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 Votes
Campaigning ends amid violence

Surat, December 9
Campaigning for the first phase of the elections to the Gujarat assembly came to an end this evening amidst incidents of violence in many parts of the state. Polling will be held at 87 constituencies in south Gujarat, Kutch and Saurashtra on Tuesday. The rest of the 182 seats in the state assembly will go to the polls in December 16.
BJP workers wear the mask of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi during an election campaign in Ahmedabad BJP workers wear the mask of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi during an election campaign in Ahmedabad on Sunday.
— PTI photo

Religious leaders calling the shots
Amreli (Kutch), December 9
Regardless of which political party wins the Assembly elections due on December 11 and 16, the real beneficiaries from this electoral exercise would be the state’s powerful sadhus who are playing a major role in Gujarat politics.



EARLIER STORIES


Modi govt based on falsehood: Rahul
Surat, December 9
Making a brave attempt to take on the BJP in its stronghold, Surat city, Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi today called Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s government as one based on falsehood and which dished out tall claims to the people of Gujarat.

AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi at an election rally in Surat on Sunday. — PTI photo

AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi at an election rally in Surat

Cong workers pull out all stops for Sonia’s birthday
New Delhi, December 9
Congress president and UPA chairperson’s 62nd birthday at her 10, Janpath, residence in the heart of the National Capital was memorable in ways more than one. Among the first to greet Sonia Gandhi was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who visited her house at 9.30 am.


Sonia Gandhi shakes hand with party workers on her 62nd birthday at her residence in New Delhi on Sunday. — Tribune photo by Manas Ranjan Bhui
Sonia Gandhi shakes hand with party workers on her 62nd birthday at her residence in New Delhi

Waive off farmers’ old debt, panel to Sonia
New Delhi, December 9
Vanarai Foundation, which works for the welfare of the farming community, has made a 16-point suggestion to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, including waiver of old debts and bringing down the farm loan rate to 4 per cent as recommended by M. S Swaminathan Committee.

BJP files complaint against PM for ad on minorities
Ahmedabad, December 9
The BJP has filed a complaint with the Election Commission against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and others following an advertisement issued by the ministry of minority affairs, alleging that “this (the ad) is an attempt to woo voters of a particular community and violation of model code of conduct”.

Gandhigiri, TDP style
Hyderabad, December 9
Now, it is the turn of political parties to resort to ‘Gandhigiri’. The main opposition Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh has come up with a novel idea to highlight the plight of students in social welfare hostels across the state.

ST Status
Adivasis call for economic blockade in 4 states
Patna, December 9
The Joint Adivasi Action Committee, an umbrella body of tribal people based in Jharkhand, has called for an indefinite economic blockade in four states from December 17 to press for their demand for ST status to immigrant tribal people who had settled in Assam. The states include Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal and Orissa.

Priyanka interview exonerates police
Blames Rahman’s death on his family
Kolkata, December 9
Kishwar Jahan, the bereaved mother of Rizwanur Rahman, has expressed sorrow and surprise that their daughter-in-law, Priyanka Todi, was now blaming the Rahman family for the death of her son. Still she would not curse her, instead she would pray to Allah for her good and long life.

Nandigram
Eyewitnesses give their account to CBI
Nandigram, December 9
A group of people today approached the CBI team camping here offering to give eyewitness accounts of the March 14 police firing in Nandigram which the agency is investigating following a Calcutta High Court directive.

Participate in drive against HIV, Kurien calls MPs
New Delhi, December 9
Rajya Sabha MP and chairman of the Indian Association of Parliamentarians on Population and Development Prof P.J. Kurien has called upon the members of Parliament and legislators from northeast to take active part in the awareness campaign on population and development issues and infrastructure development, especially in northeastern states.

Religion comes in way of HIV+ lovers
Patna, December 9
For HIV+ Prem and Tarannum, the deadly disease has failed to resist them from dreaming a new beginning of life. But along with the disease, they also have to fight an orthodox society as Prem, hailing from Samastipur, is a Hindu while Muzaffarpur-based Tarannum is a Muslim.

National Glaucoma Conference inaugurated
Kolkata, December 9
The three-day National Glaucoma Conference, which began yesterday here, was formally inaugurated today at a hotel near the Salt Lake by Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee.

10-yr-olds as beasts of burden
Patna, December 9
The much-hyped anti-child labour policy promulgated by the Centre and the related campaign against this social menace seems to have little bearing in government’s own backyard. Bihar now reportedly accounts for about 10 lakh child labourers, both inside and outside the state, as a legacy of underdevelopment over decades.

