January 17, 2009

“Reservation based on religion is not possible,” :BUDDHADEB

Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee ruled out any reservation on the basis of religion, saying such a quota was not possible. “Reservation based on religion is not possible,” Bhattacharjee told a delegation of the National Commission for Minorities, led by its chairman Md Safi Quereshi.
Quereshi earlier said that the state’s minorities demanded reservation during an interaction with the Commission yesterday.The commission chairman was talking to reporters after the delegation met the CM as part of its visit to assess the status of minorities in the state.
Asked about the Commission’s views on reservation for the minorities, Quereshi said, “it’s a policy matter. I can’t say anything without discussing it with the Centre.” Quereshi said that the Chief Minister also told the delegation that Muslims should not feel isolated even if the minorities were not facing any crisis other than some socio-economic problems in the state.
However, the state government was trying hard to solve all their problems and upgrade their social and economic status through various development programmes and opportunities for employment, Bhattacharjee told the delegates.
During its visit, the Commission interacted with minorities, including Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs and Muslims and reviewed the problems faced by them. Meanwhile, Minister of State for Minorities Affairs and Madrasah Education Abdus Sattar said that taking in view of the socio-economic problems of the minorities, the state government has earmarked Rs 400 crore in the budget.

Recruitment in Bengal IT sector may slump due to meltdown

Kolkata, Jan 15: The recruitment in the information technology (IT) sector in West Bengal is likely to be lower than the target set by the government due to the global economic meltdown, state IT minister Debesh Das said here Thursday. "Last year we generated employment for around 15,000 people in the IT sector and this year we had set a target of 20,000. But now it seems recruitment will be lower than last fiscal (2007-08)," Das told reporters on the sidelines of Infocom 08-09 - an IT seminar.
He said new IT projects growth is slumping but the existing projects are going steady. In the last fiscal 33 companies have registered for the software technology park in the city. This fiscal (2008-09), 30 companies have registered so far. "We expect the number to surpass last year's registration," Das said. Regarding the upcoming India Design Centre at the satellite city of Salt Lake, Das said the cost of construction will escalate as it has been decided now to increase the height of the design centre from 18 floors to 24. The hub will house companies that develop high-end software for computer chips.

Tiger attacks in Sundarbans send wake-up call

KOLKATA: Man is not a natural prey for big cats, but tigers in the Sundarbans in West Bengal are increasingly sneaking out of the dense mangrove forests and attacking humans, prompting the government to finally wake up to the warning signals. An expert committee will be set up to monitor the activities of maneaters, as such big cats are called.

It will try to find out why the tigers are attacking villagers - officially, there have been at least six such cases in the past year, but many more are suspected to have gone unrecorded.It will also suggest steps to prevent such crises.According to top sources in the Sundarbans development affairs department, the proposal to form the expert committee was placed before Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee last week during a meeting with the Sundarbans board.

'The committee will comprise senior officials from the state environment and Sundarbans development affairs departments. This apart, several wildlife experts, especially those who deal with tiger-related issues, will be included. The blueprint is ready and it's with the chief minister now,' a top state government source said on condition of anonymity. 'The committee will monitor why the tigers are often coming out of their core forest belt and attacking humans. If there's any dearth in the food chain, the expert team will also try to find that out after a detailed survey. 'We expect the committee to be formed shortly and it'll start functioning this month,' he said, adding the team might be headed by state chief secretary Ashok Mohon Chakraborty.'A few names have already been suggested but those are not yet finalised,' the official added.According to sources, the team may have experts from the Zoological Survey of India, representatives from the Wildlife Institute of India and faculty members of Calcutta University's zoological department.

Admitting that the number of tiger attacks has seen a sharp increase in the past one year, state Sundarbans Affairs Minister Kanti Ganguly said: 'We've not seen such a rise in the past 25 years'.In India alone, the Sundarbans has a vast area covering 4,262 sq km, including a 2,125 sq km maze of mangrove forests, creeks and tidal rivers. A larger portion of the forest is in neighbouring Bangladesh. There are many villages within this area, with the local population largely dependent on the forest to earn a living, thus triggering a conflict with animals.Shrinking habitat due to climate change and cyclone Sidr, which left behind a trail of devastation in 2007, forced many a Royal Bengal tiger to migrate from Bangladesh into the Indian side of the Sundarbans island.

