THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Sathe rushed to hospital
Mumbai, December 12
The movement to carve a separate Vidarbha out of Maharashtra gathered steam today with several senior political leaders like Mr Vasant Sathe, Mr NKP Salve and others going on an indefinite fast in Nagpur.

Senior Congress leader and a protagonist of a separate Vidarbha state movement Vasant Sathe with Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal in Nagpur Senior Congress leader and a protagonist of a separate Vidarbha state movement Vasant Sathe with Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal in Nagpur on Friday.
— PTI photo

PM calls for open borders in S. Asia
New Delhi, December 12
In a clarion call, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today urged South Asian nations to strive for mutual security cooperation, open borders and even a single currency in the long run as there was no place for mistrust and unwarranted suspicions in the region.

Sacked ICHR chief refutes charges
New Delhi, December 12
Days after the Human Resource Development Ministry announced the removal of Prof M.G.S. Narayanan from the post of Chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research, on grounds of financial misappropriation, the sacked Chairman stoutly denied the charge terming it as illegal and arbitrary.

SC admits PIL on AP poll
New Delhi, December 12
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s decision recommending dissolution of the state Assembly 10 months before the completion of its term and urging the Election Commission to hold mid-term poll, was today challenged in the Supreme Court, in an appeal.

Vaiko’s plea to attend Parliament rejected
Chennai, December 12

A POTA court today rejected MDMK General Secretary and MP Vaiko’s plea to allow him to participate in the debate and voting on POTA Amendment Bill in Parliament saying it was not in its jurisdiction.



President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam presents the 2000 and 2001 National Awards for Master Craft persons and weavers to Chato Kuotsu of Nagaland for his craftmanship in cane and bamboo, in New Delhi on Friday.PTI

EARLIER STORIES

 

Another walkout over Prasad’s remarks
New Delhi, December 12
The Opposition, led by the Congress, today staged a walkout in the Rajya Sabha in protest against lack of response to their demand to expunge “baseless” allegations made against Congress President Sonia Gandhi by a minister during the debate on the Prime Minister’s statement regarding the resignation of Mr Dilip Singh Judeo.

  • Sibal annoys Najma

Plot to kill BJP men detected 
Ahmedabad, December 12
The Gujarat police has arrested five alleged ‘ISI’ and ‘Jaish-e-Mohammed’ agents who had conspired to assassinate several local BJP and VHP leaders and seized arms and ammunition from them. The five persons had conspired to assassinate BJP leaders, including sitting MLA of Naroda constituency Dr Mayaben Kodnani, in charge city Police Commissioner, Chittranjan Singh, told reporters here. — PTI

2 Dalit farmers kidnapped
Shivpuri (MP), December 12
Two days after the abduction of eight farmers allegedly by Mr Rambabu Gadariya dacoit gang from Imaliya in the district, two Dalit farmers were abducted from Pipronya village today allegedly by the Chambu Dhimar group, police said. — PTI

Child-friendly school
Bangalore, December 12
A “child-friendly school” initiative to provide quality education to over one lakh children in the backward Northeast Karnataka region has been launched by the Karnataka Government jointly with Azim Premji foundation and Unicef.
Launched in October in 542 schools in Shoraput and Deodurg blocks of Gulbarga and Raichur, the initiative will develop a school improvement plan to ensure universalisation of elementary education and quality learning in schools,
Unicef India Representative Maria Calivis told reporters here today. — PTI


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Sathe rushed to hospital
S. Iyer

Mumbai, December 12
The movement to carve a separate Vidarbha out of Maharashtra gathered steam today with several senior political leaders like Mr Vasant Sathe, Mr NKP Salve and others going on an indefinite fast in Nagpur.

Mr Sathe, a former Union Minister, was rushed to hospital soon afterwards after he developed a heart condition. According to reports from Nagpur tempers were running high and security had been tightened in the city.

Mr Sathe and Mr Salve decided to go on an indefinite fast after Maharashtra’s Chief Minister Sushilkumar Shinde failed to get a green signal from party president Sonia Gandhi for passing a resolution for the creation of Vidarbha in the state legislature. The winter session of the Maharashtra Assembly is at present on at Nagpur, the state’s second capital.

The Vidarbha region was a stronghold of the Congress and attempts to make it a separate state would reduce the party’s strength considerably in the forthcoming elections, it was felt. Elections to the state assembly were due next year and the ruling Democratic Front (DF) coalition headed by the Congress, the NCP and others were facing an uphill task following allegations of corruption in the Telgi scam.

Of the 71 MLAs in the ruling Congress Party, 27 were from Vidarbha. In addition, there were five legislators from Vidarbha in the Nationalist Congress Party. The DF government headed by Mr Shinde enjoys a wafer thin majority in the state legislature.

