Police net another Phoolan killer
House defence ring for Valley
Delhi, Riyadh on road to reconciliation
Delhi focus on child education
Navy retreats from Pearl Harbor
Laloo-BJP ‘nexus’ stink in Modi salary case
Sushma gives Bellary seat another shot
TN booklet battle in Delhi
Gujarat plans science city
Diarrhoea scare after 6 deaths

New Delhi, Aug. 4: 
Vicky, a conspirator in the Phoolan Devi murder case, today fell into the police trap in Uttaranchal. He has been identified as one of those who fired at Phoolan.

In the preliminary stages of the investigation it was believed that the three who fired at Phoolan were Sher Singh Rana alias Pankaj, Rajbir and Shekhar. A fourth person, Rajinder, was in the green Maruti, parked a few yards away. But later, investigations showed that Rajinder was in prison at the time of the murder and was used as an alibi for Vicky.

A police team is camping in Uttaranchal to arrest Pankaj Kalra, whose name Rana often used to execute shady deals, and Shravan, who worked at Rana’s liquor shop in Roorkee.

Police have also identified the house where the murder-plot was hatched. Rana has revealed that he, along with Vicky, had discussed the plot to kill Phoolan in Churiala, a few kilometres from Roorkee. Sources said the house belongs to Shravan.

Like Vicky, Rana, too, had an alibi in jail. This was none other than Shravan, who was lodged in Hardwar jail from July 18 to 26. Phoolan was murdered on July 25. While checking jail records, the police found that finger-prints of the person lodged in the jail did not match that of Rana’s.

Police sources said Rana was known to have been stalking the slain Samajwadi Party MP since last year. When Phoolan was living in her Chittaranjan Park residence, he had been keeping tabs on her movements, they said. Rana had also checked into a guest house close to Phoolan’s house for three days in July 2000, after tracking down her address with the help of a friend. Rana, apparently, befriended Uma Kashyap, of the Eklavya Sena, an outfit floated by Phoolan, and her husband to get access to Phoolan’s house.

The court remanded Keshav Chauhan, a Samajwadi Party activist, Amit Rathi, an arms dealer from Roorkee, and Praveen Mittal — three suspects in the murder plot — in 14 days judicial custody. Their plea for bail was rejected on the ground that the investigation was still at an early stage and that interrogations had revealed a complex cobweb of conflicting and contradictory circumstances.

Advocates Surender Anand and Sameer Chatrath alleged that Mittal has been falsely implicated on the basis of a statement of Rana, the prime accused. Rana had said that the weapon used for committing the offence was purchased with the help of Mittal.

But public prosecutor Irfan Ahmed said that some more facts have been disclosed by the three accused and a bail to Mittal would make it difficult for the prosecution to verify their disclosures. The court was also informed by the investigating officer that the revolver recovered from the murder site had no licence.

The prosecution said the revolver used by Rana was the same Webley Scotts sold to him by the Roorkee-based gun dealer. The six cartridges recovered from the murder spot were fired from the same revolver.

Mulayam blames NDA

Samajwadi chief Mulayam Singh Yadav today held the NDA government responsible for Phoolan’s murder and said there was a “conspiracy’’ against Dalits.


New Delhi, Aug. 4: 
A parliamentary committee on home affairs has suggested several steps to end the recurring massacres in Jammu and Kashmir by militant groups.

The measures include a comprehensive exercise to identify hitherto “unattacked” and potential “soft targets” and setting up of village defence committees in vulnerable areas.

The committee, in its report which was tabled in Parliament last week, has asked the home ministry to extend assistance to the Jammu and Kashmir government to put in place an effective and efficient police system. It has called for a well-planned strategy to counter “the ill designs of Pakistan aimed at destabilising and disintegrating India”.

The report has suggested enactment of a suitable law on the lines of Tada to enable police to curb terrorist activities but with adequate in-built safeguards to prevent its misuse. The panel has said that more funds should be earmarked for strengthening village defence committees.

