Clinton terror cushion for Kashmir blow
Bihar-stung BJP turns back on loser Nitish
Saifuddin awaits final strike
Sonia terms for Laloo
Herbal-fuel Ramar skids on oil spill
Lawyers’ strike
Herbal-fuel Ramar skids on oil spill

 
 
CLINTON TERROR CUSHION FOR KASHMIR BLOW 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, March 11 
President Bill Clinton is likely to punctuate his discussions on Kashmir by taking up the issue of terror export in an effort to assuage the feelings of his Indian hosts.

Successive statements from Washington have indicated that Clinton will raise the Kashmir dispute during his visit to the subcontinent later this month. But by discussing the problem of cross-border terrorism, a pet theme of the Indian foreign office, the President will help Delhi sell the argument that talking on Kashmir in the light of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism is not against the country’s interest.

Over the past few months, Clinton and senior members of his administration have repeatedly expressed their concern over Kashmir. The President, who had described the subcontinent as the “most dangerous place in the world” because of the Kashmir dispute concerning two nuclear neighbours, specified on Thursday that the Line of Control was an area of particular concern.

Delhi, however, brushed aside the statement. “What President Clinton had said was in a different context. In any case, it is a perception that he has. We have a different perception,” foreign minister Jaswant Singh said.

Since the end of the Kargil war, the global community has been mounting pressure on the two countries to sit across the talks table. That Clinton and his officials have been talking about it on a regular basis for the past month is being seen as an effort to take care of sections both in the US and in India who were lobbying against his visit to Pakistan.

By talking about the danger that the region poses and the role he can play in bringing down the temperature, Clinton is attempting to justify his trip to Islamabad, where the junta is in power.

“India-Pakistan relations will definitely come up for talks, but it will not be the main focus of discussions between the two sides,” US ambassador in Delhi Richard Celeste said. He added that the thrust of the talks between Clinton and the A.B. Vajpayee government will be on “the relationship of the new day between the two countries”.

Though both countries are looking forward to the presidential visit, the first in 22 years, several differences persist on key issues like disarmament and nuclear proliferation. If the US has refused to lift the remaining post-Pokhran sanctions, Delhi, too, has snubbed Washington by not signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Celeste made it clear that though the President would also visit Pakistan and Bangladesh, “the centre piece” of his visit will be India. “It may be unusual for the President to spend five days in a country, but in a place like India, I don’t think it is unusual. It will perhaps give him the chance to get to know a bit of the country and about its people and culture,” the ambassador said.

Describing the two nations as “natural allies”, he pointed out that not only were they “great democracies”, but their diverse culture, ethnic mix and similarity in views on several issues provided them with an opportunity to work in closer cooperation with each other.

“The visit is about no single issue. Discussions will touch upon a number of issues, including the great strides that India is making on information technology, on its potential as destination for greater US investments, environment, health and education and also on science and technology,” Celeste said. He hoped that the President’s trip will provide the opportunity for a “qualitatively different relationship between the two countries”.

During the visit, a number of agreements on various areas where the two sides can cooperate and work together will be signed. “I can assure you the thali will be full,” Celeste said.    


 
 
BIHAR-STUNG BJP TURNS BACK ON LOSER NITISH 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, March 11 
Nitish Kumar, who resigned as Bihar chief minister yesterday, is unlikely to head the Opposition in the Assembly with the BJP firm on retaining the post.

A senior BJP leader said Nitish was not acceptable as leader of the National Democratic Alliance.

BJP leaders have also made it clear that it would be difficult for the Prime Minister to reinstate Nitish in the Union Cabinet. “All these people were given plum Cabinet berths as Assembly elections were due. Now, no additional ministers from Bihar are possible. Bihar is already over-represented. If we can dump Ramakrishna Hegde, why not Nitish?” they asked.

BJP vice-president J.P. Mathur said: “The NDA is an alliance with a common programme to run a government. In Bihar, all the three parties will work as the Opposition in cooperation, but not as one organisation.”

