US stealth talks on Kashmir operation
Lighter schoolbags, livelier classrooms
Market comes to post office
When sales droop, hemlines drop
Feud twist to Poonch deaths
Delhi dares Pak on list, permits wheat survey
BJP adds Gandhi to icon gallery
Calcutta Weather

 
 
US STEALTH TALKS ON KASHMIR OPERATION 
 
 
FROM SEEMA GUHA AND PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, Jan. 21: 
Alarmed at the possibility of Taliban and al Qaida activists sneaking into Jammu and Kashmir, India and the US are planning to work together. Cooperation between the two could lead to a joint special operation in the state.

India is comfortable with sharing intelligence with the US to combat terrorism, but a joint operation raises questions about Delhi’s sovereignty.

Aware that hardliners within and outside the ruling coalition will kick up a furore if the government were to agree to the proposal, the Indian leadership is being very cautious. Indications suggest that even if a decision is taken, neither of the two governments will describe the mission as a joint special operation.

It is also being debated whether a substantial number of US troops — experts on counter-terrorism — or only a few key personnel should be there with the Indian security forces. The government is yet to take a decision on any of these issues.

The fourth meeting of the India-US joint working group on counter-terrorism, which began here this morning, discussed the progress in the global campaign against terrorism and steps to improve co-ordination.

The US state department’s coordinator for counter-terrorism, Francis Taylor, said: “The JWG is solid evidence that India and the US have transformed their bilateral relationship and are today working together on many fronts to defend their common interest.

“Tomorrow, for the first time, the JWG will discuss ways our militaries can cooperate against terrorism.”

Foreign ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao said: “The JWG provides an opportunity to share assessment and information on international terrorism, with particular focus on South Asia. The two sides will also exchange views on “strengthening intelligence and investigative cooperation”.

Taylor said the US had discussed ways to improve border security with Indian security officials, including a pilot project for greater border surveillance.

In the first public admission by a US official of infiltration across the border, he said: “The fact that the people are able to cross international borders and not be identified is a real challenge. We will work with the Indian government on this, in looking at ways to improve border security.”

In another indication of the growing cooperation between the two countries on counter-terrorism, FBI director Robert Mueller arrived here tonight. He is scheduled to hold discussions with Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee and L.K. Advani. CIA chief George Tenet is likely to visit the country in the next few days.

Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov will be visiting both India and Pakistan next month. General Pervez Musharraf will go to Washington in February.

   

 
 
LIGHTER SCHOOLBAGS, LIVELIER CLASSROOMS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Jan. 21: 
Simplified mathematics, syllabi reflecting contemporary as well as controversial events, reduced load and a continuous evaluation system will make their way into schools, if boards and state governments implement an ambitious blueprint unwrapped by the government today.

In a double-edged initiative that could either liven up classrooms or leave them vulnerable to selective lessons, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) said it would lift the textbook ban on sensitive issues like caste system and beef-eating in ancient India.

“You can’t wish away the caste system just like you can’t wish away demolition of places of worship,” said NCERT director J.S. Rajput, who had two months ago asked schools which follow the council’s textbooks to delete references to caste and beef-eating.

The ban had ignited a controversy with a section of educationists claiming that it was intended at shielding the “Brahiminical class” as part of an alleged drive to saffronise education.

However, Rajput today added that such chapters should mention more than one theory to ensure a balanced view. “You cannot give one-sided history when there are different interpretations,” he said. But his critics remained sceptical, reserving their comments till the new textbooks are out.

The curriculum guidelines drawn up by the NCERT are not binding on schools. If the suggestions are implemented, the most immediate impact will be on social sciences, which will be squeezed into one textbook till Class X.

At present, from Class VI to VIII, social sciences are split between two textbooks. From Class IX to X, there are four textbooks — one each for history, civics, geography and economics. These will give way to one book under the new norms.

The guidelines seek to change the way mathematics is taught in upper primary classes and lay stress on lessons that will be of use in day-to-day life. The mathematics syllabus as such will not be revised but examples in textbooks will be simplified and updated to ensure that children can relate to them better.

“The mathematics curriculum must develop an appreciation and understanding of the contribution by Indian mathematicians,” the guidelines said.

A new branch of curriculum on health and physical education has been suggested. For the first time, textbooks may include chapters to develop awareness about HIV, AIDS and drug abuse.

