Censure call chafes CM
Curbs on Dudhpukur use to check pollution
Facelift for highway dhabas
NGO, police join hands on women cells
Dalit-Muslim axis against parivar
Activist tracks four-year hate route to riots
Sangh smiles at Goa signals
Centre rules out baby-boom strictures
Cong vacuum in seat-rich states
Jaya land-grab slur on DMK

Calcutta, April 25: 
The move of the ruling coalition at the Centre to bring a censure motion against the CPM-led Left Front government in Bengal under Rule 184, as demanded by the Trinamul Congress, has irked the CPM state leadership.

The move was prompted by Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker P.M. Sayeed’s admission of a discussion on Gujarat under Rule 184. Soon after the Sayeed’s decision, Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee demanded that a similar motion be moved against the “misrule” of the CPM-led government in Bengal.

The Trinamul chief added that her party is compiling a list of incidents of “Red terror” to make a case for the discussion.

Though the CPM top brass attached little importance to it publicly, sources in the party said the leadership is perturbed. State CPM secretary Anil Biswas held a meeting today with senior party leaders to chalk out a strategy to counter Mamata’s move.

Reacting to the Trinamul move, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said at Writers’ Buildings that the demand was politically motivated and was an attempt to malign the state. It had nothing to do with ground realities, the chief minister added.

“The law and order situation in Bengal is one of the best in the country and there is no communal disturbance in the state. Trinamul is trying to compare Bengal with Gujarat. But I cannot comprehend how they will substantiate it. The situation in Gujarat can’t be compared with that of Bengal if one goes by common sense, honesty and reason,” asserted Bhattacharjee.

At the party headquarters at Alimuddin Street today, Biswas said the question of a discussion in Parliament under Rule 184 does not arise. “Is it so easy? We also have our men in Parliament. They will oppose it vehemently.”

The Bengal BJP leadership joined in the chorus against the CPM. Though Trinamul and the BJP’s state unit do not see eye to eye, the latter is trying to project a coming together over the issue. BJP sources said the party’s central leadership has directed its Bengal unit to make a list of incidents of violence and clashes in the state, including the number of party supporters killed.

The CPM is gearing up to counter the accusations that could be made by the Trinamul and the BJP in the event of a discussion in Parliament.

“If such a discussion takes place, we will defend ourselves not only by quoting statistics supplied by the Bengal administration but also from reports drawn up Central agencies. We shall prove that law and order in Bengal is the best in the country,” said a CPM leader.


Tarakeswar, April 25: 
The district administration plans to restrict the use of Dudhpukur, from where devotees at the Tarakeswar temple are given charanamrita, as part of its plan to check pollution of the pond.

At a meeting held by district magistrate Subrata Biswas, the government also decided to improve the sewerage system in the area, clean the pond regularly and keep round-the-clock vigil to prevent people from dumping wastes. The administration also decided to start an awareness campaign about the need to prevent pollution of the pond.

“We have issued a ban on using Dudhpukur for bathing, washing, cleaning utensils or any other purpose that can pollute the waterbody,” said Biswas, after a meeting held to find ways to keep Dudhpukur pollution-free.

The meeting was attended by temple authorities, public health engineering department and pollution control board officials, as well as the chairman of Tarakeswar municipality and the subdivisional officer of Chandernagore.

The passage through which the charanamrita used to fall in Dudhpukur has been sealed. The government has asked temple authorities to keep the place where charanamrita is stored clean and ensure it does not flow into the pond. The pollution control board will test the water of the pond once every three months and submit the report to the administration.

It was decided to set up a permanent police picket in the temple complex. Temple authorities will also make security arrangements to prevent any untoward incident.

“I have asked the temple authorities to ensure that the pond is maintained properly and keep vigil to prevent it from pollution,” the district magistrate said. The water in the pond would be pumped out immediately and it would be filled with fresh water, he added.

