Passport to be must for Nepal travel
Pranab panel to review Manmohanomics
CPM’s public figure jinx
Price puts tigers in death trap
Naidu population model targets men
Church drill charge on RSS
UP doctors protest attack on colleagues
IA flight timings shuffled

New Delhi, July 7 
Passports will be the only valid document for air passengers travelling between India and Nepal.

An agreement to this effect was signed between Kathmandu and New Delhi during Union home secretary Kamal Pande’s three-day visit to that country.

For the first time, it was put in writing that the two countries shared the objective of combating terrorism and cross-border crime and prevent their respective territories from being used for “activities directed against, or prejudicial to, the other side”.

Obviously, this step is directed against Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence which, since the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, has made Nepal a base for its anti-India operations.

Briefing reporters here, a home ministry spokesman said the two countries agreed that they would “eventually” move towards the passport system for identification purposes.

It will most likely be applicable by the year end and will be a major departure from the existing practice of mere production of any identification on demand.

However, air passengers will not have to apply for visa. A pruned down list of admissible travel documents will be introduced with effect from October 1 to “tighten” the existing system of identification.

The two sides also decided to increase co-operation between law enforcement agencies with more regular meetings and sharing of information to curb criminal activities.

Kathmandu and Delhi will take measures to quickly dispose of requests for assistance in investigation of criminal cases, improve the legal framework and take action against those found violating the open border.

Pande and his Nepalese counterpart, P.P. Pokharel, agreed to improve the management of the 1041-km border with the objective of preventing trans-border activities of terrorists, criminals and other “undesirable elements”.

A joint working group comprising Nepalese and Indian officials will soon be formed.

It is learnt that Pokharel agreed to take all steps to prevent fundamentalists from using the hundreds of mosques and madrasahs that have come up on the Nepalese side of the border.    

New Delhi, July 7 
In a bid to divert attention from internal squabbling following Ahmad Patel’s exit, Sonia Gandhi today announced a rather unwieldy panel under Pranab Mukherjee to review Manmohanomics and identify areas of “course corrections”.

Reforms guru Manmohan Singh has been kept out of the panel but he will have the final say on policy doctrine. In fact, a position paper on reforms, which will serve as a basis for “overview”, has been vetted by Manmohan.

The report of the “overview” panel will also be screened by Manmohan before it is made public.

Sonia has made it clear that reforms are irreversible and the purpose of the exercise is to repackage the Congress’s socio-economic agenda to ward off criticism from a section of the party, which is demanding a pro-poor tilt to economic issues.

The panel is packed with votaries of reforms. It has Congress chief ministers, senior party leaders and MPs.

The panel was to be set up during the budget session of Parliament but Manmohan refused to be part of the “review” exercise. Sonia, keen to keep “Mr Clean” on her side, kept the issue pending till he agreed to oversee the introspection exercise.

Party sources said the panel will try to submit its report before the monsoon session of Parliament beginning on July 24.

“It is not that we are going to deviate from our election manifesto or Panchmarhi declaration. Our commitment to reforms will continue. We will just be fine-tuning on issues such as second-generation reforms, subsidies and disinvestment,” a Congress Working Committee member said.

He said what remained to be seen was how the panel would formulate the economic policy in such a way that the Congress was not seen as playing second fiddle to the BJP without diluting its stand on reforms.

Sonia is keen on a greater thrust on pro-poor schemes. She believes reforms have not been reaching the lower strata of society who are caught in the vicious cycle of poverty and unemployment.

She wants the co-operative sector liberalised so that poor producers become beneficiaries of the co-operative movement. She has written to the chief ministers of Congress-ruled states to amend laws so that power shifts from the registrar of co-operative societies and other bureaucratic heads to the co-operative members.

While Sonia has tried to balance the panel with anti- and pro-reform members, a majority of them are opposed to any “basic shift” in the party’s approach towards economic issues.

Digvijay Singh, Ashok Gehlot and S.M. Krishna want disinvestment, down-sizing of government and cut in non-merit subsidies and government expenditure.

Shivraj Patil is a notable absentee in the panel. Patil is heading the parliamentary standing committee on finance. Perhaps Sonia did not want him to be in an embarrassing situation where he would have to oppose issues cleared by the standing committee.    

Calcutta, July 7 
Buddhadev Bhattacharya made a political statement by his absence from Shyamaprasad Mookerjee’s centenary celebrations on Friday but his gesture is only the latest in a series that has seen the CPM ridiculing public figures.

Worse, the party has made public statements on historical personalities only to revise its stand in subsequent years. This is not the first time the party has shown scant respect for protocol. The party that once had a finance minister who said “I am not a gentleman, I am a communist” can scarcely conceal its arrogance.

