Advani pitch for probe
Site signal puts Bengal in race for eastern nuclea
Naidu ties PM in network knots
Bomber car in suicide ride
Calcutta weather

 
 
ADVANI PITCH FOR PROBE 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
New Delhi, April 19 
The government today promised to get to the bottom of the match-fixing scandal, with home minister L.K. Advani saying the investigation will extend to any possible involvement of Indian cricketers.

“As a cricket lover, I’m all for a thorough investigation into match-fixing — we will also expose the involvement, if any, of Indian cricketers,” Advani said in the Lok Sabha in response to the members’ concern over the Hansie Cronje affair.

Sports minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa will make a statement on match-fixing in the House tomorrow.

Members cutting across political lines demanded a CBI inquiry into the allegations of match-fixing. Advani said the decision rests with the sports ministry. “We do not have anything against a CBI inquiry. But the decision should come from the sports ministry,” he said.

The members alleged that the cricket board was not doing enough to get to the root of the charges and it wanted to wash its hands of the controversy by making public the Chandrachud report, which they described as an “eyewash”. Most MPs echoed England skipper Nasser Hussain in saying that Cronje’s revelations are the “tip of an iceberg”.

Citing South African cricket boss Ali Bacher’s statement that the subcontinent was a “hotbed of match-fixing and betting”, a Congress MP said: “Cricket with its money-spinning potential is having a disastrous effect on the youth.”

Bindra charge

Former board chief I.S. Bindra today dared International Cricket Council president Jagmohan Dalmiya to “confess”, but refused to go into specifics having opened the floodgates.

Is Dalmiya hand in glove with bookmakers? Bindra wouldn’t say, but in between showering accolades on the ICC chief — for doing his bit to commercialise the game — he hinted that Dalmiya was not as clean. “He (Dalmiya) is in the grip of sharks and the mafia,” said Bindra.

In Calcutta, Dalmiya refused to comment on Bindra’s statement, saying “it is below my dignity”. “I’m surprised that instead of naming anybody, Bindra is indulging in unnecessary kite-flying,” he said.

Bindra triggered another controversy by claiming that “every single player who has played or is playing is involved in such things some way or the other and every match is fixed in some form”.[Describing the remark as “irresponsible”, BCCI chief A.C. Muthiah asked Bindra to furnish evidence to the police, adds PTI].

Pressed by reporters to name corrupt board officials, Bindra did mention one but with the rider that the mediapersons would have to face any libel suit. He, however, promised to reveal more after the May 2 ICC meet in London.

But while casting aspersions on every cricketer since the days of Charles Bannerman, Bindra chose to portray Cronje as an angel. “Hansie has emerged the biggest hero in the world of cricket. He has saved cricket,” he said.    


 
 
SITE SIGNAL PUTS BENGAL IN RACE FOR EASTERN NUCLEA 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, April 19 
The first step towards conceptualising a nuclear power project for Bengal has been taken with the Nuclear Power Corporation writing to the state government about selection of a site.

In a letter on March 23, the corporation’s head, Y.S.R. Prasad, asked the Bengal government to appoint an agency immediately to coordinate with the site selection committee under the department of atomic energy.

This was revealed here today by CPM members of Parliament Basudeb Acharya and Radhika Ranjan Pramanik. If the project comes through, it will be the first nuclear power plant in over a decade, the last having come up at Narora in Rajasthan.

The development follows an initiative by chief minister Jyoti Basu, who has been keen on a nuclear power plant in the state since 1993. He took up the issue with the Prime Minister on February 18 and Atal Behari Vajpayee promptly referred it to the Atomic Energy Commission.

The commission’s chairman, R. Chidambaram, then instructed Prasad to go ahead with site selection in Bengal.

It is by no means certain that Bengal will get the project since the corporation is also keeping Orissa and Bihar in contention. Prasad has written to the chief secretaries of these two states to identify possible sites. The move could trigger a scramble among the three to bag the project.

Bengal chief secretary Manish Gupta denied knowledge of the development even though the two MPs said the corporation’s letter is addressed to the chief secretary. Officials in the chief minister’s office, however, confirmed that the government has received a letter from the corporation.

The government has tentatively chosen two sites in the Sunderbans. Since nuclear plants require millions of gallons of water, a site on the coast is thought to be suitable.

The site will be picked by the Centre’s selection committee with the agency to be set up by the state government assisting it. The agency will help collect initial data for screening sites, arrange visits by committee members and will carry out detailed investigation.

The MPs said each unit will have a capacity of 220 megawatts with scope for expansion later to 500 mw. The power will be fed into the national transmission grid. They said with assistance from US-based Westinghouse, the project can be put up in two years.

Nuclear power plants are about 25-30 per cent costlier than the thermal variety but are a source of cheap power. France is one country that depends substantially on nuclear power. After the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl mishaps, there is a question mark about their safety.    


