India offers Lanka aid, not army
Deadline before death for Bidyut
Clinton in May Month salute
Calcutta weather

 
 
INDIA OFFERS LANKA AID, NOT ARMY 
 
 
FROM DIPTOSH MAJUMDAR
 
New Delhi, May 3 
India today ruled out military assistance for the time being to Sri Lanka in its battle against Tamil Tiger rebels who are preparing to recapture Jaffna.

“No such request has been made. Military intervention is ruled out,” foreign minister Jaswant Singh said hours after his Sri Lankan counterpart Lakshman Kadirgamar called on Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

The government is, however, willing to provide humanitarian aid. But Singh refused to spell out what kind of humanitarian assistance would be given.

Vajpayee, who is keeping tabs on the situation across the Palk Strait, called up Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi late tonight and requested him to come to Delhi tomorrow.

Singh spoke to reporters after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security ruled out sending troops to Sri Lanka to bail out 40,000 soldiers trapped in the strategic Elephant Pass, captured by the LTTE rebels a week ago.

The minister also clarified that air force chief A.Y. Tipnis’ trip to Sri Lanka later this week was scheduled long ago.

Speculation that Sri Lanka could ask India to help its soldiers gained ground after Kadirgamar met Vajpayee this afternoon. The Lanka foreign minister — who has been undergoing medical treatment here for the past three months — later said he had not sought military intervention, but such a request could be made later.

An Associated Press report from Colombo said the Tigers may agree to a cease-fire to allow the trapped soldiers to pull out of Jaffna. If the Lanka military decides to evacuate from the northern peninsula, it will need foreign logistics assistance.

Sri Lanka does not have enough planes or ships to evacuate 40,000 troops from Jaffna. India has the experience and the logistical capability.

The rebels marched ahead, taking control of a 12-km stretch of road between Elephant pass and Kilali, the clandestine Voice of Tigers radio said. There was no government comment.

The BJP-led government has to tread cautiously on the Lanka question as its southern allies, especially the DMK, are against deploying troops to fight Tamils. PMK chief S. Ramadoss faxed a letter to Vajpayee tonight, asking the Centre not to “interfere” in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka.

MDMK chief Vaiko, another ally of the BJP, had sparked a furore recently when he spoke out in favour of the Tigers while addressing a Tamil conference in Europe.

Singh said there has been no discussion as yet over phone between Vajpayee and Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga. But he pointed out that Colombo is in touch with “us on the evolving situation there”.

Kumaratunga confirmed reports that she has sought help from “friendly countries” to contain the LTTE, but she ruled out deploying foreign troops to accomplish the task.

While ruling out military assistance, Delhi avoided saying what it would do if Kumaratunga really asked for army help. The government may have to reconsider its decision if Kumaratunga makes a personal appeal to Vajpayee and if the situation in Jaffna worsens.

Singh, reading out from a written statement, said: “India would abide its continued commitment to a peaceful resolution of the conflict within the framework of a United Sri Lanka where all communities can realise their aspiration.”

“India will work to mitigate the hardship inflicted upon civilians by the conflict taking such humanitarian measures, as becomes necessary, in consultation with Sri Lanka. India is already host to over 100,000 Sri Lankan refugees,” he added.

According to the foreign minister: “It is India’s hope that the peace sought by all Sri Lankans will soon return to a country that is a close and friendly neighbour.”

Curiously, defence minister George Fernandes was missing from this evening’s security meeting. Too much should not be read into his absence because Fernandes was needed in Parliament where he was supposed to make a statement. Even finance minister Yashwant Sinha could come over for a few minutes.

But Fernandes’ absence will raise a few eyebrows as he has earlier faced charges of being sympathetic to the LTTE cause.

All three service chiefs, Gen. Ved Prakash Malik, Tipnis and Admiral Susheel Kumar, were present at the security meeting. Two of them were carrying classified maps of Northern Sri Lanka where Rajiv Gandhi’s peace-keeping force had launched its misadventure more than a decade ago.

Home minister L.K. Advani and planning commission deputy chairman K.C. Pant were also present.    


 
 
DEADLINE BEFORE DEATH FOR BIDYUT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 3 
Three days before his unnatural death, commerce and industry minister Bidyut Ganguly had been set a fresh and final deadline by the CPM leadership for explaining the “lavish” expenses on his younger daughter’s wedding. His earlier explanations were found unsatisfactory.

Ganguly is said to have sought more time than the April 28 date set by the party. He was given two more weeks, but there was to be no further extension.

