ISI fear triggers border alert
America sends feelers on use of ports
Jama Masjid slams strikeback
Technology fair comes under terror cloud
Sharad scheme
Sonia sermon to Vajpayee
‘Rebirth’ after heart and lung transplant
Police firing kills protester
Clerics pitch for green Lucknow
Schemes for women

 
 
ISI FEAR TRIGGERS BORDER ALERT 
 
 
FROM PROBIR PRAMANIK
 
Siliguri, Oct. 9: 
Fearing Nepal-based terrorists backed by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence would step up their activities in India following the US-led strikes in Afghanistan, the Darjeeling district police have strengthened security deployment in the border areas.

Both the state police and Central intelligence agencies have sounded the ISI alert.

“The state shares a rugged and porous 100-km border with Nepal. With militants active in eastern Nepal, we have deployed additional security forces along the Nepal border. Additional forces have also been posted along the 12 border checkposts in the district. Round-the-clock patrolling has been intensified along the hilly terrain and the Mechi river,” Darjeeling superintendent of police Sanjay Chander said.

Of the 12 checkposts, there are two entry-points for vehicles – at Panitanki and Pasupati. Vehicles entering the country from Nepal are being thoroughly checked.

The porous border along the Mechi river under Kharibari and Naxalbari police station has been singled out for special attention.

   

 
 
AMERICA SENDS FEELERS ON USE OF PORTS 
 
 
FROM SUJAN DUTTA
 
New Delhi, Oct. 9: 
The US has sounded the Indian government for information on port facilities that might be used by its navy in the war against the Taliban.

This does not amount to a formal request to use the ports — mainly Mumbai and Kochi and possibly another facility on the west coast — that are perceived to be large enough to accommodate one or the other of the American ships involved in Operation Enduring Freedom.

Apart from offering help with its facilities, Indian involvement in the war will take the form of humanitarian assistance. The security establishment is now working out the logistics of flying relief to Afghan refugees who may be crossing over the border into Tajikistan. That is also the region where the Northern Alliance, with whom India has formal ties, is strong. Defence minister Jaswant Singh said India has been running a military hospital at Farkhor in Tajikistan close to its border with Afghanistan for about 18 months now.

The Cabinet Committee on Security that met last evening is understood to have discussed how humanitarian aid could be stepped up. Singh also raised the issue in a briefing of the Cabinet this morning.

Sources in the ministry of defence said any request for assistance received from the Americans can be processed at war speed and there was no “logistical limitation” on Indian cooperation. “However, the decision is a matter of policy and it will have to be taken by the political leadership,” a senior official said.

Two US naval battlegroups led by the aircraft carriers, the USS Enterprise and the USS Carl Vinson — each of the battlegroups comprise not less than seven ships — have been in the Arabian Sea-Persian Gulf region for more than a week now. The USS Enterprise-led flotilla includes 14 ships apart from the carrier that can take 80 aircraft on board. The USS Carl Vinson leads a battlegroup of eight other ships.

The forces are under the command of the US Centcom — Central Command — that oversees operations in east, south and central Asia.

The defence minister today refused to comment on the US request for details of port facilities. But India last week gave British Prime Minister Tony Blair a list of facilities it is prepared to help the US with in the military operations against the Taliban. Blair said this to journalists on board his aircraft while returning from New Delhi.

The official said the defence ministry was not assuming that the US will request specifically for use of Indian naval facilities.

“It could well be a request to use civilian ports,” the official said. He said there are established norms in the defence and external affairs ministries through which such requests are made and accepted.

The perception in the defence ministry is that the US will request for assistance only if it is not sure that facilities in Pakistan do not suit its purpose.

In fact, it is understood that the US inquiries are not limited to port facilities alone. The official said such inquiries are “normal” in times of war. Also, the US was “measuring” the depth of its backup in the region.

It is unlikely that all the resources at its disposal would be utilised in the war against a landlocked country.

But the government said the US has not made any request for the use of Indian port facilities for the ongoing operations against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, reports PTI.

“No such request has been made by the US,” an external affairs ministry spokesperson said.

“If it is made, it will be processed on the basis of guidelines stipulated by the Cabinet Committee on Security,” the spokesperson added.

   

 
 
JAMA MASJID SLAMS STRIKEBACK 
 
 
FROM AMBEREEN ALI SHAH
 
New Delhi, Oct. 9: 
The Jama Masjid shura — a council of clerics — today adopted a resolution condemning the US assault on Afghanistan even as Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari called it “ an act of barbarism”.

After the hour-and-half meeting that he presided over, Bukhari said: “The Muslims of India will not tolerate the US’ act of barbarism against innocent Muslims.

“On the one hand, the US is conducting air strikes and killing civilians and on the other they are dropping food for the hungry civilians. It is trying to fool the world. The Afghans should die hungry rather than take aid from the US.

