Cornered Sinha taps Advani
Modi seeks to heal the wound
Nepal’s Ranas on a treasure hunt
Attack on Coke plant
Marx’s revenge: forget revolution, try growth
Celluloid wash for Nadeem
Maoists unite in cross-border truce
Bush’s emissary comes calling with restraint cry
Pak replays peace tune
Calcutta Weather

 
 
CORNERED SINHA TAPS ADVANI 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, May 13: 
Stung by the latest attack mounted on him, finance minister Yashwant Sinha headed for home minister L.K. Advani’s house this morning to gauge the mind of the man who has stood by him in the past.

Sinha has been accused of using poll material supplied by a tainted company, Flex Industries, in his parliamentary campaign in 1999.

After returning from Shanghai, Sinha met Advani to complain that a section in the government had launched a “vilification” campaign against him to seek his ouster before an impending Cabinet reshuffle.

Apparently, his explanation did not wash with the home minister, otherwise considered one of Sinha’s well-wishers, sources said. They added that Advani had tried, without success, to contact Sinha yesterday itself when reports of his links with Flex appeared.

Flex is under investigation for paying bribes to senior government officials.

In Parliament, the Opposition sought the finance minister’s exit on “moral grounds”. Parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan said Sinha will make a statement on Wednesday.

The CPM’s Somnath Chatterjee grabbed the opportunity to fire a stinging taunt: “The government seems very accommodative on this issue as Sinha is going.”

The Flex scam claimed its first casualty in Prabhat Kumar, the ex-Cabinet secretary who became the Jharkhand Governor. He resigned once it was established that Flex chairman Ashok Chaturvedi paid for parties hosted at Kumar’s residence.

Advani has bailed Sinha out twice in the past, but BJP sources said the alleged association with Flex has made it “untenable” even for the home minister to stand by his colleague.

“This is the first time in the last two-and-a-half years when the number one and two in the government see eye to eye on Sinha,” said a source.

Raisina Hill was agog with rumours today that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee would jump at this chance to drop Sinha, who has been under pressure since the BJP lost the last round of Assembly polls, a defeat for which his budget was openly blamed by his own party leaders.

Advani defended him that time and Sinha appeared to have earned a respite. Earlier, when the UTI scam broke, the home minister had backed him.

The PMO was reportedly keen on seeing Sinha’s back after the UTI debacle.

   

 
 
MODI SEEKS TO HEAL THE WOUND 
 
 
FROM BASANT RAWAT
 
Gandhinagar, May 13: 
Chief minister Narendra Modi conceded nearly all major demands raised by the minority community whose leaders met him today for the first time after the Godhra carnage.

The vice-chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, Tarlochan Singh, who played mediator, said the meeting was “a good beginning” and claimed that the minority leaders were satisfied with the chief minister’s response.

The commission, he said, had been partially “successful in its mission”. He did not claim full success because VHP and RSS leaders could not be persuaded to meet minority leaders.

Around 100 minority leaders met Modi in the presence of security adviser K.P.S. Gill.

They repeated the issues that have been weighing on the community’s minds since the riots started: unsafe conditions, police refusal to lodge FIRs and fear among refugees living in camps.

Modi assured them that religious places damaged in the riots would be rebuilt with the help of NGOs, every riot victim would be given an opportunity to lodge an FIR, no relief camp would be closed down and the refugees would not be asked to return to their original place of living till they felt secure.

In response to widespread complaints about damage assessments not being conducted properly, the chief minister said from now on every survey team would have two independent members from NGOs.

The chief minister announced the setting up of women’s committees to record allegations of crimes against women. These committees will be formed in each district and based on their reports action will be taken against the perpetrators.

Responding to a demand that missing persons be announced dead, the chief minister told the minority leaders that he was ready to waive the usual six-year waiting period before making such a declaration.

In a further attempt to regain the confidence of the community, he said two members of the commission, Shamin Kazim and Kazi Mohmed Miya, will supervise relief and rehabilitation.

Representatives of the VHP and the RSS were not invited to talks with minority leaders. The commission’s vice-chairman admitted that “some leaders in the VHP and the RSS were not interested in a meeting”.

