Saturday, September 13, 2008

14 September 2008

Times Of India

14 September 2008


Rahul Tripathi | TNN

6.10 pm
Ghaffar Market, Karol Bagh, 13 killed, 50 hurt | Bomb was placed in a CNG-fitted auto near the bustling MCD market. Injured included shoppers, labourers and jewellery workers

6.30 pm
Central Park, 4 killed, 10 hurt
CP’s green lung was filled with families out for an evening stroll when a bomb in a dustbin went off. Shrapnel hit many shoppers streaming out of Palika

6.31 pm
Barakhamba Road, 13 killed
Office-goers waiting for a bus home at a stand near Gopaldas Bhavan were caught unawares when a bomb, again in a dustbin, went off

6.31 pm
GK I, M Block Market, 10 injured;
Shoppers at this upscale market were jolted when the 1st bomb went off near a fast-food outlet. Shards from shattered shop windows left several injured

6:38 pm
GK I, M Block Market, 10 injured;
A bicycle bomb went off near Prince Paan Shop, a local landmark. This blast was stronger but caused fewer injuries as most shoppers had been evacuated

Could Have Been Worse
Defused - 3 bombs At Children’s Park in India Gate, Regal Cinema & Central Park, CP. Are there more?

Killer Device
Low-intensity chemical explosives (ammonium nitrate) with electronic timers used, similar to Jaipur, Ahmedabad blasts
No Uniform Pattern
3 bombs placed in dustbins, 1 on cycle, 1 in CNG-fitted auto
Key Witness
11-yr-old balloon seller near Gopal Das Towers, CP, saw 2 people dressed in black place a polythene bag in dustbin. Bomb went off 15 min later
Markets Down Shutters
Sarojini Nagar, CP, Bengali Market, Lajpat Nagar, etc., evacuated and closed
Metro Disrupted
Metro stops ops after CP blasts. Resumes soon, but strict security checks lead to long queues
Network Jammed
Increased cellphone activity creates logjam in mobile network
Helpline: 011-23490312

New Delhi: It has become nauseatingly familiar. Low-intensity bombs placed in crowded markets, killing and maiming children, their parents, unsuspecting shoppers, unmindful of caste, creed, religion. Within a month and a half of the Jaipur, Bangalore and Ahmedabad blasts, a wave of terror ripped through Delhi on Saturday, leaving 30 dead and 90 injured, with the toll likely to rise.
    In all, five bombs went off in less than half an hour. Two of them in the heart of Delhi in Connaught Place; two in the swish Greater Kailash I, M Block market in south Delhi, and one — the most damaging — in crowded Ghaffar Market in Karol Bagh. Three more bombs were defused —
one of them at the popular Children’s Park in India Gate, indicating the extraordinary callousness of the terrorist mindset.
    The Indian Mujahideen, regarded by security agencies as a front for the Lashkar-Huji terror machine, has claimed responsibility for the blasts. This group had sent emails before the UP court blasts, the Jaipur and Ahmedabad blasts. This time, too, it sent an
email to media groups — even if later than usual, more than 10 minutes after the first blast. And for the third time, it specifically threatened The Times of India for attacking terror.
    The first explosion took place at Ghaffar Market at 6.10 pm. Soon after that, two explosions rocked Connaught Place, one at Barakambha Road near Gopaldas Building at 6.30 pm and the other near the Metro station at Central Park at 6.31 pm. Almost simultaneously, an explosion was heard in M-block market in Greater Kailash-I near McDonald’s and seven minutes later, another bomb went off near Prince Pan Corner in the same market.
    All the blasts were low intensity and the defused bombs suggest a cocktail of ammonium nitrate, gun powder, ball bearings and nails was used along with timer devices. They were clearly the same kind of bombs used in Jaipur, Bangalore and Ahmedabad, indicating that it’s the same group that’s wreaking terror across the country.
At Karol Bagh, CNG made it more deadly Rahul Tripathi | TNN
New Delhi: After five bombs ripped through four places across the Capital, eyewitnesses said that explosives at Connaught Place were kept in a dustbin in Central Park of Connaught Place while at Gopaldas building, the bombs were kept in a dustbin next to the bus stand. An 11-year-old boy, Rohit (name changed) who had witnessed two persons wearing a black dress putting two plastic bags inside the dustbin, is being examined by the cops.
    Police say the first blast in Karol Bagh was the result of a Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) cylinder explosion. The impact of the blasts in Karol Bagh could be gauged by the fact that an auto was thrown up in the air and got caught in the electrical wires. “The terrorist have used the CNG autorickshaw to maximise the impact and we have so far not been able to find the number plate of the vehicle,’’ said a police officer.
    Eyewitnesses claim that explosives were loaded on a bicycle near Prince Pan Centre in GK I and another inside
a dustbin near McDonald’s. All the blasts were of low intensity and ball bearings were used to maximize the impact, said investigators.
    In GK’s M block market, the blast took place next to a Maruti car to maximise the impact but it did not explode averting a bigger tragedy. Cops said that a low intensity blast with a timer was used to trigger the blast. The second blast which took place next to a pan shop was high
er intensity but shopkeepers and shoppers had evacuated the area by then, reducing the human loss. All the blast sites were popular shopping destinations, and all of them were teeming with people on weekend shopping.
    Three unexploded bombs were found later taking the total number of bombs to 8. The first was found near India Gate inside a dustbin at the Children’s Park and one was defused at Regal Cinema
Hall which was lying on the road, while another one was found at Central Park, again inside a dustbin. A National Security Guard (NSG) team defused the bombs after they were informed by the witnesses about unclaimed objects. NSG experts were assessing the situation and nature of explosives used.
    Joint Commissioner of Police, Special cell, Karnal Singh said, ‘‘The nature of explosives and bombs used are
similar to those used in Jaipur and Ahmedabad. Chemicals were used along with nails and ball bearings and it was set off using electronic timers.’’
    The police are scanning CCTV footage of the GK I M block market and at Karol Bagh area to zero in on suspects. Delhi Police say that the Capital was always on high alert but there was no specific threat perception. It had gone down after the ter
ror module of SIMI-Indian Mujahideen ring was allegedly busted by Ahmedabad police.
    The Delhi Police have also installed a helpline for victims and any person willing to provide information and seek assistance. People can call on 011-23490212. Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat said, “We have got vital clues on the blasts and are examing the same.” 

BLOODY REMINDER A shattered 8-year-old boy accompanies his injured father to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, one of the three city hospitals where the blast-hit were taken. (Right) A victim’s relative is consoled as Delhi comes together in grief

Mumbai techie chief suspect: Agencies


New Delhi: Preliminary investigation into the Delhi blasts on Saturday point to the hand of an Indian Mujahideen-SIMI cell led by Abdul Subhan, the techie jehadi from Mumbai and Qayamuddin.
    The modus operandi — emails from Indian Mujahideen warning of or coinciding with blasts, use of ammonium nitrate and ball bearings pellets and other shrapnel in explosives, use of crowded markets so that higher casualties can be achieved even by low-intensity blasts — carries the signature of IM-SIMI. Besides, the email from Indian Mujahideen, like the two previous ones, was sent from Mumbai, Subhan’s base using an unsecured wifi connection of Ms Kamran Power Private Limited in Chembur, owned by one Mr Kamat. Although the mail came from Mumbai, references to newspaper coverage in Delhi editions in the past few
weeks, suggests that the draftsman may have been in Delhi.
    The police has been able to recover the chasis number of the autorickshaw that was used for the blast in Ghaffar Market in Karol Bagh. Four people have also been detained and are being questioned. ‘‘We have some good clues,’’ said a police spokesman.
    Although Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi stated in Bangalore that he had earlier this month told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and National Security Advisor that there were plans to strike the Capital, intelligence sources were taken aback by the Indian Mujahideen’s choice of Delhi.
    They were suspecting Subhan and Qayamuddin, computer-graphic designer from Vadodara to strike in either Maharashtra or MP.
Explosions carry IM-SIMI signature
New Delhi: Preliminary investigation into the Delhi blasts points to the hand of an Indian Mujahideen-SIMI cell led by Abdul Subhan, the techie jehadi from Mumbai and Qayamuddin. Sources in intelligence agencies said the modus operandi for the Delhi blasts carries the signature of IM-SIMI.
    The probe is going to focus on the likely contacts of Subhan, Qayamuddin, and other absconding IMSIMI activists — Abdul Bashar, Razeek, Afridi (all from Gujarat), Ikram, Inam and Musa (all from Madhya Pradesh).
    Abdul Subhan who has evaded arrest after narrowly escaping a raid by Gujarat Police in Surat on SIMI hideout, has made no secret of his anger over the Ahmedabad crackdown. In the last email that he wrote, intelligence sources suggest, for Indian Mujahideen using the nom de guerre of Al arbi, Abdul Subhan tried to mislead the investigators by calling all the arrested innocent and Kenneth Haywood, the US national whose wi-fi he is suspected to have used to send the email warning of Ahmedabad blasts, an ally.
    The return of Haywood has exposed the ploy (significantly, the email on Saturday was conspicuously silent on this). But Abdul Subhan who is regarded as an ace bomb maker also came off as someone smarting under the humiliation of the botched attack on Surat — none of the bombs planted in the diamond city went off because of faulty integrated circuits used in the timers. His last mail had shown his anxiety to prove his credentials. 

