IIT Delhi to show IBM the door
Power minister on life support
Vajpayee to pay Sangh homage
Naidu mocks at Basu’s Bengal
Netaji goes to Bollywood with Babbar
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, Aug. 16: 
In the first known incident of its kind, a much-publicised partnership between an education powerhouse and one of the world’s largest companies has fallen apart following a conflict of interests. The Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi has decided to ask multinational IBM to leave the campus, putting an end to an academic institute-industry alliance that is common in the US, but at an experimental stage here. Last week, at a meeting of the senate, IIT’s highest academic body, the institute authorities charged the $87.5-billion IBM with “vitiating” the atmosphere on the campus and asked it to quit the premises.

An IBM spokesman in Delhi, however, said the company, popularly known as the Big Blue, had no knowledge of the development.

The IIT decision came in the wake of growing protests from faculty members who felt IBM was draining the institute, “exploiting” its best brains but giving back nothing. The presence of IBM on the campus, the authorities felt, has created a “social imbalance”.

The decision to ask the IBM to withdraw from the campus will now be put up before the institute’s board of governors, but the only question that remains to be settled is how to part company in a civilised manner.

The IIT is not slamming its door completely on the IBM. It will continue to collaborate with the company on a “one-to-one basis” on projects, seminars and joint papers. But it will not have the IBM on its grounds. Corporate culture is not quite the same as in academics, faculty members said.

Three years ago, IBM had ent-ered IIT campus to great applause, presaging the beginning of a new era in human resource development. Big Blue set up its laboratory and the IIT authorities had hopes of a fulfilling partnership with the compuetr industry giant.

Faculty members, however, claim it was, from the very outset, an “unequal” relationship grounded in the interests of the IBM and not of the IIT. The institute director had not consulted the faculty before inviting IBM to the campus — the decision was announced after the contract was signed. IBM paid the IIT an annual rent of Rs 2 crore.

The deal, the IIT believed, was that IBM will launch projects with it, setting a trend for a harmonious industry-academia relationship and marking a decisive step towards making institutes of higher education self-sufficient and less dependent on government funding.

Events, however, turned out different and within a year the professors began muttering under their breath about IBM’s “selfish” instincts. Every summer it picked the brightest brains in the IIT — usually third year students — youngsters who worked in the IBM’s laboratory on the campus and were handsomely rewarded.

One faculty professor complained that his student was earning more in one summer than his whole year’s pay packet. Soon the grumbling grew louder — the students were coming back to the faculties with an “attitude” problem — they were feeling “superior” and were carrying with them what their teachers call the corporate “culture of secrecy”. They will not tell their professors what they worked on in the IBM lab. The heartburn was becoming unbearable. More so because IBM appeared to be interested only in the “bright youngsters” and not in the “experienced academics”.

One of the faculty member described the entire experiment as a landlord-tenant transaction.

Faculty members said IBM avoided sharing projects with the IIT because it “survives” on its products, information on which it will not part with.

Soon, there were inter-departmental schisms — two professors in the computer faculty are believed to have quit because of the preferential treatment given to the faculty of information technology.    

New Delhi, Aug. 16: 
Union power minister P.R. Kumaramangalam, one of the younger members of the Vajpayee Cabinet, was in a “semi-comatose state” tonight at the AIIMS following multiple organ failure.

The 48-year-old minister was admitted to the hospital on Saturday with “undiagnosed fever”. “He has severe septicaemia (infection in blood) with left lobe consolidation and multiple organ failure. He is on assisted ventilation. His blood pressure continues to be low,” a bulletin issued by the hospital said.

Kumaramangalam had gone to AIIMS on Friday, complaining of high fever. After preliminary investigation, he was admitted the next day. He was stable till yesterday, but his condition began deteriorating rapidly from early this morning when he had to be put on a life-support system. Kumaramangalam, elected from Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu, had been hospitalised earlier a few months ago.

