Vacancy list delays teacher jobs
ECL chalks out revival route
Facelift hope for Digha
Trains under scan for illegal arms
Spread in control, ‘plague’ report today
Parties in cut and thrust
Literacy plan for backward Bihar districts
Canara Bank robber in police net
Capital tale: sex is only a click away
Cong spots escape hatch in Priyanka pregnancy

 
 
VACANCY LIST DELAYS TEACHER JOBS 
 
 
BY TAMAL SENGUPTA
 
Calcutta, Feb. 17: 
The West Bengal School Service Commission (WBSSC) has failed to publish the result of a recruitment examination held last October as district inspectors of schools have not conveyed the number of vacancies. As a result, 3.2 lakh examinees, who were hoping to become teachers in secondary and higher secondary schools, are still waiting anxiously to find out about their fate.

The candidates who had appeared from Midnapore, Burdwan and Hooghly districts are more worried as many of them had not received admit cards when the examination was held on October 14. The examinees reportedly did not receive the admit cards on time due to postal disturbances. Angered candidates had ransacked regional offices of the commission in the three districts, protesting against its failure to despatch the admit cards on time.

The WBSSC had to conduct fresh examinations in these districts on December 29 after sending admit cards to each candidate.

The examinations were held to recruit teachers for about 15,000 secondary and higher secondary schools. A senior WBSSC official said evaluation of the candidates who took the test on October 14 was almost complete.

“We are ready to prepare the panel for recruiting teachers in the secondary and higher secondary schools. But we have no specific idea about the exact number of vacant posts in these schools. The district inspectors of schools have not given us the exact number of vacancies and we are waiting for their feedback before finalising our panel,” he said.

Commission chairman Arun Kiran Chakraborty said the result of the examination held on December 29 will be published separately. When asked what prevented them from publishing the results immediately, Chakraborty refused comment. “This is a secret matter and I can’t disclose it to anyone except the government,” he added.

The WBSSC is believed to have informed the education department of its inability to publish the results on time. The commission has specifically told the school education department of the negligence of the district inspectors of schools in conveying the exact number of vacancies.

School education minister Kanti Biswas said he has given specific instruction to his department to gather information about the exact number of vacant posts in the schools and pass it to the commission to enable them to prepare the panel for recruiting teachers.

Biswas said the process of finding out the vacant posts of teachers in both secondary and higher secondary schools was a complicated matter. “There are quotas for the scheduled castes and tribes, other backward classes and the minorities. Before finalising the list of vacant posts in a particular school, we have to carefully look into all these problems and it is a time-consuming affair. However, I have asked all the district inspectors of schools to prepare a list of vacant posts in their respective districts and send those to the commission,” the minister said.

   

 
 
ECL CHALKS OUT REVIVAL ROUTE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Asansol, Feb. 17: 
Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL) has submitted a comprehensive package to the coal ministry for revival of its ailing subsidiaries.

The plan includes outsourcing mining of nine open-cast patches under its jurisdiction. The company has identified four such patches at Shankarpur in the Bankola area, Belpahari in Pandaveswar, Khoirabad in Salanpur and Patmona in the Sodepur area.

ECL officials said the Centre will take the final decision on the revival package within this month.

The move comes after Central trade union leaders were recently asked at a meeting in Calcutta to submit their schemes to enable Coal India Limited to draw up a revival plan for each of its subsidiaries, including Eastern Coalfields Limited, Bharat Coking Coal Limited and Central Coalfields Limited.

ECL officials said the patches contain 56.63 million tonnes of extractable coal. Outsourcing the mining will increase production by 3.5 million tonnes per year and generate an additional revenue of Rs 437 crore annually.

The proposed revival package also advocates temporarily suspending work in some 22 perennially loss-making ECL mines. They have already been identified as economically non-viable for coal extraction.

The company has assured relocation of 1,600 workers of these mines as was promised by Union coal minister Ram Vilas Paswan during his last visit to ECL.

Extolling the advantages of the package, the ECL spokesperson said: “The implementation of the revival package would generate an additional revenue of Rs 150 crore as cess and royalty for the state government.” It would provide employment to hundreds through outsourcing of the patches, he added.

