Azhar left with minnow in the dock
Housewife clubbed to death
New deadlock in US elections as Florida certifies
Indian jigsaw with three pieces
Calcutta Weather

Calcutta, Nov. 27: 
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) commissioner, K. Madhavan, has found Mohammed Azharuddin and Ajay Sharma guilty of match-fixing.

A perusal of Madhavan’s report, a copy of which is with The Telegraph, reveals Azhar specially has been nailed on all counts.

However, Madhavan, assigned by the BCCI to “assess” the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) report into match-fixing, has cleared Nayan Mongia of wrongdoing, but has been somewhat ambiguous on Ajay Jadeja’s role.

It’s intriguing — unbelievable, in fact —- that Azhar, who admitted his guilt to the CBI, alone among current players could have fixed matches.

Azhar, it may be recalled, named Jadeja and Mongia as fellow match-fixers during his deposition before the CBI.

Manoj Prabhakar has also been given a clean chit, while Sharma has only been absolved of fixing matches “in which he played”.

Barring Mongia, though, all the players have been held guilty of links with bookies and acting in a manner unbecoming of an India cricketer.

As for the non-players, former physio Dr Ali Irani has been nailed for acting as a conduit between “players and betting syndicates”, whereas suspended Kotla groundsman Ram Adhar Choudhary has been cleared.

Madhavan, therefore, has gone along with most of the CBI’s findings. He didn’t, of course, focus on the involvement of the overseas players (“beyond my jurisdiction”). The commissioner’s report will be placed before the BCCI’s three-member disciplinary committee which meets in New Delhi tomorrow.

With Madhavan corroborating the CBI’s Azhar-specific findings, a life ban awaits him. As Azhar is already in the December of his career, it won’t mean much in real terms, except that his big-league innings will end at 99 Tests.

What Messrs A.C. Muthiah, Kamal Morarka (he’s returned from an overseas trip) and Ram Prasad, the committee members, feel about the rest is open to speculation.

They will largely be guided by the recently-formulated Code of Conduct.

Actually, with Mongia exonerated, the only one who really stands to lose (on paper, at least) is Jadeja. Prabhakar, after all, quit playing years ago and Sharma couldn’t even make the Delhi team.

But with Madhavan not indicting Jadeja of match-fixing, even he may get off lightly.

Madhavan’s report on Jadeja is bound to be quietly welcomed by a clutch of people, both within the BCCI and outside, known to have a soft corner for the one-time (limited overs) India captain.

The committee’s recommendations, meanwhile, will be placed before the special general body meeting, slated to be held in the city Wednesday, and also discussed by the BCCI’s Core Group.

There was a move to hold the disciplinary committee meeting here, as well, but was dropped as it apparently didn’t have the approval of local strongman Jagmohan Dalmiya.

As the issue is more than just sensitive, Dalmiya could needlessly have been accused of influencing the members. At this point in time, Dalmiya can do without one more allegation. Also, as the Azhars were directed to appear before the committee, rather late, there would have been little time to coordinate security.

Madhavan, himself a former CBI joint director, focused on three issues: Match-fixing, nexus with bookies and conduct unbecoming of an India player.

While Madhavan hasn’t spelt out the punishment (not his brief), he has stated: “While deciding on the punishment, the Disciplinary Authority has also to ensure that adequate punishment is imposed on the persons who are found guilty, regard being had to the gravity of misconduct, their age and their status.

“I would suggest that the Disciplinary Committee of the BCCI itself may please bear these principles in mind while imposing punishments on the persons whom they find guilty.”

For the record, Madhavan has spoken about four theories in handing out punishment: Deterrent, retributive, preventive and reformative.

The BCCI has already taken the opinion of legal eagles. The groundwork, then, has been pucca. So far, Pakistan and South Africa are the only countries where players have been banned and/or fined for match-fixing.    

Calcutta, Nov. 27: 
A 54-year-old housewife in Tiljala was found lying in a pool of blood on her bed early this morning.

