SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

CIC asks for records of Justice Jain’s appointment
New Delhi, March 26
The controversy over Punjab and Haryana High Court Chief Justice Vijender Jain’s appointment refused to set at rest with the Central Information Commission directing the disclosure of records relating to it under the Right to Information Act, including the Supreme Court Collegium’s decision and the law ministry’s recommendation to the Prime Minister sent subsequently to the President.

Role reversal for male politicians in Bihar
Patna, March 26
There is perhaps one thing common in Mahesh Prasad of Hazipur, Iqbal Shah of Gaya and Sanjay Kumar of Muzzafarpur.

DMK-PMK showdown reaches climax
Chennai, March 26
The showdown between the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and its ally the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) in Tamil Nadu climaxed today with latter’s founder S. Ramadoss directly accusing Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi of organising a slander campaign against him.

Stop work on Sethu Samudaram: BJP
New Delhi, March 26
Extending its support in principle to the Sethu Samudaram project, the BJP today asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to immediately stop the ongoing work at the project, saying that the "issue in question is the alignment of the channel" and the reason for selecting the present alignment arbitrarily without a proper study.

AP, M’rashtra lock horns over waters
Hyderabad, March 26
A new water war is brewing between Andhra Pradesh and Maharasthra over the controversial Babli irrigation project.  The Rs 1,200 crore multi-purpose project has raised the hackles of politicians across the political spectrum in Andhra, who argue that the upper riparian Maharasthra was violating an inter-state agreement by taking up the project.


Hollywood actress Ashley Judd with Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar, who represent Population Services International, wave to a gathering in Jaipur on Sunday.
Aids awareness: Hollywood actress Ashley Judd with Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar, who represent Population Services International, wave to a gathering in Jaipur on Sunday. — PTI

EARLIER STORIES



Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with his UAE counterpart Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Maktoum at the ceremonial reception at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Monday.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with his UAE counterpart Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Maktoum at the ceremonial reception at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Monday. — PTI

Region’s farmers to benefit from UT market
Chandigarh, March 26
The country’s big players have evinced interest in the modern terminal market that is to be set up here to cater to the needs of farmers of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, and western Uttar Pradesh.

SC refers Punjab daily wage workers’ case back to HC
New Delhi, March 26
The case pertaining to the regularisation of thousands of daily paid workers of the Punjab government was today referred back to the Punjab and Haryana high court by the supreme court for considering it afresh in the light of a five-judge constitution bench verdict in the Karnataka employees case last year.

Sibal has a dig at Big B’s claim on crime in UP
Lucknow, March 26
If “jurm hai yahan kam” as claimed by Big B in the Samajwadi Party advertisement, why do 41,770 persons in Lucknow alone need licensed arms and out of them 360 hold licensed carbines. Of these, 14 happen to be MP and another 81 are MLAs.

Satyagraha centenary
Few takers for Cong cycle yatra
New Delhi, March 26
The Congress satyagraha centenary celebrations appear to have lost their sheen. AICC functionaries, entrusted with the task of organising a special cycle yatra in Gujarat next month as part of the year-long celebrations, are struggling to interest its central ministers to participate in it. Information and broadcsting minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi and tourism minister Ambika Soni have said since they are otherwise preoccupied, they will not be able to make it for the party’s programme.

News Analysis
J-K crisis eases, thanks to NSA’s role
New Delhi, March 26
The political crisis in Jammu and Kashmir has blown over for the time being after two rounds of talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and PDP supremo Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, wherein National Security Adviser M K Narayanan played a key role.

Mufti discusses troop cut with Sonia
New Delhi, March 26
Hopeful of an early announcement from the Prime Minister’s Office to address its demand of troop reduction in Jammu and Kashmir, People's Democratic Party patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed today met Congress president Sonia Gandhi to take up coordination issues concerning the ruling coalition in the state.

Nandigram: PIL brings murder charges against CM
Kolkata, March 26
Filing his PIL petition on the Nandigram carnage at the Chief Justice's Division Bench today, advocate Idris Ali brought murder charges against Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and senior CPM leader Benoy Konar and held them responsible for inciting the party cadres at a public meeting on March 11.

