Business bad, pay hike not so bad
Endless wait on border
Swadeshi gun silent
Text changes, content stays
Lesson for govt in library’s lost pages
Iskcon to plead pauper in child abuse case
Signs of hire freeze, faint hint of pay cut
Passenger dies in cop chase
Family courts
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, Feb. 7: 
It ain’t all bad: the economy has gone into a spin, industrial demand has shrunk, investments have tanked, sections of industry have laid off workers, but end-of-year pay rises in India will remain fairly stable in 2002 at around 9.7 per cent to 11.7 per cent on average.

That’s a tick below last year’s actual pay rises that ranged between 10.2 per cent and 14.5 per cent.

The annual survey on salary increases in India by Hewitt Associates, which was released here today, says the best pay hikes in 2002 will be in the accounting/consulting/legal businesses at 16.2 per cent against last year’s actual pay rise of 18.6 per cent.

Last year, the telecom industry was the best paymaster with an average pay rise of 18.9 per cent. But this year, the survey says, the industry will no longer be at the top of the totem pole with pay rises projected to fall sharply to 12 per cent.

Telecom industry officials, however, did not seem to agree with Hewitt’s call on the projections. Most felt that the salary hikes would stay at around 15 per cent. “Parity will be maintained with last year’s hike,” says Vijay Kumar Gupta, country head for Lucent Technologies.

“It is a case of demand and supply. The telecom industry is set to witness a shortage of professionals and it will increase further. The companies will try and hang on to their best talent and so we will have to give decent hikes,” says Sanjeev Kanwar, vice-president of HFCL InfoTel Ltd.

The study says the sharpest fall is projected in the real estate business — which has been clobbered by dwindling demand — where pay hikes are projected to plummet to 8.1 per cent from an actual average pay increase of 17.2 per cent last year.

One of the interesting findings of the survey, which covered 310 foreign, joint venture and locally-owned companies across 21 industry segments and 3,70,000 employees across five job categories, is that compensation packages will increasingly carry a variable component.

In the case of senior and top management positions, the variable pay will expand from 16.3 per cent of total pay in 2001 to a projected level of 19.1 per cent in 2002.

Approximately 85 per cent of the respondents have reported at least one type of variable pay plan for employees which could be cash-based, stock-based or a combination of both.

“This is a trend that we are seeing the world over,” says Nishchae Suri, head of Hewitt’s Measurement Practice for India and West Asia. “People are being made more accountable for the companies they manage. The rewards structure will reflect this through an increase in the variable pay component.”

Suri says another interesting trend is that the pay hikes in the middle-level management will be higher than those in the senior management levels as companies try to bring down the pay differentials between them. The pay differentials between these two categories are greater in India than in the West, he adds.

The survey says there is a greater trend towards reworking the structure of the compensation packages after the recent tax changes. It says 59 per cent of the respondents had reworked the structure by reducing the reimbursements, reviewing the prevalent loan schemes and revisiting perquisites like utilities and payments for driver, gardener and security personnel.

“Companies want fewer administrative headaches. They do not want to be snowed under the kind of paperwork that the taxman now wants them to do,” says Suri. So, they are moving towards more sophisticated compensation packages.


New Delhi, Feb. 7: 
Six lakh troops complete a month bunkered down along the western border tomorrow, eyeball-to-eyeball with Pakistani forces, mines laid, guns at the ready, and asked to stay put at staging posts.

The deadline set for the mobilisation of troops under Operation Parakram was January 8. The largest mobilisation of the armed forces took little more than three weeks — a feat in itself. In the month that has passed, the fear of an imminent war has evaporated to make way for debates over the wisdom of waging war.

Behind the troops hunkered down,the indignation over the attack on Parliament is slowly giving way to cold enthusiasm over cowbelt polls.

“We cannot say that deploying the army has been a political gimmick,” says a defence ministry official, asked for his perception on when a withdrawal could begin — after the elections? “But pulling them out without the purpose being served could backfire politically.” The army top brass’ standard line is “ours not to reason why”.

