Modi asked to reinstate riot-busters
Sonia fires ‘mastermind’ salvo
6 die in violence rerun
NDA mulls Sangma as Speaker
Pervez plays poll bomb card
Jaya, CII tango in Chennai
Apex court extends CNG net

New Delhi, April 6: 
After the National Human Rights Commission, it was the turn of the minorities commission today to tick off the Narendra Modi government.

In a clear indictment of the Gujarat chief minister, the commission asked the state government to revoke the transfer orders of police officials who had tried to protect innocent people from rampaging mobs. The policemen who had obeyed the call of duty should be asked to return to their previous postings, the commission ruled.

For over three hours, a five-member delegation of officials from the state faced a volley of questions from the National Commission of Minorities. At the end of the inquisition, the commission pronounced the Modi government guilty of brazen dereliction of duty in tackling the communal flare-up.

“We are not satisfied with the way the Gujarat government has handled the situation so far,” said commission chairperson Justice Mohammad Shamim. The panel intoned the rights commission’s stringent criticism and asked the state government to keep it informed of the steps taken to implement its recommendations..

Coming down heavily on the police, the minorities panel said the government should punish those who looked the other way while Gujarat was burning and also suggested that the police force should have people from all communities.

The commission had visited Gujarat in the immediate aftermath of the riots. On its return, it had sought an action-taken report from the Modi government but waited in vain.

It was then that Justice Shamim summoned the officials to Delhi. Today’s delegation included special inspector general of police K. Kumaraswamy, chief secretary G. Subba Rao, additional chief secretary Ashok Narayana, principal revenue secretary C.K. Koshy and state relief commissioner Murmu.

Chastened by the commission, the delegation preferred to keep its comments to a minimum. When reporters later insisted on a response, chief secretary Rao said: “We have made submissions before the commission and will try our best to implement its recommendations.”

He, however, evaded replying when asked about the continuing violence in the state and stuck to the line that the delegation would only answer questions about today’s meeting with the minorities commission and “nothing else”.

Though Modi has no intention of quitting, human rights bodies are trying to keep up the pressure on his administration. The minorities commission had even asked the Gujarat delegation to bring a list of names of the dead and of those whom the government has arrested.

The panel also recommended increasing the compensation amount from Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh and moving victims from unsafe relief camps like the Shah Alam camp to safer centres.

“We had a detailed discussion with the officials and have suggested certain ways and means to act upon to bring the situation under control immediately,” Shamim told reporters after the meeting.

Shamim said the Gujarat riots had taken a toll on the minority community’s confidence and suggested that peace committees with members from all communities should be set up to restore normality.


New Delhi, April 6: 
Congress president Sonia Gandhi today lambasted Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for taking Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi along to relief camps in Ahmedabad on Thursday.

Without naming Modi, Sonia said “persons who were masterminding” the violence in Gujarat had accompanied the Prime Minister on his day-long visit to Ahmedabad.

Accusing the Centre of partiality in tackling the situation in the riot-ravaged state, Sonia said: “Though (the) Prime Minister visited Gujarat after more than a month of the Godhra carnage, he took along with him such persons under whose directions humanity was being butchered in the state.”

Sonia, who was inaugurating a day-long All-India Seva Dal annual meeting, also hit out at the Sangh parivar. Without naming the RSS, she said the ideology that was responsible for Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination was also responsible for the “pre-planned” violence in Gujarat.

Senior party leaders Moti Lal Vora, Mohsina Kidwai, Mahabir Prasad, Shivraj Patil, in-charge of Seva Dal Janardan Dwivedi, chief organiser Prahlad Yadav and over 500 Dal district presidents were present today.

“The viewpoint and intentions of those wielding power at the Centre are wrong and ambiguous as their only step was to cling to power,” she alleged.

“They have no contribution during the freedom struggle. Rather they worked for breaking the country as every fascist ideology does against the democratic system....They want power at all cost. This is their faith and religion.” Sonia said the government could be run on the basis of equality and commitment to the cause.


Ahmedabad, April 6: 
Six persons were killed and at least 30 injured in police firing, stone throwing and stabbing incidents in different parts of the city over the past 24 hours, even as Saturday remained by and large incident free.

Three persons were killed in police firing, while one person was stabbed to death and another was killed in Lunawada late last night. Two persons were killed in Vatva and one in Sabarmati when police opened fire to quell rampaging mobs. Indefinite curfew was clamped in Sabarmati police station area after the incident.

In Vatva, police had to open fire when a mob attacked some residential areas around midnight after switching off all streetlights. The mob hurled stones and threw burning rags into the colonies, prompting the police to open fire.

There were reports of independent firing as well. The army was called in and the police fired about 80 rounds, killing two persons. Fourteen people were injured, three of whom are stated to be in serious condition.

