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INDIA-L  May 1998, Week 1

INDIA-L May 1998, Week 1

Subject:

India News Network Digest Mon, 4 May 98

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Mon, 4 May 1998 14:58:54 -0400

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India News Network Digest    Mon, 4  May  98     Volume 2 : Issue DC&DH


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Today's News Topics:
--------------------

#1. Liberalisation may have caused suicides of farmers
#2. India can become super power by 2020, says Study
#3. Karnataka Bill ready for acquiring palace
#4. Karsan is ready to return scam money
#5. UP government pays relief to victims
#6. UP dismisses 1,100 striking junior doctors
#7. Bodos massacre 14 Santhal adivasis
#8. Cable TV to reign supreme as DTH mired in red tape
#9. 20 people held for spreading AIDS scare
#10. Stoning ritual may be changed for Hajis
#11. Fresh cracks found at Tehri dam site
#12. Trail of counterfeit notes ends in Madurai
#13. Victim's father, grandfather collude with rapists
#14. Abdul in chains and bitten by teacher!
#15. Bad planning affects health system: Study
#16. Teen pregnancies on the rise: Study
#17. Premature babies get a fresh breath of life
#18. AROUND THE STATES
#19. DOWN SOUTH
#20. Draft resolution skirts contentious issues Hindutva to remain cornerstone of BJP's policy
#21. Rs.750 per hectare relief to farmers likely
#22. SIFTING GRAIN FROM CHAFF Sonia revamps Congress
#23. A new lease of life for premature babies
#24. Cong leader seeks amendments to State Debt Relief Act
------------------------------------------------------
#1. Liberalisation may have caused suicides of farmers

New Delhi: The spate of suicides by farmers steeped in debt in several States has put a
question mark on the process of economic liberalisation and its effect on the farming sector.

While critics see a connection between the suicides and the reform process, others think it
absurd to link the two and put the blame on the failure of the credit system and poor
extension services.

But all agree that the suicides in the 50th year of Indian independence should serve as a
"wake-up call to policy-makers" with agronomists suggesting a thorough review of
agricultural policies.

Not long ago, starvation deaths were also reported from the Kalahandi and Naupara
districts of Orissa where the National Human Rights Commission had to undertake
missions to study the situation.

The recent spate of suicides started from some districts of Andhra Pradesh and then similar
incidents were reported from Karnataka, Punjab and the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra.

"These suicides are the culmination of a series of policies over the years. And a whole
range of factors - which are different but not independent of each other -have
contributed towards the situation," says Dr Utsha Pattnaik, agronomist at the Jawaharlal
Nehru University here.

"There is a connection between the suicides and the new economic policy as well as export
orientation. Because of the thrust on exports, the farmers are using more pesticides and
fertilisers to increase the productivity, Utsha Pattnaik said.

"Besides, in most of the cases, the purchase of the crop by trans-national companies is
linked with the supply of fertilisers. But the fertilisers supplied do not suit our climatic
conditions and the productivity of the soil," she said, adding that "this is gross interference
without prior knowledge of the situation."

Dr S Veeraswamy, principal scientist, Golden Jubilee Centre for Agricultural Assessment
at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute also raises the question of the quality of
fertilisers and pesticides used by farmers in their bid to produce more.

"A large chunk of the fertilisers that the farmers are using are adulterated. As a result of
this, the effect of the fertiliser is not reflected on the crop. So the farmer goes on applying
more of the same fertiliser to enhance production which in the long run completely destroys
the fertility of the soil," Veeraswamy pointed out.

However, there have been complete droughts earlier. There have also been instances of
farmers reeling under severe debt. But never before has there been such a spate of suicides,
Veeraswamy says adding that "there has to be some other compelling reason."

"There have been incidents in the past of farmers committing suicides for the posthumous
benefits. For instance, the government sometimes writes off the debts of the farmer and
furthermore, the family of the deceased also receive some financial compensation. But this
is only a probability," Veeraswamy said.

However, journalist C Rammanohar Reddy, who has also done extensive works in the
field of agronomics, says the suggestion that liberalisation has led to these suicides is
"ludicrous understanding of the ongoing tragedy. "

#2. India can become a super power by AD 2020, says Study

New Delhi: India has the potential of becoming a world economic power by AD 2020 if it
continues with its liberalisation and globalisation policies, according to a recent study.

"India can become the third largest world economy and a newly-industrialised country with
living standard equivalent to that of South Korea by AD 2020 if it continues with its present
policy of liberalisation and globalisation of economy," it says.

The study, 'The emerging great powers: Their potential and prospects', by Prof. D R
Kalia, a scholar who has worked with the Unesco and various government departments,
describes India as an emerging world power alongwith China and having the sixth largest
economy in the world, which in a few years could, become the fourth.

It projects China as becoming the world's leading economy within a few years ahead of the
United States. It now ranks number two. "Only one developed country, the United States,
will remain in the first five, but second to China. Out of the top five four will be Asian -
China, Japan, India and Indonesia.''

It said 19th century was the century of Europe, 20th that of the United States, "the 21st
century will be the Asian century. ''

#3. Karnataka Bill ready for acquiring palace

Bangalore: The State Cabinet is likely to introduce a Bill empowering it to take over the
Mysore palace, on the floor of the House on May 6, a Secretariat official said on Saturday.

The Cabinet has given its consent to offer Rs 32 crore as compensation to the scion of the
Mysore dynasty Srikantadatta Wodeyar. An important feature in the legislation is that the
State may permit Wodeyar's family to live in a portion of the palace as long as he and his
wife are alive.

After their death, the children will have no right on that portion of the palace, the official
said. The Cabinet, which met here on Saturday, arrived at this decision, after the State lost
a litigation in the Supreme Court to Wodeyar over the ownership of the palace.

The court, in its order, directed the State to maintain status quo upholding Wodeyar's rights
on the ownership of the palace. The State had taken over the maintenance and management
of the palace on Wodeyar's request in 1975.

At that time, Wodeyar had asked for Rs 2 crore as compensation. Later, neither party had
discussed the financial matter, according to Law and Parliamentary Minister M C Nanaiah.

He told the Legislative Council on April 25 that the State was now ready to pay Wodeyar
Rs 2 crore with accrued interest. Wodeyar, however, has already announced his stand.

Responding to the State government's decision, he said he was ready to fight even if the
law was enacted. Scoffing at the claim that it would take over on the lines of its possession
of the Roerich property at Tataguni, Wodeyar said, "There were no legal heirs for Roerich,
but for the Mysore palace, we are the legal heirs."

Wodeyar also said there are provisions under Article 13 which protect customs and rituals
more than 100 years old. "We have ample of evidences that ceremonial poojas have been
performed by our family at these temples as long as 150 years."

