Camouflaged arms trucks with Indian army escorts roll into Nepal
Truce bid fails, open war on terror law
Court delivers crown to Jaya
India, America at military altar
Musharraf mouthpieces build case for Kashmir in US
Centre promises to book errant doctors within six months
Kabul cheer, Kashmir rap for Delhi
Jaya silent on coronation date
Ration cards full, stomachs empty in death belt
Calcutta Weather

Siliguri, Dec. 4: 
In a hush-hush operation, India sent eleven trucks stacked with sophisticated weapons and surveillance gadgets to Nepal last week through a border post near here.

The covert arms shipment, headed for the Nepalese army’s eastern headquarters at Pathari and the Charany base camp, was “escorted” by select personnel of the Indian armed forces, intelligence officials said today.

The operation was pulled off in two instalments last Thursday and Friday in civilian trucks, not army vehicles. Intelligence officials said the effort was to “camouflage” the export of state-of-the-art arms and military hardware belonging to the Indian army.

“The shipment was being handled by a special group of select personnel drawn from the Indian armed forces. Though the shipment was ‘camouflaged’ by using civilian vehicles… the army escorts for the convoys were a sure give-away,” an official said.

The shipment, sent through the Panitanki border post 25 km from here, was “received” by a joint team of Royal Nepal army and Kakarvitta police officers. Six trucks rolled into Nepal on November 29 and five the next day.

The secret consignment comprised mostly guerrilla and jungle warfare weapons, counter-insurgency equipment, small and medium firearms, surveillance gadgets and flashlights, the official said.

The undercover operation is believed to be part of India’s efforts to help Nepal plug any spill over of Maoist rebels into North Bengal. The extremists have a strong support base in the region and have also spread their tentacles into Bihar, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.

Intelligence sources said reining in the Maoists was difficult as they easily merged with the local population in the Darjeeling hills, Sikkim and the eastern Dooars. “Nepalese rebels on the run can also seek shelter across the porous international border,” an official said.

Central intelligence sources said 10-15 hardcore People’s Liberation Army activists had already infiltrated into north Bengal. But the Darjeeling district police have denied this.

Central and military intelligence agencies are worried that the Siliguri corridor has turned a hotspot for clandestine arms running.


New Delhi, Dec. 4: 
The all-party meeting called by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today to try and end the impasse over the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance failed to resolve the deadlock.

The ruling NDA and the Opposition stuck to their stated positions. Undeterred, the government announced that it would introduce the Bill in the Lok Sabha on December 10 or 11 and a week later in the Rajya Sabha despite Vajpayee’s earlier assurances that a consensus would be reached before taking the ultimate step.

At today’s meeting, Vajpayee said the government would “seriously” consider the suggestions made during the two-hour discussion, though for the record parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan disclosed that it was the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) alone that came up with a couple of specific amendments.

Mahajan quoted the Prime Minister as stressing that there was no question of revoking the Ordinance and that the government was “determined to make it into law”.

The idea of having a joint session of the two Houses was not aired at the meeting. A joint sitting alone will enable the government to carry the Bill through because of its majority in the Lok Sabha. But BJP sources cryptically said: “No decision has been taken. So we will see when we have to cross the bridge.”

The overweening sentiment in the BJP is that if the Bill is defeated, it will help them politically, showing up the Opposition as reluctant to fight terrorism.

However, both Vajpayee and home minister L.K. Advani were at pains to emphasise that there was no political motive behind the Ordinance. Mahajan quoted the Prime Minister as saying that while India has had to cope with terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir for nearly two decades, the threat had “intensified and become all-pervasive” after September 11.

“It was publicly declared that India would be the next target of the terrorists. Our perception was that the prevailing laws were incapable of containing and putting down terrorism so we brought the Ordinance as a special measure. And now it is time to enact it into law.”

Vajpayee, who seemed keen to dispel the impression that he differed with his home minister on the modalities of bringing in the law and favoured a consensus, defended the Ordinance to the hilt.


