CPM seized of feud within
Bangla smuggler killed in BSF firing
Watchdog hits stone wall
Flood orphans shun CM
Dalai coldshoulders Hurriyat bigwigs
Priyanka pill for Gandhi pocketborough
PM peace push at tea party
After red rain, burning trees
Delhi wary as Russia takes China turn
Mantra made easy for GeNext

Calcutta, Aug. 5: 
The CPM today marched to the politburo’s tune and vowed to tackle head-on the issue of growing factionalism in the organisation.

Picking up from where politburo member Prakash Karat left off last week, the CPM state leadership asked members to shun leaders positioning themselves as power centres independent of the party.

Coinciding with the 113th birth anniversary of the party’s founder-member Muzaffar Ahmed, the CPM issued a call for renewal and launched a campaign against factionalism.

From Jyoti Basu to state party chief Anil Biswas to Left Front chairman Biman Bose, all senior leaders have voiced concern at the growing factionalism and also at what they called the “un-Marxist behaviour” of certain self-styled party functionaries.

While addressing a meeting at Mahajati Sadan, Basu, Biswas and Bose called for measures to tackle factionalism in the party which, according to them, was in the danger of weakening because of the functioning of “certain self-styled leaders”.

“You have to rise in protest against those party leaders who do not associate themselves with the party’s programmes and function unilaterally, often ending up on the side of vested interest groups. There is no room for such leaders in a party like ours,” Biswas said.

Both Biswas and Bose tacitly acknowledged that factionalism was growing in the party thanks to the absence of a will to tackle it. “Often we hesitate to take immediate action against factionalism and self-styled functioning of some of our leaders. It is time we got serious about handling the problem,” they said.

Biswas said in the 25 years the party has been in power, many leaders, having come closer to certain vested interests, have argued that in a parliamentary democracy, such proximity cannot be avoided. “We must learn to keep such people away, because any association with them will impact negatively on the party which is our life and blood.”

Front chairman Bose said many of the post-1973 party members were devoid of the requisite ideological fervour, and, as a result, allowed themselves to be influenced by the trappings of power. “They do not hesitate to put their personal friends before the party and, thereby, corrupt the foundation of our existence. They must study the life and times of Muzaffar Ahmed,” he said.

Jyoti Basu asked the party to take note of the fact that Trinamul and the Congress got 39 per cent votes in the Assembly elections, which was a commentary on the CPM’s organisational weaknesses. “These people voted against us because of our own fault. We could not reach them because of our organisational failures,” he said.

The leaders avoided making any reference to reports that suggested links between some party functionaries and controversial people like Mohammed Taslim alias Chunnu of Tiljala. On Sunday morning, some functionaries of the party’s Tiljala-Topsia II local committee held a meeting on C.N. Roy Road to press for Chunnu’s release.


Siliguri, Aug. 5: 
A Bangladeshi was allegedly killed when Border Security Force personnel fired at a gang trying to smuggle boulders from the Indian side of the Mahanadi river early today.

“BSF personnel on night-patrol along the porous Indo-Bangladesh border in Phasidewa (in Siliguri sub-division) spotted a gang of Bangladeshis trying to lift boulders and stones from the Mahanadi riverbed from the Indian side. The jawans first sounded a warning to the boulder pirates. But when they refused to budge, the jawans had no other option but to open fire. Three rounds were fired and we suspect that one of the Bangladeshi thieves was killed,” said BSF North Bengal inspector general K.S. Vora.

However, the police officer could not confirm the death. “It was clear that one among the intruders was felled by a bullet. We, however, could not confirm the casualty as the body was dragged back into Bangladesh by the other members of the gang,” he said.

People living along the Indo-Bangladesh border maintained that they had information from Mangaunj village in Rangpur district (across the border) of the death, in the firing, of one member of the gang. The villagers fear a retaliatory attack.

“Lifting of boulders from the Mahanadi river, which meanders along the international border, is rampant. Gangs of Bangladeshis collect truckloads of stones, pebbles and large boulders during the night and smuggle them into Bangladesh,” said a resident.

“The area is also prone to organised cattle rustling by armed Bangladeshis. This morning’s shooting will have an adverse effect on people living along the border,” he added.

“These Bangladeshi gangs are ruthless. Besides lifting our cattle, the rustlers also damage our houses during raids,” the resident said.


