CPM plan for women in party panels
Nanoor killers at large two years after carnage
Water crisis sparks unrest
Boost to anti-rebel force
Girl’s murder disrupts life in Noapara
Left protest on splitting rail zones
Nitish pleads ignorance on Cabinet meet
Few takers for Modi ‘safety’ slogan
Sorabjee says both yes and no
After the movie, Devdas souvenirs

 
 
CPM PLAN FOR WOMEN IN PARTY PANELS 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, July 26: 
The CPM state leadership today expressed concern over the poor representation of women in party forums and unveiled plans to induct a female member in each of its 24,884 branch committees across the state in the coming days.

“The move is aimed at giving more chances to women party members in various strata of the organisation,” CPM state secretary Anil Biswas announced at the party office today.

The membership of the ruling CPM has also slumped by 4,307 during the current year. The annual party membership report brought out by the state committee, which was released today, reveals that the number of party members have declined from 2,47,120 in 2001 to 2,43,184 in 2002.

“Though apparently it seems that the membership has decreased this year compared to last year, in reality it has increased because nearly 10,000 new members from the auxiliary group (primary stage of the party membership) have enrolled. But they have not bee included in the report,” he added.

A district-wise analysis reveals that the party membership has increased in Bankura, Burdwan, Calcutta, Hooghly and Cooch Behar. In Hooghly, the number of members has gone up by 1,200 during the year and by 1,100 in Cooch Behar. However, membership has deceased in North 24-Parganas, Jalpaiguri and Nadia districts despite these areas being CPM strongholds. Intra-party squabbles have led to the decrease, according to party sources.

Another worrying aspect brought out by the report is the number of illiterate CPM members in the state. Though the CPM has launched a massive literacy campaign across the state, which it claims is so far a success, the party membership report reveals that the CPM has 1,815 illiterate members.

Besides, the report shows that the CPM expelled a record number of 294 party members last year on charges of various anti-party activities.

The report also indicates that, of the party’s various frontal organisations, the Kishak Sabha has recorded the highest membership.

The report says nearly 50 per cent of party members belong to the 40-45 age group. The second-largest group of members is the 50-60 age group. “It indicates that traditional communists are with the party,” observed a party leader. The report, however, reveals that there is a decline in membership among youths.

The state committee’s report also says 50 per cent of party members are from the middle class, while only 15 per cent are from the working class.

   

 
 
NANOOR KILLERS AT LARGE TWO YEARS AFTER CARNAGE 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Nanoor (Birbhum), July 26: 
Two years after the Suchpur carnage in which 11 farm labourers were murdered five persons named in the FIR are still absconding.

The Trinamul Congress will observe Martyrs’ Day tomorrow by holding a public rally to mark the massacre of its workers on July 27, 2000. Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee, who will address the meeting tomorrow afternoon, is expected to arrive here late tonight from Calcutta. Mamata had offered jobs to the family members of the victims shortly after the incident, in her capacity as the then railway minister.

However, two years since the killings, the police are yet to trace the people named in the FIR. “We have not yet found them and are continuing our search. The case has not been closed,” Bolpur circle inspector K.B. Ali said today.

Local Trinamul leaders allege that the CPM is providing shelter to the absconding men. CPM leaders, however, point out that the absconding accused were afraid of surrendering to the police as six others, who had surrendered earlier, have as yet not got bail and have been in custody for the past 14 months.

An uneasy calm has prevailed in the area since the massacre, though nine police camps were set up to keep vigil. “There has been political tension in the area, but no communal disturbance. Small issues often lead to major clashes,” pointed out Abdul Hamad, the headmaster of a local madarsa.

Kazi Noor Nawaz, a police constable camping at Baitara village adjacent to Suchpur, said sounds of explosions at night have become a regular feature.

The bomb attack on Sona Chowdhury, a local Trinamul leader, by a group of alleged CPM supporters yesterday has aggravated the tension.

Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Pankaj Banerjee alleged today that the police were trying to foil tomorrow’s rally by raiding the houses of Trinamul workers at Nanoor.