“We are not going to meet minority leaders or commission members unless the commission clarifies its stand on us.”

VHP leaders are angry at reports quoting commission members as saying that they had engineered the violence. There are elements on the other side, too, trying to vitiate the atmosphere. A panel member said an MP from Kerala, who visited Gujarat recently, told minority leaders not to talk to the VHP and the RSS.

   

 
 
NEPAL’S RANAS ON A TREASURE HUNT 
 
 
BY ANIEK PAUL
 
Calcutta, May 13: 
The Ranas who ruled Nepal for over 100 years are on a treasure hunt.

Late last month and early this month, a young descendant of the family hopped from one bank to another for about a week, trying to dig out papers that establish the rights of the Ranas to investments in equities and real estate, much of it in this city.

The clan of Shamsher Jung Bahadur Rana took power in the late 1840s and ruled as prime ministers till they were deposed and forced to flee Nepal in 1951. If the family now succeeds in hunting down its investments, Divyani Rana, the fiancee of Prince Dipendra, who reportedly shot his entire family and then killed himself last year, could turn out to be one of the beneficiaries.

“Most documents indicating which banks held the shares for the family were either lost or left behind while we migrated to India in 1951. Recently, some of our cousins discovered in one of our ancestral homes papers indicating investments in equities. This set us on the treasure hunt,” said the young man.

The Ranas once owned cinema houses Lighthouse and New Empire and Stephen Court in the business district of Dalhousie Square, now BBD Bag, but much of it was either blown by profligate family members themselves or usurped by cunning financiers who had lent money to the clan. Their investments in equities, however, remained in various banks in Calcutta.

The search started with the Ranas drawing up a list of family members, who could have made investments. They also gathered names of some 200 companies that existed in 1951, and wrote to them asking whether the Ranas owned any shares. “A number of companies — about a third of those to which we had written — responded indicating the names in which the shares are held,” a family member said.

These include bluechips like Associated Cement Companies, Tisco and Telco, various companies belonging to the Williamson Magor group of the Khaitans and Balmer Lawrie.

These companies told the Ranas that the shares were held on behalf of the family by State Bank of India, Standard Chartered, Grindlays Bank, Hongkong Bank and Allahabad Bank.

Once the Ranas got in touch with the banks, bingo! — State Bank’s main branch here revealed accounts in which equities were held and 20-odd current accounts with handsome cash balances in some. And the treasure-digging is not over yet, neither in this bank nor in others.

Not all of the banks are readily disclosing the details. “They want us to establish our legitimacy as heirs by producing a succession certificate. The problem is that a succession certificate cannot be produced without drawing up a schedule of assets. It will certify our legitimacy as heirs to the extent of the schedule of assets drawn up. It’s a catch-22 situation: on one hand, we cannot produce a succession certificate until we have drawn up a list of assets, while on the other, some of the banks insist on the certificate before disclosing our assets.”

Hongkong Bank realised the family’s difficulty and handed details of some accounts, but there are a number of others. “We obtained the details of one of them, but that had only dud shares,” Rana cousins say.

The account with Hongkong Bank had in custody thousands of shares of insurance, coal and rail companies that were nationalised.

Family members are now visiting Calcutta often, and on their last trip they realised that, contrary to impression, their forefathers had continued to trade even after they left Nepal.

It was also on this visit that they traced their broker — Dayco Securities. Ajit Day, the owner of the firm, said: “I remember having sold some large holdings of the Ranas as a young man. This must have been around 1960.”

State Bank’s records reveal that the Ranas had indeed sold shares of bluechip companies like Imperial Bank, as State Bank was earlier known, in large volumes in the early sixties.

The meeting with Ajit Day opened a new area of search for the Ranas. He said the Ranas had also invested in companies listed on overseas stock exchanges like London, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. “I clearly remember selling some investments in Imperial Chemical Company (ICI) of the UK for the Ranas. I also remember they had investments in rubber and teak companies. These were listed in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore,” he said.    


