Poll panel orders shuffle of officials
Midnapore witness release uncertain
Kidnapper in police net
Girl traced
Cong alliance opportunistic, says Biswas
Agartala civic council draws flak for tax hike
Nagaland registers population boom
NLFT schism spills over to Bangla camps
Manipur ceasefire under cloud
Kamrup chosen for industrial project

Calcutta, March 31: 
ounting for the Assembly elections, slated for May 10, will begin on May 13. The results of most seats are expected by the evening.

The Election Commission on Saturday directed state chief electoral officer Sabyasachi Sen to enforce the model code of conduct. Following the Commission’s directive, Sen has convened an all-party meeting at Writers’ Buildings at 3 pm on Sunday to discuss election arrangements.

About 4.87 crore people in 294 Assembly constituencies will cast their votes. Electronic voting machines will be used in all 61,438 booths for the first time in the state. Voters will have to carry photo-identity cards. But since only 85 per cent voters have received their photo identity cards to date, the Commission is deciding on other forms of verification of identity.

“Arrangements have been made to print photo-identity card numbers along with the voters’ names in the electoral rolls to help polling personnel identify voters,” Sen said.

Police and government employees on poll duty will work under the Commission and can’t be transferred without its sanction till the poll process is completed, the election commissioner said. Nearly 2.46 lakh employees will be on poll duty this time. State and Central police forces will be deployed in and around the polling booths. The state government has asked for 190 companies of Central forces, against 150 sought during the 1999 Parliamentary elections.

The Commission does not apprehend any major violence during the elections. “The law and order situation in the state is being monitored and sensitive booths are being identified. Once the process is complete, we will decide on the deployment of forces,” Sen said.

“No major examinations will be held between May 3 and the date on which the election process is completed. The universities can reschedule their examination dates accordingly,” said Sen. The poll process will end on May 18.

The Commission will direct the state government to declare May 10 a paid holiday under the Negotiable Instruments Act. All chambers of commerce will be informed to follow the directive.

The Commission has directed the state government to transfer officials serving in a district for more than four years. The posts include district magistrates, additional district magistrates, sub-divisional officers, deputy collectors, inspectors-general, deputy inspectors-general, superintendents of police and sub-divisional police officers, said Sen. “About 100 officers will be transferred by April 16 when the Commission issues the notification for filing nominations,” he said.

However, city police commissioner Dinesh Vajpai and director-general of West Bengal Police, Dipak Sanyal, both working in the same post for more than four years, will not be transferred.


Calcutta, March 31: 
Uncertainty looms over the release of Abdur Rahaman Mondal — the prime witness in the Chhoto Angaria massacre case — from a city nursing home where he is recuperating for the past three months. Trinamul Congress workers were allegedly killed by suspected CPM supporters at Midnapore’s Chhoto Angaria village in January.

Rahaman’s release, which was due last month, had to be cancelled after the investigating officer (IO) probing the case asked the nursing home authorities to stall the release until the CID gave permission. The CBI has been asked by the high court to probe the alleged massacre.

Nursing home director M.A. Kasem said on Saturday that he had asked the IO if Rahaman could be released.

“The IO said he will not intervene anymore as the case has been handed over to the CBI. We do not know when he will be released,” Kasem said, adding that Rahaman was in good health.

In another development, CBI joint director Upen Biswas said the investigating agency need not wait for any directive from the Centre once the high court has ordered a probe.

“We normally work under the instructions from the Central government. If a state government wants us to conduct a probe, the Centre has to be informed. But there is no such need if the order comes from the high court,” Biswas said.

The state government has decided to move the Supreme Court on Monday, seeking a stay on the high court order to initiate a CBI probe into the alleged massacre.

“We have yet to receive a formal order from our director’s office to begin the inquiry. We will start as soon as we get it,” Biswas added.

The Trinamul Congress on Saturday took out a rally in the city in support of the court directive. The rally started from Netaji Bhavan Metro station and reached Rabindra Sadan, where supporters raised anti-CPM slogans and burnt effigies of former chief minister Jyoti Basu, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and CPM state secretary Anil Biswas.

The supporters had sealed their lips with black tapes and had candles in their hands.


Calcutta, March 31: 
The death of Gudda’s wife Sofia helped the police finally net the crimelord, who has been on the run for over a month. Gudda was picked up from Asansol during a raid on Friday night.

The 23-year-old kidnapper was produced in Bankshall Court on Saturday morning. He was remanded in police custody for 14 days.

The police came to know about Gudda’s Rahamatnagar hideout in Asansol a month ago. “We sent a team there to collect information last month,” Zulfikar Hassan”, deputy commissioner of police, central, said.

