Partners slam secretive CPM
3 weeks for poverty data
IIT link in Choubey murder
Prisoner death sparks tension
Digha tourists marooned by high tide
India offers military bases to checkmate Pak
Up in arms against WTO
Nine jawans killed in suicide attack
Pak set no conditions: Delhi
‘I just feel like I cheated death’

 
 
PARTNERS SLAM SECRETIVE CPM 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Sept. 17: 
Important partners of the ruling Left Front today accused the CPM, the Front overlord, of taking crucial decisions relating to governance without consulting them.

The CPI and the RSP singled out the appointment of Mohammad Amin as acting chief minister in place of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, now away in Japan, in support of their position.

They said they were unhappy over Amin’s temporary appointment to the office of the chief minister as the decision was taken by the CPM unilaterally.

“I came to know about it from newspapers,” said Nandagopal Bhattacharjee, minister for water investigation and also a member of the CPI state secretariat.

“I did not know that Amin will be running the administration during the absence of the chief minister,” he told reporters at his party headquarters.

Amin was handed the top job at a meeting of the CPM state secretariat on Friday. A day later, the chief minister left for Tokyo.

“Neither was a meeting of the Cabinet held nor did the Left Front convene a meeting to make Amin the acting chief minister. I have no objection to accepting Amin as my leader in Writers’ Buildings. My relations with him are also cordial. But I didn’t know that he had been made the leader of the government in Bhattacharjee’s absence,” the CPI leader said.

Bhattacharjee felt that the Cabinet should have been consulted before making Amin the acting chief minister.

“Jyoti Basu had also gone abroad a number of times, but not without briefing the Cabinet about the minister standing in for him during his absence. The business of governance cannot be conducted through columns of newspapers,” he said.

CPI state secretary Manju Kumar Majumder said the Cabinet should have been consulted before announcing Amin’s appointment as acting chief minister.

He, however, said Left Front chairman Biman Bose had informed him about the CPM’s decision to nominate Amin as the acting chief minister in the absence of Bhattacharjee.

Asked to make a statement on the CPI’s reaction, CPM state secretary Anil Biswas said he had informed secretaries of all the parties belonging to the Front about their decision on the acting chief minister’s appointment.

RSP’s national executive member Sunil Sengupta said the Left Front government was not the government of the CPM, but of nine political parties. Naturally, the CPM should consult the Front before taking any major decision.

“Buddhadeb is not the chief minister of the CPM, but of the Left Front. It is the nine Front constituents who have nominated Bhattacharjee as our leader. Similarly, the issue of appointing an acting chief minister should be discussed in the Front’s meeting,” Sengupta added.

Though the parties are unhappy with the CPM’s decision to appoint Amin, they will not raise the issue in the Front’s meeting slated for September 27.

Asked if his party will take up the issue with the Front partners, Bhattacharjee said: “We just expressed our displeasure.... We have no objection to accpeting him as our leader for the time being.”

   

 
 
3 WEEKS FOR POVERTY DATA 
 
 
FROM OUR LEGAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Sept. 17: 
The Supreme Court today gave chief secretaries of 13 states and all the Union Territories another three weeks to identify those living below the poverty line so that foodgrain rotting in government godowns could be distributed.

A division bench consisting of Justice B.N. Kirpal and Justice Ashok Bhan said the states and the Union Territories should also implement the “food for work” programme on the basis of their survey.

The Supreme Court directed that all the state governments and Union Territories “shall forthwith” lift their entire allotment of foodgrain from Central government granaries and distribute them under various schemes.

The judges sought the chief secretaries’ report on the implementation of the nine Central schemes for the poor.

The orders came during resumed proceedings on a petition, which contended that while foodgrain was rotting in granaries, starvation deaths were being reported from several parts of the country.

“What we are witnessing is a tragi-comedy,” Justice Kirpal observed.

The court said the reports should spell out the status of projects like the Sampoorna Gramin Yojana, the Mid-Day meal scheme, the National Maternity Scheme for below-poverty-line pregnant women, the National Old Age Pension scheme, the Antyodaya Anna Yojana and pension schemes for destitute women over 65 years of age.

Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Goa, Manipur, Nagaland, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttaranchal and West Bengal and the Union Territories of Delhi, Pondicherry, Chandigarh and Lakshadweep were asked to respond to the court notices.

The notices asked the states and the Union Territories to also clarify whether all or any of the schemes had not been implemented or modified and, if so, why.

Orissa and Bihar came under sharp focus of the court, which said the affidavit of the Orissa government was “irresponsible and callous”.

It expressed shock over the fact that there were 61.63 lakh below-poverty-line families in Bihar.

“It is shocking to say the least,” the judges observed.

“On an average, if you take six members per family, over 3.6 crore persons were languishing in poverty” in Bihar, the court pointed out.

   

 
 
IIT LINK IN CHOUBEY MURDER 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Kharagpur, Sept. 17: 
Nearly a week after Goutam Choubey was murdered in Kharagpur, police today detained one Debashish Dutta and four women from a beauty parlour on the IIT campus for their alleged involvement in the crime.

Of the 13 persons named in the FIR, eight have been arrested so far.

Goutam, the son of former CPI parliamentarian, late Narayan Choubey, was shot dead a few hours after he was named the president of the Trinamul Congress’ youth wing in Midnapore last Tuesday.

Inspector in-charge of Kharagpur Town police station Tarun Das said Dutta, the owner of the parlour, was a close associate of local mafia don Rambabu.

“We are probing whether the murder was masterminded by Dutta from inside the parlour,” he said. “Interrogation is also on to check if the parlour has a valid licence,” the inspector added.

Gautam’s mother, Gouri Choubey, who is yet to recover from the shock, alleged that Dutta had plotted the murder at the instance of Rambabu. “I strongly feel that he also had a hand in the murder of my younger son, Manas, who was killed a few years ago,” she added.

The political situation here has hottened up with Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s proposed public rally here on September 20. District officials said elaborate arrangements were being made to avert any untoward incident.

   

 
 
PRISONER DEATH SPARKS TENSION 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Sept. 17: 
Trouble broke out inside the Bongaon jail this morning after a 30-year-old undertrial, Pankaj Das, was found dead in his cell.

Sub-divisional police officer (Bongaon) Bishwanath Ghosh said Das had died “of heart failure” and was “suffering from various ailments” ever since he was picked up by the police on September 8.

The death triggered protests from family members and Congress party activists outside the jail premises during the day. They alleged that Das was “subjected to torture in custody”. Kanailal Jana, the jailor, however, brushed aside the charges as “baseless”.

   

 
 
DIGHA TOURISTS MAROONED BY HIGH TIDE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Digha, Sept. 17: 
Hundreds of holidayers at Digha were marooned by bhora kotal on Monday as waves towering 25 feet lashed the coastline.

Waters from the turbulent sea flooded the entire Foreshore Road in old Digha, crossing the concrete guard wall.

The area is under three to four feet of water. Almost all shops, restaurants and hotels are partially under water.

Tourists staying in Old Digha have been shifted to New Digha, a safer place. The district administration and police have taken precautionary measures to avoid any untoward incident.

The police have cautioned tourists not to go near the sea. A police contingent is camping in the area. However, there is no report of any casualty so far.

Administrator of Digha Development Authority Anandamoy Banerjee said the situation might worsen at night. He said all engineers, officers and employees have been put on alert.

According to the district administration, over one lakh tourists visited Digha since Saturday. “As Saturday, Sunday and Monday were government holidays, a large number of people reached Digha on Saturday afternoon. A few of them, however, returned during the day after the area was inundated,’’ he said.

Getting advance information that there will be a high tide in the morning, a large number of tourists gathered along the coastline.

But police prevented them from proceeding towards the beach.

Around 9 am, the sea turned turbulent and giant waves lashed the shore. Within five minutes, all of Old Digha was flooded.

The district administration has issued a red alert in the entire coastal belt and cautioned tourists to stay away from the beach. Those living along the coastal belt have been asked to move out of their houses and stay in a safer place at least till Wednesday.

