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 
Government staff get pre-poll promotion
Gaisal gang of five suspended
Fernandes secret trip behind Prime Minister?s back
Right of way for citizen, not VIP
India on anti-terrorism offensive
Basu sermon on unity
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, Aug. 5 
In a pre-election bonanza for 4.2 million Central government employees, the Cabinet today approved a scheme which assures them at least two promotions in their career.

Called the assured career progression (ACP) scheme for Central employees, it will cost an additional Rs 64 crore a year in higher wage bills.

Cabinet spokesman and I&B minister Pramod Mahajan said the scheme was announced after a green signal from the Election Commission.

Chief Election Commissioner M.S. Gill, however, said he was unaware if approval had been sought, adding that he would be in a position to clarify tomorrow.

Election commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh said if such a proposal was approved by the Fifth Pay Commission, the poll panel?s hands were tied.

But the Opposition was far from happy. A Congress spokesman said the party was checking if the commission had given consent. The party felt it was yet another measure taken by a caretaker government to appease a particular constituency before polls.

The government is already embroiled in a bitter controversy over the recently-announced telecom package, which is under review by the commission.

Mahajan said the scheme would ?mitigate career stagnation in cadre where regular promotions were not possible. It is sure to boost employee morale.?

Instructions to put the scheme into effect will be issued in a week.

Officers belonging to most group A cadre receive more than two promotions in their career. But junior officers and even certain group A employees hired as technocrats often end their careers without any promotion.

The new scheme will ensure that even if their responsibilities do not grow, they will enjoy the rank and pay of a position two ranks senior to theirs.

The proposal, approved by the Cabinet, upgrades all Group B (junior officers), C (clerical and technical staff) and D (peons and drivers) employees. The benefit has also been extended to holders of group A posts, some of whom have not had any upgradation in their entire service span.

This is not the first time the Vajpayee government has given a pre-poll gift to employees. Towards the end of June, it created and upgraded at least 175 posts in ministries and departments.

Soon after coming to power, the Vajpayee government had raised the retirement age of Central government employees from 58 to 60, though Prof. S. Tendulkar, a member of the Fifth Pay Commission, had said in his note of dissent that raising the age of superannuation would be counter-productive, blocking promotion prospects of lower-level officials.    

Kishangunj, Aug. 5 
The Centre today suspended five senior officers of the Northeast Frontier Railway and asked its general manager to go on leave. It also set up a one-man judicial commission to probe the Gaisal crash between the Brahmaputra Mail and the Avadh-Assam Express, which claimed 287 lives.

Salvage operations at the site were called off early today. In Calcutta, chief minister Jyoti Basu ordered that a mass cremation be held tomorrow as the rotting corpses posed a health hazard.

In New Delhi, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee accepted the resignation of railway minister Nitish Kumar, who put in his papers owning moral responsibility.

NFR general manager Rajendra Nath has been asked to go on leave. Those suspended include chief operations manager S.B. Bhattacharya, chief safety officer R.K. Thanga, divisional railway manager (Katihar) S.N. Mukherjee, senior divisional operating manager (Katihar) V.R. Lenin and divisional safety officer (Katihar) M. Hariram Rao.

The NFR officers? association in Guwahati expressed surprise that the suspensions had been ordered even before the probe report had been submitted. But with the elections coming up, the government cannot be seen as lax in fixing responsibility for such a devastating accident.

At Kishangunj, chief commissioner of railway safety N. Mani grilled railway employees on how the Avadh-Assam Express could have moved onto the wrong track.

A preliminary probe revealed that the disaster occurred when the Express moved onto the track on which the Brahmaputra Mail was heading towards it near the Panjipara cabin.

On Monday, Kumar deputed Mani to hold the inquiry. Mani spent a long time questioning Avadh-Assam Express guard J.C. Chaudhury and his Brahmaputra Mail counterpart T.C. Sarkar. The guards are considered the most important witnesses.

Chaudhury said the train was moving at full speed when the collision took place, but he repeatedly claimed he did not know how it jumped onto the adjacent track.

Most of those summoned today were involved in supervising movement of trains on the Kishangunj-Gaisal stretch that night. Mohammed Mustafa, coach attendant of the Mail, could offer no clues as he had fainted, he said.

Drivers and frontguards of the two trains died on the spot. The surviving guards ? Chaudhury and Sarkar ? were in the rear of the trains. All railway employees gave verbal statements which were typed outside the room in which Mani held the interrogation. After the statements were handed to him, he grilled them.

