SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Bail for Manu’s friend
Sharma’s plea deferred till July 17

New Delhi, April 2
Manu Sharma’s friend Amardeep Singh Gill, sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for helping him in destroying the evidence in Jessica Lall murder case, was today enlarged on bail by the Supreme Court after their appeal had been admitted for hearing earlier.

Road rage: Police raids yield no result
Dehra Dun, April 2
One of the three Doon School students, allegedly involved in a hit-and-run case in which one person had died and other was seriously injured, flew out of the country day after the incident that took place on March 28 around 10.15 pm.


People’s SAARC wants peace
New Delhi, April 2

The “people’s SAARC” today condemned increased expenditure on defence by SAARC states, instead demanding peace, relief from hunger and social equality for 40 per cent of the world’s poor for whom South Asian region is home.

Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz (centre) looks on as his wife shakes hands with minister for petroleum and natural gas Murli Deora in New Delhi on Monday. Aziz arrived in India to attend the SAARC summit which begins on Tuesday.
Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz (centre) looks on as his wife shakes hands with minister for petroleum and natural gas Murli Deora in New Delhi on Monday. Aziz arrived in India to attend the SAARC summit which begins on Tuesday. — Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal

 

 



EARLIER STORIES




An employee adjusts flowers on a Fiat car model oustside the Fiat factory at Ranjangaon, 190 km north-east of Mumbai, on Monday. India’s car market is forecast to expand 10 per cent a year to reach two million units by 2010.
An employee adjusts flowers on a Fiat car model oustside the Fiat factory at Ranjangaon, 190 km north-east of Mumbai, on Monday. India’s car market is forecast to expand 10 per cent a year to reach two million units by 2010. — AFP photo

SAARC visas for 50 journalists from each country
New Delhi, April 2
SAARC foreign ministers today decided to give special stickers and visas to 50 journalists from each country of the eight-nation grouping in an effort to improve connectivity among the peoples of the region.
In video (56k)

Tight security for summit
New Delhi, April 2
As VVIPs start arriving to attend the SAARC summit, security in the capital, especially around the venues, was tightened with a no-fly zone being declared over areas where the heads of states and dignitaries would stay.

Evolve online audit system for high-value schemes: Kalam
New Delhi, April 2
Expressing serious concern over the non-utilisation of money in many of the vital programmes in the country, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam today asked the comptroller and auditor-general (CAG) of India to evolve a mutually agreed online audit system for high-value schemes of national importance.

Hooliganism: MLAs punished
Kolkata, April 2
The speaker of the West Bengal Assembly, Hashim Abdul Halim today punished the 29 Trinamool Congress MLAs by deducting Rs 3,97.404 from their salaries for repairing the furniture and other properties damaged and destroyed by them during their vandalism at the Assembly lobby on November 30.

Baby delivered on Thar Express
Jaipur, April 2
The Thar Express, often termed as the Friendship train between India and Pakistan, resounded to the wails of a newborn, when a Pakistani mother gave birth to a baby girl on the Zero Line, with the help of her co-passengers.

Justice Babu new NHRC chairperson
New Delhi, April 2
Former Chief Justice of India S Rajendra Babu today took over as the new chairperson of the NHRC.

Judges should head probe panels in rare cases: SC
New Delhi, April 2
The Supreme Court today said the sitting Supreme Court or the high court judges should be appointed inquiry commission heads only in rare cases of paramount national importance, not in a routine manner for any ordinary investigation.

Andhra legislative council revived
Hyderabad, April 2
After a gap of 22 years, the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council was revived today, even as main opposition TDP boycotted the inaugural ceremony.

New Delhi best metro: Report
New Delhi, April 2
According to the Worldwide Quality of Living Survey New Delhi is the best city to live in among the metros in India and can boast of the highest standard of living in the country.

SEZs: Farmers launch struggle
Bangalore, April 2
Farmer groups protesting against the Cauvery Tribunal award in Mysore district today announced launching of a movement against implementation of Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s favourite project i.e. the creation of five satellite townships on 60,000 acres of land around Bangalore.

