Bihar bleeds in Naxalite strikes
South switch to power reforms
Minister quits over sex abuse in office
Indian link in Big Bang replay
Calcutta weather

 
 
BIHAR BLEEDS IN NAXALITE STRIKES 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Patna, Feb. 12 
Bihar lived up to its violent reputation today, with 21 persons killed in attacks and mine blasts by Naxalites during the first phase of Assembly elections.

In Manipur, where elections were also held in 27 Assembly seats, armed militants killed six persons amid largescale rigging and booth-capturing. The state recorded 60 to 70 voting. (Details on Page 9)

A Doordarshan exit poll predicted 65 to 68 seats for the National Democratic Alliance out of the 108 that went to polls in the south and central districts. Laloo Prasad Yadav’s RJD has been given 13 seats, and the Congress gets 15. The Prime Minister said at a rally that he favoured a coalition government if the NDA bloc got a majority.

However, the BJP cried foul, alleging Laloo had enlisted the help of extremists to keep the turnout low, especially in Danapur, where the RJD chief is contesting.

Average voter turnout was about 55 per cent. But the chief electoral officer’s department said it was as low as 20-30 per cent in places where the militants had issued a poll-boycott decree.

Though the casualty figure so far is about half that of the last general elections, the Naxalites this time targeted districts which were not their traditional strongholds. In Rohtas, where they are trying to make inroads, the militants blew up a patrol vehicle, killing eight persons.

The overall toll could have been more as the Naxalites had planted improvised landmines in several places, but last night’s rain and damp weather today somewhat hindered their designs. Fifty people were injured in the incidents.

Hazaribagh, Palamau, Garhwa, Ranchi, Chatra and Kaimur were the districts mainly affected. But Jehanabad and Gaya, two militant-infested districts, remained largely incident-free. Gaya, however, witnessed an hour-long shootout between the BSF and the Naxalites that caused panic among people.

Claiming that the level of violence was lower than expected, home commissioner U.N. Panjiyer said: “The death toll would have been higher had not the state made elaborate security arrangements.” He said prompt airlifting of the injured to hospitals saved many lives.

Of the 21 killed, four were from the BSF, five from the CRPF and some were state policemen and polling officials. Also among the dead was a magistrate and a People’s War militant, who failed to flee after detonating a bomb.

The police took into preventive custody the JMM nominee from Jamshedpur (West), Syed Naushad, who has 19 criminal cases to his name. He was detained for taking out a rally in Mango in violation of the poll code.

An attack was made on the campaign helicopter of state MPs Sharad Yadav and Nitish Kumar by rival party workers, but both escaped unhurt.    


 
 
SOUTH SWITCH TO POWER REFORMS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Bangalore, Feb. 12 
Jolted by the Uttar Pradesh strike, the Centre has gone south to kickstart the power reforms campaign, persuading Karnataka to enter into a “time-bound restructuring” agreement.

Under the deal, which Union power minister P.R. Kumaramangalam described as the first of its kind in the country, Karnataka will create six separate transmission and distribution companies by September and will throw them open for privatisation by December 2001.

The state has also agreed to introduce “energy audit” by taking up metering of all installations in a phased manner.

In return, the Centre has promised an additional 180 mw — or six million units — daily from the NTPC, investment of around Rs 500 crore towards improvement of transmission and distribution lines and finance in the form of grants and loans to the tune of Rs 1,500 crore over a five-year period for strengthening sub-stations.

Besides, concessional loans from the Rural Electrical Corporation will be provided for electrification of around 18,000 remote hamlets and villages.

By going to Karnataka, the Centre has chosen a relatively reforms-friendly region to launch the pact. Neighbouring Andhra Pradesh has set the stage for privatisation by restructuring its electricity board.

In contrast, the north has been sceptical of the reforms. Uttar Pradesh electricity employees struck work for 11 days last month — the longest strike against the liberalisation process — to protest the state government’s decision to trifurcate the state power board. The strike had also threatened to spread to other northern states.

However, signalling that the reforms are unlikely to be shock-proof even in the south, Karnataka fought shy of touching holy cows. The signing of the agreement was delayed by over an hour as chief minister S.M. Krishna objected to the clause relating to compulsory metering of all installations, including the farm sector.

The provision was deleted and included as an omnibus “energy audit”. The farm sector now has to pay only a flat, subsidised rate.

But Kumaramangalam said the Centre planned to table a legislation making metering of all installations compulsory.

“Power is being stolen by the rich in the name of farmers, who account for only 10 per cent of the energy consumed. Unless we introduce energy audit throughout the country, the whole power sector will collapse.”    


