|N A T I O N|
RJD threatens to
chargesheet labour minister
Students of Madhya Pradesh on their traditional dress participating at a National Integration Rally organised by Navodaya Vidhayalaya Samiti at India Gate in New Delhi on Wednesday. PTI photo
President awaits govt
response on clemency
India denies Pakistan's allegation
Civic poll: Trinamool, Cong join
Sack of Prasar Bharati members
67 die of diarrhoea in Orissa
Memory process photographed
BJP junior partner in US
SC criticises civic bodies
Spend wakf funds on widows: Maneka
BSF plan to update training
Jharkhand men burn effigies
Abid favours autonomy for DD
Medical services hit for 3rd day
RJD threatens to chargesheet
NEW DELHI, Nov 24 The Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mr Munni Lall, is in the eye of a storm following allegations of corruption levelled against him by the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in Bihar.
The Rabri Devi government has singled out Mr Munni Lall for what the minister claims is a "smear" campaign against him in view of the forthcoming Parliament session and the state Assembly elections due later.
Mr Lall, who resigned from the IAS and entered Lok Sabha in 1996 on a BJP ticket, has been charged with amassing wealth disproportionate to his income and making a wrongful appointment when he was Additional Secretary of the Planning and Development Programme.
The Rabri Devi government which has directed the Vigilance Department to inquire into the charges has threatened to chargesheet the bureaucrat-turned politician.
Reacting to the charges levelled by the Bihar Government, Mr Munni Lall today landed at the BJP headquarters and capitalised on the routine press briefing of the party to put his point forward.
Describing the allegations against him as "baseless, motivated and a shameful act of personal vendetta", Mr Munni Lall said the very fact that the Bihar Government had raked up the charges against him after nearly four years after he quit the IAS showed that the entire incident was politically motivated.
He claimed that at the time he resigned from the IAS, the government had got all clearances done from various departments, including the Vigilance Department, before relieving him from service. Mr Lall was also given all retirement benefits like pension, gratuity and provident fund. On entering politics, Mr Munni Lall, who belongs to the Scheduled Caste, contested from the Sasaram Lok Sabha constituency, the traditional seat of late Jagjivan Ram, and won three times consecutively on a BJP ticket.
The minister said the RJD supremo, Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav, was rattled by his growing popularity as a leader of the Backward Class.
Mr Munni Lall said he was being penalised as he had refused to abet the crimes of corruption in fodder as well as other scams.
On the allegation by the RJD that he had appointed Mr Sanjay K. Sinha as Deputy Director (Tribal specialist) in the planning Board without following the required procedures, the minister showed documents to prove that the appointment was made on the instructions of Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav on the recommendations of several MPs and MLAs.
Mr Munni Lall said he had merely signed the notification of appointment of Mr Sinha in the absence of an Under Secretary and that too under the direction of Mr Yadav.
UP crisis blows over as CM relents
LUCKNOW, Nov 24 (PTI) Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Ram Prakash Gupta today agreed to consider "minor changes" in the portfolios of sulking allies at a meeting with their chiefs, blowing away the trouble facing his new ministry on the eve of Prime Minister's visit.
Emerging from the meeting, Mr Gupta told reporters that "all the differences have been resolved" and the ministers belonging to the allies would take charge of their respective departments tomorrow and attend the first Cabinet meeting rescheduled for November 26.
The LCP President Naresh Agarwal, JBSP President Narendra Singh and Janata Dal (R) leader Raja Ram Pandey, who attended the meeting with the Chief Minister, said the matter had been "resolved."
Mr Gupta said he would try to remove the "disparities" in the allocation of portfolios. "The alliance partners have left the matter to my discretion", he said, adding "their grievances have been redressed."
The ministers belonging
to the LCP, the JBSP and JD (R) had decided to boycott
the Cabinet meeting protesting "discrimination"
in distribution of portfolios to them and refused to take
charge of their departments until the problem was solved.
Unavailability of air system
NEW DELHI, Nov 24 Unavailability of a critical defence system with the Indian Air Force (IAF) has seriously affected its operational efficiency specially in the field of electronic surveillance.
This unavailability of the system, called the Sigint air surveillance system, had also apparently put the country at a disadvantage in detecting intrusion by Pakistan in the remote regions of Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir. The installation of the system on the aircraft could have helped the IAF in detecting the intrusion at the very beginning and not led to the loss of so many lives during the operation launched to push out the intruders holed up at different heights.
