Friday, November 30, 2007

MK should worry about TN State: Malaysian Minister

“I did not criticise Malaysian Government”

Special Correspondent

Don’t want to engage in verbal exchanges with Malaysian Minister: Karunanidhi

CHENNAI: Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi on Thursday joined issue with Malaysian Minister Nazri Aziz, who criticised him for expressing concern over the condition of Tamils in the Southeast Asian nation.

Mr. Karunanidhi said he had not criticised the Malaysian Government, but only urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to take steps for protecting the Tamils in Malaysia. “It is my duty to bring it to the notice of the Prime Minister. I have carried it out on behalf of the people of Tamil Nadu,” he said.

However, Mr. Karunanidhi said he did not want to engage in verbal exchanges with the Malaysian Minister.

Mr. Aziz was quoted as saying by the online version of The New Straits Times, Malaysia: “His [Mr. Karunanidhi’s] place is in Tamil Nadu, not Malaysia. He should worry about his own state. His own state has got problems.”

“This has got nothing to do with him ... lay off,” Mr. Aziz was stated to have commented on Wednesday.

His statement was in response to reports in the Indian media on Mr. Karunanidhi’s observations on the police action against the organisers of a rally taken out on Sunday. The Chief Minister, in his letter to the Prime Minister, wanted the Union Government to take immediate and appropriate action on the “sufferings and bad treatment” of the Tamils in Malaysia.

P.S. Suryanarayana adds from Singapore:

On the floor of the Malaysian Parliament, Ahmad Shabery Cheek, Parliamentary Secretary in the Foreign Ministry, said Indians in Malaysia were better off than those in India, when seen in the perspective of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Replying to opposition leader Lim Kit Siang, who raised the issue of Mr. Karunanidhi’s unhappiness, he said “We have many Indian workers here, and their presence is a testimony that the situation in Malaysia is far better than [that] in India.”

© Copyright 2000 - 2007 The Hindu


Mosaic structure of the Venus surface

Mosaic structure of the Venus surface

In this photo released by the European Space Agency on Nov. 28, 2007, the mosaic structure of the Venusian surface, obtained thanks to radar images from NASA's 'Magellan' spacecraft, is seen. Nearby, planet Venus is looking a bit more Earth-like wit h frequent bursts of lightning confirmed by a new European space probe. For nearly three decades, astronomers have said Venus probably had lightning, ever since a 1978 NASA probe showed signs of electrical activity in its atmosphere. But experts were not sure because of signal interference. Gaps in the Magellan data were filled in with Pioneer and Venera data. Photo: AP


Internet addiction 'can cause severe depression'

Internet addiction 'can cause severe depression'

New York, (PTI): Is your first craving in the morning for your computer mouse or do you obsessively check email in the middle of the night? If so, try to get rid of the habit, otherwise you may soon experience deep depression.

A team of international researchers has carried out a study and found that those addicted to web surfing are afflicted with Internet addiction disorder -- a pathological condition that can lead to anxiety and severe depression, the Science Daily reported.

"Internet addiction is not manifesting itself as an 'urge.' It's more than that. It's a deep 'craving.' They (the addicts) are just like anyone else who is addicted to coffee, exercise, or talking on their cellular phone.

"Sufferers of Internet addiction disorder may experience loss of sleep, anxiety when not online, isolation from family and peer groups, loss of work, and periods of deep depression," according to lead researcher Dr. Pinhas Dannon.

In fact, Dr. Dannon of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and his fellow researchers came to the conclusion after analysing the effects of Internet addiction on a group of people aged between 16 and 60.

According to their findings, teenagers and people in their 50s those suffering from the loneliness of an "empty nest" -- are at greatest risk from Internet addiction disorder. The results have been published in the 'Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology'.

"But we are saying that we need to look at Internet addiction differently. And if we don't make the change in the way we classify Internet addiction, we won't be able to treat it in the proper way," Dr. Dannon was quoted as saying.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Melting mountains

Melting mountains

in Gangotri, Uttarakhand

Will global warming dry up the Ganga, which supports 500 million people?


The snout of the glacier at Gaumukh from where the Bhagirathi emerges

The path to Gaumukh crackles with expectation. Each step over the boulders brings you closer to the glacier – the source of the mighty Ganga. Pilgrims who cannot walk make their way on horses. Hikers and tourists move about enamoured of the mysticism in the mountains. A sprinkling of sadhus whets their curiosity and spices up the trail.

In the valley below, the Bhagirathi gushes past pine and deodar trees. As you approach the glacier, the landscape becomes sparse. There are only rocks and boulders. But even here, tiny mandirs (temples) and dhabas have colonised a few corners. In India, not even the holy Mother Ganga can escape land grab.

Gaumukh, at 4,000 metres, is the source of the Bhagirathi, which joins the Alaknanda at Devprayag to form the Ganga. When you finally reach the glacier, you realise it is not a huge sheet of white ice – it is just a bunch of rocks covered in ice; a mountain face that is melting. The anticipation fizzles.

