PM whip faces church reality test
Italian slow-and-steady model for reforms
Autonomy vote heat on Farooq
George arms-trip to Russia
Dhumal launches power blitz in Himachal
Ally squabble foils Atal meet
�Ripe� Laloo spares Congress
Coal mafia targets Dhanbad SP
Bihar police on warpath
Cyclone shelter

New Delhi, June 25 
Though the church has hailed Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee�s statement expressing serious concern at the attacks on Christians on the eve of his visit to the Vatican, Rome and Lisbon, it is not elated at the statement.

Rev. Dr Dominic Emmanuel, spokesperson of public affairs for the Catholic Bishops� Conference of India, today said that just a statement would not improve the situation.

�The Prime Minister�s writ should run. It should be seen to be running. Earlier, too, the Prime Minister expressed concern, but the attacks continued,� he told The Telegraph.

After bomb blasts at churches in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa on June 8, Vajpayee had expressed serious concern over the incidents.

But a few days later, a Bajrang Dal leader in Uttar Pradesh openly threatened violence against Christians and a graveyard was vandalised in Andhra Pradesh.

Vajpayee, who had last year called for a debate on conversion after attacks on the minority community in Gujarat, had told late Archbishop Alan de Lastic early last month that the church should not give a communal colour to every incident.

Chandigarh-Shimla diocese bishop Rev. Dr Gerald Mathias said: �The Prime Minister�s s tatement is in the interest of Christians, but it should not be mere words. What is wanted is some action.�

Hailing Vajpayee�s directive to the states to thoroughly investigate violence against Christians and seeking �action� against the guilty, Mathias said various state governments had criticised the �heinous crime� against Christians, but so far nothing had been done.

Meanwhile, the body of Alan de Lastic, who died in an accident in Poland on June 21, was brought here by an Air India flight.

The embalmed body of the 71-year-old archbishop was taken to the Holy Family hospital, said an official of the Bishops� Conference. The funeral is expected to take place at the Sacred Heart Cathedral here on Tuesday.

The body will be brought to the cathedral from the hospital tomorrow and will be kept there till the burial to let people pay their respects. President K.R. Narayanan will place a wreath.

The Air-India flight carrying de Lastic�s body reached Delhi at 5.10 am, the Catholic organisation said. The body was received by a delegation of 11 Christian leaders, led by the organisation�s new president, Archbishop Cyril Mar Baselios.

Born on September 24, 1929, in Mandalay district of Myanmar,de Lastic was consecrated as bishop in Rome in 1979 by Pope John Paul II.    

Rome, June 25 
Within two days of a clutch of disinvestment decisions that attracted rancour from both pro and anti-reformers, the A.B. Vajpayee government today suggested that it preferred the middle path of steady and gradual reforms and not overnight transformations that often led to social anarchy.

The government signalled that it wanted to take the workers along with it over two press conferences on board the Prime Minister�s flight to Rome, first by the Prime Minister�s principal secretary for economic affairs, N.K. Singh, and then by finance minister Yashwant Sinha.

In short, terse sentences Sinha made it clear that the path of privatisation in India would be like that of Italy � �cautious and gradual�. �There�s this commonality between us (India and Italy),� the finance minister emphasised, but refused to elaborate.

He was referring to the gradual opening up of Italy�s nationalised public sector by former Prime Minister and current European Commission chairman Romano Prodi. Apart from the issue of expanding the scope for trade, this is one area that will come up for discussion between Indian and Italian authorities. �We want to learn from the Italian experience,� Sinha said.

Singh, who met reporters earlier, said privatisation has been a long and gradual process in Italy. �We have to look into the possibilities of participation of workers, employees stock options.�

He said that in Prody�s time, disinvestment and privatisation was effected over a period of time and not overnight. �We also want to follow this path of non-controversial privatisation,� said Singh.

The enunciation of the government�s privatisation policy was important coming as it did after the Centre opened up several PSUs in principle, but did not go the whole hog as prescribed by the pro-reformers� lobby. It sent signals not just to recalcitrant anti-reform allies, but also hammered home to the swadeshi hawks within the Sangh parivar that privatisation would not happen at a breakneck speed.

