State panel trial for Subhas
Police fail Nirupam popularity test
Inmates drink, hangover hits jail chief
Mischief stink in D-company death whispers
Advani holds up shield for terror troops
Code clause for Mamata return
Ally heat on syllabus tinge
Grace in TN royalty row
Delhi flies over Iraq curbs
Centre wakes up to child rights

Calcutta, Aug. 19: 
The CPM state secretariat will soon ask transport minister Subhas Chakraborty to appear before it and explain his recent controversial statements, CPM politburo member Jyoti Basu said tonight.

The former chief minister, who is Chakraborty�s mentor, said the date for the meeting will be fixed by next Friday.

�We are perturbed at the way some of Subhas� statements are either appearing in newspapers or being telecast on television channels. That is why we have decided to hear him in detail at a special secretariat meeting,� he said, adding that �Subhas has already been asked not to issue statements except those concerning his department�. Chakraborty, however, was unavailable for comment as he was not in the city.

The CPM high command has expressed its strong feelings against Chakraborty for describing Gobinda Dey and Pinaki Mitra, arrested in connection with the Salt Lake Stadium scandal, and Mohammed Taslim, alias Chunnu, in custody in connection with the Khadim�s abduction case, as social workers. Chakraborty had even criticised policemen for arresting them.

Last week, CPM state secretary Anil Biswas summoned Chakraborty at the Alimuddin Street headquarters to reprimand him for �outstepping� his limit. �A politician cannot certify a person a criminal, it is the task of the court of law,� Biswas said. He said he had informed Chakraborty about this at a one-to-meeting.

Asked if he had prevailed on the leadership for not initiating strong disciplinary action against Chakraborty, Basu evaded a straight answer and said: �Let us first hear him in detail and only then will we be able to decide the next course of action.� He, however, hastened to add: �Ours is the only party that does not allow any sort of indiscipline.�

Replying to another question, the veteran Marxist leader felt that Chakraborty should have consulted the party before issuing statements to newspapers and television channels. �Though I have little time to watch television, reports are coming to me regarding Subhas� controversial statements, being telecast almost daily,� he added.

Asked if the issue will come up for discussion at the party�s meeting beginning tomorrow, Basu said: �Why don�t you understand? The state committee has a different agenda to be discussed at its two-day session,� he said, adding: �Some guidelines for better functioning of the panchayats are to be worked out as they will go for elections in 2003.�

However, CPM sources said some state committee members, particularly those opposed to Chakraborty in North 24-Parganas, might demand a discussion on the matter.

Taking a cue from its big brother, the Forward Bloc, a constituent of the Left Front, today criticised Chakraborty for his controversial statements. �Chakraborty, being in the Cabinet, should not make any comment which goes against the government,� Debabrata Biswas, Forward Bloc general secretary, said at Karandighi.


Burdwan, Aug. 19: 
State industries minister Nirupam Sen today said the police force had failed to meet the expectations of the people.

�There has been no change in the negative mindset of the people about the police. The police had its own shortcomings,� he said.

Speaking at a function organised by the Paschimbanga Non-gazetted Police Karmachari Samity, Sen reminded the police of their responsibility, accountability and efficiency.

�Those in the police force have been employed by the government against salary. Come forward and meet the expectation of the people,� he said. Sen pointed out that in the present socio-economic backdrop, the tendency to commit crime was on the rise. The police should realise this, he said, adding that otherwise it would not be able tackle crime effectively. �Common people are suffering from insecurity. It is high time the police worked towards gaining confidence of the people,� he added.

Expressing concern over the prevailing law and order situation in the state, he asked the police to realise the socio-economic factors responsible for this. At the same time, he warned them against the desperate attitude of a section of the force. �A don�t-care attitude has pervaded a section of the police force and it is contributing a great deal to deterioration in law and order situation in the state.�

Sen said there were 61,000 policemen in the state and the Left Front government had given them the right to trade union activities. The police, as a disciplined force, should not misuse this, he said.


Calcutta, Aug. 19: 
Behrampore Central Jail superintendent Sachidulal Chakraborty was suspended today in connection with the unsavoury incident on August 15, when drunk inmates ran wild during Independence Day celebrations.

Three persons have already been suspended � jailer Kumaresh Roy, chief discipline officer Chittaranjan Roy and warder Netai Das.

Minister for jails Biswanath Chowdhury ordered Chakraborty�s suspension during a meeting with department officials this morning at Writers� Buildings.

