Trendsetter court ruling on school
CPM plans code gag for partners
Query block irks Trinamul
Fairy-tale wedding in home
Bangla rustlers kill two
Cong leader held in murder case
Bandh call banks on past success
Lines lie dead at telephone hub
Stricter rein on illegal autos from January 2002
Inquiry into Board order

 
 
TRENDSETTER COURT RULING ON SCHOOL 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Dec. 11: 
Calcutta High Court on Tuesday observed that as education is a fundamental right, the state government should provide sufficient funds for construction of schools and other facilities for students.

The judgment directed the state secondary education board to recognise the Ajagarpara Junior High School in Murshidabad within three weeks and to provide adequate funds to the school, located in the Suti police station area, after four weeks of recognition.

According to law experts, Tuesday’s judgment will set a precedent, paving the way for many other schools to claim recognition.

“School buildings, library provisions, common rooms and sufficient reserve funds of a school should be provided by the state government,” Justice Pratap Roy held in his four-page judgement. He added that sufficient funds should be sanctioned for this purpose.

The Ajagarpara school, established 15 years ago, had challenged the board’s decision to reject its application for recognition on the ground that the school was established in violation of the board’s rules. The board said the school does not have enough land, the classrooms are small and it does not have a library. It added that there is no common room for girls and no proper sanitary arrangement.

According to the board, the reserve fund of the school is inadequate and there is no subsidiary fund. It added that there is a high school within 3 km of the petitioner school.

“Education is fundamental right in terms of a verdict by the Constitution bench of Supreme Court and the state has the constitutional responsibility to set up schools as per the need of students… Since for the last 15 years the school is functioning, it is fit for recognition,” the judge observed.

Roy said the board and the recognition committee had not rejected the plea of the school on the ground that there was no need of a school or there was no student in the school. “So, the court is of the view the recognition ought to have been granted.”

The verdict will put the state government in a dilemma as the education department had recently said no individual or organisation would be allowed to run a school without the prior permission of the education ministry.

The department had also decided not to recognise private schools unless they had concrete buildings, adequate classrooms, playgrounds, libraries, cash funds, and common rooms.

   

 
 
CPM PLANS CODE GAG FOR PARTNERS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 11: 
Perturbed over a number of Left Front ministers making public statements about the functioning of the sixth Left Front government, Front chairman Biman Bose today proposed the introduction of a code of conduct for them.

By introducing the code, “big brother” CPM intends to prevent ministers belonging to Front partners from making statements in the media. The party leadership had issued a whip to its ministers urging them not to divulge to the media any plan of the government that was under consideration of both the government and Front. However, the party is now facing a new problem as many ministers belonging to Front partners are making statements on some issues.

Bose proposed the introduction of the code of conduct during today’s Left Front meeting and urged the leaders to convince the ministers to adhere to the code.

“I know the media often tries to force the ministers to speak. But I think ministers should refrain from making unnecessary comments to the media,” a visibly angry Bose told newspersons at the CPM headquarters on Alimuddin Street after the meeting.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and CPI leader Nandagopal Bhattacharjee were present at today’s meeting when Bose proposed the introduction of the code. Most Front constituents have agreed in principle to Bose’s proposal, according to sources.

The CPM is reportedly unhappy with the CPI and the RSP over their open criticism of the move to introduce an Act to combat organised crime. The remarks of Forward Bloc minister Kamal Guha also may have prompted the proposal of the code of conduct.

Bose said if a minister had any query about any government decision, he should take up the issue with the Left Front.

   

 
 
QUERY BLOCK IRKS TRINAMUL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 11: 
The Trinamul Congress and Congress staged a walkout in the Assembly after Speaker Hasim Abdul Halim held over a question posed by Trinamul’s Sobhandeb Chatterjee to the labour minister Mohammad Amin despite the minister being present in the House.

Angry Trinamul Congress MLAs, supported by the Congress, staged a walkout protesting against Halim’s decision to hold over a question about the steps taken to realise the provident fund due to jute mill workers. Opposition MLAs also shouted slogans in the Assembly lobby. The MLAs, however, soon rejoined the Assembly.

Trinamul MLA Sougata Roy later said they were stunned by the Speaker’s decision to hold Chatterjee’s question though Amin was present in the House during question hour.

Replying to another question, Amin said the state government had no plan to give bonus to jute mill workers. “This year, jute mill workers in the state have not received puja bonus. But we are helpless in this regard. The Payment of Bonus Act is a Central law and any mill worker whose monthly salary is more than Rs 3,500 is not entitled to receive bonus. In Bengal, the majority of mill workers receive more than Rs 3,500 as monthly salary and mill owners are not ready to give them bonus,” Amin said.

