14th August 1997 - Telegraph
Or here for 15 August 1997
SC clamps down on sexual harassment
Bollywood 30 on hit-list
Storm greets High Court’s remark on Bihar
Mamata plays ‘kingmaker’
Front claims consensus on petroleum price hike
50 comes a day too soon for Pakistan

New Delhi, Aug. 13 

The Supreme Court today directed the Centre and state governments to enforce 12 guidelines to protect women from sexual harassment at places of work.

In the first crackdown that ripped the wraps off an offence which more often than not is hushed up, the court said it was the duty of employers — both in the public and private sectors — to prevent harassment on women.

A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice J.S. Verma, set the mandatory guidelines and directed all employers to “provide procedures for resolution, settlement or prosecution of acts of sexual harassment”.

The judges gave a new definition to what constituted or amounted to sexual harassment. It would include physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favours, sexually coloured remarks, showing pornography to women employees and any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature.

The directions came on a batch of public interest petitions filed by several social activists and non-government organisations (NGOs). The petitioners were agitating over the rape of a social worker in a village in Rajasthan.

Till necessary legislation was passed by the Centre and state governments, the guidelines would be the law of the land, the judges added.

According to the guidelines, notices prohibiting sexual harassment should be published and circulated at workplaces. Government and public sector units’ regulations on discipline should include provisions for appropriate penalty against the offender, the directions mandated.

There are also directions to set up a complaints committee, which “should be headed by a woman” and “not less than half of its members should be women”.

The committee should also involve a third party, either an NGO or any other agency familiar with the issue of sexual harassment, the judges said. The committee has to submit an annual report to the concerned government department on women’s issues.

A direction to private employers said the prohibition should be included in the standing orders under the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946. The employers should also ensure an appropriate work environment for women, including provisions for leisure, health and hygiene.

There should be no hostility towards a woman employee and she should not have “reasonable ground to believe that she is disadvantaged in connection with her employment”, the judges added.

The judges pointed out that a law on the issue was absent in the country. Hence, within powers conferred on the Supreme Court, under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, the judges declared the guidelines as law, till a suitable legislation was formed by the Centre and state governments.    

Mumbai, Aug. 13 

Music mogul Gulshan Kumar’s gangland slaying yesterday by suspected extortionists has jolted the film industry into listing 30 to 40 “prominent” members suspected to be actual or potential victims of extortion.

A Bollywood delegation will submit the list to Maharashtra deputy chief minister Gopinath Munde, tomorrow.

The list, which includes actors, producers and distributors, was prepared at an emergency meeting called by the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association (IMPPA) here today. It was attended by over 50 people, from a cross section of the Hindi film industry, including producers, directors, distributors, workers and actors.

The delegation will tell Munde if the state government fails to regain the confidence of the Mumbai film industry, the latter is doomed. The team will also remind the deputy chief minister that the government’s duty is to maintain law and order and protect the lives of citizens, irrespective of specific complaints lodged.

Those present at the meeting included B.R. Chopra, Yash Chopra, Sultan Ahmed, Surendra Kapoor, Yash Johar, O.P. Thadani, G.P. Shirke, T.C. Diwan, N.N. Sippy and Shabnam Kapoor.

The list was reluctantly drawn up. “We have prepared a list of 30 to 40 prominent people. It doesn’t mean that those who are not on the list cannot be targets. But we can’t give a list of 800 people,” said producer T.C. Diwan, general-secretary of the Film Makers’ Combine.

The meeting unanimously agreed that it was the duty of the state government to enforce law and order. “If it can’t do that, it has no right to exist,” Diwan said. “How can people sitting in Dubai order murder and the police do nothing?” he asked.

The police suspect that the murder was carried out by the Abu Salem gang, affiliated to Dawood Ibrahim. Several gang members have been picked up for interrogation. In a newspaper interview last month, after the bid on the life of director Rajiv Rai, Abu Salem said a prominent member of the film industry would be killed soon as a warning to other artistes.

Urging victims to come forward, police commissioner Subhash Malhotra, said: “In some cases, we get information and we give protection, like for Subhash Ghai. Over the past two weeks, another person has been given protection. Abu Salem’s interview was taken note of, but nothing could be done as he did not name anyone.”

