Industrialist kidnapped at dawn
Southern twins force hiccupin House
President missive sparks strike threat
Sangh cheers for stern Atal
Mandarins stumped by dam poser
Postal workers on warpath
Bank unions settle for one-day strike
Crack force for train pirates
Kamtapur high on Delhi worry list
Teen terror held in Hooghly

Jamshedpur, Dec. 14: 
Leading Dhanbad industrialist Ashok Jalan was kidnapped early this morning from the Dhanbad-Bhuli-Hirak road by a gang of unidentified armed men.

The 57-year-old industrialist and managing director of Dhanbad-based Hindustan Malleables Limited was on his way to the factory from home.

According to the officer in-charge of the Bhuli police station, Jalan left home for office around 8 am in his chauffeur-driven Fiat Sienna. When the vehicle reached the CD Singh Colony, some unidentified men aboard a blue Armada jeep, overtook it from behind at a lonely spot, parked their vehicle across the road and forced Jalan’s driver to stop.

“They then brandished a carbine and three sophisticated revolvers and forced Jalan to accompany them. The driver of Jalan’s vehicle was slapped and warned not to follow the miscreants. They also took away the keys of Jalan’s car before leaving the spot,” said Akhilesh Kumar, an inspector from Bank More police circle.

“The blue Armada was following us as soon as we left Jalan’s house near Luby Circular Road. But they came very near to our vehicle when we reached the CD Singh colony. I had an apprehension that they were following us and as such gave them a pass to go ahead. Hardly had we gone a kilometre when the Armada screeched to a halt and five men brandishing weapons came out. They came straight to the driver’s seat and snatched the car’s keys. Then they opened the door and forced Jalan out,” Jalan’s driver, Khalil, said in his written statement to the Bhuli police station.

The incident has sent a wave of fear among the business community of the coal belt which had earlier witnessed many incidents of assault on leading businessmen by anti-social elements in Dhanbad and Bokaro. Two years back, another leading businessman, Raj Kumar Jain, was kidnapped for ransom.

“We cannot say whether he has been kidnapped for ransom since there has been no contact from the kidnappers yet. But, the modus operandi indicates it to be the handiwork of a well-organised gang of criminals who had been kidnapping leading businessmen for ransom in other parts of Jharkhand and Bihar,’’ Dhanbad superintendent of police Abdul Gani Mir told The Telegraph.

Soon after the incident, members of Jalan’s family, including son Chandrakant, met the SP after which the borders of the district were sealed. Vehicles leaving the district are being frisked.

“We have launched massive combing operations and have also rounded up anti-social elements to dig out any clues which could lead to the recovery of Jalan,’’ Mir said.

The panic-stricken family is yet to overcome the shock. Jalan’s wife was unable to speak when contacted over this afternoon. One of his family members, J.P. Agarwalla, who spoke to The Telegraph, said they suspect no one.

“He had no animosity with anybody so there is no question for his being kidnapped for revenge. He has basically nothing to do with even local politics being an introvert person. We apprehend that it is the handiwork of professional kidnappers. But then, the kidnappers are yet to establish contact with us in any way,’’ Agarwalla said.

Since the place of occurrence is not quite far from the Jharkhand-West Bengal border, the police did not rule out the possibility of the kidnappers taking the Bengal route.

“The blue Armada had a West Bengal registration plate. After executing the crime they would have got enough time to cross the border to West Bengal. But then, this may just be one of the possibilities since there are no clues or eye witnesses to confirm their route,’’ the circle inspector of Bank More pointed out.

The officer, however, ruled out the possibility of the hand of any of the ultra-Left organisations like the Maoist Communist Centre or the CPI(ML) behind the incident.

“According to the driver of Jalan’s vehicle, the gangsters were wearing good clothes and were in the age-group of 22 to 25 years. They also had a good Hindi accent,’’ he said.


New Delhi, Dec. 14: 
Just when everything seemed to be going smoothly, the two dominant parties in Tamil Nadu, the DMK and the ADMK, clashed during the Lok Sabha debate on Ayodhya and forced a 15-minute adjournment.

“How can the ADMK demand the resignation of three Union ministers when its own leader Jayalalitha has been convicted in such a huge corruption case,” said the DMK, a partner in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

The mention of Jayalalitha’s name was like waving a red rag before a bull and the ADMK promptly rose to the bait. Led by its leader M. Pandian, the ADMK MPs stormed out of their seats and virtually came to fisticuffs with their DMK colleagues.

There was pandemonium in the House as the MPs of the two parties jabbed fingers at each other and the decibel level rose to a pitch. Failing to rein in the intemperate members, the Chair briefly adjourned the House. There was no holding back and the members of the two parties were virtually at each other’s throats, indicating the measure of hostility that marks their relations both in the state and at the Centre.

