Atal holds back Jaya quit letters
Ganguly freedom line falls silent
Rush to reward Mamata with power package
Chain power cuts in city after twin trippings
China finds nuclear open market
Calcutta weather

 
 
ATAL HOLDS BACK JAYA QUIT LETTERS 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
New Delhi, April 7 
On the advice of senior Cabinet colleagues and alliance partners, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee has held back the resignation letters of the two ADMK ministers, M. Thambidurai and K.M.R. Janarthanam, who had put in their papers yesterday. This could indicate that the Vajpayee government is leaving room for Jayalalitha to retreat from a pullout.

Till late this evening, the Prime Minister had not forwarded their letters to President K.R. Narayanan.

Vajpayee had convened an informal dinner meeting of alliance leaders and Cabinet ministers at his residence yesterday. Sources said he was advised not to forward the letters to the President for as long as possible.

Some leaders said they were still hoping that Jayalalitha will not pull out from the coalition because the situation in Opposition ranks remained unclear. The Jayalalitha camp in the capital, however, said there was no going back on the decision to pull out the ministers. ?The Prime Minister is not forwarding the resignations only to create confusion. We are not holding out any hope,? a spokesman for the ADMK chief said.

Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy is leaving for Calcutta tomorrow to meet chief minister Jyoti Basu. However, opinion in the Congress and the Rashtriya Loktantrik Morcha remains divided about future polarisation and there was no agreement on who would head a new government.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi began ascertaining the views of party MPs. Most believe that the Congress should not be seen to be ?bailing out? the BJP, but they also feel that if the Congress comes to power, it should not share it with other parties. When MPs told her to ensure the exit of the Vajpayee government, Sonia Gandhi said: ?Things are happening, but we will not jump in.?

A senior Congress leader said tonight the party would press for a debate on the Bhagwat issue under Rule 184, which provides for voting, on the first day of the session. ?Then we will know who is on which side,? he added.

The BJP alleged that Jayalalitha had hatched a conspiracy with the Congress to destabilise the government.

BJP vice-president K.L. Sharma alleged the Congress had assured Jayalalitha that the DMK government in Tamil Nadu would be dismissed and corruption cases against her put in cold storage. ?We want to know from them the truth about the Congress-ADMK deal,? Sharma said. He also hinted that the BJP may switch sides and woo the DMK. ?If Jayalalitha withdraws support, there will be a realignment of forces in Tamil Nadu,? he said.

Telugu Desam leader Yerran Naidu ? who attended the dinner meeting ? today said: ?We have a lurking suspicion that Jayalalitha may ultimately decide not to sever ties completely.? The Desam and National Conference said they will continue to support Vajpayee.    


 
 
GANGULY FREEDOM LINE FALLS SILENT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 7 
Last evening, it had seemed a matter of hours before Exide Industries chief Satyabrata Ganguly returned home. But today a disappointed West Bengal government said it was still waiting for Ganguly to get in touch just as he had at 4 pm yesterday, suggesting that the line of communication with his supposed abductors has snapped for some reason.

Home (police) minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya had said yesterday that ?everything would be clear in the Ganguly case in a few hours??. But as the evening stretched into night and morning broke, there was no news of Ganguly.

Bhattacharya called a news conference today to explain why he had made the comment. ?Ganguly communicated with the government and his family around 4 pm yesterday. He said he was alive, he was all right, not under any pressure and would return soon. This information is 100 per cent authentic,?? the minister said.

Bhattacharya pointed out that he thought it obvious that Ganguly would return the same evening or in the morning.

?Hence, I had said (the mystery would be solved in) a few hours. I should have been more cautious. Twenty-four hours have passed and there has been no communication. We have not heard from Ganguly since 4 pm yesterday. I am disappointed and worried because he is a good friend. But I am optimistic at the same time.??

Bhattacharya would not comment on whether Ganguly had called or spoken to him directly. ?You can say he communicated with the state government and his family,?? he said, adding that police are pursuing certain avenues and the negotiation channel is open.

The minister said the government is in touch with five states. He, however, claimed that he does not have a clue about Ganguly?s whereabouts.

A top police officer, however, said: ?We know where he is but I will not divulge it for the sake of investigations.?

Ganguly?s son Soumobroto told The Telegraph: ?We trust the police and they are always in touch with us. My father is safe.??

