Buddha casts net for IFFI catch
WHO rings alarm bell on mental disorder
Laloo dismisses threat to govt
Tough taskmaster Modi promises new start
Dal jab at big brother BJP
Pahalwan power to tackle crime
Terror law and FBI clone on Atal cards
Left rally skirts Buddha bar
Third force turns Simi gun on Centre
Shine on Scindia jewels

New Delhi, Oct. 5: 
The organisers of the Calcutta International Film Festival, slated to be held from November 10, have made a strong bid for the films that were to be screened at the 32nd International Film Festival of India (IFFI). But the ability of the organisers to get some of the foreign films — notably those from Brazil — with the Directorate will depend to some extent on the lobbying skills of film aficionado and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Bhattacharjee has been keen to give to the Calcutta festival a prestige that would rank it next only to IFFI in the country. With the IFFI not taking place this year, it is Calcutta’s chance to take the plunge.

The 32nd IFFI was to be held in Bangalore from October 10 to October 20 but was cancelled after the Karnataka government — a co-host of the festival alongwith the Union information and broadcasting ministry’s Directorate of Film Festivals — said it did not have the wherewithal because of a severe drought in the state.

The directorate also thought it wise to cancel the festival because many of the international participants were pulling out citing the security situation in the subcontinent in the wake of the September 11 attack on the US.

If the Bengal government succeeds, it could well turn the Calcutta festival this year into a feast for the cinema lover.

Union information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj said today that she did not foresee a problem in screening the films that were selected for the Indian Panorama section of the festival. The section was to screen 30 films.

Directorate sources said it would not be as easy to screen the foreign films — the few prints that had been received, that is — because their producers wanted them screened at the IFFI. Brazilian film producers — a focus of the 32nd IFFI was to be on Brazil — have requested that their films be shown at the next IFFI. The directorate and the organisers of the Calcutta festival will have to seek the permission of the producers to screen their films.

Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding, that won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival this year, was to be the inaugural film at IFFI. Nair’s film, a tragi-comic take on a colourful Punjabi wedding set in Delhi and shot almost entirely with a hand-held camera, is due for commercial release in February. It will take Bhattacharjee some lobbying to take the films to Calcutta. He might face some competition from the organisers of the Mumbai festival later this year.

The directorate was expecting to screen about 70 films in the “Cinema of the World” section at IFFI. Among these were “An American Rhapsody” and “Bride of the Wind”. It could not be immediately confirmed if the prints of these two films are among the 26 that the directorate had received before announcing the cancellation. The cancellation resulted in a loss of Rs 60 lakh to the directorate.

Among the 30 films that were slotted for the “Indian Panorama” section were B. Lenin’s Ooruku Nooruper (A Hundred Voices for a Cause — Tamil) and Kadal Pookkal (Tamil) by Bharati Raja; Nabyendu Chatterjee’s Mansur Mianr Ghor and Rituparno Ghose’s Bariwali, Uttara by Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Swapner Sandhaney by Ashok Vishvanathan and Dekha by Goutam Ghose (all Bengali).


New Delhi, Oct. 5: 
If the recent horror of chained mentally challenged patients being burnt to death in Tamil Nadu has not made the government sit up, the latest statistics of the extent of mental disorders in India and throughout the world, put out by the World Health Organisation (WHO), definitely will.

According to WHO, 450 million people are suffering from mental and psychological disorders.

“Stigma, discrimination and neglect prevent care and treatment from reaching people with mental disorders,” said WHO while releasing its latest world health report on mental health.

In India there is a staggering 8 to 10 million people suffering from epilepsy and there are 11 suicides per 100,000 of the population. It is not that the government has not done paper work on the subject and even tried to implement some of them, but indifference, ignorance and social stigma have all combined to defeat them.

On paper, there are 37-state run mental hospitals with 18,912 beds for mentally challenged patients. The government’s mental health policy drafted in 1982 is currently operational in 25 districts of the 22 states. “What happened in Tamil Nadu to the mentally disturbed patients is a national shame,” said a consultant to the government of India.

The condition of the hospitals where the mentally disturbed are crammed is common knowledge and WHO drew attention to the need for shifting this kind of care from hospital to community.

Very often mental illness is not diagnosed and WHO points to some of the most common problems like depression, epilepsy, schizophrenia and substance abuse.

