Atal-stung Farooq threatens to quit NDA
Joshi faces MP heat on education
DMK warned on �clout� misuse
Congress last nail on ties with Trinamul
Sangh parivar pushes cow urine �miracle�
Worker murder sparks mill tension
Varsity girls face abuse 5 times a day
Waltzing Laloo
A lion too many in Punjab safari

New Delhi, Aug. 26: 
National Conference leader and Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah�s threat to quit the National Democratic Alliance is likely to cast its shadow over the NDA meeting convened here tomorrow by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The meeting is scheduled to formalise the reinduction of the Trinamul Congress and Pattali Makkal Katchi into the NDA and take up the fresh Tehelka disclosures.

Abdullah, a staunch supporter of the Prime Minister, today threatened to pull out of the NDA in protest against Vajpayee�s and home minister L.K. Advani�s reported statements casting doubts over the fairness of elections held in Jammu and Kashmir. Abdullah said in Jammu that �there is no business (for the National Conference) to be in the NDA� after the statements which implied that the National Conference had rigged the elections.

The Prime Minister, who was in Lucknow, however, denied the allegation, saying he did not mean the elections held under the National Conference dispensation. All he had said was that the Election Commission had forwarded some complaints and that the next polls would be free and fair, Vajpayee clarified.

The Prime Minister, at the same time, conveyed the impression that he was not worried over Abdullah�s threat. He said: �Whether they want to stay in the NDA or not they will have to decide. We would like them to continue.� The Prime Minister said he would take up the matter with Abdullah in Delhi. On Samata Party leader George Fernandes� possible return to the Cabinet, Vajpayee said: �George himself is not interested in his induction till a probe into the matter is over.�

Elections are due in Jammu and Kashmir next year and the National Conference leader is miffed at the home minister for proposing amnesty to security forces fighting insurgency. The government was forced to backtrack following opposition from Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and the human rights groups.

Talking to reporters in Jammu, Farooq objected to the Prime Minister�s Independence Day speech promising �free and fair elections� in the state. A few days ago, Advani echoed similar sentiments saying doubts had been raised about the elections held to the Assembly with the exception of the one held when Morarji Desai was Prime Minister.

�Had other governments at Centre been crooks, who could not intervene in case of rigging? What the two leaders mean by their statements? Were all elections rigged? Was there no fairness?� the chief minister asked, adding: �They have no business to say so. They should leave Jammu and Kashmir and concentrate on polls in others states.�

Sources said Abdullah was unlikely to precipitate a crisis by quitting the NDA and that Vajpayee would be able to pacify him. Though Trinamul and the PMK will be formally reinducted into the NDA, they may have to wait till October to get ministerial berths, sources said. Vajpayee had planned a Cabinet reshuffle on September 10, which has been deferred to October due to pressures from alliance partners.

The Prime Minister�s problem will be to find suitable berths for a number of aspirants and enforcing a code of conduct.

While Fernandes wants the railway ministry to be given to Mamata, his colleague Nitish Kumar would not not like to move out of railways. If Mamata volunteers to stay out of the Cabinet to show that she is not power hungry, it may come as a major relief to Vajpayee.


New Delhi, Aug. 26: 
For human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi, there is no respite from the heat turned on him by the Opposition within and outside Parliament. Within a week of the debate on saffronisation of education, some MPs, cutting across parties, met the HRD minister today to caution him on the issue.

The Parliamentary Forum, set up at the initiative of Congress MP Eduardo Faleiro, flung charges at Joshi from sneaking in a �communal agenda� in textbooks to ignoring the Education Fundamental Right Bill, pending for a long time.

�It is not that we are just raising the issues of saffronisation. We are equally concerned about the Education Fundamental Right Bill which the government is showing no signs of bringing in,� the Congress legislator said at a news conference.

The Forum has rejected a recommendation by a sub-committee of the Prime Minister�s council on trade and industry for privatisation of education.

�The principle of �user pays�, when applied to the field of education, has grave implications for national development and for the growth of a modern democratic society,� the Congress MP said.

Faleiro charged Joshi with ignoring the recommendations of the steering committee set up in 1993 to look into the factual distortions of history. The committee had then highlighted gross misrepresentations of the subject in textbooks in several BJP-run states.