The Congress leadership sought to placate its cadre in the region by forming a separate Vidarbha Pradesh Congress Committee instead of pushing for a separate state.

Supporters of a separate Vidarbha, which has 11 Lok Sabha seats of Maharashtra, held a bandh recently and disrupted train traffic passing through Central India.

“Vidarbha has been treated badly. That’s why the demand for a separate state is growing. People’s expectations are also growing,” said Ranjit Deshmukh, a Maharashtra Congress leader who may head the Vidarbha Congress Party.

The demand for a separate state was as old as the creation of Indian states on a linguistic basis. Successive Chief Ministers in Maharashtra, however, had ignored this demand.
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PM calls for open borders in S. Asia
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 12
In a clarion call, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today urged South Asian nations to strive for mutual security cooperation, open borders and even a single currency in the long run as there was no place for mistrust and unwarranted suspicions in the region.

Inaugurating a two-day international conference on ‘Peace Dividend—Progress for India and South Asia’ here, organised by Hindustan Times, Mr Vajpayee said, “As we develop greater economic stakes in each other, we can put aside mistrust and dispel unwarranted suspicions. Once we reach that stage, we will not be far from mutual security cooperation, open borders and even a single currency”.

He stressed for promotion of peace and banishing of hostility in South Asia and cited the increased people-to-people contact between India and Pakistan as an evidence of “intense desire for amity and goodwill”.

The Prime Minister said the demands of globalisation and aspirations of people provided the objective basis for energetic pursuit of a harmoniously integrated South Asia. People, businesses and organisations were anxious to interact more closely with each other, he added.

They had waited for over half-a-century for fulfilment of unexploited potential in their own neighbourhood and were now impatient to move ahead, Mr Vajpayee pointed out to a distinguished audience that included former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Union Ministers and envoys of several countries.

“There can be no argument about our inherent advantages, common interests and complementary strengths, which present a tremendous opportunity for our region to realise its full potential. The investment inputs required to reap this dividend are pragmatic policies, rational economics and popular participation,” he said.

Mr Vajpayee pointed out that in the post-Cold War world of globalisation, countries around the world were increasingly focusing on regional economics with political disputes having been resolved diplomatically or quietly deferred for tackling at a more opportune time.

He said conflict had given way to cooperation as dialogue moderated differences. There was a clear recognition that hostility only stunted economies, inhibited trade and retarded progress, the Prime Minister underlined. 
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Sacked ICHR chief refutes charges
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 12
Days after the Human Resource Development Ministry announced the removal of Prof M.G.S. Narayanan from the post of Chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), on grounds of financial misappropriation, the sacked Chairman stoutly denied the charge terming it as illegal and arbitrary.

Speaking to The Tribune, Professor Narayanan said over the telephone from Calicut, “The report of the CAG, which they claim indicates my financial irregularities, is not true. The new report of the CAG has mentioned that the charges have been dropped after verification”.

He went on to add, “The charges were baseless and were framed on the behest of those with vested interests. I have a letter of the CAG, which admits the mistake of verifying the audit records with a Director, instead of the Member Secretary. I wrote to the CAG that they had to discuss the report with the Member Secretary and not the Director and this had been rectified by them”.

Alleging the ministry’s efforts to thwart the autonomy of the ICHR, Professor Narayanan said, “We are not required to seek the ministry’s approval for everything. There are provisions that indicate that the Chairman is the consulting and appointing authority for the post of Member Secretary”.

While Professor Narayanan refuted charges that he incurred expenditure on allowances he was not entitled to, ICHR officials disagreed that along with former Member Secretary, he (Professor Naryanan) manipulated the running of the office. “He got bills passed for expenditure incurred on his mobile phone, stay in Delhi, home office in Calicut among other things. Being a honorary member, he is not entitled to these privileges”, ICHR officers observed.

Sources said the ministry had been displeased with the mounting bills and had issued letters, seeking an explanation. Officials said, “Professor Naryanan was asked to file his reply, which he did not. He appointed Assistant Directors in Bangalore and Guwahati offices without consulting anyone”.

These allegations were refuted by Professor Narayanan. “I have neither created any new posts, nor are there any fresh appointments. These are just transfers within the ICHR. I am not the only one to have operated from home, my predecessors have done it too”, he said.

It was pointed out that the appointment of Prof Kapil Kumar was a catalyst that brought matters to a head.”He refused to accept the names suggested by the ministry, yet he proposed the names of two bureaucrats from the ministry itself. If he is talking about autonomy, he should have nominated someone from the council, not the bureaucracy”, claimed an ICHR official.

