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THE TRIBUNE
Friday, October 22, 1999

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Roll back hike: Left MPs
NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — Even as the Left parties MPs today met Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to press for rolling back the recent hike in diesel prices and the Congress criticised the Government’s move, the BJP defended the hike saying that it was "painful but necessary".

3000 cr package to appease people of Bellary
BANGALORE, Oct 21 — In a swift political move to mollify the hurt feelings of the people of Bellary in the wake of the Opposition leader, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, quitting from this Lok Sabha seat, the Congress Ministry in Karnataka today unveiled a Rs 3000 crore special package.

line Tribals from Andhra Pradesh arriving at Parliament House to witness the preceddings of their first session of the 13th Lok Sabha, in New Delhi

New Delhi: Tribals from Andhra Pradesh arriving at Parliament House to witness the proceedings of their first session of the 13th Lok Sabha, in New Delhi on Thursday. —PTI photo
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Religious leaders flay Sangh Parivar
NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — Representatives of various religions today condemned the "hate campaign" unleashed by some Sangh Parivar outfits against Pope John Paul II’s forthcoming India visit and urged the government to ensure that the country’s image is not tarnished by their acts.

Jaswant Singh is RS leader
NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — The External Affairs Minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, has been nominated the new Leader of the Rajya Sabha by the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee.

Scindia is Cong Dy Leader
NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — Mr Madhavrao Scindia has been appointed the Deputy Leader of the Congress Party in Parliament and Mr Priyaranjan Dasmunshi as its Chief Whip in the Lok Sabha.

India ‘likely to face N-accident’
HYDERABAD, Oct, 21 — Former chief of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board A. Gopalakrishnan has warned that India is "likely to face a serious nuclear accident in the not too distant future".

Truckers' stir has mixed impact
NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — The first day of the nationwide truckers' strike had a mixed impact on the economy of the consumers with landlocked states reporting a surge in the prices of essential commodities.

Insurance Bill in Budget session
NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — The Government would seek passage of Insurance Bill to allow private sector participation in the sector during the Budget session, Union Power Minister P R Kumaramangalam said here today.

10 take oath in Rajya Sabha
NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — The former Chief of Army Staff, Gen Shankar Roy Chowdhury, was among the 10 newly elected members from four states who took oath today on the opening day of the Rajya Sabha session here.

Mann takes oath
NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, who chose to forfeit his seat in the Lok Sabha in 1990 rather than part with his three-foot long sword, today with a smaller ‘kirpan’ took oath of affirmation as a member of the House.

Govt hopeful of polio-free status
NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — The government has expressed the hope that India would be able to achieve the polio-free status by the end of the coming year.

Cyclone death toll rises to 94
BERHAMPUR, Oct 21 — The death toll in the severe cyclonic storm which hit Orissa’s southern coast on Sunday night has risen to 94 with 12 more casualties reported from the worst-hit Ganjam district.

TRAI seeks more powers
NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — Chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, Justice S.S. Sodhi has sought more powers for the authority in view of the "cloud of uncertainty surrounding" the role of the regulator.

Church denies backing ultras
NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — The Baptist Church in India today denied allegations levelled by the RSS recently that its mission in Tripura was supporting terrorist groups in the state.

PM’s assurance to minorities
AIZWAL, Oct 21 — Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has said religious minorities in the country would not be persecuted.

Vigilance ‘failure’ cannot be denied
NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — A senior Army official today said there could have been "intelligence failure" on Pakistani intrusion in Kargil maintaining that none of the intelligence agencies deserved "full marks".

Artist who is labourer now
BHOPAL, Oct 21 — Bhuribai is, hold your breath, among the top tribal artists of the country. Her works are on display in almost all art galleries of India.

Bansal denied accommodation
NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — Mr Pawan Kumar Bansal, MP, Chandigarh had to face embarrassment of having been refused an accommodation in Punjab Bhavan, after the same was allotted to him by the Lok Sabha Secretariat.

Fake currency racket: 6 held
PATNA, Oct 21 — The case of fake currency circulation in eastern India, masterminded by the Inter Service Intelligence of Pakistan, has been re-established with the arrest of six members of an international gang having links in Nepal.

Haryana Jats seek quota
NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — A demand for providing reservation for Jats in the Central and Haryana government services on the basis of the report of the Gurnam Singh Ayog Samiti was raised here by a Sangarsh Samiti.

End to caste-based reservations sought
NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — Mr M.R. Sharma, Chairman of the All-India Brahman Mahasabha, today appealed to the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, to end caste-based reservation of seats in government jobs, the Lok Sabha and the Vidhan Sabha.

Rail India bags Bangladesh project
NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — The Rail India Technical and Economic Services, a government enterprise of the Ministry of Railways, in collaboration with Nascom of Bangladesh has signed a Build Own and Transfer agreement with Bangladesh Railways to make conventional coaches air-conditioned.

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Roll back hike: Left MPs
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — Even as the Left parties MPs today met Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to press for rolling back the recent hike in diesel prices and the Congress criticised the Government’s move, the BJP defended the hike saying that it was "painful but necessary".

In a letter to the Prime Minister, 34 MPs of Left parties have demanded immediate rollback of diesel price and have suggested negotiations with truck owners to end their strike.

Expressing concern over "unprecedented" price rise of essential commodities after the increase in diesel rates soon after the elections, they also suggested withdrawal of gulf-cess on oil, imposing taxes on rural rich, recovering black money as alternative ways to mobilise revenues to give relief to the common people.

