SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Rs 35,000-cr foodgrain scam
Maya asks Centre for CBI probe
Lucknow, December 1
Chief Minister Mayawati today decided to hand over the mother of all scams, an approximately Rs 35,000 crore food grains scam, to the CBI. Reportedly perpetuated between March 2004 and October 2005, the bungling involves around 31 of the 70 districts and has global ramifications.

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates (c) runs in front of India Gate in New Delhi on Saturday. Portugal to convince NSG members on N-deal
New Delhi, December 1
Assuring to take up India’s case in the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Portugal said today that it was high time the international community accepted that New Delhi was prudent and had given enough guarantees of pursuing the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates (c) runs in front of India Gate in New Delhi on Saturday. — AFP photo


EARLIER STORIES


Dera Plea
HC refuses to intervene
New Delhi, December 1
With the police sticking to its stand on the withdrawal of permission to the Dera Sacha Sauda chief to hold a satsang in the Capital tomorrow due to security reasons, the Delhi High Court today refused to intervene in the matter.

Catholic panel releases life-skills manual for youth
New Delhi, December 1
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) has brought out a life-skills manual for the youth. Sponsored by the Catholic Medical Mission Board of the CBCI, the manual is an inter-faith collaborative initiative.

‘Aaja Nachle' on in UP
Objectionable line removed
Lucknow, December 1
Madhuri Dixit may not have anticipated that her 'comeback' film ‘Aaja Nachle’ would hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Bhim Sen Sachar Lecture
Space for dissent vital: Aruna Roy
New Delhi, December 1
"Today democratic space in India is shrinking," said social and political activist Aruna Roy while delivering the Bhim Sen Sachar Memorial Lecture here.

World AIDS Day
Tainted DM turns messiah for AIDS patients
Patna, December 1
On the occasion of world AIDS day Bihar got a new philanthropist to counsel HIV/AIDS patients in the state in the form of former Patna DM, Gautam Goswami.

Prosecution: Hang Pravin Mahajan
Mumbai, December 1
The hearing on the Pramod Mahajan murder trial is coming to an end with arguments in the case drawing to a close.

Jaya complains of tax notices on Ash-Abhi wedding
New Delhi, December 1
Rajya Sabha member Jaya Bachchan today alleged that the service tax authorities humiliated her family seeking details on expenses on wedding of her son Abhishek with Aishwarya earlier this year.

40 hurt as 2 trains collide
Patna, December 1
Around 40 passengers were injured when a passenger train rammed into another at the Saharsa railway station in Bihar today. The injured passengers are said to have suffered minor injuries due to the impact of the collision.

PM greets Musharraf on re-election
New Delhi, December 1
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has greeted Pervez Musharraf on his re-election as the President of Pakistan and affirmed India’s commitment to establishing good neighbourly relations with the country. He hoped the strengthening of bilateral ties would enhance peace and stability in the region.

V.N. Kaul



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Rs 35,000-cr foodgrain scam
Maya asks Centre for CBI probe
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, December 1
Chief Minister Mayawati today decided to hand over the mother of all scams, an approximately Rs 35,000 crore food grains scam, to the CBI. Reportedly perpetuated between March 2004 and October 2005, the bungling involves around 31 of the 70 districts and has global ramifications.

Briefing the Press, cabinet secretary Shashank Shekhar Singh said after conducting preliminary investigations into the scam the state’s newly set up Special Investigation Team (SIT) had recommended a CBI investigation as the swindling of food grain meant for the poorest of the poor was very extensive and multi-dimensional.

According to Shashank the confidential preliminary report submitted by the SIT to the government had unearthed a well-planned conspiracy involving highly placed officers of different departments of the state and Central governments.

Working in tandem, these people sold in the open market food grains meant for distribution under the Antyodaya Yojna, Annapurna Yojna, Mid-day-Meal scheme, BPL (below poverty line) ration cards and the Sampurna Gramin Rozgar Yojna in the national and international markets, thus revealing their prima facie involvement.

“Prima facie it has been established that the scam involves very senior officials and public servants not only of the state government but also of central agencies like the FCI”, he informed.

Till date the SIT investigation report had been confined to the districts of Sitapur and Lakhimpur Kheri. The Allahabad High Court is also investigating several petitions regarding the scam in some of the districts.

According to Shashank, preliminary facts from the SIT report establish that at least 31 districts were involved. The food meant for distribution to the poor either free of cost or at a highly subsidised rate was illegally diverted out of the state and in some cases, out of the country by forging documents.

Substantiating his point, he said in Sitapur district alone documents showed that 300 trucks of food grain was transported. But the SIT’s preliminary investigation showed that the registration number of trucks given in the documents were in fact of two-wheelers.

Extremely perturbed at this ghastly criminal activity of diverting the food grains meant for satisfying the hunger of the poor to foreign countries, the Chief Minister has written to the Central government demanding a CBI inquiry.

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Portugal to convince NSG members on N-deal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 1
Assuring to take up India’s case in the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Portugal said today that it was high time the international community accepted that New Delhi was prudent and had given enough guarantees of pursuing the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Prime Minister of Portugal Jose Socrates conveyed this to his host and Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh during wide-ranging discussions here and also extended his country’s support to India’s candidature for a permanent membership of an expanded United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

At a joint press conference, Socrates stressed that his country would do its utmost to convince others in the NSG to support India.