Way back in the early fifties, Jyoti Basu, then an Opposition MLA, did not stand up when the House passed a resolution to condole the deaths of the then home ministers Kiran Shankar Ray and Nalini Ranjan Sarkar. Basu justified his position, saying the two ministers played a “bloody” role during the Tebhaga movement.

As recently as 1997, Basu reached the funeral ceremony of Mother Teresa only after all the rituals were over.

In contrast, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and BJP leader L K Advani accepted the invitation of the CPM to attend a meeting in Delhi to condole the death of the CPM general secretary, E.M.S. Namboodiripad.

Basu sparked off a controversy in the CPM by attending condolence meetings organised by the Congress after the deaths of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. After coming to power in 1977, the CPM was not represented at birth or death anniversaries of B.C.Roy.

But now, party leaders attend functions to celebrate the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda who was once described by the CPM as a “Hindu missionary.”    

Bhubaneswar, July 7 
The white tigers of Nandankanan zoo could have been saved had they not been so pricey.

Chief conservator of forest (wildlife) Saroj Kumar Patnaik today said the state government had for some time been trying to sell the tigers to reduce overcrowding and chances of infection but there had been no takers.

Patnaik said a white tiger sold for Rs 5 lakh, but few zoos in the country could afford it. The zoos, including Nandankanan, were perennially strapped for cash as their income was far less than expenditure, the official, a former Nandankanan director and founder chairman of Indian Zoo Directors Association, said.

Nandankanan can house a maximum of 35 tigers, including the white ones. But it had over 55 tigers before trypanosomiasis struck, killing 11, including a white male that died today.

Patnaik said overcrowding could pose a health hazard for the tigers especially in case of an epidemic. The 16 tigers that are down with the disease were housed in a few enclosures lying cheek by jowl. While 11 died, five have responded to drugs, he said.

Though the zoo opened to public on April 21 after the October supercyclone, the tiger safari park is still shut as it has not been repaired for want of funds. So the tigers were forced to live in cramped enclosures.

“If the safari park had been opened, the toll could have been minimised,” the official said.

Patnaik said the forest department had asked the government to cut the price of the white tigers. “A zoo needs at least a male and a female and the price becomes prohibitive,” he said.

If there are no buyers even after the price cut, zoo authorities would have no option but to gift them to other zoos, he said. The authorities have started sterilising lions to keep their population to a minimum. The zoo can house 25 lions, but has nearly 50.

Patnaik said the zoo could not sterilise the tigers as it is prohibited by the Wildlife Protection Act. The law does not apply to the African lions.

Zoo authorities have launched a breeding programme to control the white tiger population with the help of the Bose Research Institute in Calcutta. Despite the programme, eight cubs were born in the last three months.

Patnaik said the epidemic appeared to have worked itself out. He quoted vets as saying that the tigers were out of danger.    

New Delhi, July 7 
Chandrababu Naidu has done it again. The Andhra Pradesh chief minister has floored the health ministry with his numerous innovations in controlling the burgeoning population in his state.

As the Centre gets ready with its population action plan to be released by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on July 22, health officials are trying to do one another on how to incorporate the methods being tried out by Naidu.

“As yet we used to talk of the Kerala model. But the model was difficult to implement elsewhere because education and population control had progressed hand-in-hand in the state. We cannot have hundred per cent literacy in other states overnight. So we were looking for alternatives. Tamil Nadu has successfully tried out a number of administrative measures implemented from Chennai.

“But it took them almost a decade to implement their module and become the second state after Kerala with the least population growth rate in the country. Andhra Pradesh provides a faster solution. It is a drive which is being monitored by the chief minister himself and the speed which the entire exercise is picking up is phenomenal,” a health official connected with family welfare explained.

Naidu, it appears, had not really considered population a priority area until recently. In the social sector, he had been emphasising the spread of education. But over the past month or two, he has suddenly switched track and made population control his immediate objective.

The computer-savvy chief minister has been video-conferencing with his district collectors every alternate day and demanding on-the-spot reports, proper assessment of existing lacunae and remedial measures.

Health officials have been taken aback by the swiftness with which the new system of functioning has been put in place by the Naidu administration. Even Union health minister C.P. Thakur admitted that Naidu’s achievements have been extraordinary.

Naidu has other problems to contend with. With the education base in Andhra not as strong as that of Kerala, he realised that awareness campaigns of the type carried out in other states would take a long time to make an impact. He has activated all primary health centres and planned out a strong support system through non-governmental organisations and the corporate sector.

What is interesting, health officials said, is unlike Kerala and Tamil Nadu, where educated and literate women bear the brunt of the family planning exercise, Naidu is urging the men to undergo no-scalpel vasectomy. Naidu believes that men should be equal participants in the family planning programme.

