Fast-track goods train with penalty bonus
Capsize spectre
Centre to hand over sick mills to workers
Nagas join protests in smouldering Manipur
MLAs run to Atal rivals
President leash on varsity heads
Gadar makers smell plot
Mayavati slams BJP, spares Mulayam
Bandit ransom out of bag
IA fares slashed

 
 
FAST-TRACK GOODS TRAIN WITH PENALTY BONUS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 26: 
It can well be dubbed the Rajdhani Express among goods trains. Concerned at the dwindling revenue from goods traffic, Eastern Railway today flagged off a special goods train that will take only 48 hours to travel from Calcutta to Delhi.

That’s not all. Eastern Railway has drawn up a plan to repay a portion of the expenses incurred by customers in sending the goods if the train does not reach its destination on time. The plan will come into effect after six weeks.

Eastern Railway’s chief operations manager P.K. Chatterjee said the special train will start its journey from Chitpur tonight. “It will leave Chitpur at 1 am and reach Tughlaqabad at 12.10 am on Friday. It will leave Tughlaqabad at 11.20 pm and reach Chitpur at 11.30 pm on Sunday,’’ he said.

The train, with 35 wagons and 70 containers, will run on the Calcutta-Delhi-Calcutta sector once a week. “Initially, the train is expected to move at a speed of 75 kmph and cover the 1,400-km distance between Chitpur and Tughlaqabad in 48 hours,’’ Chatterjee said.

Goods trains now take around five days to travel from Calcutta to Delhi.

Chatterjee said the railways had lost a large number of “customers” to road transport because of slow rail traffic.

“We are even willing to refund a portion of the booking money if the train reaches late. The amount will depend on the amount of cargo booked by the customer. We are working on the modalities and hope to implement it within six weeks,’’ Chatterjee said.

SEB clarification

The state electricity board (SEB) today said it was not responsible for yesterday’s disruption of train services.

The SEB said traction transformer no. 1 at the Titagarh 132 KV sub-station had to be shut down around 9 am on Monday because of the charging of a faulty section by the Railway Traction Power Control.

“There was power failure only for 10 minutes,” the SEB statement said.

   

 
 
CAPSIZE SPECTRE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Malda, June 26: 
The administration today sent a police team to Palashgachhi in Jharkhand to get a complete list of those feared dead in Saturday’s boat capsize.

The team, to be led by an inspector, was supposed to come back later tonight with a list of the passengers from that area on the ill-fated boat. Only two bodies have so far been recovered, but, this, officials say, is not a deviation from the past few years’ experience; the administration has failed to recover bodies of most of the dead in mishaps on the Ganga since 1979.

Of the nine mishaps that have occurred since then, the district administration has managed to recover some bodies only in one instance; 30 bodies were recovered after 55 people drowned in a mishap on December 21, 1999.

   

 
 
CENTRE TO HAND OVER SICK MILLS TO WORKERS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, June 26: 
The Union Cabinet today decided to offer the six mills managed by the National Jute Manufactures Corporation to workers’ co-operatives in an effort to revive the ailing mills and save jobs.

The mills — Alexandra, Khardah, Kinnison, National and Union (all located in or near Calcutta) and Rai Bahadur Hadrut Mal Jute Mill at Katihar in Bihar — were referred to the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR) in 1992. Today’s decision pre-empts the BIFR from issuing winding-up orders on the mills at its hearing tomorrow.

At its previous hearing in February, the BIFR had concluded that NJMC was unlikely to achieve a positive net worth within a reasonable time and, therefore, directed that a showcause notice be issued to NJMC prior to winding up the corporation.

The Cabinet decided to request the BIFR to first offer these mills to workers’ co-operatives. If no offers are received, the mills will be offered to the state governments, public sector enterprises and the private sector with the condition that permanent workers are to be retained.

However, if there are no takers for the mills, the Cabinet decided that the workers will be given a VRS/VSS. The unit will then be closed under the Industrial Disputes Act before the liquidation of NJMC is ordered.

