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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hills say ‘no fee’ for exam paper re-check ... Notice from SHEEM .. Ayoadhya verdict deferred ... Tourists miss Teesta rapids for raft ban ...

Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, Sept. 23: The Gorkha Janmukti Vidyarathi Morcha today said hill students would not pay the requisite fee for reassessment of their answer scripts following poor results in undergraduate Part I and II exams conducted by the North Bengal University.
Amrit Yonzone, president of the student’s wing of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, said: “The results are unexpected and there is widespread discontentment among the students in the hills. We have decided that none will pay the requisite fee for reassessment this year.”
A student dissatisfied with results, irrespective of whether he has passed or failed, can approach the varsity for reassessment of two papers paying a fee of Rs 50 each. The student can also seek a scrutiny of any number of papers at the same rate
However, if the candidate opts for scrutiny, the university will only tabulate the marks that have already been given. During reassessment, the entire answer script is checked afresh by examiners.
A large number of students in the hills are expected to apply for the reassessment of their papers as institutions like Darjeeling Government College have registered a pass percentage of only about 30. Most of the institutions in the hills, except Ghoom-Jorebunglow Degree College and Southfield College, have recorded poor pass percentage.
Sushanta Das, controller of examinations of the NBU, could not be contacted.
College authorities said only the varsity could decide whether answer scripts would be reassessed without fees.
“It is a prescribed rule of the university that any candidate can go in for reassessment of his papers. Some of the colleges have already posted a letter to the NBU today, apprising it of the students’ decision to seek reassessment without fees. Everyone is waiting for the varsity’s response,” said the principal of a hill college.
The last date to apply for the reassessment is September 30.
Academicians in the hills say if the varsity thinks that the situation is extraordinary it could “re-evaluate” the answer scripts for free.
“I do not think that the university will reassess a paper without any fee. It could well use a different terminology like ‘re-evaluation’ or ‘remarking’ to check the papers again without fees. But there could also be a problem as it will set a bad precedent,” said an academician in Darjeeling.
In Jalpaiguri, Ananda Chandra College was closed today by Chhatra Parishad supporters to protest the poor results, while strike at Gyanjyoti College near Siliguri continued for the second day.
The Morcha’s student wing has asked not only the NBU but also “good institutions”, which have better infrastructure in the hills, to explain the poor results.
“Many colleges have good facilities and yet, the results are poor. Introspection is a must for these colleges,” said Yonzone. He has threatened to launch an agitation if no satisfactory explanation is given by either the NBU or the colleges in 10 days.
Some college principals have already said they, too, are dissatisfied with the evaluation of the answer scripts this year, shifting the blame to the NBU. 
GLP stopped DM
KalimNews: GLP now on duty at District Magistarte's Office premises guarding the indefinite hunger strike venue stopped DM Surendra Gupta's car and later scolded by DM and apologised to DM. usual GLP youths deployed in DM Office premises were asked not to allow vehicles  near the venue as the emission smoke and gases makes the participants of hunger strike uncomfortable. They were obeying the order of their seniors and in the usual manner stopped the car of DM. Annoyed DM Gupta walked out of the car and  called on the girl GLPs, asked their name and addresses and rebuked them, Later they apologised to the DM. ( Photo: Rabin Rai. darjeeling
Adivasi replies Biman Basu
KalimNews: Adivasis are annoyed with the branding statement of Biman Basu, State Secretary of CPM. He had said that some forces are behind Adivasis. Birsa Tirky, State president of ABAVP said that we will reply him in right time, he has undermined and humiliated us. He has to prove whatever he had said, agitated Birsa said.
On the other hand Kiran Kalandi, President of PPP another Adivasi outfit asked that when we Adivasi people are dying of hunger who is feeding us? When we are dying of hunger cannot we raise our voice? He has neither helped us for our survival and development at this juncture he cannot blame us that we are being helped by other forces, we know our problems and we know how to raise our voice, Kalandi said.
Verdict deferred till 28th
IE:The Allahabad High Court verdict on the Ayodhya title suit will not be delivered tomorrow with the Supreme Court deferring it by a week in a sudden turn of events today after it decided to hear the plea for postponement next Tuesday.
After sharp differences over the issue of entertaining the petition challenging the HC order refusing to postpone the judgement, a Bench comprising Justices R V Raveendran and H L Gokhale stayed for a week the verdict due to have been pronounced tomorrow by the High Court's Lucknow Bench.
Following the court's tradition in case of differences, the Bench decided to issue notices to all the contesting parties and sought their response to the plea by retired bureaucrat Ramesh Chand Tripathi.
