SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Gujarat Poll
Thin crowds at Advani, Modi rallies rattle BJP
Ahmedabad, December 3
Nobody is giving up on Narendra Modi as yet, but the poor turnout at the rallies addressed by Lal Krishna Advani and the chief minister himself has left the BJP worried.

PM: Collective effort needed to preserve heritage
New Delhi, December 3
Expressing concern over man-made and natural onslaught over country’s priceless cultural properties, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said today that in recent years there was a renewed threat to heritage conservation from fundamentalists, extremists and terrorists.

Extension of MBBS Course
TN medicos defy govt order, intensify stir
Chennai, December 3
As many as 18 students of Coimbatore Medical College in Tamil Nadu today began indefinite fast to intensify their fortnight-long agitation against the proposed mandatory one-year rural service by the union health ministry.





EARLIER STORIES




President Pratibha Devi Singh gives national award for the ‘Empowerment of persons with disabilities 2007 for self employment’ at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi on Monday.
President Pratibha Devi Singh gives national award for the ‘Empowerment of persons with disabilities 2007 for self employment’ at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi on Monday. — Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal

Medicos resort to ‘Gandhigiri’
Mumbai, December 3
Opposing the Centre’s move to increase the duration of the MBBS course to six-and-a-half years, medical students today intensified their stir and resorted to ‘Gandhigiri’ way of protest.

Congress studying action against Bhajan, son
New Delhi, December 3
The Congress has taken a serious view of Haryana veteran leader Bhajan Lal and son Kuldeep Bishnoi’s open revolt against the party but it is in no hurry to proceed against the father-son duo.

JD (S) suffers first setback
Ex-minister G.T. Devegowda joins BJP
Bangalore, December 3
The Gowda family today saw its first man out of the Janata Dal (Secular) with a namesake and fellow Vokkaliga leader and minister G.T. Devegowda joining the BJP even as a major dissident group led by M.P. Prakash held a meeting with state Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) president B. Gopal.

Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta addresses the annual press conference in New Delhi on Monday.Admiral Gorshkov Deal
Naval chief rules out price renegotiation
New Delhi, December 3
The first opposition to the reworking of the Admiral Gorshkov deal with Russia has come from the very force, which has been waiting to get the delivery of the much-needed aircraft carrier.

Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta addresses the annual press conference in New Delhi on Monday. — Tribune photo by Manas Ranjan Bhui

RS to debate N-deal today
New Delhi, December 3
The Rajya Sabha will tomorrow discuss the Indo-US nuclear deal under a rule that does not entail voting.

India drifting away from Iran under US pressure: Yechury
New Delhi, December 3
The CPI(M) believes that there has been a shift in the country’s foreign policy vis-a-vis Iran in the wake of the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Back Malaysian Tamils: Rights group
Chennai, December 3
The Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) which is spearheading the movement of ethnic Indians in Malaysia wants India to openly assert its support for their struggle for basic rights and non-discriminatory treatment at the hands of the Malaysian government.

Don’t watch ICL, NCP cadres told
Dehra Dun, December 3
With the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo and union minister Sharad Pawar at the helm of the BCCI, how can a state affiliate of the party remain behind in trashing the Indian Cricket League (ICL) that got under way at Panchkula in neighbouring state of Haryana?

Mamata visits Nandigram
Kolkata, December 3
Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee visited Nandigram today to take stock of the situation along with Congress general secretary Jayanta Bhattacharyya.

Journalists demand interim relief
New Delhi, December 3
Journalists and non-journalists today marched towards Parliament demanding announcement of interim relief for them and threatened to launch agitation if it was not met.

Street rally for disabled children
Uluberia (Howrah), December 3
Writer Dominique Lapierre and his wife today led a street rally here of physically handicapped children to create awareness for the underprivileged to mark ‘World Disabled Day’.

Govt wants fair deal for Assam tribals: Patil
New Delhi, December 3
Despite an Opposition walkout in the Lok Sabha today, the government made it clear that that it wanted to give a fair deal to the tribal communities in Assam despite successive state governments making contradictory recommendations.

Adivasi blockade hits traffic
Guwahati, December 3
The 12-hour highway blockade called by the All-Adivasi Students Association of Assam (AASAA) affected traffic movement along the highways in the state even as the police arrested over 500 Adivasi protesters for trying to block traffic movements in different parts of the state.

UK visa centres to remain closed from Dec 7 to 11
New Delhi, December 3
The UK visa application centres, operated by VFS Global across India, will remain closed from December 7 to 11 (both days inclusive), the British High Commission announced here today.

Nitish wins kudos from Farooq Abdullah
Patna, December 3
Soon after the ruling NDA in Bihar completed two years in office on November 24, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar received kudos from the former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and National Conference president Farooq Abdullah.

CPP meeting on Dec 6
New Delhi, December 3
Congress president Sonia Gandhi is expected to dwell on the challenges ahead in the new year for the party during her address to the Congress parliamentary party (CPP) meeting to be held here on December 6.

