Foreign entry lock on print, for 45 years and some more
Bush nears finish line with court push
Caring face of Advani
Buddha to crack the whip on shirkers
Calcutta Weather

 
 
FOREIGN ENTRY LOCK ON PRINT, FOR 45 YEARS AND SOME MORE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Nov. 17: 
After dismantling economic shackles of later vintage, the BJP-led government today chose to persist with the prohibition on foreign entry into the print medium existing for 45 years.

The “national debate” information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj had promised last month, reopening the issue for no apparent reason, appears to be over without the nation knowing too much about it. At the end of it, Swaraj announced that the “concerns of 1995 (when the Cabinet passed a resolution against foreign investment) were still valid”.

These concerns are that foreign-owned publications could influence the political process. It has not been made clear, though, how the print medium with far less reach than the electronic medium — where all manner of fully foreign-owned broadcasters are beaming into people’s homes round the clock — can exert that influence.

Swaraj told reporters that there was “no need” to permit foreign investment as “media are not just another sector of trade which you can open blindly”.

Other forms of media have been opened up, though, the ban now relevant only for print.

She said the decision to continue with it crystallised after a recent meeting with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. The decision will be “valid for years”, she added. This is the third time the Union government is shooting down the proposal.

According to the minister, a “national debate” meant talking to various associations representing the print medium. She said the discussions had thrown up the majority view that foreign investment “is not desirable”.

The government is, however, considering allowing some foreign magazines and journals relating to research and development, computers, medical sciences and educational publications like National Geographic. However, it is still being debated if publication should be allowed through the investment route or under a franchisee agreement.

At a meeting on October 23, the executive committee of the Indian Newspaper Society adopted a resolution where it iterated its decision of September 1994 and December 1999 that foreign entry should be opposed.

But the print medium’s reaction to today’s announcement is divided. Aroon Purie, editor-in-chief of India Today, said: “Once again the lobbies of Indian newspapers have successfully blocked entry of FDI”.

Purie considers the so-called national debate “a wrong approach”. He wondered if the government had been as assiduous in seeking opinion in other sectors of the economy before opening them up.

“If you ask a chicken if it can be had for dinner, naturally its answer will be a no,” he said.

N. Murali, joint managing director of The Hindu, said: “The minister’s announcement shows a lot of sense. The print medium has had a long tradition and history of independence. It is a limb of democracy.”    


 
 
BUSH NEARS FINISH LINE WITH COURT PUSH 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, Nov. 17: 
In a potentially devastating blow to Al Gore’s chances of winning the presidency, a Florida judge today rejected the Democrat’s request that manual vote recounts be included in the state’s final tally.

Although Leon county circuit judge Terry Lewis’ decision was celebrated as a landmark victory in the Republican camp of George W. Bush, their joy was shortlived as the full text of the judgment made it clear that the presidential election was back to square one.

While upholding Florida secretary of state Katherine Harris’ discretion not to include results from manual recounts, he left open the possibility of her decision being challenged if the manual returns finally change the poll outcome.

The Democrats immediately filed an appeal in the Florida Supreme Court challenging the ruling. Further complicating the Florida outcome is a petition filed by voters in Palm Beach county calling for a repoll on the ground that they were disenfranchised by confusing ballot papers.

However, if the higher court backs Lewis’ ruling, Bush appears likely to be elected President. Bush, the Texas Governor, has a 300-vote lead in Florida and Republicans believe a majority of the 3,000 or so absentee ballots that remain to be counted will go for Bush.

Counting of the overseas postal ballots began today and initial results from four of the 67 counties showed the unthinkable: there was a tie in the votes for both Bush and Gore.

Even as manual recounts were ongoing in Palm Beach and Broward counties, Lewis ruled that Harris, a Republican derided as a “lackey” of the Bush camp by the Gore side, acted within her right in deciding that the hand counts will not be included in the state’s final vote tally.

Reading from the ruling before a throng of TV cameras, court administrator Terre Kast said that based “on the limited evidence presented”, it appeared that Harris had “exercised her reasoned judgement” in making her decision.

Florida election official Bob Crawford, a Democrat who endorsed Bush, told CNN: “It upholds what we have been saying all along — that there does have to be a cutoff at some point to make these elections reasonable and credible.”

Harris said on Wednesday that she would refuse to accept the results of manual recounts of ballots in Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward counties, heavily Democratic areas where Democrats have pushed for recounts looking for extra Gore votes to erase Bush’s slim margin.

Unless a new ruling is issued by the higher court, Harris was poised to declare the winner of the state’s 25 electoral college votes that will determine the next President after certification tomorrow.

Bush’s vice-presidential running mate, Dick Cheney, told a TV network last night the Bush camp was ready to claim the presidency if the state’s certification on Saturday shows him still in the lead in Florida.

“We believe that once you take the absentee ballots, and add them to the already certified count — whether it shows Al Gore ahead or whether it shows George Bush ahead — that’ll be the result,” Cheney said.

A top Gore representative in Florida, former secretary of state Warren Christopher, said before the ruling that the Gore camp was prepared to challenge state certification if hand counts are still under way.

