CM trains Bill gun on tuition menace
Mamata tightens grip on Trinamul with democracy bind
Bangla, BSF in bodybag bout
Ulfa ‘sergeant’ held in Siliguri
Subhas toasts Osama, Buddha trashes terror
IIT travels to districts
Cong chooses middle path on Tada clone
29 militants shot dead
India post-Taliban pitch in London
Lone-ranger Delhi lines up WTO face-saver

Purulia, Nov. 11: 
In his first step towards reforming the education sector, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today announced that his government would introduce a Bill to ban private tuition by school teachers.

Addressing a rally organised by the CPM-controlled All-Bengal Teachers’ Association as part of its state conference, Bhattacharjee said teachers must spend their time and energy inside classrooms only in order to shape responsible citizens of the future.

“The government is determined to put a fullstop to private tuition by teachers of government schools and those aided by it. They must be accountable to their students. We shall not tolerate any teacher taking money for his or her services outside the classroom,” he said.

“We are introducing a Bill banning private tuition by school teachers. But we don’t think that it will be possible only by bringing in a law. The teachers will also have to take it seriously,” Bhattacharjee added.

Bhattacharjee urged teachers to understand the problem and follow their conscience. “Forget the system of the past and rise to the needs of the present. A student coming to school from a poor family has to acquire knowledge from his teachers and the school only. He can’t afford private tuition like some of his classmates. This poor student also has the right to learn.”

Bhattacharjee said the government plans to introduce vocational courses in secondary and higher secondary schools to provide better job opportunities for students.

The chief minister took the opportunity to come down heavily on the BJP-led government in Delhi. He said the Centre, at the instance of the RSS, was out to “saffronise” the education system in the country.

“They are distorting history and trying to give a wrong interpretation of our freedom movement. By attempting to introduce subjects like astrology, they are trying to take us back in time. We will resist it at any cost,” he added.

School education minister Kanti Biswas, who attended the rally, said a new code of conduct for teachers would come into effect from the next academic session.


Calcutta, Nov. 11: 
Mamata Banerjee was today elected chairperson of the All-India Trinamul Congress for four years.

“My priority is to revamp the organisation down to the grassroots so that we can fight the CPM tooth and nail,” Mamata said after the 110-member electoral college, consisting of MPs, MLAs, the mayor, mayor-in-council members and some councillors elected her unopposed. She was also given the power to nominate a 19-member working committee to assist her. Ten of them were elected earlier, while the rest were nominated.

Asked if the absence of any other contestant indicated a lack of democracy, she said: “There is nothing wrong if party workers across the state and outside choose me overwhelmingly as chairperson. Rather, this proves that we believe in democracy.”

Trinamul rebel Ajit Panja’s followers called the poll a “farce”. Panja was unavailable for comment.


Siliguri, Nov. 11: 
Indian and Bangladeshi border guards rushed to cover their tracks in the killing of a girl escaping to Bengal amid reports of fresh firing at the border in Cooch Behar district.

Bangladesh Rifles today refused to respond to Border Security Force requests for a flag meeting over Friday’s incident in which a BSF patrol fired on a group of alleged “intruders” near the border in Uttar Dinajpur. Twelve-year-old Daya Rani Khatri was killed and her 15-year-old brother, Shanto, was hit in the stomach.

The five-member Khatri family was fleeing to India with two Hindu families when the BSF intervened. Apart from the siblings, the rest of the group is untraced.

Caught in a confusion over the firing that has sparked tension in the area, the BSF is desperately trying to hand over Daya’s body to the Bangladeshi authorities. “Despite our repeated overtures for a flag meeting in Haripur, the BDR has not responded. We want to hand over the body of the slain girl to Bangladeshi authorities as is the norm when an intruder is killed,” said a senior BSF official.

Even as a debate raged over whether the fleeing Bangladeshis were “infiltrators” or “refugees”, reports from Kororal under Dinhata subdivision of Cooch Behar said the BSF early this morning fired two rounds on a group of alleged cross-border smugglers. But locals said they were Hindus trying to enter the country. “No one was killed and we recovered 60 readymade shirts left behind by the smugglers,” said the local BSF commander.

He refused to comment on Friday night’s incident and was unwilling to confirm the firing at Cooch Behar this morning. “We have no comments to make on the incident since BSF inspector-general S.B. Kakoti is away in Delhi.”

The BSF filed an FIR with the Raigunj police yesterday, saying they had fired on a gang of alleged Bangladeshi cattle-rustlers and recovered weapons from the spot where Daya’s body was found.

Uttar Dinajpur district magistrate Ariz Aftab and police superintendent Akhil Roy expressed displeasure over the firing after a survey. Aftab is expected to submit a report tomorrow.


