Dated syllabus sparks brain drain
The dust never settles at Gariahat
Part-I results end five months of fret
Victorian Values in non-materialistic city
Five more held in Kasba case
Traffic lessons for bus drivers
Junior doctors end strike, boarders evacuate hoste
Assam Rifles soft on Tripura militants: CPM
Marandi govt
Litmus test for Nipamacha

Calcutta, Nov. 30: 
Lured by the prospect of landing lucrative jobs, all high-performing geology students of the class of 2000 from Presidency College and other well-known undergraduate institutions have moved to other states to study for the master’s degree, providing yet another grim pointer to the continuing brain drain from Bengal.

Anxious education officers said on Thursday that 50-odd young men and women, who had scored high marks, turned their backs on Presidency College and Calcutta University and relocated themselves either in Maharashtra or Madhya Pradesh, where placement prospects are greater, thanks to the strong job-orientation of the M.Sc course offered by universities there.

On the other hand, Jadavpur University is not facing a similar problem because its M.Sc course is tailored to market requirements.

The preferred destinations of Calcutta University’s geology students are the IITs in Mumbai and Kharagpur and the engineering colleges in Roorkee and Dhanbad. After writing the exam at these institutions, meritorious students are snapped up by well-known national and multinational companies, thanks to the nature of the course as well as efficient campus recruitment.

“One can’t blame the students if they choose to go away,” said an official. “The prospects of on-campus placement are almost nil here.”

This has resulted in unprecedented vacancies at the post-graduation level in Calcutta University and Presidency College. Officials realise they have no option but to lower the entry barrier and take in relatively low-performing students from middle-rung colleges.

The gravity of the situation can be gauged from the fact that Calcutta University has so far received only two applications from good candidates for admission to M.Sc, against a capacity of 25. When only three of its own high-performing under-graduates enrolled themselves on its PG course, Presidency was compelled to fill the majority of the remaining 17 seats with middle-ranking applicants from lesser-known colleges.

If the high-performers so much as expressed the wish, after obtaining the bachelor’s degree, they could have enjoyed the benefit of what is known as fast-track admission to the PG course in Presidency, where many of them studied for the BA degree, or to Calcutta University, which has affiliates in Jogomaya Devi and Ashutosh colleges, where geology is taught at the under-graduate level.

One of the prime reasons for the exodus of geology students from Calcutta is the outdated syllabus and CU’s refusal to replace it with a forward-looking, job-oriented one.

Though Presidency boasts one of the finest geology departments in terms of quality of teaching and infrastructure, the authorities cannot update the PG course — now on its third year — because the college is still affiliated to CU.

“We had repeatedly asked the university to allow us to make the course more job-oriented. Our pleas were ignored even though our department has achieved distinction,” said Haren Bhattacharya, head of geology in the state-run Presidency College.

Students ascribe this talent outgo to three factors — the dated syllabus, examinations and marking systems. Lenient assessment at the Mumbai IIT or Roorkee Engineering College helps students score high marks and bid for lucrative jobs, he argues.

Presidency College authorities are planning to exert pressure on Calcutta University through the state government to be able to make some fundamental changes in the syllabus. “It is crying for an overhaul,” said N. C. Mukherjee, Presidency College principal.

“We must work out ways of retaining good students,” a teacher said. Calcutta University, however, declined comment.    

Calcutta, Nov. 30: 
Dusty days and smoggy nights — welcome to the “most polluted spot” in the city, the Gariahat crossing.

With work on the Gariahat flyover raising the dust from Gol Park to Ekdalia, pollution levels at this vital intersection have risen alarmingly over the past few months.

In fact, the state pollution control board, which used to monitor the air quality at Gariahat, has been forced to shut down its station there. “We will not have the monitoring station there for the next year or so, as the figures generated at Gariahat during the flyover construction will adversely affect the average for the city as a whole,” said a senior PCB official.

The dust raised by the construction work and passing vehicles is not the only polluting factor here. The slow traffic movement during peak hours is automatically pushing up the pollution levels. According to an environment department survey, nearly 35,000 vehicles cross Gariahat between 8 am and 8 pm every day.

The pollution board official explained that the level of pollution at traffic level was “much higher” than at ambient level, which is three to five metres above the ground. Therefore, pedestrians, especially children, are being exposed to very high levels of dust and other pollutants in and around Gariahat these days.