‘Buddhadeb lobbying in Delhi for rescue’
Kolkata, April 2
Chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharee had been lobbying in Delhi for “rescue” after committing the heinous crimes in Bengal , the Trinamool Congress supremo, Mamata Banerjee.

BJP manifesto reflects Hindutva
Lucknow, April 2
While an assurance to remove hurdles in the construction of Ram Mandir has been guaranteed, the BJP manifesto, which was released by party vice-president M Venkaiah Naidu and state party president Kesarinath Tripathi here today, has a concrete Rs 2,000 crore special package for developing Ayodhya, Mathura, Kashi and Prayagraj as religious tourist destinations.

BJP banks on Nitish in eastern UP
Patna, April 2
The top brass of Bihar BJP overseeing the NDA’s poll strategy in eastern UP now banks on Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to restore its lost grounds there. The BJP was more than happy after Nitish cemented its ties with the crucial regional force, Apna Dal of eastern UP, adjacent to Bihar by expanding the ambit of the NDA before the UP Assembly elections.

ULFA ‘tries’ to build rights violation case against government
Guwahati, April 2
The proscribed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has apparently hatched a design with its sympathisers in civil society to build a human rights violation case against the union government over six of its “missing” leaders.

All missions abroad under RTI Act
New Delhi, April 2
All Indian missions abroad fall under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act and are duty bound to provide information to Indian citizens.

UP Poll
Tiwari hits campaign trail

New Delhi, April 2
After ensuring his government’s defeat in the recent assembly polls, veteran Congress leader and former Uttarakhand Chief Minister N.D.Tiwari has now hit the campaign trail in the neighbouring Uttar Pradesh in the hope of turning around his party’s falling fortunes in this electorally-crucial state.

Cops at 40 prone to stress, heart ailments
Mumbai, April 2
An alarming increase in the mortality rates of policemen in Mumbai has set alarm bells ringing in the highest echelons of the Maharashtra Government.

BJP minister quits
Bellary, April 2
Rift between the coalition partners, the JD (S) and the BJP, is likely to heighten further with tourism minister B Sriramulu of the BJP tendering his resignation today in protest against the alleged shielding of culprits, responsible for killing a Muslim leader, by state Chief Minister’s political secretary Suryanarayana Reddy. — TNS


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Bail for Manu’s friend 
Sharma’s plea deferred till July 17
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, April 2
Manu Sharma’s friend Amardeep Singh Gill, sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for helping him in destroying the evidence in Jessica Lall murder case, was today enlarged on bail by the Supreme Court after their appeal had been admitted for hearing earlier.

The court, however, posted hearing on the bail petition of Manu, the prime accused in the case, for July 17, expressing helplessness in taking it for argument before the summer vacation due to tight schedule of listed cases.

Accepting the plea of Gill’s counsel that the offence for which his client was convicted is bailable and till the final decision on his appeal he was entitled to be released from jail. The court granted him bail subject to the condition that he furnished a bond Rs 25,000 and a surety of the same amount. But his passport would continue to be in the custody of the authorities, the court said.

Manu’s counsel Ram Jethmalani tried all tricks in the trade to convince a Bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices B.P. Singh and R.V. Raveendran for fixing early hearing on his bail application and even went on to say though in lighter vein that “I will be no more by July 17 my astrologer has said”.

“We don’t believe your astrologer,” CJI Balakrishnan was prompt in responding in the same vein.

When it came to serious business, the Bench told Jethmalani that it was difficult to accommodate him before July 17 as per the schedule drawn of the listed cases.

During a brief hearing, Jethmalani said the apex court had laid down clear law that in cases where an accused had been acquitted by the trial court but later the verdict was reversed by the High Court, he could be granted bail provided his past conduct was good.

He said Manu had shown a “very good” conduct when he was on bail during the trial and had surrendered six times to the jail authorities as per court’s instructions and even when his acquittal was reversed by the Delhi High Court last year, he had surrendered the same day.

As Jethmalani tried to find “fault” on correctness of facts in the prosecution affidavit that Manu had not surrendered on January 25, 2006 and four occasions thereafter before the trial court, explaining the circumstances under which the trial judge had exempted him from surrendering, the apex court said, “We are not considering all these things”.

