Mori chalks blueprint to seal Delhi ties
Employee at Pak mission expelled
Vajpayee buys time on Uma stepdown
15 die as brain fever stalks Gorakhpur
Tohra demands statute changes
Chautala uplinks with cyberspace

 
 
MORI CHALKS BLUEPRINT TO SEAL DELHI TIES 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, Aug. 24 
Japan today decided to play the role of a suitor rather than that of an annoyed benefactor to woo India in establishing a strategic partnership.

Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori made it clear that Tokyo did not consider India a pariah any more. Speaking at a function organised by Ficci this morning, Mori — the first Japanese Prime Minister to visit India in 10 years — outlined areas of mutual interest that could help the two sides turn a new leaf in bilateral realations.

He underlined the importance of his visit, saying relations between the two have become more important “in the new world situation of the post-Cold War and economic globalisation”. He added: “Indo-Japanese relations today also have a strategic importance, which is obvious when we cast a glance at the world atlas.”

Mori’s conciliatory tone was a clear hint that Japan was going out of its way to forge a new friendship with India. It was also an unspoken admission on Tokyo’s part that its initial reaction to the May 1998 nuclear tests may have been a little too harsh.

What also mattered, perhaps, was India’s potential as an attractive investment destination, its progress in the field of infotech and emergence as a major power — both politically and militarily — which could effectively counter-balance the threat from China and help maintain strategic balance in the region.

Mori indicated that Japanese funds and investments would flow into India in a big way. “Though the amount of trade and investment between the two countries is not big enough compared to their potential, there is a good future prospect of the Indo-Japanese economic relations, thanks to India’s economic reforms and recovery of Japan’s economy,” he said.

He sounded almost apologetic for Japan’s decision to take certain “economic measures” against India in the aftermath of the nuclear explosions. Though he clarified they were not “sanctions” against Delhi, he justified the decision by pointing out the abhorrence that the Japanese have against weapons of mass destruction.

However, he argued that both India and Japan were democracies and had the ability to move forward with bilateral ties despite their differences.

Though he hoped for an early CTBT sign-up from Delhi so that both sides could take “initiatives together for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation”, Mori said he was aware of “the national security environment by which India is surrounded and its security concerns”.

He condemned the recent killings in Kashmir at a time when the government had taken the initiative of putting an end to the violence in the embattled state.

The Japanese leader described last summer’s Kargil intrusion as an act of betrayal by Pakistan.

He said during his recent visit to Islamabad he had made it clear to Pervez Musharraf that he should make serious attemps “to control terrorism and to create an environment conducive” to resumption of dialogue between the neighbours.    


 
 
EMPLOYEE AT PAK MISSION EXPELLED 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Aug. 24 
Bringing their already strained relations under further pressure, India today expelled a staff member of the Pakistani High Commission here on charges of espionage. Officially, however, it refrained from saying as much.

The new deputy high commissioner of Pakistan, Jalil Abbas Gilani, was summoned to South Block, where senior officials of the foreign ministry told him that staff member Malik Muhammad Rafique was found “indulging in activities incompatible with his official status”.

This, in diplomatese, amounts to espionage. Rafique has been asked to leave the country by August 31.

When contacted, Gilani said the charges made by India were not acceptable to Pakistan. He pointed out that Delhi has not even specified why Rafique was being expelled.

He felt that it will not help in clearing the fog of mistrust that already surrounds the two neighbours.

Though Islamabad has not yet expelled any member from the Indian High Commission in the Pakistani capital, if one was to go by past record, sooner than later an Indian staffer will be on his way back home.

In the past, the two countries have always resorted to such tit-for-tat expulsions, often resorting to violence before throwing out diplomats or other staffers from each other’s country.    


 
 
VAJPAYEE BUYS TIME ON UMA STEPDOWN 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Aug. 24 
Keeping a lid on the dramatics, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today told Uma Bharti that a final decision on her resignation from the Lok Sabha and the BJP national executive will be taken after the Nagpur national council session on August 27 and 28.

