Breach of trust notice on Sinha
Agra host no-balls Pakistan Test tour
Swati visited Dubai a week before kidnap
Letter ruse in land sharks’ den
Centre’s sleep spoils basmati broth
Sensitivity crash-course for top cops
Kargil school-shift fury greets Farooq
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, Aug. 21: 
The government was placed in the dock once again on the UTI mess with a privilege notice being moved in the Rajya Sabha against finance minister Yashwant Sinha for breaching the trust of the House and “misleading” it on the US-64 freeze.

Rajya Sabha chairman Krishna Kant has agreed to consider the notice brought by Congress member Kapil Sibal.

There was trouble in the Lok Sabha as well with former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar alleging that a Mumbai-based industrial house had a hammer lock on the government’s decision-making process. He claimed the group had siphoned off more than Rs 1,070 crore from UTI and distributed the money to “fake companies”. Shekhar said he had written to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee but had not received any acknowledgement.

In a move unprecedented in the country’s parliamentary history, Sibal moved the privilege motion alleging that Sinha had misled the House by stating that sacked UTI chairman P.S. Subramanyam had kept him in the dark on his decision to freeze the US-64 scheme.

To buttress his claim, Sibal produced a copy of Subramanyam’s bail application filed in a Mumbai court, in which he claims that the decision was taken on the advice of the finance minister.

Quoting extensively from the bail application and from news clippings on it, Sibal said the UTI chief had written to Sinha on May 18 and June 30, informing him of UTI’s problems. “The UTI chairman, in his application, claimed that the finance minister had advised him to either allow redemption of US-64 units at base price or to suspend the sale and purchase of the flagship scheme,” he said.

The Congress MP said Subramanyam met the minister on July 2, hours before the UTI board meeting where the decision to freeze the scheme was taken.

The Opposition, however, will have to travel a long way before Parliament acts on the notice. In case Krishan Kant agrees to take up the notice, it will have to be moved for the consideration of the Lok Sabha Speaker since Sinha is a member of the Lower House. Only if the Speaker takes cognisance will the notice be put up before the Privilege Committee headed by the Congress’ Jaipal Reddy.

Usually a person facing breach of privilege pre-empts censure by apologising. But however light the punishment might be, red faces abound in the BJP. Senior Cabinet members conceded that a privilege notice against such a senior minister was “unprecedented”. Sinha, already wilting under criticism, could find himself increasingly alienated in the party since rumblings in the Cabinet are becoming louder that he has not been able to either get the economy going or put a cap on financial bunglings.

Sibal’s charges threw the House into turmoil with BJP leaders objecting to the bail plea being dragged in on the ground that it was sub-judice.


New Delhi, Aug. 21: 
It’s all right for captain Atal Bihari Vajpayee to invite rival skipper Pervez Musharraf for a three-dayer. But it’s not all right to throw Sourav Ganguly’s Eleven before the pack of hunters led by Waqar Younis.

Ending months of speculation, India tonight decided not to take part in the second Asian Test championship due to begin on August 29.

The decision was taken at a meeting between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, home minister L.K. Advani and foreign minister Jaswant Singh. The discussions followed a letter written to Vajpayee by sports minister Uma Bharti, a hardliner on Pakistan, a few days ago.

The tournament is to begin in Multan with a match between defending champion Pakistan and Bangladesh. India was to have started its campaign with a Test against the hosts in Karachi in September.

India and Pakistan had last met in a Test series in early 1999. But cricket ties turned rocky after the Kargil war broke out a few months later. The government cancelled a proposed Test tour of Pakistan late last year and has put an unofficial bar on bilateral cricket contacts with Pakistan at non-regular venues such as Sharjah and Toronto.

Sources said the government, under attack from various flanks, may have been prompted to take the decision to avert a showdown with hardliners. Ally Shiv Sena, which had slammed Vajpayee for inviting Musharraf and had then pointed the finger at the PMO on the UTI scam, would have found another stick to whip the government with. Also, with the Uttar Pradesh elections round the corner, the Prime Minister is unwilling to send the wrong signal to the hawks who want him to toe a hard line on Pakistan.

In Calcutta, Asian Cricket Foundation president Jagmohan Dalmiya refused to comment, saying he would do so “only after receiving official confirmation from the Indian government”. The cricket board, too, declined to speak. “It’s a government decision. How can I comment?” BCCI secretary Jaywant Lele said.

