Jaswant makes room to cut tax burden
Mukesh assumes reins, dreams
Mamata bandh for Bengal, notice for Delhi
Born in Calcutta, booked in California
Kid chikna and gangster chikna on Sunjay tapes
Lesson in puppy lust from Bollywood
Story of Flashpoint that wasn�t
Rehabilitation before polls, cry riot victims
Double date with Bush in Big Apple
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, July 31: 
Finance minister Jaswant Singh tonight announced several tax sops aimed at wooing middle-class voters back into the BJP fold.

No tax will be deducted at source on dividend income up to Rs 2,500 received from a company or a mutual fund. The relaxation � from an earlier ceiling of Rs 1,000 � will augur well for small investors as well as the sluggish stock market.

Providing a new investment avenue to small investors who were fast running out of options, the new finance minister also unveiled a six-year, special tax-free bond carrying an interest rate of 7 per cent. The new tax-free bond will replace relief bonds which carried 8 per cent interest but a ceiling of Rs 2 lakh for investment.

He also raised the exemption limit from Rs 12,000 to Rs 15,000 on interest income from tax-saving instruments which come under Section 80L of the Income-Tax Act. The instruments include 15-year time deposits with post offices, national savings schemes and specified government securities.

Singh announced lifting of the Rs 2-lakh ceiling on RBI relief bonds and total withdrawal of service tax on insurance premia.

These measures had long been sought by the BJP Parliamentary Party which had complained that the harsh budget presented by his predecessor, Yashwant Sinha, had �helped� the BJP lose recent Assembly elections.

The party had demanded in separate meetings with Singh and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee that steps should be taken to win back its traditional middle-class votebank in time for the next round of elections in as many as 10 states, including Gujarat.

Keeping in mind the severe drought in some parts of the country, Singh announced a one-time settlement of debts for marginal farmers in collaboration with the Reserve Bank. The apex bank will stand as surety for farmers who have taken a loan of up to Rs 50,000.

An agricultural insurance corporation would also come into being shortly to help farmers facing natural calamities.

Singh told the Lok Sabha that India Depository Receipts would soon be launched to tap investments from non-resident Indians and overseas corporate bodies run by NRIs.

The minister said a serious fraud office would be set up to deal with cases of corporate misdemeanours and protect small investors from phenomena like vanishing companies and dud investment schemes.

Singh said he would have more talks with corporate India before going ahead with his predecessor�s plan to limit customs duty to two basic rates of 10 per cent and 20 per cent by next year.

The finance minister announced the setting up of three task forces which will work to simplify and streamline direct and indirect tax laws. Two of them will file their reports within 90 days so that the suggestions for tax reforms can be used as guidelines while framing next year�s budget.

The third task force, which will look for ways to reduce the paperwork involved in filing tax returns, will come out with a report within 45 days.

Singh said that despite the global financial meltdown, the country could hope to remain resilient and post a 5.5 per cent GDP growth in the current fiscal. Services are projected to grow at 6.9 per cent, industry at 5.9 per cent and agriculture at 3.5 per cent.

Trying to address concerns over the Unit Trust of India, Singh said he would try to work out a long-term solution. The government will give UTI aid of Rs 500 crore and guarantee loans up to Rs 1,000 crore. �The government will stand behind UTI to fulfil the redemption commitment of its US-64 and other schemes,� he said.


Mumbai, July 31: 
In a smooth transition, Mukesh D. Ambani, 45, was formally inducted as the chairman of Reliance Industries at a solemn board meeting where speaker after speaker paid long tributes to his late father Dhirubhai Ambani.

Anil Ambani, younger by two years, takes over as the vice-chairman of the country�s largest private sector company boasting combined revenues of Rs 60,000 crore and profits of Rs 4,600 crore.

Soon after being appointed, Mukesh said their task would be �to strengthen the present position, transform and ensure its (company�s) growth in keeping with my father�s dreams�.

�For me this is a moment of rededication to the values, vision and goals of my father, teacher and mentor Dhirubhai Ambani,� he added.

The board meeting, the first after Dhirubhai�s demise, started around 11.30 am and went on for a few hours. An emotional Mukesh recalled how his father had created Reliance and built it from scratch to make it India�s first private sector Fortune 500 company, and said he aspired to the same standards.

