Russia shows way with nuke carrot
Naidu gets nightmares on Venkaiah clout
Somersault puts knee back in glare
Congress rebels gun for Arjun
Shuffle trouble in Atal �family�
Come-hither to business barons
Goa goes beyond fish and feni
Surat sex workers shown red light
Obedient convict melts barriers
Booty twist to murder of moneylender

New Delhi & Mumbai, Oct. 5: 
Russia appears to have taken the lead among the Permanent Five to engage with India on the non-proliferation issue, entering into a memorandum of understanding with Delhi on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Russia is a member of the 35-member Nuclear Suppliers� Group which allows neither equipment transfer to nor cooperation with non-nuclear weapons states unless they open themselves to �full-scope safeguards�.

The group�s guidelines had so far prevented most countries from cooperating with Delhi on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. But, by apparently breaching this guideline, Moscow seems to be telling its peers that engagement is a better option to keep India on board the non-proliferation effort.

The pact is aimed at not only reaffirming Russia�s commitment towards India but also assuring the West that Moscow is in contact with Delhi to ensure it stays on the non-proliferation course.

The decision also takes care of Russia�s technological and commercial interests on one hand and India�s energy requirement on the other. Russia is already working with India for a nuclear power project. The new pact paves way for cooperation in more projects.

Referring to the possible fallout of the Russian decision on the group, a senior Indian foreign ministry official claimed that the guidelines were not applicable to Delhi. He argued that after the Pokhran II tests India was a nuclear weapons state, irrespective of whether the status has been formally granted or not.

Yesterday, the two sides signed the deal on nuclear energy in Delhi. Putin followed it up today with a visit to the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (Barc) at Trombay � the fountainhead of India�s nuclear programme on the outskirts of Mumbai.

Putin nudged India to enter into a dialogue on signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, but took care not to offend his host by adding that he understood Delhi�s concerns for staying away.

�We would like you to participate in the CTBT talks. We, however, realise that it should be based on strategic vision and interest of your country and people,� Putin told scientists at Barc.

The President was shown around the research establishment by the Atomic Energy Commission chairman R. Chidambaram and Barc director Anil Kakodkar.

He appeared taken in with Dhruva, a reactor, which he visited after Cirus, another reactor. �Yesterday, we visited Taj Mahal, which was an excursion into Indian history. Today, we are visiting a temple of science and technology of the 21st century,� Putin said.

He stressed on the need for more co-operation between India and Russia in high-technology areas. He also praised Indian scientists for maintaining a high reactor safety record.

At the end of Putin�s visit, the two sides came out with a joint statement, iterating their �determination to continue cooperation in peaceful uses of atomic energy as well as space�.

The statement also made an oblique criticism of the US and China for not making enough effort to stop proliferation in the region and undermining some of the existing arms control regimes.

In the joint statement, Russia welcomed India�s �voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing and appreciated the government�s efforts to develop a broad national consensus on the issue of CTBT�.    

New Delhi, Oct. 5: 
The appointment of senior BJP leader M. Venkaiah Naidu as Union minister for rural development threatens to put fresh strain on BJP-Telugu Desam relations.

There are fears in the Desam that with two senior Andhra leaders in key positions � Bangaru Laxman as BJP president and Venkaiah Naidu in the Union Cabinet � the BJP may try to upstage the Desam on its home turf. The Vajpayee government now has four BJP ministers from Andhra.

For the first time on Tuesday, Desam politburo members discussed the ramifications of the elevation of Laxman and Venkaiah Naidu on Andhra politics. Venkaiah Naidu�s appointment as minister, even though he is elected to the Rajya Sabha from Karnataka, has unsettled the Desam chief.

Apart from the fact that the BJP is giving prominence to Andhra leaders with a definite gameplan in mind, Venkaiah Naidu and Chandrababu Naidu never got along well.

Several members complained to the chief minister that the BJP is poaching on the Desam cadre and instigating its leaders in the Telengana region to renew the call for a separate state, much to Chandrababu Naidu�s chagrin.