The Asian Cricket Council, however, accused India of “going back” on its “commitment” and said the event will go on. “It was (BCCI president) A.C. Muthiah who had obtained permission from the Indian government and worked out the schedule at the ACC meeting in Lahore sometime back,” council secretary Zakir Sayed said in Islamabad. “Having given permission, it is strange on the part of India to go back on its own commitment,” he added.

There’s one man though who will heave a huge sigh of relief at not having to face the Pakistan quickies. No prizes for guessing who.


Calcutta, Aug. 21: 
A week before the abduction of Khadim’s owner Parthapratim Roy Burman on July 25, Swati Pal had visited Dubai and spent a couple of days there, an examination of the arrested bar singer’s passport has revealed.

Swati was arrested along with her associates Jamil Ahmed and Abdur Rehman in Mumbai in connection with the kidnapping by a criminal gang based in Dubai. While her passport was found to be genuine, the Mumbai address entered in it was false.

Swati and her associates were brought to the city this evening and were rushed for interrogation under heavy police escort. The police said the three had visited the city “some time before the kidnapping” to network with a group of local criminals.

The police had earlier traced several ransom calls both to the Roy Burman house as well as to a ring of Dawood Ibrahim associates, who had collected the ransom money in Hyderabad, to Dubai.

Yesterday, another “kidnap facilitator”, so far identified as Pawan, had been arrested by the Hyderabad police for siphoning off the ransom money through the hawala route. “He is part of this entire kidnap drama,” said Hyderabad commissioner of police P. Ramulu.

According to Ramulu, Pawan had escorted the Roy Burman family representative who had arrived in Hyderabad on July 29 to hand over the ransom money. “Pawan was with him for 24 hours till the payment of Rs 3 crore was completed in a city hotel,” he said.

Ramulu said Pawan was in touch with both the “Dubai kingpin” as well as Swati and Jamil. “The role of the two in this crime is certain because we have printouts of cellphone calls being made by Pawan to these two in Mumbai,” Ramulu said.

In a joint raid last night, a Mumbai police-CID team picked up three associates of Jamil Ahmed and Abdur Rehman from Dongri and Bandra. Since Sunday, six different Mumbai police-CID teams had fanned out in different parts of the city, including Tilaknagar, Chembur, Byculla and Santa Cruz to trace the four criminals who had travelled from Mumbai to Calcutta to kidnap Roy Burman from Tiljala. The police had taken Swati, Rehman and Ahmed along with them to act as “guides”.

“Though the four have so far proved to be elusive, we believe the three who have now been detained will provide fresh information on the kidnapping,” said Mumbai police commissioner M.N. Singh.

Singh said the three are also wanted for crimes in Mumbai and may not have any direct hand in the Calcutta kidnapping, but have the potential to take the police to the four missing abductors. “They are, after all, associates of Rehman and Ahmed who are wanted in several cases of abduction and killings,” Singh said.

Another abduction suspect, Rabindranath Das, who used to run an ashram in Salt Lake, Adhwatik Ishwariya Vishwavidyalaya, before his arrest, was grilled by the police for several hours today. The police said he identified Swati as “Manu”, the daughter of an ashram inmate. The police believe Das had given shelter to some of the abductors in his ashram when they had come on their reconnaissance mission to the city.


Calcutta, Aug. 21: 
“Listen, your time is up. You will have to die.”

These words were preceded by a date, August 13, 2001. Just to make sure that the recipient got the message, there was a reminder that it was the day the chairman of the neighbouring Dum Dum Municipality, Sailen Das, was gunned down in front of his residence.

The recipient of the letter, which arrived in an innocuous postcard on Monday, was the CPM councillor of ward 4 of South Dum Dum Municipality, Makhan Choudhury. The purported senders: “Dum Dum Trinamul Congress”.

Choudhury, who has seen the often-turbulent and violent politics of Dum Dum from very close quarters since 1965, officially complained to Dum Dum police on Tuesday, a day after receiving the threat. Police officers later said they were verifying the identity of the purported senders of the letter. “We are checking whether a section of Choudhury’s own partymen sent the letter to throw us off the Sailen Das murder-probe,” an officer said.

Even Choudhury feels Trinamul may not be behind the letter. “The sender might have thought it prudent to bring in Trinamul’s name as it is our main opposition,” he said. The message the senders want to convey, however, is clear to the 63-year-old councillor. “The letter is a fallout of my rivalry with local promoters,” he said.

But the senders had succeeded in “frightening” him, Choudhury claimed in the complaint (general diary number 1915 dated August 21). A police visit to his residence — officials said they went there to make enquiries — was not enough, he said, explaining that Das’ murder had changed the rules of the game.