Chennai, Dec. 4: 
Out of power, nothing was going right. In power, things are falling into place for J. Jayalalithaa.

“It’s purely God’s grace and divine dispensation,” she said after being acquitted in three corruption cases that dogged her through the five years she sat in the Opposition and then forced her to step down as chief minister after a stunning election victory.

Madras High Court today set aside her conviction and sentences in two land deal cases and a third concerning favours granted to a hotel – all when she was chief minister between 1991 and 1996.

She was barred from contesting the May Assembly polls because of these cases and will now be free to stand for election to return as chief minister, if there are no more convictions.

Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy, who had originally petitioned the court in the land deal cases, said he would move the Supreme Court. “I shall certainly appeal against the high court verdict.”

DMK leader M. Karunanidhi, under whose government the cases were initiated, said : “I respect the judgment. The path to justice is a long way.”

Allowing the appeals by Jayalalithaa and the other accused in the three cases, Justice N. Dinakar ruled that the prosecution had not succeeded in “establishing the charges”.

As her partymen celebrated by bursting crackers and breaking coconuts to propitiate Lord Ganesha, at her Poes Garden residence a jubilant Jayalalithaa said she “faced no legal hurdle” now to becoming chief minister.

O. Panneerselvam, who has been ruling by proxy, was in a hurry to step down. “The path is clear for Jayalalithaa to take over from me,” he said.

With two by-elections due, she said she would contest from Andipatti.

In the land cases, the charge was undervaluation of government land to cause loss to the exchequer. Jaya Publications and Sasi Enterprises, where Jayalalithaa and her friend Sasikala were partners, had been given government land by the industrial promotion agency, Tansi.

Jayalalithaa and Sasikala, along with four others, were convicted and sentenced by a trial judge a year ago to three and two years’ imprisonment in the cases involving the two companies.

The trial judge had ruled undervaluation of land by using market price as the yardstick in arriving at the worth of the 3.07 acres of Tansi land purchased by the two companies. Justice Dinakar rejected the method, saying that the trial judge was not “justified in taking market value for arriving at the conclusion that there was a loss to the exchequer”.

Justice Dinakar also found that the price charged from the two companies was the same as what at least one other buyer had paid. No substantive offence was established against the accused on this count.

Since Tansi is an independent legal entity from the government and since the land at its disposal was owned by it and not the government, Section 169 of IPC (prohibiting public servants from purchasing or bidding for public property) could not be applied in this instance. The code of conduct for ministers is, therefore, not relevant.

As celebrations began outside with fireworks going off noisily, the judge – taking up the Pleasant Stay Hotel case – appeared annoyed. “What is this ?” he frowned and told court officials to ensure silence.

Jayalalithaa and four others were accused in this case, where the Kodaikanal hotel was given exemption from building rules to construct five additional floors. Jayalalithaa was handed a one-year imprisonment.

Finding no basis for the graft charges, the judge said public interest was involved in granting the exemption to promote tourism.


New Delhi, Dec. 4: 
India and the US will resume joint military exercises and sign “in the very near future” the general security of military information agreement, defence policy planners of the two countries have decided.

The agreement lays down that visiting military officers of both sides should ensure confidentiality of information on military systems and that neither side should reveal to a third country bilateral military information. Delhi’s reluctance to sign the pact for almost a decade was one of the impediments to US military sales to India.

An immediate consequence of the two-day Indo-US Defence Policy Group meeting that ended here today is Washington’s decision to allow seven companies to sell to India equipment that were either frozen or impounded under the post-Pokhran II sanctions. The US has also invited Indian military representatives to briefings on its National Missile Defence System.

The policy group, meeting for only the third time since it was formed in 1996, has laid out a roadmap for military-to-military cooperation, put in place inter-services groups and technical committees that will monitor and execute technology sales and transfers, exercises and training programmes.

