An Unviable Project forced on the nation


Government should rethink the Sethusamudram project 

     DMK has set its eyes on the 2400 Crores project. What if the project is a dead waste , There is much money to be made. The time is short. Elections are due next year. Congressmen are in a bind. Lucre on one side, fear of BJP on the other.

An excerpt from TOI Editorial

        The Coast Guard chief has added a new twist to the Sethusamudram controversy. He thinks that the proposed shipping canal is vulnerable to terror strikes from non-state actors in the region. Recently, the naval chief was quoted as saying that the canal may be too small for large ships. The project has already attracted undue opposition from political parties, religious groups and environmentalists. So, is the canal project worth pursuing?

        Pro-project parties claim that Sethusamudram will boost shipping activities in the region. It can trigger an economic boom in coastal Tamil Nadu, they say. Experts have questioned these claims. The security threat may have come at a politically opportune moment for the UPA government that is under pressure from the DMK, an ally and the party in office in Tamil Nadu, to implement the project while the AIADMK, the main opposition party in TN, and the BJP, are opposed to the project for different reasons. But they have raised the security angle to push their case.
         The UPA government should ask itself if it is worth its while to push the Rs 2,600-crore project in the absence of a consensus on its viability. What is the project worth if large vessels can’t cruise through the channel? The security concerns are real; the LTTE operates along the route and can be a threat to trade in the region.

      These can be overcome but the added expenses of surveillance and patrolling will increase the cost of maintaining the channel. Environmentalists argue that massive dredging operations are necessary to prevent the natural formation of sand banks and to maintain the depth of the channel.      

      The shipping canal, according to environmentalists, might affect the Gulf of Mannar biosphere reserve. The livelihood of hundreds of fishermen is also under threat.
         These issues merit consideration and detailed study. Instead, the project has snowballed into a confrontation between scientific logic and religious faith. The issue here is not whether Lord Ram built a bridge. Many scientific bodies have concluded that the Ram Setu or Adam’s Bridge is a natural structure formed of sand banks. But the economic gains from the project do not seem sufficient to merit so much investment in capital and time from the government.

      The Archaeological Survey of India can determine the origins of the setu to satisfy the curiosity of interested parties, but it amounts only to a wastage of public funds. A better option is to abandon the project and move on.

Insecure Indian Railway


Man robbed, thrown off train near Gzb  

Lalit Kumar | TNN  Ghaziabad: A 45-year-old man, who was travelling on the Avadh-Assam Express from Rajasthan to Bihar, had to have a hand and a leg amputated after he was robbed of Rs 15,000 and other belongings and thrown off the train by four to five armed robbers. The tips of most of the fingers of his right hand were also lost due to the fall.
      
 While the victim, Shiv Narain, was admitted to the district hospital by two Government Railway Police (GRP) personnel, officials at the Ghaziabad GRP police station denied any knowledge of such a case in the area. According to sources at the district hospital, Narain was brought in about 1.25 am on January 29.
        ‘‘According to records,’’ said a medical source, ‘‘he was brought in by constables Din Dayal and Dinesh Chand of the GRP, from Simbhaoli in Ghaziabad’s Garhmukteshwar sub-division. But we do not have details.’’
         Narain, who is still a little dazed at how quickly his life has been transformed for him, says: ‘‘I had been working in the Rajasthan gypsum mines for some months. I had saved up for my wife and four little girls, living back home in Samastipur. I had started from Bikaner. Then suddenly in the Ghaziabad area some men pulled out knives and demanded my money. When I resisted, they grabbed my trunk and a small bag I carried before pushing me off the moving train. I do not know what happened after that. I woke up only in this hospital. I am still hazy in the mind,’’ he said.
   Ghaziabad GRP officials said they knew nothing saying: ‘‘If he was brought in from Simbhaoli, it falls under Moradabad jurisdiction.’’
   All attempts to contact the Moradabad GRP police station failed. Nobody from the GRP has so far contacted Narain in the hospital, suggesting that no serious investigation is being carried out.
   lalit.kumar@timesgroup.com

Member of Parliament: Delayed Arrest


getimage1.jpg        Can You beleive it? 

       An MP ‘hiding’ for six months and the Police in UP and Delhi were clueless?

      Murder-accused MP, on run for 6 months, held.