Will he sit in the same chair, too? It was not clear.

�In my thoughts and actions my father will always be present and I will be measuring them by the yardsticks of his expectations,� Mukesh said.

Talking of expectations, Reliance beat analysts� estimates by clocking a 17 per cent growth in net profit in the first quarter of the current financial year. These were the first results after Dhirubhai�s death.

Corporate circles described the induction of the two brothers as chairman and vice-chairman as a �foregone conclusion�. But there had been reports � baseless, as it proves � of their mother Kokilaben taking over as chairperson like in other Indian business families such as the Aditya Birla group where Rajashree Birla was inducted as a director. Vidya Chhabria assumed charge at Jumbo after husband Manu Chhabria�s death.

Such a possibility never arose in Reliance as the brothers have clearly defined their responsibilities. Mukesh is known for successfully implementing large projects while Anil�s skills lie in financial matters and networking.

Even during Dhirubhai�s time, Mukesh was seen as the second-in-command and was designated vice-chairman and managing director. Anil, the public face of the group, was managing director.

Mukesh is a chemical engineer while Anil is from Wharton School. The two brothers have been hands-on managers and have implemented several of the group�s ambitious projects, including the 27-million-tonne petroleum refinery at Jamnagar.

Since Dhirubhai had a paralytic attack, they have been running the company virtually on their own with their father acting as guide.

Mukesh said he intended �to lead by love, by trust and by example. I learnt these principles from him with humility, but with unflinching commitment, I will endeavour to practise these principles�.


Calcutta, July 31: 
Mamata Banerjee has served a 12-day notice on the National Democratic Alliance, threatening to quit the ruling coalition for the second time on August 13 if Eastern Railway�s bifurcation is not stalled.

The Prime Minister�s Office has asked for �some more time to reconsider the matter�, she said, explaining the notice.

Mamata announced a string of protests, including a 24-hour Bangla Bandh on August 5, for the interim period. The Trinamul Congress leader will abstain from voting in the Vice-President�s election on August 12 to highlight the Centre�s �unilateral, unconstitutional, undemocratic and unethical decision�. On the same day, her party�s MPs, MLAs and councillors will stage a dharna in front of Atal Bihari Vajpayee�s residence.

The CPM reacted with alacrity to Mamata�s dawn-to-dawn bandh call, saying it would oppose it tooth and nail. �The bandh will not help resolve the issue. Instead, it will create animosity between Bengal and its neighbouring state and encourage provincialism,� former chief minister Jyoti Basu said after a meeting of the party�s state secretariat.

The CPM has also decided to organise a public rally at Brigade Parade Grounds on August 11 in protest against the bifurcation.

Mamata told reporters after her party�s working committee meeting that Trinamul�s continuance in the NDA has become uncertain because the Prime Minister �does not seem to be in control of things in Delhi�.

�We had joined the NDA to support Vajpayeeji. But we have doubts if he is now in a position to take decisions on his own. However, we are prepared to give him some more time to stall the bifurcation. Let him assert himself and show that he is the Prime Minister of the entire country,� she said.

Mamata said Vijay Goyal, the minister of state in charge of the PMO, had called her this afternoon urging her not to quit the alliance as the PMO was trying to �work out something to resolve the issue�.

�I told him we would wait till August 12 and quit the next day if the bifurcation is not stalled,� she added.

Mamata had quit the NDA before the Bengal Assembly elections in May last year demanding the resignation of defence minister George Fernandes, who was facing corruption charges. But she rejoined the coalition soon after.

Asked if her party would re-consider its decision to abstain from voting in the vice-presidential election if the Centre came up with a solution, Mamata said: �Of course, we will rethink the matter if an acceptable solution is in sight�.


Washington, July 31: 
A Calcutta-born defence contractor in San Diego, California, has been accused of making illegal campaign contributions to five members of the US Congress as part of his company�s efforts to secure government contracts for developing an air-to-ground anti-radiation guided missile.

Parthasarathi Majumder, president of Science and Applied Technology, received more than $150 million from the US government since 1990 to develop the missile, according to details of the case unsealed in court yesterday.

