Kapil proof test for Manoj
Sinha turns his back on rollback
South-stung Delhi in Lanka retreat
Autopsy points to Bidyut suicide
Israel missile muscle for India
Calcutta weather

 
 
KAPIL PROOF TEST FOR MANOJ 
 
 
BY LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Calcutta, May 4 
Manoj Prabhakar, in Lucknow on a business trip, is expected to head straight for the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI’s) Lodhi Colony hub on returning to New Delhi.

Unless there is a change in Prabhakar’s plans, that should be tomorrow morning.

That visit, prompted by former Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Inderjit Singh Bindra’s allegation on CNN’s Q&A that Kapil Dev offered the sensational Rs 25 lakh inducement to Prabhakar (September 1994), may give the CBI something really big to work on.

Or, the CBI could reach dead-end No. 1 within days of launching a probe into allegations of match-fixing by Indian cricketers.

Bindra has forced Prabhakar’s hand while, simultaneously, numbing Indian cricket like never before. Prabhakar must either confirm or deny Bindra’s claim.

The question is: Did Prabhakar authorise Bindra to say anything at all on his behalf?

At the moment, Prabhakar is himself merely saying: “I won’t comment... I’ll speak to the CBI, for me that comes first.”

From targeting International Cricket Council (ICC) president Jagmohan Dalmiya, Bindra has now trained guns on Dalmiya’s hand-picked India coach.

Though Dalmiya is no longer a BCCI office-bearer, he remains influential. Bindra has quickly emerged top dissident.

According to UNI, Bindra told CNN last night: “The person who offered Rs 25 lakh to Prabhakar, to play below potential, is an icon in the cricketing world. He is the Michael Jordan of India. His name is Kapil Dev.”

If Bindra is to be believed —- some of his statements in recent weeks, after all, have been bizarre —- Prabhakar “identified” Kapil during a one-to-one in Chandigarh last week.

Prabhakar first went public with the allegation (leaving the person unnamed) in June 1997, via a signed article in a weekly. The offer was made before the India vs Pakistan Singer Cup match. As it turned out, the game couldn’t even be played on the reserve day in that rain-hit tournament, Kapil’s last overseas.

After initially responding with “I am a bit confused... Should I comment on Bindra’s statement or Prabhakar’s allegation? I don’t even know whether what Bindra is claiming has actually been said by Prabhakar,” Kapil gave a firm reaction in the evening.

“It has been brought to my notice that certain wild and baseless allegations have been made in an interview aired on CNN. I have discussed these with my lawyers who are taking appropriate action against those responsible for uttering reckless allegations.”

A weary Kapil told The Telegraph: “You’re wanting my reaction, as an individual? Well, what do you expect somebody who put in almost two decades of sweat and tears, at the highest level, to say?”

But, was his conscience clear?

Kapil sounded hurt, but didn’t duck. He emotionally answered: “If my conscience isn’t clear, then whose is? The conscience of those making allegations? Today, I don’t have to go out and convince people my conscience is clear.”

Bindra’s allegation came within hours of the ICC specifically listing 14 forms of unacceptable behaviour. Offering an inducement or, being tempted, figure high on that shortlist.

The penalty for both, applicable to current players/ coaches/officials, is a life ban. The starting-point is July 1, 1993.

Prabhakar, who hasn’t been discreet in his ways, is understood to have “bared all” to more than one person. And, sources insist, one of them is a high-ranking Union minister.

Of course, it’s not clear whose name Prabhakar took but, when he met the minister, an MP was within earshot as well.    


 
 
SINHA TURNS HIS BACK ON ROLLBACK 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, May 4 
The finance minister today refused to let the moniker roll-back Sinha be flung at him a second time round by sidestepping demands of both allies and the combined Opposition to cut the increases in food and fertiliser prices.

Yashwant Sinha said the expenditure commission had been asked to prepare a quick report on the subject. While this creates the impression of a firm government and finance minister, the Opposition thought otherwise, staging a noisy walk-out in the Lok Sabha even as the finance Bill was passed by voice vote.

The BJP’s allies, too, were not exactly happy. Trinamul Congress spokesman Sudip Bandopadhyay said: “We are disappointed and will lodge our protest in a democratic way. But we continue to support the NDA government.”

Telugu Desam, another major ally, made its displeasure known in Parliament itself when its leader Yerran Naidu reminded Sinha of his assurance to look into the party’s demands for a rollback in his reply to the budget debate.

Sinha had earned the odious nom de plume after he rolled back a number of harsh fiscal measures in the very first year of BJP-led rule.

