|Wednesday, January 19, 2000,
Cong plans stir on Gujarat order
T.N. Kaul cremated
Punjab opposes welfare fund
HC verdict will benefit PGI
US official meets Vajpayee
RDX recovered on Assam border
Panel for parallel pension scheme
AJT negotiations eyewash
NEW DELHI, Jan 18 Questions are being asked about the negotiations, presently underway, for the purchase of urgently required an Advance Jet Trainer (AJT) for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The negotiations are being viewed as an eyewash, specially since of the two foreign companies shortlisted for purchase of the AJT, one has already stopped production. But negotiators from both the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the IAF do not want to consider other more cost effective options.
The MoD and the IAF had shortlisted the French Alpha Jet and the British Aerospace Hawk trainer as the two options in the eighties.
Although the need for trainers is long overdue, negotiations for their purchase have got underway only now. That too, after a lot of hue and cry following a large number of accidents, many of them blamed on human error.
Sources said, representatives of both the Alpha Jet of Dassault Aviation, France and British Aerospace Hawk have been in the Capital over the past few days for negotiations. India has been wanting to buy 66 AJTs, of which 24 new, flyaway aircrafts will be acquired on outright purchase basis.
But if India wants to buy new AJTs it has no choice. Dassault Aviation stopped production of the Alpha Jets long ago and only second-hand trainers will be available now.
When the IAF made its last assessment on AJTs, way back in the 1980s, the Alpha Jet and the British Hawk were considered the best.
However negotiations started after almost after a decade of the last evaluation by which time there were at least five other options available. Besides, the Alpha Jet and the British Hawk, the trainers available now include the Italian MB339FD, the Yak-130, the Czech L-159 and Polish Erida, all of whom are more cost effective than the British Hawk.
Other options include Casa co-produced by Spain, Argentina and Brazil.
As per reports the British Hawk is being offered at a cost of almost Rs 105 crore without the avionics or other state-of-the-art technology including the electronic warfare system.
For these aircrafts to be put to use for ground attack roles, an expenditure of another Rs 20-30 crore would have be undertaken, almost equivalent to the cost of a state-of-the-art fighter aircraft. The British Hawk package for 66 aircrafts comes to almost Rs 6,750 crore.
Apparently, Parliaments Standing Committee on Defence is also likely to take up the issue of purchase of AJTs in its next meeting. The committee, under the chairmanship of Dr Laxmi Narayan Pande, is expected to hold a meeting in the coming few days.
As per the proposal of the MoD, of the 66 trainer jets which the IAF is to get, 24 new, flyaway aircraft will be acquired on direct purchase basis. The aircrafts will be delivered at the earliest and the supply will commence not later than 24 months from the signing of contract and would be completed by 36 months.
Cong plans stir on Gujarat
NEW DELHI, Jan 18 The Congress today announced its plans to intensify stir on the controversial Gujarat Government order allowing its employees to take part in RSS "shakas," including a public rally at Sabarmati on January 30.
A day after petitioning the President asking him to ask the Centre to direct the Gujarat Government to rescind the circular, the Congress President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, decided to address a public rally at Sabarmati.
The party decided that the ongoing sankalp yatra will now end at Sabarmati instead of Delhi on January 30. The Congress President will address those who took part in the yatra.
On the same day, members of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) will take a pledge and meet the Prime Minister to impress upon him the need to rescind the circular.
Briefing the media, senior party leaders including, Mr Arjun Singh, Mr Rajesh Pilot, Mr Oscar Fernandes and Mr Ahmed Patel expressed concern over the development which allows the Gujarat Government employees to take part the "shakas" held by the RSS.
"This move is just the beginning. Today it could be Gujarat tomorrow it could be another state and then maybe the Central Government", Mr Pilot said adding that the move would encourage the bureaucracy and undermine its neutrality.
Mr Ahmed Patel, a Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat, described the move as "dangerous". "What happens if tomorrow some other state government allows its employees to join jamait.
The move followed a decision of the CWC at its meeting here last week.
Meanwhile a report from Gandhinagar said the Gujarat Minister of State for Home, Mr Haren Pandya today defended the state governments order permitting its employees to participate in the RSS activities, saying it had sent to the Centre names of other such organisations which had sought similar treatment.
He said the BJP Government in Gujarat permitted only the state government employees, and not those from the central services like the Indian Administrative Services or the Indian Police Services, to participate in RSS events.
He said it is the
central services which really constitute the
decision-making machinery. "And they still cannot
participate in the activities of the RSS or other
organisations as per Central Government rules", he
BHOPAL, Jan 18 Ms Uma Bharatis resignation from the Union Council of Ministers has created problems both for the ruling Congress and the Opposition BJP in Madhya Pradesh. If the BJP agitation continues, it will keep alive an issue which Mr Digvijay Singhs government and the Congress find difficult to defend. Ms Bharatis initiative to lead the agitation has also upset the equations within the state BJP.
