BJP’s fallen hero in UP gets the boot
Laid-off teachers in fiery protest
Mother and son set on fire
Mamata threatens slow burn
Nature, Narmada betray Medha
Calcutta Weather

Lucknow, Aug. 10: 
Risking its own survival in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP today annihilated its Frankenstein.

In a lightning strike ahead of the Assembly elections, chief minister Rajnath Singh sacked his most powerful ally Naresh Aggarwal — energy minister and leader of the 20-member Loktantrik Congress Party (LCP).

Aggarwal had been propped up by the BJP in 1998 when he broke away from the Congress to support then chief minister Kalyan Singh after the BSP had pulled out.

The LCP chief, who was in Hardwar, hit back by withdrawing support to the BJP and threatened to wipe it out of Uttar Pradesh. But a section in the LCP ensured that the government, which was teetering on the brink in the morning, survived to see another day.

Had the LCP’s 19 ministers backed Aggarwal, the coalition would have been reduced to a minority, needing six more members to survive in the House of 403. The BJP and its allies, including the LCP, had 216 MLAs.

The cloud of doom hanging over the government soon lifted as 15 LCP ministers, loath to relinquish power at a time when the post-election future looks uncertain, double-crossed their leader.

BJP sources said a helicopter was sent to Hardwar to get the LCP legislators supporting Rajnath back to Lucknow. The 15 ministers, led by Fateh Bahadur Singh, met Governor Vishnu Kant Shastri in the evening and handed over a letter pledging support to Rajnath.

“It is not me but Naresh Aggarwal who has been reduced to a minority,” Rajnath quipped in the evening. The Governor echoed the chief minister to assert there was no danger to the government.

The drama began early in the morning when Rajnath announced at a news conference that Aggarwal was being sacked for his irresponsibility and “prolonged failures”.

The chief minister also hinted at corruption in the power ministry and said a “clean-up” had become necessary. “Aggarwal has violated the principles of friendship and alliance. He has also violated the constitutional sanctity of his post of Cabinet minister. He is, therefore, sacked from the Cabinet with immediate effect,” he said.

Rajnath said the decision was prompted by his ally’s scathing remarks against the BJP in Hardwar yesterday. The LCP chief had alleged that the BJP’s mismanagement, and not he, was responsible for the power crisis.

But the BJP high command gave a different version for the sack. In Delhi, spokesman V.K. Malhotra said: “The party had decided to dissolve the Assembly in September but Aggarwal was against it. He has been sacked because the party wanted absolute consensus.”

Aggarwal denied he had been axed. Blaming Rajnath for being “surrounded by corrupt ministers”, the LCP chief said he quit on his own for “ethical reasons”. “I am fed up with the BJP and its bankrupt policies. They should be on the streets where they rightly belong. I will bring down the BJP.”

The LCP leader said he had faxed his resignation to the Governor last night. But Shastri denied the claim.


Bhubaneswar, Aug. 10: 
Seven non-formal teachers set themselves afire at the official residence of the Orissa Speaker today in protest against the government’s decision to lay them off.

The agitating teachers went into the visitors’ room of the Speaker’s house at about 1 pm today to present a memorandum. When they did not find the Speaker at home, some of the teachers bolted the room from inside and poured about 5 litres of petrol on the floor and rolled on it before lighting a matchstick.

When the teachers were howling in pain there was possibly no one inside the Speaker’s house. Although some local residents heard their moans, they could do nothing to help as the room was locked from inside.

A good 30 minutes later, some local residents and policemen broke open the door and rescued the half-burnt teachers. Surprisingly, there were no policemen present in the neighbourhood when the incident occurred, though a posse is usually around as the place is a stone’s throw from the Assembly and the secretariat. Another 300-odd laid-off teachers had assembled near the chief minister’s residence to protest.

