Police cover for scarred model after amp-rival strike
Villagers star in train rescue act
‘Stepmother’ slur on Centre
Gorakhpur mayor in gender-bender trap
Wonder walking tree takes long leap
Global prowlers trigger treasure count
Whizkids shun German IT bait
Cook raped in night school raid
Patnaik victory stymies rebel gameplan
Minister scours N-E for mother

Mumbai, Dec. 3: 
His face scarred with knife wounds, model Abhijit Sanyal is running scared in the fashion capital.

With some rival models reportedly baying for his blood, the 1999 Grasim Mr India, wounded in a late-night attack outside his Andheri home on September 30, has been placed under 24-hour police guard.

Sanyal, a familiar face in television commercials, said he has moved to safer accommodation on the advice of the police after he found his car tyres burnt to cinders on Wednesday morning in the parking lot of Casmil Apartment, his home in the affluent Seven Bungalow area in west Mumbai. Sanyal suspected professional rivals to be behind the attacks, but said he did not know them.

“I have not received any threat calls and nobody has demanded money from me,” the Calcutta-born model, in his early twenties, told The Telegraph. “This shows the motive was something else.”

Though police officials did not rule out the possibility of attack by rivals they said it was too soon to come to a conclusion. A 28-year-old model has already been arrested in connection with the attack on Sanyal, grandson of actor Anup Kumar, brother of late singer Kishore Kumar.

But the police refused to name the arrested model, saying investigation was still on.

Sanyal was returning from a party on the night of September 30 when five assailants, armed with swords and sticks, stopped his car just outside the apartment. They hacked at him violently, particularly at his face, before he managed to escape by scaling the main gate.

He was admitted to Hinduja Hospital, where he was administered 97 stitches, 35 of them to his face. Later, he underwent plastic surgery to his face.

Sanyal said the assailants’ motive was obvious because they had tried to disfigure his face, crucial to a model’s success.

“The second incident happened just when I was trying to stage a comeback,” he said.

After a trip to Australia, where he had gone to get over the trauma, Sanyal returned to Mumbai last week only to have the assailants on his trail once again.

The damage to his car inside a well-guarded apartment building left the model shaken as he felt “extremely vulnerable”. He left his home to stay elsewhere after police declared his Andheri apartment unsafe.

His movement has also been restricted, with armed plainclothesmen shadowing him. Worse, he said the restrictions have changed his easy-going life-style.

“I cannot go where I want to. Nor can I stay out late because police say there is a threat to my life,” the fun-loving youth said. “I have also been forced to change my mode of transportation.”    

Chandigarh, Dec. 3: 
Most survivors of yesterday’s rail disaster who were brought to the PGI and General Hospital here praised the villagers of Jivanpura and nearby hamlets “without whose help more would have perished in the wintry morning”.

The victims admitted to the two hospitals mostly belong to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

PGI medical superintendent A.K. Gupta said he was informed about the tragedy at 9 am and by the time the first injured passenger arrived at 10 am, all senior doctors and surgeons were present at the emergency ward.

“Three passengers succumbed to their injuries today. The remaining 20 victims will be released soon,” he added. The three passengers at the General Hospital are also out of danger.

The Punjab government has offered free treatment to the victims. NGOs have been roped in to help transport the injured to their respective destinations once doctors certify them fit to travel. Doctors said most of the survivors suffered fractures and multiple trauma injuries.

Dharmendra, a resident of Nurpur village in Bihar who was heading for Ludhiana, could not believe that he had survived a train accident. Looking dazed, he said: “It seems that I have been gifted another life by God. All those sitting with me have died. The sound of metal rubbing metal and the cries still ring in my ears. I can only offer prayers for the villagers who rescued me.”

“One villager gave me his only blanket. I could see him shiver while trying to rescue others. Sab bachane me lage the (All of them were only interested in saving lives),” he added.

Anil Kumar from Bihar’s Dharmoral village said many passengers were perhaps electrocuted when the overhead wires touched the bogies.

Some of the injured included students on their way to Ludhiana to appear in a railway recruitment board examination today. There was no word from the railway authorities on whether the students would be allowed to take the examination some other day.

