Union discovers eve-teasing villain: revealing dress
Mandal rides Rajnath plank back to UP
Singhania, Sena on warpath
New-look FM sings Sushma’s song
CPM suspends MP over dinner
Moopanar’s son elected TMC chief
Ayodhya temple plot slur on Delhi
Bengal misses tourism bus
Letter lottery cons Andhra credit-card holders

 
 
UNION DISCOVERS EVE-TEASING VILLAIN: REVEALING DRESS 
 
 
FROM ANAND SOONDAS
 
Lucknow, Sept. 1: 
In a classic case of victims being further victimised, the Lucknow University Students Union (Lusu) has “appealed” to girl students to “desist from indecent behaviour” as a solution to the increasing cases of eve-teasing and sexual harassment on the campus.

Putting the blame for the spiralling incidents of harassment squarely on the victims — a recent study by the Women’s Studies department has showed that each girl student on the campus is harassed or teased at least five times a day — the Lusu has “advised” the girls to come “properly dressed” as the problem lies not with the boys, but with “girls who come to campus wearing revealing clothes”.

Maintaining that only a “few” boys indulge in eve-teasing, Lusu office-bearers have come to the conclusion that if girls don’t wear jeans and skirts to college and stick to salwar kameez, preferably with a dupatta, the complaints of harassment would dry up.

The student body feels it is the girls’ responsibility to see to it that they don’t foment trouble. Moreover, girls should head home immediately after classes, the “appeal” adds.

Zealous students bent on imposing “bharatiya sanskriti” on the hapless girls have planned a fashion show as part of their annual cultural day next week that will showcase “traditional and homely dresses”.

Ironically, though home minister L.K. Advani has promised to give women a lion’s share of tickets in the next Assembly elections to ensure “less bias and more equality”, the message has not percolated to the ABVP, the BJP’s students’ wing, which is spearheading the dress code campaign.

Rajesh Singh, an ABVP activist, feels that the whole trouble lies with “our Indian women” trying to ape western culture.

Maintaining that boys will be boys, he added: “If the girls wear provocative clothes, the boys will obviously start acting funny, no one respects women who don’t respect Indian tradition and culture.”

But the “appeal” has not gone down well with the girls. “They have no business advising us on what we should wear. Why don’t they first ask the boys to stop hurling bombs and abusing teachers on the campus,” fumed Amrita, a student. Fed up with the way things are going, girls, helped by some teachers, have decided to protest and hand over a memorandum to the vice-chancellor.

There are a few stumbling blocks though. “It will take some time to mobilise support among the girls to launch a campaign against the gender insensitivity and dress code movement,” said Nishi Pandey, a professor of English. Adding that there is a problem even in staging a decent protest, she added: “Most of the girls are scared and want to avoid trouble.’’

However, some girls surrounding her rushed to add that the protests are on and whatever the numbers, they will ensure that their point is well made both to the vice-chancellor and the chief minister.

The university authorities have also woken to the problem. They have divided the campus into six zones and delegated six teams, including teachers and police personnel, to keep a round-the-clock watch on the activities of unrepentant Romeos. The decision was today given a formal stamp of approval by D.P. Singh, the vice-chancellor.

But even the patrolling committee knows that in the wild campus, prevention is the best cure. The committee members have been asked to advise girl students to “spend their spare time in the libraries and classrooms and not loiter around the campus”.

   

 
 
MANDAL RIDES RAJNATH PLANK BACK TO UP 
 
 
FROM RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
 
New Delhi, Sept. 1: 
If Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee resurrected the Ayodhya issue by stating that a solution would be found before March 2002, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Rajnath Singh did his bit to heighten the state’s political temperature by redefining the reservation norms for the other backward castes (OBCs) and Dalits.

In the process, Mandal, too, has made a comeback in Uttar Pradesh politics, reviving memories of the 1991 general elections when the polls were fought on the issue of mandir and Mandal.

Mandir won, but only temporarily because with the Babri mosque’s demolition, the Hindu-Muslim divide became fuzzy once the more well-entrenched caste polarisations surfaced. Mandal emerged the victor when the OBC-Dalit combine, represented by the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party (SP-BSP) alliance, romped home in 1993. If the next Assembly elections are dominated by the mandir-Mandal issues, which of them is likely to triumph?