The Tarakeswar municipality has also taken up projects for the overall development of the temple compound and the surrounding areas. These include renovation of the temple’s main gates, arrangement of adequate lighting, improvement in the drainage system, construction of toilets, fencing around the pond and construction of a parking lot.

The district administration’s decision to clean Dudhpukur and prevent it from pollution comes in the wake of a report submited by the pollution control board showing that the water of the pond, used as charanamrita, is not for human consumption.


Calcutta, April 25: 
The state government has decided to give a facelift to roadside eateries located along highways and make them more hygienic and convenient for travellers.

The first part of the project, taken up following a directive from the Union tourism department, will target the Diamond Harbour Road, where more than 100 roadside eateries have been identified as “not up to the mark”.

According to the plan, to be implemented by the Union tourism department, the Institute of Catering Technology & Applied Nutrition, and the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health, teachers and students from the catering technology institute will train dhaba workers in cooking and storing food.

Experts from the public health institute will look into the health aspects, such as the surroundings of the stalls, sanitation, sewerage, quality of drinking water, cleanliness and health condition of employees engaged in cooking and serving food.

Officials from the Union and state tourism departments will verify whether the stalls are legal. If a stall is found to be illegal, it will be demolished with the help of local police. The tourism departments also plan to build more wayside multi-facility centres along important highways.

“We have conducted a survey to ascertain the condition of roadside eateries along the Diamond Harbour Road and found that more than 100 stalls are unhygienic. People may contract various diseases, including stomach upsets, cholera and jaundice by having food from those stalls,” said Suranjan Chatterjee, principal of the catering technology institute.

“Hundreds of people, especially those on a long drive, passengers of long-distance buses and drivers have to eat from roadside dhabas. Many of them also have a bath, take rest and use the toilet,” said Indira Chakraborty, the director of the public health institute.

“We have to ensure that all these roadside eateries are hygienic and people do not contract any disease after having food from these places,” she said.

“Most of the eateries were unhygienic and their employees wear dirty clothes. The food is kept in the open, the surroundings are unhygienic with no sewerage,” Chakraborty added.

“Flies and mosquitoes abound. The plates are dirty and the drinking water is impure,” she pointed out.

“We are not in favour of closing down the roadside stalls. Our aim is to improve them,” Chatterjee clarified.

“Roadside eateries are very helpful for commuters. People get food at a nominal price from these places. If we unite in our efforts, the situation can be remedied. We want to save both the traders and customers,” Chakraborty said.


Behrampore, April 25: 
Murshidabad district administration and police have joined hands with a voluntary organisation to set up grievance cells exclusively for women, in the first of their kind in the state.

In the past eight months, Chandradip Mahila Ashraya — an organisation run by women — has helped open, in 26 police stations in the district, cells to deal with complaints from women.

This has led to a sharp decline in crime against women in the district, particularly harassment cases and those related to dowry. The organisation’s work has also led to a change in the work culture in police stations.

Murshidabad superintendent of police Rajesh Kumar is all praise for the voluntary organisation’s efforts.

“Earlier, I had to hear the complaints of many hapless women every day. Now the number of complaints has come down sharply because of the prompt action taken by the special cell,” Kumar said.

“Women used to complain that their cases were not registered,” he added. However, the number of such complaints has also sharply reduced and police officers are directing women to drop their complaints in special complaint boxes.


New Delhi, April 25: 
Dalits have joined hands with Muslims to fight the “oppressive” policies of the Sangh parivar in the wake of the Gujarat riots. This could upset the calculations of the Sangh parivar and the electoral dynamics of some parties, especially the Bahujan Samaj Party.

The All-India Confederation of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe Organisations and the Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind today jointly launched the “Save India Front” to organise people at the “grassroots” level to fight the “divisive” and “communal” politics of Sangh outfits and save the country from breaking up.

