Central rule jitters for Jaya
Hind Motors in austerity drive
Parties veto FIR election bar
Buddha trip
Osama backers in UK saw it coming
Indians shift loyalties after tower attack
Delhi ponders Atal tour fate
Anytime is prime time for horror
Atal looks to drive home vindication
Hunt on for Wipro missing four

 
 
CENTRAL RULE JITTERS FOR JAYA 
 
 
FROM OUR LEGAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Sept. 13: 
Attorney-general Soli J. Sorabjee today told the Supreme Court that the Tamil Nadu government could be dismissed under Article 356 of the Constitution.

Sorabjee’s contention came in response to a specific query from the five-judge bench hearing petitions challenging Jayalalithaa’s appointment as chief minister. The court had asked about the consequences of Jayalalithaa’s removal from office. It had also pointed to a possible scenario in which her legislators continued to re-elect her and no other party or group was able to form an alternative government.

Sorabjee, in his written reply, said: “In the extremely unlikely event of the party, which enjoys the confidence of the House, not nominating a leader or a person for appointment as chief minister, and in view of the inability of any other party to form a ministry and form the government, there would be breakdown of the constitutional machinery in the state which would attract Article 356 of the Constitution.”

Political circles have been agog with reports that Jayalalithaa could precipitate a constitutional crisis.

Observers said she could trigger the crisis by making her MLAs repeatedly elect her and by passing a resolution saying they would not elect anyone else. In this event, too, the President would have no option other than invoke Article 356 to dismiss the state government. The marathon arguments in the case concluded today. Justice S.P. Bharucha, who is heading the full Constitution bench, announced in the open court “Judgment reserved”. The verdict could be pronounced anytime after a week or 10 days.

Political circles followed the arguments, which went on for six days and spread over two weeks, with avid interest because of the nature of the case and its political implications. Although convicted, Jayalalithaa is seen as a formidable force with the ability to make or unmake an alternative arrangement at the Centre in this coalition era.

P.P. Rao, who appeared for the state of Tamil Nadu, wound up his submissions with an aggressive argument — “human beings are fallible and judges are human beings also”.

   

 
 
HIND MOTORS IN AUSTERITY DRIVE 
 
 
BY SUTANUKA GHOSAL
 
Calcutta, Sept. 13: 
Hindustan Motors has come up with a series of austerity measures for its 7,700 employees at its Uttarpara plant in Hooghly.

The measures include freezing of dearness allowance, reduction of manpower, adjusting privilege or sick leaves against non-productive days and giving bonus at the rate of 8.33 per cent. Employees have been told the measures are vital for the survival of the plant, which is passing through a crisis.

The management had put forward the proposals before representatives of both Citu and Intuc and had sought cooperation from the trade unions to tide over the crisis.

The move to freeze dearness allowance and reduce the workforce has been strongly opposed by the employees. “They are violating the basic employment rules,” one employee said about the proposal to freeze the allowance.

On the rationalisation of the work force, a long-standing demand of the management, the unions feel there has already been a substantial reduction. The total number of employees, which stood at 9,954 in 1998, has come down to 7,700 in the current financial year, they said. The two unions have already taken up the issues with the state government.

Labour minister Mohammed Amin has called a meeting on September 20 to find a solution to the problem so that industrial relations in the factory are maintained. The minister has called both the unions to participate in the meeting.

The unions, which called a joint meeting today, have decided to stop work at the factory if the management tries to implement any of the austerity measures before the meeting with the labour minister.

Samar Chakroborty and Ajit Chakroborty were present at the meeting on behalf of Intuc. Sukhendu Biswas and Sunil Sarkar represented Citu.

During April to September, out of 163 working days, the company has declared 44 days as non-productive. The employees said it was unfair on the part of the management to adjust the non-productive days against privilege or sick leaves.

“The management is declaring non-productive days so that the inventory shoots up. It is no fault of ours,” the employees added.

   

 
 
PARTIES VETO FIR ELECTION BAR 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Sept. 13: 
Majority of the political parties today rejected the Law Commission’s recommendation barring a candidate from contesting elections if there was a FIR filed against him or if he had been chargesheeted by court.

The BJP, Congress and the Left parties told law minister Arun Jaitley at a meeting this morning that the grounds for disqualifying a candidate must be based on ground reality. “And today political workers and leaders are continually framed by their adversaries — and there are caste and religious disputes,” said CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan after the meeting.