The Citu has, however, rejected the proposal of running the mills either by the workers’ co-operatives or by the state government. Citu secretary Kali Ghosh asked why the state government should take the responsibility of the loss-making jute mills.

“It is unfortunate that the government in Delhi is not in a position to run the jute mills and is now asking the workers or the state government to take responsibility. If they (Centre) are not in a position to run jute mills, they should resign. We will oppose any move by the Centre to privatise the jute mills,” he added.

The Intuc also rejected the proposal. “The Centre is trying to shirk its responsibility,” Intuc leader and Trinamul Congress MLA Sougata Roy said. He wondered how trade unions can run these loss-making mills by forming co-operatives.

“We will oppose the Centre’s move to hand over the mills either to the state government or private parties at any cost,” he added.

At today’s Cabinet meeting, a four-year financial package to reorganise the loss-making Central Inland Water Transport Corporation Ltd (CIWTC) at Calcutta was also approved.

Under the proposal, the CIWTC will implement a VRS to downsize its workforce from 2,330 to 1,400 and roll back the retirement age from 60 to 58, an official spokesperson said.

Of the total budgetary support of Rs 116.22 crore for the first two years, the net support will amount to Rs 76.37 crore. The rest will be refunded by the corporation to the government on the realisation of sale of assets.

The government will also provide Rs 27.07 crore for implementing VRS and waive its loan with interest amounting to Rs 485.86 crore as on March 31.

The Cabinet also approved promulgation of an Ordinance that will empower the Centre to regulate or prohibit the import of animal products, law minister Arun Jaitley said.

The move comes in the wake of reports of mad-cow and foot-and-mouth diseases among livestock in certain countries.

The Cabinet also gave ex-post facto approval to agreements with Colombia on the visa regime between the two countries, which entail visa-free travel for diplomatic and official passport holders while entering, transiting through and exiting from the territory, an official spokesperson said.

The Cabinet also gave ex-post facto approval to an agreement between the two countries on harmonisation of visa fees. “This means that the higher fees charged by Colombia for business visas would be reduced. The agreement also entails granting of business visas to citizens of both countries within seven days of the submission of all requisite documents,” the spokesperson said.

   

 
 
NAGAS JOIN PROTESTS IN SMOULDERING MANIPUR 
 
 
FROM OINAM SUNIL
 
Imphal, June 26: 
With the embers of the June-18 uprising still smouldering, people of the Pangei and Samurou areas near here today defied prohibitory orders and took out protest rallies.

But the state capital saw no protests due to heavy deployment of security personnel.

Protesters clashed with police at Ningthoukhong in Bishenpur district when they were prevented from staging a sit-in demonstration. They set fire to the Tricolour and effigies of Central leaders. Nearly 70 men tonsured themselves in Bishenpur in a novel protest.

At Pangei in Imphal East district, nearly 6,000 people took out a silent rally. It was followed by a public meeting addressed by All-Manipur United Clubs’ Organisation president Ito Tongbam.

This was the first time that Tangkhul Nagas participated in a protest against the truce extension. Hundreds of people joined a rally at Samurou in Imphal West. Protests were also staged in many parts of Thoubal district. Another demonstration will be held tomorrow at the district headquarters.

Curfew will be relaxed for four hours tomorrow between 5 and 9 am in Greater Imphal. Thoubal district was under night curfew.

Peaceful sit-ins were held in many parts of the state. Apart from the Meiteis, the major community, many others joined the protests. Some Naga tribes of Manipur also joined the agitation.

But churches are supporting the Naga truce extension to the state. The Council of Nagalim Churches has appealed to all churches, parishes, missions and conventions to observe July 15 as “thanksgiving day” for extending the ceasefire to all Naga-inhabited areas with the slogan, “Nagalim for Christ”.

The council appealed to all Nagas to “offer prayers” on July 15 for the success of the “political talks between the Union government and the NSCN”.