Bhattacharya today held a meeting with senior police officials. Later, all that the deputy commissioner of police (detective department) Narayan Ghosh said was: ?Ganguly is alive.??

A police officer, preferring anonymity, said Ganguly?s elder brother Subrata received a ransom call around 4.30 pm yesterday. The call line identification (CLI) system traced the call to Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh.

A team of detectives, led by an additional officer-in-charge of Lalbazar?s dacoity section, M. Haque, was immediately sent to Lucknow. The Uttar Pradesh police are, however, in the dark about the movements of the Bengal team.

Police sources suspect that Ganguly was abducted by an Uttar Pradesh-based gang which also has a network in Bihar.

Although Haque and his team have reached Lucknow, they have been told not to act ?without clearance? from Calcutta, indicating that back-channel negotiations may still be on.

The belief has been reinforced by Bhattacharya?s statement today that since Ganguly himself had said he would return home, the administration was waiting for him to take the first step.

Investigators are probing whether Ganguly was kidnapped at the behest of Mumbai-based builders who are rivals of Exide Industries? owner, Rajan Raheja.

Police today raided several places to trace Hari Shankar Tiwari, who, they suspect, had called yesterday claiming knowledge of Ganguly?s whereabouts. Tiwari said he would part with the information for money. Detectives later said the call was a hoax.    


 
 
RUSH TO REWARD MAMATA WITH POWER PACKAGE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, April 7 
Eager to keep Mamata Banerjee happy, the beleaguered government is scrambling to put together a new package for Bengal based on the Trinamul Congress leader?s demands.

The fresh sops could include increased funding and fast-track clearance for power sector projects in the state.

Some of these decisions will be disclosed during plan discussions with West Bengal ministers later this month.

Mamata, however, refused to comment. A meeting of the railway standing committee on demands for grants is scheduled tomorrow. The Trinamul leader appears to be chary of making a statement before the meeting.

Mamata is believed to have met planning commission deputy chairman K.C. Pant late last month and urged him to ensure that promises made by the Centre on Bengal were delivered.

Advisers with the planning commission said they are under pressure to work out a package ??based on Mamata Banerjee?s demands and a follow-up letter from Ajit Kumar Panja??.

The officials said this urgency to ??do something for Bengal?? was visible soon after Congress chief Sonia Gandhi met the government?s prime tormentor Jayalalitha at last week?s tea party hosted by Subramanian Swamy. The seven-minute meeting triggered a chain reaction culminating in the current political crisis.

An earlier planning commission note stating that nothing new could be done for West Bengal?s power industry as its power supply situation is better than most states is being disregarded and efforts are being made to work out a new package.

Similar missives have been sent to the power, railway and industry ministries, planning commission officials said. All clearances and fund releases for the Bakreswar thermal power project will consequently be hastened, they added.

??The finance ministry, too, has been ordered to pursue the Japanese soft loan agency ? OECF ? to ensure that further instalments for Bakreswar are not halted,?? an official said. Lobbying has also been intensified for timely release of Japanese funds for the Purulia pump storage project.

The Centre, as promised to Mamata, has set up a committee to review an earlier decision to close down six West Bengal-based public sector units.

Ministries have been asked to look into the possibility of revival packages for other Bengal-based PSUs like National Jute Manufactures Corporation and Hindustan Fertiliser Corporation, Haldia.

Efforts to improve transit facilities at Benapole, Darshana and Petrapole on the border as well as initial studies and/or work on highways linking Darshana with Bihar and the four-lane expressway between Siliguri and Haldia are also being expedited.    


 
 
CHAIN POWER CUTS IN CITY AFTER TWIN TRIPPINGS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 7 
Massive power cuts today plagued the city and its adjoining areas for the second time in a week, after the CESC?s Budge Budge plant and the Southern Generating station collapsed around 11.40 am following a technical snag.

At that point, the shortfall in the CESC-served areas shot up to 460 mw with the two CESC stations together generating merely 460 mw.

A CESC spokesman said the plants tripped because of a fault in a 132 kv circuit at the CESC substation at Majherhat in south Calcutta at 11.40 am.

Emergency supplies to Metro Railways, Calcutta Tramways Company and hospitals were affected for 30 minutes.

