Roll of thunder before Independence Day trumpet
President opts for eloquent silence
House boot on other foot
Governor in fix over rally report
Diaper diplomacy takes Priyanka to Amethi
Advani lesson to party MPs
Long live night life, so long it’s day
Two family brands and one in the Bush
Fashion, fusion and confusion
Security alert in north

 
 
ROLL OF THUNDER BEFORE INDEPENDENCE DAY TRUMPET 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Aug. 14: 
Delhi waded through the wettest Independence Day-eve since 1961 on Tuesday as incessant rains lashed the capital.

The city was reduced to chaos as the heaviest recorded rains choked traffic, crippled phone services and hampered efforts to step up security. Weathermen said 16 cm of rain had fallen on the city since Monday evening, the highest since the 18 cm recorded on July 16, 1961. Many roads, particularly in east Delhi, were under several feet of water.

The water level in the Yamuna river, which flows along the eastern border of New Delhi, was nearing its danger mark and beginning to flood some residential areas, a television channel said.

The Indian Meteorological Department predicted a wet day tomorrow, saying rains accompanied by thunderstorms would continue for the next 48 hours. The rains were the result “of an interaction between the middle latitude western wave trough and the low-level monsoon flow”, officials said.

There were long traffic snarls in several parts of the city, with commuters having to wait for hours. An exhausted office-goer, Kuldip Kumar said: “It usually takes me half-an-hour to reach office but today I was stuck for two hours.” Several trains were delayed.

In the morning, a school bus ferrying 40 students met with an accident on Nizamuddin bridge, injuring seven. Delhi police said the St Columba’s school bus, going to Delhi from Noida, swivelled 180 degrees on the slippery roads and rammed into a divider. “The bus driver lost control as the road was slippery,” a police officer said.

Met officials said there were heavy showers in Uttaranchal, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. A Reuters report said 10 people had been killed in central India.

Lightning killed three people and injured 36, most of them children, when it struck a village school in Madhya Pradesh. Seven more died in electric storms through the night, officials said.

According to Anand Kumar Sharma, flood meteorological officer with IMD: “There has been heavy rainfall in the upper catchment area from Uttarkashi to Uttaranchal.” B.S. Madhwal of the flood forecasting department said: “Water in the Yamuna will definitely cross the danger level... only on the eve of August 16, the water level will rise.” But he added there was no cause for panic.

   

 
 
PRESIDENT OPTS FOR ELOQUENT SILENCE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Aug. 14: 
Skirting Kashmir and cross-border terrorism, UTI and Tehelka, President K.R. Narayanan tonight urged “better-off citizens” to serve the poor in the face of the “tidal wave of globalisation”.

In an address to the nation on the eve of the 54th year of Independence minus the trademark punch and the veiled barbs, he said: “Let the better off amongst us ask themselves what they can do for our people and our country, to be inheritors of our great past and trustees of our future. Our future is in our hand.”

Sources said what Narayanan skipped would be taken up by the Prime Minister on the ramparts of the Red Fort tomorrow.

A.B. Vajpayee will read from a prepared text despite pressure from the BJP that he speak extempore.

There were indications that Vajpayee would focus on national security, cross-border terrorism and the Agra summit. PMO sources said he will stress on normalisation of ties with neighbours, particularly Pakistan, the state of the economy, the social sector and investment climate.

Late tonight, Raisina Hills was abuzz with speculation on why the President had delivered an “un-Narayanan” like speech. Last year’s address was laced with indirect references to the Veerappan episode, Kashmir, intolerance and the need for good relations with Pakistan.

Narayanan had even quoted Nazrul Islam to express concern over the growing nexus between politicians, criminals and important people.

“Today, the bigger the robber, the bigger the thief and the cleverer the cheat, the more honourable, the more distinguished and the more dignified his seat,” he had quoted.

Tonight, Narayanan’s words lacked the sting that characterises his speeches. It was more surprising as the text was not vetted by the government.

Some opined that Narayanan chose not to comment on crucial issues as his earlier “wor-ds of wisdom” had gone unheeded. Others felt he avoided controversial subjects as he did not want to weaken the fragile coalition in South Block. Yet others said he brought vexed issues into focus by remaining silent on them.

Narayanan termed the 54 years as the longest period in the country’s history when relative peace, progress and a sense of unity had prevailed. “It is possible to find a hundred faults and failures during the over 50 years, but the fact of our having made forward strides during this period has to be recognised because it is then only we can build a better and brighter India,” Narayanan said.