Dharminder Singh, sarpanch of Jivanpura village, said: “At first there was a loud bang. It was followed by a thud and cries for help. People were yelling and flashing torch-lights. The first thing we did was to break open the doors of the coaches that had jammed due to the impact of the collision. The injured were lifted in tractor trolleys and rushed to hospitals.”

The sarpanch added that within an hour of the accident, local gurdwaras helped to provide shrouds for the dead. They also arranged for tea and biscuits for the survivors.

“It was our duty to save people from dying. Tomorrow someone else will come to the rescue of people involved in train or other accidents,” Dharminder Singh said.

“We are unhappy that we could not save the lives of the 45 passengers who died. Let us pray for them,” he added.    

Calcutta, Dec. 3: 
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today gunned for the BJP-led government in Delhi and accused it of “discriminating between the states in allocating Central funds”.

Addressing a gathering at Kasba, Bhattacharjee came down heavily on the Centre for not releasing any money to the state for the reconstruction of nine flood-hit districts of Bengal.

“The Centre has sanctioned funds to Tamil Nadu and Orissa to help the states cope with the damage caused to them by natural calamity. I have no objection to this, but I want to know why the Centre is not sanctioning funds to us on the same ground,” he said.

Bhattacharjee alleged that the “Centre is giving financial assistance to Tamil Nadu and Orissa because of political consideration. But this should not be the criterifor any state getting Central assistance.” He said West Bengal had incurred a loss of Rs 5,660 crore in the recent floods.

“I also told the Prime Minister, the finance minister and the agriculture minister. All are aware of the situation in Bengal. They had promised to set up a natural cal-amity contingency fund, but have not done anything,” he added.

The chief minister also pointed out that the Central government was a major threat to the state’s developmental plans.

“We could not achieve any growth in the industrial sector for 15 years after coming to power, due to the Centre’s licence policy. Now we have taken a U-turn and made major achievements in industry,” he said.

Bhattacharjee also warned state government employees, “many of whom are not at all sincere about their jobs”. He announced that the government would take punitive measures against insincere employees.

Every government employee will have to attend office from 10 am to 5 pm and prepare self-assessment reports. They will be promoted on the basis of these reports. This system will be implemented from next year, he informed.

“People in Bengal demand more work from us and there is no room for government employees to sit idle and sleep during office hours,” Bhattacharjee said.

He was critical about the standard of education in government schools and the conditions in state-run hospitals. He said: “We have set up innumerable primary and secondary schools during our 24-year rule. There are still some problems. Many of these schools do not have an adequate number of teachers.

“There is a big question about the standard of education in government schools. No one can say that the teachers are not getting their salaries regularly. So, they would not be expected to shirk.”

Referring to the recent spurt in dacoities in his Assembly constituency, the chief minister said he had ordered the police and intelligence agencies to track down the culprits.    

Lucknow, Dec. 3: 
Asha Devi, the first eunuch to be voted mayor, is more hurt than confused. For though elected with an overwhelming mandate by the people of Gorakhpur — all rivals had to forfeit their deposits — Asha Devi has now been asked by the district court to answer a petition that asks how a eunuch could contest a seat reserved for a woman.

Accepting the petition filed by Anju Chaudhary, the Samajwadi Party candidate who finished a distant second, the court has asked Asha Devi to reply within December 10.

But the new mayor is also terrified.

Some miscreants hurled stones at Asha Devi late last night. After the incident, the mayor has been given round-the-clock protection by the district administration.

Three of the miscreants have been arrested by the police and are being interrogated. Gorakhpur SSP Vijay Kumar said Provincial Armed Constabulary personnel have been deployed near the mayor’s residence.

“But I feel terrified,” Asha Devi said.

Stepping up the offensive against Asha Devi, the Samajwadi Party’s district unit president Ram Milan Yadav said: “Asha Devi is a hijra, not a woman. Letting the mayor fight as a woman candidate is an insult to all the women in this country.’’