One of the injured teachers, Banaja Roul (26) from Erasama, was shifted to SCB Medical College in Cuttack this evening after her condition turned critical. Doctors said she had suffered more than 80 per cent burns on various parts of her body.

Roul, who hails from an impoverished family of Erasama block of Jagatsinghpur district, joined as a non-formal teacher in 1999. But she was laid off like 40,000 other teachers in Orissa after the non-formal education scheme was closed on March 31 this year following the Centre’s withdrawal.

Niranjan Bhoi, one of the injured teachers, said the decision to commit self-immolation was taken this morning.

“Though we were assured by the school and mass education minister that we would be given priority in the appointment of non-formal teachers for the proposed education guarantee scheme and alternative novel education scheme, we have been cheated. We thought death was better in these circumstances,” Bhoi said.


Calcutta, Aug. 10: 
A 30-year-old housewife and her two-and-a-half-year-old son were allegedly set on fire by her in-laws at Lichubagan in the Khardah police station area this morning.

Although neighbours rushed to the rescue of the mother and son, both died on way to the nearby hospital.

Police said Mousumi Biswas, the housewife, and her son, Ayan, were victims of the dowry system. As news of the brutal incident spread, hundreds of local residents laid siege to the Khardah police station demanding immediate arrest of the culprits.

The police arrested three in-laws on the basis of the complaint lodged by Mousumi’s family.

According to the police, Mousumi and Montu Biswas, a jawan of the Border Security Force, married three years ago. The first few months were eventless, but gradually the in-laws began pressuring her for immediate payment of dowry. Then the physical and mental torture started, preliminary investigation reveals.

Meanwhile, her husband Montu was transferred to Rajasthan.

“We even heard Mousumi’s screams several times. We never intervened as we thought it was their personal problem,” said a neighbour.

Last night, a few hours before the incident, the next-door neighbours heard the commotion at the Biswas’ house. They did not pay any attention as it had become a regular occurrence for the past two years.

“Late yesterday night, I first noticed smoke coming out of Montu’s house. Sensing trouble, I raised an alarm and rushed there along with some other neighbours. We entered the house and found the door to Mousumi’s bedroom open,” said a neighbour.

“As we came close to her room, we saw Mousumi and her son lying on the floor in flames. We sprinkled water on them.”

Local residents took Mousumi and her son to the nearby BN Roy sub-divisional hospital. But both of them were declared dead on arrival.

A crowd gathered in front of the Biswas house on learning of the deaths. Later they trooped to the Khardah police station, demanding justice.

Mousumi’s family members, who were informed by the local residents, lodged a complaint with the police station, blaming the in-laws for murdering her. Soon after, the police arrested Mousumi’s father-in-law, mother-in-law and brother-in-law.

The police said: “We cannot suspect Montu as he is in Rajasthan right now. However, we are trying to find out whether he played any role in putting pressure on Mousumi for dowry.”


Calcutta, Aug. 10: 
Mamata Banerjee today threatened to do a Subash Ghising.

Taking a cue from the Gorkhaland leader who has often crippled the hills with indefinite bandhs, Mamata today vowed to paralyse Bengal if the government failed to immediately arrest those who murdered two party workers at Sonarpur in South 24-Parganas on Monday.

To begin with, the Trinamul leader and her supporters will gherao the South 24-Parganas superintendent of police on Monday, demanding the immediate arrest of those who killed Niranjan Sardar and Jyotish Sardar.

“If the killers of our party supporters are not arrested even then, we will not allow Buddhababu to rest in peace. We will gherao Writers’ Buildings and paralyse the city across its length and breadth, from Writers’ Buildings to the EM Bypass. If the administration does not wake up after that, we will go for a continuous Bangla bandh,” Mamata — who had remained largely silent since the election debacle — said at a meeting in Sonarpur.

She announced Rs 20,000 for each of the families of the two party workers killed, and Rs 10,000 for Netai Naskar, another party supporter, who was injured when CPM supporters allegedly fired at them on Monday.

