Joshi lines up education cadre
Nuclear Jaswant to target disarmament panel record
Jaya MLA punches minister on the nose
Rape insurance scheme at risk
Students caught while teasing schoolgirls
Calcutta weather

Calcutta, March 22 
Undaunted by October?s skirmish with states, the BJP-led government has kicked off plans to create an all-India cadre to manage higher educational institutions.

In an indication of the BJP?s education policy priorities, human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi said he would shortly convene a conference of state education ministers where the plans for an Indian Education Service would be unveiled.

?There is no reason for the states not to see the obvious merits of the project and agree with us on the need for the service,? Joshi told The Telegraph.

Joshi, who had made the first move on this count in October only to be scorned by the states in an education ministers? meet, also said experts and ministry officials were examining the proposal.

The minister may be convinced of the merits of such a service, but states are bound to see it as an effort to control administrative appointments from Delhi.

If such a service is introduced, West Bengal?s ruling communists, who have a vice-like grip on education, will find it impossible to foist another Surabhi Banerjee ? recently appointed pro vice-chancellor of Calcutta University ? on an educational institution.

Having mastered the art of regimentation, Jyoti Basu?s government has been quick to smell a similar effort by its sworn enemy ? and yet so close in some of the objectives they chase, one such being controlling education.

Ironically, the BJP and the CPM continue to bitterly attack each other for following the same goal. On his visit to Calcutta with the Prime Minister on Saturday, Joshi had accused the Left Front of politicising education, citing the appointment of Surabhi Banerjee.

Last October, Bengal had taken the lead in drumming up opposition to Joshi?s attempt to get a BJP-minded businessman ? masquerading as an expert ? to read a paper at the education ministers? conference. Education ministers had walked out of the conference. ?We only hope they (BJP) have not forgotten how their plans were defeated by us in the October meeting. We will actively resist them this time, too,? state higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty said. Joshi did not elaborate on the identity of the experts examining the project.

An official associated with the exercise in the HRD ministry admitted the government would have to pass through many sequences before the proposal sees fruition in a Bill in Parliament. ?The question of introducing a legislation will arise then,? he added.

Joshi is pursuing such a proposal ? at the risk of being criticised for trying to exert political control over the education system ? even though some of the issues he himself identified as important have remained unaddressed.

One of them is the promise to launch a primary education mission, taking the cue from a similar nationwide literacy programme. He also had the grand plan of unifying various literacy programmes.

No initiative has been taken on either. Rather, Joshi has begun the education service exercise, using as a jumping-off point an eight page-memorandum submitted by the BJP?s student wing, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad.

The memorandum proposes an Indian Education Service modelled on the Indian Administrative Service for managing the administration of universities and colleges across the country.

?We think an all-India cadre is extremely necessary to put a stop to the practice of appointing academicians to administrative posts in universities and colleges,?? parishad president Dineswananda Goswami said.

Also engaging the Centre?s attention is the parishad?s suggestion that a national education foundation be set up with powers to ?guide, monitor and co-ordinate the implementation of various education policies?.

A foundation with autonomy will act as a bulwark against bureaucratic and political tinkering with the management of higher educational institutions, Goswami said.

Another highpoint of the document is the eye-popping advocacy of introducing Sanskrit in place of English which it says enjoys an ?unfortunate and disproportionate dominance? as a medium of instruction.    

New Delhi, March 22 
Foreign minister Jaswant Singh is likely to raise questions in Geneva on the effectiveness of the Conference on Disarmament in dealing with global elimination of nuclear arms .

Singh, scheduled to address the conference on Thursday, leaves for Geneva tomorrow.

Singh?s speech at the high-profile forum ? the sole multi-lateral negotiating panel on global disarmament ? will be significant as he will be the first Indian foreign minister in more than a decade to address it. He will also be the first representative of a nuclear India at the forum. Natwar Singh, during the Rajiv Gandhi government, was the last Indian foreign minister at the conference in 1989.

This year, two issues ? nuclear disarmament and the Fissile Materials Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) ? are likely to dominate the proceedings. Though Singh?s speech is yet to be finalised, its thrust will be on the effectiveness of the forum.

Singh is likely to argue that though there has been a rising demand for elimination of nuclear arsenal globally, the forum has failed to come up with concrete steps to realise this. It had, however, successfully negotiated the check on chemical and biological weapons.