 
 
ATTACK ON COKE PLANT 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Patna, May 13: 
A Coca-Cola bottling plant in Pataliputra Colony here was bombed by a shadowy “swadeshi” outfit last evening. The group left behind leaflets claiming a “bin Laden-Coke pact to flood India with foreign consumer items”.

This is the second attack on a Coke bottling plant in recent memory, the first was in Andhra Pradesh.

The Bihar group, Swadeshi Chetna Abhijan, is unattached to any political party and a stranger to the acknowledged brand of swadeshi propagators like the Swadeshi Jagran Manch. The BJP also disowned it.

   

 
 
MARX’S REVENGE: FORGET REVOLUTION, TRY GROWTH 
 
 
FROM AMIT ROY
 
London, May 13: 
West Bengal can catch up with Gujarat and Maharashtra as an econom- ically dynamic state, according to Lord Meghnad Desai, one of Britain’s leading Marxist economists.

But, first, the Communists in West Bengal will have to ditch even the Marxist rhetoric of old, embrace capitalism as the only system that can alleviate the poverty of the poor and acknowledge that “the revolution is not going to come for a long time”.

If this sounds like heresy for a man who is proud to call himself a Marxist, Desai, 61, a professor at the London School of Economics, has a plausible explanation. Marx’s Das Capital has been misunderstood, argues Desai, who has sought to reinterpret Marxism in his new book, Marx’s Revenge: The Resurgence of Capitalism and the Death of Statist Socialism (Verso; £19).

“Marx does not believe that the state can bring socialism about,” he comments. “He has no faith in the state and Marx also takes the view that capitalism is a progressive force. The productive force of capitalism will last for a long time, and capitalism will not disappear until its full potential has been exhausted.”

In an exclusive interview with The Telegraph, conducted first at the House of Lords and then at his country home in the Sussex seaside town of Hastings, Desai produced a powerful critique of the West Bengal government’s failings and produced a blueprint for the way forward.

“If you want to bring poverty down, growth is the key,” argues Desai. “People need jobs, income, some kind of sustainable livelihood and it will not happen in an economy that does not grow. There are no ways of redistributing in a stagnant economy.”

He points out: “Kerala and West Bengal are, from the point of view of per capita economic growth, not very dynamic places. Only in the last five to 10 years did the Communist government in West Bengal change its rhetoric and start attracting foreign capital. They realise they had no way out.”

He gives Jyoti Basu “all credit” for land reform, but adds that capitalists were not convinced that the government had seriously changed its stance on inward investment.

West Bengal, like Kerala, with a high level of education, has an inbuilt advantage, he states. “In a highly educated place like Kerala or West Bengal, service industries, IT, banking, finance can grow very much. But for that you need a state which will welcome such investments and then you have to constantly attract capital or encourage domestic investors rather than put them off.”

He explains: “What the whole Nehruvian growth pattern did to India was that in the organised sector, both public and private, there was no growth of employment. Why? Because there was labour legislation protecting jobs. So jobs were not lost but no jobs were created. If you worry too much about throwing people on the scrap heap, you get neither growth nor job protection. All you get is very sluggish, very low growth.”

He says: “I don’t buy this argument that somehow we can’t make all these changes because the poor will be made poorer. The best bet for the poor is a faster growing economy. Right now the poor are out of safety net altogether.”

He has little patience with those who want only Bengali and not English introduced in primary schools. “It is a very cynical ploy because all the people who make decisions send their own children to English-speaking schools. In a state like Bengal, with a long tradition of English knowledge and some fine English writing, it should exploit its advantage of having some good colleges and accelerate that rather than say, ‘No, we are going to learn Bengali.’ When the whole world is globalising, we are going to shut ourselves up in a small Bengal environment?”

He believes that India could and should grow as fast as China. “After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Chinese abandoned their entire world view of capitalism, and adopted a positive view of capitalism. India could be growing like China and have double digit growth rates. But it is not, because Indians are much too worried about regional inequalities. And in trying to avoid all those things, it gets into 4.5-5 per cent growth rates rather than eight or nine per cent growth rates. Even with five per cent, poverty has come down.”