The techno-savvy chief minister, who puts rural development pretty high on his agenda, is miffed with Venkaiah Naidu�s elevation. The Desam�s Yerran Naidu headed the ministry during the United Front regime. The ministry has a whopping Rs 60,000-crore fund at its disposal, which Venkaiah Naidu plans to utilise to the hilt for the �development� of Andhra Pradesh.

Immediately after taking oath, the minister dropped hints that he would not allow Chandrababu Naidu to hijack Central schemes to augment the Desam vote bank. He will now use the ministry to boost the BJP�s image.

Several BJP MPs from the state had recently held a press conference here, accusing Chandrababu Naidu of diverting Central funds to his pet projects, like �Janmabhoomi�, �Shramdan�, �Employment Assured Scheme� and so on.

Venkaiah Naidu, after taking charge on Tuesday, accused the Desam government of usurping credit for Centrally-sponsored programmes, which should have gone to the BJP as its leaders and ministers have been instrumental in getting the funds for the state.

The Desam top brass refutes this charge and accuses the BJP leaders of claiming credit for Desam work.

Desam sources said they suspect the BJP will go all out to capture power in the state at an opportune moment. �We are not worried about leaders (Desam) crossing over to the BJP, but what is worrying us is their attempt to woo our workers at the zilla parishad level,� said a source, adding that the �BJP has created suspicion in our minds�.    

New Delhi, Oct. 5: 
The Prime Minister�s flip-flop on the petroleum price rise has fuelled fears in the BJP that it might gift his detractors an opportunity to revive the debate on the state of his health.

�It was a panic reaction, and uncalled for,� said a BJP leader, referring to A.B. Vajpayee�s decision to first rush an emissary to Mamata Banerjee with the promise of a rollback and more ministries and then backtrack under Cabinet pressure.

The dominant view in the Cabinet was that the oil price rise was �far too serious� an issue to be subject to the �whims� of a small coalition partner. The subtext was that Vajpayee ought not to have promised Mamata a rollback, even a partial one, without consulting senior ministers.

�Mamata is an emotional person and gets carried away on populist issues, but the government cannot be run by sentiments,� a BJP source said.

Even other coalition partners who might have shared Mamata�s views on the price rise felt Vajpayee should not have buckled under pressure after her resignation and the threat to pull out of the coalition.

�It seemed as though each was playing his or her own little political game. If she was doing all this to capture power in West Bengal, it looked as though Vajpayeeji had capitulated before Mamata just to keep his own gaddi intact and tie up the loose ends before he was wheeled in for his surgery,� remarked a Samata Party leader.

Just when the government and the BJP were getting ready to go to town on Vajpayee�s year in power, portraying him as the �tallest� Indian leader, the Mamata episode seems to have dulled their campaign.

�It looks like the gains from his US visit have got partially washed out by this development and the chinks in his armour have suddenly been exposed,� a BJP source said. He pointed to Vajpayee�s reluctance to appoint a number two from the Cabinet to call meetings in his absence � first during his US visit and now before his hospitalisation.

At the BJP national executive last week, a defensive Vajpayee was at pains to explain that all party decisions were taken �collectively� and not by him alone. He said Bangaru Laxman was not his personal choice for party president, but was chosen by the BJP�s senior leaders and the RSS top brass.

Vajpayee was �upset� by reports that he had a role in choosing Laxman�s team of office-bearers, which significantly excluded K.N. Govindacharya.    

New Delhi, Oct. 5: 
Controversy and Arjun Singh seem to go hand-in-hand.

At a time when organisational polls are underway in the Congress, Arjun is proving the favourite punching bag of all disgruntled leaders who are shy of directly targeting Sonia Gandhi. Though the former Union minister has ruled himself out as a candidate for the Congress Working Committee polls, Arjun is being accused of manipulating party polls, �misguiding� Sonia and leading a coterie around her.