It seems the reservation plank may have the upper hand. A day after Singh released the report of the Social Justice Commission that he set up to identify the most backward castes (MBCs) to create a separate reservation quota for them, the Samajwadi and the BSP went one up on him and demanded that reservation be determined on the basis of population. That means OBCs ought to get a 52 per cent share.

The commission has suggested to increase OBC reservation from 27 to 28 per cent, but in the process it has sought to prevent the “creamy layer” of the “upwardly mobile” backward castes from cornering the major share of the pie. The Yadavs and Ahirs, perceived to be the major beneficiaries of Mandal, will get just five per cent of the reserved jobs once the recommendations are implemented. Similarly, the Jatavs — who formed the upper crust of the Dalit community — will be entitled to just 10 per cent of the total 21 per cent quota for the Dalits.

Observers believe that while this strategy may not yield tangible dividends for the BJP in the form of bulk votes, it might help the party divide the OBCs votes, stemming Mulayam Singh Yadav’s and Mayavati’s ambitions to wrest power from the BJP.

In the last Lok Sabha polls, the OBCs, including the lower rungs who have now been categorised as the MBCs and extremely backward (EBCs), rallied behind Mulayam. The results of the subsequent byelections confirmed this trend. An OBC-Muslim consolidation was a sure-fire winner. The social axis Mulayam has crafted was bolstered by the disenchantment of the upper castes towards the BJP.

It appears that if the BJP can sell Singh’s gameplan and fuel the sentiment of the MBCs and EBCs as being the “underdogs” in the Mandalised system that benefited the “elitist” OBCs “disproportionately”, it would be a job well done.

   

 
 
SINGHANIA, SENA ON WARPATH 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Mumbai, Sept. 1: 
The battle between industrialist Vijaypat Singhania and Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray is escalating into a war with the Sena deciding to sue Singhania’s Thane hospital, its cadres had vandalised last Sunday for the “negligence” death of its leader Anand Dighe.

As Singhania, chairman of the Raymonds Group, turned up the heat on Thackeray and sought a public apology from the leader for the Sena-sponsored vandalism, the party started consulting lawyers and doctors to make a case of negligence against doctors who had attended Dighe.

Doctors at Thane’s Sunitidevi Singhania Hospital said Dighe had died of a heart attack shortly after they operated on his legs fractured in a road accident. They denied any negligence on their part and blamed the death on his “poor” heart condition.

But Sena leaders, preparing to sue the hospital, said the doctors should not have operated on Dighe when he had a heart problem. They accused the hospital authorities of not taking enough precautions beforehand.

Angered by the news of Dighe’s death, who was Sena’s district president and popular among the workers, Shiv Sainiks rampaged through the two-storied hospital on the Raymonds compound in Thane, trashing its furniture and torching ambulances and cars in the parking lot.

Sena activists broke into a Raymonds showroom and looted it. They stoned and damaged cars, buses and autorickshaws across the neighbouring industrial city, before shutting down the district last Monday in a strike. Several reporters and photographers covering the mayhem were assaulted.

Local residents and newsmen accused police officers of standing by as Sena supporters rampaged through the city. Police said they were too few to deal with the mob because of deployment for the ongoing Ganapati puja.

An upset Singhania spoke out against the vandalism on a visit to the hospital last Monday and called for a public apology from Thackeray. Unlike several industrialists who had silently put up with the Sena’s arm-twisting in the past, the Raymonds boss did not mince words and asked the Sena to pay for the damage to the hospital running into several crores.

Taken aback by the “temerity” of the industrialist, the party shot back. While the Sena chief preferred to keep quiet, his son Uddhav Thackeray railed against Singhania for publicly castigating the party. He said the Sena chief did not approve of the violence and he himself had called up the industrialist to apologise.

Uddhav refused to own up for the violence, blaming it on “spontaneous” reaction of the Sena supporters. He accused the industrialist of “opening” the wounds through his remarks when many Sainiks felt that the hospital had neglected Dighe.

Singhania stuck to his guns, despite veiled warnings from the Sena leadership. He met chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and lodged a strong protest against the role of the police.

While deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal, who is also home minister, backed the Thane police, saying they were overstretched that day because of Ganapati puja, the government ordered an inquiry into the incident.

“Vijaypat Singhania did the wrong things by asking Bal Thackeray to apologise,” Thane mayor Ramesh Vaitay, a Sena leader, said. “We are ready to apologise if the industrialist asks us to do so. But there is no question of Balasaheb apologising.”

