Birthmark clue for police
Former college principal dies
Board helpline for exams
Floods threat to Assam tea industry
Tripura tea in death throes
Fernandes endorses Koijam plan
Festivals bleed exchequer
BJP cold feet on AGP tie-up
Rum dole costs Assam dear
Panel slams education dept

 
 
BIRTHMARK CLUE FOR POLICE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 24: 
A birthmark helped police identify one of the hoods involved in Friday’s robbery on Harish Mukherjee Road, following which a girl belonging to the family has been missing.

The girl, Sanjukta Basu Roy, was visiting her maternal uncle’s home where the robbery took place.

The man was identified from a photograph by eyewitnesses in the Ghosh Dastidar residence, scene of the robbery. Police said he was involved in another kidnapping in south Calcutta, when a case was registered against him five years ago.

According to Banibrata Basu, DC, DD-I, Sanjukta was close to the man in his late 20s. Police refused to disclose his name. They have already identified the “zone” where the hoods have taken refuge.

A team has been sent to Digha. Police feel Sanjukta and the young man are together, while the other two goons are hiding elsewhere.

Sanjukta is a school drop-out and now she has taken admission in Indira Gandhi National Open University. She met the man three years ago during her graduation course. Since then the girl has reportedly led a fast life. Her family members disapproved of her lifestyle.

Pijush Basu Roy, Sanjukta’s father who lives in Bansdroni, said the girl used to make prolonged telephone calls, sometimes even in the middle of the night.

Police examined the two daggers the hoods left behind. Police said three hoods carried out the operation. One kept watch while two others operated inside.

They feel Sanjukta was not exactly above board. She last visited her maternal uncle’s house before the Puja in 2000, and this time she did not tell her parents that she was going there.

The goons stormed in half an hour after her arrival. Sanjukta did not shout when she was being “dragged out.” Neither did she forget to wear her shoes.

Bandh peaceful

The 12-hour Sarsuna bandh passed off peacefully on Saturday. The bandh was called to protest the killing of local CPI leader Golak Sen on Friday, who was gunned down in a school. Thirty-four CPI supporters were arrested for obstructing traffic after Diamond Harbour Road was blocked for over two hours in the morning. Dwijen Jotedar, a teacher of the school, who was arrested, is being interrogated, the police said.

   

 
 
FORMER COLLEGE PRINCIPAL DIES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 24: 
Prasanta Kumar Ghosh, political scientist and former principal of Maulana Azad College, died on Saturday after a protracted illness. He was 70 and is survived by his wife and two sons.

Ghosh had also served as the principal of Hooghly Mohsin College.

Jewellery seized: Jewellery and silver biscuits, worth about Rs 11 lakh, were recovered from a luggage van of the Bhubaneshwar Rajdhani Express via Howrah after the train arrived at Howrah station on Saturday morning. No arrests have been made.

   

 
 
BOARD HELPLINE FOR EXAMS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 24: 
For the first time, the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education will operate helplines from its Calcutta headquarters to provide information related to the Madhyamik examination for the examinees and the authorities of schools where the examinations will be held.

The helpline numbers are 226-8594 and 226-8595. The service will be available from 9 am to 9 pm on the examination days.

Board president Arun Kiran Chakraborty said on Saturday that 5,74,731 examinees will write the test this year against 5.5 lakh candidates in 2000.

The examinations will be held in 1,750 schools.

In all, 127 challenged students will sit for the examination this year. Fifty-five of them are visually challenged, 60 orthopaedically challenged and eight hearing impaired. Two of the challenged candidates will write with their right legs.

Two undertrial prisoners will appear for the examinations from Alipore central jail.

The board has appointed 19,900 teachers as examiners and 508 teachers as head-examiners, Chakraborty said.

The board has withdrawn the affiliations of 26 schools as they failed to maintain the required infrastructure and academic standards during the past one year, he added.

