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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Throttle terror sources: Karzai
New Delhi, April 3
Afghanistan, which became the eighth member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc), Sri Lanka and Bangladesh today strongly raised the issue of terrorism at the 14th Saarc summit.

Badal’s appointment questioned in SC
Tainted ministers’ issue recoils on NDA
New Delhi, April 3
The tainted ministers’ issue, haunting the UPA government since it came to power in 2004, today for the first time has its heat on the opposition NDA in the supreme court with questions raised on Parkash Singh Badal taking oath as Chief Minister of Punjab despite being chargesheeted in a corruption case.

Bhopal Tragedy
14,000 victims not traceable for relief, SC told
New Delhi, April 3
In a startling revelation to the Supreme Court, the Centre today said that nearly 14,000 victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy, who had earlier filed applications for compensation, were not coming forward to claim it now.





EARLIER STORIES




Govt measures on simple adoption steps
New Delhi, April 3
The Ministry of Women and Child Development today launched a completely revamped and user-friendly website for Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA), containing detailed information on procedures and guidelines regarding in-country and intra-country adoption.

Nandigram
All-party meeting fails to take off
Nandigram, April 3
An all-party meeting to bring peace in the troubled Nandigram block, where 14 persons were killed on March 14 the police firing, did not take off today as local BJP leaders and party activists broke furniture at the venue of the meeting and raised slogans prior to the start.

Bhasin award for PAU scientist
New Delhi, April 3
Dr Baldev Singh Dhillon, Director of Research, Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana, and Prof V Narayana Rao, former Director, Defence Electronics Research Laboratory, Bangalore, have been selected for Om Prakash Bhasin Awards for Science and Technology for 2006.

Nitish wants another term for Kalam
New Delhi, April 3
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today came out in favour of giving another term to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam saying that he should be given another term as his image was clean and non-controversial.

OBC quota: Cong to support bandh
Hyderabad, April 3
The Congress government in Andhra Pradesh has extended its support to the bandh call given by several organisations of Backward Classes demanding implementation of OBC quota.

Asha I&B secy
New Delhi, April 3
Mr S.K. Arora, a 1971 batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the Andhra Pradesh cadre, has been appointed as secretary, ministry of youth affairs and sports. He will assume charge tomorrow.

TDP leader killed
Anantapur, April 3
A leader of the opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) was allegedly axed to death by his political opponents, near Vasuluru village of Pedavappuru mandal in Anantapur district today.

1 feared dead in Assam blast
Guwahati, April 3
At least one person was feared dead and 11 others injured, one of them critically when a powerful bomb went off at Kedar Road in biggest business hub, Fancy Bazar, today.

ISI man remanded
Hyderabad, April 3
An alleged ISI operative Maqsood Ahmad, arrested by the city police on Sunday, was remanded to judicial custody till April 16 by a local court here.

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Throttle terror sources: Karzai
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 3
Afghanistan, which became the eighth member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc), Sri Lanka and Bangladesh today strongly raised the issue of terrorism at the 14th Saarc summit.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, in his maiden address at the 14th Saarc summit here, said it was the common duty of all member countries to fight terrorism and stop its sources, including financial and political support.

Sri Lanka appealed to the Saarc forum to work jointly on a counter-terrorism strategy. “Terrorism anywhere is terrorism and is a global menace. Unless we act collectively as a region, trans-border terrorist groups will find safe havens in other parts of the region,” Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse said.

He said the region as a whole was not safe from barbaric terrorist groups. “I wish to appeal, therefore, to this August forum to work jointly on a counter-terrorism strategy for our entire region, to defeat terrorism.”

Bangladesh urged the Saarc grouping to take bold steps to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and build a South Asia free from the chains of poverty and hunger. Bangladesh Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed said “It will be impossible to realise our dream of a prosperous South Asia without addressing the security concerns of regional countries.”

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Saarc sidelights

Applause for Karzai

The induction of Afghanistan as the eighth member of the SAARC grouping through a declaration was widely greeted. In keeping with the charter of Saarc, decisions by the member states have to be consensual without any dissent. Even as India and Pakistan are working towards resolving their disputes through dialogue, the tension between Afghanistan-Pakistan is palpable though not destabilising. Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai received wide applause when he rose to speak at the opening of the summit.

