SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Participation in LDF Government
JD-S on verge of split
New Delhi, July 4
The Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) is staring at a split with its prominent Kerala leader MP Veerendra Kumar walking out of the party’s national executive when party President and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda overruled his and Kerala JD-S president Krishna Kutty’s objection to continue in the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) led by the CPM.

CPM Politburo meets to defuse Kerala
unit crisis

New Delhi, July 4
For the CPM Politburo (PB), which began its special two-day meeting in the capital today to defuse Kerala’s unity crisis, the choice really is between the devil and the deep sea.

Gehlot puts off Cabinet expansion
Jaipur, July 4
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has put on hold the proposed expansion of the state Cabinet as of now. Earlier, it was scheduled to take place prior to the Budget Session that starts on July 7. According to sources, the Chief Minister wanted to avoid any controversy during the Budget Session and hence the delay.



EARLIER STORIES


Spl package sought for Nankana Sahib pilgrims
New Delhi, July 4
The government has been urged to announce a special package for Sikh pilgrims visiting the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev at Nankana Sahib in Pakistan.

Nine die as bus falls off Howrah bridge
Kolkata, July 4
Nine persons, including three women, were killed and at least 12 seriously injured when a minibus packed with passengers skidded off the Bankim Setu (Howrah bridge) and fell on the railway track at the Howrah station around 4 pm here today. Unofficial sources, however, put the death toll at 14.

Mumbai battles rains again
Mumbai, July 4
A woman died of electrocution as incessant heavy rains lashed the city and catchment areas, sending the Mithi river close to danger mark and inundating low lying areas and disrupting air, rail and road traffic. Civic officials said there were reports of water logging in areas like Hindmata, Kalachowkie, Mahim Junction, Andheri-Kurla road and Ghatkopar.

Rain Pain:
A bus wades through a waterlogged road in Mumbai on Saturday. — PTI
A bus wades through a waterlogged road in Mumbai on Saturday.

10 years after Kargil
Tough battles in Batalik went unsung
It was the first week of July when some of the bloodiest battles were being fought during the India-Pakistan conflict of 1999 all along the Drass-Kargil-Batalik axis of the Line of Control.

Film Slumdog Millionaire’s child star Azharuddin Ismail plays with his cousin at his newly allocated apartment in central Mumbai on Saturday. The team behind the film Slumdog Millionaire has bought a new apartment for one of the movie’s child stars.
Film Slumdog Millionaire’s child star Azharuddin Ismail plays with his cousin at his newly allocated apartment in central Mumbai on Saturday. The team behind the film Slumdog Millionaire has bought a new apartment for one of the movie’s child stars. — AFP

India urged to stop arms sale to Burma
Guwahati, July 4
A regional body has been formed here today to extend support to the pro-democracy movement in the neighbouring Myanmar under the name of "North-east India Forum for Democracy in Burma.”

Now, security for Maya’s statues
Lucknow, July 4
Now, it is not only the VVIP Chief Minister who is under heavy police protection. Even her statues are under security cover to protect these from possible vandalism.

Sikhs join to fight climate change
New Delhi, July 4
Sikh religious and political leaders met in the capital on Saturday to underline the Sikh community’s commitment to save the environment from threats posed by climate change and global warming.

Raja dismisses Jaya’s allegations
Chennai, July 4
As the issue kept popping up, Union Minister A Raja today described as "baseless and politically motivated" allegations by AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa that he had tried to influence a Madras High Court judge in a marksheet scandal case.

Pedalling across the country to beat physical challenge
Bangalore, July 4
The story of Prabhjit Singh is one of what the human spirit can achieve. It is also a story of how someone can turn shortcomings to one’s benefit.

Sky gazers await rare celestial treat
Hyderabad, July 4
The months of July and August will present a grand spectacle for the sky gazers across the country as a rare astronomical event — a series of triple eclipses, commences from July 7.

NCW alarmed by 286 rapes, gang rapes this year
New Delhi, July 4
With the rape and gang-rape incidence assuming alarming proportions in the country, the National Commission for Women (NCW) has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to make the anti-rape law effective by extending it to cover the heinous nature of emerging sexual crimes against women and children.

