SC boost to Internet-age workers in rented homes
Friends put Jaswant on mat
Mamata blames drought on Left
Bows & arrows in poll war
Bomb at Hurriyat meet
Sangh stings Centre on border terror
Back home after bad American dream
Orphanage director in scam net
Museum to show off Nizam’s jewels

New Delhi, April 23: 
The Supreme Court has held that a landlord cannot demand more rent from his tenant for using one room in the house for office work.

Using a room for doing “work relating to office files or study of children or allied or ancillary use” would not amount to “commercial activity” in a residential area, the court said.

“In these days, computers, Internet and other like facilities are kept at home for convenience and use. It is not uncommon that officials, executives, officers, businessmen, industrialists and people engaged in other vocations may have some homework to do. In residential buildings, where persons live with family members, a room may be used for the purpose of doing homework relating to office files,” a division bench of Justice D.P. Mohapatra and Justice Shivraj V. Patel said.

The court dismissed the argument that tenants by using computer and Internet could change the character of residential premises. “It is not possible to say that use of one room for doing homework or study itself will change the classification and character of the building,” the bench said.

“Use of a room in a residential building for personal purpose should be distinguished from use of such a room for business, industry or other commercial activity or as a regular public or professional office,” the judges observed.

“We must add that each case has to be considered on its own facts, on the basis of the pleadings and evidence, to find out as to whether there has been a change of user in the building from residential to non-residential, as it is not possible to give an exhaustive list of situations as to change of user of buildings,” they said.

Interpreting the Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act, the court said Sections 13(2)(iii) and (iv) “take care of situations where the tenant has committed such acts as are likely to impair materially the value or utility of the building or the rented land or where the tenant has been guilty of such acts as are a nuisance to the occupiers of buildings in the neighbourhood”.

However, it would not become a “restrictive activity” to use one room to do official work with a computer and Internet connection.

The bench also gave the “common” reference of a lawyer who uses a room in his residence as his “office”, where he even entertains clients.


New Delhi, April 23: 
Angry BJP and other National Democratic Alliance MPs today fired accusations at Jaswant Singh in both Houses of Parliament while the defence minister was making a statement on the brutal killing of the BSF jawans.

Singh, who is also the foreign minister, described the killings as acts of “criminal adventurism” and said the “defilement of men in uniform was a defilement of the Republic of India”. But his words cut no ice as the MPs targeted him over the Centre’s handling of the border standoff.

The ultimate embarrassment for the government was a stinging attack from Swaraj Kaushal, Rajya Sabha MP from the Haryana Vikas Party and husband of information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj. Sushma quietly left the Upper House just before her husband started speaking.

Shortly after Singh made his statement, Kaushal posed a series of questions. He wanted to know what the government was doing for five days after the killings, was the flare-up a military or diplomatic failure, and why were the injured soldiers taken to Tura instead of Calcutta or Silchar when there was no blood-bank in the Meghalaya town.

“The home secretary and GOC (Eastern Command) had not even visited the places where the incidents occurred. But the most shameful thing was when the 15 bodies were cremated, not a single minister or any person of authority was present. Is this the kind of treatment you give to our security forces who give up their lives for the country?” he asked. Kaushal ended with a poser: “Mr Jaswant Singh, as the defence minister, we did not expect this from you.”

When the discussions resumed after the lunch recess, BJP’s T.N. Chaturvedi said while the minister’s statement was “couched in niceties”, it was neither “adequate nor reassuring”.

“When the nation’s self-respect and confidence and the ability of the government and security forces are involved, I am afraid we have to speak with firmness and a clear conscience,” he said.

Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Nirupam was more scathing. “There are presently two ministers rolled in Jaswant Singh’s persona. While the foreign minister has to work with tact and diplomacy, the defence minister’s priority is to keep the security forces’ morale high. Jaswant Singh may have won a diplomatic battle in a small way, but as the defence minister, he has failed,” Nirupam said. “Small countries which owe their very existence to India are now threatening our sovereignty.”

In the Lok Sabha, another Sena MP, Mohan Rawle, slammed Singh’s statement as “unsatisfactory” and asked the government to “take action against Pakistan and Bangladesh”.