Both the old Chinese and Soviet models, the subject of much debate in Bengal, “have proved to be bankrupt”, declares Desai. “All those West Bengal battles about the Chinese road and Soviet road and the Naxalites with ‘China’s leader is our leader,’ all that stuff has become less than irrelevant.”

One additional suggestion Desai tosses in is for the consideration of Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize winning Master of Trinity College, Cambridge — “He is a genius, I am not” — as President of India.

“Who are all these Johnnies?” he says dismissively of the current field. “Amartya would be absolutely brilliant.”

   

 
 
CELLULOID WASH FOR NADEEM 
 
 
FROM CHANDRIMA BHATTACHARYA
 
Mumbai, May 13: 
Bollywood music director Nadeem, who was accused of having a hand in the murder of cassette king Gulshan Kumar, will be redeemed on celluloid by Mahesh Bhatt.

The veteran director-producer-scriptwriter is penning a script on the life of Nadeem — the music director is not only Bhatt’s latest cause celebre, he is also a close friend — to illustrate how an innocent man suffers at the hand of authorities. The yet-to-be-titled film will be directed by Ashok Pandit, who also has had a brush with causes. Pandit made a short on the plight of Kashmiri Pandits.

Together, they want to rehabilitate Nadeem. “Look at Nadeem now. He is an exile, a broken man,” says Bhatt.

Nadeem has been in London from before the murder in August 1997 — the Mumbai police had charged him with hiring contract killers to gun down Gulshan Kumar because of professional rivalry. He escaped facing trial here because the British authorities refused to extradite him, saying there wasn’t a strong enough case. The Indian government had to pay Rs 6.5 crore as damages to Nadeem.

All the accused in the Gulshan Kumar case, except the killer, were set free in a recent judgment that said the conspiracy to murder Gulshan Kumar could not be proved.

But even though the court verdict favours him, Nadeem and his friends such as Bhatt feel that he stands tainted before the public eye. Bhatt and Pandit want to set this right. “Indians will buy anything that you tell them. The newspapers screamed against Nadeem — that’s why the poor chap can’t return to this country,” says Bhatt, boiling with rage.

“The powers that ruled then, with the police who were playing into their hands, framed Nadeem. Just because he was a Muslim, a bearded man,” says Bhatt.

Pandit says Nadeem is only a case in point. “He is a victim of our system. With this film, we want to say that the police, who will pick up anybody without evidence, need to be policed. Just look what they did with Afroz,” says Pandit.

The film, which is set to be finished within November, “will have a new cast. Two, three persons have shown inte-rest in producing it,” he said.

Observes Bhatt: “It started with a question that Nadeem’s young daughter asked me. She asked me why her father, an innocent man, was suffering so much. I told her that grown up people do nasty things to each other.

“But the question kept on in my mind and I wrote a newspaper article on Nadeem. When he read it, he wanted me to direct a film on his life. I said I would write the script,” Bhatt adds.

“Of course, the film will be an emotional account, because it will be the story of a man who has been tortured. But Nadeem is not a killer. He is not the kind of person who can kill,” says Bhatt.

The cast and screenplay will be finalised next month when Bhatt and Pandit go to meet Nadeem in London. “There we will get a blow-by-blow of what happened,” says Bhatt.

   

 
 
MAOISTS UNITE IN CROSS-BORDER TRUCE 
 
 
FROM TAPAS CHAKRABORTY
 
Manchanwa (Nepal border), May 13: 
Displaying signs of increasing solidarity between Leftist rebels in Bihar and Nepal, the Communist Party of Nepal declared a unilateral ceasefire last Thursday, to be in force in both countries.

“The ceasefire is in operation both in India and Nepal to merely allow the leaders to take stock of the situation after heavy losses of lives — though poor villagers and not cadre were most often the victims. This is of course no signal to surrender. The organisations in both the countries will regroup and rebuild its cadre,” Nepal Maoists said in a statement issued here.

The declaration of unilateral ceasefire has also sparked speculation about the Nepal Maoists’ links with Andhra Pradesh’s People’s War Group, which announced a ceasefire from Friday.

The Maoists indicated that they would analyse the US’ response as contradictory reports about America’s support to Nepal are pouring in. The rebels added that they would intensify their campaign during the ceasefire period.

