Free ride plan from Class I to X
Jharkhand birth with number drama
Mamata woos minorities, warns majority partner
PM in power push
Dalmiya alleges harassment
Deal hunt in deadlocked America
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, Nov. 14: 
If states agree, students can waltz through 10 years of school without having to burn midnight oil preparing for examinations. The framework for a new school curriculum, drawn up by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), has suggested that no student should be declared “passed or failed” up to Class X. “The evaluation will be predominantly school-based, using a continuous and comprehensive evaluation mode,” recommends the document released today by HRD minister M.M. Joshi. At the higher secondary level, the framework proposes a more rigorous evaluation system based on four semesters and a nine-point gradation scale. Schools will conduct the first three semester exams while the board will conduct the last. “The performance of students in school-based examinations will be graded on a nine-point scale by converting marks into grades,” suggests the document. It aims at introducing a uniform school structure of 10 plus 2 plus 3. At the secondary level, schools will evaluate the students’ performances through a five-point grading system. “The system will provide opportunities to students to improve their grades,” argues the NCERT paper. The Centre, however, made it clear that it is up to individual states to accept the guidelines. This is not the first time that a curriculum framework has suggested doing away with the pass-fail system. Earlier documents, prepared in 1975 and 1988, had also toyed with the same proposal. The majority of educationists are against the grade system and the scrapping of exams. “We have tried it in schools and even in Delhi University. But it created a lot of confusion,” said an educationist. But the latest set of guidelines suggests that schools can maintain an academic standard by carrying out periodic assessments. The surveys will be conducted by standardised achievement tests. The new framework also agrees with the 1986 National Policy of Education proposal for a semester system. “It offers greater freedom in experimenting with satisfactory tools and techniques,” the paper says. A semester system is based on credits. Each course will have several credits depending on the quantum of work and the time needed to complete it. NCERT, however, has dropped the proposal of two levels of curriculum — Level A for students who want to pursue a career in Maths or Science, and Level B for those who want to opt for a course in humanities. The most controversial proposal is the one on introducing value education at the primary and elementary levels. Critics of the BJP were apprehensive that the party would smuggle in its Hindutva ideology. The new document, however, steers clear of propaganda of any one religion — instead it lays emphasis on spiritualism, national integration and social cohesion as the basis for value education. It clarifies that value education will not be a separate subject of study.    

Ranchi, Nov. 14: 
Hundred years of blood, sweat and tears whittled down to a Machiavellian game of numbers as Bihar cleaved at midnight to make room for the tribal-dominated state of Jharkhand.

Amid protests by the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), which spearheaded the agitation for a separate state but was shunned when it demanded the right to govern, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) proclaimed victory on the strength of 45 legislators in a House of 82.

Babulal Marandi, the 42-year-old Sangh parivar veteran, was sworn in chief minister after a half-an-hour delay. Governor Prabhat Kumar has given Marandi 15 days to prove majority.

Marandi said improving the plight of the mineral-rich but backward region would be his first priority. “After a century-old struggle, the people of Jharkhand can now shape their own destiny,” said the former Union minister whose election sparked a near-rebellion in the BJP.

Jharkhand’s midnight birth as the 28th state capped a day of tense moments. Heavy security overshadowed the festivities and people preferred to stay indoors.

The Jharkhand movement, one of the longest struggles for statehood, had its roots in the ethnic uprising led by Birsa Munda in the mid-1890s. The agitation gained momentum under Jaipal Singh when, in 1938, he formed the Adivasi Mahasabha.

Marandi was unanimously elected leader of the NDA legislature party this afternoon after miffed supporters of Karia Munda, a veteran MP whose claims to the chair were ignored by the BJP high command, agreed to toe the party line. NDA observer M.L. Khurana told the MLAs they were free to name a “second choice” as well. But all 45 raised their hands for Marandi.

Munda, described as a “towering leader” of the struggle who has been elected to the Lok Sabha every time since 1977, initially refused to attend the swearing-in.

The NDA, which had a slim edge over the Rashtriya Janata Dal-JMM combine in the numbers game, got a shot in the arm when two MLAs from the United Gondwana Democratic Parishad, Joba Manjhi and Sudesh Mahato, crossed over from the rival camp.

