Blood smudges tea town foundation
Raid-and-bribe skeleton in drug-buster cupboard
Repentant members cry for mace resurrection
Biman blunt call for unity
Tenancy law changes cleared
Jaitly reveals Tehelka cash presumption
Heart with FDI, head with naysayers
CBI plea in Bofors case
Cola curfew in Andhra schools
Maoist boy-fighters soldier on for a place in history books

Siliguri, June 26: 
The drive to convert a part of a tea garden into a satellite township turned fatal today when a worker died in police firing.

Trouble erupted when workers began pelting stones at police who accompanied the management of Chandmoni tea garden to uproot the bushes for building the satellite township.

Ten workers and three policemen were also injured in the clash at the tea garden, 3 km from Siliguri, this morning.

While Ram Bhakat died at North Bengal Medical College later this afternoon, the condition of two others are said to be serious.

The injured included Ambika Upadhyay, Mezren Buxla, Ranjit Jaiswal, Sujit Lakra and Sanjoy Munda. Deputy superintendent of police C.S. Lepcha was also among the three policemen injured.

The workers destroyed three police vehicles and smashed the windscreens of four private buses. Traffic on National Highway 31 was disrupted for more than six hours.

Later, however, additional district magistrate, Siliguri, S.L. Bhakat told The Telegraph: �The uprooting of tea bushes has been shelved for the time being. The workers have been asked to attend a meeting with the tea estate management and the district administration to sort out differences.�

Darjeeling superintendent of police Sanjay Chander, assisted by a large police contingent and the district combat force, brought the situation under control. Senior district officials, including the additional district magistrate of Siliguri, the CEO of Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority and the Siliguri additional superintendent of police, also rushed to the spot.

�Today�s incident can be seen as the culmination of the workers� resentment against the management�s decision to allow the construction of a satellite town on a portion of the tea garden,� said Anil Munda, a worker.

The local unit of the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights and the CPM-L (Liberation) have called a 12-hour bandh in Siliguri tomorrow to protest against the incident.

However, it is learnt that the CPM will oppose the bandh. The tea garden workers also demanded that six of their leaders, picked up by the police last night, be released.

The seeds of discord lie in the memorandum of understanding that was signed between Chandmoni tea estate management and the government in 1997. According to the agreement, the proposed satellite township was supposed to have come up on 406.64 acre, which was leased to the government.

The management floated a construction firm called Luxmi Township Private Limited to handle the project.

Though some trade unions heeded the management�s decision, the Chandmoni Chaibagan Mazdoor Manch had moved a local court to obtain a stay order on the construction of the satellite town.

But the Darjeeling district court recently vacated the injunction, allowing the uprooting of tea bushes.

Some workers have been rehabilitated at Subhalvitta. The management has also told the workers that the tea garden will continue to operate on 175 acre, said Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority officials.


Calcutta/Chinsurah, June 26: 
A drug-and-bribe scandal is rocking the eastern zonal headquarters of the Narcotics Control Bureau after its authorities learnt that some of the officials could have been involved with an alleged drugs dealer who was arrested from Chinsurah last week.

The anti-narcotics bureau is probing into the allegations that some of its own officials had conducted a raid, prepared a case and then released the dealer they arrested after being promised Rs 2 lakh.

Pradip Datta, one of those arrested after the raid and then ostensibly freed to bring the money, made the allegation to deputy commissioner (detective department) Soumen Mitra. Mitra got in touch with the bureau�s zonal director, R.K. Sahoo, and the matter was referred to director-general M.K. Singh for inquiry.

Mitra admitted that Datta had approached him but said the matter was out of Calcutta Police�s jurisdiction.

A bureau team � comprising assistant director Amitabh Hore and intelligence officers, including Madhumita Chatterjee and R.G. Pal � had raided Datta�s residence at Sahebbagan near Bandel railway station on June 19. They were accompanied by a local peddler � also an occasional informant � from Adisaptagramin Mogra, Hooghly. The informant also told them about a consignment of brown sugar at Dutta�s residence.