The ambient air quality monitored at Gariahat till March 1999 was not very encouraging. Suspended particulate matter (spm) was 313 micrograms per cubic metre. Respirable particulate matter (rspm), which is a major source of lung infection, stood at 195 micrograms per cubic metre. The safe levels are 200 micrograms per cubic metre for spm and 100 micrograms per cubic metre for rspm. The pollution board has been monitoring air quality from 25 stations across the city for the past couple of years.

The state environment and transport departments, which are supposed to monitor the environmental impact of the construction, were quite unaware of the situation at Gariahat.

“We will ask the constructors to do something to bring down the dust levels,” an environment department official said.

In the consent granted to Senbo Engineering, constructors of the Gariahat flyover, there is a clause that pollution should be ‘avoided’ during the work. “We will ask Senbo to use sprinklers to suppress the dust on the spot,” the official said.

P.S. Bhattacharya, vice-president, Senbo, said that the stretch from the the Gariahat crossing till Mandeville Gardens had sand deposits along the sides, which was used during piling. “If there is a problem, we will definitely look into it,” Bhattacharya added.    

Calcutta, Nov. 30: 
Calcutta University on Thursday announced the results of the B.A. and B.Sc. Part-I examinations. The exams had ended on June 27.

According to Onkar Sadhan Adhikary, controller of examinations, 55.4 per cent of the total candidates have passed this year’s B.Sc. (General) and 66.48 per cent the B.Sc. (Honours) exams. The B.A. (General) stream saw 48.58 per cent and the B.A. (Honours) 83.93 per cent of the examinees qualifying for Part-II.

Last year, 63.79 per cent of candidates had cleared the B.Sc (Honours) exams, three per cent less than this year. And 87.65 per cent had passed the B.A. (Honours) exams, which marks a 4 per cent drop this year.

Adhikary confirmed that 34 examinees with B.Sc. (Honours) had been “reported against” for adopting unfair means during the examination. Last year, six candidates had been marked “reported against”.

Under the new regulations, which mark a reversal to the system by which even the ‘general’ stream extends to three years, the number of successful B.A. candidates stood at 11,239, or 83.93 per cent of the total candidates. Adhikary clarified that 10,469 candidates have qualified with honours for the Part-II exams, while 11,010 candidates had qualified last year. Adhikary said the total number of unsuccessful B.A. candidates this year was 2,151, against 1,661 last year. The B.A. (General) course saw 770 candidates qualifying.

In B.A. (Honours), only 30 candidates passed in the first division, and 378 candidates qualified with second division.

All these examinations had started on May 10 and had ended by June 27. The university failed to keep its commitment of publishing the results within 90 days of the completion of the examinations. The delay of 60 days led to uncertainty and unrest among students. This had spilled over on to the streets a few weeks ago, with students protesting the delay and putting up roadblocks outside Calcutta University.    

Calcutta, Nov. 30: 
The year 2001 marks the death anniversary of Queen Victoria and Channel Four will broadcast a series of films — Victorian Values — to mark the occasion in February.

Channel Four’s Sonali Fernando is currently in town, shooting one of these films dealing with the roots and patterns of change in British-Indian relationships in the 18th and 19th centuries. Sonali’s film takes off from the Ilbert Bill controversy of 1883, which attempted to give Indians the right to become judges and try English defendants.

“A tumultuous crowd of 5,000 British-borns thronged the Calcutta Town Hall in a historic protest against the Bill. Racial hatred was whipped to a peak,” said Sonali, an Oxford graduate whose grandfather, Sebastian Benjamin, a Sri Lankan, had studied physics at Calcutta University.

So far, Sonali and her crew have shot at the Town Hall, the Victoria Memorial, Laha Bari in north Calcutta and the Burdwan Maharaja’s palace.

The film revolves round political historian Prof Mrinalini Sinha’s discovery from the India Office library of a letter from Allan Octavian Hume to Viceroy Lord Dufferin. Allan explained how his cousin James Torrens Hume, a public prosecutor of Calcutta, had wrongly accused sweeper Giridhari of having raped his wife, Alice. Giridhari was tried, found guilty and transported for eight years of hard labour to Port Blair.

The case was then used as another example of Indian brutality, succeeding the Bibi Gar massacre of 1857. The protesters of the Ilbert Bill succeeded in making their point.

As a parallel, Sonali draws up the 1780 romance of General William Palmer and Bibi Fiaz, a Moghul princess from the Delhi court. They had stayed happily married for 35 years, and one of their children was christened at St John’s Church, Calcutta.

In the 18th Century, the East India Company encouraged building of relationships with the Indian community. “Why and how these relationships later became taboo is one of the fundamental questions raised by this film,” Sonali said.

