Poor marks for govt in J&K terror fight
Sonia lines up secular storm against Atal
BJP shrugs off Water outcry
Calcutta date for curriculum crossfire
Former PMs gain time
Net boost to print funds

New Delhi, Feb. 10 
The parliamentary standing committee on home affairs has criticised the Centre’s handling of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and insurgency in the Northeast.

The issue came up at the one-day session of the panel, chaired by Congress Rajya Sabha member Pranab Mukherjee.

The focus of yesterday’s interaction between home ministry officials and the committee members — drawn from all political parties in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha — was on the country’s internal security situation. However, sources said Kashmir and the Northeast dominated proceedings.

The committee was briefed by Union home secretary Kamal Pande who pointed out that the government had revised its counter-terrorism policy in Kashmir and had announced a comprehensive development package for the Northeast.

Pande explained the ministry’s “pro-active” approach, stating that Jammu and Kashmir had been divided into 49 sectors which would enable security forces to eliminate the terrorists and destroy their hideouts.

He said the Centre’s objective was to bring down terrorism to the level prior to the Kargil conflict, which was when the maximum number of militants were killed. He assured the committee that the security forces would implement the “pro-active” approach in a “result-oriented” and “co-ordinated” manner.

Unconvinced, some members asked “awkward” questions and even commented on the home ministry’s “attitude” towards Jammu and Kashmir. They were keen to know the details of some of the “pro-active” measures.

Ministry officials were asked whether the step to arm village defence committees and special police officers with sophisticated weapons was a wise move as it is believed that they often switch to the terrorist camp.

Ministry officials are learnt to have sought time to reply to some of the “tricky” questions and have informed the panel that the answers will be provided in writing.

On the Northeast, they said that the Centre was holding peace talks with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) and that regular meetings of the Ceasefire Monitoring Group, comprising the home ministry, state government and NSCN(I-M) representatives, were held.

The officials said the insurgency situation had not become worse, as proved by the recent “successes” of the security forces in arresting some key militants.

The committee wanted to know what was being done to fight the All-Tripura Tiger Force and the National Liberation Front of Tripura which, of late, had resorted to killings and kidnappings.

The other issue highlighted was the Centre’s delay in tabling the white paper on ISI activities in Parliament. Promising that the document would be tabled in the budget session, ministry officials said the growth of the ISI in the country owed much to the mushrooming of mosques and madrasas in areas bordering Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Nearly 1,300 mosques and madrasas had come up since 1993, they said. As many as 342 are on the Indo-Nepal border. The number is much higher in states along the Indo-Pak border. At last count, 221 mosques and 72 madrasas have come up in Barmer district of Rajasthan alone.

The officials said though nothing could be done to prevent their construction, the Centre had tightened the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act to check the flow of money from countries suspected to be funding the “places of worship” used for hate propagation.    

New Delhi, Feb. 10 
The Congress is going to launch a nation-wide stir against the BJP and the Sangh parivar.

Sonia Gandhi has cleared a blueprint prepared by senior leaders and it will be set in motion soon after the Assembly polls.

The party will go all out against the BJP and its affiliated organisations, holding demonstrations, meetings, seminars and a “jail bharo” agitation. “The time has come for the people of India to decide whether they want Gandhiji’s India or Golwalkar’s racial overtones which are totally alien to the Indian ethos,” CWC member Arjun Singh said.

The party is hopeful that some “secular” parties in the National Democratic Alliance will exert pressure on Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee to distance the government from the Sangh parivar’s agenda. “We believe that the DMK, Telugu Desam, Trinamul are secular parties. They will give a thought to what is going on,” Arjun said.

Arjun sought a “forthright” answer from Vajpayee and Advani whether they subscribed to the oath of Constitution taken as ministers or to the oath taken as RSS workers. “Even a cursory glance at the RSS oath would show that its words and import are totally opposed to the basic ideals and structure of the Constitution of India,” he said.

“Since both cannot go together, the nation would like to know from Vajpayeeji and Advaniji, whether the RSS oath overrides the oath taken by them while assuming office,” Arjun said.

