BJP sucked into hawala round two
School changes uniform after Sangh dress code
Nightlong border battle
VHP vows to cross Atal’s rekha
Basu bill, Naidu benevolence for Orissa
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, Feb. 16 
Chief Vigilance Commissioner N. Vittal has ignited a political powder-keg by passing on to the CBI a “complaint note” urging the agency to probe the income-tax angle in the closed Jain hawala case.

The government tonight ruled out reopening the case, but a political storm gathered around several Cabinet ministers, including home minister L.K. Advani, finance minister Yashwant Sinha, civil aviation minister Sharad Yadav and minister of state for external affairs Ajit Panja.

Many Opposition leaders, including Arjun Singh and N.D. Tewari, will have to contend with the controversy.

The government has already questioned the CVC’s motive with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee standing by Advani. The Prime Minister’s Race Course Road bungalow witnessed political confabulations throughout the day to forestall any Opposition blitzkrieg.

Sources in the government questioned Vittal’s wisdom in passing on the note wondering how he could arrive at the conclusion that “corruption charges against politicians was within his jurisdiction”.

The sources stressed that the CVC could only focus on corruption and allied charges against government officials, including bureaucrats and executives of public sector undertakings (PSUs), and not politicians whether they are in power or not.

But though the Delhi court hearing the hawala charges had cleared the last of the accused, the income-tax authorities had not yet completed their inquiry.

Knowing that most of its leaders included in Vittal’s list are “expendable”, the Congress insisted that the probe should be allowed and stressed the “law should take its own course”. The Left, too, is relishing the prospect of Advani’s image being sullied all over again.

But a somewhat embarrassed BJP reacted by saying it would only comment after finding out the authenticity of the despatched note.

Vittal, who said an “unnamed complainant” had sent the note to him, did not elaborate.

“I have got some information about income tax matters of people who were in the hawala case. Politicians are not within the purview of the cvc. The only agency which can investigate is the CBI. I have referred it to the CBI,” he told PTI.

With the court debarred by the Constitution from trying the same person, or persons, for the same charges twice, the government wondered how the CBI could probe a case which had already been inquired into.

The Centre today geared itself up to appoint two more vigilance commissioners. The government has not yet given statutory authority to the freshly-constituted Central Vigilance Commission.    

Kanpur, Feb. 16 
A day after the BJP’s student wing ordered girls not to wear jeans or mini-skirts on campuses in Kanpur, one of the city’s oldest institutions has decided to change its 100-year-old dress code.

Senior students of St Mary’s Convent have been told to junk their skirts and shirts and switch to salwar kameez from the next academic session. In a press note, Sister Damien said the changeover had been ordered “keeping in mind the Indian tradition”.

Another institution, the Acharya Narendra Dev Girls College will follow suit. A school principal, too scared to be named, said: “The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad has taken the concept of moral policing to the limit. I would, in fact call it cultural terrorism.”

Yesterday, the BJP’s student wing — which, along with the Shiv Sena, had launched the Valentine’s Day crackdown in the interests of “Bharatiya sanskriti” — had identified salwar kameez as the proper attire for girl students.

“We are helpless. After what happened on Valentine’s Day, we are not taking any chances. But the sad part is that somehow they are targeting only women as if we are the ones responsible for the change in Indian ethos,” Pratibha Bhargava, a student said.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of India has reacted cautiously to the development. Conference spokesman Fr Dominic Emmanuel said in Delhi: “We are aware that there are a few self-appointed cultural police who are trying to control society and the agenda of the government. However, we have not received any report from Kanpur. If the news is true, we express our deep concern about such cultural policing.”

On Monday, ABVP and Sena activists had gone on a rampage in Kanpur, ransacking gift shops, restaurants and flower stalls to protest against Valentine Day celebrations. Twelve couples were robbed and nearly 250 others had their faces blackened. Yesterday, the ABVP released a list of restaurant owners who, they said, would be kept “on a tight leash” for “encouraging western culture”.

“The ABVP boys came here and hunted for couples. Luckily they didn’t find any at that time, but I still had to close shop because they told all my customers to get out and go home,” P.K. Jaiswal of Captain’s Table, a restaurant in Kanpur, said.

A week before Valentine’s Day, the ABVP had issued press statements saying a “students’ curfew” would be imposed on that day and anyone violating it would be punished. The All-India Lovers Association was formed to checkmate the move, but members chickened out in the face of ABVP’s aggressiveness. Those who dared to protest were humiliated in public.

Local witnesses allege that the police stood as mute spectators as the Valentine’s Day vandals wreaked havoc. Some even helped dismantle banners and turned a blind eye when couples were dragged out of cars.

Asked why the police had looked the other way, Kanpur DIG Dilip Trivedi said: “There are 5,000 restaurants in Kanpur. It’s impossible to post policemen everywhere. Anyway we are investigating and we will take strict action against those who were involved.”

But the student leaders are unfazed. Sanjay Kr Jha, ABVP’s “commissioner (administration)”, said it was high time something was done to stem the rot in Indian culture. Citing the case of a spurned lover disfiguring his girlfriend’s face with acid, he said boys and girls should be allowed to mix only on Rakshabandhan day.    

Feb. 17 
Five Pakistani and three Indian soldiers were killed near the LoC in a gunbattle that stretched overnight to this dawn.

An Indian soldier was reported missing. Defence sources said his body was lying on the Pakistani side. The body was expected to be handed over to India tomorrow, they added. However, officially India maintained that the soldier had fallen into a “nullah” across the LoC. The defence spokesman did not say how he had crossed the LoC.

