SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE
TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

House in Session
Drought dominates LS proceedings
Govt asked to declare current crisis as a natural calamity

New Delhi, July 15
The Lok Sabha resonated today with concerns over the prevailing drought-like situation in the country, with leaders of all political parties uniting in the House to seek immediate declaration of drought by the government and ban on the export of food grains.

Govt mulls law to register students going abroad 
New Delhi, July 15
Rattled by the recent instances of racial attacks on Indians in Australia, the government is mulling a law for the registration of students going abroad for studies. Around 2.64 lakh Indian students are studying in foreign countries at present, as per government estimation. Of these, 2.33 lakh are in Australia, New Zealand, US and UK.

SC rejects plea to question Modi
New Delhi, July 15
The Supreme Court today expressed sympathy with Vithalbhai Pandya, father of former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya who was shot in Ahmedabad on March 26, 2003, but turned down his plea for CBI interrogation of Chief Minister Narendra Modi.



EARLIER STORIES

Narmada Bachao Andolan activist Medha Patkar addresses a press conference against the Union government’s effort to pass the current version of Land Acquisition (amendment) Bill in Parliament
Narmada Bachao Andolan activist Medha Patkar addresses a press conference against the Union government’s effort to pass the current version of Land Acquisition (amendment) Bill in Parliament on Wednesday. Tribune photo: Mukesh Aggarwal

Funds to be released to states soon 
Punjab to get Rs 34 cr, Haryana Rs 19 cr, Himachal Rs 36 cr
New Delhi, July 15
Rs 11,200-crore, released by the Supreme Court last Friday for compensatory afforestation, will be used for regeneration of tree cover in six million hectares of forest land in the country.

France eyes multibillion-dollar deals with India
High-level defence team arriving today for talks
New Delhi, July 15
A day after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and French President Nicolas Sarkozy sent out a strong signal for forging close ties on nuclear energy and defence between the two nations, a high-level French military delegation is arriving here tomorrow for talks on finalizing various defence purchases by India valued at billions of dollars.

Tribune Special
Malnutrition major threat to socio-economic growth: Survey

New Delhi, July 15
Public health, or the lack of it, is a more important determinant of malnutrition than poverty.  The latest government compilation on the incidence of hunger in India and related factors shows that states with the highest incidence of malnutrition  are also those where the lowest percentage of households  have access to toilet facilities and civic amenities like  drinking water.
Firemen and local residents survey the debris of a three-storeyed building that collapsed in Ahmedabad
Firemen and local residents survey the debris of a three-storeyed building that collapsed in Ahmedabad on Wednesday. Two persons were killed and one was injured in the incident. — PTI

BJP changes tack 
To refrain from disrupting House proceedings
New Delhi, July 15
Stalling business transacted by the Lok Sabha, occupying the well of the House and staging frequent walkouts, all recurring features of the previous Lok Sabha, appear to be a thing of the past for the BJP. The party has now “consciously decided” to abandon delaying tactics and instead utilise the time in Parliament to focus on its core constituency — ‘upper caste’ upwardly mobile urban residents — by raising relevant issues through effective speakers, indicated its deputy leader in the lower house, Sushma Swaraj.

Centre urged to raise turban issue with Sharjah
New Delhi, July 15
Independent Rajya Sabha MP Tarlochan Singh today urged the government to “act” on the reported ban imposed by Sharjah, the UAE’s largest emirate, on turbans worn by Sikh cab and bus drivers while driving. He told the upper House there were reports that Sikh taxi and bus drivers had been told by the Sharjah authorities not to wear turbans.

India: ‘Boundary Agreement’ between China, Pak illegal
New Delhi, July 15
India has been raising with China the issue of Pakistan’s “illegal” cession of part of territory occupied in Kashmir under the China-Pakistan “Boundary Agreement”, the Lok Sabha was told today.

Military tribunal grapples with manpower crunch
Chandigarh, July 15
While the much-awaited Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) would begin functioning early next month, the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Department, the Army’s legal wing that would have to depute officers for it, is grappling with a severe manpower crunch.

Editors Guild flays attack on media house
Chandigarh, July 15
Condemning the attack on the premises of UTVi News in Bangalore, the Editors Guild has said the attacks of this nature were designed to intimidate and prevent the normal functioning of a media house and must be taken as an attack on the free media.

Army recruitment scam detected; 5 held
Ajmer, July 15
With the arrest of five persons, the Ajmer police has busted a state-level gang, which was reportedly involved in “arranging” recruitment of youths in the Army.

‘CPM activists’ attack Cong MLAs 
Kolkata, July 15
An eight-member delegation of Congress MLAs was attacked allegedly by CPM activists in Mongolkot area of Burdwan district, West Bengal, today. Four of the MLAs, on their way to distribute relief material among Aila victims, sustained injuires and two of them had to be admitted to a local hospital.

