Buddha slams brakes on crime Bill
Man stabs boss in dawn strike
Road mishaps claim two
Sangh voice for VHP temple chorus
Sadhu heaps scorn on Vajpayee
Speaker stick for errant MPs
Mulayam petitions poll panel on I-cards
Singhal date with Amma
CBI sees Laloo ploy
Terror law boost to Ranbir Sena

 
 
BUDDHA SLAMS BRAKES ON CRIME BILL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 6: 
Programmed by the CPM politburo, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today said his government has dropped its plans to place the Bill for the controversy-ridden Prevention of Organised Crime Act in the week-long winter session of the Assembly beginning tomorrow.

“I am determined to enact the (crime Bill), but not immediately…,” Bhattacharjee said. “I would like to see first what shape the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance promulgated by the Centre takes.”

This was the first time Bhattacharjee spoke about the controversial Bill in public after the CPM politburo chose to put it on the backburner on the ground that if the anti-crime Act was enacted now it would undermine the CPM’s current opposition to the Centre’s Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance. Left Front constituents have also ranged themselves against Bhattacharjee’s move.

Earlier in the day, Bhattacharjee informed a Cabinet meeting convened to discuss the government’s position on the Bill that he was putting the brakes on the exercise in the proposed legislation for now because he wished to avoid its placing to coincide with that of the Central Ordinance.

“When I started the exercise, I didn’t know that the Centre was also planning to bring about (an anti-terror Ordinance).”

In the meeting, a few ministers from the Forward Bloc and the Revolutionary Socialist Party pressed for a detailed discussion on the proposed Act, but Bhattacharjee, according to reports, turned down their plea saying it was unnecessary in light of the government’s latest position.

“There will not be any meeting of the Cabinet on the issue either,” he said. In defence of the proposed Act, the chief minister said it would be used only to deal with certain crimes like abductions, hijackings, armed uprisings and communal violence.

“Permission from the director-general of police will be required to arrest any person under the new Act. The police cannot act on its own… because obtaining the government’s permission will be mandatory for them before charging anyone with a crime under the Act,” the chief minister said.

Under the proposed Act, which Bhattacharjee claimed he would bring about in the days ahead, the police would be able to detain any person for a maximum period of 180 days to finalise the chargesheet against him.

But the arrested person will also be allowed to file a bail petition or move a higher court against the charges framed against him under the new Act, the chief minister told a news conference where he also criticised the Centre over its anti-terror Ordinance.

“That is a draconian law. Unlike the Central Ordinance, (ours) will not be used against any political activist. Since no political party or its senior functionaries are going to engage themselves in kidnapping, hijacking and rioting, political leaders and activists need not worry about the new Act.”

Insiders in the CPM indicated that Bhattacharjee was forced by a section of influential party leaders in CPM’s politburo to go slow on introducing the Bill.

   

 
 
MAN STABS BOSS IN DAWN STRIKE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Asansol, Dec. 6: 
A 28-year-old executive of a Jamshedpur-based private company was stabbed to death by one of his employees at his Hirapur home here this morning.

Rajbansh Sinha, the boss of Hitech Chemical Pvt Ltd, died on the spot after Imtiaz stabbed him in the stomach and back.

Police said Imtiaz, who used to stay with Rajbansh in his Penguin Apartments flat at Chitra under Hirapur police station, was absconding. However, two eyewitnesses have been detained for interrogation.

Police suspect the murder followed personal disputes. “There was neither any industrial dispute nor any labour trouble. Rajbansh and Imtiaz might have had some personal differences. Imtiaz perhaps killed his boss to take revenge,” district superintendent of police B.N. Ramesh said.

Rajbansh was heading the Asansol operations of the company which supplied chemicals to the Burnpur-based Indian Iron and Steel Company.

According to an eyewitness, Imtiaz entered Rajbansh’s house along with some of his associates in the wee hours today and murdered him.

“We went to Rajbansh’s house early in the morning to find out whether salaries would be disbursed today — the salary day. We knocked for about 10 minutes but there was no response. We pushed and the door yielded. Imtiaz was standing there. His shirt and hands were soaked in blood. Rajbansh was lying on the floor, bleeding profusely,” an eyewitness said, adding that Imtiaz managed to escape.