It is apparent that the Vajpayee government wants to study the response to each of its opening-up move before taking the next step. It is worried that a section of the electorate is already jittery about the measures and wants time to ram home its views on the need to privatise more effectively. Neither Singh nor Sinha wanted to respond to questions on whether the government feared going the same way as Prody�s, which subsequently lost elections.

Other areas where the Vajpayee government wants to exchange notes with the Italians includes enforcement of fiscal discipline which means reduction of fiscal deficit and, of course, disinvestment. Singh said India also wants to have a closer look at Italy�s modernisation and upgradation programme for small and medium enterprises. Delhi also wanted to find out more about improving industrial design to keep pace with the rapid alterations in industrial processes across the world.

Vajpayee will also call for improved trade, reaching up to the $2-billion mark. There are several ways of expanding the scope for trade, and new areas like information technology and bio-technology will be the focus during talks over the next two days.    

Srinagar, June 25 
Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah came under intense pressure from his party tonight to drop his conciliatory stance towards the Centre and put the autonomy resolution to vote tomorrow.

After meeting the Prime Minister in Delhi last week, Abdullah had indicated that he may not move the resolution for vote in the special session. Abdullah�s soft stand had sparked speculation that the central coalition, led by the BJP which is opposed to the resolution, had exerted pressure on the chief minister.

However, sources in the chief minister�s party, the National Conference, told The Telegraph that efforts were on to move by tomorrow noon the resolution to adopt the State Autonomy Committee report. Tomorrow is the last day of the special session on autonomy.

Officially, the chief minister has been authorised by the party to take a final decision tomorrow.

If there is no other flip-flop and the resolution makes it to the voting table, it is expected to sail through since the National Conference has two-thirds majority in the House. The outnumbered opponents of the resolution � the Congress and the BJP � will be in no position to defeat it.

The resolution will call for �positive steps� for the speedy implementation of the committee report which lists a series of measures that paves way for restoration of the pre-1953 status of the state.

Ever since the chief minister�s statement indicating a rethink on the resolution, a steady stream of National Conference leaders have been flowing to Abdullah�s residence. Most of them openly spoke in favour of early restoration of the �eroded autonomy� .

PTI quoted sources as saying senior National Conference leaders like Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari and works minister A.M. Sagar favoured passing the autonomy resolution. Ansari, a former minister, said unless autonomous status was restored, there would be no peace in the state.    

New Delhi, June 25 
India and Russia will sign a protocol to strengthen defence co-operation during a five-day visit to Russia by defence minister George Fernandes starting Monday.

The protocol will be signed by Fernandes and his Russian counterpart Marshal I. Sergeev, an official statement said here today.

Fernandes will call on Russian President Vladimir Putin and is also scheduled to meet secretary of the Russian Security Council S. Ivanov, the commandant of Leningrad Military District and other dignitaries.

Putin is scheduled to visit India in October this year. During his visit, the Declaration on the Strategic Partnership between India and Russian Federation is expected to be signed.

The defence minister will hold one-to-one and delegation-level talks with Sergeev who is also marshal of Russian armed forces, and witness a flight demonstration of Su-30 MKI, a version of Su-30 K, a multi-role aircraft specially tailored to suit Indian requirements, the statement said.

The minister will also visit the Baltisky plant of St. Petersburg shipyards and the Admirality shipyards where submarines, frigates and other naval vessels for the Indian Navy are constructed.

The Indian delegation includes defence secretary T.R. Prasad, additional defence secretary (defence production) Dhirendra Singh and senior officers from the army, navy and air force.

Fernandes� visit is the latest in the series of high-level contacts between India and Russia reflecting the �multi-faceted� and �time-tested� relations between the two countries. It will further strengthen bilateral relationship, particularly in the field of defence cooperation, the statement added.    

Kullu, June 25 
Information technology, power and biotechnology are the three buzz words in Himachal Pradesh today.

