SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

RLD, BSP gear up as Mulayam exit looms
Rampur (Uttar Pradesh), February 18
Political rumblings in Uttar Pradesh are yet to take any concrete shape, but their ripple effect is already being felt in far-flung areas of the state with political opportunism taken shape in the form of pre-election rallies and mobilisation drive.

Samajwadi Party for recall of Governor
New Delhi, February 18
As activities over the political situation in Uttar Pradesh intensified today, the Samajwadi Party (SP) demanded recall of Governor T.V.Rajeswar, accusing him of acting as "an agent" of the Congress at the Centre.

BSP defection: SC verdict cautions ‘erring’ Speakers
New Delhi, February 18
As the political situation in Uttar Pradesh is fast becoming more fluid in the wake of the Supreme Court disqualifying 13 defector MLAs of the BSP and de-recognising the 2003 split in the party, the apex court in its verdict has sent a strong message to the Speakers “erring” in deciding the question of defection strictly as per the provisions of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution.



EARLIER STORIES


BSP to work for restoration of Hardwar to UP
Hardwar, February 18
BSP supremo Mayawati today said that her party favoured the exclusion of the district from Uttarakhand and promised that if the party came to power at the Centre, the party would take steps to restore the district to UP.

Nationwide agitation against inflation on Feb 27: CPM
New Delhi, February 18
The two-day meet of the top leadership of the CPM concluded today with the resolve to hold a countrywide agitation against rising inflation and to press for its demand of halting FDI in retail and a review of the SEZ Act, among other things.
In video (56k)

Nitish to table police reforms Bill
Patna, February 18
The Nitish Kumar-led NDA is likely to be the first government, among all states, to implement reforms in the police administration based on the recent guidelines by the Supreme Court.

Cong shakes hands with TRS
Hyderabad, February 18
Politics continues to make strange bedfellows. The ruling Congress, which has been at loggerheads with the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, has tied up with the sub-regional party for the forthcoming poll to the legislative council.

Peace, stability need of the hour: PM
Imphal, February 18
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today stressed the need for peace and stability of government in Manipur so that it could be developed into a “mini Switzerland”.
In video (56k)

US ready to help India set up N-data centre
Mumbai, February 18
The US is ready to help India set up a National Nuclear Data Centre and train nuclear and IT scientists to make it an international facility, a US scientist has said.

News Analysis
Nepal needs to review its foreign policy
New Delhi, February 18
As a new Nepal is in the making with such imminent steps like an interim government with Maoists as partners, the Constituent Assembly elections and a new Constitution, the land-locked, mountainous state also requires to thrash out a new foreign policy.

Speed up ship building: Antony
On Board ICGS Sagar, February 18
The country’s shipyards should speed up the building of warships to meet the increasing demands of the armed forces to counter emerging threats, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said today.

Kerala mechanic designs low cost “water cars”
Thiruvananthapuram, February 18
When “water cars” costing an expensive Rs 1.75 crore and above in the global market, a young mechanic from Kerala has designed one that runs both on land and water for a mere Rs 8.5 lakh.

Subodh Mohite joins Congress
Mumbai, February 18
Former Shiv Sena MP from Ramtek, Subodh Mohite today officially joined Congress, along with his followers from Ramtek and Nagpur, in the presence of Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee President Prabha Rau and Revenue Minister Narayan Rane.

Mamata operated upon
Kolkata, February 18
Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee had an acute stomach pain after her return to the city from Singur late last night. She underwent an emergency operation at a nursing this morning.

‘Omkara’ grabs major Stardust awards
Mumbai, February 18
Vishal Bharadwaj's "Omkara" grabbed honours at the Stardust Awards held here tonight. "Omkara" bagged several major awards, including “Best Actor in a Villainous Role” for Saif Ali Khan, "Hottest New Film" and critics choice awards for actress Kareena Kapoor and director Bharadwaj.