17 honoured at Delhi function
New Delhi, December 9
Principal secretary to the Prime Minister T.K. A. Nair, former union minister P.J. Kurian, director-general of police, Haryana, John V. George and senior associate editor of The Tribune A.J. Philip were among 17 people from various walks of life who were honoured with the Mar Chrysostom Navathy awards at a function here this afternoon.

Use of Oxytocin in North
Panel raps ICAR for no research
New Delhi, December 9
A parliamentary committee on agriculture has expressed ‘concern’ over why the Indian Council for Agricultural Research - the national organisation that conducts and promotes research in agriculture and allied sciences - has not initiated any work on oxytocin despite “Being aware that repeated use of hormone can have ill-effects on the animal’s health”.

Serial Blasts
UP police arrests couple
Lucknow, December 9
In a possible breakthrough in the serial blasts in Lucknow, Faizabad and Varanasi, the Uttar Pradesh Police has picked up a husband-wife duo from Malda who on the eve of the blast had reportedly withdrawn Rs 75 lakh from an Axis Bank branch in Aligarh.

3 LTTE men arrested in Chennai
Chennai, December 9
The Tamil Nadu Police today arrested three LTTE men, including a Sea Tiger personnel, from the city while they were trying to procure a boat for the militant outfit. The police seized large amounts of Indian and Sri Lankan currencies and two mobile phones from them.

VAT in UP from Jan 1
Lucknow, December 9
From the New Year Day value added tax would be implemented in the Uttar Pradesh. A decision to this effect has been taken at a cabinet meeting presided over by chief minister Mayawati.

Women Bartenders
Shiv Sena for revocation of SC order
New Delhi, December 9
The Shiv Sena today demanded that the NCT government should file a revision petition before the Supreme Court against its recent order allowing women to act as bartenders in hotels and restaurants.

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Gujarat Votes
Campaigning ends amid violence
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Surat, December 9
Campaigning for the first phase of the elections to the Gujarat assembly came to an end this evening amidst incidents of violence in many parts of the state.

Polling will be held at 87 constituencies in south Gujarat, Kutch and Saurashtra on Tuesday. The rest of the 182 seats in the state assembly will go to the polls in December 16.

In all 668 candidates are contesting in the first phase of polling. Police officials said stray incidents of violence had been reported in many parts of the state.

The worst incidents were reported from the town of Vadodara, where a large number of sadhus clashed with BJP workers. The sadhus from the Sant Samaj were protesting against several decisions taken by the Chief Minister Narendra Modi, which they said, undermined the functioning of religious trusts.

The BJP’s activists, however, alleged that the sadhus were protesting in alliance with the Congress and their own rebels in a bid to hurt the prospects of Narendra Modi’s supporters in the elections.

The clashes saw several sadhus being beaten up and their banners torn by BJP activists. Several motor cars were also damaged in the incidents. Shops in Vadodara also shut briefly while the police dispersed the protestors.

Tuesday’s poll will decide the fate of a number of Narendra Modi’s loyalists. The fate of finance minister Vijubhai Vala, water resources minister Narottam Patel, and urban development minister I. K. Jadeja will be facing the voters. The CM squares off against union minister of state for petroleum and natural gas, Dinsha J. Patel in the Maninagar constituency.

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Religious leaders calling the shots
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Amreli (Kutch), December 9
Regardless of which political party wins the Assembly elections due on December 11 and 16, the real beneficiaries from this electoral exercise would be the state’s powerful sadhus who are playing a major role in Gujarat politics.

Sadhus and seers, including those from the powerful Swaminarayan sect, are ranged on either side of the political spectrum. The BJP, which used to be the flag-bearer of Hindutva in the state, is on the defensive as several prominent seers have thrown their lot with the rebels from that party apart from the Congress.

With several BJP dissidents contesting on Congress tickets, the sadhus of the state have also switched sides. “In many ways this is a BJP versus BJP campaign defectors. Disgruntled Congressmen are also campaigning for BJP candidates thereby causing confusion among voters and candidates alike,” says Bharat Chauhan, editor, Awadh Times, published from here.

A few religious seers are coming out into the open. While the famed preacher Asaram Bapu is still backing Chief Minister Narendra Modi, others including those from the powerful Swaminarayan sect have switched support to the Congress.