The report said the recent massacres of Sikhs and migrant labourers from other parts of the country have exposed the vulnerability of minorities in the state. These massacres have also proved that they were part of a well-planned strategy to attack “soft targets” in order to create a fear psychosis among minorities. “It also reveals the contours of a sinister gameplan on the part of terrorists to engineer mass exodus of minorities from the state,” the committee said.

It said reports of human rights violation by security forces had been “hyped”, whereas the rights’ abuse by militants had been overlooked. “The net result of this is that the state is perceived as an enemy of the people. Appreciating the steps taken by the government to set the human rights record straight, it felt that security forces should win the confidence of the people by exercising utmost restraint while launching search and combing operations to nab militants.”

“Induction of fidayeen (suicide squads) into militant organisations had also led to the increase in the frequency of attacks that, at times, have a bearing on the morale of the forces,” the committee said, calling for tightening of security cover for defence personnel.

The report has expressed “deepest sense of sorrow” on the “unending” plight of displaced Kashmiris and demanded a long-term rehabilitation programme for the displaced. The programme should address problems such as alternative accommodation, adequate compensation for the loss of crop and livestock, enhanced ration and creation of employment opportunities.

The committee felt that the Sikhs who migrated from Pakistan occupied Kashmir to Jammu and Kashmir should not be left to fend for themselves.

“They crossed over to the Indian side of the Line of Control with high hopes and a sense of belonging.” It said when benefits were being given to displaced people from Kashmir it defied logic why the displaced PoK people should be left in the lurch.

The report also called for immediate release of monetary compensation to the people of Kargil who lost livestock during the conflict with Pakistan.


New Delhi, Aug. 4: 
After years of indifference, India and Saudi Arabia appear to be on the path of re-discovering each other.

A careful re-assessment is on to find ways to strengthen bilateral ties and enable the two sides to put in place a meaningful and broadbased relationship to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Till recently, Delhi had been looking at Riyadh through the Pakistani prism. Each response of the Saudis to developments in South Asia was marked by an indifference from South Block as more often then not, it found the Kingdom aligning itself with Islamabad on key issues against India. For Riyadh, much of the happenings in the sub-continent, be it the destruction of the Babri Masjid or developments in strife-torn Kashmir, were seen as Islamic issues where Saudi Arabia, as the leader of the Sunni Muslims, had to react in a certain way.

It is interesting that this happened despite the “excellent” visit of Indira Gandhi to Saudi Arabia in 1982.

The two sides had also come out with a joint declaration where it was stressed that the “ security of South Asia and the Arabian peninsula was best served through a close and strong relation between India and Saudi Arabia.” But the “ atmospherics” built by the two sides soon fizzled out due to a series of developments in the Gulf as well as in South Asia.

The escalation of the conflict in Afghanistan aggravated by the Soviet occupation of the country found India and Saudi Arabia on opposite sides.

In the following years, India was pre-occupied with secessionist movements in Punjab and Kashmir, while the Saudi leadership was trying its best to grapple with the situation following Saddam Hussein’s attack on Kuwait leading to the Gulf War. The fact that in between India had a series of unstable governments hardly helped in regaining the confidence of Riyadh.

But the May 1998 nuclear tests in South Asia seemed to have brought about a fundamental change in the Saudi perception of India. It not only established India as a major military power in the region, the fact that Delhi was able to go ahead with its tests and withstand subsequent pressure from the West in continuing with its weaponisation programme, earned it the respect of the leadership in the Kingdom. Coupled with this was the wide-ranging engagement that the United States and all the other key international players started with India, stressing on its potential as a huge market and investment destination and also acceptance of its dominance in the field of information technology.

In the past, Delhi has looked at Saudi Arabia mainly as a source for its energy requirements and favourite destination for its semi-skilled and unskilled labour force. Riyadh, in turn, found little interest in India apart from looking at it as the main supplier of cheap labour it required for building the country.

