Son waits with drink, returns with body
No bills, no food for inmates
Trinamul deal slur on Buddha
Mamata draws Samata flak
Tele-medicine link for district hospital
Militants target Cong, Hurriyat election
Gujarat not on mind: Lyngdoh
Farooq hurdle to Central rule
French peace plan for neighbours
Pleated trousers for women, sari for men

Malda, Aug. 2: 
Ten-year-old Rabidas had been waiting all day, clutching a bottle of soft drink for his father Nemai Ghosh to emerge from custody so that the two could catch a bus to their home in Ratua�s Kahala village.

Twenty-four hours later, Rabidas stood waiting outside the hospital morgue with his mother, Sahela, to take his father�s body home for cremation.

�He sold his labour for a daily wage. The sole bread-winner of our family, his death has plunged us into darkness,� sobbed Sahela, holding her son.

Rabidas stood speechless, still clutching on to the soft drink bottle he had bought for his father. The boy has apparently told his uncle Dilip that he would never touch a soft drink bottle again.

�The police had picked him (Nemai) up for being drunk, which is out of the question. My brother always preferred soft drinks and Rabidas loved to keep his father company whenever he managed to buy a bottle,� Dilip said.

He has vowed to take the police to court. �I am collecting money from our neighbours so that we can begin proceedings against the police,� Dilip said.

A sobbing Shankar Das (19), son of Anish Das, the other undertrial who died of suffocation, said his father would have been alive if he had paid off the police in the local thana. Anish, a rickshaw-puller, was picked up with five friends while drinking country liquor at a shop at Pipla village in Harishchandrapur when police raided the place. �The five others with Anish were released from the police station,� said Alok Mondal, a neighbour.

In the corner of the hospital compound, Asif Ali Tarafdar, who had been picked up along with Anish, was weeping uncontrollably.

�It was around 8.30 pm when Anish told me that it was his last drink, and true to his words, he will never be able to share another drink with me,� sobbed Asif.

Shankar, a first-year arts college student, said he had hoped to secure a decent job and help his father settle his debts. �My father used to remind me that I would have to relieve him of all the trouble he had taken to educate me. All his pains are over now,� said a shattered Shankar.

The inmates who shared with Anish and Nemai the now infamous Malda court lock-up, were heaving a sigh of relief. The likes of Abid Ali and Rajool Sheikh, who are recuperating at the hospital said they were very lucky to be still alive.

�We now know what hell can be like, the two ceiling fans were barely moving, we were breathless and felt like we might die,� Rajool recounted.


Malda, Aug. 2: 
The prisoners kept in the district court lock-up were not given anything to eat, despite provisions, simply because the police stations failed to submit food bills to the treasury.

A government inquiry has revealed that inmates at the Malda lock-up were not given food for the last three months.

According to rules laid down in every jail and lock-up, convicts must be given 177 grams of chira or muri, and an undertrial must be given 87 grams of the same items. But in the Malda court lock-up, the privileged undertrials would get roti and subzi. That stopped three months ago.

A senior police officer said all those lodged in the lock-up since Thursday morning were not given a morsel. Doctors treating the prisoners at Malda sadar hospital said �all the undertrials were extremely dehydrated and the duo of Nemai Ghosh and Anish Das might have died due to acute hunger as well�.

District magistrate Ashok Bala told The Telegraph: �I found out on Thursday that the inmates were not given food. But this should not have happened. The district judge informed me yesterday.�

�The private contractors, responsible for providing food to the lock-up, had not received the outstanding food bill from the police department. I am looking into this,� Bala added.

Investigations revealed that 11 police stations have not submitted food bills to the treasury for one year. Some thanas like the ones in Ratua, Harishachandrapur and English Bazar have not submitted bills since December 1999.


Calcutta, Aug. 2: 
Mamata Banerjee�s Trinamul Congress today accused deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee of entering into a �secret deal� on the bifurcation of railway zones.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee, Mamata�s main adviser at present, said under a �secret deal�, the Centre had offered to bail out a financially-bleeding Bengal with funds in exchange for Bhattacharjee�s silence on the bifurcation.

�We have information that Bhattacharjee, Advani and railway minister Nitish Kumar have all got into a secret deal on the bifurcation,� Mukherjee thundered at the two-day sit-in organised by the Trinamul in central Calcutta today.

�The Centre has promised Bhattacharjee funds necessary to meet salary bills of state government employees. In exchange, he will accept the bifurcation,� he said, as supporters cried: �Advani hatao, desh bachao.�

Mamata said Trinamul will approach President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam�s to stall Eastern Railway�s bifurcation if the Centre fails to take action by August 12, the deadline she has set for it.

