Kapil’s true story to roll on screen with script by satya 'reality-writer'
Decree rethink on both sides
PM clean chit to silence George outcry
Party lines up behind Buddha
Day of double goof-up in Upper House
Hospital assault test to Buddha reforms
Muslim reform voice rises from within
CM’s son on silver screen
Rescue engine turns killer
Bells toll to keep cops on toes

New Delhi, Nov. 20: 
Kapil Dev is producing a tell-all film on his life. Manoj Prabhakar, his former team mate who later accused him of match-fixing, will no doubt be the villain, but Kapil does not want to dwell too much on the villainy.

“Ninety per cent of life is joy, is success. There is the 10 per cent that is unhappy but I cannot allow it to overshadow the 90 per cent,” Kapil said today, laying down the rules by which script-writer Anurag Kashyap will play.

Standing in front of the larger-than-life-size portrait of himself sobbing — obviously taken from the television interview during which he broke down — Kapil Dev said he had almost always let his heart rule over his head.

“I am emotional. I cry when I see a tragic Hindi film. Just like you,” said Kapil.

The all-rounder, however, is not quite so overwhelmed by feeling that he should lose sight of the business Kapil Dev-The True Story can get. The film will be produced by Dev & Dev in association with Tyger Productions. The two-and-a-half hour feature will be distilled out of an eight-episode television series. Tyger Productions’ Shailendra Singh said they had got a commitment from Star Network in the production and distribution of the film. He expects the project to be ready for release by October next year. The project begins with an estimated cost of about Rs 5 crore.

Tyger roped in Anurag Kashyap who made his name as a “reality-writer” with such films as Shool and Satya.

“I am still carrying out my research. I believe in Kapil Dev completely. He has been candid in his discussions with me and I think there is a child in him. I do not think I will be talking to Azharuddin or Prabhakar in the course of my writing. The main content will be — against all odds, this man, Kapil Dev, has risen to the heights that he has. The really difficult part is going to be when we come to casting. I am planning the script as a docu-drama,” said Kashyap. Will the match-fixing charges come in the climax? Replies Kashyap: “In our sessions, we have not come to that point yet.”

Kapil said he had made a business proposal to the Board of Control for Cricket in India recently to help budding cricketers with infrastructure. “For instance, say, Shiv Sundar Das came into big time cricket but without ever having played under flood-lights. If the BCCI and we agree, we can arrange to have lights fixed in, maybe, Das’ backyard so that he can practice in real conditions,” said Kapil, explaining his proposal.

“I cannot be leaving cricket just like that. Nor can cricket be driven out of my life. If there is anything I can do to help the country win the world cup again, I will be grateful,” he said.


New Delhi, Nov. 20: 
The Vajpayee government is in a dilemma over whether to push the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance through a joint session of Parliament or to make changes and have it passed in the normal course.

But the joint-session proposal has made the Congress uncomfortable, opening the distant possibility of a meeting ground if the government offers “amendments and safeguards”.

A section of the allies and moderates in the BJP are willing to yield, but the hardliners insist that the Ordinance should be enacted into a law at any cost, especially with the Uttar Pradesh elections around the corner.

If no face-saving formula emerges, the Ordinance may not see the light of day in the winter session. But as a strategy to pressure the Opposition, government sources spoke of a joint session as the last resort.

The government cannot get the Ordinance passed in Parliament in the normal course because though it has a majority in the Lok Sabha, it lacks the numbers in the Rajya Sabha. But in a joint session of 782 MPs (540 from the Lok Sabha and 242 from the Rajya Sabha), it will outnumber the Opposition by 433 to 349.

The government is counting on the support of two Opposition parties – Jayalalithaa’s ADMK and Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party, which have spoken in favour of the Ordinance.

The procedure for pushing through the terror Ordinance thought up tentatively by the government is:

Hold a home ministry consultative committee meeting on November 23, which will be attended by Opposition members as well.