“Last night, the local police arrested 12 party workers on the ground that they have links with People’s War. Our party has no connection with People’s War, which is a creation of the CPM,” asserted Banerjee.

“The state CPM had given them arms to attack our workers in Midnapore, Bankura and Hooghly. Now they have turned against the CPM and is attacking its supporters,” he said.

   

 
 
WATER CRISIS SPARKS UNREST 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Chinsurah, July 26: 
A group of alleged CPM supporters, incensed over the persistent crisis over drinking water, today assaulted the Hooghly-Chinsurah municipality chairman, Asis Sen, and ransacked his office.

The vice-chairman of the Trinamul Congress–run municipality, Gourikanta Mukherjee, lodged an FIR at Chinsurah police station against CPM councillor of the municipality, Shankar Haldar, who led the group.

Police said some CPM supporters led by Haldar entered the chairman’s chamber to submit a memorandum on the drinking water crisis in ward No 15. After 15 minutes, they suddenly turned violent and started ransacking the chamber. Two of them also allegedly assaulted the chairman. Police arrived at the spot and rushed the chairman to Imambara hospital.

The CPM, however, denied the allegation, saying no one had assaulted the chairman.

“The people of ward No 15, led by Haldar, went to the chairman to discuss the water crisis in the area. Sen suddenly called up the police and told them to evict the councillor and the rest of the deputation. When police tried to do so, a scuffle ensued. The chairman may have been injured then,” said Barun Ganguly, CPM councillor and leader of Opposition in the municipality.

Visva-Bharati

A group of employees of Visva-Bharati university today ransacked the central office in protest against the decision to erect a boundary wall around the university’s administrative block.

At 2.30 pm, nearly 100 employees forced their way past a police barricade into the central office and started ransacking it. They were later chased out by the police.

However, no FIR has been lodged by the university authorities. The employees contend that the wall was contrary to the spirit of Tagore’s vision of Visva-Bharati.

   

 
 
BOOST TO ANTI-REBEL FORCE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 26: 
The state home department has decided to disband the fifth battalion of the State Armed Police and redeploy more than 800 constables of the unit in districts such as Paschim Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia, to rein in the People’s War.

A recent spurt in People’s War activities in these districts and in Calcutta prompted director general of police D.C. Vajpai to hold a meeting today with senior officers of the force to assess the situation.

The police directorate in Writers’ Buildings is giving the final touches to the posting of personnel of the disbanded battalion in the three districts. The Paschim Midnapore police had also requested the directorate to send more policemen to these areas to check the violence.

The directorate is preparing a notification that will be issued by the department in a few weeks, paving the way for disbanding the unit and redeploying personnel. “We are working out the modalities and checking on the places that are more sensitive,” said a deputy inspector general of police.

At Friday’s meeting, Vajpai also stressed on gathering more information on the Naxalites, according to sources. “It was proposed that a special unit consisting of policemen of the disbanded unit be set up to combat the Naxalites in trouble-torn areas,” said a senior police officer.

Additional director general of police (armed police) Ranjit Mohanty said the India Reserve Battalion, the crack commando force of the Central government being set up with funds from the Centre, would be headquartered in the fifth battalion’s barracks in Durgapur.

The commandos would be under the Union home ministry and can be sent for duty anywhere in the country.

“After five years, the India Reserve Battalion will come under the control of the state police force,” explained a senior police officer.

Mohanty said more than 1,56,000 youths had applied for 675 vacancies in the force. At today’s meeting, it was decided to set up three zonal committees headed by inspectors-general of police to screen the applicants.

“The committees would include senior police and IAS officers from the respective zones. These committees are expected to start screening the candidates by the middle of August,” said Mohanty.

   

 
 
GIRL’S MURDER DISRUPTS LIFE IN NOAPARA 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 26: 
Normal life was disrupted in Noapara police station area of North 24-Parganas when the Congress called a bandh in protest against the gruesome killing of Israt Jahan, a class XII student who was found dead on Wednesday.

The traffic came to a standstill for more than four hours on the Kanchapara Road and the Kalyani Expressway when hundreds of Congress supporters put up a blockade.

