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Virender Kapoor | April 11, 2005
A couple of weeks ago, Anil Ambani, engaged in a bitter fight with elder brother Mukesh over the control of the Reliance empire, wrote to Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil, complaining that his cellular phone was tapped.
Since Anil, besides being a powerful industrialist, is a member of Parliament, Patil ordered an immediate inquiry.
It made little headway. In fact, the probe did not conclusively say whether his phone was tapped or not.
But private investigations by Anil's trusted lieutenants threw up interesting facts that prove how easy it might be to snoop on GSM cellular phones.
And how hard it might be for the authorities to clamp down on people tapping cellular phones.
It seems anyone willing to fork out about Rs 25 lakh can acquire a small electronic device not bigger than a personal computer and set himself up as a private detective.
An Israeli firm manufacturing this contraption hawks it on its Internet site.
Called the private GSM interception system, it 'is intended for search, interception and research of cellular signals on GSM, stationary or mobile phones.'
Though the normal monitoring range is within a 15 kilometre radius, it can be enhanced with the aid of directional antenna, which cost extra.
Delhi is a heartless, nay cruel, city.
With the change of guard in South Block, it overnight dumps the old power structure.
This Holi, it was obvious to even the most casual of observers.
At the sprawling bungalows of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his deputy Lal Kishenchand Advani, the usual suspects -- who had become a fixture when the two were in government -- were missing.
This was Vajpayee and Advani's first Holi in the Opposition.
Barring the odd party faithful, there was hardly anyone celebrating with them.
A senior scribe who visited their houses before that of Rajiv Shukla, a journalist-turned-politician, on Holi, could not help notice the sharp contrast.
There was great fanfare and several times more revelers at the house of the popular Congress member of the Rajya Sabha than at the houses of the two seniormost BJP leaders.
You pay, the babus pray
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the guru of the rich and the famous, has stolen a march over all his peers dispensing spiritual healing to troubled souls from Kanpur to Kosovo.
Unknown to many, Shankar's Art of Living Foundation seems to have managed official sanction. Central government employees are encouraged to attend its courses and activities while taxpayers pick up the tab.
The government pays for 90 percent of the expenses for babus attending spiritual courses organised by the Foundation. Participants are expected to pay the remaining 10 percent.
And, the babus are allowed to participate in the courses on government time.
The circular to the above effect was issued by the Vajpayee government, but is still in place.
Makes you wonder why the self-avowedly secular State should get into spiritual healing, meditation, discourses, etc -- and why Sri Sri alone.
If you lend your ears to the buzz in the higher echelons of the Congress, at least three high-profile ministers in the Vajpayee government are knocking at their door for admittance.
Most surprisingly among the three is an old Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-Jana Sangh-BJP veteran who has been sulking ever since the party leadership marginalised him.
Whether the former ministers will leave the BJP or not is still not certain, but that they are toying with the idea should tell you how bad things are in the BJP.
Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh