Medical report rerun for lecturer
Trinamul wields rail roko stick
Funds crunch blame at Centre door
Police guard aboard trains
Hope blooms in flower mart
Poll and Advani stamp on Naidu team
BJP in fix over Sangh split cry
Out-of-town George delays rail-row meet
Exam relief for CBSE students
On frogs’ trail through Western Ghats

Paschim Midnapore, July 11: 
A local court today directed district police to submit another medical report on lecturer Kaushik Ganguly to verify if he was tortured in police custody.

The Rajabazar Science College teacher was produced before Chief Judicial Magistrate Mohammed Tarikuddin, who remanded him in judicial custody for 14 days.

The chief judicial magistrate court in Midnapore town had asked the police to submit a medical report on Ganguly. However, the court rejected the report today, saying: “It was not done as per judicial norms.”

According to the report by the district chief medical officer of health, the injury marks on Ganguly’s body were old. There was no mention of possible cause of injuries. “The report is not acceptable. What is meant by old wounds? How old? What is the reason for the wound? I want the specifics and in detail. And the report should be done by any forensic expert of either SSKM or Calcutta Medical College Hospital,’’ the magistrate told the police.

Ganguly was arrested from Dum Dum on July 4 for his alleged links with the People’s War. Various lobbies, including Ganguly’s colleagues at the college, students and NGOs, alleged that the lecturer was tortured during police interrogation. They also wrote to the chief minister seeking his intervention.

Though the court declined the plea to extend Ganguly’s police custody, it allowed the police to interrogate the alleged Naxalite activist when necessary and take him to police stations or other places for investigation.

Several teachers and students from Calcutta University, Jadavpur University and Vidyasagar University gathered at the court, demanding Ganguly’s release. The secretary of the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights, Sitangsu Chakraborty, said the organisation would hold a rally in Calcutta on Monday to protest against Ganguly’s alleged torture by the police.

District superintendent of police K.C. Mina said Ganguly had confessed that several People’s War leaders had visited his house and regularly contacted the lecturer over telephone to urge him to join the group actively. However, Ganguly did not mention any names.

“We have requested Ganguly to help the police and that the police will definitely help him to see that his future is not wrecked. He knows a lot but has kept mum,” Mina said.

The official said security had been beefed up in the forests and that many more outposts would be set up and manned by armed police.

He added that security guards had been offered to important CPM functionaries, especially those working in Garbeta, Salboni and Goaltore where Naxalite rebels are active.

“We are combing the forests to trace the guerrillas and are at the same time making efforts to bring its supporters back to the mainstream. Some tribals, who had faith in the rebels, have told us that they want to return to the mainstream. We have welcomed them,” Mina said.


Calcutta, July 11: 
The Trinamul Congress is set to organise statewide symbolic “rail roko” on Saturday if the Centre does not revoke its bifurcation notice by tomorrow.

The party’s youth wing president, Sanjoy Bakshi, said Mamata Banerjee has approved its agitation against the bifurcation of Eastern Railway. “Our workers will stop rail movement at all stations for 15 minutes to protest against the railway minister’s plan to deal a body blow to Bengal’s economy,” he said.

However, Bakshi added that the agitation would be withdrawn if the notification was revoked.

Trinamul sources said the final decision would be taken tomorrow afternoon with the expiry of Mamata’s 24-hour deadline to the Centre to revoke the notification and form an experts’ committee on the issue.

The Trinamul chief, who had expected Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to discuss the issue with his deputy L.K. Advani and defence minister George Fernandes today, is believed to have been dismayed over “the state of inaction in Delhi”. She has directed her party workers to get ready for a “long and sustained stir” in the event of the NDA allowing railway minister Nitish Kumar to go ahead with his move.

The Trinamul leader, who declined to rejoin the Vajpayee Cabinet to protest against Kumar’s decision, does not guarantee her stay in the NDA if the Centre “completely ignores Bengal’s interests simply to appease Bihar politicians”.

Asked what Trinamul workers would do if police tried to use force to ensure normal train movement, Bakshi said: “They are ready to face police action in Bengal’s interest. We will intensify our agitation after the Martyrs’ Day rally on July 21.”

