State goes shopping for latest rifles
‘Hounded’ Governor to retire hurt
khadi breaks free with bengal fabric power
Sant loyalist forced to praise Atal
George in deal report line of fire
Trishul missile testfired

 
 
STATE GOES SHOPPING FOR LATEST RIFLES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 30: 
The state government has placed its biggest-ever order for sophisticated weapons with the Centre.

This includes 1,000 Insas assault rifles and another 1,000 7.62 mm self-loading rifles. At present, the state has only 150 assault rifles.

From last year, Bengal was eligible for an annual Central grant of Rs 120 crore to buy arms. The five-year scheme, which started in 2000-01, calls for a matching contribution by the state. But Bengal could only use Rs 19 crore last financial year.

State home department sources attributed the low spending to “delayed allocation” of funds from the Centre.

But after the January 22 attack on policemen in front of the American Center, the state has decided to draw its full allocation from the Centre.

A state team has gone to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) armoury at Rampur in Uttar Pradesh to procure 50 Insas — or Indian Small Arms System — assault rifles.

Another consignment of 50 automatic rifles is scheduled to arrive within a month. This is part of an order placed with the Centre about a year ago.

“The state government had requisitioned 100 assault rifles from the Centre to equip commandos and the rapid action force with modern arms and ammunition to fight the growing terrorist activities and organised crime a year ago. But these did not reach Bengal despite repeated appeals,” said a government spokesman.

The state home department had taken up the matter with home ministry envoy Ashok Bhandari when he arrived in Calcutta following the terrorist attack on the American Center. He was urged to pursue the matter in Delhi.

According to deputy inspector-general of police Narayan Ghosh, the state had procured 150 Insas rifles from the Centre in the past three years. This rifle is similar to the AK-47. It can fire single shots and automatic three-shot bursts. The magazine is made from light, transparent plastic material making it easy to handle.

Ghosh said with the “advent of terrorist activities and organised crime” the state would require more modern gadgets, including the latest telecom system and night-vision cameras. For the current financial year, the state government will spend Rs 62.5 crore with a matching grant from the Centre.

Ghosh said a “bigger budget” was being planned for the next financial year. The sophisticated weapons would be handled only by trained police personnel, he added.

   

 
 
‘HOUNDED’ GOVERNOR TO RETIRE HURT 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Ranchi, Jan. 30: 
In the first change of guard since the formation of Jharkhand in November 2000, Governor Prabhat Kumar today announced he would submit his resignation to President K.R. Narayanan.

Kumar did not say when, but sources said he would leave for New Delhi tomorrow, meet Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and resign later in the day.

In a statement today, Kumar lashed out at “some sections of the media” for hounding him in connection with allegations that a corporate director paid the bills of private parties hosted by him in Delhi during his tenure as Cabinet secretary. Kumar today denied the allegations and said he was resigning because he was “deeply distressed” by the “media campaign” against him over the issue.

“I am deeply hurt by the recent reports which have appeared about my having already resigned based on the same allegations. I would like to state that some of the parties being reported in the media were never hosted by me while the payment for the rest was made by me personally,” the outgoing Governor said. “I have never done anything in my entire civil service career which would compromise my integrity or dignity,” he said.

“I have been deeply pained by some reports which have been appearing in some sections of the media alleging violations of the civil service code of conduct by me. These allegations refer to some parties at my official residence as Cabinet secretary, which are supposed to have been paid for by Ashok Chaturvedi, chairman-MD of Flex Industries Ltd,” Kumar added.

The Centre will start official deliberations on a successor only tomorrow since Kumar is yet to put in his papers. The chances of CBI joint director (east) and fodder case investigator U.N. Biswas are dim since the Vajpayee government is not keen on another controversy just before the crucial Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.

Former CBI chief Joginder Singh was reportedly eager to get the job but home minister L.K. Advani is not keen on him. Bihar Governor Vinod Pande is expected to officiate until a successor is found.

On January 9, The Telegraph reported that Kumar had promised the Centre to step down by the month-end. Chaturvedi, arrested by the CBI for bribing the country’s chief excise commissioner, came out with the allegations against Kumar.

While the Opposition parties hailed the Governor’s decision to quit office, the BJP’s spokesperson said the party would comment only after the Governor actually tendered his resignation to the President and it was accepted.

Kumar’s 14-month tenure in Jharkhand began on a turbulent note with the Opposition parties baying for his blood because he was the Uttar Pradesh home commissioner when the Babri Masjid was demolished on December 6, 1992. The Governor weathered the initial storm but the Flex Industries allegations cost him his office.

