New age beat on Front birthday
Defeat of mediocrity
Omar fights for ignored father
Payback Time for sleep slur
The tresses do the trick
Delhi vetoes Fernandes on Hurriyat talks
Al Qaida hub in Pak: Report
After CM Rabri, bhabi as mayor
New defence secretary in reshuffle
Calcutta Weather

Calcutta, June 21: 
Stepping into its 26th year in office, Bengal’s Left Front announced today it would concentrate on reconciling economic reforms and the compulsions of coalition politics in the days ahead instead of expending energies chasing the goal of revolution.

Cheered by thousands of supporters who packed the stands of Netaji Indoor Stadium to celebrate the Front’s uninterrupted 25 years in office, the leaders sought to integrate reforms and unity — currently in conflict with each other — into a durable motive force for the Front.

From Jyoti Basu to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to state CPM secretary Anil Biswas to his Forward Bloc counterpart Ashok Ghosh, all repeatedly emphasised the two themes.

Biswas said a fusion of the objectives of governance and the compulsions of coalition politics was unavoidable. For, he said, revolution, the stated goal of the Communists, was not going to happen in the present constitutional structure.

“In the present structure, we cannot bring about revolutionary changes. So we will have to work for the welfare of the people through the medium of the government,” he said.

Bhattacharjee, who has just begun to taste resistance from within the Front, reaffirmed his government’s commitment, arguing that sweeping scientific and technological changes across the world and rising popular expectations called for reforms.

Like all the other leaders present, Bhattacharjee acknowledged the Front’s performance in the past 25 years in improving the rural economy and the early reforms, like the industrial policy of 1994, fashioned by his predecessor.

But something was rankling Basu. He said certain quarters were dismissive of the Front’s achievements under his helmsmanship.

“They are trying to create the impression that nothing much happened in the past 25 years. Not stopping at that, they are trying to create fissures between our ministers and the leaders of the Front. This is a dangerous trend, and we must be alert.”

It is unlikely that Bhattacharjee’s innocuous comment that his government would have to complete many unfinished tasks provoked the remark.

“Even today, many villages go without electricity or individual households without water. We must aim at one hundred per cent success in these areas,” the chief minister had said.

But, in times of globalisation, he indicated, the focus of the reforms he has planned would shift from the rural economy to a broader plane.

“We have to remember that our real strength lies in our achievements in rural Bengal. However, we will not lose sight of the new generation with which we will go forward. So we will have to look at the requirements of the new generation in light of the scientific and technological developments now taking place.”


Shizuoka, June 21: 
No World Cup Final has ever been repeated and now the last chance of history being turned on its head in this 2002 tournament has been wiped away.

Strange that the match-up which has climaxed in 16 such events down the years has never been duplicated. But it could have happened here in Japan and Korea in this World Cup of so many other ‘firsts’ if England and Germany, contestants in 1966, had won through to Yokohama on Sunday next week.

Germany could be there, after outscrapping the US 1-0 but England blew the opportunity to rewrite the book of World Cup curiosities when they submerged 2-1 against Brazil in Shizuoka. Going out of the World Cup is one thing; how you go out is something else.

England’s departure was all the more disappointing for the fractured, unimaginative nature of its football. The margin of defeat against a far from classic Brazil was more respectable at 2-1 than it deserved. It was not that Brazil won the game rather that England lost it after the most depressingly uncreative performance of the Sven-Goran Eriksson era. The decisive act was a fatal blunder by veteran keeper David Seaman who left the pitch in tears after letting his concentration lapse at a Brazilian free-kick in the 50th minute and being chipped by Ronaldinho. The Brazilian’s quick thinking recalled Nayim’s lobbed winner for Zaragoza against Seaman (and Arsenal) in the 1995 Cup-winners Cup Final. But the truth was that while England created nothing, at least the Brazilians put together half-a-dozen reasonable goal attempts.

This was not the wholehearted England who had defeated Argentina; this was both the off-colour England of the second half against Sweden and the laboured England of the goalless draw with Nigeria. Its flat-footed display was one key reason why the entire game possessed none of the buzz one associates with a quarter-final of the World Cup. Even England’s early goal, beautifully taken by Michael Owen, was handed them on a plate courtesy of a mistake by Brazil centre-back Lucio.

Eriksson rang the changes as the clock ticked away, bringing on Kieron Dyer, then Darius Vassell then veteran Teddy Sheringham. Little difference.

