Sunday, February 24, 2002, Chandigarh, India


N C R   S T O R I E S


Sheila favours school councils
Our correspondent

New Delhi, February 23
Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit saw eye to eye with the educationists who time and again complained against the bureaucracy. “Bureaucracy is archaic. It is never with the times. That is why my government has encouraged the setting up of school governing councils. We are encouraging the citizens, who are interested in education and who have some experience in the field, to participate in the functioning of the school management. It will be a dream come true when a parent says that the education in the government schools is as good as it is in the public schools.”

Referring to her own experience, she said that the public schools in the country gave students the confidence that enabled them to match the abilities of students from other countries. Ms Dikshit was speaking at the inauguration of a two-day conference on “Education in a Global Era: Challenges to equity and opportunities for diversity’ here today. Over 400 school principals and teachers from across the country are attending the conference.

Ms Dikshit pointed out, “Every parent wishes a quality education for his child. Parents want to send their children to public schools where they can receive good education. Education is a serious matter for a country like ours where it has not received as much attention as it deserves. India should have walked into the 21st century with each and every individual literate. The basic aim is that the education should reach everyone.”

On the Government’s role in spreading education, she said that public schools could not provide children with the incentives like free food, books and meals. It was here that the Government had to come to the aid of the people who could not afford education.

Pointing out that education has been a priority with her government, Ms Dikshit told the ‘NCR Tribune’: “We are going to ensure that the quality of education improves. I have set up a committee, which will examine the method of improving education in government-run schools.”

The Chief Minister expressed hope that the public schools would do their best in providing students with the skills that would be useful to them in the future. “Schools must teach a child the dignity of labour. A student must be taught the skills of a driver, a mechanic or even a chef. Education must enable them to become independent rather than become parasites on their families.”

Ms Dikshit urged the congregation to spare a thought to the increasing phenomenon of braindrain. “It is sad that so many students go and serve overseas instead of putting their education to use here. The ‘guru-shishya parampara’ may not be prevalent anymore, but the students are still inspired by their teachers.”

The Chief Minister assured the gathering that her government would contribute to the cause of education and urged the educationists to combine education with the sensitivity and values to help build the nation. The conference is being held under the aegis of the Independent Schools’ Federation of India and has been organised by the Delhi Public School, R. K. Puram.

The participants expressed concern about the increasing government interference. They also highlighted that the government officials had been accusing them of running schools on a profit basis ignoring their contribution to the society.

“It is hard to convince the babus that all public schools do not run on the motive to earn money. We are doing our bit for the society by providing good education to the students,” said a public school principal.

Dr Shyama Chona, principal of DPS, R. K. Puram, also drew the attention of the gathering to this aspect.

The former Secretary of Education, Mr M. K. Kaw, told this correspondent that the public schools needed to be encouraged. He said that there was a love-hate relationship between the Government and the public schools. “We must help those public schools which do not run on a commercial basis. If the Government has to exert control, it should be on institutions that are run to earn money.”

The participants are expected to discuss issues like the role of public schools, the crisis in education, life-oriented education and the need for change in the outlook of schools run by the government and private sector.



Delhi Budget: To tax or not to tax
R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 23
Though the implementation of Value Added Tax (VAT) has been deferred till the next fiscal, the industrialists in the National Capital Territory have asked the state government to undertake policy measures that ensure smooth transition to the VAT regime.

“Unification is an essential prerequisite for the introduction of VAT and there should be no other local taxes under the VAT regime. With the introduction of revenue neutral rate, all other taxes should be abolished,” the PHDCCI said in a pre-budget memorandum to the Delhi Government.

The VAT rate should be a two-slab structure, which would be two main rates of taxes and two special rates. Besides the exceptional rates of 0, 1 and 20 per cent for specified items, there should be a 4 per cent rate on declared goods and goods of common use and revenue neutral rate not exceeding 10 per cent on the remaining goods.

As the service sector contributes 79 per cent of the Delhi economy, the state government in the draft Delhi VAT Act has proposed the treatment of services under the VAT, though the term ‘services’ has not been defined.

The PHDCCI said that services should not be included under VAT as it was not a workable proposition as the Centre was already levying service tax.

The existing incentives — exemptions already committed to the industry — should be honoured with and the same should be converted into deferment or remission giving the unit an option. With the introduction of VAT, the incentives should be modified suitably to ensure that the companies, which have invested in the state, were not at a disadvantage, the chambers said.

