SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Meeting Pawar not political, says Thackeray
Mumbai, December 25
One day after Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray posed with Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar for some lovey-dovey pictures, he came out with some sarcastic remarks against his close friend and political foe.

Modi sworn in CM
Ahmedabad, December 25
Narendra Modi was today sworn in as Gujarat Chief Minister for a third term amidst much fanfare in the presence of BJP’s pantheon but with virtually none from NDA constituents.

BJP supporters wave party flags during the oath taking ceremony of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi at Sardar Patel stadium in Ahmedabad on Tuesday.

BJP supporters wave party flags during the oath taking ceremony of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi at Sardar Patel stadium in Ahmedabad on Tuesday. — PTI






EARLIER STORIES




Modi symbolises aggressive Hindutva
Ahmedabad, December 25
Narendra Modi, who assumed reins of power in Gujarat for the third consecutive term today after single-handedly stymying the Congress challenge, symbolises aggressive Hindutva that could catapult him to the centrestage of the BJP.

Vajpayee turns 84
New Delhi, December 25
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and top BJP leaders were among the first to greet former Prime Minister and patriarch of the saffron Party Atal Bihari Vajpayee on his 84th birthday at his residence here today.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wishes senior BJP leader and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on his 84th birthday at his residence in New Delhi on Tuesday. — Tribune photo by Manas Ranjan Bhui
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wishes senior BJP leader and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on his 84th birthday at his residence in New Delhi on Tuesday.

She represents Jesus Christ for the backward
Patna, December 25
On Christmas, she truly represents Jesus for the most backward among the Dalits in Bihar, poor Musahars.

Amir Khan celebrates Christmas with children at an FM radio station in Mumbai on Tuesday.
Amir Khan celebrates Christmas with children at an FM radio station in Mumbai on Tuesday. — PTI

Army doc couple’s hearts warm at Nathu La
Nathu La (Sikkim), December 25
Placing love for the country above everything else, a young married couple from the Army Medical Corps, staying 40 km apart, tends to patients in the cold harsh terrain on the Sino-Indian border.

Defence funds remain unspent under shadow of past scams
New Delhi, December 25
Modernisation of the armed forces suffered as Rs 21,000 crore remained unspent in the past five years with procurement deals slowed down by past controversies about defence kickback.

Woman, sons beheaded in UP
Lucknow, December 25
A woman and her two sons were decapitated by unidentified assailants in Etawah district of Uttar Pradesh. The police today said the killings could be a result of a fierce land dispute. However, no one had been named in the FIR so far.

Auto-rickshaw drivers demonstrate with effigy of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in protest against charges of parking vehicles in no parking zones during their three-day strike, at Anishabad in Patna on Tuesday.
Auto-rickshaw drivers demonstrate with effigy of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in protest against charges of parking vehicles in no parking zones during their three-day strike, at Anishabad in Patna on Tuesday. — PTI

‘Arrest on yet-to-be established charges wrongful’
Law Commission for change in CrPC provision
New Delhi, December 25
The Law Commission has asked the government to abolish a criminal law provision which requires a person seeking anticipatory bail to be present in the court and that he can be arrested on the spot if his plea is rejected.

UP Serial Blasts
Two more arrested from Doda
New Delhi, December 25
In a joint operation, the police of Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir today arrested two suspected militants of the Harkat-ul-Jehadi Islamia (HuJI) from the Doda area of Jammu in connection with last month’s serial blasts in three court premises in Uttar Pradesh.

187 Christians embrace Hinduism on Xmas
Rourkela, December 25
On Christmas, as many as 187 believers were today converted to Hinduism at a function organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Orissa.

Fresh warrant against Kamal Nath
Bhopal, December 25
A local court has issued a fresh bailable warrant against union commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath, asking him to appear as a witness in a case wherein two persons had allegedly used his fake letterheads for seeking promotion at the Bhopal Development Authority (BDA).

‘Affluent families indulging in female foeticide’
New Delhi, December 25
Affluent families in posh areas of the country’s metropolises are routinely indulging in female foeticide to fulfil their quest for a male child, according to latest government figures.

Indo-Nepal Track
India to construct cross-border rail links
New Delhi, December 25
India is finally responding to a wake-up call from China and would be constructing its first-ever cross-border rail links with Nepal.

Naval meet: No word from Iran, Pak
New Delhi, December 25
Navies of Iran and Pakistan are yet to confirm their participation in Indian Navy’s initiative to hold a regional interactive conclave in February next year.

Kerala allots fresh land to ISRO
Thiruvananthapuram, December 25
In the wake of reports that the Indian Space Research Organisation has rejected the 100 acres of land at Thenur near Ponmudi for setting up the Space Institute, the Kerala Government today proposed an alternative allotment of 70 acres of land near Valiamala.