According to chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, the annual revenue from IT-related industry could be Rs 20,000 crore by 2010. Out of this Rs14,000 crore is estimated to come from exports and the remaining from the domestic market.

Senior state officials said that after IT, the next revolution will be in biotechnology and those investing in the state now would get preference in biotechnology.

�But first, efforts will have to be made in the power sector. Himachal Pradesh is endowed with natural surroundings conducive for the generation of hydroelectric power. For far too long we have remained ignorant about the generation of hydroelectric power for the fear of high costs. But the private sector Malana Power Company Ltd has removed our fears and we are now looking at more private participation in hydroelectric power in the state,� a senior government official said.

The Malana Power Company Ltd is constructing a Rs 250-crore, 86 mw plant on the Malana river, 20 km from Kullu. The project which was expected to take five years to complete, is expected to generate power from mid-June 2001, two and half years after construction began.

Its progress is being closely monitored by the Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Haryana governments. Its unique feature is that it will generate electricity in one state and supply it to another. The project is being executed by LMJ Bhilwara group to cater to the power requirements of its units in Rajasthan.

�We are basically looking at our requirements, but our project is expected to open the floodgates of private participation in the power sector in the state. That is the reason we are trying to complete construction way ahead of schedule, to serve an example that small power plants can be built without heavy costs and efficiently too,� said A.B. Giri, executive director of the Malana project.

The state government has identified a hydel potential of 23000 mw, a fourth of the entire potential available in the country, and has decided to harness it at the earliest. Private participation for bulk generation and direct sale to consumers is also on the cards in the next few months.

The state government has already started work on the 2,051 mw Parvati hydel and other projects having a generation capacity of 3000 mw. The NTPC has for the first time entered into hydel power generation by executing the 800 mw Kol dam project.

According to Giri, hydro-power has been neglected by the country at a huge cost to the national economy.

�In the long run it will help reduce the cost of power. The neglect of hydro power has retarded the growth of the economy and should be harnessed immediately. The increasing proportion of hydro-power in the total energy generation will also bring about viability in electricity tariff.� he said.

State officials are buoyant at the �sudden� decision of the government to list IT, biotechnology and power together. �We already have an excellent telecom system. Connectivity is the fastest in the country and industrial growth depends on it. What is lacking, however, are good roads. We would like private participants in power and other sectors to either build new roads in areas where the projects are, or to widen and repair the existing ones. They should also employ local people. One of the reasons for the Malana project completing ahead of schedule is that the company had employed 73 percent of its workforce locally,� an official said.

Alongside power, the state is also endeavouring to invite industrialists to set up units. New projects have been exempted from sales tax for some period and transport subsidy has been extended up to 2007. Investments worth Rs 3000 crore have already been made in large, medium and small industrial units.

The scars of rapid industrialisation of the state , however , can be seen already. Rapid deforestation to pave way for polluting units can be witnessed everywhere. Small rivers that once roared with flowing water have all but dried up, some buried by landslides with the felling of trees. But the government�s mantra of industrialisation seems to accord top priority. �Industrialise or perish� has become Himachal Pradesh�s new motto.    

New Delhi, June 25 
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee�s attempts to convene an all-party meeting on the caste killings in Bihar were thwarted by squabbling within the National Democratic Alliance.

Annoyed with the way the NDA allies � Samata Party and Janata Dal (United) � fought over any form of protest against the massacre, Vajpayee left on a trip to Europe today, ignoring appeals by leaders, including Laloo Prasad Yadav, to call a meeting to discuss means of ending the recurring murders.

Sources said immediately after the Mianpur massacre, the Prime Minister called Samata Party leader Nitish Kumar and asked him to hold an all-party meeting. Kumar promptly announced a meeting scheduled for June 25.

But the announcement was not to the liking of the Dal(U), which was not aware of the Prime Minister�s conversation with the Samata leader.

Dal(U) spokesperson Mohan Prakash flayed the �unilateral� decision of the Samata Party, saying that a �broader� meeting with all parties, including the Congress, RJD and the Left, should have been held after a proper announcement.

