25 years on, challenge of aspirations
Doctors’ advocate turns enemy
Music scores, script stinks
Sail with surprise or swim with history
Hurriyat offer on Delhi table
Mayavati ire on missing DM
Rape slur on Bihar Speaker
Assam teen rape charge on soldiers
Investment sops for J&K
Calcutta Weather

 
 
25 YEARS ON, CHALLENGE OF ASPIRATIONS 
 
 
BY INDRANIL GHOSH
 
Calcutta, June 20: 
The man, who served as the miracle glue of all Left Front governments from 1977 till he relinquished office one-and-a-half years ago, today warned his successors of a difficult future because of rising popular expectations, invasion of technology and impact of globalisation on Bengal’s society.

On the eve of the silver jubilee of Left Front rule, Jyoti Basu said the sixth government, headed by his handpicked nominee Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, had a tall task on its hand.

“We have achieved a lot in the past 25 years, but many fundamental issues concerning the welfare of the people are yet to be addressed,” Basu said. “It will not be easy, because the changing world situation has spawned complexities which a government must understand and structure its agenda accordingly.”

He said some of the traditional problems that beset his long tenure — a hostile Centre, constitutional constraints and anti-Left media — would continue to dog the ruling front.

But what makes the task of the current government and the CPM difficult is the way invading technologies, which have shrunk the world and given rise to expectations about quality of living, access to knowledge and empowerment, are redesigning the contours of society, its politics and economy.

Basu said the achievements of the past five coalitions in agriculture, land reforms, labour, education, industry, panchayat, power and a few other areas would serve as underpinnings for future development.

Taking advantage of the changed economic situation across the country, Basu felt Bhattacharjee’s government has been able to attract Indian and foreign companies to the state.

“Given the background of acute recession in the country, the growth of investment is indeed encouraging,” he said.

For one whose government had run into strong resistance from powerful trade unions, including the CPM’s own, the Citu, to induction of computers, Basu was concerned at the slow progress in information technology.

“We have been overtaken by some states, but our government has taken an initiative, and I am confident Bengal will do well in IT in the coming days.”

Underscoring the importance of industrialisation, Basu reminded trade unions of the Left Front’s pro-labour attitude and asked them to ensure workers support government efforts.

“Workers, peasants and other sections of toiling masses have the full liberty to go on strike, but strikes should be used as the ultimate weapon.”

   

 
 
DOCTORS’ ADVOCATE TURNS ENEMY 
 
 
BY TAPAS GHOSH
 
Calcutta, June 20: 
The lawyer who fought to protect doctors against charges of negligence is donning the robe of the accuser himself.

Saibalendu Bhowmik is hauling two doctors to at least two courts and the West Bengal Medical Council for his mother’s death. His 73-year-old mother, Manorama, died at SSKM Hospital on April 20 because of what he believes to be doctors’ negligence.

Bhowmik had appeared for the council when Kunal Saha dragged three doctors, Sukumar Mukherjee, Baidyanath Haldar and Abani Raychaudhuri, to court for the death of wife Anuradha.

Neither the doctors Bhowmik is blaming for his mother’s death — Jyotideb Mukherjee and Sujay Ray of the department of medicine — nor the nurses he is going to take to the Nursing Council of India were available for comment.

Bhowmik and his sister Manisha (a lawyer, she assisted her brother in the Saha case) have intimated the Calcutta District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum of their decision to claim compensation for Manorama’s death. They have registered their complaint with the authorities of SSKM and Shambhunath Pandit Hospital, where Manorama was admitted in February with respiratory problems. They have also decided to file a separate criminal case at Alipore Court.

“I spent 17 days — and nights — beside my mother in the medicine department ward of SSKM,” Manisha said. She cited the “specific example” of her fruitless protests when her mother was being administered a bottle of saline that had an accumulation of fungi, visible to the eye.

After treatment at Shambhunath Pandit Hospital, she was shifted to SSKM from where she was discharged in a few days as the doctors found her “fit”.

But her condition deteriorated and she had to be re-admitted on March 4 in the medicine (female) ward under the care of Jyotideb. On April 13, according to the complaint to the SSKM authorities, their mother was administered the fungi-infected bottle of saline. They have kept the bottle as evidence.