There are 24 million people reeling under depression while 10 to 20 million attempt suicide every year. Out of 191 member countries surveyed by WHO 41 per cent have no mental-health policy — 25 per cent have no legislation and 28 per cent have no separate budget for mental health. “There is also an acute shortage of professional psychiatrists who can take care of these patients,” said WHO.

It slotted medicines for psychiatric disorders into four groups: anti-depressants for depression, anti-psychotics for psychotic symptoms, anti-epileptics for epilepsy and tranquilizers for anxiety.

“Essential psychotropic medicines should be provided and made available at all levels of health care,” stressed WHO.

In fact one the basic suggestions made by WHO is to integrate mental health into the primary health care services. And to shift patients from mental health care hospitals to community care.

Australia, according to WHO, is one of the countries where this experiment has been successfully tried out. Over a period of five years, the number of beds went down by 42 per cent in psychiatric institutions and increased by 34 per cent in general hospitals.


Patna, Oct. 5: 
Laloo Prasad Yadav put up a brave front today, insisting that the transfer of fodder scam cases to Jharkhand would not affect his party’s government in Bihar.

Thirty-six cases have been transferred to Jharkhand. In one – the Doranda treasury case – Laloo could face immediate arrest and detention for about two months. But even in the others, where arrest is not imminent, the transfer would mean that the Raja of Bihar would have to spend a good deal of time pursuing the cases in Jharkhand courts.

The Jharkhand government has set up six CBI courts in Dumka, Ranchi and Chaibasa to try fodder scam cases. The courts are expected to start trial at the earliest.

The Rashtriya Janata Dal chief, an accused in the multi-crore fodder scam, has been charged with swindling crores of rupees from government treasuries that now come under Jharkhand. He has been sent to jail in the past, but always in Patna, and then he has been accused of running the government from prison.

But this will be much more difficult if Laloo is imprisoned in Jharkhand because ministers and officials will not be able to call on him at will to discuss problems.

Also, when Laloo is away, the National Democratic Alliance will have enough opportunities to try to unseat Rabri Devi. Though former RJD rebel Ranjan Yadav’s supporters are demoralised after the rebel leader’s failed topple bid in February-March, the NDA might try to wean away some disgruntled leaders in the RJD.

Laloo is aware of the threat but he refused to admit it today. “If the NDA thinks that by sending me to a Jharkhand jail they stand to gain, they are living in Utopia,” he said. “Jab dudh ka dudh aur pani ka pani ho jaiga, tab RSS walon ko kafi dukh hoga, kyunki is case me kuch khaas baat nahi hai.” (When justice is delivered, the RSS-BJP combine will be sorry because there is no substance in the cases).

The Rashtriya Janata Dal chief held a meeting with key party leaders, including Shivanand Tiwari, Jagtanand Singh, Ramchandra Purve and Shakil Ahmed Khan, on the fallout of the verdict. He is believed to be setting up a crisis management group in the administration, headed by chief secretary Mukund Prasad.

He is expected to reposition his advisers’ cell under the leadership of Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, who was made vice-president of the party after Ranjan Yadav’s expulsion.

“This is only the Supreme Court’s clarification on the jurisdiction of cases, not a judgment on the offence,” he said. “Kitna bhi hathori marega, mera sarkar rah jayega.” (However hard they hit my government, it will remain stable).


Ahmedabad, Oct. 5: 
Chief minister-designate Narendra Modi is a complete anti-thesis to his predecessor Keshubhai Patel except for their “legendary arrogance”.

Fully aware of the inadequacies of his predecessor that cost him his job, the 51-year-old RSS pracharak began capitalising on Patel’s weaknesses as soon as he landed in Gandhinagar on Wednesday. While Patel’s poor public relations alienated a vast army of BJP workers, Modi seems to have electrified the rank and file.

Earlier, Modi was a kingmaker who made the BJP popular in Gujarat and was instrumental in installing Patel as chief minister twice before he was banished.

Modi has done exactly what he wanted and precisely what Patel could not do. He has succeeded in giving an impression that he meant business and that his action would speak louder than his speech. He told reporters that he would speak only after taking oath on Sunday, the day of “new beginning”.

A bachelor by choice and a post-graduate in political science, Modi is different from Patel not only in age and education but also in organisational skills eloquence and rapport with workers.