Kumar, however, earned all-round praise for his role in higher education — he set into motion a series of reforms in his capacity as the chancellor of the three state universities. Kumar stressed on water conservation and watershed management as he felt the scarcity of drinking and irrigation water had an adverse impact on the region.

   

 
 
KHADI BREAKS FREE WITH BENGAL FABRIC POWER 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Jan. 30: 
Good taste in fashion was redefined today. Khadi: the fabric of freedom, a definitive exhibition of stunning, handspun fabrics and garments, was inaugurated today, the 52nd death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at Mati Ghar, Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts.

The exhibition, conceived and executed by textile maven Martand Singh and his crack team of textile historians, experts and fashion designers, gives a shot in the arm for the homespun fabric that became a metaphor for the freedom struggle but had subsequently slid into unimaginative mediocrity. The exhibition is sponsored by the Volkart Foundation.

Two decades ago, Martand Singh embarked on another adventure, Vishwakarma, the exhibition that rediscovered traditional woven fabrics and designed them to suit the contemporary sensibilities of the Indian elite.

In Khadi: the fabric of freedom, Singh has achieved the same coup. He has reinvented the fabric to scale unprecedented heights of sophistication. The process was made easier by textile historian Rahul Jain who gave the handspun cloth new structures.

In this process of rediscovery, Bengal scored top marks with gossamer fine fabrics woven from yarn of 400 counts or more. It is only West Bengal that can achieve this exquisite quality, which is used by top Japanese designer Issey Miyake.

The exhibition focuses on the distinctive tactile and aesthetic character of khadi. It showcases 108 saris and varieties of plain khadi fabric designed by Rakesh Thakore of the Abraham and Thakore label.

Besides, there are 63 garments designed by seven top fashion designers of the country including, among others, David Abraham and Asha Sarabhai, who has worked regularly with Issey Miyake.

Singh finds khadi the most tactile of fabrics and the most comfortable and, therefore, the most luxurious. “The older I get, I find the less I know and therefore, the more I feel,” says he. It is this feeling for khadi that prompted him to undertake this exercise.

It took Singh two years to develop the new range of fabrics and have high fashion garments stitched from them. He involved his team of textile historians Rahul Jain and Rita Kapur Chishti, designer Rakesh Thakore and many others in this new adventure.

Singh started by mapping the country’s khadi production centres by dividing them into fine count, medium count and coarse count areas. Khadi production was further categorised into kisan charkha areas and ambar charkha or new model charkha areas.

The categorisation was fine-tuned so that by the end of the mapping exercise, Singh knew exactly what was available where. For instance, two kinds of excellent coarse count fabrics are woven on kisan charkha in Srikakulam, Andhra Pradesh. They are kondapatti and erapatti, meaning red cotton.

The states where kisan charkhas are most in use are Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

Singh discovered fine count fabrics in West Bengal where new model charkhas are mostly in use. He identified the best quality fine khadi in Murshidabad and Fulia in Santipur district.

   

 
 
SANT LOYALIST FORCED TO PRAISE ATAL 
 
 
FROM RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
 
New Delhi, Jan. 30: 
Veteran BJP functionary Pyarelal Khandelwal was forced to make amends for his presence at a VHP rally last Sunday in which some speakers made disparaging remarks about Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Khandelwal, a general secretary entrusted with the all-important task of overseeing the Assembly elections, issued a statement today praising Vajpayee for his “tough and uncompromsing” stand on Kashmir.

Referring to the Prime Minister’s speech at a public meeting in Raipur last Monday -- in which Vajpayee said handing over Pakistan Occupied Kashmir would be a precondition to resuming talks with Pakistan -- Khandelwal said: “His statement is a step in the right direction and it is very significant.”

BJP sources expressed surprise over the timing and content of the statement issued by Khandelwal who hails from Madhya Pradesh and has seldom commented on anything beside cow-belt politics.

“It seems he is desperate to make amends for his presence in the Sant Chetavni rally,” said a source.

Initially, the BJP refused to confirm whether Khandelwal was present at the meeting, although his name was announced in the list of party leaders who were there at the Ram Lila Maidan. But today, Khandelwal himself said he went as a “Ram bhakt”. “I am free to go to the VHP functions as a Ram devotee,” he said.

Asked why he did not protest against the anti-Vajpayee fulminations of Acharya Dharmendra, Khandelwal said: “He is free to say what he wants.”

When reporters cornered him, Khandelwal appeared in a hurry to leave, but it was former BJP president Kushabhau Thakre – a Vajpayee loyalist – who seemed to be egging the scribes on to grill the Ram bhakt.

