PM puts Dalit promotions on fast track
Cong call for govt probe into cricketer-bookie nex
Desam in Delhi truce
Rattled Sonia summons Ghani
Kishen to be shifted to AIIMS
Clamour cloud on Jharkhand

 
 
PM PUTS DALIT PROMOTIONS ON FAST TRACK 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, April 17 
The Centre will introduce a special Bill in the ongoing session of Parliament for speeding up promotions of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe candidates in government jobs, so far based on merit.

Announcing the decision at a Dalit Sangam rally organised by the BJP’s SC\ST Morcha, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee said the government had already sought legal advice and the Bill would be tabled this session.

In an indirect criticism of the Supreme Court directive to use “merit” as the yardstick for promotions even for reserved candidates, the Prime Minister said: “There has to be some relaxation in promotion because we should not forget we are dealing with a class which has borne the brunt of neglect and injustice for centuries.”

Vajpayee said the government had already tabled a constitutional amendment Bill to clear the backlog in SC\ST promotions. “It is true that the wrongs of the past will take time to be set right, but the question is, how long?” he asked. “Will the wait be for so long that the stream will be forced to change its course? It was ruled that there would be a 50 per cent ceiling on job reservations. In 1997, the United Front government, supported by the Congress, had decided the ceiling would not be breached. But can we afford to inflict more misery and wrong on those who were not given justice by history?”

The Prime Minister sought to counter the Congress offensive on statute review by asserting that the government wanted a “review of the working of the Constitution”, not the Constitution itself. “No one can take exception to this,” he asserted.

Vajpayee claimed that the government’s aim was not to curtail fundamental rights and freedom — as alleged by the Congress — but expand them. “The BJP and its people have great respect for Babasaheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar. Even great smritis (texts and gospels) have changed with the times. The Constitution is not Manu Smriti, it is Bhim Smriti.”

For all the BJP’s efforts to strike the right note with Dalits, today’s rally at the Red Fort ground had a poor turnout. The numbers were made up by the party’s Dalit leaders who brought their supporters from their respective homegrounds. Bangaru Laxman arrived with his supporters from Andhra Pradesh, Ashok Pradhan roped in his loyalists from Khurja on the Delhi border and Rattanlal Kateria chipped in from Ambala.

Billed as the answer to the Congress’ meetings here last week and in Nagpur on Ambedkar’s birth anniversary, the rally did not evoke an enthusiastic response.

The spontaneity and commitment of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) rallies, in which the crowds choke not just the meeting venue but also the roads leading to it, was missing.    


 
 
CONG CALL FOR GOVT PROBE INTO CRICKETER-BOOKIE NEX 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, April 17 
The Congress plans to move a “call attention” motion in the Lok Sabha seeking a thorough probe into the bookie-cricketer nexus in match-fixing.

“Cricket is about batting, not betting,” said Madhavrao Scindia, Congress deputy leader in Lok Sabha. He said the government must institute a probe by a “competent authority” as the ICC and the BCCI do not have requisite infrastructure to do so. “The probe should be credible. The BCCI should take the lead and make a formal request to the government. The probe should be conducted by the government-related agencies,” the former BCCI president said.

[Speaking in Chandigarh last night, Union sports and youth affairs minister S.S. Dhindsa had said the Centre might order an inquiry into the match-fixing allegations before April 27 if there is unanimity among Parliamentarians], adds UNI.

Dhindsa said the issue will be discussed in the ongoing session of Parliament and if MPs express unanimity on an inquiry, then it may be ordered before April 27, when he is slated to meet former BCCI chiefs, former national cricket team managers and former captains in Delhi.

Dhindsa conceded that the Chandrachud committee report, which had probed the match-fixing allegations in Indian cricket, would not reveal much since former Test-cricketer Manoj Prabhakar did not spell out any name.

The Hansie Cronje incident was raised in Lok Sabha today by former Test cricketer Kirti Azad. Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party stunned everyone by demanding a ban on the game. Kamal Nath said a “parallel economy” was being run by bookies.

Scindia, speaking later to newspersons, said Parliamentarians cutting across party-lines were stunned by the Cronje incident and wanted the government to take the House into confidence about steps being taken to drive out the menace.

