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N A T I O N

Vice-Presidential Poll
We’ll try to rope in UNPA: Left
New Delhi, July 15
The short term and medium term strategy of the Left parties is coming to the fore in the insistence of “non-political" candidate, but, who is aware of country's political dynamics, for the vice-presidential polls.
Najma could be BJP choice
New Delhi, July 15
Engaged in what appears to be a lost battle for the presidency, the BJP plans to put up a fight for the Vice-President's post and is mulling the idea of fielding former Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson Najma Heptullah as its candidate for next month's election.

Prez Poll
Abstention legal: EC
New Delhi, July 15
The Third Front’s decision to abstain from voting in the presidential election might be bitter news for the BJP-led NDA, but the Election Commission does not see any illegality in the move.

Fighting AIDS
Oral therapy for injecting drug users
New Delhi, July 15
The National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) is drawing operational guidelines to put HIV-vulnerable injecting drug users (IDUs) on a closely-monitored oral substitution therapy (OST) to reduce the risk of HIV transmission.






EARLIER STORIES




A vegetable vendor covers herself with a plastic sheet during rain in New Delhi on Sunday.
A vegetable vendor covers herself with a plastic sheet during rain in New Delhi on Sunday. — PTI

I will quit if charges are proved: IT minister
Chennai, July 15
Angered over the charges levelled against him by the Left parties regarding a BSNL tender, minister for IT and telecommunications A. Raja yesterday offered to step down.

All villages to have telephones by Nov
New Delhi, July 15
Telephone connectivity is likely to be provided to all 66,822 villages by November under the Bharat Nirman programme, two years ahead of schedule.

SC seeks Centre’s response on adoption laws
New Delhi, July 15
Taking into account various legal lacunae on adoption in the face of country having 12.5 million orphans, the Supreme Court today issued notice to the Centre and states seeking their response why the laws relating to adoption should not be made more practicable.

Army to induct mini-UAVs
New Delhi, July 15
The Army plans to induct mini- unmanned aerial vehicles in large numbers to give more teeth to forces engaged in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and the North East.

Petrol ‘fuels’ 8-yr-old boy!
Kanpur, July 15
An eight-year-old boy drinks four litres of petrol daily to slake his thirst.

Pawar to give ICAR Awards
New Delhi, July 15
Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar will give away ICAR awards tomorrow. He will give 54 awards under 12 categories to honour six institutions, 41 scientists and their associates, six farmers and one woman journalist. Out of 41 scientists and their associates, 16 are women.

Centre readying new proposal to conserve rivers
New Delhi, July 15
Concerned over rivers facing increasing threats of pollution, the Water Resources Ministry is working on a proposal to declare some of them as “national rivers”.

12 cities in Karnataka to get new names
Bangalore, July 15
Bangalore is all set to be rechristened Bengaluru in a week’s time forgoing its anglicised spelling in favour of the way the city’s name is pronounced in Kannada.


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Vice-Presidential Poll
We’ll try to rope in UNPA: Left
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 15
The short term and medium term strategy of the Left parties is coming to the fore in the insistence of “non-political" candidate, but, who is aware of country's political dynamics, for the vice-presidential polls.

CPI General Secretary A. B. Bardhan, dumping all differences after meeting his CPI (M) counterpart Prakash Karat today, went a step ahead by stating the Left parties would try to select a non-Congress candidate acceptable to both UPA and the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA), the third front.

The short-term strategy is to isolate the BJP before the Gujarat polls, which are scheduled later this year. The medium term strategy is to forge a third alternative, if possible before the 2009 General Elections and the vice-presidential polls are one step in that direction.

Bardhan said, “The Left will take the initiative to propose the name. We will try to see that all UPA allies reach a consensus and we will be happy if we can bring the UNPA as well on board."

Bardhan categorically dismissed speculation that he was a candidate in the August 10 poll.

