Muckraker Manoj squeals without proof
Lanka jets pound Tigers advancing on Jaffna
Flashbulbs bombard billion baby
Making history with howlers
Calcutta weather

 
 
MUCKRAKER MANOJ SQUEALS WITHOUT PROOF 
 
 
FROM CHANDAN NANDY
 
New Delhi, May 11 
Manoj Prabhakar has the courage to drag the reputation of one of the world’s greatest cricketers through mud but not the conviction that he can back it up with proof.

The former all-rounder told the CBI during the “informal” interrogation earlier this week that Kapil Dev had offered him Rs 25 lakh to play “below par”, but said he did not have evidence to substantiate the charge. Officially, however, the CBI maintains it has had no discussion with Prabhakar and will contact him shortly.

Kapil was not home this evening. His wife Romi said they would comment only after publication of this report.

Prabhakar has been mouthing the allegation of an attempt to bribe him since 1997, though he did not name Kapil then. In the wake of the Hansie Cronje scandal, I.S. Bindra, former cricket board chief, claimed Prabhakar had told him the overture was made by Kapil during the Singer Cup in Sri Lanka in 1994.

Home minister L.K. Advani subsequently conceded that Prabhakar had told him as much in the presence of a cricketer-turned politician from Delhi.

Now, after all this, after the nation watched in wide-eyed disbelief yesterday the big-boned, large-hearted Jat and possibly India’s most loved cricket icon crumple and cry like a kid in a television interview, it appears Prabhakar is not prepared to put his money where his mouth his.

He had behaved the same way at the Justice Chandrachud inquiry. After having been responsible for setting it in motion with his electrifying allegation of being offered money to tank a match, he thought discretion was the better part of valour and kept silent when the justice called him.

Prabhakar’s confession to the CBI that he did not have evidence does not mean he has seen the last of the investigators. The bureau will come back to him for a formal statement and, if he sticks to what he told it on Tuesday, his allegation will be as stingless as most of the time his bowling was.

The inquiry, stemming from his charge, is headed for a dead end, CBI sources say. A criminal case cannot be built on the basis of a mere statement and unless Prabhakar or anyone else provides proof, the investigation will die a natural death.

If Prabhakar has no evidence, it is his word against Kapil’s. No prizes for guessing whose will carry more weight, whether Kapil puts his hand on his heart or not.

Legally, Kapil cannot be touched, but can Prabhakar be? He repeated the allegation to CBI even after knowing that Kapil had broken down before television cameras last week when the interview that was shown on BBC was being recorded.

Kapil has already sent a legal notice to Bindra for maligning him. What will he now do with Prabhakar?

Prabhakar had earlier said he was ready to submit evidence if provided security. Now that security has been organised through Delhi police and the government has also asked the CBI to take over the cricket probe, Prabhakar has been robbed of all reasons for holding back information.

The former Delhi all-rounder’s admission that he has no proof against the victorious World Cup captain is going to land Bindra, too, in trouble. Both have one thing in common: they have gone public with allegations without proving so far that they can make these stick.

Nevertheless, the CBI is going to persist with its inquiry. It has prepared a list of 44 names with whom it will get in touch. These names include those of past and present cricketers, cricket board officials and journalists.    


 
 
LANKA JETS POUND TIGERS ADVANCING ON JAFFNA 
 
 
FROM T.N. GOPALAN IN COLOMBO
 
May 11 
Sri Lankan air force jets bombed Tamil Tiger positions close to Jaffna today as the guerrillas claimed to have captured two towns on the periphery of the city which they said was “as good as gone”.

While asserting that the rebels’ march had been stalled, the government admitted that “small groups of terrorists continue to occupy a small stretch of the main A9 highway nearly 1 km northwest of the Navatkuli bridge”.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had yesterday said they had captured the vital bridge 5 km outside Jaffna which would bring the Pallali airbase within their firing range and cut off all escape routes for the soldiers. The government rebutted the claim.

According to an Associated Press report, the clandestine Voice of Tigers radio, monitored in the northern town of Vavuniya, said the rebels had taken control of Kolombuthurai and Maniyathotam towns as part of Operation Unceasing Waves.