“For the last sequence of the film, I think we will use shots of Victoria’s statues from a graveyard in Lucknow,” confided the film-maker. “Calcutta is still the least materialistic part of India... People have other things on their mind — ideas, relationships...,” signs off Sonali.    

Calcutta, Nov. 30: 
In a pre-dawn swoop on Thursday, three criminals were arrested in North 24-Parganas and two more in South 24-Parganas. Senior police officers, who were a part of the special investigating team, said some valuables and cash had been recovered from them.

Inspector-general of police, South Bengal, Ajoy Prasad, said: “The valuables might belong to Shyamal Kanti Ghosh and Akshay Deb, whose houses in Uttar Purbachal were raided by two dozen dacoits on November 20. It is a very positive development. Ghosh and Deb identified four of them on Thursday.”

Home secretary S.N. Roy summoned Prasad and deputy inspector-general of police, presidency range, Gautam Chakraborty, to his Writers’ Buildings office to discuss the progress of the case. Police said the criminals spread out in several directions after the dacoities and took shelter in different places. “This helped us nab seven of them,” they said.    

Calcutta, Nov. 30: 
Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty has come up with a new prescription to ease traffic flow in the city — a workshop on road ethics for bus-drivers and conductors.

The workshop will be held in the last week of December, Chakraborty announced on Thursday. Transport and motor vehicles department officials will impart training to about 2,500 drivers and conductors.

“Bus-drivers are unnecessarily create traffic jams. They must stop overtaking and picking up passengers irrespective of designated stops,” the minister said. Reckless driving, too, is a problem, he added.

Chakraborty has lined up lessons for conductors as well, which will enable them to deal with the public. “Conductors should be well-behaved,” he said.

Even pedestrians would come under the purview of the workshop, as “most accidents occur due to some error on their part... It appals me to see a well-dressed man nonchalantly weave his way through the rush of vehicles,” the minister said.

The transport department will put up signboards and distribute leaflets among pedestrians, asking them to observe traffic rules. Similar workshops are also lined up for the districts.

Minibus threat

Representatives of minibus operators’ unions met the transport minister on Thursday and threatened to take their vehicles off the road if “anomalies” in the newly-instituted fare structure were not removed. Chakraborty promised to look into the matter.    

Calcutta, Nov. 30: 
Over 2,000 patients at Nilratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital heaved a sigh of relief as junior doctors returned to work, ending their 24-hour token strike, while students began leaving the ladies’ hostel where trouble broke out on Tuesday evening.

The house staff and interns of the hospital had declared a ceasework to protest the alleged assault of some girl students at the hostel by some unionised workers of the hospital.

Though the strike has been withdrawn, tension runs high in both the boys’ and girls’ hostels, following a threat by the Group D workers of a repeat of Tuesday’s incident.

According to sources at the hospital, the principal and superintendent held a closed-door meeting with the student bodies of the college on Thursday afternoon.

Both have promised that an enquiry would be made into Tuesday’s incident and the guilty would be punished.

“The principal and the superintendent have promised that the guilty staff will be identified and punished. So, there was no justification in continuing the strike,” said Dr Abhijit Banerjee, SFI president of the students’ union.

A number of boarders of the Lady Eliott Hostel have already left for their respective homes, fearing that the brewing trouble could blow up and even disrupt the ex-students’ reunion of the college, beginning from Friday.

Hospital sources said the junior doctors have threatened to resume the strike the moment there is another assault on any of the students by the Group D staff residing near the hostel.

The students have also pressed for the dismissal of the gate-keeper of the ladies’ hostel, in addition to the transfer of the hostel superintendent. The gate-keeper is usually drunk and allows outsiders into the hostel when the girls are away, they claimed.

“The durwan is always drunk at night and he cares little about our complaints that outsiders are sneaking into the hostel. Even our hostel super turned a deaf ear,” alleged a third-year student, who is an inmate of the hostel.

The girls had gheraoed the hostel superintendent after their belongings were allegedly stolen by “the outsiders”, who had sneaked in. A section of the Grade IV staff had then freed her, during which the girls were manhandled.    

Agartala, Nov. 30: 
The CPM in Tripura has criticised the Assam Rifles and its deputy inspector-general Brig. B.K. Panwar for not launching pro-active operations against banned militant outfits in areas controlled by it unlike police and other paramilitary forces.

A front page article in the party organ, Daily Desher Katha, titled “The role of Assam Rifles”, lashed out at the inability or reluctance of the Assam Rifles to go on the offensive against militant outfits.