Amin informed the Assembly that the Union labour minister had clarified that the Centre had no immediate plan to amend the Act, though the state government had demanded it in the interest of the jute mill workers. The minister said he will meet the jute mill owners tomorrow and ask them to give bonus to mill workers.

“Our government feels that jute workers should get the bonus. Jute mill owners are also making profits, but none of them are willing to pay the bonus. The state government is helpless in this regard and can’t force the mill owners to pay the bonus,” Amin said.

   

 
 
FAIRY-TALE WEDDING IN HOME 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Asansol, Dec. 11: 
It was a day with a difference at the home, a place where people usually go when they are left with no other option.

The institution, home to people who don’t have too many reasons to celebrate life, swung into celebration mode today as two veteran inmates — Seema and Balaram — tied the knot.

Seema is a polio victim. Her inability to walk clouded her desire to lead a normal life when she came here 14 years ago. Balaram joined the home six years ago with so severe a case of tuberculosis that most doctors believed he would not survive. But it was a fairy-tale romance — followed by a similarly fairy-tale wedding.

Usually a gloomy place, the home — run by the Christian Charity Mission in Asansol since 1986 — was suitably decked up for the occasion. There were flowers and lights to decorate the campus, there was good food, and there was music — accompanied by dance — as the inmates forgot their sorrows for a day.

Religious boundaries, too, melted in the joyous union. Fifteen inmates accompanied the bride and groom in their journey from the Christian institution to a temple, where the marriage was conducted according to Hindu rites.

“With Balaram, Seema seems to have found happiness in life,” chirped Malati Ray, another polio victim, who was the bride’s ‘best man’.

Twenty-five-year-old Seema Thakur lost her leg to polio and was thrown out of home. She made herself at home at the mission with her strong sense of responsibility and caring, home officials said.

Balaram Choudhury (30) of Jamtara was orpahned in childhood and came to the home with acute tuberculosis. He has now recovered and is the wardmaster of the tuberculosis ward.

The couple fell in love a year ago. “No one pressed me to marry her. I felt that this active, hard-working girl could be my life partner,” said Balaram.

Like in Bollywood happy-endings, Seema’s family now has come around to help her. They have gifted her some household goods and clothes.

   

 
 
BANGLA RUSTLERS KILL TWO 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Malda, Dec. 11: 
Two Indians were killed and two severely injured by miscreants from Bangladesh in Habibpur police station area in Malda district early this morning.

According to district superintendent of police Pankaj Dutta, a gang of at least 12 miscreants crossed over to West Bengal from Bangladesh to steal cows.

When they were challenged by local villagers, the raiders attacked them with sharp-edged weapons.

Lakshman Mondal (65) and Rakesh Mondal (29) died on the spot. Two others, Madan Singha and Rakshit Singha, had to be admitted to Malda hospital.

Dutta, however, said the miscreants managed to cross back into Bangladesh immediately after the incident.

The deceased and the injured were agricultural labourers who were guarding the field after harvesting.

The police suspect that some local people might have been involved in the incident. No arrestes have been made so far.

   

 
 
CONG LEADER HELD IN MURDER CASE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Daulatabad (Murshidabad), Dec. 11: 
Congress leader and Gurudaspur gram panchayat pradhan Ibrahim Sheikh was arrested here this morning in connection with last night’s murder of CPM activist Rezwan Sheikh.

Rezwan, a member of the Behrampore zonal committee, was shot near the CPM office. He died at the Behrampore general hospital soon after admission.

CPM leaders said the failure of police to take action against “Congress-backed anti-socials” resulted in Rezwan’s death.

Jasimuddin Sarkar, a zonal committee member and a karmadhyakshya of the zilla parishad, said Rezwan had sought police protection. “But instead of arresting the culprits, the officer-in-charge of Daulatabad police station started hobnobbing with them,” he added.

Congress leaders, however, blamed Rezwan’s death on the internal rivalry of the CPM. Aritra Majumdar, a district Congress leader, said Ibrahim has been falsely implicated in the case. “Once, Adhir Chowdhury, too, had been falsely implicated in a similar case,” he asserted.

   

 
 
BANDH CALL BANKS ON PAST SUCCESS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 11: 
The Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI), known for its aggressive opposition to the CPM, has called a 24-hour state bandh for January 10.

SUCI state secretary Probhas Ghosh said today his party had decided on the statewide bandh to articulate what he termed growing unhappiness at the sharp increase in charges at state run-hospitals, fees in educational institutions and electricity tariff.

