Policy muscle to pull IT sector
Victim then, racket boss now
Free-trippers turn station into battlefield
Morning van crash leaves two dead
Tough test to screen teacher aspirants
Boy gets two moms, girl none
Teething trouble before UP marriage
Gujarat mobs spill more blood
Delhi asks foreign meddlers to stay out
Sabarmati scares cops away from Medha

Calcutta, April 22: 
IT-enabled services are set for a major thrust with the state planning a series of policy pills for the sector.

The state IT department has framed a draft policy which is expected to be placed before the next Cabinet meeting scheduled for the end of this month.

Sources in Writers’ Buildings said chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has been looking at IT-enabled services as a sector which has a large potential for employment generation.

The draft policy has noted that the services can be spread locally in Calcutta and other towns. Even the districts can be networked.

The state government has also prepared a list of around 20 companies, including multinationals like Samsung, LG and GE, which can be induced to invest in the state.

“There is a large number of computer-literate graduates available here and they can be gainfully employed in this sector,” the sources said. With computer education being imparted in many state-run colleges and polytechnics, the government expects a steady growth in the number of computer-savvy youth.

The draft paper has identified different areas like insurance, finance and legal services that will be compatible for IT-enabled services.

Even self-declaration systems, like pollution-control certificates for vehicles and payment of civic taxes, can be brought under IT-enabled services.

The sources said the city and the state will have state-of-the-art connectivity which will remain largely under-utilised if such steps are not contemplated.

Reliance Infocom is laying its fibre-optic network which will ensure rapid connectivity. The department of telecommunications is also getting in place a data transmission grid.

Bhattacharjee is understood to have instructed his officers that IT as a potential investment plank should not be neglected. The state government has been in talks with IT giants like IBM, Wipro, PricewaterhouseCoopers and TCS for investment in Bengal.

The IT department is also putting in place its government-to-citizen (G2C) infrastructure. Various departments have been asked to send in all forms and permits that the public needs so that they can be fed into the government network.

The G2C system was kick-started soon after Bhattacharjee took over as chief minister.

The sources said some departments were yet to respond and the chief secretary has ordered them to do so at the earliest.


Calcutta, April 22: 
The South 24-Parganas police unearthed a girl-running racket in Mathurapur yesterday after they arrested a middle-aged married woman, herself a one-time victim of the trade.

The police said Alladi Bibi had for long been luring girls with the promise of jobs and a settled life. She used to travel frequently between Mathurapur and Mumbai.

They said the arrested woman was a victim of the girl-running racket. “A few years back, she was taken to Mumbai by one Hafizul Raj, a notorious criminal of Mathurapur. He assured her marriage and a decent life. But in Mumbai he sold her to a brothel and disappeared. She later became part of the racket,” said an official.

It was learnt that recently she came to Mathurapur and laid out a plan to tempt girls to Mumbai.

The mothers of two girls, Buni Khatun and Azmira Khatun, contacted Mathurapur police station after they could not track down their daughters. Alladi had taken them to Mumbai, assuring them jobs. After receiving the complaint, the police picked up Alladi from her Mathurapur residence and interrogated her.

Debasish Chakraborty, officer-in-charge of Mathurapur police station, who interrogated Alladi, said she acted difficult during the questioning.

“We are trying to ascertain how many girls she had sent to Mumbai giving false assurances of jobs and decent married lives,” said Chakraborty.

Additional superintendent of police (rural) S.S. Panda said a police team led by Prakash Mukherjee, an officer of Mathurapur police station, left for Mumbai with Alladi during the day.


Gurap (Hooghly) April 22: 
Ticketless travellers fought a pitched battle with Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel and other railway officials agitated over a surprise check at Gurap station this morning.

Seven RPF constables, including two women, a ticket examiner and a gangman were injured when the ticketless travellers and local people hurled stones and brickbats.

The free-trippers also blocked railway tracks for nearly an hour by piling up concrete slippers. At the end of the drive, the RPF and police had jointly arrested 40 people, including 38 ticketless travellers.

