Junta preys lead Durban hunt against Pak
Power blasts scorch Metro
Long-distance ambush on Advani
Sachin scores 1,000 out of 10

Durban, Nov. 13 
India feels that the Commonwealth decision to suspend Pakistan indefinitely from its councils will be seen in Islamabad as a build-up in global opinion against the continuation of military rule.

However, a backstage campaign to get Pakistan suspended from the Commonwealth itself, instead of from just the councils, is still under way. India has not publicly associated itself with the move, but Caribbean and African states, which were once victims of juntas, are pressing with the campaign for harsher punishment to Pakistan.

India was among those which asserted that a soft line on Pakistan would be construed as a Commonwealth attempt to condone the coup. But the Prime Minister played down India?s role.

Asked whether India?s stand could be termed ?hard?, Atal Behari Vajpayee replied: ?Have you heard the others speak??

Fiery speeches were delivered by Bangladesh, Nigeria and Guyana against the coup in Pakistan. Uganda, Botswana, Sierra Leone and Mauritius also echoed them.

Like the Prime Minister, national security adviser Brajesh Mishra was also cautious. He said a ?move is still on? for harsher action against Pakistan, but declined to commit whether India had any role in the effort.

He, too, pointed to the appeals of other nations. The debate on restoring democracy was ?quite instructive, very intensive and very emotional?, Mishra said. He added that by and large, most nations wanted early return of democracy. Asked if suspension will work, he said: ?Nobody likes to be isolated.?

Vajpayee said this morning that ?pressure of world opinion will help Pakistan return to democracy?. On whether the decision to indefinitely suspend Pakistan was in India?s interest, Vajpayee said: ?Restoration of democracy is in the interest of Pakistan and the region.?

Though Commonwealth struck a compromise yesterday by suspending Pakistan ?indefinitely?, but only from the councils, Vajpayee said: ?We are entirely satisfied with the discussion at the executive session.?

On the ground, the Commonwealth decision does not appear to do much to trouble the army regime in Pakistan. If India sees it as a gathering of world opinion against Islamabad, Gen. Parvez Musharraf can view it as a failure to push through a hard line. ?It (the Durban decision) is not a very practical one. They should see the reality on the ground,? Musharraf told AP in Islamabad.

The decision prevents Pakistan from attending any of the Commonwealth meetings, but there is no indication that it will hurt the country economically.

India is not keen on a high-profile role in an anti-Pakistan campaign as a strident stand would ensure that the traditional animosity between the neighbours will overshadow the democracy factor, which is now keeping the junta-baiters together in Durban.

Besides, the pro-democracy campaign is gradually turning into a developed-versus-developing nations issue. The West is more keen on ?engaging? the regime in Pakistan than isolating it. If the West chooses to resist stiffer penalty, it will be difficult to carry through full suspension.

Vajpayee, along with leaders of 53 other nations, left for the customary ?retreat? at a health resort in George, near Cape Town. The two-day stay there will give them an opportunity to sound each other on the Pakistan issue and the Seattle trade talks.    

Calcutta, Nov. 13 
A series of explosions in the underground power sub-station of the Metro Railway near the Park Street station rocked the tunnel this afternoon and stalled services.

The explosions, suspected to have been caused by ?insulation failure? in the power supply panel, wounded at least eight persons.

The explosions triggered a fire, damaging wires and transformers. ?A failure in the cable line might have caused the explosions and the fire,? said Metro Railway general manager G.R. Madan.

About 15 fire tenders doused the flame in three hours. Firemen rescued the eight trapped persons, two of them Metro Railway engineers who were working in the sub-station when the explosion occurred. Six others were contractor?s labourers.

Fortunately, one Up and one Down train were stationed at Chandni Chawk and Rabindra Sadan stations. The fire on the electrical panels automatically snapped the power supply to the third rail. The trains were terminated there and the passengers asked to vacate.

?It would have been critical had the trains been on run and midway between stations,? said a top Metro Railway official. The tunnel stretching between Chandni Chawk and Rabindra Sadan was plunged into darkness.

Train services from Tollygunge to Dum Dum were stalled soon after the explosion at 1.30 pm and could not be resumed during the day. The authorities were not certain about resumption of normal services on Sunday.

Railway minister Mamata Banerjee was informed about the accident. In a message from Indore, she expressed concern about the injured. She said member (engineering), Railway Board, V.K. Agnihotri, will be in Calcutta to conduct an inquiry.

Mamata hinted at major changes in the set-up as a sequel to the accident and the overall deterioration in the services.

The injured were rescued almost half an hour after the fire broke out. They were taken to SSKM Hospital.

Rajiv Chakravorty (28), one of the injured labourers, said they were replacing the worn out metal basements on which the ?electrical panels or transformers? were installed. These panels relay power to the third rail.

The team had entered the sub-station around 10.30 am. They noticed smoke billowing out of a cable at 1.20 pm. He and other workers brought this to the notice of the two Metro Railway engineers. ?But within minutes, a panel caught fire and threatened four others closeby. These panels then began to explode one after the other,? said Rajiv.

?We were dumbfounded and tried to run out of the tunnel. But thick smoke had engulfed it and we could not see the exit.We fell ill because of suffocation,? said Sanjoy Das (32), another injured labourer.    

Lucknow, Nov. 13 
High drama and intervention from higher levels prevented home minister L.K. Advani from flying to Lucknow yesterday and sanctioning the ouster of two opponents of Kalyan Singh from the Uttar Pradesh Cabinet.

