Noose tightens after twin arrests in Khadim’s case
Mighty Atal squeezes out the meek
Jagmohan chants old mantra in new mantle
Sharad falls from air pocket to labour camp
Cong CMs snub ‘junior’ Buddha
Maran takes arrest muscle to Mexico trade ring
Santa Sinha showers sops on Kashmir
Atal’s high-stakes poll gospel reaches UP flock
School aid for disabled
Bollywood lines up Bhagat bonanza

 
 
NOOSE TIGHTENS AFTER TWIN ARRESTS IN KHADIM’S CASE 
 
 
FROM OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, Sept. 3: 
A CID team in Hyderabad today arrested another hawala operator, Anwar Firoz alias Bablu, for his connivance and involvement in the Parthapratim Roy Burman abduction case.

With the help of a task force in Hyderabad, the CID picked up Firoz from a hideout in the city. This was the sixth arrest from Hyderabad in the Khadim’s kidnap case.

During interrogations, police came to know that Firoz was a middleman in the hawala racket. He confessed his involvement with Kareemuddin who was arrested from Hyderabad earlier.

“It is confirmed that Kareemuddin had transacted the ransom deal and also sent it to Dubai via the hawala route through Firoz and Altaf,” said one of the senior officials of the Hyderabad task force.

In Calcutta, police arrested notorious criminal Dipak Das from Dum Dum believed to be the local pointsman in the Khadim’s kidnap case.

Das, wanted by the Dum Dum police for the past two years on several charges, including murder, was picked up from his Madhugarh home last night. Sudip Roy, the officer-in-charge of Dum Dum police station, who led the raids, said four revolvers and several incriminating documents were recovered from Das.

During investigations, the CID came to know that the entire plan was masterminded by Raju, a Dubai-based don. “Raju along with his three associates operated the abduction through their net-work. We have already appealed before the Alipore sub-divisional magistrate to execute a warrant order against Raju and his accomplices through Interpol,” said a CID official.

According to CID sources, the investigators are close to nabbing the local contact people. The CID officials now know that the abductors had changed their white Maruti car which was used to pick up Roy Burman from C.N. Roy Road.

“After leaving C.N. Roy Road, Roy Burman was taken in a red Maruti car. They then went to Dum Dum area. For the entire stretch, they were escorted by a red motorcycle,” said a senior official. “Das controls crime in the Dum Dum area. We believe it was not possible for the abductors to take Roy Burman straight to Dum Dum without Das’s knowledge. But we cannot link him to the abduction unless we get any evidence against him,” the official said,

With the arrest of Firoz from Hyderabad, the investigators said all persons arrested in connection with the Khadim’s abduction were active members of Raju’s network. “All of them worked as a chain to pick up Roy Burman,” the official added.

Police made a string of arrests in the last two days after bar-singer Swati Pal confessed her links with Mumbai- and Dubai-based gangsters.

In a pre-dawn swoop, officials of the Intelligence Bureau arrested Taher Ali and Seba Mandal from Burdwan town. Inspector-general, IB, A.K. Abral, interrogated the duo for over 10 hours.

B.N. Ramesh, the superintendent of police, Burdwan, did not rule out the possibility of the involvement of the duo in Roy Burman’s abduction.“We are verifying all aspects,” he said.

   

 
 
MIGHTY ATAL SQUEEZES OUT THE MEEK 
 
 
BY MAHESH RANGARAJAN
 
New Delhi, Sept. 3: 
Atal Bihari Vajpayee ended the monsoon session with a sweetener for the BJP. He tightened the party’s hold on the Cabinet and sent a clear message to ambitious allies. Having begun the monsoon session by shaking up the parliamentary party, the Prime Minister has now firmed up its morale.

The sidelining of Ram Vilas Paswan is the centrepiece of the reshuffle. His ability to use his ministry for patronage had drawn fire from his larger ally. Uma Bharti’s public comment that he was “Prime Ministerial material” only served as a lightning rod for his opponents.

Of all the partners, he alone heads a party with a major presence in three Hindi-belt states. Besides being a Dalit, he also packs a lot of experience having held the portfolios of labour, parliamentary affairs and railways in the past. Along with Sharad Yadav, he was driven to the BJP’s side by the compulsions of politics and has always been suspect in the eyes of the RSS for his central role over a decade ago in pushing through the Mandal agenda.