As Singhania remained insistent, Sena leader Raj Thackeray, nephew of the party chief, upped the ante. “We are ready to pay for the damage to the hospital as Singhania demanded provided the hospital gives us our leader Dighe back.”

A source in the Raymonds House said they were ready to face any case, but would not easily let off the guilty.

   

 
 
NEW-LOOK FM SINGS SUSHMA’S SONG 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Sept 1: 
How does the “autonomous” Prasar Bharati Corporation begin a new radio channel? By getting the Union minister for information and broadcasting, Sushma Swaraj, to narrate to listeners at the inaugural what her personal favourites are, of course.

Swaraj told those who cared to listen — and the audience in the studio was delighted — that one of her favourites is the R.D. Burman-scored Ek ladki ko dekha to aisa laga... from the film 1942: A Love Story.

“I saw the film with my husband. My daughter was also there. When this song came on, my husband kept looking at me starry-eyed, as if it was being played for me. The song instils a feel-good factor,” she said, tittering. In the song, the hero (Anil Kapoor in the film) describes how he is smitten by his lady love (Manisha Koirala).

It is probably not the first time that ministers’ tastes have taken to the airwaves. But it is still something when the minister insists she, unlike several predecessors, will never use the national broadcaster for self-advertisement. Also, Prasar Bharati is supposedly autonomous — independent of government control — and FM2 is being shaped as a wholly news and current affairs channel.

From the studio at Broadcasting House here, listeners in the capital and the four metros were treated to madam’s likes and dislikes in music through the years.

“In my childhood, I liked dehati (rural) songs,” Swaraj said. “In the morning, I like bhajans, in the afternoon, I prefer sad songs and in the evening, dhoom-dharake music.”

A pre-recorded interview of the “ever-smiling Sushma-ji” was played out before the audience in the studio and broadcast immediately after Hariharan’s rendering of ghazals as part of the inaugural function. Swaraj was seated in the studio — minutes earlier she had formally launched the channel — staring sometimes at the white ceiling and sometimes at the wall as her voice floated over the airwaves and the loudspeakers as she heard her voice filling the room. The audience in the studio laughed at her anecdotes, on cue.

AIR has been promising that FM2 will change the listening experience. Touted as an infotainment channel, FM2 will offer a mix of news and entertainment programmes. “The objective is to make it a wholly news and current affairs 24-hour channel,” Prasar Bharati CEO Anil Baijal said. “Right now we start with 18 hours of programming, about a third of which will be devoted to news and current affairs.”

The regional station directors in Calcutta, Chennai and Mumbai, who will be responsible for all content on FM2, have been asked to regionalise programmes steadily. To start with, however, FM2 content produced in Delhi will be networked. For the broadcaster, “news” is not “current affairs” and current affairs is of course not news.

So, drivers negotiating rush-hour traffic — probably the largest contingent of FM listeners in cities — will be treated to the “news” produced in-house by AIR. They can then hope for more spicy information on “current affairs” produced by private broadcasters for AIR.

The reason for this divide lies in the rules that govern broadcasting by AIR. The rules forbid broadcasting of news on radio by private producers. It is peculiar that such rules should determine broadcast content when newspapers and television channels are privately run, when Doordarshan’s erstwhile monopoly over news on the airwaves has vanished. But that is the way it is.

AIR has roped in four external producers for current affairs: Market Mantra, a programme of business news in English and Hindi will be produced by Raman Nanda, a former BBC man who now runs his own firm Media Arc; Market Mantra in Hindi will be produced by Rahul Dev of Samyak. Niret Alva of Miditech will produce Travel Trail. A daily breakfast show Good Morning Bharat will be produced by Asia Pacific Communication Associates.

   

 
 
CPM SUSPENDS MP OVER DINNER 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Sept. 1: 
The CPM today suspended Rajya Sabha member Bratin Sen Gupta from its parliamentary wing for attending the Tuesday dinner that Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee hosted for NDA partners at his residence. Sen Gupta had six months to go before his term ended but the CPM cracked the whip on him for a “grave mistake — a serious breach of party discipline”.

Sen Gupta accepted his punishment. “I have embarrassed the party and the action they have taken is minor. I accept it humbly,” he said. Earlier, Sen Gupta had said he had done nothing to hurt his party. “I thought it was a dinner hosted by the Prime Minister. So I went.” He added that he left without having dinner as soon as he realised that it was a party hosted for NDA partners.

