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INDIA-L  October 2000

INDIA-L October 2000


India Network News Digest - October 30 , 2000


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India Network News Digest - October 30 , 2000  Volume 12 Issue 188
Brought to you in co-operation with Various News Reports from India

India Network Group Health Insurance Plan for Visitors, Temporary
Workers, and Students is available for 2000-01 year. This year plan
include $25K Air Travel Insurance automatically. Details/forms at or

Today's News Items
#1. Prasada files nomination
#2. Basu's resignation accepted
#3. TDP will consider joining NDA Govt.: Naidu
#4. Cabinet skips review of oil prices
#5. Soren rejects dy CM post, but may share power
#6. Rajnath infuses enthusiasm in BJP
#7. LEGAL VIEW: Speakers' bid to be free and fair
#8. New Cabinet Secy to assume office on Nov 1
#9. Time for introspection on low tourist inflow
#10. Sonia Gandhi to inaugurate Cong mahasangamam on November 2

#1. Prasada files nomination
By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, OCT. 29. Endings days of suspense, the senior Congress leader,
Mr. Jitendra Prasada, today filed his nomination papers for the Congress
presidential polls, setting the stage for a contest against the incumbent,
Ms. Sonia Gandhi.

Mr. Prasada, also a former vice-president of the party, drove in a
motorcade to the AICC headquarters at 24, Akbar Road and filed his
nomination papers on the last day of the nomination today. He was
accompanied by three MPs and some MLAs.

Till Saturday, Mr. Prasada had refrained from disclosing his plans in
clear-cut terms for contesting the presidential polls and maintained that
he had raised certain issues which should be resolved. At the same time,
he vowed to continue his ``fight on issues to its logical conclusion.''

In a statement, Mr. Prasada said he had raised issues pertaining to
revitalisation of the party, inner-party democracy, free, fair and
impartial elections, autonomy to all organs of the party, respect for the
party constitution, dignity and respect for the grassroots worker and
upholding the party ideology to fight divisive forces.

The occasion of Mr. Prasada's filing of nomination papers at the AICC
headquarters was marked by jostling, sloganeering, and minor scuffles
between his supporters and the Sonia loyalists. Posters of Ms. Gandhi and
huge hoardings of Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi reminded the party
workers to maintain the tradition of ``great leadership''.

Emerging out of the party headquarters, Mr. Prasada said that his decision
to contest the party's presidential polls was a tribute to the late
Congress leaders, Sitaram Kesri and Rajesh Pilot, who had made efforts for
inner-party democracy. He said it was also to honour the wishes of the

Later, the chairman of the party's Central Election Authority, Mr. Ram
Niwas Mirdha, told reporters that a total of 87 nominations had been
filed. Of these, he said, 82 were in favour of Ms. Sonia Gandhi and five
for Mr. Prasada.

Of the five nominations filed in favour of Mr. Prasada, two were from
Uttar Pradesh and three jointly from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chandigarh,
Maharashtra, Orissa and Jharkhand.

Three MPs from U.P. - Begum Noor Bano, Mr. Khan Gufran Zahidi and
Mr. S. S. Bundela - and nearly half a dozen party MLAs from the State
supported Mr. Prasada's candidature.

The AICC spokesman, Mr. Ajit Jogi, said Mr. Prasada's nomination showed
there was inner-party democracy in the Congress.

As many as 8,500 Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) delegates from all the
States and Union Territories are likely to participate in the multitiered
process of the presidential elections, slated for November 12. Scrutiny
would be held tomorrow and the last date for withdrawal of nominations is
November 5.

#2. Basu's resignation accepted

SILIGURI, OCT. 29. The West Bengal Governor, Mr. Viren J. Shah, today
accepted the resignation of the State's longest serving Chief Minister,
Mr. Jyoti Basu, on health grounds and asked him to continue till
alternative arrangements were made.

The Governor would return to Calcutta after being officially intimated by
the Chief Secretary on the swearing-in of the new Left Front Government
headed by Mr. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, they said.

Mr. Basu's resignation was received by the Governor at 10 p.m. yesterday
shortly after the Left Front approved the octogenarian leader's decision
to demit office and elected his deputy Mr. Bhattacharjee as his successor.

After the meeting, the Left Front chairman, Mr. Sailen Dasgupta, said,
``Mr. Basu will continue to function as Chief Minister till November 6
when Mr. Bhattacharjee will be sworn in.'' Mr. Dasgupta said other
Ministers would also take oath but ``there would not be any change in
their portfolios and the Deputy Chief Minister's post would be

Mr. Basu explained in detail to the coalition partners his inability to
function as Chief Minister. ``I have been requesting for long to relieve
me from the post. Now I want to quit. I seek your approval,'' he said.