6 members of Chota Shakeel gang held
New Delhi, July 4
The Delhi police today arrested six alleged sharpshooters of Chota Shakeel gang and claimed they were planning to kill the lawyer of BJP MP Varun Gandhi who has been accused of making anti-Muslim speeches. The six persons were arrested last evening from various parts of the city by a special cell.

AP mulls fee limit for private schools
Hyderabad, July 4
Andhra Pradesh is now mulling fixing an upper limit on the fees charged by private schools. A panel constituted by the state government has recommended that private schools in urban areas should not charge more than Rs.24,000 per annum as tuition fee up to Class 5 and Rs.30,000 up to Class 10.





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Participation in LDF Government
JD-S on verge of split
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 4
The Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) is staring at a split with its prominent Kerala leader MP Veerendra Kumar walking out of the party’s national executive when party President and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda overruled his and Kerala JD-S president Krishna Kutty’s objection to continue in the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) led by the CPM.

The parting came after a heated discussion in the day-long national executive of the JD-S where Kumar and his group was urging the party to break from the ruling LDF and align with UDF in the state.

The Kerala group of JD-S, which was sharing power and had a minister in the LDF government, had withdrawn its minister on the eve of the general election when the Left parties failed to accommodate Veerendra Kumar in the list of Left candidates contesting the Lok Sabha elections.

That created a piquant situation for the national leadership with Deve Gowda being a strong votary for the third front led by the Left during the elections. But at that moment Deve Gowda went along with Kumar and allowed the party to distance itself from the Left in the state and withdraw its minister.

This is the first national executive of the JD-S after the general election and the alliance with the LDF was the most crucial issue at hand.

Party general secretary and spokesman Kunwar Danish Ali, who briefed newsmen after day-long deliberations of the national executive, said the executive discussed at length the Kerala issue and decided to continue with the LDF. He also said the party would proceed with disciplinary action against any member, howsoever high he might be, if he defied the party line, clearly indicating that the party had no room for anyone not toeing the Deve Gowda line.

Curiously the JD-S is supporting the UPA governemnt at the Centre and Veerendra Kumar is reported to have pointed this out in the heated debate on this issue within the national executive, seeking a rational balance between the party line in the state and the Centre.

Asked about the past conduct of the CPM, Danish Ali said, “We all may have committed mistakes in the past in Kerala, be it the CPI, CPM or JD-S, but that doesn’t mean we should go and commit suicide.”

Interestingly, Veerendra Kumar split from the JD-S in early 2006 soon after JD-S leader HD Kumaraswamy aligned with the BJP and formed his government in neighboruing Karnataka. The Kerala unit of the JD-S then aligned with the Left and joined the Left Front govenrment when V.S. Achutanandan formed his government in the state. But in July 2008 when the JD-S became part of the third front, Kumar started building bridges with Deve Gowda and in November last year formally rejoined the JD-S.

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CPM Politburo meets to defuse Kerala unit crisis
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 4
For the CPM Politburo (PB), which began its special two-day meeting in the capital today to defuse Kerala’s unity crisis, the choice really is between the devil and the deep sea.

Caught between two warring state leaders - Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan and state party secretary Pinarayi Vijayan - the communist stalwarts will have to marshal every bit of political intellect to find a way around the mess.

That the party has decided to stretch the decision over two days explains the extent of stakes involved. The task for PB members will be tough considering both the Kerala leaders stuck to their stands at the meeting today.

Sources said Achuthanandan reiterated the demand for Vijayan’s removal from the PB and party post, citing the latter’s involvement in the multi-crore SNC-Lavlin scam. The Chief Minister had earlier refused to accept responsibility for the CPM’s poor faring in Kerala and blamed Vijayan’s “corrupt ways” for the party’s losses. He had even endorsed state Governor’s permission to prosecute Vijayan in the case; this against party stand.

Vijayan is said to have asked the PB today for disciplinary action against Achuthanandan, alleging that his anti-party remarks weakened the party in the run-up to the poll. Vijayan, under summons to appear before a special CBI court in Kochi this September, enjoys a strong organisational hold in Kerala. He also has CPM general secretary Prakash Karat’s blessings. That explains why a host of Kerala ministers recently lined up to ask the central committee to sack Achuthanandan from his party posts.

The CPM is likely to stand by Vijayan, with Karat repeatedly maintaining that the SNC-Lavlin case is politically motivated and the party will fight it legally. That leaves the communists with no reason to censure Vijayan.