Chargesheet filed against Varun Gandhi
Lucknow, July 15
Finally, the Pilibhit district police filed a charge sheet against sitting BJP MP Feroze Varun Gandhi for his alleged hate speeches delivered while campaigning in his constituency during the 15th Lok Sabha election.

Rahul to visit Amethi tomorrow
Lucknow, July 15
Amid violent protests over power crisis in his parliamentary constituency and subsequent police action against the demonstrators, Congress general-secretary Rahul Gandhi will visit Amethi on Friday.

Train, road services hit in M’rashtra 
Mumbai, July 15
Heavy rains continued to lash Maharashtra, disrupting road and train services even as the downpour abated in Mumbai allowing normal life to be restored. According to information reaching here, heavy rains continued in neighbouring Pune, Raigad and across western Maharashtra. Train services connecting Mumbai to Pune and on the Konkan Railway route were disrupted.

Deaf Olympics silver medalist in want of money 
Chennai, July 15
Having won the silver medal in the 2005 Deaf Olympics held at Melbourne, 32-year old Jerold Mark Wilcox is uncertain about his participation in this year's Deaf Olympics to be held at Tibet, as he does not have the required financial support.

PM to launch INS Chakra on July 26
Hyderabad, July 15
India’s first indigenously built nuclear-powered submarine is set to be launched by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the port city of Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh on July 26.

After IB alert, coastal security beefed up Suresh Dharur
Hyderabad, July 15
Following an alert by the Intelligence Bureau (IB), security has been beefed up all along the Andhra coastal belt, particularly at Visakhapatnam and Kakinada port areas. According to sources in the police, the IB alert spoke about the possibility of terrorists sneaking in through the sea route in South India.

  Alert in M’rashtra too





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House in Session
Drought dominates LS proceedings
Govt asked to declare current crisis as a natural calamity
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 15
The Lok Sabha resonated today with concerns over the prevailing drought-like situation in the country, with leaders of all political parties uniting in the House to seek immediate declaration of drought by the government and ban on the export of food grains.

The day began with a brief adjournment of the question hour on the issue. The matter later came up for discussions in the zero hour, with all political parties asking the government to term the current crisis as a natural calamity and draw up a contingency plan at the earliest in the wake of an abnormally weak monsoon. A full discussion on the subject is likely this week, as sought by members, who wanted the government to reply.

Leading the charge in LS, JDU’s Sharad Yadav demanded that a meeting of chief ministers and agriculture experts be convened without further loss of time. “North India is reeling under drought. You must declare drought immediately and summon CMs to discuss the ground situation to see where seeds have been sown successfully and where the crop is likely to fail due to lack of rains,” Yadav told Leader of the House, Pranab Mukherjee. Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar was not present in the House during discussions.

The BJP, on its part, sought the linking of rivers, with Gopinath Munde and Anant Geete of the Shiv Sena reminding the UPA of the NDA’s project to link the Ganges and Cauvery. “You need to revive the project,” they told the government, as SP’s Mulayam Singh Yadav referred to a shocking depletion of water table across villages in UP.

The Left Front leaders stressed the need for dry cultivation, with CPI’s Gurudas Dasgupta referring to the current crisis as a natural calamity. “Sowing of paddy is down by 25 per cent, and of oilseeds by 45 per cent. We have had just 52 per cent of the total rainfall. The prices of agricultural commodities are soaring and terrible speculation is on. The Parliament can’t be kept in the dark on the issue any longer.”

The RJD recalled the glory of traditional varieties of crops, with leader Lalu Yadav speaking of how old varieties could withstand the heat. “Your budget will go haywire unless you correct this wrong,” Lalu told Pranab.

Almost every leader sought subsidised seeds and fertilisers for farmers who had lost one session of sowing to the lack of rain. The major concern of the House was the imminent food crisis given a strong possibility of the failure of kharif crop. JDU, BJP, SP, BSP, DMK, AIADMK, BJD, Shiv Sena, SAD, TMC, TDP and RJD participated in the discussions today.

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Govt mulls law to register students going abroad 
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 15
Rattled by the recent instances of racial attacks on Indians in Australia, the government is mulling a law for the registration of students going abroad for studies. Around 2.64 lakh Indian students are studying in foreign countries at present, as per government estimation. Of these, 2.33 lakh are in Australia, New Zealand, US and UK.

Admitting in the Lok Sabha today that India was losing Rs 5.5 billion on account of the money being spent by Indian students on their studies abroad, Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi said the government would soon come to the Parliament with a draft Bill to enforce voluntary or compulsory registration of students abroad. Such information, he said, was a must and would be supplied to Indian missions abroad. The government is already in the process of setting up a data bank of students abroad, the project to conclude by 2010.