Calcutta, Aug. 5: 
The vigilance commission has been forced to close its investigations into 32 cases because of non-cooperation by various departments, according to a report placed in the Assembly.

The commission, in its annual report submitted to the House on July 31 — the last day of the monsoon session — has said a number of government officials facing investigations for their alleged involvement in corrupt practices during 1999 have gone scot-free.

Citing an example, the report said a male nurse of a TB hospital in Calcutta used to issue fake birth certificates. The commission had instructed the director of health services to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the allegation and inform the commission about the findings. The commission was informed by the health directorate that they were considering its recommendation to conduct an inquiry against the nurse.

But the director of health services did not inform the commission whether the department had instituted the inquiry or completed it against the nurse. Repeated reminders by the commission also failed to evoke any response from the health director. The commission had no alternative but to close the chapter, the report said.

The commission had received a complaint, forwarded by the CBI, that a racket was flourishing in the sale of a particular model of pacemaker. The commission had referred the matter to the health and family welfare department for an inquiry.

However, the health department referred the matter back to the commission for a detailed inquiry. As the investigation of the case necessitated technical knowledge, the commission again referred the case to the health department and advised it to begin an investigation.

The health department then informed the commission that it had requested the director of health services to form a committee of qualified doctors to inquire into the matter. But, despite several reminders, no information came to the commission regarding the action taken by them. The commission was forced to close the case.

A third instance is the petition received by the commission alleging that a doctor attached to NRS Medical College and Hospital was running a clinical laboratory in the name of his wife without the proper licences. During the inquiry, the allegation against the doctor could not be established. On the other hand, another doctor’s name surfaced.

The commission dropped the case against the doctor but wanted a clarification from the chief medical officer (health) whether the second doctor was attached to any government hospital. However, neither the chief medical officer nor the health directorate reported back, forcing the commission to drop the case.

In yet another case, the vigilance panel had recommended that the pension payable to a sub-inspector of police be withheld permanently because he had accumulated huge assets disproportionate to his income. But the home (police) department did not intimate the commission on whether it had taken any action against the sub-inspector. The case had to be closed.


Behrampore, Aug. 5: 
Members of nearly 200 families in Kalukhali village today boycotted chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s public meeting to protest against the scanty relief they got from the state during last year’s flood.

Bhattacharjee was inaugurating a road at Kalukhali village where 56 people died in one day during the flood. He also addressed a rally at Akherigunage which, too, was devastated by the flood.

The chief minister blamed the Centre for not disbursing sufficient funds to tackle the flood situation in Bengal. “The Centre could release funds for Orissa and Gujarat, which were hit by a cyclone and an earthquake, respectively, but the financial assistance for flood victims of Bengal was too meagre,” he alleged. Bhattacharjee said he would take up the matter with the Prime Minister in Delhi on Thursday.

Villagers alleged that relatives of only seven persons got compensation.

“We were promised that the next of kin of those who died in the flood would be given Rs 70,000 each, but this has not yet reached us,” alleged Nazar Sheikh who lost his 10-year-old daughter. “What’s the use of attending the meeting if we are denied our legitimate claim?” asked Jahanara Bibi, who lost her five-year-old daughter.


Chennai, Aug. 5: 
The Dalai Lama today led an inter-faith congregation in a brief silent prayer to end violence in Jammu and Kashmir, but avoided a diplomatic embarrassment by politely declining a formal meeting with some senior leaders of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference.

Inaugurating a Sarva Dharma Samabhava Sammelan organised by the Akhil Bharat Rachanatmak Samaj, the Tibetan spiritual leader said that in a “heavily inter-dependent” world, violence was self-destructive and “destruction of your neighbour is destruction of yourself”.

The meeting was part of the South Asia Peace Conference underway here. Hurriyat leaders Abdul Gani Lone and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who are attending the meet, shared the platform with the Dalai Lama.

But their bid to seek a formal appointment apparently to discuss the Kashmir issue was courteously turned down by the Dalai Lama who pleaded a “tight schedule”.

The Buddhist leader, in the course of his speech, admitted that he had “no direct connection with the Kashmir problem”, but felt morally obliged to refer to the issue, particularly in the light of the Doda massacre in which 15 people were kidnapped and then shot dead by militants.

Emphasising that such killings should never be repeated in future, he said Man’s self-nature (swabhav) was “to love, to be friendly with people”.