Gujjars to meet Sonia on ST status
Jaipur, December 25
A delegation of the Gujjar Reservation Joint Action Committee (Gunjal) and the All-India Gujjar Mahasabha will meet Congress President Sonia Gandhi to urge her to declare her party’s stand over the Gujjar community’s demand of ST status.

Irked film crew on fast after removal of scene
Chennai, December 25
Apparently irked over the censor board's decision to delete a 'jallikattu' (bullfight) scene from the Tamil film 'Mirugam' (Animal), the movie crew went on a fast here today opposing what they called as a "ban on depicting jallikattu in Tamil cinema."

4 cops among five hurt in ULFA blast
Guwahati, December 25
Five persons, including four Assam policemen and a civilian driver, were injured when suspected United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) militants tried to blow up a vehicle carrying a Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) near Sonari in Sivasagar district of Upper Assam today.

De-boarding drama at Ahmedabad airport
Ahmedabad, December 25
High drama was witnessed at the airport here today when nearly 100 passengers of a Delhi-bound Air India flight from Mumbai, diverted here because of fog in the Capital, refused to de-board after the pilot declined to fly the plane citing duty-hour limitation.

Diverted Air India flight leaves for Delhi
Mumbai, December 25
A New Delhi-bound Air India flight (IC 806), which left the Mumbai airport this morning and was diverted to Ahmedabad due to fog, has now left for the national capital, official sources said.

Fog hits air traffic
New Delhi, December 25
Foggy conditions on Tuesday affected flight operations at the airport in New Delhi, affecting the schedule of a large number of travellers.

Cop suspended for raping girl
Pratapgarh, December 25
A policeman was today suspended for criminally assaulting a teenaged girl at police station compound here.

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Meeting Pawar not political, says Thackeray
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, December 25
One day after Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray posed with Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar for some lovey-dovey pictures, he came out with some sarcastic remarks against his close friend and political foe.

In a lengthy piece in Saamna, the Shiv Sena mouthpiece Thackeray insisted that there was nothing political about his meeting with Pawar.

“When it comes to ideology we are at opposite ends,” Thackeray said. “I am committed to Hindutva while Pawar calls himself a secular leader,” the Shiv Sena chief said.

Pawar, Thackeray said, was an old friend dating back more than 40 years. “He came to enquire about my health,” Thackeray said. “Pawar may be a future Prime Minister for some people but for me he is only Sharadbabu, with whom I have an old friendship,” Thackeray said.

The Shiv Sena supremo said despite his political opposition to Pawar their friendship remained rock solid. He then hit out at Pawar for his quest for power. “For Sharadbabu, power is his oxygen and he is an expert in getting supplies of this oxygen,” Thackeray said.

But the lie to Thackeray’s statement came from none other than his right hand man Manohar Joshi. After meeting with Thackeray he told reporters that Thackeray and Pawar had indeed discussed politics.

“Talks on politics are bound to happen when such meetings take place,” Joshi said. He further added that Narayan Rane, who quit the Shiv Sena to join the Congress can stage a homecoming. “If Balasaheb wants anything can happen,” Joshi said.

However, Thackeray continues hammering Rane. “I am not bothered about the tamasha in the Congress, being staged by Naryba (Narayan Rane). It is a Margaret Alva’s problem,” Thackeray said.

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Modi sworn in CM

Ahmedabad, December 25
Narendra Modi was today sworn in as Gujarat Chief Minister for a third term amidst much fanfare in the presence of BJP’s pantheon but with virtually none from NDA constituents.

Modi (57), who powered his party single-handedly to a fourth straight time in office in Hindutva’s ‘laboratory’, was sworn in by Governor Nawal Kishore Sharma at a ceremony in the Sardar Patel stadium attended by a lakh of BJP supporters and workers.

BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L K Advani, party president Rajnath Singh, senior leaders, including Murli Manohar Joshi, its chief ministers from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Chhatisgarh and former Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

NDA convenor George Fernandes and Manohar Joshi, representing BJP’s oldest saffron ally Shiv Sena attended the function on a day former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee celebrated his 84th birthday in Delhi. However, none of the prominent faces from the other allies like the JD(U), Akali Dal or Biju Janata Dal were present.

Modi, attired in a brown kurta and a saffron shawl, took the oath in Gujarati and in the name of God. He was the only one to take the oath. He was the only one to take the oath and is expected to induct other ministers later.

Immediately after taking the oath, Modi shook hands with the governor and walked to the leaders on the dais to receive their congratulations.

Accompanied by Advani and Rajnath Singh, he did a victory lap of the stadium in an open jeep with Advani and Rajnath Singh and a couple of state BJP leaders including party unit chief Purushotam Rupala.