Talking to newspersons after a three-day meeting of the National Council of the party here, Bardhan would meet here on Thursday to decide on the vice-presidential poll and other issues.

On the UNPA's statement, that the Left should first withdraw support to the UPA before it could expect the regional grouping's support, he said, “we can't break our relationship (with the UPA) just because of their statement. Moreover, it was a statement only by (AIADMK chief) Jayalalithaa and not the UNPA as a whole."

The CPI leader asked other Left parties to “redefine” their approach towards the ruling UPA coalition which it accused of “singularly” failing on major economic policy issues like checking prices of essential commodities.

Listing several other issues on which the government "failed" to deliver, the party's national council sought a review of the UPA's performance in the past three years and stressed "the need for a mid-course correction".

"The CPI is of the view that the four Left parties, which together extended outside support to the UPA government, should also review the situation and redefine their approach to it," Bardhan said.

Asked to clarify what he meant by "redefining" support to the UPA, he said, "I am not saying that we should withdraw support right now. What I am saying is to redefine our attitude towards UPA and decide on how to go about our relationship."

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Najma could be BJP choice

New Delhi, July 15
Engaged in what appears to be a lost battle for the presidency, the BJP plans to put up a fight for the Vice-President's post and is mulling the idea of fielding former Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson Najma Heptullah as its candidate for next month's election.

A senior BJP leader said the party was gearing up for the Vice-President's election in the light of the decision of the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) or the Third Front to put up a candidate of its own.

"If the UPA-Left and the UNPA field their candidates, we cannot sit and watch silently. We will have to put up a fight," the leader said.

Heptullah, a former Congress leader, who switched loyalty to the BJP in 2004, could be a likely choice for the vice-presidential candidacy, the BJP leader remarked.

"Najma can be a likely choice. But there is no final decision as yet. We will meet our allies later this week to discuss the issue," he added.

The BJP believes the Left-backed ruling alliance may name someone staunchly opposed to it as the candidate for the Vice-President's post.

Names of historian Irfan Habib and Jamia Milia Islamia vice-chancellor Mushirul Hasan are already doing the rounds as possible UPA-Left candidates for the post. — PTI

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Prez Poll
Abstention legal: EC

New Delhi, July 15
The Third Front’s decision to abstain from voting in the presidential election might be bitter news for the BJP-led NDA, but the Election Commission does not see any illegality in the move.

“Nobody can compel any voter. Not to vote is an inherent right and forcing somebody to vote is anti-democratic and against his will,” an EC source said when asked to comment on the BJP's plans to seek the panel's intervention to ensure that no MP or MLA was stopped from voting.

The UNPA, popularly known as the Third Front, yesterday formally announced that it would abstain from voting in the July 19 presidential election, virtually grounding Bhairon Singh Shekhawat's chances for the top post. — PTI

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Fighting AIDS
Oral therapy for injecting drug users
Tripti Nath
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 15
The National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) is drawing operational guidelines to put HIV-vulnerable injecting drug users (IDUs) on a closely-monitored oral substitution therapy (OST) to reduce the risk of HIV transmission.

NACO has called a meeting of its technical committee here tomorrow to see how best the OST can be implemented in India.

At the meeting, experts will examine the efficacy of indigenously-manufactured drugs, methadone and buprenorphine, and decide which of the two is better suited for the OST programme in Indian conditions.

Sujatha Rao, additional secretary, health, and director-general of NACO, told TNS here that the high-risk behaviour of IDUs necessitated urgent interventions.

“We estimate there may be 100,000 IDUs in India. Surveys indicate that the relapse rate after detoxification is as high as 92 per cent. We are now seeing pockets of IDUs in Punjab, Delhi and Chennai.”

Although IDUs account for 2 per cent of HIV infections through sharing of needles, there is increasing evidence that non-injecting sexual partners of injecting drug users are getting HIV infection in Manipur, according to a 2006 study by the UNODC regional office for South Asia and the ministry of social justice and empowerment.