The Congress leader, who heads the party’s department of minorities’ affairs, lashed out at the BJP Big Two for describing the RSS as a cultural organisation. He cited three “distinguished” features from the RSS’ history :

The RSS scrupulously made efforts to distance itself as much as possible from the freedom struggle.

Created an ambience in which Nathuram Godse could assassinate the Father of the Nation.

Projected demolition of Babri Masjid as a national duty.

Quoting Golwalkar, Arjun urged Vajpayee and Advani to repudiate the RSS ideologue’s comments about “foreign races of Hindustan losing their separate identity, claiming nothing, not even citizens’ rights”.

Arjun alleged that Vajpayee was in a “hurry” to prove that he was part of the RSS. “But there is a problem. The question before the nation is to accept Gandhi or Golwalkar,” he said.

The Congress leader added that the BJP’s attempts to put controversial issues on the back-burner was a “farce”.

Karunanidhi volte face

The Centre’s approval of the move to lift the ban on state employees joining the RSS snowballed into a major row when one of its allies, the DMK, came out openly against it, saying it was likely to open the pandora’s box for politicising bureaucracy.

In a letter to Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, DMK chief M. Karunanidhi said the move would spur political parties to launch social outfits to beat the law and people would lose faith in the impartial and apolitical functioning of administrative machinery.

Karunanidhi, who had declined to dub RSS as a communal organisation only two days ago had to beat a hasty retreat faced with opposition from political parties in Tamil Nadu who questioned the secular character of the DMK. The chief minister also skirted political issues concerning the lifting of the ban in his letter.

The BJP also received a rebuff from another ally when TDP leader K. Yerran Naidu said the Andhra Pradesh government would not lift the ban on its employees joining the RSS.

The Samata Party has, however, supported the Gujarat government’s move saying that since the RSS is not a banned organisation there was no problem in government employees joining it.

The BJP today attempted to play down the opposition from its allies when its vice-president Jana Krishnamurthy contended that Karunanidhi’s views on the RSS did not amount to contradiction.

He, however, declined to comment on Karunanidhi’s assertion that the RSS is indulging in politics saying it might be his views.

In the letter, copies of which was released to the press, Tamil Nadu chief minister has urged Vajpayee to forbid government servants from joining “social organisations” having links with political parties, through a consensus.

He said granting permission to government servants to join outfits like the RSS on the plea that it was social, would tend to open the pandora’s box.

Referring to the Gujarat government’s decision, he said: “This will set a precedent for political parties to create their own outfits under the pretext of social character to attract the government servants into their folds.”

“Definitely, it will affect the administrative structure nurtured over a period of time and allow inroads into the disciplined forces like police, defence and other important services,” he added.

Allowing government servants to join “different organisations” would lead to unnecessary problems, the DMK leader said pointing out that the employees were bound by the Constitution and responsible to the governments.

“While this being so, a situation may arise, where employees affiliated to different organisations, working in the same department may come into conflicts and differences. This may lead to a situation where the government offices are converted into debating fora and the functioning of the government comes to a standstill,” he added.

“You will agree with me that government servants should not indulge in political activities and that the people should not lose faith in the impartial and apolitical functioning of the administrative machinery,” Karunanidhi said.

“We have many more important tasks in the nation building and our combined energies should not be frittered away in such contentious issues, which may distract our’s as well as the attention of the people,” he added.

Karunanidhi also pointed out that both the Centre and state governments had already framed conduct rules for their employees. “You are well aware that all the state governments and the government of India in their rules, specifically prohibit government servants joining political parties,” he said.    

New Delhi, Feb. 10 
The BJP is not worried about drawing sharp reactions from the intelligentsia over the Water controversy.

RSS musclemen threw Deepa Mehta and the Water crew out of Varanasi, claiming the film denigrated Indian widows.

“We are not here to please the so-called liberals and seek the endorsement of the English-speaking class for all that we do. We are not practising votebank politics too all the time,” said a BJP leader when pointed out that some of its new converts among the “English-speaking” urbanites were unhappy with the events in Varanasi.

