President delivers reform warning
Liberalisation push with IA stake selloff
Market murder rerun in city
Sourav keeps India in running
Security salve in Jaswant Pak feeler
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, Jan. 25 
At a time when the government is grappling with the anger of an anti-liberalisation workforce and does not know if there would be more such strikes in the future, President K.R. Narayanan in his Republic Day message cautioned those in power: ‘‘Beware of the fury of the patient and long-suffering people.’’

It was a speech steeped with strong socialist emotions. Three of the six pages were devoted to the misery of the poor because of the ongoing process of lopsided development.

‘‘Fifty years into our life in the Republic, we find that Justice — social, economic and political — remains an unrealised dream for millions of our fellow citizens.’’

The President said: ‘‘We (not only) have one of the world’s largest number of illiterates, the world’s largest middle class, but also the largest number of people below the poverty line, and the largest number of children suffering from malnutrition. Our giant factories rise from out of squalor, our satellites shoot up from the midst of the hovels of the poor.’’

Narayanan has long shown signs of going by the popular mood and has been a good judge of it except for a brief while last year when his relations with the Vajpayee government plummeted. That he has sensed the growing unrest among the labour force is evident from his statement: ‘‘Not surprisingly, there is sullen resentment among the masses against their condition, erupting often in violent forms in several parts of the country.’’

The President’s speech was acerbic in criticism of the way the path of liberalisation was being followed. ‘‘Tragically the growth in our economy has not been uniform. It has been accompanied by great regional and social inequalities. Many a social upheaval can be traced to the neglect of the lowest tier of society, whose discontent moves towards the path of violence,’’ he said.

Narayanan was critical of the new money that was coming into the hands of a few since the economy opened up. He said: ‘‘Violence in society has bared a hundred fangs as the advertisement-driven consumerism is unleashing frustrations and tensions in our society. The unabashed, vulgar indulgence in conspicuous consumption by the nouveau-riche has left the underclass seething in frustration.’’

Continuing in this critical vein, Narayanan added: ‘‘One half of our society guzzles aerated beverages while the other has to make do with a palmful of muddied water.’’

He adopted a tone of finality when he said: ‘‘Our three-way fast lane of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation must provide safe pedestrian crossings for the unempowered Indian also....’’

The President made it clear that he was not against development. ‘‘But that should not cause ecological and environmental devastation and the uprooting of human settlements, especially tribal and the poor.’’    

New Delhi, Jan. 25 
The BJP-led government today announced privatisation of Indian Airlines, the loss-laden national carrier, by selling off a majority 51 per cent stake.

The decision taken by the Cabinet committee on disinvestment, which met at Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee’s home this evening, calls for sale of 26 per cent shares to a single partner who will be given a free hand in running the airline. Another 25 per cent will be split up among employees, financial institutions and the public.

The Cabinet committee also approved sale of a 74 per cent stake in Modern Foods for Rs 105.45 crore to multinational Hindustan Lever. This is the first complete privatisation of a state-owned company successfully tied up by the government.

However, adding a swadeshi touch of its own, the committee said the private partner in Indian Airlines cannot be a foreign airline or company. But the partner itself can be 40 per cent foreign-owned, provided the equity is not held by a foreign airline.

The Cabinet note has taken pains to make it clear that foreign airlines are debarred from taking a stake in the national carrier, directly or indirectly. The partner can, however, be totally owned by a non-resident Indian or an overseas corporate body, that is, an NRI-owned foreign company.

Guidelines for Indian Airlines privatisation, if extended to private airlines, would mean advantage for Jet Airways where overseas corporate bodies had a stake until a 1998 amendment prohibited it. But it also precludes possibilities of reviving the Tata-Singapore Airlines plan to launch a domestic carrier.

Indian Airlines deputy managing director N.C. Ghosh refused to comment on the decision, but said the airline had “made a presentation on similar lines to the civil aviation ministry” about a year and a half ago.

The airline board had then recommended that divestment of government shareholding be accomplished by issuing fresh capital instead of selling existing equity.

