IAS, IPS officers face prosecution
CPM warhorse set for poll return
CPM leader arrested in Garbeta case
Atal sugarcoats selloff pill for workers
Cong go-slow signal to Bengal rebels
HTA gets ad club top honour
Ankara, Delhi inch closer
Spare the red hot rod, spoil the patient
VHP at Atal door with temple plea

 
 
IAS, IPS OFFICERS FACE PROSECUTION 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Feb. 24: 
At least 18 serving IPS and two IAS officers are likely to face prosecution and departmental action on corruption charges, following recommendations by the state vigilance commission.

The IPS officers have been found guilty of misusing complimentary railway passes for travelling with their families in airconditioned coaches during holidays.

The passes were meant for travelling on duty but were issued to these officers unauthorisedly by three senior IPS colleagues. State vigilance commissioner R.N. Kali said railway authorities had been asked by the high court to institute criminal proceedings against the IPS officers who had issued the passes — Anil Kumar, Harmanprit Singh and P.N. Ramesh.

Kali declined to divulge further details of the cases against the officers. He, however, admitted that corruption at the higher levels of the administration is responsible for indiscipline and bad work culture in West Bengal.    


 
 
CPM WARHORSE SET FOR POLL RETURN 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, Feb. 24: 
Two key CPM state secretariat members, Nirupam Sen and Shyamal Chakraborty, are likely to figure in the list of nominees for the coming Assembly elections.

The CPM will officially announce the list of party nominees tomorrow, along with those of other Front constituents. A special state committee meeting has been scheduled for tomorrow to discuss the issue. This will be followed by a Left Front committee meeting.

CPM sources said that while Sen, a party ideologue, will contest from Burdwan (south), Chakraborty will seek election from Manicktala. They may also be inducted in the Cabinet if the Left Front returns to power. The party is also likely to nominate former health minister Prasanta Sur from Tollygunge in south Calcutta.

In another development, state transport minister Subhas Chakraborty today once again turned the table on the CPM, saying that he would decide about quitting the party only after February 26.

“I will tell you whether I will stay with the CPM or not only after February 26,” he told newspersons in the Assembly lobby this afternoon. “I never follow the instructions of my party blindly. I follow only those instructions, which I think are logical,” he added.

Sources said that, at tomorrow’s state committee meeting, Chakraborty may demand party tickets for six of his trusted associates in the 24-Parganas district. The leadership seems firm about not giving tickets to any of the six Chakraborty loyalists.

Former chief minister Jyoti Basu, meanwhile, told newspersons in the Assembly today that the party launched by Saifuddin Chowdhury and Samir Putatunda will fail to draw people in the coming polls, adding that the two were not important leaders.

When asked to comment on the former chief minister’s observations, Chakraborty asked: “Why did the CPM leadership not dare to expel Putatunda if the tow were not so important?”

CPM state secretary Anil Biswas, however, appeared determined to broker peace with Chakraborty. “He always carries out the party’s instruction like a disciplined soldier,” Biswas said. The CPM leader hinted that the party leadership was not going to “punish” Chakraborty with the Assembly polls are round the corner.

Much to Biswas’ embarrassment, however, Chowdhury and Samir Putatunda today roped in a number of CPM dissidents in Nadia district, from which Biswas hails. The two former CPM veterans held a mammoth rally at Kalyani under the banner of the newly-formed Party of Democratic Socialism.

Biswas said that Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee would contest from Jadavpur: “We are confident of his victory and there is no question of changing his constituency. He will also become our chief minister,” he added.

   

 
 
CPM LEADER ARRESTED IN GARBETA CASE 
 
 
FROM KUMARESH GHOSH AND NARESH JANA
 
Midnapore, Feb. 24: 
Police have arrested local CPM leader Mastan, who is wanted in connection with the alleged massacre at Chhoto Angaria in Garbeta on January 4.

Mastan was nabbed yesterday night at his den in Saltora village in Joypur forest. A police contingent led by the additional superintendent of police (headquarters) entered the forest and arrested him while he and his friends were consuming alcohol.

Mastan was handed over to the CID, who will produce him in the court, said the police official.

Mastan is the second person to be arrested in connection with the Garbeta massacre. Manwar Bhangi, another CPM leader, was arrested earlier. The police say that yesterday’s arrest will help make a “definite breakthrough” in the Chhoto Angaria case.

More than one-and-a-half months after the incident, there is no trace of the 11 people who have been named in an FIR lodged after the incident.

   

 
 
ATAL SUGARCOATS SELLOFF PILL FOR WORKERS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Feb. 24: 
Atal Bihari Vajpayee today reiterated that there was no going back on his government’s disinvestment programme and that some perennially sick public sector units would have to be closed and others restructured.

