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INDIA-L  May 1998, Week 1

INDIA-L May 1998, Week 1


India News Network Digest - Wed, 6 May 98


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India News Network Digest    Wed, 6  May  98     Volume 2 : Issue DC&DH

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Today's News Topics:
#1. Encroachment in Western Ghats concerns SC
#2. Russian credit for reactors at Kundakulum plant
#3. Telangana tyagis plea to PM on pensions
#4. Orphans they are not, they fly on cloud nine
#5. SC fiat to senior forest officials
#6. The importance of being Anna Hazare
#7. Overfishing endangers ocean life
#8. 'Indian civic bodies unresponsive'
#10. Union Cabinet expansion likely after May 10
#11. Between the lines A government by default
#12. AIADMK raps BJP over power tariff ordinance
#13.  New incentives for software firms
#1. Encroachment in Western Ghats concerns SC

New Delhi: Concerned over alleged large-scale encroachment of reserve forests of the
Western Ghats by influential politicians in Karnataka, including State Janata Dal chief B L
Shankar, the Supreme Court on Tuesday warned that it may have to appoint a receiver for
the entire coffee belt of Chikmagalur district if the government failed to evict the
"Before we examine this issue we would like to grant an opportunity to the government to
state its position regarding the allegations of inaction in summarily evicting the coffee
plantation owners who have encroached on the forest lands'' a three-judge Bench,
comprising Justice A S Anand, Justice B N Kirpal and Justice V M Khare, observed.

State government counsel K R Nagaraja was told by the court to file the State government's
affidavit before the next date of hearing on May 12.Referring to the State government's
affidavit filed before the court the judges said it "reflected the rather dismal picture of how
the forests in Chikmagalur district in the western ghats have been denuded.
"It appears that the forests in the State are being destroyed and fragmented due to the
encroachments by coffee growers and agriculturists. This affidavit of the State does not
make us any wiser about the effective steps taken to prevent deforestation and restore the
forests to their original status,'' the judges said in their order.
The court directed that besides giving a complete status report on the forests in the State,
the government shall also explain why action under Section 64 A of the Karnataka Forest
Act 1963, had not been taken against the encroachers even though 416 cases had been
detected of pure and simple encroachment.

The judges pointed out that on December 12, the apex court had given directions banning
the felling of trees all over the country, including the State of Karnataka."But the state of
the forest report 1997 brought out by the Union government discloses that dense forest in
the State had come down by five square km in 1997.
Obviously there has been violation of this court's order and inaction by the government to
evict the encroachers,'' the judges said.The court made it clear that before it decides to take
action against the State government for alleged inaction it would like to grant an opportunity
to explain its stand on the issues involved.
Earlier, during the proceedings the judges repeatedly questioned the State government
counsel as to why action was not shown to be taken against the "big fish'' alleged to be
involved in the encroachment of forests.

#2. Russian credit for reactors at Kundakulum plant

New Delhi: Russia has agreed to extend a soft and long-term credit to India for the
purchase of two 1000 MW power reactors to be set up at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu.
The credit would cover 85 per cent of the cost of Russian scope of works, services and
supplies, while the remaining funds will be supplied by the Centre.
The Russian credit is repayable one year after commissioning the plant, according to its
chief engineer S K Jain in the nuclear energy journal Nu-Power.

A contract for preparing the Detailed Project Report is expected to be signed between
India's Department of Atomic Energy and the atomic energy export of the Russian
Federation, Jain says.
The Russian light water "VVER" reactors are "extremely safe" during both normal and
abnormal conditions, Jain says. He puts to rest doubts expressed over the safety of
Russian nuclear reactors following the Chernobyl accident in 1986 when a reactor exploded
in Soviet Ukraine, spewing radiation that spread across to several European countries.
The Chernobyl reactor has a different design and uses graphite as a moderator, according to
Jain who says, "it has been confirmed by numerous reviews all over the world that the
Chernobyl type accidents cannot take place in a pressurised water or light water reactor
which uses water as the moderator and coolant".

