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INDIA-L  October 2000

INDIA-L October 2000


India Network News Digest - October 13 , 2000


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Today's India Network News Digest is compiled by the India Network Services
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                             Fri 13 Oct 2000

India Network News Digest - October 13 , 2000  Volume 12 Issue 177
Brought to you in co-operation with Various News Reports from India
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Today's News Items
#1. 'Immunity not available to JMM MPs'
#2. PM orders food relief for Bengal
#3. BJP lists 'achievements' of one year in office
#4. Hizb not likely to renew ceasefire offer: Advani
#5. Cong washes its hands of Rao
#6. Jaswant could have "avoided" accompanying terrorists: Advani
#7. Hegde urges Krishna to bring pressure on TN (Rajkumar kidnap crisis)
#8. They came smiling and left in gloom

#1. 'Immunity not available to JMM MPs'
By Our Legal Correspondent

NEW DELHI, OCT. 12. A special court here today made it clear that no
immunity from prosecution was available to the JMM MPs for having received
a bribe to vote against the no-confidence motion against the Narasimha Rao
Government in July 1993.

The court directed the CBI to register fresh cases under the Prevention of
Corruption Act against Mr. Suraj Mandal, Mr. Shibu Soren and Mr. Simon

The court pointed out that the Supreme Court judgment upholding immunity
under Article 105 (2) of the Constitution in relation to the bribe-taking
MPs, was that ``immunity is available to the MPs only in relation to those
offences, the trial of which would call for an inquiry into the motive
behind the voting pattern of such MPs''.

The special judge, Mr. Ajit Bharihoke, said it was to be seen whether they
acquired pecuniary assets in the form of bank deposits during their tenure
as MPs and if so, whether the assets were disproportionate to their known
sources of income and whether or not they could give a satisfactory
account of how they came into those deposits.

The MPs ``do not have any immunity under Article 105 (2) in relation to
the offence punishable under Sec. 13 (1) (e) of the PCA provided it is
made out after due investigation''.

Regarding Rs. 1,62,80,000 lying in the five Punjab National Bank accounts,
the judge said the JMM MPs explained that these amounts were political
donations and that they were held on behalf of the party. However,
investigation revealed that the explanation was false and the documents
submitted were found to be forged.

He said the CBI should have registered a case against these MPs then but
as it had not done so, he was compelled to direct the agency to register a
fresh case against the three to find out whether or not they had committed
an offence under Sec. 13 (1) (e) of the PCA.

#2. PM orders food relief for Bengal
By Our Special Correspondent

MUMBAI, OCT. 12. Dr. Chittaranjan Ranawat, New York-based surgeon who
operated on the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, last Tuesday at
the Breach Candy Hospital here, today said his patient underwent
physiotherapy and had a restful night. He described Mr. Vajapayee's
condition as stable.

``(His) vitals are good. Patient cooperated perfectly for physiotherapy
and sat in bed several times. Catheter was removed. He has had a good
breakfast and lunch,'' Dr. Ranawat said in his bulletin.

More than 50 per cent of the pain has diminished and the surgical wound is
healing well, according to hospital sources. Mr. Vajpayee felt much better
after he was assisted to sit on a chair for the second day.

Dr. Ranawat has been saying from the beginning that the right knee would
not need surgery though afflicted with arthritis to an extent. The
replaced left knee joint would reduce the load on the right knee which
would be furthered lightened with the use of a walking stick.

The Union Information Technology Minister, Mr. Pramod Mahajan, denied a
report that Mr. Vajpayee would be operated on in the right knee.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister ordered the Food Corporation to supply
adequate foodgrains on credit to West Bengal to provided relief to flood
victims. He also directed the Indian Petrochemicals to send its entire
stock of polythene sheets and bags to the State for the flood affected.

The Prime Minister's Office received from the Additional Inspector-General
of Forests, Mr. S. C. Sharma, today a report on the gruesome killing and
skinning of tigress Sakhi in the Hyderabad zoo last week. But it sought
some clarifications before it is submitted to Mr. Vajpayee.

#3. BJP lists 'achievements' of one year in office
By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, OCT. 12. The Bharatiya Janata Party is all ready to start a
week-long celebration of its party completing one year in office. Public
rallies have been planned across the country, with the Union Home
Minister, Mr. L. K. Advani, scheduled to address one here tomorrow. And
daily, the party is speaking on the achievements of the one-year-old
Vajpayee Government.