Trouble broke out around 5.30 am when senior railway officials launched the surprise check following reports that regular passengers and vendors were travelling without tickets in the Howrah-Burdwan chord line.

An Eastern Railway spokesperson said in Calcutta this afternoon that normal services in the section were disrupted by the obstruction caused by the passengers.

“They placed slippers on railway tracks in protest against the drive. But we will continue our action against this menace to increase our revenue and ensure comfortable journey by bona fide passengers,” he said.

As soon as the checking began, ticketless travellers tried to flee the platform but could not do so as the jawans were spread out. They turned violent soon and started hurling stones and brickbats. Local people, some of them daily passengers, joined in the attack.

Initially taken aback, cane-wielding RPF jawans chased the mob and tried to corner them against a fencing but the people soon outnumbered the soldiers as the platforms literally turned into a battleground.

Sniffing more trouble, railway officials contacted the local police station for reinforcements.

Additional superintendent of police Hari K. Kusumakar (headquarters) said the reinforcements were rushed from nearby Dhaniakhali police station.

Railway officials have lodged an FIR alleging assault by free-trippers at the Dhaniakhali police station.

RPF’s senior divisional commandant, S.C. Sahoo, said that apart from the 38 ticket-less travellers arrested at Gurap station, two others were held on charges of “hooliganism” and handed over to the Government Railway Police.

Officials expressed concern at the increasing incidents of violence by free-trippers in the main and chord sections of the Howrah-Burdwan line.

“Early this month, irate passengers went on rampage at Bandel station and the ransacked the office of the station master during a similar drive,” said a railway official.


Usthi (South 24-Parganas) April 22: 
Two persons were killed when a matador van travelling at break-neck speed lost control, crashed against a tree and overturned on Diamond Harbour Road in Usthi around 6.30 am.

Alarmed by the wailing victims, local residents rushed in and launched a rescue operation. They stopped passing vehicles and shifted the injured to the Diamond Harbour Hospital. Two of them succumbed to injuries later. They were identified as Asim Pramanik, 20, and the van’s driver, Sahidul Mistri, 27.

Police, too, joined in the rescue work on reaching the spot.

Doctors said among the 16 people admitted with injuries, some were in critical condition. The van was bound for Sherpur from Deula and was carrying about 30 people, the police said.

Angry residents complained of overloaded matadors and lorries passing the area in high speed and put up road blocks from around 8 am. Traffic came to a halt on the arterial road. Senior police officials went to the spot and persuaded them to withdraw the roadblocks after four hours.

Dilip Mondal, a local resident, said most accidents on the road were caused by overloaded vehicles travelling at great speeds. “They carry passengers and goods beyond capacity. We have brought this to the notice of the authorities many times, but no action was taken.”

One of the injured, Anil Naskar, said: “We repeatedly requested the driver to slow down but he did not pay heed. When the van was near Deula, we heard an explosion like that of a tyre bursting and the matador lost direction, hit the tree and overturned. Within seconds I lost sense.”


Calcutta, April 22: 
Alarmed at the increasing number of ordinary students applying for teaching jobs in state-aided secondary schools, the School Service Commission has for the first time decided to upgrade its syllabi and raise the standard of examinations for recruitment of teachers.

Officials said the move would help the commission recruit only competent and deserving candidates. “We are worried at the way a large number of ordinary students are making a beeline for enrolment as teachers in secondary schools. A stiffer and more updated syllabi is the alternative to avert a rush of such mediocre candidates,” an official said.

Arun Kiran Chakraborty, chairman, School Service Commission, said the decision to upgrade the syllabi is final.

“Once the syllabus gets upgraded, the standard of the recruitment tests will be automatically improved. We expect to get more high-performing students for the posts of teachers following overhauling of the syllabi and the recruitment system,” he added.

At present, the minimum qualification for applying for School Service Commission examinations is graduation.

The move is also aimed at maintaining a balance between the actual requirement and the number of candidates applying for the posts. For example, against a total number of 7,500 vacancies, more than two lakh examinees took this year’s examinations.

The huge gap between the commission’s actual requirement and the total number of successful candidates causes serious resentment among those who are denied jobs even after qualifying.

