It’s raining black, brown and red in God’s own country
Party gets grip on govt
Cong dumps Mamata
Karat gives voice to minority views
Spoonfuls of hope
Calcutta Weather

 
 
IT’S RAINING BLACK, BROWN AND RED IN GOD’S OWN COUNTRY 
 
 
FROM VENKITESH RAMAKRISHNAN
 
Kochi, July 29: 
In God’s own country, anything is possible. Even coloured rain.

When the skies opened up in the southern state over the past three days, out poured rain in hues as diverse as scarlet, brown, green, yellow and black.

Scientists in India’s most literate state have yet to analyse and explain the phenomenon, but believers and votaries of paranormal intervention in human affairs are having a field day spreading theories of divine retribution.

Regions of Kottayam and Idukki in south-central Kerala were the first to receive the scarlet rains. Over the next 48 years, the colour cascade widened its reach as well as variety and exploded on eight more districts of Kerala, hardsold to tourists as ‘God’s own country’.

Most of the state, barring the northern-most region, has seen the coloured rains. So far no side-effect, but for the stained clothes of those caught in the downpour, has been reported.

“My white shirt was dyed red. But the stain wore off after about an hour,” said Gopalan, who lives in Eranakulam district. Others said the sky also had acquired an extraordinary hue before the unique rains. “I had never seen the sky like this,” said Sudhakaran, who drove through the shower.

The Centre for Earth Science Studies, a research institution based at capital Thiruvananthapuram, has collected samples of the rain and started an analysis. M. Baba, director of the institute, said the analysis would be completed in two to three weeks.

He added that there was no recorded evidence of the state experiencing such a phenomenon. Coloured rains have apparently been reported abroad during the 19th century and early 20th century. No such rain has been reported in the past 60 to 70 years.

A group of scientists associated with the institute felt that the rains were the result of changes in the chemical composition of Kerala’s geotectonic and atmospheric structure in the last couple of years.

The unnatural is not limited to the heavens. Kerala is heaving from beneath, too. Hundreds of wells across the state have collapsed without any conspicuous reason. This has been going on for three months and scientists are still studying it. It is not yet clear whether the coloured rains and collapsing wells are part of a single chain of developments.

Self-professed clairvoyants and mystics have cashed in on the phenomenon, predicting bad times for the state.

   

 
 
PARTY GETS GRIP ON GOVT 
 
 
FROM RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
 
New Delhi, July 29: 
BJP president Jana Krishnamurthi, along with L.K. Advani, managed to assert the party’s position over the NDA government on key issues that figured on the national executive agenda.

Whether it was the question of admitting or readmitting constituents into the coalition or the Agra summit and the UTI debacle, the duo prevailed upon the government on the concluding day of the meeting.

Earlier, BJP’s national executives used to be tame affairs, with members toeing the government line even if that meant going against the party’s ideology. However, the just-concluded three-day session was more assertive. Under Krishnamurthi’s leadership, it was conveyed to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee that the BJP could no longer be taken for granted.

The BJP chief articulated the changing equation at a press conference today. “We are not only a ruling party, but a democratic party, and if the party does not bring forth the viewpoint of the cadre and the people, what machinery does the government have to know the reactions of the people?” he asked.

Krishnamurthi said everybody, including the Prime Minister, “appreciated” the suggestions that were thrown up in the economic and northeast resolutions adopted by the executive. “We feel the relationship between the ruling party and the government should be of this type,” he said.

But Krishnamurthi also clarified that purveying “feedback” was not akin to criticising the government. “There is a difference between the Opposition’s criticism and the executive’s. This is not criticism. Whatever feedback the executive received was placed before the Prime Minister, the home minister, the finance minister and the disinvestment minister. Explanations were given by the ministers concerned and then our executive members could understand the rationale behind some of their decisions,” he said.