When the team arrived, Datta and brother-in-law Narayan Basu, also a neighbour, were having lunch. Pal and the informant went inside the house while the other team members waited outside. The intelligence officer told Datta and Basu that they were from a common acquaintance in Mayapur from whom the duo was supposed to get Rs 40,000.

According to officials, the drug dealers later took out a packet of heroin of 150 grams.

The duo was brought to Calcutta that night and interrogated by Mitra and Mandal at the Park Street lock-up. At 11 pm, Datta was released. The dealer alleged that he was asked to cough up Rs 2 lakh or face 10 years of imprisonment.

�I was a witness to the raid and the arrest,� said Gokul Chakraborty, a local trader. � If they were really innocent, they should not have been arrested in the first place. But the question is whether they were released after narcotics officials decided to take a different view of the incident.�

A senior official of the bureau said that they took the case �seriously� and would take action against the guilty.

Basu was produced in court the next day. But Datta, instead of bringing Rs 2 lakh for the officials, went to the office of the deputy commissioner (detective department).

Datta also alleged that the packet of heroin, which the anti-narcotic bureau claimed to have found on him and his brother in-law, was �planted� by the officials themselves. He added that the anti-narcotics team seized Rs 7,000 and a gold bangle from his house, where he lived with his pregnant wife and son, and did not mention them in the seizure list. Besides, the team also had refreshments at his residence.

Hooghly superintendent of police Ajay Kumar pleaded ignorance about the incident. �The district police was kept in the dark about the raid,� he said, adding that the police would check the duo�s antecedents.


Calcutta, June 26: 
A day after Speaker Hasim Abdul Halim decided to have the silver mace removed from the House as legislators often attacked the symbol of his office, a penitent Opposition today clamoured for its restoration.

Both the Trinamul Congress and its parent party urged that the silver mace � one its kind in an Indian legislature � be restored.

The Opposition�s concern was first articulated by Congress� Abdul Mannan who, during a special mention, argued that though the mace had no constitutional sanctity, �we are very proud of it. This reminds us of the colonial heritage. I would appeal to you to please bring it back to the House where it belongs�.

Leader of the Opposition Pankaj Banerjee said the Speaker�s decision was �too hasty�. He added that Halim should have discussed the �touchy issue� with the members before making the announcement.

Halim showed reluctance to readily respond to the Opposition�s urgings � the Speaker indicated that the pledge was made and broken several times in the past 25 years.

The Speaker yesterday removed the mace during the second half of the session following Tuesday�s attack on the marshall and other security staff by Opposition members as they protested against the Wakf scam.

With the treasury benches demanding that the Opposition vows to stop unruly behaviour and the latter requesting persistently to restore the mace, the Speaker said: �Despite strong objection from the core of my heart, I agree to hold an all-party meeting on the issue later.� But he was in no mood to bring back the mace in the current session of the House.

�I am very reluctant to withdraw my decision. In case of any more brawls in the House, I shall be responsible. Who will guarantee the safety and security of the Assembly staff? The staff cannot fight back when attacked by distinguished members,� Halim said.

The Speaker considered the presence of the 14-kg mace in the House a menace in view of the �growing tendency� among some members to show off their muscle power.

�During all-party meetings prior to each session, the members take an oath to maintain the code of conduct and uphold the dignity of the House. But once the House begins, all their promises vanish into thin air and they get into in brawls as usual. Naturally, I found it judicious to keep the mace away,� Halim explained.

Recounting that the mace was introduced in 1934 as a symbol of authority of the Chair, Halim said he had never lent his ears to veteran Congress members Zainal Abedin and Subrata Mukherjee who had in the past questioned the utility of the ceremonial staff.

Mannan argued that it was the Speaker�s job to offer protection to the House staff. �It is your responsibility to manage any provoked member. You should learn the trick� the Congress member told the Speaker.

According to Mannan, he would have opposed the Speaker�s motion of withdrawing the mace from the House for good yesterday itself if he could make out what the Speaker was saying.