The demonstrators later lifted the blockade when police intervened.

The police had recovered Israt’s body — hacked into three pieces — from three different places on Wednesday morning. The assailants chopped off both the legs of the girl, wrapped it in a jute bag and threw it on the banks of the Ganga.

Another part of the body was recovered from another part on the riverbank some distance away.

After conducting a preliminary investigation, local police rounded up two youths in connection with the murder. Superintendent of police Harisena Verma rushed to Titagarh police station and interrogated the arrested youths.

Local Forward Bloc legislator Haripada Biswas today demanded a CID probe into the murder. “I have requested the acting chief minister, Mohammed Amin, to ask the CID to conduct a probe into the matter,” said the Forward Bloc leader.

Garulia municipality chairman Kedar Singh began a hunger strike today demanding that the murderers be arrested immediately.

On interrogating the two arrested youths, police learnt that, instead of attending private tuitions, Israt had gone to meet her friends.

“Apparently, she had an affair with a youth of the locality, whose name cannot be disclosed for the sake of investigations,” said Verma. The youth, however, has not been arrested.

   

 
 
LEFT PROTEST ON SPLITTING RAIL ZONES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 26: 
The Left Front has declared a week-long agitation beginning on July 30 to protest against the proposed division of railway zones.

The Front is demanding the postponement of railway minister Nitish Kumar’s decision to split the zones, the appointment of an expert committee and an inter-state council meeting on the issue.

In a statement issued today, Left Front leaders said they would organise campaigns at railway stations between 3 pm to 8 pm on July 30. Signatures would be collected — against the proposed division of the zones — at the railway stations and market places till August 4.

Fax massages would be sent to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee by different mass organisations urging him to accede to the Left Front’s demands. On August 2, a demonstration would be held in front of the railway office at Fairlie Place.

   

 
 
NITISH PLEADS IGNORANCE ON CABINET MEET 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, July 26: 
Railway minister Nitish Kumar today said he has not heard about Monday’s Cabinet meeting, expected to discuss the Eastern Railway bifurcation, from the Prime Minister and ruled out a review of the decision.

“I cannot say what the Cabinet will discuss, but my stand is consistent,” the minister told reporters. He added that had there been any scope for review, a new notification would have been issued by now.

A confident-looking Nitish declined to answer “political questions”. “No political comments. I will not go into political aspects. I will only answer questions relating to the ministry,” he said.

Two Jharkhand MPs backtracked on an earlier demand that a new zone should have its headquarters at Ranchi instead of Hajipur and said they would be happy if South-Eastern Railway shifted its head office to Ranchi from Calcutta.

In a letter to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Nagmani (RJD-D) and Ravindra Kumar (BJP) said: “We support the proposal for setting up a zonal headquarters at Hajipur, but at the same time demand a zonal headquarters at Ranchi.”

Nagmani and Ravindra were signatories to the letter written to Vajpayee by seven Jharkhand MPs on July 23 demanding a new zone at Ranchi instead of Hajipur. But today they claimed that certain lines objecting to the creation of a zonal headquarters at Hajipur were added after they had signed the letter.

While the decision to have a zonal headquarters at Hajipur should not be altered, the head office of South-Eastern Railway should be shifted to Ranchi as most of its jurisdiction falls in Jharkhand, they said, echoing Samata Party MPs who had made the demand yesterday.

Even as the political battle is on, Nitish has already worked on the bifurcation. Deployment of staff, work allocation and infrastructure building have begun, the minister said. Of the total 15.45 lakh railway staff, only about 50,000 will be affected by the seven new zones, he added.

The minister said the employees were under no compulsion to opt for a particular zone and could name their choice. A committee has been set up to look into manpower deployment.

Asked if the demand for shifting the headquarters of South-Eastern Railway from Calcutta to Ranchi would be considered, he said the ministry did not have any such proposal. The demand was raised yesterday by MPs known to be close to Nitish.

Playing down demands for and against bifurcation from states like Jharkhand, Gujarat and Karnataka, he said railway is on the Union list and no inter-state disputes would be recognised. “States do not come into the picture. If any particular state has some problem, it can be looked into,” he added.