The Prime Minister assured them of considering the matter, particularly withdrawal of gulf-cess on oil, a CPM release said.

The delegation of 34 MPs included Mr Somnath Chatterjee, Mr Basudeb Acharia, Mr S. Ramachandran Pillai (CPM), Mr Indrajit Gupta and Mrs Geeta Mukherjee (CPI).

The Left parties said 35 per cent increase in diesel rates was going to hurt the common people because of its effect on essential commodities besides affecting industrial and agricultural production.

During years of low oil prices in the international market in the recent past, it was not brought down in India, the MPs asserted.

Alleging that the decision was taken by the government before the election, they said "a candid and transparent course should have been taken to communicate this to the people immediately, along with justification, if any, for the proposed action."

Meanwhile, the Congress has also criticised the decision of the Vajpayee government to increase the prices of diesel which it said was affecting the prices of the essential commodities across the country.

"This is the gift of the new government. We feel bad that prices of diesel was to be increased which was affecting the prices of the essential commodities", the party spokesman, Mr Ajit Jogi told reporters.

Asked if the party was justifying the decision of the Congress-led government in Delhi to the hefty increase in the DTC bus fare, Mr Jogi said "it is clear that it was due to increase in the prices of diesel".

Another senior Congress leader, Mr Rajesh Pilot, has also demanded immediate rollback of diesel price and has warned that farmers in the country would be compelled to intensify their agitation against the government if it failed to take a decision in this regard.

Addressing farmers from neighbouring districts of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhis’ rural areas, who drove their tractors towards Parliament House to protest against the hike, Mr Pilot said the Government should have opted for some other measures to make good the loss on account of diesel price rise at the international level.

He said the government should have considered the paying capacity of the farmers before raising the price. "Prices of agriculture products are not increasing in that proportion and the poor farmers are bearing the brunt of the price rise."

Promising the farmers of raising the issue in Parliament "strongly", Mr Pilot warned that the Government should not take the matter lightly as this could have "serious" repercussion.

Explaning the Government’s decision, the party spokesman, Mr Venkaiah Naidu, told reporters here "the burden had to be passed on to the customers at some point of time for if this had not been done, the oil companies would not have been able to supply to the people".

Mr Naidu said people should realise the rationale behind this decision as it was the United Front government which had taken the decision to increase the price. Top


 

3000 cr package to appease people of Bellary

BANGALORE, Oct 21 (PTI) — In a swift political move to mollify the hurt feelings of the people of Bellary in the wake of the Opposition leader, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, quitting from this Lok Sabha seat, the Congress Ministry in Karnataka today unveiled a Rs 3000 crore special package, which includes a Rs 2500 crore thermal power plant, for the district’s development.

The package, unveiled by the Chief Minister, Mr S.M. Krishna, at a news conference here, was also directed at demolishing criticism by the Opposition, particularly the NDA, over Mrs Gandhi resigning her Bellary seat and choosing to retain Amethi.

Besides a Rs 2500 crore 500 mw Vijayanagar thermal power station, the package included a Rs100 crore project for improvement of roads, a further Rs 100 crore for improving primary health and education programmes and a Rs 75 crore project for upgrading the quality of water supply in 233 rural habitats.

Mrs Gandhi won the seat by a margin of over 50,000 votes defeating the BJP’s Mrs Sushma Swaraj in a high voltage contest.

Mr Krishna said "even though Sonia Gandhi had to take the painful decision of resigning as MP from Bellary on account of having been elected from Amethi also, the people of Bellary are very dear to her heart."

"As per the wishes of Ms Gandhi, who evinced personal interest in the welfare of the people of Bellary and the development of the district, the state government has tailored the special package to ensure speedy and all round development of the district," he said.

The package would be implemented over the next two to three years.Top


 

Pope’s visit
Religious leaders flay Sangh Parivar

NEW DELHI, Oct 21 (PTI) — Representatives of various religions today condemned the "hate campaign" unleashed by some Sangh Parivar outfits against Pope John Paul II’s forthcoming India visit and urged the government to ensure that the country’s image is not tarnished by their acts.

"We denounce the attempt on the part of certain forces to derive political and communal mileage out of this religious event. Any discourtesy shown to the Pope will tarnish the image of our country in the eyes of the world community," the religious leaders said at a joint Press conference here.

They included the seer of Prayag Mutt, Jagatguru Shankaracharya Swami Madhvanand Saraswati, noted Islamic thinker Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, Sikh scholar Dr Mohinder Singh, Delhi Minorities Commission member Reverend Valson Thampu and some Jain Monks.

The government should ensure that "nothing that detracts the spiritual significance of the visit" happens, they said.

"Hindu saints and leaders are welcomed and respected around the world. By welcoming the Pope, we will only add to the respect given to our religious leaders," the Shankaracharya told reporters.

"The opposition to the visit is wrong. It only reflects their (Sangh Parivar’s) limited vision. The Pope is coming here with a message of love and peace. If he says anything against Hinduism, I will be his worst opponent," he said.

"Why should the Pope apologise for the crimes of others as demanded by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)," he asked.Top


 

Jaswant Singh is RS leader
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Oct 21 - The External Affairs Minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, has been nominated the new Leader of the Rajya Sabha by the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee.

Announcing his nomination when the upper House met today for the first time after the new Government assumed charge, the Deputy Chairperson, Dr Najma Heptulla said she had received communication from Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee nominating him as the new Leader of the House.

The outgoing Leader of the House, Mr Sikander Bakht, who does not figure in the Union Council of Ministers, was also present.

