Syllabus upgrade ahead
Youth rob BBD Bag trader of Rs 15 lakh
Pink City red carpet for sons of soil
Three drops to the ‘final push’
Phone staff still on strike, rain cripples repairs
No-refusal taxis prove popular
Champaran pins hope on tourist circuit
Archbishop of Ranchi tops poll list
3 NLFT rebels killed by police
Paswan plans to float new party

Calcutta, Sept.22: 
Alarmed at the poor performance by students in state and national-level examinations, the government has decided to upscale the syallabi taught to under-graduates at universities and colleges in Calcutta and elsewhere in Bengal.

The decision is aimed at setting up a uniform and job-oriented syllabi pattern, which will be mandatory for all state-aided universities to follow.

The city-based, state-funded universities are Calcutta University, Rabindra Bharati University and Jadavpur University. Those in the districts are Kalyani University, North Bengal University and Burdwan University.

Sources said the need for total review of the syllabi was felt after the government noticed that students from Calcutta and elsewhere in the districts were faring badly in state and national-level competitive examinations, like the Indian Administrative Service and the West Bengal Civil Services.

At present, the universities follow their own syllabi. The boards of studies in the respective universities frame the syllabi of their honours courses. Sources at the state higher education department said the process to review the syllabi begun last week, after a high-level meeting between the state higher education minister and senior officials of his department.

The education department has directed the state higher education council to negotiate with the authorities of various universities in this regard.

The state higher education council conducted workshops where the syllabi of nearly 25 subjects were reviewed. The workshops were attended by teachers of various colleges in Calcutta.

“Elaborate discussions were held at the workshops and we will submit our reports to the government accordingly,” said Pratip Choudhury, member-secretary of the higher education council. The syllabi of nearly 25 subjects taught in honours courses were reviewed, the council secretary said

A senior teacher of Presidency College, who was among the members present at the workshop, said the government had asked them to lay emphasis on certain parameters for framing the uniform guideline.

The government’s proposals aimed at making the syllabi job-oriented. For example, the workshop recommended introduction of practical classes for students of sociology. By the proposal, students of sociology will be required to carry out field surveys on their own. The practical paper will be made compulsory.    

Calcutta, Sept.22: 
In broad daylight, a group of armed youth escaped with Rs 15 lakh which they stole from the office of a group of traders on Clive Street on Friday.

Deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Narayan Ghosh, linked the traders to hawala dealings.

“I have sent my officers to probe their antecedents,” Ghosh said. Though the crime occurred around 3 pm, the police were called in at about 6.30 pm. The youth remain untraced.

Sleuths said one of the traders was carrying the money in a taxi from Wood Street, in the Park Street police station area, to his office on Clive Street, in BBD Bag.

Eyewitnesses saw the trader taking the elevator to his fourth-floor office. They said he was carrying a bag.

“However, we did not see anybody following him,” they said.

The police are questioning the liftman in this connection.

The trader told sleuths the youth snatched the bag from him when he reached the fourth floor.

“I did not notice anybody following me while I was travelling by taxi from Wood Street,” he added.

Investigators are, however, not convinced about the man’s statements.

“We need to find out why the dacoits snatched the money on the fourth floor instead of making off with it on the ground floor or on the road itself,” the detective department chief added.    

Calcutta, Sept.22: 
The city’s business barons have a ticket to ride — from karmabhoomi to janmabhoomi. But there’s no need for alarm bells to start ringing, the leading Marwari industrialists headed out of town for Rajasthan this weekend are all armed with two-way tickets. The business heavyweights are homeward bound to attend “International Rajasthani Conclave 2000” — a first-ever event bringing together eminent non-resident Rajasthanis in Jaipur. The last two days have seen a significant number leave for the conclave, while a second batch is expected to leave for the Pink City by Saturday afternoon. The invitees include the likes of R.P. Goenka (also a Rajya Sabha MP from Rajasthan), C.K. Birla, Meena Devi Purohit, Sanjay Budhia, Suresh Neotia, R.S. Jhawar, K.K. Bangur, Arun Bajoria, S.K. Sharma and Shyamanand Jalan. The brainchild of chief minister Ashok Gehlot and a city-based industrialist, this ‘NRR’ meet is strategically aimed at showcasing the land of deserts as the land of opportunities. To spread the message that the state has potential beyond tourism and can actually emerge as a business hub, the Rajasthan Industrial Development Corporation has teamed up with the Confederation of Indian Industry. “But the two-day event is not just another investors’ meet. For those who have been away from Rajasthan for years, this is a return to the roots,” said Sanjay Budhia, managing director of Patton industries.