Both are relative latecomers to the alliance, having joined only two years ago. And this is the clearest indication that the honeymoon is giving way to a struggle for dominance. Their being pushed to the margins comes only months after another senior ex-socialist, George Fernandes, exited from the Cabinet over the Tehelka disclosures. There are now 12 ministers from Bihar, but the saffron party is leaning in favour of its own MPs.

The logic of the reshuffle in terms of economic policy is also significant. By placing both communications (Pramod Mahajan) and civil aviation (Shahnawaz Hussain) in the trusted hands of younger BJP members, Vajpayee has also reassured his party that critical ministries will not be shared with allies.

It has not been lost sight of that the more lucrative portfolios are now virtually all concentrated with the major party. Wider secular changes in the economy and the international climate have also eroded the patronage that went with key ministries held by allies. Murasoli Maran’s beat of commerce and industry is not what it was in the pre-WTO days. Manohar Joshi of the Shiv Sena has no patronage to dole out as heavy industries minister.

In an interesting twist, the one Cabinet minister who has held on to a key ministry with scope for patronage is famous for having the instinct of a cautious bureaucrat rather than a man who spreads the spoils: Nitish Kumar.

The saffron party is doing what it does best. It is squeezing out weaker allies who have no option but to fall in line with its wishes. The Janata Dal (United) with its 21 members in the Lok Sabha could have been a strong force, but it splintered into three groups. Each key leader is becoming more marginal by the day.

It has been a feature of coalition government that there be a tussle for power between the largest and the smaller partners. Majority status within an alliance does not assure dominance, but can be acquired through careful manoeuvres and timely tactical moves.

Regional parties have acted as backseat drivers in the United Front governments. This is not the case with the present ruling alliance. Each of its key allies is proving vulnerable to pressures. The Shiv Sena raised the stakes at the start of the session but had to eat humble pie. The DMK, having lost a state election, is now dependent on the Centre, and the Akali Dal is facing a difficult election next year.

The two strong chief ministers who could have played an assertive role in the NDA regime, Chandrababu Naidu and Om Prakash Chautala, have opted to keep their parties out of power. This actually increases their ability to wrest concessions while limiting the influence of the Prime Minister on their MPs. Significantly, both head single-party ministries in their respective states. Their Orissa counterpart, Naveen Patnaik, is too new a player to know the tricks of the game.

The BJP has its own share of worries, some of which are reflected in the balancing acts in the new ministry. Shourie’s elevation is a sop to the middle classes who cheer his pro-reform image. Conversely, apprehensions about the political fallout of his policies have led to Jagmohan’s move out of urban development. The veteran Karia Munda has been brought into the Cabinet in the time-honoured Congress practice of accommodating chief ministerial aspirants at the Centre.

The Sangh parivar as a whole and the party in particular have reason to be pleased with the new line-up. Like the leader of any cadre-based organisation in a coalition, Vajpayee has elbowed his allies out of the best perches. The challenge now will be containing their disaffection while retaining their allegiance.

   

 
 
JAGMOHAN CHANTS OLD MANTRA IN NEW MANTLE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Sept. 3: 
Jagmohan, who took over as tourism minister this evening after initial reluctance, looks set to carry to the new job the activist zeal that had earned him enemies during his earlier stint in the urban development ministry.

The minister said he was still undecided about his course of action. But he made it clear that there would be a connection between his new responsibilities and the tasks he had accomplished in the urban development ministry. All the improvements he had undertaken for Delhi would pay dividends, Jagmohan added.

“A well-organised city is the best guarantee to attract tourists. After all, who would want to come and visit a city, which is described as the fourth most polluted city in the world?” Jagmohan asked, iterating the connection between urban development and tourism.

He recounted the beautification drive that he had undertaken in Delhi and Varanasi. Jagmohan reeled off the number of parks that he had spruced up in Delhi, the encroachments that he had removed and the improvements he had made in the Rajghat area.

Jagmohan has always had a penchant for imposing order on areas under his control. He mentioned that as the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, he had initiated the building of a road going up the hill to Vaishnodevi temple.

