SPECIAL COVERAGE
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LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

SC moved in Sidhu case
New Delhi, March 1
A petition was moved in the Supreme Court today to intervene in BJP leader Navjot Singh Sindhu’s appeal against his conviction in a road rage death case on the ground that the apex court order staying his conviction for enabling him to contest election was against the provision and spirit of the Representation of People Act (RPA).

Now, Cong focus on UP
New Delhi, March 1
Having bitten the dust in Punjab and Uttarakhand, the Congress has now turned its attention to next month’s Assembly poll in Uttar Pradesh, where it is seriously working at an electoral alliance with Raj Babbar and V.P.Singh’s Jan Morcha and the Ajit Singh-led Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD).

B.C. Khanduri is Uttarakhand CM
Dehra Dun, March 1
It took six hours for the BJP to reach a consensus on naming former union minister and sitting MP from the Pauri Garhwal constituency, B.C. Khanduri, as the new Chief Minister of Uttarakhand.

Gursharan gets ‘Akademi Ratna’
New Delhi, March 1
Gursharan Singh, well-known theatre personality from Punjab, Kishan Maharaj, tabla maestro from Varanasi, Rohini Bhate, eminent Kathak guru from Pune, T.N. Krishnan, master violinist and Carnatic music expert from Chennai and N. Khelchandra Singh, a Manipuri art scholar, were today conferred the Sangeet Natak Akademi's “Ratna” (Fellows) by President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam at a function here today.

Kalam trips at function, but unhurt

2 starvation deaths mar Guv’s visit at tea fest
Kolkata, March 1
State Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi's visit today to the tea gardens at Duars in north Bengal, coincided with the incident of two starvation deaths that occurred simultaneously at the Ramjola tea gardens area near Jalpaiguri.


Surinder Koli, prime accused in the Nithari serial killings is brought to a court in Patiala House New Delhi on Thursday
Surinder Koli, prime accused in the Nithari serial killings is brought to a court in Patiala House New Delhi on Thursday. — Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal

EARLIER STORIES

Students of Rabindra Bharti University celebrate Basanta Utsav at Jorasanko University Campus in Kolkata on Thursday
Students of Rabindra Bharti University celebrate Basanta Utsav at Jorasanko University Campus in Kolkata on Thursday. — PTI

Ahmed is new DG of CRPF
New Delhi, March 1
S I S Ahmed, an IPS officer of 1970 batch of West Bengal cadre, took over as the new director-general of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) here today. Ahmed will, however, continue to hold the additional charge of DG, CISF, till further orders.

Kalam to open women’s seminar
New Delhi, March 1
Moved by the plight of five million mentally ill women in the country, the national commission for women (NCW) is holding a two-day national seminar on the theme “Mentally ill women - Is destitution the only answer.”

Holi will be dry and sunny
New Delhi, March 1
Will it rain in the plains of the northwest on March 4, the day of Holi? If the Met department is to be believed, then Sunday, the day all Holi revellers are waiting impatiently for, will be a dry, sunny day. In the words of India meteorological department (IMD) director S.C. Bhan, it will be “a very pleasant day”.

MiG-21 crashes, pilot killed
Siliguri, March 1
An Indian Air Force MiG-21 aircraft crashed near Kurseong in Darjeeling district today, killing its pilot on the spot. The aircraft crashed at around 1 pm at a place between the Norbong tea estate and Shibkhola in Kurseong subdivision after taking off from the nearby Hasimara base on a practice sortie. They said immediately after the crash was noticed, an IAF team from nearby base rushed to the spot and launched a search for the pilot, Squadron Leader S.S. Pandey, whose body, was later recovered from near the wreckage of the aircraft. — UNI

8 killed as Naxalites trigger landmine blast
Raipur, March 1
Naxalites today killed eight persons, including six security personnel, and injured two in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district, the police said. “The Naxalites triggered a huge landmine blast and opened indiscriminate firing on a police party killing eight persons on the spot and injuring two security personnel at Metaguda in the Errabore police station area, about 485 km from here," police sources in Dantewada said on the phone.