“The Naxalites of Bihar and of Nepal are linked. They meet on the difficult border terrain and exchange their intelligence. We have evidences of arms smuggling from the persons arrested in the last few years,” said A. Ambedkar, superintendent of police in Bagha district, bordering Nepal.

He added that a senior MCC leader from Bihar is a guest member of the Nepal Maoists’ politburo.

Bihar police have arrested at least six Nepali Maoists from the border districts in the last two years. The first arrest was that of Baburam Chowraria, a Maoist based in Rauthat district in Nepal. He was picked up from Motihari on January 16, 2001.On August 3, Bagha police arrested Oso alias Narendra Kumar, an MCC activist in Bihar. Oso is a co-ordinator and one of the key leaders of the Indo-Nepal Border Regional Coordination Committee of Nepal-India Maoists.

In November 2001, police arrested Dhrub Shah from Bettiah, west Champaran. Shah is a member of the Nepal Guerrilla Army. In December 2001, police had arrested Rajkishore Thakur, another member of the Indo-Nepal co-ordination committee.

Between June 1996 and 2000, the Nepal Maoists allegedly got training from the PWG and the MCC cadre. Early this year, the Indo-Nepal border regional committee was set up under the leadership of one Vijay, who has been in touch with both the Nepal Maoists and the Naxalites in Bihar.

Late last month, the committee with the help of some frontal organisations held a seminar in Patna advocating sympathy with the Nepal Maoists’ cause. A trusted associate of the Nepal Guerrilla Army chief, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known as Prachanda, participated in the seminar.

After four days of hiding in Patna, Prachanda’s associates left for Nepal through one of the numerous forests dotting the Bihar border, sources said.

The forests which work as corridors into Nepal lead to Bhikuathori, the last outpost on the border. The Maoists slip away after sunset and police say it is impossible to man the entire area. About 45 km from Manchanwa, there is another unguarded border area called Suskar. Suskar tops the police vigilance list as it is a known hunting ground for both smugglers and the Marxist rebels.

“This is where the rebels even discuss whether America would send troops to Nepal to fight the Maoists,” a senior Bihar police officer said.

He, however, added: “Our meetings with Nepal police never make any headway towards a joint operation. We have tea and snacks, exchange pleasantries and depart.”

Birgunge and Raxaul, the two business centres, are the main ingress points. Police say sometimes, lesser known rebels enter India posing as traders. “There are 75 acre of vacant land along the border villages near Raxaul where new camps and hutments are being set up. These provide shelters to the rebels too,” an officer said.

Recently, the Special Services Bureau and armed police outposts have been deployed and vigilance has been stepped up along a long canal near the Birgunge-Raxaul border.

   

 
 
BUSH’S EMISSARY COMES CALLING WITH RESTRAINT CRY 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, May 13: 
Christina Rocca, the US assistant secretary of state for South Asia, is arriving here late tonight to tell the Indian leadership not to break its restraint with Pakistan.

Rocca comes at a time when the Indian Army is engaged in exercise manoeuvres on the western front. These manoeuvres and the redeployment of the strike corps had, perhaps, led ISI director-general Lt Gen. Ehsan ul Haq to tell Pakistan’s formation commanders in Rawalpindi last week that India may be preparing for a limited war.

The George W. Bush administration is understandably worried over the developments on the India-Pakistan border. It has already started referring to the current standoff between the nuclear twins as “the other crisis” to distinguish it on one hand with the Israel-Palestine imbroglio and to put it in the same high bracket with the volatile West Asia on the other.

Rocca will meet key players in the Indian administration, including foreign minister Jaswant Singh, defence minister George Fernandes and national security adviser Brajesh Mishra. She will also have discussions with Jayant Prasad, joint secretary (Americas) and, interestingly, with Arun Singh, joint secretary (Iran-Pakistan-Afghanistan) in the foreign ministry.

US secretary of state Colin Powell spoke to Jaswant Singh on Saturday with the advice not to do anything that may lead to “miscalculation” in the region. Indications suggest that Powell did likewise with the Pakistani leadership.

