RJD link in Dalit massacre
SC for quick check-up in rape case
BJP plans Lucknow shuffle
Dissent brews in Sonia’s Cong
Bihar braces for population blast
Relief wages fall short of promise

 
 
RJD LINK IN DALIT MASSACRE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Patna, May 13 
With the name of an RJD legislator’s cousin figuring in the FIR in Lakhisarai, yesterday’s massacre of 12 backward caste labourers has assumed political colour. Senior NDA leaders have stepped up political campaign against the ruling coalition.

Superintendent of police in Lakhisarai M.S. Majid today said Suryagara MLA Pralhad Yadav’s cousin, Hareram Yadav, was among the six persons named in the FIR. Hareram is an influential contractor and has a criminal records.

Majid said in the course of investigation, Hareram’s name was mentioned by villagers. “He had allegedly fomented trouble. He used his political clout to carry on illegal mining and intimidate rival contractors,” said a police officer in Lakhisarai. Although the police were yet to gather evidence against Hareram for the massacre, his involvement in intimidating labourers has come to light, police said.

The revelation of Hareram’s name has come as a major embarrassment for the RJD. Villagers are angry with Laloo Yadav and demonstrated against him when he visited the area yesterday.

The state government is already facing flak for the Bihar Mineral development Corporation’s failure to draw the government’s attention to the mushrooming of illegal contractors, who have caused largescale damage to the district’s landscape by carrying on rampant sand mining on the Kiul riverbed. The government had earlier had to face a barrage of questions on the role of the police who were allegedly hand in glove with illegal miners.

The NDA quickly seized these issues to mount a political campaign against the RJD-led coalition government. BJP leader Sushil Modi, who visited the site late yesterday evening, today came back to say: “I don’t know what kind of government is ruling the state. If the poor Dalits of the state cannot be protected, whose government is it anyway?”

Another NDA leader, Nitish Kumar, also rushed to the spot this morning. He is expected to hold a rally there. Ram Vilas Paswan, who is keen on floating a regional party, does not want to let this opportunity slip out of hand. He will visit the site of the massacre as four of the victims belonged to his caste. Paswan is expected to fire his salvo against the government in Patna where he will meet his party workers.

Even CPM, which is an ally of the RJD, charged the government with ignoring law and order. The BSP, another ally, has demanded stern action from the state government. The BSP said it was not reviewing the support it has extended to the RJD. Congress state president Chandan Bagchi, who visited the site, said he would write his observation on the incident to chief minister Rabri Devi soon.

Alarmed by the political reaction, Rabri today called an emergency meeting with the director general, the chief secretary and the home secretary. They discussed measures to stop illegal landmining in the area and may suspend some police officials of the district and officers of Bihar Mineral Development Corporation as a damage control measure.

Cong for special courts

The Congress urged the Rabri Devi government to set up special courts and a task force to deal with caste violence in Bihar.Reacting sharply to the killings, general secretary Mohsina Kidwai said: “The state government must protect lives of Dalits and all other sections.”    


 
 
SC FOR QUICK CHECK-UP IN RAPE CASE 
 
 
FROM R. VENKATARAMAN
 
New Delhi, May 13 
The Supreme Court has asked government hospitals throughout the country to conduct medical examinations in rape cases at the earliest as delays resulted in “washing away of evidence of rape”.

A three-judge bench of Chief Justice A.S. Anand and Justice D.P. Wadhwa and Ruma Pal said in a judgement: “We wish to put on record our disapproval of the refusal of some government hospital doctors, particularly in rural areas where hospitals are few and far between, to conduct medical examination of a rape victim unless the case is referred to them by the police.

“Such a refusal ... necessarily results in a delay in the ultimate examination of the victim, by which time the evidence of rape may have been washed away by the complainant herself or be otherwise lost,” the judges observed.

They asked state governments to “ensure such a situation does not recur in future”.

In the case at hand, the apex court restored the conviction and sentence of a rape-accused let off by the Karnataka high court.

A 15-year-old schoolgirl was raped in a remote Karnataka village. She was taken to Dr Thripulamba for the medical examination, who declined to examine her on the ground that she was not referred to by the police. The victim was sent back and was examined by another doctor, Dr Shantabai, after two days of the incident when a police report had been filed.

The medical report found white discharge but recorded “no external injuries to external genitalia”.

By that time, the chargesheet had been filed and the trial court had convicted the accused of rape. But on appeal, the high court said the case could not be sustained as there was no injury reported in the medical report.

