Atal slams door on foreign sermons
Riots isolate minority moderates
Fire at Firpo’ssparks 10-year rebuild freeze
Delhi doubt speeds up UP deal
Security scare sends CEO to the skies
Mouse mightier than missile for riots samaritans
Andersen workers edgy after e-mail alarm
Experts battle babus at ASI
Beautiful mind unhinged: math wizard turns schizophrenic
Calcutta Weather

 
 
ATAL SLAMS DOOR ON FOREIGN SERMONS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, April 25: 
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee tonight played on national pride in a blunt bid to nip the growing murmurs of concern abroad on Gujarat, saying there is no need to sermonise India on secularism and pluralism.

“India is being advised on pluralism and secularism. We need not learn about secularism from anybody,” Vajpayee told a meeting on the occasion of Mahavir Jayanti.

The rebuke came close on the heels of some western nations, especially European, voicing concern over the killing of minorities in Gujarat. The Arab world has also started turning restive.

“We need not learn secularism from anybody. Our foundation is strong. There is no reason why people, who in the present circumstances have deviated, should not come back on the right path,” Vajpayee said.

The Prime Minister repeatedly used the word “deviation” to indirectly refer to the macabre incidents in Gujarat. “Sometimes, we deviate from the right path. There are ups and downs on the way but we correct ourselves,” Vajpayee said. “The deviation is momentary. This deviation will and should end.”

However, even as he spoke, violence flared up in Gujarat in the evening after a brief lull during the day.

Delhi had yesterday expressed strong resentment against “foreign interference”. The VHP joined in, saying it would send emissaries abroad to clear the air.

The British government today tried to contain the diplomatic fallout by clarifying that it was not working alongside Gujarati families there to file a case against chief minister Narendra Modi. Britain added that “it is for the affected families to take legal action and they have not approached us”.

Canada said it does not want to interfere but added that it expressed concern because it was a “strong friend” of India.

But discontent is brewing among the Arab nations. Questions are being raised in the Arab world whether there is a link between India’s inability to stop the attacks on Muslims in Gujarat and its ambiguous stand on the West Asian crisis.

Unlike the West, the Arab world has so far refrained from making any critical statements on the Vajpayee government’s handling of Gujarat. Nor has it publicly frowned on Delhi’s “balancing act” on the current flare-up in West Asia.

But both the issues are likely to crop up at the meeting of the foreign ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), scheduled for early May in Doha. If the violence in Gujarat continues for the next few days, the OIC may send a strong signal to the Indian government on the status of the minorities.

   

 
 
RIOTS ISOLATE MINORITY MODERATES 
 
 
FROM RASHEED KIDWAI
 
New Delhi, April 25: 
The shadow of Gujarat has fallen on efforts to resolve the Ayodhya dispute out of court.

The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, which responded to the Kanchi Sankaracharya’s call for an out-of-court settlement to the vexed mandir-masjid dispute, has now hardened its stand.

Heated discussions and debates over Gujarat dominated a meeting of the board today. A section of moderates, which had toyed with the idea of working out an out-of-court settlement, was mocked and challenged.

A board member asked another who had supported the peace initiative: “Is this the government that you wanted to do business with?”

Tempers ran so high that the executive decided to defer the contentious issue of deciding on a successor to Qazi Mujahid-ul-Islam, the board’s head who passed away in Delhi recently.

The new chief will be elected in Hyderabad, where the board will meet from June 21 to 23. Insiders, however, said efforts are on to choose a consensus president rather than an election on political or regional lines.

Several names are doing the rounds for the new chief. Sources said Nagpur-based Maulana Abdul Kareem Parekh continued to be a frontrunner. There are two other contenders — Maulana Abdul Rabey Nadvi and Maulana Nizamuddin.

Those present at the meeting said that most speakers were agitated by the events in Gujarat. Several speakers held chief minister Narendra Modi and the Centre responsible for the riots.

The moderates tried to prevail upon the hawks by pointing out that the board’s mandate was confined to matters of personal law. But the doves were outnumbered by those who questioned the purpose of the board if it could not raise its voice against the killing of Muslims.

