Rs 21.75 twenty-nine years ago, Rs 21.75 even now
CPM lobs back terms
Naxalites in piggyback politics
Naked thirst churns a parched land
Mini-shuffle ahead
Murdoch’s Fox begins Bollywood hunt with Ramu
Shuffle hope for Mamata
Advani sphere of influence widens
ISI hand seen in Afghan murder
Calcutta Weather

Calcutta, July 17: 
In 1973, he joined the Basak Bagan Primary School in north Calcutta as an assistant teacher. Twenty-nine years on, Pranab Kumar Sengupta continues to serve in the same position at the same princely salary of Rs 21.75 a month.

At the entry level, a primary school teacher now draws Rs 6,000 a month.

Eight years ago, Sengupta obtained a Calcutta High Court directive, asking the education department to regularise his service and pay him his dues with retrospective effect.

The then school education secretary informed the court two years later — and six years ago — that the order had been carried out. In 2002, Sengupta is still moving one court after another with a contempt petition in hand and with no one to hear him out. Education department clerks are unmoved by a court order.

“Don’t show us court rulings, if you want your job and your dues, you have to pay Rs 60,000” was what the 55-year-old Sengupta heard when he went there with the order.

Even his lawyer, Saibalendu Bhaumik, who was also his student, has lost all hope. “If even the judiciary can’t move the administration, what are we here for? ” he asked, adding that he could not face his teacher. “Sometimes, I try to avoid him.”

Sengupta started teaching at the school on May 21, 1973. When he found that even after two decades of service, the school authorities were reluctant to regularise him, he went to Calcutta High Court.

Justice Paritosh Mukherjee ruled that Sengupta be made a permanent employee with retrospective effect. This had to be done in two weeks and the dues cleared in six months.

After waiting for a year, Bhaumik again moved court, this time filing a contempt notice. Justice S.B. Sinha ruled that the education department and the primary education directorate were guilty of contempt.

Again, nothing happened. Bhaumik filed another contempt suit in 1996. Justice Dilip Basu disposed of the case the same year, choosing to place faith in a submission by the then education secretary that he had already told the North 24-Parganas District Primary School Council to regularise Sengupta’s job and pay him his dues.

Sengupta visited that office in Barasat several times. And it was there that the demand for a bribe was made on him. “That was the last time he visited the office,” Bhaumik said.

From court to the chief minister’s office: Sengupta has written not one but three letters to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Sengupta still goes to school and takes classes as he has been doing for the last 29 years. And he still takes home every month Rs 21.75.


Calcutta, July 17: 
The CPM today rejected the People’s War’s conditional offer to hold talks to end the political violence scarring the tribal-dominated parts of West Midnapore.

State CPM secretary Anil Biswas said the possibility of sitting down for a dialogue would be considered only after the group formally repudiated the path of violence and joined the Left mainstream.

“We cannot hold talks with the Naxalites on conditions. Negotiations are possible only if they abjure the path of violence,” he said after returning from a trip to China.

In a statement yesterday, the radical Left group had said it was willing to hold talks, but set four conditions.

In public, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee refused to comment. “I have no reaction on the score at the moment.”

However, he held a series of meetings with senior bureaucrats and police officers and asked them to continue the crackdown on the group.

Later, the inspector-general of police, western range, J.R. Bhagat, and senior officers of the special branch and the intelligence branch met in the home secretary’s chamber to work out an action plan. The officers were told to make a list of People’s War workers and sympathisers in the city and suburbs.

Sources said Orissa director-general of police N.C. Pari has sent documents seized from arrested People’s War activists with ties to Calcutta and its suburbs. It is believed the secretary of the Orissa unit of the group has links to Dum Dum, which is emerging as a city reference point for the outfit.

“We are closing in on Asit Sarkar, the brain behind the People’s War and it is a matter of time before we catch up with him,” police said.


Calcutta, July 17: 
If it’s the MCC in the Bankura-Purulia-Midnapore belt, it’s the Citu — the CPM’s labour wing — in the coalfields of the Asansol-Dhanbad belt. If it’s the BJP in pockets of Midnapore, it’s the Congress in parts of Murshidabad. And if it was the CPM in 1998, it’s the Trinamul in 2002.

The CPI(M-L) People’s War plan for a revolution in Bengal is following the decision taken at the party’s 2001 congress to the letter. The resolution discussed and accepted there, and codified in an internal party document on the strategies to be followed, explained in detail how the party should use “secret methods, very cautiously” to spread its base.

Admitting that the party did not possess any significant organisational base in many areas, the document asked party members to build a “structure impregnable to the enemy”. The party’s modus operandi in many areas of Bengal would suggest that is exactly what it is doing now.