Introduce minor amendments, such as reducing the 48-hour period required to produce an accused before a magistrate to 24 hours and doing away with curbs on the press.

Place the “amendments” before an all-party meeting and introduce in the Lok Sabha.

If defeated in the Rajya Sabha, go for a joint session. Simultaneously, BJP governments in states will be directed to enact clones of the Ordinance.

The Prime Minister today tailored his tone to suit the mood of the BJP parliamentary party meeting, where hardliners held sway. “We are part of the international fight against terrorism. If we were thinking of using it (the Ordinance) for Uttar Pradesh elections, we could have right away convened a joint session. For us, country is above party. The people are with us and not with the Opposition. We are striving to evolve a consensus so as not to present a divided Parliament.”

Convening a joint session is not considered a healthy practice. Since Independence, only twice has the joint session been called — in 1961, to pass the Dowry Prohibition Bill and in 1978, to pass the Banking Service Commission (Repeal) Bill.

A joint sitting is mandated by Article 108 of the Constitution “if after a Bill has been passed by one House and transmitted to the other House a) the bill is rejected by the other House or b) the Houses have finally disagreed as to the amendments to be made in the Bill; or c) more than six months elapse from the date of the reception of the Bill by the other House without the Bill being passed by it”.

Cracks in Congress

Congress president Sonia Gandhi hinted at a softening of her party’s stand when she told party MPs that the Ordinance, in “its present form”, was unacceptable. She called for a larger consultative process, involving all parties, to put in place a legislation to deal with terrorism.

“We have thought long and hard about this legislation. Our considered conclusion is that the Ordinance in its present form cannot be supported by Congress,” Sonia said.

The Congress president had met Vajpayee on Sunday. Party spokesman Jaipal Reddy confirmed today that the conversation was limited to the Ordinance.

While the main Opposition party is unwilling to officially comment on the terror Ordinance with “amendments and safeguards”, a powerful lobby in the party said it will consider a “revised Ordinance”.

Reddy said the move to opt for joint session was a “Machiavellian design”. The tough words notwithstanding, the Congress is not united on how to oppose the Ordinance in case the government comes forward with changes.

A section of the party, including Manmohan Singh, Pranab Mukherjee, Shivraj Patil, Ashwani Kumar and Anand Sharma, is in favour of a “flexible approach”. Their logic is that the Congress should not be seen as opposing a national law against terrorism.

However, another section of the party, which includes Ambika Soni, Kapil Sibal, Arjun Singh, Jaipal Reddy and Manu Abhishek Singhvi, is arguing for a “tough posture”.


New Delhi, Nov. 20: 
The NDA government stood rock solid behind defence minister George Fernandes as an aggressive Opposition demanded an explanation from Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the Lok Sabha on how and why he was reinducted in the Cabinet when the Venkataswami Commission’s probe into the Tehelka tapes, which indirectly implicated Fernandes, was still on.

The clearest signal that the government would go all out to defend the NDA convener and Samata Party chief came from none other than Vajpayee, who gave Fernandes a clean chit during the BJP’s parliamentary party meeting this morning. BJP sources said the Prime Minister’s defence was suo motu.

Vajpayee was quoted as saying that Fernandes’ reinduction was his prerogative and that there was no charge against him. “He gave him a totally clean chit,” said sources and went to the extent of suggesting that the commission, whose tenure was recently extended till February, may as well be wound up — something the Samata has been insisting on.

Government sources, too, made it clear that the Opposition’s demand for a statement on why Fernandes was reinstated as defence minister would not be conceded. These sources said that the Congress chief whip in the Lok Sabha Priya Ranjan Das Munshi — who was most vocal in raising the issue this morning — again spoke of a discussion at a business advisory committee meeting of the Lower House later in the day.

Das Munshi was reportedly told that “under no circumstance” would Vajpayee explain the decision. “Don’t create conventions. It’s the Prime Minister’s prerogative who he wants to take and when,” he was told.

