|N A T I O N|
Gamang to stay: Cong
Gupta to expand UP
Lt-Gen Harbaksh Singh cremated
Cong paved way for NDA
Red alert in Tripura
Special UK envoy to visit India
More facilities for martyrs
Church vs CPM row hots up
LF Cabinet reshuffle likely
Cong panel to give report on Nov
4 m HIV patients
Gamang to stay: Cong
NEW DELHI, Nov 15 The Congress today ruled out the possibility of replacing the Orissa Chief Minister, Mr Girdhar Gamang, whose handling of relief and rehabilitation work in the cyclone-affected state has come under attack within the party.
"There is no move (to change Mr Gamang) and no one is thinking to shift him, the AICC General Secretary, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, said here today.
Mr Mukherjee, who has been deputed by the Congress President to head an advisory committee to help the Gamang Government, said the magnitude of the damage was such that it required super effort from everyone.
Mr Mukherjee also said there was no need to postpone elections to the state assembly due to the cyclone.
Party sources said despite not being satisfied with the response of the state government, the Congress high command did not want to send any wrong signal by shifting Mr Gamang.
With elections to the state assembly due early next year, the party chief wanted the workers to put their best foot forward and serve people. The party saw an opportunity to refurbish its image.
Although there were reports that Mr Gamang did not have control over the state bureaucracy which was said to be more with the former Chief Minister, Mr J.B. Patnaik, the party wanted to work to turn the situation around in the state.
Last week, when Mr Gamang briefed members of the Congress Working Committee, some members criticised his handling of the situation which ended only after Mrs Sonia Gandhi said there was no point in attacking an individual.
The Congress also reiterated its demand that the super cyclone be declared a "national calamity of the rarest severity by the Centre and funds be released for relief and reconstruction.
It said even after a fortnight total normalcy had not been restored and communication by road to some of the interior parts of the state remained inaccessible.
Releasing figures, Mr Mukherjee said as per preliminary information, 12 districts of the state were affected, 9,392 people killed and over 3.5 lakh heads of cattle lost. Over 112 lakh people was affected.
"It requires concerted efforts by the whole nation to put Orissa on the rail of restoration and recovery, Mr Mukherjee said.
JAGATSINGHPUR, Nov 15 Thousands of eyes look up as an Indian Air Force helicopter hovers above the marooned villages of this cyclone-ravaged district trying to spot signs of life and survey the extent of damage.
"Why is he not dropping food anymore" asks Prabhakar Rao looking ruefully at the chopper disappearing from his sight. What Rao doesnt know is that the defence forces having established road links in most of the areas in this worst cyclone-affected District of Orissa have left relief distribution in the accessible areas to state agencies and non-governmental organisations.
Mr Raos question reflects the great faith the people have on the Air Force and the Army and the contempt they have for the civil agencies.
As against the few sorties made by the chopper, hundreds of trucks carrying relief material are spreading out to all over the affected areas and yet people are not confident that they would reach the intended beneficiaries.
Relief distribution by state agencies have been marred by accusations of indifference, corruption, siphoning and tardy implementation.
A trader in Cuttack disclosed that several items of relief material like clothes, blankets and food packets received from abroad were finding their way to the local markets.
This apart local politicians are also playing their part in cornering relief material for their respective areas and depriving the real needy.
Private traders, too, are not lagging behind in making the most of the situation. The Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation recently reported that trucks entering the city were evading octroi by claiming that they were carrying relief materials for the cyclone-affected people. The cash-starved state government apart from losing precious revenue was also being deprived of much wanted relief material.
A drive from Jagatsinghpur to Erasama is enough to reveal the state of affairs. Hundreds of children, men and women line up the roads crying out for relief to any passing vehicle. Passenger car occupants are the most sought after by these people as they normally manage to get ready-to-eat food from them. Biscuits, bread and salted snacks have many takers.
Ram Behara, a villager from Ambiki, said the government has been distributing rice and flour. "But how will we cook it?"
People in several areas dont even have access to a match box. Omkareshwarand, an Anand Margi, who is in Erasama distribution match boxes said cyclone-hit villagers dont even have 25 paise to buy a box of matches.
According to Col Subrato Saha of 5 Assam Rifles, around 35 villages under Erasama block were partially or completely washed away by ravaging tidal waves and torrential rains during the supercyclone.
Col Saha, who is supervising the relief and restoration operations at Erasama and nearby areas, however, claimed that the requirement of the people had now shifted from food to clothing and shelter.
Villagers around Erasama complain that the government has failed to provide any medical assistance. Hundreds of people are suffering from diarrhoea and barring some private doctors, there is nobody to attend to them.