In South 24-Parganas, villagers panicked as the water level in the rivers of the Sunderbans rose to 18 feet. Breaches have developed in the Mousuni embankment in Namkhana and Ghoramara in the Sagar Islands.

Villagers have been evacuated to safer places. Sunderbans development minister Kanti Ganguly and engineers from the irrigation department are camping at Raidighi.

“The district administration has taken adequate precautionary measures to tackle any situation. Lifeboats and divers have been kept ready. I am monitoring the situation,” said district magistrate Alapan Bandopadhyay.

Apprehending that the high tide will affect the Sunderbans and Sagar Islands, the administration has kept a strict watch on the areas. Control rooms have been opened at Sagar, Gosaba and Patharpratima.

Bandopadhyay said there was no information of casualty so far. “The situation is under control till now. We are waiting for tomorrow’s tide which is likely to be the highest,’’ the district magistrate said.

   

 
 
INDIA OFFERS MILITARY BASES TO CHECKMATE PAK 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, Sept. 17: 
Even as President George W. Bush declared America wanted Osama bin Laden “dead or alive”, it became clear today that India was moving to the centre-stage of the developing war on global terrorism.

Within hours of national security adviser Brajesh Mishra’s talks with Russian leaders, US assistant secretary of state dealing with India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Christina Rocca, will arrive in Moscow to pick up the threads of Indo-Russian plans on dealing with the Taliban.

Rocca will be part of a delegation led by deputy-secretary of state Richard Armitage. The team, scheduled to reach Moscow on Wednesday, will include US state department’s coordinator for counter-terrorism, Francis Taylor.

Mishra may fly directly from Moscow to Washington ahead of external affairs minister Jaswant Singh’s visit here, sources said.

The intense diplomatic activity involving India came amidst leaks in Washington that Delhi has conveyed to America its agreement to the use of Indian soil to base US troops and equipment for an assault on Afghanistan.

The word here is that India has volunteered the use of its military bases to the Americans in a clever diplomatic ploy to deflate the strength of Pakistan’s offer of cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

Sources here confirmed that in his conversation with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Bush provided an outline of what he intended to do to bring the terrorists responsible for America’s new war to justice.

It is understood that Bush took three governments into confidence on his plans — India, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. US troops are already based in Saudi Arabia while Pakistan has complied with all US “requests” since the crisis.

Uzbekistan, too, volunteered today to fully cooperate with the US in case of any assault on Afghanistan. Uzbekistan, which has a 130-km border with Afghanistan, was one of the countries to attend a crucial meeting on the crisis in Dushanbe last week. India was represented at the meeting by minister of state for external affairs Omar Abdullah.

Uzbekistan foreign minister Abdulaziz Kamilov said he was willing to discuss “all possible forms of cooperation” with the US, including the use of Uzbek soil for American troops or its air space for US aircraft.

Like India, Uzbekistan is a victim of terrorism exported from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Understandably, Kamilov insisted that the “issue” on the table was “eliminating terrorism in our region and strengthening stability”.

However, like India, Russia and Iran, Uzbekistan was not interested in any adventurism in the region to satisfy populist demands for revenge against bin Laden.

With the offers from India and Uzbekistan to place their facilities at America’s disposal, the US has gained more room for manoeuvre in its plans to bring bin Laden to justice.

This would mean Pakistan can no longer blackmail America with its demands. It is said here that Pakistan had demanded a coalition of the anti-Iraq type for an assault on the Taliban. Islamabad also wanted India and Israel to be kept out of any such coalition.

Military analysts here said India’s offer was a good move in the diplomatic chess game in south Asia.

The offer was highly unlikely to be used by America: India has no common international border with Afghanistan and any US troop based on Indian soil would still have to be flown through Pakistan’s air space into Afghan territory, the analysts said.

   

 
 
UP IN ARMS AGAINST WTO 
 
 
FROM MONOBINA GUPTA
 
New Delhi, Sept. 17: 
Their initial horror having paled, anti-WTO forces, ranged against the US, are planning two of the biggest ever demonstrations in India against the WTO meeting in Qatar in November.

