THE KARGIL FUND Set up by The Telegraph and Anandabazar Patrika
More than a hundred soldiers have already died in the undeclared war in Kargil. Many more are lying injured in hospitals. No assistance is compensation enough for the mother who has lost her son or the wife her husband. But we, the citizens of this country, need to help, in however small a way. The Telegraph and Anandabazar Patrika are setting up a fund with that modest aim in mind. The fund is being started with an intial contribution of Rs 5 Lakh from the ABP Group. If every reader of The Telegraph and Anandabazar Patrika donates a small sum, we can raise a huge amount for the families of the soldiers killed or injured in action. As a token of appreciation, both papers will publish the names of donors contributing Rs 500 or more. This is a time to ask yourself what can you do for the nation.   Only account payee cheques and drafts - payable to 'ABP Kargil Fund' - will be accepted. Put the cheque/draft in an envelope with your name and address. Write 'ABP Kargil Fund' and mail it to or deliver (between 10 am and 6 pm except on Sundays) at  
6 Prafulla Sarkar Street 
Calcutta 700001 
Delhi ploy for nuclear club entry
Army revolt snub to rights panel
Sonia scouts for ace against Atal
Sachin reluctant, Jadeja stands to gain
Four die as train rams into bus
Sushma opts out of poll
Calcutta weather

Singapore, July 27 
India has offered to be the first nation to sign the proposed southeast Asia nuclear weapon-free zone protocol, setting in motion a gambit to legitimise Delhi?s claim to enter the nuclear club.

The offer, also intended at allaying security fears in the region, was made by foreign minister Jaswant Singh at the Asean Regional Forum (ARF), the highest security platform in the Asia-Pacific region and represented by all five recognised nuclear powers. While three ? the US, China and Russia ? are members of the forum, France and the UK are represented as part of the European Union.

The offer coincided with discussions between Singh and his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov to formalise a strategic pact. The Indo-Russian Strategic Partnership Treaty is likely to be signed at the end of this year during President Boris Yeltsin?s proposed visit to New Delhi.

India?s offer to sign the nuclear weapon-free zone treaty will be difficult to carry through as the Nuclear Five have been fighting shy of the pact. But the gesture could trigger a debate, posing embarrassing questions before the nuclear club and helping India score brownie points.

The Asean had sought Delhi?s participation in moves to create such a zone in 1974, but India did not show any interest then, claiming that it did not possess nuclear weapons.

The roles were reversed after Pokhran II. Singh raised the issue at the ARF meet in Manila last year, but, miffed with the blasts, the members ignored the offer.

The offer was renewed by Singh over the past two days. It may be raised again tomorrow when Singh meets Asean leaders. The Asean members appreciate the Indian stand in the wake of the Kargil diplomatic triumph and Delhi?s new status as a ?stabilising force? in the region.

But the bloc may not be able to ask it to sign the protocol while the five powers dither. If India signs the protocol, it will become difficult for world leaders to deny it the status of a nuclear power.

Formal nuclear weapons state status continues to elude India as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) restricts the number of such powers to five. India has refused to sign the NPT as it feels that the treaty is discriminatory.

During the day, Singh held meetings with his counterparts from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Laos and Myanmar. After Pokhran II, Australia and New Zealand ? known as nuclear evangelists ? had come out with critical statements.

However, in today?s meeting, both countries showed a marked softening of their positions on non-proliferation and disarmament.    

New Delhi, July 27 
The army chief has informed the National Human Rights Commission that junior officers and soldiers ?would stop taking orders? from superiors if the force was pressured on issues of rights abuses.

General V.P. Malik?s observations were made in a letter to the commission after it sought the army?s view on demands that the law dealing with inquiries into rights violations be modified.

The letter was sent last month when the Kargil war was raging and the country had rallied behind the army. But Gen. Malik?s response to the commission was more in the context of counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast.

Yesterday at the Asian Regional Forum, the European Union had referred to ?frequent violation of human rights? in Kashmir and urged India to improve the situation.

Preoccupied with Kargil, the army has distanced itself from anti-terrorism operations in Jammu and Kashmir. But the commission has looked into past activities of the army in all insurgency-affected states. In some of the states, the security forces? record on human rights had raised eyebrows.

The army chief?s missive comes at a time when moves are afoot to amend a section of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. The provision ? Section 19 ? allows the armed forces to conduct an internal probe and follow an exclusive set of procedures when complaints of atrocities on civilians are brought against them.

The commission can only seek reports from the Union government and not initiate an independent probe on its own.

Several human rights organisations have petitioned the government and the commission that the ?controversial? provision be modified. They point out that the section opens the army to charges of cover-up.

