Big powers sew security curtain
Palace at peace with politics
Death hurts, Metro hurts more
North in ‘66, South in 2002
Dollar dreams for daughters go sour
Shuffle-set PM puts colleagues on edge
Modi’s chariot to roll for harmony
George banks on ginger group
Dark days lurk on power path
Calcutta Weather

 
 
BIG POWERS SEW SECURITY CURTAIN 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, June 18: 
India and Pakistan may in future crises be restrained from going to war by a collective security apparatus formally put together at the initiative of the US and involving the participation of Russia, China, Japan and Europe.

Such an arrangement is at the heart of top-level discussions now going on in the White House, drawing on the lessons of international diplomacy, which successfully prevented a conflict from being triggered in South Asia.

At the centre of the ongoing discussions in the White House and Washington’s strategic community on the policy of “pre-emption”, however, is not India.

Such a policy is the core of President George W. Bush’s new national security strategy of deterring terrorist groups from acquiring nuclear weapons. It is also part of Bush’s determination to oust President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

But the timing of these policy discussions coincided with American, Russian and other international diplomatic efforts to stop a war between India and Pakistan. The two countries being nuclear powers, their military crisis has been jacked up into the agenda of this brain-storming by a combination of chance and fate.

Bush’s national security adviser Condoleezza Rice described the emerging arrangement in an interview to The New York Times as “a common security framework for the great powers”, in which they “share a common security agenda”.

She specifically referred to how Russian President Vladimir Putin and Bush worked together during the latest India-Pakistan crisis and added that if such efforts continued, “this would be a much more stable world”.

Sources privy to these discussions, to which analysts outside the administration and consultants have been called, said Pakistan is much more central to the new policy than India.

These discussions, for instance, have focused for hours and hours on how the US should react if jihadi elements in Pakistan seized that country’s nuclear weapons, a fear which is aired time and again in private by influential elements in the administration.

Having gone into considerable detail in talks with his key aides such as defence and state secretaries Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell, Bush is now sharing elements of the new policy with Congressional leaders like Senator Joseph Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Analysts here say that many times in the past, US Presidents have considered pre-emptive action against adversaries in specific instances.

During the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, President John F. Kennedy considered strikes against Soviet missile targets in Cuba before starting negotiations with Moscow. His successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, wanted pre-emptive strikes against China to prevent Beijing from deploying nuclear weapons, but did not pursue the plan.

As the discussions on the new policy gather momentum, there have also been warnings about the dangers of such a strategy. The New York Times quoted Peter Galbraith, former US ambassador to Croatia, as saying: “No place is the risk greater than in South Asia. If India adopted the American doctrine of pre-emption, it risks a nuclear war, with devastating consequences for the world. It’s a tricky business.” Galbraith is considered to be the real author of the legislation on Pakistan’s nuclear programme, which has come to be associated with the name of former Senator Larry Pressler.

Sources said three case studies are being analysed as part of the efforts to evolve a coherent policy of pre-emption.

These consider the possibility that Israel may be encouraged by the US yardstick to tighten the screws on the Palestinians in order to deter them from more suicide bombings and other threats to the Jewish state.

The second scenario considers whether India could launch a pre-emptive strike on Pakistani nuclear facilities, citing the US doctrine justifying such an attack when America feels a threat.

The third case study deals with China using the doctrine to go after Taiwan’s high-stakes military facilities.

Sources said the new policy, which Bush first referred to in an address to the German Bundestag last month, is expected to be formalised by August or September. But before that, the experience of the latest South Asian diplomacy will be analysed in much greater detail and factored into the new doctrine.

   

 
 
PALACE AT PEACE WITH POLITICS 
 
 
FROM BHARAT BHUSHAN
 
Kathmandu, June 18: 
There was no possibility of democracy and monarchy being in competition in Nepal and he wanted to promote “a symbiotic relationship” between the two, King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev of Nepal claimed.

He was apparently trying to allay the fears of those who think that at a time when the democratic system was suffering from chronic instability, the palace might harbour designs of turning the clock back or of acquiring greater powers.

