Modi survives with Atal slap
Camp trial for ‘real culprit’
Heartland deal goes to Goa
Sushma dams Sinha’s pool
Gun in hand, tiger god protects and cures
Delhi frowns on Moscow’s Pak overture
Guwahati conclave to project revamped Cong
‘Dacoit’ deaths unite House against minister
At a loss, Atal tries economic logic
Calcutta Weather

Ahmedabad, April 4: 
His anguish punctuated by flashes of anger, Atal Bihari Vajpayee said all the words of healing the wounded of Gujarat wanted to hear from the Prime Minister, barring one.

“My one message to the chief minister is that he should follow raj dharma (ethics of governance),” Vajpayee said, capping a dash across the debris from Godhra to Ahmedabad.

“That’s what I am practising,” chief minister Narendra Modi piped in, but the Prime Minister cut him short: “I am sure Narenbhai is doing it.”

But what followed was music to Modi’s ears. Asked whether there would be a change of leadership in the state, Vajpayee said he does not foresee any such possibility. But the Prime Minister also discounted the chances of a snap poll in the state — something Modi was keen on.

Similar balancing acts were in evidence during Vajpayee’s visit, the overriding theme of which was an unequivocal — and repeated — condemnation of the carnage and impassioned appeals for tolerance.

The Prime Minister’s team itself reflected the conflicting pulls and pressures under which he was working. He landed in Gujarat accompanied by Hindutva hardliner Uma Bharti and the minority-friendly face of the BJP, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. But Naqvi, who enjoys little support among his community and whose presence stoked tempers in one of the relief camps, was completely overshadowed by Bharti.

But the Prime Minister did not mince words while promising protection to the minority community. “The majority (community) is capable of safeguarding its interests. It has number on its side. It is only the minority which needs protection,” he said in reply to a question at the airport on his way back.

Vajpayee said what happened in Godhra should be condemned but events after that should also be condemned. “They are more shameful,” he said in what was the first such unqualified condemnation by any BJP leader.

He asserted more than once that it was the responsibility of the political leadership and officials to end violence, which again flared up in the state, killing one.

Vajpayee announced a relief package that included a payment of Rs 1 lakh each to the relatives of the dead, foodgrain, uniforms and books for children and bearing of the entire expenditure for rehabilitation of orphans and widows.

Aman kayam rakhna rajneetik neta aur adhikariyon ki zimmewari hai,” Atal Bihari Vajpayee told the 8,000-odd residents of Ahmedabad’s biggest relief camp, Shah-e-Alam Dargah.

He visited the site of the Godhra carnage and toured relief camps, offering the victims words of comfort and vowing to punish the guilty.

Due to leave on a tour of Southeast Asian nations, Vajpayee said: “With what face, I do not know, I will go abroad after what all has happened here.”

“I have come to tell you that you are not alone in this hour of crisis. The whole country is with you,” Vajpayee told victims of the riots. “I lost my sister just three days ago. I know how painful it is. But you have suffered far more. You have become homeless and refugees in your own country. Many of you have lost your dear ones.”

Vajpayee said he had not come to Gujarat to count deaths. “We have seen enough deaths. I have come here to tell the people that we will do our level best to end the suffering.”


Ahmedabad, April 4: 
This man is the real culprit. He got our people killed.

A wailing riot victim pointed at chief minister Narendra Modi who had accompanied Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Shah-e-Alam Dargah, the biggest relief camp in Ahmedabad.

Modi stood in stony silence. Protocol had brought him to the camp, where he had not dared to venture in more than a month since the riots erupted. Vajpayee was visiting the dargah on Thursday and, as chief minister, Modi had to be present.

Nanumia Malek broke down as he named Modi the “real culprit”. In a voice choked with tears, Nanumia told the Prime Minister that he lost six members of his family though the police post was a stone’s throw away from his house. “When we asked the police to protect us, we were told we will have to die. No one can save us,’’ he sobbed, pointing out that the duo that led the mob, MLA Mayaben Kodnani and VHP leader Jaydeep Patel, were still free.

