Paper shock to students
Invigilators ask for tiffin money from examinees
Dad at telly, mom before Chandi
Fraud check on new savings accounts
Howrah trade licence fee off
Opposition to new posts
CMC blow-vacs silted sewers
Mawlong courts controversy
BSF jawan abets smugglers

Calcutta, March 9 
Candidates writing the Hindi (second language) and biology papers in the Indian School Certificate Examination (ICSE) have been jolted by “unusual” questions that were a dramatic departure from a set pattern.

Students found that the first paper in Hindi (second language) exam repeated almost all the questions asked last year. The only question that was different was a “picture composition.”

Students also complained that the biology paper was too difficult because it was unlike any in the past 20 years.

About 30,000 students took the Hindi (second language) test on Tuesday. In Calcutta, many non-Bengali speaking students opt for the subject.

Father Manipadam, convener of the council, was also concerned over the Hindi paper. “We will definitely hold a meeting on this and speak to the council to inquire into why this happened,” he said. Father Manipadam is also principal of Don Bosco, Park Circus.

Though there is no official explanation, some school principals suspect that a last-moment question paper leak may have prompted the ICSE council to repeat the 1999 question paper.

G.R. D’Costa Hart, principal, Welland Gouldsmith School, said she did not know why the questions were repeated. “But truly, it is very unusual of the council to set this kind of paper,” said Hart.

“We were surprised to see that the topics of essays, compositions and passages were exactly the same as last year. Even the word meanings of the comprehension piece that we were asked to give were the same,” said a student.

Some teachers said students take it for granted that questions asked one year will not be repeated in the next.

S. Francis, vice-principal of La Martiniere School for Boys, said there was no report of a question leak. He said his students had no problem.

Kajari Mukherjee, principal of Rajasthan Vidyamandir at Girish Park, agreed. “There is no problem with meritorious students who are capable of solving papers no matter how difficult or unusual they are. The average students suffer the most if there is anything unusual with the question paper.”

On the biology paper, students said it was the first in many years that did not ask subjective questions. “The paper was good for intelligent students. But, by and large, it was tough. Mediocre students had problems solving it,” said Chaitali Guha Ray, biology teacher at St Xavier’s School.    

Calcutta, March 9 
Invigilators at a Madhyamik examination centre have been demanding “tiffin allowance” from the students.

Examinees at Kendua Mahendranath High School, in Ganguly Bagan, south Calcutta, were asked to bring Rs 15 each, guardians have complained to the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education.

This is a gross violation of the board’s rules.

Most of those appearing for the examination at the Ganguly Bagan school are students of Rungta Academy.

“Yes, I have received the complaints and sought a report from the headmaster of Kendua Mahendranath School,” said A.K. Chakraborty, president of the board.

He said the guardians had told Madhyamik board officials that on March 2, the day the examinations began, employees of Kendua Mahendranath High School had asked each candidate for the money.

The guardians do not want to be identified for fear that their wards might be harassed.

Some of the examinees said that when they wanted to know why they had to pay up, they were told that the collections would be used to buy tiffin for the staff invigilating in the examination hall.

Indignant guardians decided to take up the matter with the board after the examinations. But the board learnt of it when its officers visited the school during a routine inspection of examination centres.

“We will lodge an official complaint after the exams as we do not want to distract our wards right now,” said one of the guardians.

The assistant headmaster of Kendua Mahendranath High School, Kamala Kanti Chakraborty, however, said he had not received any complaint.

Neither had the principal of Rungta Academy, Chandrasekhar Pandey.

Coincidentally, Chakraborty and Pandey reacted in similar fashion when they were informed.

They insinuated “that some mischievous boys had made up stories” to get pocket money for themselves.

Chakraborty, however, said he would look into the matter as soon as the examinations concluded on March 14.

“The staff wanted Rs 20 from my ward. He did not have the money the first day. He paid Rs 15 the next day,” said P. Agarwal, one parent.

