Spurned Sangeeta blows lid off sex racket
BJP blames �secret nexus� for poll blow
Sonia steps into price war mode
Bihar panchayat polls next year
Every third baby goes unregistered

Chandigarh, June 1 
Sex has reared its ugly head in the residential quarters of Chandigarh, staining the city�s clean reputation.

The police have ordered a probe into an alleged flesh trade thriving in a Sector 44 house after a former resident of the house, who was admittedly part of the racket, lodged a complaint with the police.

Sangeeta, 31, who claims to have �serviced� customers for years at the den, says she was thrown out as she is of little use now. Crippled with a fractured leg, Sangeeta suffers from a deadly disease: terminal bone cancer.

The house, Sangeeta claims, belongs to her husband Vipin�s first wife Sunita, who allegedly runs the flesh-trade racket.

Sangeeta � who has two children who were thrown with her � has demanded an FIR be lodged against Vipin, who, with an accomplice, forced her and several other innocent girls into the trade.

She confessed she had been luring girls herself. She also admitted that her customers included police officers and influential people, which could be the reason why her earlier complaints were not acted upon.

Sangeeta�s neighbours had noted down the numbers of the vehicles of Sunita�s clients and the list has been submitted to the police, said the Lawyers for Human Rights International, an organisation which has taken up Sangeeta�s case.

Sangeeta said it all began in Ambala when Sunita asked her to come to her house to teach her son. �I had no idea what lay ahead. As soon as I reached Sunita�s house, she bolted me in a room with Vipin who raped me. A few days later I was asked to come again for a check-up and was raped again by Vipin,� she added.

Later Vipin�s accomplice, Sureshtha, told her family that she was sharing a sexual relationship with Vipin. �I had no option but to flee with the two from Ambala. I even married Vipin later.�

Vipin and his two accomplices used to lure girls in a similar way, Sangeeta said. Some girls working for Sunita were arrested, but released because of the high connections Sunita had, she claimed.

Her only hope now lay with her parents. �I want to go back to Ambala and die peacefully there,� she cried.

A local daily had taken up Sangeeta�s cause first. Since then, social organisations and residents have stepped in. The education of her two children, Meha and Karan, however, will be taken up by Cancer Sahyog, a social organisation. Efforts are also being made for Sangeeta�s stay at the PGI gurdwara. Bharat Vikas Parishad, another social service organisation, has offered to provide all medical expenses and other financial assistance. Efforts are also being by the organisation to rehabilitate her children or get them adopted.

However, doctors at the PGI here said that in Sangeeta�s condition, admission to the institute will be of little help.

Some of Sangeeta�s neighbours could not care less. �She was in the flesh trade and is paying for her sins,� a neighbour said, adding it should serve as a lesson for others in the trade.

While Sangeeta is writhing in pain, what hurts her more is that even her parents do not want to see her. �It is true I fled home. But I want to be with them now. My children will then become good citizens and I will be able to die in peace. Bas mein unke pass jaana chahti hoon (I just want to be near them),� she says with tears in her eyes.

The police feel Sangeeta�s revelations are too serious to be ignored. �What she has said will have wide repercussions in the city. Chandigarh so far has ensured that such things remain indoors,� a senior officer said.

�It is bound to lead to a wider network of the trade. It could go as far as Delhi too. The whispers about Chandigarh that were heard earlier seem to be surfacing with a vengeance now. Every sector will have to be watched closely,� he added.    

New Delhi, June 1 
The BJP today spoke in different voices over the defeat of its candidates in the West Bengal civic polls.

BJP leaders admitted that the defeat was due to �lack of proper understanding� with the Trinamul Congress in about 200 seats, but also claimed that �a secret understanding between the CPM and the Congress� was to blame for their poor showing.

Talking to reporters here today, BJP spokesperson M. Venkaiah Naidu said the Congress�s decision not to openly oppose the CPM had created a situation similar to the Bihar Assembly elections.

�The BJP and the Trinamul did not have perfect understanding and the trifurcation of anti-CPM votes� resulted in the alliance not doing well. He also blasted the CPM for unleashing terror tactics on the BJP-Trinamul cadre in a systematic manner. �They have the scientific expertise in rigging elections,� Naidu alleged.

Naidu said the results underscored the need for unity of all anti-Left parties. He, however, pointed out that it was wrong to say that the Left had fared well, as they could win only 35 municipalities against the 44 they held.

It was also wrong to say that the Congress performance had improved, he said. The BJP-Trinamul combine secured not only more seats but more percentage of votes than the Congress. �We got 344 councillors, while the Congress got 328,� he said.

Compared to the earlier tally of 17 municipal wards, the BJP now has 40, Naidu said, adding that in 1995, the Congress had 33 municipalities, but now it had been reduced to 12 or 13.

�What is significant is that the CPM is happy about the performance of the Congress and vice versa,� Naidu said. �The answer to the mahajot lies here.�

He said that senior CPM leader Anil Biswas had complimented the Congress for its �good performance�. This showed that there was some unwritten understanding between the two. The CPM transferred some of its votes to the Congress, while the latter extended support to the CPM, he alleged.

Mamata campaign

In the final phase of her campaign, Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee tried to instil confidence among her supporters by saying that she would play the role of a protector if there was any further terror.

�Don�t be afraid. Vote freely and fearlessly. I will reach you in a moment if you are threatened and shall not leave Midnapore till elections are over,� she told her supporters.

After reaching Midnapore late last night, she started her campaign from Debra where chief minister Jyoti Basu addressed a rally yesterday.

Reacting to the chief minister�s criticism of police inaction during violent clashes between Trinamul and CPM supporters, Mamata said Basu had been �paid back in his own coins�.