The former Maharaja of Gwalior said a code of conduct should be prepared and enforced immediately. “All the visiting cricket teams should immediately report to the local association or the team management if they are approached by any suspicious person,” he said.

He said dressing rooms and pavilions should be totally sanitised to ensure unscrupulous persons do not get any access.

Lok Sabha members demanded tabling of the Chandrachud committee report. Former Test-cricketer Azad said the revelation of match-fixing during the South African tour had brought “disgrace” to the game.

Azad, a BJP member from Darbhanga, said he believed Delhi police had some names of Indian cricketers who could have been involved in betting and demanded a thorough probe. He said he was not sure but he believed an investigation had been ordered into it and said if it was so, it should be completed without any delay.

Azad said the deposition of Prabhakar before the Chandrachud committee did not contain the name any player, but if the former Test player had sought any police protection, he should be given security cover. Without naming anybody, Azad said a person of the Indian cricket team abroad had told him about match-fixing.    


 
 
DESAM IN DELHI TRUCE 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, April 17 
With no elections in the offing in Andhra Pradesh, chief minister Chandrababu Naidu has advised Telugu Desam Party MPs not to embarrass or destabilise the Vajpayee government while playing the role of a supporting party.

The Desam had decided to stage a dharna today outside Parliament House with its MPs — 29 in Lok Sabha and 12 in Rajya Sabha — demanding speedy clearance of a financial package for the state. But there was no dharna today. A senior party leader claimed that there was no plan of a protest and a newspaper report to this effect was without basis.

A party source, however, said a decision to stage a dharna had been taken and the report was based on briefing by a former Union minister of the Desam.

The senior party leader said though the Desam would raise the issue of hike in prices in Parliament, it would not demand a rollback as the Central government had no other option but to increase the prices. He said the party will not back the Congress cut motions, if moved, on the issue. “We will not do anything to destabilise this government,” he said.

The Desam had made price hike and the Gujarat government’s order on government employees’ participation an issue during the first phase of the budget session during February-March while facing municipal elections in the state.

The party was earlier upset by the indifference of the BJP government to the various demands of the state. A number of projects are awaiting central clearance and the chief minister flies to Delhi off and on to meet the Prime Minister and several other Cabinet ministers to expedite clearance of these projects. But the trips have been futile.

A few days ago, Naidu’s failure to get Central clearance drew derisive comments from state Congress chief Y. S. Rajashekhara Reddy during a debate in the Assembly. Irked by the Congress taunt and an indifferent Centre, the Desam chief gave the go-ahead to a dharna by the MPs on Sunday at their meeting with him. It was felt that since the Centre was not taking the demands of the state seriously and since the Desam is not part of the NDA and also does not participate in the government, there was no harm in staging a dharna to direct Atal Behari Vajpayee’s attention to state demands.    


 
 
RATTLED SONIA SUMMONS GHANI 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, April 17 
An alarmed Sonia Gandhi has summoned A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury to Delhi on Wednesday for “decisive talks” on the mahajot (grand alliance) proposed by Mamata Banerjee.

The Congress chief also gave the go-ahead for a panel to probe the cross-voting which led to the shocking defeat of party nominee Debi Prasad Roy in the Rajya Sabha elections.

Sonia chaired a series of meetings with Pranab Mukherjee, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Prabha Rau, Pawan Bansal and Priya Ranjan Das Munshi to take a “firm and clear-cut” stand on relations with the Trinamul Congress.

The high command has decided to seek a “status report” from Ghani Khan Chowdhury on the progress made on the Trinamul-Congress tie-up within the framework of the Congress policy of keeping the BJP out.

Sonia made it clear there will be no direct or indirect “truck” with the BJP. Sources said she would prefer a split in the state unit to aligning with the BJP.

“Let us see what Chowdhury sahib has to say. He has given me a commitment and I am hopeful that he would succeed in his mission,” Sonia told a close aide assisting her on Bengal affairs.

Party sources said Sonia is inclined to give Chowdhury some more time to persuade Mamata Banerjee to quit the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.