   

 
 
FEW TAKERS FOR MODI ‘SAFETY’ SLOGAN 
 
 
FROM BASANT RAWAT
 
Ahmedabad, July 26: 
It’s catchy, yes. But not many are buying it.

“Modern, safe and prosperous Gujarat”, the slogan that chief minister Narendra Modi coined for the election-bound state the day he recommended dissolution of the Assembly, has not convinced many. Particularly those still holed up in relief camps.

Scarred for life, safety for them is months, if not years, away.

The existing 20-odd relief camps in the city — both official and unofficial — reveal the fear psychosis among the minorities who are still reluctant to return home. That effectively throws the “safety” bit out of the window.

As for prosperity, Gujarat is hardly the state it used to be not so long ago. The bleak economic situation over the last 10 months that Modi has been at the helm of affairs has contributed to the overall atmosphere of despair.

Modi’s yet-unfulfilled dream of riding a rath through the state rips the mask of a modern, techno-savvy man.

The chief minister had to postpone the Gaurav yatra under pressure. The yatra was to criss-cross the state, covering all the 182 Assembly segments.

Sources said Modi might undertake the yatra. Even deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, who was here weeks before the dissolution of the Assembly, did not rule out the possibility.

“Why not? He can restart the rath yatra. It was only postponed,” Advani had said, when asked whether the chief minister had cancelled or postponed the journey.

A BJP insider hinted at the possibility of the yatra being kicked off in the event of elections being delayed. He said propaganda material worth lakhs of rupees has been printed and the party would not like it to go waste.

Lakhs of rupees have been spent on making this high- tech rath. All that Modi needs is a nod from the Centre, the insider said. And if the elections are delayed, Modi might hit the road with his Toyota rath, he added.

Modi’s detractors say the chief minister, given the present industrial climate in the state, will find it difficult to project a prosperous Gujarat as his poll plank. The government is surviving on overdraft and the state has been hit hard by the World Trade Organisation.

With restrictions removed on imports, foreign goods have flooded the market, affecting small and medium industrial units. Sixty per cent of them are sick.

Not so long ago, to attract investments, the state government used to project the “four wheels” that accounted for industrial growth. These were the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation, the Gujarat State Financial Corporation, the Gujarat State Industrial Corporation and the Gujarat Industrial Investment Corporation.

Today, the situation is different. The industrial development corporation is not doing well. The financial corporation has stopped sanctioning loans for the last one year, ever since it suffered a loss of Rs 100 crore. The investment corporation has lost its glamour and is said to be making heavy losses, while the state industrial corporation is in the process of liquidation.

These hard facts have put a question mark on Modi’s slogan. The only viable plank before him is Hindutva. But will it get him the votes?

   

 
 
SORABJEE SAYS BOTH YES AND NO 
 
 
FROM OUR LEGAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, July 26: 
Attorney-general Soli J. Sorabjee today both “concurred and differed” with the Centre on the minority institutions case.

Concluding his arguments before an 11-judge bench of the Supreme Court, Sorabjee said minority institutions enjoyed “absolute” rights under Article 30 of the Constitution but added that as “no right is absolute and that every right is a regulated right”, minority institutions receiving aid could not deny admission to students of other communities.

At this, the judges asked him what percentage of students from other communities could be admitted into a minority institution. Sorabjee replied that “in St Stephen’s case, the apex court has fixed the quantum at 50 per cent”.

When the judges asked him to address the current issue, Sorabjee said: “There are always two views in any matter and it is for the court to settle it.”

“Government aid granted to a minority institution could not be used by religious or linguistic minority institutions for denying admission to students of other communities,” he added.

Sorabjee told the court that “if a student of a community other than the particular minority community is not given admission because of non-availability of seats, there is no discrimination only on the ground of religion”.

However, “if seats are available but a student belonging to a community other than the minority community is denied admission because of his or her language or religion alone, then Article 29(2) is attracted”, the attorney-general said.

Article 29 (1) and (2) are for “cultural and educational rights” of citizens and “protection of interests of minorities”.