The clash between the border patrols began last night in the Mendhar sector of Jammu and Kashmir. An army spokesman said the Indian soldiers came under heavy fire from the Pakistani side. In the first burst of encounter that lasted 40 minutes, the three soldiers were killed.

Brigadier Randhir Singh of the 16 Corps said five Pakistani soldiers were also killed. The exchange of fire continued till the wee hours of Wednesday.

This is the second cross-border flare-up in three weeks.    

Brushing aside Atal Behari Vajpayee’s Lakshman Rekha with a vow to cross it “whenever there is an attack on Hindu culture”, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad today threatened to thwart the shooting of Water if it was allowed in West Bengal or Madhya Pradesh. “We will not tell you what we are going to do. But we will not allow the film to be shot unless Deepa Mehta changes her script drastically,” VHP leader Acharya Giriraj Kishore said in Delhi. Picking up the gauntlet in Calcutta, chief minister Jyoti Basu said: “I will see to it that Water is shot here without any disruption. If they oppose the shooting, we know how to counter them.” Deepa and some of her crew members are scheduled to reach Calcutta on Friday for talks with Basu and his deputy Buddhadev Bhattacharya. Basu said they would discuss the location of the shoot with Bhattacharya. In Delhi, Kishore said he was not bound by the clearance given to the film by the Centre. Reminded of the Prime Minister’s appeal to the Sangh parivar not to “compound existing problems” by crossing the Lakshman Rekha, Kishore shot back: “Where is the Lakshman Rekha? Lakshman Rekha is for everyone.” The VHP would not sit quiet whenever there is an attack on the Hindu culture, he added. Alleging an international conspiracy against Hinduism, he said multinational companies were behind it. “The Valentine’s Day, the New Year’s Day and millennium celebrations are all aberration on Hindu culture damaging the image of Bharat,” he said. The VHP leader said Deepa would be allowed to shoot in Varanasi itself, provided she changed her script drastically and it was approved by the Kashi Vidwat Parishad, an apex body of scholars. Asked why the VHP was not questioning the Centre for clearing the script, Kishore said: “The question is not of opposing any government. Even if the filming is allowed in Madhya Pradesh or West Bengal, we will not be opposing the state governments, but the shooting.” Kishore said a VHP team had met information and broadcasting minister Arun Jaitley and urged him not to give permission to the film in its present form, but “we have not yet got any response from him”. He said that over 25,000 Bajrang Dal activists from across the country would stage protests in Bhopal on February 18, if the Madhya Pradesh government did not allow the Dal to hold its convention. Warning against any crackdown on Bajrang Dal activists, Kishore claimed that 1,700 people have so far been arrested in several districts of the state. “The government is now asking us to shift to a new venue, about 8 km away. They are also asking us to postpone the meet for another four days, which is just not possible, given our preparations,” the VHP leader said.    

Jyoti Basu’s government has sent Orissa a Rs 6.13-crore bill for the humanitarian help it extended in the aftermath of the supercyclone which killed over 10,000 people and left two million homeless.

In contrast, Chandrababu Naidu’s Andhra Pradesh, the first to rush into neighbouring Orissa with relief material after the October 29 storm, has written off all of the Rs 6.56 crore it spent.

The Bengal government’s communication to Orissa asking it to pick up the tab for relief comes after a public promise to supply material worth up to Rs 10 crore free.

On January 27, Prasanna Kumar Hota, principal resident commissioner of Orissa in New Delhi, coordinating with all states on relief and restoration, urged West Bengal chief secretary Manish Gupta in a letter to show an “appropriate gesture” in light of the Andhra government’s decision.

Bengal relief commissioner P.S. Ingty wrote back a few days later to express regret and declare that the state government was unable to write off the expenses because it had not received any help from the Centre for its flood and cyclone victims.

Ingty told The Telegraph: “The question of waiver can only be decided by the government of India as the relief materials we sent were procured at its (Centre’s) instance. We had to mobilise about Rs 4.20 crore to procure these. Another Rs 2 crore was given to us by the Centre.”

That is the only piece of good news from Bengal for Orissa. It doesn’t have to pay back the entire Rs 6.13 crore since Delhi had advanced Rs 2 crore to Bengal and Andhra and smaller amounts to two other neighbouring states to purchase relief materials on October 31. These advances were made from Rs 20 crore handed by Orissa to the Centre.

“We have sent Orissa a bill for about Rs 4.20 crore,” Ingty said.

The other states that — like Bengal — were extended advances have all either offered to return the money or adjust it against the donations they made in cash or kind subsequently. No such gesture from Bengal. Which means Orissa is paying for all the relief provided by Jyoti Basu’s administration. Asked in Calcutta, Bengal finance minister Asim Dasgupta said: “I will have to check it up,” he said.

Bihar, a poorer state, has donated Rs 10 crore in cash, and Madhya Pradesh materials worth Rs 4.5 crore. Bengal’s contribution is only Rs 50 lakh, the amount the Left Front government does not want back.

Three days before Orissa wrote to Bengal, requesting an “appropriate gesture”, the Andhra Pradesh relief commissioner had informed it that the amount spent by it had been written off on the orders of chief minister Naidu.

The Andhra government also promised to return Rs 2 crore it had received as advance, Orissa government sources said.    

Temperature: Maximum: 26.4°C (-4) Minimum: 14.5°C (-2) RAINFALL: Nil Relative humidity: Maximum: 84%, Minimum: 38% Today: Mainly clear sky. Not much change in minimum temperature. Sunset: 5.29 pm Sunrise: 6.14 am    

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