Masked men kill woman after rape
Highway safety drive
Chennai rivals trade rally blows
House heat to placate partner
Desam toes Opp. line on education
Naresh scouts for friends in revenge mission
CPM gropes in ally maze
Forty-plus motherhood rush stumps doctors
Jaswant reopens succession debate
Boost to mission school control

 
 
MASKED MEN KILL WOMAN AFTER RAPE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Behrampore, Aug. 13: 
A gang of eight miscreants allegedly murdered a housewife after raping her last night at Adharmanik village about 3 km from here. They also critically injured her husband. But no one has been arrested yet.

Officials said the incident occurred around 9 last night when Prasanta Chowdhury and his 20-year-old wife Kabita were proceeding to Adharmanik village after getting off at Behrampore railway station.

Chowdhury, an employee of Shyamnagar Jute Mill, boarded the Behrampore-bound Lalgola passenger from Sealdah station in the afternoon.

A gang of eight masked miscreants intercepted both Prasanta and Kabita when they were crossing a marshy land near Adharmanik village. They tied Prasanta with ropes and raped his wife.

“The goons had no other motive but to rape Kabita and murder her. We are also probing whether Prasanta had any role in the incident,” said an official, adding that they were awaiting the post-mortem report.

Prasanta, who has been admitted to the Behrampore general hospital with serious injuries, said the miscreants tied his hands and took him some distance away where he was kept blindfolded. “All I could hear was my wife weeping and pleading to be let off,” he said.

Superintendent of police Rajesh Kumar said: “We have ordered a probe into the incident but a clear picture will emerge only after we interrogate the husband.”

A pall of gloom descended on the village as Kabita’s body was taken there. Villagers said one Chandan Chowdhury, who was then returning home from the Behrampore railway station, found Prasanta groaning in pain.

“It was Chandan who took Prasanta and his wife to the hospital where the latter was declared dead,” said an elderly lady. Another villager alleged that police inaction had led to the spurt of antisocial activities in Behrampore and its adjoining areas.

In another incident, one Jagannath Ghosh (37) was allegedly hacked to death by his brother at Kathalia villages over the possession of a plot of land. Police are yet to arrest the accused.

   

 
 
HIGHWAY SAFETY DRIVE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Burdwan, Aug. 13: 
In a bid to check the number of accidents on highways, the state government has decided to set up the district traffic police headquarters at Durgapur.

The number of accidents has shot up over the years as flow of traffic has increased along the highways in the district after the construction of the Durgapur Expressway and expansion of the GT Road and NH-24.

Sources said with the setting up of the headquarters at Durgapur, the district police will be able to control the traffic movement along the highways in a better way. They added that a large number of policeman will be engaged to control the traffic movement on the highways.

   

 
 
CHENNAI RIVALS TRADE RALLY BLOWS 
 
 
FROM M.R. VENKATESH
 
Chennai, Aug. 13: 
The blame game has started on who triggered the violence at the DMK rally last night that killed five people and left over 100 injured even as the Jayalalitha government today ordered a judicial probe into the flare-up.

DMK president M. Karunanidhi met acting Governor C. Rangarajan and apprised him about yesterday’s incidents. An hour later, chief minister Jayalalitha accused the DMK leader of fomenting trouble by “resorting to unruly acts of violence”.

Retired Madras High Court judge K.S. Bakthavatsalam will hold the inquiry but Jayalalitha said no timeframe has been fixed. It will inquire into all incidents, including the alleged police attack on media personnel that left nearly a dozen scribes and lensmen injured.

“It is not easy to dismiss an elected government and there is no reason to dismiss this government,” Jayalalitha shot back when asked about the DMK MPs’ protest in Parliament demanding the dismissal of the ADMK regime for the “violence unleashed” by the police.

However, Karunanidhi himself, both at last night’s public meeting and today, did not press for the use of Article 356 in the state. The DMK has been consistently opposing it, he asserted, but added that the party expected the Centre to rein in the ADMK regime’s “brutality and high-handedness”.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee spoke to him this morning. The DMK leader told him violence erupted when his partymen were taking out a peaceful rally to protest the police excesses during the June 30 arrest of Karunanidhi and two Central ministers.

Karunanidhi said he had again urged Vajpayee to set up an inquiry commission headed by a Supreme Court judge to probe the situation in Tamil Nadu in the wake of the “jungle raj of the ADMK in the last three months”.