In the meantime, efforts are on to find ways of checking unscrupulous agents of foreign universities in India. Replying to questions in this regard in the lower house today, Ravi said the government would take all necessary steps to monitor such agents.

“We have also asked the MEA to post a separate officer in charge of student welfare in the Indian missions abroad, besides asking the Australian authorities to insist upon medical insurance for incoming Indian students. We have seen very few students get their medical insurance done, whereas healthcare abroad is very expensive,” the minister said while replying to a query by Prahlad Joshi.

Assuring the House of government’s concern over attacks on Indian students in Australia, the Minister said the (Australian) senate had sought a detailed report from the authorities concerned on the safety of Indian students and the steps taken thereof. The report was expected by November 15.

“It was after our Prime Minister raised the issue with his Australian counterpart that the police in that country became vigilant on crimes against Indians. They are now taking care to protect the students,” Ravi told the House.

At present, 97,035 Indian students are in Australia; the number was just 10,000 four years ago. The highest population of Indian students abroad is in the US: 1,04,522. 

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SC rejects plea to question Modi
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, July 15
The Supreme Court today expressed sympathy with Vithalbhai Pandya, father of former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya who was shot in Ahmedabad on March 26, 2003, but turned down his plea for CBI interrogation of Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

“We are very sorry that the father had to come here,” but it was not possible for the court to direct the CBI to question Modi in the murder case as there was "no basis" for suspecting political vendetta, a three-member Bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan said.

The Bench, which included Justices P Sathasivam and BS Chauhan, did not agree with the contention that there was a political conspiracy as the hawkers at the "Law Garden" at Ellisbridge, Ahmedabad, had been asked to stay away from the place on the day the murder was committed.

“It seems the CBI has done a meticulous investigation,” the Bench observed, pointing out that the state police had not probed the case.

Vithalbhai argued the case personally for some time after which senior counsel Magan Bhai Barot said Modi had intra-party rivalry with Pandya as the BJP high command was thinking of elevating Pandya. “There cannot be direct evidence. There can only be circumstantial evidence” to justify the plea for Modi's interrogation.

The argument that the CBI had cited the wife of the slain leader as a witness but failed to examine her also did not cut ice with the apex court.

The petitioner had challenged the June 16, 2008, verdict of the Gujarat High Court that had rejected a similar plea.

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Funds to be released to states soon 
Punjab to get Rs 34 cr, Haryana Rs 19 cr, Himachal Rs 36 cr
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 15
Rs 11,200-crore, released by the Supreme Court last Friday for compensatory afforestation, will be used for regeneration of tree cover in six million hectares of forest land in the country.

The money will be given to state governments, starting with 10 per cent next week.

The first tranche, approximately Rs 1,000 crore for the first year, will be released soon. Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh on Wednesday said the money would be sent to the state governments, starting with 10 per cent next week.

Five states --- Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra --- that have had the maximum amount of forest land diverted will be the major beneficiaries, getting almost 55 per cent of the CAMPA (Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority) funds. Orissa will get the highest amount of Rs 1,462 crore, followed by Chhatisgarh with Rs 1,448 crore, Jharkhand Rs 1,073 crore, Andhra Pradesh Rs 1,027 crore, and Maharashtra with Rs 1,012 crore in total.

Other states, which will get the share, include Uttarakhand Rs 81 crore, Karnataka Rs 60 crore, Madhya Pradesh Rs 53 crore, Uttar Pradesh Rs 47 crore, Himachal Pradesh Rs 36 crore, Punjab Rs 34 crore, Rajasthan Rs 32 crore, Gujarat Rs 25 crore, Haryana Rs 19 crore, Arunachal Pradesh Rs 16 crore, Delhi Rs 12 crore, Bihar Rs 8 crore, West Bengal Rs 5 crore and Tamil Nadu Rs 2 crore.

This money will be used for projects identified by the state CAMPA that form part of the state forest department’s Annual Plan of Operations (APOs). Ramesh said this was the first time that forestry in India would get such a huge amount of resources, pointing out that the sector received Rs 8,200 crore in the entire 10th Five-Year Plan of 2002-07.

The money will be used to increase density of forests, regeneration of forests and wildlife habitats and other related ecological security enhancing purposes.

The massive sum had accumulated from compensation that companies pay when the government agrees to divert forest land for some other purpose. For the last seven years both public and private companies were depositing large amounts in CAMPA for setting up projects on forest land as the Apex Court had asked them to do so in a 2002 judgment, which mandated that the money be used for afforestation. The accumulated fund was lying unutilised because of differences between the Centre and the SC-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) over the mode and manner of its usage.

