Doors open for world of choice and threat
Push-button state polls on May 10
10000, ton and win, Tendulkar takes all
Sonia first list skirts Sealdah
Sleepless & shut out from family
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, March 31: 
The Centre today removed barriers on import of 715 items ranging from meat products to automobiles and lifestyle goods, offering consumers unlimited choice and sparking concern among domestic manufacturers.

The government retained restrictions on 600 products on security, health and environment grounds. �Otherwise, we have opened up our markets totally,� commerce minister Murasoli Maran said after unveiling the Export-Import (Exim) policy that takes effect from tomorrow.

India has now met the conditions of the World Trade Organisation treaty under which it has to lift the curbs on the products by April 1, 2001.

The minister sought to allay the fears of domestic entrepreneurs by asserting that the removal of the import curbs �does not mean throwing the gates wide open�. He indicated that a tariff shield will be built to protect farmers and small manufacturers. The government tonight imposed a 150 per cent duty on foreign liquor.

Big industry gave a thumbs-up to the policy. �They appreciate our role... the government has voted for industrialisation,� said Hyundai India marketing chief B.V.R. Subu.

But the lifting of the curbs has triggered wails of anguish from domestic manufacturers. Colour television makers feel the import duty should be increased. Raghubir Singh Baweja, a Delhi-based small-scale toy-maker, said: �I have already been ruined by cheap Chinese toys coming in through Nepal. This opening-up will spell curtains for my factory.�

Maran promised to plug the leak that has hurt manufacturers like Baweja and drawn sharp protests from both the Congress and hardliners in the BJP.

Maran promised a �war room which will track, collate and analyse data on 300 sensitive products which are of interest to the public�. Import of all products of plant and animal origin will have to be licensed by the agriculture ministry after a risk analysis based on health and environmental norms. Rice, petrol and urea will have to be imported through government agencies.

Maran said a state-sponsored global retail chain will be set up to market and sell made-in-India brands.


New Delhi, March 31: 
Bengal will go to polls with four other states on May 10.

For the first time, electronic voting machines will be used in all the constituencies of Bengal. Counting will begin on May 13.

Byelections to three parliamentary constituencies � one each in Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh � will be held on the day of the Assembly polls itself.

In Bengal, bypolls will be held in Midnapore where the seat fell vacant after veteran CPI leader Indrajit Gupta passed away.

The Opposition is touting the Assembly polls in Kerala, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, besides Bengal, as a decisive political test for the ruling alliance at the Centre.

�Barring Assam, the other states will use electronic voting machines. Voters will have to furnish photo identity cards or alternative forms of identification,� chief election commissioner M.S. Gill said. In Assam, electronic voting machines will be used only in four constituencies.

CPM leaders here put up a brave face with a Congress-Trinamul alliance becoming a near-certainty. �There is no question of our losing,� a senior CPM leader said. �But the margin may be reduced.�

But the panic in the Left camp is evident. Ahead of the crucial Sonia-Mamata talks, the Left Front warned the Congress � a party it backs at the national level � against teaming up with the Trinamul.

Party insiders admit that this will be their toughest election in the 24 years they have ruled in Bengal.


Calcutta, March 31: 
It�s flashback time heavy with nostalgia. A moment to remember one of cricket�s top icons even as we salute the greatest batsman of the present times.

Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar.

It was a Saturday when Gavaskar launched the 10,000 club in Test cricket. So exclusive, it still has only two members. Fourteen years on, Sachin today opened the same club in ODIs.

An emotional single off Ijaz Faqih at the Gujarat Stadium in Motera (March 7, 1987) confirmed the legend of Gavaskar would never stop growing. At the Nehru Stadium in Indore, a single off Shane Warne reinforced that Sachin will be the yardstick for judging contemporary batsmen.

Allan Border eventually overtook Gavaskar but, as Gavaskar himself pointed out then, he will �always� be remembered for being first on the summit. It is to be seen whether anybody has the character to eclipse Sachin but, even if the unlikely does happen, he will still be immortalised.

Perhaps, only a Sachin clone can pose the biggest threat... Of the current players, the ones closest are Aravinda de Silva (8,426) and Mark Waugh (8,243).

Today, MoM Sachin wasn�t as overwhelmed as Gavaskar, but he knew the significance of his 34th run. In any case, he backed himself to beat the Australians in their teasing mind-game as well.

The other day, all of Pune had converged at the Nehru Stadium with one wish: The 10,000th be recorded there. Sachin couldn�t oblige and, adjusting his CD-player, told The Telegraph: �I believe in destiny. Pune, Indore or... That run will come when destined. I hope to be on the winning side that day.�

Destiny, then, chose the home turf of C.K.Nayudu and Mushtaq Ali. Moreover, as India won big (118 runs) to take a 2-1 lead, Sachin wasn�t left consoling himself with a personal landmark.

Though Sachin didn�t do a Gavaskar (�I would have been pleased with 1,000 runs... Actually, it�s 9,000 too many�), he did say that given the amount of cricket, the runs would come. Typical Sachin.

Sachin�s factfile reveals he scored a duck on his one-day debut, versus Pakistan in dusty Gujranwala. That was in 1989.

However, what isn�t revealed is that Sachin (then only 16) smashed an unbeaten 53, in Peshawar, in what ought to have been his maiden game. That was two days before Gujranwala. The elements forced a huge curtailment and the match is listed as �unofficial�.