The Kudankulam plant will be covered by International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards,
on lines similar to nuclear plants at Tarapore and Rajasthan.The 1000 MW Russian power
plants are the larger and most modern pressurised water reactors. About 20 units based on
this design are already operating with "excellent record of safe and reliable operation", Jain
Recently China and Iran have also signed contract for setting up such reactors in their
countries. The most important inherent feature is one of "negative power coefficient" where
any increase in reactor power is self-terminating.

Thus, any events which may cause large power increase and damage the reactor are
"extremely unlikely", according to Jain.There is a passive heat removal system to provide
cooling during 24-hours black out, a second quick-acting shutdown system and a double
containment (two walls) with the interspace kept at negative pressure to reduce any
Another safety feature ensures automatic reactor shutdown if there is loss of water from the
reactor core.The site of the plant is in a zone with low-earthquake risk, with no major lakes
and dams nearby to cause induced seismicity.
It is not subject to severe cyclonic storms and tidal waves.There is no danger to the plant's
safety from man-induced events such as aircraft impact, toxic gas release, chemical
explosions, and industrial and military accidents.

#3. Telangana tyagis plea to PM on pensions

New Delhi: The Telangana Freedom Fighters Grievances Organisation on Tuesday
submitted a representation to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee pleading for scrapping
the of the Hyderabad Special Screening Committee (Telangana) headed by Communist
party leader Ch. Rajeswara Rao.

They also sought a judicial enquiry into the irregularities committed by the committee in
selection of freedom fighters for pension. Organisation founder-president B N Gupta and
others met the Prime Minister and handed over their representation which alleged that the
committee had committed irregularities and fraud and even taken huge amounts from the
people to recommend their cases for pension.
Genuine freedom fighters who had suffered were not in a position to get the pension
because they "are not able to grease the hands of some committee members".
The committee has appointed several "workers, brokers, agents and collected huge
amounts in some cases" to recommend pension, the memorandum alleged and requested
stoppage of the pensions sanctioned on the recommendation of the committee and see that
real freedom fighters got the benefit.

Over 400 freedom fighters, who came here from five Telangana districts are making similar
representations to the leaders of all the political parties here during the last four days.
State SJP secretary Palvai Damodar Reddy, who is also submitting memoranda to the
Prime Minister and leader of political parties, made similar allegations and said that some of
the politicians (in the committee) were recommending persons for the pension with a view
to "building up their party cadres and that too by taking huge amounts."

#4. Orphans they are not, they fly on cloud nine

Chennai: For the nearly 80 young children, carrying the burden of a collective stigma on
their tiny shoulders, it was a dream come true.The orphans sheltered in various homes in
the city were on Tuesday taken on a dream flight that literally saw them floating on cloud
The thoughtful and humane gesture came from the private carrier, Jet Airways, which
celebrated its fifth anniversary on Tuesday. Aptly named 'The Dream Flight', Jet Airways'
B 734 Boeing aircraft, with a full complement of passengers, including the children, took
off from the domestic airport on a bright sunny afternoon for just over an hour of joy ride.

To add some glamour to the occasion and enliven the festive atmosphere, stars from the
tinsel world - Suhasini, Khushboo, Revathi and Nazer - were on the flight, sharing the
excitement of the children and interacting with them.
Flying at a height of 10,000 feet, the aircraft, with a capacity to accommodate 136
passengers, was flown at 600 km per hour to let the children have an idea of the
topography. The aircraft flew over the holy hill town of Tirupati, Kancheepuram, lingered
over the vast stretch of the coastline between Pondicherry and Chennai and circled the
harbour before touching down.
The children, aged between seven and 15, were from institutions like Udhavum Karangal,
Sivananda Gurukulam, Sevalaya and the Rotary Boys' Home.A carnival atmosphere
prevailed at the airport when the inmates arrived, with the police band playing for them.

This was followed by a magic show and refreshments for the kids. On board, the children
were thrilled, shouting and clapping and thoroughly enjoying every moment. Some of them
ran up and down the aisle, forgetting they were on a flight. One seven-year-old, asked
about the experience, said it was like being on a flying bus.
Dr S Rajaram, founder of the Sivanda Ashram, on seeing the beaming faces of his wards,
said it was such events which could instil confidence in the children and help in their
development as balanced and normal human beings.
Despite being sheltered in the homes like his, which could take care of their basic
necessities, the thought that they were orphans, who could claim none as their kith and kin
always lingered in their minds.