Mr. Dasgupta said a proposal to make Mr. Basu the Left Front chairman was
not discussed, but he would continue to work for the party both at the
State and national levels as member of the politburo.

The Left Front partners became emotional and some of them raised
objections to the undisputed leader's stepping down, but later everyone
approved of his decision. Mr. Basu thanked them for their approval.

#3. TDP will consider joining NDA Govt.: Naidu
By Our Special Correspondent

HYDERABAD, OCT. 29. The Telugu Desam Party president and Chief Minister,
Mr. N. Chandrababu Naidu, has said that he was prepared to weigh the pros
and cons of his party participating in the NDA Government to secure a
better deal for the State from the Centre. In the same breath, he took
care not to commit himself on the question of joining the Government.

``We will have to take a fresh look at the present arrangement (of the TDP
lending outside support to the NDA Government) in view of the problems
being encountered with the Centre on developmental issues'', Mr. Naidu
said in reply to a barrage of questions.

Addressing a press conference on return from his 11- day visit to China
and Japan, Mr. Naidu said he was, however, not sure whether joining the
Government would solve the problems the State was facing with the lukewarm
attitude of the Centre.

He cited the fight in getting an international airport for Hyderabad and
also the unsuccessful attempts to get direct flights to Japan and other

#4. Cabinet skips review of oil prices

NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet on Monday skipped review of the hike in
prices of petroleum products effected on September 30, even as an agitated
railways minister Mamata Banerjee recalled Prime Minister Atal Bihari
Vajpayee's promise on the issue and made suggestions to mitigate the
hardships faced by people.

Banerjee said after a meeting of the Union Cabinet chaired by Vajpayee
that review of petroleum product prices did not come up for discussion.

"But I wrote to Vajpayee today giving suggestions on how to mitigate the
effect of hike in prices of kerosene and cooking gas," she said, but
declined to elaborate.

She, however, recalled that prime minister had given her a personal
written assurance to review prices on his return from Mumbai after his
knee surgery.

Following the hike in prices of petro-products in the wake of steep
increase in international crude prices, Banerjee had resigned from the
Union Cabinet to press for a rollback of hiked prices.

She withdrew her resignation on an assurance from Vajpayee to review the

Petroleum minister Ram Naik, however, declined to comment on the issue
saying that the decision on prices rested with the prime minister.

Naik had earlier gone on record to say that a further strenghtening of
international crude prices along with depreciation of rupee was leading to
an additional deficit of Rs 200 crore a month on the oil pool account.

The Cabinet on Monday cleared an ordinance for setting up a dedicated road
fund carved out of the Re 1 cess on petrol and diesel for development and
maintenance of road infrastructure in the country.

The Re 1 cess on petrol was levied in June 1998 while that on diesel was
levied in March 1999 and was likely to fetch Rs 6,000 crore annually.

Fifty per cent of the cess on diesel, about Rs 2,500 crore, would be
earmaked for development of rural roads while 57.5 per cent of the
remaining Rs 3,500 crore would be spend on national highway development.

As much as 30 per cent of the fund will be spent on state roads and 12.5
per cent on rail overbridges (robs), surface transport ministry officials
said here.

#5. Soren rejects dy CM post, but may share power

JAMSHEDPUR: Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) supremo Sibu Soren said his party
would reject the post of deputy chief ministership but may consider power
sharing on rotation basis with NDA in the new Jharkhand state.

"If any proposal on power sharing for six months on rotation basis is
forwarded to us, then we will consider it", he told reporters here on
Saturday night.

Soren, who was here to participate at a function, expressed confidence
that the first chief minister of the tribal state will be from the JMM and
said the chief ministership of Jharkhand would be decided by NDA and not
by BJP alone.

Claiming that Saturday's negotiation between the NDA and JMM delegations
at Delhi as positive, Soren said the JMM delegation will hold another
round of talks with defence minister George Fernandes.

#6. Rajnath infuses enthusiasm in BJP
Arvind Singh Bisht

The Times of India News Service

LUCKNOW: The BJP rank and file suddenly appeared upbeat here on Saturday
during the oath-taking ceremony of Rajnath Singh as the 29th chief
minister of Uttar Pradesh.

Although Rajnath sprang no surprises as he retained all the 86 ministers
of the previous Ram Prakash Gupta government, he seemed to have a
renjuvenating effect on the party.