   

 
 
HOUSE BOOT ON OTHER FOOT 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Aug. 14: 
In a reversal of roles, the Opposition today lambasted the government for disrupting Parliament proceedings.

The opposition alleged that the government was encouraging the DMK to stall Parliament as it did not want the House to discuss issues which may embarrass treasury benches.

In a joint statement, the Opposition parties urged “the government not to disrupt the proceedings of the House and ensure resto-ration of normalcy”. The stateme-nt was issued after the DMK forced adjournments of both Houses of Parliament for the second day.

“The government and its partners should realise that Parliament is not the appropriate forum to agitate on matters relating to the state administration,” Opposition leaders said.

Both Houses of Parliament was adjourned yesterday and today as DMK members trooped to the Well of the House shouting slogans and demanding action against Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalitha. Samata Party MP Raghunath Jha also rushed to the Well of the Lok Sabha yesterday in support of the DMK.

Senior CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee said the DMK’s bid to stall the House was “sponsored’ by the government. He said the government was trying to placate its allies. “We wanted to discuss saffronisation of education and disinvestment etc., but the government wants to side-step these unpleasant issues through its partners,” he said.

The letter was signed by Pranab Mukherjee, Manmohan Singh, Nitopal Basu, J. Chitharanjan, Praful Patel and other Opposition leaders. It said the Opposition “decided to raise issues which are affecting the lives of common people and which are, no doubt, embarrassing the government. But if the government decides to evade and avoid these discussions in Parliament by resorting to such undesirable course, then it would have serious repercussions in the functioning of Parliament”.

Opposition leaders said it was the responsibility of the government to ensure smooth transaction of business in Parliament. “But, unfortunately, we find in the instant case, the government behaves in the most casual manner. Neither the leader of the House nor Cabinet minister incharge of parliamentary affairs were present in the House and no sign was visible on the part of the government to tackle the situation and restore normalcy,” they added.

The statement said an important discussion on the slowing down of the economy, resulting in unemployment in the context of the mid-term appraisal of the Ninth Five Year Plan, was slated to be discussed yesterday.

ADMK Rajya Sabha leader P.G. Narayanan said the “government is encouraging the DMK to disrupt the House to avoid embarrassment on matters affecting the common people”.

   

 
 
GOVERNOR IN FIX OVER RALLY REPORT 
 
 
FROM M.R. VENKATESH
 
Chennai, Aug. 14: 
For acting Tamil Nadu Governor C. Rangarajan, a former Reserve Bank Governor, unravelling monetary mysteries would probably have been easier than handling the political mess in the state following the rally flare-up.

Rangarajan is in a fix with the Jayalalitha government, in its report sent to the Union home ministry, virtually blaming the DMK for sparking the violence, saying it was a “pre-meditated and pre-planned affair”.

This is in direct contrast to DMK president M. Karunanidhi’s memorandum given to the governor, which alleges that “police and the hired hoodlums of the ruling ADMK crudely interfered in an unholy manner” to disturb the procession otherwise moving in a peaceful manner.

As both the ADMK and the DMK have backed up their respective claims with photographs and video-clippings, Rangarajan has an unenviable task on hand. This is more so in the context of the Centre’s dissatisfaction with former Governor Fathima Beevi, who had forwarded the state government’s version when she was asked to submit a report on the arrest of Karunanidhi in June.

Even as political circles are waiting to see what Rangarajan recommends to the Centre on Sunday night’s violence, government sources defended the police action, saying they had acted with “commendable restraint, despite the grave provocation” by the processionists, who allegedly hurled stones and chappals on the policemen and abused them in “very filthy language”.

While the government had sent two reports on the violence to the home ministry by last night — first a preliminary report followed by a detailed one after presenting both of them in intervals to the Governor — Jayalalitha today met Rangarajan and apprised him about the rally incidents.

The Governor is likely to send his report to the Centre this evening. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Jayalalitha described her visit as a “courtesy call”, but added that they had discussed the DMK rally incidents. She hinted that Rangarajan did not have much of a choice as the “Governor sends a report based on the information given by the state government”.

But when asked about Beevi’s earlier report that had drawn the Centre’s flak, Jayalalitha shot back: “That was a different situation; there is no need to drag that into this now.” The government’s report to the Centre points out that the fact that an “unprecedented large number of police personnel (103 of them) had been injured and only about 40 to 50 injured on the DMK’s side” shows “who the culprits are”.