“Sailenbabu’s murder has showed that unscrupulous realtors will not stop at anything,” Choudhury added.

Only last Saturday, he had an altercation with some local promoters who were trying to fill up a 50-cottah pond in his ward, he said. He had repeatedly warned the promoters not to “touch” the pond, Choudhury added.

The alleged realtors, however, paid no heed to his warnings. On Saturday, they brought trucks filled with mud to fill up the pond. “I rushed out of my home and asked them to stop,” Choudhury said, recalling the incident. “When they paid no heed, I called up Dum Dum police station.”

Before the police arrived, however, the pond-fillers fled, leaving behind only one of the trucks they had brought along. The truck was seized and no claimant had come forward to take it back till Tuesday, the police said.

Choudhury claimed he came in the way of another promoter in 1999, forcing him to pay a fine of Rs 1.33 lakh for adding another storey to a three-storeyed building in the neighbourhood. “The municipality passed the plan for a three-storeyed building later named Sadhan Apartment,” Choudhury recalled. “But an inspection revealed that the promoter had added another storey illegally,” he added.


New Delhi, Aug. 21: 
Put this down as just another cock-up by the government: India lost the basmati patent case to US seeds giant RiceTec simply because it delayed bringing out a gazette notification claiming ‘basmati’ as a geographical brand like champagne or Scotch whisky.

Top officials from the ministries of commerce, agriculture, food and external affairs met here today as part of a crisis management group to consider the implications of the US patents and trademarks office’s recent ruling in favour of RiceTec.

They were forced to admit that a simple notification on the lines of the one made for Darjeeling tea could have helped India demolish RiceTec’s arguments. This would have spiked its claim that its brands were superior to basmati or that basmati is a generic description of a variety of rice.

An Act allowing geographical brands was cleared by Parliament but the government later moved to amend it. However, this did not pre-empt the government from coming out with a notification on basmati on the basis of an Ordinance, admitted officials. If it had not been for the tardiness of the government, “things might have been totally different”, an official said.

The only thing lawyers representing the Indian commerce ministry’s arm — Agricultural Products Export Development Authority — could extract from the US patents office was the withdrawal of some of the tall claims made by RiceTec, which would have given it exclusive rights to rice germplasm from virtually all parts of the world, including northern India, the Americas and the Caribbean islands, and to 90 per cent of the basmati strains.

The US patents office has, however, upheld RiceTec’s claims to three rice strains which it has developed and which it claims is superior to basmati. “However, our group decided to prepare a face-saving note for commerce minister Murasoli Maran, which he will place in the Lok Sabha tomorrow,” an official said.

The reply is likely to try and show off RiceTec’s withdrawal of some of the claims as the Indian government’s big victory without acknowledging the fact that it has cleared its basmati derivatives through the US patents office. RiceTec has even been permitted to claim that its product is “superior to basmati” in the packaging.

Maran, who will be drafting his speech on the basis of a note finalised by this group, is likely to point out that India has successfully concluded a case against RiceTec in the UK where it was stopped from using the brand names, Texmati and Kasmati. He may highlight the brighter side of things by stating: “RiceTec has never claimed it has exclusive rights to use basmati”.

Maran will also say that the government’s contest of RiceTec’s case has resulted in the cancellation of “wide-scoped” claims posing a potential threat to export of basmati rice from India to the US. Commerce ministry officials have also advised Maran that with the rejection of these claims, “the commercial interests of Indian exporters have been fully protected”.


Chennai, Aug. 21: 
Hemmed in by criticism about police “high-handedness”, Jayalalitha marked her 100th day in office today with a sermon to the law-enforcers on repositioning themselves as a “compassionate, good-willed and a people-friendly” force.

In a hard-hitting speech in the Assembly, the chief minister said the entire police force should not be tarred with the same brush.

“I am myself doing the sensitisation by advising top officers, from the DGP to the SP level, on the human side to policing,” she said while replying to a supplementary from the DMK’s E. Pugazhendhi, who wanted to know whether a crash course launched for the police covered senior officers, including the Chennai police commissioner (read K. Muthukaruppan).

The top officers will in turn instruct their subordinates on the niceties of human interface, she added.

Jayalalitha said she had carried out a thorough review of the police department — which comes under her purview — and had stressed on the need to “resensitise” the force. Being people-friendly had emerged as one of the priority areas to be tackled immediately.

Jayalalitha argued that it was not always the police only who used harsh language during investigation to ferret out information. They are also subject to verbal abuse by anti-socials. “Even the women police in the state are not free from the pain of eve- teasing,” she said.