�We will seek an appointment with the President to protest against the coming bifurcation which not only amounts to gross injustice to Bengal but also poses a threat to national unity,� she said.

�We hold Kalam in high esteem and ours was the first party to suggest his name as the NDA�s residential candidate. We feel it is our duty to draw the President�s attention to the crucial problem if the Centre remains inactive,� she told a public meeting at the dharna site.

Mamata iterated her party�s decision to quit the NDA after August 12 if the Centre rejected its demand for �retention of Dhanbad and inclusion of the Katihar division in Eastern Railway.�


Calcutta, Aug. 2: 
In the city to salvage Nitish Kumar�s image in Bengal, Samata Party chief V.V. Krishna Rao today said Mamata Banerjee should stop criticising the railway minister.

�She (Mamata) just can�t level such objectionable, unreasonable and irrational allegations against Nitish Kumar. It is dangerous to make such comments. She is making these allegations for personal and political reasons,� said Rao, referring to Mamata�s statement that the minister had helped the BJP cover up �the sins of Godhra�.

If Mamata wanted a rollback of the bifurcation, she should place her demand in Parliament and try to muster support of other parties, he said.

Rao added that it was unfair to remain in the ruling coalition and, at the same time, call a bandh in protest against a decision taken by it. �This is not done. Being a member of the NDA, you can�t call a strike protesting against a decision taken by the Union Cabinet. She (Mamata) should first learn how to consistently remain in the NDA,� the Samata chief added.

Kumar was concerned about the pending railway projects in Bengal, he said. �There are many pending projects in Calcutta and elsewhere in Bengal, like the extension of Metro Railway. The railway ministry wants to complete the projects as quickly as possible,� Rao said.

Kumar would visit Calcutta on August 13 or 14 to explain the bifurcation, he said.

The Samata chief criticised the burning of Mamata�s effigy in Hajipur. He said the situation looked as if it was a Bengal-versus-Bihar row.

�We don�t want to look at a provincial situation. But, at the same time, we want to ask why she (Mamata) didn�t take up the matter at the Cabinet level when she was the railway minister,� the Samata chief said.


Midnapore, Aug. 2: 
The Paschim Midnapore hospital here is all set to be the first among the districts to utilise the benefits of tele-medicine by the end of this month.

�We expect the two rooms required to set up the facility to be ready any day now. Once the computers are installed and the link is established with Calcutta, we expect to provide higher quality of treatment,� said Mangobinda Mondal, the district�s chief medical officer.

The joint secretary of the health department, Suresh Gupta, had recently visited the hospital with a team of engineers from Webel, which is setting up the state-wide network. �The team was satisfied with the infrastructure available here,� the medical chief said.

�The Paschim Midnapore hospital will be linked to Nil Ratan Sarkar Medical College, where we would be able to refer to specialists,� Mondal said. He said the practice of referring patients to Calcutta will be reduced to the minimum.

Though the exact hours for the tele-medicine facility has not been fixed yet, Mondal said most of the referrals would be conducted during the day.

To begin with, tele-medicine facilities will be confined to just medicine. Later, surgeons will also be added to the network.

Mondal said one of the rooms will accommodate the PCs and the scanners to transmit X-rays and diagnostic reports and the other will be for the doctors and the patients.

State health department sources said Rs 2 crore is being spent to set up the network for Paschim Midnapore, Purulia, Murshidabad and Birbhum districts.

The district hospitals in Purulia and Birbhum will be linked to the Burdwan Medical College.

�The system will be a boon for the people as they will save on money spent for travel, treatment and accommodation in Calcutta,� Mondal said.

The chief medical officer added that the network would ultimately be extended to primary health centres.

�The link with these centres will help poor villagers in that they will not have to travel to the district headquarters,� the chief medical officer pointed out.

Hospital superintendent N.K. Marik said most of the cases that were referred to Calcutta were poisoning, snake bite and other complicated situations. �If we find that some patients suffering from complications are not recovering, we usually refer them to Calcutta. We hope to halve the number of patients referred to city hospitals,� Marik said.


Srinagar, Aug. 2: 
On a day the dates for the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly polls were declared, militants attacked the heavily-guarded state Congress headquarters on Residency Road in the heart of the city.

A grenade explosion rocked the hub of the Congress in the Valley this afternoon. The high security office guarded by the CRPF, however, escaped without much damage. No Congress worker was injured. Police said around 30 of them were inside at the time of the blast.

Senior police and BSF officers rushed to the spot. Traffic on Residency Road was diverted as search operations were launched.

