Mamata throws eviction gauntlet at govt
Trinamul, Cong join forces in Panskura
Drive to ease traffic snarls
War clouds rein in Cong hawks
Hizb swoop on army camp
Method in Mayavati transfers
Narayanan
Gang of four guns down Akali leaders
Rebel force sings rebel tune
Heroin haul

 
 
MAMATA THROWS EVICTION GAUNTLET AT GOVT 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, May 19: 
Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee today warned the state government against evicting illegal settlers along the railway track between Tollygunge and Dhakuria without providing them alternative accommodation.

On May 4, Mamata had forced government and railway officials to call off the eviction drive by staging a 16-hour long dharna at the Gobindapur railway colony.

“Come what may, we shall not allow the eviction drive against settlers on both sides of the railway track unless there is an alternative arrangement for their rehabilitation,” Mamata said.

The Trinamul leader was addressing a convention organised by the Gobindapur Railway Colony Sangram Committee. Sharing the platform with Mamata were former vice-chancellor of Calcutta University Santosh Bhattacharjee and SUCI leader Jaimini Mondal.

Mamata denied reports that she had ordered the eviction of illegal settlers during her tenure as railway minister. She displayed a copy of a letter written by the railway authorities in August, 1998, urging the state government to “expedite the eviction process along the railway track by arranging rehabilitation” of the settlers.

“We must extend cooperation to the state government for the city’s development. But at the same time, we cannot throw 30,000 people into the dustbin,” she thundered.

A huge number of people had come from Bangladesh after Partition and were provided alternative accommodation. “Then what’s wrong with the people settled on the railway track?” Mamata asked.

Bhattacharya said those at the helm have forgotten their past. Recounting his long association with the undivided Communist Party, he regretted the present state of affairs. “Today, it pains me to learn that those who had once taken the lead for the poor and downtrodden have forgotten basic human values after taking over the reins of Bengal,” he observed.

Demanding alternative accommodation for the settlers, Bhattacharya said it was unbecoming of a state government to throw people into an uncertain future overnight in the name of the city’s development.

Echoing Bhattacharya, SUCI leader Jaimini Mondal said the ruling CPM is no longer bothered about the interests of the poor and working people.

“We may have ideological differences with the Trinamul Congress but we have no qualms about sharing a platform with them to protest the state government’s behaviour towards the settlers,” he said.

Mondal assured full support to the settlers in case fresh attempts are made to evict them.

   

 
 
TRINAMUL, CONG JOIN FORCES IN PANSKURA 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Panskura, May 19: 
Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee refused to address a rally in the run-up to the first-ever Panskura municipality polls even as main rival Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is scheduled to kick off his campaign tomorrow.

Mamata told her supporters that she would not be able to visit Panskura before the municipal election because of prior engagements in Delhi.

Frustrated by Mamata’s behaviour, local Trinamul leaders have forged an electoral alliance with the Congress in a last-ditch effort to defeat the CPM-led front.

Of the 17 seats in the newly-formed municipality — it was earlier under the panchayat rule — the Trinamul will contest 11 seats, leaving six seats for the Congress.

On the other hand, the CPM and CPI will share all the 17 seats as other Front partners like Forward Bloc and the RSP have not fielded any candidates. The CPM will contest 12 seats and the CPI five.

Ajit Khara, convener of the Midnapore Congress District Committee, admitted that he had failed to prevent his supporters from forging an alliance with the Trinamul.

“We are organisationally very weak in Panskura which is basically a CPI bastion. The Trinamul Congress has better organisational network in Panskura than us. So we are not bothered about the leadership’s reservations about the Trinamul Congress. We have no control on the electoral understanding at the local level,” he added.

The state BJP, which has forged electoral alliances with the Trinamul in four other municipalities that are also going to polls on May 26, is contesting 11 seats independently.

Union minister of state for communications Tapan Sikdar today addressed a public meeting in support of the BJP candidates.

Midnapore clash

Violence erupted in East Midnapore district this afternoon following clashes between CPM and Trinamul supporters.

Several houses and shops were ransacked. The CPM called a 24-hour bandh in protest against the “murder” of party workers by Trinamul supporters.