The Gangotri glacier is receding. Along the trail, ominous rocks are like tombstones marking its retreat. “Gangotri in 1891... Gangotri in 1961… Gangotri in 1991.” Its shrinking length is recorded on the rocks that once were part of the glacier.

What will remain of the Ganga? Will global warming dry up a river that supports 500 million people? The impact of the melting glaciers is still unclear. The Himalayan glaciers form the largest body of ice outside the polar caps. They are the source of seven major river systems – including the Yamuna, the Brahmaputra and the Indus.

The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which collates research about climate change from scientific work across the world, has a dire warning.

A Sivalinga put up less than a kilometre from Gaumukh. Shrines and dhabas have colonised a few places on the way to the glacier

“Glaciers in the Himalayas are receding faster than in any other part of the world and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the earth keeps warming at the current rate. Its total area will likely shrink from the present 500,000 km{+2} [square kilometres] to 100,000 km{+2} by the year 2035,” says the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, released this year.

“The current trends of glacial melts suggest that the Ganga, Indus, Brahmaputra and other rivers that criss-cross the northern Indian plain could likely become seasonal rivers in the near future as a consequence of climate change.”

But scientists studying the Gangotri glacier feel this prediction is alarmist. “There is no doubt that the glaciers are retreating, but they are not going to disappear. Nor are the rivers,” says Milap Sharma, glacial geomorphologist at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. “In recent times, glaciers have been retreating since the 19th century – the end of the Little Ice Age. Our findings show that in 1966-71, the retreat was the highest (30.4 m per year), which has reduced to 19.2 m in the last few years” (see table).

“The pace of glacier melting is slowing down, which suggests that the rate of temperature rise is also declining,” says A.K. Tangri, a glaciologist at the Remote Sensing Application Centre in Lucknow. No studies on temperature change in the Himalayas exist. In fact, proper temperature records over decades for the upper Himalayas are difficult to find. Scientists need data for more than 30-40 years to establish any clear trend. Only seven years ago, a few automated weather stations were set up.

In the rest of India (except the Himalayas), studies show that annual air temperature rose by 0.42°Celsius to 0.57°C per 100 years. The earth has warmed by 0.74°C, according to the IPCC report.

“Himalayan glaciers are not melting at an abnormal rate,” says C. Sangewar from the Geological Survey of India, which is monitoring Indian glaciers.

“The rate of recession in different climatic zones varies in different years. It can fluctuate due to several factors such as micro and macroclimate, mountain geography, size of the glacier, nature of nourishment, and so on.”

It is still unclear how the melting of the Gangotri glacier is affecting the Ganga. “Reports that the Ganga will disappear are exaggerated. Yes, the glaciers are melting due to climate change, but not at such a catastrophic rate,” says Manohar Arora, glaciologist at the National Institute of Hydrology, Rourkee. “After studying the glacier for eight years, we have found that the total water discharged into the river has not changed much. But, eight years is too short a period to establish any clear trend.”

Snow cover in the Bhagirathi basin has been diminishing since the 1980s, which means that less snow is feeding the river. “The difference between peak accumulation (after winter) and peak ablation (after melting in summer) snow cover is declining, so less melt water from the watershed area is being discharged into the Bhagirathi river,” says Tangri.

The Ganga is not totally dependent on glaciers for its water. “Most of the river’s catchment area up to West Bengal is rain-fed. Only 20,000 sq km (7 per cent) of the river basin up to Devprayag is fed by the glacier,” says Arora. “Snow and glacier melt contribute only 48 per cent to the annual flow at Gangotri and 29 per cent at Devprayag, where the Bhagirathi meets the Alaknanda to form the Ganga river. The rest is from rain water.”

“In the last few years, we have noticed that one major river channel, Raktwarn, is flowing on the surface of the glacier. This is unusual. It indicates that the melting may be quickening. Earlier, water was flowing from inside the glacier,” says Arora. “As warming continues, the entire agricultural pattern may change and our dam design parameters and flood control measures will have to be altered.”

“If viewed over a geological timescale, the glacier’s retreat is not unusual,” says Sharma, who has been studying the glacier’s movement. “Around 3,900 years back, it was at Gangotri, and has retreated just 8 km since then. The glacier has been retreating at different rates. In the intervening period, it also advanced a bit during the Little Ice Age in the 16th to 18th century. These are natural processes. The glacier will remain because it will be constantly fed by precipitation and because it is at such a high altitude.”

After Siachen (73 km long), Gangotri (28.5 km long) is the second largest of the 9,575 glaciers in the Indian Himalayas. It is a sacred spot because it was here that the Ganga (the stream of God) is believed to have touched the earth for the first time. According to mythology, goddess Ganga (the daughter of Heaven) came down to the earth in the form of a river to absolve the sins of King Bhagirath’s predecessors and help them attain moksha (salvation). Bhagirath had been in severe penance for several centuries. A stone plinth in Gangotri town is supposed to be the site where he meditated. That is why the Ganga is called Bhagirathi at its source. Siva received the Ganga in his matted locks to lighten the impact of its fall.

