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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

HC rejects Sadhu Yadav’s bail plea
Patna, May 8
In a blow to RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, the Patna High Court today rejected the anticipatory bail petition of his brother-in-law Sadhu Yadav in the multi-crore flood relief scam.

Heat wave death toll in UP touches 24, snow in Amarnath
New Delhi, May 8
Three more deaths took the toll to 24 in the heat wave in Uttar Pradesh as hot and dusty winds blew across Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh today.

Lanka wants India to play role in talks
with LTTE

New Delhi, May 8
Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera today met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and appealed for something which is a diplomatic “no-no” for any government in New Delhi: India playing a pro-active role in the Sri Lankan peace process.

CPM to move apex court against EC role
Kolkata, May 8
The state CPM leadership met at the Alimuddin Street party office here today to discuss the strategy to be adopted against the Election Commission’s highhandedness and misuse of power in holding elections.





EARLIER STORIES

 

Chandigarh girl Sunita Dogra who has 90 per cent disability in both her upper limbs, along with Javed Abidi, Convener of Disabled Rights Group, addresses a press conference on the issue of discrimination in the recruitment of disabled people in civil services in New Delhi on Monday.Let Sunita take IAS exam, or we will protest: DRG
New Delhi, May 8
It was from the columns of The Tribune on April 7 that the Disabled Rights Group (DRG) in Delhi picked up the poignant story of Chandigarh girl Sunita Dogra.

Chandigarh girl Sunita Dogra who has 90 per cent disability in both her upper limbs, along with Javed Abidi, Convener of Disabled Rights Group, addresses a press conference on the issue of discrimination in the recruitment of disabled people in civil services in New Delhi on Monday. — A Tribune photograph

Andhra Govt fears major Maoist attack
Hyderabad, May 8
The Andhra Pradesh Government fears a major surprise strike by Maoists who have been lying low for quite some time despite suffering huge losses in recent encounters.

BJP to take up genocide in J&K
New Delhi, May 8
The BJP has decided to corner the Congress-led UPA Government in the coming Parliament session by raising, among other issues, the genocide of Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir, inflation and poor handling of the internal security situation, especially Naxalism.

Budhia may jog right into Hollywood
Bhubaneswar, May 8
Orissa's marathon kid Budhia Singh, who created a world record by running 65 km in seven hours and two minutes in the state last week, may soon be seen in a Hollywood film.

Sharad Yadav raps UPA for rising prices
New Delhi, May 8
Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav today criticised the UPA government for rising inflation, unemployment and poverty in the country, forcing farmers, workers and students to commit suicide and demanded the setting up of an inflation control commission.

Frigates to have Barak missiles
Mumbai, May 8
An improved version of the Barak anti-missile system being developed jointly by India and Israel will be fitted on the new stealth frigates being inducted into the Indian Navy, according to sources.

Dawood’s Mumbai shopping centres to be razed
Mumbai, May 8
A twin shopping complex allegedly built by gangster Dawood Ibrahim opposite the Mumbai Police Commissioner’s office will be demolished by the end of this month, according to the civic authorities here.

Pravin Mahajan to move court for psychiatric tests
Mumbai, May 8
Pravin Mahajan, held on charges of murdering elder brother and BJP General Secretary Pramod Mahajan, might approach the Sessions Court or the Bombay High Court seeking permission to undergo psychiatric tests, his lawyer Nandkumar Rajurkar said.

Policy on urban vendors soon
New Delhi, May 8
The government is expected to announce a vendors’ policy in coming session of Parliament that would empower nearly 25 lakh street vendors across the country through institutional credit, registration at the town level and by amending the Indian Penal Code to save them from police harassment.

SAARC meeting from tomorrow
New Delhi, May 8
Tackling terrorism, controlling drug abuse and checking money laundering and trafficking in women and children will be on top of the agenda at a meeting of SAARC Interior and Home Secretaries, starting in Dhaka on May 10.

Prem Bhatia awards presented
New Delhi, May 8
The country’s foreign policy came in for stringent criticism today, with experts arguing that India was yet to develop a suitable awareness both of the nature of the role and capability that the world looked up to New Delhi to play in the international arena.

