Buddha slams Trinamul ‘terror’
Mamata rally today
Survivors’ tale of ‘night of horror’
Surprise vote
Li Peng faces long wait for Vajpayee
Brajesh fights Jain ‘slander’ point by point
Atal returns Nitish quit letter
Laloo laughs as Samata bickers
BJP in adopt-a-girl drive
Tight leash hobbles learning in Bengal

Bankura, Jan. 6: 
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has accused the Trinamul Congress of unleashing “terror” in Bengal in order to reap “political gains”.

Addressing a rally on the banks of the river Gandheswari, Bhattacharjee launched a scathing attack on the Trinamul, saying it was desperate to make an issue out of nothing with the Assembly elections round the corner. Over two lakh people attended the rally.

The chief minister said the Trinamul has no ideology or agenda and its only aim is to vitiate the atmosphere. He alleged that people coming to attend the rally were attacked by Trinamul “goons” which injured some. “I pay respect to all those who have come to hear me ignoring threats,” he said.

Bhattacharjee said the people will give them a fitting reply in the elections. “The Trinamul strategy will not work. The Left Front did not fall from the sky. The people did not keep us in power for 24 years at a stretch not for nothing,” he added.

The rural people knew what the Left Front meant to them, Bhattacharjee claimed. “We have spread education, reached health care to them. The wages of labourers have been hiked in a big way,” he added.

“We are also aware of what we could not do. We have to set up more industries and the process has already started. At the commissioning of the Haldia Petrochemicals project, 355 down-stream industries have come up against the target of setting up 160 units,” he said.

The chief minister vehemently attacked the Vajpayee government in Delhi “that was out to sell the nation to the imperialist countries and divide the country on the communal lines”. He blamed the Centre’s economic policy for skyrocketing prices of essential commodities.

“Because of the government’s policy, the poor is becoming poorer. The price of kerosene oil and commodities used by the poor have been raised but the price of cars is being lowered,” Bhattacharjee alleged.

Later, inaugurating a new building of the Bishnupur sub-divisional hospital 40 km from here, the chief minister reiterated his promise of creating a “proper work culture”.

He said discipline has to be restored at any cost in the government offices.

“I do not want to whip government employees. It is my appeal to their conscience. Do your assigned duty as you are drawing public money,” he said.

“Doctors do not come to hospitals and spend time in private practices. The same is with teachers in schools and colleges. These things are not tolerated in any private company which will definitely drive shirkers out,” he observed.

Reiterating that he was determined to enforce discipline in government offices, the chief minister said: “All employees are not, however, irresponsible. But for certain people, the government offices have earned a bad name. This has to be checked at any cost,” he warned.

Bhattacharjee also inaugurated a new building of the police headquarters in the district.

He met the members of the district planning board.

and members of chambers of commerce of Bankura.

He left for Purulia tonight where he will address a public meeting tomorrow..


Calcutta, Jan. 6: 
Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee will unfold her party’s strategy to meet the “CPM-sponsored political violence in Bengal” at a public rally in front of the Metro cinema here tomorrow afternoon.

Processions will be taken out from Calcutta University, Girish Park, Sealdah, Howrah, Wellington Square, Hazra and Birla Planetorium and terminate at Esplanade. The Trinamul’s MPs, MLAs, councillors and leaders of frontal organisations will take part in the rally.

The prevailing political tension has prompted the Trinamul to postpone its organisational programmes in north and south Bengal and chalk out a new strategy.

Mamata’s programme in Siliguri and Malda has been deferred from January 7 and 8 to January 27 and 28. The state conference of Trinamul Youth Congress, scheduled to be held at Contai in Midnapore, has also been postponed.


Garbeta (Midnapore), Jan. 6: 
Yusuf Khan, a Trinamul Congress supporter, claims he survived the “violence” unleashed by CPM men in Chhoto Angaria on Thursday night. He is staying at the party office here.

“We were camping in the Garbeta party camp since June 26. But Trinamul leader Asim Ojha asked us to return to Chhoto Angaria. Even CPM leaders Tapan Ghosh and Sukur Ali assured us that going back would not be a problem,” said Yusuf.

“We returned to our village on Thursday evening after being assured by both CPM and Trinamul leaders. But after we reached around 6.30 pm, about 200 armed people surrounded Abdul Rehman Mondal’s house where we had taken shelter. The men set the house on fire and asking us to come out, opened fire on us,” he claimed.