The guidelines try to make learning more enjoyable with emphasis on project work. For instance, Class IX students may be asked to launch magazines and hold debates on innovative themes.

The NCERT said it was all for an “in-built system of evaluation”. It proposed regular chapter-wise tests with stress on the student’s ability to understand an application rather than learn by rote. Some schools are already following such steps.

Continuous and comprehensive assessment in history for students in classes XI and XII have also been suggested. Sixty per cent weightage should be given to continuous evaluation and 40 per cent to the final examination, the guidelines said.

   

 
 
MARKET COMES TO POST OFFICE 
 
 
FROM ANIEK PAUL
 
Calcutta, Jan. 21: 
The common man has not been going to the stock market since the Harshad Mehta boom went bust. And the common man has been going less and less to the neighbourhood post office.

The two are now combining, hoping to reverse both trends.

The Stock Holding Corporation of India Ltd is tying up with the department of posts so that anyone can trade in shares through the post office. The corporation is like a bank which holds shares for you in paperless form.

Once the arrangement between the two comes on stream — the service could start any day now — you can simply walk into a post office and open an account with the corporation. This is called a depository account, which enables you to hold your shares with the corporation and trade.

Initially, only key post offices will offer this facility but B.N. Som, secretary in the department of posts, said the service would be gradually expanded.

B.V. Goud, managing director of the corporation, said: “We have finalised the tie-up with the department of posts and the agreement will be signed any day. The service will be introduced in the post offices soon after that. The point of the tie-up is not only to enhance our business, but also enable larger sections of society to enter the capital market.”

Assuming that the existing schemes of the corporation will be introduced in post offices, a prospective investor can open a depository account free. But he has to pay an annual fee of Rs 400 or Rs 1,200, if he is a frequent trader.

Other than that, there is a transaction fee for both buying and selling.

Explaining the rationale for the tie-up, Som said: “We noticed that the financial markets were expanding, and there was scope for us to leverage our e-enabled infrastructure to take advantage of emerging opportunities. These initiatives are aimed at reviving the postal department.”

The Stock Holding Corporation, which now has a client base of 7.5 lakh, was promoted by the Unit Trust of India and a host of government-owned financial institutions.

Tapping the postal department gives it access to the widest network any institution has in the country.

By becoming a client of the corporation, investors can trade through any of its empanelled brokers. This makes selecting a broker easier for someone relatively ignorant about the stock market and its intermediaries.

The corporation also ensures timely payment against shares sold and timely delivery to buyers. A depository account with the corporation allows the investor to borrow against shares in his account.

   

 
 
WHEN SALES DROOP, HEMLINES DROP 
 
 
FROM SHASHWATI GHOSH
 
New Delhi, Jan. 19: 
Fashion mimics the mood: in hard times, people tend to dress conservatively. The sixth Auto Expo, which concludes tomorrow, is being held at a time when the mood in the industry is grim as it desperately tries to ride out the chicane of falling demand.

There’s an old saying on Wall Street — hemlines rise when the market goes up, they fall when the stocks plunge. The adage appears to have rubbed off on the automakers here who have been more keen to showcase their cars and bikes at this year’s fair rather than the models who used to strut their stuff in the glory days when neither sales nor hemlines were modest.

So, there’s no one at this Auto Expo who is wearing outrageously sexy outfits — the models have chucked the halters and mini-skirts for pant-suits or full-length gowns. Tube-tops and plunging necklines are a strict no-no — there are a few who even sport scarves — though you can still catch an occasional glimpse of closely-encased derrières.

Auto-makers like Ford India had their models draped in ankle-length gowns (without the décolletage) on the first day of the fair when the crowds were thin. But it found that even that was risqué business. So, from the second day of the eight-day fair, the models switched to severe business suits.

“There’s no particular reason why we took such a decision,” said a Ford official. “The choice was made even before the fair started. We wanted to attract people to the opening ceremony.”

“Later, we wanted the crowds to focus on the cars rather than the ladies.”

Blame it all on the stuttering economy. Very few displayed a dare-to-bare tendency. LML and Yamaha did, however, buck the trend. LML ladies were draped in figure-hugging silver midis with deep side slits. Yamaha, not quite as bold, had girls wearing short leather skirts.

