voting Assistance Program is to encourage American citizens living outside the US to obtain absentee ballots and to vote.    


 
 
PLUS RETURN ODDS BRIGHT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 5 
With the clamour for Kaun Banega Crorepati? growing by the hour in Calcutta cable homes, at least one operator’s union is hopeful that STAR Plus will be restored soon.

A representative of the Forum of Cable Operators told The Telegraph late on Wednesday evening that chances of buying only STAR Plus at the a la carte rate of Rs 8 are “bright”.

He said: “We want to give the viewers what they want most and hence, the move to get Plus back on track, even though we will be paying Rs 8 against the earlier rate of Rs 2.50 for the channel.”

All seven cable associations of the city are meeting on Friday to discuss the issue, with the hope that a solution will finally be reached.    


 
 
SWEET MAKERS BITTER ABOUT MILK 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 5 
Sweet producers have urged Mother Dairy to supply them with milk to enable them to produce quality sweets.

Rabin Pal, a spokesman of the sweet producers in the city, said they often received impure milk from suppliers.

“As a result, we cannot produce quality sweets. We have no device to check the quality of milk and so we are forced to use whatever is supplied to us,” Pal said.

Utpal Raychaudhuri, head of the department of food technology and biochemical engineering of Jadavpur University, who is currently training sweet producers, said he had approached Mother Dairy to supply milk exclusively to them.

“Mother Dairy is actively considering our proposal and they are expected to decide on it soon,” Raychaudhury said.

The department of food technology is hosting a national workshop on “development of process, technology and quality control of sweetmeat” at the university from Saturday.

The workshop will be attended by scientists, technologists and sweet producers based in Calcutta.

Raychaudhury said about 50 sweet producers in the city will be trained on how to check the quality of milk to improve the taste and quality of sweets they produce.

“In the beginning, 50 sweet producers will participate in the training programme. But more of them will join if we feel many of them are interested in the training programme,” he added.

Raychaudhury said the Union ministry of commerce has requested them to initiate measures to popularise Indian sweets among non-Indian communities abroad.

“Non-resident Indians are aware of the standard of Indian sweets. So, we have to popularise the sweets among the non- Indian community abroad,” Raychaudhury added.

He said there were 200,000 sweetshops in the country, of which 60,000 were in Calcutta and West Bengal.

The present fixed capital involved in the sweet industry is Rs 20,000 crore. But neither the state government nor the sweet traders ever considered exporting sweets to earn foreign exchange.

“If we manage to improve the quality of sweets and could mechanise the entire process of manufacturing sweets, it will be possible for us to export sweets and to earn foreign exchange. A few varieties of sweets are being exported to West Asia by Bangladesh. But sweets are never exported from India”, Raychaudhury said.    


 
 
MILITANCY TAKES TOLL ON GOVERNANCE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, July 5 
The Left Front government in Tripura appears to be losing grip on the administration with the spurt in militancy.

For the first time, the treasury bench will not be able to present the Budget on the opening day of the Assembly session slated to begin on Friday.

This came to light during a business advisory committee (BAC) meeting yesterday much to the embarrassment of the Left Front chief whip Keshab Mazumder.

Official sources here said the Budget, initially scheduled to be tabled on the opening day, had to be deferred till July 20 because the proposals were yet to be finalised. Sources said the delay in preparing the Budget has prompted the state government to prolong the session. Congress legislator Ratanlal Nath, a BAC member, criticised the state government for its failure to prepare the budget on schedule. He said a number of Bills, including the Tripura Public Demand Recovery Bill, 2000, the Tripura Security Ordinance Bill, 2000 and Sales Tax Bill, 2000 had to be passed in the session.

Nath said treasury bench members present at yesterday’s meeting tried to cut short the session, but Opposition members scuttled the move.

Besides, the state government has not been able to control functioning of security forces over the past six months, Nath alleged.

He quoted police intelligence reports, which cited numerous instances of CRPF inaction in interior areas. According to reports, there have been occasions when CRPF jawans avoided going on the offensive against militants.

In Khowai subdivision, the CRPF resorted to a lathicharge on a peaceful demonstration of Bengali women in trouble-torn Chebri area. Highly-placed sources alleged that “had the CRPF discharged its duties effectively in the Kalyanpur and Teliamura riots in May, the death toll would have been less.’’

But the state government is yet to react to the charge, Nath alleged.

Besides, the state government has not taken any step to check the growing communal polarisation among people regarding deployment of security forces.

Tribals in most areas clamour for deployment of the CRPF because of their alleged bias against non-tribals. Non-tribals, on the other hand, demand deployment of Tripura State Rifles (TSR) jawans.

The Killa police station in South Tripura’s Udaipur sub-division has been under siege by irate tribals for the past four days. On July 1, the Killa police arrested three collaborators of NLFT following which a tribal mob raided the outpost and picketed there. The police have not been able to disperse the picketers.

