UTI burden on Sinha at party meet
October deadline for statute panel
Defection law substitute chalked out
Territory salve for Northeast
MCC men hacked
Probity in governance with axe on benami deals
Dirty floors to detente spotlight
Pak fights Hurriyat shadow on summit
Left-out Mamata cancels civic bash
Prostitution row divides women

New Delhi, July 6: 
Finance minister Yashwant Sinha may be required to explain why the Unit Trust of India (UTI) had to suspend its US-64 scheme at a meeting of the chief ministers of the six BJP-ruled states here on July 10.

Apart from the chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Goa, Uttaranchal, Gujarat and Jharkhand, the meeting will be attended by BJP president K. Jana Krishnamurthi, the Central office-bearers and members of the economic cell.

Jagdish Shettigar, a member of the economic cell and adviser to the government, told newspersons that the Centre should have �advised� the UTI brass since the institution was under its control.

�Technically, we believe in the financial autonomy of financial institutions, but in this case, where 20 million investors are involved, the government should have advised UTI,� Shettigar stated.

He felt that with the securities scam and the UTI mess, small investors were bound to lose their faith in financial institutions and, therefore, it was �necessary to restore their confidence�. Shettigar suggested that institutions like UTI must have more government nominees on their board and should be brought under Sebi�s regulation.

The chief ministers� meeting, which will be chaired by Krishnamurthy, is expected to purvey feedback relating to agriculture and small industry sectors.

The inputs thrown up are likely to be incorporated in the economic resolution which will be passed in the BJP�s national executive slated to be held in Amritsar on July 18, 19 and 20.

The resolution, said Shettigar, might also reflect the economic issues likely to be deliberated in the Indo-Pakistan summit which will precede the national executive.

Specifically, the resolution would focus on the trade between India and Pakistan which presently does not take place directly but is transacted through third countries and the laying of the pipeline to transport gas from Iran to India via Pakistan.

BJP sources said there was �considerable discomfort� within the party on entering into a major business deal with Pakistan before core issues like Kashmir were sorted out because if the pipeline project does come through, India would have to pay Pakistan a sum of Rs 2,000 crore annually for the use of its passage.

�Despite being financially bankrupt, Pakistan manages to act tough with us and flex its muscles from time to time. Suppose we were to pump thousands of crore annually into Pakistan, it would lord over India. Can we afford to take the risk?� asked sources.

Sources claimed the BJP�s views and �sentiments� on the pipeline issue would be taken �serious� note of by the government before clinching a deal on the gas pipeline.


New Delhi, July 6: 
The Constitution review commission is expected to be wound up without a debate on a paper that in essence seems to stop Sonia Gandhi from holding high office.

The curtain will drop on the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution on October 31, commission chairman Justice M.N. Venkatachalaiah, former Chief Justice of India, told The Telegraph.

Venkatachalaiah has, of late, been �vexed� with the commission, pointing out that he, who is credited with bringing �that moral authority to the apex court of the country�, does not want to be caught up in the kind of controversy brewing within.

The issue of �citizens of foreign origin occupying high constitutional positions� (read Sonia Gandhi becoming Prime Minister) had triggered a controversy a few months back. While Nationalist Congress Party leader and former Lok Sabha Speaker P.A. Sangma, whose pet subject is �prevention of people of foreign origin from occupying constitutional offices�, brought a paper to the commission, Venkatachalaiah consistently denied that there was ever a document on the subject.

But when Sangma, the only political member of the commission, chose to be present at the previous meeting and the subsequent news conference of the commission, Venkatachalaiah could not dismiss the existence of the paper but added that �various subjects would come up for consideration�. He had then implied that �a matter considered need not be taken up�.

However, Sangma�s paper has to be either rejected or approved, for which a debate should be conducted from within the commission first. Then the paper should also be sent for public debate. Now that the commission has to close its business by October 31, it is unlikely that any paper other than the five more slated for release, would ever be taken up for public debate.

Further, his former colleague in the Supreme Court, Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, has severely criticised the commission of helping the BJP in its �hidden agenda� of a review of the Constitution. Venkatachalaiah clarified time and again that it was not a �Constitution review� but a �review of the working of the Constitution�.