“We are convinced that India has given evidence of being prudent in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy,” he observed when asked if Portugal will use its influence to convince other NSG members to support India’s case for international nuclear commerce.

“It’s time that the world acknowledges that India has given enough guarantees,” he observed.

It assumes importance in the context of India firming up a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and secures changes in the guidelines to bring into operation the Indo-US civil nuclear deal.

On India’s bid for a seat in the UNSC, Socrates said: “It has to be realised that the world has changed and this requires to be reflected in the world body.”

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Dera Plea
HC refuses to intervene
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, December 1
With the police sticking to its stand on the withdrawal of permission to the Dera Sacha Sauda chief to hold a satsang in the Capital tomorrow due to security reasons, the Delhi High Court today refused to intervene in the matter.

This left followers of the dera with no option but to withdraw the petition after Justice Ravinder Bhat directed the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to refund the advance deposited with it as rent for its ground at Narela to the dera.

Police counsel told the court that the permission for holding the satsang was withdrawn after intelligence reports about security threat to the sect’s chief.

Dera counsel had sought a direction to the police to permit the sect to hold the satsang as it was not aimed at any one and would cause no administrative or traffic problems as the place was located on the outskirts of the Capital.

Counsel said when the dera chief had declared that the assembly would be a “peaceful” religious exercise, there was no reason for the police to apprehend trouble and let it continue. But after the court’s reluctance to entertain the petition on the face of the police stand of “security threat”, dera’s counsel opted to withdraw the petition, stating that the sect did not want to “enter into a controversy”.

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Catholic panel releases life-skills manual for youth
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 1
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) has brought out a life-skills manual for the youth. Sponsored by the Catholic Medical Mission Board of the CBCI, the manual is an inter-faith collaborative initiative.

The manual was released at a function organised by the CBCI at Jesus and Mary college here yesterday by Denis Brown, country representative UNAIDS India, on the eve of the World AIDS Day.

Dr John Tharakan of the CBCI health commission told TNS that the manual has been prepared by Partners in Development Initiative, a Delhi-based consultancy firm. In doing so, the firm has sourced training material from UNICEF, Art of Living Foundation, Arya Samaj and CBCI.

The manual has an initial print order of 20,000 and will be distributed through educational institutions run by Arya Samaj and the CBCI.

Dr Tharakan said the manual addresses a host of issues pertaining to the youth as identity, self-esteem, meeting goals, health and HIV.

He said that the manual was much needed as 33 per cent of the new cases of HIV/AIDS in India are in the age group of 15 to 29 years.

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‘Aaja Nachle' on in UP
Objectionable line removed
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, December 1
Madhuri Dixit may not have anticipated that her 'comeback' film ‘Aaja Nachle’ would hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

After abruptly removing it from all cinema halls and multiplexes late last night on the opening day, the state government finally agreed to resume its screening following a written unconditional apology by producer-director Yash Chopra.

In a letter to Chief Minister Mayawati, the head of the prestigious Yashraj films banner has given an assurance that the objectionable line has been removed from the title song.

The fast beat title song had a line, "Mohalle mein kaisi maramaar hai, kahe mochi bhi khud ko sunaar hai". This was found to be objectionable as, according to principal secretary home J.N. Chamber, it was caste-specific and unconstitutional.

However, there is still a rider. The cinema owners have been asked to submit a written affidavit to the district magistrates giving an undertaking that the objectionable line has been removed from the print being shown at their cinema hall.

The orders issued late on Friday night were not only to immediately stop the screening of the film but also to ban the sale of its audio/video cassettes in the market. The order said that film had hurt the sentiments of a large section of the Dalit population residing in the state and could lead to a law and order problem.

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Bhim Sen Sachar Lecture
Space for dissent vital: Aruna Roy
Charu Singh
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 1
"Today democratic space in India is shrinking," said social and political activist Aruna Roy while delivering the Bhim Sen Sachar Memorial Lecture here.

"It is the duty of the younger generation to struggle for this precious democratic space. The space for dissent is extremely important and currently these spaces within India are shrinking. The state is increasingly becoming more frightening than the British empire," said Aruna.

Roy further said, "What is democracy but speaking truth to power, and such was Bhim Sen Sachar's life. He was jailed for causes he believed in. He later rose to become Chief Minister, then Governor and High Commissioner, but returned to work in rural areas on simple Gandhian principles." Roy lamented that due to increasing standardisation, growing markets and a growing economy, the nation is increasingly beginning to look like a small town in the US or UK and the character of India is slowly disappearing.

"What I've learnt is that today, India's middle-class has become morally bankrupt. They could not care less, they do not want to see the sad images on the streets and choose to ignore poverty."

In rural India, this is not the case, you have to keep your doors open. It is a shame today that we have over 13 lakh women in the country who are scavengers.

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World AIDS Day
Tainted DM turns messiah for AIDS patients
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, December 1
On the occasion of world AIDS day Bihar got a new philanthropist to counsel HIV/AIDS patients in the state in the form of former Patna DM, Gautam Goswami.