“Candidates often fail to understand the reality about the limited number of vacancies and unnecessarily complain about the victimisation and even malpractices. This often puts the government in an awkward position,” said an official in the education department.

However, sources in the government said the commission’s plans to improve its academic standards have also been taken in keeping with a recent directive from the University Grants Commission (UGC). The UGC asked all universities to upgrade the syllabi of undergraduate courses in their respective universities.

“The upgrading of our (School Service Commission) syllabi is going to be strictly in line with the directives of the UGC circular,” Chakraborty said.

According to him, the commission will soon organise workshops in the city and elsewhere in the districts to chalk out proposals to upgrade the standard of the selection test.

He said the results of the examinations of the eastern region, which are yet to be announced, will be declared within a month.


Midnapore, April 22: 
They both wanted sons. One of them gave birth to a daughter.

Thanks to a bungling by the nursing staff at a sub-divisional hospital at Haldia in Purba Midnapore, both mothers are claiming they gave birth to the boy today. There are no takers for the girl one of the two women also gave birth to at the hospital.

The hospital authorities have ordered a DNA test to settle the dispute.

Dipali Pramanik gave birth to a boy at the hospital around 1.02 pm today, her husband, Prasanta Pramanik, claimed. She underwent surgery under the care of Anup Bhol.

Another woman, Shampa Bhaumik, also underwent a caesarean and gave birth to a boy, according to the Bhaumiks.

But one of the two babies born in the hospital today was a girl.

The nursing staff apparently blundered as they put the boy beside Shampa’s bed and the girl beside Dipali’s. The identification tags attached to the babies’ wrists were also not properly matched with the mothers.

All hell broke loose as Dipali refused to accept the girl. The reason, according to her, was that she had given birth to a boy. Shampa, too, would not part with the boy.

As both the couples refused to accept the female child, hospital superintendent Moinuddin Naskar contacted Haldia sub-divisional officer Santosh De to come and take charge of the situation.

None of the couples, however, accepted De’s reasoning and he was forced to order a DNA test.

The babies will be kept separately in the hospital and bottle-fed till the result of the test is available, officials said.

“We are feeling very bad…. I have asked the nurses in the maternity department to handle the infants carefully and take good care of them,” said Naskar.

However, Dipali and Shampa and their husbands, Prasanta and Rabindranath, were indifferent to the outcome of the DNA test. They insisted they would not accept the girl, whatever the outcome of the test.

The hospital is planning action against its staff for bungling.


New Delhi, April 22: 
The BJP, in a hurry to wrap up a coalition arrangement in Uttar Pradesh and shore up its numbers before facing any trial of strength in Parliament, hit a few speedbreakers today.

The first came when BSP president Kanshi Ram rejected the BJP’s demand for a deputy chief minister.

Another followed soon with the BJP ally, Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal, insisting on setting up a steering committee against the wishes of Kanshi Ram and chief minister-in-waiting Mayavati.

Speaking to reporters outside Parliament, Kanshi Ram ruled out the possibility of a deputy chief minister as the post would create a “parallel power centre”. He said a proposal for a coordination committee and a common minimum programme was “under discussion”.

Kanshi Ram, however, sounded confident that despite these glitches, a government would be in place in Lucknow within a week. “As far as I know, there will not be a problem. The government formation would be smooth,” he added.

But the BJP leader Lalji Tandon — who was reportedly keen on the deputy chief minister’s job — reacted sharply to Kanshi Ram’s statement.

Tandon, who has been camping here to see that the loose ends are tied up, said: “Kanshi Ram is a senior leader and should not say such things when talks are at a crucial stage.” The BSP, he added, had emphasised that it should be trusted. “In that case, even if our party makes such a demand, shouldn’t they trust us?” he asked.

Central BJP sources, however, said Tandon was advised not to “blow things out of proportion”.

They said Mayavati has agreed to have a Speaker from the BJP, but not Kesri Nath Tripathi, who had presided over a controversial split in her party in 1999. It is believed that her choice for the post would be Tandon.