960 chosen for Mansarovar yatra
New Delhi, May 8
The computerised draw for selection of pilgrims for the Kailash Mansarovar yatra, scheduled to begin on June 1, was conducted at the Ministry of External Affairs today by Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed.



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HC rejects Sadhu Yadav’s bail plea
Tribune News Service

Patna, May 8
In a blow to RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, the Patna High Court today rejected the anticipatory bail petition of his brother-in-law Sadhu Yadav in the multi-crore flood relief scam.

Mr Sadhu Yadav applied for anticipatory bail after the state Vigilance Bureau recently issued arrest warrants against him following a probe into his alleged role in the Rs 17-crore flood relief scam of 2004.

Mr Yadav is accused of having received slush funds in the scam.

Mr Justice Chandramauli Kumar Prasad of the Patna High Court, who had adjourned the hearing on Mr Yadav’s petition on May 1, dismissed the anticipatory bail plea today.

Former Patna DM Gautam Goswami is already in Beur jail for his alleged involvement in the flood relief scam when Mrs Rabri Devi was the Chief Minister.

Meanwhile, the State Vigilance Investigation Bureau has initiated steps to stop four other flood relief scam accused, including its kingpin Santosh Kumar Jha, his girlfriend Nidhi Jha and his father Bhagwanlal Jha, from disposing of their immovable assets allegedly purchased with the scam money. It has already freezed their bank accounts and sealed their bank lockers.

According to bureau sources, the four accused together owned assets worth about Rs 1.83 crore. The bureau move to stop them from disposing of their assets would enable it to confiscate their assets in the event of their conviction in the case.

The investigating agency has submitted an application in this regard before the Special Judge, Vigilance, Patna, under the provisions of the Criminal Amendment Ordinance and is awaiting court order on its prayer.

The ADG of the state Vigilance Bureau, Neelmani, said the department had sent messages to the SP, Delhi Police, DGPs of all states, and the airport authorities to help it arrest Sadhu Yadav, who has absconded.

With the arrest warrant pending against him for over a week, Mr Sadhu Yadav could also not attend the marriage reception party of Mr Lalu Prasad‘s third daughter Chanda held in Delhi on April 30.

In yet another blow to Mr Lalu Prasad, on the directive of the Patna High Court, the state police yesterday shifted the controversial RJD MP, Md Shahabuddin, from Bhagalpur to Siwan jail to expedite the process of hearing of criminal cases pending against him in the District Court of Siwan.

Siwan is the hometown of Mr Sahabuddin who is facing over 35 criminal cases. 

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Heat wave death toll in UP touches 24, snow in Amarnath

New Delhi, May 8
Three more deaths took the toll to 24 in the heat wave in Uttar Pradesh as hot and dusty winds blew across Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh today.

Meanwhile, the holy Amarnath cave in south Kashmir experienced fresh snowfall.

Two persons died in Jhansi and one in Lalitpur in Uttar Pradesh, reports reaching here said.

Severe heat wave conditions in the national Capital abated today with the temperature plummeting to 41.4° C, one degree above normal.

Weathermen said the heat wave sweeping through Delhi in the last week, which saw the mercury touching a five year high of 44.5° C on Saturday, had abated.

“The heat wave that has been sweeping Delhi since last week has abated,” the weather office said.

“Delhi is unlikely to witness, at least in the next weeks or so, the heat wave conditions that were experienced from Friday to Sunday, when temperatures of around 44° C, five degrees above normal were witnessed. Mostly, the temperature would hover around the 41° or 42° C mark,” they said.

Hot and dusty winds blew across Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh during the day, lambasting the people facing frequent power-cuts and water scarcity that have added to their woes.

Heat wave conditions also prevailed in northwest Rajasthan and at isolated places in Haryana, Punjab, Vidarbha and in some parts of Madhya Pradesh and at isolated places in west Uttar Pradesh and east Rajasthan.

Meanwhile, the Uttar Pradesh capital recorded a maximum of 39°C.