“I am a constitutional monarch within a multi-party democracy. I am very clear about my constitutional role. I am not implementer of the things that the nation requires. There are others who should be the implementers. I see myself in a facilitator’s role,” the king said in an audience granted at Mangal Sadan in the Narayanhitti Palace. A few yards away stood the Tribhuvan Sadan, the scene of a ghastly royal massacre only a year ago.

How did it feel to lose most of one’s family at one go and at the same time assume the responsibility of the monarchy? The demeanour of the gentle yet determined king suddenly became grim. “That was a traumatic period for the Nepalese people and for me personally also. I lost a revered brother, a loving sister-in-law and many other members of the family. We were and still are a very close family. We used to be able to discuss many matters,” he recalled. But, he said that the “silver-lining” was the love and affection of the people for the institution of monarchy and the way they rallied behind it at its time of crisis.

Had the institution of monarchy recovered from the tragedy? The king replied: “I don’t think that is the issue. The question is whether the nation is still bound in unity. And I don’t see any reason to doubt that.”

When asked whether multi-party democracy had failed to function satisfactorily in Nepal in the last 12 years since its inception, the king said: “I think we are being too harsh if we say that it has failed. I will not go that far.” However, he felt that there was a need to make the system work and make it “more conducive to Nepalese conditions”. For that, he said: “We must all put our heads together with sincerity and dedication, keeping the interest of the nation uppermost.”

But what would happen if the political class were unable to get its act together?

King Gyanendra admitted that he had heard people voicing such concerns in Nepal also.

However, he pointed out: “The issue is not with the system. The issue is with the actors in the system. If they do not get their act together, the sufferer will be the nation, the man on the street. Therefore, it is also my responsibility to see that the actors play their part correctly, democratically and in the interests of the people.”

Nepal in the past has seen the monarchy subvert democracy twice. And the fact that the army is loyal to the king and does not come directly under the democratically elected government leads some to wonder what might happen in a crisis.

When asked whether the army being directly under him was not anachronistic in a democracy, the King smiled and said: “That presumption is wrong. Constitutionally, we have a Security Council, headed by the Prime Minister. Anything to do with the army is first discussed there and only then brought to my attention.”

At a time when the polity is locked in internecine battles and the Maoist insurgency is active, the Nepalese society is getting polarised.

Did the King see a role for himself in promoting reconciliation between the diverse and divisive political forces?

A divergence of views was acceptable in a democracy, the King said, noting further: “As long as this is on a political plane, it is hardly an issue for a constitutional monarch to be concerned about. When it becomes national — let us say, if there are moves to break up the social fabric or bring about disunity — then the monarch must be concerned and worried. These are issues that I am already bringing to the notice of the political parties in Nepal as well as that of the government."

   

 
 
DEATH HURTS, METRO HURTS MORE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 18: 
The death of a 24-year-old youth, with a brilliant academic record behind him and a successful professional career ahead, was a terrible blow to the family. But what is really hurting them is the suicide slur cast by Metro Railway on his accidental death yesterday.

According to police and eyewitnesses, just as a train was entering the Rabindra Sadan Metro station, Aveek Tarafdar, who was watching the US-Mexico World Cup match, slipped and fell on the tracks. Even as he was trying to scramble up, the train crushed him to his death.

Metro authorities, however, insist that Tarafdar committed suicide.

Tarafdar’s septuagenarian grandmother, Shrabani Sengupta, said the authorities were insisting on the suicide angle as that would enable them to get away without paying any compensation.

“But I want to make it clear that we do not need any money,” she said. “We only want Metro to withdraw its statement.”

It “pained” them to see a government agency playing “dirty games” with the death of a young man who had everything going for him, other members of the family said. Tarafdar was a computer science student in B.E. College and expected to do well in his career, they said. At least as well as he did in academics (he ranked 116 in the Joint Entrance Examinations).

