Purnendu sees need for IOC: Buddha
Missing land deeds raise whiff of foul play
Doc made to pay for death
Delhi rests case on Pakistani bombshell
Death-defying foe foxes govt
‘I was in my office and there was a huge blast’
Defence throne minus crown
Jaswant looks for British backing
Pilot makes life-saving swerve before death
Gita, Quran fill air as VIPs pay homage

Calcutta, Oct. 1: 
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today said Purnendu Chatterjee, one of the three promoters of Haldia Petrochemicals, was convinced of the need to induct Indian Oil Corporation as the fourth partner of the debt-ridden project.

But a statement from Chatterjee’s company, The Chatterjee Group, indicated that he had not budged from his earlier stand.

“Purnendu Chatterjee has always said that Indian Oil is welcome as the fourth partner. But they should come out with a proposal which is mutually acceptable to all the promoters. They have given a difficult proposal which cannot be accepted. There is no change in TGC’s stand as of date,” the statement said.

Indian Oil, while agreeing to pick up a 26 per cent stake in Haldia Petrochem for Rs 560 crore, had demanded that it be given majority control over the company, while such control normally comes from owning a 51 per cent stake. Chatterjee has a 43 per cent stake.

Bhattacherjee said IOC’s role is pivotal for the petrochemicals plant.

But IOC officials said: “The West Bengal government has not given us any proposal till date so that we can negotiate with them. So there is no change in our final proposal.”

Bhattacharjee said that the name of the new chairman of Haldia Petrochemicals will be announced soon.

He also said former chairman Tapan Mitra will be reinstated in some other capacity.


Burdwan, Oct. 1: 
The district administration is in a quandary over the disappearance of some important documents, including land deeds, from the district registrar’s office.

A group of people, who had applied for copies of land deeds, have been protesting in front of the district registrar’s office for the past fortnight.

They allege foul play. “The documents may be damaged, but how can entire record books vanish? We want a high-level inquiry into the incident,” said Dinesh Pal, a resident of Burdwan who failed to get a copy of his land deed.

Beside land deeds, the missing documents include settlement records, land statistics and stamp accounts.

District registrar Siddheswar Bhattacharya said he had no clue as to how the documents had disappeared, but was trying to find out.

According to officials, land records and land deeds are very important because, if there is any dispute over any land or property, the matter is settled by verifying the record.

“A copy of the document is kept after land is registered. The seller or buyer can get a copy of it by making the necessary payments. But with the documents missing, we will face a lot of problems,” said an official.

Apart from the missing documents, a large number of files and record books have been destroyed by rats, cockroaches and termites. Many have been badly damaged by water leaking from the roof. Employees of the registrar’s office said all damages were due to lack of proper maintenance.

The building itself is in a sorry state with plaster peeling from the ceiling and walls and water leaking from different places. The employees refuse to enter the record room fearing a collapse.

“I have brought it to the notice of the district administration several times but there has been no response. I am trying to shift the office immediately to save valuable documents,” Bhattacharya said.

The building was declared “condemned” by the PWD in 1987. Even after that, the record room was not shifted to a safer place.


Chinsurah, Oct. 1: 
The District Consumer Redressal Forum has directed a local homoeopathic doctor to pay Rs 2 lakh as compensation to one Rabindranath Das, holding him responsible for the death of the petitioner’s wife.

The forum has also directed Chandi Charan Das, the doctor, to pay an additional amount of Rs 5,000 to Rabindranath towards expenses which he incurred to fight the case.

In his petition, Rabindranath had alleged that he had taken his wife Suprava, who was suffering from a swelling in the breast, to Das for treatment.

Seeing no improvement even after an year, Rabindranath asked Das whether he should consult any other specialist. Rabindranath added that Das had prevented him saying that she would be cured soon.

After some days, Suprava was taken to the Chittaranjan Cancer Research Hospital, where she was diagnosed as suffering from an advanced stage of cancer. She died on March 6, 2000.

The forum, after conducting an inquiry into the incident, found gross negligence on the part of Das.

“The doctor neither disclosed the nature of the disease to the patient or her husband nor advised the patient to undergo any tests. The cancer was aggravated because of delay and negligence done by Dr Das,’’ the forum observed.