The cost of maintaining the operational alert, too, mounts by the minute. Ironically, if there is no war, the defence ministry might find the resources to absorb the costs. The money could be the funds earmarked for procurements through this fiscal that have not been used.

To be sure, the mobilisation has served to teach the army a few lessons — even if by default. Having not waged a conventional war for three decades and more, operations had so far been confined to sandmodelling, annual winter exercises, limited war (Kargil) and counter-insurgency duties. The upshot of this was that many commanders had not seen the full complement of their forces on duty.

“During exercises, an artillery commander for instance, rarely has all his batteries in position. This time, it is different. It gives a different feeling. A lot of glitches can be sorted out,” said an officer who had come to Delhi from the front for a day.

The “rustiness” has been exposed somewhat in the army’s casualties, which touched 130 — counting both the dead and injured — in accidents while laying mines.

The army had planned an exercise -- Operation Chivalry -- in the Rajasthan desert from January 12. There is no official word on whether it has gone ahead with the exercise. Even if there has been an exercise, it will have been on a smaller scale than planned.

But to leave the full complement of available troops on the border with little to do apart from maintenance jobs would be to give up an opportunity to oil the military machine.


New Delhi, Feb. 7: 
The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh’s is a lonely voice in the Sangh parivar.

Silence has been the response of the RSS after the Vajpayee government announced a series of measures on Tuesday, the highpoint of which was a voluntary retirement proposal for Central government employees. Even the self-appointed guardians of national economic interests, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, has been quiet, if not approving, in sharp contrast to its often hostile criticism of the Centre’s policies in the past.

“The RSS is yet to come out with a response to these policies,” spokesperson M.G. Vaidya said. “We are not opposed to VRS and privatisation. There is nothing wrong if the government wants to cut down its expenses by offering voluntary retirement,” added Ashwin Mahajan of the manch.

None of the decisions announced — such as the VRS and abolition of restrictions on movement of foodgrain and sugar sales — is in the manch’s area of interest. It has been saved the blushes by a whisker as Indian Oil — and not videshi Shell – bought IBP Ltd. And it is choosing to overlook the fact that partial drug price decontrol is largely benefiting multinational companies.

Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee should be a happy man, having tamed the BJP, and now at least winning the silence of the RSS and its extension, the manch. Both have been a cause of embarrassment in the past, particularly over economic policies.

Since BMS’ survival depends on labour support, it has to act the unruly child in a happy Sangh parivar. It is hosting a meeting of all central trade unions at its office next Monday to plan agitations that could possibly peak in an all-India strike after March. The organisation’s secretary, A.N. Dogra, does not believe the RSS can decide the government’s agenda.

“The Sangh never issues a fiat. It only gives an opinion,” the BMS leader said.

The BMS feels the BJP’s compulsions of running a government are at variance with its ideological moorings in the Sangh. “The RSS does not run the government. So it has only long-term national interests in mind. We also do not have to run a government. So we think of what is best for the nation,” he said.

“This is not our government. There is not a single BJP MP or minister who is a member of the BMS.” Unlike the Citu and Intuc, whose national conventions are usually inaugurated by party bigwigs, the BMS’s forthcoming conclave in Kerala will be opened by Ravinder Verma, chairperson of the second Labour Commission.


Calcutta, Feb. 7: 
A roll back of the text yesterday. Some more today. But the sub-text is still visible.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee met 22 Muslim intellectuals and clerics today, taking forward his “media misunderstood me” line, but giving enough hints he was standing by his comment that a section of madarsas was harbouring anti-national forces.

The chief minister discussed with the delegation the presence in the state of eight groups that had direct links with Pakistan’s ISI, “not all of which were operating out of madarsas”. Implicit in that statement is the message that some did operate from madarsas.

“They (the community’s leaders) know what groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba are up to and assured me every help to tackle their activities,” Bhattacharjee said after the talks.

He did his best to calm the rising minority anger. Referring to comments made in Siliguri last month that kicked off the debate over madarsas, the chief minister said the media had mixed up the two issues of anti-national activity and the state of madarsa education. Asked if he was blaming the media alone, he replied: “Blame it also on me. Let us both take the blame.”