The Supreme Court rejected the ruling of the high court and said the medical evidence given by about three doctors and an equal number of staff nurses was not taken into consideration by the court.

The delay in the medical examination and lodging of FIR which went in favour of the accused in the high court was not seen in the “social context” of this country, the apex court said. A school girl “in the normal course of human conduct” would not like to give publicity to the traumatic experience she had undergone and would feel terribly embarrassed. Hence delay on her part should not be construed to mean that her evidence was false, the Supreme court said, citing a settled case law.

The apex court ordered the convict to surrender, if he were on bail, to serve the sentence for rape.    


 
 
BJP PLANS LUCKNOW SHUFFLE 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, May 13 
Worried over its declining stock in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP leadership is planning to effect some major organisational changes in the state by next weekend. The axe is likely to fall on state president Om Prakash Singh, who was appointed on an ad hoc basis following Rajnath Singh’s elevation as Union minister.

With the state Assembly elections due next year, the BJP is also thinking of replacing chief minister Ram Prakash Gupta under whose leadership the party is not getting anywhere. But the task is proving to be a tough one.

As of now, Rajnath, who is the Union surface transport minister, is the front runner for the chief minister’s post. He had played an active role in marginalising Kalyan Singh and finally forcing him to break away from the party last year.

Party sources today said the organisational elections in the state will be completed by May 21, when the party may appoint a new president. “Once the organisational elections are completed, we will be able to apply our mind about replacing the chief minister,” a senior party leader said.

The budget session of Parliament will conclude on May 17 and the organisational polls will be over by May 21. Sources said Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee may go in for a Cabinet expansion around May 24. A package on Uttar Pradesh is linked to the Cabinet expansion, they added. The Prime Minister has to decide about the future of Rajnath who is eager to go to Uttar Pradesh as chief minister.

The party top brass is miffed with both chief minister Ram Prakash Gupta and state president Om Prakash for their inability to prevent cross-voting in the elections to the Rajya Sabha and the legislative council. Although party spokesperson M. Venkaiah Naidu on Wednesday denied any move to replace the chief minister, party sources said it could not overlook the mounting demand for Gupta’s removal. On Friday, more than 50 party MLAs gheraoed the chief minister inside his chamber, protesting his “style of functioning”.

Party sources said Gupta has outlived his utility and can never lead the party to victory in the crucial cow belt state. Venkaiah Naidu’s assertion that Gupta will not be shifted, has ironically acerbated his problems with the rebels going on the offensive with a vengeance.    


 
 
DISSENT BREWS IN SONIA’S CONG 
 
 
FROM RASHEED KIDWAI
 
New Delhi, May 13 
The whisper campaign against Sonia Gandhi is getting louder in the Congress with many senior leaders, once close to her, joining the dissidents’ ranks.

The Jairam Ramesh episode has once again highlighted that even inner-circle leaders like K. Karunakaran, M.L. Fotedar, K. Natwar Singh and Vijay Bhaskar Reddy are getting disillusioned with her.

Karunakaran dropped a bombshell advocating the return of Sharad Pawar and favouring a mahajot in Kerala on the lines of Ghani Khan Chowdhury’s vision for West Bengal Assembly polls.

Without naming the foreign origin issue, Karunakaran said the issue on which Pawar left the party would be settled soon, leaving everyone guessing what the octogenarian leader was up to.

If the disquiet within the Congress continues, a showdown on the leadership issue is likely during the organisational polls slated for later this year. Going by past experience, such trials of strength invariably lead to a split — something which the oldest political party can hardly afford at present.

Sonia and her crisis managers do not have much option except to wait and watch till the organisational polls are over.

“After the party polls, you will see the emergence of new Congress. A stronger and more active set-up,” an AICC general secretary said, while wondering how the leadership will keep the pro-changers at bay.

Paradoxically, the AICC chief is failing to live up to the expectations of both the loyalists and dissidents. Loyalists want her to be like Indira Gandhi, aggressive and assertive and cracking the whip on rebels, while dissidents expect her to remove the “inner coterie” and change her style of functioning.

Sensing trouble, some senior party leaders, namely Arjun Singh, Pranab Mukherjee, Ambika Soni and Ahmad Patel, have started to persuade the dissidents not to precipitate the crisis. These leaders have been calling on disgruntled leaders and arranging meetings with Sonia Gandhi.