“I believe he (Vajpayee) will give a positive response,” said Karunanidhi, who is understood to have told Vajpayee that the DMK’s patience was running out.

While the DMK’s rally was a massive show of strength and the party cadre, after a long time, were in a boisterous mood raising slogans against Chennai police commissioner Muthukaruppan in particular, there was no major problem until the procession neared the DGP’s office at the Marina sea-front.

Police personnel alleged that some DMK cadre started hurling stones into the DGP complex and some of them even “moved into the office” and “attacked” the police. The crowd set on fire two motorcycles, a jeep and a police outpost at Marina beach, they said.

This, according to the police, provoked them to resort to a lathicharge. But with the crowd still unrestrained, police opened fire “using plastic bullets” to disperse the mob.

Subsequently, after the public meeting was over late last night, a pitched battle erupted between dwellers of a nearby slum colony and DMK processionists, the police added.

The police accounted for only four of the deaths, of which two were due to the “plastic bullet injuries”. But they put the number of injured policemen at 102.

   

 
 
HOUSE HEAT TO PLACATE PARTNER 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Aug. 13: 
So what if the Vajpayee government could not heal the wounds inflicted on the DMK at the time of the midnight arrest of M. Karunanidhi from his residence in June?

It is now applying palliatives and ensuring that the DMK’s allegations against the Jayalalitha government are kept alive on the floor of the House.

Even as the Lok Sabha watched with amusement and horror the explosion of an unseemly rage on the part of DMK members, in the Rajya Sabha the government took no chances.

It worked out a double strategy — allowing the DMK members in the first hour of the morning to raise the pitch of their outcry against the ADMK boss and then forcing the adjournment of the House in a jiffy for the day — so that the party had its full quota of publicity.

“The government, in league with its ally, the DMK, decided to adjourn the House as soon as it met the second time. Everything was thrashed out between the BJP leadership and DMK members,” said an Opposition MP.

The Prime Minister was to give a reply in the Rajya Sabha to a discussion on the Agra summit. However, before that, angry DMK members had already forced an adjournment.

In the intervening period, before Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s scheduled reply, the government decided on an exit route that would not rob the DMK of its issue and at the same time not put Krishan Kant through the harassment of watching the volatile members of the two parties from Tamil Nadu going for each other’s jugular.

When the House met at noon, the Prime Minister was seated in the front row. The Cabinet ministers filled up the second row. Kant entered the House and the DMK members began advancing towards the well.

Not losing a minute, the chairperson, even without taking his seat, declared the House adjourned till tomorrow, pre-empting any further escalation of tension.

“The government is under a lot of pressure to placate the DMK,” said a Left MP. After all, it is a question of “honour” of one of its steadfast allies.

The DMK is maintaining that the Centre has only one way of countering the ADMK’s wrath: by imposing President’s rule. But the Vajpayee government seems to have its hands tied.

The only concession the government can make at the moment appears to be to allow the DMK as much space as possible to catapult the issue on to the national agenda.

   

 
 
DESAM TOES OPP. LINE ON EDUCATION 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, Aug. 13: 
The Telugu Desam Party today joined the Opposition in its fight against the BJP-led government’s bid to “saffronise education”.

The Desam demanded a meeting of chief ministers to discuss the issue and evolve a consensus on the national education policy.

This comes at a time when RJD president Laloo Prasad Yadav has convened a “maha dharna” here on August 21 to highlight the issue of saffronisation of education.

Laloo today met Congress president Sonia Gandhi and invited her to the dharna. The former Bihar chief minister later told reporters that Sonia has agreed to attend. Laloo has also invited former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar and a host of other Opposition leaders, including Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Laloo said after the maha dharna the Opposition leaders would tour the country to highlight the failures of the government. The campaign will be launched from Uttar Pradesh.

Ahead of the dharna, the Desam has pointed out that it will not accept any deviation from the common minimum programme. “Saffronisation is not part of the common minimum programme,” Desam’s parliamentary party leader K. Yerran Naidu pointed out. “Our country is secular and education is on the concurrent list. The type of education the country needs should be debated in both Houses of Parliament, and also by the chief ministers,” Naidu added.

The government has given in to the Opposition demand and agreed to a debate on the issue of saffronisation of education in the Lok Sabha. Senior CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee will initiate the discussion.

Naidu said he had pointed out in the Lok Sabha the government’s bid to introduce Sanskrit in education institutes and sought a consensus on it. He was backed by the DMK and the Trinamul Congress, he said.