Amid the damage control unrolled by the government and the CPM, two things stood out: that the objective of reforming madarsa education has not been surrendered and that the threat from anti-national forces is seen to be real – one unrelated to the other.

“Some forces are engaged in anti-national activities but they are not confined to madarsas only,” Bhattacharjee told the intellectuals. “Hindu fundamentalist forces are also to blame.”

Former Waqf Board chairman Maulana A.M.K. Masumi and Maulana Fajlur Rahman, the imam who conducts the prayer on Red Road, participated in the discussion along with Nakhoda Masjid imam Maulana Mohammad Sabir and admitted that media reports had created some “tension”. “There was a communication gap which was bridged somewhat in today’s meeting,” they said.

The past few days had been “very difficult” for the community, Sabir said. “I had to explain to people on the road, when I was stopped near the airport yesterday, that I was a pious man.”

Sabir and the others agreed with Bhattacharjee’s contention that the madarsa syllabus needed to be modernised. “The madarsas should have subjects like mathematics, science and English along with Arabic and theology,” was the chief minister’s contention.

The chief minister explained: “When I suggested that madarsa education should be reformed, all I meant was madarsa students should not get alienated from the mainstream.” He promised the Muslim leadership that the A.R. Kidwai report on madarsa reforms would be discussed with them before its recommendations were accepted.

But Bhattacharjee’s exercise did not seem to have cut any ice with the Jamait-e-Ulema Hind, which runs most of the state’s unaffiliated madarsas, or the Jamait-e-Islami. Both vowed to carry on with their agitation.


Calcutta, Feb. 7: 
Year 1947: Kitabun Nabatat Washshajar, a rare treatise on botany published in Beirut in 1898, adorns the shelf of a well-maintained and well-stocked library in the heart of the city.

Year 2002: The book is missing and so are the readers and the shelf. Instead, the local tough troops in with his associates through a gate — barred with black tape — for a session of drinking, gambling and much more every evening; they leave after midnight but not before leaving pieces of playing cards — torn after a drunken brawl — and a half-burnt tyre (to provide warmth during the winter evening) outside the gate.

Welcome to the library of Calcutta Madrasah College which, born in 1780 (four years ahead of the Asiatic Society and 37 years before Presidency College), has only successors, no forerunners in formal higher education in — not Calcutta or West Bengal — India, and probably, Asia.

In the focus as never before for chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s statements on madarsas and the need to modernise them, this library is now a constant reminder of a policy, from a not-too-distant past, that ignored madarsa teaching and succeeded in pushing it away from mainstream education.

The library was established at the same time that Presidency College was being set up a few kilometres north on the same stretch of road in 1817. The changes between the distant past of pre-Independence days and the present are, despite the in-between years, palpable.

The oldest madarsa library on the continent used to have 5,000 books; some like the botany treatise from 1898 and an 1856 edition of one of the finest anthologies of poems in Arabic, Hamasha, were believed to be the only extant editions in the state.

Today, all that remains of the predominantly Persian collection is a catalogue. The catalogue, however, is enough to indicate what the library has lost over the years; at 381 pages — all photocopies of an original — it is one of the heftiest volumes the library has.

The ground-floor library — comprising five rooms — could once accommodate 200 readers at one go. Today, courtesy leaking roofs, it has shifted to two much smaller rooms on the first floor. No one can sit there and it barely holds the librarian, Md Kased Ali, besides the books.

The library once had an army of staff trying to maintain the books in tip-top condition. Today, Ali is the only person — the duster, the stock-taker, the securityman and the catalogue-maker all rolled into one — in the library. He is now thinking of “praying” to the higher education department for “at least one” group-D employee to help him.

But the unkindest cut resulting from the authorities’ apathy, feels West Bengal Madrasah Students’ Union general secretary Md Quamruzzaman, is the library’s decline to a den for gamblers, drunks and drug-chasers after dark. In the morning, it is an open latrine for an area where homes do not have enough toilets.

“We have tried resisting but it does not pay,” a securityman said, pleading anonymity.