The BJP president said that Vajpayee had publicly endorsed his proposal to evolve certain norms before inducting or reinducting allies into the NDA. However, Krishnamurthi was at pains to clarify that his suggestion must not be seen as interference with the Prime Minister’s prerogative. “Let me clarify that nothing will be decided behind the Prime Minister’s back and nothing will be done to curtail his powers either.”

Observers believe that the slight tilt in the power balance towards the BJP was occasioned as much by the perception that Vajpayee’s good days were, perhaps, behind him and his position even within the government was more vulnerable than six months ago.

“Let’s face it, the much-hyped Agra summit yielded little from Atalji’s viewpoint. His foreign and finance ministers are under attack from within the party and the Opposition for different reasons, but the charges are serious. Things are not going well in Uttar Pradesh either. He will find it difficult to seek refuge under the cover that there’s no alternative to the NDA,” BJP sources said.

Vajpayee’s decision to play to the hawks’ gallery on the Agra summit and take potshots at President Pervez Musharraf is being seen as an attempt to neutralise the perception that he has become “vulnerable”.

   

 
 
CONG DUMPS MAMATA 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, July 29: 
The West Bengal Congress today officially snapped its tenuous alliance with Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress to protest against the latter’s decision to revive ties with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.

“The alliance ceases to exist in Bengal as soon as Trinamul MPs are found to have revived their ties with NDA representatives in Parliament,” said state unit president and Congress Working Committee member Pranab Mukherjee this afternoon. Last month, Mamata had threatened to discontinue her ties with the Congress and described the party as “more a burden than an asset”.

Mukherjee, who was here with another CWC member, Mukul Wasnik, to attend a Pradesh Mahila Samit programme, told reporters that it was impossible to carry on the alliance with Trinamul after “we found Trinamul MPs sharing seats with representatives from the NDA in the Lok Sabha”.

The PCC chief clarified that the Congress had entered into an electoral alliance with Trinamul only after it promised to keep the BJP at bay. “We kept silent till July 23, but everything changed when the monsoon session of Parliament began on that day. We saw Trinamul MPs sitting on treasury benches and extending support to the NDA,” Mukherjee said.

“We cannot have any truck with the party which has rejoined forces with the communal forces. Against this backdrop, the Congress-Trinamul alliance cannot exist,” Mukherjee said, admitting that the development would strengthen the communal parties.

He maintained that Mamata had dubbed the Congress a “burden” and announced that she would go alone. “If the Trinamul chief herself does not want to continue the alliance, then we are left with no option, but to discontinue this,” he said.

Asked if the split amounted to a betrayal of trust of the people of Bengal as both parties had agreed to fight the Left Front together, the PCC chief evaded a direct answer but indicated that Trinamul should be blamed.

Mukherjee, however, said Congress and Trinamul MLAs could work together on certain issues. “As the common enemy is the CPM here, we can join forces on major issues.”

Trinamul chief whip in the Lok Sabha, Sudip Bandopadhyay, called the Congress move “pre-planned” and “well-calculated” when contacted in his New Delhi residence.

“The way the Congress had backstabbed us in the Assembly polls by voting against Trinamul candidates is condemnable beyond words. We are certain the Congress is not serious about continuing the alliance,” Bandopadhyay said. An indisposed Mamata could not be contacted.

   

 
 
KARAT GIVES VOICE TO MINORITY VIEWS 
 
 
BY TAMAL SENGUPTA
 
Calcutta, July 29: 
The man who drove the majority steamroller over Jyoti Basu’s prime ministerial aspirations today spoke up for the minority voice in the CPM.

Politburo member Prakash Karat told partymen that the CPM was finding itself riven by factionalism because it tended to ignore the minority view while functioning by majority decisions.

Speaking on organisation and related problems at Barasat in North 24-Parganas district, Karat said the CPM’s belief in “majority-ism” might recoil on the organisation by creating disgruntled minority elements.

“Neglecting continually the minority view is dangerous for a party like ours because it gives birth to factionalism. It is a fact the CPM approaches functions on the basis of majority decisions but we should not ignore the minority group. They are also a part of the organisation. We must learn to respect their view.”