Dr R.K. Sharma, medical superintendent of AIIMS, said this evening: “His condition has shown no improvement for the last few hours. All that we can say for the moment is that he has gone into semi-coma and continues to be in a critical condition. We are yet to establish what led to the multiple organ failure.”

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, home minister L.K. Advani and a host of other ministers rushed to AIIMS in the morning on news that his condition had worsened. A pall of gloom hung over Parliament, too.

The Prime Minister is keeping himself briefed every hour. Health minister C.P. Thakur, a doctor, also camped for a few hours at AIIMS. A 10-member medical team has been formed to attend on the minister.    

New Delhi, Aug. 16: 
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee will drop in at the RSS headquarters at Resham Bagh in Nagpur during the two-day BJP national council session on August 27 and 28.

Confirming the visit, well-placed BJP sources said the main objective of Vajpayee’s stop-over was to pay homage to the Sangh’s founder, Keshav Baliram Hedgewar and his successor M.S. Golwalkar at their memorials.

Though K.S. Sudarshan, the Sangh’s new sarsanghchalak, will not be around during Vajpayee’s visit, general secretary Mohanrao Bhagwat and joint-general secretary Madan Das Devi — number two and three in the Sangh hierarchy — will be there to receive the Prime Minister.

Sudarshan, the sources said, will be away in the US at that time to attend a meeting of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh. Though party insiders downplayed Sudarshan’s absence saying it was “mere coincidence”, the RSS chief’s differences with Vajpayee are well known.

Sudarshan had publicly opposed the Centre’s pro-liberalisation policy as also the appointment of certain bureaucrats allegedly pursuing the Manmohan Singh line of economics.

He had also disapproved of the move to hold talks with the Hizbul Mujahideen and had demanded that the Farooq Abdullah government be sacked after the recent spurt in killings in the state. In a recent interview to the BBC, Sudarshan had even gone to the extent of saying that the BJP had ceased to be a “party with a difference”.

With the Vajpayee-Sudarshan feud becoming an embarrassment, Sangh strategists decided to appoint Devi as the pointman between the RSS and the government and also the RSS and the BJP.

According to them, Devi was a more “skilled practitioner of realpolitik” than Sudarshan and so was “better placed” to appreciate the compulsions of running a coalition government.

Both Bhagwat and Devi will attend the national council session as special invitees. The sources said this was not “unprecedented” as the sessions are open to the public and in the past, senior Sangh functionaries had attended them without taking part in the deliberations.

Though the date of Vajpayee’s visit has not been finalised, his programme managers said he would spend between 30 to 40 minutes there. They said that after paying homage at the samadhis of Hegdewar and Golwalkar, he would interact “informally” with RSS workers but avoid a formal address. Vajpayee’s visit to Resham Bagh is not the sole evidence of his acknowledgment of the RSS’ presence.

Last Friday, party bosses, including Vajpayee and home minister L.K. Advani, participated in the gurudakshina function at human resources development minister M.M. Joshi’s residence.

Along with 125 other BJP members, the two leaders donated a month’s salary to the RSS in keeping with a time-honoured practice.    

Hyderabad, Aug. 16: 
Burying an old friendship and beginning a new chapter in Left-bashing, cyber chief minister Chandrababu Naidu today heaped scorn on Jyoti Basu’s Bengal, berating it as a wilderness that no industrialist will dare go to.

Training guns on Left-ruled states during the power tariff debate in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly, a contemptuous Naidu declared: “Nobody will dare go to West Bengal or Kerala to set up industry. There is no suitable environment or infrastructure in either state.”

Naidu’s uncharacteristic and unprovoked outburst at an old friend immediately drew jeers from the Opposition Congress, which demanded to know since when things had gone so bad as to force him to go public with his criticism.

“He was chummy with Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu in the past. I do not know since when relations have soured so much that he is chastising the performance of Left-ruled states,” Congress leader Rajasekhar Reddy said, holding back no barbs in his bid to needle Naidu.