First, the CPM’s labour wing. Reports available here say the group is “very active” in the colliery belt on the Bengal-Bihar-Jharkhand border, organising workers’ movements and giving a strident shape to their demands through the machinery of other parties.

With the Citu being the dominant labour wing in the belt — with some influence of the CPI’s Aituc in some areas — the Naxalite group is using these organisations to spread its ideas.

Next, the Opposition parties. With the Trinamul Congress still being the most influential political party in many areas of Midnapore, intelligence reports say the People’s War has been exploiting its organisational base for its own interests. “With people in Bengal being sharply polarised along mainstream-party lines, the People’s War has to take the help of one party or the other if it wants to spread its base in the state,” an official said.

But the group’s relations with the Congress in parts of Murshidabad — “stable” till a few months ago — are nosediving. “There have been differences of opinion of late,” an official said, explaining why the situation there was fast snowballing into all-out violence with a spate of political killings of late.

But the agreement reached with the MCC for the Bengal districts bordering Jharkhand are of a more stable nature, say officials, referring to the decision reached at a meeting of the Committee of Maoist Parties of South Asia that all similarly-thinking parties should cooperate with each other. Following that decision, the MCC sent a letter to the People’s War about three months ago — called “historic” as it was the first MCC attempt at a rapprochement — calling for area- and manpower-sharing. This has already taken place in Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore.

The ultimate aim of the People’s War, as culled from investigations, is much more broad-based — and, possibly, improbable — than focussing on only three states. The group, say officials, has trained its sights on at least 10 states from Uttar Pradesh in the north to Karnataka in the south, encompassing the Marathwada region of Maharashtra, Telengana of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa and, of course, Bengal.


Lucknow, July 17: 
Women in remote Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh villages strip and plough land to propitiate rain god Indra. Army jawans join saffron-clad sadhus to perform yajnas in Lucknow, Allahabad and Varanasi.

In Palwal village of Rajasthan, a 12-year girl gives up food and starts an indefinite jaap to invoke the gods. In Uttaranchal, a group of Tharu tribals kidnaps people to appease the weather deities.

With the skies refusing to open up over large parts of central and northern India and the spectre of a drought looming, village folk are trying everything.

Reports reaching Lucknow indicate that people’s reaction to the delayed monsoon ranges from panic to paranoia. Officials confirm that women in Chattarpur and Panna districts of Madhya Pradesh and Etawah and Farrukhabad in Uttar Pradesh have ploughed the fields naked for rain.

“We are verifying the facts. But people believe that Lord Ram’s father-in-law, King Janak, and his wife ploughed the fields at night naked when their kingdom faced a drought and forced the heavens to open up. Similar rituals have been reportedly performed earlier also,” said a state official.

The delay in the monsoon has sparked panic throughout Uttar Pradesh, one of the biggest foodgrain producing states in the country.

“Though drought has formally not been declared in the affected regions, the situation is alarming,” state agriculture minister Hukum Singh said.

The state has registered a 25-30 per cent loss in kharif crop, mainly pulses and paddy, Singh said. “We have already arranged for the distribution of late-variety seeds of paddy and pulses to affected farmers. The delayed monsoon might also affect the rabi crop.”

Technically, drought is declared only after a 50 per cent loss of crop, but a panicky government has decided to suspend tax collection in affected areas. As many as 58 of 70 districts are on the verge of being declared drought-hit.

“The situation looks grim this time. Though eastern UP has received some rain, it is much below normal. The west and central regions are almost dry,” Lucknow meteorological director K. Verma said.

While rainfall in the Bundelkhand region has been 65 per cent below normal, in western Uttar Pradesh it is 55 per cent below normal and in central Uttar Pradesh 51 per cent .

The government had directed district magistrates to send the situation report from their respective regions, but only 10 of 70 districts have responded.

The prolonged dry spell has led to an alarming decline in underground water. There is also a power crisis in the state. While water in canals has dried, there is little power to run tube-wells. Last week, the total demand for power was 6052 mw but only 5052 mw was available.


New Delhi, July 17: 
A small mid-session Cabinet shuffle could take place on July 25 or 26 for the “limited” purpose of accommodating some of the BJP’s allies. Those slated for berths are Mamata Banerjee and Farooq Abdullah.

Official sources said Mamata’s induction would depend on what the Cabinet decides tomorrow on the bifurcation of Eastern Railway. “We would like to have Mamata Banerjee in the government,” NDA convener George Fernandes said.

The Cabinet, the defence minister added, would try and break the Bihar-Bengal impasse at the earliest.

