Panel to decide Bhagwat debate
Centre dials phone tariff rollback number
Calcutta sizzles in freak heat wave
Wanted, walls of protection for jailors
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, March 11 
The logjam in Parliament over the sacking of former navy chief Vishnu Bhagwat ended today with both the Opposition and the government agreeing to set up a committee of senior MPs to examine sensitive papers on his removal and decide if the issue could be discussed in both Houses.

Leaders of parties in the Lok Sabha also decided to debate on Tuesday corruption charges levelled by Bhagwat against defence minister George Fernandes and the defence ministry. The debate will be under Rule 193, which does not provide for voting. A similar short-duration motion will be moved in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday on the Bhagwat issue.

No listed business in the Rajya Sabha could be transacted today, forcing the presiding officers to adjourn the Upper House twice amid slogan-shouting and clashes between treasury benches and the Opposition. Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee was prevented from speaking during the heated exchanges on the Bhagwat issue.

Lok Sabha Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi summoned a meeting of leaders of all parties, who heard each other out and agreed to set up a committee to decide if the ouster can be discussed in Parliament. The panel is likely to have 10 senior members from the Lok Sabha and five from the Rajya Sabha. Indrajit Gupta, seniormost member of the Lok Sabha, is tipped to be the convener of the committee.

Former Prime Ministers H.D. Deve Gowda, Chandra Shekhar and I.K. Gujral, Balayogi, Fernandes, leader of the Opposition Sharad Pawar, CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee, former defence minister Mulayam Singh Yadav and Union parliamentary affairs minister P.R. Kumaramangalam are other likely members.

After the 90-minute meeting, Kumaramangalam said the terms of reference and composition of the committee will be decided by the Lok Sabha Speaker in consultation with the chairman of the Rajya Sabha. The parliamentary committee members will be shown all sensitive documents related to the dismissal of Bhagwat, based on which a decision will be taken, he said.

The government conceded the Opposition?s demand for a discussion on corruption charges levelled by finance minister Yashwant Sinha?s former economic adviser Mohan Guruswamy against ministers and government functionaries. Guruswamy had alleged that the government favoured some industrial houses in fixing steel prices and buy-back of UTI shares. The matter may be taken up on Monday in the Lok Sabha.

The Congress made it clear that it will ?push through? its twin demand for setting up Joint Parliamentary Committees (JPC) to probe both the Bhagwat and Guruswamy issues. Congress chief whip P.J. Kurien said: ?If the parliamentary committee takes a decision on the issue before March 17, the discussion on that day could be a combined one on charges of corruption as well as the issue of dismissal of Admiral Bhagwat,? he said.

Both the Congress and the BJP claimed victory after today?s developments. Congress leaders said they ?forced? the government to discuss corruption in high places and set up a parliamentary panel on the Bhagwat case. ?We want to drive home the point that the BJP government is not only inefficient, but corrupt as well,? Congress spokesman Ajit Jogi said.

The government?s floor managers, however, countered, saying they had managed to avoid crucial votings on both issues. About formation of the committee, they said the government has nothing to hide on the dismissal of Bhagwat and Guruswamy. ?After the discussion, there might be some red faces in the Congress and erstwhile United Front,? a BJP minister claimed.

In the Rajya Sabha, immediately after question hour, leader of the Opposition in the House, Manmohan Singh, rose to speak. He pointed out that the Vishnu Bhagwat and Mohan Guruswamy issues were being debated in the media and he had expected the Prime Minister ? in his address on the motion of thanks to the Presidential address ? to enlighten the House on the subjects. ?He did not touch on the issues,? Singh said.

After Gurudas Dasgupta and Biplab Dasgupta had spoken along the same lines, Vajpayee wanted to clarify. It was then that Opposition MPs, including those of the Congress, the Left and the Rashtriya Loktantrik Morcha, began shouting slogans for about 10 minutes before the House was adjourned.    

New Delhi, March 11 
The BJP government is considering a rollback of the hike in telecom tariff announced on Tuesday by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai).

A meeting of the Telecom Commission on this issue remained inconclusive today and is slated to continue tomorrow. But officials hinted at a rollback.

?We have asked officials to look into the issue (of new tariffs) and a decision will be taken soon,? said minister of state for telecommunicatons Kabindra Purakayastha.

Giving an indication of the mood in the commission, a member emerging from today?s meeting wondered aloud: ?If the Constitution of the country which was framed by the Parliament can be amended more than 73 times, why can?t a document created by a statutary body created by the same Parliament be amended at least once??

But the Trai has warned that a rollback will leave the sector without enough resources. ?It is sad the way the whole thing is developing. The work that we have done will be nullified by any decision to roll back,? said a Trai official.

The Telecom Commission met in the wake of protests against the proposed rates in telephone rates and local call charges.

The Congress, eager to make political capital out of the issue, has been criticising the BJP government for planning to raise tariffs as well as agreeing to roll back the hike.

?The BJP?s attitude, of first accepting and later rolling back is not going to help the telecom sector in any way. We are opposed to any hike affecting common people, especially those in rural areas,? said party spokesman Ajit Jogi.

Mamata Banerjee, whose strident stand yesterday forced the government to put the tariff increase on hold, remained adamant today.

?Telecom and cooking gas are not luxuries. They have to roll back rentals and raise the number of free calls,? she demanded.

The Left and the Congress made common cause with Mamata Banerjee in Parliament.

Nilotpal Basu, CPM MP and member of the consultative committee on telecom, said: ?The Trai never took into account the views of rural consumer groups. They only seem to have talked with telecom companies while formulating proposals. Throughout the world, commercial telephone connections subsidise household telephones. In fact, even in the US, local calls are free in some areas.?

