Laloo banega anchor man
Plot blows up on terror-busters
Deveshwar to head IIMC
Secret Sangh meet with Muslim board
SC minority bench widens scope
SC calls Bengal sex-report bluff
Sangh visitor to share Cong dais
Samata pays first for Gujarat
America toasts chutney chef
Calcutta Weather

Patna, April 9: 
Picture this: the Big B takes the “hot seat”. Even before he can settle down comes a Bhojpuri bombshell. “Why do you think Mulayam Singh Yadav is the epitome of humanity?” fires Laloo Prasad Yadav, his voice dripping derision.

Always performing, Laloo Prasad could now enter your drawing room with his own Q&A show if negotiations with Sahara TV bear fruit. The channel has approached the Bihar leader with an offer to be a celebrity talkshow host.

Laloo wears his feelings on the overlong sleeves of his white kurta. And he is excited. “Even this Yadav will be doing a lot of research as some other programmes are already carrying on research on my head... You have long tested my patience. If Amitabh Bachchan agrees, the first question I will ask him is: ‘why do you think Mulayam Singh Yadav is the epitome of humanity?’.”

Bachchan campaigned for Mulayam’s Samajwadi Party in the recent Uttar Pradesh polls and Laloo’s relations with his Yadav brother are not exactly cordial.

Laloo’s saleability on the entertainment market was never in doubt. But Zee was first off with the camera, recording Laloo’s contemporaries, relatives and children for a view of the man behind the politician.

Actor Shatrughan Sinha, though a political rival, is an admirer of Laloo’s talent. “If ever he decided to change his role from a political actor to film or stage actor, many Mumbai showmen will lose their jobs,” Sinha had told the audience in Laloo’s presence after a performance of his play, Pati Patni aur Main, here last winter.

Laloo is no stranger to the silver screen. He played a crusader fighting against authoritarian rule in a cameo in a Bhojpuri film, Mahua. It was released in early 2000 when Laloo was contesting Assembly polls.

His jibes and jokes have been made famous by popular TV anchor Sekhar Suman, though Laloo himself wasn’t quite amused. Now, a music company has made an offer to record the jokes in Laloo’s own voice.

“The company representatives came to me with a list of these jokes. One look at them and I realised that if I agree to record all of them verbatim, I would redefine myself as a buffoon,” Laloo said.

He will go ahead, but with some changes.

Advertising companies are emulating his voice to sell products. Political followers try to speak in his tone.

“But who’s there to challenge him?" asks a party worker.

Politically, none. Now, Big B had better watch his back. He has a challenger in larger-than-life Laloo.


Mumbai, April 9: 
Police had egg on their face today when suspected al Qaida operative Mohammad Afroz walked out of Byculla jail a free man.

The court released Afroz as the police failed to charge him a full 90 days after his arrest from a Trombay hotel on December 3.

Soon after his release, the police filed a chargesheet. But the delay ensured that the man who the police have accused of “waging war against nation” will be free till the court decides his fate on April 24.

Sources said the case was “mishandled” from the start. Afroz, a college dropout from the squalid Chitha camp, a sprawling slum on the city’s eastern edge, was picked up on charges of robbery.

The police had become suspicious after they received a tip-off that a “suspicious-looking young man” had been “living it up” in the area’s hotels. “When we picked him up, he gave the impression that he was blowing ill-gotten money from robbery,” an officer said.

Charges of sedition were slapped on him after Afroz “disclosed information” on his supposed links with Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network. It took the police nearly three months to realise that they had “acted in haste”. Sources said they did not find “an iota of” evidence of his alleged terrorist activities.

The CBI, which was asked by the Union home ministry four days ago to take a look at the case, is still undecided whether to take it up. The agency is expected to get back to the home ministry within a week.

“We certainly don’t want to get into a messy case unless there are substantial grounds for suspicion,” a senior official said, underlining that the CBI would take up the case only if it was sure that Afroz was guilty.

But others believe that the CBI is likely to accept the request to inquire into the case, primarily because home minister L.K. Advani was convinced about Afroz’s al Qaida links and had even discussed the issue with his American hosts during his recent US visit.