Rahul comes in support of shoemakers
Lucknow, December 3
AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi today came out in support of three lakh shoemakers of Agra mainly belonging to the Dalit community.

Quick-fix alternative to reduce traffic jams
Pre-fabricated underpasses to be installed
Bangalore, December 3
Bangalore’s Mahanagar Palike has come up with a simple solution to the frequent traffic jams in the city. Construct pre-fabricated modular underpasses to ensure signal-free passage of vehicles of city roads.

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Gujarat Poll
Thin crowds at Advani, Modi rallies rattle BJP
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Ahmedabad, December 3
Nobody is giving up on Narendra Modi as yet, but the poor turnout at the rallies addressed by Lal Krishna Advani and the chief minister himself has left the BJP worried.

Modi's enemies in the Sangh Parivar are leaving no stone unturned to show him who is the power behind his throne.On Sunday when Modi landed at Ahwa, the district headquarters of the troubled Dangs district there were fewer than 2000 people at his meeting venue.

Dangs, known as Gujarat's tribal belt, has been in the news in recent times for the violent campaign by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad against Christian missionaries here. Churches have been vandalised for years now and neo-converts to Christianity have been terrorised as the Sangh Parivar used money and muscle to bring back the prodigals into its fold.

Adding to Modi's worries is a repeat of the Dangs performance in other areas of Gujarat as well.Reports from Surat say Modi's supporters haven't been able to garner more than 50,000 people at his rally on Sunday. "Whatever the BJP may claim, they haven't been able to mobilise people at their rallies," says a senior Congress leader.

Unfortunately for the BJP, even its national star L. K Advani did not fare better than Modi.

Less than 2000 people showed up at Advani's meetings at Pardi in Valsad district on Saturday, according to reports. Worse still,the BJP's prime ministerial hopeful is losing his hold on party workers as well. According to observers here, Advani's meeting for party workers at Paldi, in Ahmedabad's central area did not attract more than 600 workers on Saturday. Local media outlets carried interviews of the people who said they were brought in from nearby slums for Advani's meeting.

Even the BJP's central office in Ahmedabad wears a forlorn look with stalls selling party paraphernalia going empty. Only when party president Rajnath Singh addressed the media did a decent number of party workers show up.

However BJP's leaders are putting up a brave front."All our activists are out in the field campaigning for different candidates," says an office- bearer manning the BJP's media cell.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad which claims more supporters than the BJP is said to be sulking though the outfit's boss Ashok Singhal expressed support for the party. Praveen Togadia,the acerbic Hindutva leader who was once the biggest supporter of Modi, has fallen out with the

Chief Minister since the last assembly poll. "People are fed up of the BJP and Narendra Modi and are looking for other options," says Gordhan Zadophia, former associate of the Modi and a rebel candidate in the current elections.

On the other hand, the Congress is celebrating at record crowds turning up at Sonia Gandhi's election rallies, just 50 km from where Modi's rally took place. The party chief who kicked up a storm after calling the ruling dispensation merchants of death drew nearly 1 lakh people, according to local journalists.

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PM: Collective effort needed to preserve heritage
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 3
Expressing concern over man-made and natural onslaught over country’s priceless cultural properties, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said today that in recent years there was a renewed threat to heritage conservation from fundamentalists, extremists and terrorists.

Inaugurating the 12th International Conference of National Trusts here, the Prime Minister said fundamentalism in attitudes and beliefs often targetted mankind’s heritage structures and sites, leading to their destruction.

“The destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha in Afghanistan is only one stark example of such threats to heritage preservation,” he added.

Stressing upon the need to preserve, protect and promote the cultural heritage of the country, Manmohan Singh said: “We can’t be satisfied with status quo as we have not always succeeded in doing what we ought to do. Our cultural properties have been exposed to various threats, natural and man-made, over the centuries. Conquerors, explorers, colonisers, vandals and thieves have added their bit to the vagaries of nature and the passage of time.”

In his inaugural remarks, the Prime Minister complimented INTACH and its chairman S.K. Misra for “all good work done so far”.

“It must make itself meaningful to society in a manner that engenders community participation on large scale. To be effective, conservation efforts need to be coordinated with a comprehensive planning policy through the preparation of local area plans and participation of the local community,” he stressed.

On the opening day of conference, Vice-President Hamid Ansari formally launched the International National Trusts Organisation.

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Extension of MBBS Course
TN medicos defy govt order, intensify stir
Arup Chanda
Tribune News Service

Chennai, December 3
As many as 18 students of Coimbatore Medical College in Tamil Nadu today began indefinite fast to intensify their fortnight-long agitation against the proposed mandatory one-year rural service by the union health ministry.