They alleged that Manorama was not fit enough to be discharged in the last week of February. “We requested the doctors to keep her back but they felt they knew better,” Bhowmik said.

During her last days, Manorama was suffering from amnesia and a neurophysician was consulted. The siblings alleged that the neurophysician had said that an excess dose (for seven consecutive days instead of the correct dosage of once a week) of pethidiorine was responsible for their mother’s death.

The nurses were equally guilty as they insisted on giving the infected saline, they added.

Bhowmik is confident of getting justice from the medical council. “I am still fighting on their behalf, not only in the Kunal Saha case, but also other crucial cases,” he said.

“At least, I should get fairness from them.”

   

 
 
MUSIC SCORES, SCRIPT STINKS 
 
 
FROM AMIT ROY
 
London, June 20: 
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s much-anticipated stage musical, Bombay Dreams, which opened yesterday in the presence of a galaxy of Indian celebrities, including Shah Rukh Khan and Subhash Ghai, appears to have thoroughly confused the British theatre critics whose opinions could save or sink the show.

The world premiere of Bombay Dreams, one of the most high-profile Indian events in Britain for many years, was held before 2,000 carefully picked guests at the Apollo Theatre in London’s Victoria.

Among the clutch of reviews this morning, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, two big circulation tabloids with seven million readers between them, printed rave reviews, while the heavyweight The Daily Telegraph and The Times expressed serious reservations.

The Daily Mirror likes the second half of the musical. The Guardian takes the opposite line to The Times and The Daily Telegraph. On balance, those for Bombay Dreams manage to outweigh the negative lobby.

Since the critics have cancelled themselves out, word of mouth, especially among the Indians who have generally been enthusiastic about Bombay Dreams, may secure the immediate future of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s riskiest undertaking.

The consensus is that the music of A.R. Rahman is excellent, the dancing and costumes spectacular, the standard of acting varied but it is the story by Meera Syal which leaves much to be desired.

The Daily Mail calls the show, “A Bombay Dazzler”, and its critic, Michael Coveney, writes: “Once you enter the spirit, the show, cannily produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber, is a delight.”

He says: “Rahman’s riffs, westernised ragas and thumping, rhythmically shifting chorales, with beautiful little vocal variations and wrenching key changes worthy of Lloyd Webber himself at his best, is continuously beguiling.” He is generous, too, to the leads — Raza Jaffrey, who plays Aakash, the slum boy who dreams of becoming a Bollywood star, and Preeya Kalidas, cast as the young director, Priya Kumar, who takes over when her father, Madan Kumar (Dalip Tahil), is shot dead by the underworld.

Jaffrey is “charming and lithe” and Kalidas “is simply divine”, adds Coveney.

In the Daily Express, Bombay Dreams — “London’s hottest, most exotic new musical” — is praised for its “fabulous” songs and “big dance numbers”, and its “terrific” British Asian cast.

The reviewer, Robert Gore-Langton, concludes: “Great fun, great costumes, and a refreshing change from every other West End show.”

Lloyd Webber’s breakfast would be spoilt, however, by the reviews by Charles Spencer in the The Daily Telegraph (“Andrew goes to Bollywood but there’s no dream ending”) and Richard Morrison in the Times (“Exotic Indian recipe, but just where’s the meat?”).

“I’d love to report that he has hit the jackpot again, albeit only in a hands-on producer’s capacity,” begins Spencer. “But although there is much to admire in Bombay Dreams — most notably Rahman’s wonderfully fresh, exciting and sometimes yearningly romantic score, in which traditional Indian sounds are brilliantly combined with the beats of modern dance music — there is much more that disappoints.”

He says: “Musicals finally stand or fall with the book and Meera Syal’s script is a mess.”

His highlights included two songs, Shakalaka Baby (“a solid gold hit if I ever heard one”) and Chaiya Chaiya. But the acting, according to Spencer, “ranges from the merely competent to the downright ropey”.