New Delhi: Six months after he was declared an absconder, Ateeq Ahmad, a Samajwadi Party MP, landed in jail on Friday after he was arrested the day before by the special cell of Delhi Police from northwest Delhi. Named in as many as 46 cases of heinous crimes like murder, kidnapping and extortion, Ahmad was on the most-wanted list of UP police.
   Ahmad had managed to evade arrest in the sensational murder of BSP legislator Raju Pal in Allahabad in 2005 and was declared an absconder in July 2007. The police had even announced a reward of Rs 20,000 for Ahmad who was expelled from the Samajwadi Party but remained an MP from Phulpur constituency in Uttar Pradesh.
   Ahmed was arrested near Ghalib Apartments on Parwana Road in Pitampura on Thursday. ‘‘We had received a tip-off from an informer that he would be coming to Ghalib Apartments to meet somebody. We laid a trap there and arrested him,’’ said DCP (special cell) Alok Kumar.


He was hiding in Delhi for months

New Delhi: MP Ateeq Ahmad who landed in jail on Friday was named in as many as 46 cases of heinous crimes like murder, kidnapping and extortion, Ahmad was in the most wanted list of UP police.
   Police sources said the MP had been hiding in Delhi for the past several months, with the Mayawati government hot on his heels. In court on Friday, he called for special security on transit as he feared a threat to his life from the Mayawati government. The police had earlier too, received information about his movements in Delhi but the MP managed to give them the slip. Ahmad later told the police that he also spent considerable time in a Faridabad farmhouse.
   Police sources said electronic surveillance helped them nab Ahmad. The MP’s links with a Punjabi Bagh businessman are also under the scanner.
   Before becoming an MP in 2004, Ahmad was a member of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly from 1989 to 2004 and represented Allahabad city. Ahmad had earlier been arrested by the UP police for his alleged role in the Pal murder case. Pal had defeated Ahmad’s brother in the assembly polls and this angered the MP. Ahmad’s brother became MLA from the same place after Pal’s death.
   In 1995, Ahmad was allegedly involved in the murder of an undertrial, Akhtar, on the Allahabad High Court premises. In 2001, he had allegedly conspired to kill his political opponent Javed Iqbal alias Pappu in Allahabad. One of Javed’s bodyguards was killed in this attack.
   A Delhi court granted Ahmad’s transit remand to the UP police on Friday. Chief metropolitan magistrate Sanjiv Jain ordered that Ahmad be produced in an Allahabad court within two days. The court asked the DCP of Third Battalion of Delhi police to provide him security during his transit to Allahabad and also sought a report from the police in this regard in 15 days. Ahmed was then taken to Tihar jail.
   Earlier, addressing the court in a melodramatic fashion, Ahmad had raised concerns about his security and claimed that there could be a threat to his life during his transit to Allahabad, citing his political rivalry with UP chief minister Mayawati

Ateeq had a free run under Mulayam  A 5-Time MLA Between 1979 And 2007, He Faces 177 Criminal Cases  Subodh Ghildiyal | TNN  New Delhi: It was a match-up waiting to happen. During the debate on the confidence motion in the UP assembly in 2002, a hefty, moustachioed Ateeq Ahmad rubbed in the fact that Mayawati was becoming CM for a third time, with support from the BJP — the very party that had split the BSP in the previous assembly. ‘‘I remember the tears in your eyes when they split your party the last time,’’ he said by way of mock consolation.
   ‘‘Meri aankhon me ansoo nahin aate. Main tere jaison ki ankhon me ansoo lati hoon (I do not shed tears. I only make people like you weep),’’ shot back a raging BSP supremo.
   That was the day everyone said Ateeq was in for a bad time. Soon, the dreaded name from Allahabad was cooling his heels in prison, slapped with charges under NSA.
   A three-year honeymoon and free run under Mulayam Singh Yadav later, the bad times were on the cards for him again. On May 11, 2007, ‘‘Ateeq ka kya hoga (what will happen to Ateeq)?’’ was the buzz in Lucknow as, by afternoon, it became clear that BSP was back in power.
   This time he allegedly had the blood of BSP MLA Raju Pal on his hands, and was one of the hate-figures of Mayawati’s vitriolic campaign, next only to the Yadav chieftain and his confidant Amar Singh.
   Nabbed by Delhi Police and dispatched to UP to face the law after seven months of evasion, Phulpur MP Ateeq has seen the best and the worst of politics and crime.
   The man observers recall is ruthless, but, like all Robinhood criminals, enjoys a supportbase. Above all, he is single-minded in his twin objectives of winning elections and instilling dread, while being shrewd enough to ‘‘use and throw’’ his masters.
   Just like when he started off in crime in volatile Allahabad dealing in railway scrap. If oldtimers remember that he allegedly bumped off Nassan his guru in politics and crime (he was let off by the court), his friends laugh how he has been on the fast track of politics, moving from being independent to hitching up with SP, Apna Dal and back to SP again. All this, while winning the assembly seat from Allahabad west.
   Like many of his ilk who mushroomed across the badlands of UP, Ateeq straddled the acme of crime and politics — becoming a five-time MLA and MP between 1979 and 2007, while also facing 177 criminal cases during the period.
   Ateeq had the best run of his life in the three years Mulayam ruled UP from August 2003. Having ingratiated himself to the SP, desperate for numbers to form the government, he ensured that he was above law. Sources said policemen looked the other way in the friendly regime, as he expanded his empire, dug his roots deeper and emerged the undisputed king of underworld. ‘‘Property’’ was said to be his preferred ‘business’.
   For UP observers, Ateeq’s unbridled power climaxed when Raju Pal, who trounced his brother Ashraf in the bypoll to the seat vacated by him, was shot dead in broad daylight. The state was forced to book the brothers after dilly-dallying owing to pressure from BSP and a hostile regime at the Centre, but insiders said it was a show. Few were shocked though. Cops, who followed Ateeq from his early years when he started off as a railway scrap Mafioso, recalled the killing of Chand Baba. The latter had stood against him in his first poll in 1989 and was killed before the counting. Ateeq won but the charge of murder fell on him.
   Eighteen years later, the ruthless pursuit of objective rang a familiar echo. Pal’s murder was followed by Ashraf winning the bypoll by defeating his widow. Ateeq continued to rise and rise. Until that fateful afternoon when Maya swept to power in an election which had Ateeq as one of her manifesto promises. Unfortunately for him, the Phulpur MP had also burnt his bridges with Mulayam, owing to his loyalty to rebel Beni Prasad Verma.
   Now, he stands alone. In Jail. That, too, in UP ruled by Mayawati. The omens are bad, except the rumours that he has worked the back channels.
   The truth may be out soon. And, it could be make or break for the man who now is MP from the seat once represented by the first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
 

