Probe into Rajiv-era defence deals
Clinton charges up Pak, Delhi looks to Paris
Boy dies trying to flee hospital
Singhal seizes Water war command
Panel figures way out of math maze
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, Feb. 5 
The government today ordered a sweeping inquiry into all major defence transactions since 1985-86, a decision aimed at exposing questionable deals struck by previous regimes.

The inquiry, ordered by defence minister George Fernandes, will be conducted by the Central Vigilance Commission through the CBI.

In addition, the Comptroller-and-Auditor-General has been directed to probe the reported purchase of excessive and faulty spares since 1984 when the Rajiv Gandhi government assumed office. The CAG has also been advised to carry out a special audit on the emergency purchase of military hardware during and after the Kargil war following allegations of corruption.

Government sources said Fernandes may have taken a cue from the report of the Subrahmanyam Committee � that inquired into the Kargil incursions � which is understood to have indicated past lapses.

A defence spokesman said Fernandes ordered the probe ��to ensure transparency in defence purchases and to get to the bottom of allegations about middlemen and payoffs which continue to surface in the media and Parliament��.

Observers, however, said the decision smacks of political vendetta. ��With one blow, the BJP-led government will try and demonstrate that it is not only clean and transparent, but also that it stands by its promise of zero-tolerance on corruption,�� an analyst said.

Besides the Bofors deal � already being probed by the CBI � the inquiry will cover transactions in the purchase of Sukhoi fighter aircraft and the billions spent on buying spares for mainly Russian equipment.

Among the other deals � the majority of them clinched by the navy � which will be looked into is the modernisation of the aircraft carrier INS Viraat. The vessel, purchased in 1986 from the British for around Rs 235 crore, was refurbished for a whopping Rs 700 crore.

Also under scrutiny will be the multi-crore HDW submarine deal with Germany and the Rs 5- crore agreement to acquire submersibles, or small submarines, from Italy. The submersibles were not supplied and Indian authorities did not try to recover the money.

The inquiry could also focus on the purchase of naval spares since 1992 through Indian and Russian middlemen as alleged by sacked navy chief Vishnu Bhagwat.

The full list of purchases to be covered will be available after the CBI goes through the accounts. Some deals which have been sealed but for which actual supplies are yet to begin can be brought under the probe�s purview. The terms of reference could ask the CBI to uncover whether politicians or officials had shown an unseemly bias for a particular firm even if a deal was not struck with it.

The probe appears to be aimed at the government�s rivals, mainly the Congress as it was in power for almost nine of the 14 years under investigation. Other targets are former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, who had allegedly shown preference for the Russian T-90 tank and Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Yadav, who as the United Front defence minister, had cleared the Russian Sukhoi-30 deal.

The government wants to ascertain whether the deals were struck flouting orders that middlemen should not be used. Such clandestine agreements may have benefited politicians and senior officers of the three services.    

New Delhi, Feb. 5 
Encouraged by President Bill Clinton�s remarks about the sub-continent being the �most dangerous place in the world�, Pervez Musharraf today urged US mediation even though Delhi made it clear that a third party would not be entertained.

Disappointed with Clinton�s regular utterances on playing peacemaker, India has decided to turn to new-found ally France to tell the US that despite its interest in improving bilateral relations, Delhi would lay stress on a multi-polar world order.

National security adviser Brajesh Mishra is leaving for Paris tonight for talks with the French government on February 7 and 8 and highlight the need for multi-polarity.

Clinton said in Washington on Thursday that he was prepared to �work intensively� to restart the Indo-Pak dialogue. Taking a cue from this, Musharraf, who was in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir during the day, said the President could help to scale down the rising tension between the nuclear twins.

In an interview to PTV last night, the Pakistani military ruler made it clear that he wanted a dialogue with India on Kashmir, which, he said, was the only dispute.

�I don�t want tension, I want peace and I am ready for a dialogue, but the talks must focus on Kashmir as there is no other dispute,� he said.