The function held in the sprawling lawns of the Raj Bhavan, was attended
by a galaxy of political figures, including senior BJP leaders LK Advani,
Murli Manohar Joshi and other Union ministers, besides chief ministers of
different states.

The crowds of followers thronging the streets was so large that
communication minister Ram Vilas Paswan and some other leaders had to
leave their cars and walk up to Raj Bhavan.

After the swearing-in, Rajnath, said in his maiden Press conference: ``I
consider my new responsibility as an administrative rather than a
political challenge.'' He warned that those toying with the idea of
toppling his government would have to face a political rout.

He said his first priority would be to improve the law and order situation
and warned that lapses on the part of officials would not be tolerated. In
this context, he set a 15-day deadline for them to book all the criminals
in the state and said officials finding it difficult to work in the
districts should opt out for the headquarters. The law and order situation
would be judged on public perception rather than crime statistics, he

Expressing his displeasure over paddy procurement process, he said
purchase centres should be set up for this purpose within three days in
each block.

With regard the allocation of portfolios, he said it would be decided
within the next two days. He, however, evaded comment on the appointment
of a deputy chief minister and his proposed visit to Ayodhya.

The ministry comprises 34 cabinet and 51 ministers of state. Those left
out are the four ministers from the Uttaranchal, which is slated to come
in existence on November 9. Of the total 34 cabinet ministers, 18 are from
BJP, 15 from its allies and one Independent.

Of the allies, nine are from the Naresh Agarwal-led Loktantrik Congress
Party, four from the Narendra Singh- led Jantantrik Bahujan Samaj Party
and one each from the Janata Dal Raja Ram and Samata Party. The only
Independent member to be made a cabinet minister is Raghuraj Pratap Singh
alias ``Raja Bhaiyya''.

Among the list of ministers of state, 23 are from the BJP, 14 from the
LCP, 11 from the JBSP, two from Janata Dal and one is an Independent.

#7. LEGAL VIEW: Speakers' bid to be free and fair
By Rakesh Bhatnagar

NEW DELHI: At last, the Speakers of legislative assemblies and Lok Sabha
have felt the need to bring about impartiality and objectivity in running
the elected forums. The presiding officers have realised rather belatedly
that things are not right and are trying to introspect about what may have
gone wrong.

At their conference recently, the presiding officers unanimously decided
to appoint a committee to finalise modalities for an institutional
mechanism to maintain impartiality and objectivity in running the House.

They also felt that a MP, on becoming a minister or chief minister of a
state, should not participate in the proceedings of the Parliament while
awaiting election to the state legislature.

But the question that remains unanswered is whether a Speaker should be
allowed to retain his link with the political party which had supported
him during his election to a particular House. He has to depend on a
political party at the time of re-election and his conduct has a bearing
on his objectivity while running the House.

The proposed committee is likely to recommend that the Speaker be returned
unopposed when he seeks re-election to the House.

The Speaker's role assumes greater significance when coalitions rule the
roost. Similar is the case with dual membership. The conference's
suggestions ranged from undertaking constitutional amendment for automatic
termination of membership to evolving a new convention of barring such a
lawmaker from attending Parliament.

A recent amendment to the Representation of People Act, 1951 prohibited a
candidate from contesting more than two constituencies. However, the
six-month period allowed for a non-member minister to be elected to a
legislature was termed reasonable.

On the contentious issue of relationship between legislature, executive
and judiciary, the Speakers opined that the ``independence'' of the
legislature ``shall be firmly defended from any encroachment on its
jurisdiction by any of the other organs''.

Concern was voiced over the declining duration of sittings, conflict
between the legislature and the judiciary in matters of privileges and
controversial decisions of presiding officers particularly under the
Anti-Defection Law.

For effective functioning of any parliamentary democracy, it is expected
that the much abused and maligned provision of Article 356 (dissolution of
state assemblies) is rarely used.

Ironically, a conference of jurists recently stressed the need to retain
this constitutional provision to protect national integrity. Experts such
as former Delhi High Court chief justice Rajinder Sachar and former
attorney general Ashok Desai admitted that the Article was often misused
for political purposes. However, ``abolishing the provision would not be
doing justice to the integrity of the Indian Union,'' they added.

Former Congress MP M C Bhandare, too, said : ``This is one provision which
has brought states back from the bullet to the ballot.''

The Constitution Review Commission is believed to be under pressure to
place before Parliament amendments for its effective
functioning. Electoral reforms punctuated with requisite amendments to
strengthen the fundamental rights can make the wonderful document serve
the people in these trying times. Otherwise, in future, too, questions
would be asked about who failed the Constitution.