Shahabuddin convicted
Patna, March 1
The Siwan court today convicted RJD MP Md Shahabuddin for abducting and assaulting a CPM worker in 1998. Facing over 34 criminal cases, Shahabuddin, once known as the uncrowned king of Siwan, is now lodged in Siwan jail.

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SC moved in Sidhu case
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 1
A petition was moved in the Supreme Court today to intervene in BJP leader Navjot Singh Sindhu’s appeal against his conviction in a road rage death case on the ground that the apex court order staying his conviction for enabling him to contest election was against the provision and spirit of the Representation of People Act (RPA).

The petition was moved by advocate Lilly Thomas, whose public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the constitutional validity of Sections 8, 9 and 11 of the RPA had been admitted by the court much earlier.

On the face of the RPA provisions, the apex court order “staying” the conviction of Sidhu was not as per the law.

“Conviction cannot be stayed in such cases,” Ms Thomas told Justice Arijit Pasayat, who was hearing the matters at mentioning stage.

The court referred the petition to the Bench of Justice G P Mathur and Justice R V Raveendran, which had passed the stay order in Sidhu’s case.

Thomas in her pending PIL had sought quashing of the provisions of Sections 8, 9 and 11 of RPA, which allowed convicted legislators to contest elections if the sentence awarded to them is two years or less. But the provisions listed in these Sections put a bar on MPs and MLAs to enter in the poll fray if the sentence is more than two years, provided the conviction is stayed by the appellate court.

The PIL had sought quashing of Sections 8, 9, 11 granting exemption even to those sentenced to two years or less than that, saying all the legislators if convicted for any criminal office, should be disqualified from contesting elections as any exemption to them would only encourage criminalisation of politics.

In her intervention application, she sought to challenge stay of Sidhu’s conviction by the apex court on the same ground, contending that it not only ran contrary to the spirit of the RPA provisions but also against larger public interest because he was awarded three years jail term by the Punjab and Haryana High Court for causing the death of a 65-year-old man in a road rage scuffle.

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Now, Cong focus on UP
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 1
Having bitten the dust in Punjab and Uttarakhand, the Congress has now turned its attention to next month’s Assembly poll in Uttar Pradesh, where it is seriously working at an electoral alliance with Raj Babbar and V.P.Singh’s Jan Morcha and the Ajit Singh-led Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD).

There is a growing realisation in the Congress that it will not make any headway in the multi-party contest unless it has an alliance with the Jan Morcha and RLD, whose vigorous campaign against the Mulayum Singh Yadav government in recent months has evoked a positive public response.

Although there is a section in the Congress which does not favour such an alliance on the plea that it will impede the party’s growth in the state, its senior leadership has been forced into a rethink after the Congress paid a heavy price for spurning its allies in Maharashtra and Punjab.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel is in touch with Ajit Singh and Raj Babbar, while Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi has also been taking a personal interest in the preparations for the poll. The contours of the party’s understanding with the other allies is yet to be worked out but an attempt is being made to identify constituencies where common candidates are in a position to defeat Samajwadi Party contestants.

The Congress has been a fringe player in Uttar Pradesh for over 15 years now as its traditional support base among the upper castes, Scheduled Castes and minorites has gradually shifted to the Bharatiya Janata Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party.

Having no constituency of it own, the Congress assessment is that an electoral understanding with the RLD will help as it has a substantial base in western UP while a pact with the Jan Morcha may help them pull in the minorities.

Meanwhile, the election scene is hotting up with the Congrees launching yet another offencive against UP Chief Minister Mulayum Singh Yadav after the Supreme Court directed a CBI inquire into his disproportionate assets.

“There have been several occasions in the past when Mulayum Singh Yadav should have resigned on moral, constitutional and legal grounds. This is yet another occasion,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said today. At the same time, Sonia Gandhi constituted a 34-member pradesh election committee under the leadership of PCC chief Salman Khursheed, which will hold its first meeting tomorrow in Lucknow to start the process of selecting its candidates.

As the party gears up for its electoral challenge, Sonia Gandhi’s speech at the CPP meeting on March 6 may provide some pointers to its subsequent strategy.

