Delhi set to return autonomy Bill
Mamata marshals force for mayor race
Desert power tower to dwarf Qutb
Delhi signals softer CTBT stance
Calcutta weather

 
 
DELHI SET TO RETURN AUTONOMY BILL 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, July 3 
In a move that could provoke the National Conference to quit the coalition at the Centre, the Cabinet is set to return the autonomy resolution adopted by the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly back to the state without taking it for a debate in Parliament.

Top government sources said the resolution, which was passed by the brute majority of Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference in the Assembly last week, will come up for discussion in the Cabinet on Wednesday.

The sources said the observations of NDA partners as well as the Congress are already clear and most major parties hold the firm view that pre-1953 status cannot be granted to Jammu and Kashmir.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has already held informal talks with his allies and has even met BJP president Kushabhau Thakre on the issue. Vajpayee is also believed to have sent feelers to the Congress that the government is not inclined to bring the matter to debate in Parliament. The essential reason for this is that the government feels a debate may focus “unnecessary” international attention on pre-1953 autonomy terms for Jammu and Kashmir and the matter may get “out of hand” or be exploited by “anti-India elements”.

Besides, the government also feels that considering the autonomy demand may open a pandora’s box and lead to similar demands from other parts of the country.

Already, there is some concern at the Centre at the manner in which Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah has begun campaigning for autonomy in various state capitals.

The Centre is keen to differentiate between the general demand of states for greater autonomy and devolution of powers and the kind of demands made by the Assembly in Srinagar.

Devolution of powers is one thing, top sources said, and demanding jurisdiction on all matters other than defence, communications and foreign affairs quite another. According to the Assembly’s resolution, the package should also include a separate constitution for the state, a separate supreme court, a separate administrative services and rights to run almost all administrative and financial affairs.

The BJP is against the resolution and yesterday the RSS went to the extent of saying that the autonomy demanded was a step short of secession from the Union. The Sangh even prescribed dismissal of the Abdullah regime.

The Congress, too, has spoken strongly against granting any such autonomy. Senior leader Pranab Mukherjee said in Bangalore today that his party would “never ever agree” to give Jammu and Kashmir the kind of autonomy being demanded because it would lead to the country’s disintegration.

Well-placed sources said the government’s views will become clear on July 6 when Vajpayee will address party workers to mark the birth centenary celebrations of Jana Sangh founder Shyama Prasad Mookerjee in Calcutta. Home minister L.K. Advani will make speeches on similar lines in Mumbai.    


 
 
MAMATA MARSHALS FORCE FOR MAYOR RACE 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, July 3 
Five days from the high-octane election of mayor of Calcutta on July 8, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress on Monday claimed four independent councillors have joined her party after parading three of them at a news conference .

Mamata also announced the decision to contest the election of the chairman in neighbouring Salt Lake where the Left Front scripted a wafer-thin victory on Sunday after slugging it out with the Trinamul-BJP in a violence-marred election.

The councillors paraded by Trinamul were Hridayanand Gupta, Debashis Kumar and Moinul Haque Chowdhury. The fourth, Aparna Roy, had joined Trinamul on June 28.

Another Trinamul-supported independent councillor, Mantu Sanyal, had earlier pledged his support to the Trinamul-BJP combine. “We are now the single largest block in the CMC, comprising 66 councillors and will form the board,” Mamata said.

The Trinamul leader has also kept her party’s options open on the question of soliciting support from Congress councillors who will absent themselves from voting in the mayoral election.

“I firmly believe Congress councillors will not join hands with the CPM despite the latter’s efforts to lure them to its side,” Mamata said, indicating a marked change in her attitude towards the Congress. Obviously, the Trinamul leader expects some Congress councillors either to directly join her party after the mayoral election or extend their full cooperation to the board to foil possible CPM attempts to discredit it before the Assembly polls. “Anyone intending to fight the CPM is welcome to join us,” she said.

Mamata, who left for Delhi later in the evening, said she would submit a report to the Union home ministry seeking the Centre’s intervention in the law and order situation in Bengal in the wake of “the CPM’s terror.”

She said she will accompany Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee during his visit to Calcutta on Thursday to attend a function to mark Shyama Prasad Mookherjee’s birth centenary. Asked if she was demanding imposition of Article 356, Mamata said: “We only want the Centre to take steps to restore peace and democratic functioning of political parties.

“Left ministers are distributing arms among their cadre. Some villagers at Garbeta in Midnapore wondered why we, central ministers, cannot give them arms to counter the attacks.”    


 
 
DESERT POWER TOWER TO DWARF QUTB 
 
 
FROM G.S. MUDUR
 
New Delhi, July 3 
Indo-Israel teamwork in technology may give rise to the country’s tallest structure, a gargantuan tower in Rajasthan, that will feed electricity to energy-starved India.