The throng of party workers carrying BJP flags and shouting slogans cheered the leaders as fireworks were on display.

Modi, who has already earned the distinction of being the longest serving Chief Minister of the prosperous western state, faced the first polls in 2002 just one year after taking over the helm of affairs from Keshubhai Patel in the wake of the disastrous earthquake in the state in early 2001.

Earlier, before taking the oath, Modi hugged BJP president Rajnath Singh and exchanged pleasantries with all the guests present on the dais. He also took blessings of the sadhus of various sects who were invited for the event.

The family members of the Chief Minister Narendra Modi were among those present during the swearing-in ceremony.

He also took blessings of the sadhus of various sects who were invited for the event.

The family members of the Chief Minister Narendra Modi were also present during swearing-in occasion.

Senior leaders M Venkaiah Naidu, Arun Jaitley, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi, Maharashtra leader Gopinath Munde besides Advani’s daughter Pratibha and Jaya Jaitley were present on the dais. — PTI

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Modi symbolises aggressive Hindutva

Ahmedabad, December 25
Narendra Modi, who assumed reins of power in Gujarat for the third consecutive term today after single-handedly stymying the Congress challenge, symbolises aggressive Hindutva that could catapult him to the centrestage of the BJP.

The 57-year-old former RSS pracharak, who was dubbed villian by his Sangh Parivar detractors and hero by followers of hardline Hindutva, has come a long way in acquiring the Hindutva posterboy image.

'Brand Modi' powered the BJP to a fourth successive term overcoming anti-incumbency, rebellion from within the BJP and a combined onslaught by the Congress-led Opposition.

He has virtually re-written the rules of the electoral game by convincingly winning for the second time even in the face of opposition from a powerful section of the Sangh Parivar. Modi has created a record of sorts in the BJP as no other party Chief Minister had so far been able to beat the anti-incumbency factor for the second time in a row.He has struck a rare chord with the people of Gujarat with his rabble-rousing speeches. Though hated by his critics, the Modi-style of politics has won him rich dividends in Gujarat. — PTI

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Vajpayee turns 84
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 25
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and top BJP leaders were among the first to greet former Prime Minister and patriarch of the saffron Party Atal Bihari Vajpayee on his 84th birthday at his residence here today.

President Pratibha Devisingh Patil, who is out of Delhi, sent a bouquet and a letter of best wishes to Vajpayee, who was busy almost throughout the day receiving greetings from his friends, admirers, party leaders and general public.

BJP president Rajnath Singh greeted Vajpayee in the evening, upon his return from the oath taking ceremony of Narendra Modi as Chief Minister in Gujarat, by handing over a bouquet as several top party leaders, including Chief Ministers of the BJP-ruled states Vasundhara Raje, Shivraj Chouhan, B.C. Khandhuri, joined him at former Prime Minister’s 7 Krishnamenon Marg residence.

The enthusiasm among well-wishers and supporters from across the country was evident as they gathered outside Vajpayee’s residence carrying bouquets, sweets, greeting cards and other mementos to greet their favourite leader.

Among the gifts brought by his supporters were a 84-feet-long letter, a garland weighing around 52 kg, portraits of Vajpayee and hand-made show-pieces.

Leader of the Opposition and senior BJP leader L.K. Advani, who has been recently projected as the party’s Prime Ministerial candidate, wished Vajpayee last evening itself as he had to go to Gandhinagar for the oath taking ceremony of Narendra Modi.

As supporters and well wishers continued to flow at Vajpayee’s residence, several BJP leaders said the victory of the party in Gujarat was the biggest gift to him.

“Gujarat victory was a birthday gift for him (Vajpayee) this time, the next time we will try to present him with a victory at the Centre,” BJP leader and former Cabinet minister Shahnawaz Hussain told news persons after greeting Vajpayee.

While former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister and firebrand sanyasin, whose return to the BJP is being speculated upon, did not visit Vajpayee’s residence, another expelled BJP leader Madanlal Khuarana greeted the veteran BJP leader in person.

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She represents Jesus Christ for the backward
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, December 25
On Christmas, she truly represents Jesus for the most backward among the Dalits in Bihar, poor Musahars.

After she was honoured with Padmashree award in recognition to her contribution to change the face of backward Bihar in 2006, sister Sudha Varghese then recounted her experience when she had initially decided to dedicate her life to the service of Musahars.

58-year old sister, known as “cycle sister” for heralding a revolution of sorts on a cycle in this jet age, recalled, “Once some criminals told me, I would be killed the next day. I told them if they do, there would be hundreds like me to carry on with the work that they had come to hate”.

This guts of Sudha Varghese has now truly changed the fate of thousands of poor Musahars, the most marginalised community in Bihar, in and around 50 villages of Danapur and Phulwari Sharif, about 40 km from Patna. For the past 20 years, she had done what others perhaps could not dare.