The soccer-crazy youth — he had promised his father, Jagadish, he would be home in time to see his favourite team, Brazil, in action against Belgium (Monday’s second game) —did not have any reason to commit suicide, they added.

Station-level Metro officials, however, found a more plausible reason behind their superiors’ insistence on the suicide theory. “The top brass would have to take the blame for deciding to screen the World Cup matches if they admit that it was an accidental death,” one of them said.

“Besides, they would have to take the matches off Metro television sets.”

Today, Metro issued a statement, saying it would not discontinue beaming the remaining World Cup matches.

“A lot of Calcuttans rang me up — some even tried to see me in my office — pleading that the World Cup telecast should not be taken off because of one mishap,” said Metro chief operations manager P.K. Chatterjee.

Although he continued to insist on record that Tarafdar’s death was a case of suicide, every Metro station today played a recorded message at regular intervals, asking passengers to be careful while watching the matches. The staff were told to keep soccer fans from venturing too near the edge of the platform.

   

 
 
NORTH IN ‘66, SOUTH IN 2002 
 
 
FROM KEIR RADNEDGE
 
Daejeon, June 18: 
And then there was one… in this case, South Korea, the lone surviving World Cup co-host after Turkey’s dismissal of Japan.

Much needs to be written about the electric atmosphere, the eerie atmosphere created by a 38,000-strong crowd chanting to the drum rhythms and the red-clad unity of these Korean fans.

The biggest crowds in Korean history of close to four million were reported to be out and about in Seoul and around the country watching the big-screen public broadcasts of the golden goal triumph over Italy and then celebrating through the night.

But what about the losers? What does defeat say about Italian football? What were the issues emerging from the Italian dressing room?

On paper, Italy had by far the better team with world-renowned superstars such as Paolo Maldini, Francesco Totti, Ale Del Piero (as he prefers to be called now) and Christian Vieri. But history, of course, was against them.

The organisers had even thoughtfully laid out sheets of red and white paper on each seat in the stands behind the one goal so that, when raised in unison by the Korean fans, they sent out a simple message a 100 metres high: “Again 1966”.

That was, of course, the date of the worst debacle in Italian football history when they were knocked out of the World Cup in England by North Korea.

Other slogans, too, decorated the stadium such as: “Welcome to Azzurri’s tomb”, and “Hiddink for president”.

But it was the reference to 1966 which will have hurt the most. Indeed, the Italians might yet complain that supposedly neutral World Cup organisers should not have connived at such partisan displays.

But the game, even the World Cup, was not lost by Italy up in the stands among the fans, it was lost in the match preparation and then out on the pitch.

Veteran coach Giovanni Trapattoni will be accused of having mixed his tactical and selection metaphors. His reputation is one of a man of caution.

He had built an Italian team around a nucleus of workers rather than stylists with only Roma playmaker Francesco Totti to leaven the weight of effort between keeper Gianluigi Buffon and centre-forward Vieri.

He had also apparently decided that Totti and Del Piero could not operate side by side.

Coming into this game, however, Trapattoni suddenly decided to start with both Totti and Del Piero. Thus Italy survived a second-minute penalty, took the lead through Vieri on the 17th minute and was generally in control when Trapattoni, succumbing to that suicidal safety-first tendency, replaced Del Piero on the hour with the utilitarian Gennaro Gattuso.

Italy, creatively weakened, conceded the initiative and, ultimately, an equalising goal just before full-time.

Reduced to 10 men by Totti’s expulsion in extra-time, they also conceded the golden goal which plunged fans back home into a depression every bit as deep as that in Argentina 10 days ago.

Players to blame?

Vieri, for missing two comparatively easy chances for a striker of his status.

Totti, for playing as greedily and as badly in the second half as he had played well in the first, for wasting probably Italy’s finest opening and for then being silly enough to get himself sent off for diving — when he knew he was already on one yellow card.