Rajbansh had withdrawn Rs 35,000 from the bank yesterday to pay the workers. Police suspect Imtiaz wanted to run away with the money. “We are considering all aspects…. A case has been started and police are conducting raids at all possible places where Imtiaz could hide,” a senior police officer investigating the case said.

“Rajbansh used to maintain friendly relations with all employees. He never misbehaved with anybody,” said N.K. Sharma, an employee.

Water pollution

Surface water pollution in Damodar, Barakar, Ajoy and Tamla rivers is posing a serious health hazard to the Asansol-Durgapur industrial belt with an increasing number of people falling victim to gastro-intestinal and skin diseases.

Industrial wastes from thermal power plants, steel and chemical units as well as coal mines serve as the main pollutant of the river water, according to a CAG report. Out of a total number of 493 industrial units, as many as 300 have been proved to be water-pollutants.

   

 
 
ROAD MISHAPS CLAIM TWO 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 6: 
Two persons died in separate accidents in Calcutta and Howrah today.

The mishap in Calcutta claimed the life of an unidentified middle-aged man who was run over by a truck at the Circular Garden Reach Road-Hyde Road crossing around 9.30 in the night.

Police rushed to disperse a mob which, besides blocking the crossing, tried to set two other lorries on fire. Ten people were arrested.

An oil-tanker collided with a Calcutta-bound CTC bus around 7.30 pm on Kona Expressway. Arunava Banerjee, a resident of south Calcutta, died and at least 10 others, two of them seriously, were injured. The injured were taken to the Howrah State General Hospital.

   

 
 
SANGH VOICE FOR VHP TEMPLE CHORUS 
 
 
FROM RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
 
New Delhi, Dec. 6: 
On the ninth anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the RSS today declared it would throw its full weight behind the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s demand for the construction of a permanent Ram temple.

“The temple will be constructed at any cost,” Sangh spokesman M.G. Vaidya told reporters. “It has been on the RSS’ agenda from the start. We will support all the VHP programmes that will go on until March 12, 2002.”

The VHP’s dharam sansad last January had set this date as the deadline for the Vajpayee government to seek a “solution” to the Ayodhya dispute. After that, the outfit had warned, it would go ahead and start building a temple on the disputed site despite a Supreme Court directive not to disturb the status quo ante.

Asked what the RSS would do in case the National Democratic Alliance government failed to resolve the issue, Vaidya said that would depend on the VHP. Whatever course of action it chalks out would be discussed in a general council meeting of the Sangh in Bangalore, the spokesman added. The tentative dates of the meeting are March 15, 16 and 17.

Vaidya, however, said the Sangh was hopeful that Atal Bihari Vajpayee would thrash out the matter. “When the Prime Minister is on record that all obstacles would be removed, the RSS feels we should trust him,” he said, but admitted that he was not aware if the special Ayodhya cell had started functioning.

Vaidya was non-committal when asked whether the Centre would be destabilised if the Sangh and the VHP raised the Ayodhya pitch too high.

“The choice of temple versus government is not before us, so we do not find it necessary to entertain this view,” he said. “Before us there is only one agenda, and that is the temple. The stability or instability of the government is the concern of the party in power.”

Despite the apparent threat, RSS sources clarified in private that Vaidya’s stridency was linked to the Uttar Pradesh polls and not meant to upset the NDA apple-cart. With two months to go for the elections, the BJP itself has sought to resurrect the temple plank.

Chief minister Rajnath Singh told reporters in Delhi last Sunday that the temple would figure on the manifesto, although he later retracted his statement.

“Along with the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance, the Ram temple will be used to consolidate the Hindutva votes which are in danger of slipping away because of anti-incumbency sentiments,” said an RSS source.

“If it works and the BJP comes back to power, mark my word, the VHP will not speak about the temple for several months. But if it (the BJP) loses the election, then it may be a different scenario.”

House furore

Angry exchanges stalled proceedings in both Houses of Parliament today even as the Lok Sabha adopted a law to check unruly behaviour.