Umeshbhai, a supporter of Congress candidate Paresh Danani from Amreli said,“The sants are angry with Narendra Modi because he has been dividing Hindus against Muslims, Hindus on caste lines and even the BJP workers themselves.”.

Avichaldasji Maharaj and his sants began their campaign against Modi from this historic Somnath Temple earlier this month and would cover Central and South Gujarat before the polling day, according to information available here. The BJP has put out that the ‘sadhu yatra’ has been organised by the Congress. Though the Congress denies any hand behind the ‘sadhu yatra’, no body is buying the story here.

Political analysts say that the campaign would badly dent the BJP votes in at least 35 of the 182 constituencies in Gujarat. Most of these constituencies like Vadodra, Kheda, Panchmahals, etc are seen as the party’s strongholds.

Joining Avichaldasji Maharaj against Modi is Swami Satyaprakash (SP Swami) of the Gadhada sub-sect of the Swaminarayans. Another religious leader of the sect, Lalji Nrugendraprasad, has mobilised hundreds of followers who are touring the hinterlands of Kutch and Saurashtra campaigning against Modi. According to reports emanating from the interiors of Gujarat, the sadhus are accusing Modi of trying to wrest control of some of the state’s richest temples.

Gujarat’s sadhus who command huge followings enjoy immense benefits like land from the government and numerous trusts scattered all over the state. The coming elections will see them emerge as a major political force in the state as well.

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Modi govt based on falsehood: Rahul
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Surat, December 9
Making a brave attempt to take on the BJP in its stronghold, Surat city, Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi today called Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s government as one based on falsehood and which dished out tall claims to the people of Gujarat.

At an impressive roadshow across Surat which attracted hundreds of people, many of them young women, Rahul Gandhi made several halts in this city known as the Diamond Capital of the country imploring people to vote for the Congress party. “The government of Gujarat claims that your state is Number one. But the truth is that states like Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Orissa and Maharashtra are ahead of Gujarat,” Gandhi said.

The rally which came on the last day of campaigning in Gujarat saw a confident Rahul reaching out to people and mingling freely with his admirers who came out in large numbers to garland him. “I may not vote for him, but Rahul is the future Prime Minister of the country,” Neha Mehta, a young college student from Surat, told this reporter. Surat is seeing a tough battle with the Congress fielding powerful diamond merchant and sitting MLA Dhirubhai Gajera who was earlier with the BJP. Gajera has managed to wean away much of the BJP’s workers away from his old party. But the buzz on the street is that voters may come out in large numbers to vote for the BJP.

Rahul Gandhi’s roadshow took him through five Assembly segments before the end of campaigning. Congress leaders said here late Sunday afternoon that Gandhi had addressed eight public rallies today. In his speeches, Gandhi appealed to the people to remove the Narendra Modi government by following the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi. Equating the Modi government with the British rule in India, Gandhi appealed to the public to dislodge the Modi government just as Bapu had done with the colonial regime.

“By repeating falsehoods over and over again, the government thinks these would be accepted as the truth,” Rahul said. He further added that Gujarat owed its prosperity to the hard work of the people and not to any one leader.

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Cong workers pull out all stops for Sonia’s birthday
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 9
Congress president and UPA chairperson’s 62nd birthday at her 10, Janpath, residence in the heart of the National Capital was memorable in ways more than one.

Among the first to greet Sonia Gandhi was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who visited her house at 9.30 am. President Pratibha Patil also sent a bouquet to Gandhi on the occasion.

A senior leader told The Tribune that 10, Janpath, had a steady stream of visitors, who enjoyed a feast of ‘laddoos’. Braving a rather cold Sunday morning, party leaders and workers turned up in large numbers to greet Sonia.

Prominent among those who visited Sonia Gandhi’s residence were Pranab Mukherjee, Arjun Singh, Shivraj Patil, Manishankar Aiyer, Saifuddin Soz, Suresh Kalmadi, Motilal Vora and Girija Vyas.

Hundreds of Congress workers from states as distant as Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu gathered in front of Sonia Gandhi’s residence and danced to the beat of drums. Others came in processions carrying large bouquets and posters. The security outside Gandhi’s residence was a killjoy for party supporters and mediapersons as they were not allowed to go inside her house. Sources in the party said Gandhi later came out for an hour to acknowledge the greetings of party supporters.