The sadhvi, who had put in her papers last Tuesday, was summoned by Vajpayee who told her he would first consult other party leaders in Nagpur.

The Prime Minister was not scheduled to attend the national executive earlier, but his programme was rescheduled to pack in another day so that he could also attend the working committee meeting on August 26.

Bharti later told reporters that she had made it clear to Vajpayee that her resignation was not a “tactic” to pressure him to reinduct her into his Cabinet as the “press is making it out to be” and that, nor was it a ploy to wangle a senior position for herself in the party organisation.

She said she demanded a clean chit clearing her name of all such doubts from both Vajpayee and home minister L.K. Advani, whom she met today.

“I told Vajpayeeji and Advaniji that now is the time for you to come forward and protect my izzat (honour) and counter the propaganda that has been circulated about me,” she said. “I told him that even if you had offered me a ministership, I would have turned it down.”

According to her, Vajpayee assured her that after a week the PMO would issue an official statement on her resignation as well as “clarify” that the decision was not related to her alleged hankering for an official post.

Bharti said she would stay away from the Nagpur meet and retreat to a hideout which “cannot be accessed by road, rail or plane, where there is no TV, radio or papers, and I can introspect all the time”.

In a burst of self-righteousness, she claimed she would vacate her official residence in the next few weeks and said that she had already left the one she had occupied in Bhopal for the past 11 years.

BJP sources, however, said the leadership was unlikely to accept her resignation from Parliament.

“As it is the NDA has a wafer-thin majority and the BJP is critically dependent on its allies for its survival. There is already a vacancy after Kumaramangalam’s death. We cannot afford to fight another byelection. What if we lose both seats?” asked a party vice-president.

Asked why she had routed her resignation through Vajpayee instead of sending it directly to the Speaker, Bharti said: “The Speaker is not my leader, he is merely the head of the Lok Sabha. Vajpayee is the leader of our parliamentary party.”

She said she was firm on quitting and wouldn’t change her mind even if the leadership asked her to. “As far as I am concerned the decision is final. I took it after considering each and every aspect,” she said. “My experience is when I was not an MP or a minister, I was able to serve people better,” she added.    


 
 
15 DIE AS BRAIN FEVER STALKS GORAKHPUR 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Lucknow, Aug. 24 
Gorakhpur’s tryst with the killer Japanese encephalitis, which has been invading it since 1978, has taken a serious and unprecedented turn this year. Caught between government lethargy and a virulent virus which has claimed 15 lives, people in the adjoining villages have begun fleeing their homes and seeking security in distant places.

Even as 100 persons are battling for life at the BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur, the government today granted Rs 10 lakh for free treatment of encephalitis patients in the hospital, prompting doctors to term it a “joke”.

They say that if the government is serious about containing the disease, it has to go much beyond “populist announcements”.

The disease, also termed as brain fever, has claimed 1,016 lives according to records from 1993. Last year itself, 234 were reported dead with more than 1,200 affected. Sanjay Tiwari, a social worker and researcher who has done extensive study on encephalitis, said there are no records of the casualties after the disease first hit Gorakhpur and the adjoining areas in 1978. “Teams keeping track of the disease and its toll were formed only in 1992,” he says, adding that for long doctors treated it as malaria.

Anxious medical officers and doctors say even after the thousands of deaths, the government refuses to wake up to the need for setting up the required infrastructure to tackle the disease.

“We don’t even have a unit that can test serum,” said a doctor, adding that a mere blood test is not enough to investigate cases of encephalitis.

This time, too, the medical college had to send serum of patients to the KGMC hospital in Lucknow, from where it was transferred to the virological centre at Pune after KGMC expressed its inability to do the tests.

Blood samples are not being collected though dozens of patients continue to swarm the hospital daily. The situation has been compounded by the government’s decision to disband the office of the assistant director, malaria, which played a key role in collecting blood samples and organising the entomological survey of the mosquitoes.

“Even after all this, there has been no efforts at fogging,” says Tiwari. With the monsoons setting in, huge stretches of squalid marshy areas were giving a veritable free run to carrier mosquitoes, he added.