This time, the email came late


New Delhi: Indian Mujahideen, the hardline splinter group of SIMI that is suspected of engineering the serial blasts in Delhi, followed the routine of sending an email to media outlets simultaneous with the blasts, but it came with a difference. Unlike in the past, when emails from the group arrived before the bombs went off in various UP towns, Jaipur and Ahmedabad, the latest hate message vowing “Eye for An Eye” revenge sent from Mumbai reached 11 minutes after the first of the bombs had exploded in Ghaffar Market in Karol Bagh.
    The Ghaffar Market explosion happened at 6.10 pm but the email arrived at 6.26.
    Also, while the IM spoke of nine blasts, till the time of going to press, the national capital had suffered five. It was a mismatch that pointed to the possibility of some of the bombs planted by the gang failing to go off, or a lastminute change of plan that the plotters had not factored in while writing their deadly emailed warning.
    Preliminary investigation suggests the email was sent from Mumbai and intelligence sources are fairly certain it bears the imprint of Abdul Subhan Usman Qureshi, the techie jehadi from Mumbai who continues to elude intel
ligence personnel and cops from different states. It warns Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and his deputy R R Patil they will face the consequences, a pointer to Qureshi’s deeply-entrenched Mumbai connection.
    Captioned “Eye for An Eye, The Dust Will Never Settle Down”, the 13-page email makes it clear that Delhi was chosen to make a statement of capability. It was meant to show the group could strike at prized targets just after the crackdown on the IM/SIMI activists in connection with the previous blasts. “To dreadfully terrorise you this time, by the Will and Help of Almighty Allah, we are about to devastate your very first metropolitan centre, your most strategic ‘Hindutva hub, your green zone — yes! It’s your own capital”.
    The latest email from Abdul Subhan, who uses the alias ‘al-Arbi’, has the theme of revenge running through it. It reads much like previous ones with references to scripture to justify the attack on non-believers, warnings of more attacks against those behind “injustice and oppression” inflicted upon Muslims all over the country and the boast that the group has the capacity to strike anywhere. It also repeats warnings to the cops, media and judiciary.
E-mail warns cops, security agencies
New Delhi: There was also the familiar stress on the indigenous character of IM, ironically with the help of the term ‘homegrown’ which has so far been associated with officials and security agencies.
    Like on previous occasions, the email warns cops and agencies engaged in anti-terror operation and particularly those behind the crackdown on IM/SIMI — in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, AP as well as the Intelligence Bureau. The sender, as in his previous mail, calls those arrested for Ahmedabad, Surat and Jaipur blasts — from Mufti Bashar to Shahbaz Hussain who importantly has been identified by the owner of a cyber cafe as the one who sent the mail warning of the blasts in the capital of Rajasthan: a suspected ploy to mislead the investigators.
    Also, there is no let up in the effort to intimidate the cops, media and judiciary by warning them of retaliation. If anything, the warnings have become more ominous.
    There is no regret either for the previous atrocities, with the IM even threatening to repeat the barbarity it committed by attacking hospitals in Ahmedabad. Yet, it is different in some crucial ways. To begin with, in comparison to the emails that preceded the blasts in courts in towns of UP, Jaipur and Ahmedabad, the latest one is thin on references to scriptures — a factor which could be attributed to the imprisonment of Mufti Bashar, the Azamgarh cleric who provided the religious input for the drafts sent by Subhan till he was arrested for Ahemdabad blasts.
    But what is more significant is that it is decidedly more political marked by a determined effort to court the ‘liberal/secular’ opinion by accusing cops,media and judiciary of double standards in their approach to terrorism: the argument being that the activists of Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad are not treated as terrorists even after they are caught making bombs in Kanpur, Nanded and in Tamil Nadu.
    The IM disdains the Bajrang Dal activists who were killed while making bombs as ‘apes’, but the desire to achieve parity with
the Hindu right is significant, coming as it does in the wake of suggestion from politicians that Hindutva outfits are as worthy of a ban as SIMI.
    “The word terrorism is never used when a story on Sangh violence is told, no matter how large scale the violence is. The violence unleashed by the Sangh Parivar in Gujarat was defined only as expression of communalism and the same is case with what happens in Orissa at moment”, complained the IM. The political content is conspicuous also by an effort to appear as custodian of Muslim interests by taking cudgels for issues — from Babri demolition to Amarnath protests — issues which have a resonance among mainstream Muslims too. But more crucially by making a common cause with other victims of ‘Sangh terror’ — Christians and Dalits. The idea of a broad coalition of all minorities and Dalits in a broad anti-Hindutva coalition is not new, but its use amid clear signs of unease within Muslims about the radicalisation of sections within it is immensely interesting.
    The calculation to isolate BJP and other Hindutva outfits — RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal — comes off clearly with the Indian Mujahideen declaring, “Let us make it clear to all the enemies of Muslims, especially the Hindus of India, that the BJP backed RSS, VHP Bajrang Dal, and the entire Sangh Parivar would be the only responsible factors for whatever horrifying tragedies you are to face in the nearest future. The cause will be these wicked bastards and the effect will be on the entire nation”. 



From Central Park of CP, the bustling heart of the city, to GK-I’s M Block market, terror struck within minutes on Saturday evening, sending the city into panic mode


    One minute, two bomb blasts and the heart of the city stood still. A busy Saturday evening at Central Park in Connaught Place and in front of Gopaldas Bhavan on Barakhamba Road came to an abrupt halt as the blasts tore through the area, leaving 10 innocent people dead and more than 20 injured.
    Connaught Place was bustling with activity and Central Park, a favourite of Delhiites over weekends, was teeming with visitors. Everything changed within seconds as the first blast went off at around 6.30 pm at Central Park. The bomb planted in a dustbin blew up with such force that splinters and parts of the it flew across the park into Palika Bazar. Two people died in the impact and many others were injured. All those hurt happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. A woman standing near a blood donation camp in progress at A Block was hit on the forehead and had to be rushed to hospital for treatment.
    As bystanders, shoppers and shopkeepers manning stores in the Inner Circle and those in Palika Bazaar rushed to help victims, another loud blast could be heard from Barakhamba Road. A bomb, similarly planted in a dustbin, went off in front of Nirmal Towers, near Gopaldas Bhavan. Here the hapless victims were people who were waiting to catch a bus. The toll. Eight dead and many injured.
    What followed the twin blasts were scenes of chaos and confusion as people ran for safety, while others rushed in to help, and shopkeepers downed shutters. All offices in the area closed immediately. Central Park was sealed by the police and victims were rushed to nearby hospitals. At Barakhamba Road, the scene resembled a battleground with blood splattered around, and splinters, slippers and other belongings of victims strewn all over the place. As the area was cordoned off by the police, eyewitnesses said the number of casualties in Barakhamba Road could have been higher had not a group of waiting people boarded a Blueline bus barely seconds before the blast went off. 

The bomb at GK-I market damaged the other cars in the parking lot

The dustbin which blew up on Barakhamba Road, soon after Central Park blast

The scene outside the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital on Saturday

The weeping parents of a victim wait for some news outside RML Hospital

The NSG’s bomb disposal squad outside Regal, defusing a bomb

The Barakhamba Road blast site was cordoned off by the cops even as passersby, despite the panic, stopped to watch the scene

Grass turned red, victims shrieked, chaos reigned


New Delhi: The Central Park was bustling with energy of the weekend crowd that had gathered to enjoy its sprawling greens. But soon the shades of green took a red hue. A deadly explosion had rocked the park and patches of blood could be seen everywhere.
    For those who survived the blast, it was a scene of horror and shock. Sunny Singh, one of the employees at a shop in the underground Palika Bazar, ran out after hearing a deafening sound only to witness smoke billowing out and victims bleeding and shrieking in pain in the park. ‘‘Soon, I ran to rescue the victims,’’ he said.
    Another eyewitness, Ashat Khan, had just finished offer
ing his namaaz in a mosque in A-block when the blast occurred. ‘‘The impact could be felt hundreds of metres away. Within moments I rushed to Central Park only to find at least 30 people lying injured, some of them with very serious injuries,’’ Khan said.
    Within seconds, the happy sight of the park had turned into a scene of panic and chaos. As CP shut down shutters within minutes and Palika Bazaar was evacuated, people were seen running helter and skelter. Subhashni Chatterjee, who was rushing out like others, told Times City that death had just brushed past her. ‘‘I was at the Central Park when the blast happened. I had crossed the dustbin where the explosion took place, minutes before the blast. Just when I reached the Regal building I heard the loud noise,’’ she said with fear lurking in her eyes.
    Metres away and minutes later, a similar explosion on Barakhamba Road near Gopal Das tower had people scurrying for their lives. Like on any other day Sehruddin had crossed over to the juice shop near the tower to break his Roza. But in a matter of minutes he saw bodies flying in the air from the impact of the bomb that had exploded in a dustbin kept there.
    Sehruddin was one of the many eyewitnesses at the bus stop where people in large number were waiting to catch buses to return to their homes in the evening. 