However, the weather condition in the holy cave of Amarnath in south Kashmir experienced fresh snowfall while world famous ski resort of Gulmarg and other plain areas were lashed with rains. — UNI

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Lanka wants India to play role in talks with LTTE
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 8
Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera today met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and appealed for something which is a diplomatic “no-no” for any government in New Delhi: India playing a pro-active role in the Sri Lankan peace process.

The Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, who is on his third visit to India since he took office in November last, wanted India to send a clear signal to the LTTE that India would like the Tigers to get back to the peace talks.

On its part, New Delhi made no such commitment. What the Prime Minister is understood to have assured the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister is that New Delhi was committed to the territorial unity and integrity of Sri Lanka and wanted the Norwegian-brokered 2002 ceasefire between Colombo and LTTE to continue.

Mr Samaraweera briefed the Prime Minister on the current situation in Sri Lanka and the peace process. He expressed the determination of Sri Lanka to maintain the ceasefire and to hold talks with the Norwegian facilitator towards this end. They also reviewed CEPA (Comprehensive Economic Partenrship Agreement) negotiations.

Mr Samaraweera also met Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma, and CPIM general secretary Prakash Karat today. The two ministers took stock of the excellent economic and political relations between India and Sri Lanka. Mr. Mangala Samaraweera briefed Mr Anand Sharma on the current status of the peace process in Sri Lanka. Mr Sharma hoped that the parties would resume talks at the earliest.

Mr Mangala Samaraweera also sought India’s support for the candidature of Mr Jayanta Dhanapala for the post of the UN Secretary-General. Foreign Office spokesman Navtej Sarna said: “India has taken note of the request.”

Mr Karat went on record to say Mr Samaraweera wanted India to play a role in seeing that the talks between Colombo and the LTTE should be held (in Geneva).

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CPM to move apex court against EC role
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, May 8
The state CPM leadership met at the Alimuddin Street party office here today to discuss the strategy to be adopted against the Election Commission’s highhandedness and misuse of power in holding elections.

Among others, veteran leader Jyoti Basu and Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee attended the meeting, held at the end of the last phase of polling in the state.

Confident about a landslide victory, the leadership talked about forming the new ministry by including a larger number of youth leaders and women representatives.

The party decided to move the Supreme Court to challenge the Election Commission’s supremacy in conducting the elections by curtailing democratic and trade union rights of political parties.

Its MPs would be asked to raise the issue in the forthcoming session of Parliament, with special reference to the big-boss attitude of Chief Election Commissioner B.B. Tandon and several observers.

General Secretary Prakash Karat and politburo members Sitaram Yechuri and Brinda Karat endorsed the decisions.

Mr Biman Bose and Mr Subhas Chakraborty threatened the Election Commission and poll observers.

With polling in six districts, the process of five-phase elections in the state was completed today.

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Let Sunita take IAS exam, or we will protest: DRG
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 8
It was from the columns of The Tribune on April 7 that the Disabled Rights Group (DRG) in Delhi picked up the poignant story of Chandigarh girl Sunita Dogra. The story of how the physically-disabled Sunita, who had been fighting formidable odds all her life to make it to the Indian Administrative Service, but would not be able to take the exam since the UPSC wants this girl with 90 per cent dysfunctional hands to write her own exam.

Today, as her case goes for final hearing before the Chief Commissioner of Persons with Disability (CCPD) to decide whether she would be allowed a scribe to write her Civil Services Examination (Preliminary) on May 14, DRG convener Javed Abidi made his stand on the issue clear — that if by tomorrow Sunita did not receive any positive assurance from the CCPD, the DRG would hold a dharna outside the PMO in South Block on Wednesday.

“Sunita is very hopeful but I am not. Sunita is on the verge of losing her childhood dream of becoming an IAS officer. And we hold the Prime Minister responsible for all the problems she is going through at a time when she should be sitting down and studying,” Mr Abidi said.

The disabled rights activist also added that “if even then nothing happens and Sunita is not able to appear for the exam on May 14, we will ensure that many others are also not able to appear for the exam. The disabled sector may not wield the kind of power the SC/ST sector does but we can certainly ensure that at least at some centres Civil Services Examination is not held.”