Despite the Tamil Nadu government’s threat to temporarily close down all medical colleges and hostels and a personal appeal by Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, medicos are in no mood to relent and made it clear that more students and junior doctors will join the fast. Among the 18 students, six are women.

The medical students and house surgeons have been protesting against the health ministry’s proposal as it will extend their five-and-a-half-year MBBS course by an additional year. They have been on a relay hunger strike for the past 16 days.

A leader of the medicos body said, “This is only the first phase of our agitation and if the union health ministry remains adamant, we will further intensify our agitation.”

He pointed out that students and junior doctors in other states like Maharashtra and Rajasthan had also begun their agitation and doctors from more states will also join in soon. He said the state government had closed down hostels and many students were out on the road. However, local students and doctors were providing accommodation to their friends and funds were being raised for their food.

The agitating medicos received a shot in the arm as the Tamil Nadu Government Doctors Association (TNGDA) extended its support to them and directed its members to wear black badges to express solidarity with their cause. Karunanidhi, who himself is opposed to the union health ministry’s proposal, today again appealed to the students and said, “They (the medical students) are wasting their time as the expert committee is yet to submit its report on the issue.

“When students of other states have not launched agitation on the issue, I appeal to students of Tamil Nadu to think it over whether they should continue their stir at this stage,” he said.

Karunanidhi has written to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh against the mandatory rural service and the union health ministry has appointed a committee headed by Dr Sambasiva Rao.

He said the committee, which would obtain the opinion of various experts and stakeholders, had not submitted its report and no Bill had been introduced in Parliament, so there was no need for any agitation at this moment.

The chief of the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) observed that the “confusion” might have been created because of union health minister Ramadoss (who incidentally belongs to his ally the PMK)favouring the mandatory rural service before the experts committee’s report, the students should accept the health minister’s assurance that the final decision would be taken only after that.

He observed that instead of serving the mandatory one-year rural posting, students were ready to serve it after they were given their MBBS degrees, while the union health ministry wanted them to do rural service before they were awarded their degrees.

However, the agitating medicos said they were not ready to call off their hunger strike unless the proposal was dropped on principle and were ready for talks with the union health minister.

They said when Dr Ramadoss had announced the one-year mandatory rural service before granting the MBBS degree, 10,000 medical students in Tamil Nadu started the agitation and now students and house surgeons in at least 10 other states were also beginning their protests.

ESMA invoked in Delhi

Delhi government invoked ESMA in five hospitals to prevent doctors and staff from going on strike from tomorrow. — PTI

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Medicos resort to ‘Gandhigiri’

Mumbai, December 3
Opposing the Centre’s move to increase the duration of the MBBS course to six-and-a-half years, medical students today intensified their stir and resorted to ‘Gandhigiri’ way of protest.

“Get well soon” — read a message placed before union health minister Anbumani Ramadoss” picture, at the city’s KEM Hospital and medical students were seen offering flowers in a scene straight out of the popular movie “Lage Raho Munnabhai”.

Interns and medical students from across Maharashtra today joined their protesting counterparts at the KEM Hospital to pursue the Centre not to go ahead with a legislation that increases the duration of the MBBS course to six-and-a-half years from the present five-and-a-half-year term.

“We plan to intensify the strike with protests till the Central government gives us an assurance that the Bill will not be presented,” Aniruddha Patil, the spokesperson of the Maharashtra Medical Students Association said. — PTI

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Congress studying action against Bhajan, son
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 3
The Congress has taken a serious view of Haryana veteran leader Bhajan Lal and son Kuldeep Bishnoi’s open revolt against the party but it is in no hurry to proceed against the father-son duo.

The party is, however, studying legal options to see if Bhajan Lal and Bishnoi can be disqualified from the Assembly and Parliament, respectively, since the two have floated a new political party. The two will retain their seats if the Congress exercises the option of expelling them.

Stating that the party does not believe in taking knee-jerk decisions, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said today that the matter would be referred to the party’s disciplinary action committee, headed by senior leader A.K. Antony, which will proceed on the basis of a report from the state unit.

AICC sources said though there was strong case for their disqualification, the party would also look at the political ramifications before it took any decision. There is no doubt that the Congress is perturbed over the crowds that Bhajan Lal and Bishnoi were able to mobilise for their public rally.

It believes former Chief Minister Bhajan Lal still enjoys considerable public support and has the capacity to create problems for the Hooda government but he may not be able to do so because of his indifferent health. Bishnoi, on the other hand, may not be able to sustain this campaign, it is felt.

The Congress is also encouraged by Bishnoi’s declaration that he will only resign from the Lok Sabha after six months which, senior leaders pointed out, indicates that he does not have the confidence to win his seat again.

Bishnoi, a Lok Sabha MP, was suspended by the party when he first attacked the party leadership publicly. The Congress did not expel him as such a move would have helped the dissident MP retain his Lok Sabha seat. Although Bishnoi has been working in tandem with his father, the party had deliberately decided not to initiate action against the senior leader as such a move could have whipped up public sympathy in his favour.

