SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Troop withdrawal issue
Sonia calls Mufti, Azad for dinner meeting

New Delhi, March 25
In a move to smoothen differences between Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and PDP mentor Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who have been indulging in a bitter accusation game over the troop withdrawal issue, UPA chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi has invited the two leaders to a dinner meeting tomorrow.


Troop pullout in J&K on: BJP

Nandigram: CJ order on CBI probe today
Ruffled CPM cadres to move Supreme Court
Kolkata, March 25
The newly appointed Chief Justice (CJ) of the Calcutta High Court, Surendra Singh Nijhar, who has been now facing " the political attacks" from the ruling CPM, will deliver his judgment tomorrow on the CBI probe into the Nandigram carnage of March 14 in which 14 poor farmers were gunned down.

Mittal regrets not having an MBA degree
Ghaziabad, March 25
Lakshmi N Mittal may be the role model for business school hopefuls, but he regrets of not having an MBA degree in his chequered career.

Rating agencies gear up for IPO grading
Mumbai, March 25
The credit rating agencies are gearing up for increased activity following the market regulator SEBI’s decision to make grading of initial public offerings (IPOs) mandatory.

Adoption of Indian kids by foreigners easier
New Delhi, March 25
The government plans to relax rules governing inter-country adoptions to make it simpler for foreigners to provide new home to Indian children. “We have set up a review committee to go through the guidelines so that the process of adoption in India is simplified,” Central Adoption Resource Agency Chairman J K Mittal told PTI.



Mango sellers sort new crop at the wholesale fruit market in Hyderabad.
Mango sellers sort new crop at the wholesale fruit market in Hyderabad on Sunday. — PTI

EARLIER STORIES




Colombian singer Shakira performs during a concert in Mumbai.
Colombian singer Shakira performs during a concert in Mumbai in Saturday. The performance in India's financial and entertainment capital is the Grammy award winning singer's first appearance in India.
— AFP
In video: (56k)

Chances of patch-up in SP end
UP jail minister Rajesh Verma resigns
Lucknow, March 25
Virtually ending chances of a patch-up within the Samajwadi Party, Rajesh Verma, state jail minister and son of rebel SP Member of Parliament Beni Prasad Verma, today came out in support of his father by resigning from the party and even refusing to contest from Masuali in Barabanki of which he was the official SP candidate.

BJP begins high-powered campaign
Lucknow, March 25
For the BJP winning the Vidhan Sabha poll in Uttar Pradesh will not just be another feather in its recently decorated cap, but a means to influence the electoral college for the Presidential poll and eventually cut short the term of the Congress-led UPA government.
In video: (56k)

BJP frontrunner in UP cities, says Naidu
New Delhi, March 25
In the run-up to the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP has begun to claim that the party is a front runner in big cities and urban centres of the state.

Cong, BKD enter poll alliance
New Delhi, March 25
In a bid to regain its political space in the coming Assembly poll in western Uttar Pradesh, the Congress today announced seat-sharing arrangement with the Bahujan Kisan Dal (BKD), a political wing of Mahender Singh Tikait’s Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU).

Heavy voter turnout in Bazpur
Dehra Dun, March 25
The election in the Bazpur constituency in Uttarakhand witnessed heavy voter turnout for which polling was held today. The election to this constituency was countermanded due to the accidental death of a candidate before the state Assembly election that took place last month.

Food for tot!
A three-month-old baby pelican has food from the mouth of its mother at Assam State Zoo in Guwahati.
A three-month-old baby pelican has food from the mouth of its mother at Assam State Zoo in Guwahati on Sunday. — PTI

Gangotri recedes as globe warms
New Delhi, March 25
The Gangotri glacier receded at the rate of 17.15 metres per year between 1971 and 2004, says a study conducted by the Department of Science and Technology. One more study has estimated that the glacier retreated 12.10 metres during 2004-05, another clear example of global warming and climate change in the region.