According to the sister, working for the uplift of Musahars had been no easy task. She reportedly was threatened after she found that middlemen were usurping the stipend, which the government had allocated for the Musahars. “When I protested against this, I was issued threats. I, however, did not give up and continued making Musahars aware of their rights”, said Sister Sudha, who perhaps truly symbolised a role model for the much-hyped “lead India” campaign in 21st century.

Sister Sudha first came to Bihar from Kottayam district in Kerala with Notre Dame sisters at the age of 16 in 1965. Later in the 1970s, after her graduation, she returned to work in the schools run by Notre Dame. But she did not like the urban-centric approach of Notre Dame and was more interested in working in villages.

The Prerna (inspiration) Chhatravas in Danapur now bears testimony to why sister Sudha is different.

Housed on a campus by sharing space with a government middle school, Prerna Chhatravas is now home of around 100 Mushahar girls aged between 6 and 16. These girls are now undergoing education in regular government schools, but a few years ago, majority of them just had a glimpse of school from outside only.

The social stigma attached to Mushahras finally started changing radically over the years because of the initiative by Nari Gunjan, an NGO run by Sister Sudha. The work she had pioneered through Nari Gunjan 20 years ago was recognised through Padmashree award in 2006.

The change obviously was not overnight, but came in small steps as sister Sudha had to fight inch by inch to create a self-belief in Mushahar women in particular.

Sister Sudha’s focus now is not only to impart education but also to restore social dignity to Musahar women in particular, who are learning to save money in banks and post-offices, and undergoing training to earn their livelihood.

Sister Sudha’s institution, started 20 years ago from her one room house in her adopted village of Jamsaut in Danapur, now supports 50 educational centres with the support from the government and the UNICEF. Around 100 girls are selected from them to study at Prerna Chhatravas.

And nothing perhaps demonstrates the change better than the smile on the faces of many enlightened Musahar girls. “Had we not joined the education centre, our parents would have married us off. We have started studying and will not marry till we reach 18”, was the voice that echoed from one Musahar girl to the other in Prerna Chhatrabas.

Her commitment to the society also prompted Sister Sudha to secure a law degree from the Mysore University in 2000 at the age of 50, and she is now often seen in Patna courts fighting cases for the Dalits.

When she had learnt in 2006 that she would be receiving the Padmashree, she was surprised. The greatest reward for her, she says, is the smile on the faces of Musahars, the poorest of the poor.

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Army doc couple’s hearts warm at Nathu La

Nathu La (Sikkim), December 25
Placing love for the country above everything else, a young married couple from the Army Medical Corps, staying 40 km apart, tends to patients in the cold harsh terrain on the Sino-Indian border.

But doctors Capt Shilpa Katoch and Capt Abhishek Rai are very much on top of the world at an altitude of 14,200 ft, and get the occasional chance to be together with the Army playing along.

“Life here is tough. High altitude, hostile climate and inhospitable terrain are part of our life but we are happy to serve the nation in our own little capacity,” says Katoch, posted at the border post.

Husband Rai is with another Army unit 40 km downhill at Paanch Mile on the way to Gangtok and the distance seems like the maxim “so near yet so far”.

“Being doctors, it is difficult for both of us to be posted at the same place or in the same unit,” Rai said.

They both understand that sacrifices have to be made.

Work compulsions made it difficult for them to spend time together even on special occasions like birthdays.

December 1 was Katoch’s birthday and Rai just wished her over the phone. His colleagues remembered and made sure he cut a cake for her.

“Ever since we joined the Army in March 2007, we have hardly been together for seven or eight days. I am now planning to take 10-day leave to come to Nathu La, just to be with her for some time,” said Rai. — PTI

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Defence funds remain unspent under shadow of 
past scams

New Delhi, December 25
Modernisation of the armed forces suffered as Rs 21,000 crore remained unspent in the past five years with procurement deals slowed down by past controversies about defence kickback.

Defence contracts in the pipeline have also been held up as return funds lapsed from the defence budget at the fiscal end and fresh proposals are required, officials and defence analysts say.

A senior defence procurement department official admitted that there were “slippages” in finalising contracts and acquisition plans which, in turn, led to surrender of funds.

“Sometimes we face the problem of spacing out expenditure because of time needed to finalise the procurement procedures,” he said.

Former army chief Gen V.P.Milk said unspent money returning to the finance ministry after March 31 “has been happening for a long time. A wide gap exists between project planning and execution because of which defence forces are suffering”.

Sometimes the procurement procedure got delayed because of “fear of being accused of accepting kickback”, former Institute of Defense Studies and Analysis director Jasjit Singh said.

