ICC door ajar for compromise
PM whets Pervez appetite for talks
Freeze on Calcutta broker big guns
Teens, General George wants you
Nepal rebel mayhem
Calcutta Weather

Centurion, Nov. 24: 
The International Cricket Council (ICC), snubbed by India and South Africa over the Mike Denness issue, sent out mixed signals late last night.

Significantly, soon after, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Jagmohan Dalmiya spoke of the ICC being “one family”.

According to an official statement, the ICC is “determined to resolve the current issue in the best interests of cricket around the world”. This does suggest the ICC is open to discussions, a definite shift from Thursday’s stance when it retaliated most aggressively to Denness being replaced as match referee.

At the same time, however, the statement notes: “The ICC will not speculate on future developments, but is determined that the disciplinary action will stand.”

This, then, is like keeping the door ajar, not wide open.

Incidentally, many days after the Port Elizabeth episode, the ICC has revealed that umpires Russell Tiffin (Zimbabwe) and Ian Howell (South Africa) complained against Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, Shiv Sundar Das and Deep Dasgupta. Why this wasn’t communicated there itself, remains a mystery.

The ICC, though, has admitted there was no report against Indian captain Sourav Ganguly. Intriguingly, the Sehwag punishment (one-Test ban) apart, Sourav was disciplined in the harshest manner — a suspended sentence covering one Test and two ODIs.

Earlier, Denness acknowledged the umpires hadn’t complained against Sachin Tendulkar.

Sourav, it may be recalled, was penalised for bringing the game into disrepute by not curbing the on-field conduct of his players. In other words, the captain got nailed for the so-called excessive (and intimidating) appeals.

Sachin, Harbhajan, Shiv Sundar and Deep have each been given a one-Test suspended sentence. While Sachin becomes ‘free’ after December 31, the others (including Sourav) have to be on their best behaviour till January 31. Denness left for home last night. He was provided security cover during the last 24 hours of his stay.

Well-placed sources of The Telegraph have indicated that Ehsan Mani, the ICC president-elect, is likely to play a role in getting cricket out of this turmoil-phase. The soft-spoken Mani clearly enjoys the confidence of all sides in this ‘conflict’.

For now, cricket circles in these parts are rather amazed by United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA) chief executive Gerald Majola’s remark, late yesterday, that “financial considerations” largely influenced the UCBSA into replacing Denness with Denis Lindsay. Of course, it’s the BCCI which made an issue of Denness continuing in that chair.

In any case, there already was astonishment at captain Shaun Pollock’s views at stumps on Day-one — specifically, that his team was treating the on-going ‘Test’ as a practice game and that he wasn’t convinced the ICC would, in the future, treat it as an official Test.

Actually, few captains speak so boldly — irrespective of how sensitive the issue is.


New Delhi and Islamabad, Nov. 24: 
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said today he “could meet” Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on the sidelines of the Saarc summit in Kathmandu in early January.

This is the first time since the inconclusive Agra talks that Vajpayee has publicly signalled his willingness to meet Musharraf, whom the Prime Minister studiously avoided during the recent UN convention at New York.

“If the Saarc summit is held and I go there and he (Musharraf) comes there, then we could meet,” Vajpayee said during an informal chat at a luncheon hosted by BJP spokesman V.K. Malhotra.

In Islamabad, Musharraf, who has been trying to nudge India back to the talks-table, said Pakistan was “ready to discuss each and every issue with India. But the focus should be on Kashmir.”

Vajpayee’s expression of his willingness to meet Musharraf reflects the lightning changes that have taken place in Afghanistan and the resultant shift in India’s position. The Prime Minister’s remarks indicate that Delhi not only feels confident of handling the general but also realises that further delay in resuming talks could raise the level of concern among key world players.

At a Saarc summit, it is now almost a convention that all the heads of government meet. If Vajpayee had met all leaders barring Musharraf, it would have been seen as an admission that the two nuclear neighbours cannot sort out their problems on their own.

However, as the summit is scheduled only from January 4 to 6, Vajpayee has more than a month to gauge the mood — both in Afghanistan and in Jammu and Kashmir – and make up his mind on a firm commitment to meet Musharraf.

Vajpayee’s comments may also have stemmed from last week’s luncheon of Saarc foreign ministers in New York. Jaswant Singh was present at the lunch and so were his counterparts from other Saarc nations, including Pakistan foreign minister Abdus Sattar. The focus of the meeting was to finalise the summit dates.