Most of the examinees who were not carrying the full amount with them on the first day had to give it to the employees on the following days of the examinations, the examinees and their parents complained.

Sources in the board said all schools that are selected as examination centres are paid to conduct the tests.

Collecting money from the examinees is illegal, they said.    

Calcutta, March 9 
‘Win this one for us, please’, pleaded a banner inside the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in faraway Kochi.

And when the battered and bruised Indian team conjured up a win, Kochi and Calcutta celebrated as one.

For Calcutta, glued to TV sets on the streets throughout the run chase, it was a very special moment. Hometown hero Sourav Ganguly had led India to an almost miraculous win, and raised visions of a long-awaited turnaround.

At Behala, the captain’s para, the celebrations were the longest and loudest.

For once, the revellers had the silent backing of the lawkeepers. “Sourav has led India to a wonderful win. This is the best news we have had for a long, long time. Let Calcuttans enjoy themselves,’’ said Subir Chatterjee, OC, Behala police station.

The euphoria at the Ganguly residence on Biren Roy Road, however, was tempered with restraint. After all, it was just Maharaj’s first day in office. And as sporadic fireworks lit up the Behala skyline, the fact that the favourite son had wooed success and Lady Luck back to the Indian dressing room was just sinking in.

Father Chandi Ganguly wasn’t home to share the special moment with wife Nirupa, but watched every ball of the first one-day international versus South Africa in the cosy confines of his office chamber.

“It being a weekday, I couldn’t watch the match with my wife at home. Otherwise, we would have been glued to the TV in a particular room in the house into which even our daughters-in-law aren’t allowed. It’s something of a good-luck ritual we have followed from the day Maharaj started his career,” he explained after returning home around 7.30 pm.

State urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya had come and gone by then, leaving behind a congratulatory bouquet. And the phone just refused to stop ringing.

The proud mother, a devout follower of Goddess Chandi like the rest of the family, appeared on the first-floor balcony briefly and offered a silent prayer.

Her son had cleared the first hurdle in what is expected to be an arduous obstacle race. She could now breathe easy and break her day-long fast.

Ganguly Senior sought to play down his son’s role. “I’m happy India won, since this victory was absolutely necessary to lift the morale of the team. But the feeling would have been the same had it been achieved under the captaincy of someone else.”

But wasn’t there any special message for Maharaj when he called up the evening before D-Day? “Not really. I just told him to stay calm and do the things that come naturally to him. Our best wishes are always with him and we believe Ma Mangala Chandi will help him tide over all crises.”

From a purely cricketing point of view, Chandi Ganguly described the win as “tremendous”. When Gibbs and Kirsten were cruising along, he felt things were hurtling out of control, but “I never lost hope since the wicket was such a beauty, even 302 was gettable with the batting line-up we have.”

The skipper’s sister-in-law, Mom Ganguly (wife of elder brother and ex-Bengal star Snehashish), watching the match with her one-year-old daughter Sneha, however, had lost hope and “felt sorry for Sourav when he was desperately shuffling the bowlers around to stop the flow of runs. It seemed such a lost cause that I dozed off”. By the time she woke up, Maharaj’s men were on the verge of a memorable win.

As family friends and other well-wishers trickled out, the Ganguly home waited anxiously for “the call from Kochi”.    

Calcutta, March 9 
The police have directed bank authorities to tighten the procedure for opening new savings and current bank accounts following the detection of fraudulent withdrawal of several lakh of rupees.

Detectives investigating the fraud said postal and bank employees remove outstation cheques from envelopes and then gang up with people who open up bank-accounts just to encash them.

Preliminary investigations revealed that Rs 50 lakh have been withdrawn in this manner from seven banks in the city.

Deputy commissioner of police, south, Ranjit Pachnanda, said he has warned managers of nationalised and foreign banks to be “extra careful”.

