Gates cash for Digvijay school
Bill power shock to Naidu
Bloodspill over battle for land
BJP eyes Cong formula
Jharkhand language row
Witchhunt kills 75-yr-old
Human face in plea for Veerappan 51

>New Delhi, Sept. 14: 
Chief ministers of all hues had queued up outside Maurya Sheraton to meet Bill Gates, but it was the man from Madhya Pradesh who stole the show when he received four crisp “In God We Trust” bills from the world’s richest man — in recognition of the state government’s highly successful “Education Guarantee Scheme”.

For once, the Microsoft man would not click the mouse. Though the idea behind the scheme is to get online sponsorship at “”, Gates paid his $ 400 in cash. The scheme, launched early this year, envisages sponsorship of primary schools all over the state which are in desperate need of funds.

A brainchild of the chief minister, the education guarantee scheme was conceived on a shoe-string budget, with the annual cost of running a school calculated at $ 400 — the amount Gates paid. The investors were asked to sponsor a school. In return, the Madhya Pradesh government has promised to make them “state guests” whenever they visited the state and see for themselves the functioning of the school.

“The idea was to attract NRIs and all those who have a concern for education in India. If you are in Boston, Leicester, Nairobi, Bangkok or Papua New Guinea, you just click a mouse and contribute in a meaningful way for those desperately in need of education,” Singh had said while launching the website.

Gates’ recognition of Singh’s commitment to education and development is another feather in the chief minister’s cap. Singh was recently invited to Geneva to deliver a lecture on hunger. The UNDP’s report on human resources development had showered lavish praise on the Madhya Pradesh chief minister. Nobel-laureate economist Amartya Sen had also appreciated Singh for his innovative methods to deal with hunger, poverty and illiteracy. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, too, had shot off a letter to all chief ministers of Congress-ruled states to follow in Singh’s footsteps in the co-operative movement.

In Delhi, education ministry officials agreed that Madhya Pradesh had taken great strides in the education sector in recent years. Singh has been able to impress upon the most backward groups — including tribals from Chhattisgarh, now designated a separate state — the need to educate their children. In Madhya Pradesh, not only is the number of primary schools growing at a high annual rate, but the number of school drop-outs is also going down.    

New Delhi, Sept. 14: 
Chandrababu Naidu surely hadn’t bargained for this shock in his 20-minute one-to-one with the world’s richest man. Though the meeting with Bill Gates ended on a business-like but cordial note, his query on the recent violence in Hyderabad over the power tariff hike made Naidu squirm in his seat.

The agitation against 80 per cent hike in power tariff by the Left parties and the Congress on August 28 had turned violent, resulting in the death of three agitators.

Sources said that though initially taken aback, the CEO of Andhra Pradesh told Gates that there was no cause for worry as his government was doing its best to ensure a smooth investor climate. It seems that the savvy politician succeeded in convincing Gates that they were stray protests and by the end of the meeting, Gates promised to collaborate with Naidu in a big way.

Sweeping aside the sustained protests against the hike, Naidu said his government was trying to effect reforms in all sectors though “reforms were a challenging area”. The chief minister said: “Changes cause hardship. But we are facing them to the best of our ability.”

Naidu harped on his government’s success in e-governance and flaunted instances of steady progress in computer application. Name-dropping without compunction, he boasted that Bill Clinton was impressed when he was given a driving licence within minutes during his visit to Hyderabad early this year.

The Microsoft boss is believed to have played ball with Naidu, saying that the only development centre of his company outside the US was in Hyderabad. He also informed Naidu of his interest in IT, education and the health sector.

Naidu said he made a presentation to Gates on the progress made by his state on IT since they first met in March 1997. This is the business-savvy chief minister’s fourth meeting with Gates. Naidu had followed up his second meeting with the software sultan at Seattle in 1998, with one at Davos early this year.

Naidu laid out his plans to set up a Global Institute of Governance in Information Age (GIGIA) and requested Gates to participate in the venture. He said Microsoft could develop products and integrate all services besides guiding the state technically. “I told him that if Microsoft integrate all products and programmes they would get a huge market here,” Naidu said.

In a great game of give-and-take, Naidu said Gates has promised a grant from the Gates Foundation to take up health related projects in the state. He, in turn, offered to lease him 200 acres of land for starting the Microsoft Mini Technopolis.

Naidu told Gates that his state had tremendous scope for investment in IT.    

Sept. 14: 
The bitter battle for territorial dominance between the Maoist Communist Centre and the Ali Sena may have led to yesterday’s bloodbath in Ranchi, police said. Nine people died in the fresh burst of violence in scarred Bihar.

