Satellite fails to reach parking space
Village gropes for news of brave son
Survivors clam up on border clash
Lawyers split on Jaya rejection
Free market unites red and saffron
Child dies as ambush-hit jawans open fire
CBI quizzes Garbeta witness
Irate Ghani scoffs at Mamata CM dream
Party steers clear of campaigner Panja
Gujarat unveils quake package

 
 
SATELLITE FAILS TO REACH PARKING SPACE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Bangalore, April 24: 
India’s tryst with outer space has received a setback with the experimental communications satellite GSAT-I, launched by the country’s

first Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), falling short of its destined parking slot by about 1,000 km.

As a result, the satellite’s functioning will be affected and its lifespan of three years is under question.

However, as the satellite is an experimental one, there will be no impact on communication or transmission links. “There are no users waiting for the payload . It is intended to experiment with digital radio broadcast,” said K. Kasturirangan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation, headquartered in Bangalore.

On its lifespan, he said: “We cannot say anything about it now. The satellite is under observation.” “We have virtually exhausted all the fuel on board in trying to bring it to the right orbit,” Kasturirangan added.

“The orbit will now be 23 hours and 2 minutes instead of the designated 24 hours. Whenever it passes India, we will conduct the experiments,” the Isro chief said.

The satellite is in a drift orbit instead of the geosynchronous orbit.

The failure of the satellite to reach its orbit is being played down as the main mission was to test the launch vehicle GSLV. “The objective was the launch vehicle and not the satellite,” said Kasturirangan. “Several new technologies for the space craft have already been evaluated.”

Underperformance by the Russian cryogenic engine is said to be the cause of the shortfall. However, Kasturirangan did not comment. The GSLV rocket was fired from Sriharikota launch pad on April 18 with the Russian cryogenic engine.

India is developing its own cryogenic engine and Kasturirangan said it will be operational in two and a half years. “It will be used for the third or fourth GSLV flight,” he said.

Kasturirangan said the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle is the next launch planned later this year. It will carry German and Belgian payload besides India’s advanced remote sensing satellite. This will be followed by the second launch of the GSLV next year.

   

 
 
VILLAGE GROPES FOR NEWS OF BRAVE SON 
 
 
FROM AMBEREEN ALI SHAH
 
New Delhi, April 24: 
Kavita isn’t sure if it’s time to change to the white of widowhood. Clad in the colours of matrimony, she is hoping against hope that her husband of six years, Anand Singh, was not among the 16 BSF jawans butchered on the Indo-Bangla border at Mancachar.

Even a week after the killings, she mumbled: “We are receiving news, we have received no information yet.” As her children — aged five and two-and-half — clung to her for succour, she herself was clutching to a thin ray of hope.

So has been the whole of Garhi, a small village in Haryana. In fact, Anand’s aunt confidently said: “I know he is alive, he could not have died.”

The villagers have not had any information from Tripura or from the BSF headquarters in New Delhi. While browsing through a Hindi daily, a villager had happened to spot a familiar name: “...a BSF head constable Anand Singh, one of the unidentified six men who was murdered in cold blood...”. But newspaper reports cannot be taken for gospel truth. It could all be a big mistake.

But if he was dead, his body would never return; the mutilated corpses had been cremated.

When Anand’s cousin called the BSF headquarters on Saturday, he could not get through to the director-general. He had a meeting with a “mantriji”.

At his wit’s end, he put his query to the operator. And within seconds his hopes crumbled. One by one, names were read out: “...Anand Singh, 118 battalion, married to Kavita, father of two children, resident of Garhi village in Haryana”.

The panchayat met in the afternoon. “News from any part of the world reaches so soon. Anand was killed within the country, and we had no knowledge, we have not received a telegram, or a phone call. The local radio mentioned people from Punjab, but not from Haryana. The government talks about honours, but how are they going to honour the dead of Mancachar?” asked a panchayat member.