This is the first time that the CPM mouthpiece has come out openly against a central paramilitary force and its seniormost officer. The purport of the article is that while the CRPF and other paramilitary forces are co-operating with the state police, the Assam Rifles is not.

The article also wondered whether Assam Rifles has declared an unofficial ceasefire with the National Liberation Front of Tripura because there has been a marked change in its operations since the Autonomous District Council elections were held in April-May.

The article also questioned the role and activities of Brig. Panwar, alleging that he has been hobnobbing with the leaders of the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura since the ADC elections.

Brig. Panwar described the contents of the article as “totally incorrect”. Claiming that the record of the Assam Rifles would speak for itself, he said, “Only yesterday, we arrested a hardcore NLFT rebel, Satindra Reang, from the Monacherra area.” The brigadier said in October, the Assam Rifles arrested a large number of NLFT militants and their collaborators, including Baburai Reang and killed another NLFT activist, Paiti Debbarma, in the remote Duraicherra area under Kamalpur subdivision.

He said there was peace in areas like Sidhai and Khowai police stations, Kamalpur subdivision and parts of Udaipur subdivision and other interior areas controlled by the Assam Rifles. “There has been no kidnapping or killing in the areas of Udaipur subdivision controlled by 23 Assam Rifles during the past one year,” Brig. Panwar added.

Bodies found: Security forces recovered the bodies of four non-tribals, killed by militants, while unidentified men shot dead a youth in Tripura last night.    

Ranchi, Nov. 30: 

Jharkhand chief minister Babulal Marandi will expand his 15-day-old ministry tomorrow for the second time. Sources said 18 BJP legislators are likely to be inducted in the second leg.

In the first round, 10 ministers from the non-BJP allies of the National Democratic Alliance were sworn in on November 17.

Allotment of portfolios, which was pending since November 17, is likely to be announced tomorrow after the swearing-in ceremony.

Babulal Marandi, who arrived from New Delhi yesterday after holding talks with the BJP high command, met Governor Prabhat Kumar today at Raj Bhavan to discuss the list of new ministers.

Allocation of portfolios may prove tricky as the first batch of ministers sworn in on November 17 are clamouring for plum posts.

Independent legislator from Bokaro and a former BJP leader Samresh Singh, who extended his support to the NDA government at the last moment, said he should be made the home minister in view of his seniority.

Singh said though he considered the industries and information technology equally important he would prefer the home ministry.

Singh added that he would also demand the induction of Independent legislator Madhav Lal Singh into the ministry. According to him Madhav Lal Singh can handle important portfolios.    

Imphal, Nov. 30: 
The crucial winter session of Manipur Assembly begins tomorrow with chief minister W. Nipamacha Singh and Speaker Sapam Dhananjoy ready to take on each other.

Nipamacha Singh is confident of removing the Speaker during the session while the Opposition camp has moved a no-confidence motion against the government and deputy Speaker K. Raina. With both sides sticking to their stand, the crisis may lead to a constitutional breakdown, inviting central intervention.

Senior Opposition leaders and the Speaker today called on Governor Ved Marwah to brief him about the latest political developments. Dhananjoy urged the Governor to deploy central police forces in and around the Assembly during the session. He also expressed his unhappiness over the politicisation of the state police by the government. The Speaker yesterday wrote to the chief secretary to arrange for the deployment of central forces instead of Manipur police. Congress Legislature Party leader Radhabinod Koijam today charged the United Front of Manipur government with misusing the police during the current political crisis.

O. Joy Singh, Manipur People’s Party leader, said, “We have lost faith in Manipur police. We want central forces to guard the Assembly campus during the winter session.” Koijam, echoing Joy Singh’s concern, said the police may not be able to handle the situation if it turned critical.

Despite having his numbers intact, it will not be smooth sailing for the chief minister. However, Nipamacha Singh is banking heavily on the support of deputy Speaker K. Raina.

Interfering in the functioning of the Assembly, the government also tried to appoint a new secretary of Assembly without the Speaker’s consent. An Assembly secretary is always appointed by the Governor in consultation with the Speaker. The government’s interference came after Dhananjoy suspended Assembly secretary T. Joute on the charge of leaking some important documents of the House to the ruling camp. The Speaker named Chourjit Singh as the secretary in-charge of the winter session.

The government wrote back saying it has decided to appoint S. Budhachandra Singh, an IAS officer, as secretary. According to the Opposition, the government’s letter said if the Speaker did not object to the new appointment before November 29, its nominee will be appointed secretary.    


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