When differences arise, the objective should be to collectively remind ourselves about “our true self-nature”, or else mankind would have perished, he observed.

The Dalai Lama, who spoke alternately in Tibetan and English, said even if the recent Agra summit did not yield any result, it was nonetheless a “very important beginning”.

Placing considerable weightage on India continuing the dialogue process with Pakistan, he said it could well lead to better understanding and trust among the people of both countries.

Both at the congregation today and while addressing a group of largely Tibetan students late last evening, the Dalai Lama took pains to explain that he was for finding a “mutually beneficial change, both for China and Tibet”, by seeking genuine self-rule for Tibet and not independence.

Mirwaiz Farooq condemned Friday night’s carnage in Doda and said the 15 people who were killed should not be seen as Hindus but as Kashmiris.

“Let us not speak with bullets, but let us sit across the table to resolve the (Kashmir) issue,” Farooq said, adding that army presence should be reduced in the state.

The killings of innocent people should come to an end, Mirwaiz Farooq said while emphasising that a lasting solution to the Kashmir problem could not be found ignoring the people of Kashmir.

Former MP Nirmala Deshpande, Prof. M.H. Qureshi of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and Pakistan’s retired Lt Gen. Naseer Akthar spoke at the meet.

The Hurriyat leaders, in a chat with reporters, demanded a “neutral probe” by the Centre into the Doda killings. Organisations like the such as the National Human Rights Organisation, Amnesty International and Asiawatch should have access and take up the investigation, Farooq said.

Condemning the escalation of violence in the Valley, he made it clear that though their “struggle is to achieve self-determination for the people of Jammu and Kashmir”, none of them supported violence. “We stand for religious tolerance,” he added.

The Hurriyat leaders also explained that they wanted an appointment with the Dalai Lama in an effort to urge him to prevail upon the Vajpayee government on the need for inviting the separatist alliance for negotiation.

The Hurriyat leader saw parallels in Tibet’s call for independence and the Dalai Lama’s struggle. But the Kashmir leaders had to be content with just greeting the Dalai Lama on the dais.


New Delhi, Aug. 5: 
Running out of ideas to revive the party in Uttar Pradesh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has set up yet another committee to oversee the appointment of district Congress chiefs in the run-up to the Assembly polls.

On Wednesday, Priyanka Gandhi will tour Amethi for three days to test the waters. Amethi, considered a Nehru-Gandhi pocketborough, recently jolted Sonia, electing many BJP and Samajwadi Party candidates in the panchayat polls.

State Congress leaders want Sonia to hand over the poll campaign to Priyanka but the young Gandhi is reluctant to take the plunge in active politics. She has, however, agreed to “look after” Amethi and the neighbouring districts of Sultanpur and Rai Bareli.

The new Congress panel for Uttar Pradesh will consist of Ambika Soni, Motilal Vora and Oscar Fernandes. The leaders will go through the AICC observers’ report on the appointment of district chiefs who will have a major say in the selection of party candidates. The state party unit consists of nearly 200 office-bearers.

There is another high-profile panel headed by Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh to chalk out the poll strategy. Other members on the panel include Balram Jakhar, Chowdhury Prem Singh and Sheila Dixit.

In Congress circles, the move to bring in Soni, Vora and Fernandes is seen in the context of clipping Ghulam Nabi Azad’s wings who is general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh. A number of senior state leaders led by state party chief Sri Prakash Jaiswal have complained against Azad’s alleged “high-handedness”. Azad has been accused of ignoring Jaiswal, Narain Dutt Tiwari, Salman Khurshid, Mohsina Kidwai, Begum Noor, Arun Kumar Singh Munna and others.

However, those in favour of Azad are pressuring Sonia to retain him and give him a “free hand”. According to Azad’s supporters led by CLP leader Pramod Tiwari, Azad is the “lucky mascot” as the party returned to power in Karnataka and Kerala where he was in charge of party affairs.

Former Union minister and ex-UPCC chief Khurshid is set to contest the state polls from Kanpur. Khurshid was removed as the chief on the eve of the contest for the Congress chief’s post between Sonia and Jitendra Prasada.

Khurshid is keen to resume his stint in state politics. In the absence of any influential leader from Uttar Pradesh, Khurshid is hoping to emerge as a powerful regional satrap even if it means leading about 40 party MLAs.