The chief minister had been greeted by slogan-shouting riot victims when he arrived at the dargah. As Vajpayee completed his 15-minute speech, anger bottled up for over a month in which no senior BJP leader had cared to visit, spilled over. “Narendra Modi murdabad”, “Narendra Modi, hai hai”, people cried out, forcing camp organisers to intervene and pacify them. They, too, were surprised by Modi’s visit.

Outside the camp, where a large crowd had gathered, slogans continued to be shouted, describing Modi as “chor” and “murderer”. Some protesters carried placards denouncing the chief minister.

Ten riot victims met the Prime Minister to recount their spine-chilling experiences.

Fatima, from Naroda Pattia like most others at the camp, said a mob dragged out her pregnant cousin, slit her stomach to wrench out the foetus and then flung both into a fire.

Ten-year-old Raja Qureshi, whose entire family was killed, just cried and cried.

In the past 35 days, several fact-finding teams and leaders from various political parties, barring the ruling BJP, have visited the camp that houses about 8,000 victims.

“But they (the victims) never cried like this before. Yes, they did cry, but only after they had narrated the incident that brought them to the relief camp,” said Safibhai Memon, in-charge of the camp. Today — the first time a senior BJP leader visited the camp in all these days — tears flowed freely.

Even the Prime Minister was affected. Wiping away tears, he promised Raja he would do something for the boy. But Modi appeared unmoved.

Niamuddin Iqbal Sheikh, who lost five family members in the riots, urged the Prime Minister to ensure that policemen visit the camp to register riot-related FIRs because residents did not feel safe going to the police station.

The dargah camp relief committee submitted a memorandum to Vajpayee, seeking a CBI inquiry into the riots, proper rehabilitation of victims and interest-free loan to restart their businesses.

Blaming the Bajrang Dal and the VHP for the violence, the committee said if the killings did not stop, they would present themselves before the chief minister and ask him to “shoot us down so that he can quench his thirst for Muslim blood”.


New Delhi, April 4: 
The pact between the BJP and the Bahujan Samaj Party for installing a government in Uttar Pradesh is likely to be cemented after the Goa national executive.

BJP sources said the parliamentary board — its apex decision-making body — would meet after April 14 to tie up the loose ends of the alliance before choosing the chief minister. The Uttar Pradesh BJP executive will meet before that on April 6 in Lucknow.

After talking tough initially, the BJP has more or less agreed to accept Mayavati as the chief minister in lieu of having its own Speaker. It has also decided to be part of the government and not support it from outside.

Sources said Mayavati was assured by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi that Ram Prakash Tripathi would be their candidate for Speaker and not Kesri Nath Tripathi. The BSP had fallen foul of Kesri Nath after he had ratified the controversial split in the party in 1999.

Both Vajpayee and Joshi are believed to be in regular touch on phone with Kanshi Ram and Mayavati.

So far, both sides have agreed on the following features:

Mayavati would be chief minister and Lalji Tandon, one of her favourites in the BJP, would be deputy chief minister.

Ram Prakash Tripathi would be the Speaker.

The chief minister’s post could be rotated on a yearly basis between the BJP and BSP. The last time they had a pact, it was supposed to be a six-month arrangement but the alliance came apart before that.

A possible seat-sharing arrangement for the 2004 Lok Sabha election.

The BSP to support the NDA government from outside.

Although the BJP had wanted former chief minister Rajnath Singh to head a coordination committee, sources said Mayavati protested because she held him principally responsible for weaning away her MLAs and rustling up a majority for Kalyan Singh. Efforts were afoot to persuade Rajnath to join the central party organisation as a general secretary.

The broad parameters of the alliance have been worked out, but it appeared that the top brass would go over them when they meet in Goa mainly because of the feedback that the rank and file did not wish to have any truck with Mayavati for the third time.