On the other hand, action against Achuthanandan may be on the cards considering the central committee in its election review meeting last month subtly blamed the CM’s damaging statements for the party’s poor faring.

Even within Kerala’s party organisation, Achuthanandan has meager support, with finance and education ministers openly against him.

Sources, however, said the CPM might resort to a lighter course by warning Achuthanandan against making anti-party statements.

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Gehlot puts off Cabinet expansion
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Jaipur, July 4
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has put on hold the proposed expansion of the state Cabinet as of now. Earlier, it was scheduled to take place prior to the Budget Session that starts on July 7.

According to sources, the Chief Minister wanted to avoid any controversy during the Budget Session and hence the delay. Apart from Cabinet expansion, some appointments were also to be made in boards and corporations.

At present, the Gehlot Cabinet has 24 ministers and can accommodate at least six more. The ruling party wants to induct some of the six BSP MLAs, who switched their loyalty to it before the Lok Sabha elections. Sources said the CM also intended to reward the MLAs who helped the party bag 20 out of 25 seats in the recent elections. “There are posts of chairmen in boards and corporations and accommodating party MLAs, who did well in the LS elections, won’t be a problem,” sources added. Gehlot may also re-allocate portfolios to some of his ministers as there have been instances where different wings of a single department are being handled by more than one minister.

Political observers feel the CM is aware of the fact that by going ahead with Cabinet expansion at this point may provide ammunition to the opposition BJP, which is, otherwise, in a bad shape following its dismal show in the Lok Sabha elections.

The central Congress leadership has already acknowledged party’s excellent performance in the state by inducting four ministers from Rajasthan.

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Spl package sought for Nankana Sahib pilgrims
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 4
The government has been urged to announce a special package for Sikh pilgrims visiting the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev at Nankana Sahib in Pakistan.

Raising the issue through a special mention in the Rajya Sabha, Independent member Tarlochan Singh was of the view that such a package should first be extended to the pilgrims belonging to below poverty line (BPL) families.

The former Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities said the government was providing financial packages to Muslim pilgrims going for Haj to Saudi Aarbia. It had also constituted Haj board, a special section in the External Affairs Ministry, for the purpose.

The government could create a section on similar lines in the ministry for the pilgrims to Nankana Sahib. The section could handle arrangements like issuing passports, granting visas and transporting pilgrims to Pakistan at the cost of the state, the member suggested.

He said as the pilgrims would get free board and lodging facilities at Sikh shrines in Pakistan, the scheme would not cost much to the exchequer. Their visit to Pakistan could include visits to Lahore, Gurdwara Dera Sahib, Gurdwara Panja Sahib and Nankana Sahib.

Saying that the birthday of Guru Nanak Dev would fall in November, Tarlochan Singh wanted the government to accept the proposal immediately so that Sikh pilgrims could benefit from it from this year itself.

In a written question, he also sought to know from the government the number of Sikhs living as refugees in camps at Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Pakistan.

In her reply, Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur quoted media reports to inform Tarlochan Singh that there were about 2,000 Sikh refugees at Gurdwara Panja Sahib. Some reports also indicate the presence of refugees at Gurdwara Bhai Joga Singh in Peshawar, but their number was not known.

Kaur also informed the member that India had taken up the issue of welfare of these refugees with the Pakistan Government.

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Nine die as bus falls off Howrah bridge
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, July 4
Nine persons, including three women, were killed and at least 12 seriously injured when a minibus packed with passengers skidded off the Bankim Setu (Howrah bridge) and fell on the railway track at the Howrah station around 4 pm here today. Unofficial sources, however, put the death toll at 14.

The injured were admitted to various hospitals in the city and Howrah where the condition of some of them was stated to be critical. Official sources feared the death toll might go up further. Those killed could not be identified immediately.

Separate investigations have been launched into the incident by the Kolkata and the Howrah police.

Police and fire brigade personnel launched rescue operations immediately after the accident with the help of passengers stranded at the station. The bus was partially burnt and mangled as it came in contact with the railway high-tension power line before falling down on the track near platform number 10.

