Kalam victory lap before vote
Brazil vs US? Well...
Soccer shadow on Metro death
Desert denizens descend to chase monsoon
Shutdown nail on Gujarat camps
Good boy at PMO, bad at home
Sonia’s RAF foxes footsoldiers
If bullets won’t help the intruder, bushes will
Political message in rail division
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, June 17: 
Missile man A.P.J. Abdul Kalam launched his presidential campaign here with a string of meetings with a host of leaders, including Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Kalam is expected to file tomorrow his nomination papers for the presidential poll on July 15. His main rival Lakshmi Sahgal, sponsored by the Left, is likely to follow suit on June 21, but a chorus is building up for her withdrawal from the fray.

Kalam’s meeting with the Prime Minister at his residence was described as a “courtesy call” by official sources and was followed by a South Indian lunch of idli, dosa, vada, sambar and rasam.

The sources added that it was an “informal” meeting, which steered clear of politics and even science and technology. A couple of days ago, Kalam had conveyed to the Prime Minister’s emissary, Vijay Goel, who called on him in Chennai, that he wished to pursue his scientific interests even after becoming President.

Home minister L.K. Advani, defence minister George Fernandes, human resources development minister M.M. Joshi and parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan were present at the lunch, as was the Congress leader in the Rajya Sabha, Manmohan Singh.

Sonia Gandhi was invited but she could not make it because of daughter Priyanka’s advanced stage of pregnancy. Later in the evening, Kalam called on Sonia and recalled his association with the late Rajiv Gandhi. The Congress president recollected how her husband had set up several technology missions with the help of Kalam.

Kalam thanked Sonia for extending her party’s support to his candidature. “It was a one-to-one meeting,” sources said.

The scientist also visited President K.R. Narayanan who, according to Rashtrapati Bhavan sources, described him as a “worthy successor”.

Shortly after his arrival at the airport, Kalam told reporters it should be understood that he was now a candidate with the support of all major political parties — the NDA, the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the BSP. “So what you see is that people want me,” he said.

To complete his political thanksgiving round, the President-in-waiting met Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, who had proposed Kalam’s name for the post. Kalam did not speak to the media, but Mulayam said it was simply a courtesy call.

NDA sources said Kalam was “advised” not to interact with the media for fear that he might have to face disconcerting questions. There was more than a hint of embarrassment in the BJP at Kalam’s media session in Chennai where he asked journalists to repeat lines from the Gita after him and posed questions like why Porbandar was famous.

NDA sources said one set of nomination papers, comprising 100 names, will be filed tomorrow and, if need be, another will be submitted later. Along with a dozen senior party leaders, Sonia will file a separate set of nomination papers for Kalam.


Jeonju, June 17: 
A little-known item of football trivia is the fact that the US went further in the first World Cup, back in Uruguay in 1930, than Brazil.

That footnote to the tournament’s history drifted to mind as the US beat Mexico 2-0 here today and thus qualified for a quarter-final against Germany. The way the draw works, the US could even end up facing Brazil in the final in Yokohama on June 30. After some of the weird results of the finals so far, few people would bet their house against such a prospect.

Brazil is also still here, of course, after grinding down Belgium with another goal for Ronaldo and a superb solo from Rivaldo, which aided his rehabilitation after that cheating nonsense in the opening win over Turkey.

Of course, between 1930, when Brazil went out in the first round after beating Bolivia but losing to Yugoslavia, several oceans full of water have flowed beneath the football bridge. In that time, Brazil has not merely won the Cup four times but done so in a style which has thrilled generations and turned their players into legends.

The Brazilian penchant for nicknames means their great players are also blessed with an individuality of identity which lifts them above every other nation’s footballers. Brazil’s World Cup-winning teams have boasted players with exotic tags such as Garrincha, Didi, Pele, Vava, Amarildo, Jairzinho, Tostao, Cafu and the like. Not for Brazil the workaday nomenclature such as Germany’s Muller, England’s Wilson, Italy’s Rossi, Uruguay’s Perez, Argentina’s Batitusta or even France’s Petit.

Joining them soon in the Cup winning lexicon may yet be the likes of Rivaldo and Juninho Paulista.

Where the Brazilian nicknames come from is not always clear. Manoel Francisco dos Santos was a World Cup-winning outside right in 1958 and 1962 who was known only to his admirers as the Little Bird (Garrincha). That was apparently an easy fit. Yet Pele, for one, does not know where or how he came by the two-syllable label which earned world renown instead of his own ‘real’ birthright of Edson Arantes do Nascimento.