A sadhu’s bowl at Barakhamba

At GK-I, traders herded people into park to safety


New Delhi: For senior citizens Anjana and Arun Mathur, who had come shopping to GK-1 from Dwarka, Saturday’s horrific experience will be etched in their memories for ever. Nearly half an hour after the blasts, the couple stood in the parking lot, visible shaken at the events that had just unfolded before them.
    ‘‘After the blast, there was panic all over the market as people were screaming as they ran helter-skelter. And then, the second explosion took place. With this, we all froze in our spots, waiting to see who would be the victims of a third. After a few minutes, people started walking out again. We just want to get home safely now. Our car is blocked in the parking lot as someone else has abandoned theirs on the main road,’’ said Arun Mathur.
    Added Anil Kumar of Bags and More, who was sit
ting in his shop: ‘‘I rushed out of my shop and there were announcements being made from the police booth asking all the people to rush into the park. I tried to help out too, and evacuated the shop. There was a stampede on the pavements as everyone was trying to rush out of the market.’’
    Right after the first blast, eyewitnesses said that the
market association had started making announcements from the police booth, asking people to stay calm and move towards the park in the middle of the market. ‘‘As people collected in the park, many people were saved from injuries which could have been caused if they were near Prince Pan corner,’’ said Neeshikanth Sharma, a shopkeeper.
Several others whose cars had got damaged in the blasts, stood helplessly. “I can’t drive the car now as the windscreen is totally shattered and will fall if the car moves. I had come here from Faridabad, but parked the car here and fortunately went out with my family to eat something. After the blasts, I rushed to check on the car, but the police did not allow us to come inside for over an hour,’’ said Goldie, whose Toyota Corolla car got damaged. 

Looking for clues

Auto wrecked, went up in air


New Delhi: It was 6.10 pm on Saturday evening at the busy Ghaffar market in Karol Bagh. Seconds later, the hustle-bustle of business was interrupted by a bomb blast — the first of the five serial blasts in the city — which claimed at least eight lives and left 40 others seriously injured. The low intensity bomb was allegedly planted in a CNG auto rickshaw that went off near the MCD market adjacent to Beadonpura. Remnants of the vehicle were later found hanging from the overhead electricity wire.
    Eyewitnesses said that even before they realised what had happened, the area was covered in thick smoke and the dead and the injured lay all over the narrow lanes even as others blindly ran wherever they could looking for safety. All glass within a 250 m radius of the epicentre was blown to smithereens.
    Nandkishore, a hawker said that he was standing with his back to the auto when he heard a very loud noise. ‘‘The driver was standing outside the auto. Suddenly, there was a huge blast and the entire area was filled with smoke. I fell unconscious.’’ He has received
grave injuries in his right hand.
    Locals said initially they thought it was a cylinder explosion, but a few minutes later they realised it was a terror attack. Though separate theories
are doing the rounds about the sequence of events, some of the eyewitnesses said that there were two passengers inside the auto including a woman in a burkha.
    As soon as the auto stopped, the blast happened. They said that the auto driver and both passengers died on the spot. The blast was so severe that the auto in which the bomb was placed resembled a skeleton structure and a Maruti Zen parked nearby was gutted. Shops too bore the brunt of the explosion. Locals rushed the injured to Jessa Ram Hospital, Sir Gangaram Hospital and Lady Hardinge hospital. Most of them have injuries in their head, hand and legs. Majority of the victims are hawkers.
    ‘‘This road is our source of earning our livelihood. But today it claimed the lives of so many like us. I am clueless about the fate of so many of my family,’’ said a distraught Some Devi who was looking for her daughter, son and grandson.
    Blaming police for their late arrival to rush the victims to hospitals, Chandrawati, a woman in her late 50s said that her son Billu lay in a pool of blood at the blast spot. ‘‘I was shouting for help. He lay there for half an hour, but none came to our help. He had gone out a few minutes before the blast to buy items for his small shop,’’ she said, adding that she was still looking for her husband and daughter-in-law. 

The damage at Ghaffar Khan Market after the blast

Within eight minutes, two blasts sent shoppers scurrying for cover

Megha Suri & Ruhi Bhasin | TNN

New Delhi: As twin-blasts rocked the M-block market in south Delhi’s upmarket Greater Kailash-I on Saturday evening, panic gripped the area. The bombs exploded within a span of eight minutes and 10 persons were reported injured. The police, however, confirmed that the injured are all out of danger.
    The first bomb, which was planted in a dustbin mounted on the wall of the park opposite M-9, went off around 6.31
pm. Just as shoppers heard the loud bang and were trying to ascertain what it was, there was another loud noise. This time, huge glass window panes of two stores — a salon on the first floor and an apparel store on the floor above — located opposite the blast site crashed onto the main road.
    ‘‘I was standing near the park having tea when the first bomb went off. There was sudden commotion. People were running all over the place, screaming, and all I could see were shattered windscreens of
cars parked around. I started running in the opposite direction and a big glass came crashing on the road,’’ said Avinash Mishra, who works in a leading apparel store located right opposite the site. He added that he usually stands right next to the bin. But on Saturday, he chose to stand a few metres apart, and this is how his life was saved.
    Added Aprajita Bajaj, a shopper: ‘‘I was shopping for shirts when there was one blastlike sound. As we had heard about the blasts at other loca
tions, I immediately ran out of the shop to check, but was ushered into the park. Then, the second bomb went off.’’
    Seven minutes later, the second explosion took place opposite Prince Paan Corner (shop M-29). According to the police, the second bomb was planted on a bicycle and was reportedly of higher intensity. ‘‘As people had already collected in the park, the casualties were few. Had the area been as crowded as it usually is, as there is a popular chat shop there too, the nature of injuries
could have been more severe. The cycle belonged to a shopkeeper,’’ said a police official.
    One of the victims, Manoj, a squatter who sells clocks on the pavement outside the paan shop said: ‘‘I was packing up my goods after I heard of the first blast, but before I could move out, another bomb exploded next to me. I injured my hand with glass splinters. It seemed like a movie scene where all I could hear was people shouting ‘blast ho gaya hai, bhago.’’
    Soon after the first explo
sion, around four cars were abandoned in the middle of the road as the drivers ran to their safety. ‘‘I was headed out of the market when a window pane fell in front of my car. The splinters were all over us, so we just left the car and ran out of the market,’’ said Mithun, who was driving a Maruti Zen. The explosions left several cars damaged as windscreens and window panes were broken.
    Within minutes, the police rushed into the scene and the market was evacuated by 7 pm. 

The cycle on which one of the bombs was planted

Politicians rush in to help with blood

Volunteers Lend A Hand, Take Credit

Smriti Singh | TNN

New Delhi: Volunteers from political parties came rushing in at hospitals to lend a helping hand on Saturday, and it was clear that they also wanted credit for it.
    Ten members of Bahujan Samaj Party were the first to turn up at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital to donate blood for the victims and help the families to locate their missing members. Soon, volunteers from the Youth Congress, sporting T-shirts with the picture of Rahul Gandhi, arrived on the scene to help the hospital staff shift the victims to the emergency ward.
    ‘‘So far we have donated around 40 units of blood and some more volunteers from our party are on their way,’’ said one of the BSP volunteers, Suresh. ‘‘The hospital let us go inside the emergency ward and from there we have got the names and numbers of all the victims. Now we are tracking the families of the victims and are
informing them.’’
    However, the intervention of the political parties soon took an ugly turn when one of the blast victims died in the ambulance when it failed to reach the trauma center of the hospital due to the crowd blocking the main entrance to welcome a local leader.
    The leaders, of course, lost no time
in joining their followers and making their presence felt. The first one to arrive was MP and senior Congress leader Sajjan Kumar. Speaking to reporters, Kumar said, ‘‘We will do whatever is possible for us to help the blast victims.’’
    CPI(M) politburo member Sitaram Yechury was next. Describing the situation inside the emergency room as ‘‘heart-wrenching’’, Yechury urged the people to maintain calm. Minister of state for home affairs Shri Prakash Jaiswal, police commissioner Y S Dadwal, lieutenant-governor Tejendra Khanna and Mayor Arti Mehra also visited the victims.
    Making the blasts a political issue, BJP lost no time in blaming the Congress for the situation. Issuing a statement, former union minister and BJP general secretary Vijay Goel said, ‘‘the Congress government’s soft approach towards terrorism is responsible for
the blasts in the capital.’’
    In a cabinet meeting convened late on Saturday night, Delhi governmentannounced a compensation package of Rs 5 lakh for the next of kin of those who were killed in the blast and Rs 50,000 for the injured. The cabinet also decided that treatment in both
government and private hospitals will be free of cost.