The sources said Fernandes was in touch with Mamata, who had reportedly conveyed her “wish” to sort out matters before July 20 as she is scheduled to participate in a public meeting in Calcutta on Sunday.


July 17: 
Hollywood has come to Bollywood.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s 20th Century Fox has reached an agreement to produce three Hindi films, becoming the first foreign production company to enter the Indian market.

One of India’s hottest talents, Ram Gopal Varma, will direct the low-budget thriller that is estimated to cost between Rs 6 and 8 crore, Fox said on Wednesday.

“We have tied up with Ram Gopal Varma and (production house) SRB Films. We are currently discussing three joint projects,” said Aditya Shastri, head of the US studio’s Indian operations.

The first film, Ek Hasina Thi, will come under the clapperboard in August and is due for release by January, he said. Murdoch’s News Corp Ltd owns 85 per cent of Fox studios. The other two projects are under discussion, Shastri said.

Ek Hasina Thi will star Urmila Matondkar, an actress mentored to success by Varma, and Saif Ali Khan.

Varma, 38, who last directed a brooding take-off on Mumbai’s underworld, Company, is known for a style of movie-making that blends slick camera work and catchy music with story lines that thrive on realism and grey characters.

Varma meant a director whose approach and style suited the Hollywood studio, said Shastri, adding that 20th Century Fox had been looking to enter Bollywood for some time.

The director, currently giving final touches to the Vivek Oberoi-starrer Road, said foreign investment in Bollywood could mean more quality films and an organised approach to film-making to reach India’s audience of one billion. “It will be more scientific. We could get the data they have gathered over the years (on movie tastes) and convert that into Indian sensibilities.”

If the understanding with 20th Century Fox works out well in future, Varma sees “additional opportunities for Indian directors to make quality films”. Over the past few years, audiences have come to expect quality experimental movies from Varma, who, many feel, has his fingers firmly on the audience’s pulse. Trade pundits agree — in a relatively short career, the director has notched up hits like Shiva, Rangeela, Satya, Kaun, Jungle and Company.

Shastri, who has been running Fox’s distribution business in India for the past seven years and dishing out well-known English hits like Titanic and Independence Day, said it is too early to see the tie-up as a breakthrough for Bollywood in the international arena.

But more directors could stand to gain from Fox’s Indian foray. The company is believed to have approached Chennai-based film-maker C.P. Sriram to make a digital flick.


New Delhi, July 17: 
A small mid-session Cabinet shuffle could take place on July 25 or 26 for the “limited” purpose of accommodating some of the BJP’s allies in the NDA. Those slated for berths are Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee and Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference.

The mid-session exercise is not unprecedented. Last year, during monsoon session, Ajit Singh was inducted as agriculture minister because the BJP wanted to cement its pact with the Rashtriya Lok Dal before the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls.

Well-placed official sources said Mamata’s induction would depend on what the Cabinet decides tomorrow on the bifurcation of Eastern Railway. “We would like to have Mamata Banerjee in the government,” NDA convener George Fernandes told reporters today.

The Cabinet, the defence minister added, would try and break the Bihar-Bengal impasse at the earliest.

The sources said Fernandes was in touch with Mamata, who had reportedly conveyed her “wish” to sort out matters before July 20 as she is scheduled to participate in a public function in Calcutta on Sunday. The government was thinking of allotting her the surface transport ministry, now under B.C. Khanduri.

Khanduri may be given coal and mines, which deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani retained after Ram Vilas Paswan’s exit.

Earlier, Fernandes was reportedly keen on giving Mamata a high-profile ministry like civil aviation, currently under Syed Shahnawaz Hussain.

The revamp would have involved moving Hussain to sports and youth affairs, held by Uma Bharti. Both Bharti and Vasundhara Raje, minister of state for small industries, were to take over as BJP chiefs of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan as part of a larger organisational shake-up.

BJP sources said the proposal was temporarily shelved as Vasundhara wanted at least three months to see through important projects in her ministry, while Bharti left for Manchester to attend a high-level meeting. The sources conceded that both were “reluctant” to leave their ministries and take up the jobs offered to them.

Trinamul sources admitted they were keen to get back into the government. A senior leader said all they looked for now was a “face-saver” so that Mamata could become a minister without drawing flak from the Left and the Congress for “compromising” on Bengal’s “interests”.

The compromise formula, Trinamul claimed it was sounded on, was returning Dhanbad from the proposed East-Central Railway to Eastern Railway.

A combined delegation of the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Samata Party, led by RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav, met Advani today and reiterated that the bifurcation decision must not be reversed.