Pele (or Edson) told me once: “In Portuguese, the word doesn’t mean anything. People say now that this is what kids in my day called a kick around with a ball of rags but that wasn’t true. In fact, I didn’t like the name so much that once a girl at school called me by the name and I hit her. My parents were summoned to see the head teacher and I was in a lot of trouble at school and at home. But I was very young then.”

That name, or the person bearing it, would in due course also cause an awful lot of defenders an awful lot of trouble.

The paradox of Brazil is that the wealth of its football is born of the poverty of many of its people. Football is an escape route from the Favela shanties, just as it is for the hungriest boxer in the ghetto.

A need to succeed has often taken Brazilian football too far in the opposite direction with a mistaken over-emphasis on matching the Europeans for physical endeavour and tactical chess. Somewhere in between lies a winning balance — though whether the present Brazil possesses that equilibrium we must still wait to see. Beating Belgium was a matter more of grit than glory.

Brazil struggled as never before in the qualifying competition and sacked two managers along the way before scraping through to the finals in South Korea and Japan under Luiz Felipe Scolari.

Its progress here has been erratic and may have owed much to a ‘friendly’ fixture schedule. Pele, again, admitted that he felt embarrassed after helping at the draw ceremony last December because it all worked out so generously for Brazil.

As most of us predicted, Brazil topped Group C by winning all three games (best equal with Spain in Group B) and scoring 11 goals (best equal with Germany in Group E). However, it may prove a telling factor in this physical, northern hemisphere World Cup that Brazil conceded three goals in its three group games; Denmark, South Korea, Germany, the Republic of Ireland, England, Mexico, Japan and even eliminated Argentina all defended more effectively than that.

“If you go out to score goals, then you run the risk of giving them away,” says Pele, “but as long as you score more than the other team what does it matter?”

What matters is that few teams in this commercially-twisted football world are possessed of the self-confidence which allows them to take such a cavalier approach right from kick-off. Dare they go for it against England next Friday? The evidence suggests not — which gives David Beckham and Co. cause for hope.

America must wait.


Calcutta, June 17: 
A 24-year-old engineering student was run over by a Dum Dum-bound train at Rabindra Sarobar Metro station after he tipped over and fell on the tracks while jostling for a better view of the US-Mexico match on TV sets on the platform.

Though Metro Railway officials claimed that Aveek Tarafdar committed suicide, witnesses and police said the B.E. College Computer Science student fell over the edge of the platform while peering over the shoulders of taller fellow passengers.

“It was a clear case of accident,” deputy commissioner (headquarters) Shibaji Ghosh said. Detailed recording of witnesses’ accounts indicated that it could not have been suicide, he added. If this account is true, this is the first accidental —caused by TV and soccer — death in Metro and the 37th overall.

Metro Railway chief operations manager P.K. Chatterjee, however, disputed the theory. “It could not have been anything else but suicide,” he said, to contest the claim that the television sets, which were attracting so many viewers over the past fortnight were responsible for the death.

Chatterjee said the sets would be pulled down if it was proved that one of them was responsible for Tarafdar’s death. The second year student had ranked 116th in the Joint Entrance Examination.

The US-Mexico match was nearing its end — the US had already taken a 2-0 lead by then —when the Dum Dum-bound train entered the platform. Tarafdar, who was waiting to catch the 1.29 pm train but equally keen not to miss the action till the last, stepped back towards the edge of the platform without realising he was so close to toppling over.

The 24-year-old was trying to lift himself up from the tracks when the train ran over him. “He was trying to clamber up the platform and had managed to place both hands — and probably one foot — on it when the train ran over him,” one of the witnesses, Haripada Bhar, said.

Motorman T.K. Samaddar said he had seen a man trying to climb up on the platform. “I pulled the emergency brake but the train stopped only after two compartments had crushed him,” he said.

“The train was doing a speed of 40 kmph and it was impossible to stop the train before it reached the spot where the man was trying to get back on to the platform.”

The train stopped with a jolt, recounted S. Sarbani, one of the passengers.


Mumbai, June 17: 
Call them rain tourists.

