Buddha sees terror rise on eastern front
Power units in panic mode
Doctor by day, dacoit at night
Blaze drill for Howrah highrises
Return ticket for a ride together
Stone-age politics storms Mumbai
Home truce for war outside
Braveheart Left keeps options open
Party voice faces Laloo gag
Pester power in cheeky ads perturbs grown-ups

Calcutta, June 13: 
While the military de-escalation process has begun on the western front, the terror threat in the eastern border is on the upswing, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said in the Assembly today.

Replying to a debate on grants for the police department, Bhattacharjee, who also holds the home (police) portfolio, said the threat on the eastern border was not military but in the form of subversive activities. �We have received information in this regard from Delhi as well. The state police have increased vigil and all possible measures are being taken.�

The chief minister denied Opposition charges that the police had failed to check terrorist activities. �Since 1993, there have been 20 anti-national incidents in which 103 persons were arrested. This includes the arrests of those involved in transferring classified documents on Orissa�s Chandipur missile testing range. They are now serving life sentences,� he said.

The police have increased vigil on the activities of three organisations � the Kamatapuri People�s Party, the Kamatapur Liberation Organisation and the People�s War Group. The Kamatapuri rebels are not considered political rivals though at one time they had sided with the Trinamul Congress, Bhattacharjee said amid protests by Trinamul members.

�A total of 140 militants has been arrested. But the problem is that they flee across the border. We are in touch with Delhi on this score,� he said.

The chief minister said 260 PWG activists were arrested from Midnapore while 186 were apprehended from Bankura. �We have done this despite being handicapped by inadequate number of men and vehicles in the districts. The Centre has been helping us with intelligence and firepower. I have been in contact with Union home minister L.K. Advani. We have received assistance worth Rs 64.47 crore and another Rs 56 crore will be provided for toning up the intelligence network and for procuring equipment.�

The police minister also denied that the amount of Rs 1,063 crore allocated this year to the department � a 10 per cent increase from last year � was drawn from funds for agriculture, health and education. �It has never been the Left Front�s policy to give attention to the police budget by neglecting the other important departments.�

Requesting Opposition leader Pankaj Banerjee to check his facts, Bhattacharjee said the appointments of DGs, ADGs and DIGs were in accordance with the cadre strength and in consultation with the Central home department. �These appointments are not according to our whims and fancies.�

Rubbishing Trinamul member Nirbed Roy�s charge that the state had neglected Amnesty International�s reports on human rights violations by the police, Bhattacharjee said these reports were a �bunch of nasty papers for which I have no time�.

The administration and the police department consider the views of the National Human Rights Commission and the Supreme Court important and hence act accordingly, he added.

The chief minister said to overcome the lacunae in forensic investigations, the police department had created 32 new posts. He added that the department was also considering ways and means for rapid modernisation.

Pointing out that action was being taken against criminals from the ruling party like CPM functionary Dulal Banerjee, Bhattacharjee asked the Opposition members if they could imagine such a move by the Congress government.


Asansol, June 13: 
An electricity crisis seems imminent with Citu activists pledging to continue the blockade of coal supplies even as the agency controlling state-run plants decided to reduce power generation.

�We are aware that coals from Eastern Coalfields Ltd feed the power plants. But if the state plunges into darkness, ECL will be held responsible. Whatever the outcome and whoever appeals, we shall continue the blockade till ECL authorities withdraw the decision to close the Shamla mine,� said Citu leader and former MP Haradhan Roy while rejecting power minister Mrinal Banerjee�s appeal.

Hundreds of Citu workers also blocked rail tracks, preventing four rakes of coal meant for Power Development Corporation Limited, the Tata industries and Tamil Nadu State Electricity Board from moving.

Citu supporters blocked coal despatches from four collieries since Monday to protest against the closure of the Shamla mine here. The four collieries � Pandabeswar, Janjhra, Natunhat and Madaibani � supply coal to all the major thermal plants in the state.

Power Development Corporation Limited, the agency that controls state-run power plants, today decided to reduce electricity generation at Bakreshwar and Bandel plants if normal coal supply did not resume in the next three or four days.

