Calculators enter HS exam halls
Metro suicide hits services
Metro suicide hits services
Rebel donation proof found
City auto drivers flout fare rules
Abducted Cachar resident freed

Calcutta, March 24 
Students appearing for this year’s Higher Secondary examinations, beginning Tuesday, will, for the first time, be allowed to use calculators.

West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education president Sudhin Chatterjee said students sitting for science and mathematics examinations will “benefit” from the use of calculators. The demand for calculators in exam halls has picked up over the last few years.

The examinations will be conducted in about 1,000 centres in the city and state.

Altogether, 3,69,601 candidates will appear for the exams which will conclude on May 15. The results will be published “within three months”. Last year, 3,56,190 candidates had appeared for the exams.

An undertrial prisoner from Alipore Central Jail, Somnath Sani, will be an external candidate. Nineteen blind and 16 physically-handicapped candidates will also take the test. Thirty minutes of extra time will be given to them, Chatterjee said.

The council has urged the state transport department to run “special buses” and asked the state government to arrange for “uninterrupted power supply” during the exams.

A special control room (telephone number 337-4945) has been set up. It will operate from 7-30 am to 6 pm during exam days.

The council has made it mandatory for all higher-secondary teachers to examine answerscripts.

“We will ask all higher secondary schools in the state every three years why they are not forcing their teachers to check scripts of HS exams,” warned Chatterjee.

World TB Day: One Indian dies every minute from tuberculosis, with 30 lakh new cases being detected every year. The estimated global deaths from TB by 2050 will be three to five million a year.

These disturbing facts were highlighted in the latest issue of the Journal of the Indian Medical Association, released in Calcutta to coincide with World TB Day on Friday.    

Calcutta, March 24 
Calcutta Telephones will be ready with its cellular phone service by Durga Puja. This was announced by Union minister for communication Tapan Sikdar on Friday.

Sikdar met chief minister Jyoti Basu at Writers’ Buildings and discussed several development projects in the city.

“I have assured Basu that I shall play no politics as far as the state’s development is concerned. I shall try my best because I am a son of the soil,’’ said Sikdar after the first official meeting between the lone BJP minister from the state and the chief minister.

Sikdar said he was making “all efforts” to start cellular phone service in the city before the Pujas. Calcuttans will then get cellular connections for Rs 2,500 with the call charges being less than any private company.

He added that Basu had assured him all assistance in implementing new projects.

Sikdar urged Basu to provide him the land of the closed Basanti Cotton Mills at Panihati where a telcom factory will be set up.

He also asked Basu to arrange for power supply to some new telephone exchanges.

n Canal clean-up: The North 24-Parganas district administration has cleared all encroachments, comprising khatals and shanties, alongside the Bagjola canal at Dum Dum to enable re-excavation. The state government has taken up the project to prevent waterlogging in the area during the monsoons.

The clean-up drive led by district magistrate Alapan Bandopadhyay, on Friday, followed a High Court verdict to clear all encroachments to enable the irrigation department to start work.

Bribery charge: The CBI arrested a senior labour welfare inspector of Eastern Railway, S.C. Pramanik, for taking a bribe of Rs 2,000 from a class-four staff on Friday.    

Calcutta, March 24 
A 45-year-old man committed suicide by jumping in front of a train at Belgachhia Metro station on Friday morning. The body was not identified till late evening. The police do not suspect any foul play.

Nine trains had to be cancelled during peak hours and nine others rescheduled, following the incident at 10.14 am.

According to Metro Railway officials, the man was standing on the edge of the platform, waiting for a train to arrive. He jumped on the tracks just as the Tollygunge-bound train pulled into the platform. The driver had no chance to apply the brakes and the train ran over the man.

Metro officials have ordered an inquiry to find out whether the driver was “fully alert” at the time of the accident.

Thakurpukur explosion: Two persons were killed at Bakultala market in Thakurpukur after an air-compressor exploded on Friday. The victims were identified as Tapan Nath, 45, and Sudhanghsu Kumar Das, 70, both shop-owners.

“I was buying vegetables when I heard a loud noise and thought that a bomb had gone off. Later, we found the air-compressor lying on the shop’s roof,” said Haru Das, a local. While Nath died on the way to hospital, Das succumbed to injuries at SSKM Hospital.

Additional superintendent of police (industrial) S.N. Gupta said: “It was an incident of unnatural death. Hence, no arrests were made. However, we are investigating whether the owner of the air-compressor had a proper licence.”

Diamond Harbour death: Traffic was disrupted on Diamond Harbour Road for about four hours after a man, Sultan Naskar, 42, was run over by a bus on Friday. The driver is absconding.

Bus mishap: An unidentified person was killed on Friday when a minibus knocked him down at Moulali crossing. The driver and conductor fled.    