The group is the apex body for bilateral military ties. It is co-chaired by the Indian defence secretary and the US under-secretary for defence policy. A Joint Technical Group that will dwell on military sales and technical cooperation; a Military Cooperation Group that will, among other issues, dwell on the agreement; and Executive Steering Groups of the two armies, navies and air forces will meet separately in the first quarter of next year, ahead of the next policy group sitting in May 2002.

“Both delegations reviewed the ongoing defence cooperation between India and the US. They committed themselves to increasing substantially the pace of the high-level policy dialogue, military-to-military exchanges and other joint activities,” defence secretary Yogendra Narain and US undersecretary Douglas Feith said in a joint statement.

Feith said one of the sessions in the meeting discussed the agreement. The US normally insists on signing the agreement with countries with which it has strategic military ties that govern technology sales and other joint programmes.

“We did have a discussion on that understanding. This is an agreement that should be complete in very short order. I expect it to be signed in the very near future,” Feith said.

The pact will allow India easier access to US military technologies. The information agreement also governs acquisition of military knowhow from private US companies.

A reservation that India has so far had in signing the agreement has been on the definition of information that could be called “military”. It has been argued that the agreement does not specify the type of military information but makes it obligatory for a signatory country to detail the procedure followed to keep information secure.

But in July this year, when Jaswant Singh was defence minister, India had decided to work towards signing the agreement. Sources said the actual signing could take place in the first quarter of next year.

“It (the policy group sitting) has been a very useful meeting that has further cemented our defence and strategic relations. We have exchanged views on strategic objectives, reviewed the security situation in the region and have gone into details on steps to counter terrorism. We have reached an amicable solution on acquisition on certain weapon systems,”Narain said. He refused to go public with details of the weapon systems.

The joint statement said it had also been decided to establish a separate Security Cooperation Group to manage the defence supply relationship. The US had agreed to hasten the review of India’s acquisition priorities — for which licences will be issued to seven US companies — for engines and systems for Light Combat Aircraft, radars, multi-mission maritime aircraft, components for the Advanced Jet Trainer and high performance jet engines.

“A new structured dialogue between the US defence department’s office of net assessment and its Indian counterpart will develop exchanges between the defence research and analyses communities in both countries,” the joint statement said.

The policy group decided to go ahead with exercises in accordance with the plan flagged off by the US Pacific Command chief, Admiral Dennis C Blair, last week.

These will be in five areas: training for combined humanitarian airlift, combined special operations training, small unit ground/air exercises, naval joint personnel exchange and familiarisation, combined training exercises between US Marines and corresponding Indian forces.

“The US-India relationship is one that the US considers important not just in relationship to the immediate war against terrorism — also that — but as a basis for a strategic relationship we want to cement and develop,” said Feith.


Washington, Dec. 4: 
Pervez Musharraf, who has been one step ahead of his new patrons in Washington and London since September 11, is revising his plans for Kashmir and for perpetuating himself in office like General Zia ul Haq, his predecessor in uniform.

Pakistan’s army of retired diplomats and generals who have been hyperactive in Track-II diplomacy across the US since the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington is busy redefining both the Kashmir conflict and the nature of Musharraf’s government.

Ahmed Kamal, who was Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN, put out an amazing theory in a TV interview in New York that Musharraf’s junta is not a dictatorship at all.

In a programme hosted by an Indian professor of journalism at Columbia University, Sreenath Sreenivasan, Kamal made many jaws drop by arguing that Musharraf, on the other hand, was the panacea for corruption and other evils, which thrived under two democratically elected Prime Ministers in Pakistan.

His theory on Kashmir was even more astounding. While America had every right to retaliate against Afghanistan because Osama bin Laden’s attacks were against the US on its soil, Kamal said India could not claim the same right.

Any terrorist attack in Kashmir was not on Indian soil since Kashmir was disputed territory, he argued.

The fight in Afghanistan was solely about terrorism, but Kashmir was a mix of terrorism and freedom struggle. The two needed to be sifted by the international community, Kamal argued.