The meeting reflected the political compulsions of different parties that led them to take differing stands on issues. For instance the DMK and the Trinamool Congress were for greater stringency in laying down rules for electoral reforms while the BJP, Congress, Left, ADMK and RJD favoured what they called a “pragmatic” approach.

Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Laloo Prasad Yadav, present at the meeting, blasted the government for gunning for political leaders. “Why are they just focussing on political parties for finding criminals?” Laloo questioned.

The Jayalalithaa case obliquely figured in the discussions. Majority of the political parties, barring the DMK and the Trinamool Congress, stressed it was not correct to bar a person from contesting elections, if after being convicted by a trial court he had an appeal pending in the higher court. To this, the DMK raised loud objections while the Trinamool Congress said that candidates on the eve of elections, should, declare their assets — not only their personal wealth and property but also that of his party.

“Most of us however said that anyone whether a beggar or a millionaire should be free to contest polls. At best what can be suggested is that after the polls the elected candidate should declare his assets,” said Bardhan.

The other issue that prominently figured at the meeting was state funding of elections. Most of the parties were against the state doling out cash to fund elections.

   

 
 
BUDDHA TRIP 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Sept. 13: 
In another 48 hours Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will embark upon his maiden trip as chief minister amid speculations about the outcome of the trip as it is coming about in uncertain times caused by the terrorist attacks in America.

On Saturday, leading a three man team, Bhattacharjee will leave for a week long-tour of Japan in course of which he will meet industrialists, chambers of commerce, government ministers and officials of the .He will return on september 22.

This is for the first time that a chief minister from Bengal is going abroad leading such a small team for securing proposals for investment in projects in Bengal. The compulsion to control expenditure is believed to have forced Bhattacharjee to pick a small team. Principal secretary Amit Kiran Deb, Tarun Das, director-general of the Confederation of Indian Industries and industrialst R.P. Goenka will accompany him.

During his stay in Japan, Bhattacharjee will meet the president of the Electric Power Development Corporation Ltd and officials of Indo-Japan Business Cooperation Committee. The chief minister will also meet the president of Mitshubishi Chemicals Corporation and officials of the Japan Federation of Economic Organisations. He will also visit Hiroshima on September 21. Bhattacharjee will also meet T.Fuwa, chairman of the Japanese Communict Party at Tokyo on September 19.

In Bhattacharjee’s absence, industry minister Nirupam Sen, will look after the working of the government, CPM state secretary Anil Biswas indicated.

   

 
 
OSAMA BACKERS IN UK SAW IT COMING 
 
 
FROM SHRABANI BASU
 
London, Sept. 13: 
Two Islamic militants living in Britain, who recruit British Muslims for jihad in Kashmir and are supporters of Osama bin Laden, said the US had it coming. The attacks in New York and Washington were the consequences of US foreign policy in the Muslim world, they added.

Sheikh Omar bin Bakri Muhammad, founder of the Britain-based al-Muhajiroun group, who boasts of recruiting young British Muslims for jihad in Kashmir said: “I was expecting this to happen and it’s about time the Americans paid. I regret the death of innocent people but in our hearts we are very happy.”

Anjem Choudhury, a Pakistan-born lawyer who heads al-Muhajiroun, said: “People in Britain must realise that Muslims throughout the country and across the world are celebrating today.”

Another Muslim leader, Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Masri, the imam of the North Finsbury mosque and a former mujahideen in Afghanistan, said the US policy in West Asia had designed a “pressure cooker without a vent”. To find those responsible, he said: “America will have to go back and see whom they have provoked the most.”

The Islamic militants and their followers here are not making any effort to hide their glee. Outside the Finsbury Park mosque, there was graffiti celebrating Tuesday’s attacks. One picture showed a plane crashing into the Pentagon, which had “evil” written inside it. Another drawing showed a plane crashing into the World Trade Centre. The words below it read: “WTC U R Dead.”

Sheikh Bakri, a Syrian exile and a disabled cleric, said he believed that those responsible would have come from the international jihad movement, which he described as “the right hand of Osama”.

Bakri had earlier openly supported the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed over 200 people.

Though Britain’s new anti-terrorism law makes it an offence to support any terrorist group, the two imams still live openly in London and address Friday prayers. The al-Muhajiroun has bases across the world and aims to establish a world Islamic state. It recruits and trains young Muslims for jihad.

The new law, which came into force this March, proscribed several Muslim groups, including Harkat-e-Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Al Qaida headed by bin Laden.

