Delhi draws line for Pervez history hope
Double ‘suicide’ in police quarters
Naushad to score, poet PM to star
Indian Oil debt term to avert Haldia death
At home with business & beauty
Calcutta Weather

 
 
DELHI DRAWS LINE FOR PERVEZ HISTORY HOPE 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, June 16: 
A day after Pervez Musharraf promised to make an effort at changing history, a reasonable but firm India made it clear that Islamabad should not have any high hopes of a shift in Delhi’s position on Kashmir at next month’s summit.

Delhi today re-affirmed that Jammu and Kashmir was “an integral part of India”, clarifying that it should not be seen as any individual’s view, but a position that the government is committed to by the Constitution.

India also made it clear that Musharraf’s statement that he would go to the summit with an “open mind” would have to be judged by the kind of proposals he places on the negotiating table.

By saying so, Delhi has sought to send Islamabad the message that it should give up looking at the Kashmir problem as an extension of its two-nation theory. The leadership here is not willing to buy the explanation offered by Pakistan that the root of the trouble lies in the “repression” of the Muslim majority in the state by the “Hindu majority” in India.

While the government is willing to take measures aimed at building confidence among the people — such as an autonomy package, the creation of a soft border and enhanced trade and movement between the people of the two Kashmirs — much of it will depend on the steps Islamabad takes to rein in militant outfits operating from its soil.

Musharraf had regretted last night foreign minister Jaswant Singh’s statement that the entire Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of India, saying he hoped the “statement is perhaps just a statement and nothing more”.

But Delhi signalled that the general should not be under any illusion. “The external affairs minister was not giving his personal views or simply making a statement,” foreign ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao said. “He was reiterating the provisions of the Indian Constitution.”

The government is also not going overboard with Musharraf’s remark that though he would go to the summit with an “open-mind”, his stance would be directly proportional to the “open-mindedness” shown by Indian leaders.

“How can we gauge how open the mind is unless it is opened?” Rao said, implying that India wanted Pakistan to specify what they were seeking from the talks instead of juggling with words.

It is apparent from her statement that India does not want expectations to soar in the run-up to the summit. It’s a reality check as Delhi is trying to assure the people that nothing will be done by compromising national interest.

   

 
 
DOUBLE ‘SUICIDE’ IN POLICE QUARTERS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 16: 
An assistant commissioner of Calcutta Armed Police and his wife were found dead with gun-shot wounds at their Alipore Bodyguard Line quarters on Saturday morning.

The police said prima facie it appeared to be a case of “double suicide” by 54-year-old Phatik Chandra Dutta and his 46-year-old wife Jaya. However, the police conceded that several aspects of the case remained shrouded in mystery.

“We are still probing the incident and will come to a conclusion about whether it is a case of suicide, as it appears to be, only after all investigations have been completed,” said deputy commissioner Banibrata Basu.

He said an unnatural death case has been started on thebasis of a statement filed by the couple’s younger daughter, Indrani (21). In her statement, Indrani said her parents had a quarrel over dinner after which she went to sleep with her mother. Indrani said that at around 4.30 am, her mother woke her up to say that she had heard a loud noise in her father’s room.

However, her mother forbade Indrani from going to the room. “She was shouting as though she had gone out of her mind,” Indrani told the police. Panicking at her mother’s “irrational” behaviour, Indrani rushed out of the house and bolted the main door from outside.

Indrani went to the house of a neighbour and police officer, Bhudev Mukherjee, who had gone on his morning walk. Around 7 am, Mukherjee returned and called other policemen to discuss what could have happened. But, strangely, no one thought of going over to Dutta’s house.

Mukherjee later informed the Hastings police station and a team arrived at 8 am. The policemen found the bodies of Dutta and his wife lying in two rooms. While there was a bullet injury on the left of Dutta’s chest, a bullet had pierced his wife’s neck.

A revolver was lying next to her, with four cartridges still unused. The police said the revolver belonged to Dutta’s bodyguard and was kept at night in the assistant commissioner’s home.