He is accused of contributing over $75,000 during an eight-year period which helped his company win the lucrative contracts.

The indictment lists four Congressmen as recipients of Majumder�s illegal contributions: Randy Cunningham and Duncan Hunter, both Republicans from California, John Murtha, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, and Joe Scarborough, a Florida Republican. It also names one Senator, John Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts.

Majumder, 50, who pleaded innocent in court yesterday, is charged with 40 counts, including conspiracy, making illegal campaign contributions, witness tampering and false statements. The court allowed him to remain free on a bond of $100,000.

The indictment accused Majumder of allegedly pressurising friends, sub-contractors, employees and their relatives to make contributions to lawmakers. He later reimbursed them.

The indictment quotes one employee as telling investigators that �it was necessary for company employees to make a certain amount of political contribution if the company were to stay in business�.

It lists 77 contributions, totalling $75,225, from 1991 to 1998. None of the members of Congress, or anyone on their staff, has been charged.

Congressional aides told the media that lawmakers would cooperate with investigators and return any money found to have been given improperly.

They argued that Congressmen have no way of knowing if contributions are illegal or not and that Majumder was among hundreds of thousands of contributors.

The missile, which Science and Applied Technology was asked to develop, would have replaced the highly-rated AGM-88 High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile, now produced by Raytheon Corporation.

Under US election laws, individuals can make political contributions up to $1,000 to a candidate seeking federal office during one campaign. Companies are prohibited from giving money to candidates or using others to donate on their behalf.


Mumbai, July 31: 
There may be only one Hrithik Roshan, but he�s not the only chikna (clean-shaven) around.

Fans of Hrithik � whose hearts have been all aflutter after Chhota Shakeel said �bhai jyada din nahin hain (he won�t be around for long)� � need not worry because the chikna Sunjay Dutt was discussing with the fugitive gangland boss was some other chikna.

It appears that the chikna of the Dutt tapes, the one the actor wants Shakeel to punish for troubling Karisma Kapoor, is gangster Abu Salem.

�We were surprised by reports that chikna was Hrithik and Dutt was conspiring with Shakeel to kill him,� said a police official involved in the investigation. �Actually, everybody was excited and agitated after the tapes were made public,� he added, suggesting over-reaction.

A close reading of the tapes containing a recorded conversation between Dutt and Shakeel � with directors Mahesh Manjrekar and Sanjay Gupta and producer Harish Sugandh as side characters � in November 2000 makes it quite clear that two chiknas figure in the dialogue.

The first time Shakeel talks about chikna is when he discusses market reports on Mission Kashmir, where Dutt starred with Hrithik and Preity Zinta. Shakeel doesn�t seem too pleased with Hrithik and talks derisively about him. But Dutt appears to harbour no ill-feeling towards Hrithik when he tells Shakeel: �Arre bhai, abhi woh bachcha hai (He is still a kid).�

To this, Shakeel retorts: �Bachcha rahne do... sirf film mein. (Let him remain a kid, but only in films).�

The first time Shakeel talks about chikna is when he discusses market reports on Mission Kashmir, where Dutt starred with Hrithik and Preity Zinta. Shakeel doesn�t seem too pleased with Hrithik and talks derisively about him. But Dutt does not appear to have any ill-feeling towards Hrithik when he tells Shakeel: �Arre bhai, abhi woh baccha hai (He is still a kid).�

To this, Shakeel retorts: �Baccha rahne do... sirf film mein. (Let him remain a kid, but only in films).�

But the next time chikna pops up in the conversation is when Dutt brings him in, tentatively. Chikna No. 2, Dutt says, has threatened Karisma and made obscene calls and wonders if Shakeel can do something about it.

Shakeel soothes the angry Dutt by saying that Chikna No. 2 �doesn�t have many days left�.

Sources in the film industry point out that Abu Salem had made extortion calls to Karisma a few times and that the Kapoors thought it prudent to keep the incident to themselves. Nobody in Bollywood believes Hrithik was behind the calls � where the language is filthy � mentioned by Dutt or that Dutt was referring to him in the conversation.