All train services of Eastern and South Eastern Railways from Howrah were temporarily suspended after the accident. Senior officials of the Railways and the state government rushed to the station to take stock of the situation and oversee rescue operations. TMC leader Partha Chatterjee was the first to reach the spot at the instance of Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee. She has expressed deep condolences for the victims.

The accident reportedly occurred when the bus, which was moving at a high speed, suddenly hit the railing of the bridge and fell down on the railway track, about 50 feet below the bridge. The driver of the minibus was reportedly trying to overtake another bus at that time.

While the driver and the conductor managed to jump out of the vehicle and fled, the cleaner was seriously injured in the accident. He was admitted to Howarh hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.

The TMC leader said rash driving by the driver of the bus was the main cause of the accident. He also accused port commissioners and the state PWD for maintaining the bridge poorly.

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Mumbai battles rains again

Mumbai, July 4
A woman died of electrocution as incessant heavy rains lashed the city and catchment areas, sending the Mithi river close to danger mark and inundating low lying areas and disrupting air, rail and road traffic.

Civic officials said there were reports of water logging in areas like Hindmata, Kalachowkie, Mahim Junction, Andheri-Kurla road and Ghatkopar.

Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said heavy rains in catchment areas sent Mithi in spate and if the water-level in the river crossed the danger, some people in nearby areas might be evacuated.

However, he said the water level in the river has started receeding.

Chavan said the flood situation in the city was under control and the police and civic body officials are keeping a close watch on it.

The rains triggered a landslide in suburban Bhandup and a wall collapsed at Mahul near Shiv Sena office. Incidents of tree felling were reported at 12 places. However, there were no casualties, the officials said. A 40-year-old woman died while a 10-year-old boy was injured due to electrocution in Govandi, officials said.

The weather bureau has forecast frequent spells of rain with the possibility of heavy to very heavy rainfall over the next two days in some parts of the city.

Colaba recorded 5 cms of rainfall while Santacruz registered 10 cms of rainfall from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm, which falls under the category of heavy rainfall, according to Regional Met Department's Deputy Director RV Sharma.

Flight operations at the airport were delayed and some flights were diverted due to low visibility.

Visibility at the airport was below 500 metres, a MIAL spokesperson said, adding, “The runway was closed for almost an hour due to poor visibility.” — PTI

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10 years after Kargil
Tough battles in Batalik went unsung
Ajay Banerjee writes from Ganasok (on the LoC)

It was the first week of July when some of the bloodiest battles were being fought during the India-Pakistan conflict of 1999 all along the Drass-Kargil-Batalik axis of the Line of Control.

Courtesy the media, the nation’s attention was riveted to the tough battle to re-capture Point 4875 in the Drass area. Evicting the Pakistanis from Point 4875 (now renamed Batra top, Capt Vikram Batra had laid down his life and was awarded the PVC) was top priority as it overlooks the Srinagar-Leh highway. It allowed the enemy a clear shot of the highway for some 30 km, running left and right of the peak. A history of sorts was created as two PVCs were earned for this exemplary bravery---the other one going to Rifleman Sanjay Kumar. A total of 63 Pakistanis were killed on this peak alone. Lieut Col (now Colonel) YK Joshi — code-named Chanakya for the operation — and his men had clawed their way up and finally the national highway could be freed. The victory was televised live as the nation watched in awe. Joshi and Batra were household names. In the past one week, Joshi has, for the first time, re-visited the battleground that is famously seen in almost every TV clip of the war.

Around the same time, some 100 km away east of this battle, the 22 Grenadiers led by Major (now colonel) Ajit Singh had launched an attack to evict the Pakistani army from the 5-6 km-long Khalubar ridge in the Batalik sector.

Ajit Singh led the Muslim company of the grenadiers and had managed the crucial toe-hold on Khalubar on July 1. He had out-tricked the Pakistanis when he asked his boys to use the battle cry “Allah-o-Akbar”. The Pakistanis had mistaken the Indian Muslim soldiers as their own, carrying supplies and stopped firing.

On reaching the top, the team of just 30-odd fighters was outnumbered as the enemy was perched on the adjoining ridges. With only a patch of 100 metres with him at the top, Ajit Singh and his boys carried on. The grenadiers were butchered. After a fierce battle in which the Gurkhas also joined in, the 5-6 km-long ridge was captured in phases with the first being after a week after the toe-hold was established. Sadly, there was no media presence as Batalik was inaccessible. The role of the Grenadiers in establishing that toe-hold found only a small mention in the media. Like Joshi, Major Ajit Singh also visited the battlefield in the past one week.