Every monsoon, even as Mumbaikars brace for another four months of waterlogging, disrupted train services and leptospirosis claiming a 100 more lives, some people from a desert country spend thousands of dollars just to experience the Mumbai torrents.

From July to September, it’s Arabian season for the city hotels on Marine Drive and Colaba Seaface. Tourists from the Gulf arrive in droves with their families and park themselves in rooms that offer a view of the sea — to drink in the sight of rainclouds gathering over its turbulent waters.

“We enjoy 30 per cent occupancy because of such tourists,” said an official of the Sea Green on Marine Drive. Marine Plaza, also on Marine Drive, enjoys 50 per cent occupancy because of rain-thirsty Arabs, a hotel official said.

Recently, just before the turbulence in the state government and the trust vote, deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal, accompanied by the managing director of Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation, A.K. Singh, visited the UAE to woo such tourists.

“We visited Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Oman and Bahrain,” says Singh, adding: “The monsoons in Mumbai was one of the high points on our agenda.”

The tourism corporation is also eyeing western ex-pats, who enjoy travelling across India, and NRIs, who usually visit only their hometowns. But it will soon offer monsoon packages that have been drawn up especially for the Arabs.

“Talks were interrupted by the threat of war. But we have signed a MoU with Indian Airlines and discussions are on with Air-India. Emirates is also a likely partner in these packages that will include tie-ups with hotels,” says Singh. “Besides the monsoons, we threw in Mumbai’s other attractions: Bollywood, nightlife and food.”

Tour Club, a travel agency that specialises in the Gulf market, has one such package already on offer. “It’s a two-night-three-day stay at a five-star hotel, with breakfast, taxes and airport transfers, for between $300 and $350,” an agency official said. “About 2,000 people come from the Gulf every year for the monsoons,” he added.

Over the years, the number of tourists have shrunk, in keeping with the diminishing might of the petro dollar. Now, most of the rain tourists flock not to the five-stars, but to the three-star or even cheaper hotels. “It is because the boom time of the petro dollar is over. Our agency doesn’t offer any packages for the Gulf tourists,” says an official of Thomas Cook.

Most of the Arabs now don’t come through travel agencies, either — they just land up at a Marine Drive hotel. Some stay on for months. Some get themselves treated at a sea-facing hospital, taking the opportunity to recuperate on a rainy holiday. “We have certain Arab guests who come every year,” said an employee of Sea Green.

This year, too, the hotels by the seaside are waiting for their overseas guests. But they are afraid that the turnout would be low, given the menacing clouds of — not monsoon — but war looming on the horizon.


Ahmedabad, June 17: 

Minorities flay ‘callous’ Modi

The Narendra Modi government today ordered the closure of eight relief camps in the city, upsetting the minority community and its leaders who appear headed for a showdown with the administration.

The sudden order is expected to affect about 10,000 riot victims who would no longer be entitled to free ration. Moreover, the organisers of these camps will now have to make fresh arrangements for the inmates who have nowhere to go.

The camp organisers and community leaders, who today staged a day-long dharna to highlight the government’s “callous attitude towards the riot victims” and “inadequate compensation”, said they would launch a statewide agitation against the Modi government. They alleged that the administration was pressurising them to close down the relief camps so that early elections could be held in the state.

Minority leaders said the government was in a hurry to close down the camps because even if there was one relief camp functioning, the chief minister would find it difficult to project that the state had returned to normal.

“We have no option but to launch a stir,” said Khalid Shaik, a camp in-charge. “To begin with, we will soon hold a rally which will be joined by all the riot victims. Since the government has closed down eight camps, inmates of these eight camps will have no option but to camp at the collectorate compound.”

With the chief minister eager to hold early elections, there is tremendous pressure on the camp organisers to send the inmates to “their respective homes” – a fact confirmed by Ataullah Khan, in-charge of the Dariyakhan Ghummat relief centre.

As many as 14 families who had been living here have returned home in Naroda Patia. The state government is projecting this as a major achievement. If 14 families could return to one of the worst carnage sites, so can others, government officials claim.

But Khan said “it is nearly impossible”. The 14 families, he explained, could return home because their houses were not burnt and their Hindu neighbours were in constant touch with them. The neighbours, he added, had been visiting the camp regularly to meet them and insisted that the inmates should return. There are still 200 other residents of Naroda Patia living in the Dariyakhan Ghummat.

According to Khan, those still living in the camp were so traumatised that they would not dare to return to Naroda Patia even if their houses were rebuilt. They would have to be rehabilitated elsewhere, he said.