The Cabinet, in an another decision, authorised Chief Minister J H Patel to finalise the
compensation package for farmers who have sustained crop losses.

#4. Karsan is ready to return urea scam money

New Delhi: Karsan Limited, the Turkish firm involved in the Rs 133-crore urea scam,
has again initiated a move for out-of-court settlement with the public sector undertaking
National Fertilisers Limited on the condition that two of its accused officials in custody here
should be allowed to go abroad, official sources said on Sunday.

In a new move, the two executives of Karsan - Tuncay Alankus and Cihan Karanci -
have proposed a full refund of the entire sum of Rs 133 crore or supply the amount of urea
as promised in the deal, struck in 1995.

They have sought permission to go abroad for at least a month so that they could mobilise
funds, the sources said. The NFL officials have, however, refused to comment on the
issue.

Karanci and Alankus were extradited to India from Switzerland on October 3 last year at the
request of the CBI and have since been in judicial custody. Earlier, they had offered a
compensation of $ 20 million to NFL, which was, however, rejected by NFL.

#5. UP government pays relief to victims

New Delhi: On the recommendation of the National Human Rights Commission, the
Uttar Pradesh government has paid interim compensation varying between Rs 25,000 and
Rs 10,000 to 20 persons, mostly students, who were beaten up by Provincial Armed
Constabulary personnel with rifle butts and batons in Varanasi in 1997.

Taking suo motu cognisance of a news report, the NHRC probed the incident and found
that about 80 PAC personnel had swooped on a function to felicitate one person who had
been awarded a Ph D and beat up the invitees in August 1997, commission sources said on
Sunday.

After an on-the-spot inquiry and meetings with victims, eyewitnesses and police officials,
an NHRC investigation team found that the function to felicitate Dr V P Roy was organised
at the place of one of his friends on the Asi Ghat of the Ganga on the intervening night of
August 3 and 4.

Those who had assembled at the function were mostly students. There was reportedly
some interference by an outsider, said to be a company commander of the PAC battalion
located near the place on flood duty.

He appeared to have objected to the gathering at that venue and abused the students, they
said. The sources said the issue subsided and the gathering settled down to dinner but
when they were dining in the room, some 70 to 80 PAC personnel swooped on them and
started beating up the invitees with "dandas" and rifle butts.

The PAC personnel also handcuffed some of them and detained them despite the
intervention of the local police who urged their release, the sources said, adding some of
the tenants and occupants of the building were also roughed up by the PAC jawans.

They said Vinod Kumar Pandey, a wrestler residing in a nearby house, was also picked
and beaten up and an effort was made to implicate him in a false case under the Arms Act.

The two cases sought to be registered by the PAC personnel against the wrestler and
against the students were also investigated by the State CID which, in substance, found that
the cases were mere "counter-blasts," they said.

The State CID has accordingly filed final reports after completion of investigation before a
court, holding that the cases started by the PAC personnel were unsubstantiated, the
sources said.

The commission held that the PAC personnel were public servants and that the State
government had a vicarious liability for the acts of its servants. Taking into account the
unprovoked nature of the attack and wrongful confinement, the gravity of the injuries
caused to the victims, the commission recommended payment of immediate interim relief.

#6. UP dismisses 1,100 striking junior doctors

Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh government has terminated the services of over 1,100 junior
doctors for continuing their strike, declared illegal, and has asked other medicos to join
duty or face a similar fate.

Medical Education Minister Shivkant Ojha said 885 doctors were served with notices on
Saturday and 222 on Friday.

Nearly 1,700 junior doctors, belonging to seven medical colleges in the State, have been on
strike since April 21 demanding implementation of the Fifth Pay Commission
recommendations.

The Minister said the medicos' demands were not justified as junior doctors in Uttar
Pradesh were better paid compared to their counterparts in other States.

#7. Bodos massacre 14 Santhal adivasis

Guwahati: A heavily-armed Bodo mob shot and hacked to death 14 Jharkhandi Santhals
and injured four others in an early morning ambush in western Assam's Kokrajhar district
on Sunday, increasing the possibilities of yet another outbreak of ethnic warfare between
the two communities in less than two years.

In a desperate bid to prevent escalation of violence between the two communities, the
authorities have ordered the Army, already in the area, to move into sensitive parts of the
district and stage flag marches.

A bloody Bodo-Santhal feud that raged for a fortnight beginning on May 13, 1996 had
claimed more than 200 lives. The State authorities are worried because Sunday's attack
appears to be in retaliation for the April 27 killing of four Bodos by Santhal adivasis in the
same district.

Assam Chief Secretary Pranab Bora told this correspondent that the district administration
had already been put on alert following the April 27 incident.

"The area is very vast and we are trying our best by utilising all resources at our disposal to
prevent possible Santhal retaliation or further attacks by Bodos," he said.

Kokrajhar Deputy Commissioner S Thadou said that a group of about 20 Bodo militants
waylaid a private bus coming from village Saralpara to Kokrajhar at around 9 on Sunday
morning in the Ribu reserved forest.

The attackers, armed with machetes, spears and shotguns, ordered the passengers, most of
them Santhals, to disembark and then unleashed the massacre.

Seven men and five women died on the spot while a baby girl and another person
succumbed to injuries in a hospital later. Four others are still in hospital in a critical
condition.

The incident took place near Ultapani, about 35 km from Kokrajhar. Several of the
passengers managed to escape the wrath of the marauding Bodo mob. No one has so far
claimed responsibility for the killing.

The incident has heightened tension in the district as a total of 19,000 Santhal refugees are
still living in four government-run relief camps in Kokrajhar district.

Nearly two lakh Bodo and Santhal tribals had taken shelter in relief camps in Kokrajhar and
the adjoining district of Bongaigaon during the 1996 riots. While the rest have since been
rehabilitated or sent back home, 19,000 of them are living a hand-to-mouth existence at the
relief camps even today.

#8. Cable TV to reign supreme as DTH mired in red tape

New Delhi: The fears of cable operators that their businesses would be affected by the
introduction of new technologies like direct-to-home television are unfounded as "the
balance of power is not likely to shift from the local cable operators in the short-term."

The Salomon-Smith Barney report on Asia-Pacific Television released recently says that the
key to effect such a shift is likely to be the introduction of new competing distribution
services.

Furthermore, DTH television is too expensive to have a wide and significant impact on the
power of cable operators, and DTH satellite operators will have to offer an increasing
number of channels, apart from subsidising a large portion of household hardware costs, to
make any impact.

But the report says India may find it very difficult to attract more investment in the
television industry unless steps are taken to remove regulatory bottlenecks affecting the
growth of digital television technology.

"We fear that the licensing and allocation of frequencies towards DTT may be mired in
bureaucracy for several years - we do not expect DTT to be introduced in India until after
2005. However, should our predictions about red tape not be realised, free DTT could do
much to break up the monopolistic power of the cable operators."