�Steps are yet to be taken to remove these distortions,� he added.

Faleiro also criticised the government for scapping 27 scholarships instituted by the Indian Council for Social Science Research for research on Indo-Pak relations.

�The scholarships have been scrapped without any valid reason,� he stressed, adding that the decision was mischievous in view of the relations between the two countries.

Sapru House row

Former president of the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) Harcharan Singh Josh today accused Union urban affairs minister Jagmohan of saffronising Sapru House at the behest of the RSS, reports PTI.

�Like other institutions, Jagmohan is trying to do bhagwakaran (saffronisation) of the ICWA and the Sapru House premise at the behest of the RSS,� said Josh, who was unceremoniously removed as the ICWA president.

�They had saffronised the ICCR, ICSSR, ICHR, Indira Gandhi Art Centre and now the RSS was falling on the ICWA,� Josh alleged.


Chennai, Aug. 26: 
In what appeared to be an ingenious mix of politics and economics, chief minister Jayalalitha and state finance minister C. Ponnaiyan took the DMK to task for not putting its �ministerial clout to good use�.

Intervening in the budget debate, Jayalalitha said: �Today the DMK is able to get anything done by the Centre � be it removing the Governor or asking for police officials� transfer.� She asked the DMK: �Instead, why don�t you use your influence to get more Central funds for Tamil Nadu, which it badly needs?�

Ponnaiyan, on his part, not only blamed the DMK regime for the financial crisis in Tamil Nadu, but criticised the Centre�s �anti-people policies�. Wondering why the DMK, as part of the NDA, is doing precious little to get Central aid, Ponnaiyan said the party should redress imbalances in resource transfer and fight �injustice� meted out to Tamil Nadu, rather than �use your power to throw out a popularly elected regime�. The ADMK has warned the DMK against using its �ministerial clout� in New Delhi to destabilise a popularly elected government.

Ponnaiyan accused a leading cement producer in Tamil Nadu, believed to be close to a senior DMK leader, of forming a cartel that was responsible for a hike in cement prices and crippling the construction industry. He said the hike had robbed the exchequer of Rs 1,720 crore, with the cartel leader alone, after having bought four cement units in Andhra Pradesh, �swindling Rs 860 crore�.

�We want to bring this daylight robbery to the notice of the Centre and urge it to restore the rule that will enable the Government of India to regulate the cement price,� he said.

Jayalalitha said the previous regime had �deliberately rendered sick� the state-owned Tamil Nadu Cements Limited because it owned �thousands of acres of limestone-bearing lands�.

Whether it was the Centre trying to force states to comply with the uniform floor rates of sales tax by August 31, after which it has threatened to cut off aid, or asking states to usher in the �value-added tax� system from April 1, 2002, Ponnaiyan said the coalition at the Centre would be responsible for their adverse impact.

While Ponnaiyan said that �several other scams� under the previous regime were being probed, the Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) took on the DMK on the issue of Centre-state relations. TMC leader S.R. Balasubramoniyan asked how could the DMK, which had been campaigning for scrapping Article 356 of the Constitution, now ask for its imposition to dismiss the Jayalalitha government.

Opposition leader K. Anbazhagan, on his part, said that the DMK was consistent in opposing Article 356. He said the draconian section cannot be scrapped without a consensus among political parties, including the Congress.


Calcutta, Aug. 26: 
As Mamata Banerjee gets ready to join the NDA coalition, the Congress today decided to snap its relations with the Trinamul Congress in all the elected bodies in the state.

�The Congress has already withdrawn its support from the Trinamul Congress in Calcutta Municipal Corporation and will do so in other municipalities and panchayats across the state,� PCC president Pranab Mukherjee said here. He held Mamata responsible for the defection of Congress councillors to the Trinamul Congress.

�We had helped Trinamul form the civic board here by asking our councillors to abstain from voting during mayor�s election. Today, we have only seven councillors and if they withdraw support from Trinamul, it matters little since the party has the requisite majority. But we have withdrawn support from Trinamul board to register our protest against Mamata�s so-called value-based politics,� he added.

Mukherjee, who presided over a training camp here with Congress general secretary Chandan Bagchi, said leaders in districts had been asked to ensure that party representatives do not have any truck with the Trinamul in elected bodies.

