Battle for dead in debris
Centre kicks off blanket ban on lotteries
Sonia plots session-eve Jaya meet
Joshi extends education hold
Debutant Khurasia sets up Pakistan clash
Calcutta weather

Gopeshwar (Chamoli), March 30 
Just when Gopeshwar town seemed to have faced its worst-ever earthquake, fresh tremors shortly after 9 pm today led to widespread panic.

Scared residents, spending the night in the open, woke up and ran to the main town square carrying blankets, babies and their milk bottles.

Early this evening, 26 more bodies were cremated in Chamoli town, 10 km from the district headquarters of Gopeshwar, on the banks of the river Alaknanda.

Almost the whole town turned out to mourn the dead. After returning, as they settled under the open sky ? in gardens and school compounds ? fresh tremors shook Gopeshwar. As this correspondent was talking to people, two houses collapsed. Almost all buildings in the town have been razed. Water supply has been cut off. Gopeshwar was in virtual darkness till late last evening.

Officially, the toll remains 100. According to the commissioner, Garhwal division, 400 people in 803 villages in Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Tehri-Garhwal are injured.

Chief minister Kalyan Singh today visited Gopeshwar and announced a relief package similar to the one he announced after the Malpa landslide last August. He said a Rs 2,100-crore watershed management project and a Rs 3,100-crore integrated water development project of the World Bank would be implemented in the quake-affected areas.

The migrant population of Gopeshwar is preparing to leave the town for good. There are about 200 goldsmiths from Bihar who have been working here for a decade. One of them, Vrindavan Pawar, said he is leaving tomorrow for hometown Bhagalpur.

At night, Gopeshwar looked like a ghost town. People were lying on the streets covered with blankets, with rocks and boulders for pillows. Howling mothers and screaming children broke the stillness of the night. Each aftershock led to more screams.

In Chamoli, the devastated town 10 km away from the epicentre in Nandprayag, residents and army engineers pulled survivors and corpses from beneath collapsed homes and shops. Soldiers broke up concrete slabs with tools, while locals scrabbled with shovels and their bare hands.

The earthquake ripped out a large chunk from a nearby mountain, showering the town with boulders. Army and paramilitary forces cleared the roads to enable trucks with relief supplies to reach the town. Uttar Pradesh chief secretary Yogendra Narayan said 29 medical teams had been sent for relief work, particularly to far-flung areas.

As Chamoli became the focus of media and VIP attention, residents of Pipal Koti, a small town 15 km away from Chamoli, alleged they still had seen no sign of relief.

Similar allegations poured in from other villages. The Centre decided to send two teams ? one headed by Planning Commission deputy chairman K.C. Pant ? to assess the loss of property.

Seismological experts said the damage could have been more if the depth of the earthquake epicentre had been less. While the epicentre of the Uttarkashi earthquake in 1991 ? which claimed 650 lives ? was 12 feet deep, the Chamoli quake was centred 30 km below the ground.    

March 30 
The Union Cabinet today decided to bring a comprehensive legislation to ban all government lotteries.

Information and broadcasting minister Pramod Mahajan said the Cabinet would ask state legislatures to pass resolutions which would authorise Parliament to bring the legislation.

In Calcutta, state finance minister Asim Dasgupta welcomed the ban. He said though the state stands to lose about Rs 5 crore in revenue if the ban is enforced, lotteries should be denounced as they are a ?form of gambling??.

The Centre?s decision follows a Gauhati High Court order staying the ban of single-digit lotteries after some states had challenged the Lotteries Regulation Act, 1998.

Mahajan told reporters today that the government is considering a scheme to compensate states in the Northeast, which are expected to lose Rs 50 crore in revenue from government lotteries after the ban.

However, Assam state lotteries director H.N. Bhuyan said: ?Parliament?s move is immaterial as lottery in any form is banned here.?

Mahajan said the parliamentary committee on home affairs and the chief ministers? conference in November had suggested banning all types of lotteries.

The comprehensive legislation will seek to amend entry 40 of list I in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, which includes lotteries organised by state governments.

For banning private lotteries and gambling, the state governments will have to pass a resolution by Assemblies under Article 252 of the Constitution, authorising Parliament to legislate in respect of entry 34 in list II of the Seventh Schedule.

The Kerala government had opposed a ban on lotteries on the ground that it would result in the loss of 25,000 jobs. However, Mahajan said there was near unanimity in Parliament on a ban. During the debate in Parliament, 99 per cent of its members had favoured the move, he added.

The West Bengal finance minister felt the move should have come much earlier. ?We do not know what the Centre is actually going to do on banning lotteries. But whatever it is, why did it take so long to decide??? Dasgupta asked.