But sources in South Block said that Jaswant told Powell there was problem indeed in South Asia and it stemmed from Pakistan’s non compliance with its promise to restrain jihadis based in the country and stop cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.

Rocca will also go to Islamabad, perhaps with an attempt to convince the Pervez Musharraf administration that the best way out of the current imbroglio was to show more sensitivity to India’s concerns.

There are few in the Indian establishment who believe that the Pakistan President, irrespective of what he tells the Americans, is in a position to deliver on Delhi’s demand. The recent bomb blast in Karachi, which killed 11 Frenchmen, is just another reminder of how volatile Musharraf’s Pakistan is.

There is a growing feeling in Delhi that either Musharraf is deliberately turning a blind eye to the infiltration and regrouping of jihadis in the Valley or is not in a position to stop them. In either case, India continues to be at the receiving end.

Its brave public front notwithstanding, India is fast running out of options with its diplomatic and military offensive against Pakistan. India has deployed over 700,000 troops along the borders and the Line of Control with Pakistan following the December 13 terrorist attack on Parliament.

But it diluted much of this tough stand by assuring the outside world in general, and the US in particular, that it will continue to show restraint vis-à-vis Pakistan.

Policy planners and strategists in India are now busy drawing up a plan that will convince Washington and other key world players that Delhi’s patience is nearing its end and sooner, rather than later, it will be forced to break its policy of restraint.

An armed confrontation with Pakistan at this juncture, some feel, will work in favour of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.

With its domestic policies in a mess, it will help the Prime Minister divert the attention of the nation to the hostile borders. But the hesitancy to opt for the tough line stems from one important factor: whether the government will be able to replicate the national fervour which it did during the 1999 Kargil War, or whether such a move will further isolate the BJP government, both within and outside the country.

   

 
 
PAK REPLAYS PEACE TUNE 
 
 
FROM IDREES BAKHTIAR
 
Islamabad, May 13: 
Pakistan reiterated its call for peace and de-escalation of tension with India two days before US assistant secretary of state for South Asia Christina Rocca is scheduled to arrive in Islamabad.

“Pakistan does not want war, we are working for peace and will continue to strive for peace and de-escalation of tension (with India),” foreign office spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan said at a weekly briefing.

“Pakistan always stood for peace, de-escalation of tension and withdrawal of forces to peace-time location, resolution of all disputes through peaceful means and any effort in this regard is always welcome,” he said. Responding to reports about India planning an offensive against Pakistan, Khan said Pakistan is fully capable of defending its territory.

When asked if Rocca’s visit would help reduce tension between the two nuclear neighbours, he said the “regional situation is very much the subject of talks”.

Khan said the entire range of bilateral, regional and international situation would come under discussion during Rocca’s visit.

He said Pakistan had to take a defensive position after India deployed its entire military might on the border. “This is a dangerous situation although Pakistan has exercised maximum restraint and asked for defusing tension and withdrawal of forces.”

Khan said the international community taking note of the situation and making efforts to persuade India to withdraw its forces was evidence of Pakistan’s diplomatic success. Warning that the “situation can turn into a dangerous kind of development”, he said: “We want withdrawal of forces, reduction of tension and negotiations.”

Asked to comment on reports that India is planning to undertake a laser weapons programme, the spokesman said it is not surprising as India’s pursuit of arms is well-known. When asked to comment on media reports about Pakistan gearing up for a missile test, Khan said: “No such test (has been) envisioned at the moment.”

Pakistan is aware of joint India-US military exercises, Khan said, adding that Pakistan’s military cooperation with America is independent of any other country.

He also indicated that joint exercises between Pakistani and US troops are being contemplated. “Pakistan and the United States consult each other on all matters,” Khan said.

The spokesman added that Pakistan’s cooperation to the international coalition against terrorism has been acknowledged and appreciated.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 37°C (+1)
Minimum: 27.5°C (+1)

Rainfall

Nil

Relative humidity

Maximum: 92%,
Minimum: 53%

Sunrise: 5.00 am am

Sunset: 6.05 pm

Today

Partly cloudy sky, with possibility of rain, accompanied by thunder
   
 

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