Sourav & Co. hits ICC terms for a six
Vajpayee walks Gujarat middle path with hawks
Backlash scars police chief
Beckham and boys kick for Bengal
Rights blow to Madhu
Spy-catcher pilot succumbs in ‘flying coffin’ crash
Court admits Tasleem visa plea
Sonia lines up scandal roadshow against govt
Samsung in strikeback blitz
Calcutta Weather

Bangkok, Aug. 19: 
In an extraordinary move late this evening, Indian cricketers released a collective statement confirming that they would not sign the International Cricket Council (ICC)-formulated Player Terms.

Now, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has no choice but to select a fresh squad for next month’s Champions Trophy in Colombo. The two-page statement, issued in Leeds, did not bear anybody’s signature. Instead, the signing-off line was: Members of the Indian cricket team.

Significantly, despite BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya’s reservations, the cricketers have appointed former captain Ravi Shastri as their spokesman.

Manager Ranga Reddy was in the dark about this unprecedented development. Contacted by The Telegraph, he simply said: “I really have no idea who prepared what statement. Nobody took my permission to issue one.”

The national selectors have been asked to be present in Bangalore tomorrow. Besides the working committee, even Chandu Borde and Co. should be kept busy.

Agencies add: In the statement, the players said: “We believe by signing the player contract, we are caught totally in the middle.”

“On the one hand, we suffer exposure from the ICC/BCCI when they could allege non-compliance with our obligations. On the other hand, we could face exposure from our competitive sponsors who have paid us for the right to exploit our brand and image commercially.

“We have been told that unless we sign a document which forces us to relinquish all our intellectual property and personal commercial rights, we would be ineligible to play for our country in tournaments conducted by the International Cricket Council.”

The players rejected the BCCI proposal to sign the agreement only for the Champions Trophy with the promise of a review later.

“The ICC restrictions are overly broad, covering not just the Champions Trophy but 30 days before and after. In the present case, therefore, by simply signing the contract, the ICC could already allege breach,” the players said.

Less than a month remains before the tournament.

“We want to play. We are not asking for anything more than that we have been getting. We are just not being allowed to play, much against our wishes,” they said.

The ICC’s agreement with its sponsors runs till the 2007 World Cup. The cricketers said the deal would “not only affect the current players, but those who have yet to represent India”.

“Two months before an event is not the right time to discuss such vital issues. We first got the contract after the final of the NatWest series (July 13). We have been landed with this problem in the midst of a tour of England, which is back to back with the ICC Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka.”

The players said they would have liked some more time, but had been asked to send their response today as the selection committee is meeting tomorrow.

They also signed a letter sent by the board earlier, ticking the clause which says that “we would neither sign nor abide by the provisions for participation even in the Champions Trophy”.

Such a sponsorship policy exists in no other sport, the players said.

ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed is arriving in India tomorrow on a pre-planned business trip, but could have discussions with Indian officials.


New Delhi, Aug. 19: 
The Prime Minister went half-way to please BJP hardliners in deciding to invoke the President’s power to consult the Supreme Court on the Election Commission’s stand against early polls in Gujarat, party sources said.

The BJP was keen to contest the commission’s decision in a court of law, the sources said, but Atal Bihari Vajpayee was not interested in a confrontation.

Sources said the commission’s report was discussed threadbare at a late-night meeting at Vajpayee’s residence on Saturday. Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu and parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan attended the meeting where the “consensus” was on taking a “middle path”.

“This way, the views of the Prime Minister and the hardliners were accommodated. We could not ignore the sentiments of our Gujarat cadre who were so worked up at the Election Commission’s decision. On the one hand, it was felt that openly taking on the commission may not show the government in a good light. On the other, if the Cabinet straightaway recommended Central rule, it would have looked like it was acting at the commission’s behest,” a source said.

The poll panel had suggested the use of Article 356 to avert a constitutional crisis that could arise if a legislature was not in place in Gujarat by October 6. The last sitting of the Assembly was on April 6 and, according to Article 174 of the Constitution, the gap between two sittings should not exceed six months.