The report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence this year says despite introduction of the Defence Procurement Policy in 2006 to bring transparency and lay down parameters for speedy clearance of defence proposals, the ministry of defence has not been able to increase the pace of expenditure. — PTI

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Woman, sons beheaded in UP

Lucknow, December 25
A woman and her two sons were decapitated by unidentified assailants in Etawah district of Uttar Pradesh.

The police today said the killings could be a result of a fierce land dispute. However, no one had been named in the FIR so far.

Masked men fired indiscriminately upon Ishwari Devi (55), and her two sons Bantu (35), and Deepu (18), at their Abhinaypura village house late last night, killing them. The accused later beheaded their bodies and threw them on street.

Quoting local police officials, the DGP office here said the horrendous act could be a result of a land dispute between Ishwari Devi and her brother-in-law’s family.

Her brother-in-law Lakay Singh was killed in 1998, in which Ishwari and Bantu were accused. But, they were recently let off by a local court. — UNI

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‘Arrest on yet-to-be established charges wrongful’
Law Commission for change in CrPC provision

New Delhi, December 25
The Law Commission has asked the government to abolish a criminal law provision which requires a person seeking anticipatory bail to be present in the court and that he can be arrested on the spot if his plea is rejected.

Seeking the deletion of sub-section 1-B of Section 438 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), the commission held this relatively new provision was also wrongful in empowering the police to arrest the accused in the court without a warrant on yet-to-be established accusations.

In its 89-page report, the commission reminded the government of the Supreme Court’s decision in the M C Abraham versus Maharashtra case where it held that the mere fact that an anticipatory bail has been rejected “is no ground for directing the immediate arrest of accused. There may be cases where an application may be rejected and yet the applicant is not put up for trial as, after investigation no material is found against him,” the commission, headed by Justice A R Lakshmanan with D.P. Sharma and Tahir Mahmood as members, said.

“Power of arrest, therefore, has to be exercised with due caution and circumspection and not in any mechanical manner,” it added.

Following a decision to amend the CrPC, the government had last year inserted a provision in Section 438 which said an applicant seeking anticipatory bail at the time of final hearing should be present in the court, if the court orders so on an application made to this effect by the public prosecutor. — PTI

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UP Serial Blasts
Two more arrested from Doda

New Delhi, December 25
In a joint operation, the police of Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir today arrested two suspected militants of the Harkat-ul-Jehadi Islamia (HuJI) from the Doda area of Jammu in connection with last month’s serial blasts in three court premises in Uttar Pradesh.

The two, identified as Sajjad and Tariq Kashmiri, alias Akhthar, were picked up from Doda town by the police forces of the two states along with sleuths of Central security agencies and taken to Lucknow on a transit remand, official sources said.

The name of the two came up during the interrogation of HuJI militants Mohammed Khalid and Tariq, arrested by the UP Police’s Special Task Force and Central security agencies on December 21.

Sajjad, a resident of Kishtawar, is alleged to have planted a bomb in Faizabad court premises while Tariq Kashmiri is said to have provided logistic support for carrying out the serial blasts in Lucknow, Varanasi and Faizabad on November 23 last that left over a dozen people dead and more than 50 persons injured.

They claimed Sabah Hijaji, Jammu and Kashmir-based commander of the banned HuJI militant outfit, as the mastermind of the serial blasts in the state.

The sources claimed that during interrogation the arrested HuJI militants disclosed that they had brought the consignment of ammonium nitrate and RDX from Jammu and West Bengal. Sajjad, picked up from Kishtawar, had come in contact with the HuJI militants when he was studying in a Madrassa at Deoband in Uttar Pradesh, the sources claimed.

They said orders were directly received from Hijaji in the Doda area, who was under pressure from across the border to act following continued depletion of his cadre, who were either being killed in an encounter or were being arrested by the police.

They said the arrested HuJI militants had also named a West Bengal resident involved in the serial blasts and the police had launched a manhunt to nab him.

After the Delhi serial blast in 2005, if the sources were to be believed, this was possibly the first case which had been cracked by the central security agencies where the actual perpetrators had also been arrested. — PTI

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187 Christians embrace Hinduism on Xmas

Rourkela, December 25
On Christmas, as many as 187 believers were today converted to Hinduism at a function organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Orissa.

Of the total 187, 103 males and the rest women from 82 families were converted to Hinduism at a religious function at Chikita village under Nuagaon block of Sundergarha district, about 45 km from here.

The conversion was dubbed as “barabartan” (home coming).

All the converted people were given a locket bearing the image of Hindu deities.