India lost by four runs but, years later, Abdul Qadir hadn�t quite forgotten Sachin�s assault. That evening itself, Qadir declared: �Yeh ek bahut bada player hai... Sab record tod ke chhode ga.

Qadir�s four overs cost 44, a majority being credited to Sachin as overboundaries. Some almost carried to the Khyber, announcing the arrival of a champion.


New Delhi & Calcutta, March 31: 
Sonia Gandhi tonight cleared a list of candidates for 55 consensus seats shortlisted after talks between Mamata Banerjee and Congress emissary Kamal Nath.

The nominee list includes 26 sitting MLAs but does not mention the Sealdah seat of Somen Mitra. As the Congress high command is expected to bargain for only a dozen more seats, many sitting MLAs are unlikely to get tickets.

Nath had carried back to Sonia a list of consensus seats and a complaint against some Bengal leaders. He apprised her of the �minor hiccups� in the way of making a formal announcement on the deal. Sonia has made it clear that, beyond a point, she will not �tolerate indiscipline�.

The Congress high command exuded confidence that the tie-up with Trinamul would take formal shape in the next 48 hours. Though the talks are tortuous, there was no question of parting ways now, a Congress leader said.

Nath will be back in Calcutta tomorrow to finalise the deal. Sources said Mamata expects Sonia to intervene if there is a deadlock. The Trinamul chief plans to announce on Monday whether her party will share seats with the Congress or go it alone.

Trinamul leader Sudip Bandopadhyay said his party was hoping for a settlement by Monday. �We have made our stand very clear during the marathon discussions with Nath. He is expected to get back to us at the earliest,� he said.

Nath expressed anguish over the conduct of some partymen, particularly Mitra. Trinamul is less than keen to shift its nominee Tapas Roy from Sealdah, but Mitra has made the seat a prestige issue. At a meeting with Nath this morning, state leaders mounted pressure for the renomination of all sitting legislators. They told Nath that denying tickets to �loyal MLAs� would send the wrong signal to workers.

The Congress list of 55 includes a majority of seats in north Bengal and only a handful in south Bengal.

Mitra said this evening that the sitting MLAs have been loyal to the party and not left it for the Trinamul. �If the party today denies them nomination, it will be gross injustice.�

Asked what would happen if the high command foisted an alliance on the state unit, Mitra said he had not received any such indication either from Sonia or Nath.

Stressing that a revolt was not brewing in the party, Nath said the delay in clinching the seat-share deal was because talks had started late. Mamata had released her list of candidates before the Congress opened talks with her, he added.

�It is not a normal alliance that we are trying to work out. Both of us have to persuade our cadre to appreciate the problems and help reach a settlement,� Nath said.


Mumbai, March 31: 
The Big Bull dozed off a few times. Ketan Parekh was just too tired to keep awake � even in court.

The CBI had grilled him till 3 am, and there he was in court in the morning, leaning against a window for support.

The court, which remanded him in CBI custody till April 9, declared that it would not allow him to meet his wife or any member of the family.

�Ketan Parekh�s uncle, brother and a cousin were also named as accused in the pay-order scam and hence his family will not be allowed to meet him... (Not) even his wife,� sessions judge A.R. Joshi said.

In a crumpled blue shirt and sporting a saffron tilak, Ketan did not look like the man who had set the stock markets ablaze. He looked more like an ordinary man pulled in for an ordinary crime � hardly the Ketan Parekh held for defrauding Bank of India of Rs 137 crore.

Most brokers believe the combination of the tilak and the blue shirt, coupled with a prayer to Hanuman on Saturdays, can ward off most of the troubles caused by Shani or Saturn. Ketan also believed that shunning publicity would ward off his downfall.

None of it seemed to help today. The only relief for a man used to the best in comfort was the court�s permission to have home food, medicines and toiletries.

There was more trouble for Ketan with Sebi linking the broker to the manipulation of Global Trust Bank�s share price.

The capital markets watchdog, in its interim report to Reserve Bank deputy governor S.P. Talwar, said there was proof of the GTB scrip being �ramped up� prior to its merger decision with UTI Bank, reports PTI.

The CBI has accused Ketan of colluding with Jagdish Pandya, manager of Madhavpura Mercantile Co-operative Bank�s Mandvi branch in Mumbai and fraudulently obtaining 30 pay orders worth Rs 137 crore and defrauding the Bank of India of the same amount. It is feared that once the losses of other banks are toted up, the amount siphoned off would climb to Rs 843 crore.

Ketan�s counsel Shirish Gupte told the court that his client was ready to repay the money. He also submitted a document stating that Ketan had already repaid Rs 7 crore to the banks. He argued that the money allegedly siphoned away remained in the banking system.

The CBI wanted more time to complete the investigation, to wh-ich the court agreed. The court also rejected the bail petition of Pandya who was arrested today. He was remanded in CBI custody till April 9.

The CBI has named 11 accused in its remand application, including Kirti Kumar Parekh, director, Panther Investrade Ltd, Kartik Parekh, director, Panther Investrade Ltd and Navinchandra Parekh, chairman, Fortune Ltd.

Markets safe, says PM

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said the situation in the capital market was �under control� and steps were being taken to rebuild investor confidence, reports PTI from New Delhi.




Maximum: 32.4�C (-3)
Minimum: 21.6�C (-1)


29.8 mm

Relative humidity

Maximum: 96%,
Minimum: 57%


Partly cloudy sky. Maximum and minimum temperatures likely to be around 34�C and 23�C respectively
Sunrise: 5.33 am
Sunset: 5.48 pmpm

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