The Imam blamed the US for spreading terrorism in Iraq and Palestine leading to deaths of thousands of civilians.

“We are giving moral support to the jihad called by the ulemas of the pro-Taliban forces. When a country is in trouble and its people are being attacked by a terrorist state (the US) then we are with the people who are oppressed,” said Bukhari.

The shura appealed to the Indian ulemas to side with the Afghans and warned Muslims against being silent about America’s “barbaric policy”.

The council refused to indict Osama bin Laden for the September 11 strikes.

The shura also unveiled its plans to stage a protest march from the masjid to the US Embassy on October 12 after the Friday prayers.

   

 
 
TECHNOLOGY FAIR COMES UNDER TERROR CLOUD 
 
 
FROM HABIB BEARY
 
Bangalore, Oct. 9: 
The September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington and the retaliatory strikes on Afghanistan Sunday have cast a shadow of doubt over the fate of Bangalore.IT.com, earlier scheduled to be held from November 1.

Karnataka chief minister S.M. Krishna today said the annual information technology exposition, which attracts major software companies from the US and Europe, will, at best, be a low-key affair this year.

“Participation by international delegates will be thin because of the war,” Krishna said, adding that the situation was fluid and things could get worse.

The state government earlier called off the International Film Festival of India, scheduled to be held in Bangalore this month, because of security concerns. Krishna defended his administration’s decision, saying the situation was not conducive for holding an international film festival.

The chief minister, however, said there were no plans of puting off the Bangalore.IT.com, organised to showcase Bangalore’s strengths and achievements in the information technology (IT) sector.

The volatile global situation following the September 11 terrorist strikes and the consequent slowdown in the US economy have already had an impact in Bangalore, India’s Silicon Valley. Software businesses have been hit hard not just because of a downturn in the global software industry but because a bulk of the India’s software exports go to the US.

Krishna told a group of journalists that the state government has embarked on a study about the effects of this slowdown on the domestic software industry. “The study will be completed soon,” the chief minister said, adding that the grim situation in the Indian IT sector has been compounded by the terrorist attacks in the US.

The five-day event virtually brings the who’s who of the global IT industry — from the Silicon Valley in the US to the homegrown IT czars such as N.R. Narayana Murthy of Infosys and Wipro’s Azim H. Premji – to Bangalore.

However, the country’s largest IT show may turn out to be a rather tame affair this year. Industry experts feel the technology summit-cum-exhibition, earlier expected to generate business worth over Rs 3.5 billion, will hardly justify projections.

With war breaking out in the South Asian region, IT officials predict less business, fewer tie-ups and strategic alliances and a squeeze on the massive inflow of venture capital for start-ups and enterprises in the city.

Bangalore.IT.Com has had its share of success in the last three years in boosting Bangalore’s reputation as the mecca of the Indian IT industry. It has also helped check the flight of investment to neighbouring Hyderabad, which is being aggressively marketed as the software hub of the country by Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu.

Last year the event attracted participation by 376 companies from 12 countries, including US, UK, Germany, Japan, Singapore, Belgium, Sweden, and the UAE.

   

 
 
SHARAD SCHEME 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Oct. 9: 
Labour minister Sharad Yadav has come up with a new scheme to expand his base both at home and abroad. He is considering setting up a welfare fund for Indian workers abroad, especially those in distress.

“Once we are able to put in place the council and the fund, we will think of a system for safeguarding the interests of overseas workers,” said the labour minister while inaugurating a conference of welfare officers of Indian Missions in the Gulf countries.

He added that he also wanted to constitute a Central Manpower Export Promotion Council.

Over 3.5 million Indians work in the Gulf countries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE and Oman. They plough back almost $4 billion annually to India. The labour ministry now wants to collect a fee from each worker going for overseas employment.

“It could then be utilised for repatriating workers stranded in foreign countries and to provide financial assistance to relatives of those who die in foreign employment,” said the labour ministry.

Yadav’s move to set up a welfare fund is likely to be welcomed by all. There have been horror stories about the plight of Indians in the Gulf countries — some have, in sheer desperation, settled for deals that have later turned out to be hoax.

If the labour minister has his way, the welfare fund will be a medium through which the government can collect “statistics and information” on employment opportunities for Indian workers in the Gulf.

“It could also advise the government on matters related to export of manpower,” said the labour ministry.

At present, most Indian workers have come away disappointed from Indian ambassadors and welfare officers, who were approached for redressal.

   

 
 
SONIA SERMON TO VAJPAYEE 
 
 
FROM OUR BUREAU
 
New Delhi, Oct. 9: 
Congress president Sonia Gandhi urged the government not to rely too much on outside support for the country’s battle against terrorism as it was primarily India’s responsibility to fight it.

