6 states clogged on strike Day I
PM push for UN council seat
Suspended Major caught spying for Pakistan
George to visit troubled areas
Purnima mirrors Kashmir agony
Calcutta weather

 
 
6 STATES CLOGGED ON STRIKE DAY I 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Sept. 6: 
Telephone services in six states — West Bengal, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu — were severely hit today following a deadlock in talks between striking telecom unions and the Centre.

The unions claimed the real impact of the strike would be felt after about four days, by which time unattended faulty connections and telephone lines would have piled up.

Communications minister Ram Vilas Paswan was today closeted with officials from his ministry, trying to work out a face-saving formula to end the logjam. But till late this evening, Paswan ignored demands that he meet the striking union leaders.

Vinod Vaish, secretary in the department of telecom services, did, however, initiate talks with the labour commissioner’s office to bring in third-party mediation.

“We have almost agreed to all their demands. The telecom employees are taking undue advantage of our simplicity,” Paswan said, even as his ministry claimed the strike had been a partial success in isolated parts of the country. Officials said no report of network breakdown has been received. “Most of the telephone exchanges functioned without hitches,” one of them claimed.

Paswan said the Centre would not like to take extreme action against the striking employees and hoped their grievances would be settled through negotiation.

Unions reported that about 3.8 lakh employees went on a “peaceful” strike, demanding settlement of all labour issues before the departments of telecom operations and telecom services are turned into a corporate entity.

O.P. Gupta, secretary-general of the National Federation of Telecom Employees, the largest of the three telecom unions, said strict instructions have been given to striking employees not to sabotage telecom networks.

“We do not want the system to go down, but we have to a send message to the government. The issues have not been settled though they are claiming they have been. If they had been sorted out, we would not have been on strike,” Gupta said.

The National Federation for Telecom Employees is spearheading the strike along with Bharatiya Telecom Employees’ Federation and the Federation of National Telecom Union.

Paswan has already said the government is not thinking of privatising the yet-to-be-created corporate entity — Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd — and guaranteed job security and pension to all employees. However, the employees are adamant that their pension should continue to be doled out from the consolidated fund of India, which would technically make them government servants.

They are also seeking an assurance that government holding in the new company would not fall below 51 per cent at any time in the future.

The government says these matters can only be sorted out after considerable high-level deliberations, possible only after Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee returns from his US trip. It has set a deadline of corporatising the departments of telecom services and operations by October 1 but the strike threatens to disrupt this plan.    


 
 
PM PUSH FOR UN COUNCIL SEAT 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, Sept. 6: 
Attempting to swivel the spotlight away from his problem knee which has threatened to overshadow his visit to the US, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today said he will make a strong bid for a permanent seat in the Security Council during his 10-day stay there.

Vajpayee, who is scheduled to take off later tonight, said his core message to the global powers will be “India is ready to take its place as an active member of the international community, a confident democracy and a vigorous economy”.

The Prime Minister is scheduled to reach New York on Thursday morning and address the UN Millennium Summit the next day.

“It (the summit) has been called in order to discuss the future of the world community in the coming century and the role of the UN,” Vajpayee said. “The hopes of the people of India and their vision for a world order which accommodates those aspirations will be the focus of my message to the summit.”

The statement is aimed at asking the nation not to speculate about his health and instead focus on the real agenda of his trip. His ailing knee has robbed the visit of much of its shine. The Prime Minister was forced to omit San Francisco from his tour plan on his doctors’ advice. He was to have met Indian software tycoons and professionals there.

Realising that the real issues could be buried, the Prime Minister’s managers are working overtime to shift the focus from his health. The one-and-half page statement issued to the media has no reference to his weak knee.

Vajpayee has made it clear his efforts for a Security Council slot will not end at the UN summit. He will take his appeal to the US lawmakers during his address to the joint session of the Congress on September 14.

Recently, Israel became the first global power to back India’s claim. Encouraged, India now wants to enlist similar support from other world leaders and it would help if the US Congress rallies behind it.

“The US Congress has extended valuable support to the process of strengthening Indo-US relations and I shall use the opportunity to present my views on the future of ties,” Vajpayee said.

During his meeting with President Bill Clinton, Vajpayee’s thrust will be on consolidating bilateral ties and marketing India’s liberalised economy aggressively, inviting investment in burgeoning sectors from telecommunications and infotech to energy and pharmaceuticals.

The talks are expected to cover several regional and global issues. The US has lectured Pakistan on terrorism, but Clinton has also set the scene for some prodding in Delhi’s direction, saying in an interview last weekend that he wanted the talks to resume.    


 
 
SUSPENDED MAJOR CAUGHT SPYING FOR PAKISTAN 
 
 
FROM ANAND SOONDAS
 
Lucknow, Sept. 6: 
A Major suspended on bribery charge was arrested here today for passing information to the ISI on army installations.

