Distance with party makes PM late
Fury blows up on Coke in India
Lesson for Bush-bound Atal
Bangla exodus after assault on women
Infosys seeks to employ Chinese professionals
Calcutta Weather

 
 
DISTANCE WITH PARTY MAKES PM LATE 
 
 
FROM RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
 
New Delhi, Oct. 21: 
The flag was supposed to fly high and flutter in the golden jubilee glory of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, the precursor of the BJP.

Instead, the flag went up in the absence of its most famous bearer — Atal Bihari Vajpayee — prompting him to speak of a “communication gap” between the party and the government.

The BJP national council, which assembled at the Talkatora Indoor Stadium this morning for a pep talk from Vajpayee, had to put up with a burst of pique from him because of the logistical gaffe.

To the surprise of the gathering of Cabinet ministers, office-bearers and chief ministers, Vajpayee arrived just in time to deliver his concluding address instead of flagging off the ceremony, which had begun at 11 am. This, despite him being a Jan Sangh founding-member along with L.K. Advani and Kushabhau Thakre, who were on the dais with BJP chief K. Jana Krishnamurthi.

Vajpayee voiced his hurt right at the start: “I am sorry, perhaps it is my fault for not comprehending the programme’s schedule properly. I was given to understand that I would deliver the concluding remarks and Advani was to give you marg darshan (guidance). I was all set to leave in the morning but I think there was some mix-up and I could not be present at the auspicious moment (when the flag was hoisted).” The flag was raised by Krishnamurthi who joined the party only in 1964.

“There is definitely a communication gap. This is an example of how distance develops between the party and the government. Not that I mean to blame the organisational functionaries but the fact that I was not there when the golden jubilee celebrations were inaugurated is a matter that needs to be looked into at once,” said Vajpayee.

A BJP office-bearer held the PMO responsible. “We submitted a detailed schedule to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) well in advance. But, somehow, they don’t seem to have conveyed the message to the Prime Minister and, therefore, some other programmes were fixed for him. When our office-bearers went to receive him at his residence for the inauguration, they were told that he was busy and would come in time for the concluding address.”. PMO sources were succinct: “Vajpayeeji has conveyed what he had to in clear words.”

Observers felt that the incident reflected the “tension” between Vajpayee and the BJP president.

Advani temple thrust

Advani used today’s event to hammer home the BJP’s indebtedness to Ayodhya. He stressed the need to project the temple issue “in the right perspective and carry it forward”.

   

 
 
FURY BLOWS UP ON COKE IN INDIA 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Hyderabad, Oct. 21: 
Al Qaida’s threat to hit American interests anywhere in the world struck a chord among Andhra’s Naxalites who attacked a bottling plant of Coca-Cola early this morning.

The boiler plant, parking area and administrative building at Atmakuru, near Vijayawada, were bombed by the intruders. They left behind a handwritten note in Telugu, warning of more such attacks in protest at the strike against Afghanistan. In the note, the People’s War Group claimed responsibility for the bombings.

Around a dozen PWG activists attacked the plant, close to the headquarters of a state special police battalion, escaping into the dark of the night after trying unsuccessfully to destroy the production unit. The bottling plant was heavily damaged, nonetheless. No one was injured as only an electrician was present on the premises at the time.

A police officer disclosed that the note said the attack was “against American military action in Afghanistan”.

Dressed in olive green fatigues, the Naxalites threatened the security staff at knife-point, tied them up and locked them in a guard’s room a short distance away from the plant.

They planted landmines before triggering the blast. One of the mines did not explode. The electrician cut power supply in the production unit, which saved it from being blown up.

   

 
 
LESSON FOR BUSH-BOUND ATAL 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, Oct. 21: 
The Bush administration’s spin machinery is in overdrive. American officials are working overtime to portray the outcome of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit as a success for their president.

George W. Bush won the endorsement of the Shanghai summit for fighting terrorism, but Apec stopped short of endorsing either the US action in Afghanistan or naming Osama bin Laden.