Sen Gupta, however, maintained that he had done nothing unusual. “There have been at least 15 such dinners hosted by the Prime Minister (that) I had attended in the past,” he said.

   

 
 
MOOPANAR’S SON ELECTED TMC CHIEF 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Chennai, Sept. 1: 
The Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) today elected G.K. Moopanar’s son, G.K. Vasan, president of the party.

Vasan’s name has been doing the round since Moopanar took ill. Even as the preparations for Moopanar’s cremation was under way, pressure was mounting in the party to make Vasan the chief. “Our party workers will not accept anybody else as he is the most natural choice,” a TMC source said.

When Moopanar’s condition had turned critical, party functionaries had informally met and decided to elect Vasan “working president”, sources said. But Moopanar’s family members were averse to the idea for “sentimental reasons”, sources said, adding his death changed the situation. The TMC’s general council will meet to ratify the election of Vasan.

Vasan was the unanimous choice of both old-timers and youngsters for taking over as president at a meeting of party MPs, MLAs, office-bearers and district chiefs at Sathyamurthy Bhavan, the TMC’s headquarters, here. The meeting, in which former Union minister Jayanthi Natarajan participated, was presided over by TMC legislature party leader S.R. Balasubramoniyan. His name to chair the meeting was proposed and seconded by TMC MPs Peter Alphonse and B.S. Gnanadesikan.

Moopanar had declined to nominate Vasan to the Rajya Sabha recently. It is learnt that the 37-year-old Vasan has been catapulted to the top slot to avert a split.

   

 
 
AYODHYA TEMPLE PLOT SLUR ON DELHI 
 
 
FROM RASHEED KIDWAI
 
New Delhi, Sept. 1: 
Muslim organisations suspect that the Centre is planning to hand over the “undisputed” area around the Babri masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi site to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and thus clear the way for the construction of the Ram temple.

Members of the Babri Masjid Action Committee and the All India Muslim Personal Law Board said they would approach Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu, Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, DMK chief M. Karunanidhi and other “secular components” of the National Democratic Alliance to intervene if Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee starts following the “VHP agenda”.

Zafaryab Jeelani, a member of the Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC), said he and other members of the personal law board had met Naidu, Mamata and the others some time ago to discuss the issue. Jeelani said they had assured them that the Centre would not do anything which was not part of the National Agenda for Governance.

The assurance has, however, not dispelled the unease of the organisation’s members. Muslim leaders monitoring the Ayodhya developments suspect that the government has come to an understanding with the VHP and fear some “activity” outside the 2.77 acre disputed plot.

“There is a 48-acre land around the disputed area that was acquired by the Centre. If the Centre releases that to the VHP, it will mark the beginning of the temple construction,” a Muslim leader said.

Jeelani said the Centre had no “locus standi” of taking such a drastic step. “We will move the Supreme Court the moment the Centre decides to act on these lines,” he said.

Jeelani said Vajpayee’s statement on Ayodhya were aimed at strengthening the BJP for the coming Uttar Pradesh polls.

“The whole issue has been built up to strengthen Hindutva forces in Uttar Pradesh for the Assembly polls. The BJP is losing the support of the majority community and now it is again trying to hoodwink them. Vajpayee’s remarks are, therefore, nothing but a political stunt,” Jeelani said.

As a counter-move, Mushtaq Ahmad, a lawyer involved with the Babri case, has moved the Liberhan Commission, which is probing the events leading to the demolition, to summon Vajpayee in the wake of former BJP MP D.B. Ray’s “disclosure”.

Ray, who was the senior superintendent of police of Faizabad, when the disputed structure at Ayodhya was demolished, had said that Vajpayee was privy to the conspiracy.

Mushtaq urged the commission to take note of Ray’s “disclosure”. Union parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan, however, denied Ray’s charge in the Rajya Sabha. The commission said Justice Liberhan would give due consideration to Mushtaq’s pleas.

In a related development, Vajpayee’s remark that he was in touch with some Muslim organisations and individuals for an out-of-court settlement of the dispute has led to considerable furore within the Muslim community. Mufti Shahar Qari Sami, a prominent leader from Kanpur, was gheraoed a day after he was photographed with Vajpayee in Lucknow. The Mufti had to issue a statement clarifying that he had nothing to do with the government regarding the Barbi talks.