Tripathi's petition pleaded for exploring the possibility of an out-of-court settlement on the 60-year-old Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit dispute. 
Significantly, the court made the Centre a party to the hearing by issuing a notice to Attorney General G E Vahanvati and sought his presence when the deferment plea comes up again on Tuesday.
Justice Raveendran was of the view that the special leave petition filed by Tripathi should be dismissed while Justice Gokhale was of the opinion that a notice should be issued for exploring the option of settlement.
Notwithstanding his reservations, Justice Raveendran, who was heading the Bench, preferred to go along with Justice Gokhale in making one attempt to find a settlement.
"If there is one per cent chance, you have to give it (for settlement)," Justice Gokhale said.
Justice Raveendran in his order said: "One of the members of the Bench is of the view that the special leave petition should be dismissed. Another member is of the view that the order should be stayed and notice issued.
"Tradition of this court is when one member says that notice be issued another says that it should not be issued, the notice should be issued.”
"And we issue notice and stay the order. There shall be an interim stay for a week. Notice will be to all parties and the Attorney General who shall be present in the court".
The posting of the next hearing on September 28 assumes importance in view of the fact that one of the three judges of the Ayodhya Bench in Lucknow – Justice D V Sharma -- is due to demit office on October 1.
Today's order was preceded by 45 minutes of arguments with Justice Raveendran and Justice Gokhale voicing divergent views on the postponement plea.
At the outset, senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Tripathi, submitted that if the judgement was not deferred it could lead to serious crisis in the country which he said was already plagued by the violence in Jammu and Kashmir, the worsening flood situation in different parts of country and the upcoming Commonwealth Games.
The argument failed to convince Justice Raveendran, who shot back: "Is that the ground for postponment of a judgement. For 50 years you have not been able to solve. Please see the order (High Court) hundreds of opportunities were given to you."
However, senior advocate and BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad, appearing for Dharamdas and another senior counsel Anup George Chaudhary who was arguing for the Sunni Wakf Board, said several efforts were made to arrive at settlement without success.
"This is the problem," both the parties contended, adding, "It is not possible and it was recorded in the order of the High Court.”
At one stage, Prasad submitted that Tripathi was not a serious contestant in the dispute and did not bother to appear before the High Court during the 90 days of hearing.
Responding to this argument, Justice Gokhale said: "He may not be a party before the court. They may be ordinary people. It is the ordinary people who are always the sufferer.
All that he is saying is let us give a trial".
Justice Raveendran said: "One way or the other it will have to be decided. Why do you think people are so immature. Why do you assume that the people in this country are so immature.”
"Religious passion will rise if people raise it. If people don't raise it, it will not rise".
Justice Raveendran said: "If you are able to persuade one of the parties to the dispute to support your stand, we could have considered it".
Rohatgi said one of the parties to the dispute Nirmohi Akhara was supporting the stand.
However, Justice Raveendran said: "It should not be a publicity exercise. What were you doing all these days.”
Prasad and Chaudhary strongly opposed any deferment of the High Court judgement saying Tripathi was not a serious contestant in the dispute.
Justice Raveendran quipped: "So both of you are on the same side, why not at least sit with him (Tripathi) and try to sort it out". At this point, Justice Gokhale quoting a newspaper report, said: "Even one of the Vice Presidents of the Muslim Personal Law Board was keen on an out-of-court settlement."
However, Prasad said the judgement cannot be deferred as one of the judges (Justice D V Sharma of the High Court who is the part of three-judge bench) was due for retirement on October 1.
He pointed out that in the event of the judgement being deferred after the judge's retirement, it would lead to serious problems as the entire matter would have to be re-heard by a new Bench.
However, Justice Gokhale brushed aside the argument and said there are are enough constitutional safeguards to take care of such eventualities.
"That the government of India will take care. There are constitutional provisions to take care of the situation. He is a Vice President of the Muslim Personal Law Board."
When Chaudhary argued that the judgement cannot be deferred, Justice Gokhale said: "If it is adjourned, what is the prejudice? We may not be facing the consequences. Some day the judgement has to come. You will be the first people who will blame us".
"Let us be clear. Let us say it is the ordinary people. There is no need of imagination. We know what has happened in the past. The High Court made efforts. They might have failed, no doubt but there are various possibilities. He (Tripathi) is an ordinary citizen. Courts cannot run away from responsibilities. We do not know which party will succeed. It will be even more difficult... how can you ignore it," Justice Gokhale said.