The police had claimed that Afroz, who had trained to be a commercial pilot in Mumbai and then in the UK and Australia, had planned to hijack a plane in London and crash it into the House of Commons on September 11 last year as an “extension” of the attacks in the US. He reportedly told the police that he developed cold feet when he heard of the US attacks and took a flight home to India.

Sources said they cross-checked Afroz’s “story” with British and Australian intelligence officials, who called it a “load of nonsense”. “The only part of the story confirmed was he had trained both in the UK and Australia to be a commercial pilot. But that’s not enough to brand him a terrorist,” an officer said.

Intelligence officials from the UK and the US questioned him in custody, but were “unconvinced” that he was an al Qaida operative.

In a desperate attempt to keep Afroz behind bars, Mumbai police booked him under the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance on March 1 only to withdraw the charges three weeks later for lack of evidence.

Police commissioner M.N. Singh checked with the FBI about Afroz but the agency said arrested al Qaida members told them they had “never heard of him”.


Calcutta, April 9: 
The “crow” will have to leave its nest on the top floor of Virginia House and fly down south at least once a month from now on.

Yogi C. Deveshwar is the new chairman of IIM Calcutta.

After bumbling into a controversy over the selection of the chairman and director of IIMs, Murli Manohar Joshi, the human resources development minister, has settled apprehensions about Sangh parivar designs by naming the ITC boss to the post.

“The Government of India must be congratulated for their excellent choice. IIMC is in a transition and we need a person of Y.C. Deveshwar’s dynamism to propel us further,” said IIMC director Amitava Bose.

The institute has got its most high-profile non-executive head ever in Deveshwar who sits at the top of a Rs 8,800-crore company with interests from tobacco to hospitality.

Addressing Calcutta’s leading ladies the other day, Deveshwar had revealed that in Virginia House he is often referred to as the “crow” because he occupies the top floor watching over everyone and not doing any work himself.

For the next five years, his hands at India’s leading B-school on Calcutta’s southern outskirts Joka will be full, well almost.

An ITC spokesperson said from Delhi, where the chairman now is, that Deveshwar was “happy and honoured”. But he wasn’t ready to speak to the media yet because he wasn’t sure of the implications of his new responsibility.

For one, he will have to attend a meeting every month of the standing committee, a board of governors’ meeting every three months, take financial decisions, interact with the director and, of course, enjoy disciplinary powers, which will not be new.

Deveshwar succeeds former ACC chairman Subroto Ganguly, who resigned in January in protest against the “high-handed attitude” of Joshi’s ministry.

The dispute was over the process of selection of the chairman and the director. Ganguly was in favour of the V.J. Kurien committee rules that entailed selection through a search committee. But the search committee was virtually scuttled because the ministry never named its nominee.

This had given rise to fears of a political choice being foisted on the IIMC.

“A large number of names were put up for the post. But the final decision was taken by the minister himself,” Ashok Chandra, special secretary in the ministry, said.

“It’s good to see a hardcore industry man heading the institute. This will pave the way for greater industry-academia interaction,” said an industrialist.

The top four IIMs now have business leaders as heads: N.R. Narayanamurthy at Ahmedabad, S.M. Datta at Bangalore, H.S. Singhania at Lucknow and Deveshwar.

On the Joka campus the mood was upbeat. No, they haven’t found a nickname for him yet.


Calcutta, April 9: 
A “secret meeting” was recently held in the heart of the city between the RSS and the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board.

RSS leader Jyotirmoy Chakraborty and state BJP vice-president P.D. Chitlangia met representatives from the Muslim board, the Jamaat-e-Islami and the editor of a popular Urdu daily about a week ago in the first such meeting in the city.

The agenda was to try and build a bridge between the two communities and find ways to end the post-Godhra communal unrest that has threatened to shake the foundations of secular India.

Describing the two-hour meeting at Saturday Club as “secret” and “private”, leaders of both communities refused to go into details. “We were meeting for the first time. We had only heard about each other. This meeting has thrown open an opportunity for the two communities to work together,” said one participant.

