Kamtapuri talks table set
Barracks barrier to home
Asim austerity drive targets travel
Falta attacker in police net
‘Friendless’ Bengal Cong gropes in dark
Moradabad mayhem flares up in House
Sushma sticks by Ray institute
Hit Congman targets boss
Phoolan’s purse & chilling poser
Manipur House vote with talks offer

Siliguri, July 30: 
The Kamtapur Peoples’ Party (KPP) has responded to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s appeal for talks and has asked the chief minister to fix a date for a “dialogue” on “Kamtapuri issues”.

KPP chief Atul Roy said: “This is the first time the party leadership has made such an official approach to the state government. We have clearly expressed our interest for a dialogue, preferably to be held in Siliguri, to discuss the Kamtapuri issues.”

While urging them to the talks table, Bhattacharjee had made it clear that they would have to sever links with the militant Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) and give up its statehood demand.

However, the letter, written by party general secretary Nikhil Roy, a hardliner, has deliberately kept the talks agenda vague.

At its central committee meeting at Dupguri last week, the KPP leadership had said it would hold talks with the state government without compromising its demands for statehood and recognition of the Kamtapuri language.

The leaders also decided to focus on infiltration of Bangladeshis, economic exploitation of the region and reservation of land belonging to the Kamtapuri (Rajbonshi) community during their talks with Bhattacharjee.

Explaining his party’s willingness for talks, Roy said: “The chief minister’s recent declaration that his government will not encourage raising tea plantations on agricultural land or tribal land after July 31 is a positive stand.... This is a moral victory for us. The indigenous people of North Bengal are essentially dependent on agriculture. This positive move will save many Kamtapuris from becoming landless in future,” Roy added.

The party leadership has also written to its Jalpaiguri district president Mitali Roy, asking her to clarify some of her recent anti-party activities. She had allegedly met Bhattacharjee in Calcutta earlier this month without the “prior” sanction of the party’s central committee.

“Statement issued by her against the party leadership as a fallout of the meeting has also caused dismay within the party. The central leadership has decided to expel her from the party,” the KPP president said.


Berhampore, July 30: 
Four years ago, Rahul Kumar Jadav got off at Burdwan station to fill a bottle of water. He was returning to Delhi with his parents.

Too late he turned to see the train pulling away. The six-year-old was left stranded in the station, with nothing but a bottle full of water.

He is 10 years old now. In four short years, his life has taken many twists and turns. Now, he is languishing at the police barracks here.

He has been at the barracks for a month-and-a-half. That has raised eyebrows, but nobody has done anything about it.

Senior police officials in Murshidabad have wondered why he has not been sent home to his parents in Delhi, or — at least — to a government home for children.

Asked why Rahul was staying in the barracks, additional superintendent of police, Sankar Singh, said: “I can’t tell you why the boy is here. It is our superintendent who can give you the details.”

And the superintendent? He’s on leave. So, the boy stays on in the barracks.

He likes the policemen. They like him. But that’s hardly the point.

He’s here because four years back, he didn’t the hear the train whistle on time, because his parents didn’t pull the emergency chain on time, because fate pulled the carpet from under his feet.

“I had worked in a number of tea-stalls in Burdwan town. But I could not bear the torture of the shop-owners. Then I fled from a shop near Burdwan station with a person who lived in Sahebpara in Berhampore. After that I stayed with the man till the police rescued me. I told the police that my parents live in Delhi. My father’s Sankar Kumar Jadav and mother’s Urmila Jadav. I was a student of Jain Vidyamandir in New Delhi. I thought the policemen in the barracks will send me to my parents. But they have not done anything,” says Rahul.

“Policemen in the barracks offer me food. They are good and kindhearted. But I think they have no time for me. I want to go back to my parents,” says he.

But there are grey areas in his story. Why did the police rescue him from the man in Sahebpara? More important, how did the police come to hear about him? Who was this man who rescued him from hard-hearted tea-stall owners? Also, his parents: why didn’t they try to track down their son?

But these are questions to which little Rahul has no answer. And the superintendent is on leave.


