V.P. Singh

Ex-prime minister of India

V.P. Singh, 77, whose brief tenure as prime minister of India was remembered for his controversial policy of reserving a larger share of jobs for the country’s disadvantaged castes, died Thursday of cancer and chronic renal failure at a hospital in New Delhi.

He served as finance and defense minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi but led a coalition that defeated him in the 1989 elections.


Singh served less than a year as India’s 10th prime minister, leaving office in December 1990. His policy of reserving government jobs for India’s disadvantaged castes led to widespread protests by the country’s upper classes. The resulting protests fragmented the country’s politics and led to the emergence of strong caste-based parties.

Vishwanath Pratap Singh was born June 25, 1931, in Allahabad in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

Singh studied law at Udai Pratap College in Varanasi and later physics at Fergusson College in Pune. He was interested in becoming a nuclear scientist but went into politics instead.

In 1969, Singh was elected to the state assembly as a member of the Congress Party. Two years later, he was elected to Parliament. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi appointed him deputy minister of commerce in 1974. In 1980, she named him chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.

In 1984, Singh became finance minister under Rajiv Gandhi and ordered raids on high-profile figures suspected of tax evasion. During that time, he also was named defense minister. He later quit the Congress Party when he suspected that Gandhi was linked to scandal.

Syed Alwi Syed Hassan

Playwright in Malaysia

Syed Alwi Syed Hassan, 78, a playwright whose seminal plays shaped Malaysia’s theater scene after the country gained independence from Britain, was found dead Sunday at his bungalow on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. On Monday, authorities who investigated his death ruled out foul play.

Syed Alwi’s career spanned more than 50 years. He was believed to be the first known ethnic Malay to study theater at a foreign university, earning dual degrees in theater arts and journalism at the University of Minnesota in the 1950s.

After returning to Malaysia, Syed Alwi helped lead a 1967 coup against the Malayan Arts Theater Group, which was still run by expatriates 10 years after the country achieved independence from Britain. The action enabled Syed Alwi and his peers to popularize contemporary Malay-language plays steeped in local culture.

His 1974 play “Tok Perak,” which depicts the struggles of an aged medicine man who roams the country, became one of Malaysia’ most respected modern theater works. He won the National Arts Award in 2002 from the government for his contribution to the country’s culture.

Ennio De Concini, the Italian screenwriter who shared a 1962 Academy Award for the comedy “Divorce -- Italian Style,” died Nov. 17 in Rome, his family told the Italian News Agency ANSA. He was 84.

-- Times wire reports