Old master’s stamp on Buddha new team
Enron serves pullout notice
Forgotten metropolis on seabed
Atal advice lost on BMS
Suitcase shock in time of Tehelka
Calcutta Weather

Calcutta, May 19: 
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s priorities for his new government may have been reflected in the distribution of portfolios, but it also left little doubt about the party’s control over the government as before.

The portfolio distribution shows the government’s new thrust areas such as industry, health and information technology, but these have been put in charge of party strongmen. The party’s writ seems to have stalled any change for education, the other key area in which Bhattacharjee promised a break with the past.

The party’s determination to retain control over the functioning of the new government was evident in the remarks of politburo member Biman Bose. “We’ll change the portfolios, if necessary. Even the chief minister’s work will be closely monitored,” he said.

Among the top seven CPM ministers, three are party state secretariat members. Bhattacharjee, Nirupam Sen, Mohammed Amin and Mohammed Salim are CPM central committee members. Suryakanta Mishra, the number three man, is in the state secretariat but not in the central committee. Bhattacharjee, Sen and Mishra will make the power troika in the ministry.

Finance minister Asim Dasgupta, who enjoys little clout in the party hierarchy, had his portfolio downsized with the department of planning and development being taken away from him and given to Sen who has so far been a party ideologue. Sen will also handle commerce and industry. The importance Bhattacharjee — and the party — is attaching to Sen is evident from the size of his portfolio bag.

Dasgupta, who held third position in Jyoti Basu’s Cabinet, is now in the fifth position. His name figured on the list after Mohammad Amin who has been given the labour department this time.

Subhas Chakraborty has managed to retain his transport and sports portfolios. He has also been given charge of the Hooghly River Bridge Commission.

“The CPM is more interested in rapid industrialisation of Bengal and, in doing so, the party would have to involve each of its ministers equally,” Bose said after releasing the list of ministers and their portfolios today.

Besides Sen’s prominence in the Cabinet, allocating labour to Amin is another indication that the CPM is sincere about industrialisation. Amin is a “party yes-man” and would be able to handle issues related to labour dispute and industrial relations. It is obvious that the CPM will not tolerate militant trade unionism.

CPM state secretary Anil Biswas still has the last say on education affairs. Two of his trusted men, Satya Sadhan Chakraborty and Kanti Biswas, are holding the same education portfolios as in the previous Cabinet.

Manab Mukherjee is the minister for the newly-introduced information technology department.

Destination party HQ

The New Left’s brainstorming with industry will begin at an unusual venue tomorrow when a CII delegation calls on the chief minister at the CPM headquarters on Alimuddin Street. At the first-ever such presentation at Muzaffar Ahmed Bhavan, the CII team will unveil a prospective roadmap for the industrial revival of Bengal.


New Delhi, May 19: 
Enron today went another step closer to the end.

In a move that could rock the finances of Maharashtra and make a dent in the Centre’s kitty, Dabhol Power Company — the US energy major’s Indian outfit — issued a preliminary termination notice on the controversial power purchase agreement it had entered into with the Maharashtra State Electricity Board.

“This initiates the process of terminating the power purchase agreement,” DPC said in a statement.

However, the $2.9-billion company left the door ajar for a last-minute patch-up by saying it was open to “constructive discussion on solutions”. The company still has six months to issue the final termination notice.

The move did not surprise the Maharashtra government, which is taking legal advice to decide on its future course of action.

“It is not proper to issue a preliminary termination notice when the negotiations aimed at bringing down the power tariff are on,” chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said.

The government recently set up a committee to rework the power purchase pact. At present, the tariff charged by Enron is more than Rs 7 per unit while most others in the country charge a maximum of Rs 4 per unit. Enron was opposed to the power tariff being reworked.

On April 25, the DPC board met in London and resolved to terminate the power purchase pact. The resolution was passed by a 7:1 vote. The company then prepared to close its Indian chapter by moving its expat managers here to Singapore.

If Enron and Maharashtra electricity board fail to reach an agreement, the Centre will have to fork out about Rs 2,850 crore. “Our (Centre’s) liability if Dabhol power project is terminated will be one year’s electricity bill and a termination fee of $300 million,” PTI quoted power ministry officials as saying.