He recognised some of the men, Yusuf added. “They came from Uttarbil, Saltora and Baital in Bankura district which is not very far from Chhoto Angaria. Many of the gang were from Nagrasol, Baramura and Hitoshol villages,” Yusuf said.

But he failed to throw any light on how many people died or whether there were any deaths during the incident. “I managed to escape in the darkness and reached Garbeta the next morning. I spent the night in a canal which is very close to the village and the armed gang did not notice me escape,” he said.

Saira Bibi, who also said she was staying the night at Mondal’s house, said she, too, managed to flee the village. She is also camping at the Trinamul office in Garbeta.

“I saw three persons receive bullet injuries and two others who were stabbed by the armed gang. But I can’t tell you whether they are dead or alive because I left the village along with some others to save myself,” Saira said.

“The CPM has threatened to kill us if we do not leave the Trinamul camp. We have told that we shall not leave the party,” said Alauddin Mondal at the camp which is housing 15 people. Alauddin alleged that the attack was led by Syed Bhunia and Dibakar Bhunia, both from Bankura.

“I can’t say how many bombs and bullets have been hurled but I have seen three men being hacked. I don’t know whether they died. Why don’t we have the liberty to express our political opinion?” asked Kashmira Bibi. Rojina Khatun (10), Asifa Khatun (8), Nasim Mondal (2), Rupa Khatun (4) and Fatima Khatun (4) are also staying at the camp.

Golap, a resident of Tildanga, and Prasanta Pal of Shalmura in Bankura district said they had seen that the culprits had purchased huge quantities of fuel.

The FIR was lodged at 10.30 am and the police reached on the spot within two hours.

Rojina Khatun (10), Asifa Khatun (8), Nasim Mondal (2), Rupa Khatun (4) and Fatima Khatun (4) are also staying at the camp.


Burdwan, Jan. 6: 
Burdwan, Jan. 6: A CPM member helped the Trinamul Congress retain the post of pradhan in the Ketugram gram panchayat in Katwa. Officials said Sheikh Munnis was elected pradhan after a CPM member voted in favour of him. He won by one vote in the 15-member board by defeating Congress nominee Sampa Das.    

New Delhi, Jan. 6: 
Li Peng, whose support is crucial if India and China are to work towards solving their decade-old border dispute, is arriving here on January 9. But he will have to wait for nearly a week before meeting Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Li, chairman of the National People’s Congress (NPC), is pegged protocol-wise with the Vice-President Krishna Kant. Kant and Lok Sabha Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi will jointly host his stay in India. But unlike his hosts, Li is not a political lightweight: he is considered number two in Beijing’s pecking order after Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

A meeting between Vajpayee and Li is scheduled for January 15, only a day after the Prime Minister returns to the country after his week-long visit to Vietnam and Indonesia.

The NPC chairman arrives on Tuesday but unlike most foreign dignitaries, he will stop first at India’s financial capital Mumbai instead of in Delhi.

He will be accompanied by his wife Zhu Ling. In Mumbai, he will meet Governor P.C. Alexander and the captains of industry.

Li arrives in Delhi on January 11 and for the next two days will meet various Indian leaders, including the Vice-President, Balayogi and deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha Najma Heptullah.

But apart from foreign minister Jaswant Singh and Opposition leader Sonia Gandhi, most of Li’s meetings in Delhi are with political lightweights. While in the capital, he is also scheduled to deliver a talk at the Indian International Centre (IIC) on January 13 on Sino-Indian relations and the future it holds for the two Asian giants. He will also attend a function organised by the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII ).

The NPC chairman will leave for Agra to see the Taj Mahal on January 14, but will return in the evening for the meeting next day with Vajpayee. Li leaves for Bangalore on January 15 afternoon and after spending two days there, will return to China.

Li’s unusually long visit to the country — for almost nine days — is mainly to ensure that he gets to meet the Indian Prime Minister.

This is Li’s second visit in a decade to India. He had been here in 1991 as China’s Prime Minister and while holding the post he had played an important role in two important agreements — the 1993 Agreement on Maintaining Peace and Tranquillity along the borders and the 1996 understanding which put in place several confidence-building measures to bring down the temperature further.

Li, who was replaced by Zhu Rongji as Prime Minister, had to be accommodated as NPC chairman and pegged above his successor since he enjoys considerable support in the ruling Communist Party of China. It is, therefore, crucial that Li’s views are sought and his support enlisted by Delhi and Beijing.

India’s relations with China had suffered a serious jolt during the May 1998 nuclear tests when India cited Beijing as the main threat to its security.


