Lucknow swoop on match-fixer duo
Mass leave hits phone services
Hubli drives Krishna to Atal door
Poll-wary Gupta rolls back varsity reform
Cong, BJP trade Emergency fire
Digvijay flies high over bumpy roads
De Lastic funeral on Tuesday

 
 
LUCKNOW SWOOP ON MATCH-FIXER DUO 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
June 23 
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has arrested two Lucknow-based businessmen who, the sleuths suspect, were involved in fixing matches during the series against South Africa earlier this year.

The CBI team, which flew in to Lucknow last evening, raided a jewellery shop owned by Pawan Aggarwal at the bustling Narhi locality. As the investigators failed to lay their hands on Pawan, who had apparently gone to Varanasi, they picked up his brother Rajesh Aggarwal and their partner Ravi Kesarwani.

The CBI team was accompanied by officers from the special task force. Though the CBI was tight-lipped about the raid, sources in the police revealed that the two men were taken to an undisclosed location for interrogation.

The bureau is on the lookout for two more persons allegedly involved in the racket. They have been identified as Chetan Dev and Dinesh Tiwari.

The STF refused to divulge any information, saying the case was “sensitive”.

The CBI’s Lucknow office has also been interrogating some people connected with Hotel Landmark in Kanpur, where Hansie Cronje said Azharuddin had introduced him to jeweller-bookie Mukesh Gupta.

In New Delhi, the Enforcement Directorate has been able to establish that bookie Sanjeev Chawla (Sanjay, according Cronje) had made several calls to Hameed “Banjo” Cassim, the suspected South Africa-based punter, during the Pepsi Cup this year.

They have made this assessment after going through the calls that Chawla made to a particular number in South Africa. The directorate’s sources in South Africa have informed ED sleuths that the number called was that of Cassim. They are now almost certain that Chawla was advising Cassim on how and when to deposit the money to Cronje’s accounts in South Africa.

The directorate is looking into possible hawala transactions that may have taken place during the tournament. While some ED officials want a team to be sent to South Africa, directorate bosses feel they should await the publication of the Edwin King Commission report.

The officials believe that an ED team now needs to go to the country to find out how the money was routed from India to Cronje’s bank account. The ED, it appears, is not making much headway other than strengthening Delhi police’s case. It has not yet been able to find hard evidence to establish that money was passed on to wherever Cronje wanted. Initially, it was suspected that the the sum had travelled to Cape Town via London. But the London link is yet to be explored by the CBI.

CBI sources said the bureau is concentrating on the possible involvement of three players — Kapil Dev, Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja. Other players suspected to have been involved would be brought under scrutiny by the respective state branches.    


 
 
MASS LEAVE HITS PHONE SERVICES 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, June 23 
Telephone networks all over the country crashed as more than 40,000 officers went on a mass casual leave today.

The strike paralysed the STD lines between the four major metros — Delhi, Calcutta, Mumbai and Chennai.

The president of the Joint Action Committee of the striking officers, A.K. Sinha, told The Telegraph: “We had met the communications minister (Ram Vilas Paswan) today. We are not satisfied with the discussion, though the minister has said that our demands would be taken up at the right forum.”

Sinha added that the officers would decide their future course of action after a general body meeting late tonight or tomorrow.

The agitation follows the appointment of Vinod Vaish, an IAS officer, as secretary of the Department of Telecom Services (DTS).

Paswan had promised the Indian Telecom Service officers that he would propose the name of N.R. Mokhariwale, an ITS officer, to replace Vaish as DTS secretary.

According to sources, the telecom officials impressed upon Paswan that Mokhariwale, a current member (operations) of the Telecom Commission, the apex body in the communications ministry, was dealing with all critical issues and was a capable candidate for the post.

The ITS had beaten the IAS to the post of DTS secretary last year. Now they are on the warpath to stop an IAS takeover of the post.

“The post demands a technical person, with (knowledge of) new emerging technologies. A technical official would not only make quick decisions but would also be able to present them to the ministers highlighting the benefits of speedy clearance,” Sinha said.

The officials had suspended their agitation till Paswan returned from the US, since the minister had promised that he would convey their demands to the Prime Minister.

“If an ITS official does not get full power of secretary, we will intensify our agitation. The general body meeting will decide our future course of action,” said Sinha.

Last year, though the appointments committee had announced the assignment of Vaish, then special secretary in the ministry of environment and forest, as DTS secretary, he was not even allowed take up his new post.

This time, when he has spent only about a week as DTS secretary, he is likely to be made deputy to Anil Kumar, secretary in the Department of Telecom (DoT).

The newly-created DTS is part of the Telecom Commission, but is a separate entity from the DoT.

The DTS will offer fixed phone services and also various value-added services like cellular mobile phones, paging and intelligent network services.    