Some members suggested that a delegation should call on the Prime Minister, but others vetoed it by reminding them of A.B. Vajpayee’s Goa speech, saying it would serve no purpose.

The board has decided to set up a small panel on Gujarat.

The Kanchi Sankaracharya, Jayendra Saraswati, is likely to visit Ayodhya tomorrow to hold talks with VHP and Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas leaders.

   

 
 
FIRE AT FIRPO’SSPARKS 10-YEAR REBUILD FREEZE 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, April 25: 
Tuesday’s fire at the building that once housed Firpo’s could well turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the heart — or face — of the city.

Even as the last of the flames refused to die down on Wednesday night, mayor Subrata Mukherjee and Calcutta Municipal Corporation commissioner Debashis Som held an emergency meeting. By the time they came out of it, they had decided on a 10-year moratorium barring all construction at sites where buildings were razed by fire.

What this means for Firpo’s is that after the rubble is cleared, the land that till Tuesday housed hundreds of stalls and cubicles, will host a garden.

Even after the 10-year moratorium, the site will not have an ugly highrise. “The site can only have a building in strict accordance with the original building plan,” Mukherjee said, adding that the decision would be in force for all other fire-razed constructions in the city.

The decision is a ploy to check man-made fires, the mayor explained. “Our decision will discourage man-made fires. Ninety-eight per cent of the big fires that occurred in the city over the past 15 years were deliberately set,” he said.

“We will not allow an owner or a promoter to build a multi-storeyed commercial complex at fire-devastated sites,” he said. The decision will be placed for ratification in next month’s mayor-in-council meeting.

Once the rubble is cleared, the corporation will plant trees and seasonal flower-bearing plants after consulting horticulturists. The civic body’s senior horticulturist, Ranajit Samanta, has been asked to prepare a scheme to cover the 40-cottah plot with greenery.

The owner’s objections, if any, will not be heeded by the corporation, the mayor said. “If anyone objects, we will send a notice asking him/her to maintain the garden.”

“But in no case will we allow the owner to build a highrise on the plot for a money-spinning commercial plaza,” he said. Commissioner Som corroborated him, saying there was a growing trend of big fires breaking out in old commercial complexes and slums.

The mayor said an analysis of the major fires in the recent past showed they shared a number of common elements.

“There has been almost no casualty and, in almost every case, adjacent buildings have remained by and large unaffected. Most of the fires were spotted only after they had become uncontrollable. And almost every such fire has broken out in an old market crowded with hundreds of tenants and sub-tenants paying a pittance as rent,” Mukherjee said.

For frustrated promoters or owners of an old building, a big fire is the easiest way to get rid of long-time tenants and unwanted occupants, he added.

“Take Firpo’s, for instance. It was a two-storeyed building on a 40-cottah plot. If anyone now wants to build a highrise there, the sky is the limit. The open space in front of the site will enable him to get a building plan sanctioned for at least 40 storeys,” CMC director-general (building) Ashok Roychowdhury said.

Civic officials said the salami for a shop at the city’s most expensive location would be at least Rs 50 lakh.

   

 
 
DELHI DOUBT SPEEDS UP UP DEAL 
 
 
FROM RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
 
New Delhi, April 25: 
The decks have been cleared for swearing in Mayavati as Uttar Pradesh chief minister.

The BJP central leader in charge of Uttar Pradesh, Kushabhau Thakre, said she would be sworn in on Monday, a day before the Gujarat motion under Rule 184 is discussed and voted upon in the Lok Sabha.

With NDA allies like the Telugu Desam Party unwilling to disclose whether they would vote against the Opposition-sponsored motion or abstain or walk out, the Vajpayee government is relying on the BSP’s 13 MPs to cushion itself against uncertainty.

Mayavati, who called up L.K. Advani last night to salvage the deal, told him that it was imperative she should be sworn in before the Gujarat motion was taken up because this would “make it easier” for her to take her MPs along and get them to vote against it.