“We will restructure many public sector undertakings as part of our disinvestment programme. Some perennially loss-making units will even have to be shut down,” the Prime Minister said while giving away the Shram awards for 1999. But he added that his government would take care of workers’ interests. “The protection and promotion of workers’ interests are an integral part of our reform strategy,” Vajpayee said.

While the statement emphasised the Centre’s commitment to reforms, it also acknowledged the need to cushion the impact on workers with a comprehensive social security package.

In marked contrast to yesterday’s grim predictions in the Economic Survey, Vajpayee said the growth rate has gone up between 6 and 7 per cent while poverty has fallen by 10 per cent.

The decade-old economic reforms, he said, were now bearing fruit. “Now India has to aim higher. We have set a target to double our per capita income in the next 10 years, so that we can further reduce poverty by half. For this, our economy needs to grow at 9 per cent a year in the next decade.”

He also had a word of advice for trade unionists and entrepreneurs. They must “change” their mindset, he said, to keep up with fast-changing global economics.

The NDA has, till now, stuck to its agenda of opening up the market despite resistance from Opposition parties. The latest row was over the Balco selloff, but today’s announcement was a clear signal that the government was not willing to back down.

To mollify critics, Vajpayee held out a string of assurances for workers: a comprehensive social security policy, a Bill for securing farm workers their rights and speedy implementation of the recommendations of the second National Labour Commission.

“Our objective,” he said, “is to promote the well-being of all sections of workers. Especially those in the unorganised sector — a whopping 90 per cent of our total workforce.”

He took care to emphasise that restructuring without the back-up of a proper safety net could prove disastrous. So, his government, he said, would look beyond legal redress for workers and come up with innovative insurance schemes like Janashree Bima Yojana.

Vajpayee also appealed to workers and entrepreneurs to embark on a partnership, because the spirit of globalisation demanded it. “Together we can transform the hardships of today into handsome rewards for tomorrow,” he said.

He warned trade unions and entrepreneurs against persisting with inflexible attitudes. Though the government would take protective measures for the industry, its captains could not forever take refuge in high tariff barriers or non-tariff policies, Vajpayee said.

   

 
 
CONG GO-SLOW SIGNAL TO BENGAL REBELS 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
New Delhi and Calcutta, Feb. 24: 
Desperate to avert a split in the West Bengal Congress, AICC general secretary Kamal Nath, in charge of Bengal affairs, today asked party MLA Sougata Roy not to take a decision in a hurry.

On their return to Calcutta, Sougata and 10 other pro-mahajot Congress MLAs, including Tapas Roy, served an ultimatum to the high command, saying they would defect en masse if the leadership fails to evolve a strategy for working out an alliance with Mamata Banerjee by March 4.

“I told Kamal Nath this afternoon that the leadership has to clinch the issue by March 4 when we will line up a convention to decide the next course of action,” said Sougata.

He said he had requested the AICC leader to meet Mamata on Monday night hours after she presented the railway budget. “A meeting with Mamata is a priority this time,” he said. Asserting that a poll alliance with the Trinamul is the need of the hour, another Congress MLA said a grand combine of anti-CPM forces only could oust the ruling communists from Bengal.

That the state Congress is psychologically getting ready for a split despite a last-ditch effort from the high command is evident from the manner in which about 10 Congress MLAs from Bengal knocked on Mamata’s door during their stay in the capital.

Prominent among them are Sougata, Tapas, Sheetal Sardar, Sheikh Daulat Ali, Shivdas Mukherjee and Paras Banerjee.

In the capital today, Nath admitted that the Trinamul had established greater credentials as the anti-Left Front in Bengal and sought to assure restless Bengal partymen that the high command will do “something” to drive out the Left government from the state.

The Congress leadership is also concerned about a possible shift among Muslim voters towards the Trinamul in the wake of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board’s support to Mamata. A delegation of the board recently called on Mamata thanking her over the stand taken by the Trinamul in Parliament over the Ayodhya dispute.

The high command wants A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury to step in and stem the exodus. But Chowdhury’s mission is also difficult as Mamata seems in no hurry to call on him.

The Bengal situation came up for discussion soon after an informal Congress Working Committee meeting at Sonia Gandhi’s residence. The AICC chief was of the firm view that she will not make any ideological compromise in maintaining the unity of the WBPCC. The message from Sonia is clear: she is not prepared to jeopardise her national-level calculations for the sake of some party MLAs in Bengal. Yet, she expects Nath, Pranab Mukherjee and Chowdhury to keep the flock together.

Speaking to a television channel about the prospective mahajot, Nath said: “I don’t believe in calling it mahajot. We have to formulate a strategy. Our party’s strategy is to oppose the BJP and at the same time defeat the Left Front government,” he said, summing up the Congress stand.

On the possibility of a split, the AICC general secretary said: “(Despite this) discussion over the last 15 or so days of 20 to 25 members leaving, none has left yet. I have been able to explain to them that our aim is to defeat the Left. It is important to win a seat as an MLA, but not at the cost of the organisation. And so far this view has held,” he said.