Akhbar-e-Mashriq editor Md Nadeem was more forthcoming. “The bridge has now been built for the first time. It is now up to the respective communities to work further. We discussed Godhra and the subsequent carnage that is taking place in the country. We discussed several other issues as well, and shared our separate views. Overall, the meeting was satisfactory,” he said.

Apart from Nadeem, Jamaat’s Md Aziz and N. Ahmed of the Muslim board attended the meeting, which was organised by O.P. Shah, a chartered accountant who runs a voluntary organisation that promotes peace and harmony. Shah is well known in the RSS and BJP circles, and that was enough to convince both Chakraborty and Chitlangia to participate.

Watched with anticipation by the RSS high command and trepidation by the Muslim board leaders in New Delhi, West Bengal sanghchalak Keshab Dixit gave Chakraborty the go-ahead to attend the meeting, possibly in the hope of opening a dialogue. When contacted in his office, Dixit merely said: “He was asked to go because someone was invited from our side to attend the meeting.”

Chakraborty took the initiative to break the ice once the introductions were over. “Let us meet socially again, and not politically. We must try to find out a solution,” sources quoted him as saying. They said Chitlangia and Chakraborty tried to convince the Muslim leaders that what happened in Godhra was “unacceptable” and that asking political leaders to intervene would never solve the problem.

The Muslim leaders, on the other hand, pointed to the slaughter of hundreds of their community members in the revenge killings. “We do not associate ourselves with the militants in Kashmir,” said the minority delegation when a reference was made to terrorism in Kashmir. In turn, the RSS-BJP leaders agreed that the “Hindu society had over-reacted” after the Godhra incident.

Though the minority members were peeved with Chitlangia’s statement that “all Muslims were not terrorists, but all terrorists have turned out to be Muslims”, they decided to ignore it in the hope of a comprehensive dialogue in future. “There definitely will be several more meetings to sort out problems. This was just the beginning of a new era,” Nadeem said, reflecting the hope generated by the gathering.


New Delhi, April 9: 
The 11-member Constitution bench of the Supreme Court, which is hearing arguments related to what constitutes “minorities”, today added to its sweep and ambit one more subject: “administration” in minority institutions.

The issue includes appointment of teachers, their pay scales, service conditions and other administrative work and whether state laws can control them.

The bench, headed by Justice B.N. Kirpal, added the question to the list of nine fixed earlier for the apex court to decide. The issue was added during today’s proceedings when senior counsel Shanti Bhushan, appearing for Jain institutions, contended that in “state-aided” minority establishments the state could intervene in the administration in a limited manner to prevent teachers from being “victimised” or “wrongly removed from services”.

In “unaided” educational institutions, the administration should be left absolutely to the management and states and their laws cannot intervene, he said. However, general laws governing appointment of teachers and staff, service conditions and other points relating to administration should determine these aspects, he added.

The former Union law minister argued that Article 30 of the Constitution, which guarantees minority communities the right to establish and administer institutions, has three aspects: propagation of their religion; education of community members and employment for them.

In this context, Bhushan told the court that the right of the minorities extended to even employing persons of their choice. “In all Christian institutions, where we all studied, My Lords, every staff member was a Christian. Only when they did not find an able Christian, non-Christians were given employment,” he said.

The other issues before the bench included:

The meaning and content of the expression “minorities” in Article 30.

Whether their rights include their own admission procedure and admission of students of their choice.

Whether a linguistic or religious minority in a state can be treated as minority in another state where they may not be the minority.

Can linguistic and religious minorities establish a trust/society in another state and claim minority status there?

The indices for treating an educational institution as a minority institution.

Whether the government or the university they are affiliated to can regulate both aided and unaided institutions.

What is meant by “religion” in Article 30?

Whether the decision in the Unni Krishnan case that education is a fundamental right is correct.

The case will continue tomorrow with senior counsel Kapil Sibal leading the arguments on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference.


New Delhi, April 9: 
The Supreme Court today called the bluff of the West Bengal government in the sex determination case, holding it was unbelievable that only about 500 ultrasound clinics are functioning in the state.