   

 
 
NARESH SCOUTS FOR FRIENDS IN REVENGE MISSION 
 
 
FROM ANAND SOONDAS
 
Lucknow, Aug. 13: 
All dressed up but nowhere to go — that, essentially, is the current predicament of ousted Loktantrik Congress Party chief Naresh Aggarwal.

A desperate Aggarwal, all but condemned by most of the LCP’s 19 ministers to political solitude, has set out on a mission to “unite the Opposition’’ against the BJP. But, in a state where sworn enemies like Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayavati, Kalyan Singh and Sriprakash Jaiswal make up the Opposition, bringing them “together” is a Herculean task.

The Samajwadi Party boss cannot stand the Bahujan Samaj Party leader. Mayavati herself hates the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister, and nobody likes the Congress state unit chief.

Aggarwal has talked to both Mulayam and Kalyan. But, while Mulayam has announced that the Samajwadi Party’s alliance with Aggarwal is being mulled over, the sacked minister knows there is not much use joining hands with Kalyan, who, out of the BJP, has been in the wilderness.

Though Mulayam has said Aggarwal is like his “younger brother” and their friendship goes back 20 years, the former LCP chief knows friendship is meaningless unless it translates into votes.

The “all Opposition, one plank” platform has already sunk with a fiery Mayavati saying “there is no place in my scheme of things for bhagodas (deserters) like Naresh Aggarwal”. The Bahujan Samaj Party leader has announced publicly that “even if Naresh rubs his nose at my feet, I will not take him back”.

Mayavati has not forgiven Aggarwal ever since he split the Congress to support Kalyan after the Bahujan Samaj Party had withdrawn support to the BJP four years ago. The Congress, too, is not very keen on him. It has been limping ever since Aggarwal broke away with 22 MLAs to form his own party.

But Aggarwal is not giving up. At a news conference today, he reiterated his mission to “ruin the BJP” and wipe it out of Uttar Pradesh. When asked how he was progressing, Aggarwal said: “It is too early to talk about new political alliances. But I will not like to abandon my task to get the Opposition together to fight the BJP.”

Aggarwal said all parties should get together to force an early election so as not to give the BJP more time to “destroy” the state.

Observers, however, say he might still spring a few unpleasant surprises on the BJP. The Vaishyas, an affluent community with huge stakes in trade and industry, see Aggarwal as their representative and are upset with the BJP for sacking him. Aggarwal, sources said, is in touch with the community, which has around 6 per cent votes, and is trying to mobilise them against the BJP.

The former LCP chief had recently organised a huge Vaishya rally in Delhi which was attended by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He was also instrumental in forming the All-India Vaishya Mahasabha.

That the Vaishyas are displeased is evident from the fact that Banwarilal Kanchchal, a former BJP MLC, quit as a primary member of the party a day after Aggarwal was sacked. Kanchchal has hinted that he might join the Samajwadi Party.

   

 
 
CPM GROPES IN ALLY MAZE 
 
 
FROM MONOBINA GUPTA
 
New Delhi, Aug. 13: 
The CPM is tying itself in knots over a maze of alliances with third front partners — existing and prospective.

Though the party leadership wants to expand the embryonic People’s Front headed by former West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu, a big question mark hangs over future entrants.

Jayalalitha’s ADMK, for instance. “I have not heard Jayalalitha say she wants to join the front,” was CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet’s ambiguous reply when asked if the front was ready to accept a partner neck-deep in a series of messy controversies, both financial and political.

A couple of months ago, the ADMK chief had met CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan and expressed her admiration for third front leaders, especially from the Left. Recently, she was to have met the CPM general secretary and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav in Delhi, but her visit was postponed.

Surjeet made it clear that the People’s Front should be genetically different from the United Front which had lacked consensus on many crucial issues, barring its resolve to keep the BJP at bay.

The breaches in alliances and counter-alliances seem to be cutting deep incisions into the front’s future and also the Opposition’s strategy to pull down the government they have pronounced as “dangerous” for the unity and integrity of the country.

As far as day-to-day tactics in Parliament is concerned, the CPM wants to have a closer understanding with the Congress. But when it comes to electoral politics outside the House, it wants to keep a distance from the main Opposition party.

When asked if the Left believed an alliance between the Samajwadi Party and the Congress would help them fight the BJP more effectively in Uttar Pradesh, Surjeet came up with a categorical “no”.