The finance minister said today the newly-constituted expenditure commission would go into the issue of “better targeting of subsidies”. Food and fertiliser prices have been put up to reduce the burden of subsidies, which now account for an unmanageable 14 per cent of the gross domestic product.

“I have asked the commission to give a quick report on subsidies to better target it to food and fertilisers. This is the direction we propose to move in,” he said.

A dissatisfied Opposition had united earlier in the debate pleading for a rollback since some states were under the spell of drought.

But Sinha remained non-committal, attacking the Congress for criticising the BJP-led government’s decision to raise prices after having increased food and fertiliser prices repeatedly during its own reign.

But Congress leader Priya Ranjan Das Munshi protested against the BJP move as “a betrayal of the people”.

Sinha took the opportunity of the reply to the two-day budget debate to launch an attack on the stock market, accusing it of “silly and irresponsible” behaviour and of being driven by “rumours” and not economic fundamentals.

“The Bombay stock market is only driven by rumours. I hope it will show some sanity and behave more responsibly,” Sinha said.

“The stock market has left much to be desired. It is silly behaviour. I can imagine the market responding to fundamentals of the country or results of the companies. I can’t imagine it responding only to rumours,” he said.

Trying to shrug off charges that the concessions he had announced yesterday were designed to bail out the sinking stock market index, Sinha said: “I am not the FM of the BSE.”

But BSE was quick to pay homage to their finance minister as the sensitive index climbed over 200 points in a salute to the clutch of concessions announced yesterday for information technology and pharmaceutical sectors.

With the industrial recovery in the last financial year, Sinha said the Centre was confident of achieving 7 per cent growth in 2000-01, if not more. “We are determined to achieve it, if not exceed it.”    


 
 
SOUTH-STUNG DELHI IN LANKA RETREAT 
 
 
FROM DIPTOSH MAJUMDAR
 
New Delhi, May 4 
Under pressure from restive southern allies, the Centre today strove to limit the ambit of the “humanitarian” aid pledged to Sri Lanka.

As Delhi repeated its resolve not to intervene, Lanka swung to restore diplomatic relations with Israel “with immediate effect”. Lanka officially said the move was in the making for quite some time, but the timing has fuelled speculation that it was a prelude to seeking the help of Mossad.

Treading with caution, Delhi has decided that if any aid was sent to Lanka, it would be meant only for civilians. The government is considering a plan to despatch food, medicine and clothes. But corresponding benefits will reach Tamil refugees in India, too.

The attitude of the government had changed last night after it realised that the DMK was furious at having been left out of consultations on the issue.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had immediately contacted the Tamil Nadu chief minister and DMK leader, M. Karunanidhi, and requested him to reach Delhi.

But Karunanidhi decided not to rush to the capital, giving sufficient time to his protégé and Union minister Murasoli Maran to contact the BJP’s allies and make them understand the Tamil sentiments on the issue.

Maran was in touch with his contacts among all allies last night and this morning. Karunanidhi also kept himself busy, calling up friend Chandrababu Naidu, who wields immense influence in Delhi.

The DMK’s campaign for almost 12 hours dampened the government’s initial enthusiasm last afternoon when it was considering a proposal to send arms and ammunition to Lanka. Foreign minister Jaswant Singh had spoken to Maran last evening itself.

In Parliament, Singh owned up that “it was my fault” that Maran had not been invited to the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security which concentrated on the Lankan issue.

He said the fault had been rectified and the DMK chief minister would be in Delhi late this evening. Karunanidhi’s meeting with Vajpayee has been rescheduled to Friday afternoon.

The Prime Minister met Maran and then he spoke to the MDMK leader, Vaiko, a vocal supporter of the LTTE, and the PMK leader, S. Ramadoss.

Both were averse to the idea of the government participating in any form of military exercise on the island. They were also against the government extending any help to the LTTE.

Such was the anxiety of the southern MPs that Vajpayee had to reassure them the government was not contemplating any supply or sale of arms to Sri Lanka. He met the allies this evening at a meeting in Parliament. The Prime Minister told reporters that there was “perfect understanding” among the allies on sending humanitarian aid to the island.

In Chennai, Karunanidhi warned that arms and ammunition should not be sent to the island for use against the Tamils there. He welcomed the overall decision that India would not repeat the IPKF exercise of the eighties. But he regretted that the Centre took the decision at the CCS and not at a meeting of the full Cabinet.    


 
 
AUTOPSY POINTS TO BIDYUT SUICIDE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 4 
The post-mortem on the body of Bidyut Ganguly indicates that “in all probability” the Bengal industries minister committed suicide.

Ganguly was found in flames in his Bhatpara home on Sunday night and died the next morning before police could record a statement.

