Star damper on Atal Lanka meet
Desam dumps price pals
Intelligence role for para-forces
Dalit killings in UP rock House
SC breather to child rape convict
Court brings banks under consumer Act
BJP in please-Dalit drive

 
 
STAR DAMPER ON ATAL LANKA MEET 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, May 8 
Contrary to what the Centre had expected, the all-party meeting on the Sri Lankan crisis in Parliament today turned out to be a tame affair.

The stars in the Opposition were missing. Neither Congress president and Opposition leader in the Lok Sabha, Sonia Gandhi, nor her bete noire and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar turned up. Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav also stayed away. So did one of the staunchest critics of the Atal Behari Vajpayee administration, CPM MP Somnath Chatterjee.

At the end of it, the government had reasons to feel slightly cheated. According to sources, Vajpayee and foreign minister Jaswant Singh had done extensive homework on the subject but, as it turned out, were allowed to get away by a not-so-sharp Opposition without revealing any of its cards.

Although Rajya Sabha Congress leader Manmohan Singh did raise a few points, he said nothing incisive. In all probability, parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan told reporters more than what Jaswant Singh had to say at the meeting.

With the Opposition asking few questions, it was left to the NDA’s southern allies to do the talking. But Vajpayee had the Opposition with him when he silenced MDMK chief Vaiko — and the PMK — who demanded that the government grant recognition to Eelam as a separate state.

The only Opposition party to which the government had to cede ground was the ADMK. Vajpayee promised to meet Jayalalitha — who has reacted late to the developments in Jaffna — and hear her out on this touchy issue. For the government, there are no problems meeting any of the Tamil leaders, sources said. It might even help keeping the more radical among them like Vaiko in check.

The Congress did send over two veterans — Manmohan Singh and Pranab Mukherjee — but both are from the Rajya Sabha. Its Lok Sabha contingent was unrepresented today. Sonia Gandhi has been indisposed for a few days and did not attend. She has also been postponing her scheduled trip to drought-affected Gujarat.

Similarly, the absence of both Pawar and Mulayam also diluted the significance of the session. Both were defence ministers in the nineties after the IPKF’s 1987 misadventure. Not entirely unfamiliar with the situation in the embattled island, their advice and specific queries would have been valuable to the government, official sources said.

The CPM was represented by Biplab Dasgupta, not Somnath Chatterjee. Although Dasgupta is well-versed in Saarc affairs, he is yet to attain Chatterjee’s stature in the House. CPI’s Indrajit Gupta, the seniormost parliamentarian, was present but the Left response to the Lankan issue has been muted and it has not really unearthed flaws in the Centre’s handling of the situation.

According to the government, the issue was being seen more as a Tamil problem with Tamil politicians doing the bulk of the talking.    


 
 
DESAM DUMPS PRICE PALS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, May 8 
The Telugu Desam Party, which was leading the BJP allies in the rollback cry, has now ditched the other parties.

After making shrill demands inside and outside Parliament, the Desam is suddenly silent now.

Devendra Prasad Yadav, deputy leader of Janata Dal (United) in the Lok Sabha, had convened a meeting today with like-minded BJP allies — the Desam, Trinamul Congress, Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the Shiv Sena — to chalk out the “next plan of action” to force the government to reconsider the hike in the prices of foodgrain, petroleum and kerosene.

But the meeting was deferred to Tuesday as the Desam declined to attend it.

Asked why the party lost interest, Desam parliamentary party leader Yerran Naidu, who had made a lot of noise on the hike, said: “We have left the issue to the wisdom of the government.”

He said there was no plan to hold any meeting. Naidu had taken the initiative in meeting the Prime Minister and the finance minister to submit memoranda seeking a rollback and held press conferences to air the concern of allies over the “anti-poor” step.

Today, he said: “There is no meeting, but there is nothing wrong if they (the other allies) hold a meeting. I may also attend it.”

A senior alliance leader, however, said: “The Desam cannot afford to be silent on this issue. Chandrababu Naidu’s vote bank depends on the PDS (public distribution system).

No state government can afford to dump the PDS. Forty per cent of people in Andhra come under the PDS bracket and Chandrababu Naidu can ill afford to ignore them. Information technology alone cannot help him.”

The Desam chief lost interest in the rollback demand after the municipal elections in his state got over last month. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee go-ahead signal to the Sankhya Vahini project also pleased the chief minister.

The Opposition and RSS hardliners had raised a hue and cry over the project, but Chandrababu Naidu had written to the Prime Minister, requesting him to expedite its clearance.

The Centre had also offered other sops. Last week, several incentives were given to the infotech industry, which has a notable presence in Andhra Pradesh.

The government also announced that Andhra Pradesh would get additional foodgrain to be distributed at lower rates through ration shops in drought-hit districts.    


 
 
INTELLIGENCE ROLE FOR PARA-FORCES 
 
 
FROM CHANDAN NANDY
 
New Delhi, May 8 
After directing the Intelligence Bureau to provide timely and actionable inputs, the home ministry will now advise all Central paramilitary forces to gather foolproof information.

As part of its effort to spruce up the intelligence network, North Block also wants the bureau and the paramilitary organisations to work in tandem.

Soon after the Kargil war, home secretary Kamal Pande had set up the Core Intelligence Processing Unit and the Core Group on Internal Security which would receive “hard” intelligence, analyse and assess the information received and then ask the bureau to go the extra yard and generate “actionable” input.

Based on the intelligence they receive, the two committees prepare larger assessment reports on threat perception. Headed by joint secretaries, the divisions were formed in September last year.

However, sources said the home ministry now intends to task paramilitary forces such as the Border Security Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Central Reserve Police Force and the Central Industrial Security Force to “plug holes” in the intelligence apparatus, especially in Jammu and Kashmir, the Northeast, along the borders with Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and in states hit by Naxalite extremism.

There had been complaints in the past that terrorists could strike at security establishments in Kashmir with impunity because of lack of coordination among the intelligence agencies and the security forces.

The home ministry made the suggestion to all paramilitary forces at a meeting in North Block last week.

The meeting was attended by senior officials of Central Police Organisations in charge of intelligence gathering.

The BSF’s ‘G Branch’ collects intelligence and so does the ITBP, which has a presence in Jammu and Kashmir and along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.

“The home ministry’s objective is to task the paramilitary forces so that intelligence is not generated in a haphazard manner and is timely and actionable. Often we lack the expertise to assess the inputs received by our intelligence wings who function within their own limits. It also takes a long time for the intelligence collected by our forces to reach the desks where they can be assessed in the proper perspective,” said an official.

It was also agreed at the meeting that Intelligence Bureau operatives would train officials attached to intelligence wings of the police organisations.

The objective is to help them “better appreciate” inputs that come in the form of electronic intercepts, interrogation of terrorists and suspected ISI agents and from human sources.

“Intelligence Bureau officials have the expertise which the police organisations could put to effective use within the areas of operation,” an official said.    


 
 
DALIT KILLINGS IN UP ROCK HOUSE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, May 8 
The killing of Dalits in Uttar Pradesh today rocked the Lok Sabha with the Bahujan Samaj Party demanding dismissal of the Ram Prakash Gupta government and imposition of President’s rule in the state.

As soon as the Lok Sabha assembled this morning, the BSP forced its adjournment till noon. Speaker, G.M.C. Balayogi’s repeated pleas for order were ignored, and BSP and Samajwadi Party members rushed to the Well of the House.

In the afternoon, the house heard Mayavati’s account of atrocities against Dalits in various parts o