"Unless the state government mends its ways and starts proper distribution of relief material it could be in trouble", a senior local journalist in Bhubaneswar remarked.
Reports are already appearing that people angry with the state government officials are taking law into their own hands.
In Mahanga, reports said the State Civil Supplies Minister, Mr Matlub Ali, was gheraoed by angry villagers demanding relief. Police official had a tough time rescuing the minister.
Realising the mood of the people the state government has at least started talking of corrective steps.
A meeting of senior ministers was called by the Chief Minister, Mr Giridhar Gamang, on Saturday. The meeting decided to give top priority to start rabi crop cultivation and build shelters for the homeless.
According to State Revenue Minister Jagannath Patnaik, the main concern for the state government was to start the rabi crop cultivation. The meeting took note of non-availability of bullocks for ploughing and there were suggestions that the bullocks be arranged from Punjab and Haryana. The idea was dropped when it was pointed out that the bullocks from the northern states may not be able to withstand the climatic conditions of Orissa.
The government also indicated that the first phase of house building loan would be disbursed to the affected families from next week.
It also proposes to cover all affected families below poverty line categories under the house reconstruction scheme, previously known as Indira Awas Yojana.
Under the scheme, an
affected family would be given a two-room pucca house.
Major component of the financial assistance would come
from Urban Development Corporation which has announced to
provide Rs 190 crore for reconstruction.
DRDO teams to purify water
NEW DELHI, Nov 15 The Centre has decided to rush additional units and scientists from the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to take up the job of water purification in cyclone devastated Orissa Districts on a war footing.
The decision was taken at the meeting of the high-powered task force set up under the Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes to oversee the relief operations in Orissa. The task force at its meeting this morning reviewed the ongoing relief operations.
It also prepared a plan for accelerated supply of drinking water and medical aid in the cyclone hit districts of Orissa to prevent the outbreak of an epidemic. The meeting this morning was chaired by the Defence Minister.
The task force decided that to prevent the spread of disease through contaminated water, DRDO units capable of providing over 13,000 litres of drinking water per hour would be sent from Pune and Jodhpur. Besides the teams from the CSIR would also provide similar assistance to avoid the spread of epidemic.
Already several teams from the CSIR and the DRDO were engaged in the water purification drive in the various affected districts of Orissa.
According to the Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, there was a need for quick measures to be taken to speed up the distribution of relief material, particularly foodstuff, water and medicines to the cyclone victims. He added that measures to disinfect common water sources were also discussed at the task-force meeting.
Mr Fernandes, who conducted an aerial survey of the affected areas last week has also convened a meeting of top executives of various public sector units tomorrow to check on how best their manpower and medical facilities could be put to use to help the cyclone-affected residents of Orissa.
Services of various public sector undertakings would be utilised to supplement the ongoing operations. These agencies would work under the supervision of the state government.
The task force, set up by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, comprises secretaries from ministries like power, urban employment and poverty alleviation, expenditure, transport, agriculture, rural development and communications.
It has been asked to make recommendations regarding the mode of implementation of the plan, including its funding, participation of governmental and non-governmental organisations, besides other short, medium and long-term steps for the cyclone-prone areas of the country.
Top officials of the
Border Roads Organisation, the Signals, the Armed Forces
Medical Services, the Military Engineering Services, the
NCC and the Territorial Army, besides representatives of
the CII, FICCI and ASSOCHAM have already promised full
cooperation in providing succour to cyclone victims.
Oram criticises infighting in Orissa Cong
NEW DELHI, Nov 15 (PTI) Two Union Ministers from Orissa today alleged relief operations in the cyclone-ravaged areas of the state were being hampered due to the infighting and groupism within the ruling Congress in the state.
Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram and Minister of State for Surface Transport Debendra Pradhan told PTI here today the condition of lakhs of victims continued to be miserable as ministers in the Giridhar Gamang government were playing group politics instead of working as a team.
"It is unfortunate that Congress leaders, including ministers, are fighting among themselves during such a grave crisis faced by the state, devastated by the centurys worst cyclone", Mr Oram said.
Groupism and infighting among Congressmen was so intense that nobody was cooperating with the Chief Minister, he said, adding, "There is absolutely no coordination in distribution of relief materials. Even instructions of Gamang are not being carried out".
He said relief teams were yet to reach many villages in the worst affected Ersama, Marsaghai and Mahakalpada areas.