The additional fund would be used for development of the mines, like replacement of old equipment, implementation of schemes for increased production in underground mines and to pay off the loans taken from the government, he pointed out. It would also help curb illegal mining, he added.

   

 
 
FACELIFT HOPE FOR DIGHA 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Tamluk (Purba Midnapore), Feb. 17: 
The authorities of this nascent district have taken up a Rs 10-crore project for overall development of Digha and Shankarpur to promote them as major tourist destinations.

The money will be used to widen and repair the Calcutta-Digha road, construct a bypass at Ramnagar, strengthen the dyke and beautify the stretch along the marine drive. Construction of a sewage treatment plant and improvement of drinking water supply have also been included in the project, which was finalised recently at a meeting of district magistrate Anil Verma, the Digha Development Authority (DDA) and senior district officials.

“Digha, which was once a popular sea resort, has been losing tourists due to inadequate infrastructure. The place also has poor roads and insufficient civic amenities. We have identified the needs and taken up projects accordingly. We hope Digha will occupy an important place in the tourist map of West Bengal within a very short period,’’ Verma said.

The public health engineering department would instal the sewage treatment plant in consultation with the pollution control board. Besides, a new sewerage system would be constructed to replace the old and haphazard system, Verma added.

Tourists can look forward to more entertainment as construction of a ropeway, an amusement park, a modern marine aquarium and a roller skating rink would also be taken up, DDA officials said.

“Repairing and widening of the Calcutta-Digha road is on in full swing and we expect it to be over within a month or two. Construction of the bypass will start soon. Our target is to enable tourists to reach Digha within four hours of leaving Calcutta,’’ said Ananda Banerjee, the DDA chief.

Verma said nearby Shankarpur has been brought under DDA jurisdiction to develop it as a twin tourism centre. Adequate bus services will be introduced from Digha to Shankarpur.

   

 
 
TRAINS UNDER SCAN FOR ILLEGAL ARMS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Burdwan, Feb. 17: 
The Government Railway Police (GRP) and the district police have decided to throw a tight security ring around Burdwan station to curb the growing menace of arms smuggling. The GRP have also decided to check “every inch” of all the express trains entering Bengal from Bihar.

The measures follow a District Intelligence Bureau (DIB) report that the racketeers are using the express trains and the Burdwan station as their gateway to Bengal.

“The goons send the consignments to other districts and to Calcutta from Burdwan station. They often use ambulances to carry the arms from the station and then smuggle it through Nadia and Murshidabad,” said a DIB officer.

The sources added that trains like Danapur Fast Passenger and Jamalpur Express are being used to smuggle in the arms and ammunition.

   

 
 
SPREAD IN CONTROL, ‘PLAGUE’ REPORT TODAY 
 
 
FROM OUR BUREAU
 
New Delhi/Patna, Feb. 17: 
Within three months of the anthrax scare that sent the health ministry scurrying from one department to another, it is now visited by the fear of plague.

The National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), the nodal agency for identifying the strains of the disease, is expected to submit its report tomorrow, but Union health minister C.P. Thakur, himself a doctor, said in Patna today: “It is a serious disease whatever the name be.”

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today called on Thakur to discuss the situation. The health minister briefed Vajpayee about the steps being taken to check the spread of the disease. The Prime Minister also spoke to Himachal chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal.

In Patna, Thakur said that criteria laid down by the World Health Organisation would be followed before declaring the nature of the disease. Thakur appealed to residents of the Himachal Pradesh village where three people died earlier this week not to panic as no new case had been reported in the past eight days.

Since then, 14 more have been admitted in the Rohru Hospital, Medical College Shimla, and PGIMER, Chandigarh. Seventeen cases were detected in the first week of February in two villages — Hatkoti in Shimla and Bhanpur in Uttaranchal. According to reports, the first casualty contracted the infection from an infected rat flea.