While provision 1 guarantees the right to “conserve” a “distinct language, script or culture”, provision 2 stipulates that “no citizen shall be denied admission into any educational institution maintained by the state or receiving aid out of state funds on grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or any of them”.

This, Sorabjee said, would be attracted “if seats are available but a student belonging to a community other than the minority community is denied admission because of his or her language or religion alone”.

On one hand, Sorabjee argued that the right of administration of a minority institution under Article 30 “on its terms and language is absolute”. On the other, his very next argument was that “in a catena of discussion, it has been held that no fundamental right in our Constitution is absolute and unregulated”.

But he continued to argue that a minority educational institution could “reserve all the seats for students from its community provided the admission process was fair and transparent”. Sorabjee also pointed out that in the St Stephen’s case, the apex court had held that reservation should not exceed 50 per cent.

When the judges asked him about his views as attorney-general, he said: “I am neither for the government nor for anyone in the case but as attorney-general”, was only presenting the citations and various decisions to the court.

But he repeatedly stressed that his view was not different from that of the Centre and that he had been misquoted.

“As regards minority educational institutions which do not receive or accept any aid or grant from the government, it was open to such institutions to reserve all the seats in their educational institution for students of their community provided that the process of admission was fair and transparent and not tainted by nepotism and other extraneous consideration,” Sorabjee said.

   

 
 
AFTER THE MOVIE, DEVDAS SOUVENIRS 
 
 
FROM RAJA GHOSHAL
 
New Delhi, July 26: 
Everyone loves a winner: when Devdas smashed all box-office records, it did more than just restore Bharat Shah’s trampled image.

Archies Greetings and Gifts has struck a deal with Bollywood’s fallen impresario to look for spin-off merchandise sales from Devdas.

The success of the Harry Potter movie had sparked off Pottermania all over the world; now Archies hopes to cash in on the Devdas craze.

“We have a tie-up with Bharat Shah to sell merchandise based on Devdas on an exclusive basis,” M.S. Narula, Archies GM (marketing) told The Telegraph.

Narula is loath to give details of the commercial arrangement. However, he said the sales would actually feed off each other — sales of Archies products would serve as an indirect publicity for the film — and this was part of the overall business arrangement between Shah and Archies.

Shah, who has been released on bail after spending almost a year in custody because of a string of revelations that linked him to Dubai-based underworld dons, has spent Rs 50 crore to make the movie and has been raking in the moolah from distribution rights.

The Rs 82-crore Archies Greetings & Gifts Ltd will sell paper products-based Devdas merchandise through its 500 franchise outlets across 190 cities and over 20,000 retail outlets that stock its products.

The products on offer include posters of Devdas, Paro and Chandramukhi in the personae of Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit. It also has greeting cards developed on the movie theme for all kinds of regular occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. Special slam books have been developed by the company with the Devdas theme where children can write their personal details. A range of notepads has also been developed for college students with photographs of the Devdas stars.

“The products have been exceptionally well accepted in the market and we are getting repeat orders,” said Narula. He said the film is still running, and the company is expecting a very good overall response.

Archies is also planning to strike a similar merchandising deal with the producers of Mujhse Dosti Karogey, the movie that features Hrithik Roshan, Kareena Kapoor and Rani Mukherjee.

Archies had done similar deals in the past with Aamir Khan for Lagaan. But for Devdas, it is on a bigger scale, said Narula. “The merchandise like the movie has been a hit,” he said, but refused to disclose the sales figures.

Archies, which spearheaded the greeting cards culture in the country, also sells a range of soft toys, gifts and novelties, perfumes for “boyz” and “gals” as also music cassettes.

In the past, the cassettes it has brought out includes non-film music cassettes of Indipop singer Anamika, and Palash Sen’s group, Euphoria. “We are not developing the music cassettes business any more,” said Narula.

Speaking on the concept of such memorabilia, Narula said: “People like to spend money to buy products they associate with a particular memory that they like to keep.”

No wonder Archies is looking at more movie merchandising deals in the future.

   
 

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