Spare the kids the rod
Blank bank draft scam busted, 2 held
Country’s first thalassaemia hospital
Donation runs in their blood
Militant threat on R-Day events
Mishra to assess Assam law and order
Red alert sounded in Tripura
Rebels strike on R-Day eve
Pillai on mission flushout
Lawyers’ strike called off

 
 
SPARE THE KIDS THE ROD 
 
 
BY MITA MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, Jan.25: 
The state education department will use the rod, but spare the child. Instead, at the receiving end will be the teachers who, with their “terror tactics”, have been spoiling the fun of children in city schools.

As complaints of physical torture pile up, the state administration has decided to crack the whip on teachers who take a “sadistic delight” in punishing students. Officials are especially alarmed after three recent incidents which have sent shock waves through the corridors of Bikash Bhavan.

They are:

In November last year, a Class I student of a Howrah school was hit with a duster on his head for being inattentive. The boy had to be admitted to a hospital, where he recovered after several days.

Last December, a six-year-old girl of a government-aided school in Behala had her wrenched out by her teacher for being unable to answer questions in class. The girl had to seek medical help before she could return to school.

A Class VIII student of a north Calcutta school was assaulted so severely by his teacher in March 2000 that a subsequent brain scan revealed internal head injuries.

As infuriated parents flocked to the education department, the administration hastily drew up the Professional Code of Ethics for Teachers, which, among other things like timely attendance, laid down norms for teachers’ conduct, vis-a-vis students, and the penalties for violating them. The code was finalied last week

“We were shocked at the terrible manner in which some teachers were reacting to minor mistakes committed by their students, especially the tiny tots,” state school education minister Kanti Biswas told Metro. “It was this that led us to frame a new set of rules on teachers’ conduct.”

Biswas said a circular containing the new set of regulations will soon be sent to schools both in the city and in other parts of the state. “Though these rules apply strictly to government-aided schools, we trust they will also be morally binding on all private schools in the city too,” he said, adding: “Even in the case of private and missionary schools, we shall definitely investigate matters if we receive reports of teachers beating students.”

Several hundred government-aided schools in and around the city are currently governed by the School Education Act of 1963, which does not mention any specific code of conduct for the teachers. School sources said the absence of this Act allowed many teachers to “torture” students.

According to education department officials, such schools were governed by the Bengal Education Code of 1930, which prohibits teachers from beating children. This code even forbids teachers from entering a classroom with a cane or a similar object “intended to instil fear among students”.

“Though the new Act does not mention physical punishment for children, we expect schools to follow the ethics of the Bengal Education Code,” said assistant inspector of government-aided schools, Subodh Chakraborty. “But complaints of physical punishment are rising every day.”

District inspector of state funded primary schools, Shambhunath Barui, agrees: “We find even women teachers thrashing their students.”

Welcoming the new code, general secretary of the All Bengal Primary Teachers’ Association Arun Bhattacharya said: “This is a step in the right direction. It is cruel to beat up little children.”

Madhu Kohli, principal of South Point School’s junior section, with about 6,000 students, said: “We believe in what the education department is setting out to do. We have already issued a circular to our teachers against beating up little children. But I think seminars and workshops should also be held to convince teachers against torturing tots.”

   

 
 
BLANK BANK DRAFT SCAM BUSTED, 2 HELD 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan.25: 
Busting a major fraud, the police on Thursday arrested Rajesh Agarwal and detained Sheikh Islam for stealing 61,000 blank drafts of the Indian Overseas Bank, which might have resulted in the bank losing several crores of rupees.

According to deputy commissioner of police, south, Ranjit Pachnanda, Sheikh Islam had gone to the Royd Street branch of IOB last week to withdraw Rs 41,000 against the drafts. The bank officials became suspicious and brought it to the manager’s notice who then called in the police.

Pachnanda said officers reached the bank and detained Islam. Later, he told investigators that Rajesh Agarwal had given him the bank drafts to encash. Police raided Agarwal’s house in the evening and took him into custody.

Police said Agarwal broke down during interrogation and named Venkat Raja Babu of Park Lane as the kingpin of a syndicate, with its network in Bihar, Assam and West Bengal. By the time the police reached Venkat’s house, he had fled.

Investigations revealed that IOB’s Jehanabad branch had sent 61,000 blank bank drafts through an official to their regional office in Calcutta. But they had been stolen en route and the bank had lodged a complaint at the local police station in Bihar.

P.B. Pattanaik, deputy general manager in-charge of operations here, told Metro the drafts had been stolen two years ago. “Some miscreants are trying to encash them now... Our officials are co-operating with the police,’’ he said. Police said the drafts recovered from the bank carried numbers from 98/MDDO 830001 to 30 and 98/MDDO 170000 to 172000, which tallied with the numbers of the stolen ones.