Also there have been no attempts at making separate enclosures for pigs, which transmit the virus to mosquitoes. “There are more than 250 pigs around the medical college campus itself,” Tiwari pointed out.

But doctors and social workers say that more than the deadly encephalitis it is the government’s lethargy and unwillingness to take pre-emptive action which is worrisome. “The state’s attitude has been disastrous,” said a doctor at BRD Medical College, who has been attending brain fever patients since 1995. “There are no vaccines, no research teams and experts. Sometimes when the vaccines are made available, we find that they are ineffective because the cold chain has been broken. People have to be vaccinated three times. But after the first time, government officials invariably lose interest. Also there is no drive to create awareness about people’s living habits which really is at the root of the problem,” he said.

As Tiwari said: “Government machinery hamesha dheela pad jati hai.” This, he says, is because the dreaded disease mostly hits only the poor and the voiceless.    


 
 
TOHRA DEMANDS STATUTE CHANGES 
 
 
 
Chandigarh, Aug. 24 
The All-India Shiromani Akali Dal led by Gurcharan Singh Tohra has demanded that border states be allowed to determine the kind of relations they want to have with neighbouring countries, reports our correspondent.

In a memorandum to the chairman of the Commission for the Review of the Working of the Constitution, the party has demanded that the statute be amended to provide a distinct identity for Sikhs.

The Akali faction has asked for major changes in the Preamble to the Constitution to make “India committed to cultural pluralism”. The memorandum has demanded that the principle of autonomy to states be acknowledged and implemented.    


 
 
CHAUTALA UPLINKS WITH CYBERSPACE 
 
 
FROM GAJINDER SINGH
 
Chandigarh, Aug. 24 
Haryana is all set to yield a rich infotech crop.

A state-of-the-art cybercity will be set up soon at Gurgaon, chief minister Om Prakash Chautala said today.

Inaugurating a seminar on e-governance organised jointly by Hartron and the CII, he said an Information Technology Initiative Fund had been set up with Rs 10 crore initially to promote e-governance and information technology in the state — once the site of the Green Revolution. Chautala added that financial assistance would also be sought from the Centre.

Hardselling Haryana, the chief minister invited big IT companies to set up their units in the state as it was close to the national capital. He said Haryana has several advantages: resources like water, electricity and trained manpower; besides, it boasts of a pollution-free environment, no labour problem and a law and order situation well under control. He also assured that round-the-clock power would be provided to the IT industries being set up in Gurgaon.

Chautala also took pains to point out how much Haryana was geared to infotech. He said the state’s recently announced education policy which was not only job-oriented, but would also enable students to make best use of the new information technology policy. He said unemployment would also be checked greatly with the implementation of the policies.

The chief minister said Haryana was making a concerted effort to become a leading hi-tech state in the country. He added that computer education had been introduced from Class IX and English was being taught from the primary level.

Chautala said all departments, boards and corporations had been asked to earmark five per cent of their budget for the promotion of IT. He said he felt Indians were second to none in the field of Information Technology.

Subhash Goyal, minister of state for local government, said at the seminar that Haryana was all set to bring about computer revolution in the state.

While welcoming the chief minister, Aditya Puri, chairman, CII Haryana State Council, said Chautala must be complimented for recognising the role of IT as an effective tool in catalysing economic activity and efficient governance.

He said that computers and the Internet were changing the way people work and live today. Information technology would have a prominent and progressive role in the new millennium as the single-most important factor for improving efficiency.

He said by applying technologies that were fuelling the e-business revolution, the government could achieve a revolutionary transformation in reaching the masses.

Puri said the Haryana chief minister had a vision to transform the state into an IT-driven economy by upgrading the standard of administration, providing public-centred, efficient and cost-effective government, promotion of investments in IT industry, percolation of IT-literacy and education and generating IT related employment opportunities.

He also appreciated the Haryana government for setting up an e-Citizen Interface by providing all public domain information like gazette notifications, acts, rules, regulations, circulars, policies and programme documents digitally through the web.    

 

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