Powell shows path of peace
Millionaire versus millionaire
Handover minus big catch
Empire strikes back on chariots of fire
BJP touches base with Jaya, rival
Parallel army recruits its jawans
Mobile STD rate cut hits hurdle
Children stitch footballs, adults play
Congress in spot over sex slur
Calcutta Weather

 
 
POWELL SHOWS PATH OF PEACE 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, Jan. 18: 
US secretary of state Colin Powell today urged the nuclear neighbours to spike rhetoric and stress on diplomatic initiatives to ease military tension, but put the onus of resuming bilateral dialogue on Pakistan by asking it to take “further action” against cross-border terror.

“I think we are on a path that will lead to restoration of dialogue and confidence-building activities, but it will take further action (on Pakistan’s part) before we take that path,” Powell said at a joint news conference with Jaswant Singh after meeting the top Indian leadership.

Powell’s hint was clear: that the extent of normalisation in Indo-Pak relations hinged on Islamabad’s ability to hand over some of the 20 terrorists on Delhi’s most-wanted list. But at the same time, he sought to convince India that President Pervez Musharraf was serious about turning in some of them.

Delhi gave ample proof of its willingness to cut down on rhetoric with foreign minister Jaswant refusing to blame Pakistan for yesterday’s terrorist strike in Jammu. But he made it clear that after Musharraf’s address to the nation last week, the demand for the terrorists was no longer a “pre-condition” but an “expectation”.

India also kept up the pressure by handing over additional details on the terrorists to Pakistan deputy high commissioner Jaleel Abbas Jilani.

“We are aware that there are elements who want to derail the ongoing process. We would not like to blame Pakistan or anybody else till we have the full report. But we want to condemn such terrorist acts and reiterate our resolve to fight the menace,” Jaswant said.

Delhi could consider taking some steps to establish that it is willing to do its bit to normalise relations. One could be restoring the snapped air, road and rail links with Pakistan.

In the morning, Powell held back-to-back meetings with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, national security adviser Brajesh Mishra and leader of the Opposition Sonia Gandhi. After the discussions, the secretary of state — who is on a mission to bring down temperatures in South Asia and has come with “some ideas” to break the Indo-Pak impasse — appeared confident that things were moving the way the US expected them to.

“We have seen some important words said and some important actions taken and if we continue to see progress in that regard, then I expect we will see steps taken on the part of the Indian government,” Powell said.

In the morning, Vajpayee told him: “The most important aspect now, today or even later, is the earliest restoration of mutual confidence between the two countries.”

Quoting the Prime Minister, Jaswant later said: “Once confidence is restored between the two countries, everything else will fall in place and will then become so much easier to act upon.”

South Block is of the view that once export of terror stops --- handover of terrorists is a part of this --- there will be rapid progress in bilateral relations. But it will feel confident only if Musharraf delivers on the promises he made last week.

Jaswant said it was easy to find out whether Islamabad’s words matched its actions by assessing the level of infiltration across the line of control.

He said that of the 20 terrorists on the list, 14 were Indians and the Pakistani authorities were aware of their activities.

“These are wanted terrorists, written about in Pakistani journals. It is not that they are hiding in caves in Karachi... There are no caves in Karachi. They are in fact visible to the Pakistan establishment.”

   

 
 
MILLIONAIRE VERSUS MILLIONAIRE 
 
 
BY SUNIL GAVASKAR
 
Jan. 18: 
Except when Prince Ranjitsinhji and Prince Duleepsinhji played Tests, there have probably never been millionaires playing international cricket. However that will change as two millionaires (in pound sterling) take each other on in the one-day series starting today. Both have Yorkshire Caps and both play cricket with the kind of unfettered enthusiasm that delights cricket fans all over the world. Their duel will set the tone for the series and if they play to their potential then we could be in for some tremendous cricket.

Sachin Tendulkar is a millionaire not just in currency terms (and that too any currency in the world) but also in terms of cricketing ability. He bats breathtakingly, bowls just about everything and fields with boyish enthusiasm in spite of the fact that he is now a veteran of international cricket for over 12 years. Darren Gough has just had one of the most rewarding of benefit years taking him to the millionaire category and though talentwise he is a little short compared to the little champion he matches him in the sheer energy he brings to the game. He has a smile for everything and in that respect he is a rare English cricketer for the others do give the impression of carrying a burden on their shoulders. Not so Gough who will already have enjoyed himself in his stay so far at the way his name will have been mispronounced (shades of Iron Bottom).