   

 
 
DRIVE TO EASE TRAFFIC SNARLS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 19: 
The police in South 24-Parganas have finally woken up to the reality of traffic snarls that have been dogging residents of south Calcutta for years.

Deputy superintendent of police (Town) Subhankar Chatterjee said a blueprint for ensuring smooth flow of traffic to and from the district through Behala, Thakurpukur, Jadavpur, Regent Park and Garia has been prepared.

Senior district police officials and local borough committees of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation today held a meeting to chalk out traffic-control measures, which are likely to be executed from June.

The causes behind traffic congestion and remedial measures were discussed at the meeting.

Chatterjee said the situation was found to be the worst at the Garia crossing. A huge number of vehicles from as far as Diamond Harbour and Kakdwip pass through Garia everyday.

“A few years ago, the Garia bridge was widened but it hardly solved the problem as there was a sharp increase in the number of autorickshaws. Nearly 2,500 autorickshaws ply on the bridge everyday. Private and mini buses also create problems because they stop wherever they like to pick up passengers,” said CPM councillor Birendranath Ghosh.

A similar problem was identified on Diamond Harbour Road. Nearly 3,500 autorickshaws ply on the stretch between Taratala and Thakurpukur, out of which 2,500 do not have valid licence.

   

 
 
WAR CLOUDS REIN IN CONG HAWKS 
 
 
FROM RASHEED KIDWAI
 
New Delhi, May 19: 
The standoff with Pakistan looms large over the All-India Congress Committee’s session that has been called to showcase Sonia Gandhi as the Prime Minister-in-waiting and take on the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime on “all fronts”.

The Congress jamboree is scheduled for May 24. The party think-tank, busy giving final touches to political, economic and international resolutions, is caught in a bind in view of the current security scenario.

The party is hesitant to go all out against the BJP-led government, fearing that such harsh criticism may not go down well at this juncture. Those involved with drafting Congress policy papers admitted that the focus on Gujarat was fading fast.

At another level, the spin doctors are wary of projecting the Congress as the government-in-waiting, giving an impression that the main Opposition party is itching to uproot the Vajpayee regime.

A member of the Congress Working Committee said: “Somehow, the timing of our session is not too good. But a lot of preparations have already gone in. It will be difficult to postpone it for a third time.”

The AICC session has already been deferred twice. It was scheduled for May 10, but party MPs forced Sonia to postpone it to May 18, a day after the budget session of Parliament. Party managers then failed to get a suitable venue for the meet, forcing them to change the date of the session to May 24.

A section in the Congress has, however, started questioning the rationale of holding a party meet aimed at propagating a “feel-good factor” at a time when the nation is on the brink of a war with Pakistan.

“If we attack the Vajpayee regime too hard, it would not go down well with the masses. After all, we have offered blind support to the government in both Houses of Parliament yesterday,” said a party MP from Maharashtra.

He pointed at the “Kargil experiment”, where harsh criticism of a national security issue proved counter-productive. A Congress panel headed by A.K. Antony that looked into the party’s 1999 debacle candidly admitted that criticising the Kargil operation had boomeranged.

Party leaders involved with drafting political and economic resolutions said they were facing problems on how to address the current situation.

“A resolution is a long-term policy document based on certain promises. We cannot be seen soft to the Vajpayee regime. The war may or may not take place before May 24. Our formulations will have to meet the test of time,” the MP added.

Muslim cry

Several Muslim leaders have condemned the recent killings in Kaluchak and requested Vajpayee to take appropriate action to protect the unity and integrity of the country, reports PTI.

“The nation is passing through a crucial stage and time has come to fight internal and external forces working against India...,” All India Religious Leaders’ Association president Moulana Peerzada Shabbir Naqshbandi said in a statement here.

   

 
 
HIZB SWOOP ON ARMY CAMP 
 
 
FROM MUKHTAR AHMAD
 
Srinagar, May 19: 
Suicide militants again stormed an army camp in Jammu, killing four soldiers.

The pre-dawn swoop left 10 securitymen wounded. In the gun battle that followed, one of the suicide strikers was gunned down.

The attack at Chasana near Mahore in Udhampur district comes within five days of the suicide strike on a bus and army camp in the region that killed more than 30 people.