A six-page note, apparently written by Jaya, was found on a table. The note details her grievances, including an alleged illicit relationship of Dutta and torture, against her husband.

Jaya had written that after her daughter left, she went to her husband’s room and found him dead. “I could not bear to see him in this condition, lying dead in front of me. So I also decided to commit suicide,” the note said.

Indrani told the police that her mother was depressed mainly due to a number of physical ailments.

   

 
 
NAUSHAD TO SCORE, POET PM TO STAR 
 
 
FROM DEBASHIS BHATTACHARYYA
 
Mumbai, June 16: 
Atal Bihari Vajpayee may soon become the first Prime Minister with a music album — but with songs he hasn’t sung.

As the leader confined for 10 days to his hospital room prepared to go home on Tuesday, Naushad Ali, one of the greatest music directors of Bollywood, was busy translating his dream project into reality: rendering and packing Vajpayee’s poems into a music album.

Ali presented Vajpayee with the cassette of his first recorded rendering of his poem at Breach Candy hospital this evening.

The song — titled Unki Yaad Kare — will be telecast on the national network on Independence Day, Ali said. The album, with video footage of Vajpayee, is expected to be out by the end of this year. The recorded song, sung by Hariharan, speaks of the unsung heroes who died fighting for Independence.

So appreciative was the Prime Minister when Ali played the cassette on a tape recorder he took to the seventh-floor hospital room that Vajpayee patted him on the back.

“The Prime Minister really liked it,” said Hariharan, who sung for Vajpayee and his family during his vacation in Kerala. They are also trying to get Lata Mangeshkar to sing some songs.

Ali said the leader agreed to shoot for the album. “The album with his poems but without showing him would look incomplete,” he said. “So I told him he would have to appear in a couple of shots and he smiled and nodded.”

The idea for an audio cassette and CD of Vajpayee’s poems on the country’s freedom struggle had come from a Jalgaon-based volunteer outfit, Keshav Samiti Pratisthan, about 10 months ago.

“When they approached me with the idea, I suggested the music album. These days, songs do not have much appeal unless you picturise them,” Ali, 81, said. After the organisation agreed to do the album on Ali’s terms, he planned to do it “in style and grace”.

Ali scouted and picked 30 singers to do the singing in chorus, with Hariharan as the lead singer. The songs, sung on Raga Bhairav, will be a mixture of the old and the new.

“While I am using Bhairav as the base, I am orchestrating the songs, too. They are as much of yesterday as of today,” Ali said.

The recording of the first song cost the volunteer outfit Rs 10 lakh. By the time the eight-song album is out, it may cross Rs 1 crore.

   

 
 
INDIAN OIL DEBT TERM TO AVERT HALDIA DEATH 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, June 16: 
Indian Oil Corporation has asked the Bengal government to restructure the debt-equity ratio of Haldia Petrochemicals before it participates in the company’s equity because, as one senior officer said, “it is haemorrhaging and is in danger of going bust with such a high debt burden”.

The public sector oil company, which is now getting into the petrochemicals business, told chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee last fortnight during his visit to New Delhi that it was keen to participate in HPL’s equity.

Consultant KPMG Peat Marwick is currently carrying out a due diligence — a thorough study of HPL’s finances and operations and asset valuation — before Indian Oil goes ahead with its investment.

Indian Oil is likely to pump in about Rs 200 crore into Haldia. The company will not need Cabinet clearance for investment up to this amount because of its Navratna status. The due diligence report is likely to be submitted by the end of this month. That is also when IOC will make a formal announcement of its decision on Haldia.

Indian Oil sources said they were uncomfortable with the current debt-equity ratio. They believe it has crossed the 4.2:1 mark that the company had estimated earlier, raising fears that the project cost has crossed Rs 5,170 crore.