In her petition Chaudhary has not only said eunuchs are not acceptable as women, but also added that Asha Devi has been listed as Amarnath Yadav, a man, in the voters’ list of Narsinghpur’s Ward No 39. Chaudhary said that though the Samajwadi Party had raised the objections at the time of filing nomination, the “BJP-backed’’ administration had turned a blind eye.

The Samajwadi leader has appealed to the court that as Asha Devi was not a woman, the mayoral election should be dismissed. She has further asked the court to “rightly” declare her mayor for finishing second.

“I will give a fitting reply,” Asha Devi has said.

Enraged at the “affront” to Asha Devi, the eunuch community is firmly backing the mayor. Said an angry Payal Devi, a eunuch from Lucknow: “We have heard of the shameful allegations. Had Asha Devi lost the elections no one would have bothered whether Asha was male or female. But after the victory, everyone is upset.” Payal said the eunuch community was readying to storm Gorakhpur in Asha Devi’s support in large numbers.

Said Manju Rani, another eunuch: “Earlier it was only the men we had to be careful of. But now even the women are attacking us. But Shabnam Mausi (the Bhopal MLA) and Asha Devi have taught us not to give up. We will fight, neither as male nor female, but as human beings.”    

Sanjan (Gujarat), Dec. 3: 
This mango tree likes to hop from one place to another.

It looks like an ordinary mango tree, but changing location regularly, it has moved almost 2 km from its original position in Sanjan, a coastal village of Valsad district.

The tree, believed to be 1,200 years old, occasionally lowers one of the branches to the ground some distance away from trunk and roots itself. The new trunk starts growing while the old one withers away.

“This way the tree takes firm roots after traversing a few yards and burgeons to its full size,” says Rohintan Davierwala, head of the village’s tiny Parsi community. In botany, the phenomenon is called “rhizome”.

Gangli Warli, the 75-year-old tribal who lives in a thatched house near the tree, says she has seen the tree move more than 300 yards. “When I was a child it was there,” she says, pointing at a distant spot. Warli also recalls her grandparents talking about the tree’s mobility.

Davierwala says noted Parsi author Rustom Paymaster has mentioned this walking mango tree way back in 1916 in a work relating to the coastal village where the Parsis had first landed after fleeing their country.

“Legend has it that our forefathers planted the tree to mark their landing in the eighth century AD, after fleeing from persecution and settling along the Sanjan coast,” Davierwala said.

“Since they were given the permission to settle along the coast by a local Hindu chieftain, Jadi Rana, they opted to plant the tree which could not only prevent waves from washing away sand but also provide luscious fruits,” he added.

The Parsis and tribals living in the vicinity worship the tree and are aware of its “historical importance and emotional value”. However, not many people knew about the walking tree, though it has been there for centuries.

The discovery was made in the early 1980s when Ashok Marathe, scientific investigator attached to the archaeology department of Deccan College, Pune, and R.Y. Dundappa, a photographer, visited the site.

Botanist Archana Mankad of Gujarat University says a mango tree is not supposed to have these features. “I have heard about this tree. We need to study why it is growing the way it is growing,” she said. Attempts to grow this tree at other places through graft technique has failed.

The fruits of the tree don’t look or taste any different from other mangoes, but the tribals use them for medicinal purpose. The bark of the tree is said to cure stomach pain and other common ailments. Because of its uniqueness, the tree is well protected and nobody is allowed to cut the branches.

The Parsis have tried to purchase the plot on which the tree stands but the owner has refused to sell it.

“But the real problem is that the other owner of the field where the tree seems to be taking root does not want the tree to come up there,” says Davierwala, who wants the government to acquire the plot and declare it a heritage site.

However, the Indian Heritage Society expressed its inability to do so as it has not acquired any such open land till date.

The Parsis, nevertheless, feel that the government should intervene to make it a heritage site. Because “this is much more than a monument — it is a wonder which should be preserved”, said a member of the community.    

New Delhi, Dec. 3: 
Aurel Stein, the Hungarian-British archaeologist who tracked the eastern campaigns of Alexander the Great, toiled for years to build the world’s richest collection of Central Asian artefacts.