The Madhyamik examinations, which begin on Monday, will continue till March 12.

Examinations will start at 12 noon and continue till 3 pm every day.

   

 
 
FLOODS THREAT TO ASSAM TEA INDUSTRY 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Jorhat, Feb. 24: 
The tea industry of Assam has expressed serious concern over the recurring floods and erosion by the Brahmaputra.

“Some of the tea gardens, including a number of villages, will be completely wiped out if erosion continues at the same rate,” said Assam branch of the Indian Tea Association (Abita) chairman Kalyan Phukan today. He was addressing the 111th annual general meeting of the Abita at the Tocklai conference hall here.

Phukan said annual floods, erosion and inundation of vast areas of land under tea cultivation have been causing irreparable damage to the economy in Assam.

“In Darrang district last year, floods submerged vast areas of land destroying standing crops and wiping out the entire rural infrastructure, including roads and bridges,” he added.

The tea industry, on its part, has been making frequent pleas to the state and Union governments and the planning commission for some long-term measures to stop this annual carnage, he said.

In view of the reduction in soil conditions in the tea growing areas and rising of the underground water level, particularly in the tea areas along the Brahmaputra, appropriate remedial measures should be drawn up through intensive research, Phukan added.

Indian Tea Association official D. Chakravarti said the government should initiate steps to boost exports as a neighbouring country like “Pakistan is an untapped and big market for us”. The association has signed a memorandum of understanding with Pakistan which has an annual demand of 140 million kgs of tea, he added.

The chairman of tea research association and Assam sub-committee of the ITA , Abani Borgohain, blamed the small tea growers for the plummeting tea quality as the latter had “resorted to planting inferior quality tea saplings”.

Tripura tea in death throes
Our Correspondent Tripura tea in death throes Local Guwahati

Agartala, Feb. 24: The Tripura tea industry, already hit by tribal insurgency, is now reeling under drought conditions, low price realisation at auction markets and burgeoning production costs, reports our correspondent.

Market watchers fear that the production of processed tea here might plummet to 5 million kg against the annual average of 7 million kg.

According to Tea Association of India secretary P.K. Sarkar, “The rainfall this year has been only 0.20 inches so far as against 4 inches recorded in the corresponding period last year.”

He said most of the state’s 54 gardens were resource-starved and could not arrange for irrigation. The net loss because of the drought would be nearly Rs 5 crore, he added.

   

 
 
TRIPURA TEA IN DEATH THROES 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, Feb. 24: 
The Tripura tea industry, already hit by tribal insurgency, is now reeling under drought conditions, low price realisation at auction markets and burgeoning production costs, reports our correspondent.

Market watchers fear that the production of processed tea here might plummet to 5 million kg against the annual average of 7 million kg.

According to Tea Association of India secretary P.K. Sarkar, “The rainfall this year has been only 0.20 inches so far as against 4 inches recorded in the corresponding period last year.”

He said most of the state’s 54 gardens were resource-starved and could not arrange for irrigation. The net loss because of the drought would be nearly Rs 5 crore, he added.

   

 
 
FERNANDES ENDORSES KOIJAM PLAN 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, Feb. 24: 
Defence minister George Fernandes has endorsed Manipur chief minister Radhabinod Koijam’s view on declaring unilateral ceasefire with all insurgent groups of the state.

Addressing a newsconference here this afternoon, Fernandes appealed to all insurgents outfits to come forward for a political dialogue.

Koijam, during his recent trip to New Delhi, had urged both Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Union home minister L.K. Advani to declare unilateral truce with all insurgent groups in Manipur on the lines of J&K. “We fully endorse the chief minister’s suggestion,” Fernandes said.

The defence minister, after attending the Brahmaputra Darshan programme in Arunachal Pradesh, flew into the state capital for a few hours. He also held a meeting with the new council of ministers.