Sofia was staying in Gudda’s house for the last year and a half. She died on Thursday reportedly after she fell down the stairs. On coming to know of Sofia’s death, the police became certain that Gudda would return that night. A team of eight policemen was despatched to Asansol. The police lay in wait all night and early next morning, they stormed the house. Some kept watch at the door while others climbed the roof and nabbed Gudda, who was trying to flee. A firearm was recovered from him.

Gudda asked the police to allow him to attend the last rites of his wife, but his request was turned down.

Police said Gudda and his accomplice Nadeem are charged with a number of kidnapping, extortion and murder cases. A hunt has been launched to arrest Nadeem.


Calcutta, March 31: 
An 11-year-old girl, who went missing on Friday on her way to school, was spotted at Visakhapatnam railway station early on Saturday morning. She is a student of Class V and lives in Salt Lake.

“My sister-in-law told me over the telephone from Visakhapatnam at 8 this morning that my daughter has been found at the station,” the girl’s father said.


Calcutta, March 31: 
Worried over the state Congress tie-up with Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress, the CPM on Saturday dubbed the agreement an “opportunistic alliance.”

CPM state secretary and politburo member Anil Biswas said that the Trinamul-BJP combine is more “programme-based” than the emerging Congress-Trinamul alliance.

Convinced that the state Congress would link up with Mamata at any cost, Biswas said the Trinamul Congress had joined the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Delhi which has its own specific programmes. “Though we don’t support the NDA, they, at least, have their own political programmes. But the Trinamul, now desperately seeking an alliance with the Congress, has basically no programmes,” he added.

He hastened to add that it would take some more time for both the Congress and Trinamul to reach an electoral pact because both the parties will have to keep many vested interests happy and fulfil their pre-conditions.

Asked if the Left Front considered the Congress-Trinamul combine a greater threat to themselves than the Trinamul-BJP alliance, Biswas evaded the question saying: “We don’t attach any importance to any combines, whatsoever. We are ready to fight the Opposition,” he added.

However, political observers say the CPM is feeling jittery ever since the state Congress came closer to the Trinamul.

“After all, the Congress has a better vote bank than the BJP. Moreover, the saffron party is bound to draw a blank after the Tehelka expose,” said a Front leader.

Biswas said although Congress workers were hamstrung by traditional infighting, they could put an end to this even 10 days before the elections to fight the ruling Left Front. “But we are ready to face them and we have already launched our campaigns,” he said.

Asked whether the Tehelka exposure will help the CPM in the May 10 polls, Biswas said “Tehelka is an additional issue. We will highlight the achievements of the Left Front government on one hand, and the negative aspects of the economic policy followed by the BJP-led government in Delhi on the other.”


The sharp increase in 
Agartala, March 31:municipal taxes on all heads in the budget for the coming financial year has created serious resentment. The Opposition parties have decided to launch an agitation against the tax hike.

Agartala municipal council chairman Shankar Das placed a budget of Rs 21.49 crore for the council for the coming financial year.

For the first time, the municipal budget showed a rise in taxes and service charges from 50 to 100 per cent in almost all sectors, including maintenance of pet animals, the charge for which has been doubled.

Das justified the hike in taxes and service charges, citing resource constraints of the municipal council and financial mismanagement by the previous Congress-led council. He also laid stress on cost control and better collection of taxes and service charges.

However, the council’s decision to raise taxes and service charges has drawn flak from various quarters.

PCC president Birajit Sinha has described it as an “additional burden on the poor.” Sinha indicated that his party would mobilise public opinion against the decision to raise taxes.

The lone Trinamul Congress councillor in the council, Protima Saha, criticised the budget proposals in her speech. She claimed that the people were being made to pay for the new council’s inefficiency.

At a time when thousands of applications for water supply connections were pending disposal, the council had raised the water tax, she said, asserting that it could mobilise additional resources by extending the tax net.

Saha also alleged that the council had been turned into a “rehabilitation centre for Marxist cadre” as many retired employees and officers were working on deputation for years together. She referred to the “delegation of financial power rules” of the state government to prove that such deputed officers and employees were being illegally allowed to draw salaries from the council and demanded that the state government should pay for their salaries and allowances.

In a separate development, the city’s Taxpayers Association, an organisation fighting for civic rights in the municipal areas, has called an emergency meeting tomorrow to discuss the sharp rise in municipal tax and service charges. An association spokesman said they might chalk out an agitation programme to press for cancellation of the tax hike.

CPM office ransacked

A group of irate CPM workers ransacked the party office in Birchandra Manu in Belonia subdivision and beat up local leaders Laxman Debnath and Sanjit Debnath on Thursday after they were deprived of jobs in the Tripura State Rifles.

