State snub to saffron syllabus
Red carpet for health private funds
Youth lynched for girl murder
Trinamul smells topple plot
Left braces for storm over MP axe
SC sets six-month deadline for judgment
Party punches holes in Atal Kashmir policy
BJP speaks in Congress voice
Dalai�s Kashmir �parallel� with Tibet raises storm
Phoolan sister, husband in ritual tussle

New Delhi, Aug. 6: 
Bengal education minister Kanti Biswas, at the forefront of the tirade against a move to make the Saraswati Vandana compulsory in schools two years ago, is once again taking the lead against the �saffronisation� of education.

Speaking at a conference of education ministers from non-NDA ruled states and educationists here today, Biswas was congratulated heartily after he reported that Rabindra Bharati University had refused to introduce the UGC-recommended course in Vedic Astrology (Jyoti Vigyan).

Biswas said UGC had announced the names of 20 institutions that were willing to introduce the course � that has been roundly condemned by scientists and educationists as �obscurantist� and �revivalist� � without actually informing many of them. The Commission was squeezing funds for other important courses but was releasing money for vedic astrology.

�The Rabindra Bharati University vice-chancellor was surprised that the UGC had actually sanctioned money and even faculty for Vedic Astrology though the university had not opted for the course. It has since rejected the UGC grant,� Biswas said and was lustily cheered.

The conference, attended by delegates from nine states, was hosted by the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (Sahmat), a predominantly Left outfit that is one of the loudest campaigners against communalism.

On Biswas� recommendation, the conference adopted a statement that demanded, among other issues, that the Central Advisory Board of Education be reconstituted. He said the Board was not meeting but the Centre, mainly through the National Council for Education Research and Training (NCERT) was changing school curricula without consulting states. Education is on the concurrent list � meaning the Centre and the states hold joint responsibility for it.

The statement demanded that the UGC withdraw the circular that introduces the so called �indigenous systems of knowledge� as university-level courses while starving the universities of funds. The NCERT�s �National Curriculum Framework for School Education� must also be withdrawn, the education ministers, politicians and scholars demanded.

Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi, Congress Working Committee member Arjun Singh, and CPM central leaders Sitaram Yechury and Brinda Karat, CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan and filmstar Shabana Azmi came together at the conference that attempts to give shape to a campaign that has been building up over the last two years but has so far lacked cohesion.

Historians Romila Thapar and Irfan Habib questioned the motive of the human resources development ministry that was taking unilateral decisions. Successive changes made in the administration of the Indian Council for Historical Research and the Indian Council for Social Sciences Research have provoked academics, mostly inclined to the Left, to mobilise political support against what they call a �revivalist agenda�.

The three-day conference was a fallout of the agitation in academia. With education ministers from Pondicherry, Karnataka, Kerala, Nagaland and Madhya Pradesh joining their counterparts in Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, Sahmat, with the academics, have forced the non-NDA parties to make common cause on its agenda.


Calcutta, Aug. 6: 
The government has invited private participation in health care delivery.

Speaking at the inauguration of a dental treatment and research centre today, health minister Suryakanta Mishra said cooperation and assistance from the private sector was essential for better medical treatment and improving research work.

�The government�s resources are limited and we are stressing on primary health care delivery, mainly outside Calcutta. Diseases like malaria, TB, leprosy and now a resurgence of kala-azar are taking up our attention. Many doctors from the state, who are doing very well in the West, want to come back but cannot as there are no proper opportunities. The private sector can help in this,� Mishra said.

The minister said times were changing. �Health has to be bought now. At the same time, the costs have to be low so that everyone can afford treatment. Today, the biggest challenge before a private health care institution is not just business but also how to achieve a mixture of modernisation and the establishment of centres of excellence and providing low cost heath care as well.�

Medical education, research and treatment had to be modernised, he added. �This cannot be neglected. For this, we will have to go ahead jointly with the private sector. But one thing will have to be kept in mind: do not commercialise or make profits from health.�

The dental centre, Smile & Profile, was first set up two years ago by a band of dentists. �Soon, we realised the need to establish a multi-treatment centre with modern facilities,� said Abhijit Mahata, one of the doctor-directors.

