THE KARGIL FUND Set up by The Telegraph and Anandabazar Patrika
More than a hundred soldiers have already died in the undeclared war in Kargil. Many more are lying injured in hospitals. No assistance is compensation enough for the mother who has lost her son or the wife her husband. But we, the citizens of this country, need to help, in however small a way. The Telegraph and Anandabazar Patrika are setting up a fund with that modest aim in mind. The fund is being started with an intial contribution of Rs 5 Lakh from the ABP Group. If every reader of The Telegraph and Anandabazar Patrika donates a small sum, we can raise a huge amount for the families of the soldiers killed or injured in action. As a token of appreciation, both papers will publish the names of donors contributing Rs 500 or more. This is a time to ask yourself what can you do for the nation.   Only account payee cheques and drafts - payable to 'ABP Kargil Fund' - will be accepted. Put the cheque/draft in an envelope with your name and address. Write 'ABP Kargil Fund' and mail it to or deliver (between 10 am and 6 pm except on Sundays) at  
6 Prafulla Sarkar Street 
Calcutta 700001 
Twin-track route to test ban treaty
To poll with ?hero? of Kargil
Letter war jams telecom line
Selling Calcutta, warts and only warts
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, July 31 
India plans to space out the signing and ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) to maintain the pace of improving its relations with the US. At the same time, it wants to allay domestic fears of a sellout of national interests.

According to the strategy, India will sign the treaty in October, while keeping on hold its ratification till it is able to build a national consensus on the issue.

Foreign minister Jaswant Singh told a TV channel today that attempts will be made by the BJP-led coalition, if it returns to power, to build a national consensus by the year-end. ?A consensus will be found which best serves India?s interest,? he said.

Though India had declared a unilateral moratorium after last year?s Pokhran tests, it has neither signed nor ratified the CTBT so far. It is among the 44 countries whose signature and ratification are required for the treaty to come into force.

Barring India, Pakistan and North Korea, all the other countries have signed the treaty. However, several of them, including the US, Russia and China, are yet to ratify it.

At the United Nations General Assembly in September last year, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had said India will not stand in the way and prevent the CTBT from coming into effect if all the other 43 nations signed and ratified it by September this year at the review conference in New York. The conference is now scheduled to be held in October.

Singh, during his meetings at the Asean Regional Forum in Singapore, had made it clear that a decision on signing the treaty will be taken only after the elections and by the new government.

If the BJP-led coalition is returned to power, the assessment in the foreign ministry is that India will sign the CTBT by October and try to build a national consensus for its ratification. The spacing out of the two stems from its urgency to be part of the international initiative by October, when the treaty?s entry-into-force clause comes up for review.

Though Washington has made it clear that President Bill Clinton?s proposed visit to India ? likely in February next year ? is not linked to the CTBT sign-up, South Block feels that the signature will boost bilateral relations.

Also, if Clinton does visit India, the US sanctions on New Delhi will be lifted by then.

However, India may hedge over ratifying the treaty unless it is satisfied that the ties are heading in the ?desired? direction.

The space-out strategy will give India breathing time to review bilateral ties and soothe domestic fears of a sellout. Delhi can continue to stall ratification till the other countries have completed formalities, and silence criticism within the country.    

New Delhi, July 31 
The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) today hailed Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee as the hero of Kargil and said the ?victory? against Pakistan would figure in the joint election manifesto to be released on August 16.

The meeting, however, avoided a discussion on the merger of the Samata Party and the Lok Shakti into the Sharad Yadav-J.H. Patel faction of the Janata Dal and the ?reunified? Dal?s induction into the NDA.

Earlier, Karnataka BJP leaders B.S. Yediyurappa, Ananth Kumar and Basvaraj Patil met Vajpayee separately to debate the inclusion of the Dal faction in the NDA.

After the meeting, the leaders said: ?We made our position clear. The BJP and Lok Shakti should go together in the coming Lok Sabha and Assembly polls... You can draw your own inference.?

Convenor George Fernandes said a resolution was adopted at the NDA meeting, chaired by Vajpayee, expressing ?great appreciation and admiration of the leadership demonstrated by A.B. Vajpayee (during the Kargil conflict). It is this leadership that won for India victory on the battlefield as also in the international arena.?

Two resolutions passed earlier at the meeting recorded the NDA?s ?highest admiration for the valour, dedication and national spirit displayed by the armed forces? and expressed its ?total commitment? to the welfare of the families of soldiers killed in Kargil.