A Gorkha commander, Amar Singh Thapa, built the Gangotri temple in the early 18th century. In winter, the idol of goddess Ganga is taken to Mukhba, her winter abode downstream, since Gangotri is covered with snow. The entire town is deserted in the winter but is packed with pilgrims in the summer. Every year, more than 50,000 people trek to Gaumukh to bathe in the pure water at the glacier. The hike from Gangotri (a tiny tourist town at 3,000 m) to Gaumukh is 18 km.

Gangotri town itself is a tourist trap – unplanned with dingy hotels and shops springing up in tiny corners of the landscape. Though the Gangotri National Park is a protected area where cars are not allowed, tourist traffic has destroyed the forest. The trail is littered with biscuit wrappers and water bottles. In the Shravan month, in July, Gaumukh has the most number of visitors. Bhojvasa, the base camp where trekkers and pilgrims halt for the night, was named after the bhoj (birch) forests here. It is believed that the Mahabharata was written on the bark of bhoj trees. Now, Bhojvasa is bare. It is difficult to find a bhoj tree there. The local dhabas have cut them down for firewood.

If there is one thing on which all scientists and local environmentalists agree, it is that tourism here has to be stopped or strictly regulated. “Tourists should not be allowed beyond Gangotri. Right now, it is a free-for-all. People bathe in the water, cook, litter the place, leave their clothes, walk on top of the glacier. It is harming the environment,” says Arora.

“All the sewage is dumped straight into the river without treatment. This year, 12,000 chappals were left on the path to the glacier. Plastic bags are dumped without a thought,” says S.S. Tariyal of the Clean Ganga Campaign. It is believed that the Ganga’s waters remain pure for decades, but it is being polluted at the source itself. Gangotri is far from the pure, spiritual place it is supposed to be.

The Pala Maneri and Lohari Nag Pala dams are being built just 90 km from Gangotri. The blasting and tunnelling has damaged houses in this earthquake-prone area. In 1991, an earthquake in Uttarkashi killed 769 people, and there are still frequent tremors and landslides. Dams only increase the risk of earthquakes, and there are already two major dam projects on the Ganga – Maneri Bali (phase 1 and 2) and Tehri. The new dams will submerge acres of forest and agricultural and grazing lands. Already, the Tehri dam has caused widespread damage. And the government has not yet provided adequate resettlement to those ousted by the dam since the 1970s.


Pilgrims at Gaumukh during the peak season in July. But Gangotri is far from the pure, spiritual place it is supposed to be; the Ganga is polluted at the source itself

Still, the Uttarakhand government is on a dam-building spree, with almost a hundred projects planned across the State. “Instead of developing water conservation projects, the government just keeps building dams, which disturb this fragile ecology. Most dams do not even work in the winter because there isn’t enough water, so there are power cuts,” says Harshvanti Bisht of the Clean Ganga Campaign.

Smaller sources of water such as springs and glacierets are drying up because snowfall has reduced not only in Gangotri but all over the Himalayas. Smaller glaciers are receding faster than the larger ones.

The glacier area in the Chenab, Parbati and Baspa basins in Himachal Pradesh shrunk by one-fifth during 1962 to 2006, according to a study of 466 glaciers by Anil Kulkarni and his colleagues at the Space Application Centre, Indian Space Research Organisation. They found that the number of glaciers has increased owing to fragmentation. Glacierets and ice fields melted more quickly, retreating by 38 per cent.

What is ice today will be bare stone tomorrow. The rocks on the trail to Gaumukh were once part of the glacier. As it pulls back further, no one knows how it will change the Ganga. For now, the river rolls on. •

(The article is based on research under a grant from The Ashoka Trust for Ecology and Environment)


Monday, November 26, 2007

Pondicherry Cong (I) nominates Wing in-chargers

Pondicherry Cong (I) nominates Wing in-chargers

Monday November 26 2007 00:00 IST

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

B.S.Yeddyurappa sworn in as Karnataka CM

Shaky start

in Bangalore

BJP Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa tries to look confident but the ground is unstable under his feet


B.S. Yeddyurappa offers puja in his official chamber after taking the oath as Chief Minister. The swearing-in on November 12 drew the BJP’s central leaders to Bangalore

KARNATAKA’S 19th Chief Minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) first in South India, 64-year-old B.S. Yeddyurappa, took his oath of office on November 12 on the steps of the Vidhana Soudha before a huge crowd of supporters and a phalanx of central leaders of the BJP who had come to Bangalore to witness a moment of history for the party. The Chief Minister took his oath in the name of God and the farmers of the State. Four of his colleagues were sworn in with him.