Asked if this would help the CPM-led Front gain control of elected bodies, the PCC leader quipped: �We are helpless since it will be unethical on our part to join forces with the Trinamul after it returns to the BJP-led coalition.�

He was, however, unable to provide details about the elected bodies in which the Congress and Trinamul had a tie-up.

Mukherjee also ruled out the possibility of launching a joint campaign with the Trinamul against the ruling CPM on the law and order situation. �We have decided to draw up an agitational programme independently in the next PCC executive committee meeting against the CPM,� he said. �A rejuvenated Congress can afford to fight the Marxists on its own,� he added.

Reacting to Mukherjee�s observation, leader of the Opposition in the Assembly and Trinamul MLA Pankaj Banerjee said: �This is nothing but Congress� gameplan to get closer to the CPM in the coming days. We will not be surprised if the party ties up with the CPM in the coming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.�

Congress leaders were curious about Mamata�s much-talked about dinner meeting with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee tomorrow.

The issue cropped up in the party�s two-day training camp which concluded this afternoon.


Ahmedabad, Aug. 26: 
Vidhyaben Mehta had lost all hope after a cancer surgeon told her she wouldn�t survive more than two years. The 65-year-old, diagnosed with a malignant chest tumour, was almost bed-ridden with pain.

Today, four years on, that doctor has been proved wrong. Vidhyaben has recovered much of her strength and is a regular visitor to the nearby temple. Gone is the pain that wracked her body. The tumour, though not fully cured, is gradually healing. The secret of her miracle? Cow�s urine! For the last three years, Vidhyaben has been taking Kamdhenu Aark, a medicine made of cow�s urine.

She isn�t the only one to have benefited. Jayendra Thakkar, who had acute diabetes, cured himself with a similar medicine made of cow�s urine, which also seems to have something for those who are obese. Kaushik Mehta, who tried out the miracle potion, claims to have shed much of his flab ever since he started taking it.

The use of cow�s urine is being promoted by the Gujarat government. Gujarat is one of the three states in the country to have set up a Gau Seva Ayog (Cow Protection Commission) under the home ministry. The inspiration came from the RSS headquarters in Nagpur, where a team of five scientists is reportedly studying medicinal uses of cow�s urine and cow-dung to promote naturopathy.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which was instrumental in getting the Cow Protection Commission set up after its eighth Dharam Sansad held three years ago in the city, lost no time in marketing cow�s urine. An outlet was opened at the VHP headquarters to sell the stuff.

The Ayog has given financial grant to three institutions in the state which run cow shelters to conduct research and manufacture medicine from cow�s urine, milk and dung. The Gujarat University and the Jamnagar-based Ayurvedic College have been assigned similar projects.

Prof. Anil Gupta, of the Indian Institute of Management, has already completed a documentation project on �Cow Urine and Cow dung�. In the 78-page report, Gupta has mentioned various uses of cow�s urine and the diseases it can cure. As of now, 40-odd medicines are being manufactured for 108 diseases.

Dr B.N. Dave, a medical officer working with the Ayog, claims that the medicines the three institutions are working on would be effective in treating skin diseases, cancer, kidney ailments, cough, cold, jaundice, diabetes, constipation, piles, obesity and heart problems.

Shravan Vaidya, a leading ayurvedic doctor, says cow�s urine is �useful� for those suffering from cough and cold, jaundice, skin diseases and constipation, but cautions against trying out the medicine during summer. Cow�s urine, he says, generates excessive heat in the body which could have an adverse effect.

Gau Seva Ayog Chairman Chinubhai Patel disagrees. He says there are about 200 outlets in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, where people line up to take cow�s urine every day of the year, but concedes that �marketing of the cow project is weak�.

�We will have to do something about it. To begin with, the Ayog is likely to hire experts to suggest a marketing strategy and (ways of) packaging the medicine, which is very essential in this age of globalisation,� Patel says.

Ayog officials said the commission would apply for licences to sell the medicines after the experimentation is complete and the results documented.

But it will take time, they said, before the Ayog gets permission to market the medicines which are yet to be recognised as therapy, an essential condition for being listed by the Drug Control Authority. The Ayog also plans to start an aggressive campaign to seek a ban on the use of pesticides and chemical-based fertilisers in farming.