   

 
 
HTA GETS AD CLUB TOP HONOUR 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 24: 
The Advertising Club Awards were held at a glittering ceremony at Nicco Park on Saturday night. Around 45 ad agencies participated, sending in over 1,000 entries for the annual event.

Ram Sehgal, previously the head of Contract, was this year’s inductee into the Hall of Fame. HTA was named Agency of the Year, while Contract, Calcutta, received the Calcutta Agency (Branch) of the Year award.

Contract, Calcutta, also bagged the Subhas Ghosal Silver Trophy for the Best Work done by a Calcutta Agency for a Calcutta Client and the Best Bengali Press Advertising award.

HTA, Mumbai, received the Gowtam Ghosal Silver Trophy for the Most Outstanding Marketing and Advertising Project. It also won in the Best Advertising for Sponsored/ Promotional Events category, jointly with HTA, Gurgaon.

Contract, New Delhi, won the BN Dey Memorial Trophy for the Best Public Service Campaign, as well as the Best Media Innovation award. It also received the Best Radio Advertising award together with Mc Cann-Erickson, Mumbai.

HTA, Gurgaon, received awards for Best Continuing Campaign and Best Campaign for Consumer Non-Durables (FMCGs). HTA, Bangalore, received the best Institutional/ Service Campaign award.

Mc Cann Erickson, Mumbai won awards for the Best Corporate Campaign/ Piece of Work and Best TV Spot (English), Consumer Non-Durables.

Euro RSCG, Mumbai received the Best TV Spot (English), Consumer Durables, as well as Best Point of Purchase, jointly with Mudra, Ahmedabad.

Mudra, Bangalore, received the Best TV Spot (Indian Languages Excluding Bengali), Consumer Non-Durables (FMCGs) award as well as the Best English Press Advertising, together with Saatchi and Saatchi, Mumbai.

Trikaya Grey, Calcutta, received the Best Direct Marketing award.

   

 
 
ANKARA, DELHI INCH CLOSER 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, Feb. 24: 
Turkish defence minister Sabhattin Cakmakoglu spent four days in the country meeting Indian leaders and looking for areas of closer cooperation between the two military establishments.

The significance of Cakmakoglu’s visit lies not only in the fact that this was the first by a Turkish defence minister, but also in his decision to not club Pakistan with the India tour. The defence minister left late tonight for Turkey.

Last year in March, when Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit visited India, he also left out Pakistan. But given the close relations between the defence establishments of Turkey and Pakistan, Cakmakoglu’s itinerary is more significant.

South Block officials described Cakmakoglu’s visit as an “exploratory one” — for military hardware and also to size up India’s capability in various other fields, particularly in the area of information technology. But the main significance lies in the fact that Delhi, which has over the past year been trying to establish close relations with Ankara, has succeeded in getting the all-powerful army in Turkey to stand behind it.

Cakamakoglu met defence minister George Fernandes and officials of the defence and foreign ministry establishments on bilateral, regional and international issues. He also visited Mumbai, Bangalore and Agra.

It may still be too early to predict to what extent the Turkish army will go ahead in this direction, specially when it comes to choose between India and Pakistan. But perhaps that is not what the Indian leadership has in mind at the moment. South Block is satisfied that it has begun some kind of an engagement with the Turkish defence establishment.

The Turkish army is a key member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) and thus pro-West. To India, its importance also lies in its close relations with Pakistan, particularly its defence establishment.

Indian leaders are aware of the unique position of the Turkish army. It enjoys a special constitutional role in the country as the guardian of “Kemalism”, which stresses on a secular identity.

The army has intervened thrice to dislodge governments in Ankara which it felt were a threat to the fundamental values for which Turkey stood. Unlike many other military regimes, the army has moved in for a temporary period and gone back to the barracks once satisfied that the secular credentials has been re-established.

India and Turkey, which found each other on different sides during the Cold War, had made some attempts in the past to forge a better understanding, but they did not work out. One reason for this could be that Turkey, a key member of the Organisation of Islamic Countries, has always been supportive of Pakistan initiated resolutions against Delhi on Kashmir. On the other hand, India’s position on Cyprus has warmed the hearts of the Greeks, but irked the Turkish.

However, the Prime Minister, who has distanced himself from Pakistan because of the military coup there, has now identified India as one of the main countries in Asia with which Turkey should have closer bonds both at the economic and political levels. The Turkish army, though impressed by India’s nuclear and missile programmes, is not yet ready to build up a relationship with India at the cost of Pakistan.

But as the visit of the defence minister indicates, attempts are now being made by the defence establishments of both countries to have in place a mechanism that will help the two sides to work closely with each other on key areas of mutual benefit.