The Fiat stall had just the right mix of oomph and professionalism. The low-slung foreign marques like Ferrari and Alfa Romeo were complemented by the long and languorous models wearing skin-fitting bodystockings in glittering black that showed their curves to perfection.

But the six desi variants of the Palio were hemmed in by girls who wore regulation knee-length navy blue business skirts with white tops.

“We are here to do busines with these six models. The imported models are just an interesting diversion. We want the customers to see the desi products and not stop at the hostesses’ legs. Moreover, the dress code was dovetailed with the theme that we want to present. The cars represent the power of the man — hence the four time shows with acrobats and gymnasts whom we picked up from Russian circuses. The cars have been placed within people’s reach whereas the dais is on the top to entertain the crowd at the back,” said Samita Vasishtha, senior marketing manager of Showtime Events, which managed the Fiat show.

Showtime generally takes Rs 12,000-15,000 per sq ft to put up a dais and stage. The events and the hostesses are charged extra. The gymnasts cost the company around Rs 15-20 lakh while the girls are being paid Rs 2,500-6,000 per day.

Hyundai, however, stole the show with a bunch of dancers who wore minis. But the hostesses who hung around the cars were more sedate.

Mercedes Benz, the Teutonic carmaker, and the Czech company Skoda sprang a surprise: the Mercedes girls switched outfits ever so often, popping out of the changing rooms in figure-hugging salwar-kurtas, trouser-tops, and business suits.

Skoda was all business. Managing director Imran Hassan said: “We are selling cars and not girls. The stall has taken more than Rs 3 crore to assemble.

   

 
 
FEUD TWIST TO POONCH DEATHS 
 
 
FROM MUKHTAR AHMAD AND AGENCIES
 
Srinagar, Jan. 21: 
A massacre in Poonch in the middle of the Indo-Pak standoff that was initially blamed on foreign militants took a curious turn in the night, with police saying a family feud could be behind it.

Twelve people, eight of them children aged between six months and 12 years, were gunned down at midnight in a village near the Line of Control.

Investigators initially suspected the involvement of either Lashkar-e-Toiba or Jaish-e-Mohammad, militant outfits blamed for the attack on Parliament. But police later said the killings could be the result of a feud.

Chief minister Farooq Abdullah tonight said a police deserter, who had quit the state’s special police force a year-and-a-half ago, had joined hands with local militants to avenge a family dispute.

Three persons have been arrested and search is on for the former policeman.

The assailants swooped down on Salwal village in Poonch district around midnight last night and shot dead one Zakir Hussain and his son and daughter, both aged below two. Hussain’s wife was injured in the attack and died on way to hospital.

Next, the killers struck at the house of Mohammad Zaman, a soldier in Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JKLI), and gunned down his wife Khatima Bi, 35, and their four children — daughter Gulnaz and sons Mohammad Issac, Mohammad Mehfoz and Mohammad Yasir. The children were aged between two and 12 years.

The family of one Mohammad Akram was the next target. His three-year-old daughter Rubina and six-month-old son Islaq were gunned down.

Maqsood Ahmed, a resident of Uttar Pradesh working in the village as a mason, was killed in the shooting and a special police officer, Mohammad Nazir, was kidnapped.

   

 
 
DELHI DARES PAK ON LIST, PERMITS WHEAT SURVEY 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA AND AGENCIES
 
New Delhi, Jan. 21: 
India today promised immediate action if Pakistan submits a list of criminals hiding here but reminded Islamabad not to drag its feet over extraditing the 20 Delhi wants handed over.

“India does not have any difficulties in this regard. Where is the dispute? Pakistan can send it (the list) by open fax to my office this evening and I can promise I will take whatever action tomorrow,” foreign minister Jaswant Singh said in response to a question about Pakistani criminals hiding in India.

“We will work double time to extradite any Pakistani criminal hiding in India and if we receive a list in this regard,” he added. “The earlier it comes, it will be better.”

South Block also played down Islamabad’s refusal to extend transit facilities to Indian wheat meant for Afghanistan, saying it had not sought transit rights from Pakistan and the decision to get the Indian consignment through to Kabul lay with authorities of the World Food Programme (WFP).

The WFP said in Islamabad that India has agreed to permit the agency’s officials to survey the wheat stocks before it took their delivery.

“The Indian government has agreed to the WFP’s survey of the stocks,” the agency’s spokesman, Khaled Mansour, said. He was reacting to an assertion by Pakistan’s federal minister for food, Khair Muhammad Junejo, that transit facilities would not be given to “contaminated” Indian wheat.