Nine KBC contestants
New Delhi, March 26
Up to nine contestants who feature in today's episode of the popular game show Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC), could drive out in Hyundai Santro cars if they manage to stay away from the ‘hot seat.’

Derailment delays trains on Delhi-Ambala route
New Delhi, March 26
More than 12 trains between Delhi and Ambala were running behind time on Monday due to derailment of five wagons of a goods train at the Holambikalan station near Panipat.

Pak infiltrator shot dead
Jaipur, March 26
Border Security Force (BSF) jawans shot dead a Pakistani infiltrator at the international border with Pakistan in Ganganagar district, police sources said today.

Stagg is UK envoy
New Delhi, March 26
Richard Stagg has been appointed British High Commissioner to India in succession to Michael Arthur, the British High Commission here announced today.


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CIC asks for records of Justice Jain’s appointment
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 26
The controversy over Punjab and Haryana High Court Chief Justice Vijender Jain’s appointment refused to set at rest with the Central Information Commission (CIC) directing the disclosure of records relating to it under the Right to Information Act, including the Supreme Court Collegium’s decision and the law ministry’s recommendation to the Prime Minister sent subsequently to the President.

The CIC, headed by Wajahat Habibullah, in a review order directed that the records be made available to Subhash Chander Agrawal, who had sought it under the RTI Act alleging that despite differences in the collegium on the name of Justice Jain, his name was recommended by former Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal.

The CIC issued the direction on March 23 disposing of the appeal of Agrawal against the order of the chief principal information officer (CPIO), the department of justice of the law ministry, denying him the records on the ground that disclosure of such information would be violative of a “fiduciary relationship under Section 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act” because it was protected under the confidentiality clause.

He had filed an application with the CPIO of the President House on November 25, 2006, which was subsequently referred to the CPIO of the justice department. Agrawal had sought the complete file regarding the appointment of Justice Jain with the notings and opinions of judges in the collegium and correspondence between the President and the Prime Minister.

President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam had returned the file of Justice Jain’s appointment to the Prime Minister after certain reports had appeared in the media pertaining to a judgement delivered by him and sought further clarifications from the government as well as the collegium.

The CIC did not agree with the findings of the CPIO, the justice department and held that, “We cannot find grounds to exclude the disclosure of the correspondence of the nature in question between the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the law minister on the recommendations for the appointment of hon’ble justices. Nor does it fall under any exclusion specified in Section 8(1)”.

Since the July 27, 2006, decision of the collegium as conveyed to the law minsitry had reference to a number of persons, the principal information officer of the justice department would invite them as third parties to make a submission in writing or orally whether the information relating to them should be disclosed or not.

If there was a valid ground for their objections against the disclosure, the information sought may be supplied by excluding the objectionable portion as provided under Section 10 of the RTI Act, the CIC said directing the PIO to complete the entire process within one month.

Justice Sabharwal had defended the decision to appoint justice Jain when the media asked him about it a day before he relinquished office on January 14 and claimed that the allegations against him about favouring one Hari Ram, a relative of former apex court judge Arun Kumar in a property dispute case were not true.

When Justice Jain had heard the case of Hari Ram, he was not even aware that Hari Ram was related to Justice Arun Kumar and even his verdict in his case was not challenged in the Supreme Court by the other party, Justice Sabharwal had said.

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Role reversal for male politicians in Bihar
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, March 26
There is perhaps one thing common in Mahesh Prasad of Hazipur, Iqbal Shah of Gaya and Sanjay Kumar of Muzzafarpur.

There is a role reversal for all these male politicians under the “empowered” women raj in the Nitish rule now.

Fifty percent of the seats were reserved for women in the three-tier statewide panchayat polls held last year by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, to make the fair sex equal stakeholders in governance and this was the reason behind this role reversal.

All these politicians who represented panchayats earlier were now fast learning the tricks of becoming an able homemaker.