A regular attendant

Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom is the only South Asian leader to have attended all 14 Saarc summits held so far. “I am the only leader present here who has attended all 14 summits," he disclosed amid thunderous applause. Despite reservations, if Saarc will ever be able to knit itself together and be able to face the challenges of poverty, terrorism, etc, Gayoom remained highly optimistic. He was categoric that consolidation must go hand in hand with renewal and quoted from the Quran: "Never will Allah change the condition of people until they change themselves," he held.

Irresistible temptation

Nepalese Prime Minister Girja Prasad Koirala cannot resist the temptation of attending the 14th summit despite his ill health and doctor's advice not to travel. In his address at the opening of the summit, he alluded to the biggest gamble of his political life. "I gambled for 60 years of my political life to have a dialogue with the Maoists. Now, I am happy that the Maoists have joined the government."

Give us freedom, not alms

About hundred children, involved in child labour or victims of abuse, marched to the venue of the summit to bring to the fore the issue of cross-border child trafficking. The children shouted slogans..."hame bhikh nahin, azadi chahiye (we want freedom, not alms)" and "Bharat sarkar hosh mein aao (wake up Indian government)." A report has been handed over to the heads of state or government of Saarc member countries, demanding the establishment of a Saarc fund to combat trafficking of people and prevention, awareness and rehabilitation of victims. — TNS

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Badal’s appointment questioned in SC
Tainted ministers’ issue recoils on NDA
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, April 3
The tainted ministers’ issue, haunting the UPA government since it came to power in 2004, today for the first time has its heat on the opposition NDA in the supreme court with questions raised on Parkash Singh Badal taking oath as Chief Minister of Punjab despite being chargesheeted in a corruption case.

During the hearing on a pending petition questioning the appointment of four charge-sheeted ministers in the UPA government, including railway minister Lalu Prasad, senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi assisting the court as amicus curiae in the case, said the malaise was effecting the entire political spectrum, be it the ruling alliance or the opposition alliance.

NDA had all along been taunting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for having at least four charge-sheeted ministers belonging to the RJD in his ministry.

“Earlier a person (Lalu Prasad) who was Bihar Chief Minister resigned after being chargesheeted but he was appointed a minister in the centre. Similarly a person (Badal) chargesheeted… filed a petition in this court, which was rejected. But he became Chief Minister of Punjab recently,” Dwivedi said.

He pleaded a bench comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnana and Justices R.V. Raveendran and D.K. Jain that somewhere some check had to be imposed on such practice as allowing charge-sheeted persons to occupy constitutional posts was fraught with dangerous consequences.

As the court said a check should be evolved more through a convention by the political parties, solicitor-general G.E. Vahanvati, appearing for the centre, said convention could not be raised as a question of law because there was nothing in the constitution which prevented a charge-sheeted person from being administered the oath as a minister. “It cannot be implied from the constitution,” he said.

Questioning the stand of the government counsel, the amicus curiae said though it was a fact that “the constitution does not have any check but that does not mean that nothing should be done to stop criminalisation of politics.”

Driving home the point on convention, the court reminded a battery of lawyers representing the parties that it was more for the polity to decide. “What has happened to the high traditions set up by leaders like Lal Bahadur Shastri (who resigned after a rail accident)? How many times this has happened after him?” the court asked.

Making further amends in its observations, the bench said “instead of saying that it (prohibition on charge-sheeted leaders to occupy high posts) be a convention, it could be termed as an implied constitutional requirement.”

The court, which earlier had referred the matter to a five-judge constitution bench, said it would be taken up for arguments from August 14.

A public interest litigation (PIL), filed by Manoj Narula in 2005, had questioned the appointment of a tainted minister by Manmohan Singh in his council of ministers. He claimed that it violated the basic features laid down in the “preamble” of the constitution and also the spirit of oath administered to ministers under articles 75 and 163 in the centre and the states, respectively.