Sources said interviews and written tests for recruitment to the TSR’s 7th and 8th Battalions had been organised in December last year and distribution of offers started from the second week of March.

A group of party workers in Birchandra Manu, who had been promised jobs in the paramilitary force, did not get appointment letters till Friday. They vented their ire on local leaders by beating them up with clubs.

The leaders, however, escaped with minor injuries and later asked the police to protect the party office. However, two persons arrested in connection with the incident were released from the police station on a personal bond. An intra-party investigation has been started.


Kohima, March 31: 
The provisional figures of the 2001 census reveal that immigrant settlers from Assam and Tripura have swamped the hill states of the Northeast.

The figures released here today showed that, except for Assam and Tripura, population growth in the remaining five states of the region was much higher that the national growth rate of 21.34 per cent during 1991-2001. Nagaland, like in the last census, emerged as the state with highest population growth rate in the country recording 64.41 per cent. Census officials said it was difficult to ascertain whether the migrants were legal.

The total population of the state was registered at 1,988,636 persons with 1,041,686 males and 9,46,950 females as against 12,09,546 people registered in 1991. According to the census figures, the population growth in Assam and Tripura declined from 24.24 to 18.85 per cent and from 34.30 to 15.74 per cent respectively during 1981-91 to 1991-2001.

The census report, released here today by chief minister S.C. Jamir, showed marginal improvement of 67.11 per cent in the literacy rate as against 61.65 in 1991.

The male literacy rate was recorded at 71.77 per cent while the female literacy rate is 61.92 per cent. However, Mokokchung district recorded the highest literacy rate of 84.27 while Mon district recorded 42.25 per cent.

Wokha district registered the highest growth of 95.01 per cent followed by Tuensang (78.10 per cent), while Phek district registered a marginal growth from 44.66 to 45.12 per cent.

Dimapur is the most densely populated district although the state’s average density (120 per square km) is much lower than the national density, which is 324 as per the census. The sex ratio (number of females per thousand males) is 909, an impressive increase from 890 in 1991. In 1941, females outnumbered males, but the sex ratio was on the decline till 1981. However, the ratio increased from 863 in 1981 to 890 in 1991 and, to 909 in 2001.

Zunheboto district recorded the highest sex ratio in the last three census while Dimapur registered at lowest. But the state’s average sex ratio of 909 is lower than the national average of 933.

Later, the chief minister said the 2001 census was most comprehensive operation to be taken up in the state because detailed enumeration on earlier occasions was not possible because of various reasons.


Agartala, March 31: 
Infighting in the National Liberation Front of Tripura intensified with commander Nayanbasi Jamatya reportedly “capturing” several of the outfit’s camps in Bangladesh.

Jamatya, along with a large section of the cadre, had revolted against the NLFT leadership last month. According to sources, he has gained control over the outfit’s hideouts in the Sylhet, Srimangal and Maulavi Bazar districts of that country.

Jamatya was recently joined by erstwhile “NLFT political advisor” Jogendra alias Joshua Debbarma.

The incidents following the vertical split in the outfit were reported by Choba, a monthly publication of the rival All-Tripura Tiger Force, which also has camps in Bangladesh.

Official sources monitoring militant activities said another NLFT commander, Janabir Debbarma, had also defected to the rebel faction led by Jamatya.

Nayanbasi “executed” rival commander Utparna Tripura and another militant. While Nayanbasi’s wife and children are now held hostage in the NLFT’s headquarters in the Thangnan area near Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, slain Tripura’s family has been held captive by the Nayanbasi faction.

Sources said activists like Jamatya, Janabir Debbarma and Joshua Debbarma were frustrated because they had been denied “high posts”. They were also sore over forced conversions of Hindu tribals to Christianity by the outfit. “Corruption” among top-rung leaders like Mantu Koloi, Kamini Debbarma, Biswamohn Debbarma and Dhanu Koli also contributed to the widespread dissent, sources said. These leaders had also amassed huge wealth.

Jamatya rued the fact that Kamini Debbarma had been given a “high position” despite having surrendered earlier as a Tripura National Volunteers rebel. A section of NLFT leaders had executed a number of junior cadre for questioning the policies of the outfit.

Sources said Nayanbasi opposed the outfit’s decision to support the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura in the autonomous district council elections last year.

Following the split, leaders of the IPFT and its frontal organisations like the Tripura Upajati Karmachari Samity and the Tribal Students’ Federation have stopped carrying out organisational activities in interior areas of the state.

NLFT leaders were now contemplating to move to Shillong to save their lives, the sources added.

Gastro deaths

The state government has taken measures on a war footing to control gastroenteritis which claimed two lives last week and affected many in Dhalai district, official sources said today, reports our correspondent.