But the village is still waiting for confirmation from the border, the villagers keeping awake perhaps to defeat death. Frantic calls have been made to the commanding officer in Tripura. But he could not be traced, neither at home nor at office. Anand’s family left a contact phone number, requesting him to return the call. Two days have passed but neither the commanding office in Tripura, nor the DC of Sonepat called back.

The telephone rang last evening at the neighbour’s place. Anand’s cousin rushed to take the call and time stood still in Garhi for five minutes. As he stepped out on the open yard, the villagers followed his every movement, curiosity writ large on their faces. Anand’s father, Dayanand, made an effort to raise his head. The village elders, sitting on the charpai, looked up from their hookahs hoping for some news. But the cousin came out, stood for a few seconds quietly, and slowly took a seat next to Dayanand, his eyes crimson.

As another agonising evening fell, a defeated Dayanand slowly walked towards his house. He was a pensioner. Like his son, he, too, had served India. As a havildar with the Rajputana Rifles, he had fought three wars in ’62, ’65 and ’71. Anand’s mother lay inert on another charpai.

Garhi is a village of soldiers, 150 retired and 200 still in the army. They pride themselves on serving the nation. But, this time, anger has seeped in. They are disgusted with the callousness of the authorities. “We cannot perform the last rites until we are formally informed about Anand’s death He gave his life for the country. The government and the BSF unit have not even made the effort to inform the family members,” said a villager. This complaint is almost a refrain in Garhi. It helps postpone the inevitable tears, the wailing, the frustration of not being able to cremate a loved one.

“Maybe, loss of a life is a regular affair, but for the family members and the villagers, it is a loss of a son,” said another. So, why is it that the government is unable to convey the news of a death to the family after so many hours, so many days in a show of callousness, utter irresponsibility?

   

 
 
SURVIVORS CLAM UP ON BORDER CLASH 
 
 
FROM SUSHANTA TALUKDAR
 
Tura, April 24: 
Ashok Rai pleaded against a photo. His sister’s wedding was just three days away, and he did not want his family in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri to be “unduly worried” on seeing him swathed in bandages. Recuperating at the Tura Christian Hospital from splinter injuries sustained on the Mancachar border, the BSF jawan was writing a letter to his sister, wishing her conjugal bliss and informing that he would not be able to attend her marriage.

Rai and his colleague R.C. Bhaduria, who is also undergoing treatment at the same hospital, were among the group of 20 BSF jawans who entered Bangladesh on the night of April 18.

Reluctant to divulge anything at first, they said a hail of bullets met them as soon as they crossed over. “I saw one of the jawans being hit and he fell down,” Bhaduria said.

Both of them were also hit on the legs, but they managed to return to the safety of home territory. Bound by strict instructions not to reveal “any details”, Rai would only say “contact Prahariganj”, the headquarters of the BSF’s 118 battalion.

But his insistence that he should not be photographed was purely personnel. “Yeh photo akhbaar main aa gaya to woh log pareshan ho jayenge (if the photograph comes out in the newspapers, my family members will be worried),” Rai said. His injuries, on the left thigh, are not serious and he will be able to go home soon.

However, the BSF authorities have put the two jawans, who were captured by the Bangladesh Rifles, under wraps. No one knows where they are being treated.

While 118 battalion commandant Sushil Kumar Zutshi said they were in Guwahati, jawans at Tura were of the opinion that their injured colleagues, Akshay Kumar and Bimal Prasad, “may still be in the hill station”.

The staff at the Tura hospital said they were aware of “two injured jawans being brought to the hospital on Sunday night”, but did not where they were now.. A patient in the male ward confirmed that he saw the two being brought into the hospital on Sunday night.

Zutshi claimed that the two jawans were shifted to Guwahati yesterday, and were taken outside today for further treatment. He added that the hospital where they would be admitted is still not known.

He said the condition of the two injured jawans is still critical as both sustained multiple head injuries. Kumar, he said, has head injuries caused by a blunt and solid object, besides bullet injuries in the little finger. Prasad, too, sustained major head injuries.

