SC green signal to govt on compulsory retirement
Bihar alert after Buddha bombings
Clergy slams Saudi Haj subsidy stand
Mayavati eyes private quota
Mamata teams up with Soren
CPM faces exodus in Nadia
Police find no mob-link proof against stars
Nepal snag in Ghising attack probe
Police drive to win over people
Student suicide

New Delhi, March 3: 
In a far-reaching judgment on compulsory retirement, which the government is set to resort to with the new economic policy, the Supreme Court said the “government is empowered and entitled to compulsorily retire a government servant in public interest”.

But the government “has to consider the entire record of the government servant, including the latest reports” before acting against him, the apex court said, nullifying the compulsory retirement of a government employee.

A division bench of Justice S. Rajendra Babu and Justice K.G. Balakrishnan gave the ruling while deciding the case of an executive engineer working in the Narmada Development Department, Gujarat, who had allegedly committed “acts of misuse of power in connection with the purchase of tarpauline”.

The apex court said the law relating to compulsory retirement has now crystallised into definite principles and set them down:

Whenever the services of a public servant are no longer useful to the general administration, the officer can be compulsorily retired in public interest;

For better administration, it is necessary to chop off dead wood, but the order of compulsory retirement can be passed only after due regard to the entire service record of the officer;

Any adverse entries made in the confidential record shall be taken note of and given due weightage;

Even uncommunicated entries in the confidential record can be taken into consideration;

The order shall not be passed as a short cut to avoid departmental inquiry when such a course is more desirable;

If the officer was given a promotion despite adverse entries in the confidential record, it goes in favour of the officer;

Compulsory retirement shall not be imposed as a punishment.

The apex court said there were “absolutely no adverse entries in the confidential records” of the executive engineer who had also “successfully crossed the efficiency bar at the age of 50 as well as 55”.

It added that although there was sufficient time to finish the inquiry against him, the state government did not complete it.

On these grounds, the court struck down the compulsory retirement order served on the executive engineer, but accepted the general principle that the government could compulsorily retire any employee in public interest and to improve efficiency.


Patna, March 3: 
As the Taliban bombs the statues of Buddha in Afghanistan, the administration has stepped up vigil over Buddhist monuments in Bihar following a report that an outfit linked with Osama bin Laden was “recruiting” youths from the state to wage “jihad” in India.

Rajgir, Vaishali, Kesaria and Nalanda — places that attract hordes of foreign Buddhist tourists, specially from Japan, North and South Korea and Sri Lanka — are felt to be most vulnerable.

“There is no denying the fact that in the event of any such attack, we would be helpless, as most of the monuments remain open and exposed. There is no way you can check the pilgrims,” said K.K. Mohammad, superintending archaeologist at the Patna Circle of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Sources said police have tightened security at Rajgir’s Shanti Stupa and at the Vaishali monuments. In Kesaria, where a number of stupas were unearthed recently, the district police have provided security at the request of the ASI. Kesaria is in Champaran district, close to the Bihar-Nepal border.

A Union home ministry message despatched earlier had cautioned the state administration that an organisation connected with Laden was trying to recruit youths from districts across Bihar-Nepal border for carrying out jihad on Indian territory.

The message, which came a week before the Taliban’s attacks in Bamiyan, said that at least half a dozen minority organisations on the Bihar-Nepal border had links with the terrorist who had issued instructions for recruiting youths for jihad.

The report was based on a conversation that took place during interrogation of two persons arrested by Nepal police. The taped conversation of the youths were sent to Delhi by Kathmandu.

The despatch from home ministry stated that Bainulekwani Islamic Muzahidin-e-Aala (International Supreme Islamic Mujahideen) was spreading in several countries where they are planning to step up their activities. India happened to be their prime destination. The report said the outfit targeted vulnerable border districts. Bihar borders are used by militants.

After the statement from the home ministry, the state government has alerted the superintendent of police in all Bihar districts, specially those on the Bihar-Nepal border. Vigils have been intensified in front of over 70 precious international Buddhist monuments in Bihar.

“We are in touch with Uttar Pradesh police to step up intelligence network towards providing as much security to the monuments as possible,” said a senior home department officer in Bihar.

The ASI in Bihar has launched a campaign to mobilise opinion condemning the Taliban attack on Buddhist sculptures. It convened a meet of intellectuals at Patna Museum in which the residents adopted a resolution saying: “We would like to remind the Afghan government that central Asia has been a cradle-land of all major civilisations and the nucleus from where cultures have radiated to the rest of the world.”