There is a qualitative change in the situation now that the two have floated a separate political party and have launched a personal attack against Congress president Sonia Gandhi. The party can hardly afford to overlook the father-son’s diatribe but, at the same time, it does not want to rush into taking a decision, which could end up helping Bhajan Lal and Bishnoi.

Indicating as much, Singhvi today took strong exception to their “false and insulting comments and reminded Bhajal Lal and Bishnoi that all those who revolted against their parties ending up falling by the wayside”. Though visibly shaken Haryana Congress leaders put up a brave face, saying this movement would die down in due course of time. 

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JD (S) suffers first setback
Ex-minister G.T. Devegowda joins BJP
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, December 3
The Gowda family today saw its first man out of the Janata Dal (Secular) with a namesake and fellow Vokkaliga leader and minister G.T. Devegowda joining the BJP even as a major dissident group led by M.P. Prakash held a meeting with state Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) president B. Gopal.

G.T. Devegowda, who had announced his resignation from the party earlier, held a meeting of his supporters at his residence in Mysore today and announced that BJP leader and former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa had called him up last night and invited him to join the saffron party.

He claimed that Yeddyurappa had promised him control of the district unit of the party besides freedom to choose candidates for the Assembly elections.

The JD (S) suffered another jolt in Mysore with its city unit president T. Devaraju also aligning with G.T. Devegowda. Besides Devaraju, senior former Mysore Urban Development Authority chairman C. Basevagowda and city Cooperative Bank president Krishnamadegowda have also thrown in their lot with G.T. Devegowda. Few JD (S) corporators also attended the meeting and decided to join the BJP en masse.

G.T. Devegowda said he was “harassed and humiliated” as a minister as all power in the JD (S) lay in the hands of Deve Gowda and his sons H.D. Kumaraswamy and H.D. Revanna. He said he once had to “beg” Kumaraswamy to transfer a junior officer under his ministry out of the city. He said other ministers serving under Kumaraswamy also received the same treatment.

The BJP dispatched former ministers R. Ashok and Katta Subramanya Naidu to talk with the rebels and invite them to the BJP. Both leaders said the entry of G.T. Devegowda to the saffron party was a welcome move and an indication that the rank and file of the JD (S) was set to desert it in the Old Mysore region.

The BJP has also decided to get in touch with Lingayat leaders in the M.P. Prakash group of the JD (S) to convince them to join the saffron party. The dissident leaders belong to Mysore, Mandya and Hassan districts, all strongholds of the Gowda family and an area in which the BJP had a small foothold only till now.

Meanwhile, B. Gopal met Prakash to convince him to switch sides to the Dalit party. According to sources, Prakash and other former legislators aligned with him held detailed discussions about the BSP’s plan for South India and their exact role in a party, which is said to “appoint” leaders at the whim of party president Mayawati.

Though the Prakash group is considering joining the BSP, it is also keeping its options open to join the Janata Dal (United). The group does not want to branch out into its own by forming a new outfit as it feels that there is no political space for the same with various outfits, including the Samajwadi Party under former Chief Minister S. Bangarappa already active in the state.

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Admiral Gorshkov Deal
Naval chief rules out price renegotiation
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 3
The first opposition to the reworking of the Admiral Gorshkov deal with Russia has come from the very force, which has been waiting to get the delivery of the much-needed aircraft carrier.

The Navy today asserted that there was no need to renegotiate the deal with Russia, which has been demanding more money from India for the refitment of the aircraft carrier.

Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta also said in the light of the demand made by Russia, there was a need to even ponder “where our defence relations are going with Moscow”.

“We have paid more than $400 million for the carrier and we own it now,” he added.

“I have told the government that the Navy’s line is that we should not talk on renegotiating the price of the carrier,” the Chief of Naval Staff said here while addressing the media ahead of Navy Day.

The Navy said the additional $1.2 billion Moscow had demanded violates the terms of the contract. The comments of the Naval Chief just days ahead of the arrival of a high-level Russian team assume significance and also possibly reflect the Indian mindset over the issue.

“The government should not get into price re-negotiations. If today they reopen the negotiations for Gorshkov, tomorrow all other projects will be reopened,” Admiral Mehta said. At the same time, he admitted there would be “complicated negotiations” on the Russian demand and on issues like the penalty clause that has been built into the contract in case delivery of the carrier is delayed. He added categorically that there would be no opting out of the deal for India. The ship, re-christened INS Vikramaditya, was originally to have been delivered in early 2008. This has now been pushed back to around 2010-11.

“There will be a lot of additions and subtractions and in the end, I personally don’t think we will be paying very much more, if at all anything extra.” Admiral Mehta agreed when asked whether the Gorshkov episode pointed to the need for India to reduce its dependence on Russia for military hardware.