The WFP spokesman said it had suggested to India to release for the first tranche wheat flour enriched with micro-nutrients, instead of wheat grain. “This eliminates the risk of karnal bunt contamination,” he said.

In Delhi, Jaswant pointed out that India was yet to see results of Pervez Musharraf’s pledge to give up cross-border terror as a foreign policy tool. “We have seen his statement of intent. We want to see whether it is translated on the ground,” he said.

But he pointed out that only 10 days had elapsed since the Pakistan President addressed his nation.

Asked whether Pakistan was resorting to delaying tactics regarding the Indian demand for handover of the 20 suspects, the foreign minister said: “We are not playing a cricket match to indulge in slow bowling so that we don’t play out the mandatory 50 overs.”

In Thiruvananthapuram, Union food and civil supplies minister Shanta Kumar came out with a sharp denial of the Pakistani allegation that the Indian wheat meant for Afghanistan was infested with germs.

Kumar said Pakistan’s decision was “unfortunate, inhuman and politically motivated”. “The Pakistani charge is incorrect. Our wheat is free from all diseases. Pakistan has been a party in the destruction of Afghanistan. Now it is time for it to do penance,” he added.

   

 
 
BJP ADDS GANDHI TO ICON GALLERY 
 
 
FROM RADHIKA RAMASESHAN AND ELLA DATTA
 
New Delhi, Jan. 21: 
After Swami Vivekananda, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Shahid Bhagat Singh and Babasaheb Ambedkar, is the BJP latching onto another national icon to fit in with mass aspirations? It seems so given the spurt in events focusing on Mahatma Gandhi in the past three weeks.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee declared January 9 as NRI Day in an elite gathering as on that day Gandhi, described as the most illustrious NRI, landed in Mumbai from Durban.

Moreover, tourism minister Jagmohan has been giving special attention to locations associated with Gandhi. During a visit to Gujarat to develop tourist circuits, he particularly focused on the sprucing up of Porbandar, Gandhi’s birthplace. Earlier, he had similarly zoomed in on Kanyakumari, a tourist spot that has close links with Swami Vivekananda.

A few days ago, he also initiated plans to revamp Gandhi Darshan, housing the art works done as a tribute to the Mahatma by major contemporary artists like K.G. Subramanyan, A. Ramachandran and Paritosh Sen.

L.K. Advani has also joined the league of Gandhi adulators. The home minister is scheduled on Friday to release Gandhi by Peter Ruhe, published by Roli Books. The book is primarily a visual narrative recounted through a wealth of photographs, many of them rare and unpublished. It is not often that a senior Cabinet minister presides over the launch of a lavish coffee-table book.

Political observers believe that Advani’s move would serve three purposes. One, it would dispel the clouds that still hang over the RSS for its alleged complicity in Gandhi’s assassination. Second, Advani’s gesture would expand the BJP’s own pantheon of national heroes — an attribute it lacks — and give the party a sense of history and lineage it desperately wants.

Besides, Advani’s presence at the book-release would help repackage his own identity as a “moderate”.

BJP sources have admitted in the past that two historic events continue to embarrass them. They are Gandhi’s murder and the Babri masjid demolition. The latter has been accepted as an attempt to “redress” historical “wrongs” by the party’s hardcore supporters. But Gandhi’s assassination is a different matter as sources said his personality still towers over the country’s politicalscape.

The BJP has seized every opportunity to make amends for the incident. When Gandhi’s granddaughter Sumitra Kulkarni left the Congress to join the party two years ago, she was ushered in with fanfare by Advani.

With the BJP trying to occupy some of the space vacated by the Congress, party strategists said it was important not just to win elections and form governments, but to also “infuse” a sense of history in the party.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 27.3°C (0)
Minimum: 18.4°C (+4)

Rainfall

Nil

Relative humidity

Max: 98%
Min: 54%

Sunrise: 6.25 am

Sunset: 5.11 pm

Today:

Partly cloudy sky. Possibility of morning mist in some parts of the city
   
 

FRONT PAGE / NATIONAL / EDITORIAL / BUSINESS / THE EAST / SPORTS
ABOUT US /FEEDBACK / ARCHIVE 
 
Maintained by Web Development Company