Arjun�s recent visit to Mumbai landed him in more trouble as he was charged with courting Sharad Pawar to bring him back in the party. 10 Janpath was flooded with fax messages asking the leadership to take note of his �activities�.

A visibly upset Arjun today said: �I have not met Pawar since the day he left the party (May 1999)�.

Ruling out any possibility of Pawar�s return, he said: �It is not even a talking point in the Congress. A stage for even considering it has not come. So where is the question of me taking up the matter with Pawar.�

Arjun recalled that his move to bring back Pawar in 1986 was �not a pleasant experience�. Arjun, who was the vice president of the party then, had played a key role in Pawar�s return to the Congress.

Arjun admitted that the ongoing organisational polls were a �difficult period� but exuded hope that a stronger and �younger� party will emerge after it. He said one third of the seats at all levels of the party hierarchy will be reserved for women.

Arjun denied the charge that members of the breakaway Tiwari group were getting preferential treatment in the party. �First of all, it should be cleared that we had not left the Congress but we were expelled. The subsequent events vindicated out stand,� he said. He, however, refused to comment on Narasimha Rao�s conviction in the JMM bribery case which was part of his campaign on grounds of corruption in high places in the Rao regime between 1991-96.

Arjun was a senior minister in the Rao Cabinet till he fell out with him in December 1993 on Babri demolition, disinvestment, Rajiv Gandhi assassination probe and other issues.    

New Delhi, Oct. 5: 
Even as the A.B. Vajpayee-led government gets ready to celebrate one year in power on October 13, murmurs of discontent are rising within the ruling coalition.

Biju Janata Dal president Naveen Patnaik joined the list of sulking leaders yesterday when he called on the Prime Minister and protested against last week�s reshuffle of the council of ministers. DMK chief M. Karunanidhi had phoned Vajpayee earlier to register his protest.

Patnaik, who submitted a memorandum for drought relief, told the Prime Minister he should not overlook the BJD in future as that would lead to serious consequences, PMO sources said.

While allies such as the BJD and the DMK are unhappy because they were not consulted before the reshuffle, others are peeved with Vajpayee for raising oil prices. The Akali Dal, the Indian National Lok Dal and the Telugu Desam stayed away from the coalition meeting called to discuss the price rise.

Vajpayee�s handling of the Mamata Banerjee crisis � first capitulating to her demands and then nearly backing out � has irked some allies. �Our representatives were also present in the NDA and Cabinet meetings where a decision to raise the oil price was taken. We were opposed to the step, but agreed because of the compulsions of the government. But the government let us down by promising the Trinamul Congress chief a partial rollback. We look silly before our cadre,� said a coalition leader.

Though there is no immediate threat to the government, the BJP�s allies have started meeting informally to talk about the state of the ruling coalition. The Prime Minister�s health is another point of discussion.

Karunanidhi and his party colleague Murasoli Maran, Telugu Desam chief Chandrababu Naidu and Samata Party leader George Fernandes have been exchanging notes.

The Dal(U) and Samata have also been meeting Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Laloo Prasad Yadav, ostensibly to talk about Bihar�s development. Laloo Yadav, Nitish Kumar and Sharad Yadav shared a platform in Delhi last week much to the surprise of political observers.

Dal(U) spokesperson Mohan Prakash denied any move to align with the RJD but said his party would snap ties with the BJP in Karnataka.

Following the victory in the Kagwad Assembly byelection in Karnataka on Tuesday, Mohan Prakash said his �party has decided to snap ties with the BJP in the state� because it sees it as a liability.

The Dal(U) candidate bagged over 43,000 votes, the Congress came second with over 42,000 while the BJP secured a mere 3061 votes, he said. The Dal(U) would have done better had it gone alone in the Assembly elections last year, Prakash added.    

Mumbai, Oct. 5: 
Russian President Vladimir Putin today sent a strong signal to captains of Indian industry that Russia is �open for business�. He pitched for stronger trade ties as a natural sequence to the strategic and political relationship between the two countries.