Sources close to Vajpayee had said how upset he had been when the BJP did not condemn the VHP sant’s remarks.

It almost appeared as if the party was wary of coming out in the open against the VHP and defending the Prime Minister.

Asked to comment on the VHP’s decision to go ahead with the Ram temple construction, the parishad’s general secretary and spokesman, Sunil Shastri, said: “It is the VHP’s own decision. How can anyone impose a decision on anyone? Our party stand is very clear, we would like to get the issue sorted out amicably.”

He, however, ruled out a confrontation between the VHP and the Centre.

VHP message to cadre

Stepping up its offensive on the Ram temple issue, the VHP today asked its cadre and “Ram bhakts” to converge in lakhs at Ayodhya from February 23, ahead of its plan to begin the construction of the shrine at the disputed site on any day after March 12, adds PTI.

“We have decided to ask the people to reach Ayodhya from the evening of February 23 for the ‘Purnahuti’ programme beginning February 24,” VHP senior vice-president Acharya Giriraj Kishore said after a meeting of the outfit’s board of trustees.

   

 
 
GEORGE IN DEAL REPORT LINE OF FIRE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Jan. 30: 
The Congress, the CPM and the CPI today slammed defence minister George Fernandes for his reported refusal to hand over a Central Vigilance Commission report on defence deals to the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament.

“It is of a piece with Tehelka and Coffingate... as the blatant suppression of relevant matter is a stinking scandal in itself,” Congress spokesman Jaipal Reddy said.

The parties said the move was indefensible in a democratic country and urged the defence ministry to review its position even as the vigilance commission wanted its report to be shown to the House panel chairman.

The defence minister’s reported refusal, the Congress pointed out, showed that he had a lot to hide from the PAC which has ultimate authority under the Constitution to look into such matters. The party said the report might have contained “a lot of explosive material about the manner in which certain purchases were made”.

Reiterating the government claim that disclosing the documents would damage the interests of the country, Reddy said the Congress was only demanding that the report be made available to the PAC. Fernandes in his eagerness to bring transparency and probity in defence procurement had in February 2000 referred all defence deals since 1989 to the CVC to be probed.

The CVC submitted its report to the government but the defence ministry declined to hand over the report to the PAC on the ground that it was not in national interest.

“Even if the document was claimed to be secret, there are constitutional provisions, the chairman of the PAC can look into it,” CVC sources said. A defence ministry spokesman said the government had nothing to say on the subject.

The CPM said the CVC report is of the highest public interest in the light of the continuing scandals surfacing in defence deals.

“In a democratic system, defence contracts involving huge amounts of money must be transparent and accountable to Parliament. To take cover behind grounds such as ‘prejudicial to the interests of the state’ are untenable,” the CPM said. The Vajpayee government must immediately ensure that the report is made available to the PAC.

A similar approach must be adopted in making all relevant documents available to the PAC regarding purchases made during the Kargil war, which has been placed under scrutiny by the CAG, the CPM added.

The defence ministry’s position is “highly unacceptable”, Reddy said at a news conference. Fernandes had suo motu referred all defence purchases to the CVC “as part of his brand of transparency”, he added. Maintaining that “there is a perceptible pattern in all this”, the Congress spokesman said the story has turned full circle from “unilateral transparency to blanket stonewalling”.

Demanding that the defence ministry review “its utterly untenable position” and make the entire report available to PAC, Reddy said since 1989, 77 purchases have been identified as worthy of inquiry and referred to the CVC.

   

 
 
TRISHUL MISSILE TESTFIRED 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Jan. 30: 
The Indian navy has been carrying out a series of tests of the Trishul surface-to-air missile off the Kochi coast that began on January 25.

At least two anti-missile missiles were fired from INS Dronacharya, a shore establishment, which is also home to the navy’s gunnery training school. Naval sources refused to give details on the nature of the test that was monitored by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

Though official sources said the testfiring was “successful”, it was not known if more tests would be needed. There has been no claim from the DRDO that the missile was ready for production and induction.

Defence sources said: “The missile was tested in sea-skimming mode against low-flying targets in the anti-sea skimmer role.” This would mean the testfired missile would have flown low and a little above the surface of the water for a small distance before zooming into its target higher up. During testfire, the target would have been a drone.

The scientists would also be monitoring the missile’s ability to fly as low as possible to avoid radar detection.

The tests of the Trishul anti-missile missile under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme that began in 1983 are behind schedule.

It was mainly because the programme has been behind schedule that the navy has begun importing and inducting the Barak anti-missile system from Israel.

The Trishul missile is being developed for use by all three services.

   
 

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