Today, it claimed that the Government had taken 10 major policy
initiatives. The ``claims'' were more in the nature of future
achievements. For example, the party said that the new agriculture policy
had set a production target of 400 million tonnes of foodgrains by the end
of the next ten years. It has talked about controlling fiscal deficit by
``cuts in government expenditure'' but was not able to give one concrete
example except the recent decision to cut expenditure by 10 per
cent. ``You will see the results in the next six months,'' was all a
senior party leader was able to say.

It cited the enhanced quota of grain for the below poverty line
population, but forgot to mention that this had not been popular because
of the increased price of foodgrains through the public distribution
scheme. Again, the ``free grain'' for senior citizens was mentioned, but
the fact is that the scheme has not taken off the ground with States not
having completed identification of the beneficiaries.

Yet another ``achievement'' was the passing of the Constitution Amendment
Bill continuing reservations for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled
Tribes. The fact is that this routine amendment has been done by every
government every ten years whenever the 10- year period of reservations

Perhaps the one ``achievement'' it can claim, and it has, is the fact that
the paper work for creation of three new States has been completed.

Even as some in the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its
affiliates have been criticising imports in the agriculture sector and the
ruination of the small-scale sector as a result of increasing imports, the
party today celebrated the fact that a committee of a group of ministers,
led by Mr. Advani, has been set up to study the problems faced by the
small-scale sector and suggest solutions.

And then there was the appreciation of the Government's intention to
create ``one crore jobs every year.'' But no mention of how it would be
done and here these jobs had been created in the year that has gone by.

The points on the Vajpayee Government's achievements have been given to
party workers so that they can pass the good word around on the excellent
job done by the Government.

Cong. criticism lacks substance: PTI reports:

Meanwhile, the BJP vice-president, Mr. Jana Krishnamurthy, said the
Congress(I)'s criticism of the one-year- old National Democratic Alliance
Government as ``bereft of substance and criticism only for its sake''. ``I
find it strange that the Congress(I) should accuse the NDA of worsening
the communal situation. If at all in the last 40-50 years the country has
been free of communal violence, it has been under the NDA Government
barring a couple of stray incidents,'' he said.

#4. Hizb not likely to renew ceasefire offer: Advani

NEW DELHI: Home Minister L K Advani on Thursday said he did not visualise
any possibility of militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen renewing its
ceasefire offer in Jammu and Kashmir in view of Pakistan's involvement.

"At the moment, I don't see this as a real possibility unless Pakistan
acquiesces because the Hizbul and all the militant outfits ultimately take
their instructions from Islamabad," he told 'Star TV' in an interview.

On the government's relationship with the RSS, Advani said "my experience
over the last two-and-a-half years is that this government has its own
agenda and its own policies.

"There are many issues on which the RSS may disagree with us but yet this
government goes ahead and does what it thinks its right," he said.

On the hijacking of the Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar, which ended on
December 31 last year, the home minister said "what I do think could have
been avoided was a minister travelling with the terrorists to Kandahar. I
don't think he intended it that way, but that's just the way it
unfortunately happened".

#5. Cong washes its hands of Rao
Sanjay K Jha/New Delhi

The Congress party on Thursday opted to rub salt on the wounds of its
former president P V Narasimha Rao, after he was sentenced to three years
imprisonment in the JMM bribery case.

Though the party attempted to steer clear of controversy by refusing to
answer any related questions, the very choice of the phrase -- Law will
take its own course -- on the fateful day of Mr Rao's conviction gave the
game away. It was like paying Mr Rao in his own coin by using his pet
expression -- "Law will take its own course".

Sources in the AICC conceded that a section of the party was keen to push
a hard line, including expulsion of Mr Rao from the Congress but it was
not possible because of opposition from other quarters. Earlier, when some
leaders advocated that the party should wash its hands of Mr Rao soon
after his conviction, a Congress Working Committee member is reported to
have forcefully argued against it. He said if the party adopted such a
use-and-throw policy towards individual leaders, nobody will do any work
for the party president in future. He is reported to have said that he too
might have done several kinds of things for Mrs Indira Gandhi and now he
can't be hauled up his deeds at an individual level.

Sources said there was a demand for the CWC to be convened to discuss the
issue but Sonia loyalists were against the idea as at least three powerful
members -- Pranab Mukherjee, Jitendra Prasada and Manmohan Singh -- and
special invitee Sitaram Kesri would have opposed adoption of a hard line
against Mr Rao. Viewing the mood of the party, the leadership on Thursday
held a meeting and decided to take the middle path. But sources said some
hard-liners managed to include the law-will-take-its-own-course expression
in the official response.

This is what the party had to say officially: "In response to the sentence
pronounced today against Mr PV Narasimha Rao, at the outset, the Congress
will like to reimphasize our esteem for the independence of Indian
judiciary. As a political party we are committed to the rule of law and
therefore we are duty-bound to respect the verdict. Nevertheless, Rao has
the right to appeal and he will invoke that right. The judicial process
will continue and the law will take its course."

