Delhi hunt for envoy to Pakistan
Naxalites blow up minister house
Sinha spins grandfather’s tale
Sangh school skeletons in government cupboard
Naxalite army in urban thrust
Rebel’s return boosts Cong unity in TN
Polio pangs sour success story
Supercop’s Santa dream dashed
Illicit liquor claims 6 lives
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, Dec. 2: 
The search is on for a new envoy to Pakistan. The Indian high commissioner in Islamabad, Vijay Nambiar, is scheduled to leave for New York as India’s permanent representative to the United Nations, replacing Kamlesh Sharma, early next year.

Indications in the foreign ministry suggest Ronen Sen, India’s ambassador to Berlin who is scheduled to replace Nambiar, may not go to Islamabad. Sen, who has heart problems and recently underwent surgery, may not be fit to take charge of the Islamabad mission, known to be a “stressful posting”.

Manilal Tripathi, currently in Dhaka as the high commissioner, appears to be the frontrunner for the Islamabad post. If Sen cannot be moved from his current post, it will create problems for T.C.A. Rangachari, slated to be his successor in Germany. Rangachari, an assistant secretary looking after the UN in the South Block, may either have to stay in his present job or go to Dhaka.

Both Rangachari and Tripathi have worked in Pakistan before. Although “stressful”, the job of the Indian high commissioner in Islamabad is a high-profile assignment. In the past, diplomats who have headed the Islamabad mission have gone on to become foreign secretary.

However, questions are now being raised whether India should keep its best diplomats hostage to Pakistan by posting them as high commissioner there. Nambiar, for instance, considered by most as a brilliant career officer, could not do much, given the strain in bilateral ties.

Moreover, unlike in other countries, the Indian envoy’s access to Pakistani officials and other ambassadors in Islamabad is limited.

The nature of the envoy’s job could, however, change if talks between India and Pakistan are resumed after the proposed meeting between Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pervez Musharraf during the Saarc Summit in Kathmandu from January 4-6.

South Block officials feel the recent developments in Afghanistan, which led to the ouster of the Taliban regime from Kabul and directed the focus of the international community on global terrorism, would henceforth play an important role in India-Pakistan relations.

Musharraf had extended an invitation to the Prime Minister to visit Pakistan soon after the Agra summit. The Pakistani foreign minister, Abdus Sattar, had invited his Indian counterpart Jaswant Singh.


Bhubaneswar, Dec. 2: 
In a chilling sequel to the string of attacks in Andhra Pradesh, members of the Peoples’ War Group (PWG) last night blew away a house of Orissa cooperative and textiles minister Arabinda Dhali.

A few moments earlier, about 25 PWG members had bombed an unarmed police outpost nearby after ordering the policemen to vacate.

No one was killed or injured in the attacks. The incidents took place in the Potteru area of Malkangiri district a day after the blasts, in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, in a factory owned by the family of chief minister Chandrababu Naidu and another by a Central minister.

Last night, the PWG struck in Andhra again in a series of attacks, gunning down a contractor, suspected to be an informer, in Medak district.

The Orissa minister was away in Bhubaneswar when his farmhouse was bombed. Two caretakers were asked by the Naxalites to leave the place before it was ripped apart by explosives. Sources said the Potteru farmhouse is generally abandoned as Dhali’s family stays in another village.

This is the first Naxalite attack on the property of an Orissa minister, though several policemen have been killed and scores injured in serial strikes recently. Dhali and his family are provided Z-category security after he figured in the PWG hit list this year.

Orissa director-general of police N.C. Padhi said the attacks were “symbolic” as the PWG has declared the border districts of Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh a war zone. Padhi said the group was observing Saturday as “Terrorism Day” in the so-called war zone.

In Andhra, two houses of an MLA of the ruling Telugu Desam were destroyed by PWG activists. The legislator, Y.V. Satyanarayana, and his family members were not present in the house at Koyyur in Visakhapatnam district at the time of attack.

In the same district, the extremists opened fire on two police stations and on a third one in East Godavari district, apparently in an attempt to loot weapons. They were beaten back by police after a gun battle.