Taj Mohammad was caught red-handed tipping off two Nepalese nationals in Lucknow. Mohammad, previously attached to the army’s Central Command headquartered at Lucknow, claimed that the ISI had recruited “serving and retired army officers” to work for it through the Pakistan embassy in Nepal.

The Special Task Force team, which caught Mohammad along with a retired army subedar, Sant Ram Rai, has recovered from them incriminating documents showing they were on the payroll of the embassy.

Along with a fake passport, the two had with them copies of their TA/DA bills that had been reimbursed by the embassy.

The task force has also arrested the two Nepalese spies working for Pakistan.

The spies, identified as Naushad Ahmed and Mohammad Shakir from Biratnagar and Kosi Anchal in Nepal, said they had been “recruited” by Pakistani embassy officials to “bring retired and serving” army officials to Nepal so that they could be “bought over to” pass information about the armed forces’ movement.

The spies had with them minutes of some of the most sensitive and top-secret meetings held by the home department and army officials on ISI activities.

Ram Rai, the retired subedar, who possessed vital information about the movement of security forces and maps of defence installations, revealed that he was in contact with some serving army officials who have already been “bought over”.

The ex-subedar, who was caught with proof that he had been paid $ 600 for “previous information” he passed on to the Pakistan embassy in Nepal, said he had been at the job of “trapping and luring” serving army personnel for a year.

The police also recovered from the Pakistani spies letterheads of a BSP legislator and a Rajya Sabha MP. The police refused to divulge the names of the politicians as it was “too sensitive” in nature.

Task force sources said they are keeping a tab on the movements of some army officials and that some “major” arrests are lined up. The STF has already arrested 12 Pakistani agents with ISI links this year.    


 
 
GEORGE TO VISIT TROUBLED AREAS 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, Sept. 6: 
In an effort to placate Mamata Banerjee, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee met L.K. Advani, George Fernandes, attorney-general Soli Sorabjee and solicitor-general Harish Salve at his residence to take stock of law and order in West Bengal hours before leaving for the US.

Mamata is threatening to quit the Vajpayee government unless drastic action is taken by the Centre against the Jyoti Basu government.

It was decided that Fernandes would tour the violence-hit districts to get a spot report. Later, a home ministry team would also visit the state. The meeting decided to consult the Congress state leadership before taking any decision on the issue.    


 
 
PURNIMA MIRRORS KASHMIR AGONY 
 
 
FROM DIPTOSH MAJUMDAR
 
New Delhi, Sept. 6: 
As Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee kicks off his official tour of the US, Americans will wake up to Purnima, the four-year-old daughter of a labourer killed by militant bullets in Kashmir.

Purnima, who was among the many orphaned all over the Valley on the night when militant groups, angered by the Hizbul’s offer of ceasefire, went berserk, is the face of an ad campaign being unleashed by NRIs to register their protest against the killings in Kashmir.

The ad will first appear in the New York Times and then in a host of other important newspapers like theLos Angeles Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Times, The Times of London and Strait Times. The NRI lobby also plans to put it out in 20 languages.

The ad, called ‘Agony of India’, shows little Purnima, first baffled and then terrified at the sight of the devastated body of her dead father.

The copy says eight militant attacks on the fateful night across the state of Jammu and Kashmir killed at least 96 people. “How much... How much will be too much for India?” the ad asks.

It has moved the NRI community. Suddenly, there is a spate of calls from NRIs wanting to know how they can contribute to this cause. The NRIs believe that they are more effective lobbyists in Washington than the rusty Indian diplomatic establishment.

The campaign is meant to attract the attention of world leaders who have congregated in New York for the UN Millennium Summit. The NRI lobby feels that the international community ought to place Kashmir in the “right” perspective and realise that Pakistan is promoting cross-border “terrorism”.

Former journalist R.V. Pandit, ex-editor of Imprint and known to both Vajpayee and L.K. Advani, is the brain behind the ad campaign with Purnima as the centrepiece.

But though the campaign has the blessings of the Vajpayee administration, it is wholly an NRI effort and there is nothing “official” about it. However, the BJP government is happy that the ad will help in its lobbying with the US.

Pandit has funded the first few advertisements, but now a host of NRIs want to pump in money and queries are flooding the site, agonyofindia.com, which Pandit runs from his Maker Tower office in Cuffe Parade, Mumbai. There’s Suresh, Gopal Kamat, Uday Deo, Ashish, Indranil Roy, Debjit Mukherjee, Akash Pal, Tirumal Reddy, Partha Som — from all parts of the world, asking: “How could w contribute?”    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 30.4°C (-2)
Minimum: 26.5°C (+1)

Rainfall:

6.7 mm

Relative humidity

Maximum: 97%,
Minimum: 81%

Today

Possibility of light rain in some parts of the city and suburbs
Sunset: 5.47 pm
Sunrise: 5.23 am
   
 

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