Charan Singh Azad, joint commissioner of police, law and order, said several calls have been recorded since yesterday. Depending on an assessment of threat, the complainants would be accorded police protection, he added.    

New Delhi, Aug. 13 

Members of the Lok Sabha virtually came to blows today as tempers ran high over the Patna High Court’s remark that Bihar is a “fit case” for President’s rule.

Most members took strong exception to the court’s oral observation, but the uproar reached a flashpoint when the Samata Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) members almost slugged it in the House.

Speaker P.A. Sangma, who was not present when the clash took place, later threatened to take action against the “culprits”. Sangma said he had seen the video film of the free-for-all. “I will see the tape again and again, but I will not spare the culprits,” he added.

The trouble erupted when RJD members opposed Samata Party member Nitish Kumar, from taking the floor, arguing that he had not given notice to speak. Some members rushed to the Well, where Anand Mohan (Samata) and Dinesh Yadav (RJD) nearly came to blows.

George Fernandes (Samata) pulled Mohan aside, while minister of state for law Ramakant Khalap tried to calm down Yadav.

Several leaders of the Congress, the United Front and the BJP, too, tried to broker peace. Presiding officer Col. Ram Singh finally summoned security staff. Earlier, the House was also adjourned for an hour.

The BJP— the RJD’s main adversary in Bihar—maintained silence on the judicial observation, but allowed its ally, the Samata Party, to flex muscles.

The equations were, however, different in the Rajya Sabha. Although members were equally exercised over the court’s observation, those of the BJP and the CPI upheld the pronouncement. “The Court has every right to say this because there is a total breakdown of law and order in Bihar,” Gurudas Dasgupta said.

Priya Ranjan Das Munshi (Congress) said Article 356 did not provide for the Supreme Court and the High Courts to dismiss duly elected governments.

Nirmal Chatterji (CPI-M) said the Speaker should convene an all-party meeting on the issue.    

Calcutta, Aug. 13 

Rebel Congress MP Mamata Banerjee, today further defied the high command by stepping down as Youth Congress president and “handing over charge” to her loyalist and party MLA, Sanjoy Bakshi.

“From today Sanjoy Bakshi is the president of the Trinamul Youth Congress... I am only a primary member of the party,’’ she said. On Saturday, Banerjee formed the parallel Trinamul Congress Committee.

Mamata Banerjee, however, did not clarify whether she was sending in her resignation to the high command or All-India Youth Congress president Satyajit Gaekwad.

Even as the state Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) dubbed her act as “absurd’’, Mamata Banerjee said: “This is completely my own decision and I do not care what others think or say about it.’’

Many in the PCC see Mam-ata’s move as a preemptive one as Mr Gaekwad, during the All-India Congress Committee (AICC) plenary in the city, had said that she would be removed as the state president of the youth Congress.

Mamata Banerjee, in an obvious reference to Kesri, said: “All tho-se aged over 80 years in the Congress party should opt for voluntary retirement schemes. Organisational work should be left in charge of the younger generations.”

President of the parallel committee Pankaj Banerjee, announced the names of Jyot-ipriya Mallick and Tamanash Ghosh as working presidents of the Trinamul Youth Congress.

The presidents of the parallel Mahila Congress Committee and Seva Dal, including convenors of the students’ cell were also named.

Four ad hoc general secretaries of the parallel set-up were also selected.

Pankaj Banerjee said that elections of other office-bearers will be completed by September 13. He announced a 116-member steering committee which incl-udes 12 MLAs. He added the Trinamul Congress will not seek any formal registration from the Election Commission because “we are not a different party.”

Two PCC members from the districts today resigned and joined Mamata Banerjee’s camp.    

New Delhi, Aug. 13 

United Front leaders tonight claimed they had reached a consensus on increasing prices of petroleum products at the Steering Committee meeting. A final decision has, however, been deferred till next Thursday, when the committee will meet again.

Janata Dal leaders said the committee had worked out a consensus in view of the critical oil pool situation. “We do not have an-y other option,” a Dal leader said.

However, Left leaders who attended the meeting said they had not discussed the petroleum price hike. They said a decision might have been reached by the Standing Committee, which met before the Steering Committee. Prime Minister I.K. Gujral, his predecessor H.D Deve Gowda, West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu, and Tamil Maanila Congress chief G.K. Moopanar, attended the Standing Committee meeting.