He had removed beggars and lepers thronging the road, arranged for proper illumination and other facilities besides improving a road to Vaishnodevi. The inflow of tourists had jumped from 3 lakh per year to 50 lakh, he claimed.

Jagmohan said India’s civilisation and philosophy are its unique assets. Selling this concept, “this thought process to the incoming tourists, would certainly give a fillip to tourism.

The minister denied that lack of resources was a constraint. What mattered, instead, was a poverty of ideas, he said. “The biggest resource is the inventiveness of the mind and the creativity one can bring to ones work.”

   

 
 
SHARAD FALLS FROM AIR POCKET TO LABOUR CAMP 
 
 
FROM MONOBINA GUPTA
 
New Delhi, Sept. 3: 
Sharad Yadav, the minister who lost civil aviation, may have been pushed from the frying pan to the fire. Tackling disinvestment of Air India could look like child’s play compared to the economic and political complexities of pending labour laws in the new ministry he has been put in charge of.

Yesterday he sulked about his new job. This morning, he officially took charge of labour ministry and said he will work towards a “consensus” on the sticky labour law reforms that had proved to be the undoing of Yadav’s predecessor Satyanarain Jatiya.

Jatiya refused to draw up the changes in the Industrial Disputes Act and Contract Labour Act—— both aimed at ‘rationalising’ labour laws, facilitating easy closures and retrenchments. Sources said Jatiya, a former BMS leader with anti-reform leanings, had angered the Prime Minister by taking his pro-labour fight right to the heart of the RSS and delaying labour law reforms.

So he was out. And Sharad Yadav, a hardened Mandalite, forever pitching in for the backward castes, was in. Both, according to their friends, fell prey to what they called “the designs of corporate groups and cheer leaders” of globalisation.

For Yadav, the perils of labour ministry are going to be no less hazardous than the civil aviation ministry. Like Jatiya, he will be egged on to take a stand on labour law reforms and scores of other difficult issues that go hand in hand with economic restructuring.

The pro-Mandal minister is not going to find it heartwarming to sanction labour law reforms that will put thousands of jobs in the unorganised sector on the line.

If the new labour minister appears more willing than his predecessor to approve the labour law reforms he may find it difficult to win another election from Bihar. After all, the economy is steadily going downhill, jobs are becoming more and more scarce, and workers, especially those on the margins, who are likely to be most affected by the labour law changes, are having to struggle harder than ever for survival.

The genesis of Yadav’s friction with the government and the Prime Minister is not going to disappear when he moves to his new ministry. Disinvestment, labour laws, displacement and marginalisation of workers are all part of the larger picture of the WTO and globalisation. As labour minister Yadav will have to continue to swallow bitter pills if he wants to stay on the right side of the government.

His colleagues in the party are already talking about another Cabinet reshuffle in October. At the moment, the Prime Minister can afford to overrule recalcitrant ministers who are heading parties with a tiny spread in the Lok Sabha. The sheer helplessness of their situation has forced the ministers to take charge of ministries they do not want to head.

On the face of it an uneasy truce has been struck —- a truce fragile enough to break at the next provocation.

   

 
 
CONG CMS SNUB ‘JUNIOR’ BUDDHA 
 
 
FROM RASHEED KIDWAI
 
New Delhi, Sept. 3: 
The “crusade” against saffronisation of education can wait. Chief ministers of non-NDA parties have a more important political agenda — one-upmanship.

It was one-upmanship that prevented many Congress chief ministers from attending the chief ministers’ conference in Delhi on Sunday. Digvijay Singh, S.M. Krishna, Ashok Gehlot, Vilasrao Deshmukh and others stayed away because the host, West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, was “too junior”.

Compared to Bhattacharjee’s less-than-a-year tenure, Digvijay is about to complete eight years at the helm of Madhya Pradesh, while Maharashtra’s Deshmukh and Rajasthan’s Gehlot have about three years each. Nagaland’s S.C. Jamir is the senior-most with his tenure spreading over a decade and a half.

Among the 11 chief ministers belonging to the Congress, only Delhi’s Sheila Dikshit turned up because she “personally felt strongly about the government’s efforts to saffronise education”. Sources close to A.K. Antony said the Kerala chief minister was also keen on joining hands but did not want to be seen playing second-fiddle to the Left because of his state’s “political compulsions”.