Amitabh, Preity Zinta in first-ever English film
New Delhi, February 18
Bollywood’s current top ranking actress Preity Zinta will feature along side superstar Amitabh Bachchan in a forthcoming English film to be directed by renowned filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh.

I never thought of marrying Dharam: Hema
New Delhi, February 18
Giving a peep into her much-hyped unconventional marriage, Bollywood star-turned-politician, Hema Malini has said not many would believe, but she never thought of marrying Dharmendra.

Videos
Steel industry shines in India.
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Bhojpuri remake of 'Sholay'.
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Trishul as a cure for alcohol addiction.
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RLD, BSP gear up as Mulayam exit looms
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Rampur (Uttar Pradesh), February 18
Political rumblings in Uttar Pradesh are yet to take any concrete shape, but their ripple effect is already being felt in far-flung areas of the state with political opportunism taken shape in the form of pre-election rallies and mobilisation drive. In the hope that the Mulayam Singh government will be dismissed and an election will follow, the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has already started mobilising its vote bank by organising rallies and meetings.

A former Moradabad MLA, Chaudhary Saulat Ali had held one such meeting in his constituency on Saturday asking the people to unite and demand the carving out of a separate state in western Uttar Pradesh as Mulayam Singh and Mayawati had failed to develop the area.

“Look at the development in Uttarakhand, it is the same story in Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and every other state that split on the basis of region aspirations. Till Uttar Pradesh is divided into Harit Pradesh, Central Uttar Pradesh, Purvchal, and Bundelkhand, no development is possible,” he told a gathering that listened to him with rapt attention.

Chaudhry Ajit Singh will be in Moradabad on February 21, accompanied by party MP Anuradha Chaudhry to take on the agenda that has already been initiated in the hope of an early election in Uttar Pradesh. The slogan for the RLD for the next election is ‘small state, prosperous state’ which will be called Harit Pradesh.

The poll agenda has already been in place for the RLD.

“There is no medical or engineering college in western UP whereas there are seven universities in eastern UP. Power failure is perpetual. Moradabad, despite being a huge foreign exchange earner, has been ignored in terms of development. All jobs are being given to people from eastern UP. Therefore imposition of President’s rule and re-election is what we are demanding”, says RLD district president Babu Sharif-u-din Pash.

Hoping to see an election before the completion of Mulayam Singh’s five-year term, political parties have started holding “pre-election” rallies and meetings in other parts of the state. Many leaders say that the mood has also been inspired by poll being held in the adjoining Uttarakhand. The desire for an early election has been so strong that the political parties are not even willing to wait for the outcome of Mulayam’s fate after his show of strength on the floor of the House.

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Samajwadi Party for recall of Governor
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 18
As activities over the political situation in Uttar Pradesh intensified today, the Samajwadi Party (SP) demanded recall of Governor T.V.Rajeswar, accusing him of acting as "an agent" of the Congress at the Centre.

As the clamour from some of the political parties for the dismissal of the Mulayam Singh Yadav government reached a crescendo, SP General Secretary Ram Gopal Yadav told reporters here that the party had requested for an appointment with President APJ Abdul Kalam and would demand from him recall of the Governor, “as he has been sent with a special mandate to dislodge the state government”.

He said the Governor's expression of fear of horse trading was subjective assessment on which no democratically elected government could be dismissed.

Mr Yadav, who is the brother of Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, said it was understandable why the Congress called for the Governor's report when the Uttar Pradesh Government was slated to prove its majority on the floor of the House on February 26.

The urge to impose Central rule in Uttar Pradesh was also because the Congress did not want the state to participate in the coming presidential elections, as the party has no strength in the state electoral college.

"With no state Assembly existing, the Congress would be able to balance its disadvantage in the state in the presidential elections," he added.

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BSP defection: SC verdict cautions ‘erring’ Speakers
S S Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, February 18
As the political situation in Uttar Pradesh is fast becoming more fluid in the wake of the Supreme Court disqualifying 13 defector MLAs of the BSP and de-recognising the 2003 split in the party, the apex court in its verdict has sent a strong message to the Speakers “erring” in deciding the question of defection strictly as per the provisions of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution.