Initially, the equity component was to be Rs 1,979 crore, and the debt component Rs 3,191 crore. However, the Bengal government and Purnendu Chatterjee’s The Chatterjee Group, with their contribution of Rs 433 crore each, and the Tatas, with their Rs 144 crore, managed to raise only Rs 1,010 crore as equity. The remaining equity portion had to be raised as debt in the form of bridge loans from IDBI and advances from promoters. This pushed up the debt component as well as the interest burden.

The corporation wants the Bengal government to bring down the debt by writing off state loans and/or negotiating with financial institutions that have an exposure in Haldia to convert part of the debt into equity.

Indian Oil has also informed HPL that it is guaranteeing supply of naphtha and is ready to take ethylene, the primary product of HPL’s naphtha cracker, on a take-or-pay basis.

Petroleum minister Ram Naik is likely to reach Calcutta on June 23 to discuss Indian Oil’s participation in HPL with chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

However, state industry secretary Jawahar Sircar will meet the Indian Oil top brass soon to “read IOC’s mind” before the government takes up the matter with Naik.

   

 
 
AT HOME WITH BUSINESS & BEAUTY 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT AND MADHUMITA BHATTACHARYYA
 
Calcutta, June 16: 
At 6.30 pm, it was the B-brigade. At 7.30 pm, the beauticians. All in an evening’s work, or play, for Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

The felicitation of the chief minister by five chambers of commerce at the Oberoi Grand was business as usual. No surprises there.

But at the Nandan committee room, the smiling Buddha had a surprise or two up his sleeve for his guest, Shahnaz Husain.

“I thought I was just dropping by to say ‘hello’ to the chief minister, who I had heard is very artistically inclined,” said the first lady of herbal beauty products. But Bhattacharjee had more than just a routine courtesy-call in mind.

He popped “a well researched plan for an ayurvedic clinic-cum-R&D centre in Darjeeling”, even promising Shahnaz land to set up the facility.

“He had done a lot of research into the kind of plants available in the foothills of the Himalayas, and to what use they could be put,”she gushed, after the half-an-hour meet.

The chief minister, arriving after the felicitation function, was waiting in an inner room at Nandan when Shahnaz and husband R.K. Puri arrived.

Earlier, Bhattacharjee struck quite a different chord at the felicitation, his first formal post-election address to the city’s business fraternity. No anti-ageing formulas and stress-release strategies here. Speeches from the presidents of all leading chambers of commerce, accolades, his own speech and a Q&A session.

In his 15-minute speech, the chief minister talked about everything from agro and food processing to jewellery and e-governance. On the issue of management-labour relations, the chief minister said: “We do not support irresponsible trade union activities, violence and intimidation in the workplace.” But he was quick to add that there was a need for “employers to have a broader outlook”.

His speech ending early, Bhattacharjee promptly agreed to an impromptu Q&A session. Not a googly met the chief minister, only short speeches from dignitaries, mixing praise for the ‘do-it-now’ man and suggestions on how industry could take the initiative to support self-employment endeavours and horticulture. Hearing them out, Bhattacharjee took his leave, rushing from the five-star hotel to the city’s cultural centre.

“West Bengal is very lucky to have a man like Bhattacharjee at its helm,” smiled Shahnaz, who had opened her first centre in Calcutta before becoming a household name. She had an idea of her own to present to the chief minister: An anti-stress clinic at Swabhumi, a heritage park on the E.M. Bypass. Bhattacharjee, “the height of efficiency” according to Shahnaz, in town after 24 years, accepted the idea with enthusiasm.

After meeting her ayurvedic team in Delhi, Shahnaz plans to pay a trip to the “10,000 acre property” near Darjeeling, before deciding how to go about the project, “most probably to be a public-sector undertaking”.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 28.4°C (-6)
Minimum: 24.7°C (-2)

Rainfall:

5.2 mm

Relative humidity

Maximum: 97%,
Minimum: 85%

Today

A few spells of light to moderate rain accompanied by thunder
Sunrise: 4.54 am
Sunset: 6.20 pm
   
 

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