Chief minister Manik Sarkar reviewed the situation at a high-level meeting yesterday and asked the officials to take necessary steps to control the disease.

The state government, the officials said here, has also initiated measures to prevent the waterborne disease from spreading in other parts of the state.

Two special medical teams had been asked to visit the affected parts of the district.

Information minister Jitendra Chowdhury, accompanied by medical teams and officials, is scheduled to visit Dhalai district tomorrow for an on-the-spot study, the sources added.

There is an acute shortage of food and drinking water due to drought situation prevailing in the hilly and tribal-dominated areas of the state, the sources said.


Imphal, March 31: 
Uncertainty prevails over the extension of unilateral ceasefire with militant outfits in Manipur for another month as Union home minister L.K. Advani has expressed his reservations on the issue.

A final decision is likely only after chief minister Radhabinod Koijam returns from New Delhi.

The state Cabinet had endorsed the decision to extend the unilateral ceasefire for another month taken by an all political parties meeting chaired by Koijam on March 28. It had decided to extend the ceasefire after consulting the Centre.

Sources said Advani told Koijam yesterday that he was not happy with the insurgents’ response to the state government’s truce offer.

He said the ceasefire would be futile as there was no positive response from the insurgents. The chief minister had gone to New Delhi to discuss the matter with the central leaders.

The problem at present is that the monthlong unilateral ceasefire, which began on March 1, expired today and the government has not issued any extension orders despite the decision taken at the all-party meet and the Cabinet. It was also not clear whether the security forces would resume their counter-insurgency operations from tomorrow.

Official sources said the change in the attitude of the Koijam-led People’s Front government followed the reservation expressed by Advani on the extension of ceasefire. The government also could not convince the Centre on the extension of ceasefire as four major insurgent outfits have rejected the truce offer.

These outfits are the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), the Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF), the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (Prepak), and the Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup.

Talking to The Telegraph today, state law minister O. Joy Singh said the final decision on the extension of ceasefire would be taken by the state Cabinet after Koijam’s return.

Joy Singh, who is in charge in Koijam’s absence, denied reports of the home ministry objecting to the Cabinet’s decision. He said Advani had told the chief minister that the ceasefire would have no meaning if there was no response from the insurgents.

Joy Singh discussed the matter with Koijam over phone this morning. He said the Cabinet had decided on extending the ceasefire only after consulting the Centre.

He said the final outcome of the discussion between the chief minister and central leaders would be known after Koijam’s return.

The state police and other security forces are yet to receive a final order from the government over the ceasefire. Joy Singh held a meeting with the state chief secretary over the issue.

New advocate-general

Ashok Potsangbam, a senior advocate, is set to become the new advocate-general of the People’s Front government. The government has forwarded his name to the Raj Bhavan.

Potsangbam had earlier held the post during the tenure of Rishang Keishing. He is likely to assume charge on Monday.

Wage meet: The crucial third round of wage negotiations between the Consultative Committee of the Plantations’ Associations and the Intuc-affiliated Cachar Cha Shramik Union to revise the package of daily-rated salaries of tea workers in Cachar tea region could not take place today, adding to the stalemate in re-fixing of wages, reports our Silchar correspondent.

Both the organisations had sought time before they could sit together.

An Indian Tea Association source today said the workers’ union should first scale down their wage demands before any fruitful negotiations can take place.


Guwahati, March 31: 
Kamrup district in central Assam has been identified for the implementation of the district rural industries project (Drip) by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development.

The district is the only one from the Northeast (among 20 others in rest of the country) to be identified for the Drip project.

The modalities of the project were discussed at a recent meeting held at the North Eastern Institute of Bank Management in the city.

The programme was launched by state joint secretary (industries) H.K. Sarmah.

Kamrup deputy commissioner D.N. Saikia, senior government officials, representatives from corporations, banks and training establishments were among those who attended the meeting.

Officials said the five-year project would result in significant increase in rural employment opportunities in Kamrup.

“A wide array of vocational choices would be available to the people as a result of the project,” an official said.

Credit inflow to the rural areas has been a major hurdle for setting up enterprises. “The project will help in increasing the credit flow with complimentary promotional support in the district,” he added.

It will also concentrate on developing entrepreneurship and creating new types of entrepreneurs.

“Promotion of entrepreneurship has been accorded topmost priority in the region by all agencies and the project will play a crucial role in this regard,” the official said.

The project lays emphasis on honing the marketing skills of upcoming entrepreneurs. According to officials, lack of marketing skills had led to the failure of many units in the state.

The project envisages technology upgradation and advanced technical skills to the entrepreneurs for turning their ventures into profit-spinning enterprises.

The project would also sponsor research studies on industrialisation of the district, officials added.


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