In India, Bhaktiyar Khilji and his army gone on a spree of destroying Buddhist monuments nine centuries ago. “Afghans are just repeating history. But if similar threats arise, people will not sit idle,” said Manish Gupta, a teacher at a Patna college.Many people are up in arms.

At 5 pm, archaeology-lovers invited all leading Muslim organisations of the state at Gandhi Bhavan here to condemn the attack. “We would unequivocally condemn the attack for we never believe this kind of destruction had any sanction of religion,” said Mainuddin Khan, an eminent citizen.


New Delhi, March 3: 
The Indian Muslim clergy has rubbished the Saudi foreign minister’s criticism of the Haj subsidy, which was lapped up by the VHP to bolster its demand for an immediate withdrawal of the assistance to pilgrims.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Muslim scholars expressed surprise over Saudi foreign minister Saud Al-Faisal’s remark that his country’s ulema will explain to their Indian counterparts that the Rs 150 crore Haj subsidy goes against the spirit of Islam.

The “job of providing the means of transportation rests with the government so the question of performing Haj within ‘own means’ does not clash with it”, said the amir of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Maulana Shafi Moonis.

Moonis explained that Haj was among the five mandatory religious obligations and every Muslim was expected to visit Mecca and Madina and bear the cost, including that of airfare, boarding and lodging, from “own means”. “So the logic of including means of transport into own means does not arise,” Moonis said, adding that Hajis are prepared to pay any cost of the to-and-fro ticket fixed by the government.

Another scholar from Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind, Qari Hammad, said the international air ticketing business was complicated and included a number of discounts. “Does that mean that availing discounts is also against shariat or that availing other welfare facilities like Haj house accommodation and vaccination are also improper?” he asked.

Muftis at Darul-Uloom, Deoband, also questioned the Saudi locus standi in questioning the subsidy. These religious clerics said no Islamic scholar had ever considered the subsidy as against shariat.

“Many Indian Islamic authorities are highly respected in the Islamic world. The Arab world approaches us on many religious matters. So it was surprising to hear about the objection,” a maulvi from Deoband said.

Muslim leaders said the government had taken the initiative of providing subsidy when it discontinued operating ships to ferry Hajis. As airfares were almost double, the government began giving subsidy to allow the poorer Muslims to perform their religious obligation.

“In a welfare state, I see nothing wrong in Haj subsidy,” a member of Delhi’s Haj committee said.

Some Muslim leaders alleged that the VHP and other Sangh parivar outfits were making a issue of the subsidy to derive political mileage.

“They want to mislead the masses as if the government is going something extraordinary for the Muslims in India. But similar concessions are given to those going for Mansarovar Yatra and even for the Kumbh Mela,” a Jamiat leader said.


New Delhi, March 3: 
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) vice-president and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayavati has demanded job reservation for Dalits and tribals in the private sector as a precondition for disinvestment and privatisation.

Talking to reporters today, Mayavati said since the NDA government was pushing for the disinvestment of public sector units (PSUs), the rights and interests of the SC\ST workers should be safeguarded.

Mayavati alleged that the NDA government’s agenda revealed an insidious design on the BJP’s part to do away with reservations. “When public sector units are privatised, several Dalits will lose their jobs and be thrown on the streets and pushed towards abysmal poverty. I had raised the issue when the Balco matter was discussed in the House and urged the government to give an assurance on reservation in the private sector. But there was no reply and, therefore, close to voting we were forced to enter the well of the House,” she said.

Mayavati pointed out that none of the BJP’s allies or the major Opposition parties, including the Left parties, had supported the BSP. “It shows they are all against reservation in the private sector,” she said.

Apart from the private sector, Mayavati also demanded the implementation of quotas for SC\STs in the judiciary, the Rajya Sabha and the legislative councils. She threatened that if her demand was not met, the BSP would take to the streets.

The BSP leader also raised the issue of job quotas for Dalits remaining unfulfilled for years and emphasised that the reservation policy should be enshrined in the ninth Schedule of the Constitution so that it was kept out of the legal purview.

“The matter always goes to court and gets further complicated,” Mayavati said. Describing this year’s budget as “anti-poor”, she said: “It shows that the BJP is a party for only rich business and is out to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.”

Mayavati also condemned the demolition of the rock-hewn Buddha statues by Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban and called on the Centre to raise the matter in international fora.


New Delhi, March 3: 
Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee has allied with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (Soren) in her bid to forge a joint anti-Left front. JMM president Shibu Soren said Mamata has offered him at least 15 seats in the tribal-dominated pockets for the West Bengal Assembly election.

