Jaya launches food-for-poor scheme in temples
BJP confident of Mamata terror vote
Advani blames riots on Pak
Buddha takes party cue on crime Bill
Ayodhya row

Chennai, March 23: 
Tamil Nadu today witnessed the revival of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s concept of “social entitlement mechanism”, in enhancing food availability to the poor, with the launch of an Anna Dhan scheme in 63 temples across the state, under which voluntary contributions will be used to feed the poor.

Chief minister Jayalalithaa inaugurated the scheme this afternoon by serving food to 200 people at the Kapaleeshwarar temple in Chennai, which finds a mention in Greek geographer Ptolemy’s writings. The inaugural function was attended by state BJP leaders, including general secretary L. Ganesan. Former chief minister O. Panneerselvam launched the programme at the Vaishnavite Parthasarathy temple in Triplicane in the city.

The Anna Dhan scheme is mainly based on voluntary contributions. A hundi is kept in each temple chosen for the scheme. The offerings put into the hundi will form a corpus, the interest from which would be used to run the programme. More than Rs 1 lakh was collected at the Kapaleeshwarar temple on the first day, with the ADMK chief contributing Rs 6,000.

An official at the temple told The Telegraph that they plan to feed 200 people per day, with each meal estimated to cost Rs 15. The menu would comprise of rice, sambar, rasam and buttermilk, besides a vegetable dish and pickle. The food will be served on a first-cum-first-served basis after the daily ucchikala pooja (afternoon worship) is over, the official said.

The Anna Dhan scheme has been launched to improve food availability to the poor, amid mounting stocks of foodgrain and with little effort from the government, says an official. Though the programme is government-sponsored, it seeks to revive an age-old practice in Hindu temples, the official added.

Jayalalithaa said she hoped to extend the scheme to all temples in a phased manner. The idea was not “something unique to the Hindu religion”, the chief minister said. Devotees at gurdwaras are served food in langars (community kitchens), she pointed out.

“The best dhan is offering food,” the ADMK chief said, quoting a Tamil proverb.


New Delhi, March 23: 
The BJP feels it can persuade Mamata Banerjee to back the Prevention of Terrorism Bill when it is taken up in the joint sitting of Parliament on Tuesday despite the Trinamul Congress’ vehement opposition to the Bill.

Senior BJP leader Vijay Kumar Malhotra today said the party would make all efforts to convince Trinamul of the need to support the Bill “as it was essential for fighting terrorism”.

But he did not specify how the BJP planned to bring around the Trinamul chief who is stridently opposed to the anti-terror law, a clone of West Bengal’s Prevention of Organised Crime Act, another controversial legislation kept in abeyance following public outcry.

Malhotra did not say whether Atal Bihari Vajpayee would make another attempt to persuade Mamata to back the anti-terror law. If the Prime Minister fails, then it is understood that nobody in the BJP or the government will be able to persuade Mamata, who appears dead opposed to the Bill.

But BJP leaders are not worried about Trinamul’s decision to stay away from the joint sitting.

“Whether Mamata Banerjee backs the law or not, the combined strength of the NDA in both Houses will enable the Bill to become a legislation,” said a party leader.

The Prime Minister also said that the government had a “comfortable majority” and expressed confidence that the anti-terror legislation would be passed.

Vajpayee had convened an NDA meeting yesterday to sort out the contentious issues between the allies and the BJP: the anti-terror law and the saffron agenda of the Sangh parivar. After the meeting, Mamata insisted that her party would not back the Bill in the joint sitting.

While the nine-member Trinamul was absent in the Lok Sabha on March 18 at the time of voting on the anti-terror Bill, another NDA ally, the National Conference, absented itself when the Bill came up for voting on Thursday in the Rajya Sabha.

However, Vajpayee appeared to have cleared the apprehensions of Farooq Abdullah, National Conference president and Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, whose party felt that the law would be used against the minority community.

Following assurances from the Prime Minister and home minister L.K. Advani, Abdullah agreed to back the Bill in the joint sitting.

Malhotra came down heavily on the Congress for voting against the Bill in the Upper House which forced the government to convene a joint sitting. “One never thought they would stoop so low to oppose a law to fight terrorism as most of the nations have similar laws to tackle this menace,” he said.

The BJP leader added that the Congress, by voting against the Bill, had “only exposed itself to the world that it is not interested in tackling terrorism which has afflicted this country for over two decades”.


New Delhi, March 23: 
Unable to control the blood-letting triggered by the Godhra attack and the aggressive VHP line on Ayodhya, India, rather home minister L.K. Advani, today blamed Pakistan for the communal tension in the country.