Two other Independents, Samresh Singh from Bokaro and Madhav Lal Singh from Gomia, also joined the BJP alliance, taking its tally to a comfortable 45. Besides these four MLAs, the NDA has 33 legislators from the BJP, five from the Samata Party and three from the Janata Dal (United).

The BJP “hijacked” the two UGDP legislators and “hid” them till the last moment, much to the discomfiture of Laloo Yadav, whose workers combed the city for the “elusive” MLAs. Adding to Laloo’s misery, the two Independents, who had pledged support to Soren, ditched him at the end.    

New Delhi & Calcutta, Nov. 14: 
Betraying her anxiety to win back the minority vote before the Assembly elections, Mamata Banerjee today split hair before a convention of Muslims in a bid to convince them that her loyalty extended only till Atal Behari Vajpayee and not the BJP.

She also indicated that her alliance was not a permanent arrangement. “We are supporting only Atalji because he is secular-minded. The day we find a crack in the secular framework of the National Democratic Alliance government, we will walk out,” Mamata told a meeting organised by the West Bengal Pradesh Quami Tanzeem, a welfare organisation.

The railway minister said she had decided to join the Central alliance to articulate the grievances of the minorities. “I beseech you not to take a wrong decision when casting your vote. Please remember I have no relationship with the BJP and I will never do anything that will harm Muslims and other minorities. If the minorities unite, it will take us a few seconds to bring down the Left,” she said, drawing applause.

The convention at the Netaji Indoor Stadium in Calcutta is being seen as proof of Mamata’s realisation that her Trinamul Congress cannot hope to capture Writers’ Buildings next year unless the minority community, which constitutes over 24 per cent of the population, backed her.

She spoke in favour of reservation for Muslims in jobs and education. “Any state where Muslims account for more than 10 per cent of population should have Urdu as the second language in schools,” she said.

Taking the cue from Mamata, mayor Subrata Mukherjee said civic authorities would ensure 50 per cent job reservation for Muslims in the CMC.

Mamata’s speech also appeared to have been conditioned by her resentment at the Vajpayee government for dragging its feet on the oil price rollback.

The NDA is meeting at Vajpayee’s residence on Sunday evening on the eve of the winter session of the Parliament. Finance minister Yashwant Sinha and petroleum minister Ram Naik will be present at the meeting to brief the partners, including Mamata, about the difficulties in reducing the prices. The Vajpayee administration has been at pains to explain that the party’s demand is not supported by any other ally of the BJP now.

On the other hand, Mamata has been insisting that she is not alone in raising her voice. Her party has claimed that the Telugu Desam, the Akali Dal and Indian National Lok Dal are with her. A Telugu Desam MP attended today’s convention.

But the government knows that Badal camp has mellowed after the appointment of S.S. Barnala as Uttaranchal Governor and that Chandrababu Naidu’s rollback plea was just a political stand. Unlike Mamata, none faces an election next year.

CPM state secretary Anil Biswas charged Mamata with trying to “fool the Muslims”.    

New Delhi, Nov. 14: 
In a signal of his concern at economic slowdown, the Prime Minister is meeting the strategic affairs committee of senior bureaucrats tomorrow.

The committee, formed by Atal Behari Vajpayee some time ago to push reforms forward, will take up the power sector at its first session. Top officials from the economic ministries, Cabinet secretary T.R. Prasad and N.K. Singh in the PMO are its members.

Vajpayee was informed of the bottlenecks in processing power investment on his trip to the US. But with Cogentrix, National Power, Electricite de France and Powergen pulling out of their projects, the Centre is worried about the signals going out to investors.

This is believed to be the reason the first meeting of the panel has a one-point agenda: power.

The power sector has been beset with problems since the early days of economic reforms. Most of the so-called fast-track projects cleared by the Narasimha Rao regime are yet to see the light of day, the counter-guarantee promise from the government proving to be the hardest nut to crack.

Vajpayee wants to find out how the government can cut red tape. Power ministry sources said 72 proposals — with 24,428 mw capacity — have been cleared for foreign investment.

PMO sources suggested the panel should not be expected to throw up overnight solutions. “It is a think-tank. The Prime Minister will only benefit from the opinions of civil servants to evolve a unified approach. A number of recommendations will follow. Since no political decision-makers are involved in the meeting other than the Prime Minister, not too many decisions will be taken. The recommendations will form the cornerstone of the government’s short-term power policy.”