The organisations have been traced as responsible for recruiting many British Muslims to fight jihads in Kashmir, Chechnya and Palestine. In fact, Ahmed Omar Sayeed of the Harkat-e-Mujahideen — a 26-year-old former student of the London School of Economics — had kidnapped three Britons in 1994 and was one of the terrorists released by foreign minister Jaswant Singh to secure the release of the hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC 814 in Kandahar.

Birminghman-based 24-year-old Bilal Ahmed was the suicide bomber who drove into an army barrack in Srinagar on Christmas Day last year and killed several soldiers. He belonged to the Jaish-e-Mohammed.

The list grows longer. Another British Muslim Khalid al Fawwaz, 37, allegedly one of bin Laden’s lieutenants, is charged in a conspiracy case in connection with the US embassy blasts.

He is in a British jail at the moment, awaiting extradition to the US.

An Al Qaida fax claiming responsibility for the blasts was sent out from a grocery shop in Willesden near Fawwaz’s house.

A Saudi dissident like bin Laden, he was living in Dollis Hill in northwest London. He is alleged to have passed on fatwas, including the one declaring holy war against Americans.

   

 
 
INDIANS SHIFT LOYALTIES AFTER TOWER ATTACK 
 
 
FROM AMIT ROY
 
London, Sept. 13: 
A subtle but important change has taken place among Indians in New York: they are no longer as sympathetic as they once were to the plight of Palestinians and other dispossessed people in the Islamic world.

Although there is no hard evidence yet on who was responsible for the terrorist outrages, most Indians appear convinced that somewhere along the line militant Islamic groups were involved.

The reason for the change in Indian attitudes is very simple: further evidence emerged today that the number of Indians who perished in the World Trade Centre, as yet unspecified, could be substantial.

In Britain, the Prime Minister Tony Blair is justifying military action in support of the United States by pointing out that the number of British dead could be “significant”. A figure of 500 is being mentioned, with 100 already confirmed dead today by the British foreign secretary. It appears when the final toll is established, the number of Indians could be equally “significant”.

This are already indications that in future the influential Indian lobby in America will want India to align with Israel, thereby lossening the country’s traditional ties with Arab states.

The well known artist, Natvar Bhavsar, who lives in a large studio in the fashionable quarter of Soho in New York, climbed on to his roof top garden with his son, Ajay, and watched as the burning towers of the World Centre collapsed before his eyes.

“It was unbelievable, incredible. On TV you don’t get a full sense of what is happening,” he commented. “Whatever the symbolism of the terrorist attacks — and I was previously sympathetic to what’s going on (with Palestinians) in West Asia — this was inhuman.”

Like most Indian New Yorkers, Bhavsar had many friends and colleagues among his countrymen in the doomed buildings. The company name which keeps cropping up is Morgan Stanley.

“Morgan Stanley had 3,500 staff, of whom 2,700 have not been accounted for,” said Bhavsar, in a telephone interview. “Many are Indian.” Bhavsar, who is one of America’s most respected contemporary artists, recalled “a special evening” he had many years ago with Minoru Yamasaki, the Japanese-origin principal designer of the World Trade Centre who was justifiably proud of his contribution to the Manhattan skyline.

“We met when we were honoured together in Pennsylvania. He asked me for one of my paintings for a temple he was designing in Japan but he died shortly afterwards of cancer and so nothing happened,” said Bhavsar.

At night, the well-lit towers of the World Trade Centre were once easily visible at the end of West Broadway. Bhavsar would admire the view in the company of friends he took to dinner at his local restaurants. “This was Yamasaki’s masterpiece and he knew it,” said Bhavsar. “It was considered quite a landmark for a minimalist architect. This was a symbol of America and the mayor of New York is talking of rebuilding it.”

Bhavsar admitted he had deliberated not called his close friend, Gautam Patwa, a financial consultant with “Merrill Lynch” because I know he has many friends who have perished”.

When contacted by phone, Patwa said he had rushed to office in downtown Manhattan just as it was being evacuated — “my own office City Corps Centre was thought to be a target” —- and had seen the World Trade Centre on fire. “I did not feel like going home so I went to the Radisson Hotel to be with my friend Sam Bhadha (the hotel’s general manager) and watched TV.”

“I feel bad, shocked and angry,” said Patwa, normally an easygoing man. “It is 99 per cent certain Islamic groups are involved.”

   

 
 
DELHI PONDERS ATAL TOUR FATE 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, Sept. 13: 
The Prime Minister’s scheduled visit to New York to attend the 56th session of the United Nations General Assembly remains shrouded in uncertainty. But there is a possibility that even if the session is postponed, Atal Biahri Vajpayee may still go to Washington to meet President George Bush.