Tainted MPs face the heat in Nitish raj
Patna, March 25
The stigma of ‘badland’ is virtually a misnomer in Bihar now as the proverbial long arm of law finally catches up with both criminal-turned-politicians and criminals under the Nitish regime with the conviction of over 15,000 lawbreakers in the past 15 months.

Bihar haven for drug smugglers
Patna, March 25
The intelligence wing here is in receipt of the inputs indicating the fast emergence of Bihar as the favourite destination of drug smugglers across the country by taking advantage of its well-connected rail and road network that touches two international borders with Nepal and Bangladesh.

This beggar has bank accounts, insurance policies
Patna, March 25
She can well be the poster model for any nationalised bank or post office to promote the benefit of small savings.

Shiv Sena seeks BPO jobs for locals
Mumbai, March 25
Fresh from its victory in the elections to the Mumbai municipal corporation, the Shiv Sena is flexing its regional muscles to get more of its supporters into BPO companies and shopping malls.

Bird flu alert in Tripura
Agartala, March 25
The Tripura government has sounded an alert against bird flu in the wake of reports of the disease spreading in neighbouring Bangladesh, officials said today.

Videos
Erratic weather spells doom for stone fruit farmers.
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Wax statues expo in Ooty attracts stream of tourists
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Launch of "Say Salam India"

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Troop withdrawal issue
Sonia calls Mufti, Azad for dinner meeting
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 25
In a move to smoothen differences between Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and PDP mentor Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who have been indulging in a bitter accusation game over the troop withdrawal issue, UPA chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi has invited the two leaders to a dinner meeting tomorrow.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to be present at the meeting, being held at her 10 Janpath residence, sources said, adding that several Union ministers and senior party leaders are also likely to be present at the meeting.

Sayeed, who has been in the Capital for the past few days, has held a series of meetings with the Prime Minister and national security advisor M.K.Narayanan and has discussed with them his party's demands for troop reduction, revocation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) and vacation of agricultural and orchard land, besides private and government buildings by security forces in the state.

The meeting would bring Sayeed and Azad face to face after a long time and both leaders would get an opportunity to present their respective viewpoints on the issue.

Azad has been vociferously opposing any move to reduce troops in Jammu and Kashmir, saying ''any complacency would jeopardise peace in the region''.

''Demilitarisation in Jammu and Kashmir is impossible till the situation improves...It won't happen,'' he said recently.

The idea of a dinner meeting is understood to be the brainchild of the UPA chairperson, which she thinks is the best way to break the ice and resolve the differences between Sayeed and Azad and also to ensure that the Congress-PDP coalition government in the troubled state functions smoothly and completes its full term, sources asserted.

The PDP, which lead the coalition for the first two and a half years with Sayeed being the Chief Minister of the state, has been sending disturbing signals and recently threatened to pull out of the Congress-led coalition government if its demands were not met.

Soon after his arrival in Delhi on March 21, Sayeed first held discussions with the NSA, followed by a crucial meeting with the Prime Minister the next day.

Sayeed also attended a dinner hosted by the Congress president for UPA allies.

The discussions with Narayanan continued and Sayeed again met the Prime Minister yesterday.

Sources revealed that the UPA government may consider some of the PDP demands like vacating some orchards, private buildings and agricultural land.

The Centre may similarly announce reduction of troops from those areas in the strife-torn state where negligible or no violence had been reported for the past few years.

The Centre is also likely to review AFSPA, a controversial law which gives the armed forces sweeping powers to arrest suspects without charge and substantial immunity from prosecution, and also the Disturbed Areas Act.

The PDP leadership appears satisfied with the outcome of the series of discussions over the party's demands.

Sources said the PDP has postponed its Political Affairs Committee meeting, which was convened to decide the fate of the coalition government indefinitely.

Troop pullout in J&K on: BJP

The BJP today denounced the troop pullout from border districts of Doda, Poonch and Rajouri in Jammu and Kashmir saying that the UPA government had buckled under the pressure of former state Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.

In a statement, BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar said a party team under the leadership of state unit chief Ashok Khajuria was startled to discover that a brigade has been ordered to pull out from Budhal in Rajouri district.