The petitioner’s main contention was that how a person whose own integrity was under cloud for being charge sheeted in a criminal case could be trusted to uphold the integrity and sovereignty of the country in the oath taken by him.

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Bhopal Tragedy
14,000 victims not traceable for relief, SC told
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 3
In a startling revelation to the Supreme Court, the Centre today said that nearly 14,000 victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy, who had earlier filed applications for compensation, were not coming forward to claim it now.

These persons, who were to be paid compensation to the tune of Rs 50 crore, were not traceable, Additional Solicitor General Amarendra Sharana told a Bench of Justices C K Thakker and Altamas Kabir, seized of gas victims’ matter.

In view of the victims not coming forward and all efforts of the government agencies to trace them yielding no results, the Centre sought permission from the Court to close the cases of their claim.

To a query by the court about the nature of the efforts made by authorities to trace them, Sharan said after they were not found on the last given address, advertisements were issued in the newspapers.

But government’s move was opposed by counsel for several NGOs, fighting for grant of compensation to the victims on the ground that no serious efforts were made by the authorities to trace them.

NGOs counsel said the victims in question were only minors at the time of the tragedy and the government had not undergone any scientific study to trace them.

They said after the tragedy the families of thousands of victims had moved to various other districts of Madhya Pradesh.

The court adjourned the matter for further hearing after seeking more information about it.

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Govt measures on simple adoption steps
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 3
The Ministry of Women and Child Development today launched a completely revamped and user-friendly website for Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA), containing detailed information on procedures and guidelines regarding in-country and intra-country adoption.

CARA is an autonomous body under the ministry with a mandate to find a loving family for every orphan, destitute or surrendered child in the country. Every year, 3,000 to 4,000 children find a home through CARA. However, the long and tortuous adoption procedures at present being followed in the country often act as hurdles for those interested in adopting a child.

Attempts are now being made to also revamp the adoption procedure by making it smoother and faster. At present, the adoption procedure, along with the legalities involved, takes about three to six months. At the launch of the redesigned website, Minister for Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhury said work had already started to simplify and streamline adoption procedures and make them more transparent. “Hopefully the entire procedure can be completed within 20 days to six weeks,” she said. The CARA website can be accessed on www.adoptionindia.nic.in <http://www.adoptionindia.nic.in> and has been redesigned to provide adequate information to all associated/ partner agencies and prospective adoptive parents. It contains information on existing guidelines on adoption, provides links to procedure to be followed in case of in-country and inter-country adoption separately, action plan for 2007-08.

In addition, an updated list of recognised placement agencies in India and foreign agencies enlisted by CARA is also available on the website.

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Nandigram
All-party meeting fails to take off

Nandigram, April 3
An all-party meeting to bring peace in the troubled Nandigram block, where 14 persons were killed on March 14 the police firing, did not take off today as local BJP leaders and party activists broke furniture at the venue of the meeting and raised slogans prior to the start.

Local BJP leaders Badsah Alam and Tapan Kar, accompanied by party activists, vandalised the office of the BDO, where the meeting was to take place, and hurled a chair at the SDO of the Haldia sub-division, Shankar Haldar.

They demanded arrest of Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee and chairman of the Haldia Development Authority Laksham Seth. They also demanded identification of the official who had ordered the police firing on March 14 before convening an all-party meeting.

As a result, the meeting, already boycotted by the members of the Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee, spearheading the anti land-acquisition movement, failed to start at the scheduled 11.30 am.

Later, Alam and other BJP activists were arrested by the police which arrived at the BDO’s office after being called by the SDO.

Congress leader Sabuj Pradhan said that his party, the Trinamool Congress, SUCI and the Jamiat-e-ulema-e-Hind boycotted the meeting because it would serve little purpose. — PTI

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Bhasin award for PAU scientist
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 3
Dr Baldev Singh Dhillon, Director of Research, Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana, and Prof V Narayana Rao, former Director, Defence Electronics Research Laboratory, Bangalore, have been selected for Om Prakash Bhasin Awards for Science and Technology for 2006.