�India and Russia enjoy a strong strategic and political relationship which has stood the test of time,� he said, stressing the need for opening a third flank in the relation by encouraging close contact between the business elite of the two countries.

Speaking at a meeting on Indo-Russia economic co-operation, Putin committed his government�s support for the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) initiative to set up a joint task force with the Russian Union of Entrepreneurs and Industrialists.

History was created in the Indian business universe when the country�s leading rival industry federations � CII and Ficci � came together on one platform to make a presentation before Putin. Finance minister Yashwant Sinha said this was a pointer to the importance that Indian industry has attached to the Russian President�s visit.

Though big guns like the Tatas, Birlas and Ambanis stayed away, Putin could take heart from the fact that Anand Mahindra, Harsh Goenka, Ajay Piramal, Rajesh Shah, who have significant interests in trade with Russia, were present.

Putin said the bilateral relationship between the countries had stood the test of time and the agreements signed during the visit will be the key to a better trade relationship.

He told the business leaders that the transportation agreement would lead to the development of north-south transportation corridor, spurring trade. In his bid to woo Indian investment, he pointed out the success stories of companies such as Videocon and Gas Authority of India in Russia.

Inviting investments, Putin said Russia had revamped the administrative structure, put in place a common legal system and was paring down customs duty to a single rate to create a conducive business environment.

Selling Russia as a trade destination, Putin said the GDP has grown by seven per cent, inflation was hovering around three per cent while currency and gold reserves had grown by 1.5 times in the past year.

Food products, pharmaceuticals, services, electronics and information technology, biotechnology and civil aviation were some of the areas where Russia was interested in forging a closer relationship with India.

Putin conveyed the Russian industry�s concern over the anti-dumping measures initiated by India against its goods and called upon Delhi to resolve this minor irritant in trade ties.

In the financial sector, Putin wanted India�s assistance in developing the banking sector, stock markets and also to ensure efficient utilisation of savings for the progress of the country.

Putin rounded off his stronger-trade-ties argument by offering help in upgrading Indian steel plants set up with Russian cooperation. He added that his government was not averse to any private Russian initiative to acquire a stake in the ailing India Iron and Steel Company (IISCO) but ruled out any direct intervention.    

Panaji, Oct. 5: 
Goan food and drink is not limited to �fish and feni�. There are tonnes of other items that most visitors, and even locals, are unaware of, says a new guide to the food and beverages of this region.

�Food Stop�, a recently-published comprehensive guide to the traditional food of Goa edited by journalist Melanie Sequeira, lists some 350 recipes.

Focusing on the age-old culinary art of Goa, the guide also offers an insight into the equipment handed down over generations � from the adoi (grater-cutter fitted on a wooden platform), to the budkulo (circular mud pot), chaalan (sieve), and the combo (earthern water-cooler with the head of a cock).

Padma Mahale, author of the cookbook Ishtaan, introduces readers to a variety of Goan Hindu cuisine.

These include fish, clam, dry prawn, pumpkin, raw jackfruit, mushroom and vegetable recipes.

Almost all Hindus in this coastal state are fish-eaters too.

Sindhu Navelkar offers special Goan recipes for the Ganesh and Diwali festivals.

�Each day of Ganesh Chaturthi is devoted to the preparation of a particular sweet,� she points out. Catering lecturer A.M.H. Mubarak Ali offers typical Muslim biryani and other recipes. Joyce Fernandes, better known for her Goan Cookbook, offers her insights into Goan Christian meals.

Another author of a best-seller on Goan food, Guilda Mendonca, has a special chapter on partying.

Cake-making, traditional plain coconut curry and even the humble gruel are the other old-time recipes included in this title, which packages itself as a �comprehensive guide to anything and everything about food and drink in Goa�.

