SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

CM assures protection to Tata
Kolkata, January 22
A 1000-member security squad was engaged last night for guarding Tata Motors plant site at Singur in the wake of yesterday’s vandalism during “bhoomi pujan”.

Blanket order on witness protection not possible: SC
New Delhi, January 22
Though terming the concept of witness protection as a noble idea, the Supreme Court today said it was practically impossible to have a blanket order to provide security to every witness, considering the vast population of the country and over three crore cases pending with the judiciary.

The illuminated Raisina Hill during the Beating the Retreat rehearsal at Vijay Chowk in New Delhi on Monday. The illuminated Raisina Hill during the Beating the Retreat rehearsal at Vijay Chowk in New Delhi on Monday. — Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal

Justice Khan appointed J&K High Court CJ
New Delhi, January 22
President A P J Abdul Kalam today appointed Justice B.A Khan as Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court. He was functioning as acting Chief Justice there after transfer from the Delhi High Court in July 2005.




EARLIER STORIES




JD (U) expels Fernandes loyalist
New Delhi, January 22
The war of nerves within the Janata Dal (United) intensified today when party president Sharad Yadav struck back at former party president George Fernandes by expelling the latter's loyalist party general secretary Shiv Kumar from its primary membership, a day after the revival of the defunct Samata Party.

Nitish-Sharad lead oust-George drive
Patna, January 22
The JD(U) leadership led by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and party’s national president Sharad Yadav is reportedly favouring the removal of Mr George Fernandes as the NDA convener.

Maya cashing in on madarsa issue
Lucknow, January 22
The Kareli madarsa gang rape has given BSP President Mayawati an opportunity to make peace with the Muslim community whom she had rubbed the wrong way by her remark that they preferred ‘fundamentalists’.

Cong losing sleep over BJP’s ‘silent march’ in Karnataka
New Delhi, January 22
The communal violence witnessed in Bangalore over the past two days has set alarm bells ringing in the Congress as it has turned the spotlight on the BJP’s ongoing successful attempts to make inroads in Karnataka by pursuing its hardline Hindutva agenda.

BMC poll: It’s Rane vs Shiv Sena
Mumbai, January 22
Maharashtra's Revenue Minister Narayan Rane, who is now in the Congress, is locked in an eyeball to eyeball contest with his old party, the Shiv Sena in the run up to the Mumbai municipal elections.

Judge booked for wife’s death
Rajkot, January 22
An Additional Sessions Judge of Jetpur court, near here, has been booked for allegedly abetting the suicide of his wife and the police was awaiting permission from the Gujarat High Court to arrest him.

Nithari: 9 call girls quizzed
Noida, January 22
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is not ruling out any possibility as far as the probe into Nithari killings is concerned and various angles like the call girl racket angle, misuse of D-5 Nithari as a den of sex racket for Moninder’s well-connected and well-paced friends, cannibalism or drug trade, etc.

Nithari-like case: 100 skeletons found
Etah, January 22
Panic gripped this district of Uttar Pradesh after the recovery of about 40 skulls and over 100 human skeletons from a pond near an abandoned post-mortem house here.

Bravo to make appearance in R-Day Parade
New Delhi, January 22
Bravo, the mascot of the 4th CISM Military World Games-2007, will feature for the first time during the Republic Day Parade. Along with arms and ammunition of various defence organisations and the three wings of the Indian armed forces, Bravo will be an added attraction in the pageantry from the Ministry of Defence.

New Western Air Command Chief
New Delhi, January 22
Air Marshal Padamjit Singh Ahluwalia will assume office as Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the premier Western Air Command of the Indian Air Force (IAF) here from February 1.

Sai Baba’s remarks on Telangana ruffle political feathers
Hyderabad, January 22
Godman Satya Sai Baba of Puttaparthi kicked up a row after he made politically sensitive remarks against the demand for a separate Telangana. "It's a sin to cut up the country or states into pieces. It's not good for the country or for the people," Sai Baba, called Bhagwan by his devotees across the globe, said, speaking at a function in Chennai on Sunday.

First liver donation in armed forces
New Delhi, January 22
P.N Singh, the 72-year-old father of Maj S.K Singh, an officer from the Artillery Regiment, has become the first liver donor in the history of Armed Forces Medical Services. The liver was flown all the way to Hyderabad, where it was successfully transplanted into a 45-year-old person, suffering from end-stage liver disease.