Take the case of Mahesh Prasad, till recently he was a politician with immense clout locally. Today, Mahesh takes care of the kids and does the household chores, while his wife goes out to attend the meeting of the Panchayat. His wife, Sabita, is a mukhiya now.

And if social analysts are to be believed, the more the representation of women in governance, the more it is expected to help deliver better governance at the grassroots ensuring justice beyond caste, creed and religion.

Says Mahesh, “She goes to supervise the work of the panchayats every morning. I, on the other hand wake up the children, get them ready for school and cook the food.”

But Nitish seemed to be far from satisfied with this gender revolution at grassroots alone.

The ruling NDA has already decided to reserve 50 percent seats for the women in the coming urban bodies polls to be held across the state by June this year.

Besides, Nitish now favoured a change in the lifestyle of women to further advance the reforms in society.

An annoyed Nitish wondered whether Patna was still a city in the truest sense. “How many girls ride two-wheelers here ?” he quipped.

Nitish, however, was optimistic that things would change fast with more and more participation of women in governance and in other fields of life.

Panchayat reservation was just the beginning. Wait for some more time when not only city girls, but village girls will also pedal their way to their schools and colleges,” Nitish said.

The ruling NDA has also reserved 50 percent of the newly appointed 2.5 lakh posts of teachers for the primary and secondary schools for women.

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DMK-PMK showdown reaches climax
Tribune News Service

Chennai, March 26
The showdown between the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and its ally the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) in Tamil Nadu climaxed today with latter’s founder S. Ramadoss directly accusing Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi of organising a slander campaign against him.

Despite an apology from Karunanidhi for remarks made by DMK leader Vetrikondan during an interview to a Tamil weekly against him, Ramadoss was not satisfied.

He directly attacked Karunanidhi today saying, “Everything was framed under connivance from the ‘Arivaalayam’, the DMK headquarters”. Ramadoss today pointed out that Vetrikondan’s son had said his father had only signed the interview report.

In the interview, Vetrikondan, known for his oratorical support for the DMK and attacks on its rivals, had remarked, “Ramadoss is a fraud. He is playing the role of a villain against the DMK government and is blackmailing it”. As a mark of protest PMK MLAs had barged into the Chief Minister’s official chamber carrying placards, an unprecedented action, with which Karunanidhi was extremely displeased.

Ramadoss said the particular reporter who wrote the interview could be seen even at late night at the DMK headquarters and it was against journalistic ethics.

An angry Ramadoss said, “We have been, only, raising our voice against the government’s move, which are against the welfare of the Tamils, their rights and exploitation of youngsters” and pointed out that he had never made any personal remarks on either any DMK leader or family members.

Reiterating that his party would remain within the ruling alliance, the Democratic Progressive Alliance (DPA), he said, “On some of the important issues, the Chief Minister has been have telephonic talks with allies and not inviting them in person,” and added that coordination among the members of the alliance partners should have to be at all levels.

Recalling Karunanidhi’s speech in a national workshop on ‘Making a Success of Coalition’ that the coalition should have a proper mechanism for coordination and any new situation should be handled in mutual consultation among the coalition partners, Ramadoss said Karunanidhi had come out of the way by not inviting the allies at the right time.

The bickering between the two parties has been going on over the past few months with Ramadoss severely criticising Karunanidhi’s style of functioning in an autocratic manner and stopped short of calling him a dictator.

He had said, “We cannot blindly support every action of this government, more so when they do not bother to consult the allies on any critical matters such as price rise, unemployment and the Cauvery and Mulaperiyar dam water disputes.

“They (DMK) expect us to shut our eyes and open out mouths only to sing their praise. Do they think the PMK is a branch office of their party?” Ramadoss had earlier come down heavily on the DMK government for issuing new liquor licences and not shutting down bars attached to the state government owned liquor shops.

On the entry of corporates in retail trade and on many other issues, the PMK voiced its opposition against the state government and shared identical views with the Opposition AIADMK.