Mamata said the CPM had �misused� the police force for petty gains. �The CPM killed our supporters and locked our party offices with police help. Now the party-police nexus has turned full circle. Nature has taken revenge. Police discipline has been destroyed in the 21 years of CPM misrule, what�s the use of crying now,� she told the crowd who had braved the scorching sun to attend her meetings in Balichak, Jamna, Burla and Jalchak.

Mamata said she would address 15 meetings in three days.    

New Delhi, June 1 
The Congress is finally gearing up to get into the Opposition mode. AICC chief Sonia Gandhi today gave the go-ahead to launch a nation-wide jail bharo agitation against price-rise from June 5 and set up a panel to revise its own economic policy.

On the flip side, the move to go all out against price-rise is to divert attention from the growing factional feuds within the Congress. Sonia is keen to involve the party workers in an agitation against the Vajpayee regime instead of allowing the regional satraps to turn the workers� ire on her. In her assessment, the outcome of Bengal civic polls is an indicator of voters� growing disenchantment with the NDA government, which pushed Mamata�s Trinamul Congress to a poor third.

All state party units and chief ministers of the Congress-ruled states have been asked to participate in the stir against price-rise. It, however, remains to be seen if the Congress president Sonia Gandhi will take the lead herself in courting arrest. On January 30, Sonia had courted arrest in the capital to protest against the Gujarat government�s order allowing government employees to participate in RSS activities.

Sonia has also made up her mind to set up a panel to review and �fine-tune� Congress� economic policy. She is convinced about diluting the party�s �pro-liberalisation� tilt.

Thus, the task before the yet-to-be-appointed panel would be to repackage the party�s socio-economic agenda to show its �pro-poor� credentials.

However, there is a big question mark over the selection of the review panel chief. Manmohan Singh does not want to be a part of it as he feels there is no need to revise the economic policy. Sonia had requested P.V. Narasimha Rao to head it but the former Prime Minister is reluctant to return to active politics though he told her that he was in favour of a review. A section of the party had floated Arjun Sengupta�s name but it was shot down on grounds that the economist was not a senior party leader. Now Sonia is left with the choice of either asking Pranab Mukherjee or Narain Dutt Tiwari to head the committee.

She has already short-listed names of 35 partymen, though the list will be pruned further, who will be part of the review panel.

The Congress offensive on price-rise comes days after its pathetic performance during the Budget session of Parliament. The party failed to press for cut motions against the Union budget and when Sonia led a protest march to Vajpayee against price-hike, the Prime Minister told her that he was merely following the Congress policies initiated by Manmohan. Worse, Manmohan made a speech in the Rajya Sabha on the same day advocating subsidy cuts. The BJP quickly pointed it out as yet another example of confusion within the Congress.    

Patna, June 1 
The Bihar government has decided to hold panchayat polls next year, if there is no further order from the Supreme Court on the litigation that the government had filed before it, reports our special correspondent.

A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting today, attended by chief minister Rabri Devi, RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav and six senior bureaucrats. It was decided that the government would hold panchayat polls in February next year and the dates would be finalised in July, when the Supreme Court is expected to take up the petition for hearing and pass an order.

Laloo said: �Even if there is no Supreme Court order we�ll go ahead with the polls in February and abide by the Patna High Court order directing us to hold polls immediately.�    

New Delhi, June 1 
Nearly one-third of Indian babies born every day are never officially registered.

With the home ministry grappling with the stupendous task of providing every citizen with an identity card, no one has cared to remember that the right to a name and nationality precedes all rights, including that to health or education.

In a significant number of villages, it is still the village chowkidar�s job to record births � a job which he seldom does.

To find a solution to the problem, a meeting of NGOs was recently held in Delhi. PLAN International, which hosted the meeting, pointed out that birth registration was the seventh article of the Convention of Rights of Children.

A spokesperson for the organisation said that the �right to a name� could not be denied to a child. Even if the child had a name, it remained forever unofficial because his birth was never registered.

According to the NGOs, deaths, in India, were probably better registered than births, since the burial grounds recorded deaths in a much more systematic manner. Registration of births was, however, not such a problem in urban areas where civic bodies maintained registers, though in a shabby and slipshod manner.

In the villages, the condition was worse. In states like Rajasthan, where arid stretches continued for miles, villages in small hamlets had never heard of birth registration.

The NGOs, after participating in this symposium, have given a call for an amendment to the existing Birth and Death Registration Act, introduced by the British. They have also demanded an amendment to the 11th schedule of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment to include �civil registration explicitly�. The existing legislation on birth registration is 135 years old.

Though the home ministry has been approached, it is yet to respond. At the policy level, the conference has also demanded that task forces be set up on birth registration at national, state and local levels with wide representation of the government, corporate sectors and the civil society.

The NGOs have even demanded the setting up of mobile registration units and relaxation of time limits.

The NGOs feel that India�s growing information technology sector could provide a lot of help. They felt that the best way of giving birth registration a boost is to ``look for corporate commitment especially of the IT industry and chambers of commerce��. The NGOs feel that all registrars should be trained to handle computers and young NGOs and local organisations be widely enlisted to clear the backlog as early as possible.

At the state level, the governments can revise the format of immunisation card and include an item of birth registration. In fact, registration can be done when the parents come forward to have their infants immunised against various diseases. It could be done at the primary health care unit or the integrated child care unit level .

The symposium also signed what is being described as the Delhi Declaration on Birth Registration, which says : ``We commit our support for advocacy, capacity building, resource mobilisation and management, among others, to strengthen the birth registration system in the country in close partnership with the Office of the Registrar General, India, chief registrars of the states and the registrars at various level.��    


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