Mamata today received a shot in the arm with Congress leader A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury virtually backing her demand to set up an experts’ committee to ascertain Kumar’s contention that Eastern Railway’s workload “has necessitated its bifurcation”.

Earlier, the former railway minister had sided with Kumar on the bifurcation move.

Congress chief Pranab Mukherjee echoed the Malda MP’s plea and said party workers would demonstrate at railways stations against the proposed bifurcation.


Calcutta, July 11: 
Admitting that the state was cash-starved, the chief minister, however, blamed the Centre’s economic policy for the crisis.

Participating in the debate on the no-confidence motion moved by the Trinamul Congress in the Assembly, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said all the states were passing through a financial crisis with the Centre holding back their dues.

He said a committee comprising Union and state finance ministers was recently formed to find a solution.

“But before the new committee could start work, a new finance minister joined the Union government. Let us see what happens,” he said.

Trinamul leader Pankaj Banerjee, who moved the motion, said the chief minister had lost the confidence of Left Front partners.

Saugata Roy, also of Trinamul, said Bhattacharjee was presiding over a bankrupt government, facing the problem of meeting day-to-day expenses.

Though the Congress supported Trinamul’s motion, it was lost by a division of 169 and 60 votes. The lone SUCI member, Debaprasad Sarkar, abstained from voting.


Calcutta, July 11: 
Worried by the spate of train dacoities in crime-prone areas, the government plans to introduce mobile police stations on all “long-distance and important” trains.

“The maximum number of dacoities have been recorded from the stretch between Kaliachawk in Malda district and Jangipur in Murshidabad district. We are trying to provide armed policemen for trains which pass through the zone,” the chief minister said in the Assembly.

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said the government had already introduced mobile police stations on some trains, including Darjeeling Mail, Gour Express and Lalgola Passenger. “We have plans to introduce mobile police stations on all long-distance and important trains. We need an exclusive compartment on trains for setting up the police stations and the railway is considering our proposal,” the chief minister said, adding that police escorts had been given to 25 trains running from Howrah station.

Bhattacharjee did not rule out the involvement of the government railway police or the railway protection force in train dacoities. Replying to a question by Congress MLA Atish Sinha, the chief minister said the government had ordered a probe into the alleged involvement of the GRP in a dacoity incident in Darjeeling Mail a few years ago.

“Our finance minister was travelling on that train and had lodged the complaint. The government had conducted an inquiry into his allegation. If you have any specific information on the involvement of the GRP or the RPF in train dacoity cases, you can give it to me. I can assure you that the government will probe the matter,” Bhattacharjee said.

However, he admitted that most arrested train dacoits go unpunished for want of witnesses.


Calcutta, July 11: 
India’s largest flower market, behind the beautiful cast-iron Mullickghat, is a sickening, squelching, multi-layered mess of rotting leaves, flowers, clay and human waste, into which one’s feet can easily disappear. The market operates in six shifts, from four in the morning to 10 at night. About 5,000 flower farmers converge on the market daily.

The land belongs to the Calcutta Port Trust (CPT) but it has to pay a huge subsidy to maintain it every month. Criminals have a field day here, since the police never bother. They force even the poorest of poor flower-sellers, who come all the way from the districts, to pay protection money.

But all this will change in the near future. The government has planned to construct a modern, export-oriented market behind Mullickghat, says MLA Sudhangshu Seal. This is being done at the behest of minister Sailen Sarkar of the horticultural department, which took over 3,600 sq metres from the CPT on June 24 on lease for 99 years for a token sum of Re 1. Since the top floor of the flower market will be air-conditioned, its stock-in-trade will not wilt and turn into waste overnight.

A seven-member body, named Mullickghat Phoolbazar Parichalan Samity, has been formed to oversee the project. Later, two other members, including another MLA, were inducted. They took charge last Saturday and began to function from Monday. Seal says already, the daily collections from flower-sellers have increased. CPT’s takings were barely Rs 4,000. Under the new body, on the first day, it was Rs 8,600, Rs 10,033 on the second, and on the third, it crossed Rs 11,000 in two shifts only. “This is the result of effective supervision and a strong management network,” says Seal. Hopefully, the collections will rise even more.