With barely six days to go, Sunita is in the Capital to pursue her case so that she is allowed a scribe to write the exam next Sunday. But she is sure that whatever is the outcome of all the running around she has been doing since December 2005 to fight for her “rights”, she will be there in the Government Model Senior Secondary School in Sector 22 to write the exam that may bring her one step closer to her dream of becoming an IAS officer.

“With determination, one can achieve anything. If I am given a fair chance I am sure I can clear any examination in the world. I request the government to allow me to prove myself. Because I am sure that if I am given a scribe I will definitely be able to make it to the IAS,” says Sunita, winner of the President’s medal for being a role model for disabled people. Mr Abidi makes it clear that Sunita’s demand is not something that is out of turn or strange. “This is our right. She is an eligible candidate, otherwise the UPSC would not have sent her the admission certificate and the roll number.

“Out of 17 civil services that are open to disabled persons, two, including the IAS, are specifically open for persons with upper limb disabilities. Our contention is that if the government is opening up the service why can’t it also change its archive rules. The UPSC and the Department of Personnel and Training knew about Sunita’s case since December. Her case has been with the CCPD since March 7. At a time when the focus should be on her studies, Sunita is running around,” he adds.

Though Sunita can avail herself of the reservation for disabled persons she is not entitled to a scribe as the DoPT rule says that only visually impaired candidates are allowed to write the exam suing a scribe.

But as Javed stresses, it is not the case of one Sunita alone, as there my be several like her, building hopes on vague government rules.

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Andhra Govt fears major Maoist attack
Ramesh Kandula
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, May 8
The Andhra Pradesh Government fears a major surprise strike by Maoists who have been lying low for quite some time despite suffering huge losses in recent encounters.

The lull in Naxalite activity may well be an indication of the brewing storm, police officials feel.

The anti-Naxal wing of the state police, Grey Hounds, which has been following a policy of hot pursuit after the collapse of peace talks, has inflicted high casualties on the guerrilla squads recently.

The CPI (Maoist) Party has lost at least a dozen important leaders and scores of cadre in the recent spurt in gunfight between the police and Naxalites in the forests of Prakasam, Mahabubnagar and Kadapa districts.

The police has seized a cache of arms, explosives, cash, important documents and other material from the encounter sites, leaving the Maoists further vulnerable to attacks by the Grey Hounds.

In the biggest operation since the peace talks broke down, the police has gunned down nine Maoists, including eight women, in the dense Seshachalam forest area in Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy’s home district of Kadapa.

The Naxalites claimed that their comrades were poisoned through a covert operation by the police. “The police has been able to gain an upper hand in the battle. The Naxalites are on the run. But it is very likely that to boost the sagging morale of their comrades, the ultras might plan a sensational and major attack against a senior political figure,” an intelligence officer said.

The officer pointed to the attempt on life of former Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu in October, 2003 during a similar clampdown on the Maoists.

The state police has recently launched a concerted attack on the Naxalite hideouts. With improved intelligence network, the police has been going on the offensive in the recent times, mounting surprise attacks against Naxalite camps. The police has also been successful in cutting off the sources of funds to the Maoists. It is believed that 15 per cent of the value of the irrigation contracts has been finding its way to Naxalite coffers.

Recently, the police unearthed this when it arrested a contractor after two of his employees were caught red-handed while handing over Rs 50 lakh to Naxalite couriers.

The series of losses — both men and material — seems to have caused cracks within the CPI ML. Documents seized by the police revealed that Mattam Ravi Kumar, alias Sridhar, a member of the state committee, expressed his dissatisfaction over the soft approach of the party and advocated a full-scale war on the lines of Nepal Maoists.

Such divisions within the party, the police said, tend to force the Maoists to indulge in an act of bravado so that the cadres remain united.

“Ruling party politicians, especially Ministers and MLAs, are soft targets for the Naxalites. Besides, targeting political leaders also serves the purpose of the Maoists to attract national attention,” said the officer.