Under the terms of Modern Foods’ selloff to Lever, the government continues to hold two directorial posts, including that of the chairman. Lever will have five representatives on the board. It will also invest Rs 20 crore in modernising the company.

Lever cannot sell its shares to anyone other than its affiliate within a year. In the first year, it can retrench employees only through a voluntary retirement scheme which is at least as good as the one already offered by the government.

The agreement provides that Lever will be liable to penal action in case of breach of obligations relating to employees. Punishment can take the form of selling out at a heavily discounted price or buying the rest of the government’s stake at a highly inflated price. In the case of any other kind of breach, the aggrieved partner will have the right to sell shares to the defaulting party at a premium or buy the defaulting party’s shares at a discount.    

Calcutta, Jan. 25 
Close on the heels of Sunday’s killing of a CPM leader, a Trinamul Congress activist was shot dead in the crowded Kudghat market today. One of the killers was lynched by local residents.

Bapi Dutta (32) was gunned down around 9.30 am, when he was returning home after shopping for grocery.

The murder of CPM’s Gurupada Bagchi in Kasba market on Sunday had triggered arson and rioting, with the angry red cadre setting fire to the marketplace, destroying tonnes of stored goods. The CPM workers had ransacked the Kasba police station as well.

Bapi’s father Nani Dutta, a former defence employee, said he was followed by three armed men on foot near the bridge adjacent to the market.

“He was standing near a flower shop when he was surrounded by the three,” a witness said.

He was shot from point blank range on the bridge which stands over a canal, connecting the market and Chandi Ghosh Road. Bapi fell dead on the bridge as the bullet went through his forehead.

The killers started fleeing but were given chase by the passers-by. One of them was caught and the mob began thrashing him. Local residents also joined in, hitting him with stones, bottles and lathis. The man, who is yet to be identified, tried to protest he was innocent.

But then a group of local youth appeared and hit him on the head with a bamboo stick, smashing his skull.

The local police station was not informed of the incident. As a result, the police arrived one-and-a-half hours later to find the area deserted and the two bodies lying on the road.

“Nobody knows what had exactly happened,” said an officer visiting the spot.

Some rickshaw-pullers, shop keepers and local Trinamul sympathisers later helped the police dig out the details. A single-shooter firearm was found on the assailant who was lynched.

Residents said Bapi, formerly a Congress worker, had joined Trinamul recently. He had worked for the party in the last Lok Sabha elections.

The police said Bapi had a rivalry with some local hoodlums over the supply of building materials in the area, which has of late witnessed a rapid and unchecked growth of construction.

“My son was a building contractor,” Bapi’s father said.

Preliminary investigation revealed that the reasons behind the murder were CPM-Trinamul rivalry and Bapi’s attempt to control crime management of the area.

Another attempt had been made on him a few months ago, when assailants barged into his Chandi Ghosh Road home and fired at him. “But the bullet had not hit him then,” said his relative Sabyasachi Nandi.    

Adelaide, Jan. 25 
One down, three to go.

Whether India pull off cricket’s most stunning recovery remains to be seen, but the coldly professional 48-run win over Pakistan should make tomorrow’s Republic Day celebrations that much livelier.

Tonight’s victory, India’s first in Australia since early Decem ber, couldn’t have been better-timed. Defeat, after all, would have reduced India’s remaining three Carlton and United Series matches to going-through-the-motions status.

Now, riding Man of the Match Sourav Ganguly’s amazing 141 (his second century of the tournament and 11th overall), India are still in contention. To make the finals, bypassing net run rate calculations, India need to beat Australia twice and Pakistan once.

Of course, it’s a tough draw. But there are times when one win can recast not just the outlook of a team, beaten and battered it may have been till then, but an entire series. Today, at least, captain Sachin Tendulkar’s belief in his team paid off.

Indeed, it was team effort at its best: Batting, bowling and, unbelievably, even fielding. The Indians, at last, were aggressive and looked hungry for the winners’ cheque.