�But the space was not enough for the new infrastructure, and we were missing out on a section of society who needed quality dental care at an affordable price.�

It was decided to set up the centre at a larger building on Rashbehari Avenue opposite Deshapriya Park. �We are not a business organisation and want to reach out to the community,� said Tapas Sinha, another director.

�But with costs going up, we have decided to offer dental treatment for the low income group between 9 am and 1 pm, where only Rs 50 will be required for registration and consultation with specialists. Subsequent visits for two months will be free.

�Treatment procedures, complete with modern methods like orthopantomograms and radiovisuographs, will be 40 to 60 per cent less than


Calcutta, Aug. 6: 
Three persons were lynched in two separate incidents today. While two dacoits were beaten to death in South 24-Parganas, angry villagers killed a youth in Nadia.

Eighteen-year-old Raju Sheikh was lynched to death in Chakdah today morning. Police sources said 16-year-old Halima Khatoon was going to her tutor�s residence at around 6.30 am, when Raju attacked her. He pinned her down and strangled her to death. He then buried the body in a roadside pond.

As Raju returned to his village, residents noticed that his hands and body were covered with mud. Raju was forced to a barrage of questions as kicks started raining on him. Irate villagers beat up Raju after he confessed to the crime. He died on the spot. The girl�s body was later found in a paddy field.

In another incident, police said five youths started looting passengers in a Lakshmikantapur-bound local train at Jaynagar. After completing the operation, they got down at Mathurapur. The passengers, however, raised an alarm which attracted the attention of other passengers on the platform. After a hot chase, two of the dacoits were caught and beaten to death with bamboos and iron rods.

South 24-Parganas superintendent of police Debkumar Ganguly said the youths had a criminal background and were wanted in connection with different cases. He said railway police were looking into the case as the bodies were recovered beside the railway tracks. Ganguly added that search is on for the three absconding dacoits. No arrests were, however, made till late evening today.

TMC worker killed

Tension prevailed at Sonarpur in South 24-Parganas after a TMC activist was murdered here..

Police said Niranjan Sardar was sitting in a tea kiosk with party colleagues at Gashmari when six men surrounded him and fired at him from point-blank range. Senior police officials have visited the spot.

A massive search operation has been launched to arrest the assailants.


Calcutta, Aug. 6: 
The Trinmaul Congress today accused the CPM of wresting gram panchayat and panchayat samiti boards in the districts by terrorising elected party members.

�The CPM has unleashed terror on the elected panchayat members to topple the boards in the districts,� Pankaj Banerjee, leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, alleged this afternoon.

Quick to counter the charge, CPM leaders said there was nothing undemocratic about wresting panchayat boards from Trinamul. �During a no-confidence motion tabled against the Khanakul Panchayat Samiti, eight elected Trinamul members backed us to form the board. What can we do if Trinamul members join us on their own to help us take control of the board?� asked Benode Das, the CPM�s Hooghly district secretary.

Rubbishing the claim, Banerjee said a Trinamul delegation led by Sipra Mukherjee, sabhapati of the toppled panchayat samiti board of Khanakul I in Hooghly district, will call on Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee tomorrow.


Calcutta, Aug. 6: 
A war of words between the CPM and the Forward Bloc is in the offing at tomorrow�s Left Front meeting over the expulsion of Cooch Behar MP Amar Roy Pradhan.

Pradhan was thrown out of the Forward Bloc for anti-party activities. Party state secretary Ashok Ghosh had alleged that he worked hard to ensure the defeat of official party nominees in Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar districts in the recent Assembly elections and intimated Front chairman Biman Bose of the decision.

Pradhan also wrote a letter to Bose expressing his desire to continue as a Front MP despite his expulsion. Pradhan, who has been MP from Cooch Behar since 1977, is an important functionary of the Left Front�s team.

Bose has yet to turn down Pradhan�s plea. This has angered agriculture minister and veteran Bloc leader Kamal Guha, who feels the action is aimed at splitting the Bloc.

