Molestation bid on mission staff children in Pak
Mamata pause for Atal trip
Premji tests Bengal ground
Reforms salesmen with comic face
Calcutta weather

 
 
MOLESTATION BID ON MISSION STAFF CHILDREN IN PAK 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, Sept. 5: 
An “intruder” tried to molest two minor daughters of a staff member of the Indian high commission in Islamabad after breaking into the house which was under surveillance by Pakistani intelligence agents. The children were alone at the time.

India, while lodging a strong protest with Pakistan, made it clear that the incident could not have taken place without the connivance of the Pakistani intelligence personnel, describing their conduct as “questionable”.

Pakistan’s deputy high commissioner Jalil Gilani was summoned to South Block and bluntly told that India took the “gravest view” of the situation and expected the “arrest, prosecution and punishment” of those behind this “heinous crime”.

India’s high commissioner in Islamabad V.K. Nambiar filed a similar protest with the Pakistani foreign office. An FIR has been lodged with the local police.

The molestation bid comes close on the heels of incidents of harassment of Indian diplomats and other staff members. Though Pakistani officials have regretted the incidents, they reflect the sorry state of relations between the neighbours.

Some Indian officials believe that the spurt of unsavoury incidents reflects Pakistan’s frustration at not being able to force Delhi to return to the talks table. That even children are being subjected to such traumatic attacks indicates that relations have reached their nadir.

The molestation attempt occurred on September 2 when the Indian staff member and his wife had gone to hospital. The two girls, aged 8 and 6, were playing with the seven-year-old daughter of another official in their driveway.

At 5 pm, an intruder entered the house and took the two girls to a corner where he tried to “physically misbehave” with them. The intruder fled after the girls resisted and rushed inside their home. “There is little room for doubt that Pakistani intelligence officials who were keeping surveillance did nothing to prevent the incident,” foreign ministry spokesman R.S. Jassal said. “It appears that the intruder was not only aware of the staff member and his wife’s absence, but also knew they will not return early.” He added: “The role of the Pakistani intelligence agency is extremely questionable.”

Jassal said that in another incident on September 3, a staff member and his wife, who were on their way to Taxila, were stopped at a check-post and questioned for over 40 minutes at the neighbouring police station. The Islamabad homes of two diplomats were burgled on August 30.    


 
 
MAMATA PAUSE FOR ATAL TRIP 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Sept. 5: 
After a chat with the Prime Minister, Mamata Banerjee said she would wait for Atal Behari Vajpayee’s return from the US before taking any “drastic step”.

“Vajpayeeji has told me he is equally concerned about Bengal but requested me to not take any drastic step before his return. I will definitely wait,” she said on a visit to Midnapore.

On Sunday, Mamata had threatened to quit over what she thought the Centre’s inaction over law and order in Bengal.

Trinamul MP Sudip Bandopadhyay said they would try to persuade the Centre to impose President’s rule or at least declare five districts “disturbed” after Vajpayee comes back.

Sources, however, made it clear in Delhi that the Prime Minister would not go out of the way and interfere with law and order. They sounded confident that, despite her threats, Mamata had “enough political sense” to stick with the National Democratic Alliance.

Vajpayee has been briefed by his own aides and by home minister L.K. Advani. The government is officially silent but sources suggest Trinamul must realise this administration “has been extremely selective about recommending Article 356 and has refrained from using it except under extreme circumstances in Bihar”.

“We cannot say we have no choice other than falling back upon the controversial constitutional provision,” government sources said.

BJP sources said NDA convenor and defence minister George Fernandes has been trying to convince Mamata of the difficulties of accepting her demand. Even the provisions of the Disturbed Areas Act cannot be applied since the Centre requires the consent of the state.

Despite these bottlenecks, home ministry officials today pored over the Act. Ministry sources said they were planning to send more advisories to the state on combating deteriorating law and order.

The sources also said Bihar was a “clear case of complete breakdown of the administrative machinery”. Not so in Bengal. Besides, the “political violence” was not all perpetrated by CPM cadre.

The home ministry says if the situation worsens, it will consider despatching a team as it had done in June 1998 to be met with a resounding snub from the state government.

The government is aware of the options available to Mamata: Quit as minister but keep Trinamul in government; or stay out of government but back NDA.

But it is the third alternative — pull out of NDA altogether — that it is worried about. Vajpayee and Advani, however, believe this is a very unlikely scenario, given Mamata’s outright rejection in the recent past of the Congress offer of alliance if she broke with the BJP.

“(But) We are considering this scenario as well,” a government source said.

Simultaneous to the emergence of differences over Bengal, there has been a gradual distancing between Mamata and Vajpayee. In recent months, her strident provincialism, her inability to accept the subtleties of coalition politics (like her stand on Article 356) and her outbursts against the government’s economic strategy have alienated Vajpayee to an extent.    


 
 
PREMJI TESTS BENGAL GROUND 
 
 
BY SUTANUKA GHOSAL
 
Calcutta, Sept. 5: 
Azim Premji, the chairman of the Wipro group and arguably the richest Indian, is sniffing for business opportunities in Calcutta.

Premji — whose personal wealth was assessed at a staggering $38 billion last February when the Wipro stock soared to stratospheric levels making him the second richest individual in the world behind Bill Gates — went round Salt Lake on Tuesday to suss investment prospects in the Electronics Complex. The stock has since tumbled paring the wealth of the 54-year-old industrialist to a little over $ 13 billion, which means he still has some cash to shovel in Calcutta’s direction.

