Malleswari lifts India to glory
Silence on long-distance lines
Sinking train with 1300 rescued
Calcutta weather

Sydney, Sept. 19: 
She waited patiently for her turn, clapping gently as Lin Weining of China climbed the victory podium for the gold.

She waited, a gentle smile on her face, as Hungary’s Erzsebet Markus strode up for the silver.

The smile widened — to an almost apologetic grin — as her name was called. An Olympic bronze, no less, but the modesty never quite left Karnam Malleswari, the first Indian woman ever to win an Olympic medal.

The girl from Srikakulam also became only the third Indian to win an individual medal.

K.D. Yadav had won bronze in wrestling, before Leander Paes brought home another in the men’s tennis singles at Atlanta four years ago. Norman Pritchard’s feat before Independence doesn’t really count as an Indian victory.

The list has grown a bit. But that it should come the very first time that the Games has accepted women’s weightlifting, is the icing on the cake.

Most people had written off Malleswari as a lost case, criticising her for moving up the weight category from 63 kg to 69 kg. There was even talk of her losing strength and the all-important killer instinct.

But today evening, at the Sydney Convention Centre, Darling Harbour, all that was forgotten as she came close to winning gold.

Malleswari started confidently, asking for a 105 kg start in the snatch, with only Lin (with 107.5 kg first attempt) above her. Markus had also asked for the 105 kg first-attempt weight. Her third attempt in this, Malleswari lifted the 110 kg Olympic Standard (a record), equalling the existing snatch-Olympic Standard of Liu Dongping of China, set in 1984.

Markus, however, went ahead, lifting a world record of 112.5 kg, and erasing the existing mark of 111.5 kg of Liu (1984). “This is for my country, for my husband, for my parents, and for all who have helped me through tough times,” Malleswari said later.

The girl from the backwaters (she lives in Faridabad now) may not be as suave as some of her compatriots. But it was her naiveté that was catching.

She was asked what she would do with the money the government has promised. (The government standard is Rs 7.5 lakh for bronze.) Sponsors Samsung have promised an equal amount. The Andhra Pradesh government is sure to come up with more.

“Can you believe it?” she beamed. “A bronze winner at the Olympics, former world champion, and I don’t even have my own house, living in a rented apartment so far. Ek ghar banana hoga apna, ekdum apna. Yeh paisa to lagega usi liye.”

Though 90 per cent of Indian mediapersons were at the more glamorous hockey ground, people who mattered were present — Indian Olympic Association president Suresh Kalmadi (who was nearly moved to tears), association secretary Randhir Singh and flamboyant liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya. Chief national coach, Leonid Taranenko of Russia, gold winner at the Moscow Olympics, said: “I was sure of her capabilities. She has the talent and this was the outcome of all that.”

Giving her coach his due, Malleswari said her technique and strength improved ever since she came under Taranenko.

“He has really guided me well,” she said.

But the final touch of confidence came at the press conference. “Will you ever beat the Chinese?” asked a mediaperson from Australian Radio.

Malleswari laughed. “I have already, twice,” she shot back. “In 1994 and in 1995, when I was world champion.”    

Sept. 19: 
Long-distance telephone services virtually collapsed throughout the country today as a large number of telecom engineers struck work.

Services are likely to deteriorate further as talks to end the strike have failed.

In Bengal, the strike combined with floods in the districts to cut Darjeeling, Malda, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar and the two Dinajpurs off from Calcutta.

Lines were so bad that chief minister Jyoti Basu could not send a fax to home minister L.K. Advani in Delhi. “I could not get a connection to Delhi. I will send my reply to Advani by courier tomorrow,” Basu said.

In Delhi, communications minister Ram Vilas Paswan threatened stern action, but at the same time directed his two secretaries to keep talking to the unions.

“The Telecom Engineering Services Association and Telecom Officers’ Association (TOA) are holding the national telecom network to ransom. We have given a long rope to them but action will be taken soon,” Paswan said.