Some officials in Delhi agreed there a subtle degree of coercion could be involved, but they pointed out that what Naidu is doing cannot really be described as “coercion”. It is more like “coaxing people into submission”.

Thakur is organising a “population race” at 32 places in the country. He says the family planning campaign he is organising will be something like the census exercise and canvassers will reach every household, even in the remotest parts. He is also organising plays and kavi sammelans.


Hyderabad, July 7 
In a statement that could exacerbate the misgivings of the Christian community, Joseph D’souza, president of the All India Church Council, today alleged that the RSS is conducting drills inside a church compound in Kakinada.

At a meeting addressed by the archbishop of Hyderabad, M. Joji, D’souza told reporters that the government has also taken over the management of the Butler High School and 22 acres of its land in Kakinada since last January last. “In total disregard to the sentiments of the minorities, the school ground is being used for drills by the RSS,” D’souza said.

The meeting, attended by a host of Christian leaders, announced that the “National Day of Communal Harmony” will be held in the city on July 9.

“About one lakh Christians will participate in the meeting organised to highlight our protest against the atrocities on the community,” he said, adding that similar prayer rallies will be held in Delhi, Bangalore, Thiruvananthapuram, Chennai and Jalandhar.

Rev. G. Samuel, president of the Andhra Pradesh chapter of the All India Christian Council, said tensions between Christians and Hindus had aggravated in the last four years.

He blamed the Centre and the Telugu Desam government for their indifference to the plight of the community. He threatened to present “our case to the President of India to deal with the situation as a matter of emergency”.    

Lucknow, July 7 
The King George Medical College today looked like a fortress under siege after junior doctors went on the rampage late last night, beating up people, vandalising offices and stalls and smashing equipment.

Scores of armed policemen and Provincial Armed Constabulary personnel ringed the hospital which was still bristling with tension after last night’s rampage sparked by a scuffle between two doctors and a sweeper near the emergency ward.

Trouble started when news spread that the doctors, Dhirendra and Ajay Tripathi, had been “brutally assaulted and were being held captive” by class IV employees. In a swift reprisal act, about 100 doctors rallied together, assaulted junior staff, abused senior doctors and destroyed computers and fax machines worth Rs 6 lakh “to teach everyone a lesson”.

Six FIRs have been lodged against the doctors at Chowk police station. Two FIRs lodged by stall-owners claimed the doctors had been drunk and “uncontrollable”. They have demanded compensation for destroyed property and strict action against the doctors.

An FIR has also been lodged by class IV employees under the SC/ST Act against five doctors for “illegal detention and assault”. They have given the authorities a 48-hour deadline to take action against the doctors, after which they have threatened to go on indefinite strike.

The principal of the medical college, Ramesh Chandra, has asked for permanent police deployment on the campus to check the recurring skirmishes between junior doctors and other employees. Recently, work at the hospital was paralysed for days following a dispute between junior and senior doctors.

Chandra also alleged in his FIR that the junior doctors had not only assaulted and abused him, but had also ransacked and looted his house.    

Calcutta, July 7 
Indian Airlines has decided to cancel an international flight and re-schedule eight flights from Calcutta from July 10.

Airline sources said the twice-a-week Calcutta-Singapore flight via Yangon has been withdrawn due to unspecified reasons. Several major flights, including four international ones, have been rescheduled.

IC 729\730 to Bangkok via Singapore will operate twice a week. The flight leaves Calcutta at 9.25 am and 9.45 am on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The return flight arrives here at 10.05 pm.

The flight to Bangkok via Yangon (IC 727\728) will operate twice a week and leave Calcutta at noon. The return flight arrives at 8.30 pm.

The direct flight to Bangkok (IC 731\732) will operate twice a week on Thursdays and Sundays leaving Calcutta at 10.15 am and returning at 4.10 pm.

The direct flight to Dhaka (IC 723\724) will fly three times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. On Monday, the flight takes off at noon and flies back at 2.30 pm. On Wednesdays and Fridays, the flight leaves at 2.35 pm and comes back at 5.05 pm.

The direct flight to Kathmandu (IC 748\748) will operate three times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, leaving Calcutta at 10.15 pm.

The flight to Port Blair (IC 7285\7286) will operate four days a week on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, leaving Calcutta at 5.30 pm and returning at 10.00 am.

The flight to Dibrugrah will operate four days a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, departing at 11.45 pm and arriving at 3.25 pm.

The Calcutta-Agartala flight (IC745\746) will fly on all days of the week, leaving Calcutta at 6.30 am and returning at 8.50 am. On Tuesdays, the flight will leave at 6.15 am and return at 8.35 am.    


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