The opinion of Richard Morrison in The Times suggests he is not absolutely sure of his ground. He covers himself by commenting: “I won’t say the show is sure to flop. If Shakalaka Baby takes off in the clubs, if the Asian community rallies round, and if enough pulses race at the thought of gyrating damsels in wet saris, Bombay Dreams may yet stagger through the cricket season. But to turn this mishmash into a hot ticket is going to take more than a spoonful of curry powder.”

He found Rahman’s score “incredibly catchy” and the choreography of Farah Khan and Anthony Van Laast “frenetic and self-mockingly lascivious”. But he derides the writing talent as well as the direction of Steven Pimlott.

The Guardian’s more sympathetic review by Michael Billington includes this passage: “The highlight is a post-interval number, Chaiya Chaiya, when the stage explodes with thrilling percussive music and a cascade of pink-turbanned dancers expertly drilled by Anthony Van Laast and Farah Khan.”

He finds Meera Syal’s book “clumsy, over-plotted” but adds: “Bombay Dreams is at its best when it sticks to close to the formula it derides.”

The Daily Mirror’s man, Kevin O’Sullivan, disliked the first half so much he was minded to rename the musical, Bombay Nightmares, but he changed his mind after the interval. He thinks that in Raza Jaffrey “a singing star is born” and that “Lord Lloyd Webber has a hit on his hands”.

There is so much electricity on first night that there is a tendency on the part of the celebrity guests — and there were many last night from Lady Naipaul to Sir Michael Caine, Bob Geldoff, Spice Girl Emma Bunton, Chris Tarrant, presenter of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Cilla Black, the singer turned presenter of Blind Date on TV, actresses Denise Van Outen (her micro dress depicted a scene from the Kama Sutra) and Barbara Windsor — to be seduced by the glamour and glitz.

The newly-arrived Indian high commissioner, Ronen Sen, and his wife, clearly enjoyed the musical.

“It’s quite scintillating,” he said. “You have to have suspension of disbelief and let the music flow.”

The steel tycoon, Lakshmi Mittal, arrived by private jet from America, kept in waiting, took in the show and flew out at midnight to India. “I’m seeing it a second time — and I am not bored.”

Former Miss World Diana Hayden declared: “It’s a clear cross-over.”

The director Subhash Ghai said: “I can see the start of India coming onto the international scene. It’s a historic moment when I see Indians performing on the stage and westerners clapping.”

Ashutosh Gowarikar, director of Lagaan, summed it up: “Dazzling! I like the way Rahman has used old tunes to create new music. The feel is fantastic.”

Shah Rukh Khan was not sure of the scenes involving statues of Ganesh but overall his reaction, too, was positive. “It gives us a platform,” he said.

One thing is clear: the word Bollywood is here is stay.    


 
 
SAIL WITH SURPRISE OR SWIM WITH HISTORY 
 
 
FROM KEIR RADNEDGE
 
Shizuoka, June 20: 
History has decided: only three of the 2002 World Cup quarter-finalists can bear any realistic prospect of going on to win football’s greatest prize.

Consider first that no nation has ever lost its first match and won the Cup; indeed only twice has a team drawn its first match and won the Cup (England in 1966 and Italy in 1982). Therefore, the likely champions will come from among the surviving first-match winners, i.e. Senegal, Spain, Brazil, South Korea, US and Germany.

That rules out England (who drew their opener 1-1 with Sweden) and Turkey (who lost their starter 2-1 to Brazil).

Similarly, history tells us that no African or Central/North American or Asian team has ever won the World Cup. That rules out Senegal, South Korea and the US and leaves us with ‘only’ Spain, Brazil and Germany; a field of three. The rest of the quarter-finalists scheduled for action over the next two days might as well pack their bags and go home now.

Fortunately, coaches such as Sven-Goran Eriksson (England), Bruce Arena (US), Guus Hiddink (South Korea), Senol Gunes (Turkey) and Bruno Metsu (Senegal) have not come this far to quit within 10 days of the right to contest the ultimate prize fight.

The quarter-finals are split into two days with the first seeing England vs Brazil then Germany vs US; the second day supplies us with South Korea vs Spain followed by Senegal vs Turkey. The greater prize appears destined, then, for England or Brazil since the winners will meet Senegal or Turkey, considered the weakest of the quarter-finals.