Fifth generation fighter to figure at India-Russia talks
New Delhi, January 22
Development of a fifth generation fighter jet plane and a mid-sized transport aircraft has been on India and Russia’s agenda for quite some time now with the two sides preparing various documents for partnership and the same is likely to figure again at the annual meeting of the defence ministers of two countries slated to begin here on Wednesday.

Rajnath for joint military campaign with Pak
Thiruvananthapuram, January 22
India should propose a joint military campaign with Pakistan "to test the honesty" of President Pervez Musharraf who had reached an accord with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to counter terrorism, BJP president Rajnath Singh said today.

Home Guards used as oxen
Patna, January 22
The Home Guards at Jammui in Bihar are also preparing to celebrate the forthcoming 56th Republic Day on January 26, but in a different way.

Bihar village renamed after Saddam
Lahouna (Bihar), January 22
Angry villagers in Bihar’s Lahouna village have renamed their village as ‘Saddam Nagar’ in memory of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Videos
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CM assures protection to Tata
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, January 22
A 1000-member security squad was engaged last night for guarding Tata Motors plant site at Singur in the wake of yesterday’s vandalism during “bhoomi pujan”.

The CPI(M) cadres in the areas have also been asked to organise round-the-clock vigil at the site. The order under Section 144 CrPC, which was reimposed on Singur and adjoining areas, had also been extended for an indefinite period.

Meanwhile, the Trinamool Congress Mahila Samiti today held demonstrations in front of the Tata Industries' headquarters at Chowringhee, Kolkata. The demonstrators blackened the Tata Centre building with tar. Carrying placards and broom sticks, they blocked the main thoroughfares, disrupting traffic. The aggrieved leaders also raised slogans and burnt the effigies of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Ratan Tata.

Describing yesterday’s incident at Singur as a minor event, the Chief Minister assured Tata Motors officials that things at Singur would get normal. He reiterated that adequate protection would be given to Tata Motors during the construction period and afterwards till normalcy was restored.

State Industries Minister Nirupam Sen today ruled out the possibility of any further talks with Ms Mamata Banerjee or any other leader on the Singur issue.

But Ms Banerjee reiterated that the agitation would widen at Singur and discussed the future plan of action with leaders of the Singur Krishi Bachao Committee and other participating parties.

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Blanket order on witness protection not possible: SC
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, January 22
Though terming the concept of witness protection as a noble idea, the Supreme Court today said it was practically impossible to have a blanket order to provide security to every witness, considering the vast population of the country and over three crore cases pending with the judiciary.

The court gave six weeks to the Union Government to come up with its response on its plan to augment the infrastructure facilities with the lower judiciary, carry a sample survey in some courts about the kind of protection required to witnesses and proposed amendments in CrPC for recording of their statements by a magistrate to prevent them from turning hostile.

While hearing arguments from senior advocate Vivek Tankha on behalf of NGO Country First seeking a direction to the government to evolve a mechanism to provide protection of witnesses against intimidation, coercion and temptation, a Bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Mr Justice D.K. Jain posed a question whether in India with a population over one billion such order was practically feasible.

The court reminded him and Additional Solicitor-General Gopal Subramaniam that when finances for improving the judicial infrastructure, specially in lower courts, was not forthcoming easily from the government, how could it be expected that they would provide funds for evolving a mechanism for protection of witnesses.

Subramaniam agreed that there could not be a blanket legislation on providing protection to witnesses. But he said the government was serious about changes in CrPC to ensure that statements of the witnesses were recorded during investigation in criminal cases that would prevent them from resiling the same later in the court.

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Justice Khan appointed J&K High Court CJ
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, January 22
President A P J Abdul Kalam today appointed Justice B.A Khan as Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court. He was functioning as acting Chief Justice there after transfer from the Delhi High Court in July 2005.

It was a major departure from the set convention that a judge who started his career in the same High Court was appointed its Chief Justice.

Justice Khan, was initially appointed as a judge of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court in 1990 and was later transferred to Madhya Pradesh High Court in 1997.