“Without declaring officially, the work of troop pullout has begun in full swing in many areas of the region,” Javadekar said issuing a stern warning to the UPA government that “it should not indulge in compromising the national security for political expediency”.

Seeking the government's clarification on the issue, Jaadekar condemned the betrayal of the nation and jeopardising the security interests of the country.

He said troops were being pulled out from Kulhand in Doda district also where last year 19 Hindus were massacred. Military pickets had been removed from Shatru, Daschan, Pader, Balesa, Martam, Dharamshala, Puranu beyond Budhal.

Military pickets from Tanna Manchi, Manjakot, Khwas, Shahdra Sharif, Kalakot, Tarihat, Dalhori beyond Budhal in Rajouri district were also being removed, he said, adding that troop pullout was on in the Poonch area.

There is a conspiracy to force Hindus out of the area, which is notorious for infiltration, the spokesman alleged and said that even the violence at Mendhar in Poonch district was deliberately organised in which houses and vehicles of Hindus were attacked.

Javadekar alleged that the exercise, which apparently started last week, was to save the Jammu and Kashmir government as the stand-off between the Congress and the PDP was threatening the stability of the Ghulam Nabi Azad government. — TNS

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Nandigram: CJ order on CBI probe today
Ruffled CPM cadres to move Supreme Court
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, March 25
The newly appointed Chief Justice (CJ) of the Calcutta High Court, Surendra Singh Nijhar, who has been now facing " the political attacks" from the ruling CPM, will deliver his judgment tomorrow on the CBI probe into the Nandigram carnage of March 14 in which 14 poor farmers were gunned down.

The police, accompanied by CPM cadres, carrying firearms raided Nandigram on that day for "freeing the village" from the control of the Krishi Bachaoo Committee and establishing the "rule of law there".

The police action was strongly criticised by the Governor as well as by the Chief Justice. Shocked and surprised at the horrible incident, the Chief Justice's Division Bench, which included Mr Justice Pinaki Ranjan Ghosh, the following day, ordered a suo moto CBI inquiry into the gruesome killing of the farmers.

The CPM leadership, already in confrontation with Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi for criticising the government on its action on Nandigram, was now involved in another controversy by publicly criticising the Chief Justice on his decision of ordering the CBI probe into the Nandigram incident.

Assembly Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim CPM had questioned the propriety of the Chief Justice for ordering the CBI probe into the Nandigram incident. Veteran Jyoti Basu also said whether the high court was empowered to order the CBI inquiry into the state's law and order matter, was now under the examination of the Supreme Court.

But CPM secretary Biman Bose, who is the Left Front chairman, ruthlessly attacked both the Governor and the Chief Justice and called upon the cadres to come out in the streets against "their conspiracies". Bose attacked the Chief Justice for issuing "an odd and unusual order" which was a deliberate attempt of conspiracy against an elected government, he alleged.

Apprehending some unpalatable judgments from the Division Bench tomorrow, Bose declared they would be going to the Supreme Court against the high court's order tomorrow. The government will also institute a judicial probe after receiving the high court's judgment on the CBI report tomorrow, he added.

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Mittal regrets not having an MBA degree

Ghaziabad, March 25
Lakshmi N Mittal may be the role model for business school hopefuls, but he regrets of not having an MBA degree in his chequered career.

“The biggest regret of my life is not having a MBA degree,” Mittal said while addressing the annual convocation of the Institute of Management Technology here.

He wanted to go to a B school after completing his graduation from St Xavier's College in Kolkata, but involvement in family business denied him that opportunity.

Asking the future managers to be realistic in their goals, Mittal suggested that only those objectives should be pursued which were achievable.

He said he did not dream of being the biggest steel makers five years back, but achieving small goals and subsequently setting up higher goals has led to reach his goal.

“Being Indian is a matter of pride and so I still hold an Indian passport,” Mittal said.

