|N A T I O N|
No change till probe is
at Pak, Chinese missions beefed up
5 Independents desert Apang
No change till probe is over: Arjun
NEW DELHI, Jan 12 (PTI) The Congress today ruled out the removal of Orissa Chief Minister J.B. Patnaik till the judicial inquiry into the alleged gang-rape of Anjana Mishra was over even as dissident ministers and state leaders arrived here to campaign against him.
"Nothing will be done till the inquiry is completed. Truth will be out and if it affects anyone, action will be taken, senior party leader, Arjun Singh told reporters replying to questions on the demand for a change in the leadership in the wake of the alleged gang-rape of Anjana Mishra, who earlier faced an attempt to outrage her modesty.
Mr Singh said that the AICC General Secretary, Madhavrao Scindia, who is in charge of Orissa affairs, was scheduled to visit the state later this week.
Meanwhile, dissidents led by Deputy Chief Minister Basant Kumar Biswal and state Transport Minister K.C. Lenka, had an hour-long meeting with Mr Scindia today.
"We have come here to meet party President Sonia Gandhi and complain about the breakdown of law and order in the state following the alleged rape for the second time of Anjana Mishra, estranged wife of a senior state government official, one of the dissident leaders said.
The ministers and leaders, who arrived here late last night, included Bhagabat Mohanty (Higher Education), Amar Pradhan (Health), Jaidev Jena (Mass Education), Bibuti Bhushan Merdaraj (Deputy Speaker) and Santosh Kumar Saluja (Deputy Chief Whip).
Meanwhile in Bhubaneswar the Chief Minister while rejecting the demand for his resignation in the wake of the alleged gang-rape of Anjana Mishra said the incident was being politicised.
"Some individuals and political parties are trying to malign me by dragging my name into the incident. Their allegations are politically motivated," without naming anybody, the Chief Minister told newsmen.
Condemning the criminal assault on Anjana, who is locked in a legal battle against the former Advocate General Indrajeet Roy for attempted Rape in July 1997, Mr Patnaik said since his name had been dragged in, the government preferred a judicial inquiry into the incident by a sitting Judge of the high court to bring out the truth.
The state government had already written to the Acting Chief Justice of the high court to name a judge for the purpose.
Mr Patnaik also condemned the call given by all major opposition parties for a bandh tomorrow demanding his ouster and said bandhs would not solve any problem, rather they would create more problems.
The Chief Minister said the incident did not point to a breakdown of law and order situation in the state.
He said he came to know of the incident while he was at Delhi and immediately asked the DGP to order a crime branch probe into it.
"When a T.V. Journalist told me that my name also figured in the fir, I said that I am not aware of the contents of Anjanas fir and if anybody is trying to involve me, it is a political conspiracy against me, he said.
Asked about the visit of a number of dissident ministers to Delhi to apprise the AICC President Sonia Gandhi about the alleged breakdown of law and order situation in the state, he said any Congress minister was free to meet the AICC President.
Meanwhile, a Division
Bench of the Orissa High Court comprising Mr Justice
Arijit Pasayat and Mr Justice P.K. Mohanty directed the
state government to submit its views on the petition
filed by Anjana Mishra seeking a CBI inquiry into the
Stiff vacant land tax to help poor
NEW DELHI, Jan 12 (PTI) A stiff vacant land tax and provision of shelter fund would form part of the guidelines the Centre will issue to states to ensure the easy availability of land to the poor following repeal of the Land Ceiling Act through an ordinance.
Sources in the Urban Affairs Ministry said today that since the real estate prices were likely to fall with the availability of more land for housing activities, states should take steps to see that it was possible for the economically weaker sections to have access to housing.
Other steps to be suggested to the states in this regard include reservation for the economically weaker sections and low income group people in town planning and building rules so that the benefits of repealing the Act of 1976 reached the needy.
They said the objective of the repeal ordinance, promulgated last night, was to safeguard the interests of the economically weaker sections and low income group in urban housing.