Calcutta, July 30: 
As part of an austerity drive, the state government has decided to impose restrictions on travelling and entertainment expenses of its officers.

State finance minister Asim Dasgupta announced this at the Assembly today while participating in a debate on the West Bengal Finance Bill, 2001. The Bill was passed by the House.

Discussing the Bill, Atish Sinha of the Congress asked Dasgupta how the government planned to earn Rs 192 crore as announced in the budget speech this year.

Sinha said the budget speech was not clear speech as to how the government expected to earn the additional amount of Rs 50 crore in the Rs 192 crore package.

Dasgupta said decision has been taken to reach a target of earning an additional amount of Rs 50 crore by reducing overall administrative expenses during the next financial year.

Replying to Sinha, Dasgupta said the government has planned to reduce the number of foreign trips of government officials. The government hopes to save a substantial amount if the number of such trips are reduced, he added.

As a part of the drive, the government has also planned to stop officers posted in the districts to frequently visit the headquarters in Calcutta.

A large amount is spend every year by the government by the meeting the expenses of the officers in the districts for coming to Calcutta. Now they will be asked to avoid visiting the city unless there is an extremely urgent business, the minister said.

Restrictions are also to be imposed on entertaining guests in government offices.

Officers will be asked not to spend unnecessarily for entertaining guests in their offices or at seminars and meetings.


Calcutta, July 30: 
Police today arrested Mozammel Mollah, the sacked worker of Falta-based Antertica Packaging Company, who beat up his former manager, Subir Dutta, on Friday night. Dutta is still on life support.

With Mollah’s arrest from Uluberia, the total number of people in the police net has gone up to 17.

State labour minister Mohammed Amin made a statement in the Assembly today, condemning the attack on Dutta. “His present condition is stated to be critical. The incident deserves our right condemnation,” he said.

“Mollah was not a member of any trade union and fought his case on his own,” Amin said. “There is no trade union in the company.”

Mollah and his followers had ambushed the Tata Sumo in which Dutta and another person were travelling at Khailan in Diamond Harbour and beat up the manager severely.


New Delhi, July 30: 
The Congress has been left without friends in Bengal with the state leadership clueless about the high command’s future plans.

The AICC today reluctantly endorsed state unit chief Pranab Mukherjee’s announcement that the alliance with the Trinamul Congress was off. It, however, consciously refrained from attacking Mamata Banerjee.

AICC spokesman Jaipal Reddy sought to throw the ball in the Trinamul leader’s court, asking her to “end the prevarication” on the alliance issue. “Since ties with the Congress and the National Democratic Alliance are mutually exclusive, it is for Trinamul to end this prevarication,” the Congress spokesman said, pointing out that Trinamul members were continuing to share seats with representatives of the NDA in the Lok Sabha. “That is unacceptable to us,” Reddy added.

In a later development, the Congress’ relations with the Left also hit a new low following CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan’s tirade against Sonia Gandhi.

Senior leaders retaliated, accusing Bardhan of levelling “baseless and unfounded charges” against the party chief. Bardhan had claimed that “Sonia’s attitude” was coming in the way of Opposition unity, a statement promptly rebutted by Reddy. Congress leaders privately alleged that the CPI leader was “playing” into the hands of parties like the Nationalist Congress Party and the Samajwadi Party.

Bengal Congress leaders camping in Delhi said the thought of snapping ties with Mamata did not bother them as much as the uncertainty over the future. “One does not know what is crossing Sonia Gandhi’s mind. Are we supposed to start from scratch or play second-fiddle to the Left?” a Congress MP asked.

Sources close to the Congress chief said that Sonia had no specific plans for Bengal. “There is no urgency. Let the dust settle down. We will concentrate on cadre building and preparing for the panchayat polls slated for 2003,” an AICC functionary said, indicating that affairs related to Bengal were not the immediate priority.

