Bhandari moved out to Gujarat
Sonia passes Sangh desi test
Dunlop worker driven to death
10 foreigners missing in Kashmir
Howls of pain in lab of no return
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, March 13 
The Centre tonight shifted Bihar Governor Sundar Singh Bhandari to Gujarat, abruptly ending one of the most tumultuous and controversial reigns in the Raj Bhavan.

A Rashtrapati Bhavan communiqu? said Patna High Court chief justice Brij Mohan Lal would officiate as Governor of Bihar till an appointment was made. The communiqu? said Bhandari would be Gujarat Governor ?for the remainder of his term?.

Bhandari?s sudden transfer came five days after he was forced to reinstate Rabri Devi as chief minister following revocation of President?s rule.

Bhandari, earlier locked in a war of nerves with the Centre over his continuation in Bihar, today said he himself wanted to leave the state. ?I myself told the Centre about my decision to leave Patna and requested them to relieve me. I am happy that my request has been acceded to,? he said.

BJP sources claimed Bhandari had told Union home minister L.K. Advani when he met him two days ago that he was ?not comfortable? in Patna after the unparalleled rollback of President?s rule in the state.

Rabri Devi, too, had made it clear after her re-installation that it would not be possible to work under a ?hostile? Governor.

Although Bhandari said he was going on his own, he seems to have been squeezed between the demand for his removal and Advani?s growing aversion to him.

The clamour of Rabri Devi and her party for Bhandari?s removal made it convenient for Advani to pull the plug. Earlier, he had tried in vain to replace Bhandari by declaring publicly that Bihar would have an ?apolitical Governor?, unleashing a storm that further muddled the Bihar fiasco.

Officially, the BJP, whose hardliners had opposed tooth and nail the attempts to remove Bhandari, distanced itself from the transfer, saying it was a government decision. ?We have nothing to say about it,? party spokesman M. Venkaiah Naidu said.

But the BJP?s Bihar unit was more outspoken, describing the move as ?unfortunate?.

The transfer does spare Bhandari the ignominy of reading out the customary Governor?s speech before the joint session of the legislature which could have had humiliating references to his recommendation to impose Central rule in the state.

Laloo Prasad Yadav had hinted that the speech, usually a policy road map of the state government, would have included references to the Centre?s humiliating retreat on President?s rule.

Laloo Yadav, away on a tour, was unavailable for comment tonight. CPM leader Harkishen Singh Surjeet said it was clear that Bhandari would not have wanted to read out the address which would have attacked the RSS.

However, asked about the immediate reason for opting out, Bhandari said: ?I would not like to divulge that, nor do I feel it necessary to do so.?

The Congress, which had sprung the Bihar surprise on the BJP and forced it to revoke President?s rule in the state, welcomed the transfer, adding it should have been done long ago.

The Left said ?the declared RSS man? should have been sacked instead of being installed in Gujarat.

In February, the Rabri Devi government was dismissed and the Assembly kept in suspended animation.

However, the BJP-led government had to revoke the Central rule this week, realising that ratification of the dismissal was not possible in the Rajya Sabha without the Congress? support.

The BJP is now harping on the Congress-Laloo Yadav ?nexus?, demanding that the Congress clarify its stand on whether it would support or oppose the Rabri Devi government at next week?s trust vote.    

Lucknow, March 13 
In a dramatic turnaround, the RSS has accepted the possibility of ?videshi? Sonia Gandhi becoming Prime Minister.

RSS joint general secretary K.C. Sudarshan told reporters on the conclusion of the organisation?s three-day meet here: ?She (Sonia) has adopted Indian nationality. If people want, they can vote her to power.? The statement coincided with Sonia Gandhi completing one year at the Congress helm.

The press briefing, however, began with the RSS leader attacking Sonia Gandhi for ?encouraging? Christian missionaries. ?Ever since Sonia Gandhi took over as president of the Congress, Christian agencies have started spreading canard against Hindu organisations. This is part of an international conspiracy,? he said.

?Sonia became Congress president when Christianity was on the wane. With her emergence, Christianity has received a shot in the arm in India,? Sudarshan added. He said Christian organisations have never before aggressively campaigned in favour of conversions.