The arrival of RSS leaders for deposition created a sensation at the Nirman Bhavan, where the hearings are being held. RSS Kishangunj district president Amar Chandra Yadav told Mani the ISI was involved in the accident.

Two cabinmen and the assistant station master of Gaisal and a cabinman from Kishangunj are absconding. The NFR headquarters in Maligaon, Assam, suspended two employees for negligence of duty during rescue operations at Gaisal.    

New Delhi, Aug. 5 
Defence minister George Fernandes did not take the mandatory clearance from the Prime Minister?s Office to use an Aviation Research Centre aircraft for his visit to Chakrata. He was accompanied by former RAW chief Arvind Dave and Samata Party general secretary Jaya Jaitly.

Asked whether Fernandes had sought clearance, the PMO refused comment. But it admitted that ?subsequently, the Prime Minister did issue orders that no Cabinet minister be allowed to use ARC aircraft?, particularly with polls round the corner.

Fernandes, Dave and Jaitly went on a secret trip to Chakrata ? a high-security base of the Special Security Bureau and the ARC ? on the Uttar Pradesh-Himachal Pradesh border on May 20 and 21.

The three are believed to have flown in a 16-seater ARC executive jet fitted with sensitive security and surveillance equipment. The jet is reserved for the sole use of the RAW chief and other senior officials of the agency.

The functions of the ARC, which is under the administrative control of the directorate-general of security in the Cabinet secretariat, is supervised by RAW. It carries out air and electronic surveillance over Pakistan and other neighbouring nations.

All Cabinet ministers and officials are required to obtain permission to use the aircraft. Their requests are routed through the Cabinet secretariat, which sends a note to the PMO for approval.

Questions are being raised by officials in the security set-up about the nature of Fernandes? Chakrata visit five days before Operation Vijay began. Some officers said Dave took Fernandes to Chakrata to show him satellite images of the extent of the Pakistani intrusion.

If that was the case, Fernandes would be expected to submit a written report on the briefing to the Prime Minister, sources in the security establishment said. But there is no evidence of such a report having been received by the PMO. Questions are also being raised as to why the trio had to stay over at the base.

Jaitly had told The Telegraph that she went there to ?attend a cultural programme organised by a school?, and had been joined by some other women.

?Since when have ARC aircraft been used to ferry people who want to attend cultural programmes?? an official asked.

He added that the government should inquire who or which agency gave the ladies permission to enter Chakrata.

Cabinet secretariat sources recalled that in 1989, the then RAW chief A.K. Verma had refused to provide an executive jet to Vice-President S.D. Sharma despite a request from Cabinet secretary T.N. Seshan.    

Aug. 5 
Calcutta Police please note: Delhi High Court today put the national capital?s police force in the dock after it booked a citizen for not giving a VIP?s motorcade right of way.

Delhi School of Economics teacher Shrikant Gupta was ?challaned? by the police on July 23 for allegedly not having given right of way to the convoy escorting Delhi Lt-Governor Vijai Kapoor. Gupta and five others petitioned the court complaining of harassment.

The result is that Delhi High Court passed strictures that could well be applicable for VIP movement anywhere in the country, particularly Calcutta, where traffic stands still every time chief minister Jyoti Basu speeds by in his motorcade and every time the Prime Minister or any other dignitary comes on a visit.

?What is the problem if the Prime Minister travels like a common man? If there is a security threat to VIPs, then take them by helicopters but don?t disturb the common people,? a division bench comprising Delhi Chief Justice S.N. Variava and Justice S.K. Mahajan told the counsel for Delhi Police.

?Every Tom, Dick and Harry is given VIP security these days. Every second car has a red bulb on it. Even a sub-divisional magistrate moves around with a siren and a red bulb on his car. Just because he?s a bureaucrat, he cannot be eligible for such facilities,? the court said.

The indiscriminate use of red lights and hooters has been glaring in Calcutta, too, and a few months ago the state transport department had decided to come out with a set of rules to regulate the ?red terror? on the streets. Not much has been heard of these rules since.

?We are already overburdened with requests for escort convoys that are not needed,? said a senior police officer. ?We are aware that these VIP convoys violate traffic rules and are often a major reason for the chaos on the streets. The Delhi court?s stricture should serve as a warning for us.?

