Half-way Jana troubles Atal
Cellphone gag at petrol pumps
Forget history, it’s time to get modern
Regional tech colleges to be upgraded as IIT cousins
Modi varsity to ‘export’ non-violence
Back to temple, signals Katiyar
Ambani’s condition unchanged
Bengal vs Bihar over rail zone
Krishna shows shake-up might
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, June 27: 
K. Jana Krishnamurthi has indicated his willingness to step down as BJP president but the offer — instead of making the path easy — has created more problems for Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in shuffling and expanding his ministry.

Krishnamurthi made it clear he was not keen on joining the Cabinet, as Vajpayee and home minister L.K. Advani wanted him to in the belief that a ministerial carrot would “mitigate” the unpleasantness of an abrupt termination of the party president’s tenure.

The BJP chief said: “Today I am where I am but I have been requested to join the Cabinet. I am yet to take a decision. As soon as I do, I will inform the PM.”

Earlier, in an interview to PTI, he said: “Not more than two minutes is required for me to submit my resignation if the same is required by the PM.”

Asked if he would join the Cabinet, he replied cryptically: “As a disciplined person everyone will listen to what the party says. But personally I feel there is no need to join the government as there is enough talent in the government.”

With Krishnamurthi remaining adamant until yesterday, Vajpayee had sent two emissaries to speak to him today — principal secretary Brajesh Mishra and former Rajasthan chief minister Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

RSS joint general secretary Madan Das Devi also spoke to him. The first sign that Krishnamurthi could relent followed these interactions.

Sources close to Krishnamurthi maintained that, as of today, he was in a mood to put in his papers, pack his bags and shift to his home base in Chennai. These sources said he also wanted to quit his Rajya Sabha membership to stress the point that he did not hanker after power.

Krishnamurthi told reporters he was not the kind of person to seek any post or office. “I turned down the offer of governorship. I was not willing to be the president. I have not agreed to accept a Cabinet post. It is not for love of presidentship that I am here.” Vajpayee, when informed of Krishnamurthi’s stand, said if he did not join the Cabinet, things would not go “according to plan”.

If he quit in a huff, the leadership feared, it would send the “negative” signal down the line that Krishnamurthi was being made the scapegoat for the debacle in the Uttar Pradesh and other Assembly elections.

A large section of the party blames the anti-incumbency factor and the Centre’s economic policies rather than Krishnamurthi’s leadership for the miserable performance.

Besides, veterans like Kailashpati Mishra, Pyarelal Khandelwal and Madan Lal Khurana — the party’s second-rung leadership — have thrown their weight behind Krishnamurthi because they do not want to work under a younger person. In the process, they have made Vajpayee’s job tougher.

With Krishnamurthi keeping his cards close to his chest, speculation started on who would be the next president.


New Delhi, June 27: 
The Centre today decided to ban the use of cellphones at all petrol pumps and ordered them switched off at the fuel kiosks as “they represent a potential ignition source to the flammable vapours which may be present in the atmosphere at the outlets”.

Petroleum minister Ram Naik’s decision does not carry any penalties as yet but officials said once made statutory, it could attract penal provisions.

Naik has asked all oil companies to create awareness among customers on the need to keep cellphones switched off while at the retail outlets by distributing pamphlets, putting up hoardings and by orienting petrol pump staff. The campaign will have to be continued for at least 30 days.

The decision is based on the advice of the Oil Industry Safety Directorate. The directorate has also cautioned that mobiles should not be allowed at oil installations such as terminals, LPG plants, aviation fuelling stations and gas processing plants.

This safety measure is already being adhered to by all oil refineries, ministry officials said.

The directorate said mobile phone manufacturers like Nokia, Motorola, Panasonic and multi-national oil companies like Shell and Aviation Wing of BP Amoco and cellular service providers like Airtel have recommended switching off of cellphones at fuel stations.

Satyen Nair, general manager of Cellular Operators’ Association of India, said: “Anything in the interest of public safety should be welcomed. But we would like to request the government to take a look at the international experiences and practices in this regard.”

“We will follow whatever directives are issued to us, but it is aimed more at educating the consumers and we have already undertaken this exercise. A few handset manufacturers have also made such suggestions to the consumers,” said the spokesperson for Airtel.

A senior executive of a cellular service provider said: “This is not an international practice. That must be taken into account while finalising any directive. There is no conclusive research on the subject and it would be advisable to conduct a systematic research before taking such a decision.”

The petroleum minister also reviewed the situation arising out of a terrorist attack on the ONGC drilling party working in interior Assam, which claimed six lives.