Mr Pradhan said
truckloads of relief materials pumped into the state by
the Centre and various other agencies were lying in
Bhubaneswar in the absence of coordinated effort by the
Gupta to expand UP ministry
LUCKNOW, Nov 15 (UNI) The three-day-old 50-member Uttar Pradesh Council of Ministers will be expanded on November 17, Chief Minister Ram Prakash Gupta announced here today.
In a chat with newsmen this afternoon, he said a few new faces were likely to be inducted into the Cabinet but the size of the ministry would remain more or less the same.
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister has left for New Delhi to discuss the modalities of the expansion. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is also returning to New Delhi from Durban tonight.
The Chief Minister today held a meeting with the state party chief Raj Nath Singh and senior ministerial colleagues Kalraj Misra, Lalji Tandon, Om Prakash Singh and Harish Chandra Srivastava to discuss the matter.
Mr Gupta did not specify the size of the ministry but hinted that the new ministry will not be very different from the previous one.
When asked about the demands of the allies regarding allocation of important portfolios, and giving ministers of state independent charge, he said the party high command had authorised him to take decisions in this matter.
In reply to another
question, Mr Gupta said the portfolios to the ministers
would be decided with the expansion. "All senior
members of the Cabinet would be consulted before
allocation of portfolios," he said.
Lt-Gen Harbaksh Singh cremated
NEW DELHI, Nov 15 (UNI) Lt-Gen (retd) Harbaksh Singh was cremated here this afternoon with Deputy Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen S.K. Jetley leading the senior officers of the Army in paying homage to one of the most decorated military commanders.
Lt Gen Harbaksh Singh passed away the Army Hospital here yesterday.
Born on October 1, 1913 in a family with strong military traditions, Lt Gen Singh was commissioned in the June 1935 and joined 5/11 Sikh Regiment in Aurangabad in 1937. He took part in several operations with the battalion in Razmak and Quetta and in April 1941 moved to Malaya.
During the withdrawal from Kuantan on January 5, 1942, Capt Harbaksh Singh drove into Japanese ambush and was seriously injured and taken prisoner of war when Singapore fell to the Japanese. He was repatriated to India in 1945 on cessation of hostilities.
After the battle of Tithwal in 1948, he was awarded the Vir Chakra. He was the GOC-in-C, Western Command during the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965 following which he was bestowed with the "Padma Bhushan".
The General had the rare feat to his credit of commanding in action a platoon, a company, a battalion, brigade, division, corps and an Army.
Cong paved way for NDA victory
KOCHI, Nov 15 (PTI) Communist Marxist Party (CPM) leader M.V. Raghavan today said the "negative" attitude of the Congress paved the way for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA)s victory in the recent elections.
Releasing the CPMs draft political resolution as a prelude to its four-day state-level conference here from January 30, Mr Raghavan told a press conference here that the Congress should shed its negative approach and come forward to cooperate with other secular forces to check the growth of communal parties like the BJP and the Shiv Sena.
He said if the CPM thought that it could grow by "demoralising" opposition by suppressing them, it was mistaken.
On the CPMs electoral understanding with the Congress in the elections, Mr Raghavan said it showed that the Marxists no longer considered the Congress as an "untouchable".
Replying to a query on the fighting within the CPM, he said the party was "digging its grave". The infighting was not based on any political ideology but was due to monetary considerations, he alleged.
Red alert in Tripura
AGARTALA, Nov 15 (UNI) The Tripura Government has sounded a red alert throughout the state and sealed its international border with Bangladesh in view of the last nights massacre of 17 persons by tribal guerrillas at Panchabati in West Tripura district.
Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, who cancelled his trip to Delhi today, reviewed the situation at a high-level emergency meeting and directed the Border Security Force to seal the border to prevent the guerrillas from crossing over.
The militants of the banned All-Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF), armed with sophisticated firearms stormed the weekly Panchabati market, about 60 km from here, and sprayed bullets killing 17 non-tribals and seriously wounding 11. They also kidnapped four villagers at gun-point.
Director-General of Police K.T.D. Singh said seven persons were killed instantly, while 10 succumbed to their injuries in hospital. The critically injured had been shifted to G.B. Hospital here.
Mr Singh said the villagers in the weekly market mistook the tribal militants, clad in olive green fatigues, as jawans of the Assam Rifles. They ran helter skelter when the militants started firing indiscriminately.
The guerrillas escaped in the dark after completing their operation in a few minutes.
Tension was prevailing in the area and the adjoining Sidhai and Jirania and the police had been posted there to prevent any backlash.