Agarwal told the police he had sold some of the drafts to associates in Guwahati. Investigators were told by counterparts there that two cases pertaining to presentation of forged bank drafts were lodged at local police stations recently. “We are interrogating the accused to find how these blank drafts were stolen. We are also trying to ascertain whether any bank official was involved in the fraud,’’ Pachnanda said.

   

 
 
COUNTRY’S FIRST THALASSAEMIA HOSPITAL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan.25: 
The country’s first thalassaemia hospital, a joint venture of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and the Thalassaemia Foundation, will come up in Chetla next month. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee handed over a two-storeyed Corporation building of a defunct maternity hospital on Chetla Haat Road to the Foundation on Thursday.

“The hospital will benefit thousands of parents in eastern India whose children are suffering from thalassaemia”, said Mukherjee. Five per cent of the beds in the 10,000-sq-ft hospital will be reserved for the Corporation.

Sudipa Basu, who signed the agreement with the Corporation on behalf of the Foundation, said Mithun Chakraborty, one of its chief patrons, “would be informed about this important development on his arrival in Calcutta on Friday”.

She added: “Initially, it will be a 50-bed hospital, with facilities of spleenectomy, blood transfusion and laboratory screening. Having not had to spend funds on the construction of the building, it will now be possible for us to provide treatment at a lower cost.”

Next on the Corporation’s agenda, said Mukherjee, was a Rs 3-crore malaria-treatment hospital in the four-storeyed building on Kali Temple Road, built for the rehabilitation of hawkers.

   

 
 
DONATION RUNS IN THEIR BLOOD 
 
 
BY AMIT UKIL
 
Calcutta, Jan.25: 
Live and let live. There are a few in the city who express their belief in this credo through a small but significant act — donating blood, almost religiously, four times a year. And they’ve been doing this for years.

Three of the “leading blood donors” in Calcutta — retired teacher Father Gerard Beckers, SJ, now 77, social worker Gauri Bhadra, 60, and telecom engineer Surya Basak, 42 — have little in common but their desire to “help people in need”.

The three figure high on the honours list prepared by the Association of Voluntary Blood Donors, West Bengal.

Father Beckers, SJ, former teacher of chemistry at St Xavier’s College, last donated blood, as far as he can remember, about eight years ago at a village near Chandannagar. He was 22 when he first began his committed innings of 55 long years, during which he gave blood at least 120 times. Exact dates and figures elude him because of the crippling effects of Parkinson’s disease. “But I do remember that I started donating blood when I was a student in the University of South Belgium in 1947. In Europe, the volume of blood collected at each donation is 400 cc, and not 250 cc as in India.” Before leaving Belgium for India, Father Beckers had donated blood 14 times between 1950 and 1953. When he reached Calcutta in 1959, he wasted no time in organising blood donation camps and finding like-minded people. “Initially, we used to have about 60-odd students coming forward. Now, we have over 500, which shows how the movement has caught on with the students,” he smiles. He also remembers how he had to give blood camps the skip twice, for six months each, after coming down with malaria. Now, of course, it’s all a thing of the past.

But there’s no stopping Gauri Bhadra from making a beeline for blood camps, yet.

“I started in 1978, when I gave blood to a relative undergoing an operation. After that, I made it a point to donate blood three or four times a year. I have done so without a break since 1983,” says the social worker.

According to Bhadra, “If the mother donates blood even once a year, the whole family responds”.

Surya Basak started really young, at 18. Now, 24 years on, his blood donation count reads 59. “The first time, in college, I was a bit shaky, but then I realised that this was the simplest way to help others in distress,” says the engineer.

   

 
 
MILITANT THREAT ON R-DAY EVENTS 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, Jan.25: 
A three-member suicide squad of the Lashkar-e-Toiba might have sneaked into the city to disrupt Republic Day events and blow up vital installations. The special branch of the city police conveyed this message to police commissioner D.C. Vajpai on Thursday evening.

The police have sounded a red alert all over the city. Security has been beefed up at all entry and exit points, such as Calcutta airport and Howrah and Sealdah stations. Sniffer dogs and metal detectors have also been pressed into service.

Director-general of police, Jammu and Kashmir, Ashok Suri told Metro over the telephone that the Toiba suicide squad might “camouflage themselves” in army and police uniform to evade detection. He said he had already warned the West Bengal and Calcutta police chiefs about the possible “infiltration of the squad into Calcutta”.