The state administration has decided to pay an ex gratia to the next of kin of the 14 people killed in the CRPF firing on June 18. The decision came after requests from the “Committee for Restoration of Normalcy”. The committee was formed recently by the administration, comprising senior citizens from all communities and government officials.

In a meeting at Raj Bhavan yesterday, Governor Ved Marwah agreed to the proposal. The committee also made a few suggestions to the Governor on how to restore normality.

Nagas in Imphal have denied that there was any exodus. The Nagaram Development Authority said Nagas who left the city were those who were stranded in hotels and other places in transit due to the curfew. Permanent Naga residents of the state capital had not left their homes, it added, urging the media to desist from publishing adverse reports.

The two BJP legislators, N. Bihari Singh and K. Tomba Singh, who sustained burn injuries when the Assembly was set on fire, have been shifted to the Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi.

Muivah ‘unwise’

NDA convener George Fernandes today termed the statement issued by National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) general-secretary Th. Muivah that all places inhabited by the Nagas belonged to them, as “unwise”.    

 
 
MLAS RUN TO ATAL RIVALS 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, June 26: 
In a new twist to the Manipur mess, legislators of the Samata Party, BJP and the Manipur State Congress Party today cried on the shoulders of Samajwadi Party leaders and criticised the handling of the crisis by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and home minister L.K. Advani.

The MLAs felt that Advani and Vajpayee’s assurances on the review of the Naga ceasefire agreement were “dicey”. According to sources, the legislators told the Samajwadi leadership that they have “lost confidence in Advani and Vajpayee”.

Not content with their meetings with the two and George Fernandes in the past three days, the legislators today reached out to non-NDA leaders like the Samajwadi’s Mulayam Singh Yadav, Amar Singh and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and former Lok Sabha Speaker P.A. Sangma.

About a dozen legislators, including Manipur Speaker Dhananjoy Singh and former deputy chief minister Chandramani Singh, met Amar Singh at his residence.

The leaders told Singh that the outcome of a series of high-level meetings was unsatisfactory and they were not feeling “reassured”.

Amar Singh said his party did not intend to fish in troubled waters. “It is a sensitive issue. I will give my report to Mulayam Singhji. K. Padmanabhaiah (Centre’s interlocutor for the Naga peace talks) has totally failed and several lives were lost. He did not properly assess the situation. We will raise the issue in Parliament. Fourteen people were killed and several injured. Even the Assembly building was burnt. It is not a joke,” Singh said.

Earlier, 30 MLAs met Sangma at his residence and sought his help in getting the ceasefire agreement between the Centre and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) reviewed.

Later in the evening, they submitted a memorandum to President K.R. Narayanan with the same request.

Asked why they met Amar Singh, Dhananjoy said they wanted to take all the leaders into confidence in resolving the crisis.

   

 
 
PRESIDENT LEASH ON VARSITY HEADS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, June 26: 
Spurred into action by complaints from elected academic bodies of Central universities, President K.R. Narayanan has issued guidelines for vice-chancellors to curb indiscriminate use of the emergency powers vested in them by the Central Universities Act.

“There have, of late, been complaints that in a few universities this power is being routinely used with the result that statutory bodies like the court, the executive council and the academic council are asked to endorse decisions taken by the vice-chancellors,” said a statement issued by the human resources development ministry.

But Ashish Dutta, vice-chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, did not agree. “I am not even aware of these emergency powers. I have never taken any decision that has not been endorsed by the elected academic bodies,” said Dutta. He indicated that it could be happening in universities that do not have a democratic culture.

The President’s guidelines require the vice-chancellors to use emergency powers “with restraint” and when “the elected academic bodies are not meeting in the near future”. They are to be used “only when deferring a decision will create a serious administrative inconvenience”, it is stressed.

