Gandhi doctor seals truce
Hunters become hunted as Naidu stalks gunmen
Cong leaders unite to keep out Manipur BJP
Militants scare away doctors
Bihar board debut sans industry zone
Section 144 in Dhanbad
Nipamacha digresses on terrorism Bill
CPI-ML stand on Jharkhand

Ahmedabad, Aug. 11: 
The appointment of noted Gandhian Sushila Nayyar as chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapith has rung the curtains down on the bitter power struggle dogging the institute founded by the Mahatma.

Nayyar, 86, was Gandhi’s personal physician and is the sister of the Mahatma’s secretary Pyare Lal.

With all the warring factions welcoming Nayyar as head of the last Gandhian bastion in the country, followers of the Mahatma hope that “peace will at last return to the institute” which had been wracked by the duel between chancellor Ramlal Parikh, who has since died, and vice-chancellor Govind Raval.

The vidyapith, which has the status of a deemed university, was founded by Gandhi in 1920 in protest against the British education system and to create “nationalist feelings among youth” and build a “violence-free society”.

The Mahatma was the institute’s first chancellor, a post he held for 28 years. Among other luminaries associated with the vidyapith are Sardar Patel, Acharya Kripalani and Morarji Desai.

Even though many towering figures have held the post of chancellor, the institute lost focus since 1966 when it became dependent on the UGC for grants, according to Gandhian activist Chunibhai Vaidya.

One reason for the drift, Vaidya believes, is that the institute did not take part in any national upheaval after Independence. In fact, the vidyapith deviated from its basic objective — to fight injustice and gradually became like any other institute, far removed from social issues, the Gandhian said.

The situation worsened with sharp differences cropping up between Parikh and Raval, embarrassing Gandhians who were forced to intervene to ensure peace.

Parikh sought to implement UGC guidelines on the appointment of the vice-chancellor in a bid to oust Raval (a person over 65 cannot hold the post of vice-chancellor).

But the faction opposed to him pulled off a coup by adopting a resolution re-appointing Raval — who is in his late sixties — and installing Vinod Tripathi as pro vice-chancellor (a post not approved by UGC) at the meeting of the Mandal, the apex governing body, last year.

Parikh moved the high court, saying the meeting which re-appointed Raval was invalid. But his plea was turned down.

Alarmed by the heightening tension, the Gandhians decided to appoint five arbiters, two from each warring group and a neutral member, to resolve the dispute.

The arbiters, after several rounds of heated debate, agreed to set up a committee to choose Raval’s successor. But shortly after their verdict, Parikh died, on November 21, 1999.

Nayyar, who was extremely perturbed on learning about the tension in Gujarat Vidyapith, wrote to the vice-chancellor expressing her displeasure about the sorry state of the institute. Mandal members then offered her the post of chancellor. She readily agreed.

After taking over, the octogenarian Gandhian made it clear that the arbiters’ ruling that has been gathering dust will be imple- mented.

The new chancellor is said to be in favour of appointing a search committee to select a successor to Raval.    

Hyderabad, Aug. 11: 
For years they have terrorised the neighbourhood, carrying out routine hit-jobs for money.

But time seems to have finally run out for these local toughs who have made the most of political patronage.

With most parties needing muscle-power, procuring gun licences and amassing weapons was easy for these ruthless killers. But not any more.

In a welcome move for people living in the 16 most violence-scarred districts of the state, the Chandrababu Naidu government, by a recent ordinance, withdrew not only the gun licences but also the armed escorts provided to the roughly 3,800 henchmen who so far had a free run. “Almost one-tenth of the police force was used to provide escorts to them and nearly Rs 3.7 crore was spent annually for providing weapons, substitutes and maintenance,” says K. Aravinda Rao, senior inspector-general of police in charge of administration.

The move has come as a big blow to these thugs, many of whom had private ‘armies’ to stretch their terror sway in the district towns and villages.

The worst-affected areas have been Rayalaseema and the coastal belt where hatred between families spilled over generations, leading to frequent vendetta killings.