Delhi has proposed the imposition of entry tax. The chambers said under the VAT regime, the entry tax should be done away with as this was strictly against the concept of free trade and common market. The imposition of luxury tax in the Capital, the industrial association said, was strictly against the principles of VAT. It would lead to higher tax evasion and result in only piecemeal introduction of VAT. Also, a large number of commodities in the ambit of the Act were not defined as luxuries any more, the PHDCCI noted.

The NCT topped in the total tax paid by tourists and this needed to be reviewed in view of the drop in the tourist arrival following the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US. The chambers said the state government as an emergency measure must abolish luxury tax from hotels till such time there is an overall improvement in the tourism sector, implement the recommendations of the Tax Rationalisation Committee to bring overall taxation on hotels to 10 per cent. Luxury tax might be levied only on hotels with rates above Rs 2,000 per room and car rental tax rates must be brought at par with other competing destinations.

The stamp duty for residential and non-residential properties is 13 per cent. At such high rates, the industrial association said, there was a tendency to declare lower value for the purpose of registration or avoid the same.

Even though the excise revenue stood around Rs 600 crore in 2000-01, there was strong potential for generating more revenue through de-controlling and de-licensing, it said. In the era of competition and free economy, the PHDCCI said that the excise policy of Delhi should be liberalised to allow for privatisation of liquor distribution with regulation by the state. An appropriate auction policy should be formulated for the privatisation of liquor vends as in Punjab.



Vikas Yadav arrested in Gwalior
Our Correspondent

Ghaziabad, February 23
A team led by the Ghaziabad Superintendent of Police, Mr A. K. Raghav, has rushed to Gwalior to take into custody Vikas Yadav and his cousin Vishal Yadav, who were arrested in Dabra near Gwalior this morning, for interrogation on their alleged involvement in the sensational Nitish Katara kidnap case. The duo will be brought here on transit remand. The Madhya Pradesh police arrested them today under the Arms Act and intimated the Uttar Pradesh police. Six cartridges of .38-bore and four of .315-bore were seized from the duo.

According to police sources here, both Vikas Yadav and his cousin Vishal Yadav had boarded the Qutab Express for coming to Delhi. They, however, decided to get down at Dabra. When the police at the station, acting on suspicion, questioned them, they initially gave their names as Rajkumar and Sushil. Later, during sustained interrogation, they disclosed their real identities.

The duo was wanted by the Ghaziabad police in connection with the alleged abduction of Nitish Katara, son of a Joint Secretary in the Shipping Ministry, from Ghaziabad on February 17. A charred body found later in Bulandshahr district of Uttar Pradesh was suspected to be that of Nitish and had been sent for DNA testing for identification.

The police have made Vikas Yadav an accused in the murder case.

A Ghaziabad court had declared the duo as proclaimed offenders the other day even as their lawyers sought three days for them to surrender. Vikas Yadav, a candidate in the Bisauli assembly constituency and son of Rajya Sabha MP D. P. Yadav, is also an accused in the famous Jessica Lal murder case and has been out on bail.

According to reports, the duo had taken exception to Nitish Katara’s dancing with some girls, including the sister of Vikas who was his classmate. Vikas and his cousin Vishal had reportedly called Nitish, a senior executive in a multinational company, out of the party in Ghaziabad on February 17 before he went missing.

Meanwhile, Ghaziabad police sources said that the Madhya Pradesh police were interrogating the duo in connection with the possession of illegal cartridges.



Your honour, this is cricket!
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 23
It was a gentleman’s game in the real sense at the Karnail Singh Stadium here as the judges of the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court on one side and the members of the Bar Association of India on the other, wielded the willow and sought justice from the umpires without any ‘whispered asides’ or rancour during what is being described as “the historic cricket match” today.

The appeals were full-throated and carried conviction but were not jarring in the least, befitting the status of the players.

Legal XI managed to wrest the match away from Justice XI off the penultimate ball of the match with just one wicket remaining. And the score of the Justice XI was no less interesting – 136, the number of the Article of the Constitution under which the litigants through lawyers file their Special Leave Petitions before the Supreme Court.

Justice Mukul Mudgal emerged the top scorer with a respectable half century for the Justice XI, captained by Justice B. N. Kirpal. The highlight of his innings was the over he faced from noted criminal lawyer Dinesh Mathur. Mathur may have got relief for his clients from Justice Mudgal in the High Court but at the Karnail Singh Stadium, Justice Mudgal was in a punishing mood and hit Mathur for four boundaries in one over.

The run-chase by the Legal XI, captained by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, started on a disastrous note. In no time, they were reduced to five for two wickets. But the partnership between Sibal and Law Minister Arun Jaitley kept the Legal XI very much in the game.