“We’ll take all the legal steps we can,” Christopher said. “But I hope that won’t be necessary. It seems to me to be a good time to lower our voices and try to ensure that the American people gain some confidence in this process.”

Adding to public concern is the uncomfortable reality that the welter of cases and judgments over the poll have called into question the integrity of all concerned. Democrats accuse Harris, a Republican, of being partisan. For their part, the Republicans have expressed doubts about the impartiality of the Florida Supreme Court. All the seven justices were appointed by Democrats.    


 
 
CARING FACE OF ADVANI 
 
 
FROM CHANDAN NANDY
 
New Delhi, Nov. 17: 
Home minister L.K. Advani today requested Myanmarese counterpart Maung Aye to ensure that Yangon take proper care of Bahadur Shah Zafar’s mausoleum at Mandalay, where he was banished by the British.

Advani believes that Bahadur Shah, the symbol around whom India’s first war of independence was fought in 1857, is more Indian than Pakistani and fears that Islamabad might try to appropriate the remains of the last Mughal emperor because of his origins.

He told reporters today that Pakistan’s chief executive Pervez Musharraf might raise the mausoleum issue during his December visit to Myanmar and try to convince Yangon that the emperor who died in the infamous Mandalay prison in 1862 is part of Pakistani history.

“Pakistan may try to appropriate Bahadur Shah’s remains even though he was the symbol of India’s first war of independence. In fact, Bahadur Shah also represented a section of India’s fight against colonialism,” he told a select group of reporters.

“So I asked my Myanmarese counterpart whether the Indian government can contribute money for the maintenance and upkeep of the mausoleum.”

Aye is believed to have assured the home minister that his government would do everything possible to restore the mausoleum to its original glory.

Advani, however, said that the vice-chairman of the State Peace and Development Committee — the country’s ruling junta — made it clear that his government wouldn’t do anything to “convert the mausoleum into a religious place”.

But he added that the “Indian government would be happy if Myanmar accords due recognition to Bahadur Shah’s grave”.

After putting in his request, it was Advani’s turn to reciprocate with a similar gesture.

He told Aye that the Centre will do its best to restore the grandeur of a particular place in Ratnagiri, south Maharashtra, where the remains of the last Buddhist monarch of Burma, King Thibaw, lie buried.

King Thibaw died in Ratnagiri, an ancient centre of Buddhist architecture, during his exile following his defeat in the Anglo-Burma war in the 1860s.    


 
 
BUDDHA TO CRACK THE WHIP ON SHIRKERS 
 
 
BY INDRANIL GHOSH
 
Calcutta, Nov. 17: 
The government is planning a string of measures to tone up functioning, weed out corruption and make its large army of employees responsive to popular expectations, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee told The Telegraph in an interview.

Bhattacharjee said the government will soon unveil a policy of productivity-based assessment for its employees who are heavily unionised and are often perceived as a hurdle in the way of implementation of policies.

“We are giving finishing touches to the policy which will be unveiled in a day or two,” Bhattacharjee said, adding that the government will now act tough with shirkers. “The existing law has given us the powers to be tough.”

Providing a measure of its resolve to combat corruption in high places, the government — with Bhattacharjee taking the initiative — has cleared the decks for the suspension of two senior bureaucrats on charges of corruption and misconduct.

The officials refused to comment.

In a one-and-half hour interview, Bhattacharjee spoke about his agenda for industrialisation of Bengal, shared his concerns about the role of Citu, the monolithic labour arm of the CPM, and his plans for the youth of Bengal, from where the younger generation is moving away in search of jobs or business opportunities.

Bhattacharjee said Bengal is set to witness an explosion in information technology with Wipro already committed to invest and many national and international companies like the Tatas and IBM planning to invest in a big way. The government is planning to attract investments in the IT sector by offering land as incentive and focusing on skilled human resources.

Already, international giants like IBM and a few Japanese firms have promised to start training projects either singly or in collaboration with state run-organisations like IIIT or Webel.

Among the IT areas now in Bhattacharjee’s focus are e-commerce and e-training where he feels the growth potential is enormous.

Discounting media reports that Haldia Petrochemicals was a stillborn project, Bhattacharjee said the venture was sound, drawing huge downstream investments and benefitting other states in the region. “Our products are superior to Reliance’s,” the chief minister claimed.

The government has received concrete investment proposals for a second plant from Mitsubishi Chemical Company and South Asian Chemicals Company, he added.

Bhattacharjee, just a little more than a week into his job, said Citu, which in the past had opposed the government’s privatisation plans, was falling in line as it had realised that political, industrial and trade union norms were changing across the world. He said he had made it clear to the CPM that he would not accept any day-to-day interference in the working of the government, even if it meant shuffling pro and anti-CPM officials in key districts before the elections.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 29.9°C (+l)
Minimum: 19.9°C (+2)

Rainfall:

NIL

Relative humidity

Maximum: 96%,
Minimum: 58%

Today

Partly cloudy day. Mainly clear night. Minimum temperature likely to be around 19°C.    

 

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