This was a special occasion for the saffron party, which has had it sights set on Karnataka ever since it became an electoral and political force in 1991. Karnataka has been seen as a springboard for its expansion in the South. It ferried busloads of people from all over the State, particularly from Shimoga, the Chief Minister’s home district, to watch the event. The formal assumption of office by the BJP Chief Minister was thus a long-awaited moment, even if the party’s public image has been tarnished by the display of the naked opportunism of its leaders in the past few weeks.

If the swearing-in ceremony was an important event for the party, it was a red-letter day for Yeddyurappa, who has pursued the top gaddi quite openly and unabashedly, seeking intervention and help from sources both divine and secular. The throne was almost his on October 3, when the Janata Dal (Secular) Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy was to step down and make way for Yeddyurappa according to the terms of a power-transfer agreement worked out between the coalition partners in February 2006.

Once President’s Rule was imposed in the State on October 9, the vision of the gaddi faded away only to resurface briefly a day later when, on hearing of a possible rapprochement with the JD(S), Yeddyurappa rushed to Bangalore from Tumkur where he had just inaugurated an anti-JD(S) “Dharma Yatra”. When, on the night of October 26, Yeddyurappa was woken up by a late-night call from his arch-rival, Kumaraswamy, who asked for the hand of the BJP in a new coalition, he was more than happy to extend it.

The BJP met Governor Rameshwar Thakur on October 27 and submitted a letter staking its claim to form the government with the support of the 39-member JD(S) group. They sought revocation of President’s Rule under which the Assembly had been kept in suspended animation. Once he was sure that the proposed coalition would have the numbers, the Governor formally invited Yeddyurappa on November 9 to form the government.

Although Yeddyurappa has been exuding confidence that a BJP-led coalition will not only take office but complete its 19-month tenure, the ground is anything but firm under his feet. On coming to power, the five-member BJP Ministry announced a series of decisions that irked its coalition partner. The JD(S) was quick to announce that it would only join the new Ministry after the floor test was conducted on November 19 and that the new government could not take any major decisions before that.

Populist decisions

In the first Cabinet meeting of the new government, Yeddyurappa took several populist decisions – to distribute 4.35 lakh cycles to Standard VIII students, to issue 12.71 lakh ration cards before December 15, and so on. The Chief Minister reappointed as Advocate General Uday Holla, who had resigned from the post when President’s Rule was imposed. M. Shankar Bidri, Additional Director General of Police, Law and Order, was appointed Additional DGP (Intelligence). V.P. Baligar, a senior civil servant, was appointed Principal Secretary and Siddaiah the Chief Minister’s Secretary. The appointments drew criticism from Yeddyurappa’s political opponents, who accused him of displaying a casteist bias for his Lingayat community. No less criticised, and splashed all over the media, was Yeddyurappa’s entry into office with an elaborate “Vedic” ritual conducted by Brahmin priests in his official chamber in the Secretariat building.

The JD(S) leadership watched with alarm the actions and statements of a government that had not even proven its majority in the Assembly. A section of the JD(S) leadership floated the idea of giving outside support to the BJP Ministry, instead of joining it, as a way of distancing itself from the BJP’s “communal agenda”. If the BJP veered off course, the JD(S) could always withdraw support with justification, argued the proponents of this view.

However, the idea found few takers among JD(S) legislators, most of whom said they would have rather opted for fresh elections than give the BJP government outside support. The JD(S) then once again brought to the table the “conditions” that its national president, H.D. Deve Gowda, had drawn up as a sort of “memorandum of understanding” between the two parties.

In order to rein in the new government and prevent it from taking unilateral decisions before the JD(S) formally joined the Ministry, the party wrote to the BJP asking for a formal, written understanding based on the original 12 conditions minus one (that the party’s support to the BJP would cease if Lok Sabha elections were announced). The letter specified that Kumaraswamy must be made chairman of the coordinating committee and that the new government should not take decisions before the full complement of the Ministry was sworn in. The JD(S) sought the portfolios of Urban Development (including Bangalore City Development, which is usually held by the Chief Minister), and Mining (in exchange for Excise). The JD(S) will have 18 Ministers and the BJP 16 in the 34-member Cabinet.

Yeddyurappa quickly acquiesced to the demands, stating that his government would refrain from taking any decisions or making any major announcements. He told reporters that he would spend his time “visiting temples and mutts in the State” until the November 19 floor test. He sought four days’ time to discuss the list of conditions with the central leadership of his party. In response, the JD(S) said it would be agreeable to a joint swearing-in ceremony once the government proved its majority in the Assembly.

Although the differences between the parties appear to have been ironed out, there are several imponderables in the present situation. Deve Gowda, who deliberately kept himself out of the action during the stitching together of the new alliance, is known to be averse to it and is looking for a handle that he can use to break it. If Yeddyurappa does not commit himself to the 11-point written understanding, the JD(S) could use that to deny the BJP support during the floor test.