Better availability of land would also lead to speedy growth in sectors like industry, transport and other urban infrastructure, the sources said pointing out that about two lakh hectares would be available in 64 cities for housing and urban infrastructure development following the ordinance.
The sources said the repeal of the Act would attract more investment for housing and other sectors besides facilitating land assembly, development and disposal of excess vacant land for various purposes, particularly for housing.
The ordinance, which came into force with immediate effect in Haryana and Punjab and the union territories, has incorporated suggestions of the Standing Committee of Parliament on Urban and Rural Affairs to safeguard the interests of the economically weaker sections.
The ordinance, signed by President K.R. Narayanan, has incorporated an important provision that will allow cases in courts under the original law to continue.
With the repeal of the Act, states will now have three options before them they can accept the repeal, they can accept the repeal and enact a law suited to their needs or they can even reject the repeal and allow the principal Act to continue in force.
Stating that the performance of the original Act had been quite dismal, the sources said the states could physically acquire only 19,020 hectares out of 2,20,674 hectares of excess vacant land which worked out to a mere 9 per cent of the total vacant land.
5 Independents desert Apang
ITANAGAR, Jan 12 (PTI) Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Gegong Apang, smarting under a split in his party, today suffered yet another setback when five Independent MLAs withdrew support to his government less than a week ahead of the confidence vote.
On the other hand, the breakaway Arunachal Congress (M) group today met Speaker Chowna Mein with a list of 25 legislators and sought recognition as a separate group in the 60-member House.
Before the current split in the ruling Arunachal Congress Party, the Apang ministry enjoyed the support of 56 members in the assembly with the backing of 11 Independents who had become associate members of the party.
The five Independent legislators sent a letter to the Chief Minister, Governor Mata Prasad and Speaker Chowna Mein withdrawing their association with the party, a spokesman of the breakaway Arunachal Congress said in a press release.
The Independent MLAs are
Deputy Speaker Setong Sena, Tingpong Wangham, Kahfa
Bengia, Tinghap Taiju and Konchon Ngamdam, the spokesman
Sanjay Tikam said. Bengia and Taiju are members of the
Dismiss Gujarat Govt: RLM
NEW DELHI, Jan 12 The Mulayam Singh Yadav-led Rashtriya Loktantrik Morcha (RLM) today demanded the dismissal of the Gujarat Government and a ban on the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Bajrang Dal and the Hindu Jagran Manch (HJM) for the recent attacks on Christians and churches in the state.
Mr Mulayam Singh led an RLM delegation, which included RJD leader Laloo Prasad Yadav, to meet President K.R. Narayanan and sought legal action against the District Magistrate and former Superintendent of Police of Dangs on charges of dereliction of duty during the attacks.
They demanded the damaged churches be rebuilt and Christian education institutions and members of the community affected by the incidents compensated.
Mr Mulayam Singh later told reporters that both the state and central governments were involved in the incidents. "Their involvement is evident from the fact that no action has been taken against the culprits so far," he said.
Blaming the Congress for allowing the BJP-led coalition to continue at the Centre, the Samajwadi Party leader said the RLM would launch a countrywide agitation on February 5 to protest against the alleged attempt by "fundamentalists" to trigger communal passions.
Mr Laloo Prasad said the Gujarat incidents were part of a "deep-rooted conspiracy" to spread large-scale violence across the country to divide the people.
Lashing out at Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee for giving a clean chit to the Gujarat Government, Mr Laloo Prasad said the RSS and the Shiv Sena were key players in the Central Government as "they form the engine while the BJP-led coalition constitute the compartments".
The former Bihar Chief Minister said no one had ever heard of forced conversion by Christian bodies which had been playing a significant role in spreading education and awareness in the country.
Asked whether the RLM would appeal to the Congress to take initiative for ousting the Vajpayee government, both Mr Laloo Prasad and Mr Mulayam Singh said: "We will not make any such appeal to anyone".
To a query about the third front, they said the RLM was the real third front.
Mr Mulayam Singh said the BJP was obsessed with spreading Hindutva instead of paying due attention to governance.