The PWG is banned in Andhra, but not in Orissa yet. The state government has prepared a Rs 371-crore scheme to combat the Naxalite threat.

The biggest-ever Naxalite attack in Orissa took place on August 10, when a group of about 200 killed five policemen and injured 22 in simultaneous attacks on Kalimela and Motu police stations in Malkangiri district.

Two PWG commanders were killed when police returned fire. After the incident, a battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force was stationed there. Already, 13 platoons of the Orissa State Armed Police are deployed in the district.

After the August bloodbath, there have been numerous attacks on police outposts in the district, in one of which a jawan of the Orissa State Armed Police was killed in sniper fire. Several government officials in Malkangiri are reported to have fled the town following the recent attacks.


New Delhi, Dec. 2: 
If Yashwant Sinha can produce a miracle budget that will take the growth rate to 7 per cent and if this magic is repeated 10 times over, poverty is history.

We will be telling our grandchildren “stories of how a fourth of India” was once poor.

The finance minister today looked beyond the crashed dream of his last budget, global recession and stock market scams to paint a picture of what 7 per cent growth could do in a decade.

“If we grow for one decade at 7 per cent, it will give us a doubling of output to a level where GDP will rise to roughly a trillion dollars... reduce poverty rate to below 5 per cent and take over 200 million people out of a state of poverty,” Sinha said before a Sunday audience of industrialists, market analysts and diplomats gathered at a function organised here by the World Economic Forum.

If the promised growth took place, “we would be able to tell our grandchildren stories about how a fourth of India once experienced deprivation, but they would see none around them,” he said.

But then, as a credit analyst from a leading European bank sitting in the audience said, “if that happens, I will eat my hat”.

What he possibly meant was this was the wrong time to dream such dreams. GDP growth is projected to be a dismal 4.5 per cent in this financial year and, with the savings rate stagnating at about 24 per cent of the GDP, the economy is not expected to set a poverty-busting pace of growth.The investment rate – vehicle for growth — has slipped to half of what it was seven years ago.

Sinha appeared aware of the scepticism the unveiling of his dream would provoke. He quickly started to move to what he termed his recipe: Increase the efficiency of utilising savings by ushering in the second generation of reforms.

“Some elements of the reforms process consist of getting the state out of the way, that’s relatively easy to execute. But we will not obtain economic growth without a substantial role for the state in creating and enforcing rules of the game.”

For this, the state has to engage in the difficult task of creating laws and regulatory and enforcement capacity.

“These are difficult and India is often criticised for being congenitally incapable of obtaining radical change when there are complex, interlocking interests of competing constituencies, when changes call for legislative action.”


New Delhi, Dec. 2: 
Much before Parliament erupted in controversy over history, a government-appointed panel had frowned on the books used in the RSS-run Vidya Bharati schools.

A series of booklets used in the over 6,000 Vidya Bharati Akhil Bharatiya Shiksha Sansthan schools, in the form of a question-answer series, expose an agenda to promote communal and chauvinistic ideas, said the National Steering Committee on Textbook Evaluation appointed by the human resources development ministry in 1993.

The 16-member committee headed by Bipan Chandra, then professor at Centre for Historical Studies, and comprising eminent historians submitted its recommendations in 1994 but they were never implemented.

The number of students in the schools, the first of which was set up in 1978, is 12,00,000 now, and have some 40,000 teachers.

“Much of the material (taught in the RSS-run schools) is designed to promote bigotry and religious fanaticism in the name of inculcating knowledge of culture in the young generation. That this material is being used as teaching and examination material in schools which, presumably, have been accorded recognition should be a matter of serious concern,” the committee said.

The materials the panel objected to make for some interesting reading:

How many devotees of Ram laid down their lives to liberate Ram temple from 1528 to 1914? —“Three-lakh-fifty thousand.” (There is no mention of how the schools arrived at this figure).