After today’s accusation by Ramadoss, the divide between the DMK and the PMK has increased to a great length and will be difficult to patch up.

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Stop work on Sethu Samudaram: BJP
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 26
Extending its support in principle to the Sethu Samudaram project, the BJP today asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to immediately stop the ongoing work at the project, saying that the "issue in question is the alignment of the channel" and the reason for selecting the present alignment arbitrarily without a proper study.

Releasing his letter to the Prime Minister, former human resource development minister Murli Manohar Joshi, who had led a team of his party leader to the area, pointed out to the serious apprehensions prevailing among the knowledgeable and common people that the present alignment of the Sethu Samudram Channel Project (SSCP) would destroy not only a sacred and revered monument, but would also result in ecological destruction and would pose immense danger to states like Kerala.

"At the very outset, let me make it clear that the BJP is not opposed to the SSCP, but is certainly concerned with the preservation of this most ancient cultural heritage of our country which, in my opinion, should be declared as world heritage,” Joshi said and suggested alternative alignment for the project which, if accepted, would go a long way in addressing all ecological, sentimental, strategic, maritime and environmental concerns.

Joshi also charged the UPA government with failure to protect the rights of India in the historic waters in the Gulf of Mannar and alleged that the Centre had succumbed to US interests by an arbitrary choice of an alignment running very close to the international water boundary.

Giving reasons for his plea for stopping the work at the SSCP, the senior BJP leader said the project should have been designed to incorporate tsunami-protection structures along India's coastlines which was impacted by the devastating tsunami of December 26, 2004, killing over 200,000 people in the region between the Strait of Malacca and Palk Straits and the Gulf of Mannar.

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AP, M’rashtra lock horns over waters
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, March 26
A new water war is brewing between Andhra Pradesh and Maharasthra over the controversial Babli irrigation project.

The Rs 1,200 crore multi-purpose project has raised the hackles of politicians across the political spectrum in Andhra, who argue that the upper riparian Maharasthra was violating an inter-state agreement by taking up the project.

The opposition TDP today warned of intensifying its agitation, demanding immediate stoppage of works on the project and challenged the Chief Minister to halt the works or quit.

Though both states are ruled by the Congress, the Rajasekhara Reddy government has failed to restrain Maharashtra from going ahead on the project, which, if allowed to be completed, would spell doom for the backward Telangana region, he said.

While the government had filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court seeking direction for Maharashtra to suspend the works, the opposition leader said his party would launch a mass awareness programme from April 3 to mobilise public opinion in five districts, which would be affected by the project.

At the crux of the AP's objections over the project is that it violates an agreement signed by the two states in 1975 to maintain a full reservoir level (FRL) of Sriramsagar Project in AP at 1,091 ft.

Bowing to the opposition pressure, the Chief Minister had recently told the Assembly that he was prepared to lead an all-party delegation to Delhi to seek Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's intervention in stopping the works.

TDP chief N. Chandrababu Naidu blamed the Reddy government for sleeping over the issue, despite his party exposing the alleged violations by Maharashtra, which was contemplating 11 projects on the upper reaches of Godavari designed to utilise 60 tmc of water.

"If they are allowed to complete the project, the Telangana region will become a desert," he warned.

A delegation of TDP leaders made an unsuccessful attempt to visit the Babli site yesterday with the Maharashtra Police denying them entry into the area.

The ruling Congress, however, dubbed the TDP's offensive as a “gimmick”, saying that the party was only trying to gain political mileage.

"We are leaving no stone unturned to see that justice is done to AP on the Babli issue. We are taking all possible legal steps to restrain Maharashtra from implementing the project," major irrigation minister P. Lakshmaiah, who hails from Telangana, said.

Meanwhile, Naidu ruled out withdrawal of resignation of his party MLA from Warangal district E. Dayakara Rao over the Babli issue. Rao had on Saturday put in his papers before the Assembly speaker K. R. Suresh Reddy as a mark of protest against government's failure to halt the Babli project.