Siliguri, Nov. 11: 
A United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) militant was arrested today from a private nursing home in Siliguri where he was undergoing treatment for a bullet injury.

Police swung into action after the clinic in Khalpara informed them last night that a person with an old bullet injury was seeking treatment. Ismail Mondal alias Amin Hassan Mondal, admitted as Rakesh Das, had claimed that he fell off his motorbike.

Additional superintendent of police, Siliguri, Kaliappan Jayaraman said: “The nursing home authorities became suspicious of Mondal’s claims and informed the police. Mondal admitted he was an Ulfa ‘sergeant’ in charge of a 30-member platoon that operates around Bilashipara in Dhubri district of ssam.”

An Assam police team arrived this afternoon and escorted Mondal to the Guwahati medical college hospital for further treatment. Mondal is wanted for several killings in Dhubri.

The Siliguri police had been asked by their counterparts in Dhubri to be on the lookout for some Ulfa militants wounded in an encounter on October 26. The rebels had ambushed an Assam police convoy, killing four personnel. Several militants had been injured in the shootout.

Mondal claimed he was injured when an AK-47 went off accidentally. “I was brought by a Ulfa comrade for treatment in Siliguri as we can get treated here in the nursing homes and slip out without any trouble.”

Mondal said he was a 1991 batch cadre of the Ulfa based at the outfit’s Deothang zonal command in south-central Bhutan.

Palace collapse

A portion of the 200-year-old Mulazore Palace at Bhatpara in North 24-Parganas collapsed tonight, trapping at least 100 people of the adjacent slum under the debris. The fire brigade was engaged in rescue. There was no news of any casualty, says a staff reporter.    

Behrampore, Nov. 11: 
Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, who has often embarrassed the CPM by putting his foot in the mouth, today made yet another public confession that may send his party bosses scurrying on a damage-control mission.

Citu, the CPM’s labour wing, may have nothing to do with terror mastermind Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the September-11 strikes, but that did not stop Chakraborty from choosing a Citu forum to air his admiration for the man who now heads the United States’ hate-list. “We grew up on the slogan, Pentagon-e kaman dago (Strike at the Pentagon),” Chakarborty said, referring to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. “Why should we not rejoice when someone has gathered the courage to translate our slogan into action?” he asked.

But a few hundred kilometres away and around the same time Chakraborty was lionising the attacks and the brain behind them, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee struck a very different note. Addressing the same issue at a party forum in Purulia, he said the terrorist attacks could not but be condemned. “Terrorism has no place in politics,” he added.

Chakraborty’s statement — almost a confession in front of thousands of listeners — came amidst more mundane issues like the CPM’s achievements and failures and took the crowd, gathered here for Citu’s fourth Murshidabad district conference, by surprise. “I was very happy when I heard of the crashes on the WTC and the Pentagon. I have had no occasion to undergo any change of heart since then,” the minister, who’s known to wear his heart on the sleeve, said.

Chakraborty justified his admiration and support for the terror strikes ideologically. All of those on the dais today grew up on a heady diet of anti-Americanism, he reminded the other leaders. “How can we not feel happy when our dreams have come true?” he asked.

Though Bhattacharjee — who had voiced the same anti-US slogans in the feisty 1960s — differed with Chakraborty now and said it was no more than a mere slogan, both agreed that the US had it coming. “Who are the Taliban?” the chief minister asked the Purulia audience and went on to answer the question. “They are the same people the US helped while trying to overthrow the Communist regime in Afghanistan.”

Chakraborty, as he is wont to do, went a step further. Bringing a Bengali adage — snake-charmers die of snake bites — into use, he compared the US to the proverbial snake-charmer and bin Laden to the snake. “Who created bin Laden?” he asked. Though terrorism could not be the solution to any problem, the terror attacks had brought him solace, the minister said. That bin Laden had “slapped the US very hard” was his source of “shanti”, he explained.

Chakraborty’s statement, however, could well rob the party of its peace of mind.


Calcutta, Nov. 11: 
Professional courses are no longer limited to Calcutta. IIT-Kharagpur, has collaborated with the West Bengal Power Development Corporation Limited (WBPDCL) to set up institutes in the districts that will teach courses like fashion technology, interior designing and mass communication.

Classes will be held at engineering colleges and the WBPDCL has agreed to provide the necessary infrastructure, IIT sources said. A private engineering college at Suri in Birbhum has been selected for launching the courses.

A three-day workshop will be organised by IIT-Kharagpur and the WBPDCL at Suri between November 23 and 25 to discuss the possibilities of starting the courses. The curriculum, duration and other aspects will also be discussed.

