Money minus air muscle for Musharraf
Gucci footprint in city
Idol-snatch at Jagannath temple
Shankar footprints safe in CPI custody
Congress clash over Jogi tribal status
Mining nod hovers over Ghats
Anti-settler bloodshed in Orissa

New York, Nov. 11: 
President Pervez Musharraf last night went to have dinner with George W. Bush, with a big shopping list which included Kashmir, F-16 planes, a friendly government in Kabul, windfall economic assistance and market access in the US for Pakistani goods.

He neither got Kashmir nor the F-16s. But the US President raised economic assistance for Pakistan to a whopping $1 billion and agreed to restrain the anti-Pakistan Northern Alliance from entering Kabul in the event of the collapse of the Taliban government.

On market access for Pakistani goods and an end to quotas for textiles, Musharraf got a commitment that efforts would be made to facilitate these concessions.

A day after Bush appeared reasonable with Vajpayee on the post-Taliban arrangements in Kabul, the US President expressed total support for Pakistan’s concerns.

“Any power arrangement must be shared with the different tribes within Afghanistan and a key signal to that will be how the city of Kabul is treated,” Bush told reporters at a joint news conference with Musharraf.

Such an assertion was vital for Musharraf on a day Mazar-e-Sharif fell out of the Taliban’s grip.

Echoing Bush, Musharraf said: “I think if the Northern Alliance enters Kabul, we will see the same kind of atrocities perpetuated against the populace there and it needs to be avoided.”

Despite raising the Kashmir issue in his UN address, at a news conference in the UN building, in media interviews and at his meeting with Bush, all that Musharraf could get from the White House was a bland reiteration of the US position on the dispute.

A joint statement after their meeting said: “President Bush and President Musharraf agreed that India and Pakistan should resolve the Kashmir issue through diplomacy and dialogue in mutually acceptable ways that take into account the wishes of the people of Kashmir.”

At a reception by the Indian American community within hours of Musharraf’s diatribe against India on Kashmir, Vajpayee accused the Pakistani President of exploiting the dispute to strengthen his position and stabilise his regime.

“There is only one issue on his mind... how to wrest Kashmir. But he will not get Kashmir. Kashmir is the core of our nationhood,” the Prime Minister asserted.

He also set the stage for battling with the US in the event of a decision in the future to arm Pakistan. “Why is he (Musharraf) asking for F-16s? What will he do with them?” Vajpayee asked, implying that the planes could only be used against India.

Secretary of state Colin Powell said shortly after Musharraf pitched his bid for F-16s that “there are no plans now to transfer those airplanes to Pakistan”.

Pakistan purchased 28 F-16s in 1980 and paid for them, but delivery was blocked under the Pressler Amendment which targeted Islamabad for attempting to make nuclear weapons.

Bush gave a commitment in the joint statement of “continued active US engagement in Pakistan”. But the commitment came with a rider. In one breath, the joint statement promised such engagement of the entire South Asian sub-continent.

Responding to constant whining by Musharraf that the Americans had abandoned Pakistan after winning their proxy war against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan, the statement “reaffirmed the benefits of 50 years of friendship and close cooperation between Pakistan and the US and recalled the pivotal role of the Pakistan-US alliance in the triumph of the free world at the end of the Cold War”.

Bush and Musharraf also paid tributes to “the strength and vitality of the(ir) bilateral relationship”.

Musharraf devoted more than a quarter of his speech at the UN to attacking India. He proposed a treaty with India for banning nuclear tests. He also called for a “comprehensive and integrated dialogue” to reduce nuclear risks and to impose nuclear and missile restraints on each other.


Calcutta, Nov. 11: 
Italian fashion house Gucci has come sniffing to Calcutta for an investment opportunity.

A symbol of luxury the world over, Gucci sent a reconnaissance team here to do a feasibility study for a leather products unit. The site it is looking at is the proposed Calcutta Leather Complex near Science City on the EM Bypass.

The unit will make leather accessories for exports as well as for the Indian market. A quarter of the production may be sold here. A pair of Gucci men’s leather shoes costs at least $300.

“They are banking heavily on the state-of-the-art Calcutta Leather Complex and it’s up to the parties involved in the project to make it happen now,” a trade-watcher said.

That would mean the Bengal government and Jagmohan Dalmiya, whose company M.L. Dalmiya is building the leather complex. Phase I of the complex, spread across 160 acres, is almost ready for commissioning.

An occasion to discuss the Gucci proposal presents itself tomorrow when Somnath Chatterjee, chairman of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, and Dalmiya are meeting the visiting Italian ambassador over lunch. Chatterjee said he would be delighted to receive such a proposal from Gucci, but “at the moment there is nothing concrete on the table”.