Even at the national level, the DMK and the ADMK are ranged opposite each other — the DMK supports the Atal Behari Vajpayee government and the ADMK has tied up with the BJP’s main adversary, the Congress.

Following the adjournment, the House resumed the debate but the DMK refused to give the ADMK any quarter. The DMK put the ADMK in its direct line of firing and there was more of little mention of the Ayodhya controversy. The speakers, instead, stuck to a topic they found to be more emotive: the corruption of J. Jayalalitha.

“Most ministers in the former Jayalalitha government were corrupt,” shouted the DMK and immediately the ADMK members rose to their feet. Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, who sat next to the DMK members, tried to control the agitated members while parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan had to walk over to the side of the allies and pacify them.

Earlier during the Zero Hour, the DMK and the ADMK members clashed after an ADMK member charged the DMK with being hand in glove with a militant organisation. “This organisation is propagating a separate Tamil Nadu state through its website,” said ADMK member K. Malaisamy.

He accused the Vajpayee government of being a passive spectator to a collusion between the state government and Tamil Tigers. The DMK members rose to one and an angry exchange of words followed. Mahajan to bring peace in the House. “The state government has lodged an FIR and the Centre will ensure that the website does not exist,” he said.


Ahmedabad, Dec. 14: 
Fearing that President K.R. Narayanan might invoke his special powers to overrule the Supreme Court’s October 18 judgment, pro-Narmada dam NGOs in the state have threatened to launch an agitation “if he decides to intervene against the interests of Gujarat”.

The NGOs have reacted strongly to Narayanan’s letter to Prime Minister Atal Beh- ari Vajpayee on the Narmada issue.

“We feel that the President is being misled by Narmada Bachao Andolan leaders which is not a good sign. It will only drag the high office of the President of India into controversy,” representatives of various NGOs, who called on Governor Sunder Singh Bhandari yesterday, said.

In a memorandum submitted to the Governor, the representatives said that the Andolan, which caused unnecessary delay in constructing the Narmada dam, the lifeline of Gujarat, now wants to “misuse” the office of the President by seeking his intervention.

The NGOs have also taken strong exception to what they called Narayanan’s “pro-Narmada stance”.

“We also wanted to meet the President but were not given appointment whereas the Andolan leaders were given the appointment. This is injustice to us,” Krishna Prasad Patel, leader of the Narmada Abhiyan, said at a press conference today. Narayanan had met Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy who called on him.

The representatives also plan to meet the Governors of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra to caution them against the Andolan leaders.

The NGOs urged the President not to pay any heed to the anti-dam leaders’ plea to overrule the apex court verdict.

“Two crore people of parched regions of Saurashtra, Kutch and north Gujarat are waiting for the Narmada water to reach them,” they said.

“We Gujaratis will not tolerate it” if the construction of the dam is further delayed because of the President’s intervention.

The NGOs said Narayanan’s empathy for the Andolan is already being construed as anti-Gujarat.

“We representatives of the NGOs appeal to the Presi- dent not to force us to launch a mass movement,” they said.


New Delhi, Dec. 14: 
The Sangh parivar has given its blessings to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee for not backtracking on his hardline statement on the Ayodhya temple in Lok Sabha.

But though the VHP welcomed Vajpayee’s reply on the issue, parivar leaders were guarded in their reaction. “We do not want to express great happiness as we do not want the Prime Minister to get into trouble again,” a senior Sangh leader said. He said the note of celebration may turn counter-productive as the allies may not take to it kindly.

Even as the Prime Minister toed the hardline, a VHP-backed outfit of religious leaders today threatened to launch a country-wide agitation if Hindus were not allowed to conduct regular “puja” in the premises of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque near the Qutb Minar, which it claimed was built after razing 27 Jain and Hindu temples.

Welcoming Vajpayee’s statement, the VHP, however, said it would not depend on the government to build the Ram temple for which the “process of talks with Muslim leaders have been initiated”.

“The construction of the temple in Ayodhya is not the job of the government. It will be built by religious and spiritual leaders,” VHP president Vishnu Hari Dalmiya told reporters soon after Vajpayee’s reply to Opposition-sponsored censure motion in Lok Sabha.

He said the Prime Minister had stuck to his earlier stand on the Ayodhya issue and today’s reply in the Lower House was no exception. “Whatever the Prime Minister said was guided by his feelings and conviction,” Dalmiya said.

VHP vice-president Giriraj Kishore, who along with Dalmiya heard the Prime Minister’s reply from the visitors’ gallery, echoed similar views and said: “We will construct the Ram temple on our own without depending on the government. It will be built on the strength of people’s will.”


New Delhi, Dec. 14: 
Shortly after daybreak, shielding themselves against the chill with crumpled sheets wrapped around them, they left their makeshift home — a tent near Nizamuddin Station in South Delhi in ones and twos. All of them were women, volunteers of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) from the valley, who have been camping in the capital, kno-cking on doors that refuse to open.