Wildlife experts say a good number of tigers might have come into the Indian forests in search of food.Reports came Saturday that a fisherman, Gouranga Das, went missing at Jharkhali after he went to the Matla river to catch crabs. Das was cooking his meal on a small boat when a tiger jumped upon the boat and dragged him into the forest.A few pug marks were also spotted Friday evening near Gosaba village in the Sundarbans, triggering panic among villagers. District forest department officials were informed and searched the area, to no avail. Three people - including a girl and a forest official - were injured when a tiger entered Deulbari village near Kultali in South 24 Pargans district, about 110 km from here, in the last week of December. The tiger was later captured by forest officials.Another injured tiger that strayed into a village in the Sundarbans Dec 31 was taken to Kolkata for medical treatment.

'In the past year, at least six people were killed in tiger attacks in the Sundarbans,' Ganguly said. 'Generally what happens is that many people enter Sundarbans creeks without any permit. 'And when they are attacked, their family members don't lodge any complaint with the police. So naturally, we don't get to know the exact figure of how many people are actually killed in tiger attacks in Sundarbans every year.' 'We've also seen a sea change in the behaviour of the Sundarban tigers.

Now they are fearlessly entering nearby villages and attacking people,' the minister said.He said the state government was planning pig farming in Sundarbans to provide adequate food to the man-eaters and stop growing tiger intrusion in the locality.The Sundarbans forest is the world's largest mangrove reserve, recognised as a Unesco World Heritage Site.

West Bengal to revise bus, taxi fares after oil price cut

KOLKATA: West Bengal would review bus and taxi fares when the central government reduces fuel prices, Transport Minister Sunbhas Chakraborty said here Tuesday.'The government of India has not issued any notification so far. But once they issue it, we'll definitely review the bus and taxi fares in our state,' Chakraborty told reporters.
'We'll revise the fares of public transport in West Bengal within just one day from the time the notification will be declared,' he said.Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora last week said the government was working on a price cut and would announce the new rates within 10 or 15 days.

Medical college doctors perform miracle surgery in West Bengal

KOLKATA, Thursday, 15th January, 2009: A team of doctors at the Kolkata government medical college successfully operated on a youth who had been pierced by a six-foot-long iron shaft in a road accident. Sheikh Rezzak Ali, 22, survived a head-on clash with a speeding truck Wednesday morning at Arambag in Kolkata's neighbouring Hooghly district. An iron rod had pierced his right lung in the accident.
The seven-member medical specialist team, headed by surgeon Siddhartha Mukherjee, performed the two-hour long critical surgery at the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital Wednesday to remove the shaft. Mukherjee said Ali showed immense courage and stamina. He was not nervous and did not even faint after suffering the fatal accident.'It helped us to save him,' the doctor added.
Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee Thursday congratulated the doctors and said he wanted to meet them.Ali was driving a Tata Sumo to Arambag with his brother Sheikh Rajak and some neighbours when a truck rammed into them at Shirakol. An iron shaft shot out of the truck, smashed through the windscreen and speared Ali. Rajak managed to pull Ali out of the car and first took him to a nursing home nearby.
Later, he was taken to the state-run Kolkata Medical College and Hospital. A similar accident took place in the national capital in July last year when an engineer, Supratim Dutta, was impaled by an iron beam that perforated seven of his organs. Dutta survived as the beam had narrowly missed his heart, but needed a series of complicated surgeries.

Veteran Indian director Tapan Sinha mourned

KOLKATA: Leading Indian filmmaker Tapan Sinha has died in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata at the age of 84. Sinha, who suffered breathlessness and a chest infection late last year, died in a city hospital.

Last year, he was awarded the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke award - the highest national cinema honour - for his contribution to Indian cinema.Sinha, who made some 40 films - mostly in Bengali - was a versatile film-maker who straddled a range of themes.

Born in the eastern state of West Bengal - which was home to some of India's most acclaimed directors like the Oscar-winning Satyajit Ray - Tapan Sinha carved out a niche for himself as an intelligent and popular film-maker.