England looked no more like a goal in the closing minutes than in the opening exchanges. Skipper David Beckham allowed himself to be forced deep into the mediocrity of midfield.

England even connived at Brazil’s goals. In first-half injury time Paul Scholes failed to chase back properly with Ronaldinho; Ashley Cole had to step inside from left-back to challenge, thus leaving Rivaldo unmarked to equalise. Scholes was at fault again in giving away, recklessly, the free-kick just outside the England penalty box from which Ronaldinho delivered Brazil’s winner.

Traditionally, England’s World Cup exits are fiery affairs: Maradona’s Hand of God in 1986, semi-final penalties in 1990, second-round penalties in 1998. Yet, meekly here, it waved Brazil through to face Senegal or Turkey who contest the rank outsiders’ quarter-final tomorrow.

Germany will learn, a few hours earlier, whether their semi-final test will be erratic, fragile Spain or supercharged South Korea who meet in Gwangju.

The comparatively thin seam of quality running through into the closing stages of the World Cup etches out the extent of England’s failure. This was a World Cup which was there for the winning. It was not that England failed to rise to the occasion and a unique opportunity; sadly, it sank beneath it.


New Delhi, June 21: 
The alliance between the National Conference and the BJP has hit a rough patch with three months to go for the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly polls.

The immediate and ostensible provocation for the bitterness was Omar Abdullah’s outburst against the Centre for treating his father Farooq Abdullah “shabbily” and denying him the vice-presidentship. The minister of state for external affairs, regarded as the NDA government’s “moderate and modern Muslim face”, was quoted by agencies as alleging that Farooq was “used” by successive governments whenever the going got sticky.

“He represented the country at all important forums, including the famous Geneva Convention when he negated the Pakistani propaganda single-handedly,” said a PTI report from Srinagar, quoting Omar.

In a separate TV interview, the minister went a step further and claimed that in the nineties when the Centre was on the backfoot over human rights violations, Farooq ably and credibly argued India’s case.

Asked if there was a proposal to take Farooq in the Cabinet, Omar snapped back: “To accept that the man will accept anything that you throw at him like some sort of grateful dog waiting for a scrap is to add salt to the wounds you have inflicted.”

The statement came 48 hours before he takes over the reins of the party. He is likely to be projected as the chief ministerial candidate, but the Union minister is using his imminent shift to the state as a bargaining chip with the Centre to extract a full-fledged Cabinet post if a large reshuffle took place by end-June.

Government sources said that notwithstanding Omar’s “use” as a credible Muslim face in diplomatic forums, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is undecided on his promotion.

The BJP has not taken kindly to Omar’s criticism. A party functionary objected to his raising the issue of human rights violations when Pakistan is bent on scoring brownie points on Kashmir.

Party general secretary Sunil Shastri said Omar’s remarks were related to the coming Assembly polls and showed that the National Conference wanted to distance itself from the BJP.


New Delhi, June 21: 
A furious government out to settle scores with Alex Perry, who wrote an unflattering piece on Atal Bihari Vajpayee a week ago, has begun probing the Time magazine correspondent’s alleged passport irregularities.

The article, carried by Time’s Asian edition and headlined “Asleep at the Wheel?”, asked whether the 77-year-old Prime Minister was well enough to run India during a military standoff with nuclear rival Pakistan.

Soon after it appeared, Perry received a letter asking him to report to the Foreigners Regional Registration Office here. All foreigners living in India have to get their papers cleared by this office, which functions under the home ministry.

Perry, a British citizen, was summoned after the authorities suddenly discovered he had two passports. But Time sources said it was easy to explain why Perry had two passports.

When his passport ran out of pages he was issued an additional booklet with a new number, as is done in the UK. Since his passport remained valid, there was no need to issue a fresh one, they said. The two documents were glued together and the Indian visa stamped on the new pages.

The Time correspondent refused comment after he came out of the registration office this afternoon. He is due to meet visa officials again on Monday but told Reuters he feared expulsion from India over the article.

“This is the subject of an investigation being conducted by the home ministry... I believe there has been no harassment,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Nirupama Rao said.

“But the fact is on that article the Government of India has issued a very strong rejoinder and we stand completely by that reaction and that rejoinder. It was an ill-informed and ill-advised article. It was completely without foundation.”

“We stand by the story,” Perry told Reuters.

The controversy comes at a time when China has pulled from newsstands the latest issue of The Economist , which features an 18-page survey arguing for broad political reform in the country.