Rourkela unit of the VHP president Mitrabhanu Panda, VHP Dharma Pracharak Bibhag state organising secretary Makardhawaj Mahato and state Dharma Pracharak secretary Gadhadhar Sahu were among others present at the function. — UNI

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Fresh warrant against Kamal Nath

Bhopal, December 25
A local court has issued a fresh bailable warrant against union commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath, asking him to appear as a witness in a case wherein two persons had allegedly used his fake letterheads for seeking promotion at the Bhopal Development Authority (BDA).

Judge Lalaram Meena issued the warrant of Rs 500 against Nath yesterday asking him to appear on January 15.

The court is trying two persons - Mohd Sohail, a BDA employee, and his acquaintance Rakesh Shrivastava, for allegedly using Nath's fake letterheads to seek promotion in 2001. The Judge had issued the first bailable warrant against the minister on November 11 upon his failure to testify in the case.However, it could not be served on him due to improper address, the court was informed, following which the fresh warrant was issued.— PTI

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‘Affluent families indulging in female foeticide’

New Delhi, December 25
Affluent families in posh areas of the country’s metropolises are routinely indulging in female foeticide to fulfil their quest for a male child, according to latest government figures.

Providing proof that high levels of literacy and per capita incomes have no bearing on the mindset of people in the posh areas of Delhi and Mumbai, recent government figures show in high-income South Delhi, the sex-ratio was 762, while in Mumbai’s Borivalli it was 728 and 887 in Goregaon and Andheri West.

“It can now be safely accepted that high-income families with increased access to techniques of sex determination are the ones which are going in for selective abortions rather than the low-income group areas,” according to a senior health ministry official.

To counter this, the government was working on a strategy to crack down on mushrooming ultrasound clinics in these areas.

“We are trying to put in a system of accountability for such clinics,” a senior health ministry official said.

Social activists, however, find fault with the government’s strategy of cracking down on the clinics, saying it focuses only on the registration of the number of ultrasounds and not on the actual act of abortions of female foetuses. — PTI

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Indo-Nepal Track
India to construct cross-border rail links
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 25
India is finally responding to a wake-up call from China and would be constructing its first-ever cross-border rail links with Nepal.

The Indian move comes after China disclosed its plans of extending its Beijing-Lhasa train to Kathmandu. China is already engaged in building a highway right up to the base camp of Mount Everest that is bound to give that country immense strategic leverage.

Former foreign secretary Shyam Saran had done a lot of work on developing India’s border areas and had stressed the need for developing the border infrastructure keeping in view the challenges posed by the breakneck speed with which China is developing its borders with Nepal and Bhutan.

To begin with, India would start work on rail links soon, sources said today. These are: (i) Jogbani-Biratnagar (17.65 km), (ii) Nepalganj Road-Nepalganj (12.11 km), (iii) Nautanwa-Bhairahwa (15.3 km), (iv) New Jalpaiguri-Kakrabitta via Panitanki (70 km).

Besides, India is also engaged in the gauge upgradation work on an existing line in West Bengal and its extension to Nepal which will total 68 km -Jainagar to Bijalpura (51 km) and extension of the same to Bardibas (17 km).

Rail India Technical Services (RITES) has completed its feasibility studies for five rail links and is understood to have given its go-ahead signal.

Apart from rail links, India is engaged in large border infrastructure projects and development of road network in the Terai region of Nepal. These projects include construction of all-weather link road of 13.3 km from Mahendranagar in western Nepal to Tanakpur in Uttarakhand.

RITES has already prepared the detailed project report for this strategic road which will cost Rs 46 crore.

Bowing to pressure from the Madhesi community of Nepal, India has started the Terai Roads Project in right earnest. The project entails upgradation of 1,444 km of feeder roads and postal roads. 

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Naval meet: No word from Iran, Pak
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 25
Navies of Iran and Pakistan are yet to confirm their participation in Indian Navy’s initiative to hold a regional interactive conclave in February next year.

Reports here said both countries, which have stationed their Navies on the Indian Ocean rim, were yet to accept the invitation sent out by the Indian Navy. While it is expected that Iran would confirm the participation soon, there was no clarity regarding Pakistan, which is in the grips of internal administrative problems.

A regional naval chiefs conclave and international symposium on the Indian Ocean region is being hosted by the Navy in collaboration with the ministry of external affairs from February 13-19. As many as 31 countries mostly of the Indian Ocean rim have been invited for the conclave.

Modelled on the lines of the Western Pacific Naval symposium of the US Navy, the Indian Navy has set up a permanent grouping called Indian Ocean Naval symposium.

As of now 26 countries, including regional naval powers like Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, have already confirmed their participation.

Through this initiative, the Indian Navy is looking to extend its influence and friendship among littoral states while also promoting security in the Indian Ocean region, which remains the most important water route to India and as such the concerns for security.