But the present 1.5 million-strong Indian community in Saudi Arabia is no more made up only of the skilled or semi skilled labour force.

There are a large number of Indian professionals who are working in the country as doctors, engineers and chartered accountants and have contributed significantly to the Kingdom’s development as a modern nation-state.

Two things appear to be happening simultaneously. At the political level, the visit of the Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh to Riyadh not only helped in mending the fences and bridging the gap that existed in the past. The “ dream visit” of Singh helped in paving the way for strong ties between the two sides at the political and also the economic sphere.


New Delhi, Aug. 4: 
With the hype over the Bill to make education a fundamental right dying out, the government seems to have fallen back on its pet project, the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, to meet its target of universalisation of elementary education by 2007.

The Abhiyan was conceived to provide “useful and elementary” education for all children in the six to 14 age group. Top officials in the human resources development ministry believe Abhiyan can be a far more potent tool for universalising education than the education fundamental right Bill. While the Bill would only provide a legal framework, the Abhiyan will take care of all aspects of elementary education, they said.

Policy-makers, in consultation with state and district officials, in the education department are putting final touches to the Abhiyan.

There is a feeling in the human resources development ministry that most parents in the country are not in a position to access courts and, therefore, the Bill may turn out to be a paper tiger. But activists of the National Alliance for Fundamental Right to Education (Nafre), which is campaigning in favour of the Bill, thinks otherwise. “The Bill is a necessary, though not a sufficient, tool to meet the objective of universalisation of elementary education,” says Nafre coordinator Sanjiv Kaura.

He agrees with the government that the Abhiyan is an important vehicle for achieving universalisation of elementary education. But he does not share the perception that the legal teeth the Bill seeks to provide to universalisation of elementary education will be in vain. “We know the Bill will not be an end-all in itself. But there are already many cases pending in court under the Education Guarantee Scheme,” says Kaura. The scheme has armed people with the right to move court in case there are no schools within one kilometre of a settlement of a sufficiently large number of people.

A section in the education department believes the scheme, first floated in Madhya Pradesh and now operational in several states, has offered legal redress to parents who wish to move court in case there are no schools in the vicinity.

It is, however, another matter that the education fundamental right Bill seems to be bogged down in operational hitches. In more than a year, there has been only one meeting of the Group of Ministers on education. Whenever asked about the fate of the Bill, human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi has come up with a standard response: the second meeting of the Group of Ministers is yet to be held. The government has also failed to come up with a plausible explanation for the delay in the Bill.

It has now become clear that the Centre is banking on the Abhiyan to achieve universalisation of elementary education. Though the literacy rate has moved up from 52.21 per cent in 1991 to 65.38 per cent in 2001 — the highest recorded since Independence, according to the government — the retention rate, especially of girls, is still far below the mark. One of the targets of Abhiyan is to achieve universal retention by 2010.


Mumbai, Aug. 4: 
It’s the navy’s way of shooting down Pearl Harbor, the Hollywood blockbuster on the 1941 Japanese air attack on the US navy in the Hawai Harbour.

After electing to “back” the $145 million film, one of the costliest movies ever made to highlight the role of naval aviation, the navy top brass backed off, leaving the distributor, Columbia Tristar, cold.

Highly-placed sources in the Western Command, which was to organise the celebration of the film’s launch in India on August 10, said the naval headquarters had shot down the idea two days ago in fear of adverse publicity.

“The navy doesn’t want to be seen as promoting a commercial film because it might not have gone down well with the people,” sources said.

In the US, survivors of the attack watched the cliff-hanging film on its release in May on the deck of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS John C. Stennis.

A Columbia Tristar official said the navy had been dithering over the premiere of the film and a party afterward aboard the decommissioned aircraft carrier on August 10. “But naval authorities indicated that they would allow a news conference by the retired officers on board the retired warship on August 10.”

But even that press conference was cancelled, navy sources said. “The naval headquarters decided against letting anyone including the retired officers use the ship in connection with the film.”

“It is so disappointing, but there is nothing we can do about it if the navy has decided against it,” the Columbia official added.