Party spokesperson Ajit Jogi ran away from the press conference as soon as
he completed reading out the message both in Hindi and English, telling
mediapersons that he would not take any questions today.

Earlier in the day, sources in the AICC said the party had decided to
remain aloof as no "political intervention" was called for. They said Mr
Rao was so unpopular after the hawala scandal that nobody in the party
wanted to speak up for him. However, this argument is far from truth as a
large number of Congress leaders have been meeting Mr Rao after the court
verdict. Many CWC members have been expressing their opinions against the
court's view in private conversations. While chairperson of the Department
of Policy, Planning and Coordination in the AICC, Mr Salman Khurshid has
gone on record saying that it was miscarriage of justice. Spokesperson
Anil Shastri's observation that the party had nothing to do with Rao's
legal battle also became a subject of ridicule.

Even on Thursday, former Union Minister G Venkatswamy told reporters that
it was a politically-motivated case and would not have arisen but for
vested interests against Mr Rao. Some other leaders, who did not want to
be named, said nobody questioned the premise that the Congress was
committed to rule of law. But that does not mean we cannot stand by our
Prime Minister, they argued.

Even the BJP said on Thursday that the Congress cannot shift the blame on
Rao to save its own skin. Party vice president Jana Krishnamurty said Rao
was a Congress Prime Minister and whatever wrong he did was to save a
Congress Government. The party will have to share the guilt, he added.

Rao loyalists are peeved with the attitude of the party leadership, saying
that the JMM case in no way showed that the former Prime Minister brought
bad name for the Congress by his personal misconduct. They are asking if
the party would abandon Sonia Gandhi if Rajiv's involvement is established
in the Bofors case.

#6. Jaswant could have "avoided" accompanying terrorists: Advani
Agencies/New Delhi

Ten months after the hijack of the Indian airlines plane from Kathmandu,
home minister L K Advani Thursday said his senior cabinet colleague
Jaswant Singh could have "avoided" accompanying to Kandahar in Afghanistan
the terrorists India freed in exchange of the hostages.

"What I do think could have been avoided was a minister travelling with
the terrorists to Kandahar. I don't think he (the external affairs
minister) intended it that way, but that's just the way it unfortunately
happened," he told `Star News' in an interview.

Describing the hijack crisis as one of the most politically difficult
moments faced by the Vajpayee government which completes one year
tomorrow, Mr Advani said "I think we really had no choice since the
hijackers could have blown up the plane otherwise."

"What I would emphasise is that we need a clear-cut policy on dealing with
such situations (exchanging terrorists for hostages) because there is
always the fear that there could be a repeat of this," the home minister
was quoted as saying in a release by NDTV.

#7. Hegde urges Krishna to bring pressure on TN
(Rajkumar kidnap crisis)
DH News Service

JD (U) leader Ramakrishna Hegde today felt that the Tamil Nadu government
should give up its 'indifferent' attitude in dealing with the Dr Rajkumar
kidnap crisis and said an emissary from Karnataka should have accompanied
Mr R R Gopal to the jungle.

Addressing a press conference here, the former chief minister wondered why
a police officer from Tamil Nadu or a person from Karnataka should not
have gone along with the government emissary when Mr Neduman can don the
role of emissary. If I were the chief minister, I would have insisted that
a person from Karnataka should go along with Gopal to know the condition
of Dr Raj. We should not have gone by the dictates of Veerappan because he
is a criminal, he observed.

Mr Hegde said he was glad because at least now Chief Minister S M Krishna
has realised that it was the responsibility of Tamil Nadu to solve the
hostage crisis. Mr Krishna should have put the responsibility of resolving
the crisis on Mr Karunanidhi as the abduction took place in Tamil
Nadu. The criminals involved in the act and the groups supporting the
abductions also belonged to that state. Hence, in the beginning itself Mr
Krishna should have told Mr Karunanidhi in clear terms that it was his
responsibility to ensure safe release of the hostages, he added.

He also said Karnataka should request the Centre to direct Tamil Nadu to
give up its indifferentattitude. In addition, both states should seek the
Centres intervention to rescue the hostages. When pointed out that his
party leaders have been endorsing support to Mr Krishna in all-party
meetings held to review the hostage crisis, JD (U) state president C Byre
Gowda, who was present along with Mr Hegde, said his party had made many
suggestions at the meetings.

