Knight of the singing sitar
Five arrested after clash
Jugantar press gutted
Tripura for closer ties with Bangla
Orissa tribals allege attack on language
Nipamacha may pull out of NDA
Trinamul to fight in 106 seats
Arunachal scribes lift ban on students’ union temp
Art and life struggle for survival
Red Cross trains individuals on disaster preparedn

Calcutta, Feb.10: 
“Godfather of world music” Pandit Ravi Shankar, credited with setting off the sitar explosion in the West, has been given the award of “honorary” Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire by the Queen.

It means that though he will neither be called “Sir”, nor will he kneel and be tapped on each shoulder with a sword — these are privileges reserved for British citizens — the maestro will be able to put the letters KBE after his name, for Knight of the British Empire.

Another non-Britisher who was made an “honorary” knight recently and received a medal and a ribbon was film director Steven Spielberg, the American creator of E.T., Jurassic Park and Saving Private Ryan.

A press release issued by Ravi Shankar’s spokesman on Saturday said the British High Commission in New Delhi would felicitate the sitarist — called the “godfather of world music” by Beatle George Harrison — on March 27.

The release quoted British High Commissioner Rob Young as saying: “No one has done more than Ravi Shankar to promote the understanding and love of Indian classical music in the West, and in particular in Britain. This is a most fitting way of honouring an outstanding musician who is deeply respected in my country and indeed all over the world.”

As a classical sitar-player, Ravi Shankar has been a purist. But as composer, he has experimented. It was after his 1966 meeting with George Harrison that Ravi Shankar blasted into popular Western consciousness — remixing Indian ragas with Western classical, folk and jazz. In 1969, the sitarist became a hippie icon, playing at Woodstock, the world’s best-known pop festival.

Harrison and Ravi Shankar were behind the 1971 concerts for Bangladesh, the first major music charity event.

But Ravi Shankar had been winning friends and influencing musicians in the West from long before. From the time he was a young boy visiting Paris with elder brother Uday Shankar, he was disturbed by the ignorance of Indian music in that part of the world and wanted to do something about it.

In 1952, he played for Yehudi Menuhin in Delhi, initiating him to the beauty of Indian classical music. In 1966, Ravi Shankar played his first violin-duet with Menuhin.

Ravi Shankar has been given countless awards in India and abroad. The knighthood comes from a country which did its bit to shoot him to international fame.


Calcutta, Feb. 10: 
Police and criminals, who had taken shelter in a four-storeyed building on Dhapa Road after committing robberies in the the Tiljala-Topsia area, clashed on Saturday. Five men were arrested and eight pipe guns, 75 cassette bombs and 50 rounds of ammunition seized from them.

Cable dues: The Corporation on Saturday realised Rs 20 lakh from Siti Cable. The service provider’s cablelines, snapped last Monday as it failed to pay dues amounting to Rs 42 lakh, have been restored, Ashis Chakraborty, the mayor’s confidential assistant, said.

the Siti cablelines were restored as almost 50 per cent of the dues have been realised.


Calcutta, Feb.10: 
A fire broke out in a building at 41/1, Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Road in central Calcutta early on Saturday. The building housed the offices of the now-closed Amrita Bazar Patrika and Jugantar.

Twelve fire tenders battled the flames for over three hours to bring the blaze under control. The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained. No one was injured.

“The fire occurred in the basement of the building, where the printing press of the publishing house was located. The press is completely gutted”, a fireman said.

According to fire brigade sources, heaps of newsprint, oil, negatives and plates were stacked in the basement of the building which helped the fire to spread instantly. The fire seemed to go out of hand around 8 am when it began to spread from the basement to the upper floors. But it was brought under control soon after.

“I had come to a tubewell nearby when I saw smoke billowing out of the basement of the Jugantar building. Some of my neighbours informed the fire brigade,” said Srirup Mondal, who lives close by.

“All we saw was smoke,” said Sukanta Sau, who claimed to have alerted the fire brigade.

The fire was brought under control around 10 am.

Businessman shot

A city businessman was shot from point-blank range at Phoolbagan on Saturday.

Six men demanded money from Indrajit Ghosh who owns a confectionery shop on SK Dawn Road. When Ghosh refused to pay up, the miscreants shot Ghosh in the abdomen. They broke open the cash box and took away Rs 4000, after which they got into a waiting vehicle and sped off.

Ghosh was taken to Nil Ratan Sirkar Medical College and Hospital in a critical condition.

The bullet has been taken out from his body and his condition is stable now, the police said.

