Penalty waiver for landlords
Exams to be rescheduled for elections
A song, at most, for Clinton
In step with power, dynamism and passion
Making the judiciary gender sensitive
Burden tag riles retired varsity employees
Trouble on Madhabi turf
Left readies for pullout
MSCP factions trade charges
Tripura rebels ban kirtan instruments

Calcutta, April 1: 
With Assembly polls round the corner, the government has cleared mayor Subrata Mukherjee’s proposal to give Calcuttans the one-time opportunity to clear their outstanding building tax without paying interest and penalty.

After procrastinating for six months, finance minister Asim Dasgupta finally cleared the CMC’s proposal on Friday, allowing waiver of interest on building taxes outstanding up to 1995 to more than a lakh defaultee landlords. “The scheme will be in force from April as soon as the order reaches the CMC and will remain valid for a period of six months from the date of commencement,” said Mukherjee.

This is the first time that defaultee landlords are getting this opportunity. Thanks to the scheme, the CMC is expected to earn extra revenue between Rs 100 and 150 crore. Chief of municipal finance and accounts Shankar Datta said more than Rs 200 crore of house tax remained outstanding to the CMC. If 50 per cent house-owners could avail themselves of this opportunity, the CMC’s income would be up Rs 100 crore.

Fourteen years ago, then mayor Kamal Bose had taken a similar initiative but the government did not clear his proposal. Subrata Mukherjee made the proposal to tide over the current financial crisis in the CMC by harnessing Rs 150 crore tax dues from 1.2 lakh defaultee-landlords.

The salient features are :

It will be a one-time benefit for rate-payers to wipe out dues, and under no circumstances will the deadline be extended

Waiver may be granted to all categories of premises

Waiver will be granted only on full payment of outstanding principal amounts within the stipulated period

Defaultees in the annual valuation category of below Rs 18,000 will get the extra privilege of paying in two instalments within the deadline

Outstandings arising out of bills up to March 31, 2001, will qualify for waiver of interest and penalty

Defaulters will have to apply within two months from the date of official announcement

Payments made to the CMC before commencement of the waiver scheme in suspense account or against regular bills and outstanding demands with interest and penalty shall not come under the scheme’s purview

However, payments made on or after the commencement of the scheme, but within the period of validity of the scheme will qualify for the waiver

Rate-payers, whose cases are pending in court or tribunal, can avail of this opportunity if they choose to

CMC will take punitive action against those who fail to pay up.


Calcutta, April 1: 
Major under-graduate examinations of Calcutta University (CU), slated to be held next month, are likely to be rescheduled because of the Assembly polls on May 10. This will inconvenience more than a lakh examinees.

Ashis Kumar Banerjee, vice-chancellor, said on Sunday that he has convened an emergency meeting on Monday to take stock of the situation.

“We may have to work out a revised schedule. We will announce the fresh dates in a day or two,” he added.

University sources said all officers involved in the examination process have been asked to attend the meeting. They said colleges will be informed about the decision within this week.

The important under-graduate examinations slated to be held next month are BA, B.Sc, B.Com (three-year honours and general, Part I), BA, B.Sc, B.Com (Part II) and BA and B.Sc (Part I two-year pass and three-year honours).

Nearly a lakh examinees will sit for the exam. However, those writing Part II examinations are most concerned after Saturday’s announcement. The Part II examinations are scheduled to begin on May 3.

“We have examinations on May 7, May 11 and even on the day of vote-counting (on May 13). As the elections here will take place on May 10, there is every possibility of all three papers being put off,” said Rina Banerjee, a student of Lady Brabourne College.

A senior officer of the university’s controller of examinations department said measures were being taken to ensure that examinees were least inconvenienced.

Students appearing in the B.Com Part I examinations have appealed to the authorities not to delay the examinations any further.

The examinations, scheduled to begin on May 29, have already been delayed by two months.


Calcutta, April 1: 
He couldn’t make it during his tour as President of the United States a year ago. Nor could he accompany wife Hillary in 1998. But three months after he moved out of Oval Office, William Jefferson Clinton has decided to pay a “strictly private visit” to Calcutta.