Zutshi added that the family members of constable Mofulluddin today paid their respects at his grave.

Meghalaya protest

Meghalaya has lodged a protest with the Centre accusing the Border Security Force of keeping the state “in the dark” on the border flare-up.

West Garo hills deputy commissioner B. Purkayastha told The Telegraph that the state chief secretary had written to the home ministry about the BSF’s “reluctance” to share information with the state.

The letter was sent on April 19, a day after the skirmish in Assam’s Mancachar started.

Purkayastha said the joint secretary in the home ministry J.K. Pillai had also been verbally informed about the BSF’s tendency to work independently.

There are four BSF battalions in Meghalaya, including the 118 battalion headquartered at Prahariganj near Tura. The 118 battalion is in charge of manning the border in Mancachar sector.

Purkayastha said the chief secretary had asked for an update after the clashes began. “But I was not in a position to say anything,” he said.

“We are not seeking classified information. But when any of their (BSF) actions affects the public and the administration, we have a right to know what is going on,” he added.

“Whatever information we got was from television and newspaper reports. The BSF does not keep the government informed about their troop movement and other developments along the border,” Purkayastha said.

Nearly 6,000 people from the border areas in Mancachar fled to the West Garo hills since the clashes. Six refugee camps had to be set up in different villages and the people provided food and water.

Purkayastha said the refugees started coming in from the morning of April 19. “But all of them have gone back now,” he said.

The deputy commissioner said he asked the superintendent of police to rush to Mahendraganj after he heard about the handover of the jawans on TV.

Till about four years ago, the BSF authorities were in constant touch with the civil administration, Purkayastha said, producing a file of the correspondence between the BSF and the district administration.

“Nothing new has gone into the file for the last four years or so,” he said. Earlier, the BSF even informed the state when an officer went on leave, he claimed.

“I am totally frustrated. This is a question of orderly functioning of the system and cooperation is a must,” he added.

   

 
 
LAWYERS SPLIT ON JAYA REJECTION 
 
 
FROM OUR LEGAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, April 24: 
The rejection of ADMK chief Jayalalitha’s nomination papers for the forthcoming Tamil Nadu Assembly elections on grounds of her convi-ction in a criminal case has evoked a mixed but sharp response from the legal community here.

While a section of lawyers and jurists opine that the Election Commission’s rejection of the nomination papers on grounds of conviction was wrong, another section says “it is perfectly justified and within the ambit of law”.

The panel has “done a perfect job”, says former Union law minister Ram Jethmalani. “The law is very clear that a person convicted in a criminal case with more than two years of sentence cannot contest an election,” says Jethmalani, who is a designated senior counsel of the Supreme Court.

Jethmalani, who has argued most of the 40-odd criminal cases on behalf of Jayalalitha initiated under the DMK regime, says “pendancy of an appeal means nothing and it does not mean that the conviction is stayed” about her appeal against conviction pending before the Madras High Court. “Although appeal is the continuation of the trial in the normal sense of criminal law, the law relating to election is clear that the convicted person cannot contest,” he says.

Another designated senior counsel of the apex court and the vice-president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, M.N. Krishnamani, however, says the position that a convicted person cannot contest “is only an administrative order of the Election Commission and not the word of law”.

According to him, the Representation of the People’s Act does not say that a person convicted can be stopped from contesting elections when an appeal is pending. “So an administrative order of the panel cannot be against the statute.”

Cho S. Ramaswamy, a practising lawyer and member of the Rajya Sabha, says the ADMK chief cannot be stopped from contesting on grounds of her conviction. “When the Madras High Court had stated that conviction and sentence are inseparable twins, automatically conviction is stopped when sentence is stopped by the trial court itself,” he explained. “When one is stopped, automatically the other is also stopped,” Krishnamani echoes.

The trial court had convicted Jayalalitha but stopped the sentence to enable her to appeal. On her appeal, the single judge bench of the high court of Justice Malai Subramaniam, said conviction and sentence were inseparable. But the judge said he could not decide the case and dismissed the petition after holding that the panel would decide the issue.