Patel, a school dropout and a generation older than Modi, is seen as a regional leader who cannot even speak Hindi. Modi, on the other hand, is BJP national general secretary, and has already made his mark in national politics, enjoys the confidence of home minister L.K. Advani and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who has given him “free hand” to revive the party in Gujarat.

First, expressing their reservations about Modi and then tamely toeing party line, both Patel and Mehta exposed themselves. There was no Saurashtra lobby — Patel loyalists — to register protest when Patel resigned, making way for Modi.

As for Modi, it is a “lifetime’s opportunity” to prove himself. If he is able to boost his party’s sagging image, which is at its lowest ebb at the moment, and is able to come to power in 2003, Modi’s popularity will overshadow several other “towering” BJP national leaders. But if he fails, Modi will sink with the party and meet the fate of his predecessor who will go into oblivion. He knows it.

That is why he has said the state should be prepared for some “harsh measure”. To give his new team a clean image, Modi will have to initiate a clean-up operation, drop tainted ministers, and induct those with clean image.

Sources said several corrupt, inefficient and controversial ministers are likely to get the boot.

Unlike Patel who is not so effective administrator as he could not communicate with bureaucrats, Modi is seen as a tough taskmaster — a reason why bureaucrats in Gandhinagar are uncomfortable.


New Delhi, Oct. 5: 
Warning the BJP that the days of single-party hegemony are over, the Janata Dal (United) today said efforts to establish “ideological superiority” could weaken alliances.

The Dal (U), an ally of the NDA, has asked the BJP to be more accommodative towards smaller parties.

A political resolution adopted yesterday at the party’s two-day national executive meeting at Ghaziabad said: “All parties will have to accept the fact that gone are the days when a single party used to secure majority on its own and efforts to establish ideological superiority could make alliances weak and loose.”

The executive, presided over by party president and labour minister Sharad Yadav, however, was all praise for the “able leadership of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee” even as it stressed the need for “better coordination among the constituent parties”.

Referring to the possibility of a US strike on Afghanistan, the meeting said the country’s political and economic situation would be greatly affected in the event of a war.

Lifting of sanctions by the US will benefit Pakistan immensely, but economists are of the view that it may not have a major impact on Indian economy. “On the contrary, India may have to face loss of several crores of rupees on account of stoppage of exports,” the resolution said.

The party said, being the leader of Nam countries, India should launch a worldwide campaign against terrorism. Rooting out terrorism in Kashmir and the Northeast should be the priority of our foreign policy.

The Dal (U), which is gearing up for the Uttar Pradesh polls, criticised the lack of development activities in the state. Development has come to a halt in “entire Uttar Pradesh over the last decade”, the party said.

Power, drinking water, road construction projects and education are being adversely affected, the resolution said. The state’s share of foreign investment is less than 10 per cent, it said quoting a study.


Patna, Oct. 5: 
A Laloo crony and minister in the Rabri Devi government in Bihar has called for a 10 per cent job reservations for wrestlers, threatening to lead a march of some 400 semi-clad ‘Pahalwan’ in New Delhi to convince the Centre of his seriousness.

Bihar’s minister for commercial taxes Dadan Singh, alias Dadan Pahalwan, a self-confessed wrestling enthusiast and former pahalwan, says job reservations for wrestlers were a way of raising a civil army of skilled fighters who could also tackle the growing problem of crime and antisocials within the community.

Singh is currently busy organising a national-level wrestling meet in Patna, the Bharat Kesri Kushti Dangal, to be held in Patna’s Miller School campus from October 21.

Over 400 wrestlers from across the country, including Gorakhpur and Benaras in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal, are expected to participate in the meet, scheduled to be inaugurated by Singh’s political mentor, Bihar strongman Laloo Prasad Yadav.

Singh, one of the few Independents in the Rabri Devi Cabinet, entered the Bihar Assembly on the waves of a successful campaign against lawlessness in the villages, displaying his huge muscles and boasting to voters that he had the ability not only to fight anti-socials as well as politicians.

When Laloo Yadav faced a trial of strength to prove his majority in the House, Singh decided to support Yadav and was subsequently rewarded with a ministership. “I did not ask for it,” he says, adding that it was Rabri Devi’s generosity to make him a minister.

However, immediately after assuming office, Singh found himself on the mat when officers in his commercial taxes department refused to cooperate with him and he demanded their mass transfer. The impasse was resolved only after a last-minute intervention by Laloo Yadav.