Clinton, who will be in India from April 3 at the invitation of the American India Foundation, has long harboured the wish to visit the headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity, and the home of Mother Teresa. So, he will be flying down to Calcutta on the morning of April 7.

During the few hours he’ll spend in the city, Clinton will visit Mother House and Shishu Bhavan. He will fly back in the afternoon after lunch at Raj Bhavan with Governor Viren J. Shah. In Delhi, a dinner will be hosted by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee that night. Several city-based NGO representatives, as well as members of the American Indian Foundation, are expected to attend the lunch, Raj Bhavan sources said.

The former President is to arrive by a special plane at 10.30 am on Saturday and drive down directly to Mother House and then to Shishu Bhavan. He is expected to spend a little over an hour at both places. “He is likely to first visit Mother’s tomb before spending some time with Sister Nirmala,” said Suneeta Kumar, who has been associated with the order for years. At Shishu Bhavan, the children, mainly destitute or orphaned, will sing for the visitor, “provided it’s not their lunch time then”. No special preparations are being made at Mother House. “It is a strictly private visit,” said a senior sister of the order. “We have been officially told of Mr Clinton’s intention to visit us and we will welcome him.”

The former US President will be accompanied by some prominent members of the American India Foundation, including Victor Menezes of Citibank, Purnendu Chatterjee of TCG and Rajat Gupta of McKinsey. Clinton is a board member of the Foundation formed soon after the January 26 quake by prominent US-based Indians.


Calcutta, April 1: 
Driven by the belief that artistes are “more powerful together than fragmented”, and keen to foster “collaboration and co-operation” among the Indo-US arts fraternity, American choreographer Jonathan Hollander and his Battery Dance Company are here for their fifth tour of India.

“Every time we come to India, it’s like self-immolating, since we have never managed to break even. But then we are back, since from a purely dance point of view, no other country can match India, which has multiple classical forms and where a dancer is venerated,” smiles Jonathan, soon after landing in the city, their first stop on tour, on Sunday.

Calcutta, with its “deep level of intellectual inquiry”, and its “free thought and exploration”, draws Jonathan, who is “thrilled” to be back in the city for the third time. “I have a very poignant feeling this time though, as neither Ranjabati (Sircar) nor Manjusri (Chaki Sircar) — both extremely mature experimenters with Tagore songs — is around,” laments the slightly-built choreographer, who was “touched by Tagore as a teenager”.

Battery Dance Company had performed Seen by a River during their first visit to Calcutta in 1994, with music by Badal Roy (“the first Indian to be deeply entrenched in American jazz and Miles Davis”), and then, Songs of Tagore, a choreographed sequence of nine Tagore songs, in 1997. This time, they bring to Calcutta the “power, energy, dynamism and passion” of modern American dance with three of Jonathan’s recent productions. Zero...Two...Blue...Heaven...Seven and Mother Goose, based on poetry by Robert Creeley and Kenneth Rexroth, respectively, are set to music by Finnish jazz musician and composer Frank Carlberg, while the hugely-acclaimed Layapriya is a “haunting melange” of the Helsinki Philharmonic and Karaikudi Mani with his percussion ensemble.

Battery Dance, a team of seven dancers and three musicians representing nine nationalities, doubles as ambassadors for the US in India, establishing a cross-cultural exchange with Indian dancers and musicians. In association with Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC), it will hold Town Meetings with representatives of performing, literary and visual arts “to explore all areas of possible collaboration”.


Calcutta, April 1: 
Judges and lawyers, academicians and activists from all over the country have converged on the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS). They are here for a two-day workshop to draw up appropriate curricula for “sensitising the judiciary on issues relating to gender”.

The National Commission for Women (NCW)-commissioned consultation meet at the Salt Lake institute comes close on the heels of similar programmes conducted for the police and administrative personnel.

“Gender sensitisation in the legal process, comprising police, administration and judiciary is of paramount importance to translate the constitutional promise of gender equality into reality,” observed NCW member Purnima Advani on Sunday. “We have prepared draft curricula on this topic for police and administrative personnel, which we will present to the home ministry after consulting experts. Similarly, the draft curriculum for the judiciary to be prepared on the basis of discussions at NUJS, will be submitted to the law ministry after a review,” she explained.

