States dangle fund bait before bandit
Naidu points finger at weathermen
Peres calls for peace with Delhi push
New states, old Governors
PM seeks report on dowry case death
Centre rejects quota in courts
Priest stripped in Gujarat

Aug. 25: 
Armed with a government promise to rehabilitate victims of alleged police atrocities, Nakkeeran editor R. Gopal will hold a third round of negotiations with Veerappan for the release of screen icon Raj Kumar.

After a two-hour discussion with his Karnataka counterpart S.M. Krishna, Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi said Gopal will set off for the fiend’s jungle hideout on Monday.

He said the governments of the two states have taken measures to reassure the Kannada star’s captive that they were serious about implementing his demands.

The Tamil Nadu chief minister said the two states had each earmarked Rs 5 crore towards a compensation fund for victims of alleged police atrocities.

“This is a gesture to establish our bona fides, pending the final recommendations of the judicial commission probing this matter,” Karunanidhi said in Chennai.

Among Veerappan’s list of demands is that the two governments expedite payment of compensation to those affected over the past two decades by the joint task force operations aimed at nabbing him.

Krishna later told reporters in Bangalore that “we will pay more, if necessary”. He said the amount of compensation to be paid to each victim will be decided by the Sadasivan Commission investigating the alleged atrocities committed by the special task forces of the two states. “It’s an important step in meeting one of Veerappan’s major demands,” he added.

Following complaints by a couple of human rights organisations, the National Human Rights Commission appointed a three-member committee under Justice Sadasivan to look into the allegations. However, the committee is proceeding with its inquiry at snail’s pace and held only two sittings in the past one year.

Mahaboob Batcha, managing trustee of the Madurai-based Society for Community Organisations and one of the petitioners before the rights panel, said the inquiry committee is scheduled to meet again on September 11 at Kolathur.

Though Karunanidhi insists that the panel will look into excesses committed in 1992-93 — when Jayalalitha’s ADMK was in power — Batcha said the Sadasivan committee will inquire into all allegations of police atrocities irrespective of when they took place.

Karunanidhi said efforts were on to ensure that 121 Veerappan aides held in Karnataka under Tada are freed as soon as possible. “Their cases are coming up for hearing again on Monday and we hope that they will all finally get bail then,” the chief minister said.

Of the 121 detainees, 70 are already out on conditional bail but have been directed to stay within the limits of the Ramapura police station in Karnataka.

Krishna hinted at the possibility of withdrawing criminal cases against the remaining 51 against whom Tada charges have already been dropped.

“Under the Indian Penal Code, the jurisprudence has given the state executive powers to deal with criminal cases. The courts, of course, will have the final say,’’ he said.

The sessions court in Mysore is taking up the bail applications of the 51 detainees on Monday.

Gopal, who addressed a separate news conference in Chennai later tonight, said the governments should release the prisoners unconditionally.

Krishna said Veerappan was no longer pressing his demand for making Tamil the second official language in Karnataka as “he perhaps had a late realisation that there’s something called Constitution”.

Karunanidhi refused to answer queries on whether Veerappan had made fresh demands or issued fresh deadlines for his demands in the videotaped message he sent through Gopal on Thursday. “The steps we are now initiating are in response to this latest message,” Karunanidhi said.    

Hyderabad, Aug. 25: 
As helicopters plucked people from flooded apartments in inundated Cyberabad, questions were raised about the decision to open the sluice gates of two reservoirs and the information sent by the meteorological department.

Chief minister Chandrababu Naidu blamed the met office for giving out wrong information. “They said the city will get 5 cm rainfall but we got five times more. They predicted that the depression will cross the coast in the morning of August 24 but it did so on the night of August 23 itself,” a miffed Naidu said.

The chief minister made an aerial survey of Prakasham and Guntur districts where crops have been damaged because of breaches in irrigation tanks.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee spoke to Naidu tonight and announced an ex gratia of Rs 50,000 for the families of the victims from his relief fund.

Nearly 80,000 residents of the city are still stranded in relief camps and over 2,000 were rescued from their roof-tops. The toll galloped to 130, with 38 deaths reported from Guntur and 27 from the hitech capital.

Bureaucrats blamed the authorities for the grim situation, saying their decision to save the Osmansagar and Himayatsagar reservoirs from breaches by opening their sluice gates on the midnight of August 23 had worsened the situation. The drain canals were already flooded with rain water.

“It was a wrong decision to expect people to come out of their homes when the rain came pouring down. This is the second time that water has been released into the city during night to save the reservoirs,” a senior official said.