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B.C. Khanduri is Uttarakhand CM
Raju William
Tribune News Service

Dehra Dun, March 1
It took six hours for the BJP to reach a consensus on naming former union minister and sitting MP from the Pauri Garhwal constituency, B.C. Khanduri, as the new Chief Minister of Uttarakhand.

Emerging from the marathon meeting that started at 3.30 pm today at a hotel here, Khanduri and his rival for the top post, Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, headed straight to meet Governor Sudarshan Agarwal to stake claim to form the government. Koshiyari, who is the state BJP chief and a former CM, proposed the name of Khanduri while Ramesh Nishank of the Thalisan constituency seconded it.

The central BJP Observer Gopinath Munde made the announcement in the news conference in the absence of Khanduri and Koshiyari. Supporters of the two leaders were raising slogans outside as Munde said the decision was based on a consensus among the 34 newly-elected MLAs.

Central BJP leaders were also consulted during the meeting, Munde said, adding nothing should be read into the unusually long meeting of the BJP legislators.

Munde declined to name the two independent MLAs who he claimed had offered support to the BJP, which needed 35 MLAs to meet the majority target in the 70-member Assembly.

Flanked by another party observer Om Mathur, Munde informed that the names of both the independents MLAs would be disclosed to the Governor. The leader of the BJP legislature party would prove its majority on the floor of the house on being invited by the Governor to form the government. He dismissed reports of support by the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD) which has three MLAs.

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Gursharan gets ‘Akademi Ratna’

New Delhi, March 1
Gursharan Singh, well-known theatre personality from Punjab, Kishan Maharaj, tabla maestro from Varanasi, Rohini Bhate, eminent Kathak guru from Pune, T.N. Krishnan, master violinist and Carnatic music expert from Chennai and N. Khelchandra Singh, a Manipuri art scholar, were today conferred the Sangeet Natak Akademi's “Ratna” (Fellows) by President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam at a function here today.

The “Ratna”, the highest award in the country for performing arts, is restricted to 30 eminent living personalities at any given time.

In addition, 33 prominent artists including Munna Shukla (Kathak guru), Amitava Dasgupta (theatre director), Gautam Bhattacharya (light designer) and Syed Iqbal Malangami (folk musician from Jammu and Kashmir), were also given the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award 2006, the highest national recognition given to practicing artists.

The award carries cash of Rs 50,000, a shawl and a Tamrapatra (a brass plaque) for excellence in the fields of music, dance, theatre and puppetry.

President Kalam today asked artists to use their arts to promote social objectives among the people and shape the vision of the country.

“Artists can play significant roles. Musicians can sing songs of development. Dramatists can give shape to the vision of the nation,” the President said after he conferred the awards.

The awardees include Vijay Kichlu and Rashid Khan (Hindustani vocalists), Shahid Parvez Khan (sitar), D. Pasupathy and Chingleput Ranganathan (Carnatic vocal), Kumar Bose (tabla), N. Ravi Kiran (Carnatic instrumental-chitra veena) and Thiruvaarur Bhakthavatsalam (Carnatic instrumental-Mridangam).

In the category of dance, S. Narmada (Bharatnatyam), Kottakkal Chandrasekharan (Kathakali), Kalamanadalam Vimala Menon (Mohiniattam) and Pasumarthy Rattiah (Kuchipudi) were among the winners.

For excellence in theatre, the awardees were Prabhat Kumar Bhattacharya (playwriting), R. Nagesh, Amitava Dasgupta and E. Joychandra Singh (direction), Geta Dey, K. Kaladharan and Dharani Burman (acting) and Gautam Bhattacharya (allied theatre arts- lighting).

Rekha Jain was selected in the category of overall contribution to performing arts.— UNI, PTI

Kalam trips at function, but unhurt

President A.P.J Abdul Kalam today tripped and fell on the dais at the Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards 2006 while he was briskly proceeding towards the podium to address the audience.

The 75-year-old President tripped on the walking stick of 87-year-old N. Khelchandra Singh, an eminent Manipuri scholar, who was seated at the end of the line on the dais. He was honoured just minutes before by Kalam with the Akademi Fellowship.

“There was no injury to the President who completed his 15-minute address and later sat through the entire programme”, Rashtrapati Bhavan spokesperson S.M. Khan said.