Singh is likely to argue that the FMCT, being thought of by some member-nations at the conference as one of the most effective ways of dealing with nuclear disarmament, cannot be the only way to deal with the issue: other steps also have to be taken.

India made it clear that while it was willing to enter into negotiations on FMCT, it will not agree to any pact which is discriminatory and non-global.

Recent events which seriously undermined the credibility of the conference are also likely to be highlighted by Singh. He may refer to how the negotiations on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) were hijacked by some countries from Geneva to the UN General Assembly in New York in 1996 in their keenness to get the entry-into-force clause attached. The bypassing of the forum debate on Anti-Personnel Landmines may also figure in the speech.

South Block officials said Singh?s speech will reflect a ?confident India, aware of its responsibilities and duties as a nuclear weapons power?. They argued that though there will be no dilution in Delhi?s stated goal ? elimination of nuclear arms ? suggestions that are ?do-able? in the intervening period will be put forward.

Singh will also try to put on record Delhi?s rationale behind its nuclear tests: the deterioration in India?s security and the failure of established nuclear weapon powers to take effective steps towards a global elimination of nuclear weapons.

To strengthen India?s argument that it was aware of its responsibilities as a nuclear state, Singh is likely to refer to the unilateral moratorium on nuclear tests announced by New Delhi, its no-first-use assurance and its commitment on not to use its weapons against a non-nuclear country.

The Lahore Declaration and other confidence-building measures on nuclear and missile fields are also likely to be highlighted.

Singh will also refer to India?s intention of converting its de facto moratorium into a de jure formulation once its current round of talks with the West is successfully concluded. But he will not give any specific date as to when New Delhi is likely to sign the CTBT.

South Block officials, however, said it will not be Singh?s attempt to run down the forum, but only to point out some loopholes and its failure in dealing seriously with nuclear disarmament, despite the popular global demand.    

Chennai, March 22 
Political leaders in Tamil Nadu increasingly seem to prefer the punch rather than the punchline.

All hell broke loose in the Assembly here today after ADMK Legislature Party leader R. Thamaraikkani socked agriculture minister Veerapandi S. Arumugam on the nose after a heated exchange of words.

Thamaraikkani was later arrested, on a warrant issued by Speaker P.T.R. Palanivel, from a hospital where he and his colleague S. Karuppasamy had been admitted following the brawl.

The assault again shed light on the extent of antagonism among political rivals in Tamil Nadu and the depths to which state politics has sunk of late. A little over a week ago, the police had filed a case against ADMK chief Jayalalitha after her former auditor R. Rajasekhar accused her of beating him with high-heeled shoes.

Jayalalitha had denied the charge, claiming it was part of a conspiracy hatched by the state government.

Trouble started this morning during the discussion on the budget, when Thamaraikkani charged the government with patronising anti-social elements. Arumugam objected to this. The verbal duel between the two legislators soon turned into a full-fledged fracas.

The DMK minister, who suffered a deep cut on the bridge of his nose, was given first aid at the Speaker?s chamber.

Soon after the assault, treasury bench members rushed towards the two ADMK members.

With the Speaker stunned into speechlessness, a free-for-all followed in the next five minutes.

The watch and ward staff rushed into the House and joined the Opposition in protecting the two MLAs. They had a tough time holding back the furious ruling party members, one of whom was seen brandishing a footwear.

Karuppasamy, who was trapped in the ensuing melee, was admitted to the hospital and was examined for suspected fracture.

The Speaker suspended both the ADMK legislators for the rest of the session. He also ordered that the ADMK members should not stay in the MLAs? hostel till the end of the session.

Chief minister M. Karunanidhi was not present during the incident. But, arriving soon at the Speaker?s chamber, he told reporters the assault deserved severe condemnation.

In a statement here tonight, Jayalalitha condemned the arrest of the ADMK leaders, saying the Speaker?s action in ordering the arrests was against all parliamentary norms and unheard of.

The ?sealing? of the chambers of the two MLAs in the legislators? hostel was also unparalleled, she added. Jayalalitha said it was ?unfortunate? that the Speaker, who was expected to maintain decorum of the House, had acted in a ?partisan manner?, favouring the ruling party.    