What happened on January 13 can only be described as a black spot on our democratic system. The election of the Chairman of the Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) was scheduled on that day. The BMC has 66 corporators (plus Mayor) who were elected last month. The Chairman of the council is elected by the corporators from among themselves.
Of the 66 elected corporators, 33 belong to the BJP, 23 to the Congress and two to the BSP. Eight were elected as Independents. The Mayor, elected directly by the electorate of the entire corporation, is a Congress candidate.
As the meeting for the election of the Chairman started at the Acharya Narendradev library hall in the afternoon of January 13, the BJP corporators objected to the presence of three "outsiders" and said this vitiated the election process. The three were the Minister of State in charge of Bhopal. Mr Arif Aquil, a Congress member of the Rajya Sabha, Mr Suresh Pachauri, and the Congress MLA from Bhopal South, Mr P.C. Sharma. The BJPs objection led to some heated exchanges as the Collector of Bhopal and the Returning Officer for the Chairmans election, Mr S.K. Vashishth, overruled the BJP corporators objection.
Later a Congress corporator, after marking the ballot paper, showed it to Mr Aquil and other Congressmen. The BJP corporators demanded that the ballot paper be declared invalid because the Returning Officer was said to have ruled at the outset that a ballot paper would not be counted if its secrecy was not maintained.
As the BJP corporators continued to vociferously demand cancellation of the ballot paper, the Collector was said to have directed the Superintendent of Police to order a lathi-charge on the BJP corporators. The SP insisted on a written order by the Collector. The jawans of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) were then allegedly let loose on the BJP corporators. Over half a dozen of them, including several women, had to be hospitalised with multiple injuries.
Once the hall was cleared of the BJP corporators, the Collector declared Mr Sunil Sood of the Congress "elected" as Chairman of the council. It is intriguing why the RAF was deployed at the meeting where 66 corporators were to elect the Chairman of the corporation. The RAF was constituted to deal exclusively with riots.
The local BJP leaders staged a dharna in front of the library building and resorted to chakka jam on the busy road. Ms Bharati, who is an MP from Bhopal and had vigorously campaigned in the municipal corporation elections, reached Bhopal by the evening flight and went straight to the dharna spot and joined the agitation.
Later the Union Home Minister, Mr L.K. Advani called her up and chastised her for forgetting her position as a Union Minister. It is said that her detractors within the BJP had complained to the partys central leadership against her joining the agitation against the state government while remaining a Minister. On January 15, she faxed her letter of resignation from the Union Council of Ministers to the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee. She said in her letter that she was resigning as the Union Minister of State for Tourism to save embarrassment to the Prime Minister.
By her resignation, Ms Bharati has snatched the initiative from the state leaders and they are naturally feeling disturbed. The state BJP is dominated by the loyalists of the Union Minister for Rural Development and former Chief Minister, Mr Sunderlal Patwa, who is considered a "blue-eyed boy" of the party chief, Mr Kushabhau Thakre. Ms Bharati has been relentlessly fighting against the Thakre-Patwa domination in the state BJP for the past decade.
It has become anUma Bharati versus the state BJP issue, as a senior party leader put to this correspondent. But the party leadership can do little in the matter as the BJP workers are whole-heartedly with Ms Bharati on this issue. Mr Patwas supporters were said to have sent frantic appeals to their leader to do something to save the situation. The Union Minister of State, Ms Sumitra Mahajan, started making noises in Delhi while another Union Minister of State, Mr Ramesh Bains, came to Bhopal and joined the dharna being carried on by the BJP activists under the leadership of Ms Bharati. They are both Patwa loyalists.
Mr patwa was to arrive in Bhopal on January 17, but he cancelled his programme. Now it is said that he would arrive here on January 20 and would address a joint press conference along with Ms Bharati. Meanwhile, Patwa supporters are busy wracking their brains over how to stop Ms Bharati "from hijacking the party." One of the ideas being floated is that it may not be possible to launch a state-wide agitation at this stage when the panchayat elections are on.
There is another danger
lurking in the situation. Ms Bharati who was in the
forefront of the Babri Masjid demolition, is identified
with the Hindutva forces. Mr Aquil had allegedly played a
key role in instigating riots in Bhopal on the night of
December 6, 1992. The then Governor, Kunwar Mahmood Ali
Khan, had ordered Mr Aquils arrest in the morning
of December 7 and had directed his incarceration in Sagar
jail, some 200 km from Bhopal. Mr Digvijay Singh after
withdrawing cases against him, admitted him into the
Congress and made him a Minister of State with
independent charge. With Ms Bharati and Mr Aquil
arraigned against each other, the situation will need to
be delicately handled.