However, the deadly bowling of Justice Manmohan Sarin, who won the Man of the Match Award for claiming five wickets for 25, almost took the match away from the Legal XI, which needed 12 runs from the last over. It was advocate Sunil Mittal who hit all the runs required in the last over.

Some of the cricket enthusiasts at the venue observed that Justice Sarin with a little bit of training and practice could well qualify for the national team. Justice C. K. Mahajan, Justice R. S. Sodhi and Justice Madan Lokur displayed considerable skill in fielding.

Chief Justice of India S. P. Bharucha distributed the prizes at the end of the match which was jointly organised by the Bar Association of India, Delhi High Court Bar Association and Supreme Court Bar Association.

And there were lighter moments too in the match interspersed by elaborate drink breaks in the 25 over-a-side affair. Well, it was originally 20 overs a side but seeing the Justice XI batting first and well, it was extended by five more overs. Little bending of rules here and there had none complaining.

The umpires respectfully negated the vociferous appeals from the judges and were hesitant in giving wides. Surprisingly, there was not a single no ball in the match. They have trudged a difficult path – judges on one side and senior advocates on the other. “After all, the law was on the side of the players,” a wit observed.



EDC relief for industrialists
Abhay Jain

Gurgaon, February 23
The Haryana Government has announced some relief measures in the external development charges (EDCs) imposed on the industrialists of Udyog Vihar and Sector 18 here. The vice-president of the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Mr P.K. Jain, informed mediapersons here that the state government had waived off hundred per cent EDCs on the industrialists who had been allotted plots in 1996 or after in Udyog Vihar and Sector 18.

In December last year, the Haryana State Industrial Development Corporation (HSIDC) had directed around 1,600 entrepreneurs of Udyog Vihar and Sector 18 to deposit EDCs at the rate of Rs 402 per square metre in three equal instalments; first by December 31, 2001, second by March 31, 2002 and third by May 31, 2002.

According to Mr Jain, the HSIDC had also agreed to hold discussions with the representatives of different industrial bodies and affected industrialists to resolve the issue amicably. The rates of Rs 402 per square metre, earlier decided by Huda and HSIDC, would be reviewed by the government officials in consultation with the affected industrialists. The EDCs might come down during the discussions, hoped the vice-president.

The issue was expected to be resolved by the end of March. Mr Jain, who is also the founder president of the Gurgaon Chamber of Commerce and Industries (GCI), said that the government had conceded to the demand of the PHD Chamber to take the instalments of EDCs, if any, in three to five years and not within three months.

The government would not take any penal action against the industrialists for not paying the instalments of EDCs till March 31 until the issue is resolved. All the same, the industrial community is still sore over the announcement. They appealed to the government to withdraw the EDCs totally and not to scale it down with immediate effect. The industrialists said that the HSIDC must explain to them the reason for slapping the EDCs on them. Unless it was made clear as to why the amount was being charged, they would not pay a single paise to the HSIDC.



Three centres to be set up for disaster management
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 23
The Government of NCT of Delhi has sanctioned Rs 14 crore for establishing three disaster management centres at the fire stations in Nehru Place (South Delhi), Laxmi Nagar (trans-Yamuna) and Rohini (West Delhi) and equipping them with the state-of-the-art rescue tools and equipment.

Addressing a gathering of DANICS Officers Association at the India International Centre today, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said the Delhi Fire Service had been entrusted with the responsibility of providing and maintaining the specialised equipment and appliances. The Delhi Police, she said, would be responsible for the human resource inputs.

Dwelling on “Disaster Management in India,” which was the theme of the panel discussion hosted by the association, Ms Dikshit said these disaster management centres would also be equipped with the gadgets to deal with chemical disasters. The specialised unit would have decontamination units, ultra-high pressure pumps for producing water mist and foam, first-aid, portable detection and monitoring devices and casualty location system.

She called for creating awareness among the people about the “dos and don’ts” in an emergency. “Be mentally prepared to live without amenities for some time, to sustain stresses due to injuries to loved ones and damage to property, and ways to help themselves and the community,” she said referring to the message that should be sent out.



Newly-wed woman burnt to death

Jhajjar, February 23
A newly married woman was doused with kerosene and burnt to death on Friday night allegedly by her husband and family members for not bringing enough dowry. The incident happened in Ramnagar Colony of Bahadurgarh town here. The police seized an empty container of kerosene from the spot.