The Front chairman has so far kept mum, saying the issue would be brought up in tomorrow�s meeting.


New Delhi, Aug. 6: 
The Supreme Court today fixed a six-month time frame for all high courts to pronounce judgment after hearing a case.

Rapping the endless delays in pronouncing judgments, a division bench of Justice K.T. Thomas and Justice R.P. Sethi said �the dismal picture depicted before us is on the basis of the fact that a few judges in some high courts, after conclusion of arguments, keep the files for periods spread over years� and the �inordinate, unexplained and negligent delay in pronouncing the judgment is alleged to have actually negatived the right of appeal�.

In separate but concurring judgments, the judges listed five rules:

Chief justices of high courts may issue directions to the registry that a column be added on the first page, separately indicating the date of reserving the judgment and the date of pronouncing it by the court officer concerned;

Chief justices of high courts should direct furnishing of a list of cases in which judgments are reserved every month;

If judgment is not pronounced within two months of the completion of arguments, the chief justice of the high court concerned shall draw the attention of the bench concerned;

If judgment is not pronounced within three months, parties to the case can file an application for early judgment;

If the judgment is not pronounced within six months, any of the parties is entitled to move an application before the chief justice of the high court to withdraw the case from the particular bench and pass it over to any other bench for fresh arguments. But it is open to the chief justice to grant the prayer or pass any other order he deems fit.

The ruling came on an appeal by some accused persons in Bihar who have been languishing in jail for some time.

The judgment in their case was not pronounced even after two years of their appeal to the high court.

Recalling that Patna High Court had �expressed its anguish� when a magistrate in Bihar took nine months to pronounce a judgment, Justice Thomas said: �Now two judges of Patna High Court have taken two years for pronouncing a judgment after concluding arguments... a glimpse of the situation persuades me to feel that what happened in this case is only the tip of the iceberg.�

Coming down heavily on delays, he said: �The magistrate who cannot find time to write a judgment ought not do any judicial work at all�.

Reiterating the saying that �justice delayed is justice denied�, Justice Sethi said: �The prevalence of such a practice and horrible situation in some of the high courts in the country has necessitated the desirability of considering the effect of such delay on the rights of the litigant public.�

The apex court took a serious view of delays in pronouncing judgment after the plight of Ajoy Ghosh, a Bengal undertrial who languished in jail for 30 years, came to light. Chief Justice A.S. Anand recently went to Tihar jail to sort out the cases of hundreds of undertrials.

People accused of petty crimes like gambling and pickpocketing languish longer in jails than their deserved term of punishment. The apex court said that in such cases, the accused should immediately be set free.


New Delhi, Aug. 6: 
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee�s party colleagues today called for a tough line against Pakistan a day after he had waxed eloquent on the need to persist with the peace process. The BJP leaders also asked the Centre to go all out to uproot terrorism from Jammu and Kashmir.

BJP spokesman V.K. Malhotra, who was forced to admit that the �Centre has not been able to contain terrorism�, said the �pro-active� approach the government was talking about should ensure that �terrorists were eliminated before any heinous incident was allowed to be committed by them�. He also urged the Centre to use international fora to create a climate of opinion to have Pakistan declared a terrorist state.

�After the kind of statements (Pakistan President Pervez) Musharraf made during his visit to India, these type of killings occur,� Malhotra said referring to the latest massacre of Hindus in the Doda region. �It is clear proof of a conspiracy hatched by Pakistan. The government should pressurise the international community to have Pakistan declared a terrorist state because we can no longer expect anything from them. Our government should make an all-out effort to root out terrorism on its own strength as well as the strength of our army and the people.�

Malhotra said �a lot of effort is needed to do this because militancy has taken deep roots over the past 10 or 15 years, partly because of local support and largely because of Pakistan�s backing. A proxy war is on, so more time will be needed to bring things under control�.