Caretaker chief minister Narendra Modi had hinted at moving court. BJP sources claimed that there was a “groundswell of opinion” in Gujarat, particularly among the business community, against the “postponement” of the election.

“There is all-round uncertainty as a result of which trade and business are getting badly affected. Major decisions are not being taken,” the source said.

The BJP maintains that it would have little option but accept the court’s opinion — even if it endorsed the commission’s decision. However, the hardliners are still against Central rule.

The BJP has also begun a campaign against chief election commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh, insinuating that he is not only “pseudo-secular” but also a “pseudo-democrat”.

BJP spokesman Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi alleged that the “campaign” to defer polls in certain states was “detrimental to democratic values”.

“It is a dangerous conspiracy and the nation is witnessing how pseudo-secularists have turned into pseudo-democrats by saying elections must not be held only to uphold what they claim to be a secular democracy,” Naqvi said.


Dhupguri, Aug. 19: 
Enraged by the audacious murder of five party members, CPM activists today took out their anger on police, heckling and abusing the visiting director-general and manhandling the officer-in-charge of the station that covers the scene of the carnage.

A police jeep was also smashed as senior party leaders looked on without making any effort to control the activists.

Dinesh Vajpai, who arrived this morning on the instructions of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, went to the party office with other officers for an on-the-spot inquiry into Saturday’s strike by the Kamtapur Liberation organisation on the CPM office.

Vajpai was coming out of the office on College Road after meeting senior CPM leaders when nearly 1,000 party workers surrounded him and shouted slogans against the police. As the few policemen present struggled to hold back the crowd, the workers hurled invectives at Vajpai and heckled him.

The harried police chief virtually elbowed his way to his car and was immediately driven away. But before the vehicle could move, irate partymen snarled at him through the windows and banged their fists on the car. Police used batons to clear the road.

Inspector general of police (north) Bhupinder Singh and three superintendents of police were with Vajpai when the mob turned on him.

Soon after, party workers threw rocks at a police jeep parked nearby, smashing it.

Later, droves of CPM workers, blaming the deaths on Dhupguri police station officer-in-charge Achintya Gupta, manhandled him outside the same party office. As they pushed him into a corner, district magistrate Subrata Gupta rushed to his aid and whisked him away in a car.

“The police should deliver to win people’s confidence. The public can hardly put faith in a non-performing police force,” Manik Sanyal, the CPM’s Jalpaiguri district secretary, said after the incidents, virtually justifying the attack on the officers. He said he met Vajpai and asked him to produce “fruitful results”.

In Calcutta, the CPM leadership, however, sought to downplay the incident, shifting the blame on the residents. Party state secretary Anil Biswas said he did not think CPM workers were involved. “But I will still try to find out what exactly happened.’’

Biswas said the residents of Dhupguri were agitated over the killings. “It is natural that people will react sharply after such a brutal fracas. But I don’t think any of our partymen misbehaved with the police chief.’’

Vajpai, driven straight from here to Jalpaiguri, shrugged off the incident at a news conference, refusing to talk about it.

The police chief promised to uncover the identity of the killers in a couple of days. He said two companies of armed police commandos familiar with the hilly terrain of north Bengal were being despatched.


Calcutta, Aug. 19: 
If Ricky Martin can jet in secretly and snatch a game of football with underprivileged children on the outskirts of Calcutta — and raise money for them at the same time — can David Beckham be far behind?

The master bender of the ball may not be ready to fly in yet, but the England and Manchester United star joined twenty-one other international footballers earlier this month to raise money for the education of Bengal’s underprivileged children.

On August 10, Manchester United and Boca Juniors, the top Argentine club for which Diego Maradona once played, met at Man U’s home, Old Trafford, in a charity match, the proceeds from which will be used to teach out-of-school children under a Unicef-sponsored project.