Home minister L.K. Advani as well as BJP president K. Jana Krishnamurthi were still of the view that the party should keep away from the “BSP misadventurism”. But Vajpayee and Joshi have overruled their objections, arguing that a long-term alliance with the BSP was the only means of “reviving” the BJP in the state.


New Delhi, April 4: 
Sushma Swaraj has won Round I in the battle to guard her fief against mounting pressure to slash the size of her information and broadcasting ministry.

At the end of fiscal 2001-2002, not one employee from the ministry has been sent to the surplus pool despite finance minister Yashwant Sinha’s pledge to implement the Expenditure Reforms Commission (ERC) recommendations. Though the commission covers six ministries, it is information and broadcasting, because of its humungous size, that was being seen by pro-reform quarters like leading industry chambers as the litmus test of the Centre’s political will to restructure its administration.

The commission had suggested winding up/closing down and/or disinvestment of major media units of the ministry. These included the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute in Calcutta, Films Division, Children’s Film Society, Song and Drama Division, the directorate of audio visual publicity (DAVP) and the directorate of field publicity.

Had the recommendations been accepted, the I&B ministry’s wage bill (Rs 720 crore plus) would have been slashed by half.

Last fortnight, answering a question in Parliament, Swaraj said the ministry had identified 1,334 posts as “surplus”. The finance ministry was apparently miffed that its demand — including a threat that it will armtwist the ministry — had got largely unheeded.

In fact, on March 29, the finance ministry wrote to information and broadcasting making its displeasure clear.

Swaraj’s ministry has now identified a total of 2,660 posts as “surplus”. Many of these — possibly most — are vacant in any case. The surpluses have been identified in (a) Press Information Bureau (134 out of a total staff of 1,197), (b) Publications Division (212 out of 669) (c) Song and Drama Division (26 out of 831) (d) Research, Reference and Training Division (27 out of 56), (e) DAVP (317 out of 889) (f) Field Publicity (482 out of 1,954) (g) Films Division (363 out of 1,177).

The latest list also includes 609 from Prasar Bharati (even though it is autonomous, its staff are government employees), 108 from Film and Television Institute, Pune, 87 from the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute and 295 other posts in the ministry.

The ministry (excluding Prasar Bharati) has a total staff of approximately 7,700 and the ERC wanted nearly 5,000 posts to be abolished.

In Prasar Bharati, which alone has a staff of 40,000, a separate exercise to restructure and “re-cadre” the outfit is being carried out. This has become necessary because most Prasar Bharati employees are direct government recruits and enjoy the facilities (such as Central Government Health Scheme) like other government staff.

Ministry sources said most of the posts identified as surplus are at the bottom end of the organisational hierarchy.


Calcutta, April 4: 
The big cat flashes through the crosshairs like a streak of thunder. The safety lock of the ancient musket clicks into place and the pellet slices the air.

The animal cringes as the bullet embeds itself in the soft muscle. The God’s aim never wavers. His marksmanship is fabled throughout the “south”— the riverine swathe from Baruipur to Gosaba, cutting across the dense mangrove clumps bordering the dry channel of Saraswati and the trickling Matla.

Deity Raja Dakshin Roy of Dhapdapi near Baruipur in South 24-Parganas, is said to be the only god in the Hindu pantheon with a gun.

Barely 30 km from the city, the awesome figure with fiery eyes, a bushy moustache, a demonic torso and an elaborate crown hunts the “evil”. His weapon is a gun, a bulky musket of pre-Mutiny make.

The nondescript temple on the edge of a pond, built by the last of the Baruipur zamindars in 1909, is also a herbal healing centre.

Devotees and patients from all over the state and even from the Northeast throng the premises every Tuesday and Saturday to invoke the deity and take a small ampoule of the “miracle balm” said to cure a range of ailments from paralysis, asthma, physical deformities to sexually-transmitted diseases.

The ayurvedic oil, extracted locally from a plant called choradakat, is supposedly blessed by the god.