The second issue that could dissolve the present government is a pending disqualification motion against the JD(S) bloc. The Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Krishna, was scheduled to hear on November 17 two petitions seeking the disqualification of 37 MLAs, including Kumaraswamy, under the anti-defection law. He adjourned the hearing to November 24. However, if the Speaker, who was elected on the JD(S) ticket, chooses to disqualify the group, the Ministry will collapse. Thus, it may well be Deve Gowda who decides the future of Karnataka’s new BJP-led government.


Third front in TN - a dream or vision?

Third front in TN - a dream or vision?

Politics in Tamil Nadu has been revolving around the two major Dravidian parties, the DMK and the AIADMK, for the last four decades. Forming an alternative front to challenge their hegemony has become a dream for other political parties, including the Congress which lost power in 1967.

But a new party formed in 1989, based on the vote-bank of Vanniyars, a backward community in the northern districts of the state, has revived this dream and is hoping to lead a third front to power in the 2011 Assembly elections. Although the party has a vote-bank of only six per cent, its leader Mr S Ramadoss seems to have formulated a strategy to counter the DMK and AIADMK.

Till the 1998 Lok Sabha elections, except the AIADMK and the DMK, no party in Tamil Nadu was recognised as a regional party and the Congress was content switching alliances between the two, for a good bargain of MP seats.

Ever since DMK founder the late CN Annadurai ousted the Congress from power in 1967, riding on a wave of anti-Hindi sentiments, the AIADMK and DMK have ruled the state alternately.

After the demise of Annadurai, the DMK under Mr M Karunanidhi swept to power with a record number of 184 seats in 1971. When the party split in 1972, following the expulsion of the late MG Ramachandran, his newly formed AIADMK was voted to power in 1977, contrary to expectations that the then major opposition, the Congress, would gain from the split.

Pushed to the third spot, the Congress even stopped dreaming of a comeback till 1989. Hoping to regain its clout after the death of MGR, who was the darling of the masses, the Congress ventured to contest on its own in 1989. Despite a split in the AIADMK, the Congress finished third behind Ms Jayalalitha’s faction and then chose to go along with the united AIADMK under her in the 1991 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections held simultaneously.

The 1991 elections saw the emergence of Ms Jayalalitha following a sympathy wave due to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.

Although the Congress made occasional noises of reviving its rule, its vote share was dwindling in every election and had come down to eight per cent in the 2006 Assembly elections, which is equal to that of newly formed actor Mr Vijaykanth’s Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam and just two per cent more than Mr Vaiko’s MDMK formed a decade ago.

Hence, for the Congress reviving its rule had become a ritualistic slogan repeated at the end of public meetings, which they organise rarely, if they were not busy in factional feuds. When the main speaker at the public meeting asked the cadres to work for reviving the rule of the late Congress leader Kamaraj, the worker knows it is his party’s way of concluding a meeting, instead of singing the national anthem.

Given this background, what prompted Mr Ramadoss to dream about an alternative for the two major parties? Is there any ground for his optimism? Obviously, Mr Ramadoss’ “vision 2011” could have been driven by the fact that the weakening of the Congress did not mean that both the Dravidian parties had gained in strength. After the 1998 Lok Sabha elections, two new parties ~ the PMK and Mr Vaiko’s MDMK ~ too were able to get recognition as regional parties, polling six per cent each.

Again, the 2006 Assembly elections saw the emergence of actor Mr Vijaykanth’s DMDK, which secured a good eight per cent share of the total votes. Another actor Mr Sarath Kumar, belonging to the influential Nadar community, has recently floated his party, the strength of which is yet to be tested.

Mr Thol Thirumavalavan’s Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), is trying to shed its image of a Dalit outfit by declaring itself to be a Tamil nationalist party, hoping to broad base the party and strengthen it. The party had polled more than 200,000 votes in the Chidambaram constituency in the 2004 elections, pushing the AIADMK alliance to the third position. The BJP, contesting as an ally of the AIADMK, lost its deposit, despite the party’s senior leader Mr LK Advani, starting the campaign from there.

Going by the trends of the two Assembly elections held recently in Madurai district, a citadel of the AIADMK, ever since its inception the party seems to be struggling to keep its second position, in the face of a tough challenge from Mr Vijaykanth. In fact, only two to three per cent of votes separated the AIADMK and the fledgling DMDK. A close analysis of the results clearly shows that Mr Vijaykanth, hailed as “black MGR”, has made inroads into the AIADMK’s vote-bank.

In the 2006 Assembly elections, the AIADMK polled 32.64 per cent and the DMK 26.46 per cent of the votes. The combined strength of the DMDK, Congress, the MDMK and PMK, VCK and the Left parties adds up to about 32 per cent. This means that the two Dravidian parties can be challenged, if others joined together.

Though Mr Ramadoss has not come out with his formula, he had thrown sufficient hints that he is trying to forge strong ties with the Congress, which can be the foundation for the new front.
At present, Mr M Krishnasamy is the TNCC president; he is the father-in-law of Union Health Minister and Mr Ramadoss’ son Mr Anbumani Ramadoss. Both the PMK and Congress are strongly criticising the DMK government on the law and order situation.