Besides stepping up security cover to many political leaders, the police has asked people representatives not to venture into remote areas of their constituencies without informing the local police.

Many legislators in both Telangana and Rayalaseema, who are on the hit list of Naxalites, had actually disguised themselves as catholic priests and maulvis to escape the Maoist eye during the recent “Praja Patham”, a government initiative in the rural areas.

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BJP to take up genocide in J&K
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 8
The BJP has decided to corner the Congress-led UPA Government in the coming Parliament session by raising, among other issues, the genocide of Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir, inflation and poor handling of the internal security situation, especially Naxalism.

The BJP has also decided to put the Congress on the mat over the delay in carving out Telangana state from Andhra Pradesh and also its failure to provide relief to the people against large-scale demotions and sealing in Delhi.

This was disclosed by senior BJP leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha V. K. Malhotra after a two-hour meeting of top BJP leaders, chaired by former Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee.

However, on the issue of reservation for OBCs in elite educational institutions, the BJP sought to strike a delicate balance, saying the number of seats should be increased to ensure that nobody was affected and the quota should be extended to the poor among forward castes also.

“We have always supported social justice and the OBCs should get all support but it should not be done by exempting the minority-run educational institutions. Reservation should also be given to the poor among the forward communities,” Mr Malhotra said.

He said the number of seats in institutions of higher education should be increased so that nobody was affected due to the hike in OBC quota.

Seeking to not annoy the influential OBC electorate, the saffron party has so far been avoiding any comment on the issue and has been demanding “concrete proposals” from the government.

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Budhia may jog right into Hollywood

Bhubaneswar, May 8
Orissa's marathon kid Budhia Singh, who created a world record by running 65 km in seven hours and two minutes in the state last week, may soon be seen in a Hollywood film.

US film production company Foster Entertainment has evinced interest in making a film on Budhia's life, local newspaper Dharitri reported on Monday, quoting the boy's coach Biranchi Das.

A company official reportedly contacted Das with the proposal on Sunday.

Four-and-a-half-years-old Budhia has been shown on almost all TV channels in India and a French channel has also shot a documentary on him.

Touch Productions Ltd, a UK-based documentary film unit, had planned a documentary on Budhia and even invited him to London next week. However, Budhia's trip was put off, Das told the daily.

Budhia's sporting adventure ran into trouble with the state government imposing a ban on his marathon run on the basis of a medical report that said he was "undernourished with a high blood pressure".

The team of doctors has also said that Budhia may face the risk of a stroke if made to run a marathon, a report that Das slammed as "manipulated". — IANS

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Sharad Yadav raps UPA for rising prices
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 8
Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav today criticised the UPA government for rising inflation, unemployment and poverty in the country, forcing farmers, workers and students to commit suicide and demanded the setting up of an inflation control commission.

Mr Yadav, who sat on a dharna at the Jantar Mantar here to protest against the rising inflation, said in a letter written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the price of essential commodities had increased during the past two years making them out of reach of common people.

The JD(U) chief was critical of the UPA government for importing wheat from Australia.

“The Congress-led UPA government was not ready to pay even Rs 700 per quintal to Indian farmers for wheat while deciding to import wheat from Australia at Rs 930 per quintal,” he said.

Pointing out that farmers were being driven to suicide, Mr Yadav said his party would not allow the UPA to import wheat against the interest of farmers.

He demanded the immediate stoppage of government policy of reducing agricultural subsidy and sought waiver of loans of farmers who had repaid the principal amount.

Mr Yadav said the process of reduction in subsidy on petrol, diesel and LPG be stopped so that there was no hike in their prices.

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Frigates to have Barak missiles
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, May 8
An improved version of the Barak anti-missile system being developed jointly by India and Israel will be fitted on the new stealth frigates being inducted into the Indian Navy, according to sources.

The new Barak, a medium range missile system under development, will be ready for deployment in about five years, sources say.

The existing Barak missile system is a short range system with a range of just 10 km. The improved system will have a range of 70 km.

It will be fitted in the new Project N11356 stealth frigates being acquired from Russia.

India will obtain long-range radar and weapon control systems to support the improved Barak.

