CPM calls war on rebel-rousers
Police patrol on local trains
Opp. summit sermon to Vajpayee
Editor protests telecast
Mirror plays cupid for warring chimps
Sondhi stop-gap successor
Bollywood stars on Rachel resume
Floods swallow 9000 villages in Orissa
Court unseats Shibu Soren
Civil defiance halts Manipur

 
 
CPM CALLS WAR ON REBEL-ROUSERS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 19: 
Ahead of the party’s organisational polls, the CPM today declared “war” on functionaries involved in anti-party activities.

Anil Biswas, state CPM secretary, said the party’s objective was to put a stop to immoral activities of certain functionaries, encourage growth of clean personalities and eliminate factionalism.

Biswas was addressing a meeting at Sarat Sadan in Howrah organised to condole the deaths of Sailen Dasgupta and Niren Ghosh. He said people like Dasgupta and Ghosh had taught the party to fight against corruption and factionalism and “we will follow in their footsteps”.

He was vocal against factionalism within the party in some districts. Without naming any individual or the districts facing the problem of factionalism, he said the party was determined to stop this and the organisation will take a tough stand against those instigating factionalism.

“If someone considers himself more important than the party, he has no place in our organisation. Many such people have left the CPM, many might leave the organisation in future. But the party will not suffer because of them. It will be easy for us if such people quit the organisation on their own,” he added.

Sources said Biswas’s comments are significant as the party will have an organisational poll soon.

Biswas is aware of the factionalism plaguing the party, particularly in North and South 24-Parganas. CPM insiders said the state leadership was trying hard to stop factionalism at any cost and Biswas’s comments were a warning to those who encourage groupism within the party.

The process to elect CPM committees at the grassroots level will start in August. In September, local committees will be elected and zonal committees will be elected by October.

   

 
 
POLICE PATROL ON LOCAL TRAINS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 19: 
Policemen will now also be deployed on suburban trains.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, while announcing this in the Assembly, said the state government was taking several steps to curb railway dacoity. He informed the House that policemen would be deployed in local trains at certain times.

Bhattacharjee said, between January 1999 and March 2001, 526 people had been arrested for railway dacoity. Railway police are keeping vigil in some areas in Malda and Murshidabad districts, which have been identified as dacoity-prone, the chief minister said.

“We are making arrangements for sufficient policemen to be on board all long-distance trains,” Bhattacharjee added.

   

 
 
OPP. SUMMIT SERMON TO VAJPAYEE 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, July 19: 
Opposition leaders today endorsed the Agra Summit as a step in the right direction but demanded that the Centre insist on a structured agenda before the next round of talks.

The government should insist on a “structured agenda” before future talks, Congress chief and leader of Opposition Sonia Gandhi said at the all-party meeting called by the Prime Minister where he gave a detailed account of what went wrong at the summit. The government should prepare itself well before such a summit, she added. The general consensus was that the talks must continue.

The lesson from the summit, the leaders told Vajpayee, was that a structured agenda should be made a “precondition” so that Agra is not repeated. They also faulted the NDA government’s sloppy media management which helped Pakistan gain propaganda mileage.

They said the media should have been informed in a better way. “There was a one-sided affair from Pakistan which should be avoided in future,” they were quoted by parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan as saying.

The meeting also warned about possible escalation of violence in Jammu and Kashmir after the summit’s failure, though the Left parties cautioned against military action in the valley. The Prime Minister, the defence minister and the home minister assured the leaders that the government was taking “full care”.

The lone discordant note came from the BJP’s ally, the Shiv Sena, which opposed any kind of dialogue till “Pakistan completely stopped abetting terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir”. Sena leader Anant Geete said: “No useful purpose will be served by talking to Pakistan. Even while Musharraf was doing the talking, people were being killed in Kashmir.”

Mahajan later quoted Vajpayee as saying that “let nobody think that India does not have the resolve, strength and stamina to fight terrorism”. He said the Prime Minister has already accepted Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s invitation but it was too early to work out the details.

Vajpayee said it was unfair that his government was being criticised for not preparing well enough in the run-up to the summit. He said he had convened an all-party meeting on July 9 and all the parties had wanted the government to take up Kashmir and terrorism. “It was not the first time that we were talking to Pakistan,” he said. “We had the Simla Agreement, the Lahore Declaration — a composite agenda was before us for the talks.”