The Supreme Court shut its gates yesterday — literally — after the volunteers entered a zone that is prohibited to demonstrators and sat on a dharna. In the evening, after a daylong sit-in, they were rounded up by the police and deposited at the station. Their destination today was a building in the Central Government Offices Complex off Lodi road.

By 10:30 in the morning, the dispersed group were within sight of one another and at a signal, they rushed in, taking the security staff and the police by surprise. About a 100 NBA volunteers stormed the office of the Union ministry of environment and forests.

Their demand: How come the Sardar Sarovar dam was being built, metre by metre, submerging hundreds of villages, even after the conditional clearance given by the ministry in 1987 had lapsed in 1990?

They asked this question of every ministry officer who approached them. Medha Patkar’s people demanded a meeting with the secretary, Jaykrishnan, who is also the chairman of the environment sub-group of the Narmada Control Authority. They were told that he was not in office. Somehow they found out he was there, behind closed doors.

He refused a meeting at first but later agreed. The discussions lasted close to two hours. And the ministry officials were taken by surprise. The activists quizzed them. On most points Jaykrishnan pleaded ignorance because he was new to the post.

A director chipped in but even he had no answer to the question: How is the dam being built even though none of the authorities have sought environmental clearance from the ministry? This was the point raised by Justice Bharucha, who dissented, when a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court rejected the NBA’s appeal on October 18 and gave the go-ahead for the dam to be built uptil 90 metres.

The judgment had the movement tottering. Medha Patkar had cried in public. A sense of despondency had taken over the Narmada Bachao Andolan and its supporters. In two months, as the work on the Sardar Sarovar gathers apace, the gloom has begun to dissipate. The NBA is now questioning every authority — even the Supreme Court — that few mass agitations have been able to do solely on the basis of what it construes to be legitimate on moral, not legal grounds.

The NBA’s review petition against the Supreme Court judgment is yet to be heard. But even its leadership accepts that they are not banking on it.

“We had some degree of reliance on the Supreme Court. We have learnt our lesson. But we are not prepared to take it (the project) as fait accompli. We are not accepting the politics of fait accompli and trade-offs,” said Patkar.


New Delhi, Dec. 14: 
Postal employees have decided to intensify their indefinite strike, which began on December 5, even as the Centre today declared the strike illegal under section 22 of the Industrial Disputes Act.

The three federations which convened an emergency meeting of the Joint Council of Action after the government threat, has decided to march to Parliament.

The section 22 lays down that no person employed in a public utility service shall go on strike, in breach of contract, during the pendency of conciliation proceedings before the conciliation officer and seven days after conclusion of the conciliation proceedings.

“The government, by declaring the strike illegal, has accepted its failure to meet our demands. If the strike had been called illegal on first day we would have understood the government’s stand. But now it shows that they have decided not to accept our demands. We are not going to be bogged down, but will intensify our agitation,” said V.S. Yadav, secretary general, Bharatiya Postal Employees’ Federation, an affiliate of the BJP’s Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh.

According to communications addressed to the striking postal unions, the deputy chief labour commissioner (Central), who is the conciliation officer, has said: “Your action to cease work in a concerted manner from. 5.12.2000, during the pendency of conciliation proceedings, has rendered the strike illegal and made yourselves liable for legal action under section 26, 27 and 28 of the Industrial Disputes’ Act.”

He has appealed to the unions to call off the strike so that it may create a congenial atmosphere for a meaningful dialogue.

Deputy chief labour commissioner, G.R. Majhi, issued the order today following Delhi High Court’s instructions to the Centre to take necessary steps to end the postal strike, which had crippled services for the past 10 days.

The Group of Ministers on post, headed by Union home minister L.K. Advani, which met for an hour today decided to deal firmly with the strike.

According to a senior official in the department of post, the strike was in breach of the ID Act as any strike undertaken when conciliation talks were on could be termed illegal.


New Delhi, Dec. 14: 
Bank unions today called a nation-wide strike on December 21 to protest against a Bill introduced yesterday in Parliament which could allow government to reduce its equity holding in PSU banks to 33 per cent.

The unions had threatened to go on an indefinite strike on the issue. But at a meeting of the United Forum of Bank Unions, the umbrella organisation of nine bankers’ unions, it was decided to limit it to one day. The unions said they would be watching the progress of the Bill and would decide on their next course of action.

The controversial Bill which despite earlier promises has no safeguard clauses disallowing private individuals from consolidating stake higher than the government’s equity holding, was introduced yesterday amid opposition from Congress and Left MPs.

After a discussion on the merits of the move, the government introduced the Bill with 209 votes in favour and 159 against it. The Trinamul Congress and other NDA allies who had earlier threatened not to support the Bill did not embarrass the government by voting against its introduction.

