Strike chokes mail and road traffic
Antique German artefact on view
Two boys electrocuted
Front on Basu bash menu
Manipur Rifles jawans cripple police machinery
Security shield for Ulfa kin

Calcutta, Dec. 9: 
Even as nearly 1.2 crore letters and parcels have piled up at different post offices in the city and elsewhere in the districts, agitating postal employees on Saturday took out a mahamichhil (grand rally), disrupting traffic on most arterial roads.

Nearly 45,000 postal employees all over the state have been agitating since Tuesday in support of a nine-point charter of demands, including implementation of the Justice Talwar Committee recommendations on wage revision. Three major postal unions � National Federation of Postal Employees, Federation of National Postal Organisations and Bhartiya Postal Employees� Federation � have formed a joint action committee. A BJP-led faction has pulled out of the strike, union sources said.

The police said over 2,500 postal employees assembled at Yogayog Bhavan in central Calcutta from where they marched to Rani Rashmoni Road. Later, a six-member delegation from the joint action committee met governor Viren J. Shah and submitted a memorandum.

Traffic in most areas of central and north Calcutta came to a standstill for hours with a number of processions coming from different directions. Though it was a Saturday, there were traffic snarls on Amherst Street, Esplanade Junction, College Street, B.B. Ganguly Street, Shyambazaar five-point crossing and S.N. Banerjee Road.

Union minister of state for communications Tapan Sikdar said in Burdwan that the government was ready for discussions with the striking employees. Urging the employees to call off the strike, he said the ministry had already accepted most of their demands. �A communication gap between the employees and the government is in the way of a settlement,� he added.

However, the employees plan to continue the agitation until all the demands are met. Sibshankar Ray, one of the union leaders, said the procession was organised to put pressure on the government. �We will have to intensify the agitation if the Centre does not intervene soon,� he added.

�Those who have National Savings Certificates and other savings schemes with post offices are the worst-hit as one-third of the striking employees handle them,� a senior postal department official said. S.B. Bhattacharya, chief post master general, West Bengal, said on Saturday night discussions are on at various levels in Delhi to end the strike at the earliest.


Calcutta, Dec. 9: 
For the first time in the city, an exhibition of medieval art objects from Germany will be hosted by the Indian Museum. The exhibition entitled �Ornament and figure: Medieval art from Germany� is a part of the Festival of Germany, currently being held in India, and will be inaugurated by governor Viren J. Shah on December 13. It will continue till January 7.

Museum director Shyamal Kanti Chakrabarti said 103 rare pieces belonging to the German National Museum, in Nuremberg, will be on display. The exhibition is the consequence of an agreement signed between India and Germany in 1989 to initiate cultural exchange programmes, Chakrabarti said.

Many of the art objects, which will be on display, were unearthed in the Sixth and Seventh Centuries in Germany. Decorated silver goblets, terracotta tiles of 16th Century, and the oldest seal of a German university are some of the interesting objects.

Though the exhibition will also be held in New Delhi and Hyderabad, the one in Calcutta has an added significance as the museum authorities will organise workshops, quiz programmes for children and lectures on India and Germany.

They will also stage scenes from Goethe�s works, Kathak dances based on Heine�s compositions and screen German and Indian films.


Calcutta, Dec. 9: 
Two boys were electrocuted while trying to fit in an electric bulb in a doll�s house they had made at Jinjirabazar, in South 24-Parganas, on Friday evening.

The younger of the two, Sintu, was electrocuted when he connected a bulb to a live electric wire. Bokul came to his rescue and was electrocuted, too. Both of them were taken to Vidyasagar Hospital, where they were pronounced dead early on Saturday.


Calcutta, Dec. 9: 
The Left Front�s felicitation of former chief minister Jyoti Basu on Sunday may turn into a fresh initiative for the formation of a third front.

While three former Prime Ministers and three chief ministers from other states will be present, the chief of the Samajwadi Party Mulayam Singh, the prime mover for the creation of a political alternative minus the Congress and the BJP, will also be in attendance at the function being held at the Salt Lake stadium.

V.P. Singh, H.D. Deve Gowda and Chandra Shekhar and three chief ministers � Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, Rabri Devi and Manik Sarkar � will come to the city. Besides, dignitaries from all over the city, too, will grace the occasion.