One of the demands at today’s dharna was an alternative rehabilitation site for the riot victims of Naroda Patia and Gulbarg Society. The demand was raised by the Kaumit Relief Committee.

The state government, however, refused to concede the demand on the ground that it would lead to ghettoisation.

A senior official in the chief minister’ s office claimed that the government was not exerting any pressure on the camp organisers to close down the relief centres. “It is all voluntary. Those who have left the camps have left voluntarily,” he said.

At a press conference, Modi refused to say any thing on why the eight camps were closed down. Instead, the chief minister harped on how he got Central assistance worth Rs 1123.88 crore sanctioned.

“I am implementing what had been promised. The cabinet secretary is regularly monitoring the progress of relief and rehabilitation,” he said.


New Delhi, June 17: 
Narendra Modi is portraying two sides to his persona. Every time the Gujarat chief minister is summoned to the Prime Minister’s durbar, he plays the role of a dutiful pupil, listening to the reprimand from the Prime Minister on his failure to deliver relief to the victims of violence. However, once back home, Modi continues to do what he does best — deny justice to the victims.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the state government’s compensation scheme for riot victims. Volunteers of Aman Ekta Manch and Citizen’s Initiative — two non-government organisations involved in rehabilitation work in Gujarat — dismiss the compensation as a “joke”. People who have lost their homes and all their possessions in the riots are routinely handed cheques of Rs 300 to Rs 500, they say.

“There are villages that look like they have been bombed. Everything is devastated. Most victims have got no compensation,” says Nivedita Menon of the Aman Ekta Manch, who has just returned to Delhi after working in Watva Dargah for seven days.

Supriya from Citizen’s Initiative, who has been working with the victims for the last five months, points to two State Bank of India cheques handed out by the Modi government to two claimants of compensation. Shahnawaz (name changed), who lost a house worth Rs 80,000 and possessions worth Rs 55,000, got a cheque of Rs 500. Ahmed (name changed), who had his Rs 1 lakh house razed to the ground and belongings worth Rs 55,000 destroyed, got Rs 450.

“The government’s main aim now is to wind up these camps – many of their ration quotas have been slashed,” says Supriya. At Watva Dargah camp, the authorities have not bothered to carry out a proper head count – a duty they are expected to fulfil.

“The officers on duty stay in the camp for half-an-hour when they are expected to stay there from 10am to 6pm. He just looks around and reels out a number of the camp inmates. There is no proper headcount,” says Nivedita.

The authorities have a vested interest in keeping down the headcount – it helps them to keep low the quota of daily rations. In many camps, the rations are fast running out and the conditions are expected to worsen with the onset of rains. The inmates at Watva Dargah camp have a flimsy shamiana over their heads, which will not hold out in a downpour.

The state’s intervention in rehabilitation is almost non-existent. For the victims, the only hope lies in community initiative and some 30-35 NGOs that are working in the camps. The Aman Ekta Manch has volunteers coming in from all over the country to work in these camps. Action Aid India has given a call to youths, the Aman Pathiks (Peace Volunteers) to extend a helping hand.

These volunteers provide succour — whether by telling children stories or extracting compensation from the authorities or by just listening to the victims recall their horrors.


New Delhi, June 17: 
Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s resolve to set up an anti-riot “rapid action force” has sent confusing signals to party leaders with many of them remaining clueless about the objectives of the force and the selection process.

Congress leaders said the party president’s description of the anti-riot force as “sadbhawna ke sipahi (soldiers of amity)” indicated that Sonia was keen to raise a trained voluntary force to combat communalism.

Sonia had made this announcement while addressing the AICC session at Talkatora Stadium in Delhi on May 24.

However, they are still confused about how she intends to select the personnel for the anti-riot force.

Sipahi means soldier. Would we be having some kind of force with a uniform and lathis?” asked a senior Sewa Dal leader.

There was some speculation over whether the new outfit would replace the Sewa Dal, which has been imparting training to Congress cadres.

“The problem of disbanding the Sewa Dal is that it has been involved in a range of activities, including a fight against communalism,” the Sewa Dal leader said.

A leader close to Sonia clarified what Sonia meant was setting up a citizen’s group that would remain completely non-violent in combating communalism.

“We would not be conducting any physical training or distributing lathis. What she meant was to activate conscientious citizens against any disturbance,” he said.