“We are not going to be carried away whether he surrendered or not. You have to make a case for grant of bail as per the law,” the court told Jethmalani.

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Road rage: Police raids yield no result
Raju William
Tribune News Service

Dehra Dun, April 2
One of the three Doon School students, allegedly involved in a hit-and-run case in which one person had died and other was seriously injured, flew out of the country day after the incident that took place on March 28 around 10.15 pm.

According to police sources, father of Uday Pratap Singh told the police party of Dehra Dun, which raided his house in Defence Colony, New Delhi, that his son had not fled the country but gone to Indonesia by an already booked flight on March 30. He, however, promised to present his son before the police after his return on April 10.

But the police raid at the house of Abhimanyu Walia in Sector 34-D, Chandigarh, yielded no clue about his whereabouts. He was allegedly driving the Honda City car when the fatal incident took place. None of his family members were present except a guard. The police also went to the house of his grandfather in Chandigarh itself without any result, said sources.

The police also remained clueless about the whereabouts of the third boy Pranav Sawroop of New Mandi, Muzaffarpur.

Amid reports about possible surrender by one of the accused, the police was deployed at the local court. But no such development took place as the lawyers suspended court work due to death of their two colleagues, including an uncle of the deceased in the road rage incident. Dehra Dun SSP Sanjay K Gunjiyal said no effort would be spared to catch the boys named in the investigation.

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People’s SAARC wants peace
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 2
The “people’s SAARC” today condemned increased expenditure on defence by SAARC states, instead demanding peace, relief from hunger and social equality for 40 per cent of the world’s poor for whom South Asian region is home.

A regional declaration by the sixth South Asian people’s summit, organised by the South Asian Network for Social and Agricultural Development (SANSAD), following a three-day conference in the capital stated that despite repeated demands for a 10 per cent annual reduction and utilisation of these amounts for people’s development, defence expenditure by the countries of the region continued to rise.

The declaration instead urged all governments to work towards a meaningful unification of the region and strengthening of political resolve to combat structural challenges such as poverty and social inequities. It also called for the establishment of a regional security council for amending nuclear policies to curb proliferation of nuclear weapons to make South Asia a violence and nuclear-free zone

The people’s summit, which includes social activists and civil society leaders from across the region, will now try to make their voice and views heard during the SAARC summit.

The people’s summit is being held annually since 2000, parallel to the SAARC summit, aiming to promote people to people dialogues, exchanges and linkages in South Asia in order to address regional issues.

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SAARC visas for 50 journalists from each country
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 2
SAARC foreign ministers today decided to give special stickers and visas to 50 journalists from each country of the eight-nation grouping in an effort to improve connectivity among the peoples of the region.

However, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee went a step beyond and announced at the SAFMA Journalists’ Summit here this afternoon that India would further liberalise its visa process so that journalists and other beneficiaries did not have complaints of visa restrictions.

On the eve of the 14th SAARC Summit, the council of ministers met and approved an agenda dominated by three T’s - Terrorism, Trade and Tehran.

On the issue of relaxation of the visa regime, Pranab said SAARC members must encourage free flow of journalists and media products as the media played a pivotal role in improving connectivity of mind and heart among peoples.

Mukherjee was responding to Imtiaz Alam, SAFMA secretary general, who had said there had been no positive response from SAARC yet on the free flow of information and media products.

In the interim period, he proposed that 50 journalists from each SAARC country should be allowed free movement within the region, and that 10 journalists be stationed as permanent reporters in New Delhi, Islamabad, and Dhaka.

Foreign ministers of all eight SAARC countries attended and addressed the SAFMA journalists’ summit. 

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Tight security for summit
Nalini Ranjan

New Delhi, April 2
As VVIPs start arriving to attend the SAARC summit, security in the capital, especially around the venues, was tightened with a no-fly zone being declared over areas where the heads of states and dignitaries would stay.

Amid threat perception from Pakistan-based militant groups and the LTTE, security agencies decided to declare the four hotels as no-fly zones to ward off any aerial attack.