HELPING HAND: Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Sheila Dikshit at RML Hospital

From bustling market to ghost town in minutes


New Delhi: Lado Sarai resident Nelson was sitting in his second-floor office when he heard the blast in Gaffar Market. “I went out and could only see panic-stricken people running about. Then I spotted a small child lying unconscious next to a dustbin. She had burn injuries all over and a severe head injury. I carried her to Jessa Ram Hospital and she was admitted in the ICU.” The two-year-old girl, however, died within minutes on the table, reported doctors from the hospital.
    The normally peaceful market resembled a ghost town within minutes of the explosion. Initial reports suggested a cylinder blast but when it was confirmed that it was a bomb blast,

shopkeepers pulled their shutters down and panicked residents rushed indoors.
    Local resident Roshan Lal recalled the sight of bodies missing arms and legs as residents rushed the injured to Jessa Ram and Gangaram Hospital. “When the blast happened, people were still calm thinking it was maybe a cylinder blast as was the initial idea. Then news of similar blasts in other parts of Delhi came in and everyone panicked. It was a very busy day in the market when the blast happened,” said Murli Mani, president of Karol Bagh traders association.
    When terror struck, everyone rushed to help. Sanjay Kumar, who drives a van for a public school, was the first to rush injured to the
hospital in his van. Blood stains could still be seen on the seats inside the van and the door outside. “There wasn’t any time to think and we had to get medical help to the injured as soon as possible. I accommodated as many people as possible and rushed them to Jessa Ram,” he said.
    For eyewitnesses Ashok Gurnani and Kamal Lal Wani, the blast came at a time when Gaffar Market was at its busiest. ‘‘Those cowards who chose to bomb our peaceful neighbourhood chose the worst possible time. It was a Saturday, and the market was teeming with shoppers,’’ said Wani, whose brother-in-law, Ashok Gurnani is undergoing treatment at the Gangaram Hospital.
    Gurmani, who received multiple facial injuries from

splinters, said he was standing in front of his shop near lane 41 in Bidanpura, close to the blast spot. ‘‘I had noticed an auto parked nearby and decided to call the owner as I was wanted to ensure that shoppers could park their vehicles without any hazard. Around 6.10 pm, there was a huge blast and the auto was thrown in the air. I do not remember much after that,” said Gurmani.
    Wani, a resident of Rajender Nagar and owner of a handloom unit in the market said that the sound was deafening. ‘‘The whole area shook and the entire space was filled with smoke. By the time I could open my eyes, the dead bodies were strewn all over,’’ he said. 

SHATTERED: Mangled remains of an auto at Karol Bagh

Panic as cell network collapses

Most cellphone networks in the city were jammed for almost an hour after the first blast at Ghaffar Market at 6.10 pm. Markets also closed down early as traders preferred to retreat to safety of their homes


    Terror gripped the city on Saturday night as news of the serial blasts spread like wildfire. The first casualty were the cellular networks which went missing minutes after the incident took place. ‘‘I've been trying to call my fiance for over an hour but just can't get through,'' said a frantic Lisa Manuel, who had come shopping to Connaught Place's inner circle.
    In fact, till almost an hour after the first blast took place at 6.10 pm in Ghaffar Market, all cellular networks were jammed as family and friends tried reaching their dear ones on the phone. Said Ashish Banerjee, an outstation student at JNU, ‘‘With the cellphone service going off, I spent a lot of time just trying to make an STD call back home in Kolkata.''
    Markets too felt the heat as panic-stricken shoppers preferred leaving for the safety of their homes. Said Amit Tandon, out doing lastminute shopping for his marriage in Karol Bagh market, ‘‘I got to
know about the blasts from the shopkeepers who were downing their shutters. When I enquired, even the police advised us to return home.''
    The sops in Lajpat Nagar's Central Market, Greater Kailash I and II, Chandni Chowk, Chawri Bazaar, Rajouri Garden and elsewhere started closing down as news of the blasts spread through the city. Praveen Khandelwal, general secretary of the city traders association, said ‘‘there was a lot of panic as TV channels were saying more blasts were expected. Since the markets are soft targets, we are hoping that tomorrow there will be more security.''
    Malls too saw shutters come down as shoppers left. ‘‘I was scared. The terrorists had chosen prime spots in each of the other districts. Naturally, I felt malls would be targeted in Rajouri Garden,'' said Rajesh Jaiswal, a resident of Pitampura area who had gone shopping in a mall. Across town in Saket, Ritu Suri seemed more secure. ‘‘I've already bought tickets to a night show, so I will stay back if there's no news of more
blasts,'' she said. Many shops in the malls, however, started closing down voluntarily as security concerns made many leave.
    Dhaula Kuan witnessed jams after the blasts as officer-goers from the capital and Gurgaon kept crisscrossing each other to reach their homes. ‘‘Since the mobile network is down, we will have to rush to the house since my wife would be anxious,'' added Jaiswal.
    However, even as the rush increased on the roads, buses were mostly seen going empty. Said Rupam, waiting to catch an auto in South Extension, ‘‘Nobody seems to want to go by bus, and there's a huge rush for autos.'' As usual though, autos could be seen overcharging as people waited to return home.
    Traffic was diverted from CP circle and KG Marg. To avoid jams, commuters took the Ferozshah Road and Ashoka Road to go towards south Delhi and India Gate. The traffic at the RML intersection was diverted to the other side to make way for the blasts victims coming from CP and Gaffar Khan Market area. 

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER: Police commissioner YS Dadwal briefing mediapersons

Metro pulls it off with slight delay

DMRC trains ran as per schedule, services halted only for 4 mins to check for any damage to system due to blasts at CP. Security intensified at stations


New Delhi: Even as security was beefed up on Delhi Metro soon after serial blasts rocked the Capital on Saturday evening, trains were running as per schedule.
    The system gained importance at Rajeev Chowk as it was the only mode for commuting available for people after the twin blasts. Less than 100 metres away from the glare of the media and the commotion at the site of the bomb blast at Central Park, Meena stood with her husband Pankaj and four-year-old daughter Swati in the long queue to board the Metro from the A-Block Metro station. The blasts meant standing in a long and slow moving queue as security checks were mounted.
    For Meena, Saturday's trip to CP will be etched in her memory forever. As she waited in the metro queue, a worried Meena told Times City that she was taking a stroll with her child in Central Park just minutes before the blast.
    ‘‘I had come with my husband to CP as it was a weekend. My husband had an exam to take at a computer institute in CP. But that too got cancelled. Now we want to reach our home in Rohini as fast as possible.''
    Others in the queue shared their anxiety and wished to reach home as early as possible, visibly shaken from the blasts.
    Meanwhile, Delhi Metro services were stopped for four minutes after the blast at Central Park to check for any damage to the system. ‘‘Train services were stopped from 6.45 pm to 6.49 pm during which time the system was thoroughly checked for any impact since the blasts took place right above the Rajeev Chowk station. The train services were
resumed after that and security was intensified at all Metro stations,'' said Anuj Dayal, chief public relations officer (CPRO), Delhi Metro Rail Corporation.
    Every person entering the Metro station was thoroughly frisked and all bags were checked and scanned at various stations. The security control rooms were alerted and security personnel were asked to monitor all the footings from CCTV cameras in the metro premises carefully.
    One of the entries to Rajeev Chowk station — at F-blocked — was closed for security reasons. But the frequency of trains was maintained to ensure that people could use it to travel out of Connaught Place.
    The Northern Railways also stepped up their security arrangements at all railway stations across the Capital and additional security personnel were deployed. However, the blasts did not affect the train schedules in general. 


Such blasts are aimed more at creating panic and anxiety rather than just kill people. We need to maintain peace and go on with our business. The various security agencies need to sit up and stop playing the blame game. We need strong leaders who can stand up against the terror

Not just Delhi, but the whole country should join hands to fight back. Every citizen should be a policeman to ensure safety which is the fundamental right of every human being DR ASHOK SETH | CHAIRMAN, ESCORTS HEART INSTITUTE AND RESEARCH CENTRE

I strongly condemn this dastardly act and urge the people of Delhi to keep calm and maintain peace. There is no reason to panic

Delhi will fight back as it always does. It is high time that we question the government and the system and punish the people who are involved in such a cowardly act

It's very difficult to express my disgust. Human life is so cheap. It's easy for the government to condemn the blasts as an act of cowardice — they have Z class security. Of course life will go on, it always does. But what's the point of living in constant fear? Talent freezes under fear, there's no point in writing songs about bravery. Right now, I'm really praying

We should not panic in such situations since it serves the purpose of those who are behind these blasts

It is undoubtedly a tragic incident but it surely brings out the fighter spirit Delhiites have. The situation is an oxymoron, where on one hand the perpetrators of such heinous acts try their best to create a panic, on the other hand people break all barriers and inhibitions to help those in need

The blasts are very disturbing. But whenever such horrifying incidents occur, Delhiites are always resilient. Such events raise questions about the security system and the effectiveness of intelligence agencies. Government should take all possible measures to ensure safety of every citizen

Imtiaz’s shooting in

VISHWAS GAUTAM Times News Network

    We bumped into Imtiaz Ali at a pub in the capital yesterday. Quite a Jab We Met moment it turned out to be. For, we got talking, and Imtiaz told us that he’s in Delhi to finalise the shooting plans for his next film.
    So what is his next? “It’s a contemporary man-woman relationship story that begins in London, moves to Delhi and San Francisco. There’s also a small phase in Kolkata,” he told us. So, he’s going to shoot in Delhi? “In fact, it’s already on,” he told us. “Saif (Ali Khan) got in yesterday, and Deepika (Padukone) will be in town for the shoot next week,” he revealed. So, how
long will they be in the city? “Oh, they’ll be in and out for quite a while, till the end of October, I guess,” said Imtiaz, adding he has no qualms shooting in the city, unlike other directors.
    “I am still a Delhi boy at heart,” he smiles. So, how does it feel to be back in
the city? “Very nice! I haven’t spoken to any of my friends yet, but I’m sure we’ll meet up in the next few days. Delhi has always been very good to me. Sometimes I feel that Delhi’s been better to me than I have been to Delhi,” he says. “Maybe I’ll redress the balance in this film,” he adds. 