Cricket board chief Dalmiya said Gucci’s proposal might be discussed at tomorrow’s lunch. But, he believes, the Italian company “is probably looking at contracting exporters only”.

That would mean Gucci buying from Indian leather product manufacturers here for its international outlets.

The House of Gucci was founded by Guccio Gucci, son of a Florentine craftsman, nearly hundred years ago in 1906 as a saddlery shop. It has its largest flagship shop on New York’s Fifth Avenue, which reopened recently after renovation.


Puri, Nov. 11: 
Even gods are not safe anymore. Burglars broke into Sri Jagannath temple this morning and made off with two priceless idols from a shrine just behind the sanctum sanctorum of one of the most famous pilgrimage centres in the country.

The temple administration said the thieves had also tried to enter the main shrine, where the idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are kept on a ratna simhasan.

Puri temple administrator Bhabani Shankar Panda said the burglars had picked the locks on one of the doors leading to the sanctum sanctorum.

The missing idols of Madanamohan and Amavasya Narayana, both incarnations of Lord Vishnu, are made of an amalgam of silver and other precious metals, known as ashtadhatu.

The idols were deities at the Baharadeuli temple in the 13th century complex.

The pre-dawn heist is the second in less than a week in a temple in Orissa. Last Monday, the 11th century Lingaraj temple at Bhubaneswar was broken into and gold as well as silver wares valued at Rs 1 lakh were stolen.

The thieves had also taken away the silver mask of Lingaraj, only to throw it in an unused well on the temple premises.

The two-feet-high, 15-kg idol of Madanamohan, who represents Jagannath during the Chandan Yatra in summer, was found missing when temple servitors came to open the shrine at 5 am. The five-kg silver idol of Amavasya Narayana, said to be the deity of the new-moon day, was stolen after the burglars smashed the locks.

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik said the CBI would be asked to probe the burglary. The crime branch will conduct a parallel probe.

Three employees of the temple have been detained and 13 securitymen, including eight members of the Jagannath Temple Police, suspended for dereliction of duty.

As soon as the burglary was discovered, the temple was closed to pilgrims, all rituals were stopped and roads leading to the temple town were sealed. The rituals were resumed after the servitors brought another idol of Madanamohan from a math. Pilgrims were allowed in after 12 noon.


Chennai, Nov. 11: 
A house in the city bears the footprints of the late Uday Shankar and his family, more than two decades after the family decided to sell the property to the CPI.

Framed in sturdy, bulletproof glass near the entrance, the foot impressions were made on a rectangular slab of concrete to mark the completion of construction of the house. It was the Shankar family’s way of putting “soul in the memory” of their residence.

The entrance to 43, South Boag Road in T. Nagar, which now houses the CPI’s Tamil Nadu state council, still bears the name of Uday and Amala Shankar on marble slabs. The Shankars disposed of the property after Uday Shankar’s death in 1972, when the family decided to settle down in Calcutta.

“That is how the CPI came to purchase the huge house situated in an extent of about nine grounds in 1973-74 for about Rs 2.60 lakh,” recall senior CPI leaders, S.S. Thyagarajan and R. Nallakannu.

The party named the property Balan Illam in memory of one of its veteran leaders, Baladandayutham, who was killed in 1972 in the air crash that also claimed the life of the then steel minister Mohan Kumaramangalam.

“Though this part of the city was deserted those days, there was a high stake for this property. But Amala Shankar wanted to give it only to the communist party,” recalls Thyagarajan.

“They did not want to make money out of this transaction and only wanted to sell it as they had settled down in Calcutta after Uday Shankar’s death,” he said, adding the “Left-minded disposition of the Bengalis” was a factor why Amala Shankar sold the house to the CPI.

A conch drawn by Amala Shankar still graces the window of what used to be the Shankars’ upstairs living room, overlooking the large dance hall below. The Shankars also left behind a unique portrait of Uday Shankar drawn by filmmaker Satyajit Ray, the only other copy of which is in the Shankar household in Calcutta.

Every time Amala and Mamata Shankar came down to Chennai with their students, they made it a point to visit the house. Amala Shankar offered prayers to a coconut tree planted in the compound on whose bark her son had engraved his name, after Ananda Shankar’s death.

The story goes that the late Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, a friend of the family, suggested that Anand spell his name as Ananda Shankar, and in deference to his wishes, the younger Shankar inscribed his name on the bark of the coconut tree.


Raipur, Nov. 11: 
It’s a caste war of a different kind. Congressmen in Chhattisgarh are squabbling over whether chief minister Ajit Jogi is a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe.