At a parliamentary party meeting yesterday, BJP MPs, too, told Advani and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee they should not allow themselves to be “blackmailed” by Trinamul.

Farooq, for the record, claimed he was not interested in a ministerial berth. But sources close to Vajpayee said: “His no means nothing.”

The sources said he was reportedly reluctant only for one reason: “If he became part of the NDA he would not be in a position to take the Centre head on in the Assembly elections.”

However, conflicting signals from the Jammu and Kashmir chief minister are seen as a “pressure” tactic to extract a good bargain from the government.


New Delhi, July 17: 
Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani may soon have the run of the entire senior-level bureaucracy following a move to bring the department of personnel and training under him. So far, the Cabinet secretary has been handling the department while Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee vetted every important appointment.

It is learnt that Vajpayee is willing to allow his deputy to take up the task of transfers, postings and appointments of all senior IAS officers from the rank of joint secretary and above. “The personnel department is a low-profile but extremely vital department. It will give Advani the opportunity to pick and choose his men to place in key positions everywhere,” a senior official said.

Some officials are, however, not impressed. According to them, Advani already has a say, being a member of the appointment committee of the Cabinet secretariat. The home minister is in charge of transfers and postings of IPS senior cadre, they say. Now, apart from those in the Indian Foreign Service, where the foreign secretary looks after appointments, Advani, as final arbitrator of postings, will be the man wooed by all senior bureaucrats.

Even before being formally named deputy Prime Minister, Advani’s turf had expanded far beyond that of any of his predecessors. One reason for this was the menace of terrorism. Experience has shown that intelligence failure has been one of the main weaknesses in responding to terrorist threats. The various intelligence agencies, both at the Central and state levels, are often averse to sharing inputs.

Realising the need to coordinate all available information, the home ministry has set up a new multi-agency centre headed by a senior Intelligence Bureau officer, who operates from North Block. Intelligence inputs from RAW, the IB, the army and paramilitary forces will be shared and sifted through meticulously by this unit. Regular meetings are being held to exchange intelligence. The experiment will be replicated in all states.

The multi-agency centre will give the deputy Prime Minister access to information from all quarters. RAW, which functions under the Cabinet secretariat that provides all inputs to the Prime Minister’s Office, will now have to send its reports to Advani on all intelligence issues. The move was taken much before Advani’s elevation from home minister to deputy Prime Minister.

Important chunks from other ministries also came under his control following rationalisation of some departments.

Earlier, the department of disaster management was with the agriculture ministry. After the Gujarat earthquake, there was a rethink as the ministry had no infrastructure to deal with a disaster of this scale. The home ministry, with civil defence and paramilitary and security forces under one roof, was in a much better position to coordinate relief operations. A joint secretary is now in charge of the disaster management division in the ministry.

The department of narcotics, earlier attached to the finance ministry, is now with the home ministry.

This is because of the close links that narcotic smugglers, terrorists and criminals have. A senior official of the rank of director general of police heads the narcotics unit.


New Delhi, July 17: 
India is of the view that the recent killing of the Afghan Vice-President, Abdul Qadir, was the handiwork of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and his assassination was a desperate attempt by Islamabad to claw back into the circle of influence in Kabul.

The issue came up for discussion at the India-Russia Joint Working Group meeting on Afghanistan today when the two sides exchanged views on the ground situation in the war-ravaged country and ways to coordinate their efforts to ensure both New Delhi and Moscow continue to play a role in Kabul, which is strategically important to both.

India and Russia, along with Iran, were instrumental in keeping alive the Northern Alliance, the only pocket of resistance in Afghanistan when the Taliban was in power in Kabul and controlled most of the country. With the Hamid Karzai regime in power, both New Delhi and Moscow are trying to find ways to ensure they are not left without any friends in the neighbouring country.

Assessing the ground situation in Afghanistan, the two sides made a note of Pakistan’s attempts to create a situation where it can once again play an important role.

Pakistan was one of the main backers of the Taliban and, along with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, were the only countries to have recognised the fundamentalist regime in Kabul. Since the American military action in Afghanistan late last year, the Taliban has been ousted from power.

Infiltration stand

India today made it clear to the US and Russia it was not convinced that there was a “significant decline” in infiltration across the Line of Control.

Delhi maintained that it would not soften its stand against Islamabad till it was satisfied that urgent and visible steps were being taken to stop cross-border terrorism.




Maximum: 33.4°C (+1)
Minimum:27°C (+1)


7.7 mm

Relative Humidity

Maximum: 97%,
Minimum: 71%


Sunrise: 5.04 am
Sunset: 6.21 pm
Generally cloudy sky, one or two spells of rain or thundershower

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