People still recall how Kurnool’s Maddur Subba Reddy, a two-time MP, was murdered in a bus stand. The killers beheaded another faction leader from Panyam before returning the severed head after three days. Another leader was butchered in his posh Banjara Hills flat.

With matters getting out of hand, a worried administration began cracking down on these musclemen. Nearly 150 hired killers were eliminated in Cuddappah and 3,500 were locked up for various offences. But there was no let up in the killings.

A majority of these strikes took place when either the witnesses or the accused were on their way to the court. Confident that they would get away with political backing, the killers would suddenly appear out of nowhere, and waylay them outside the premises or blast their vehicles. In one instance, Chinnappa Reddy of Panyam was killed inside a jail.

But things have changed now. The hunters have become the hunted — living in isolation, fearing attacks from stronger rivals. Their gun licences taken away, very few can afford to keep private armies and arm them.

Many of them from Kurnool, Cuddapah and Prakasham have shifted their families to safer cities, Bangalore and Chennai.

Congress and Left leaders, however, say the measure was aimed at reducing grassroots-level opposition to the Desam in the coming panchayat elections in October.

“While Desam activists will get police support, the movement of their opponents will be contained,” said M.V. Mysoora Reddy, deputy leader of the Congress in the Assembly.    

Imphal, Aug. 11: 
The Congress is trying hard to prevent the BJP from coming to power in Manipur. Even party leaders who were at loggerheads with each other not long ago have patched up in a bid to foil the BJP’s attempts to take over the reins of power.

However, observers feel the Congress leadership is not so much worried about who will come to power as it is about the possibility of a split, thanks to the machinations of BJP leader R.K. Dorendra Singh.

Sources in Congress Bhavan said senior party leader and former chief minister Rishang Keishing had opted out of the leadership race solely to avert a split.

Addressing a Congress Legislature Party meeting here recently, Keishing told his colleagues that he did not have the desire to lead the party in another political coup against chief minister W. Nipamacha Singh.

Declaring Radhabinod Koijam as the undisputed leader of the party, Keishing urged all Congress legislators to back the veteran politician to the hilt.

The former chief minister said he would continue to work for the Congress in the capacity of a senior legislator.

Keishing’s “sacrifice” is seen as a move to queer the pitch for arch rival Dorendra Singh, who harbours the ambition of becoming Manipur’s next chief minister.

With the majority of Opposition legislators rallying behind Dorendra Singh, the Congress leader’s decision to opt out of the leadership race is obviously an attempt to create confusion.

Both Keishing and Koijam know that Dorendra Singh is on solid ground, having managed to win over at least nine of the 11 Congress legislators to his side.

Sources said these nine legislators held a clandestine meeting recently and decided to float a new front — the “Regional Congress Party” — and team up with Dorendra Singh.

Realising that a split could take place any day, the Keishing-Koijam duo is now trying to convince Congress legislators that their party stands a greater chance of being invited to form the next government if the Nipamacha Singh ministry is ousted. The argument put forth by the two leaders is that the Congress is the largest Opposition party in Manipur and the only alternative to the present government.

Sources said in the event of a split in the ruling Manipur State Congress Party, the Congress might even team up with the Nipamacha Singh faction to prevent the BJP from coming to power.

However, this is easier said than done as the BJP has gained more political clout than the Congress by virtue of being in power at the Centre.Another hurdle for the Congress is Speaker Sapam Dhananjoy. Since the latter has already projected himself as “alternative leader”, the Congress will surely find him a hard nut to crack. If there is no other option, the party may even back Dhananjoy’s campaign for the chief ministership just to prevent Dorendra Singh from forming the next government.    

Amarpur, Aug. 11: 
“Dada, nobody is there to help us. The primary health centre is closed and we have no money to consult a doctor in town,” said Derbing Reang, bereaved father of four-year-old Dafirang Reang. The child died of suspected viral fever last week at Nidhiram Para village under Amarpur subdivision.