The police will raid several places in Phoolbagan in search of Kotke Das, notorious for extorting money in the locality, who is believed to be behind the attack. No arrest has been made so far.


Agartala, Feb. 10: 
Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar has called for closer trade and economic relations between Bangladesh and the Northeast.

Addressing the inaugural session of the three-day Maitree Utsav (friendship festival) organised by the Indo-Bangladesh Maitree Sangha, Sarkar said the socio-cultural ties between the two countries should be extended to the sphere of economy, trade and commerce.

Pointing to Tripura’s geographical isolation from mainland India, he said closer economic ties between the state and Bangladesh would be mutually beneficial.

“Products from Tripura and Bangladesh criss-cross the border through illegal trade. If this trans-border trade is legalised, Bangladesh and Tripura will earn considerable revenue,” the chief minister added. The state has a 839-km-long border with the neighbouring country.

Sarkar said several thousand rickshaw-pullers from Bangl-adesh earn their livelihood in Tripura everyday. The three main hospitals in Agartala also cater to patients from Bangladesh. “We do not stop this on humanitarian grounds. But better arrangements should be made through bilateral agreements,” he added.

“The demand for a Dhaka-Agartala bus service was raised much before the Dhaka-Calcutta bus service was floated. It is yet to materialise due to various political bottlenecks,” he said. Sarkar urged the large Bangladesh delegation to take up the issue with its government. State education minister Anil Sarkar also stressed on the need for regular cultural exchanges between Tripura and Bangladesh.

The three-day utsav got off to a rousing start here yesterday with a series of cultural programmes, seminars and discussion sessions.

Filmmaker Syed Hasan Imam, poet Dilwar Hossain and Marxist Workers Party general secretary Bimal Biswas were among the 100-member Bangladeshi delegation.

Thirteen children from Bangladesh are also participating in a Shishu Mela (children’s fair) at the Bhagwat Singh students hostel as part of the utsav.

Low investment in state

The Tripura government is concerned over the sharply declining credit-deposit ratio of various nationalised banks in the state.

Despite a steady growth in deposit, the fall in investment in the form of loans and advances has worried the government.

In 1992-93, the credit-deposit ratio was 58.5 per cent which was close to the standard national average of 60 per cent, sources said.

In 1996-97, it came down to 39 per cent and by March last year it dipped to an all-time low of 30.44 per cent. The national average, however, remained stable at 60 per cent and some developed states had a 85 per cent ratio.

In March 1999, the total deposit of all nationalised banks in Tripura stood at Rs 1102.45 crore, but this shot up to Rs 1448.81 crore by September last year, registering an impressive growth of 31.42 per cent, the sources added.

Ajit Bhowmik, director of institutional finance of the state government, said banks are reluctant to invest in Tripura.

Bhowmik, who has prepared a document on institutional finance, charged the banking authorities with negligence in sanctioning loans even on priority areas like poverty alleviation schemes. Dismissing allegations regarding the poor recovery rate in Tripura, Bhowmik said, “Their (banks) claim of only eight per cent recovery rate takes into account the money paid in the name of so-called loan mela or loan exemption more than a decade ago.”

Bank sources, however, said insurgency has rendered many areas of the state unsafe for banking. More than 20 branches of various banks had to be relocated to safer areas.


Berhampur, Feb. 10: 
The Kui Lewanga Sangh, a tribal organisation of south Orissa, is trying to unite the Kui tribals by making them aware of their distinct language and culture.

The Sangh is alleging that attempts are being made to destroy their language through propagation of Oriya.

The government had recently made efforts to propagate the Kui language among the tribals through the Oriya script as the Kui language exists only in dialect form and has no script of its own.

Some other publications are also reportedly doing the rounds in the Kui-dominated areas of south Orissa. Among these is the Bible, used by Christian missionaries to propagate Christianity in Kui language among the tribals. Pamphlets are also circulated by organisations fighting for the rights of the Kui tribals.

Activists of the Kui Lewanga Sangh alleged that both Christian missionaries and activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad were trying to destroy the Kui culture and tradition.

The Kui Lewanga Sangh primarily objects to the imparting of education to Kui children in Oriya-medium schools.

They are also against the practice of giving Kui-dominated villages Oriya names.

A Kui tribal leader said the Kuis were now learning Oriya in the belief that it would help them to earn a better livelihood. He said if this process continued, the next generation of Kuis may be reluctant to converse in Kui language.

The tribal activists said a large number of Kuis had already given up their traditional attire for saris, trousers and shirts.