STD, ISD, ISDN and leased lines went almost completely silent. N. Mookhariwale, a Telecom Commission official, said: “The worst-affected areas included Calcutta, Assam, Orissa and Bihar, Chennai and Mumbai and Delhi. But local service in all four metros and other cities remained unaffected.”

The two secretaries, R.N. Goyal and Vinod Vaish, today met the two associations separately. While both said status quo would be maintained for the next 15 days, they refused to take any responsibility for disruption.

“It is very difficult to say how long the strike will go on, but the disruption is likely to increase further,” said Goyal.

The unions refused to come to the table together. One wanted the position of officers owing allegiance to them to be upgraded, while the other said if the government accepted this demand, they would go on strike.

“Earlier, we had agreed to all the demands of striking employees. Now this attitude will not be tolerated,” Paswan added.

A few days ago, services had collapsed across the country after a strike by four employees’ unions over corporatisation of the government-owned telecom sector. That strike ended after the government assured a Rs 1,000 payout a month to every employee opting to join the corporatised entity until new salaries were worked out and acceded to most of their major demands.

Now, two other unions have got into competitive salary increases.    

Calcutta, Sept. 19: 
In the largest-ever operation of its kind in the history of Indian Railways, 1,300 passengers of a derailed train stranded for 12 hours on a flooded bridge were rescued this morning.

The 16-coach 3141 Up Teesta-Torsa Express, which had left Sealdah on Monday evening amid heavy rains, was hit by flash floods in Birbhum after 10 pm following a sudden and huge burst from Tilpara barrage.

Water from the barrage hit the train broadside on bridge number 171 as it was moving towards Swadinpur, after leaving Nalhati station, 230 km from Calcutta.

As the strong current of flood waters washed away the ballast from under the rails, the 6000-HP WDM-2 diesel engine, along with two coaches, was derailed. Before driver R.N. Pandey and assistant driver J.N. Mal recovered from the shock, the train plunged into four feet of water.

As passengers panicked and cried for help, the driver flashed an SOS at 10.20 pm through a VHF (very high frequency) radio-telephone. The first message — “the engine is sinking” — was relayed to the officials of the Eastern Railway, including general manager, I.I.M.S. Rana.

Rana, who was in Burdwan on his way to Malda to attend a parliamentary committee meeting rushed to the spot, cancelling his programme. At 11.10 pm, the driver confirmed that the engine was not sinking but was derailed.

The railway authorities contacted the GOC-in-C, Eastern Command, H.R.S. Kalkat for the Army’s help to rescue the stranded passengers. An army rescue team from Panagarh left for the site immediately but had to turn back as the roads, including the highway, were deep under water. The railway authorities then tried to send an accident relief train from Nalhati, but water on the tracks aborted the attempt.

The driver, his deputy and several male passengers climbed onto the roof of the train. Helpless women and children remained inside the partly submerged compartments.

“The situation was so complicated that the authorities even once thought of air-dropping boats to rescue the passengers,” said additional general manager of eastern railway, Alokendu Sen.

As all attempts to rescue the passengers failed, Rana decided to send a train from Rampurhat soon after daybreak. Around 7 am, an eight-coach train could be successfully placed on the other set of submerged railway tracks beside the Teesta-Torsa.

The flood waters by then had subsided to two feet above the railway tracks. Rana was in the train to supervise the rescue operation.

The rescue train was slowly brought to the side of the Teesta-Torsa and ropes were tied to the door handles of both trains.

The passengers were then asked to get down into waist-deep water and wade to the rescue train holding on to the rope. About 550 men crossed over to the rescue train but the women and children did not dare to step down into the water because of the strong current. The rescue train then left without them and returned to Rampurhat.

The officials then decided to launch the second phase of the rescue operation for the women and children. This time, an engine was sent from Rampurhat to break the undamaged bogies loose from the derailed section. The rescue engine then pulled the Teesta-Torsa back to Rampurhat. The rescued passengers were fed and rested there and later sent to Sealdah.    



Maximum: 27.8°C (-4
Minimum: 23.5°C (-3)


35.7 mm

Relative humidity

Maximum: 100%,


Moderate rain, with one or two heavy showers or thundershowers    

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