The corporation�s managing director, Birenjit Pal, said attempts were on to organise an even distribution of coal from its captive Bengal-Emta mine at Raniganj.

�The Bakreshwar and Bandel plants will be mainly affected where ECL supplies 50 to 75 per cent of the coal. We have decided that once the buffer stock of coal is depleted in the next three or four days, we will cut down on generation and restrict supply,� said Pal.

Authorities at the Durgapur Projects Limited today told the power minister that the plant�s stock of coal was virtually nil and that generation would be stopped if coal was not supplied within 24 hours.

District magistrate Manoj Agarwal will shortly convene a meeting with Citu leaders and the ECL management at Asansol.

Additional district magistrate Manish Jain will preside over the discussion to find ways and means to lift the blockade.


Calcutta, June 13: 
Police have launched a manhunt for a doctor who is allegedly involved in a dacoity and a murder.

Absconding Kalyan Krishna Das Adhikari�s plea for anticipatory bail was rejected today by the Calcutta High Court.

Opposing the bail, state counsel S.N.S. Alquadri said the homeopath of Ramnagar near Digha was a doctor by day and a criminal at night.

Adhikari�s alleged Jekyll-and-Hyde identity was unmasked following a dacoity on May 15. The dacoits looted gold jewellery worth Rs 3 lakh and Rs 20,000 in cash from the house of Ranjit Dubey, who was killed when he resisted them.

Two persons were arrested in this connection after raids in several places. Both confessed that they worked under Adhikari. In a statement, they added that the doctor conducted his nocturnal activities in utmost secrecy.

Following the confession, the police raided the house of the homeopath, who fled before he could be arrested. The police recovered some jewellery and Rs 17,000 in cash which were looted from Dubey�s house.

According to local residents, Adhikari was a well-known medical practitioner in the area.

Neighbours had resisted the raid on the doctor�s house, saying there was a �conspiracy� against him. However, they changed their minds when a part of the loot was seized.


Calcutta, June 13: 
In the wake of rampant flouting of fire safety norms, highrises in Howrah town and its adjacent areas will soon be put under the scanner of the civic body and the fire brigade. Senior officials of the Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC) have expressed concern over highrise residents� indifference to fire safety rules.

There are nearly 500 highrises in the town, and many more are coming up in Howrah to accommodate the rising population. �We are alarmed at the construction boom, but our problem is compounded by highrise residents� scant regard to fire safety norms. What is surprising is that they never seek to implement the guidelines issued by the fire brigade,� said Basudeb Mukherjee, chief architect and city planner.

Some of the residents admitted that they are indifferent to fire-safety rules. �We know that if a fire breaks out in our building, we will probably lose our lives. Even the minimum safety rules are not being followed here. All of us are banking on the fire brigade,� said Amitava Dasgupta, of central Howrah.

Fire brigade officials said there are specific norms for highrises, offices of the state and Central government and other buildings. �The condition of some of the buildings are so pathetic that an accident is only waiting to happen. Yet, our pleas that occupiers adhere to fire safety rules have fallen on deaf ears,� said a senior fire brigade officer at Shibpur.

Officials added that these buildings are conspicuous by the absence of an adequate number of buckets, extinguishers and other essential equipment. �We will seek help from the civic body on this score,� said another official.

In the coming weeks, the authorities will visit several highrises and pull up errant apartment-owners. Sources said a list of highrises flouting fire safety rules have been drawn up for the drive.

Dilip Sen, acting mayor, HMC, also feels that residents of highrises do not follow the advice of the fire brigade. �They should press for the basic requirements for their own safety. Why do we have to remind them of the essential equipment? The cooperatives should get together on this aspect and make sure that their buildings are safe,� said Sen.

Previous incidents of fire had revealed that the civic authorities wake up to the need for stringent application much after the incident. Even then, after feeble attempts to enforce the rules, matters lapse into the earlier state of negligence.

�We are aware of the lapses,� Dasgupta admitted. �But now we shall try to make amends.�


Calcutta, June 13: 
Metro Railway is planning to reach out to daily passengers in a big way � by hiking concessional rates. According to senior officials of the underground railways, the move is triggered by continuous loss of passengers � around 2,000 every month since the fare hike in October 2001.