In 1998, water was released in Musi to protect the Himayatsagar reservoir. At least 6,000 houses were washed away then.

Hyderabad’s much-vaunted hitech image took a beating as the ultra-modern geographical information system to monitor ground water resources could not be utilised. “The data was in text format and not in images. The departments were yet to do the conversion,” explained an officer in the relief department.

Meteorological Centre Director C.V.V. Bhadram said the rains this week were the heaviest in history, with the city receiving around one third of its normal annual rains in just 24 hours to Thursday morning. More than 20 localities in the city remained heavily water-logged although there has been no fresh rain since yesterday.

Residents said they could not hear the radio or television announcements that water from the reservoirs was being released as the torrential rain had crippled power services. Even if they did, the roads were flooded and it was too late to move out to safer places.

The industrial belts of Balanagar, Patancheru and Jeedimetla were the worst hit as they bore the brunt of the raging waters of the overflowing drain canals from the reservoirs. Software firms remained crippled as they were still flooded. Most offices are without power and their equipment have been badly damaged. Several fancy cars lined up in the posh localities of Jubilee and Banjara Hills were washed away. by the swirling waters.

Industrial activity has come to a standstill with water entering many estates. The ICRISAT campus at Patancheru was also affected and five local workers have died there.    

New Delhi, Aug. 25: 
Shimon Peres today made it clear that he had come here to seek India’s help to bring about peace in strife-torn West Asia but did not expect Delhi to take sides in the vexed tangle.

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat had already done his bit briefing Indian leaders about his stand. He had also tried to assess Delhi’s reaction by saying that he intended to declare an independent Palestinian state on September 13.

Peres, who is here as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s special envoy, said he was aware of Arafat’s visit, but emphasised that his India-tour was not because Arafat had been here before him.

“It was just an excuse as I was always keen to visit Delhi,” the minister for regional cooperation said. Describing Indo-Israeli relations as being “on the march”, he said his brief was to inform India on where Israel stood on the peace talks.

Peres met a host of Indian leaders, including President K.R. Narayanan, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, foreign minister Jaswant Singh, home minister L.K. Advani, his host for the visit, defence minister George Fernandes and leader of the Opposition Sonia Gandhi. Last night, former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral hosted a dinner in his honour.

Peres hinted that Arafat would not stick to his September 13 deadline as “it was not a holy date”, but said that if he carried out his threat, he had more to lose than gain.

“The independent Palestinian state has already been accepted by many countries in 1998 and if he is to make the announcement next month it will not have much of an impact.”

The Israeli leader conceded that the negotiations had run into problems over the status of Jerusalem, which was steeped in layers of religion and history, but pointed out that the gap between the two sides had narrowed considerably.

“It’s better to negotiate, because in the past in its place we had killings. And negotiation is definitely a better option,” he said.

Asked how hopeful Israel was of achieving a breakthrough, Peres quipped: “Plans which are known to everyone, seldom work and it’s only ingenuity which has a chance of success.”

He said a lot of patience was need from either side. “A winner never quits and a quitter never wins,” he added.

According to him, the existing infrastructure in the region needed to be changed as it was built with the fear of war in mind. “A war always ends, but the fear of it never does,” he said.

Though he praised third-party mediation in the West Asia peace process, Peres said he wouldn’t suggest the same thing for the dispute in South Asia. Israel, he said, supported the Shimla Agreement and felt that India and Pakistan should settle their dispute bilaterally.

When asked which part of the agreement he wanted to be implemented, Peres replied “in its entirety”.

In a lighter vein, he added that in Hebrew Shimla meant a skirt and said that “it was a maxi skirt and not a mini”.

On pressure from the US to prevent the sale of Phalcon early-warning spy planes to India, Peres said Washington’s main objection was the sale of the plane to China because of the Taiwan dispute. But he made it clear that negotiations between the two sides on the sale of the aircraft had not yet begun.    

New Delhi, Aug. 25: 
The Governors of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are likely to take charge of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttaranchal when the new states are carved out on November 1.

The home ministry is not worrying about the appointment of the Governors now.. Officials said V.C. Pande of Bihar, Bhai Mahavir of Madhya Pradesh and Suraj Bhan of Uttar Pradesh could be asked to hold “additional charge” of the new states till suitable nominees are found.

Similarly, the chief justices of the high courts of the undivided states may continue as heads of the judiciary in the new states for some time. By November 1, the three states will have to have their own chief ministers, Governors and chief justices. “If the Centre and the states agree to an ad hoc arrangement till replacements are found at the Raj Bhavans and the high courts, the technicality of November 1 would be served temporarily,” an official said.