A BSF commandant and his security guard were killed when militants sprayed bullets as they were laying a cordon at Malpora village in central Budgam district this afternoon.

V.P. Purohit of the 171 Battalion was leading the operations. He was flown to the army base hospital at Badami Bagh where he succumbed to injuries. His guard died on the spot.

The BSF had thrown a cordon around Malpora in the morning and killed two militants. A second cordon had to be laid following a tip-off that more militants were holed up in the village.

Purohit was killed in the second shootout, in which two more militants were killed.

Later, militants opened fire near the MLAs� hostel at Indira Chowk in the heart of Jammu.

As security forces returned fire, the militants jumped into a drain for cover. The area around the famous Raghunath temple was cordoned off.

Since last night, more than 20 people have been killed in incidents across the state.

Amid the spiral of violence, a discordant note was struck by the Hurriyat Conference, which rejected the elections as the Centre�s act of �desperation� in the face of mounting pressure.

�We have nothing to do with the elections announced today. They (Centre) are in a desperate haste following the suggestions of (US secretary of state) Colin Powell,� Hurriyat chairman Abdul Gani Bhat said.

�We don�t have to reiterate our position in regard to the forthcoming elections. Our position is what it is, elections provide no answer.�

The Hurriyat executive will �come out with a statement for the people to consider�, he said.

Moderate separatist leader Shabir Ahmad Shah, too, ruled out participation in the elections and accused the Centre of �backing out� from its promise of initiating a dialogue before the polls. �We will not participate in the polls. Elections are no solution to the Kashmir problem.

�Dialogue is a must before holding elections. We would consider participation in the polls if it is aimed to elect true representatives of Kashmir who would hold talks for a final settlement of the issue,� he said.

The ruling National Conference welcomed the announcement, as did the BJP and the CPM. National Conference chief Omar Abdullah said the party would ensure free and fair polls. �While everything possible will be done to ensure free and fair polls, we hope and appeal to other parties also to follow the same practice,� Omar said.

Chief minister Farooq Abdullah asked the Centre to prod the international community to pressure Pakistan into refraining from interfering with the elections. �Infiltration is on and people must remain vigilant against Pakistan�s attempts to disturb the elections that are round the corner,� he said after paying tributes to policemen who were killed in an encounter in the Raika forest near Rajouri yesterday.

In Delhi, foreign ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao said: �It is incumbent upon Pakistan to ensure that violence and terrorism is not generated, created or fomented before the elections.�

Rejecting the demand for imposition of Governor�s rule ahead of the elections, the chief minister said leaders who have raised the demand have no mass support. �The present government will be in place till the new Assembly is constituted.�

The BJP welcomed the announcement of the polls and chose the occasion to rake up its demand for elections in Gujarat. Parliamentary party spokesman V.K. Malhotra said: �The situation in Gujarat is more conducive for polls than in Jammu and Kashmir, where over four lakh people were displaced.�

The Jammu and Kashmir BJP unit demanded Governor�s rule in the state. �Without Governor�s rule, the elections cannot be free and fair,� said party spokesman Nirmal Singh.

CPM�s Somnath Chatterjee favoured the elections but opposed the imposition of Governor�s rule. It should only be imposed in �exceptional cases like Gujarat�, he said.

But the party�s state unit leader and lone MLA in the 87-member Assembly, Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami, said the National Conference government should have stepped down to �enhance the credibility of the polls�.


New Delhi, Aug. 2: 
Chief Election Commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh finally broke his silence on Gujarat with a news conference here today to announce the poll schedule of yet another �difficult� state � Jammu and Kashmir.

Ever since the controversy over the Gujarat poll schedule hit the roof, Lyngdoh has dodged media glare. He has managed to stay behind the screen till he sent off a team of the Election Commission to tour riot-ravaged Gujarat earlier this week.

Today, however, it was the chief election commissioner�s day to �talk�. Lyngdoh fielded all �uncomfortable� questions with equal aplomb, making it clear that he was not going to rush into polls in Gujarat.

�The decision on Gujarat may take some time since a team has gone there. We are awaiting its report. I am dealing with Jammu and Kashmir now. Gujarat is not on my mind,� he said.