The proposed act, entitled the Banking Companies (acquisition and transfer of undertakings) and Financial Institutions Laws (Amendment) Bill 2000, will also allow the government to suspend the board of directors of a PSU bank and its replacement with a financial reconstruction authority on the recommendations of the RBI.

It also allows “free transferability of shares held by the Centre” to “facilitate acquisition, merger and financial restructuring” of banks on “a case to case basis”.


Malda, Dec. 14: 
Pushed to the wall after two dacoities in as many days, the Government Railway Police (GRP) has decided to set up a separate force for north Bengal to prevent similar strikes on long-distance trains.

S.R. Das, deputy inspector-general of police (railways), said the proposed force will be the first of its kind in West Bengal. It will comprise one company of the Reserve Railway Police to begin with. A full-fledged police line will also be set up in Siliguri.

“Crimes on long-distance trains are increasing every day. We are finding it difficult to tackle the situation with our existing strength,” Das said.

The move comes a day after chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee admitted responsibility for his government’s failure to prevent the back-to-back dacoities near Farakka.

Bhattacharjee had said yesterday that it is the responsibility of the GRP, which is under the state government, to ensure the security of railway passengers.

Dacoits had struck on the Kanchankanya Express a little after midnight on Monday. Less than 24 hours later, a gang looted passengers in the general bogey of the Gour Express.

Das said the incidence of train crimes is the highest in north Bengal because it has the heaviest traffic in long-distance trains.

Apart from setting up the reserve force, the railway police have also chalked out measures to check dacoity.

For instance, the police have decided to put up posters of known dacoits operating in the north Bengal belt at all railway stations.

The move is aimed at helping the passengers familiarise themselves with the criminals’ identity and keep themselves alert during the journey.

In addition, steps are being taken to provide mobile telephones to all policemen on duty on trains. The administration is also considering increasing the number of railway police stations in north Bengal, sources said.

Over the past few years, around 170 incidents of criminal activities on trains have been reported from north Bengal districts. The crimes include dacoity, snatching, lifting and smuggling.

According to railway police sources, 160 such cases were reported in 1999.


New Delhi, Dec. 14: 
The movement for a separate state of Kamtapur is likely to overshadow the Vajpayee government’s ceasefire initiative in Jammu and Kashmir at tomorrow’s meeting of the consultative committee on home affairs.

CPM MP Somnath Chatterjee will raise the issue in the meeting following which home minister L.K. Advani will respond to queries raised by the committee. Chatterjee is the chairman of the parliamentary panel comprising members of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

What is significant is that the matter will come up for discussion a few days after West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s meeting with both Advani and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. Bhattacharjee had pointed out how the separatist movement spearheaded by the Kamtapur People’s Party (KPP) was posing a serious threat to law and order.

The state administration appears to have been jolted by revelations of the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO)’s links with the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa). Many of the KLO’s cadre have undergone arms training at Ulfa camps in the Bhutan jungles.

The home ministry is keeping tabs on the activities of the KPP and the KLO, but officials believe that the movement is still in its “organisational phase” though there have been some militant activities in certain parts of Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri and the Siliguri subdivision of Darjeeling district.

However, home ministry officials believe that if the movement goes unchecked now, it has the potential to destabilise not only the state, which borders Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, but also large parts of eastern India.

The ministry has prepared extensive notes on the background of the movement and tomorrow’s briefings to the committee will focus on how Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) may take advantage of the links established between the KPP and the KLO with the Ulfa. “The onus will be on the state government on how it proposes to tackle the situation before it goes out of hand,” a senior official said.

< p>“The committee may want to know what role the ISI is playing in fomenting insurgencies in the east and Northeast,” he added.

Although the Kamtapur movement is fourth on the agenda before the committee, Chatterjee is expected to probe its political ramifications within the state, especially with West Bengal going to the polls early next year. The CPM leader will seek answers on how the Centre can assist the state government in tackling the movement.


Calcutta, Dec. 14: 
The Hooghly police breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday after the arrest of teenage dacoit Sheikh Akhtar, alias Haba. A revolver and cartridges were recovered from him.

The police were chasing him for more than a month in connection with several train dacoities and murders in Hooghly, Burdwan, North 24-Parganas and Nadia, Hooghly police superintendent N. Ramesh Babu said.

Apart from a number of robberies, the 18-year-old has also confessed to murdering a businessman in Pandua in October. One of his associates was then arrested.

Haba had become such a menace that people had tried to lynch his gang member when he was being taken to court, mistaking him for Haba. The police had to open fire to bring the mob under control.

The police officer said they had been tipped-off that Haba was planning to meet his associate held in Chuchura jail. Chuchura police station officer-in-charge Sukumar Nandi was sent there in plain clothes and he managed to arrest Haba.

Haba began his career in crime when he was 16, a police officer said.


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