A proposal for raising the concession for long-term ticket-holders to the range of 25 per cent to 30 per cent has been forwarded from the Metro Rail Bhavan on Chowringhee to Rail Bhavan in the Capital. At present, the concession rates are eight per cent and 16.67 per cent for 30 and 90-day ticket holders � as opposed to around 75 per cent on local trains. On an average, two lakh passengers take the Tube every day and long-duration tickets account for around 20 per cent of the revenue. This is expected to rise to 35 per cent once the concessions come into effect.

Vinod Kumar, general manager, Metro Railway, was tight-lipped about the proposal. �The ministry has the final word on fares and so we can�t comment on this,� he said. Kumar, however, indicated that a slash in monthly and quarterly tickets might help in effecting �a U-turn of passengers� back towards the Tube and help in reducing losses.

�We had recorded more than a 15 per cent rise in commuters in the first half of 2001-02, but the rate dropped following the fare hike. Compared to the passenger growth rate of around 15 per cent in 2000-01 over the previous year, last year saw a below-10 per cent growth,� added Kumar.

Despite exploring other avenues like commercial utilisation of available space on the premises and allowing billboards over stations to augment income, the annual net loss figure for the Metro authorities in the last three years has hovered around Rs 50 crore.

�Last year, the income from these non-ticket sources was to the tune of Rs 5 lakh and we are not expecting any significant rise under this head in the current year. Instead, we are concentrating on property development to generate revenues and meet losses,� clarified Kumar.

RITES (Rail India Techno Economic Services) had recently conducted a study on commercial utilisation of space available with Metro Railway. The government body has also studied the possible participation of the private sector in property development over Metro stations.

�We are studying their proposal and we will float a tender in a month�s time inviting bids from private firms, who would develop property, then own it for a while and return it to the Metro Railway after a fixed period,� said Kumar.

Along with the move to clear up the financial mess, the Metro authorities are also drawing up plans to offer better services to commuters. �Various measures for higher passenger comfort like increasing the number of escalators at stations, installing water coolers and television sets on every station and improving seating arrangements for the elderly top our agenda. We are also planning to increase the frequency of trains during peak hours,� said Kumar.


Mumbai, June 13: 
The Shiv Sena had egg on its face today as the Democratic Front government in Maharashtra, led by chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, won the confidence motion by 10 votes.

The ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party coalition bagged 143 votes, while 133 legislators voted against the motion.

The ruling coalition got a boost this morning when Speaker Arun Gujarathi disqualified seven MLAs who had crossed over to the Sena-BJP combine. The disqualified legislators have moved the high court against the decision.

Five members of the Peasants and Workers Party, who had withdrawn support to the ruling coalition precipitating the current crisis, abstained from voting.

The Speaker, however, did not take any decision on Padmakar Walvi, the Congress MLA who made a dramatic return to his party yesterday, claiming he had been �kidnapped� by the Sena-BJP. Walvi has filed a complaint with police against Sena and BJP leaders.

With 12 MLAs not voting, the Democratic Front needed only 139 votes in the 288-member House to win the trust motion. It managed 143.

As soon as the results were declared, there was a tussle between Congress-NCP supporters and Shiv Sena activists who had gathered outside the Assembly and the Mantralaya. As Congress and NCP supporters started celebrating their victory, Sena workers attacked them.

Sena men also created trouble at the residence of their own leader, Narayan Rane, who had initiated the attempt to topple the government. They pelted stones at his home near the Assembly.

A major scuffle broke out between Sena activists and Congress-NCP supporters in the vicinity of the Assembly and the Mantralaya, forcing the police to resort to lathicharge and burst teargas shells. Six persons were injured in the melee and a two-wheeler was set on fire. A television cameraperson was also hurt.

Sena activists also attacked health minister Digvijay Khanvilkar�s residence.

The Congress was exultant after the win. Deshmukh, addressing reporters after the trust vote, said action would be initiated against those in the Sena and the BJP responsible for precipitating the crisis and using the politics of muscle and money power. Deshmukh said he would do his best to keep his flock together, keeping in mind the fact that five NCP legislators had defected.