In a move to force the world�s attention on Kashmir, rallies were held throughout Pakistan today. �Our heads lift with pride when we hear about the sacrifices of the Mujahideen,� Musharraf said at a refugee camp outside Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. �Kashmir will be liberated from the terrorism and barbarous rule of India.�

Defending the militant activity, he said: �The blood which is given for Kashmir is not terrorism. I�ve been telling all the Western powers they should distinguish between terrorism and a freedom struggle.�

Describing Clinton as �a man of peace,� he said it is �in the interest of peace in the region that when he comes to India, he should also come to Pakistan�.

Pakistan�s gameplan appears two-pronged. On one hand, it is taking full advantage of Clinton�s desire to play peacemaker to ensure the President visits Pakistan. On the other hand, he is using the situation to internationalise the Kashmir issue and telling the US that its mediation is necessary.

But India has made it clear that there is no room for a third party. The foreign ministry spokesman here said talks could resume only when Islamabad created the �right atmosphere� � an end to pushing terrorists into India.

In Paris, Mishra will discuss a wide range of issues with French special envoy Gerard Errera. But the most significant part of the visit will be his address at the French Institute of Foreign Affairs, where his thrust will be on the need for a multi-polar world order.    

Calcutta, Feb. 5 
A critically ill boy, who was �unhappy� with the treatment at SSKM hospital, was found dead on the compound after he walked out of his ward unchallenged at dawn.

The incident raises questions about the monitoring system at the hospital as preliminary investigations found that nurses and other employees on duty were sleeping when the 14-year-old left his ward. A senior hospital official said two nurses and a doctor were issued showcause notices.

Deputy commissioner (detective department) Narayan Ghosh said a departmental inquiry would also be conducted.

The boy, Amal Dey, a resident of Surya Sen Palli in Thakurpukur, South 24-Parganas, was admitted to the hospital with a kidney ailment on January 28.

He was in the Ronald Ross ward on the third floor and had been suffering from severe pain for the past few days.

Bimal Dey, his brother, said Amal was unhappy with his treatment and had been telling other patients that he wanted to go home. This was corroborated by other patients. One of them, P. Mukherjee, said the boy complained as his condition was deteriorating.

According to Bimal, their parents insisted that the boy remain at the hospital as the family could not afford private treatment.

Bimal, who was in the hospital last night, said he saw Amal sleeping on his bed around 1 am. �We checked on him at 4 am and again found him sleeping. He might have managed to escape after 4 am as the nurses were sleeping,� he said. Since relatives were not allowed to stay, Amal�s escape had gone unnoticed, Bimal added.

The police said the teenager came down to the ground floor as the gates on the stairs were left open. The main door on the ground floor was not locked and the night guards on duty were not there either.

The hospital authorities found the boy missing around 8 am. His body was lying at the back of the Ronald Ross ward with blood oozing out of his mouth.

�As he was suffering from a severe kidney problem, his system might have collapsed while he was trying to walk out of the hospital,� said a senior doctor.

�Since his kidney and intestine were badly damaged, exertion could cause blood to come out of the mouth,� another doctor said.

The boy�s relatives alleged that he was found dead without trousers, while others said his hands were tied.

Ghosh said Amal�s body had been sent for post-mortem. �He did not jump out of the third floor as there was no external injury. We do not suspect any foul play at this moment,� he added.

In another incident, an MBBS student of the National Medical College and hospital was found dead in the college recreation room.    

Varanasi, Feb. 5 
��Intellectuals�� today moved away from the Water frontline as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad stepped in.

The restive unit of Deepa Mehta�s beleaguered film resumed indoor shoot in their hotel lounge amid the vitriolic cries of VHP leader Ashok Singhal, who said the movie could progress only over ��their dead bodies��.

��We will launch a do-or-die agitation if the film is permitted,�� Singhal said and warned that the VHP will not allow its shoot ��anywhere in the country��.

With the Hindutva hawks mounting their attack, the state administration seemed to be in a quandary over allowing the film to take-off. Uttar Pradesh home secretary V.K. Mittal, while flashing the green signal, said that the final decision would have to be taken by the district magistrate based on the law and order situation. The Varanasi administration arrested at least 50 Bajrang Dal activists for burning Mehta�s effigies.

The Kashi Sanskriti Raksha Samiti has called a Varanasi bandh on February 8 as part of its stepped-up agitation to ��force Mehta to leave the city��.