The organisers have highlighted this sentiment by blending business baithaks with the colours of culture and the spirit of sport. The programme includes the first-ever World Cup polo match hosted by the Rambagh Polo Grounds on Sunday. To ensure that the delegates don’t miss their weekend round of golf, the organisers have made special arrangements at the Rambagh Golf Club.

There is some apprehension that the conclave might not achieve its business objective. On condition of anonymity, a city-based industrialist known for his proximity to the Left said: “Rajasthan has got competitive advantages in a few specific sectors, but given a choice between Rajasthan and West Bengal, most of us will put in money here.” The industrialist, who cancelled his trip at the last moment due to pressing engagements, added: “The situation may be bad in West Bengal, but things are worse in Rajasthan in the absence of a proper industrial climate.” But the mood in the conclave camp on the eve of departure was buoyant. “I’m looking forward to catching up with old friends and making new ones at this unique get-together,” said R.S. Jhawar of Wlliamson Magor.    

Calcutta, Sept.22: 
The city is gearing up to achieve 100 per cent coverage of all children below five during Sunday’s pulse polio immunisation drive.

A massive mobilisation has been conducted over the past month so that no ward and no section of children, be they in highrise apartments or on the pavement, miss out on the three drops of vaccine. “Even children who have received these drops must take them again so that the environment can be rid of the polio virus,” said Neela Mukherjee, Calcutta district immunisation officer, on Friday.

Over 1,240 booths have been set up, personnel in all police stations briefed, the health department and Corporation staff trained and volunteers of Rotary International readied for the drive that would ultimately rid the city and its neighbourhood of crippling polio.

Students and teachers of all four medical colleges in the city will take part this time, thanks to an initiative taken by director of medical education Shyamal Banerjee. Teams have been formed to visit the dozen-odd, high-risk wards to administer the drops.

One or more of four criteria define whether a ward is high-risk or not. “A ward where less that 50 per cent of the targeted population did not receive the drops last time, or where routine immunisation does not take place, or where a fresh polio case was detected (Ward 58 in Tangra last year) or one which is densely populated are the wards where extra special effort will be given,” Mukherjee said.

Attention will also be given to the Metiabruz area, as it is next to Maheshtala, where a new polio case was detected this year.

The Rotary Club has set up mobile teams to be stationed at Victoria Memorial, Alipore Zoo and Science City, spots hordes of children are expected to visit on Sunday. Booths have also been set up at eight railway stations so that passengers can be told about the need to immunise the kids.

But despite these efforts, India will have to wait till 2005 to join the rest of the world and be certified polio-free. Speaking on the the “last great push”, Union health minister C.P. Thakur said the next programme, beginning Sunday, would be “reach each and every child below five.”    

Calcutta, Sept.22: 
Telephone services continued to totter on Friday while the junior engineers carried on with their work-to-rule. The situation was compounded by the rains, which left a staggering 40,000 lines out of order by the end of the day.

There was no improvement in the STD and ISD links, and subscribers complained that they were unable to get through to outstation numbers. The left-tilt Telecom Engineers and Officers’ Association, comprising mostly of junior engineers, is on a work-to-rule that has crippled maintenance and repairs at the exchanges.

Officials of the Eastern Telecom Region, which controls outstation links, worked overtime to repair faults at junctions and set up a link with Delhi.

General manager of ETR, Ajit Singh, said engineers managed to establish a link with Delhi through Varanasi. “The link to Delhi was established by a very circuitous route. But Mumbai and other cities remained cut off, as we could not link routes because of a complete washout of switchboards at Kharagpur and Keonjhar,’’ Singh said.

Officials on Friday worked at setting up communication links between Calcutta and the flood-affected districts.