Sudarshan?s admission that Sonia Gandhi could become Prime Minister has created ripples in political circles here. The Uttar Pradesh unit of the Congress is confused, while the BJP maintained that Sudarshan?s comments should not be taken to mean the RSS welcomed Sonia Gandhi.

?Sudarshan?s comments should not be taken out of context. He merely admitted the technical possibility of Sonia Gandhi becoming Prime Minister. Not once did he say the RSS feels she would be Prime Minister,? BJP state unit president Rajnath Singh said.

Uttar Pradesh Congress president Salman Khurshid said: ?The RSS has no option but to see the writing on the wall. It is good that they have realised the eventuality of Sonia Gandhi becoming Prime Minister. However, I need to understand the context in which the statement was made.?

The Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha of the RSS, meanwhile, passed a resolution on the World Trade Organisation.

Sudarshan said the RSS welcomed the initiative taken by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee at the G-15 meeting in Jamaica. The resolution said the government should keep the interests of developing nations in mind while negotiating the terms of the WTO.

The RSS, however, opposed direct-to-home service in India, saying it would tantamount to an onslaught on the cultural values of the country.

At the end of the meet, a message from RSS chief Raju Bhaiyya, who is recovering from a fractured arm, was read out.

He expressed satisfaction that the government had managed to thwart nations which were opposed to India?s emergence as a nuclear power.    

Chinsurah (Hooghly), March 13 
Unable to battle poverty any longer, a worker of Dunlop India?s closed unit at Sahagunj committed suicide last night.

Prosenjit Sarkar, 31, hanged himself.

Sarkar lived in Phatakgora in the Chandannagore police station area. The police said Sarkar?s wife Sumita and their two daughters ? Rima and Riya ? had been to a wedding last evening. Sarkar saw them off, bolted the door, shut himself in the bedroom, strung a noose with a clothesline and hanged himself from the ceiling.

After they returned, Sumita pounded on the door but found no response. Eventually, she called neighbours to help her. They broke open the door. Sumita stumbled inside to find her husband hanging.

Ranjit Niyogi, a leader of the Intuc-affiliated Dunlop union, said the Sarkars were in dire straits. Sarkar was up to his neck in debt; his provident fund savings ? he did not have much because he had been earning only for the past five years ? were exhausted.

Sumita said their five-year-old daughter Rima was suffering from blood cancer. But her husband did not have the means to arrange for Rima?s treatment. ?That depressed him and forced him to kill himself,? Sumita said. Sarkar had tried to make ends meet by starting a business, but it failed.

Sarkar worked as an operator in the motor cover department. He got the job after his father, Debnath Sarkar, died. When Dunlop shut down its Sahagunj unit on February 8, last year, he was on fortnightly wages of about Rs 800.

He is the latest in a long and growing list of industrial workers in West Bengal who have committed suicide after being rendered unemployed. So far, the jute industry had the dubious distinction of recording the highest number of such incidents.

At a time when the Left Front has been bending over backwards to woo investments into the state, Dunlop has become a metaphor for the crimes that businessmen get away with.

?Shouldn?t Manu Chhabbria (Dunlop?s owner) be charged with murder?? asked a trade unionist.

The state government had promised at a meeting chief minister Jyoti Basu held with Dunlop unions on April 8, 1998, that it was toying with the idea of taking over the Sahagunj unit and running it for a year, during which it would identify a promoter in place of Chhabria. But the NRI businessman has so far checkmated the state in its effort.

Earlier this week, the Appellate Authority of Industrial and Financial Reconstruction ordered the setting up of a panel to oversee how Dunlop might be reopened. The committee will examine the possibility of disposing of some of the company?s real estate. It will take about Rs 100 crore to revive the Sahagunj unit.    

Srinagar, March 13 
A Jammu and Kashmir government helicopter with 10 foreigners, including internationally famous heliskier Sylvan Sudan, went missing near the upper reaches of Sonemarg on the Srinagar-Leh road today.

A police source said this evening the helicopter suddenly lost contact with air control here.

The heliskiers, mostly from France, left Srinagar for Gund in the helicopter, which is usually used by chief minister Farooq Abdullah.

Sources said Sudan had been bringing groups of heliskiers to Kashmir every year and usually used his own helicopter. This year, they said, he hired the government-owned helicopter for taking groups of skiers to Gund.