Senior officers of the Indian Army often cringe that battles in the Batalik sector did not get the media attention they deserved. Nowadays, teams of mediapersons from Delhi and elsewhere are busy trying to recapture the days they missed a decade ago. The Tribune team met four such teams that are now focusing on Batalik. Maybe 10 years later, the importance of the area has dawned upon the media.

It is a known fact that Batalik had a much tougher terrain and the enemy was far more strongly entrenched. Just behind Khalubar ridge, the Pakistanis were landing choppers to replenish the supply lines, said a senior officer.

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India urged to stop arms sale to Burma
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, July 4
A regional body has been formed here today to extend support to the pro-democracy movement in the neighbouring Myanmar under the name of "North-east India Forum for Democracy in Burma.”

The forum will provide space for the people of Burma and North-east India to join hands to continue the campaign against Burma’s military rulers. The forum was formed at a citizens’ meeting organised by Burma Centre Delhi and Journalists’ Forum, Assam, at Guwahati Press Club here. Dr Alana Golmei, Htun Htun and M. Kim from Burma Centre Delhi attended the meeting.

The meeting urged the Government of India to stop forthwith sales of all arms to the military rulers of Burma, who use these weapons to suppress the ever-growing movement for democracy in the country. It also demanded immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners in Burma.

Meanwhile, in a message sent to the organizers, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and the North East Students’ Organisation (NESO) expressed their support to the democracy movement in Burma and demanded release of Suu Kyi with other political prisoners. The message was conveyed by Dr Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharya, AASU advisor and NESO convenor.

In a resolution, the meeting urged New Delhi to review its policy on Burma to facilitate restoration of democracy in the South East Asian country.

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Now, security for Maya’s statues
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, July 4
Now, it is not only the VVIP Chief Minister who is under heavy police protection. Even her statues are under security cover to protect these from possible vandalism.

Almost 450 home guards, around 10 per cent of their total strength deployed in Lucknow, have been positioned at six sites where Chief Minister Mayawati’s statues were installed last week alongside statues of her mentor Kanshiram.

According to Home Guards district Commandant Vinay Kumar Mishra, round-the-clock security arrangements have been made at Bhimrao Ambedkar Samajik Parivartan Sthal, Bhimrao Ambedkar Samajik Parivartan Prateek Sthal at Gandhi Setu, Bahujan Nayak Park, Kanshiram Memorial at jail road and Kanshiram Sanskritik Sthal (Bangla Bazaar).

Mishra said the guards would work in 8-hour shifts. Their main responsibility was to protect statues.

Personnel of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and the police have also been deployed to protect the statues. However, their exact number could not be ascertained.

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Sikhs join to fight climate change
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 4
Sikh religious and political leaders met in the capital on Saturday to underline the Sikh community’s commitment to save the environment from threats posed by climate change and global warming.

Representatives from the apex Sikh body SGPC and DSGMC were present at the conference, where a five-year greening plan was adopted, which included a long-term commitment to transform gurdwaras into ecologically-friendly in terms of energy use, building materials and means of transportation.

A document highlighting Sikh community’s commitments - ‘EcoSikh, the Sikh community’s response to global warming and climate change’ - was also launched. This is the first time the Sikh religious and political leaders, grassroot-levels activists and educationists gathered to talk about global warning and demonstrate their commitment to save the mother earth, says chairperson of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE) Rajwant Singh.

“Sikh community is committed to save this gift from God. We believe that threat of climate change and global warming must not go unchecked. The Sikh religion was created for defence of the defenceless. We want to extend this definition to environment, as we believe that the most defenceless right now is Mother Earth. It is our religious duty to follow the teachings of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh and now become eco warriors,” he said.

The Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are advisories on how carbon footprint can be lowered.

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Raja dismisses Jaya’s allegations

Chennai, July 4
As the issue kept popping up, Union Minister A Raja today described as "baseless and politically motivated" allegations by AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa that he had tried to influence a Madras High Court judge in a marksheet scandal case.