Few days ago, they had witnessed the power of US capitalism — their enemy number one — bite the dust, with horror and sympathy. But the anti-WTO show will go on, say trade union leaders, perhaps with more pomp than before. The WTO regime, now a hard reality, is pressing down on countries, hardly equipped to cope up with slash in subsidies, full steam competition in industry manufacture and a half-baked social security system.

There will be not one but two demonstrations to protest the WTO negotiations. The first, on November 6, three days before the WTO meeting takes off, and the second on the day the meeting begins. Former Prime Minister V.P. Singh, who has been speaking on behalf of the poor in Delhi and organising them, is now rallying political parties, non-government organisations and influential personalities to draw them under an anti-WTO umbrella.

Trade unions like the Citu, however, will not participate in this demonstration — not because they are rivals, stressed Citu general secretary M.K. Pandhe. “But our unity among trade unions is of a different character,” he added. He and his comrades within and outside the Left fold will hold a separate demonstration on November 9. The anti-WTO protesters in India will synchronise their actions with those the world over hoping to “teach one more lesson”.

The last time the WTO meeting took place in Seattle, a rash of demonstrations had broken outside the closed doors of the building — at first a trickle, which later turned into protesters battling with the police the days the meeting lasted. This time, Pandhe said, the organisers are taking no chances.

“The Qatar embassy is making it difficult to get a visa. Otherwise we could have sent our activists to the demonstration there,” says the Citu general secretary. But underneath the solidarity of anti-WTO forces, there are differences on issues that are forcing them to hold separate demonstrations. Pandhe is apprehensive of what the disparate group of people drawn together by V.P. Singh may say. It could be different from the Citu’s position.

At the same time it is true that there is a common bonding among WTO critics which has become stronger than ever before. The wariness about the growing slide in the economy has combined with the realisation that the acts of terrorism in the US will only deepen the mess.

   

 
 
NINE JAWANS KILLED IN SUICIDE ATTACK 
 
 
FROM MUKHTAR AHMAD
 
Srinagar, Sept. 17: 
Militants struck again last night, killing nine Special Operations Group personnel and injuring 10 in a suicide attack on a camp in northern Kupwara.

Hurling grenades and firing from automatic weapons, two fidayeen (suicide squad) militants attacked the heavily-guarded camp in Handwara around mid-night. Among those killed were three officers.

Police sources said one militant was killed in the heavy gunbattle that raged for several hours. He was identified as Abu Usman of the frontline Lashkar-e- Toiba. The other escaped.

The sources said the suicide squad hurled grenades and opened fire on the sentry at the gate, killing him on the spot. One militant then forced his way into the camp.

“Several grenades were also hurled by the fidayeens once inside the camp,” a police officer, who did not wish to be quoted, said.

“We lost nine SOG members, including three officers while 10 others are wounded. The condition of six is serious,” Jammu and Kashmir director-general of police A.K. Suri said. The state police chief air-dashed to Handwara early this morning.

“Around mid-night two fidayeens approached the main gate where they were challenged by the sentry. The fidayeens then hurled several grenades and killed the sentry and two cops manning the entrance,” he said.

Suri said after killing the sentry and the two guards, one fidayeen entered the camp. “One inside, the fidayeen hurled several grenades and opened heavy fire from his automatic rifle inside the barrack. Six of our boys died while 10 others were wounded.”

The police chief said one police official grappled with the fidayeen. “But later, both died in a grenade explosion.” Suri said the other militant was wounded. “We have ordered a search to trace him,” he added.

   

 
 
PAK SET NO CONDITIONS: DELHI 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, Sept. 17: 
Senior American officials have told the Prime Minister’s Office that Pakistan has not put any conditions for supporting the US in the fight against terrorism.

The assurance followed reports that Pervez Musharraf had laid down three conditions to help track down Osama bin Laden: keep India and Israel out of the US operation against global terrorism, find a solution to the Kashmir dispute and write off Pakistan’s dues.