�Normally no one opposes any motion raised by the Chair. Naturally when you raised the motion, we raised our hands in support. By the time I understood, the motion was passed,� he said.


Burdwan, June 26: 
Left Front chairman Biman Bose today asked minor partners to stop criticising the CPM in public as it would affect the combine�s unity.

Addressing a Front gathering at Loksanskriti Manch here, Bose complained that some Front partners often criticised the CPM at public meetings.

�I want to tell you that the unity of the Front will not be strengthened by criticising the CPM,� Bose said at the function organised to mark the government�s 25 years in office.

�It is not possible to maintain unity within the Front as a number of ministers belonging to some of our partners are constantly offering statements to the print and the electronic media, criticising the CPM. The statements made by these ministers also strengthen our enemy. You have to stop this practice at any cost. Otherwise the unity of the Front will be shattered,� Bose warned.

The chairman asked the minor Front leaders if it would be possible for them to run the combine without the CPM. �I have been told to organise the Front�s meeting in your district (Burdwan) regularly and take collective decisions. The Front�s influence in your district, in Birbhum and other areas is very strong. But will it be possible for you alone to maintain the organisational strength in these regions by ignoring the CPM, which I feel is the strongest party within the Front?� Bose asked.

�Criticising the CPM means criticising yourselves. You are doing the same thing which Kalidas had done � cutting the branch of the same tree when sitting on it,� Bose said.

Without naming agriculture minister Kamal Guha, who recently criticised the CPM on a number of issues, Bose said: �The ministers might differ with the CPM�s policies on certain issues. It is natural for them to differ with our party. But they should not go to the media over this.

�On the contrary, they should sort out their differences in the Front meetings. They are free to write to the chief minister or the Front about their views and we will discuss them among ourselves. Instead, they often express their views to the media. This should be stopped at any cost.�


Calcutta, June 26: 
The state Cabinet today approved a series of amendments to the West Bengal Premises Tenancy Act, 1997, with the assurance that they would be �balanced� to suit both tenants and house owners.

�We are trying to place the amendments before the Assembly during the current session,� said land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah in Writers� Buildings today. The minister was speaking after attending the Cabinet meeting in the Assembly House earlier in the day.

The new amendments will be enforced from July 10.

Disclosing some of the features of the amendments, Mollah said 1984 has been fixed as the cut-off date for fixing new rent.

According to the proposals:

Rent will be doubled for those living on a premise with non-commercial intentions for more than 10 years before 1984, but less than 20;

Rent will be tripled for commercial tenants on premises where the establishment has been held for more than 10, but less than 20 years;

For people residing on rented premises for more than 20 years, the rent will be tripled;

For shops and establishments rented for more than 20 years, the rent will be five times.

Mollah said the amendments had made provisions for leased property as well.

�We have decided that all leasehold property whose agreements were arrived at prior to 1984 will be brought under the premises tenancy law,� he said. The leasehold rights will remain so for the agreements arrived at after 1984.

One of the sops being offered to commercial tenants by the government is that they cannot be evicted without notice.

Similarly, for the wife or the successor of a deceased tenant, in case the agreement has not been renewed, a period of five years has been granted by which time they can shift to new premises.

A major boost for property-owners and landlords is that the new amendments have ratified that tenants will have to share the civic taxes. �This is a fair thing that we all agreed to,� said Mollah.


New Delhi, June 26: 
Former Samata Party president Jaya Jaitly today admitted before the Justice Venkataswami Commission that she had �presumed� the Tehelka reporters had some money to offer but did not know the exact amount.

Deposing before the panel probing the portal�s sting operation for the second consecutive day, Jaitly said she had asked for �it� (the moneybag) to be given to a party colleague she did not remember at this �distance of time�.

Jaitly said: �I presumed it was some donation and asked it to be immediately handed over to Srinivasa Prasad (the then Samata Party treasurer).� The moneybag, according to the Tehelka reporters, contained Rs 2 lakh.

The Samata leader, close to defence minister George Fernandes, denied acquaintance with Samuel Mathews, one of the Tehelka reporters who conducted the sting operation. He was introduced to her only during that �December 2000� meeting as a representative of West End, the fictitious arms firm the portal reporters claimed to represent.

