Tripura lets in Central vigilance team
Karunanidhi digs in with Lanka ‘justice’ pitch
Cong urges Vajpayee to rein in allies
AP backtracks on storm charity
Commonwealth caught in coup crosstalk
Citizenship fees hiked
Takht puts seal on Indira assassination
Rap on cyber CM for cash crunch

New Delhi, June 6 
For once, a Left Front government has no qualms about calling over a very senior home ministry team to help tackle its law and order problems.

The Tripura government has decided to welcome with open arms a high-level squad led by Union home secretary Kamal Pandey.

Pandey will be accompanied by E.N. Rammohan, director-general of the Border Security Force, M.N. Sabharwal, director-general of the Central Reserve Police Force and G.K. Pillai, joint-secretary (northeast) and another director from the home ministry.

During his last visit to the capital to attend a meeting of the North-East Council, Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar had criticised the Centre’s apathetic attitude towards his government’s security-related problems.

Sarkar then had demanded the redeployment of the army battalions which the Centre had withdrawn from the state’s riot-hit areas during the Kargil war.

After the recent violence in the state which claimed nearly 50 lives, the Centre despatched several companies of paramilitary troops.

But it turned downed the request for armed forces, saying that additional vigil required in Kashmir had effectively tied its hands and that it was in no position to release army personnel from the western theatre.

Though it was the Centre which proposed the high-level trip — and the state government appears to have grabbed the opportunity to extract as much as possible — the Atal Behari Vajpayee government is firm on its stand not to despatch any army battalion.

One reason why the two-day trip, beginning tomorrow, includes the chiefs of the two paramilitary forces.

Though there has been some degree of cooperation between the ministry and the Tripura government in recent months, political animosity was also clearly evident.

When home minister L.K. Advani visited the state at the end of March, before the violence erupted, relations were still somewhat frosty.

But the disturbances have brought about a necessary thaw. What is important about this trip is that the Tripura government is also keen on support and assistance from the Centre.

This semblance of harmony also showed up earlier when, in November-December last year, the home ministry drew up actions plans to combat the menace of tribal and non-tribal terrorism.

The BSF director-general had also gone over to Tripura along with the joint-secretary (northeast) in mid-February.

However, after the spurt of rioting and communal tension, there has been just one mee- ting between Pandey and the chief secretary of Tripura. The meeting was held in Delhi on May 22.

According to home ministry sources, Pandey and the chiefs of the paramilitary forces will review the performance of Central forces deployed in the state. After that, responsibility will be fixed for the paramilitary companies and the accountability aspect decided upon.

Pandey, who will meet the Governor and the chief minister, will also discuss the situation with local political leaders and representatives of non-governmental orga- nisations.    

Chennai, June 6 
Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi today defended his proposal for a Czechoslovakia-type solution to the Sri Lankan conflict, saying that was one way of ensuring justice for the island’s Tamils.

The DMK leader, during celebrations to mark his 77th birthday on Saturday, had suggested that Colombo should either agree to devolve necessary powers to the Tamil areas or accede to the demand for an independent nation.

The remark had triggered howls of protest from various parties, which accused the chief minister of tacitly endorsing the LTTE’s demand when the Indian government had made it clear that it favoured a solution within the framework of the island-nation’s constitution.

Rebutting the charges, Karunanidhi, in a statement issued here today, said he had made the suggestion only because he was appalled by the misery of the Tamils in the island. He recounted the history of the Tamil problem in the island and said the community took to arms only because successive Lankan governments trampled on their rights and refused to acknowledge democratic protests.

“Assertion of a community’s rights is respected the world over. Even in the United Kingdom, more powers have been devolved to Ireland and Wales,” he said.

Lashing out at his critics, the chief minister said that those who talked of Lanka’s unity and integrity were doing so from their “air-conditioned comfort” without any understanding of the ground realities.

“There ought to be a distinction between those who talked of Sri Lanka’s unity sitting in air-conditioned comfort and pouring over a world map, and those who understood the ground realities,” Karunanidhi said.

He took potshots at the Left for accusing him of speaking in a forked tongue, playing to the chauvinist gallery even while promising to abide by the Centre’s stand.

“I don’t belong to a party in which different state units, even district units, blissfully pursue their own respective lines notwithstanding what the leadership is saying. My suggestion for division was only born out of anguish over the plight of the Tamils. Those sermonising from within the comforts of their air-conditioned rooms cannot pretend to know what is happening on the ground,” he said.