Recommendations from members attending the workshop will be given to the state government and the All-India Council of Technical Education.

At present, most upcoming institutes — run by government agencies or private bodies — are in Calcutta. A recent survey by the curriculum development cell of IIT-Kharagpur, however, showed there is a great demand for such courses among students in rural areas.

“The institutions in Calcutta have limited number of seats and even if students from the districts manage to get berths, they cannot stay in the city as boarding charges in private hostels are quite high,” an IIT official said.

V.V.S. Satyamurthi, dean, continuing education, IIT-Kharagpur, said the survey also revealed that many students could not be accommodated in the engineering colleges due to lack of seats.

The study showed that even though a good number of students failed to qualify the joint-entrance exam, they deserved to be given opportunities for availing education with good job prospects.

“Our primary objective is to decentralise and provide opportunities for professional education in the districts as much as possible so that as many number of students as possible are able to study job-oriented courses,” Satyamurthi said.

IIT officials said 30 members, including vice-chancellors of various universities in the districts, principals of colleges and academicians will attend the workshop at Suri.


New Delhi, Nov. 11: 
Taking a leaf out of Narasimha Rao’s survival book, Sonia Gandhi is planning to follow a “middle path” on major economic, international and political issues.

The Congress chief is now willing to extend an olive branch to Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee on the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance if his government comes forward with some amendments.

The rethink on the terror Ordinance comes in the wake of the reluctance of Congress-led governments in Maharashtra and Karnataka to drop the Tada-clone-like features in the state terror laws.

The Maharashtra government said the Act against organised crime was crucial for the arrest of the likes of film producer Bharat Shah, accused of a nexus with the underworld, and associates of don Dawood Ibrahim.

The Congress is adding final touches to its parliamentary strategy based on two principles. Its priority is to thrash out Opposition unity and act as a “constructive Opposition” in the Lok Sabha. The choice of Shivraj Patil as the new party deputy leader in Parliament is an indication that Sonia wants to restore a “functional relationship” with the Vajpayee regime and is willing to consider the passage of the controversial Ordinance if the government agrees to move certain amendments.

Congress leaders said they have examined the terror Ordinance and found it wanting in many areas. “We want the government to correct certain lacunae and we will consider it,” a Congress functionary said.

The party leadership has also taken a “principled stand” not to alter the existing Acts in Maharashtra and Karnataka. The feedback from the state governments is that the Ordinance should not be compared with state laws.

First, the Acts have come into force after debates and discussions in the Assembly. Second, they are aimed at particular sections of criminals and, so far, there have been no complaints of misuse.

In the month-long winter session of Parliament beginning November 19, Sonia wants party MPs to force as many discussions and debates as possible on the global and internal security scenario, the WTO, Ayodhya and saffronisation instead of staging walkouts and disrupting proceedings.

The Congress is keeping a close tab on the WTO deliberations in Doha. The party plans to restrict its criticism of the government on the issue as its leaders privately acknowledge Murasoli Maran’s success in keeping national interests high on the agenda and succeeding in getting support from several developing countries.

In the overall context of economic reforms, the Congress has decided to not oppose them per se. It wants to confine its criticism to distress sales of public sector units and lack of transparency.

Sonia is also unwilling to take a lead in holding a pre-session meet with other Opposition parties as the Left and the Samajwadi Party had “boycotted” the one before the monsoon session.

The difficult task of striking Opposition unity and thrashing out floor coordination has been left to Patil. He will be attending all business advisory committee meetings with chief whip Priya Ranjan Das Munshi.

The party today criticised foreign minister Jaswant Singh, asking him to restrain from speaking “too much”.

Natwar wondered how the government could describe the US as a “natural ally”. “The phrase natural ally could and should have been avoided as such a term gave an impression that India was no longer a non-aligned country,” he said.


Srinagar, Nov. 11: 
In stepped-up violence across Jammu and Kashmir today, 29 militants and two armymen were among 33 persons killed, according to the police.

Security forces gunned down 25 militants in four encounters in Poonch district in Jammu.

A police spokesman in Srinagar said six militants died in a firing exchange at Janrola Bandi Kama Khan village in Mandi sector of Poonch. In the nearby Mandi Jalian village, five militants died in an encounter. The gunbattle erupted after security forces mounted operations in the two villages.

Six militants and two army soldiers died in another encounter in Mendhar, also in Poonch. An army major was seriously injured.

Eight militants were killed in two more encounters in Poonch.

Security forces shot deadtwo militants in Bharat forest in Doda. Police said the army killed two more militants in Kupwara.

The south Kashmir town of Tral remained tense following a blaze in which 54 shops were razed. The fire erupted after militants ambushed security personnel, killing two members of the Special Operations Group.