Das however said that it was a conspiracy to malign him. “I have continued treatment with the best of my knowledge. If the patient party had any doubt or dissatisfaction, they could have gone to any other doctor. In any case I am not responsible for Suprava’s death. I shall appeal to the State Consumer Redressal Forum for justice,’’ he added.


New Delhi, Oct. 1: 

Rebel claim puts Pak in a spot

India today told Pakistan it was not impressed by the Musharraf regime’s “cosmetic steps” against terrorists based on its soil and warned Delhi was fast losing patience with Islamabad’s continued policy to “aid, abet and sponsor” cross-border terror.

The warning, sounded after a late-night meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security, is aimed both at the outside world and Pakistan.

Delhi wants to make it clear to world leaders that they cannot expect India, a victim of terrorism for decades, to go on showing restraint while Pakistan continues its low-intensity war against it.

Foreign minister Jaswant Singh will make the same point when he talks with US secretary of state Colin Powell and other senior members of the Bush administration. Jaswant is now in the US to tell Washington how Delhi wants to respond to the global fight against terrorism. He would also highlight the situation in the region, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir.

A late-night statement issued by the external affairs ministry held the Pakistan government responsible for the violence in the embattled Valley. The statement made it clear that the world community expects the military regime to take action against recognised terrorist outfits like the Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Lashkar-e-Toiba, which continue to operate from Pakistan.

South Block condemned today’s “barbaric” car-bomb attack on the Kashmir Assembly. “At a time when the international community is trying to build the widest possible coalition against global terrorism, India cannot accept such manifestation of hate and terrorism from across its borders,” it said. “There is a limit to India’s patience.”

During a CNN interview last night, the Pakistan President had denied that there were any terrorist organisations in his country. He claimed that the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, one of the outfits whose accounts have been frozen by Washington, was only active in “Indian held Kashmir”.

But within 24 hours of Musharraf’s denial, the Jaish-e-Mohammed, which claimed responsibility for today’s attack, made it clear that one of the terrorists involved was a Pakistani national.

“We rest our case before the international community about the link between Pakistan and the terrorist organisations active in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere in India,” a senior South Block official said. However, this was before the Cabinet Committee on Security met. India took a much stronger line after the meeting, which was convened by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The meeting was attended by home minister L.K. Advani and the three service chiefs.

The militant group’s statement claiming responsibility may have helped Pakistan’s claim that much of the violence in Kashmir was home-grown and had nothing to do with Islamabad. But the fact that the Jaish decided to stress the point that its activists were Pakistani nationals could put Musharraf in a spot.

South Block officials pointed out that despite Musharraf’s denial, his government officials were busy closing down camps and offices of well-known terrorist outfits. “It once again shows that notwithstanding the cosmetic steps taken by the Pakistan government under international pressure, Islamabad continues to be a state “aiding, abetting and sponsoring” terrorism.

Delhi also said most of the outfits based in Pakistan were the fronts of Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida and that links between them and the Saudi-born terror mastermind were well known.


New Delhi, Oct. 1: 
An air of helplessness hung over North Block this evening as the chilling news from Kashmir sank in.

No one was saying so, but it was evident that the government was at its wits’ end on protecting people from attackers who were willing to blow themselves up.

Apart from pointing a finger at Pakistan and talking about Islamabad’s role in stoking militancy in the Valley, North Block had little else to do or say.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee tried to make the best of a bad situation, saying the attack was a conspiracy and a last-ditch attempt by militants to make a mark.

It was an indication, the Prime Minister added, of the “frustration” of militants who knew militancy had “no future” in India.

“The killing of large number of people inside and outside the Assembly premises indicates that it was a pre-planned conspiracy. But this is a symbol of their frustration as they know that terrorism does not have a future in India,” Vajpayee said.

Asked if the US should ban more terrorist outfits operating in Kashmir, Vajpayee said: “It will be necessary to take action against these outfits.”

A suicide strike was not unexpected. Ever since the September 11 aerial attack on America, the possibility of suicide strikes by militants in Kashmir has been anticipated at the highest levels of the government, including the Cabinet Committee on Security.

Numerous meetings were held in North Block and coordination sessions with state governments were carried out to tighten security. But officials, who fear more strikes, admit in private that there is only so much that can be done in the case of suicide attacks.