The post-mortem report was submitted to deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya on Thursday afternoon. But Bhattacharya refused to divulge its contents, saying he would first consult chief minister Jyoti Basu.

Sources said the report, prepared by Dr P.B. Das and Dr P. G. Bhattacharya, says: “In all probability, the death is suicidal in nature.” It goes on to add that preliminary examination had tentatively established the presence not only of alcohol in Ganguly’s stomach, but also traces of what could be tranquilisers “or some pills” Ganguly may have consumed before setting himself on fire. This is indicated by the presence of some “sticky white substance” in his stomach.

A clear picture will emerge only after the viscera or chemical analysis report is submitted later in the month. “The death,” the report concludes, “was due to severe burn injuries and heart collapse.”

Sources said that in the post-mortem, there are indications that some kind of combustible liquid, possibly kerosene, was used as the lower portion of Ganguly’s body was charred unusually black. This, the findings say, happens when some such liquid is used.

An analysis of his burn injuries does not suggest he made any effort to save himself after the fire started, the post-mortem revealed.

That Ganguly at times tried to bear up to the pain by sitting on his haunches was evident from the fact that the portion of his legs behind the knees was not as badly affected as the rest of his limbs. His fists were clenched. “This indicates that he tried to bear the pain but did not try to save himself,” the report said.

The doctors also found an injury on the minister’s left wrist but could not specify whether it was from the burns or a cut.

The report indicated that Ganguly had poured the inflammable liquid mostly below his waist as the burns were the worst in that portion of his body. Ganguly had, in all probabilty, set his cotton lungi alight near his foot. The doctors found the fabric virtually fused to the burnt skin.

The North 24-Parganas police report says interrogation of Radha Roychowdhury and Ratan Maity, both domestic helps at the Ganguly residence, as well as the neighbours has convinced investigators that the minister was alone in the room at the time of the incident. Eye-witnesses also said there was the smell of kerosene in the room.

A five-litre can of the fuel, which was usually kept below the stairs, was found empty in the room along with a lighter.

The entire episode was over in 10 minutes. Ganguly had rushed upstairs soon after his wife Hashi Ganguly left the house following a heated argument with him.

By all indications, the police have virtually stopped investigating the minister’s death. Till Thursday, only a case of “unnatural death” has been registered with the Jagaddal police station.    


 
 
ISRAEL MISSILE MUSCLE FOR INDIA 
 
 
FROM CHANDAN NANDY
 
New Delhi, May 4 
The failure of the naval version of Trishul has forced the defence ministry to place an order for about 30 Israeli Barak missiles.

Though Delhi has procured military hardware from Tel Aviv in the past, especially after the Kargil war, this is the first time it will be importing Israeli naval missiles and missile systems.

Neither New Delhi nor Tel Aviv made it official, but at the height of the Kargil conflict, India had sought, and got, Israeli military expertise for hitting precise infiltrator bases in the mountain ranges.

Highly placed sources in the navy said the order was placed with Rafael-Israel Armament Development Authority and Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd. It manufactures the Barak-1 missile system which can effectively counter existing and future anti-ship air threats, including against supersonic sea-skimming missiles.

Satisfied with the preliminary tests, naval sources said the Barak missiles and accompanying missile systems will be fitted on five existing frigates and corvettes. Each ship will have sets of either eight or six Israeli missiles. There is no proposal to instal the missiles on new ships likely to be commissioned later this year.

The sources said all the tests of the indigenously-produced Trishul conducted on sea have failed. “The missile has yet to stabilise and has not been able to clear tests in adverse weather conditions. The missile could not even reach its target,” a source said. Trishul, conceived in the mid-eighties by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), was to be a short-range missile system in which the warhead was designed to fly parallel to the sea surface.

Last year, differences of opinion emerged between the navy and the DRDO on whether to go for the Israeli system or Trishul. While the navy was keen to procure Barak, the DRDO was pressing for Trishul. It was only after the latest tests on Trishul failed a couple of months ago that the DRDO finally gave in.

Barak-1 was designed to be an accurate, highly immune, autonomous, vertical launch, short-range anti-missile system.

The website of Rafael-Israel Armament Development Authority and the Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd says the system “features very low level flight capability, high fire power and a large kill radius”. Besides, the company claims that the system is fully operational day and night and even in adverse weather conditions.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Temperature: Maximum: 32.4°C (-4) Minimum: 20.4°C (-6) RAINFALL: 19.2 mm Relative humidity: Maximum: 100%, Minimum:49% Today: Partly cloudy sky. Slight rise in maximum temperature, which is likely to be 34°C. Sunset: 6.01 pm Sunrise: 5.04 am    
 

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