Occasions like this, when the children being cuddled by celebrities and made to feel
important even for a while - are a much-needed blessing, he said. V Raja, Jet Airways
general manager, South India, expressed happiness that the airlines could in some way help
bring smile on the faces of the children.
He said the airlines had earlier organised a similar flight from Mumbai on the occasion of
the golden jubilee of the country's Independence last year. He said Jet Airways was
planning to organise such trips in other cities.
At the end of it all, the children, showered with gifts by the airlines, bid a cheerful adieu
and the organisers had the satisfaction of putting the stars in the eyes of the kids at least for
a day.The co-sponsors of the event included the Airport Authority of India and Hindusthan

#5. SC fiat to senior forest officials

New Delhi: Taking a serious view of the "wilful disobedience" of its 1996 and 1997
orders banning the felling of Khair trees in Jammu and Kashmir, the Supreme Court on
Tuesday issued notices to two senior officials to explain why contempt proceedings not be
initiated against them for allowing a private contractor to cut the trees on the pretext that
they were minor forest produce.
The notices were issued by a three-judge bench headed by Justice A S Anand to Vijay
Bakaya, additional chief secretary forests and S R Bhagat additional secretary forests.
The judges also issued show cause contempt notices to Badr Karimi, managing director of
the Mumbai-based company M/s B K Katha Pvt Ltd, the contractors who were engaged by
the State government to fell the Khair trees.

All the three persons were directed to be present personally in court at the next date of
hearing on July 28. Earlier, the advocate general of the State of Jammu and Kashmir Shabir
Ahmed Salaria admitted before the judges that his legal opinion in the matter was already
before the government and therefore he had decided to keep out of the present controversy.
Salaria said he had a telephonic conversation with Forest Minister Choudhry Mohammed
Ramzan on Tuesday morning to apprise him of the developments in the apex court over the
Khair tree-felling case and the minister had expressed his concern in the matter.

In its order, the judges said it appeared that the private contractor B K Katha had
represented to the State government on March 18, 1997 after the apex court direction
banning the felling of Khair trees that the court had exempted minor forest produce from
the ban.
On the basis of this representation, an office note had been prepared in which it was stated
that the apex court order was a matter of interpretation.
This note was subsequently put up before Bhagat, one of the concerned officials, who on
March 20, 1997 directed the forwarding of the representation to the principal conservator of
forests for necessary action and meeting contractual obligations.

On this file, Bakaya the other official had noted that the matter could be referred to the
forest research institute at Dehradun to find out whether Khair trees came under minor
forest produce.
After the opinion of the forest research institute was sought another note was prepared and
given to Bhagat in which forest officials had stated that Khair trees were not minor forest
produce and it was only an extract of the tree that could be termed as minor produce.
However, despite these observations orders were issued to allot Khair trees for extraction
of khatta to the private contractor.

#6. The importance of being Anna Hazare

New Delhi: How many of us would refuse a sponsored tour of New York just because it
doesn't gel with our sphere of "work"? But Anna Hazare thinks he can, and he has.
He refused a fully-sponsored, sight-seeing tour of New York simply because there are not
any NGOs or voluntary organisations with whom he can talk about socially productive
With a torn baniyan, mended by his own capable hands, Kisan Baburao Hazare, popularly
known as Anna Hazare, will walk through the corridors of power of Washington DC to
collect the 1998 CARE International Humanitarian Award on May 8 which is "CARE's
signature award designed to recognise an individual whose life work demonstrates a
profound and abiding commitment to improving human condition in the developing

"The only alternative to governments such as the Congress' or the BJP's is to make public
pressure groups who compel bad governments to be on their tip-toes.
That is why I would be starting a jan-andolan to make right to information a law wherein
the public would not only have a right to know how their money with the government
treasury is being spent but also appeal in Supreme Court in case of refusal by government.