The only “concession” the government made was that when the Prime Minister was present in the House by convention on Thursday to answer questions, the Opposition was free to ask him why Fernandes was brought in but he could “choose to respond”.

The Fernandes issue united the entire Opposition and it appeared as though even his old Socialist comrades like Mulayam Singh Yadav and former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar were in no mood to hold a brief for him.

When external affairs minister Jaswant Singh introduced the new ministers and those who were promoted in between the sessions as a matter of propriety in the Rajya Sabha, cries of “shame, shame” greeted Fernandes. Congress MP Suresh Pachauri wanted the Chair to intervene, but chairperson Krishan Kant turned down his claim, saying ministers were appointed by the President on the Prime Minister’s request.

In the Lok Sabha, bringing up the issue during zero hour, Das Munshi said: “We want to know the circumstances in which the Prime Minister gave him a clean chit. He owes an explanation to members as he is accountable to Parliament.” The Congress chief whip was backed by the Left, the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Chandra Shekhar. But when there was no response from the treasury benches, the Opposition walked out.

Once they left the House, parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan asserted that the defence minister was “totally innocent” and the Venkataswami Commission had not until now levelled any charge against him. “The commission in its notice to Fernandes has not made any allegation till now and has not sought any explanation from him,” Mahajan said.

Das Munshi told outside the House that though it was the Prime Minister’s prerogative to appoint his council of ministers, a “system of ethics” had to be maintained.


New Delhi, Nov. 20: 
With West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee determined to bring a law against organised crime, the CPM leadership is falling in line, defending “their” law against the Centre’s.

“You have to differentiate between ‘a’ law and ‘the’ law. There is nothing wrong in having a special law that would help the state government to punish criminals,” senior CPM MP Somnath Chatterjee said.

West Bengal does need “a” law, he stressed. “The state has been suffering for a long time.” It has a long, unmanned border with Nepal and Bangladesh —— insurgent groups operating in West Bengal and Tripura are trained in Bangladesh. The Centre has withdrawn paramilitary forces from the border, Chatterjee pointed out.

The state has every right to defend its border, especially when the Union government is not cooperating, he added.

The CPM MP said his party was not denying the “seriousness” of terrorism but “we are opposed to any draconian law”.

When the controversy over the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance was hotting up, the party’s central leadership had persuaded the Bengal chief minister to withdraw the Ordinance pending before the Governor for prevention of organised crime.

Bhattacharjee relented on the Ordinance, but he refused to budge on the Bill that his government had proposed.

Chatterjee today conceded that the state’s decision to bring an Ordinance was hasty but said there was nothing wrong in tabling a Bill that would have a special provision for early deposition of cases.

In the coming days, the CPM will have to tread a fine line between supporting “their” Bill and opposing the Centre’s.

Bhattacharjee has sent out a clear signal that he would run his government according to administrative priorities, even if they are not always in tune with the party’s stated political position.

The CPM leadership is more relaxed now that the Ordinance has been struck off —- the party has always been allergic to Ordinances —- but it still has to walk the tightrope.

The BJP has been waiting for the opportunity where it can prick the Left Front’s arguments against the Centre’s terror Ordinance with the Bengal Bill against crime. But the CPM insists that “their” Bill will have nothing that can even remotely be dubbed “draconian”.


New Delhi, Nov. 20: 
From all accounts it was an embarrassing start for the government in the Rajya Sabha. On the second day of the winter session, the Upper House had to be adjourned two hours before the scheduled close because it did not have enough business to transact. At least not on paper.

More embarrassing was the Prime Minister’s lapse. While reading a suo motu statement in the Rajya Sabha on his official trip abroad, Atal Bihari Vajpayee forgot to read two paragraphs.

The Congress MPs tapped the Prime Minister to attention, reminding him of the missed paragraphs. “Even then, he read one and left out the other,” said Opposition MPs. Barely an hour ago, Vajpayee had read out the same statement in the Lok Sabha.