He had his reasons to conceal his name, he said. His colleague, Akhtar Hossain, tried resisting the local toughs six months back. Today, he sits with a longish scar — the result of a wound from a stab — on his torso and questions no one entering the compound.

Students and college officials have not given up hope. “I still hope of working from Asia’s oldest madarsa library,” librarian Ali said.

Students echoed him but said it was only a dream, not a hope any more, for them. The countless fruitless demonstrations and agitations they organised to draw focus to the library had taught them not to hope.


Washington, Feb. 7: 
The long shadow of bankruptcy hung over the divine in America yesterday as Hare Krishna congregations in about a dozen locations announced plans to file for protection against a $400 million lawsuit demanding reparations for alleged child abuse in its schools about three decades ago.

About a dozen congregations in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Washington, California and Texas, will start filing for bankruptcy protection next week, according to David Liberman, attorney of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon).

Iskcon spokesman Anuttama Dasa said the lawsuit was too costly to fight and would possibly bankrupt the congregations even if they won.

“We don’t believe that innocent members and congregations should be held accountable for the deviant behaviour of individuals committed 20 or 30 years ago,” Dasa said.

“That amount of money is far beyond the total assets of all the temples in North America put together,” he added.

The sensational case against the Hare Krishna movement was filed in a federal court in Texas in June 2000 by Windle Turley, a Dallas attorney notorious for taking religious institutions to court.

He has similarly sued and won compensation from a Catholic diocese in Texas, accusing priests of molesting young boys.

The federal court threw out the case against the Hare Krishnas in September last year, but Turley has now taken his suit to a state court in Dallas.

The move to declare bankruptcy is part of a plan by Iskcon to settle the suit by setting up a fund to compensate children who may have been victimised in its schools.

Two of the schools cited for abuse in the suit are in India, one in Mayapur and another in Brindavan.

When the controversy erupted four years ago, Iskcon set up a “child protection office” to investigate allegations of abuse. Some Hare Krishna followers have since been expelled from the religious community. All its schools in the US, cited in the suit, have been closed.

Forty-four former students of Iskcon schools were originally plaintiffs in the case filed by Turley.

He has alleged that young girls were given as brides to older men who donated money to Iskcon. Children were also allegedly prevented access to medical care, scrubbed with steel wool until their skin bled and prevented from leaving the schools.

Turley was not available for comment, but his office withheld any reaction until more information on the planned bankruptcy proceedings was forthcoming.

Liberman denied suggestions that the establishment of a fund lent substance to the claims and said of the plaintiffs. “They are just children who are further alienated from the religion and embittered.” Some of them were suing their parents, he said.

Instead of getting involved in a nasty court battle, Iskcon wanted to marshal resources and see if there’s a better solution to the dispute, Liberman said.


Feb. 7: 
The annual salary survey by Hewitt Associates has thrown up some sobering statistics as well.

Over 27 per cent of the respondents have said they are considering a hiring freeze while 9.6 per cent are unsure; 17.6 per cent are planning layoffs while 10.3 per cent are not sure; and 3.3 per cent are planning salary cuts and 5 per cent are unsure.

“Most of the people planning layoffs and salary cuts belong to the software development segment. However, some of the big players in the software industry are reworking the contractual arrangements with their employees so that they do not have to turf them out altogether,” says Nishchae Suri, head of Hewitt’s Measurement Practice for India and West Asia.

The job groups that pose the greatest challenge for retaining or attracting talent belonged to information technology and sales and marketing.

Ninety-seven per cent of the respondents said they had a performance management system and 84 per cent said they linked salary increases to a performance rating.

Some facts were revealing: a typical Indian organisation rates 14.4 per cent of its employees as outstanding, 39.3 per cent as above average, 39.7 per cent as average and 6.6 per cent as below average.

“We are increasingly seeing companies moving away from a uniform pay rise for its employees. The breakthrough year was 2000 when India Inc. forked out large pay rises,” says Ravi Virmani, managing director of Hewitt Associate’s South Asia operations.