Provision would also be made for the completion of the case within 30 days with fine in
case of delays by the government. I have written to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee
today and would be launching a padyatra for the same which will start at Rashtriya Gandhi
Smarak (memorial of Kasturba Gandhi) in Pune to Delhi's Raj Ghat soon," he said.
"Recent closeness of India with the USA is a good thing for world peace. The kind of
ego-clash India and Pakistan and most countries have is not right. In fact, from
humanitarian point of view, there is no need for these anti-human bombs.

I am going to America with a message of peace and environment protection. which is not
the concern of just one country. All of us contribute to it," he said.
From converting a famine-prone village to one whose vegetables get exported to the Middle
East and to launching a crusade against corruption and engaging technically trained youth to
voluntary social service, Anna Hazare has come a long way from being a small-time army
truck-driver who saw death from close quarters.

Bogged by futility of human existence in the face of death, there came a time when
"Annaji", as he is called by most, contemplated suicide to the point of even writing the
suicide note. The impending marriage of his sister stopped him from taking the drastic step.
Relief came in form of Swami Vivekanand's Karya aur Vichar, according to which life was
for the service of others. After participating in two wars and losing nearly all his colleagues
in one of them (1972 Indo-Pak war), Annaji saw his survival a new lease to his life, a
From there on there was no looking back. Taking a premature retirement, Anna Hazare
came back to his famine-struck village of Ralegaon Siddhi, where poverty had driven
people to liquor manufacture, to spend his gratuity and provident fund (some Rs 20,000)
towards its development.
Soon enough Ralegaon Siddhi became a study-model for researchers who wanted the
know how a drought-affected village got transformed into a productive one.

#7. Overfishing endangers ocean life

Mumbai: The United Nations will focus special attention on the
hazards of overfishing during 1998 - the International Year of
the Ocean - as it feels that this activity is posing a grave
threat to the marine life.

Unesco's International Oceanographic Commission, would organise
conferences, workshops, seminars and campaigns worldwide to
create awareness and draw attention to the problems that have
arisen because of reckless overfishing, poisoning by chemical
effluents and radioactive wastes in different seas and oceans of
the world. In a recent report published in Maritime
International, environmentalists warn of the looming danger to
biodiversity and natural resources. Quoting Greenpeace's Hamburg
spokesperson Michael Hopf, the report identities overfishing as
the major reason for the destruction.

"The fish catch are becoming smaller and smaller, and this is a
sign that the stocks will not be able to recover," he says. Hopf
particularly criticised the destructive long-line fishing in the
Antarctic Ocean for the much sought after tuna, as it
unnecessarily kills sharks and albatrosses. Oceanographers at
present are not in a position to assess the damage caused to the
complex aquatic life in the seas, the UN body said.Researchers
are studying the links between currents, nutrient content, fish
stocks and changes in climate.

According to head of the department for oceanography at the Kiel
University, Gerhard Kortum the sea absorbs more than 50 per cent
of the carbon dioxide present in the air and thus functions as a
huge temporary store of the greenhouse gas. The gas, produced by
the burning of fossil fuels, is consumed by small algae and the
through product ends up at the bottom of the sea. Shallow sea
shelves, such as North Sea, the Baltic, the Gulf, the Black Sea
and the Mediterranean Sea, are threatened by the activities of
man as these water bodies are forced to absorb particularly large
amounts of sewage produced by the communities living on the
shores thereby killing the carbon dioxide absorbing algae.

In addition, the report says, oil-drilling platforms, pumping up
one-third of world's supply of crude oil, run a big risk of
accidents and consequent pollution. The WWF at the beginning of
this year in Hamburg called for a voluntary reduction in
pollution by industry. The north-eastern Atlantic States should
pledge not to allow any 'poison' to flow into the sea for the
next 25 years. Fishes are also suffering from the affects of
heavy metal effluents, release of fertilizers and pesticides in
the sea, the report added.