England has played Brazil three times in the World Cup finals. Each time, Brazil has gone on to win the Cup. Yet one of those matches was a 0-0 draw (in 1958), one a minimalist 1-0 defeat (in 1970) and only one — unhappily also a quarter-final — was a clear beating, by 3-1.

The thinking ahead of match-up No. 4 goes like this: Brazil has the outstanding attack (13 goals in four games) but a leaky defence (four goals) while England boast an outstanding defence (only one conceded) and an average attack. Therefore, if Brazil win, it will be after a quarter-final with plenty of goals but, if England win, it will be by just the single score. Brazil’s Ronaldo, for instance, has scored as many goals himself (five) as England’s entire team.

On the other hand, England’s cautious optimism is based on the consideration that this is, comparatively, the weakest Brazilian side they have ever met in the World Cup.

Back home, once the second round had been completed with England crushing Denmark 3-0 and Brazil despatching Belgium 2-0, BBC Television reran a recording of the 1970 group match in Guadalajara which Brazil won 1-0 with a strike from Jairzinho. A new generation of England fans was unimpressed. Armchair observations ranged from comments that the players looked overweight compared with today’s athletes; that the legendary Gordon Banks save from Pele did not look as sensational as described in the game’s history books; and how ‘that’ save was also Brazil’s only chance in a first half in which England could have scored at least three times.

England has had a week since their second round victory over Denmark to dream of what might be. They have reached the semi-finals only twice before: once on the way to ultimate glory in 1966, once only to lose on penalties in 1990. Brazil is an old hand at the serious end of the World Cup, having reached the last four on no fewer than nine occasions.

History points to Brazil. But then, as Henry Ford once said, history is more or less bunk.

   

 
 
HURRIYAT OFFER ON DELHI TABLE 
 
 
FROM MUKHTAR AHMAD
 
Srinagar, June 20: 
The Centre today reacted positively to the offer made by the Hurriyat Conference about going to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to broker a ceasefire between the militant leadership and the security forces, saying it was “good and will be considered”.

“It is a good suggestion on which we can talk,” defence minister George Fernandes told reporters during his visit here in connection with a business seminar. “It is possible and this can and will be considered,” Fernandes said when asked about the proposal of allowing Hurriyat leaders to visit PoK and talk to the militant leadership.

Fernandes admitted that infiltration of militants from across the Line of Control into Jammu and Kashmir had almost stopped but ruled out any immediate plans to withdraw troops from the border.

“The infiltration has almost ended and whatever is still taking place will stop, too,” he said after the inauguration of the business summit, Kashmir Vision 2020, here at the heavily guarded Centaur Lake View Hotel.

“The troops will remain on the borders and we will wait, given the past experience,” Fernandes said. He told reporters that militant activities inside Kashmir were continuing and there was no let up as yet.

“The militant activities are continuing. Only the infiltration of militants from across has almost stopped. The army is busy tackling the militancy inside Kashmir Valley,” he said.

Fernandes said militant training camps in PoK which were permanent camps prior to September 11, have now been converted to temporary locations following apprehensions across the border that India might attack them. “These camps are now in tents temporarily,” he said.

About the presence of al Qaida operatives across the LoC, the defence minister said there were apprehensions that the al Qaida operatives were in PoK, but there were no confirmed reports about their locations. “It takes time to get the proof,” the defence minster said.

He arrived here this morning, met chief minister Farooq Abdullah and senior army officers and reviewed the situation.

Abdullah said that in case of a war, “Pakistan will destroy Kashmir with a nuclear bomb. If they use the bomb it will be Kashmir. They are interested in the land and not the people of Kashmir”.

   

 
 
MAYAVATI IRE ON MISSING DM 
 
 
FROM YOGESH VAJPEYI
 
Lucknow, June 20: 
Chief minister Mayavati today suspended district magistrate of Barabanki O.N. Mishra for not attending to the public from between 10 to 12 in the morning in defiance of an order passed by her.

The chief minister had directed all IAS officials, down to the tehsil level, to make themselves available to address public grievances for the two hours every morning, except on Tuesday and Sunday.

On receiving complaints against Mishra, Mayavati sent two of her secretaries to Barabanki to verify the claims. Based on a confirmation from them, she immediately suspended him. Announcing the move, a state government statement said it would “continue monitoring activities of officials to ensure that orders were being followed totally”.

