Renuka farm rath rolled back
Strict on Azhar, soft on Jadeja
Peace continues to evade Kashmir under new ceasefire
CM takes troubles to PM
Lady Luck comes home with KBC
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, Nov. 29: 
In the Sixties, Atal Behari Vajpayee headed for Parliament in a bullock cart to rub in his rage at rising oil prices.

This morning, Renuka Chow-dhury, the MP of substance from Andhra, spared the beasts the burden and trundled down Parliament Street in a farmer’s modern-day friend: a tractor.

Unlike Vajpayee who ended his symbolic protest midway, Renuka’s parade to project farmers’ woes almost reached the House. But at the gates, her tractor was stopped in its tracks.

“The tractor does not have a parliamentary sticker,” Lok Sabha Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi later told the House.

Before reaching Parliament, Renuka had tried to drop in at Vajpayee’s house. But police would have none of it.

Then the tractor lumbered up to Parliament, its progress closely followed by journalists and curious bystanders. Once again, the police played spoilsport. They wouldn’t allow the chariot of the soil past Vijay Chowk, outside the Parliament gates.

Inside, Renuka’s colleagues cranked up for a confrontation. “A Lok Sabha member has been stopped from entering Parliament. This is most offensive,” said Congress MP Margaret Alva.

Party colleague and farmers’ friend Buta Singh ploughed into the debate. “The tractor is not a heavy vehicle. The honourable member was driving down to Parliament in a tractor to talk on farmers’ issues,” he said.

Buta said he found Renuka surrounded by policemen. “I stopped to find out what happened and discovered that she was being prevented from entering Parliament. The House must give her protection.”

Members of the BJP, its allies and the Left kept laughing as Buta complained to the Speaker, but the Congress members were poker-faced.

BJP’s R.P. Rudi butted in with a logistics problem. “Today, the honourable MP wants to come to Parliament in a truck to highlight farmers’ problems. Tomorrow, bus drivers and pilots may have a problem. So will they drive down in buses or fly down in planes?” he asked.

Not to mention tanks, pointed out former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar. “How can the House seriously discuss such an issue? Tomorrow someone may want to come to Parliament in a tank. Will that be allowed?” he asked.

The Congress fished out an anecdote to silence the critics. “I remember the day when Vajpayee tried to come to Parliament in a bullock-cart. So what is wrong with a tractor?” retorted Priya Ranjan Das Munshi.

Just as the House was recovering, in walked the star of the drama. Unruffled, she strode to her seat.    

Calcutta, Nov. 29: 
A life ban awaits former captain Mohammed Azharuddin, Manoj Prabhakar and Ajay Sharma for match-fixing and/or links with bookies.

According to The Telegraph’s sources, Ajay Jadeja is “certain” to be punished for one year, while a three-year ban is a possibility. However, even three years won’t exactly satisfy the many hawks within the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

Only, the BCCI is under “severe pressure,” both from outside and within, to be lenient on Jadeja.

Nayan Mongia, the only other player under a cloud, may be let off with a reprimand (or, at most, a one-year ban) by the BCCI’s disciplinary committee, thanks to the clean-chit from commissioner K. Madhavan.

Corroborating the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)’s findings, Madhavan held Azhar guilty on all counts (match-fixing, links with bookies and conduct unbecoming of an India player), while he nailed the rest (except Mongia) for ties with bookies.

Sharma, of course, was also booked for fixing matches in which he himself didn’t figure.

Such stringent punishment is on the anvil despite the (shockingly) soft stand of former Union minister Kamal Morarka, one of the three disciplinary committee members.

A formal announcement will be made Monday by BCCI president A.C.Muthiah, who heads the disciplinary committee.

By then, the opinion of some more legal luminaries will be obtained. Equally, the BCCI will be exposing itself to more pressure.

But for Morarka and the pressure being put by other quarters, the decision may have been announced today itself after the special general body meeting.

Though a discussion on match-fixing wasn’t formally listed, the affiliates felt it should still be discussed and a decision taken “within a week”.

While no show of hands was actually recorded, sources revealed an overwhelming 28 of the 30 affiliates favoured imposing the maximum penalty (life ban) on players blacklisted both by the CBI and Madhavan.

Favouring a soft-line, reportedly, were the Hyderabad Cricket Association — Azhar’s parent body —- and the Cricket Club of India, headed by former BCCI president Raj Singh Dungarpur.