The delay on the part of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in making important decisions has led to the system being unavailable with the IAF for critical surveillance even till now. Though the Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) made the three systems available, after a long delay, they were not installed on the aircraft. The Air Headquarters (AHQ) delayed the positioning of the aircraft, though they had been purchased way back in 1993.
According to reports, while the ministry attributed the delay in the positioning of the aircraft to the non-availability of the hanger space at the Aircraft and System Testing Establishment, the aircraft were actually diverted to the VIP squadron in an unauthorised manner. Incidentally, the VIP squadron already consisted of two Boeing 737, seven Avros and six helicopters when these aircraft were also diverted to it.
Reports said that had this system been available with the IAF, it would have been very simple to detect intrusions like that in Kargil at the very beginning. Delays at all stages of decision making, coupled with delay in indigenous development of the Sigint air surveillance system led to it not being available with the IAF for the critical work.
The airborne Sigint system is an electronic surveillance system capable of collecting information about enemy radar systems as well as about their communication systems.
Sources said that the AHQ had projected an immediate operational requirement of three such systems way back in June 1987. It wanted to replace its existing HS-748 based systems, which had become outdated, with the Sigint air surveillance system to match the changed threat scenario.
The IAF had proposed to install two of these systems on Boeing 737 aircraft for airborne use while the third was meant for reserve and training. Because of the limited requirement and long gestation period of indigenous development, the IAF suggested that the systems be imported at a cost of Rs 30 crore at that time so that they were available for installation on the aircraft latest by March 1990.
The ministry, however, opted for indigenous development on the ground that the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) had the expertise in the field and accorded sanction to it to go ahead for the indigenous development in October 1989.
The development of the system suffered from delays. Finally after a delay of more than 17 months from the scheduled date, a successful trial of the indigenous system was carried out.
According to the time schedule indicated in the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs paper, the first system was to be made operational in 1995-96, the second in 1996-97 and the third in 1997-98. BEL was also to carry out necessary structural modification of two Boeing 737 aircraft and install the system onboard through HAL as sub-contractor.
A sum of Rs 100 crore was cleared to be paid to BEL for the supply and services rendered. Of this Rs 90 crore, with a foreign exchange content of Rs 52.40 crore was for the supply of the systems. However, the AHQ delayed the positioning of the aircraft which were bought way back in 1993.
While one aircraft was positioned in July 1995 the other was put in position only in January 1998. In between the aircraft were unauthorisedly diverted to the VIP squadron and were used to transport those who were not even entitled to use them.
Thus as a result of the shortcomings on the administrative grounds by the MoD and the unauthorised diversion of the aircraft led to the delay in the acquisition of a critical defence requirement.
ministry has accepted that there were delays in the
development of the system which had adversely affected
the operational efficiency of the IAF. This admission
from the ministry came in October 1998, but since then
also there has been a status quo and the operational
efficiency of the IAF continues to suffer.
President awaits govt response
NEW DELHI, Nov 24 (UNI) President K.R. Narayanan is awaiting the advice of the government on the bunch of petitions seeking clemency for the four convicts sentenced to death in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case and Congress President Sonia Gandhis request that the capital punishment against one of them, Nalini, be commuted to life imprisonment on humanitarian grounds.
The President had sought the Home Ministrys opinion on the clemency petitions of Nalini, her husband Murugan and two others Santhan and Arivu, Rashtrapati Bhavan sources said today.
The President would strictly go by the advice of the government on this issue, they said.
Mrs Gandhi, who called on the President last week, had expressed her feeling that if both Nalini and Murugan were sent to the gallows their only daughter, aged eight, would be orphaned. She would not like any child to be orphaned by an act of state. So were the sentiments of her son, Rahul, and daughter, Priyanka, she had told the President.
India denies Pakistan's allegation
NEW DELHI, Nov 24 (PTI) India today rejected Pakistans allegation that Indian intelligence operatives had mistreated a diplomat of the Pakistan High Commission here.
Islamabad had yesterday lodged a protest with India, second within a week, alleging "harassment and intimidation" of Abdul Majid Chowdhury, Cousular in the mission.
An External Affairs Ministry spokesperson said the Pakistan High Commission had complained that Mr Chowdhury, while travelling in his official car from his residence to the mission was blocked by a Maruti car and subjected to abuse by its occupants.
No agency of the government was involved in the incident, the official said.
This was conveyed to the Pakistan Foreign Office in Islamabad by Indian Deputy High Commissioner Sudhir Vyas when he was summoned there yesterday.
A Pakistan foreign office statement said a "strong protest was lodged with him on the incident" . It said, "Such incidents of harassment had become a pattern which could only further vitiate the atmosphere."
