Off the record

Venting spleen

It was indeed a great opportunity for eloquence. The Constitution Club auditorium in the national capital was packed with a captive audience. Girl students from postgraduate departments, scholars from the field of women’s studies or related departments, women politicians and activists, all were present to discuss the failure in getting through the Women Reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha.

Though the organisers had assured an all-party meeting, only the Left and the Congress were represented. Former police officer Kiran Bedi was there to tell the women to boycott the next Lok Sabha polls if the Bill did not become an Act by that time. Senior Himachal Pradesh Congress MP Chandresh Kumari wanted to shift the blame on other parties, but could not make any impact on the audience.

The youthful and energetic Alka Lamba tried to match Bedi, but in vain. Citing the example of Egypt she said how a determined mass can overthrow a regime. The audience could hardly relate themselves to the call, and those who sensed the root of her personal anger, smiled. Lamba was dropped from the list of secretaries of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) in a recent revamp of party office bearers. “She is giving vent to her anger,” some partymen said.

Anil Sinha, New Delhi

On the same page

It has been almost a year since Shashi Tharoor resigned as minister of state for external affairs in the wake of a row over the Kochi IPL team controversy. But the twitter mania he introduced in South Block now seems to be spreading.

The Public Diplomacy Division was the first to have its footprint on Twitter. The next was Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, who kept on giving updates on the micro-blogging site about Operation Safe Homecoming – the evacuation of Indian nationals from Libya.

South Block’s interface with the media, Vishnu Prakash, has made his debut on Twitter. Tharoor was among the first few to welcome Rao to the world of Twitter.  He also offers suggestions to the MEA on Twitter. His latest to Rao was about what India could do for Japan,  devastated by an earth quake and tsunami.

“Great initiative (India’s move to send woolens to Japan)! How about offering some medics with earthquake experience, eg CSIF veterans from Haiti?” tweeted Tharoor.
“That's a great idea. Will run it through,” the foreign secretary replied.

Anirban Bhaumik, New Delhi

Mystery of the missing file

Alleged money launderer Hasan Ali Khan may have walked free after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) failed to produce a single document through which he could be prosecuted. But back in Patna, a blame-game is going on between the Passport Office and the Bihar Police as to how the Pune-based Khan got a passport issued here in his name in 1997 by mentioning a fake address in Alamganj area.

A few days ago, the police asked the Patna Regional Passport Office to furnish photocopies of all documents attached by Khan while applying for that passport. The RPO replied that Khan’s file has gone missing. But it added that if the police verification had indeed been done, the police ought to have a copy of Khan’s documents as well as verification report.

Baffled, the police now say Khan might have been issued a passport during the prevalence of the report overdue system (ROS), when a passport could be issued if a verification report was not submitted within four weeks.

The ROS was in place between 1996 and 2000, after which police verification was made mandatory. And Khan was issued passport in 1997.

As the blame-game is on, the passport office has informed the ED that even though Khan’s file “is untraceable, but we are trying to locate it.”

Abhay Kumar, Patna 

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