   

 
 
DIAPER DIPLOMACY TAKES PRIYANKA TO AMETHI 
 
 
FROM RASHEED KIDWAI
 
New Delhi, Aug. 14: 
A wave of delight and expectation is sweeping through Amethi as it prepares to welcome the youngest member of the Nehru-Gandhi clan, Rehan Rajiv Gandhi Vadra, on Sunday, when Priyanka tours the family pocketborough to shore up Congress prospects in the coming Assembly polls.

Having entrusted Amethi with daughter and grandson, Sonia plans to visit other parts of Uttar Pradesh. State party chief Sri Prakash Jaiswal has requested Sonia to travel by train and buses — getting as close to the masses as possible — to revitalise the party and revive the sagging morale of party leaders.

Sonia has not been able to devote much time to the state and Amethi as her role as leader of the Opposition and Congress president takes up most of her time and does not allow her to make periodic visits to the heartland. At a time when all major parties are concentrating on Uttar Pradesh, Sonia is not expected to hold any public meeting till September.

The state Congress is in a shambles — party candidates have forfeited their deposits in almost all the recent Assembly bypolls. In all poll surveys and projections, the Sonia-led Congress is placed well behind the Samajwadi Party, the BSP and the BJP. At present, it has 13 MLAs in the 403-member Assembly.

The mood in the party has turned more gloomy with Sonia’s move to send observers for selection of district unit chiefs further dividing the party. Senior leaders are questioning the rationale of holding elections to the posts of district chief at a time when selection of candidates for the polls should be the priority.

To counter the dark clouds rumbling on the state Congress’ horizon, Sonia has unleashed the darling of Amethi and her son. Amethi is eagerly awaiting the visit by Priyanka and Rehan, who will join the birth anniversary celebrations of Rajiv Gandhi on Monday. The local Congress unit, edgy as the party’s hold on Amethi and surrounding areas is slipping fast, plans to make optimum political capital out of the visit. In the recent panchayat polls, the Congress had finished behind the Samajwadi Party and the BJP, setting the alarm bells ringing.

Though Rehan will be turning one in September, state Congressmen have no doubt about his future role in politics. Explaining the delight at the news that young Rehan will be accompanying Priyanka, a Congress leader said: “You see, Priyanka and Soniaji are part of virtually each and every family in Amethi and the neighbouring areas. Crackers were burst and sweets distributed when Rehan was born. It is natural that they (Amethi residents) are eagerly awaiting to have a look at him.”

   

 
 
ADVANI LESSON TO PARTY MPS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Aug. 14: 
Home minister L.K. Advani has urged the BJP’s MPs to be “more vigilant” and involve themselves in Parliament proceedings. Addressing a BJP parliamentary party meeting this morning, Advani asked the MPs to visit their constituencies when Parliament was not in session and disseminate the government’s “achievements” in an “effective” manner.

Advani, who had called on party MPs and cadre to shed their “Opposition” mindset at the party’s national executive last month, told the meeting that Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee will address the nation from the Red Fort for the fourth consecutive year tomorrow.

BJP spokesman V.K. Malhotra quoted Advani as saying: “He is the first non-Congress PM to do so. Earlier, the country had six non-Congress PMs, of who four were supported by the Congress. Only Morarji Desai and V.P. Singh were not. But none of them could complete their full term in office. We are confident that the 13th Lok Sabha will last its complete five-year term. At the end of that term, Vajpayeeji would have been a Prime Minister for seven-and-a-half years.”

He stressed that the government’s goal was to make the 21st century the “century of Bharat”. “To achieve that goal, members will have to work harder,” Advani reportedly said.

Countering the Opposition’s charge that it was the NDA that was responsible for stalling the House for the last two days over the Tamil Nadu events, Malhotra said: “The Congress or Opposition parties have no face to make such an allegation against the ruling NDA. In the last two years, they must have stalled the House more than 40 times. They remember rules and parliamentary decorum only when some NDA partner attacks them. Otherwise they do not care for rules.

“The Opposition is like Karna, who cited dharma and rules when he was in trouble but forgot these principles when he killed Abhimanyu through immoral means.”

But even so, Malhotra said all parties must together devise a code of conduct, which would govern Parliament proceedings and have safeguards against rushing into the well of the House.