If there was a loser of the day, it was Narayan Rane, the former Sena chief minister, who dreams of becoming chief minister again. His party�s defeat on the floor of the House today seems to have rudely woken him from his dreams, at least for the time being.

Following his loud boasts of having enough votes to topple the government, the Democratic Front dismisses him as a laughing stock, while the Sena high command considers him an embarrassment.

�It is obvious that he didn�t know his arithmetic. He also didn�t know the provisions of the anti-defection law,� said G. Kulkarni of the NCP.

The Sena high command seems to have washed its hand of Rane. Sena chief Bal Thackeray yesterday said he would rather stay at home and sip his wine than get involved in the matter.

The Congress, on the other hand, knows this victory is precarious because it shows the cracks within the ruling coalition. �We now have to be careful because we know such a situation can arise any time,� said a Congress leader.

Because of such an unpredictable situation, there could be fresh elections, he added.


New Delhi, June 13: 
One reason why India�s diplomatic strategy has worked so well in the current crisis, observers believe, is because every effort was made not to send out any confusing signals to Pakistan or the world.

Foreign minister Jaswant Singh and national security adviser Brajesh Mishra have been working in tandem � each briefing the other on meetings they have held.

Singh�s briefing to some editors last Saturday was virtually the same, almost word for word, as Mishra�s to a reporter from a US newspaper. The direct beneficiary of this truce has been India�s foreign policy.

For the first time, South Block seems to be speaking in one voice and the one-upmanship between the foreign ministry and the national security adviser appears to be a thing of the past.

That round one in the diplomatic battle with Pakistan has gone to India is now being largely attributed to the cooperation between the two key advisers of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The cooperation was clearly in evidence early this month when there was no media speculation after Singh was excluded from the delegation that accompanied Vajpayee to Almaty, Kazakhstan, for the Cica summit.

Not only was Mishra a key member of the team, he was seen assisting Vajpayee on crucial meetings and in dealing with reporters.

When one or two reporters did ask about Singh�s exclusion, they were told the foreign minister was in Delhi to take care of the evolving situation along the border with Pakistan. Unlike in the past, the explanation seemed credible.

The so-called rivalry between Singh and Mishra dates back to the time when the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance came to power in 1998 and decided on Pokhran II.

Mishra, who was brought in as principal secretary to Vajpayee, began formulating and articulating New Delhi�s foreign policy.

Singh, too, was one of Vajpayee�s key advisers on the foreign policy. But he was then deputy chairperson in the Planning Commission and South Block was without a full-fledged foreign minister. This allowed Mishra to run the ministry as an extension of the Prime Minister�s Office.

After Singh�s induction as foreign minister later that year, the responsibility of articulating India�s policy, particularly in the wake of the nuclear tests in South Asia, slowly came back to the ministry.

But Mishra, who was also made the national security adviser, continued to assert himself, both in private and public, on foreign policy issues.

The worst years of the brinkmanship between the two was perhaps 1999 and 2000. Both tried to outdo the other in hogging the limelight.

In January 1999, Singh was invited to London by the Tony Blair government for talks. But Mishra, who was also invited by Britain, managed to upstage Singh by going there a fortnight earlier and clarifying India�s stand on nuclear non-proliferation and its objection to signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty before Singh could do so.

This became the order of the day. Mishra was found expressing India�s stand even before Singh�s crucial meetings with American and other western interlocutors on the CTBT and India�s nuclear doctrine.

During the Kandahar hijack, Mishra was the first off the block with his comments. �And now, diplomacy takes over,� he had said within minutes of the IC 814 Indian Airlines airbus� take-off from Amritsar.

Things, however, changed early this year. Singh and Mishra were seen together on a number of occasions, as in the Saarc summit in Kathmandu and during Blair�s Delhi visit. The two were seen deep in consultation to help Vajpayee come out with an appropriate reply to a sticky question.

On the current face-off with Pakistan, both Singh and Mishra are said to be the �doves� in the Indian establishment who are advising Vajpayee to adopt a firm but reasonable stand to ease the tension.

The alliance between the two, according to many, is aimed at taking on Union home minister L.K. Advani, who is known for his �hawkish� stand on Pakistan.

Singh and Mishra are not averse to engaging with Pakistan if the Musharraf regime takes urgent and visible steps against terrorists.