The issue features a cover with colourful birds in an ornate Chinese cage and the text reads: “Set China’s politics free”.

Perry, who was earlier based in Hong Kong, was posted to Delhi a few months ago. He travelled frequently to Afghanistan to cover the war against the Taliban and has been in and out of India several times without immigration authorities ever questioning his bona fide.

Privately, Indian officials do not deny Perry is being targeted because of “the nasty piece he wrote about the Prime Minister”. What angered the government was “the personal nature of the attack”.

The article was accompanied by a graphic, which showed Vajpayee as a very sick man. “Why could Time not contact the Prime Minister’s Office or his doctors, before putting out disinformation like this?” an official said.

Vajpayee’s office protested to Time, saying he was fit and well and the story was in bad taste “designed to tarnish the Prime Minister’s image”.

The article appearing at a time when the world was worried about a India-Pakistan nuclear war was in the government’s view “unpardonable”.

In a letter to Time, Vajpayee’s spokesman Ashok Tandon said the Prime Minister’s Office had taken “strong exception” to the report. “Comments such as ‘He takes a three-hour snooze every afternoon on doctor’s orders and is given to interminable silences, indecipherable ramblings and not infrequently falling asleep in meetings’ are baseless,” the letter said.

It added that those familiar with the rigours of Indian politics could vouch for Vajpayee’s fitness.

The authorities are keen on making Perry pay. There is a feeling that unless there is a check on “this kind of reporting, the floodgates will open. Anyone can write anything and get away”, an official explained.


Mumbai, June 21: 
It must be his hair.

Even anti-nukes don’t feel he will make a difference: no Indian President can and so he won’t matter. And anyway, he is just an aeronautical engineer, not a “scientist”. He doesn’t have property, wife, children, personal life. The most exciting thing about him, apart from his Muslim-boy-humble-beginnings-great-scientist story, is his rudraveena. So what makes A.P.J. Abdul Kalam tick as the nation’s current pin-up boy?

It must be his hair. It has its advantages.

It makes him a cool dude, the first Indian President who can answer to that description. The “public” loves it.

“Kalam will be the first President who can operate as a cross-dresser. He can personally go and inspect the condition of women and not make them feel self-conscious,” says Prahlad Kakar, ad man and maverick. Jokes apart, Kakar says he expects attitude from a man who has such a distinctive hairstyle. “Though I don’t know how long he will survive the politicians,” he adds.

It must be the hair. Because Channel V VJ Gaurav is also crowing about it. “It’s cool. He looks like Richard Gere 10 years from now,” says Gaurav. “It’s good. It really suits him. Why shouldn’t the President have a hairstyle of his own? It gives him character. It makes him a man with a different style.”

It must be the hair, salt-and-pepper, hanging below the ears, because Kalam, however frugal his habits are reported to be, spends good money on it. He is also said to be asking constantly for tips to maintain his hair.

It must be the hair, because the sentiment is the same in the politically correct circles, too, though they are shy of pinning it down to that.

Women’s activist Nandita Gandhi thinks Kalam is the media’s darling now not only because he is an “unlikely candidate”, the architect of the missile programme, but also because of his flamboyance.

“He has a style of his own. He has flamboyance, charisma. There are not many like him today,” she says. Having him around, she thinks, will be “fun”. Seeing him stare down from every second page of every newspaper is also “fun”, though she wouldn’t like to speak about his hairstyle in isolation.

Sonal Shukla, another women’s activist who is also a peace-activist, doesn’t mind him either. She too feels Kalam has exploded in the media because of the “unlikely person” factor. “Even though I am a pacifist, I don’t have a problem with him as an individual, because no Indian President can make any difference. I only have a problem with him at a symbolic level.”

Some do have a problem, though. Says Nalini of Nalini and Yasmin, well-known hair-stylists: “It’s not the right style for him. He can have long hair, if that’s what he wants. But he needs to have it more structured. He definitely needs a good haircut.”

Says Benaifer Contractor of beauty salon Juice: “He possibly wants the rock-star look. But he needs a little more style.”

Some women’s organisations have a serious problem with him, though. Women’s activists like Brinda Karat, Aruna Roy and Niloufer Bhagwat came out with a statement two days ago for Captain Lakshmi Sahgal and against Kalam, saying: “More than 50 years after India became a Republic, this is the first time that a woman has been nominated for the highest public office in our country.”

At all of 88 years, she has a good head of hair, too, but not the dainty twin locks that curl in, half-moon-like, on the forehead.