   

 
 
LONG LIVE NIGHT LIFE, SO LONG IT’S DAY 
 
 
FROM TAPAS CHAKRABORTY
 
Patna, Aug. 14: 
Couples in smart denims cling to each other, shaking their hips to Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez. The music’s a blast. The room’s dark and the strobe lights are revolving fast and smooth.

“Oh, it’s so fun,” says a girl, sipping Coke between dances. “I just love it.”

This could be any disco in India — Calcutta, Mumbai, Delhi or Bangalore.

Only it’s not night now. It’s afternoon, with the sun blazing away outside.

Welcome to Patna’s first disco: Pandora’s Box, that opened last week to sighs of welcome and howls of protest.

The disco opens at 1 in the afternoon and closes at 6, thanks to a Patna district administration ruling that prevents shops from remaining open after six.

“Most of the clients here are newly-married couples who want to get out of their joint family set-up on the plea of an afternoon out,” says Manjari Tiwari, a 26-year-old and newly-married.

Her husband was recently transferred from Nagpur to Patna. “So I had to come with him. Then I heard about this disco and came here,” she says, smiling.

Does she mind very much that this disco doesn’t remain open till night? That it doesn’t serve beer? “Oh, no. It is good fun anyway,” she says, before rushing back to the dance-floor for another jig with her husband.

The disco is open to couples and single girls. But single guys are a strict no-no. For an entry fee of Rs 150, the revellers can stay on for as long as it remains open.

Given that it opened only last week, Pandora’s Box is doing good business. At first came the curious onlookers, peering hard and long to figure out what it was all about. Then came the couples, to snatch their afternoons of fun.

But, says Amit Chowdhary, a Patna-based social scientist: “The society here is feudal, resisting change. Changes can only take place gradually.”

In the circumstances, it wasn’t an easy choice for Aayush Sinha to open the disco. But he reasoned that when Biharis went out of the state, they visited discos; so, there had to be a latent demand for it in the state.

“Why should they have to wait to visit a disco till they go outside? When they are here in Patna why should they not have the same facilities?” asks Sinha.

The son of a retired army officer, Sinha took a bank loan to launch his dream project. “You can call it a calculated risk. But I am confident of making it a success,” he says.

The first problem, he says, is to assure the couples that there is adequate security for them inside the discos and that everybody will respect their privacy. As a safeguard, alcohol is not being served.

The administration has provided full cooperation, says Sinha. There were teething troubles last week when officials checked the disco and directed the owners to get the electric system in order. The place had to be closed for a couple of days. Then the show started again.

But that does not solve the central problem that the disco has to close by six. “Haan, law-order thik nahin hain Patna mein,” says a vendor outside Pandora’s Box. Even without the district administration directive, nobody will stay late for fear of being mugged on the roads.

But, insist the swinging teenagers, this is just the beginning. Things might change. And now — just for the moment — no one’s complaining.

   

 
 
TWO FAMILY BRANDS AND ONE IN THE BUSH 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, Aug. 13: 
A brand war is raging in America. But it is not a war to determine which cereal will be on the majority of breakfast tables in the US or what brand of cosmetics will make millions of blondes in this country more attractive to the opposite sex.

It is a war between America’s branded political families to determine which of them will set the agenda for the most powerful nation in the world in the next decade or two.

The Kennedys are back and are fiercely fighting this war to keep, and enlarge, their share of the family’s political inheritance. Last week the new generation of Kennedys were all over: on the cover of

Time, on chat shows on the major networks and on the front pages of newspapers from coast to coast.

Bill Clinton too was back on centrestage, ending a self-imposed exile from the domestic scene with the colourful opening of his new office — where, but in Harlem — to which his ex-cabinet colleagues and other aides flocked, not to mention thousands of New Yorkers who used the occasion to party.

Soon thereafter, the Alfred Knopf publishing house announced that it would bring out the ex-President’s memoirs for over $10 million, a record in the history of book publishing for a non-fiction title.

The figure surpassed the $7.1 million agreed upon last year between Simon and Schuster and Senator Hillary Clinton for her memoirs. Hillary too was on the chat shows across the US last week.

Last fortnight, Clinton invited a small group of prominent Democrats to breakfast at his new home here. Adam Schiff, the Democratic Congressman from California, said later: “He is one of the most brilliant strategists our party has ever had.”

Clinton has also had meetings with potential contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, such as Senators Joseph Lieberman, John Edwards and John Kerry.