New Delhi, Jan. 6: 
Brajesh Mishra today denied all the allegations levelled at him by J.K. Jain while the BJP said “appropriate action will be taken at the appropriate time” against the chairman of the Joint American Indian Network Television (Jain TV).

The Prime Minister’s principal secretary and National Security Adviser said he had never misused his official position to brand the TV baron an ISI agent. Mishra said the charge was “scurrilous and aimed at character assassination”.

BJP senior vice-president Jana Krishnamurthy said: “Jain happens to be a member of our party but his activities are far from conducive to the party’s health. He is just an ordinary member now after having been expelled recently by the party president, Bangaru Laxman, from the national executive. It is now for the concerned district unit of which he is a member to take action.” The party’s disciplinary committee had met yesterday, but the issue did not come up for discussion.

Last evening, the first episode of the network’s exposé against Mishra was previewed for journalists at the Press Club. But the 41-minute show failed to impress most newsmen who attended.

Mishra today argued that the allegations against him had not been substantiated by a single shred of evidence.

One of the charges levelled by the network was that the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), to prevent Aftab Hussein Saikia’s appointment as a judge of Gauhati High Court, had prepared a report alleging that he was an ISI agent.

Mishra rebutted the charge, saying no “doctored” report had been prepared by the intelligence agency to stop Saikia’s appointment. On the contrary, he said, the Centre had taken into account a report by another Central intelligence agency and overruled the objection raised by a state government to Saikia’s appointment.

On the charge that he had bestowed favours on his niece, Vibha Mishra, he said: “She has been running an advertising agency since 1992. I have not used my official position to favour her through any out-of-turn contract. It is totally baseless to say that she has been given government contracts worth Rs 10 crore.”

Mishra was also charged with procuring contracts for his nep-hew, Sudhir Mishra. But he said Sudhir was an independent film producer and not a partner in any firm. He said his nephew has been producing software for Doordarshan since 1984 and had established himself as a distinguished film-maker.

Another allegation was how the National Security Adviser had managed to get another nephew, a brigadier, shifted from the Kargil front in May 1999. The anchor had alleged that Mishra had got this nephew a job with Maruti Udyog.

“A certain Brig. Arun Mishra has also been named as being related to me. I have no relative called Brig. Arun Mishra, nor have I ever met him,” Mishra said today.


New Delhi, Jan. 6: 
George Fernandes today forwarded Nitish Kumar’s resignation to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee even as fresh efforts were on to work out a compromise between the rival Samata factions.

However, a UNI report said Vajpayee rejected Nitish’s resignation. According to the report, an official spokesman said the Prime Minister rang up Nitish and told him he should continue as agriculture minister.

Nitish refused to divulge what Vajpayee said. “It is not fair on my part to disclose what we discussed,” he told The Telegraph.s

Sources close to Nitish said the Prime Minister wanted to know from him why he took the drastic step of quitting the Cabinet. The Samata leader is learnt to have told Vajpayee that it was not proper for him to continue as a minister representing his party as six of the 12 Samata MPs had gone against him in public.

Nitish, who on Wednesday had submitted his resignation letter to Fernandes, talked with the defence minister over telephone after he arrived in Delhi today. He said he told Fernandes to forward his letter to Vajpayee without delay. “George was reluctant, but I insisted,” Nitish said.

Fernandes said he tried to persuade Nitish to stay on, but failed. “I informed the Prime Minister and withheld the letter of resignation in the hope that I would be able to persuade Nitish Kumar to withdraw it. I failed in my efforts and, on the insistence of Kumar, I forwarded it a little while ago to the Prime Minister, though most reluctantly,” Fernandes said.

Sources said one patch-up formula being worked out was appointing Nitish as Samata national president at the party’s January 9 national executive meeting in Mysore in place of Jaya Jaitley. The Nitish camp blames Jaitley for instigating the six rebel MPs to sabotage his plans for a merger with the Janata Dal (United). But till now, the truce efforts appeared not to have made much headway with rebel leader Prabhunath Singh making it clear that they would not budge from their stand.

Nitish’s supporters say though some “interested” parties created bad blood between Fernandes and the agriculture minister, Nitish respected the defence minister and supported Fernandes’ candidature for national president. Nitish also said he had full faith in Fernandes. “If someone does something behind our back, I have nothing to say.”


Patna, Jan. 6: 
Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Laloo Prasad Yadav is firmly back in the saddle even as the rival Samata Party flounders after the split.

Recently, Laloo called all RJD district presidents to his house to brief them about the next charter of programmes and mobilise support for the party’s rally in March.

