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December 16, 2000 - December 18, 2000

BJP core group meet to work towards reconciliation Monday, December 18, 2000

GANDHINAGAR: The second meeting of the core group of the state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders holding important organisational and government positions, was held here on Saturday evening, with the view to working towards a reconciliation with the rebels.

A top party source said the aim of the meeting was to "revive the sagging image of the party." Political analysts, however, described it as "dinner diplomacy."

Held at state finance and revenue minister Vajubhai Vala's residence, it was attended by Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, industries minister Suresh Mehta, Union textile minister Kashiram Rana, senior party leader Ashok Bhatt, well-known RSS pracharak Suryakant Acharya, BJP organisational secretary Sanjay Joshi, state BJP president Rajendrasinh Rana and Vala himself.

A participant said the core group meeting had become essential looking to "the rising mood of rebellion among a section of the party." The rebels who had been planning a parallel meet are currently lying low as two of their leaders - Mehta and Rana - have joined the core group.

Though not having any formal sanction from the BJP leadership, its status is "much higher and commands respect from all sections of the party." Such meetings, earlier being held till 1996, were discontinued after rebellion by Shankersinh Vaghela. The meetings were revived apparently on instructions from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which felt that if the rebels succeeded in holding a parallel forum, "another explosion might occur."

The first meeting, held at the Cabinet's No 2 Suresh Mehta's residence a fortnight ago, thrashed out the main agenda to be discussed by party seniors. "The agenda discussed how to improve co-ordination between the government and the party's organisational wing", the senior leader said, adding, "There was also a discussion on possible repercussions on the report higher education minister Bharat Barot is likely to discuss soon on recent poll debacle."

Meanwhile, sections within the party have expressed their misgivings over the way in which a reconciliation is being sought to be imposed by those who matter in the party and government. "If Keshubhai and Suresh Mehta have to decide everything, then there is no place for the young in the organisation", said an angry BJP MLA. Added a minister, "Such core groups can't do much to improve matters. They should have Central high command sanction."

Coming soon: Islamex, a Kosher index Monday, December 18, 2000

AHMEDABAD: The success of the Dow Jones Islamic Index, which has been functioning for the last 15 months and has outperformed the primary index by 15 per cent, has spurred many to consider setting up a similar index in India.

The idea of an Islamic index on the National Stock Exchange (NSE) is taking shape right here in Ahmedabad.

A city-based stock broking firm -- Parsoli Corporation Limited (PCL) -- in collaboration with Bhubaneswar-based Islamic Banking and Finance Network (IBF Net) is in the midst of evolving an Islamic index on the National Stock Exchange (NSE), that will be launched in January.

If the Islamic funds overseas were to invest in Indian stocks, a large chunk of the stocks traded on the Indian market would qualify for investment due to their Shariah-compliant nature.

Dr Mohammed Obaidullah of IBF Net and also associate professor at the International Islamic University, Malaysia, who has done extensive research in the area of Islamic banking and finance, would be assisting PCL in screening the various stocks to set up an Islamic index.

"The Indian equity market is an excellent avenue for Islamically-acceptable investments. Due to the absence of 'Halaal' financial assets such as deposits with Islamic financial institutions, the Islamic equity market would be an attractive investment option for the Indian Muslim investors," says PCL director Talha Sareshwala. He estimates that funds waiting to be invested domestically could be staggering given the sheer size of the Indian Muslim community, which is the second largest in the world. The company is also planning to launch a portal shortly that will popularise the Islamic index on the NSE as well as other investment opportunities for Muslims in keeping with their religious tenets.

And considering equally impressive numbers relating to global Islamic funds, estimated at about $60-80 billion and growing at the rate of 15 per cent per annum, there would be massive investment opportunities. "A portion of such funds could flow into Indian equities, provided these confirm to norms of Islamic ethics." says PCL joint managing director Uves Sareshwala.