Hillary has ruled out running for the presidency in 2004, but stories swirl around the Clintons about the family’s eventual return to the White House, the next time under Hillary’s presidency.

Lagging behind, but still in the race, is the third political family in the US: the Bush family, now holding the reins at the White House.

It is certain that George W. Bush will have another go at the presidency, but his problem is the falling public rating for him in office and an absolute lack of charisma.

On the day Clinton opened his Harlem office, TV networks had split-screen live coverage of the Harlem event and another function addressed by Bush. But they eventually gave up on Bush and covered Clinton whole hog since the media attraction for the ex-President far outstripped that for the incumbent.

But before that, the other Bush — Florida governor Jeb Bush — will have a tough fight on his hands for re-election.

With feelings still running high over the counting of votes in Florida in the 2000 presidential election, a defeat for Jeb could cast a long shadow over his brother’s bid for a second term in the White House.

Next year’s gubernatorial race in another state — the eastern shore’s Maryland — could, in fact, set the stage for the return of the Kennedys under the political spotlight.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the eldest of Robert F. Kennedy’s 11 children and the current lieutenant-governor of the state, is widely tipped to win the race for Maryland’s governorship, making her the second most senior Kennedy in national politics after family patriarch Senator Edward Kennedy.

Kathleen’s emergence on the national scene would not have attracted such sweeping attention to the family had it not coincided with several other bids by the Kennedys for public office at the same time — effectively recreating the Kennedy aura of the 1960s.

Seeking re-election to the Congress at the same time as Kathleen is 34-year-old Patrick Kennedy, son of Edward Kennedy, who is already a member of the House of Representatives from Rhode Island.

Also running for Congress from Maryland next year is Mark Kennedy Shriver, 37, son of JFK’s sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Mark is already a member of the state’s legislature.

The Kennedy in-laws are in the news too as the biennial poll season in the US draws near. Andrew Cuomo, son of former New York governor Mario Cuomo, married to Kerry, daughter of Robert Kennedy, is making a bid to step into his father’s shoes and avenge Mario’s defeat at the hands of George Pataki, the incumbent.

Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is married to Maria, daughter of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, is the family’s only Republican. He toyed with the idea of fighting for California governorship, but has postponed, not

given up, the idea.

Other Kennedys who have similarly put off entering public life are Joseph Kennedy II, another son of Robert Kennedy, who considered running for governorship in the family fief of Massachusetts and Max Kennedy, his brother, for Congress from the same state.

Christopher Kennedy, another brother, similarly considered a ticket for lieutenant-governorship of Illinois. So did William Kennedy Smith, Edward Kennedy’s nephew, who floated a trial balloon for a Congressional seat from Illinois.

Not all the Kennedys are making news at the hustings, though. Robert Kennedy Jr. has been in jail for one month for following Gandhi’s method of protest through civil disobedience.

He was protesting the use of Vieques Island in Puerto Rico for US navy bombing exercises and his wife promptly named their sixth child Vieques as he was born while the father was in jail.

   

 
 
FASHION, FUSION AND CONFUSION 
 
 
FROM CHANDRIMA BHATTACHARYA
 
Mumbai, Aug. 14: 
Pin tucks, cross cuts, pleating and quilting are Rajesh Pratap Singh’s signature, with most of his collection casual — frayed denim, asymmetry and slim-cut trousers. But don’t forget Pratap’s stunning cocktail range in monochrome palette.

Seven days back, we didn’t know. But the Lakme India Fashion Week has pin-tucked our language up. Like the cross cuts of Pratap — “the immensely talented Delhi designer” — some words stand out as the signature of the event. It is the beginning of fashion awareness in the country.

First, the words that created confusion.

The Mumbai fashion week — between August 6 and 12 — was meant to showcase “pret-a-porter” and “diffusion” collections by Indian designers. It meant the country learnt the meaning of the two words — pret is supposed to mean ready-to-wear and diffusion is anything that is left out by the two extremes of pret and “couture”. But ready-to-wear was also taken to mean ready-to-buy, as opposed to couture, which is unaffordable.

A week later, there’s even more semantic confusion as there’s no telling pret from diffusion and both are sometimes looking like couture. It’s that Orwellian feeling of not being able to tell the pigs and men from each other.

This is what happened.