�We felt that as superintendent of the jail, Sachidulal Chakraborty had an important role to play. He should have taken action against the illegal activities on the jail premises,� said Chowdhury.

An inquiry is also being held against Chakraborty. A team of senior department officials reached Behrampore today for that purpose.

The prisoners at Behrampore jail had organised a musical programme from 9 am on Wednesday to celebrate Independence Day. But the atmosphere was vitiated when some prisoners, making the best of bootleg liquor, got drunk. The situation soon spun out of control as many outsiders managed to enter the jail and join the prisoners.

One of the convicts was severely beaten up when he protested and had to be hospitalised in a critical condition.


Mumbai, Aug. 19: 
Police went on high alert today as the financial capital buzzed with unconfirmed reports of gangster Chhota Shakeel being shot dead in Karachi, where he was said to have been hiding with his mentor Dawood Ibrahim to evade Indian authorities.

Police commissioner M.N. Singh held a meeting with senior officers to keep the peace and prevent a gang war as the rumours circulated unabated. He ordered a strict vigil in �sensitive� pockets and asked the joint commissioners of police to visit all police stations under their jurisdiction to ensure there was no incident during the upcoming Ganapati puja.

The meeting decided to �keep a wary eye� on the movement of Dawood and rival Chhota Rajan gangs in the city and its suburbs.

The reports, in a section of the media, said Dawood and Shakeel, the second-in-command in D-company, were attacked outside Dawood�s bungalow in Karachi�s upscale Clifton neighbourhood. While Dawood reportedly escaped unhurt, Shakeel was shot in the head and killed. The reports, quoting unnamed sources, were sketchy and bare of details.

Chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said the state government was in touch with the Union home ministry and was waiting for confirmation of the reports in the media.

Minister of state for home Kripashankar Singh, however, dismissed the reports as �mere� rumours. �There is absolutely no truth in these reports,� he said, adding that the rumours were being spread to create panic in the city.

�We will find out who are behind these rumours,� Singh said.

Joint commissioner of police (crime) Bhujangrao Mohite said the police had no clue about the �so-called� attack on Dawood or Shakeel. �These reports are totally unconfirmed and creating huge confusion in the city.�

Mohite said the police were not taking any chances and were keeping �a strict watch on the situation�. He said they were concerned that the reports surfaced when the city was preparing for the annual Ganapati festival.

�There is definitely an ulterior motive if these reports turn out to be false. In that case, someone must have circulated it to create tension during the Ganapati festival,� the joint commissioner of police said.

Police sources said they had got in touch with relations of Dawood in Mumbai, but they pleaded ignorance about any attacks on him or Shakeel. �They would have been the first to know if the reports were true.�

Shakeel, a Dawood confidant, left Mumbai for Dubai in the mid-eighties after the police turned up the heat on him and eliminated several Dawood men. He moved to Karachi in the late-nineties after the Indian government put diplomatic pressure on the UAE to extradite him. Dawood, who once operated out of Dubai, had moved to Pakistan earlier, hoping for a safe haven.

Shakeel, who once had Bollywood under his thumb, is wanted in about 30 cases, including the murder of BJP MLA Ramdas Naik and the attack on former Shiv Sena mayor Milind Vaidya.

Police sources said the Centre, using diplomatic channels in Pakistan, should verify the reports and help clear the confusion. �There is no way we can cross-check these reports from Mumbai. This is something only Delhi can do.�


Chandigarh, Aug. 19: 
Home minister L.K. Advani today stopped short of declaring amnesty for security personnel fighting terrorism, but said that �relief would be provided to security forces in the Constitution so that they do not get dragged into unnecessary judicial probes and cases�.

�A draft report on the matter has already been prepared by the Union home and law ministries,� he said, hinting at a new law to protect security personnel fighting terrorism. Advani was speaking on the occasion of the Shaheed Parivar Fund function of the Hind Samachar Group of newspapers at Jalandhar.

The home minister described as �unfortunate� the plight of thousands of Punjab policemen, who have been dragged to court for alleged excesses during the terrorism era. �We will do what we can for security personnel fighting terrorism in the country. It is heart-rending to find many policemen, who fought terrorism bravely, either in jail today or fighting judicial cases,� he said.

�I compliment the state police force for eliminating militancy. Their sacrifice remains unparalleled,� he added, declaring that there was no move to grant amnesty to terrorists in the state.