BSP sources said the leader of the parliamentary party, Rasheed Alvi, was unhappy with the decision to side with the BJP on Gujarat.

He reportedly warned Mayavati that even if the party voted against the motion, his speech would be critical of the Narendra Modi government. BSP sources said Mayavati may field another speaker to humour the BJP.

Well-placed BJP sources said that in the hard bargaining that went on between the BSP and the BJP, Mayavati agreed to accept Kesri Nath Tripathi as the Speaker and a co-ordination committee which would monitor the government’s performance.

Although she was insisting on having central BJP representatives on the panel and not just those from Uttar Pradesh, the party leadership rejected the demand. As a quid pro quo, the BJP gave up its demand for the deputy chief minister’s post.

But the biggest promise the BJP managed to extract from Mayavati was that of a “long-term” electoral alliance which would not be restricted to Uttar Pradesh but would extend to Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir where the BSP has a considerable presence.

The glitches that cropped up earlier in the week were sorted out through an exercise that began last night when Mayavati spoke to Advani and assured him that her mentor and BSP president Kanshi Ram was not trying to “create a hurdle” when he said there would be no deputy chief minister as the BJP wanted.

Ram’s assertion had angered even Mayavati’s friends in the BJP, like Lalji Tandon who was keen on the post.

Mishra, Tandon and Rajnath Singh, who is opposed to the deal, arrived here today to meet Advani. Mishra and Tandon later called on Mayavati but Rajnath did not accompany them.

Mayavati and Tandon later addressed a joint conference where they declared that “everything has been finalised”.

   

 
 
SECURITY SCARE SENDS CEO TO THE SKIES 
 
 
FROM G.S. RADHAKRISHNA
 
Hyderabad, April 25: 
Chandrababu Naidu will be the country’s first CEO to take a chopper to work. Dhirubhai Ambani only drives a Cadillac.

Fear of Naxalite suicide squads stalking the roads has driven the chief minister to the sky route. A three-seater helicopter, of the same make as the one that crashed killing Lok Sabha Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi, is already making trial runs.

The chief minister will board the chopper at the HRD institute helipad in Jubilee Hills, about 1.5 km from his residence, and land on the banks of the Husseinsagar tank, half-a-furlong from the secretariat.

With at least five People’s War Group suicide squads believed to be on the prowl, security experts had warned Naidu that the 12-minute drive from his home to his fortress-like office was getting risky. But the chief minister’s aides say the helicopter rides are meant to beat traffic jams that clog the 8-km stretch and use up precious time.

S. Vijay Kumar, Naidu’s chief public relations officer, said: “This is an alternative we have thought of, to avoid traffic bottlenecks in the city. Since the chief minister is always on the move, we have decided to build new helipads at Jubilee Hills and near the Secretariat. We will use the helipad at the HRD institute for the time being.”

The chief minister’s daily flights to and from work are expected to cost the state exchequer about Rs 36,000.

According to a rough estimate, the cost of his motor entourage comes to around Rs 12,000. Apart from Naidu’s white ambassador (number AP9 10 393), it includes the explosives detector, two escorts and two dummy white ambassadors, also bearing the number 393.

“Cost is not the factor. The chief minister is of the opinion that traffic blocks between Jubilee Hills and the Secretariat create tension for almost 20 minutes in the peak morning hours. The loss of petrol and diesel alone could count to almost over a lakh of rupees a day,” an official said.

But the traffic jams have not forced Andhra’s most high-profile CEO, Ramalinga Raju of infotech leader Satyam, off the roads. Raju, also a resident of Jubilee Hills, drives his Mercedes 30 km to work every day.

Naidu had considered moving house closer to the Secretariat, where his fourth floor office was recently fortified with steel girders. But no suitable buildings could be found.

“Even 100 kg of RDX will not shake this room,” said a security expert involved in remodelling the chief minister’s almost 1,000-square feet suite, with ante chamber and conference room.

The outlawed PWG had killed the Desam home minister, A. Madhav Reddy, two years ago using a landmine. Since then, Naidu has been taking helicopters on all his district tours.