But Advani has been insisting that Delhi should not relent till Islamabad stops cross-border infiltration, disbands terrorist outfits, dismantles their infrastructure, cuts off their financial links and hands over the 20 criminals and terrorists wanted by India.

Despite this apparent difference, observers feel it ultimately works out in India�s favour to send out the signal that there are sections opposed to giving too many concessions to Pakistan so early.


New Delhi, June 13: 
As the Congress decision to back A.P.J. Abdul Kalam for President dashed the Left�s hopes of a �respectable� contest, a dominant section within it egged the party on for a fight.

However, a contest will now carry nothing but a symbolic message.

�We are not cowards to run away,� said CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet, though the Left cut a sorry figure at the end of a bitter fight over the presidential candidate.

There is another section in the Left which still believed there is a way out of the mess � it could vote against Kalam, if not boycott the election.

The general secretaries of the CPM and the CPI met at Surjeet�s residence this evening within hours of the Congress announcing its decision, but broke up early without reaching a conclusion.

A meeting has again been scheduled for tomorrow morning at the CPI headquarters to arrive at a decision.

Those who want a presidential contest believe they have nothing more to lose following the Congress decision. There is no harm in putting up a candidate just to �prove a point�, they said.

As a Left leader put it, choosing a candidate now will be much simpler as they will not have to consult or seek the approval of any other party.

As winning the contest is out of question, the Left may � if prodded by the pro-contest elements � stick its neck out only to take its fight for a �principle� to a logical conclusion.

However, despite its attempts to strike a bold posture, it is clear that the Left has been dealt a body blow with the Opposition falling apart at the seams � the People�s Front vanishing within 48 hours � and Mulayam Singh Yadav ditching them at a crucial juncture.

Besides, the Congress is also putting its weight behind the NDA nominee.

Making up with the Congress, however, will be easier for the Left but rapprochement with the Samajwadi Party chief seems difficult � at least for the time being.

Senior Left leaders conceded that the Opposition�s strategy on the presidential poll went awry and they had to pay through their noses.

Rather than pushing the BJP and the NDA into a corner, the Left has ended up in a hole.

Since the controversy over the anti-terror Act and the Gujarat violence snowballed, the Left has been trying to widen the Opposition network, particularly within Parliament.

Senior CPM parliamentarian Somnath Chatterjee had been particularly active through the last session, trying to get the Samajwadi chief and the Congress on one plank in both Houses of Parliament.


Patna, June 13: 
Fifty Rashtriya Janata Dal MLAs met at the house of a former minister late last night to demand the removal of party spokesman Shivanand Tiwari for trying to wage a media war against Laloo Prasad Yadav.

The show of solidarity for the Bihar boss took place around the same time Laloo was thrashing out his differences with Tiwari, who is also the excise minister in the Rabri Devi Cabinet.

The minister�s �honeymoon� with Laloo seems to be over. The man who had switched loyalties from the Samata Party in the summer of 1999 saw the �hand of the RJD supremo� in a recent statement against him by junior ministers and went public.

Tiwari shot off an acerbic letter to Laloo, accusing him of �encouraging the junior ministers to attack him, nurturing a coterie and running down both the government and the party�. The letter, circulated in the media, triggered a storm in the party.

Dadan Pahalwan, minister of state for commercial tax, had accused Tiwari of �mudslinging against the RJD chief in the context of his second daughter�s marriage� and also described him as a man who �revels in controversy�. Pahalwan said the media campaign during Rohini�s marriage was Tiwari�s doing.

Tiwari, however, blamed Laloo for instigating the junior ministers and refused to withdraw his accusations when the RJD chief called him over to his house yesterday.

With the excise minister standing his ground, Laloo warned him against fighting a proxy war through the media. �If you carry on doing this, I am helpless,� he told Tiwari.

Party insiders say the meeting of MLAs at former road construction minister Illius Hussain�s house could not have taken place without Laloo�s consent and may well have been part of an exercise to oust Tiwari from the party.

About two hours after the meeting, the legislators led by Hussain, Shivsankar Yadav and Brijendra Yadav came out with a press statement, accusing Tiwari of conspiring against the RJD chief.