The organisations want the army?s probe procedures to be brought on a par with that followed by the commission and the Centre when charges are levelled against paramilitary forces. An advisory committee of the commission is looking into the matter..

The Centre has argued that some incidents do occur since the army often has to deal in extremely difficult situations and tackle ruthless terrorists. Moreover, false allegations are levelled against the army.

However, despite the army chief?s rebuff and the hint in it that the force be given a free hand to tackle terrorists during counter-insurgency missions, the commission is unlikely to treat the issue lightly.

The commission is keen to ensure that the procedures to be followed by the army should ?not only be credible but also be seen to be credible?.

Govt to lift PTV ban

The government will soon lift the ban imposed on PTV during the Kargil conflict, information minister Pramod Mahajan said today.    

New Delhi, July 27 
Sonia Gandhi is at a loss over how best to stop Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee?s emergence as a ?liberal, statesman-like leader? in the post-Kargil scenario.

She is desperate to catch up with Vajpayee in the opinion polls and make the Lok Sabha elections an ?Atal vs Sonia? affair, but has still not found a clinching slogan that will neutralise Vajpayee?s apparent head-start.

The Congress? plank will be to ask voters to choose between ?unstable rainbow coalitions? and ?a single-party stable government?.

But party seniors fear this may not be enough against an ascendant, larger-than-life, post-Kargil Vajpayee and a resurgent Sangh parivar.

The Congress Working Committee (CWC) is meeting here tomorrow to vet the draft election manifesto. But the leadership is concerned that the party?s campaign against Vajpayee?s ?failure? to check the Pakistani intrusion in Kargil is not cutting much ice with the masses.

The feedback reaching Sonia Gandhi is: while some people do blame the Centre for ?mishandling? Kargil, an overwhelming number of people consider Vajpayee ?above reproach?.

Worse, the Congress has still not been able to shortlist the candidate who will take on the Prime Minister in Lucknow. Its feelers to cine stars Dilip Kumar and Sunil Dutt have drawn a blank so far.

The latest thinking in the party, therefore, is to put up a joint Opposition candidate against Vajpayee in Lucknow and thus, tie him down to the constituency.

A somewhat edgy leadership has also gone through presentations made by five leading advertising agencies on how to turn the tables on the government over Kargil. But the party top brass is not satisfied with the campaign outlines planned by Madhyam, Madison, Concept, Livewire and Sony.

Sonia Gandhi wants her spin doctors to target and demolish Vajpayee?s image as a leader who is now on such a personal high that he has been able even to keep the Sangh parivar hawks in check.

The leadership is also jittery over various opinion polls and surveys which have put Vajpayee way ahead of others in the race for the prime minister?s post.

The high command feels in a ?prime ministerial democracy,? Vajpayee?s appeal would be a major hurdle for the Congress.

The draft manifesto, therefore, targets the BJP government?s handling of Kargil and urges voters to reject coalition politics in favour of single-party rule. It says the people of India should only vote for a party which, by virtue of being in power for 40-odd years since Independence, knows the business of governance.

The Congress line, accordingly, is to focus on the Vajpayee government?s various real and perceived failures. Today, Sonia Gandhi trained her guns on Vajpayee in Rajnandgaon, in Madhya Pradesh, claiming it was mainly the Centre?s negligence that led to the Kargil intrusion. She said had the BJP government been more vigilant, scores of Indian lives could have been saved.    

Calcutta, July 27 
The nation?s first choice for the cricket captaincy, Sachin Tendulkar, has ?reservations? about returning to the top job right now.

According to The Telegraph?s sources, Sachin has ?requested? a senior Board official to have him excluded from captaincy-related deliberations.

For the time being.

However, indications are that the Board will still seek to ?persuade? Sachin, who lost the captaincy in January last year. He remains choice No.1.

Apparently, the task of ?persuading? Sachin has been entrusted to Ajit Wadekar, who heads the selection committee. But Wadekar won?t push beyond a point.

Should the effort fail ? as it well may ? Ajay Jadeja, the stand-in captain not too long ago, is expected to get the nod.

Mohammed Azharuddin, who didn?t stand a chance of retaining the captaincy has, suddenly, nudged back into the frame. But his is a thin presence.

Azhar?s ?comeback? should be all too brief, but it?s quite remarkable. That it is purely by default is another matter.

The selectors ? Wadekar, Madanlal, Shivlal Yadav, Ashok Malhotra and Anil Deshpande ? meet in Nagpur tomorrow to name the captain for next month?s tri-series in Sri Lanka.

Late this evening, the well-placed sources quoted Sachin as saying: ?I?ll be happy if, at this point in time, I?m not considered for the captaincy.?

Clearly, Sachin has sent equations topsy-turvy.