He again got transferred to the Delhi High Court in January 2000 and also functioned as acting Chief Justice there for a short period before being sent back to the Jammu and Kashmir High Court. Dr Kalam cleared his appointment today and he is expected to take oath later this week, Law Ministry sources said.

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JD (U) expels Fernandes loyalist
Satish Misra
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 22
The war of nerves within the Janata Dal (United) intensified today when party president Sharad Yadav struck back at former party president George Fernandes by expelling the latter's loyalist party general secretary Shiv Kumar from its primary membership, a day after the revival of the defunct Samata Party.

After Mr Kumar's expulsion, the JD (U) leadership consisting of Mr Yadav and Bihar Chief Minister Sharad Yadav is contemplating further action against those who defied warnings of disciplinary action and held a conference yesterday for reviving the Samata Party to enable Mr Fernandes form a forum to keep his political fortunes alive. Mr Kumar's expulsion was announced here in a release which was signed by JD (U) spokesman Shambhu Shrivastava.

Besides Mr Kumar, prominent party leaders who attended the meeting included former Samata Party president Jaya Jaitley, its spokesman Aneel Hegde, Gujarat unit chief Praveen Jadeja and Bihar MLA Chedi Paswan.

Mr Fernandes, who is keen to keep his Lok Sabha seat from Muzzafarpur in Bihar, kept himself away from yesterday's conference.

Instead, he had deputed Ms Jaitley to attend the conference whom Mr Fernandes would like to install as the Samata Party chief with the objective of keeping a firm grip on his old outfit.

Mr Fernandes, who has come close to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and has been instrumental in getting a tacit understanding between the BJP and Samajwadi Party evolved, has made the move to revive the Samata Party in the wake of Assembly elections in four states.

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Nitish-Sharad lead oust-George drive
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, January 22
The JD(U) leadership led by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and party’s national president Sharad Yadav is reportedly favouring the removal of Mr George Fernandes as the NDA convener.

Sources in the JD(U) disclosed that the Nitish-Sharad duo had already spoken to BJP president Rajnath Singh, asking him to take a clear stand towards the JD(U) vis-a-vis Mr Fernandes. The move was linked to the revival of the Samata Party in Delhi on Sunday by some JD(U) dissidents close to Mr Fernandes.

The JD(U) is believed to be suspecting BJP’s hand behind the revival of the Samata Party to put the Nitish government in Bihar under pressure. The move by the BJP reportedly followed JD(U)’s dual strategy for bargaining power within the NDA.

This was evident when despite being a partner of the NDA the JD(U) decided to fight the coming Assembly poll in Uttar Pradesh along with the Apna Dal, primarily on caste considerations. But the same JD(U), however, is eager to fight the forthcoming Assembly poll in Punjab under the NDA.

Earlier, Mr Fernandes had opposed the move by the Nitish-Sharad duo to align with the Apna Dal instead of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh.

Even though Mr Fernandes was conspicuous by his absence, the presence of Ms Jaitley in leading the attack on the JD(U) for ignoring the former party president during the dissidents’ conclave in Delhi was a clear pointer to the open divide in the already divided Janata parivar.

Mr Fernandes is said to be enjoying covert and overt support of at least 20 JD(U) MLAs, besides some top party functionaries.

The Nitish-Sharad duo was more annoyed with the silence of the BJP over the issue. 

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Maya cashing in on madarsa issue
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, January 22
The Kareli madarsa gang rape has given BSP President Mayawati an opportunity to make peace with the Muslim community whom she had rubbed the wrong way by her remark that they preferred ‘fundamentalists’.

Today she reiterated her demand for a CBI inquiry into the rape of the two teenaged girls by culprits who forcibly broke into the madarsa on the outskirts of Kareli on the night of 17 January.

According to her the rape was allegedly committed by the mafia closely associated with the Samajwadi Party.

Determined to kick up a political storm over the issue Ms Mayawati later met Governor T.V Rajeswar at the Raj Bhavan to submit a memorandum on the gang rape demanding the dismissal of the Mulayam Singh Yadav government for its failure to ensure the security of the poor and marginalised and imposition of President’s rule.

Underlining the significance of her visit she declared “If the Governor does not respond to my demand this would definitely be the last time I meet him before the Vidhan Sabha elections”.