The guidelines laid down by the five-judge Constitution Bench, headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, assumes significance in the wake of beleaguered Chief Minister Mulayam Singh proposing to seek another vote of confidence on February 26 on the face of the demands for the dismissal of his government.

It would certainly make the task of present UP Assembly Speaker Mata Prasad Pandey more difficult regarding the positioning in the House the remaining 24 BSP MLAs, who had left the party 10 days after the initial defection by 13 MLAs on August 26, 2003.

The Speaker’s task would be further compounded with the BJP serving notices of disqualification to 10 of the legislators for cross voting in favour of the Mulayam Singh government in the recent vote of confidence sought by him.

While coming down heavily on the then Speaker Kesri Nath Tripathi for not following the apex court guidelines and keeping the BSP’s application pending on disqualification of the 13 MLAs, the court said there was no protection available to the Speaker against any order passed in “gross violation of natural justice, perversity, bias and such like defects”.

It said though the right to decide on such issues had been conferred on the Speaker such a power was not “anathema” to the constitutional scheme.

The court said in the BSP’s case, the Speaker had started the proceedings midway and took up the application of 37 MLAs on split and merger. The number of 37 was attained only 10 days after the initial defection of 13 legislators, which he simply ignored. The court was of the view that it was not the job of the Speaker to wait for the ongoing development in a party and sit over a matter that was brought before him.

Articles 102 and 191, respectively, deals with the disqualification of MPs and MLAs and the court made it clear in uncertain terms that the Tenth Schedule could not be read or construed independent of these Articles and the object laid down there under.

In such a situation, the Speaker has no option but to decide the matter and the onus to prove the split entirely lied with the members who had left the party and formed a new group or merged with another party, the court said.

But in the BSP split case, the decision of the Speaker “cannot be considered to be an order in terms of the Tenth Schedule,” the Court said, laying down clearly for the presiding officers that what should be the priorities before them.

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BSP to work for restoration of Hardwar to UP

Hardwar, February 18
BSP supremo Mayawati today said that her party favoured the exclusion of the district from Uttarakhand and promised that if the party came to power at the Centre, the party would take steps to restore the district to UP.

Addressing election rallies at Bhagwanpur, Landhora and Hardwar city in the district today, she said the Congress, the BJP and the Samajwadi Party had always “betrayed the interests of the Bahujan Samaj.”

Flaying the policies followed by the “Manuwadi” parties, she said that only the BSP took care of the interests of the down-trodden and under-privileged.

“The BSP is the custodian of the interests of all the sections of society, including the minorities,” she claimed, adding that her party favoured reservations for all sections of society on an economic basis.

She also said that her party, when in power, would launch a special drive to fill up the vacancies in the posts reserved for the SCs/STs and the OBCs.

Making a special bid to woo the Muslims, she said no other party in the state had given proper representation to the community while distributing tickets for the assembly elections.

“We have given seven tickets to the Muslims in the 70 seat assembly. This is the highest number of tickets given to them by any party, and is also in proportion to their population in the state,” Ms Mayawati said.

She expressed confidence that this time the party would improve upon its tally of seven seats won in the last assembly elections.

“If you want justice for the BSP, you should ensure that no government is formed in the state without the support of the BSP,” she appealed. — UNI

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Nationwide agitation against inflation on Feb 27: CPM

New Delhi, February 18
The two-day meet of the top leadership of the CPM concluded today with the resolve to hold a countrywide agitation against rising inflation and to press for its demand of halting FDI in retail and a review of the SEZ Act, among other things.

The party’s 18-member Politburo, which held deliberations for two days at the party headquarters — A.K. Gopalan Bhawan — also asked the Manmohan Singh government to come out openly against the US “designs to launch a military attack” on Iran as it had done in Iraq.

