MLA levels murder charge against ally
Crash nightmare haunts children on the ground
I-cards for villagers on Bangla border
Dismiss director of zoo: Maneka
HC muscle for human rights
Delhi bid to calm Arab nerves

 
 
MLA LEVELS MURDER CHARGE AGAINST ALLY 
 
 
FROM ANAND SOONDAS
 
Lucknow, July 18 
The tottering government of R.P. Gupta was caught in a fresh controversy with a BJP legislator, whose wife was battered to death by some assailants, alleging that a key minister and ally had a hand in the murder.

Ganga Singh Chauhan, the MLA from Hardoi, has accused power minister and Loktantrik Congress chief Naresh Aggarwal and the district police superintendent of hatching a conspiracy to “eliminate” him.

A group of eight armed men barged into Chauhan’s home in Hardoi yesterday and severely assaulted the legislator and his 55-year-old wife, who died in the attack. Chauhan is battling with death in a hospital in Lucknow.

In the FIR filed today by Chauhan’s son, Hardoi police superintendent S.S. Maheshwari has been named co-conspirator in the attack on the MLA and his family and accused of “patronising criminals and working as Aggarwal’s henchman”.

Aggarwal denied the allegations both against him and Maheshwari. “I’m innocent and I will file a defamation suit against Chauhan,” the power minister said, adding that he would reply to the legislator’s charges after he recovers.

Amid mounting pressure from BJP legislators following the attack, Gupta today ordered Maheshwari’s transfer to the Provincial Armed Constabulary. The government is even considering handing over the case to the CBI.

Chauhan, however, said the action has come too late. The MLA claimed that four days ago, he had told the chief minister that Aggarwal and Maheshwari were plotting against him. But Gupta said he was helpless as he had to manage a coalition which is surviving with the support of Aggarwal’s 20-MLA party.

Chauhan said his misery goes back two years. He said he had complained to then chief minister Kalyan Singh against Maheshwari, saying the SP “might one day send his goons to kill me”.

Kalyan had apparently told him to “have faith in God” as there was nothing he could do against the police officer who is believed to be Aggarwal’s man.

During his meeting with Gupta, Chauhan alleged that not only is Maheshwari perceived to be corrupt but he was sending wrong signals to the people by “touching Aggarwal’s feet at public functions”.

But Gupta parroted Kalyan to say he could not remove Maheshwari as he had to “run a government”. An MLA confirmed that Chauhan, along with nine other legislators, had met Gupta and told him he was concerned about his and his family’s life.

“Guptaji did not even talk of taking any action against Maheshwari or removing him,” the MLA said, adding that “he had to wait for the murder of Chauhan’s wife to finally transfer the accused officer to the PAC”.

Rajesh Pandey, a BJP member of the Legislative Council, said: “Everyone knew that Chauhan had for some time been talking about a conspiracy to kill him, but no one did anything about it. Maybe now they will.”

However, it appears unlikely that the government would be in a hurry to take action against those involved. Efforts are on to project the case as having no “political content”. A senior BJP leader went so far as to say “it is clear that the attack was the handiwork of the kaccha banyandhari gang. Robbery was the only motive. They were a criminal gang”.    


 
 
CRASH NIGHTMARE HAUNTS CHILDREN ON THE GROUND 
 
 
FROM TAMAL SENGUPTA
 
Patna, July 18 
The Alliance Air crash has left a deep psychological scar on the children of Gardanibagh colony.

Some keep weeping and are not ready to move without their parents or relatives. Some think they are still in danger and would not be persuaded otherwise.

“I will not stay here anymore, the plane will fall on us again,” cried 12-year-old Amar, who lives near the accident site.

Two-and-a-half-year-old Sweta could not sleep last night and did not allow her mother to leave her alone.

The wooden door of their house on street number 29 had collapsed yesterday due to vibrations generated by the massive bang.

“She couldn’t sleep and has been crying all the night,” said Umesh Prasad Gupta, Sweta’s father.

Eleven-year-old Supriti, whose house is right next to the crash site, kept saying: “The big ball of fire is rushing towards us. It will kill us all.”

While the surviving passengers of the plane were flown to Delhi early today, 35-year-old Poonam Dutta was left in Patna Medical college, struggling for life against severe burn injuries and fractures.

[Agencies later reported that she was taken to AIIMS in Delhi.]