Asked if Kumar will be the leader of the Opposition as he was elected NDA head, Mathur said: “Nitish Kumar should be the leader of his party, not the NDA.” The BJP, with 67 MLAs, is the second-largest party in the Assembly and Sushil Kumar Modi is likely to continue as Opposition leader.

Even as the senior partner tried to distance itself from its allies, Janata Dal (United) and Samata Party had more trouble coming their way. RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav is trying to split the 20-member Dal(U) and the 34-member Samata Party to strengthen his position. Sources said Laloo Yadav is targeting 10-odd Yadav MLAs in the Dal(U) and a few Kurmis and others in the Samata.

There are five Kurmi legislators in the Samata Party. With Congress leader Sadanand Singh, a Kurmi, becoming Speaker, some of his caste cousins are likely to cross over, provided they can convince others to make up the one-third figure.

Asked to comment on the reported statement of Dal(U) leader Ganesh Yadav in Patna that his party should back the RJD in forming the government, Dal(U) spokesman Mohan Prakash said it was an individual statement and not the view of the party. “It is a tactical statement. It is not without meaning. It will change the scenario,” he said, declining to elaborate. Prakash said the Bihar fiasco will not have any adverse impact on the Centre.

“Even some of those MLAs who do not relish the company of the RJD may now opt to back it as nobody wants President’s rule and another election immediately,” said a Dal(U) leader.

Asked why the BJP was averse to Nitish, a Samata Party leader said the saffron party wanted Ram Vilas Paswan to head the NDA if the BJP’s numbers were below expectation.

Kumar is unpopular with the upper and some intermediary castes. Even in the Samata, there is some resistance against Kumar, he said.    


 
 
SAIFUDDIN AWAITS FINAL STRIKE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, March 11 
Former CPM MP Saifuddin Chaudhury is waiting for his detractors in the party to make the next move. In a cat-and-mouse game, the CPM rebels and their hardline bosses are egging each other on to make the first strike.

The hardliners want Saifuddin to quit the party so that they have less explaining to do. Saifuddin, on the other hand, wants his adversaries to boot him out of the party so that he can capitalise on his “victim” status.

Instead of thrashing out a decision on Saifuddin, the West Bengal state committee is waging a war of nerves. After bombarding the rebel leader with two showcause notices, the leadership, four days ago, trotted out a third showcause notice asking him to explain why he should not be “suspended” from the party.

A fortnight ago, the CPM leadership had sent a second showcause notice to Saifuddin asking him to explain his remarks in a section of the press. From the relentless pressure the CPM top brass is piling on Saifuddin, it is clear that he is on his way out.

Saifuddin, however, said he was going to Calcutta on Tuesday to attend a meeting in South 24 Parganas, hosted by Samir Putatundo, another rebel leader.

For Saifuddin, the signals are crystal clear. There is no question of a truce and the party leadership has made up its mind to show him the door. The only factor that could be holding it back is the fear that action against Saifuddin could trigger more trouble for the West Bengal unit than it can handle at the moment.

State transport minister and Saifuddin’s “soulmate”, Subhas Chakraborty, is sticking by the former MP and has warned the leadership that any action against Saifuddin will aggravate fissures within the party. West Bengal CPM leader Biman Bose, on the other hand, said: “There are over two lakh party members. If each one of them starts talking to the press it will be a disaster.”

For the CPM the ideal situation would be if it could isolate Saifuddin from heavyweights like Subhas Chakraborty.

Since his exclusion from the central committee in 1996, Saifuddin has been a political recluse in Delhi. He refused to move to West Bengal after he was denied a Lok Sabha ticket.

The rebel leaders agree that the course and the outcome of the struggle will depend on how much support they can muster at the ground level. The leadership wants to stem a possible tide of support. Action against Saifuddin seems a foregone conclusion but the party leadership would want to be sure of the timing.

