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Mamata language gift at iftar

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By OUR BUREAU in Calcutta
  • Published 6.09.09

Calcutta, Sept. 6: Railway job exams can now be written in “Urdu or any regional language”, Mamata Banerjee announced at an iftar this evening where she went after skipping a scheduled train flag-off.

The Railway Recruitment Board now sets questions only in English and Hindi and candidates are supposed to write their answers in either of these two languages.

“Henceforth, all those taking examinations for railway jobs will be able to write their papers in Urdu or in any regional language. I’m overhauling the Railway Recruitment Board’s policy for this,” the railway minister said to applause, her head wrapped in a traditional scarf.

A daily train from Sealdah to Ajmer Sharif will start ru-nning from September 12, she continued. “It’s a piece of good news for all those wanting to go on the pilgrimage…. The train will be called Ajmer Sharif Express.”

The resounding applause from the gathering at Park Circus Maidan will definitely find an echo among the larger minority audience outside, whose support has been crucial for Mamata’s electoral successes since last year’s rural polls.

A Trinamul MP said the railway minister had skipped the official programme to attend the iftar organised by the party’s minority cell, but another leader insisted she missed it because of a suddenly convened railway meeting.

“An important message came from Delhi and so the minister had to attend an internal meeting of the railways,” said Calcutta North MP Sudip Bandopadhyay, who flagged off the trains in Mamata’s absence.

Guests at Kolkata station were told about half an hour after the scheduled 4pm start of the event that the minister would not be coming.

Sudip green-flagged the Sealdah-Rampurhat Ma Tara Express, Howrah-Kharagpur Matribhumi Local (ladies’ sp-ecial), Howrah-Tughlakabad Tejshree Parcel Express and the Sipahi Express (extension of the weekly Barrackpore-Jhansi train).

The MP later said Mamata had sent him a text message saying she was held up by “some engagements” and asking him to do the honours.

Union minister of state for shipping Mukul Roy said “Mamatadi” chose to attend the iftar over the official programme. “Otherwise she would have been late for the iftar (which started at 5.53pm). It was hosted by our minority cell and everybody was looking forward to hearing her. So she avoided her railway event.”

A leader of the minority cell, Muzaffar Khan, said as much. “Didi wanted to use the iftar to announce her sops for the community in the wake of her thumping victory in the Lok Sabha polls.”

A railway official said from Delhi no further approval was needed to change the policies of the recruitment board and introduce questions in regional languages. “The railways can internally change existing rules to include them.”

But the official could not say when the changes could be introduced. Railway recruitment exams are held across the country every month.