Jaitly told the commission in the morning session of her deposition that �all that I spoke about the defence ministry to them (the Tehelka reporters) was that I did not know anything about the working of the ministry�.

Jaitly�s deposition went on amid high drama as the CBI raided the Tehelka office premises where editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal was present.

The dotcom�s counsel, Kavin Gulhati, said the raids were conducted with an ulterior motive of preventing Tejpal and others from coming to the commission to cross-examine Jaitly.

�My clients are required for such a crucial cross examination and the timing of the raid (10.15 am) thus is absolutely motivated so that Miss Jaitly could not be cross examined with the assistance of Tejpal and others,� Gulhati told The Telegraph.

Tejpal said he had gone to his office on the way to the commission to depose and then participate in Jaitly�s cross-examination. At the office, the CBI raid took him completely by surprise and derailed his efforts to reach the commission.

Gulhati said this would hamper the progress of cross-examination. Now Tejpal is slated to appear before the commission tomorrow.

Inside the commission hall at the high-security Vigyan Bhavan, Jaitly continued her deposition and contended that the Tehelka tapes had �super-imposed and tampered� visuals. The tapes were manufactured to �concoct� a story, she said.

Gulhati continued his cross-examination without the �assistance� of Tejpal and the Tehelka reporters. He asked Jaitly that if at all she did not know anything about the working of the defence ministry as she claimed, �how did she then know that the equipment to be supplied by West End had to be tested before purchase�.

Jaitly answered that she depended on her experience of handicraft exhibitions, where the exhibits were tested for quality before being sold.


New Delhi, June 26: 
Among the first to call Sushma Swaraj just after she had announced that the print media was being thrown open to foreign capital was the editor of a Delhi-based newspaper. He congratulated her effusively.

Sushma was a little surprised because the daily was not only staunchly against any change in the media policy � it had successfully scuttled moves in the past � it was also actively lobbying within the government and had encouraged a Cabinet minister to nix the proposal in the bud.

But it is now clear that even if managements of some media companies have been stiffly against the entry of foreign investment in print, journalists working for their newspapers and magazines, almost across the board, have been wanting the opening-up. They anticipate more job opportunities and better pay packets.

Yesterday, almost every journalist quietly cheered Sushma �s decision. The announcement by the financial daily, Business Standard, that the Financial Times is likely to pick up a stake in the company, was welcomed, too. Journalists� associations, though, are unlikely to articulate the sentiment because their leaders� need for political posturing runs contrary to the interests of the profession.

So untrustworthy of their journalists were the companies opposed to foreign investment that they entrusted managers and not editorial personnel to lobby with the government. Journalists have more access in government than managers and every employer has used their networks at some time or the other to reach out to someone in the administration.

A Cabinet minister, aware of the intense lobbying against the move engineered by a leading media group, jokingly asked a journalist of the financial daily from its stable: �Is your company�s flag flying at half-mast?�

�I don�t know about top floor (where the offices of the directors and proprietors of the company are situated),� the journalist replied. �But we are glad. Should have been done much earlier.�

Journalists believe foreign investment will mean more resources for existing media companies and for new ones that may come in. This will intensify competition, forcing newspapers and magazines to improve quantity and quality. More pages to a newspaper should translate into more jobs.

In a joint statement, five editors said the new policy �gives the print media a more level playing field�. The statement was signed by Aroon Purie (India Today group), Shekhar Gupta (Indian Express), T.N. Ninan (Business Standard), Narendra Mohan (Dainik Jagran) and Chandan Mitra (The Pioneer).

This morning, as journalists burned telephone wires trying to find out which foreign companies were eager to get into the Indian market, most concluded that the opposition from some of the local media houses will not only peter out, but they may even use the new policy to expand business.

Among the foreign media companies that have some interest in India are Time Warner, Dow Jones and Pearson Plc (Financial Times). But it is unlikely alliances will be struck in a hurry. A non-resident Indian group based in London is also believed to be exploring the possibility of launching an Indian edition of the International Herald Tribune.