“There was a different paradigm when we did business with the (erstwhile) Soviet Union. They were the sellers and we were the buyers. After the Soviet Union collapsed, the paradigm changed and both our nations have accepted this”, he said.

“Today, there is a conscious feeling emerging that we should not put all our eggs in one basket,” the Navy chief maintained. After protracted negotiations, India signed a deal with Russia on January 20, 2004, to buy the Gorshkov, along with 12 single-seat MiG-29 fighters and four twin-seat MiG-29 trainers. Of the contracted amount, approximately $800 million was to be spent on upgrading and refitting the ship and $700 million on the 16 MiG-29 jets and six Kamov Ka-31 attack and reconnaissance anti-submarine helicopters.

Defence minister A.K. Antony had also raised the issue during his recent visit to Moscow, both at his meeting with his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov and at the seventh meeting of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC) that the two ministers co-chaired. 

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RS to debate N-deal today
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 3
The Rajya Sabha will tomorrow discuss the Indo-US nuclear deal under a rule that does not entail voting.

The Lok Sabha debated the deal on November 28 with the BJP staging a walkout at the end of day-long discussion, protesting against the government refusal to have Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reply to the debate.

Parliamentary affairs minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi today indicated that external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee would reply to the debate in the Upper House and the Prime Minister is expected to intervene.

Top leaders from the BJP, Left and the Samajwadi Party are expected to take part in the debate. With Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Verma seen to be soft on the deal during his speech in the Lok Sabha, the party is expected to put the record straight in the Rajya Sabha and oppose the deal firmly. Both the Left and the BJP have specific objections to the deal.

While the BJP wants the deal to be renegotiated for its possible impact on testing of nuclear weapons, the Left sees it as having an impact on country’s foreign policy. Left leaders say the deal does not fulfil all assurances given by the Prime Minister to Parliament. It has raised questions on issues concerning reciprocity, complete civilian cooperation and uninterrupted fuel supply.

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India drifting away from Iran under US pressure: Yechury
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 3
The CPI(M) believes that there has been a shift in the country’s foreign policy vis-a-vis Iran in the wake of the Indo-US nuclear deal.

“The recent developments have reconfirmed our fears that the USA wants to convert India into its subordinate ally in South Asia even before the nuclear deal has been signed,” CPI(M) polit buro member Sitaram Yechury told mediapersons here today.

Terming it as a “very ominous development” Yechury drew pointed attention to India not taking part in the scheduled tri-lateral meeting with Pakistan and Iran to discuss the India-Iran-Pakistan pipeline project.

The CPI(M) leader stressed that India is clearly succumbing to US pressure and said not going for the gas pipeline or delaying it is not in India’s interest. “The nuclear deal was projected to augment the country’s energy security. But the gas pipeline or delaying it is not in India’s interest,” he observed.

Yechury said the State Bank of India had suddenly prohibited extending their line of credit to Iranian firms which he alleged was aimed at stopping Indian exports to that country. Noting that the USA had imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran, Yechury said India has no need to comply with it.

He claimed that not only was the US pressurising India to shift its foreign policy but Indian entities were also being asked not to have any economic ties with Iran.

Yechury’s insistence about a shift in India’s foreign policy vis-a-vis Iran assumes importance and comes barely 24 hours before the discussion on the Indo-US nuclear deal in the Rajya Sabha tomorrow. “The deal was a lot more than only civil nuclear cooperation....it has a larger agenda - to convert India as a subordinate ally of the US in South Asia.”

The CPI(M) leader made it clear that the Left parties had allowed the government to go ahead with the negotiations on the India-specific safeguards with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to carry forward the 123 agreement. But the Left has asked the government to come back to the UPA-Left nuclear committee for its green signal before initialising the safeguards agreement.

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Back Malaysian Tamils: Rights group
Arup Chanda
Tribune News Service

Chennai, December 3
The Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) which is spearheading the movement of ethnic Indians in Malaysia wants India to openly assert its support for their struggle for basic rights and non-discriminatory treatment at the hands of the Malaysian government.

Hindraf chairman P. Wahthamoorthy said here: “The Indian Prime Minister should issue a statement insisting that Malaysia should stop the marginalisation and oppression of the ethnic minority Indians and also take up their cause at the international level.”

He rejected as “inadmissible in international law and unacceptable in the civilised world” the claim by Malaysia’s foreign minister Syed Hamid Albar that India should not interfere in the matters relating to Malaysian Indians.

Hindraf had organised the rally with pictures of Mahatma Gandhi in Kuala Lumpur on November 25 which was dispersed by the Malaysian police using tear gas and water cannons. They were demanding equal rights for ethnic Indians, mostly Tamils, constituting about 8 per cent of Malaysia's population.

Welcoming the statements made by Indian leaders condemning the police crackdown on the peaceful rally and supporting the campaign in the interests of people of Indian origin in Malysia, he said, “For a long time, we have been wondering why Indians were silent about the plight of their brethren in Malaysia. It is a good thing that it is now being raised even in the Indian Parliament .”