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Waive off farmers’ old debt, panel to Sonia
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 9
Vanarai Foundation, which works for the welfare of the farming community, has made a 16-point suggestion to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, including waiver of old debts and bringing down the farm loan rate to 4 per cent as recommended by M. S Swaminathan Committee.

In a memorandum to Sonia Gandhi, with copies to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and finance minister P. Chidambaram, Vanarai Foundation president Mohan Dharia suggested that all loans with interest, given to dry-land farmers in the country, should be immediately waived.

Similarly, loans to the farmers having less than 5 acres of irrigated lands should be waived according to their economic conditions or the period of repayment of their loans should be increased, he said, adding that it should be made clear that waiver of loans would be only for the existing loans and the new loans taken in the future would have to be repaid.

Besides, he said permanent arrangement should be made to provide loans on sustainable basis in the case of droughts, heavy rains or vagaries of nature, and crop insurance for all crops at reasonable rates should be made available to farmers.

While ensuring remunerative price to the farmers and making available food grains and other commodities at reasonable price to consumers, the government should ensure that a network of cooperatives of farmers is established all over the country to eliminate the middlemen.

Dharia, a Padma Vibhushan awardee, wanted that the support price for each crop should be declared at least two months in advance before sowing. By any chance the support price was not declared, the farmers should be assured that they would be given the support price of the last year along with the increase of any additional cost of inputs during the year, he said.

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BJP files complaint against PM for ad on minorities

Ahmedabad, December 9
The BJP has filed a complaint with the Election Commission against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and others following an advertisement issued by the ministry of minority affairs, alleging that “this (the ad) is an attempt to woo voters of a particular community and violation of model code of conduct”.

The ministry of minority affairs, government of India has published a half-page advertisement in one of the national newspapers here, two days ahead of the first phase polls in the state to be held on December 11, titled, “Prime Minister’s new 15-point programme for the welfare of minorities”.

“The advertisement is explicitly directed at minorities and specifies names of religions like Muslims, Christians and others,” BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar told reporters here.

“The content of the advertisement and the timing of its release are aimed at using religion to woo a section of voters. It attempts to achieve polarisation on the basis of religion and it is a surrogate political advertisement calculated to give political advantage to the Congress party,” BJP has said in its compliant.

Apart from the Prime Minister, the BJP has demanded that action should be taken against union minister of minority affairs, A.R. Antulay.

The advertisement said, “Government of India offers free coaching to students and candidates belonging to minority communities in approved coaching institutes” and elaborates on details of how to get the coaching. — PTI

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Gandhigiri, TDP style
Ramesh Kandula
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, December 9
Now, it is the turn of political parties to resort to ‘Gandhigiri’. The main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh has come up with a novel idea to highlight the plight of students in social welfare hostels across the state.

It has decided to mobilize four lakh blankets for distribution among the inmates of the hostels and take the help of NGOs and philanthropic organizations in this task.

“The situation in social welfare hostels has become pathetic with a majority of them lacking basic facilities like drinking water and toilets. Almost half of the 8.9 lakh inmates do not have blankets,” says the party chief N Chandrababu Naidu.

The NTR Memorial Trust, being run by TDP, would coordinate the charity work and mobilise help for the students who were suffering due to government’s callousness.

“We are opening a call centre so that anyone willing to help the students can contact us. We are appealing to NGOs and philanthropists to come forward and join our efforts,” Naidu said. The NTR Trust has set apart Rs50 lakh for the purpose.

Accusing the Rajasekhar Reddy government of ignoring the problems plaguing the social welfare hostels and reducing budgetary allocations for their maintenance, he said his party would take the issue to the people and expose the government’s callousness.

Following the TDP’s appeal, several individuals and charity organizations have come forward to contribute their mite to help the needy and so far one lakh blankets could be mobilized through contributions, Naidu said.

Nearly one-third of the welfare hostels in the state do not have drinking water facility and 23 per cent of them lack toilet facility, he said adding that over 300 students have died during the last three years due to infectious diseases.

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ST Status
Adivasis call for economic blockade in 4 states
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, December 9
The Joint Adivasi Action Committee (JAAC), an umbrella body of tribal people based in Jharkhand, has called for an indefinite economic blockade in four states from December 17 to press for their demand for ST status to immigrant tribal people who had settled in Assam. The states include Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal and Orissa.