Dakhineswar, or the lord of the south, as the deity is known, is also the God of the tiger. “Till a few decades ago, the Sunberbans stretched this far and tigers wreaked havoc in the villages. The honey-collectors and boatmen were at the mercy of the big cats. They believed that Dakshin Roy would protect them if they prayed to him before leaving for the forest. His gun would be their shield against the Royal Bengal Tigers,” says 62-year-old Manash Pathak, the chief sevait (priest) of the temple.

Remnants of a lush forest cover still shroud the portals, which abound in guava, mango, berries and jackfruit trees. A profusion of wild flowers and wild undergrowth outlie the ramparts.

The deity traces its origin to the Jessore royalty during the mid-18th century. Raja Mukut Roy of Jessore, one of the 12 Bhuiyas of undivided Bengal, had two commanders-in-chief. One of them was the valiant Dakshin Roy.

Unable to remote-control his sprawling kingdom spanning the entire Sundarbans to the south of the Sutanuti (one of the ancient Calcutta villages), he despatched his trusted deputy to lord over the forest.

Dakshin Roy won over the local inhabitants with his hunting skills and killed more than 100 tigers during his lifetime.

His kindness, charity and administrative ability endeared him to his subjects, who looked upon him as a demi-god.

A devout Hindu, Dakshin Roy also brought religion to the pagan heartland and according to lores, “performed miracles, too”. After his death, he transcended “the earthy realm” to join the divine pantheon.

A mud temple with a 20-feet idol of the god was set up in 1752. It was built around a ancient stone relic with tiny “footrpints” etched on the surface.

“The shila was dug out of the pond nearly 400 years ago along with some more religious artifacts,’’ says Pathak. As in life, Dakshin Roy continued to carry his gun even in divinity.

“Initially he had his own musket, the one he hunted with. But over the years, it has been replaced by a modern rifle,’’ says Pathak.


New Delhi, April 4: 
Ignoring frowns in the Indian establishment, Russia has decided to send deputy foreign minister Sergei Sofanov to Islamabad next month to hold talks with the Pervez Musharraf regime on regional developments and issues of mutual concern.

Russian national security advisor Vladimir Rushailo tried to assure his Indian counterpart Brajesh Mishra during their meeting yesterday that Moscow’s attempt to send the deputy foreign minister to Pakistan should not be misconstrued in Delhi as it was only an attempt to engage with Pakistan on issues relating to narco-terrorism, which was a major threat to Russia.

This is not the first time that Russia has tried to reach out to Pakistan. On the eve of President Vladimir Putin’s state visit to India in September 2000, Moscow had sent a senior foreign ministry official to Islamabad to hold talks with the Pakistani leadership on developments in Afghanistan and the impact of the Taliban regime on the region.

During his discussions with the Indian leadership Putin, too, had tried to assure that this engagement with Pakistan was only to ensure that Taliban-backed terrorists active in Chechnya and Dagestan could be reigned in. Though Delhi was not fully convinced, the announcement of a special joint working group between the two on Afghanistan and a promise by Putin that its cooperation with Islamabad will not extend to the defence sector provided relief to the Indians.

Senior Indian officials admit that though they are not happy with the growing closeness between Russia and Pakistan, it was eventually Moscow’s sovereign decision as to which country it wanted to engage with. Moreover, they tried to draw solace from the fact that as long as Moscow and Islamabad did not get into an arrangement in the defence sector, since over 65 per cent of Indian military hardware is Russian in origin, the interaction between its “traditional ally” and “ compulsive hostile neighbour” could not raise much alarm in India.

Defence minister George Fernandes is scheduled to visit Moscow from April 9. The main focus of his talks with the Russian leadership will be on firming up some of the deals, particularly on the multi-billion dollar aircraft carrier, Admiral Groshkov. India feels as long as this arrangement continues, the other ”differences” in the relationship could be kept under control.