Capt. Raj Mohindra, president of the Navy Foundation, said the organisation of 350 retired navymen was asked “informally” to help with the celebration on the launch of the movie. “We were expecting an official order, which never came through.”

Mohindra said he learnt yesterday that all the programmes were cancelled. “Whatever the navy has done is in its interest. I am not concerned with it.”

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, the former naval chief, said Pearl Harbor had no relevance to India. “So, why should Indian navy get involved in it. It’s simply not the navy’s business.”

Mohindra, 67, said he saw similarities between the 1941 Japanese attack and the Indian navy’s assault on Karachi airport in the 1971 war. Both had taken the enemies by complete surprise.

Pearl Harbor is a lesson for every navy in the world. It showed what could happen when you are complacent or unprepared,” the former officer said. “It also teaches you the important of surprise attacks,” he added.

The three-hour-long Pearl Harbor is set in the heart of a two-guys-and-a-girl love story, two daring fighter pilots falling for a volunteer nurse.

The film, shot with special effects, is bloody, almost as bloody as the real attack on the morning of December 7, 1941, which had led to the “awakening of the sleeping giant” and the entry of US to the World War II.

Pearl Harbor opened in Japan on July 14, with the distributors marketing it as a love story to avoid offending Japanese sensibilities.

Though the film potrayed the Japanese military as scrupulously professional and thoughtful, it had a final scrubbing before the release.

The distributors got a line about “cowardly Japs” deleted from the dialogue and softened the subtitle translation as they expected Japan to be the second largest market for Pearl Harbor-after the US.

The Columbia official said they would distrbute 150 uncut prints of the film in the country, dubbed in Hindi, Tamil and Telegu. The original film in English would also be there.

The distributor expected the film to do well in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, the reason being its dubbing in the states’ respective languages.


Patna, Aug. 4: 
Political circles in Bihar are agog over allegations that Opposition leader Sushil Modi withdrew excess funds as his salary and, more importantly, the ruling Rashtriya Janata Dal’s defence of the suave soft-spoken BJP leader.

The controversy, brewing for some time, burst into the open when Modi’s old rival Yasodanand Singh filed a public interest litigation in Patna High Court recently, accusing him of withdrawing Rs 13,000 as salary since 1998 instead of Rs 7,000. The petitioner alleged that Modi acted with the “tacit approval of the accountant-general’s office and the ruling RJD”.

Fuelling speculation of an unholy nexus between Modi and Laloo Prasad Yadav, the RJD today said Modi was not to blame for the excess withdrawal. This has surprised political observers, who said the RJD statement was “proof of an attempt to buy out the Opposition”.

Modi’s own defence has been far from convincing. The Opposition leader said he was given the required authority by the accountant-general to withdraw the enhanced amount from the bank. “Ask the parliamentary affairs minister who had sent the letter to the AG office on this before blaming me,” he said, adding that the charges were frivolous.

Parliamentary affairs minister Ramchandra Purve, a senior RJD leader, bailed out Modi, saying that “some confusion on the existing rule might have led to this slip”.

In a 40-page writ filed this week, Singh alleged that from 1998, “he (Modi), being the drawing and disbursing authority himself, started to receive Rs 6,000 per month against field allowance of Rs 3,000 and Rs 5,000 per month as guest allowance instead of Rs 2,000 in connivance with the advice of the accountant-general”.

When Modi was re-elected Opposition leader after the 2000 polls, he again submitted a letter from the parliamentary affairs department to the AG office and on the strength of that, he was issued an authority letter to withdraw Rs 13,000 as his salary, the petitioner claimed. He said no other Opposition leader received the enhanced rate in the history of Bihar without an amendment in the law.

Interestingly, both Houses of Bihar unanimously passed the Bihar Vidhan Sabha Leader of Opposition Party, Salary and Allowance Amendment Bill, 2001, after failing to get the Governor’s nod several times. Under the Act, the status of the Opposition leader was upgraded to the level of a minister and his salary and perks were hiked. But the petition has charged Modi with withdrawing the enhanced salary even before the Act was passed.