However, sources said that is only part of the total amount that the Centre and the state will have to pay Enron as there are other contractual agreements — like a pact on liquefied natural gas supply — which will be broken.

Maharashtra might have to cough up Rs 17,000 crore upfront if the contract is terminated, PTI said quoting a state government official.

Explaining the rationale for pulling out, DPC said that after months of working with MSEB, government of Maharashtra and the government of India to find solutions, it was apparent that the first two parties were “unwilling” to honour their commitments.

“Given the failure of MSEB, government of Maharashtra and government of India in meeting their contractual obligations, DPC had no choice but to issue the preliminary termination notice,” the power company said.


New Delhi, May 19: 
Scientists have discovered the ruins of an ancient city submerged in the Gulf of Cambay, about 20 km off the Gujarat coast.

The city’s structures, most of them under the seabed, resemble those found earlier at sites of the Harappan civilisation, science and technology minister Murli Manohar Joshi today said.

The structures, submerged under 30 metres of water and stretching across nine kilometres, include what look like dwellings laid out in regular geometric patterns, a granary, a great bath, and a citadel, he said.

The submerged structures could be the largest underwater settlement discovered off the Indian coast since marine archaeology was initiated in the country in the Eighties. In the past two decades, scientists have discovered several submerged ports off the coasts of Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu.

Scientists from the National Institute of Ocean Technology (Niot) in Chennai stumbled upon the seabed’s “unusual features” during routine geological surveys off the western coastline in December last year. They spent the past six months using sophisticated acoustic devices and software to probe the submerged structures aboard ships.

The institute plans to deploy remote-operated vehicles and divers to explore the underwater city in the next phase of investigation scheduled to begin in November. “In our next mission, we hope to scoop out archaeological material from the city,” Niot director Muthukamatchi Ravindran said. The tides and turbidity make it difficult to work on the seabed during the monsoon.

It is not yet known when, why, and how fast the sea engulfed the structures in the Gulf of Cambay. Geologists suspect that a series of powerful earthquakes could have triggered the submergence of land.

“High-intensity earthquakes are known to have caused changes in land elevation in Gujarat in the past which may have led to submergence of some areas,” said Harsh Gupta, a leading geologist and secretary of the department of ocean development. The Gujarat earthquake this year had caused a land elevation of 1 metre in Bhuj, while an 1819 earthquake in Kutch led to a 6-metre elevation.

“There are some fascinating things down there,” Ravindran said. The acoustic “radar” has revealed a 40 m by 40 m structure with steps leading down to a tank, said to be a great bath, and a 97 m by 24 m citadel.

While Mohenjodaro has a great bath, archaeologists have excavated citadels at several Harappan sites, including Harappa, Kalibangan, Lothal, and Dholavira.

The dwellings in the Gulf of Cambay are laid out in straight lines with sizes ranging from 6 m by 8 m to 12 m by 16 m. Seabed studies indicate that freshwater once flowed in the region. “That may have been the river along which this city once flourished,” said Srinivasan Badrinarayanan, a Niot geologist.

Channel-like features in the city also indicate a drainage system. Some structures are beneath the seabed. About three metres of the edifice believed to be the citadel is visible while the rest is hidden under the seabed.

Scientists will be able to date the submerged structures when they recover datable archaeological material like pottery or bones from the site.

In the Eighties, scientists from the National Institute of Oceanography in Goa had dated pottery and seals found off Bet Dwarka island in the Gulf of Kutch as 3,500 years old — likely relics of a post-Harappan civilisation. The Harappan civilisation spanned 2600 BC to 1900 BC.

The Niot may work jointly with the Goan institute to investigate the site.


New Delhi, May 19: 
What is “absurd” for Atal Bihari Vajpayee is serious business for the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, the labour arm of the RSS.

At the end of the two-day Indian Labour Conference, the BMS today put in a note of dissent to the resolutions passed on globalisation. The trade union demanded that the government quit the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Prime Minister Vajpayee had yesterday dismissed the demand as “absurd”.