At the end of the day, Congress MPs in the Rajya Sabha charged the government with lackadaisical attitude and said they were not interested in running Parliament properly. “There is a lot of business — discussions and Bills that could have been transacted in the House. Why did they have to adjourn the House early?” asked Congress MP Eduardo Faleiro.

The government tried to wriggle out of the situation by passing the buck to the Opposition. A senior BJP leader in the government said they had planned to bring the Delhi Rent Control Amendment Bill today but the Congress asked the ruling party to defer the Bill at a dinner hosted by Rajya Sabha chairperson Krishan Kant last night. But the Opposition brushed aside the suggestion and said there were as many as six pending Bills and any one of them could have been slated for today’s business.

The dearth of legislative business was known soon after the Upper House met after lunch. The Explosives Amendment Bill was passed after a brief discussion. And then there was nothing more listed for discussions in the House.

Minister of state for parliamentary affairs O. Rajagopal said the government was ready to discuss another Bill but the Opposition had asked for a postponement. Joining issue with him, Opposition members Suresh Pachauri (Congress) and Dipankar Mukherjee (CPM) said they were ready to discuss the Bill but it was not there in today’s list of business.

“The government is just trying to shift the blame for not being able to conduct business in the House properly,” said Faleiro. The Congress MP pointed out that the MPs get two lists of business — one, two days in advance and the other —a revised list — a day in advance. “The Delhi Rent Control Bill was not listed in any of these,” said Faleiro.


Calcutta, Nov. 20: 
Barely three weeks after the state government disallowed special-duty attendants from hospitals, 15 of them tonight assaulted the relative of a patient admitted to the prestigious Woodburn ward of SSKM Hospital, dealing a blow to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s reform initiatives in the health sector.

A little after 7.30 pm, a group of attendants surrounded the niece of S.N. Biswas, a patient in Cabin No. 3A of Woodburn ward. According to hospital sources, the attendants started abusing Manashi Majumdar for no particular reason. An argument ensued and the women then started assaulting the 24-year-old woman.

Noticing the commotion, some personnel from other departments informed the police stationed at the picket in the hospital compound. The attendants were subdued and pulled away around 8 pm, the sources added.

Tonight’s assault dealt a double blow to the CPM that had vowed to upgrade a much-neglected healthcare system.

First, the attack took place in SSKM Hospital, the premier institution among government hospitals. Second, it was at the Woodburn ward which admits ministers and senior government officials and holds special status in the hospital.

An injured and dazed Manashi was given first-aid and later taken to the Bhowanipore police station, where she lodged a first information report against the attendants. The hospital authorities, too, have lodged a complaint. Biswas, who has been admitted for a hernia operation, was under sedation and apparently unaware of the incident.

“As far as I know, nothing had happened between the patient’s relatives and the attendants that could have led to the assault,” said SSKM Hospital’s surgeon superintendent Debdwaipayan Chatterjee. “The relative just happened to be the victim of the pent-up frustrations and emotions of the attendants that have been building up since November 1,” he said. “They are against the green card system that had been introduced since then.”

Chatterjee said the police would be told to strictly prevent the entry of attendants into the hospital compound from tomorrow. “Only those given the green cards by the patient’s relatives would be allowed entry.”

Hospital sources, however, point out that such instructions should have been in force from the beginning. “The police were not adequately alerted about the tensions building up within the hospital,” they said.

Special-duty attendants, or anubratis, have been part of the government hospital system for over two decades. They were banned from November 1. These attendants, who have never been on the regular staff of the hospitals, have, however, received patronage and support from the CPM over these years. But among the proposals introduced by the health department recently was the abolition of their services, limiting their entry to the choice of the patients’ relatives.


New Delhi, Nov. 20: 
The recent Supreme Court verdict favouring maintenance to divorced Muslim women beyond the three-month iddat period has triggered a controversy within the community with many underlining the need for introspection and reforms.