Chowdhury claimed today that Sonia had asked him to go ahead with the mahajot. “I have made it clear to Soniaji that our mahajot will be only be with the Trinamul and that we have nothing to do with the BJP,” he said.

Sonia’s advisers are divided on what to do next on the Bengal front. Some want Sonia to act swiftly and replace Chowdhury as the state unit chief but others favour his continuation till the municipal polls.

“Let us see what is in store for us in the civic polls and then we can firm up,” an AICC general secretary said.

As a follow-up to the Chowdhury-Mamata meeting yesterday, state Congress leaders held discussions today to review the mahajot’s prospects in the municipal elections.

A Trinamul team invited the Congress to join its protest against “deteriorating law and order situation in the state” at Esplanade on Wednesday.

“We will decide later whether to attend the law violation programme. We hear that there is a programme to submit a memorandum to governor Viren J. Shah. We can join the Trinamul only if the BJP is absent,” a Congress legislator said.    


 
 
KISHEN TO BE SHIFTED TO AIIMS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, April 17 
A Delhi court today ordered shifting Kishen Kumar, one of the key figures being interrogated in the match-fixing scam, to the All-India Institute for Medical Sciences (AIIMS) from Apollo Hospital for re-examination by a medical board. Additional chief metropolitan magistrate Sangeet Dhingra said a fresh report on Kumar’s health condition should be filed before 2 pm tomorrow.

Doctors treating Kumar at Apollo Hospital said they had no objection to him being shifted to another hospital if it was “legally necessary”. A report by Dr Raman Puri of Apollo Hospital said all pointers to chest pain have been ruled out from the various investigations conducted on Kumar since April 14, the day he was shifted to their hospital from Kaliash hospital in Noida.

Kumar, who is in judicial custody, will be shifted to AIIMS by Tihar jail officials tomorrow.

Rajesh Kalra, co-accused in the scandal, was remanded in judicial custody till April 29. Kalra was admitted to the Ram Manohar Lohia hospital by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) after he complained of chest pain. The ED has already interrogated Kalra several times but says it needs more time to question him.

The ED counsel, Subhash Bansal, submitted that since the accused has been admitted to hospital after he complained of chest pain during interrogation and that the directorate personnel cannot interrogate him, he be remanded in judicial custody.

Bansal also submitted the report of the medical examination conducted on Kalra by Lohia hospital doctors, which stated that there was “no visible physical injury” on Kalra.

Kalra, who was arrested on April 7, was closely interrogated by Delhi Police crime branch for seven consecutive days before he was taken into custody by the ED. His revelations had led to Kishen Kumar’s arrest.    


 
 
CLAMOUR CLOUD ON JHARKHAND 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Patna, April 17 
The final phase of carving Jharkhand out may prove to be stormy, with Deoghar bent on opting out of the proposed state and three other Bihar districts demanding inclusion.

Deoghar, which will be bifurcated when Jharkhand is formed, is threatening to snowball into another Udhamsinghnagar with former Bihar chief minister Jagannath Mishra having thrown his weight behind it.

At the same time a new BJP outfit has been demanding that three districts from central Bihar — Gaya, Nawada and Aurangabad — be made a part of Jharkhand. When months of persuasion failed to cut much ice, the Bihar Pradesh Kishan Mazdoor Vikash Manch announced today that it would launch an agitation from May 14.

The manch has announced that it will block the GT Road in the first phase of its agitation. Besides organising signature campaigns, the outfit has approached MPs and MLAs of the districts to extend their support in writing. “Territorially, culturally and politically, the three districts have identical ethos. These districts thus want their destinies to be locked with the people of Jharkhand,” a statement from the manch said.

Activists demanding Deoghar’s exclusion from Jharkhand are citing the history of the temple town and the sentiments attached to it. “Hundreds and thousands of people from north Bihar throng the temple town round the year. You are taking their minerals and forest resources. You cannot take away their God too,” said Rajen Tiwari, an activist in Deoghar.

Mishra, explaining his support to Deoghar’s cause, said it would not be easy for the people of north and central Bihar to wipe off their minds the spiritual legacy. Mishra said some parts of the district fall in central Bihar.    

 

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