Guwahati, March 24 
The outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) collects donations from common people to organise public adya shraddha ceremonies of its slain members, the recovery of incriminating documents by the Army near here have revealed. This came to light following the encounter at Changsari on Wednesday, in which five hardcore militants, including chief controller and finance secretary of the Ulfa’s Saraighat Anchalik unit Amulya Patowary alias Tariq Ali, were killed. The rebels had come to the home of a slain Ulfa rebel, Tapan Kalita, at Banmajha village and had demanded dinner. The Army got wind of this and surrounded the entire village, leading to a protracted shootout. Apart from weapons and books on warfare, the Army recovered some money receipts from the slain rebels. The receipts showed that donations had been taken from the people to organise Tapan Kalita’s adya shraddha at the Athiaboi Bonmajha High School compound on February 5 last year. Each donor apparently made a contribution of at least Rs 20 as each slip showed this amount. “Received with thanks Rs 20 in cash for the public adya shraddha ceremony of national martyr Tapan Kalita alias Akash Bora,” the receipts read. Though the Army has claimed the Ulfa was behind the fund-raising drive, no evidence has been found so far that links the outfit to the collection of donations. The Ulfa’s name does not figure anywhere in the receipt issued against each collection of Rs 20. The outfit probably wanted it that way since the function was to be organised at a public place. However, the involvement of Ulfa sympathisers or petty criminals in the entire operation cannot be ruled out. Some rural pockets, like this village near Guwahati, are still known to be sympathetic to the Ulfa’s cause. A large number of youth from these villages are still in the Ulfa. On the other hand, petty criminals may also have been impersonating Ulfa activists or their sympathisers to collect money. However, this is very unlikely as the militant outfit is known to be “harsh” against impersonators, especially those who collect money in the name of the outfit.    

Guwahati, March 24 
City auto drivers flout fare rules Ramesh Chandra had just arrived at the railway station here after a long journey from New Delhi and wanted to check into a nearby hotel to spend the night.

Not knowing what hiring an autorickshaw in the city entails, Chandra boarded one and proceeded to the hotel.

At the end of the two-km drive, the driver refused to go by the reading on the meter and quoted an amount that far exceeded the legitimate fare.

Chandra was appalled, but had no choice but to pay the sum of money demanded by the autorickshaw driver.

Almost everyone who travels on an autorickshaw in this “gateway to the Northeast” finds himself in the same situation. Repeated warnings by the transport department and the deputy commissioner’s office have had no effect on the autorickshaw drivers, who invariably resort to boorish behaviour when people refuse to comply with their demands.

Consumer activist Deven Dutta, who represents the city-based Grahak Suraksha Sanstha and has launched a campaign against errant autorickshaw drivers, said the government was to blame for the current state of affairs.

“It is the government’s duty to ensure that passengers are not harassed by autorickshaw drivers, but nothing has been done in this regard. Fare meters were made mandatory only after the Grahak Suraksha Sanstha campaigned for it eight years back,” Dutta said. Though there are two district transport officers to monitor the situation, autorickshaw drivers continue to call the shots.

The traffic branch of the police department has also failed to make a difference. Dutta said several memoranda had been submitted to the chief secretary, apprising him of the situation.

Police regard the amount charged in excess of the legitimate fare as “extorted money”. However, their crackdown on autorickshaw drivers resorting to “extortion” is yet to yield any result.

According to Dutta, lack of signboards identifying points where autorickshaws can stop has added to indiscipline on the road.

Sources said a section of police personnel and transport department employees was hand-in-glove with the autorickshaw drivers, helping them to flout traffic and fare rules with impunity.

“Only a joint drive by the police, the transport department and the public can end this menace,” Dutta said.    

Silchar, March 24 
A local film distributor and cinema-hall owner, who was abducted from Sonai on March 5, returned home last night.

Arun Kumar Das, 64, was abducted by armed militants who waylaid the taxi in which he was returning home in the evening. He was held in captivity in a jungle hideout at Chhotebekra on Manipur’s southwestern border with Cachar district for 18 days.

Sources said last afternoon, he was blindfolded and put on a boat which ferried him to Fulertal village on the district’s eastern border. There he hired a taxi and returned home. It is not known whether any ransom was paid for his release. Police source here said Das was abducted by a local gang having nexus with the fundamentalist Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (Multa).

They later handed him over to the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah). Das, who returned to his Neon Road residence here looking haggard and famished, said he was only occasionally given rice and boiled vegetables. He has been advised complete rest for a week.

New political front

A new political front, comprising three political parties and two other socio-economic forums, is expected to be floated in Assam following a convention in Guwahati in the middle of May.

Assam’s irrigation minister and president of the United People’s Party of Assam (UPPA) Abdul Muhib Mazumdar today said the front would strive to safeguard the political and socio-economic interests of the state’s linguistic and religious minorities. It would also gear up to fight the next Assembly polls is Assam, due early next year.

Mazumdar said besides the UPPA, two other political parties — the United Minorities Front (UMF), a 22-year-old political party in the state, and the Dalit Congress, which was recently set up by former state minister and veteran Congressman Afzalur Rahaman — would be the other constituents of the front.

Two powerful socio-cultural bodies of the linguistic and religious minorities — the Citizens’ Rights Preservation Committee and the Unemployed Minorities of Assam — would also join the front, he added.

Speaking to The Telegraph over telephone from his ancestral home at Hailakandi, Mazumdar said the leaders of these organisations gave shape to the agenda and political strategy of the new front at a conclave in Guwahati on March 5.    


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