“Such an alliance will not help at all in Uttar Pradesh,” he said. The terseness in his tone suggested that a tie-up between the Samajwadi Party and the Congress would, on the contrary, become a liability for Mulayam, who is best suited to rebuff the BJP.

   

 
 
FORTY-PLUS MOTHERHOOD RUSH STUMPS DOCTORS 
 
 
FROM DEBASHIS BHATTACHARYYA
 
Mumbai, Aug. 13: 
Don’t lose heart if you are old enough to be a grandmother, but want to be a mother. There is a chance if you can lay your hands on eggs needed to produce a test-tube baby.

More than a decade after invitro fertilisation, or IVF, gave barren or menopausal women a glimmer of hope, the crux of the problem remains: finding eggs these women lack in their ovaries.

As more women between the ages of 40 and 60 are seeking to get a taste of motherhood, infertility specialists are racking their brains for a solution.

“IVF has been around for sometime, but the main problem is finding eggs. You need mainly young fertile women to willingly donate their eggs for an infertile woman wanting to be a mother. But such donors are hard to come by,” Dr Hrishikesh Pai, an infertility specialist with Mumbai’s reputed Leelavati hospital, said.

Doctors fertilise borrowed eggs with sperms of the recipient’s husband in a lab and keep them in an incubator for two days. The embryo, once formed, is planted in the woman’s womb.

Doctors put the success rate at 30 to 40 per cent.

Dr Nandita Palshetkar, another infertility specialist with Leelavati hospital, said the technique was a “boon” to the childless menopausal women whose “only option earlier was to have a baby through adoption”.

So desperate are some of these women they often hide their ages as doctors are loath to make an infertile woman mother if she is over 55 to avoid medical and social problems.

“One of my patients who became a mother sharing the eggs of a fertile woman was actually 62, but she had claimed to be 55 years old. But what can I do? You cannot ask for birth certificates from your patients,” Pai said.

The technique, introduced to the country more than a decade ago, has caught on in a big way in the last three years, with IVF clinics mushrooming all over the financial capital. Would-be mothers, however, are often left disappointed because of a chronic short supply of eggs.

In the US, a major source of eggs is college girls who are allowed to sell their eggs to barren women. In India, where there is no law governing the IVF, doctors frown on the “paid donation.” They prefer to depend on donors instead. “It may be all right for US college girls to donate their eggs for $2,500 to $3,000, but we are against it as we feel it is unethical. We don’t accept it here,” Pai said, adding that the sale of eggs is banned in the UK.

Dr Mukesh Agarwal, who runs an IVF clinic said that though the law was silent on the sale of eggs, doctors stay clear of it for fear of controversies. “In a country like India, you cannot screen each egg donor for a string of diseases the sellers may be carrying. You need huge infrastructure for that,” he said.

Doctors here find it difficult to find women willing to volunteer their eggs because the process is painstaking. It requires a woman to undergo a series of tests and take injections for 12 days. “Few want to go through this for nothing,” Agarwal said.

This leaves infertile older would-be mothers with one choice: share the eggs of a younger woman who produces eggs, but cannot have a baby for other medical reasons. The recipient has to pay half the donor’s treatment cost.

“Both women benefit from this egg-sharing method, which we are banking on at present,” Palshetkar said. “But the demand always outweighs the supply.”

Patients get their sisters to donate their eggs at times, only to have trouble in future. “It’s an emotional issue, with both sisters sometimes claiming the child when he or she grows up,” Pai said.

Doctors want an egg-donation campaign to avoid ending up with eggs on their faces.

   

 
 
JASWANT REOPENS SUCCESSION DEBATE 
 
 
FROM RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
 
New Delhi, Aug. 13: 
The presence of external affairs and defence minister Jaswant Singh as the chief guest at a RSS training camp in Bangalore on Sunday has not only aroused curiosity in the BJP. It also seems to have raised the question if Singh’s attendance at a Sangh function has implications for the succession chapter in the NDA government, if and when it takes place.

Singh was invited for the function convened by the RSS’ videsh vibhag (overseas chapter) a month ago and, according to Sangh sources, he promptly agreed to come. The sources said this is the first time Singh attended a RSS function and shared the dais with veterans H.V. Seshadri and Madan Das Devi.

However, sarsanghachalak K.S. Sudarshan did not make an appearance as he is believed to have returned from the US last Saturday. It was Sudarshan who had opposed Singh’s appointment as the finance minister when the NDA government first came to power in 1998. The Prime Minister was forced to strike his name off the list of ministers he was set to submit to Rashtrapati Bhavan and was forced to include the name of Yashwant Sinha.