“Thousands of opponents of idol worship, the followers of Islam, go to the pilgrimage centre of Islamic community at Kaaba to worship ‘Shivalinga’. In Muslim society, the greatest wish is to have a darshan of that black stone (Shivlinga)”.

The credit for lighting the lamp of culture in China goes to the ancient Indians.

The first people who began to inhabit China were Indians.

The first people to settle in Iran were Indians.

Besides Pakistan and Bangladesh, Tibet, Nepal Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Brahmadesh (Myanmar) are all supposed to have been parts of India.

What is the name of the island in the south which touches the feet of Bharat Mata and reminds us of Sri Ramchandra’s victory over Ravan and which was a part of our country at one time?

Many of these booklets, the report said, have a section each on “Sri Ramjanmabhumi”. Some of the questions contained are:

How many times the foreigners invaded Shri Ramjanmabhumi? “Seventy-seven times.”

What was the number of the struggle for the liberation of Ram Janmabhumi which was launched on October 30, 1990? “78th struggle.”

Why will November 2, 1990 be inscribed in black letters in the history of India? — On that day, the then chief minister (of Uttar Pradesh) ordered the police to shoot unarmed kar sevaks and massacred hundreds of them.

Which Muslim plunderer invaded the temples in Ayodhya in 1033? — Mahmud Ghaznavi’s nephew Salar Masud.

Which Mughal invader destroyed the Ram temple in 1528? “Babur.”

On Christianity, the Series No. 12 says: “It is because of the conspiratorial policies of the followers of this religion that India was partitioned. Even today, Christian missionaries are engaged in fostering anti-national tendencies in Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal, Bihar, Kerala and other regions of our country because of which there is a grave danger to the integrity of present day India.”

The RSS has arisen to end the misery and for the defence of the greatness of Bharatiya sanskriti, the report quoted a booklet as saying.


Patna, Dec. 2: 
The outlawed People’s War Group resolved to spread the people’s war to urban areas as well on the occasion of the first anniversary of its People’s Guerrilla Army (PGA).

The PGA was raised on December 2 last year by the PWG with the intention of establishing a regular guerrilla cadre for Bihar and Jharkhand.

The outfit is propagating its message through posters and pamphlets in the PWG strongholds, particularly in Jehanabad.

The Naxalites had set up a joint state military commission to facilitate the operation of the PGA in Bihar and Jharkhand. The commission is headed by the state secretary of the PWG.

In just a year, the PGA claims to have killed 18 policemen in Bihar and six in Jharkhand, and snatched 11 rifles, two self-loading rifles and a revolver in different raids on the police in Bihar.

Sources said the PGA has carried out several ambushes on the police under the command of the PWG’s zonal military commission, which came into existence immediately after the formation of the PGA last year.

The recent landmine blasts at Dhanarua and Belagunj, in which 11 policemen were killed and a huge cache of police arms and ammunition were looted, were carried out on the commands of the zonal military commission of the PWG under which the PGA platoon operates.

One platoon of the PGA comprises around 25-30 armed guerrillas. Sources said the PWG has launched a fresh drive to recruit more squads into the PGA. The main enemy of the organisation is the Ranbir Sena, the private army of the upper class landlords.

The PWG charge the police with providing protection to the Ranbir Sena and say the atrocities on the poor and the landless farmers result in the killings of the police and the landlords. Sources say the PWG has vowed to annihilate people hostile to the landless and the poor and to fight till the people of the villages get power in their hand.

The PWG claimed that it has formed a regular army for the first time after gaining several decades’ experience of guerrilla warfare. Women cadre armed with sophisticated weapons have been inducted in the PGA.

Sources said the new cadre recruited to convert several areas of central Bihar into guerrilla zones, would be equipped with the arms the PGA proposes to snatch from big farmers of the PWG strongholds.

A PWG press release warned the police against another landmine blast similar to the one in Dhanarua and Belagunj. Issued by the secretary of the area committee, western Jehanabad, the PWG release charged the Jehanabad police with providing protection to the Ranbir Sena in the Kinjor police station area.