To make the two-day brain storming “objective and effective”, the organisers have involved sitting and retired judges, lawyers, academicians, NGOs and women activists from all over.

They will all try to identify the various shortcomings of the existing training models for judicial officers, and discuss the issues involved in framing the appropriate syllabus, duration, reading materials, training methods, modules for different categories of judicial officers.

“Earlier, the judiciary was insensitive to women. Today, they seem to be sensitive, but are becoming biased, as they think that women are taking advantage of the law,” said lawyer-cum-activist Flavia Agnes.

“Not just criminal cases like rape and murder, women are needlessly harassed when it comes to matters of maintenance, alimony and child custody... What is needed is a change of perspective among judges.”

Justice A. Barua of Calcutta High Court blamed the “rising atrocities against women” and the “ineffectiveness of legislation like the Dowry Act” on the “lack of awareness among people and insensitivity of judiciary”. Part of the answer, he felt, lay in “sensitising judges during their training”.

On Day One of the workshop, the issues raised ranged from individual biases of judges to failure of family courts, value of housework for women to appreciation of evidence in different cases.

“The curriculum will be framed after considering all these inputs. Notes prepared by the Centre for Women and Law at NUJS, documents available with NCW and the experiment undertaken by the judiciary with the University of Warwick will also be consulted,” explained N.R. Madhava Menon, vice chancellor, NUJS.


Calcutta, April 1: 
A recent comment by the Calcutta University authorities has created a stir among 1,400 retired employees of the university, who enjoy pension benefits. University pro vice-chancellor (finance) Hiron Kumar Banerjee had observed that the 1,400 pensioners were a “heavy burden” on the university’s purse.

“Payment of pension is a liability for which we have not yet received anything from the state government. Payment at the rate of 50 per cent of the last basic pay has put us under immense pressure,” Banerjee said.

Banerjee’s observations have shocked several pensioners who are not ready to consider them a “burden” on the university.

Anil Sarkar, former general secretary of the Calcutta University Teachers’ Association (CUTA) and a pensioner, said: “The university is trying to deny the fundamental rights of retired employees who are dependent on their pension to run their families. The university’s approach towards them is unfortunate. All the 1,400 have served the university till their last day in office.”

Manindra Mohan Chakraborty, former vice-chancellor of Jadavpur University and president of the West Bengal University Pensioners’ Association, said it was mandatory for the university to provide pension to retired employees. “The university is responsible for generating funds for paying the pensioners. It is sad that the university has not tried to explore other avenues to generate revenue. It should not be solely dependent on the government for paying pensioners, as the government funds are limited,” he said.

“Jadavpur University has successfully generated funds from sources other than the government. Calcutta University, too, should utilise its resources,” Chakraborty observed.

Chancellor Viren J. Shah, who attended the Senate meeting for the first time in the history of CU, had advised the university to generate at least 10 per cent of its annual financial requirement by mobilising internal resources. Shah also criticised the university for not holding the internal audit since the mid-70s.

While presenting the university budget at the Senate on February 28, the pro vice-chancellor had also criticised the government for not upgrading the post of an accounts officer, in spite of the Syndicate’s decision a few years ago. “Despite several reminders to the government, nothing has been done till date,” Banerjee had said.

“The workload of the retirement benefit cell has increased considerably. Payment of leave salary, gratuity and pension commutation to retired employees is a tremendous pressure on our funds. The pensioners are also pressing for arrear pension. We need an accounts officer exclusively for the cell.”


Calcutta, April 1: 
Some Trinamul Congress workers were heckled in Jadavpur on Sunday, allegedly by CPM activists, sparking tension in the area. Trinamul’s candidate for the Assembly seat, Madhabi Mukherjee, lodged a complaint with Jadavpur police station.

The trouble started on Saturday night at Saha Para when a Trinamul worker, Ajit De, was slapped by a CPM worker. Ajit went back to his area and reported the incident to party members.