“These power-hungry feudal satraps could be a lesson for us. In my party, there is no room for stars jockeying for positions,” a rejuvenated Laloo told his party colleagues.

The RJD was rocked by faction feud after Ranjan Yadav launched a covert operation to become a rallying point for “development-oriented” leaders in the party. In the process, he got stoned in Madhubani by Laloo-loyalists. The RJD chief recovered from the “initial hiccups” with Ranjan’s outbursts fizzling out.

The incident came close on the heels of a struggle between supporters of Raghunath Jha and Nitish Kumar in the Samata Party, which eventually led to the break-up. Some Samata leaders approached Laloo, who was busy sorting out his party’s problems, sources said. They added that Samata leaders also told Laloo that Nitish had a discussion with Ranjan. Laloo manoeuvred the situation to his advantage which reportedly intensified the bickerings in the Samata Party.

The meeting between Samata leaders and Laloo remained under wraps till Nitish spilled the beans. “I know who they met. The meeting with our enemy on December 30 was intended to malign me. Everything was discussed there,” he told reporters.

“They are opportunists and they will keep on fighting among themselves. When they vow to fight against me, they may end up doing it against themselves and the poor people of Bihar,” Laloo said.

He warned his leaders to beware of “enemies within”.


New Delhi, Jan. 6: 
In the run-up to the Assembly elections in five states, the BJP has decided to launch several schemes to improve the party’s sagging image.

The leadership has directed local committees to adopt a girl-child each from April 6 onwards as part of a three-month programme coinciding with the centenary celebrations of Jan Sangh founder Shyama Prasad Mookerjee on July 6.

The party would also carry out a systematic campaign to make people aware of the need for maintaining tight vigil to safeguard national security.

“We want to make people aware of the need for keeping a close watch on the threat by terrorist organisations,” senior vice-president Jana Krishnamurthy told reporters here today.

The party will finalise its strategy for Assembly polls in West Bengal, Kerala, Assam, Pondi-cherry and Tamil Nadu at its national executive scheduled for April, Krishnamurthy said. The date and venue of the meeting will be finalised later, he added.

The meeting was fixed for April so that state units could give detailed reports about the prevailing political situation in their respective states on the eve of elections.


New Delhi, Jan. 6: 
A report authored by the West Bengal Education Network (WBEN) underlines the potholes that have dogged education in the state.

“In West Bengal, education is still to be decentralised at the local level. Most of the planning is controlled at the state level by political parties,” said an official in the human resources development ministry.

The assessment is echoed by WBEN, a state body for the National Alliance for Right to Education.

“Village education committees have either not been set up or instituted properly,” says the report, based on a survey of seven districts — Calcutta, Midnapore, Nadia, Purulia, Birbhum, Dinajpur and 24 Parganas.

Unlike Kerala, where decentralisation of education has been a success, Bengal still retains a “command” system. There is little communication between the directorate of education and panchayats. “Panchayats have been put in charge of primary education but are not empowered to execute decisions or participate in the planning,” the report says.

Recently, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee claimed a 72-per-cent literacy rate in Bengal. He, however, admitted inadequacies in the state’s education system.

The state government had launched a massive enrolment drive that, it claimed, led to a huge influx of students in schools. The WBEN report, however, paints a different picture. “There was a rise in the demand but the supply was quite inadequate which led to more and more dropouts.”

It draws on the Ashok Mitra committee report for vindication. The committee had criticised the hike in teachers’ pay in the hope of boosting their motivation. The WBEN report, too, comes down heavily on the state government’s policy on teachers.

The Mitra committee report had flayed the teachers for neglecting their work and spending time in “other activities” despite drawing full salaries. The WBEN report comes up with the same criticism.

“Increase in salaries did not lead to an expected rise in the commitment of the teachers. Nor did it bring about an improvement in their quality of teaching,” the report points out.

During its survey, the WBEN found that in Nadia district, a primary school had a 221:1 student-teacher ratio. “And this is not an isolated example,” the report says.

The state government increased the financial outlay substantially, but 95 per cent of this was used to fund teachers’ salaries. As a result there is little or no scope for improvement in quality.

The human resources development ministry voiced similar concern over the government’s education management — a concern shared by the Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen.

“We would have expected a government which has ruled over 20 years to have shown better results in education,” a ministry official said.

Purulia reveals startling figures. A survey of 5,177 children in the age group of 6-14 years reveals that over 40 per cent children are out of school while over 50 per cent girls do not attend school.


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