Intelligence sources said the PWG now plans to spread its tentacles to several untouched areas adjoining its strongholds in central Bihar. The outfit plans to run its organisation and strengthen the PGA with the help of funds collected from the central Bihar districts of Patna, Nalanda and Jehanabad.

The PWG has reportedly collected lakhs of rupees in these districts from transporters, contractors, brick-kiln and quarry owners.

The Patna police recently killed two PWG activists and arrested two injured ones from Supauli village, where the extremists were planning carnage. One policeman was also killed in the encounter.


Chennai, Dec. 2: 
Rebel Congress leader from Tamil Nadu Vazhapadi Koothapadyachi Ramamurthy, popularly known as Vazhapadi, has along with his outfit, the Tamizhaga Rajiv Congress (TRC), rejoined the parent body.

The merger takes place at a time when the BJP and the ruling ADMK in Tamil Nadu are inching closer towards an alliance now that ADMK chief Jayalalithaa has offered issue-based support to the NDA, though the latter has ruled out taking her on board.

In a low-key comeback, Ramamurthy, who returned to the city from Delhi late last night after a meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi has made it clear that his party’s merger decision was “unconditional”.

During his meeting with Sonia, Ramamurthy handed her the TRC’s merger resolution.

Ramamurthy’s return to the Congress is significant, particularly after TNCC chief E.V.K.S. Elangovan initiated a move to bring all like-minded Congressmen together to “effectively take on both the DMK and the ADMK” in the long-term. “Factionalism and infighting can at best be only a bad excuse for not coming together if the real objective is to strengthen the hands of Sonia Gandhi,” he said.

To “strengthen the nationalist forces and the Congress in Tamil Nadu, we have taken the first step, the lead, to merge with the mother party,” said T.S. Killivalavan, an old confidant of Ramamurthy, who explains that the background to this merger was the decline of the two powerful regional forces in the state, the DMK and the ADMK.

In a chequered political career, Ramaurthy, 61, who started out as a fiery Tamil debater and an understudy of the late Kamaraj, gravitated towards the Tamil nationalists within the Congress. An outstanding Intuc leader, his knack of winning Lok Sabha elections soon drew him closer to both Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.

Ramamurthy would always get irritated when reminded about his Vanniyar OBC background, retorting that he was a Congressman first. Taking over the TNCC presidentship from G.K Moopanar in 1989, he revamped the party and directly took on the DMK. Later, during the P.V. Narasimha Rao regime, Ramamurthy flirted with the Tiwari Congress because of his close links with yet another rebel leader, Arjun Singh.

Ramamurthy was compelled to launch the breakaway Tamizhaga Rajiv Congress in 1997 after being “arbitrarily expelled” from the Congress at the recommendations of the then TNCC chief, K.V. Thangabalu.

Ramamurthy latched on to the ADMK-BJP combine to become Union petroleum minister in the first NDA government at the Centre in 1998. His earlier stint in the Cabinet under Rao was cut short when he quit over the Cauvery waters issue.

In the 1999 Lok Sabha polls, when DMK struck an alliance with the BJP, Ramamurthy found himself getting a raw deal from another NDA ally, the Ramadoss-led PMK, which ditched him in the Salem parliamentary contest.

Ramamurthy finally realised the virtues of the Congress over a caste-based outfit.

Ramamurthy has convened a meeting of the outgoing TRC district functionaries and other office-bearers in Chennai on December 4, for which he has invited Elangovan and the AICC secretary, Ramesh Chennithala, as special invitees.


Ranchi, Dec. 2: 
As leaders across the nation celebrate the “success” of the pulse polio campaign, Mohammed Sahil and his wife Sabiha are distressed. Their only child, doctors fear, could be suffering from polio.

The couple was overjoyed when, after three years of marriage, their daughter Sebi was born seven months ago. She was a healthy baby until last month, when she developed high fever.

With the temperature not coming down for many days, the worried Sahils took Sebi to the National Thermal Power Corporation hospital at Singrauli in Chhattisgarh, where Mohammed works as a mechanic. It was there that doctors found that the child’s left hand and leg had become numb.