The responsibilities of the “sadbhawna ke sipahi” would be manifold, the Congress leader said. They would be expected to work for communal harmony, peace and order at social levels.

“The force would include those persons who are not even members of the Congress party,” he said, adding that those part of the new “force” would be able to discharge their duties in many ways.

“Suppose someone is a writer, he can write articles on communal amity, circulate leaflets when tempers are high. If someone is a doctor or a member of any federation, he/she can take the lead to set up local peace committees getting representations from various communities,” he said.

Sources close to Sonia said, past experience during communal riots showed that law-abiding citizens lacked the necessary organisation to play a effective role in combating violence, resulting in inaction.

The Congress chief now plans to earmark sensitive districts and have special focus on communally sensitive areas.

“The idea is to first check social tension and if there is any flare up, sadbhawna ke sipahi would try to douse the fire,” a Congress Working Committee member said.

Sonia has appointed actor Sunil Dutt as head of the anti-riot force. But there are doubts in Congress circles over Dutt’s ability to discharge his new responsibilities.

Dutt, who has not been keeping well, was earlier appointed in-charge of the Youth Congress and the Sewa Dal, but failed to activate these defunct party organisations.


On an infiltration route along the LoC, June 17: 
It’s a terrain where danger lurks at every point.

“There are no pucca routes to our village. We will have to walk,” says Sarfraz, the guide, as the vehicle grinds to a halt after a short trip from Surankote — the “mini-Pakistan” as it is called for being a safe sanctuary for militants.

“We are now entering territory that belongs to the gun,” he warns. “If we come across anyone, I will do the talking.”

There seems to be unwritten rule in the hills along the Line of Control. While the writ of the army and other security agencies run during day, terrorists call the shots at night.

The path is treacherous. The thick bushes are capable of hiding people even five steps ahead.

Moments later, a group of army and police personnel materialises out of nowhere. Once again, it’s the same ritual of proving your identity. Sarfraz is lucky. One of the policemen has recognised him. “Khuda Hafiz. Allah salamat rakhe,” he tells him.

After four hours of trekking, it is another group in army uniform. This time, one of them is carrying a mortar launcher. “Patrakaar hain,” I say. After a close look at both of us, one of them, who looked to be their leader, waves us on.

Kaun the,” I ask, but Sarfraz does not know.

Pata nahin. Policewaale hote to identity card poochhthey. Aaj kal itne jyada log yahan hain ke pata nahin chalta ke militant kaun hai aur policewaale kaun hain,” he says. “Peechey mat dekhna.

Back at the hotel in Poonch (Haveli), Sarfraz had volunteered to guide me to what is locally termed as the “most dangerous” hills in the state — a route terrorists infiltrating from across the LoC normally take to enter the Kashmir Valley.

“We will leave at eight in the morning after the army opens the hills for vehicles. We first go to Surankote and then trek uphill to the infiltration route,” he told me. The journey was largely uneventful, except for the fact that we were stopped four times at check-posts manned jointly by the army and the state police.

Being close to the passes leading to the Pir Panjal ranges and the Kashmir Valley, Surankote is considered a “safe haven” for terrorists.

But Iqbal Ali, a tailor who has lived in this small town for over 30 years, dismissed the “mini-Pakistan” sobriquet.

“All such talk is bakwas,” he said, but admitted that the town has provided its share of terrorists. Saara state mujahideen aur fidayeen ke liye khula hai. LoC ko koi seal kar sakta hai? Kashmir mein khoon tab band hoga jab Pakistan aur Hindustan dono LoC mein haath milakar chalenge (The entire border area is porous. Can the LoC be sealed completely? Peace will come to Kashmir only when both Indian and Pakistani soldiers patrol the border together),” he said.

“Foreign militants aatey hain. Jo Pakistani hai unhe galat milakar bheja jaata hai (The Pakistani terrorists are those who have been misled),” he added, warning that a trip to Hari Budda could be dangerous.

We finally reach Hari Budda. There is an army post here, but it is a token presence. The people are sandwiched between terrorists on one side and security forces on the other.

In the last five years, the village has seen over 20 deaths at the hands of terrorists. “We are peace loving people. Our only fault is that we are located in an area which is a major infiltration route,” says sarpanch Ajay Golan Mohammad.