VP slams Atal

Former Prime MInister V.P. Singh today criticised Vajpayee for not “asserting his authority” with Musharraf. “A Prime Minister has to be Prime Minister. He cannot be 99 per cent Prime Minister. I had also pressure (applied) on me on various issues, but I took the decisions finally,” he said, on whether Vajpayee had come under pressure from BJP hardliners.

   

 
 
EDITOR PROTESTS TELECAST 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, July 19: 
Editor of Outlook magazine Vinod Mehta has protested against the telecast of the breakfast meeting of editors with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in Agra.

The telecast came as an embarrassment not only to the government but also to many of the editors who were not aware that the meeting was being recorded for public consumption. Mehta wrote to Pakistani high commissioner Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, protesting against “a private meeting being turned into a public spectacle”.

Mehta is not alone. Other editors, too, were aghast to learn that the meeting had gone on air. “For the moment, I am the only one who has written and protested. But my conversations with many of the others have convinced me that most of them are as aggrieved,” Mehta said.

The editor said he did ask a Pakistani official at the venue of the meeting — the Amar Vilas resort in Agra — what a television camera was doing in the room. “I was told that this was to document what was happening and not for televising. The camera also did not have a PTV (Pakistan Television) logo,” he said. PTV had the only camera in the venue. But it gave its footage first to NDTV, which beamed it on the Star News.

The Pakistan high commissioner telephoned Mehta after receiving his letter. “I cannot tell you what went on in the private conversation because then I would be doing to them what they did to us,” said Mehta. “But he did tell me that I had sent the letter to the wrong address. The letter, I was told, should have been sent to the Indian channel that telecast it.”

   

 
 
MIRROR PLAYS CUPID FOR WARRING CHIMPS 
 
 
FROM ANAND SOONDAS
 
Lucknow, July 19: 
It took just two bathroom mirrors to end a guerrilla war of a different kind.

Sunny and Cheena have to be together. They also have to start mating. But they don’t exactly get along. Cheena, who is quiet and rather pretty and fiercely independent, does not seem impressed by Sunny, who she feels is brash, boisterous and from all accounts a male chauvinistic, well, chimp.

However, officials at the Prince of Wales Zoological Gardens, where the two chimps have been kept for four months, have now devised an ingenious way to bring about a truce. Though it took them some time to realise that chimpanzees, like their human counterparts, are narcissistic and hate to be lonely, they are now over the moon that their plan has worked and is beginning to show results.

Two bathroom mirrors were strategically placed at two corners of the cell. “Now they are either busy appreciating themselves or trying to communicate with their mirror images,” says a pleased B. Prabhakar, director at the zoo.

After months of monitoring the primates, Prabhakar’s team realised that the main reason for the frequent, and sometimes vicious, quarrels between the two primates was boredom. “They had nothing to do. So they would fight,” he says.

Cheena’s refusal to give into her male cellmate aggravated the situation, the zoo director added. “Sunny tied every possible stunt and trick but failed and the frustration only grew,” he elaborated.

Another reason the two chimps didn’t get along was the age factor, according to zoo officials. While Cheena is seven-and-a-half years old Sunny is only five.

“But things are fine now,” says Balaram, caretaker to the two chimps. He maintains that the chimps have not only started eating better, but also seem to be happier. “We noticed that their food intake increased considerably and that they remained chirpy throughout the day,” Balaram says.

Zoo authorities took the cue from an experiment in the US where scientists realised that the lifespan of birds in zoos goes up when they are in the company of other birds.

“We had to break the boredom and create an illusion that they are not alone,” says Prabhakar, who maintains that the mirror experiment is being tried for the first time in the country. “Now the number of fights per day has gone down drastically and they are more playful towards each other,” he adds.

Prabhakar hopes that the situation improves enough for Sunny and Cheena to start mating a fortnight later. “That is where our main test will lie,” the zoo director says with a slight hint of trepidation.

The future look quite bright for the zoo and its only two chimps though. Everyone is keeping fingers crossed and is hoping for the best. And, as Balaram says: “Khel, khel me hi to pyar ho jata hai.

   

 
 
SONDHI STOP-GAP SUCCESSOR 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, July 19: 
The ministry for human resources development has asked its additional secretary in the department of secondary and higher education, K.S. Sarma, to be chairman of the Indian Council for Social Sciences Research till a new head is appointed.

According to the ICSSR’s rules, its chairman and member-secretary must be social scientists of eminence. Sarma is an IAS officer who has been asked to take charge till the ministry homes in on an academic.

Sources said Sondhi, who claimed to enjoy Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee’s support, was sacked because he had lost the confidence of the council.