Sources said Venkatachalaiah was so upset that he observed: �I am wondering why at all I have taken up this assignment.� But then, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee spoke to him and requested that he complete the job in the national interest, which convinced a �copy-book-moral type� Venkatachalaiah, the sources said.

Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy, a retired judge of the Supreme Court and currently chairman of the Law Commission, also wants to retire now, the sources said.


New Delhi, July 6: 
The Constitution review commission will recommend scrapping of the anti-defection law.

In its place, the commission will suggest the introduction of what it calls the �block method�. Each political party will be deemed to be �one block� and irrespective of the voting pattern of its individual legislators on a motion, only the whole block would count.

For example, if party X has 100 members and 60 vote in favour of a motion and 40 against, then 100 votes would be deemed to have gone in favour of the motion.

At present, a split in a party is recognised if one-third of its members walk out. They are then given separate seats in the Assembly or Parliament. �The block method would be more effective than the anti-defection law in preventing floor-crossing,� those in charge of vetting the draft proposal said.

Consider a case where some in a ruling party vote against the chief minister or Prime Minister, but majority of the legislators or MPs from within the ruling party vote for their leader. Now, because of the block method, the entire party would be considered to have voted for the leader concerned.

The anti-defection law, aimed at preventing splits, has not had the desired effect, said the commission sources. �In fact, this has increased the bargaining power of the group or leader capable of bringing one-third of the members out of the party.�


New Delhi, July 6: 
As Manipur continued to rage over the truce extension, the Centre today indicated that it is willing to adopt a parliamentary resolution protecting the territorial integrity of the northeastern states.

The decision was announced by L.K. Advani at a consultative committee meeting of the home ministry today. Nearly 39 Manipur MLAs, camping here since June 18, have threatened to go on hungerstrike if the ceasefire is not revoked by Sunday.

NDA convener George Fernandes had suggested a parliamentary resolution immediately after violence erupted in Manipur last month following the agreement between the Centre and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) to extend the ceasefire.

Assam and Meghalaya chief ministers Tarun Gogoi and E.K. Mawlong today called on Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to ask him to review the agreement. They said Vajpayee gave them a patient hearing and assured that all necessary steps would be taken. Yesterday, the duo, along with the Arunachal chief minister, held talks with Advani.

Manipur Speaker Dhananjoy Singh said he would convene a meeting of legislators tomorrow to discuss Advani�s offer. Asked if the MLAs would call off their dharnas and hungerstrike in view of the announcement, Singh said all aspects would be reviewed tomorrow.

The Speaker criticised the Centre for its �indifference� towards the people of Manipur.

�Just because two ministers were roughed up and arrested in Chennai, two NDA meetings, two Cabinet meetings, two high-level teams were despatched to Chennai. But a team was sent to Imphal 18 days after the violence which saw 14 persons dead, the Assembly building set ablaze and several MLAs attacked,� he added.


Ranchi, July 6: 
Eight villagers, said to be supporters of the outlawed Maoist Communist Centre (MCC), were hacked to death by activists of the Jharkhand Jan Sangharsh Mukti Morcha in Hazaribagh district last night.

Sources revealed that around 10 pm, 35 armed supporters of the Morcha, a breakaway faction of the Party Unity Group, surrounded Kondabir village under Keredari block in the district.

They then called out the eight villagers from their homes and killed them on the spot in a remote corner of the village. The Morcha activists raised slogans before escaping into the neighbouring jungles.

Among the eight persons killed, six belonged to the backward Ganjhu caste, who, throughout Hazaribagh, are known for their leaning towards the MCC.

Sources indicated yesterday�s killings as a Morcha retaliation to avenge the massacre of 14 villagers at Belthu village in April this year.


New Delhi, July 6: 
As the first step towards achieving probity in governance, the Constitution review commission has suggested eradication of benami transactions while at the same time recommending legalisation in certain cases.

The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution today released three more sets of papers on �probity in governance�, �constitutional mechanism for the settlement of inter-state disputes� and �fundamental duties of citizens�.