The MCC holds sway over Ranchi and the bordering Gumla district while the Ali Sena, a private army of landlords from the minority community, has been expanding its base in Ranchi’s Bero block. The Sena’s leader, Osman Ali, is a resident of Naropi village. The shootout between the two groups started at a busy marketplace in the village around 5 pm.

Six members of the minority community died in the assault. Enraged Ali Sena supporters later gunned down three MCC cadre.

The killings prompted Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Laloo Yadav to visit Ranchi this morning.

R. Oraon, inspector-general of police (Ranchi), said the Ali Sena is trying to compete with the Ranbir Sena, its counterpart in central and north Bihar.

“The organisation is full of criminals who specialise in dacoities and murders,” he said.

“The only thing common between the two Senas is that they are both fighting the Naxalites,” added Gupteswar Pandey, senior superintendent of police.

Around 40 armed-to-the-teeth MCC supporters swooped down on the village and fired shots in the air to scare away the residents from the bustling marketplace.

The Naxalites then hunted down Ezaz Ali Ahmed, a Patna-based doctor, whom the MCC suspected of having links with the Ali Sena.

After killing him, the Naxalites picked out five other members of the minority community and shot them dead.

Ali Sena activists, who had gone into hiding, rushed out and gave chase to the fleeing

Naxalites. They began firing

and struck down three MCC


The Sena was set up in 1997 at Ranka Kalan village in Garwah district near Palamau. The original group consisted of Party Unity members who broke away after the merger with People’s War.

The MCC is supported by the Bhuyians and Chamars who had failed to get much out of their land and had been forced to sell them to the minorities.

On the other hand, the Muslim farmer has become a bustling community, buying land from the backward classes and turning them cultivable.

As a result, they were often the target of jealous Bhuyians and Chamars. The MCC has been championing their cause to prevent outsiders from taking over tribal land.

Over the past three years, the Sena, backed by converted tribals, has grown phenomenally.

The outfit has units in Lohardaga, Daltongunge and Palamau But the growth has been unprecedented in Ranchi dist- rict.

The Sena protects the converted land-owning tribals. “Still a minuscule organisation in comparison with the MCC, the Sena does not strike, it only hits back,” said a police officer in Bero.

Senior police officers in Ranchi said that clashes between the two outfits have been reported in the past from Gumla, Lohardaga and Ranchi’s northern blocks.    

New Delhi, Sept. 14: 
The BJP seems set to revive the Congress’ once-successful electoral formula of a Brahmin-Dalit combine in Uttar Pradesh for the Assembly polls next year.

A key BJP strategist said a campaign had been launched to project the newly-elected party president, Bangaru Laxman, as a “great Dalit leader” to consolidate its Dalit base and “use” Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and the new Uttar Pradesh BJP chief, Kalraj Mishra, as its Brahmin faces to retain the upper caste constituency.

Laxman will kick off his campaign with a rally in Kanpur tomorrow, followed by another in Bijnore on September 20. Both places have a sizeable Dalit population and are thought to be Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) strongholds.

At the same time, Mishra will flag off a Kisan Jagran Yatra from Deendayaldham in Mathura on September 25, the birthplace of Jan Sangh founder Deen Dayal Upadhyaya and end it in Ramnagar, which is near Benares and is the birthplace of Lal Bahadur Shastri, on October 2.

A senior BJP general secretary said the thrust of Laxman’s endeavour would be prove the party’s “pro-Dalit credentials” by highlighting the fact that for the first time, a ruling party had anointed a Dalit as its president. The campaign is also expected to play up the official positions given to other Dalit leaders by the BJP — of Suraj Bhan as Uttar Pradesh Governor and appointing a Dalit the vice-chancellor of the Banaras Hindu University for the first time.

The pro-Dalit focus of the BJP’s moves in Uttar Pradesh indicates that contrary to speculation, the party may not renew its alliance with the BSP. One of the reasons, reportedly, behind Mishra being chosen state unit president was he had a “good rapport” with BSP chief Mayavati, which might have proved “useful” in building its bridges again with her before the polls.

But despite its keenness to expand its social base among Dalits, BJP sources admitted that it would have to rethink its strategy to take into account its hard core Hindutva constituency as well.

Although sources denied that the VHP’s attempts to resurrect the Ayodhya issue at this point — it plans to launch a Jaipur-Ayodhya yatra to show off a model of the Ram temple during Dusshera — was meant to help the BJP electorally, they also conceded that the Hindutva voters could no longer be taken for granted. “In the last Lok Sabha polls, some of them did vote for the Congress and the Samajwadi Party,” a source admitted.