In Calcutta, though, it is only Basu who moves about in a 10-car convoy. Other ministers rarely have escort cars. This evening, the chief minister visited Mahajati Sadan in grand style, throwing evening peak-hour traffic out of gear.

He also returned to his Salt Lake residence by a different route ? taking Chittaranjan Avenue instead of Park Street and Eastern Metropolitan Bypass ? gridlocking traffic at every intersection along the way.

This was just the kind of situation that Justices Variava and Mahajan had in mind in the context of Delhi when they passed strictures. ?No matter who is the VIP, he has to follow traffic rules. Why will he pass through red lights? Traffic rules are the same for everybody,? said Justice Variava. He asked the Delhi police counsel, V K Shali, to point out if there was any law that permitted VIPs to flout traffic rules. ?Where in the world are VIPs given such treatment,? the judge exclaimed.

The court issued notices to the Union home ministry, the ministry of personnel and the Delhi police commissioner and directed the respondents to file replies by September 13.

The judges made the observations after Professor Gupta complained that on July 23 he was returning from a visit to his mother, who was in hospital, when he suddenly found himself driving in front of the Lt Governor?s motorcade. Despite making efforts, he could not veer to the left and make way for the convoy. He alleged that two police officers then manhandled him and issued a challan.

?The man was apprehended by the policemen like a criminal. Should they (the police) behave with the common man like this?? the judges asked.    

New Delhi, Aug. 5 
India plans to draw attention to cross-border terrorism in a big way at the UN General Assembly in New York next month to isolate Pakistan.

Foreign minister Jaswant Singh is likely to highlight cross-border terrorism not only in South Asia but across the globe in his plenary session speech. He will also focus on the issue in the first committee of the General Assembly by Indian officials.

In the build-up to the UN campaign, Delhi today decided to sign the convention for suppression of terrorist bombings. India approved the convention two years ago, but the sign-up was stalled for minor changes in domestic laws.

?The Indian government attaches high priority to strengthen international consensus against terrorism,? information and broadcasting minister Pramod Mahajan told reporters today.

India will also have to sign three other conventions and a protocol to ensure that the UN adopts a comprehensive definition of terrorism. In principle, India agrees with all of them.

The conventions include one on the safety of nuclear material, another on the safety of maritime and off-shore installations, and a third on markings of plastic explosives for detection. The protocol is on prevention of terrorist activities in navigation.

India is planning an offensive on cross-border terrorism to take advantage of the global mood after Kargil. With world focus back on the issue, India intends to force Pakistan on the backfoot and scuttle its bid to internationalise the Kashmir dispute.

Delhi had raised the issue at earlier sessions also, but found few takers. This time, the going will be easier as its interests converge with those of the US. The US has been running a campaign against Islamic terrorism following the Osama bin Laden threat.

The convention for suppression of terrorist bombing says that such criminal acts are under no circumstances justifiable by considerations of politics, philosophy, ideology, race or religion. So far, 36 countries, including the US, UK, Russia, France, Japan and Germany, have signed it.

Mahajan said according to the convention, it was an offence to intentionally deliver, place, discharge or detonate an explosive or a lethal device at a place of public use, government facility, transportation system or infrastructural facility.

He added that it would be the duty of state parties to extradite or prosecute offenders as offences would be treated as extraditable.

Foreign ministry officials said despite the renewed global concern on terrorism, there were several points in the UN conventions that needed strengthening. ?The mood in the UN is to look for new suggestions and, if need be, plug the loopholes to strengthen the conventions,? an official said.    

Calcutta, Aug. 5 
With elections round the corner, chief minister Jyoti Basu today warned the strife-torn CPM of troubled times as he tried to drill sense into the feuding factions.

Addressing party members on the 111th birth anniversary of Muzaffar Ahmed, an architect of the undivided communist movement, Basu lamented the current trend of ?tyranny of the majority? in the party.

In a hard-hitting speech that targeted many CPM leaders, Basu asked the factions to bury differences and display greater tolerance, a democratic attitude and positive emotions for the sake of party unity.    

Today?s forecast: One or two spells of light rain accompanied by thunder.
Temperature: Maximum 33.8?C (2?C above normal)
Minimum 26?8C (1?C above normal)
Relative humidity: Maximum 95%
Minimum 65%
Rainfall: Nil
Sunset: 6.13 pm
Sunrise: 5.12 am    

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