Kalam tripped and fell flat but promptly got up even before his aides could reach for help. 

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2 starvation deaths mar Guv’s visit at tea fest
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, March 1
State Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi's visit today to the tea gardens at Duars in north Bengal, coincided with the incident of two starvation deaths that occurred simultaneously at the Ramjola tea gardens area near Jalpaiguri.

Gandhi was in Duars to attend an on-going tea festival, which was inaugurated in the last week of February.

But after learning about the starvation deaths, the Governor drove straight to the village and learnt about the problems and grievances of poor workers.

The Governor was told by the local trade union leaders that in the past one year over 150 poor tea workers had died in the Duars area, mostly due to starvations and mal-nutrition.

They also alleged that the workers were not getting any financial assistance, as they were entitled to, under the Centrally-sponsored schemes. The Centre or the state government had not taken any step to reopen the closed tea gardens or provide alternative jobs to them.

After hearing the aggrieved workers, the Governor directed state PWD minister Pijush Kirkey and the DM, accompanying him, to take necessary steps to redress their problems.

The victims were Lalbancha( 28), a jobless labourer, and a month-old-male baby of another garden worker, who had been working at a local wood factory at a paltry wage of Rs 40 per day since the closure of the Ramjola tea gardens. The baby had died due to malnutrition.

The RSP and the Forward Bloc, the two major front partners, have been publicly criticising the Centre as well as the state government for neglecting the poor tea workers in Darjeeling and the Duars tea garden.

They are demanding the introduction of the special food-for-work programme and other rehabilitation schemes for the poor jobless workers and their families.

They have also demanded the opening of the closed tea gardens with immediate effect and the Centre be approached accordingly.

Incidentally, the Chief Minister during his recent visit to Jalpaiguri, had assured the people that the government would take necessary steps to protect the starving farmers. But unfortunately, within a fortnight, there have been two starvation deaths.

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Ahmed is new DG of CRPF
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 1
S I S Ahmed, an IPS officer of 1970 batch of West Bengal cadre, took over as the new director-general of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) here today. Ahmed will, however, continue to hold the additional charge of DG, CISF, till further orders.

Ahmed takes over from director-general, National Security Guard (NSG) Jyoti Kishan Dutt, who was holding the additional charge of DG, CRPF, since December 1, 2006.

Speaking to mediapersons after taking over the charge, Ahmed said he was confident that the force would live up to its history of being a professional and people-friendly force and successfully meet all challenges posed before it by the insurgents and terrorists.

Ahmed brings to the CRPF a vast experience in counter-insurgency work. As additional DG (East) in BSF, he was in charge of border management of entire stretch of Indo-Bangladesh border and oversaw counter insurgency operations in Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur and Tripura.

He also has extensive experience of metropolitan policing, having served with the Kolkata police for over 14 years in various capacities. He has been awarded President’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service and Police Medal for Meritorious Service. 

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Kalam to open women’s seminar
Tripti Nath
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 1
Moved by the plight of five million mentally ill women in the country, the national commission for women (NCW) is holding a two-day national seminar on the theme “Mentally ill women - Is destitution the only answer.”

President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam will inaugurate the seminar at FICCI auditorium here on International Women’s Day on March 8. Union health minister Anbhumani Ramadoss and minister of state (independent charge) for women and child development Renuka Chowdhury will also address the seminar in the presence of state DGPs (director-general of police), besides health and women and child development secretaries.

NCW chairperson Girija Vyas finds the state of asylums in the country pathetic and feels that there is an urgent need to work out a proper rehabilitation plan for mentally challenged women.

Another unique aspect of the seminar is that it will provide mentally ill women a platform to share their experiences.

Dr Nimesh G. Desai, head of the department of psychiatr at the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences, Delhi, who is helping NCW organise the seminar, says, “Five million women in India are suffering from severe mental illness, which include schizophrenia, manic depressive psychoses (bipolar disorder) and other psychoses.”

Dr Desai says the rehabilitation facilities for mentally ill women in need of long-term residential and sheltered care are grossly inadequate. “For about 50,000 homeless mentally ill women in India who are in need of long-term residential and sheltered care today, there are less than 500 rehabilitation beds.”