India for the moment maintains a somewhat hostile stance towards foreign ownership, "we
expect a meaningful liberalisation to occur in our forecast horizon," the report says.

But the report also says that the TV market is expected to grow to Rs 12,900 crore by the
year 2005, and the Indian market represents the greatest medium-term and long-term
commercial opportunity in the television industry in the Asia-Pacific region.

Estimates show a nominal real average annual revenue growth of 18.6 per cent and
compound average growth rate of 25 per cent in local currency terms over 1995, when the
estimated commercial revenue level was Rs 1,300 crore.

Television advertising expenditure in India is expected to rise from Rs 600 crore in 1995 to
Rs 6,450 crore by the year 2005, showing a compound average growth rate of 26.8 per
cent.

The reasons for the Indian market to be so inviting are its "historical openness to foreign
culture" and use of English, rising TV penetration rates, rising income, and rising
consumption.

With the growth, "there is room within this revenue pie to accommodate significant growth
in free TV and pay TV. By 2005, we expect a multi-hued TV environment: digital will
co-exist with analog while cable and satellite will have marked their niches as terrestrial TV
continues to take the bulk of revenues," the report adds.

The report further adds that though free TV will take at least 90 per cent of the total
advertising revenue in 2005, Doordarshan will lose some share despite an increase in its
offerings.

#9. 20 held for spreading AIDS scare

Chennai: In a massive drive against rumour mongers who spread a false notion on the
dreaded disease AIDS, police arrested 20 persons in three villages in Chengalpattu east and
deployed Home Guard personnel to appeal to the public not to be swayed by such
rumours.

The drive followed recent violent incidents in Senneerkuppam and Thiruverkadu villages
near here.

One person was burnt alive in the first incident and a teen-aged girl was attacked in the
second one following rumours that they spread the Human Immunodeficiency virus, that
caused the dreaded Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome disease through syringes.

As several villages in Chengalpattu East district were in the grip of fear psychosis
following these rumours, the police swung into action and arrested 10 persons in
Maduravoil, seven in Poonamallee and three in Korattur, police sources said.

The police have warned of stringent action against those attacking strangers and deployed
250 Home Guard personnel in the villages to interact with the public, dispel the notions on
the spread of the AIDS disease.

Besides this, police also through the public address system advised the people not to fall
prey to such rumours. Meanwhile, a voluntary organisation, which had organised a puppet
show in Senneerkuppam to dispel myths and allay fears about AIDS, had decided to
organise such shows.

#10. Stoning ritual may be changed for Hajis

New Delhi: Indian Muslim clerics belonging to both Shia and Sunni sects would soon
formulate an edict allowing the Haj pilgrims more time to pelt stones at the three "Shaitans"
in the holy city of Mecca.

The move follows a stampede at Al Jamrat, 10 km from Mecca, during the pelting of
pebbles at the pillar, symbolising the "shaitan" on April 9. Thousands of pilgrims were
eager to accomplish the ritual before the sunset, as per the custom.

About 24 Indian pilgrims had died in the incident. The Muslim religious leaders here have
taken a serious note of the incident. They felt that if the pilgrims had more time to perform
the ritual the accident could have been avoided.

The Indian Ulemas (scholars) are now likely to assemble in the second week of June to
prepare the broad outlines of a unified approach to the issue of allowing more time to the
pilgrims.

The new formulation is expected to be in consonance with the proposed fatwa being
formulated by the highest body of the Muslim scholars in Saudi Arabia.

The Delhi Haj Committee chairman, Chiraguddin Qureshi, who had earlier submitted a
report on the death of Indian Hajis in Mina fire tragedy last year, told Deccan Chronicle on
Sunday that opinions did not vary on extending the time for performing the stone-pelting
ceremony. "There is no absolute order in this regard".

He said that as per the current practice, the ceremony starts at about 12:15 in the afternoon
and has to come to an end by sunset the same day.

If the changes in the norms are unanimously endorsed by the Muslim clerics of the world,
pilgrims would be allowed to continue through the midnight till the sunrise next day.

This would, naturally, ease the scramble among the pilgrims and reduce the risk of a
stampede. The consultations among the scholars are likely to begin after the completion of
the Haj by the middle of the next week.

#11. Fresh cracks found at Tehri dam site

Tehri: Marred by controversies ever since its inception, the ambitious 2400-MW Tehri
dam project has given rise to a fresh debate with cracks having developed around the
treated structure at the project site, claimed to be unsafe in the event of a strong quake by
those opposed to the venture.

Following heavy rains, two sections of the treated structure near the control shaft gate
reportedly developed fissures around 10 days back with the collapse believed to have been
caused by the sinking in of a section of the mountain-face, said to be about 50 metre by 30
metre in size.

"The first crack in the structure was noticed around six months back but was not
considered a serious matter by the authorities,'' eminent environmentalist Sunderlal
Bahuguna, currently spearheading the movement against the Rs 4,500-crore project, said
on Sunday.

Last month, the area around the control gate shaft started sinking in, Bahuguna said
adding, the Tehri Hydro Development Corporation officials filled the depressions with
truckloads of sand.

The sand did not help and the depression grew deeper despite the damage control exercise
at the geologically fragile project site, Bahuguna alleged. THDC officials, however, have
denied cracks or damage to the structure near the control gate shaft.

The THDC officials have argued that the actual structure had not even taken shape and
termed the reports of damage as "motivated statements.''

Rajeev Nayan, another anti-dam activist, said the work around the control gate shafts had
been stopped following the damage, but officials said more pressing work had led to the
shifting of the focus from that site.

The officials said the removal of loose rock had resulted in a depression which was in no
way a damage. Rajeev alleged that authorities were giving contradictory statements.

"When there were initial cracks, they said these were no reason for worry. When damage
worsened the officials argued the structure was a temporary one and now with more
fissures having emerged, they say the cracks, the depression and the collapse were
intentional,'' he alleged.

The anti-dam activists also alleged that the corporation officials were trying to hush up the
matter.

#12. Trail of counterfeit notes ends in Madurai

Nagpur: The counterfeit 100-rupee notes found at the Oriental Bank of Commerce here in
January last led the Nagpur police on a trail through three other States and were found to
have originated in Madurai.

The chief manager of the bank's branch had lodged a complaint with the Sadar police on
January 13 that 210 fake notes were found in the cash cabin of the cashier.

During the investigation, the police arrested seven persons. Their interrogation revealed
involvement of one Raman Talwar of Hyderabad and a police party from Nagpur rushed
there.

The party found that Talwar, who was arrested earlier by Hyderabad police, was later
murdered. The police there, however, had recorded his statement which led them to
Madurai.