The various parameters used by PCL to screen the stocks for investments are primary business and financial ratios. PCL would be excluding companies whose primary business would be in alcohol, tobacco, pork and poultry products, banking insurance, financial services, gambling, amusement parks, hotels, casinos, cinema, pornography and music from the Islamic index.

There are some relaxations though under a consensus evolved by Islamic scholars. "For example, if the income of a hotel from sale of liquor is less than 5 per cent of the total income, it can come in our index, but that percentage of money (say 4 per cent) will be deducted from the dividend and given for charity as a means of purification," explains Uves.

After filtering out companies with unacceptable business activity, those with unacceptable levels of debts or interest income are also removed. "This criteria requires that the total debt/total asset ratio is not more than 33 per cent and total assets not be more than 45 per cent and the non-operating interest income is not more than 5 per cent," informs Talha.

Close to 2,478 companies have been short-listed out of the 5,000 stocks subjected to financial screening by PCL. "It has been a stringent screening," says Talha.

It has restricted the selection of scrips to liquid stocks (Group A and B). Out of 110 Group A stocks, 51 qualify. Of this, seven have been eliminated due to the business they are in. In Group B, 259 stocks qualify, but are being investigated with regard to their business activities.

Axe may fall on Commissioner Sharma Monday, December 18, 2000

GANDHINAGAR: Though the ruling BJP is divided over shifting Surat Police Commissioner Kuldip Sharma following the deteriorating law and order situation in the diamond city, his transfer transfer, however, appears imminent.

According to knowledgeable sources, some BJP leaders close to Union Textiles Minister Kashiram Rana have sought Sharma's transfer. On the other hand some senior ministers, including industries minister Suresh Mehta, are said to be against the move.

According to the sources, a discussion on the crisis in Surat BJP unit which was to be taken up at dinner meeting held at finance minister Vajubhai Vala's residence on Saturday was postponed till next month as BJP office-bearers from Surat could not make it due to their pre-occupation with the spate of crimes in the city, including the multiple murder at Pandesara.

The BJP's Surat leadership felt it could not afford to discuss organisational matters at a time when the citizens are worried more about the deteriorating law and order.

Those present at the meeting, including Kashiram Rana and some other ministers, raised the law and order issue and were told that "the government would soon decide on transfer of Sharma".

It is believed that the government would issue orders to this effect as part of the administrative reshuffle of the police. Even otherwise Sharma's transfer is overdue, pointed out an official source.

The meeting chaired by Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel was also attended by Suresh Mehta, state BJP president Rajendrasinh Rana, organising secretary Sanjay Joshi, deputy chairman of the state planning board Sooryakant Acharya and former minister Ashok Bhatt.

The BJP is also worried that the Congress is trying to seize the initiative over the law and order issue with Leader of the Opposition Amarsinh Choudhary demanding dismissal of senior police officers. Choudhary on Sunday ridiculed the Surat police's claim that crime had actually gone down in the city, and said there was a deliberate attempt to rig the figures by not registering several cases.

Meanwhile, the police have not been able to achieve any breakthrough in the investigations into the murder of Pandesara jeweller Prakash Jain and four members of his family early on Friday.

The police have prepared a computer-aided sketch of the two killers based on the description given by the 15-year-old daughter of the jeweller, Alka. Copies of the sketches have been given to all police inspectors and sub-inspectors in the city and adjoining areas.

HC summons home secy, DSP over Dalit's suicide Saturday, December 16, 2000

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat High Court has summoned the state home secretary and the Vadodara district superintendent of police on December 18 in connection with the suicide by a Dalit youth, Ramesh Rohit, in Vadodara on November 29, after severe torture by police and some persons of upper caste.

Following a writ petition filed by Kailashben Rohit, widow of Ramesh, Justice AK Trivedi, issued a show-cause notice to both the officials and directed them to remain present in the court.

The prayers of the petition include handing over of the investigation to any other agency independent from the police, to direct the state government to lodge an FIR and deal with the accused persons in accordance with law and to direct the respondents to produce a report regarding action taken by the police.