Veteran skipper Paolo Maldini left the World Cup with a banal record. Three times he had been knocked out of finals contention on penalties, in 1990, 1994 and 1998; once now he has gone out on a golden goal — only this time, it was the end of his national team career. Paradoxically, Maldini was one of Italy’s few successes of the night (along with superb keeper Gianluigi Buffon) after a tournament in which he had been otherwise far below his best.

But the Italian malaise goes far deeper than mere individuals. The signs were there when Italian clubs began a few years ago to struggle in the Champions League. The defensive mind-set of years gone ago fed a virus into the Italian game, which has yet to be cured. It has spawned a fatal negativity in not only coaching but in administration.

Such a contrast with the day’s other losers, the Japanese. Their defeat by Turkey punctured the dreams of a nation which had learned in little more than three weeks about football’s extraordinary ability to entrance entire nations.

The Koreans know all about that. So do the Italians. That is precisely why Rome, Milan, Turin and the rest of the peninsula are plunged into angry grief.

Football is not all about deliriously happy fireworks parties. Even Korea will discover that at some stage in the next 12 days.

   

 
 
DOLLAR DREAMS FOR DAUGHTERS GO SOUR 
 
 
FROM GAJINDER SINGH
 
Chandigarh, June 18: 
NRI marriages. It is a fad that is fast fading in this land of plenty. With most such marriages coming a cropper, parents — especially of girls — are now looking for bridegrooms from within the state or from those located around Punjab.

Baar de mulk waale kudian nu vya te le jaande hain par accha saluk nahin karde. Oh te aande hain chhutian de laye, mauj masti de laye, vya karde hain te chhad jaande hain. Sirf tin-chhe mahiney de laye kudian nu rakhk de hain, baad nu chhad de dende hain. Eston accha hai ke munda etthon da hona chahida (NRIs do not treat the girls well. They come here for a holiday, for fun, and get married only for the period they are here. They leave the girls behind after promising them that they would send the necessary travel papers once they are made. But the travel papers never come. These boys keep the girls for three to six months and forget them. It is better to get one’s daughter married off to someone staying in Punjab than abroad,” says Kulwant Kaur, who has turned down many NRI offers for her pretty daughter Preeti in Nawanshahr, a town boasting of almost one NRI in every family.

“I married an NRI, Gurpreet, and bid goodbye to whatever dreams I had. In the beginning he promised me the moon, took me to Singapore for the honeymoon. Before leaving for Texas, he said he would come back to take me. It is four years since I last saw him. The telephone calls too stopped a month after he left,” lamented Gunjan. “I have ruined my life,” she said with moistened eyes.

Almost every family, especially in the rich Doaba region, can name a relative who married an NRI but was left high and dry, their husbands in all likelihood moving on to the next conquest. Take for instance Jaswinder Kaur of Paddebet village in Kapurthala. She believes her son-in-law Jarnail Singh, an NRI from Holland, has married at least four times and has two children. She learnt it the hard way when she caught him red-handed tying the knot with another girl despite being married to her daughter Amarjeet.

In the region falling between the Sutlej and the Beas rivers, the near-obsessive desire to cross the seven seas is decades old. It has sent over 70 lakh people abroad. Besides young men like those who drowned off Greece in the 1996 Malta boat tragedy, and several others who reportedly walk into the death trap of jobs in a promised land, girls take the marriage route. In the process, they fall prey to NRI men who come to India, have a fling and fly back. “Women have even claimed to be the wives of their brothers to settle abroad,” says Somnath Datta, who runs a small but busy marriage bureau in Mukerian.

Some matrimonial columns in newspapers, which give separate, country-wise listings of brides and grooms, help cater to this craze. Smaller publications published in the state display ads boasting of videshi rishteys (alliances abroad). “I do help these NRIs. But I make it clear that I cannot guarantee anything. Some marriages arranged by me have been highly successful, others have failed to last even a year. I do not take cases where I am promised a large amount of money. It only proves that the concerned NRI is not serious about the marriage and wants to take the girl for a ride,” Datta said.