The call for reforms this time has not come from the “liberal sections” that had bitterly opposed the Rajiv Gandhi government for overruling the Shah Bano verdict. Mushtaq Ahmad, who had served as the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board lawyer in the Shah Bano and Babri Masjid cases, has written an “open letter” to community leaders, calling for ishtehad (reforms) as envisaged under Islamic laws.

The clergy is divided on the interpretation of ishtehad, but Mushtaq and others insist that Islam recognises the need to keep pace with changing times and make amendments within the parameters of Shariat. To drive home the point, he asked if the clergy was following the Islamic principle of arbitration before divorce.

“Forget bid for mediation, we have postal talaaqs, telephone talaaqs and triple talaaqs which are one-sided and favour men,” he said.

A recent emergency meeting of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board witnessed a heated debate over the maintenance issue. The board has decided to move court and seek clarification from the apex court on its interpretation of maintenance for divorced Muslim women.

However, there were other voices that called for widening the scope of maintenance and holding dialogue with women groups to thrash out a consensus within the Muslim community. Board chief Qazi Mujahid-ul-Islam and other office-bearers said they should not be seen as “rigid” or “anti-women” as Islamic laws were based on principles of gender equality and justice.

The board officials, however, cautioned the “reformists” not to rush a sensitive matter. “These are divine laws that cannot be subjected to frequent changes. The spirit of the laws should be maintained,” they said pointedly of the maintenance issue. “In Islam, the institution of marriage is one of social contract and it gets over when talaaq takes place. If a man is chained to pay maintenance, there would be other problems,” a board member said.

The personal law board feels that many high courts are unaware of Islamic provisions, leading to errors in judgment. For instance, there was a verdict that a man should pay maintenance for children up to two years.

“It is a case of gross ignorance. A Muslim man is expected to pay maintenance for children till they attain adulthood, whereas the mother’s responsibility is confined to feeding them,” a board member said.

Some speakers said it would be futile to insist on constitutional amendments when the apex court has again ruled in favour of maintenance beyond the three-month period. Adding a political flavour, the disgruntled Muslim leaders said the community had paid a price when Rajiv Gandhi opened the Babri Masjid gates as part of a “balancing act” that culminated in the demolition of the mosque and widespread riots in 1992. “Was it worth paying the price?” Mushtaq said, egging the clergy to do some soul-searching.

There is also a feeling that the law that replaced the Shah Bano verdict has not led to the desired results. The Muslim Women Protection Bill of 1986 had called for maintenance for needy divorced Muslim women from cash-rich waqf boards. But, so far, no one has benefited as suitable amendments have not been incorporated in the Waqf Act since 1986.    

Mumbai, Nov. 20: 
Instead of stepping into his father’s shoes, Ritesh Deshmukh, son of Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, has stepped into Bollywood.

The 20-something Ritesh, who had trained as an architect, is playing the lead in Tujhe Meri Kasam. The movie also has newcomers Raja and Gene, the girl who appears in the Parker pen ad with Amitabh Bachchan.

“Ritesh wasn’t too keen on a movie career,” says cinematographer Kabir Lal, who played talent scout. The chief minister’s son caught Lal’s eye when he used to drop in on the sets of Subhash Ghai’s Yaadein. “I liked the boy for his good looks. But he took a lot of convincing,” Lal said. “Ritesh took up the movie only because he liked the script so much,” Lal added.

Bollywood, however, must have been on Ritesh’s mind, as he had done a course in acting in an institute in California. He has worked in the US as an architect.

Tujhe Meri Kasam, directed by Vijay Bhaskar, is a remake of a “fun-and-family” kind of a Telugu hit. It is the story of a boy and a girl who are born on the same date. “It is a very simple story, something like an old Rajashri Pictures sort of movie,” says Lal.

