Catch bandit or quit, says SC
Delhi topper, Bengal surprise on state scorecard
Jaswant takes off to clear Atal air
Advani, Asim in cut and thrust
Basu chance to rescue dream-child
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, Sept. 1 
Striking a stunning blow to prevent the executive from caving in to blackmail, the Supreme Court today told a cowering Karnataka government to “quit and make room for another” which can tackle Veerappan.

The court also extended indefinitely the stay on the release of prisoners sought by Veerappan in exchange for Kannada actor Raj Kumar, capping one of the most dramatic days in courtroom in recent times.

“The (Karnataka) government better quit for its compounding negligence in not apprehending Veerappan for eight long years. The present government should make room for another which can tackle him,” Justice S.P. Bharucha, presiding over a three-member bench, said.

“We will not be a party to this compounding negligence upon negligence upon negligence,” the court said. “We will not be a party to the release of those involved in the trial for heinous crimes.”

The sweeping indictment came after the counsel for Karnataka, Harish Salve, told the bench that the release was not to placate Veerappan but to maintain peace as ethnic clashes were anticipated if the hostage crisis dragged on.

But Bharucha shot back: “The responsibility of maintaining law and order is the state’s. If you feel you cannot do it, then you better quit.”

The bench ordered that the prisoners facing charges under Tada and the National Security Act should not be released till the disposal of the petition moved by the father of a police officer killed by Veerappan’s gang.

The court berated the state government for filing an “inadequate” affidavit in which it expressed its inability to capture the brigand. “What have you done for last eight years? What protection have you given to the people? Such an incident was waiting to happen. Now you say that you cannot do anything,” the court said.

When Salve tried to contend that the release was intended to avoid clashes, the court said: “For this very argument, we will record all our observations. If you are a concerned welfare state, what were you doing for all these years?”

Attorney-general Soli J Sorabjee said he was not for any party but “an unsavoury situation has arisen warranting a fine balancing act. Previous lapses cannot be held against a state and it should be permitted to act as a democratic government and do all the needful to resolve the crisis under its statutory obligations”.    

New Delhi, Sept. 1 
Walking a tightrope between perception and reality, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) today released its first-ever ranking of Indian states.

Delhi outranked all states in the over-all composite rankings and was also adjudged the best investment destination. Bihar figured at the bottom of both tables.

Bengal ranked 11 in the overall rankings and ninth in the list of best investment places. The state’s performance even took the leader of the research team by surprise. “It fared better than I thought,” said Bibek Debroy, director, Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies.

The survey also offers a much-needed salve to the Left Front government in Bengal, recently mauled by both the Andhra Pradesh chief minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu, and the Eleventh Finance Commission. On some parameters, the survey has put Bengal ahead of Andhra.

The study was commissioned by CII and carried out by a team led by Debroy. Laveesh Bhandari of the National Council of Applied Economic Research and Nilanjan Banik of E-India Presentations did the bulk of the research.

The researchers visited the 18 states, collated published data from the mid-90s and carried out interviews.

Debroy pointed out that each state was ranked individually under each head based on certain parameters before an overall ranking was worked out. He also explained that the states were also ranked separately from the viewpoint of the prospective investor.

For this, parameters such as the state domestic product (SDP), growth rate of SDP, level of commercial bank credit and the labour force in the 15-39 age group were considered.

Delhi was followed by Goa, Kerala, Punjab and Maharashtra in terms of overall rankings. Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa and Kerala were chosen the best places for investment after the capital.

Among the key factors contributing to Delhi’s high standing were its level of affluence, the purchasing power of the consumer, the performance of the social sector and its financial sector.

However, Debroy said, it was difficult to estimate exactly the actual inflow of investment into Delhi as a significant amount went into its industrial suburbia (Gurgaon in Haryana and Noida in western Uttar Pradesh).

CII president Arun Bharat Ram said the study will be an annual exercise because all the states had begun competing for investments.    

New Delhi, Sept. 1 
Foreign minister Jaswant Singh will travel to New York ahead of Atal Behari Vajpayee to clear the air on the Prime Minister’s health and assure the global community that he has no serious ailments apart from a nagging knee.

Vajpayee cut short his trip to the US by two days because of his knee, striking San Francisco off his itinerary.

He will, however, visit New York and Washington as scheduled and attend all programmes, special secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office, N.K. Singh, told a television channel today.

Vajpayee is scheduled to address the UN Millennium Summit in New York on September 8 and begin his official meeting with President Bill Clinton from September 14.

Singh left for Geneva tonight on way to New York. Tomorrow he will meet Swiss counterpart Joseph Deiff and other leaders to discuss bilateral, regional and international issues.

He will leave for New York on Monday.

Indian officials maintain that Singh’s visit has been timed to enable him attend the Commonwealth foreign ministers meet in New York.

This will be followed by another meeting of foreign ministers which will review and finalise the earlier draft before it is released at the UN summit.

The meetings will dwell on crucial issues, including terrorism, drug-trafficking and democracy, but will also give Singh the chance to dispel misconceptions on Vajpayee’s health.

Singh kicked off his clear-the-air exercise last evening, giving a series of interviews to television channels on the Prime Minister’s health. He made it clear that but for a problem knee, there was little cause for concern.

Singh is slated to hold a number of bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the UN summit. Many of these are still being finalised, but they will give Singh a chance to interact with world leaders and explain why Vajpayee had to call off some programmes.

Singh’s Geneva visit is significant as it is the first official one by an Indian foreign minister in the last 20 years.

All visits undertaken by foreign ministers in the recent past have been mainly to participate in the multilateral conference on disarmament and attend human rights meetings.    