Poonam, a resident of the colony, lost her father and sister in the accident. The two died instantly as the burning aircraft came crashing in through the roof.

Her cousin Biva Kumari said at the hospital that Poonam had not been told about her father and sister. “What’s the point? The doctor said her chances of recovery are remote,” replied Biva.

Resentment had been brewing among the local people at Poonam being left behind when most of the others were shifted to better care. The administration, they felt, was “taking little care of her”.

Supriti’s father Vijay Pathak took the girl and her six-year-old brother to a relative’s place this morning.

“They can’t stay here as they have developed panic after Monday’s tragedy. We will bring them back after normality returns,” said Pat- hak.

Normality will certainly take time to return. The crash site is drawing thousands of curious people who turn up to see the debris and the plane, which has been practically reduced to a scrap heap.

What used to be two single-storeyed buildings are now a pile of rubble, as the plane fell on them yesterday.

But the curious throng can now gape at this devastation only from afar as the entire locality has been cordoned off. The step was taken as some of the on-lookers were filching the victims’ posse- ssions.

“Many people were seen collecting belongings of the passengers which are lying scattered over the area. I saw a jewellery box near the plane yesterday morning, but after some time it wasn’t there any more,” said a police constable.    


 
 
I-CARDS FOR VILLAGERS ON BANGLA BORDER 
 
 
FROM R . VENKATARAMAN
 
New Delhi, July 17 
Residents of West Bengal border villages will soon be given multipurpose photo identity cards to slam the brakes on continuing infiltration from Bangladesh.

The home ministry has told the Supreme Court in its “updated status position” that the Indo-Bangla border would be strengthened, the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act repealed and the Foreigners’ Act amended to make registration compulsory.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice A.S. Anand has ordered all states involved in the matter, including West Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Mizoram and other North-Eastern states, to file detailed updated status reports and affidavits in seven weeks.

The case has been brought to the apex court by the All- India Lawyers’ Forum for Civil Liberties, which is seeking to deport “crores of Bangladeshis” who have illegally migrated to India, especially West Bengal, Assam and even Delhi and Maharashtra.

The court rejected an affidavit by West Bengal which stated that “it is impossible to deport the infiltrators” as “unscrupulous politicians and bureaucrats” had supplied them ration cards and even election cards.

As a result, infiltrators had become citizens, to the detriment of Indians already suffering from unemployment, poverty and illiteracy, the petitioners said.

In its report, the home ministry said Section 14 of the Foreigners’ Act would be amended to incorporate provisions for punitive action against infiltrators and those who shelter them.

The Passport and the Citizenship Acts would also be amended so that “it becomes incumbent on the part of foreigners to register themselves immediately on arrival”, the report said.

It added that special courts, called “designated courts”, would be set up to deal “exclusively with implementation of the provisions of the Foreigners’ Act”.

The report said deportation transit homes would be set up to “accommodate Bangladeshi infiltrators, where the Bangladesh authorities have refused to accept them or have delayed their acceptance”.

About Rs 23 lakh has been allotted to West Bengal to construct the centres, each of which will handle 200 deportees. The first one will be set up on the Petrapole border in North 24 Parganas district.

On the photo identity cards, the affidavit said the interim report of the Tata Consultancy Services had been examined and the company asked to give a detailed final report.

However, “the proposal for multipurpose photo identity cards should be implemented forthwith, particularly in the border villages”, it said.

In a suit by the Assam government, contending that Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland had encroached upon its land, the apex court issued notices to the attorney general of India to assist the court.

Assam has claimed that the territory “encroached” upon be declared its constitutional boundary, counsel for Assam Vijay Hansaria said. It has contended that the director general of survey of India “be directed to delineate the boundaries between the states on the maps and then carry out demarcation”.    


 
 
DISMISS DIRECTOR OF ZOO: MANEKA 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
July 18 
Animal rights activist and minister for social justice Maneka Gandhi has blamed the mysterious death of 12 tigers at Bhubaneswar’s Nandankanan on “neglect and malpractice” and demanded the scalp of the zoo director.

“The director of the zoo should be sacked immediately,” Maneka told The Telegraph from New Delhi. She was reacting to a faxed report from People For Animals (PFA), Calcutta, disclosing the findings of a laboratory test conducted in the city on samples from the tiger carcasses.

The test has shown that the tigers died of trypanosomiasis evansi, caused by “consumption of contaminated meat” not “fly-bite”, as claimed by the zoo.