Asserting that all he wanted was lasting peace in Lanka, Karunanidhi said: “Nobody will oppose it if Tamils in Sri Lanka are given all rights and considered equal to Sinhala-speaking citizens. However, talking in terms of temporary solutions without conferring rights on Tamils amounts to postponing the problem.”

The DMK leader also issued a veiled warning to the Centre against sending in the military, describing the Indian Peace Keeping Force of the eighties as “mercenary”.

“To send in mercenaries every once in a while to shore up the situation whenever the Lankan government is in danger is neither a sensible nor a lasting remedy to the problems afflicting the island,” he said.

Karunanidhi had then opposed the decision to send the IPKF and created a stir by refusing to receive the returning contingent saying it was responsible for the murder and rape of fellow Tamils.    

New Delhi, June 6 
Asking Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee to clarify the Centre’s stand on Sri Lanka and restrain his allies, the Congress today regretted that the hawkish posture of NDA partners was ruining the goodwill between Colombo and Delhi.

The BJP, on the other hand, termed Sri Lankan minister Mangala Samaraweera’s statement as “over-reaction” to Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi’s suggestion of the Czech model to end the ethnic crisis in the island. It was not the official view of Delhi, the BJP said.

Samaraweera said yesterday if Karunanidhi’s suggestion was accepted it would result in the Balkanisation of India.

“I think it is an over-reaction by a Lankan minister to a situation which does not exist. If the governments of India or Tamil Nadu had made a statement, then perhaps Sri Lanka reacting like this would be justified,” BJP vice-president Jana Krishnamurthy said.

Senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee urged the Prime Minister to discipline NDA partners from making “avoidable and unguarded comments”. The former foreign minister said Karunanidhi’s statement advocating division of Lanka resulted in the President of Sri Lanka cautioning India about another partition of country. “It is time that the government of India displays heightened sensitivity to the Sri Lankan crisis taking into consideration the regional security and India’s own strategic interests in the region,” Mukherjee said.

He also criticised the Vajpayee regime’s handling of the crisis in Fiji and asked the government to take the initiative to convene an emergency meeting of foreign ministers of Commonwealth countries to impose of sanctions on Fiji till restoration of democracy.    

Bhubaneswar, June 6 
Promises, it seems, are meant to be broken.

In what comes across as a breach of assurance, Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu has left the Orissa government stumped.

Andhra Pradesh was the first state to pitch in when the supercyclone ripped through coastal Orissa on October 29, leaving more than 10,000 dead and two million homeless.

The savvy Naidu, who vigorously campaigned for chief minister Naveen Patnaik in the Assembly elections three months ago, was also the first chief minister to announce that his government would write off all the bills for the relief material sent in the aftermath of the disaster.

So, when Naidu’s officials informed the Orissa government — via the Centre — that it could not treat as “donation” the entire Rs 6.72 crore it spent on relief supplies, it came as a nasty shock.

In a letter to the Union agriculture ministry, which coordinates between Orissa and other state governments on relief, Andhra relief commissioner P. Bhaskara Prasad said the state would not return the Rs 2 crore advanced by Orissa for purchase of material, but treat the rest of the amount as donation.

Though the letter was written on March 9, it was kept under wraps so as not to embarrass Patnaik, a close ally of Naidu.

“It was a bolt from the blue. We had never expected anything like this after the Andhra chief minister had publicly pledged to waive the entire amount,” highly-placed official sources said.

Naidu’s pledge was followed up with a letter from the Andhra government, assuring Orissa that the entire amount would be waived, the sources added.

At that time, Andhra’s public stance on the extended humanitarian help was in sharp contrast to West Bengal’s. Jyoti Basu’s government had sent Orissa a Rs 6.13-crore bill for relief material after a public promise to supply material worth up to Rs 10 crore free.

Citing Naidu’s “generosity”, Prasanna Kumar Hota, principal resident commissioner of Orissa in New Delhi, who coordinated with all states on relief and restoration, urged West Bengal chief secretary Manish Gupta on January 27 to show an “appropriate gesture”.

However, Bengal relief commissioner P.S. Ingty wrote back a few days later, regretting that the state was unable to write off the expenses because it had not received any help from the Centrefor its flood and cyclone victims.

But charity triumphed. Stung by a report in The Telegraph about Bengal’s refusal, Basu ordered on February 17 that the entire amount be waived “unconditionally” and be viewed as “donation”.

“The Bengal government waived the entire amount based on what we told it about Andhra’s decision. But now the Chandrababu Naidu government has gone back on its words. We are so embarrassed,” the sources said.    