   

 
 
SPARE THE RED HOT ROD, SPOIL THE PATIENT 
 
 
FROM SUCHANDANA GPA
 
Betul (Madhya Pradesh), Feb. 24: 
A woman holds forward her baby, as a blacksmith or a “doctor” raises a red hot iron sickle. As the iron touches the baby, she screams so loud her lungs might burst. She throws about her arms, her legs, fights her mother’s iron grip as the glowing sickle touches her again. And again. The sickle journeying down slowly from her neck downwards.

As the air is filled with the pungent smell of charred flesh, the mother tells her eight-months-old: “Just a little bit more. This will make you strong and healthy. Your stomach aches will go....”

The tribals know of only one “cure” for all diseases, be it goitre or stomach ache, fever or cancer — branding with a hot iron sickle.

In Chhattisgarh, they call this damhah, an ancient practice of treating all diseases. It was initially prevalent among the Korku tribe of central India, but now it has become popular with even the Gonds and the Banjaras. It thrives in the remote tribal villages of Bastar, Dantewara in Chattisgarh, Jhabua and Betul in south Madhya Pradesh bordering Maharashtra.

In Niwari village, 50 km from Betul, 75-year-old Banjara tribal Jawahar Singh says: “I can’t breathe. The doctor was here two months ago, he gave me pills which didn’t work. Since my daughter-in-law knows damhah, I get some relief .” He suffers from asthma.

His daughter-in-law, Takori Bai, 50, says she’s an expert at damhah. “I used to do it on my mother since I was a child. My mother often had these splitting headaches. She couldn’t afford to go to the blacksmith or the doctor (read quack) every time. So I did the needful.”

How does she administer her remedy? “I heat a regular iron sickle used for cutting harvest in the fields till it is red hot. Then, depending on where you are having problems, you keep branding the place. Initially, it hurts but gives tremendous relief for the next few days. If the pain comes back, you brand again. I used to singe my mother on the neck and the back for her headaches.”

Some 60 km away, on the banks of the Tapti, damhah is as popular. Here, in Gulhardhana village, 11-year-old Mongri has been branded regularly since she was eight months old. Every time she complains of a stomach ache or headache or fever, she is rushed to the local centre to get her dose of the red hot iron.

“There is no harm in branding a child,” claims Mongri’s father, Shankar. “Five years ago, a child from our village did not undergo damhah and he died.”

What about more conventional cures? Tablets and capsules — how can they be any good, ask the tribals. Their message is clear: “You have to suffer to rid your body of an ailment. Eating white clay balls cannot cure. Damhah does.”

   

 
 
VHP AT ATAL DOOR WITH TEMPLE PLEA 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, Feb. 24: 
After lying low for some time, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) revived the Sangh parivar agenda by calling on Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today with a plethora of demands, most of them controversial and likely to trigger howls of protest from allies such as the Trinamul Congress, the Telugu Desam and the DMK.

Among the VHP’s major demands are: immediate return of 67 acres of land in Ayodhya acquired by the government for construction of the Ram temple; reviving the now-defunct Ayodhya cell in the Prime Minister’s Office; constitutional amendment to ban cow slaughter and setting up a cow protection council, Central task force to stop smuggling of cows to Bangladesh and stopping work on the Tehri dam.

At its Dharam Sansad at Kumbh, the VHP had announced that after Mahashivratri, it may any day announce the date of construction of the temple.

Asked what prompted the VHP leaders to meet Vajpayee, a source said they wanted to ensure “mobilisation for laying ground work for the temple construction some time in mid-2002, the month has not yet been decided”. He said the Sangh wants to keep the issue alive, especially with Uttar Pradesh going to elections early next year.

The Prime Minister, who had a tough time last year pacifying agitated allies and Opposition parties, was apparently cautious. He did not give any assurance to the VHP leaders.

“We asked Vajpayee that if the Ram temple is not built during his tenure as Prime Minister, when will it be built,” Mahant Paramahans Ramchandra Das, president of Ram Janambhoomi Nyas, said after the meeting. “Vajpayee assured us he will do whatever was possible within the constitutional framework.”

During the hour-long meeting, the team demanded the immediate return of the land acquired by the government in Ayodhya and removal of all legal hurdles to pave the way for the construction of the Ram temple.

“We demanded immediate return of the 67-acre land acquired by the government around the disputed site to enable us to build the four gopur dwars (gateways) and removal of all legal obstacles in the path of the temple construction by next Mahashivratri, ” the mahant said.

Vishnu Hari Dalmiya and Ashok Singhal were also part of the delegation.

Sudarshan call

RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan has called for “Indianisation of Islam”.“The Muslims in India should realise that they belong to the same ancestry. They need to adopt to Indian culture,” he said. “If Muslims in Indonesia can adopt Sanskrit names, why can’t there be a Mohammed Prasad or Mohammed Das in India?” he asked.

   
 

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