 
 
HUBLI DRIVES KRISHNA TO ATAL DOOR 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, June 23 
Even as the agitation for a high court bench at Hubli, north Karnataka, has snowballed into a demand for a separate state, the BJP seems intent on stoking the controversy further in an attempt to unsettle the firmly-entrenched S.M. Krishna government.

BJP members were conspicuously absent from the all-party delegation led by the chief minister today that met Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee here today to find an amicable solution to the controversy.

Sources in Karnataka said the BJP was manipulating the disturbance to create trouble for the Krishna government.

Two senior BJP leaders — Union minister of culture Ananth Kumar, who comes from the state, and party general secretary M. Venkaiah Naidu, a Rajya Sabha MP from Karnataka — met Vajpayee to apprise him of the situation. Hubli is considered a BJP stronghold.

BJP sources said the Prime Minister summoned them to get an update on the stir, which has climaxed over the past few days.

In fact, a few days ago, agitating residents were seen hoisting a new flag. With the people of the area becoming increasingly restive, observers said the situation could soon spin out of control.

According to them, the residents of Hubli — irrespective of whether they are pro or anti-BJP — have been victims of acute neglect and the lack of a political will to develop the area.

Compared to the prosperous southern districts, the north is under-developed. There is also another grouse: only leaders from the south have so far become chief ministers.

BJP insiders said the Prime Minister did not give any specific assurance to Krishna. Vajpayee, according to them, told the delegation that the Centre could not see the demands in isolation and that there had to be a national perspective on the issue.

However, Krishna later told reporters that Vajpayee appeared to have understood the necessity of setting up the separate high court bench.

The people of north Karnataka — comprising a large number of Maharashtrians — have been long agitating for a separate high court bench. They had also demanded setting up of the headquarters of the newly-formed South-western railway zone at Hubli.

But a high court bench quashed both the demands, triggering the current wave of unrest.    


 
 
POLL-WARY GUPTA ROLLS BACK VARSITY REFORM 
 
 
FROM ANAND SOONDAS
 
Lucknow, June 23 
Faced with Assembly elections, the Uttar Pradesh government has quietly buried its much-publicised new norm of a 50 per cent cut-off mark for pursuing post-graduate studies.

The measure, announced recently by state higher education minister Om Prakash Singh, had been hailed as “brave and visionary”.

Some national English dailies even hurried to write editorials, quoting Western educationists and philosophers, on the need for a qualitative change in higher education.

But barely a month later, the BJP has dropped the proposal, realising that with elections round the corner, it is foolish to be brave.

The catalyst, of course, was Bahujan Samajwadi Party leader and former chief minister Mayawati, who quickly smelled an “anti-student, anti-Bahujan samaj” ploy in the BJP move.

She worked hard to capitalise on the mood of sulking students, who had made it clear that they were not too impressed by Singh’s vision. “Vote me to power and I will scrap the anti-student, anti-poor, anti-Dalit proposal the day I take up office,” Mayawati thundered as she made a whirlwind tour of Lucknow University and other colleges.

Students cutting across party lines gave her a resounding reception — just the way they had greeted Mulayam Singh Yadav’s promise to scrap the harsh anti-copying Ordinance implemented by Kalyan Singh in 1992.

Mulayam rode to power on the strength of the students’ support and, as promised, immediately scrapped the Ordinance which called for jail sentences for students found cheating during examination.

Both the BJP and Mayawati have not forgotten it. Neither has Mulayam, who again promised the students a roll-back of the 50 per cent proposal.

Making matters worse for the BJP was Governor Suraj Bhan’s public displeasure at the proposal. There had to be a provision for scheduled castes and tribes, Bhan said, claiming that the new norm was full of loopholes.

Despite the hasty retreat, the education minister said the government’s commitment to bringing about a qualitative change in higher education had not been compromised.

The government had not buckled under political pressure, Singh said, adding: “We have decided to achieve this qualitative change through admissions which will now be made on the basis of merit. Besides, we will now firmly impose restrictions on the number of sanctioned seats in post-graduate courses.”

Singh’s contention was that he would put a stop to the practice of college principals arbitrarily hiking, even doubling, the number of post-graduate seats and bringing down the cut-off marks for admission.

“The principals have given written undertaking that the sanctioned number of seats will not be increased under pressure,” Singh said.

Justifying the BJP’s about turn, the minister added that at a recent zonal conference, college principals had said “how difficult it would be for them to fill up the sanctioned seats if the ‘50 per cent proposal’ was made mandatory”.    


 
 
CONG, BJP TRADE EMERGENCY FIRE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, June 23 
With the 25th anniversary of the Emergency drawing closer, the Congress and the BJP have begun trading charges and demanding apologies from one another.

“It is the BJP which now needs to apologise for its various misdeeds,” AICC spokesman Anil Shastri said. Demanding that the Sangh parivar apologise for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, the demolition of Babri masjid, communal riots and attacks on Christians, he claimed that the BJP had joined hands with leaders like Jagmohan who allegedly committed excesses during the Emergency.