According to a foundation release, Dr Dhillon has been selected for his work in the field of agriculture and allied sciences and Prof Rao for his work in electronics and information technology. Each award carries cash prize of Rs 1 lakh, a citation and a plaque.

The awards are given to scientists and technologists of the country for outstanding scientific leadership and pure or applied work in their fields.

Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, Dr K Kasturirangan, Dr M S Swaminathan, Dr Manju Sharma and Dr E Sreedharan have been among the scientists and technologists who have received.

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Nitish wants another term for Kalam
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 3
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today came out in favour of giving another term to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam saying that he should be given another term as his image was clean and non-controversial.

On the supreme court verdict staying 27 per cent reservation of seats for OBCs in higher educational institutions, he said the apex court’s ruling might inculcate a feeling among the OBCs that they were denied the benefits of reservation deliberately.

He said an all-party meeting on the quota issue could come out with a solution.

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OBC quota: Cong to support bandh
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, April 3
The Congress government in Andhra Pradesh has extended its support to the bandh call given by several organisations of Backward Classes demanding implementation of OBC quota.

The state government has asked the state road transport corporation to keep the buses off the roads across the state tomorrow. BC welfare minister D. Srinivas told reporters that the SSC (10th class) examination scheduled for Wednesday would be postponed in view of the bandh.

All schools in the state have been asked to declare a holiday to make the bandh a success.

APCC president K. Keshava Rao, expressing solidarity with the organisers of the bandh, said the overwhelming sentiment of the poor sections of the society would be conveyed through this united protest.

In a display of competitive populism, almost all political parties declared their support to the bandh call demanding immediate implementation of the OBC quota, which was stayed by the supreme court recently.

Besides, main opposition TDP, the TRS, communist parties and the BJP announced their unstinted support to the call for observing the bandh. While the TDP said its cadre would participate in the bandh, the TRS went one step ahead and announced that its chief K. Chandrasekhar Rao would participate in a “rail roko” programme at Secunderabad railway station.

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Asha I&B secy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 3
Mr S.K. Arora, a 1971 batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the Andhra Pradesh cadre, has been appointed as secretary, ministry of youth affairs and sports. He will assume charge tomorrow.

According to sources in the Ministry of Personnel, Mr Arora’s place as secretary, ministry of information and broadcasting, will be taken over by Asha Swarup, a 1973 batch IAS officer of the Himachal Pradesh cadre. Ms Swarup is at present working as special secretary and financial adviser, department of commerce, ministry of commerce and industry. The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has approved these two secretary-level appointments.

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TDP leader killed

Anantapur, April 3
A leader of the opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) was allegedly axed to death by his political opponents, near Vasuluru village of Pedavappuru mandal in Anantapur district today.

The police said his political opponents had attacked Adinarayana Reddy, a mandal leader, when he was sleeping in his agricultural lands in the early hours.

They attacked Adinarayana with sickles and axes. He died on the spot.

The assailants fled from the scene after the murder. Efforts were on to nab the culprits. — UNI

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1 feared dead in Assam blast
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, April 3
At least one person was feared dead and 11 others injured, one of them critically when a powerful bomb went off at Kedar Road in biggest business hub, Fancy Bazar, today.

The police suspected hand of the banned the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) in the bomb explosion. The bomb was planted alongside the road leading to the biggest wholesale market of the region. The injured were rushed to the hospital even as senior city police officials rushed to the spot.

The explosion occurred just four days head of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Assam on April 8. The ULFA has called for a state-wide bandh tomorrow in protest against alleged police atrocities on fasting wives of six ‘missing’ ULFA leaders. The women were arrested on March 30 and hospitalised. The ULFA alleged that the police tried to force them to break their fast.

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ISI man remanded
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, April 3
An alleged ISI operative Maqsood Ahmad, arrested by the city police on Sunday, was remanded to judicial custody till April 16 by a local court here.

Ahmad was taken into custody by the city police on the charge that he was encouraging terrorist activities among the youth.

Maqsood (26), a resident of Malakpet, discontinued B.Com from a city college in 1999 and allegedly got attracted to the activities of the city-based fundamentalist outfit, Darsgah Jihad-o-Shahadat (DJS).

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