August launch for infotech institute
Shah to intervene for Jadavpur teachers
Numbers game for better city
Rally raj stalls city on day of no taxis
Parking plaza foundation laid
Sikkim blocks job-seekers
Manipur Opp. wants probe into school scam
Bihar minister blasts colleague over ceasework
Unicef for aid funds monitoring

Calcutta, May 10 
Calcutta is to get its own Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) from August. Classes at the IIIT will be held at a temporary location in Globsyn�s Technocampus, Salt Lake.

Two years after Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu coaxed and cajoled infotech majors to help set up the country�s first IIIT in Hyderabad, the Left Front government has announced it is setting up its own cutting-edge institution.

Naidu�s brainchild, nursed and pampered by Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and the National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom), is now the envy of several states. Bengal�s Left Front government has learnt its lesson at the speed at which the slowcoach called East Coast Express links Hyderabad with Howrah. But having learnt it, the government is trying to make it functional at jetspeed.

State minister for technical education Bangsagopal Mukherjee has promised an institution that will rival any of its kind elsewhere in the country. The country does not have many to boast of.

Since the National Infotech Taskforce recommended setting up of IIITs, Hyderabad logged on first. It has been followed by the regional engineering colleges at Gwalior and Allahabad, upgrading themselves to IIIT status.

The setting up of Triple-ITs in the four metros in India was proposed by the national advisory committee on infotech in February this year. The infotech task force has projected that there will be a demand for 2.5 million computer professionals by 2005. If IIITs and such institutions do not throw-up enough qualified personnel, the gap will never be met, because a large number of computer professionals leave the country for lucrative jobs overseas.

The task force as well the Union government had recommended that the Triple-ITs be collaborative efforts between the government and the private sector.

Calcutta�s IIIT will be primarily a state government initiative. The government is forming a corpus of Rs 5 crore. Its equity participation will be in terms of land and buildings. The Institute of Engineers India, Globsyn Technologies and SRG, Mumbai, are likely to chip in with assistance. The West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) will also be involved.

The admission procedure is still being worked out. At the meeting of the taskforce in Delhi in February, the Union information minister, Pramod Mahajan, had suggested shortlisting candidates from the those who failed to make it to the IITs.

It was pointed out that of the 120,000 students called for interviews by the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), only 20,000 qualified. Mahajan suggested that the remaining 100,000 students could be screened, according to merit, and offered admission in the Triple-ITs.

Mukherjee, however, said an all-India common entrance examination for admission to the Calcutta IIIT for the first batch of students will be held during the third week of June. Classes will begin at the Technocampus from August.

Triple-IT will have 60 seats for an under-graduate diploma course in information technology and 40 seats for the post-graduate course.

Mukherjee and officials of his department have made several trips to Hyderabad, Bangalore and other cities to plan the Calcutta facility. �We have also got assistance from Educational Consultants, India, for technical planning,� he said.

The Triple-IT governing body, which will comprise technical people from Globsyn, SRG and other IT firms, will decide on the syllabi and the faculty. The institute will be headed by a director. The state government has not selected anyone for the post yet.

The Hyderabad IIIT�s syllabus has been set by Nasscom in collaboration with IT companies. The first batch of 30 students was selected from nearly 22,000 applications; the second batch of 45 from 41,000.

Mukherjee said the course fees and other expenses will be decided by an expert committee that will be formed by the governing body. The Hyderabad Triple-IT is charging a course fee of Rs 20,000 per semester.    

Calcutta, May 10 
In an unprecedented move, West Bengal Governor Viren Shah, in his capacity as Chancellor, on Wednesday directly intervened in a dispute between Jadavpur University teachers and the state government over increase in salaries.

Shah met a delegation of teachers affiliated to the Jadavpur University Teachers� Association (JUTA) and promised to take up the issue with the appropriate authorities. He assured the teachers he would ask the state government to look into their grievances without delay.

�The Governor looked concerned and gave us a patient, hour-long hearing,� said Tarun Naskar, JUTA general secretary, coming out of Raj Bhavan.

Wednesday�s meeting, however, could not resolve the two-month-long impass� at the university, arising out of an indefinite work-to-rule movement by the teachers since March.

�The Chancellor did not ask us to withdraw the agitation,� said Naskar. �Instead, he seemed sympathetic to our cause,� Naskar added.

However, the students, especially those in the final year, expressed serious concern over the continuation of the agitation and the failure to resolve the crisis.

�We were hopeful that there would be a positive outcome and the teachers would be asked to withdraw their movement,� said a student of the university. �Why should our futures be at stake because of a problem between the teachers and the state government?�

As a result of the agitation, most of the major under-graduate and post-graduate examinations of the university have been put off. They were scheduled to begin from the last week of April.