The Congress attack comes in retaliation to BJP MP Vijay Goel’s demand for an apology from Sonia Gandhi for excesses committed during that period.

Congress additional spokesman Anand Sharma said Indira Gandhi had voiced “unqualified regret” for the Emergency and the people had accepted her apology by returning her to power in 1980. He wondered why the BJP was raking up the past when its partymen had joined hands with many leaders accused of having committed the excesses.

The Congress also assailed the Bajrang Dal for its alleged “oust-Christian cry” and sought explanations from NDA allies Trinamul Congress, Telugu Desam and the DMK.

Shastri urged the government to come out with facts on the Christian killings in Mathura. “We are shocked, aghast, distressed to see the statement of the Bajrang Dal, and demand immediate response from the Uttar Pradesh government and the Centre on the killings and attacks on Christians in Mathura,” he said.

“The NDA partners, who are sitting pretty, must come out of their shells and tell the nation how long they will enjoy the fruit of power at the cost of innocent people in the name of secularism,” he said. The Congress will not tolerate a reign of terror by “extremist and anti-national outfits”, he said.    


 
 
DIGVIJAY FLIES HIGH OVER BUMPY ROADS 
 
 
FROM SUCHANDANA GUPTA
 
Bhopal, June 23 
Digvijay Singh is going international at break-neck speed.

No other chief minister in the country, other than perhaps Chandrababu Naidu, is getting as much international recognition as Singh, even though Madhya Pradesh is sceptical of the worthiness of its princeling.

With over Rs 20,000 crore of public debt and no viable means of repaying it, Digvijay’s Madhya Pradesh ranks among the poorest states in the country.

And yet, the chief minister has been invited as an honoured speaker to a debate and dialogue on poverty reduction at the general meeting of the United Nations Organisation.

He will be the first chief minister to educate a high-level UN panel on how to tackle poverty. He is already in Geneva for the meet, to be held from June 26 to 30.

This is not the only paradox. Despite Digvijay’s innovative watershed management mission, which aims to make every farmer build his own little dam to provide drinking water and irrigate the fields, a large segment of the state population still makes do without potable water.

Between 1993 and ’98, his government spent a whopping Rs 1,785 crore on irrigation, only to increase land under irrigation by a mere one per cent.

Nevertheless, the World Water Forum recognised Digvijay for his “remarkable” initiatives on community-based water management, and the chief minister found himself charming the audience at the forum’s convention at The Hague on March 22.

Less than a fortnight ago, US ambassador Richard Celeste paid a two-day visit to the state and spent the entire time with Digvijay. Flying in the chief minister’s chopper on June 13, they hopped from village to village, making surprise trips to Raisen and Sehore districts. By the end of the day, the ambassador was more than impressed.

Astonished villagers ran out of their hutments to welcome Diggy Raja and his “firang” friend. The two sat on a cot, sipping tea served by the villagers.

Celeste obviously missed out on the terribly bad roads, or no roads in some cases, lack of proper sanitation, muddy drinking water and widespread poverty.

“The chief minister is being recognised for all the good work he has done in the social field,” claimed Digvijay’s official secretary R. Gopalkrishna.

Since the beginning of this year, three ambassadors and a series of delegations from various embassies have dropped in at Bhopal.

On April 7, Japanese envoy Hiroshi Hirabayashi met Digvijay with an offer of partnership in the state’s industrial development.

A day before, it was German ambassador H.D. Dieckmann who was full of praise for the government’s progressive spirit.

The British High Commissioner, a World Bank review team, the president of the Asian Development Bank... the list of those struck by the Digvijay lightning is endless. Add to this his recent visits to Israel and South Africa where he oozed charm as easily as ever.

Is he already being seen as a big player in the future of Indian politics?

   


 
 
DE LASTIC FUNERAL ON TUESDAY 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, June 23 
The government has arranged to bring back the body of archbishop Alan de Lastic from Poland, where he died after his car met with an accident on Wednesday.

The body will be flown from Warsaw to Paris by an Air France flight on Saturday and then from Paris to New Delhi by an Air India flight on Sunday, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) said today.

A delegation of church leaders, who met P. P. Sukla, joint secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office, confirmed that the government had completed all arrangements.

“The mortal remains of archbishop Alan de Lastic will be brought to Delhi from Poland by the government on Sunday morning as per information given to the church,” the bishops’ conference said in a release today.

Another bishops’ conference communiqué said the funeral mass will be held at St. Columbus school ground at 3 pm on Tuesday and the archbishop will be laid to rest at the Sacred Heart Cathedral, Gole Dak Khana, here. About one hundred bishops and other dignitaries will participate in the funeral ceremony.

The Vatican has offered its condolences. In a message from Rome, cardinal Angelo Sodano, secretary of state, said he was saddened at the tragic death of the archbishop.    

 

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