Jayalalithaa had named Raja as the minister who called up Justice R Reghupathy to influence him for an anticipatory bail to Krishnamurthy, a doctor, and his son S Kirub Shridhar.

"A Union Minister talked to me and sought to influence me to grant anticipatory bail to the petitioners," the judge had told an open court on June 29 without revealing the name of the Minister, sparking off a nation-wide outrage. Asked whether he had any relationship with Krishnamurthy, Raja shot back "which Krishnamurthy?". — PTI

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Pedalling across the country to beat physical challenge
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, July 4
The story of Prabhjit Singh is one of what the human spirit can achieve. It is also a story of how someone can turn shortcomings to one’s benefit.

An Ambala resident who was a member of the J&K Rifles, he was relieved from service on health grounds after a short tenure. Shortly afterwards an accident claimed his left hand and feet. Where ordinarily another person would have wallowed in self-pity if he had faced similar circumstances, Prabhjit, 41, wanted to do something different. Finding that he could still ride a bicycle despite his limbs having been amputated, he decided to embark on a tour of the country on his cycle to make a statement about what a physically challenged man could do with if he was strong willed.

Discarded by the army, Prabhjit was the cynosure of all eyes at the headquarters of the Madras Engineering Group (Madras Sappers) here.

“It’s an honour to meet you and I wish you all success,” Brig RM Mittal, commanding officer at MEG HQ, told the indomitable former soldier who has pedalled for more than 989 hours to reach Bangalore from Ambala crossing various cities and towns on the way. Mittal also presented him with a cheque of Rs 3,000 and a citation.

“I wanted to send out the message that nothing is really impossible”, Prabhjit told this reporter, echoing what Napoleon had once said. “I don’t feel like a disabled person at all,” he asserted while demonstrating his skills on his bicycle. “In daytime I travel and at nightfall I go to the nearest police station and take shelter there,” he added.

While a colonel fraternised with the ex-soldier, other armymen, who had gathered there, also showered him with accolades.

Prabhjit said he would like to wind up his tour in Delhi where he wanted to meet the Army chief. He said after leaving Ambala he first went to Dehradun and then cycled to UP before going further east to the northeastern states, later traversing through West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and now Karnataka. His next destination was Tamil Nadu from where he would go on to Kerala and then to Goa, Maharashtra and beyond, he added.

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Sky gazers await rare celestial treat

Hyderabad, July 4
The months of July and August will present a grand spectacle for the sky gazers across the country as a rare astronomical event — a series of triple eclipses, commences from July 7.

“The sequence of the first triple eclipse will be a penumbra lunar eclipse (in which the moon will be darkened by the earth’s shadow) occurring on July 7, followed by a solar eclipse on July 22 and then another lunar eclipse on August 7,” general secretary of city-based Planetary Society, N Raghunandan Kumar said here today.

“The second penumbra lunar eclipse of the year falling on July 7 will not be visible from India, but the third lunar eclipse of the year falling on August 7 is visible from India,” he said, pointing out that the total solar eclipse on July 22 is a life time opportunity for the people of India. — PTI

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NCW alarmed by 286 rapes, gang rapes this year
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 4
With the rape and gang-rape incidence assuming alarming proportions in the country, the National Commission for Women (NCW) has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to make the anti-rape law effective by extending it to cover the heinous nature of emerging sexual crimes against women and children.

Between January and June this year, the commission has recorded a whopping 286 cases of alleged rape and gang rape across India, with no justice done in any of the cases. The most recent case of which the commission took suo motu cognisance involved a 17-year-old schoolgirl from Surat, who was allegedly abducted, gang-raped and filmed in a moving car.

Already, the sexual assault case against actor Shiney Ahuja is making headlines, with the actor now maintaining that he had consensual sex with his maid. “The maid told us he raped her,” Vyas said today, urging the government to change the definition of rape immediately to include in it intercourses other than sexual.

“The government must also announce the scheme for relief and rehabilitation of rape victims, which we have already prepared and legally vetted,” said Vyas, referring to the years-old order of the Supreme Court in the Sakshi versus Union of India case where the court had recognised the inadequacies in the law relating to rape and suggested the legislature brought about the required changes to cover child abuse.

So far, the said law only recognises forced sexual intercourse with a woman as rape. The suggested changes require that the law should look at the newer forms of sexual assault on women and children.

