Corporate scam stings Delhi
Lock on bifurcation to open door for Mamata
Gujarat test for PM and deputy
Rank-hit schools in board shift
Not quite salt of earth, these single malt men
Up next: fresh transplant from govt to party
Gujarat on trade hunt
Cong caste gamble
Robin Hood for tribals, wanted by police
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, July 3: 
How corrupt is India? It�s a question that hung embarrassingly over Raisina Hill after the government today ordered a probe into Xerox Corp�s startling admission that its Indian subsidiary had paid up to $700,000 (Rs 3 crore) in bribes to grab government contracts.

Xerox Corp of the US, which made the admission in a mandatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the US market regulator, said it would furnish all the details relating to the bribery scandal to the Indian government, which would then have to decide whether it should press criminal charges against those involved.

The department of company affairs has already decided to investigate the issue. �We have ordered inspection of the accounts,� company affairs secretary Vinod Dhall said.

The CBI or the Central Vigilance Commission, both of which have suo motu powers of investigation, could also be asked to open a probe. CBI sources said they had not received a directive yet.

Government officials said Xerox Corp had not informed Delhi about the kickbacks and to whom they had been paid.

BJP spokesman and former law minister Arun Jaitley said: �If what has been stated by the Xerox company is true, it is a serious violation of Indian laws.�

As the ruling party, it could get sucked into the scandal because Xerox said government officials were paid bribes in 2000 as part of a �long-standing practice� that was terminated around two years ago when it took management control.

What this indicates is that bribery was practised under the Indian management headed by the B.K. Modi group when the company was called Modi Xerox.

Xerox Corp�s spokesman Paul Arrowsmith told The Telegraph over the phone from London that the amount involved could be much higher than the $700,000 it had indicated to the US regulator.

India Inc. bristled at Xerox�s insinuation that bribery was an accepted way of doing business in India. �Every government is corrupt in some way or the other. It is particularly galling to hear an American company suggest that the Indian government is more corrupt than others, especially at a time when American companies have been caught in the eye of a storm over accounting frauds, shady deals and all sorts of sharp practices,� said T.K. Bhaumik, senior advisor to the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

Industry appeared to be somewhat blas� about the bribery scandal. Bhaumik said: �If the companies are ready to cut some deals, I cannot understand why the government should be crucified? It is after all a consumer and will definitely try to get the best possible deal.�

However, there were some who were upset about the bad reputation that the country as a whole was getting because of a perverse system that perpetuates graft-giving.

�We strongly feel that there isn�t adequate transparency in the system. The whole system needs to be streamlined which is itself primarily responsible for distorting the mechanism and passing on the benefit to the dishonest. There is a system of rewarding the dishonest which needs to be discouraged, stopped and penalised,� said Assocham, another leading business lobby.

Ficci, the other apex industry organisation, refused comment.

Although industry tried to shrug off the whole episode as a storm in a tea cup, India ranks 72nd among 91 nations in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2001 prepared by Transparency International, the world�s leading non-government organisation fighting corruption.

India�s CPI was 2.7 on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 10 (highly clean). The rating is based on perceptions of business people, academics and risk analysts. The US ranks 17 with a score of 7.6. Finland topped the table with the cleanest record.


New Delhi, July 3: 
In an attempt to pacify Mamata Banerjee, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is learnt to have given the nod for constituting a Cabinet sub-committee to look into the proposed bifurcation of Eastern Railway.

In protest against railway minister Nitish Kumar�s decision to split Eastern Railway and headquarter the new zone in home state Bihar, the Trinamul Congress leader had refused to join the Cabinet on Monday when Vajpayee made changes to the council of ministers.

The decision to form a Cabinet sub-committee was taken tonight after Kumar rejected a request by Trinamul and Left MPs from Bengal to review the bifurcation proposal.

Sources said deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani met Kumar before deciding on the sub-committee, which is seen as a respectable compromise formula for both Mamata and Nitish.

The sub-committee, to be headed by Advani, will keep the bifurcation in abeyance, opening the way for Trinamul to join the Cabinet.