The summit comes after an aerial attack by the LTTE against the Sri lankan air force last week.

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Evolve online audit system for high-value schemes: Kalam
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 2
Expressing serious concern over the non-utilisation of money in many of the vital programmes in the country, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam today asked the comptroller and auditor-general (CAG) of India to evolve a mutually agreed online audit system for high-value schemes of national importance.

Addressing the members of the CAG’s audit advisory board and senior officers of the organisation here, the President also wanted the CAG to consider the creation and maintenance of a centralised national asset register.

“One of the general report comes out of the audit is the unspent money in many of the vital programmes…This indeed is a serious matter. Audit should find out the reason and the bottlenecks for the non-utilisation of funds, since it is happening in number of states and ministries,” he said.

In this context, Kalam said, “CAG may consider incorporating a mutually agreed online audit system for high-value schemes of national importance such as rural employment scheme, golden quadrilateral, large power plants so that maximum value for money is realised in a time-bound manner.”

Pointing that the performance audit of Jawaharlal Rojghar Yojana disclosed that the scheme suffered from shortcomings in the critical areas of targeting, inadequacy of provision of funds, fictitious reporting and lack of evidence of employment generated, the President said, “I would suggest the audit advisory committee to consider this issue and provide suggestions which can enable CAG to participate in this programme and offer methods for smooth and transparent implementation of the scheme with the focus on the objectives of the programme and realisation of the district development goals.”

Asserting that the audit should be sensitive to the fact that e-commerce and a borderless world (Internet) would soon be a reality, the President asked the CAG to evolve a policy statement for e-audit based on the e-commerce and e-governance standards.

“e-audit is essential to be proactive enabler of missions facilitating the programme or project outcome as envisaged,” he said adding that “forecasting of challenges for effective fiscal utilisation and providing useful inputs for maintaining the momentum of the project should also become a part of the audit.”

“CAG e-audit and its e-audit ticker has to be built based on the e-governance web service system of the concerned ministries and departments through the smart and secured e-governance GRID, which includes the e-procurement and e-commerce,” he said.

“The audit advisory board may like to debate and improve the system for implementation by CAG and the other departments of the government, including centre and states,” he said adding that “to start with it can be initiated as a project in any one ministry which is implementing multiple inter-departmental and inter-institutional project.”

Asking the CAG to consider creation and maintenance of a centralised national asset register, Kalam said the salient features of the asset could be put on the website for public awareness.

“Periodically the status of the asset may be reviewed and updated since CAG is the custodian of national wealth… This is indeed a big mission and challenge,” he added.

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Hooliganism: MLAs punished
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, April 2
The speaker of the West Bengal Assembly, Hashim Abdul Halim today punished the 29 Trinamool Congress MLAs by deducting Rs 3,97.404 from their salaries for repairing the furniture and other properties damaged and destroyed by them during their vandalism at the Assembly lobby on November 30.

The incident followed the heckle and assault to Mamata Banerjee by the police and the CPI(M) cadres the previous day, during her visit to Nandigram for extending her support to the local people who were fighting for protecting their farm lands against transferring to Indonesia’s Salim industries.

As soon as the speaker’s decision was announced, the angry TMC MLAs rushed to the speaker’s chair and started a demonstration there. The senior TMC MLA, Saugata Roy was seen snatching the speaker’s microphone from the desk and started to speak on something. But his words became inaudible due to the shouting and counter-shouting made by the irate MLAs and the ruling left front parties. The watch and ward staff and several senior MLAs of the ruling parties and the Congress(l) soon intervened and pacified the situation. The TMCs, however, soon left the house, protesting against the speaker.

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Baby delivered on Thar Express

Jaipur, April 2
The Thar Express, often termed as the Friendship train between India and Pakistan, resounded to the wails of a newborn, when a Pakistani mother gave birth to a baby girl on the Zero Line, with the help of her co-passengers.

According to eyewitnesses, Anuda Afzal was on the way to her maternal home in Jodhpur for delivery by the Thar Express. Suddenly she went into labour and gave birth to a daughter between Khokrapar and Zero Line early Saturday morning.