Some of the elected academic bodies have alleged that vice-chancellors are sidelining them and usurping their powers. “This being a regressive development, it needs to be checked, thereby enabling the statutory bodies to play a critical role set out for them in the overall democratic governance of universities,” said the HRD ministry.

Narayanan has urged the vice-chancellors to leave routine matters like creation of academic posts, making appointments and finalising recruitment procedures to the bodies that are expected to deal with them. “Emergency powers in these cases should not be used by the vice-chancellors,” underline the guidelines.

   

 
 
GADAR MAKERS SMELL PLOT 
 
 
FROM CHANDRIMA BHATTACHARYA
 
Mumbai, June 26: 
Following protests over “objectionable” scenes in Gadar, its makers issued a disclaimer today. The film is not communal in intent, they said, even as the Muslim League dubbed the film an attempt to whip up communal passion.

Protests have erupted since last week in Bhopal, Ahmedabad and Lucknow against the Partition potboiler, running to packed houses.

The Mumbai unit of the Muslim League has jumped onto the bandwagon saying it objects to the film for several reasons. The party has sent memorandums to the Prime Minister and the Maharashtra chief minister today, asking them to clip the “offensive” portions. The outfit has asked members of the minority community to boycott Zee Television, as Zee Films has produced the film.

The Muslim League’s Mumbai president, Farooq Azam, said the film was an attempt to play up communal sentiments and that the minority community has been shown in poor light. “At the very outset, Hindu girls are being asked to drink poison to escape being raped by Muslims, who are portrayed only as rapists and torturers. A character in the film has been called Sakina, the name of Prophet Mohammed’s granddaughter, who is shown as renouncing Islamic ways to marry a Sikh. This is an affront to Islam,” Azam said.

“The film is also very one-sided. It is shown how the Muslims tortured Hindus. But it is not shown how the Hindus tortured the Muslims,” he added.

If the government did not take action, the party would file a writ petition on Thursday against the film censor board, asking for guidelines which will not allow films hurting religious sentiments to be shown.

The makers of Gadar, however, said the unrest was sporadic and a ploy to disrupt the screening of the movie. The protests were not popular as the movie was running to packed houses, they said.

   

 
 
MAYAVATI SLAMS BJP, SPARES MULAYAM 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, June 26: 
Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayavati today surprised everyone by going soft on Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and reserving her fire for the BJP, its ally Ram Vilas Paswan and its prospective ally Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Ajit Singh.

When the BSP leader addressed reporters, all she said against bete noire Mulayam was that he was being “forced” to use the People’s Front as a crutch to “restore his credibility” before the polls and that he was spreading a “canard” that a BJP-BSP alliance was on the cards to “retain” his Muslim votes in “desperation”.

But the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister’s launched a full-throated attack on Ajit Singh and Paswan. She accused Singh of pursuing politics “devoid of principles and issues” and said the only principle and issue he believed in was “self-interest”.

The BSP chief alleged that Singh had bartered away his demand for a separate Harit Pradesh — comprising some districts of western Uttar Pradesh —to secure for himself a ministership in the NDA government.

“He was interested in the formation of this new state because he realised he could never be chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. But the bypolls held last February shattered his dreams because the BSP managed to wrest one of the three seats in Ajit Singh’s fief. And this seat was in his Baghpat Lok Sabha constituency,” Mayavati said.

“He realised he could not be the chief minister of even Harit Pradesh and reconciled himself to being a Union minister.”

Paswan, like Singh, had a “history of never being able to come to power on his own”, Mayavati said. She refuted his charge that the BSP had engineered the recent Dalit killings in Aligarh and Fatehpur districts to “consolidate” its base.

Mayavati said the persons named in the FIRs in the recent killings, were known to have links with the BJP. Training her guns on the BJP, she labelled chief minister Rajnath Singh as a “ghoshna mantri” (a minister of announcements) and a “natak mantri” (a minister indulging in theatrics). “His new natak (drama) is to spend a night in every village after forgetting that the villages had existed all these years,” she quipped .