Singh told reporters that Modi could withdraw the enhanced salary because the RJD was favouring him. But RJD leader, Ramkirpal Yadav and Rambachan Rai, yesterday said there was “no unholy nexus. Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav had nothing to do with it”.

Purve added that the government had decided to upgrade the status of the Opposition leader and increase his perks by a notification during Karpoori Thakur’s stint as chief minister. But the changes were not made in the Act for some unknown reason.

With criticism rising against him, Modi used high-pitch rhetoric as a shield. “If it is proved by any agency that I was guilty, I would give up politics forever.”

As Leader of the Opposition, Modi has been riding high on “anti-Lalooism”. In fact, he was one of the petitioners against Laloo Yadav in the fodder scam case.

But Modi’s leadership has been challenged from within the party. He earned the wrath of a section of BJP leaders including Singh, who were virulent critics of the party’s “disorientation due to insipid leadership in Bihar”. These leaders, including former state president Tarakant Jha, were expelled in 1999, but it failed to stop the bickering in the BJP.

The expelled leaders have been a thorn in the BJP’s side ever since, orchestrating campaigns against party leaders.


Bangalore, Aug. 4: 
Elections may be a long way off, but Sushma Swaraj is keeping her electoral options open. The information and broadcasting minister is reportedly pinning her hopes on Bellary for a second time.

The desi beti — as she described herself during her 1999 election campaign against videshi bahu Sonia Gandhi — is busy nursing the constituency, a backward district in northern Karnataka.

But Sushma denied these reports, saying: “I will not contest from here. It is just that I have a special bonding with this place. I am interested in the development of this district.”

Her own partymen, however, maintain that Sushma has not forgotten how she was dumped in Delhi, her home constituency, as a result of intra-party feud. Though she lost from Bellary, the response she got from the voters there has struck an emotional chord.

The UTI scam that is causing havoc in the establishment in Delhi has not stopped her from spending three days in Bellary — laying foundation stones for various projects, conducting mass marriages and so on. The minister also inaugurated the Awakened Women programme.

This is her first visit to Bellary after staging a comeback to the Union ministry. While campaigning for the 1999 elections, Sushma had promised to visit Bellary every year during the festival of Varamahalakshmi. Her visit last year went unnoticed but this time, because of her ministerial status, it became quite a event.

The state BJP unit believes that Sushma will come out a winner if she contests here again. She lost by more than 50,000 votes to Sonia in the last parliamentary elections. Despite the loss, it was an achievement for Sushma considering that this constituency is seen as a traditional Congress bastion. Congress leaders, too, acknowledged that Sushma did give Sonia a scare and would have pulled off a coup had not the Congress accelerated its campaign.

Sushma, with her next-door neighbour image and speeches in Kannada, had won the hearts of Bellary residents, while district Congress leaders admit that Sonia’s decision to abandon the seat in favour of Amethi has not gone down well with the electorate.

Besides, the financial package, called the Sonia Package, of Rs 3,300 crore, announced by chief minister S.M. Krishna for the district’s development, never really took off. In the recent local bodies elections, the Congress suffered a setback in Bellary.

Taking advantage of the resentment among the people, Sushma has proposed a special package from the Centre for the development of the district. “It will not be a Sushma Package but a package from the NDA government,” she said.


Chennai, Aug. 4: 
The heat over the recent M. Karunanidhi arrest drama was kept simmering with the ADMK and arch-rival DMK engaging in a propaganda war, aimed at the Members of Parliament.

Significantly, the Centre and Tamil Nadu government are at loggerheads over the transfer of three senior police officers involved in the midnight saga.

The latest round of the booklet battle over the “veracity” of the former chief minister’s arrest episode is part of a long tradition of “book-building” by political parties, used to reach its message to the people.