The report added that the troops had suffered heavy casualties and hundreds of civilians were displaced as they fled the war zone.

Ariya Rubasinghe, the government’s information director, scoffed at the LTTE claim that it was posing a serious threat to the soldiers defending Jaffna.

“Although the terrorists are making desperate attempts to advance further, troops are determined and, so far, all such attempts have been repulsed,” he said.

Rubasinghe added that fighter planes strafed the Tiger positions in Ariyalai, Tannankilappu and Pooneryn. The guerrillas had yesterday claimed to have breached the defence lines in Ariyalai and Tannankilappu, strategic military bases near Jaffna.

Since Wednesday, 75 guerrillas and 33 Lankan soldiers had been killed, Rubasinghe added.

The Tigers’ assault on Ariyalai was seen as a diversionary tactic as they do not have the necessary strength and firepower to sustain the attack and go in for the kill. For the final assault on Jaffna, the rebels would have to cut off the vital A9 highway on the north even as they are marching beyond Pallai on the southern side, and thus bottle up the Lankan troops trapped in between.

The ground reality seems to belie the LTTE’s claims. But for the surprise attack on Ariyalai, the guerrillas have not been able to make much progress in their march along the highway to Jaffna.

Sources are sceptical of the LTTE statement of an exodus from the city.

As the war heightened, diplomatic efforts to end the conflict intensified with the arrival of the Norwegian special envoy, Erik Solheim, in Delhi. He said his government will assist Colombo in finding a solution.

India remained firm on its hands-off stand. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee ruled out a policy change even if Jaffna fell.    


 
 
FLASHBULBS BOMBARD BILLION BABY 
 
 
FROM DIPTOSH MAJUMDAR
 
New Delhi, May 11 
The glass door opened slowly. But it unhinged a frenzy that lasted at least for 20 minutes as the nurses escorted out a shy mother with a towel-wrapped new-born in her arms. Fortunately, eight-hour-old Aastha did not cry, not even whimper. She slept through those insane minutes as a crowd of cameras pressed upon her — sharp metal edges of equipment moving to within six inches of her delicate flesh — and securitymen wrestled with the mass of sweating photographers.

The madness went on. Two ministers joining in this bizarre celebration — Aastha was declared India’s billionth baby — climbed down from the podium to join her for a photo-op after having made a number of speeches. The superintendent of the hospital, oblivious to Aastha, busied himself in ensuring health minister N. Shanmugam was not missed by the mob of lenses. Two foreign dignitaries, representatives of the UN, stared aghast. The only sane voice was of the master of ceremonies, who pleaded with the scribes to make way for the child and the mother.

The farce was waiting to happen. Aastha was born at 5.05 am, nearly eight hours before the census authorities had set their clock for the billionth child. She was chosen early not to avoid the rush of photographers and the television crew, but to prepare mother and child for the ceremony at 2 pm.

The hospital authorities were aware that newsmen would arrive in hordes to record this “historic” moment and could have thought of a glass enclosure from where the mother and child could have accepted those bouquets and the gift hampers without any fuss. Or they could have brought over more security guards and asked them to form a cordon around the child. But Aastha — who was named by the hospital authorities; the parents did not have a say — became a concern only when the photographers went berserk.

The flashbulbs struck Aastha repeatedly before she and her mother were pushed back beyond the glass door. But by then, Sumitra Mahajan, minister for women and child development, had promised the photographers who were late that they would be given another opportunity to click the billionth baby in the arms of the ministers. So Aastha was brought back again, this time to the podium. The flashlights hit her again.

Aastha was chosen with care. The government was at pains to iterate that she was a “girl child” and stress that they had taken a politically correct decision. What the government was not emphasising was that she was one of the 42,000 infants born every hour in this country that is multiplying faster than any other nation.

When Aastha was brought out for the second time to oblige cameramen, her father, an overawed and frightened Ashok Arora, could not be found. He had to be hauled up on the dais. By that time a balding man in a blue shirt, who later turned out to be Ashok’s neighbour, had established himself as Aastha’s father. He was waving both his hands at the befuddled media looking around for Papa Arora. The pretender, refusing to move away from the glare of camera lights, had almost convinced everybody. Not embarrassed even after he was caught, he clung on to Ashok and the child, hovering within the frame of zoom lenses.