The summary dismissal has sent shock waves among bureaucrats who were hoping for a more lenient chief minister. During her six-month regime in 1997, Mayavati had suspended 61 state officials, including 12 from the IAS cadre. Since assuming office for her third stint, Mayavati has suspended four state government officials and blocked the salaries of two dozen others.

Besides, she has barred the use of any highlighters or ink of any colour other than blue in government files. “She wants to counter red tapism with blue tapism,” commented one senior bureaucrat. Blue, incidentally, is the colour of Mayavati’s Bahujan Samaj Party.

The mandatory use of blue ink in government files is just one of the several directives issued by Mayavati. “There will be no use of pins for attaching additional papers to a particular file. Staplers should be used for this job and if there are more papers, punching should be made,” states yet another stipulation.

The government has also framed a timetable for officials at the district level in which fixed number of days have been assigned to resolve problems depending on the nature of the job.

Directive from the chief minister outlined: “The district magistrates, police chiefs and commissioners should keep a check that all these problems were being solved within the timeframe and the monthly report of the same should be sent to the chief secretary.”

Further, officers have been asked not to request a meeting with the chief minister without a valid reason. “The officers who do not follow the directives should be ready to face punishment,” said the chief secretary while briefing the media on Cabinet decisions recently.

The onus of implementing the orders has fallen on district magistrates and commissioners who have to keep subordinates in the various regions under permanent surveillance. They have to especially ensure that work under different schemes — especially those aimed at the betterment of Scheduled Castes — was carried out with total commitment.

The suspension has proved that the bureaucrats are under the watchful eyes of Mayavati’s secretariat and punishment for any lapse in duty would be swift and sure.

   

 
 
RAPE SLUR ON BIHAR SPEAKER 
 
 
FROM TAPAS CHAKRABORTY
 
Patna, June 20: 
A Dalit woman sent Bihar’s political circles into a tizzy by accusing Assembly Speaker Sadanand Singh and his brother of rape.

Reena Devi, 30, has filed a case against the Speaker, his brother and six police officers in the court of the chief judicial magistrate, Bhagalpur.

The woman from Rangra village under Gopalpur police station in Bhagalpur was allegedly detained in custody for about a month-and-a-half and the Speaker, his brother and policemen took turns in raping her.

The Speaker has dismissed the charges as “concocted and aimed at damaging him politically”.

The chief judicial magistrate’s court has transferred the case to the court of the first judicial magistrate.

The woman said she was forced to move court when the police officers refused to accept her FIR against the Speaker and themselves. Reena had allegedly incurred the wrath of the police after she and her father Jogiram became suspects in the abduction of a relative of the Speaker in May.

On May 4, Jogiram was arrested. Two days later, when Reena went to Kahalgaon police station to enquire about her father, he was released but she was held back. Reena said district superintendent of police Shatrughan Singh asked her father to go and leave her behind for interrogation.

Reena complained that she was tortured in the lock-up. The following week, she was allegedly kept in a separate room. Her complaint says that she had to “undergo hell” during the period. The policemen raped her repeatedly between May 6 and June 14. “They starved me and gave food only when I was on the verge of collapsing.”

The Speaker’s brother joined the policemen during the period. But Reena’s alleged ordeal did not stop there. The Speaker, who is from Bhagalpur, showed up, too. Reena’s complaint says she was given a proper wash that day, perfumes were sprayed and she had a new dress to put on. She was shifted to an air-conditioned room where he raped her.

Reena is now with a voluntary organisation, Bahana Jago Manch, based in Bhagalpur.

The police said her husband was wanted in connection with the abduction of the Speaker’s kin, who was later recovered. Bhagalpur police described her allegations as “imaginary”. The Speaker, who is now in Bangalore, said: “It is nothing but a shameful act of character assassination. The charges are so fabricated that even a petty inquiry would tear them apart.”

He added that “her husband was identified by my recovered relative” as the culprit in the abduction case.

Though allegations against Speakers are not new in the state, Sadanand Singh’s aides suspected the hand of a “big politician” in the campaign. Despite public sympathy for Reena, political parties are gearing up to have their pound of flesh.

