First step in cricket clean-up
Emperor Paswan gifts free phones to all his subjec
Jiang pitches ties high and far
Indian boy puts Germans on mat
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, May 29 
The sports ministry will convene a meeting first of its two ministers and officials and decide how it should go about “cleansing cricket”.

S. Shahnawaz Hussein, the new minister of state for sport and youth affairs, said it was evident that the image of cricket had been more than tarnished and the government was bent on cleaning up the mess.

The mess, as he calls it, got messier today with Kapil Dev serving a defamation notice on Manoj Prabhakar and, the news portal that, along with Prabhakar, had videotaped conversations with players, cricket board officials and others. The tapes were played at a news conference on Saturday.

Kapil Dev, who is in Dhaka as coach of the Indian team, has demanded a public apology within a week.

The CBI, which is probing allegations of match-fixing and betting, has started examining the transcripts of conversations recorded secretly by Prabhakar.

Shahnawaz, who has only just been shifted from food processing after the recent reallocation of portfolios, is echoing the sentiments of several BJP party functionaries and MPs, including the likes of Kirti Azad who want the game to get back its fair name.

Shahnawaz agreed that there was a need to broaden the investigation. Although the minister felt that the CBI was capable enough to handle the case, he conceded that the involvement of other investigating agencies, especially the income-tax department, would be of immense help.

His senior minister, S.S. Dhindsa, is abroad at this moment and is expected to be back on May 31. Shahnawaz said as soon as the Akali Dal Cabinet minister returned, the two of them would together convene the meeting. They would study the impact of the Prabhakar videotapes and discuss how they could expand the scope of the investigation so that “truth was revealed ultimately”.

From what Shahnawaz said it is clear that the government is treading cautiously. It is aware that the controversy is not going to die down and will drag through courtroom battles and, possibly, more sensational revelations. The government feels that in this situation, a hands-off policy might draw accusations of inaction.

Kapil Dev said in the legal notice that an attempt has been made to tarnish his “reputation” by levelling “false allegations” of match-fixing against him. His lawyer, V.N. Koura said that the dispatch of notices was the beginning of legal proceedings against Prabhakar and the portal.

Even if an apology is tendered by the two, Kapil will go ahead with the suit for the damage done to his reputation. When asked what amount of damage would be claimed, Koura said that the assessment was not yet complete because Prabhakar was persisting with his mudslinging.

As it began to leaf through the transcripts, the CBI said it would consult its legal cell to check to what extent the tapes could be treated as valid proof and stand scrutiny in a court of law.

The news portal has offered to hand over all the “evidence”, including the 40-odd hours of secret shooting, to the CBI.    

New Delhi, May 29 
If you work for the telephone department, the least it can do for you is give you a free phone. This seems to be communications minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s latest motto.

Paswan today announced one free phone for every employee of the telecom department, along with a 70-day bonus. The free phone deal, the cost of which will be borne out of the department’s profits, will amount to about Rs 120 crore a year.

The two announcements were made by Paswan following a meeting with the three staff federations held recently.

A notification issued today by the communications ministry formalised the minister’s pleasure: “All serving eligible regular employees of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and the Department of Telecom Services (DTS) will be given concessional and rent-free telephone facility from June 1, 2000. The eligible employees will also be granted bonus for 70 days for the year 1999-2000.”

The concessional rent-free telephone will benefit about 3.2 lakh employees. There will be no registration, rental or installation charges. The concession will carry the benefit of 150 bi-monthly free calls.

Paswan said: “This decision will be a very big morale booster for the employees who are servicing more than 2.6 crore telephones in the network.”

DoT sources said: “The burden would be managed from our internal resources. There is no need to approach the finance ministry.”

Former communications minister Sushma Swaraj had also announced similar concessions for retired employees of DoT. However, free phones under the scheme were offered only to those employees who had put in a minimum of 20 years of continuous service or more. The scheme announced by Paswan is likely to cover all those who have completed just one year of service.

Paswan had indulged in similar antics during his stint as railway minister in 1997-98. He gave free railway passes to all registered railway porters. He also regularised a large number of contract workers as permanent employees of the railways.

“It is a populist measure but we do not have much say in such decisions. This is just a beginning, a few more such announcements are expected,” said a Telecom Commission member.

“Such measures will not only make the DTS financially weak but will also render it incapable of meeting the tough competition from private operators.”

Paswan is also credited with inducting the highest number of members in the Telecom Advisory Committee (TAC). A TAC member is supposed to act as a bridge between the ministry and subscribers.

TAC members include senior officials, former DoT employees, local leaders and members of the media. Paswan has already gifted a free phone to journalists working on the telecommunications ministry and industry.    

Beijing, May 29 
In an atmosphere described as “rare in its cordiality and personal chemistry”, President K.R. Narayanan and Jiang Zemin today resolved to take Sino-Indian relations to a new high, their differences on a whole range of issues from New Delhi’s nuclear programme to Beijing’s political and military support to Pakistan notwithstanding.

While President Narayanan stressed that India and China should treat themselves “not as rivals but as neighbours complementing each other”, the Chinese leader responded with a novel positive-sounding formulation for a future relationship, saying, “From a strategic height we must continue to work for constructive partnership of cooperation in the 21st century”.