Moreover, Bhattacharjee, according to them, had failed to make up for his inexperience through striking up a personal rapport or sounding Sonia Gandhi. The Bengal chief minister made no personal calls requesting the chief ministers to attend. Nor did he seek clearance from Sonia. “It was a written invitation so I asked my education minister to represent my government,” said a chief minister who left for his state on Sunday while the conference was on.

There was a “political side”, too. “It was the Congress’ way of giving it back to the Left parties in the same coin over their failure to show up at a tea party last month hosted by Sonia in her capacity as the leader of the Opposition. The Left parties in Parliament had stayed away though they went and attended a similar tea party hosted by reforms guru Manmohan Singh in a room next to Sonia,” Congress sources said.

The sources said CPI leader A.B. Bardhan had gone to the extent of justifying their absence by accusing Sonia of having an “attitude problem”. The AICC chief and Congress big-wigs had then swallowed the humiliation. Now, by staying away from Bhattacharjee’s conference, the party, sources said, had “got even” with the Left.

Most of the chief ministers of Congress-ruled states were in Delhi in connection with the National Development Council meet on Saturday and had stayed back to call on Sonia and the AICC general secretaries in charge of their states.

Congress spokesman Jaipal Reddy, however, tried to downplay the “virtual boycott” by his party chief ministers. He pointed out that all Congress-ruled states had sent their education ministers for the meet. “What difference does it make whether the chief minister or the education minister was present. What matters is the... participation and it was there.”

He denied that the high command had directed the chief ministers to stay away and said they had taken their “individual decisions”. Congress sources explained Dikshit’s presence as part of “protocol” because the meet was held in Delhi.

Digvijay today tried to explain why he stayed away but his explanation was far from convincing. The Madhya Pradesh chief minister said saffronisation of education was not an issue in his state.

Bengal CPM secretary Anil Biswas was scathing. He said the decision of the Congress chief ministers not to attend because Bhattacharjee was “too junior” betrayed a “certain political naiveté”. “If anything, Buddha must be taken as the chief minister of a state which is known for articulating the country’s concerns.”

   

 
 
MARAN TAKES ARREST MUSCLE TO MEXICO TRADE RING 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, Sept. 3: 
It may turn out to be a replay of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) all over again. With little over two months to go for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial meeting in Doha, India is pursuing the global charge against a new round of talks on international trade.

Strikingly out of tune with India’s minuscule role in world trade, commerce minister Murasoli Maran was a central figure at a mini-WTO meeting in Mexico during the weekend.

The meeting was called by Mexico to provide “political direction” to the Doha meeting and avoid the pitfalls which sabotaged the last such meeting at Seattle in 1999.

Maran’s image for the participants, who included his counterparts from the US, Japan, Canada and the European Union, was painted in terms of the ugly brush he had with the police when DMK leader Karunanidhi was arrested in Chennai recently.

He was also portrayed as an uncompromising opponent of economic liberalisation, citing the controversy he presided over as industry minister in the affairs of Maruti.

But to everyone’s surprise, the minister was a picture of sweet reasonableness during the weekend, but only in form.

The stage for Maran’s performance was set at a breakfast for trade ministers of developing countries, hosted by Mexican trade minister Luis Derbez on Friday. At the breakfast, Maran sought and obtained a Third World consensus on the Indian stand taken at the meetings that followed during the weekend.

In substance, he was uncompromising and demanded action before the Doha meeting on 93 issues of concern which India had put before the WTO three years ago.

Maran did not get a “satisfactory” response from the WTO, but US trade representative Robert Zoellick and EU trade commissioner Pascal Lamy offered concrete progress on implementation of unfulfilled agreements before Doha, during the November ministerial meeting and in the course of a new round of trade talks which the two men are campaigning for.

There was a broad consensus in Mexico that an agreement on the agenda for the Doha meeting should be forged by the end of this month.

Maran, however, successfully fought — what is known in negotiations as the “green room process”— an attempt by a group of countries to force a contrived consensus on everyone else, as in the UN Security Council.

Maran and Derbez agreed that 18 countries meeting in Mexico could not decide on behalf of 142 countries which will attend the Doha conference. India is being taken seriously in the run-up to the November ministerial meeting for two reasons.