Hrithik also acted with Karisma in Fiza, and at the time the conversation between Dutt and Shakeel took place he had been in the industry for under a year, having taken the film world by storm with his debut in Kaho Naa... Pyar Hai that opened in January 2000.

There are also reasons for bad blood between Shakeel and Abu Salem. Both were henchmen of Dawood Ibrahim, but Salem is believed to have fallen out. Police have said earlier that many of the extortion demands made on film personalities in the recent past had come from the Salem gang.

Chikna No. 1

Chhota Shakeel: I am so happy about what happened to Missionwali (Mission Kashmir).

Sunjay Dutt: Did you like it?

CS: Arre, woh chikne ko maar diya, ha, ha, ekdum first class (You have totally overshadowed chikna).

SD: Bhai, woh baccha hai na abhi...(He is just a kid)

CS: Let him remain a kid, but only in films.

SD: You are right, bhai.

CS: Yes kid, but only in films, ok.

Chikna No. 2

SD: Bhai, ek cheez boloon aapko?

CS: Haan, haan.

SD: Woh chikna jo hai...

CS: Haan...

SD: Karisma ko phone karke bolta hai ki teri ***. Mere admi ake tere ***. Yeh kya hota hai, bhai?

CS: Haan, haan...

SD: Aap sochiye zara, bhai...

CS: Bhai, jyada din nahin hain.

SD: Ji...

CS: Bas ye dua karo... lage hue hain.

SD: Ji.

CS: Jyada din nahin hai abhi...agar ye aa jata hai na to samajhna khush khabri hi thi woh.

SD:Bilkul, bhai.

CS: Samajh mein aya ya nahin?

SD: Ji, ji.


Mumbai, July 31: 
It could be a sexual primer. It could be moral science. It could be just plain male fantasy. But Bollywood at last seems ready to face up to one fact of life � that young boys lust after older women.

At least director Shashilal Nair is. He has almost completed his film Ek Chhotisi Love Story, which has a 15-year-old boy dying for Manisha Koirala, who plays a 26-year-old.

Nair claims his film, for which he is getting frantic calls from distributors all over the country, is revolutionary.

�Let�s face it. Adolescents falling in love with older women is a very common thing. But we Indians never talked about it. Except Mera Naam Joker, which touches the subject, no other Hindi film dealt with the theme. My film breaks every grammar of film-making,� he says.

�There are no songs. Not even in the background,� Nair adds, whose previous films include the Shah Rukh-starrer One Two Ka Four, Grahan and Angar. He stresses that Ek Chhotisi is a �serious� effort, with no concessions to Bollywood conventions.

Never mind if the storyline suggests a regular male fantasy. Aditya (played by Aditya Seal) is the archetypal adolescent voyeur � he tracks his neighbour Manisha�s every move with his telescope.

�I have seen her naked. I have seen her making love to her boyfriend,� he gushes. The trouble is, he can�t get her out of his mind.

Sounds familiar? Polish master Krzysztof Kieslowski�s A Short Film About Love handles the same theme.

Nair is bent on making the most of the situation. The posters of the film show Aditya pitted against the all-encompassing landscape of a female body . While the contours of the body, which appear as a golf course, or a skiing range, or a sea beach, Aditya remains engaged in some sporting activity � riding a bicycle on a bridge installed between her breasts, skiing down her back, swinging his golf stick while the woman�s navel forms the hole.

Nair hopes the censors clear the film. It ran into trouble after Koirala lodged a complaint with a film forum. �But that�s sorted out,� says Nair, who wants a U/A certificate from the censors. �I want children to watch the film,� says the director.

But will GeneratioNext be able to handle so much knowledge? �This will be education. They will know what to do and what not to do in such a situation,� is Nair�s reply.


New Delhi, July 31: 
An Indian Tom Clancy-wannabe living in Singapore is the first off the block with a book in this season of war games on a possible skirmish between India and Pakistan.

The book, Flashpoint, by Mainak Dhar is to be launched in the capital tomorrow in the presence of former army chief General Shankar Roy Choudhury. It paints a vivid scenario of battles escalating into full frontal war between the neighbours.