Despite the growing number of such cases, no collective protest has ever been held in the state against the practice. An odd case of a woman being harassed abroad does make headlines in Punjabi dailies. The chief minister says he will look into it, but nothing happens.

Most NRI weddings take place quietly and quickly. “No one talks about a wedding in the offing as they are afraid somebody else will grab the groom. But times are changing. People are fast realising that NRI marriages are fraught with danger,” says Jalandhar advocate Kuldip Singh.

While most girls whose marriages to NRIs begin and end in India, many are unlucky to go abroad, get into legal hassles and find themselves imprisoned for overstaying.

   

 
 
SHUFFLE-SET PM PUTS COLLEAGUES ON EDGE 
 
 
FROM RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
 
New Delhi, June 18: 
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s statement of an impending “massive” Cabinet shuffle, which could include removal of some ministers, has left some of his colleagues in a tizzy.

In an interview to a Hindi newspaper, Vajpayee mentioned the possibility of a “bhaari raddobadal (huge exclusions and shuffle)”. Speculation is rife as to whose head is on the chopping block, though sources close to the Prime Minister says Vajpayee had not started consultations with his senior colleagues yet.

The process is expected to begin once BJP president K. Jana Krishnamurthi returned from his Jammu sojourn tomorrow. It will conclude soon after home minister L.K. Advani comes back from his trip to Spain and Portugal. Advani is said to have called off his UK visit to attend the consultations.

The shuffle is expected to take place by June-end, following Vajpayee’s return from a two-day visit to Lucknow, his Lok Sabha constituency, on June 27 and 28.

The consultations with Krishnamurthi has assumed significance because in the interview, Vajpayee said: “This shuffle will be done on the basis of the performance (of ministers). We have governed for two-and-a-half years. Now is the time to make a hard assessment of the direction in which we are moving. Our shuffle will keep this most important consideration in mind. The government and the party will have to gear up to meet the challenges ahead.”

Vajpayee’s statement, said BJP sources, was made with an eye on the elections ahead — in 10 states next year and the Lok Sabha election in 2004. Accordingly, the shuffle or expansion would be dictated by considerations of merit and political compulsions.

Speculation in government circles as well as the BJP headquarter has it that between 25 and 11 ministers (Cabinet and ministers of state) could be dropped, though nobody is willing to hazard a guess.

But reports suggested that in the interregnum between the Prime Minister’s consultations with Krishnamurthi and Advani’s return, those ministers who feared for their jobs could start “lobbying” for their continuance and dig in their heels.

It was pointed out that rural development minister M. Venkaiah Naidu — tipped to return to the party for the last few months — recently conveyed to Vajpayee that he was not interested in working “under” Krishnamurthi and had turned to defence minister George Fernandes and Advani for “support”.

Other ministers who reportedly offered their “services” to the party were Pramod Mahajan, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj. Sources rejected outright the possibility of Mahajan’s return, saying he had emerged as a “principal trouble-shooter” for Vajpayee after Fernandes’ temporary eclipse following the Tehelka crisis, notwithstanding the mess created over P.C. Alexander’s candidacy for the presidential post.

On the usual suspect, finance minister Yashwant Sinha, the general view was that while his exit was more or less certain, the “big two”, namely Vajpayee and Advani, were undecided on a successor.

Sources said they, however, agreed not to replace Sinha with another bureaucrat but have a person “sensitive to people’s pulse” who would repair the political damage done by the UTI scam and the reduced interest rate on small savings. Sinha was an IAS officer before he joined politics.

While a cloud of uncertainty hangs over the fate of BJP ministers, NDA allies who could make it to the ministry are those from the Trinamul Congress, the PMK and MDMK leader Vaiko who is likely to join in a Cabinet rank.

P.C. Thomas, heading a group of Independents who recently supported the NDA, may also find a berth.

From the BJP, the induction of former Gujarat chief minister Keshubhai Patel, now a Rajya Sabha MP, will most certainly appease the powerful Patel lobby in Gujarat which was upset after he was removed.