Making films in Bengali and later in Hindi, he took on a wide variety of subjects.Some of his films like Kabuliwalla, Harmonium and Jhinder Bandi became box office hits in Bengal. Ek Doctor Ki Maut (A doctor's death), made in Hindi, gained him nationwide recognition.

"He was an unassuming gentleman who had a strong ear for music and great command over adaptation of famous literary works," film critic Shoma A Chatterji said. Sinha began his career as a sound engineer and shot into the limelight with his 1956 feature Kabuliwalla, based on the story of a relationship between a girl and an Afghan dry fruit-seller by Nobel Prize-winning author Rabindranath Tagore.

He then took up several political and social themes - Adalat O Ekti Meye (The Law and a Lady), for example, dealt with a rape victim ostracised by society.Sinha won more than a dozen film awards in India for his work

2 pilgrims from Bengal killed, 25 injured in mishap

Balasore (Orissa), Jan 13: Two pilgrims from West Bengal were killed and 25 others injured when a bus in which they were traveling collided with a truck near Bahanaga on National Highway 5 in Orissa on Tuesday.
The bus, with 56 pilgrims of Nadia district in West Bengal, was returning from Puri when the driver lost control over the vehicle, police said. While Bharati Biswas (45) and Khokan Saha died on the spot, 25 others were injuries. The injured were admitted to Khantapada and Balasore hospitals and the condition of ten of them was stated to be critical, police said.
Other members of the group remained unhurt or suffered minor injuries. The group hailed from Krishna Nagar village in Nadia district who were on a pilgrimage tour to the seaside temple town on the eve of Makar Sankranti.

WB Govt to speed up phase out of old vehicles

KOLKATA: West Bengal Transport Minister Subhas Chakraborty on Tuesday said the government is committed to introduce pollution-free transport in two years, and accordingly bus and taxi owners would be offered schemes to phase out their old vehicles. "The process has begun with auto rickshaws. Exact schemes for phasing out buses and taxis will be announced later to ensure pollution-free transport in the state," the minister said.
Two stroke autos would no longer be found on city roads and the Calcutta High Court order would be implemented in this regard. Unauthorised autos would also be out of city roads, he said. Chakraborty, earlier, said the state government was planning to procure 400 new generation buses this year and the proposal was discussed with three manufacturers Ashok Leyland, Tata Motors and Eicher Motors.
The minister, however, did not specify when and in how many phases the new buses would be procured and what would be the quantum of investment for the purpose. The Calcutta High Court had in July last year directed that all 15-years-old buses must be phased out by March 31 this year. As such, a large number of old private buses would go off the roads by that time.

Kolkata gets cord blood bank

KOLKATA: A cord blood bank - a source of stem cells for transplantation to cure a range of diseases - was opened here Tuesday.This is the first Indian facility launched by Cordlife Ltd, a Singapore-based cord blood banking group.
'The first Cordlife facility in India, with a storage capacity of up to 1,50,000 cord blood units, has been set up at Bishnupur area on the outskirts of Kolkata. There are two additional centres - at Siliguri town in West Bengal's Darjeeling district and Durgapur in Burdwan district - for blood collection,' group CEO Steven Fang told reporters here.Fang said stem cell therapies will also be developed at the Kolkata centre.'Cord blood has become a very common source of stem cells for transplantations. Permanent cures are possible for some diseases using stem cell therapies,' he said.'
At present, the Rs.100 million facility will be used only for storing and preserving cord blood. But within 18 months we will develop stem cell therapies for treating various diseases like heart ailments, diabetes, skin trauma, certain cancers like leukaemia and breast cancer, and blood disorders like thalassemia major,' Fang said.
Cordlife will invest Rs.300 million in 18-24 months to set up similar facilities across India.'First, we are targeting the major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore followed by tier-two cities,' said Meghnath Roy Chowdhury, managing director (MD), Cordlife Sciences India Pvt Ltd.Cord blood, which is also called 'placental blood', is the blood remaining in the umbilical cord and placenta following birth and after the cord is cut. Cord blood is routinely discarded with the placenta and umbilical cord.However, the cord blood, with its rich sources of blood stem cells, can be used to treat over 80 diseases.