It could be several years before the inside story of the current India-Pakistan military standoff is out in black and white. But the history of Indo-Pak wars and the surfeit of information on the military hardware and software of the two countries that has emerged since the two armies went eyeball-to-eyeball nearly eight months ago has given researchers and strategists a wealth of material from which to source their work.

Flashpoint happens in 2009, but the atmosphere in which the characters play their roles and the way the plot pans out it could plausibly have taken place right now.

�I believe Flashpoint has an important role to play. While military thrillers abound in the world (e.g. Tom Clancy), nobody has really written one from an Indian point of view. Given the current tensions in the subcontinent, I believe its message is especially relevant,� says the author.

Dhar, a 28-year-old Bengali, is the son of a retired spymaster. An IIM-Ahmedabad alumnus, he is currently into brand management � �selling shampoos� � for Procter and Gamble.

�Writing and military matters have been the two real hobbies/loves of my life since I was a child. Like many kids, I would collect photos and models of planes, etc., but it went far beyond that for me, as I realised I had a much deeper interest in military tactics and technology. It is this interest I sought to bring to life in Flashpoint � combined with my other love � writing. I frequently write poetry and short stories, many of which are featured on an online literary journal I have created and run � Sunlight.�

The stamp of Clancy in Dhar�s work is unmistakable. He is fascinated with the military-techno thriller. And like the American author who is fabled for his research into and knowledge of military hardware, Dhar uses publicly-available information of the Indian and Pakistani armies� equipment to embellish his work with detail.

The parallels between Dhar�s story and the nightmare that South Asian tensions provoke in the West could be chillingly real. Two nuclear neighbours with a long-festering problem (Kashmir) and intractable positions, each with a history of internal strife and forces over which the respective governments cannot claim control. What is a military �probe� � an incursion by rebels across the Line of Control � spreads into all-out war as in 1947-48 and in 1965 and again in Kargil in 1999.

Operation Parakram � as the Indian military�s current mobilisation is codenamed � has severely tested the doctrine of limited conventional war that New Delhi has adopted since the 1998 nuclear tests. In Flashpoint, Dhar touches on the theory of nuclear deterrence and the debate on whether it means the same for South Asia as it did to the US and the USSR in the Cold War years.

Recent Indian preparations for the army � like equipping the frontline units with NBC (nuclear, biological and chemical) shelters and gear � had left little doubt that New Delhi�s security establishment was factoring in the possibility of not only a �limited conventional war� but also a �limited or tactical nuclear strike� that would be confined to the battlefield. This is the fear on which Dhar plays.

Written with an economy of words and in a racy style, Flashpoint must introduce into this battlefield a heroine � a television journalist � who falls for (and into the arms of) a tank commander as he blasts enemy �Type 59s� (Pakistani-armoured vehicle) to smithereens in the desert battlefield. That is the writer�s licence, for what is an Indian story without a touch of Bollywood!


Ahmedabad, July 31: 
Riot victims today told the Election Commission team touring Gujarat not to hold polls till they are rehabilitated.

The nine-member team, headed by deputy election commissioner A.N. Jha, split up into three sub�teams to visit the Shah-e-Alam relief camp, Gulbarg Society and Naroda Patia, where over 120 people were massacred on February 28, a day after the Godhra carnage.

As the team was leaving the Shah-e-Alam camp, that houses about 3000 victims from Naroda Gam, Naroda Patia, Shahpur, Sabarmati, Maninagar and Chamanpura, some of the residents shouted: �Election nahi, makan chahiye, Election nahi, roti chahiye.� (We need food and housing, not elections.)

The team had not sought the inmates� views on elections, limiting its questions to where they had lived before the riots, why they had not returned home and the whereabouts of their family members. But as they were leaving the camp, some residents found out why the team had come and started raising slogans.

�Some of the inmates asked the organisers about the purpose of the team�s visit. When we told them that they were here to see whether elections could be held, they decided to protest,� said Sharif Khan Pathan, a volunteer.

Pathan told the commission team that 75 per cent of the 12,500 original inmates have left the camp, which was one of the state�s biggest. But not all have returned home. Most are putting up with relatives or have moved out of the state, he said.

