Basu trashes George, Advani trashes Basu
Atal’s crack force to break business shackles
IT-savvy & me-toos on date with Gates
B2 takes charge from Charger
Calcutta weather

 
 
BASU TRASHES GEORGE, ADVANI TRASHES BASU 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Sept. 13: 
The Centre today rubbished Jyoti Basu’s letter to home minister L.K. Advani, saying it was not comprehensive enough and does not address some of the questions raised by North Block in its advisories to Writers’ Buildings.

Advani has called a meeting of ministry officials tomorrow to discuss the next move. Indications are that a high-level team could visit West Bengal later this week.

Hours before receiving the much-awaited missive, Advani met President K.R. Narayanan and briefed him on the law and order in Bengal and how the Centre was monitoring the state’s handling of political violence.

Following defence minister George Fernandes’ report last Friday, Union home secretary Kamal Pande had asked Bengal chief secretary Manish Gupta to immediately despatch an updated and a more detailed statement on clashes between CPM and Trinamul-BJP supporters.

Basu, who had taken the initiative, saying he, and not the chief secretary, will reply to the Centre’s queries, debunked Fernandes’ report, saying the minister did not “bother to talk to district officials or me or the deputy chief minister”.

Fernandes, who is believed to have told Advani that the political clashes were worse than what he has seen or experienced in Bihar, scoffed at Basu’s response.

“There is nothing in the letter and it does not reply to any of my findings contained in the report that I submitted to the home minister,” said the defence minister, who is also the convenor of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Fernandes described as “nonsense” Basu’s claim that he visited the state because of pressure from Trinamul leader and NDA partner Mamata Banerjee. “There was no threat from her and Basu made his observations on a false premise. It was the Prime Minister who had asked me to go to the state,” he said.

The three-page faxed missive, signed by the chief minister, reached the home minister’s office around 5.30 pm. Advani read Basu’s response “very carefully” and is then believed to have remarked to officials that “there is nothing” in the letter and “most of it has been directed at Fernandes”.

A dissatisfied ministry is peeved that none of the points raised in its advisories has been addressed by Basu. “There is no indication in the letter that says that any effort has been made to tone-up the district administration,” an official said.

The officials also wondered how the state could release a demi-official letter to the media in Calcutta ahead of its reaching the home minister.

Advani will chair a meeting of officials tomorrow where he will discuss despatching a ministry team to the state to review law and order and the functioning of the administration. Indications are that a Central team could visit Bengal as early as Friday or Saturday.

“The composition of the team has to be finalised and a date fixed,” an official said. “This time, the team will meet state government officials,” he added.

Basu, who had criticised Fernandes for not meeting state officials, drew a sharp reaction from the defence minister. “He is making out a case as if I was intruding into the state,” Fernandes said.

“My report was concrete and specific. It was based on seven hours of interaction with people of three affected villages and representations made by local residents. The chief minister has not touched upon, let alone replied, to any of these,” he said.

An NDA team which visited the state earlier this month has said in its report that the Delhi should clamp Article 355 on Bengal, under which the Centre can declared some violence-hit areas as “disturbed”. (See Page 8)    


 
 
ATAL’S CRACK FORCE TO BREAK BUSINESS SHACKLES 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
New York, Sept. 13: 
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today announced the setting up of a Strategic Management Group in the Prime Minister’s Office to speedily resolve difficulties in the way of implementing large investment projects.

Addressing a US-India Business Summit shortly before leaving for Washington to begin his “official” visit to the US, Vajpayee said an inter-ministerial team would assist this group. The group itself will report directly to the Prime Minister once a month.

Candidly speaking before a large group of American and Indian-American businessmen who braved unseasonal rains lashing the Big Apple, Vajpayee said: “I realise that apart from motivating you, we also need to change. I am not unmindful that you often find our rules, regulations and procedures burdensome.”

He said there is an image problem, often described as the “hassles of doing business in India”. He described this as a communication gap, in part. “The success stories do not circulate fast enough. One failure proves infectious.”

Vajpayee conceded that many approved projects were languishing and that assistance in project implementation was an area which needed to be strengthened.

Reiterating his government’s commitment to reforms, Vajpayee said often, the project-related problems concern state governments. He promised to urge chief ministers to follow the PMO’s initiative in setting up the Strategic Management Group. “I am sure that this will impart some momentum and seriousness to address implementational concerns,” he said.

Urging American businessmen not to be overly influenced by the size of the present Indo-US bilateral economic engagement, he hoped they would take a long-term view by looking at the magnitude of the opportunities and rewards in future.

He regretted that approvals for US investment in India in the last 10 years was a mere $15 billion. “Actual flows are even smaller,” he said. He called for a target of $5 billion inflow annually beginning next year, rising to $15 billion in three years. Similarly, bilateral trade should double over the next three years, he said, adding: “there is enough scope for that”.

The Prime Minister said: “The interests of India and the US are complementary. Let us harness this complementarity to the fullest.” He dismissed differences among political parties on economic reforms by saying that these are natural in a democracy. “Open public discussion fortifies national consensus. It mobilises social support and protects reforms from uncertainties of political change.” He claimed that reforms were now being perceived as less and less “elitist driven”.

The Business Summit, organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry had been cancelled earlier on account of changes in Vajpayee’s programme in New York on account of ill-health.

The response to a rescheduled summit in a city where such events are fixed up months ahead showed the tremendous interest among American businessmen in opportunities in India.    


 
 
IT-SAVVY & ME-TOOS ON DATE WITH GATES 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Sept. 13: 
Forest fiend Veerappan has kept M. Karunanidhi pinned to Chennai, but man-about-town S.M. Krishna is flying out of Bangalore for a date with Bill Gates tomorrow.