Hearing a thud and a feeble groan from the room where Anita De slept alone, her daughters went in to find a side of her face and head smashed. A block of wood, believed to have been used for the murder, lay by the side. Police hinted that the killer was known to the victim’s family.

Debashree, Anita’s elder daughter, said she heard some noise around 3 am. Switching on the light, she woke up sister Rajyashree. Together, they went into their mother’s room to check.

“We called mother a few times but she did not respond. Then we realised that her face and a part of the head were oddly covered with a towel and the mosquito net. When we removed the cover, we found that the head and the face were smashed and there was blood all over,” Debashree said.

Anita was rushed to Chittaranjan Hospital in Park Circus in a neighbour’s car, where she was declared dead on arrival.

Officers from Tiljala Police station reached the spot 20 minutes after they were called by the family. Around noon, detectives from Lalbazar headquarters visited the house and adjoining areas with a sniffer dog.

The two sisters share a ground floor room in the unpretentious house. Their father Debendranath and brother Debarshi sleep in a makeshift attic just above. Anita’s room was slightly removed from the main structure of the two-storied house still under construction.

Debendranath, who retired from a private firm, had lived in Taltala before moving with his family into his own house at Tiljala. Debashree works in a small computer firm and Rajyashree is looking for a job. Debarshi, a student of Tiljala High School, will take the Higher Secondary Examinations in 2001.

“I cannot imagine any one doing this to a pious lady like her. She had no enemies. All she was interested in was her family and her daily puja,” Debendranath said.

Gyanwant Singh, additional superintendent of police, and Jugal Kishore Mukherjee, officer-in-charge of Tiljala police station, said preliminary findings pointed to a premeditated murder.

Petrol pump looted

Six masked men raided a petrol pump at 128/1 Vivekananda road in north Calcutta around 7.30 pm on Monday.    

Washington, Nov. 27: 
George W. Bush was yesterday officially declared to have won the American Presidency. The Republican immediately named his vice-presidential running mate, Dick Cheney, to head the transition team.

Bush, who addressed the nation immediately after Florida’s chief election officer — a controversial Republican — awarded him the state’s 25 electoral votes, also announced his first presidential appointment: Andrew Card, his father’s transportation secretary, as White House chief of staff.

Bush won in Florida by a slender margin of 537 votes out of about six million ballots cast on November 7. His victory was certified after two machine counts all over the state and a hand recount in some counties.

But undeterred by Florida’s official certification of a Bush victory, Al Gore, the Democratic presidential candidate, vowed to challenge yesterday’s result with three new lawsuits in addition to contesting a Bush lawsuit, already with the US Supreme Court.

Even without these lawsuits, the problems for Bush are far from over. For the first time since the start of the three-week election drama, the outgoing Clinton Administration was drawn into the controversy when it refused last night to release $ 5.3 million earmarked for the transition announced by Bush.

“As long as both sides are still going to court, and both sides say they are, we believe that the outcome remains unclear”, Beth Newburger, spokeswoman for the General Services Administration (GSA), which is in charge of transition arrangements said.

The GSA will also refuse to hand over to Cheney keys for two floors of office space here to house the transition team. Faced with this new deadlock, Bush advisers were quoted in the US media as saying that the Republicans planned to raise money on their own for the transition and find private office space here.

A bigger problem for Bush would be the reluctance, under these circumstances, of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to clear his nominees for the cabinet and other top posts.

The process, which is mandatory before Senate confirmation of these appointees, can take several weeks and unless the Clinton administration sanctions FBI clearance, the Bush team will be a late-starter in the White House, if at all.

Gore told The New York Times in an interview that some prominent Republicans, whom he did not name, were urging him not to concede defeat, but to fight on despite Florida’s certification of a Bush victory.

Referring to widespread speculation that a section of his own party wanted to call a halt to the marathon election which was damaging American interests, Gore said, no Democrat had advised him to drop the efforts to challenge the outcome.

He said thousands of votes in Florida had not been counted, adding it was vital “that the will of the American people is not only expressed but heard and abided by”.

Lest the nation was growing weary of the unending election, Gore set a December 12 deadline for capping the controversy, the date for naming members of the Electoral College, which will formally elect the President on December 18. He said this deadline allowed time for a fair recount in Florida.