India and Israel have earmarked $ 350 million for the project, according to defence analysts. Both countries have reportedly agreed to spend more if required.

The present version of Barak is a short range, vertically launched quick reaction missile designed to intercept and destroy anti-ship missiles in mid-air.

It is launched from the Rafael launcher when the radar detects an anti-ship missile at a high altitude and sea-skimming missile at lower altitude.

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Dawood’s Mumbai shopping centres to be razed
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, May 8
A twin shopping complex allegedly built by gangster Dawood Ibrahim opposite the Mumbai Police Commissioner’s office will be demolished by the end of this month, according to the civic authorities here.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, which was dragging its feel on demolishing the Sara and Sahara Shopping Centres, has been ordered by the Supreme Court to bring down the two structures. Mumbai’s Municipal Commissioner Johny Joseph said here today that the apex court’s order would be implemented as early as possible.

“We are awaiting the order of the Supreme Court and will implement it as soon as we receive it,” Mr Joseph said this morning. He added that the order would be implemented in its entirety.

According to the Maharashtra Home Department, the twin shopping centres were built in 2000 on land owned by the state’s Public Works Department. According to the police, the buildings were put up by Iqbal Kaskar, brother of Dawood Ibrahim.

Kaskar is now in jail after being extradited to India from West Asia and is said to be running the illegal construction business from behind the bars.

Last week, the apex court dismissed a petition filed by the shop owners who purchased premises in the twin shopping centres. The SC also refused to grant an injunction on the grounds that it would cause hardship to the petitioners.

The court also ordered the BMC to evict the shop owners in the complex within 15 days. In all, there are 33 shop owners selling electronic goods in the buildings.

So far, four senior municipal officials have been arrested under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act for permitting the D Company to construct the shopping centres.

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Pravin Mahajan to move court for psychiatric tests

Mumbai, May 8
Pravin Mahajan, held on charges of murdering elder brother and BJP General Secretary Pramod Mahajan, might approach the Sessions Court or the Bombay High Court seeking permission to undergo psychiatric tests, his lawyer Nandkumar Rajurkar said.

Earlier, a magistrate has thrice rejected Pravin’s plea to appoint a panel of doctors for undergoing psychiatric tests. The court did not assign any reason for rejecting it.

“As the magistrate, before whom Pravin was produced for remand, has not granted his plea for undergoing psychiatric examination, the only option before us is to move either the Sessions Court or the High Court. After seeking instructions from my client we shall move the appropriate court for such relief,” Rajurkar told PTI.

Rajurkar said he had earlier urged the magistrate of the remand court to let Pravin undergo psychiatric tests, as he wanted to show the accused was not in the proper frame of mind when he shot his elder brother.

The court should know the state of mind of the accused and this should be done at the earliest, he said. — PTI

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Policy on urban vendors soon
Manoj Kumar
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 8
The government is expected to announce a vendors’ policy in coming session of Parliament that would empower nearly 25 lakh street vendors across the country through institutional credit, registration at the town level and by amending the Indian Penal Code to save them from police harassment.

The National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS), headed by Dr Arjun Sengupta, has submitted the draft policy in this regard to the Prime Minister and the Minister of State for Urban Employment and Poverty Alleviation.

Rejecting the present provision of licensing to vendors by municipal bodies, the national policy has recommended mandatory registration of all vendors by the Town Vending Committees.

It would comprise of designated officials of the local municipal body, the police, the pubic land authority, banks and about 25 to 40 per cent representatives from associations of street vendors, said the Chairman of NCEUS, Dr Arjun K. Sengupta, today.

To provide them adequate credit and insurance, the commission has recommended that financial institutions like the Small Industries Bank of India should extend credit to the vendors on the pattern of small and medium enterprises. The government can offer insurance cover on credit to save them from the exploitation of moneylenders.

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SAARC meeting from tomorrow
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 8
Tackling terrorism, controlling drug abuse and checking money laundering and trafficking in women and children will be on top of the agenda at a meeting of SAARC Interior and Home Secretaries, starting in Dhaka on May 10.