New Delhi, June 21: 
Senior government officials in the capital today ruled out any back-door role for Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir politics.

The government believes that the Hurriyat Conference’s offer of triangular discussions with India and Pakistan is an attempt to carve out a role for Islamabad in the Valley.

While Delhi has welcomed the Hurriyat decision to begin negotiations, it is determined to ensure that Pakistan has no role to play.

The Centre will not clear the travel plans of any Hurriyat leader who does not possess a passport.

The message is simple: the Hurriyat leaders’ suggestion made earlier this week — of holding separate talks with India and Pakistan — is a non-starter so far as the government is concerned.

Despite defence minister George Fernandes welcoming the Hurriyat move to broker a ceasefire between militant groups based in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Indian security forces, officials here are not keen on the suggestion.

“This is nothing but another ploy to get Pakistan into the picture. There is no role for Islamabad here and we mean to keep it that way,” a senior official said.

Fernandes today said: “There is no proposal with the Central government to have dialogue with them (the Hurriyat).”

When faced with a barrage of questions on the statement he made in Srinagar yesterday — “if they want a dialogue with the Centre, it can be considered” — the defence minister said he got an impression that the Hurriyat was keen on the talks

The Centre has taken a strong stand on the Hurriyat as it had not responded to “our earlier invitation for talks”, he said.

The government’s priority at the moment is to hold a credible election in the state. The diplomatic pressure it has mounted on Pakistan to stop infiltration and violence in Kashmir is all part of a strategy to conduct the polls smoothly.

The government wants the Hurriyat leaders to participate in the election.

“But the price they are asking for is too high. We certainly don’t want the Hurriyat if it means getting Islamabad, too.”

Ironically, while India is willing to hold discussions with Pakistan on all issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, it is unwilling to allow the Hurriyat an opportunity to hold what the outfit calls “triangular discussions”.

A senior official said there is a clear distinction between holding talks with Pakistan on Kashmir and getting Islamabad involved in the internal discussions with the Hurriyat.

Talks with Pakistan can include issues like the boundaries of Kashmir, the UN resolutions — which Islamabad will bring up — and India’s claim to many areas in PoK, sources said.

“With the Hurriyat, our discussions will centre around the problems of the state, how to revive its economy and an autonomy package, which the Prime Minister himself talked of. The Hurriyat certainly will not negotiate the status of Kashmir with New Delhi,” an official said.

Delhi believes that giving in to the Hurriyat on Pakistan will be tantamount to losing the gains it has made in its diplomatic and military standoff with Islamabad.

Pervez Musharraf has been persuaded by the international community to prove his sincerity by bringing militancy in Kashmir to a stop.

He is ready to comply, at least for a while, by which time India hopes to complete the elections and start a fresh initiative in the state.


New Delhi, June 21: 
Pakistan has replaced Afghanistan as the hub of international terrorism with al Qaida regrouping and building up its underground network with the help of Pakistan’s intelligence services and the clergy, a US newspaper has reported.

The Washington Times, which had earlier exposed China’s role in setting up Pakistan’s nuclear programme, has said that indications from Pakistan are ringing alarm bells throughout the intelligence community in Washington, London, Paris and Rome.

President Pervez Musharraf’s much-publicised crackdown on Islamist extremists is a dismal failure, according to Western intelligence appraisals.

It quotes Pakistani police sources as saying that some 10,000 Taliban followers and about 5,000 al Qaida fighters are now hiding in Pakistan with the full support of the intelligence authorities and religious and tribal groups.

The paper goes on to say that despite Musharraf’s crackdown on fundamentalists and his decision to join the international coalition against terrorism, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is not backing the President.

“Disinformation about US intentions is being circulated by ‘mid-level’ ISI operatives and some field-grade army officers.”

Examples of the kind of disinformation being spread by these elements are cited by the paper:

U.S. forces are not to be trusted “at all”.

The US wants to divide Pakistan into seven separate states, one of which will be Kashmir, which is to become independent. The Kashmir declaration of independence is ready and the US will demand that Pakistan and India sign it. The US army will control the region.

The CIA is fanning ethnic tensions and planning civil unrest, riots and killings between the Muslims of Pakistan and Indian Kashmir to prepare all parties for Kashmir’s independence.

The US and India want Pakistan to become a small Nepal-type state under Indian influence.

The US and Israel concocted the September 11 plot to produce conditions favourable for “a new world order controlled by America.

The only way to defeat America’s global domination strategy is to create a world Muslim order with China’s support.