The team in its report
accused the District Magistrate and former SP of Dangs of
having functioned as Hindu Jagran Manch workers, saying
the incidents could have been prevented if they had
refused permission for a rally against Christians on
Security at Pak, Chinese missions beefed up
NEW DELHI, Jan 12 (PTI) Security at the Pakistani and Chinese missions here has been beefed up in the wake of the recent threat to harm Pakistani diplomats and the storming of the Chinese Embassy by Tibetan protesters last week.
"A strong contingent of police has been posted at both the places round the clock to ensure the security of the premises and the diplomats," Deputy Commissioner of Police (New Delhi) T.N. Mohan said.
The Sikkim police guard, who was on duty outside the Chinese Embassy on January 7 when Tibetan protesters barged into the mission premises raising slogans and burning a Chinese flag, has been placed under suspension "for not reacting personally to the situation," Mohan said.
"The police is taking stringent action against the erring Tibetans. A case has been registered and some arrests will follow soon," he said.
Beijing had flayed India for "failing" to stop the protesters demanding independence.
Vijai Kapoor said the police was maintaining an
"unobtrusive watch" on the Pakistan High
Commission and residences of diplomats here in the wake
of the Shiv Senas alleged threat to "cause
them harm" if Pakistani cricket team went ahead with
its India tour.
Breakaway group recognised
ITANAGAR, Jan 12 (PTI) Jolted by a vertical split in his party, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Gegong Apang today suffered another blow when five Independent MLAs withdrew support to his government and the Speaker recognised the breakaway group less than a week ahead of the confidence vote.
Speaker Chowna Mein recognised the 24-member breakaway Arunachal Congress (M) group in the 60-seat House after the rebels met him and sought recognition for the new party.
A spokesman of the breakaway group, in a press note, said five Independent MLAs had sent a letter to the Chief Minister, Governor Mata Prasad and the Speaker withdrawing their support to Apang.
The Independent MLAs are Deputy Speaker Setong Sena, Tingpong Wangham, Kahfa Bengia, Tinghap Taiju and Konchon Ngamdam, spokesman Sanjay Tikam said. Bengia and Taiju are members of the Apang ministry.
Before the current split
in the ruling Arunachal Congress, the Apang ministry
enjoyed the support of 56 members in the assembly with
the backing of 11 Independents who had become associate
members of the party.
Central staff go on mass leave
NEW DELHI, Jan 12 (PTI) Employees of central government and allied offices went on en masse casual leave in the Capital today demanding higher pay structure paralysing the administrative functioning.
Work at armed forces headquarters and External Affairs Ministry was also affected, G.L. Dhar, Secretary General, Federation of Central Secretariat and Allied Offices Employees, spearheading the stir, said.
Addressing a massive gathering of employees near North Block, Mr Dhar said employees were still ready to hold talks with the government but regretted "even Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee seems not interested to listen to our grievances".
CPI leader A.B. Bardhan demanded the setting up of a ministerial committee in line with the one set up during erstwhile U.F. Government to talk to the central government employees and ameliorate their grievances.
He said there was no justification for discrepancies in the salary and other emoluments between government employees under central government and those in judicial service.
CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury extending his partys support to the striking employees said the disparity in salary and other facilities was "unjustified".
The employees are
demanding among other things parity in pay scales with
employees of the Supreme Court and Delhi High Court at
all levels, including ex-cadre posts, the implementation
of arbitration award of grade D stenos and
its extension to upper division clerks and minimum
transport allowance of Rs 400.
Mother of all her roles
HYDERABAD, Jan 12 Twentyfive years ago, in 1973, Shabana Azmi made her debut in Shyam Benegals Ankur and the artiste of different physical mould and offbeat emotional dimensions was born. With her, the role of women in films acquired a new approach. The focus on women in the mainstream cinema till then was restricted to either a love-lorn humming romantic non-entity heroine or to that of a cigarette-smoking, leggy and heavy-bosomed vamp speaking out accented dialogues. Shabanas screen persona changed that image.