“There were some others who tried to put me in trouble by framing me in a number of cases,” Singh claims. “But they failed to shake my faith in the power of bodybuilding.” Singh is wanted in a number of criminal cases, including a murder, which he dismissed as “weak conspiracies”.

Singh, who is using the forthcoming wrestling meet as a platform for publicity and self promotion, has pinned a lot of hopes on the meet’s outcome.

“This is going to be a very big show, the first ever in the country,” he says, adding that he hoped the meet would give a boost to wrestling, revive the rustic culture of wrestling akharas in the state and bridge the caste divide among people in Bihar.

Concentrating on the promotion of the akhara culture in Bihar, Singh plans to ask his mentor Laloo Yadav to appoint a wrestling coach for each district of the state. The coach, much like the district health officer, would go around the villages supervising the akharas. To further promote the culture of wrestling in Bihar, Singh wants his government to instal a life-size statue of local wrestling legend, Bir Lory Pahalwan. “We have enough statue of politicians. Let us have one of the wrestler,” he says.

Singh’s plans for wrestling promotion don’t end there; he says he would organise public marches to promote the sport. He says he would also use his wrestlers to help his mentor Laloo Yadav to save his government when needed.

A great fan of Yadav, Singh feels he would have remained a wrestler all his life if his mentor hadn’t come forward to help him. “There are times when the strong and honest should join politics,” he says, adding that Laloo Yadav is just such a person.

The poster produced by Singh to draw public attention to his wrestling meet has the pictures of two great names in the wrestling business — Jagdish Kaliraman and Rajiv Tomar. But it’s Laloo Yadav’s picture that crowns the poster. After all, “isn’t he the biggest wrestler in politics?” Singh asks. Indeed!


New Delhi, Oct. 5: 
Faced with an unprecedented security challenge, the Vajpayee government is seriously considering bringing an anti-terrorist ordinance. This will arm the government with sweeping powers to deal with imminent terrorist threats.

At the same time, the government has revived the proposal to have an agency on the lines of America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation to make it easier to crack down on terrorists as well as on organised crime and drug trafficking. Earlier, many states had rejected the idea, but in today’s atmosphere of paranoia, the chances of pushing this through have brightened. However, the states made it clear that they wanted special provisions to ensure that their powers were not infringed upon.

In a meeting of state chief secretaries and directors general of police addressed by home minister L.K. Advani today, the discussion was on the need to streamline internal security. Parroting US fears of biological and chemical weapon attacks by terrorist groups, the meeting considered what measurers could be taken to counter such an event. The chief secretaries were also alerted to the possibility of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorist outfits.

In keeping with the general alert on hijacking, the meeting had detailed discussions on airport security. A national disaster management agency with specialised units was presented to the states.

The assault on the Assembly in one of the most heavily-guarded areas of Srinagar has rattled the government. The September 11 strikes in the US have further drummed home the point that even the most powerful country in the world is susceptible to terrorist attacks. With war clouds gathering over neighbouring Afghanistan, the government is bracing itself for copy-cat strikes from terrorists here. In India’s view, Pakistan is continuing to support terrorists in India.

Foreign minister Jaswant Singh said on Friday that New Delhi expected to be targeted by terrorists following the attacks in the United States last month.

Singh said India was not convinced that Islamabad had stopped supporting militant groups in Kashmir.

“We know that India will be targeted. There is no doubt about it,” Singh said in an interview with the BBC.

“And it is the duty of my government and the duty of the citizens too to be prepared and be ready to face any such further assault by terrorists against India, which we know will take place.”

In the general climate of nervousness, an anti-terrorist ordinance is unlikely to meet with much opposition. An anti-terrorist law has been in the making for some time now.

The home ministry has studied similar Acts brought in by other countries. Britain’s new anti-terrorist law was carefully studied by officials. Ironically, the provisions of Pakistan’s anti-terrorist Act were also considered in detail. The law ministry has already approved most of the provisions the North Block wanted incorporated.


Calcutta, Oct. 5: 
Barely five days after chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee reached a near-consensus on putting an end to road and rail blockades, the Left Front today announced a Maha Michhil on October 14 against “terrorism and imperialism”.

The excuse: October 14 is a Sunday.

But this Sunday — only eight days before the Pujas — won’t be like other holidays with the whole of Calcutta stepping out for some last-minute shopping.