Journalists also celebrate the conditions imposed on foreign investment in the print media, chiefly, the rider that key editorial positions must be held by Indians.

Ironically, one media group that has been opposing foreign investment has a senior journalist in a responsible position in its flagship publication who is a US citizen.


New Delhi, June 26: 
The Central Bureau of Investigation today moved the Supreme Court to prevent quashing of Bofors charges against the three Hinduja brothers, Srichand P. Hinduja, Gopichand P. Hinduja and Harichand P. Hinduja.

A week back, Delhi High Court had annulled the charges against the three brothers on grounds that the chargesheets were not properly made out.

The court also maintained that the CBI had ignored the Supreme Court�s direction in Vineet Narain�s case specifying that the Central Vigilance Commission should be made to supervise investigations and filing of chargesheets.

In its special leave petition, the CBI said the high court had erred in holding that the directions in Narain�s case required the vigilance commission to review the results of investigations before the same were placed before the court. It is �respectfully submitted that there is no such direction in the judgment�, the CBI said. On the contrary, the bureau pointed out, the directions by the apex court were for the �independence of the CBI�.

The high court had even observed a suggestion that the CBI should �consider the feasibility of carrying on with the case in view of the circumstances� wherein main accused Rajiv Gandhi had died as also then defence secretary S.K. Bhatnagar and alleged Indian middleman Wisheshwar Nath Chaddha alias Win Chaddha. Italian middleman Ottavio Quattrocchi, is yet to be extradited from Malaysia and the company M/s A. B. Bofors itself had merged with another. The Swiss government has refused to extradite the company�s erstwhile chairman Martin Ardbo.

The CBI, in its appeal to the apex court, said this observation of the high court �is utterly unwarranted� and having registered a first information report on the case, it �is duty bound to complete the investigation and report to the court�, adding that �the government has no role to play in this process.�

It said the merits of the case were not before the judge (to make such an observation) and the accused had made no plea to go into the �feasibility� of carrying on with the case.

The agency said the apex court�s directions in the Narain case required the CBI to �merely� report to the vigilance commission. It further pointed out that no power had been conferred upon the latter �in derogation of the duty cast upon the investigating agency under the CrPC to file a report� to the commission.

�The high court overlooked the basic scheme of the law in force where under once an investigation has begun it is incumbent upon the investigating agency to file a report in the court. In filing this report, no person or authority has the right to interfere in the working of the agency,� it said.


Hyderabad, June 26: 
The fizz has gone out of two schools in the Andhra capital, waging a campaign against colas. Aerated drinks are a no-no at Springfields and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.

The schools have barred their canteens from procuring and serving any carbonated drinks to their students, citing health reasons. They said the drinks trigger anorexia, an ailment marked by a loss of appetite and call them harmful to children�s teeth and stomach.

�We want the cola makers to launch an awareness campaign before they ply the children with their drinks,� Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan principal C. Rama Devi said, justifying the ban. �They must make known the effect of the soft drinks on children�s health.�

The students are not complaining. Rather, many of them are in favour of the ban. Parents are also supportive of the campaign. �We have seen in our lab tests that these so-called soft drinks are not good for our health,� said Poornima, an eighth grader at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.

The school had different colas tested in its lab by science students to check for harmful contents. Students said the tests confirmed their suspicions that the colas had very low Ph content. �It means they cause high acidity,�� pointed out Poornima.

The principal said her school enforced the ban almost six months ago, hoping to keep their students away from the drinks �not just at school but also at their homes�. She was happy with the response.

Many students said they were convinced from the lab tests that the carbonated drinks caused tooth decay and acidity and vowed to stay away from the drinks.

�The test results are matter of concern to us, especially the low ph factor we found,�� said Arpita, a ninth standard student.