Prasad and Chaudhary said even after the High Court verdict, the parties can move the apex court, which will have a clear picture of it for deciding the issue.
However, Gokhale said: "It will be even more difficult to arrive at a settlement. How can you ignore it?"
SHEEM Notice
Kalimnews : SHEEM (SMS Headlines Every Evening on Mobile) being operated from Kalimpong likes to inform its subscribers that since the Govt. of India has banned bulk SMSing from 1 AM of 23rd September till 00.00 hours of 25th September, 2010 ahead of verdict on Ayodhya matters we are unable to send headlines to our dear customers. We shall however make efforts to send SMS manually which is not feasible in practical sense, in case any emergent incident needs to be reported. Otherwise, we shall meet on 26th Sepbember morning.
The Govt of India has banned the SMSing due to apprehension of any untowards situation to be erupted immediately after the verdict on the Ayodhya case by the Allahabad High Court on 24th Sept. The verdict is likely to generate communal tension accross the country. The Govt. has considered the SMSing as one of the swifest and cheapest means to communicate the rumour among different circle. Hence the GOI has decided to stop all the SMS services from functioning.
SHEEM is a news headlines provider being run by two unemployed youths (girls) viz. Pranita and Nikita of Kalimpong. They provide two headlines every morning and evening on their subscribers' cell phone every day. In case of any breaking news in between they promptly send the same to subscribers. For providing this service the girls charge Rs. 50 per month from their subscribers. They also send advertisement through SMS at a minimum cost which is very effective. The recent survey has proved that the advertisement through SMS or MMS has topped the chart as cheapest and quickest means of publicity in India. It may be possible that the GOI has banned the SMS services due this fact that this system publicise the matter among the cross section of the people within no time.
Tourists miss Teesta rapids for raft ban

Rajeev Ravidas, TT, Kalimpong, Sept. 23: Visitors seeking to raft through the rapids of the Teesta in the hills will be disappointed as the inflated boats continue to remain off the waters even though the autumn tourism season has begun.
Rafting on the river was suspended by the DGHC in May end following an accident in which four persons drowned after a raft on a search mission capsized near Reang, about 7km downstream Teesta village. The victims were from Teesta Bazaar.
The DGHC has refused to lift the ban as the rafts are “shoddy” and the families of the accident victims want stricter rules to make the sport safer.
There are 45-50 rafts at Teesta and Melli, two hamlets along the river, giving employment to around 350 people.
Tashi Sherpa, secretary of the DGHC’s tourism department, said the entire rafting system had to be made flawless before the suspension was revoked.
“The rafts are shoddy and the operators and river guides accompanying the tourists need to be trained properly. Besides, there is so much opposition from the families of the victims in the May mishap and other villagers to the rafting. I had a meeting with raft owners and the victims’ families a few days ago. I advised both the groups to sit together and solve the problems after discussions as they were from the same area,” he said.
The raft owners said they were all for streamlining of operations to make the water ride as safe as possible. “Rafting is our bread and butter. We have told the DGHC authorities that we will abide by whatever rules they frame to make the rafting safe and sustainable. We are also willing to provide our river guides with the best possible training as suggested by the tourism department,” said a member of the Teesta-Rangit Raft Owners’ Association.
However, with an end to the stalemate nowhere in sight, the raft operators have begun to count their losses. “The tourism season has begun and we have been receiving enquiries daily from rafting enthusiasts, but what to do? Not just the owners, many families in Teesta and Melli are solely dependent on rafting for their living,” said another rafter owner.
Sukbir Lama, a vice-president of the association, has said Teesta and Melli have together 45 to 50 rafts. “The rafting provides direct employment to about 150 people, while another 200 villagers indirectly depend on the sport for income,” he said. 
Train mows down seven elephants
TT, SILIGURI/Kolkata, 23 SEPT: In the worst ever incident in living memory, seven elephants, including three female and a calf, were mowed down by a Guwahati-bound goods train at Kalibari railway crossing near Banarhat in Jalpaiguri last night. The trampling of the animals under the speeding wheels has sent shock waves across north Bengal. Forest officials and animal lovers’ organisations have described the incident as “a pathetic climax” of the indifference displayed by the Indian Railways to the appeals from several quarters.
Questions have cropped up over the speed limit involving the goods trains particularly along the region, acknowledged as “elephant corridor” close to Reti forest.
The forest officials claimed that the railways had been consistently ignoring their plea to limit the speed of the trains passing through what is known as the natural habitats of the wild elephants.