London, Nov. 11: 
Pakistan should be prevented from creating a “Taliban Mark II” in Afghanistan, Indian high commissioner to Britain Nareshwar Dayal said today.

Speaking on the eve of the first visit to Britain by Atal Bihari Vajpayee as Prime Minister, Dayal said in an exclusive interview that India held Pakistan responsible for much of the terrorism that the US and Britain were now having to confront.

“The genesis for many things is Pakistan, for Taliban without Pakistan means nothing,” said Dayal. “It has been created by Pakistan. The Taliban and al Qaida are indistinguishable. We have been hoping for many years that Pakistan will abandon its sponsorship of terrorism.”

Discussions on the post-Taliban scenario are to be held in Delhi between defence minister George Fernandes and British defence secretary Geoff Hoon, who announced today in a television interview with Sir David Frost that he would leave for India on Monday.

Turning to specifics, Dayal said a “linkage has been established” between the hijacking two years ago of an Indian Airlines aircraft, which was flying from Kathmandu to Delhi and ended up in Kandahar, and the September 11 tragedy. The hijackers, who slit the throat of a passenger, were allowed by the Taliban to disappear into Pakistan after they had secured the release of a number of Pakistani militants imprisoned in India.

As far as India was concerned, said Dayal, “there can be no such person as a moderate Taliban”. Vajpayee would explain to Tony Blair in their talks tomorrow at 10 Downing Street how “Pakistan has almost been imposing a government (in Afghanistan), hence the rise of the Taliban which did not exist earlier. Pakistan should not be allowed to have a government which is aided, abetted and supported by it. We feel the Taliban does not have a role in a future broad-based, multi-ethnic government”.

India had thrown its full support behind the “legitimate government” of President Rabbani and his Northern Alliance. “India is intimately involved with matters Afghan.”

Acknowledging that some people in India wanted Vajpayee to follow Bush’s example and strike at countries which harboured terrorism, Dayal said: “We reserve the right to take whatever action we need to defend ourselves. The ground reality has shown very clearly that Pakistan has been aiding and abetting terrorist activity. It has provided a safe haven. It has assisted in cross-border terrorism. These acts of terrorism have continued even after September 11.”

India, with 140 million Muslims, was, after Indonesia, “the biggest Muslim country in the world. We have said from the very beginning this cannot be a fight against any religion. There have been very few Muslim protests at the national level in India.”


New Delhi, Nov. 11: 
Is the Indian side at the global trade talks winning or losing? A difficult question to answer, even for those who are in the thick of things at Doha.

Top policy-makers watching the ebb and flow of diplomacy in the Arab city feel the western powers will succeed in their efforts to get most nations to agree to a new round now, or at the worst, in the next round. And India will continue with its stand — a lone nation against a juggernaut.

If Tanzania had not dropped a bombshell by standing up against the US-European Union trade crusade, by now it would have been a cakewalk for the West. India and Egypt, the sole proponents of a permanent hardline stance, would have then been out on a limb.

Pakistan, India’s long-time supporter on the WTO agenda, was probably bought out when the European Union (EU) offered it a no-strings-attached duty-free export of textiles and a 15 per cent hike in its quota.

However, in a bid to avoid a red face before other developing nations, who feel, even if they do not always express, angst over the way western powers are arm-twisting them to support their agenda, the Pakistanis will pay lip sympathy to the hardline view for some time.

Malaysia, the other player on whom the Indians are banking, is willing to offer support though limited. Like India and Egypt, Malaysia will not mind a new round of trade talks but is against bringing in investment, environment and other issues into it.

Delhi knows in the end it will have to bend and officials have already put together face-saving formulae which they hope will let the BJP government off the hook.

Before accepting a new round with its fresh thinking on investment, competition and trade in farm produce, India will for one insist on creating a food safety net, which will allow it to raise tariff on farm produce if its foodgrain output falls below the minimum requirements of food security.

Similarly, before agreeing to any talks on services, India will insist on further lifting of restrictions on the movement of professionals. The Indian side will also try to delay actual talks on investment and competition policies.

Delhi will, however, insist that the issues from the previous rounds like freeing textile trade from quotas and multiple layers of duties imposed by the West and a consensus policy on anti-dumping duties be also settled promptly. India may even insist on shortening the timetable for opening up the textile trade.

Tacitly, India is providing limited support to the US line on farm-sector trade negotiations by favouring a scale-down of agriculture subsidies.

Taiwan enters WTO

The WTO today approved Taiwan’s entry, a day after welcoming China into the global trade club.

Beijing has insisted Taiwan could enter only after China since it considers the island part of its territory. Taiwan’s accession will increase trade ties with rival China.


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