The Naxalites recently made a truce offer that the chief minister accepted. He said he would appoint a coordinator to thrash out the nitty-gritty. But the encounters have continued. Fifteen Naxalites were killed two months ago and two TDP leaders were gunned down recently.

Naidu’s decision to switch to a helicopter has the Congress and the CPM up in arms. “He is behaving like the CEO of a multinational. If he is so scared of Naxalite attacks, he should travel in disguise,” said Congress spokesperson K. Rosiah.

But even the business barons are not known to fly to work. Ratan Tata and Anil Ambani have used helicopters while getting around the city, but only on occasion. Tata used a chopper frequently when he was scouting for a farmhouse in Alibag, on Mumbai’s outskirts. The Reliance scion takes it when he goes to play golf.

The country’s top CEO, Dhirubhai Ambani, continues to make the 20-minute trip from his Sea Wind home in Cuffe Parade to his Maker Chambers office at Nariman Point through the Mumbai traffic in his Cadillac.

   

 
 
MOUSE MIGHTIER THAN MISSILE FOR RIOTS SAMARITANS 
 
 
FROM SUJAN DUTTA
 
New Delhi, April 25: 
When a mob surrounded his locality on the night of February 28 and frantic calls to the police through the day elicited little response, Salim Sheikh of Bapunagar, Ahmedabad, logged on to the Internet and sent e-mails to friends in his city and elsewhere in the country in the hope that someone somewhere would act as messiah.

Sheikh, an activist of the Ahmedabad-based civil rights group, Jan Sangharsh Manch, kept sending reports right till the early morning of March 1. Sheikh’s live messages were among the inputs along with reports on arson in a slum in Gomtipur that went into a petition drafted by lawyer Mukul Sinha against Gujarat police.

In the weeks that followed, the police have been persuading Sinha to withdraw the petition that names a police officer and gives his vehicle registration number, but Sinha and his group have been adamant.

Activist groups have used the Internet to send across their messages in the wake of the pogrom in Gujarat like never before in this country. Indeed, the use of the Internet in the campaign against the pogrom is comparable to the messages sent out via e-mail by dissident groups in China in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen Square killings.

Tens of hundreds of e-mails, photographs and write-ups have been sent and received by students, academics, journalists, professionals and almost everyone with regular access to the Net. Much of the mail has detailed the grisly killings in Gujarat. A substantial number are debates and discussions involving Internet users across the globe.

They have contributed to the wave of revulsion among professionals, challenging the secular credentials of the Vajpayee government in a way that has not happened since the NDA assumed power.

The deluge of e-mails on Gujarat has not been from activist groups alone. Individuals with little or no political allegiance have used the Net and the anonymity it provides to fuel the campaign against the Hindutva brigade which itself is sophisticated in its propaganda and extremely Net savvy.

This week, a team from the Editors’ Guild of India that returned from a visit to Gujarat has noted that e-mail, along with television, has contributed in very large measure to the coverage of the violence.

“The e-mail and the SMS on mobiles have been used extensively in Gujarat to spread information or disinformation on the events,” says Dileep Padgaonkar, a member of the team.

In 1989, after Chinese government forces mowed down students in Tiananmen Square, the defining image of the event was that of a lone protester, flag in hand, trying to stop a tank.

The defining image of the Gujarat carnage following Godhra has been that of a Muslim youth pleading with folded hands to the police for help. But along with it, the idea of a man, sitting in a slum in an Ahmedabad ghetto, typing out e-mails as his locality is being attacked and burnt, must rank as a triumph for the Internet in India.

“In 1989, at the time of the events in Tiananmen Square, the Internet was used only by a few researchers and pro-democracy agitationists in China; the World Wide Web was yet to be used, there was no browser around,” says information warfare consultant Ravi Visveswaraya Prasad.