New Delhi, March 22 
Rattled by the intensity of protests from women?s groups, General Insurance Company (GIC) is having second thoughts on inclusion of rape in its new insurance cover scheme for women.

?The uproar has taught us a lesson. We are reconsidering including rape victims in the category of women liable for insurance in case of death or physical disability,? said a senior GIC official here.

The women?s groups allege the rape provision implies all women should regard rape as a possibility and insure themselves against it.

The new scheme, announced by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on his first anniversary in power, lists rape among the many categories under which women would be entitled to insurance cover. ?For the first time, we have redefined accidents, extended its scope to include women-specific illnesses or surgeries like breast cancer, hysterectomy and Caesarean sections,? said S.N. Mathur, managing director, GIC.

Insurance officials do not believe they are ?insulting? women by including rape in the policy. Neither do they accept that the move is tantamount to encouraging rapists. ?All we are saying is, in the event of death or disability, rape victims should get the benefit of insurance cover provided in the new scheme.?

The GIC and the BJP government, between themselves, drew up the new Rajrajeshwari women?s welfare insurance scheme to mark the completion of one year in office. But the idea of redefining ?accident? to include rape came from the Centre.

?When we were discussing the scheme, the government suggested why not include rape in the list,? said a GIC official. He added Vajpayee was keen to ?do something? for the girl-child and women.

When the scheme was being finalised, the government suggested the GIC explain what falls under the label of accident. ?The government said the policy should explain to the rural people what exactly comes under the accident category,? said an official at the meeting.

GIC officials seem taken aback at the uproar that followed the announcement. First, the Left-wing women?s organisations protested and had a showdown with the GIC managing director. Next day, women?s organisations affiliated to the Congress took to the streets.

But in their outrage over the new scheme, the organisations may have overlooked other aspects of the policy, several of which are meant to help women in distress.

In its ?clarifications? section, the policy enunciates circumstances under which women will receive insurance cover. The list is long and offers, among others, cover for mishaps during illnesses or surgeries specific to women and legal expenses incurred during divorce suits.

Activists of the All-India Democratic Women?s Association (AIDWA), who have objected to the scheme, appear not to have read it in its entirety. ?We have not seen the scheme,? admitted an AIDWA activist. She felt the policy should be scrapped.

Countering the protests, Mathur asked: ?We provide insurance cover against terrorism, for war, burglary ? does this mean we are encouraging terrorists or thieves?? However, insurance officials are now saying they do not intend to push through a policy the public do not want.

The GIC feels it has been pitchforked into a controversy where there was none. ?It is not rape we are covering, but death and disability,? Mathur said. He and his colleagues do not see a women?s issue here ? rather they smell a political conspiracy to embarrass the BJP government.

?The Congress and the Left are opposing it because it is a policy by the BJP government,? said an official.    

Calcutta, March 22 
Barely a week after four Madhyamik students were booked on charges of eve-teasing on Ballygunge Circular Road, the police arrested two more Madhyamik students today for taunting girls of a south Calcutta school.

According to the deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Narayan Ghosh, the two boys, Manish Singh and Dayaram Choubey, are students of Rungta Academy and come from ?respectable families?.

Manish?s father is a businessman and lives on K.M. Naskar Road in Tollygunge; while Dayaram?s father is in the army and the family lives in Regent Park.

The two were caught whistling at and teasing girls when the police reached the spot.

The police acted on complaints from parents of students of National Girls? School at Deshapriya Park. They said a group of boys would park themselves outside the school gates every day and taunt the girls when they came out after classes.

On Saturday, officials of the anti-rowdy section were deputed to the school to arrest the culprits. But they returned empty-handed, because the school finishes early on Saturday.

The policemen were back today and this time, they were not foiled. Manish and Dayaram were arrested on the spot. The police are on the look-out for another student who was part of the group but did not turn up today. The boys will be produced in court tomorrow.    

Today?s forecast: Partly cloudy sky. Mainly clear night. Little change in day and night temperature

Temperature: Maximum 35.8? (1?C above normal)
Minimum 24.9?C (3?C above normal)

Relative humidity: Maximum 93%
Minimum 31%

Rainfall: Nil

Sunset:5.44 pm
Sunrise: 5.43 am

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