Raj Singh, who acknowledged he hadn’t severed contact with Azhar, Jadeja (a distant relative) and Mongia — “I’m not a fair-weather friend” — is clearly being guided by emotions not facts.

In any case, Raj Singh believes till the guilt is established, consideration must be given to the “contribution” of those in the dock.

Perhaps, it’s Raj Singh’s argument which prompted Muthiah to tell the media that “around 30 per cent weightage” may be given to the “achievements” of the Azhars and Jadejas. An absurd position but, then, some allowance has to be made for Muthiah as he is being buffeted from multiple sides.

Significantly, while the minimum punishment for match-fixing/contact with bookies, as spelt out in the Code of Conduct, is five years, an exception will be made for Jadeja.

Strictly speaking, the disciplinary committee is to follow the Code of Conduct but, apparently, the special general body left it to the committee to decide on the punishment.

The affected players may challenge the decision, arguing the Code of Conduct has come into being only as recently as October 1, but that won’t cut ice as all players are automatically covered by article 11 of the BCCI’s Rules and Regulations.

The article reads: “The Board shall have the power to call into question the conduct of any player within its jurisdiction and may take such disciplinary action as it deems fit. The Board’s decision shall be final.”

The life ban, though, will only really affect Azhar, not Prabhakar or Sharma. Prabhakar quit in early 1996 while Sharma’s last India appearance was in late 1993.

While it obviously doesn’t make sense to ban (or, for that matter, hand out any punishment) to Prabhakar, sources pointed out it will have to be done “for technical reasons.”

Meanwhile, it is gathered, around half-a-dozen affiliates were “disappointed” Madhavan didn’t question either former national coach Kapil Dev (cleared by the CBI) or ex-cricket manager Ajit Wadekar.

Madhavan, invited to the special meeting, explained his brief was to only focus on the five players (and former physio Ali Irani) indicted by the CBI.    

Srinagar, Nov. 29: 
The winter peace initiative in Kashmir is hurtling towards the sorry destiny of its predecessor.

Two days into the Centre’s unilateral ceasefire and it is already quite apparent it has made no difference to anything or anybody. The militants have refused to obey it; their daily strikes continue.

The security forces have not found opportunity to breathe; they remain yoked to their positions and continue to receive and respond with fire. Political forces in the Valley see no reason in the ceasefire to mellow their belligerence.

The people have altogether bypassed it for no reason other than their cheerless experience with such things as ceasefires and peace-mongering in the past; they have kept themselves focused on the rigours of Ramzan.

“What does this ceasefire mean?” said a shopkeeper in downtown Srinagar. “That security forces will stop harassing us for a month and then will resume again? Anyhow, you can see nothing has changed.”

He was pointing to the elaborately camouflaged security outside his shop where stood jawans of the BSF swaying their guns to shoo away a group of boys trying to get a game of street cricket going. “Nothing has changed and nothing will change unless there is a change of thinking in New Delhi,” he said.

The sights and sounds of post ceasefire Kashmir are scarcely different from the sights and sounds of two days ago.

By day, Srinagar is the same nervous regime described by the fear of the omnipresent securityman and the threat of the invisible saboteur. By dark, it is the same spooky city inhabited by fleeing ghosts and the sound of distant fire. It is too cold now for the dogs to roam the streets.

The daily menu of incidents in the Valley shows nothing that demarcates today from yesterday; you couldn’t read a ceasefire in it. Yesterday, 17 people were killed, and a dozen injured, most of the jawans whose South Africa-built mine-proof vehicle was blown up by a remote device in Anantnag.

It is hard to miss the message of the Anantnag attack: it was carried out on the first day of the Centre’s ceasefire, it targeted the army and its responsibility was immediately claimed by the Hizb-ul Mujahideen, the outfit that the government has been pinning its hopes on in its faltering search for interlocutors in the Valley.

The Hizb, or any other outfit, is not recognising the truce. Indeed, the ceasefire already looks like a pigeon trapped in a pen of cats sniping for its life. Militants continue to engage and provoke security forces; they are eager to shove the ceasefire to death.

Today, the toll is down but the incidents have been erupting as usual. An exchange of fire between the army and militants near Baramulla, recoveries of weapons from “deceased militants” (no explanation of when or how they died) in Poonch, a live grenade found in a tiffin box at the Tourist Reception Centre in the high-security central district of Srinagar, a former militant killed in his shopfront in Rajbagh, one of Srinagar’s poshest localities.