Septuagenarian Edwin Saldanha, author of �Successful Goan Home Wines�, says: �A random survey in Goa reveals that about 15 per cent of the literate, mostly Christian middle and upper class housewives, and a few men too, have been successfully making wines at home.�

Saldanha argues that home wine-making in Goa has often been a closely-guarded family secret. �There is definitely a great future for large scale wine-manufacture in Goa, not only for domestic consumption but even for export,� he says and offers some recipes to validate his point.

Wine-making recipes included in this book are, among others, products made from cashew, carambola, mango, milk and even the chikoo (sapota).    

Surat, Oct. 5: 
Surat�s red light district � the only one in Gandhi�s Gujarat � is out of business.

All the brothels on Mirza Swamy Road, in the heart of the city, are locked up and the sex workers have left.

In February, police commissioner Kuldip Sharma launched a drive to �clean� the area, which houses several schools and places of worship. The police conducted raids, arresting sex workers and humiliating customers. Some regulars were thrashed in public.

One sex worker, Ganga, died in police custody. Three mausis (former workers) � Munni aged 80, Sobhabai aged 60 and Geenabai aged 75 � died within days of being forced to leave the area.

Those who are alive are facing starvation. Ilaben has not sent money to her sister, who is dependent on her, for the past six months. Driven to prostitution by poverty, Ilaben has been sending money orders every month since she arrived at a brothel here so that her children can study. But now that has had to stop.

Anita has spent all her savings in the past few months. �I have no money to buy even milk,� she says, worried that the shopkeeper might refuse to give her credit.

Ilaben and Anita are two of the 4,000-odd sex workers in the red light district facing an uncertain future after the police crackdown.

�If the police raids continue, we will have to either move to Mumbai or face death,� said Usha, who is from Pune. Though prostitution is illegal, police in most cities do not usually raid red light districts.

The Surat commissioner is determined to carry on the raids as �the law does not permit such activity near educational and religious institutions�.

But there is a ray of hope for the sex workers. The National Human Rights Commission has pulled up the police commissioner for �violating the human rights of sex workers� and told him to first find ways to rehabilitate them. A Delhi-based NGO, Bharitya Patita Udhar Sabha, had approached the rights panel.

Sharma tried to skirt the responsibility, saying that �despite our sincere efforts, we have not been successful in rehabilitating them because there are some vested interests who do not want them to be rehabilitated�.

Sex workers say it is not that they do not want to be rehabilitated. But past experience has been discouraging. �Once a sex worker, always a sex worker. Even if you want to come out of this hell, you cannot. The stigma remains and the society does not accept you,� says Bhanuben, sex worker and peer educator working for Dr Vikasben Desai�s project � Partners in Sexual Health.

Dr Desai of Surat Medical College, who is supervising the project aimed at educating the high-risk behaviour group, asserts that rehabilitation of sex workers is not possible without an independent agency devoted to this purpose.

About 10 years ago, the then police commissioner had arranged marriages of 40 sex workers with autorickshaw drivers and factory workers, she said. But except for one, all others were back in the brothels soon after, proving Bhanuben�s point.    

Berhampur, Oct. 5: 
Thirteen-year-old Chenchu Hansda, who was sentenced to a 14-year detention in the Graham Staines murder case last week, was transferred from the Berhampur Observation Home here to the Augul juvenile jail today.

Officials at the Berhampur Observation Home for Juveniles said he was one of the �most obedient children� at the detention centre. Officers engaged in his transfer to the Angul jail also said they �had no problems� in dealing with him. �He is just a simple child who may have been motivated,� they said.

Chenchu is one of the 18 accused who had been chargesheeted by the Central Bureau of Investigation for killing the Australian missionary and his two sons at the Manoharpur village in Keonjhar district in January 1999.

There was no sign of arrogance or anger even after Chenchu was handed out the sentence for 14 years� detention. A casual observation of the �13-year-old marauder� makes one wonder if the same innocent-looking boy was involved in the gruesome murder of the Christian missionary and his two children. Two security officers helped the transfer of the accused to the juvenile jail at Angul. Although Chenchu was convicted in a highly-sensitive case, officials displayed great faith in his good nature.