Asked to respond to BJP MP Vijay Goel�s suggestion in the Lok Sabha today where he urged the Centre to send the army to smash terrorist training camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Malhotra said: �It is for the government to think. Because, this straightaway means war between India and Pakistan. The larger issue is if war is necessary and when it is necessary. But the government should consider all this.�

Another Sangh constituent, the VHP, went several steps ahead of the BJP, holding the Centre and the Kashmir government �fully responsible� for the recent spurt in killings. The VHP gave home minister L.K. Advani a two-week deadline to straighten things out. If things did not improve, the VHP, as its president Vishnu Hari Dalmiya warned, would have to �rethink everything, including our relationship with the government�.

Addressing reporters here, Dalmiya said: �We do not blame Pakistan for whatever is happening in Jammu and Kashmir because it has openly threatened to step up militancy after the Agra summit�s failure. But if our government still did not make adequate security arrangements it is at fault.�

Vajpayee is expected to reply to the debate he had initiated on the Agra summit. Sources close to him said he was expected to reiterate that what was happening in the embattled state was �certainly not jihad�.


New Delhi, Aug. 6: 
As NDA constituents struggled to work out a code of conduct for themselves, some BJP MPs today joined the Opposition in blasting the Centre for its �failure� to check the killings in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan-backed terrorists.

BJP MPs Madan Lal Khurana, Yogi Adityanath, Vijay Goel and Vinay Katiyar demanded a statement from home minister L.K. Advani on the steps being taken to prevent the recurrence of Doda-like massacres. Advani was not present in the Lok Sabha. In the Rajya Sabha, too, the Doda mayhem dominated proceedings. The Upper House observed two minutes silence in memory of those killed in the three massacres since the Agra summit failed to come up with a joint declaration.

In the Lok Sabha, Congress leader Priya Ranjan Das Munshi spearheaded the attack on Advani. He regretted that Advani�s verbal claims were not matched by action. Innocent people were suffering because of the home minister�s inability to grasp the real situation in the state, Das Munshi said.

Das Munshi described Advani as �incapable, ineffective and insincere� and wondered whether he deserved to continue in office in the wake of the Doda massacre. �If a district cannot be protected by the home minister, how can he protect the country?� he asked.

In the Upper House, senior Congress leader Arjun Singh said the massacre showed that Jammu and Kashmir had become the �killing field of India�. �The flip-flop policy of the government, the failure of the government to grasp the real situation and its total incapacity is the reason for the suffering of the people in the state,� Singh said. Rajya Sabha chairman Krishan Kant described the Doda killings as a dastardly act.

Khurana, a former Union minister, said the Centre should act tough with Pakistan-sponsored mercenaries. �How can Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf term the terrorist violence in Jammu and Kashmir as freedom struggle when innocent men, women and children are being targeted day in and day out?� he said.

Khurana was supported by party colleagues Katiyar, Adityanath and Goel who insisted on a statement by the home minister. The Doda discussions were punctuated by sharp exchanges between the Opposition and the treasury benches for about half-an-hour with the Congress accusing BJP members of not allowing its members to speak. When the din continued, deputy speaker P.M. Sayeed adjourned the House.

In a related development, Sonia Gandhi has dispatched a three-member team to Doda to make an on-the-spot study and submit a report on the massacre.


New Delhi, Aug. 6: 
The Dalai Lama appears to have stirred up a row with his reported remark that the wishes of the Kashmiri people should be taken into account for any solution to the decades-old dispute.

At the South Asia Peace Conference in Chennai, also attended by prominent Hurriyat leaders, the Dalai Lama allegedly drew a parallel between the struggles in Tibet and Kashmir. This is the first time that the Tibetan spiritual leader has commented on Kashmir. It coincides with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf�s insistence that Kashmiris be involved in the peace process.

The Indian foreign ministry, embarrassed by the remarks from a �very good friend� who is held in �high esteem�, tried to play them down. Ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao said South Block would reserve its response till it got the entire text of the Dalai Lama�s speech.

But the BJP was not so cautious. Senior leaders expressed surprise that the Dalai Lama, who has been given shelter in India for five decades, could make statements which were embarrassing for the host nation.