He said the Malay-Muslim dominated government wanted to totally marginalise the ethnic Indians and added, “They want to destroy our culture. This is their silent agenda.”

Wahthamoorthy explained that Tamils were extremely angry with the Malaysian government as Hindu places of worship were being demolished and the number of Tamils schools was being closed down.

He pointed out that at the time of Independence of Malaysia in 1957, there were 888 Tamil schools for a population of 6,00,000 but during the last 50 years the Tamil population had gone up by 20 lakh but the number of Tamil schools had come down to a little over 500 as they were being denied state support.

The organisation‘s key demands are immediate stoppage of demolition of Hindu temples and issuance of land titles to all temples that existed before Independence. The Tamils had built temples for Hindu gods and their traditional family deities when they were taken as migrant labourers by the British to clear the thick jungles of Malaya.

Wahthamoorthy said that but after Independence when the government had acquired these lands, it declared these temples illegal and started demolishing them.

He said that in the fields of business and economic matters too, people of Indian origin were being discriminated against by being denied licences or permits for starting businesses and not being awarded tenders for public works.

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Don’t watch ICL, NCP cadres told
Raju William
Tribune News Service

Dehra Dun, December 3
With the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo and union minister Sharad Pawar at the helm of the BCCI, how can a state affiliate of the party remain behind in trashing the Indian Cricket League (ICL) that got under way at Panchkula in neighbouring state of Haryana?

In what can be termed as a classic case of mixing politics and sports, the Uttarakhand unit of the NCP has asked its cadre,especially the youth, to abstain from watching the ICL matches as a mark of political loyalty to their party president. And quick compliance of the diktat followed.

For Uttarakhand NCP chief and a diehard cricket fan Suryakant Dhasmana, toeing the line of his party boss even beyond political domain is more important. "We cannot go against our leader," he said justifying his state unit's stand.

Picking holes in the ICL, he sought to 'de-recognise' it referring to the unaffected spectators' response to the ongoing India-Pakistan series, the failure of similar Kerry Packer experiment, timing of the ICL matches and its 'outdated' international cricketers.

Since this 'de-recognition’ has come from the top, the cadre followed it up with unmistakable hurry. Groups of friends within the party fold have dropped their plans to enjoy the new version of the game from the stands.

"We had actually planned to watch these matches from the middle of the competition. But not now," said Arun Balmiki, state president of the party's youth wing.

To complete the show of loyalty, state vice-president V.P.S. Rawat is exhorting his party colleagues to banish ICL cricket from television sets in their homes.

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Mamata visits Nandigram
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, December 3
Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee visited Nandigram today to take stock of the situation along with Congress general secretary Jayanta Bhattacharyya.

This was Mamata’s first public meeting at Nandigram after March 14 incident. Earlier, she wanted to visit Nandigram several times but could not do so following resistance from the CPM and the police.

Meanwhile, Mamata announced that both the TMC and the Congress would soon jointly declare the formation of an anti-CPM front and chalk out a detailed programme for fighting against the Left party.

Though Mamata and a large section of the WBPCC leaders and workers agreed to form the front with the TMC and other secular parties, their party leader in the Assembly, Manash Bhuiya, lashed out at the decision of joining hands with the TMC till it was a partner of the NDA.

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Journalists demand interim relief

New Delhi, December 3
Journalists and non-journalists today marched towards Parliament demanding announcement of interim relief for them and threatened to launch agitation if it was not met.

Carrying posters and banners, marchers from ten states, under the aegis of Confederation of Newspapers and News Agencies Employees’ Organisations, were stopped by the police near Rail Bhawan from proceeding towards Parliament.

Addressing the gathering, confederation general secretary M. S. Yadav said though a wage board had been set-up, the labour minister has adopted a “casual” attitude on the question of interim relief.

“If our demand for interim relief is not met, we will launch a massive country-wide campaign and stage indefinite protests outside the labour ministry and also outside the offices of state Chief Ministers”, he said. — PTI

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Street rally for disabled children

Uluberia (Howrah), December 3
Writer Dominique Lapierre and his wife today led a street rally here of physically handicapped children to create awareness for the underprivileged to mark ‘World Disabled Day’.

The author of ‘City of Joy’ trekked some two km on the busy Kolkata-Mumbai highway before reaching the site of a disabled centre named after him. He laid the foundation stone for construction of the home for disabled children.

For more than a decade, the celebrated French writer has been financing some NGOs in Bengal and elsewhere, particularly for lepers, TB patients, the disabled and destitute. Over 21.9 million (Census 2001) persons in India are disabled.

Later, addressing newsperons, Lapierre, who recently penned ‘Once Upon a Time in Soviet Union’, said he was keen to support another NGO to ensure basic health to the people of remote South 24 Parganas district. — UNI

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Govt wants fair deal for Assam tribals: Patil
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 3
Despite an Opposition walkout in the Lok Sabha today, the government made it clear that that it wanted to give a fair deal to the tribal communities in Assam despite successive state governments making contradictory recommendations.