Asked if the NDA manifesto would list the Kargil ?victory? as an achievement of the Vajpayee government, Fernandes indicated it would.

?The Kargil victory is an achievement of the country, in which the government played a notable part in pursuing diplomatic initiatives. The NDA manifesto has a preamble which will discuss national and international issues and concerns. The government?s achievements are also part of the preamble,? he said.

NDA sources said members suggested the manifesto should be captioned ?Proud and Prosperous India? or ?India 2000?, in line with the BJP?s theme of a ?strong and resurgent nation?.

On the Dal faction?s induction into NDA, Fernandes said he was confident the problem would be solved ?soon?. He said the Dal was already functioning as one entity, but clarified that he had attended the meeting as a Samata representative and Ramakrishna Hegde as a Lok Shakti leader. Fernandes said Samata, Lok Shakti and the Dal faction would fight the elections on a common symbol.

The Akali Dal and the Arunachal Congress also pleaded for the Dal?s induction in the interest of ?strengthening? the alliance.

The BJP is reconciled to the three parties contesting on one symbol ? especially after the Lok Shakti threatened to walk out of the NDA and the ?reunified? Dal announced a rally in Bangalore on August 7 ? but in return, the party will seek claim to the chief minister?s post in Karnataka, sources said. The BJP would also contest most of the Assembly seats in Karnataka.

Chief minister J.H. Patel may opt out of the Assembly polls and contest a Lok Sabha seat, the sources added. He may be accommodated at the Centre if the NDA comes to power. The BJP feels this will take the sting out of the anti-incumbency factor in Karnataka and save the party the embarrassment of defending a chief minister it has attacked for five years. The deal would placate the party?s state unit, which has been opposed to any truck with the Dal.

BJP sources said the only hitch was Hegde, who is believed to be feeling ?shortchanged? by the deal. He will lose claim to the chief minister?s post and his party may end up with fewer Assembly seats now that the Dal has to be accommodated as well.

In Bihar, sources said, the BJP would like to give only four tickets to the Dal faction. The party is willing to accommodate Ram Vilas Paswan, Nawal Kishore Rai, Dinesh Kumar Yadav and Devendra Prasad Yadav but is not ?favourably? disposed towards Sharad Yadav.

Asked if the Trinamul Congress was part of the NDA since it had not attended even one meeting of the alliance so far, Fernandes said: ?Mamata Banerjee is part of the NDA to the extent that there have been discussions in which she has said she will fight the polls on the NDA agenda.?    

July 31 
Another torrent of angry words and a flurry of letters today exacerbated the controversy over the Vajpayee government?s bailout package for cash-strapped telecom operators.

The Congress and the CPM attacked Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee for continuing to maintain a studied silence on the raging controversy, while the CPI urged the Election Commission to stop its implementation to ensure a ?free and fair poll.?

On Friday, Delhi High Court had put on hold till August 3 the package which permits telecom operators to switch from a rigorous licence fee-based system to a less demanding revenue-sharing arrangement.

CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee released the letter he wrote to Vajpayee yesterday in which he blasted the BJP for wrenching out of context the contents of his earlier epistles to make out a case that ?I had recommended the course of action which your government has decided?.

Chatterjee accused the government ?of spreading canards against the opposition? while trying to justify its arbitrary action.

He also sent copies of a batch of letters to President K.R. Narayanan, which included the July 30 letter to Vajpayee and an earlier one dated May 19, 1998, addressed to then communications minister Sushma Swaraj, to set the record straight.

Narayanan had earlier expressed reservations about the propriety of a caretaker government formulating a bailout plan.

In Delhi, CPM leader Nilotpal Basu accused the Centre of trying to confound the debate by making the dubious claim that the revenue-sharing regime would actually generate more cash.

Basu released confidential notings of the top brass in the telecom department which revealed that the government had no idea of how many cellular connections existed in the country and had no way to verify the figure. This meant the cellular companies could shortchange the government by under-reporting the number of connections, he added.

The CPM also released a confidential report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India which charged the government with giving the cellular operators in the metros undue benefits worth Rs 837 crore.

CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan wrote a letter to Chief Election Commissioner M.S. Gill saying the package should be frozen immediately since it would create a situation where ?kickbacks? could vitiate the poll process. He said it was clear from the documents that the Prime Minister?s Office had shown undue interest.

The Congress joined in, its spokesman Kapil Sibal saying: ?There?s phony business afoot.? The way the Vajpayee government has tried to push through the package signifies an ?ulterior motive?, he added. ?The Prime Minister?s sullied hands are thoroughly exposed,? said Sibal.    