Earlier in the day, Trinamul and Left MPs walked out of a meeting of the consultative committee on railways chaired by Kumar. Trinamul MP Sudip Bandopadhyay told Kumar at the meeting that the decision to divide the Calcutta-based Eastern Railway was politically motivated and would work against Bengal�s economic development. Walking out of the meeting, he demanded a review committee.

Kumar later said: �It is not a political issue. I have informed the Bengal chief minister that the proposal was made in order to reorganise the railways and the benefits from it would be shared by all.�

�The Indian Railways belong to the whole nation and efforts would be taken to develop infrastructure all over the country and not in a particular region. It is, therefore, not fair to say that only Eastern Railway has been singled out for the territorial readjustment exercise,� he added.

Disappointed at Kumar�s stand, Trinamul leaders later apprised the Prime Minister�s office (PMO) of the proceedings at the stormy parliamentary committee meeting.

A team of Bengal legislators is scheduled to meet Vajpayee next week to press for status quo on the notification to split Eastern Railway. With the issue quickly taking on the form of an inter-state quarrel, Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi and her Jharkhand counterpart, Babu Lal Marandi, have written to Kumar supporting the move.

Sources said NDA convener George Fernandes and PMO emissaries are in touch with Mamata. Although there is no official word on what portfolio is being offered to her, Bandopadhyay and party colleague Dinesh Trivedi took pains to tell the media that Mamata had never insisted on the railway ministry. She had been fighting for Bengal and against the �politically motivated� decision of Kumar to carve out a new zone, they said.

With Kumar sticking to his guns, only the Prime Minister could overrule the decision and offer a way out to Mamata, who has staked her prestige on it.


New Delhi, July 3: 
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is not in favour of holding early polls in Gujarat, sources close to him said.

Vajpayee�s advice to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi to defer his Gaurav Rath Yatra was a subtle message that no pre-election campaign, which is what the yatra was packaged as, should start until rehabilitation of the victims of violence was completed.

He is believed to have told deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani that when elections should be called is a decision which should be left to the Election Commission. Advani was to have kicked off Modi�s rath yatra from the temple town of Ambaji.

At yesterday�s review meeting on relief and rehabilitation, chaired by Vajpayee, there was a difference of opinion between the Prime Minister and Advani on replacing Modi, the sources said.

While Vajpayee felt that a new chief minister should be brought in after the National Human Rights Commission and former Prime Ministers I.K. Gujral and V.P. Singh again criticised Modi, Advani was emphatic he should continue until the elections. The RSS and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, too, have thrown their weight behind Modi.

The sources said Vajpayee is under pressure to hold elections before schedule, which is February next year. A section of the Gujarat BJP and the pro-Modi lobby at the Centre feel that the government should recommend polls in September after the rains.

Their argument is that with the passage of time, the BJP�s advantage from the communal polarisation in Gujarat will evaporate. The votaries of early polls had been keen on a date in April-May when memories of the Godhra carnage followed by the daily killings of minority community members were fresh and the opposition Congress was in strategic disarray.

A member of the BJP national executive, who called on the Prime Minister just before he left for the Almaty summit, said Vajpayee had shared his anxiety over the �loss of image� the country and his government had suffered because of Gujarat. According to this member, Vajpayee even rued his Goa speech with its aggressive Hindutva slant and ruled out early polls, saying: �If we have to win an election after shedding so much blood, I would rather not.�

The sources said at best Vajpayee is prepared to bring Gujarat under Central rule and hold elections within six months with Modi leading the campaign.


Calcutta, July 3: 
Alarmed at the steady slide of their students on the Madhyamik and Higher Secondary merit lists, private English medium schools in the city and elsewhere in Bengal have begun moves to switch affiliation to all-India systems like ICSE, ISC and CBSE.

The leading schools� efforts intensified a day after the Tuesday shock, which saw only five students from Calcutta institutions find a place in the 2002 HS Top 20. Their efforts came amid murmurs of biased assessment against examinees from city schools.

None of the principals who has approached the government for no-objection certificates � without which a private school cannot seek affiliation from an out-of-the-state board � was willing to go on record.