   

 
 
BANDIT RANSOM OUT OF BAG 
 
 
FROM HABIB BEARY
 
Bangalore, June 26: 
It was big bucks that ensured kidnapped actor Raj Kumar’s freedom from Veerappan’s clutches, official sources confirmed, ahead of the release of former director general of police C. Dinakar’s book that promises an inside story of the kidnap drama..

The Karnataka government has sent Dinakar a notice to allow it to screen his book, a move that has attracted a strong reaction from the retired IPS official.

Official sources said Dinakar may have been peeved as he was not taken into confidence when the final amount of Rs 1 crore was mobilised by the actor’s family and film associates, and passed on to unofficial emissaries led by pro-Tamil leader P. Nedumaran, paving way for the actor’s release. Dinakar was also left out of the behind-the-scene meetings attended among others by chief minister S.M. Krishna and home minister M. Kharge during the crisis.

“The chief minister was informed from a mobile phone that Raj Kumar was safe and that Rs 1 crore had to be paid to Veerappan. But the chief minister refused. He asked the caller to talk to Raj Kumar’s family,” sources added.

Raj Kumar’s family, with the help of the film and granite industries, coughed up the amount quickly. One of Raj Kumar’s sons, Puneet Kumar, is linked to the granite business.

Official sources acknowledged that the government’s decision to send Dinakar a notice was a mistake. “Knowing his attitude, it should not have been done. It has only served his purpose to gain publicity for his book,” they said.

“What more can he say in the book but the ransom issue. Everybody knew it but it could not be made official,” a senior official associated with the hostage crisis told The Telegraph. He denied that arms had also been sent to Veerappan as part of the deal to free Raj Kumar.

Official sources now admit that one of the emissaries did carry ransom amounts during sojourns to the forest to negotiate for the actor’s safe release. Veerappan and his associates would have been paid as much as Rs 10 crore in the three months of Raj Kumar’s captivity.

The Karnataka and Tamil Nadu governments later enlisted the services of Nedumaran, Bhanu and Ramkumar Ramalingam, son of former Karnataka DGP R. Ramalingam.

Nedumaran’s choice had raised a hullabaloo with Opposition leaders questioning his credentials, given his support for the LTTE, accused of masterminding the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. In fact, some of them wanted him put behind bars for what they perceived as his “anti-national” stand.

While giving credit to Nedumaran for ending the crisis, official sources said Bhanu, a woman in her thirties, also played a key role in getting Raj Kumar out of the woods.

In his first interaction with the press after his release in November, the actor gave the woman more credit than Nedumaran for his tryst with freedom. He called her “Devi Shakti”.

Bhanu and her associate Ramkumar Ramalingam run a granite export agency and were roped into the rescue mission by Karnataka Tamil Peravai leader based in Bangalore P. Shanmughasundaram, a friend of Nedumaran.

   

 
 
IA FARES SLASHED 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, June 26: 
Indian Airlines has slashed its fares on some sectors to cope with slack seasonal demand. The revision would come into effect from June 28. The price reduction is in accordance with the underlying principle of “flexible fares” introduced in May.

Fares have been revised downwards in the Ahmedabad-Bangalore, Mumbai-Bangalore, Mumbai-Chennai, Goa-Mumbai and Mumbai-Calcutta sectors.

The executive class (J) fare in the Mumbai-Calcutta sector, has been reduced from Rs 11,215 to Rs 9,585. In the economy class (Y), the fare has been slashed from Rs 7,540, to Rs 6,450.

Point-to-point fares will also be introduced in certain sectors. These will be applicable only for INR tariff in the economy class. Under this category, the fare from Chennai to Guwahati via Calcutta is Rs 9,540, while from Guwahati to Hyderabad via Calcutta is Rs 8,950.

All tickets issued from June 28 onwards will be based on the revised fares. Tickets issued before that date on the old fares, which have been not been fully utilised will be reissued and the difference in fare will be refunded.

   
 

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