The impoverished Reang family and other tribals helplessly await death as malaria and viral fever assume epidemic proportions.

To make matters worse, the medical and paramedical staff have long abandoned the health centres here because of insurgency. With a non-functional health service system, the diseases are fast spreading to the vicinity of the town as patients are left at the mercy of quacks.

“Our lone hope now is the village ojha (quack) who propitiates the spirits to cure patients,” said Narendra Reang, a resident of Kasima village.

He lost his two- year-old daughter Kananti to the killer disease 10 days back.

Narendra said the adjoining tribal villages like Paharpur, Kurma. East Bampur, Kask were also affected by malaria and viral fever. Three other children identified as Ratijay Reang, Rabirung Reang, Chandra Reang, and a tribal woman, Bishoti Reang, have died from viral fever in these villages over the past 10 days. Amarpur subdivision is one of the worst-affected areas.

Official sources at the subdivision said except for small subdivisional health centres, the health service system is defunct.

All primary health centres in the interior areas here have been closed since the past six years, even though the employees are drawing salaries regularly.

Chandan Das, a pharmacist in one of a closed primary health centres, asked, “Who will go to work there? You may be abducted anytime and die in militant custody because there is absolutely no security.”

Doctors in the Amarpur hospital, including the subdivisional medical officer, refused to comment on the rising death toll. Das, who had once been posted at the now-closed government health centre at remote Chelagang, said, “The doctors who came to work here in the town hospital keep trying to get themselves transferred from the very first day of their posting.”    

Calcutta, Aug. 11: 
The passage of the Bihar State Reorganisation Bill in Parliament has put a spanner in Rabri Devi government’s scheme of things to streamline industry and evolve a sustainable policy.

The fledgling 17-member Industry Commission set up last month with J.J. Irani, chairman-cum-managing director of Tata Steel, as its head is slated to meet tomorrow in Patna for the first time since its inception. But the commission will cater to a truncated state as Jharkhand, the industrial hub of Bihar, will be outside its purview.

The Bill has widened the north-south divide and tilted the balance among industrialists in favour of Jharkhand much to the discomfort of the Bihar government.

Within a week of the passage of the Bill 2000 in the Lok Sabha on August 2, Confederation of Indian Industries president Arun Bharat Ram visited Jamshedpur and recommended a “blueprint” for the development of the region. He addressed the local chamber of commerce and met the executives of Tata Steel for an “indepth’’ discussion of the industrial future of the new state. Ram also sought sweeping tax concessions for investment.

The Rabri Devi government, which was hoping to ride piggyback on the region’s industrial boom to make up for the dismal scene in north Bihar, has been caught on the wrong foot. The commission, which is expected to submit its report within six months, now has to redefine its strategy vis-a-vis investment, finance and raw material.

According to sources in the industry, the man most “vexed” is none other than Irani himself, “who virtually has to live in two time zones.”

The chairman-cum-managing director of Tata Steel, who is also a former CII president, has been the motif force behind the confederation’s involvement in Bihar.

But the CII chief’s widely-publicised visit to Jamshedpur, the economic capital of the proposed Jharkhand state even before its official formation, has resulted in a piquant situation.

“It has sent clear signals that the industry is eagerly awaiting the formation of Jharkhand, which has tremendous growth potential. It augurs ill for Bihar as the state is set to lose in terms of investment,’’ said a high-level corporate executive in Jamshedpur.

Though Irani heads one of Jharkhand’s leading steel majors, as the chairman of the Bihar Industry Commission, he is also committed to the Rabri Devi government. But the task of shoring up the state’s dismal industrial scenario may prove tricky in the absence of Jharkhand. Matters have been made worse by the Centre’s reluctance to concede the “compensation package” to the truncated state.

Besides, RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav’s antipathy towards the IT sector, the once-flourishing food and fruit-processing industry is also in doldrums. According to Bihar industry minister Chandrika Rai, there is an acute shortage of “processing centres’’ and despite the formation of a task force by Union food processing minister Shahnawaz Hussain to tackle the problem, nothing has been done so far. The panel is yet to submit its report even after three meetings.