Thanking the SC for breaking this seven-year deadlock, Ramesh said no longer were the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the judiciary working at cross purposes. “This ministry considers the judiciary partners in forestry and environmental management. I welcome judicial activism here,” he added.

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France eyes multibillion-dollar deals with India
High-level defence team arriving today for talks
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 15
A day after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and French President Nicolas Sarkozy sent out a strong signal for forging close ties on nuclear energy and defence between the two nations, a high-level French military delegation is arriving here tomorrow for talks on finalizing various defence purchases by India valued at billions of dollars.

These include a complete refit of the 54 Mirage 2000 fighters of the IAF, the contract for which is worth Rs 10,000 crore. The aircraft will be equipped with the latest in avionics and even new cockpits to bring them in line with a changed battle scenario in the future. The fighters will also have the capacity to carry newer weapons and assembly of equipment that is compatible with the new range 
of radars.

India is also keen on acquiring surface to air missiles to cover gaps in its air defence. These will replace the obsolete missiles supplied by the erstwhile Soviet Union, which presently dominate the arsenal. The French have the technology and India wants co-development stakes on the pattern of the Brahmos cruise missile with Russia. This will also figure in the talks tomorrow.

France, which at one point of time was the second largest supplier of military equipment to India, also desires to reenforce its strategic  ties with the South  Asian power.

However, of late it has been upstaged by Israel which in turn has outmatched even Russia as the biggest supplier of defence equipment over the past couple of years.

India had decided to upgrade its fleet of Mirages that were inducted into the air force in the 1980s. Subsequently, the defence ministry had issued a request for making a proposal to French companies.

Now negotiations are on with Dassault Aviation, the aircraft manufacturer, as well as avionics maker Thales. The latter has a joint venture with the Indian firm Samtel for producing avionics systems in the country in addition to  helmet-mounted displays for pilots.

Sources said some of the Mirage planes would be upgraded in France with the rest being refitted in India under a technology transfer pact. In the past several European companies have offered defence deals to India.

This will be first major deal between France and India since the Rs 18,800 crore Scorpene submarine deal project. French company DCNS and the Indian shipyard at Mazagon are in partnership to build six submarines. France has also sought an additional order of four to six submarines.

HDW of Germany is also in the race for the contract. India is desperately in need of new subs to bring its undersea capability in line with the growing might of China.

Apart from the Mirage refit, French firms are also in the running for 126 medium multirole combat aircraft, which would be the country’s biggest arms deal ever. Dassault Aviation’s Raffelle is among the six competitors and field 
trials for the aircraft are expected to begin in August.

India is also considering purchase of 197 light utility helicopters, for which the defence ministry had issued a RFP.

At present there are five contenders for the deal including Eurocopter, an EADS company in which the French also have  a stake.

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Tribune Special
Malnutrition major threat to socio-economic growth: Survey
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 15
Public health, or the lack of it, is a more important determinant of malnutrition than poverty.  The latest government compilation on the incidence of hunger in India and related factors shows that states with the highest incidence of malnutrition  are also those where the lowest percentage of households  have access to toilet facilities and civic amenities like  drinking water.

Madhya Pradesh, for example, with the highest undernourishment rate in the country at 60.3 per cent, has barely 27 per cent households that have access to toilets. In Jharkhand, which follows MP on the hunger index, with 59.2 per cent of the population malnutrition, has only 22 households out of every 100 that have toilets.

Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Orissa, also with high undernourishment rates of children at 58.4, 52.1 and 44 per cent, have very few households using toilets, the respective percentages being 25.2; 18.7 and 19.3.

Poverty, assumed to have a direct relation with undernourishment, is not the single largest explanatory factor behind hunger. If it were so, as is generally thought, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Assam, would not figure in the list of 17 most hungry states of India. But they do.

Punjab, with 8.3 per cent of its population below the poverty line, has as many as 27 per cent of its children below three years as underweight. As much as 36.2 per cent and 42 per cent of the population of Himachal and Haryana, respectively, is malnourished, while their poverty percentage stands at only 10 and 14, respectively. Same goes for AP, Gujarat and Assam where 15.8, 16.8 and 19.7 per cent of the population is below the poverty line but the undernourishment rate is 36.5 per cent, 47.4 cent and 40.4 per cent, respectively, for children below three years.

These revelations in the latest Economic Survey bring a clear directive to the Government of India to focus on policies that will mitigate concerns other than poverty. While the ability to access food items depends on household income and is currently being addressed by NREGS, there are other vital factors which are being ignored, states the Economic Survey. The survey further points outs that though poverty in India has declined significantly, malnutrition has remained "stubbornly high".