The officer-in-charge of North Port police station has been made a member of the body and, till now, the thana has been tremendously cooperative. Garbage is a big problem and 100 trucks of this will be removed in about three days’ time. Strand Bank Road will again become motorable. In a few days’ time, three drinking water tanks will be installed for the 25,000 daily buyers and a pay-and-use toilet will be constructed.

The three-plus-storeyed building will be constructed by the CMDA, of which Seal is a member. This will be part of the riverfront beautification project. Seal gave the assurance that Mullickghat itself, constructed in 1855, will remain intact. But he was not sure if the new building will be designed in harmony with the architecture of its surroundings.


New Delhi, July 11: 
BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu unveiled his team of office-bearers clearly with an eye on the Assembly polls due next year in states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Chhattisgarh, which used to be party strongholds.

Not only was the representation from the poll-bound states considerable but the choice reflected a mix of organisational expertise, grassroots experience and individual charisma. It bore the stamp of deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, who had a similar mix of youth and experience when he presided over the BJP.

Advani is expected to attend the first meeting of Naidu’s office-bearers on Saturday — a signal that he would be actively involved with the party. But Naidu tried to dispel notions of a power tussle in the government and the party after Advani’s redesignation, telling reporters: “Vajpayee is the tallest leader of the BJP, NDA and the country.”

However, the leadership’s efforts to nominate new party chiefs for Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi hit a hurdle after a large section of the Rajasthan BJP opposed the choice of Central minister Vasundhara Raje. The state leaders met Advani and Naidu this evening. Later, a senior Rajasthan leader said: “Individual assessments were given and it could go either way.” Once a decision is taken on Rajasthan, the names of Uma Bharti and Madan Lal Khurana, expected to head the other two units, would be announced.

Of the team of 20 vice-presidents, general secretaries, treasurer and secretaries, three were from Delhi, three from Madhya Pradesh, two from Chhattisgarh and two from Rajasthan. Several striking features marked the latest round of reorganisation.

For the first time, a Muslim, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, and a Dalit woman, Anita Arya, were made general secretaries. The general secretary’s post is the most powerful after the president’s.

Several former activists of the RSS’ student wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarti Parishad, were inducted into the party. They were Bal Apte, Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh, L. Ganesan and Shivraj Singh Chauhan.

Lalita Kumaramangalam, sister of late power minister P.R. Kumaramangalam, was brought in as a secretary for her organisational skills, pedigree and fluency in several languages.

While one former Congressman, Sunil Shastri, was dropped, another, Dilip Singh Bhuria, was inducted.

Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and K.N. Govindacharya were not on the list of 74 national executive members. This showed that Shekhawat’s name as the NDA vice-presidential nominee was as good as through while Govindacharya was still out of the loop.

Naidu said the average age of his team was the same as his — 53 — and that they combined “experience, dynamism and youth”. He stressed that the BJP was an “ideological party” and his endeavour would be to “live up to it”, but also struck a note of moderation by recalling Bangaru Laxman’s message asking minorities not to shrink away from the party. “If they won’t come to us, we will go to them,” he quoted Laxman.

Naidu stated the BJP stood for a “strong, resurgent, egalitarian and modern India” and added that while the party would propagate the message of “good governance” to people, the government would have to take note of popular grievances.


New Delhi, July 11: 
The BJP is in a fix on how to cope with the RSS and its own Jammu unit’s demand for the trifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir which envisaged the truncation of the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley and the creation of a separate Hindu-dominated Jammu state and conferring Union Territory status on Buddhist Leh and Ladakh.

The RSS joint general secretary in-charge of the BJP, Madan Das Devi, had a number of meetings with deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and BJP leaders from Jammu after the Sangh adopted a resolution in its Kurukshetra executive two weeks ago endorsing the demand.

As the talks were on, RSS spokesman M.G. Vaidya announced the Sangh might join a new front comprising the Akali Dal and the Panthers Party to contest the Assembly elections. He suggested that the RSS would go ahead on its own in case the BJP opposed the idea.

Advani rejected the demand outright.

Sources close to Devi said Vaidya was asked not to speak out-of-turn till the issue had come close to a resolution.

In response, Vaidya modulated his stand this evening and clarified the RSS would not take the initiative to form a new political front in Jammu and Kashmir, but would back an alternative outfit backing separate statehood for Jammu.