The Congress has already announced that Dr Manmohan Singh would continue to be the Leader of the Opposition.

A new-look Rajya Sabha met for the first time after the general elections today in a cheerful spirit with members from all sections greeting Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajapyee and his ministerial colleagues.

As the House met for the day, Mr Vajpayee was warmly greeted by members including the Congress member, Mr Kapil Sibal.

Mr Vajpayee then went across to shake hands with the Leader of Opposition, Dr Manmohan Singh as well as Mr Pranab Mukherjee, Mr S.B. Chavan and several other senior Congress leaders.

Returning to his seat, the Prime Minister made a point to shake hands with the Lok Shakti leader, Mr Ramakrishna Hegde, former Commerce Minister who has not been included in the new Vajpayee Cabinet.

The House also saw the presence of new faces including the young Information and Broadcasting Minister, Mr Arun Jaitley who is not a member of either House as yet.Top


 

Scindia is Cong Dy Leader
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — Mr Madhavrao Scindia has been appointed the Deputy Leader of the Congress Party in Parliament and Mr Priyaranjan Dasmunshi as its Chief Whip in the Lok Sabha.

Mrs Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson of the CPP, made these appointments today. It follows yesterday’s announcement of Dr Manmohan Singh as the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and Mr Pranab Mukherjee as the Chief Whip.

There was considerable pressure in the party to appoint a leader from the south in the Deputy Leader’s slot or as the Chief Whip. However, it appears that the Congress chief preferred to go by experience rather than other considerations.

The name of Mr Scindia had been doing rounds as he is one of the senior most MPs that the party has in Parliament after Mr Sayeed, who is now set to become the Deputy Speaker.

Mr Scindia is expected to shoulder and share responsibilities of the Leader of the Opposition as Mrs Gandhi, who is not experienced in Parliamentary work, could take time to settle in.

One argument while pushing the candidature of Mrs Gandhi as the Leader of the Opposition was that she should select a strong Deputy Leader who could be entrusted with the task of carrying out majority of the workload.

Mr Scinida, who is the AICC General Secretary has been in the Lok Sabha since 1971 and has held several important portfolios in the Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha Rao Cabinets.

Mr Dasmunshi, who is one of the three MPs who were elected from West Bengal, has been a Youth Congress President and a Minister in the Rajiv Gandhi Ministry.

Mr Dasmunshi is also the Working President of the West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee. In the toss-up between Mr Santosh Mohan Dev and Mr Dasmunshi, the latter made it.

These appointments may also lead to some resentment as there were several aspirants specially for the post of Deputy Leader. There has been murmurs in the party over the performance of the party in states like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Orissa, Goa and Maharashtra, which were under Mr Scindia’s charge. Barring Maharashtra, the party fared poorly in all States.

Meanwhile, the Congress President has been recognised as the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha.

The Lok Sabha bulletin said today that the Speaker has recognised her as the Leader of the Opposition in the House with effect from October 13, 1999, the day she was elected as the Chairperson of the CPP.

This is in terms of Section 2 of the Salary and Allowances of the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977, the bulletin said.Top


 

India ‘likely to face N-accident’

HYDERABAD, Oct, 21 (PTI) — Former chief of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) A Gopalakrishnan has warned that India is "likely to face a serious nuclear accident in the not too distant future".

He was replying to a question whether an accident similar to the one that occurred at a uranium processing plant last month in Japan could occur in India too.

Mr Gopalakrishnan told PTI that a report prepared by the AERB in 1995 which listed 130 defects in various nuclear installations "did include some identified problems related to reprocessing plants".

"I am not permitted to discuss the specifics openly, but suffice to say that the degree of automation and cross-checks on safety in our older plants are very minimal and one cannot assert at all that an accident like the one which occurred in Japan will not happen in India," he said.

The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has so far not made the AERB report public in spite of legal pressure from the People’s Union of Civil Liberties, and DAE officials were not available to comment on whether Indian fuel processing plants faced any risk as in Japan.

The September 30 accident at the Japanese facility in Tokaimura occurred when too much uranium was fed into a container setting off an uncontrolled chain reaction. It continued for hours releasing radioactivity into the air leaving 49 persons exposed to deadly radiation.

Mr Gopalakrishnan said: "With a captive AERB from which the DAE can in effect withhold information as they wish, coupled with the shelter the DAE enjoys through invoking the national security bogey and the Official Secrets Act, we are likely to face a serious nuclear accident in the not too distant future."

He said "with the prevailing cover of secrecy and lack of public awarness none of us may ever come to know that such an accident has happened, unless the roof of a plant blows out or a visible fire rages there."

According to Mr Gopalakri-shnan, the AERB report, among other things, had urgently called for the modification of emergency core cooling systems. Emergency cooling is vital to prevent the melting of the reactor core in the event of a breakdown in the circulation of the primary coolant.Top


 

Truckers' stir has mixed impact
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — The first day of the nationwide truckers' strike had a mixed impact on the economy of the consumers with landlocked states reporting a surge in the prices of essential commodities.

If the capital was any indication, prices of fruits and vegetables soared but there were no shortages. Small time operators were using small tempos and autorickshaws to ferry vegetables and fruits to markets.

Market sources said there were no shortages as such but the retailers were playing on the strike syndrome to make some quick gains. The supply of essential commodities was satisfactory as the strikers have exempted items like milk, water and newspaper.

In Haryana, reports received by the Centre said trucks were not operating in the state but dealers were being allowed transport vegetables and other essential commodities in buses. It has been ensured that all petrol stations in the state are filled and protection was being given to oil tankers.