Fernandes said he could see a change in Manipur. This manifested not only in the change of government, but also in the political scenario. However, the new state government would face various challenges in insurgency, law and order and development, he added. The defence minister also said the Centre would extend full support to the Koijam government in meeting these challenges.

Regarding the state’s insurgency problem, he said, “Every act of theirs (the militants) are hurting their near and dear ones, and also jeopardising the future of Manipur.” He said insurgency affected the new generation and appealed to the militant outfits to join the mainstream.

Fernandes said he hoped that the new government would find out a scope for initiating dialogues with the militants.

Fernandes parried a query on whether the Centre would extend the ongoing cease-fire with National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) to other parts of Northeast, saying this depended on the home ministry.

Replying to another question on the state government’s demand for the restoration of troops to the pre-Kargil level, the defence minister said the Centre rather preferred modernisation of state police force to cope with the prevailing situation.

Fernandes said the state police should be made equipped to deal with law and order problems and stressed on the need for strengthening the intelligence network.

Fernandes said Union finance minister Yashwant Sinha was concerned about Manipur’s fiscal problems. Sinha had assured all help in this regard, he said.

   

 
 
FESTIVALS BLEED EXCHEQUER 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, Feb. 24: 
The Left Front government has been incurring increasing expenditure in organising a variety of festivals which make no contribution to any development programme.

This has been going on at a time when the people of the state continue to reel under the chronic crises of insurgency, food shortages and largescale outbreaks of enteric and malarial diseases.

This startling fact came to light in the Assembly yesterday. In reply to a query by senior Tripura Upajati Juba Samity MLA Ratimohan Jamatya, information minister Jiten Chowdhury said from March 10, 1998 to January 31 this year, 15 of the 36 departments of the state government organised altogether 274 festivals. The total expenditure incurred for the purpose was Rs 1.53 crore.

Since then, a series of festivals has been held in the capital as well as in subdivisional towns, putting further strain on the meagre financial resources of the government. The minister’s reply was laid in the House yesterday as Ratimohan Jamatya and other MLAs of the TUJS had boycotted yesterday’s Assembly proceedings.

Jamatya and Congress MLA Sudip Roy Barman later said the Left Front, having failed to resolve any problem of the state, was resorting to “diversionary tactics” to fool the people. “It is like drugging one to sleep because of the inability to cure the disease,” Sudip Roy Barman said.

He asserted that barring the annual book fair and the trade fair involving entrepreneurs from Bangladesh, all other fairs were a burden on the public exchequer.

Ratimohan Jamatya said at a time when impoverished tribal people in the interior areas were dying like “flies and ants,” the Left Front was trying to divert the attention of the people from its failure by organising the “so-called fairs” in towns.

He said the issue would be pursued by his party in co-operation with others in the Opposition.

   

 
 
BJP COLD FEET ON AGP TIE-UP 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Guwahati, Feb. 24: 
The BJP today virtually dropped the idea of an alliance with the ruling AGP for the forthcoming Assembly polls in the state and gave priority to capturing power on its own.

The decision was taken at a two-day meeting of the central office-bearers which began here today.

The meeting also decided to give a free hand to the state unit to decide the poll strategy including the issue of forging tie-ups with other like-minded parties, party spokesman Narendra Modi told reporters here.

“The state unit is independent to take the decision in matters of elections. The central committee will consider whatever decision is taken by the state unit,” Modi said, while briefing newsmen on the party’s Guwahati conclave.

The senior BJP leader said the Assam unit of his party maintained the stand that the party should fight the AGP and the Congress. He said the party concluded that the mandate of people in the recent bypolls in favour of the BJP and its allies would have direct impact on the elections.

State BJP leaders, who were waiting with baited breath at the city hotel where the meet was being held, cheered up when Modi announced that the state BJP unit had been given a free hand in poll matters. “The BJP and its allies won 10 out of 11 seats of the Assembly and parliamentary byelections. The Congress was completely wiped out,” he added.