And now with her new film Godmother screened here as part of the Focus on woman section, she has reached the pinnacle of the career with aplomb and conviction. Combined with it is the sudden stride that the image of woman in Hindi films, in her role as a politically empowered entity, has taken. The transformation is noteworthy, especially when this woman happens to be totally illiterate and from an insignificant background.
Godmother, directed by Vinay Shukla, a former alumni of the Film Institute, Pune, and one of the young breed of directors committed to good cinema (which also means cinema with a purpose) is set in the arid land of Gujarat, bordering Rajasthan, where nothing grows and life is a daily frustration. Finding it impossible to survive, a youngman, Veeram, gentle but highly impulsive, migrates to a city along with his family. In the new locale, it is Veerams muscle power, and later violence and crime, that enables him to have a hold on things. He is from Mer community, a factor that forms the nerve-centre of the storyline of the film; it also is a source of strength for members of this exclusive caste to assert themselves as a unified sectarian force in the contemporary power structure and politics.
After a series of violent incident, unfolding like an unforeseen inevitability, Veeram gets killed. And with that enters his wife Rambhi, an illiterate barred politics for her in which she succeeds using all dirty tricks, sectarian sentiments, violence, coercion. Her ruthlessness is that of a person who, in the absence of this demeanour, feels week and driven to the wall. She is sucked into the expanding space, which she obviously enjoys, unmindful that her achievements at the cost of her inner innocence and humanity and also not knowing that the world she presides over like a godmother reeks of chicanery and skulduggery. She only knows that to be in this world is to be powerful and that is the only way one can survive. She discovers the truth of her situation when her son, a spoilt brat, nearly kills a rival.
The film has several sub-texts and encompasses multiple issues of immediate concern. In a political and social scenario where the powerless, particularly the women, are struggling to get empowered, the irony is that the role of a woman is not of her own making. That happens with disastrous results in Godmother.
The film is an impressive directorial venture, but flounders a little at the end, possibly because of commercial reasons. It eventually manages to keep its hold. Shabanas metamorphosis from a quite housewife to an overbearing politician and her ability not to revel in the role that circumstances force upon her, is the triumph of the artistic dimension that she lends to her role.
The film has ethnic folk
music and beautifully composed lyrics by Javed Akhtar set
to haunting music by Vishal. Although
Godmother hinges on Shabana Azmi all the way,
there are other factors that are not less noteworthy. It
is scheduled for commercial release in February and is
all set to make waves.
Nobel Laureate wants ban on cloning
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, Jan 12 (PTI) Nobel Laureate in biology Prof James D. Watson said yesterday that cloning should be banned as it would create serious ethical and social problems, affecting humanity.
A sort of genetic privacy was essential for avoiding misuse of genes, particularly in case of cloning. Cloning was just like a nuclear weapon and the average person was never aware of the genetic information, Professor Watson told reporters here.
Cloning was a serious disaster where women could generate their genetical copies without the help of men, which was totally against ethics. It was the natural rule that men are attracted to women and vice-versa, in which the relevance of cloning just vanishes, he said.
Professor Watson said his human genome project was aimed at generating data on genetic diseases in in-bred population and genetic diversity on tribal and ethical groups. The project would be completed within five years.
He denied reports that his centre was doing research among Indian tribesmen and said it was only collecting genes from all over the world to discover drugs for genetic disorders.
India key player of
NEW DELHI, Jan 12 The visiting Luxembourg Prime Minister, Mr Jean-Claude Juncker, today described India as a major global player in the coming century and asked New Delhi to further relax its policy of protectionism in key economic sectors for attracting foreign investments.
Protectionism is in no case a good argument for attracting investments, Mr Juncker said replying to questions during his Press conference.
The visiting Prime Minister said Luxembourg, a founder member of the European Economic Council (EEC), was opposed to the policy of protectionism and anti-dumping measures.
Dwelling on Indo-EU relations, Mr Juncker regretted that trade relations between the two had not registered a significant progress. We were focussing on China and other countries but India is a great nation which will be a major player in the next century, he stressed.