At the meeting between Mishra and Rushailo, the situation in Afghanistan also came for discussion. Both countries agreed that Hamid Karzai’s pro-Western tilt notwithstanding, all efforts should be made to strengthen his interim regime. One way of doing this was to encourage economic cooperation with Afghanistan.

Russia, which had nearly 150 projects in different sectors in Afghanistan between 1960 and 1980, has plans of reviving many of them now. For this it needs financial and other expertise from Delhi. Rushailo raised the issue with his Indian counterpart while seeking India’s help on starting some of the joint venture projects in Afghanistan.

Both sides feel that during the Loya Jirga in July, when Afghan elders will meet to elect a permanent government, attempts will be made by Pakistan to bring in some of Taliban elements into the new dispensation. Russia and India are of the view that, with a substantial representation from the Northern Alliance, the regime replacing the interim government could be a balanced one.


New Delhi, April 4: 
The Congress’ mantra at the Guwahati conclave, where Sonia Gandhi plans to project her party as one that knows how to govern, will be good governance, responsive administration and innovative schemes.

She will review the performance of the 14 party-ruled states and interact with the party thinktank on how to manage the politics of certain basic administrative, economic and social issues in such a way that it distinguishes them from the NDA-ruled states.

According to Sonia, the Congress should remain committed to reforms and at the same time focus on infrastructure, health, education, rural development and other basic social issues.

The meet will take a stand on issues such as “right-sizing” of government, labour reforms, power reforms, fiscal management and the WTO, on which the party leaders have been speaking in different voices at various fora.

There is a question mark over the presence of reforms guru Manmohan Singh on account of his ill health. But party leaders said the consensus on reforms would continue.

Congress chief ministers are busy preparing for the meet. Amarinder Singh, the newly-elected chief minister of Punjab, has prepared a detailed paper on how to reap the benefits of the post-WTO regime. According to him, the WTO has opened up new opportunities in the global market that would help Punjab farmers.

“Diggy Raja” of Madhya Pradesh plans to showcase the success of district government experiment, Panchayati Raj, the cooperative movement, food-for-work scheme and education guarantee scheme. His Chattisgarh counterpart, Ajit Jogi is harping on the theme of making the tribal-dominated state a “power hub” of the country.

Uttranchal chief minister Narain Dutt Tiwari, with a lot of administrative experience, plans to project the Himalayan state as one with tremendous Information Technology potential.

One of the organisers said the meet would be interactive and business-like. “It would not be like chief ministers dishing out list of achievements routinely prepared by the bureaucrats,” an AICC general secretary said, adding that the idea is to sell Congress-ruled states as model states for good governance, growth-oriented and equity based economic management.

He said Sonia was of firm opinion unless the Congress chief ministers set a good example, the party would not be able to win the Lok Sabha polls. “She wants creative, dynamic and pragmatic approach. The message should go down well with the masses,” the AICC functionary said.

“We plan to tell the voters that our chief ministers are capable of running states successfully, mixing reforms with people-oriented policies,” he said. Sonia had asked chief ministers to spell out how schemes pertaining to the weaker sections were being implemented, he added.


Bhopal, April 4: 
The BJP Opposition and the ruling Congress legislators today exhibited rare unity in attacking home minister Mahendra Baudh over the killing of two teenagers, allegedly Chambal dacoits, in an encounter.

Komal Singh Chauhan, 16, and Arjun Singh alias Niraj Khatik, 17, were shot dead by the police in the Chambal jungles on January 13. The home minister defended the police action, saying the boys, though minors, were members of a dacoit gang and wanted in connection with kidnapping cases. But the MLAs alleged that the boys were picked up from New Delhi, brought to the Chambal ravines by the police and killed in cold blood.

The BJP raised the issue in zero hour, demanding a discussion on the controversial killing of the “two innocent minor boys”. When Baudh rose to defend the police, even his colleagues cornered him. Leading Congress MLAs accused the minister of protecting “irresponsible and reckless” police officers who “butcher innocents like carrot and radish”.