Sachin, it is learnt, would like ?some time? to prepare mentally for a job he was unceremoniously removed from despite giving it his best shot for every single day of the 17 months (from August 1996).

According to a Sachin confidant, the master bat hasn?t forgotten the shabby treatment meted out by the last selection committee.

As the confidant put it: ?That vote of no-confidence hurt Sachin very, very badly. Not so much the ego, as his pride. I don?t think he has recovered.?

Incidentally, South Zone?s Yadav is the only surviving member from that quintet. Those no-longer selectors are Sambaran Banerjee, Kishan Rungta, Mohinder Pandove and, of course, the late Ramakant Desai.

One understands there?s probably a personal angle to Sachin?s reluctance, too ? he hasn?t overcome the loss of his mentor-father, Ramesh, who passed away during the World Cup.

It appears Sachin doesn?t want to be burdened with a huge responsibility at a time when, emotionally, he hasn?t quite recovered hundred per cent.

Also, though that should be the least of anyone?s worries, there is the form-factor as well: In the World Cup, Sachin didn?t get to fifty-and-beyond against any Test-playing nation.

It?s important, therefore, for Sachin to quickly get into top gear. For many, that takes precedence over his returning as captain.

After all, the season-about-to-begin is going to be pretty high-profile ? big attractions being the tour of Australia and South Africa?s tour of India ? and Sachin must play ?freely,? not under pressure.

However, even if Jadeja realises the dream of his life, his appointment can only be stop-gap. It?s inconceivable Sachin won?t be captain as the season warms up.

Incidentally, though the Board has been talking of naming the captain for the Lanka trip (August 22-31) only, the appointment could be till October 1, when the quadrangular in Kenya ends.

Such a move will give Sachin, or Jadeja, time to settle down ?- the captain will have three (or four, if Toronto is on) tournaments to get his and the team?s act right.    

Krishnagar, July 27 
Four persons, including a 12-year-old girl, were killed and 18 injured when a Sealdah-bound Krishnagar local rammed into a North Bengal State Transport Corporation (NBSTC) bus at a manned level-crossing at Jhitkepota near here this morning.

The bus, with 44 passengers on board, was bound for Calcutta from Islampore, in North Dinajpur. Most passengers were from north Bengal and Kishengunj.

Residents rushed to the accident site and launched a rescue operation. The wounded were later sent to Shaktinagar Hospital where the condition of nine was stated to be critical.

According to preliminary findings by the railway authorities, the signal at the level-crossing was green but the gate was open to vehicular traffic.

Officials were, however, unable to explain the lapse and also why the train?s driver could not apply the brakes in time.

Divisional railway manager, Sealdah, S.R. Thakur said both the train?s driver and the gateman at the level-crossing would be questioned by the Commissioner of Railway Safety, which will probe the mishap.    

New Delhi, July 27 
Finding herself outmanoeuvred by the ?coterie? of the Prime Minister?s aides, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj has decided not to contest the coming Lok Sabha polls.

Sushma, however, made it clear that she was not opting out of electoral politics. Nor was she renouncing party politics, she said. She emphasised that she had made up her mind a long time ago and her decision had nothing to do with the resignation of her husband Swaraj Kaushal as the Vajpayee government?s principal negotiator with the Nagaland insurgent groups. Kaushal had levelled allegations against the Prime Minister and his aides in signed newspaper articles after he resigned.

?I am not going out of electoral politics and I am not taking sanyaas from politics. I had made up my mind 24 hours after the last Lok Sabha was dissolved and had conveyed to the BJP leadership that I would not contest the next polls. I never changed my mind, and, therefore, Swaraj Kaushal?s resignation should not be linked to my decision,? the former BJP spokesperson explained.

Sushma was at pains to emphasise that her decision was a ?very hard one?, but she said she had taken it for ?very substantial reasons?. ?Of course, the decision was not taken without reason, there are very substantial reasons. But if I disclose those reasons to you, the very purpose for which the decision was taken will be defeated,? she explained.

Denying reports that she was not contesting for ?reasons of health?, she said: ?I will be campaigning in a big way for the party. If it is a question of health, how can I campaign rigorously??

Sushma clarified that she did not share her husband?s views of the Prime Minister. ?I endorse whatever was said on the matter by the BJP spokesman,? she said.    

Today?s forecast: Occasional rain with one or two heavy showers under the influence of a deep depression over north-west bay

Temperature: Maximum 30.4?C (2?C above normal)
Minimum 26.9?C (1?C above normal)

Relative humidity: Maximum 94%
Minimum 84%

Rainfall: 13.6 mm

Sunset: 6.19 pm
Sunrise: 5.07am

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