The minister argued that Pakistan, “cornered internationally on the issue of proxy war”, was now trying to stir trouble in India by fanning Hindu-Muslim hatred. Advani said the September 11 attacks in the US had exposed Pakistan’s role in promoting and exporting terrorism.

Black Tuesday vindicated India’s stand on Pakistan and hammered home the point to the international community, which was till then unwilling to take New Delhi’s repeated warnings seriously, Advani said.

The attack on Parliament and India’s aggressive diplomatic and military stand pushed Pakistan, already in trouble with the rest of the world for its Taliban connections, into a corner, the home minister added.

“So it thought that somehow the communal tensions in India, which had died down in the past four years, should be revived,” Advani explained.

Soon after the attack on the Sabarmati Express at Godhra, there was talk in North Block of an ISI hand in the incident. However, the government has not come up with any facts and figures to support this claim. Investigations are on and a full report is expected.

Advani said the people of India should unite to defeat Pakistan’s machinations.

“Each citizen should contribute to maintaining communal harmony in the country. It is the responsibility of every individual and not just the security forces,” the minister pointed out.

Advani had no advice for the VHP, the Bajrang Dal, the RSS or the Narendra Modi administration. Advani had stoutly defended Modi in Parliament when Opposition leaders demanded his resignation for failing to control the riots.

Advani should also warn the Sangh parivar not to fall into the ISI trap. In fact, this argument was used during the recent Ayodhya standoff between the Centre and the VHP to get them to back off from an inevitable confrontation.


Hyderabad, March 23: 
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today said his government was firm on introducing the Prevention of Organised Crimes Bill but would take time to frame the law as desired by the CPM politburo.

Echoing party leaders like Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechuri, the chief minister said his government would not implement the anti-terror law introduced by the BJP-led government.

Bhattacharjee avoided mentioning when the Bill would be moved in the Assembly, but said law and order was a state subject and his government was free to frame an Act to check organised crime like kidnapping, hijacking and armed insurgency in West Bengal.

Referring to the activities of separatist forces like the Kamtapuri Liberation Organisation in parts of north Bengal and the People’s War Group in Midnapore and Purulia, Bhattacharjee said his government had planned to bring the Act much before the Centre’s decision to introduce the Prevention of Terrorism Bill in Parliament.

“We had drafted the Poca Bill much before the Centre introduced Pota in Parliament. But we later decided to see the fate of Pota and frame our own Act after some time. But it is certain that we are going to introduce the law. But I can’t tell you when the Bill will be introduced in the Assembly,” he said.

The chief minister said the VHP and the Bajrang Dal were not powerful in Bengal yet, but were trying to penetrate into the state to disturb communal harmony. A handful of terrorists belonging to the minority community were also trying to disturb law and order in the state and the government would not allow them to carry out any operation, added Bhattacharjee, who is here to take part in the CPM’s 17th party conference.

Today’s proceedings at the conclave saw the politburo and the central committee urging the party leadership to curb inner-party rivalry and factionalism in view of the split in the Punjab unit. CPM veteran Mangat Ram Pasla and about 20 senior leaders have walked out to form their own parties.

Discussing the organisational report, several delegates from Punjab, Kerala and Tamil Nadu said the situation in Punjab was similar to that in West Bengal, where Saifuddin Chowdhary and Samir Putatunda had quit to set up the Party for Democratic Socialism.

However, they held that the Punjab scenario is more critical as more than 20 senior leaders have left against Bengal’s two.

The delegates held the party leadership responsible for not taking steps to avert the split. They alleged that it had failed to take up the issue and settle disputes, setting off the quitting spree.

Politburo member S.R. Pillai, however, argued that the party had sent senior leaders to the state “to hold discussions with the state leadership and sort out the differences of opinion between Pasla and the rest of the leaders”.

“But Pasla was determined to quit the party at any cost and refused to listen to any logical discussion on the issues he had raised. Now he is talking about ideologies. Any leader who quit our party raised ideological issues after leaving and Pasla is not an exception,” Pillai added.


Lucknow, March 23: 
The Ayodhya administration gained a breather today when sants opposed to the shila daan postponed till Monday their meeting with officials after the death of a senior trustee of the Manohar Trust, Narayandas Khatri.

The sants yesterday gave the Centre 24 hours to remove the shilas. A five-member delegation was scheduled to meet the Faizabad district magistrate today.

The sadhus denied backing out of a confrontation. “It is only because of the demise of Narayandas Khatri that we have postponed our programme,” a sant said.


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