He will have a chirp with anyone and even if the batsman inside-edges him past the off-stump for a boundary or there is a catch dropped off his bowling, he will simply shrug off his shoulders, smile at the batsman or the fielder who has let him down and walk that springy walk back to the bowling mark. Not for him the McGrath snarls nor the Flintoff babytalk nor the glare of the West Indian quicks. Over the years he has become England’s premier bowler with a terrific slanting yorker and a disguised slower delivery. When his over is done he will retire to his position on the boundary and sign hundreds of autographs and have a banter with the crowd even though they will not understand a word of his Yorkshire accent. Whoever takes the initiative between Tendulkar and Gough, will set the course for the match.

England’s attack will definitely have more teeth with Caddick and Gough operating the new ball and they have got some pretty useful support as well. This England team may say they are not fully prepared but it looks as if it has got depth in both batting and bowling and the Indians will take them lightly at their own peril.

With Sourav Ganguly still not in form and the others coming from a longish break the side that settles down first will have the advantage.

Srinath is the kind of bowler who should have been played in the Challenger if only to see that he doesn’t come in cold for the one-day series. The Challenger Trophy also has not provided runs for the others excepting Sehwag who failed against the ‘A’ team but scored a century against the ‘B’ team.

India’s biggest problem is going to be the fielding and an ageing side with worn out shoulders may well be shown up against the more athletic English team. Runs saved are runs scored and that may well make the difference in a close contest.

One thing for sure is that the presence of Gough is going to go a big way in erasing the memories of the Test series that finished last month and show English cricket in a better light when they leave our shores this time than when they did the last time.

   

 
 
HANDOVER MINUS BIG CATCH 
 
 
FROM SEEMA GUHA AND AGENCIES
 
New Delhi, Jan. 18: 
India and Pakistan are locked in hard-nosed bargaining over the terrorists’ handover but there were signs that Delhi was ready to discuss any problem Islamabad might be facing.

The Vajpayee government made it clear to Washington and Islamabad that until some of the terrorists are turned in, it would not be possible to repair the frayed bilateral relations. But defence minister George Fernandes said in Washington that any problem with the handover of the six Pakistanis on the list could be talked out.

“With regard to the 20 individuals whom we have named as having committed criminal offences in India, they should be handed over for trial. If there are any kinds of problems in regard to such of them as are Pakistani nationals, that can be discussed further,” Fernandes said.

“But insofar as people of Indian citizenship who have been used for terrorist activities and have since found shelter in Pakistan are concerned, they should be handed over forthwith,” Fernandes said.

The government’s hopes of showcasing Dawood Ibrahim as a prize catch in the run-up to the Uttar Pradesh elections are fast receding. Dawood, the main accused in the Bombay blasts and charged in scores of cases from murder to extortion, has already been asked to leave Pakistan, Indian intelligence reports said.

With Pervez Musharraf ruling out handover of Pakistani nationals, India’s chances of netting “big names” are dim. Those close to Dawood, like the Memon brothers, are unlikely to be turned over because they could land both Pakistan and the ISI in a spot if they decide to speak up. Their statements could also have ramifications in several Gulf countries where Dawood has big business interests.

The Musharraf regime is likely to hand over one or two Khalistani militants in the next two weeks. But this will not benefit the government much. Punjab terrorists like Lakhbir Singh Rode of the ISFY, Gajinder Singh of the Dal Khalsa and Wadhwan Singh Baba of the Babbar Khalsa have long vanished from public memory.

But the Centre realises Musharraf is not going to fall in line with its demand for handover of big names. So it is ensuring that the pressure on Pakistan does not ease.

Some sections in the government want the current eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation between the armies to continue. “Pakistan must know we mean business and we will back off only when Islamabad proves its sincerity. They can do so by handing over the terrorists we want,” an official said.

That is exactly what Musharraf wishes to avoid: the impression that he is acting on India’s demand. “We have to show no action to anybody,” he said, reacting to Indian statements that Pakistan is on test.

   

 
 
EMPIRE STRIKES BACK ON CHARIOTS OF FIRE 
 
 
FROM M. RAJENDRAN
 
New Delhi, Jan. 18: 
The Juggernaut today set its Chariots of Fire rolling. Maruti, the country’s largest automaker, pulled the wraps off the Ignis — the 1,328 cc five-door compact it plans to launch shortly — at its competing auto extravaganza which has been named after the classic Hugh Hudson-directed Oscar-winning movie that captured the rivalry between two middle-distance runners at the 1924 Paris Olympics.