Calcutta, July 31 
Welcome to Calcutta, or Kolkata ? the foreign tourist couldn?t care less. What he?s being sold is ?naked Kali? in the morning and ?naked? dancing girl in the evening.

Packaging Calcutta as a city of sleaze and depravity, a chain of one-man enterprises working out of Ambassadors is taking foreign visitors on a guided tour of the grotesque.

Start at a temple, end at a brothel with a Mother Teresa home and a crematorium thrown in for good measure.

The Shocking Calcutta Tour promises ?two exciting behind the scenes experiences of Calcutta?. An elderly British couple on a visit to the city was handed a red, printed leaflet, and sent it to this newspaper, shocked that a city and its residents tolerate such business. CM-in-waiting and culture cop Buddhadev Bhattacharya please note.

If Bangkok can tolerate its massage parlours, Hamburg its street of sin, why not Calcutta its weird whirligig?

City of Sorrow by morning (Rs 300 per head) and City of Joy by night (Rs 350), says the leaflet ? an amazing mix of urban hip and neoliteracy ? from Kali Tours. ?Been there? Done that? Tired of the same old sights? Think again. Now you can see the real bare naked Calcutta.?

The morning trip begins at 9 from in front of a central Calcutta hotel and heads south for Kalighat. ?Only Tuesdays and Saturdays,? says the driver?s helpful helper, whose smattering of English is outmatched only by his shrug and swagger. ?Those are the only two days when you can see goats being slaughtered.? When the car draws up in the congested lane outside the temple, a couple of men materialise. They seem to know the driver as well as his mission.

We are taken to the sacrificial area, where our guide (?I?m a Brahmin, a priest of the temple?) hollers above the shrieking and bleating, the hawking and refusals to make himself heard. ?Two thousand rupees to get your own goat slaughtered. The meat will be distributed among the poor,? he says tersely. My companion, an Englishman now living in Calcutta, rolls his eyes.

We make our way out. Near the exit, our guide thrusts a bound exercise book under our noses and says: ?Please, you have to make a donation for charity.? And what is the least that one can pay? ?Six hundred rupees. It will fetch you a bag of rice.?

From Kalighat, the car heads for the Keoratala burning ghats. ?Watch locals take their final exit at world-famous burning ghat?, the leaflet had promised. On a damp and miserable July afternoon, the crematorium is nearly deserted. Our driver and his helper slip out for a quick cup of tea, leaving us to our devices.

Next on the agenda is what we know as Nirmal Hriday, Mother Teresa?s home for the dying and the destitute. The tour, however, touts it as a big attraction because people die in it everyday. The alternative is a ?famous roadside leper clinic?. ?The choice is yours. No time to loose (sic),? says the promotional.

The final stop is Babughat to ?witness morning ablutions of city poor in sacrid (sic) Hooghly River?. We are left alone, even hurried on our way. The driver lolls around, there being no opportunity for fleecing.

The night tour begins around 7 pm. The aim is to visit Sonagachhi to see the ?6,500 prostitutes of all ages throng the busy streets in festival spirit, eyepopping you for sure?. A ?naked, no touchee no feeley dance with beautiful woman of your choice while you glug a Kingfisher? promises to follow.

By the time we set out for the evening, the driver and his helper are in a foul mood. It takes about 20 minutes to the red-light area. The car slides to a halt in front of a four-storied building. Almost instantly, pimps surround the car, hanging onto the roof, clutching at the windshield. ?Get out of the car,? orders the driver. ?We have to go and make arrangements for you.?

?Four thousand five hundred rupees to watch her dance. She will perform only for you and your friend,? says the driver. A drink with the dance costs Rs 300.

When told that all we wanted to do was turn back, the driver becomes livid. He assures us of our safety and insists that we go in. By now, as the car stops and starts and jerks through the narrow lane, the pimps are becoming abrasive. We manage to get the car out of the area and on to Chittaranjan Avenue.

The night tour ends early, much earlier than the driver, his friend, the pimps had wanted. ?You are cowards. You need not have come,? says the driver.

We did. To see that at least someone is trying to sell Calcutta, or Kolkata. And, how!    

Today?s forecast: One or two spells of light rain accompanied by thunder.
Temperature: Maximum 34.4?C (2?C above normal)
Minimum 25.4?C (1?C below normal)
Relative humidity: Maximum 97%
Minimum 56%
Rainfall: 14.3 mm
Sunset: 6.16 pm
Sunrise: 5.10 am    

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