The ninth anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid coincided with the Lok Sabha amending Rule 374 (A) (1) to ensure decorum inside the House. But as soon as the House assembled, agitated Opposition members were on their feet demanding admission of their adjournment motion on Ayodhya.

BJP and Shiv Sena members responded with fire, shouting “Jai Shri Ram.” Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi tried to push through question hour, but there were no takers for his plea. With pandemonium taking over, Balayogi soon gave up and adjourned the House for the day.

Rajya Sabha chairman Krishan Kant was forced to take similar action when elders behaved in much the same way as the Lok Sabha members.

   

 
 
SADHU HEAPS SCORN ON VAJPAYEE 
 
 
FROM ANAND SOON DAS
 
Ayodhya, Dec. 6: 
The sadhu samaj today marked the ninth anniversary of the demolitionof the Babri Masjid by asking all “politicians” to give up talking on the mandir issue and hand over the reins to the holy men.

While the Bajrang Dal distributed trishuls — “to protect the Ram mandir” — to hundreds of youths at a public function here, Ram Chandra Paramahans, chairman of the powerful Ramjanmabhoomi Trust, launched a vituperative attack on the BJP and even the VHP, saying Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee would have been forced to build the temple had the sadhu samaj been united.

Expressing cynicism at Vajpayee’s promise of solving the Ayodhya issue by March 12 (Shivratri) next year, Paramahans said: “No one will do anything for the temple if we don’t. Governments, after all, come and go, sometimes for 13 days, sometimes for five years. When they are in power they keep quiet, they only shout when they are out of it.’’

Moments earlier, a red-faced Ram Vilas Vedanti, a former BJP MP, had stared in disbelief as Paramahans shouted: “Why are you Vedanti, a failed politician, making speeches now when you are out of power. Why were you silent when you were an MP?”

Talking on behalf of the sadhu samaj, the trust chairman said by next Shivratri the sadhus would see to it that the mandir was in place.

Warning the government not to underestimate their strength, Paramahans said: “If the administration doesn’t act by March 12, we will launch a nationwide protest that will be non-violent. But if they don’t listen even after that, we will take up the trishul. No one should underestimate us. We are very powerful, it is a different thing that till now we have restrained ourselves.”

As the gathering at Karsevakpuram burst into rapturous applause, Paramahans added: “Ramlalla’s mandir will positively come up after March 12, come what may. Uske baad, police bhi hamara, Atal bhi hamara, Rajnath bhi hamara. (After the temple comes up, everyone will fall in line, the police, Vajpayee and chief minister Rajnath Singh).’’

The Bajrang Dal turned the heat on the government a few notches higher by announcing a December 26 deadline to sever diplomatic ties with Pakistan and Bangladesh.

National convener Surendra Jain asked the Centre to blacklist the two countries as “enemy states” and threatened that if the deadline was not met, the Samjhauta Express and the Lahore bus service would be disrupted. “We can go to any extent, the time for silence is over,’’ he said, hinting that the train and buses could be torched.Asked if the VHP was with it, Jain said: “All our announcements and actions are done with their blessings.”

   

 
 
SPEAKER STICK FOR ERRANT MPS 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, Dec. 6: 
Finally, a law is in place to check lawmakers.

The rules of procedure and conduct of business in Parliament were amended for the first time since they were framed in 1952, to discipline MPs who resort to hooliganism.

Rushing into the well of the House, defying the chair persistently or obstructing business will invite automatic suspension for five consecutive sittings, which would also mean loss of pay.

An errant MP thus stands to lose Rs 2,500 (the daily allowance is Rs 500). Members also cannot attend meetings of parliamentary committees during the period of suspension.

Till now, if a member was to be suspended, a motion had to be moved for consideration and adoption by the House.

Though the new rules, which came into effect today, do not prevent MPs from forcing adjournments, they will have a salutory effect and would go a long way in minimising waste of the crores of rupees of public money spent on running Parliament.

“In the event of grave disorder occasioned by a member coming into the well of the House or abusing the rules of the House persistently and wilfully obstructing its business by shouting slogans or otherwise, such a member shall, on being named by the Speaker, stand automatically suspended from the service of the House for five consecutive sittings,” the new rules say.