At a meeting of the Chhattisgarh Adivasi Vikas Parishad held here last Sunday, rival factions of the Congress came to blows on the issue. The pro-Jogi faction insisted that the chief minister belonged to a Scheduled Tribe while the anti-Jogi camp asserted that he was from a Scheduled Caste. The clash took such a serious turn that a police contingent was rushed to bring the situation under control.

The Congress high command has taken exception to the incident and summoned to New Delhi the chief minister and the rebel ministers who are challenging Jogi’s caste credentials.

Industries minister Mahendra Karma has gone on record saying he was willing to give up his Cabinet berth, but would not stop his fight on the issue.

Karma, a member of a Scheduled Tribe, said if Jogi said he was a tribal, he should produce documents to support the claim. Along with another rebel minister Bhupesh Baghel, Karma reached New Delhi on Thursday.

Senior AICC member Mohsina Kidwai advised the duo to “sort out the matter with Ajit Jogi”. The chief minister is scheduled to arrive in Delhi soon to discuss the issue.

The storm in the caste teacup has its roots in the birth of Chhattisgarh a year ago. In November last year, Jogi became the state’s first chief minister. Fallen behind him were a dozen also-rans, including former Union minister Vidya Charan Shukla, three-time Madhya Pradesh chief minister and MP Shyama Charan Shukla, AICC treasurer Motilal Vora as well as ministers of undivided Madhya Pradesh, including Mahendra Karma, now the rebel leader.

The high command chose Jogi on the ground that in a state where more than 73 per cent of the population is made up of members of Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes and OBCs, the first chief minister ought to be a tribal.

Jogi offered himself as a member of the Kanwar tribe of Chhattisgarh while most other contenders belonged to higher castes. In the race for who is a tribal and who is not, his only competitor was Karma. He was offered the industries portfolio in an effort to console him when Jogi was made chief minister.

In February, Jogi contested the byelections from Marwahi, a tribal reserved constituency to get himself a seat in the 90-member Assembly. He won the elections with a margin of over 50,000 votes.

However, shortly after Jogi took charge, a series of petitions were filed in various courts challenging his tribal credentials.


Bangalore, Nov. 11: 
The Centre has asked Karnataka to give its nod to the extension of mining lease in the bio-sensitive Western Ghats to Kuderemukh Iron Ore Company Limited (KIOCL) for another 20 years despite concerns raised by the state and environment groups.

The profit-making public sector unit, KIOCL, is Asia’s largest mechanised iron ore mining and pelletisation plant.

“The state should consider permitting mining operations for another 20 years,” said Union steel minister Brij Kishor Tripathi, downplaying protests by environment groups. The Union Cabinet had granted the mining licence for 20 years, according to Tripathi.

“KIOCL has an excellent record on performance and profit without causing any harm to environment,” the minister added.

However, the final approval to extend the mining licence lies with the state government.

After talking tough against mining in the bio-sensitive Western Ghats, chief minister S.M. Krishna has toned down his stance. “Even when the first licence was granted, I was forewarned by the elders of the likely devastation to the environment. We have seen it happen,” Krishna had said, threatening to stop the project, launched to export pellets to Iran three decades ago as a joint collaboration between the then Shah of Iran and the Union government.

Krishna has now changed his tune with the Centre and labour unions putting pressure on his government not to write off the project.

Krishna and industries minister R.V. Desphande have been hedging on the issue of closure, saying the issue was complicated and needed to be looked at from all angles.

Environmentalists consider the Western Ghats rain forest eco-system to be one of the planet’s most important “hotspots” for its bio-diversity and genetic resource value.

An expert panel of the Indian Institute of Science has confirmed ecological damage in the region because of mining.


Bhubaneswar, Nov. 11: 
Two persons were killed and 12 injured when policemen opened fire on a 4,000-strong mob at the Raighar block of Nabrangpur district this afternoon.

The mob consisted mostly of armed tribals protesting against the government’s bias towards Bangladeshi settlers who have allegedly grabbed tribal land in the area.

This is the second instance of the police opening fire on tribals within a fortnight. On October 30, three tribals had lost their lives at Rangabhatti village in Raighar block when police fired to avert a clash between the tribals and the Bangladeshi settlers.

The dead have been identified as Budharam Yadav and Laxman Harijan. They were reported to be leading the mob that gheraoed the block office since 12.30 pm.

Director-general of police N.C. Padhi said the tribals attacked a local magistrate and the block development officer before ransacking the block office. Afterwards, they set about a dozen shops owned by Bangladeshi settlers on fire and attacked the policemen with bows and arrows, he added.

At 4.30 pm, the policemen resorted to latchicharge and lobbed teargas shells. They later fired eight rounds to disperse the crowd, leaving two dead. The injured have been admitted to Umerkote hospital. About 30 policemen were also injured.


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