“We have asked our units throughout the country to organise an agitation against price rise on February 27, which has hit the poor, the downtrodden and the lower middle classes so badly,” party General Secretary Prakash Karat said at a press conference after the conclusion of the meet.

Squarely blaming the government for not taking adequate steps to curb the trend, he said the curbing of futures trading in foodgrains and other essential commodities, revising tax structure for petroleum products, ensuring procurement of foodgrains at prices fair to farmers, strengthening of the PDS and ensuring price control of essential drugs was paramount to check inflation.

On curbing the organised sector in retail, the Politburo viewed the presence of big MNCs in trade as having the “effect of displacing petty shop-owners and traders”.

Besides, introduction of strict regulations for the entry of corporate sector in retail trade was urgently required, the CPM leaders said. “The Politburo has decided to prepare a note on regulating the corporate sector in retail trade and will submit it to the government,” he said.

On the Nandigram and Singur issues, Mr Karat said while the Politburo had endorsed the stand taken by the Left Front government on the Tata car project in Singur, the SEZ proposals for Bengal will be finalised after the changes in the SEZ Act and Rules are brought out at the national level.

While party veterans Jyoti Basu and H.S. Surjeet could not attend the meet of the party’s highest decision-making body deliberations due to their indisposition, senior party leaders, including West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, his Kerala counterpart V.S. Achuthanandan, and Rajya Sabha MPs Sitaram Yechury and Ms Brinda Karat participated in the meet. — UNI

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Nitish to table police reforms Bill
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, February 18
The Nitish Kumar-led NDA is likely to be the first government, among all states, to implement reforms in the police administration based on the recent guidelines by the Supreme Court.

Officials in the Secretariat have disclosed to The Tribune that the state government has already prepared a draft bill on various aspects of police reforms in accordance with the apex court’s directive and this would be tabled in the Assembly during the forthcoming Budget session beginning on February 23.

In its bid to project a clear and transparent police machinery, the Home Department has already issued an executive order for implementing important recommendations made by the Supreme Court for police reforms.

The recommendations had been related to fixed tenure for senior police officers and constituting a police establishment board.

Going by the order issued by the Home Department, senior police officers, from the Director-General of Police (DGP) to a Station Officer, would henceforth have fixed tenure of two years.

The proposed board would be headed by the DGP.

The board has been expected to look into transfers and postings of police officials from the rank of a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), to inspectors and below.

The purpose of the board would be to delink the "political interference” from postings and transfers as reportedly had been the practice in past some cases.

Other members of the board are Additional Director-General (ADG) Administration, ADG Crime Investigations Department (CID), ADG Intelligence and ADG Special Armed Forces (SAF).

The order has said that all these arrangements have been made till the passing of the proposed Police Reforms Bill in the forthcoming Assembly session.

The Supreme Court had, as part of its interim order on police reforms, recommended that states ensure that officers like DGs, IGs, DIGs, SPs and DSPs, continued in office for a fixed period, could be removed before the end of their term only if a committee constituted to decide on the matter approved such action.

A senior police official, on condition of anonymity, has said that the rule of law in true spirit can only be established once politics was delinked from the system.

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Cong shakes hands with TRS
Ramesh Kandula
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, February 18
Politics continues to make strange bedfellows. The ruling Congress, which has been at loggerheads with the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), has tied up with the sub-regional party for the forthcoming poll to the legislative council.

The Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council is being created two decades after the then Telugu Desam government led by the late N T Rama Rao abolished it in 1985.

The decision to allot two seats in the council to the TRS was taken at a meeting of state Congress leaders in the presence of party President Sonia Gandhi yesterday in Delhi. This alliance is likely to help the Congress in the Telan-gana area.

The handshake was apparently firmed up after Ms Gandhi called up TRS chief K. Chandrasekhar Rao late in the evening and wished him on his birthday.

Later, Digvijay Singh, AICC in charge for AP, and K. Keshava Rao, PCC president, who spoke to Rao closed the deal.