BJP sources admitted that the protests in Varanasi, far from being “spontaneous”, were meant to assure its cadre that Hindutva was still “alive” on its agenda.

The anti-Water protests had the blessings of BJP general secretary K.N. Govindacharya, who visited the holy city shortly before the controversy erupted. Uttar Pradesh finance minister H.K. Shrivastava’s wife, Jyotsna, a former MLA, spearheaded the protests along with Shyamdeb Roychowdhury, currently a BJP legislator.

While there was a tacit admission that the “agitation” could help the BJP in the bypolls for eight Assembly seats, sources were unsure how much impact the protests would create.

“We thought we could recover lost ground after getting rid of Kalyan Singh and bringing in Ram Prakash Gupta. That has not happened. The government continues to be as unpopular as it was during the Lok Sabha polls and our cadre is still very demoralised. We have to devise means to reactivate them,” said sources.

The resignation of a BJP minister from the Gupta Cabinet to protest a recent portfolio reshuffle has come as a further poll-eve dampener.

BJP sources have also taken note of the relatively poor response the “agitation” received even in Varanasi, where it managed to retain its parliamentary seat. Sources conceded that the numbers who came out in Deepa’s support were “pretty evenly matched”.

Asked if Water would then bail out the BJP in the bypoll, a party source said: “We are not sure.”

“Caste is the overriding factor in Uttar Pradesh and in any case such agitation only catches the imagination of the urban people,” said a party leader.

However, he was not prepared to accept that the Water row would put off the BJP’s “English-speaking” urban supporters who have drawn close because of the Vajpayee government’s commitment to economic reforms on the one hand and its ability to cope with coalition politics and mothball contentious issues on the other.

“It’s a question of balancing conflicting interests at various points of time. Right now our assessment is we should appease the hardliners especially becausethe Kandahar hijack has shown up the government as a soft one. Even Rajju Bhaiyya (the RSS sarsanghachalak) said so,” he said.    

New Delhi, Feb. 10 
The debate over the new curriculum has travelled to Calcutta. As part of its exercise to put together a fresh curriculum, the NCERT will hold its second round of regional discussions in Calcutta tomorrow.

The first of the seven scheduled discussions on the curriculum was held in Mysore and the other centres listed for discussions are Pune, Jaipur, Hyderabad and Shillong.

The chairperson of the curriculum committee and NCERT director J.S. Rajput, who has been kicking off one controversy after another, is going to attend tomorrow’s discussion in Calcutta.

The curriculum committee has drawn up a discussion document which has been circulated among the NCERT staff. Rajput is at pains to tell his critics that neither he nor his colleagues on the curriculum committee has any intention of ramming through a controversial syllabus.

The discussion document, the NCERT chairperson has emphasised, is only a document throwing up ideas which may be rejected, retained or transformed in the final draft. The regional conferences therefore are significant for their comments —- “I plan to take note of the opinions of everyone including my critics while drawing up the draft,” Rajput has said time and again.

Several dissenting voices have spoken against the thrust and quality of the curriculum. Reluctant to make the issue more prickly than it already is, the curriculum committee has set in motion a process of nationwide discussions before the final draft is put together.

“After the regional seminars, there will be a national seminar in Delhi at the end of next month,” an educationist said. The critics of the curriculum are upset not only with some of its contents but also the “quality” of writing. “I will give one rupee for each correct sentence in the document and two rupees for each correct sentence that makes sense,” said an educationist.

According to him the document reads “garbled” from chapter one. “What does this mean?” asked the educationist pointing to a paragraph which stresses that the new curriculum should emphasise “learner centred education, women centred family, human being centred development, knowledge centred society and innovation centred India.”

In another statement, the document says: “Indegenousness, to make it clear, is as opposed to narrow nationalism as to false universalism.”

Those who are tarring the document for its poor quality say that in many places there are no “connections” between one statement and another.