“Calcutta itself being a big city, it would have more than 500 clinics,” a three-judge bench of Justices M.B. Shah, B.P. Singh and Hotoi Khetoho Sema observed when the state health secretary submitted the report of the survey conducted by the health department.

The state had earlier submitted that there are only over 200 ultrasound clinics. However, during today’s proceedings it clarified that the health department survey showed that there are many more, indirectly admitting that these few hundred clinics were unregistered and illegal. The apex court had ordered a thorough survey to felicitate the closure of unregistered sex determination and pregnancy termination laboratories.

The case has come before the apex court on a public interest litigation filed by social action group Centre for Health and Allied Themes (Cehat), health activist Dr Sabu George, and Masum, a women’s organisation based in Pune. The petitioners contended that female foeticide has increased and, because of pre-natal sex determination, female foetuses have been aborted in the womb.

The male-female ratio has decreased from 935 (females per thousand males) to 903 in the urban areas of the country. In rural sections, it has dropped from 948 to 934. In Bengal, the ratios declined from 955 to 948 in urban areas and 969 to 967 in rural regions.

The petitioners contended that it was unbelievable that only 500 scan clinics have been found in a state like Bengal, especially as more than 680 clinics have been surveyed in a comparatively smaller state like Rajasthan.

The apex court, which had asked health secretaries of nine states to be present at today’s hearings, directed the secretaries of Bengal and Delhi to be present at the next hearing, fixed after two weeks, with more detailed survey reports.

The health secretaries of Bihar, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Orissa and Pondicherry were discharged as they had filed a detailed survey report and taken appropriate action.

The court also withdrew its earlier summons to the Assam chief secretary, but ordered its health secretary to file a compliance affidavit giving details of the survey, including the number of illegal clinics found in the state and the action taken against them.

In Tamil Nadu, the government had seized 51 sex-testing machines. One of the affected laboratories, M.V. Diabetese Clinic, sought the Supreme Court’s permission for its application for registration to be accepted by the state government.

The apex court directed that the clinic should be registered under Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technics Act, though the clinic claimed it was only treating diabetics.


New Delhi, April 9: 
Seshadri Chari, editor of the RSS mouthpiece, Organiser, will share the dais with Congress veterans Manmohan Singh and Pranab Mukherjee to introspect on the state of the Indian economy at a function organised by the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation.

Though Congress chief Sonia Gandhi is the foundation’s chairperson, its members say there is “nothing wrong politically or otherwise” in inviting a Sangh member to the seminar on April 12 and 13. The conference has been organised by the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies, an RGF chapter.

“We want to have a broad spectrum of views,” said an institute member when asked how an RSS functionary and a high-profile one at that has been invited to speak, given the backdrop of the Gujarat communal violence and the Sangh’s view of it.

“I have absolutely no idea of Chari and whether he is a member of the RSS or not,” he added.

The member, however, said he was aware of the fact that Chari is the editor of the Organiser and that it was an in-house Sangh journal. “If we invite Sitaram Yechury or Jairam Ramesh we are not interested in their institutional background but what their views are. I am not interested in Chari’s RSS background but only in his views,” he stressed.

He pointed out that Chari had spoken at a number of smaller functions organised by the institute in the past, though this would be his first appearance in a major one.

Chari is not a qualified economist, but has a background in commerce and law and had briefly practised sales tax accountancy in Mumbai. He has also written on economics-related subjects in the Organiser.

Chari said the views he would articulate would not necessarily be those of the RSS. “I will highlight all the contradictions in our economy. We have the maximum number of persons living below the poverty line but one of the largest stocks of foodgrain. Our GDP is going up but our industrial production has declined. Our company balance sheets are in the red but the overall state of the economy is said to be good,” he said.

The RSS veteran also added that his views would not be politically tinged. “My effort would be to find out where the economy has gone wrong. It is not a question of the Congress, the BJP or the Left failing the people,” he said.

Despite Chari’s apolitical protestations, RSS sources said the Sangh would view his participation as yet another “certificate of respectability” — that too from an outfit headed by Rajiv Gandhi’s widow.

It would also be a “proof” of its standpoint that it was no longer socially or politically “untouchable”, Gujarat or no Gujarat, they said.