Once selected among 20 Asian Heroes by TIME magazine, accusations of his involvement in the flood relief scam during 2004 caused his downfall. He was released on bail from jail recently and the case now lies with the vigilance court. He is presently serving with the headquarters under the Personnel and Administrative Reforms Department.

According to Goswami, he was inspired by the writings of nineteenth century social and religious reformer Swami Vivekanand and the Bhagawat Gita which he studied extensively in jail to take up this social mission. “God provided me this oportinity to serve the people”, he asserted.

Besides being an IAS, Goswami who is also a gold medalist in MD, decided to do this social service through his medical qualification. “I have plenty of time now as I am yet to get my posting. I think the best way to use it is by serving humanity” he told the media.

As a result Goswami, the physician, will now be at a vaccine house in Lok Nayak Jaiprakash Narayan Bhavan for two-hours, four days in a week, to consuel HIV/AIDS paitents. “We urgently need to address the problem of HIV/AIDS in Bihar”, Goswami explained.

While claiming that he would try to his best to counsel patients, his exclusive HIV/AIDS clinic would also make a data inventory while keeping the patient’s identity secure.

The importance of the initiative by Goswami could best be understood in the backdrop of some official findings on the status of HIV/AIDS in Bihar. Sources said despite huge amounts being spent by the government to contain the deadly disease, there has been an alarming rise in HIV/AIDS cases in the state during the past six years. “The situation is turning from bad to worse,” a source claimed.

The dreaded disease was apparently spreading to new areas like Banka,Lakhisarai,Madhepura and Rohtas where no such cases had been detected earlier.

10 districts of north Bihar, which had experienced a high number of planned and distressed migration in the last one decade, already have high prevalence of the disease.

According to the report, the number of cases of HIV+ patients in Bihar rose to 4,254 during 2006-07 against 2,786 in 2005-06. In 2001-02, only seven HIV/AIDS cases were detected in the state, while it went upto 348 in 2002-03, 812 in 2003-04 and 824 in 2004-05, the report showed.

Besides his alleged involvement in the flood relief scam, Goswami had also hit the headlines during the last Lok Sabha elections in 2004 when, as the Patna DM, he went on the dais at Gandhi Maidan and asked L.K.Advani to stop his speech as the deadline to use loudspeakers had expired.

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Prosecution: Hang Pravin Mahajan
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, December 1
The hearing on the Pramod Mahajan murder trial is coming to an end with arguments in the case drawing to a close.

The prosecution today pleaded that Pravin Mahajan, brother of the deceased and prime accused in the murder case, be given the death penalty for murdering the senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Special public prosecutor Nitin Pradhan today submitted that the presence of Pravin Mahajan at the residence of Pramod on that fateful day has been proved beyond the shadow of doubt. He also submitted that the bullets that claimed the life of Mahajan were fired from the revolver owned by Pravin.

However, Pravin had pleaded not guilty to the charges of gunning down his brother on April 22 last year.

Pravin had driven to the police station and surrendered shortly after the shooting.

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Jaya complains of tax notices on Ash-Abhi wedding

New Delhi, December 1
Rajya Sabha member Jaya Bachchan today alleged that the service tax authorities humiliated her family seeking details on expenses on wedding of her son Abhishek with Aishwarya earlier this year.

“I received notices from tax authorities who wanted to know how much amount was spent on beauty parlour and flower decoration on marriage of my son,” the Samajwadi Party member told the House.

During a debate on a bill seeking parliamentary approval for supplementary demands for grants, she complained in the name of service tax, people were being harassed over expenses incurred on marriages of their children.

The actress-cum-politician said since she was herself humiliated, she can empathise with others who may have faced harassment at the hands of tax authorities.

Several members including Janata Dal (United) chief Sharad Yadav and Brij Bhushan Tiwari (SP) supported Bachchan saying the government was following a “pick and choose” policy for ensuring tax compliance.

Yadav said while those doing small-time jobs like beauticians and hair dressers were asked information, this was not the case with big-time industrial houses like Ambanis and Vedantas.

“Questions like how much you spent on your gardener and hair stylist as pointed out by my party member is a case of harassment in the name of service tax which has not been clearly defined by government,” Tiwari said. — PTI

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40 hurt as 2 trains collide
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, December 1
Around 40 passengers were injured when a passenger train rammed into another at the Saharsa railway station in Bihar today. The injured passengers are said to have suffered minor injuries due to the impact of the collision.

The accident occurred when the Saharsa-Forbesganj passenger train slammed into the rear of the stationary Saharsa-Katihar passenger train, which was about to leave the platform No. three around 7 am.

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PM greets Musharraf on re-election
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 1
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has greeted Pervez Musharraf on his re-election as the President of Pakistan and affirmed India’s commitment to establishing good neighbourly relations with the country. He hoped the strengthening of bilateral ties would enhance peace and stability in the region.

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V.N. Kaul

New Delhi, December 1
Comptroller and auditor general of India V.N Kaul has been appointed member of the independent audit advisory committee, a newly established body of the UN. — TNS

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