However, in a defensive gesture, the divisional railway manager, Alipurduar, Mr SN Singh, claimed that the train was running at a speed of 65 km per hour as per the speedometer records.
“We maintain speed limit of around 50 km per hour along the four stretches identified by the forest officials. A herd of elephants came on the track suddenly. Though the driver tried his best to stop the train, but the brake did not work,” Mr Singh claimed, adding that the incident did not happen along the identified corridor.
The chief conservator of forest, wild life, north, Mr S Patel, said: “The goods train was unscheduled and it was running at a speed of nearly 90 kms per hour in contravention to the speed limit determined for the animal-infested zone. The wheels dragged an elephant nearly 500 metres from the accident spot on the tracks,” he added.
Rejecting the claims of the railway officials, Mr Patel said that the accident spot was well within the 42-km stretch demarcated as the restricted zone as far as the restraint imposed on the speed of the moving trains is concerned. “The driver ought to have restricted the speed to 10 km per hour along the stretch,” Mr Patel claimed.
Several organisations, working for the interest of the animals in north Bengal, have described the incident as "a rarest of the rare".
“Twenty-six elephants have so far been slaughtered under the railway wheels following the conversion of the metre-gauge into broad-gauge. Railways ministry should immediately order to stop movement of trains along the well-known corridor stretch at night. Otherwise the forests of north Bengal would not take long to get denuded of its prized animals,” said the coordinator, the Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation, Mr Animesh Basu. 
The divisional forest officer, Mr Kalyan Das, said in Jalpaiguri: “One tusker, three females, two  juveniles and an elephant calf were killed. Four of them died on the spot. The forest officials rescued two injured elephants and brought them to Khutimari and Garumara for treatment soon after the incident.
“Despite all out efforts by the veterinary doctors, the injured duo died early this morning. However, one injured elephant was recovered from a canal close to the accident site,” Mr Das said.
According to the forest officials, the autopsy is over. Six were cremated in Khuttimari forest and another one in Garumara forest this evening.
Meanwhile, worried over elephants getting killed almost regularly by speeding trains even after the railways having been told to take remedial measures, the state forest minister, Mr Ananta Ray, today said he would complain to the Union environment and forests minister, Mr Jairam Ramesh, and also to the railway minister, Miss Mamata Banerjee, against the “failure” of the railway authorities to  limit the speed of the trains moving through the elephant corridors.
The speed proved to be the main factor for the death of seven elephants yesterday, while 18 elephants had already died in the past two years.
The seven elephants were hit by a goods train at Banarhat in North Bengal. The forest department lodged an FIR against the railways.
According to the minister, the goods train was travelling at a speed of 70 km per hour instead of the recommended speed of 25 km per hour. “The divisional railway manager himself gave this information. At that speed there was no way the driver could stop the train even after spotting the herd,” said the minister.
“We have been repeatedly telling them about reducing speed, blaring horns and using headlights, but to no avail. We have also asked them to build elevated tracks or an alternative route via Falakata. Railway officials are party to these decisions, but they don't implement them”. The entire 180 km-long stretch between Siliguri and Alipurduar Junction passes through forest area. Other animals, including bison and leopards, have also been hit by trains in the past. 

Blame it on lack of efforts  The accused: trains without timing 
GS Mudur and Avijit Sinha, TT, Sept. 23: The death of seven elephants on a railway track in Jalpaiguri district last night shows that Bengal lags behind in efforts to reduce elephant mortality from train hits initiated in other states, wildlife scientists said.
The observation comes at a time when the forest top boss in Bengal has demanded that the railways stop plying goods trains through elephant corridors since they do not have any fixed time.
A task force, which had been set up earlier this year, said in its report to the Union ministry of environment and forests last month that increased speed of trains and their higher frequency in the elephant corridors often led to the animals’ death on tracks. It had cited Uttarakhand’s Rajaji National Park, where there had been a mitigation of animal deaths on tracks because of a Wildlife Trust of India project.
The WTI’s National Train Hit Mitigation project had also expanded to Assam and southern India, but Bengal remains untouched by the project.
The task force had noted that 150 elephants had been mowed down by trains across the country since 1987. Until 2007, the largest number of jumbo deaths was in Assam, followed by Bengal and Uttarakhand.
Wildlife scientists say several factors have contributed to these deaths — steep embankments on the sides of the tracks, thick vegetation that prevent locomotive drivers from seeing animals until it is too late, or the disposal of food waste on railway tracks that attracts the elephants. At some of these sites, elephants cross railway tracks because a close source of water is on the other side.