According to police sources, the deceased, Sunita, got married to Vinod on February 25 last year. In his complaint to the police, the father of the deceased, Mr Dharamveer, a resident of Busai in Gurgaon, alleged that the in-laws of her daughter started harassing her soon after the marriage, demanding more dowry, including a scooter and Rs 1 lakh. Finally, they burnt her alive by pouring kerosene on her last night. Her body was found lying in their house in the morning today. The police have registered a case of dowry death against Vinod, his mother Shanti, father Hariprakash, brother Sundor and sister Rekha. OC



Ambedkar statue damaged
Tribune News Service

Faridabad, February 23
A statue of Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar at Badram village of Palwal sub-division was damaged recently.

According to a complaint lodged with the police, a group of persons descended on the spot and damaged the statue and took away a board put up in front of it. Acting on the complaint, the police arrested five persons.

The police said efforts were on to ascertain if the attempt to damage was part of a larger conspiracy. Vigil has been intensified.



Destination Sawai Madhopur for the lion-hearted
Tribune News Service

How to reach

Air : Jaipur is the closest airport, 132 kilometres away by road.

Rail : Sawai Madhopur, about 14 kilometres by road from the forest

Best season : October to March

Sawai Madhopur is the gateway to the tiger’s den. Nestled between the Aravalli and Vindhya mountain ranges, this is one destination that has everything: wildlife, culture, history, religion and, with some luck, heart-pounding excitement.

Home to the Ranthambore Fort and Ranthambore National Park, Sawai Madhopur’s royal past manifests itself in the well-preserved imposing fort atop a steep high creek. Ruined pavilions, walls, ‘chhatris’ and splendid monuments are interspersed within the majestic fort that was built in AD 994.

An eighth century Ganesha temple on an open land is an added attraction and is the venue of an annual fair. Occupied for years by Raja Hamir, the Ranthambore Fort has lent its name to the Tiger Reserve. A Hindu battlement, it has seen a series of Muslim rulers, including Allauddin Khilji in 1301, who tried unsuccessfully to lay siege to it.

The park area itself was once the hunting preserve of the maharajas of Jaipur and many tiger shoots took place here, including an infamous visit in the early sixties when a tiger was set up to be shot by Queen Elizabeth II. The Ranthambore Park earned a sanctuary status in 1958 and when Project Tiger was launched in 1973, it really began to receive the protection it deserved. Placed under the care of the legendary Fateh Singh Rathore, the park had by the 80s earned for itself the distinction of being one of the world’s best-known tiger forests.

After passing bare hills and sparse fields, the forest envelops you on all sides. The park itself sprawls languidly across 824 square kilometres of contiguous, dry deciduous forests. This is one of the last few habitats capable of supporting viable population of Panthera tigris, the Royal Bengal Tiger.

Rich in natural wealth, the park has a flora typical of its forest type that support Ranthambore’s impressive birdlife. As the folklore goes, no trip to the forest goes unrewarded. A lone sambar stag or female deer suckling a fawn or large sambar congregations at dusk and dawn. Chital herds. Nilgai antelope. Reptiles including marsh crocodiles. All keep you entertained. And with some luck and patience, one could spot the tiger and leopard also.

Ranthambore is also one of the world’s finest bird habitats attracting visitors from across the globe.

A system of three pretty artificial lakes – Padam Talab, Raj Bagh and Milak Talab – along with a number of anicuts are part of the biosphere. Jogi Mahal overlooking the pretty Padam Talab at the foot of the fort has a forest resthouse. Other accommodation outside the fort also ensures a comfortable stay. The park is open from October to June. The months between November and February are the most popular for visitors. Nevertheless, tiger sightings are particularly good in the hotter months, particularly around the perennial water bodies.

Venturing off the beaten track by visiting any of the villages dotting the periphery of the park, one can chance upon artisans engaged in making traditional artefacts. The region is famous for Khas perfumes and other objects made of Khas.



Rewari’s unsung hero who almost repulsed Nadir Shah
Nawal Kishore Rastogi

Rewari, February 23
Though centuries have rolled by, the name of Rao Bal Krishan – a great hero of Ahirwal, who along with thousands of his brave jawans, had laid down his life near Karnal on February 24, 1739, fighting valiantly against the forces of Persian invader Nadir Shah – has remained shrouded in anonymity.

Born in the last decade of the 17th century, he was the third and youngest son of Rao Nand Ram, the then governor of Rewari. Rao Nand Ram died in 1713. He was succeeded by his eldest son Mansa Ram, who too died after a very brief reign. Then his younger brother Gujar Mal occupied the ‘gaddi’.