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Region’s farmers to benefit from UT market
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 26
The country’s big players have evinced interest in the modern terminal market that is to be set up here to cater to the needs of farmers of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, and western Uttar Pradesh.

The market will provide multiple choices to the farmers for the sale of produce such as fruits, vegetables, flowers and other perishable products along with a comprehensive solution to meet the key needs of the stakeholders. It will be operated on a hub-spoke format wherein the terminal market will act as a hub and be linked to a number of collection centres (spokes) which will be located at key production centres for the convenience of farmers.

The setting up of the market is a union government initiative wherein funds to the tune of Rs 148 crore have been earmarked under the national horticulture mission for providing equity support to private enterprise. Eight such markets are to be set up in the country. City Beautiful has been selected for this project at the behest of the Punjab Governor and Administrator of the union territory, Gen S.F. Rodrigues (retd).

Sources said Reliance Industries (with ranger farms), Bharat Hotels (with Nafed), National Commodities and Derivatives Exchange Limited, Radhakrishna Foodlands (with Prologix), Zoom Developers Private Limited and DSCL Private Limited (DCM-Sri Ram Group) have submitted applications for the project which will be built, owned and operated in a public-private partnership mode. The market will be set up on 66 acres earmarked in the agricultural zone in Sector 39 of the city. The zone is spread over about 175 acres. It is to be developed as a one-stop site for all agriculture-related activities. A grain market is already functional on 22 acres there.

The city emerged as a natural choice for setting up the market as it has a well-developed infrastructure, road and electronic connectivity and is linked to Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal and UP through national highways.

The applications of the interested parties are currently being scrutinised and the list of the qualified applicants will be announced. The RFP documents are likely to be floated by March 28 and the project awarded to the successful bidders by June 14. After the announcement of the award, the selected private enterprises will be required to complete the project within 18 months.

A state-level project committee is working under the chairmanship of the home secretary-cum- secretary, agriculture, to complete the process of signing of the project development agreement.

To ensure that the legal and administrative policy framework is put in place by the time the physical structure comes up, amendments to the Punjab Agriculture Produce Market Act, 1961, which is applicable to the UT, have been made to allow private partnership in marketing- related projects.

The market will have electronic auction, the cold store facility, temperature-controlled warehouse, ripening chamber, and sorting, grading, washing and packing lines. The market will have also arrangements for labelling produce, transport services, quality-testing facilities and material handling equipment. It will also have the forward trading facility and banking services.

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SC refers Punjab daily wage workers’ case back to HC
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 26
The case pertaining to the regularisation of thousands of daily paid workers of the Punjab government was today referred back to the Punjab and Haryana high court by the supreme court for considering it afresh in the light of a five-judge constitution bench verdict in the Karnataka employees case last year.

A bench of Justice H.K. Sema and Justice Lokeshwar Singh Panta directed that the high court while deciding the case would also take into consideration the policy of the Punjab government relating to the regularisation of the daily paid workers.

The Punjab and Haryana high court in its July 17, 2003 order had directed the state government to regularise the services of daily paid workers engaged in different departments since 1993 as per the state’s policy and its earlier judgement of 2002 in the Maninder Kaur case.

But the state government had challenged the high court order in the apex court in December, 2003, virtually putting on hold the regularisation of thousands of daily paid employees.

The disposal of the case was deferred by the apex court because the constitution bench had to give its ruling on the question of law whether the daily paid workers have right to claim automatic regularisation after working for certain period of time.

Advocate Nidesh Gupta, appearing for hundreds of employees who were party to the case, told the court that once a policy had been framed by the state government on the regularisation, it required to be taken into consideration and could not be simply overlooked.

He pointed out that since similarly placed employees had been regularised earlier by the Punjab government, the employees who were before the apex court could not be treated differently.

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Sibal has a dig at Big B’s claim on crime in UP
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, March 26
If “jurm hai yahan kam” as claimed by Big B in the Samajwadi Party advertisement, why do 41,770 persons in Lucknow alone need licensed arms and out of them 360 hold licensed carbines. Of these, 14 happen to be MP and another 81 are MLAs.