NOW, SAIF IS SINGH: This is Saif’s look in Imtiaz’s (inset) next

Dutt’s the way to Bhatinda : Kumar

Boxing brand ambassador, Sanjay Dutt promised to bring us gold in the 2012 Olympics, gave the gathered crowd some star moments to remember and left the venue in a jiffy

PIYALI DASGUPTA Times News Network

    It was a bindaas Sanjay Dutt, sporting a huge ‘Samba Rules’ tattoo, that one saw at the closing ceremony of the National Boxing Championships at Bhatinda. Vijender Singh, Akhil Kumar and Jitender Kumar, Olympicsreturned boxers all, were there too. Sanju came, waved to the crowd, and shouted, “ Bole toh...”, to which the crowd screamed back, “Munna Bhai”.
Sanju, who is the brand ambassador of the Indian Boxing Federation, had this to say, “Sukhbir ji (Sukhbir
Singh Badal, MP) mere bhai jaise hain, saath school mein boxing practice karte the hum dono. Aur bhaisaab ne mujhe
brand ambassador
banakar badi zimmedaari de di hai. I feel proud to be associated with boxing. Aur next Olympics mein hum zaroor gold medal jeetkar ayenge.” Post this, when we
asked him if he’d ever do a boxer’s role in a film, Sanju said, “I’d love to,” and added, “I will definitely like to attend the next Olympic Games in London.” His wife, Manyata, wasn’t there with him. “As you can see, it’s only me here,” said Sanju, refusing to answer any questions on Manyata after that.
    But he sure seemed to be missing her, for all through the event, he kept checking his mobile and his watch alternately, and some 45 minutes later, he left. Later, RK Sharma, manager, Hotel Sepal, told us, “Sanju was my schoolmate in Sanawar and I was very excited to know that he was coming to Bhatinda. In fact, we had booked a room for him at the hotel. But at the last moment he had to change his plan as he was flying back to Delhi and then to Malaysia for a film shoot.”
    Towards the end of the function, when we came across Olympic bronze medalist, Vijender Singh and IBF president, Ajay Chautala. Vijender was quite excited. “Sanju Baba met me and congratulated me. ‘Keep it up’, he said. Mujhe bahut acha laga ke woh hamare liye Bhatinda tak aaye.” 

MUNNA BHAI’S MOODS: Sanjay Dutt in Bhatinda. For more pics of Anil, visit http://photogallery.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Monday , September 8 , 2008

Times Of India

Monday, September 8, 2008

Yes, no, yes: High drama before Singur solution

Panel Of 4 To Report In A Week, Mamata Flip-Flop Delays Truce


Kolkata: Hope flickered, seemed to have been extinguished and then resurfaced — all within a few hours — as a solution to the Singur impasse was finally announced by Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi at Raj Bhavan on Sunday. The compromise: land will be given as compensation to all those farmers who were not financially compensated for the land taken from them for the Nano plant and vendors’ park. Most of the land will be returned within Tata Motors’ small car factory project area.
    A committee, comprising two government nominees and two nominees of the agitators, will work out the modalities within a week. No construction will take place at the 290-acre vendor park during this time.
In return, opposition leader Mamata Banerjee agreed to suspend her 15-day agitation.
    But the compromise was achieved only after hours of drama, after fresh demands by Mamata threatened to derail the hard-earned resolution.
    Both sides had agreed to a solution early in the evening. Then, even as CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee proceeded to brief Left Front members about the terms of the agreement, he was told about Mamata’s about-turn and had to make one himself — driving back to Raj Bhavan to resume talks.
    Finally, some hours later — to huge relief all around — the governor announced the settlement.


11am | CM Buddhadeb drives into Raj Bhavan
12.10pm | Leaves after talks with Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi
1.10pm | Trinamool leader Partha Chatterjee arrives amid talks that Mamata Banerjee will also join in 3pm | Mamata’s convoy arrives 4.30pm | CM makes a surprise return to Raj Bhavan
6.35pm | CM leaves for Left Front meet, is told Mamata is making fresh demands
9.05pm | CM returns, his third visit to the Raj Bhavan in the day 10.45pm | Governor announces Singur stalemate over

HARD DAY’S NIGHT: Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi with Trinamool’s Mamata Banerjee & Partha Chatterjee, & CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee

NSG in bag, India seeks uranium from Australia

Hopes To Build On Aussie Help At Vienna Talks

Sachin Parashar | TNN

New Delhi: Having successfully wrested a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group, India is preparing to press Australia to supply uranium to its reactors, hoping to build on Canberra’s support during negotiations in Vienna.
    The Manmohan Singh government is looking to engage Australia in all earnestness as despite the initial ambivalence, Kevin Rudd’s government backed the waiver. India

is now hoping that Canberra will similarly revisit its position on uranium supply.
    Sources said the issue would be taken up with Australian foreign minister Stephen Smith who arrives in India on Tuesday. The Rudd administration had, after being voted to office last year, overturned the decision of the previous Conservative government to sell uranium to India.
    Rudd, a fluent Mandarin speaker, has taken the traditional Labour line on uranium supplies but India is expected to argue that the waiver should address Australian concerns over dealing with a state which has not signed NPT. Besides, earlier this year, the Labour government reaffirmed the Howard regime’s commitment to supply about 20,000 tonnes of uranium a year to China, beginning 2010. This should cater to most of China’s power needs.
India, Australia have common security interests
New Delhi: As Australia accounts for 40% of the world’s uranium, India is eyeing a commercial deal for its civilian reactors. It is felt that it would not be easy for the Australian government to turn down India, without being seen as biased in favour of China, all the more so in the wake of the NSG waiver which it has helped facilitate. Despite the large geographical separation, there are strong shared interests that bind India and Australia in terms of security and trade in the Indian Ocean. Australia has, in recent years, revisited its security doctrine, keeping a close watch on extremism in Indonesia while its alliance with the US in the “war on terror” has placed it on the jihadi map.
    A senior official said, ‘‘Australia’s stand does not make sense now as the waiver which (Australia) helped us acquire doesn’t deny us the right to buy uranium from other countries. In any case, now that we have the waiver, we are not desperate. It would be as big a loss for them because we can import from countries like Canada and South Africa.’’
    Australia has backed India at both IAEA and NSG but has been adamant that India can’t have its uranium by remaining outside NPT, even if this meant watching other countries step into the breach. While the waiver has led to speculation on this front in Australia, the Rudd government is yet to make a statement. In case Australia doesn’t relent, India will look at Canada, which also backed India at the NSG by not remaining hostage to its strong anti-proliferation stand. Canada is second only to Australia in uranium supply. Both countries have high-grade ores with 12% to 15% uranium. India has a reserve of about 80,000 tonnes of uraniusm but needs almost a lakh tonnes more to run its reactors.
    The brazen manner in which the Ruddled Labour government had summarily rejected Howard’s preparedness to supply uranium evoked considerable anger in New Delhi. The Rudd government took the ‘‘puritanical’’ position that Australia cannot sell uranium to a country which has refused to sign NPT. The manner in which Australia went on to dump the quadrilateral process (US, Japan, India and Australia) initiated by Tokyo only added to the notion that Rudd could be influenced by China.