Maruti is not participating in the eight-day Auto Expo at Delhi’s Pragati Maidan. Instead, it opened its own carnival a few kilometres away at Ansal Plaza in upmarket South Delhi. From here, its Chariots of Fire will roll across the nation, showcasing the Ignis and the Grand Vitara, the 2,493 cc sports utility vehicle that the company plans to import as a completely-built unit (CBU).

The Ignis (which means fire in Latin) is expected to live up to its name: the buzz is that this compact will be priced at around Rs 4 lakh. If this is true, it will ignite a fire in the industry by taking on Hyundai Santro and Telco Indica in what is known as the B segment in the industry and is growing at a faster pace than any other class of cars.

Sources in the ministry of heavy industry said: “Ignis will be manufactured in India. It is difficult to say when it will be launched here. As a policy, Maruti will launch one model each year. This could be our next model.”

Maruti had found itself muscled out by the Santro and the Indica -- which has been the hottest vehicle this year after it was repackaged -- with its Zen and new models like the Wagon-R and the Alto offering little competition.

Speculation has been rife over why Maruti chose to drop out of the Auto Expo.

It has participated on all five earlier occasions. Piyush Behal, head of CII Trade Fairs, said: “Maruti had told us it did not want to participate in the Auto Expo since it had no new models to launch.

“The company had also informed us that all their launches had taken place last year and they have already spent a considerable amount on their promotion.”

Yet, the company chose to hold its carnival to showcase the Ignis and the Grand Vitara at a different venue, mid-way through the Auto Expo. Maruti claims that it chose to drop out of the Expo because it wanted to focus on a wider Indian market.

The company plans to hold a series of carnivals at strategic locations in the four metros -- Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta and Chennai -- and mini-metros like Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Indore, Ahmedabad and Jamshedpur.

It also plans to showcase its latest models and the vehicles likely to be launched in India.

“Our decision not to participate in the fair was based on the strategy for the year. We decided to focus on taking the company and the vehicles all over the country,” sources said.

“Maruti realised that participation in AutoExpo would mean that only people from the capital would be able to see their cars, but an event spread all over the year and all over the country would not only help reinforce the brand image of the company but also assess the public’s response to the new models,” sources added.

   

 
 
BJP TOUCHES BASE WITH JAYA, RIVAL 
 
 
FROM M.R. VENKATESH
 
Chennai, Jan. 18: 
In a move that raised eyebrows, Union minister of state for small industries Vasundhara Raje today separately met ADMK chief Jayalalithaa and DMK president M. Karunanidhi.

There was no clue if the BJP was doing a balancing act between the Dravidian archrivals or whether the minister was a message-bearer for the Prime Minister. While the DMK is part of the National Democratic Alliance, the ADMK has taken an “independent” stance, saying it would offer issue-based support to the Centre.

Jayalalithaa’s meeting with a BJP or any other Sangh leader would naturally evoke interest as she is on a comeback trail. She has filed her nomination papers for the Andipatti bypoll scheduled for January 24.

After a 45-minute meeting with the ADMK chief at her Poes garden residence, Vasundhara called on Karunanidhi at his Gopalapuram residence for half-an-hour.

Talking to reporters after the meeting with Karunanidhi, Vasundhara dismissed any “political” suggestions about her visits. “Whenever I come to Chennai, I make it a point to call on the respected leaders,” she said.

There are some problems faced by small-scale industries which need to be sorted out, the Union minister said, adding that she also met the leaders in this connection.

Vasundhara did not comment when asked if she visited the DMK chief to assuage his feelings on the Centre’s choice of Governor.

Earlier in the day, the new Tamil Nadu Governor, P.S. Ramamohan Rao, was sworn in. Rao, former DGP of Andhra Pradesh and an alumnus of Presidency College in Chennai, told reporters that the city was not new to him.

Tansi hearing deferred

The Supreme Court today posted for hearing on Tuesday a bunch of petitions challenging the Madras High Court order acquitting ADMK chief Jayalalithaa and five others from the Tansi land scam case, reports PTI from New Delhi.

A bench of Justice K.T. Thomas and Justice Doraiswamy Raju will hear on Tuesday five petitions by DMK activist R. Saibharathi and Janata Party president Subramaniam Swamy seeking a direction restraining Jayalalithaa from holding any public office during the hearing of the appeal.

   

 
 
PARALLEL ARMY RECRUITS ITS JAWANS 
 
 
BY TAPAS CHAKRABORTY
 
Jan. 18: 
From a low verdant cliff we hear the chorus of slogans piercing the rarefied air of the surrounding peaks. Armed Naxalite activists are marching, we are told.