   

 
 
FREE MARKET UNITES RED AND SAFFRON 
 
 
FROM DEBASHIS BHATTACHARYYA
 
Mumbai, April 24: 
In times of globalisation, even trade union movement is market driven.

The pressures of the capricious market — wilting many a blossoming business with resultant layoffs — has brought together two political opposites, the Shiv Sena and the Left, which have fought bitterly over the control of the country’s commercial hub, Mumbai, for the past four decades.

With workers fast losing confidence in trade unionism and the leaders’ powers to save them from retrenchment, the Bharatiya Kamgar Sena, Citu and Aituc — the trade union wings of the Sena, CPM and CPI — have now pledged to fight together for workers.

In a decision that could drastically alter the power politics of the trade unions and spawn a new era of labour militancy — which global investors may not find palatable — the Sena and the Left have cast aside their ideological baggage and called a 24-hour strike in the state tomorrow to protest against anti-labour policies. The target of the movement, however, is the government — and not so much the industry.

The unions tarred the BJP-led Centre and the Congress-led state government with the same brush, accusing them of double-crossing workers.

Under peer pressure, six other unions, including the Congress-affiliated Intuc, have jumped into the strike fray, offering support and underscoring the battle for their survival.

“We have set aside our differences in the interest of the workers. We want to unite them and fight for a better deal,” Citu state secretary K.L. Bajaj said.

“It is an emergency, so we had to forget our differences,” said Sena spokesman Subhas Desai. “It is not politics, but the serious issues facing the workers that compelled us to work together,” he added.

Both sides are apparently afraid of losing their grip on the workers, who make up much of their support base.

Since the 1968 launch of the Kamgar Sena to drive the Left unions, whom Sena chief Bal Thackeray had once promised to “emasculate”, the Sena has evolved from a party of the middle class to one for the working classes. The Left parties, born out of the trade union movement, also count on the workers for their ideological and political survival.

As more units, unable to face growing competition in the liberalised economy, turn red, thousands of jobless workers are losing faith in organised trade unionism.

“No trade union can afford to sit tight and watch what’s going on in the industry, where in the name of technology and modernisation thousands of workers are being thrown out,” Bajaj said. “We all need to work together. This is the need of the hour.”

The Sena, being part of the ruling coalition in Delhi, overseeing the globalisation of Indian economy, finds itself in a tighter spot. “We may belong to the Union government but that does not mean we will keep quiet about what it is doing to the workers all over the country. Our first and foremost commitment is to the people,” Desai said.

Though both sides insist that their alliance is confined to the labour scene and their ideological differences persist, they have abandoned their long-held stance against each other.

While the Sena feels its slogan “lal bavta jala do” (burn down the Left Union) is a thing of the past, the Left has agreed to tone down its strident criticism of the Enron project, renegotiated by none other than Thackeray, during the previous Sena-BJP government.

“Our slogan was Enron hatao desh bachao, but we had to tone it down after Uddhav Thackeray told us it was too harsh,” Bajaj said.

“The past has taught us a few lessons. We need to sink our differences for the cause of the workers,” said Uddhav, son and heir apparent of Bal Thackeray.

Bajaj said Citu will continue to work with the Sena union till “our objectives are achieved”. He said he did not see the Left’s changed stance as a break from the past, when it called the Sena a right-wing communal organisation playing on people’s sentiment.

“We are simply toeing the Citu central line, which says we should join hands with those trying to help the workers,” the Citu leader said.

   

 
 
CHILD DIES AS AMBUSH-HIT JAWANS OPEN FIRE 
 
 
FROM MUKHTAR AHMAD
 
Srinagar, April 24: 
A child was killed as Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel allegedly fired indiscriminately after a mine blew up an ITBP vehicle killing three jawans in Anantnag district this morning.

Police said a massive explosion destroyed the ITBP vehicle near Wailoo village on the Anantnag-Kokernag road.