"We need site-specific solutions to this problem," said Anil Kumar Singh, a scientist with the WTI, a non-government organisation. “But we need to begin with surveys to identify the most accident-prone stretches along railway tracks,” Singh, head of the conflict mitigation division at the WTI, told The Telegraph.
Between 1987 and 2001, about 20 elephants from the Rajaji National Park were run over by trains. But not a single elephant has died on the tracks ever since the train hit mitigation project was launched there in 2001, Singh said.
In collaboration with the state forest department and the railways, wildlife experts implemented a series of steps in Rajaji. Some of the measures include levelling of embankments on both sides of the railway tracks that had the potential to trap a herd of elephants, reducing thick vegetation to improve visibility for locomotive drivers, and sensitising them about likely elephant movements.
The spot near Moraghat tea estate where the seven elephants were killed last night, however, had clear visibility and neither was there any thick vegetation around. Bengal foresters think the deaths had more to do with the goods train plying in the elephant corridor.
“These trains have no fixed timing and even if our employees monitor and drive elephant herds away from the tracks when trains come, they can do nothing in case of good trains,” said Bengal principal chief conservator of forests Atanu Raha. He also said his department was working alone in the absence of any guidelines from the Centre although 20 days had passed since the task force recommendations had reached the ministry.
The WTI has worked with the railways and the forest department to expand the train hit mitigation project to an elephant corridor between Coimbatore and Palakkad. “We’d like to initiate this in Bengal too,” Singh said.
Wildlife NGOs said if the Centre had been more prompt in implementing the task forces’ recommendations, the exchange of information between the railways and the forest department could have been started by now.
“This could have saved the seven elephants,” said Sujit Das, secretary of the Odlabari Nature and Adventure Society. 
Jumbo alerts were absent, cry railways
TT, Alipurduar, Sept. 23: The forest department was not following a suggestion made during a joint inspection that it would pass on information about the presence of elephant herds close to the tracks to the nearest station, senior railway officials today alleged.
The divisional railway manager of the Northeast Frontier Railway, Alipurduar division, S.N. Singh, said yesterday’s tragedy could have been avoided had the forest department informed the railways that a herd had been moving close to the tracks at night.
“The spot where the accident took place is not among the 10 zones where we had agreed to reduce train speed. But we had been repeatedly asking the foresters to share information with us, which has not been happening,” Singh said.
He said forest range and beat offices could send information to the nearest station, signalhouse or staff manning level-crossings on the movement of wild animals. “Our staff patrol the entire 180km stretch from Siliguri to Alipurduar. We have records to show that this year alone, trains have been halted on 159 occasions to allow elephants to cross tracks safely. What happened last night was shocking. On Tuesday night, our staff had spotted a herd of elephants at the same place and had informed the forest range office at Binnaguri,” Singh said.
The officer claimed that the railway staff had been given the permission to stop trains even on villagers’ word if they could send information about herds crossing the tracks.
He said during an inspection along sections of the tracks jointly with the forest department on January 14 this year, it was decided that six more spots would be added to the speed restriction zones for trains. Fencing, underpass and culverts would be constructed in the areas to minimise incidents of collision. “However, the ministry of environment and forests was supposed to send Rs 7.27 crore for the work that we were supposed to execute but the funds are yet to arrive,” he said.
The chief conservator of forests, north Bengal, S.B. Patel, who had been part of the joint inspection team, said the railways had proposed protective walls along the tracks and wanted the forest department to inspect the areas. “But after that there has been no new development in this regard,” Patel said.
Contesting the divisional railway manager’s allegation that information was not conveyed to the railways on herd movement, Patel said: “We definitely pass on information and warnings as and when required to the railways. But in the dark it is very difficult to monitor movement of elephants. That is what happened last night.”
Attack on CPM Office
TT,Cooch Behar, Sept. 23: The CPM office at Sarkarerhat in Sitalkuchi was attacked allegedly by Trinamul Congress supporters this evening when former minister Dinesh Dakua was present.
“Trinamul supporters came in procession and attacked the office and smashed the windshield of the former minister’s car. He was taken to safety by his security guard,” said CPM MLA of Sitalkuchi Harish Barman. Following the attack, CPM members took out rallies in different towns in Cooch Behar district. Trinamul has denied the charge.
Leopard body
TT, Jaigaon: The carcass of a male leopard was found in a drain on Nagrakata Tea Estate on Thursday morning. Foresters said no external injury marks had been found on the body of the two-year-old animal. The body has been sent to Gorumara National Park for post-mortem.

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