Sold Bonita weds Bidyadhar to buy legitimacy for children
Blunder & brawl buried
CBI nets cricket small change
PM wheelchair parade derailed
Calcutta weather

 
 
SOLD BONITA WEDS BIDYADHAR TO BUY LEGITIMACY FOR CHILDREN 
 
 
FROM SUMIT DAS GUPTA
 
Khatimunda (Bolangir), Oct. 21: 
She is 28, made famous by one of the most infamous episodes in Independent India — being sold off as a teenager by her family fighting starvation in Orissa’s Kalahandi.

He is 46, the blind son of the old man she had been sold off to, and now the father of her five children.

On Saturday, under a mouldy makeshift shamiana in front of their mud hut at Khatimunda village in Bolangir, Bonita and Bidyadhar Podho finally “tied the knot” after living as “man” and “wife” for over a decade.

In the autumn twilight, Bonita sat quietly, her three daughters and two sons clinging to her, lending the groom a helping hand in carrying out the instructions of purohit Minaketan Mishra.

“This is a very important day in my life,” Bonita, in bright orange saree, multi-coloured tiara and red bangles said. “After this, we will not be treated as ‘outsiders’ in the village anymore. And there will be no social restriction on the marriage of my daughters.”

Bonita’s decision to marry the man she’s lived with and supported since 1998, after Pati Podho, Bidyadhar’s father, died, was driven by the dual cause of “giving legitimacy to my children” and “being accepted by the Gauda society”.

“I am also relieved that we will now be allowed to perform the rites of my father-in-law and the konabura (pre-puberty ceremony) of my eldest daughter, Kalabati, who is 11,” said Bonita, an Anganwadi helper.

If the scores of villagers heading for the Podho home for the traditional “feast” and the sights and sounds of revelry in a remote corner, 428 km west of Bhubaneswar, were any indication, Bonita’s life took a “legitimate” turn this evening. The most poignant symbol of this new-found social sanction was a tearful reunion, after 15 years, with mother Sansara Bag.

When Bonita was sold by sister-in law Fanas Punji, Sansara had rushed to help her daughter. “But I realised I could do nothing as I had no money. And I decided to stay away,” she recalled. “But today I just had to come to see her.”

Fanas was also there to bless the girl she had sold to “feed her children”. “I am feeling good for Bonita... and relieved that a feeling of guilt is gone,” she said.

The scale on which the occasion was organised was obviously something that the poverty-plagued hamlet hadn’t seen for quite a while — made possible by Congress leader and Nava Nirman Manch president, Bhakta Charan Das. The wedding cost over Rs 25,000, according to Shiva Shankar Pattnaik, zilla parishad president and Das’ representative for the day. He also performed the kanyadaan.

The shopping list included a saree, bangles and rings, two quintals of rice, meat and four goats for four ceremonies — marriage, shraadh, konabura and the feast.

But it took a mother to put the lurking sense of melancholy into perspective — a woman with vacant look performing the marriage rites as her five children swamp her for security, the youngest refusing to budge from her lap and fiddling with her bridal finery.

“What is achieved by this?” demanded Sansara, minutes after Bonita helped Bidyadhar fasten the mangalsutra. “Nothing has changed. My daughter will still walk 10 km a day to earn Rs 260 a month to feed so many mouths, while politicians make false promises. As long as there is poverty and hunger, how can daughters be safe? They will continue to be sold, in one form or another.”    


 
 
BLUNDER & BRAWL BURIED 
 
 
FROM INDRANIL GHOSH AND MONOBINA GUPTA
 
Thiruvananthapuram, Oct. 21: 
The CPM today confirmed that it has decided to lift a 36-year-old bar on joining a government at the Centre, prompting pro-changers to sheathe swords and rally behind the party in its fight against Mamata Banerjee.

Politburo member Prakash Karat said the scope of a proviso, which forced the CPM to squander a rare opportunity four years ago to lead a government at the Centre, would be expanded to allow the party to consider sharing power if the “concrete situation” demanded so.

Karat, one of the hardliners who advocated status quo in 1996, was at pains to stress that the decision then could not be faulted as it was in line with the “reality” four years ago. Jyoti Basu had later termed the refusal to join the government a “historic blunder”.

The “correction” of the blunder is expected to help the CPM put in a forceful argument when it tries tomorrow to convince erstwhile Third Front partners to come together again.

But the immediate gain was the apparent olive branch held out by Subhas Chakraborty, the perceived arrowhead of dissidents in the party. Showering a mix of encomiums and cursory criticism, Chakraborty put the leadership at ease by berating Mamata and pledging his loyalty to the CPM.

Another notable pro-changer from Bengal, Goutam Deb, also toed the party line, but only after making trenchant observations on the relevance of certain aspects of the CPM’s approach to socialism.

But Chakraborty’s unequivocal support to the draft of the updated programme overshadowed the other developments of the day.

“I have been a party member for a long time. I have attended many party conferences and been associated with its policies. I have no hesitation to wholeheartedly support this document as well,” he told the delegates at the programme update session here.

Warming the leadership’s hearts further, Chakraborty targeted the Trinamul-BJP combine — once considered a potential refuge for disgruntled CPM leaders. “The emergence of this force is not a happy development. A large number of our party supporters is being killed by them,” he said.

Mildly criticising the leadership for turning back on the 1996 opportunity, Chakraborty said the CPM could have initiated on a national scale policies like land reforms which made it a force in Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. “If only we had responded to the situation four years ago, the present condition in India might not have arisen,” he added.

An area where he appeared to be countering the party’s position was the issue of class versus caste. The postulate that politics was all about class conflict should be re-examined as caste considerations often supplant class issues in India, he said.    