All state-owned sugar mills have closed down and only the private ones owned by the Birlas are making profits. The Centre has also rejected the state government’s plea for a Rs 100-crore package to revive the mills.    

Dhanbad, Aug. 11: 
The subdivisional officer of Dhanbad today promulgated prohibitory orders under Section 144 in the Purana Bazar area of Gomoh township, 40 km from here.

The move was prompted by arson and rioting in the area last night. A mob torched at least six houses in the Gwalapatti area in protest against the killing of a rickshaw-puller on Wednesday. Several houses were also ransacked.

Dhanbad superintendent of police Anil Palta today suspended the officer-in-charge of Hariharpur police station for failing to avert the mob violence.

Sources said tension mounted in the Gwalapatti area when Jharkhand Mukti Morcha activists clashed with local shopkeepers during a bandh called in protest against Wednesday’s incident.

Shiv Sena activists later jumped into the fray, leading to more clashes.

Sources in the district police headquarters here said security had been beefed up in the area. “The situation is tense, but under control,” an official said.

Orissa bandh

Police took into custody 300 people during a dawn-to-dusk Orissa bandh which disrupted normal life in several parts of the state today, reports PTI from Bhubaneswar.

Three vehicles were damaged at the Master Canteen Square in front of the state Congress headquarters. Except stray cases of attacks on vehicles, no report of any untoward incident was received from anywhere.    

Imphal, Aug. 11: 
Manipur chief minister Wahengbam Nipamacha Singh today said his endorsement of the Prevention of Terrorism Bill was a personal view and not that of the United Front of Manipur (UFM) government.

In the chief ministers’ conference at New Delhi on August 5, Nipamacha Singh had said he favoured the passage of the POT Bill. Addressing a press conference here, the chief minister said his Cabinet has not yet taken any decision on the POT bill. He also said he has not gone through the Bill in detail.

Nipamacha Singh’s statement during chief ministers’ conference had created a confusion here as the matter was never discussed in the Cabinet. Law minister Gangmumei Kamei even said the chief minister has not sought the law department’s opinion on the subject.

The Manipur Human Rights’ Commission has already opposed the new anti-terrorism Bill saying it endorsed the National Human Rights’ Commission’s view that the existing criminal laws were competent to deal with terrorism.

Replying to a question on the extension of “informal ceasefire” in the Naga-inhabited areas of Manipur between central forces and NSCN(I-M) guerrillas, Nipamacha Singh said, “There was no formal or informal ceasefire in Manipur’s territory.”

As regards an Army statement saying certain areas of Manipur were covered by “informal ceasefire”, the chief minister said he would take up the matter with top Army officials. He said the Army and para-military forces were not operating against NSCN(IM) militants in the hill districts.

Mawlong plea: Meghalaya chief minister E.K. Mawlong today urged the people to help his government resolve its long-standing boundary dispute with Assam, reports our Shillong correspondent.

Addressing a meeting attended by local leaders, the headman of Maikhuli village and representatives of various non-government organisations, the chief minister said he was willing to discuss the issue again with his Assam counterpart Prafulla Mahanta.    

Ranchi, Aug. 11: 
The lone CPI(M-L) legislator from the Jharkhand region, Mahendra Prasad Singh, today reiterated that he would not support any BJP-led government in the new Jharkhand state.

Singh, sitting MLA from Bagodar in Giridih district, said he would also campaign strongly against the continuous saffronisation of the tribal region.

Of the 81 Assembly seats in the new Jharkhand state, the Left parties together hold only five. While the CPM, CPI(M-L) and the Marxist Co-ordination Centre hold one each, the CPI holds two.

The four Independents along with 12 MLAs from the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha are likely to play a crucial part in the formation of the government. The BJP, Congress as well as the RJD are already trying to garner their support.Talking to newsmen here today, Singh said his party would demand the revival of the closed and sick industries in the region.    


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