But in private, almost all of them said they were planning to make the switch because apart from the lopsided assessment system, guardians were clamouring for modern courses that would prepare their wards for national-level competitive exams.

�Those who want to acquire skills in handling the English language are finding the Madhyamik and HS courses inadequate. The pressure from parents is very high,� one of the principals said.

The government has dropped its earlier reservation on this issue and decided to allow the switchover in a controlled manner for the sake of the reforms programme it has undertaken. Last week, it gave the no-objection certificate to Modern High School for Girls, one of Calcutta�s better known institutions.

The certificate, a copy of which is with The Telegraph, requires Modern High to reserve 10 per cent of its seats in every academic year for students recommended by the government and provide free education to 50 per cent of such students.

St Xavier�s Collegiate School is another prominent institution that has dropped the Madhyamik course after running it simultaneously along with the ICSE system.

Sources close to Loreto House said some parents have written to the school authorities and asked for a replacement of the existing HS syllabus with the Indian School Certificate course.

�A number of well-known English medium schools has applied for permission for leaving the state boards and become affiliates of all-India boards, especially the one conducting the Central Board of Secondary Education,� said school education minister Kanti Biswas.

Biswas said his government supports the trend as this could in the long run help make its industrialisation policy a success.

�We in the government support them because we realise that more schools affiliated to other boards are also needed in the state. We are pursuing a policy of industrialisation for which we need to bring people over from other states and offer them opportunities to educate their children in schools of their choice. No school seeking a no-objection certificate will be denied permission if it fulfils the terms and conditions fixed by the government,� he added.

Noticing the trend, authorities of at least 100 upcoming English medium schools, the bulk of which are in the city, have approached the government for permission to start off as affiliates of the all-India systems.


Mumbai, July 3: 
Heavy drinkers not allowed. And you better know your Ardbeg 10-year vintage from your Ardbeg 17 years old and can sniff that salty sea breeze in your Bowmore. Cigar smokers are preferred.

Join the Single Malt Club, the meeting ground of the city�s refined. They believe too much whisky � and Indian whisky at that � only causes ruined palates and hangovers. They meet at a member�s house, not to drink, but to savour the flavour and taste their favourite poison: the single malt, the Scotch that�s supposed to be the most complex and subtle whisky that�s ever come out of a Celtic distillery, and high on snob value.

Having a single malt isn�t easy. One has to twirl, twirl, twirl the drink inside the mouth and let it gently seep down while trying to decide if an Islay Malt, instead of showing a dry peatiness, is bordering on a delicate honey fragrance. Then hold forth on which duty-free shop that Macallan came from.

It is the only good single malt available at duty-free shops, thanks to its good distribution network. The rest are available at specialist outlets only. The popular single malts, around 12 to 16 years old, cost between �28 to �40. The full-bodied Macallan 12-year vintage can be picked up for �28 to �30. But for the really uppity, there are specialist whisky cellars in London where one can cough up to �1,000 for the rarest.

�We meet once a month at the house of a member,� says Prahlad Kakkar, the ad man and foodie who gradually switched over from Cognac to single malt. He held a meeting recently at his house where he served wood finishes. �These are finished in wine casks. I served port and sherry finishes. These flavours are very distinct from other single malts,� he says.

�A single malt, unlike a blended whisky, is a product of just one distillery,� Kakkar explains. No two single malts are alike. They are particular to specific regions in Scotland. The regionality gives each whisky unique characteristics of aroma, colour, taste and �finish�.

Some even pick up their bottles from the Scotland distilleries � it�s that expensive. But that only adds to the snob value. �It�s great to pick up a bottle from a distillery itself. The bottle would not have a brand, but only a label showing a date,� says Kakkar.

The real single malt aficionados think that mixing whiskys from two different casks is a crime � they prefer that the distiller label each bottle, saying that it came from cask no. XXX. No single malt aged less than 25 years is worth touching. Among the best single malts are Springbank, Rosebank and Glenfarclas.