Sikh Turban attracts harassment in US


Woman arrested for trying to rip Sikh’s turban at US restaurant
1 Feb 2008, 1534 hrs IST , PTI
 WASHINGTON: A New Jersey woman has been arrested on charges of bias intimidation and harassment after she tried to rip off a Sikh man’s turban at a restaurant.
“I could feel a hand pulling this off,” said 38-year-old Hansdip Singh Bindra, who was at the popular bar with a colleague just after midnight.

“Removing my turban in public is akin to giving me a strip search,” he said.

Police said Carrie Covello, 37, grabbed the turban while standing behind Bindra at the bar. She then apparently asked him, “Why are you wearing that on your head?”

“You’re out for an evening with colleagues and this is the last thing you’d expect” Bindra said, adding he had asked Covello if there was a problem.

“She said ‘Take it off, I don’t like it,'” Bindra was quoted as saying by media in US. Bindra alerted the bouncer and called the police, who arrested Covello on Wednesday.

Covello admitted to “touching” the turban, but told the police she was only joking and didn’t mean anything by it, police said.

Covello was charged with bias intimidation and harassment and the prosecutor’s office will ultimately determine if her actions at the bar were based on some kind of religious or ethnic bias.

Bindra, who was earlier involved in a 2003 religious bias lawsuit against Delta Airlines, said he wanted Covello to be prosecuted.

“If these people don’t face the consequences, this will happen over and over again,” he said.

Dave Carney, the owner of the restaurant, apologised for the incident and condemned Covello’s actions.

Centre suspends sealing, demolition in poll-bound Delhi


Centre suspends sealing, demolition in poll-bound Delhi
1 Feb 2008, 2206 hrs IST , PTI
      NEW DELHI: Apparently with an eye on forthcoming Assembly elections in Congress-ruled Delhi, the Centre on Friday ordered suspension of sealing and demolition of illegal structures that came up in the National Capital before December 31, 2005.

     The order also envisages de-sealing of the commercial structures which had come up before that date.

     The directions by the Union Urban Development Ministry came in the wake of the action by the MCD and the DDA against encroachment and unauthorised construction following court orders.

     The order to suspend sealing or demolition drive, which will be in force till December 31, 2008, will lead to a halt to the MCD’s ongoing drive against unauthorised structures, including demolition of illegal fourth and fifth floors of residential buildings.

     The Congress government in the Capital has been under attack from opposition BJP over the sealing and demolition drives.

     The party was ousted from power in Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) last year and the sealing and demolition drives were seen as a major factor in Congress’ defeat in the civic body elections.

       According to the directions issued by the Centre, notwithstanding any judgment, decree or court order, steps shall be taken by the concerned local authority, including de-sealing of unauthorised commercial establishments, to maintain status quo as on January one, 2006.