Sondhi is a former MP of the erstwhile Jan Sangh. But he had rubbed the RSS the wrong way and had once complained to President K.R. Narayanan that a cabal led by Devendra Swaroop, a former editor of the RSS mouthpiece, Panchajanya, was not letting him function.

Council sources alleged that it was Sondhi who rarely took them into confidence — as required by the rules. As such, the ministry feels there is enough evidence that has been piled up to show that Sondhi was functioning “dictatorially”. Even his India-Pakistan seminars in the run-up to the Agra summit were not discussed; nor was his decision to institute 27 Vajpayee-Musharraf fellowships — one in each of the ICSSR’s centres.

The council had asked him for budgets and plans but they were not submitted. “We are not saying that there has been defalcation of funds but it looks like the regional centres of ICSSR were being denied the funds due to them while he was holding seminars in Maurya Sheraton,” sources said.

Sondhi termed his sacking “totally illegal” and said he would challenge it in court, adds PTI. He blamed “those people or agencies” within the government “who do not want friendship” between India and Pakistan for the move.

   

 
 
BOLLYWOOD STARS ON RACHEL RESUME 
 
 
FROM SHRABANI BASU
 
London, July 19: 
Rachel Shelley, the cricket-coaching actress in Aamir Khan’s Lagaan, has said that the film was her biggest career break. The film has been running successfully all over the UK and even drawing in a new White audience to sit through the song-dance and cricket routines.

Shelley’s CV now describes her as a “Bollywood film star”.

In an article in The Daily Mail, 28-year-old Shelly said: “I don’t think anyone predicted it would be such a success in the UK. Since Lagaan, I have a lot of interest from other directors.”

Shelley studied English and drama at Sheffield University and her first job was as hostess on British Rail pushing the food trolley and selling sandwiches and drinks. That was in 1994, but the young graduate was determined to make it as an actress. She got a job as an understudy in a play at the Edinburgh Festival. It paid only £50 per week with food and lodging thrown in, but it was the thing she wanted to do.

In 1995, Shelley set up her own theatre company with a grant from the Prince’s Trust and toured schools presenting shows. The company made £50 per show.

In 1996, she arrived in London and took up modelling to pay the bills. Working for television commercials she earned around £4,000 a month, but it was not what she wanted to do. It was only in 1997 that she began to work for European and American TV, but again Shelley wasn’t happy though the money was good.

She got her first small role in the film Photographing Fairies starring Ben Kingsley and Toby Stephens and found herself a good casting agent, Conway Van Gelder, one of the top five in London.

Her “biggest break” was in 2001 when she got Lagaan. “There are now a number of British directors making Bollywood-style films in the UK, and the film critics are predicting that they will be the next big trend in British film-making,” says Shelley.

Lagaan got great reviews in the mainstream British press with The Guardian critic giving it four stars and comparing it to successful international films in the genre of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The same critic gave Bridget Jones’s Diary, the big Hollywood hit, only three stars.

   

 
 
FLOODS SWALLOW 9000 VILLAGES IN ORISSA 
 
 
FROM DEBABRATA MOHANTY
 
Bhubaneswar/ Jajpur, July 19: 
Torrential rain in the upper catchment area of Mahanadi and the surging water from Hirakud reservoir have inundated more than 9,000 villages in Orissa.

The surge has killed 38 people and affected more than 60 lakh in many coastal areas and interior districts. A third round of more devastating floods is expected tonight.

With authorities continuing to release water from the Hirakud dam, the flood situation in the coastal districts threatens to spiral out of control. By 3 pm today, 5.46 lakh cusecs flowed out from 33 sluice gates as against an inflow of 4.56 lakh cusecs.

Though the water level at the reservoir stands at 626.65 feet, the authorities are trying to flush out more water as another cloudburst is likely in the upper catchment area of Mahanadi over the next 24 hours.

The rainfall has been so severe that between June 1 and July 18, the state received an average rainfall of 806.55 mm as against an average of 422 mm for that period.

“The situation has turned worse than expected. It is the most devastating flood in the history of the state.

But the government is doing its best as far as relief and rescue operations are concerned,’’ said revenue minister Biswabhusan Harichandan here today.

Forecasts predict that the flood situation will worsen tonight as a record amount of 16 lakh cusecs of water is expected to pass through the Naraj barrage, flooding more areas in the coastal district. There has been more than 30 breaches in major embankments so far.