The names of former Union minister C.M. Ibrahim, Ajmer dargah diwan Zainul Abedin, National Minorities Financial Development Corporation chairman Qari Mohammad Mian Mazhri and one Siraj Qureshi are doing the rounds as some of those leaders who are in touch with Vajpayee.

   

 
 
BENGAL MISSES TOURISM BUS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Sept. 1: 
West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s do-it-now mantra seems to exclude the tourism department.

While 13 states will vie to hardsell tourism at a conference and exhibition on rural tourism to be held in Udaipur, West Bengal is conspicuous by its absence.

Though the state was presented with the concept of developing Santiniketan as a focal point of rural tourism, the West Bengal department of tourism did not respond.

The department, known in industry circles for its lackadaisical approach to tourism promotion, has also missed out on a project to develop pilgrim centres as tourist destinations. Union tourism minister Ananth Kumar had recently informed the Rajya Sabha about 48 tourism infrastructure projects, costing Rs 16.5 crore, under way in various pilgrim centres in the country. Not surprisingly, West Bengal did not figure in the list.

Presenting the plans for the conference to be held on September 8 and 9, Amit Mitra, secretary general of Ficci, said the organisation had set a 10-year time-frame for the rural tourism project to take off. The conference has adopted the logo Chirmi, which is a song sung by rural women comparing their virtues with the goodness of Chirmi seed.

“It is important to market India in diverse ways and rural tourism is the focus of the future. Rural tourism is experience-oriented rather than destination-oriented,” Mitra said. According to him, the draft tourism policy has a special section on rural tourism.

While the conference will discuss various aspects related to rural tourism, the exhibition will showcase craft and cultural traditions. Ficci is aiming at local involvement in the development of rural tourism.

During the press briefing, Mitra released a Ficci study on development perspective on rural tourism in India, prepared in collaboration with A.F. Ferguson & Co. The study, identifying circuits where rural tourism can be started with minimal effort, gives a successful model of rural tourism in Indonesia.

Given that tourism is seen as an “engine of growth”, Mitra pointed out some key elements like the “multiplier effect”. According to him, with each 1 million additional visitors, there will be a return of Rs 4,300 crore. And for each additional Rs 1 million invested, there will be creation of 3,657 jobs both direct and indirect.

Jayanta Sanyal, senior consultant and member, Planning Commission presented a paper on rural tourism at 17th IATO annual convention. Sanyal cites the development of Pragpur, a heritage village in Himachal Pradesh, as a development model. It is a good example of sustainable development in which the whole village became involved. Sanyal, who is consultant to CII and Assocham, is hardselling rural tourism as a new experience in tourism.

Chirmi is being organised in association with Udaipur Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The conference, which will be inaugurated by Ananth Kumar, will be attended by Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Haryana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.

   

 
 
LETTER LOTTERY CONS ANDHRA CREDIT-CARD HOLDERS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Hyderabad, Sept. 1: 
Several gullible credit-card holders in the state who thought they had hit a jackpot were duped by a fake lottery company.

In July, several credit-card holders received prepaid letters announcing a proposal for winning 2.3 million Australian dollars.

“About 75,000 such letters were despatched to card-holders,” said a senior IPS officer in-charge of the crime department.

The letters from one M/s Prospects Pvt. Ltd, based in Australia, said to gain entry for a game on the Internet card-holders had to shell out 19 Australian dollars.

Two weeks later, the same company issued letters to about five per cent of the applicants saying that they had had won the first prize of 2.3 million Australian dollars.

The company in its message, which was routed through the Internet, gave three options to claim the prize money. a) payment by cash; b) credit to bank account; c) credit to credit card account.

However, no one got the prize money in cash. Those who chose the credit-to-credit-card option found that their accounts have been debited by 19 Australian dollars as “processing charges” since they had given the authorisation letters. Only the ones who went for credit-to-bank-account option were spared.

“Since national banks do not accept debits by e-mail, the transactions did not take place,” the police said.

According to the police, about Rs 2 crore has been swindled by the lottery organiser. M/s Prospects Pvt. Ltd does not exist, the police said. The Sydney address given on e-mails and the letters were bogus.

“Those gullible have been duped,” the police said.

   
 

FRONT PAGE / NATIONAL / EDITORIAL / BUSINESS / THE EAST / SPORTS
ABOUT US /FEEDBACK / ARCHIVE 
 
Maintained by Web Development Company