“Neo-imperialist US designs, down down”, “MCC-PWG long live”, “Long live the revolution”, “Down with Poto” — male and female voices rend the silence of the hills.

This is the lair of the Left radical rebels of the People’s War Group (PWG), waging their battle against the Indian government on a frontier where the state machinery fails to reach.

Tucked away on a flatland amidst the hills, about 150 km southwest of Palamau in Jharkhand and barely 5 km from Chhattisgarh’s Surguja district and 10 km from Orissa’s Sundergarh, the PWG organised a 12-day convention of its People’s Guerrilla Army (PGA). One of the most feared militant groups in the four states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, the PWG inducted over 200 youngsters into their military wing.

Three other journalists and I were allowed entry into the meeting.

The area was draped in red flags fluttering from tree tops and the occasion was dedicated to recent “martyrs” in Andhra Pradesh and Bihar.

Sporting their olive uniform, carrying seals of PGA, the new recruits marched through snaky passages to the beats of the mandar (big drums). The Jharkhand and Orissa police had no knowledge of the event.

Undeterred by the promulgation of the anti-terror Ordinance, known as Poto, the PWG and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) sank their differences to spread their tentacles and upgrade their apparatus. The MCC and the PWG, sworn enemies until recently, shared a dais for the first time. They are thinking of merging their units.

“Once the animosity between the two organisations’ rank and file is over, the fight against the government’s anti-people policies will be more violent,” said Santosh Kumar, PWG central committee member.

The PWG had a round of meetings on January 4 with Nepal-based Maoists with whom coordination has begun.

As heavily-armed senior PWG and MCC leaders confabulated in this hideout, guerrillas fanned out in the jungles and hill corridors that link the area with the outside world. Gun-toting youngsters guarded invisible outposts in the forests at every half-a-km gap. The roads from all sides to the venue of the meeting were mined.

Forest villages spread over 20 km from the hideout to the Jharkhand side looked like a liberated zone. As we were escorted through the open fields, villagers did not gather to watch, as is the wont at other places whenever outsiders enter.

“The villagers will see everything, hear everything but to outsiders, they are mum,” said Madan Kumar, an area commander of the PWG. “We are the voice of the people,” said Seema, a 19-year-old armed escort.

We were picked up on the night of January 14 from our homes and bundled into a car. We were told not to ask our destination. After a nightlong journey, we were offloaded at 4 am in a remote place in Palamau. A 15-minutes walk in the chilly dawn over railway tracks took us to a petrol pump. A jeep was waiting there with a fresh group of escorts. “If securitymen ask who you are, tell them you are tourists,” said one of the escorts.

The jeep halted in a village. A lady armed with a rifle snatched from the police smiled at us and said “lal salam” after shaking hands.

A tortuous walk through the hills and rugged plains began. Kilometre after kilometre of paddy fields stretched out on the slopes of low hills, gentle and dry in winter. Suddenly, a shallow river appeared, dividing the hills. Kneedeep, we waded nervously through the water, provoking hearty laughter among the armed escorts.

After limping through 10 km of rough terrain, hurting from blisters, we reached a village where the tribals assembled to talk to the “paperwallahs”.

They narrated tales of police misdeeds and harassment. Seventy-six villagers are already in jail.

At night, the tribal women formed a semicircle in front of a group of male drum-beaters and danced for the better part of the night in front of a haystack fire. “Lal sena chale sima tan ho, seshak dekhi ghabrae (Red army marches proudly, striking fear into exploiters),” the women sang as the comrades smiled.

   

 
 
MOBILE STD RATE CUT HITS HURDLE 
 
 
FROM M. RAJENDRAN
 
New Delhi, Jan. 18: 
Basic telephony operators today mounted a move to stymie the launch of Bharti group’s IndiaOne national long-distance service on January 26.

IndiaOne had planned to kick off its service on Republic Day by offering mobile-to-mobile STD calls at a 50 per cent discount. However, basic operators have asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to maintain status quo on the inter-connection and revenue-sharing arrangements between cellular operators and national long-distance operators like IndiaOne.

“It would be appropriate to wait for the cost determination and the tariff rebalancing, as well as the results of the consultation paper issued by Trai on the interconnection regime between the access provider and (long-distance operators), before any change is permitted in the existing scenario,” says a letter from the Association of Basic Telecom Operators to Trai.

The association has urged Trai to examine whether a proposal has been made by private long-distance operators to offer a lower tariff to customers by way of interconnection revenue-sharing with cellular operators.

Bharti Group chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal was unfazed. “IndiaOne’s agreement with cellular operators is legally valid. We had examined this issue thoroughly. The Association of Basic Telecom Operators is within its right to object, but we don’t see any problem in launching the service as scheduled.”