As part of their agitation, the teachers have been boycotting all examination duties, including paper-setting, examining answer scripts, invigilation at examination centres and all other work related to holding examinations.

The JUTA began its movement to protest the state government�s failure to implement the recommendations of the Central government and University Grants Commission.

These recommendations concern the upward revision of pay-scales of university teachers and other financial benefits.

Besides Naskar, several other JUTA leaders were present at the meeting.

Some of the other major demands of the teachers are: retirement at the age of 62, payment of arrear house rent allowance in one instalment, and payment of 39 months� arrear salaries.

One of the major grievances of the teachers is the refusal of the state government to clear the arrear salaries to the teachers, despite allotment of necessary funds by the Centre on this account.    

Calcutta, May 10 
There�s a lottery here, a lottery there, a lottery almost everywhere on the streets of Calcutta. But now, get ready for the Real Thing.

Inspired by the success of Camelot, the UK National Lottery, the Calcutta-based Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has approached the state government with a �concrete proposal� to play the numbers game �for a better Calcutta�.

A delegation from the industry association, comprising president KK Bangur, CK Dhanuka, BM Khaitan and Nazeeb Artif, called on chief minister Jyoti Basu and deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya on Wednesday to make a formal presentation, seeking �approval and support�.

Later in the evening, KK Bangur told The Telegraph: �Our proposal clearly outlines a plan which will involve no outflow from the state exchequer but will instead, generate new revenue opportunities for the government.�

According to estimates drawn up by the Chamber, around two million players in the state will participate in the lottery every week. Tickets priced at Rs 10 are billed to generate total proceeds of Rs 96 crore.

Of this:

45 per cent (Rs 43.2 crore) will be distributed as prize money

30 per cent ( Rs 28.8 crore) utilised for �good causes�

8 per cent spent on operating costs and operators� fee

5 per cent will comprise government taxes

5 per cent will earmarked for promotion of the Better Calcutta Scheme

5 per cent kept for retailers

2 per cent will be kept for administrative expenses

�The good causes will include heritage preservation and restoration, promotion of arts, sports and culture and development of educational facilities,� said Bangur.

Both the chief minister and his deputy have welcomed the chamber�s initiative and are keen to �introduce the lottery for the betterment of Calcutta�, said the ICC chief. But he was quick to add that Basu and Bhattacharya voiced doubts about the feasibility of �implementing the entire exercise�.

The UK National Lottery, launched in 1994, has proved a huge draw, with 67 per cent of the adult population trying their luck regularly.

Already, �10 billion (around Rs 70,000 crore) have been raised for �worthwhile causes�.

�The success of a lottery based on the UK model will depend on transparency, credibility, institutional framework and access to the lottery centres,� said the ICC President.

The Camelot model is an extensive computerised network aided by satellites and sophisticated telephone lines.

A customer, at one of the 25,000 on-line retail outlets, first picks a playslip and marks out the chosen numbers, which are then fed into the terminal; the information is transmitted to the main Camelot computer system, which records details of the selection and allocated a �unique� serial number; this number is then transmitted back to the customer at the retailer�s terminal � all within five seconds.

The �ICC Better Calcutta Task Force�, headed by BM Khaitan, has suggested the setting up of an independent regulatory and distribution trust comprising representatives from the government, the Chamber and other leading personalities of Calcutta to monitor the operations of the entire scheme.

�As the lottery will be a technology-intensive exercise, the selection of a suitable operator will be the key issue,� said Bangur.

He added: �The operator must have the requisite marketing and technical expertise.�    

Calcutta, May 10 
Taxis or no taxis, it was a day of traffic snarls, with a couple of demonstrations in central Calcutta making life miserable for commuters on Wednesday afternoon.

Even as the taxi strike left a whole lot of people struggling to reach stations, airports, hospitals, schools and offices, traffic was disrupted first by a Trinamul roadshow and then by a protest march of madrasa students.

At around 1.30 pm, Trinamul Congress supporters staged a sudden demonstration around Writers� Buildings against �the deteriorating law-and-order situation�. The police arrested 60 Trinamul supporters.

Traffic along Chowringhee, Lenin Sarani, CR Avenue and Esplanade East came to a grinding halt for two hours when around 120 members of West Bengal Madrasa Students� Union squatted at Esplanade, voicing various demands.

The students suddenly descended on Esplanade at around 3 pm and camped at the four-point crossing, taking the police by complete surprise.