The BJP, however, kept up its pressure on the poll panel for an early election in Gujarat. Hours after Lyngdoh�s news conference, senior BJP leader V.K. Malhotra said: �The situation in Gujarat is far more conducive to polls than in Jammu and Kashmir.�

Criticising the Congress and other parties for not wanting early polls, Malhotra said: �Jammu and Kashmir is virtually ruled by terrorists. There are 4 lakh Hindu migrants living outside Jammu and Kashmir. In comparison, Gujarat is normal. The state has held panchayat and municipal polls and the school examinations. And there are far less refugees than in Jammu and Kashmir.�

Lyngdoh also had a few caustic responses to US secretary of state Colin Powell�s suggestion to have international observers for Jammu and Kashmir elections. Rejecting the proposal out of hand, the chief election commissioner said: �India is a mature democracy and does not need a headmaster. They are not going to teach us a lesson.�

Stressing that the Election Commission had more authority and powers than any other international body, Lyngdoh said: �According to us, the concept of observers signifies White men coming and �observing� what natives are doing.� It is a different matter, he went on, that if somebody wants to come in his or her individual capacity and not as member of any commission.

�If one or two people want to come here from Australia, UK and Canada they are free to do so. But they will not be allowed to come here as observers. We are against it,� Lyngdoh added.


New Delhi, Aug. 2: 
With the formal announcement of elections in Kashmir, the Vajpayee government is in a bind over imposing Governor�s rule in the state.

Chief minister Farooq Abdullah has made it plain he is in no mood to oblige his detractors by stepping down. He has received full support from L.K. Advani, who believes the chief minister can be persuaded but not coerced into submission. Unless Farooq changes his mind, elections in the Valley will not be held under Governor�s rule.

Advani is against jeopardising relations with Farooq, who has steadfastly supported the Centre�s line on Pakistan. He would welcome Governor�s rule only if Farooq is game.

According to the Constitution, the chief minister has the right of choice and his wish cannot be challenged unless there is a serious law and order threat or if the constitutional machinery has broken down.

The state unit of the BJP, as well as all national and local political outfits, insist that elections cannot be free and fair with the chief minister at the helm. During the short duration debate on Kashmir in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, members urged Advani to ensure that elections are held under Governor�s rule.

In his reply to the debate yesterday, the deputy prime minister gave no indication of the National Conference government in Jammu and Kashmir stepping down ahead of the elections.

There are many in the PMO who believe the stakes are too high for the Centre to pander to Farooq�s wishes.

�The government can always find a way out and, if persuasion fails, the state administration can still be dismissed for the greater good of Kashmir,� a senior official said. He did not rule out a last minute change of stand and imposition of Governor�s rule.

With the international community also urging India to ensure free and fair elections in the state, the NDA government realises that all eyes will be on the polls. Its outcome will impact not just the state but also India�s foreign policy and future ties with Pakistan.

Home ministry officials say despite assurances from Pakistan, the Valley is sure to witness a spurt of violence as smooth conduct of elections in Kashmir and a good turn out of voters would go against that country�s interest.

This is why the Indian government is reluctant to release high profile pro-Pakistan leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani before the elections. �We are watching the situation carefully. We are willing to release all those who will help the election process,� a ministry official said. Yasin Malik, who has been languishing in jail and is keeping indifferent health, may be released, though he is unlikely to take part in the elections.

The Hurriyat Conference, as well as people like Shabir Shah, may now be reluctant to take part in the elections. Soon after US Secretary of State Colin Powell�s visit to India, Hurriyat chairman Abdul Ghani Bhat had said the organisation could take part in elections if it was a step forward and not the end of a process.


New Delhi, Aug. 2: 
France, a master in international diplomacy, today said despite world concern over the current tension in South Asia and its consequences, it should be left to India and Pakistan to resolve their standoff without outside interference.

But it also stressed that answers to the disputes between the two nuclear neighbours can only be found when �substantial and comprehensive dialogue� is resumed.

Visiting French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin outlined a peace plan, very similar to the one that US secretary of state Colin Powell had suggested recently, but in a subtler manner.

�Let�s be clear I do not intend to interfere with an issue that must be settled by India and Pakistan. This is your responsibility. You hold the keys in your own hands,� Villepin said at a joint news conference with his Indian counterpart, Yashwant Sinha, at Hyderabad House this evening.

�Yet, is it conceivable to ignore a problem with possible strategic consequences,� he added in a clear reference to the Kashmir dispute but without mentioning it by name even once.

Earlier in the day, Villepin met Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and other senior leaders, including deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, defence minister George Fernandes and national security adviser Brajesh Mishra. He leaves for Islamabad tomorrow to hold talks with President Pervez Musharraf and other senior Pakistani officials. This is Villepin�s first visit to the region since assuming charge as foreign minister.