The Front is likely to increase the quantum of wheat and rice to be distributed to those below the poverty line through the Public Distribution System to offset the negative impact of a petroleum price hike. Gujral has said he is willing to raise the quantum from 10 kg per family to 20 kg.

Front spokesman Jaipal Reddy, said: “It was felt the decision on oil prices could not be put off for too long and that a meeting should soon be held to clinch the decision.”

Both Gujral and finance minister P. Chidambaram have been insisting the government has no option but to hike petroleum prices to bridge the growing oil pool deficit. At the last Steering Committee meeting, Chidambaram had rejected the Left’s alternative measures to tide over the crisis on grounds that they were “totally unviable.”

Tonight’s meeting focussed on the recent Bill fiascos in Parlia-ment due to lack of co-ordination. The committee felt all Bills must be discussed within the Front and with the Congress.    

Karachi, Aug. 13 

Had Benazir Bhutto still been in power, the atmosphere might perhaps have been more grand. But after the dismissal of her government in November, most of her plans for a spectacular celebration of Pakistan’s golden jubilee of Independence — including the building of a monument in Islamabad — were shelved for being too ostentatious in a recession-hit economy.

And with less than a day to go to the 50th birthday of the country, Pakistanis seem only now to be waking up to the fact that this is a moment for celebration as well as introspection.

Karachi’s famous Jhanda Gali (Flag Street) has been doing a roaring business in flags carrying “50 years” logo since the beginning of August. And some shopkeepers have been blaring patriotic national songs through pole-mounted loudspeakers for the last four or five nights. But most of the rest of the city wears a business-as-usual look while the scattered illuminations on public buildings too do not seem to be any more festive than for any other anniversary.

A float parade, a regular feature of all previous Independence Day celebrations, is planned and the two local terrestrial TV stations promise a blitz of entertainment. But there is little evidence that there are any preparations for a day unlike any other.

Certainly, the intermittent turf war in Karachi — which has claimed over 350 lives since the beginning of the year — and the ongoing sectarian carnage in Punjab have helped dampen enthusiasm for any revelry. But equally to blame for the lacklustre build-up to August 14 is the state machinery which has done everything to pour cold water over the commemoration. The grand event planned for Independence Day, a rally at the mausoleum in Karachi of the founder of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, which was to be addressed by President Farooq Leghari and the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was cancelled three days ago due to security reasons.

A small ceremony of 7,000 guests to be graced by the President and the Prime Minister was planned in the morning of August 14. A day ago, the two pulled out and now they will only lay wreath at the grave of the Quaid-e-Azam at 5 pm.

Ostensibly this was to allow the two to address a joint session of Parliament in Islamabad. But it was abruptly cancelled amid rumours that Nawaz Sharif feared being upstaged by the head of state and potential criticism of his policies by an increasingly vocal President.

A last minute decision to have the Prime Minister address the nation from Parliament was also first discarded and then, rumour has it, reinstated.

One thing seems fairly certain, however, that Nawaz Sharif will now speak to the country through television — at one minute past midnight between tonight and tomorrow. But this too might or might not be from a session of the National Assembly.

“The government seems to have found out about the golden jubilee only yesterday,” jokes one journalist about the lack of planning.

But if the celebrations have been put in disarray due to political and bureaucratic reasons, there is not much joy emanating from within the intelligentsia either. In a mood of sombre soul-searching many find little cause to celebrate in 50 years out of which almost 50 per cent have been spent under military rule, in which half the country was lost, in which social indicators continue to be dismal and the country has become notorious as the fifth most corrupt in the world. From people on the street to the essays and letters on the pages of newspapers and magazines, everyone seems to be asking the question: is there anything to celebrate?

An advertisement for a special anniversary supplement of Dawn — the most widely read English newspaper in Pakistan and which is also celebrating its own 50 years of publication — teases readers with essay titles like “Is Pakistan a failed state?”, “What must be done to revive the economy?”, “Has the parliamentary system failed?”, “Can our national universities be rehabilitated?”.

Even if the answers themselves are upbeat, the introspective tone of the questions is perhaps a better indicator of the mood of common Pakistanis.    


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