Eighty-five years after Stein’s third expedition, another backbreaking effort is quietly under way in India to document as well as conserve his treasures and pre-empt prowling global relic researchers.

Not only are scholars from the First World — Switzerland, Italy, Germany — pressing for a dekko, but the Unesco is also prodding gently. But to reverse the swing of “Orientalism”, the culture ministry is firm that the treasures — housed in the National Museum — will first be opened up before Indian eyes, then to the rest of the world.

The museum has undertaken a detailed documentation as well as a conservation audit of the 11,000-odd art objects with the motto that scholarship begins at home. The cataloguing is going on on a war footing by curatorial associate Binoy Sahay, who is leading a team of seven young researchers trained at the National Museum Institute.

The Stein treasures will also add more glitter to the museum and attract more visitors, authorities hope.

Stein, who worked for the Indian Education Service, was a scholar-explorer till his dying day . The translator of the Kashmiri classic, Kalhan’s Rajtarangini, had also identified, in 1926, the site of Alexander’s storming of the nearly impregnable Rock of Aornos near the Indus river.

He collected his treasures on three expeditions to Chinese Turkistan during 1900-1, 1903-4 and 1915 that he led with permission from the British government in India.

Stein excavated around 100 sites and came back loaded with artefacts dating from the first century to the eight century A.D. It was a mammoth collection of wall paintings — the highlight of the set — silk paintings, coins, Kharosthi inscriptions, leather objects, wooden objects, metal objects, shards of porcelain and stucco work. Stein also brought back to India specimens of ancient wheat and grapes.

The wall paintings show a striking resemblance with Ajanta frescoes, while the Gandhara influence — a synthesis of Indo-Greek styles — is also marked. The Chinese influence, too, is discernible.

Stein seemed to have an eye for the crossroads of cultures. A meticulous diarist and an author of several books, he had described Khotan, an area he explored intensively, as being the meeting ground of Indian, Greek and Chinese cultures.

It is ironic, therefore, that the Empire had claimed parts of his mammoth collection after he came back. Though the bulk of the treasures stayed with the Archaeological Survey of India, some of these went to the British Museum and some to Germany. In 1958, however, most of it was handed over to the National Museum.

It was only recently, however, that the country woke up to the full worth of the Stein riches and started the cataloguing in July 1999, which is expected to take two to three years to complete.

The operation is being conducted under the strictest security. Curatorial associate Sahay is everywhere, jangling the double sets of keys to the rooms where these treasures are kept.

With the documentation done, a first floor gallery of the wall paintings will be opened. It will be in addition to the gallery which now houses some of the collection works. “These galleries will make the National Museum unique,” says a retired archaeologist.

The huge operation was mounted after the physical verification of the collection ordered by Delhi High Court following a public interest litigation brought against the National Museum a few years ago.

To woo more visitors, the museum has also set up a cafeteria and a crafts shop run by the Handloom and Handicraft Export Corporation. It is also creating a sculpture garden on the lawns.    

New Delhi, Dec. 3: 
The hype over Germany’s green card notwithstanding, H1-B rules.

When Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder announced his green card scheme in February to lure foreign information technology professionals to Germany, it seemed an attractive proposition to many. But 10 months down the line, it doesn’t appear to be such a good idea.

Though Germany is willing to issue 20,000 green cards to IT workers, till date it has been able to grant only a little over 3,000. The problem lies not in red-tape — the Germans, known for their efficiency, claim to clear the applications within a week — but in the quality of the applicants.

India, whose success in the IT field has caught the imagination of the Western world, is a reluctant participant in the German scheme. So far, only 609 Indians have applied for the green card. Bangladesh and Pakistan are the other South-Asian countries who have sent a few hundred IT specialists, but unlike the Indians, they are less in demand.

Indian IT experts, a much sought-after breed, are bent on making the most while the going is good. Obviously, their destination of choice is the US, which has even liberalised its visa regime by introducing the H-1B visa to lure them. The UK and other English-speaking countries are the second choice. But there are few takers for Germany, a major hurdle being the language barrier.