Advani�s statement comes as a ray of hope to Punjab police personnel facing charges of excesses. Several policemen who had received bravery medals for fighting terrorism had threatened to return them to President K.R. Narayanan on Independence Day, but deferred their decision following assurances by the state government that their �problems would be solved soon�.

However, Punjab and Haryana High Court advocate and human rights activists Ranjan Lakhanpal said any move to grant amnesty to security personnel indulging in excesses would be contested. �The Centre can formulate a law. But that would be unconstitutional,� he said. �It cannot be retrospective. But in case it is, the move will be challenged in court,� he added. Lakhanpal is handling over 2,000 cases of excesses against policemen in Punjab.

On the Kashmir problem, the home minister said it was a �proxy war� by Pakistan. �In consultation with the Jammu and Kashmir government, we have prepared a comprehensive plan to combat militancy in the state. Our forces are on the winning spree now. It is the nation�s war and it will take some time to win,� Advani said.

The home minister said the Agra summit failed because Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf was not willing to accept India�s contention of cross-border terrorism. �Musharraf was simply not interested in solving the Kashmir issue,� Advani said, adding that the failure of the talks should not be taken as a sign of India�s weakness. �The security and integrity of the nation cannot be wished away easily. Kashmir is ours and will remain with us.�

Among those present on the occasion included Punjab Pradesh Congress chief Amarinder Singh, Union ministers Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Suresh Prabhu and Shanta Kumar, besides chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab.

Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah said India had to take a firm decision on Kashmir. Without referring to Pakistan and its involvement in terrorism in the Valley, Abdullah said the time had come to ensure strict security measures in the state. �Aaar ya paar (either this way or the other)� he said.

Abdullah welcomed the extension of the Disturbed Area Act to the Jammu region and said it was necessary to give the army and security forces a free hand in combating terrorism. �Terrorists have no religion,� he added, maintaining that human rights should not be violated in anti-militancy operations.


Digha, Aug. 19: 
BJP president Jana Krishnamurthi today said the process of Mamata Banerjee�s return to the National Democratic Alliance would begin once the code of conduct for the coalition�s present and prospective allies was put in place.

�The NDA has constituted a sub-committee, which is now drafting the norms for the allies. It will submit the code of conduct in a few weeks. Obviously, Trinamul�s return to the NDA will be considered on the basis of the norms,� Krishnamurthi said. He was attending the last day of the two-day meeting of state BJP executives here today.

�At present, the NDA does not have a code of conduct for those who want to join the alliance. Many individual MPs have expressed their wish to join. All such cases will be considered after the sub-committee submits its report,� he added.

Krishnamurthi, however, reaffirmed that the Trinamul Congress� chances of getting a berth in the Cabinet depended on the Prime Minister. �It is the prerogative of the Prime Minister. It is for him to decide whom he would like to accommodate in his Cabinet,� he clarified, when asked whether Mamata would rejoin the ministry once she returns to the NDA.

The BJP president advocated a �cooling-off period� for the breakaway NDA partners before their return. �Otherwise, a wrong signal will go to the masses, indicating that the alliance is nothing but an opportunist front,� he added. Krishnamurthi, however, could not specify how long the Trinamul would have to wait.

In Calcutta, a beaming Mamata declined to comment, saying: �Ask me about Bengal affairs or any other thing, but not this.�

Talking to reporters shortly before leaving for Delhi, Mamata said she would meet home minister L.K. Advani next week to discuss threadbare �deteriorating� law and order in Bengal.

In an attempt to make Mamata�s comeback a smooth-sailing affair, the BJP chief restrained state party leaders from making any provocative statements against Trinamul.

�In the coming two years, there will be no Assembly or parliamentary elections in Bengal. We want to utilise this two-year period to strengthen our organisation to fight the next Assembly polls on our own,� he said.

The veteran leader regretted the lack of harmony between the BJP and Trinamul in West Bengal. �There have been perfect understanding among the NDA partners in other states like Tamil Nadu and Bihar. But we lack this in West Bengal.�

But the jagged edges of the relation remained with Mamata-baiter Tapan Sikdar, while agreeing to toe the party chief�s dictum on any outburst against Trinamul, adding that he would continue to make statements on the contemporary political situation. �The Central leadership can�t stop us from expressing our feelings regarding any party in the state,� he said.


New Delhi, Aug. 19: 
National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partners seems to have joined hands with the Opposition to protest against the BJP�s attempt to �saffronise education�.