51% of businesses owned by SC/ST/OBCs


New Delhi: Political empowerment is finally translating into economic muscle for the country’s most disadvantaged sections. Over half of all business establishments in the country — 51% to be precise — are today owned by the socially disadvantaged sections, mostly OBCs, with a slim contribution coming from SCs and STs.
    This is the good news coming from an analysis of social ownership patterns of business establishments as presented by the latest Economic Census for 2005. But before you start cheering this empowerment story, here’s a caveat.
    A closer look at the data shows that the majority of businesses owned by OBCs/SCs/STs are establishments without any hired workers — that is, these are pa-andma ops, run by members of the household. They are possibly main
ly efforts at self-employment.
    The data shows that while people from these sections owned 45% of business establishments at the time of the last Economic Census in 1998, their share has registered
a 6 percentage point increase since then. OBCs account for the largest chunk of this growth.
    The OBC share in ownership of businesses has increased in all major states, barring Tamil Nadu,
where they already owned a high 74% of all businesses, and Punjab, where a small decline in OBC ownership has been offset by a rise in SC-owned businesses.
    In states like UP, the increase in OBC ownership has been significant, going up from 38% in the last census to nearly half of all businesses in the state by 2005. In Gujarat, the proportion of OBC-owned establishments has gone up by 13 percentage points to comprise almost a third of the state’s businesses.
    However, the status of the weakest among the reserved categories, the scheduled tribes (STs), seems to have remained virtually unchanged.
    There has been a steady increase in ST-owned establishments in northeastern states but that has been offset by a decline in many other states including Orissa, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

The top 5 states in terms of business establishments owned by OBCs
OBC share in ownership of businesses up in most major states
DOWNER: Majority of businesses owned by bckward castes are own account establishments (OAE), or businesses without any hired workers
UPSIDE: Within every category, the proportion of hired worker establishments is growing
However, status of STs virtually unchanged. Rise in ST-owned establishments in north-east offset by decline in states like Orissa, Rajasthan & MP
71% of businesses of OBCs are family run
New Delhi: As many as 51% in India are today owned by the socially disadvantaged sections. Over three quarters of the establishments owned by SCs and STs are own account establishments (OAE) or establishments owned and run by the family members. The proportion of such establishments owned by OBCs is 71%. However, just over half (56%) of businesses owned by the general category are OAE establishments.
    The positive sign is that within every category, the proportion of hired worker establishments is growing while OAEs are coming down. For instance, in Maharashtra, and Rajasthan the proportion of OBCowned establishments with hired workers grew from 18% to over a third of total OBCowned establishments.
    For the reserved categories, especially STs and to some extent SCs too, their share in the total number of businesses with hired workers has remained small, although the situation has shown definite improvement between the last census and the latest one. For instance, in Bihar, the proportion of SCowned businesses with hired workers constitutes 31% of all businesses owned by SCs.
    This is a significant jump from a mere 10% in 1998. Yet when you look at all the establishments that use hired workers in the state, the SC share is just 4% of this, although SCs constitute 16% of the state population. In most states, the bulk of businesses that hire workers continues to be owned by persons from the general category, except Tamil Nadu, where a much larger proportion of OBCs own establishments that hire workers (65%) than the general category (28%).
    But within all categories in the state, especially among STs, there is decline in the proportion of establishments with hired workers. This seems to indicate that most of the growth in establishments in the state has happened due to persons seeking self employment.
    In states where there has been political empowerment of the reserved categories especially OBCs and SCs, they seem to own much larger proportions of the hired worker establishments than in others.
    In Bihar, UP and Kerala, 51%, 48% and 47% of establishments that use hired workers are owned by the reserved categories, with the bulk in the hands of the OBCs.

US Congress set to give final stamp to deal

Chidanand Rajghatta | TNN

Washington: An American lawmaker opposed to the nuclear deal has indicated he is open to changing his mind, strengthening the chances of the US Congress giving final approval to the agreement in its short (September 8 to September 26) session.
    Howard Berman, who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Saturday he would not consider any expedited timetable for considering the deal ‘‘until the Bush administration provides him with more information about the Vienna negotiations’’.
    Under current rules, the agreement needs to ‘‘rest’’ in Congress for a 30-day period before it can be taken up for a simple yes-no vote with no debate.
VOICES OF DISSENT Congressman slams US’s ‘strong-arm’ tactics
Washington: US lawmaker Howard Berman, who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has said the burden was on the White House to convince Congress that the nuclear pact needed to be authorized in a ‘‘rushed’’ fashion. He just wanted to make sure the Bush administration did not cut any side deals with NSG member countries to get their votes.
    Other lawmakers are clearly more inflexible. Hours after the Vienna waiver, Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey, whose opposition to the deal goes back to 1974 and his perceived betrayal by India, railed about the Bush administration’s ‘‘strong arm’’ tactics that he said forced NSG into skirting normal rules governing international nuclear trade.
    ‘‘This agreement effectively blows a hole in the global non-proliferation regime, setting a dangerous precedent. What kind of lesson does it send to countries like Pak
istan, Iran and North Korea, when we skirt the rules for our friends, but insist on strict compliance for them?’’ Markey asked. ‘‘The nuclear supplier nations cannot preach nuclear temperance from a barstool, and the India nuclear deal is going to undermine the credibility of international efforts to prevent the further spread of the bomb.’’
    But the administration appears confident that things will

work out domestically. ‘‘The congressional calendar is short,’’ secretary of state Condoleezz Rice admitted, adding: ‘‘But the main thing is the international work is now done.’’
    The nuclear deal still enjoys broad bipartisan support in Congress. When the Hyde Act authorizing the deal first came up before Congress in 2006, it was cleared 359-68 in the House of Representatives and 85-12 in the US Senate.
    Ahead of the agreement’s return to Congress for the fi
nal vote, India’s ambassador to the US, Ronen Sen, has met presidential candidates from both parties, Senators John McCain and Barack Obama, both of whom support the deal and voted for it, albeit with less passion than some of its ardent supporters.
    But Washington’s hardline non-proliferation community is not going down without a fight. Following the Vienna waiver, the Arms Control Association — a think-tank that has gone to extraordinary lengths to torpedo the internationally approved deal (including calling it ‘‘the 9/11 of proliferation,’’) — called the NSG decision ‘’a non-proliferation disaster of historic proportions that will produce harm for decades to come’’.
    ‘‘Contrary to the Orwellian claims of the George W Bush administration, the India-specific exemption from NSG rules and safeguards standards does not bring India into the nuclear non-proliferation mainstream,’’ ACA insisted in its analysis of the progress in Vienna.

UPA mulls fuel price cut ahead of Nov polls


New Delhi: With international crude oil prices continuing to slide for the past eight weeks, UPA strategists are deliberating whether they can time a politically tempting cut in motor fuel prices to gain populist points ahead of the assembly elections in five states due in November.
    Even though the numbers are still stacked against any reduction, a marginal cut of up to Rs 2 a litre in pump prices will help repair the ruling UPA’s inflationbattered image, coalition sources said.
    International oil has dropped to around $105 a barrel from a high of $147 on July 11. The slide began on July 16 when crude oil posted its biggest slump in 17 years, dipping over $10 a barrel. TOI had then said pump prices wouldn’t change immediately but if the slide continued for over a month or so, public sentiment — and easing of economic pressure — could give the government leeway to affect a token reduction.

    Coalition strategists feel that the time for making an announcement is in sight. An indication of this came on Friday when petroleum minister Murli Deora said pump prices could be reduced if ‘‘international oil price falls further’’. The same day, BJP spokesperson, Prakash Javdekar, fanned public sentiment arguing that the government should cut prices now that oil has cooled off.

UPA strategists keen on slashing fuel prices by up to Rs 2/litre. Debate on when cut should be announced
Global oil price has dropped from $147 a barrel in July to $105 at present
Numbers still don’t support a cut. Indian oil cos will stop losing money only if crude drops to $68-70/barrel
Inflation may spoil govt’s nuke party
New Delhi: With polls round the corner, government is contemplating a cut in fuel prices. Technically, it is scheduled to review fuel prices in October. If oil settles around $100/barrel by then, chances are that coalition leaders may force Deora to decrease pump prices marginally around the time the festival season which kicks in along with elections.
    Even as the Manmohan Singh government celebrates its nuclear waiver, Congress managers are all too aware that inflation remains a sore point. They are concerned that price rise may help BJP-ruled states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan stave off anti-incumbency by blaming the Centre for the sharp increase in food and transport budgets of most families.
    As far as the arithmetic goes, the political planners say if retail prices are reduced in tandem with lower crude prices, the losses of state-run oil marketing firms will also come down to last year’s levels — or be marginally more — which the government will easily make up through bonds.
    This argument, however, may not stand up to scrutiny for two reasons. One, the winter demand in the West will start building up around the same time and again put pressure on international oil prices. Second, if oil comes down to $100 and shows a further southward tilt, Opec will surely cut production to stem any slide. During several major oil meetings last year and earlier this year, key Opec policymakers have consistently told TOI they think the world is comfortable with oil at $100/barrel level.
    Admittedly, even at $100/barrel or so, it won’t be easy for Deora to tow his party’s line. With present pump prices corresponding to about $68-70/barrel crude, state oil retailers are losing Rs 6.31 per litre on petrol, Rs 13.69 on diesel, Rs 31.39 on kerosene and Rs 312.58 per 14.2-kg cooking gas cylinder. The mix of crude India buys, which is $2-3 lower than the US market, averaged $111.09 a barrel in the second fortnight of August against $117.37 per barrel in the first fortnight of the month.