At the symposium, which would be preceded by a daylong session of the chiefs of Naval staff of the participating countries, experts would deliberate on issue like tackling sea piracy, terrorism through sea, security of crucial sea-lanes in the Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and Red Sea.

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Kerala allots fresh land to ISRO

Thiruvananthapuram, December 25
In the wake of reports that the Indian Space Research Organisation has rejected the 100 acres of land at Thenur near Ponmudi for setting up the Space Institute, the Kerala Government today proposed an alternative allotment of 70 acres of land near Valiamala.

Talking to reporters after a high-level meeting here last evening Chief Minister V S Achutanandan said the 70 acres of land would be provided near Valiamala apart from the 20 acres of land at the upper sanatorium at Ponmudi for setting up the observatory. He also said the ISRO had agreed to the proposal.

Forest minister Binoy Vishwam, law minister M Vijayakumar, revenue minister K P Rajendran and chief secretary P J Thomas attended the meeting. — UNI

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Gujjars to meet Sonia on ST status

Jaipur, December 25
A delegation of the Gujjar Reservation Joint Action Committee (Gunjal) and the All-India Gujjar Mahasabha will meet Congress President Sonia Gandhi to urge her to declare her party’s stand over the Gujjar community’s demand of ST status.

Talking to reporters here today, former BJP MLA Gopi Chand Gujjar and action committee spokesman Mukhiya Gujjar said the Gujjars had already decided to oppose the BJP politically in Rajasthan and other 11 Gujjar-dominated states and wanted to decide over its stand for the Congress.

They said the BJP government in Rajasthan had “cheated” Gujjar community by its stand and actions over the Gujjar demand and therefore, the community leaders would work to defeat the BJP in elections in Rajasthan and elsewhere.

They said the future course of action and strategy to advance the cause of ST status and to defeat BJP would be finalised at the national convention of the All-India Gujjar Mahasabha scheduled to be held in Indore on December 30.

In protest against the BJP leadership’s “anti-Gujjar stand” in Rajasthan they had also quit the primary membership of the BJP, the two Gujjar leaders added. — UNI

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Irked film crew on fast after removal of scene

Chennai, December 25
Apparently irked over the censor board's decision to delete a 'jallikattu' (bullfight) scene from the Tamil film 'Mirugam' (Animal), the movie crew went on a fast here today opposing what they called as a "ban on depicting jallikattu in Tamil cinema."

The Censor Board had deleted the scene following an objection by the Animal Welfare Board of India due to alleged cruelty to animals in the sport, film sources said.

Movie's producer Karthik Jai, who along with director Samy and actor Adhi sat on protest, told reporters that there should be "no ban of any kind on portraying a sport like Jallikattu." "Jallikattu is a local sport of bravery and there should be no ban on showing it in cinema in future," he said.

The team had been furious over the board's action and had earlier announced that the actor and producer of the film would take out a protest march today but it was later dropped with the crew opting to observe fast.

The crew said the scene was one of the most important one in the film, which was released on December 14.

The film had its first brush with controversy when actress Padmapriya walked out of the sets after being reportedly slapped by Samy, "for regularly coming late" for shooting.

Following a complaint lodged by the actress, the Producers' Council banned Samy from directing any movies for a year.The film portrays the story of a village ruffian-turned-AIDS patient.

Samy's earlier venture, `Uyir', the story of a young widow trying to seduce her brother-in-law, also ran into controversy over depiction of the female lead. — PTI

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4 cops among five hurt in ULFA blast
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, December 25
Five persons, including four Assam policemen and a civilian driver, were injured when suspected United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) militants tried to blow up a vehicle carrying a Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) near Sonari in Sivasagar district of Upper Assam today.

Sivasagar district SP Shyamol Saikia informed that four policemen and the driver were injured when a bomb planted on the road by suspected ULFA militants exploded ahead of the approaching vehicle of the Sonari SDPO, Jayanta Sarothi Bora.

The SDPO escaped unhurt in the explosion that occurred around 1 pm at a place called Khona, about 15 km from Sonari town. Police officials said there were frequent movement of police and military vehicles on the road in view of ‘Adya Shraddha’ rituals being observed at the residence of a slain ULFA militant from the area.

Senior police officials rushed to the spot immediately after the blast and a combing operation was launched in the area located close to Assam-Nagaland inter-state boundary.

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De-boarding drama at Ahmedabad airport

Ahmedabad, December 25
High drama was witnessed at the airport here today when nearly 100 passengers of a Delhi-bound Air India flight from Mumbai, diverted here because of fog in the Capital, refused to de-board after the pilot declined to fly the plane citing duty-hour limitation.

The Air India flight, which left Mumbai early this morning, circled over the Delhi airport and when it could not land was diverted to Ahmedabad where it reached at around 11 am.