Her co-passengers, both Indian and Pakistanis, helped Anuda during the delivery.

The Thar Express, which was running eight hours late, reached Jodhpur on Sunday. Anuda’s grandparents Shenaz and Mohammad Afzal were waiting for her.

Overwhelmed with joy, grandfather Afzal named her granddaughter Laiba, seeing tears on the newborn’s face. A sizable crowd gathered at the Jodhpur station to see Laiba. — UNI

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Justice Babu new NHRC chairperson
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 2
Former Chief Justice of India S Rajendra Babu today took over as the new chairperson of the NHRC.

The post had been lying vacant for four months. Former Supreme Court judge Shivraj V Patil had been acting as chairperson during the period.

Justice Babu, born in 1939, is the fifth head of the NHRC.

He will remain in office till May 31, 2009. Babu became the Chief Justice of India on June 1, 2004. 

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Judges should head probe panels in rare cases: SC

New Delhi, April 2
The Supreme Court today said the sitting Supreme Court or the high court judges should be appointed inquiry commission heads only in rare cases of paramount national importance, not in a routine manner for any ordinary investigation.

A bench of justices Arijit Pasayat and D K Jain said a distinction had to be drawn between a serious case for inquiry which could be easily assigned to a retired judge and the case of paramount national importance required to be probed by a sitting judge. — TNS

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Andhra legislative council revived
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, April 2
After a gap of 22 years, the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council was revived today, even as main opposition TDP boycotted the inaugural ceremony.

Senior CPI leader P Nageswara Rao took oath as the pro-tem chairman of the 90-member council at Raj Bhavan before he proceeded to the refurbished Jubilee Hall where the Elders’ House is located.

The main opposition TDP, which had vowed to abolish the council if voted to power in the next elections, boycotted the swearing-in ceremony, along with the Telangana Rashtra Samithi and the BJP.

The Congress-dominated council was abolished in May 1985 by the then TDP government headed by late N.T. Rama Rao on the ground that it was serving as ‘a political rehabilitation centre’.

As soon as the House assembled, the pro-tem chairman administered oath to the newly elected members of the council. The assembly speaker K.R Suresh Reddy, several ministers and legislators attended the ceremony.

Earlier, the Governor inaugurated the council hall, renovated at a cost of Rs 6 crore. Senior Congressman A Chakrapani is tipped to be elected as the chairman.

The council has a strength of 90 members, of which 31 are elected by the MLAs, 31 by the Local Authorities Constituencies (LACs).

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New Delhi best metro: Report

New Delhi, April 2
According to the Worldwide Quality of Living Survey New Delhi is the best city to live in among the metros in India and can boast of the highest standard of living in the country.

Out of 215 cities surveyed by the Mercer Human Resource Consulting around the world, the Indian capital bettered its ranking and is ranked at number 148 up by two places last year.Other cities featured in the survey are Chennai (177) and Mumbai (209).

The analysis of the cities was based on an evaluation of 39 criteria including political, social, economic and environmental factors. Other factors taken into consideration include personal safety and health, education, transport and other public services.

“The Indian cities score relatively poor in health and sanitation. Most Indian cities are densely populated with poor waste removal and sewage systems. These issues, combined with the increasing air pollution, contribute to their relatively low ratings,” Slagin Parakatil, senior researcher, Mercer, was quoted as saying.

He added, “Overall Indian cities have also increased their quality of living. Yet, India still requires major investments in the areas of health, sanitation including waste removal, sewage, water potability among others.” Zurich (108.1 rating) ranks first closely followed by Geneva (108 rating).

The cities in Europe, Australia and New Zealand continue to dominate the top end of the rankings in the overall quality of living while Iraqi capital of Baghdad scored the lowest (14.5) with Congo (29.5) figuring last in the list. — PTI

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SEZs: Farmers launch struggle
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, April 2
Farmer groups protesting against the Cauvery Tribunal award in Mysore district today announced launching of a movement against implementation of Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s favourite project i.e. the creation of five satellite townships on 60,000 acres of land around Bangalore.