WHO pushes prohibitively costly vaccine

Rema Nagarajan | TIG

    If a disease can be treated for Rs 10, why would you spend Rs 12,000 for it? That is the question being raised by some doctors on a move to make a vaccine against pneumonia part of the immunisation programme.
    According to WHO protocol, pneumonia in children is to be treated with co-trimoxozole (commonly known as Septran), an antibiotic that costs just Rs 10 to treat a child. The pneumococcal vaccine costs Rs 12,000 for a course of three injections for a child. Besides, it is not fail-safe — according to studies, it creates immunization against pneumonia in just four out of 1,000 cases.
Pneumonia kills 1 in 5 kids in under-5 group
    Arow has erupted over a move to make a vaccine against pneumonia part of the immunisation programme.
    Pneumonia is said to be the cause of death of almost one in every five children in the under-five age group. That, say proponents of the penumococcal vaccine, mainly the WHO, is good enough reason for the vaccine to be made a part of the programme.
    But on September 1, the WHO Bulletin published a letter casting serious doubts regarding the use of the new pneumococcal vaccine. The letter points out that an analysis of all studies on the vaccine shows that the vaccine does not reduce the incidence of clinical pneumonia. The letter further pointed out that analysis had also shown that the vaccine only reduced the chance of ‘radiological pneumonia’ and not of ‘clinical pneumonia’.
    Those arguing against the vaccine being made part of the immunization pro
gramme have a simple argument. Where the cause of the infection is bacterial, Septran will do the trick in most cases. Where it is not, the vaccine will not work either. In fact, they argue that even getting an Xray done is a luxury for most. Treatment with antibiotics on the basis of clinical symptoms is a far less expensive option. It would mean that in some cases antibiotics will be prescribed where they serve no purpose – the viral infections – but no harm would be done and considerable expense saved, an important consideration in countries where most patients are poor.
    In its reply, the WHO defends the vaccine, but admits it does not reduce clinical pneumonia. The reply admits that only 3.6 cases of pneumonia (radiological pneumonia) are prevented for every 1000 children immunized.
    “If the four (3.6) children could be saved by treating them with Septran, which would cost Rs 40, why would a cash strapped country like India opt to vaccinate the 1000 children, which would cost
Rs 1.2 crore?” asks Dr Jacob Puliyel, one of the authors of the letter published in the WHO Bulletin and senior paediatrician in St Stephens Hospital, Delhi.
    “Of course, the WHO has an 'introductory offer' for the vaccine by which countries can get 3 doses of the vaccine for about Rs 50 per child. The cost will then be Rs 50,000 to vaccinate 1000 children,” points out Dr Puliyel. Yet, that would mean Rs 50,000 to be spent to save Rs 40.
    Radiological pneumonia, against which the vaccine is effective, is relatively rare. Even the effect on radiological pneumonia, the letter pointed out, was seen only in children less than 2 years of age, after which vaccination had no benefit.
    What is the difference between clinical pneumonia and radiological pneumonia? In general, a child with cough and difficulty in breathing is suffering from pneumonia according to the WHO definition. The cause may include infection by bacteria and virus as well as other reasons of difficult breathing.

Fat wallets? Credit it to plastic

Avijit Ghosh | TNN

New Delhi: About three years back, Madhur Mehrotra began to feel the bulge in his wallet. Ten credit cards, 12 loyalty cards and three ATM cards had created a serious weight and space problem in his pocket. The wallet was so thick that no pickpocket would have managed to pull it out. That’s when he decided to get innovative. ‘‘Now,’’ says the 43-year-old executive, fishing out a cardholder from his pocket, ‘‘I keep most of my cards here.’’ But despite having 25 cards to shop with, Mehrotra is not stopping yet.
    Mehrotra’s predicament isn’t singular. With a bevy of plastic cards sleekly tucked in, well-heeled India’s wallet is protruding like never before. As India Shining enjoys the good life, there’s a plastic for every occasion and reason. There’s regular credit card, co-branded credit card and debit card. Many of these cards land up for free without re
quest. Then there are loyalty cards in different avatars at petrol pumps, airlines, hotels, restaurants, golf clubs, movieplexes and retail stores. And who would believe, even DVD rental shops offer special ATM cards!
There are about 20 million credit and debit card users in India, according to recent industry estimates. The number of credit and debit cards in active use in 2008 is between 25 and 40 million. And the number is still growing. Within two years of its launch in July 2006, Deutsche Bank has over 450,000 credit card users in India. Says Shameek Bhargava, managing director and
head of cards, Asia Pacific, Deutsche Bank, ‘‘Increased competition in the Indian industry and aggressive marketing by various financial institutions is leading to customers opting for multiple credit cards.’’ IT PAYS TO BE LOYAL Loyalty cards, new hit with cos
    Loyalty cards too have become an integral part of corporate strategies to ensure fidelity to the brand. For example, Air India has a frequent flyer base of nearly 5,50,000 members. Every member has been issued a frequent flyer card. Similarly, Indian Oil sells Rs 12,000 crore worth of oil every year through plastic cards. This includes 11 lakh co-branded cards with Citibank and another 12 lakh pre-loaded debit cards.
    ‘‘In 1951, the first bank credit card appeared in New York’s Franklin National Bank for loan customers,’’ write Emily Starbuck Gerson and Ben Woolsey on The idea, though, had already been experimented with in various forms much before. In India, Andhra Bank was the first to introduce credit cards in 1981. But the idea of keeping multiple cards is a relatively new trend whose whispers, industry watchers say, could be first heard around the beginning of the new millennium.
    At the ‘mass’ level, the credit card as well as the loyalty card boom started early this decade. ‘‘That’s the time when the telemarketers swamped just about everyone with offers for new credit cards,’’ recalls Arvind K Singhal, chairman, Technopak Advisors, a management consulting firm. He has four credit cards and another 20 plastics, including club membership, airline and hotel membership and dining discount cards. Barely a decade ago, it was common in India to harbour fears about losing money through misuse of credit card. There was also a mental block against owing money to someone. That psyche has altered.
    ut there’s a method behind the card madness. Mehrotra, who works for a firm that produces energy-efficient products, says that having more credit cards increases the customer’s overall credit limit. Senior journalist Nilesh Roy (name changed) feels a sense of security in carrying more than one card, ‘‘in case one of them doesn’t work’’. He has four cards. ‘‘I got talked into buying one of them that was peddled as a special card for
Stephenians’’, and three frequent flyer cards for Jet, Singapore and Air France.
    Samita Bhowmick, a senior officer with the Lok Sabha secretariat, says there’s a clear division of labour between her five credit cards. ‘‘I use the Standard Chartered card to shop, the ABN card to pay for petrol, the SBI card for balance transfer and the ICCI card for net shopping. And I plan to use the Barclays card to pay my insurance EMI,’’ she says. She has two debit cards as well but doesn’t use them much. Sometimes she admits to overspending but uses balance transfer to steer clear of a debt trap.
    Of course, with so many cards to juggle around, timely payment is a critical issue. Mehrotra, in fact, has turned it into high art. He maintains a handwritten diary where he puts down the transactions. He also has the payment

schedule worked out on an Excel sheet. He makes payments online.
    Co-branded cards have added to the complexity of the market. Such cards, where a bank ties up with another organization such as an airline, gives an opportunity to the customer to earn bonus points that may accrue some additional monetary benefit. Similarly, loyalty cards, as Shameek, says look to enhance “stickiness for the store”.
    Bookstores offer discounts to loyalty cardholders. So do petrol pumps. And airlines compete with each other to woo customers. Through frequent flyer cards, mileage points can be exchanged for free flights. That apart, in-flight privileges include increased check-in baggage allowance and priority for confirmation on waitlist. Jitendra Bhargava, executive director, corporate communications, Air India, points out that offering frequent flyer membership has helped the airlines in ‘‘customer retention, acquisition of new customers and improving communications with them’’.
    But do loyalty cards really ensure loyalty? They do, at least for Roy. He generally books domestic flights with Jet Airways because he holds their frequent flyer card. ‘‘It gets you seat upgrades and,
lounge facilities. What more do you need while waiting for your flight?’’
    Vijay Pratap Singh of Oxford Bookstore offers the view from the other side. ‘‘The loyalty card scheme has boosted sales. Almost all of our customers are repeat customers,’’ he says. Singhal says that loyalty cards also give middle-class consumers a sense of status and a belongingness to a perceived ‘exclusive club’. Hence, the burgeoning issuance of loyalty cards by a wide range of retailers. But he adds that some top performers abroad also defy the trend. “Many Indian retailers such as Shoppers Stop still swear by the concept of loyalty cards and the size of their loyalty cardholder base. However, some of the biggest global retailers such as Wal-Mart continue to shun such cards and instead, focus on delivering on their core-promise to their customers.’’ There’s a flip side to the card rush as well. Shameek points out that multiple cards lead to some problems for customers like losing track of the different bills each month and hence falling behind on payments; sometimes the temptation of high credit limits entice customers to overspend.
    Nearly 7-9% of the credit card industry turnover is becoming bad debt, says Vijay Mehta, chief consultant, Credit Card and Management Consultancy. ‘‘Banks are indiscriminately issuing cards without looking into the affordability of the customer. They are also indiscriminately increasing the credit limit of customers. The credit card has become a snake in the pocket,’’ he says.
    Crime too has kept up with the plastic rush. Cops admit to an unprecedented rise in credit card frauds with international gangs of cheats being active in even Delhi and Mumbai. Says ACP Rajan Bhagat, ‘‘recently we have busted several credit card frauds. Users are advised to protect their classified information while using the card at public places.’’ In the end, it is all about being careful and wise. ‘‘Prudent management of multiple cards can give customers advantage over the pitfalls of overspending,’’ says Shameek. Bhowmick affirms. “Cards need to be used wisely.”
    (With inputs from Prabhakar Sinha and Rahul Tripathi)