The Telugu Desam Party and the Janata Dal (United) are likely to speak out against the move in a debate on the subject in the Lok Sabha tomorrow. Human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi is scheduled to reply to the debate.

So far the debate has run along predictable lines with the Congress and the Left accusing the government of �turning institutions into fiefdoms of political patronage and distorting history to dovetail to a particular ideological strand�. Joshi and his colleagues have hit back with the same charges at the Opposition, reminding them of the patronage game they played when they were in power.

When the Congress was in power, the Centrists and the Left dug deep into institutions many of which, their pocketboroughs then, are now serving the ruling BJP.

Under attack from the Left in the Lok Sabha, Joshi sniped back with reports about �comrades in West Bengal� using Calcutta University and other prominent institutions of education as their power bases. There is really nothing new in the BJP and the Left crossing swords on the issue.

Shrugging off the Opposition�s criticism on �saffronisation of education� for the BJP may be simpler than turning a deaf ear to grumbles from within its own flock.

Notwithstanding differences, there seems a similarity in the thinking of the BJP and some of its allies. Desam chief Chandrababu Naidu has removed history as a subject in the 12th standard � his argument was much the same as Joshi�s. History should only be taught in a limited capacity, in as much as it is relevant to the students in India. The social science textbooks, being drawn up by NCERT, in consonance with the new curriculum guidelines, have pared down history to fit Joshi�s concept.


Chennai, Aug. 19: 
Tamil Nadu�s strained relations with the Centre spilled over from the political landscape to the economic sphere with the state government frowning on the mining royalty policy.

However, the Jayalalitha government�s economic activism has transcended the narrow confines of party politics, and issues have been raised on a wider government-to-government platform.

The white paper on state finances, unveiled yesterday in the Assembly, points fingers at the previous regime but it has avoided indicting the DMK by name.

The paper expresses disappointment over the Centre�s revision of royalty for Neyveli lignite, the state�s big moneyspinner. The Centre had decided in August 1990 to treat lignite on a par with coal (grade F and G) for fixing royalty.

However, as the white paper points out, periodic revision of royalty for lignite on a par with coal was not done till March. State finance minister C. Ponnaiyan said when it was revised, it was done prospectively and the Centre released an advance of Rs 250 crore towards royalty payable over the period 2001-03. As a result, Tamil Nadu has been deprived of the benefits of �retrospective increase in royalty� from 1990, amounting to Rs 541.29 crore.

The state government not only �failed� to secure retrospective revision of royalty on lignite, but also chose to draw the advance from the royalty payable by the Neyveli Lignite Corporation to meet the �ways and means crisis� in March, the paper said, without naming the erstwhile regime.

�The present government has been denied the flexibility of using the royalty receipts due in the next three years because of the advance amount drawn and spent by the previous government,� says the white paper.

However, Ponnaiyan made clear the ADMK government�s annoyance with the Centre on this issue. �We consider this to be extremely unfair. We propose to take it up very strongly with the Centre and expect a favourable response,� he said.

The paper, prepared by the state finance department headed by R. Santhanam, is aimed at evolving a consensus on tackling the financial crisis in the state by involving legislators and the people. By not naming the DMK, the Jayalalitha government is trying to keep certain issues above party politics. However, the paper does put the blame for fiscal lapses, including storage of foodgrain under PDS, on the Karunanidhi regime, again without naming it.

According to the paper, out of every rupee the government borrowed in 1999-2000, 82 paise was spent on �non-productive revenue expenditure� and only 18 paise went towards meeting development expenses.

The paper, for the first time, revealed the amount spent on subsidies � Rs 5,465 crore per annum, with food subsidy topping the bill at over Rs 1,700 crore. The loss to the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board this year due to free power supply to farmers will be Rs 3,208 crore, the paper says.


New Delhi, Aug. 19: 
It may not be as infamous as the 1991 Inder Kumar Gujral hug to Saddam Hussein, but it appears almost as bold an initiative. The Vajpayee government is planning to send a �goodwill mission� flight to Iraq this month-end in defiance of the �no-fly zone� sanction imposed by the US and Britain on Baghdad.

The �no-fly zone� was imposed soon after the Gulf War initially to safeguard the interests of the Kurds and Shiites in Iraq. Though in the beginning it had support from all the allies, over the years most have pulled out of it and now it is basically an American initiative supported only by the British. There is also a bit of ambiguity on whether this move has the sanction of the United Nations.