Residents alleged the ITBP men went berserk after the explosion and fired on a bus killing the two-year-old child, Imtiyaz Ahmad. Fourteen others had to be hospitalised with bullet injuries.

Sources said the vehicle was escorting two jawans, injured in an early morning militant attack in Bidhar village, to Anantnag.

The dead ITBP personnel included a sub-inspector. Ten jawans were injured. Senior police and paramilitary force officers rushed to the spot.

In another incident an army jawan died and three others were wounded in a fierce gun battle with militants at Adipore village in northern Baramullah.

Following the spurt in Valley violence, the security in the state was discussed at the Unified Headquarters this morning. The meeting was presided over by chief minister Farooq Abdullah.

It was attended by minister of state for home Mushtaq Ahmad Lone GOC, 15 Corps, Lt Gen J.R. Mukherjee, chief of staff, Northern command, Lt Gen Gurpreet Singh, police chief A.K. Suri, the state chiefs of the BSF, the CRPF, senior bureaucrats and the central intelligence agencies.

   

 
 
CBI QUIZZES GARBETA WITNESS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, April 24: 
The CBI today interrogated Abdur Rahman Mondal, the key witness in the Chhoto Angaria “massacre”, at Bellona nursing home in Ekbalpore where he was brought by the Trinamul Congress leaders in January, a few days after the incident, says our staff reporter.

Sources said the CBI officers found discrepancies in his statement. Mondal in his FIR at the Garbeta police station had said a massacre had taken place at Chhoto Angaria and that the bodies were removed to the jungles bordering Midnapore and Bankura districts.

Officials said Mondal today gave a different version of the massacre. “I think Mondal is lying. There are many anomalies in his statements,’’ a CBI officer said.

   

 
 
IRATE GHANI SCOFFS AT MAMATA CM DREAM 
 
 
FROM SUNANDO SARKAR AND DEBARATI AGARWALA
 
Malda, April 24: 
“Manush asha kore, bidhata muchki hashe (Man proposes, God disposes). Her dream of becoming West Bengal’s next chief minister will remain just that — a dream.”

This is what A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury thinks of Mamata Banerjee’s dreams. He may be an important leader of the Congress, which has allied with its far younger offshoot, the Trinamul Congress, to dislodge the CPM-led Left Front from power. But he doesn’t believe that the alliance can really achieve what it has set out to do.

In the course of an interview during which Ghani Khan mostly chose to speak in verses borrowed from others — the earlier one, he said, was Tagore’s — he made it clear that he wasn’t very happy with the state of the alliance.

It, feels the Malda strongman, is working like the Congress has done for the past 24 years. “The CPM stayed in power for so long because we helped it to stay in power,” he confessed. “We, and not the people of West Bengal, have kept that party in power,” he said.

Ghani Khan is leaving for Delhi in a day or two to discuss West Bengal matters with party chief Sonia Gandhi. He will bring up the contentious issues that, he says, every Congressman is concerned about but can’t muster up the courage to say aloud.

Mamata, says the Congress veteran, has not fully severed relations with the “communal” BJP. “I am going to ask Sonia to take up the matter with Mamata,” he said. “Why isn’t she (Mamata) coming out openly against her former ally? Why isn’t she saying a single thing about the BJP’s communal agenda?” Ghani Khan asked.

The Malda strongman will invite Sonia to campaign for the party candidate from Englishbazar, Gautam Chakraborty, where the allies are officially fighting against each other with their respective symbols. “I am going to tell Sonia that the Trinamul candidate, Krishnendu Choudhury, is the chairman of a municipality where the vice-chairman is from the BJP,” Ghani Khan said. Incidentally, the vice-chairman, Gobinda Mandal, is the BJP candidate from Englishbazar.

The Trinamul candidate from Englishbazar was in an equally combative mood. “Who are they to criticise us for keeping a municipality afloat with the BJP’s help?” asked Choudhury. “They are doing the same thing at Mohodipur,” he added, referring to the village within Englishbazar constituency where the Congress has teamed up with the “communal” BJP to run the panchayat.