Party leaders said the Congress was not warming up to the Left because of the coming Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh. “The Left is part of the Samajwadi Party and we are at loggerheads. The Uttar Pradesh verdict will determine our future ties,” a Congress MP said, hinting that there was a possibility of the Congress and the Samajwadi Party coming together in the event of a hung House.

In an another development, Priya Ranjan Das Munshi has written a letter to Pranab seeking a discussion on the situation in Bengal. Das Munshi, the chief whip of the Congress parliamentary party in the Lok Sabha, has reservations on the manner in which the alliance with Trinamul has been called off.

There was no meeting of the PCC executive nor were senior leaders taken into confidence before Pranab announced the snapping of ties. Jaipal, however, tried to put up a feeble defence, saying that the Bengal Congress chief did not announce the separation with Trinamul “suo motu”.


New Delhi, July 30: 
A week after the Moradabad carnage, both Houses of Parliament adjourned today amid pandemonium with angry Congress MPs demanding a judicial probe and dismissal of the Uttar Pradesh government.

According to the high-level 14-member Congress team that visited Moradabad, six members of a minority community were killed on the night of July 22-23 and that the women were assaulted before being murdered.

The Congress team included Ghulam Nabi Azad, Begum Noor, Mohsina Kidwai, Farida Topno, Santosh Mohan Deb, Ramesh Chennithala and Jagdish Tytler.

During Zero Hour in the Lok Sabha, Congress members stormed the Well alleging that atrocities on minority communities and Dalits had increased, provoking loud protests from the BJP members from Uttar Pradesh.

Amid unruly scenes, Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi adjourned the House for two hours. The House began its business in the afternoon after the government assured a statement on Wednesday.

Congress deputy leader in the Lok Sabha Madhavrao Scindia, said law and order in Uttar Pradesh was “collapsing” and sought a statement from the government.

Calling the Moradabad incident a “heinous crime”, Scindia said there had been a series of attacks on Dalits and minority communities in the recent past in Uttar Pradesh.

Scindia said chloroform was used by the attackers to rape women in Moradabad, adding that a pregnant woman was also subjected to the ignominy. Reading from the Congress report, Scindia said a police cap and belt were recovered near a tree where a woman was raped.

In the Rajya Sabha, Congress MPs demanded a probe by a high court judge into the killings in Moradabad and asked why no arrests have been made eight days after the incident.

Raising the issue during Zero Hour, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said his party was demanding a judicial probe as a cap and belt of a policeman was found at the site where a woman was allegedly raped on the intervening night of July 22-23. He said heart-rending scenes were witnessed by the Congress delegation.

“This is a shameful incident as some pregnant women have been raped,” Azad said. He added that he did not buy the argument of the police that this could be a case of dacoity.

Responding to the Congress demand, minister of state for parliamentary affairs O. Rajagopal said information on the incident was being collected from the state government and home minister L.K. Advani would make a statement on Wednesday.


New Delhi, July 30: 
Information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj has flatly refused to turn the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute into a pariah. The Expenditure Reforms Committee (ERC) had asked the ministry to sell the institute.

The ERC had said in its report that “some of the graduates of this institute have, of course, turned out to be highly reputed artistes and technicians. However, a budget of Rs 8 crore per annum, of which staff expenditure is around 19.07 per cent, is patently disproportionate to the student strength of around 75 persons. There are also a number of private film and television training institutions in the country. Therefore, the ministry could divest itself of this institution and may explore the possibility of the film industry creating an association or agency and taking it over, details of asset transfer being carefully worked out so as to safeguard government investments. For example, pricing could be based on the model of disinvestment/privatisation procedures”.

Sushma, whose fascination with the Indian film industry and its potential is rather recent if pronounced, told the finance ministry in no uncertain terms: “The ministry (I & B) cannot accept this recommendation.”

The SRFTI and the FTII are the only national level institutes imparting film education, the I & B ministry’s response said. “If these institutes were to be closed down, there is no representative body in the film industry, which could take over this institute. The cost of setting up a film institute is enormous and given the fact that the film industry is run through individual enterprise, it is unlikely that the industry would come together to take over an enterprise which had no profitability for the investor.”