The party would also hold statewide demonstration at the 17 divisional headquarters on January 31 to protest against Mulayam Singh Yadav’s insensitivity in handling the gang rape case.

Speaking to the media BSP leader also drew attention to another case of atrocity against a woman from the Muslim community in Jaunpur on January 14. She said reports reaching her had revealed that a young girl had been raped in front of her father. “The father is running from pillar to post but his complaint is not being registered by the police”, she complained substantiating her claim that it was complete ‘jungle raj’ where no one was safe after sunset.

Observers feel that Ms Mayawati proactively taking up issues relating to the exploitation of the Muslim community is in a way expressing regret for her remark made last month against the Muslim community.

During a press conference she had openly admitted that she had requested her cadre and sympathisers in Meerut to transfer their votes to the BJP candidate to ensure the defeat of the UDF candidate Sanjida Begum who is the wife of Samajwadi party maverick minister Haji Yaqoob.

However, what led to angry protests by various independent Muslims leaders as well as those in the Samajwadi party was Ms Mayawati’s remark that she wanted to ensure the defeat of the fundamentalist candidate in Meerut as she knew “Muslims preferred fundamentalist”.

Later, she said she had been quoted “out of context”.

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Cong losing sleep over BJP’s ‘silent march’ in Karnataka
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 22
The communal violence witnessed in Bangalore over the past two days has set alarm bells ringing in the Congress as it has turned the spotlight on the BJP’s ongoing successful attempts to make inroads in Karnataka by pursuing its hardline Hindutva agenda.

Worried Congress leaders said the Bangalore incidents should serve as a clear warning to their party which has not been able to counter the saffron brigade’s gradual march in the state. Ms Margret Alva, AICC general secretary and senior Congress leader from Karnataka, met Congress president Sonia Gandhi today to brief her about the developments in the state.

“The failure of the police to contain violence in Bangalore clearly shows that the BJP and the Janata Dal (S) are conspiring to polarise society,” Mr B.K Hariprasad, Congress Rajya Sabha MP from Karnataka, said here while adding that the Congress will have to come up with a befitting political repsonse.

There is a growing fear that if the BJP’s activities continue unchecked, then Karnataka could well go the Gujarat way where the saffron party began as a junior partner of the Janata Dal but soon usurped its position and moved to the political centrestage.

The state of Karnataka, according to senior Congress leaders, is currently awash with saffron sentiment. “As you travel through Mangalore, Udipi, South Kanara and elsewhere, all that you encounter are saffron flags,” said a Karnataka Congress leader, adding that their state unit has been totally oblivious to the BJP’s silent moves. The Congress has been in a wait and watch mode, hoping the BJP-JD (S) government will collapse under the weight of its contradictions.

It was stated that ever since the BJP came to power in partnership with the Janata Dal (S), it has systematically used the government machinery to consolidate at the grassroot level. The BJP’s case has been effectively pursued by the RSS and the Vishva Hindu Parishad , which have been organising Hindu sammelans all over the state under the aegies of established religious institutions.

Since the VHP and the BJP are not upfront, these religious meetings are being projected as a forum to talk about Hindu pride. As a result, a large number of state Congress leaders have also been involved in the organisation of these programmes. Waking up to the BJP’s quiet operation, the Congress state unit called a meeting last week where all party members were specifically told to keep away from all such Hindu sammelans.

Over the months, there have been several reports of communal tensions from different parts of the state but the Congress has woken up to the danger signals only after the outbreak of violence in the cosmopolitan city of Bangalore.

Having been traditionally confined to the Northern states and keen on acquiring a pan-Indian presence, the BJP has identified Karnataka as the ideal gateway to spread its wings in the South. Its Hindutva agenda has struck a chord here and in the last elections, the saffron party managed to win as many as 79 Assembly and 18 Lok Sabha seats. 

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BMC poll: It’s Rane vs Shiv Sena
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, January 22
Maharashtra's Revenue Minister Narayan Rane, who is now in the Congress, is locked in an eyeball to eyeball contest with his old party, the Shiv Sena in the run up to the Mumbai municipal elections.