Further investigation revealed that the fake 100-rupee notes were those circulated by one
Sundervel Nadar who was arrested at Madurai in 1991 in that connection.

A printing press and other paraphernalia for printing fake notes were also seized then.
Nadar was arrested in a similar case in Rajasthan and is in Jodhpur jail in that State.

The notes that surfaced in Nagpur were found to be of the same series as those circulated
by Nadar, a police press release here on Sunday said, adding that further investigations on
other links in the chain were on.

#13. Victim's father, grandfather collude with rapists

Chandigarh: Twenty-year-old Rani Kaur was abducted, forced into a nikaah (marriage)
and then gang-raped by her husband and his friends. Only four days later, she was given a
talaq, and, thrown - profusely bleeding - in the fields outside her village Kot Kalan
near Khanna town in Punjab.

Incredibly, Rani's own father Bachan Din and grandfather Ramzan colluded with the
rapists. But, even more disturbing, is the fact that eight whole days after a formal complaint
was made, the Khanna district police has deliberately avoided arresting the culprits, and
senior Punjab ministers have been putting pressure on the victim to work out a monetary
settlement with her tormentors!

On April 20 morning, all by herself at home, Rani was busy cooking the day's meal at
home. Her three younger brothers and mother Majeeda Kaur were out working as labour to
harvest wheat on a local landlord's farm.

Around 9 am, six men arrived, dragged her out and bundled her away from the village in a
Maruti van. Besides her estranged father and grandfather, the kidnappers included an
Ahmedgarh-based firewood merchant Hassan Mohammad and his son Sikandar Ali, and
two others, Yusaf Ali and Billoo Khan.

According to Rani, she was driven to her grandfather's house in village Bhadson where,
despite her many protests, she was threatened and forced to put thumb impressions on a
nikaahnama which documented her marriage with Sikandar Ali.

Later she was driven to Hassan Mohammad's house at Ahmedgarh where for four
agonizing days she was repeatedly raped by Sikandar, Yusaf and Billoo.

"They would hold me down, gag my mouth and rape me. I was kept apart from the rest of
the household, locked up in a room on the top floor," Rani said. All through her nightmare,
Rani said, she was intermittently coaxed and threatened to sign an affidavit stating that she
had married Sikandar voluntarily.

Rani kept refusing to sign and told her captors that even if they forced her, she would
disown the document at the first opportunity she got. Four days later, on April 24 when all
their threats failed to work, Rani's mother Majeeda was brought to the Ahmedgarh house
and both of them were physically held down while their thumb impressions were taken on
a takaqnama.

Neighbours and friends rushed her to the Civil Hospital at Khanna where for reasons that
defy rational explanation, the doctors consented to conduct a detailed medical examination
only three days later, on April 28.

However, the doctor on duty, Iqbal Kaur, stated before several witnesses that "the girl
Rani has clearly been gang-raped."

On April 25, Majeeda Kaur, who had already made several unsuccessful attempts to
register a formal complaint with the local police station, contacted Congress Minorities Cell
chairman, Dilavar Khan, who helped Rani lodge an first information report against her
rapists.

However, the policemen at the Sadar thana in Khanna district, who had recorded Rani's
statement in the Civil Hospital on April 25, put down April 28 as the date of the first
information report, which records the date of the abduction as April 24 instead of April 20.
In a surprising display of courage, Rani Kaur said she will not rest until she sees her
rapists behind bars.

#14. Abdul in chains and bitten by teacher!

New Delhi: When six-year-old Abdul Rehman of Multan was rescued from a deeni
madaris (religious school), he had 27 deep wounds on his body and was suffering from
gangrene.

He said his teacher, Qazi Ajmal, used to take him into his private chamber in the mosque,
strip him and dig his teeth into his naked body. There are 5,500 deeni madaris (religious
schools) in Pakistan. These institutions were not concerned with imparting to the children
all round knowledge.

They are missionaries in the narrow sense of the term. They aim to pass on their corpus of
sectarian beliefs and to raise a new generation hardened and militant in its devotion to those
beliefs, says the State of Human Rights in 1997 report by the Human Rights Commission
of Pakistan.

Several of these institutions were also known to send volunteers to fight alongside the
Taliban in Afghanistan (and also reportedly to "Pak-occupied Kashmir"). In one instance, a
13-year-old in Karachi was sent off to Afghanistan within days of his admission and
without any reference to the parents.

The father, surprised at the discovery, petitioned the high court which issued notices to the
principal, the IG police and the federal ministries of interior and foreign affairs. It took
several days for the institution to trace the whereabouts of the child in Afghanistan and have
him returned.

The treatment inside these seminaries is harsh, even cruel. At many such schools, the
students were kept in chains. Mohammad Azam Dogar, 14, of Madressah Behalvia of
Shujaabad became a subject of newspaper headlines when he escaped from captivity and
sought to release himself of his chains by positioning them under the railway tracks.

He was cut to pieces by the train. Sajjad Mahmood, who escaped from Jamia Madina
Faiz-i-Alam in Rawalpindi with chains still on his legs and torture marks all over his body,
was spotted by someone and released from the chains.

Violence against children was not confined to these schools. A child employee at a video
shop in Shahdara was badly beaten up, hung up and scorched with an electric iron by the
owners on suspicion of theft. Police atrocities on children were also high.

Ten-year-old Arshad Kaka, a Christian of Shaukat Town, was picked up on an allegation
that he had stolen a tractor tyre and tortured for three days in a police station. People of the
area demonstrated on the streets against the police.

One youth, Mohammad Ali, 18, of Kahna died of police torture. Another sad case was that
of Mujahid, 12, of Multan who was actually making his first attempt at stealing. He was
trying to unscrew the faucet of a tap because he and his three brothers had not eaten for
three days and he was desperate for money.

What he got instead was 15 days of kicks, blows and lashes at the hands of the police. He
was eventually rescued when a newspaper offered to stand surety and also gave him a job
in its office. According to the report, half the male and nearly three-quarters of the female
population of over 10 years of age is unable to read.

#15. Bad planning affects health system: Study

New Delhi: Despite half a century of efforts to improve health care in the country, India
is saddled with enormous health problems primarily due to lack of planning and
coordination, says The Lancet, a leading medical journal published in the United Kingdom.

One tuberculosis patient dies every minute while AIDS, malaria, diarrhoeal diseases,
cancers and nutritional disorders claim thousands of lives, according to a review of India's
health profile done by a panel of 13 eminent Indian medical researchers from various
disciplines.

On the brighter side, however, is the successful example of Kerala where high female
literacy has helped curb population growth and improve the health status.

India has 14 million tuberculosis patients, 70,000 infected with the AIDS virus, 50 million
hypertensives and 6 million chronic hepatitis cases, the journal said.