New Delhi, June 6 
The Commonwealth is yet to make up its mind on its course of action regarding member nations where democratically-elected governments are being thrown out by coup leaders.

The biggest dilemma is over Fiji. Tough action could jeopardise the lives of Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and his Cabinet colleagues, held hostage by George Speight and his armed supporters. On the other hand, if Speight is let off easily, it might encourage others to stage coups.

The Commonwealth Ministers Action Group (CMAG), which started its meeting in London this afternoon, was continuing till the time of going to press. The Australian foreign minister had said he would press for Fiji’s suspension from the Commonwealth if no progress was made towards restoration of democracy in the country. But it remains to be seen whether the CMAG would ultimately come out with such a strong step or try a more balanced approach to ensure no harm is done to the hostages.

Aware of the Commonwealth’s dilemma, India today used the developments in Solomon Islands, where a coup has reportedly ousted the legitimate government, to make a strong appeal to the international community to protect democratic values. Like Fiji, Solomon Islands is a Commonwealth member.

“India is deeply concerned about reports of a coup in the Solomon Islands yesterday and the kidnapping of the Prime Minister and the Governor-General by armed militants to dislodge the democratically-elected government,” Indian foreign ministry spokesman R.S. Jassal said. “India condemns such illegal activities anywhere in the world whether in Solomon Islands or Fiji and calls the international community and the Commonwealth to protect the fundamental values enshrined in the Harare Declaration and in the Milbrooke Programme” to restore the legitimate governments.

A western diplomat pointed out that the Commonwealth’s main concern was over the safety security of Speight’s hostages and his armed band of supporters. The Fijian coup leader has threatened to kill the hostages if the military tries to forcibly enter the parliament building in Suva to free them. “A strong statement from the Commonwealth may jeopardise the lives of these hostages,” the diplomat added.

On the other hand, countries like Australia are in favour of a tougher line. Downer has suggested the suspension of Fiji from the Commonwealth and argued that Speight’s actions may encourage others, as it has already done in Solomon Islands.

For India the problem stems from two factors. One, the Fijian Prime Minister is of Indian origin and, therefore, Delhi not only has to take action but also show to its domestic audience that it was doing enough to mobilise support against the coup leaders who were holding Chaudhry captive. The second factor is more principled and stems from a policy long pursued by India to uphold democratic traditions.

Moreover, going soft on Fiji will not only encourage leaders entertaining similar thoughts in other countries but will perhaps also create a situation where the international community lets off the pressure on Pakistan and starts accepting the military regime there. At the moment Pakistan is suspended from the Councils of the Commonwealth and given two years to restore democracy in the country. If it fails to do so there are chances of Pakistan being suspended from the Commonwealth altogether. The military regime which is already under international pressure and is finding difficulty to tide over its current economic crisis may then be faced with a far worse situation to bring the country back on tracks towards development.    

New Delhi, June 6 
Had Sonia Gandhi applied for Indian citizenship now, she would have had to pay Rs 500 instead of the Rs 50 she had paid when she decided to become a citizen of India in 1983.

The Centre has finally increased citizenship fees and they have gone up by 10 times for persons in India and 20 times for persons applying from abroad — Europe or US.

In case of “persons who have been married to citizens of India and are ordinarily Indian residents, and have been so for five years, immediately before making an application for registration”, the fee has gone up from Rs 50 to Rs 500.

Similarly for minor children, of persons who are citizens of India and have moved back to India, the fee has gone up to Rs 100 from Rs 10, if applying from within India. If the same minor children apply from outside, the amount to be paid is Rs 150.

Home minister L.K. Advani had hinted that citizenship fees were too low and needed to be revised. Even after the raise, the fees remain meagre compared to several Western countries.

Henceforth, for the registration of a ‘declaration of intention’ to resume Indian citizenship or renounce it, the amount to be paid in India is Rs 500 and Rs 800 in any Indian embassy or high commission abroad. The fees for supplying a certified copy of a ‘certificate of naturalisation’ will now be Rs 200 within India and Rs 300 abroad.

Delhi has also simplified the application procedure, specifying authorities who need to sign the citizenship certificates.    

Amritsar, June 6 
Akal Takht jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti today justified the assassination of Indira Gandhi, saying those responsible for the desecration of the Golden Temple have met with a similar fate.

Vedanti was addressing a congregation at the Akal Takht, the Sikhs’ highest temporal seat, to mark the 16th anniversary of Operation Bluestar.