The Kuis are also worried about the attack on the intoxicating salap juice which is a part of their tradition.

Leaders of the community said the salap and the huts where the Kuis congregated to drink it, were associated with the nurture of Kui songs, dances and musical instruments.

The Kui Lewanga Sangh has called a meeting on February 21 to discuss the issue.

The Kuis mostly live in Kandhamal district and its adjoining areas in Rayagada, Ganjam, Gajapati, Kalahandi, Boudh and Nayagarh districts.


Imphal, Feb. 10: 
The ruling Manipur State Congress Party (MSCP) has threatened to withdraw from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre. Sources said MSCP’s legislature wing decided to pull out of the NDA last night in protest against remarks made by BJP national secretary (in-charge of Manipur) P.B. Acharya and Samata Party national president Jaya Jaitley favouring President’s rule in the state.

The legislature wing’s decision is yet to be referred to the party level. The formal decision of pulling out from the NDA has to be taken by the party. Loyalists of chief minister Nipamacha Singh said the decision of the legislature wing will be sent to the party’s central executive for ratification. There was a possibility of a split in the party over the issue late tonight.

The decision of the legislature wing was taken at a meeting chaired by the chief minister last night. The MSCP, along with the Samata Party and the BJP, are the constituents of the NDA at the national level.

The move is likely to have a serious impact on the MSCP and the party seems to be on the verge of a split. MSCP’s working president Thounaojam Chaoba Singh is now the Union minister of state for food processing. A bitter rival of the chief minister, Chaoba Singh is expected here tomorrow.

Sources said there was a sharp division between the MSCP’s legislature wing and the party organisation. While party president Nipamacha Singh commands a majority in the legislature wing, Chaoba Singh has more supporters in the central executive — the party’s highest decision making body.

When contacted, a senior party functionary loyal to Chaoba Singh said the party was yet to know the formal decision of the legislature wing.

He said the party has not discussed the matter of withdrawing from the NDA and added that they have learnt about the legislature wing’s decision from local mediapersons.

A showdown between Nipamacha loyalists and Chaoba supporters is likely tomorrow, sources said.

The latest round of problems in the MSCP surfaced after Jaitley and Acharya, in separate Press conferences here on Thursday, charged Nipamacha Singh with confining all the ruling ministers and legislators at his official residence since November 15 last year.

Rebels surrender

Eight militants today laid down arms before general officer commanding (GOC) of the 57 Mountain Division Maj. Gen. Iqbal Singh at the Kangla fort here.

Addressing the surrender ceremony, the GOC said “these boys have decided to lead a peaceful life.” Of the eight militants, seven were from the Islamic Liberation Front (Kanglei faction) while one was from the United National Liberation Front (UNLF).

The rebels surrendered six weapons, including three countrymade AK-47 rifles, one countrymade carbine, one .32 pistol and a countrymade rifle. Two hand grenades and 654 rounds of ammunition were deposited by them.


Guwahati, Feb. 10: 
The Assam unit of the Trinamul Congress today decided to contest 106 Assembly constituencies and extend support to tribal groups and parties in the other 20 seats.

The party’s state unit president Chittaranjan Patowary said the final decision on a possible poll tie-up with like-minded parties will be taken by party president Mamata Banerjee.

Cong recruits: Nearly 900 women and 300 youth of the city joined the Congress in the presence of party vice-president Bhumidhar Barman at a public meeting here today. The meeting was presided over by party leader Phani Sharma. Barman said if voted to power, the Congress would do its best to take up the issue of land settlement for the landless people.


Itanagar, Feb. 10: 
The Arunachal Pradesh Union of Working Journalists has lifted its ban on covering All-Nyishi Students Union temporarily, following the latter’s assurance that it would axe its information secretary.

The Arunachal Pradesh Union of Working Journalists and the Itanagar Press Club had been demanding suspension of ANSU information secretary Markio Tama after he was arrested for his alleged involvement in the attack on the office of The Dawn-Lit Post in October last year.

The organisations took the decision to lift the ban recently at a tripartite meeting with the government, represented by information minister Takam Sanjoy.

The students’ union had earlier expressed its inability to suspend Tama, saying their constitution did not permit them and the accused had refused to resign on moral grounds.

On February 2 this year, the ANSU and the All-Papum Pare District Students’ Union had issued a notice to all agents and vendors, banning sale and distribution of local newspapers published from here in protest against the media’s non-coverage of students’ union press releases.