As a close Khurshid associate said: “Tiwari is from Uttaranchal and many Uttar Pradesh stalwarts are fast losing their relevance. At 50, Khurshid has a long innings to play. Moreover, Uttar Pradesh sends 164 AICC members which is about one-sixth of the total electoral college of the Congress Working Committee. In internal Congress politics, the one who controls Uttar Pradesh, will remain important.”


New Delhi, Aug. 5: 
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has appealed to Muslims to create opinion against cross-border terrorism and in favour of the peace initiative he had taken up to normalise relations with Islamabad.

The Prime Minister stressed that despite violence on the border, “our peace efforts will not stop but continue at all levels”. He mentioned the revival of the Saarc meetings to shore up his point. Vajpayee added that the meetings at various levels between India and Pakistan would take place on the Saarc sidelines, beginning with the one between foreign secretaries in Colombo next week.

Vajpayee also said he was likely to meet President Pervez Musharraf — “if all goes well” — during the proposed Saarc summit at Kathmandu in December.

The Prime Minister’s appeal to the Muslim clerics, intellectuals and opinion-makers was made at a meeting over tea at his residence. The minister of state for coal and the lone Muslim minister in the Vajpayee Cabinet, Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, had taken the lead to organise the get-together which, however, was not attended by the Jama Masjid Shahi Imam, Maulana Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the Imam of the Fatehpuri mosque and members of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, many of whom are based in the capital.

Speaking to the motley gathering, which included vice-chancellors and sportsmen, Vajpayee said he had embarked on his peace “yatra” to Pakistan way back in 1977 when he was the foreign minister in the Janata Party government.

Briefing the press, Hussain quoted him as saying: “The endeavour should be to normalise relations between the countries and this can be done only through peaceful negotiations. People in India and Pakistan want peace and this is an established fact. History shows nobody is able to achieve anything through the use of arms.”

Vajpayee referred to his Lahore trip and said it had “achieved something” in that both sides accepted that terrorism must be condemned.


Thiruvananthapuram, Aug. 5: 
Weird natural occurrences continue to distress “God’s own country”. After sinking water wells and coloured rain, Kerala is now witnessing the spectacle of trees that burn and shed leaves in the rain and wells that form without human interference.

The latest riddle of trees getting burnt has been noticed in Perinad in the southern district of Kollam. The phenomenon apparently started last Friday after a spell of windy rains.

Coconut, jak and acacia trees appear to be the most affected while trees like mango and teak have remained untouched.

The Jayanthi colony in Perinad has been the worst affected with close to 25 trees having shed almost all their leaves. The leaves also have a burnt colour.

Samples of the burnt leaves and tree trunks have been sent to botanical laboratories at the district headquarters for analysis. Local wisdom has it that the acid content in the rain caused the phenomenon.

The mysterious formation of wells has been reported from Thrissur district in central Kerala and Kasarkode district in the north.

They were formed to the accompaniment of loud subterranean noises. Two households got new wells, though with non-potable water.

Wells have also been collapsing and disappearing in several parts of the state for the past two months. Scientists at the Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS) are to look into the occurrence of well formation alongside their study on the disappearing wells.

Till date, contradictory theories have been thrown up by the scientists on the puzzle of disappearing wells.

However, CESS has reversed its initial finding on the coloured rain that poured last fortnight. In a press statement, CESS said a certain fungus caused the coloration. The fungus is yet to be classified though efforts are on at the Tropical Botanical Research Institute in Thiruvananthapuram.

Earlier, scientists at the CESS had claimed that the disintegration of a passing meteor had caused the coloured rain, which poured in hues of red, green, yellow and black.

This was countered by scientists of the School of Life Sciences at the Mahatma Gandhi University, who had said from the beginning that the coloration was due to microbes. Ironically, the new CESS theory now buttresses their claim.


New Delhi, Aug. 5: 
For the first time in decades, India’s “time-tested” relationship with Russia is being put to test. The country which is making this happen is China, till recently Delhi’s “potential threat number one”.

The Treaty of Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation between the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China was signed last month and almost went unnoticed as the Agra summit hogged the limelight. But the frowns in South Block are now quite visible.

Alarmists in the Indian establishment point to a provision in the treaty that makes it imperative for Russia to come to China’s aid if it is ever under attack from any other country and calls for an arrangement where Moscow and Beijing will work together to get rid of the aggressor.