“India should come out of the WTO and lead the developing countries to form a second WTO,” the BMS said in its note. It was the only trade union to have submitted a dissent-note in writing, though all others questioned and opposed the Centre’s assessment of the impact of globalisation.

The BMS’ aggressive posture, matching that of the Citu, has embarrassed the government, increasingly forced to tackle more and more disaffected members of the Sangh parivar.

The RSS, which has been uncomfortable with the reforms, today tried to limit the damage to the government by ridiculing reports that it was upset with the economic policies. “The RSS never expressed the opinion that Vajpayee’s leadership was proving disastrous, both for the BJP and the government,” spokesman M.G. Vaidya said in statement in Nagpur.

But the BMS had no second thoughts. “All trade unions are meeting at the office of the All India Trade Union Congress tomorrow to work out a plan of action,” BMS general secretary Hanshubhai Dave said. His organisation, Dave said, will go ahead with the all-India strike scheduled for July 23.

A confrontation seems inevitable as the resolution passed at the labour conference shrugged off the suggestion that India should quit the WTO. The only concession the government has made is to agree to a proposal to forge greater ties with developing countries to strengthen their bargaining power in the WTO.

“We cannot undo what has happened. We have to be on the track of liberalisation,” labour minister Satyanarain Jatiya said.

The labour minister said both industry and labour would have to mould themselves to survive the edge of the WTO’s competitive regime. “We will have to improve the quality of products (and) introduce competitive prices in this new world,” Jatiya said.


New York, May 19: 
The long arm of Tehelka is reaching out to Indian ministers as far away as the US.

Paranoid after the so-called Defencegate revelations, finance minister Yashwant Sinha, who was here for the annual meetings of the UN Economic and Social Council, threw a fit over a suitcase found among his luggage and sent New York’s La Guardia airport into a tizzy, according to eyewitness accounts of the bizarre incident.

Sinha, who arrived here from Washington at night by US Airways flight 6876, was immediately ushered out of the airport with due courtesies and hurried to his Manhattan hotel so that he could get adequate rest and prepare for next morning’s hectic schedule.

Protocol officials from the Indian consulate here stayed back at La Guardia to collect Sinha’s baggage and complete other formalities.

Mondays are unusually busy days at the airport and it was a while before his baggage arrived on the conveyor belt. The officials collected the suitcases and had them transported to the minister’s hotel suite. But when Sinha, who was waiting for his luggage, saw what the officials had brought in, he completely lost his cool.

Among the bags which the officials had brought in was a large suitcase which the minister had not checked in while boarding his flight from Washington. In fact, Sinha said he had never set eyes on that suitcase before.

Fully aware that suitcases have been the nemesis of many a politician in Delhi, including P.V. Narasimha Rao in the early phase of his prime ministership, Sinha was desperate to have the unidentified suitcase out of his hotel premises as quickly as possible.

It was a reflection of the siege mentality which Tehelka had produced among politicians, even among those who did not figure in the defence purchase allegations.

But the problem did not end there. In fact, it was only the beginning of a long night of problems for the protocol officials.

After all, they had picked up the suitcase from La Guardia’s conveyor belt, assuming full responsibility as it belonged to the minister.

Now the airline would not easily take back the suitcase. The officials went back all the way from Manhattan to the airport late in the night and entreated US Airways to accept it.

The procedure was long and complicated. In the first place, in the airport’s security-conscious environment, taking in the baggage of a passenger who was not checking in for a flight was easier said than done.

And then the officials had a difficult time explaining what had happened. They had to fill out detailed and multiple forms before the suitcase could be rid of.

All that was done by the wee hours of the morning, but by then Sinha’s night had been ruined.

Fortunately, the passenger whose bag the officials had mistakenly picked up was nowhere around. He would have loved to lay his hands on those responsible for his lost suitcase, especially if he was taking an international connecting flight from New York!




Maximum: 37.4°C (+1)
Minimum: 26°C (-1))



Relative humidity

Maximum: 86%,
Minimum: 39%


Partly cloudy sky with possibility of development of thunder-cloud towards afternoon or evening.
Sunrise: 4.56 am
Sunset: 6.09 pm

Maintained by Web Development Company