#8'Indian civic bodies unresponsive'

New Delhi: Plagued by red tape and corruption, most of the public
services in some major Indian cities have failed to be responsive
to people's need for basic civic amenities, according to a string
of surveys brought out recently. The report cards, reflecting the
perception of a cross-section of people in cities like Delhi,
Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune and Ahmedabad on the performance of the
providers of civic utilities, were brought out recently by
Bangalore-based Public Affairs Centre, dedicated to the
improvement the quality of governance in the country. Quite a few
respondents admitted to have paid speedmoney to various service
providers to avail the services. Samuel Paul, founder of PAC,
says the main undoing of the public service providers was found
to be their monopolistic nature. "Monopolistic public services
treat the customers as 'given' and seem hardly bothered for
quality. Through public feedbacks in the form of the report
cards, we are trying to create a surrogate for competition," he
says while making a case for privatisation in the same breath.
"The civil society is a vital storehouse of information. These
surveys are like 'durbars-in-reverse' which can be the pith and
substance of good governance," he feels. Suresh Balakrishnan, who
prepared the report card on Delhi, says that monopolistic
services like power, sewage and garbage disposal evoke a much
higher level of dissatisfaction than those where the citizens
have options (such as banks and postal services). The report
brings out that only 27 per cent of the respondents succeeded in
getting response from the service providers and having their
problems solved. About ten per cent of the respondents paid
speedmoney which was found more rampant in Delhi Vidyut Board (14
per cent), telephones (17 per cent) and police (19 per cent). He
provides an interesting data on hidden costs of a whopping (more
than) Rs 2100 crore, incurred by the capital's citizens to cope
with the poor quality of service by investing in items like
overhead tank, water pump, bore well, emergency lights,
generators, water filter and aqua guard.

PAC report cards also get a separate feedback from the urban poor
(slum dwellers) as of the 62 million people living in twelve
largest cities of India, nearly 20 million of which are found in
areas classified as slums. Water, electricity and sanitation were
identified as services of the highest priority by slum dwellers
in the three cities of Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Pune. The Delhi
slum dwellers were most dissatisfied with these service. "Two
third of the respondents in these areas of the national capital
said they did not pay for the electricity they use,''
Balakrishnan says. Balakrishnan says, "the quantum and quality of
basic services for the urban poor in Mumbai is woefully
inadequate." With 87 per cent of the respondents saying that
their problems were never solved, a bulk of them (65 per cent)
were ready to pay more for better service. But still the slum
dwellers in Mumbai are relatively better off than their
counterparts in the national capital. Though the broad pattern of
dissatisfaction with regard to basic services is same, at an
overall level, availability of services is better in the western
metropolis. Identifying the root of the problem in Delhi, he
says, "Nearly 91 per cent of the city and slum dwellers
complained that staff was unhelpful." Among the cities, Pune
leads in the satisfaction of the urban poor with their access to
most public and civic services except healthcare (only 11 per
cent have access) while they are the least satisfied in Ahmedabad
where they constitute about 30 per cent of the population.
Bangalore leads in the prevalence of corruption in public
services with every third slum dweller paying speedmoney.PAC
found out that sanitation was the most widely condemned public
service in these three cities accounting for 13.5 per cent of the
urban slums in the country.


NDFB denies hand in Santhal killings

Guwahati: The banned National Democratic Front of Bodoland on
Tuesday denied its involvement in the killing of the 14 Santhal
bus passengers on Sunday last. Its information and publicity
secretary B Erkado in a statement here denied reports in a
section of press that it was involved in the attack and appealed
to the Bodo Liberation Tigers to shun violence and abstain from
senseless killing of innocent people.

Hazare gets 'Care award'

New Delhi: Noted social worker and pioneer of watershed
development Anna Hazare has been conferred with the prestigious
"Care International Humanitarian Award for 1998.'' The award was
announced by country director of Care-India Tom Alcedo at a press
conference here on Tuesday. Hazare was also present at the press

Teenage girl beheaded in Jammu

Jammu: Militants abducted and later beheaded an 18-year-old girl
in Banihal area, while four persons and a militant were killed in
militancy-related incidents in other parts of Jammu, official
reports said. The militants kidnapped Samshada, daughter of one
Ramzan Khan in Hali-Maidan village, about 3 km from Banihal town
and later beheaded her. In another incident, a special police
officer was killed in an encounter in Sorankote area of Poonch
district on Tuesday, reports said.