A fortnight ago, tribesmen took out a march in Assam in support of their demand for ST status. They were brutally beaten up and a woman was allegedly stripped and chased away by the locals after they went on a rampage on the streets of Guwahati. The Assam violence subsequently infuriated the tribal leaders in Jharkhand.

The development in Jharkhand threatening economic blockade had its corresponding echo in Bihar too with about 20 state MLAs have drawn Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s attention towards the killing of Hindi-speaking workers hailing from Bihar, Jharkhand and eastern UP in Assam.

According to a letter sent to Manmohan Singh yesterday by BJP MLA Rameshwar Prasad, such killings could be the handiwork of a Bangladesh-based outfit, HuJI, with an aim to create fissures in the social fabric of the country. Reports reaching here say that some of the militant tribal groups active in Assam are also reportedly seeking support for their cause in Jharkhand. They include Adivasi Cobra Military (ACM), Birsa Commando Force (BCF) and Akhil Assam Adivasi Chhatra Sangh (AAACS).

These tribal organisations are reportedly getting support of the Jharkhand Disom Party (JDP), Adivasi Action Committee (AAC) and the Adivasi Chhatra Sangh (ACS).

JDP president Salkhan Murmu told the media that his organisation was in support of the demand of tribal people of Assam. “We, along with other tribal organisations, have given time till December 17 to Assam and the central government to consider the demand of giving ST status to tribal people living in Assam or face the consequences”, he asserted

Meanwhile, former Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda favours ST status for Adivasis based on their primitive nature. Munda’s demand is based on an anthropological report that favoured identifying an Adivasi community based on its primitiveness and not on its choice of profession. Munda had visited Assam after the attack of Adivasis.

Besides Munda, the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha(JVM) chief and former Chief Minister Babulal Marandi too had visited Assam and consoled the injured persons and their family members. The Madhu Koda government in Jharkhand already constituted a team headed by former CM Shibu Soren to take stock of the situation.

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Priyanka interview exonerates police
Blames Rahman’s death on his family
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, December 9
Kishwar Jahan, the bereaved mother of Rizwanur Rahman, has expressed sorrow and surprise that their daughter-in-law, Priyanka Todi, was now blaming the Rahman family for the death of her son. Still she would not curse her, instead she would pray to Allah for her good and long life.

Kishwar, however, would want Priyanka to undergo the polygraph test, since she was convinced Priyanka had been forced to make the statements for protecting her father, Ashoke Todi, uncle Pradip and some senior police officials at Lalbazar.

“I can’t believe Priyanka can make these statements on her own, holding Rukhbanur and other family members responsible for Rizwanu’s death”, she said.

The poor mother was reacting to the newspapers’ so-called “exclusive interviews” of Priyanka Todi, who fell in love with Muslim boy Rizwanur Rahman, a graphic design engineer, and married him under the Special Marriage Act on August 18, which the Todi family did not approve of. In the interview, Priyanka had held Rukhbanur, other family members and their family friend Syed Moinuddin, alias Pappu, responsible for Rizwanur’s death. But she gave clean chit to the police and others.

The interview was carried on the front page of two Kolkata newspapers belonging to the same group on the eve of the finalisation of the inquiry report by the CBI, which surprised every one. Rizwabur’s family members, other friends and well wishers, the APDR, several social organisations, intellectuals and the political leaders alleged that the “interview” was planned and designed for protecting Ashoke Todi, his brother Pradip and several senior police officers at Lalbazar.

After their marriage, Priyanka spent about a week at the Rizwanur’s family at Tiljala Lane house and then she was taken to the Todi house at Salt Lake by the police and kept “confined” there, when the couple did not agree to the demand of separating. On September 30, Rizwanur’s body was found on railway line near the Dum Dum station.

Following petitions submitted by several organisations and individuals and the Rizwanur’s family, the division Bench comprising Chief Justice S.S. Nirjjar and Justice Pinakiranjan Ghose on November 16 had directed the CBI to conduct a separate inquiry into the mysterious death of Rizwanur with respect to the Priyanka-Rizwanur marriage and submit its report to the court within one month’s time.

According to official sources, the CBI was now finalising its report for submission to the high court.

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We didn’t want a divorce: Todi

New Delhi, December 9
Priyanka’s father Ashoke Todi, main accused in the mysterious death of Rizwanur, has said his family did not want a divorce between his daughter Priyanka and Rehman.