The Prime Minister’s decision to acquaint himself with the problems also stems from his concern about a possible slowdown in power reforms after the death of P.R. Kumaramangalam. Although his successor, Suresh Prabhu, is virtually following the line pursued by his predecessor, he represents a political party whose leader, Bal Thackeray, views reforms with suspicions.

Background information gathered by Vajpayee indicates that 57 project proposals have received techno-economic clearances and 20 others have obtained the Central Electricity Authority’s in-principle approval. Of these, only nine are hydel, suggesting continuation of the adverse thermal-hydel mix.    

New Delhi & Calcutta, Nov. 14: 
Former International Cricket Council president Jagmohan Dalmiya today accused the CBI of “harassing his family members”.

The statement marked a departure from his description of CBI officers as “very polite” after yesterday’s raids on his residence and office.

“The CBI officials could have asked for the documents from me instead of having carried out such an exercise and harassing my family members,” he said.

In Delhi, CBI sources claimed to have found documents that indicated a scam in the grant of telecast rights of sporting events.

A court in Calcutta has allowed the agency to retain all the documents seized from the house and office of Dalmiya for producing them before the CBI special court in Delhi.

Other than Dalmiya, WorldTel chief Mark Mascarenhas, United Television Networks, Stracon — all three involved in dealing with telecast rights and marketing contracts — and several Doordarshan officials were raided yesterday.

The CBI has said in its FIRs that Doordarshan officials caused loss of crores of rupees by awarding the telecast rights for the 1996 cricket World Cup, the 1997 French Open and the 1998 mini-World Cup cricket in Dhaka.

Dalmiya, however, said: “I am ready to cooperate with any investigative agency. But I really don’t know why the CBI came to me for the (Dhaka) documents that are with the income-tax department for four months.”    

Washington, Nov. 14: 
Hopes of a compromise solution to the presidential stalemate in the US emerged today as the battle for Florida spilled to the streets and the spectre of violence haunted the sunshine state.

Moves towards a deal were also spurred by the first sign that the election drama which had so far transfixed Americans was beginning to take its toll. The outgoing House of Representatives and the Senate which were to meet this week to consider urgent legislative business postponed its session.

The formula, first reported by the Los Angeles Times, envisaged the Republican candidate George W. Bush agreeing to a manual recount of votes in the entire state of Florida. In return, the Democrats’ Al Gore would be required to renounce any legal challenge to the results of such a recount.

While the leadership of both the Republican and Democratic parties busied themselves working on the contours of the compromise formula, former secretary of state James Baker, the Republican observer at the Florida recount, made a formal, ad hoc proposal which would allow manual recounts until 5 pm today (IST 3.30 am on Wednesday) and a Friday deadline for overseas votes. This would have meant an end to all legal action.

Baker made the proposal as numerous lawsuits all across Florida made it difficult to even keep track of legal action in state and federal courts.

The situation was made more complicated with at least five judges excusing themselves from the bench and declining to hear the petitions on grounds that they were partisan or had a conflict of interest.

The Gore campaign chairman, William Daley, however, rejected Baker’s offer. The Gore camp felt that it was better to await a judgment challenging today’s 5 pm deadline on manual counting.

The court later disappointed the Gore camp by upholding the deadline but left room for flexibility by suggesting that the Florida election officials could count more votes at their discretion.

A factor which has put the Republicans in a fix is Bush’s consistent stand as Texas Governor that manual counting of votes is more reliable than machine count.

Bush went to court yesterday contradicting his own position. But the judge rejected the plea to stop the manual count.

Aides to Bush fear that he is losing the battle for public opinion surrounding the events in Florida. Most Americans want to see that the electoral process is free and fair in the state, where Bush’s brother, Jeb, is governor. They also want Floridians be given the full opportunity to have their say in electing the President.

Gore may also have been forced to consider compromise moves because of advice he is receiving from party veterans. They feel that a legal battle of attrition to the bitter end would make it impossible for Gore to govern even if he made it to the White House.

Strengthening the arguments among Democrats for a compromise were also fears that their party would lose public support if the battle was fought on the streets. Tempers ran high when Rev. Jesse Jackson, a Democrat, tried to address a rally in favour of manual recounting. Republicans and Democrats pushed and shoved each other. It was the first case of violence in the current election dispute.    



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