“The project deals with a community-based alternative formal education system, dubbed Shishu Shiksha Karmasuchi. The main objective of the programme is to ensure that children who are out of school have access to primary education with the required levels of learning and to create community ownership and responsibility for providing education to all children,” a Unicef official said.

With Manchester United’s active support, the programme has so far been implemented in 341 blocks of 18 districts. About four lakh children between four and 14 years are expected to benefit.

Boca Juniors lost the match 2-0, and that was no surprise with Manchester Unted trotting out its multi-million-dollar stars Juan Sebastian Veron, Rio Ferdinand (the latest signing at a record fee), Roy Keane and Ryan Giggs.

United manager, the legendary Alex Ferguson, was happy for two reasons: first, Beckham had proved his fitness and second, his club was raising money for a cause with which he himself has identified.

Ferguson is a special representative of Unicef UK, joining the league of actors Roger Moore and Ralph Fiennes and former cricketer Imran Khan’s wife Jemima.

The Unicef official said: “The (education) centres are established in areas of the state where there is no school or it is difficult for children to attend schools.”

The programme is being run in collaboration with the panchayat and rural development ministry. “As part of the programme, two sahayikas (local teachers) are engaged in each centre to teach the children and identify the pupils from a certain area. While the state government provides support through payment of salaries to the sahayikas and provision of textbooks to the children, Unicef helps train the sahayikas, besides supplying basic teaching learning material to each centre,” she said.

The programme starts with Class I in the first year and then adds a class each successive year until all four classes under primary education are in operation.

Manchester United is raising money for the UN agency’s education-specific work under a partnership called ‘United for Unicef’ that started in 1999.

Over half of the 1 million pounds donated to Unicef through the partnership will be spent on education in India.


New Delhi, Aug.19: 
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has turned down the appeal of Madhu Sharma to protect her family from alleged harassment by Delhi police, reports our special correspondent.

Commission chairman J.S. Verma refused to meet Madhu, who sought to link Pramod Mahajan with the Shivani murder case, and her daughters assigned the panel’s director-general, Y.N. Srinivasan, to hear out their case.

The rights panel declined to comment on the meeting, but Madhu said the commission had informed her that there is “no occasion” for its intervention as her husband R.K. Sharma is an alleged “absconder”.


New Delhi, Aug. 19: 
Close to 11 that August morning, the radar operations in charge at an air force base in Gujarat switched on the loudspeakers and alerted the fighter pilots on operational readiness.

In a couple of minutes, Squadron Leader Prashant Bundela, “Alpha”, and Flying Officer Sanjeev Narayan, “Bravo”, were airborne in their MiGs. A French-made Atlantique of the Pakistani maritime reconnaissance was flying in Indian airspace. Despite warnings, it had not identified itself and stated its purpose.

Bundela and Narayan flew close to the Atlantique for visual identification to confirm what was suspected — that it was indeed a Pakistani aircraft.

The pilots also made radio contact with the spy plane and reported back to the air force controller.

The Atlantique was turning and flying back into Pakistani airspace when Bundela fired a French-made Matra missile.

The missile hit the Atlantique on its left engine, sending it hurtling down in a ball of fire with its debris scattered mostly on the Pakistani side of the Rann of Kutch.

It was August 1999, barely a month after the Kargil war, and Bundela was decorated with the Vayu Sena medal.

Three years later, Squadron Leader Prashant Bundela is dead.

He died on Saturday at the military hospital in Pune. He was given a quiet funeral at his ancestral home in Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan, yesterday. He is survived by his wife and two children.

On April 4 this year, Bundela, a pilot in his early 30s with more than 1,200 hours of flying, was on a sortie from Adampur to Halwara with Flight Lieutenant S.K. Nayak.

A few minutes after takeoff, somewhere over Jalandhar, his MiG-21 Bis engine began sputtering. Fuel was not being pumped into the R-25 engine and it flamed out.

Both Bundela and Nayak ejected. Nayak parachuted down safely.