With an annual budget of Rs 2.30 crore, the Ayog hopes to come up with an alternative manure made of cow�s urine, dung and butter milk. The experiment, says Patel, is on. So is the hope of ushering in a �cow dung and urine revolution�.


Calcutta, Aug. 26: 
A Congress worker was shot dead by unidentified persons in front of the gate of Birla jute mill this morning in Birlapur in South 24-Parganas, about 30 km from the city.

Police have launched a hunt for the killers. RAF jawans are patrolling the area where a bandh-like situation prevails. Around 6 am, when Sheikh Rashid was on his way to the mill, where he was employed, was stopped a few yards away from the gate by unidentified persons. They then pumped bullets into his forehead and chest from close-range. After attacking Rashid, the assailants fled the area. As the news of the killing spread, shopkeepers downed shutters and buses went off the roads.

�Rashid has been working in the mill for more than 10 years. He was a fitter. We are shocked at the gruesome killing,� K.N. Jaiswal, assistant vice-president ( personnel and administration) of the mill said. Rashid is survived by wife and two sons.

Rashid�s brother, Sheikh Subed Ali, said: �Rashid had been targeted since July 23 when he protested against criminal activities in the area. Criminals in the area have the backing of Trinamul. On July 23, Trinamul workers beat Rashid up and threatened to kill him. We lodged a complaint with Nodakhali police station but they did not take any action. Yesterday, the gang members came to the area and fired at him. But he escaped unhurt. However, a party worker was injured in the firing.�

A large contingent of police, led by Dilip Banerjee, DSP, has reached Nodakhali. �The incident took place when workers were joining the first shift. According to Manisha Begum, wife of Rashid, five persons attacked him. It appears that it was a planned murder. We have launched a search for the people who have been named in the FIR,� Banerjee said.

Rashid, a nephew of Congress leader Sheikh Kalam, had contested the last Assembly elections on Nationalist Congress Party ticket. Nodakhali falls in the Assembly segment of Satgachia, Jyoti Basu�s constituency.


Lucknow, Aug. 26: 
Cases of sexual harassment and eve-teasing against girl students in Lucknow University are on the rise.

According to a study conducted by the women�s studies department of the University, on an average each girl student on the campus is subjected to some form of sexual harassment at least five times a day. The findings have woken the university authorities from its slumber to take action against eve-teasers. With three cases being reported on Saturday, the Lucknow University board has decided to take the help of police to put an end to the menace.

Calling the trend on the campus �retrogressive, embarrassing and humiliating�, the authorities said that policewomen in plainclothes would be deployed to keep an eye on eve-teasers and take action against them. �Women constables have to be deployed as soon as possible,�� a board member said, adding, �The morale of girl students has hit an all-time low.��.

The member said it was disturbing that girl students who were subjected to harassment do not raise their voice but suffer in silence. According to the study, not only has the number of sexual harassment cases gone up in the last couple of years, but girl students are now being �advised� by police, parents and teachers to keep their mouth shut.

Girl students have their reasons for not speaking out against the harassment. Pritha Kumar, a student, said: �The last time a girl raised her voice against sexual harassment, she was locked inside a running bus and molested. Those responsible for the humiliation are roaming around freely. The girl, on the other hand, has been forced to leave the college.�

According to Ritika Verma, another student, cases of eve-teasing in canteens, classrooms and buses have gone up. However, she adds that it is prudent to keep quiet about it. �In many cases retaliation by boys against those who have refused to give in has been violent,�� Ritika said. According to her, three days ago a girl student who retaliated by throwing a bottle of coke at an eve-teaser was surrounded by boys who encouraged the offender to rip off her clothes. �She escaped the humiliation by approaching the nearest police post,� Ritika added.

Former vice-chancellor Roop Rekha Verma said sexual harassment on the campus has become a �routine feature��. She blamed it on the patronage extended by politicians to students. She also holds the �saffronisation�� of education responsible for the �feudalism�� and �male chauvinism� evident on the campus.

A teacher, Nishi Pandey, who, too, was a victim of sexual harassment, believes in training girl students to defend themselves. She recommends karate classes and psychology lessons as self-defence methods. But there are no takers for her tit-for-tat answer.