Wiser from the miscalculations which led to the Northern Alliance, Pakistan’s bete noir, assuming control of Kabul last month, Musharraf is ensuring that his country’s huge investments in the insurgency in Kashmir is not similarly wasted once the conflict in Afghanistan is over.

Many leading Pakistanis like Kamal have begun plugging this twin line at Track-II events. It is Musharraf’s hope that eventually, this is bound to make some impact on the Bush administration and the US Congress, for two reasons.

First, there is unprecedented interest within America in Pakistan and policy-makers are seeking inputs, especially from academics and others engaged in the Track-II diplomacy.

Second, Pakistan has seized the opportunity offered by America’s war in Afghanistan and is flooding Track-II programmes with its men and women, leaving India a distant second in putting across its views.

Unlike in India, academics and those engaged in Track-II programmes in Pakistan are willing to play second fiddle to Pakistan’s administration, be it a dictatorship or an oligarchy like Nawaz Sharif’s and Benazir Bhutto’s.

The campaign here, depicting Musharraf as a knight in shining armour trying to rescue his country from evil politicians, is also meant to pre-empt the outcome of a possible return by either Benazir or Sharif from exile.

The family of Sharif’s younger brother, who was Punjab chief minister, has already returned to Lahore from Saudi Arabia, ostensibly to test the waters for ending the exile of the two politician brothers.

Benazir is known to be contemplating her return to Pakistan to prepare for elections, however flawed, which Musharraf has promised to hold in less than a year.

To nip any potential challenge from the two popular politicians and to crack down on dissent, Musharraf has to convince the West that he is not a dictator.

His minions on Track-II are, therefore, arguing that his administration is merely a transition arrangement which Pakistan desperately needs. Many Americans are apt to forget that Zia’s transition arrangement lasted 11 years.

The rumblings on Track-II about terrorism in Kashmir are also indicative of disquiet among Musharraf’s people about the Arab mujahideen in Kashmir.

Now that Islamabad has sided with the US in trying to crush Arab fighters in Afghanistan, Musharraf fears that the Arab mujahideen in Kashmir may no longer be amenable to his plans. Pakistan would like to root them out and have an insurgency in Kashmir, the agenda of which is scripted solely by the Inter-Services Intelligence.


New Delhi, Dec. 4: 
In a new turn to the Kunal Saha medical negligence case, the Union health ministry today made an undertaking in the Supreme Court to amend the Medical Council Act and bring erring doctors to book within six months of commission of an alleged medical crime.

A division bench of Justices B.N. Kirpal and K.G. Balakrishnan adjourned Saha’s case for six weeks and asked the Centre to give details of the changes proposed. Saha’s wife, Anuradha, a US citizen, had met with “wrongful death” in May 1998 during treatment in Calcutta.

Government sources said sweeping changes could be expected as the proposal comes at a time the medical council has been severely indicted for malpractices by Delhi High Court.

The malpractices include “sharing” the Rs 300-crore “booty” collected every year in the name of “NRI quota” and through medical college admission procedures.

West Bengal Medical Council secretary D.N. Ghosh said two aspects of the changes — outlined in a letter circulated by the health ministry in the Supreme Court today —- appeared to be new, adds a staff reporter in Calcutta.

One, that the deletion of an erring doctor’s name from the medical council register be widely publicised in the local press; and two, that a decision on a complaint be taken within six months.

But Ghosh cautioned that the six-month limit might prove inadequate as all papers relating to a particular case could take time to acquire. The doctor in question as well as the council members judging the case would also have to be readily available for the hearings, which could prove difficult.

In today’s letter, Union health ministry director S.K. Rao said the Centre had finalised regulations on professional conduct, etiquette and ethics, and sent them to the law ministry for vetting before publication in the official gazette.

The letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Telegraph, said: “It is made clear that any complaint with regard to professional misconduct can be brought before the appropriate medical council for disciplinary action.

“Upon receipt of any complaint of professional misconduct, the appropriate medical council would hold an enquiry and give opportunity to the registered medical practitioner to be heard in person or by pleader.