#16. Teen pregnancies on the rise: Study

Bangalore: About 16 per cent of unmarried men and 11 per cent of unmarried women did
not know that a baby was delivered through the vagina. Yet adolescent pregnancy outside
marriage is on increase in India.

Only 14 per cent women could take the lead and ask for sex on particular occasion. Forty
per cent of women who are in their adolescence have found it difficult to decline sex with
their husbands even if they feel strongly against it.

India has a population of 190 million adolescents out of which 36 per cent adolescents in
the age group of 13-16 are married. As many as 64 per cent of those in the age group of
17-19 are already mothers.

These were some of the startling findings that resulted out of a study on adolescents'
sexuality and fertility in India undertaken by the International Centre for Research on
Women, a non- profit organisation based in Washington and funded by the Rockfeller
Foundation, a US based organisation.

The study was conducted over a period of two years in India, with five major institutes
undertaking the project in different parts of India. The institutes are Tata Institute for Social
Sciences, Mumbai, KEM Hospital and Research Centre, Pune, Foundation for Research in
Health Systems, Ahmedabad, Christian Medical College, Vellore and Swasthya Project
New Delhi.

The studies was directed towards addressing adolescent reproductive health, particularly in
the context of their limited choices and decision making opportunities.

According to Shangon Das Gupta, executive director of Communication for Development
Learning, a research agency and media co-ordinator for the ICRW, "the results of these
studies will be presented at a two-day conference, to be held at Bangalore on May 6 and 7.

About 75 delegates from the US, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other underdeveloped countries
are expected to participate in the conference. "She said that Bangalore was chosen a venue
for the conference keeping in mind the cosmopolitan nature of the city.

"Bangalore has an audience which can absorb this kind of subject unlike other cities of
India. " she added. Among many other aspects, the findings clearly indicate that adolescent
girls and boys face limited choices and decision making opportunities regarding their
reproductive health due to numerous social and cultural constraints, said Gupta.

The study also reveals that most of the youngsters are still dependent on mass media and
family elders. The ICRW aims to frame policies on reproductive and recommend it to the
State governments.

#17. Premature babies get a fresh breath of life

New Delhi: Indian paediatricians have developed a cheap chemical that may give a new
life to almost two lakh premature babies who die every year in the country because their
tiny, weak lungs cannot function properly at birth.

The lungs of these tiny babies do not contain a chemical called Surfactant which keeps the
lungs open and allows normal breathing. The babies' breathing becomes fast and laboured,
leading to what is called Respiratory Distress Syndrome or Hyaline Membrane Disease''
and, eventually, death.

Besides artificial breathing support through a ventilator, the babies' lungs have to be
infused with the Surfactant which is at present imported only by few private hospitals.

A two-dose Surfactant treatment typically needed to save babies with RDS costs Rs 30,000
to Rs 40,000 at present. A team led by Vinod Kumar Paul, additional professor at the
Department of Paediatrics at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences here, has developed
an indigenous Surfactant from goat's lung, which costs a fraction of the imported chemical.

The cost of the two-dose therapy can be brought down to less than Rs 500 with the Indian
Surfactant, making it affordable even in district hospitals, Paul said.

#18. AROUND THE STATES

Non-bailable warrant issued for for Ratan Tata

Jamshedpur: Non-bailable arrest warrants have been issued against Telco chairman
Ratan Tata, Telco Workers Union general secretary Gopeshwar Lal and 15 others for
failure to appear in court in connection with a complaint regarding misappropriation of
union funds. The court had earlier issued several summons to the accused.

One killed, 4 hurt in Tamil Nadu blast

Madurai: One person was killed on the spot and four injured in an explosion at a
fireworks unit at Gangakulam near Sivakasi in Virudhunagar district of Tamil Nadu. Police
said the mishap occurred when the workers were engaged in manufacturing crackers.

Tourist treasure hunt on the Net

Mumbai: Microsoft, Rediff on the Net and Citibank have launched the first-over on-line
treasure hunt for Internet users in India. The treasure hunt, "Explore Your Country", takes
armchair travellers who visit http. //www. rediff. com/treasure on a search for clues hidden
across Rediff on the Net's travel website. The contest is open till May 8. The prizes include
an all-expense paid trip for two to Goa.

Ramanand Sagar gets Raj Kapoor award

Mumbai: Fortyeight years after he wrote the story of Raj Kapoor's Barsaat, renowned
film-maker Ramanand Sagar was presented the first Raj Kapoor award for excellence in
cinema. The award was presented by Maharashtra Chief Minister Manohar Joshi. Sagar,
81, said he was grateful to "amchi Mumbai," whose people had held him "close to their
heart for the last 50 years since he came to the megapolis as a refugee from Lahore with Rs
15 in my pocket."

7 killed as mini-bus overturns

Bhopal: Seven passengers, including four women and a child, were killed and 27 others
injured when an overloaded mini-bus, overturned near village Niwariya Jod on
Sehore-Shyampur road in neighbouring Sehore district.

Police said the driver lost control and hit a tree as the private mini-bus overcrowded with
nearly 70 passengers. District Collector I S Baghel has sanctioned an ex-gratia assistance of
Rs 2,000 each to the families of the deceased and Rs 1,000 each to the injured.

Cop held for theft of van, mobikes

Nagpur: A policeman, believed to be the brain behind the theft of a van, has been arrested
by the city Crime Branch detectives. The police, investigating the theft of the van about a
month ago, found that several raids they conducted on suspects based on reliable
information proved futile as information about the raid used to leak out.

Finally they nabbed one Rajendra Thakre who during interrogation revealed the
involvement of police constable Ashok Sukhdeo Wagh of Ganga Jamuna police outpost in
the city's red light area, police said.

The stolen van, with changed colour and a fake number plate, was also recovered. Two
stolen motorcycles were also seized from the constable's possession. The Police
Commissioner has suspended the constable who was arrested on April 28.

#19. DOWN SOUTH

3 burnt alive as bus bursts into fire

Perambalur: Three persons including a woman were charred to death and 41 others
injured when a State Transport Corporation bus burst into flames after it hit a roadside tree
and overturned at Chepakkam on the Tiruchirapalli-Chennai national highway, near here.

Youth drowned in Bay of Bengal

Pondicherry: A youth hailing from Tirupur in neighbouring Tamil Nadu was drowned in
the Bay of Bengal here on Sunday. According to police sources, the youth, Kannan (24),
who had come along with seven of his friends on a tour, accidentally fell and was carried
away.

On hearing the cries of his friends and fire service personnel rushed but could not rescue
him. The body was sent to the Government General Hospital for post-mortem.