On June 6, 1984, the army entered the Golden Temple complex to flush out a group of militants led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Over 2,000 people, including devotees who had gathered there a day before to pay tribute to the Sikhs’ fifth guru, Arjan Dev, died in the operation.

In a hard-hitting speech that took even his detractors by surprise, Vedanti said: “Nadir Shah, Ahmed Shah Abdali, Massa Rangad and Indira Gandhi had all suffered a similar fate for desecrating the Golden Temple.”

Recalling that canons were used to demolish the Akal Takht, the jathedar said Sikhs would always remember the sacrifices of the martyrs of 1984. “Nadir Shah, Indira Gandhi and the others tried to wipe out the community but failed. The names of the martyrs who died protecting the Panth (community) have been written in gold in Sikh history. We respect their martyrdom,” he said.

Vedanti, however, did not describe Bhindranwale as a martyr despite pressure from various Akali and militant factions to do so. Sikhism’s most well-known seminary, the Damdami Taksal, Bhindranwale’s family members and some radicals believe he is still alive.

Unprecedented security arrangements were made in and around the Golden Temple to prevent radical organisations from entering the complex. Outfits such as the Khalra Mission Committee had vowed that its activists would carry portraits of Bhindranwale and other “martyrs” of 1984 and instal them at the Sikh museum of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC). Their activists were arrested before they could enter the complex.

Vedanti lashed out at Parliament for failing to condemn Operation Bluestar. “For 16 years, there has been no word on it in Parliament,” he said.

The jathedar asked the various Akali factions to stop fighting among themselves. “It will be a befitting tribute to the martyrs if all factions unite under the Akal Takht,” he said.

Among those who attended the ceremony were SGPC chief Jagir Kaur and Akali Dal (Amritsar) president and former IPS officer Simranjit Singh Mann. But former SGPC head Gurcharan Singh Tohra was not present.

Bhindranwale’s family members, too, skipped the function. His son Ishar Singh had yesterday alleged that most Akali factions were using Bhindranwale’s name “to gain political mileage and have forgotten his ideology”. He claimed that he and his family were still being persecuted by the police and intelligence agencies.

After the ceremony, Mann said he was disappointed that Vedanti did not declare Bhindranwale a martyr. “We were expecting the announcement today. It is time the Akal Takht realised that Bhindranwale is the greatest of Sikh heroes,” Mann said.

The Dal Khalsa urged the Punjab government to adopt a resolution in the Assembly condemning Operation Bluestar and the subsequent army action on 37 gurdwaras in the state in 1984. It also asked the SGPC to build a memorial for the 1984 “martyrs” in the Golden Temple complex.    

Hyderabad, June 6 
Prominent economists and financial analysts today blasted the Chandrababu Naidu government for its “lopsided policies” which have plunged the state into near bankruptcy and have pushed it “into a massive debt trap”.

Speaking at a seminar organised by the Chandra Rajeswar Rao Foundation for Social Progress, they accused the Andhra Pradesh government of not only fudging statistics to paint a rosy picture to overseas institutional lenders but also of misleading the people of the state.

B.P.R. Vittal, member of the 10th Finance Commission, said the Naidu regime’s overdrive to promote information technology has neither enriched the state’s coffers nor benefited the state.

“It has only enhanced the intellectual properties of individuals,” Vittal said. “The IT policy at the most could be useful for the government to streamline its administrative system but not play a direct role in poverty alleviation.”

D. Narasimha Reddy, head of the department of economics at the University of Hyderabad, said the government’s financial credibility has been falling. Urging Naidu to pursue a “realistic economy”, Reddy said enough time and money have already been spent in the last two decades to promote individual popularity which have driven the state to the brink of bankruptcy. “Wake up now and act,” he exhorted.

Ch. Hanumantha Rao, former member of the Planning Commission, slammed the government for claiming that the state was the country’s “investment destination”. Andhra had moved up the ladder of states with potential only by “proxy”, he says.

“With states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa lagging behind, Andhra has naturally moved forward,” he said. “But it never gained the momentum to establish itself in the frontline of industrial activity.”

The participants pointed out that the state has been taking loans for 10 years to sustain its populist measures which have resulted in an external debt of Rs 27,000 crore. It was a vicious circle, they said. The government now has to borrow more loans to pay the interest on accumulated loans.

They added that the per capita income was also below the national average. “The Naidu administration is presenting a rosy picture to the people. But the reality is different,” Vittal said.

The criticism of the economists comes at an inconvenient time for the Naidu government which is besieged by protests and agitations because of the power tariff hike.    


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