The report further says that it is not unusual to see women injecting drug users in Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland.

The UNODC report says that buprenorphine is the drug of choice for injecting among IDUs in metropolitan cities in India.

A synthetic analagesic, buprenorphine comes in 2 ml ampoules and is procured illegally over the counter or through street peddlers. Chennai, however, has also reported cases of heroin injecting users.

The NACO head said the OST had been successful in China and Australia. “In China, 30,000 injecting drug users are under the OST. Our experts working with drug addicts are convinced that it can work in India.

The All India Institute of Medical Sciences has tried some pilots using buprenorphine as an OST.

Apart from this, the West Bengal State AIDS Control Society has done one pilot with the DFID assistance in Manipur and Nagaland.

About 2,000 IDUs were put on a daily dose of buprenorphine. It showed that rehabilitation was effective and helped people return to their normal daily routine and jobs.

Mark Lewis, head of the DFID national programme in India, said the DFID had helped pilot the OST among 4,000 drug users across the country.

“The use of the OST has proven to be much more effective in helping injecting users of drugs than the abstinence-only approach. The DFID will work with NACO on this issue as part of NACP-3 (the third phase of the National AIDS Control Programme).”

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I will quit if charges are proved: IT minister
Tribune News Service

Chennai, July 15
Angered over the charges levelled against him by the Left parties regarding a BSNL tender, minister for IT and telecommunications A. Raja yesterday offered to step down.

He said, "I am ready to quit if the Left parties can prove the charges they levelled against me. BSNL is an autonomous body. I have only raised few questions with regard to a BSNL tender. I do not think it is proper to elaborate on it before the media."

The tender was floated and accepted by the BSNL when Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi's grand nephew Dayanidhi Maran was occupying Raja's post but had to resign following inner party strife in the second week of May.

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All villages to have telephones by Nov
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 15
Telephone connectivity is likely to be provided to all 66,822 villages by November under the Bharat Nirman programme, two years ahead of schedule.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chaired a meeting to review the progress of two components of the programme - rural telephony and rural roads - on Thursday.

An official spokesman said of the 66,822 villages, 48,125 were covered till May, 2007, and the remaining would be covered by November this year. When completed, 14,183 villages would be connected through satellite technology and the rest through other technologies. In an effort to increase rural tele-density about 80,000 towers would be installed by May, 2008, to facilitate mobile and other wireless services in the rural areas.

He said efforts were also on to provide broadband services to cover two lakh villages in 5,000 blocks across the country. The final goal was to create five crore rural connections by 2007 and increase it to eight crore by 2010 and provide broadband connections in every village by 2012.

The spokesman said performance of the rural roads had been satisfactory with around 40,000 km of new link roads having been built and 50,000 km of existing rural roads being upgraded in the first two years (2005-2007) of Bharat Nirman.

Against the Bharat Nirman target of connecting 66,802 villages with all-weather roads, 13,831 villages have been connected. It was noted that nine states - Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkand, MP, Orissa, Rajasthan, UP and West Bengal - account for 90 per cent of remaining coverage. Among these, Rajasthan and MP are well on course while Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa, Assam, and West Bengal are to gain momentum.

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SC seeks Centre’s response on adoption laws
S. S. Negi
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 15
Taking into account various legal lacunae on adoption in the face of country having 12.5 million orphans, the Supreme Court today issued notice to the Centre and states seeking their response why the laws relating to adoption should not be made more practicable.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan sought the replies from them on a petition by a Christian organisation pointing out that due to stringent laws only about 4,000 children were adopted every year.

The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), which brought the issue before the Court, made a particular reference to the difficulties faced by non-Hindus in adopting a child in the absence of a law for them.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Gopal Subramaniam, taking a “proactive” stand on the issue said the Centre was open to laying down comprehensive guidelines to make adoption more practical but at the same time keeping in view the safety of children to ensure that they did not fall in wrong hands.