Terming malnutrition a "major threat to social and economic development of India",  the Survey says: “To have a larger impact beyond nutrition to other health outcomes, a  comprehensive programme to improve civic amenities of a public health nature is important if the divide between the rich and poor is to be bridged.  Access to public goods must be improved.”

Incidentally, the government has paid little heed to that advice, with the general budget for this year hiking allocations for nutrition by just Rs 0.10 crore -- from Rs 9.90 crore last year to Rs 10 crore this year.

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BJP changes tack 
To refrain from disrupting House proceedings
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 15
Stalling business transacted by the Lok Sabha, occupying the well of the House and staging frequent walkouts, all recurring features of the previous Lok Sabha, appear to be a thing of the past for the BJP. The party has now “consciously decided” to abandon delaying tactics and instead utilise the time in Parliament to focus on its core constituency — ‘upper caste’ upwardly mobile urban residents — by raising relevant issues through effective speakers, indicated its deputy leader in the lower house, Sushma Swaraj.

What she left unstated was the BJP had realized its attempts at not allowing the government to function and the House proceedings to run in the last Lok Sabha by repeated disruptions and its efforts to denigrate the office of the prime minister has not been taken kindly by its constituency. The need for a course correction has been evident among the party leadership for some time now.

Two days ago at a symposium here Swaraj told her party’s young MPs the best option available to them to counter the Congress youth brigade was to emerge as “effective speakers and raise relevant issues in the House, which would be noticed” by their supporters in their respective constituencies.

As if to underline the shift in the BJP’s attitude, she pointed out 54 party MPs had spoken on the Budget in the Lok Sabha this time.

The party is also making efforts to extend the reconciliation exercise to its dissenting leaders as well. In the process Swaraj has persuaded former finance minister Jaswant Singh to deliver the concluding remarks on behalf of the BJP in the debate on the Finance Bill currently underway.

The party has managed to persuade Arun Shourie to speak on the main Budget in the Rajya Sabha. According to Swaraj a concerted effort was also made to mollify Yashwant Sinha, who has now agreed to speak on the PM’s current visit abroad. These three party leaders had objected to Advani and Jaitley donning the roles of leaders of the opposition in the two Houses of Parliament despite leading the BJP to defeat in the general elections.

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Centre urged to raise turban issue with Sharjah
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 15
Independent Rajya Sabha MP Tarlochan Singh today urged the government to “act” on the reported ban imposed by Sharjah, the UAE’s largest emirate, on turbans worn by Sikh cab and bus drivers while driving. He told the upper House there were reports that Sikh taxi and bus drivers had been told by the Sharjah authorities not to wear turbans.

Speaking outside the House, he noted reports had appeared in Punjabi newspapers about the ban. “The UAE is a friendly country and India shouldn’t have any problem is sorting out this issue”, he added. Earlier the MP had raised the issue of  government assistance for Indians illegally residing in Europe.

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India: ‘Boundary Agreement’ between China, Pak illegal

New Delhi, July 15
India has been raising with China the issue of Pakistan’s “illegal” cession of part of territory occupied in Kashmir under the China-Pakistan “Boundary Agreement”, the Lok Sabha was told today.

“The government’s position is that this so-called ‘Boundary Agreement’ (between China and Pakistan) is illegal and invalid. This has been reiterated to the Chinese side in the on-going discussions on the boundary question,” Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur said while replying to a question.

She said under “the so-called China-Pakistan ‘Boundary Agreement’ of 1963, Pakistan illegally ceded 5,180 km of Indian territory in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir to China.”

The minister added that Pakistan was in “illegal and forcible occupation of approx. 78,000 sq km of Indian territory in Jammu and Kashmir since 1948 while 38,000 sq km was under the occupation of China”. — PTI 

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Military tribunal grapples with manpower crunch
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 15
While the much-awaited Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) would begin functioning early next month, the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Department, the Army’s legal wing that would have to depute officers for it, is grappling with a severe manpower crunch.

This has stimulated the Army to seek move vacancies for the JAG department while also search for law qualified officers from amongst its own ranks in other arms and services on an ad hoc basis.

The AFT, headed by former Supreme Court judge AK Mathur, is scheduled for inauguration by President Pratibha Patil on August 8 and the work of its principal bench located at New Delhi would commence from August 10. The next bench to begin functioning is stated to be at Kochi.

Sources said there was a shortage of 53 per cent at the level of major and lieutenant colonel in the JAG department. Against an authorised strength of 91 officers in these ranks, there are only 43.

There is a requirement for attaching two JAG officers with each of the 15 AFT benches for dealing with court martial cases, service matters and military law. It is estimated that each bench may take up 75-100 cases for hearing per day.