The two leaders were scheduled to meet on the sidelines of the session in New York. But with a cloud over its holding as per schedule, a meeting between Bush and Vajpayee may take place in Washington instead. It’s still very uncertain, and its date is still to be worked out by the two sides. But such a possibility is not ruled out.

The foreign and defence minister Jaswant Singh spoke to the UN secretary-general this morning and discussed the possible impact of the terrorist attacks on the current session of the UN General Assembly. Annan who was to speak to Singh earlier in the day could not do so as he and the other officials were evacuated from the UN building yesterday. However, he later contacted the Indian foreign minister, and spoke in some details about the situation in New York, and whether the assembly could be held as per the schedule.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao said: “We await a definitive assessment on the advisability of going ahead with our schedule programme.” She pointed out that UN secretary-general was currently in the process of various governments and their representatives in New York to form a view on how to deal with the situation if the UN General Assembly was to be pushed back for a few days.

Next month, the Commonwealth Heads of Governments are scheduled to meet in Australia, and a postponement of the assembly session may clash with that schedule. The assessment that Annan is currently making is to ascertain how to deal with the emerging situation.

Rao said India would take a decision on the Prime Minister’s proposed visit to New York after the UN secretary general’s office announces its course of action in the next few days.

Vajpayee is slated to leave for Cyprus on September 20 on his way to New York where he was to address the General Assembly session on September 25 and also have his second meeting, after the Agra Summit, with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.

If Vajpayee was to go ahead with his visit to Washington to meet Bush even if the UNGA is postponed, it will gather special significance in the current situation. India’s concerns about international terrorism are well known and its stand has become even firmer after the terrorist attacks in the US on Tuesday.

Vajpayee has expressed his desire to cooperate closely with Bush in his endeavour to isolate terrorists and states sponsoring and harbouring them. The meeting will give both leaders an opportunity not of getting acquainted with each other but also to find ways and means of cooperating between the two countries in fighting the scourge of international terrorism.

   

 
 
ANYTIME IS PRIME TIME FOR HORROR 
 
 
FROM SUJAN DUTTA
 
New Delhi, Sept. 13: 
When a friend telephoned Franson D’Manjali, professor of linguistics at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, and told him to switch on the television to see aircraft slamming into Manhattan, he dismissed it as a joke, “Are you sure you are not watching digitally-produced images on a Spielberg film or something?” Franson asked.

That was Tuesday evening.

Some 20 kilometres east of JNU, around the same time in Noida, the Sharmas’ and their extended family gathered around the television set in their bungalow and have remained in front of it since, in between taking or making international telephone calls and searching websites on the Internet. The Sharmas’ have relatives in New York.

Normally quiet weekday afternoons are interrupted by the television commentary heard through windows in South Delhi localities, just as they must be elsewhere in the country. Since CNN broke from normal news to show the first pictures at 8.49 am New York time, most are watching CNN or CNBC or BBC as they take viewers through 24-hour coverage of what has been not only the largest but also the most telegenic (television-friendly) of terrorist attacks.

Television footage of the attack was so much larger than life that audiences across India and, indeed, the world have remained glued to the box since the undeclared war broke.

The single most important reason why audiences are rivetted to the channels, is the air of expectancy. Anticipation that the US will strike back is running so high that the counter-attack, if and when it comes, must have been robbed off any surprise element.

“I would give it any time between now and Tuesday,” says Sreedhar, analyst with the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis. “For now, the ground is being prepared. The Nato has rallied to its support. Television is educating people on the Al Quaida, Osama Bin Laden’s organisation. I would expect that except for essential staff, the US will be evacuating some of its establishments.”

On Tuesday, it was images of the attack. On Wednesday and through much of Thursday, it has been the public outpouring of grief that has won television audiences. This is not the first time. International TV crews have covered global grief successfully in the past, after Princess Diana’s killing and Mother Teresa’s death. And now, as television shows, the body bags begin to pile up, its viewership must show a voracious appetite for revenge. In that sense, television is a great force-multiplier.

It is almost impossible to immediately estimate the size of the television audience over the last three days for the news channels. In India, where CNN has been second to BBC World Service in the viewership rankings, “Attack on America” takes its reach much farther than any other event. CNN reaches about 5.5 million households in the country. BBC, the traditional leader among foreign news channels, reportedly has access to 15 million viewers. CNN has pit all its might into the coverage and its American origin and base is expected to see viewers gravitate towards it.