Ghani Khan’s refusal to accept the alliance was, according to Choudhury, a direct challenge to Sonia’s leadership. “Barkatda is going against an alliance which was formed because of Sonia’s initiative,” he said.

   

 
 
PARTY STEERS CLEAR OF CAMPAIGNER PANJA 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, April 24: 
The Trinamul Congress today dropped Ajit Panja’s name from the list of leaders who will campaign for party candidates in the run-up to the May 10 polls.

Though the Trinamul did not officially admit that Panja has been dropped, sources said the partymen who drew up the list of leaders for the campaign at a meeting late last night did not include Panja on Mamata Banerjee’s instructions.

Panja, however, said he is not aware of any such decision. “I have not yet received information that I have been dropped from the list of campaigners. I have already said I will campaign for any Trinamul candidate who will request me to do so,” he said. Panja, however, made it clear that he will not campaign for Sadhan Pande, his arch rival in the party.

Panja has been firing one salvo after another against Mamata over the past week. Trinamul sources said after last week’s outburst against Mamata, party candidates are avoiding Panja like plague.

But on record, they are singing a different tune. “Ajitda is the chairman of the state Trinamul unit and is part and parcel of the electoral process,” said party general secretary Gautam Basu.

At Mamata’s 30B Harish Chatterjee residence, party workers who are flocking to get campaign dates of Mamata and other leaders are not even enquiring about Panja’s availability.

After Mamata, there is demand for MPs Sudip Bandopadhyay, Akbar Ali Khondakar, Nitish Sengupta, Ranjit Panja and Krishna Bose. Subrata Mukherjee, Pankaj Banerjee, Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay and Sadhan Pande are the MLAs in demand.

In the minority-dominated areas, former chief minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray is a favourite.

Candidates are even placing demands for actor and Trinamul candidate Tapas Pal and Sudip Bandopadhyay’s actress wife and candidate Nayana.

“After what Ajitda said at last week’s news conference against Mamata, nobody wants him to campaign for them. What can we do?” said a Trinamul supporter from Hooghly.

Panja maintained that a number of candidates had contacted him but refused to disclose their names.

“I have received phone calls from a number of Trinamul candidates whom I will not name. They are scared about their names being leaked out. I have told them to wait patiently till the last dates of scrutiny and withdrawal. After that we will see what we can do,” he added.

   

 
 
GUJARAT UNVEILS QUAKE PACKAGE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Gandhinagar, April 24: 
The state government today announced a Rs 1,279 crore special rehabilitation package for the four quake-ravaged towns of Kutch district. The new towns with modern infrastructure will come up in five years.

Finalised on the basis of representations made by NGOs and community leaders, the much-awaited package for Bhuj, Bhachau Anjar and Rapar was announced by chief minister Keshubhai Patel after the Cabinet meeting.

Explaining the delay in announcing the rehabilitation package, the chief minister said: “We had to take several things into account before giving the final touch to the rehabilitation package. This took a long time. But we have still come out with the package in record time.”

Separate area development authorities on the line of the Urban Development Authority will be created in the four towns to ensure “proper town planning and to provide modern facilities which will make the new towns models for the entire country”.

Designed by experts, the new towns will have quake-resistant houses. It will take at least two years to build the pucca houses. This means that those rendered homeless will have to live in temporary sheds for another two years.

The government has given Rs 50 lakh to each of the development authorities to start functioning from today. Senior IAS officers working as relief co-ordinators in the towns will become chairmen of the development authorities .

The rehabilitation package will be implemented with aid from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank while the technical expertise will be provided by US Aid.

The first phase will be an immediate need-based programme to remove the debris and provide basic amenities. The latter phase will stress on urban planning. While Rapar will be rebuilt on the same location, Anjar, Bhachau and Bhuj will be partially relocated.

The government has allocated Rs 18 crore for debris-removal from the walled city of Bhuj which, according to the chief minister, will be cleared by June 15.

   
 

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