Talking to reporters here today, Soren said: “We have reached an agreement on seat adjustment in the tribal strongholds in Purulia, Bankura, Midnapore, Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling districts.”

Asked if Trinamul’s pact with the BJP would prove to be a deterrent — considering the JMM and BJP have fallen out in Jharkhand where the former has an understanding with Laloo Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal — he asserted: “Our alliance with Trinamul has nothing to do with it being an NDA constituent or its association with the BJP.”

BJP sources admitted that today’s development had created a “piquant” situation in West Bengal but reserved comment. “No reaction is necessary until the situation becomes crystal-clear,” the sources said.

Justifying the decision to team up with Trinamul, Soren said: “We believe that the interests of tribals in Bengal will be safe in Mamata Banerjee’s hands. The Left Front has always tried to scuttle our genuine demands.”

He claimed that Mamata herself had initiated the alliance: “She is herself interested in this.”

Asked if the JMM would field candidates against the BJP, Soren said: “We may but we have nothing to do with them. We cannot be performing puja of the BJP.”

The JMM had a tacit understanding with the BJP in the last Bihar Assembly polls through the Samata Party and took the lead in proposing Nitish Kumar’s name for chief minister. The quid pro quo was that BJP-Samata would prop up Soren as the chief minister as and when Jharkhand came into being.

But relations with the JMM soured when the BJP turned down Soren’s candidacy and insisted on having Babulal Marandi as chief minister on the ground that it was the single largest party in the Jharkhand Assembly. The JMM snapped its ties with the NDA and latched on to the RJD.

Today, however, Soren dodged a question on whether his party would be a signatory to the common NDA manifesto being worked out by the BJP-Trinamul for the Bengal elections. “Our manifesto is about tribal welfare and that is known to one and all,” he said.

The seats the JMM proposed to contest are Raipur, Raniband, Salboni, Jhargar, Nayagram, Binpur, Arsa, Bandwan, Kumargram, Falakota, Madarihat, Nagrakta, Dhupguri, Kalchai and Phansidewa.


Calcutta, March 3: 
After South 24-Parganas and North 24 Parganas, the CPM is now facing an organisational crisis in Nadia and Bankura.

A chunk of CPM party members in the two districts have resigned from the organisation over the past two days to join Saifuddin Chowdhury’s newly-floated Party for Democratic Socialism (PDS).

Satyen Roy, a district committee member of the CPM’s Nadia unit, quit the CPM last night. “With Roy, about 100 CPM members have resigned from the party. All of them will join our organisation at a convention to be held in Haringhata on March 8,” PDS spokesman Tapas Bose said.

Bose said PDS general secretary Samir Putatunda accompanied by Chowdhury will attend the convention in Haringhata, where about 100 CPM members from are likely to join the PDS.

What has embarrassed the Alimuddin Street mandarins is that CPM state secretary Anil Biswas not only hails from Nadia but also supervises the organisation there on behalf of the CPM state secretariat.


Mumbai, March 3: 
Police will soon chargesheet Bharat Shah, but indicated that there was no evidence that two top stars questioned about their association with the arrested film financier had any links with the underworld.

Police commissioner M.N. Singh today said Shah, held for alleged links to the mob under the harsh Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act — known as mini-Tada — would be chargesheeted in a few days.

Singh indicated that the police did not have evidence that Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan had any links with the underworld. The actors were called to the crime branch office last Sunday, where they were interrogated separately for more than three hours about their association with Shah.

Both denied any connection with the mob and attributed their association with Shah to their profession. “An arrest is a serious matter and cannot be ordered unless you have concrete evidence,” Singh said, hinting at the lack of evidence against the stars.

Salman — along with Rani Mukherjee and Preity Zinta — starred in Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, which the police said was financed by Chhota Shakeel, right-hand man of Karachi-based mobster Dawood Ibrahim.

Shah Rukh had joined hands with Shah to launch his entertainment portal,

The financier repeatedly denied links with the underworld and claimed to have funded the blockbuster, but the police contested his assertions and presented the court with a recorded phone conversation between Shah and Shakeel as evidence of their links.

The police chief said he would order arrests of film personalities if he got evidence. “We are keeping a close watch and will take action against whoever is involved.”

Singh said the police were not hounding industry people. “In fact, we are protecting many of them from the underworld. The number of film people under police protection is growing.”

He denied charges that police were vilifying Bollywood. “We don’t want to tarnish the image of the industry, but if that happens in the course of investigation, I cannot help it.” Singh said he had reasons to believe many industry people were “friendly” with the mob.

The police chief ruled out any political interference in investigation. “When Bharat Shah was arrested, deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal himself made the announcement.”