The I & B ministry’s response noted that the audio-visual media and films are “growing at an astonishing rate”. In a recent report of FICCI, it has been mentioned that this sector is slated to grow at a rate of 25 per cent over the next few years and would provide tremendous employment opportunities. “In fact, its growth would be similar to that seen in the IT sector.”

The ministry said it accepted the recommendation of the ERC to increase the number of students and enhance training facilities. “Efforts will be made in that direction. (The) Institute will also attempt to generate greater revenues,” the I & B ministry said and added that it would consider “strategic tie-ups with the private sector to augment revenues and generate investments.... Options of leasing out technical facilities to mobilise additional resources are being explored.”


Bhopal, July 30: 
Congress leader Manak Agarwal, in hospital after he was shot in the neck by a colleague yesterday, has accused state president Radha Kishan Malviya of trying to kill him.

Party general secretary Inder Prajapat was taken into custody for attempting to murder Agarwal, also a general secretary. Prajapat was furious after a Hindi newspaper front-paged an article on his second marriage. He believed that Agarwal had leaked the news to the paper.

The state Congress office here has turned into a battlefield with rival factions clashing in the open. The Agarwal camp now wants Malviya to be listed as co-accused in the case.

From the intensive care unit of Hamidia Hospital, where he was operated upon yesterday, Agarwal issued a statement this morning claiming that Malviya had ganged up with Prajapat to kill him.

The statement says the plot to murder him was hatched at the state party chief’s house, but gives no details. It also demands that the party chief be made a “co-accused”.

Reacting to the incident, Malviya said: “I am helpless.”

Fearing an attack from the rival camp, a strong police contingent has been posted outside his home. Friends of Prajapat and Malviya are also under strict police security.

But Prajapat is unrepentant. “If my family had no problem with my second marriage, who are these people to teach me morals?” he said. “I met Manak a few days ago and informed him of my second marriage and personally asked him not to stoop so low as to assassinate my character just because I have married a second time. He assured me that my new wife was like his daughter and then he goes about feeding the press with scandalous stories.”

Prajapat has been booked for attempt to murder and for violating the Arms Act. He was produced before the first class judicial magistrate and remanded in jail custody till August 10.

This is not the first time that Prajapat has been found on the wrong side of the law. Over the past 20 years, police in Indore have filed six cases against him. Some of the cases have been closed.

Malviya and Agarwal belong to rival factions in the Congress. Prajapat is known to be close to the state party chief, who got him elected as general secretary “in charge” though he does not have an impressive political background. He contested the municipal elections in Indore once but lost miserably.

Agarwal, on the other hand, has held high offices in the state Congress committee. He was the general secretary “in-charge” and was also spokesman for the party.

Congress MLA from Sanver, Premchand Guddu, has alleged that the party president is trying to eliminate all his political opponents. Guddu demanded that Malviya be ousted from his post and the party for promoting anti-socials.

Malviya denied this, saying: “Prajapat has no criminal cases against him.”


New Delhi, July 30: 
It was the twenty-sixth day of September, the year 1982. A young superintendent of police of Bhind was on a mission —- to talk to Phoolan Devi. Only two people knew about this meeting, the officer himself and the then chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Arjun Singh.

Rajendra Chaturvedi was 37 when he saw the queen of Chambal for the first time. His memory of that meeting is still vivid.

“I started getting feelers through the villagers some time in July that she wanted to surrender. It took Phoolan and her men two months to decide,” he recalls.

The meeting was arranged near Kunwari river in the ravine-crossed Jalaun district. “I travelled 65 km on my motorcycle all alone. It was very cold and I clung hard to my windcheater,” Chaturvedi says.

“I was stopped at three different points by Phoolan’s men and had to give the code word ‘Teetar’—- the name of a bird. When I met the third man, I felt slightly scared as I was all alone. I was then taken to the place where Phoolan and her men were waiting near a canal. It was still very dark and misty and I saw three or four faces. A thin man with long hair emerged from the dark and touched my feet. It was Man Singh, Phoolan’s confidant and former lover,” says Chaturvedi, who is now additional director-general of police, Madhya Pradesh.