The club was formed about four years ago by columnist Anil Dharker to bring together these men in pursuit of exclusivity. �Only 3.3 per cent of the world�s whisky drinkers drink single malt,� reminds socialite Dilip De, who was there at the beginning. �It�s a connoisseur�s drink. The idea was to bring such people together.�

The club members� names � there are about 40 of them � reads like a who�s who of Mumbai�s Page 3 crowd: Peter Mukherjea, head of STAR India, media honcho Rathhikant Basu, ace photographer Shantanu Sheorey, film-maker Shyam Benegal.

De lists the things required of a single malt drinker. �The palate must be sensitive. And usually he is 35 years or older. Appreciation of single malt comes with the finer taste in other things, as in art or textiles. Cigar goes very well with single malts,� he says. The single malt separates the men from the boys, he adds.

�To be a single malt drinker you have to make a choice,� adds Kakkar. �You have to be ready to not drink for the kick, but for the taste. A single malt drinker would be satisfied with one or two drinks an evening.�

This refined haven for the men of taste is also under threat. A few women, like art collector Czaee Shah and Kakkar�s wife Mitali, have also joined the club.

But there�s a more serious threat. De complains bitterly that the club is losing its exclusivity. �I don�t attend the meetings regularly. There are too many people now. I also don�t like the fact that people drink for social climbing. Drinking single malt is a passion and it should remain that,� he laments.

What if Indian men in general follow the example and start going slow on their drink, the Indian-made foreign liquor, trying to savour the flavour? �One may die of that,� advises a single malt drinker.


New Delhi, July 3: 
Barely has the dust settled on the Cabinet shuffle than another seems to be on the cards. The next round will become necessary if things go according to the BJP�s blueprint of exporting more ministers to the party.

New party president M. Venkaiah Naidu plans to make sports and youth affairs minister Uma Bharti the chief of the Madhya Pradesh unit and the minister of state for small-scale industries, Vasundhara Raje, of the Rajasthan arm.

Both states are slated to go to polls next year and, in keeping with the BJP�s new policy of effecting a �generational change�, the leadership has zeroed in on these two �young� faces.

Although Bharti was initially reluctant to give up her ministership, which she obtained with great difficulty after a spell of political oblivion, she is being persuaded by her mentor and deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani.

BJP sources said Vasundhara, on the contrary, is keen on moving to Rajasthan. She has been winning her Lok Sabha seat from Jhalawar for the last several years. The sources said Vasundhara had carried out a private survey to assess if she would be acceptable as chief minister.

While the findings are not known, the BJP�s central leaders seem quite keen on projecting her as the next chief minister despite resistance from the state unit.

Madhya Pradesh is now headed by Rajya Sabha MP Vikram Verma, who was trumpeted as the prospective chief minister in the last Assembly elections. But the effort came a cropper after Verma failed to win his own seat.

Bharti tried to grab Madhya Pradesh the political centrestage in Digvijay Singh�s second term. But the chief minister neutralised her attempts and since then she has not returned to Bhopal except to contest the Lok Sabha election.

Opinion in the BJP on Bharti is divided. A section feels she is cast in the Kalyan Singh mould, combining �mandir� and �mandal� in her persona. She was in the forefront of the Ayodhya agitation and has also stressed on the fact that she is a backward caste Lodh Rajput.

Others are sceptical of how seriously voters would take her as a potential chief minister. �She might end up becoming another Mamata Banerjee, good at oratory and drawing crowds, but unable to show herself up as a good administrator,� said a BJP functionary.

Her erratic stints at the Centre � quitting the human resources development ministry in a huff after she failed to get on with senior colleague Murli Manohar Joshi and then taking political �sanyas� � did not enhance her profile as a serious administrator, he felt.

Although Vasundhara�s ministerial record �in external affairs and now in small industries � has been non-controversial and steady, doubts have been expressed on other counts. Former Rajasthan chief minister Bhairon Singh Shekhawat is still perceived as the �tallest leader� and the only one capable of uniting the various factions.