Key as phraseology is, to Chinese diplomacy, President Jiang’s repeated emphasis on “raising the height” of bilateral ties is seen as significant, particularly in the backdrop of deep Chinese misgivings about the nuclear blasts.

“The extremely warm personal chemistry between the two leaders was evident throughout the talks,” an Indian spokesperson said. “President Jiang departed several times from his prepared text to speak in English and the phrase used time and again was ‘scale high and look far’”.

One of the peaks India and China may now scale together to look far is the creation of an eminent persons’ group to take a fresh look at ties and suggest ways of invigorating them. The suggestion for the group was made by Narayanan and readily accepted by Jiang.

The spokesperson faulted suggestions that the talks lacked depth or substance in view of the nominal nature of the Indian President’s office. “There was nothing to suggest that they were in any way inhibited about discussing anything with him (Narayanan). They were very clear and categorical and frank,” the spokesperson said.

The two Presidents first met for about 45 minutes with a core set of aides and then followed up talks at the imposing Great Hall of the People in central Beijing flanked by delegations.

For the Indians, perhaps the positives went a little beyond the chemistry of atmosphere and the nuances of phrases. Jiang made no mention of the Pokhran blasts and India’s changed nuclear status. There was little to indicate, of course, that the Chinese have moved closer to accepting India’s case for going nuclear. But they are making it plain they are prepared to get ahead despite irritants.

Jiang said India and China should now focus on greater people-to-people contacts, increased economic exchanges and “improved cooperation on international issues”.

But the air of commonality did not obscure abiding mutual concerns. Narayanan raised Pakistan’s export of terrorism to India and sought China’s support in fighting terrorism. The Chinese leader said his country was opposed to terrorism worldwide but made no specific references to Pakistan. Jiang also did not respond directly to Narayanan’s request of support for India’s case for permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

Asked whether Narayanan had brought up the issue of Beijing’s help to Islamabad’s nuclear and missile programmes, the foreign office spokesperson said: “We have stated our views to China on that in the past, the President did not feel the need to go over the same ground again.”

Jiang expressed apprehensions about the possibility of the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa indulging in anti-China political activity from Indian soil. He called the Dalai Lama a political leader and expressed the hope that he and the “clique around him” will not be permitted to indulge in political activity.

Narayanan told him that India saw both the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa as religious leaders and reiterated that Delhi considered Tibet an autonomous region of China.    

Even as German minister Joschka Fischer came a-hunting for Indian software whizkids this month, a computer specialist from Calcutta was rearing some hardware back home in Hamburg.Vivek Bose, a 15-year-old Indian and son of an infotech consultant, has qualified for the German national judo team after winning a bronze medal at the men’s under-17 championship in Duisburg.

Vivek, a 10th grade student in gymnasium (Grammar School) holds the North German title in his category (50kg) for this year. Vivek also fights in the 55kg category.

Vivek is not the first Bose that the Germans fancy since Netaji, the teenager’s great grand uncle. Vivek’s elder brother, Rahul, 18, a 12th grade Grammar School student, is an accomplished judoka too. He trained with the Calcutta Judo Association during a visit to the city last December. Rahul has held the North German title for five consecutive years.

These Bengalis have achieved in Germany what their counterparts in India have failed to do: qualify for the national judo team. There is no Bengali in the Indian judo team.

Surya Bose, Vivek and Rahul’s father, said the family was in touch with the Indian Judo Association and was exploring if his sons could represent India. The Boses are Indian citizens from Calcutta.

Neither Vivek nor Rahul think they will take up judo for a career. “It is not as popular as football and we cannot earn enough money from it,” said Vivek, who stands 5.47 feet in his socks.

Vivek, a Brown Belt, has also beaten the reigning German national champion Sven Jungebauer, twice in the past. He will be fighting Jungebauer again in a tournament later this year and will try for the Black Belt next year. His father said Germany and France were the top two Judo teams in Europe.

Vivek’s winning the under-17 title does not mean that he automatically becomes a member of the national team. Vivek is now a member of the pool from which the national team is drawn for international tournaments. All the qualifiers will be trained by the German national trainer for international meets.

Surya Bose is the son of the late Amiya Nath Bose, Subhas Chandra Bose’s brother. After handing over the family property on Woodburn Park in South Calcutta to the government for a memorial to Netaji, the Boses now live in Tollygunge whenever they come home which is once a year.

Bose, a physicist who worked in the Siemen Research Laboratory, switched tracks and is now a software specialist. He runs Bose Information Technology, his consultancy based in Hamburg. His wife, Mukul, is a Maharashtrian from Calcutta.

Vivek and Rahul understand Bengali but cannot speak the language fluently. Both were born in Germany. Their parents are as Bengali as the Hilsa.    

Temperature: Maximum: 29.7°C (-5) Minimum: 21.9°C (-5) RAINFALL: 49.6 mm Relative humidity: Maximum: 100%, Minimum: 74% Today: Partly cloudy sky. Possibility of a thundershower towards the afternoon or evening. Rise in maximum temperature, which is likely to be around 33°C. Sunset: 6.13 pm Sunrise: 4.55 am    

Maintained by Web Development Company