“Phoolan appeared in a scarf wrapped around her face, and placed Rs 501 at my feet. She asked me ‘kya lai ho? (What have you brought)’ followed by ‘hum tumhe maar de, kya hoga? (What if I kill you)’. She then offered me food and made roti for me.” According to Chaturvedi, Phoolan as very belligerent, rude, defiant and weary. “She was worried about her surrender and kept asking me ‘kya hone wala hai? (What’s going to happen)”

Chaturvedi was carrying a Nikon camera, a Polaroid and a Sony tape recorder. “I took pictures of Phoolan and I made Man Singh click a few pictures. I showed them the Polaroid photograph because I was worried that they might think I was carrying some weapon. These were the first-ever pictures taken of her.”

Chaturvedi recorded Phoolan’s conversation. She also had a message for her mother Moolah Devi, which said: “I have sent SP sahab to you and I want to meet Munni (sister) and my brother.” Phoolan also sent a white stone ring for her mother.

“I left by 7.30 pm and was taken through a different route. By 12.30 am, I was at Bhind. I called the chief minister and said: ‘Successful”. Arjun Singh asked me to fly the next day to Delhi, where I met him at Madhya Pradesh Bhavan.

Phoolan’s photograph was later shown to Indira Gandhi, who remarked: “She is not very nice looking.” The bandit queen surrendered on February 12, 1983.


New Delhi, July 30: 
Parliament today approved President’s rule in Manipur with the Lok Sabha ratifying a statutory resolution by voice vote after a four-hour debate.

Home minister L.K. Advani, who wound up the debate on Manipur before the House passed the resolution, said the Centre was ready for talks with any militant group, including the Ulfa, which abjured violence to strengthen peace in the Northeast.

Advani said the Centre wanted talks with the NSCN (I-M) to be held in the country instead in a third nation as was the current practice. The government was ready to assure immunity to the leadership of the militant outfit to facilitate talks in India, he added.

The home minister assured the House that the Manipur Assembly would be dissolved as soon as possible and made it clear that “no attempt will be made to form any fresh government” before the polls. Central rule was clamped on Manipur on June 2 following the defeat of the Radhabinod Koijam government on the floor of the House.

Despite demands for early polls in Manipur, Advani didn’t give a time-frame for the dissolution of the Assembly, saying it would be done after normality returned.

The Rajya Sabha had ratified the resolution on Friday. Since the Congress agreed to back President’s rule in Manipur, the ratification by Parliament was a foregone conclusion.

Advani said the situation in the Northeast had deteriorated as successive governments had resorted to political management instead of encouraging development. “I hope that further concentration will now be on development,” he added.

Even as the Opposition launched a scathing attack on the Centre for “mishandling” the situation in the state, Advani said though the Manipur Governor had called for the dissolution of the Manipur Assembly, the Centre did not go ahead in the light of the Supreme Court verdict in the Bommai case.

The apex court had stipulated that though the power of dissolving Assemblies was implicit, the President should exercise it only after Parliament approved the resolution.

Citing reasons for imposing Article 356, Advani said as per the recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission, Manipur was a “textbook case” as constitutional machinery had broken down.

Referring to the frequent change in governments and shifting of party loyalties by MLAs, Advani said the Governor had recommended the imposition of Article 356 as no alternative had emerged. The home minister said he had advised his party, which could have formed the government in Manipur, not to go ahead in the prevailing situation.

Advani said the situation in the state in the past few days had become “more and more normal.... Though we have to see that every section of the population is satisfied”.

Congress member Mani Shankar Aiyar castigated NDA leaders for “playing games” in the sensitive border state and said the instability was due to the “over ambition” of Samata Party leader George Fernandes, who had lost his job with the Central government and so tried to pocket the Manipur government.

He was supported by party MP Santosh Mohan Dev and CPM members. They said the “opportunist” politics of the BJP and its allies resulted in the game of musical chairs in the state.


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