State BJP sources pointed out that Rajasthan has never had a chief minister from a royal clan and with the Congress going in for a backward caste leader in Ashok Gehlot, the �social imbalance� may get accentuated to the detriment of the party. Vasundhara hails from the Gwalior royal family.

It is also being said that despite the record of winning her Lok Sabha seat, Vasundhara has never been involved in state politics.

A search is also on to find a �young and dynamic� person to head the BJP in Delhi, which also goes to polls next year. The name of yet another minister, Vijay Goel, who is attached to the Prime Minister�s Office, has been mentioned as a probable.


Calcutta, July 3: 
As riot-torn Gujarat struggles to get back on its feet, it�s time for state industry minister Suresh Chandra Mehta to embark on an image-restoration and investment-hunt tour. This week�s stopover for his 10-member team is Calcutta.

The high-level squad comprising secretaries of the industry and IT departments and senior government officials will meet the city�s business community at the Indian Chamber of Commerce. Besides, the minister is also expected to call on some senior Calcutta-based industrialists and address the city�s Gujarati community during his two-day stay. �Almost all the big business houses in the city have some business interests in the state. Besides, the volume of inter-state trade between West Bengal and Gujarat has always been quite significant. But business and industry have suffered a lot due to communal violence in the state and investors� sentiment has hit an all-time low. The Gujarat government now claims to have restored peace but they must convince investors that things have improved,� said a city-based industrialist.

�We are aware that such issues will be raised, but we are ready to respond to these queries. We think what has happened has happened, but now it�s the time to work out something positive,� Chandan Chatterjee, general manager, Industrial Expansion Bureau of the Government of Gujarat, told The Telegraph, from Gandhinagar. �The violence has affected small business to some extent but the larger ones have remained unaffected. Be it Reliance or General Motors, everyone is going forward with their expansion plan,� he said.

Though Chatterjee admitted that the Gujarat government was planning an image-building exercise throughout the country, he stressed that the Calcutta tour was part of �an annual exercise�, which the state government undertakes to attract new industrial investment. �Every year, we organise such events in all major cities in the country to keep the investor community abreast of the policy environment in our state,� he added.

A Gujarat government delegation was in the city last November to scout for investments. The move to advance �the annual exercise� by five months is being seen as a move to win back investor confidence. Harsh Neotia of Gujarat Ambuja said: �We have a sizeable exposure in Gujarat. There have been concerns about the violence there, but we have found the government to be progressive and are satisfied with the industrial climate and infrastructure there.�


New Delhi/ Lucknow, July 3: 
After wide-ranging consultations over the past few weeks, Congress president Sonia Gandhi today appointed Arun Kumar Singh Munna as the new Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee chief, rewarding loyalty.

Munna has an uphill task of reviving the Congress in a state where the party forfeited its deposit in as many as 335 out of 403 Assembly seats. He succeeded Sriprakash Jaiswal whose tenure lasted over a year. He is the third person to be appointed PCC chief by Sonia since 1998.

By projecting a Thakur as the state Congress chief, the Congress high command hopes to woo the upper-caste votebank, which has become somewhat disenchanted with the BJP because of its alliance with the BSP and its neglect of former chief minister Rajnath Singh.

Congressmen across the board welcomed Munna�s appointment. A former minister in the state Cabinet, Munna has been the state Youth Congress president and held virtually every post in the state Congress barring that of the president.

Apart from his loyalty to the Nehru-Gandhi family, Munna, 55, is reputed to be a good organiser and a fiery orator who can fight against the odds, a quality Sonia was looking for in the new Uttar Pradesh Congress chief.

�Unlike his predecessors, he would spend a lot more time in UP instead of hovering around in Delhi. Munna may have lost elections, but the fighter in him is still alive,� said a state Congress leader.

Congress Legislature Party leader Pramod Tewari, the other candidate for the PCC chief�s post, was ignored due to stiff opposition from a section of the party for his pronounced pro-Mulayam tilt.

Similarly, former state Congress chief Salman Khurshid was overlooked because of his stridently anti-Mulayam stance. Khurshid in his public utterances had all along opposed any truck with Mulayam and his Samajwadi Party.