“After all, the next Assembly polls are crucial for the party especially when the writing is on the wall for the CPM,” said a party leader.    


 
 
SONIA TERMS FOR LALOO 
 
 
FROM RASHEED KIDWAI
 
New Delhi, March 11 
The Congress today indicated that it is willing to participate in the Rabri Devi government but deferred a formal decision as some members opposed to the move were not present in the Congress Working Committee meeting.

The CWC will meet again on Tuesday to clinch the issue. The 24-member CWC is packed with Sonia loyalists who will give their seal of approval to the high command’s diktats. However, Rajesh Pilot and A.K. Antony have reservations about the party going back on its Panchmarhi declaration and joining a coalition government.

The CWC today decided to launch a nationwide stir against the increase in prices of urea and essential commodities. “We are turning the heat from politics to economics,” a beaming CWC member said, claiming that the Vajpayee regime was on the defensive after twin setbacks on the Bihar and RSS issues.

In Bihar, a majority of party MLAs are in favour of joining the Rabri government. In the CWC, too, there is a view that the party must start “experimenting” instead of shying away from coalition politics. “Even in the Panchmarhi declaration, there is an escape clause that the Congress can become part of a coalition if there is an agreed common minimum programme,” a CWC member pointed out.

But the Congress wants certain promises from Laloo Yadav before it agrees to share power. Besides creation of the Jharkhand state, the Congress is seeking the induction of technocrats in the Cabinet to head the agriculture, finance and power ministries.

It is also keen that Laloo should set up three commissions, infrastructure, industry and finance, with technical experts as their heads. Land reforms is another area of concern for the Congress. The party wants an expert group to make recommendations for speedy implementation of land reforms.

On panchayati raj elections, the Congress is keen that the RJD government should take lead to settle the special leave petition pending in the Supreme Court.

The Congress also wants the RJD regime to establish a mechanism to protect Dalits in Bihar. It has called for a co-ordination committee to monitor progress of the state government on all these fronts.    


 
 
HERBAL-FUEL RAMAR SKIDS ON OIL SPILL 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Chennai, March 11 
Herbal-fuel inventor Ramar Pillai’s dream run ended today with the CBI taking him into custody for selling stolen industrial chemicals as automobile gasoline.

Pillai, with the connivance of some officials of a public sector oil refinery, allegedly siphoned off huge quantities of chemicals such as benzene and toluene which found their way to his outlets.

CBI joint director D. Mukherjee said the agency had acted on its own on “reliable information” that Pillai was cheating the public by selling industrial and organic chemicals as herbal fuel. The CBI obtained samples of the fuel and tests carried out at a central laboratory had shown the presence of industrial solvents.

In pre-dawn raids today at his residence, godown and retail outlets across Chennai, the investigators recovered 10,500 litres of the so-called herbal fuel, 1,500 litres of additives besides Rs 4.61 lakh in cash.

Pillai has been charged under several sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act. He is also said to have violated an order of the Union petroleum ministry governing the sale of motor spirit.

Mukherjee said the investigating agency was forced to act on its own in the absence of written complaints from the people who had been taken for a ride by Pillai.

A semi-literate hailing from a village in Rajapalayam in southern Tamil Nadu, Pillai jumped into the headlines four years ago when some preliminary experiments seemed to vindicate his claim that he had invented a method to extract motor fuel from some unspecified herbs.

However, repeat tests, one at IIT Madras and another at Dehradun, under more rigorous conditions raised doubts about Pillai’s claims.

It appeared as if he had managed to stash away gasoline in some concealed corner of the vessel he was using for the experiments, and which, at a certain temperature, came out to mix with the herbs he was boiling, resulting in a new product with a new look.

Subsequently, the scientific community lost interest in Pillai, but he kept crying foul, saying the elite scientists could not understand his methods and were jealous of him.