Contrary to expectations of most observers Rane has managed tickets from the Congress party for 33 supporters and is pulling out all stops to get them elected. With most of them hailing from Shiv Sena strongholds across Mumbai, a battle royale is on the cards.

Today, the city police beefed up security in many parts of the city after Intelligence reports indicated the possibility of street clashes between supporters of Rane and the Shiv Sena. Political temperatures went up several notches after Rane's supporters made it clear that the minister has sued Saamna, the Shiv Sena mouthpiece, for Rs 25 crore.

The newspaper had earlier called Rane a goonda and accused him of orchestrating attacks on behalf of the Sena in the past. Rane hit back saying he was witness to Shiv Sena Executive President Uddhav Thackeray ordering attacks on retired bureaucrat Sadashiv Tinaikar and singer Sonu Nigam among others.

Apart from suing Saamna, Rane has also sought an injunction from the Bombay High Court against the newspaper to restrain it from publishing fresh allegations against him. Rane in his plea said the newspaper was targetting him in an effort to damage the Congress party's prospects in the civic poll. The court is expected to take up the matter tomorrow.

Amidst the war of words, Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray through the mouthpiece has asked party workers to take a tough stand against his opponents. Thackeray has also called Rane's men, including people like former Mayor of Mumbai Hareshwar Patil, turncoats and traitors causing the authorities to beef up security for them.

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Judge booked for wife’s death

Rajkot, January 22
An Additional Sessions Judge of Jetpur court, near here, has been booked for allegedly abetting the suicide of his wife and the police was awaiting permission from the Gujarat High Court to arrest him.

Nishith Thakkar and his five family members - three sisters, father and aunt -were booked after his wife, Archana, allegedly committed suicide by immolating herself early this month, Jetpur Deputy Superintendent of Police K. K. Mysoorwala said here.

"The accused is a judge, so we require permission from the (Gujarat) High Court and the District Court before arresting him," he said.

The deceased's mother, Padmaben, lodged a complaint with the police following which the six have been booked under Sections 306 (abetment of committing suicide), 498-a (dowry harassment) and 114 (abettor present when the offence is committed), IPC, he said.

The primary probe into the case has revealed that the judge was at home when Archana allegedly attempted suicide and he might have had a quarrel with his wife, Mysoorwala said.

According to the complaint, the deceased had allegedly been physically and mentally harassed and tortured for dowry repeatedly, he said.

Archana, who set herself ablaze on January 1, was admitted to a private hospital here and she succumbed to her injuries on January 10, the police official said. — PTI

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Nithari: 9 call girls quizzed
Parmindar Singh

Noida, January 22
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is not ruling out any possibility as far as the probe into Nithari killings is concerned and various angles like the call girl racket angle, misuse of D-5 Nithari as a den of sex racket for Moninder’s well-connected and well-paced friends, cannibalism or drug trade, etc.

On Sunday nine call girls were quizzed by the CBI while a large number of visitors from other districts continued to pour into Nithari to have a look at the ‘Khooni Kothi’. Many people were seen clicking pictures of D-5 from their cell and other cameras. The CBI too seems to have almost concluded its interrogations at the camp set up at Sector 38 Guest House.

The CBI sleuths have reportedly questioned nine call girls after getting necessary inputs from Moninder and Neelam who used to supply the call girls at D-5. Four of the call girls, who reportedly identified Moninder, said they used to enter the house at night and usually came out only in the morning.

Three of the call girls were from Delhi, while one was reportedly from Faridabad in Haryana. Most of the girls said Moninder was a fun-loving, happy go lucky person. They said they did not know more about him. They have not given any solid clues to the CBI, it is learnt. Neither have Moninder’s driver and maidservant Maya given any concrete information.

CBI officials, however, feel Pan Singh and Maya were privy to many secrets, but they are not coming forward to help the investigating agency. Both Maya and Pan Singh will now not be tackled by psychologists as CBI feels both of them can ultimately give some important leads.

But most of the parents are worried that if the investigating agency concluded that both Moninder and Surender were psychopaths then they just might earn a lenient sentence from the court.

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Nithari-like case: 100 skeletons found

Etah, January 22
Panic gripped this district of Uttar Pradesh after the recovery of about 40 skulls and over 100 human skeletons from a pond near an abandoned post-mortem house here.