Union Home Secretary V.K. Duggal and a team of officials will leave for Dhaka tomorrow to attend the meeting, an official press note said here today.

The meeting was also expected to discuss technical cooperation in police matters and training of police personnel of SAARC countries, it said, adding that measures to strengthen Offences Monitoring Desk and Terrorist Offences Monitoring Desk would be deliberated upon.

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Prem Bhatia awards presented
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 8
The country’s foreign policy came in for stringent criticism today, with experts arguing that India was yet to develop a suitable awareness both of the nature of the role and capability that the world looked up to New Delhi to play in the international arena.

“We have to start thinking of ourselves as a source of power, not as a victim that must ward off power. Secondly, we must think afresh of where out interests lie. Thirdly, we must develop our capabilities for shaping events, not merely reacting to them”, said former Ambassador K.S. Bajpai, while delivering the Prem Bhatia Memorial Lecture, here this evening.

He said Islam and oil were only the most obvious reasons why West Asia was important for us, but we also had some three million of our citizens at work there.

“We have not applied our minds to the ways in which we can be useful in easing some of the infinitely complex problems of the region or to whether we have any role to play in the stability promoting possibilities”, he said.

On Iran and the nuclear issue, he said, “Iran is important and we do not want to be antagonistic, but this is another case of our needing to pursue policies that reconcile our conflicting interests, good relations and non-proliferation”.

Taking a dig at Left parties, he said, “What is mystifying is the degree to which opinion makers in India, especially political parties which are supposedly concerned more about India’s interests that those of other countries, have sought to mobilise support for Iran’s nuclear programme without attention to its dangers for us”.

He said New Delhi’s first area of attention ought to be the neighbourhood and it was important that we were seen as a force for stability and not hegemonism.

He said while developing relations with China, India could not ignore Beijing’s vital help to Pakistan in developing nuclear weapons capabilities or the development of naval facilities by and for the Communist nation in Myanmar, as these posed serious problems for New Delhi.

“No one can be sure how benevolent China’s growing power will prove in its applications to Asia as a whole. It is no part of India’s interest to let mistrust, much less confrontation, return to Sino-Indian relations, and equally, it is in nobody’s interest to see China dominate Asia”, he said.

He said the more India engaged with the world, the more such dilemmas and balancing acts would face us.

Strategic expert K. Subrahmanyam, who presided over the function, said the potential of India to emerge as a knowledge superpower with huge market and skilled population had forced the world to engage with New Delhi.

Stating that the talk of non-alignment in the 21st century would be the manifestation of Cold War thinking, he said the six major powers — the USA, the EU, Russia, China, Japan and India — were competing in peace by engaging themselves with one another, which was completely different from the situation in the bipolar world.

It was the growing importance of India in the world arena that New Delhi had been asked to attend the G-8 summit at St. Petersburg in July.

The Prem Bhatia Award for Excellence in Political Reporting and Analysis was given to Navika Kumar for her investigative reports and Atual Chandrakant Deugaonkar for his reports on environmental issues.

Two scholarships of Rs 75,000 each were given to R. Uma Maheshwari and Radheyshyam Jadhav for their proposed works.

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960 chosen for Mansarovar yatra
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 8
The computerised draw for selection of pilgrims for the Kailash Mansarovar yatra, scheduled to begin on June 1, was conducted at the Ministry of External Affairs today by Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed.

Pilgrims were selected through a computer-generated, gender-balanced, random selection process for 960 slots across 16 batches.

Mr Ahamed said the yatra had acquired greater significance this year as it marked 25 years of its resumption.

He said it was the government’s endeavour to improve and upgrade facilities for the yatra and increase the number of yatris every year.

In view of India’s request to allow a greater number of yatris to visit Kailash Mansarovar, the Chinese side had agreed to increase the size of each batch from 44 to 60.

The government had been discussing issues regarding the improvement of facilities with the Chinese side.

A proposal had been made to the Chinese side regarding opening an alternative route for the yatra.

During the visit of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to India in April last year, the Prime Minister had raised the matter of opening an alternative route through Ladakh, which would be shorter and more convenient.

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