Mr Ramadoss, in a recent interview to a Tamil magazine, said that a national party would be part of the new front to be formed by him. Usually the PMK, which had conducted pro-LTTE rallies, is refraining from pro-LTTE remarks, obviously wanting to get into the good books of the Congress.

In a Press meet recently, Mr Ramadoss, when asked about the AICC resolution stating that anyone who praised the Tigers in any form would be hurting the sentiments of Congress cadres, simply said “it is their view”, obviously avoiding any comment that would ruffle the feathers of Congressmen.

At the same time, Mr Ramadoss was seen with Mr Vaiko when Tamil nationalist leader Mr P Nedumaran held a fast last month demanding that the Centre should allow essential commodities to be sent to the suffering Sri Lankan Tamils through the International Red Cross Society. The PMK has good ties with VCK and has no problems with the Left parties.

The only hitch is Mr Ramadoss and Mr Vijaykanth do not like the company of each other. Another obstacle could be the tussle over the leadership of the new alliance and the unwillingness of the Congress to leave the DMK front.

Realising that the Congress may not like to take risks in the next Lok Sabha elections, Mr Ramadoss had clearly said that he would continue in the DMK front till the next Lok Sabha polls and the new front was only for the next Assembly elections.

Commenting on Mr Ramadoss’ plans, DMK leader Mr Karunanidhi had sarcastically quipped that Mr Ramadoss would solve all the law and order problems in the state when he came to power.

AIADMK supremo Ms Jayalalitha went a step further and said “everyone has the right to dream”. Whether Ramadoss’ formula is a dream or a vision will depend on the game plan of Mr Karunanidhi and Ms Jayalalitha to hold on to their present allies, the Congress and MDMK, respectively, and succeed in isolating the PMK which is aiming high.

(The author is a Special Representative of The Statesman based in Chennai)


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Jailed for labouring Child

Tubeless Tyre: MRF introduced

Tubeless Tyre: MRF introduced

Saturday November 24 2007 07:57 IST

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Life term for making, selling fake medicines

Life term for making, selling fake medicines

18 Aug 2007, 0000 hrs IST

Kounteya Sinha, TNN

Those producing and selling counterfeit and spurious drugs will face life imprisonment and/or fine of Rs 10 lakh. On the other hand, scientists violating and conducting unsafe and unethical clinical trials may soon face imprisonment of five years and a fine of Rs 20 lakh. The health ministry will table the amended Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, in the current Parliament session.

While one part of the amendment will create the Central Drug Authority (CDA), the other envisages strict punishment for violation of the ethics related to clinical research and spurious drugs. Health Minister A Ramadoss said, “The Bill to provide for stricter penalties, provision for special courts for speedy trial of drug related offences and making all drug related offences cognizable and non-bailable was referred to Parliament's Standing Committee. Its recommendations have been incorporated in the revised Bill."

He added, “A Bill is also being introduced in this session providing for the creation of CDA for strengthening the regulatory system for licensing and control of drugs.”

Even though India is becoming a destination for clinical research for pharma groups looking for faster and more efficient ways to test drugs, with the country's total market for clinical research activities expected to touch $2 billion by 2010, there is at present no law to monitor the research and drug trials being conducted within the country. “The CDA Bill will also propose centralisation of licensing system with the Central government,” Union Health Secretary Naresh Dayal said.


Medicos of TN to go on ‘fast unto death’

Medicos of medical colleges to go on ‘fast unto death’

Special Correspondent
Photo: D. Gopalakrishnan

In protest: Students of GVMC observing a relay fast inside the hospital at Adukkamparai near Vellore for the third day on Thursday

CHENNAI: Medicos of Government Medical colleges in the State have decided to go on ‘fast unto death’ from Friday after four days of protests failed to elicit a favourable response.

Medicos have been protesting since Monday this week articulating their grievances against the Union Health Ministry’s move to make a year’s service in rural areas compulsory for an MBBS degree.

After the first day of demonstrations, they started a relay fast that entered its third day on Thursday.

Two second year MBBS students of the Government Vellore Medical College (GVMC)--Jayasudha and Velvizhi--were admitted to the GVMC Hospital after they fainted on the third day of the fast. G.S. Rajesh, president of the Students’ Council, GVMC, said they were not opposed to rural service but only to the move to appoint MBBS graduates in rural areas on a salary of Rs.8000. There was no guarantee either that the job would be made permanent. Given the fact that most students, who hailed from poor families, would have to repay their educational loans on completion of their study, the offer of Rs.8000 would not be sufficient for them to repay their loan and make a living.

A pamphlet issued by the Tamil Nadu Medical Students Federation pointed out that as per the statistics furnished by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, there were 2043 community health centres, 22842 primary health centres (PHCs) and 1,37,311 health sub-centres in the country.