�By keeping both Pramod and Salman out, Sonia does not wish to commit either way about the Congress� future political strategy towards Mulayam Singh Yadav�s Samajwadi Party,� a senior state Congress official said.

The choice of an upper caste leader to head the party�s state unit seems to have been also prompted by the fact that both the BJP and the BSP have recently installed backward leaders as presidents of their state outfits.


Karvi (Uttar Pradesh), July 3: 
He is the Robin Hood of Bundelkhand. Police want him. Upper-caste landlords fear him. But to the poor tribals and low-caste inhabitants of the region, bandit chief Dadua is an avenging angel.

Shiva Kumar Patel, alias Dadua Kurmi, Budelkhand�s most dreaded outlaw, has eluded the police forces of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh for more than 20 years and carries a price of Rs 5 lakh on his head.

But like Robin Hood, who turned Sherwood Forest into a refuge for the oppressed, Dadua is hope for the thousands of tribals exploited by the dadus, as the upper-caste landholders of the Patha region in Allahabad and Chitrakoot districts are called.

�Dadua strikes only against the rich. And he helps the poor,� says Beche Ram of Umaria village on the outskirts of Ranipur wildlife sanctuary. In fact, the dacoit chief�s sway of terror extends deep into the forests. Tendu-leaf contractors and crooked forest officers have been paying him levy for the past 15 years.

Although Dadua�s myth has grown with a fair bit of help from idolising tribals who never tire telling stories about him, there is no doubt he has bolstered them psychologically every time he has tackled their rich tormentors.

State officials concede that Dadua has a strong following among the tribals and low-caste inhabitants of the region. A senior Indian Forest Service officer, Ram Lakhan Singh, projects him as a green warrior. �He has almost stopped poaching in the Ranipur Wildlife Sanctuary in Chitrakoot,� Singh says.

Once, the bandit leader even tipped off the sanctuary�s warden that a member of his staff was planning to kill a sambar. The man was caught and punished.

Dadua, who comes from a marginal peasant family of Fatehpur district, worked as an enforcer for Hira Pande, a rich landholder of the Karvi area, when he took to the gun after a violent altercation with his dadu employer in 1979.

This was the beginning of the Mandal era in the politics of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Dadua soon joined Gaya Kurmi, leader of one of the first OBC gangs that had started operating in Bundelkhand.

Gaya, who surrendered in 1982 and is now the elected sarpanch of Baberu block in neighbouring Banda district, describes Dadua as �haughty and politically conscious�.

According to members of his gang this correspondent managed to meet through intermediaries, �Dadua is deeply religious and distributes the bulk of his earnings through kidnappings and levies among the poor�.

Taking the cue from Gaya Kurmi, Dadua, too, started meddling in local politics. Initially he campaigned for fellow caste leader Ram Sajeevan, a communist, but later shifted allegiance to Mulayam Singh Yadav�s Samajwadi Party. After the Samajwadi Party�s alliance with Kanshi Ram�s Bahujan Samaj Party broke down in 1995, Dadua has backed the BSP in all subsequent elections. In the recent Assembly polls, he openly campaigned for BSP candidates R.K. Singh Patel and Daddu Prasad for the Karvi and Mau-Mainkpur seats.

The Kols of Zarwa village in Chitrakoot remember Dadua addressing an election meeting in the recent polls. �He was brandishing an Israeli rifle and told us �Be prepared to die if you don�t vote for the elephant (the BSP symbol)�,� says Ram Milan, a tribal. It was no empty threat, as the Yadavs of Simaria found out soon. Bearded cronies of the bandit chief assaulted them for their tilt towards the Samajwadi Party.

�We were tied up and paraded in Khandeha, Bandhi and Ahra to impress upon the masses that Dadua meant business,� says Arunendra Yadav of Khandeha.




Maximum: 29.8�C (-3)
Minimum: 25.3�C (-1)


4.6 mm

Relative Humidity

Max: 98%
Min: 82%

Sunrise: 4.59 am

Sunset: 6.22 pm


A few spells of rain, with one or two heavy showers or thundershowers

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