They refused to budge and demanded an immediate audience with higher education minister Satya Sadhan Chakraborty, alleging that the Calcutta Madrasa was in a sorry state, with no principal for four years and 10 out of the 20 teaching posts lying vacant for 10 years.

At around 5 pm, with the students standing their ground despite repeated requests from the police, deputy commissioner of police (south division) Raj Kanojia arrived with a large force and ordered the arrest of the agitators.

The police herded 108 students into two vans and a minibus and took them to Lalbazar.    

Calcutta, May 10 
State urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya on Wednesday spent an hour doing what he should not have been: laying the foundation stone for the Parkomat, a computerised multi-level car parking plaza on Rawdon Street.

Asked if there was any need for him to lay the foundation or if he was doing it simply to figure in the news, the baffled minister asked: �What are you talking about?� and went about his task of laying the foundation stone for the first such facility in the city.

The Rs 8.45-crore Parkomat is being set up Simplex Projects, in collaboration with the CMC on a BOT basis. The CMC is providing Rs 3 crore as soft loan, to be repaid over a period of five years. The technology is being provided by Aarding of Holland.

The first Parkomat will be set up on the Park Street-end of Rawdon Street, to be followed by another one at Humayun Place in front of Lighthouse cinema.    

Siliguri, May 10 
Sikkim is all set to check the influx of job-seekers from outside the state amid plans to celebrate the silver jubilee of its merger with the Indian Union next week.

A senior bureaucrat in chief minister Pawan Kumar Chamling�s office today said, �The government is planning to make employment of Sikkimese mandatory for all outstation firms that intend to invest in the state.�

Chamling also indicated this at a public function in Gangtok yesterday where he said he would make sure that the Sikkimese get all the jobs they deserve before signing a memorandum of understanding with the National Hydel Power Corporation on the Rs 2,200-crore Teesta power project.

The officer said, �The number of unemployed is going up fast in Sikkim. We want them to be absorbed by the NHPC and other companies who want to start new ventures here.� As part of Phase V of the Teesta project, the NHPC has already begun construction of staff quarters and approach roads to the project site in the Zongu area of north Sikkim.

Among other major conditions are proper rehabilitation and compensation to people already or likely to be displaced because of construction work and allotment of 12 per cent of power to the state free of cost, he added. The project is expected to generate nearly 510 MW of power. The Sikkim government would also ask the NHPC to make sure that none of the employees, including labourers, stay back once the project is over.

Five years ago, another ambitious hydel project over the Rathongchu river in west Sikkim was scrapped following protests from tribal Buddhists who feared that construction work there would threaten Norbugang, a site where the first Chogyal was consecrated in the 16th century. By the time the project was withdrawn, the Centre had already spent a few crores of rupees on it.

Justifying the chief minister�s stand on employment, the bureaucrat said, �Our desire to safeguard the interests of the Sikkimese should not be misconstrued as a move against other fellow Indians.�

Lately, a number of reputed firms attached to the tourist trade and software and electronic goods manufacturing and technical education have shown their willingness to start their ventures in the tiny state.

For a long time, there has been a lurking fear among the Sikkimese that outsiders may swarm the state because of job opportunities offered by the new ventures.

As one of the smallest states, Sikkim has a population of a little over four lakh people. The bulk of outstation people working in government and private concerns is from neighbouring Darjeeling.

In a significant development, the Chamling government, which supports the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in Delhi, has decided to celebrate May 16, the day Sikkim became a part of India in 1975, in a big way.

It has invited all surviving leaders who fought against the Chogyal in support of the former Himalayan kingdom�s accession to the Indian Union in the early Seventies.

Among them are two former chief ministers Kazi Lhendup Dorjee (the leader of the merger struggle) and B.B. Gurung, who is now political adviser to Chamling.

The invitees will be honoured with shawls and citations at a function to be attended by Governor Choudhury Randhir Singh and Chamling. The day, also known as State Day, is a holiday in Sikkim.    

Imphal, May 10 
Manipur People�s Party president Okram Joy Singh today urged Governor Ved Marwah to order an inquiry into the state school education department�s regularisation of the services of 170 ad hoc graduate teachers in violation of Gauhati High Court�s orders.

Apprising the Governor of the scandal, Joy Singh submitted all the relevant documents, including the High Court�s order, to him.

In 1991, the government had issued advertisements for the appointment of 149 arts and 39 science graduate teachers. An interview followed and the vacancies in the school education department were filled in 1996.

The department again recommended the appointment of 126 arts and 59 science graduate teachers in continuation of the 1991 advertisement. But the government cancelled the order as invalid and illegal.

