Centre nurses two-child norm for MPs
BJP greets Cong stand on statute
SC notice to magistrate on accident
Water cast meets Sangh thinktank
CPI Bihar snub to big brother
Ministry goes militant with ‘terrorism’

New Delhi, Feb. 4 
Insisting that the two-child norm for elected representatives should be made compulsory, the Vajpayee government will soon have a Cabinet discussion on the issue and is even willing to convene a meeting of parliamentary party leaders to thrash out the points of dispute.

According to highly-placed government sources, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is fully aware that the country will officially hit the one billion population mark in May this year. It is because of this that he is keen to tackle this menace of population explosion once a new policy is announced.

Even Union home minister L.K. Advani, who shares Vajpayee’s concern, had said at a rally last year that the Centre would have to take tough measures to bring down the birth-rate.

Top leaders in the Vajpayee administration are therefore insisting that the law-makers themselves adopt a principled stand and that both parliamentarians and legislators adhere to the two-child theory.

But careful not to appear too stubborn, the Centre is even willing to mark a cut-off date and allow veteran MPs and MLAs, who had not followed family-planning measures in the past and have more than two children, to be kept out of the legislation’s purview.

The government had tested waters on this issue in the second week of December, but MPs had protested against the consensus-building effort on this subject.

According to them, it could lead to possible increase in female foeticide, abortion cases and even curtailment of sexual freedom.

Though the government has maintained that the 79th constitutional amendment, which seeks to bring in the two-child norm for elected representatives, would have to be passed with a two-thirds majority in both Houses of Parliament, the reactions of some groups has come as a surprise.

However, some segments see this exercise as a “BJP conspiracy” to have “less representation from some religious groups” which permit more than one marriage and does not really propagate birth control.

But since the population policy, now under the consideration of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet, would have to be announced shortly, Union health minister, N.T. Shanmugam has, on Vajpayee’s advice, prepared a fresh Cabinet note.

Government sources said that states like Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi and Orissa have already introduced the two-child norm for election to local bodies.

Nevertheless, the two-child norm at the higher level —- the level of state legislatures and Parliament — needs to be pursued and the government wants to push for a consensus yet again.    

New Delhi, Feb. 4 
In an apparent ceasefire, the BJP today welcomed the Congress’s “positive tone” regarding the Centre’s decision to set up a Constitution review panel.

The party, however, rejected the Opposition’s demand for a political consensus. Since the executive has already decided on setting up the panel, BJP leaders suggested the “consensus” could emerge later when the legislation was tabled in Parliament.

Reacting to the Congress’s indication, at yesterday’s CWC meeting, that it was not averse to the review provided specific areas were delineated and there was no “hidden” agenda, BJP spokesman M. Venkaiah Naidu said: “It is clear they (the Congress) have realised the need for certain amendments after a thorough study and review.”

The only objective was to “strengthen the constitutional system and remove the aberrations, if any”, Naidu stressed.

Maintaining that the panel would take the views of all parties represented in Parliament and “well-meaning” people, Naidu said this would take care of the Congress’s proposal for a consensus before the amendments were put to vote.

“The government will take all parties into confidence while bringing amendments so that there is no scope for further apprehension,”. Naidu said, adding, that “it is obvious that without a consensus it is not possible to get a two-third majority support in the House”.

He also noted that the Congress had set up an inner-party committee headed by the late Swaran Singh.

“The only difference is we want the committee to study the Constitution and come up with suggestions for amendments to speed up social and economic development,” Naidu said. The Congress, he alleged, had tried to destroy the Constitution’s basic structure. “It wanted the judicial powers to be eroded and institutionalise the destruction of democracy as the Emergency later proved,” he said.

The BJP also asked the Election Commission to take steps to ensure free and fair polls in Bihar. “What is important is the proper use of central and state forces. The commission should keep this in mind,” Naidu said.

He also condemned yesterday’s alleged attack on Central ministers Babulal Marandi and Shahnawaz Hussain by Congress activists in south Bihar for the BJP’s failure to create a separate Vananchal state.