The procession will begin at Deshapriya Park — which falls on the route to shoppers’ paradise Gariahat — and converge at Deshbandhu Park after passing through important crossings.

Left Front chairman Biman Bose dodged questions on the inconvenience that will be caused to shoppers and traders, but justified his party’s decision. “There is nothing wrong if political parties bring out rallies or processions on holidays in support of genuine causes,” said Left Front chairman Biman Bose.

The decision was unanimously adopted at the Front committee meeting this morning. However, the chief minister, was not present.

Bose said the Front partners were critical of the way the Union government was going all out to please the American government by offering unsolicited help.

“Our country is becoming a subject of ridicule even to Americans. The American ambassador is on record saying India is doing more than what we had even asked for,” Bose said.

The Trinamul Congress was quick to criticise the Left Front for planning a Maha Michhil just before the Pujas.


New Delhi, Oct. 5: 
The People’s Front has found a fresh stick to beat the Vajpayee government with: the ban on the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (Simi).

At a meeting today of Front leaders at the residence of CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet, the party accused the government of using the ban for its political ends in the forthcoming Uttar Pradesh elections.

“It is the Uttar Pradesh polls which have prompted the government to ban the organisation,” said former Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu.

Apart from leaders of the four Left parties, the meeting was attended by Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Singh Yadav and former Prime Ministers V.P. Singh and H.D. Deve Gowda.

Basu said that on the Centre’s directive, the Bengal government conducted several raids in Murshidabad, Malda and Calcutta, “but no incriminating evidence was found, though some leaders of the organisation (Simi) were arrested”.

All the leaders unanimously demanded the immediate release of the detainees. Mulayam Singh Yadav accused the BJP of banning the organisation without evidence.

“Even Uttar Pradesh chief minister Rajnath Singh’s caste card has not worked. The Prime Minister himself has admitted that the Uttar Pradesh poll results will have an impact on the ruling alliance in Delhi,” said Mulayam.

Today’s meeting indicated that from now on the Pople’s Front will focus mostly on the Uttar Pradesh polls as it is placing all its hopes of resurrecting a third alternative on the electoral outcome in the state.

So far as the Left is concerned they have very little at stake in the Uttar Pradesh polls. But the CPM general secretary — the man forever tying knots between disparate anti-BJP and anti-Congress forces — has set his sights on long-term politics in Delhi.

According to his calculations, once — and if — the BJP loses ground in a key state like Uttar Pradesh, it will also start losing its allies who have been hanging on, even if shakily, to the Delhi dream boat. “This is where the Third Front will start remaking itself,” said a Front leader.


Gwalior, Oct. 5: 
No one is quite sure about the exact wealth of the Scindias. No one is even willing to hazard a guess.

But the death of the Maharaja of Gwalior, Madhavrao Scindia, has once again swung the spotlight on the family’s riches.

In Gwalior, those in the know say that put together, the movable and immovable properties — jewellery, shares and others — would run into thousands of crores.

But numerous court cases and family disputes prevent any objective assessment.

There are about 45 trusts registered in Mumbai, Delhi and elsewhere to manage the Scindia estate but most of them are locked in court battles.

In Gwalior alone, they have Jai Vilas Palace, Rani Mahal, Usha Kiran Palace Hotel, Vijay Bhawan and Shanti Niketan.

In Mumbai, the family has a duplex flat and a godown. In Delhi, it has the 100-acre Scindia Villa and a house on Tilak Road. In Ujjain and Pune, the Scindias have Kaliadeh Palace and Padma Vilas.

The 900-bed Jai Vilas Palace, constructed in 1809, is famous for its magnificent chandelles and marble work.

The chandeliers are mostly from Belgium and once upon a time, one could light as many as 248 candles in one. Before putting up these huge chandelles, the roof’s strength was tested by mounting 12 elephants on it.

In the good old days, there used to be a silver rail cart at the Scindia dining table to serve liquor and cigars. The rail compartments were made of the finest cut glass.

The carpet at the majestic Darbar Hall took 13 years to make, with weavers working round the year.

Thirty-five rooms in Jai Vilas Palace have now been converted into a museum littered with swords belonging to Mughal emperors Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb and other priceless artifacts.

The Scindias’ jewellery can pose a challenge to the Nizam’s jewels now on display at the National Museum in New Delhi. The Rajamata’s collection had 41 varieties of jewellery. In addition, there are silver utensils weighing about 600 kg.


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