Earlier in 1717, Bal Krishan was married to the daughter of Ch Ram Chander of Naseebpur near Narnaul. He was inducted into the military service of Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah in Delhi by his elder brother Gujar Mal.

The story goes that once when the emperor was on a hunting expedition, a ferocious lion pounced upon him. Bal Krishan, who happened to be by the side of the emperor, saved him virtually from the jaws of death by despatching the lion with a single strike of his sword. The emperor was so much impressed with Bal Krishan’s valour that he conferred upon him the title of “Sher Bachcha Shamsher Bahadur”, which literally means a lion-hearted fine swordsman.

With this began the rise of Bal Krishan, who was later made one of the special commanders of the imperial army for his valuable services which he rendered to ensure the safety of the emperor from the sinister designs, particularly of the two Sayyed brothers – viz Husain Ali and Abdullah Khan both of whom were done away with in succession..

However, a period of great misfortune started for the emperor when the empire began showing signs of decline inviting the invasion of the Persian King, Nadir Shah, in 1739. Nadir Shah marched from his capital by way of Herat, Kandahar, Ghazni and Kabul and reached Lahore in January, 1739. After a very short stay in Punjab, he resumed his march to Delhi. The Mughal forces also marched from

Delhi to counter the advance of Nadir Shah’s forces.

A final and decisive battle took place near Karnal on February 24, 1739 in which Rao Bal Krishan, with his 5,000 brave jawans, gave a determined and tough fight to Nadir Shah’s forces. However, with the heroic death of Rao Bal Krishan and most of his jawans as well as the retreat of the remaining imperial forces, Nadir Shah came out victorious.

Then, Nadir Shah along with the “captive” Mughal emperor, Muhammad Shah, proceeded to Delhi, where he stayed for about two months. After collecting a large booty, including Shahjahan’s peacock-throne and the famous Koh-i-noor, returned home towards the end of May.

An important piece of conversation between Nadir Shah and Muhammad Shah regarding the Karnal war needs special mention. Nadir Shah was all praise for the heroic resistance offered by Rao Bal Krishan and his men and frankly admitted that if the imperial army had followed in the footsteps of that valiant commander, he would not have been able to reach Delhi.

This had a great impact on emperor Muhammad Shah, who, after the departure of Nadir Shah, sent for Bal Krishan’s brother Gujar Mal from Rewari to Delhi and conferred upon him the title of Rao Bahadur with a robe of honour and ‘mansab’ of five thousand ‘zat’. Besides, his territories were expanded by the addition of 52 villages in the district of Hisar and the same number in Narnaul.

It is a sad commentary on the state of affairs prevailing since his martyrdom that no memorial of the valiant hero has been raised either at Karnal or at Rewari. The descendants of Rao Bal Krishan and Rao Gujar Mal are now living in Rani Ki Deodhi - their old palatial remains at Rewari in anonymity.



Garbage piles up as municipal staff play truant
Our Correspondent

Sonepat, February 23
It is a nightmare to visit most of the sectors in the city in these ‘plague’ days. The infighting in the present municipal set-up has made sure that the council employees do not care two hoots about their responsibilities. One fall-out of this is the garbage heaps dotting most of the sectors in the city. Sectors 14, 12, 15 and 23 created by the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) are the worst. The nauseating sight at the sectors has become a health hazard for residents as well as visitors.

Besides the indifference of the council members, the officials have deployed most of the sanitary staff for the upkeep of their residences as well as those of VIPs. A municipal official admitted this and said that several employees just shunned their duties.

With municipal sanitary workers taking leave, the work is being taken up by the natural ‘sanitary inspectors’ – the stray dogs, pigs, cattle and monkeys. They roam all over the city and dab in the filth to flush out whatever they could eat leaving the rest scattered for days.

The Municipal Council seems to just wink at the truancy of its staff with the result that many of them never report for duty. Why should they when they have to report only to various officials, exclusively at their residences? However, they never forget to mark their attendance, by proxy of course.

Even a short spell of rain turns Sonepat into a quagmire that stinks for months. Puddles of water and stagnant ponds make mobility difficult. The worst affected are the schoolchildren who have to wade through the dirt.

Most of the roads, lanes and by-lanes have been beyond repair for years together. Ugly patchwork is done recklessly, and that too once in a blue moon. The entire stretch of the Murthal-Subzimandi road of the city is marked by potholes, some of them resembling huge craters. For years, the dirt has been accumulating here.