A three-member NICD team has collected samples for investigation and are now in Simla. The villages have been quarantined and the officials have said there is little chance of the disease spreading beyond Himachal Pradesh. Thakur said was taking preventive measures, assuming that the disease is, indeed, plague.

Fear is running high in the area and rumours are flying.

The disease is said to have been spread to Bhanpur by a woman named Pushpa who had gone to Hatkoti to condole the death of a 35-year-old man, Randhir Singh, a victim of the disease. She developed the same symptoms on her return to her village and died.

What is established so far is that only the symptoms are the same — no definite name has yet been given to the disease which has been described by doctors as “unusual”.

NICD officials have been tightlipped, maintaining that it would not be possible to name the disease as plague till the examinations were complete.

The officials said that under laboratory conditions the bacteria are taking much longer to grow because of the influence of antibiotics. According to reports, plague is not new to Himachal Pradesh. In the mid-’80s, as many as 17 people were believed to have died of plague in the region.

Not wishing to lower their guard, the health minister said the symptoms of the illness — fever, chest pain and lung infection — are the same as those in plague. It is clear that it is a bacterial and not a viral infection since the patients have responded to antibiotics. “In viral infections antibiotics will not work,” said Thakur.

“However, the disease can only be named after it is identified by the WHO criteria,” he added.

The last time the country had been gripped by the plague frenzy was when it had ravaged the district of Surat in Gujarat. The disease had clearly been identified as plague. Recently, following the anthrax scare, there were some sections that wanted to re-open the Surat plague case and probe whether anthrax had any bearing on it.

   

 
 
PARTIES IN CUT AND THRUST 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Feb. 17: 
As Uttar Pradesh goes to the polls in the second phase tomorrow, the BSP, the Samajwadi Party and the Congress have begun revising strategies with an eye on the post-poll scenario.

Buoyed by surveys that put the BSP ahead of the Samajwadi in the first round of polling, party chief Mayavati today ruled out a post-poll alliance. Her statement appears aimed at dispelling the fears of Muslim voters that the BSP could align with the BJP. Mayavati even went to the extent of denying a statement attributed to mentor Kanshi Ram that the BSP was game for any post-poll arrangement, including sharing power with the BJP.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi targeted Mulayam Singh Yadav in Varanasi yesterday, reminding voters that he had “betrayed” the Congress in April 1999 by refusing to back a government led by her.

An outraged Mulayam threatened to “expose” Sonia, alleging that the Congress’ rigid attitude had prevented the formation of a “secular” government. “We were all ready to be part of a coalition government but Sonia Gandhi wanted to form the government alone,” he said.

There is no question of a post-poll alliance with the Congress, Mulayam said. “We do not want anyone’s support.”

Congress circles said Sonia’s jibe at Mulayam should be seen in the light of her assessment that the Samajwadi will not be able to form the government in Uttar Pradesh. Given this, she is keen to win back the “secular space” occupied by his party.

The stakes are high for all three chief ministerial aspirants — Mulayam, Mayavati and Rajnath Singh. Mulayam has a problem even if the Samajwadi emerges the single largest party with 150-odd seats. He would still be short by 52, and the Congress would not be able to net that many seats.

The task before Rajnath is more uphill. He has to overcome the anti-incumbency factor and ensure that the BJP and its allies get the magic figure of 202 or at least 180 plus seats. Otherwise, he will have to give up his seat for Mayavati. Sources close to Mayavati said she would not settle for anything less than the chief minister’s post even if she gets 70-odd seats.

   

 
 
LITERACY PLAN FOR BACKWARD BIHAR DISTRICTS 
 
 
FROM TAPAS CHAKRABORTY
 
Kishengunj, Feb. 17: 
Every morning around 8 am, nine-year-old Ruby Ami watches a group of boys, dressed in the traditional kurta-pyjama and skull cap, walking towards their madarsa, about half-a-kilometre away from their hamlet in Pothia block.

Ruby hasn’t seen the inside of a school or even a madarsa, and it is unlikely that she ever will. “No girl goes to any madarsa or school here,” she says, while tending to her cattle.