No one wants to point a finger at any security lapse. “What precaution can one take in a case like this?” a senior official asked. “I suppose there is some indirect lapse, perhaps those guarding the Assembly complex had relaxed because the chief minister as well as the legislators had all left by then. One does not know,’’ the official said.

State police as well as the Central Reserve Police Force are in charge of security in the Assembly complex. The high-security areas in Kashmir are already saturated with security forces. “We are certainly not going to ask New Delhi for more forces. We have enough,” Jammu and Kashmir chief secretary Ashok Jaitley said in Srinagar.

Usually, the state calls for more security forces after big strikes. Neither Jaitley nor the officials in North Block are willing to blame the forces guarding the Assembly complex.

A portion of the Assembly was set on fire in the night, but Jaitley refused to say whether the militants holed up inside or the security forces were responsible.

“When militants dressed in security forces’ uniform hijack a bus of the telecommunications department, fill it with explosives and ram it into the gates of the Assembly, what can one do?” another senior official asked. This is the view in Delhi. The officials had no desire to pass the buck to the state government either.

But a few officials conceded that options are available to prevent such suicide strikes. “Information on terrorist plans is the key to prevention. We have to work on accurate and timely inputs from the intelligence agencies operating in the state,’’ an official said.

The need is for not just ground intelligence but co-ordination by all the agencies working in the state. They should not be working at cross purposes,” he added.


Srinagar, Oct. 1: 
“I was sitting in my office and suddenly there was a huge blast,” said Abdul Ahad Vakil, Speaker of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly.

“For some time, I did not know that the explosion had occurred at the main entrance of the Assembly building and I kept meeting visitors who had come to see me from my constituency, Sopore.

“Suddenly I heard sounds of gunfire and the visitors and some employees ducked and took shelter in my office. I saw other employees running,” the Speaker said.

Vakil recalled that he was asking people around him to be calm as there were efficient security arrangements, put in place by the state administration recently. “I did not know then that the militants were already inside the complex. I found that out only after the firing intensified and there was a series of grenade explosions inside.”

State director-general of police A.K.Suri, who rushed to the spot along with senior army and paramilitary officers, first made arrangements to evacuate those trapped inside.

“Bullet-proof vehicles were taken inside. These, too, came under fire,” said Vakil. After repeated attempts, the Speaker was escorted out. “As I was leaving the complex, there was indiscriminate firing from all directions. But I managed to come out,” he said.

“As I reached the main entrance, I saw death and destruction all around. Bodies were lying scattered, blood was splattered all around and there were heart-rending scenes. The policemen were trying to shift the injured to hospital,” the Speaker recalled.

“When I reached home, I heard that my driver Ashok Kumar was among the dead. He was with me for the past five years. He was to get married next month in Jammu. I am shocked,” Vakil said. Ashok belonged to the state police department.

Vakil said he was surprised how the militants managed to enter the high-security Assembly complex. “The security was tight all around,” he said.

The Speaker said the ongoing Assembly session had been extended by two days on the request of chief minister Farooq Abdullah only this afternoon. “But now that the Assembly building has been destroyed in the fire, we will see if we can hold the session for the next two days.” The Assembly was scheduled to adjourn its session today.

CPM state secretary and member of the Assembly M.Y. Tarigami described the attack as an “act of desperation”. “It is an act of desperation and should be condemned by all,” he said in a statement here.


New Delhi, Oct. 1: 
Billed as the military way of getting in sync with the global trend towards convergence, the much-vaunted decoration of Lt Gen. Pankaj Joshi today as the first Chief of Integrated Defence Staff has turned out to be more like humour in uniform.

But the men — more precisely, man — in uniform are not laughing. At the end of the day, it was still not clear whether the good general has taken charge or not.

This morning, the general went through the motions and formalities of the takeover along with Lt Gen. N.C. Vij who has taken over as the new vice-chief of the army. The ceremony to instal him was unique. He was the first lieutenant-general given a guard of honour by the three services.

The television-friendly installation ceremony was covered by most news channels. The new flag of the Integrated Defence Staff — complete with an amalgamation of the logos of the army, the navy and the air force — also made its first public appearance.