Replying to clarifications sought by Rajya Sabha members, Singh denied that the killings were a result of intelligence failure. He said the defence ministry did not come into the picture as the BSF deployment concerned the home ministry. “It is completely fanciful to say it was an intelligence failure or the failure of RAW,” he added.

Singh also rejected the comparison with the Kargil intrusion. “The reference is misleading and unwarranted,” he said. “The Kargil aggression was against India. The Bangladesh incident was part of a total border management situation and to confer any other kind of category on it is wrong.”

Placing the flare-up in historical perspective, he said of the 4,096 km-long Indo-Bangladesh border, only six km were yet to be demarcated. But because of the unique riverine nature of the terrain and the shifting of the border line, there were as many as 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 51 Bangladeshi enclaves in India.

Singh said the 1974 boundary pact signed between Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman made a distinction between enclaves and adverse possessions. “The question of adverse possession is one of the pending issues related to the border,” he said.


Purulia, April 23: 
If last year’s floods in Bengal were “man-made”, Mamata Banerjee today described the prevailing drought in Purulia and Bankura districts as a “creation” of the CPM.

“The annual droughts in these two districts and floods in certain other districts are in most cases organised with an eye to raise party funds,” the Trinamul chief said at an election rally here. “Jadi balen kijanye aar kibhabe, ami bolbo traner taka loot karte (If you ask why and how, I will say it is to plunder relief funds).”

She said the CPM yearns for natural calamities. “They pray to God asking for natural calamities so that they can loot.”

Mamata, who appeared depressed after her rally failed to draw crowds at Nadanghat yesterday, looked cheerful seeing the size of the mostly tribal crowd at the stadium in Purulia town. The other “star” attraction today was Jharkhand Mukti Morcha chief Shibu Soren.

Tribals carrying bows and arrows and dancing to the beat of drums did not stop pouring in even when the rally was nearly over.

Banerjee thanked the crowd repeatedly for braving the scorching sun. At Nadanghat, she had arrived on dot but waited more than an hour for the numbers to swell. Today, she arrived at the rally ground at 4 pm, one hour behind schedule.

Alleging that the CPM had done nothing for these backward regions during its 24-year rule, Mamata said if voted to power, she would prepare a master-plan for these two districts.

“It is a shame that the Left Front government had never thought of any comprehensive plan to alleviate the condition of the poor tribals living in this region,” she said.

“I am from a poor family,” she said to loud cheers. “I can feel for the poor and the neglected. I shall definitely do something which will benefit the tribal population.”

Mamata said the tribals had genuine grievances against the CPM government and this has to be “reflected through ballot” this time. “Apnara anek din abahelito thekechhen. Aar noi (You have been neglected for long. Not any more),” she said.

She said May 10 would create history by replacing a non-functioning government.

“My promise to not enter Writers’ Buildings before coming to power will also come true,” she said, reminding the crowd that nine years ago she had been literally thrown out of Writers’ when she had taken with her a rape victim to meet former chief minister Jyoti Basu.

Mamata, who would address three rallies in Bankura tonight, promised to bring back healthy work-culture, restore law and order, reintroduce English from class I and create employment opportunities if voted to power.


Patna, April 23: 
Booth grabbers today fell back on bows and arrows to kill rivals in the fourth phase of the Bihar panchayat polls, killing six and wounding at least 30.

Shortly after noon, criminal groups loyal to two candidates fighting for the post of Mukhia fought a pitched battle at Israikalar, a village in Kumarkhand. Though illegal arms were available, the rival supporters of the two Rajputs settled for bows and arrows.

“After the first round of stone-throwing stopped, a volley of arrows rained down on both sides,” said Manav Singh, a local resident. One hit Nagendra Singh, one of the contestants, who later succumbed to injuries in hospital. Police suspect that some of the arrows were poisoned.

Rajesh Singh, the rival candidate, is believed to be a member of the North Bihar Liberation Army, a militant caste-outfit which has unleashed terror in the area. Sources say his men started off the skirmish.

According to the police, one reason for using arrows was because it was more convenient as carrying bows and arrows was not illegal.

“In a massive raid, police had seized a huge cache of arms from rival supporters in the locality and members of the private outfit were left with just bows and arrows. For a moment, it looked like a Kurukshetra,” said an officer. “But, at least, it has cost less lives,” said an officer in Madhepura.