Calcutta, June 27: 
The West Bengal higher education council has asked undergraduate colleges to switch focus from conventional to modern subjects, giving a policy framework to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s call for a shift that focuses on the new generation.

Education officials said the council has told colleges to shift focus from subjects like history and political science to computer science, microbiology, molecular biology and business administration.

The colleges that have approached the council from different parts of Bengal for new courses or additional seats have been told that permission would be given only when the institutions opt for modern subjects.

“A new generation has come into existence. Their expectations are large, complex and driven by sweeping scientific and technological changes that have shrunk the world. The institutions approaching us for permission will have to recognise this and also the government’s changed approach,” said Nirmalya Banerjee, deputy secretary of the council.

Nearly 100 undergraduate colleges of a total 340 — nearly 30 per cent of them located in Calcutta and neighbouring districts — have been directed to refashion their outlook to suit the complex job market.

Two other objectives are also shaping the council’s current thrust.

Stop brain drain: Bright students from Bengal will no longer have to relocate themselves in states like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra for modern courses

Financial flexibility: Now entirely dependent on government funding, the colleges can hope to earn more by charging a higher fee for modern subjects. An increase in the number of self-financing courses will also ease the burden on the government.

“We welcome the government’s move as this will stop a large number of students from going to Bangalore, Chennai and other cities where they have to pay high fees for studying the subjects of their choice,” said Chinmoy Sekhar Sarkar, principal, Surendranath College.

His college is one of the few that have just fulfilled all conditions and obtained government permission to run honours courses in microbiology and computer science.

The institution is now charging Rs 8,000-plus a year for the microbiology course. In contrast, the course in history or political science costs Rs 125 per month (Rs 1,500 a year). Government rules do not allow it to charge more.

Ashutosh College in south Calcutta is another institution that has been given permission to open a self-financing bachelor’s degree course in business administration.

“We will soon talk to the government about running more such courses, because there is a very big demand for them,” said Mohini Mohan Adak, the vice-principal.


New Delhi, June 27: 
Regional Engineering Colleges (RECs) will now become National Institutes of Technology (NIT).

In a major policy decision, the Centre today announced its decision to upgrade 17 RECs on the lines of the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) to meet the increasing demand for skilled manpower in the fields of science and technology and better technical education.

“There is no doubt that the demand for quality technical education has increased manifold during the past few years. The conversion of these RECs into NITs with the status of deemed universities will positively impact the quality of technical education,” said human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi at a press conference.

Ten RECs will be upgraded in the first phase of transition — the remaining seven will be restructured later. The first list does not include the Durgapur Regional College in Bengal because the authorities have not yet sent their letter of consent to the Centre.

The first list includes the RECs in Allahabad, Bhopal, Kozhikode, Jaipur, Hamirpur, Kurukshetra, Nagpur, Rourkela, Surathkal and Silchar.

Joshi claimed the restructuring will widen the base of quality students. At present, the intake of students in the RECs stands at 8,500 and the restructuring, according to the minister, will increase the number by another 7,000.

In keeping with the present policy, students belonging to the states will continue to have 50 per cent reservation while another 50 per cent will be admitted from outside. There will be one joint entrance examination for all NITs.

Though there is a question mark on how much this restructuring will help improve the quality of education, Joshi maintained there will be a change from the present culture that will boost quality.

“At present, the RECs are totally controlled by the states. The culture will change once they know they have autonomy and control over the syllabus and functioning of the institutes,” said the minister.

The restructured institutes will be governed by a board of professionals like academics, scientists and technical experts as in the IITs. The board chairperson, according to Joshi, will be an eminent educationist, technologist or industrialist. The Centre will bear all expenses. Now, the states pitch in 50 per cent of the expenses while the rest comes from the Centre.

“We will see (to it) that the IITs take due interest in the NITs. They will also actively interact with industries through joint research, by making the curriculum more relevant and (introducing) short-term courses for working engineers,” said Joshi.

The NITs, in turn, will become the monitoring agencies for technical institutions.

The IITs will preserve their “brand” name, but the NITs — at least so hopes the government — will go a long way in expanding the pool of scientific and technological manpower.

Statistics show that in India, scientists and technicians account for only 3.5 per cent per 1,000 persons while the percentage of people skilled in research and development is a mere 0.3 per cent.


Ahmedabad, June 27: 
On the blood-bathed soil of Gujarat will soon stand an Ahimsa University, where all aspects of non-violence will be studied.

Chief minister Narendra Modi, accused of “engineering pogrom” during the recent violence, announced the project at a function to felicitate Jainacharya Shri Mahapragyaji, who is leading an ahimsa yatra to preach non-violence and moral values.