First, Maran announced that about a dozen developing country ministers would meet in Geneva later this month to give shape to their strategy in Doha. It is reasonable to assume that this strategy would include blocking a new round of world trade talks, which the US and other like-minded states consider vital for rescuing a sagging world economy.

Plans for the Geneva meeting sent a clear signal in Mexico that Third World countries, led by India, had gone beyond rhetoric and planned united action.

Second, memories of the Seattle debacle are fresh in the minds of most trade ministers and they have a sense of deja vu about Doha.

Three months before the Seattle conference, South Asian trade ministers had issued a joint warning that there was no consensus on a new round of global trade negotiations: that warning was contemptuously dismissed with the disastrous collapse of the ministerial meeting.

In a virtual replay of that scenario, trade ministers of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) last month issued a stronger warning and vowed to fight the new round of global trade talks.

If the Geneva meeting and other confabulations among developing countries lead to a confrontation in Doha, it will be a re-run of the events at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva five years ago.

Then, and during the years of negotiations on CTBT, India had led the fight to make the treaty more acceptable to the “have-nots” and eventually have it blocked altogether when the efforts failed.

If that was to happen, Maran, as in the recent confrontation with the Chennai police, may cast himself in the role of an international Robin Hood.

   

 
 
SANTA SINHA SHOWERS SOPS ON KASHMIR 
 
 
FROM DEVLIN ROY
 
Srinagar, Sept. 3: 
When militancy can’t be solved through political means, try the money route.

This has been the practice in the Northeast — it’s hard to tell if any chief minister has missed announcing a package for the region and promptly forgotten about it — and Yashwant Sinha brought it to Jammu and Kashmir today.

The finance minister announced a slew of financial sops for the state, including direct credit disbursement of nearly Rs 1,200 crore during the current fiscal year to revive an ailing economy.

Speaking after a high-powered meeting with heads of various banks and financial institutions in the presence of chief minister Farooq Abdullah, Sinha said the measures would address the long-pending demand of the state to kickstart its militancy-hit economy.

The measures announced are aimed at faster implementation of infrastructure and power projects, reviving sick industrial units and ailing public sector units through institutional support, extension of moratorium period for state financial corporations, re-opening of closed nationalised bank branches in rural areas, promoting the kisan credit card scheme to boost agriculture and setting up of task forces for three sectors.

As a result of the initiatives, credit disbursement is expected to go up to nearly Rs 5,000 crore by March 2002 as against Rs 3,874 crore as on March 31, 2001. Of this, Rs 250 crore will be additional sanctions by Nabard and the rest by banks and institutions.

Sinha said Rs 301 crore has been released by the Centre for sick units with loans up to Rs 50,000. For those having loans above Rs 50,000, the Centre is expected to shortly take a decision on a revival package modelled on what else but the northeastern variety.

“There is a need to revive and rehabilitate existing sick units for which the state has prepared a comprehensive scheme, only if FIs and banks participate,” Sinha said.

“The emphasis will be on new medium industries in areas like fruit and vegetable processing, sericulture, floriculture, etc.”

Sinha said rehabilitation schemes will be drawn up and need-based relief will be given to all financial institution-assisted units, which have turned sick, in the next three months.

“The state will also engage expert consultancy to prepare a comprehensive revival plan for deserving public sector units,” he said.

Sinha has directed all licensed public sector bank branches, which are lying closed in rural areas, to be re-opened before this calendar year with staff to be recruited locally. “The RBI has assured that licences for fresh branches will be given liberally,” Sinha said.

Among other measures, the J&K State Financial Corporation has won a Rs 35-crore concession on the repayment of a loan to the Small Industries Development Bank of India.

A consortium of financial institutions will address the long-pending issue of financial closure of the 900-mw Baghliar hydro-power project in two weeks. “The state government has given its commitment to arranging the necessary security requirement of FIs in accordance with the package already prepared and discussed between state officials and FIs,” Sinha said.

Three task forces are being set up: on agricultural credit, handicraft and handlooms and on large and medium industries and industrial infrastructure. “These task forces, to be constituted by the chief secretary, will be permanent bodies which will meet regularly,” Sinha added.