A PTI report quoted a Hizb-ul Mujahideen spokesman as claiming responsibility for today’s strike. “The attack was carried out by our activists,” the spokesman said.

Police sources said a group of heavily-armed fidayeens hurled grenades and fired at security guards before barging into the camp of the army and the CRPF.

Most soldiers in the camp were asleep during the incident.

“Militants hurled several grenades and opened heavy fire from automatic weapons on the troops inside. Three armymen and a CRPF soldier died on the spot,” said a police source. All the injured are in hospital.

Army troops immediately took position inside the camp and engaged the militants in a gunfight that continued till late this morning. A massive hunt is on for the other members of the squad. Army troops have co doned off a large area around the camp.

Last week’s militant attack in Kaluchak on the outskirts of Jammu left 33 people dead, including seven bus passengers and 23 armymen and members of their families. Forty-eight others are undergoing treatment in the military hospital in Jammu.

Security in Srinagar has been beefed up in view of the stepped up militant activities. Paramilitary troops and police are frisking all vehicles and passersby.

The situation on the international border and the Line of Control continued to be tense in view of the heavy trans-border firing and shelling.

Defence sources said heavy exchanges of fire continued on the border in Jammu.

Nearly 8,000 residents have already fled their homes for safer places.

   

 
 
METHOD IN MAYAVATI TRANSFERS 
 
 
FROM YOGESH VAJPEYI
 
Lucknow, May 19: 
The brown sahibs who once formed the steel frame of governments are wilting.

“IAS and IPS officers in Uttar Pradesh have become puppets in the hands of their political masters,” rues an officer of the DIG rank who was shunted five times in the first six days of the Mayavati regime.

By transferring more than 150 IAS officers and an equal number of IPS officers even before her government could prove its majority in the Assembly, Uttar Pradesh’s Dalit chief minister has sent a clear message to the bureaucrats. Fall in line, or get sidelined.

The transfer spree has evoked uncharitable comments from the Opposition. “Apart from caste considerations, monetary conditions have played a big role in these transfers and postings,” alleged Samajwadi Party’s state unit chief Ram Sharan Das.

But the BSP leader is unfazed. “Merit and suitability for the post have been the only criteria in these transfers and postings. Those who speak of caste bias are talking rubbish.”

Independent observers feel there is more method than madness in Mayavati’s handling of the bureaucracy this time. During her 136-day stint in 1995, she had transferred 286 IAS and 600 IPS officers and her 183-day stint in 1997 saw 378 IAS and 600 IPS officers shuffled.

“She wants every one working under her to know that she means business,” said an IAS officer close to her. “But in contrast to the brazen arrogance with which she publicly humiliated senior IAS and IPS officers in the past, Mayavati is somewhat more circumspect in handling the officers this time.”

The induction of two non-IAS officers — Kashmira Singh and Shashank Shekhar Singh — in her secretariat, is a case in the point. Kashmira is the first IPS officer to be a secretary to the government of Uttar Pradesh, while Shashank had headed key government departments in the past without belonging to the IAS. He was sidelined by former chief minister Kalyan Singh following pressure from the IAS lobby.

“It’s (the appointment of Kashmira and Shashank) a warning to the IAS lobby that it cannot browbeat the chief minister,” a Mayavati aide said. But as a balancing act, she has made UP IAS Officers’ Association chairman A.K. Rastogi head of the UP Power Corporation. R.K. Trivedi was the last IAS officer to head the electricity board, way back in 1973.

Veteran bureaucrats admitted that Mayavati’s acts amount to politicisation of the bureaucracy. “But she is not the first to do so,” said a former state chief secretary.

Samajwadi chief Mulayam Singh had transferred 321 IAS and 900 IPS officers after he became chief minister in 1993. After Mayavati’s second stint, Kalyan had transferred 208 IAS and 183 IPS officers.

Though Kalyan announced a comprehensive transfer policy, he himself flouted it. His BJP successors, Ram Prakash Gupta and Rajnath Singh, transferred 38 and 43 IAS officers respectively within their first two months in office.

A section of retired bureaucrats, however, feel politicians alone are not responsible for the politicisation of the bureaucracy. “Some officers are keen to curry favour with politicians in power,” said a retired DGP. “Those who want to share the spoils and patronage are only too willing to pay the price in terms of obeisance to the political masters.”