Addressing a conference on international co-operation against terrorism: implications and choices for India, organised by the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, Sonia said while other countries were showing “greater understanding” of its position after the October 1 attacks in Srinagar, it should be recognised that the primary responsibility for combating terrorism remained with the nation. “There are no simple solutions,” the Congress president said.

Sonia said government should explore “every possible avenue of reconciliation” in Jammu and Kashmir. She said it could be achieved by reaching out to what she described as “hearts of young people in the state”, while ensuring that Pakistan did not continue to play its “deadly games there”. Sonia said she expected the leaders of the Western countries not to lose sight of ground realities in Kashmir.

   

 
 
‘REBIRTH’ AFTER HEART AND LUNG TRANSPLANT 
 
 
FROM M.R.VENKATESH
 
Chennai, Oct. 9: 
For 31-year-old Balamurugan Williams, an office assistant from Coimbatore, another four months would have meant being fatally overcome by the “blue-baby syndrome” of impure blood mixing with systemic blood.

But in a virtual rebirth, Balamurugan is “stable” after what specialists at the Chennai Transplant Centre of the Madras Medical Mission (MMM) say was a near-miraculous simultaneous transplant of his heart and lungs.

This is only the second such surgery done in the country since Parliament passed The Transplantation of Human Organs’ Act in 1994, enabling cadaver organ transplants.

Balamurugan’s mother, a sweeper in a Canara Bank branch in Coimbatore, is not at peace. But her hopes have risen after a team led by K.M. Cherian, one of the top five cardiac surgeons in the world, replaced her son’s heart and lungs in a gruelling six-hour surgery recently.

Thirty years ago, Balamurugan was diagnosed with a “hole in his heart”. But the congenital defect went untreated, leading to him developing the “blue baby syndrome” three years ago, said A.R. Krishnaswamy, the transplant coordinator at the centre.

Balamurugan was referred to the MMM six months ago after his condition worsened and his heart was “no longer operable”. The hole had got larger over the years, and it heightened the pressure in the lungs, too. The blood flow into the lungs got severely reduced and led to the “eisenmenger syndrome” or reverse shunt or flow of the impure blood into the system, explained Krishnaswamy.

As both organs had been affected beyond repair, the last option for Cherian and his co-surgeon, Madhushankar, was to go in for a joint lung and heart transplant. They decided to take the plunge in the wee hours of September 21 after the relatives of a 40-year-old road crash victim, Shankari, consented to donate both her heart and lungs.

The donor’s organs should not only roughly match the age group of the recipient, but also be of the same blood group. Once the organs are “harvested” from the cadaver —- after the patient has been declared brain-dead by a government panel of doctors and the consent of the deceased’s relatives taken —- “the heart and lungs will have to be transplanted in four hours,” said Krishnasamy.

Any delay in the transplant will impair the functioning of the organs in the new host-body, said Krishnasamy, who coordinated the pre-surgical procedure. Balamurugan was “lucky” to get both the organs in time. His condition is being continuously monitored.

Started in September 1995, the MMM, which averages 10 cardiac surgeries a day — four pediatric and six adult —- has so far done 10 organ transplants. Of these, eight have been heart transplants, besides two heart and lung transplants, including the latest. The first successful heart transplant in India is credited to Cherian, who performed it at MMM on September 23, 1995, on Mymoon Beevi, now leading a fairly normal life.

“This has been a much bigger undertaking for us — doing both heart and lung transplants,” said S. Shanmuga Bhaskar, consultant surgeon at the Chennai Transplant Centre. The success rate for such transplants is usually that 80 per cent patients survive the first critical year, he said.

Once that threshold is crossed, long-term survival is no a problem, said Bhaskar. Patients, though, will have to be on immuno-suppressant medicines for the rest of their lives, which could have side effects, he added. The MMM has an elaborate follow-up schedule to ensure that the transplanted organs are not rejected by the recipient’s body.

While kidney transplants from a healthy living donor has been going on for years, cadaver organ transplants is a new programme in the entire country, said Bhaskar. The main problem is non-availability of cadaver organs, he said. In the MMM’s organ registry itself, 120-150 patients “are waiting for heart and lungs alone” and are yet to find suitable donors, he said, adding that several of them die for want of an organ transplant in time.

Awareness of the possibility of donating organs after the person’s death “is yet to catch up in the community at large”, said Bhaskar. Moreover, organ transplant is a very labour-intensive exercise with elaborate post-operative care and “you need a big team to do it”. MMM wants “good results” under this new programme and hence is being selective about the patients “whom we take”. “Once there are more organs donated, we may get liberal,” he added.

There is also the cost factor. A simultaneous heart and lung transplant could cost up to Rs 6.5 lakh. The MMM is “heavily subsidising” the operation costs to patients, as it has a “medical mission to pursue”, said Bhaskar. “Whatever money the patient is able to find or raise through donations, we accept.” The MMM also supports “waiting patients” at its guesthouse free of cost.