The petitioner submitted that the police is aware that the victim had written two letters addressed to director social welfare, Vadodara, on November 29, which contained his own statement relating to the cause of his death and circumstances of transaction which resulted in his death.

The statement was made by him when he was about to commit "atmavilopana" and to die thereby. The police was aware about the existence of the letters. The director, social welfare of Vadodara had refused to accept his letters.

Valjibhai Patel of Council for Social Justice had also represented all these facts to the Director Social Welfare. However, the police has not taken any action to ascertain factual position about this letter.

The petitioner contended that the police was not interested in initiating the proceedings against other police personnel involved in the commission of offence. On the contrary they were quite charitable towards their colleague in 'Khaki' fraternity.

She further alleged that on account of prejudice against the members of scheduled caste and on account of the fact that the police was hand in glove with sarpanch and others who have been named in the letters, the police feels shy to proceed against the other accused also. That I why no FIR was lodged, the petition added.

5 of Surat family stabbed to death Saturday, December 16, 2000

SURAT: Five members of a jeweller's family were stabbed to death a few hundred metres from the Pandesara police chowki in the early hours of Friday, sending shock waves across the city.

The incident took place at Bhawani Jewellers, the shop-cum-residence of Prakash Bherulal Jain, at plot No. 650, Gujarat Housing Board, Pandesara.

The family, including Prakash, his wife Kaushalya and three children, were done to death in a span of 15 minutes by two unidentified men who spoke Hindi with Oriya accent.

Later, the duo decamped with a bag full of jewellery.

Jain's daughter, who had gone to buy milk and a son who locked himself inside the toilet are the surviving members of the family. They have been sent to a relative's house with police protection at an unknown place in the city and are in a state of shock, assistant commissioner of police I C Raj said.

According to preliminary investigations, the motive behind the murder appears to be burglary. But with the brutal manner the murders were carried out, the police were not ruling out other possibilities. Besides, a large portion of the jewellery was left untouched in the shop.

The incident occurred around 6.30 a m soon after Prakash's daughter Alka (15) opened the shutter of the shop partially and went to buy milk from a nearby stall. Prakash (45), his wife Sushila (42) and their son Narendra (18) were sleeping on the floor in the adjoining room of the shop, while married daughter Kaushalya (21), Dimple (12) and Jitendra (10) were sleeping in a room upstairs.

Kaushalya was in an advanced stage of pregnancy and had come to her parents' house just a day earlier. The bodies of Kaushalya and Dimple too were found alongside that of their parents as they may have come downstairs on hearing their cries.

When Alka returned a few minutes later, she found two men in their early 20s inside the shop with sharp long knives dripping with blood. One of the intruders kept a knife at her neck and asked her to put the jewellery kept in the show-cases in two bags.

Alka took a polythene bag and a school bag lying inside the shop and dumped whatever she could. The killers decamped with the bags from the back door of the house, leaving her in a daze.

When she entered the adjoining room she found the five bodies. Her youngest brother, Jitendra, who was sleeping upstairs, sensed some trouble and shut himself inside the toilet.

Suspecting something amiss inside the shop, a neighbour, yet to be identified, informed Prakash's brother-in-law on phone and he rushed to the shop.

He told TOI that he found both Alka and Jitendra in a state of shock and immediately informed the police.

When asked if the Jain family had any enmity, he said Prakash was a religious person and did not socialise much.

Raj said the police had not been able to get details from Alka, the only witness to the incident, as she was in a state of shock. The police was, however, working on some clues provided by her.

All shops and business establishments in the Gujarat Housing Board area in Pandesara remained closed in protest against the murders.

Home secretary S Nityanandam was asked to rush to Surat from Gandhinagar on Friday afternoon.

All exit points of the city have been sealed and railway stations and bus stands in the state have been put on alert.

Finger prints and the blood-stained 'material' recovered from the shop had been sent for forensic examination, the police added.

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