But to the acute embarrassment of the highly-decorated general, the Union ministry of defence has made no official announcement regarding his appointment. This is because the order of the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) approving the appointment has not yet been issued.

A defence ministry spokesman said: “It was a technical hitch and the order will be issued in a day or two.” The earliest the order can be issued is probably Wednesday, after tomorrow’s national holiday.

The burly Gen. Joshi with a majestic, handlebar moustache has an extraordinary service record. He was till recently commanding the central command. Commissioned into the 8 Gorkha Rifles, he fought in the 1965 war with Pakistan.

He has commanded elite formations like the armoured division and the Desert Corps. Wounded in Sikkim during the war with China in 1967, Joshi walks on artificial limbs. A former additional director general of the mechanised infantry and commandant of the College of Combat, Mhow, he was awarded the Param Vishisht Seva medal.

“It is a bit of an embarrassment. But rest assured there is no change in the appointment. It is just that it has taken some time for all those involved to sign the papers and issue the order,” another senior defence ministry official said.

The approval of the appointments committee is a must for all officers of the rank of joint secretary (or equivalent) and above to the Union government. It involves the signing of papers by, among others, the home minister, the defence minister, the Cabinet secretary and the PMO.

The nomenclature of the post occupied by Joshi has also undergone a change. The full designation will now be the Chief of Integrated Defence Staff to the chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (CISC). The senior most service chief is the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, a post currently occupied by navy chief Admiral Sushil Kumar.

The office of the CISC, located in South Bloc, will shortly be supplemented by four vice CISCs each of whom would be in charge of a joint medical, training and strategic command. Work had also begun to integrate the intelligence wings of the army, navy and air force.

Defence ministry officials say the appointment of the CISC is a precursor to the appointment of a chief of defence staff, a recommendation made by a group of ministers led by L.K. Advani that submitted its report in May this year.

Most of the recommendations were accepted by the government, but it is yet to decide on a CDS. There is therefore some ambiguity on the exact role and job profile of the CISC. In time to come, the office of the CDS together with the CISC could well evolve into a single, unified strategic command straddling the three services.

Vij, who took over as the new vice-chief of army staff, was the director-general of military operations during the Kargil war in 1999. He is the only officer after the late General Sundarji to have the distinction of commanding two army corps.


London, Oct. 1: 
Jaswant Singh, the external affairs minister, will be visiting London on Wednesday, October 3, to impress on the British government that “Osama bin Laden” is not the only terrorist causing havoc.

Singh will be meeting his opposite number, Jack Straw, and Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary. After a news conference he is due to leave for Berlin.

Today’s heavy toll caused by the car bomb outside the Assembly in Srinagar is taken up by Indian diplomats in London as yet another example of sort of terrorism that India has had to suffer. Some of these terrorist groups are linked with the attacks in America, the Indians claim.

The British government’s moves to freeze bank accounts suspected of being used for terrorism have already begun. But India wants Britain, through which a lot of terrorist money is being funnelled, to do more to curb groups active in Kashmir.

The freezing of several bank accounts was announced today at the Labour party conference in Brighton by Gordon Brown, the chancellor of the exchequer.

He announced that Britain has already frozen $88.4 million in bank accounts linked to the Taliban government. Brown said: “It has now fallen to our generation to bear the burden of defeating international terrorism. At this testing time we know our duty — to stand and not to yield.

“The cause is just not of one country, one continent, one culture, but of people of conscience everywhere whatever their colour, whatever their race, whatever their background, whatever their religion. The cause founded on a simple truth that an injury to one is an injury to all; an injustice to anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

He said ready access to finance was the “lifeblood” of terrorism. “No institution, no bank, no finance house anywhere in the world should be harbouring or processing funds of terrorists.”


Bhainsauli (Mainpuri), Oct. 1: 
Jamuna Prasad will have to live with a wish that will remain unfulfilled: to thank Vivek Gupta, the pilot of the ill-fated plane that crashed in Bhainsauli killing senior Congress leader Madhavrao Scindia and seven others.

Prasad is not the only one who wants to thank Gupta. All those who have their homes near the slushy paddy field, that has now become the grave of the doomed Cessna, owe their lives to the pilot.