   

 
 
POLICE FIRING KILLS PROTESTER 
 
 
FROM HABIB BEARY
 
Bangalore, Oct. 9: 
One person was killed today when police opened fire on people protesting against the ban on the sale of neera — a Coconut sap juice — used as intoxicant. Another was injured critically.

Farmers, apparently provoked by a raid on neera tappers and police action on protesting farmers yesterday, attacked a police van this morning at a village near Channapatna town on the Bangalore-Mysore highway. They beat up policemen and tried to set the vehicle on fire.

A sub-inspector opened fire in self-defence killing one of the farmers, the police said. Villagers, however, said he was trigger-happy. Tension gripped the region with shops downing shutters in Channapatna, adjacent to chief minister S.M. Krishna’s constituency, Maddur, and neighbouring villages. Prohibitory orders were issued to prevent more violence.

Krishna met his Cabinet to take stock of the situation and ordered a judicial probe into the police firing. The sub-inspector has been suspended.

Violence had broken out at Channapatna yesterday with farmers attacking public vehicles. The police used tear gas and lathi-charged to disperse angry demonstrators. More than 20 persons, including eight policemen, were hurt in the violence that disrupted traffic on the busy Mysore road for hours.

Twenty neera tappers were arrested after the state excise department conducted raids in Bangalore Rural, Mandya and Mysore. The state government had earlier banned neera, a fermented drink like hooch, calling it a health hazard.

“We don’t want a hooch tragedy of the kind witnessed near Chennai recently,” said Krishna.

   

 
 
CLERICS PITCH FOR GREEN LUCKNOW 
 
 
FROM RASHEED KIDWAI
 
New Delhi, Oct. 9: 
While the world debates over the Taliban brand of Islam, Muslim clerics in Lucknow have taken the lead in planting saplings of “Quranic trees” to project a hitherto unknown face of Islam: its recognition of environment conservation.

Launched in collaboration with the Rajnath Singh government, Muslim leaders planted hundreds of trees in the state capital’s Idgah as part of the state forest department’s “Operation Green” that calls for the involvement of religious leaders and institutions in the afforestation programme.

Maulana Sayeed Rahman Azmi, rector of the renowned Nadwatul-Ulema, launched the afforestation drive in the presence of ulemas, including botanist Iqtedar Hussain Farooqui, author of Plants of Quran.

According to Farooqui, the Quran lists plants for medicine and conservation purposes. Prominent among them are fig, olive, pomegranate, henna, tulsi, miswak, berries, dates babul trees and grapes creepers, all of which are used in the Unani system of medicine.

Khalid Rasheed, deputy imam of Idgah Lucknow, said the Idgah committee ready accepted the proposal of the state forest department. He said Islam directs Muslims to take special care of the environment, adding that several Quranic verses and Prophet Mohammed’s teachings urged Muslims to look after trees beneficial to humanity.

The forest department provided dozens of saplings of each plant mentioned in Farooqui’s book to Lucknow Idgah. Elated over the experiment’s success in Lucknow, the forest department now plans to launch similar afforestation programmes in the districts of Uttar Pradesh.

The department has also got Farooqui’s book translated into Hindi as Qurani vraksh vatika for free distribution.

Idgah, spread over acres in all Muslim areas, comes into use only twice a year during the Id prayers and is, therefore, an ideal site for afforestation.

The green drive comes at a time when the world is debating over the Taliban brand of extremist Islam. Muslim scholars are unanimous that Islam does not approve of killing of innocent citizens or strikes like in the US. Khalid said the spirit of Islam was for peace and harmony.

A large number of Muslim clerics were present during the afforestation drive. Qamaryab Jeelani, brother of Zafaryab Jeelani of the Babri Masjid Action Committee, Abdul Haleem, Mohammad Usman Ghani and Chowdhury Sharafuddin were some of the prominent persons who planted trees.

   

 
 
SCHEMES FOR WOMEN 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Chennai, Oct.9: 
Keen to dispel the impression of any slide in public spending under the new dispensation in Tamil Nadu, the rural development department is shortly taking up projects to the tune of nearly Rs.300 crore, which include an innovative programme for women’s welfare.

After the “all-women police station” concept has caught on, for the first time in the country, the ADMK regime will be soon launching a scheme to build “Integrated Sanitary Complexes”, exclusively for women, one in each of the 12,609 village panchayats in the state.

Simply and elegantly designed with a high level of common utility space for women in mind, by a team in the state rural development department led by its secretary, N. Govindan.

Sources said the idea behind this project was to ensure “the safety, privacy and dignity of the womenfolk in the rural areas.”

   
 

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