To start with, the doctors gave medicines for the fever to subside but, fearing that the disease could be something more serious, referred the little patient to K.K. Sinha, a Ranchi-based neuro-surgeon.

The distraught parents then took Sebi to a child specialist in Bokaro, S.K. Banerjee, who suspected that the child might have contracted polio. He, too, referred the baby to Sinha.

The hapless couple reached the capital today with the seven-month-old baby to seek an appointment with Sinha.

According to the dosage card issued by Chira Primary Health Centre at Chas, anti-polio and DPT vaccine drops and injections were administered to the baby in the stipulated three dosages on June 20, July 20 and August 20.

“We were very particular in administering the polio vaccines on time. Our baby was healthy and never had any major health complications. Last month, she had fever which continued for days,” Sabiha said.

“We do not know for sure whether it is polio. But the symptoms indicate that it could be the deadly disease. We have consulted other senior paediatricians who are of the same opinion,” said Rehman Ansari, Sabiha’s father. But doctors in Ranchi are divided. While some are sure that it is an attack of polio, others feel it is too early to jump to conclusions.

“I feel the child’s brain may have been affected by the high fever. But then it is only one of the possibilities. We can’t just write off polio,” said child specialist Amit Mohan.

However, the doctors wondered how polio could have affected a child who was administered the vaccines on time.

“This needs a thorough inquiry. If true, the matter is serious. The vaccines supplied are either substandard or there might be some other alarming reason for the attack,” said another doctor.


Bangalore, Dec. 2: 
The dream of a supercop, who sometimes doubles as a pastor, to play Santa to Bangalore’s bottled-up children has been cut to size.

Under pressure from chief minister S.M. Krishna, city police commissioner H.T. Sangliana has dropped a plan to turn Bangalore’s most famous commercial avenue into a temporary park for bottled-up children.

MG Road, the busiest street in Silicon Valley, was to swarm with tens of thousands of children today. Sangliana wanted to ban traffic on the road for two hours every first Sunday of the month and let the children have a free run.

“The idea was to allow the kids to have a gala time. I had requested ice-cream parlours and food outlets to provide stuff for the children at good discounts. The children do not have any space in the city to play,” Sangliana said. He also wanted to squeeze in lessons on moral values and traffic rules.

However, Sangliana, ‘Uncle’ to his admirers, was told to shift the spectacle to an indoor stadium by the state government which was turning restive at the officer’s high-profile pragrammes.

The decision to rein in Sangliana, considered a role model by some colleagues and an inspiration for a couple of Kannada films, came at a meeting of the Bangalore Agenda Task Force. The organisation is part of a joint initiative by the private sector and the government to improve facilities in the city.

Officials said Krishna was unhappy with Sangliana after he went to the press, seeking a CBI inquiry into the multi-crore fake stamp racket. Allegations had surfaced linking a minister’s brother to the main accused.


Bhopal, Dec 2: 
At least six people died and another 28 took seriously ill after consuming illicit liquor last afternoon in west Madhya Pradesh.

Police said about 40 people gathered to celebrate the engagement of a tribal child couple in Heora village, 3 km from Ratlam. Going by the custom, villagers, who belong to the Bhil tribe, brewed liquor on their own out of a concoction of mahua and other forest products.

By 4 pm 35 guests, who had been drinking all afternoon, started showing signs of poisoning. The revellers started complaining of stomachache, followed by nausea and loose motion. Two hours later, the situation had deteriorated.

District collector Prabhat Parashar and superintendent of police S.V. Mane rushed to the spot and immediately transferred 12 people to the district hospital. Between 11 pm and 6 am this morning, six of those admitted had died.

Members of the district and state administration continue to monitor the situation as more victims are being shifted to the district hospital.




Maximum: 28.4°C (0)
Minimum: 15.5°C (0)



Relative humidity

Max: 93%
Min: 36%
Sunrise: 6.06 am
Sunset: 4.47 pm


Mainly clear sky. Minimum temperature likely to be around 15°C

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