Mr Singh said the security forces comprising the jawans of the Assam Rifles, the Border Security Force, the Central Reserve Police Force and the Tripura State Rifles had fanned out in the thickly-wooded hilly terrain and launched a combing operation to track down the militants. Chief Secretary V. Thulasidas said Deputy Inspector-General of Police (Western Range) C. Balasubramanium would supervise the counter-insurgency operation.
PTI adds: All political parties, including the ruling Left Front, have given the call for a Tripura Bandh tomorrow against insurgency while the Chief Minister reviewed the law and order situation in the state today.
While the ruling Left
Front has called a dawn-to-dusk bandh demanding more
central forces to help the CPM-led government deal with
insurgency, the Trinamool Congress has called for a
12-hour bandh demanding immediate resignation of the
Sarkar government for, what it termed, "its
inability to protect the lives and property of the
Special UK envoy to visit India
NEW DELHI, Nov 15 (PTI) British Prime Minister Tony Blair is sending his special envoy here in a move clearly aimed at bringing back on track bilateral ties which had been derailed in the wake of Pokhran nuclear tests last May.
Mr Peter Hain, Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, who commences his three-day visit to India on November 17, will convey to New Delhi his governments earnest desire to "open a new intensive chapter" on relations between the two countries.
Mr Hain, who is the first British minister to visit India after the new Vajpayee ministry assumed office, will push for enhanced cooperation in a number of key areas with a major focus on tie-ups in the sphere of information technology, British High Commissioner to India, Sir Rob Young, told reporters here.
Responding to questions on Commonwealth leaders meeting in Durban taking strong view of the military regime in Pakistan, Sir Rob said his country saw "eye-to-eye" with India in dealing with the situation in Pakistan.
The Commonwealth leaders have sent out a very strong signal and it would be a key factor in maintaining pressure on Pakistan to restore democracy in that country, he said.
The British envoy was
specifically asked whether his government would support
any move by India and other countries to expel Pakistan
from the Commonwealth close on the heels of Islamabad
being suspended from the 54-member grouping.
More facilities for
martyrs kin sought
NEW DELHI, Nov 15 Himachal Pradesh today suggested that the Centre raise the monthly grant to dependent parents of martyrs from Rs 1,200 to Rs 2,000 per month from the National Defence Fund.
Participating in a meeting on the high-powered committee set up by the Centre to evolve a national policy for the welfare of jawans and ex-servicemen, the Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal, said the state had decided to exempt payment of sales tax on goods sold to serving/ex-servicemen through canteen stores department.
He said the state government had reserved 12.5 per cent national route permits to the ex-servicemen.
Mr Dhumal said the state government had decided to reserve 5 per cent stalls in municipal limits for the ex-servicemen.
He said the state government had treated the parents of martyrs as separate units in case of married soldier and 1/3 of the grant would be given to them. He added that grant had been equally divided among parents, widows and children.
Mr Dhumal said the state government would provide land for the construction of house in case the dependents of martyrs were homeless.
He further said the
state government had decided to provide free education up
to graduation level to the children of deceased soldiers
and also bear expenditure on summer/winter school
uniform, expenses on stationery articles and text books
up to school level.
Assault on Principal
THIRUVANTHAPURAM, Nov 15 (UNI) The CPM and the Christian Church in Kerala appear to be fast heading for a showdown over the recent assault on a college Principal by a group of students affiliated to the ruling Marxist party, with the Archdiocese of Thalassery demanding a judicial probe into the incident and the partys Kannur unit vehemently opposing it.
The conciliatory talks initiated by Kerala Education Minister P.J. Joseph have failed to yield any positive result as both sides stuck to their respective stands.The church is planning to intensify the agitation in the coming days to press its demand.
The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government has been further put on the defensive with the Kerala Private College Managements Association, which controls 192 private colleges in the state, threatening to close down its institutions from November 19 if the government failed to order a judicial inquiry into the incident.
It all started on November 1, the formation day of the state, when a group of activists of the pro-Marxist Students Federation of India (SFI) and their supporters assaulted Father Geo Pulichal, Principal of Nirmalagiri College at Koothuparamba in Kannur district. The assault, which allegedly took place in front of policemen, was in protest against the disciplinary action taken by the college authorities against an SFI activist.
The opposition Congress wasted no time to react, portraying it as the latest proof of Marxist-sponsored violence. Several leaders of the United Democratic Front (UDF) also extended support to the church.
The BJP, which had always been at the receiving end for the atrocities being meted out to the minority community members elsewhere in the country, was sharp in its reaction. The party said the Koothuparamba incident had exposed the claim of the CPM leaders that they were the protectors of the minorities in the country.