As skulls and bones were recovered yesterday morning, locals feared it to be another horrendous Nithari-like incident. However, District Magistrate Ram Kumar denied any criminal act behind the incident.

“The skulls and skeletons are of people, who were buried by the villagers near the post-mortem house. As the dilapidated building had no doors and windows, the bones and skulls might have been dragged out by stray dogs and other wild animals,” Mr Kumar added.

“A committee headed by the Additional District Magistrate (ADM), Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) and Chief Medical Officer (CMO) has been formed to probe the case and submit report within 24 hrs,” Mr Kumar maintained.

The post-mortem house was constructed in 1880 and stopped functioning 100 years back, after a new one was set up.

Although, the police is tightlipped about the case, the recovery of skulls and skeletons is a matter of great concern as 50 persons, including 12 minors and a former guard of the SSP, are reported to be missing in the district during the past two years. — UNI

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Bravo to make appearance in R-Day Parade
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 22
Bravo, the mascot of the 4th CISM Military World Games-2007, will feature for the first time during the Republic Day Parade. Along with arms and ammunition of various defence organisations and the three wings of the Indian armed forces, Bravo will be an added attraction in the pageantry from the Ministry of Defence.

The CISM Military Games, slated for October this year, are said to be the biggest sporting event to ever take place in India.

These are being conducted under the aegis of the International Military Sports Council (CISM), Brussles.

About 127 countries with over 6,000 sports personalities are expected to participate.

Along side Bravo, the tableau will depict various sports disciplines like judo, wrestling, football and other games.

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New Western Air Command Chief
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 22
Air Marshal Padamjit Singh Ahluwalia will assume office as Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the premier Western Air Command of the Indian Air Force (IAF) here from February 1.

In the announcement which came here today Air Marshal Alhuwalia will suceed Air Marshal A. K. Singh, who retires on January 31. Incidentally, Air Marshal Alhuwalia was also in the race for taking over as the next Chief of Air Staff, whose announcement is also expected in the coming few days.

Air Marshal Ahluwalia is a graduate of the National Defence Academy, the Defence Services Staff College and the National Defence College. A highly decorated and professionally respected officer, he has some 4,000 hours of flying experience on all types of fighter aircraft.

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Sai Baba’s remarks on Telangana ruffle political feathers
Ramesh Kandula
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, January 22
Godman Satya Sai Baba of Puttaparthi kicked up a row after he made politically sensitive remarks against the demand for a separate Telangana. "It's a sin to cut up the country or states into pieces. It's not good for the country or for the people," Sai Baba, called Bhagwan by his devotees across the globe, said, speaking at a function in Chennai on Sunday.

Telangana leaders and activists reacted sharply to the speech, asking the Baba to confine himself to making religious discourses and performing yajnas. "Babas and swamis should concern themselves with only spiritual matters. They should not make statements on political issues without understanding the problems of the people," Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief K.Chandrasekhar Rao said here.

Effigy burnt

According to a UNI report Telangana student leaders today staged a dharna in front of the Shivam temple of Satya Sai Baba here, to protest against the Baba's statement opposing formation of separate Telangana state.

Raising slogans against the Baba, the students burnt an effigy of Satya Sai Baba.

Student leaders said it was unfair on his (Baba) part to make statements against the formation of Telangana.

They warned that places of worship of the Baba would be closed if he continued to make statements against the formation of Telangana.

Sai Baba's observations came during the function at Chennai to felicitate the spiritual guru for the contribution of Rs 200 crore made by his Trust to complete the project to bring Krishna waters from Andhra to Chennai to meet the latter's drinking water needs.

The function was attended by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K.Karunanidhi, a self-declared atheist who generally keeps away from holy men, Karnataka Chief Minister H.D Kumara Swamy and Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S Rajasekhara Reddy, who could not make it to the programme, deputed his Irrigation Minister P.Lakshmaiah to attend the function.

An ailing Satya Sai Baba, who could make himself barely audible during his speech, said that the unity of the country was more important than parochial demands for separation. “Education, health and drinking water should be our priority”, he added.

Congress MP and a protagonist of Telangana state Madhu Yashki Goud advised the Baba not to get involved in political issues. "Does he know the problems that the people of this region face? If he is aware of the fluoride issue in the Nalgonda area, he would not have talked against a separate state," the MP said.