“We did not want divorce. But Pappu (a family friend of Rehman’s) made the proposal. We wanted to know if Rizwan’s family wanted divorce,” Todi said. He claimed Pappu had demanded money for himself and the Rehman family. “We gave money. We wanted to check whether Rehman accepts it or not,” Todi said. — PTI

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Nandigram
Eyewitnesses give their account to CBI

Nandigram, December 9
A group of people today approached the CBI team camping here offering to give eyewitness accounts of the March 14 police firing in Nandigram which the agency is investigating following a Calcutta High Court directive.

Gopal Das, who led the group of 20-22 people, all residents of various villages of Nandigram I block, said they volunteered to give their account to the CBI on the March 14 firing that claimed 14 lives.

Das said the sleuths told others that their accounts would be recorded later. He refused to divulge their political identity. He said he told the CBI that on March 14, villagers of Adhikarypara had performed Gouranga Puja and when the police asked them to move away, they refused and pelted stones at the policemen.

The police first used tear gas and almost immediately opened fire and dispersed the people, Das claimed. Five women, who were gangraped on the same day, also narrated their versions before the CBI during the day.

Five persons belonging to both the CPM and the Trinamool Congress-backed Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee camps were arrested today in various cases of violence in the area, superintendent of police Satyeswar Panda said.

Meanwhile, a team of CID sleuths visited the mass grave site at Bamanchok village at Khejuri near here, and interrogated the people there following the state governments order.

The six-member team led by IG (CID) D P Tarenia also visited Sherkhanchok, Sonachura and Khejuri yesterday and spoke to the families of five persons whose bodies were allegedly in the grave, east Midnapore police superintendent S P Panda said today. — PTI

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Participate in drive against HIV, Kurien calls MPs
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 9
Rajya Sabha MP and chairman of the Indian Association of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (IAPPD) Prof P.J. Kurien has called upon the members of Parliament and legislators from northeast to take active part in the awareness campaign on population and development issues and infrastructure development, especially in northeastern states.

At a two-day consultation here yesterday with members of Parliament and legislators from northeastern states, Professor Kurien suggested that legislators could contribute to the awareness campaign of HIV/AIDS and bring down the maternal mortality rate (MMR) and infant mortality rate (IMR).

He said the IAPPD should present a status report on the northeastern states to the health ministry and urge the minister concerned to enhance the budget for the awareness campaign and infrastructure development in the states. He said such efforts would help in bringing these states on a par with the rest of the states in the country.

To encourage legislators to contribute to the awareness campaign, President Pratibha Patil released on Friday a briefing kit on the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), age at marriage and a host of other issues related to the reproductive health. The kit had been prepared by the IAPPD.

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Religion comes in way of HIV+ lovers
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, December 9
For HIV+ Prem and Tarannum, the deadly disease has failed to resist them from dreaming a new beginning of life. But along with the disease, they also have to fight an orthodox society as Prem, hailing from Samastipur, is a Hindu while Muzaffarpur-based Tarannum is a Muslim.

Both in their 30s, they were infected by this deadly virus before losing their respective partners to AIDS earlier. They first met at an AIDS counselling centre at Muzaffarpur in North Bihar few months back.

While undergoing treatment, they fell in love with each other. Now, they want to get married and live happily by spending the rest of their lives in each other’s company. But society is not willing to give them a go-ahead to tie the knot.

Even though the doctors attending them reportedly favour their marriage despite the disease, it is their parents who have turned down the proposal simply on the ground of religion. “Even though the condition of both Prem and Tarannum has reached a critical stage, doctors feel that they should be allowed to get married,” sources in the district administration said.

Prem is reported to have confessed to the doctors that life to him is now incomplete without Tarannum. Despite knowing that his days are numbered, he has found a new reason to live now after he fell in love with Tarannum. Taranum, too, is said to be under the similar feeling.

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National Glaucoma Conference inaugurated
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, December 9
The three-day National Glaucoma Conference, which began yesterday here, was formally inaugurated today at a hotel near the Salt Lake by Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee.

Over 500 delegates from all over the country and abroad participated in the conference and discussed the on-going problems of blindness due to glaucoma. It resolved how to provide the low-cost modern scientific treatments to the poor people.

Several renowned ophthalmologists, expertise of the glaucoma diseases, included Prof George Spaeth , Prof AlanRobbin, Dr L.Vijaya, Dr Ranabir Mukherjee , Dr P.K.Bakshi and Dr Sumit Chowdhury, deliberated on the advancement of the glaucoma treatment. Several other doctors submitted their research papers on the “deadly disease”, which had been causing blindness every year to the millions of people in the country and abroad.