“If the medical practitioner is found to be guilty of committing professional misconduct, the appropriate medical council may award such punishment as is deemed necessary or may direct the removal altogether or for a specified period from the register the name of the delinquent registered practitioner.

“Deletion (of the name of the erring doctor) from the register shall be widely publicised in the local press as well as in the publications of different medical associations/ societies/ bodies.

“In case the punishment of removal from the register is for a limited period, the appropriate council may also direct that the name so removed shall be restored in the register after the expiry of the period for which the name was ordered to be removed. A decision on complaint against a delinquent physician shall be taken within a time limit of six months.”

Saha’s case will come up for hearing on January 18. Today’s development is a boost to the efforts of the newly-formed People for Better Treatment, a forum of aggrieved patients and their kin started by Saha.


New Delhi, Dec. 4: 
The United States feels that India can play a major role in Afghanistan, both at the political level for its influence over the Northern Alliance and in reconstruction, but maintained that the situation in Kashmir raises the risk of confrontation between the two South Asian nuclear neighbours.

US special coordinator on Afghanistan Richard Haas said: “The current situation in Kashmir is not good for the people of Kashmir or its diplomatic prospect, or for Pakistan, because it raises the risk of confrontation between India and Pakistan.”

Haas, who has been here for the past few days, said the main reason for his visit was to discuss the political future of Afghanistan with the Indian leadership. Since his arrival on Sunday, Haas has met foreign minister Jaswant Singh, national security advisor Brajesh Mishra, deputy chairperson of planning commission K.C. Pant and leader of Opposition Sonia Gandhi.

Describing Indo-US relations as being in the “ best condition”, Haas said the two countries were “true and close partners”. Haas said the two sides are trying to work closely with each other in many important areas, including political, economic, defence and for the peaceful use of space.

The US coordinator also expressed happiness over the close contacts between the American and Indian delegations in Bonn during the recent all-Afghan meeting where both countries were present as observers. He expressed gratitude for the excellent contacts the Indian team has with the Northern Alliance and its leader Burhanuddin Rabbani, adding that New Delhi will continue to play an important role at the political level because of this. He said India’s role in the reconstruction of the war-ravaged country would also be crucial.

Haas, who interacted with journalists here this afternoon, indicated that though the relations between India and the US were excellent and have a lot of potential, Washington was not going to ignore Pakistan, which has once again become its close ally by joining in the fight against global terrorism.

His remarks on Kashmir, though not new, indicated that the Bush administration might not condone violence in the state, but it will continue to nudge India to take urgent steps with Pakistan to settle the issue.

Haas pointed out that Rabbani was an interim authority and the leader of the Northern Alliance will have to accept this. He expressed happiness over the restraint shown by India in Kashmir, in the post September 11 scenario, to ensure that the focus did not shift from the Al Qaida or the Taliban.

The US coordinator on Afghanistan pointed out that the next big priority for the strife-torn country would be economic reconstruction. He said a donors’ meeting will be held in Japan in early January, when a number of countries will decide on steps to be taken for reviving the economy in Afghanistan.

Haas pointed out that New Delhi and Washington supported the establishment of a “broad-based, fully representative government in Kabul which was free of terrorism and ensured that the war-ravaged country will no longer produce drugs, instead it will create a conducive atmosphere for the return of the Afghan refugees”.

Haas stressed on the need for deputing a multinational force in Afghanistan. He said this will only be an interim measure and will be there till an Afghan regime that can deal with the law and order situation in the country on its own is set up.


Chennai, Dec. 4: 
Jayalalithaa today declared that her twin acquittals were a “triumph of dharma over adharma” but kept mum on whether she would come back as chief minister before fighting the Andipatti byelections.

“I will take the right decision at the right time,” she told reporters at her Poes Garden home after Madras High Court set aside her conviction in the Tansi land deal and Pleasant Stay Hotel cases.

Jayalalithaa was, however, categorical that she would contest only from Andipatti, an ADMK pocketborough since M.G. Ramachandran’s days. The bypoll is likely to be held by February 14 next year.