He said the police were determined to expose Bollywood-underworld links to the public, despite continuing “efforts by the vested interests to block our investigation”.

He said some industry people were criticising the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act as “draconian” only after the recent arrests. But the Act came in handy for the police, which had long remained toothless in the face of growing underworld activities, the police chief said.


Siliguri, March 3: 
Police on the trail of Subash Ghising’s attackers have returned empty-handed yet again from Nepal, raising doubts about the manner in which the entire operation has been handed.

Nepal police had claimed to have arrested two persons suspected to be the masterminds of the strike on the Gorkhaland leader and were to have handed them over to the team from West Bengal. But, criticised by the media for the manner in which the entire operation has been carried out, the Nepal police developed cold feet and are now reluctant to comply with the SIT’s request.

“Certain diplomatic problems have cropped up. We are not getting any cooperation from our Nepal counterparts. The SIT team which went to Dharan in eastern Nepal yesterday to bring back the two arrested persons have returned empty-handed,” an SIT official said today.

The operation in Nepal — codenamed Deer — was the third since the attempt on Ghising’s life on February 10.

Reports yesterday had suggested that the Nepal police had handed over two of the alleged conspirators — Sharan Dewan and Arjun Chettri — to the SIT. Also, militant Gorkha leader Chhattray Subba was believed to have sent feelers to the SIT through the Nepal police that he was willing to surrender.

Faced with strong public criticism, the Nepalese authorities seem to have “backtracked” on handing over the suspects.

“The entire matter is now being dealt with at the highest level between Delhi and Kathmandu. Though there is no formal extradition treaty between the two countries, there have been instances in the past when some criminals have been handed over,” the SIT official said.

The media in Nepal have even questioned the manner in which the arrests were made and wondered how only Sharan and Arjun were taken into custody while two other suspects — Pradeep Benjamin and Harke Bahadur — managed to give the police a slip.

The SIT believes that both Harke and Pradeep could be members of the strike force that carried out the ambush.

The GNLF, too, have questioned the way the district police have handled the investigations. “We are not too happy with the manner in which police are conducting the investigations. Time is running out on our deadline on the arrests. We want the masterminds and the attackers arrested by March 18,” GNLF’s Kurseong branch committee chief Indra Narayan Pradhan said.

Pradhan refused to comment on the reported arrests of the two suspects. “Unless we see with our own eyes that the masterminds are arrested, we will not make any comments. Police could as well be on a wild-goose chase for all we know. They may even be trying to hoodwink the people by arresting some small fish,” Pradhan said.

Kurseong bandh today

Two CPM activists were killed and five others injured when alleged activists of the Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists attacked them in Darjeeling last night.

The Kurseong zonal committee of the CPM has called a 12-hour bandh in Kurseong tomorrow, in protest against the murders at Rongmuk-Cider tea estate under Jorebungalow police station.


Calcutta, March 3: 
Worried by the rising crime graph, the South 24-Parganas police administration has chalked out an elaborate plan to improve relations between police and public.

The district has 32 police stations, most of which are located in the riverine Sundarbans. Initially, three police stations of the district will be equipped with various items of entertainment and educational value to attract people of all age groups, thus helping build up a healthy relationship.

These are Gosaba and Basanti, which are in riverine areas, and Mandirbazar. There is no electricity in Gosaba and people have to depend either on solar power or purely on kerosene lamps.

Police officers are usually reluctant to work in these remote areas because of the lack of basic amenities.

Moreover, with people of these areas avoiding policemen, the officers remain isolated from the rest of society.

The three police stations where the scheme will initially be implemented are being renovated in such a manner that those working there will not feel bored or isolated from their families, according to additional superintendent of police (rural) Rajesh Kumar Singh.

“Under the new scheme, policemen can live in police stations with their families. There will be programmes for entertainment and other activities at model police stations,” said Singh.

In the three police station areas there are huge ponds and stretches of cultivable land where fish and rice are cultivated. There is a lot of income from this source. In some years, the profit is as high as Rs 40,000. However, the money is not properly utilised.

A plan has thus been formulated to set up a committee with representatives from police stations and local people, which will monitor, throughout the year, the cultivation and the earning from it and ensure its proper utilisation. A park for the elderly and children has also been planned.


Berhampore, March 3: 
Susanta Das (18), a Madhyamik examination candidate committed suicide after consuming poison on Saturday.

Susanta’s parents said that he was upset after he could not answer his History paper well. “Susanta was very morose after he came home on Thursday. He told me that he couldn’t answer his History paper well,” said Susanta’s mother, weeping inconsolably.


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