�He (Tiwari) has failed to discard his old habit of digging the dish he would eat out of. He did it with Nitish (Kumar) and now he is doing this to Laloo Yadav. He indulges in the politics of opportunism and vested interests,� the statement said.

The group also demanded the immediate removal of Tiwari from both the ministry and the party.

Some key MLAs in the anti-Tiwari lobby are associates of Ranjan Yadav, Laloo�s friend-turned-foe and the party�s former vice-president. These MLAs had earlier slammed Tiwari for driving a wedge between Laloo and Ranjan.


June 13: 
The ad-line: My dad�s a member. Is yours?

The parent�s problem: Puts undue peer pressure on kids and dads, encouraging jealousy.

The client counters: An attempt to woo children, a large part of our target group.

The agency�s defence: Just one part of the copy. Don�t readers go through the rest?

While child-targeted advertising is the name of the feel-good game these days, there are ads that, many feel, are crossing the line of acceptability. The catchline above, for instance, is of an ad for a Calcutta sporting and family club and it didn�t go down well with some viewers, with plenty of parents � and some kids � complaining about it.

The what-goes-and-what-doesn�t barometer is more sensitive than one might think. Why is the short-sighted kid of �Ghar pe LG TV hai na� fame, who hops into our living rooms at every ad break, more acceptable than the child wanting to know if his friend will be at the club when he arrives?

Evident from the complaints received by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), it is not just the parent-child relationship that has been creating concern among audiences. The Mumbai-based association of advertisers, media houses and consumer bodies has received over 200 complaints in the last year. While most are objections about claims regarding product features, gifts and offers by companies, direct or implied comparison with other products and plagiarism, many complainants have also expressed concern about the sociological impact that certain campaigns may have.

Take for example, the engaging ad for Pidilite�s M-Seal. The O&M ad depicts a father on his deathbed being forced by his son to increase the sum of money willed to him, when a drop of water from a leaky ceiling blots out the figure, much to the son�s chagrin. This, according to one complainant, is �quite offensive, and very much against the Indian spirit, which respects, if not reveres, the elderly�. The ASCI Consumer Complaints Council dismissed the complaint.

But the use of minors, advertisers almost unanimously agree, is more delicate territory. The �My dad�s a member� campaign offends, feels Arpan Roy Choudhury, of Euro RSCG Calcutta, �because it inculcates in children habits we don�t want�. Though arguments of the growing role of choice in the family played by children rages on, Shiloo Chattopadhyay of TNS Mode Calcutta feels that children are no more than �a nice visual prop, usually aimed at convincing the mother and father. They try to play on parental anxiety�.

The ASCI clearly defines the don�ts regarding the use of minors in ads in its code for self-regulation: �Advertisements addressed to minors shall not contain anything� which might result in their (minors) physical, mental or moral harm or which exploits their vulnerability.�

Many ads involving kids have been found, by some viewers, to be �offensive to Indian sensibilities�. The seemingly innocuous Pepsi ad, with the Big B engaged in a war of nerves over the lone remaining bottle of Pepsi, has also raised some eyebrows.

Kya tum mujhe ullu samajhte hain (Do you think me to be an idiot)?� felt one complainant, �hurt the Indian psyche�, whatever that may be. This, apparently, goes against the culture of respect towards elders, as well as the belief that in Indian culture �atithi devo bhav�, or �the guest is to be treated like God�.

The complaint continues, arguing that elders are �always ready to sacrifice not only food, but the life (sic) in case of need�. The assumption: Amitabh Bachchan should have willingly sacrificed his precious Pepsi to his cherubic adversary. No action was taken against the HTA ad, as it was found �not likely to hurt the sensibilities of TV viewers in general or any specific section of society�.

The Kamasutras and Durexes do creep into the list, as well as ads featuring �unwarranted nudity and obscenity�. Ads inducing minors and consumers to act in a potentially harmful fashion � for example, a scooter ad featuring a father driving in a daredevil fashion to impress his child � have also come up for questioning. And with children scaling the saleability charts, there is a growing clamour from parents and the viewing public for �greater responsibility� to shield impressionable minds from the �cutesy� consumerist call.


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