CO-OP ACT: Opposing the proposed amendments to the Co-operative Act, Mr
Hegde said the government should not treat co-operative sector as an
extended department of the government. The proposed amendments to the Act
would go against the very spirit of co-operative movement, he added.

He said when he was the co-operation minister he had done away with the
provision of nominating members to co-operative societies. Mr Krishna
should immediately give up the plans to amend the Act, he added.

ANALYSIS: Making his observations about the one-year administration of Mr
Krishna, Mr Hegde said though he was not questioning the intentions of Mr
Krishna, his priorities required to be reviewed. The chief minister while
giving emphasis for software, science & technology, should not ignore
agriculture sector, which is the backbone of Indian economy. Mr Krishna
should realise that though computers were necessary, farmers cannot plough
the land using computers. The government has been caught in series of
controversies including that of HC bench issue. Though the Global
investorsmeet was held with much fanfare, it was not known whether
investments have come to the state and whether job opportunities have been
created, he said.

Mr C Byre Gowda alleged that with too much emphasis on IT, students were
not showing interest in taking up agriculture-related courses. Many
colleges coming under the purview of agricultural universities were closed
in the recent months. This was a negative development as India was a
predominantly an agricultural country, he added.

He said rural areas were completely neglected by the present
government. People are saying at least during the JD regime, potholes were
filled up. Now, roads are completely neglected. Endorsing his views,
another JD (U) leader B Somashekar said the government has surrendered the
100 IT seats, which came as addition, to college managements. Increasing
attacks on Dalits, kidnap cases and political murders showed that law and
order was deteriorating, he alleged.

NHRC rules out role in TADA detenus case

DH News Service

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) today ruled out its
intervention in the TADA detenus case, to end the 74-day-old hostage
crisis involving matinee idol Dr Rajkumar and two others. The case has
attracted nationwide attention with forest brigand Veerappan demanding the
release of Tada detenus and Mr Abdul Karim, father of police sub-inspector
Shakeel Ahmed slained by Veerappan gang, moving the Supreme Court
challenging the decision of a Mysore court to drop charges against the
associates of the outlaw.

The matter is pending before the Supreme Court. We have stated what we had
to in 1999 itself. We don't want to get in at this juncture, NHRC Chairman
J S Varma told reporters here.

When pointed out that some human rights activists had sought the
intervention of the NHRC to facilitate the early release of the hostages,
he reiterated that there was no need to intervene at this stage.

It is understood that the NHRC, in 1999, had written to the state
government to expedite the process of settling TADA detenus issue as it
was getting delayed. The cases were getting postponed without being
heard. To another question, Justice Varma said that the commission had
already written to the states to set up regional human rights
commissions. My predecessors have written letters and I too have pursued
the issue by writing letters, he said.

While, the states have agreed with the commission and written back to this
effect to the NHRC, the replies were not translated into action. We want
it (the regional human rights commission) to be constituted properly and
work meaningfully and share a part of our load, he said.

#8. They came smiling and left in gloom

New Delhi, Oct. 12: Former prime minister P V Narasimha Rao and his
Cabinet colleague Buta Singh smiled at the waiting photographers and
reporters before they entered the high security court room at Vigyan
Bhawan but within minutes they came out looking crest fallen with the
sentence hanging on their head.

Singh, wearing a maroon turban, cream sherwani and white pyjama, was first
to enter the courtroom at 1.40 pm with his relatives and a group of
supporters. He looked around and smiled at the reporters.

So was Rao, who was dresssed in a spotless dhoti and a cream coloured
kurta and white angavastram. He entered the courtroom from the judges
chamber side with three security personnel just ten minutes before the
proceedings started.

Rao was accompanied by V Rajeshwar Rao and Maninderjit Singh
Bitta. Nationalist Congress Party leader Devendra Prasad Dwivedi was
seated next to him in the court room.

But, the moment they were sentenced at 2.05 pm, the smile vanished and
disappointment was writ large on their faces.Confusion broke out among
30-odd reporters, who were competing with each other to come out of the
court room to reach for their mobile phones and wireless sets to pass on
the information to their offices.Rao and Singh after coming out were
almost gheraoed by 100-odd waiting reporters to get their reaction. But
both refused to comment.

Meanwhile, The third battalion of the Delhi Armed Police stood in
readiness at the Vigyan Bhawan complex on Thursday to take Rao and his
former Cabinet colleague Buta Singh in custody.

But their wait went in vain.Additional sessions judge Ajit Bharihoke, who
sentenced the two Congress leaders to three years rigorous imprisonment
and Rs 2 lakh fine each in the sensational JMM MPs bribery case, later
suspended the sentence till November 8 to enable them to appeal in a
higher court.
End of India Network News Digest

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