“Now, there is the idea that the ‘mouse is more powerful than the missile’. Any individual can broadcast anything he likes without much care for credibility. Even party organs exercise greater restraint. The Internet is free-for-all and in issues of a sensitive nature, reliance on the Internet is dicey because, even in the case of Gujarat, pro and anti-Muslim groups have been using it no-holds-barred.”

While few take the credibility of all the material floating about the Internet as gospel truth, the sheer wealth of material and the freedom of choice it offers are valuable inputs today for researchers and writers who are even sourcing information and giving credit to websites.

This has also come to be accepted by major academic publishers. And, this is where the pro-Hindutva campaigners have lost out in the propaganda war over Gujarat despite having realised the potential of the Net earlier.

Among those who have been instrumental for this is Paris-based social activist Harsh Kapoor, who runs the South Asia Citizen’s Web.

“I personally don’t think there has been an astoundingly successful anti-Hindutva campaign by secular groups. But we have broken some ground. The Hindutva circuit has used the net to peddle its ideas since 1993, in ways that the wide range of secular groups didn’t. But since the late 1990’s many secular initiatives have run highly successful campaigns. My own artisanal SACW (http://www.mnet.fr/aiindex/) and (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/act/) started in the mid 1990’s grew dramatically in popularity after the 1998 N tests,” he writes in an e-mail.

“And since then many other groups have emerged and are doing a formidable job. I would name, Sabrang / communalism combat in Bombay; South Asia Citizens Wire & South Asia citizens Web; BJP govt watch or Saccer.org [a bit inactive now] these had some of the older web sites and mailing lists.”

Among the main target groups of activist groups in India using the Net has been the audience in the West, where the Vishwa Hindu Parishad itself operates a sophisticated network.

The flood of messages out of India has been driving a schism in this support base to the extent that the e-mails have helped mobilise numbers to organise protests outside Indian missions abroad.

   

 
 
ANDERSEN WORKERS EDGY AFTER E-MAIL ALARM 
 
 
FROM CHANDRIMA BHATTACHARYA
 
Mumbai, April 25: 
It’s a funny thing to get used to. And Ranjana (not her real name) is almost used to feeling uncertain now.

As she wakes up every morning, she doesn’t know where she is heading — whether her job will be hers one week from now, whether her salary will be the same; whether she will be able to bring home the perks that her job in Arthur Andersen India entails. Or whether her job consultant will finally have good news today.

It is the same for most of the 900 people that the $9.3 billion accounting giant employs in India.

Andersen India is not in as bad a shape as its parent firm in the US, where employees have taken to the streets in protest, but they have been living on the edge since the reports on Andersen’s involvement in Enron’s audit scandal surfaced.

The real scare, however, came on March 18, when Bobby Parikh, head of Andersen’s India operations, reportedly send an e-mail to the employees.

“Andersen is truly a wonderful organisation, and I find it difficult to refer to it in the past tense...,” it said.

Since then, for most Andersen employees in its five offices —Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Pune — it has become a routine to make a trip to a head-hunter.

They are more worried as they are clueless about the progress of Andersen India’s merger talks with other firms — which could mean lay-offs.

KPMG, one of the Big Five accounting firms like Andersen itself, have pulled out of the negotiations. The two firms couldn’t agree on the positions and salaries of Andersen employees in the new venture. Now Andersen is said to be in talks with Ernst & Young and Deloitte & Touche, but the employees are in the dark.

“We are not in a position to disclose details about our negotiations. We will share updates as soon as we have something to report,” the company said. It would keep employees’ interests in mind while taking a decision, it added.

“We just don’t have any idea what is happening,” said Sanjay (not his real name). “People are still holding on their jobs in the hope that something will work out.”

But Sanjay, a B-school graduate, who works as a consultant — the audit departments are the ones hit badly, not consultancy — has a secret. Unlike most of his colleagues, he has already managed a new job, a good one.

It doesn’t matter to Sanjay if there’s a merger.

Another of his consultant colleagues, too, has found a job though not as good as his current one. It would be in his hometown, where he will be able to live with his parents and, may be, still drive a car. But partying around and continent-hopping will be things of the past.