The media here refused to hold any further parleys in view of the fact that this was not the first case of intimidation and attack on journalists in the state and that the particular incident was triggered by a students’ press release.The government reacted by declaring the ban on sale of newspapers “illegal” and called for a tripartite meeting to resolve the impasse.

The Arunachal Pradesh Union of Working Journalists and the Itanagar Press Club have given the government a fortnight to obtain the report from the team investigating the attack and bring the culprits to book. They urged the government to fulfil it’s constitutional obligation to uphold the freedom of the Press and provide security to journalists in the state.

The organisations have appraised the minister for information and public relations and the state chief secretary of the developments in this regard.


Dibrugarh, Feb. 10: 
His shaking hands hold a few copies of a novel as he moves around the Sahityarathi Kshetra, pleading with people to buy a copy. “You will enjoy reading this book, I can assure you that,” he tells prospective buyers.

Lakhi Mahanta has been visiting the Sahitya Sabha venue these days with copies of Chinaki Ghator Suryauday, a novel authored by him.

Mahanta has two novels to his credit, apart from 18 plays and a few radio plays. His radio play, Juge Juge Dodhishi, fetched him the national award in 1987.

The 60-year-old writer fell into bad times after retiring as a teacher from the Namrup Hindustan Fertilizer Corporation high school. All his savings drained out in the education of his four children and on his medical treatment.

Mahanta was afflicted with a nerve problem soon after retirement. “This will probably be my last work as I cannot hold the pen any longer,” he told The Telegraph. With no money for treatment, Mahanta only prays that he can hold the pen again.

Residents of Namrup, Mahanta and his wife arrived here on the inaugural day of the ongoing 66th session of the Asam Sahitya Sabha and have been staying with Mahanta’s childhood friend since. They arrive at the sabha venue every morning, hoping to sell copies of his ‘labour’.

“I spent Rs 20,000 in printing 1,000 copies of this novel. I have to sell them somehow. It has become a question of survival for my family,” Mahanta said. He has also given a few copies of his novel to stalls at the sabha book fair. “They will take 30 per cent of the price,” he added.

Talking about his works, Mahanta said, “I always try to portray small things... problems in Assamese society. The hero of my latest novel is a bullock-cart puller.”

But with no help forthcoming, Mahanta today is a broken man. “I love writing. There would probably be several writers like me, who need financial help to publish their works...,” he lamented.

Mahanta blamed the Asam Sahitya Sabha for not taking any steps to help writers like him. “The only recognition I got from the Sabha was a felicitation by its Dibrugarh district unit in 1995,” he rued. “The sabha should take the initiative to provide financial help to writers like us. It will help to enrich Assamese literature,” he added.

Mahanta, however, has attended several sabha sessions as it makes him happy. “I have attended the Bihpuria, Nalbari and Sivasagar sessions. It gives me a chance to meet top litterateurs of the state.”

Though Mahanta is selling his novels for money, it gives him pleasure when people read his works. “I will present a copy of my novel to the sabha president,” he said with a smile.


Guwahati, Feb. 10: 
The Assam chapter of the Indian Red Cross Society has trained 600 master trainers from across the state on community health and first aid as part of its “disaster preparedness” programme.

“We are trying train at least one person from each family in Assam in first aid,” Jari Vainio, a Red Cross medical specialist, said here today.

He said by the time international rescue teams reach the spot of disaster many people would be dead. “Foreign aid comes in late and not in sufficient numbers to cope with the magnitude of the disaster,” he added.

“It is the individual who should be prepared to tackle disaster in an effective way. It can be done by having knowledge of first aid,” he said. Ninety per cent of the rescue takes place in the first 48 hours of the disaster and maximum efforts should be made to minimise the loss of life.

The Kamrup district administration has also chalked out an earthquake disaster management plan to minimise loss of life and property. A disaster management committee, headed by the district deputy commissioner, has been formed to implement the plan.

A public meeting was organised at Rabindra Bhawan today for eliciting suggestions from the public in mitigating natural disasters.

A detailed operational plan for providing disaster relief has also been formed with the deputy commissioner as district relief coordinator. A pre-disaster control room has been created in the deputy commissioner’s office.

Kamrup district deputy commissioner D.N. Saikia underlined the need for having a well-coordinated plan of action during the warning period. Predictions abo-ut earthquakes should be revealed only after taking the government into confidence, he added.

U.C. Kalita, head of civil engineering department at the IIT here, said losses can be reduced by ensuring quality control in construction of houses and designing.

IIT guest lecturer Utpal Miri said earthquake resistant houses should be constructed in the city as 70 per cent of the people would be inside their houses at the time of a quake.


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