His point is vindicated by the fact that though Uttar Pradesh was the first state to have set up a four-member Civil Services Board in December to formulate a transparent transfer policy, even its terms of reference have not been framed till date.

   

 
 
NARAYANAN 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, May 19: 
Dalit organisations and Dalit-based parties such as the Republican Party of India (RPI), the Lok Janshakti Party of Ram Vilas Paswan, the Puthiya Thamizhagam and the All-India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations are planning a campaign to get K.R. Narayanan re-elected as President.

These parties believe that Narayanan would not be averse to contesting the presidential election if the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) pledges support to him.

The BSP, with about 45,000 votes, is a deciding factor in the electoral college. But despite its Dalit roots, the BSP has not come out in the open, declaring support to Narayanan.

K. Krishnaswamy, president of the Tamil Nadu-based Puthiya Thamizhagam, who was here on Thursday, said he would have talks with Paswan, Ramdas Athawale of the RPI and Udit Raj of the SC/ST confederation to discuss strategy to ensure a second term for Narayanan.

There are 100-odd Dalit MPs in the Lok Sabha, cutting across party lines. Sources said the National Dalit Forum might appeal to them to caste their votes in favour of Naryananan.

Paswan also favoured a second term for the President but said his party wanted to know Narayanan’s mind before announcing its choice. The Janshakti’s national executive meeting, which began here today, is likely to discuss the presidential election tomorrow and endorse Narayanan’s candidature.

“We are wholeheartedly for Narayanan. But we must know his mind, too. Our party’s view is that he should be given (a) second term,” Paswan told reporters.

Udit Raj, chairman of the SC/ST confederation, today exhorted the BSP to back Narayanan’s candidature or else it would be betraying the Dalit cause.

   

 
 
GANG OF FOUR GUNS DOWN AKALI LEADERS 
 
 
FROM GAJINDER SINGH
 
Chandigarh, May 19: 
A leader of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) was today killed along with five others by unidentified assailants at Bhikiwind in Amritsar district.

Gurdial Singh had unsuccessfully contested from Valtoha against Congress candidate Gurchet Singh, now Cabinet minister, in the February Assembly polls.

Gurdial was on his way to Amritsar from his native village Algaonkothi when the four killers stopped his car at Bhikiwind late this afternoon. They opened fire, killing him and another person on the spot. Four succumbed to injuries in hospital.

“The killers were following him, perhaps from his village. They overtook him at Bhikiwind, forced his car to stop and immediately began spraying bullets, killing six persons. They fled on the same vehicle they were travelling in. A red alert has been sounded in the region,” said a district official.

Punjab police officers here said the murder was not connected with the civic polls at Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Patiala and Amritsar today. “It is true Gurdial was travelling to Amritsar for some work. We are working on leads that he had enmity with some families of Tarn Taran,” an officer said.

Gurdial was former chairman of the Bhikiwind block samiti and a close associate of Surinder Kairon, a relative of former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal.

Kairon, who rushed to the spot, alleged that chief minister Amarinder Singh was responsible for Gurdial’s murder. “Amarinder has been strengthening the security of Congressmen but withdrawing it from Akali leaders. Had Gurdial’s security not been withdrawn, he would have been alive,” Kairon alleged.

Gurdial’s murder is expected to raise a political furore especially after the Akali allegation that its supporters were being harassed and jailed by the Congress government.

The state human rights commission has taken cognizance of a petition, alleging that cases against 38 Akali supporters had been registered in Gidderbaha alone.

The Akalis further alleged that the Congress regime was deliberately withdrawing security from its leaders, including Gurdial, who were facing threats. Gurdial had a large number of securitymen when Badal was in power.

Bhikiwind, which observed a bandh, was tense after the killing. Kairon and his supporters blocked traffic, shouting slogans against Amarinder.

Condemning the murder, Badal said it reflected the breakdown of law and order in the state.

“Murders and bank dacoities have become the order of the day under the Congress regime. When leaders can be killed during daytime, can people feel safe?” he asked.

