Kashmir terror taints talks offer
Rao model for Tada twin with human face
Delhi double blow to Bengal
Relief robbers in govt garb
Calcutta weather

Dec. 15 
Home minister L.K. Advani today said the government is ready to hold a dialogue with terrorist groups, but would not be blackmailed at gun point. Even as he extended the offer for talks, reports of an escalation in violence came in from Kashmir where militants attacked two security camps and killed a deputy superintendent of police and a jawan since last evening.

?There has to be the right atmosphere for talks. We cannot be bullied by bullets. There can be no talks with groups which disregard the Constitution,? Advani told the Lok Sabha after an intensive discussion on terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast.

The minister pointed out that Pakistan was finding it difficult to recruit Jammu and Kashmir residents to be trained as militants. ?Most terrorists rounded up these days are mercenaries picked up by Pakistan and used as cannon fodder,? Advani said.

In Kashmir, the state government has asked the police to step up vigilance. Minister of state for home Mushtaq Ahmed Lone met top police officers in Srinagar. State director-general of police Gurbachan Jagat also held discussions with senior officers and told them to intensify anti-militancy operations.

Late last night, militants struck in Palhallan village and fired a rocket at the heavily-guarded camp of the Special Operations Group of the state police. The camp building also houses the residential quarters of the deputy superintendent heading the group. The rocket hit the room where the officer, Kuldeep Singh, was sleeping. He was killed instantly.

A search operation was launched but it did not lead to any arrests. Singh?s death is a serious setback for the security forces as he had led several successful anti-militancy operations.

Another group of militants attacked a Rashtriya Rifles camp at Watergam village in Sopore with grenades and assault rifles and killed a jawan, apart from injuring eight others. As the exchange of fire continued through the night, helicopters were sent to evacuate the wounded jawans.

In the Lok Sabha, Advani said the government would soon come out with a White Paper on the ISI. Chief ministers and Governors of all northeastern states will meet in the capital on January 20 and 21 to discuss security and development, he added.

?The West Bengal home minister, when he met me the last time, said the Union government should also take into consideration ISI activities in his state. The Centre and state government should work in tandem to tackle the menace,? Advani said.

In the past year, the government has smashed 45 ISI-backed modules, the minister said. But he added that internal security had taken a severe beating in the past two decades.

?From the 1980s, Pakistan implemented its strategy of fighting a war through terrorism instead of confrontation in a direct war,? Advani said. A direct war inflicted casualties on both sides and damaged Pakistan more, while an indirect war took a heavy toll on India.

?Between 1988 and today, 7,960 civilians, over 10,000 militants and more than 2,000 Indian security personnel have been killed in terrorist attacks,? Advani said.    

New Delhi, Dec. 15 
The new anti-terrorism Bill taking shape in the home ministry will have safeguards against human rights violation, a charge that forced the burial of the legislation?s unsparing predecessor, the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (Tada).

Recast under a new name, the Bill will be modelled on the still-born Criminal Law Amendment Bill of 1995, which was proposed by the Narasimha Rao regime.

The Law Commission, in its proposals to the home ministry, has stressed on ?further safeguards needed for narrowing the scope for abuse and protecting the liberty and freedom of citizens?.

The commission has suggested that soon after an offence is recorded under the new Act, copies of the first information report and other documents be sent to the state director-general of police and a review committee.

?If the DGP does not approve the FIR within 30 days, the case shall stand withdrawn and all proceedings discounted. And the accused, if in custody, should be immediately released,? the commission has said.

Under Tada, the accused languished in jails for an indefinite period, often without trial. However, after the new law comes into force, the DGP and the review panel are expected to look into individual cases from time to time to ensure that the accused are not detained without trial.

The Law Commission has also recommended that the accused be interrogated by ?fairly high-level police officials? in the presence of his lawyer.

The government is treating this as a sensitive issue because several human rights groups have questioned the efficacy of such safeguards.

After studying the outline paper submitted by the home ministry, the Law Commission has laid down a series of proposals, essentially modifying the Criminal Law Amendment Bill.

The proposals will be discussed by lawyers, human rights activists and government representatives at a seminar on next Monday.

The new Bill will accord priority to the handling of witnesses. Pointing out that many cases end in acquittals because witnesses are threatened, the commission said: ?It is, therefore, necessary to counter such threatening activities.? The commission felt that those holding back information that may be of ?material assistance? to the police in checking terrorism should be penalised.

The new Act will borrow heavily from the Essential Commodities Act of 1955, for power to confiscate property, including foodgrain, edible oilseeds and edible oils. The Bill will enable an investigating officer to seize property, if he believes that it has been acquired from the ?commission of a terrorist act and includes proceeds of terrorism?. But the officer has to get the police superintendent?s clearance.

If the officer intends to confiscate foodgrain, the accused must be served a notice on why the action is being taken. ?The accused should be given an opportunity to make a representation in writing within a reasonable time,? the commission said.