T.N. Kaul cremated
NEW DELHI, Jan 18 The mortal remains of T.N. Kaul, former Foreign Secretary and Indias Ambassador to the USA and the erstwhile Soviet Union, who died at Rajgarh, were consigned to the flames here today.
The pyre was lit by his son Deep amidst the chanting of Vedic hymns at the Lodhi Road crematorium.
Kaul, (82) died after a fall in his home at Rajgarh in Himachal Pradesh on Sunday.
Earlier, wreaths were placed on behalf of the embassies of several countries, including Russia and Vietnam, on his body.
The Chief Election Commissioner Mr M.S. Gill, former Election Commissioner, Mr G.V.G Krishnamurthy, the Chief Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Ashok Jaitley and several senior government officials were among those present at the cremation.
Several political leaders, former ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps paid their last respects before the body of Kaul was consigned to flames.
Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhis son, Rahul, was among those present.
An Indian Civil Service (ICS) officer of 1939 batch, T.N. Kaul had a distinguished career of serving Indias Ambassador to the erstwhile Soviet Union twice, Ambassador to the USA and Iran and Deputy High Commissioner in London besides being the Foreign Secretary.
Punjab opposes welfare fund
NEW DELHI, Jan 18 A consensus among states on the levy of cess on finished agricultural products to create a welfare fund for agricultural workers remains elusive with Punjab strongly opposing such a move by the Centre.
The Union Labour Minister, Mr Satyanarain Jatiya, however, maintained that a conference of state Labour Ministers here today had agreed in principle for the creation of a welfare fund for agricultural workers and the Centre was hopeful of bringing in a legislation in the forthcoming Budget session of Parliament to protect interests of agricultural labourers.
Mr Jatiya said there were around 32 crore employees in the unorganised sector in the country of which 90 per cent were employed as farm labour.
Since the work of the agricultural workers was seasonal and not perennial, the Centre was of the opinion that there was a need to evolve a consensus among the states to draft a legislation that would protect the interests of the agricultural workers.
Mr Jatiya said the conference of state Labour Ministers called here to evolve a consensus on the move had agreed in principle that a cess should be levied on the finished agricultural products to raise the needed Rs 1,000 crore for the welfare of agricultural workers.
The conference also discussed other aspects of the proposed Bill which provides for flexibility on the date of enforcement of the legislation by the state governments; registration of agricultural workers and land owners having 1 hectare or more of agricultural land; issue of identity cards to agricultural workers; standard terms and conditions of employment to agricultural workers and preference for employment to those who have worked on a land in a previous season; and appointment of conciliation officers for redress of agricultural disputes.
He said since the agricultural workers were mostly migrants, there was a need to provide them with facilities such as housing, health and other basic amenities.
Participating in the state Labour Ministers conference, the Punjab Labour Minister, Mr Balramji Dass Tandon, said Punjab Government was not in favour of levying any cess for creation of welfare fund for the agricultural workers as this would not serve any purpose.
Mr Tandon was also of the opinion that a proposal to regulate the working hours of agricultural employees, especially for women labourers, was a difficult proposition as activities like irrigation of land through canal and tubewell water took place at night as well.
Mr Tandon said the state
government had already fixed minimum wages in employment
under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, and at present
unskilled agricultural worker was getting Rs 63.25 (with
meals) or Rs 69.80 (without meal) per day and an attached
labourer was getting Rs 12,768.25 per annum. These wages
were among the highest in the country.
HC verdict will benefit PGI
NEW DELHI, Jan 18 Doctors of the PGI, Chandigarh, will also stand to gain by the Delhi High Courts final verdict on implementation of the Bakshi Committee recommendations of higher pay-scales for various posts.
Ms Rekha Palli who is appearing on behalf of the AIIMS Faculty Association, says here today that although the PGI is not a party, it will stand to gain by the courts order.
The Cabinets rejection of the Bakshi Committees recommendations last week created confusion among the doctors. As per the Delhi High Courts interim order of March 3, 1999, doctors had begun to draw the salaries recommended by the Bakshi committee from March 1, 1999. The 10-member committee headed by the then Health Secretary, Mr K.K. Bakshi, had made its recommendations in July 1998.
The committee recommended higher pay-scales for the posts of Director, Professor, Additional Professor, Associate Professor and Assistant Professor.
A Division Bench of the
Delhi High Court comprising Mr Chief Justice S.N. Variava
and Mr Justice S.K. Mahajan, while hearing the prayer on
implementation of the Bakshi Committees
recommendations observed that nothing has changed. They
observed that they had not heard anything from the
government in this regard. In the absence of the
government counsel, Mr Maninder Singh, the case was
adjourned for hearing on March 1.
of Arc" a real treat
NEW DELHI, Jan 18 As IFFI 2000 reaches its penultimate day, with hordes of late birds, mostly film personalities from Mumbai, descending not to miss the last bit of what the festival has to offer, the cinema of the world section, incidentally, has some better films to offer. Such big names in the world cinema as Carlos Saura (Spain), Ingmar Bergam (Sweden), Aki Kaurismaki (Finland), Win Wenders (USA) and Chen Kaige (China) have their latest films in the second half of the screening schedule.