“Postal and bank employees are experts at removing the seal, replacing the cheque with a piece of paper, and then sealing it up again. The cheques are passed on to people who open an account in the payee’s name with the help of corrupt employees. They encash the cheques within a few days,” explained Pachnanda.

Police sources said several such cases of fraud are being probed by the detective department and five city police stations.

The involvement of the postal and bank employees came to light last week while the police were investigating the withdrawal of Rs 50,000 through a US cheque from a south Calcutta branch of the United Bank of India by a 78-year-old woman and her son. The woman has been arrested but her son is absconding.

The fraud section of the detective department is also investigating a case where a multinational executive, expecting a cheque of Rs 35,000 from Chennai, found the envelope contained only scraps of paper. The amount had been withdrawn from an Andhra Bank branch in central Calcutta.

A housewife on Harish Mukherjee Road was shocked to find that Rs 25,000 had been withdrawn from her savings bank account in a south Calcutta branch of UBI. She had not even received the cheque she was expecting from her husband in Pune.

City detective chief Narayan Ghosh said: “We will be able to crack the racket soon.’’

The general manager of Reserve Bank of India, Prabal Sen, said all bank managers have been asked to remain vigilant. Chief postmaster-general A.K. Chakraborty said his department is “coordinating with police” and the “guilty will be brought to book.”    

Calcutta, March 9 
The government has abolished collection of trade licence fees in Howrah. The Howrah Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2000, passed by the Assembly on Thursday, simplifies the trade tax collection system.

Traders in Howrah now only need to get trade enlistment certificates. The certificates are to be issued by Howrah Municipal Corporation within a month after traders pay fees that range from Rs 10 to Rs 500. Earlier, the government had abolished the trade licence system from Calcutta and other urban centres.

“Traders had objected to trade licence fees and professional taxes. We asked an expert committee to study the issue. It recommended abolition,” said municipal affairs minister Ashok Bhattacharya. He said the Railways and the Port Trust owed Howrah Municipal Corporation Rs 146 crore but they were reluctant to pay up. “I spoke to Union urban development minister Jagmohan, who advised me to raise the issue in Parliament,’’ Bhattacharya said.

He claimed the state had taken up a number of development projects. Among these were a Rs 40-crore drinking water project, a scheme to repair GT Road and one to improve slum conditions.    

Calcutta, March 9 
The government on Thursday faced resistance from Opposition legislators while amending the West Bengal Fire Services Act in the Assembly to create two key posts, director-general and additional director-general in the fire services department. The government had earlier decided to depute a senior IPS officer at the helm of the department. A Bill in this regard, the West Bengal Fire Services (Amendment) Bill, 2000, was passed on Thursday. Opposition MLAs said the government wanted to rehabilitate IPS officers who had virtually no work.    

Calcutta, March 9 
To prevent complaints of waterlogging pouring in from all quarters, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has brought in a giant blow-vac machine from Chennai to clear silt from the brick sewer system.

The machine, which has cost the CMC Rs 1.2 crore, will be used for the first time by a civic body in the country.

Its 240-HP engine is more than 10 times powerful than the conventional jetting machines used by the CMC at present.

The blow-vac can clear out 50 MT of silt in an hour. In a manual operation, it would require 6,000 labourers to obtain similar results in an hour.

There is an 80-km-long network of man-entry brick sewers in the city. According to CMC estimates, these are clogged with about 1.28 lakh metric tonnes of silt.

Member, mayor-in-council, Chanchal Ghosh said the city’s brick-sewer network was more than 125 years old and more than 50 per cent was silted.

“If we are to improve the drainage capacity of the city, the easiest solution is to take out the silt from the brick sewers,” Ghosh pointed out.

The civic drainage and sewerage department claims that if some important sections of the underground brick sewer system are desilted with this machine before the advent of the monsoon, the duration of waterlogging after a heavy downpour will be much less this year.