So it should be expanded to cover other crimes - “introduction to any extent by a person of an object or a part of the body (other than the penis) into the vagina or anus or urethra of a child; manipulating any part of the body of the child so as to cause penetration of the vagina, anus or urethra of the offender by any part of the child’s body.”

Changes in the said law have already been effected by the commission, as per the directions of the Supreme Court. The proposed amendments further suggest to increase punishment for rape up to 10 years in place of the existing seven.

In case the rape is committed by a person in a position of trust and authority, he would be liable to be punished with an imprisonment not less than 10 years and which may be extended to life imprisonment along with fine. These changes would go a long way in curbing child pornography and abuse, said Vyas.

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6 members of Chota Shakeel gang held

New Delhi, July 4
The Delhi police today arrested six alleged sharpshooters of Chota Shakeel gang and claimed they were planning to kill the lawyer of BJP MP Varun Gandhi who has been accused of making anti-Muslim speeches. The six persons were arrested last evening from various parts of the city by a special cell.

They were produced before Magistrate Twinkle Wadhwa who sent them to seven days’ police custody.

The police claimed that the six came to the capital to murder the lawyer of Varun Gandhi. Three of the arrested were identified as Javed, Shahid and Ram.

The case of 29-year-old Gandhi challenging the Uttar Pradesh government's slapping of National Security Act against him for provocative speech was contested by a battery of lawyers, including Mukul Rohtangi and Sidharth Luthra. — PTI

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AP mulls fee limit for private schools

Hyderabad, July 4
Andhra Pradesh is now mulling fixing an upper limit on the fees charged by private schools. A panel constituted by the state government has recommended that private schools in urban areas should not charge more than Rs.24,000 per annum as tuition fee up to Class 5 and Rs.30,000 up to Class 10.

The six-member panel was constituted last month following public complaints that several schools effected a steep hike in tuition fees from the academic year 2009-10.

The five-member expert panel headed by commissioner of intermediate education Luv Agarwal has asked the managements of all such schools to roll back the fee hike. The new fee structure recommended by the panel will come into effect from the next academic year. — IANS

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BRIEFLY

PF interest rate to stay at 8.5 pc
NEW DELHI:
Over 4.5 crore subscribers will get 8.5 per cent return for 2009-10 on their provident fund deposits. Two days before the Budget, the Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) has decided to retain the interest rate at 8.5 per cent for the fifth consecutive year. — PTI

BSP leader booked in rape case
LUCKNOW:
A Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader and his two aides had been booked for allegedly raping a 25-year-old married woman in Uttar Pradesh’s Bareilly district, the police said on Saturday. “BSP leader Sumer Singh, who is in charge of the party’s affairs in the Nawabganj assembly constituency of Bareilly, along with two of his friends raped the woman after abducting her on Thursday,” police Inspector Veer Singh Nayak told IANS over the phone. A case was registered against them on Friday. “While we have managed to arrest Singh’s two friends, the BSP leader is yet to be traced,” Nayak said. The victim is undergoing treatment in a district hospital. —IANS

‘Melting earth’ causes flutter
KOZHIKODE (KERALA):
Thick fluid-like substance and smoke emanating from beneath the earth in a village in the district on Saturday caused a flutter as a large number of people gathered at the spot to witness the unusual incident. The tar-like fluid with relatively high temperature was found flowing out in the early hours, close to a high-tension electric line, adjacent to a road at Attakkundu near here, a police official said. Locals informed the authorities and officials of Geological Survey of India to ascertain the cause of the flow. P Sasidharan, Additional Sub-Inspector of police said heavy rains lashing the area turned the fluid into solid form. — PTI

Militant killed
HAFLONG/DIPHU (ASSAM):
An National Democratic Front of Bodoland militant was killed in an encounter with the Army in Assam’s strife-hit N C Hills district on Saturday where the houses of Dimasa tribals were set ablaze. A three-member group of the ultras exchanged fire with the Five Rajputana Rifles men in Panjuri area of Karbi Anglong district. One of the militants was killed, while two others manage to flee, official sources said. An Italian-made 7.65 pistol with 14 rounds of ammunition was recovered from the slain extremist. Meanwhile, unidentified persons set ablaze houses of Dimasa tribals at Sabujoy Basti village in the district early Saturday morning. — PTI

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