On the Speaker announcing the suspension under the rule, the member will have to withdraw forthwith from the House. However, the rules also provide for termination of the suspension by the House through a motion.

The initiative to ensure decorum in Parliament was taken by Speaker G.M. C. Balayogi during the monsoon session when he had convened a meeting of leaders of all parties.

Political leaders had deplored the deteriorating standards of behaviour and called for a code to bring discipline and decorum in Parliament.

Following the meeting, the rules committee had unanimously recommended amendment of rules to provide for automatic suspension of errant members.

Subsequently, an all-India conference of presiding officers and parties convened by the Speaker adopted the code of conduct to punish grave misconduct with suspension. A resolution incorporating the 60-point code, which included a bar on members entering the well of the House and shouting slogans, was adopted unanimously at the end of a day-long conference.

   

 
 
MULAYAM PETITIONS POLL PANEL ON I-CARDS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Dec. 6: 
The People’s Front, led by Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, today petitioned the Election Commission to rein in “mafia” gangs in Uttar Pradesh trying to sabotage the distribution of voter identity cards to those not sympathetic to the BJP.

The delegation, including former Prime Ministers V.P. Singh and Deve Gowda and Left leaders Harkishen Singh Surjeet and A.B. Bardhan, met chief election commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh.

The front leaders also pleaded that voter identity cards should not be made compulsory for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.

“Many voters have not been issued photo identity cards in the state. A few have been photographed but even where photographs were taken, identity cards were not available,” Mulayam said after the meeting.

The front leaders said if identity cards were made compulsory, it would be easier for the mafia to rig elections and use muscle and money power to strip the poor of their voting rights.

“They (the BJP government in the state) do not want a large turn-out since they feel it may not go in their favour,” the delegation said. It also alleged that a large number of fake names were being included in the voters’ list.

Mulayam said the poll panel has promised to look into the allegations.

For the People’s Front, the Uttar Pradesh polls hold the key to a turnaround in its political fortunes. After the polls, the front leaders believe, the BJP will be replaced by the Samajwadi Party in Lucknow.

   

 
 
SINGHAL DATE WITH AMMA 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Chennai, Dec. 6: 
ADMK chief Jayalalithaa seems to have moved closer to the ruling coalition at the Centre, with VHP leader Ashok Singhal meeting her this evening for 45 minutes even as several VIPs waited outside.

The meeting at the 36, Poes Garden residence of the “chief minister in the making”, where the two discussed the Ayodhya issue, appears to have put the clock back for her ‘secular allies’ — the Tamil Maanila Congress, the Congress, the CPI and the CPM.

Amma’s step closer to the NDA coincided with the Opposition parties in the state -- mainly the DMK and the PMK -- hardening their stand on the recent tariff hikes. Though a partial rollback was announced last night, the Opposition has decided to go ahead with the Tamil Nadu bandh tomorrow. Significantly, the BJP and the MDMK are not supporting the bandh.

Jayalalithaa’s ‘secular allies’ are irked that she chose to meet Singhal on December 6, the anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid which was observed by minority outfits as a protest day.

Singhal told reporters that the meeting, which comes just two days after the ADMK chief was acquitted by Madras High Court in three corruption cases, was only a “courtesy meeting”. He, however, added: “I have explained to her the entire case of the Ramjanmabhoomi”.

Stating that she was “well informed” about the issue, “much more than many other political leaders”, Singhal said the purpose of his visit was to seek support for the VHP’s cause. Jayalalithaa did not spell out her stand.

The VHP leader said he would also meet DMK president M. Karunanidhi on this issue, as his organisation’s leaders were meeting the leaders of all political parties.

“It is (Ramjanmabhoomi) purely a dharmic issue that has been politicised and I feel very sorry,” Singhal said. “We want the temple to come up at Ayodhya,” he asserted, adding that it was a “major issue” for the BJP in the coming Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.

However, “at the Centre, there is an NDA agenda, not a BJP agenda,” Singhal said, adding that ‘dharma gurus’ will meet on January 27 to demand land for the construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya.