Bundela landed on his neck. He was paralysed. On Saturday, after three-months of struggling in the intensive care unit, Bundela died.

For the Indian Air Force, Bundela’s death is the strongest argument to procure the Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT).

The file on the AJT is now somewhere between the ministry of defence and the Union Cabinet.

Many MiG crashes are put down to pilot error — because the trainees, graduating from the Kiran aircraft to the MiG, experience a big leap.

The defence establishment has been arguing that AJTs are desperately needed to bridge this gap.

Critics have derisively also referred to the aging MiGs — the IAF has some 200 of them — as “Flying Coffins”, much to the chagrin of the top brass of the defence forces.

In the two decades that successive governments have been negotiating the deal for the AJTs, everytime a MiG has crashed, the refrain has gone out that fear of scandal (and kickbacks) has combined with bureaucratic red tape to delay the decision.

Bundela was not a novice. He was a fighter ace. In life, he symbolised the best of the air force; in his manner of death, its worst.


Hyderabad, Aug. 19: 
Andhra Pradesh High Court today admitted a review petition by Tasleem Murad, wife of Mohammad Azmath Javed, one of the two Hyderabadis presently lodged in a US jail in connection with credit card fraud, seeking a stay on the state government’s order to send her back to Pakistan.

Tasleem and her seven-month-old son were yesterday summoned by the city police for deportation and informed of their decision to send her to Delhi by train and later by road to the Attari border near Amritsar.

The police said they had already delayed the action by two days after the high court rejected her plea for visa extension early last week.

Tasleem’s visa had expired on May 29 but the Indian authorities did not extend it in view of the ramifications involving her jailed husband and reports about her background in Pakistan. She married Azmath in Hyderabad in March 2000.

Tasleem has been facing harrowing treatment by the police and the administration ever since her husband’s involvement surfaced in the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US.

She was allowed to stay for the remaining period of her visa because of her pregnancy, but moved the high court in early March following a deportation order from the external affairs ministry.

Tasleem sought political support from the MIM (Majlis-e-Itahadul-Musalmeen) following the rejection of her petition. The state home minister granted her a week’s time to file review petition on the intervention of MIM legislator Assaduddin Owaisi.

Ironically, none of the women organisations came forward to take up her cause. Andhra Pradesh Mahila Samakhya spokespersons admit they could provide moral and legal support but did not want to interfere as this was an issue involving national security.

“We feel sorry for her. With her husband in a New York jail and parents elsewhere, Tasleem needs support from the family,” said a Samakhya leader, Sandhya.

Tasleem says she has no intention of returning to Pakistan as she had no future there and she would be considered a social outcast there without her husband. “My parents are poor and I will not be able to look after my child there,” she said, adding: “I keep telling the government and the police that my parents are Indians.”

Asked whether she had sought support and assistance from women’s groups or charitable organisations, Tasleem said they were ready to help provided she managed to obtain permission to stay in the country.

A few voluntary groups and the police had provided some funds and legal services but pleaded helplessness regarding the other aspects of her case, she said.


New Delhi, Aug. 19: 
The Congress has finally decided to hit the streets. Party president Sonia Gandhi will lead an agitation here on August 24 against the Vajpayee regime’s alleged scams, scandals and move to lower the dignity and authority of the Election Commission in the wake of the Gujarat standoff.

The Congress will organise a rally at Delhi’s Feroze Shah Kotla grounds where Sonia and other senior leaders will give a call for “BJP gaddi chhoro”. AICC functionaries said a countrywide agitation would follow shortly.

Sonia plans to attend an Opposition meet to be held in honour of former Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu, whose services have been sought to organise a broad-based campaign against the NDA government.

Sonia and other Opposition leaders have agreed to CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee’s suggestion that Opposition ranks needed to sink “minor differences” to take on the “greater evil” of the BJP.

According to the Congress, the BJP-led government has lost all “moral and political” right to govern in the wake of corruption charges, including the land plot scam and the petrol pump scandal.