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10-yr-olds as beasts of burden
Tribune News Service

Patna, December 9
The much-hyped anti-child labour policy promulgated by the Centre and the related campaign against this social menace seems to have little bearing in government’s own backyard.

Bihar now reportedly accounts for about 10 lakh child labourers, both inside and outside the state, as a legacy of underdevelopment over decades.

The people in Patna were today shocked to watch the news aired by a national and a regional channel where two 10-year-old boys were seen to have replaced bullocks on the field at Shahpur village in Vaishali district of Bihar.

And much to the dismay of the civil society of Bihar, the land reportedly belongs to the union minister for rural development and senior RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh’s brother, Raghuraj Singh.

The minister, as part of the ruling UPA coalition at Centre, is also committed to eradicate child labour from society.

It was learnt that the boys were hired as labourers to flatten the fields before sowing.

The owner of the land reportedly justified the decision on the ground that the soil was too wet and slippery after the recent floods, which could make both the bullocks and the tractors prone to skid ding in the fields. Hence, he hired the boys, who out of poverty desperately needed money for their families.

What perhaps remained unsaid was that the poor boys, unlike bullocks, would not mind meeting injuries if they skidded on the slippery fields.

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17 honoured at Delhi function
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 9
Principal secretary to the Prime Minister T.K. A. Nair, former union minister P.J. Kurian, director-general of police, Haryana, John V. George and senior associate editor of The Tribune A.J. Philip were among 17 people from various walks of life who were honoured with the Mar Chrysostom Navathy awards at a function here this afternoon.

Others who received the awards were T. Titus (posthumous), who took part in the salt satyagraha, Sister P.G. Aleyamma, a founder of Sihora ashram, James Thomas, vice-chancellor of D.Y. Patil University, Thomas Mathew, who did pioneering medical work in Orissa, Blessy Ipe Thomas, well known director whose film Thanmatra on Alzheimer’s disease won critical acclaim, Dr T.K. Oommen, well known sociologist, T. Thomas, national general secretary of YMCA, Dr George Mathew, director, Indian Social Institute, Dr Ginu Zachariah Oommen, national president of AISF, Brigadier Saramma Mathews, who retired from the army after meritorious service, P.M. John, who set up Antara, a home for the mentally challenged, Dr P.P. Job, well known evangelist and George Abraham, who organised the national cricket programme for the blind were the other recipients of the award.

The awards were given on the occasion of the golden jubilee of the Senior Metropolitan of the Marthoma Church, Philipose Mar Chrysostom, who turned 90 this year.

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Use of Oxytocin in North
Panel raps ICAR for no research
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 9
A parliamentary committee on agriculture has expressed ‘concern’ over why the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) - the national organisation that conducts and promotes research in agriculture and allied sciences - has not initiated any work on oxytocin despite “Being aware that repeated use of hormone can have ill-effects on the animal’s health”.

Rejecting the reply of the Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE) on the practice of injecting the hormone for enhancing milk production, prevalent among almost all regions of the country, particularly Punjab, Haryana, UP, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the committee has asked it to initiate research on the issue.

In its report tabled in the Parliament recently, the committee also came down heavily on the study conducted by the NDRI, Karnal, of oxytocin on animal health, saying that it had been done for a limited period of just 10 days or so.

“Out of greed the owner of the animals uses the hormone injections on a regular basis. No research seems to have been conducted on prolonged use of oxytocin on animal health, lactation years and composition of milk,” the committee said, asking for a detailed study to know effects of prolonged use of the injection.

The panel also expressed surprise regarding ‘paradoxical contradiction’ in the reply given by DARE on the issue.

“On one hand the ICAR is claiming to have found no side-effect on milk as well as animal health due to the use of oxytocin, on the other hand the Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries, whose plans and actions were sought by DARE, has termed it a menace.”

Actually the material used by livestock farmers for the purpose is a crude preparation of oxytocin, a peptide hormone that has the basic function of facilitating secretion of milk from the udder and expulsion of foetus or placenta during parturition.

Livestock farmers use the preparation of the hormone for salvaging complete milk retained in the udder. However, its repeated use can have ill-effect on the health of the animal.

The committee, under the chairmanship of Prof Ram Gopal Yadav, while presenting observations on the action taken by the government on its earlier recommendations on the issue, categorically stated that it was not satisfied with the reasoning given by the department for not initiating any work on the issue.