Saree jahan se achha

The whole world’s draped in sarees, literally, including the Pussycat Dolls. Designers tell us what the USP of the six-yard wonder is


    There was a definite Indian flavour to the red carpet at the annual Fashion Rocks concert in New York, with designer Rocky S walking the ramp along with Jessica, Ashley, Nicole, Kimberly and Melody – the Pussycat Dolls – dressed in sarees. Among names like Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus, Charlize Theron, Fergie and Rihanna, it indicated yet again that Indian fashion, and the saree, has made quite a name for itself internationally.
    Rocky says that he was approached by an Indian portal based in New York, and asked if he’d like to dress up the sexy pop group. “Why would I have said no?” says Rocky. “It sounded very challenging because I had no time – just two days. I thought, I’m an Indian designer and my designs have to reflect that. So I made sarees for them. They asked me to come along and so I went with them to the concert. This concert is basically a celebration of the relationship between fashion and music. It was fabulous,” says a very excited Rocky.
‘RITU KUMAR: I was looking at this picture of the Pussycat Dolls and thinking that the saree has now become a substitute for the Little Black Dress – a lovely, flowing, clingy garment. The fascination of the saree has always been there in the West.The image of India is now that of Shilpa Shetty and Bollywood. I try to modify the drape to suit the young wearers. The saree I designed for the Miss India winner, I made the pallunarrow, so it sat delicately on the shoulders. Since the younger generation is not used to draping the whole six yards, I sometimes stitch the pleats and the first drape of the saree onto the petticoat, which can be zipped up at the waist. That leaves the pallu to be draped as one wishes it to.
SUNEET VARMA: The saree is the most versatile garment in the world. It can, with a sweep of the head, be conservative or with a flash of the navel, trendy. If you are going for a prayer meeting, all you need to do is to place the pallu over the shoulders or cover your head with it. The same saree, worn a little low to show off the navel,and teamed up with a backless choli, and show a bit of cleavage, can make you the most elegant woman at a cocktail party.There are a lot of forces working in the way of popularising the garment in the west.The saree got its first push towards stardom when Valentino designed a saree dress for Jackie O way back in the 50s. And many international designers – John Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier, Armani,
and others have shown the saree as a part of their collection on the inter
    ’national runway.

DOLLED UP: The Pussycat Dolls in sarees. For more pics of the band, visit http://photogallery. 

Reality with a twist in the tale

The Bollywood Club, a show in which contenders use their skills to try to entertain and impress Bollywood directors, gets the behind-the-scenes dope right into your living room

SASHWATI SANYAL Times News Network

    It is said that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. And that is exactly what is happening with the first set of contestants proving their mettle in Bollywood Club, Konnection Kismat Ka

at D Ultimate, the venue for all the action. The maiden show, starting today on Zoom TV, promises to bring you everything – from a struggler’s trials and tribulations to the joy of victory.
    The first of its kind, it brings together an assortment of the country’s talent as ‘seekers’ in a face-toface encounter with Bollywood’s leading talents, the ‘givers’. The journey from here would catapult some to instant stardom, while for the rest, it would be a lesson well learnt. Reveals a self-confessed fighter, Avantika, who has been shortlisted for ‘seekers’ and is desperate to make it big as an actress in Bollywood, “My parents have never supported me. It is just a dream that I have and I want to see it fulfilled in this lifetime. My parents can’t digest the fact that I want to act but I think I have the talent in me to make my presence felt. So I believe this is the right platform which can get me noticed.”
    Directors of the calibre of Nikhil Advani, National Award winner Madhur Bhandarkar, Farah Khan, Subhash Ghai and Apoorva Lakhia would be judging the aspirants on the basis of their acting, singing, dancing, mimicry and other talents. This is what filmmaker Advani had to say
about the show, “Zoom television is starting Bollywood Club where ‘YOU’ guys will be given an opportunity to show your talent. You don’t necessarily need to be a great dancer or actor and who knows, who will be the superstar tonight? So my advice to you guys is – use the platform and who knows, one day soon, we might just be making films together.”
    The first episode of the show will bring you the highlights of the party where the big shots mingle with the contenders. This will be followed by livewire action, as each tries to outwit the other. Noted filmmaker Subhash Ghai and TV actor/director Rohit Roy will decide the rest.
    So gear up for some major rollercoaster feats on the sets of D Ultimate as the audiences get to see the next set of shooting stars of the country. 

Rohit Roy with the contenders

Priyanka Chopra’s smoky affair!

    Not many people know that Priyanka Chopra is allergic to smoke and has trouble breathing whenever there’s smoke around or near her.
    Now, for the shooting of a grungy number Oopcha for Drona, a lot of fire and smoke was supposed to be created on the sets. But, when the film’s director Goldie Behl, got to know about this problem of Priyanka’s, he together with the entire unit wondered how to handle the situation. And after a lot of deliberation, Goldie thought of shooting all the fire sequences right at the end of the day and keep the shooting hang
er open with lots of fans to blow out the smoke for the next morning. Explains Goldie, “When we conceptualised the song, we didn’t realise that Priyanka would have such a problem. So we thought of shooting the fire sequences right at the end of the day and quickly whisk her away. And we did just that. We used fans to blow out the smoke and shoot the other parts of the song next morning. This way, we managed to shoot the sequences without compromising on Priyanka’s health, and must say the song’s looking sensational.” Quite a smoky affair, hai na?

Priyanka Chopra

Aamir in a sequel game

    There’s a buzz in the industry that Aamir Khan is keen to make a sequel to his successful comic caper Andaz Apna Apna with Salman Khan. And if reports are to be believed, both the Khans are having serious talks about the project. Now, the big question is, will the director of the first installment of Andaz..., Raj Kumar Santoshi, direct the sequel as well? Well, we’ll have to wait and watch until the project is officially ready to roll out from the Khan factory.
(Snippets contributed By Gautam Buragohain
    and Urvashi Ashar

Aamir Khan

‘Now begins the real fight’

Newly-elected DUSU president, Nupur Sharma, reveals her future plans and talks about what’s on her to-do list

NIKHILA PANT Times News Network

    Ihave finally got some time to rest,” says DUSU president Nupur Sharma. An Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad candidate and a student of Law Centre-I, Nupur defeated her rival, NSUI’s Sonia Sapra, by a margin of 1,739 votes. Calling this triumph of experience over amateur aspirations, Nupur says, “There were talks about how students vote going by the looks of the candidates and not their qualities. But my victory has proven all this wrong. I have experience on my side and DUSU elections are certainly not a beauty pageant. Now is the time to begin the real battle.” The 23-year-old is also clear on what tops her to-do list right now. “I have to make sure that the faith that DU students have lost in DUSU is restored. Low voter turnout during the elections vouches for the fact that students are either not aware of what DUSU stands for or are simply not interested in being a part of it.” And like all things political, Nupur does not forego the opportunity of taking a dig at the out-going office bearers. “For the past five years, no concrete work was being done in DU.
A ban on smoking was announced but not properly enforced. Students would sit in the DUSU office and smoke and drink openly – then how were the office bearers expecting the DU students to follow the rules? A lot was also said about the upgradation of college campuses, but some colleges still function out of almost ruin-like buildings.”
    Nupur has her plan of action ready. She reveals, “There should be proper checking at the college gates to make sure that no objectionable substance is carried inside the college.
The students also need to be sensitised to h e l p in following the ban on smoking and drinking on the DU campuses.”
    The issue of sexual harassment is something that Nupur plans to take up seriously. “Almost every single girl in DU has been eve-teased or sexually harassed at least once. The only solution to this is to make DU into a compact campus where outsiders are not allowed. DU students rarely indulge in teasing a fellow students. It’s always the outsiders who are the culprits.”
    The petite president also vocalises her fearlessness in going to the college authorities and asking them to be accountable. “Every college gets UGC grants to uplift the college infrastructure. Where does all the money go? Why are the walls of some colleges crumbling? DU is not only about hanging out with friends and bunking classes. It is primarily about being in an environment conducive to studying. And that’s what we want to achieve. Hostels also need to be upgraded. While we are talking of hostels, I must clarify that the discussion about co-ed hostels was much ado about nothing. I think it’s no big deal if we have co-ed hostels. Students studying in DU are mature adults and know right from wrong. If we have separate dormitories and floors for the guys and girls, there should be no problem.” Quite frank, what say!

NSUI candidates celebrate their victory

ABVP candidates campaigning on the last day

V FOR VICTORY: Nupur Sharma

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