Coupled with this is the uncertainty about their future once the green card lapses. The green card will allow a foreign expert to stay and work in Germany for five years. During this period, he will be covered under a special law and enjoy the social benefits any other person working in Germany enjoys. But after five years, there is a big question mark over whether he will be allowed to stay.

Moreover, Germany’s insistence on a university degree, as opposed to a computer institute’s certificate, has deterred several prospective applicants. Realising this, the government has asked firms employing foreign IT experts without a degree to give them a salary of over 100,000 DM to prove their worth.

“In the absence of a university degree, we need something to assess their worth. And we think one way of doing it is by insisting that the firm shells out at least 100,000 DM for the worker,” a senior German official said.

Lack of incentive is also stifling efforts to woo IT experts from India. Government officials argued that it was the responsibility of the industry to offer this incentive to lure quality people to the IT sector. Till the government and industry sort it out and come up with the big bucks, not many Indians will look to the German shores.

There have been misgivings over Germany’s claim that it requires between 75,000 to 100,000 experts from outside to bolster its IT industry. Many feel this figure is inflated. But even if the modest figure hovers around 35,000 to 40,000, the number of applicants for the green card falls well short of the requirement.

Malati Taneja, a German citizen of Indian origin dealing with the problem, says Indians usually want to go to a foreign country where they have relatives or acquaintances.

“Unlike in the other parts of the West, Germany has very few Indians. Moreover, Indian professionals have realised the German government’s interest in them,” she said, adding a new dimension to the Indians’ reluctance to go to Deutschland.

But the Germans are not sitting idle either. Officials pointed out that the entire scheme will be reviewed soon.    

Ranchi, Dec. 3: 
An 18-year-old cook of St Anne’s High School at Kurpania in Bokaro Thermal township was raped and several nuns beaten up and molested by drunken youths who raided the school campus in the wee hours on Saturday.

The miscreants also decamped with cash and other valuables.

Information reaching the state headquarters said that around 2 am on Saturday, about 12 to 15 drunken young men, aged between 20 and 25, broke down the back door of the school building and barged into the teachers’ quarters.

Worried teachers, including principal Sister Mary were rudely awakened from their sleep and held hostage by the intruders who demanded all the money they had.

When the nuns pleaded that they did not have school funds with them, the hooligans severely beat them up and went on a looting spree throughout the teachers’ quarters and the school building for more than an hour.

During the rampage, they raped 18-year-old Sushila Kujur, the school cook and tried to molest the teachers. They finally decamped with over Rs 15,000 in cash, a colour TV set and warm clothes.

At least nine teachers who had been beaten up were taken to the Bokaro Thermal Hospital for treatment.

A detailed report sent by the Bokaro superintendent of police, K.S. Meena, to the office of the director general of police, Ranchi, confirmed the rape.

The report said the you- ths were apparently looking for a large amount of cash collec- ted as fees from the students and which they thought had been kept behind by the principal.

It added that the intruders attacked and wounded three nuns and then raped the sch- ool cook, an 18-year-old girl, after they failed to force the nuns to hand over the cash to them.

It, however, denied any attempt at mass molestation of the teachers.

St Anne’s High School has been closed sine die. Local police have begun a combing operation in the area. No arrests have been made so far.

This is the third such incident in three months.

On July 12, Father Remis Kerketta, principal of St Xavier’s school, Bundu, in Ranchi was shot dead by three youths who fled with Rs 10,000 he was carrying.

Later this year drunk- ards unsuccessfully tried to barge into a convent at Lohardaga.    

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 3: 
Orissa PCC president J.B. Patnaik was today “unanimously” re-elected to the post, temporarily upstaging the dissidents’ gameplan of getting him replaced.

So convincing was Patnaik’s victory that his worst critics in the party, Kanhu Charan Lenka and Basant Kumar Biswal, stood as proposers for his nomination papers. A total of 24 nomination papers were filed in favour of Patnaik yesterday. However, prominent dissident leader and aspirant for the post, Hemananda Biswal, stayed away from the proceedings.