Minister’s denial

Meghalaya finance minister A.H. Scott Lyngdoh today denied media reports that his family members did not provide adequate information on the kidnapping of his grandson, reports PTI from Shillong. The news was “totally incorrect and misleading” he said in a hurriedly convened press conference here. Unidentified men had kidnapped Lyngdoh’s grandson from his residence here last month and released him later. They also snatched seven rifles and ammunition from his guards.

Referring to a news item that the minister’s daughter had seen the abductors but did not provide adequate information required for investigation, Lyngdoh said of his two daughters, one had left the house before the incident.

Though the other daughter, a teacher in Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu, was present at that time, she could not identify the masked men as there was no street light on at that time, he said.

“Do you think that my family members are protecting the men?” he asked.

To a question on the attack on his residence thrice, the minister said he was not satisfied with the pace of investigation of the police as “nobody was arrested so far”.    


 
 
NEW TELECOM LOOP CONNECTS BIHAR VILLAGES 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Dhanbad, July 5 
At least 500 villages in Dhanbad and Bokaro will now have telephones with the launching of the wireless local loop (WLL) by the telecommunication department here, reports our Dhanbad correspondent.

Addressing newsmen, general manager of DoT P. K. Ghosh today announced a massive modernisation scheme for Dhanbad and Bokaro districts, which envisages launching of virtual calling cards (India card) allowing users to call from any point through an “intelligent network.” Besides international dialling facilities, video conferencing and televoting, prediction of weather forecasts, fortune telling, share market information and job consultation will also be available over telephone.

Ghosh, accompanied by deputies Pankaj Kumar and B. N. Singh, said the Dhanbad telephone department covered an area of 3,000 square km catering to 44.78 lakh people through 38 exchanges.

The district telecom circle has 52,000 connections at present, he said, pointing out that after the final phase of modernisation, which would be completed over the next two months, the department would provide telephones to subscribers on demand. At present, the department is trying to clear the backlog, he said.

The telecom department has tied up with Syndicate Bank for payment of telephone bills. According to Ghosh, this will make payment of bills easier for subscribers. Ghosh said, “Plans are afoot to replace the remaining 30 per cent by stable medium in a year’s time.”

Aid for disabled

The divisional organiser of SSB, north Assam division , P.C. Dangwal distributed 18 tricycles, six wheelchairs and two auxiliary crutches to 26 beneficiaries at Debendranagar on July 3, reports our Tezpur correspondent.

Speaking on the occasion, Dangwal highlighted the achievements of the likes of Padmabhushan awardee Satish Gujral, renowned painter and well-known parliament

He cited the examples of Jaipal Reddy, the outstanding parliamentarian and winner of the World Award and the first blind sarpanch in the country, Sudha Patel and said in spite of their disabilities they have created a niche for themselves. He requested the beneficiaries to hone their skills to convert their disadvantages into advantages by pursuing their goals with determination, grit and diligence.

Highlighting the various medical activities of SSB, B.C. Pathi, chief medical officer said the beneficiaries came from Udalguri, Tongla, Dhekiajuli, Tezpur, Sootea and Mangaldoi.    


 
 
JHARKHAND GOES HI-TECH WITH PORTAL OF ITS OWN 
 
 
FROM RUDRA BISWAS
 
Ranchi, July 5 
Two Ranchi-based entrepreneurs, Nirupama and T. Prasad, have floated a website showcasing the best of south Bihar, including places of tourist interest and local delicacies like duska.

The duo designed the website, which can be accessed at “www.jharkhnd.com”, with the help of web developer Anand Akhoury.

The website provides information on how to visit places like the hill resort of Netarhat in Palamau district, reputed to be the best place in the subcontinent from which to view the sunrise.

“Though the view from Tiger Hill in Darjeeling is mesmerising, the beauty of the rising sun, as seen from the hills of Netarhat, is even more enchanting,” says Prasad. Apart from beckoning visitors to Netarhat, Jharkhand.com has information on several other places of tourist interest in south Bihar — well- known ones as well as those which are relatively unheard of.

The cuisine section is equally interesting. It informs those who access the website that the south Bihar delicacy, duska, is pronounced with stress on the alphabet “s”. It even provides the recipe for this popular evening snack.

Two other tribal delicacies, a non-vegetarian dish and a vegetarian one, find mention in the cuisine section. Both Prasad and Nirupama plan to include a long list of tribal delicacies on the website soon.

The site already has a wealth of information for researchers and mediapersons. There are district-wise population charts, details about industries in the region, a list of legislators and members of Parliament, profiles of districts and a daily south Bihar news section. The website will soon include information on job opportunities, particularly in south Bihar. Both Nirupama and Prasad explained that the site was still in a developmental stage.

They said that their main objective is to project the rich socio-political, cultural and even geological opportunities available throughout the South Bihar districts better known as Jharkhand. They strongly believe that Jharkhand has much to offer to those desiring to explore the website.    

 

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