Police said the assailants used a .32 bore automatic weapon. “It was either an AK-47 or a carbine that was used in the killing,” a police officer said.

Besides Gurdial, the other four killed were Muktiar Singh, Harjinder Singh, Nirmal Singh and Kuldeep Singh. One person is yet to be identified.

   

 
 
REBEL FORCE SINGS REBEL TUNE 
 
 
FROM SALMAN RAVI
 
Ranchi, May 19: 
Firing yet another salvo against the government, the Jharkhand Policemen’s Association today agreed “in principle” with an appeal issued by the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) asking the men in khaki not to work for “exploiters and rulers”.

“I have come to know about the appeal issued by the underground outfit. The appeal is addressed to the lower ranking policemen and chowkidars. Some of the issues raised by the MCC has made an impact on the lower rank staff of the police force. The issues raised in the appeal can be taken into consideration,” JPA president Ram Chandra Pandey told The Telegraph.

Tapping the rebellious association, the appeal issued by the MCC’s Jharkhand Regional Committee, has called upon lower ranking policemen to adopt a more “humane” approach while dealing with the common masses.

“You have been assigned to ensure protection of exploiters, rulers, their brokers and properties. These privileged people never undertake physical labour. Imagine, without labour where can they get the huge money from? Has it not come from illegal means? And, you are being used as slaves to protect their interests,” the outfit says in its appeal, a copy of which is with The Telegraph.

The target line, “You come from the poor sections of the society and should sympathise with the mass movements”, has already struck a chord with the police personnel, sources in the association said. The appeal, issued in the form of pamphlets and posters, has been circulated by the MCC cadre among the policemen.

The MCC has asked the members of the force to help rescue the toiling masses, fight exploitation and barbarism, respect women and the common man like human beings and provide them the right to live in dignity. The outfit has also called for establishing a “democratic state”.

The rebels have urged the “pragatisheel tatv” (progressive forces) in the department to “train their guns against capitalism, colonialism, imperialism and feudal landlords and play a “glorious” role.

“This is what is called true justice and this is what will be judicious on your part. This is what history demands,” the appeal says.

The JPA, comprising lower ranking policemen, including constables and head constables, is already on the warpath against the government to press for its demands.

The first stage of its agitation saw members wearing black badges as a mark of protest against the government’s alleged apathy towards their demands.

In the second phase, members have decided to organise dharnas on May 21 and 22 at the state and district police headquarters.

The government is worried about the fallout of the association’s plan to go on mass casual leave from the midnight of May 25.

Constables and head constables, deployed as bodyguards of the chief minister, the Speaker, top officials, bureaucrats and politicians, have decided to deposit their weapons with the government armouries.

“If this too doesn’t wake the officials from their deep slumber we will resort to an aggressive agitation,” Pandey warned.

   

 
 
HEROIN HAUL 
 
 
FROM M.R. VENKATESH
 
Chennai, May 19: 
Within a week of the Centre extending the ban on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, sleuths of the Central Narcotics Bureau made one of the largest seizures of heroin in recent months.

The 56-kg consignment — much of it Lanka-bound — is valued at Rs 56 crore in the international market. The seizures were made in three different operations over the past three days, said bureau director Sankar Jilwal.

The haul has brought to the fore the trend of Chennai re-emerging as a key transit point in drug trafficking, with Sri Lanka its final destination via Tuticorin.

Though the latest haul has not been linked to the LTTE, the militant organisation had earlier been accused of bartering drugs for arms.

The bureau has arrested 11 people — six Lankans and a Canadian. A bulk of the haul, 45 kg, was seized from a vehicle near Maturantakam, about 55 km from here. A man from Gujarat was allegedly heading for the Kanyakumari coast with the “consignment”.

Another 5 kg of the narcotic was detected in a city lodge after it arrived by train from Madhya Pradesh. This “consignment” is believed to have originated in Rajasthan, the bureau said.

The Geneva-bound Canadian citizen was arrested from the Chennai International Airport in the third operation. He had 5-kg “high-grade” heroin concealed under the false bottom of his suitcase.

Jilwal said they were determined to find out who had “contacts in Geneva” and from where they were sourcing the “high-grade heroin”. Heroin of this quality “cannot be sourced in India”, he added.

   
 

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