The front will organise a joint rally at the Ramlila maidan here on May 2 “to halt further division of the country and bloodshed in Gujarat”. Similar rallies will also be organised at various state capitals.

Among the demands of the front are removal of chief minister Narendra Modi, a ban on the RSS, the VHP and the Bajrang Dal, no tampering with the Constitution, reservation in higher judiciary and in other fields for Dalits, Muslims and backwards.

The organisers said the VHP and the Bajrang Dal are “enticing and forcing Dalits against Muslims so that it becomes a conflict between Muslims and Dalits”.

“Holding rallies at the Ramlila grounds and Jantar Mantar besides editorials are not going to stop the poison being spread by the VHP and the Bajrang Dal. We are taking the fight to the grassroots level,” said Udit Raj aka Ram Raj, convener of the front and chairman of the confederation of SC/ST organisations which has over 30 lakh members. Maulana Mahmood Madani of Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind is the co-convener.

Madani said the attack in Gujarat is not on a community but on the country. “Hindustanis once unitedly fought the British. Now we have to fight against the Englishmen again, the desi black Englishmen who are out to ruin the fair name of Hinduism,” he added.

Addressing a joint news conference here today, they said communal violence in Gujarat had ruptured the bond between different communities and if not halted, may lead to further division of the country.

They said the front would involve all like-minded people, NGOs, intellectuals and groups to make the movement a success. Asked if any political party will be involved, Raj said they had not given the matter a thought.

Raj, who converted to Buddhism last November along with over 10,000 other Dalits, said: “The powerful army in Russia could not prevent break-up of the Soviet Union. The army and police cannot maintain unity of a country. USSR is a living example. It had the biggest army yet it was broken. The Constitution is in danger. Humanity is in danger,” he said, warning that India may go the Soviet way if violence was not stopped.

“If the Dalits and the Muslims join hands together, it would a huge force,” he said. Asked why the BSP, a Dalit party, was not being roped in, Raj said the BSP was sold out to the BJP and the Sangh and that his organisation had no faith in that party.

“So far, communal and caste riots ended in three or four days’ time but in Gujarat the violence is still continuing even 55 days later. Not a single Muslim home or shop which VHP and Bajrang Dal activists knew of were spared,” Raj said.

He alleged that a computerised list of victims was given to rioters on February 28 and they carried out their work with full support of the administration.

Raj said protests against the carnage so far have been small and isolated and that the front rally was meant to convey a message to the Sangh. “We want to tell them that they cannot get away,” he said.


New Delhi, April 25: 
Since it came to power in Gujarat, the BJP and its adjuncts like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad systematically worked on a Hindutva gameplan of hatred that finally climaxed in the recent genocide presided over by chief minister Narendra Modi, an activist here claimed.

Presenting a report on the Gujarat riots here today, Teesta Setelvad, editor of Communalism Combat, listed a string of hate campaigns the BJP government had spearheaded since 1998 when Keshubhai Patel took charge.

“The build-up to the Gujarat genocide was systematic and planned. Even if Godhra had not happened, Gujarat would still have happened,” Setelvad said.

Ahmedabad is sitting on a tinderbox and the Modi government is barely lifting its finger to help the victims. “And a lot of Gujarati Hindu society is silent,” said the activist.

For the past four years, Setelvad had been on the trail of the Sangh parivar’s virulent anti-minority campaign.

“The Sangh outfits have left no stone unturned to keep alight the torch of hatred. First, there was an attack on Christians; then a census was carried out on Christian and Muslim populations; next, textbooks were tampered. Soon after, there were trishul distribution programmes and RSS and VHP cadre were pushed into the lower echelons of the police. There are 6,000 home guards who have come from the RSS and the VHP,” Setelvad said.

The most poisonous hate campaign came through pamphlets which were circulated at least four or five times. The slogan of economic boycott of Muslims was a common refrain.