The commission has also focused on a new area ? international terrorism. ?In the wake of international terrorism, it is advisable to include on the list of offences those relating to interruption or interference with inter-state or foreign trade and commerce,? the panel has suggested.    

Calcutta, Dec. 15 
The Centre today withdrew from the Calcutta megacity project, gifting the Left Front government a stick to beat both the BJP and its ally Mamata Banerjee with.

Delhi has also dismissed Bengal?s demand for flood relief as ?highly exaggerated?, sanctioning only five per cent of the requested amount. As against the state?s Rs 721-crore relief claim for nearly 2 crore affected people, the Centre has approved a measly Rs 29 crore.

In a communique, Delhi has informed Bengal that the Rs 1,600-crore megacity project will be appraised afresh by the Planning Commission before further funds are allocated.

The project, conceived in 1993, was intended to augment Greater Calcutta?s civic amenities, including waterworks and drainage. The state has so far spent Rs 209 crore and the Centre Rs 110 crore.

Reacting sharply to the Delhi decision, chief minister indicated that his government would opt for a direct confrontation with the Centre on the issue.

An opportunity for a showdown will come up as early as next week. State finance minister Asim Dasgupta said he would make it a ?national issue? at a meeting with his counterparts in Delhi on December 20.

?The state is being cheated by the BJP. The decision is politically motivated. West Bengal has been deprived but Andhra Pradesh has got its due share from the Centre for drought relief. This is a clear indication that the BJP wants to keep the ruling Telegu Desam there in good humour so that it will not topple it from power,?? Dasgupta said.

He added that the Trinamul Congress and the BJP in the state had now forfeited their right to criticise the slow pace of restoration work after the September deluge. Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, too, had taken potshots at the state government then.

?They are constituents of the Central government and have to share the responsibility of the Union government?s discriminatory decision against the state,? Dasgupta said. The Left is expected to use this as a campaign issue against Mamata during the civic elections next year.

Dasgupta said the megacity project was a Centrally-sponsored scheme. But he said the state would go ahead with the project despite the Delhi pullout.

Both Basu and Dasgupta said they would take up the matter with the Prime Minister. ?The Central government walks away with Rs 10,000 crore taxes from the Calcutta Metropolitan area every year. It had promised to spend a small portion of the money for the uplift of the city. Now it is abandoning the project midway,?? Dasgupta said.    

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 15 
In a crackdown on unscrupulous public servants, police have arrested 11 officials in cyclone-ravaged Jagatsinghpur district for siphoning off relief materials.

Balikuda block development officer Madhusudan Prusty, local panchayat samity chairperson Kaminibala Sahoo and nine others were arrested yesterday after night-long police raids which yielded large quantities of Basmati rice, polythene sheets, blankets and other materials sent for cyclone victims.

The police swung into action after a group of village youth intercepted two jeeps carrying hoarded material on Monday night.

The youth became suspicious when two jeeps hurtled out of the BDO office compound on Monday night with their headlights turned off. They stopped the vehicles only to find them loaded with relief materials. The police were called when the drivers refused to state their destination.

Police immediately began raiding the homes of block officials. But some of the stolen materials were thrown into a pond inside the office compound before the police arrived. ?We had to call the fire brigade to fish out those materials from the pond,? Jagatsinghpur superintendent of police Lalit Das said.

Das said police seized 2,100 kg of basmati rice and large quantities of mung dal, chuda and ghee from the houses of the arrested. The police also recovered one roll of polythene sheet, 10 blankets, two dhotis and saris and packets of bleaching powder.

The police intend to conduct raids in other blocks of the district tonight, but do not hope to recover much.

?Those who stole relief goods must have disposed them of already with the news from Balikuda getting around,? Das said.

The incident has brought to light rampant corruption and mismanagement in relief distribution in the cyclone-ravaged districts. After Ersama, Balikuda is the worst-affected block in Jagatsinghpur.

Das said the arrested include block industrial promotion officer Madhavananda Behera, junior engineer Ranjit Kumar Das and head clerk Prabodh Chandra. They were charged with criminal breach of trust and theft and booked under Section 5(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The court rejected their bail pleas and remanded them in Chowdwar jail.

Senior Congress MLAs, including former chief minister Nandini Satpathy, yesterday accused the government of ?looking on while officials lined their pockets?. She demanded a probe into allegations that relief materials were finding their way into the black market in Calcutta and Raipur.

The ruling Congress came under fire in the Assembly for its failure to stop what the Opposition called ?highway robbery in the name of relief operations?.

Chief minister Hemanand Biswal said his government will not spare anybody stealing relief materials. ?Whether it is a BDO or a panchayat official, everyone will be punished,? he said.    

Temperature: Maximum: 28.1?C (+1) Minimum: 15.3?C (+1) RAINFALL: Nil Relative humidity: Maximum: 93%, Minimum: 40% Today: Mainly clear sky. Slight fall in night temperature. Sunset: 4.50 pm Sunrise: 6.15 am    

Maintained by Web Development Company