In Himachal Pradesh, large vehicles were off the roads but light commercial vehicles were plying. Supply line of essential commodities were being kept on through their help.

In Uttar Pradesh, the situation was near normal except that the trucks were not moving out of the state. In Kanpur, national permit holders were on strike but light commercial vehicles were running.

In Madhya Pradesh and Bihar the situation was almost normal and State Government authorities said some impact could be felt tomorrow. In Indore, no loading took place, but, vehicles were moving in. In Raipur, loading and unloading have stopped and no vehicle was moving in or out.

West Bengal reported problems from Siliguri and Hugli but the situation was normal in other parts.

Maharashtra utilised the light commercial vehicles to supply essential commodities and as of today the strike had little impact on the State.

The Orissa authorities said supplies of essential commodities were being maintained throughout the state. Effect of the strike was not felt in the western and southern parts of the State but it was felt in the coastal districts, where trucks were not operating.

Road transporters said today being the first day of the strike, it would take some time before the impact is felt all over the country. Top


 

Govt monitoring truckers' stir
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — There was no further talks between the Union Government and the All-India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) today with the truckers implementing their threat of going on a nationwide indefinite strike demanding rollback of the recent hike in diesel prices.

Official sources said with the talks between the two sides failing, the government was now constantly monitoring the situation.

As per reports gathered by the government till this evening, there was no total disruption of movement of essential commodities and trucks were moving in a majority of the states. The movement of essential commodities were satisfactory, official sources said.

The Minister of Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution, Mr Shanta Kumar, today reviewed the situation of availability of foodgrains in various states and Union Territories in the wake of the strike launched by truck operators.

The minister has directed that effective steps should be taken to ensure that public distribution system was not affected in parts of the country on account of the strike.

The review meeting was attended by Mr M.D. Asthana, Secretary Food and Civil Supplies and Mr P.R. Dasgupta, Chairman, Food Corporation of India.

The minister was informed that the stocking position of foodgrains was sufficient to meet three to six months requirement in every state at present. The procurement was not likely to be affected as local truck operators have been exempted from taking part in the truck operators’ strike.

Further tractors-trailer was also being pressed into service for meeting the requirement of public distribution system as well as procurement of grains.

The situation is being closely monitored by the ministry. Top


 

Insurance Bill in Budget session

NEW DELHI, Oct 21 (PTI) — The Government would seek passage of Insurance Bill to allow private sector participation in the sector during the Budget session, Union Power Minister P R Kumaramangalam said here today.

"We would try to introduce the Bill during the winter session itself, but as the session is short for a period of only two-and-half weeks, its passage is likely in the Budget session," Kumaramangalam said while addressing a seminar on Indo-US economic partnership.

The Union Cabinet had cleared yesterday the Bill for Insurance Regulatory Authority as part of opening up of insurance sector for private participation.

Stating that the Government was committed to carry on the reform process and show results, Kumaramangalam said that India and US could strengthen relationships by cooperation in infrastrucutre and knowledge-based industries.

In the infrastructure area alone, the two countries could explore jointly working in sectors like Power, Telecom and Surface Transport, he said.

Complementing the Government for its decision to go ahead with the opening up of the Insurance sector, US Ambassador to India Richard Celeste said that US was closely watching the pace at which economic reforms were being carried out in India.

"The decision of opening up the insurance sector is a positive sign and many of the US investors are willing to bring in capital into India to invest in the sector," Celeste said.

He, however, said that it would be a tough challenge for India to carry out second generation reforms as the Government would have to ensure fiscal restrain, restructuring and privatisation.

There is need for business leaders to support government in its endeavour to carry out the second generation reforms and also stand by the government when it takes tough decisions, Celeste said.

India can achieve real double digit growth by utilising its abundant resources and manpower, he said and hoped that US and India’s cooperation in various areas would strengthen.

The economic progress and reforms of the country should be to benefit the citizens and India has earned the name of a fast growing economy in the world by virtue of its reform process, he added. Top


 

10 take oath in Rajya Sabha
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — The former Chief of Army Staff, Gen Shankar Roy Chowdhury, was among the 10 newly elected members from four states who took oath today on the opening day of the Rajya Sabha session here.

The Rajya Sabha was adjourned till October 25 after the oath-taking by new members and obituary references.

The others who took oath included the Chief Whip of the Congress in the Rajya Sabha, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, former minister Eduardo Falerio (Congress) from Goa, Sarla Maheshwari (CPM) Abani Roy (RSP) and Jibon Roy (CPM) from West Bengal, Lalitbhai Mehta (BJP), Ahmed Patel (Cong) and Savita Sharda (BJP) from Gujarat and Joya Shree Goswami Mahanta (AGP) from Assam.

The former Chief of Army Staff has been elected to the Upper House as an Independent member from West Bengal. However another re-elected member Chandrakala Pandey of the CPM, also from West Bengal, was not present for the oath taking ceremony.

Of the 10 MPs, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, Mr Abani Roy, Mr Ahmed Patel and Jibon Roy have also been re-elected to the Rajya Sabha.

The Deputy Chairperson Dr Najma Heptullah, who was in the chair, announced the resignation of senior Congress leader Mr S.M. Krishna from the house. Mr Krishna is now the Chief Minister of Karnataka.

She also announced the resignation of Dr Karan Singh from the house. He had earlier represented Jammu and Kashmir as a member of the National Conference. However, he contested on a Congress ticket against Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee from Lucknow and had to resign.

