Sunday, May 6, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Hurriyat rejects Shabir’s stand
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 5
The Hurriyat Conference Chairman Mr Abdul Ghani Bhat, has disapproved of the stand taken by Mr Shabir Shah’s Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party (JKDFP) to the Centre’s invitation for talks on the Kashmir issue, saying that nothing was likely to come off the letter that had been delivered by the JKDFP to the Centre’s negotiator, Mr K.C. Pant.

Critical of the JKDFP’s decision to send two emissaries to meet Mr Pant in New Delhi on Thursday, the APHC Chairman said talks held for talks’ sake would not yield any solution. “Let them help restore peace if they can. We will be happy about it,” he said, referring to the exchange of letters between Mr Pant and the JKDFP. “One swallow does not make a summer,” he remarked. Not hopeful of a positive response from the government on the JKDFP’s seeking clarifications from the government on talks, Mr Bhat asked, “What are they going to get out of it.”

The JKDFP in its letter has asked the government whether the dialogue was aimed at resolving the dispute or merely restoring peace, whether Pakistan was to be brought in at a later stage if not now, if other groups like the National Conference, the Congress and the BJP were to be included in talks and whether the designated negotiator would be opening a dialogue with the militant group as well.

Some of these clarifications sought by the JKDFP match the pre-conditions set by the Hurriyat and the negotiator’s response to the clarifications would have a bearing on the Hurriyat’s course for the future.

On its part, the Hurriyat is not writing a formal reply to Mr Pant’s invitation for talks, saying that its response had already appeared in the media. Mr Pant, however, has been critical of the Hurriyat’s way of responding.

“Negotiations could not be held through newspapers,” Mr Pant had said after he received the two emissaries of the JKDFP at his residence. Talking to TNS, Mr Bhat said the APHC had not said so far that it would be talking to Mr Pant so the question of holding dialogue through the media did not arise.

He said Mr Pant’s letter, which did not make mention of unconditional talks, was less of an invitation and more of an appeal for cooperation. Pointing out that the government had finely reiterated its known position in the letter, Mr Bhat said Kashmiris were sought to be put on the internal track of negotiations and the government had chosen to talk to everybody.


Nationwide strike by chemists
32 die due to lack of life-saving drugs

New Delhi, May 5
Chemists and druggists all over the country kept their shops closed today in response to the one-day nationwide strike called by the All-India Chemists and Druggists Association (AICDA), to express solidarity with the nine-day-old stir by the Bihar chemists for the withdrawal of turnover tax (TOT).

The strike has claimed 32 lives so far due to the non-availability of life-saving drugs. In all, 13 persons died in Patna, three each in Nawada, Saran, Muzaffarpur and Gaya, two each in Gopalganj, Vaishali and Darbhanga, and one in Aurangabad district, reports quoting official sources said.

Even the invoking of the Essential Commodities Act (ECA) by the Bihar Government did not deter the striking druggists.

The wholesalers, distributors and retailers in Bihar are on an indefinite strike since April 27, protesting against the imposition of multiple turnover tax on medicine dealers by the Bihar Government, in spite of the Central Government’s initiative to establish a uniform sales tax structure.

The AICDA has pointed out that the imposition of the tax could result in a situation where the medicine dealers inadvertently violate the provisions of the Drug Price Control order, inviting penal action in the form of imprisonment.

Responding to the AICDA’s bandh call, chemists in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tripura, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa today kept their shops closed.

Reports from local chemists associations said there was near-total response to the strike call in Gujarat, Orissa, Tripura, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, where both the retailer and wholesaler medicine shops were closed. Some medicine shops remained open in front of hospitals to meet emergency requirements.

However, the strike had no impact in Uttar Pradesh and Chandigarh, as most of the chemist shops were open and did their business like on normal days. Chemists and pharmacists in UP said the lack of response was probably due to the absence of a recognised union of chemists.

According to Mr Dilip Mehta, president of the AICDA, as many as 5.5 lakh chemists across the country participated in the nationwide bandh.

Bihar Chemists and Druggists Association (BCDA) working committee member Pradeep Chaurasia, quoting reports reaching the association from their counterparts outside the state, claimed that the strike was complete. He said the wholesale and retail drug-shop owners were on strike in Kolkata, Maharashtra, Delhi and Orissa.

It was for the first time in Maharashtra that the retailers had joined the strike in support of the BCDA for the withdrawal of TOT, he claimed.

Reports said AICDA secretary V.S. Kamat, organising secretary G.S. Shinde and joint secretary A. K. Sawal had arrived in Patna during the day to decide the future course of action. UNI

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