Though Singh joined the BJP in 1980, the party’s grouse was that he never took the Sangh seriously. “He must have visited Jhandewalan (the RSS Delhi headquarters) just a couple of times,” said BJP sources.

His remarks in the past describing the BJP cadre as “given to more vocal bigotry than those of other parties who may be no less communal” did not endear him to the rank-and-file. After the Babri mosque’s demolition, Singh is believed to have privately told his BJP associates that he was not part of the “mosque-breaking squad”.

Though BJP sources asserted that if Vajpayee chose to relinquish his post in the future, home minister L.K. Advani — the putative number two in the NDA government — would be the “natural” successor, they interpreted Singh’s unexpected showing at the RSS function as a “clear signal” that his claim could not be ignored.

“It’s like this. If for some reason, Advaniji is not unanimously acceptable to the NDA constituents, an alternative leader will have to be in place. It is supposed that Singh may be taken seriously in such a scenario because he is a senior leader and has had a good innings as foreign minister without any controversy or stigma of failure,” explained the sources.

Despite the profile, BJP sources were clear that the RSS’ ratification was a must before a new leader was chosen. “The Sangh cannot be ignored. If the leaders do not approve of someone, he does not even stand a remote chance,” said the sources.

For instance, in the run-up to the 1995 general elections, when it looked like the BJP was within striking distance of power, Vajpayee — who was still not in the reckoning for the prime ministership because Advani dominated the BJPscape — covertly threw his hat in the ring by penning a piece in the RSS mouthpiece, Organiser, in May 1995.

Though he later clarified that the article was an “interview” given to the editor, he justified the demolition of the Babri mosque in it. The RSS had been unhappy with Vajpayee when he sought to distance himself from the act immediately after it happened. The “interview”, which created controversy in Parliament, helped him to get on the RSS’ right side.

In his address in Bangalore, Sangh sources quoted Singh as saying the camp had achieved its purpose of “reawakening the core of Indianness that is in all of us”. In his 13-minute speech, the external affairs minister reportedly said India could not be represented abroad “shorn of its civilisation and cultural core”.

The Sangh’s videshi vibhag organises such camps every three years. The last one, also held in Bangalore, had local industrialist S.K. Maini as the chief guest.

   

 
 
BOOST TO MISSION SCHOOL CONTROL 
 
 
FROM R. VENKATARAMAN
 
New Delhi, Aug. 13: 
The Supreme Court today declined to accede to the Bengal government’s request to control the Ramakrishna Vivekananda Mission, which has its own set of rules that have been approved by the state government.

A division bench of Justice B.N. Kirpal and Justice Santosh Hegde declined to vacate its stay on a Calcutta High Court order nullifying the dismissal of a few teachers of the Mission. The teachers were dismissed under the existing rules of the Mission.

Counsel for the Mission, Sanjay Sen, said: “The whole controversy is structured around the fact that despite the government-approved rules for the Mission, the state government now wants to control the Mission with general rules and laws, nullifying the effect of the Mission’s own rules”.

The teachers whose services were terminated under the special rules of the Mission had earlier moved Calcutta High Court which stayed the termination orders and upheld that the rules of the state government would override the Mission’s rules, the counsel said.

The Mission said in its petition that the Supreme Court had held in the Brahmachari Sidheswar Shai vs state of West Bengal case in 1995 that “in order to constitute a religious denomination envisaged under Article 26 of the Constitution such denomination necessarily should have the following features:

A collection of individuals who have a system of belief with regard to their conducive spiritual well being;

A common organisation;

A definite name.

The Mission pointed out that it satisfied all the requirements under Article 26 of the Constitution.

It also contended that the government now “cannot plead ignorance of the special rules” framed for the Mission.

The petition said the high court had erred in holding that since “the special rules governing the Mission were not published and communicated, the employees who were involved in the case, could not be affected thereby” (by the special rules). It said the state government “has no jurisdiction” over the Mission.

It added that there was “no legal requirement for publication and or communication of the said rules and the applicability of the same was not conditional upon publication and or communication”.

“The state government and the Board of Secondary Education being bound by the approval granted (to the special rules for the Mission), they cannot plead ignorance and proceed with the state government’s appeal committee hearings,” the Mission said in its petition.

   
 

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