Dr Desai has evolved a “rule of 10 per cent - requirement of rehabilitation facilities for mentally ill women.” He explains that 10 per cent of the Indian population is suffering from one or the other form of mental disorder. 10 per cent of this population has severe mental illness.

Further 10 per cent of this number may require hospitalisation at some point of time and 10 per cent of this population would need long-term residential and sheltered care.

He says it is important to address the deplorable condition of mentally ill women who have nowhere to go in the absence of long-term sheltered and residential care.

“The extent of their abuse and exploitation is horrific, despite the fact that the law provides persons with mental illness the right to live with dignity.

“In many instances, the perpetrators are their own family

members. As per the law, a person with mental illness cannot sign any document of purchase, lease or any contract. The law is silent on these issues when they are stable.”

He says families dump mentally sick members in homes and asylums never to take them back.

Another shortcoming is that the mentally ill who are discharged after being found fit have no right to rehabilitation.

Dr Desai says mentally ill women have no access to basic health care services due to their homeless status. A majority of them suffer from fractures, dog bites or other major physical health problems.

He has invited an inter-disciplinary group of resource persons to debate on issues concerning the women.

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Holi will be dry and sunny
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 1
Will it rain in the plains of the northwest on March 4, the day of Holi? If the Met department is to be believed, then Sunday, the day all Holi revellers are waiting impatiently for, will be a dry, sunny day. In the words of India meteorological department (IMD) director S.C. Bhan, it will be “a very pleasant day”.

Considering the fact that it has been raining quite heavily over the northwest in the past month, this prediction sure spells relief. In fact, as far as Delhi is concerned, records suggest that February was the wettest month in five years. Likewise, most of the other parts of the northwest, both in the plains as well as in the hilly regions, have also experienced heavy precipitation in February.

As per the IMD’s latest forecast, rain or snow is likely at many places in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand and at a few places in Jammu and Kashmir, but only till tomorrow.

Thereafter, mainly dry weather will prevail over Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Uttarakhand, west Utter Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh, except Jammu and Kashmir where isolated to scattered rain or snow is likely on March 3 and 4.

Bad weather in Jammu and Kashmir is due to a feeble western disturbance that is approaching the state.

For Delhi and the NCR region, the March 4 IMD predictions say there is the possibility of a partly cloudy sky towards the evening.

But it will be sunny and dry with the maximum temperature hovering around 26°C and the minimum around 15°C, assures Bhan.

Since model predictions suggest that the ongoing rainfall activity is likely to shift eastward, parts of east Utter Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and the northeastern states may experience rain during the next 36 hours.

On the whole, the region and rest of the country will experience absolutely dry weather on the D-day.

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8 killed as Naxalites trigger landmine blast

Raipur, March 1
Naxalites today killed eight persons, including six security personnel, and injured two in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district, the police said. “The Naxalites triggered a huge landmine blast and opened indiscriminate firing on a police party killing eight persons on the spot and injuring two security personnel at Metaguda in the Errabore police station area, about 485 km from here," police sources in Dantewada said on the phone.

The dead included four jawans from the Nagaland Armed Forces, who were deployed in the Bastar region for the anti-Naxal operation, two special police officers (SPOs), the driver and the helper of the truck. The injured were two Nagaland jawans, the sources said. — PTI

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Shahabuddin convicted
Tribune News Service

Patna, March 1
The Siwan court today convicted RJD MP Md Shahabuddin for abducting and assaulting a CPM worker in 1998. Facing over 34 criminal cases, Shahabuddin, once known as the uncrowned king of Siwan, is now lodged in Siwan jail.

Judicial Magistrate Vishwa Vibhuti Gupta found the controversial MP guilty of the charges after the completion of the trial inside the jail. The punishment will be announced tomorrow.

The case was related to an attack on the CPM's office at Khurmabad in Siwan in which Shahabuddin and his armed supporters exploded bombs, damaged furniture and abducted office secretary Keshav Baitha.

The FIR in the case was filed on October 7, 1998 on the statement of Baitha after he was recovered by the police.

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