It may come as a “shock”, but there actually were three stand-out catches (from Samir Dighe, Hrishikesh Kanitkar and Jawagal Srinath), perfectly complementing Sourav’s masterpiece — he has touched 350 in the tournament — and excellent spells from Debashish Mohanty and Anil Kumble.

Set a target of 268 (India closed at 267 for six), Pakistan were bowled out for 219 within 45 overs itself. About the only time they looked like throwing India out of the series was when Azhar Mehmood tore into the bowling, sending the tidy gathering of Pakistani fans into a frenzy.

For much of the afternoon and evening, the Adelaide Oval even had that Sharjah touch: Dhols and bugles vying for attention amidst shouts of “Allah-o-Akbar” and “Bharat mata ki Jai.”

Understandably, Sourav was the toast of the evening. Wasim Akram sportingly acknowledged he had seen few better one-day innings, while Sachin was just as effusive. “When someone plays an innings like that, it’s only rarely that the team loses... Now, I’m hoping Sourav can do better in the three games that remain.”

Sourav didn’t pick this flawless innings as being his best. “The one in Taunton (183), against Sri Lanka is tops...”    

New Delhi, Jan. 25 
Delhi today sent peace feelers to Islamabad, proposing a security framework in Asia to reduce neighbourly tension and urging Pakistan to give up its policy of hatred towards India and terrorism.

“India has a vital stake in the stability and prosperity of Asia,” said foreign minister Jaswant Singh, identifying instability, narcotics, arms smuggling and terrorism as the evils that prevent India and the Asian people from realising their “true destiny”.

At a seminar on “Asian security in the 21st century” at the Habitat Centre here this afternoon, the minister called for regional initiatives to “lead the way in de-legitimising nuclear weapons and reducing the risks of accidental and unauthorised nuclear exchange” between Asian countries.

Without actually naming Pakistan or China, he suggested that a joint agreement on no-first-use of nuclear weapons and de-alerting measures could be the first step towards the proposed security framework.

The BJP government’s direct appeal for peace to Pakistan was voiced in President K.R. Narayanan’s Republic Day speech. “We want to live in peace with Pakistan. We want the relations to conform to the best traditions of good neighbourliness, eschewing terrorist interventions and the propaganda of hatred,” the President said.

He also extended his best wishes to China, a country with whom India will celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations.

India’s policy for stronger relations with other countries, the President said, was based on respect for the “territorial integrity and independence of nations, non-interference in their internal matters and mutual benefit and equality”. He said these were “precious concepts which cannot become redundant in a world of globalisation”.

With today’s statements, Delhi seems to have put behind the recent burst of aggression between India and Pakistan and is trying to make Islamabad see the futility of its policy of confrontation. “Just as Asia is home to the world’s greatest energy resource, it is a matter of global concern that our neighbourhood constitutes the single largest terrorist gene-pool in the world,” Singh said.

He argued that though wars were no longer fought for conquering territory, conflicts continued. “Non-state actors have come on the scene, fired by ideologies of extremism and fanaticism and equipped with ever more lethal fire power,” he added.

Even as he spoke for nuclear safeguards, Singh mentioned that the West’s policy of denying dual-use and other technology to developing nations could weaken non-proliferation measures.

Musharraf talks peace

Pakistani junta leader Pervez Musharraf and President Muhammad Rafiq Tarar greeted Indian leaders on the occasion of Republic Day and expressed hope that the two nations would maintain good relations. In a message to A.B. Vajpayee, Musharraf said: “It is our ernest hope that in the years to come, our two countries will maintain good neighbourly relations.”    

Temperature: Maximum: 26.9°C (Normal) Minimum: 16.9°C (+3) RAINFALL: Nil Relative humidity: Maximum: 94%, Minimum: 40% Today: Mainly clear sky with the possibility of morning mist. The weather office forecasts a slight fall in the minimum temperature. Sunset: 5.14 pm Sunrise: 6.24 am    

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