Ranjana, who neither wants to be quoted nor wants to specify which department she works for, hasn’t found a job yet as the market is down in the dumps.

She insists that things are not as bad as they look and that nobody has actually quit. Despite reports of Indian clients, too, about to desert Andersen, she says business in the country hasn’t been affected much.

She also hopes that Andersen India goes it alone, in which case there will be no merger and employees will be safe.

Ranjana is not ready to think beyond that.

   

 
 
EXPERTS BATTLE BABUS AT ASI 
 
 
FROM ELLA DATTA
 
New Delhi, April 25: 
Yet another discord is festering between the generalists and the specialists. This time it is the 139-year-old Archaeological Survey of India (100 years, according to some) that is affected. Demoralised and frustrated archaeologists feel that the world-famous service has lost a sense of direction through no fault of theirs and they are taking the rap for it.

The situation has become particularly fraught because Union minister for tourism and culture Jagmohan appears to be sympathetic to the archaeologists’ point of view.

One major gravamen of senior and acclaimed archaeologists is that they cannot aspire to the top job in the ASI. All prospects of career advancement are blocked. For nearly 10 years, since Dr M.C. Joshi’s retirement in 1993, the director-general’s post has been filled by the administrative service bureaucrats. Senior archaeologists have been stuck in director-level posts, sometimes for 10 years or so.

Not only is the director-general’s post beyond reach, even the additional director-general’s post is held by a bureaucrat. The two posts of joint director-generals, meanwhile, have been lying vacant for a couple of years now.

Some months ago, the posts were re-advertised with changed recruitment rules, but even then no decisions have been taken. Without this promotion as the joint-director general, the DG’s post will remain a distant dream for the half a dozen directors of ASI.

The archaeologists are also upset about the ASI’s decision to scrap 10 technical posts under the expenditure cut proposals recommended by the Geethakrisnan Committee. No administrative post was reduced, making the archaeologists feel that it is an inequitable cost-cutting measure. The ASI does not have a large corpus of professionals while they have to care for 3,606 protected monuments and undertake fresh excavations.

Another thorny issue that has emerged is the submission of reports on excavations. The administration feels this procedure could be tightened. Archaeologists argue that summary reports are always submitted otherwise fresh licences for excavations are not given. However, completing full reports require elaborate technical and infrastructure assistance which are not available.

A review committee report on the working of the ASI had been submitted more than a year ago, but the recommendations have not yet been made public. Jagmohan is understood to be interested in restructuring the ASI and bringing an eminent professional to head the organisation although no formal steps have been taken yet.

Since the post of DG has been demarcated as an administrative one since 1993, the process of reverting back to appointing an archaeologist will be complex and long drawn. To circumvent this, the culture minister is likely to seek Cabinet approval for an ad hoc appointment.

The bureaucrats, of course, are tight-lipped. No comments could be had from the top officials of the ministry and the ASI.

The mundane nature of this tension-riddled tussle focuses on the glorious history of the ASI. When work by Cunningham and others began in 1861, the work of excavation, deciphering and documentation was undertaken in a scattered way.

It was only in 1902 that a centralised service was initiated by Lord Curzon under the director-generalship of Sir John Marshall. The ASI has been headed by noted archaeologists like Sir Mortimer Wheeler, A.K. Ghosh, Ms Debala Mitra, Dr M.C. Joshi. The lustre has dimmed considerably in recent years. It is to be seen if the old sheen can be restored.

   

 
 
BEAUTIFUL MIND UNHINGED: MATH WIZARD TURNS SCHIZOPHRENIC 
 
 
FROM TAPAS CHAKRABORTY AND MUNTAZIR IMAM
 
Patna, April 25: 
His muse was mathematics till its mysteries turned on his brilliant but fragile mind.

Alone on a bed at the Patna Medical College and Hospital, 56-year-old Basisth Narayan Singh is lost in a world of bizarre pantomime. The man who once fascinated students and peers at the Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta, with his mathematical wizardry, is today a screaming schizophrenic.