New Delhi�s gesture is likely to raise a few eyebrows in the West, particularly in Washington, since the Bush administration, too, is as keen on isolating Saddam as its predecessors.

India has also been critical of the selective bombings in Iraq by the US and Britain and described them as unilateral actions not sanctioned by the UN.

Foreign minister Jaswant Singh told Parliament that India has repeatedly criticised the sanctions imposed on Iraq.

Though the flight�s exact date is not yet final, indications suggest that the aircraft carrying medicines and other essential items for the �innocent Iraqis suffering under the American-British� sanctions will leave at the end of the monsoon session of Parliament, scheduled to get over by the end of this month.

South Block officials have also made it clear that India will not seek the UN�s permission for the �goodwill mission� flight, but merely inform it of its intention. Some former allies of the US from the Gulf War period, namely France, have already violated the �no-fly zone� sanctions by sending their aircraft with medicines and doctors to Baghdad. Jordan, the first country to defy the sanctions, encouraged other countries like Russia over the past few months to take similar initiatives.

On the face of it, the proposed Indian move appears to be part of New Delhi�s policy to give top priority to energy security. India buys 250 million barrels of oil from Iraq annually. But over the past few months, the two sides have tried to work out an arrangement in which India will be supplied Iraqi oil at a much lower rate than the prevailing market price. In exchange, New Delhi was supposed to send wheat to Iraq. But there were reports suggesting that Baghdad had rejected the �low-quality� wheat. The �goodwill mission� aircraft may help in smoothening the ruffled Iraqi feathers.

In the past India and Iraq have had close relations, but since Baghdad�s decision to invade Kuwait, which was followed by the Gulf War in 1991, New Delhi has made a conscious effort to downplay its bilateral ties. This became more than necessary because Gujral as India�s foreign minister had put the country in a spot by his decision to go Baghdad and hug Saddam at a time when the international opinion was fast turning against Iraq.

The subsequent years witnessed different regimes in India, making a conscious attempt to distance itself from Baghdad.

But the BJP-led coalition in New Delhi has been trying since 1998 to renew its ties with many of India�s traditional friends. Iraq happens to be one of them.

As part of this policy, the former minister of state for foreign affairs Ajit Kumar Panja led the first high political-level delegation to Iraq last summer.

It was followed by a state visit by the Iraqi number two and Vice-President Taha Yasseen Ramadhan to India in October last year. The two sides had since made attempts to regularise their contacts in both the political and economic spheres.


New Delhi, Aug. 19: 
It has taken the government around a decade to implement a UN convention on the rights of the child.

Propelling itself into action, the human resources development ministry has summoned the first meeting of the consultative committee of Parliament to discuss the setting up of the National Commission for Children.

However, it�s nearly three years since human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi announced the setting up of the commission on Children�s Day 1998.

�We are moving from charity to giving children their rights,� said a ministry official. A draft Cabinet note on the Bill has been prepared and circulated among the ministries concerned and departments, seeking their views. The law ministry has vetted and returned it.

Non-governmental organisations working with disadvantaged children are hopeful the NCC, when in place, will be able to give children�s rights the required teeth. �We are hopeful because NGOs from the very beginning have been involved in the exercise of setting up the NCC, unlike in the case of the National Commission for Women,� said Junaid Khan of Prayas, an NGO working with children.

The Centre had to ward off severe criticism from women�s organisations which were left out in the cold when the National Commission for Women was being set up. The government this time, while setting up the NCC, seems to have taken precautions against such attacks from NGOs.

One of the main functions of the NCC will be to ensure compliance with existing laws for children, to monitor all sectoral policies, welfare programmes and other pro-active intervention schemes for children. It will also carry out inquiries into complaints of violation of rights of children and negligence in preventing such violations by a public servant. Besides, it will pay regular visits to jails, lock-ups and other institutions where children are detained.

There is an added emphasis on the right of the girl child. The NCC�s jurisdiction will also cover her rights within her family.

Activists running 24-hour helpline services for children say incidents of child abuse are on the rise. �We are flooded with calls from children from all sections of the society seeking help and advice in difficult situations,� says an activist of Butterfly, a children�s NGO.

The NCC, in its guidelines, says it will �initiate and encourage study, research and documentation on child abuse and offences committed against the child and make appropriate recommendations to develop a child-friendly jurisprudence�. In case of complaints, the NCC will have the power to detain any person and examine him, call for documents or records relevant to the incident.


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