Preliminary investigations and eyewitness accounts have revealed that Gupta made a frantic, last-ditch effort to steer the burning plane away from populated areas. With every second counting, Gupta made sure that the misfortune of those on board the plane did not extend to those on the ground.

Brahmadev Yadav, one of the first to see the burning craft lurch in the air and zoom tantalisingly close to his house, says “the plane hovered twice over the village before nose-diving into the slushy field of Nathulal Dubey, 2 km from the nearest cluster of houses”. It burned in mid-air for about five minutes before heading for an empty water-logged field.

Sources in the Lucknow Air Traffic Control confirmed that the time the pilot took to locate a “safe” landing place points to the fact that “there were things other than the safety of the passengers on the pilot’s mind”.

“We were scared that the plane would fall on top of our houses, but Pilotsaab took it away,’’ says Suraj Pal Singh, another villager who saw the plane before it crash-landed. “The whole village is relieved that the plane did not land in the populated colony. There are 4,000 people living here and many lives could have been lost.”

Investigations till now have revealed that the plane, flying at a height of around 1,500 feet, exploded in mid-air, either because of an engine snag or by getting caught in “charged clouds”.

Bhainsauli villagers are yet to get over their trauma. Even quite some time after the crash, most stayed indoors. The attack on the World Trade Center still fresh in their minds, most villagers thought it was a “terrorist attack”.

Others thought a war had broken out. “There was a huge explosion soon after the plane landed. There were fumes all around and we were really scared. We huddled together as we thought we were being attacked by our enemies,’’ says Mohan Yadav.

By the time the villagers gathered enough guts to see what had happened, there was very little left of the plane and those inside it. For more than an hour they struggled to douse the flames with mud and water. It was then that they realised what had happened. Senior members of the village panchayat then saw to it that nothing was removed before police arrived.

The police arrived nearly four hours later. Naresh Dayal, principal secretary (home), admitted that the incident was reported to the nearest police station at Bhogaon at 2.30 pm, but when Louise, wife of senior Congress leader Salman Khursheed, reached the spot at 4.30 pm, there was no sign of any government official.

The charred bodies remained in the shush for more than seven hours. Villagers say the last body was recovered at 10 pm, eight hours after the crash. By that time some of the bodies had been taken to the nearest town by tractors.

District officials say that two kilometres of slush and fields flooded with knee-deep water made it difficult to retrieve the bodies. But the villagers and Congress workers who reached the site much before any one from the government did are not convinced. Realising their mood, chief minister Rajnath Singh today promised to initiate an inquiry into the alleged “administrative callousness”.


New Delhi, Oct. 1: 
“Vajrapat ho gaya. Kya kaal itna bhi kroor ho sakta hai? Mera naman (It is a bolt from the blue. Can destiny be so cruel? My homage),” wrote Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the visitors’ book after laying a wreath on Madhavrao Scindia’s body.

President K.R. Narayanan paid homage to “a man of youthful vigour and one of the brightest stars in the political firmament”. He wrote: “It is impossible to believe that he is no more. Scindia had much more to contribute to India.”

By noon, the Scindia residence was chock-a-block with people, some of whom had come all the way from Madhya Pradesh. Verses from the Bhagvad Gita and the Quran mingled in the air.

A little after noon, an ambulance pulled into 27 Safdarjung Road, carrying the body. A coffin wrapped in white cloth, covered with marigold garlands and white wreath, was taken into the house by son Jyotiraditya and relatives.

Sonia Gandhi and other party leaders were already there. After the body was brought home, all the doors were closed for half-an-hour as Scindia’s family and friends spent some time alone.

Officials worked overtime, directing the flow of those who came to pay homage. VIPs, among them L.K. Advani and daughter Pratibha, entered the house through one gate while the masses had access only to the room where the coffin was placed. A black and white photograph stood in front of the coffin and smoke from incense sticks filled the room.

“He was good man. He would always listen to our worries,” said Savita Sharma, a party worker.

Karan Singh, whose son is married to Scindia’s daughter Chitrangada, arrived with his wife. “His death is a loss to the nation, the party and the family,” Singh said.

Inside the dimly-lit house, the royal family was mourning in silence. Close friends and relatives waited quietly in the dining room and the lounge. The fragrance of rose petals and rajnigandha drifted into the air.


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