One person was killed last night when police opened fire to disperse a stone-pelting crowd near Sabarmati police station.

The incident took place after the police carried out a combing operation in Karanj police station area following the death of a youth, who was stabbed earlier in the day. The police arrested 60 people for possessing weapons and crude bombs and planned to take them to Sabarmati police station to diffuse tension in Karanj.

However, as residents of Sabarmati got the wind of the police move, a mob gathered in front of the police station around 11pm and demanded that those arrested be handed over to them “because they wanted to teach them a lesson”.

When the police refused, the mob started pelting stones, provoking the police to open fire and clamp curfew. One person was killed in the police firing.

Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi today instructed police officials to deal sternly with anyone trying to create an atmosphere of terror and disharmony in the state.

At least 13 middle-ranking central intelligence officials in Gujarat have been transferred by the Centre, “mostly on request”, official sources said.


New Delhi, April 6: 
Desperate to swell the ranks of the National Democratic Alliance, the coalition’s strategists are thinking of offering Nationalist Congress Party leader P.A. Sangma the post of Lok Sabha Speaker if the Telugu Desam Party does not show any interest.

The BJP had earlier thought of nominating Vijay Kumar Malhotra, its chief whip in the Lok Sabha, but some leaders felt that Sangma, a high-profile former Speaker, would be the ideal candidate. Offering the post to Sangma would also mean the support of the eight NCP MPs.

Sources, however, said the move to have a non-TDP Speaker will speed up only after Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has another round of talks with Desam chief Chandrababu Naidu.

NCP sources said NDA convener George Fernandes, who is facing a “social” boycott by the Congress in Parliament, mooted the proposal. Top BJP leaders are also not averse to the idea, they said, but added that the NDA’s first preference was, of course, the Desam, which is miffed with the BJP-led government.

A Scheduled Tribe MP from Meghalaya and a Christian, Sangma’s anti-Sonia Gandhi stance has also endeared him to the NDA leadership.

Ever since he quit the Congress to join the NCP, he has been consistently highlighting the Congress president’s foreign origins. He had even quit the Venkatachaliah Commission set up to review the Constitution as it refused to address the foreign origins issue.

Sources say Sangma in the Speaker’s chair could add to the woes of the Congress chief who is trying to emerge as an effective Opposition leader on her own. It is precisely for this reason that the Congress leadership might do everything to scuttle the move to elect Sangma, they said. The Congress, however, does not have the numbers but can still influence the Prime Minister into offering a quid pro quo.

The sources said Fernandes has another interest in getting Sangma elected.

The defence minister is desperately trying to get the support of the three NCP legislators to ensure the victory of a Samata Party candidate to the Rajya Sabha from Manipur.


New Delhi, April 6: 
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has threatened to use the nuclear option if driven to war by India, indicating increasing frustration over his failure to break the dialogue deadlock. His remarks are being seen in Delhi as a desperate attempt to raise alarm and force world leaders to push the South Asian nuclear neighbours to the talks table to lower the political temperature.

“If the pressure on Pakistan becomes too great, then as a last resort, the atom bomb is also possible (in the event of a war with India),” Musharraf is reported to have said as agencies quoted from an interview given to the German magazine, Der Spiegel.

The issue carrying the interview is slated to hit the stands tomorrow, but the British daily, The Guardian, and the news agencies have gone to town with the story.

It is not clear whether the interviewer led on the Pakistani ruler to make the remark on the nuclear option. But the fact that he made it is an indicator of Musharraf’s growing frustration with India and also with the international community for its inability to force India back to the table.

Officially, India said it has always acted with a positive approach on the nuclear issue and emphasised that Delhi’s no-first-use stand remains unchanged. But an official also warned that India’s nuclear capability is credible to avoid a nuclear exchange in the sub-continent.

Agencies went on to quote Musharraf as saying that India had a “super-power obsession” and was energetically arming itself. The general’s comments, which come in the wake of his attempt to gauge the national mood through a referendum on whether Pakistanis would have him as President for another five years, may also be aimed at telling the world that he is calling the shots in his country.

“I must carry on leading this country. I am not power hungry but I do not believe in power sharing... I believe in unity of command. There has to be one authority for good government,” he told Der Spiegel.


Chennai, April 6: 
Jayalalithaa today set about making Tamil Nadu State No. 1 by making a presentation on her vision and charming captains of industry at a CII session here.

Tamil Nadu could not have hoped for a more opportune moment to showcase and gain acceptability for its recent fiscal reforms package as Jayalalithaa struck a chord with the business barons and the mandarins who matter.

She readily agreed with CII chief Sanjiv Goenka, who made a case for more recreational facilities, like golf clubs, and quality schools in the state to attract more foreign direct investment.