For instance, on the general objectives of education, the document says the curriculum should aim at “minimising and eradicating the country’s poverty, ignorance and moral weaknesses.” From here it suddenly goes on to state: “Paradigm shifts are therefore necessary to support a curriculum that values the interaction of process and content.” Quipped an educationist: “What does this mean —— from minimising poverty to interaction of process and content ?”    

New Delhi, Feb. 10 
Delhi High Court today turned down a government plea to issue notices to former Prime Ministers H.D. Deve Gowda and Chandra Shekhar in a case to recover dues run up by personal use of Indian Air Force planes.

The Centre should first use all its options instead of seeking notices from the court, the division bench of Justice Arun Kumar and Justice D.K. Jain said.

The Centre today said appropriate legal action will be initiated against the former Prime Ministers for the dues.

Additional solicitor-general S.R. Jaisinghani told the high court that no concessions will be made and the government will charge as per the norms. The Congress had paid Rs 1.86 crore to clear dues from the late Rajiv Gandhi and sought time till March 31 to pay bills of Rs 5.52 crore pending against former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao.

Chandra Shekhar has to pay Rs 5.92 crore and Gowda Rs 26.46 lakh, according to a public interest litigation filed by advocate B.L. Wadhera.

Jaisinghani said the Samajwadi Janata Party and the Dal (Secular) have disowned their responsibility and questioned the basis for making them responsible to make payments.

The Samajwadi Janata Party had raised “objections” to the government claim and questioned the “basis of making the political parties responsible” for the payment of the alleged airtrips by Chandra Shekhar, the defence ministry affidavit said. Deve Gowda’s Dal (Secular) had also questioned the demand.

The petition calls for immediate steps by the defence and finance ministries to recover the dues.

Mulayam case

A different bench of the court is hearing another litigation seeking recovery of Rs 41.57 crore from former defence minister Mulayam Singh Yadav for using defence aircraft for personal purposes and dubbing them as official.    

New Delhi, Feb. 10 
Dotcom is hot today as far as the advertising industry is concerned. On-line media, seen as a rival to print, is actually giving a shot in the arm to print media revenues.

In the past five months or so, there has been a surge in advertising by on-line companies, doing marvellous things to the bottomlines of print and advertising industry.

Says Sanjay Nayak, president, TBWA Anthem: “Media analysts project that the boom in advertising by on-line service producers will soar to Rs 200 crore or more in 2000. The sum is likely to treble in three years’ time.”

It may well be. With many of the on-line companies allocating Rs 10 to 20 crore for adspend, there is definitely a bonanza.

Anita Nayyar, vice-president (media), Lintas, Delhi, points out that on-line advertising in the print media is a whole new category, and a big one at that. Others which have emerged as big categories are IT, automobile and, to a certain extent, white goods advertising.

Rajul Kulashreshta, media director, McCann Ericson, analyses the reasons behind the upswing in the trend. According to Kulashreshta, two reasons have contributed to the advertising spurt.

One is creating a brand valuation. Most of these companies will come out with initial public offerings, and valuation is important to this process. Two, creating awareness so that ads drive increased traffic to the portals.

At present, Kulashreshta says that the portals are similar in nature and the information they give is of a general kind. He foresees a time soon when more specialised on-line services will come into operation and advertisements will give more specific information.

Although agencies are gung-ho about the business boom, there are many who also sound a note of caution. Rahul Kansal, executive director, Mudra, says advertising by on-line companies is emerging as a big activity but agencies should be careful. Only accounts with secured funds should be considered. Otherwise, somewhere along the line the bubble will burst and “dreams will turn sour”. Nayyar and Kulashreshtha express similar reservations.

Jayaram Easwaran, chief executive, Maadhyam, speaks more or less on the same note. “Just as there is very big opportunity, there is also very big vulnerability.” Be careful about the clients, is also his message.

Easwaran, however, feels that there are spin-off possibilities for earning big revenues. These could be from designing portals and websites. Agencies need to build up expertise in these areas and convince clients why they would be better than the less expensive mom-and-pop shops.    


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