Ritesh is tight-lipped about his career in Bollywood, but a close associate said a lot depends on the success of the movie. Ritesh is the second of Vilarao’s sons. The eldest son, Amit, is in politics.


Calcutta, Nov. 20: 
At least 13 people were killed and 10 injured when an engine slammed into the Howrah-bound Mokama passenger train from behind at Dumri in Bihar this evening, Eastern Railway said.

Confusion reigned through the evening with officials initially putting the toll at 13 and later revising it to three. However, after midnight, the casualty figure was changed back to 13.

The accident occurred between Mankatha and Barhiya stations, the railway said.

When the engine hit the rear of the 214 DN Mokama-Howrah passenger train, two bogies got derailed, a railway release issued in Calcutta said.

Three of the dead were identified as railway gangmen Mahinder Singh, Bhasho Singh and Uchit Shao, the release said.

The additional-director general of the Government Railway Police, J. K. Sinha, had first put the toll at 13 but later scaled it down to three.

The condition of three of the injured was said to be critical. All of them were hospitalised at Mokama, the railway said.

Railway minister Nitish Kumar and all the members of the Railway Board have started for the accident site in a special train from New Delhi.

Eastern Railway general manager Arvind Sharma reached the accident site with medical supplies in a special train. Special enquiry counters have been opened by the Eastern Railway to give updates about the mishap for the relatives of those killed and injured at Howrah, Sealdah, Asansol, Patna, Danapur, Durgapur, Jasidih and Mokama.


Bangalore, Nov. 20: 
A super-cop is using the age-old temple bell to keep the police on their toes in India’s Silicon Valley.

Bangalore’s high profile police commissioner H.T. Sangliana has ordered bells to be installed at all 87 police stations. A beat constable would ring the bell every half an hour and as many rings as the hour passes by.

“This is a simple way to tell people that the police are at work. This would also help poor people, who do not have watches to know the time,” the commissioner said.

The echoing ring of the bells is meant to signal that the police are at the beck and call of citizens, who have been insecure after the increased murders of elderly people in the last couple of years.

Bangalore has also turned into a retreat zone for the Mumbai underworld, which is under attack from the Maharashtra police.

Sangliana has ordered his men to visit aged people. Beat patrolling has also been intensified.

Sangliana has a larger-than-life image in Karnataka, where he has served for the last 30 years. A two-part Kannada film on his “heroic” image that was made in the early 90s featuring Shankar Nag, younger brother of former minister and actor Anant Nag, drew large crowds. One of Sangliana’s fans has launched a website exclusively on him.

His critics have, however, dubbed “Mission Bell” a gimmick. “What Bangalore requires is tough crime-control measures and checking political interference in the police department. These measures will not really help,” said a police official.

But Sangliana is undeterred by what he believes as “jealousy-driven criticism”. “ I want to turn this place upside down. I have been assured a free hand,” he said. He admits the task before him is challenging.

One of his new diktats is to make a police official report for work by eight in the morning at every police station. “Normally they used to come at 10 am, now a sub-inspector or an inspector will be available at the police station from 8 am,” he said.

Sangliana also entertains complaints on e-mail. “My attempt is to get my officials to double their inputs. If they can’t keep up with my pace, they have no place here,” he said.

The police commissioner also has a social agenda. He plans to turn Bangalore’s most fashionable avenue, M.G. Road, into a children’s playground on Sundays. “The idea is to allow children to have a good time, free from traffic and pollution,” Sangliana said.

Sangliana as superintendent of police became a celebrity after he oversaw the famous Chikmagalur by-election involving former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1978. Indira Gandhi won the hard-fought election, defeating the present defence minister George Fernandes, to resurrect her political career after defeat in the mid-term general elections in 1977 that took place in the backdrop of the Emergency era.

Before taking charge as Bangalore’s police commissioner, Sangliana had a brief stint in the special task force that has been hunting for the country’s most wanted brigand Veerappan.


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