While 13.3 per cent posts were vacant in the PHCs, the posts of 48.6 per cent surgeons, 47.9 per cent obstetricians and gynaecologists’ posts, 46.1 per cent general doctors’ posts and 56.9 per cent child specialists’ posts were vacant in the community health centres.

Under these circumstances, the compulsory one-year rural service would lead to 29,500 doctors being deprived of employment opportunities immediately and 40,000 junior doctors losing the chance of government jobs in another 10 years, it said.

© Copyright 2000 - 2007 The Hindu


Monday, November 19, 2007

Emergency: Pakistan better than India

Emergency: Pakistan better than India

Across the Palk Straits by Kuldip Nayar

Sunday November 18, 2007 Vol.42 – No.25

Activists of civil society carry flowers to offer to deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in Islamabad. AP

"Effective dissent was smothered, followed by a general erosion of democratic values. High-handed and arbitrary actions were carried out with impunity. The nation was initially in a state of shock and then of stupor, unable to realise the directions and full implications of the actions of the government and its functionaries."

No, this is not about the emergency in Pakistan. This para is from the Shah Commission report on the emergency in India some 30 years ago. The difference between the two is that a military dictator, President General Pervez Musharraf, imposed the emergency and suspended the fundamental rights in Pakistan while an elected Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, did so in India.

Both could not brook independence of the judiciary: Musharraf acted before the judgment on his re-election as President when he was a serving soldier and Mrs. Gandhi after the judgment that unseated her for a poll crime. Yet, the biggest difference is that people in Pakistan have come out in streets and demonstrated, thousands of them. Touchingly, the citizens of Islamabad gathered to celebrate Diwali in solidarity with Justice Rana Bhagwandas.

In India, fear gripped people and they stayed indoors. Mrs. Gandhi said that not even a dog had barked. True, very few defied her rule in bazaars. Still she detained one lakh people without trial.

The press has been gagged in Pakistan. So was the case in India. But journalists have protested in Pakistan and offered themselves for arrest. Journalists in India, as L.K. Advani said after the emergency, were asked to bend, but they began to crawl. Nearly all of them fell in line.

The judiciary in Pakistan has shown guts. The majority of judges in the Supreme Court and High Courts have not taken the new oath which Musharraf dictated. Deposed Chief Justice Mohammad Iftikhar Chaudhry has urged lawyers after his house arrest to lead the movement against the military government. Judges in India caved in like journalists. The Supreme Court upheld the imposition of the emergency. Only one judge, H.R. Khanna, gave a dissenting verdict and was superseded when his turn to be the Chief Justice came.

Lawyers behaved as miserably as the judiciary. None even attempted to move a resolution at the bar council or any other place to condemn the emergency. Most of them in the country became advocates of the emergency. In comparison, lawyers are leading the protest marches even in small towns of Pakistan. More than 2000 have been detained. Aitzaz Ahsan, president of the bar council, who has challenged Musharraf's election, has been sent to solitary confinement.

Nonetheless, in India there was confidence that whenever elections were held, the perpetrators of the emergency would be punished. It happened that way. Even Mrs. Indira Gandhi was defeated at the polls.

Pakistan would have elections before January 9 as Musharraf has assured. But there is no prospect of the polls being free and fair. The last time he rigged elections in such a way that he brought in religious parties to lessen the space for the liberals. This time he would see to it that his loyal party, the Muslim League (Qaid), gets a near-majority in the National Assembly. Justifiably, all the parties have demanded that he must step down for a free and fair election to be held.

Benazir Bhutto who had reportedly struck a deal with Musharraf has also said that he must go. The amendments to the Army Act which Musharraf has made are alarming. They give wide powers to the military courts. Civilians can also be tried for a number of offences, including their expression of views. Antiquated laws that had lost their teeth through judicial reviews have been now resurrected to give military courts powers to punish people under them.

Trials will not be open to public hearings; lawyers will only be allowed to represent the accused in the capacity of a friend. Investigation will be carried out by the military personnel and ordinary rules of evidence will not apply.

The new amendments fully support the contention that Musharraf has not declared the emergency but imposed marital law and that it has pointedly targeted a vocal civil society.

General Zia-ul Haq's draconian laws have also been activated and offences under them will be tried under the Army Act. In 1984, Zia made amendments to the Penal Code making expressions of "disaffection" against the government and those "prejudicial" to Pakistan punishable. Those accused of expressions or acts that are "prejudicial" or offensive towards the government will now be tried by military courts.

The Attorney General of Pakistan has justified these amendments on the grounds that these were essential for combating terrorism and that similar laws exist in Britain and the US. First, two wrongs will never make a right. Secondly, Britain and the US have an independent judiciary that has also struck down provisions of the Patriot Act.

Military courts in Britain or the US do not try their citizens. Nor have journalists, lawyers and activists in those countries been charged with terrorism or treason. But in Pakistan police have filed reports accusing several lawyers and human rights activists of terrorism.