Sinha, on his part, stuck to India�s oft-repeated stand on the issue. �For a dialogue, we first need the conditions for a dialogue. We cannot have talks while cross-border terrorism continues. Pakistan will have to eschew its hostile policy towards India and fulfil the pledge it has made to the international community to end infiltration permanently and dismantle its terrorist apparatus completely,� he said.

Once Islamabad takes these steps and they are verified by India, talks can resume, he added.

But Villepin clearly wanted something more. �It is a fact that in today�s world, regional crises are no longer limited,� he argued. �It is also a fact that what is at stake here is the fight against terrorism which is a duty for all of us.�

The remarks suggested not only a balancing act but that the two sides would also have to work harder to find a solution to the Kashmir dispute to normalise relations despite the shadow terrorism has cast on their relations.

�Our history has shown us that the course of history can be changed. Even the oldest conflicts can be settled. It is a great challenge, the challenge of reconciliation, peace and development. France wants to be at the side of those who are ready to take up this challenge,� he added.

He also indicated how France thought peace could be achieved in the region. First, all efforts would have to be made to ensure that the �very important� Kashmir elections �are held in good conditions�. Then, dialogue between India and Pakistan has to be on the basis of respect, mutual trust and in the spirit of the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration.


New Delhi, Aug. 2: 
Calcutta�s Kiran Uttam Ghosh (Kimono) made a strong style statement with her solo show on the first day of Lakme India Fashion Week.

The opening sequence saw the irrepressible Usha Uthup walk the ramp in a �Say no to toosh� graffiti sari with a shawl draped around her to show that it wasn�t necessary to kill chiru to stay warm. As her theme song on the subject played in the background, she was followed on the catwalk by dancer Shovana Narayan, artist Bulbul Sharma and socialite Devi Cherian, all draped in the shawls Ghosh has fashioned as an alternative to the politically incorrect toosh.

Political statement made, it was on to the clothes. The first line was fashioned around a pleated fabric (reminiscent of Japanese designer Issey Miyake�s Pleats Please line) shaped into trousers, asymmetrical skirts, deconstructed tops that could be draped as you fancied, toga-like dresses, sarong-style skirts and even saris, shown with brocade blouses. The colour palette extended from vibrant oranges, pinks and reds to the more sophisticated burgundy and the obligatory black.

The simple, clean lines of this collection segued effortlessly into the chiffon line, which created a dreamy, romantic effect with floating layers, asymmetrical hemlines, ruffles and wispy sleeves. With a strong commercial grounding, this seems destined to have a trickle-down effect on the high street.

The outfits included empire-line kurtas, flowing caftans, flared ghagras, all constructed to enhance the femininity of the wearer. The colour scheme varied from the high-contrast pairing of hot pink and yellow, magenta and orange, taking in the soothing shades of lemon yellow and sea green along the way.

Psychedelic prints brought back memories of the Sixties, while black chiffon did duty for the night, with the glamour quotient being supplied by sequins, glitter and a touch of brocade.

The closing sequence showed sequined and embroidered saris, draped elegantly around bare-bodied male models, with the gender-bender touch bringing an element of freshness to the show.

Earlier in the day, Nandita Basu impressed with a strong, confident collection that took in everything from structured jackets, severe coat-dresses, Oriental prints and a dash of sparkle. Surface ornamentation was restricted to embroidery and appliqu� work, with the emphasis on textured fabrics.

Basu effortlessly straddled the gap between the demure and the sexy with peekaboo dresses jostling alongside demure long jackets.

The contrast was carried through with a demure neckline giving shock value to a bare back, distressed edges on a patchwork dress providing relief to the chunky comfort of knits, and belts � both narrow and broad � drawing the eye to the waist and hips.

She shared the stage with her husband, Abhishek Gupta, whose collection was more eclectic. The play of colour was stronger here, with layering being a strong trend. The knee-length printed kurtas � shown with solid colour fitted trousers and accessoried with long coats in contrasting colours � and voluminous crinkled skirts made a strong design statement.

But the shows came later. The third Lakme India Fashion Week opened with the focus squarely on the media with a seminar on fashion journalism � or its perceived lack in India.

The conclusion that emerged was that fashion journalism in this country had failed to either move or inform the readers. The problem, the consensus was, lay in the absence of enough journalists who understood fashion, a highly specialised subject. Hence, reportage of fashion remained restricted to page-three type stories on the celebrities at fashion shows rather than focus on the clothes.

The lesson: fashion journalism needs to move away from writing about the same 20 designers and turn its attention to other aspects of the industry.

For instance, the retail segment, street fashion, textile market, export scene, or even the of a neighbourhood tailor � all subjects with more relevance to the lives of their readers.


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