Last year was the most disconcerting for the residents of this industrial city. The population was plagued by unscheduled power cuts, acute scarcity of drinking water and deficient civic amenities. The hopes that the Chautala government would come to their rescue were belied. It is alleged that the multiplicity of authorities, lack of coordination among various wings of the administration and lack of control on the staff are the major reasons for the present state of affairs.

Informed sources say politicians in power continue to turn inside out and upside down the departments in search of convenient and pliant officers. Consequently, the problems caused by the ad hoc policies have rendered the administration inactive and ineffective.

The public demand to supersede the Sonepat Municipal Council was not responded to by the state government. Owing to paucity of funds, the council could not take up any development project. It owes lakhs of rupees to the contractors for the projects completed in previous years. The employees have been denied their salary for the last four months. In such a scenario, how could the council ask its staff to clear the garbage piled up in the city, ask residents.



Prayer, a fount of solace for suffering souls 

As religious people believing in God, we are all aware of the influence of prayer in our individual lives. It is true our temples, gurdwaras, churches and mosques reverberate with the prayers of the devout on festive occasions and even in the course of daily life. When individuals face dire situations, often they are led into prayer; their faith thus opens for them a source of comfort and encouragement in their hour of need.

But how does this nation, as a collective entity, exercise its faith in prayer? It may be recalled that during the freedom struggle and subsequently after Independence, the Father of the Nation, used to lead the people in prayer on matters affecting its destiny. The men of different faiths used to take part in such meetings, which gave them a sense of purpose and also a sense of solidarity as people sharing one destiny.

Since the Mahatma fell to the bullets of an assassin, no one else probably came forward to provide leadership to an exercise of prayer at the national level. No doubt, people of all faiths had organized prayers at their places of worship in the aftermath of national tragedies like the Gujarat earthquake or the Orissa cyclone.

The hijacking of an Indian plane with its passengers to Khandahar in the recent past had moved this nation to pray. The whole nation, again, had taken to prayer en masse on two other earlier occasions—when Amitabh Bachchan fell seriously ill and also when Mother Teresa was on bed.

“Man’s need for prayer is as great as his need for bread. As food is necessary for the body, prayer is necessary for the soul. I have not a shadow of doubt that the strife and quarrels with which our atmosphere is so full today are due to the absence of the spirit of true prayer.

“True prayer never goes unanswered.’’ wrote Gandhiji. According to Vasudevan, secretary of the Rajghat Samadhi Samiti, all-religion prayer meetings are held every Friday at Rajghat from 4 pm to 5.15 pm.

It is said that the act of prayer changes people and situations. There is a general impression that prayer is an act of seeking favours from God for selfish ends. It is as if all praying people are only interested in taking their shopping lists to their maker! Far from it.

The very act of praying teaches one to empathise with those who suffer. It broadens one’s vision and outlook . It builds up one’s character by imparting a sense of responsibility towards other people and situations.

The latest example of a praying nation comes from the United States, which is often labelled as too materialistic.

Speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast at Washington in the second week of February, President George Bush praised Americans of all faiths for turning to prayer in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. He said he had spent much time “on bended knee” since terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing more than 3000 people.

“Millions of Americans have been led to prayer. They have prayed for comfort in times of grief, for understanding in times of anger, for protection in times of uncertainty. Many including me have been on bended knee,” he told the audience.

No doubt, the newspapers and television have reported an upswing in church attendance and worship in the wake of the September 11 incidents. But the religious fervour did not stop with prayer. Regardless of the religious affiliations, people in the affected areas showed an exemplary sense of togetherness in the hour of tragedy. All differences of religion, ethnicity, race and language were forgotten as volunteers got busy assuaging the pain and sorrow felt by the victims. Several acts of heroism that came to light are still being narrated, testifying to the common identity of being American, though so different from one another in so many respects. It was indeed a success story of healthy harmony in a pluralistic society.“The prayers of this nation are a part of the good that has come from the evil of September the 11th, more good than we could ever have predicted. Tragedy has brought forth the courage and the generosity of our people,’’ President Bush had said, acknowledging the unity displayed by all the US citizens in the hour of crisis. He added: “We have all been witnesses, these past 21 weeks, to the power of faith to see us through the hurt and loss that has come on to the country.”

The American example has several lessons for India which is also a pluralistic society. It has demonstrated that differences of religion and ethnicity need not stand in the way of the nation unitedly facing all its challenges. If it is true that all religious faiths teach tolerance, humility and the value of helping neighbours, then the religious leaders of this nation could also engender unity and oneness of purpose by coming together periodically to pray for the nation. And when they focus on the fact that all people, regardless of their differences, share one common destiny, there could be greater communal harmony. Such a consciousness ought to pave the way for peace in society.