#8. New Cabinet Secy to assume office on Nov 1
(New Delhi, Oct 30)

The new Cabinet Secretary, T R Prasad, was today formally introduced to
the Union Cabinet which passed a resolution appreciating the services of
Prabhat Kumar who retires tomorrow.

Former Defence Secretary Prasad, who is at present an officer-on-special
duty in the Cabinet Secretariat, will take over the top post from Kumar on
November one.

Briefing newspersons after a cabinet meeting, Parliamentary Affairs
Minister Pramod Mahajan said Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee moved the
resolution on behalf of the entire body appreciating the services of
Kumar, for whom it was the last cabinet meeting.

Official sources said that Kumar was being tipped for the gubernatorial
office in the new state of Jharkhand to be created on November 15.

#9. Time for introspection on low tourist inflow

Saurabh Shukla
(New Delhi, October 29)

ABOUT 50 PER cent of tourists coming to India from abroad are relatives
visiting relatives here. That's how bad India is doing as a tourist
destination despite the Taj Mahal, Qutb Minar and everything else. Now,
who do you think is responsible?

The tourism trade holds the government guilty and its ministry
concerned. In a report to be submitted to the Prime Minister, the Indian
Association of Tour Operators has asked the ministry to wind itself down
and get out of the way. Lock, stock and barrel along with its tourist

The association is angry about something naturally and that is: A Ministry
of Culture notification, effective October 17, increasing the entry fee of
all heritage monuments from Rs 10 to 500 for foreign tourists without any
advance notice. "It'll kill the budget tourists," says an IATO official.

The trade is naturally upset as the hike comes just at the beginning of
the Indian tourist season, which will last for a couple of months until
basically the next April. After which summer takes over leaving only a few
tourists still around.

India gets around 25 lakh tourists every year, which is a measly .38 per
cent of the world tourists. And, the biggest shame, it's less than the
arrivals even in Nepal and Sri Lanka. So a disgusted trade feels it would
be better off without the Ministry of Tourism and its wings. Admitting
there are problems, Tourism Secretary M P Bezbaruah, says "Shutting
Government of India tourist offices would save only Rs 20-30 lakhs. The
problem is that many things that we require for tourism promotion is not
in our purview and a lot more coordination is needed."

Speaking to The Hindustan Times, IATO president Subhash Goyal says, "It is
time the government took note of its crumbling tourism
infrastructure...China and India had less than half a million tourists 50
years back and now China has 50 million, while small countries like
Thailand and Malaysia have over 7 million... we don't have an aviation
policy, there is no incentive for infrastructure development despite our
rich tourism potential," he says.

In a report to be submitted to the PM, the Indian Association of Tour
Operators has asked the ministry of tourism to wind itself down and get
out of the way. Lock, stock and barrel along with its offices.

#10. Sonia Gandhi to inaugurate Cong mahasangamam on November 2
(Ameni, (Lakshwadweep) Oct 29)

CONGRESS PRESIDENT Sonia Gandhi will inaugurate the Congress
'mahasangamam' here on November 2. It's being organised by the Lakshadweep
Territorial Congress Committee (LTCC).

Party workers and delegates from 10 islets of the Lakshadweep group of
islands will converge at this tiny island to participate in the meeting
expected to be addressed by chief ministers of Congress-ruled states, LTCC
general secretary Dr Syed Koya said.

Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker P M Sayeed, representing Lakshadweep, the tiniest
union territory of the country, will preside over the meet. According to
political circles here, the meet asssumes significance in the backdrop of
efforts to form a BJP unit here.

The dweep has been a Congress bastion for the last three decades, with P M
Sayeed remaining undefeated in all the Lok Sabha elections since 1970. BJP
will soon have its unit in the overwhelmingly Muslim dominated island. Dr
K P Muthu Koya, who unsuccesfully contested election last time against
Sayeed as an NDA candidate, will head the BJP unit here.

The Congress leaders here, however, dismissed the efforts to form a BJP
unit as "no threat to the popular base of the party".

According to Dr Sayeed Koya, the party unit here is hopeful that Cong
chief ministers S M Krishna , Ashok Gehlot, Sheila Dixit, Vilas Rao
Deshmukh and Digvijay Singh would attend the meet. KPCC General Secretary
M M Hassan, K Muraleedharan and A C Jose, both MPs, are also expected to
attend the meet.

End of India Network News Digest

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