Ignoring periodic appeals from the West, Vajpayee had been sticking to his stand against returning to the negotiating table until Pakistan stopped “sponsoring” cross-border terrorism. But his refusal had more to do with just trying to avoid a situation where he could have been accused by detractors in India of wilting under US pressure.

According to South Block, a meeting with Vajpayee would have strengthened Musharraf’s position at home. He could then have argued that despite compromises on Afghanistan, he was not willing to give in on Kashmir — a much more important issue in Pakistan.

But with the Northern Alliance now in control of Kabul, the scales have tilted against Islamabad. On the other hand, the turn of events has boosted India’s confidence. One of the main backers of the alliance, India feels that whoever replaces the Taliban will not be as hostile as the militia had been.


Calcutta, Nov. 24: 
The securities scam of 1992 returned to haunt some of the biggest stockbrokers in Calcutta with a special court notifying them for attaching their moveable and immovable properties.

Calcutta-based stockbrokers Ajay Kayan and Shyam Sundar Dalmia are among those notified by the custodian of the special court set up to handle India’s most infamous financial scandal. So far, the most famous name among those linked to the scam has been Harshad Mehta.

In a notification issued today, the custodian has asked the brokers to enlist their properties with the special court. Banks, financial institutions and mutual funds have also been told to furnish details of saleable securities, bank accounts and other assets belonging to Kayan and Dalmia.

Two other Calcutta brokers, too, have been notified. They are Gaurishankar Kayan, father of Ajay Kayan, and Rahul & Co.

The notification does not cover Kayan’s firm, C. Mackeritch Ltd. But the company’s predecessor, the defunct C. Mackeritch & Co, has been notified.

Investigators probing the securities scam had linked some Calcutta brokers to a transaction with a public-sector bank involving suspected shares of a blue-chip company. Associates of Kayan and Dalmia said the two were separately planning to challenge the decision of the custodian. While Dalmia is understood to be on a holiday outside the city, Kayan is in Mumbai.

A close associate of Kayan said: “He is discussing the development with lawyers at present to decide various issues, including which court to move.”

The associate added that “it came as a big surprise to us as there are no claims pending against him. We feel that there are mala fide intentions behind the move. No less than half-a-dozen custodians have come and gone in the last nine years, but none except the present felt the need to notify Kayan.”

Kayan has in the past been interrogated by agencies investigating the securities scam. The Securities and Exchange Board of India investigated Kayan’s firms for alleged involvement in the bear hammering (selling of shares to drive prices down) that followed the budget in March this year.

Dalmia’s aides, too, met lawyers in the city today. Sources close to Dalmia said he was likely to file an appeal against the special court order. The two brokers will have to file their appeals within 30 days of the notification.


New Delhi, Nov. 24: 
Defence minister George Fernandes wants compulsory military training for the country’s youth.

“It is my view that such training will be good and motivating for the youth. It is not that the government has taken any decision on this. At the moment it is a stray thought and if we have to go ahead with this, a combination of steps will have to be taken,” Fernandes said after first mooting the proposal in a speech to the National Cadet Corps (NCC).

Fernandes said it is his personal feeling that military training for children up to 16 years will give them “a sense of discipline and national purpose”.

Any move to make military training compulsory can take a political toll. The army, navy and air force in India together make up the largest national voluntary armed force in the world. Though Fernandes did say that he did not envisage such training leading to conscription — compulsory military service exists even in many developed nations — he talked of steeling national character.

The minister talked of a two-month training schedule for youth in a speech that was more than an hour long. He said he had experienced the “sense of purpose” of tribal youth who had been put through military training for just three months at an army establishment in Bihar.

Asked if he felt the NCC was to up to such a task, Fernandes said: “It would be a huge task. A combination of steps involving the armed forces will have to be taken.”

In his speech, the minister worried over the potential for unrest if 35 crore youth in the 16-35 years were discontented. “The country wants sacrifices in one form or the other but nothing can go wrong as long as people continue to be inspired by Gandhian values and events like Kargil,” the minister said.


Kathmandu, Nov. 24: 
Nepal’s Maoist rebels, fighting to topple the constitutional monarchy, launched a string of strikes across the kingdom, killing at least 37 people and shattering a four-month-old truce.

The attacks forced the government to move closer to declaring the Maoists as terrorists, which would pave the way for total mobilisation of the army against the rebels. King Gyanendra summoned Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and sought details.

An all-party meeting that followed a Cabinet session at the Prime Minister’s house has urged the government to take any appropriate measure to protect the lives and property of the citizens.




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