“Yes, there are several proposals for development of recreational facilities and private sector investments in recreational activities is being pursued by the state-owned industrial promotional agency, TIDCO,” she replied, much to the surprise of Goenka and others in the packed ballroom at the Taj hotel here.

“We are also working on the concept of a Knowledge City while the water scarcity of Chennai should be a thing of the past,” added the chief minister, who took questions from the industrialists for 20 minutes after inaugurating the annual session and conference of the CII, southern region.

Jayalalithaa repeatedly mentioned the fact that the World Bank had chosen Chennai for its Accounting Back Office to drive home her point that Tamil Nadu is already a much-favoured destination for foreign direct investments.

The FDI approvals for the state till December 2001 stood at Rs 22,723 crore and the state was evolving a new industrial policy to help attract more FDI, she said.

Jayalaithaa’s charm seemed to be working as Goenka assured her that the CII would work in tandem with her agenda and hoped that Tamil Nadu would be a springboard “for a more aggressive thrust to globalisation” in the south under Amma’s guidance.

Jayalalithaa’s attempts at hardselling Tamil Nadu got a boost as the CII distributed copies of the state budget and the Governor’s address, which had emphasised that “tough economic decisions” needed to be taken. The chief minister made a presentation on the state’s overall economic scene and her vision of making Tamil Nadu the top state.

In a power-packed performance to promote her state, Jayalalithaa brushed aside an industrialist’s jab at the power situation while holding forth on a question about the “unique” advantages of Tamil Nadu in pursuing her vision.

“We have political stability, uninterrupted power supply, excellent communication facilities, very good network of roads, an optical fibre network in the making, skilled workforce and a good work culture,” she said. “People in Tamil Nadu do not spend much time in frivolous pursuits,” she added, winning another round of liberal applause.

When Venu Srinivasan of the TVS Group drew her attention to the sorry state of rural roads, the chief minister cut him off, stating that her government was aware of the role of infrastructure like roads in economic development. “The government is evolving a new road policy,” she said.

The chief minister then reeled off that her government was investing Rs 630 crore in rural roads this year and that that two major projects — upgradation of 732 km of roads at a cost of Rs 1150 crore and maintenance of another 2,600 km for at a cost of Rs 450 crore — have been forwarded to the World Bank for assistance.


New Delhi, April 5: 
The Supreme Court today ruled that under the Constitution, no government could bypass its directives and iterated that compressed natural gas should be made available to the entire transport sector, including private vehicles, across the country.

In a set of seven directives, a three-judge bench of Justice B.N. Kirpal, Justice V.N. Khare and Justice Ashok Bhan said: “…. Orders and directions of this court cannot be nullified or modified or in any way altered by any administrative decision of the Central or the state governments”.

“The administrative decision to continue to ply diesel buses is, therefore, clearly in violation of this court’s order,” the judges added.

To make the order effective all over India — and not be limited to Delhi alone — the court called for a scheme containing a time schedule for supply of CNG to other polluted cities.

The scheme should be submitted in court by May 9, the judges said.

The bench made the following directives:

Union of India will give priority to the transport sector, including private vehicles, all over India for allocation of CNG. The gas will be made available first to the transport sector in Delhi and other air-polluted cities.

Thereafter, if any CNG remains, it can be allocated to industries, with public sector undertakings and power projects getting preference.

The Centre’s application for extension of time to run diesel buses is dismissed with the cost of Rs 20,000.

Those persons who have placed orders with bus manufacturers and have not taken delivery shall do so within two weeks from today, failing which their permits shall stand automatically cancelled.

In Delhi, where owners continue to ply diesel buses despite the court order, a fine of Rs 500 a day per bus shall be levied from February 1.

A fine of Rs 1,000 a day per bus will be charged thereafter (from March 1). The money should be deposited with the court treasury.

(For about 10,000 diesel buses that ply every day, the amount will be Rs 50 lakh a day for the first month and 1 crore a day for successive months.)

National capital territory of Delhi to phase out 800 diesel buses a month starting from May 1, 2002.

Owners who continue to operate diesel buses will have to pay the fine till the buses are phased out or changed to CNG mode.

Allocate and make available 16.1 lakh kg of CNG per day in the national capital territory of Delhi by June 30.

Prepare a scheme containing a time schedule regarding the other polluted cities of India and submit it in court by May 9 for its consideration; LPG could also be supplied as an alternate fuel.

Permits cancelled due to non-compliance of the court orders to convert to CNG mode could be given to scheduled castes and tribes and other weaker sections of the society, for which a scheme should be prepared and submitted to the court within four weeks.

The apex court had earlier ordered that January 31 should be the deadline for phasing out diesel buses.

However, the Delhi government, by an admnistrative order, extended the deadline on its own.

The Supreme Court took exception to this while making an order to be applicable to all India now.


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