Fans of Raj Kumar, kidnapped by Veerappan, may not look kindly upon Krishna’s decision to put the Microsoft boss ahead of the Kannada film idol, but Bangalore rival Hyderabad’s Chandrababu Naidu is going to the chief ministers’ meeting Gates has called in Delhi.

So will a gaggle of their counterparts from other states. Krishna and Naidu, known infotech aficionados, had better expect some competition and not from some unexpected quarters, too.

Punjab’s greybeard Parkash Singh Badal, not quite the laptop-carrying kind, is hopping over from Chandigarh for the luncheon meeting with a proposal for collaboration up his sleeve.

Giving him company in the same age group will be Ram Prakash Gupta, of Uttar Pradesh, who seems to respond to calls not from Ram Lalla alone, but also from a presiding deity of the temple of modern capitalism.

He isn’t going with empty hands either. On the eve of the rendezvous, he announced an information technology action plan. At the meeting, Gupta will focus on facilitating research on animation with IIT, Kanpur.

The other chief ministers who have confirmed participation are Sheila Dixit of Delhi and Keshubhai Patel of Gujarat. Bengal’s Jyoti Basu is not going, nor is his deputy. Instead, an infotech-savvy bureaucrat will represent the state, perhaps the odd man out in a group of chief ministers or, at least, IT ministers.

Apart from the meeting with chief ministers, Bill Gates is also expected to announce some business alliances tomorrow. The speculation is that Microsoft will join hands with India’s infotech leaders Infosys Technologies and Wipro in strategic alliances.

Although details of the alliances could not be ascertained as Infosys officials remained tightlipped, sources said an announcement would be made by the Microsoft chief in Delhi tomorrow.

Industry sources expect the announcement to be a marketing tie-up for Infosys’ banking software. Infosys has been posting impressive performances every year and is already an internationally-recognised infotech leader, but an association with Microsoft brings its own halo. Rumour about a tie-up has pushed the value of Infosys (in terms of share price) up by more than Rs 2,000 crore in the past couple of days.

The share, trading at Rs 7,298 on August 14, has steadily crept up as foreign institutional investors and market operators have made heavy purchases expecting a strategic tie-up.    


 
 
B2 TAKES CHARGE FROM CHARGER 
 
 
FROM SUCHANDANA GUPTA
 
Bhopal, Sept. 13: 
Charger checkmated Barkha. Now grandson B2 is charging at him.

Away from Delhi’s corridors of power, a bitter saga of succession is unfolding in the jungles of Madhya Pradesh.

Charger, the king of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, who usurped his predecessor Barkha’s throne, has been toppled by his grandson B2.

Charger appeared in Bandhavgarh in the spring of 1990. At that time, the patriarch of the Tala range of forests was 15-year-old Barkha.

Barkha was already ageing when 7-year-old Charger made his entry — ferocious, with a roar like thunder and speed like wind.

“No one knows where he came from. He could have come from the neighbouring Panpatha sanctuary,” said S.K. Tiwari, a tour operator in Bandhavgarh and a wildlife photographer.

“He was named Charger by the wildlife department because he charged at everything. He spared no one. When he first appeared in Bandhavgarh, the tiger was shocked to see elephants, jeeps and human beings from close quarters. In self-defence, he started charging, giving mahouts and tourists a tough time. All these charges were mock-charges, though. He harmed no human,” says Tiwari.

“But then he started having regular fights with Barkha, gradually pushing him out of his territory,” continues Tiwari. “By the winter of 1990, Barkha was injured and unable to hunt.” Madras-based cinematographer Ashish Chandola recorded Barkha’s plight in a film called Tigers Next Door.

Barkha died in 1991: Charger had attacked him and left him to die. Charger occupied more than half of the 105 sq km tiger reserve area as his own domain, allowing no other male tiger to enter this zone. “Of the 48 tigers in the forest then, he chose Sita, one of Barkha’s mates, as his own,” Tiwari recalled. Later he switched to three other younger females. “He sired 11 cubs. Sita bore four of these.”

For a decade, till this April, Charger ruled over Bandhavgarh. Forest officials were puzzled as this was the first time that a tiger’s reign had lasted for so long. No other tiger ventured anywhere near the king’s domain and Charger lived happily with his consorts and children till this summer, when all of a sudden he faced his nemesis in one of his grandcubs.

Officials are perplexed that the challenge to Charger’s authority has come from a “sub-adult” male. B2, the second cub of Charger’s daughter Bacchi, was eyeing his grandfather’s ‘throne’. “Born in April 1997, B2 is the only male who has taken on Charger. Less than four years of age, B2 is not fully adult. He was the second cub of Bacchi’s first litter,” officials said.

Charger spent this summer trying to meet B2’s might, but the regular fights left him injured and limping. He had some of his canines broken and lost some teeth.

The complete take-over by B2 took place sometime around May-June this year. “Charger stopped coming to Chakradhara, the centre of his territory where he usually roamed. We found he was spending more time near the Mahaman waterholes,” said P.K. Mishra, the state’s chief wildlife warden.

In early June, Charger disappeared mysteriously. A worried forest department sent teams to track down the old king of the jungle. A search operation was conducted for a week after which they found him bruised. The king was starving and waiting for death.

The forest department immediately put an enclosure around Charger so that B2 could not repeat his attacks. The dying tiger did not have the strength to eat on his own, so the department authorities ordered manual and captive feeding inside the enclosure. In July, they shifted him to a larger enclosure inside the reserve ve where the king had once ruled.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 31.2°C (-1)
Minimum: 27.9°C (+2l)

Rainfall:

7.8 mm

Relative humidity

Maximum: 978%,
Minimum: 69%

Today

Light to moderate rain with one or two heavy showers in the city and its suburbs.
Sunset: 5.45 pm
Sunrise: 5.25 am
   
 

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