M. P. K. Kutty 



Imam being quizzed about ‘mysterious’ visitor
Our Correspondent

Sonepat, February 23
Mr Zahid Hussain, the imam of a mosque, was taken into custody on Friday by the CIA staff at Tharia village about 20 km from here, for his alleged involvement with terrorists. Later, the imam was taken to the police station in the city.

He was picked up following a tip-off on the imam’s links with some terrorists operating in the region. According to the information received by the CIA, an unidentified man had visited the village five days ago and he had a meeting with the imam for a few minutes. He left the village soon after. It is reported that the visitor had come to collect funds from the Muslim residents of the village.

The villagers, however, maintained that the imam had no links with the terrorists or members of any banned organisations and he had been living in the village for the past many years. Further investigations are in progress.

It may be recalled that last year the police interrogated a Muslim resident of Pakistan who had come to his friend’s house in Idgah Colony in the city. However, he left the village without informing the police about his destination. The police later searched for him but in vain.

1 killed, 12 hurt

One person was killed and 12 others were injured, some of them seriously, when a truck collided with a mini-bus on the G T Road near Bari village, about 12 km from here, on Friday. According to a report, the injured persons included six NRIs, and they were admitted to a hospital.

An injured infant girl was sent to a Delhi hospital for further treatment. Mr Paramjit Singh, a resident of Moga (Punjab), and his family members were going to Delhi for boarding a flight to Canada.

The Ganaur police have registered a case in this connection and further investigations were in progress. However, no arrest has been made in this connection.

3 whisked away

Three youths were reportedly whisked away from Luxman Colony here by some unidentified car-borne men on Friday evening.

According to a report, a car carrying unidentified men arrived at the colony around 8 pm and forcibly took away three youths of the colony. A woman raised an alarm but the car-borne men fled in the car.

Later on, the residents of the colony informed the officials of the Sadar police station about the incident.

The police, however, told them that the youths had been taken away by the Delhi police for interrogation in a criminal case registered there.

Meanwhile, the parents of three youths apprehended that their wards had been kidnapped and this caused panic among them.

Blood donation

The blood donation is a `yajna’ that saves the lives of the people and hence everyone should donate the blood voluntarily for the noble cause of humanity.

These views were expressed by Mrs Sangeeta Roy, wife of the Deputy Commissioner and chairperson of the District Red Cross Society while speaking at a function organised on the premises of the Library Hall of the Hindu College here on Friday to honour the blood donors of Hindu College and its allied institutions. She commended the activities of the NSS, NCC, scouts and other voluntary organisations for their contributions in social work and asked the people to come forward and extend their support to the facelifting campaign, launched by the district administration in the city against AIDs, sexually transmitted diseases and the use of polythene.

Earlier, Dr P M Gaur, Programme Officer of the NSS unit of the college, read out the report highlighting the achievements of the unit and said that 85 students, both girls and boys, had donated their blood at the camp, organised on January 30. The NSS unit, he said, had been organising such camps for the last 15 years.

The blood donors who were honoured and given commendation certificates on the occasion include Dr P M Gaur (who gave blood 35 times), Prof Subhash Vasishth (25), Prof Dinesh Madan (8), Prof Surinder Jawa (7), Principal Dr S S Goel (5), and Prof Narinder Kaushik, Hari Parkash, Anju Kumari, Mr Vijay Kumar and Vinod Kumar (4 times each).


A married woman was electrocuted in her house at Gudha village, about 40 km from here, on Friday.

According to a report, the woman was identified as Mrs Kamal and she was a teacher in Government High School at Kathura village.

Annual exams

The annual examinations of the middle, high and higher secondary classes will be held from March 2 to March 19 by the Board of School Education, Haryana. According to a report, the District Education Officer has not yet received the list of the examination centres to be set up in the district. Similarly, the private candidates who will appear in these examinations, have also not received their roll numbers and they are upset at the inefficient and unsatisfactory working of the Board.


The officials of the administration have removed all the encroachments at Turkpur village in this district. According to a report, they have also cleared 66-ft path from the encroachments.

Youth killed

A 25-year-old youth, Kuldeep, was killed by lightening at Basaudi village, about 20 km from here, today. According to a report, the victim belonged to Farmana village and he was working in the sand dunes when the lightening struck him during the thunder showers. The police sent the body for post-mortem examination.