The others who have resigned from their membership of the Rajya Sabha were Yerra Narayanaswamy of the TDP and M Rajasekara Murthy of the Congress.

The House, which met for the first time after the formation of the new government, also condoled the death of former President of Tanzania Julius Nyrere, who died last week. Members observed a two-minute silence as a mark of respect to him.

The House also mourned the death of three sitting members, Mr Parag Chaliha, Mr Ish Dutt Yadav and Mr R.K. Kumar.

It also condoled the death of over 80 persons in the cyclone which hit the coastal areas of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. The members also observed a one-minute silence each as a mark of respect for the 11 former members, who had passed away.

The house felicitated Deputy Chairperson Najma Heptullah on her election as the President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Dr Heptullah is the first woman president of the organisation and the first Indian to assume the office since 1973.

Those who congratulated Ms Heptullah included the Leader of the House, Mr Jaswant Singh and Leader of the Opposition, Dr Manmohan Singh.

As the House met, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was greeted by Dr Manmohan Singh and Chief Whip of the Congress, Mr Pranab Mukherjee.Top


 

Mann takes oath

NEW DELHI, Oct 21 (UNI) — Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, who chose to forfeit his seat in the Lok Sabha in 1990 rather than part with his three-foot long sword, today with a smaller ‘kirpan’ took oath of affirmation as a member of the House.

Mr Mann, who after a decade returned to the Lok Sabha from Sangrur constituency, took the oath of allegiance to the Constitution in Punjabi.

The former IPS officer-turned politician was on a number of occasions not allowed to enter the House with his three foot-long kirpan and ultimately gave up his membership. Mr Mann had won from Tarn Taran with a margin of more than 4 lakh votes while in jail facing sedition charges for his opposition to operation Bluestar.

The changed political circumstances in his home state seemed to have influenced his change of heart as Mr Mann secured overwhelming support from non-Sikhs too this time and defeated Akali stalwart, former Union Minister Surjit Singh Barnala.

Mr Mann, however, carried his small kirpan worn by baptised Sikhs in the House.Top


 

Govt hopeful of polio-free status
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — The government has expressed the hope that India would be able to achieve the polio-free status by the end of the coming year.

Announcing the nationwide Pulse Polio Immunisation programme beginning October 24, the Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, Mr N.T. Shanmugam, said the PPI programme has been going on in the country since 1995. He said in the PPI rounds in 1998-’99, only 96 per cent children under five years of age were covered during the PPI rounds.

Mr Shanmugam said experts had advised intensification of the immunisation programme in the final battle against poliomyelitis. The experts had advised a nationwide Pulse Polio programme once every month between October and January and two additional rounds in states where the virus transmission is high.

The revised strategy suggested by the experts was discussed at a meeting of family welfare secretaries of various States early last month. The meeting was chaired by the Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Mr A.R. Nanda.

According to the revised strategy, four nationwide rounds are scheduled to take place on October 24, November 21, December 19 and January 23, 2000. Apart from this, two additional rounds have been announced on February 27 and March 26, 2000 in Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

A house-to-house search for children in the target age group will also be carried out to ensure that no child is left out.

Mr A.R. Nanda told newspersons that the entire six-month long effort beginning this month is estimated to cost Rs 500 crore.

The Secretary said that this was the first time that the strategy would include a combination of the camp approach and what is called "reaching each doorstep."

Mr Nanda said India would be able to eradicate polio virus by the winter of 2000 or early 2001. "This does not mean that we will know the results immediately. We will have to wait for a few years to know whether it recurrs. I think, three years will be a good time for certification."

Asked whether this immunisation programme can be called a final assault, Mr Nanda said, "This does not mean that after the final assault, we can go off to sleep because more new born babies would need immunisation. Mopping up operations in endemic areas will continue along with immunisation. This has to be followed by proper surveillance."

Mr Hemant Ahuja, Co-Chairman, Indian National PolioPlus Committee for Rotary International said that about 70,000 Rotarians in India and 2000 Rotary Clubs and partner agencies have volunteered support to the programme. He said that the Government of India and Rotary International were co signatories to the resolution on eradication of Polio adopted by the World Health Assembly in May, 1988.Top


 

Cyclone death toll rises to 94

BERHAMPUR, Oct 21 (PTI) — The death toll in the severe cyclonic storm which hit Orissa’s southern coast on Sunday night has risen to 94 with 12 more casualties reported from the worst-hit Ganjam district.

Ganjam alone has accounted for 83 deaths mostly due to house collapse and uprooting of trees, according to the Revenue Divisional Commissioner (Southern Division), Mr Jagadananda Panda.

Reports received here said that most of the trees which blocked the roads connecting this city with other towns and National Highway five linking Bhubaneswar had been cleared to a great extent.

However, the drinking water crisis in Berhampur city had worsened due to absence of electricity.

Despite their efforts, engineers of the Grid Corporation of Orissa Ltd (Gridco) could not provide power supply to MKCG Medical college hospital and the water supply installation here by yesterday night, the reports said.

BHUBANESWAR (UNI): The Biju Janata Dal, alliance partner of the BJP, will soon submit a memorandum to the Centre seeking an immediate assistance of Rs 800 crore for the damages cause by the devastating cyclone that hit the Orissa coast on Sunday night.

Senior BJD leader Ram Krushna Pattnaik said after a gap of 28 years such a devastating cyclone had hit the Orissa coast damaging property worth over Rs two thousand crore.Top


 

TRAI seeks more powers
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — Chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), Justice S.S. Sodhi has sought more powers for the authority in view of the "cloud of uncertainty surrounding" the role of the regulator.