It was back to guns and bombs elsewhere, though voters turned out in large numbers surprising nervous poll officers.

In Sarang’s Masarakpur village, despite a huge turnout, supporters of two Mukhia candidates clashed. Sunil Singh, one of the candidates who was caught in the cross-fire, later died of gun-shot wounds in hospital. Another died in Chuha, a village in Jamui district.

At the Gaighat Panchayat area in Buxar, the scene turned violent around 2 pm when rival supporters armed with revolvers, bombs and cycle-chains clashed. One person was killed and four injured. Police later seized illegal weapons and arrested 40.

To stop booth grabbers, police opened fire in Saharsha, Patna and Sarang districts. Though there were no casualties, four persons were injured following a stampede.

Late in the afternoon, armed anti-socials fought with policemen in East Champaran district’s Parsausid village. One person was killed and four were injured.

The low toll has come as welcome relief for the authorities. “The number of deaths came down considerably today,” said state home secretary U.N. Panjiyar. “But I can only call it a peaceful poll when not a single death is reported.”


Srinagar, April 23: 
Militants attacked the headquarters of the All-Party Hurriyat Conference, injuring four activists, on a day when 27 soldiers were wounded in a series of blasts across the state.

A general council of the separatist conglomerate was holding discussions to decide on a response to the Centre’s interlocuter, K.C. Pant’s dialogue offer when militants threw a grenade. After hitting the building, it fell on the lawns of the office and exploded.

Two little-known militant outfits, Mujahideen-e-Haq and Al-Qasas, later claimed responsibility for the attack, reports PTI.

Of the four injured, three are office-bearers of the Awami Action Committee (AAC) headed by Mirwaiz Moulvi Umar Farooq. AAC is a constituent of the Hurriyat Conference.

“We were in the meeting. It did not affect us at all,” said Hurriyat chairman Abdul Gani Bhat. “The explosion cannot interfere with what we want to say.”

After today’s general council meeting, the Hurriyat executive will meet on Thursday to take a final decision on whether to hold talks with Delhi. “We will announce our collective decision that day after the executive meeting,” he added.

In another development, a senior BSF officer and his four guards were seriously wounded in a powerful explosion this morning in the northern town of Bandipore, 75 km from here.

Police sources said Ashwani Kumar, commandant of the 20th Battalion of the Border Security Force, and his four paramilitary guards received serious injuries after the vehicle in which they were travelling hit an improvised explosive device.

Sources said Kumar’s bullet-proof vehicle was badly damaged. The radio operator of the BSF commandant was among the injured, a police official said.

The injured were shifted to a hospital in Bandipore. However, sources said Kumar may be shifted to a Srinagar hospital.

Sources said militants also fired on the troops. The jawans retaliated. Local people alleged that a civilian, identified as Abdul Aziz, was killed in the crossfire.

In another explosion — at Banihal — 11 soldiers were injured. They were rushed to a nearby hospital, where the condition of three is stated to be critical.

Late this afternoon, 11 members of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were injured when a bus in which they were travelling hit a landmine near Chenani on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway. Police sources said the condition of four of them was critical.

Sources said the CRPF bus was on its way to Jammu carrying members who were returning home for their holidays.

Senior police officers rushed to the spot immediately and the injured CRPF soldiers were shifted to Udhampur hospital.

Sources said the bus rolled down several metres after the explosion. No one has claimed responsibility for the blast.


New Delhi, April 23: 
Loud rumblings of protest are being heard within the Sangh parivar against the way the Centre has handled the brutal killing of BSF jawans on the Indo-Bangladesh border.

Bajrang Dal convener Surendra Jain, who took the lead by sending a letter to Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, said the government’s “lukewarm response” could raise doubts about its competence in the minds of the people.

Jain urged Vajpayee not to allow his “liberal image” to be interpreted as a “sign of weakness” and demanded that Bangladesh should be “taught a lesson for its misdeed”. He asked the government to “direct Dhaka” to stop allowing ISI militants to use Bangladesh as a base for anti-India activities.