“Links with Siliguri, Berhampore and other north Bengal areas were snapped on Wednesday. On Friday, we got through to Siliguri by linking up with Varanasi, Patna, Siliguri and then to Berhampore,’’ Singh said.

Calcutta Telephones officials said many lines went dead on Friday after overnight rain.

“Linesmen were directed to repair faults, but records at the end of the day showed that only 2,000 lines were repaired, while 4,000 went out of order,’’ a senior officer said.

Telecom department sources said 25,000 telephones were dead because of some technical snags at the exchanges. “These could have been repaired if the junior engineers had been working on schedule,’’ an official said.    

Calcutta, Sept.22: 
Over six thousand persons have availed of the “no-refusal” taxis being run from the crossing of Lindsay Street and Jawaharlal Nehru Road since September 9.

The camp, jointly organised by the Progressive Taximen’s Union and the No-Refusal Taxi Owners’ Association, was to continue till January 31, but the organisers have already received requests to extend the service till Id.

Similar services are being offered at three other points — Satyen Roy Road in Behala, Bagha Jatin and Kalindi, in the northern suburbs. The service entails no extra charge. Only three passengers have complained against misconduct by the drivers. While one driver forced a passenger to get off midway, the other two have been charged with “impolite behaviour and making a detour,” said Madan Mitra, who heads both the organisations.    

Bettiah, Sept. 22: 
Impoverished farmers of crime-prone Champaran district in North Bihar are pinning their hopes on “religious tourism” for development of the backward area.

The district, which abounds in historical relics, has been linked to the Buddhist tourist circuit map covering Lumbinipark in Nepal, Rajgir, Vaishali and Nalanda in central Bihar and Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh.

According to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the circuit was incomplete without the inclusion of the district as Gautam Buddha became an ascetic in Champaran.

The district, known for its contribution to the country’s freedom struggle, has now become a Buddhist hotspot with the discovery of several archaeological sites.

The ASI is excavating a stupa in Kesaria village, which, according to experts, can compared to Java’s Borobudur stupa in size.

ASI superintendent, Patna circle, Mohammed K.K. said, “Champaran has been untapped as far as Buddhist relics are concerned. It is veritable a treasure trove.” The ASI, which has set up a special team to complete the work, is scouting for archaeological mounds every 10 km in the district.

Besides Kesaria, Rampura has also found a place in the archaeological map as the ASI has unearthed a stupa there. A Mauryan stone pillar with a lionhead at the top was also excavated from Rampura. It is now in the Calcutta Museum.

The head of a nandi bull excavated from a neighbouring village now graces the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The ASI has identified another mound at Sagar Dih, nearly 30 km from Lauriya Bazar, the site from where the bull’s motif was unearthed.

“The Champaran project is the most ambitious one in recent times. If all the stupas in the area are excavated it will add a vital chapter in the chronology of Buddha’s life, specially the phase of his transition from a prince to an ascetic,” said Mohammed K.K.

While the ASI is busy excavating the sites, the residents of Champaran are looking forward to an economic resurgence.

The people, mostly farmers, have been hit by the closure of sugar mills in the area. Rich farmers are finding it difficult to sustain agriculture as day labourers have migrated to neighbouring Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Lauriya Bazar located between the Ashoka pillar and the world’s largest stupa at Nandangarh wears a deserted look. “There is no money here. Trade and commerce have come to a grinding halt. Only visits by government officials generate revenue,” said Shivanand, a shopowner in Rampura.

Unemployment has spawned “vendetta violence” and organised crime. Petty gangsters control every aspect of social life and extortion is rampant.

Teachers in interior villages are often abducted for ransom and caste armies hold sway over agriculture.

A former MP from Bettiah, Dharmesh P.D. Verma had prepared a development plan for the area and lobbied for the inclusion of Champaran in the country’s tourist map.    

Ranchi, Sept. 22: 
Ranchi Archbishop Telesphore P. Toppo tops the list of possible successors to Delhi Archbishop Alan de Lastic, according to an opinion poll conducted by Indian Currents, a New Delhi-based English weekly.

Though Indian Currents refused to disclose the identities of the respondents, it revealed that majority of the participants in the poll were from north Indian states with a fairly good grasp of Church and national developments.