“The RSS is not part of any morcha in Jammu nor has it decided to back any outfit in the elections. Where is the question of supporting a morcha when no agitation has been launched?” Devi said.

Despite Vaidya being reined in for the moment, BJP sources feared the issue would gather momentum closer to the elections. The sources cited two reasons for opposing the trifurcation proposal.

“The creation of states on religious basis and especially one with 55 per cent Muslim population would weaken our stand on Kashmir internationally. After all, our case rests on the fact that in spite of the existence of three different religions and cultures, J&K has remained a composite state,” said a senior BJP leader.

“Sundering the Muslim-majority Valley to create Hindu and Buddhist-majority states would also embolden Pakistan in its designs. It is not good in the overall national interest,” he added.

Moreover, it would knock the bottom out of the BJP’s long-standing demand for the abrogation of Article 370, which applies to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. If Jammu became a separate state, it would automatically lose the privilege of this provision, sources said, while it would continue to apply in Kashmir.


New Delhi, July 11: 
A solution to the bifurcation tussle seemed distant as the meeting which the Prime Minister was scheduled to hold with L.K. Advani, George Fernandes and railway minister Nitish Kumar today to mediate in the rail row did not take place.

Fernandes, who returned last night after a week-long trip to Japan, left for Bareilly this morning for an official function. He will proceed to Nalanda, his parliamentary constituency, and is expected back in Delhi on Saturday evening. Advani said he would take up the matter with Atal Bihari Vajpayee after Fernandes’ return.

The deputy Prime Minister held out a ray of hope when he said the government will not take any decision that “will affect the relations between two states”. The bifurcation of Eastern Railway has turned into a full-blown tussle between Bengal and Bihar with chief minister Rabri Devi joining issue with Mamata Banerjee.

Sources said that with Mamata and Nitish hardening their stands, a possible solution could be returning Dhanbad to Eastern Railway and creating a new division at Bhagalpur with Malda and Katiahar.

The delay will prolong Mamata’s wait for a Cabinet berth since she has made review of the bifurcation a condition for her return to the ministry. She will now have to sit out for at least a month. Cabinet reshuffles are not done during the monsoon session which is beginning on Monday and will conclude by mid-August.

In another development, Vajpayee turned away an all-party delegation from Bihar that came to counter Bengal’s “propaganda” against the bifurcation on the ground that he did not meet the team from Bengal either. The team met Advani and Nitish and pleaded for the split.

After the meeting Advani told reporters that the bifurcation decision was taken by the Cabinet and only the Cabinet or the Prime Minister could review it. He denied having assured the Bihar team that the decision would not be reviewed.

But the Bihar leaders, including the BJP’s Sushil Modi, minister and RJD leader Ramchandra Purve and the CPM’s Ramdev Verma, had a different story. They said Advani gave them a sympathetic hearing and was “positive that the matter will not be reviewed”.

Asked why he joined the team pleading for the bifurcation when his party was opposed to it, Verma said he was permitted to attend the meeting. “Sitaram Yechuri asked me to tell Advani that it was a national issue and that matter should not be allowed to degenerate into street violence,” he said.

The Trinamul Congress kept up the pressure with MP Nitish Sengupta again seeking the Prime Minister’s intervention, and accusing Nitish of “behaving like Mohammad bin Tughlaq”. Mamata had likened the railway minister to the eccentric sultan yesterday.

“No minister should have the right to behave like Mohammad bin Tughlaq and issue orders for such drastic changes without taking into account the views of experts and without having the stamp of approval of the Cabinet committee on economic affairs, which I am sure, is a requirement here,” he wrote to Vajpayee.


New Delhi, July 11: 
The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has finally offered some relief to science students of classes X and XII.

The number of questions in the maths and physics papers have become fewer — the maths paper for class XII will have 26 questions instead of 30 and the physics paper 27 instead of 30.

The Science paper for class X will have 27 questions instead of 33.

“Out of these, students can choose the set of questions they want to answer. So if they find one question too difficult, they can choose another,” said CBSE’s academic director G. Balasubramanian.

This way, students can “apply their minds” before answering a question, Balasubramanian said, adding that: “Now they have to rush through the paper. But a simple question paper does not mean that we are lowering the academic standards.”