Senior BJP leaders today confirmed that both Advani and new chief minister R.P. Gupta had assured Kalyan that Kalraj Mishra, the Prime Minister?s original nominee for the heartland crown, and Lalji Tandon would not be sworn in on Friday. Gupta, however, had said that Advani should come to Lucknow and announce it to the two senior ministers.

On Friday morning, invitations were sent to 47 ministers who were to be sworn in with the new chief minister. But the names of Tandon and Mishra were missing.

At 1 pm, a panicky Tandon called the Prime Minister?s personal assistant, Shiv Kumar, and his foster son-in-law, Ranjan Bhattacharya. He wanted to know whether they could get A.B. Vajpayee, in Durban for the Commonwealth meet, to speak to Gupta.

As Tandon was dialling Delhi, Advani?s BSF plane was being readied. In Lucknow, Gupta made a telling comment. Asked whether the two would be dropped, he said: ?Our senior leader Advaniji is coming. All decisions will be taken after consulting him.?

Back in Delhi, the Prime Minister?s Office got in touch with Cabinet secretary Prabhat Kumar and ?reminded? him that ?as per government orders?, at least one permanent member of the National Security Council had to be present in Delhi on any given day. Barring Advani, the other permanent members were out of station. Kumar called Advani at 2 pm and passed on the message.

Advani, though upset, had no choice but to stay in Delhi. The plan to drop Mishra and Tandon was more or less scuttled.

Human resources minister Murli Manohar Joshi, who is close to Mishra, flew to Lucknow without Advani but with the holy sanction from the high command to include Tandon and Mishra.

It was as late as 3 pm, barely two-and-a-half hours before the swearing-in, that Joshi officially cleared the two names. Only then did the duo had their first meal of the day.

It was now the turn of Kalyan, who was relishing a face-saver revenge, to be shocked. He threatened to boycott the swearing-in but gave in after relentless persuasion by Gupta. At Raj Bhavan. Kalyan did not even make an effort to socialise.

Early this morning, he left for the Vindhyachal temple in Mirzapur. With no plane at his disposal, the former chief minister had to cover the 350 km by road ? a first in two years.    

Guwahati, Nov. 13 
Come Monday and captain Sachin Tendulkar intends reminding coach Kapil Dev of a bet back in New Zealand, early 1990. And, yes, Sachin will ?preserve? the Rs 1,000 he stands to gain.

It?s like this: Sachin was on his second tour when, either during travelling or on an evening out, a chat with Kapil veered around to the longevity of cricketers.

Never short on confidence, Sachin insisted he would be around ?for at least a decade.? According to Sachin, who spoke to The Telegraph over lunch (butter chicken, yellow dal and aloo-gobi) at the Brahmaputra Ashok, Kapil?s response was: ?It will be great if you do...?

To that, Sachin suggested a Rs 1,000 bet. Kapil agreed, with trademark promptness, and Monday is when he?ll have to pay up. November 15, after all, will mark the first 10 years of Sachin?s international career.

From Karachi?s National Stadium to now, it?s been a perfect-10.

Seventyone Tests have seen Sachin amass 5,612 runs (average 56.69) with 21 centuries; 227 one-dayers have seen him smash 8,569 runs (average 43.28) with as many as 24 centuries. Today, Sachin has no peers.

?I?m happy I?ve come thus far. Happy, too, that I?ve been able to serve the country... At the moment, though, I?m not specifically looking to the next five or ten years. Indeed, I?m not in the numbers game either. As long as I?m consistent, I?ll probably be counted among the best,? Sachin pointed out.

Yet, when it all began, getting dismissed for only 15 (bowled by another debutant, Waqar Younis) had come as a shock. Sachin confessed as much, emotionally, while specifically zeroing-in on his debut series.

?I?d never been exposed to such fast bowling (Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar) and almost cried in the dressing room... I told myself that despite all my enthusiasm, Test cricket probably wasn?t my cup of tea... That it was too tough and, perhaps, I just wasn?t ready...

?It took some time for those thoughts to disappear and, when they did, I resolved to simply hang around the next time. In fact, I remember telling myself that even if I had to die, I wouldn?t throw my wicket away. That I wouldn?t bat in the shameful manner I did on debut... Frankly, I?d been too tense and, as a result, my feet didn?t move.?

As it turned out, the very next Test (Faisalabad) changed it all: 59 in the first innings and Sachin began to ooze confidence. He hasn?t looked back since.

?That innings will remain significant. I felt comfortable after 15-20 minutes and the coordination between mind and body was as it ought to be. More than anything else, I had to convince myself about my own ability. Had to prove to myself that I actually had it within me to deliver.?

Test No. 3 (Lahore) was one big yawn but the final one (Sialkot) saw the 16-year-old quickly grow in stature. Despite being hit on the nose, by Waqar, Sachin didn?t come off ? he scored 57 ? and that one act of courage allowed India to draw the game and series.

?I couldn?t have come off, not when we were precariously placed... I always dreamt of winning matches for India. The next best thing, clearly, is to help avert defeats... In Sialkot, I only did what was expected of me.?

Ten years on, then, how does he look back on tour No.1?

?Oh, that first trip changed me... I returned a different cricketer and those few weeks definitely made a man out of me... I wanted to keep on learning and, so often, felt even 24 hours was too short a time...?

The learning-process continues. Only, now, it?s Sachin who imparts the lessons.    


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