With accusations of financial irregularities and corruption being hurled from both sides, the ICHR is in the midst of a controversy that is getting murkier. “This is the fallout of the infighting in the Parivar”, pointed out a source.

Officiating Member Secretary Professor Kapil Kumar, who assumed office yesterday, claimed that that he was on the job of weeding out corruption.

Meanwhile, the government refuted allegations that some history books for higher classes in schools were plagiarised and denied that ICHR Chairman M.G.S. Narayanan was dismissed for his criticism in this regard.

Replying to supplementaries during question hour in the Rajya Sabha, Human Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi said Mr Narayanan had made a mention of such things a few months ago, but he had academic freedom to do so.
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SC admits PIL on AP poll
Our Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, December 12
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s decision recommending dissolution of the state Assembly 10 months before the completion of its term and urging the Election Commission to hold mid-term poll, was today challenged in the Supreme Court, in an appeal. The appeal was filed against the Andhra Pradesh High Court’s November 27 order dismissing a public interest litigation (PIL) at the admission stage on the issue, holding that the petition was ‘absurd and erroneous’.

The High Court Bench, headed by Mr Justice Devender Gupta, in a detailed order had ruled that there was no reason for judicial interference into the matter.

The Special Leave Petition (PIL) against the High Court order, filed by R. Krishnaiah, is listed for hearing after the winter vacation on January 5, 2004.

The petitioner said that the November 14 resolution of the AP Cabinet to dissolve the Assembly was prompted by Naidu’s attempt to encash upon the ‘sympathy’ wave generated in his favour after recent attack on him by the Naxalites.
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Vaiko’s plea to attend Parliament rejected

Chennai, December 12
A POTA court today rejected MDMK General Secretary and MP Vaiko’s plea to allow him to participate in the debate and voting on POTA Amendment Bill in Parliament saying it was not in its jurisdiction.

“The comprehensive relief called for by the petitioner is beyond the ambit of jurisdiction of the special court set up to try cases under POTA,” designated Judge L. Rajendran said dismissing Vaiko’s application.

The relief sought by Vaiko did not fall within the ambit and scope of POTA, the Criminal Procedure Code, the Prison’s Act or the Tamil Nadu Prison Rules, the Judge said.

Besides, Vaiko had not substantiated his claim within any provisions of law, he said. — PTI
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Another walkout over Prasad’s remarks
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 12
The Opposition, led by the Congress, today staged a walkout in the Rajya Sabha in protest against lack of response to their demand to expunge “baseless” allegations made against Congress President Sonia Gandhi by a minister during the debate on the Prime Minister’s statement regarding the resignation of Mr Dilip Singh Judeo.

Soon after Question Hour, Leader of Opposition Manmohan Singh said the entire Congress was exercised over baseless charges made by Information and Broadcasting Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad against the Congress leadership in the bribery case.

Sibal annoys Najma

In an embarrassment to the Congress, the Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha, Mrs Najma Heptullah, today left the House in a huff adjourning it abruptly, upset over the continued argument by senior Congress member Kapil Sibal.

The unusual spectacle occurred when the House was witnessing stormy scenes over admissibility of a private members’ resolution, by BJP MP from Himachal Pradesh Kirpal Parmar, urging the government to bring a legislation to impose a total ban on religious conversions. Ms Heptullah got upset over Mr Sibal’s repeated assertion that he should be allowed to speak on the subject and left in a huff.
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BRIEFLY


Distinguished Tabla player Zakhir Husain performs at the 'Padmashree Natrajgopi Krishana Sangeet Mahotsav'
Distinguished Tabla player Zakhir Husain performs at the 'Padmashree Natrajgopi Krishana Sangeet Mahotsav', in Mumbai on Thursday night. — PTI

Sinha to meet Khatami
NEW DELHI:
The 13th session of the Indo-Iranian Joint Commission will be held in Teheran on December 13-14, which will be attended by External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha. The session will discuss ways and means to enhance bilateral economic cooperation in trade, transit and energy-related areas. During the visit, the minister will also hold talks on bilateral and international issues with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, Chairman of the Expediency Council Hashemi Rafsanjani and other important leaders. — TNS

Talks with separatists soon: Mufti
NEW DELHI:
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed said on Friday after meeting Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani that the Centre would soon begin talks with separatist groups, including the Hurriyat Conference. The Chief Minister said he had given some suggestions about the proposed dialogue process. Official sources said Mr Sayeed wanted various separatist groups, including that of pro-Pakistan hardliner Sayeed Ali Shah Geelani, to be invited for the talks.
— TNS
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