EFI, which claimed to have under its control 30,000 churches all over he country, said at present only the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act provided proper guidelines for adoption of children and confer on them the rights in the properties of adopting parents.

“But Christians, Jews, Muslims and Parsis cannot legally adopt a child. They can only avail of the guardianship under the Guardianship and Ward Act, 1956. The status of guardianship also ceases once the ward attains the age of majority,” senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, moving the petition said.

“Every child has a right of a family, better life and basic minimum medical facilities and the relaxation in the laws could pave way for thousands of destitute finding homes for themselves,” he said.

He also cited the rulings of Kerala and Bombay High Courts, which had given positive directions regarding relaxation of laws on adoption.

The petition was moved in addition to another PIL pending on the issue, filed earlier by social activist Shabnam Hashmi.

The ASG said the Government would file a detailed affidavit explaining its view point in totality while laying down the guidelines as per the amended Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, But the Government at the same time has to keep in mind the “sensitivities” of various religious groups while laying down the guidelines, he said, pointing out that the procedure to be adopted has to be based on “common acceptable norms”.

The Government in its earlier affidavit had stated that there was no “legislative vacuum for recognition of right of every child to be adopted under the Juvenile Justice Act as it was an inclusive legislation, covering all children as well as parents irrespective of their religion and sex.”

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Army to induct mini-UAVs

New Delhi, July 15
The Army plans to induct mini- unmanned aerial vehicles in large numbers to give more teeth to forces engaged in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and the North East.

A proposal to buy 100 to 200 mini-UAVs has been finalised by the Army and an international tender is likely to be floated within a month, official sources here said.

The Army has about 200 UAVs, mostly Searcher 1, Searcher 2 and Heron supplied by Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI), but security experts feel mini-UAVs will give troops an edge in operations against militants.

Mini-UAVs are compact and lightweight systems designed for use in military and homeland security missions.

They are smaller than regular UAVs and some models can even by launched by hand and do not require open space for take-offs.

"Mini-UAVs are operation and terrain specific and will be a major force multiplier in anti-insurgency operations," a top Army official said. — PTI

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Petrol ‘fuels’ 8-yr-old boy!

Kanpur, July 15
An eight-year-old boy drinks four litres of petrol daily to slake his thirst.

Sajid of Chamanganj town drinks on an average four litres of petrol daily. He considers it an essential part of his daily diet and takes it at breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, his father Abdul said.

The boy, who is dumb by birth, generally satisfies his insatiable appetite by stealing petrol from parked motorcycles by cutting the fuel pipe.

Due to this bizarre behaviour, his family members are worried about his health.

“Although he has so far not suffered any health problem, I am worried...his glowing complexion has now become dark and his skin has become flaky,” his father said.

“Everyone is worried. He is thrashed and even chained by his family to save him from this unhealthy habit. But, he wounds himself by cutting his wrist in protest,” a neighbourer, Junaid, said.

Abdul said the family had consulted several doctors, but even they failed to provide a solution.

Senior doctor at the Ganesh Shanker Vidyarthi Medical College B.N. Singh said hydrocarbons present in petrol were sure to harm Sajid's brain and bones in the long run.

“The family needs to consult a psychologist,” he advised. — UNI

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Pawar to give ICAR Awards
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 15
Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar will give away ICAR awards tomorrow. He will give 54 awards under 12 categories to honour six institutions, 41 scientists and their associates, six farmers and one woman journalist. Out of 41 scientists and their associates, 16 are women.

The Best Institution Award has will be given to the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT), Cochin. Among relatively smaller institutions, the Water Technology Centre for Eastern Region, Bhubaneswar, will be given the Best Institution Award.

Chaudhary Devi Lal Outstanding AICRP Award will be given to All India Coordinated Cotton Improvement Project.

Sixteenth Jawaharlal Nehru Awards for outstanding Ph.D. theses will also be given.