The elections to the 90-member legislative council will be held on March 17. Of these, 31 each are to be elected by the MLAs and from the local authorities, eight each from graduates and the teachers constituencies and the remaining 12 members are to be nominated by the Governor.

The ruling Congress is expected to win 21 seats, which are to be elected through MLAs, while the opposition TDP can look at only four seats.

However, the TDP has been successful in weaning the CPM away from the Congress, by offering to support it in local body constituencies. The CPI, however, is sailing with the Congress.

The TDP Chief Minister, Mr N. T. Rama Rao, had abolished a Congress-dominated council, dubbing it as “a shelter for politically unemployed.” Soon after it returned to power in 2004, the Congress-led legislative assembly passed a resolution for the revival of the legislative council.

The poll for all categories will be held on March 17 and the entire process will be over by March 26, according to the Election Commission release.

The new council is expected to meet on March 31 at the newly renovated Jubilee Hall in Public Gardens near the Legislative Assembly building.

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Peace, stability need of the hour: PM

Imphal, February 18
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today stressed the need for peace and stability of government in Manipur so that it could be developed into a “mini Switzerland”.

Manipur needs a government that is caring and forward-looking and only the Congress can give provide such a government to the state which is already on the path of development, he told an election rally at Tamenglong.

Referring to the achievements of the Congress-led Secular Progressive Front ministry in Manipur, he said the state government had done commendable work in the past five years to address its problems. Given another five years, the Congress could ensure a future where there was no poverty or illiteracy, he said.

He said Manipur could be a major producer of fruits like oranges, lemons and apples and emerge as a major tourist centre for its natural beauty. “Its potential is unlimited,” he said.

The UPA government at the Centre and the ruling Congress in the state were totally committed to the development of Manipur, particularly backward tribal regions like Tamenglong that suffered from poor connectivity.

UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi too cared a lot for the development of tribal people, he said.

Ruing the state of road connectivity in Manipur, especially in Tamenglong, the Prime Minister said the highest priority had been given to building roads in the last five years. The National Highway 53 linking Imphal, Jiribam and Silchar, the most important road for Tamenglong, had been improved and repaired. — PTI

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US ready to help India set up N-data centre

Mumbai, February 18
The US is ready to help India set up a National Nuclear Data Centre (NNDC) and train nuclear and IT scientists to make it an international facility, a US scientist has said.

India has the capability to be a world leader in nuclear data in the coming decade and the “US is willing to help in setting up the center”, said Mr David Winchell, Database Manager of Brookhaven National Laboratory, which conducts research in cutting edge areas like nano-technology and homeland security.

“Setting up of the NNDC is not easy as it is labour-intensive and needs long-term commitment,” Mr Winchell said.

Since India has highly qualified IT professionals, the US is willing to train them and young nuclear scientists to set up this important centre, he said.

The NNDC can assist users in determining characteristics and performance of nuclear reactors and permit improved nuclear power plant operations by reducing and eliminating certain types of uncertainties.

Normally, the IAEA helps in setting up such centers, but Brookhaven’s facility of Nuclear Science References (NSR) is more advanced and has nuclear data dating from 1910 to the current era.

“We are ready to help India in putting together the data using the most modern IT technologies so that it becomes truly an international centre,” Mr Winchell said.

The US will be happy to help the IAEA to set up a most modern data centre in India,” Mr Winchell, who is also in charge of modernisation and advancement at the NSR, said.

Nuclear data centres make the work of scientists easy and improve quality of science, he said. PTI

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News Analysis
Nepal needs to review its foreign policy
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 18
As a new Nepal is in the making with such imminent steps like an interim government with Maoists as partners, the Constituent Assembly elections and a new Constitution, the land-locked, mountainous state also requires to thrash out a new foreign policy.

Nepalese policy-makers today find themselves face-to-face with a new strategic reality: that it is no longer India and China only, but a much larger international involvement, primarily the USA and the UK, that have of late been influencing the country. The world has moved ahead even for Nepal. The Nepalese government needs to look to formulate a foreign policy with hardnosed economic sense.