These were some uncomfortable questions raised by central minister and chairman of the Congress media committee Kabil Sibal, while interacting with the press today.

Quoting figures compiled from a report on crime in India 2005 of the National Crime Records Bureau, Sibal reduced the SP claims in the advertisement to pieces.

Sibal claimed that UP had the highest incidence of kidnapping and abduction, especially within the age group of 15 to 18 years. It also had highest number of dowry deaths as well as atrocities against the Dalits.

Explaining 18 years of non-Congress rule as the cause of Uttar Pradesh misery, he said the Congress would make “bandook and sandook ki rajniti” (politics of guns and suitcases) irrelevant.

Ruling out any post poll understanding with the SP even on grounds of secularism, Sibal said it was now clear that it was the speaker, who is now the BJP state president, who had ensured that Yadav had remained in power.

When the media asked why the Congress had agreed to become part of the rainbow alliance that installed the Mulayam government and kept it in power for the past three years, Sibal said the Congress was never in a position to remove Yadav from power. “We decided to withdraw support when the Supreme Court judgment made it clear that the government was illegal”, he claimed.

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Satyagraha centenary
Few takers for Cong cycle yatra
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 26
The Congress satyagraha centenary celebrations appear to have lost their sheen.

AICC functionaries, entrusted with the task of organising a special cycle yatra in Gujarat next month as part of the year-long celebrations, are struggling to interest its central ministers to participate in it. Information and broadcsting minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi and tourism minister Ambika Soni have said since they are otherwise preoccupied, they will not be able to make it for the party’s programme.

Textile minister Shankersinh Vaghela is the only Cabinet member who has, so far, agreed to participate in the satyagraha celebrations. As time is running out, the organisers are making frantic efforts to enlist the support ot their senior colleagues.

This is in sharp contrast to the high-profile international conference organised by the Congress two months ago on satyagraha when the party’s entire top brass was jostling to be seen in the company of the eminent international Gandhians, Nobel prize winners and world leaders who had attended and Congress president Sonia Gandhi who had chaired the conference.

However, there are few takers for the 12-day cycle yatra which will start on April 1 from the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad and culminate at Porbandar, the Mahatma’s birthplace, where Sonia Gandhi will address a special rally on April 13.

Rahul Gandhi was also expected to participate in the yatra but will not be attending as he is busy with the Uttar Pradesh Assembly poll.

While members of the party’s Gujarat unit will be undertaking this arduous journey , a few seniors like AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh have promised to show up. Party central leaders are particularly being invited to address a rally organised at the end of each day where Richard Attenborough’s film “Gandhi” is also to be screened.

Although the Congress has organised a series of programmes to commemmorate the satyagraha centenary, the cycle yatra has a special significance. The state goes to the polls in November, 2007, and the Congress is hoping to counter Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s hardcore Hindutva agenda with Mahatma Gandhi’s message of non-violence.

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News Analysis
J-K crisis eases, thanks to NSA’s role
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 26
The political crisis in Jammu and Kashmir has blown over for the time being after two rounds of talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and PDP supremo Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, wherein National Security Adviser M K Narayanan played a key role.

The Mufti is carrying back some things for his party cadres which he will explain to the Political Affairs Committee at Srinagar on March 29. The Mufti can justly claim victory on three assurances from the Centre: (i) formation of an eight-member committee, headed by Narayanan, to go into the People’s Democratic Party’s twin demands concerning troop withdrawal and repeal of anti-terror laws from the state; handing over to the state government the properties taken over by the security forces; and (iii) greater say for Jammu and Kashmir police in running the security affairs of the state.

The Centre too has got breathing time of two months - the period within which the Narayanan Committee will give its report to the Prime Minister.

The Government of India took an unflinching stand on the PDP’s demands for withdrawal or even reduction of troops from Jammu and Kashmir. At the two rounds of PM-Mufti talks here last week, the NSA assisted the Prime Minister. The NSA gave a detailed briefing to the Mufti on why meeting the PDP's demands at this point of time was fraught with dangers and had huge implications for national security.