   

 
 
ASSAM TEEN RAPE CHARGE ON SOLDIERS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Guwahati, June 20: 
The trouble-torn hill district of Karbi Anglong today erupted in anger over the alleged rape of three teenaged girls by a group of army personnel in a remote village yesterday.

The Autonomous State Demand Committee (ASDC) reacted by calling a 12-hour bandh tomorrow in protest against army and police “atrocities”.

Karbi Anglong superintendent of police K.K. Sharma, however, denied that anyone from the army raped the girls.

“It is a cooked-up story. Whenever the army and police launch operations against militants, such allegations surface,” he told The Telegraph from the district headquarters town of Diphu. The army has also refuted the allegations.

However, the ASDC — fierce opponents of the Congress, which controls the Karbi Anglong Autonomous District Council (KAADC) — demanded withdrawal of the army from the district and also sought “exemplary punishment” for the guilty jawans.

The ASDC claimed that the three girls — all aged below 16 years — were raped by a group of jawans at Dikhlem under Kheroni police station during a search operation in the village.

According to ASDC legislator Dharam Sing Teron, all the men in the village were rounded up and brought to the village square, where they were “interrogated”. While the three girls were raped, other women were “molested” by the “rowdy jawans”, he claimed.

Later, the armymen “picked up” the gaonburah (village headman) and his teenage son on charges of harbouring militants in the village. Though the gaonburah was released later, his son is yet to be freed. He said some people gheraoed the Kheroni police station demanding the arrest of the “rapists”.

That the incident is set to become a full-fledged political battle is evident from the ASDC’s harsh tone against the Tarun Gogoi government, which it claimed was “fascist” and “anti-people”.

Diphu MLA Bidya Sing Ingleng, who belongs to the Congress, was guarded in his comments. He did not dismiss the rape allegations. “If the incident is true, the culprits must be punished.”

With the Congress planning to celebrate the 50th year of the KAADC on June 23 “in grand style”, the ASDC has found the perfect weapon against the ruling party.

In a statement, the ASDC today questioned the justification behind holding such a lavish and costly function when the government was not in a position to even pay salaries to its employees.

“The ASDC sees this kind of a programme only to allow a few persons to pocket extra money from the council fund,” ASDC general secretary Chomang Cro said.

   

 
 
INVESTMENT SOPS FOR J&K 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, June 20: 
The government today offered a comprehensive package of incentives for Jammu and Kashmir as part of a new industrial policy for the state.

According to a notification issued by the department of industrial policy and promotion, ministry of commerce and industry, the government’s priority was to build up the business atmosphere in the state.

“Keeping in view the fact that the state of Jammu and Kashmir lags behind in industrial development, a need has been felt for structured interventionist strategies to accelerate industrial development of the state and boost investor confidence. The new initiatives would provide the required incentives as well as an enabling environment for industrial development, improve availability of capital and increase market access to provide a fillip to the private investment in the state,” the notification said.

The package provides fiscal incentives to new industrial units and on substantial expansion of existing ones in the specified region, which are able to set up industrial infrastructure development centers and other locations like industrial estates, parks, export processing zones (EPZs), commercial estates and other facilities to boost business.

All new units and existing ones on substantial expansion would be entitled to 100 per cent excise duty exemption for a period of 10 years from the date of commencement of commercial production. All new industries in the notified location would be eligible for capital investment subsidy of 15 per cent of their investment in plant and machinery, subject to a ceiling of Rs 30 lakh. Existing units would be entitled to this subsidy on substantial expansion.

An interest subsidy of three per cent on the working capital loan would be provided to all new units for a period of 10 years after commencement of commercial production.

This benefit will also be extended to existing units in notified locations upon expansion, as well as to notified thrust industries. The Centre will also provide 100 per cent insurance premium on capital investment for a period of 10 years to all new units.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 35.7°C (+2)
Minimum: 28.4°C (+1)

Rainfall:

Nil

Relative humidity

Maximum: 94%,
Minimum: 60%

Today

Sunset: 4.54 am

Sunrise: 6.22 pm
Generally cloudy sky, with one or two spells of rain or thundershowers
   
 

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