The report quoted unnamed Pakistani officials as privately conceding their “deep concern” about Punjab province where Kashmiri “freedom fighters” are undergoing training with full government support.

India wants Pakistan to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure to show its commitment to stopping infiltration for all times.

Notwithstanding Musharraf’s denials and assurances of total control over intelligence agencies, the ISI, including many “retired” officers, is stirring a “witch’s brew” designed to force a postponement of next October’s elections and the return to democratic government, the report said.


Patna, June 21: 
First, it was the Assembly and the panchayat. Now, Laloo Prasad Yadav will also control the Patna Municipal Corporation with his sister-in-law Mansa Devi leading the race for the mayor’s post.

Mansa, wife of chief minister Rabri Devi’s eldest brother Prabhunath Yadav, got elected from Ward No. 3 in Sashtrinagar in the recently concluded municipal poll. “I am very much in the race, but it all depends on the other elected members of the municipality,” Mansa said.

After being elected to the ward, Mansa had taken out a rally in the city. Political observers say it was to drum up support for her candidature as mayor.

When results of all the 57 wards were declared, the poll appeared to have been swept by RJD-backed ward members with BJP supporters coming a poor second. Quite a few number of the elected members, however, have criminal records.

Kali Hijra, a eunuch, also emerged a winner to many people’s surprise. She has got several supporters among the elected members and could prove to be a hurdle for Mansa.

Rabri’s youngest brother and member of the Bihar Legislative Council, Subhas Yadav, is believed to be pushing his bhabi’s (sister-in-law) case very hard. Subhas, who wants to contest for the MP’s post from Patna, is trying to get his loyalists and relatives in the city so that they can prepare the ground for his victory, sources said.

Subhas had held an informal meeting with all elected members of the corporation where he expressed his desire to make Mansa the mayor. The race for the mayor’s post hotted up when a section of RJD leaders attempted to stall Subhas’ move by propping up Kali Hijra as their candidate.

“In the Mahabharata, a eunuch had played a crucial role. She was put at the forefront so that no one could attack the army. We will use Kali Hijra to tilt the balance by roping in other ward members. She has got no vested interest,” said a ward member, who did not want to be identified.

Kali Hijra said she comes from the lower strata of society and is close to the RJD ideology. On her chances of winning, she said: “I don’t know. It all depends on the other members.”

After Laloo made his wife chief minister in 1997 in the wake of the fodder scam chargesheet, Rabri’s family came to have more influence in the running of the government. Her brothers Subhas and Sadhu Yadav became members of the council. Sadhu is now an MLA while Rabri’s father Prasadi Chowdhary is a mukhia in Gopalgunge.

Sources said Laloo is unhappy with the battle within the party over the mayor’s post. He is believed to have asked Subhas to let the issue be settled by the elected members.

Sadhu, who is not in favour of his sister-in-law getting involved in politics, wants another candidate. But Subhas is adamant. He said he would be glad to leave it to the ward members for he knows few can defy his diktat.


New Delhi, June 21: 
The defence ministry today effected a major bureaucratic reshuffle as Subir Dutta, secretary, defence production and supplies, was appointed defence secretary in place of Yogendra Narain who retires June-end.

Dutta’s place is to be taken by P.M. Nair, secretary in the ministry of non-conventional energy. P. Shankar, a 1966 batch officer from Tamil Nadu, has been appointed secretary in the Planning Commission to succeed S.S. Boparai who is due to retire at the end of this month. While both Dutta and Nair are 1967 batch officers, the former is from the West Bengal cadre.

Development commissioner for small-scale industries S.K. Tuteja has been appointed secretary in the department of official languages, replacing M. Shankar, who has been appointed secretary, urban development.

N.S. Sisodia, additional secretary in the Cabinet secretariat, is now special secretary in the power ministry, in place of S. Prabhakaran who has been transferred to the atomic energy commission. Urban development additional secretary Vineeta Rai is special secretary.

The additional secretary in the department of industrial policy, K.K. Jaiswal, has been appointed secretary in the ministry of statistics and programme implementation. Pratibha Karan, MD of Trifed has taken over as secretary, ministry of food and processing industries.


June 21: 


Maximum: 33.5°C (-1)
Minimum: 28.5°C (+2)


19.5 mm

Relative Humidity

Maximum: 88%,
Minimum: 67%


Sunrise: 4.54 am

Sunset: 6.22 pm
A few spells of rain or thundershowers, with one or two rather heavy showers

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