The CBSE’s decision comes in the wake of the new national curriculum document drafted by the National Council of Educational Research (NCERT), advocating simpler question papers to lessen the burden on students.

The main thrust of an upgraded curriculum is removing examination phobia that more and more students are suffering from.

Unlike in social science and history, the syllabus changes in maths and science have been welcomed by all quarters.

Earlier, the CBSE had received good response from schools and parents after it decided to simplify biology and economics papers for students of Class X.

The school authorities also feel the present syllabus is putting too much pressure on students — a reason why many students are rushing to counsellors on the eve of examinations. The number of suicide cases is also showing no signs of abating.

Samples of reworked and simplified question papers are now being printed and will be available next month.


Panjim, July 11: 
Aaron Lobo simply loves frogs but his girlfriend isn’t quite sure of her feelings for the little creatures, potential princes or not.

“It’s just a childhood fascination,” said Lobo, who is doing his masters at the Wildlife Institute of India in Dehra Dun. Based in Goa now, Lobo grew up at Juhu in Mumbai, where he routinely kept pets — fish, toad or turtle.

“Now I’m basically focusing on sea-snakes, and all ‘herps’ (short form for life-forms included in herpetology, or the study of reptiles).” He’s planning a dissertation on the subject shortly.

Lobo had led a “Wild Goa” nature trail, taking along the enthusiasm of more than dozen wildlife lovers. He plans to check out frogs in Goa’s Porvorim area, a one-time sleepy village and now suburb of state-capital Panjim.

They chose the 8 pm to 9.30 pm slot on a new-moon night for the trail and headed for Pilerne lake, another swampy area near Porvorim.

“There’s not yet a checklist of frog diversity available in Goa,” Lobo said.

“But the Western Ghats is so damn rich that there must be a lot of endemic species,” he added. “There’s always a chance of finding something new.”

Goa and frogs have had a close relationship of sorts in this once largely rural but fast-urbanising small state.

Each monsoon, which begins sometime in June, fields get carpeted with the croaking of frogs that come out from nowhere soon after the first rains.

However, most people here have traditionally treasured the amphibians as a delicacy — for the frog-legs. Each year, the state government issues a warning against killing frogs for the table.

Cautioned one recent media notification: “Government of India has banned the catching, killing and export of frogs. As frogs play a vital role in the food chain of an eco-system, they greatly contribute to the ecological balance of nature. Catching, killing and exporting frogs for meat contravenes the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.”

Lobo believes that awareness about frog-related issues is still low in Goa. “Perhaps there’s nobody (else) who specialises in frogs. Generally, the smaller taxa is not thought of as something worth studying. Snakes and other bigger life-forms perhaps excite the enthusiasm and also feared due to the venom they carry,” said Lobo.

On killing frogs for legs and meat, Lobo believes that the situation in Goa is not “as bad” as it once was. “If captive breeding or management is done, it might not be such a bad idea to harvest it,” he said.

“Big bull-frogs come out only in the first few days of the rains. What is bad is if they’re caught before they complete breeding,” Lobo said.

But he points out that wider problems like global warming create difficulties of their own. “Sometimes, the pre-monsoons come so early these days, that after the frog eggs are laid, the whole area dries up (due to lack of subsequent rain, affecting the frogs’ breeding).”

As he finished explaining, the small team seemed impatient.

Their search would take them through rain-soaked paddy fields. Participants were forewarned: “Carry torches, rain-wear, etc. You might have to walk bare-feet or with gum-boots.”

Gayatri and Salil Konkar were eagerly looking forward to the trip, while Clinton Vaz of Margao said: “I’m actually more interested in fish but this is interesting, too.”

Harvey D’Souza and Neil Alvares, two enthusiasts from another wildlife network that takes tourists for nature rides — Southern Birdwing — are all praise for Lobo: “Ever heard of birdsong? Aaron Lobo can identify frog species by their calls!”

Lobo is one of the young wildlife enthusiasts who has emerged in recent years, which includes youngsters from Green Cross based in the North Goa town of Mapusa led by artist Nirmal Kulkarni and Sunil as well as snake-catchers like Rahul Alvares.


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