The village, with a population of 4,000 scattered all over the hills, lies bang in the middle of a route used by Pakistan to push in terrorists. According to Mohammad, infiltration has not stopped. “It has lessened since May but it has not stopped,” he says, adding hastily that his assessment is based on what he had overheard at the army post.

Another villager, Asif, says that after the 20 were killed by terrorists on charges of being informers, the villagers decided to remain neutral. “We fold our hands when the army comes calling and we fold our hands when the militants come. We can do nothing else. If the security agencies claim that we provide safe sanctuaries to militants then why don’t they catch them?”

Most of the villagers believe that terrorism can be checked if the government treats the people well. “The Kashmir problem is basically that of neglect. People who have been ruling us do not know local problems like the need for water, jobs and electricity. If we are treated well we can face the terrorist problem on our own. The police would not be required then,” says one.

War, they say, would not solve the problem. “The war has been on for years now. The terrorists continue to come. People are dying,” says another villager.

The villagers also blamed the security forces. “The militants come at night. The security forces do not venture out then. When the militants leave, the police come and beat us,” said one.


Patna, June 17: 
Railway minister Nitish Kumar today formally split Eastern Railway and set up a new east-central zone based in Hajipur, the Parliamentary constituency of the former railway minister and Dalit leader Ram Vilas Paswan.

The decision leaves Eastern Railway much-reduced in size and confined primarily to Bengal. The bifurcation, first since the new railway Act came into force, is set to alter the roadmap for Indian Railways paving the way for smaller zones.

However, critics pointed out that more than increasing administrative efficiency, the smaller zones would jack up establishment costs. The railway’s exchequer is tottering, admitted a section of officials accompanying the minister.

Kumar, though, sought to score a political point over his rival, Paswan, by showing that his exit from the NDA was not going to hit the “interests” of Bihar.

The railway minister has plucked Dhanbad and Mughalsarai — two of the most important divisions in the east both in terms of revenue and administrative significance — out of the Eastern Railway and clubbed them with Samastipur and Sone to form the new zone.

The Katihar division has been left out of the new zone for “functional difficulties” and will continue to be part of the Northeast Frontier Railway.

Bengal’s Asansol, Howrah, Sealdah and Malda divisions and non-freight revenue-earning areas except Asansol will comprise the Eastern Railway now.

Kumar ignored the rising tide of criticism against him by former NDA partner Paswan, who accused him of working for political mileage, while announcing the split. “I don’t know anything about these political insinuations. I don’t want to be dragged into it. I have merely completed a pending project,” he said.

The gazette notification for the new railway zone was issued on June 14. Kumar justified the split by saying that it was part of a proposal package mooted in 1996. “The creation of east-central zone is the first bifurcation since the new railway Act came into existence in 1989,” he added.

Western Railway, too, was bifurcated today with the creation of a new north-western zone headquartered in Jaipur.

This zone was carved out of both the northern and western railways. Four divisions — Jodhpur, Ajmer, Bikaner and Jaipur — would fall under it.

The number of railway zones goes up to 11 with the addition of the two today. “There are committees working on five more zones, proposed in 1996. Once their reports were made available, the process of creating more new zones would start,” Kumar said.

Of the five new divisions, one would be the southeast-central zone, based in Bilaspur. The railway minister, however, refused to spell out a time-frame for the creation of the new zones at the function attended by, among others, most senior railway officers and junior rail minister Digvijay Singh.

Paswan had proposed the bifurcation of the Eastern Railway in 1996 during his tenure as railway minister. The zonal office in Hajipur came up but was abandoned after Paswan moved out of the ministry.

When Mamata Banerjee took over as the railway minister, she had cited the objection of the finance committee in the Railway Board in clearing the project. It was hanging fire till she quit the ministry and Kumar took charge.

Kumar had announced in Hajipur early this month that he was committed to clearing the zonal headquarters there.

A triumphant Kumar today said: “This is a historic day for Bihar. I am dedicated to furthering the interests of the state and also the country. I will go from here to Chhapra to flag off a train for Mumbai, Godan Express.”

Samata Party activists have launched a campaign showcasing the bifurcation as a major achievement for Bihar. “The creation of the new zone is all set to generate employment for the people of Bihar,” said a senior Samata leader.

Though happy over the formal opening of t he zone, the Lok Janshakti Party workers said the credit for the creation of the zone should go to Paswan for it was he who had actually conceived it and set the ball rolling.




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