Modi said the BJP approved of efforts by its ally, the Trinamul Congress, to form a mahajot (alliance) with the Congress in West Bengal.

“Our party has welcomed it from the very beginning as it was essential to dethrone the Left Front government in the state,” the BJP spokesman said.

This if for the first time that the BJP central office-bearers’ meeting is being held outside Delhi, Modi added. The meeting, presided over by party president Bangaru Laxman, was attended by senior leaders like Kushabhau Thakre, Union human research minister Murli Manohar Joshi, former Delhi chief ministers Madan Lal Khurana and Sahib Singh Verma.

Apart from Assam elections, the meeting will also discuss strategies for four other states which go to polls in April-May.

On the political situation in the Northeast, the meeting attributed the “increasing instability, lack of economic development and serious law and order breakdown” to the “nexus” between some local politicians, extremist outfits and drug mafiosi.

   

 
 
RUM DOLE COSTS ASSAM DEAR 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Guwahati, Feb. 24: 
Excess issuance of rum bottles to the defence forces and paramilitary forces stationed in Assam by the state government has resulted in a loss of Rs 383.46 lakh.

The comptroller and auditor general’s report (1999-2000) for the Assam government said the quota of rum allotted by the state was 140 lakh bottles from 1994-95 to 1998-99. “But it was found that the commissioner of excise issued 173.39 lakh bottles of rum to three central stores depots at Narangi, Missamari and Masimpur in Assam,’’ the CAG report stated.

The report stated that the excess issuance of 33.39 lakh bottles of rum was incorrect and resulted in a loss of Rs 383.46 lakh.

As per government notification dated September 24, 1997, excise duty on consumption of rum by the defence personnel and paramilitary forces stationed in Assam was levied at the rate of Rs 24 per London proof litre (LPL) against the government allotted quota. Earlier, the duty on rum for these categories was Rs 8 per LPL against the government allotted quota.

The department also lost Rs 287.17 lakh due cut in excise duty on short-lifting of country spirit. The Assam Excise Rules (1945) states that the licensee or his legal representative shall on each occasion of import furnish proof to the officer granting the pass that the specified quantity of the country spirit has been delivered in full to the officer-in-charge of the country spirit warehouse.

“Audits of three country spirit warehouses in Assam revealed that the licensees had short-lifted 10.13 bulk litres against the permitted quantity of 30.95 lakh bulk litres which led to a loss of Rs 287.17 lakh,” the report stated. The licensee did not furnish any certificate on short execution from the exporting authority. The department also lost Rs 36.33 lakh on account of non-realisation of import permit fee.

   

 
 
PANEL SLAMS EDUCATION DEPT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Guwahati, Feb. 24: 
The departmentally related standing committee on education of the Assam Assembly has cautioned the government that excess and anomalous appointment of thousands of teachers since 1991 has adversely affected the financial discipline of the education department.

The committee, in its ninth report tabled in the Assembly, on Tuesday also noted with concern that establishment of venture schools in the “most unplanned” way has become a burden on the budget and has made the department pay more attention to administration instead of imparting education.

The 28-member committee, led by former education minister Brindaban Goswami, has recommended to the government to number every institution at the primary and secondary levels along with important information for their proper administration.

Such information should include the name of the schools, the number of sanctioned posts with letter number and date, names of teachers with particulars of date of joining with reference to appointment orders, training undergone, date of retirement and all other related information, the committee added.

Members of the Assembly, cutting across party lines, have voiced strong resentment in past several sessions of the House that the department could never provide the information in full whenever they had asked for it.

The committee suggested that development blocks should be the initial units for keeping computerised records which may also be kept in the offices of the deputy inspector of schools, district elementary education, the inspector of schools and directors.

The department has been advised by the committee to take up plans and programmes for achieving financial discipline. The committee, after considering the departmental budget as a whole, observed that the provisions for all-round development of education are not adequate.

   
 

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