But the Bush administration has denied this. US ambassador to India Robert Blackwill today met foreign minister Jaswant Singh and home minister L.K. Advani to clear the air.

South Block is of the view that the Musharraf regime, under tremendous pressure from the US, is rustling up domestic support by appearing to drive a hard bargain. “By making the Pakistani people believe that Musharraf is driving a hard bargain before going ahead with supporting the Americans, Islamabad feels it will be able to get most people behind its move,” a foreign ministry official said.

Aides of Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee said US President George Bush last night appreciated India’s unconditional support to its fight against terrorism over phone, but did not spell out what he wanted Delhi to do. Indications are the US may not ask India to join military action, if any, in a big way, but restrict itself to seeking cooperation on intelligence sharing.

India has decided to send national security adviser Brajesh Mishra to New York to address the UN General Assembly. Mishra will leave for the US on Thursday and hold talks with American counterpart Condoleeza Rice and senior officials. Jaswant is also likely to visit Washington a few days later for consultations with secretary of state Colin Powell and defence officials.

India feels the US demands are a tall order for Musharraf as there are two categories of jihadis who will come in his way. The first category is controlled by the ISI and can be reined in if Islamabad goes along with the US’ terrorist gameplan in Afghanistan. But it is the second category of diehard jihadis, totally committed to bin Laden, who are likely to pose a problem.

   

 
 
‘I JUST FEEL LIKE I CHEATED DEATH’ 
 
 
FROM NIRMAL MITRA
 
New York, Sept. 17: 
Shital Patel was proud to go to work on Tuesday, September 11. She had passed an important exam the day before, qualifying her as a financial adviser.

The 22-year-old remembers her boss at Morgan Stanley, on the 73rd floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center, congratulating her. Just then, the two saw a plane crash into the north tower.

“The lights flickered and there was a little crumble in our building,” the New Jersey native said. “The way the plane crumbled, I thought it was paper. I thought someone was on top of the 109th floor and throwing down paper until I saw the hole.” The smell of jet fuel filled the place. “Everyone was running,” she said. People raced to the exit stairs.

“We were all pretty much calm, we were taking our time and cracking jokes. We didn’t know exactly what happened. I just thought a pilot didn’t know what he was doing, because it’s very typical for helicopters to be by that level,” she said. “So we’re just strolling down the stairs. Some people were still drinking their coffee.”

By the time she reached the 62nd floor, an announcement over the public address system told people they could return to their offices. But Patel decided she wanted to go home. “Our floor smelled completely like gas,” Patel said. She took an elevator down to the 44th floor, where the big screen televisions were replaying the first crash. “As I was standing there, all of a sudden, the floor shook and there was a big boom and the 44th floor was completely black, filled with smoke. People panicked and started running to the exit.”

The closest exit was already backed up. So she and a co-worker, Mustafa Cozier, 26, of New York, headed through the smoke to another exit. Coughing, the two raced down the stairs.

“By the time we got out, I was completely drenched in sweat and coughing. From the 44th floor, we ran down the stairs. We still didn’t know what happened to us, we just thought it was possibly an aftershock from the other building. My hair was white, I had debris all over me, there were still pieces of the plane on fire on the ground,” she said. “ Ten or 15 minutes later, the building came down.”

Three hours later, she got to Times Square and tried to find her cousin who lived and worked nearby. “I was in such a daze, all I could think about was getting to my cousin or just getting to Jersey.”

It was around 12:30 pm when she found she had escaped a terrorist attack. Unable to find her cousin, she made her way to a ferry service near the Lincoln Tunnel. On the ferry, she sat for the first time since 8:20 that morning.

Once across the river, she got in a van that took her to Rutherford, New Jersey. Desperate, penniless and without any identification, she went to a candy store to use the bathroom. The owner put her on a bus to Newark and gave her $20 for a cab home.

When she got home to South Jersey, her parents embraced her with tears. “I’m happy to be alive. I just feel like I cheated death, I really do,” she said. “I was wondering why God had spared me.”

   
 

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