“It is a serious matter directly involving the animal’s health. Field experience tells that it reduces animal’s lactation years and also affects human health,” the committee added.

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Serial Blasts
UP police arrests couple
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, December 9
In a possible breakthrough in the serial blasts in Lucknow, Faizabad and Varanasi, the Uttar Pradesh Police has picked up a husband-wife duo from Malda who on the eve of the blast had reportedly withdrawn Rs 75 lakh from an Axis Bank branch in Aligarh. Confirming the arrest of Liaqat and his wife Shakila from Malda in West Bengal, SSP, Aligarh, Raghuveer Lal said the arrests had actually been made while investigating a fake currency racket in which six persons were arrested in Aligarh last week.

During interrogation the details of an account being maintained in the Aligarh branch of Axis Bank by Liaqat and his wife emerged. The account reportedly has around Rs 2.5 crore in balance and shows a withdrawal of Rs 75 lakh on November 21, two days before the triple blasts on November 23. “This money was definitely going to fund some anti-national activity”, asserted the SSP, Aligarh. However, ADG (Law and Order and STF) Brijlal, while confirming the arrests in Aligarh and Malda by the local police, refused to admit a direct link between the arrests and the serial blasts. “At the moment, as far as I know, they have been picked up in a fake currency racket”, he maintained.

According to the Aligarh SSP, those arrested in Aligarh admitted to have deposited Rs 75 lakh in the said account at least four times during the last one year. The men were picked up in a fake currency racket from Radhenagar colony in Aligarh last week. Malda bordering Bangladesh is said to be emerging as the nerve centre of Harkat-ul-Jehad al-Islam’s ( HuJI) India operations.

The CBI investigating the recent bomb blasts in Ajmer had found that the mobile phone cards used to build the unexploded bomb recovered from the shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti were part of a set of subscriber identification modules (SIM) cards purchased to execute the Mecca Masjid bombings in Hyderabad. Incidentally, of these, five SIM cards, three for the Airtel network and two for Hutch, had been purchased from a retailer in Malda.

Earlier on June 24 the UP Special Task Force had arrested a man and his aide in Lucknow who they claimed headed Bangladesh-based terror outfit HuJI’s India operations. The swoop had also led to the recovery of nine kg of RDX and several automatic weapons.

The two arrested by the STF are said to have been involved in the Shramjeevi train blast and the terror attack at Sankat Mochan in Varanasi last year.

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3 LTTE men arrested in Chennai
Tribune News Service

Chennai, December 9
The Tamil Nadu Police today arrested three LTTE men, including a Sea Tiger personnel, from the city while they were trying to procure a boat for the militant outfit.

The police seized large amounts of Indian and Sri Lankan currencies and two mobile phones from them.

The “Q” branch of the state police, which deals with terrorist activities, said the members of the banned outfit had kept a boat ready near the coast at Thanjavur district to be sent to the LTTE in Sri Lanka.

The Sea Tiger, Jayakumar, alias Gowrishankar, had fought against the Sri Lankan armed forces several times between 1995 and 2005. He along with another Sri Lankan national James, alias Raja, and Ravikumar, a resident of this metropolis, were spotted near the parking lot of the Anna International airport terminal here. The police picked them up and during interrogation Jayakumar admitted that he belonged to the naval wing of the LTTE and had come to India to procure supplies for the militant outfit.

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VAT in UP from Jan 1
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, December 9
From the New Year Day value added tax (VAT) would be implemented in the Uttar Pradesh. A decision to this effect has been taken at a cabinet meeting presided over by chief minister Mayawati.

VAT was to be introduced in the state from 1 December but following the delay in Governor T.V. Rajeswar returning the Uttar Pradesh Value Added Tax Act-2007 now the commencement has been rescheduled to 1 January 2008, informed a state government press release.

It was following protests from traders and from the Samajwadi party that it had not been introduced in the state till now. Immediately after assuming power in May 2007 the Mayawati government had initiated the process for the implementation of VAT.

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Women Bartenders
Shiv Sena for revocation of SC order

New Delhi, December 9
The Shiv Sena today demanded that the NCT government should file a revision petition before the Supreme Court against its recent order allowing women to act as bartenders in hotels and restaurants.

The party said that the NCT government should take steps for revocation of the order as the killing of Jessica Lall, a bartender, was still fresh in the minds of Delhiites. — PTI

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