Safibhai Memon, an organiser of the Shah-e-Alam relief, made a strong case against early elections. He pointed out that of the 182 Assembly seats, 87 segments are riot-affected. On an average, about 7000 people have migrated. If elections are held now, when large numbers of the minority community cannot cast their votes, �it will amount to murder of democracy�, Memon argued.

Elections cannot be free and fair without the participation of all those who have migrated because their number is big enough to tilt the balance in an Assembly segment, he said.

In another relief camp at Vatva, camp organiser Sabnam Bukhari told the team that the atmosphere is not conducive to elections because many riot victims are not ready to return home. �If elections are held in such a situation, they will not be free and fair �� she argued.

The team met senior government officials this evening and will also visit other riot-affected and drought-hit districts before winding up its visit in about a week. Representatives from the Congress and various NGOs have sought appointments with the panel to present their views.

NGOs and human rights organisations are vehemently opposed to early elections. Though the Congress shares this opposition, the party has said it is ready to face polls any time.

A section of the BJP is also unhappy with Narendra Modi�s decision to dissolve the Assembly. Sources said that if the drought situation worsens, even the chief minister might have second thoughts and the BJP might be forced to ask the commission to defer polls.


New Delhi, July 31: 
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and US President George W. Bush are likely to meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 13. Vajpayee is scheduled to address the General Assembly the same day.

Though final touches are still being given to the Prime Minister�s New York visit, it is more or less clear he will meet Bush on the margins of the UN session.

Interestingly, Bush and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, both of whom are scheduled to address the General Assembly on the opening day � September 12 � are also likely to meet on the sidelines the same day.

Indian leaders are aware of such a possibility. They also know what it would mean back home, especially after US secretary of state Colin Powell�s remarks on Kashmir had the Opposition as well as some NDA allies bristling at what they called American intervention in an internal issue. Bush�s meetings with Musharraf and Vajpayee, Delhi fears, may again strengthen the view that America is playing a far greater role than what the Centre is willing to admit.

But policy makers and aides of the Prime Minister are not likely to be deterred by what Vajpayee�s political opponents may or may not say about these meetings.

�Just because there may be apprehensions about such a thing in India does not mean that we will not go ahead with the meeting between the Prime Minister and President Bush,� a senior foreign ministry official said.

If the meeting does take place, it would not only coincide with preparations for the Jammu and Kashmir elections but also with increased India-US interactions. While a number of senior officials of the Bush administration are scheduled to come down to Delhi in the next few months, several Indian delegations are likely to visit the US.

The public perception notwithstanding, South Block feels Powell�s recent visit has gone down well � �much better than expected�, as a senior official put it.

He said Powell had publicly articulated the need for Musharraf to end infiltration and violence in the Valley so that polls could be held peacefully. �This is what we have been talking about with the Americans for the past many months. We are happy it has been acknowledged now in public by Secretary Powell,� the official added.

Asia�s biggest security meeting, the ASEAN Regional Forum, which groups 22 Asian nations and the European Union, today issued a statement calling for Pakistan to stop all terrorist activity, says Reuters.

The Indian establishment does not seem to be overtly upset about the two sensitive issues that Powell touched on -- Kashmir being on the international agenda and the proposal for international observers for the polls. The argument being put forward by South Block officials is that whether India likes it or not, Kashmir has been under international focus.

�In today�s world you can�t live in a cocoon. If it has been internationalised, then the best thing is to channelise it in a direction which serves your purpose,� a senior foreign ministry official said. �And I think we have managed to do that well in the past six months.�

The official also pointed out that the suggestion for international observers was not very different from what India has already agreed to: allowing diplomats, foreign media and other individuals to visit Kashmir during the elections, but not groups that want to be there with the formal status of observers.

He added that in the past few months, all key world leaders, including Powell, have accepted India�s point of view and publicly said that Kashmir has to be sorted out bilaterally between India and Pakistan.

�It is not third-party mediation as some sections may fear it is,� the official said.




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25 mm

Relative Humidity

Maximum: 95%,
Minimum: 78%


Sunrise: 5.10 am
Sunset: 6.16 pm
A few spells of rain or thundershowers, with one or two heavy showers in some parts

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