   

 
 
ATAL’S HIGH-STAKES POLL GOSPEL REACHES UP FLOCK 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Sept. 3: 
The BJP top brass have taken Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s message that the Uttar Pradesh polls would have a “serious bearing” at the national level right down to the state party cadre.

Briefing reporters today, party spokesman and general secretary Sunil Shastri said: “The main reason for giving this message was because Uttar Pradesh has always been a BJP stronghold. Therefore, we want to strengthen it further.” Shastri was among a team of six senior BJP functionaries who separately covered the 403 Assembly constituencies of Uttar Pradesh.

Party chief Jana Krishnamurthi led the delegation, which also included Kailashpati Mishra, Pyarelal Khandelwal, Kushabhau Thakre and Narendra Modi.

Shastri, who checked out 40 Assembly segments in eastern Uttar Pradesh, claimed there was “tremendous enthusiasm” among grassroots workers. “The main reasons were the workers felt the Central leadership was backing them completely in the poll preparations and they were getting involved in the process through booth-level meetings,” he said.

Uttar Pradesh BJP sources said visits by central leaders were necessary to “repair” the damage done to cadre-morale by the infighting among the state’s top leaders. “If this state of affairs continues and our leaders do not bury their differences, the BJP is doomed. Only frequent visits by the Central leaders can make some difference,” said a source.

The other reasons for the “enthusiasm”, sources said, were chief minister Rajnath Singh’s decision to reserve a separate quota in education and jobs for the most backward castes (MBCs), sacking of former power minister Naresh Aggarwal and giving teachers salary hikes as per the Fifth Pay Commission’s recommendations.

Shastri refused to accept the charge that Rajnath’s move to benefit the MBCs was a political gimmick .

Asked why the policy was not implemented by the NDA government — given the fact that the Mandal Commission’s recommendations were enforced through an executive order signed by former Prime Minister V.P. Singh — he said: “It is up to the states to rectify whatever damage is done to the backward castes. All BJP-ruled states are free to follow this policy as and when it is necessary.”

A report on the Uttar Pradesh tour will be placed before central office-bearers when they meet in Jodhpur on September 12 and 13. Shastri said the meeting — to be chaired by Krishnamurthi — will deliberate and finalise an organisational strategy for the polls. The election strategy, he added, would be in place as and when the elections are announced.

The spokesman denied reports of the BJP’s “decline” in Uttar Pradesh and that the Samajwadi Party was on a roll. “The way our strength is growing has had the SP, the Bahujan Samaj Party and even smaller parties like the Apna Dal very worried. SP workers are spreading the story of a secret understanding between the BJP and the BSP,” Shastri said.

“Mayavati has alleged that Mulayam Singh Yadav and Rajnath Singh are working in tandem. And the Apna Dal has claimed that all three — the BJP, the SP and the BSP — have a hidden alliance. This proves that the BJP is a force to reckon with,” he added.

   

 
 
SCHOOL AID FOR DISABLED 
 
 
FROM AMBEREEN ALI SHAH
 
New Delhi, Sept. 3: 
Fifteen schools in Delhi have admitted physically challenged children in their attempt at “inclusive education”.

“This is a new style of education that brings all children together. Some modifications will be made to meet the education needs of all,” said Madan Mohan Jha, joint secretary, school education, in the ministry of human resource development.

The St Mary’s School at Safdarjung was one of the first to start inclusive education. The school has introduced an elevator and wheelchairs for the physically challenged.

The school is taking steps to introduce the same facilities at its Dwaraka branch. “At present we have only one child who does not have an ear. But we will soon admit more physically challenged children,” said Sheila Matthew who is in charge of the management of the Dwaraka branch.

Besides St Mary’s, Columbus, Kendriya Vidyalaya and Nayak School are some of the institutes which plan to introduce inclusive education.

“Initially, physically challenged children had bad experiences and could not mingle with their classmates. Some of them even refused to go to these mixed schools. But with the help of parents and teachers, school children were made more sensitive in dealing with physically challenged children,” said a member of the Spastic Society of Northern India.

“Of late, both the Centre and schools have become more receptive towards this system of education. At present, 500 children go to such schools,” said the member.