Revolutionary balladeer and an active supporter of the Telangana cause Gaddar ridiculed the holy man for his statement and demanded an apology. “The godman, who has been tricking the gullible public with his magic, now wants to cheat the people of Telangana”, he criticised.

Meanwhile, expressing regret over dragging Satya Sai Baba into political controversies by Chandrasekhar Rao and Madhu Yashki Goud, the Pradesh Congress Committee President K. Keshava Rao today said their reaction was hasty and uncalled for.

In a statement issued here, Rao said Baba's statement was not political. "There is no need to read too much of politics into it. All that Baba wanted to emphasise was unity and human oneness. It is unfortunate that his reference to Telangana is being misread", he added.

He maintained that it was appropriate to recall the munificent gesture of Baba in sanctioning drinking water schemes worth crores of rupees to Telangana , particularly in Medak and even in fluoride affected villages in Nalgonda district.

"We are grateful to him for this. It is wrong to drag Baba into political controversies", Rao said.

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First liver donation in armed forces
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 22
P.N Singh, the 72-year-old father of Maj S.K Singh, an officer from the Artillery Regiment, has become the first liver donor in the history of Armed Forces Medical Services. The liver was flown all the way to Hyderabad, where it was successfully transplanted into a 45-year-old person, suffering from end-stage liver disease.

According to doctors at the premier Research and Referral Hospital in Delhi, P.N Singh, a resident of Ballia (UP), was declared brain dead following a massive brain stroke. He was suffering from diabetes mellitus and chronic kidney failure.

Since there was no suitable recipient in Delhi, the liver was flown to Hyderabad, where it was successfully transplanted into a 45-year-old suffering from end-stage liver disease.

The armed forces have now launched a campaign and are encouraging relatives to donate organs once brain death occurs. Lieut-Gen L.P Sadhotra, Director General Medical Service (Army), called the donation a selfless act.

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Fifth generation fighter to figure at India-Russia talks
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 22
Development of a fifth generation fighter jet plane and a mid-sized transport aircraft has been on India and Russia’s agenda for quite some time now with the two sides preparing various documents for partnership and the same is likely to figure again at the annual meeting of the defence ministers of two countries slated to begin here on Wednesday.

The sixth meeting of the Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC) here would discuss an entire range of issues, including the joint development of the two aircraft. However, as has been the case in the past, it could still take some time before the two sides come together to come out with a fifth generation fighter aircraft, which at present is owned only by the USA.

The US F-22 Raptor is also the most expensive combat jet in the world at $258 million a piece.

Indian delegation would be led by Defence Minister A.K Antony, while his Russian counterpart Sergei Ivanov will be leading the Russian delegation, days before Russian President Vladimir Putin makes official visit to India.

The issue of the fifth generation fighter aircraft was to have come up at the last meeting held also at Moscow with the Indian side apparently presenting a detailed paper on the research and development. However, it was put off at the last minute as the Russian side was not prepared.

But reports emerging from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) say that after the success of the BrahMos cruise missile (jointly developed by India and Russia) both sides are greatly buoyed and are looking to become the only second other country after the USA to own a fifth generation fighter aircraft. This time round the Russians have submitted a paper on the joint development of a fifth generation fighter and a transport aircraft.

The proposals have apparently been considered by the MoD and these are likely to figure at the ministerial meeting, sources said. However, there was no confirmation as to when the formal agreements were likely to be signed as it could still take time for the two sides to work out the finer details.

However in Moscow Col. Gen. Antatoly Mazurkevich, who heads the international military cooperation department of the Russian defence ministry, was quoted as saying that these issues would be in the focus (during the meeting)... “I hope the agreements will be signed with the Indian side within the next few months”. He was speaking to reporters ahead of Mr Ivanov's departure for India.

Mr Ivanov, who is also Russia's Deputy Prime Minister, arrived in Bangalore on Monday, where he will visit defence establishments, including Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and meet captains of civil and defence industries. He will also interact with IT professionals. Mr Ivanov will then travel to New Delhi and join the delegation of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

With 70 per cent of the equipment of the Indian armed forces being of Russian origin, the IRIGC-MTC was established in the year 2000 to cover areas like interaction between the two militaries, technical cooperation, supply of defence systems, equipment upgradation, licensed and joint production and joint development and production.