Doctors were divided on the demand for a ban. Dr A.V. Manohar Rao of Nilofuer Hospital�s paediatric department, said soft drinks were found to have caused throat infections in children. �But I am not sure whether it is harmful enough to call for a ban.�

The Bhavan principal said they were not calling for a total ban on the colas. �But we definitely want these companies to make people, especially children, aware of the harmful effects of soft drinks.�

M. Seeta, a parent, said she supported the ban on sale of colas in schools and called for the sale of fruit juices instead. �All junk food need to be banned as well,� she added.

Not all parents agree, however. �Soft drinks may be as harmful as coffee or tea. So why make the fuss?� asked K. Rani, a mother whose children study in St Ann�s.

Most schools appear to agree with her.


Kathmandu, June 26: 
On the outer limits of the hamlet of Pobang in eastern Rolpa lie burnt-out shells of some houses within a walled compound. These are the abandoned office and quarters of an outreach programme of the Lutheran World Service. Apparently, the army had had an eye on the buildings to set up base but they were destroyed before the force could move in.

Not long after we start walking from Pobang, we come across the remains of a Shiva temple. It had been razed on orders from the Maoists. The rebels have been hammering into the people that religion is plain superstition.

Dasain, the most important festival of the mid-hill Hindus, is no longer celebrated. The few pandits that service the far-flung villages have been warned not to conduct any religious ceremonies. It has been years since local fairs were held. The only gatherings are political ones called by the Maoists.

Political slogans are a common sight as you walk. Some sing praises of the People�s War; others praise the �martyrs�; a few are appeals aimed at the army. An occasional banner can be seen strung across the trail. All evidence that the Maoists are as active as ever, emergency or not.

The only people who seem affected are the ordinary folk who cannot even buy food in the bazaars. By the strangest of luck we stumble upon a unit of the People�s Liberation Army. We hoped to meet them, but never imagined it would happen so easily.

There are scores of them lolling around in the clearing, guns at the easy. Some girls are around, too, but not many. They sit chatting in small groups, while at one end of the field a few line up for haircuts.

We do not know who was caught more by surprise � they or us. If it is they, they certainly do not show it, or even act menacingly. Initial questioning over, we wait while the higher-ups decide whether they will talk to us or not.

We have been asked not to take pictures or talk to any of the fighters until permission was received. So, all we can do is hang around and look with curiosity at the �people�s warriors�. Most are in their teens or early 20s.

Some look very young, 14 or so, I would say.

The guns they carry still have the white markings of the police and the army. I recite the names of those I recognise: three-nought-three, SLR, sub-machine gun, machine gun (�light machine gun,� a schoolboy standing nearby corrects me).

All this time, the interlocutor moves back and forth, first to establish our bona fides and later to convince us that we should go with them into the mountains where we would get all the information we wanted, including a meeting with a commander.

We are reluctant. First, there is the uncertainty of it all. Second, it is raining and almost dark. Third, we have to head back the next day. Ultimately, he agrees to perform a drill for our benefit.

The numbers have swelled in the meantime. When the call for �fall in� sounds, we can count at least 120 of them. We are told this was a company.

Perhaps as a guerrilla force their company strength need be only half of what it is in a regular army. After a few awkwardly performed drill exercises, they are off, guns slung over their shoulders, backpacks bulging with supplies, walking single file up a mountain path.

By then, a political commissar has showed up. He identifies himself as a district committee member of the CPN (Maoist) and calls himself Bijay.

Comrade Bijay talks with us for more than two hours as he explains the rationale of the People�s War, and the direction they are headed in.

Asked where the fighters get their motivation from, he says in a matter-of-fact tone that they �inject� the idea of glorious revolution into their heads.

The next day, we meet some of the fighters who have come back during the night. Without their weapons, they look like regular young village boys. But as they start talking, we realise these young boys are veterans of many battles.

We ask why he is fighting. �For the country and the people,� he says without hesitation.

�Aren�t you afraid you�ll die?�

�No. Because our names will be inscribed in the history books.�

What history books, exclaims my companion indignantly in English. I guess he means the history books of a future People�s Republic of Nepal, I reply. I suddenly feel sick at the thought of all the lives wasted and turn towards the boy warrior again. It�s a resolute gaze that meets my eye.


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