Then Ajit and his co-workers went to the house of local CPM councillor Amal Mitra and narrated the incident to him. When Ajit was leaving Mitra’s house with Sanjib Chatterjee and Somesh Roy, CPM workers waiting outside whipped out revolvers and threatened to kill them.

Somesh said: “We were attacked by Samar Saha and some other cadre. They threatened us with dire consequences if we dared step into the area again.”

Amal Mitra retorted: “At the time, Ajit was drunk. He was trying to foment pre-poll trouble but our workers saved the situation.”

On Sunday, when Madhabi Mukherjee visited the area, the Trinamul workers recounted the incident to her. She immediately proceeded to Jadavpur police station and met deputy superintendent of police (town) Subhankar Chatterjee and asked him to take appropriate action. Mukherjee said: “I have reported the incident as I apprehend trouble during my poll campaign.”

Chatterjee said: “I have assured her we will arrest those who create trouble.I am trying to get Samar Saha, who brandished a revolver during the argument with the Trinamul workers.”


Guwahati, April 1: 
The Left today steeled itself for a bitter parting of ways with the Asom Gana Parishad as chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta shed his pretensions and headed towards an electoral tie-up with the BJP. Veteran CPM leader Nandeswar Talukdar summed up the Left’s response to the AGP’s dalliance with saffron. “We are pulling out. There is no question of aligning with a communal party,” he told The Telegraph.

A source in the CPI confirmed the Left’s decision. “We have no option but to snap ties with the AGP,” he said. The AGP had agreed to adopt the Left’s anti-Congress and anti-BJP stance during the last meeting of the four-party ruling alliance. The alliance partners were scheduled to meet again on Wednesday to discuss poll strategy and finalise the seat-sharing arrangement.

State CPI secretary Bhogeswar Dutta said the alliance had reached the point of no return with the AGP virtually committing itself to a truck with the BJP. “The CPI considers the BJP a communal, reactionary and pro-imperialist party. Hence, it will not maintain ties with any party joining hands with the BJP,” he said.

Members of the AGP’s central executive went into a huddle tonight to discuss the new political equation. Party sources said the outcome of the meeting would be known only tomorrow.

The AGP’s general body is also assembling here tomorrow.

A source in New Delhi told The Telegraph over phone that talks were on between AGP and BJP leaders on the issue of seat-sharing. He said all other issues had been “settled”. The BJP is reported to have demanded 25 seats held by the AGP. However, the latter has agreed to leave only 18 seats to its prospective ally.

While the vibes between the AGP and the BJP’s central leadership are positive, the saffron party’s state unit is still opposed to the idea of an alliance.

Sources said BJP leaders here had expressed “displeasure” over the high command’s decision to align with the AGP. A meeting of the city unit of the BJP turned stormy when several members questioned the logic behind the high command’s move. “Grassroots-level workers of the party are campaigning against both the AGP and the Congress, while our central leadership is trying to forge an alliance with Mahanta,” one leader said.

State BJP president Rajen Gohain was the first to oppose the proposal to align with the AGP. However, the party’s central leadership, including Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Union home minister L.K. Advani, appears to have worn him down. The BJP high command is of the view that an alliance with the AGP will prevent a split in the anti-Congress votes.


Imphal, April 1: 
The two factions of the Manipur State Congress Party (MSCP) have started trading charges, though most of the legislators are undecided over which side to support.

Sources said the two factions — one led by former chief minister W. Nipamacha Singh and the other by Union minister of state for food processing Th. Chaoba Singh — are trying to establish themselves as the “real MSCP”.

Though the party has split into two camps at the organisational level, a distinctive division is yet to surface in its legislature wing. The MSCP is the single largest party in the Manipur Assembly with 31 legislators.

However, it was not clear which faction commands majority in the party legislature wing as most legislators are maintaining a “neutral” stand, a party source said. Commerce and industries minister M. Kunjo Singh, a Nipamacha loyalist, said the infighting will not affect the Radhabinod Koijam-led People’s Front government which is still supported by both factions of the MSCP.

While a case over the “real MSCP” issue is pending in the Gauhati High Court, both factions have submitted their documents to the Election Commission. Several senior party leaders said the issue now rests at the hands of the court and the commission.