Thunder showers

Sonepat city and its surrounding areas were lashed by thunder showers this morning bringing down the temperature considerably. According to a report, the rain was accompanied by hailstorm at a number of villages and this caused some loss to the standing Rabi crops. In Sonepat city, power and drinking water supply system remained disrupted for several hours causing inconvenience to the residents.

Open darbar

As many as 21 complaints were received by Dr Sultan Singh, SDM at an open darbar held at Rai village, 13 km from here, on Friday. According to a report, most of the complaints were related to erratic power and water supply as well as insanitary conditions in a number of villages. The SDM disposed of all the complaints on the spot. Mr Suraj Mal Antil, MLA, was among those who were present on the occasion.



Delhi runners-up at PNB meet

New Delhi, February 23
The four-day annual all-India cultural meet of the Punjab National Bank came to an end today. More than 300 artistes from 12 different zones of the country participated in the event. The overall championship trophy was bagged by Rajasthan zone and the runners-up trophy by Delhi zone. The prizes were presented by Mr S. S. Kohli, chairman and managing director of the bank.

Siropa presented

The Sikh community led by legislator Tarwinder Singh Marwah today presented a siropa to Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit at the Dam Dama Sahib Gurdwara in East Nizamuddin.

Greeting the people, Ms Dikshit wished for tolerance, brotherhood, happiness, prosperity and peace to all. 



Five conmen play the ‘game of rajmah’
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 23
The Crime Branch has arrested five persons from Navneet Apartments, Patparganj, for their alleged involvement in cheating several businessmen in the Capital by making them to agree to play a game with rajmah seeds.

Acting on a complaint by Mr Chattar Singh Negi, the Crime Branch formed a special team and nabbed the alleged cheats, Gulzar Ali of Muradabad, Bache Singh Negi, Bhuwan Chand, Madan Singh and Vikas Bisht, all residents of Uttaranchal. The police have registered a case in the Mandawali police station. The suspects confessed to the police that they used to invite many businessmen to their apartment with a promise of getting them a big contract. Later, they would ask them to play a game with 50 seeds of rajmah. Rajmah is placed in five groups of 1, 2, 3, 4 and 40 seeds and the referee would pick up some seeds from the biggest group and give it to the visitor. The visitor would keep only four seeds in his hands and put the remaining in the same group.

Thereafter, stakes would be made and the visitor would be made to win. The visitor would then be asked to show the equivalent amount of his win while the gang leader produced bundles of currency notes which would be prepared with rough papers. The visitor would be asked to part with the amount he had and arrange the remaining amount within 24 hours to win the confidence of the leader, who is referred to as Seth, and receive the winning amount.

After winning, the visitor would be encouraged to play again. However, the next time, the game would be manipulated and the visitor would become a victim.

Three nabbed: Three persons were arrested for allegedly robbing Rs 250 from two labourers and stabbing one of them at Kashmere Gate on Friday night. The police said that the victims had come to the ISBT in a truck from Lucknow and they were heading towards Panipat.

When they got down from the truck, the robbers, Mohammad Ashiq, Ranjeet and Ibrahim, asked them to part with the money they had. When they refused, one was stabbed with a knife and the assailants fled from the spot after snatching Rs 250. Immediately, the victims raised an alarm and the police party present near the spot nabbed the accused and recovered the money and weapon from them.

Man shot at: Three unidentified men shot at a businessman on Friday night when he was returning home from his shop at Tulsi Niketan, Ghaziabad.

The victim, Yogesh Vajpayee (33), resident of Mansarover Park, DDA flats, was rushed to GTB Hospital. He is reported to be out of danger. The police said that the incident occurred on the common road of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh and the bullet pierced through the abdomen of the victim. The police have booked a case and have launched a manhunt for the suspects. However, the motive of the firing is still not known.



Life term to woman for murder
Tribune News Service

Faridabad, February 23
The District Court here has sentenced a woman to life imprisonment in connection with a murder that took place in July 2000 at Palwal town in the district.

According to the prosecution, the woman, identified as Dharamvati, a resident of Shiv Colony at Ballabgarh town, had murdered one Jaipal of Palwal with the help of another accused, Mahipal, at victim’s house. The body of the victim had been recovered from the bathroom of his house at New Colony, Palwal on July 8, 2000. It was revealed that Dharamvati and Mahipal had gone to the victim’s house and murdered him after a quarrel. The court has also imposed a fine of Rs 2,000 on the convict and in case of non-payment, she will have to undergo imprisonment for one more year. However, the second accused, Mahipal, is still absconding.


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