The special branch police and detectives on Thursday fanned out to sensitive areas like Ripon Street, Topsia, Royd Street, Free School Street, Garden Reach, Lindsay Street and Kidderpore, where Kashmiri shawl-sellers live. Two Kashmiri militants, recently arrested in Zakaria Street by Jammu and Kashmir police, revealed that their aides were to arrive in the city for safe hideouts and join training camps in Bangladesh.

The special branch of city police will issue passes to the police and army personnel on duty on Friday. More than 5,000 policemen will be posted at vital points like Victoria Memorial, Birla Planetarium, Howrah and Sealdah stations, Writers’ Buildings and Lalbazar. Army officials, too, will wear special passes.

   

 
 
MISHRA TO ASSESS ASSAM LAW AND ORDER 
 
 
BY OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Guwahati, Jan. 25: 
Former Bihar chief minister Jagannath Mishra will make an on-the-spot study of the law and order situation in Assam at the invitation of Nationalist Congress Party general secretary P.A. Sangma beginning January 30.

During his two-day visit, he is scheduled to meet Hindi-speaking people from Bihar and family members of the victims of the “secret killings” in Nalbari and other adjoining areas. He will also attend a meeting of the NCP working committee as a special invitee slated to be held here on January 30-31.

Mishra had merged his Jana Congress with the NCP at a public rally in Patna on Wednesday. NCP national president Sharad Pawar and other senior leaders were present on the occasion.

A Press release issued here today said former Rajasthan minister Hari Sing would also meet the affected families from the Marwari community who have become victims of “secret killings” in Nalbari and other places .

   

 
 
RED ALERT SOUNDED IN TRIPURA 
 
 
BY OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, Jan. 25: 
Security personnel in Tripura worked overtime to plug all loopholes in the security net on the eve of Republic Day.

Both the National Liberation Front of Tripura and the All-Tripura Tiger Force have threatened to disrupt the Republic Day celebrations, but senior officials said the police and paramilitary forces were prepared to combat the rebels.

The Tiger Force and the NLFT launched their anti-Republic Day campaign at least two weeks back. Pamphlets distributed by the two outfits in the interior areas warned the tribals against participating in the celebrations tomorrow. Sources said the militants had chalked out a plan to attack government officials and ministers attending Republic Day functions across the state.

However, a police official downplayed the threat. “We have taken all possible precautions. We hope the day will be a peaceful one despite the militants planning to resort to largescale violence,” he said. Even as the administration focused on security arrangements for the Republic Day celebrations, ethnic tension gripped Bishalgarh subdivision of West Tripura district after the skeletal remains of a non-tribal milk-seller was recovered.

Police sources said the victim, Narendra Ghosh, was a resident of Gumraibari in Bishalgarh subdivision. He was abducted by NLFT rebels from Ujan Pathalia village on December 24, 1999.

The rebels killed Ghosh despite his wife Putul Rani paying Rs 20,000 as ransom for his release. Volunteers of the Jamatya Hoda) recently caught the leader of the NLFT group, Falgun Debbarma, in the Atharobula area of South Tripura and handed him over to the police.

Grilled by the police, Falgun confessed to having killed Ghosh. The latter’s body was subsequently recovered from a desolate spot in Takarjala. Ghosh was previously abducted in 1997, but was released after his family paid Rs 70,000 as ransom.

Rebel leader held: Police apprehended an NLFT “area commander” in Khowai subdivision of West Tripura yesterday.

The rebel leader, Juddhajit Debbarma, was arrested near the Indo-Bangladesh border.

In another incident, the police arrested four NLFT militants in Udaipur subdivision of South Tripura district. The arrested rebels have been identified as Bijay Bir Jamatya, Jyotirai Jamatya, Hazol Jamatya and Ramananda Jamatya.

   

 
 
REBELS STRIKE ON R-DAY EVE 
 
 
BY OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, Jan. 25: 
A Border Security Force jawan was killed when militants fired at him in Manipur’s Churachandpur town, 62 km south from here, today.

Official sources said the jawan, who was undergoing training at the BSF training centre in Churachandpur, had gone to a private clinic in civil uniform. Militants attacked the unarmed jawan near the clinic. He died on the spot.

All militant outfits of Manipur have called a boycott of Republic Day celebrations. They have called a bandh, starting at midnight tonight till 6 pm tomorrow in a bid to disrupt the celebrations. The attack on the BSF jawan is believed to be a part of the militants’ attempt to disrupt the celebrations, police sources said.

Elaborate security arrangements have been made here for the Republic Day parade.

Security personnel have been deployed at all the entry and exit points of the capital city to foil any attempt by militants to disrupt the celebrations. Assam Rifles, CRPF, Manipur Rifles and Indian Reserve Battalion personnel were seen patrolling the streets and frisking people.