New Delhi, Sept. 1 
The Centre today agreed to West Bengal’s demand for a constitutional amendment to ensure that the chief minister would be consulted on the Governor’s appointment. But grey areas remained on whether “consultation” implied “consent”.

Speaking to reporters after the eighth meeting of the standing committee of the Inter-State Council, home minister Advani, however, brushed aside Bengal finance minister Asim Dasgupta’s proposal that the Governor be selected from a list of three submitted by the state government concerned.

Without naming Dasgupta, the home minister said the Centre had received more than one suggestion from the states on the appointment of the Governor. He said that while some wanted to put forward a panel of three names, others preferred leaving the choice to the Centre.

By agreeing to amend the statute, Advani sought to send the message that the BJP-led government was not just preaching, but also practising a strong federal democracy.

He pointed out that earlier governments had decided that the Sarkaria Commission’s recommendation on consultation with the state government would not be included in the Constitution, but only accepted as a convention.

But his government, Advani said, will respect the states’ wishes and table the amendment. What Advani did not say was it was Dasgupta — the most vocal of the participants — who virtually forced him to accept the demand.

Mamata Banerjee’s shadow lingered over Dasgupta’s speech. From the issues raised by the Bengal minister, it was apparent that the state government feared Central intervention in the run-up to next year’s Assembly elections.

The minister made an impassioned plea for curbing the scope of the Centre sending troops to states and was unimpressed by Advani’s argument that his government sent forces only on request.

Dasgupta insisted that the Centre’s powers had to be curtailed and got his way through with the home minister referring the issue to a subcommittee on Article 356 under defence minister George Fernandes.

Advani, however, took a dig at Dasgupta who had asked for separate television and radio channels for states.

The home minister said that the demand was being made too late as the Centre preferred running Doordarshan and All-India Radio as autonomous bodies. But, Advani added, he would nevertheless look into the demand “sympathetically”.

The meeting failed to reach a consensus on the issue of placing residuary powers of legislation other than taxation on the concurrent list. “There was divergence of opinion and no consensus could be reached on the issue as recommended by the Sarkaria Commission,” Advani said.

He said the issue of residuary power of legislation would be placed before the full meeting of the Inter-State Council attended by chief ministers.    

Calcutta, Sept. 1 
Before his expected stepdown, Jyoti Basu gets an opportunity tomorrow to throw a lifeline to his nearly-sick dream-child, Haldia Petrochemicals.

Indian Oil Corporation chairman M.A. Pathan is meeting the chief minister to discuss IOC’s possible participation in the company, groaning under the burden of huge debt and struggling to find a market for its products.

Officials of the state commerce and industry department said: “The IOC chairman and the chief minister will finalise a grand alliance (of Haldia Petro with IOC) to strengthen each other’s ability to compete with global majors in petroleum and petrochemicals.”

The government has been discussing how IOC can enter Haldia Petro since November 1998. But there was unanimity among the three partners — the Chatterjee Group, West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation and the Tatas.

Haldia Petro has been dogged by differences between the government and the private sector partner for quite some time, partly as a result of which the company’s fate has become uncertain months after its rushed inauguration.

Industry officials said Basu is keen on clearing the problems faced by Haldia Petro. “It is Basu’s dream project and he would like to see the project become profitable and run smoothly,” an industry official said.

Haldia Petro’s problems are two. One, it has a very high debt-equity ratio of 4:1, which has placed upon it a crippling burden of repaying in principal and interest Rs 200 crore every year.

Debt of such magnitude makes the Rs 5,170-crore project unviable since it was conceived on a debt-equity ratio of 1.6:1. The existing partners have already put in Rs 1,010 crore as equity.

“Through this alliance (with IOC) we will try to revert back to the earlier debt-equity ratio,” the Haldia Petro management said. But it would not spell out the nuts and bolts of the proposed tieup with IOC.

Sources said IOC is expected to invest in the equity. The second part of the alliance involves Haldia Petro buying its input, naphtha, from IOC’s refinery at Haldia at pre-determined prices.

“Haldia Petro won’t have to import naphtha (which saves the company the anxiety associated with price fluctuations on world markets) and will have a dedicated supply line. IOC’s Haldia refinery produces three lakh tonnes of naphtha a year,” the sources said.

Haldia Petro needs four times that amount and that brings the two sides to another important part of the alliance. IOC has plans to expand its refinery at Haldia, but land acquisition appears to have become a problem. The Chatterjee Group already has land for a refinery project, in which IOC can become a partner. Being a new project, it will be eligible for tax holiday for five years. “All these decisions will be taken at tomorrow’s meeting,” sources said.

There’s another benefit that will accrue to IOC from the alliance. “The tieup will help IOC achieve rapid entry into petrochemicals and bring it on a par with other global majors which are both in oil refinery and petrochemicals like Exxon/Mobil, BP/Amoco and Reliance.”

A Chatterjee Group official said: “Through this tieup, we can show our ability to enhance the strategic strength of the company, which is best for future growth.”

Over to Jyoti Basu to allow all this to happen and not let Mamata Banerjee go public with allegations of ill-treatment meted out to Purnendu Chatterjee by the state government. On Wednesday, she had cited Chatterjee’s travails to demonstrate the industry-unfriendly face of the Left Front.    


Max: 31.8°C (0), Min: 25.3°C (-1)

Relative humidity:

Maximum: 98% Minimum: 70%

Rainfall: 20.5mm

Today: Light rain likely in some areas of the city and its neighbourhood

Sunset: 5.52 pm, Sunrise: 5.21 am    


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