Practical bent to ICSE course
Garage, shops gutted in Howrah
Sridhar hand in leader murder
Subhas soothes bus owners
Bengal teens rescued in Karnataka
Russian traveller held

Calcutta, June 8: 
Students appearing for the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) examinations in 2005, conducted by the Delhi-based Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE), are in for a change in the syllabus.

Announcing the modifications in the ICSE syllabus on Saturday, chief executive and secretary of the CISCE, Francis Fanthome, said the Council has decided to include teaching of application-based subjects in the ICSE, apart from upgrading the syllabus structure.

Fanthome was in the city to inaugurate a string of new certificate and diploma courses, which the Council launched at its Elgin Road branch office on Saturday. The Council will offer these courses in joint collaboration with IIAS School of Management, a Salt Lake-based institute.

“Ever since its inception, the Council has introduced changes in its courses in keeping with the times. At present, teaching application-based subjects has become extremely important,” he said. The new courses are related to computer education, commerce and economics. The changed syllabus will come into effect from the 2003 academic session.

Students will be able to opt for the application-based subjects as their sixth alternative paper. They are now allowed to choose a theory subject as the alternative paper.

Elaborating on the relevance of teaching the new subjects, Fanthome said the syllabus on commercial application would be set in a way that would help students develop a “perceptive, sensitive and critical response to the role of business in a simple manner”. “The Council is also planning to launch a new scheme to help students express their creative abilities,” he added.

The existing paper on socially-useful productive work (SUPW), comprising extra-curricular activities, will be modified to include social studies with a greater emphasis on general knowledge and current affairs.

The new subjects will be taught in Classes IX and X. Those promoted to Class IX next year will be the first batch to be allowed to opt for them.

A CISCE official said the Council was also planning to undertake measures for expanding vocational education in the ICSE schools in Calcutta. At present, only two ICSE-affiliated city schools offer the vocational courses.

Admitting the increasing demand for vocational education among students at the Plus-II level, Fanthome said the Council had already started conducting inspections at schools to find out whether they had the suitable infrastructure to offer the vocational courses.


Calcutta, June 8: 
A fire broke out in the early hours of Saturday in Howrah, reducing a garage and 17 shops to ashes. Six vehicles, including four Marutis, were also destroyed in the blaze.

Sources said the fire broke out around 2.30 am in the garage on Mahendra Bhattacharya Road, in Shibpur. Although most of the workers had retired for the day, one of them raised an alarm. Residents tried to douse the flames as the fire-tenders reached nearly 20 minutes later. By then, the fire had spread to adjacent areas, damaging several vehicles parked nearby.

The blaze also engulfed 17 shops, located around the garage. Operations were delayed by an argument between local youths and the fire-fighters. The police had to intervene to pacify the crowd. The fire was brought under control after three-and-a-half hours. The loss was estimated at around lakhs.

Preliminary investigation reveals that a short-circuit could have caused the fire though foul play has not been ruled out. “We are also probing a dispute between the garage-owner and some influential people of the area,” a senior officer said.

Accident: Arun Kumar Gupta, 45, was run over by a taxi on Strand Road on Saturday morning. He succumbed on the way to hospital.


Calcutta, June 8: 
Investigation into the murder of Rabindranath Das, Trinamul Congress ward chairman of the Charu Market area, took a fresh turn with the arrest of Bua, a close aide of notorious gangster Sridhar, who is presently absconding. Bua was picked up late on Thursday.

The arrest has revealed that Sridhar is still masterminding his gang. “We had no idea that Sridhar could have played a key role in Das’ killing. Bua broke down during sustained interrogation and confessed his association with Sridhar. But we are yet to find out his role in the murder,” said an official of the detective department.

Das was shot in broad daylight by four youths last Saturday morning on the pavement of Deshpran Sashmal Road. The youths fired at him from point-blank range, killing Das on the spot.

Investigation into the case has revealed that Das, who ran a construction firm, was working under a promoter.

“We are trying to find out whether Das had developed enmity with the local goons. We are also looking for Sridhar’s other accomplices,” said Soumen Mitra, deputy commissioner of police, detective department.

With Sridhar’s name coming into the reckoning, the sleuths have changed tack. “So far, we were focussing on local criminals. The field of investigation has widened as Sridhar has a wide network of operation,” Mitra said. The police have been looking for Sridhar for the past few months. A number of cases, including murder and extortion, are pending against him at almost over a dozen police stations, said a senior police officer.

Some significant leads have emerged, investigators said. “Bua is still being interrogated. More arrests are expected soon,” added Mitra.


Calcutta, June 8: 
Two days after private bus owners called off their strike, Subhas Chakraborty lent his ear to the woes of transport operators and promised to see to it that police and motor vehicles inspectors did not harass them any more.