“This is Kashmir in normalcy, no Kashmir in ceasefire,” quipped a police official sardonically, “What has always happened is happening even today, where is the change under ceasefire?”

And as militant outfits slowly tear the peace bid at the seams, the political forces are becoming wary of doing anything that might displease the underground warriors.    

New Delhi & Calcutta, Nov. 29: 
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today took his first flight to Delhi as chief minister, carrying a baggage of problems and leaving behind a trail of smoke on the “political support” for Kamtapuri rebels.

Bhattacharjee said he would discuss the militancy in North Bengal with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Union home minister L.K. Advani when he meets them tomorrow. “Discussion with the Centre is necessary as Pakistan’s ISI and Ulfa are directly involved in all the recent killings masterminded by the Kamtapur People’s Party,” he said.

The chief minister said he would inform the Centre of the truth behind the separatist agitation in North Bengal. “The Kamtapuri militants are getting weapons and training from the Ulfa through the ISI. This insurgency problem should be tackled jointly with the Centre,” he added.

Bhattacharjee will meet the President, too. On Friday morning, the chief minister will reach Siliguri to take stock of the situation after the 48-hour bandh against Tuesday’s police firing in which two persons died.

Bhattacharjee said an opposition party was supporting militancy. “I shall not accuse any political party of fomenting trouble. But I cannot deny that an Opposition party in the state has extended its full support to the KPP’s militancy.

“I just don’t understand how a responsible party which has representatives in the Union Cabinet could support militant activities backed by the ISI and the Ulfa. The Prime Minister should restrain his partner from supporting a separatist militant movement,” Bhattacharjee said.

The obvious target, the Trinamul Congress, reacted sharply, saying it has never supported any separatist movement. Spokesman Pankaj Banerjee said his party has only underlined the Left Front’s failure to ensure economic development of North Bengal.

Bhattacharjee is also expected to seek Central assistance for flood relief. At tomorrow’s meeting, Vajpayee is likely to take up atrocities on Scheduled Castes and minorities in Bengal to please Mamata Banerjee.

“The Prime Minister is more worried about a fulminating Mamata than law and order in Bengal,” a Cabinet minister said.    

Mumbai, Nov. 29: 
Prateeksha lock kiya jaye? Not after Crorepati.

The Juhu seafront bungalow, considered Mumbai’s Xanadu, will remain Amitabh Bachchan’s after Canara Bank today withdrew a Rs 10-crore debt-default case against the actor.

For the Big B, fortunes swung for the better on the evening of July 3, 9 pm to be precise, when he disarmed wannabe crorepatis with his punch-line that was soon to become the mantra for millions across the country looking for fast and mega bucks.

Until then, it had been down and further down for Bollywood’s most successful star ever, who was even described as an industry by himself.

First, his films started bombing. Then his maiden venture in the corporate world failed and he had his neck deep in mounting debts.

But what comes down, must go up. And on that magical night of July 3, Dame Luck again rested her eyes on the Big B.

Over the past four months, he has been slowly but steadily turning around the ailing AB Corp. (formerly Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Limited), paying off his dues, bit by bit.

Canara Bank’s announcement today is a major victory for the superstar.

A lawyer for the bank said it withdrew the lawsuit last week after the actor repaid the loan in three instalments following an out-of-court settlement. The loan was actually squared up in September when Bachchan paid the last of the instalments.

Canara Bank had taken the Big B to court in February 1999 after failing to recover the loan given to ABCL in 1996. The bank subsequently sought to attach his property, including Prateeksha, which, Bachchan said, was already mortgaged to the Sahara India group for a Rs 15-crore loan.

The bank had also challenged the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction’s decision to declare ABCL a sick entity, saying the star was trying to wriggle his company out of its legal obligations.

The entertainment company was referred to BIFR with an accumulated loss of Rs 70.82 crore on a net worth of Rs 60.52 crore.

The lawyer said today that the bank had dropped all charges against the company because it had got its money back.

Last month, Bachchan’s company paid over Rs 3 crore it owed to the income-tax department and squared up with some creditors as well.

Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh, the superstar’s politician-friend who is on the board of his company, said last month that AB Corp. was paying off all loans and would emerge “debt free” by the end of this fiscal.    



Maximum: 28.9°C (+1)
Minimum: 19.5°C (+3)


0.1 mm

Relative Humidity

Max: 89%
Min: 53%


Mainly clear sky. Minimum temperature likely to be around 17°C
Sunrise: 6.04 am
Sunset: 4.47 pm

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