Meera and Muzaffar Ali — yes, he is the filmmaker — showed their label Kotwara, with “chikan” as the essential spirit, to the accompaniment of mellow ghazals, but their collection started at around Rs 8,000 and stopped at Rs 35,000. They were cotton ensembles. There were Ritu Kumar’s simple kurtas that were priced at not less than thousands. Worse, designer Puja Nayyar said she did not know how much her clothes cost. That made her prets quite priceless.

The similarities between pret and couture became even more overwhelming as designers paraded all the zardosi, gold cloth and silver work that they had ever worked with. A fashion week doesn’t come often — in India this is only the second time it’s happening, with FTV covering it seriously; what if BBC will give it only three minutes of coverage — so the designers pretended that elaborate lehenga cholis, saris and salwars kurtas were all prets. The strobe lights and trance music were fine, and one could even take in Sheetal Malhar in a heavily-worked lehenga choli sashaying to “Dressed up like a million dollar trooper, Trying hard to look like Gary Cooper”, if only because it was Sheetal Malhar, but this stuff was not ready-to-wear.

Only pre-stitched sarees could be called that, the thing that Selfridges, the London department store, is looking for.

That brings us to another frequently-used-word at the event — the international buyer — the key personality on the fashion scene, at least the Indian one.

Aimed at getting domestic business, the show was completely overtaken by the slight foreign presence there was. The Selfridges team — there were rumours that they have been brought over by the organisers, the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) at their cost — was heavily courted. The team talked of an upcoming Hollywood-meets-Bollywood kind of an event at the store where Indian designers could be on display and the organisers were ecstatic. A designer from Delhi, Anshu Arora Sen, became the star of the show after being “discovered” by Selfridges.

The international people were highly sought after for their advice to aspiring Indian designers. The Selfridges team spoke at length on business basics — how to approach a store, and ended up saying that Indian designers, though not lacking in talent, were wanting in marketing skills.

But even more interesting were the demands of international fashion from India. While at London, Paris, New York or Milan, a designer would be appreciated most for his “handwriting”, for clothes from India, it seems, an Indian element is obligatory with the other requirements. The stress is on the “international look with an Indian soul”. Yet the Indian element should not be overstressed. The people in London should be able to wear it.

“We want the contemporary look from India. We don’t want to reinforce stereotypes,” said Liz Riding from Selfridges, who approve of Tarun Tahiliani (doesn’t the surname have an Italian ring?), Rohit Bal and Pratap. What’s required is a fusion of what’s perceived to be “Indian” and what’s “global”.

But isn’t that a stereotype in itself?

“No,” said Fern Mallis, the spirit behind the successful New York Fashion Week, who had dropped in here towards the end of the event. However, she added: “There’s a duality going on here.” Like in fusion food, fusion music, and should one even add fusion literature, as in Jhumpa Lahiri or Arundhati Roy?

“But the Indian event, for the time being, like other new fashion weeks in other parts of the world, is geared to the domestic market,” she concluded.

Which brings us to the people who felt most neglected.

The Lakme week was subtitled “The Business of Fashion” and was meant to attract the tradespeople — the retailers, wholesalers and store-owners — to designers. But the tradesmen, some of whom were even ready to overlook the price tags, were largely disgruntled. A leading store owner from Mumbai wrote to a newspaper saying he was there at the stalls but there was no designer around. An executive from Shopper’s Stop, who spoke at length to the designers on what a retailer wants, looked bewildered by a show.

“But this is not pret,” he was heard saying.

On the other hand, though some designers left happy with some business and a lot of “interested queries”, they grumbled that what the retailers wanted were typical stuff already available in the market, copies of big names. That would not require their handwriting or even their “signature”.

No wonder Sumeet Nair of the FDCI, the man behind the show, is thinking of holding a training in business for designers, sometime at the end of this year.

   

 
 
SECURITY ALERT IN NORTH 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Siliguri, Aug. 14: 
Authorities have beefed up security in all six districts of north Bengal to thwart possible militant strikes on Independence Day.

Inspector-general (north Bengal) N.R. Das said: “A high alert has been sounded in all police stations in six north Bengal districts following reports of possible militant strikes on Independence Day. Additional security forces, including the Rapid Action Force (RAF), Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFR) and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), have been deployed in the region.

“Siliguri, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar towns have been identified as being highly vulnerable to militant attacks.”

Das added that apart from enhancing vigil on the rail-road network, security has been tightened along the state and international borders. Vital installations like oil pipe lines, airport, bridges and railway stations are being manned round the clock.

   
 

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