The telecom sector itself is divided over the issue with the public sector ? the largest operator in the rural sector ? opposing the move to raise rates and the private sector frowning on the efforts to force a rollback.

The industry also pointed out that the government?s attempt to tamper with the rate structure drawn up by an ?autonomous? body defeats the very objective behind setting up the regulatory authority.

If the government decides to take away the decision-making powers of the Trai, there will be no regulator left in the sector, Sanjeev Kanwar, vice-president of Essar Telecom, said.

?There will be nothing left of the Trai, if the government takes a decision to curtail its power under some pretext or other,? Kanwar added.    

Calcutta, March 11 
With winter barely fading away, a freak heat wave is melting the city.

The weatherman attributed this sizzler to ?high pressure over the Bay of Bengal? which is heating the land.

The boil started on Tuesday with the mercury soaring up to 39.2 degree Celsius, which was six degrees above normal.

Wednesday saw no respite either, as the temperature dropped by just one degree, down to 38. Though it dipped to 35.2 degrees today, weathermen said it could shoot up in the next few days.

The humidity level over the last few days only made things worse. The Alipore Meteorological Office said the maximum humidity has been hovering around 90 per cent.

Sporadic power cuts in and around the city coupled with water scarcity added to the misery. Madhyamik students, too, had a trying time as many areas went without power for long stretches in the evening.

Madhyamik examination centres were, however, spared power cuts because CESC and SEB ensured smooth supply.

Deputy director-general of the met office M.K. Guha explained that high pressure over the Bay of Bengal was causing a mass of hot air from the ocean to blow across to the land, heating the atmosphere.

?Over the last couple of days there has been warm, moist air over land which has made temperatures shoot up. The humidity level has made the heat quite unbearable,?? Guha said.

Areas like Orissa, Bihar and West Bengal have felt the intense heat because of the high pressure.

Such a freak heat wave has not besieged the city in the recent past. Three years ago around this time, the temperature just touched 37 degrees and plummeted as soon as the high pressure disappeared.

However, this year the high pressure has been rather strong and, hence, the mercury soared. This was not the case in other years.

But even as Calcuttans curse, the heat could have been worse, as on March 23, 1941, when the temperature skyrocketed to a record 41.1 degree Celsius.

However, summer has not yet set in and it is expected only in April when the temperature settles down and there are no drastic fluctuations.    

Lucknow, March 11 
Prison staff in Uttar Pradesh are running scared of the very people they are supposed to guard.

After the recent murder of the Lucknow jail superintendent, supervisors feel they are no longer safe from the criminals inside the prison.

Senior superintendent of Fatehgarh central jail Sharad Kulshresta, who was transferred from Lucknow Central Jail recently, is perhaps the most harassed official in the state. One of Uttar Pradesh?s most dreaded criminals Abhay Singh, believed to have masterminded the murder of jail superintendent R.K. Tiwari, has also been moved from here to Fatehgarh.

Apart from Singh, Kulshresta also has to contend with seven other hardened criminals, and that, too, without any sophisticated arms.

The ?high-security? Fatehgarh prison has weaponry incapable of dealing even with petty thieves, let alone hardened gangsters. The jail has an ancient British revolver and eight cartridges.

?Only Amitabh Bachchan can handle such criminals with one revolver and eight bullets. In real life, it is impossible,? a senior jail official said. He added the weapons were useless in case of disturbances within the prison.

As a result, Kulshresta is a worried man. ?There is no security at my Lucknow residence where my family lives. I have no personal security. But God is with me and He will save me,? he said.

The statistics on arms and ammunition in the six central jails in the state are revealing. According to reliable jail records, five jails in Agra, Naini, Bareilly, Varanasi and Fatehgarh have six revolvers between them and less than 100 cartridges. And it is in these prisons that the most dreaded criminals are kept.

Babloo Srivastava, former aide of Dawood Ibrahim, is being moved from Naini to Bareilly. Mukhtar Ansari, BSP legislator and a gangster from Ghazipur in east Uttar Pradesh, has been shifted to Agra jail from Lucknow. The ostensible reason behind such transfers is to curb criminal activities. But, with no weapons at the disposal of the jail staff, the exercise becomes meaningless.

Chief minister Kalyan Singh told The Telegraph: ?They are being shifted keeping security considerations in mind. They have been sent to jails which have maximum security.?

However, facts about the arms and ammunition in these prisons put Kalyan Singh?s claims to shame.

Principal secretary, prisons, Madhukar Gupta said: ?I cannot say offhand the number of weapons in each jail, but a move is on to upgrade the armoury and provide sophisticated arms.?

He said the chief minister promised to sanction 25 revolvers to the prison department to be distributed to jail superintendents. However, nothing more was heard about this after the announcement was made a month ago.

Ansari and Abhay Singh continue to call the shots from inside prison cells. Senior prison officials said Ansari ?moved? into superintendent Tiwari?s official chamber on the jail premises after he was murdered. The gangster removed the computer and other items from the ante-room and got a bed put there by the jail staff. It became Ansari?s bedroom till he was shifted to Agra two days ago.

A high-level inquiry has been ordered to find out about a nexus between jail officials and criminals. However, such probes are unlikely to take the fear out of the jail officials? minds.    


Today?s forecast: Mainly clear sky. Slight fall in night temperature.

Temperature:Maximum 36.9?C (3?C above normal)
Minimum 25.4?C (5?C above normal)

Relative humidity:Maximum 95%
Minimum 43%


Sunrise:5.53 am
Sunset:5.40 pm

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