Replying to a calling attention motion on the recent mob violence in Guwahati during a march by protesting tribals, union home minister Shivraj Patil accused the opposition of taking a political stand on the issue instead of “sharing their wisdom to solve the problems in the Northeastern state.”

Almost all MPs from different parties demanded that the tribal communities be given Scheduled Tribe status.

Patil said there were several organisations opposing the All-Adivasi Students Association of Assam (AASAA) demand for ST status. “We need to take a balanced stand and I want all of you to advise the central government on this.”

Even as the BJP-led opposition demanded a CBI inquiry into the violence, the home minister said the state government had not sought it. He said the CBI was already burdened and the probe would be delayed further. What happened in Assam is condemnable, Patil said and added that the situation was under control.

Justice Manisena heads probe panel

Justice R.K. Manisena Singh has been appointed to probe the November 24 violence in Guwahati in which two people were killed and 242 wounded during clashes following a procession by the All-Adivasi Student Association of Assam.

Replying to a calling attention on the issue in the Lok Sabha today, home minister Shivraj Patil said R.K. Manisena Singh would conduct the probe under the Commission of Inquiries Act. — UNI

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Adivasi blockade hits traffic
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, December 3
The 12-hour highway blockade called by the All-Adivasi Students Association of Assam (AASAA) affected traffic movement along the highways in the state even as the police arrested over 500 Adivasi protesters for trying to block traffic movements in different parts of the state.

The police , however, claimed that the road blockade which began at 6 a.m today passed off peacefully in view of strict vigil enforced by the administration apprehending trouble during the period.The AASAA called for the blockade to press for their demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status in the state. The blockade was supported by another influential Adivasi students association, the Assam Tea Tribes Students Association (ATTSA).

Hundreds of Adivasis came out on the road to block the road in different parts of the state especially in the eastern Assam tea belt areas in districts of Jorhat, Sivasagar, Dibrugarh and Tinsukia and Adivasi-dominated western and northern Assam areas.

'We picked up about 300 Adivasi picketers as a preventive measure in Golaghat, Sivasagar and Dibrugarh districs. There was no incidents of violence during the blockade period’, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Eastern range, L.R. Bishnoi said. Vehicles in eastern Assam areas were provided police escort during the blocakde period. 

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UK visa centres to remain closed from Dec 7 to 11
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 3
The UK visa application centres, operated by VFS Global across India, will remain closed from December 7 to 11 (both days inclusive), the British High Commission announced here today.

On December 7 and 10, the centres will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for passport collection only.

The visa sections at the British High Commission in New Delhi and Deputy High Commissions in Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai will be closed from December 7 to 11 (both days inclusive).

The closures are to allow for further technical upgrades and staff training in preparation for the introduction of biometric data collection as part of the UK visa application process in India.

On December 12, all offices will re-open for the submission of visa applications. From this date, applicants for a UK visa will be required to visit a Visa Application Centre, operated by UKvisas' commercial partner, VFS Global. Here, trained staff will take finger scans and a digital photograph as part of the visa application process.

The British High Commission pointed out that biometric data collection process is quick and simple, taking less than 5 minutes. There is no additional charge to applicants.

From December 12, visa applications will take longer to process than at present. The High Commission hopes to be able to reduce processing times over the coming months.

The introduction of biometrics to India allows UKvisas to reintroduce longer-term visas to the UK.

Since it will be necessary to provide biometric data each time an application is made for a UK visa, the High Commission would encourage regular travellers to the UK to consider the convenience of applying for longer-term visa.

The UK Visa Application Centres are in 12 locations across India: Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Chennai, Cochin, Delhi, Hyderabad, Jalandhar, Kolkata, Mumbai (north and south) and Pune.

The collection of biometric data is part of a long-standing UK government strategy. This process has already been introduced successfully in approximately 130 countries worldwide. 

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Nitish wins kudos from Farooq Abdullah
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, December 3
Soon after the ruling NDA in Bihar completed two years in office on November 24, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar received kudos from the former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and National Conference president Farooq Abdullah.

“I am pleased at the way things are changing in Bihar,” Farooq told mediapersons here.

Known for his love for golf, Farooq was in the city as a member of the Jammu and Kashmir golf team to participate in the Ashoka Pataliputta Inter-State Golf tournament that commenced here yesterday evening. After the tournament he called on Nitish at the latter’s official residence at 1 Aney Marg to discuss various issues, including the promotion of tourism in Bihar.

Admitting that there had finally been a good beginning, Farooq hoped that Bihar would develop further under the leadership of Nitish Kumar. “There have been no reports of major law and order problem in the state in recent times,” Farooq remarked before leaving Patna.

