Gospel gag in direct-to-home TV draft
Gupta goes in greatness
Best friend follows Kesri a day after
Fidel�s Fiedel warms up to Joshi
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, Oct. 25: 
Five years after the direct-to-home broadcast concept hit India�s shores, the government has framed draft guidelines for issuing licences.

The guidelines, expected to be finalised at a meeting of the group of ministers set up for the purpose on Sunday, will incorporate an experience clause and a bar on companies with religious affiliations. Direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasts bypass the traditional cable operator and beam straight into subscribers� drawing rooms.

The eligibility criteria of minimum three years� experience in broadcasting is aimed at keeping out �non-serious� players and speculators. The government fears that some companies may bid for licence only to sell it later at a premium. Auctioning of FM radio licences has sparked fears of such profit-making.

Companies bidding for licences or wishing to pick up at least 30 per cent of equity in a DTH operator must have three years of experience in broadcasting. The total foreign equity in the applicant company must not exceed 49 per cent.

STAR, Sony and Sahara are likely to apply for DTH licences. Subhash Chandra�s Zee TV was also interested, but appears to have now decided to invest in a different technology.

The draft of the terms for DTH operators says: �The company should not be a religious body or controlled by a religious body or an associate of a religious body. Any company/body, whose objective is partially, wholly or mainly of religious nature, shall not be eligible.�

Two channels, Astha and Maharishi, dedicated to religious propaganda, are operating now. Both are controlled by a religious outfit with a big presence in the US.

Last year, a channel, Miracle, had started broadcasting in India. The Christian gospel network, which has a bouquet of channels in the US, had tied up with the Hindujas� IN Cablenet. However, it went off the air soon for lack of response.

Even though DTH will establish direct link between the broadcaster and the subscriber, it will be much more expensive than a cable connection. A set-top box that a subscriber will have to buy to catch DTH signals costs Rs 20-25,000. In addition, he will have to pay the subscription fee which, too, will be higher than the Rs 100-150 a cable operator charges.

But on DTH, the customer has the choice of deciding what channels he wants to watch. A DTH operator will come to the market with a clutch of 30-40 channels and the customer can choose a package that suits his taste and pocket. The quality of broadcasting will be a bonus.

But analysts pointed out that Internet on television (Web-TV) could blunt the edge of DTH. Expected to be sold for around Rs 15,000, Web-TV will be able to offer uncensored and unlimited content.

There is still a question mark on the fate of DTH since the RSS had objected to the direct flow of content. The Sangh had voiced fear over the possible invasion by �foreign culture and pornography�. The government has addressed the concern by including a censor clause in the draft. DTH operators will be directed to carry only those �channels which are specifically approved or permitted by the I&B ministry�. But the religious bar will ensure that DTH cannot beam the RSS� ideology either.    

Lucknow, Oct. 25: 
Derided when in office, Ram Prakash Gupta found greatness thrust upon him as he took his final bow on his 77th birthday with foes turning into friends and Brutuses donning Lakshman�s garb.

The chief minister, not the best communicator on a normal day, looked more confused than ever. It wasn�t his fault, though. Praise was being showered by those who, until yesterday, were ready to crucify him.

The chameleon-act began with the Governor. Suraj Bhan almost had a sad expression on his face when he greeted Gupta who had gone to Raj Bhavan to put in his papers. Bhan, who had a problem with almost everything that the chief minister did, today described Gupta as a �great leader�.

The grand epithets continued to flow. BJP leader Seema Rizvi suggested it was �Gupta�s greatness that was actually responsible for paving the way for Rajnath Singh�.

The heir to the throne wasn�t found wanting, either. �Guptaji never got a chance to prove himself,� Rajnath said.

But the tables soon turned when Gupta began lavishing compliments on himself. �The state will never get a better chief minister than me,� he gushed, unmindful of the stunned stares of disbelief.

Even Rajnath wasn�t short of friends. The three musketeers � Kalraj Mishra, Lalji Tandon, O.P. Singh � who had made every effort to prevent him from getting the top job, were his best buddies today, saying that �no one had ever doubted� Rajnath�s �immense� capabilities.

Rajnath returned the favour by saying the state�s senior leaders were some of the most accomplished and together they will ensure the BJP�s resurgence.