The report quotes one such pamphlet which specifies the “don’ts” for Hindus. It asks them: “Not to buy anything from Muslim shopkeepers. Not to sell goods to these elements. Not to use these “traitors’’ hotels or garages. Not to work in Muslim offices or to employ Muslims. Not to watch movies casting Muslim heroes and heroines.”

Yet another pamphlet reads: “Anti-national elements are using the money they earn with our cooperation to weaken us. They buy arms and molest our sisters and daughters. The answer to these elements lies in (a) financial non-cooperation movement.”

Some of these pamphlets contain sexually derogatory remarks about Muslim women. Some tell the Hindus how to plot riots and dodge the police. “The BJP government has really made good use of their time in power,” said Setelvad.

The textbooks tampered by the BJP government, according to the editor, had 20 pages on fascism, depicting it as a manifestation of a strong nation. Muslims and Parsis were described as foreigners. A parliamentary committee was set up after a hue and cry. The committee ordered rectification.

“But re-print of these textbooks contained the same statements,” said Setelvad.

Despite Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee waxing eloquent on the rehabilitation of the victims, the activist said: “The Narendra Modi government is cocking a snook at the Indian Constitution. It has flatly refused to give land to the victims. Its education minister, despite a suggestion from the Supreme Court, has refused to allow a re-examination for Muslim students who could not appear for their exams.”


New Delhi, April 25: 
The spin doctors insisted Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s address at Panaji was misquoted by the media, but the RSS welcomed it for sending the “right” signals to the cadre and the “ideological fraternity”.

In an article — “Post-Goa: BJP is on the right track” — published in the latest (April 28) issue of the RSS mouthpiece, Organiser, author Shyam Khosla said: “The Goa resolutions and the tone and tenor of speeches by the Prime Minister and Union home minister have enthused the cadre and removed the misgivings in the party’s ideological fraternity.”

Stating that the BJP should return to its moorings “if it wants to win back the ground it lost in the past three years”, Khosla said: “Atalji’s re-emergence as a robust and inspiring leader and his decision to speak extempore are welcome signs.”

“His challenge to the Opposition to try and topple his government shows he is back in form and is sure of his government’s durability. Equally reassuring is his warning to his detractors, particularly to the politically illiterate Sonia Gandhi and the rootless Ghulam Nabi Azad that he was strong enough to handle them single-handedly,” he said.

These, Khosla added, were signs of the “Atalji one knew, but he was lost in the wilderness of power politics. His rediscovery of himself is a good omen for the party and the nation.”

Khosla commended Vajpayee for talking tough with the NDA allies. “The Prime Minister correctly assessed the political climate and took a no-nonsense stand. While the BJP does not want to annoy the allies and supporters, it has come to the right conclusion that time has come to tell the allies that the dominant party with 180 MPs can’t be pushed around by parties with 29 or nine members,” he warned.

Khosla said the BJP had “hurt itself by going too far to accommodate the perceived fears and apprehensions of small parties about their respective constituencies” and made ideological compromises and “sacrificed the interests” of its middle-class supporters.

He referred to the Chennai Declaration adopted amidst severe misgivings in the December 1999 national council. The document stated that every BJP worker understands that the party’s only agenda was the NDA’s common minimum programme.

In Khosla’s words, the Chennai Declaration “provoked revulsion in the party”. He alleged that it was drafted by an “outsider” because “no BJP leader worth his salt would have penned such a draft”.

He chided former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar for calling Vajpayee his “gurudev” and in the same breath asking him to break his ties with the RSS.

“Please Mr Chandra Shekhar stop teaching moral values and secularism to the one you call gurudev. The Prime Minister’s heart is in the right place. No one need question Atalji’s commitment to cultural nationalism, sarvapantha-samabhava and patriotism — the basic tenets of the Sangh,” Khosla said.


New Delhi, April 25: 
The health ministry has ruled out a reversal in its national population policy despite pressure from certain quarters to revert to its earlier target-oriented approach to stabilise the rate of growth of population in the country.