When the mediapersons repeatedly asked whether things had really changed, Farooq replied, “Nahi hua to ho jayega. Nahi to toofan aayega aur bodlao karega”(Change will take place or else storm of change will come).

During his meeting with Nitish Kumar that lasted for more than half-an-hour, Farooq reportedly advised the Bihar Chief Minister to tap the state’s agricultural potential more to facilitate agrilculture-based-industries. Besides, he also stressed the need to focus on the rich tourism potential of the state for the growth of its economy.

He also advised the Chief Minister to develop golf courses in the state on a priority basis to attract more tourists from South East Asia. “The Buddhist circuit of Rajgir-Nalanda-Bodhgaya was already popular in South East countries,” he added.

Farooq, however, did not miss the opportunity to point out to Nitish about the failure of the Bihar Tourism Department to highlight the historic Patna Golf Club in its brochure.

According to sources Nitish explained to Farooq about the steps already taken by his government to promote “religious tourism” in Buddhist, Jain and Ramayana circuits in the state with a major focus on infrastructural developments in the said areas.

Nitish also spoke at length about the proposed upcoming Nalanda International University with participation by the Asian countries like Japan.

Besides, Nitish reportedly revealed the proposed plan under an Indo-Chinese Friendship Project to undertake excavation work at the site of Nalanda University, the pet project of the former President, A.P.J Abdul Kalam.The Archaeological Survey of India will begin this work in February next.

Meanwhile, Nitish today inaugurated the yearly Rajgir Mahotsav where he reiterated his government’s commitment to promote both national and international tourism in a big way by linking it to employment generation and related growth of the state’s economy.

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CPP meeting on Dec 6

New Delhi, December 3
Congress president Sonia Gandhi is expected to dwell on the challenges ahead in the new year for the party during her address to the Congress parliamentary party (CPP) meeting to be held here on December 6.

Gandhi, who is also CPP chairperson, is likely to touch upon the Assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh at the meeting, which comes barely a few days ahead of the polls.

She has been strident in her attack on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the run-up to the Assembly elections, calling him a “merchant of death”.

It will be the last address of Gandhi to the general body of the CPP during the current year and the first in the winter session as she did not hold such a meeting at the start of the brief session. — PTI

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Rahul comes in support of shoemakers
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, December 3
AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi today came out in support of three lakh shoemakers of Agra mainly belonging to the Dalit community.

In a letter to Chief Minister Mayawati, Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi warned that the state government’s proposal to impose VAT on moulded plastic footwear and hand-made shoes would sound the “deathknell” of the shoe industry in Agra.

He has urged her to “take an appropriate decision” so that Agra’s shoe industry could be saved from being pushed to the “brink of destruction”.

The BSP government has recently sent a proposal to the Centre to impose four per cent VAT on the moulded plastic footwear and 12.5 per cent on hand-made shoes.

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Quick-fix alternative to reduce traffic jams
Pre-fabricated underpasses to be installed
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, December 3
Bangalore’s Mahanagar Palike has come up with a simple solution to the frequent traffic jams in the city. Construct pre-fabricated modular underpasses to ensure signal-free passage of vehicles of city roads.

The simple technology has come about after realisation that the international airport coming up on the outskirts of the city will be ready by March end, but there is only one road leading to it, which too is beset with problems due to frequent intersections.

Though the government has planned an expressway from the ring road to the new airport and also a dedicated rail connection, both projects will take three to four years to fructify. The Bangalore international airport authority (BIAL) has been demanding short-term infrastructure projects be taken up to solve an impending crisis in commuting to the airport.

A high-level task force set up by the government to suggest ways and means to improve connectivity with the airport has come up with the idea of pre-fabricated underpasses, which are easy to install.

The Mahanagar Palike has completed a pilot project in this regard, which has been showcased to members of the task force that includes industry representatives. It claimed that the pilot project took eight days to be completed and that the time line could be further reduced.

Under the new technology, which has been used abroad, pre-cast structures will be lowered into an excavated site in two days time. The embankments of the structure will also be strengthened with the pre-cast concrete paneling after which earth will be filled in on top of the box and ramps will also come up.

Since it is under pressure to streamline traffic on NH - 7 which leads to the airport, the palike has decided to construct five underpasses on the stretch leading from the inner business district to the Hebbal flyover. Work on the project will start from December 15 and is expected to be finished by January end.

Palike commissioner S Subramanyam said the cost of each underpass would be about Rs 2 crore. He said the underpasses, which were being built on line with the Malaysian technology, would have a load bearing capacity of up to 120 tonne. He said the underpasses would be 15-metre wide and would allow two buses to pass simultaneously without any problem.

The new project is one of the quick fix alternatives taken by the palike under the guidance of the task force with the other projects, including construction of flyovers, taking too long and resulting in traffic jams during construction. Under the new technology there will be only a minimum disturbance for a few days to facilitate excavation.

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