Kumbabishekam at Kulithalai

Karur: The Mahakumbabishekam of the famous Shri Kadambareswarar temple at
Kulithalai, near here, was performed on Sunday after a gap of 36 years. State Ministers K
N Nehru, Pulavar Senguttuvan and Karur Collector S Ayyar were present.
--------------------------------------------------------
Copyright  1996 [Deccan Chronicle]. All rights reserved.
--------------------------------------------------------


 DECCAN HERALD

                                                                                   Monday, May 4, 1998


#20. Draft resolution skirts contentious issues Hindutva to remain cornerstone of BJP's policy

                                             DH News Service
                                          GANDHINAGAR, May 3

THE BJP leadership today firmly committed itself to pursuing Hindutva as cultural nationalism but the draft political resolution at the
party`s two- day national council session skirted contentious issues like Ayodhya, Article 37 and Uniform Civil Code.

Newly-elected President Kushabhau Thakre, who assumed reins of the party today from Mr L K Advani at the start of the session,
said: ''The BJP, which is inheritor of the legacy of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, owes its birth to the idea of nationalism. This is the core
of ideology; for us India is one nation, one people and one culture.``

'All-inclusive' concept

Mr Thakre, in his presidential address, rejected criticism of cultural nationalism as being exclusive and communal and said it was an
all-inclusive concept and was in perfect harmony with the true meaning of secularism.

Mr Thakre also reiterated the party`s commitment to pursuing the National Agenda of the ruling alliance.

Consensus underscored

Later, the draft political resolution, moved at the session by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh asserted that for the BJP-led
government at the Centre an approach of consensus and co- operation was the cornerstone for realising the goals spelt out in the
National Agenda.

''It may be difficult for the party to go beyond the confines of the National Agenda because a coalition government functions under
many compulsions. We have to be realistic about the situation and our workers must realise working as part of a coalition, the BJP
can only do this much and no more,`` Mr Thakre said, presumably alluding to some of the party`s key planks like Ayodhya, Article
370 and uniform civil code which found no mention in the speech.

Allusion

Significantly, however, he said: ''There are other issues (other than those mentioned in the National Agenda) which need to be
resolved and I am sure Shri Vajpayee and Shri Advani will do that successfully.``

Though the party was committed to the National Agenda and understood the compulsions of coalition politics, ''these compulsions
cannot force us to compromise on basic principles.``

Mr Thakre, however, made it abundantly clear that the party`s top priority would be to ensure its consolidation as the leading ruling
party at the Centre. To this end, he underlined the need to bring closer the partners in the ruling alliance, a task in which the BJP`s
responsibility was very high.

This was a challenge before the party, he said, adding if this challenge was met successfully, newer opportunities would come the
BJP`s way in future.

Adversaries

He said the BJP`s rivals would seek to take advantage of every opportunity to bring down the Government. ''They are bound to
resort more and more to conspiratorial methods to achieve their objective`` to dislodge the Government about which the party would
have to be vigilant, he said.

However, while the consolidation of the ruling alliance was important, the new party chief cautioned, unless the bickerings among
the ruling alliance partners that started from day-one were stopped there was the danger of this alliance likened to a quarrelling
business house where some partners do not see eye to eye with others.

Although there has been speculation that the party organisation might seek to maintain some distance from the Government in view
of its coalition character, Mr Thakre spelled out that the BJP would have to function as a party of the ''establishment.``

It has to provide the Government with ''direction and perspective; and, serve as a bridge between the Government and the people.
With a view to co-ordinate between the party and the Government, a four-member panel, consisting of Prime Minister Atal Behari
Vajpayee`s political advisor Pramod Mahajan, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Madan Lal Khurana outgoing general secretary
Venkaiah Naidu and Vice President Jana Krishnamoorthy, was formed at the concluding meeting of the outgoing National Executive
on Saturday.

ISI subversion in TN

Equally significant, Mr Thakre expressed doubts about the DMK Government`s ability to check the subversive activities of
''ISI-backed Islamic fundamentalist groups in Tamil Nadu. ''The Tamil Nadu State Government appears to be unable to cope with
this problem whose magnitude is multiplying with each passing day.``

There were irrefutable evidence that the ISI has been fomenting trouble in various parts of the country like Jammu and Kashmir, the
North-East, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. He blamed the successive eight governments at the Centre for turning a
blind eye to these developments.

Development of missiles

Mr Thakre also made no specific mention about the induction of nuclear weapons but asserted that the country should not succumb to
Western pressures on the manufacture and deployment of Agni and Prithvi missiles in view of the Pakistani test-firing of Ghauri
missile. The move to establish a national security council was in the fitness of things, he said.

In his long winding address, Mr Thakre touched on the party`s commitment to the principles of nationalism, swadeshi and swava
lambhan (self-reliance), creation of Uttaranchal, Vananchal and Chhattisgarh states, 33 per cent reservation for women, review of the
Constitution without changing its basic structure and grant of greater autonomy to the states.

On the organisational front, he said the party`s target would be to reach out to newer geographical areas and social sections.

He urged the minority communities to join the party and not view it from the eyes of its adversaries. He sought to dismiss the charge
that the BJP was being remote-controlled by the RSS.

The resolution hailed the historic transfer of power at the Centre to India`s first truly non- Congress government under the leadership
of Mr Vajpayee.

It said the recent general election had changed the course of Indian politics and steered the nation`s destiny in the right direction by
giving the BJP and its alliance partners the mandate to form a stable and dynamic government.

'Declare assets'

The resolution called for setting new standards in public life through action. Therefore, the national council called upon all BJP
ministers to declare their assets and liabilities, keeping in view the party`s commitment to probity in public life.

It also urged expeditions enactment of the Lok Pal Bill so that public servants can be made accountable. The government must
undertake suitable legislative changes to speed up cases of prosecution against public servants facing corruption charges.

Earlier, the national council meeting commenced with a customary hoisting of the party flag, followed by the outgoing President L K
Advani formally handing over the charge to Mr Thakre in the presence of Prime Minister A B Vajpyaee and other party`s frontliners.

The session is being attended by about 2,500 delegates, including Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, outgoing President L K
Advani, former president Murli Manohar Joshi, BJP Chief Ministers Kalyan Singh and Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Union ministers,
state leaders, MPs, MLAs and elected council members.
---------------------------------


#21. Rs.750 per hectare relief to farmers likely

                                             DH News Service
                                            BANGALORE, May 3

The State Cabinet is reported to have taken a decision to pay Rs 75 per hectare to farmers suffering crop loss on account of vagaries
of nature and spurious pesticides, subject to a condition that the loss should be 65 per cent of the normal crop.

According to informed sources, the Cabinet on Saturday also decided to limit the compensation to four hectares (10 acres) and
Rs.3,000 per farmer. The total expenditure on the compensation package is estimated to be around Rs.15 to Rs.20 crore, it is learnt.