The chief minister said a five-day “resensitisation training programme” for the women police had begun yesterday at the Police Training College.

Experts from diverse fields, including psychology and human rights activists, have been invited. Stating that a similar programme was also on the cards for all the 80,000 men constables across Tamil Nadu, Jayalalitha said new recruits will also be covered under this resensitisation course.

She charged the previous DMK regime with ignoring the “all-women police station” project she had launched during her earlier tenure. The refresher course was aimed at helping the women police officials return to their posts with added vigour, she added.

Jayalalitha claimed that despite inheriting a “virtually bankrupt treasury”, the ADMK had managed to continue with welfare programmes.

She highlighted the revamped “cradle baby scheme” to fight female infanticide, the plan to reclaim 20 lakh hectares of cultivable wasteland in the state and the government’s decision to waive the interest and penal interest on farmers’ crop loans availed from cooperative banks to the tune of Rs 310.5 crore.

The DMK scoffed at the claim. Opposition leader K. Anbazhagan told the Assembly that though the government had allocated Rs 100 crore to the waiver scheme in this year’s budget, the actual extent of the benefits availed by farmers will be known only after the ryots had repaid the principal amount by October 30, the extended deadline.

Anbazhagan explained that farmers are entitled to the interest-waiver only after they repay the principal. Therefore, he argued, the government’s contention of a Rs 310-crore waiver was unrealistic.

Jayalalitha stood her ground, claiming that money circulation in the state’s economy will improve in the coming months as her government was removing the fetters step-by-step.


Srinagar, Aug. 21: 
Kargil today erupted in agitation and arson over the shifting of a school, scalding visiting chief minister Farooq Abdullah.

District officials escorted Abdullah, half-a-dozen ministers and officials, including chief secretary Ashok Jaitley, to the airport, from where they flew back to Srinagar without addressing a scheduled public meeting as tension mounted and the police fired teargas shells and led a baton charge to quell protesting students.

Joined by hundreds of residents, the students, who were protesting against the shifting of the higher secondary school to the outskirts of the town, took out a procession, shouting anti-government slogan and torching National Conference flags. The protest soon turned violent and the mob attacked the make-shift podium — put up at a park for the chief minister’s rally — and torched it. The police then cracked down on the agitators.

As the cool climes of Kargil sizzled, the authorities deployed more police and paramilitary forces to maintain order.

A senior official in Kargil said over phone that the protests began early this morning with students staging a sit-in at the venue of Abdullah’s rally to demand a bus service to the new school and concession in fare.

A resident said several students were injured in the baton charge. “We are facing hardships. There are no teachers in the schools. Corruption in government departments is rampant. We are a neglected lot,” he added. The shopkeepers pulled down shutters to express solidarity with the students.

Abdullah had come to Kargil with senior ministers and top state officials for a joint meeting of the Cabinet and the district development board, held under tight security. The meeting decided to spend Rs 3 crore to reconstruct the infrastructure damaged during the flare-up in Kargil two years ago.

Valley of death

In stepped-up operations across the troubled state, over a thousand militants were gunned down by security forces and policemen over the past eight months. In the same period, 359 army, paramilitary and police personnel were killed and 872 injured in counter-insurgency operations.

Those killed from January to August 15 this year include 76 officers and 232 soldiers of the army and paramilitary forces, 46 special police officers (SPOs) and five village defence committee (VDC) members.

According to an official spokesman, 1,059 militants were killed and 49 militants surrendered along with arms and ammunition.

Civilians bore the brunt of the conflict with 1,070 persons dying and another 1,372 receiving injuries in the various incidents of violence in the state from January.

The spokesman said 880 AK-47 rifles, one lakh rounds, 2,377 magazines, 219 pistols/revolvers, nine UMGs, three light machine guns and self-loading rifles were recovered during various operations.

In addition, 227 rockets, 24 rocket launchers, 2,517 grenades, 1,535 kg of RDX, 651 kg of explosives, 250 improvised explosive devices, 91 anti-personnel mines, six anti-tank mines, 1,346 detonators, 351 electric detonators, 291 wireless sets and 22 binoculars were also recovered.




Maximum: 27.9°C (-4)
Minimum: 24.6°C (-1)


51.2 mm

Relative Humidity

Maximum: 96%,
Minimum: 87%


The weatherman warns that the wet patch is not quite over yet.Expect a shower or two.
Sunrise: 6.05 am
Sunset: 5.59 pm

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