Time has come for Kathmandu to reconsider its decades-old policy of maintaining equal distance from India and China. Here is why.

The foreign policy debate was recently opened in Kathmandu by senior Maoist leader C.P Gajurel, who was released from an Indian jail following the new democratic order. He said his party was committed to the five principles of peaceful coexistence, and equidistant between India and China. The new foreign policy-makers in Nepal would require deep introspection and examination of the monarchy i.e. the Shah dynasty and the Ranas who divided the role among them. One ruled, and the other executed.

Traditionally, the Nepalese Royal family, the monarchy, held all powers and executed a foreign policy pitting India and China against each other. When King Mahendra closed Indian Army posts along the Nepal-Tibet border in the 1960s under Chinese pressure, he also signed a defence treaty secretly with India.

Again under Chinese pressure, Nepal under King Birendra tried to force or persuade India to agree to declare Nepal as a zone of peace. The move was designed to undercut Indian influence in Nepal.

While the Nepalese Royal family had close relationship in India through marriage relations and business interests, they were highly agitated with India's democracy, assimilation of the princely states in the Indian Union, and dissolution of Privy Purse. With the Nepalese democratic activists taking refuge in India, their struggle for democracy became a challenge for the Royalists, threatening the very existence of the monarchy system.

The Royal Palace apparently misread the intentions of the Indian government. There was no intention to dethrone the monarchy. Instability in Nepal was not in New Delhi's interest.

To move forward, the new Nepalese political core, including the Maoists, cannot escape an analysis of how each of the important foreign players played their role. This is critical to lay the foundation of a new and realistic foreign policy.

After King Gyanendra usurped draconian powers and came up against people's revolution led by the Maoists, the Beijing leadership put all their support behind two of the most important power pillars in Nepal - the Palace and the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA). It was China who supplied lethal arms to the RNA to kill this democratic people's movement of Nepal.

The Chinese no longer espouse an ideology of people's liberation. A friendly autocracy to counter perceived challenges for eminence in Asia is at Chinese core policy. Beijing pinned their policy on the victory of Nepal's monarchy in this political tussle to set up an anti-India domino which could probe into India's heartland.

King Gyanendra allowed the Chinese to set up the Nepal-China study centres, posts for anti-India psychological warfare, along Nepal's borders with India. Their centres, funded by the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu are trained to indoctrinate the local people against India, and extol China's virtues and friendship to Nepal. Some Nepalese left parties are also involved in these Chinese anti-India enterprises.

Chinese policy shunned the Maoists because the Maoists were against the monarchy. It was clear to Prachanda, Bhattarai and other Nepalese Maoists leaders that the Communist Party of China did not practice what it preached. Beijing proved it was as much an imperialist as any other.

Some Nepalese Maoists leaders were arrested and incarcerated in Indian jails. Gajural, for instance. As openly recognised by the top Maoist leaders, including Prachanda and Bhattarai, it was again India that brought them together with the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) to usher in a new democratic Nepal.

Equi-distance between India and China sounds nice. But then C.P. Gajural must deliberate on what equi-distance means. The India-Nepal border is open. Thousands of Nepalese, especially from the hill regions, come to India to work and earn a living, comparatively, for their families back home.

The Nepalese have no such opportunities in China or, rather, Tibet. Nepal's economic cultural and political identity lies with India and not China. If the new Nepalese leadership decides to follow the old policy between India and China it will be at their cost.

Nepal today has emerged as an important and strategic piece of territory for the Asia policy of the West, especially the USA and the UK. The dimension of Nepal's position has, therefore, transcended to a new height which the Nepalese have not experienced before. Importantly, the Maoists are gradually getting recognition from the West as a democratic movement and not an acclaimed communist revolution. The "Maoist" nomenclature is immaterial.

The SPA and the Maoists must deliberate on this, but must seek out China's hidden weapons within this coalition.