Mr Juncker, who held wide-ranging discussions with the President, Mr K.R. Narayanan, and the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, called for framing up of a full-fledged strategy by the EU to give a fillip to its relations with India, not only in the economic and commercial fields but also in the political sphere. The European strategy for India could be on the lines of the ones we have for China and Russia, he said adding that India and EU should have a mechanism for a permanent dialogue.
Luxembourg would open its embassy and trade mission in New Delhi in 2000, Mr Juncker said adding that Mr Vajpayee had told him that India would also reciprocate the gesture and open its mission in Luxembourg in the same year. Currently, the Indian Ambassador to Brussels is also accredited to Luxembourg.
India, he said, was lacking visibility in many European countries and the introduction of a common currency was a good opportunity for them to have a closer look at this country.
Mr Juncker said he had explained to Indian leaders during his bilateral meeting the importance of a single currency. The introduction of Euro currency earlier this month by 11 European countries would further deepened their relations and also enable them to evolve a common security policy.
Giving details of the
signed memorandum of understanding (MoU) between India
and Luxembourg on air services, Mr Juncker said it would
be soon transformed into an agreement. The two countries
also agreed to conclude a double taxation agreement to
promote economic relations.
Delhi-Lahore bus service
NEW DELHI, Jan 12 It was a historic occasion when the Delhi-Lahore bus returned to the Capital, adding a new chapter in Indo-Pak relations.
The venture was purposeful and successful. We received a fantastic welcome at Lahore, said Mr B.S. Cheema, DTC Chairman and leader of the Indian team, on return from a two-day stay in the Pakistani city.
The exercise, a dry run for the proposed regular bus service between Delhi and Lahore, was completed when the bus carrying 20 persons reached back Delhi last midnight after covering 494 km.
He said almost all modalities, including security arrangements aboard the bus and maintenance, had been discussed between the Indian and Pakistani sides.
The dry run from the Pakistani side would be conducted on January 14. The four days a week service, expected to be launched next month, will run on Tuesday, Wednesday, Fridays and Saturdays.
The bus service between the two nations is likely to begin in the first week of February amidst Shiv Senas threat to disrupt it.
The purpose of the dry run has been fully served, said Mr N.K. Chopra, an officer of the Ministry of External Affairs, who also travelled by the bus.
Stating that the Indian team was accorded a warm welcome in Lahore, he said the trip was very good in every sense.
For Mr Shabi Hasnain Zahdi, driver with the DTC who drove the bus, the experience was different. Though I am used to driving long distance buses, this trip was extraordinary and I enjoyed every moment of it, he said.
The team members met Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Lahore. Mr Sharif expressed his determination to go ahead with the launch of the bus service, which, he said, would help in normalising relations between the two countries, Mr Cheema said.
The DTC General Manager, Mr V.K. Sehgal, said the Pakistan Premier, during the 30-minute meeting, emphasised the need for developing bilateral ties and strengthening people-to-people contacts.
HC notice on mid-day meal
NEW DELHI, Jan 12 The Delhi High Court today issued notices to the Central and Delhi Governments and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) asking them to explain the reason for stopping mid-day meal in primary schools run by the civic body in the Capital.
A Division Bench comprising Justice Devinder Gupta and Justice J.B. Goel asked the respondents to file replies by January 22, the next date of hearing.
The court order came on a public interest litigation (PIL) by the All India Lawyers Union (AILU) which said that MCD had stopped supplying mid-day meal to about nine lakh students in 1750 primary schools under the National Programme of Nutritional Support (NPNS) for the past three months.
Seeking to restore mid-day meal forthwith, the AILU counsel Ashok Aggarwal said appropriate legal action should be taken against those suppliers who allegedly had supplied infected food items, including bread, to the school children.
The petitioner said, under the NPNS programme annual aid of about Rs 21 crore was being provided to MCD, but till date the civic body had utilised only over Rs 4 crore. The aid for the scheme was being provided by UNICEF with a view to provide a nutritious diet to the children and encourage them to attend school.