As the passengers were left stranded at the Ahmedabad airport and waited for the weather in Delhi to clear up, they refused to de-board the plane after the pilot refused to fly the aircraft saying their duty hour is over.

Efforts were made to put the passengers in a hotel here but that did not work out leaving many of them angry.

An alternative crew was sent to Ahmedabad by a Jet Airways flight that then took the Air India plane to Delhi at 4 pm.

Asked whether the pilots had refused to fly the plane in Ahmedabad, Air India spokesman Jitendra Bhargava said: “We cannot allow a fatigued pilot to operate a flight. Since the duty hours of the crew were over, alternative crew was sent to operate the flight.”

About the inconvenience caused to passengers, he said: “We had no alternative but to divert the aircraft for the safety of the passengers. Under the given circumstances, whatever we could do, we did it by sending alternative crew.” — PTI

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Diverted Air India flight leaves for Delhi

Mumbai, December 25
A New Delhi-bound Air India flight (IC 806), which left the Mumbai airport this morning and was diverted to Ahmedabad due to fog, has now left for the national capital, official sources said.

The Air India flight (earlier Indian Airlines) with nearly 100 passengers on board circled New Delhi airport and when it could not land, was diverted to Ahmedabad, they said.

The plane, that left Mumbai this morning, reached Ahmedabad at around 11 am. Alternative crew was sent to Ahmedabad through Jet Airways and then the flight left for New Delhi at 1600 hours.

Air India’s PR director Jitendra Bhargava, when contacted, said, “The plane was diverted to Ahmedabad because of fog at the Delhi airport.” When asked whether the pilots had refused to fly the plane in Ahmedabad, Bhargava replied in the negative and said, “We cannot allow a fatigued pilot to operate a flight.

“Since the duty hours of the crew were over, alternative crew was sent to operate the flight.”

Regarding the inconvenience caused to the passengers, a spokesman said, “It is natural that the passengers will feel inconvenient.

But then we had no alternative but to divert the aircraft for the safety of the passengers. Under the given circumstances whatever we could do, we did it by sending an alternative crew,” he added. — PTI

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Fog hits air traffic
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 25
Foggy conditions on Tuesday affected flight operations at the airport in New Delhi, affecting the schedule of a large number of travellers.

An airport official said around 50 flights were delayed for 30 minutes to three hours while 10 had to be diverted to other cities. The airport authorities had to enforce the Low Visibility Procedure at the IGIA around 7.00 am as the Runway Visibility Range reduced to 600 m.

Besides Palam in Delhi, Chandigarh, Adampur, Bhatinda, Hindon, Sarsawa and Leh remained shrouded in fog while Amritsar and Udhampur experienced mist and Srinagar, Jammu and Pathankot reported haze.

Flights are likely to be affected tomorrow with the Met office predicting shallow fog in the morning. There will be a fall in night temperature and morning fog conditions are likely over plains for next one to two days.

The Met office says isolated rain and snow is likely over the Jammu and Kashmir region and there will also be a fall in minimum temperature over north India. It says while scattered rain or snow is likely over Jammu and Kashmir region, isolated rain and thundershowers are likely over plains of north-west India.

Fog reduced visibility considerably forcing vehicular traffic to move at snail’s pace with headlights on in the morning and also leading to delays in train services in the region.

The Jamnagar to Amritsar express train was late by 20 hours while the Amarpali Express reached 10 hours late. Howrah express to Amritsar was late by seven hours, Muri express was also delayed and the Jalandhar-Delhi Express, Malwa Express and Ludhiana passenger train were delayed by up to two hours.

In Punjab, people groaned under biting cold with Amritsar recording the minimum temperature at 2.2° C, two degrees below normal making it one of the coldest place in the plains. The minimum temperatures hovered below normal at Ludhiana and Patiala.

In Haryana, the mercury remained low. While Ambala showed a temperature three degrees below normal, Karnal reported two degrees down.

In Himachal, cold conditions persisted in several areas with temperature continuing to stay below freezing point. The entire Kashmir valley continued to be in the grip of a cold wave. So while Srinagar recorded minus 0.4° C, Jammu shivered around 1° C.

The Met office says that ground frost is likely to occur at few places in Punjab and at isolated places in Haryana during the next two nights. It has predicted light to moderate rain or snow at isolated places in Himachal during the next 48 hours.

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Cop suspended for raping girl

Pratapgarh, December 25
A policeman was today suspended for criminally assaulting a teenaged girl at police station compound here.

On December 16, the police had detained the girl along with her lover Anil. After lodging the victim’s paramour in the lock up, Jethwara police station in charge Manoj Rai outraged her modesty.

Meanwhile, the station in charge was suspended with immediate effect, DIG (Allahabad range) B.P. Jogdand said. — UNI

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