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Speed up ship building: Antony

On Board ICGS Sagar, February 18
The country’s shipyards should speed up the building of warships to meet the increasing demands of the armed forces to counter emerging threats, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said today.

“Our shipyards are good but they have to shorten the ship construction time,” he told reporters after the maiden Fleet Review of the Coast Guard off the Goa coast.

He said delays in shipbuilding occurred at the design stage and needed to be sorted out soon.

“In the emergent scenario, the coastline and the sea is becoming more important to us as we depend on sea-lanes for a major portion of our foreign trade and meeting our energy needs,” he said.

Noting that India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) was set to increase to three million sq km by May 2009 from the current 2.01 million sq km, Antony said, “We need bigger ships to guard the EEZ.”

With memories of the seizure of a suspected LTTE boat carrying arms and explosives off the Tamil Nadu coast fresh in mind, he said the top-most priority of the Coast Guard and the Navy is surveillance of the coastline and the sea.

“We will provide them ships and aircraft and strengthen them,” he said, adding shipyards, both private and state-owned, have to reduce the time taken to build ships.

Antony also said the Union Home Ministry is helping coastal states establish coastal police stations. “The strategy is to strengthen the coastal state governments to protect coastal areas,” he said.

Most of these states are in the process of implementing this strategy.

Pointing out that India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which currently encompasses 2.01 million sq km, was set to increase to three million sq km, Antony said “the threat will be more”. — PTI

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Kerala mechanic designs low cost “water cars”

Thiruvananthapuram, February 18
When “water cars” costing an expensive Rs 1.75 crore and above in the global market, a young mechanic from Kerala has designed one that runs both on land and water for a mere Rs 8.5 lakh.

After three-long year and numerous financial hardships, Vinodh, who runs a small garage in Karamana near here, has achieved success in converting a Maruti 800 car into an amphibious vehicle which could be even taken to the seas.

“The water cars around the world costs anywhere between Rs 1.75 crore and Rs three crore. But it cost me Rs 8.5 lakh to design this car,” Vinodh told UNI.

“I have only used scraps for designing the car. But even then, when it is manufactured on a large scale, the maximum cost would be less than Rs 25 lakh which is far lower than the global price,” he claimed.

The car runs on the usual Maruti engine on roads while an outboard Suzuki engine fitted on the rear propels it on water.

Once in water, the propeller under the car becomes active and the driver can easily manoeuvre it. This amphibious car can reach speeds of 20 km in water and 60 km on road, he claimed and said the speed could be increased.

Aiming to secure a patent for his “water car,” Vinod said “the car runs on two engines. When the vehicle enters the water, the outboard engine comes up automatically and powers the vehicle.” — UNI

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Subodh Mohite joins Congress

Mumbai, February 18
Former Shiv Sena MP from Ramtek, Subodh Mohite today officially joined Congress, along with his followers from Ramtek and Nagpur, in the presence of Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) President Prabha Rau and Revenue Minister Narayan Rane.

Mr Mohite had announced his decision to quit the Sena a few days ago, expressing displeasure over treatment meted out to him by Sena Executive president Uddhav Thackeray.

Later, he met Prabha Rau and today officially joined the Congress.

After the expulsion of Narayan Rane from Shiv Sena, seven Sena legislators resigned from the party as well membership from the House and six of them were re-elected on Congress tickets. Mohite is the first MP to join the league. — UNI

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Mamata operated upon
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, February 18
Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee had an acute stomach pain after her return to the city from Singur late last night. She underwent an emergency operation at a nursing this morning.

Doctors said her condition was still unstable and it would take another 48 hours to return her to normalcy. But, she would need complete bed rest at least for next six or eight weeks, the doctors added.

Some problems had developed in Ms Banerjee's kidney and pancreas following her 25-day fasting in support of the poor farmers facing eviction at Singur.

Ms Banerjee's closed associates and other leaders said the agitation would not be stopped despite her absence. They were chalking out an agitation programme along with the Krishi Bachao Committee and other political parties, supporting the agitation.