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Rajnath for joint military campaign with Pak

Thiruvananthapuram, January 22
India should propose a joint military campaign with Pakistan "to test the honesty" of President Pervez Musharraf who had reached an accord with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to counter terrorism, BJP president Rajnath Singh said today.

Addressing reporters here, Singh also warned the UPA government against any move to withdraw Indian forces from the Siachen glacier. "No such step should be taken without considering the strategic objections of the army," he said.

Indian Army was now in control of the glacier and without authentication of a military location and ground control, the country should not withdraw forces from Siachen, which was key to integration of the Valley with India, he said.

The BJP was determined not to allow the UPA government to play with the unity and integrity of the country. The nation was passing through a "bad patch" of time since UPA government came to office, Singh said.

Terrorism was no longer confined to Jammu and Kashmir and North East. "From Assam to Kashmir and from Benaras to Bangalore, India has become unsafe under the UPA regime. And the government is sleeping over this great danger," he said.

Stating that the UPA government lacked political will to contain terrorism, he said there was documentary proof for the important role of the ISI in terrorist activities in India.

India should ask the United Nations to put ISI on international watch by taking the global community into confidence, Rajnath Singh said.

Singh criticised the UPA government's proposal to Indian Banks Association (IBA) that special loan provisions should be made for minorities. "Poverty has no religion. The UPA government has identified it with Muslims," he said.

There were no reports of any discrimination in the banking sector while allocating loans, he said.

He termed "unfortunate" Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's reported speech at the National Development Council last month on minorities' first claim on resources. The Prime Minister's Office had later accused sections of the media of "mischievous misinterpretation" of his utterances.

"Such statement would widen the gulf in our national polity and encourage communal elements for separatist activities," he said.

The UPA government was working with the mindset of the Muslim League in the pre-partition days which would fuel communal divisions in the country. The communal agenda of the UPA had vitiated the social fabric of the country and put national unity in jeopardy, the BJP president alleged.

Singh said the prices of essential commodities had increased by 35 to 55 per cent under the UPA rule.

Asked about the opposition from some organisations to the visit of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to Kerala for 'Hindu Maha Sammelan' of January 29, Singh said it was totally unwarranted.

"Why should they oppose? He is an elected Chief Minister and he has made Gujarat a model state in the country," Singh said. — PTI

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Home Guards used as oxen
Tribune News Service

Patna, January 22
The Home Guards at Jammui in Bihar are also preparing to celebrate the forthcoming 56th Republic Day on January 26, but in a different way.

The Home Guards here were being used in place of oxen to level the ground full of stones where the local administration was scheduled to hoist the national flag.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar ordered an inquiry into this alleged inhuman act and asked the district administration to submit a report immediately. "The matter was brought to my notice and if the incident is found to be true, the guilty will not be spared", he said at his weekly Janata Durbar here.

It was learnt that the Sergeant Major of the Home Guards in Jammui were applying force to use his subordinates there in place of oxen to level the ground.

While a bamboo reportedly was put on the shoulders of two Home Guards, an iron plate was attached to it making place for three others to sit on it to create pressure to level the ground.

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Bihar village renamed after Saddam

Lahouna (Bihar), January 22
Angry villagers in Bihar’s Lahouna village have renamed their village as ‘Saddam Nagar’ in memory of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Much of the anger is directed towards US President George W. Bush, who villagers feel, is the real “murderer” of thousands of Iraqis.

“We shall fight to liberate the world from the autocratic ways of Bush. He is a monster with a human face,” said Mohammed Saifu Rahman, a native of Saddam Nagar.

The anguish felt by Rahman is shared by his Hindu neighbour Sanjay Parmar.

“When Saddam Hussein was executed, all Muslims and Hindus here took out a rally in protest against Bush. It was then that we decided to name the village Saddam Nagar to keep his memory alive,” Parmar said.

Both communities, which are generally at loggerheads with each other, were unanimous in their decision to rename their village.

Saddam was hanged at 6.00 am local time on December 30, as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had demanded that the execution take place before the end of the year. —ANI

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