However, Joan of Arc by a comparatively lesser known French film maker Luc Besson has turned out to be a real treat and handles the familiar tale of Joan with an extraordinary sharpness. The film brings to the fore the inherent conflict between the individual passion and the juggernaut of establishment.
Joan, as a young girl, watches the marauding English soldiers indulging gleefully in rape, plunder and killings. In utter agony she prays to God and seeks out the answer to the suffering of people. She hears voices and sees visions. Her visions and revelation are the outcome of a pure heart in communion with Gods grand design. The voices Joan hears may be the outpouring of her imagination, but this is how, she argues later, one hears the voice of God.
As she approaches the Dauphin (heir to the throne of France) with claim that she has been sent by God to get France freed from the English nobody believes her. She wins her way through obstacles and opposition and leads the demoralised French soldiers to victory at Orleans. But it is difficult to halt Joan from her drive and she becomes an unwanted person even for Charles whom she has helped to become an anointed king.
The English, smitten by the defeat at Orleans, want to capture Joan and brand her a witch so that their defeat could be treated as the result of witchcraft.
In the end, as Joan refuses to compromise and accept the authority of the Church relying solely on her personal passion and faith in God, she is convicted of heresy and burnt alive.
Luc Besson, who has written the script of the film, gives the person of Joan a new interpretation: she is a simple country girl in love with the beauty of nature; she does not possess miraculous powers as common soldiers tend to believe. She is just driven by a messianic zeal and it is this zeal that others lack. Her confidence is God-driven as she leads the soldiers with unmatched ferocity.
Joan is a pure soul sans any crooked machinations that go by the ways of the world. In love with all creations of God, she, in her utter simplicity, believes that God has ordained that France belongs to the French and the English have no right to occupy the soil that does not belong to them. The innocent simplicity of her utterances is the quality inherent in human being rooted in the soil; others at the court and in battles lack this quality.
It is also interesting to see that in the battle she holds the sword but does not herself kill anybody. Before launching an attack she appeals to English forces to accept the will of God and withdraw.
Her reasoning is as pure
as simple truths of life are. But can such a reasoning
prevail in a multitude that has tasted blood, mayhem and
cruelty? It is the latter that sends Joan to the stake to
be burnt alive. The film, once again, puts a question
mark against the reasoning and passions of a world that
has lost innocence of truth and childlike simplicity.
US official meets Vajpayee
NEW DELHI, Jan 18 (PTI) Sending clear signals that the USA was keen to step up investment in India, President Bill Clinton has conveyed to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee that he wanted to "look forward rather than backwards".
"I carry a letter
from the President making clear how much hes
looking forward to visiting India, and also making clear
that the set of issues around economic potential was one
of the issues important to him," the visiting US
Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers told reporters after
delivering a letter from President Clinton to Mr
RDX recovered on Assam border
GUWAHATI, Jan 18 (PTI) A total of 14 kg of explosives, including 7.5 kg of RDX, along with remote control devices and detonators have been recovered from the Assam-Meghalaya border as security forces stepped up measures to contain militant activities before Republic Day, the police said today.
The explosives and the devices were recovered from a wooden chest on a Guwahati-bound bus from Shillong at Jorabat inter-state border check gate during a routine check on Sunday, the police said.
The haul comprised five
bricks of RDX totalling 2.5 kg, another
brick weighing five kg, 6.5 kg of other
explosives, two pieces each of remote devices and
explosive connectors, six pieces of detonators with wires
and two electronic detonators, they said.
Panel for parallel pension scheme
NEW DELHI, Jan 18 (PTI) A government-appointed committee yesterday recommended a parallel pension scheme for the unorganised sector, creation of an autonomous regulatory authority to oversee the functioning of pension system and replacement of the public provident fund (PPF) with a new scheme.
In its final report, submitted to the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, the project, Old Age Social Income Security (OASIS), proposed the Indian Pensions Authority (IPA) to be a new regulatory agency to perform a variety of important roles in the institutional arrangements of the pension sector.
"Barely 11 per cent
of the working population have access to the provisions
meant to provide old-age income security. The scheme,
proposed by the expert committee, seeks to cover a large
number of workers, mainly in the unorganised
sector," the Minister of State for Social Justice
and Empowerment, Ms Maneka Gandhi, told reporters here.
held for raping deaf woman
Justice Vyas to
head Indore Bench
12 kg gold
seized from IA craft
gives 2 cr to CM
to taxi union
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