Aastha has been promised Rs 2 lakh for her education. She is going to be funded by the United Nations Population Fund, who in turn have raised the money from donors like the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Punjab National Bank.

Aastha’s father, baffled by all the attention, first said he worked with a perfume-manufacturing unit, told a few others that he was employed as a car mechanic and finally admitted, with a drooping face, that he was jobless.

Probably he felt that the unemployment tag can bring him a few more goodies: may be, even a decent government job.

In Parliament, Opposition furore on price rise did not allow either Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee or Opposition leader Sonia Gandhi to make their statements on the occasion. The Prime Minister’s speech, circulated later, said nothing new. It reminded that India was set to surpass China’s population figures in due course if the population growth could not be checked.    


 
 
MAKING HISTORY WITH HOWLERS 
 
 
FROM MONOBINA GUPTA
 
New Delhi, May 11 
Subhas Chandra Bose led the revolutionary movement in Andhra Pradesh. False? True, if a government textbook for Class X students is to be believed.

A string of howlers in Sanchayika, a history text published by the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT), continues to be taught as part of the Hindi course, regardless of protests from the institute’s own evaluation committee.

That the human resource development ministry has chosen to turn a blind eye to the outrageous factual errors is evident from junior minister Jayasingrao Gaekwad Patil’s statement to Rajya Sabha that “the inaccuracies have been rectified. The book has been printed after due corrections”.

Sample these from the “rectified” text.

In December 1921, according to the book, the annual Congress session held in Lahore elected Jawaharlal Nehru as party president. Nehru, in fact, was nowhere near being a top member of the Congress then; his father Motilal was. Nehru was elected Congress president at a Lahore session eight years later, in 1929.

Ordinarily, the error would have been passed off as a printing or a proof-reading mistake. But considering the other “atrocities perpetrated on history” in the text, it would not be proper to blame the printer or the proof reader for this howler.

Similarly, the book says that some European traders started coming to India in 1748. They included Portuguese, English and the French.

Portuguese merchants began to come to India not in 1748, but some 238 years earlier, in 1510 when the country conquered Goa. Going by the history that is being fed to the students, it would seem that the British East India Company and the French East India Company waited till 1748 to send traders to India, though their companies were founded in 1600 and 1664 respectively.

Again, the Qutb Minar is mentioned as an example of Mughal architecture. The minar was built in the 13th century by Qutbuddin Aibak and completed by Iltutmish. Babur, the first Mughal emperor, started his reign in 1526.

According to sources in the NCERT, the “revised” textbook contains four corrections out of about a dozen errors.

“There is no other correction even of the factual errors. The communal bias, historical distortions, the general orientation of the book in which Hindu and Indian are synonymous, are unchanged,” says an NCERT faculty member.

Some of the mistakes border on the outrageous. The mythical story of an elephant’s head being transplanted on the severed head of Ganesha in the Puranas is described as an amazing example of surgery. The NCERT’s evaluation committee had pointed out the errors and asked the director to replace the book. “The director’s refusal to replace this book by another which was ready and not even correcting the factual errors is just an indication of the unacademic atmosphere in the NCERT,” says a member.

Agreed an academic and pointed to the reference to Maharashtra’s Prarthana Samaj, which has been termed “pooja samaj”.

“Maybe the authors of the book think that pooja and prarthana are the same thing. So why not use pooja instead of prarthana,” the scholar said.

Only few errors were corrected. According to the earlier version of the Hindi text: Sankaracharya wrote a book called Vedanta; Congress was set up in 1885 but its first session was held in 1889.

Chandrashekhar Azad took over the leadership of the revolutionary party after Bhagat Singh was executed.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Temperature: Maximum: 36.1°C (normal) Minimum: 23.9°C (-2) RAINFALL: 3.3 mm Relative humidity: Maximum: 93%, Minimum: 53% Today: Hot and humid day. Possibility of thunderclouds developing towards afternoon or evening. Maximum temperature to be around 36°C. Sunset: 6.05 pm Sunrise: 5.00 am    
 

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