“They are all politicians,” he quipped when it was pointed out that even BJP leaders, including Union home minister L.K. Advani, favoured waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision.

On whether Jayalalithaa supported the VHP’s March 12 deadline for beginning the construction of the temple, Singhal said: “I had not asked her this question.”

Angered by suggestions that Hindu militant outfits like the Bajrang Dal should also be banned, following the proscribing of Islamic extremist outfits like the Students Islamic Movement of India, Singhal retorted: “It is nonsense.”

The VHP leader denied that he was a ‘bridge’ between the BJP leadership and the ADMK. Jayalalithaa, he added was “very close to the VHP” as she “is God-fearing and visits many temples”.

   

 
 
CBI SEES LALOO PLOY 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Patna, Dec. 6: 
The special CBI court here directed the Beur jail authorities to produce Laloo Prasad Yadav in court again tomorrow as the cross-examination of a prosecution witness remained inconclusive today.

The Rashtriya Janata Dal chief was today produced before special CBI judge S.K. Mishra around 11.30 am in connection with the disproportionate assets case trial, which has entered its final stages. Chief minister Rabri Devi, a co-accused in the case, has been exempt from appearance.

CBI witness V.S. Kamudi, a former CBI superintendent of police, was the last prosecution witness. Kamudi, who was with the Patna CBI for two years from January 1997, is now posted in Hyderabad as joint commissioner, security.

After Kamudi was introduced in court this morning, Laloo’s advocate P.P. Singh began cross-examining him. Progress was slow and the witness failed to come up with specific replies to the queries put to him and often responded with a vague “I don’t remember”. As the hearing rolled beyond 2.35 pm, Singh urged the court to adjourn till tomorrow and direct the witness to be present with documents in support of his claims.

Exasperated with the painfully slow interrogation, public prosecutor L.R. Ansari interrupted often to point out that Singh’s questions were irrelevant and repetitive. At this rate, Ansari said, there seemed to be no chance of Laloo returning early to Ranchi.

The defence counsel asked as many as 100 questions, mostly on properties allegedly possessed by the chief minister and her husband.

The CBI lawyers alleged that their defence counterpart was deliberately dragging the case as the former chief minister’s bail petition is slated to be heard in the Supreme Court tomorrow.

   

 
 
TERROR LAW BOOST TO RANBIR SENA 
 
 
FROM TAPAS CHAKRABORTY
 
Patna, Dec. 6: 
The Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance, under which the MCC and the PWG were banned, has given the Ranbir Sena a skip, despite the outfit being allegedly responsible for at least 20 massacres.

The Ranbir Sena has been linked to the massacres in Lakhsmanpur Bathe, Mianpur and Shankarbigha.

Raised to protect the interest of upper caste landlords, the Sena since inception has been terrorising and killing Dalits and landless peasants of the backward classes.

With the ban on the MCC and the PWG, the balance of power in the rural areas would be lost and the poor and the Dalits would once again be exposed to the exploitation of the feudal forces that the Ranbir Sena represented, senior police officers said.

Reacting to the ban, RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav said: “This only exposed the design of the RSS-BJP. We don’t need this Ordinance. This is meant to harass the poor.”

Laloo said the nexus between the Sena and some NDA leaders was under examination by the Amir Das Commission that had summoned health minister C.P. Thakur last month.

Once the commission submitted its report, the state government would institute criminal proceedings against these leaders, he told The Telegraph today on his way to the CBI court.

Laloo further said that under no circumstances would his government implement the anti-terrorism law. “Law and order is, after all, a state subject,” he said.

NDA leaders rationalised that one of the reasons why the Ranbir Sena had not come under the purview of the Ordinance could be because the outfit had not declared “war on the government.”

“They are not against our Constitution. They have definitely been involved in criminal activities and they would be dealt with under (the) law. But they did not compare the Parliament to a dog’s kennel,” said a senior Samta Party leader.

Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Sushil Modi, said the Ranbir Sena was not as “deeply entrenched in the (rural) areas as the two Naxalite organisations”. The Ranbir Sena could be handled under the existing provisions of Indian Penal Code, Modi said.

   
 

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