Vice-president of the Nipamacha camp, G. Joykumar Sharma, recently met Election Commission officials in New Delhi to discuss the issue. While dismissing Chaoba Singh’s election as president of the other faction, Sharma told newsmen here that the commission has recognised the re-election of Nipamacha Singh as party president. However, the Chaoba Singh camp has termed Sharma’s statement as false and misleading. L. Amujao Singh, vice-president of the Chaoba Singh faction, told newsmen here today that Nipamacha Singh has already been expelled from the MSCP for anti-party activities.

Majority of the party’s original central executive committee members support Chaoba Singh, he added.

Amujao alleged that Nipamacha has violated the party’s constitution and submitted a “bogus” list of central executive members to the Election Commission. He claimed that Chaoba Singh is the “lawful” president of the MSCP.

Sources said the commission may give its decision on the MSCP issue during the May 11 byelection to the Kshetrigao Assembly constituency which was necessitated by the death of state Samata Party president Basantakumar Wangkhem.

Both MSCP factions are likely to field their candidates in the bypolls and a fight over the election symbol is inevitable, they added.

If the Election Commission decides to freeze the present MSCP symbol and allot separate ones to the two factions, a distinct division in the party is bound to surface, insiders said.

Body found: The bullet-riddled body of an youth was recovered by police from Manipur’s Thoubal district this morning, official sources said.


Agartala, April 1: 
After lying low for sometime, NLFT militants have started interfering in the traditional religious rites of the people.

The Church-backed militants have banned the use of traditional musical instruments for performing kirtans (devotional songs) by Hindu tribals.

In pamphlets distributed among the Hindu tribals, NLFT marauders warned against the use of traditional musical instruments.

The fiat has triggered panic among the Hindu tribals living in the interior areas like Borakha, Patni, Barkathal and Sonai in Sadar subdivision. Sources in the Sanatan Dharma Parishad said there are seven Hindu tribal groups, which perform kirtans with traditional musical instruments.

Over the past five years, the NLFT has been consistently attacking and killing Hindu tribals and forcing them to convert to Christianity at gunpoint. During this period, altogether 35 Hindu tribals, including leading Hindu tribal saint “Shanti Kali Maharaj” or “Shanti Kumar Tripura” and two leading Vaishnavaite leaders Tachhidas Reang and Sanjit Reang have been killed by the NLFT.

Besides, many Hindu ashrams and religious centres run by the tribals have been destroyed by the militants. Sources said even on March 26, a group of NLFT rebels raided the Hindu Jamatya tribal-dominated Bandarghat village in Amarpur subdivision and beat up six tribals for practising their traditional faith in violation of the group’s diktat.

They also abducted the subdivisional secretary of the Jamatya Hoda (community council) in Amarpur, Nilmoni Jamatya. However, they were forced to release him under public pressure.

Sources said the relentless campaign by the Jamatya Hoda Okra (head priest and community leader) Bikram Bahadur and the resistance programme organised by his followers forced the militants to lie low for sometime. But they have stepped up their activities once again.

Secretary of the Jamatya Hoda Ramapda Jamatya, however, said they would intensify their resistance against militancy.

Byelection on May 11

By-election to the Banmalipur Assembly constituency under Agartala town will be held on May 11, the Election Commission announced yesterday.

The seat fell vacant following the killing of sitting Congress MLA Madhusudan Saha on February 20.

Shortly after the poll announcement, senior Trinamul leaders Sudhir Ranjan Mazu-mder, Arun Chandra Bhowmik and Ratan Chakraborty, at a meeting here, decided to finalise its candidate with party supremo Mamata Banerjee.

Despite infighting in the party, Trinamul state convenor Ratan Chakraborty is likely to be nominated as the candidate. Chakraborty represented the constituency twice. In the first term (1988-93), he was minister in the Congress-Tripura Upajati Juba Samity coalition government, the only one with a “clean image”.

Chakraborty was denied candidature in 1998 by the party high command. The PCC and “powerful history-sheeters” backed slain Madhusudan Saha, who secured nomination. After nearly a year of political hibernation, Chakraborty joined the Trina-mul Congress. He had proved his mettle by relegating the Congress to the third position.


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