Civic poll: Trinamool, Cong
CALCUTTA, Nov 24 The West Bengal Congress headed by Mr Ghani Khan Chaudhury, former Railway Minister, will join hands with Ms Mamata Banerjees Trinamool Congress in the forthcoming Calcutta municipal elections.
Ms Banerjee, who is now in the city for the past four days, kept herself busy in finalising poll agreement with the Congress against the CPM, which now rules the municipal corporation. The CPM-led Left Front has been running the city administration with Mr Prasanta Chatterjee (CPM) in the Mayors chair.
The Trinamool Congress leader has inaugurated six railway projects in the city during the past few days keeping in mind the civic poll. In all these functions, either a CPI(M) or a RSP minister was present in an attempt to bring Ms Banerjee nearer to the Left Front.
Meanwhile, a large number of Congress leaders and workers have joined with the Trinamool Congress.
Ms Banerjee said she would welcome all anti-CPI(M) parties in her fight against Mr Jyoti Basus government, which had been proved to be corrupt, anti-people, anti-development and anti-centre.
In this struggle, she
would welcome leaders like Mr Siddartha Sanker Ray, Mr
Ghani Khan Chaudhury, Mr Priya DasMunshi and Mr Somen
Mitra but not Mr Pranab Mukherjee, who has been solely
responsible for ruining the Congress, she added.
Sack of Prasar Bharati
NEW DELHI, Nov 24 Former Information and Broadcasting Minister Jaipal Reddy today termed the removal of two members of the Prasar Bharati Board as illegal and improper.
Addressing mediapersons here, Mr Reddy, who was responsible for bringing out the Prasar Bharati Act from the closets and promulgating it during his tenure as the Information and Broadcasting Minister during the United Front government, said even the constitution of the committee for the review of the Prasar Bharati was improper.
He said Section 7 of the Prasar Bharati Act 1990 clearly stated, that the board alone could set up any committee to assist it. Moreover, the method of removal of the members was arbitrary as no objective criteria like draw of lots was resorted to. This, he said, indicated that the government had adopted arbitrary methods to oust certain people because of "ideological targeting".
He pointed out that the tenure of five part-time members had been decided by an internal committee and wondered how anyone could question the eminence of Prof Romilla Thapar, Prof U.R. Rao or Dr Abid Hussain. Prof Thapar was retired along with Mr Rajendra Yadav on Monday as part-time members of the board.
It was also announced that the terms of Prof Rao and Dr Hussain would expire on November 22, 2001 while, Mr B.G. Verghese would complete his full term of six years till November 22, 2003.
He alleged that no rules had been framed and the government had failed to give answers to the queries raised by the selection committee headed by the Vice-President. He said the BJP government had done nothing to make the Prasar Bharati work during the past 18 months apart from promulgating an ordinance to remove Chief Executive Officer S.S. Gill.
He denied that during his tenure the ordinance had been promulgated only to accommodate Mr Gill.
To a question that one-third members had to be retired under Section 6(3) of the Act, Mr Reddy said this was only a pretext to remove members that the ruling party considered inconvenient because of their "Leftist views."
He said the argument of
the government appeared to be that only people connected
with media and marketing, should be these as board
members, but the Act stated clearly that the board would
have eminent people from various fields.
67 die of diarrhoea in Orissa
NEW DELHI, Nov 24 (UNI) As many as 67 persons have died of diarrhoea in Orissa, taking the toll in the cyclone and the epidemic to 9,803.
Over 68,100 diarrhoeal cases have been reported and to tackle the situation 332 doctors, 477 paramedical personnel and 98 mobile units have been deployed in the affected areas of the state, an official press note said here today.
About 1.08 lakh carcasses have been disposed of and 320,134 injured animal treated.
Meanwhile, airdropping of food stuff has been discontinued following improvement in rail and road communication. In all 78,750 mt of foodgrains were airdropped in 247 sorties.
However, about 145 free kitchens were still functioning in Puri, Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Jajpur, Cuttack and Jagatsinghpur districts catering to nearly 7.3 lakh persons. NAFED has despatched 2,000 mt of pulses.
STD lines up to all tehsil headquarters and 319 of the 410 affected telephone exchanges have been restored. Local telephone lines are normal except in Jajpur town, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara and Paradeep.
All railway lines in the affected areas are now open except in the Cuttack-Paradeep section.
The power usage is less
than normal by about 160 mw. Power supply restoration at
Puri is 85 per cent, Khurda 94 per cent, Bhubaneswar 61
per cent, Ranasinghpur 79 per cent, Berhampur 75 per
cent, Cuttack 53 per cent, Paradeep 40 per cent,
Kendrapara 4 per cent and Pattamundai 10 per cent.