The lesson implicit in the Shanghai declaration is that even in these critical times, world leaders are reluctant to give America a carte blanche. This is a lesson Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee will have to remember during his visit to Washington next month to meet Bush.

Pacific Rim leaders pledged to work together to put their economies back on the road to growth, but stopped short of any specific commitment to expansive monetary policies the way the White House wanted.

A last-minute change in the draft dropped a commitment to pursue “pro-growth fiscal and monetary policies” to overcome the shock to confidence resulting from the terrorist attacks on September 11. Also dropped from the draft was a reference to the need for “decisive” steps to “stabilise” markets.

Instead, the declaration noted that “it is important for all economies to take timely policy actions to strengthen markets and facilitate an early pick-up in global economic activity”.

The hero of the Shanghai summit was Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamed and not Bush.

Mahathir, supported by Indonesia and Brunei, strongly lobbied against the bombing of Afghanistan, especially actions that threatened civilians. China lent tacit support to the campaign against US military action. As a result, Bush was forced to explain in detail to Mahathir in a one-on-one, the imperatives of the US action. He also detailed precautions to limit civilian casualties.

Mahathir stood tall even in taking head on, issues of concern to the developing economies. Those in Shanghai will remember his words on the need for Asia to be cautious in allowing globalisation. “It is true, if you open the window to let in the fresh air, some flies will enter. But if you open the window to let in fresh air and packs of tigers and bears enter, perhaps we should open the windows on the second floor and keep those on the ground floor securely closed,” the Malaysian leader said.

It was left to Malaysia trade minister Rafidah Aziz to spell out her country’s views on terrorism. “We all feel that terrorism should be eradicated, but it cannot be eradicated with the use of physical methods like bombing... because terrorism is a state of mind. It’s not like a virus where you kill the bacteria and it goes off.”

Of course, the Apec declaration said the leaders “unequivocally condemn in the strongest terms” the September 11 attacks. US officials were “thrilled” by the statement.

Officials harped that this was the first political stand taken by Apec, which was set up to promote free trade and investment. “We came in here hoping to strengthen the war on terrorism, and we did,” US officials were quoted as saying.

Will Vajpayee, like Mahathir, voice India’s reservations about US policy on terrorism when he meets Bush on November 9, although India’s reservations are very different from those of Malaysia’s and Indonesia’s?

   

 
 
BANGLA EXODUS AFTER ASSAULT ON WOMEN 
 
 
FROM FARID HOSSAIN
 
Dhaka, Oct. 21: 
Growing violence against the minority community has forced thousands of families to flee their homes in Bangladesh, according to human rights groups and newspaper reports today.

In spite of Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia’s assurance of security, there have been more reports of vandalising and looting of Hindu homes and smashing of idols of the goddess Durga.

Newspapers published photos of young Hindu women who have been molested during attacks on their homes reportedly by supporters of Begum Zia’s new coalition.

Denying the charges, Khaleda Zia’s government has said reports of anti-Hindu violence have been “baseless, exaggerated and politically motivated”.

Home minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury said in a speech yesterday that he has been scouring the country for incidents of anti-Hindu attacks.

But the rights groups said many persecuted families have fled to India. In many cases, men have stayed back, sending women out to either far off villages or towns or to India.

“The minority Hindus have suffered harrowing torture, including rape of teenage girls, by gangs of supporters of the new government,” Rokeya Kabir, head of Nari Pragati Sangha, a leading women’s rights group, said.

Volunteers of Kabir’s group visited dozens of predominantly Hindu villages in seven districts in the past two weeks. “Our volunteers have met families whose women were raped. Many of them would not speak out for fear of more attacks,” Kabir said. She told the tale of torture on Shefali Rani, a village council member at Agailjhara in Barisal district.

“Terrorists attacked and ransacked Shefali’s home on October 2. They beat her up and then gang-raped her,” Kabir said. Rani has since fled to Ramshil village in Gopalganj district, the home region of former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Several thousand Hindu families have taken shelter in this region.