Farmers who assembled at Mysore today under the banner of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) alleged they would fight for cancellation of the notification of land acquisition by the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board (KIADB) for the project.

The first township is to be created on 9684 acres, including 6969 acres of private land, in Kumaraswamy’s Ramanagaram constituency

Incorporating the fight against SEZ projects in the State in the ongoing protest against the Cauvery Tribunal verdict on sharing of river waters with Tamil Nadu is likely to put further pressure on the State government. The fact that farmer bodies have come together to fight for river waters and could take a similar stance on SEZs, which could create problems for the government.

KRRS President K S Puttanaiah said farmers would not allow cultivable land in and around Mysore to be acquired for creation of SEZs or similar projects. He accused the Janata Dal (Secular) - BJP government of acquiring fertile and irrigated land to be handed over to IT companies. He said the acquisition of 7,000 acres of irrigated land in Ramanagaram constituency would uproot thousands of farmers to create a real estate project which would not benefit them.

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‘Buddhadeb lobbying in Delhi for rescue’
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, April 2
Chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharee had been lobbying in Delhi for “rescue” after committing the heinous crimes in Bengal , the Trinamool Congress supremo, Mamata Banerjee.

Banerjee was making these allegations while talking to media persons at her Kolkata residence on Sunday when the reports of the extrications of the babies skulls, children skeletons, women’s limbs and several of their inner clothes from the house area of Sankar Samata, a CPI(M) activist in the Bangabera village, Nandigram, were reaching her.

Calling Bhattacharjee “the shameless killer” of the poor farmers, Banerjee ridiculed that the Marxist leader was now lobbying to Sonia Gandhi and prime minister, Mammohan Singh for seeking their helps. But the Bengal people would not forget and forgive him, she warned.

Banerjee said after the March 14 killing at Nandigram, local people and the Krishia Bachaoo committee were alleging that several bodies were “wiped out” and had been now proved to be true after the recovery of the human skulls and skeletons at one time. She said they would re-intensify their campaign after the completion of the on-going higher secondary examinations, demanding the chief minister’s resignation.

Yesterday, the Krishia Bachaoo committee and other parties fighting for the poor farmers, brought a silent procession at Nandigram for mourning the deaths of such large number of poor farmers in March 14 incident. The local TMC MLA, Subhendu Adhikery demanded the capital punishment for the chief minister, Lakshman Seth, the MP and several other CPI(M) workers involved in the killing of the farmers at Nandigram.

The CPI(M) leadership, however, alleged that the TMC, Congress(l) the SUCI, Naxalites and other reactionary forces had joined themselves for ousting the left front from power.

The Congress(l), TMC and SUCI MLAs again staged a walk out from the Assembly today, demanding Bhattacharee’s resignation.

They said the chief minister’s owning the responsibility of the Nandigarm incident was not enough and hence he should resign forthwith.

The TMC demanded today to the speaker, Hashim Abdul Halid that the motion would be allowed to discuss. But the speaker turned down the demand since the Calcutta High Court had taken up the issue and ordered a CBI probe into the incident.

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BJP manifesto reflects Hindutva
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, April 2
While an assurance to remove hurdles in the construction of Ram Mandir has been guaranteed, the BJP manifesto, which was released by party vice-president M Venkaiah Naidu and state party president Kesarinath Tripathi here today, has a concrete Rs 2,000 crore special package for developing Ayodhya, Mathura, Kashi and Prayagraj as religious tourist destinations.

Giving the highest priority to the law and order, the manifesto promises to fix accountability of police officer, who does not take action even after the filing of an FIR. A crackdown on forces giving protection to SIMI and the ISI has also been assured.

To check corruption at the highest level, even the Chief Minister has been brought under the ambit of the Lokayukta.

Women have been promised 50 per cent seats in the local self body elections and 20 per cent seats in government jobs.

Reading out the salient points of the 28-page manifesto state president Kesrinath Tripathi asserted that minorities would be given a chance to join the mainstream as there would be no appeasement.

Madrasas will be modernised, Wakf properties will be freed from mafia encroachment and a single-window facility for Haj pilgrims has been assured.