“The Congress should feel ashamed to raise the Vananchal issue. It did not do anything for all the years it was in power. These gimmicks are going to boomerang on the party,” Naidu warned.

Former Chief Justice of India M.N. Venkatachalaiah, who would head the Constitution review committee, has said the panel’s members should maintain political neutrality and not have any pre-set agenda.    

New Delhi, Feb. 4 
A Ghaziabad magistrate, allegedly driving his car at a high speed, killed three persons and later used influence to replace his name with his driver’s in the police report, a lawyer told the Supreme Court today.

A division bench comprising Justices S.P. Bharucha and Ruma Pal, after hearing the public interest litigation (Pil) filed by Lokesh Pundhir, issued notices to the Uttar Pradesh government, the senior superintendent of police, Ghaziabad and the magistrate, Rajinder Prasad.

Pundhir, who said he witnessed the accident, alleged that Prasad was driving his car at a breakneck speed and had crashed into the two wheeler, killing the scooterist and two pillion riders. The accident happened in front of the Massuri police station in Ghaziabad in the outskirts of Delhi, the Pil said.

The magistrate then flashed his identity card before the police only to flee while the victims lay in a pool of blood, Pundhir said. He added he took the victims to a hospital where one was declared “brought dead” and the other two succumbed to the injuries.

Pundhir went to the police station to lodge an FIR, but later found that in the police report, he was put down as a “witness” while someone else was the “complainant”, he charged.

The petitioner accused the magistrate of using influence to subvert investigation. He said though Prasad was driving the car, one Uday Tyagi had been wrongly identified as the driver.

The petitioner alleged: “The most revealing fact is that Rajinder Prasad happened to be the judicial magistrate of the police station under whose jurisdiction the accident took place”.

“So he succeeded in shielding himself by manipulating almost all the vital aspects of the investigation,” he added. Pundhir also alleged that the police, despite knowing the identity of the driver of the Maruti van, deliberately put Uday Tyagi’s name in the FIR while recording in the complaint that the driver’s name and address were unknown.    

Lucknow, Feb. 4 
A last-ditch attempt was made late tonight to end the confrontation between Water director Deepa Mehta and RSS-backed vigilantes who have blocked the shooting of her film.

A meeting was held between the two sides at the Sankat Mochan temple at Assi ghat, the residence of Mahant Vir Bhadra Mishra, the high priest and a renowned liberal intellectual and environmentalist.

The district magistrate, the senior superintendent of police, Mehta, producer David Hamilton and production manager Dipa Motwane assembled at the heavily-guarded temple. No visitors were allowed and the road leading to the temple was cordoned off. Both Mehta and Hamilton have two commandos each protecting them round the clock following obscene calls and death threats received of late.

Through the day, the filmmakers attempted a compromise and agreed to meet a select group from the Kashi Sanskriti Raksha Suraksha Samiti. In the afternoon, a solution looked remote when the samiti announced that it was “not the script but the theme” of Water that they were objecting to. Samiti leader Kaushal Kishore Mishra said: “We object to a theme such as this. A film of this nature cannot be made.”

The samiti further hardened its stance when it learnt that VHP leader Ashok Singhal would land here tomorrow to take part in the maha dharma sabha of scholars and intellectuals to mobilise public opinion on the issue.

RSS culture wing Sanskar Bharati kept up the pressure tactics. At about 4 pm, it informed the Water unit that the samiti planned to take its agitation to other parts of the country. The organisation also announced that it would perform street plays to “educate the masses” and burn effigies of the cast and crew of the film.

District magistrate Alok Kumar, who refused to meet the unit on Thursday, changed stance this morning after receiving written directions from the secretary to the chief minister, Naresh Dayal. Kumar informed Mehta that in principle shooting could begin but there was a severe law and order threat that the unit would have to contend with. Kumar also suggested that Mehta show copies of the revised script to the samiti.

According to unit sources, Mehta agreed to show it to a neutral person not directly involved with the agitation. Mahant Vir Bhadra Mishra, an ex officio member of the Kashi Vidwat Parishad, had maintained so far that Mehta should not be unnecessarily harassed without giving her a chance to explain.