“We plan to set up another software development centre in the country. We already have five. It’s a toss-up between Bhubaneswar and Calcutta. A final decision will be taken within six months,” Premji told The Telegraph.

The Rs 2300-crore Wipro Ltd already has three software development centres at Chennai, Banaglore and Hyderabad. Two others are coming up in Pune and Gurgaon.

Premji was in town in connection with the launch of an international call centre at Infinity Building by BNK e.solutions Pvt Limited, to which Wipro will be providing technology solutions.

Grabbing the opportunity to hardsell Bengal to the Bangalore-based tycoon, Brigadier (retd) Suresh Menon, executive director of Webel, gave the Wipro chief a conducted tour of the area and a lowdown on the infrastructure and plots available at the complex.

Later, Menon said: “The Wipro chairman wanted to see how the electronics complex has developed. He had come to Calcutta after two and a half years.”

Menon said he had made a strong pitch for Calcutta. “I told him he would find excellent IT professionals here. I also told him that cheap accommodation was available in the city. So were good schools. He listened to me carefully. I also informed him about the land available in the area. But like all big players he would not commit instantly. He said he would need time to make up his mind. But we are happy that Premji has shown some interest in the state,” he added.

The Webel official said they will make all efforts to attract Premji. “We would not like to lose him to Bhubaneswar,” he said.

A recent report in the media had talked about a growing perception in the IT world about how Bhubaneswar offered better opportunities than Calcutta in eastern India. Leading players like Satyam and Infosys have preferred Bhubaneswar.

Premji today signed a memorandum with BNK to provide end-to-end solutions to the latter’s call centre. Wipro shall be responsible for the entire supply of equipment, customisation and round-the-clock support.    


 
 
REFORMS SALESMEN WITH COMIC FACE 
 
 
FROM SUJAN DUTTA
 
New Delhi, Sept. 5: 
The scene: a Delhi highrise. The time: morning, on a hot summer day.

Enter, gentleman ‘A’ in his mid-30s in kurta and pyjama, a small towel in one hand, a mobile in another. He is sweating profusely. There is another, elderly gentleman ‘B’ in the room.

A: Damn, damn your blasted country. Just got back from Singapore last night and couldn’t sleep a wink. The AC’s not working, the fan’s not working. There’s no water for a bath ...

B: ... and we are told that these new policies will bring heaven alive on earth!

Welcome to the world of comicstrip economics.

A Delhi-based thinktank is coming out with a series of comics on the economic reforms. The first, to be out later this month, deals with power sector reform.

No prizes for guessing the name of the thinktank: the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies, named after the late Prime Minister who was reported to have had a passion for illustrated literature.

“The idea is to explain the process of economic reform and what it means to the common man in a simple and attractive manner,” says Bibek Debroy, institute director. The project is his brainchild.

“Many find heavy literature on the subject taxing. So we are trying to reach out to people because the reforms have to be carried out and because they have an impact on everyday life.”

Debroy led a team of researchers who last week brought out the report card on “How the states are doing?” for the Confederation of Indian Industry.

The series of 12 volumes will be printed and distributed by Diamond, a publisher reputed for its English and Hindi comics whose characters are a favourite with schoolgoing children.

The reform series will be in English. To start with, the series will not bear the name of the Rajiv Gandhi Institute chaired by Sonia Gandhi in its credits. The institute is an outfit of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation.

“Our premise is that the present system, the status quo, is anti-poor. So, logically, any reform of the system must benefit the poor,” says Debroy.

The first volume in the series of comics will be on power sector reform. The second will tackle the prickly issue of disinvestment and public sector reform.

The moral of the story — that reforms are inevitable and the only way out from the economic morass — will be told through a family drama.

The main characters in the first volume (on power sector reform) are from a middle-class family living in Delhi.

The pater familias is a retired public sector officer. The mater, a housewife. They have two sons: the first presumably works for a multinational and frequently travels to Singapore. The other is a Jholawala University lecturer who does not tuck his shirt in, wears chappals to work (and probably spouts Leftist jargon).

They too, are married and have children who are turning the house upside down because they cannot watch television — since there is no power — when India and Pakistan are fighting tooth-and-nail in a humdinger of a one-dayer. There are the neighbours of the family in the highrise who are forced to buy water because the pump, too, is not working and the inverters cannot be charged.

The story moves on, and through dialogues explains that the state electricity boards have huge accumulated losses, that they cannot afford to maintain the power stations, that they are mismanaged and have a huge surplus staff. Then it goes on to say what the power tariff commissions are meant to do and how the power sector can be restructured — all for the benefit of the people. But the changes cannot be wrought overnight.

The demystifying of the reforms will no doubt warm the cockles of those who advocate and support the new policies. The anti-reformist brigade can also be expected to brand the institute as the running dog of capitalists.

The fun of the entire exercise is actually within the family: the Congress leadership continues to be confused on what stand it should take on the reforms, even if the highest command at 10 Janpath and an outfit bearing the name of the leader the party idolises, are clear-headed on the policies and where their priorities lie.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 32.4°C (normall)
Minimum: 25.7°C (normal)

Rainfall:

12.1 mm

Relative humidity

Maximum: 97%,
Minimum:76%

Today

One or two spells of light rain accompanied by thunder in some parts of the city and its suburbs.
Sunset: 5.48 pm
Sunrise: 5.23 am
   
 

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