However, the rebels are not impressed by meeting the Congress president alone. They want her to lead the party from the front. An MP from Punjab bluntly asked Sonia recently: “Why don’t you act like Indira Gandhi?”

Some party leaders blame Sonia’s advisers for the “mess”, wondering why the party did not join the industrial strike on Wednesday organised by the Opposition .

“We are now having a march on Monday against price rise. What is the purpose of it when others have already stolen a march over us? We could have had our own stir on Wednesday instead of sitting quietly in Parliament,” a party MP said.

He said the party’s protest against price rise appeared hollow as it failed to push cut motions in the Lok Sabha. “Now it looks like an afterthought,” he said.    


 
 
BIHAR BRACES FOR POPULATION BLAST 
 
 
FROM TAPAS CHAKRABARTY
 
Patna, May 13 
The billionth baby has swivelled the arc lights to Bihar where the chief minister herself has set the trend for jumbo families. Officials in the state family planning department have warned that the Bihar population has crossed 10 crore, more than double of that in 1972.

In 1950, Bihar’s population was a little over 3 crore and in 1972, it had crossed five crore. Between 1970 and 1999, the state’s population growth gathered momentum, and demographers estimate that the population will touch 10,24,23,000 in July 2000 if this growth rate continues.

The population explosion has also transcended the caste divide. The upper caste social groups like the Bhumihars and the Rajputs are not lagging behind the Dalits and the Yadavs in the numbers race.

“In Bhumihar society, for example, small family had been a norm in the past. But in the post-land reforms era, when this caste group came to own large landholdings, elders chose not to marry their daughters into small families. The culture of big family returned,” says Shaibal Gupta, director of Asian Development Research Institute. Even the first family has nine children.

Compounding the problems posed by an oversized population, the rise in numbers has come hand in hand with a decline in agricultural production. In the early sixties, Bihar ranked among the first 10 states in agricultural production, but now it is among the lowest five.

“Out of the country’s 100 backward villages, 38 are in Bihar. In such a state the small family norm has no takers. Backwardness and illiteracy have contributed to the boom,” says BJP spokesperson Kiran Ghai.

Smita Verma, a sociologist, says even among the upper caste families “there has been so little of women’s empowerment, that women just have no other option but to fulfil the family’s feudal legacy of being the mother of a dozen”.

Despite the gloomy scenario, health and family welfare minister Shakil Ahmed has not lost hope. He has launched a scheme to install condom-vending machines in public toilets. He says the machines are expected to encourage people to shed their inhibitions.    


 
 
RELIEF WAGES FALL SHORT OF PROMISE 
 
 
FROM BASANT RAWAT
 
Ahmedabad, May 13 
Though the state government has announced Rs 40 as drought relief wages, workers engaged in relief work are paid far less, Eklavya Sangathan, an Ahmedabad-based NGO, has charged.

The Eklavya team, which conducted a survey at relief sites, found that out of 165 groups involving 972 relief workers in tribal areas, not a single worker got Rs 40 because payments are made on piece rate basis. The government pays Rs 24.60 per cubic metre for soft soil and Rs 27.70 for black soil.

Of the 4,00,000 labourers employed by the state, more than 95 per cent of the labourers get daily wages between Rs 10 and Rs 30.

Eklavya Sangathan carried out an experiment at two different places in Limkheda taluka where it assigned the job of digging a pit to a group of six, three men and three women. The objective was to find out exactly how much each person could earn at the end of the day. “Results should serve as an eye-opener,” says Madhusudan Mistry of Eklavya.

After seven hours, one group dug a pit of 200 cubic feet (5.60 cubic metre) in soft soil. At the government rate of Rs 24.60 per cubic metre, the group would have got Rs 137.60 had they worked for eight hours. That would have enabled each worker to earn Rs 22.93, way below the Rs 40 mark.

Eklavya assigned the same job to another group of six persons in another village where they could dig 250 cubic feet in seven hours. After eight hours, they would have managed 300 cubic feet (8.4 cubic metres). With the government rate at Rs 27.70 for black soil, the group would have earned Rs 232.60, each worker getting Rs 38.78, still less than the Rs 40 mark.

The experiment, says Mistry, has proved that an individual relief worker cannot dig a pit deeper than 1.626 cubic metres while a group of six cannot go beyond 8.66 cubic metre mark, “never managing to get Rs 40”.

As per nutritional norms announced by the National Nutrition Institute of India, Hyderabad, workers required 3,200 calories. To get 3,200 calories, a person should be earning enough to feed his family a balanced diet.    

 

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