“I have been telling the chief minister of Orissa all these months that the Nandankanan director has been misusing the funds meant for the inmates’ food. A zoo authority-contractor nexus is responsible for supplying sub-standard food to the animals,” Maneka said.

She went on to allege that the “the doctors who conducted the post-mortem were hand-in-glove with the zoo authorities”, which was why the animals were “cremated hastily”.

“They even gave out the wrong strain of trypanosomiasis as the cause of death, one which is spread by ticks, to save their skin,” she said.

Nandankanan director D.C. Prusti said he had received a letter from Maneka Gandhi outlining her charges against the zoo. “We have sent a reply to the state government saying that the allegations are baseless,” he added.

Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik said Maneka had written to him on June 23, complaining about the “mismanagement at Nandankanan zoo”. Patnaik has directed the forest secretary to “look into the charges”. Patnaik expressed surprise over the findings of “a central government lab in Calcutta” as no sample had been sent to any lab other than the veterinary college in Bhubaneswar by the Orissa government.

The tests were commissioned by PFA, which had arranged the samples to be brought to the central government lab “to get to the truth”.    


 
 
HC MUSCLE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
 
FROM G.S. RADHAKRISHNA
 
Hyderabad, July 18 
In a landmark judgment, the Andhra Pradesh High Court today held that the violation of human rights was “a violation of fundamental rights”.

The division bench of Chief Justice M.H. Liberhans and Justice V.V.S. Rao directed that all undertrial inmates who have been detained longer than the prison term specified for their alleged offence should be summarily released. This includes people booked for immoral trafficking and extremism.

“Undertrials who have served half of their sentences should be given bail on personal bonds,” the court ruled. The order came on a public interest litigation filed by some inmates and civil liberty activists, who pointed out the plight of 2,300 undertrial prisoners in the city jails.

“Almost 70 per cent of them have spent more than two years in jail for even petty crimes,” said a senior prison official during a recent interaction session between judicial officials and prisoners. The court said the state police’s excuse that “lack of escort” prevented them from bringing the inmates to courts was not “a valid reason for delay of justice”.

The bench said judicial officers should also visit jails in the districts periodically to monitor conditions. The verdict is a major turn in the judicial process in Andhra Pradesh, particularly regarding the condition of prisons and undertrial inmates.    


 
 
DELHI BID TO CALM ARAB NERVES 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, July 18 
India has called a meeting with Arab ambassadors here on Friday to clear the air on the growing Indo-Israeli ties.

Over 20 envoys from Arab nations, who are in Delhi, have been invited to a meeting where foreign office secretary (east) K.V. Rajen will try to dispel misgivings about the bonhomie between Delhi and Tel Aviv.

Though the meeting is being convened on the request of the Arab ambassadors, it will give the BJP government an opportunity not only to explain its relation with Israel before the representatives from the Gulf and West African nations, but also to pave the way for its defence in the forthcoming session of Parliament on the issue which is spinning into a major controversy.

The growing concern in the Arab world is over the remarks made by two senior ministers of the Vajpayee governments — home minister L.K. Advani and foreign minister Jaswant Singh — during their recent visits to Israel.

Advani was reported to have said that among other areas, India is also willing to cooperate with Israel on the nuclear field. A few weeks later, Singh, on his visit to Israel, accused the Indian leaders of the “Independence years” of imposing a virtual veto on Delhi’s West Asia policy with an eye on the Muslim votebank. This blocked the chance of an early normalisation of relations between India and Israel.

Though the Indian foreign minister’s remarks did not go down well in the Arab world, Advani’s remarks really caused them concern. The nuclear issue is a sensitive matter in that part of the world and many Arab nations, aware of Israel’s ambiguous nuclear stand, has mooted the proposal to make the region, particularly West Asia, a “nuclear free” zone. Expectedly, the proposal has been turned down by Tel Aviv.

Soon after its nuclear tests in May 1998, India had reassured Arab nations that the tests will not affect them. But the home minister’s remarks has once again forced the issue to resurface. They now want a clarification from Delhi on Israel.

South Block mandarins are planning to tell the Arab ambassadors that reports about the India-Israel nuclear cooperation were baseless and the remarks attributed to Advani were not true. In fact, they would argue that the home minister himself had issued a categorical denial on the subject.    

 

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