But the BJP is still keen on Tripathi. “Rejecting him would send the wrong message to our workers who are anyway unhappy with the alliance. It would seem like we have caved in to Mayavati’s demand,” a source said. The BJP parliamentary board is expected to meet within the next two days to formally ratify the alliance.

However, Ajit Singh’s party --without whose support the BJP-BSP combine would not reach the half-way mark -- was firm on a coordination committee.

The RLD has 14 MLAs and the backing of four Independents. The BJP and its allies, including the Janata Dal United), the Lokjanshakti Party and the Loktantrik Congress, have a strength of 93 and the BSP 97. However, the combined tally of 190 is still 13 short of the half-way mark. This is where Ajit Singh’s RLD becomes critical.

Ajit Singh told The Telegraph: “Problems are bound to arise in a coalition government of two parties which were at each other’s throats until two months ago. Therefore, to sort out the problems, some kind of mechanism is needed.”

RLD sources said Ajit Singh’s other demands were the passage of a resolution asking for a separate state to be carved out of western Uttar Pradesh, called Harit Pradesh, and at least seven ministerial berths.


Ahmedabad, April 22: 
Six persons were killed in fresh violence that raged through the city today even as troops patrolled the streets to contain the bloodletting that has already taken the toll past 800 in riot-ravaged Gujarat.

The rioters did not spare even 19-year-old Chintan Jain, who was stabbed in the hand while on his way to appear for university examinations. The teenager was attacked at Rakhial, in Behrampura, around 10.30 am.

Curfew was clamped in the Shahpur area after two communities fought a pitched battle on the streets with stones, petrol and acid bombs. The police were forced to open fire to quell the mob. One person was stabbed to death at Gheekata Char Rasta, another at Prem Darwaja, near the cotton market, while a 65-year-old man was knifed in the Jamalpur area. All three were killed between 12.30 and 3 pm. One person died in police firing.

The injured have been admitted in VS Hospital, where the condition of a policeman, who was hit by a crude bomb, is said to be critical. Besides Shahpur, indefinite curfew remained in force in Gomtipur, Bapunagar and Rakhial.

“The tension is palpable,” a government official said as shopkeepers lowered shutters and traffic emptied out from the three main bridges leading to the Walled City.

In Gomtipur, the police had to fire 75 rounds to disperse riotous mobs. At 1 pm, a mob surrounded the Sarvodya complex near Relief Road and pelted it with stones before the police intervened to save the situation. However, not far from the complex, smoke billowed from rows of huts set on fire in the Khanpur area. “It was a mob of 500. They came with petrol bombs and acid bulbs,” said Ram Bhavsar, a rickshaw puller. “They threw petrol bombs on our huts. We had nothing to defend ourselves with.”

Gujarat Congress president Amarsinh Chaudhary blamed the renewed violence on “vested interests” bent on seeing the exit of chief minister Narendra Modi, hinting at a possible split in the state BJP.

However, board exams for Class X and XII were held smoothly with students in curfew-bound areas reaching examination centres by showing admission cards. Many Muslim students also appeared.

Police withdrawal plea

In Delhi, Muslim leaders today demanded withdrawal of the police from minority-dominated localities of Ahmedabad and replacing them with the army or the Rapid Action Force. The All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat said it was “shocked and anguished by the unacceptable police action against the long-suffering Muslim community yesterday”.


New Delhi, April 22: 
India has decided to go on the offensive to defend Gujarat to the outside world.

Pushed on the back-foot with rising international criticism, particularly with Delhi-based foreign missions leaking their “internal assessment” reports on the Gujarat carnage to the local media, South Block has decided to ask other nations not to meddle in India’s “internal” matter.

“We would like to make it clear that India does not appreciate interference in our internal affairs, including utilisation of the Indian media by foreign leaders as well as by visiting dignitaries to make public statements, in order to pander to their domestic lobbies,” foreign ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao said in a statement this evening.

Rao said her remarks referred to observations made by visiting Finnish foreign minister Erikki Tuomiojo on Gujarat in an interview to an Indian paper. But the signal was clear that Delhi was trying to caution other countries to desist from making critical statements.