Madhya Pradesh veteran Laxmi Narayan Pandey may also be taken in to fill the vacancy caused by Sunderlal Patwa’s exit. MGR-ADMK MP Thirunavakarusu, who joined the BJP, is another ministerial prospective, say sources.

   

 
 
MODI’S CHARIOT TO ROLL FOR HARMONY 
 
 
FROM BASANT RAWAT
 
Ahmedabad, June 18: 
After the flames of wrath, the rath of peace.

Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi will soon be taking out a rath yatra to spread the message of “harmony and peace” in the riot-ravaged state.

Modi’s party, the BJP, has asked him to devote at least three days in a week to assuage the feelings of the minority community in the run-up to the Assembly elections.

BJP national vice-president and in charge of the state, Ram Das Aggrawal, said the detailed programme of the yatra — the Gujarat Gaurav Yatra — will be finalised in a few days. The yatra will cover all major towns, cities and taluka headquarters in the state.

Aggrawal told reporters today that the Assembly polls will be held “under the leadership of Modi” and that the party has “authorised the chief minister to dissolve the House to hold elections” any time before March 2003. The BJP, he said, was prepared to take on the “confused, rudderless Congress party”.

The BJP has also planned a fortnight-long awareness campaign, beginning June 23, the death anniversary of Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, to dispel the misgivings about the BJP. A team of 12 ministers will fan out across the country to address the Gujarati community to tell them about the real ground situation in the state.

As part of this awareness campaign, which is essentially a preparation to get into election mode, the party has planned mass rallies at 15 places in the state to stress the importance of social harmony and trust and highlight the danger Gujarat faces, being a border state. People will be told how to thwart the evil designs of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence.

Aggrawal attacked the Congress for its “negative, destructive and directionless politics” which, he said, had caused immense damage to the state and warned the party not to pursue a policy of minority “appeasement”.

He called the Godhra train massacre a “well-planned conspiracy”, but had nothing to say about the subsequent carnage that claimed hundreds of lives and sent thousands of traumatised victims to relief camps.

The BJP leader said that in view of the elections, he has advised the government to evolve a mechanism for better coordination between the party and the administration.

Aggrawal said BJP state unit chief Rajendrasinh Rana has been authorised to take prompt disciplinary action against anyone involved in anti-party activities. Replying to a question about the resentment against Modi, he said no one had complained either to him or to BJP national chief K. Jana Krishnamurthi.

   

 
 
GEORGE BANKS ON GINGER GROUP 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, June 18: 
Defence minister George Fernandes has decided to bolster his image, which had taken a beating in the wake of the Tehelka and coffin scams, by espousing the swadeshi cause and peoples’ issues in a big way.

Fernandes, who had banished IBM and Coke from India in his earlier avatar as industries minister in the Morarji Desai Cabinet, has learned to live with multinationals.

Now, with general elections less than two years away, the veteran socialist is all set to launch a non-political forum to address people’s issues.

The Lok Manch that the erstwhile firebrand trade unionist plans to launch this weekend will have nothing to do with the minister’s Samata Party, controlled largely by Nitish Kumar. The Manch will hold a national conference on employment generation in Delhi on July 4.

Last year, Fernandes had shared a Swadeshi Jagran Manch platform and lashed out at the Montek Singh Ahluwalia report. Now, his proposed organisation will focus on the report by Planning Commission member S.P. Gupta, which had criticised the anti-labour policies of the government.

The Manch will campaign against the government’s economic policies, especially certain aspects of disinvestment that have ruined employment generation, and privatisation. Both these issues had come in for criticism at the party’s two-day national council and executive meeting in Vijayawada last week.

Party spokesperson Shambhu Shrivastava, however, maintained it was wrong to say that the party criticised government policies. “We feel some corrective measures are needed. There are certain misgivings in the minds of the people about the way some of the disinvestments have been carried out,” Shrivastava said.

He said the disinvestment issue came in for close scrutiny at the party’s conference and though there was no difference with the government over the disinvestment policy in general, the party decided to draft a resolution regarding certain negative aspects of the process.