The Mufti was told that J&K being the most sensitive state needed to be tackled very carefully and the Centre would be playing with fire if it were to reduce troops’ level and repeal anti-terror laws in the state. Though there was no official briefing on the two rounds of PM-Mufti talks, the Centre’s unwavering response was articulated yesterday by Defence Minister A. K. Antony. The Defence Minister made it clear that the terror infrastructure across the Line of Control was still intact and the terrorists were now trying new routes for infiltration. Antony also said the situation could be reviewed later on the basis of an assessment of the ground situation.

The Centre’s aprehensions are rooted in ground realities. Trends in the 17-year phase of terrorism in J&K show that terrorist and infiltration incidents register a dramatic increase with the onset of summers as snow melts and mountain passes open up. Moreover, the Pakistan polity is also in a state of flux in this election year.

The recent murder of Pakistan's cricket coach Bob Woolmer in the Caribbean has added pressure on Islamabad. The international community is increasingly seeing Pakistan as a problem state. Reports emanating from Jamaica point towards the involvement of bookies and punters in the Woolmer murder. It is common knowledge that the biggest ‘satta’ player in international cricket is Dawood Ibrahim, who is based in Pakistan. The US has already designated Dawood Ibrahim as a “global terrorist”.

Against this backdrop, it is possible that Pakistan, which for long has used terrorism as an instrument of state policy, may do something drastic to divert attention. A major terror strike in J&K could just achieve this objective.

Political observers here feel that the PDP is rocking the boat for political reasons. The PDP has problems with Chief Minister Azad’s style of functioning and believes that the Chief Minister is deliberately ignoring his coalition partner. Moreover, the PDP fears that the party may break up in the run-up to J&K state assembly elections which are due in October 2008. At the same time, the Ghulam Nabi Azad government in J&K does not face any threat as the National Conference is cosying up to the Congress. The NC, it is believed, will abstain from a vote of no-confidence if the PDP withdrew support and reduce the Azad government to a minority.

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Mufti discusses troop cut with Sonia
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 26
Hopeful of an early announcement from the Prime Minister’s Office to address its demand of troop reduction in Jammu and Kashmir, People's Democratic Party patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed today met Congress president Sonia Gandhi to take up coordination issues concerning the ruling coalition in the state.

The Mufti, who met Gandhi for nearly 40 minutes, said later that both Congress and PDP needed to work together for the resolution of the Kashmir problem. "We discussed ways in which the working of the coalition government can be improved."

The Mufti said during the meeting, he took up issues which would provide "relief" to people in the state and strengthen the peace process. "The role of the Army should be reduced by gradual reduction of troops, the disturbed area Act should be reviewed and orchards and educational institutions should be vacated by security forces in a time-bound manner," he said.

Defence minister A. K. Antony went to 10 Janpath to meet Gandhi while the Mufti was still inside.

The former Chief Minister, who has met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and national security adviser M. K. Narayanan over the past week, said there would be some resolution of the demands raised by his party. "There will be an announcement from the Prime Minister’s Office," he said. The PDP leader said he had urged the Prime Minister to take steps to curb human rights violations in the state and stop "mistaken identity" killings.

Asked if the PDP would participate in the state cabinet meetings, Sayeed said the PDP would decide on it at the meeting of its political affairs committee on March 29.

"Keeping in mind the security situation, a formula is likely to be decided (by the Centre) in a day or two. We will discuss it at the PAC," he said.

The PDP has not taken part in the last three meetings of the state cabinet demanding that the issue of troop reduction should be taken up.

Sources said the PDP, which had been irritated by some decisions and statements of Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, had conveyed its annoyance to the Congress central leadership.

Sources close to Azad denied that he had been called by the party leadership for a joint meeting with the Mufti.

Azad, who has opposed the PDP demand of troop reduction, is apparently keen to shift public discourse in the state to the issues of development. The PDP, on the other hand, has taken up issues which are seen to have "emotional" appeal in the valley.