A signal floated by Army Headquarters to all formation states that the deficiency can be made good by resorting to inter-arms service transfer from other arms and services to JAG branch by law qualified officers. “As an interim measure officers with LLB degree can be posted to JAG branch, legal cells or AFT on a tenure basis,” the signal states. “There is a requirement of identifying such officers holding law degree,” the signal adds.

A case has also been taken up with the Ministry of Defence for accretion in the cadre strength of JAG branch officers. “We are seeking 35-40 new people through direct entry into the department,” an officer said. Also of concern is that majority of short service commissioned officers in the JAG branch opted to leave the Army.

Only four officers in the past few years opted for permanent commission.

Sources said that till the time eh deficiency is made up, the JAG branch would be hard pressed to meet the requirements of the AFT as well as its regular commitments. JAG officers also detailed for conducting court martial besides reviewing operational or administrative matters that require legal opinion.

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Editors Guild flays attack on media house
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 15
Condemning the attack on the premises of UTVi News in Bangalore, the Editors Guild has said the attacks of this nature were designed to intimidate and prevent the normal functioning of a media house and must be taken as an attack on the free media.

Two persons were assaulted and office equipment was damaged in the incident. Threatening calls were also made to the UTVi office in Worli, Mumbai, though it was still not clear who or what motivated the attack.

In a statement issued here today, the Guilds president, Rajdeep Sardesai, and secretary-general KS Sachidananda said the Mumbai and Bangalore police have been informed about the attack and they hoped that the culprits would be identified and arrested at the earliest.

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Army recruitment scam detected; 5 held
Tribune News Service

Ajmer, July 15
With the arrest of five persons, the Ajmer police has busted a state-level gang, which was reportedly involved in “arranging” recruitment of youths in the Army.

The lid was blown off the scam after a youth approached the police, complaining that he hadn’t got a job with the Army even after paying Rs 1 lakh to an agent. The police, which was already working on clues in this regard, swung into action and arrested five members of the gang. The accused would charge anywhere between Rs 75,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh for recruitment as a sepoy in the Army. They would promise the aspirants to help them clear the physical fitness test. Interestingly, they used an undergarment company’s name as a code to identify their candidates from the rest. The police also suspect involvement of some Army doctors and officials in the case.

The gang’s kingpin, Dinesh Vishnoi, is an advocate in Jodhpur while another member, Taru Ram, runs a coaching centre with job assurance to the students. The other accused have been identified as Raja Ram Meghwal, Sachin Singh and Haneef Khan.

Apart from them the police also detained Abhilash Singh, an ex-serviceman, for interrogation. Police sources said he was arrested on similar charges in Nagaur district last year. According to them, the gang had been active in the area for the last five years. The gang would reach wherever Army recruitment took place and arranged selection of their candidates.

Interestingly, the interrogation of the accused revealed that the gang would also send its agents to villages, posing as Army officials, to encourage youth to join the armed forces. They also appointed their agents at the district level to help them get candidates.

Meanwhile, sources said senior Army officials held a meeting with the district police officials to discuss the gang’s modus operandi and the revelations made by its members.

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‘CPM activists’ attack Cong MLAs 
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, July 15
An eight-member delegation of Congress MLAs was attacked allegedly by CPM activists in Mongolkot area of Burdwan district, West Bengal, today. Four of the MLAs, on their way to distribute relief material among Aila victims, sustained injuires and two of them had to be admitted to a local hospital.

Congress leader Manash Bhuiya, who was leading the delegation, alleged that they were attacked with sharp-edged weapons and that it was an “attempt by CPM activists, in connivance with the local police, to kill them”.

Bhuiya claimed that he even rang up Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee from the spot in Dhanyaruki village, “but no help came from the government side”. Finally, he said, they had to run for their lives.

Interestingly, Mongalkot is part of Katwa Lok Sabha seat represented by Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. Post the poll defeat, CPM activists had reportedly taken over control of the village by driving out Congressmen.

Bhuiya, leader of the party in the Assembly, said the MLAs were visiting the area after duly informing the Chief Minister and Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim. He alleged that the policemen who were escorting them stood mere spectators when they were attacked. Rabindranath Chatterjee and Gyan Singh Sohanpal sustained serious injuries.

Speaking to mediapersons later, Chief Secretary AM Chakraborty said he had received a complaint from the Congress and accordingly, the SP concerned had been directed to rush to the spot. He said the persons involved in the attack would be dealt with sternly. 

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Chargesheet filed against Varun Gandhi
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, July 15
Finally, the Pilibhit district police filed a charge sheet against sitting BJP MP Feroze Varun Gandhi for his alleged hate speeches delivered while campaigning in his constituency during the 15th Lok Sabha election.