Bodo ultras ambush SP's convoy

Guwahati: National Democratic Front of Bodoland militants on
Tuesday ambushed Kokrajhar SP's convoy and injured his bodyguard
in unabated violence in lower Assam, from where four bodies of
Adivasis have been recovered since Sunday, official sources said.
The rebels ambushed the SP's convoy at Naikagaon when he was
returning with additional forces after six Bodo huts were torched
by adivasis in the area, the sources said.

Tripura extends Disturbed Area Act

Agartala: The Tripura government extended the Disturbed Area Act
to eight more police station areas in the State and seeking
Interpol's help following a step-up in extremist offensive from
across the international border. Chief Minister Manik Sarkar told
newsmen with this 27 police stations out of the 44 in the State
have been brought under the Act since February 16, 1997.
Copyright  1996 [Deccan Chronicle]. All rights reserved.

                                    DECCAN HERALD

                                                                                 Wednesday, May 5, 1998

#10. Union Cabinet expansion likely after May 10

                                           From Rakesh Sharma
                                             DH News Service
                                            NEW DELHI, May 5

A serious exercise has been initiated for the expansion of the Union Council of Ministers. According to sources, 2 to 22 new faces
out of about 27 vacancies mostly at the level of the Minister of State, are likely to be filled any time after May 10 and before the start
of the Budget session of Parliament on May 27.

At least one or two members from each of the allies of the BJP, barring the Trinamool Congress and the TDP, as of now, are
expected to be accommodated in the Union Council of Ministers.

The proposal for expansion of the Council of Ministers is expected to be informally discussed by BJP leaders with leaders of the
allied parties later this week when they gather here for the meeting of the Coordination Committee scheduled to be held on May 9.

The sources said it was not an easy exercise as the BJP was facing several dilemmas. For instance, if Prime Minister Atal Behari
Vajpayee wanted to give representation to the Haryana Lok Dal, he would also have to give representation to its rival party in the
state - Haryana Vikas Party.

Again, the party will have to move cautiously while giving representation to BJP leaders from various states like Madhya Pradesh
and West Bengal. And so far as Kerala is concerned, the BJP is at a loss as to how to give representation in the Council of Ministers.
Its leader from Kerala, Mr O Rajagopal, is a member of the Rajya Sabha from Madhya PradeSh and he will retire within a couple of
months or so.

Besides, there is some pressure from the Karnataka unit of the BJP to give it more representation. But in case this is done, a
balancing act would have to be performed by inducting more members from the Lok Shakti.

This apart, there is some jostling for the post of Communications Minister which fell vacant after Mr Buta Singh was removed from
the Cabinet last month.

In the meantime, the sources said that a fresh attempt might be made to open a dialogue with the TDP to persuade it to join in

#11. Between the lines

                                    A government by default

                                            By Kuldip Nayar,

All that has happened to the Indian politics in the last 50 days is the change which has come about in the framing of questions.
Earlier, it was whether the BJP-led coalition would last; now, it is how long will it last? The party leaders themselves do not know
the answer. In fact, none does. But everyone is convinced that the government will not survive for long. It must be so because
President K R Narayanan, before going on a 11-day-long tour to Latin American countries, talked to different political parties to
assure himself that there would be no crisis in his absence.

However, the main reason why the Atal Behari Vjapayee government has not fallen so far is the absence of an alternative. No party,
especially Congress, which is the second largest, is yet interested in pulling the government down. It is not that the Congress leaders
lack ambition. The fact is that they are helpless. Congress President Sonia Gandhi is presently opposed to the overthrow of the
government. And it is her writ which runs in the party.

''Our saviour is Sonia Gandhi,`` say some top BJP leaders unashamedly. They realise that but for her firm, 'no`, the Vajpayee
government would have been history by this time. Several ministers who, otherwise hate Sonia Gandhi, privately admit that she is
their best bet. ''Until she gives green signal, nothing will happen,`` the BJP leadership says with relief.