Both the countries plan to set up a technical panel to study the economics of building the world’s first energy tower, a novel clean energy concept developed by Israeli scientists, at a suitable site in India.

The tower will be at least 600-metres tall — eight times higher than the Qutb Minar — for successful power generation. The taller and wider the tower, the more energy may be drawn from it, scientists associated with the project said.

An ideal configuration is a 1000-metres behemoth that could churn out 700 mw net power, but prohibitive costs may compel Indian scientists to set their sights on a 600-metre tower that may deliver less electricity but will cost less to build.

The energy tower is based on a concept developed by engineers at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. Technion researchers have built an experimental tower in Israel around 60 metres high and told their Indian counterparts earlier this year that hot and arid Rajasthan could be a good site for a large demonstration plant.

“It is going to be a colossal engineering challenge,” says Sreenivasa Setty, a senior official with India’s Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (Tifac) that had organised a meeting of Technion researchers with Indian experts in aerodynamics, energy, structural engineering and industry representatives.

“We’re convinced of its technical feasibility,” he said. The proposed technical panel will identify the most appropriate site for an energy tower in India, study construction costs, and look at the operating economics in this country, Setty added.

The tower relies on the hot and dry desert air to produce electricity. The air in the upper part of the tower is artificially cooled by injecting a fine spray of water into the tower from its top. The cooled air moves downward through the tower shaft, reaching the base with speeds up to 20 metres a second, high enough to drive giant turbines for power generation.

Setty said suitable sites appear to exist in Kutch regions and Rajasthan. “The brackish water found in the Sambar lake in Rajasthan could be used for the tower,” he said.

In their presentation, Israeli engineers said a 1000-metre high tower producing 700 mw net power will cost $1300 million. Senior Tifac officials, however, said the cost estimates made in Israel may be wide off mark. Industry delegates have indicated that construction expense, based on local building materials, may mean significant cost reductions.

The DST is now eyeing a smaller 600-metre high tower that may cost between $200 million and $400 million. DST officials are hoping several government departments and perhaps even industries may be willing to chip in.    


 
 
DELHI SIGNALS SOFTER CTBT STANCE 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
Haifa, July 3 
Showing signs of softening, India today signalled that its decision to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was no longer linked to dual-use technology access from the US and lifting of post-Pokhran sanctions. Instead, foreign minister Jaswant Singh hinted, Delhi is now focusing solely on whether further nuclear tests are required or whether the five explosions of May 1998 were sufficient for it to develop its “minimum credible nuclear deterrent”. Asked whether Delhi would ink the treaty only if the US agreed to a deal on sophisticated technology and lifted the sanctions, Singh said: “We are not really looking at it that way. Our approach to the issue will be on whether testing is something so inescapably required in our national interest that you cannot do it (sign the treaty).’’ His remarks are in sync with the series of statements made by Indian leaders over the past few days. Singh had recently said the government will start a debate on CTBT in Parliament’s monsoon session in an effort to build a consensus. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said as much during his two-nation tour of Europe last week. Vajpayee is scheduled to meet President Bill Clinton in Washington in September for the millennium summit between the two sides. Singh today said he would like to meet US deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott before that. Their last meeting was in January this year in London. But neither expressed willingness for another meeting since there was little progress on the contentious issue. That Singh now wants to meet Talbott indicates Delhi is now prepared to sign the treaty. The foreign minister said CTBT will be discussed in the coming session of Parliament, scheduled to begin later this month, as part of a full-fledged debate on India’s foreign policy. “But a debate on foreign policy cannot be completed unless you also discuss non-proliferation and disarmament,’’ Singh said. One reason why Singh wants to ascertain the mood in Parliament is the scepticism expressed by some experts on the degree of success of the blasts. While Indian scientists had assured the government that further blasts were not required, some hardliners feel the number of tests conducted were not sufficient. Coupled with this has been reports from the US that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is much more than that of Delhi’s. Washington’s proposed National Missile Defence System, which, experts say, could jeopardise the arms-control regimes in South Asia, is another problem towards reaching a consensus. The government needs to assure the nation that the number of tests conducted was sufficient to take care of its national security. Delhi, which has been losing out because of the delay, would like to take some steps before Vajpayee’s September visit. But a decision too close to the date of his journey could be interpreted as the BJP bowing to pressure from Washington. The Centre, therefore, now wants to prepare the ground so that it can be done well in advance.    

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Temperature: Maximum: 35.1°C (+2) Minimum: 28°C (+2) RAINFALL: 2.7 mm Relative humidity: Maximum: 87%, Minimum: 55% Today: Light rain in some areas. Sunset: 6.22 pm Sunrise: 4.59 am    
 

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