Gore urged Bush to accept the decisions of the Florida Supreme Court and that of the US Supreme Court on the poll dispute. “I will accept whatever judgment they make on the issues with quiet respect and complete deference.”

With the Republicans determined to take the dispute to the American people by portraying the Bush win as a fait accompli, Gore has an uphill public relations battle on his hands.

Florida’s certification of a Republican victory is the first official seal on the outcome of the disputed election and constitutes a serious psychological setback for the Democrats.    

New Delhi, Nov. 27: 
How many rooms will the billions of dollars that they manage fill in New Delhi’s Taj Palace hotel where the elite of business and industry have converged for the World Economic Forum’s India Business Summit? Two, four, an entire floor?

No one has attempted an answer. Not Claude Smadja, managing director of the WEF, whose outspokenness on the Indian economy is matched only by the depth and range of knowledge he brings into his speeches.

Not Rahul Bajaj, whose verbal fisticuffs with Union finance minister Yashwant Sinha at yesterday’s inaugural plenary is even today the most talked-about event of the meet.

Not Percy Barnevik, chairman of Investor AB, Sweden, who has chosen to act as spokesman for all foreign investors, and whose radical ideas have gone so far as to suggest a structural change in India’s parliamentary democracy.

Not Nara Chandrababu Naidu who, yet again, projected Andhra Pradesh as the most happening state in the country.

Indeed, the question was not even posed. But they are all here seeking answers to a billion-dollar question: what is it that is so inscrutable about India that they can neither ignore it nor trust it?

The quest for an answer to the question has led the delegates to a rediscovery of India through a story of three hopefuls: Shahana Goswami, Imarti and Dhirubhai Ambani.

Shahana Goswami is 14 years old, studies in an elite New Delhi school, and is completely “e-enabled”. She does her school projects with backgrounding from specialised sites on the Internet, corresponds with friends and relatives on e-mail and lives on the cutting-edge of teenage knowledge.

Her father is Omkar Goswami, chief economist with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), co-host of the summit. She is, as her father put it, one of the privileged 28 per cent who live in urban India and enjoys all the luxuries of city life.

Imarti is another 14-year-old girl. She lives in Laxmanpur Bathe. What was that again? Yes, Laxmanpur Bathe, the village on the banks of the Sone river in Jehanabad district, central Bihar, where the Ranbir Sena, the private army of Bhumihar landlords, massacred men, women and children one night three years ago.

Imarti lost her family. Her village does not have electricity, is not connected by a motorable road. She does not go to school. She is illiterate and barely finds two square meals a day.

Shahana’s and Imarti’s story was narrated to the World Economic Forum by Omkar Goswami himself. What is it, he asked delegates, that can bind them in a common strand and bring them at par?

Dhirubhai Ambani’s story is well-known but it is worth recounting when it is narrated by his son, Anil Ambani. How did Dhirubhai create his Rs 50,000 crore (12 billion dollars) first generation enterprise?

He had little formal education — a disadvantage he turned into an opportunity by working his way up, after beginning life as an attendant in a petrol pump run by Shell in Aden, Yemen. (The chairman of the Shell Group in India, Vikram Mehta, was seated next to Anil Ambani when he narrated the story).

When he returned to India with about 10,000 dollars in his pocket, Dhirubhai had no technical knowledge of the industries he gradually set up — textiles, petrochemicals, refining. But, says Anil, he had knowledge of what makes India tick, the processes of its markets — that they are supply-driven and price-sensitive — and the psychology of the Indian consumer because he was one himself. He “leveraged that knowledge for growth”. Reliance was a blip on the corporate radar in the 1970s. Today, it is top-of the mind in any rating of corporate powerhouses.

For the participants at the India Economic Summit, the stories of Shahana, Imarti and Dhirubhai together make up one large riddle. More comfortable with the facts and figures that make up corporate balance sheets, they seek simpler answers to increasingly complex issues.

The upshot is that billion dollar questions go unanswered.    



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