Former Maharashtra chief minister Sharad Pawar, who did well in the Lok Sabha polls, is resourceful enough to muster the required
number, 273 in the 546-member House. At one time, he even began the excercise. He flrst met AIADMK chief Jayalalitha of Tamil
Nadu and then Mamta Banerjee of Trinamool Congress from West Bengal. Both promised him support. But Sonia Gandhi put her
foot down. She was not prepared either for the Congress- led government or any other arrangement.

She has no love lost for the BJP which, she has said publicly represents fascist forces in the country. Yet she feels that the longer it
continues in office, the sooner it will be 'exposed` before the public. Her reported belief is that with the passage of time, the
contradictions within the party on the one hand, and the contradictions between the party and its allies on the other, will come to the
fore. ''We have only to wait to pick up pieces,`` say the Congress leaders who represent her voice. Some of them even recall that
former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao wanted to follow the same line and allow the BJP government to continue beyond the 13 days
when it fell. He too thought the functioning of the BJP government would falsify the impression that given a chance it woutd do
well. But the Congress party reportedly forced him to support the United Front government.

The BJP and its allies, whatever their rhetoric, realise that their strength is the failure of the others to combine. And they are in the
know of the attempts made to cobble a combination. For example, former Prime Minister Chandrashekhar was the first to throw his
hat in the ring. But the hat just stayed there because no support was forthcoming. He was not acceptable. The Janata Dal and the
communists were not willing to overlook his perfidy in 1990 when he split the Dal and became prime minister with the support of
Congress for 40 days. No one else is available. In fact, the one refrain at the meeting of every opposition party is how unprepared
each one of them is if the BJP-led government falls tomorrow.

The BJP is banking on it. It sees the Opposition parties divided. There is a tug of war between Congress and the United Front on the
question of prime ministership. The UF believes that it is a natural choice because the Congress is not acceptable to some of the
Front`s constituents. However, it is conceded that Congress should be part of the government and, if and when it is formed.
Congress, on the other hand, feels that it supported the Front last time and now it is the turn of the party to step in and that the UF
should support it. At one time, the Communists were in favour of a Congress-led coalition. But they have changed their stand after
Sonia Gandhi has become Congress president.

They are right because the Sonia factor will come in handy to the BJP. The latter convinced that no political party will accept her as
prime minister because of her foreign background. In the Congress party itself, there is a similar feeling. And the Congressmen trust
that when the time comes, she will herself refuse to become prime minister. There are some senior Congress leaders who sincerely
believe that she is 'a passing phenomenon`, which will end before long.

This is a mere wishful thinking, similar to the one indulged into before she became Congress president. Very few thought that she
would occupy the office. But she crossed the Laxman Rekha to head the party. Not only that, she also came to occupy the position
of the chairperson of Congress Parliamentary Party. However deserving Sharad Pawar may be, it is she who gifted him the
leadership of the Parliamentary Party in the Lok Sabha. Congress had authorised her to nominate the leader.

Maybe, Sonia is trying to gain time. She may be wanting to carry on with Sharad Pawar till she is sure in her mind that she will be
acceptable to the country. Were she to push out the govemment now, she knows she would be playing into the hands of the BJP,
which may whip up the slogan: Ram versus Rome.

Therefore for the time being, she is busy organising her party and the way she is going about it shows that she wants her own
trusted people at key positions, even at the expense of tried Congressmen like Madhavrao Scindia. Once she is ready, she will
challenge the government. This may be some time around the budget session in February next. By then the non-performance of the
BJP- led government would also have been proved to the people who wanted to give it a chance.

The point for the BJP to worry is that its stock is rapidly going down. Vajpayee`s image is also taking a beating. He is not even
heard saying anything decisive, much less doing it. People have already nick-named him as Mouni Baba (a saint who keeps silent).
The government has nothing to show to its credit. At least it should be implementing the national agenda, which it released with
flourish some weeks ago.

The media is still soft towards the BJP. If dissensions and demands in the party and among its allies do not lessen, a wide and
vehement criticism will begin. The government has to perform to silence its critics. Come to think of it, the failure or success is
dependent on Vajpayee. Too many expectations are pinned on him. It will be too disappointing if he falls. The stability factor, which
the BJP raised during the hustings, does not bother people. But their betterment does. They expect employment to go up and prices
to go down. Can the government turn a new leaf in the country?