He had earlier told The Telegraph: “ I am not an active member of the KVP and do not subscribe to its views all the time. I also oppose the vandalism that the protesters have resorted to. When they damaged the sets on Assi ghat (where his temple is situated), it upset me deeply. Even the monkeys here screamed louder then ever before and have not returned to the ghats since then.”    

New Delhi, Feb. 4 
Junior Left parties are not obeying big brother CPM’s fiat any more. After the Forward Bloc and RSP struck a defiant note, the CPI ditched the CPM in the Bihar Assembly polls.

The CPM has failed to nudge the CPI from its decision to have no electoral truck with Laloo Prasad Yadav, an ally from the CPM.

CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan, who has just returned from Bihar, said his party’s alliance with the CPI(ML) has sparked enthusiasm among the poor. “If we believed that Laloo Prasad Yadav will be able to halt the BJP’s advance in Bihar, we would have supported him. But look at what has happened. The BJP has gone from strength to strength during the last 10 years of Laloo’s regime,” said Bardhan.

The CPI, the dominant Left party in Bihar, will be fighting the CPM and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in many seats.

The CPI is contesting 154 and the CPM 21 seats. The CPI has 26 MLAs, and the CPM and the CPI(ML) six members each in Assembly.

In the last Lok Sabha polls, Laloo had slashed the CPI’s demand for a “fair” quota of seats. This drove the Left party out of the alliance.

The CPM stuck to the RJD, claiming it was the only party in shape in Bihar to fight the BJP and the Janata Dal (United). But Bardhan said Laloo was “poaching and encroaching upon the Left” in Bihar. “We do not consider Laloo a symbol of secularism,” he stressed. The CPI-CPI(ML) axis could help the Left to strengthen its roots in a state where the CPI once had deep roots.

But the Mandal tide washed away much of its influence and the RJD weaned away Left supporters. From the very beginning, however, the CPI(ML) had decided to go it alone, while the CPM and the CPI teamed up with Laloo.

“The people in Bihar are looking at the line-up as a new initiative indicating a Left and democratic programme for Bihar,” said Bardhan.

The CPI general secretary tore Laloo apart for his “total indifference to development” and his concept of social justice to play “one caste against another”. He charged Laloo with splitting the backward community. “The Yadavs are pitted against Kurmis,” he said.    

New Delhi, Feb. 4 
The Union home ministry’s vocabulary is turning militant. Words like “insurgent”, “militant” and “extremist” are set to disappear from all documents relating to Jammu and Kashmir security.

Officials doing the paperwork have been informally told that persons triggering violence in Jammu and Kashmir can, from now on, be described only by one name: “terrorist”.

Top officials in consultation with home minister L.K. Advani believe that words like “militancy” and “extremism” to some extent justify the existence of the Kashmir movement and lend meaning to the separatists’ cause. The words also do not have the derogatory ring that “terrorism” has.

With terrorism having evolved as a global issue of great import, the foreign and home ministries are trying to underline the “reign of terror” in Kashmir. The home ministry has already been overusing the phrase “cross-border terrorism”. But that it should be the umbrella term for activities of insurgents in the state is a recent decision.

The term “counter-insurgency” —- in army parlance “CI” —- will be replaced by “counter-terrorism” or CT. Since the government is keen to relate the Kashmir happenings to the larger banner of ISI activities in the country, it feels “terrorism” is a more appropriate word.

Home ministry sources say “militancy” and “extremism” do not underscore the fact that the movement receives active and complete support from a neighbouring nation.

“Militancy, or for that matter extremism, cannot really be used with the adjective cross-border preceding it. Hence the preference for terrorism. Terrorism can be exported. Militancy has a local flavour. The Indian government wants to prove that without Pakistan’s involvement Kashmir is a dead issue,” a source said.

India has found some sympathy in the West by highlighting Pakistan’s covert and overt role in Kashmir. Since the foreign ministry —- which briefs foreign envoys here and dignitaries abroad on the Kashmir security scenario —- has become over-reliant on the word “terrorism”, home ministry officials feel they should follow the trend.    


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