The CPM district leadership came out in support of the SFI activists, demanding action against college authorities for allegedly sexually abusing a student.
LDF convener V.S. Achuthanandan, while denying the involvement of outsiders in the attack, said one should also see the "atrocities" being meted out to a student by the college authorities.
The SFI got a shot in
the arm when they managed to present before the press the
mother of N. Ajit, who was expelled from the college
three months ago, to narrate what she described as the
sexual abuse which her son had to undergo at the college.
LF Cabinet reshuffle likely
CALCUTTA, Nov 14 (ANI) The Left Front Cabinet may undergo reshuffle in the near future in case the CPM politburos ensuing meeting decides to appoint a deputy to the Chief Minister, Mr Jyoti Basu, as the first step towards relieving him of his official responsibilities.
Mr Basu, who has been keeping indifferent health, has repeatedly urged the politburo to find a suitable replacement in view of his advanced age. The Chief Minister is determined to raise the matter at the politburo meeting in Delhi next week against the explicit wishes of the state party committee which is still undecided on the selection of his successor. However, if the politburo ultimately agrees to appoint the Home and Information Minister, Mr Buddhadev Bhattacharya, as the Deputy Chief Minister as a stop-gap arrangement till the next Assembly poll, the Left Front ministry is expected to undergo changes.
The octogenarian Chief Minister of West Bengal has made it clear to everybody inside and outside his party that he is not going to contest the Assembly election scheduled for 2001. The state CPM, which has failed to develop collective leadership as desired by the late state Party Secretary and politburo member, Promode Dasgupta, is naturally worried about its future in Basus absence.
Despite his apparently clean public image and cultural refinement, Mr Buddhadev Bhattacharya is no match to Mr Basu as far as personal charisma is concerned. Besides, the state Home Minister is not completely acceptable as the next Chief Minister to other major Left Front partners like the RSP, CPI and Forward Bloc. These Left Front constituents feel Mr Bhattacharya has developed a tendency to ignore their views on crucial issues and administrative matters and may be, inclined to implement the CPMs rather than the Left Fronts agenda once he steps into Mr Basus shoes.
Mr Basus old age
and health problems earlier forced him to give up a
number of important portfolios and distribute the same
among his junior colleagues. Apart from functioning as
the Chief Minister, Mr Basu is now looking after general
administration as well as science and technology
Cong panel to give report on Nov 30
GUWAHATI, Nov 15 (PTI) The Congress introspection committee set up to analyse reasons for the partys reverses in the recent Lok Sabha elections will submit its report to the party president on November 30, Mr Mani Shanker Aiyar, panel convener, said today.
The 11-member committee, at present on a tour of various parts of the country, is meeting party workers to assess their views and compile the report, Mr Aiyar said.
Representatives are given a questionnaire to fill and total privacy is guaranteed to assess their views on every aspect of the party, he said.
Mr Aiyar criticised Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayees championing the cause of democracy in Pakistan saying "His credentials in that respect are highly suspect".
Vajpayees credentials as a spokesman of democracy in Pakistan are highly suspect because of the warm relations that South Block forged with General Zia-ul-Haq when Vajpayee was the countrys Foreign Minister", he told a press conference here.
When Pakistan was under
military rule of General Zia, Mr Vajpayee was the only
Foreign Minister who did not appeal to the military
regime to save the life of Bhutto, Mr Aiyar, who was then
the countrys Consul-General, alleged.
4 m HIV patients
NEW DELHI, Nov 15 (PTI) India has over four million people infected with the deadly human immuno deficiency virus (HIV), the causative agent of AIDS, and 0.5 per cent of the national Capitals population suffers from the infection, Indian Medical Association (IMA) President Dr V.C. Patel said today.
What is more, a large number of doctors who graduated 10 to 15 years ago do not have the required knowledge and skills to deal effectively with the disease, he said.
"Already over 3,000
persons have died of AIDS in the country since 1986.
There is another 3,000 full blown cases. Hundreds of
others die of infections like tuberculosis and pneumonia
which are not reported as AIDS cases," Dr Patel told
|Lok Adalat at Patiala
NEW DELHI: The government has decided to set up a permanent Lok Adalat at Patiala House, New Delhi, with a two-member Bench comprising a serving or retired judge of the high court and another judicial member. The permanent Lok Adalat will start functioning from December 11, an official release said on Monday. The case to be dealt with by the Lok Adalat will be decided out of regular courts with the mutual consent of the parties. The judgement or orders of the Lok Adalat will be binding on both the parties. There will be no appeal from the judgement of the Lok Adalat. UNI
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