The party did not put any further pressure on Ganguly as he was closely involved with campaigning for the coming municipal polls. But, sources said, he seemed extremely worried and upset as “time was running out”.

It is also learnt that Ganguly’s wife, who is closely associated with the CPM women’s wing, was unhappy with him over the issue and had insisted that he submit an explanation to the leadership without delay.

Although Ganguly had not submitted his statement on the expenditure on the marriage, party intelligence had gathered information on his financial status.

An inquiry ordered against him by the party had found that a few private companies had “sponsored” the food and the other arrangements made at the reception which was attended by about a thousand guests.

Party sources the expenses were glaring since Ganguly’s only known source of income was the paltry salary he received as a minister.

While state CPM secretary Anil Biswas refused comment, party politburo member Biman Bose would only say: “We conducted the inquiry against Ganguly in the same manner in which we inquire into the conduct of any party member against whom we receive complaints.”

Even though the leadership was upset with Ganguly because of the perceived damage he was doing to the party’s image with his way of living, it had not taken any disciplinary action for some inexplicable reason.

That the leaders were unhappy was made evident even after his death. The party organ, Ganashakti, gave the news of his death only a brief mention on the front page though he was a senior minister.

Besides, neither chief minister Jyoti Basu nor any other party heavyweight was present at the cremation at Bhatpara on Monday night. Deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya said in Writers’ Buildings today that the post-mortem report giving precise reasons for Ganguly’s death is expected to be ready tomorrow.

This, along with forensic reports, will determine whether Ganguly had committed suicide, as preliminary investigations have indicated.    


 
 
CLINTON IN MAY MONTH SALUTE 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, May 3 
Good bye, May Day! Welcome, Asian May Month!

In the most spectacular acknowledgement yet of the impact of his recent visit to India, President Bill Clinton has designated the month of May to be observed henceforth as “Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month” throughout the US.

In a proclamation signed by the President and released by the White House, Clinton has called upon the American people to observe the month with “appropriate programmes, ceremonies and activities” to “reflect on the many gifts Asian American and Pacific islanders have brought to our nation and embrace the contributions that Americans of all backgrounds make to our increasingly multicultural society”.

The presidential proclamation specifically mentions the contribution of Vinod Dham, an Indian-American who “helped to revolutionise computer technology through the invention of the Pentium chip”.

It also extols the contribution of Asian-Americans “to every aspect of our national life” from engineering and computer science — mostly by Indians — to government, the arts and sports. it also refers to the American civil rights movement, on which the impact of Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals are well-known.

It is a sign of the times that the proclamation was issued by the White House on May Day, international labour day, the observance of which began in 1889 to mark the workers’ struggle in this country for eight-hour working days.

Six workers were killed in Chicago on May 1, 1886, in the first such strike. Four workers were subsequently executed by the State of Illinois for throwing a bomb in a marketplace the following day.

May Day is hardly observed in this bastion of capitalism any more, but the contribution of Indians to the revolutionisation of America through computer technology was a key factor which prompted Clinton to honour Asian Americans, ironically, on the very day that hitherto marked international labour day.

The President’s advisers believe that the decision to declare May as “Asian/Pacific American heritage month” was prompted by Clinton’s visit to India, the impressions the visit made on him and his firm belief that the 21st century will be an “Asian century”.

It is, however, acknowledged here that to name or do anything exclusively in this context for India or for Indian Americans would be far too controversial.

Therefore, the scope of the coverage of the month-long celebrations have been vastly expanded to cover not only all Asian Americans, but also those who came here from the Pacific islands.

The proclamation follows the launch of the “White House initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific islanders”, the goal of which is to improve the quality of life for Asian Americans by increasing their participation in federal programmes such as health, human services, education, housing and community development.

The latest presidential proclamation noted that “while many Asian Americans and Pacific islanders today are thriving, others are still struggling to overcome obstacles... too many (of them) face low-paying jobs, inadequate health care and lack of educational opportunity”.

Clinton asserted: “My administration remains dedicated to building an America that celebrates and draws strength from its diversity.”    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Temperature: Maximum: 32.7°C (-3) Minimum: 20°C (-6) RAINFALL: 14 mm Relative humidity: Maximum: 98%, Minimum: 77% Today: Partly cloudy sky, with possibility of thundershower towards afternoon or evening in some parts. Maximum temperature is likely to be around 34°C. Sunset: 6.01 pm Sunrise: 5.05 am    
 

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