Hopes are beginning to turn sour. If government continues to function as is doing presently, its image will be in tatters soon. That
may well be the time when Sonia Gandhi or some other persons in the Opposition will strike. Then there will be no tears to shed
over the demise of the BJP-led coalition. Even if the BJP were to revert to the Hindutva stand then, there would not be many takers.

#12. AIADMK raps BJP over power tariff ordinance

                                             DH News Service
                                             CHENNAI, May 5

The AIADMK, a major constituent of the BJP-led coalition Government at the Centre, today came out against the recently
promulgated central ordinance providing for the regulation of power tariffs and charged that the BJP did not consult its coalition
partners before taking this decision.

In a statement, AIADMK general secretary J Jayalalitha said, ''I categorically state that the ordinance is not acceptable to our party as
it will adversely affect the interests of farmers in Tamil Nadu.``

She said the BJP should have consulted its allies before taking a decision on such an important issue and added that ''we also came
to know only through the newspapers`` about the ordinance for the setting up of central and state-level power regulatory

The ordinance, which stipulates that the states should recover at least 5 per cent of the cost of power generation from its consumers
or fully compensate the electricity boards, has raised a storm in Tamil Nadu where farmers have been enjoying a free supply of
power for agricultural pumpsets for nearly a decade now.

The ruling DMK has already made it clear that there is no question of withdrawing the concession to farmers. Denying Chief
Minister M Karunanidhi`s statement in the state Assembly yesterday that during her rule, her party contemplated the withdrawal of
free supply of electricity to farmers to qualify for World Bank assistance, Ms Jayalalitha said that on the other hand, she rejected the
Centre`s demand for the discontinuance of the free supply.

''The AIADMK has always been and continues to be in favour of free supply of electricity to farmers,`` she said.

Ms Jayalalitha said that farmers in the state, who were facing severe hardships as they were not getting remunerative prices for their
produce, were now reeling under the impact of unannounced power cuts and erratic power supply.

She cited in this connection the rejoinder given by Tamil Manila Congress leader G K Moopanar that State Electricity Minister Arcot
N Veerasamy, who was claiming that farmers were exempt from the 30 per cent power cut now in force, ''does not know the
prevailing conditions in the rural areas``.

Ms Jayalalitha charged that the DMK government was creating a scare of cancellation of free supply of electricity to farmers.
#13.  New incentives for software firms

                                             DH News Service
                                            BANGALORE, May 5

In an apparent bid to quell the fresh threat of software companies shifting their base from the Silicon valley of India to new fast
growing software centres in Hyderbad and Pune, the State has finally woken up from its slumber and launched a series of investor
friendly initiatives at the Electronic City off Hosur Road near here.

At a function conducted by the State Department of Electronics and Electronic City Association here today several incentives were
unveiled which included: allotting lands in the second phase of electronic city, laying foundation stone for multi-facilities complex on
a one-and-a-half-acre of land having conference hall, hospital, fire brigade, police station and other facilities, launching of helicopter
services for chief executives officers, BMTC buses for employees and also creation of a special security zone.

Solar lighting arrangements for the entire city, announcement of a proposed satellite township on the southern side of the City were
among other measures marking a new beginning to face the challenge posed by the new software centres in the country.

Claiming that there was no flight of capital to the neighbouring states from Karnataka, Mr N Viswanathan, principal secretary,
commerce and industries said Bangalore will remain the Silicon Valley for at least another three decades. Emphasising that Karnataka
still retains its pre-eminent position, he said the State attracted 45 software companies last year when compared to around eight or
nine in Chennai and 14 in Hyderabad.

Noting that Bangalore contributed 3 per cent of the country`s hardware and software production, Mr Viswanathan said the State
aimed at increasing its share to 50 per cent, adding, the State has set a software export target of Rs.5,000 crore by the turn of the
century and Rs.10,000 crore by 2002.

Besides these, software exports from the City touched Rs.2,000 crore during 1997-98 as compared to Rs.1,200 crore during

-------------------End Of News Digest-------------------

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