The first pictures CNN first broke with were from its regular live-shot in New York that was activated as soon as they heard about the plane crash, a CNN spokesperson said. (The regular live-shot is situated 2 miles from the World Trade Center and has a shot of the New York skyline with views of everything that was happening). This is the same place from which it covered the second airplane crash.

Other shots were taken from CNN’s broadcast affliates all over New York. CNN International President noted that for the first time in his experience in news there was unprecedented cooperation between the networks and everyone was sharing footage and helping with resources and live-shots.

   

 
 
ATAL LOOKS TO DRIVE HOME VINDICATION 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, Sept. 13: 
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee will address the nation tomorrow on the implications of the attacks even as home minister L.K. Advani has called for setting up worldwide working groups to fight terrorism.

Vajpayee’s address will try to drive home the point that “a terrorist attack anywhere in the world hits humanity everywhere” and also that India needs to be more vigilant.

One reason why Vajpayee decided to address the nation is that the attacks give him the opportunity to remind people that India’s stand on international terrorism has been vindicated, and to point out how vulnerable most countries are to such attacks.

The Prime Minister chaired another session of the Cabinet Committee on Security this morning to assess the impact of the terrorist attacks on India’s internal security and the economy, with indications that prices of oil and other essential items will skyrocket in the coming days.

Advani, foreign and defence minister Jaswant Singh, national security adviser Brajesh Mishra and chiefs of the armed forces and intelligence agencies were present at the meet.

Briefing reporters, Jaswant said the meeting reviewed the international situation and security questions. It also discussed the economic consequences of the attacks, including the sudden spurt in prices.

The Prime Minister and his senior colleagues met the leader of the Opposition and Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, this evening to brief her about the government’s assessment of the situation.

Sources said the Congress had asked for the meeting. If necessary, Vajpayee could hold similar meetings with other Opposition parties.

Advani described terrorism as the greatest threat to the sovereignity of a nation and a crime against humanity, and called for worldwide working groups to combat the menace.

“We need working groups to fight against terrorism... We have succeeded in forming working groups to tackle terrorism with US, UK, Canada, Germany and Israel,” he said.

The home minister felt the attacks in the US would help strengthen the resolve of the international community to unite in the fight against terrorism.

The home minister said biggest challenge came from “cross-border terrorism” and the government has been working closely with democracies the world over to combat the challenge.

However, while India has shown its willingness to work closely with Americans in fighting terrorism, words of caution have been sounded by some friends of New Delhi in the Islamic world.

Ambassadors of Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Iran and Palestine have expressed the hope that the US will not act in haste. They said they would prefer retaliatory action against the terrorists to be conducted under the aegis of the United Nations.

Although most of these countries have strongly condemned Tuesday’s terrorist attacks in the US, they feel Washington should act only after it has convincing proof against individuals or organisations suspected to be behind these attacks.

   

 
 
HUNT ON FOR WIPRO MISSING FOUR 
 
 
FROM OUR BUREAU
 
New Delhi and Calcutta, Sept. 13: 
More than 48 hours have passed, but none of Wipro’s missing four has either taken a call, or replied to an email.

But the Bangalore-based software company still claims it hasn’t given up hope that the four may be alive.

Software engineers Deepika Kumar, Hemant Kumar, Shreya R.S. and Shasikiran L. Kadaba were working for Wipro’s client Marsch Inc at the World Trade Center when the planes ploughed into the twin towers.

“We are continuing to work diligently with the local authorities in New York to locate the employees,” said Vivek Paul, the vice-chairman of Wipro Ltd.

“We are in constant touch with the families of the employees and at this point all our efforts are directed towards establishing contact with the employees and providing support and courage to the family members,” said Pratik Kumar of Wipro.

Providing contact is proving to be a big obstacle for many. The cyber cafes are abuzz with activity. Some in Hyderabad haven’t closed ever since the jets crashed into the 110-storey towers.

Information is sketchy — and that is adding to the panic. Newspapers in Hyderabad reported that eight software engineers working for various companies in the World Trade Center had died. But the US consulate has confirmed the death of only Vamsi Harikrishna who was on one of the hijacked planes.

The Andhra chief secretary along with the US consulate in Chennai is trying to assess the number of IT engineers from Andhra affected by the attack on the World Trade Center.

“About 3,000 Indians were reportedly trapped in the center, of them some 300 are from Andhra,” according to the Indian consulate in New York.

Pendyala Srinivas, an IT consultant with Sane Vision Technologies, which has its offices in a building adjacent to the Center, told a local daily that nearly 300 Telugus narrowly escaped death. They were near the center, about to cross the road, when the planes struck, he said.

   
 

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