Early this morning, he was carried �on a scooter�, seated in between the two officers, on the way to the Berhampur railway station. From there, they boarded the train to Angul.

During the transfer, no restraint was imposed on Chenchu nor any special vehicle used for the transfer. Juvenile home officials here said they had �absolute faith� in Chenchu.

The officials of the juvenile home here, where nearly 23 other children were housed, added that during his stay, Chenchu had �won the hearts� of the authorities with his docile nature. �We even had the confidence that even if the main gates of the observation and special home for juveniles were left open, Chenchu will not attempt to escape,� an official said.

During his stay, the juvenile delinquent mixed with the officials and other inmates easily, the sources added.With three of the accused still absconding, Chenchu was tried by a juvenile court for being a minor. A special judge conducted the trial of other accused including prime-accused Dara Singh.

Chenchu showed signs of hope rather than despair, sources said. He was also heard as saying that he may be released by a �higher court�. Chenchu�s counsel will appeal against the verdict in the High Court.

Scanty rainfall: Despite low rainfall this year, agriculture output in the Ganjam district has not been affected, said the district administration. A district administration release said �farmers may have some difficulties if no rains occur in the coming days�.

If a few more good spells do not occur in the district in next few days, then nearly five thousand acres of agricultural land in the district will be affected, the release added. Paddy cultivation, which needs substantial amount of water, would be the worst-hit, the administration said.    

Bhopal, Oct. 5: 
The police in Madhya Pradesh are biting their nails after a double murder on the night of September 30.

The tension is not about detection of the case, though. It is the recovery of over 45 kg of gold, nine quintal of silver, Rs 42 lakh in cash and three sackfuls of mortgaged documents from the victims� residence in a rural area in Vidisha, 60 km from here, that has whipped up a row.

According to the police, Sardar Singh Rajput (65), a money lender, and his 60-year-old wife were sleeping in Ganjbasoda when the assailant entered their bedroom and shattered their skulls with a block of wood. The victims died on the spot.

�Investigation is on but we are unable to deduce whether it is the work of one assailant or more,�� R.S. Saket, assistant superintendent of police, Vidisha, said. �The man was a Punjabi Rajput who had migrated here after Partition. He had no children and did not have any relatives.��

The motive behind the murders was monetary gain, police confirmed. �The assailant was in a hurry to escape and dropped Rs 25,000 of the stolen money on the floor outside the victims� bedroom,�� the ASP added. �He definitely found a lot of money and escaped with it.��

But even after filling his pockets and sack with cash, the robber left behind a booty the police are now struggling with. During the investigation, the police chanced upon lakhs of rupees stacked in wooden boxes, cane baskets, pillows, mattresses and three sacks of documents related with mortgage of public property, including land and other immovable property, jewellery and silver utensils.

Neighbours informed investigating officers that there were treasures at the bottom of a pond at rear of the house. Divers were called in and 45 kg of gold jewellery and 9 quintal worth of silver bars, coins, jewellery and utensils were recovered.

As the divers emerged with buckets of gold everytime, the police force gaped in awe. Though the police claim that the mortgage documents date back to the early 1950s, they have not yet ascertained the exact value of the riches recovered.

As word about the murders spread in the neighbourhood, the police had an additional duty at hand. More than 4,000 people from the neighbourhood queued outside the local police station claiming that their property was mortgaged to the murdered money lender, not only by them but also their fathers and grandfathers.

Washing their hands of the issue temporarily, the police immediately headed for the local branch of the State Bank of Indore and deposited the booty there.

�We made an entire list of all the recovered articles, submitted one copy of it with the bank, a second with the district court and have retained a third,�� the ASP said.

�Nothing has been decided about how to deal with the property, but we will definitely have to check and cross-check the identity of the persons claiming the gold and silver,�� he said.    


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