Refusing to comment on the opinion poll, Toppo said appointments of Archbishops were guided by the “Holy Spirit”.

The opinion poll was divided into two parts. The first asked the respondents to identify three qualities of the successor while Part-II called for three names based on the qualities indicated in Part-I.. Forty-two per cent of the respondents said the new Archbishop of Delhi should come from the Dalit or tribal community, 35 per cent felt administrative capacity, public relations activities and social activism should be the preferred set of qualities while 12 per cent said the Archbishop should be able to speak English with a proper accent.    

Agartala, Sept. 22: 
Three militants of the National Liberation Front of Tripura were killed by a joint force of policemen backed by Tripura State Rifles jawans in the state today.

A combined police force from Jatrapur, Melaghar and Sonamura police stations, backed by TSR jawans and led by the respective officers-in-charge, shot dead three hardcore NLFT militants and arrested four others after an encounter lasting half-an-hour at remote Mikrossapara village under Jatrapur police station this morning.

The police also recovered five countrymade guns, live cartridges and incriminating documents including fax receipts.

Police sources said the Jatrapur police station received information last night that an NLFT gang had been hiding in a tong house at Mikrossapara village and were planning attacks on nearby areas.

The officer-in-charge of the police station got in touch with Sonamura and Melaghar police stations and sought help for an early morning strike against the militant group.

A large contingent of policemen belonging to all three police stations trekked a distance of 6 km in the hilly interior areas and reached the militant hideout at 5 am.

Having sighted the police force, the militants in the tong house opened fire. The advancing police force retaliated strongly.

The encounter continued for half an hour, at the end of which the militants fled. The police stormed the tong house and found three hardcore NLFT militants lying dead. They were identified as Apu Debbarma, Suresh Tripura and Suresh Noatia. Sources said the police arrested four of the fleeing militants.

This is the first major success of the police in counter-insurgency operations in West Tripura.

Chief minister Manik Sarkar congratulated the police on their successful operation. Director-general of police B.L. Vora also visited the spot.    

Ranchi, Sept. 22: 
Union communications minister and Janata Dal (U) leader Ram Vilas Paswan has said he would float a new party on November 23 at New Delhi unless internal democracy within the JD(U) was restored by replacing Sharad Yadav.

Asked whether the new party would continue being a part of the NDA government at the Centre as and when formed, Paswan said he would not “spill the beans at the moment.” He would make his future course of action known at a later date, he added.

However, Paswan said he was not interested in donning the mantle of the party chief instead.

Talking to newsmen here yesterday at the end of his hurricane visit to Narkopi under Bero block where 15 people were gunned down by extremists on Wednesday, Paswan said though the JD(U) had a mass base in Bihar, the party “barely seems” to exist.

He said the anti-Laloo Prasad Yadav front led by the erstwhile Janata Dal had withered over the last three years. He said no efforts were made to save the party from splitting into the Samata Party. George Fernandes should have been elected as the party chief to avoid the split, he added.

Paswan said frequent changes in party leadership were a common phenomenon. He said with the entire party in doldrums, Sharad Yadav should quit and make way for a new face who could give a “fresh lease of life” to the party. Paswan said his party would go by the NDA agenda regarding the formation of government in Jharkhand. He said a meeting would be soon convened to “unanimously” project the NDA’s chief ministerial candidate for the new state.

On the ongoing telecom strike, Paswan said the government had agreed to all the conditions set by various employees’ unions regarding the rights and privileges of the employees once the telecom sector is corporatised.

He said the new corporation which would come into being on October 1 would guarantee job security, continuance of pension benefits, absorption of all casual workers and a Rs 1,000 pay hike to workers in the new payscales.

He said the Centre has also agreed to form a separate cadre for the telecom sector at par with other central services like the IAS, IPS and Forest Service. The issue of a separate cadre would be decided at a meeting of Union ministers, he added.

Paswan said though the government acceded to all the demands of the nearly four lakh telecom employees, it was in no mood to allow disruption of telecom services following a dispute between two rival unions.

Paswan said he has asked his secretaries to submit a consolidated report on the extent of disruption caused by the two rival unions. He said the Centre would take stringent action against all errant employees.    


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