Mayor Prasanta Chatterjee, who was present at a recent blow-vac demonstration on APC Road, said: “I hope this machine will bring relief to Calcuttans living in areas prone to waterlogging.”

“If utilised properly, the machine is capable of clearing out the 1.28-lakh metric tonnes of silt within two years,” said Raghabendra Das, chief engineer, drainage and sewerage.    

Shillong, March 9 
Former Meghalaya Speaker E. K. Mawlong, who was sworn in as the chief minister yesterday, opened his account on a controversial note today.

He effected a minor ministerial reshuffle stripping many ministers of their post. Nationalist Congress Party’s legislative wing leader Lotsing A. Sangma, who held the mining and geology portfolio, was replaced by new entrant D.P. Iangjuh. Sangma was allocated planning, relief and rehabilitation.

The PWD portfolio was bifurcated into two to accommodate Excise minister Kyrmen Susngi, a B.B. Lyngdoh detractor. He was given PWD (roads) while Martyl Mukhim retained the PWD’s building department. The housing ministry was handed over to minister of state R.A. Lyngdoh much to the chagrin of former housing minister B. Nongsiej, who was dropped unceremoniously.

Nongsiej, who went to Delhi to attend a seminar two days ago, returned to the capital last evening to find his chair “usurped.’’

Legislative Assembly members also cried foul over the alleged extension of secretary E.L. Lyttan’s service, whose retirement is due on March 31. The staff association said the extension was illegal as the Assembly secretariat had issued a notification in January prohibiting extension or re-employment of superannuated personnel.

Funeral pledge

Addressing the funeral service of slain policeman D. Kharkhang, who was shot dead by militants at Mawkhar last evening, Mawlong today said his government would launch an offensive against militant groups in the state.

Mawlong, who’s victory celebration was marred by the killing yesterday, said the shooting was a “grim reminder of the mindless violence which had overtaken the state during the last few years.”    

Shillong March 9 
The Meghalaya forest department has accused a section of the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel of aiding and abetting smugglers to tranship illegal timber to Bangladesh.

High-level sources said principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF), Meghalaya, Balvinder Singh, filed a formal complaint with the inspector-general of BSF, V. S. Sirohi on February 2. He alleged that a BSF jawan was involved in smuggling timber from the Angratoli reserve forest in South Garo Hills.

To substantiate his allegation, the state forest chief even furnished the serial number of the rifle that the jawan was carrying on that particular day. The information was based on reports compiled by the field staff.

The jawan was attached to the Gasuapara border outpost, sources said. Principal staff officer of the BSF’s frontier headquarters N. S. Rathore admitted receiving a complaint from Singh regarding the jawan’s alleged involvement in timber smuggling.

Inspector-general of BSF, V. S. Sirohi, could not be contacted as he was on a tour of Manipur. “You will be happy to know that we have already initiated departmental proceedings against the jawan,” the staff officer said.

Rathore said it would be wrong to generalise the allegation as the BSF jawans have been guarding the 442-km porous Indo-Bangla border round-the-clock in face of heavy odds.

“Our jawans have shot dead many timer smugglers along the border,” he claimed, adding, “There may be one or two bad elements who have been lured by someone. But we will take strict action against the jawan if found guilty.” The jawans has already been summoned to the headquarters, the staff officer said .

Earlier, it was reported in the The Telegraph dated September 21, 1999 that trees were being felled with impunity in the Angratoli reserve forest, the Rewak reserve forest, the Phanda reserve forest, forests under the district council and the Balpakram National Park.

The state forest department has directed its field staff to increase surveillance along the Simsung, Maladeo and Rongra rivers in South Garo hills to restrain the smugglers.

Sources said huge quantities of timber were also being smuggled out of the West Khasi Hills district to Bangladesh through the river route. As the debate over the Supreme Court ban on felling rages, the Meghalaya Land and Forest Owners’ Association is trying its best to convince the state government that the ban is not applicable to private and community forests.    


Maintained by Web Development Company