In neighbouring Bhoba village, 11-year-old Ila Khatoon was married to 16-year-old Yusuf. Ila, like Ruby, has never been to school. “When a girl is 10, we cannot allow her out of the house. The area is not safe. It is better to marry them off,” said Ila’s father, Kamaluddin Ansari.

Illiteracy, child marriages and infanticide are the bane of Kishengunj and at least six adjoining districts, where the villages are not very different from those in Pothia.

The state government has identified Pothia block as the most backward with a female literacy rate below 10 per cent against the district average of 31 per cent and female literacy of 19 per cent. In most of the villages here, there is not a single literate woman, while three males out of 10 are literate.

Kishengunj has the lowest literacy rate, yet it has 30 madarsas, about 10 of them government-run. The district has the highest number of madarsas after East Champaran. Some of Kishengunj’s madarsas have already figured in central intelligence reports for allegedly violating norms.

Bihar’s ministers and minority leaders are gradually waking up to the reality. “Someone should be accountable for the sorry state of affairs, at least some of the minority leaders who represent the constituency,” said Jabir Hussain, chairman of Bihar’s Assembly Council.

He compares Kishengunj to Afghanistan, where general literacy stands at 36 per cent and female literacy at 20 per cent.

Hussain has set up a committee and sought feedback from the councillors to prepare a status report on the backwardness of education in Kishengunj and the role of madarsas.

“If the madarsas are not contributing to spread of literacy, they need to be told about this,” said another Muslim minister in the Rabri Devi Cabinet.

In the literacy map of the country, Bihar comes lowest in comparison to the other neighbouring Hindi-speaking states. Even Uttar Pradesh enjoys an edge over Bihar and so does Jharkhand because of the presence of missionaries.

The regional disparity in the spread of literacy has been widening in the last 10 years.

   

 
 
CANARA BANK ROBBER IN POLICE NET 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Asansol, Feb. 17: 
Bengal police today claimed a breakthrough in the most daring dacoity in recent times with the arrest of Haroon Rashid Khan alias Jackie alias A.K. Banerjee from Baghmundi in Purulia district and Bablu Alam from Jharkhand.

A gang of dacoits had raided the Canara Bank branch here on February 8 and looted about Rs 20 lakh. Apprehending the involvement of an inter-state criminal gang, the district police had alerted the adjoining states of Jharkhand and Bihar.

Police had earlier arrested five miscreants in connection with the robbery and Haroon’s name figured during the interrogation of those arrested.

Police picked Haroon last night from his hideout at Baghmundi. He was taken to Burdwan today and produced before the court where he was remanded in custody for 10 days.

The police confirmed his association with four major bank robberies in Hazaribagh, Visakhapatnam, Amherst Street in Calcutta and the Canara Bank branch in Asansol.

Burdwan district superintendent of police B.N. Ramesh said Haroon had a wide network and was wanted in Chaibasa and Hazaribagh as well.

The police said Haroon had fled to Chaibasa after the bank heist. He had come to Purulia from there and took shelter in a mosque.

District intelligence officials today interrogated Haroon. “We have got a lot of information from him which we shall not disclose for the sake of further investigations. However, we are verifying his statement. We are also finding out whether he was involved in the attack on January 22 at the American Center,” said an official.

Jharkhand police had raided Haroon’s house at Kadma in Jamshedpur recently.

Preliminary investigations revealed that Haroon,30, used to take shelter in mosques in the guise of a maulvi and described himself as a “saviour”. He was in jail for the past seven years in connection with a dacoity case in Bihar and was released recently. His mother is a nurse at the Tata Hospital in Jamshedpur.

Though Haroon confessed his association with some terrorist outfits, the police are yet to confirm his links.

Chaibasa superintendent of police K.K. Sinha, however, claimed that they picked up Haroon and handed him over to the Bengal police as he was wanted in several bank dacoities there.

“Haroon was a member of Tablique Zamaat, an organisation of religious preachers that moves around in different cities and was reprotedly in Chaibasa for the past two weeks,’’ he said.