      Status quo will have to be maintained with respect to unauthorised colonies and village abadi area and its extension as on February eight, 2007.

      All notices issued by any local authority for initiating action against encroachment or unauthorised development shall be suspended and no punitive action shall be taken till December 31, 2008, the Urban Development Ministry order said.

     “The above directions have been issued with the intent to ensure that till norms, policy guidelines and feasible strategies are finalised to deal with the problem of unauthorised development protected by the Act (Delhi Laws Special Provisions Act, 2007), people are not put to avoidable hardship and irreparable loss,” said a press release issued by the Ministry.

      Welcoming the suspension of the sealing and demolition action, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said “we are very, very happy that such an order has been issued by the Ministry of Urban Development and giving relief to the people who had the Damocles’ sword hanging over their head all the while till December 2008.” Asked if the move was a political one in view of forthcoming Assembly elections in the Capital, she said “it was a move that just happened to be at the election time.”

      Meanwhile, BJP-ruled MCD termed the move as a “political stunt” and said a lasting relief could be provided only through an amnesty scheme.

Britain hikes immigration fee: ‘Unfair’ immigration laws


Britain hikes immigration fee
     1 Feb 2008, 0927 hrs IST , PTI
LONDON: Britain has announced a hike in its immigration fees to fund sweeping changes it plans to introduce to improve border security over the next 12 months.

      The proposal introduced in the House of Commons on Thursday comes just weeks before the introduction of a new points based system for managing migration.

     The system is aimed at ensuring that only workers with skills to benefit Britain’s economy come to the UK and puts in place a licensing system for businesses who want to recruit from overseas.

     The fee for Highly Skilled Migrant T1 (General) Programme, which is popular among      Indians, will go up from 400 pounds to 600 pounds

      The fee for Work Permit visa and Visitor visa (Long term) will be increased from 200 pounds to 205 pounds, while the Settlement visa will go up from 500 pounds to 515 pounds.

       The Visitor visa will go up from 63 pounds to 65 pounds. Expressing confidence that the aspiring immigrants will not be deterred by the hike, Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said: “We believe that it is fair that those who benefit most from using our immigration system should help fund it.

      “We welcome the contribution that legal migrants make to the economy and cultural life in the UK and we have ensured that these fees, which will usher in the biggest reforms to the immigration system in a generation, are at levels that will not damage our international competitiveness,” Byrne said.

       “We are confident that we are not out of line with other countries’ prices and that the people we want to come here will not be deterred from doing so,” the minister said

 India warns Britain over ‘unfair’ worker immigration laws

LONDON: India has cautioned Britain that it would be the “loser” if its immigration laws are not liberalised to allow freer movement of workers from the sub-continent nation.

“Short of permanent immigration, we are asking for freer movement of personnel who can render services abroad,” Finance Minister P Chidambaram told The Times .

His comments come as many highly skilled Indians — entrepreneurs, scientists, doctors and IT specialists — find it impossible to stay in Britain since changes to a migrant programme in November.

The changes to the Highly Skilled Migrants Programme (HSMP), which was applied retrospectively, lays greater emphasis on earnings and education than work experience.

UK : India visa system changes


UK minister to visit India to discuss visa system changes
2 Feb 2008, 1816 hrs IST , PTI
LONDON:

     A British minister is set to visit India as part of a consultation process on changes to the UK’s visa system and efforts to check illegal immigration to the country.

     The changes being considered to the UK’s visa system are part of the biggest shake up of Britain’s border security and immigration system in 45 years.

     Britain’s Immigration Minister Liam Byrne on Saturday kick started the consultation process on changes to the UK’s visa system including the proposal to reduce the current maximum leave for tourist visitors from six to three months.

      “I’m clear our visit visa system is out of date. For many legitimate visitors – especially those who want to see loved-ones, it’s too hard to get back together,” the minister said.

      Heading a cross-party and different faith delegation, Byrne will be on a four-day visit to India from Monday as part of the consultation process on changes being considered to Britain’s visa system.

      In India the delegation will meet with representatives from Indian and state governments, the International Punjabi Society and multinational companies.

      The Minister, who will visit New Delhi, Mumbai and Chandigarh, will meet Punjab Governor, General (Retd) S F Rodrigues, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and senior officials including the state police chief to discuss slicker and more secure means to check illegal immigration into Britain.

      Among the issues on which he would seek the views of his interlocutors would be regarding current maximum leave for tourist visitors, creation of a separate category for family visitors and penalty for visa defaulters.