“There is no compromise on the basic underlying philosophy of the national population policy that rests on the premise of no coercion and no control,” said A.R. Nanda, secretary in the family welfare department of the health ministry.

“There is a counter-advocacy campaign on population policy going on but it should not be attributed to the government,” he added.

Recently, there were reports that the government is planning to move back to its target-oriented family planning strategy. Certain sections in the Union health ministry have been suggesting that the health minister was in favour of going back to the past practice of setting targets of population stabilisation.

“This is absolutely incorrect. The health ministry is of the same opinion that the target-oriented family planning strategy was disastrous,” said the family welfare secretary. He pointed out that health minister C.P. Thakur had defended the present population policy on the floor of the House.

The population policy, which marks a departure from the earlier practice of mindlessly chasing targets, is rooted in the concept of giving couples the “freedom of choice” in deciding the number of children they want to have.

“It is up to them whether they want to have one, two or three children. The average, we, however, feel should be two children,” said Nanda.

The logic behind this is that population stabilisation is linked to many factors: infant mortality rates, the quality of care for pregnant women, mothers and the newborn. The approach is to look beyond targets at the larger picture that takes into account many factors relating to population stabilisation.

According to Nanda, though the present population policy has several loopholes, it is still doing well. The use of contraceptives has gone up and states are now monitoring better the various reproductive health programmes aimed at stabilising population.

The government dropped the target-oriented population policy after facing its disastrous consequences. According to Nanda, records of targets were manipulated. There were failures galore that resulted even in deaths. “The whole concept of population stabilisation was derailed through unethical means.”

Targets were given to state governments and they resorted to any means — fair or foul — to meet them.

Some state governments like Andhra Pradesh did try to put in a system of incentives and disincentives to stabilise population but the Union health ministry was firm in its stand against any system of coercion or reward.

According to Nanda, state governments now seem to have veered around to the Centre’s view. “The whole accent now is on ensuring better accountability and implementation of reproductive health programmes,” he said.


New Delhi, April 25: 
Sonia Gandhi’s much-hyped organisational restructuring has failed to address the basic issue — how to revive the party in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Bengal and Tamil Nadu that send 202 members to the Lok Sabha.

Clueless, Sonia has now begun searching for new state unit chiefs for Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.

In principle, the Congress president has decided to remove Uttar Pradesh party chief Sriprakash Jaiswal but she is yet to find a suitable successor to the Kanpur MP. There is no dearth of aspirants though — from Ram Naresh Yadav to Jagdambika Pal to Begum Noor. But in Sonia’s scheme of things, none of them fit in. These leaders are seen as incapable of galvanising the party cadre.

In the recent AICC revamp, Sonia dropped Mahabir Prasad as AICC general secretary and inducted former Uttar Pradesh Congress unit chief Salman Khurshid as special invitee to the Congress Working Committee. In addition, she appointed veteran leader and former Uttar Pradesh Governor Motilal Vora as general secretary in charge of the state.

But the reaction from Lucknow was lukewarm. State leaders felt Mahabir’s exit and Salman’s induction was part of an “adjustment” process among those around Sonia. “It does matter who comes and goes. The question is how do we reverse the process that saw 325 party candidates losing their deposits in Assembly polls,” a state party functionary said.

Factionalism in the state Congress is so intense that it is the only party not to have elected a leader in the Assembly. Incumbent Pramod Tiwari is unwilling to give up claim to head the 25-member Congress Legislature Party. His detractors want Sonia to remove him on grounds that Narain Dutt Tiwari, a fellow Brahmin, has become the legislature party leader and chief minister in neighbouring Uttaranchal. Moreover, general secretary Vora, too, is a Brahmin.

In Bihar, the party’s situation is equally bad. That the state comes low in priority was evident when the leadership almost forgot to assign it to a general secretary.