“So far, the police have only been able to arrest the father of a person named in the FIR. If you people can’t run a police station, lock it up and leave. If you don’t do so, the people will do it for you and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will not be able to save you,” the Trinamul leader said.

A day after paving the way for her return to the Central coalition by sharing the dais with NDA convener George Fernandes in Contai, Mamata took pot shots at the state administration, blaming it for the kidnap of Khadim’s owner, Parthapratim Roy Burman.

“He (the chief minister) could not provide protection to people like the owner of Khadim’s. How can he expect industrialists from other states and foreign countries to come and invest here? Buddhababu has no business to continue in office,” she said.

This was Mamata’s second meeting at Sonarpur in three days. On Wednesday, she rode pillion on a bike to Sonarpur to meet the family members of the two party workers killed. She had also served an ultimatum on the state administration to arrest the criminals at the earliest.

Today, she arrived at 5.45 pm to address a packed rally of supporters wearing black badges.

Party MP Sudip Bandopadhyay, MLAs Sougata Roy, Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay, Paras Dutta and Arup Bhadra also addressed the meeting, slamming the CPM for “unleashing a reign of terror” on Trinamul supporters in rural Bengal.

Jyotish Sardar’s widow sat through the meeting with her two children.


Bhopal, Aug. 10: 
This, perhaps, is what astrologers would describe as a “bad time” for Medha Patkar and her followers.

For over a month now, they have been waiting patiently on the banks of the river Narmada to get drowned. But the river has refused to oblige.

On July 9, Narmada Bachao Andolan activists launched their 11th annual satyagraha on the banks of the Narmada in the three affected states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra. These people, who had been forced to leave their homes because of the dam, vowed to get drowned with their families but not leave their land.

But nature seemed to be in league with the Gujarat government. It didn’t rain enough for the river to flood the 245 affected villages in three states.

Last year, the river swelled and special police contingents had to be rushed to rescue activists who were determined to get drowned.

A similar drama this year would have added an extra edge to the ongoing struggle. On July 9, Patkar had said: “They are increasing the height of the dam. But for us, it is the height of the movement. Our movement will reach its peak this year.”

She had then been sure nature would be on her side.

Now, the activists are leaving the banks to lay siege to government offices.

Hundreds of activists gheraoed the Narmada Control Authority office in Indore on August 6. They demanded that the Narmada Control officials should personally visit the affected villages in the three states to investigate the truth about the affidavits submitted by the state governments.

While Madhya Pradesh — 193 of the 245 affected villages are in this state — has said it does not have land enough to rehabilitate 5,000 affected families, the other two states claim to have resettled the dam-oustees. Patkar’s team contends there has been no rehabilitation.

On August 7, over a thousand tribal families ousted for the Sardar Sarovar Project launched an indefinite dharna in front of the tehsildar’s office in Taloda, Maharashtra. Next day, they captured the district block office there as they did not get any favourable response to their rehabilitation demand from Maharashtra. Thirty-three of the 245 affected villages are in Maharashtra.

Agitators declared they would not lift the siege to the office until the state minister responsible discussed the resettlement issues.

Patkar’s hope lay mainly in the Madhya Pradesh government. But the state’s feeble protests have hardly had any impact. Gujarat continues to raise the height of the dam towards 90 metres.

The Supreme Court had permitted Gujarat to take it up to this level while additional construction could be carried out only after rehabilitation.

Madhya Pradesh, which has 75 per cent of the affected villages, sought an emergency meeting of the Narmada Control Authority on the additional three-metre construction two months ago. The meeting was first scheduled for July 22 . It was postponed first to August 11 and then to August 17.




Maximum: 32.4°C (0)
Minimum: 25.5°C (-1)


5.1 mm

Relative Humidity

Minimum: 71%


One or two spells of light to moderate rain in some areas.
Sunrise: 5.14 am
Sunset: 6.10 pm

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