Justice Sodhi said that following the Delhi High Court’s judgement on the authority’s jurisdiction, Justice Sodhi said that it is not clear what kind of cases come under TRAI’s domain.

Criticising MTNL for flouting the directives of TRAI, Justice Sodhi said that the regulator cannot have one set of rules and regulations for State owned service providers and another for private service providers.

When TRAI orders are not implemented by a State Government undertaking, it will have little moral authority to enforce it on others, Justice Sodhi said while addressing a meeting organised by PHDCCI here.

The TRAI Chairman felt that the tariff offered by MTNL amounts to cross-subsidisation which had a direct bearing on competition which is so necessary for protecting the interests of consumers.

Urging the Government to set up a mechanism to ensure that rules and regulations framed by TRAI are implemented, he said that "if there is a regulator it must respected and feared".

Justice Sodhi said that the basic flaw in telecom policy lies in the conflict of interest within the DoT.

While DoT frames policies and regulations for the telecom sector, its subsidiaries like MTNL are telecom service providers. This is where corporatisation of DoT becomes important, he said.

President of PHDCCI, Mr Ashok Khanna, said that TRAI has an important task of providing a level playing field to all operators and at the same time ensuring protection of consumers’ interests.Top


 

Church denies backing ultras

NEW DELHI, Oct 21 (PTI) — The Baptist Church in India today denied allegations levelled by the RSS recently that its mission in Tripura was supporting terrorist groups in the state.

"The allegations are baseless. No Christian organisation can condone violence including killings and abductions," Baptist Union of North India (BUNI) pastor and evangelist Reverend Victor David said.

Moreover, there was no question of the church supporting any kind of anti-national activity, he said.

The Baptist Church here has forwarded to its Tripura counterpart an RSS representation seeking its intervention in getting four senior functionaries of the Sangh Parivar outfit released from the custody of an insurgent group, Reverend David said.

The RSS had alleged earlier that the National Liberation front of Tripura (NLFT), which had abducted its activists from North Tripura in August, was backed by the Baptist Mission in the state and that the church had not denied its support to the militant outfit so far.

It had also accused the Marxist government in the state of "turning a blind eye" to militant activities.

The Catholic Church too last week condemned the abductions and asked the Baptist Mission to exert its influence to get the RSS activists released. Top


 

PM’s assurance to minorities

AIZAWL, Oct 21 (UNI) — Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has said religious minorities in the country would not be persecuted.

The assurance was given to a delegation of Mizo legislators and Church members which met him yesterday in Delhi, its representatives told reporters on their return from Delhi.

The delegation had gone to Delhi to introduce the state’s lone Lok Sabha representative, Mr Vanlalzawma, (Independent), to the central leaders.

Mr Vanlalzawma had been sponsored by the state’s ruling Mizo National Front-Mizo People’s Conference alliance.

The alliance had issued a whip asking him to extend issue-based support to the Vajpayee-led government. During their meeting with Mr Vajpayee, the delegation was assured that all religious minorities in the country would be provided protection by the government.

Home Minister L.K. Advani assured the delegation of hastening the release of a special package for the state from the central pool. It also met Defence Minister George Fernandes.Top


 

Kargil intrusion
Vigilance ‘failure’ cannot be denied

NEW DELHI, Oct 21 (PTI) — A senior Army official today said there could have been "intelligence failure" on Pakistani intrusion in Kargil maintaining that none of the intelligence agencies deserved "full marks".

"I can’t say there has been no intelligence failure. Some people should have done a better job despite the difficult terrains," Director-General, Infantry, Lt-Gen Shankar Prasad told reporters here.

"Of the three primarily responsible for intelligence, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) on external front, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) on internal level and tactical intelligence by troops, none deserved full marks," he said.

However, he said the country now needs to look back on the "brighter sides than trace dark spots". "Army is already taking reasonable actions".

"The gap that prevailed along the LoC and border, especially in the hitherto no-man’s terrains, has now been thoroughly covered," he said.

To a question, he said troops along the LoC and international border had been "at least doubled".

General Prasad said Kargil had once again proved the importance of infantry and therefore adequate focus was being given to modernisation and improved training.

He said post-Kargil a "sea change" had been brought about in the training process. "Among these two new courses —rock climbing and handling of the state of the art equipment have already been introduced," he said.Top


 

Artist who is labourer now
From N.D. Sharma

BHOPAL, Oct 21 — Bhuribai is, hold your breath, among the top tribal artists of the country. Her works are on display in almost all art galleries of India.

Carrying such loads is not Bhuribai’s hobby, but the means of supplementing her husband’s meagre income to support a family of eight that includes four sons and two daughters. Bhuribai and husband Jora Singh work in the Public Works Department (PWD) of the Madhya Pradesh Government on daily wages.

Born in a small village of Jhabua district, Bhuribai was discovered by J. Swaminathan. When Bharat Bhavan was opened in 1982, Swaminathan had brought together a group of tribal artists, including Janagan Singh Sham, Pemafattya and Bhuribai who were provided with papers and colours by Bharat Bhavan and asked to draw or paint. Most of their paintings were purchased by Bharat Bhavan and put up in Tribal Art Gallery there.

Bhuribai was selected for the "Shikhar Samman, the most prestigious award of the Madhya Pradesh Government, for 1986-87. She was also honoured with the Devi Ahilyabai Samman for 1998-99 for her extraordinary artistic achievements. The Devi Ahilyabai Samman carries Rs 1 lakh in cash.