DMK president M. Karunanidhi reacted guardedly to the acquittal. On the ADMK chief’s statement that his party had been bent on foisting cases on her, he said there was nothing new in it. “She said the same thing when any ruling went against her,” he said, adding: “The road to justice is a long journey.”

Karunanidhi held his cards close to his chest when asked if the DMK would appeal the acquittals in the Supreme Court. He said the DMK’s legal cell would discuss the issue before a decision on the next step is taken.

Today’s verdict struck a chord with some of Jayalalithaa’s allies. Tamil Maanila Congress chief G.K. Vasan termed it a vindication of his late father G.K. Moopanar’s statement that a trial court judgment is not necessarily the final one. Dravidar Kazhagam general secretary K. Veeramani said it was a “triumph of justice”. AIFB leader L. Santhanam also hailed the verdict.

However, original Tansi complainant and Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy declared in New Delhi that he would move the Supreme Court as the high court was concerned more with procedural issues than the substantive issue of corruption.

PMK founder-leader S. Ramadoss said the ruling was “unacceptable” and he would consider filing a PIL in the apex court. The BJP’s Tamil Nadu unit was non-committal, saying much would depend on the people’s response.


Khanbhawan (Ranchi), Dec. 4: 
Asaram Bedia of Khambhawan village, 55 km from Ranchi, did not know what to do when his newly-married brother, Janglu, came down with severe dysentery on October 28. The 26-year-old youth kept losing body fluid and died after three days.

Four other persons contracted the disease last month and were rushed to the Gondlipokhar government hospital, 25 km away. But all four perished. The last death, of Karma of Butagodha village, was reported yesterday. He died after vomiting continuously for three days.

Panic-stricken officials at the government hospital declared that diarrhoea had gripped the villages. Residents were given precautionary medicines and advised not to draw water from a hand-pump that the officials said was contaminated. About 350 of them rely only on one hand-pump.

The sample of the water from the tubewell was taken for a lab test in Rukka. “The tests did not confirm that the water had bacteria which spread diarrhoea,” said a hospital official. The villagers, however, believe that it is malnutrition, and not diarrhoea, that caused the deaths of the five people.

The health officers took on the task of finding the cause of the deaths and inquired about the villagers’ diet. To their shock, they found that the villagers of Khambhawan eat bhunja (dry-fried maize) as their staple diet.

This, in spite of all the villagers having been provided with red ration cards meant for those living below the poverty line. A hospital official said in the absence of proper ration food, the villagers have been forced to consume crude items like bhunja. “This indicates not only under-nutrition but a strong possibility of food adulteration. In case of acute diarrhoea, death occurs within eight hours. These patients survived for a minimum of three days,” he added.

The illiterate villagers were issued ration cards in 1998 but the years on the cards were struck-off by the local distributor and the documents show records of supplies made till November 2002. In some of the cards, the ration issued has been shown from July 1996 when, in fact, the documents were handed over to the villagers in 1998 by the then Bihar government. Residents of Butagodha have ration cards with records of regular supplies of rice and wheat, but they do not get anything.

“Whenever we ask the distributor why we do not get the supplies when we have the money, he says this is how we have been instructed to work and cannot do anything,” said Lalmohan Bedia, a villager.

“Moreover, the kerosene that we get is given for Rs 10 a litre while the PDS rate is a mere Rs 7.90 per litre. It is better to buy the supplies from the local markets because there we still stand a chance of bargaining,” added another villager.

Suresh Bedia, distributor of the ration shop in Butagodha, said: “The villagers have been divided into two categories — below poverty line and antodaya. Persons who are below the poverty line are supposed to get rice and wheat.” Refuting the distributor’s argument, another villager said: “I do not have food in my house and at times, it is difficult to procure ration for my family. I know I am poor but the authorities say I am not eligible to receive supplies and I have to be poorer than what I am.”




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Minimum: 15.7°C (+1)



Relative Humidity

Minimum: 39%


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Sunset: 4.47 pm
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