 
 
NAIDU TIES PM IN NETWORK KNOTS 
 
 
FROM DIPTOSH MAJUMDAR
 
New Delhi, April 19 
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is caught between Chandrababu Naidu and the Sangh over Sankhya Vahini, a high-speed network for carrying digital data.

Naidu, Vajpayee’s most influential ally, has demanded early “implementation” of the project in a letter faxed to the Prime Minister last week.

However, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has been suggesting that the project should be allowed only after inviting a global tender. Naidu has questioned the efforts being made to give the project a quiet burial and has sought the Prime Minister’s early intervention.

A US-based computer scientist, Raj Reddy, is the driving force behind the Rs 1,300-crore optical fibre network, a joint venture between IUNet, a Carnegie Mellon University company, and the Department of Telecommunications. The RSS has questioned the credentials of Reddy, an IIT alumnus who went to Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has also claimed to be a technology adviser to President Bill Clinton.

During a recent visit to India, Reddy had tried to turn the RSS bosses around after having successfully lobbied with the Andhra chief minister. Reddy’s plans have stoked the interest of Naidu who believes that his state will stand to gain once the network lines are leased to IITs and Indian Institutes of Information Technology (Triple ITs). Naidu has one Triple IT in his state and two more are on the cards.

But the RSS has been sceptical because leaders like H.V. Sheshadri and B. Thengadi believe that Sankhya Vahini’s vast network could be a security threat. They have already told the Prime Minister of their reservations. The project, which had received Cabinet approval on January 19, has been kept in abeyance, though infotech minister Pramod Mahajan had said in Hyderabad last week that it was on track.

Naidu has now reminded Vajpayee that more than two months have passed since the Cabinet approved the project. Throwing his weight behind the project, the chief minister said he was aware of a disinformation campaign launched in the media.

Naidu pointed out that the government ought to recall that the National Information Technology Task Force, which he chaired along with then Planning Commission deputy chairman Jaswant Singh, had recommended this project. He said Reddy had convinced the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University to participate in this joint venture.

Naidu’s reminder coincides with his party’s demand for a rollback of the cut in subsidies. The government feels that Naidu would not push the subsidy case beyond a point, but he was unlikely to relent on Sankhya Vahini.    


 
 
BOMBER CAR IN SUICIDE RIDE 
 
 
FROM MUKHTAR AHMAD
 
Srinagar, April 19 
In the first-ever car bomb attack in the Kashmir Valley, a suicide bomber in a Maruti today tried to storm the Badami Bagh army headquarters.

The bomber drove his car, packed with explosives, right up to the main gate of the cantonment and tried to force his way through. He refused to stop when challenged by soldiers at the heavily-guarded entrance. But when an army vehicle blocked the way, the militant blew up his car.

The bomber was killed and five soldiers injured, said Major C.K. Roy, in charge of security. The car was blown into smithereens in an explosion that shook the area. A few vehicles parked nearby were damaged by the impact of the blast. No group has claimed responsibility yet.

Immediately after the blast, soldiers moved into the area and cordoned it off. Traffic had to be diverted as troops scanned the area for militants. Residents had difficulty reaching their homes. Senior army, police and paramilitary officers also visited the spot.

This was the second attack on the Badami Bagh cantonment, which houses the headquarters of the army’s 15 Corps. On November 3, three militants had sneaked inside the Corps headquarters and killed army public relations officer Major Purushottam and six others. Security was beefed up after the attack.

Police sources described the suicide bomb attack as a serious development and said security was being tightened further.

Militants have begun using suicide squads to hit military targets after the Kargil war.

At Sopore in north Kashmir, two students were killed in a grenade explosion and subsequent firing by the Border Security Force this afternoon. Twenty-eight were injured in the attack at Iqbal Market. Of them, 17 have been shifted to Srinagar’s SMHS hospital and two to Soura Medical Institute for treatment.

Sources said unidentified militants lobbed a handgrenade on a passing security force vehicle. The grenade exploded on the road, injuring bystanders.

Immediately afterwards, BSF soldiers manning bunkers in the area opened heavy fire from their automatic weapons, wounding more people.

Rubeena Akhtar, a Class VIII student, and Abdul Quyoom, in the first year of college, died of their injuries.

The apple township of Sopore is tense after the incident. Shopkeepers brought down their shutters and the streets emptied out. Security forces have sealed the area and are conducting searches.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Temperature: Maximum: 36.1°C (normal) Minimum: 27.8°C (+3) RAINFALL: Nil Relative humidity: Maximum: 86%, Minimum: 54% Today: Partly cloudy sky, with development of thunderclouds in the evening. Maximum temperature will remain around 36°C Sunset: 5.55 pm Sunrise: 5.15 am    
 

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