Welcoming the development, BJP MP Varun Gandhi said that it had provided him an opportunity to prove his innocence before the court. In a statement issued by the BJP state unit, the MP said, “As a law-abiding citizen, I had surrendered before the court. I have full faith in the judiciary and am fully confident that I will be proved innocent.”

The charge sheet was filed in the CJM court this afternoon under section 153 (A) (promoting enmity on religious grounds), 188 of the IPC and 125 of the Representation of Peoples Act. The charge sheet has 117 pages of documents annexed, which include evidences and statements of more than 36 persons.

On July 3, the state government had given a go-ahead for the prosecution of the first time BJP MP from Pilibhit.

The Pilibhit district administration had sought permission to frame charges against Varun Gandhi after the report from the Forensic Science Laboratory in Chandigarh confirmed that the CDs of Varun’s reportedly inflammatory speeches had not been doctored.

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Rahul to visit Amethi tomorrow

Lucknow, July 15
Amid violent protests over power crisis in his parliamentary constituency and subsequent police action against the demonstrators, Congress general-secretary Rahul Gandhi will visit Amethi on Friday.

This will be Rahul’s first visit to Amethi after the Lok Sabha polls. “"Rahul Gandhi is scheduled to hold assembly segment-wise meetings with the party workers and polling agents at Salon, Jagdishpur, Tiloi, Gauriganj and Amethi during his day-long tour,” party sources said here today.

“He would also meet people injured during the police lathicharge on July 13 during a protest against power crisis in the constituency and would inquire into the incident,” the sources said. — PTI

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Train, road services hit in M’rashtra 
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, July 15
Heavy rains continued to lash Maharashtra, disrupting road and train services even as the downpour abated in Mumbai allowing normal life to be restored. According to information reaching here, heavy rains continued in neighbouring Pune, Raigad and across western Maharashtra. Train services connecting Mumbai to Pune and on the Konkan Railway route were disrupted.

Central Railway officials said heavy rains caused the ballast supporting rail tracks to be washed away at Badlapur between Mumbai and Pune forcing train services to be suspended. Water was being pumped out and partial restoration of services was completed later in the day. Railway officials said outstation train services were being halted on the outskirts of the city.

Stranded passengers have had to look for alternative road transport to take them home.

The heavy rains has solved the problem of water shortage in many parts of Maharashtra barring Mumbai. According to information put out by the Public Words Department of the state, the water levels of Koyna reservoir, which is used for power generation, rose eight feet even as the Mahabaleshwar hill station received nearly 500 mm of rainfall in the past two days.

Water cut in Pune will be reduced as water levels rose in the four dams serving that city.

However, Mumbaikars will have to suffer water cuts for the present as the rainfall was not sufficient to recharge the main reservoirs serving the country's financial capital, the civic body said today.

Rainfall was much lower today in Mumbai and there was no flooding for most part of the day in the low-lying areas of the city.

Even the parched regions of Vidarbha received good rainfall giving hopes to the farmers there. Vidarbha received 88.6 mm rainfall till 8.30 am Wednesday. A number of areas in this part of Maharashtra received excess rainfall, according to local officials.

Mishaps

Across Maharashtra, reports of damage caused by heavy rains are coming in. House collapses and cattle being washed away are being reported from western Maharashtra, Konkan and other areas.

In a number of places, stormy winds brought down electric poles causing short circuits that injured people and killed farm animals. However, no human casualties have been reported so far.

Amitabh frets

Tuesday's heavy rains caused discomfort to veteran superstar Amitabh Bachchan whose bungalows in suburban Juhu were inundated. Bachchan wrote in his blog that he had to shuttle between his two bungalows housing his home and office to prevent furniture and other household goods from being damaged.

"The road outside is in waist-deep water and the lawn, even though it is built on a rise, has been filled up and threatening to push the rain into the house," Bachchan wrote. The actor went on to say that he had asked son Abhishek to delay his arrival home from Singapore due to the weather conditions. Bachchan also added that he stored rain water in buckets, lest flooding inside his house damages the power connection pumping water thus leaving the family thirsty.

Fishermen warned

Meanwhile the Met Department warned fishermen not to venture into the sea for the next 24 hours as the sea was rough.

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Deaf Olympics silver medalist in want of money 
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, July 15
Having won the silver medal in the 2005 Deaf Olympics held at Melbourne, 32-year old Jerold Mark Wilcox is uncertain about his participation in this year's Deaf Olympics to be held at Tibet, as he does not have the required financial support.

While financial encouragement and concessions had poured for Olympics medalists, those who win such medals in Deaf Olympics are finding it hard even to meet the expenses for the next Olympics. This is the situation of Jerold, who is longing to participate in this year's Deaf Olympics, which may be his last chance to win a gold medal.