New Delhi, April 9: 
The BJP-led coalition suffered its first moral blow from within on the Gujarat riots as Samata Party general secretary and spokesman Shambhu Srivastava resigned tonight.

Srivastava, the secular face of the Samata, put in his papers after accusing party president V.V. Krishna Rao of going back on a commitment to demand the removal of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.

“I do not think I can carry on with my party positions with any sense of dignity and self-respect,” Srivastava said in a letter to Rao from Patna.

Srivastava, who had helped party colleague and defence minister George Fernandes arrange the Ayodhya negotiations, said Rao’s statement today “defending Modi has made my position absolutely untenable”.

Several BJP allies had frowned on Modi’s conduct but none had so far taken any steps other than issuing statements.


Washington, April 9: 
The efforts by Indian chefs for a bigger slice of the multi-trillion dollar food business in the US has received a shot in the arm with the choice of an Indian among ‘America’s Best New Chefs’ for the year 2002.

The honour for Thomas John, 36, comes as Indian cuisine is making inroads into the US after its significant conquest of the British palate in recent years.

John, executive chef of Mantra, an Indian restaurant in Boston, Massachusetts, has been chosen as one of America’s 10 best for his innovative efforts to blend French culinary tradition with the richness and variety of Indian spices.

As a result of his innovations, the Boston restaurant now boasts Rice-Flaked Foie Gras with Rhubarb Chutney and Rouget with Leek Flan and Red Pepper Tamarind Vinaigrette, among other things, on its unusual menu.

John’s experiments in blending French and Indian elements into his recipes attracted the attention of food writers and critics since Mantra opened for business last year.

The eight-lakh circulation magazine, Food and Wine, which is considered America’s Bible for all things connected with eating and drinking, picks 10 of ‘America’s Best New Chefs’ every year from thousands of nominations sent in from all across the US by restaurant critics, travel writers, chefs and other food professionals.

In addition, the magazine’s editors scour the entire country anonymously tasting specialities at various restaurants chosen on the basis of a shortlist. One of the 10 it honoured last year was Frank Ruta, who now cooks at an Italian restaurant in Washington.

He was earlier a chef at the White House where he cooked for three successive presidents: Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George Bush Senior.

Ruta almost did not get his White House assignment because when someone called him at his then job on behalf of the President’s staff offering him the post, Ruta hung up thinking it was a joke.

And when he arrived at the White House for an interview, the presidential security detained him for two hours because he had brought kitchen knives into the compound.

The award is considered to be the most prestigious in North America’s food business and will raise the profile of Indian cooking. To be one of the 10, the winner has to have been in charge of a restaurant kitchen in America for less than five years, be innovative and show promise of making a contribution to this country’s culinary richness and variety.

John has been in the US only for a year. His employers recruited him to open the Mantra Indian restaurant in Boston when he was Executive Chef at the Le Meridien in Pune.

Before that he helped set up Delhi’s celebrated restaurant, The Kabab Factory, when the Radisson Hotel opened near Delhi airport.

John studied cooking at the Oberoi School of Hotel Management in Delhi in the late 1980s and was with the Oberoi Hotels from 1989 to 1998.

But his earliest memories of the kitchen are of chopping vegetables for Onam feast back home as a teenager. Born in Delhi where his father, V.G. John, was a Squadron Leader in the Indian Air Force, Thomas John’s childhood was spent at various Air Force bases all across India.

But once his father retired, he spent his early youth at the family’s rubber estate in Kerala. John says those years opened his eyes to the variety and power of the southern state’s spices. When he became a chef, John started experimenting with spices in making Continental dishes.

John is now working on a secret recipe which will be unveiled at a four-day forum on wine and food in Aspen, Colorado, in July where all the ‘Best New Chefs’ on 2002 will meet to celebrate their success.




Maximum: 34.5°C (-1)
Minimum: 23.5°C (-1)


1.0 mm

Relative humidity

Maximum: 85%,
Minimum: 53%

Sunrise: 5.25 am

Sunset: 5.51 pm


Partly cloudy sky with possibility of light rain, accompanied by thunder, in some parts towards evenings

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