With almost the entire Assembly hollering for a House inquiry, Speaker Srinivas Tiwari was forced to order the setting up of a probe panel.

Absolving the police of any wrong, Baudh said Komal and Arjun, residents of Etawah in Uttar Pradesh, were members of the Popola Lodhi gang. On the evening of January 13, the police of Bhind district received information that seven youths had gathered outside Beora village in the Raun police station area. As several kidnap cases had been registered in the area over the past few months, a police team was promptly dispatched.

“It was dark and the police asked the miscreants to surrender. But the culprits opened fire. The police returned 25 rounds of fire. After the firing stopped, the police found the two bodies. One .315 bore rifle and another .12 bore rifle with several live cartridges were found with the bodies,” Baudh claimed.

He added that the victims were accused in at least two kidnapping cases and after the encounter, the police registered several cases against them.

However, Congress MLA from Bhind Rakesh Singh had a different account. He said that after a couple of attempted abductions by robbers in the district on December 4 and January10, “a police informer told the police two boys working in a sweet shop in Delhi were part of the gangs that attempted the kidnappings”. The victims worked in a sweet shop in New Delhi.

On January 12, Komal and Arjun were picked up from Ghevra in New Delhi by Madhya Pradesh police and brought to Bhind. “The police took them to the jungle areas of Bhind and shot them,” the Congress MLA alleged.


Ahmedabad, April 4: 
A “puzzled” Prime Minister today invoked economic logic to plead with the government and people of Gujarat to shed “intolerance and bitterness”.

The state will then prosper again and foreign investors will come in, A.B. Vajpayee said, predicting a “great future” for Gujarat.

The Prime Minister made the appeal while expressing concern over a new phenomenon — riots spreading to tribal and rural areas for the first time in Gujarat.

Vajpayee said he was unable to understand why this had happened. “I am puzzled. Gujarat is an enigma to me and I think some study should be conducted to find out how people can become so barbaric, cruel and inhuman that they burn alive women and children. Have we become so mad that we cannot lead a normal life?’’ he asked.

“I know many children have lost their parents, women have become widows. What wrong did they commit to suffer all this agony?” he wondered, adding that even yesterday some people were burnt alive.

Vajpayee expressed hope that chief minister Narendra Modi will take into consideration the recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission, which had severely indicted the Modi government.

Asked why no action was being taken against those who led the mobs, Vajpayee said he has told officials to be impartial and ensure that the culprits are not spared.

“But they should also ensure that innocent people are not victimised,” the Prime Minister added.

Relief package

Addressing a press conference at the Ahmedabad airport before returning to Delhi, the Prime Minister announced Central assistance for the rehabilitation of the riot victims. Modi had sought the package last week when he was called to Delhi.

The Prime Minister said each riot-affected family will be given two months’ ration. Each family that lost a member will get Rs 1 lakh, in addition to Rs 50,000 to be given by the state government. Those permanently disabled will get Rs 51,000.

The expenditure incurred in rehabilitating all widows and orphans will be borne by the state government. Those in rural areas whose houses were completely destroyed will be given Rs 50,000. For partial damage, Rs 15,000 will be paid.

In the cities, the compensation will be disbursed only after a comprehensive survey. The Prime Minister said the rehabilitation process in the cities should ensure that ghettos are not created by settling people along communal lines.

Vajpayee chaired a meeting of an all-party relief committee, headed by Governor S.S. Bhandari. He said more such committees should be set up at different levels, which will help restore communal harmony.

The Prime Minister also held a meeting with delegations representing women, the minority community and political parties.

A Congress delegation asked him to dismiss Modi and direct the state government, under provisions of Article 355, to ensure protection of life and property.




Maximum: 31°C (-5);
Minimum: 21.3°C (-3)



Relative humidity

Maximum: 96%,
Minimum: 62%

Sunrise: 5.30 am

Sunset: 5.49 pm


Generally cloudy sky. Possibility of light rain, accompanied by thunder, in some areas

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