 
 
CBI NETS CRICKET SMALL CHANGE 
 
 
FROM CHANDAN NANDY
 
New Delhi, Oct. 21: 
Contrary to the hype surrounding the magnitude of the amount involved in the match-fixing scandal, the CBI has been able to unearth cash transactions of only a few lakhs between bookies and four former Indian cricketers.

In its report on cricketers’ links with punters, the investigating agency has named a former India captain, a former middle-order batsman and two former all-rounders for having accepted money to throw matches.

Kapil Dev, who was accused by Manoj Prabhakar of having offered him Rs 25 lakh to underperform, has been given a clean chit.

The names of two English cricketers and three Pakistanis, at least one of them still in the team, have cropped up “indirectly”.

It is unlikely that any criminal case will be lodged against the four Indians. Law ministry sources, who vetted the report, disclosed that “all legal opinion” has been taken and the CBI is considering what recommendation it should make, though neither cheating (Section 420 of the IPC) nor gambling is made out.

“It is still being debated what law to apply and how to proceed,” an official said.

It’s also doubtful whether provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act can be sustainable because of the “not so strong” evidence against the players, two of whom are employees with government undertakings, for amassing disproportionate wealth.

Senior CBI officials, however, insisted that “no case” is being made out and it will be up to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to take action.

The CBI report, which is expected to be submitted to the sports ministry by the middle of next week, says the four cricketers took bribes from bookies and match-fixers to throw games or manipulate the results by underperforming. The bulk of the money went to the former captain and the middle-order batsman.

According to the report, no bank transfer of moneys took place and almost all transactions were in hard cash.

The CBI could not dig up monetary transactions that may have taken place more than five years ago, suggesting that most of the cases are relatively recent.

The bureau also says the former all-rounder who blew the whistle on match-fixing had links with Delhi-based bookies and “is no angel” as he tried to prove.

In the course of its “preliminary inquiry”, the CBI obtained a wealth of information from Mumbai and Delhi bookies, including Mukesh Gupta, who was known to the former skipper.

A startling aspect of the report is how the Mumbai underworld penetrated the betting ring. The CBI says members of the underworld “ran” and “controlled” some of the bookmakers.

But the agency has found no proof to substantiate Ravi Shastri’s allegations (made to Prabhakar on film) that Azharuddin was under the protection of Dawood Ibrahim. “There is no evidence to suggest that the four players were close to individual crimelords,” an official said.    


 
 
PM WHEELCHAIR PARADE DERAILED 
 
 
FROM DEBASHIS BHATTACHARYYA
 
Mumbai, Oct. 21: 
The BJP was ready with a wheelchair, ramp and an open jeep to take Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport tomorrow for his flight back home. Only, the Prime Minister’s securitymen brought their heavy boots down on the plan.

There was no question of the Prime Minister travelling in an open vehicle, Special Protection Group officials ruled, refusing to leave Vajpayee’s security to his partymen. The 25-km journey from Breach Candy hospital to the airport was too long for the Prime Minister to travel in an open jeep, they explained.

“We had to give up the idea because the Prime Minister’s security officials objected,” said a disappointed Vinod Tawde, the BJP’s Mumbai president. “What can we do? It is a question of the Prime Minister’s safety.”

Vajpayee’s securitymen also shot down the suggestion of letting him travel to the airport in a car with the windows rolled down. “The same question of security came in,” Tawde said.

Prevented from meeting Vajpayee since his October 9 operation, local BJP leaders had planned to give him a “warm” send-off. “We were ready with a wheelchair and a ramp so he would not have any trouble getting into the vehicle and travelling to the airport,” party MLA Atul Shah said. “The idea was to let people have a glimpse of the Prime Minister, and him of the people.”

Shah said the BJP had meticulously planned the journey in a meeting attended by all the local units yesterday. He said he still hoped that Vajpayee’s securitymen would give the go ahead. “But, at the same time, we are also extremely concerned about the Prime Minister’s security and would not like to do anything that can put him in jeopardy,” Shah added.

Open jeep or not, the BJP today left no stones unturned to make Vajpayee’s journey home memorable. The party erected nearly 300 arches along the road to the airport in Santacruz. The stretch was also draped with his cutouts and banners, hailing the Prime Minister as “the hero of Kargil”.

Just outside the hospital, party workers hung a huge banner yesterday of Vajpayee stretching several yards. It had the banner signed with “get well” messages by school children and movie stars, including Juhi Chawla.

Tawde said the party was making sure that the road to the airport is lined with people. “People from all walks of life have been invited to bid the Prime Minister goodbye,” Shah added.

As Vajpayee prepared to head home in time for Diwali, his aides started winding up his make-shift office next to his seventh-floor room. Ashok Tandon, Vajpayee’s media advisor, said the Prime Minister was “fit enough” to resume his official duty and would attend his 7 Race Course residence office from Monday. “He is already reading and signing important files.”

Vajpayee will, however, would stay away from outdoor meetings and public functions for some time on the advice of his doctors, Tandon said.

Vajpayee strolled down the hospital corridor for several minutes with a walker as the hospital declared him fit for release. Doctors expect him to walk with a stick sometime next week. He looked happy today as he distributed sweets to hospital staff.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 35.2°C (+3)
Minimum: 26.7°C (+4)

Rainfall

NIL

Relative Humidity

Maximum: 97%,
Minimum: 46%

Today

Partly cloudy sky, mainly clear night. Maximum and minimum temperature likely to be around 35°C and 24°C respectively

Sunset: 5.03 pm
Sunrise: 5.40 am
   
 

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