The commission said Scandinavian sociologist-economist Gunnar Myrdal had described the Indian society as a �soft society�. According to him, a soft society is one which does not have the political will to enact the laws necessary for its progress and development and/or does not possess the political will to implement the laws even when made. Such a society also does not have any discipline. Hence, corruption assumes alarming proportions.

Releasing the papers and inviting suggestions after public debate, commission chairman Justice M.N. Venkatachalaiah wanted to know from the public �whether corruption-free governance should be made a fundamental right or a directive principle of state policy by suitably amending the Constitution�.

�So far as the Prime Minister was concerned, any inquiry or investigation by the Lok Pal should be undertaken only after obtaining the sanction of the President. But the paper emphasises the need to undertake certain legislative measures in the nation�s fight against corruption and for ensuring probity in governance,� Justice Venkatachalaiah said.

Talking to reporters along with Justice Venkatachalaiah, Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy said the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act was enacted 13 years ago, but due to government inaction its provisions �remain dead letters� till date.

Justice Reddy sought a law for confiscation of illegally acquired assets of public servants and enactment of a Freedom of Information Act. He said under the current legal provisions, the confiscation of the property clause was �weak�.

Later, Justice Venkatachalaiah said there was a �concept contemplated� by the commission so that former Prime Ministers and Presidents could come to the commission and express their views based on their experience as holders of high constitutional offices.

So, he did not see any �controversy� over P.V. Narasimha Rao attending a meeting of the commission. �Inder Kumar Gujral (another former Prime Minister) was slated to come but could not make it. He will be with the commission any day now.

Other former Prime Ministers are also slated to come to the commission. In the case of former Presidents, it has not yet been ascertained what the protocol will be: whether the commission should call on them or they should be invited,� he said.

�Not only Prime Ministers and Presidents, former Speakers of the Lok Sabha, chairmen of the Rajya Sabha and all other constitutional office-holders will be invited,� he said.


New Delhi, July 6: 
For over 70 years, Anaro was a nobody: she swept, she cleaned houses, she went home. Then, she announced that once upon a time, she had been a maid in the Musharraf household in Delhi. That she saw Musharraf when he was a baby.

Ever since, the flashbulbs have not stopped popping. Overnight, Anaro became a celebrity of sorts. That is when some people living close to Musharraf�s ancestral home came out with their version. The woman, they say, is making it all up. She was no maid at the Neharwali haveli 54 years ago.

Anaro refutes the charge. She is backed by a relative of Musharraf living in Delhi. She used to be called Kashmiro then, says the relative. �Anaro, or Kashmiro, used to work in the Musharraf household,� says the relative on condition of anonymity.

Wearing a green salwar, a printed shirt and draped in a colourful dupatta, she walks down the narrow lanes of the neighbourhood of the Neharwali haveli. The buildings and alleys are not new to her. She comes every morning, and walks back home in the evening.

�I started working at the haveli when I was six,� reminisces Anaro. �I used to sweep and clean the place. I would go to the haveli at 9 in the morning. It would take me an hour-and-a-half to complete the work.

�I first saw Musharraf when he was a baby. He was so small that he had to be a carried around. I remember Musharraf�s mother telling me: �Le Anaro, zara lae-lae bhai ko.� I was very surprised, because they came from such a well-to-do family and I was a Harijan.�

The Golas, owners of a part of the haveli, laugh this off. �A rich, khandaani family would never employ a bhangan (sweeper) to look after their son,� they say.

Anaro is surprised. �I would get a monthly salary of Rs 10,� she says. �During festivals, Musharraf�s mother would give me mithai and a handsome tip.�

Shoaib Iqbal, the Independent MLA from the area, does not refute the fact that Anaro knew the Musharrafs. But he claims: �Anaro worked as a sweeper in the neighbourhood surrounding the haveli. She was not appointed as a maid to clean the haveli.

But some are willing to buy Anaro�s story. The Jains, who own another portion of the haveli, say: �People living in the neighbourhood since 1947 say she worked in the haveli. We took over a portion of the haveli only in 1960, so we do not know much.�

The shopkeepers in the neighbourhood appear glad that Anaro is getting so much attention. �For someone who spent her entire life cleaning houses and roads in Old Delhi, life has taken an exciting turn for Anaro,� says a shopkeeper. �Jab khuda chahta hai, to kisi ko bhi bada bana deta hai (Khuda, if he wants, can make anyone famous),� says another.