Accompanied by 150 Jain sadhus, the acharya begun the yatra from Rajasthan on December 5 and arrived here to a warm welcome this morning after covering several places in north Gujarat. The march will wind through central and south Gujarat before entering Madhya Pradesh.

Modi said students and research scholars from all over the world would be welcomed at the university to study all “aspects of the philosophy and practices of non-violence for the benefit of posterity”.

But the acharya stressed on the present. He extolled the virtues and values of non-violence and said it was a state of mind that needed to be created urgently in Gujarat. Deploring the violence that rocked the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, an apostle of non-violence, the acharya underlined the importance of rajdharma and the need to rise above petty party politics.

“Everywhere we seem to be importing violence. What we need in Gujarat today is to create a violence-free harmonious society. This can be done if we set up a university which will teach such values, non-violence so that we could export non-violence to the other parts of the world,” he said.

The state government did not link the Ahimsa University proposal to the violence that has claimed more than 1,000 lives despite Modi’s desperation to drop his “monster image”.

The state Cabinet approved the proposal yesterday and a Cabinet sub-committee has been set up to work out the modalities and streamline the process.

Modi had earlier announced the setting up of a Sanskrit University in the presence of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Somnath. This morning, he did not mention that project, which seems to have been conveniently forgotten.

The Jain community has welcomed the proposed Ahimsa University. One of the organisers of today’s function said Governor S.S. Bhandari and Speaker Dhirubhai Shah — both Jains — were instrumental in persuading the chief minister to undertake the project.


Lucknow, June 27: 
New BJP chief in Uttar Pradesh Vinay Katiyar today gave fresh indications that his installation meant bringing back the temple on the BJP’s political agenda.

“I will first seek the blessings of Lord Rama in Ayodhya before starting Operation Overhaul in the party,” he told reporters.

Katiyar said he would visit Ayodhya on June 29 after seeing off Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who arrived in Lucknow today on a two-day visit to his Lok Sabha constituency.

Katiyar was one of the prominent leaders of the Ayodhya movement and the tone and tenor of his utterances ever since taking over the new job have given ample indications that the BJP was gearing up to adopt a more aggressive posture in state politics.

Officially, BJP leaders still maintain Katiyar’s appointment does not amount to a change in its political agenda. But Katiyar, the founder president of the Bajrang Dal, remains unequivocal. “The temple is already there and the only thing left is providing it magnificence,” he told reporters today during an informal chat.

Katiyar formally took over reins of office from Kalraj Mishra, who was not present to greet him when he arrived yesterday in the state capital.

“Vinay is liked by all his senior colleagues and we hope that under his leadership the party will get a new direction and energy,” Mishra said when asked if the new chief could restore unity within the party’s leadership.

“The party faced the debacle because there was no unity among top four leaders of the state, including myself. The BJP will continue to suffer till the four leaders continue to fuel infighting,” Mishra said, maintaining the stand he had taken while submitting his resignation as state president last month, taking everybody by surprise.

Katiyar refused to spell out his plans for revamping the party but said he would work in the interest of the party workers. “I am here for (the) workers and will ensure that they are not humiliated in the coalition government. Any such act (of humiliation) will be a personal attack on me.”

He also pointed out that his main job was to pull up the party from its present position at number three to the top. “I will work to take the party to the top and other parties will sink in morass once Operation Revamp starts in the BJP,” Katiyar said.

Party sources said Katiyar would take up the revamp after making a beginning with a darshan of Ramlalla in Ayodhya. Plans are being given a final shape to ensure a direct rapport with the party workers all over the state. Katiyar will be setting out on a statewide tour next month to achieve this objective.

“The problem is not with the workers but with top leaders. The exercise should begin by holding a meeting with (the) top four leaders of the state and the workers will get the message,” said a senior party official.


Mumbai, June 27: 
Reliance patriarch Dhirubhai Ambani continued to remain in a critical condition three days after he was admitted to Breach Candy hospital following a cerebral stroke.

Ambani’s son and Reliance managing director Anil said his father’s condition remained unchanged and critical.

“I am sorry I can’t give any positive news about my father,” Anil said. “Twenty-four hours after I spoke to you last, his condition remains the same.”

Anil, however, scotched reports of foreign doctors either advising from abroad or attending in person to Ambani.

“Our family is consulting doctors and medical experts in India. We have no plans to invite international experts or doctors,” Anil said. He added that he had “full faith” in Breach Candy’s team of doctors, led by Dr Farooq Udwadia.

Anil appealed to the media to stay away from conjectures and thanked it for the “sensitive reporting” of the crisis.