Sources said the ADMK recently circulated a booklet among MPs in Delhi to drive home the “correctness” of the arrests by the Jayalalitha government.

But the ADMK headquarters here went on the defensive when asked for details about the booklet, saying that it could only have been a compilation of the two lengthy press statements issued by Jayalalitha, including one defending her government’s action in a novel question and answer form.

Not to be left behind in this “awareness-raising exercise in the New Delhi circuit”, the DMK yesterday came out with its version, a 50-page glossy, The Midnight Arrest — A Chronicle of Trampled Human Rights.

With pictures ranging from the now-famous Sun TV frames of a screaming Karunanidhi being forcibly taken into custody at his residence and a bleeding Union commerce and industry minister Murasoli Maran, who was roughed up by the police, to the broken telephones at the former chief minister’s Oliver Road residence, the DMK’s publication aims to effectively counter the ADMK’s “propaganda”.

It is a collage of news reports, stinging editorials and articles culled from the national English print media, Tamil journals and newspapers to show how “the whole of India condemns the reign of terror in Tamil Nadu”.

The articles were “carefully chosen” by Maran, said a DMK source. The publication will be circulated soon among MPs, political leaders and human rights organisations, the source added.


Ahmedabad, Aug. 4: 
The Gujarat government plans to change the look of the state by setting up a science city that will rival other such projects in quality.

The Rs 350-crore project, which is aimed at inculcating scientific temper among Indians through entertainment, will be completed by 2005.

The first phase of the science city project is scheduled to be ready by January 2002. Officials said the project would be the biggest in the country and it would herald a breakthrough in science and technology.

Developed on the lines of the Singapore Science Centre, the ambitious project will showcase the convergence of nature and technology. Officials associated with the project said the science city would include a dinosaur park, a butterfly farm, a space park and a solar park

While showing the relevance of science and technology in daily life, the project would create awareness about the breakthrough in science and act as a data bank for information.

“We want the average Indian to think rationally,” an official connected with the project said. “Simulator rides will make you feel as if you are floating in space. One can experience real life space journey of the planetary system to futuristic space colonies,” the official added.

One of the main attractions of the project is a 3D IMAX theatre which is to be constructed on a 200-hectare plot off Sarkhej Gandhinagar Highway.

According to Rajeev Kathpalia, the architect who conceptualised the IMAX project for the Gujarat science city, it will be the second 3D IMAX large format theatre in the country after the one that has come up in Mumbai. The IMAX motion picture system creates images of “unsurpassed clarity and impact”, the architect said.

The IMAX screens is 10 times larger than the conventional 35mm screen.

“The IMAX experience puts you in the centre of action, draws you in with the images and sounds so intense that you can almost feel them,” the architect said.

The IMAX theatre with 651 seats for 2D films and 556 seats for 3D films is being developed on two hectare land and the project is expected to be completed by February 2002, he said.

Union tourism minister Ananth Kumar, while laying the foundation stone for the science city, said once the project was completed it would become the “new tourist destination” in the country.


Asansol, Aug. 4: 
Panic has gripped Alipur and Govindapur villages in Baraboni block after six persons died of diarrhoea and 20 others were admitted to hospital in the past week. The official toll, however, is two.

The block has not had a medical officer for a long time. The assistant chief medical officer, health, who headed a team to the affected areas yesterday, said: “The source of the infections seems to be a nearby pond which the villagers use for cleaning utensils and other household work. They also often use that pond water for drinking. In the rainy season, the stagnant water in the pond gets infected.”

There are three primary health centres at Nuni, Panuria and Jelejora villages and three sub-centres in Lalganj, Bela and Khosnagar villages in Baraboni block. But the centres are in a very bad shape, with even doors and windows missing in some.

Doctors and paramedical staff rarely ever visit the centres, said Bibhas Mondal of Govindapur village.

“We don’t have any choice. We are solely dependent on water of ponds and wells. Tap water is hardly available and the pump installed by the public health engineering department remains mostly idle,” he said.


Maintained by Web Development Company