Among areas which were hit first were Jadavpur, Tollygunge, Jodhpur Park, Prince Anwar Shah Road, Bagha Jatin and Golf Green. An SOS was sent to the state electricity board for more supply to the CESC grid.

It responded with an additional 140 mw to its 300 mw supply. The DVC, too, provided 84 mw. CESC resorted to rotational power cuts till about 5 pm, by which time all the units were back in operation.

The most hard-hit areas were the south and south-western parts of the city where things were made worse following technical faults at CESC?s substation at Jadavpur around noon and its substation at Tollygunge at 3.30 pm.

A Moore Avenue resident, Adrita Mukherjee, said power supply went off in the area at 11.45 am and had not been restored by 9.15 pm. She said the entire area was facing water scarcity as pumps could not be operated.

CESC sources said at 7 pm, all the utility?s units were operating. The units? output, along with a 300-mw supply from the state power board, could meet the evening peak-hour demand of 1,054 mw.    


 
 
CHINA FINDS NUCLEAR OPEN MARKET 
 
 
FROM SEEMA SIROHI
 
Washington, April 7 
The hoopla of Chinese nuclear espionage aside, the United States willingly sold $15 billion in strategic and dual-use equipment to China since 1988, including top-of-line computers to design nuclear weapons, high-speed oscilloscopes to record data and equipment to develop missile guidance and radars.

According to a report released today, the US commerce department was generously approving strategic sales to China, which later were regularly turning up in Pakistan and Iran. The outflow of US technology was most prolific under President Bill Clinton?s policy of ??constructive engagement?? with Beijing when export controls were relaxed.

The report was released as Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji arrived on an official visit to the US to clear the air reeking with reports of Beijing stealing American nuclear secrets, making illegal contributions to the Democratic Party, curbing human rights at home and denying access to US companies.

The high temperature for Zhu was evident in a letter to Clinton signed by 48 lawmakers who demanded a change in US policy.

While countries always spy on one another and China may have stolen secrets, the surprise lies in how much went through the regular channels. The legal largesse pales in comparison to the known cases of Chinese espionage, diversion and violation of US export laws.

The Clinton administration has been on the defensive against charges that Beijing stole the design of W-88, the most sophisticated US nuclear warhead from Los Alamos laboratory in the early 1990s, giving it the capability of mounting multiple warheads on a single missile.

All such equipment is denied to India under one rule or another and after last year?s nuclear tests by New Delhi, even the most innocent sale to the Indian defence industry is banned by the Clinton administration.

But with China, the attitude, the policy and the parameters are different.

The Clinton administration seems to have few doubts about China, specially when it comes to selling sensitive technology, but with India the most restrictive interpretation of policy comes into play.

In an elaborate 100-page analysis of US strategic sales to China between 1988 to 1998, the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control said some of the dual-use equipment was sold directly to Chinese government entities.

The private Washington-based thinktank tracks nuclear proliferation and actively lobbies against the sale of American equipment to countries like India, China, Iran, Pakistan.

More than half of the $15 billion was for computer sales which until 1993 were denied to China. But once Clinton came in and trade liberalisation became a priority, export controls were loosened for China.

By March 1999, China had imported approximately 400 high-performance computers which can be used to design and test nuclear warheads and to simulate the performance of a missile from launch to impact.

The report criticises the engagement policy as an ??abstraction,?? adding that in reality, this policy ??includes a deadly trade in the means to make weapons of mass destruction??.

It notes that while China is not an enemy of the US, it is not an ally either.

Among the sales cited in the press statement on the report:

Computer and imaging equipment for uranium prospecting sold to China National Nuclear Corporation, which then helped Iran prospect for uranium.

The Chinese Precision Machinery Import-Export Corporation received equipment useful for building the new C-801 and C-802 anti-ship cruise missiles.

At least 1,653 requests for oscilloscopes worth $ 131 million were approved by the US commerce department.

Equipment was sold to the Chinese Academy of Sciences which can be used to develop a nuclear fusion reactor.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Today?s forecast: Partly cloudy sky. Not much change in day temperature.
Temperature: Maximum 37.9?C (1?C below normal)
Minimum 26.4?C (2?C above normal)
Relative humidity: Maximum 90% Minimum 47%
Rainfall: Nil
Sunset: 5.50 pm Sunrise: 5.27 am    
 

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