   

 
 
CAPITAL TALE: SEX IS ONLY A CLICK AWAY 
 
 
FROM RASHEED KIDWAI
 
New Delhi, Feb. 17: 
The government may still be weighing the pros and cons of legalising prostitution but the multi-crore sex industry in the capital has gone hi-tech: it is offering a range of online services.

Sample these:

Best escorts services in Delhi now — We are one of the best in Delhi in provide escorts services males/females and couples at reasonable charges from Rs 3,000 to 15,000 depending upon categories you need and for how much time you need. We have models and other kinds. Time wasters please excuse. If u r budget less then 3,000 do not e-mail. We are one of the best. E-mail at escorts_4uin (Sun Jan 27 2002) Rating:3.38

Escort available now — We provide female escorts for visiting business man in Delhi. Also available male escorts for rich ladies, bored housewives, airhostesses, college and schoolgirls. Contact through e-mail — rashm13 (Sun Jan 20 2002)

Escorts available in Delhi now — Male and female escorts available in Delhi — for daytime — night time — or weekend fun and frolics. Rates very reasonable — male escorts may even be free — the cost is some hot and juicy sessions of physical intimacy. Contact prads31 (Fri Jan 18 2002) Rating: 8.00

Online sex is available in various forms in the capital catering to almost all types of tastes. An address in Delhi’s sex guide even has an invitation for lesbians and homosexuals.

Looking for Lesbian Friends — I am a 21 year old girl. Developed interest in Lesbianism. Only ladies interested in Lesbian friendship and erotic story/e-mail exchanges. Please write to me in confidence. (Wed Jan 02 2002) Rating:4.33.

There are numerous addresses offering “body to body” massage by male to female and vice-versa. For more adventurous people, the masseurs are even willing to perform “all jobs”, of course, at a price.

The Internet has also reached Delhi’s traditional red light area, GB Road. According to Khairati Lal Bhola, who runs an NGO for sex workers, some influential pimps have got together to lure customers who are too scared to visit brothels over the Internet.

The modus operandi is to first get a customer through e-mail and then switch over to the mobile phone. Once both sides agree on a price, the girl from the red light area is sent to the client’s home or a hotel. “Everyone gets a cut in it,” says Bhola.

E-sex providers deny they are providing girls from old red light areas of Delhi. They claim that a lot of young and college girls were approaching them for “good-time easy money”. Some e-mails mention names of upmarket girls’ colleges.

A message from a “fashion photographer” claims to “arrange” television actresses and guys who can do “bi-stuff”. The rates are listed as Rs 3,500 plus, with an assurance that it would be worth the price. The contact is delhifun.

   

 
 
CONG SPOTS ESCAPE HATCH IN PRIYANKA PREGNANCY 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Feb. 17: 
News of Priyanka Gandhi’s second pregnancy has boosted the morale of Uttar Pradesh Congressmen.

Relegated to a poor fourth spot by pollsters and political pundits, the state’s Congress leaders have now got an “excuse” for their performance: Had Priyanka been campaigning, things would have been different, they claim.

Senior leaders involved in the Uttar Pradesh campaign — Ghulam Nabi Azad, Satish Sharma, Salman Khurshid, Sriprakash Jaiswal, Subodh Kant Sahay and others — are busy selling a line to cover up the drubbing the Congress will probably get.

They claim it is futile to expect spectacular results this time around as the party’s organisational set-up in the state is weak. This, they point out, is due to former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao’s move to play second fiddle to the Bahujan Samaj Party in 1996.

“What we have done is to raise Congress flags in all taluqas,” said Azad, adding that by 2004, when the general elections are due, the Congress will be a force to reckon with.

Not many in the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee are buying this argument. They say it is wrong to blame Rao for all ills because barring Jaiswal, other leaders like Azad, Khurshid and Sharma were holding important posts at that time.

Moreover, it has been three years since Sonia Gandhi has been at the helm of affairs, they point out. “Where is the scope for making excuses?” asked a disgruntled party leader.

Until news of Priyanka’s pregnancy broke, Congressmen had been speculating in hushed tones on why she had opted out of a political role.

   
 

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