Anaro, unmindful of the scorn or admiration, keeps telling her stories. �The Musharrafs came from a very rich and traditional family and lived in this sprawling haveli,� says the septuagenarian, her wrinkled hands taking in the whole building in one broad sweep. �Some of Musharraf�s cousins and uncles also lived here.

�There were four people working at the Neharwali haveli. Fatima would make roti, Bagho, another helper, gehoon chunti thi, and the old Khan sahab who would take Musharraf and his brother for a walk to the park early in the evening.

�Both the boys were well-behaved. They would never throw a tantrum. It could be because their mother was very strict. The moment the boys ran down to play, she would call them and ask them to study. �The Musharrafs lived in this haveli for some time, then a part of the family moved to another house in Delhi.� she adds.

Anaro says her father, Moolchand, brought her to the Musharraf family. He used to work as a part-time gardener at the Red Fort and swept the lanes of Kucha Sadaullah Khan, where the haveli is located, while her mother and sister-in-law cleaned the garbage in the locality.

Nobody but Musharraf will probably be able to say if Anaro is telling the truth. But even if she were to be telling the truth, would Musharraf be able to recognise their maid of so many years ago?


Islamabad, July 6: 
Pakistan today expressed hope that the Indian leadership will recognise the �political and moral imperatives� of involving the All Parties Hurriyat Conference as the �true representative� of the Kashmiri people in a process for the settlement of the Kashmir dispute.

Briefing reporters here, a foreign office spokesman, however, said Pakistan was looking forward to a positive result of the Musharraf-Vajpayee summit.

�We are looking forward to a positive result of the summit. We hope there will be progress in addressing the Kashmir issue and the summit will lead to a new chapter of normal and good relations,� foreign office spokesman Riaz Muhammad Khan said.

Pakistan had earlier denied reports that it had dropped the demand for a meeting with the Hurriyat leaders.

The spokesman said: �We would discuss if any other issues are raised, but Kashmir would be the focus from Pakistan�s point of view.�

Without going into details of the programme for President Pervez Musharraf�s visit to Delhi, he said there will be one-on-one talks between him and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The details of the visit are being finalised, he said.

The two leaders will be joined by their delegations after their one-on-one meeting, said the spokesman. There will be no agenda for the summit, he said, but added that it �should focus on the question of Kashmir�.

�Kashmir is the root cause of tension between Pakistan and India. The issue has to be meaningfully addressed,� he said.

The summit, he hoped, will initiate the �process which leads to the solution of the Kashmir problem in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people�.

Pakistan regarded the �APHC (Hurriyat) as a true voice of Kashmiri people and we believe that consultations with them are necessary,� Khan said. �Pakistan attaches importance to consultations with the APHC,� he added.

It is an established stand of Islamabad that �Kashmiris have to be involved for the solution of Kashmir (problem), which, first and foremost, concerns the right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people. �Their involvement from this point of view is both a political and moral imperative,� Khan said.

To a question, he said the parameters for a just solution of the Kashmir problem are clear. �These parameters have been defined by the UN Security Council through its resolutions. The question of modalities, etc. have to be naturally agreed through a process, which will hopefully be started by the summit,� he said.

On asking the Hurriyat leaders to a reception expected to be hosted by the Pakistan high commissioner in Delhi in honour of Musharraf, he said: �There is no question of invitations being issued at the present time,� but it will be finalised in a few days.

Reports in a section of the media on the possible attendance of the Hurriyat leadership at the reception were �totally unfounded�, he said.

But he reminded that the high commissioner had been inviting the Hurriyat leaders to his receptions in the past and it was likely the practice will be followed.

Asked on a possible No-War Pact, he said: �It is eminently a reasonable proposal which remains on the table.� The details of such a proposal will be discussed once the two sides were ready to discuss it, he said.