The subsequent peace march in Patna organised by George Fernandes, Jaya Jaitley and Nitish Kumar further irked the Dal(U) as the rallyists were mostly Kurmis and Bhumihars � the right signal to the Yadavs, who were butchered this time by the Ranbir Sena, a private militia allegedly patronised by the BJP and the Samata Party.

Party insiders said Dal(U) president Sharad Yadav later spoke to Vajpayee, urging him to take the lead in organising an all-party meet.

But the Prime Minister apparently did not oblige. Sources said Sharad Yadav was in touch with some Congress leaders who were not averse to attending a meeting convened by Vajpayee.

Vajpayee was not happy with the bickering in the NDA over the issue and was also not sure whether parties like the Congress would heed his appeal.

BJP spokesperson Venkaiah Naidu yesterday said the Prime Minister would not convene any meeting on Bihar. He, however, declined to give any reasons and merely smiled when pressed for a reply.

While the national leaders quarrel, the CPI(M-L), which has so far bore the brunt of Ranbir Sena attacks, has decided to lay siege to the Bihar Assembly from July 11.

The party, which had begun by laying siege to police stations, demanded a white paper on Ranbir Sena activities and a time-bound plan to contain the private army.

CPI(M-L) leader Ranjit Abhigyan said that since June, the party had demonstrated at 97 police stations as there was a strong �criminal-police-politician nexus� in the state.

He said the CPI(M-L) was preparing a list of criminals in each political party in the state. The list would be published soon.

Since 1995, the Ranbir Sena had masterminded 20 massacres in Bihar, killing 500 people, of which 100 were women and 52 children, Abhigyan said.

Alleging that Laloo, too, was patronising the Ranbir Sena, he said the police could nab the militia chief if the state government wanted them to.    

Patna, June 25 
Call it the ripe fruit of labour.

Laloo Prasad Yadav came out of his 1 Anne Marg bungalow with a man carrying a basket of mangoes. �Please take this, the fruit of Total Revolution, and look at me. I am as ripe as this fruit of JP�s revolution. I am carrying on the revolution. Help yourselves,� said Laloo. He was recounting the dark days of Emergency before reporters.

But his wrath was aimed at the RSS and not the Congress � the party behind the Emergency and now, the RJD government. The Sangh, Laloo said, had tried to scuttle Jayaprakash Narain�s movement.

The RJD chief, however, was not bitter in his account of his streetfighting years in the mid-seventies. He even spied a silver lining. The Emergency had thrown up a host of leaders, said Laloo, when his eyes travelled to the mango trees in the sprawling grounds. And out came the mellow fruits of revolution.

Since last week, Laloo had been evading the press, which was seeking his opinion on the Emergency. The RJD chief was apprehensive that the Congress might not take to his remarks kindly.

He broke the ice today, but did not utter a word against the Congress. �History is replete with such aberrations. But every turn of such authoritarianism throws up a breed of leaders,� he recalled.

Sparing the Congress, he lunged at the Sangh. The BJP government should now expose the letters that Bala Saheb Deoras had written to Indira Gandhi pleading for the release of Sangh supporters on condition that they support the 20-point programme, Laloo said. �If the BJP has the guts, why doesn�t it reveal the text of the letter now?� he demanded.

Laloo, then a Patna University student leader, had courted arrest during the Emergency and had spent a long stretch behind bars under the Misa (Maintenance of Internal Security Act). Current Bihar Opposition leader Sushil Modi, of the BJP, was among Laloo�s comrades then. Both were in jail when Laloo�s first child was born. He named her Misa, after the draconian law almost synonymous with the Emergency.

The former chief minister also spoke about how he had to struggle to gather even 15 boys to continue the anti-Emergency agitation. �I used to promise them jalebi, sweets and food,� he said.    

Dhanbad, June 25 
Dhanbad superintendent of police Anil Palta has incurred the wrath of the coal mafia by launching a fresh drive against pilferage of coal from various collieries here.

A source said gangsters involved in the illegal trade were trying to �get rid of� Palta by lobbying in the corridors of power. He said the murder of Leftist leader Gurudas Chatterjee was also linked to the crackdown on the illegal coal trade.