These issues came up at a meeting of officials from the home ministry and the three state governments today. The meeting at North Block was presided over by Union home secretary Kamal Pande. Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh were represented by their chief secretaries and finance secretaries.

The home ministry is the nodal body for all administrative decisions on Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttaranchal.

The provisional sites for the capitals of the new states, high courts, administrative arrangements for the “appointed” day and modalities for apportioning assets and liabilities were also discussed. The meeting decided to bifurcate the cadre of the civil services within the stipulated time so that administration in the new states would not suffer.

The officials also agreed that the governments of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh should work out the estimates for the remaining part of the fiscal for the new states from November 1. They will also have to work out the logistics and other administrative requirements.    

New Delhi, Aug. 25: 
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee stated in the Rajya Sabha today that the Centre has sought details from the Uttar Pradesh government on its reported decision to withdraw a case in which a woman was allegedly harassed for dowry and thrown out when she was six months’ pregnant and had a two-year old child to fend for.

“If what is reported is true, it is a serious issue. We have asked the state government for a report regarding the issue,” the Prime Minister said, while responding to a special mention made by CPM MP Sarla Maheshwari.

About the time when the magistrate’s court in Meerut was reportedly framing charges against the accused in July, Uttar Pradesh issued an order stating that after “adequate consideration”, it had decided to withdraw the dowry case in “public interest” to “maintain peace and harmony amongst the parties”.

The government’s move set legal circles aflutter because it was the first time in the country that a state government withdrew a dowry case filed by the police.

Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson Najma Heptullah, drew Vajpayee’s attention to the Meerut case and the alleged stripping of a woman in Raipur for contesting the panchayat polls. Vajpayee condemned both the incidents.    

New Delhi, Aug. 25: 
The Centre today made it clear that caste-based reservation in the judiciary was not possible as constitutional provisions did not provide for that.

Union law minister Arun Jaitley issued a note saying that “appointment of judges of the Supreme Court and the high courts is made in terms of Articles 124 and 217 of the Constitution which do not provide for reservation for any caste or class of persons”.

He, however, said: “The Central government has addressed letters to the chief ministers of all states and chief justices of all the high courts requesting them to locate suitable persons from the bar belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, other backward classes, minorities and women for appointment as high court judges.”

But the law minister was silent on the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court where, according to the parliamentary standing committee’s report to the Lok Sabha, representation of the “weaker sections” of society was “a dismal low”.

The issue had snowballed into a major controversy after the 30-member MPs’ panel accused the Supreme Court of “practising untouchability”.

Replying to a question, Jaitley told the Lok Sabha, “As per Articles 233, 234 and 235 of the Constitution, matters relating to appointment, promotion and posting of persons in district and subordinate judiciary are within the purview of the respective state governments and high courts.”

Interpreting “consultation” with the high courts, the apex court had said in a judgment that “consultation means concurrence also”.

Earlier, President K.R. Narayanan had put a note on a file sent by the Chief Justice of India saying there were eligible candidates among Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes also who should be considered when appointing judges.

As if to answer that, Chief Justice A.S. Anand, during the golden jubilee celebrations of the judiciary, had said that “merit alone shall” matter in judges’ appointment. A full Constitution bench of the Supreme Court also held that reservation in judiciary was not possible. The apex court has adopted an in-house procedure under which a committee of the Chief Justice and five or more senior judges of the Supreme Court would decide the appointments. For appointing high court judges, the chief justice of the high court concerned would be consulted.

But the MPs forum criticised this, saying they wanted a National Judicial Commission. The panel also called for reservations in non-judge appointments like the staff of the Supreme Court and high courts and registrars and other posts.    

Ahmedabad, Aug. 25: 
A priest was allegedly stripped and beaten up for distributing Christian literature in Surendranagar district in Saurashtra on the eve of Janmashthami.

Arthur Rajwadi, in an FIR lodged with the Surendranagar police, has not named any person or organisation responsible for the attack.

The police, however, denied that the priest was stripped and said: “Only the shirt he was wearing was torn.”

The police have not made any arrest so far. On August 22, Rajwadi along with three other priests distributed religious literature at a mela held on the occasion of Janmashthami.

The All-India Christian Council, in a memorandum to President K.R. Narayanan, has alleged that three unidentified persons called Rajwadi from his house in IP Mission Compound, close to the site of the mela.

They dragged him to the mela where they were joined by 20 others who thrashed him and paraded him naked.

The attackers allegedly snatched his gold chain, identity card and wallet, the council alleged, urging the President to direct Surendranagar district authorities to provide protection to the minority community in the state.    


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