But Rajnath reserved his best for his predecessor, exalting him as a �seer� who was �great� with astrology. �Long ago, Guptaji had predicted that I would become a vidhayak (MLA). Even this time, Guptaji chose the right time for me to take office,� he said.

Gupta, however, had the last word. Asked how he felt at the end of his innings, he quipped: �Anand aa raha hai (I am enjoying myself).� The relief in his voice, at least, was genuine.    

New Delhi, Oct. 25: 
In his last days, Sitaram Kesri�s own partymen had dumped him. Few visited him. With son and daughters away in Patna, Kesri�s lone companion had been Ruchi.

Chacha adored her. When things turned unbearable, he sought her company. Sometimes it was for a short walk to Pragati Maidan. On other occasions, for his morning walk in Nehru Park.

Ruchi, Kesri�s pet pomeranian, died today at 4.30 pm. She had stopped eating since October 11 when Kesri slipped into a coma after fracturing his hip. Possibly the end of the 14-year relationship proved too much.

Many pledged loyalty to Kesri but none save Ruchi practised it. Shivji, Kesri�s personal attendant, said: �In a sense, it is a double loss for us. Hamara to sab kuch ek din mein khatam ho gaya.

Kesri was a loner. Having lost his wife years ago, he lived alone at 7 Purana Qila Road. Often, he could be seen stealing a few hours from his busy schedule to spend with his dogs.

Ruchi had three pups. They were an inseparable part of the household. Kesri was not a modern-day animal lover but his affection for Ruchi was spontaneous. She was often seen prancing happily from one room to another or watching television in the drawing room.

Two Diwalis ago, Kesri had been powerful. Many visited him and heaped him with gifts � from kaju burfi to dry fruit to cookies. Some noticed his affection for Ruchi, and gifted dog biscuits.

Since Kesri was moved to hospital, Ruchi had withdrawn completely. Many tried desperately to forcefeed her. But Ruchi constantly searched for the man in trademark Gandhi topi to feed her in his own gentle way. She gave up last night when her master�s body returned from hospital draped in the Congress flag.    

New Delhi, Oct. 25: 
As the CPM was busy panning all things Right at its southern plenum, the future ruler of the world�s lone communist outpost outside the capital of capitalism was warming up to Murli Manohar Joshi, spearhead of the Sangh parivar.

Fiedel Castro Diaz-Balart, the low-profile son of Cuba�s larger-than-life revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, was in Delhi for four days on Joshi�s invitation. But he didn�t meet any CPM leader. CPM sources confirmed as much.

The 46-year-old Fiedel was here to sign an agreement on science and technology with Joshi, the minister for human resources development.

The physics professor from Allahabad and the nuclear scientist from Havana struck an �instant rapport�, said an aide of Joshi. There is scope for more interaction as the next meeting of Indo-Cuba science and technology committee will be held in Delhi next year. The dates are being worked out.

The aide said that the two leaders met �more as scientists� than government functionaries. Sources close to Joshi said they discussed science and technology, the global situation, US dominance over science and South-South cooperation.

Joshi and Fidel Castro had met in Havana during the G-77 summit in March and the two men had developed an �affinity�. The minister had delivered a message from Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to the Cuban President.

Castro junior had also met Joshi twice at his hotel suite and �both struck a good personal rapport�, said the aide who was present in both Havana and Delhi.

Maintaining the tempo, the two countries yesterday signed an agreement on joint exploration of drinking water, sea wealth and exchange of scientists.

Indo-Cuba relations were symbolised by the great, celebrated hug of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by Fidel Castro during the NAM summit in Delhi in 1982. But the ties plumbed the depths after the assassination of Indira Gandhi and the chill remained for almost 15 years.

They began looking up last year in spite of the fact that a right-wing government was at the Centre. In February 1999, two Cuban scientists visited India as part of an exchange programme.

The former Soviet Union was a major financier of Cuba, but after the collapse of communism, Havana turned to France for trade ties. Monday�s pact is expected to boost cooperation between India and Cuba.

Fiedel also addressed students of Jawaharlal Nehru University, a former Left bastion. He stressed the importance of South-South cooperation and said the summit in Havana was a step in the right direction.    



Maximum: 33.7�C (+3)
Minimum: 24.6�C (+2)



Relative humidity

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Partly cloudy day. Mainly clear night. Maximum temperature likely to be around 33�C    

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