Similarly, no judge of the superior courts is under house arrest in those countries. Musharraf's main strength is America which has given him $10 billion in the last five years to fight against the militants.

Musharraf is reportedly keeping his top commanders happy by making them afford a luxurious life. Washington is not bothered how he rules or what he does with the money so long as he is fighting the militants. Yet a substantial section of the intelligentsia and media hands suspects him for encouraging the militants so that he is looked upon as the only dependable person to fight militancy.

The more the militants are active - they have now captured most of Swat valley, the northern part of Waziristan in Pakistan - the more dependent becomes the West on him.

In any case, Washington has seldom bothered about democracy abroad. Any person, however dictatorial, is acceptable to it if he can deliver the goods. It is a long haul for democracy to cover in Pakistan. Since its creation 60 years ago, it has been under one military ruler or the other for more than four decades.

But then the people in India too felt during the emergency that it was an endless tunnel. The alienation of the people went on building and they ousted the Congress rule, lock, stock and barrel when elections were held.

The apathy in Pakistan towards the fauj is strong. Once Musharraf takes off his uniform, which he would because of the undertaking he has given to the Supreme Court, nobody can predict what would happen. The process may begin when the notification of Musharraf's election is cleared by the Supreme Court.

Pondy Law College Reunion 1972-2007

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Probe Charges against Justice Sabharwal

People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Vol. XXXI, No.46, November 18, 2007

Probe Charges Against Justice Sabharwal

CPI(M) Seeks President's Intervention

The following is the text of the letter written by CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and leader in Rajya Sabha, Sitaram Yechury to Madam Rashtrapathi Pratibha Patil on November 2, 2007 seeking her intervention in probing the charges against Justice Sabharwal.

I AM constrained to write to seek your intervention on an important matter concerning the credibility of the judiciary in India. At the outset, it needs to be reiterated, that all of us hold our judiciary in the highest of esteem. Over the years since independence, it has earned for itself the reputation of being the most credible of the three arms of our parliamentary democracy. This is something that needs to be strengthened and any allegation or acquisition against it must be dispelled with urgency in order to consolidate modern India further.

In this context, the refusal by the Supreme Court to order a judicial enquiry into allegations of misconduct against former Chief Justice of India, Y K Sabharwal, is, indeed, disappointing and undermines the credibility of judicial accountability.

The campaign for judicial accountability and judicial reforms has for some months been raising allegations against Justice Sabharwal. These were rebutted by Sabharwal after his retirement in the print media. Hence, it was clear that the truth behind these allegations could have been established through either an enquiry or through a judicial process like a defamation suit. This, however, has not been done.

Strangely, the Delhi High Court took upon itself the responsibility to defend the Supreme Court and sentenced four media persons who raised these allegations to four month’s imprisonment. The court ruled: “We need not go into the truth or otherwise of the allegations against the former Chief Justice of India as the same in any case cannot be a valid defence to justify the attack on the Supreme Court as such.”

There are two serious problems here. First, the Indian Constitution (Article 215) empowers a High Court to deal with contempt of itself. The Delhi High Court, thus, appears to have transgressed its jurisdiction since under Article 129 of the Constitution, the apex court alone has the power to deal with contempt against itself.

Secondly, the order appears to negate an amendment brought to the Contempt of Court’s Act in 2006, following a long vigorous campaign by well-meaning lawyers and sections of the media, allowing truth to be used as a defence in contempt cases.

The apex court will surely recollect the following from a judgement delivered by a bench of the apex court headed by Justice R V Raveendran: “It should be remembered that exercise of such power results in eroding the confidence of the public rather than creating trust and faith in the judiciary.”

Disapproving the tendency among judges to treat even technical violations or unintended acts as contempt, it had said: “It is possible it is done to uphold the majesty of courts, and to command respect. But judges, like everyone else, have to earn respect. They cannot demand respect by demonstration of `power’ (of contempt)”. The bench had quoted US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, who had said two centuries ago that “the power of judiciary lies, not in deciding cases, nor in imposing sentences, nor in punishing for contempt, but in the trust, confidence and faith of the common man”.

It is this trust and faith that the judiciary needs to further strengthen in India today. Invoking the provision of contempt of court to silence the critiques of possible judicial misconduct would appear particularly indefensible in this context.

In the background of the apex court’s decision, I wish to draw your attention to the opinion expressed, on record, by Justice V R Krishna Aiyar (a former judge of the Supreme Court for seven long years) that the President of India is competent to order an enquiry in this matter. He says: “An inquiry should be conducted under the Public Inquiries Commission Act. In my view, the President should proceed in the matter in consultation with the CJI and also with Justice Sabharwal himself, who would have to come clean. It has to be a high-level inquiry, as this is a serious matter involving the entire higher judiciary alongwith Sabharwal”.

May I sincerely request you to have the matter examined and intervene in the interests of India and its democratic future.


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