The transport minister held a two-hour marathon meeting with representatives of transport organisations at Netaji Indoor Stadium today. He is believed to have told the bus and taxi operators that efforts were on to return the fines extracted for running faulty vehicles.

The transport department had launched an intensive fortnight-long drive against vehicles with faulty tyres and windscreens following last month’s major accident in which 46 persons died after a private bus plunged into a sewage canal in east Calcutta when one of its tyres burst.

Transport operators had threatened a statewide strike from Monday to protest against the “harassment” by the authorities and the increase in diesel price. They called it off on Thursday in response to the government offer of talks.

“The minister has also promised that bus and taxi operators will be given a month’s time to get their vehicles repaired on an emergency basis, and till that time, the drive against faulty vehicles will remain suspended,” said Lakshmi Das, general secretary of Bengal Mini Bus Owners’ Syndicate, after attending the meeting. Chakraborty was not available for comment.

The minister also announced that transport officials would meet private and minibus owners and representatives from various taxi associations next week to decide on the proposed fare hike, Lakshmi Das said. “As per the minister’s promise, the government is going to announce a revised fare structure within the next fortnight, and till that time, we must keep all sorts of agitation in abeyance,” he added.

Officials said the issue will also be discussed at an upcoming Left Front committee meeting slated for the end of this month.

Echoing Lakshmi Das, Sadhan Das, general secretary of the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates, said the minister’s response was “very positive” when their problems were put to him. “Over 300 private buses were fined due to faulty tyres and other defective parts. We requested the minister not to harass the operators after they get their vehicles repaired,” he added.


Chinsurah (Hooghly), June 8: 
Seventy-six teenagers were yesterday brought back to Bengal from Karnataka, where they were working under inhuman conditions. They were rescued by the Karnataka police and labelled “child labourers”.

Coming from poor families, the teens had left their homes in search of jobs over the past couple of years.

A team of Bengal policemen escorted them from Bangalore to Howrah station by train yesterday and took them to the Chinsurah police lines, where they slept overnight. A luxury bus was hired today to take the boys to their respective police stations, where their parents were asked to come and collect them. There was jubilation all round as the parents met their children after a long wait.

“We had to send our children for jobs in Karnataka. But today it’s a great relief for us that they have returned safe after suffering such an ordeal,” said an overwhelmed Shibnath Das, father of one of the children.

The boys earned only Rs 50 per week for polishing gold ornaments and other odd jobs and spoke of their employers beating them up at the slightest lapses.

District superintendent of police Ajay Kumar said the boys were not forced to leave their homes. “The families are poor and not in a position to provide their children two square meals a day,” Kumar said.

Karnataka police, who “rescued” the boys, made them don vests with the words “Bonded Child Labour” printed on them before sending them back. The police had rounded up 106 such Bengal teenagers, including the 76 from Hooghly, from their respective work places and kept them at a school in Bangalore.


Siliguri, June 8: 
A Russian woman was taken into custody in Darjeeling yesterday for impersonation and illegal entry into the country without valid travel documents. Tatiyana Gogichayhhvili, 25, a resident of Moscow, had been criss-crossing India for the past year, conning the Indian public and policemen.

Darjeeling superintendent of police Sanjay Chander said Tatiyana, clad in trendy jeans and leather jacket, walked into the Darjeeling Sadar police station on Wednesday and lodged a general diary that her possessions, including her travel documents, were robbed on the journey from Patna to the hill station.

“The woman’s story and her knowledge of places convinced the police officials, who helped arrange for accommodation in Darjeeling. It was only when we decided to cross-check on her tour itinerary that we smelt a rat,” Chander said.

Tatiyana had claimed that she got separated from her parents at Varanasi and flew directly to Calcutta. She then went to Patna, and came to Darjeeling from there. Checks with the airline office in Calcutta showed there were on direct flights from Varanasi to Calcutta.

Moreover, she said she came to India via a British Airways flight from Dubai to New Delhi on April 28 last year. But no record of such a flight was available with the immigration counter in New Delhi.

Intrigued, the Darjeeling police contacted the SIB in Calcutta. The intelligence unit informed them of two similar cases — an Australian and an American woman, matching Tatiyana’s description, lodging diaries with the Baripada police in Orissa and the Kharagpur police respectively claiming to have been robbed.

“We were confirmed of her modus operandi after the Orissa and Kharagpur police faxed us the general dairies lodged by the woman. The handwriting matched perfectly,” Chander added.

She has told the police that she has been going around India alone since April, 2001, and has visited Goa, Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal. “She confessed she used to cook up tales of having lost her travel documents, clothes, and money to gain sympathy from the people and police and continue her joyride,” Chander said.


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