Karat’s observation at the session with functionaries of North 24-Parganas — the most fractious CPM unit — was interpreted as an advice to the district ruling clique of Amitava Bose and Amitava Nandi who are pressing for hard measures against transport and sports minister Subhas Chakraborty after the Salt Lake stadium incident.

Chakraborty, like his mentor Basu, is long known to be a part of a sharp minority view on ideological and organisational issues. If his rival camp was expecting endorsement of its war on Chakraborty, they were rudely jolted by Karat, known for his orthodoxy.

Karat asked the district leadership to “not ignore the minority members and listen to their problems and suggestions”.

His call to iron out “factionalism” did not leave the anti-Chakraborty lobby in any doubt that he would not lend weight to its campaign.

   

 
 
SPOONFULS OF HOPE 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, July 29: 
Cancer-patients will have to wait some more months for the drug being developed at the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science despite its success on patients during clinical trials.

Manju Ray, leader of the team of scientists which is working on the drug, told The Telegraph that phase-III of the experiment — on a larger number of patients at hospitals — would take some more time to start. Despite being bombarded by hundreds of letters and phone-calls from patients and their relatives, the team has decided against accepting any more patients for clinical trials. “We need to be patient and cautious about the drug as we have reached only a certain stage in the experiment,” Ray explained.

The words of caution notwithstanding, hope is running high among the families of four of the patients who were among the first to volunteer for the clinical trials.

Three were ecstatic about the drug. The fourth, the father of a terminally-ill 10-year-old, isn’t giving up hope like the 15 other patients who have given positive feedbacks during the trials.

Monika Kanjilal was one of the four that The Telegraph spoke to. The “miracle” started from December 14, 1999, the day she took the first of the tablespoonfuls that was going to change her life, her family said.

She took the last at the end of May. When she started her daily diet of eight spoons of the drug, her family wasn’t confident she would live; she had been diagnosed with leaukaemia, she was having frequent bouts of fever, she had lost her appetite and her bones, they found during the frequent accidents, couldn’t carry her.

But after 28 “courses” of the drug, her family is confident that she has pulled through; she doesn’t have fever any more, her appetite is back to normal, she can move around the ground floor unaided and can even walk up to the first floor of her Selimpur home if helped by someone.

Members of her family were so upbeat about the drug’s success that they passed on the “secret” to her sister-in-law, Kalyani Kanjilal of Khardah in North 24-Parganas, also suffering from the disease for which there is no sure cure.

When Kalyani started taking the drug, she couldn’t eat even her favourite diet of rice and -fish.

Now, a month after she stopped taking the drug, she looks forward to her meals. When she started, she found it difficult to move around; now, she moves around as normally as a 70-year-old.

Cut to Durgapur in Burdwan district: the father of a research scientist at the IACS was diagnosed with cancer in his right lung in November 2000. Instead of the painful process of chemotherapy, the son told his father about the new drug that was being prepared in the labs where he worked.

His father is on the drug since February 20 this year. His mobility, after a brief relapse, is normal now and so is his appetite. The drug hasn’t given him any chance to miss chemotherapy, which was recommended by other doctors.

The father of a terminally-ill 10-year-old leukemia patient, who has already undergone two phases of chemotherapy, isn’t so ecstatic; his son still has a long way to go.

But he, too, was hopeful. His son is now leading a near-normal life and goes to school, where he is studying in Class IV.

The leader of the team making the drug, however, would like to be more circumspect: “Give us some more time,” said Ray.

Her message to the millions waiting for her team’s breakthrough to materialise would also be similarly short and circumspect.

“Wait and see,” was all she would say before the start of phase-III of the trials.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 31.4°C (-1)
Minimum: 27.4°C (+1))

Rainfall:

13.6 mm

Relative Humidity

Maximum: 95%,
Minimum: 77%

Today

One or two spells of light to moderate rain in some parts.
Sunrise: 5.09 am
Sunset: 6.17 pm
   
 

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