It may be recalled that the opposition parties in both Houses of the State Legislature had held up proceedings demanding
implementation of recommendation made in Joint House Committee`s (JHC) interim report for paying Rs.500 per acre (or Rs.2,000
per hectare), subject to a maximum of Rs.2,500 for every farmer.

The Government, which had already announced compensation of Rs.500 per hectare, was forced to withdraw its decision and make
an assurance to enhance the relief in the light of the Joint House Committee`s recommendation.

Chief Minister J H Patel had assured the opposition members that a decision to increase the amount of relief will be taken at a Cabinet
meeting scheduled for May 2, though he had termed the JHC`s rcommendation as ''unscientific.``

However, the enhanced amount decided at the recent Cabinet meeting falls short of the amount recommended by the interim report.

Meanwhile, the Government has officially maintained that the Cabinet decision on increase of compensation will be announced in
both the Houses of the State Legislature only on May 6, when the legislature is scheduled to reconvene.

NO PROBE INTO UKP: The Cabinet is also understood to have decided against conceding to the Opposition demand for
ordering a CBI inquiry into the alleged irregularities in the execution of UKP.

Several Congress(I) leaders, particularly former Union minister and MP R L Jalappa, have alleged irregularities in the UKP and
sought a CBI inquiry.

The recommendation of the recent estimates committee of the State Legislature for ordering a CBI probe in the reported UKP
irregularities has served as fuel to the already raging fire in the matter.

The Cabinet is learnt to have carefully studied the estimates committee report and found that only three members including its
Chairman Vaijyanath Patil had signed the report. A few ministers participating in the Cabinet meeting are said to have pointed out that
several reports had been ignored in the past too.
----------------------------

#22. SIFTING GRAIN FROM CHAFF

                                   Sonia revamps Congress

                                          By Nitish Chakravarty

THE BJP leadership is learning through an agonising process that governing is a lot more difficult than playing the role of an
opposition party. Far from being the usual post-nuptial honeymoon period after climbing to power, the past six weeks have been
extremely gruelling for the BJP leadership. At the other end of the political spectrum Mrs Sonia Gandhi has over the past six weeks
been trying to master the ropes of political powerplay. Ever since taking over in dramatic circumstances as Congress president in
March, which the AICC ratified at a special session last month, Mrs Gandhi`s top priority has been revival of the Gandhi family style
in shaping and running the party. All the steps she has taken to give the party a new look have been marked by caution. Two
indicators are quite focused. One, Mrs Gandhi is reluctant to reopen old wounds; and, two, she does not want to give an impression
that some are favourites and others not.

Cosmetic changes

Even as the changes Mrs Gandhi has effected in the Congress Working Committee are cosmetic, she has not gone out of her way to
reward loyalists or cast away party leaders perceived to have been lukewarm, if not antagonistic. On the contrary her even-
handedness may be viewed in some circles as a sign that she is still in the process of measuring how deep is the water. As a matter of
fact some of those who consider themselves as the most loyal soldiers of the Gandhi family may feel that they have not got their due.

The only drastic change she has made in the top hierarchy is abolition of the extra-constitutional post of vice-president. Indira Gandhi
innovated the post of working president to offload some of the burden of holding the two posts of prime minister and Congress
president. Under her Kamalapati Tripathi was the working president for some time. Indira Gandhi did not give the post constitutional
authority.

Rajiv's legacy

Rajiv Gandhi appointed Mr Arjun Singh as vice-president to take on the day-to-day management of the party. The post was not filled
up after Mr Arjun Singh joined the government. Years later Mr Sitaram Kesri appointed Mr Jitendra Prasada as vice-president.
Though the impact of bureaucratic rules and procedures on the pecking order in the Congress organisation is unmistakable, the
vice-president`s functions and duties were not clearly defined. Usually he discharged routine functions. Occasionally the president
gave him special tasks. Mrs Sonia Gandhi apparently does not need a vice- president or working president, for unlike her
predecessors she is neither bent by age nor is she burdened with the governmental responsibility.

Mr Jitendra Prasada on his part is not likely to lose sleep over the loss of the sinecure job. Mr Pranab Mukherjee may however have
been hurt by his removal from the post of chairman of the foreign affairs department of the AICC. But Mrs Gandhi has carefully
avoided playing favourites against non-favourites. All the 10 elected to the CWC at the Calcutta session of the AICC last August are
in place. In the nominated category she has made some changes, and dropped Orissa Chief Minister J B Patnaik and Mizoram Chief
Minister Lal Thanhawla. If Mr Patnaik had seen the writing on the wall and vacated the post of PCC president before the last general
election or at least before Mr K Karunakaran`s recent visit to Bhubaneswar on a fact finding mission, he might have not have been
ticked off. But Mr Patnaik held on to both offices, presumably fearing that if he vacated one, the other would become shaky. In the
event he has been eased out of the CWC. He may also have paid the price of inviting Mr Narasimha Rao to campaign for his wife at
Berhampur in Orissa. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh`s future is also at stake.

With Mr P A Sangma`s rise as the new star in the north-eastern firmament with a prominent presence at the centre-stage of national
politics, Mr Lal Thanhawla became redundant in the party`s north-eastern outpost. While renominating Mr A K Antony, Mr Oscar
Fernandes and Ms Meira Kumar to the CWC, Mrs Gandhi has brought in two two new members - Mr Rajesh Pilot and Mr
Sushilkumar Shinde. Mr Pilot had lost the CWC polls in Calcutta very narrowly to Mr K Vijayabhaskara Reddy.

Pilot's skills

Mr Pilot has in the past openly locked horns with both Mr Narasimha Rao and Mr Kesri on policy matters, and his loyalty to the
Gandhi family has never been questioned. Mrs Gandhi probably wants to use his zest and organisational skills to rebuild the party at
the grassroots level in north India. The services of Mr Shinde, who has earlier served as AICC general secretary and Maharashtra
PCC chief, will possibily be used to keep Mr Sharad Pawar`s ambitions in check. Mrs Gandhi has unleashed the energies of a whole
lot of young middle level leaders by abolishing the posts of joint secretary and giving them bigger responsibilities by promoting them
to the position of secretary. The 10 new secretaries - Mr Ramesh Chennithala, Mr Mukul Wasnik, Mr V Narayanaswamy, Ms Selja,
Mr Sudhir Sawant, Mr Anil Shastri, Nr Imran Kidwai, Ms Usha Meena, Mr S C Vats and Mr Mani Shankar Aiyer - are no mere
whizkids but given a chance, can breathe new life into the party at the state level.