Born deaf, Jerold developed interest in pole vault from his childhood days. Through intense training, he won several gold medals at national championships for the deaf and dumb and qualified for participation in the 2005 Deaf Olympics. He won a silver medal at the Deaf Olympics and later went on to grab the silver medal at the Pole Vaulting World Cup for the Deaf.

But, his participation in this year's Deaf Olympics is doubtful, since he did not have the required financial resources. Jerold's father and coach Don Wilcox said pole vaulting was an expensive game, since the pole made of fibre would cost Rs 30,000 and it had to be bought from California.

"Even though, my son has won several medals in pole vaulting in the last ten years. We are finding it very hard to meet the financial expenses for every tournament and depending on others for donations", he said.

The government has encouraged the winners in Olympics with cash and other prizes. But, there was no encouragement for those who win medals in Deaf Olympics. The governments did not come forward to felicitate Jerold even after he won a silver medal at Deaf Olympics.

The next Deaf Olympics would begin at Tibet from September 5. But, Jerold's participation would be very doubtful, since the family could not afford it financially. The Sports Development Authority would provide Rs 30,000 which would not be enough. To participate in the Deaf Olympics, Jerold would need at least Rs 1lakh, Don Wilcox said.

"This is Jerold's last chance to win a gold medal in Olympics. Now he is 32 years old. By the time, the next Olympics is held, he will be very old to participate," he added. 

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PM to launch INS Chakra on July 26
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, July 15
India’s first indigenously built nuclear-powered submarine is set to be launched by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the port city of Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh on July 26.

The Prime Minister will visit the naval base and launch the sea trials of the prestigious submarine INS Chakra, built at a cost of $2.9 billion under Advanced Technology Vessel Programme.

INS Chakra is expected to go into full service in two year’s time.

Deployment of the submarine will allow India to develop a nuclear weapon strike capability from the sea, and maintain its authority over the shipping lanes of the Indian Ocean, official sources said.

At present, only a handful of countries have the technological capability to produce such a vessel. Based on the Russian Akula-1 class submarine, it is powered by a single pressurised water reactor. The nuclear reactor has been developed at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam.

With this, India has joined the elite club of nations such as Britain, China, France, Russia and USA which have similar technology. The submarine has under-water ballistic missile launch capability that will give India a distinct advantage over Pakistan. The ballistic missile was tested last year.

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After IB alert, coastal security beefed up Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, July 15
Following an alert by the Intelligence Bureau (IB), security has been beefed up all along the Andhra coastal belt, particularly at Visakhapatnam and Kakinada port areas. According to sources in the police, the IB alert spoke about the possibility of terrorists sneaking in through the sea route in South India.

“Though there is no specific input about the exact place, it is a general alert,” the sources said.

As a result, coastal security has been intensified and the police in coastal districts and marine police stations have been put on alert.

In a bid to prevent any infiltration attempt, the state government has also decided to speed up the work relating to the coastal security scheme. It includes issuing ID cards to the fishermen and compulsory registration of sea vessels.

The surveillance in the sea has been stepped up following IB’s advice to keep a tab on the movement of all strangers. Visakhapatnam, Kakinada and Nellore coasts are considered highly vulnerable as several vital installations are located in the region.

Security has also been beefed up at the gas supply systems and pipelines in the coastal area. It is learnt that the police conducted mock drills in the coastal areas in the wake of the intelligence alert.

The police teams from the stations located near the coast intensified checks at Iskapalli, Krishnapatnam port, Dugarajupatnam and Shar centre, Tada and surrounding areas. The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel has also stepped up vigil along the coast. 

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Alert in M’rashtra too
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, July 15
Security has been beefed up at railway stations, headquarters of a major bank, five star hotels, shopping malls and the new Bandra Worli Sea Link following reports from the Intelligence Bureau that terrorists may carry out attacks.

Maharashtra's Minister of State for Home Naseem Khan told reporters that the IB had warned of attacks on specific dates following information obtained from a captured terrorist in Jammu and Kashmir.

Apart from targets in Mumbai, railway stations at Navi Mumbai and Pune, security has been beefed up at the headquarters of one of the oldest companies in India and a petrochemicals company based in Mumbai, according to sources.

The warnings come at a time when the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to visit the city this week. Clinton is scheduled to visit the city on Friday and leave for Delhi on Sunday. 

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BRIEFLY

Congress slams BJP on truck with Sena
New Delhi:
The Congress on Wednesday attacked the Opposition BJP for its decision to launch a joint campaign and manifesto with the Shiv Sena for the coming Assembly elections in Maharashtra. Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said after this there was no relevance in the BJP calling itself a national party. “Does the BJP’s decision for a joint fight mean that it accepts the Shiv Sena's campaign against people from other states in Maharshtra,” Ahmed questioned, asking the BJP to come clean on its stand.— TNS

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