The Kanchi Sankaracharya, Jayendra Saraswathi, visited Ambani and blessed him. It was reported that the Ambanis had sent their private plane to fetch the seer from the Kanchi Mutt in Tamil Nadu.

Among others to visit Ambani today were Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi and Jet Airways chief Naresh Goyal.


Patna, June 27: 
Bengal and Bihar today moved closer to a potential collision course as resolutions for and against Nitish Kumar’s proposal to bifurcate Eastern Railway were moved by Assemblies of both states.

While the Bihar Assembly lauded the railway minister f or his move to carve out a new east-central zone with Hajipur as headquarters, Bengal mounted a spirited counter-attack with a unanimous resolution denouncing it.

Congress leader Abdul Mannan moved the resolution, which was supported by the Trinamul Congress and the ruling Left Front. A 17-member all-party delegation will meet Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nitish to demand scrapping of the proposal.

For Nitish, the pat on the back came in the form of an all-party resolution moved by state parliamentary affairs minister Ramchandra Purve, a loyalist of Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Laloo Prasad Yadav.

The resolution said the bifurcation proposal was long pending and making it functional from October 1 would benefit the people of the state and add to Hajipur’s importance. The railway minister, it added, deserved unqualified praise. The resolution also pointed out that there were still some divisions of Bihar attached to other zones and demanded creation of another zone in Bhagalpur. After the draft resolution was mooted, the House passed it by voice vote.

Yesterday, Nitish had said that in a recent letter to Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee he had clarified that the inclusion of Dhanbad in the east-central zone would not hamper supply of coal. “Some politicians are making an unwarranted hue and cry. This is not at a bifurcation of Eastern Railway, it is creation of a new zone. That, too, I am not myself doing it. I have just implemented a 1996 proposal of the Union railway ministry to create a new zone at Hajipur,” he said.

Bhattacharjee today said the matter was “very serious” and the railway administration would collapse if the decision is implemented. “We have to stall it any cost and sooner the better,” he said, adding that he had written to both Vajpayee and Nitish. “Unfortunately, neither the Prime Minister nor the railway minister deemed it fit to reply.”


Bangalore, June 27: 
Chief minister S.M. Krishna today dropped five ministers, including four of Cabinet rank, and inducted nine members in the first shuffle of his two-and-a-half-year-old ministry.

Officially described as a mid-term course correction to impart greater efficiency and provide regional balance to the ministry, the shake-up also showed that Krishna, unlike his predecessors, is very much in control of the political machinery in Karnataka.

The chief minister has been talking about the need for a shuffle for the past three months. But he chose to go ahead with it when his government is preparing for a virtual war of attrition with Tamil Nadu over the sharing of Cauvery waters.

The timing made it clear that such challenges cannot deter Krishna from setting his house in order even if it means upsetting some of his colleagues.

The Cabinet ministers who have been dropped are B.B. Chimmanakatti, A.M. Hindasgeri, T.B. Jayachandra and S.R. Khashappanavar. Minister of state Veerkumar A. Patil was also axed.

Indications from the Congress are that none of the dropped ministers has the clout to question Krishna’s decisions as the high command and an overwhelming majority of the party are solidly behind the chief minister.

Of the nine new entrants, three have been inducted as Cabinet ministers and the rest as ministers of state. Minister of state Parameshwara was elevated to Cabinet rank.

Those who found a berth in the ministry are former state Congress president V.S. Koujalgi, H.M. Revanna and Ramalinga Reddy (all Cabinet rank), Basavaraj Patil, Vasanth Saliyan, M.L. Ustad, K.N. Gaddi, Rajugowda and K.B. Koliwad.

The expansion, which raised the strength of the Krishna ministry to 48, including the chief minister, also provided representation to new districts like Udupi, Chamarajanagar, Haveri and Bidar.

As a prelude to the shake-up, all the 43 ministers had submitted their resignations on Wednesday, ostensibly to give Krishna a free hand.

“The completion of the much awaited shuffle,” said a bureaucrat in Krishna’s office, “would help the chief minister concentrate on the Cauvery issue, which is developing into its regular dimensions.”

Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa has accused Karnataka of not releasing water as per earlier agreements. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has already intervened on Tamil Nadu’s behalf.

Krishna has not given any commitment to the Prime Minister. He has apparently told Vajpayee that he would study the water levels in reservoirs and take an appropriate decision.




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Minimum: 26.5°C (0)



Relative humidity

Maximum: 97%,
Minimum: 68%


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Sunset: 6.22 pm
Generally cloudy sky, with possibility of one or two showers or thundershowers

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