Immediately after the news of the missing helicopter reached Jammu, the chief minister alerted officials. Sources said the search for the helicopter would begin early tomorrow. They said since the area is covered with snow, there is no possibility of the abduction of stranded passengers by militants.

?The area seems safe. However, we cannot say anything,? a police officer said. ?We believe the skiers may have begun their return journey on foot.?

Police personnel will leave for the area tomorrow morning. Sources said besides seven French skiers, there was a German couple and a Swiss national on the helicopter.    

Calcutta, March 13 
For residents of this middle-class locality in south Calcutta, the screams had become too much to bear.

The screams pierced their days and shattered their nights. From behind the respectable facade of the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology emerged the pathetic wails of dogs in obvious pain.

The residents of North Road in Jadavpur petitioned the Calcutta Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (CSPCA) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). A recording of the screams followed the petitions.

The institute, a central government outfit, is carrying out experiments on dogs. Its assistant director, Somenath Banerjee, has admitted in a letter to CSPCA that these dogs are supplied by an animal welfare organisation, the Compassionate Crusaders? Trust.

?We were shocked,? said Shahanshah Jehangir, president of CSPCA. ?How could an animal welfare organisation supply dogs for such experimentation where they are not obviously looked after at all?? he asked.

Debasis Chakrabarti, founder-trustee of the organisation, denies the charge. The Trust shares its administrative staff with the Calcutta chapter of the People for Animals, floated by celebrity animal-lover and minister Maneka Gandhi.

The institute is using the dogs in its experiments to develop radioactive drugs for nuclear imaging in humans.

?For this, we have to operate on dogs and inject radioactive drugs into their body. Then we kill the dogs with an overdose of sleeping pills and extract the hearts ?we need these for imaging,? said assistant director Banerjee.

He claims the dogs scream because they miss the familiar sights and smells of their own neighbourhood. Could the reason rather lie in the radioactive drugs they are injected with? Dr Banerjee should know as he also heads the institute?s department of nuclear medicine.

Next to an overturned broken-down water container, in the filth of scattered-around gruel, lies a dog, eyes staring vacantly ahead, unresponsive to the presence of a stranger. Two heavy chains keep him pinned in a 6ft/4ft cage. As neighbourhood, the kennel has piles of clinical garbage strewn along the rear boundary wall of the institute, making up one side of a study in contrasts. The other side is a patch of garden smiling on a visitor walking up to the entrance.

One such visitor last month was Jehangir, who went with WWF?s state director Col. (retired) S.R. Banerjee and a CSPCA inspector. ?The institute is not complying with provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960,? Col. Banerjee said. The provisions include taking care of the animals on which experiments are being performed and carrying out tests in a manner that does not cause pain. The Act also advises against using bigger animals.

Claiming that the institute looks after the dogs well, its assistant director said rats and guinea pigs were not suitable for the kind of experiments they were conducting.

CSPCA?s Jehangir has already written to Maneka Gandhi, drawing her attention to the allegation that an animal welfare organisation is supplying dogs for experiments using radioactive drugs.

In a strange twist to the tale, the assistant director of the institute has withdrawn the statement he made in his letter to CSPCA that dogs were being procured from the Trust. ?I was wrong. I mentioned the Trust?s name by mistake. We had bought dogs from the Calcutta Municipal Corporation?s Dhapa pound, not the Trust,? he said.

He claimed ignorance when it was pointed out that the Dhapa dog pound was handed over to the Trust more than a couple of years ago.

The animal welfare organisation?s founder-trustee sees the evil shadow of conspiracy. Debasis Chakrabarti said he was being framed as he was a member of a central committee formed to review use of animals for experiments.

He hurls the allegation back at the CSPCA president and the WWF official. ?There is a powerful lobby against any restriction on animal experiments. This lobby has purchased the CSPCA president and the WWF state director,? Chakrabarti growls.

Maneka Gandhi has not snapped into action in her customary style yet and Jehangir intends to send her a reminder.

For now, the tests possibly continue. The screams certainly do. They did, at least until last night.    

Today?s forecast: Partly cloudy sky. Little change in day and night temperature

Temperature: Maximum 34.1?C (Normal )
Minimum 23.9?C (3?C above normal)

Relative humidity: Maximum 95%
Minimum 31%


Sunrise:5.51 am
Sunset: 4.50 pm

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