The BJP will also have to reckon with a strong anti-incumbency sentiment — which had dented its prospects considerably in 1999 — against the Ram Prakash Gupta government.

Sources said the new office-bearers were likely to meet soon, mainly to appoint the party leaders who would be in charge of the five states which will go to polls next year. Apart from Uttar Pradesh, the other states are West Bengal, Assam, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. While the BJP seems more or less determined to hold on to its alliance with the DMK in Tamil Nadu and the Trinamul Congress in West Bengal, it does not appear too interested in approaching the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) in Assam. “The AGP has lost ground badly and we do not want to repeat the mistake of Karnataka,” said sources, referring to the decision to back the Janata Dal (United) led by J.H. Patel in the last Assembly elections, despite the state BJP’s advice. The BJP feels that in Assam, there could be a straight fight with the Congress in several constituencies.

The BJP has decided to observe a “Nagpur message fortnight” from on Deen Dayal Upadhyaya’s birth anniversary on September 25. “It is meant to convey to the BJP’s rank and file the essence of the Nagpur message,” party spokesman M Venkaiah Naidu said. Senior leaders are expected to participate in this programme at which a booklet, containing Laxman’s presidential address in Nagpur and the political and economic resolutions adopted in the council session, would be given to the cadre.    

Jamshedpur, Sept. 14: 
The Santhali Bhasha Morcha has called a “rail-roko” agitation on September 25 to press for the recognition of Santhali as the official language of the new Jharkhand state. The organisation has also threatened a “social boycott” of tribal MLAs and MPs who do not extend support to their cause.

BJP MP from Mayurbhanj Salkhan Murmu, who spearheaded the Hul-Santhal language agitation a few years ago, held a series of meetings with local tribal intellectuals to chalk out a future course of action.

He is campaigning for the recognition of Ho, Mundari and Santhali as the official languages for the new state and their inclusion in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.

The morcha has earmarked 26 places in Bihar, West Bengal and Orissa for the proposed “rail-roko”. The blockade will also cover three tribal-dominated areas in Orissa.

According to Birsa Murmu, spokesman and general secretary of the organisation, at least 100 villages adjoining the railway stations are gearing up for the blockade. “Nearly 10,000 tribal villagers will squat on the tracks during the blockade,” he said.

The organisation has also sought donations from tribal intellectuals for the promotion of the language and is preparing a three-point charter of demands.

It has also shortlisted names of 100 intellectuals for the Maan Mohar Samman (an award for the recognition of literary work in tribal languages).

Many more organisations have launched similar movements in south Bihar for the recognition of local languages. The Ho-Mundari Bhasha Warang will take out a rally in the city on Tuesday to mark the 82nd birth anniversary of Guru Kol Lako Bodra — a social reformer credited with having evolved the script for Ho and Mundari languages.

The rally will focus on literary, social, cultural and religious aspects of the tribal society, said Sarang president Surendra Sundi.

Addressing a press conference, Sundi said: “The present education system does not promote the identity of the mool nivasis (aborigines) and thereby poses a major cultural threat. A time will come when our children will not know anything about their heritage.’’

Sources in the district headquarters here and at West Singhbhum said additional forces headed by a magistrate will be deployed in sensitive areas during the blockade.

Forester gheraoed

Hundreds of men and women from villages in the Dalma wildlife sanctuary today gheraoed the office of the ranger here in Mango to protest against frequent attacks by elephants.

The protesters were led by activists of the Dalma Mukti Vahini. According to Vahini leader Kapur Bagi, a villager, Yashodha Bhumij, was recently trampled to death by a tusker inside the sanctuary.

“She was not paid any compensation. Cases such as these are on the rise and officials are not taking effective steps to prevent elephants from straying,” he alleged.

Forest officials, however, refuted charges, saying 42 people have been compensated for damage to crops by elephants. Six families have been paid for rebuilding their houses and four compensated for injuries. The vahini also demanded an increase in the compensation package and threatened to intensify its agitation.    

Ranchi, Sept. 14: 
The ugly face of blind superstition bared itself again as an elderly woman was killed and another seriously injured after villagers assaulted them, accusing them of practising witchcraft.

Jeetan Devi, 75, and Dubhan Devi, 65, were severely beaten up, stripped and paraded naked through the streets of Gandhigram, 30 km from here, on Monday on suspicion that they were witches. Jeetan succumbed to her injuries and her body was dumped in a tribal burial ground.

An FIR has been lodged at the Angara police station by Paras Baltha, Jeetan’s son. Paras said Bigni, the 10-year-old daughter of Mahavir Oraon, died of hepatitis on Sunday.