“In case of a situation, which one contracting side thinks can threaten peace, break peace or infringe on its security interests, as well as in case of a threat of aggression against one of the contracting sides, the contracting sides shall immediately enter into contact with each other and hold consultations with the aim of removing the threat,” says article 9 of the treaty.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao tried to play down the implications of the provision, noting that India’s friendship and strategic partnership treaties with Russia provide for close cooperation in all spheres, including defence and military. She described the Sino-Russian agreement as an attempt to normalise relations, while arguing that it should in no way be seen as a threat to India, which is too big a market for Moscow to upset.

More than 70 per cent of India’s military hardware is from Russia. The two sides have had regular interactions at different levels and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is scheduled to visit Russia in November.

There are other provisions in the Sino-Russian agreement, too, that have caused worries here. If the Kashmir tangle continues to be a source of instability, Russia and China will together try to create a situation which will provide stability.

The treaty says: “The contracting sides shall do their best to strengthen stability, establish an atmosphere of mutual understanding, trust and cooperation in regions adjacent to their territories and facilitate efforts to create in these regions multilateral mechanisms of collaboration on questions of security and cooperation that would correspond to their realities.”

On the face of it, the treaty is aimed at the West, particularly the US. With the George W. Bush administration trying to steamroll opposing opinions on key international issues, such as the missile defence system being put in place by it, political rivals Russia and China are trying to tell the Americans that they have each other to fall back on.

The two sides shall make “joint efforts to maintain global strategic balance and stability and shall energetically promote compliance with the fundamental agreements that ensure the maintenance of strategic stability,” the treaty says.


Mumbai, Aug. 5: 
Is a one-to-one with God facilitated by Sanskrit?

Stotras, or prayers, dedicated to every conceivable deity, are filling up the shelves of music stores. If mata di bhajan is for the masses, the stotras are for the classes. Uttered in shuddh Sanskrit, the CDs and cassettes are the high end of the spiritual market, not to be clubbed with the bhajan or aarti that plays out of street corners. The stotras are for the busy guy about town who likes his prayers private and his Sanskrit perfect and would prefer to offer his prayers in the debabhasha even if he doesn’t understand it.

He is the guy who would be more comfortable listening to a sleek stotra CD on his car stereo — the chants would rather be called chants and not anything vernacular — than to Maata Navaratri or Durga Kavach. And be ready to pay for it. While the average Hindi or regional language bhajan belongs to the Rs 35-category, a chant cassette fetches around Rs 65.

So the gods are running out. Topping the list is the Gayatri chant — available with almost every record label — which has been at the head even before the stotras became a music store category. Then come the Ram chants — 108 chants of Ram, Ram raksha stotram. Then a huge procession follows — there are the Ganesha chants, Mahalakshmi chants, Vedic chants, the Sacred chants of Shiva, Himalayan chants, Sacred chants of Buddha, chants of Moksha, chants of Surya and Nirvana Mantra, to name a few.

A Times Music spokesperson said the company would not produce another stotra immediately, because all the gods were exhausted.

“The devotional music market, including stotras, always existed, but the recent chants are a metro and ‘minimetro’ phenomenon,” said a Sony Music product manager. “It is the frozen food concept. With the chants, we are taking advantage of the fact that the city guy doesn’t have the time to pray.”

The prayer-made-easy, which has grown over a year or two, seems to have found a ready market. “Though the ball was set rolling by Times Music, now there is every company investing in the high-end market — there’s all of Sony, Polygram, Music Today and BMG Crescendo,” a music firm executive said.

Keeping the urban listener and his limitations in view, the chants are skillfully packaged, coming often with a kit of explanatory notes. The Vishnusahasranam stotra from Sony comes with a compilation of these shlokas that were a conversation between Bhishma and Yudhisthira, with notes in both English and Hindi. The cassette is a far cry from an earlier version of the stotra, at least in terms of appearance.

According to the Sony Music executive, a whole lot of new background research is also going into the recording of the chants. “We lay utmost stress on rendition and authenticity. For our Vishnusahasranam stotram, we employed a research team for the background work. We also pay special attention to enunciation. The devotional music segment is a word-of-mouth market. It takes a minor slip to be branded as bad.”

The boom of the chants, however, hasn’t drowned the other voices. The countdown to the Ganesha Chaturdashi has a number of bhajans and aartis lined up. There are also cassettes on the mother goddess in the offing.

Devotion, which is said to have about an 18 per cent share of the music market, is booming.


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