Varanasi�s men of letters, who had the altered script read out to them through the night, appeared to distance themselves from the controversy. ��We will neither say yes nor no to the question whether the film should be allowed to proceed,�� said Shivji Upadhya, spokesman for the Kashi Vidwat Parishad, which has been spearheading the agitation.

Upadhya, along with Mahant Vir Bhadra Mishra of the Sankat Mochan temple, heard the script from Mehta and Water writer Anurag Kashyap ��word for word��. But though the monitors found ��no problem with the script��, they refused to be part of the controversy any further. ��We have totally and absolutely dissociated ourselves from the agitation,�� Upadhya said.

In a climbdown from his earlier hard stand, Upadhyaya added: ��We didn�t see anything controversial with the script. Certain liberties are taken in art. Being Sanskrit scholars, we understand that. But we will not say anything further. Sabkuch gadbad lagta hai (Everything seems to be wrong).��

The VHP warning that it will not allow the film to be shot anywhere in the country has ensured that the controversy is no more related to religion or the ��sanctity of Varanasi��. The attack is unlikely to be watered down as byelections are scheduled for later in the month and the saffron forces, drubbed in the Lok Sabha polls, will try and extract maximum mileage from the issue.

Mehta and her crew are, however, confident that the crisis will blow over soon. ��Everyone knows there is nothing wrong with the script. It�s a matter of time before things normalise,�� said actress Nandita Das. Asked how long she would be in Varanasi, Nandita quipped: ��A month and a half, hopefully.��

Mehta took the first close up shots of eight-year-old Urvi, who plays the lead role of a child widow, at the Clarks Towers Hotel, where the film unit is staying.    

New Delhi, Feb. 5 
The NCERT�s curriculum committee has suggested making mathematics optional after Class VIII, holding out hope for sum-allergic students but triggering disquiet among some educationists.

The committee, in its discussion document, has offered two proposals to lessen the strain of studying mathematics till the 10th standard: the subject should be a compulsory one only till Class VIII; or there should be two different syllabi from Class IX.

The suggestions, if implemented, could alter the curriculum�s basic structure. �Those who will pursue the subject in their future career will be taught one kind of mathematics while those who will study it only till the 10th standard will be taught a different course,� says the document.

This implies that an ��inferior�� course and a ��superior�� one will be offered to students who will have to make up their minds before the secondary level whether they want to study humanities or mathematics. �This defeats the entire purpose of the 10 plus 2 school system which is rooted in the principle of providing undifferentiated education till the 10th standard,�� said an educationist.

He feared that if the curriculum held out the option of two kinds of mathematics courses, 50 per cent of government schools would offer only an �inferior� syllabus.

The academics argued that a differential course structure could also work against girl students � especially in rural areas � who may be offered the lesser course. �In many schools in Uttar Pradesh, girls are just not taught mathematics,�� a teacher said.

The discussion document has proposed similar changes in the science syllabus. �Many educationists and school teachers believe students should have the option of studying science at two levels, A or B. A-level will be for students who will not pursue science after the 10th standard and B for those who will continue to study science in higher classes,�� says the paper.

The concept of a differential syllabus was first floated by the Ishwar Bhai Patel Committee in 1977. The panel had recommended two kinds of courses, A and B, but it later jettisoned the proposal on the grounds that it would breed discrimination between students. A decision was then taken to follow a uniform syllabus till Class X.

��But some still feel strongly that there are students who are bright and capable of doing better and, therefore, should be offered a different course,�� says the document.

Educationists opposed to any tinkering with the basic structure of the 10 plus 2 system argued that the curriculum committee is reviving a �redundant� concept.

�If you have two kinds of science courses, the run-of-the-mill schools will only offer the inferior kind, since most of them do not have proper laboratory facilities. This will give them an excuse to offer students an inferior course,� said an educationist.    

Today�s forecast: Cloudy sky. Possibility of rain accompanied by thunder in some areas. Slight fall in minimum temperature. Max. temperature: 29.5�C (normal) Min. temperature: 21.9�C (6� above normal) Maximum humidity: 93% Minimum humidity: 53% Rainfall: Trace Sunset: 5.22 pm Sunrise: 6.19 am    

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