It has taken a serious view of the BJP’s decision to challenge the Election Commission’s decision to defer the Assembly polls in Gujarat.

“The reaction of the BJP and Central government on the Election Commission report on Gujarat polls is unfortunate. It is also reflective of their mindset of intolerance which does not respect democratic institutions,” said Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi.

He said the Cabinet decision was aimed at “subverting institutions” empowered to protect the Constitution and alleged that the BJP leadership was acting to further their agenda to “cynically exploit the communal divide of their creation in Gujarat for electoral benefits”.

Singhvi accused the BJP of unleashing a “disinformation campaign” against the commission, saying it had exceeded its powers by suggesting the imposition of Article 356 in Gujarat.

The commission had merely suggested possibilities in the event the poll process in Gujarat remained incomplete even six months after the dissolution of the Assembly, he said.

In another development, the Congress has demanded that BJP president Venkaiah Naidu return the 40-acre land in Andhra Pradesh meant for Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes that was allegedly allotted to him.

Congress spokesman Anand Sharma asked the Chandrababu Naidu government to order an inquiry into the matter and take possession of the land.

“Naidu and his family members had been allotted 40 acres of land. Naidu said he was allotted four acres of land. Our information is that 20 acres were allotted to his father-in-law, brother-in-law, besides himself, while 20 acres were allotted to his other relatives,” Sharma said.

If it is established that the land is a patta land, allotted to persons in the SC/ST category, then Venkaiah Naidu should immediately hand over the land, Sharma added.


New Delhi, Aug. 19: 
Samsung India is calling the ICC’s bluff. The Rs 1,350-crore television-to-white goods maker is launching a series of five ads featuring seven Indian cricketers that will start airing tonight.

Samsung’s move will raise the pitch in the battle over the contentious ambush marketing clause that the world cricket body wants to introduce in the players’ contract ahead of the Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka beginning from September 19.

The offending clause requires cricketers to stop endorsing products of companies that compete with those marketed by the tournament sponsors one month before the start of the event and till one month after the finals.

Samsung’s decision to air its ads tonight – exactly a month before the tournament – indicates that the rivals of the tournament sponsor are not prepared to back down on the issue. “We are ready to take them head on,” said one Samsung official.

Samsung, which has signed on seven cricketers — Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Virender Sehwag, Dinesh Mongia, Ajay Ratra and Javagal Srinath — is keen to draw maximum dividend from its marketing strategy that will hurt LG Electronics, a key sponsor.

“We are 100 per cent behind the decision of the players (not to sign the contract). But if the International Cricket Council and the Board of Cricket Control in India armtwist the players into the signing the contracts, we will have a contingency plan to fall back upon,” Samsung sources said but refused to spell out what it was.

“We will not have any hard feelings against the cricketers (if they sign the contract) and are committed to stand solidly behind them,” they said.

Samsung India vice-president Ravindra Zutshi said: “We hope that BCCI will work out something in favour of itself and the players and, at the same time, not compromise our interests. We signed up these players in March this year when neither party was aware of the clause.”

The four tournament sponsors — Pepsi, LG Electronics, Hero Honda and South African Airways — have insisted on such a clause to avoid being “ambushed” by rivals as Pepsi did during the Cricket World Cup in 1996-97 with its “Nothing official about it” campaign. Coca-Cola was the official sponsor but Pepsi gained a lot of mileage with the irreverent dig at its Atlanta-based rival.

“Ambush marketing is a fact of life. The latest example was at the World Cup in South Korea and Japan where several players appeared in Pepsi ads even though Coke was the official sponsor. The sports bodies should work out a solution to this problem,” Zutshi said.

“We can’t have double standards here: What was fine in football has to be okay in cricket as well,” said one official.

The biggest beef over the clause is that players are being forced to sign a contract that forces them to renege on their earlier endorsement deals. Samsung says the clause cannot be used to scupper its contract with the seven cricketers because LG signed on as a tournament official only in July.




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Min: 55%

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Sunset: 6.04 pm


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