Patnaik’s re-election was just a formality after AICC president Sonia Gandhi decided to give some more time to the veteran leader to put his house in order. Earlier, the PCC, in a resolution, had authorised Gandhi to nominate the new president.

This would be Patnaik’s fifth term as president of the party in the state. In 1999, he was given the post after the then president, Hemananda Biswal, resigned in the wake of the party’s debacle in the Lok Sabha polls.

After his re-election, Patnaik told newsmen that he would announce the names of the new office-bearers of the PCC within a week. “The party would be galvanised and all efforts would be made to make the party look dynamic,” he said.

When asked about the dissident leaders who had opposed him, Patnaik said the leaders could have contested against him in the election. “But all these are things of the past. As disciplined soldiers of the party, they have supported Gandhi’s decision,” he said.

Though Patnaik’s election was unanimous, dissidence in the party hereafter cannot be ruled out. Though all the dissident leaders in the party are crestfallen after the wily Patnaik managed to hold on to his post, they have not lost all hope. Prominent dissident leader Kanhu Charan Lenka said they had to obey the diktats of the high command.

“We had authorised Sonia Gandhi to nominate the next president. She has let known her decision. Let’s see if the new president takes leaders of all factions along with him while reconstituting the PCC,” Lenka told The Telegraph.

Lenka said the PCC president should accommodate leaders of all sections in various cells of the party if he were serious about revitalising the party. “For the time being, the new PCC president can count on my support. But let’s see how he works,” said Lenka, giving a hint of the shape of things to come.

Woman killed: A tusker from the Chandka elephant sanctuary, which strayed from a herd of elephants, today killed an old woman near the Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology here.

The 65-year-old woman, Gunei Sahoo was returning home from Baramunda bus stand when she crossed the path of the herd near the university field. The tusker chased the woman and stabbed her on her neck with its pointed tusks, killing her on the spot.    

Jorhat, Dec. 3: 
For the vast majority of the Nagas, he is a political leader with an unfailing charisma and a sharp political brain. But his family and friends know him as a hapless man who would give anything to have his mother back by his side.

Since the day his mother left him nine years ago, the Nagaland art and cultural minister has lived a dual life — an unflappable public leader one moment and a broken man the next.

Lotha has scoured the entire Northeast in search of his mother, but in vain. Today, all that keeps Lotha going is his faith in divine justice.

“I have no other option but to leave everything to God. My mother is also a God-fearing woman with a heart of gold. I can do anything to have her back,” Lotha told The Telegraph.

Lotha’s mother, Jamboni, left Nagaland in 1991. Her parting words were that the Nagas may have failed to understand the teachings of Christ, which was why there was so much of violence in the state.

“My mother used to go out quite often to spread the teachings of Christ in different parts of the region. When she left home that November morning, I thought she would return as usual. But there is still no sign of her,” the minister recalled.

Though it is possible that Jamboni may have died, Lotha refuses to give up looking for her.

“I will not give up unless I have evidence of her death. Something inside me says she is still alive,” he said. “Apart from the Northeast, I have gone to Bhutan and Nepal looking for her,” he added.

Lotha, who grew up in this Upper Assam town, was here to attend the golden jubilee celebrations of a church in the Borbheta area.

“People have told me that they have seen her, but there are no clues to her whereabouts,” he said.

Lotha joined Assam police at the age of 16 and represented the state police team in football. He switched to politics after retiring as an assistant inspector in the Nagaland civil supplies department.

He has maintained his winning streak in the 38 Wokha Assembly constituency since 1987.

“It has been a long journey for me. From being a policeman to becoming a minister, I have traversed a long distance. What I am today is because of my mother,” the minister said.

He disclosed that the Borbheta church here was established by his mother and her friends. “I have sweet memories of the church.

“I remember going to the church with my mother during my childhood,” he added.

Lotha’s father, Shanchama, was the first Naga to have joined Assam police and the family stayed at the police campus at Borbheta.

Lotha said though he was a Naga, he considered himself as an Assamese.

“I was brought up in Assam. Even my wife spent most of her life here. We both fell in love with the state,” he said.    


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