Once journalists began to raise questions, Oscar Fernandes was put in charge. But Bihar Congress leaders feel that Fernandes’ Hindi will come in the way of his smooth functioning. Moreover, giving charge to Fernandes was “minor” compared to the broader issue of the high command’s “vision” about the state, the leaders said.

The Congress is an ally of the Laloo Prasad Yadav-led Rashtriya Janata Dal much to the aversion of most partymen in the state. Several delegations have called on Sonia asking how long the party would play second fiddle to the RJD.

In Tamil Nadu, the Congress is back to its 1989 going-alone stand. The party’s relations with the Jayalalithaa-led ADMK have hit an all-time low and the state unit is vehemently opposed to the idea of aligning with the DMK. The emergence of LTTE chief V. Prabhakaran on centrestage has further queered the pitch for the Congress and the DMK.

Congress sources said merger with the Tamil Maanila Congress was first priority. But Congress leaders in the state are not optimistic. “How much is zero plus zero?” asked a state leader sarcastically.

The Sonia camp said the days of state party chief E.V.S. Elangovan were also numbered as he had failed to make any impact. A search is on for his successor but it may be made public after the merger with TMC is completed in June.


Chennai, April 25: 
The Tamil Nadu Assembly plunged into pandemonium when Jayalalithaa accused predecessor M. Karunanidhi of having favoured industrialist N. Srinivasan while okaying a land lease and alleged that the cement manufacturer “has been functioning as a benami of Union commerce and industry minister Murasoli Maran”.

Karunanidhi had signed a government order in March last year — days before the notification of the Assembly elections — extending the lease for 77.7 acres of prime land used as a golf course here without fixing the lease amount. This smacked of favouritism towards the industrialist enjoying proximity to Maran, Jayalalithaa charged.

While the DMK members led by their deputy leader in the House, Durai Murugan, were immediately on their feet protesting against the slur on Srinivasan, the managing director of India Cements, Jayalalithaa went even further, alleging that the industrialist was also functioning as a “benami” of Karunanidhi.

“Karunanidhi somehow wanted to confer benefit on a private individual (N. Srinivasan) even without deciding the lease amount payable to the government,” Jayalalithaa said, adding that there was enough evidence to file a “criminal case” against him. “How else do you explain this if not for the private individual functioning as a benami?” she asked amid thumping of desks by ruling party members.

Aghast at the chief minister’s repeated use of the expression “functioning as benami of Maran”, Murugan asked whether such charges could be made without any proof being adduced and urged Speaker K. Kalimuthu to delete the remarks from the records.

But a strident Jayalalithaa retorted: “India Cements MD N. Srinivasan functioning as Maran’s benami is known to the entire country.”

As the angry DMK members stood up to protest, the treasury benches shouted them down. Soon the exchanges took an ugly turn and Murugan walked out to protest against the Speaker’s refusal to expunge what they considered was “objectionable and politically motivated” reference to Maran and Karunanidhi.

The other DMK members continued to protest, forcing Kalimuthu to ask the watch and ward staff to evict them.

Tamil Maanila Congress floor leader S.R. Balasubramoniyan, who had raised the issue yesterday, said Karunanidhi had assured the House during his tenure that the land would be re-leased to Cosmopolitan Club, which ran the golf course, till the lease expired.

Tracing the controversy, Jayalalithaa said the 77.70 acres had been originally leased to the club. When the contract was about to expire, Srinivasan floated a new outfit, the Tamil Nadu Golf Federation, and sought the fresh lease from the DMK regime.

Officials had advised renewing the lease to Cosmopolitan Club for another 30 years. But Karunanidhi turned a deaf ear and kept frustrating the club’s efforts to regain control over the golf course “because he wanted to favour the TNGF headed by industrialist N. Srinivasan”, Jayalalithaa said.

Karunanidhi later went by an “understanding” reached between the club and the federation to jointly manage the facility for 30 years under a fresh lease contract, Jayalalithaa said.


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