Chief minister Jyoti Basu had earlier asked the Centre to initiate a move. ?We have already banned a few lotteries in the state,?? Dasgupta said.

He said after the ban is enforced, all 75 employees working in the directorate of state lotteries would be absorbed in other sections of the finance department.

The Maharashtra Congress has criticised the Union Cabinet?s decision, saying it would affect the state?s revenue.

Lottery traders have also slammed the ban, saying the move will render 2.6 million people jobless.

Threatening to launch an agitation against the proposal, Akhil Bhartiya Sarkari Lottery Vyapari Mahasangh said the Centre should instead set up a board like the Securities and Exchange Board of India to regulate the lottery trade.

Stating that the Centre had taken this ?ill-advised? decision at the ?instigation? of some Delhi BJP leaders, the organisation said the ban would also hit people in related fields of printing, advertising and art designing.

The director of West Bengal lotteries, Kalyani Sarkar, said over one lakh people directly or indirectly involved in the lottery business would lose jobs.

Lottery Dealers? Association president Sakti Dhar said the Centre should consider the views of the distributors before taking such a step.    

New Delhi, March 30 
Congress president Sonia Gandhi plans to invite ADMK chief Jayalalitha for a luncheon meeting before Parliament session resumes on April 12.

Jayalalitha will be in Delhi on April 10-11 en route to Anandpur Sahib to participate in the Khalsa tercentenary celebrations. Congress leaders claimed the meeting would be crucial as the two leaders were likely to discuss the fate of the Vajpayee government, which heavily depends on the ADMK.

Party sources said Sonia Gandhi had already made up her mind to make a bid to topple Vajpayee during the budget session.

She is directly in touch with the Left and other non-BJP groups. With 18 members, her party could make or break the BJP?s fortunes.

Sonia Gandhi will send a senior party leader to Chennai soon to extend an invitation on her behalf. ?We have prepared the ground for a one-to-one meeting. A lot of action will follow once the two meet and discuss political issues,? a Congress Working Committee member said.

Congress sources said following yesterday?s tea party hosted by Subramanian Swamy, the Congress and the ADMK leaderships had moved closer. They said Sonia Gandhi was very keen to revive the poll pact with Jayalalitha?s party in Tamil Nadu. Congress members said a rapprochement was crucial as ?Jaya holds the key in the Lok Sabha numbers game?.

[In Chennai, Jayalalitha said she was very much a part of the BJP-led coalition. ?The question of realignment does not arise,? she said, dismissing as a jestful remark her description of yesterday?s meeting with Sonia Gandhi as ?a political earthquake?.]

An AICC functionary said the Congress was ?extremely encouraged? by Jayalalitha?s stand on the Bhagwat issue. ?She has gone a step further. While we have demanded a joint parliamentary committee probe, Jaya wants admiral Bhagwat to be reinstated,? the leader said. The Congress, he said, would now highlight the fact that a BJP ally was levelling graft charges against it.

In Jaipur, Sonia Gandhi asked the government to start an inquiry into the corruption charges against the defence ministry. ?If the Vajpayee-led coalition is honest and bold, it should accede to the demand...for a probe,? she said.

AICC spokesman Ajit Jogi, too, stepped up pressure on the Vajpayee government for instituting a JPC probe into the issues raised by Admiral Bhagwat. ?George (Fernandes) should resign to facilitate a free and fair probe,? Jogi said.

He said the party was keeping its options open regarding the debate on the Bhagwat issue under Rule 184. Earlier, the Congress had agreed to a discussion under Rule 193 in the Lok Sabha which does not provide for voting.

Vow of support: BJP allies tonight supported the Prime Minister?s rejection of Jayalalitha?s demand to reinstate Bhagwat and to shift Fernandes from the defence ministry.    

New Delhi, March 30 
Murli Manohar Joshi is marching ahead in his conquest of the nation?s institutions of education. The human resources development minister?s next target is the National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT). The council decides what students under the Central Board of Secondary Education study and publishes textbooks.

Joshi?s nominee, J.S. Rajput, is making a second bid for the director?s post of the council. Already, the minister has succeeded in packing the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla, with men of the BJP?s choice. He has put a former police officer ? known for his saffron sympathies ? as director of the Maulana Azad Institute of Asian Studies, Calcutta.

The move to put Rajput as head of the NCERT is seen by academics ? not subscribing to the BJP point of view ? of the council as an attempt by the minister to settle scores.

?The minister is unhappy with the NCERT, its publications and would like to change the institute?s direction,? said a staff member. He feared that with Rajput at the helm, the council would be moulded to a BJP fit.