It was a different world in the sixties and the seventies, when Singh’s theories won him international recognition. An assistant professor in Washington DC, surrounded by scholars and adoring students and a visiting professor at Kanpur IIT, his genius travelled, far and wide.

Then, one day, everything collapsed. Sometime in the early eighties, he lost his mental balance in the middle of an advanced research in the US. Since then, Singh’s life has been swinging between periods of confinement at mental hospitals and prolonged bouts of depression and withdrawal at his brother’s residence in Ara.

A topper in Higher Secondary examinations and in MSc from Patna University, Singh received his PhD and doctor of science degree from the US. He returned to India for a brief stint as a professor at the Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta.

Singh soon acquired a reputation for being a top-notch researcher and a brilliant academic, taking up one assignment after another as a teacher or a research scholar. After his stint at the ISI, he went abroad again as an associate professor in a noted college in Washington DC.

Singh returned to India in the early seventies to join the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, and then as a teacher in the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. He got married in 1973, but about a year after his marriage, he developed symptoms of schizophrenia.

In the early eighties, Singh disappeared from home for six months. When he was eventually spotted in Chhapra district, he had turned completely insane.

The Central and state governments pitched in to send Singh for treatment at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurological Sciences, Bangalore.

“Even now, some of his students from Calcutta and Kanpur call on him. But the tragedy is that no one could help him,” says Singh’s brother, Ayodhya Prasad Singh.

Dr Basisth Narayan Singh spent most of the eighties and nineties at NIMHANS. He was released and sent home in 1998. For a couple of years after that, he seemed to be recovering and was almost normal. But not long after, he relapsed into a violent form of schizophrenia.

Today, Singh remains confined to his brother’s home, alternating between restlessness, acute paranoia and prolonged withdrawal from reality. “His treatment is expensive and time-consuming. But the most difficult part is administering medicine. A couple of weeks ago, he destroyed a whole lot of expensive medicines sent from Bangalore,” said one of his relatives.

Flies hover around in the emergency ward at PMCH, where Singh is recovering from drug poisoning. He was brought back to his senses after remaining unconscious for two days.

His worried relatives initially took him to Ara hospital, where doctors referred him to Patna Medical College for a thorough check up.

At PMCH, doctors washed his stomach and put him on a glucose-saline drip. The next morning, Singh snapped the glucose drip tube from his wrist and sat up screaming that he was in hell. A medical board led by Dr P.K. Singh advised that Singh be taken to the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Science in Delhi for further treatment.

“This is an old case of schizophrenia. He was taking sizofric tablets regularly. He is being referred back to the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Science in Delhi,” the board said.

When a nurse fetched him some grapes one morning, he briefly stopped mumbling and fidgeting. “Na khayes (I won’t eat that),” Singh said in Bhojpuri. “Lake leta dehi, lake leta dehi (brought me here and dumped me),” he went on complaining.

Singh’s agonising cries and howls and his constant pleading to go home eventually worked — he was taken home to Ara some days ago. “The professor wanted to get out of the cloistered hospital bed. He wanted some fresh air,” said one relative.

Sources said his relatives took him home because they were not in a position to bear the expenses of the treatment in Delhi.

Former Bihar chief minister Laloo Prasad Yadav had provided one of his relatives with a job so that Singh’s treatment could continue. But despite this arrangement, his family continues to face acute financial crisis, said a local resident of Ara.

Singh’s story is not very different from that of John Nash, the schizophrenic Nobel-prize winning mathematician and inventor of the game theory whose life inspired the Ron Howard film, A Beautiful Mind. But unlike Nash, who has been on the road to recovery thanks to decades of psychiatric treatment, Singh may die a schizophrenic, incurable, unsung and forgotten.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 34.7°C (-1)
Minimum: 23.1°C (-2)

Rainfall

2.5 mm

Relative Humidity

Max: 91%
Min: 56%

Sunrise: 5.12 am

Sunset: 5.57 pm

Today

Partly cloudy sky. Possibility of light rain in the afternoon or evening in some areas
   
 

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