He said India was being differently looked at by the world as there are changes happening at a fast pace. “India was among the second fastest growing economy in the world,” he said and pointed out that wherever he went, people enquired about India. — PTI

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Rating agencies gear up for IPO grading

Mumbai, March 25
The credit rating agencies are gearing up for increased activity following the market regulator SEBI’s decision to make grading of initial public offerings (IPOs) mandatory.

Crisil, the biggest of the four rating agencies in the country, plans to expand its team shortly. The agency managing director R Ravimohan said around 20 companies were currently in talks with the company for IPO grading. According to him, contrary to market perception, IPO gradings would not cost much to the issuers.

Ravimohan said Crisil would be charging 10 basis points of the amount to be raised with a ceiling of about Rs 10-15 lakh. Thus, even in the case of a mega IPO, there would be a cap on fees, he noted. Around 100 IPOs hit the market on an average every year. However, despite this seemingly big number, the total receipts for the entire rating industry on account of grading fees would be only about Rs 10-15 crore. Naresh Takkar, managing director of ICRA, while not revealing the fee structure for IPO grading, said it would be similar to what the agency was charging for debt instruments. Incidentally, the experience of IPO grading, which started on a voluntary basis last year, has not been good with rating agencies having graded IPO plans of 17 companies but only three or four of them actually went ahead with their offerings. A majority of the issuers got low grading and they chose not to go ahead with their plans to raise funds from the market. However, Ravimohan pointed out that it was a pilot project initiated by the stock exchanges and only those companies chosen by the bourses were referred for grading. “Since the companies chosen were weak, all of them got a low grading,” he noted.

The pilot project was perhaps not a good benchmark to judge the merit of the idea, felt Ravimohan, adding: “Since now all IPOs have to be graded, we could witness a higher grading”.

When asked to comment on the merits of making IPO grading compulsory, the Crisil chief said, “It is necessary in the absence of a good investment advisory community India”. Incidentally, grading will be an assessment of the fundamentals of an issue and would not amount to recommending the issue, he observed. — PTI

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Adoption of Indian kids by foreigners easier

New Delhi, March 25
The government plans to relax rules governing inter-country adoptions to make it simpler for foreigners to provide new home to Indian children.

“We have set up a review committee to go through the guidelines so that the process of adoption in India is simplified,” Central Adoption Resource Agency Chairman J K Mittal told PTI.

India’s adoption laws are very complicated and lengthy and often discourage foreigners from adopting children here, he said.

“There is a need to relax certain rules without hurting the interests of adopted children and that is why we

have gone for a review committee,” Mittal said.

All inter-country adoptions are governed by a set of guidelines under which no direct adoption of an Indian child by foreigners is allowed in any court. All foreigners, including NRIs, wanting to adopt Indian option agency in their own country that is also permitted to work in India.

Moreover, the paper work in such cases is handled in India only by a government recognised agency. The process includes detailed home study reports of prospective parents that are prepared in their own country and which include police verification, family and social background of applicants, income certificate and health status.

These documents also have to be attested by the Indian consulate, embassy or high commission in the applicant’s country.

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Chances of patch-up in SP end
UP jail minister Rajesh Verma resigns
Shahira Naim

Lucknow, March 25
Virtually ending chances of a patch-up within the Samajwadi Party, Rajesh Verma, state jail minister and son of rebel SP Member of Parliament Beni Prasad Verma, today came out in support of his father by resigning from the party and even refusing to contest from Masuali in Barabanki of which he was the official SP candidate.

With Verma informing the media of his decision to now contest from his father’s newly launched Samajwadi Kranti Dal (SKD), hopes of a homecoming for influential Kurmi leader Beni Verma have now crashed.

Along with Verma, sitting MLA from Mahsi in Bahriach, Dilip Verma, also a close confidant of the senior Verma, returned the SP ticket and threw in his hat in the SKD ring.

Now it is a matter of time before the other MLAs from Bahraich and Barabanki, who are close to Beni Verma, openly come out in his support.

Talks between chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav and rebel SP leader two days ago had started speculation of things working out. Yadav reportedly not heeding to cut Verma’s political opponent to size, however, sealed the division within the party.