Dynamics of change

Unless however the Congress president addresses sooner rather than later the task of clearly defining the responsibilities of the
general secretaries (Mr Madhavrao Scindia, Mr Tariq Anwar, Mr R K Dhawan, Ms Meira Kumar and Mr Oscar Fernandes) and the
newly appointed secretaries, the dynamics of change may lose momentum. The creation of new posts and the new opportunities now
available to relatively younger persons will have to be backed by appropriate changes in the states. The Congress leadership is not in
favour of organisational elections from the grassroots level upwards. The so-alled organisational polls held after Mr Narasimha Rao
took over as Congress president were gerrymandered. Mr Rajesh Pilot complained at the Calcutta AICC that the CWC polls were
rigged. No proper electoral rolls exist in the party. Rival groups would like their men to fill key positions in the PCCs. The revival of
the Congress will depend on Mrs Gandhi`s success in sifting grain from chaff while choosing the PCC personnel.
-----------------------------

#23. A new lease of life for premature babies

                                          NEW DELHI, May 3 (PTI)

Indian paediatricians have developed a cheap chemical that may give a new life to almost two lakh premature babies who die every
year in the country because their tiny, weak lungs cannot function properly at birth.

The lungs of these tiny babies do not contain a chemical called surfactant which keeps the lungs open and allows normal breathing.
The babies` breathing becomes fast and laboured, leading to what is called respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) or ''hyaline
membrane disease`` (HMD) and eventually death.

Besides artificial breathing support through a ventilator, the babies` lungs have to be infused with the surfactant which is at present
imported only by few private hospitals. A two-dose surfactant treatment typically needed to save babies with RDS costs over
Rs.30,000 to Rs 40,000 at present.

A team led by Vinod Kumar Paul, additional professor at the department of paediatrics at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences
(AIIMS) here, has developed an indigenous surfactant from goat`s lung, which costs a fraction of the imported chemical.

The cost of the two-dose therapy can be brought down to less than Rs.500 with the Indian surfactant, making it affordable even in
district hospitals, Paul told PTI.

The AIIMS preparation has been found to be free of bacteria and has a shelf life of one month.

Paul`s team has tested the surfactant successfully in rat lungs where it proved that adding the goat surfactant to lungs depleted of the
natural chemical normalised breathing.

The team which reported detailes of the work in the ''Indian Journal of Medical Research`` is conducting additional biochemical and
microbiological studies in animals and hopes to begin human trials in a year`s time.

''We are looking for partners who can help us do that,`` Paul remarked.

Paul said surfactants commercially available abroad were derived either from cow`s or pig`s lungs. His team has used lungs of
slaughtered goats in view of religious taboos that may prevent some Indians from using either the bovine or pig products.

Although surfactants of human origin can be prepared from the amniotic fluid in which the baby swims in the womb, it is not
practically feasible.

He said besides the wide domestic market, the AIIMS product has tremendous export potential in developing countries of Asia,
Africa and Latin America which too cannot afford the costly Western products.

A hospital data shows that neonatal or newborn mortality accounts for almost two-third of the total infant mortality rate in India.

About 3.2 million premature babies are born every year, of whom 14 per cent suffer from HMD.

Other causes of death in newborn are infection and pneumonia, and asphyxia or suffocation during delivery.

The ongoing child survival and safe motherhood programme is trying to reduce deaths due to infection and asphyxia, which means
that HMD will emerge as the major issue in health of newborn in seven to ten years, Paul said.
---------------------------------

#24. Cong leader seeks amendments to State Debt Relief Act

                                             DH News Service
                                               HUBLI, May 3

The Karnataka Debt Relief Act (198) should be amended and the government should introduce a bill in this regard during the current
session of the State legislature so that farmers in distress can be helped, leader of the opposition in the State Legislative Council, Mr
H K Patil has demanded.

Addressing a press conference here today, Mr Patil said the Debt Relief Act was 18 years old and many changes had taken place
since then. The government should understand the gravity of the situation in which farmers of the State were placed and introduce a
bill to this effect in the on-going session of both the Houses, he suggested.

Mr Patil said that several co-operative banks in Koppal and Hubli were forcing farmers to repay their debts, going against the
government`s circular to the banks not to recover loans extended to farmers. The Congress(I) had already insisted that Chief Minister
J H Patel should lead an all-party delegation to New Delhi to apprise Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee of the prevailing situation
in the State and to direct commercial banks to convert short and medium-term loans into long-term ones.

Mr Patil pointed out that the farmers were under pressure from private money lenders also, from whom a majority of farmers had
borrowed heavily. In many cases, the property belonging to farmers who were unable to meet their debts were attached by the
money lenders. This was one of the reasons for the farmers` suicides, Mr Patil said. He urged the government to warn such money
lenders against harassing farmers to repay their debts.

The Congress leader urged the chief minister to seek reports from the deputy commissioners or divisional commissioners of Raichur,
Koppal, Gadag, Dharwad and Bijapur districts about the extent of crop loss so that compensation could be distributed to farmers of
this region along with the farmers of Gulbarga and Bidar.

Pointing out that the onset of monsoons was at hand, Mr Patil said the government should announce the compensation without delay
since farmers needed the money to purchase seeds and other essentials. He said the Congress was of the opinion that the
compensation should be Rs.1,000 per acre and not Rs.500 as recommended by the House committee.

Criticising the State government for its ''failure`` to respond to the needs of farmers, Mr Patil said the revenue, agriculture and
horticulture ministers were yet to tour the affected districts and guage the problem. The attitude of the ministers indicated the extent of
the Janata Dal government`s concern about hardship faced by farmers. The visit of the ministers concerned would have made farmers
far more confident and perhaps prevented the spate of suicides.

The government should also have spared a helicopter to the Central team to enable the team to visit the chronically affected villages in
north Karnataka, he opined.

CBI PROBE: Referring to the alleged irregularities in the Upper Krishna Project, Mr Patil said some ''big-wigs are involved`` in
the irregularities and this was the reason behind the government`s hesitation in handing over the investigation to the CBI.

The Estimates Committee headed by former minister Vaijanath Patil had clearly indicated large-scale irregularities in the execution of
contracts for smaller works and favoured an inquiry by the CBI. Even the Managing Director of the Krishna Bhagya Jala Nigama,
Mr M B Prakash, had failed to furnish details regarding the total number of piece-works allotted and amount paid to contractors for
execution of works, despite directions from Major Irrigation Minister K N Nage Gowda.

''The KBJL is a financial institution and people have a right to know about its administration,`` Mr Patil asserted.

MAHAJAN REPORT: Mr Patil said he had been told that the Maharashtra Chief Minister Manohar Joshi was bringing pressure
on the prime minister to seek the opinion of each villager on the border areas of Karnataka-Maharashtra. Mr Vajpayee should not
succumb to pressure from Mr Joshi as the Karnataka government had already made its stand clear. The prime minister should not
unnecessarily create problems since the issue had already been settled, he said.



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

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