Memory process photographed
NEW DELHI, Nov 24 (PTI) In a breakthrough in the understanding of the brain functioning, scientists have for the first time photographed images of what happens to the brain during learning and memorisation.
A team led by Dominique Muller from the University of Geneva in Switzerland has used an electron microscope to photograph changes occurring at the connection points between two nerve cells or neurons when long-term memory is established.
By analysing successive cross-sections of rat brains, the researchers studied the synapses or contact points that link two neurons.
From the microscope images, the scientists constructed three-dimensional images of these miniscule connections. In doing so, they realised that during memory process, there is duplication of certain synapses, a report in the journal Nature says.
Each of the 100 billion neurons in a human brain can have up to 10,000 contact points or synapses with its surrounding neurons.
But only a few dozen of these synapses undergo memory transformation, which explains why it has taken scientists so long to capture images of the modifications that occur when a neuron is stimulated and acts as if it "remembers" the stimulation.
This process of a neuron being stimulated and made to remember the stimulation is called long-term potentiation (LTP).
The Geneva team found
that synapses of a neuron repeatedly stimulated by its
neighbour undergo a physical change: the membrane
changes, then forms a second contact point. This
duplication occurs around one hour after stimulation.
BJP junior partner in US
NEW DELHI, Nov 24 In a sharp attack on the Vajpayee government, the CPM today said the BJP-led government was not only "presiding over the handing over of the vital financial sector to speculative foreign capital" but had also "signalled its willingness to act as a junior partner to the global US strategy".
Addressing newspersons after a three-day meeting of the partys central committee here, the CPM General Secretary, Mr Harkishan Singh Surjeet, said the party had decided to launch a nationwide mass movement against the policies of the Central Government.
The mass movement, which would seek the support of other democratic and secular parties in joint actions, which would form the basis for emergence of a third front in future, Mr Surjeet stressed.
"The central committee reiterated its resolve to work for the reforging of the third alternative so that an effective force can be built up against the BJP", Mr Surjeet said adding that discussions were on to firm up a broad unity of the non-Congress and non-BJP parties.
However, when asked for details of the discussions, Mr Surjeet declined to give specifics of the deliberations. "There are many forces in the states you will see very big formation taking shape", he said.
The central committee, taking note of the serious economic crisis being faced by the state governments, said "it was essential to convene a special conference of the states and the Centre for discussing ways to meet "this unprecedented situation".
The committee also conducted a review of the Lok Sabha elections and the performance of the party, the CPM leader said. Based on this review the party decided to initiate certain immediate political and organisational measures to strengthen the party and to develop the mass movement, he said.
On the economic policies of the Vajpayee government, a six-page statement said the policies "are designed to privatise the public sector, open up all sectors of the economy to foreign capital and virtually underwriting the charter demanded by the big business houses".
SC criticises civic bodies
NEW DELHI, Nov 24 (PTI) The Supreme Court today came down heavily on the civic authorities in the five cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Calcutta and Bangalore on their appalling state of cleanliness despite employment of huge forces of safai karmacharis by the municipalities concerned.
A three-Judge Bench headed by Mr Justice B.N. Kirpal asked the Municipal Commissioners of all these cities to file within six weeks what steps have been taken to make these huge work forces do the cleaning job they have been entrusted with.
It also asked them to state that which officer should be held responsible by the court if the municipalities failed to do their statutory job of keeping the cities clean.
The Delhi Municipal Corporation alone employs around 48,000 safai karmacharis for cleaning and solid waste disposal.
The counsel for the Mumbai municipality submitted that around 75 per cent of its revenue goes in paying the wage bill of the karmacharis, who after being initially appointed as contract labour had to be absorbed on court orders causing heavy financial burden.
The court asked state governments and the union government to state on affidavit as to whether employment of contract labour for the purpose of cleanliness and solid waste disposal should or should not be allowed as per the exemption provided under Section 31 of Contract Labour Act.
The court said there was adequate provision in the acts against littering by citizens and asked the municipalities to take necessary action in accordance with law against persons found littering.
Meanwhile, concerned by the appalling state of civic amenities in the heritage city of Agra famous for the Taj Mahal, the Supreme Court has set up a high-level committee to look into the functioning of public authorities responsible for providing these.
A three-judge Bench
headed by Mr Justice G.B. Pattanaik said "the
monitoring committee will certainly try its best to
achieve maximum results in the matter of giving
unpolluted drinking water to the citizens of Agra as well
as those who visit the city and provide good sewerage and
take adequate measures for disposal of solid waste."