�The felicitation programme may turn into a fresh initiative for creating a new third front with both Mulayam and Laloo attending as guests,� said Left Front chairman and CPM politburo member Sailen Dasgupta.

State transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, who caused ripples in CPM circles only a few days ago by publicly opposing the bandh sponsored by the Left Front on December 20, is playing a major role to make the programme a success.

CPM state secretary Anil Biswas said on Saturday another former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral may not attend on health grounds.

Though earlier there was uncertainty over Mulayam Singh attending the programme, the SP chief changed his mind when he came to know that Congress leaders were invited.

The national leaders are scheduled to call on Basu at the latter�s Salt Lake residence immediately after the programme gives over. The Front government is hosting a dinner for them.


Imphal, Dec. 9: 
The �arms down strike� by the jawans of the first battalion of Manipur Rifles has thrown the state police machinery out of gear.

Even deputy chief minister L. Chandramani Singh today failed to placate the irate jawans, who continued with their strike.

The state government has suspended two senior police officers � Netra Singh and Sushil kumar Singh � in connection with the present crisis in Manipur Rifles. However, the agitating jawans decried te move and warned that the suspensions may spark widespread resentment.

The problem started when the jawans of the seventh and eighth battalions received their house rent arrears, special compensatory allowance and salaries between January 1, 1996 and December 12, 1998.

The arrears were paid after the implementation of fifth Pay Commission�s recommendations. The two senior police officers, Netra Singh (former commanding officer of the seventh battalion) and Sushil Kumar during is tenure as the commanding officer of the eighth battalion) had disbursed the arrears to the jawans.

The move was criticised by the jawans of other battalions, who did not get their arrears.

The government suspended the officers on the ground that they had violated the government�s order to deposit the arrears in the jawans� general provident fund accounts. But the jawans said the officers had disbursed the amount after getting a clearance from the finance department.

The government has decided to deduct the amount from the salary of the jawans of these two battalions saying it was wrongly disbursed. The amount will, however, be realised in small instalments, the government said.

Deputy chief minister Chandramani Singh tried to pacify the jawans and requested them to give the government a week�s time. Minister of state for home A. Biren Singh also accompanied Chandramani Singh when the latter met the jawans.

However, the securitymen refused to give a week�s time and set Monday as the deadline.

Chandramani Singh said a high-level committee comprising himself, the finance minister, the chief secretary, principal secretary, finance, principal secretary, home and the minister of state for home inquire into the incident from tomorrow.

Another departmental inquiry headed by inspector-general of Intelligence M. K. Das will probe the ongoing �arrears crisis� in the district police and Manipur Rifles battalions. The protesters apprised the deputy chief minister of their problems and charged the police authority with irregularities.

Many other jawans told Chandramani Singh that they would continue with their arms down strike till the problem was solved. They demanded their arrears like the jawans of the seventh and the eighth Manipur Rifles.

Jawans of the first Manipur Rifles overran the campus and locked the gates of the battalion to prevent entry of officials. As the police arms depot,oil depot and police radio department are located inside the campus, it affected the functioning. The jawans also shut down the radio department as a result of which police could not use wireless sets, whose batteries have to be charged inside the department.


Calcutta, Dec. 9: 
Chief minister Prafulla Mahanta today held his second meeting with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in two days, while Assam Governor Lt. Gen. (retd.) S.K. Sinha said families of all top-ranking Ulfa leaders have been brought under a security net.

Mahanta apprised Vajpayee about the law and order situation in Assam and sought the Centre�s help to deal with the situation and restore confidence among the Hindi-speaking people. Mahanta also met defence minister George Fernandes.

Admitting that it was not possible to provide police protection to the kin of each and every rebel, Sinha said Mahanta wrote to his Bihar counterpart Rabri Devi today, assuring her of protection to Bihari migrants staying in Assam. Mahanta�s letter comes in the midst of a Ulfa �hate campaign� against Hindi-speaking people in the state, especially Biharis. Nearly 90 non-Assamese people have been gunned down in the state since the beginning of the Ulfa attacks in October. In the latest incident on Thursday, 28 Hindi-speaking people were massacred near Sadiya.


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