Two awardees will be given the Panjabrao Deshmukh Women Agricultural Scientist Awards. The Vasantrao Naik Award for Outstanding Research and Application in Dryland Farming Systems for development of alternate land use model for water conservation will also be given away.

The Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Award will be given to eight scientists in the area of crop science, resource management, horticulture science, animal science and fisheries. Swami Sahajanand Saraswati Extension Scientist Worker Award will be given to two scientists for crop production and one each for livestock production, resource management and home science. The Hari Om Trust Award will be given to eight scientists in the areas of crop science, horticulture, natural resource management and animal sciences.

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Centre readying new proposal to conserve rivers
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 15
Concerned over rivers facing increasing threats of pollution, the Water Resources Ministry is working on a proposal to declare some of them as “national rivers”.

Under the proposal, which is being discussed in the ministry, the Centre would provide funds for

maintenance of these rivers which would help set uniform standards of conservation across the states.

The Centre is also likely to provide funds for projects build on these rivers.

Water resource minister Saiffudin Soz yesterday said the ministry had received demands for declaring some rivers as national and it was evolving a scientific criteria in the matter.

Indicating that his ministry would take the proposal to the cabinet in a month, Soz said states will be

fully consulted in the process and their riparian interests safeguarded.

Ministry officials said water was a state subject and state governments differ in their approach to conservation issues. They said since a river passes through different states, indifference by one state government can undo work of others.

Soz, who is keen to bring a sharper focus on water conservation, has written to all Chief Ministers to adopt mission mode approach on rainwater harvesting. Giving suggestions for spreading message of water

conservation, Soz said small water bottles (200-250 ml) should be used in meetings. In his letter, Soz said serving water in small glasses will also contribute to inculcating habit of saving water as the precious commodity was sometimes thrown recklessly after a sip. He said bottled water comes from ground water which is under severe pressure.

In another letter, the minister has drawn attention of the Chief Ministers to the need of introducing better management practices to meet the growing demand of water.

Pointing to the low per capita storage capacity in the country, he said all water projects should be completed on time and new ones planned.

Replying to queries on river interlinking, the minister said work on DPRs were at different stages for five projects, two of which will link rivers in Gujarat and Maharashtra.

He said several states had taken appropriate action on model legislation for management of ground water. He said the issue of ground water will be discussed at a conference in the capital on September 11.

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12 cities in Karnataka to get new names
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, July 15
Bangalore is all set to be rechristened Bengaluru in a week’s time forgoing its anglicised spelling in favour of the way the city’s name is pronounced in Kannada.

Along with Bangalore, the state is going on a name-changing spree with names of eleven more cities set to be changed within a week. The state government had sent a proposal regarding the change of names in 2006. All Central agencies as well as the union ministries have approved the proposal and sent their clearances to the Union Home Ministry.

Kannada and culture minister H.S. Mahadeva Prasad said the union home minister H.S. Mahadeva had said that the clearances would be forwarded to the state government within a week’s time. Once this happens, the state cabinet will meet for formally to approve the changes, he said.

Besides Bangalore, some of the cities which will see a change in name include Mysore which will become Mysuru while Mangalore will become Mangaluru, Belgaum - Belgavi, Hubli - Hubali, Chikmagalur - Chikmagaluru and Bellary - Ballary.

The proposal to change the name of Bangalore was proposed in 2005 by former Chief Minister N. Dharam Singh without there being any demand for any such change.

Soon after, it was proposed that the anglicized names of other major cities should also be dropped in favour of Kannada names which use the vowel ‘u’ predominantly.

Dharam Singh’s successor H.D. Kumaraswamy made a formal announcement regarding the name changes on November 1, 2006 on the occasion of the golden jubilee celebration of the formation of the state.

Prasad clarified that the state had every right to rename Belgaum as Belagavi and the Maharashtra Government did not have any locus standi in objecting to the same.

Changing names of cities and towns was the prerogative of the states concerned and seeking permission from the Centre was only a formality, he added.

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