Spend wakf funds on widows:
NEW DELHI, Nov 24 Concern for the welfare of widows and improvement of orphanages seems to be Maneka Gandhis message to the Central Wakf Council.
Mrs Maneka Gandhi, Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, rejected a proposal by the council for construction of a guest house in Jammu and Kashmir while chairing the 42nd meeting of the council here on Wednesday. Sources in the ministry said that she said that such projects fall under the jurisdiction of the department of tourism. She said funds generated by wakf properties should be spent for welfare of widows and improvement of orphanages. The project was estimated to cost Rs 24 lakh.
The minister said the Central Wakf Council had crossed the target by Rs 12 lakh by recovering Rs 1.12 crore from various persons who owe to wakf. She said Rs 6.23 crore remains to be recovered and Rs 64 lakh have been recovered this year.
congratulated the members for the land allotted by the
Lands and Development Organisation for construction of
the office building of the council in the Capital. She
said that urban wakf properties in northern States like
Rajasthan and Punjab were now be governed by the Central
Wakf Council. She added that the council was making
efforts to govern properties in north-eastern states
BSF plan to update training
NEW DELHI, Nov 24 (UNI) Home Minister L.K. Advani today said a constant review of training, updating of methodologies and training equipment of the Border Security Force (BSF) with an innovative mind were vital to keep pace with the ground situation.
Inaugurating the BSF annual training/sports conference-1999 here, he said there was a growing concern for human rights in the BSF and all out efforts were being made to sensitise the force personnel towards the issue. Security forces would have to conform to human rights norms and respect these in letter and spirit.
Meanwhile, sources said the BSF was preparing a five-year perspective plan to update the existing training and expertise of its personnel depending upon the security scenario and ground situation in the country. A major review and updating of the existing training and publication policy had been carried out to prepare the plan.
The Home Minister said the decision to send the bodies of martyrs to their native villages during the Kargil conflict and honouring the war heroes had a tremendous impact on the people and brought to the fore a new consciousness about the countrys security.
He also expressed happiness that wives of BSF officers and men had formed an association to work for the welfare of men on the border and their families and assured Central Government assistance in this regard.
About 4,940 personnel of various categories, including communication personnel, ministerial/medical staff underwent basic training in various training centres during 1998-99.
A total of 5,941 recruits are at present undergoing basic recruit training in various training centres. About 3,758 officers and staff were trained through in-service courses while 114 personnel of various ranks were trained in Army courses.
Besides, 113 BSF officers and men attended civil courses which included interaction, computers, management, internal security, unarmed combat and other specialised technical courses at various central and state training institutions.
capsules are conducted in collaboration with the National
Human Rights Commission and the International Committee
of Red Cross for protecting human rights. New courses
like anti-terrorist course, bomb disposal/improvised
explosive device course and special commando training
besides aero space and hang gliding have also been
Jharkhand men burn effigies
RANCHI, Nov 24 (UNI) Jharkhand Peoples Party (JPP) and All-Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) activists burnt the effigies of the Centre and the Bihar Government to highlight their demands for the passage of the Bihar State Re-Organisation Bill in the winter session of Parliament.
The effigies were burnt near the Albert Ekka roundabout here last evening.The supporters raised slogans denigrating the Centre and the state government and called upon the people to support them in their ongoing agitation for statehood.
Abid favours autonomy for DD
NEW DELHI, Nov 24 (PTI) Prasar Bharati board member Abid Hussain today favoured autonomy for Doordarshan and All India Radio but agreed with the governments view that their role should be mainly that of a public service broadcaster.
"I support Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitleys view to make Doordarshan a public service broadcaster. But any budgetary support from the government for it should not be seen as dole", Mr Hussain said on the sidelines of a meet on liberal priorities for India in the 21st century here.
Medical services hit for 3rd day
MUMBAI, Nov 24 (UNI) The indefinite strike by more than 5,000 resident doctors of government-run hospitals in Maharashtra entered the third day today.
The doctors have given the strike call under the umbrella of the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors, demanding higher wages and better working conditions.
|17 killed in jeep-truck
JHANSI: Seventeen persons were killed in a collision between a jeep and a truck near Raksa on the Jhansi-Shivpuri road early on Wednesday, the police said. The victims travelling in the ill-fated jeep were returning after attending a marriage ceremony. Fourteen persons died on the sport, while one succumbed to injuries on way to hospital, the police added. UNI
Chakra for Naidu, Mahanta
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