Answering another question, he said: �Naturally, the pact will have an in-built mechanism for the solution of disputes.�


Calcutta, July 6: 
Mamata Banerjee today forced a last-minute cancellation of the first anniversary celebrations of the Trinamul Congress-BJP board at the Calcutta Municipal Corporation.

Bowing to a fiat from his party boss, mayor Subrata Mukherjee called off the programmes scheduled for Sunday.

Sources said the Trinamul chief was furious because she was not invited to the do while her arch enemies, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and rebel Trinamul leader Ajit Panja, were. Like Mamata, Panja is also an MP.

For the record, the cancellation was made to appear to be in response to a collective party demand articulated by Subrata Bakshi, the Trinamul president, and other functionaries.

Barring Mala Roy, a member of the mayor�s council overseeing conservancy, most of Mukherjee�s party colleagues in the CMC were arguing against holding the celebrations, a line believed to have been prompted by Mamata. Pradip Ghosh, in charge of slum development and parking, and councillor Ruby Dutta were the most vocal.

This is the third time that the mayor has had to call off an announced official programme in the face of sponsored hostility from within the Trinamul. He was earlier forced to backtrack on hawker eviction and the washing of city roads.

On both occasions, Mamata had ranged herself against the mayor�s planned line of action and signalled to the party to confront him.

The Trinamul chief forced the cancellation of the anniversary celebrations because she believed that by inviting Bhattacharjee and Panja, the mayor had exposed Trinamul to ridicule and possibly even a split, sources said.

Sources close to the Trinamul leader claimed that several members of the mayor�s council had petitioned her to cancel the celebrations in the interest of the party. �He (Mayor) should have kept in mind that the party (read Mamata) should have been consulted fully before a decision was taken unilaterally in respect with the invitees. After all, he and others owe their office to the party leadership.�

The mayor could not be contacted as he was away in Chennai, from where he issued the cancellation order.


New Delhi, July 6: 
Women�s organisations are split on legalisation of prostitution � a demand voiced by both human rights groups and the health ministry. A number of women�s organisations across the country today declared that they will launch a movement against the demand.

�Legalisation will only help brothel owners, procurers and traffic owners,� said Sheila Jefferys, who has been working among prostitutes in Australia.

The state of Victoria legalised prostitution in the eighties. �The result was that each week, 60,000 men in the state spent $7 million on prostitution with the legalised industry turning over more than $360 million a year and drawing on some 4,500 prostituted women and girls,� informed Jefferys, who has joined women�s organisations like Joint Women�s Programme, Sanlaap, Nishant and Prerna to campaign against the legalisation.

Opposed to these organisations are groups like Durbar Mahila Samannay Samiti, a West Bengal-based organisation that has taken the lead in advocating legalisation of prostitution. Human rights groups claim that granting legal status to the sex industry would give its workers some sort of respect that they are denied now.

Legalisation means prostitutes will have to register themselves as sex workers in the government�s official record after which they will be given licenses. The government will conduct regular health and medical checkups to ensure they are not affected by AIDS.

�Licenses do not mean an end to violence in prostitution,� says Priti Patkar from Prerna, a Mumbai-based organisation working in brothels. She argued that licensing would only lead to stigmatising women � a stigma that will be carried over to their children. A prostitute, once licensed, will go down in the records forever as a prostitute, Patkar added.

�Women in prostitution do not want their children to continue in the trade. Even when the trade is not legal, they find it difficult to get their children admitted in schools. Once they are officially stamped with the label of prostitutes, it will stick not only to them but also to their children,� says Jyotsna Chatterjee of Joint Women�s Programme.

As for medical checkups, Chatterjee says, prostitutes will be segregated and looked upon as a threat to public health.

The pro-legalisation lobby, on the other hand, says that legalisation also involves decriminalisation of sex workers and giving them the status of industry will bring them under the purview of labour laws.

The anti-legalisation lobby sees the move only as a medium for spurring trafficking, which has mounted to huge proportions. It dismisses the argument that women in India voluntarily enter prostitution.

�A strand of feminist opinion is saying that prostitution is a matter of choice for women and should be treated as such. But this is completely misleading,� says Jean D�Cunha, a board member of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, Asia Pacific.


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