The CPI, which is in alliance with the Jan Morcha, also released its manifesto today. It focuses on agricultural labourer and weaver, the two most vulnerable sections of society working in sectors which generate maximum employment for the economy.

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BJP banks on Nitish in eastern UP
Tribune News Service

Patna, April 2
The top brass of Bihar BJP overseeing the NDA’s poll strategy in eastern UP now banks on Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to restore its lost grounds there. The BJP was more than happy after Nitish cemented its ties with the crucial regional force, Apna Dal of eastern UP, adjacent to Bihar by expanding the ambit of the NDA before the UP Assembly elections.

Besides, the BJP camp here was also upbeat over the loss of Mulayam Singh Yadav after the noted Kurmi leader, Beni Pranad Verma, deserted the Samajwadi party by ending his 30 years long relation last week.

Leaders of the BJP here said with Verma deciding to walk out of the SP and float his own party, reportedly in protest against the highhandedness of Amar Singh, it was expected to help the NDA to make foray into the bases of the SP in eastern UP, which has a sizeable presence of a total 4 per cent Kumri votes.

Sources say the BJP is not much sure of retrieving its lost grounds in this part till Nitish took the initiative to bring back Apna Dal into the NDA fold.

Besides, there is a sizeable Bihari population in districts of eastern UP where Nitish can be a crucial factor in tilting the balance.

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ULFA ‘tries’ to build rights violation case against government
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, April 2
The proscribed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has apparently hatched a design with its sympathisers in civil society to build a human rights violation case against the union government over six of its “missing” leaders.

These six senior ULFA leaders - Ashanta Baghphukon, Robin Neog, Bening Rabha, Nilu Chakraborty, Ponaram Dihingia, Naba Changmai - allegedly went “missing” following their handover to the Indian authority by Bhutan after their arrest during “Operation All Clear” carried out by the Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) against the ULFA base in that country in December, 2003.

These leaders were giving headache to Indian security forces and the government while they were active hardcore leaders of the banned ULFA and now their wives are putting the Assam government in a spot by resorting to indefinite fast seeking from it the whereabouts of their “missing rebel” husbands.

The wives of these leaders even knocked at the doors of the high court for respite after their appeals to the government apparently fell on deaf ears. In their petition filed before the court, they claimed that their husbands were handed over to the Indian Army after they had been apprehended by the Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) in December, 2003, but since then they had remained “missing.”

The Gauhati High Court on March 13 directed the central government as well as the state government to submit information about the missing ULFA leaders on March 30.

Accordingly, the central government on March 30 submitted an instruction related to the “missing” leaders of the banned ULFA in the Gauhati High Court through its Assistant solicitor-general in pursuant to the court order of March 13.

However, the court after examining the instruction from the union government observed that an affidavit should accompany the instruction and therefore directed the union government to file the affidavit within a seven-day time.

The court also allowed a seven-day time to the Assam government to file an affidavit regarding information about the ULFA leaders who allegedly went missing in December, 2003, after they were handed over to the Indian authority by Bhutan following their arrest by the Royal Bhutan Army.

In the meantime backed by pro-ULFA organisations, including People’s Committee for Peace Initiative in Assam (PCPIA), the Manab Adhikar Sangram Samittee (MASS) resorted to indefinite hunger strike since March 21.

Repeated appeal by the Assam government to withdrew their strike feel on deaf ears. As the health conditions of fasting women deteriorated, the Assam police arrested all of them on March 30 on charges of “attempt to commit suicide.”

The women who were on fast unto death were : Jnama Moran, alias Shyamolee Gogoi (wife of Ponaram Dihingia), Padumi Timungpi, alias Juri Ingtipi (wife of Robin Neog), Manomati Barman, alias Kabita Chakraborty (wife of Nilu Chakraborty), Malina Ingtipi, alias Hema Hansipi (wife of Ashanta Baghphukon), Anima Devi (wife of Bening Rabha), Menaka Changmai, alias Minakshi Changmai (wife of Nava Changmai).