Understandably, Yadav is not interested in upsetting his already unsteady Muslim applecart by taking action against another senior leader and labour minister Waqar Ahmad Shah who has considerable influence in Bahraich and Barabanki districts.

Now a fuming Beni is adamant to part ways and has even demanded action into the assets of Waqar and transport minister Naresh Aggarwal who had publicly called Beni a ‘traitor’ at an SP press conference.

A step that will make his future homecoming still more embarrassing is the fielding of Reshma Arif, wife of BJP leader Arif Mohammad Khan, from Bahraich.

Keeping his options open, Beni strangely claims that besides Reshma, all SKD candidates are being made to sign a bond that they would have to unilaterally support Mulayam Singh Yadav after winning.

Beni, a senior SP leader and influential minister in the previous SP governments, was among the leaders who had been sidelined after the emergence of the Amar Singh phenomenon. He had virtually been retired from state politics by being sent to Parliament.

However, last year he was rehabilitated by the party to attract the Kurmi votebank. Recently under his leadership, a massive Kurmi Maha Sammelan was organised which did the chief minister attended.

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BJP begins high-powered campaign
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, March 25
For the BJP winning the Vidhan Sabha poll in Uttar Pradesh will not just be another feather in its recently decorated cap, but a means to influence the electoral college for the Presidential poll and eventually cut short the term of the Congress-led UPA government.

Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley said the party launched a high-powered campaign today with three major planks. While the so-called appeasement of the minorities remained “top of pops” for the BJP, Jaitley’s promise of the party ensuring a polity free from criminals and not on caste-based vote bank faced rough weather when journalists started questioning several dubious names on the BJP list.

He however feigned ignorance when it was pointed out that Markand Chand, a BJP candidate from Gorakhpur, was implicated for the murder of a former BJP minister.

Today more than 12 senior ministers addressed rallies across the state launching a campaign on a war footing. Notable among them were leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha L.K. Advani addressing a rally at Agra and leader of opposition in the Vidhan Sabha Lalji Tandon.

Party president Rajnath Singh and alliance partner in the state Janata Dal (U) leader Sharad Yadav jointly addressed a rally at Jhansi. The JD (U) has released a list of 17 candidates.

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BJP frontrunner in UP cities, says Naidu
Satish Misra
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 25
In the run-up to the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP has begun to claim that the party is a front runner in big cities and urban centres of the state.

Former BJP president and in charge of the party's election management M. Venkaiah Naidu told The Tribune that the party was a front-runner in the seven-phased Assembly elections.

Having said Naidu was evasive on the party's position in the rural areas.

Surprisingly, Naidu was training guns on the Congress and appeared in no mood to talk of its main electoral opponents namely the Samajwadi Party and the BSP with whom the BJP is locked in close contest to gain an upper hand in the Assembly poll next month.

He said the party had finalised its manifesto and would release it after Ramanavami. The alliance with Apna Dal and Janata Dal (United) in the state was working out well and the three partners would have joint campaigning. The mood among BJP workers was upbeat and they were happy with the candidates barring a few exceptions, he said.

In a clear effort to mobilise the electorate in its favour, Naidu brought the Ram temple issue in the campaign. He, without taking Rahul Gandhi's name, said the statement that Babri would not have happened if a Gandhi were to be in the country's driving seat showed that the Congress had no scruples about anything.

If it can happen to former Prime minister P. V. Narasmiha Rao, who dedicated himself to the Congress right from his childhood, one can imagine the fate of other party members, he pointed out.

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Cong, BKD enter poll alliance
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 25
In a bid to regain its political space in the coming Assembly poll in western Uttar Pradesh, the Congress today announced seat-sharing arrangement with the Bahujan Kisan Dal (BKD), a political wing of Mahender Singh Tikait’s Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU).

The announcement came at a joint press conference at the AICC headquarters which was addressed by UPCC chief Salman Khurshid and Rakesh Tikait, son of Mahender Singh Tikait. BKD president Rajesh Singh Chauhan was also present at the conference.