The Finnish foreign minister, while expressing concern over Gujarat, had said “the pictures of the carnage were very disturbing”. However, given the kind of criticism from other countries, this was perhaps the mildest.

Last week, the British high commission’s “internal assessment” report on Gujarat found its way to one of the newspaper offices in Delhi. The report said the attack on the minority community was a “well-planned” conspiracy.

South Block had decided to overlook the “ leak” following an apology from the British high commission. The high commission assured that it did not leak the report and could have come from other countries which were told about the assessment by a British team that visited the communally-charged state.

Tuomiojo’s observation was followed by a much stronger document, said to be of the European Union, that compared the events in Gujarat with “Nazism” and “apartheid” for allowing the carnage to continue for weeks.

This morning, the Prime Minister’s Office as well as senior officials in the home and external affairs ministries discussed the matter. Officials in South Block pointed out that some of the EU members with whom India had excellent relations “totally dissociated” themselves from what was said to be the EU document on Gujarat. They assured India that no such offensive remarks were part of the document.

It appears that some EU members, were frustrated that the union did not criticise Delhi in much harsher terms and decided to leak selective passages to the media.

“We have made it clear to the foreign missions that while they have every right to make their own internal assessment on Gujarat or any other development in India, leaking such reports to the media here would be seen as a gross violation of diplomatic norm and behaviour,” a senior South Block official said.


Bhopal, April 22: 
After the Sabarmati ashram attack of April 7, Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar is now in Madhya Pradesh.

Patkar launched an indefinite dharna this afternoon before the Narmada Control Authority office here.

The Sabarmati incident has left the police in Madhya Pradesh petrified. Though an entire police contingent with sizeable women personnel was deployed at the dharna site, no one dared venture near Patkar.

Only one woman police officer tried to stop the agitators.

Finding herself outnumbered, the policewoman quietly retreated while the rest of her colleagues, including IPS officers, thought it better to keep a distance of at least 10 metres from Patkar.

The Andolan leader has not forgiven Sabarmati. This afternoon, she vent spleen on Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, and in doing so brought three more chief ministers within her firing range.

“Three Congress chief ministers — Digvijay Singh, Ashok Gehlot and Vilas Rao Deshmukh — are conniving together to save Narendra Modi’s chair,” Patkar alleged. “There is nothing surprising in Congress chief ministers entering into an entente to keep the Narendra Modi government going. There are political vested interests.”

According to Patkar, if the Modi government manages to construct the Sardar Sarovar dam to 95 metres before June, he will manage to stay in power. Hence, he has sought the help of chief ministers of the three Congress-ruled states affected by the dam.

The Congress chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra have already given the “green signal” to Modi because it helps their votebanks, Patkar explained. If Modi can construct the dam till 95 metres, it will mean that all other big dams in the three Congress states can go ahead.

Patkar said there was information that the four state governments and inter-state authorities “are colluding to garner permission for construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam from 90 metres up to 95 metres before the monsoons and thereafter to 100 metres after June”.

The Supreme Court had on October 2000 permitted the construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam till 93 metres.

Chief ministers Modi and Singh had met the Prime Minister in January. Patkar contends that this was when the deal was initially struck.

“After the Gujarat violence, the deal has been extended to bring in Rajasthan and Maharashtra as well. Abhi to Narendra Modi ki sarkar ko zinda rakhne ke liye, aapnehi logo ko bali charhake baandh ko aage barhayenge (Now to keep the Modi government in place, they will sacrifice their own people and go ahead with the dam construction),” Patkar said.

“This is state-sponsored violence being perpetrated with the blessing of an unholy alliance struck with Gujarat.”

Patkar’s dharna is a bid to stop further construction of the dam to 95 metres. “If the Madhya Pradesh government agrees to this, it will be responsible for reducing large fertile villages of Madhya Pradesh to watery graves, this being a genocide with a difference but with the same degree of callousness,” she said.

“It’s a pity that the government of Madhya Pradesh has opted for and struck a compromise to barter the past, present and the future of lakhs of affected people for the survival of the government of Gujarat.”


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