Mahavir’s daughter-in-law Laxmi was “possessed” by spirits the next day and raved that Jeetan had cast an evil spell on Bigni, resulting in her sudden death.

On hearing Laxmi, Mahavir’s sons and other family members attacked Jeetan, the 50-year-old Paras alleged. They dragged her out of the house and severely beat her up.

She was stripped and her clothes were burnt. The assailants then tonsured her, smeared lime on her head and paraded her naked through the streets of the village. Jeetan was then detained in the primary health centre.

Paras added that after locking up his mother, the villa- gers turned their attention on Dubhan Devi. She was similarly tortured and locked up in a club.

Yesterday, the villagers unlocked the rooms and began beating the women again. Jeetan died and, in the ensuing commotion, Dubhan managed to escape.

The villagers summoned Etwa Naik, a barber, and as-ked him to dispose of Jeetan’s body.

It was later recovered from a tribal burial ground by the police, who rushed to Gandhigram after receiving news of the incident.

Angara police station officer-in-charge Ram Chandra Prasad said FIRs have been lodged against 14 persons, including three women. Four persons have been arrested so far.

Prasad said the incident was the first of its kind in the re-gion. Police protection has been provided to Dubhan’s family and Jeetan’s body has been sent to Ranchi for post-mor-tem.    

Chennai, Sept. 14: 
Forced into the backfoot by the Supreme Court directive on the Tada prisoners suspected to be Veerappan’s associates, the Karnataka government has argued that its decision to withdraw the cases against them was based on human concerns and should not be seen as a surrender before the bandit.

In its counter-affidavit filed before the Supreme Court yesterday, the government said it agreed to release the prisoners after taking into consideration “the overall picture and also the fact that the accused have been in custody from 1994 and, of them, 12 are women, one of whom is 70 years old”.

As many as 127 people were herded to prison in 1992 for killing two police officials who were part of the joint task force set up to nab the bandit. The prisoners were slapped with Tada charges two years later. Fifty-one of them are still languishing behind bars. Veerappan has demanded their release as the price for setting free his star hostage Raj Kumar.

The apex court blocked their release after hearing a petition from Abdul Kareem, father of one of the murdered officers, and severely ticked off the state for surrendering to the bandit.

However, the Karnataka affidavit is not as hard-hitting as it had promised to be. Apart from asserting that the public prosecutor did not act at the instance of any vested interest in choosing to withdraw the cases, the state only talks at length about the possible law and order upheaval in case anything untoward happens to the hostages. It has again pointed to the anti-Tamil riots of 1991 in the state, a statement already brushed aside by the division bench.

“Any step taken to contain the anger and anguish of the people is in order,” the government has said. Apparently, the S.M. Krishna regime is scared of antagonising the Supreme Court by taking a defiant stance, but some legal experts wondered whether raising the issue of law and order would carry conviction with the judges.

“Beyond a point, it would be embarrassing for the state to admit it has gone wrong in proceeding against the Tada undertrials,” said a lawyer.

While stalling their release, the bench had asked the Krishna government to “quit” if it could not nab the brigand.

The government, however, is confident of a successful appeal. Officials are pinning hopes on an earlier Supreme Court verdict that categorises Tada detainees.

In the Shaheen Welfare Association case, the apex court had ruled that the deprivation of personal liberty without prospect of trial being concluded within a reasonable time justified the invocation of Article 21 of the Constitution (guaranteeing the right to liberty).

It also said that Tada undertrials should be classified into four groups: hardcore, less hardcore, associates and remotely connected.

The court had then ruled that the same yardstick cannot be applied in all cases. While the hardcore “cannot receive liberal treatment”, the “less hardcore” could be released on bail “if they have been in prison for five years or more and their trial is not likely to be completed within the next six months”. The rest, the court observed, should be treated even more leniently and released on bail.

Pointing to the judgment, a senior official in the law department of the Karnataka government said: “Barring around 10 of the 51 detenus, the rest of them eminently qualify to be set free.”

Confident of a successful appeal, a senior officer associated with the case asserted: “We’re on pretty strong wicket. First, let me put it bluntly, there is a paucity of evidence against the accused. Second, in many cases, they have spent more time behind bars than the maximum punishment prescribed for the crimes they are charged with.”

An official referred to the 1980 Baroda Dynamite case — involving defence minister George Fernandes — and said that the apex court had then held that the decision of the public prosecutor to withdraw cases is final and cannot be challenged in any court.

“How can you say that our public prosecutor acted under pressure? We’ve been actively perusing the case for sometime,” he said.    


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