Meanwhile, fresh clashes today occurred among workers of the committee and CPM cadres over the control of the land at Nandigram today. Revolvers, pipe guns, bombs and other lethal weapons were freely used during the clash. Around 20 persons belonging to both groups were injured and one committee worker was reported missing.

The Jamat-et-Uleman leader, Mohammad Siddhikullah Chaudhury, said they would support the Trinamool Congress in the agitation.

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‘Omkara’ grabs major Stardust awards

Aishwarya Rai
Aishwarya Rai
Sanjay Dutt
Sanjay Dutt

Mumbai, February 18
Vishal Bharadwaj's "Omkara" grabbed honours at the Stardust Awards held here tonight. "Omkara" bagged several major awards, including “Best Actor in a Villainous Role” for Saif Ali Khan, "Hottest New Film" and critics choice awards for actress Kareena Kapoor and director Bharadwaj.

But the highlight of the evening was superstar Amitabh Bachchan handing over the “Best Actress” award to his to-be daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai for her performance in "Dhoom 2", which she termed as being "very special for her".

Another of last year's blockbusters "Lage Raho Munnabhai" also garnered accolades with Sanjay Dutt winning the “Best Actor” award and director Rajkumar Hirani bagging the “Best Director” award.

Others who won awards included Abhishek Bachchan as “Best Supporting Actor” for his role in "Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna" while Ayesha Takia won “Best Supporting Actress” for her performance in "Dor".

The awards, interspersed with performances by stars including Kareena Kapoor, Kangana Ranaut, Emraan Hashmi and Lara Dutta, also honoured actor Mithun Chakraborthy with the "Role Model of the Year" award.

India's Oscar entry "Rang De Basanti" was also given the "Pride of the Indian Film Industry" award. — PTI

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Amitabh, Preity Zinta in first-ever English film

New Delhi, February 18
Bollywood’s current top ranking actress Preity Zinta will feature along side superstar Amitabh Bachchan in a forthcoming English film to be directed by renowned filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh. Making this announcement, Prof Arindam Chaudhuri of Planman Motion Pictures, which is producing the film, said the yet untitled film, slated to go on the floors soon, will feature Preity Zinta and Big B along with model-turned actor Arjun Rampal as well as accomplished actors like Shefali Shah, the Kolkata-based Jishu Sengupta and Divya Dutta.

Speaking about his new English film, Prof Arindam Chaudhari, the Chairman of Planman Motion Pictures (which has earlier produced critically-acclaimed films like ‘Faltu’, directed by Anjan Dutt, and ‘Dosor’, directed by Rituparno Ghosh), said, “the film has a great script. This, coupled with a cast comprising of Mr Amitabh Bachchan, Preity Zinta and Arjun Rampal and a ‘magician of a director’ like Rituparno Ghosh, will help to ensure that the film will shape up wonderfully.” He said it was first time ever that the cinegoers would see Preity Zinta, Mr Bachchan and most of the cast in an English film.

Says Shubho Shekhar Bhattacharjee, CEO - Planman Motion Pictures, “we will begin the shoot towards the end of February. An integral part of the film needs to be shot abroad, for which we are exploring several location options. As soon as the formalities are complied with, we will finalize the international schedule too.” — UNI

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I never thought of marrying Dharam: Hema

New Delhi, February 18
Giving a peep into her much-hyped unconventional marriage, Bollywood star-turned-politician, Hema Malini has said not many would believe, but she never thought of marrying Dharmendra.

"I do not say that what happened was the best option. Nobody calculatedly falls in love. Whenever I thought of my life partner, I always imagined someone like him, but never him. It was, however, destined that it had to be him," she has said in “Hema Malini”, her authorised biography by film critic Bhawana Somayya.

Hema says, "We have shared a few good years together and the result is our two beautiful daughters. I console myself by asking had I been into a regular marriage, would I have been able to evolve and grow the way I did?" Dharamji trusted me and encouraged my pursuits. PTI

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