In calling what may prove to be 2002’s first bandh in Bengal, the SUCI was clearly hoping to recapture the success it tasted by organising 1998’s first strike on a February day to demand restoration of English at the primary level. The success in 1998, however, was also partly due to the almost open support it had received from the Trinamul Congress and the state unit of the Congress.

At a news conference, Ghosh said his party hoped grassroot workers of the CPM and its allies in the Front would support the strike call “because all right-thinking citizens are concerned about what is happening today. The poor no longer feel their interests will be protected by this government.” However, emergency services will be exempted from the bandh, he added.

“Three years ago we had given a call for a Bangla bandh demanding reintroduction of English at the primary level and it was a success. Two years later, on September 3, we called a bandh in protest against the government’s decision to increase bus fares. That, too, was successful. This time also, the people will support us because the government is hurting them economically,” Ghosh said.

   

 
 
LINES LIE DEAD AT TELEPHONE HUB 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 11: 
The next time you want to use the telephone at a public call office, make sure it’s not inside any building that has a Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd office.

Most of the STD/ISD booths at the two most important BSNL buildings in the city — Telephone Bhavan and the Tiretta Bazaar office — are out of order.

Getting things back to order will be difficult and time-consuming, say officials. Nothing can be done till they are “officially informed”, they add, explaining that “every government action must necessarily be followed by a proper procedure”.

Telephone Bhavan is the building that houses the offices of most of the Calcutta Telephones top brass, including those of the chief general manager and the general manager (customer services).

Six of the seven booths off the eastern gate of the building were out of order till Tuesday. Doors to two of the booths have been shut for quite some time, say officials, adding that the others have gone “dead” recently.

The complex at Tiretta Bazaar, also housing the office of a general manager (new services), has six cubicles with phones near the entrance. Only two were working till Tuesday; of the other four, the instruments themselves were missing.

The coin-box sets frequently break down because of the number of people using them, says Calcutta Telephones area manager (city) A.K. Das. “I am not aware of the breakdown but, now that I have been told, I will inquire into the matter and ensure that things are set right,” he assured Metro.

   

 
 
STRICTER REIN ON ILLEGAL AUTOS FROM JANUARY 2002 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 11: 
The state transport department, with the help of the city police, has taken several steps to streamline the movement of both public and private vehicles. The checks will be implemented from the new calendar year.

In its initial stage, unauthorised autorickshaw-owners will be asked to withdraw their vehicles from the streets by December 18. According to deputy commissioner (traffic) M.K. Singh, 25,000 autos ply on city roads without a valid permit. These autos cause a serious traffic jam during peak hours. Only about 6,000 autos that ply in the city have valid permits.

The transport department has decided to implement its new set of traffic rules from January 1, 2002. The rules say that no buses from the districts will be allowed to cross the city’s boundary, which will be fixed soon. Passengers coming in from Howrah, North 24-Parganas and South 24-Parganas will have to get off at the city boundaries and board separate buses, which will ply in the city proper.

The rules specify that no category of buses (private, state or mini) will be allowed to stop anywhere except for official bus stops to pick up passengers. Any violation will entail a heavy fine.

The distance between bus stops will be increased. These rules, experts feel, will not only regulate traffic movement but also help pull down pollution levels.

The government also plans to scrap the existing fleet of buses now plying in the city, and put on road a large number of executive, special and private luxury buses. Two exclusive arterial roads, connecting north and south Calcutta, will be kept aside during office hours exclusively for buses and minibuses.

Transport department sources say at least 200 executive buses from different corners of the city will be operated from the new year.

The police say a section of auto-owners blatantly flout traffic rules. “If unauthorised autos can be removed from the road, public vehicles can ply freely and commuters will benefit,” they say.

   

 
 
INQUIRY INTO BOARD ORDER 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 11: 
The West Bengal Board of Secondary Education announced on Tuesday that it would soon order an inquiry into how an “incomplete and wrongly framed” circular had reached the schools in Calcutta and elsewhere in Bengal, causing “confusion” among teachers and pupils.

The circular has asked the institutions to furnish details of the students who would write the Madhyamik 2002 examinations. “We are feeling bad about it,” said board secretary Anup Kumar Pal, who is being flooded with petitions from the schools to take corrective steps.

Heads of institutions and teachers say the circular is confusing, as it implies that students who have failed in the Class IX or Class X selection tests this year will be allowed to sit for next year’s Madhyamik examinations. Most teachers say they will not be able to send the details about the students until the board clarifies its statement.

“We cannot expect this sort of a mistake in a circular sent by the board,” said a teacher of a central Calcutta school. Teachers’ associations have also expressed concern over the confusion. “We shall take up the matter with the state school education minister,” opined Ratan Laskar, a leader of Secondary School Teachers’ and Employees’ Association.

   
 

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