But with generous help from unknown donors, he pressed ahead and had recently set up a manufacturing unit in a Chennai suburb where, he claimed, he manufactured one lakh litres of his Tamil Devi Herbal Fuel and distributed them through scores of retail outlets.

Pillai had also boasted that over 5,000 autorickshaws were running on his fuel, but he was always cagey about its composition.

He, however, had little trouble in getting his product assessed for sales tax by the state government.

He had told journalists in the past that the total tax on his fuel, including excise, worked out to nearly 27 per cent. Pillai had even appealed to finance minister Yashwant Sinha to exempt his invention from any levy.

The sleuths got suspicious when they found that he was selling his fuel at nearly Rs 23 per litre, not much lower from the official petrol rate.    


 
 
LAWYERS’ STRIKE 
 
 
 
New Delhi, March 11 
Delhi lawyers will go on an indefinite relay hunger strike from Monday to protest against the lathicharge by the police on striking lawyers on February 24, reports our legal correspondent.

The Delhi High Court bar association said bar associations “throughout India” have decided to start a hunger strike from Monday. On the first day, the president and chairman of the bar council will go on a fast.    


 
 
HERBAL-FUEL RAMAR SKIDS ON OIL SPILL 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Chennai, March 11 
Herbal-fuel inventor Ramar Pillai’s dream run ended today with the CBI taking him into custody for selling stolen industrial chemicals as automobile gasoline.

Pillai, with the connivance of some officials of a public sector oil refinery, allegedly siphoned off huge quantities of chemicals such as benzene and toluene which found their way to his outlets.

CBI joint director D. Mukherjee said the agency had acted on its own on “reliable information” that Pillai was cheating the public by selling industrial and organic chemicals as herbal fuel. The CBI obtained samples of the fuel and tests carried out at a central laboratory had shown the presence of industrial solvents.

In pre-dawn raids today at his residence, godown and retail outlets across Chennai, the investigators recovered 10,500 litres of the so-called herbal fuel, 1,500 litres of additives besides Rs 4.61 lakh in cash.

Pillai has been charged under several sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act. He is also said to have violated an order of the Union petroleum ministry governing the sale of motor spirit.

Mukherjee said the investigating agency was forced to act on its own in the absence of written complaints from the people who had been taken for a ride by Pillai.

A semi-literate hailing from a village in Rajapalayam in southern Tamil Nadu, Pillai jumped into the headlines four years ago when some preliminary experiments seemed to vindicate his claim that he had invented a method to extract motor fuel from some unspecified herbs.

However, repeat tests, one at IIT Madras and another at Dehradun, under more rigorous conditions raised doubts about Pillai’s claims.

It appeared as if he had managed to stash away gasoline in some concealed corner of the vessel he was using for the experiments, and which, at a certain temperature, came out to mix with the herbs he was boiling, resulting in a new product with a new look.

Subsequently, the scientific community lost interest in Pillai, but he kept crying foul, saying the elite scientists could not understand his methods and were jealous of him.

But with generous help from unknown donors, he pressed ahead and had recently set up a manufacturing unit in a Chennai suburb where, he claimed, he manufactured one lakh litres of his Tamil Devi Herbal Fuel and distributed them through scores of retail outlets.

Pillai had also boasted that over 5,000 autorickshaws were running on his fuel, but he was always cagey about its composition.

He, however, had little trouble in getting his product assessed for sales tax by the state government.

He had told journalists in the past that the total tax on his fuel, including excise, worked out to nearly 27 per cent. Pillai had even appealed to finance minister Yashwant Sinha to exempt his invention from any levy.

The sleuths got suspicious when they found that he was selling his fuel at nearly Rs 23 per litre, not much lower from the official petrol rate.    

 

FRONT PAGE / NATIONAL / EDITORIAL / BUSINESS / THE EAST / SPORTS
ABOUT US /FEEDBACK / ARCHIVE 
 
Maintained by Web Development Company