Girl students have their reasons for not retaliating. As Anjali says, �Retaliation is okay as long as we are in the college, but who will protect us once we leave the campus.�� Moreover, she says, teachers, parents and police want to avoid rubbing male students the wrong way because they enjoy political patronage.


Patna, Aug. 26: 
Strobe-lights began whirling as denim-clad singers of a music band danced to the tune of a Bollywood number. With the lilting music, a middle-aged man in a white kurta and pyjamas kept swinging.

A modest crowd watched the man more than they listened to the song and when he stopped, it bayed: �Once more! Please.�

It was 8 pm yesterday. And the man in question is none other than RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav. Taking a break from the hectic tours to the troubled terrains of Jehanabad, the image of blood-spattered Dalit children still fresh, and also from his favourite pastime of media bashing, Laloo came to the 15th anniversary bash of a newspaper house.

Laloo�s has always been a blow-hot, blow-cold relationship with the media. But yesterday, his inhibitions were thrown to the wind and the exuberant RJD chief addressed the crowd, showered blessings to the newspaper house ( despite its frequent uncharitable RJD stories) and when invited by the singers to the dais, did a jig. His usual wit flowed. �I am always nervy about the English press. The English newspapers often use very difficult expressions. I think they sometimes write meanings within brackets,� he said.

But he hasn�t always been this charitable. Last week, at a programme organised by some women journalists, he had blamed the media, especially male journalists, for painting Bihar in black. �Let us hope for the best from their women counterparts,� he had said.

At a dinner hosted by a group of industrialists, early this month, he had picked up a fight with the correspondent of a Delhi-based newspaper.


Dera Bassi (Punjab), Aug. 26: 
First, it was the fear of diminishing numbers. Now, it is the problem of plenty.

Earlier this year, it was deaths that had the authorities at the Chhatbir safari, Asia�s largest lion sanctuary, on the tenterhooks. Now the rising count of the king of the jungle is worrying them.

While the death of a Royal Bengal Tiger yesterday due to paralysis in its spinal cord has failed to evoke any response from the authorities other that the oft-repeated �the cat was suffering for some time now and had been segregated from other tigers�, it is the rising count of lions that is keeping them busy. The sanctuary, which is getting cramped for lions, saw the birth of two male cubs on Independence Day.

The 27-acre safari, created in 1979 to house 35 lions, has 73 today, making it difficult for the animals to move around freely. Even the food provided to them has not been found adequate leading to malnourishment in some lions. A trip to the safari revealed that many of the lions were either frail or had injuries on their bodies which were yet to be treated.

Chief wildlife warden R.K. Luna said the authorities were considering vasectomy operations to keep the count down. �We had resorted to vasectomy operation earlier and are considering the option again,� he said.

Sanctuary authorities said a lioness gives birth to five cubs every 18 months, leading to overcrowding. There are, however, no takers for the cubs from other zoos. �We have offered the cubs, but nobody wants them as they are hybrids and not the pure Asiatic variety,� an official said.

With lioness continuing to breed every year during November-December, the authorities are finding it difficult to keep the count. �It is difficult to keep track of lions and cubs every now and then. Some cubs may have even been killed by lions as the stronger ones keep stalking them. But the last time when the weeds needed to be cleared, we found that there were 52 lions and 21 cubs,� an official said.

According to Luna, keeping count of lions is a difficult task. �First of all the area is very small compared to the number of lions. Second, using colour dyes to keep track of lions is banned,� he added. With no scientific method evolved in counting lions at the safari, even deaths go unnoticed for months. Recently, the discovery of a lion skeleton proved that no one knew about the death.

Failure to keep a proper count has also added to the fears of those working in proximity of lions. During a recent exercise to clear weeds inside the sanctuary, workers were shocked to find that a lioness and a cub had not been pushed into the special enclosure for the purpose. �It was very scary and we were lucky this time to have a person with a tranquilliser gun. Anything could have happened,� a worker said.

The authorities have sought aid from the government to keep lions not only well fed but to increase the zoo staff. �The meat that is thrown into the food enclosure is grabbed by healthy lions, leaving the small and weak ones famished,�� an official said.


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