Bhuribai’s works, along with those of others, adorn walls of the new assembly building in Bhopal, designed by Charles Corea and constructed at a cost of Rs 60 crore. Bhuribai’s works are also on display in the Khajuraho millennium which is aimed at attracting foreign tourists.

Living in a slum near T.T. Nagar in Bhopal, Bhuribai is suffering from a skin disease. She says that she has spent all her money on getting herself treated, but the disease persists. Her workmates in the PWD are considerate, but she cannot afford frequent leave, she says.

Yusufbhai, in charge of Graphics in Bharat Bhavan, says that the least the state government can do for Bhuribai is to give her a soft job where she can earn, take greater care of her health and also make greater use of her creative talents.Top


 

Bansal denied accommodation
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — Mr Pawan Kumar Bansal, MP, Chandigarh had to face embarrassment of having been refused an accommodation in Punjab Bhavan, after the same was allotted to him by the Lok Sabha Secretariat.

The Lok Sabha Secretariat provides for accommodation of newly-elected MPs who do not have any in Delhi and Mr Bansal was asked to chose from the guest houses of state governments and the latter opted for Punjab Bhavan.

However, the authorities at Punjab Bhavan refused to do so on the grounds that there was no accommodation, Mr Bansal said today adding that this was despite the fact that the Bhavan had number of rooms for MPs.

Mr Bansal said the Secretariat then offered to accommodate him in guest houses of other states which he turned down. He was ultimately allotted a room in an ITDC-run hotel in Central Delhi.Top


 

Fake currency racket: 6 held

PATNA, Oct 21 (UNI) — The case of fake currency circulation in eastern India, mastermined by the Inter Service Intelligence of Pakistan, has been re-established with the arrest of six members of an international gang having links in Nepal.

The Delhi Police arrested gang leader Jitender Prasad Singh and five others along with fake notes worth Rs 504 lakh from posh locality of Patna on October 19. Jitender confessed of being involved in the racket of fake currency circulation for one and half years.

He also admitted having links with ISI agents in Kathmandu from where he obtained the fake currency.

Official sources said among the currency notes seized by the police, Rs 4.5 lakh comprised fake Rs 500 notes and the rest were in denomination of Rs 100.

The sources said the ISI had hatched a conspiracy to lower the credibility of banks operating in this part of the country and destabilise the economy.

As a precautionary measure the Bihar Government has set up over 15 police stations and checkposts along the international border with Nepal to prevent the entry of the ISI agents.

Bihar Home Commissioner Umeshwar Panjiar recently directed the CID to keep vigil on the circulation of fake notes and alert the police officials. In a letter to Director-General of Police K.A. Jacob, Mr Panjiar said the ISI was behind the fake currency racket and was involved in its printing and circulation from areas along the Indo-Nepal border.Top


 

Haryana Jats seek quota
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — A demand for providing reservation for Jats in the Central and Haryana government services on the basis of the report of the Gurnam Singh Ayog Samiti was raised here by a Sangarsh Samiti.

In a statement here today, the Convener of the samiti, Mr Pradeep Chowdhary, said that the Haryana Jat, Jat Sikhs and Rors were accorded OBC status by the said Commission which was set up by a former Chief Minister Mr Devi Lal.

"The Sangarsh Samiti will send a delegation to meet the Chief Minister, Mr Om Prakash Chautala for implementation of the Gurnam Ayog Commission report in the state and Central services as promised by him earlier, provided Jats in Rajasthan were given OBC status there.’’ he said.

The samiti, he threatened, would launch an agitation if the demand was not met and organise reservation processions.

A decision to this effect, was taken at a meeting of the samiti which was attended among others by Mr Kuldeep Gochwal, Mr Jitender Dalal, Mr Jitender Raat and Mr Harinder Mehta.

The samiti also passed a resolution congratulating the Jats of Rajasthan, for organising themselves and securing reservation.

The sangarsh samiti also said that the Union Minister of State for Home, Mr I.D. Swami, and nine other MPs from Haryana were "caught napping’’ while the Union Cabinet decided to provide reservation for Jats of Rajasthan.

PTI adds: In a significant decision aimed at broadening its base among the Other Backward Castes (OBCs), the BJP-led government has decided to include more than 50 castes, including Jats in Rajasthan, in the OBC list for the purpose of job reservation in Central services.

The decision, understood to have been taken at a meeting of the Union Cabinet on Wednesday night, is said to be based on the recommendation of the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) headed by Justice Shyam Sunder Singh.

Significance is attached to the decision to include Jats only in Rajasthan, excluding those in Bharatpur and Dholpur districts, following assurances by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee during the Lok Sabha elections in the state where Jats were fighting for inclusion in the state OBC list.Top


 

End to caste-based reservations sought
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — Mr M.R. Sharma, Chairman of the All-India Brahman Mahasabha, today appealed to the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, to end caste-based reservation of seats in government jobs, the Lok Sabha and the Vidhan Sabha.

In a letter he wrote to the Prime Minister, Mr Sharma said: "We are shocked to read that at the first Cabinet meeting, your government has decided to extend the period of reservation for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes by another 10 years."

The caste-based reservation for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabhas would be against the democratic principles. He demanded that the decision to extend it further be withdrawn immediately "otherwise we could be forced to give a call to members of our society to agitate against it," Mr Sharma added.Top


 

Rail India bags B’desh project
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — The Rail India Technical and Economic Services, a government enterprise of the Ministry of Railways, in collaboration with Nascom of Bangladesh has signed a Build Own and Transfer (BOT) agreement with Bangladesh Railways to make conventional coaches airconditioned.