 
 
MINISTER QUITS OVER SEX ABUSE IN OFFICE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Thiruvananthapuram, Feb. 12 
Charges of sexual harassment at workplace have cost a minister his job. Kerala transport minister Neelalohitadasan Nadar was forced to quit today for allegedly molesting a woman IAS officer.

Nadar submitted his resignation letter to chief minister E.K. Nayanar in the face of a snowballing uproar. Nadar, however, denied the charges and sought a judicial inquiry. He belongs to the Janata Dal (Secular), a constituent of the ruling Left front.

Nalini Netto, who charged Nadar with sexual harassment, was transport secretary till the controversy erupted. Netto, considered an upright and efficient officer, has been shifted to the taxes department.

In a letter to Nayanar, Netto had alleged that Nadar harassed her “sexually and officially”.

The letter, dated February 1 and delivered on February 9, alleged that Nadar summoned her on last December 21 to his chamber and made advances. The complaint said the minister, under the pretext of discussing official work, suddenly lifted both her hands from across the table and towards his face. “I instinctively reacted by pulling my hands off...,” the letter said.

Nadar is quoted as having said: “I have been waiting for one year. Really longing for it. This is not to trouble you. These are the only moments to rejoice in life. I will come wherever you go (on tour). Let it be in Delhi.”

When she said he was talking “nonsense” and got up to leave, he charged at her “and tried to forcibly outrage my modesty”, the letter said. “I reacted physically pushing him away from me.”

According to local newspaper reports, an official of Indian Forest Service has also complained that the minister often made sexual comments at her.

Netto today said she did not consider the resignation a personal victory. “I have asked for justice. It is basically a question of justice being given,” she said.

“It had assumed a much larger canvass and become a general issue. The government had been very fair,” she added.

“To be able to be understood is the greatest relief. It has been a very unique experience. Many more must have learnt a lesson from my

experience.”

Asked if she would stop pursuing action against Nadar, Netto said: “The law will take its own course.”

She said the episode would encourage women to speak out. “I have received a lot of telephone calls from women, narrating similar experiences. There was a general feeling among them that a woman should be ashamed if she was subjected to such treatment by men,” Netto said.    


 
 
INDIAN LINK IN BIG BANG REPLAY 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Feb. 12 
Indian scientists added another feather to their cap when experimenters at CERN, in Geneva, recreated conditions mimicking the birth of the universe to produce a kind matter that does not exist anywhere in the cosmos.

“We supplied the detector that helped scientists read the tell-tale signature of the new matter that existed for a moment,” a triumphant Bikash Sinha, director, Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre, announced at a news conference here today.

The matter, in science-speak ‘quark-gluon plasma’, only existed in a primordial soup billion billionths of a second after the Big Bang, the cataclysmic birth of the universe. Quarks are the tiniest particles of matter while gluons are massless particles that hold them together .

Experts at the superproton synchrotron at the Geneva laboratory were able to create the hot broth of quarks and gluons — supposed to be the ultimate constituent of all that we see around us today but which do not exist freely — by colliding two streams of atomic nuclei at nearly the speed of light and, thereby, crushing tiny masses to a very small volume. This produced a temperature 100,000 times as hot as the centre of the sun.

The instrument, called the photon multiplicity detector which took Indian scientists two years to assemble, was shipped to CERN in 1994. The universities of Punjab, Jammu and Rajasthan along with the Institute of Physics, Bhubaneswar, took part in the building the detector, which was assembled at the cyclotron centre here .

“Since 1983, we are in the business of the quark-gluon plasma,” Sinha said. “We are at par with groups on both sides of the Atlantic.”

He expressed dismay at reports that gave credit only to a British group for the experiments. “The detection of quark-gluon plasma is a result of a series of experiments in which our scientists took part and it would be unfair to take away the beacon from them at this hour of glory,” Sinha said.

He added that Indian scientists with their wares were involved in building the large hadron collider on the France-Switzerland border.

The instrument, likely to be functional by 2005, will help scientists detect another fundamental particle called the “Higgs boson”.

Scientists from the cyclotron centre will also participate in another set of quark-gluon plasma experiments at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory in the US.

Sinha said the success of the detector at CERN attracted the attention of the US experts who invited the Indian scientists to join them with the detector assembled in Calcutta.

Indian participation at the US centre has not been a smooth affair. Sinha said: “Although our friends at Brookhaven wanted us to be there, the sanctions imposed after Pokhran-II created problems. Those impediments have now been removed and we will soon be there to be part of another world-famous experiment.”    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Today’s forecast: Cloudy sky with possibility of light rain in some areas. Slight fall in night temperature. Max. temperature: 24°C (5° below normal) Min. temperature: 20.8°C (5° above normal) Maximum humidity: 89% Minimum humidity: 59% Rainfall: 2.2 mm Sunset: 5.26 pm Sunrise: 6.16 am    
 

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