Junior Tikait told mediapersons that the arrangement was reached during the visit of Congress MP Rahul Gandhi to Muzaffarnagar last week. The agreement proposed that the two parties would support stronger candidates of each other in the region.

Expressing faith in the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, Rakesh said the arrangement would ensure the victory of the Congress candidates wherever they were in a strong position.

Though the BKD had fielded 65 candidates in the region, it would withdraw its candidate wherever the Congress candidate was in a winning position, Rakesh, who is himself contesting from Khatauli, said.

He said though his party had already issued symbols to its 65 candidates, but seat sharing with the Congress and withdrawal of certain candidates from some seats (where the Congress is in stronger position) would not be a problem.

The Congress has decided not to field any candidate against Rakesh Tikait at Khatauli. The candidates of the two parties will be contesting on their own symbols.

Sounding a similar note, Khurshid said the party had decided to back BKD candidates on some seats where it think the Kisan party was in a stronger position.

However, Khurshid said though the arrangement came a little late, but other modalities, like seats to be contested by each party and campaign strategy, would be decided in due course of time.

Welcoming the arrangement, a visibly happy UPCC chief said though talks were on between the two parties for long, but a decision was delayed. However, he said the other modalities of seat sharing would be decided in due process.

He also hinted that Rahul Gandhi, the architect of the arrangement, would be visiting Muzaffarnagar once again and address a joint rally announcing the agreement.

About the failure of the party’s talks on alliances with the RLD and Jan Morcha, Khurshid said talks were on with these parties for long, but did not materialise due to obvious reasons, including demand for huge number of seats.

However, he clarified that the party’s top priority was its revival in the politically important state and stressed that the Congress was aiming to become an important player in the government formation in the biggest state.

He said the party would announce candidates for the last three phases of the assembly election in the next two days.

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Heavy voter turnout in Bazpur
Raju William
Tribune News Service

Dehra Dun, March 25
The election in the Bazpur constituency in Uttarakhand witnessed heavy voter turnout for which polling was held today. The election to this constituency was countermanded due to the accidental death of a candidate before the state Assembly election that took place last month.

Assistant director, state information department, Anil Chandola told TNS that around 70 per cent turnout was reported till 4 pm. The percentage is expected to touch the 75 per cent mark as long queues of voters, particularly in rural areas, were seen an hour before the closing time. The women voters turned up in large number’s as seen in the state Assembly election. The high turnout, however, is expected to favour the ruling BJP.

The BJP candidate and sitting MLA Arvind Pandey, is locked in a fierce contest against Congress candidate Kamlesh Rani Sharma who got the ticket after the death of her husband and Congress candidate Janak Raj Sharma in a road accident. Polling remained peaceful despite stakes being high for both parties as the outcome of this election is crucial for them.

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Gangotri recedes as globe warms
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 25
The Gangotri glacier receded at the rate of 17.15 metres per year between 1971 and 2004, says a study conducted by the Department of Science and Technology. One more study has estimated that the glacier retreated 12.10 metres during 2004-05, another clear example of global warming and climate change in the region.

Regular monitoring of several glaciers during the past 100 years in major basins of the Himalayas from Shyok in the West to Changme Khangpu (Tista) in the East has revealed that a majority of the glaciers in the Himalayan region are passing through a phase of recession.

The DST started an all-India coordinated programme on Himalayan glaciers in 1988 to study glaciers of the western and central Himalayas, Gangotri and its tributary glaciers and Chhota Sigri glaciers in the central Himalayas.

While the glacier recession rate varies from glacier to glacier, preliminary analysis suggests that the recession rate was of the order of about 10 to 15 metres per year for some glaciers. Recession has also been observed in the case of the Pindari glacier, which went back by 9.41 metres during 1958-2001.

While recession may cause a marginal rise in the discharge of Himalayan rivers due to enhanced melting because of global warming, in the long term it spells disaster, particularly for areas dependent on perennial rivers like the Ganga.