Earlier in the day, Sangh parivar activists led by VHP president Vishnu Hari Dalmiya demonstrated outside the Bangladesh High Commission. They submitted a memorandum to the high commissioner, listing a series of demands.

Among them were punishment, in accordance with international law, to the guilty Bangladesh Rifles personnel, a personal apology to the families of the slain jawans and repatriation of all illegal Bangladeshi migrants.

After meeting the high commissioner, M.F. Mohammad, Dalmiya said: “We expressed our strong resentment over the recent incidents to him and demanded proper investigation from the Bangladesh authorities.” The envoy reportedly assured that “proper action” would be taken against those found guilty.


Bangalore, April 23: 
Sunil Kumar’s just back from El Dorado and doesn’t want to talk about it. “Please,” says the 28-year-old software professional. “It was a bad dream.”

Sunil passed out of NIIT and then went chasing the Great American Dream. He landed a job in DC. Life cruised along on an annual salary of $100,000. He was hot property in the marriage market. He got married last year to a girl from Hosur and took his wife over to the land of plenty. He had no idea then how bad things could turn, and how fast.

Around the time Clinton was making his last speeches, Sunil was benched. It lasted three months. “I couldn’t believe it at first,” says Sunil, talking about his experience after all. “I was told to pack up. Then life became a struggle.... I need a break.”

He is now going to Hosur to spend a quiet month with his wife’s family. He has to recover. Only after that will he start applying for jobs again.

Rupesh, a techie from India’s Silicon Valley — Bangalore — is another casualty of the global IT meltdown. This Java specialist went to the US, and is now back.

“I have opted out. The situation is so bad over there that it is not worth it. After things improve, I will give it a try again,” he says.

There are some die-hards, though, who are still dreaming of America despite being scalded. “I am going to go back later,” says 26-year-old Harish K., another Java specialist who returned last month. For two months, he had cooled his heels in an apartment rented out by a body-shopping firm, which promised him a monthly salary of $5,000.

“We were in California for two months but did not get the feel of America because we were just sitting at home waiting for a positive call. But that did not happen. I was sent back as things did not improve,” he says. “Of course, I am now prepared to go anywhere in the world for a job. But when the right time comes, I will go back to the US,” he adds.

He is now knocking on the doors of several companies here for a job. But so far, he has not met with any success. “I feel disappointed,” says he.

“Many of them are in bad shape,” says Dr M.J. Sridhar, executive director, Executive Resource Management Group.

His firm recruited hundreds of software engineers and sent them to the US on H1-B visas during 1998-2000, the days of the software boom. “It was a mad rush to the US,” he recalls. “We did not have time to take detailed interviews of the applicants.”

But as the bloodbath in the Silicon Valley continues, he expects some 40,000 software professionals to return over the next two months.

“We will have to wait for things to turn around in the US before taking any decision,” says Shashikanth, a gold medallist who has come back after “a bad experience”. “We could not even afford a decent meal,” he says.

He’s now been asked to look towards Europe, or even Singapore and Malyasia.

“Germany, France, UK and the Asia-Pacific are the new target areas,” says Sirtaj Siddiqui, administrative manager of Max-Mueller Bhavan. “There is a steady increase in the number of software professionals learning German,” he adds.

There are 1,100 students at the institute this year learning German. Some 60 per cent of them are from the software industry. Siddiqui says some courses have been finetuned to meet the demands of the software pros.

The scene is similar if not more frenetic at the Alliance Francaise, where more and more software engineers are flocking to learn French. France is another alternative destination.

Destination Norway

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who spent a day in Bangalore, invited software professionals to his country. “We need a helping hand from India which is at the forefront of technology development,” he said. The country recently relaxed immigration laws to facilitate entry of software engineers. “There is a shortage of IT professionals. We are keen to tap Indian talent,” said deputy secretary-general Fredrick Syverson.


Hyderabad, April 23: 
Barely two years after a child adoption racket rocked Andhra, police last night arrested the director of a city-based orphanage on charges of illegal confinement of infants and child trafficking.

Police had raided an adoption home, Action for Social Development, last week and rescued 34 infants. Its director Sanjeev Rao was nabbed on a complaint filed by the state child welfare and women’s development department.