�We don�t agree with the Dalai Lama�s statement. There is no comparison between Tibet and Kashmir,� BJP spokesman V.K. Malhotra said, adding: �Kashmir is legally a part of India and there is no question of right to self-determination for the people of the state.�

Malhotra said the Dalai Lama should not make such �anti-Indian statements� on Indian soil. �It is not right to treat Kashmir and Tibet on par,� he added.

This is the second time India has been embarrassed over Kashmir by remarks from persons globally considered �friends of India�. Two years ago, Nelson Mandela�s remarks at the NAM summit in Durban had evoked angry protests from the Indian leadership. The situation became so tense that it was left to Thabo Mbeki, then South African Vice-President, to apologise to Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee.

Though South Block is restrained about the Dalai Lama�s statements, the BJP has openly voiced its displeasure. What may have added fuel to the fire is that the remarks were made at a meet where Hurriyat leaders were present. Soon after, the Hurriyat invited the Dalai Lama to visit the state.

Demonstrators pelted stones on the Dalai Lama�s motorcade while he was passing through Jammu on his way to Dharamshala. Agency reports said the motorcade was mistaken for that of a Union minister�s at Digiana, about 8 km from Jammu airport. There was a bandh in the area when he was passing by.

The Dalai Lama�s Delhi office has issued a statement saying he was quoted out of context by the media. It said the Dalai Lama favoured India and Pakistan adopting the �middle way approach� to solve the Kashmir problem.

�In such situations such as Kashmir, his Holiness feels that it is important to take into consideration the sentiments and aspirations of the concerned people. Trying to find a solution otherwise would not work out,� the statement said.


New Delhi, Aug. 6: 
If it�s not property, it is the pagdhi.

At the tervein (13th day ceremony) for Phoolan Devi at her 44 Ashoka Road residence, the slain MP�s husband Umedh Singh and her youngest sister Munni almost came to blows. The dispute this time was over the pagdhi (turban) ceremony that Umedh and his family members wanted to conduct.

The brawl broke out minutes after Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh brought both Munni and Umedh before the media. Munni retracted her allegation that Umedh had a hand in Phoolan�s death. This apparent show of unity did not last long and a fleet of police personnel had to intervene to bring down rising tempers.

Munni, along with her mother Moola Devi, rejected the pagdhi ceremony. Phoolan�s youngest sister, who could be a possible candidate for the byelections to Mirzapur, claimed that it was her side of the family which had organised the function that was hijacked by Umedh. �According to our family tradition, on the 13th day we organise a havan and feed Brahmans. But Umedh wanted to sabotage the plans and called his people from Haryana to organise a pagdhi ceremony,� she said.

�Not only that, his people started shouting the slogan Umedh Singh zindabad,� added Rukmini, Phoolan�s eldest sister. The tervein ritual was reduced to a show of strength after two rounds of fights between supporters of Umedh and Munni.

The husband was well prepared today, with over 50 supporters spread across Phoolan�s residence. �We are relatives of Umedh and we have come here to express our condolence. Phoolan�s family members never came to her rescue when she needed them, when she was raped. Now all of them are clamouring over her property,� they said.

Rukmini was quick to snap back. �These are hired people called by Umedh from Haryana, and they have messed up the ceremony. Some of them are drunk,� she said.

Umedh made his presence felt as he sat amid his supporters, wearing the white turban which was the cause of the fight. He did not miss the opportunity to speak the mind of the janta, who showered him with support. �I have received pagdhi�s from places like Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. The people there want me to perform this ceremony.� He added: �I will fight the elections since I want to fulfil Phoolan�s dream of doing samaj seva. It is now in the hands of the people of Mirzapur to ask me.�

At 3.10 pm, when Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav arrived, police were ready for a third round of brawl. But this time, the strength of the two sides was measured in terms of how much time they got to spend with Mulayam.

Umedh tried to attract Mulayam�s attention by leading him to the backyard where several photographs of Phoolan were on display. He sought to show h is proximity to Mulayam by whispering a number of times into his ears.


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