But the man at the centre of the controversy challenges those that question his antecedents. Now chairman of the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE), Rajput said: ?I will complete 25 years as professor this August. Why should anyone attribute my promotion to anything other than my academic qualification??

He was a student of physics in Allahabad University and was taught by Joshi and RSS chief Rajinder Singh. ?I am proud to be their student. Even today, I will jot down notes if Joshi delivers a lecture,? the professor said.

Rajput?s chances of succeeding A.K. Sharma, the current director, are brighter than before. The search committee, scouting for a new director, has zeroed in on Rajput, who, his detractors allege, fits the BJP?s ideological bill.

Joshi has only to look at some of the works published under Rajput?s supervision at the National Council for Teacher Education, say critics. A publication on ?Human rights and Indian values? is replete with quotes from Manusmriti. ?What have human rights got to do with Indian values? This is a typical expression of the BJP mindset,? said NCERT sources. ?The search committee has shortlisted four names for the post, but everyone in the NCERT believes Rajput will make it,? said a council member.

The final choice is the minister?s who picks from the recommended names. The Cabinet then puts its seal of approval.

?Rajput has already been patronised by the minister. He has been given extension after completing a full five-year term in his present post,? NCERT sources said.

One factor hurting Rajput is the criticism ? by academics ranged on the other side ? that he has survived through political patronage.

One of his detractors accused him of once ?hobnobbing? with Congress leader Arjun Singh when he was the HRD minister. He said Rajput had tried for the NCERT director?s post during the tenure of Singh, too. ?He then posed as a Left-wing academic because the search committee then comprised well-known Left-leaning historians like Bipan Chandra and R.S. Sharma,? the source said.

Rajput charged his critics with distortion of facts. ?I worked in Bhopal when Singh was Madhya Pradesh chief minister. I headed the NCERT college in Bhopal, but never entertained Singh?s recommendations,? he said.

He became joint education adviser in the HRD ministry under P. Shiv Shanker. But Rajput had set his sights on the NCERT director?s post. His critics said as political winds changed, the professor started posing as a saffron sympathiser.    

Pune, March 30 
Amay Khurasia turned his delayed debut in international cricket into a devastating storm for Sri Lanka at the Nehru Stadium here as the world champions bowed out of the Pepsi tri-series and India set up the title-clash with Pakistan.

India, depleted dangerously by the absence of Sachin Tendulkar and skipper Azharuddin, were led from the front by Ajay Jadeja who marked his fourth one-dayer at the helm with a 102-ball 103, with elegant left-hander Sourav Ganguly delivering a useful 65. But it was a blistering 57 off 45 deliveries from the Madhya Pradesh southpaw that brought a momentum which took the Indians to a total beyond the reach of Ranatunga?s men.

Sri Lanka, responding to India?s 286 for six, could manage just 235 in 45.5 overs. Only a win would have kept the world champions in the running for a berth in the final to be played at Bangalore?s KSCA Stadium on Sunday.

?That?s the way I play, that?s the way I know best,? said Khurasia, who hardly looked a man making his big debut as he carried a cocky confidence to the crease. The innings makes the hard-hitting left-hander a hot candidate for a berth in India?s final 15 for the World Cup.

?That innings from Khurasia took the match away from us,? said Ranatunga. Few would disagree.

Sri Lanka, of course, have been left to pick up the pieces before they set out to England to defend their world title.

Jadeja, coming down the order to a more comfortable two-drop, scored his fifth hundred, but was more interested in talking about Khurasia. ?It was a terrific innings, one that took the pressure off me and I could play my natural game from there. It was not just hitting, but very sensible cricket,? he said. ?We really accelerated from there.?

The victory here has reduced the concluding league game, at Mohali on Thursday, to one of academic interest and has opened up the opportunity for the Indian selectors to try out the players in the World Cup shortlist of 19. Bengal medium-pacer Laxmi Ratan Shukla, thus, gets another chance. He was among the several changes the ?five wise men? made today for the Mohali team. Also in the squad is Bengal keeper Syed Saba Karim.

The victory, achieved without two of the top players, will have given the Indians a big boost going into the final, but the Indian camp is not celebrating yet.

Here is another chance to get even with Pakistan who have been dominating the Indians on the long tour of this country.    


Today?s forecast: Mainly clear sky. Not much change in day and night temperature.

Temperature: Maximum 34.8?C (Normal)
Minimum 25.4?C (2?C above normal)

Relative humidity: Maximum 93%
Minimum 46%

Rainfall: Nil

Sunset: 5.47 pm
Sunrise: 5.34 am

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