The 182 candidates, whose names were recommended after the formal appointment, had appealed in the High Court. But their petition was dismissed by a single bench in 1997.

These candidates again filed a writ appeal before the appellate section of the court, Joy Singh told newspersons today. But the court neither stayed the single bench order nor passed any interim order on the case.

However, the candidates were given an ad hoc appointment as an interim arrangement. The High Court had specifically directed that this interim arrangement should not exceed more than two years. This period ended in October last year. The school education department, however, regularised the services of 170 of the 182 candidates by an order dated April 6 this year.

The move comes at a time when the state is facing an acute financial crisis with the government unable to pay its more than 82,000 employees regular salaries.

Joy Singh said such illegal regularisation would cost the state an additional Rs 11 lakh per month in salary payment. He even alleged that the government was in the process of regularising another 300 ad hoc teachers.

Joy Singh told Marwah that such illegal back-door action has deprived the young, talented and qualified job-seekers. He urged the Governor to order an inquiry to prevent misutilisation of public money.    

Ranchi, May 10 
The bickering between Congress ministers in the Rabri Devi government intensified today with Neil Tirkey, minister of state for Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and Backward Classes welfare, lashing out at his senior colleague.

Tirkey alleged that senior minister Bagun Sumbrai�s boycott of his official duties has disrupted major development projects in the tribal regions of south Bihar.

Last week, Sumbrai had refused to see even a single file pertaining to his ministry till he was allotted either the forest or vigilance portfolio or given total charge of the fractured welfare ministry.

Tirkey also slammed Sumbrai for criticising another colleague, forest minister Manoj Yadav. Sumbrai had charged the Rashtriya Janata Dal government of granting the forest portfolio to Yadav whom he described as a timber mafia. He had also demanded a CBI probe into Yadav�s role in plundering the Saranda forests in Singhbhum district.

Talking to newsmen at Ranchi, Tirkey said all portfolios had been distributed according to an RJD- Congress pact which left little scope for disputes.

He said the agreement clearly specified that all Cabinet ministers would be vested with complete authority over their respective ministries. Tirkey pointed out that Sumbrai�s statements that he lacked administrative and financial powers to run his ministry were, therefore, incorrect.

Tirkey said as a result of Sumbrai�s boycott, a file seeking approval for a Rs 15-crore welfare project was gathering dust.

Official arrested

The state vigilance department arrested an auction officer-cum-executive magistrate, Manmohan Rai, and his office peon Binodanand Jha in Ranchi for accepting a bribe of Rs 1,000.

They asked for the bribe from one Ravindra Bhagat, after his bus met with an accident. An injured passenger had filed a claim for compensation. But the dispute was settled out of court and Bhagat applied to the auction officer, Ranchi, for recalling the warrant against him. When Rai asked for the bribe, Bhagat lodged a complaint with the state vigilance department who set up a trap for Rai and his peon. Both were arrested after the vigilance team caught Rai accepting the bribe.    

Bhubaneswar, May 10 
A senior United Nations official today called for a greater monitoring of international funds coming into Orissa for rehabilitation of cyclone victims.

Unicef�s India representative Alan Court, who was here to meet chief minister Naveen Patnaik and senior officials to take stock of the post-cyclone situation, said monitoring was necessary to make sure that resources were not misused. The funds should be spent properly and quickly, he added.

Court said the UN was so far �satisfied� with the use of funds. He said the government stepped in quickly and ordered action whenever relief materials got stolen. But greater vigilance was required, he added. He also hailed the media for keeping an eye on the implementation of projects.

The UN has provided $18.32 million in relief aid in the wake of the October 29 supercyclone which killed more than 10,000 people and left tens of thousands homeless in coastal Orissa. The world body pledged another $15 million in food aid as several coastal districts face an acute food crisis because of a huge crop loss.

Court said he wanted the red tape cut and faster government decisions. �There are delays that can be avoided, but then, it is easier to criticise a government than understand the constraints it works under,� he said.

Court said the UN agencies were drawing up a comprehensive plan to merge rehabilitation with the health and educational projects, especially for women and children. Returning to the pre-cyclone days would not be enough because �even then things had been pretty bad� in the villages, he added.

The biggest challenge facing the UN body, however, is how to restore the livelihood of thousands of people devastated by the cyclone. Though the enormity of the natural disaster has kept Orissa on the aid map, resources are limited and need to be used judiciously, Court added.

The UN headquarters has cleared a $3,00,000 Food and Agricultural Organisation proposal to provide 53,000 families with agricultural and horticultural inputs to help them survive.    


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