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Nandigram: PIL brings murder charges against CM
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, March 26
Filing his PIL petition on the Nandigram carnage at the Chief Justice's Division Bench today, advocate Idris Ali brought murder charges against Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and senior CPM leader Benoy Konar and held them responsible for inciting the party cadres at a public meeting on March 11.

The cadres, he alleged in the affidavit, later had taken up firearms in their hands and killed mercilessly poor farmers at Nandigram during the police raid on March 14.

The two-member Division Bench comprising Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court Surender Singh Nijhar and Mr Justice Pinaki Ranjan Ghosh sat today at the high court's room number one for considering the CBI inquiry report on the Nandigram incident.

Accordingly, the hearing in the case had been deferred for three weeks.

Meanwhile, the CPM state committee strongly criticised state Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi and the Chief Justice, accusing them of getting themselves involved in the Nandigram affair for their respective ulterior motives and accordingly, the CPM workers and supporters had been alerted at a public meeting by party secretary Biman Bose

In a jam-packed court room in around 11.30 am, the Chief Justice's Bench which had ordered suo moto CBI inquiry, wanted to know from advocate- general Balai Roy if he had any submission in connection with the inquiry. In response, Roy filed three new more affidavits along with the copy of the original affidavit already filed, for the considering these together.

Simultaneously, several advocates individually, the bar associations and other legal aid forums also submitted their respective petitions in connection with the incident.

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Nine KBC contestants
to get Santros

New Delhi, March 26
Up to nine contestants who feature in today's episode of the popular game show Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC), could drive out in Hyundai Santro cars if they manage to stay away from the ‘hot seat.’

Hyundai, whose brand ambassador happens to be the show's host Shahrukh Khan, said it had tied up with entertainment channel Star Plus and Khan for an innovative in-show publicity -- as part of which those who fail to make it to the hot seat will be given away the popular hatchback car.

Qualifying for the hot seat, however, gives the contestants a chance to win Rs 2 crore in the show that is inspired by ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.’

Star Plus has been promoting today's episode as a surprise episode. Contestants in the teaser to the episode are shown holding gift boxes, which would carry the car keys. — PTI

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Derailment delays trains on Delhi-Ambala route
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 26
More than 12 trains between Delhi and Ambala were running behind time on Monday due to derailment of five wagons of a goods train at the Holambikalan station near Panipat.

The 2005 Kalka Shatabdi, the 2057 Chandigarh Jan Shatabdi and the 2013 Amristar Swarn Shatabdi were among the 13 trains that were delayed on Monday evening due to derailment of the goods train.

Sources in the Northern Railway said the goods train from Bihar was bound for Lehra Mohabbat near Bathinda when it derailed on the Delhi-Ambala line.

The divisional railway manager, Delhi, Rakesh Saksena, told TNS here that only one line was working following the derailment. It will take about eight to 10 hours to rerail the wagons and restore the track. The trains bound for Chandigarh and Amristar would, therefore, get delayed by one to two hours between today afternoon and midnight.''

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Pak infiltrator shot dead

Jaipur, March 26
Border Security Force (BSF) jawans shot dead a Pakistani infiltrator at the international border with Pakistan in Ganganagar district, police sources said today.

According to sources, the infiltrator, aged 50 was trying to cross over to the Indian side of the fenced border in the wee hours yesterday. When he neglected the warning, the BSF jawans posted at the Maderan check post opened fire and killed him on the spot. His body was recovered in the morning.

Though the incident was communicated to the Pakistani Rangers, they refused to accept the body and he was cremated after a post-mortem examination by the medical board, police sources added. — UNI

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Stagg is UK envoy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 26
Richard Stagg has been appointed British High Commissioner to India in succession to Michael Arthur, the British High Commission here announced today.

Stagg will take up his new appointment in September this year, high commission spokesman Jeff Wilson said. Arthur will be transferred to another diplomatic service appointment shortly.

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