A press note issued by the Ministry here on Thursday said that the converted coaches will be attached to Dhaka-Chittagong Suborna Express and Dhaka-Syleht Parbat Express.

Earnings from these air conditioned coaches will be shared between Bangladesh Railways, RITES and Nascom for four years. After this, the coaches will be transferred to Bangladesh Railways.

At present, RITES is executing a contract with Bangladesh for maintenance of 10 locomotives supplied in 1996 for seven years. It has also imparted training in diesel locomotives to senior mechanical engineers of the Bangladesh Railways.Top


 

CWC meeting from today

NEW DELHI, Oct 21 (PTI) — A two-day meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) is being held here from tomorrow to make an indepth study and introspection on the causes of the party’s worst debacle in the Lok Sabha elections.

This would be the first formal meeting of the apex policy making body of the party after the elections in which the party’s tally came down to all time low of 112 seats.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi has already constituted a high-level committee headed by CWC member A.K. Antony to analyse the exact causes for the poll reverses. The committee is expected to submit its report by the end of November.

Mrs Sonia Gandhi, who was unanimously elected chairperson of the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) last week had accepted prime responsibility for the reverses and expressed readiness to face any decision or action taken by the party. Top


 

Condition on sale of eye drops mooted
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued a draft gazette notification proposing that preparations such as eye drops and skin ointments be sold only by chemists on the prescription of a registered medical practitioner.

A Press note issued by the Ministry here today said that objections or suggestions to the proposals notified in the gazette on October 11 can be made within 45 days.

Eye drops and skin ointments that contain antibiotics, steroids and other potent ingredients are being sold without prescription or guidance of registered medical practitioners.

The notification also proposes to prevent manufacturing companies from using second hand packing materials to pack liquid preparations and capsules.Top


 

Kalka-Mumbai train extended
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — The Ministry of Railways has decided to extend running of 407/408 Kalka-Mumbai train till November 15 to cater to the passenger rush.

Previously, the bi-weekly special was to run only till October 27, according to a press note issued by the ministry here on Thursday.Top


 

Debate on floods sought
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Oct 21 — The Congress today demonstrated that it was going to take its role of the principal Opposition party seriously as it asked for a special discussion on the flood situation in Orissa and Andhra Pradesh in the Rajya Sabha.

As soon as the newly elected members of the Rajya Sabha had taken their oaths, the Congress leader, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, stood up demanding a special discussion on the flood situation in Orissa and Andhra Pradesh following the devastating cyclone.

Mr Mukherjee, who took his oath today, was supported by many members belonging to various parties.Top


  H
 
in brief
  Father, son killed in mishap
NEW DELHI: A father and son were killed and at least six others injured when a mini-truck hit them at Palam Vihar on the outskirts of the Capital on Thursday. The deceased were identified as Mr Ajit Gupta (42) and his son, Ankit Gupta (11), residents of Pundarik Vihar in northwest Delhi. — UNI

Panthers Party puts off march
NEW DELHI:
The Panthers Party on Thursday decided to postpone its march to cross the Line of Control (LoC) on October 26, which marks the 52nd anniversary of the accession of Jammu and Kashmir with the Union of India. Talking to newspersons here, party chief Bhim Singh said the decision to postpone the march was taken in view of the military coup in Pakistan. — UNI

25 injured in stone throwing
BALASORE:
At least 25 persons, including five policemen, were injured when miscreants threw stones at an immersion procession in the Sutahat area here on Wednesday night. The police said the incident occurred when the miscreants threw stones, brickbats and soda bottles at an akhada procession on its way to Cinema Chowk in the city. Timely intervention by District Collector A.K. Vaishnav, Superintendent of Police Binoytosh Mishra and local MLA Arun Dey defused the tension. — UNI

Constable killed in ambush
IMPHAL:
A police constable was killed and a police driver injured in an ambush by armed activists at Lalltinkhal village in Imphal East district on Wednesday, official sources said on Thursday. They said some armed activists ambushed a police party when it was returning from the 5th Manipur Rifles’ post at Jakurakhor in the district bordering Assam. — PTI

TN orders withdrawal of cases
CHENNAI:
The Tamil Nadu Government on Thursday ordered the withdrawal of cases registered in connection with caste clashes in the southern districts of the state in the past two or three years. The district collectors and other officials had been instructed to act immediately on withdrawing the cases, except those relating to rape, murder and arson, an official press note said. — PTI

Three idols seized
BANGALORE:
The Karnataka CID Police (Forest Cell) has seized three priceless Panchaloha idols and arrested two persons in this connection, Inspector-General of Police (Forest Cell) S.T. Ramesh said here on Thursday. He told newspersons here that the seized statues of Venkatachalapathy, Padmavathi and Lakshmi dated back to over 200 years. — UNI

"Computer crime cell"
BANGALORE:
Karnataka on Thursday established the country’s first-ever "computer crime cell" under the Corps of Detectives (CoD), a senior police official said. "The government felt the need for such a cell to detect high-tech crimes as computerisation has percolated to all spheres of life," CoD Director-General of Police V.V. Bhaskar told reporters here. — PTI

AP Cabinet expansion
HYDERABAD:
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu will expand his nine-member Cabinet on Friday. The swearing-in ceremony will be held at Raj Bhavan here at 10.12 a.m., official sources said. Mr Naidu, who led his Telugu Desam Party to storm back to power on the performance plank, took over the reins of the state on October 11. In the first phase, he had inducted eight ministers, including four new faces. — PTI
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