MCD counsel Raman Duggal said the civic body was very much concerned about it and had floated new tenders for the supply of food items.
The lawyers union said according to a survey conducted by it in some of the poor colonies, attendance of students had fallen sharply since the abrupt stoppage of mid-day meal by MCD.
Mr Aggarwal said during past one-and-half years it had been noticed that none of the tenders issued by MCD had materialised for the supply of items like fruity bread, biscuits, roasted grams, groundnut and other nutritious items.
Distribution of the meal is defective, unsatisfactory, and unhygienic and the schools in far flung areas of the capital, especially in suburbs, are not getting the supply at all, the AILU counsel claimed.
Longowal Tower stone laid
NEW DELHI, Jan 12 Union Minister for Food and Civil Supplies, Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, laid the foundation stone for an ultra-modern super bazar building which has been named Sant Longowal Tower here today.
Addressing a gathering of super bazar personnel at Rajendra Place where Sant Longowal Tower is going to be built, Mr Barnala recalled the sacrifice made by Sant Longowal for peace in Punjab.
The naming of the tower after Sant Longowal is a tribute to a man who had worked selflessly for the cause of others, he said.
On the occasion, the
Chairman of Super Bazar Cooperative Store Limited, Mr
Surender Singh Dhuri, announced that all those employees
who had completed 10 years of service in one post would
be given promotion, provided they fulfilled the requisite
Gandhian, freedom fighter dead
CALCUTTA, Jan 12 (PTI) Veteran Gandhian, freedom fighter and social activist Pannalal Dasgupta died here early today.
He was 95.
Dasgupta had been ailing for some time and was brought to SSKM Hospital from Bolpur on Thursday, sources at the Tagore Society for Rural Development, of which Dasgupta was the founder and chairman, said.
NMC chief backs PM on debate
NEW DELHI, Jan 12 (PTI) National Minorities Commission (NMC) Chairman Dr Tahir Mahmood today welcomed the Prime Ministers call for a national debate on religious conversions and said it was a move in the right direction.
Replying to viewers queries on a private television network, he said media reports on the Gujarat situation were "not exaggerated" and the commission was yet to come across any reports of forcible conversions in the state.
He said the commission had also visited Mangalore, which witnessed communal clashes earlier this month, to assess the situation there.
President to release stamp
NEW DELHI, Jan 12 The President, Mr K.R. Narayanan is to release a police stamp at a function tomorrow at Rashtrapati Bhavan to mark the golden jubilee of the Indian Police Services.
This is the first such postal stamp in a stylised graphic form showing a line up of "Officers" saluting India. The colour of bands on the stamp stand for multiple diversity in the country, besides peace, harmony and prosperity.
The stamp has been designed by Mamleshwar Singh, a Delhi-based artist.
It is dedicated to the
memory of the officers who laid down their lives in
service of the nation. It will be released on January 13,
because on this date in the year 1975, three IPS officers
were killed by insurgents in Aizawl.
Sanjeev in court custody
NEW DELHI, Jan 12 A city court today remanded Sanjeev Nanda, one of the suspects in the Lodhi Road accident case to judicial custody while two more were released on bail.
Sanjeev has been charged with crushing to death five persons, including three police personnel, under his newly bought BMW car on Sunday morning.
Magistrate, Mr V.K. Sharma, granted bail to Manik Kapoor,
who was allegedly sitting on the front seat with Sanjeev,
and Siddharth Gupta, in whose house the car was found
parked by the PCR team of the Delhi police.
|NSCN (K) extends ceasefire
KOHIMA: The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) extended the ongoing ceasefire by three months with effect from Monday. A press release, issued by Kughalu Mulatonu, secretary of the NSCN (K), said the ceasefire was extended to usher in peace and an amicable atmosphere and enable persons or groups working for Naga unity to move freely. The extension was aimed at strengthening unity among different groups, the release said. PTI
hurt as bus overturns
HC seeks affidavit
on rail safety
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