Governor Ved Marwah will take the Republic Day parade salute at the historical Kangla Fort tomorrow. The state chief secretary has directed all the heads of government departments to ensure that officials who receive invitations for Republic Day parade attend the function. Any official who fails to turn up for the parade should submit an explanation for his absence, the directive added.

In another incident, five CRPF personnel were injured at the 112 battalion camp at Loktak in Bishenpur district today when one of their colleagues fired at them while playing volleyball.

CRPF officials here said the constable, identified as Rao, had been arrested and an investigation ordered into the firing. One of the five injured was critical, an official said.

   

 
 
PILLAI ON MISSION FLUSHOUT 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Guwahati, Jan. 25: 
The Centre has once again urged Bhutan to flush out Ulfa and Bodo militants from the jungles in the southern part of the Himalayan kingdom.

Official sources said a senior Union home ministry official made the request on the Centre’s behalf during a meeting with Bhutanese bureaucrats at the Bhutan Embassy in New Delhi last night.

Bhutanese ambassador Dago Tshering was present at the dinner meeting between G.K. Pillai, joint secretary in charge of Northeast affairs in the Union home ministry, and a team of visiting officials from the Himalayan kingdom.

Giving details of the “in-camera meeting”, sources said Pillai assured the bureaucrats that the Centre would take steps to protect Bhutanese visitors to Assam from a possible militant backlash after “operation flushout” is launched.

The visiting officials, however, said the firepower of the Bhutanese police and army might not be enough to take on the insurgents camping in their country.

It could not be ascertained whether Pillai hinted that India could provide military assistance to the Royal government of Bhutan for “operation flushout”.

At least six rounds of discussions have been held on the issue of evicting Bodo and Ulfa militants from the Bhutanese jungles, but the two countries are yet to arrive at a feasible solution. When contacted over phone from Guwahati, officials of the Bhutanese Embassy were tight-lipped about the discussions last night.

Embassy councillor Thinley Penzor said, “The ambassador hosted a dinner for a delegation from Bhutan. He had also invited some personal friends which could have included Union government officials.”

Despite persistent queries, Penzor refused to name the officials present at the dinner, saying, “Do not read much into last night’s get-together.”

Though Pillai was unavailable for comment, a staffer attached to his office confirmed that he did have “an engagement at the Bhutanese embassy yesterday”.

Both the Ulfa and the NDFB have bases inside the jungles of Bhutan. The Assam government has been demanding that the Centre take up the matter with the Himalayan kingdom and impress upon the Royal Bhutan government to flush out the rebels.

The dinner meeting between the Bhutanese ambassador and Pillai came close on the heels of reports that the Centre had achieved a “breakthrough in Assam insurgency” by holding “unofficial parleys” with representatives of the Ulfa in Nepal recently.

A top home ministry source said informal talks were held in Kathmandu recently between ministry officials and representatives of the outfit to prepare the ground for the proposed official dialogue with the Ulfa leadership.

The representatives of the outfit are now waiting for a response from the Ulfa “commander-in-chief” Paresh Barua, the official said. The revelation that the Centre held informal talks with the Ulfa in Kathmandu is likely to renew speculation about the outfit’s approach towards negotiations.

The Ulfa’s climbdown from its “rigid stand” as well as the Centre’s “willingness” to hold unconditional talks have fuelled hopes of a fresh beginning in the insurgency-ravaged state.

The Union home minister had also planned to visit to the state on January 22-23 ostensibly to make public New Delhi’s desire to end the stalemate and hold talks with the Ulfa leadership.

   

 
 
LAWYERS’ STRIKE CALLED OFF 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Berhampur, Jan. 25: 
After nearly 46 days of ceasework, members of most bar associations, including the Cuttack High Court, suspended their stir yesterday following discussions with the state government. However, lawyers in Ganjam are still continuing their agitation. The strike had been launched in protest against the newly-imposed professional tax by the Orissa government.

At a meeting last evening, the Ganjam Bar Association, led by its president Sachidananda Rath, decided against withdrawing the strike. Lawyers have been also demanding government action against officials who were allegedly behind the lathicharge on December 16 in which several lawyers were injured.

The local bar association has demanded action against the deputy inspector-general of police (southern range) Biswanath Hota and Berhampur sub-collector Purushottam Sahu. The advocates also served defamation notices on the two officials. Sources said though Berhampur court was open yesterday, no lawyer of the Ganjam Bar Association attended it. Reports of the strike have also come in from the Chatrapur and Aska Bar Associations, who have supported the Ganjam lawyers.

   
 

FRONT PAGE / NATIONAL / EDITORIAL / BUSINESS / THE EAST / SPORTS
ABOUT US /FEEDBACK / ARCHIVE 
 
Maintained by Web Development Company