At least five corruption cases have been reportedly filed against Palta at the behest of the coal mafia. The SP has been accused of seeking Rs 10 lakh as bribe from coal traders.

However, Palta is unfazed by the allegations. �The police are well-equipped to deal with gangsters. No amount of coercion can force us to suspend the crackdown on the illegal coal trade,� he told The Telegraph.

Palta said the mafia had made crores of rupees by pilfering linkage coal from collieries here and selling it in various parts of the country.

He said the police had seized scores of trucks carrying such coal to various destinations.

�The illegal trade in linkage coal is actually the mother of all scams in the country. Heads will roll in several coal companies of the CBI conducts an inquiry� the SP said.

The police have already served notices on a couple of coal companies, seeking a list of firms authorised to deal in linkage coal.

The crackdown on the illegal coal trade was launched after a special task force of Uttar Pradesh police arrived here for an investigation into the abduction of a Varanasi-based businessman.

The probe brought to light the nexus between the Bihar coal mafia and criminals in eastern Uttar Pradesh.

It transpired that the bulk of linkage coal pilfered from collieries in Dhanbad was being sold in the wholesale market in Varanasi.

�Most professional hitmen in eastern Uttar Pradesh are on the payroll of the coal mafia. Dreaded criminals like Dhoomal Singh and Munna Shukla have long been at the beck and call of coal traders in Bihar,� a source said.

One of the few politicians to have backed Palta�s drive against the coal mafia was Gurudas Chatterjee.

The Marxist Coordination Committee legislator from Nirsa also raised the issue in the Assembly.

However, his campaign was cut short when unidentified assailants shot him dead on April 14.    

Dhanbad, June 25 
Police officers under the banner of the Bihar Police Association launched an agitation today in support of their various demands.

Association president Lal Muhar Singh said during the first phase of the agitation, all members and officers from the rank of assistant sub-inspectors to inspectors would wear black badges as a mark of protest till Friday.

From Saturday onwards, the officers would boycott their salaries.

They would also stage a token hungerstrike on July 11 and 12 in front of the offices of the superintendents of police of all district headquarters. He added that during the last phase of the agitation, all officers up to the rank of inspectors would go on mass casual leave from July 23 onwards.

The association has been demanding facilities and status at par with Delhi police. Some of the major demands of the association include a month�s additional salary for police officers, time-bound promotions and an inquiry into purchases made in the name of modernising the police force.

Robbers killed

Two suspected highway robbers were killed by an armed security guard escorting a passenger bus bound for Dhanbad late last night. The guard also foiled a bid by the robbers to rob the bus passengers on the Dhanbad-Dumka border. Police sources said the robbers, who were on a motorcycle and a scooter, overtook the bus. Two of them boarded the bus posing as passengers and then brandished revolvers while three stood guard on the road.

The security guard of the bus, Lal Babu, opened fire from his double-barrelled gun, killing two of the robbers on the spot.

Nitish stand: Senior Samata Party leader and Union agriculture minister Nitish Kumar today called upon all political parties to rise above vested interests for ending the spate of mass killings in Bihar, reports UNI. He was speaking at a meeting on �social harmony and restoration of peace in Bihar� in Patna.    

Berhampur, June 25 
The first cyclone shelter completed in Orissa after the October supercyclone was inaugurated near Konark today. It has been constructed by the Bharat Vikash Parishad.

The parishad, allegedly a sister organisation of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, is constructing two more cyclone shelters in Jagatsingpur and Ganjam districts. The foundation stone of the cyclone-shelter at Podampeta village near Huma in Ganjam district was laid by RSS president K.S. Sudarshan last month.

National president of the parishad, Justice Rama Joise said the organisation stands for sanskar (good character) and seva (service). Members of the parishad criticised the government for not having completed any of the cyclone-shelters.

Joise said delay in the completion of the government-sponsored cyclone-shelters was an offshoot of the moral degradation of politicians and bureaucrats in the country.    


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