In October, the proposed Lok Manch will organise yatras (processions) in Bihar not only to raise development issues but also to highlight the violence, corruption and collapse of institutions in Bihar, home turf of the Samata Party.

Shrivastava said the apolitical Manch will have representatives from trade unions, sections of the country’s economic circle, economists and all those who can help in achieving the objectives of the panel, which will be a “kind of peoples’ platform”.

In reply to a question, he said if Swadeshi Jagran Manch (a Sangh Pariwar outfit) wants to join they are welcome.

The Manch will insist on convincing and practical blueprint for providing employment opportunities to 10 million people each year as, Shrivastava pointed out, railways, roadways and energy sectors could absorb lakhs of people.

Refusing to shed any light on whether there were any political motives behind the Manch, Shrivastava said if the party had taken up such issues its opponents might have had reservation in joining the fight. “We are not talking politics, but are genuinely concerned about the employment situation and want to do something. We are not against disinvestment in principle and not saying that everything should be swadeshi. We are for peoples’ participation in development,” he said.

The Vijayawada meeting had also deliberated upon the failure of the NDA government to generate employment. “Time has come for the NDA and the government to make a serious evaluation of implementation of economic programmes,” the party resolution had noted. It said, apart from good governance, probity and accountability in administration was needed and stressed the need for “mid-course corrective” measures.

The meeting also discussed the continued boycott of Fernandes in Parliament by the Congress. The Opposition’s stance is an insult to parliamentary democracy, Shrivastava said. He said that by treating the defence minister in such a fashion inside the House, the Opposition was undermining the morale of jawans guarding the borders.

   

 
 
DARK DAYS LURK ON POWER PATH 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 18: 
The power situation in Bengal may not remain comfortable for long. Painting a gloomy picture while replying to the debate on budgetary grants for his department, power minister Mrinal Banerjee said the state was “passing through problematic times”.

Still, the power situation in Bengal was better than in several states even though the target for rural electrification remained unfulfilled and the state continued peak-hour import.

“Most parts of Karnataka have 10-hour power cuts. Maharashtra has a 2,000-MW shortage. There are power riots in Madhya Pradesh and the supply situation in the capital itself is bad,” Banerjee said.

But there could be dark days ahead, he warned. With the demand for power going up by 10 per cent every year and several projects for improvement of transmission and distribution remaining on hold, demand would far exceed supply in two years.

Banerjee sought the Opposition’s cooperation in tackling this problem.

“By December, 31 132-KV substations will start functioning and six more will be complete by March. The improvement in the quality of power supply will lead to a surge in demand that has been suppressed so far. Given the changing power purchase terms of paying in advance or cash down, buying power to meet this increase in demand will not be possible,” the minister said.

Besides, four projects slated to generate 2,070 MW have been delayed. “New units at Bakreswar were supposed to start generation. But the nuclear test in Pokhran led to a suspension in Japanese funding, resulting in a year’s delay. A two-year delay due to legal problems has put off generation at the Purulia plant, while pollution control norms held up generation in a 250-MW unit at Gauripur,” Banerjee said.

On the brighter side, new units at Santaldih, Kolaghat, Bandel and DPL were soon expected to increase the state’s capacity for power generation, he said.

Banerjee claimed Bengal’s per capita power consumption at 350 units was better than the national average. Refuting charges that the hikes in tariff were unjustified, Banerjee said, except for Himachal Pradesh and Kerala, the cost of power in Bengal was low.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 35.6°C (+2)
Minimum: 28.1°C (+1)

Rainfall

10 mm

Relative humidity

Maximum: 91%,
Minimum: 60%

Sunrise: 4.56 am

Sunset: 6.22 pm

Today

Generally cloudy sky, with one or two showers or thundershowers
   
 

FRONT PAGE / NATIONAL / EDITORIAL / BUSINESS / THE EAST / SPORTS
ABOUT US /FEEDBACK / ARCHIVE 
 
Maintained by Web Development Company