In fact, a recently-released WWF report, “World’s top 10 rivers at risk”, also points out that the world’s top 10 rivers, including the Ganga and the Indus, are dying. Citing over-extraction of water for agriculture, pollution and climate change as the main reasons, the report says that these top 10 rivers are in the clear danger zone. A recent report by the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also warns that India should gear up to face challenges of rising sea level, melting glaciers, vanishing mangroves and more severe droughts and floods.

All this will be caused by a rise in global temperature between 1.8 and 4.0 degrees Celsius due to increasing human-induced concentration of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Temperatures rose about 0.7 degrees Celsius in the 20th century. In India, observations have revealed that during the past 100 years, mean temperatures increased by 0.5 Celsius.

Global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have increased markedly as a result of human activities since 1750 and far exceed pre-industrial values determined from ice cores spanning many thousands of years.

The global increases in carbon dioxide concentration are primarily due to fossil fuel, land-use change, while methane and nitrous oxide are primarily due to agriculture, says the IPCC panel report.

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Tainted MPs face the heat in Nitish raj
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, March 25
The stigma of ‘badland’ is virtually a misnomer in Bihar now as the proverbial long arm of law finally catches up with both criminal-turned-politicians and criminals under the Nitish regime with the conviction of over 15,000 lawbreakers in the past 15 months.

After the recent conviction of controversial RJD MP Mohammad Shahabuddin in a criminal case, the ruling NDA has now reportedly decided to expedite the trial of at least six old criminal cases, including murder, against another MP of the LJP Surajbhan Singh, who is said to be close to union steel and fertiliser minister and party chief Ram Vilas Paswan.

Besides, the RJD’s Pappu Yadav, both JD(U) MP Prabhunath Singh and MLA Sunil Pandey and Bihar People’s Party chief Anand Mohan have already felt the heat of the promised "rule of law" by Nitish.

It is learnt that the government has appointed a special public prosecutor for a speedy trial of criminal cases against all criminals-turned-politicians.

Surajbhan faced charges of murder, extortion and other criminal activities, all between 1992-96.

Sources say the government is preparing to file a petition in the Patna High Court to shift the cases against this LJP MP from Balia from a fast-track court in Begusarai to a court in Patna.

In January this year, the Begusarai fast-track court had issued a warrant against Surajbhan for his alleged involvement in the murder of Rami Singh. He later surrendered to the court and got bail.

Simultaneously, Nitish launched a crusade against corruption. As compared to the past 10 years of the RJD rule when only 47 corrupt employees were trapped, in the past one year alone, 60 government employees, including officials as senior as DG (Home Guard), were trapped by the vigilance bureau.

The ‘palpable’ improvement in the law and order situation under the Nitish regime reportedly prompted Governor R.S. Gavai to comment to a visiting delegation before Holi that over 90 per cent of law and order problems were already under control in the state.

A senior IPS official, who wished not to be named, said results of improvement were visible because an upright Chief Minister was now heading the home department. "We have been given a free hand. This is the reason why even ruling party MLAs are also now behind bars," he remarked.

The government now plans to develop 40 model police stations in all 40 police districts of Bihar to further strengthen the hands of law.

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Bihar haven for drug smugglers
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, March 25
The intelligence wing here is in receipt of the inputs indicating the fast emergence of Bihar as the favourite destination of drug smugglers across the country by taking advantage of its well-connected rail and road network that touches two international borders with Nepal and Bangladesh.

Sources say the seizure of 848-kg marijuana from an oil tanker at the Ghoshpukur bypass near Siliguri in north Bengal on Wednesday was a pointer to this ominous trend.

It was learnt that Excise officials in Siliguri, who intercepted the oil tanker, already contacted their counterparts in Bihar for a possible joint crackdown on drug traffickers who were trying to smuggle drugs through Kishanganj near Siliguri to Bihar.

Sources disclosed that the drug racket was spread from the North-East to Delhi, via Bihar.

A senior official admitted that the modus operandi using oil tanker to smuggle marijuana was something unheard of till now.