The chief minister, who once shared a good rapport with Basu, turned a staunch critic of the Left in 1998 after the Telugu Desam threw in its lot with the BJP-led government. Though he has never come out so loud with his anti-Left statements, Naidu has off and on hit out at it. “You have no status to campaign against the Telugu Desam. Your base in the state has eroded,” he had said at a public meeting.

In the House, belligerent CPM legislators mounted a counter-attack on the chief minister, repeatedly butted in during in his speech, and forcing the House to adjourn before he could finish his reply to the debate.

Naidu, however, stuck to his guns. He reeled off statistic after statistic to prove that Left-ruled states had neither growth nor development potential.

He said that while the per capita consumption of power was 480 kv in Andhra, it was only 197 kv in Bengal and 241 kv in Kerala.

The chief minister pointed out that agriculture power consumption in Bengal was 10.11 per cent of the total and it had only one lakh pumpsets. This was against three lakh pumpsets in Kerala and 22 lakh in Andhra.

Taking a final swipe at Bengal and blowing his own trumpet in the process, Naidu said that officials from Basu’s state had even visited Andhra to take tips on power reforms and VRS.

“Bengal also appointed a consultant to study the Andhra package. In May, the state issued a circular inviting 38,000 employees of the West Bengal State Electricity Board to exercise the VRS option,” he said.    

New Delhi, Aug. 16: 
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, the stormy petrel of India’s freedom struggle, is soon slated to become a celluloid hero.

Bose follows the path chosen for his contemporaries — Mahatma Gandhi, made globally fashionable afresh by British film director Sir Richard Attenborough, and B.R. Ambedkar, a film on whose life and times by Jabbar Patel now awaits release.

The glory of turning Bose, the Azad Hind hero, into a 70-mm superstar may fall on either of two top-notch directors Govind Nihalani or on Shyam Benegal. The producers, the Lucknow-based Sahara group, are yet to make up their minds.

The man tipped to play the rebel leader is none other than actor-turned-politician Raj Babbar. Babbar, in preparation for his coming role has already made a trip to Hollywood to consult make-up experts who could help him turn into a Bose lookalike.

The mega-film, which is expected to be completed within two years, is budgeted to cost over Rs 10 crore. Though it will be Sahara’s first foray into the world of film-making (apart from television productions), it is not likely to be the last.

The Subroto Roy-controlled group had last month announced its intention to invest about Rs 200 crore in brand new facilities for film and television production, besides a TV technology school near Mumbai. With this investment, Sahara, which already runs a Hindi television channel, wants to see itself transformed into a movie studio owner-cum-big time producer as well.

The studio complex will have the capacity to produce up to 20 full-length feature films and 10,000 episodes of half-hour television serials. The television campus — Sahara Media Research Institute — will host a faculty comprising eminent international and national film and TV personalities, journalists and critics.

Globally, movie studio owners like Paramount and MGM call the shots — producing and distributing most of the major movies. In India, since the demise of big studios, the situation has, however, been different. Producers and studio owners have been two separate breeds of entrepreneurs. But Sahara insiders argue, virtual or backward integration is a trend that Indian film industry cannot ignore, and the group wants to be the first to cash in on this here.

Sahara wants to produce both big and small budget movies. While the big ticket ones will have theatre releases, budget movies will be premiered on television channels.

Since movie making is a high-risk business, the group will also be looking at additional streams to bolster its bottom-line. Audio rights of the films produced would be sold off to fetch added revenues as well as generate pre-release hype.

Budget movies will also have video releases aimed at the home market.

To generate more money, popular serials and movies produced by the studio group would also be marketed abroad, the way Ramayana and Mahabharata were.

The group has, of course, pressing reasons to branch into film making and marketing as well as manufacturing, housing and direct marketing, feel market analysts.

The group’s think-tank is not sure how its money-spinning para-banking arm will fare, say, after a decade.

To stay on top, the Rs 9,600-crore group (as officially claimed) has to re-invent itself. But Roy, the top honcho, has a reputation to plan ahead and implement it.    



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