Anil Kumar Shil, a farmer, told another news conference that his teenage daughter was raped by a gang of Zia’s supporters in a recent attack. The family has travelled to Dhaka from the northern district of Sirajganj.

The Hindus have been targeted on the charge of supporting Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League party in the October 1 parliamentary elections. The polls were swept by Zia’s four-party alliance that includes two Islamic fundamentalist parties, Jamaat-e-Islami and Islami Unity Council.

Hindus, Buddhists and Christians account for nearly 10 million of the country’s 75 million registered voters. Hindus, the largest minority group, have traditionally supported Hasina’s party for its secular policies and close relations with India.

“Bangladesh is a country of religious harmony free from communalism,” Begum Zia said in a televised speech on Friday, her first since winning the elections.

Promising security to Hindus, Zia warned the nation against “those who want to create division in this country of excellent religious harmony”.

Local newspapers have reported incidents of more violence. On Sunday, Matribhumi reported that Hindus have sent their young women out of their villages after attacks by supporters of Zahiruddin Swapan, a lawmaker from Zia’s party, charges he has denied.

   

 
 
INFOSYS SEEKS TO EMPLOY CHINESE PROFESSIONALS 
 
 
FROM HABIB BEARY
 
Bangalore, Oct. 21: 
Indian software giant Infosys has moved Nasscom to take up with the ministry of external affairs permission to hire Chinese software engineers. Recruitment of Chinese software professionals was put on hold following Delhi’s objections.

“We are waiting for the ministry of external affairs to take a decision,” said Infosys chairman N.R. Narayana Murthy. The company is also pleading its case through the Confederation of Indian Industry.

Deemed to be an asset for Indian software companies hoping to expand their business to China and the rest of the Asia-Pacific region, Chinese software engineers cost about 15 per cent less than similarly qualified Indians, company sources said.

Infosys plans to set up a software development centre in China following the lead of several multinational companies that have opened shop there to exploit its business opportunities. “We want to exploit the business prospects in China. It is a huge market,” said one Infosys official. Wipro, another Bangalore-based software major, has similar plans to launch a development centre in China.

Nasscom is working out ways to remove the roadblocks for the Bangalore-based software major’s plan to recruit Chinese software professionals. Restrictions on recruiting Chinese professionals by Indian companies have been imposed on grounds of security.

Information technology minister Pramod Mahajan said he would discuss with the infotech industry and the home ministry before allowing Indian companies to hire Chinese professionals.

One proposal forwarded by the ministry of home affairs requires confining all Chinese employees to one centre for easy monitoring.

China is disappointed by the Indian government’s restrictions but assures it will abide by the Centre’s decision. “If the (Indian) government wants to impose a limit or restraint, we have no choice but to accept it,” said the Chinese ambassador to India, Hua Junduo.

China favours greater cooperation between the two countries in the information technology sector. “Cooperation should be from both sides, it is a two-way traffic,” Junduo said.

China’s Huawei Technologies, one of its biggest computer companies, has opened an office in Bangalore where it employs about 300 Chinese professionals. The company designs and develops telecom software.

China poses the biggest threat to replace India as Asia’s largest software outsourcing country. With over three lakh software professionals, India’s software export topped $10 billion this year and expects to touch $50 billion by 2008.

Infosys wants to hire Chinese professionals as part of its global brand-building strategy. Chinese professionals would be trained in India before being deployed in software development centres in China, South Korea, Taiwan and other countries in the region.

Infosys has enough manpower to handle markets in the US and Europe, where English-speaking software professionals are in great demand. But with the slowdown in the US market hitting Indian software exports, Indian companies are eventually prospecting the emerging markets of Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 32.4°C (0)
Minimum: 23.7°C (+1)

Rainfall

Nil

Relative humidity

Max: 95%
Min: 58%
Sunrise: 5.40 am
Sunset: 5.03 pm
Today: Partly cloudy sky. Not much change in temperature
   
 

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