The Naveen Patnaik administration has been caught on the wrong foot as a large number of marooned people were left to fend for themselves Yesterday, the state government had claimed that the heads of the gram panchayats had been asked to provide relief at the local level.

More 300 people have been starving at Daleisahi village in Jajpur district for the past three days. The village has been completely cut off from the mainland by the overflowing Birupa river. The villagers have been forced to take shelter on the road connecting Daitari to Paradip.

Balaram Dalei (55), head of a 10-member family in the village, had a tough time procuring food. This morning, Dalei and two other villagers went to the local panchayat office at Balichandrapur only to return empty-handed. “I have just taken just a handful of chira (flattened rice) since this morning. Though we have some rice there is no fuel to cook. We have not seen any government official since Monday,’’ said Sunakar Dalei. Others like Prahlad Routray had a few thin arrowroot biscuits “donated” by an NGO this morning. The administration has failed to rush relief to villages like Daleisahi, located along the highway, in the flood-affected Kendrapara district. The army has also been deployed for rescue operations.

Trains cancelled

Nizamuddin-Bhubaneswar Hirakud Express has been cancelled from Nizamuddin on July 19. Bhubaneswar-Nizamuddin Hirakud Express will remain cancelled from Bhubaneswar on July 21. Nizamuddin-Puri Utkal Kalinga Express has been cancelled from Nizamuddin on July 19. Puri-Nizamuddin Utkal Kalinga Express will remain cancelled from Puri on July 22. Alleppy-Bokaro Express will remain cancelled from Alleppy on July 21.

   

 
 
COURT UNSEATS SHIBU SOREN 
 
 
FROM R. VENKATARAMAN
 
New Delhi, July 19: 
Controversial Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader Shibu Soren today lost his Rajya Sabha membership after the Supreme Court upheld a Patna High Court verdict which had unseated him on May 19 last year.

Soren’s election as MP was set aside on grounds that he had held an “office of profit” as chairman of the interim Jharkhand Area Autonomous Council (JAAC) during the time of his election to the Rajya Sabha.

While the trial court had held that the post was an “office of profit” and the high court had upheld it, Soren argued before the apex court that the post could not be construed to be an office of profit as he “enjoyed the status of a minister while functioning as chairman of the interim council”.

A three-judge bench of Chief Justice A.S. Anand and Justices R.C. Lahoti and Shivraj V. Patil, in a 46 page reasoned judgement, said Parliament, under Article 102 of the Constitution, had exempted some offices as “offices of profit” and since the post of chairman of JAAC was not exempted, Soren could not claim the exemption from “disqualification” under the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 1959. Further, the JAAC Act has not been included in the exemption schedule to the 1959 Act by Parliament. So, Soren, as chairman, had drawn a honorarium of Rs 1,750 per month, daily allowance at the rate of Rs 150 and Rs 120 per day as allowance for attending the meetings of the interim council.

Further, he was given a furnished rent free accommodation and a car with driver. These were held to be “pecuniary gains”. Soren had secured the highest number of votes during the biennial election to the Rajya Sabha held on June 18, 1998, defeating Dayanand Sahay.

Soren maintained that he had not been earning any “profit” and was drawing only honorarium and allowances to meet his “out of pocket expenses”.

   

 
 
CIVIL DEFIANCE HALTS MANIPUR 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, July 19: 
Functioning of state and Central government offices in Manipur was paralysed today on the first day of a “civil disobedience movement”.

The four-day movement launched by the United Committee, Manipur (UCM), marks another phase of public resistance to the expansive ceasefire pact the Centre has entered into with the NSCN(I-M).

In view of the tense situation, the state administration today decided to curtail the relaxation in the curfew by five hours.

The Prime Minister’s Office has invited UCM leaders for talks in New Delhi tomorrow. A letter from the PMO was received today. The UCM has, however, requested the PMO to postpone the meeting by a day as the three convenors would not be able to reach Delhi in time. A six-member UCM delegation is already camping in the capital to mobilise public opinion on the issue.

Sources said a UCM delegation led by its three convenors, Udoy Thongam, S. Jadumani and Kh. Ratan, would leave tomorrow to meet the Prime Minister before the monsoon session of Parliament.

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement to review the ceasefire, including the words “without territorial limits”, the administration had relaxed curfew for 17 hours — from 4 am to 9 pm. But the administration took a sudden decision to reduce the period from 6.30 am to 7 pm.

Police went about the city during the day announcing over loudspeakers that the curfew had been curtailed and would resume from 7 pm.

   
 

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