They were admitted to Guwahati Medical College Hospital (GMCH) as they had refused to take food while in custody. They are now being nasal fed in the hospital even as banned ULFA commander-in-chief Paresh Barua and chairman Arabonda Rajkhowa condemned the police action through e-mailed statements to the media. The spouses of these two fugitive ULFA top leaders also issued statements expressing their solidarity with the fasting women.

PCPIA chief coordinator Lachit Bardoloi termed the police action a part of undemocratic design to gag the agitation demanding whereabouts of the “missing” ULFA leaders. The organisation threatened to launch a statewide mass movement against the police action and demanded the government to provide information about those “untraced” ULFA leaders.

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All missions abroad under RTI Act
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 2
All Indian missions abroad fall under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act and are duty bound to provide information to Indian citizens.

In a recent ruling, the Central Information Commission (CIC) said since the Indian missions were set up by the foreign ministry, they come under the ambit of the RTI Act.

The ruling came on a petition by Anju Musafir, chief the Ahmedabad-based Mahatma Gandhi International School, who challenged denial of visa by the Indian Embassy in Paris to a French national Benjamin Mailian. The French national was to join as a faculty member in the school.

Information commissioner O.P. Kejriwal directed the consular, passport and visa division of the External Affairs Ministry to gather information from the Indian Embassy in Paris and share it with Musafir.

During the hearing, the commission was informed that Musafir’s application was forwarded to the Indian Embassy in Paris but she did not get a proper reply.

Defending its position on the non-disclosure of information, the MEA and other authorities said missions abroad were not covered by the RTI Act. In its explanation, the MEA said the matter was being discussed with the Ministry of Law.

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UP Poll
Tiwari hits campaign trail
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 2
After ensuring his government’s defeat in the recent assembly polls, veteran Congress leader and former Uttarakhand Chief Minister N.D.Tiwari has now hit the campaign trail in the neighbouring Uttar Pradesh in the hope of turning around his party’s falling fortunes in this electorally-crucial state.

Tiwari is presently touring Kanpur, Gobindpur, Shastri Nagar and other surrounding areas where elections are to be held on April 7 and will follow it up with a series of similar meetings over the seven phases of elections.

The aging Congress leader’s consent to involve himself in the UP campaign is in sharp contrast to his reluctance to lead the party in the Uttarakhand polls. While Tiwari had publicly declared his intention to step down as the chief minister on a number of occasions over the past two years, he virtually announced his retirement from electoral politics on the election-eve, much to the embarassment of the party.

Tiwari’s decision to stay out of the election campaign and his bitter rivalry with the PCC chief were cited as the main reasons for the Congress party’s defeat. Although Tiwari had then cited his advancing age and poor health to stay away from the hurly-burly of politics, the veteran leader appears to have done a turnaround, having now agreed to participate in the UP assembly election campaign.

Irrespective of his mood swings, Tiwari continues to have a substantive fan following, particularly among the Brahmins, in his earlier-home state. The party office here is flooded with requests from UP candidates who want Tiwari to campaign in their constituencies.

“Despite his age, Tiwari remains one of our tallest leaders. No fresh leadership has emerged in Uttar Pradesh since we have been out of power there for 18 years now,” remarked a senior AICC office-bearer.

Sonia Gandhi will be addressing four rallies in Jhansi and Kanpur on April 4 and 5 while Rahul Gandhi began his second roadshow in the Bundelkhand region today.

Union ministers, Mani Shankar Aiyer and Subodh Kant Sahay are already in the state. Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit, popular in the Brahmin-dominated areas, is slated to go to Agra and Firozabad this week.

Although a fringe player in UP, the Congress is making a valiant attempt to improve its standing in the upcoming elections. The Congress strategy is to win 40 to 50 seats so as to play a key role in the formation of the next government as it is widely accepted that these elections are going to result in a hung assembly.

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Cops at 40 prone to stress, heart ailments

Mumbai, April 2
An alarming increase in the mortality rates of policemen in Mumbai has set alarm bells ringing in the highest echelons of the Maharashtra Government.

Mumbai's police commissioner D. N. Jadhav pressed the panic button after four policemen dropped dead while on duty last week. All of them were above 40-year old and had a history of different ailments. — TNS

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