Rao had been running the orphanage at Gandhi Nagar in the heart of the city though his licence had been cancelled two years ago for his involvement in another child adoption racket.

In 1999, police had bust a scam involving sale of infants to childless foreigners. These babies were mostly purchased from poor people for Rs 1,500 to Rs 3,000, and then sold for between Rs 25,000 and Rs 1 lakh.

Getting the whiff of a similar racket, officials raided Rao’s centre and John Abraham Memorial Bethany Home at Tandur in neighbouring Ranga Reddy district on Friday last and rescued 94 infants — all of them girls — from the two centres.

Rao has been charged under sections 342, 353, 420, 468, 175, 188 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code.

The director, however, claimed that his centre had stopped foreign adoptions after his licence was cancelled in 1999 by the Central Adoption Resource Agency.

Most of the infants recovered were suffering from high fever and chest infection. A three-month-old baby girl died while being shifted from the Tandur Centre following respiratory illness, police said.

Some 20 infants were admitted to the women and child welfare department’s Niloufer Children’s Hospital. They will be discharged in a week and handed over to Shishu Vihar, a government-run child care centre, hospital superintendent N.C.K. Reddy said.

“Their condition is now totally stable,” Reddy said, adding that a team of doctors from the hospital will visit Shishu Vihar, where rescued infants were kept.

Chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu today visited Sishu Vihar and the orphanages.

The government also issued an ordinance making it illegal for biological parents to donate children for adoption. The state said it will monitor all the children’s homes and make rigid rules for inter-country adoptions.

CID officials took up the investigation today and seized some documents from the premises of John Abraham Memorial orphanage, whose owners are absconding. The state government has announced a reward of Rs 1 lakh for clues leading to their arrest.

There were also reports that poverty-stricken tribals, particularly in Ranga Reddy, Mahaboobnagar, Nalgonda and Medak districts, were selling female infants.

“Apart from tightening adoption norms and the monitoring mechanism, we need to launch a massive educational campaign to rid the tribal community of superstitious beliefs regarding the girl child,” a top official said.


New Delhi, April 23: 
Activity at the National Museum has moved into top gear. Not only are three mega shows slated for this year, but also several newly-designed galleries will be opened.

In mid-August, the fabled jewels of the Nizam will be put on display in a ground-floor gallery for a month. Arrangements for security are being given top priority. Neither the officials at the museum, nor at the department of culture are willing to discuss the show. All preparations are being treated as classified information.

There will also be an exhibition of Bhutanese arts and crafts in October. In December, the curtains will go up on the Picasso exhibition to be mounted by the French government.

To top it all, a slew of galleries will be opened at the museum this year. Around July, a numismatics gallery is supposed to open on the first floor.

National Museum has one of the richest collection of coins numbering 1.2 lakh pieces from the 6th century BC to the present day. Some 2,000 of these will be put on display for the first time, providing great interest to numismatists, students and collectors.

Along with the actual coins, there will be diorama projections of the different technologies of manufacturing Indian coins. There will also be portraits of rulers and of historical monuments to give context to the coins. A spokesperson for the National Museum said that interest in coins seems to be increasing.

Also in the pipeline are a new manuscript gallery, a paintings gallery and an epigraphic gallery. The keenly anticipated Central Asian Antiquities Gallery tentatively scheduled to be opened in February this year has been delayed. The new target for opening this unique gallery could be any time around July or after. It is learnt that only 110 paintings have so far been restored with many more to go.

All this is part of a major modernisation drive to make the National Museum a happening place. Instead of the sleepy, poorly stocked museum shop in the reception area, the National Museum has made available a section of the wide first floor verandah for a craft shop run by the Handloom and Handicraft Export Corporation. HHEC has not only a fascinating range of craft items in stone, wood, metal, textiles as well as books and stationery, it has also begun stocking replicas of famous statues in the National Museum collection.

On view are a Buddha and the well-known bearded Harappan head. These are made of fibreglass while there are also some exquisite stone replicas. Downstairs, the museum’s own shop carries these samples with the tag “out of stock”. Clearly, the authorities are bypassing the lethargic museum shop and the production unit to cater to the demands of visitors. HHEC is also running a cafeteria in the second floor verandah of the museum.


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