Average pay hikes for outstanding employees will be in the region of 18.4 per cent, with above-average employees getting 14.2 per cent, average staff 10.5 per cent and below-average workers just 3.9 per cent, says the survey.

“India’s highly skilled managers are now getting globally competitive salaries and there is no longer a cost advantage for foreign companies in hiring for overseas operations. But the salaries for middle-level managers are low with managers in the West getting two to four times the local compensation levels,” says Virmani. But he added that pay hikes in India and China were better than in the rest of Asia.

All this will have a knock-on effect on new hirings as well. The number of companies going in for campus recruitments is down, say Hewitt officials. And top salaries for new hirings this year will be about the same as last year-- which is a new trend that management institutes will have to live with till the business downturn runs its course.


Bhubaneswar, Feb. 7: 
In a bizarre case of alleged tax evasion and police high-handedness, a man was killed today when the police fired at an inter-state bus near Simulia, 155 km from here.

The bus (OR-05D 5525) was on its way from Calcutta to Naugaon in Orissa’s Jagatsinghpur district. Sunil Mondol, a fisherman of Atharabanki in Paradip, was sitting behind the bus driver when a bullet fired from a 7.62 mm SLR hit him on the temple.

Trouble erupted when the Simulia police chased the bus early this morning after officials of the commercial tax department alerted them that the vehicle plying on National Highway No. 5 was trying to evade tax.

A few hours earlier, the same bus had allegedly slipped through the tollgate at Balasore despite attempts by officials to halt it. Police officials said a tax official at Balasore sent a message, saying the bus driver threw bombs while speeding away.

The police at Soro pursued the bus but failed. It was only at Bhagiasuni near Simulia police station, about 25 km from Soro, that a police vehicle intercepted the vehicle after firing at the bus’ rear wheels. However, the bus did not stop and an enraged policeman reportedly aimed at the driver. But he shot Mondol. Eyewitnesses said he unnecessarily fired another round at the bus.

Passengers and villagers then beat up the policemen, injuring the officer-in-charge of the local police station and a tax official. The passengers alleged that the police and the tax officials were on the lookout for hafta.

Traffic on the national highway was halted for several hours following the firing incident.

Balasore superintendent of police Sudhanshu Sarangi called the firing “indefensible”.

“It can’t be justified under any circumstances. It was absolutely stupid as no person in his senses should have done anything like that,” Sarangi said. However, he added that the policemen were not properly trained for handling a semi-automatic rifle like the SLR, which can fire 10 rounds at a time.

“The sepoy should have cocked the magazine from the fire-arm once he fired a round at the bus wheels. The second bullet seems to have been fired accidentally,” Sarangi said.

A case under Section 304 of the IPC (homicide not amounting to murder) has been lodged against the accused police personnel. Two policemen, including the cop who shot the passenger, have been suspended.

The state government has announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 1 lakh to the killed passenger’s next of kin. It has also ordered an inquiry by the revenue divisional commissioner (central). However, the All-Orissa Bus Owners’ Association has demanded a judicial probe. Bus owners alleged that the police and tax officials always harassed them on the pretext of “routine checking” of tax papers.


New Delhi, Feb. 7: 
Family courts, so far handling marital disputes and divorce cases, will not be given jurisdiction over offences of a criminal nature.

The government considered various recommendations for enlarging the courts’ jurisdiction but decided against the idea. The National Commission for Women had suggested that family courts should be allowed to try certain criminal offences such as sexual abuse and marital rape.

An official release said the “government has considered public demands for extension of jurisdiction of family courts to cover certain offences under the Indian Penal Code and the Child Marriage Restraint Act. It has decided that family courts being civil courts cannot handle matters relating to certain offences under the Code and the Act”.

So far, 85 family courts have been set up to adjudicate intra-family disputes relating to marriage and children in an atmosphere of privacy between the disputing parties, without the formal help of advocates.




Maximum: 30.1°C (+1)
Minimum: 17.3°C (+1)



Relative humidity

Max: 96%
Min: 45%

Sunrise: 6.18 am

Sunset: 5.23 pm


Generally cloudy sky. Minimum temperature likely to be around 19°C

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