Without naming IndiaOne, the association letter says its proposal is not only discriminatory “but will also enable the cellular operators to cross-subsidise their operations and cannibalise and bypass even inter-circle long-distance traffic to the detriment of basic operators”.

The letter adds that interconnection revenue share with the cellular operators must be avoided as that will upset the exercise proposed by Trai in relation to the tariff rebalancing, as well as the rationalisation of the interconnection regime between service providers.

Fixed-line telephone operators have also complained that the “reduction of STD rates by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, the illegal bypass in intra-circle long-distance revenues by cellular operators and the grant of permission to cellular operators to operate mobile PCOs have resulted in a sharp drop in their STD revenues”.

   

 
 
CHILDREN STITCH FOOTBALLS, ADULTS PLAY 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Jan. 18: 
Children usually are imagined as playing football and not stitching them up for long hours.

But in Punjab’s Jalandhar district, 12-year-old Geeta has been stitching footballs daily. The skin on her hand has peeled away in patches and the scars are a testimony to the long hours of hard work.

In the neighbourhood, 11-year-old Lovely was taught by his mother to put together the pieces to make a football.

There are three months left for the Word Cup football to kick off in Japan and South Korea. The Federation of International Football Associations, Fifa, bars the employment of children below 15 in football-making.

“Any licensee, contractor or sub-contractor found breaching the Fifa’s code of labour practice will face sanctions that could mean a withdrawal of the right to manufacture footballs,” states the game’s governing body.

This agreement came into effect in 1996 but children are still being used to stitch up footballs.

The story is much the same in Pakistan. A report by the All Pakistan Federation of Labour three years ago said children were still producing footballs under contractors. Labour practices were unfair and abysmally low wages were one of the deciding factors in employing children despite the Fifa fiat.

The Sports Goods Federation of India, an organisation of football manufacturers and exporters, has launched a monitoring programme. But many of the contractors have managed to dodge inspections.

Not only in the manufacture of footballs, child labour has been an issue in the sports goods industry. It came to light when the first case of child labour in football was reported from Pakistan.

Over the past year, Global March Against Child Labour, a voluntary group, has been regularly corresponding with FIFA drawing their attention to the continuance of child labour in the football manufacturing sector.

In its response, Fifa has made it clear that its primary focus is to retain the status of the World Cup as a sports event.

“Nevertheless, our efforts will continue to ensure that products used at the World Cup, for which Fifa is responsible, are produced in full conformity with labour standards,” wrote Fifa general secretary Michel Zen Ruffinen.

The anti-child labour group on its part has flatly accused Fifa of blocking its efforts to root out child labour from the sports industry.

In a letter to the Unicef, which has been involved in the campaign against child labour in the football manufacturing industry, the voluntary group has alleged: “Companies like Adidas, Mitre and Mundo had hidden a part of their manufacturing sector from the Fifa-sponsored monitoring system. The Fifa promised a follow-up but never implemented it.”

   

 
 
CONGRESS IN SPOT OVER SEX SLUR 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Mumbai, Jan. 18: 
Pummelled by a serious allegation of sexual harassment of a senior woman party leader, the Congress is going to fight the upcoming municipal elections alone, with its back to the wall.

Mahila Pradesh Congress general secretary Kalpana Phulbandhe lodged a complaint with the state women’s commission last week, accusing labour minister Satish Chaturvedi and Nagpur MP Vilas Muttemwar of sexual harassment.

Phulbandhe, who had failed to get a party ticket from Nagpur, said a go-between of the two leaders had called her repeatedly to their houses at night to “satisfy” the leaders. She was denied a ticket after she had turned down the “indecent proposals”, Phulbandhe said.

The charge — that too from a senior woman leader — could not have come at a worse time for the party, grappling with the municipal polls after a seat-sharing talk with ally Nationalist Congress Party broke down.

An embarrassed chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh promised an inquiry while both leaders denied the allegations and threatened to sue Phulbandhe.

Chaturvedi and Muttemwar said they were shocked and accused their party colleague of making “false” allegations after being denied a party ticket.

The two had, however, nothing to do with distribution of tickets, they added.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 29.1°C (+2)
Minimum: 19.3°C (+5)

Rainfall

Nil

Relative Humidity

Max: 98%
Min: 55%

Sunrise: 6.25 am

Sunset: 5.09 pm

Today

Partly cloudy sky. Possibility of morning mist in some areas. Minimum temperature likely to be around 19°C
   
 

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