Suneeta Sharma’s son cannot walk properly. She, too, is in favour of this system of education. “Rajiv walks slowly, but he is as intelligent as other children. By putting him into a mainstream school, he will probably not feel he is different,” she said.

Saarc countries are reported to have the largest number of physically challenged persons in the world. These countries — India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Bhutan — are trying to make special education a component of the general education system.

The idea of inclusive education is now influencing the development and restructuring of schooling in many countries. The UN convention on the rights of the child states that disabled children have the “right to active participation in the community” and that their education should lead to the “fullest possible social integration and individual development”.

   

 
 
BOLLYWOOD LINES UP BHAGAT BONANZA 
 
 
FROM CHANDRIMA BHATTACHARYA
 
Mumbai, Sept. 3: 
If a dead Indian hero contest were held today, Bhagat Singh would win it hands down.

Even as the fireworks of Gadar and Lagaan go on at the box office, at least four projects have been finalised on Bhagat Singh, the revolutionary who was hanged by the British at the age of 23.

Two of the films have —heavyweights behind them — actor/producer Sunny Deol and director Raj Kumar Santoshi. Iqbal Singh Dhillon is making another film on Bhagat Singh while the fourth one is being made by the veteran Manoj “Bharat” Kumar.

Chandra Shekhar Azad, who too died young after fighting the British, often by Bhagat Singh’s side, is also in demand. Abhishek Bachchan is playing Azad in a film to be directed by Priyadarshan of Virasat fame, while Sunny is said to have the same role in his home production on Bhagat Singh.

A number of other films are high on nationalism, like Sunny’s next release Indian and a J.P. Dutta movie on Kargil for which work is in progress.

The bumper crop of patriotic movies has something to do with the success of Lagaan and Gadar. “Many projects have gathered momentum after these hits,” says a trade analyst. But industry-watcher Taran Adarsh of Trade Guide feels so many films on Bhagat Singh are “merely a coincidence”.

Or are they?

The editor of a film journal says from Bollywood’s point-of-view, the martyr has the right credentials.

There have already been three films on him before.

“The romance and the tragedy of Bhagat Singh’s life, a life which ended at 23 for the cause of the country makes him the fit subject matter for Bollywood. His life would offer highly charged emotional situations.

“Moreover, he was a heartland hero, another thing that may have endeared him to Bollywood,” he adds.

Bhagat Singh’s life would make for a high-voltage Bollywood script. Ditto for Azad. Bhagat Singh was born to a Sikh family in a Punjab village (now in Pakistan) in 1907. The Ghadar (revolt) movement left a deep impact on his mind and the Jallianwala Bagh massacre drove him to Amritsar from where he brought back some blood-soaked soil home. During the Simon Commission protests, Sher-e-Punjab Lala Lajpat Rai was wounded and died later. To avenge his death, Bhagat and his friend Rajguru targeted to kill police chief Scott, but shot a junior officer by mistake. Azad was also involved in the killing.

Bhagat Singh fled Lahore. But when the British government promulgated the Trade Union Dispute Bill and the Public Safety Bill that he felt were aimed at curbing citizen’s freedom, he decided to protest by throwing a bomb in the Central Assembly Hall (now Lok Sabha). He was arrested and hanged — his request to be shot dead was not granted.

Azad’s life runs parallel to Bhagat Singh’s. Apart from being involved in the killing of the police officer, he was part of the Kakori Conspiracy (1926) and the attempt to blow up the Viceroy’s train (1926), the Assembly bomb incident, the Delhi Conspiracy and the Second Lahore conspiracy.

In 1931, in Allahabad, when an associate betrayed him, policemen circled Azad. For quite some time he held them at bay single-handedly with a small pistol and few cartridges. Left with only one bullet, he fired it at his own temple, keeping his resolve that he would never be arrested and dragged to gallows to be hanged.

He was only 27.

Santoshi’s film is slated to have Ajay Devgan playing Bhagat Singh, but the director was also thinking of someone younger, for Devgan would obviously have problems looking 23 or less.

Vijeta Films, Sunny’s production company, is slated to start shooting in two months. It looks set to be a family matter with Bobby Deol playing Bhagat Singh and Sunny playing Azad. “However, the cast has not been finalised yet,” said a Vijeta Films production executive. Nobody is asking how Sunny will look 27.

   
 

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