Manipur is known for producing high-quality marijuana in a large number and even going by the average price, the seized drugs would cost no less than Rs50 lakh.

The link among drug peddlers across the country through Bihar was also established when the Delhi Police in recent past had busted a racket of spurious drugs in the capital with the arrest of two persons. It then had sealed three such factories of spurious drugs in the capital.

During interrogation of the culprits, the intelligence could found the racket was spread in Guwahati, Kolkata and Delhi, via Patna.

Besides, the police also had seized cocaine worth Rs 1 crore from a city hotel near Gandhi Maidan in Patna few months back. The seizure of drugs were made from border districts adjacent to Nepal, too.

Intelligence agencies were also exploring the possible involvement of Maoists in drug smuggling, who were already in extortion business in a big way to raise funds for their so-called revolution.

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This beggar has bank accounts, insurance policies
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, March 25
She can well be the poster model for any nationalised bank or post office to promote the benefit of small savings.

In her mid-60s, Sarvatia Devi is a beggar, but not an ordinary one like an estimated 2,00,000 beggars in Bihar.

She has two savings bank accounts and pays Rs 36,000 premium annually for two life insurance policies in her name.

Sarvatia pays an annual premium of Rs 31,000 for one life insurance policy of Rs 300,000 and Rs 5,000 annually for the other policy of Rs 100,000.

Sarvatia can be found on every Tuesday and Saturday in front of Darbhanga Kali temple in Patna. Clad in dirty clothes, she roams in the streets of the state capital from morning to dusk.

This beggar with a wisdom said that she can save enough out of daily begging to have a bank account and insurance for social security. "Otherwise, who will look after me when I am old," she quipped.

Unlike thousands of homeless beggars who take shelter under the open sky, she is the proud owner of a house, and that too in the heart of the city.

Through begging she manages to earn Rs 300-400 daily to support a large family.

She is grateful to the people who treat her differently and never disappoint her.

Sarvatia resorted to begging after her husband died. She was forced to beg for the survival of her two children, as there was no social support for her. "I started begging at the age of 25, "she said.

She opted for two life insurance policies five years ago after one life insurance agent, who used to support her like many other pedestrians, apprised her of the benefits of the same.

Sarvatia is a happy mother today as she got her daughter married to a good family through her earning from begging.

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Shiv Sena seeks BPO jobs for locals
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, March 25
Fresh from its victory in the elections to the Mumbai municipal corporation, the Shiv Sena is flexing its regional muscles to get more of its supporters into BPO companies and shopping malls.

At a meeting organised by various leaders of the party today, Bal Thackeray's son and heir Uddhav demanded that sons of the soil be accommodated in BPO companies and shopping malls since central government organisations and nationalised banks have virtually stopped recruitment.

The Shiv Sena's drive will be led by its middle-class employees wing, the Sthaniya Lokadhikar Samiti, which was formed in the 1960s to grab job opportunities in banks and central government offices, Uddhav said.

Shiv Sena leader Anil Desai, who is behind the move, said BPOs and shopping malls have emerged as the biggest employers in Mumbai city. "We want to ensure that 80 per cent of the jobs are reserved for Marathi-speaking people," Desai said.

Incidentally, the SLS is opposed to recruitment on contract and has strongly opposed hiring of people on contract in government organisations. Over the years the Samiti has emerged as a strong political force with the organisation's representatives making it to recruitment panels in a number of government bodies.

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Bird flu alert in Tripura

Agartala, March 25
The Tripura government has sounded an alert against bird flu in the wake of reports of the disease spreading in neighbouring Bangladesh, officials said today.

The family welfare preventive medicine and animal resource development (ARD) departments have jointly taken all possible steps to tackle avian flu, ARD director Narayan Chandra Das said.

The union health and family welfare ministry has asked the state government to take precautionary measures as cases of avian flu were reported from across the border, Das said.

A total of 266 trained ARD assistants have been asked to be vigilant in border areas as Tripura imports a huge quantity of chicks and eggs from Bangladesh, officials said. — PTI

 

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